Broken Wings: Part II
Date: June 1, 10029 A.F
Location: Khal Hall, rm 105, Cogdah Academy
Fransicso City, Epsilon county
Selene, Priman Quadrant
Time: 1700 STG
Lance smiled cheekily at the glaring Sargent McAlster. This was his second visit to the Detention Block today, and the Sargent wasn't pleased.
"You again. I swear by Jenova--you are a scourge upon this Academy. Tell me, Mr. Tiazone, is it too much to ask that you limit your visits to one per day?" McAlster's blue eyes were hard as he stared at Lance over his wire rimmed glasses.
Lance pretended to think. "Yeah."
Sargent McAlster sighed and waved him to a seat, though Lance was the only student in the Detention room. "Then go do whatever work you haven't finished yet."
Lance sauntered over to his favorite spot, right next to the window, and casually sat. Not ten days at Cogdah and he already had a reputation as a troublemaker. Not bad, not bad at all. It had taken him five months back at Lian on Algeron.
Lance Tiazone, Scourge of Cogdah. That has a certain ring to it.
"Mr. Tiazone, why exactly have you decided to grace the Detention Block with your presence this time."
Because I have a major crush on you and getting sent to detention is the best way I could see you? Lance grinned at the thought. Wonder what he'd do if I said that?
"Well, Mr. Tiazone?"
Oh. Right. I need to answer. What did I do this time? Lance mentally searched for the most recent offense. Something about insubordination, I think...Or was that yesterday?
"Talked back to Corporal Clen'an, Sarge," he finally replied, hazarding what would be the most likely of his many offenses. McAlster sighed and rubbed his head.
"Lance, I know that you don't get along with Corporal Clen'an, but this is the fifth time you've been in here because you 'disagreed' with her." The officer frowned at the boy. "You're a bright kid, one of the brightest students to come our way, in fact, but you need to learn some common sense. The schooling term hasn't even started yet, and you've already been in detention fifteen times!"
"I have common sense," Lance protested. "It's just not like everyone else's common sense."
"Herr-McAlster, var hennifram aterfinna-" Sven called out in his native Swedish as he rushed into the room, his normally composed face flushed and gleaming. There was a tangible aura of excitement to him.
"In Basic, cadet! Basic!" McAlster barked, interrupting Sven's words.
"Fortat, Herr- I mean, pardon, Sergeant. But, I am yust here to pick up Lance. The Dean has given me permission to release him from Detention." Sven handed the sergeant the letter from the Dean, shifting impatiently from foot to foot.
"All right, cadet. You and Mr. Tiazone are dismissed. And try to keep him from getting into anymore trouble, okay?"
"Yes, Sir. Kom on, Lance." Sven grabbed his friend's arm and hauled the smaller, thinner boy up from his seat, dragging him out the door. Once outside, Lance wrenched his arm from Sven's grasp and punched his friend on the shoulder.
"What the hell did you go and do that for? I was actually getting somewhere!"
"Lance, the only place yew were going vas in yer mind," Sven replied with a laugh. His eyes were too bright, and his words were choppy and fast. The excitement that marked his movements made his already accent tinged Basic even worse, the syntax twisting and turning on itself and his accent becoming even more prominent. It was...interesting to see the normally stoic Sven displaying such emotion. "Yust be glad that I came for yew at all. The others, they vant me to yust leave yew, but I tell them, 'Lance is min ven'. And I don't abandon min friends. Is very exciting, ja?"
"What is? Where are we going? Sven, what the hell is going on? And could you talk a bit slower? I can't understand a single word you're saying!"
"Urskulda! But Lance, how could yew forget? Is very important day, ja? Is day that ve perform for the Garrison Heads!"
Lance stopped suddenly and looked at Sven his head cocked to one side. Sven stopped a few feet down the corridor and turned back to face his friend, a quizzical expression on his face.
"Vat? Do I have something on my face? Vy are yew looking at me like that?"
"Your parents were really cruel people, weren't they, not teaching you Basic until you were ten."
"Nej, min parents taught me Basic vhile I vas growing up. Why do yew say that all of a sudden?"
"Oh, no reason." Lance had a secret smile on his face and Sven began to grow nervous, fidgeting as his friend pinned him down with his stare.
"Lance...vy aren't yew moving yet? Ve have to get to the Auditorium in a few minutes." Sven was visibly sweating now, the nervousness he tried to hide manifesting itself despite his best efforts. Lance continued to smile the secretive--and slightly disturbing--smile, relishing his friend's nervousness.
"Fine. Be like that. I'm going to go rehearse." Sven turned sharply and stalked off, before turning back and grabbing Lance's arm, dragging him along behind him. "If ve didn't need yew...I swear, yew haf enough mischief in yew to tax the devil himself. Do yew realize vhat an honor it is to sing the Alliance Anthem for the heads of the Galaxy Garrison? Ve are going to open the school term for Cogdah! This is one of the most important dates in of the term!"
Lance laughed as Sven ranted. It was just so easy to get under Sven's skin sometimes. By Sirao, this is going to be fun! Nine more days until I'm thirteen, two years away from the joh'ri, so many beautiful people all around me, I get to room with Sven...Don't see why Giano told me that Cogdah was a living hell. Home seems a lot worse. At least I don't get the belt when I pull a prank here. And if being able to see Sergeant McAlster for extended periods of time is punishment, well, looks like I'm going to become a masochist.
"Vas? Is not funny! This is a great honor! Do yew know how many Generals and Admirals got to vhere they are because they were chosen to sing the Alliance Anthem?"
"Ahh, come on, Sven. I'm just fucking with you. I know how important this is. But we have, like, two hours before the ceremony even starts, and we don't have to sing until the very end. Giano told me all about the ceremony when he came home last month."
"Yer brother isn't a singer! Ve have to warm up! The Anthem is not an easy song, yew know. It is pure genius the way the harmonies-"
Lance rolled his eyes and tuned out Sven's lecture on musical masterpieces. Sven's a great guy, but sometimes I wish he had a couple of siblings. Or a different hobby. If he talked about air crafts, or battles or flying as he did music, and with his looks...man, I'd be on him faster than he could say "ravish me now." Lance smiled a bit at the thought and snuck a secretive look at Sven.
Then he saw him.
He was beautiful. No, beyond beautiful. He was a God. Lance stared him, beyond awe, beyond amazement. He was enchanted, enthralled by this black haired angel, this beautiful, dazzling person who had suddenly entered his life. Despite the wan expression on his face, the dark circles that ringed haunted black eyes, the bandages that wrapped his back and chest and hands, covering flesh so pale that the white cloth covering unknown wounds was almost indistinguishable from the skin, this boy was absolute perfection. His beauty seared Lance's mind, burning the image of this avatar, this God-like boy, into his heart.
"By Samas..." Lance whispered.
"Lance, are yew paying attention?" Sven's question sounded harsh and out of place with the perfection that walked Cogdah's corridors. Lance whirled on his friend, wanting to hit him for destroying the beauty with his words, yet desperate for some proof that the image before him was real.
"Sven, who is that?"
Sven peered over at the object of Lance's attention, talking in the bandaged, Asian boy and the somewhat shorter, older man walking beside him. "General Onna Tsumetai, Military Advisor of Japan. Vy?"
Lance sighed. "Not him, you Swedish idiot! The angel beside him!"
"Vhat angel? The boy?" Lance nodded almost maniacally, hope in his eyes at the idea that someone might know who his angel is.
"That's Keit, the General's son. He's in our age group. I heard that he vas a late transfer; he vas in the Land Forces for a little vhile, and is only transferring because he got injured vhile on a training mission. Now kom, Lance. If ve don't hurry, ve're not going to be able to warm up properly." Sven increased his pace, pulling his friend along. Lance followed blindly, twisting backwards to keep the mortal God in sight for as long as he could.
Keith Tsumetai. My angel.
Date: June 10, 10029 A.F
Location: Baegan Hall, rm. 212, "Basics of Dog Fighting"
Time: 1015 STG
Lance doodled on his note pad, the electronic pen slowly giving birth to an elaborate portrait of his obsession. Every so often he surreptitiously glanced across the room at Keith, greedily drinking in the sight of his angel concentrating intensely on the lesson, his black hair falling into his eyes in such a tantalizing fashion, that Lance's fingers itched to brush them away. He had improved so much since he first arrived, no longer as skeletal or bandaged wrapped, skin slowly regaining a healthy glow. Every day served to make him more beautiful, more desirable. Lance quickly looked away before he became so caught up in his observation of Keith that he let his obsession be known.
He sighed softly, wishing that his life was different from what it was. Ever since he had seen Keith on Orientation Day, his life had a rapid descent into a living hell. First, Keith was assigned as his third dorm mate, then Keith was in all his classes! Normally, Lance would be exalting at this good fortune using the opportunity to exert every ounce of his charisma and charm on the shy and reticent boy, until Keith was his. His seduction skills were first class, for he cloud 'read' his mark, learn everything about them merely from observing them, until he was an expert in what would and wouldn't win his target's adoration.
But with Keith, he had run into a wall. There was nothing in Keith's body language, in the way he moved or talked that could give even the slightest clue to his character to Lance. All of his skills at reading body language and picking up on the slightest clues given off by those around him, were all for naught with Keith. It was as if he weren't alive--as if he weren't even human. There was a...stillness to him, even in the midst of movement. Gestures made my hand, and head and the positioning of the body revealed nothing. There were no involuntary smiles--not very many smiles at all, to tell the truth--no honesty in his body--not a single bout of spontaneity could be found; it was as if the boy was a machine, as if there was no unconsciousness to Keith. Every single aspect of his life was controlled with an iron fist, everything deliberate and weighed. Even Sven didn't give him this much trouble and Sven was the coolest, calmest, most centered person Lance had ever known.
Yet, even without the frustration of not being able to read him, Keith was proving obstinately difficult when it came to friendship. If he weren't in the dorm room when Lance was there, then he was on his way out; he never needed help with the class work, or wanted to help others, and spent most of his time somewhere else in the Academy--where, Lance wasn't sure but it was certainly never where he was. Worse yet, Keith and Sven were quickly becoming fast friends, forming a bond that, at times, seemed stronger than even Lance's friendship with the Swede.
Of course it'd figure the two Military-brats would hit it off immediately.
Still, it hurt to see them growing ever closer, when all that Lance was able to elicit from Keith was a cold--almost deadly--stare, what could be construed as a growl by less generous people, and the sound of Keith walking away as soon as it was acceptable.
Cherion, why have you devised this hell for me? First, you show me an angel, then you tease me by not allowing me to be with him. Either give him to me, or let me find another. I haven't done anything recently to offend you so greatly that you should curse me so. Lance sighed again.
Lance looked up at Instructor Kline, startled out of his daydream by the sharp shout. "Yes, Sir?"
"I asked you a question, cadet. Are you going to answer it or not?"
"Um..." Lance cast about desperately, the soft chuckles of his classmates turning his ears red. Suddenly, Lance regretted his decision to be the "Scourge of Cogdah." His classmates expected him to reply in a smart assed manner, to exhibit a confidence and arrogance that he never really felt. Even his teachers expected it from him. Trapped by his own doing, Lance reluctantly gave them the response they waited for.
Leaning back with a relaxation that he didn't feel, Lance plastered a smug grin on his face and hooded his eyes in a bored nonchalance. Then, with every ounce of attitude that he could conjure, he replied, "Nope."
Instructor Klien's face grew bright red with anger, and his short, stubby renstatian body trembled with ill-suppresed rage. "I see. And would you care to explain why you won't answer the question, Mr. Tiazone?"
"Because it's too haljac easy, that's why. Come on, it's an insult to any being with intelligence."
Laran don't let him call my bluff, pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease. I'll dedicate my first born child to your service if you don't let him call my bluff.
"Mr. Tiazone! You will watch your language in my classroom. Now, if you believe yourself to be so smart and adept at Dog Fighting, perhaps you would like to tell us how you would solve this scenario. You're attacked by five Halman Lenvons while on a re-con mission over the Illyama crater-moon. You have two photon missiles and no wing man. How exactly do you plan to come back alive?"
Lance grinned. Now this was a question he could answer. Ever since he had cracked the security code to the battle simulator, no scenario proposed in Basic could phase him.
"Simple. Evasive alpha-9-alpha-epsilon at warp 2. Bank right instead of left, drop down instead of slowing, to get to coordinates six-six-five and swoop into the canyon found there. If the canyon doesn't take the Lenvons out, dropping the extra oxy tank and exploding it will."
"Wrong! I'm sorry, Mr. Tiazone, but you're dead. No one can bank a right at warp 2 while executing evasive alpha-9-alpha-epsilion sharp enough to prevent them from becoming one large smear on the moon surface. You've just died and cost the Alliance several thousands in marks."
"I'm sorry, sir, but you're incorrect. It is possible to execute a right turn sharp enough to survive the maneuver at warp 2. I saw a pilot do it once during a demo for my father."
Lance felt his eye brows raising at the soft voice that jumped to his defense. Was Keith really defending him? Keith, the boy who avoided him as one avoided a Harpelon Preacher? It couldn't be possible.
"Really, Mr. Tsumetai," Kline's voice was flat with disbelief.
"Yes sir. Lieutenant Hyn demonstrated the maneuver to my father nearly a year ago. It was quite impressive. I'm sure Lance could duplicate it for you if you would like. From what I've seen of his flying skills there aren't very many pilots who can reach his level."
Curioser and curioser. Not only is Keith sticking up for me, but he's actually...complimenting me? I thought he hated me...or at the very least, wanted to kill me. Damn it, I wish I was Sven. Then, at least, Keith's sudden show of friendship would be understandable.
The lunch bell chimed, saving Lance from further contemplation of this strange turn of events. He gathered his books, and note pad, placing the doodle in a heavily secured personal folder. There were almost two-dozen similar images in the folder, and he shuddered to think what would happen if Keith ever found them.
Speak of Erge...
Lance looked up as Keith fell in step with him. He suddenly felt acutely aware of his own limbs, the grace that normally marked his movements fleeing. More, Lance was aware of the sweet mixture of soap and skin that emanated from Keith, of the curl of his hair, the piercing quality of his eyes, the way his ever present necklace caught the light. Lance could feel the heat of the other's body radiating off in waves, and his heart sped up at the closeness of their bodies.
"Listen, I have something for you back at the dorm. Come with me and get it?" Keith smiled somewhat shyly, and Lance struggled to maintain some sense of composure.
If it were anyone else, I'd swear that he was trying to seduce me. But it's Keith. The poster boy for the Straight-and-Narrow.
"Now? But it's lunch time." Lance heard himself utter the words with a growing inner horror. Why was it that whenever something good came along, he had to stick his foot in his mouth and spoil it?
No! No you idiot! Why the hell are you refusing him? You can eat later! Seduce now, eat later! Get your priorities straight by Sirao!
"Well, if it's too much bother right now, I could always give it to you later. It's just that, well, we're both free right now, and I thought...Never mind. I'll give it to you tonight." Keith looked so disappointed, so vulnerable that Lance longed to wrap him up in a his love, kiss the sadness away until he smiled one of his rare, breath taking smiles.
"Actually, I can grab something later. Sure, let's go."
Keith looked up, and smiled that dazzling smile, before grabbing his hand and dragging him down the corridor to the residential halls. "Great! I really think you'll like this."
Lance nodded mutely, too intent on keeping certain body parts from popping up--as well as not blushing at the rush of pleasure just this simple contact provided.
All too soon, they arrived at the dorm, and Keith released his hand. He keyed in the entry code and seemed to almost slink inside, moving with mesmerizing fluid grace that undermined all of Lance's self-control, until all he wanted to do was jump on Keith and ravish him so thoroughly that neither of them would be able to walk for at least several hours.
Yeah, right. Like that's going to happen. Lance bit back the sigh of regret that wanted to slip past his lips. It would be nice though...Okay, Lance, time to get your mind away from sex. Just remember the time you saw Nanna and Gramps going at it on the kitchen table. Lance suddenly shuddered as the scaring memory replayed itself behind his eyes. Okay, bad idea.
All appetites suddenly vanished, Lance entered their room, face a little paler, and looked for his companion. Keith was standing by his trunk, holding something behind his back and fidgeting, suddenly shy once more.
"Here." Keith thrust a somewhat messily wrapped package into his hands. "I overheard you and Sven talking about today being your birthday a while back, and, well, thought that I should get you a present." Keith stepped back, just the faintest trace of a blush coloring his cheeks.
Birthday? Is it really my Birthday today? Sirao, I completely forgot!
Lance smiled warmly at Keith. "Thanks."
"You can open it now, if you want." Keith's voice had a nervous edgy quality to it, and he played with the hem of his shirt while Lance ripped off the wrapping and pulled open the shirt box. Inside lay a neatly folded black shirt with "If the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left-handed people are in their right minds" emblazoned on the front in white. The blush on Keith's face grew a little stronger, his nervousness more evident, as he began to babble.
"When I saw this shirt, I automatically thought of you, because I noticed that you always write with your left hand. I mean, not that I stare at you a lot or anything, it's just that there isn't a whole lot of left-handed people around. In fact, the last left-handed person I knew was my brother Ash. Not that I'm saying you're my brother! I mean, not that that's such a bad thing. Being my brother that is. What I mean to say-"
Holy shit. He actually cares about me. Gods, he's even getting all nervous...Damn he's cute when he babbles. Lance grinned slightly and cut through his companion's nervous chatter. "Keith."
"Yeah?" Keith looked up with wide, slightly frightened eyes.
"I love it."
Date: October 25, 10029 A.F.
Location: Cogdah Academy, Scuro Gardens.
Time: 2457 STG.
On the moon the stars are too bright.
There is no comforting twinkle,
no pleasant wink to soften their light.
On the moon the stars are guardians of the night.
The lines kept running through Lance's mind, morphing into a strange song that kept time with the thrum and hum of young passion; ethereal melodies were heard tantalizing close, played on the fringe of hearing. But, the solid words were different. They were just a bit of verse that he had picked up somewhere, but the words took on a new meaning in his suddenly pensive mind. It seemed as if the wine had soothed the jagged edges to his thoughts, dulled something that he had never known existed until it was gone. A connection, a dull ache, an image of dimming red--the sensations ran like quicksilver, flashing for a moment before disappearing into the strange haze that clouded his mind.
The wine was strong. It cast a heady shadow on Lance's thoughts, weighed down his body with an unknown lethargy. The sensations thrilled him, the newness to the world capturing his fancy with an unshakeable grip.
I should steal from the Officer's Mess more often. The thought raised a mad giggle and more lines of halting poetry sprang into his mind.
The ways of man are fleeting best,
thought in vague terms, lumped with the rest.
But, man in thought is stranger yet.
No sanctuary is to him left,
for he is burned by imagined fires,
stirred, and roused increasingly higher
until the peak of thought and soul man does archive.
And onward still, man's journeys go
reaching, striving, for some new goal.
But when will eyes be turned away
from blackened space and chilling death
and return once more to grounded life
to mankind's breast?
"Where did that come from?" Lance's voice seemed to shatter the night. The stillness of the garden felt dirtied by his thoughts. There was a sacredness to Scuro, a holiness that not even the Academy Heads were willing to defile. Not the students, though. No, to the students Scuro was famous for the dark shadows, for the hidden grottoes, for the secret benches where cadets could quietly meet, out of the sight of the increasingly strict rules of Cogdah.
"What come from?" Keith was still in the lake, floating on the ebony water, watching the frozen stars.
"A poem. It's nothing."
And another thought stirs the mind.
The time has come for a final test.
Poised upon a jagged spire,
two realities, two fates both await.
But care be taken upon the chosen path
for within dark light, lurks evil's wrath.
It was nice to be able to talk with Keith. It was nice to know that the subtle hints that Lance thought he found in Keith's movements, in his face and voice, were not just illusions. But, though that small token of companionship had managed to sustain Lance's hope for a while, he needed more. He needed to know where he stood, needed to know if a casual friendship, was all that was ever to be between them. For there seemed to be something in Keith that demanded more. It was a secret demand, one that Lance would have never been able to explain, but, every instinct in his body screamed that it was there; every last ounce of intuition firmly believed that Keith wanted the same thing he did--that there was a firm possibility for more. In a way he was sort of glad that neither of them had been able to go home for the Fall Break. Their week alone would tell what was to happen between them.
That had been one of the reasons Lance invited Keith on his first drinking binge--beyond a need to dull the sheer loneliness that threatened to overwhelm his soul. Yet, never in his wildest dreams had Lance imagined the power held in just a little wine.
Who would have ever thought that behind that calm exterior there lies the heart of a rogue? would have never had the guts to suggest going skinny-dipping here. Lance began to giggle, imagining the reaction of one of the officers if the two of them were discovered. Before the small laugh could become hysterical, he cut himself off, reaching for the wine bottle and draining the last of the thick, darkly fruity liquid in one long swallow. The garden became suddenly brighter, sharper. The splash of water drew his attention to Keith; the other boy was slogging his way out of the lake in all of his naked, pale, glory. The blue planet-light highlighted each gleaming curve, blessed each droplet of water with a sparkling brilliance. Muscles tensed and released as cream skin forced its way back to land. Black eyes sparkled, raven hair tangled and lay flat against smoothly muscled young flesh. He was so open, now. Wonderfully open and honest in his movements, in his graceful, mesmerizing strides.
The strict hold that Keith had kept on himself was gone, now, and Lance relished the chance to read him, to read his secret thoughts through the movements of his body. Too long had Keith been closed to Lance, too long had the young half-breed been forced to question what his enhanced skills--his enhanced senses which read those around him as they would read words upon paper--told him. And what he read thrilled him, sent the other-worldly passion that had sung a weaving, mesmerizing song through the night surging in a new crescendo. Lance rolled over to hide how much the unheard melody affected him.
Keith sighed and flopped down on the grass, shedding the crystalline water in a gentle shower. His voice solemn, he soberly intoned, "Though much is taken, much abides; and though/ We are not now the strength that which in old days/ Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,/ One equal temper of heroic hearts,/ Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/ To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
Lance lay and listened to the golden voice, closing his eyes in pleasure as he let the words rush over him, opening his eyes again only when Keith's voice faded. A pensive silence descended, Keith's eyes brooding, Lance's eyes glazed between pleasure and thought. Then Keith shock himself, and lay back against the grass, eyes going up to the cold stars and empty space.
"Any wine left?" Keith's words were sluggish, sultry in their slurred and indistinct fashion. The wine had hit the Asian hard, though his share had been much smaller. His first sip had sent a wave of red through his body, staining his skin in rosy hues.
"Nope. Just finished it." Lance closed his eyes again, the warmth of Keith's body slowly spreading over his own. It felt like a sunbath, like the golden days on Tyrs'ai when the sun warmed granite rocks, and the blue sky was marred by scattered cloud puffs; those were the days when no work was done, when the entire planet seemed to declare a vacation and basking, baking, browning forms appeared on every rooftop, on every rock and flat surfaces. Those were the fond days of childhood--lazy days spent running naked through the surf, tussling and shouting and sending cobalt sprays sparkling through the air before collapsing, worn, on sandy shoals.
"Damn," Keith sighed in his ear, sending shivers of pleasure spreading through his nerves. "Looks like I'll have to go for something better." Then calloused hands gripped his face, pulling him gently to his knees. Soft lips touched his; a warm tongue demanded entrance. Surprised, confused, Lance let the intruder in, tasted mint and wine--and under that, a bite; sharp, clean, wild, savage, free. Above all things, free.
And behind the bite, behind the taste, lay something else. Feelings, needs, ran through his brain, demanding to be seen, demanding to be felt. Emotion more beautiful, more fiery than the kiss, than the hands and passion that surged within.
Then suddenly, there was nothing. The exploring hands moved away, the needy lips left, the amazing, heavenly taste--it all disappeared. Crying out in disappointment, Lance looked up, reached a hand out to Keith.
"No. Not here. We're too exposed," Keith panted, the need evident within him. "Not here, not where everyone can see us."
"Back to the room?" Lance asked.
Keith nodded and the two gathered their clothes, snatched up the glass bottle, and ran laughing, teasing, back to their room. Planet-light gleamed on taunt skin, wove through wild strands of hair, lit eyes that sparked too bright. The two danced to their room, the need demanding relief, but the night's spell demanding a joyful release. The moon's strange power of water pulled at the blood within their veins, cast it in two different directions, boiled it and toyed with it.
Then they were in the room, in the darkness and suddenly Keith was shy, blushing in the gloom, unsure of what to do. Lance cautiously approached, not wanting to scare Keith, not wanting to frighten his angel. Gently, worshipfully, Lance took Keith's hand, pushed him to the bed. He laid him carefully down, kissing, caressing, tasting every inch of the clean skin, nipping at the creamy flesh. Keith moaned in pleasure, insistent hands pulling Lance down beside him, tangling in the chestnut locks. Lance moved up Keith's body, tenderly kissing the moaning lips, nuzzling, suckling the arched neck. Keith's hands ran over Lance's back, grasping and clutching and stroking in response to the administrations of his friend. Something deep within Lance burst, blooming in a golden flower, melting, merging, gathering two souls together, forging into one until thoughts ran together and Lance couldn't tell what was his, and what was Keith's.
It feels so good. It feels wonderful to have his hands sliding over my body, wonderful to leave feathered touches caressed taunt muscles; to smell his hair, his scent; to see those velvet eyes sparkle in passion; to feel his heat, to hear his moan, his pleading cries, wet, whispering gasps, the whimpering, begging need to touch and be touched, to feel softvelvetsmooth skin, sliding my own hands over hardened muscles, through silken hair. To hear the moans of desire, to know that this was my work, that this was all because of me and feel heady and humbled by that knowledge. Oh ecstasy, perfection absolute.
Then higher, higher, the ecstasy forever growing, as hands touch, caress, fleeting whispering, tantalizing until there is nothing left to do but cry out in want, in need, as his hands touch, and his teeth nip and find the most sensitive parts. To feel the wet warmth of his breath upon me, to taste his hungry, possessive kisses, feel the growling, moaning, whimpering, begging noises rumbling through chest and throat.
And, when it isn't possible to withstand any more, the ecstasy shoots up, blinding, dazzling, beautiful; and then to lie unable to feel, unable to do more than whimper as the pleasure sweeps me away, sweeps reality away until all that can be felt is the white ecstasy, the searing, painful, beautiful, wonderful ecstasy that leaves you vulnerable. And to feel a warm body press up against me, to bury my nose in raven hair, hear whispered nothings, loving babble, and reply in kind. To burrow down under sheets that feel like silk, cocooned in warmth and passion, and loving, comforting embrace. And to not worry once about what the morning will bring...
As quickly as it was started, the passion was spent. Tired, mellowed, no longer controlled by the irresistible moon, the two lay in the bed. Lance nuzzled Keith's neck, pressing light kisses on the sweaty flesh, murmuring soft words in a perfect ear. Secure in thought, in emotion, in belief, he let fatigue slip over him. His eyes closed, his heart slowed and breath deepened. Then sleep claimed him and into the nonsense world of dreams he fell.
But in the darkness, Keith lay wakeful, plagued by doubts. Though his own mind was clear, his desires and wants known by his entire being--been known by his entire being since the first time that he saw Lance--he feared how much Lance desired him.
In vino veratis. But, how much is truth, and how much just the passion of moon and vine? Can I live with myself tomorrow, knowing what I've done tonight? O Kami, what have I done? What have I done!
Troubled, arms unconsciously clutching Lance tighter to him, Keith continued to stare, and think, and worry through the night.
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809-1892
It little profits an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal law unto a savage race
That horde, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, Both with those
That loved me and alone; on shore and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vex the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known -cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,-
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch where through
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not shine in use!
As though to breath were life! Life piled on life
Were all to little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
Form that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In the offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads- you and I are old;
Old age hat yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now the strength that which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Date: October 26, 10029 A.F.
Location: Tudor Residency Hall, rm. 113.
Cogdah Academy, Fransisco City, Epsilon quarter.
Selene, Priman Quadrant.
Time: 0920 STG
When Lance awoke, the first thing he did was burrow further into his bedding. It was an instinctive gesture, one that the often dreamy boy did every morning no matter what faced him. Reality was no match for his dreams, and it was his dreams that carried Lance through life. His thoughts muzzy, Lance stretched and rolled over, burying his head in the still warm pillow beside him, loving the smell that lingered on the cloth covering, the smell of apples and mountain air. They smelled of Keith and right now, that smell was heaven to Lance.
Mmm. He smells good. Like the windy steppes of Tyrs'ai...I wonder where he is.
Blinking his sleepy chocolate brown eyes, Lance slowly emerged from his cocoon of blankets and sheets. Tousled hair and fuzzy expression cast an air of innocent vulnerability to him, a beautiful fragileness that begged to be held. That vulnerability faded into an irritated scowl as Lance scanned the room for his dark-haired companion.
Where the hell is he? Faint retching noises answered the thought, and Lance sighed as he pulled himself out of bed. Looks as though Keith can't hold his alcohol. Padding on soft feet, he made his way to the bathroom, the barest hint of a smirk on his face. Touching the door with a lazy gesture, Lance entered the room, wrinkling his nose at the smell of sweat and vomit that radiated from the tiles. A trembling, gleaming form huddled over the toilet, body spasamming in undulating waves, and Lance felt his heart twinge in an echoed pain for the boy.
"Keith? You okay?" He crouched down beside the retching boy and stroked the trembling back in an attempt to comfort.
Keith jumped away and looked up, his normally closed and unreadable face now open. Fear, anger, grief, guilt, loathing, regret...they all twisted his face, marred the perfect form. And all were directed toward Lance, directed at him with such an intensity that Lance had to take a step back, had to falter under the weight of the emotions.
Keith...why are you so afraid? Why do you think that what we did was so bad? Black rage--rage at the one to whom he had bared his soul--rose in Lance, rose as he knew what Keith was about to do, read it plainly in his posture, in his face.
"L-lance? I, uh, I need to talk to you about last night." Keith suddenly looked down, eyes directed at his trembling hands. "It...it was a mistake. I never should have...The wine. If I hadn't drunk so much wine, I would have been able to control-"
"To control what? Your hormones? Your desires?" Lance's face twisted into a bitter, mocking smile. "Your emotions?"
"Y-yes. I mean, no. I...I was thinking about what...about what happened last night. And, well, I-I think that what we did was wrong. Unnatural." Keith looked up, voice firm and filled with conviction. But, his eyes were lying, confused and uncertain, filled with sadness and resignation. "It was all just...just the culmination of-of being in a new place, and not being able to, uh," Keith blushed suddenly, skin turning a dusky red, "score with any of the females, and, I'm sorry I made you think that last night was well, anything more than just, um, relief. It's just, well, I don't--I can't be with you. It...well, it's just not something that was going to happen. And I'm sure that if I, if I was in full possession of my, of my facilities, and not, well, drunk out of my head, this never would have happened." Keith looked down again, his voice trembling--though barely so--with a mourning grief. "Never would have happened at all. And that's the way it should be. That's the way it must be."
"You bastard!" A hand reached out on its own volition, punching Keith hard on the cheek, sending the other boy sprawling onto the floor. An angry impression stood out against the pale flesh, blazing brightly as blood rushed to the abused area. Keith raised a shaking hand moved up to touch the wounded cheek. "There is no way I'm going to believe that what happened last night was just because you were drunk, and you needed a quick lay. There were two of us there last night! And I know that I wasn't the only one who enjoyed what we did! I wasn't the one who started it!"
"Shut up! You listen to me you coward! I don't care if what happened goes against your entire moral code, but there is no way in hell that I'm just going to let you walk away from last night. I deserve more than that, damn it! You've been taunting me, tempting me ever since we became room mates, and I'm fucking tired of having to keep my feelings to myself to protect your feelings. Well, I'm not going to do that anymore. I refuse to believe that what you told me last night was just some wine induced sentimentality, that you didn't mean any of it. Because I damn well meant everything that I said to you! Everything!"
"Lance-" Keith stood, eyes imploring, begging him to stop, to be quiet.
"I'm not done yet, you bastard! You're going to sit there and listen to me! Because I've been trying to tell you for months that I like you, and I'll be damned if you haven't been doing the same thing to me! And you never did anything to stop me. Never. And if you think that I'm going to let you just go back to the way it was before, if you think that I'm just going to pretend that last night never happened, well you are sadly mistaken. Because I can't do that anymore. I can't just swallow what I feel and pretend as though you never touched me, never kissed me, never told me how much you wanted me, needed me! So you're going to sit there, and you're not going to say one fucking word until-"
"Too bad! You're just going to have to! I have honor damn it, and I will not let you sully it with a perversion like...like this. So, for both our sakes, for the sake of a friendship, just let it be!"
"Fuck that!" Moving faster than he thought he could, Lance reached out, grabbed double handfuls of black mane and pressed his lips against Keith's, pouring everything he felt, everything he desired into that kiss. For a long moment, Keith struggled against him, and Lance feared that he had been mistaken, that last night truly was a drunken mistake. Then Keith suddenly relaxed, melding himself to Lance, suddenly boneless body pressing, draping itself on Lance, the hot, hard heat of Keith's unexpected erection pulsing between them. Feeling suddenly vindictive, Lance pulled away, panting, struggling to resist the urge to go further, to repeat the pleasures of the night before.
"Lance," Keith moaned, stepping forward, eyes glazed with lust and need.
"No way. You said you'd never do anything like 'that'," Lance sneered, rage goading him onward, urging him to hurt Keith, to hurt him just as he had been hurt, "if you weren't drunk. Well, it looks to me like you want to do 'that', and there's no wine to hide behind now. So what do you have to say to that, huh? What does the army brat have to say about that?"
"Lance, please...don't do this...please don't...you don't know what you're asking of me." Keith struggled to get his body under control, to push back the lust and need and hide once more behind his long perfected mask. "I can't be...Please...I can't...O Kami, what's wrong with me!"
"What's wrong with you? I'll tell you what's wrong with you! You're trying to deny yourself, that's what's wrong! You're fucking yourself over because you've got some stupid bias, or grudge, or something, because you can't possibly think that, maybe, passion doesn't give a flying fuck about what gender you're attracted to. Gods know that I think that what we did was probably the stupidest thing in the world--given my druthers, I'd have gone about this thing with a little more subtly--but I meant every last word that I said to you. Sirao, Keith, do you have any idea what you do to me? Do you know that I've been watching you since I came here, that I've been wanting you since I came here?"
"I know," Keith sighed, eyes down, a tenuous control established over his rebellious body. "But, Lance, we can't. Please, try to understand that. Kami knows I would like to. I want to touch you so much, to hold you and taste you and I want you so badly. So badly that I can't stand it. I can't stand to be near you and I can't stand not to be near you...Lance you, you do things to me that...that I can barely withstand...but, but it can't happen, damn it!"
"You want me? You want me and you still call this unnatural? Samas All-fucking-father! Why the hell didn't you do anything? It's not like I was about to say 'oh, sorry, no thanks'. Do you know just how ready I was to jump you? Why didn't you do anything?"
"Because I couldn't! I just couldn't, okay!" Keith gestured violently, turning away from Lance in a sudden explosive move. But, Lance wasn't satisfied with so vague an answer, not when undeniable desire sang through his soul, not when he remembered the euphoria of the night.
"Hah! It's not that hard! At least you knew that your advances were going to be returned! All I knew was that sometimes you were nice to me, and sometimes you were open, and honest, and I could tell that you wanted me! And don't tell me that it was because of some high vaunted sense of honor, or a masochistic need to suffer. I think that you were just too much of a coward to do anything that could possibly upset your happy little world. And now you're trying to get out of it by saying that it was all just a wine-induced lapse? Too bad. You did the deed, now face up to it, damn it!"
"Don't you dare say that I'm a coward. Don't you dare! You don't know me! You don't know anything about me! You don't know how I feel, don't know what I've been through! You don't know anything. You can't possibly know what I'm going to do, or how I'm feeling!"
"That's right! I don't know anything about you. You've been such a closed lipped bastard that getting information about you from you has been like harder than staying awake during math class! If you're not a coward, than prove it! Prove it by actually following through, by accepting that, for better or worse, you've just told me that you want me. Because I sure as hell am not going to just forget that."
Keith whirled back around to glare at Lance eyes flashing and face flushed. "Well you're just going to have to! You're just going to have to accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, the world doesn't always go as you want it to. That sometimes, doing what you want is worse than just ignoring your impulses, and it's a damn good thing to learn that now, than when those impulses aren't going to get you killed! Life isn't fair, and nothing you say, nothing you do, none of your Gods or prayers can change that. Kami, do do you have any idea just how fucking hard it would be to go back to the front, if I give in, if I let you in? Do you know how hard it would be to go back and know the entire time that I'm fighting that you're here, waiting for me? Do you have any idea just how hard it will be to operate with thoughts of you clouding my mind? I've seen that sort of thing happen before, and I'll be damned if that happens to me! I'm not going to die because I'm not paying attention to the battle field! And mark my words, that's exactly what would happen if I gave in, because today or tomorrow or sometime in the future, they're going to need me again. They're going to need someone killed, or something stolen, or they need information, and they're going to form up another squad, and I'm going to be called back, and I'm going to be in hell again."
"No! Damn it, now you listen to me! I've seen what love does on the battle field. I lost my brother because he was thinking with his emotions instead of logic and stepped on a fucking mine. I spent two days trapped under a building because I wasn't thinking about the war, because I was too busy thinking about going home, too busy thinking about my family. Damn it, I've been fighting since I was nine. I've been shuffled through more assignments, more deaths, because of my 'abilities to lead', because I can kill and fight and hurt and even die without caring, without feeling. I know what following your heart on the battle field does to you, I know that letting your emotions go can fuck you over completely. Well, I'm not going to let you be the reason for my death. I care about you too much, for that be your only purpose in my life. I love you too much to let that happen."
The room suddenly stilled, and Lance took a deep breath. "You...you what?"
"I love you, okay? And Kami help me, but I don't want to. I don't want to love you because it hurts so much. It hurts so God dammed much and I just...I just want the pain to end. I just want to be normal. I don't want to hurt anymore. I don't want to love anyone anymore."
"You don't want to hurt anymore? Gods, Keith, don't be so self-centered. What about me huh? What about my pain? There are two of us here, you know, and I think I've made it more than abundantly clear that I want you." Lance sighed, the rage slowly ebbing away, leaving him drained. "Keith...I think I've loved you since my birthday, though gods know that you've done just about everything to stop that. And I can guarantee that I'm feeling just as much pain as you are about this whole thing."
"Lance...stop. Please. I don't...I don't want to hear this, all right? If I could stop what I'm feeling I would."
"Fine. Fine. You know what, this just isn't worth it. It just isn't fucking worth it. I've gone through seven levels of emotional hell because of you, and I'm not going through that again. I'm not going to wait for you to come to terms with yourself. So, fuck it. Do whatever you like, Keith. I'm leaving. You won't have to worry about me chasing after you anymore." Lance turned around, shoulders bowed in resignation. Keith watched him go, wrapped in chaos as his entire world, his life and everything he had ever known shattered completely, irrevocably.
Kami...What do I do? Do I let Lance walk away? Do I follow my parents wishes, and continue the line? Or...or should I follow him, follow my heart? What do I do?
Lord, I love him so much. Why do I love him so much? How did this happen? How did he worm his way into my soul so easily? O Kami, I'm frightened of him. I'm frightened of the way I feel around him, frightened of how he makes me act, how he changes everything, makes everything...different. I'm so frightened, and yet, I want this so much. I want it with every fiber of my being.
But can I betray my parents so? Can I...can I become one of them, one of those people that my father hates so much? Can I...can I actually love another man? Can I actually love Lance?
...Can I afford not to love him?
The pain that suddenly wrenched his soul decided for him.
"Now what?" Lance sighed and turned around.
Keith reached out hesitantly to touch Lance's hair, hand dropping as the other boy irately twitched away. "Lance...I-I don't think I could live if you were gone. I'm sorry that I...that I put you through so much, sorry that I couldn't see how I felt, see what was really important to me. And, well, I don't know what I could do to make up for that." Keith's head dropped, his fear and guilt radiating from him in palpable waves.
Lance reached out, his entire being screaming to comfort Keith, but he was wary of this sudden change in Keith. "How do I know that you mean what you say, that this is for real?"
Keith swallowed, unable to answer that question, unable to prove to Lance that he meant what was said. "I...I can't prove that, not right now. But Lance, you have to believe me, have to believe what I'm saying." He gripped Lance's arm tightly, imploringly.
"Sorry. But I don't trust you. You've pulled too much shit on me today for me to believe you." Lance twisted out of Keith's grasp, turning around with a stiff back and hardened face. Keith felt tears well in his eyes, felt his throat constrict at the idea that he had ruined everything, destroyed the only person his mask had been unable to keep away. One hand reached up to grasp his ever present necklace for comfort, and a sudden inspiration struck.
"No! Wait! Here." Unfastening the necklace with one hand as he ran, Keith grabbed onto Lance's arm, pulling him to a stop. "Here. Take this. As long as you have this, I swear I will be your."
Lance took the necklace, eying the silver carvings, the eagle pendant, and the words twining between decorative flames. "Semper Fidelis? What's so special about this thing?"
"It...it was my brother's. The emblem of his squad. He," Keith swallowed around the lump that formed in his throat, "he gave it to me right before he died. The words are Latin--it's the oath of his team. It means 'Always Faithful'. And, I swear that I'll always be faithful to you, Lance. I swear it by the soul of my brother."
Lance ran his fingers over the necklace, then smiled suddenly up at Keith. "Put it on for me?"
Keith smiled back and slipped the delicate silver chain around Lance's neck. He kissed the warm metal where it touched Lance's skin, loving how it twinkled against the smooth brown of Lance's tan. To you am I now bound. I'll always be faithful, Lance no matter what may happen. My soul, my heart...I'm yours forever.
Later, much later, when salty skin was cleaned and puffy eyes healed, Keith lay on the bed and watched Lance work. His boyfriend was writing something, perhaps some forgotten homework, the pencil marring the pristine white of a piece of paper, leaving trails of grey in its wake.
Keith gave a happy sigh at the thought of Lance as his boyfriend. It was a thrilling, exciting, terrifying thought, one that danced dangerously on the brink of what he had always treated as accepted behavior. It was almost too intense, and deep in the back of his mind, a worrisome voice shouted out the consequences of this action.
But just seeing Lance content--to see his minutely tensed shoulders relaxed--was enough to silence that voice. There was something oddly rosy to him, a happy feeling that bubbled deep within Keith's soul whenever he looked at Lance. The feeling of Lance's eyes upon him made him look up and smile, relishing the open, soft, stare.
"What are you looking at?" Keith murmured, drowsy heat sapping his strength. The room's Regulator had gone on the fritz sometime earlier that day, shorting out the heating/cooling system completely and leaving the room at the mercy of the moon's muggy autumn weather. Keith still felt sticky and hot, despite the shower which left his hair glistening wet and the soft bedding sticking to his skin.
"You." Lance sighed and put down his pencil, sliding from his chair to pad on silent feet across the room on soft feet and collapse upon the bed in a lethargic abandon. Keith turned his head to face Lance, eyes lidded with drowsiness.
"Tell me about your family," Keith murmured. "I want to know who you are."
Lance chuckled softly. "Oh, I'm nothing like my family. For one, they're all blue-eyed, light haired farmers. My mum says we're from 'good stock'. They're nothing like me. I'm the most expressive member of my family. I have five brothers, all of them older than me, which really sucks because I was beaten up a lot. My brothers--Gods, my brothers are bizarre. They can make an eyebrow mean fifty different things. I suppose this is why Giano and Stefano are doing so well in the Garrison. They have eyes like...like...eagles I suppose. They can spot a sniper faster than my mum can spot a prank."
"Mmm. Where's your mom from?"
"The island of Capri on New Earth. I think you'd like her. She's the real force behind my family. My mum doesn't take flak from anybody. Of course, my da's from Balthos, which could be part of the reason why my mum's the head of the house. Da isn't very used to dealing with females. Anyway, that makes me and my brothers half-breeds. It's kind of odd, really. My brothers and I have two different names. Take my name for example. In Terran, Lance Giaccomo means 'Spear of the supplanter'. In Balthosian, it means 'Pledge of the gods'." Lance paused and looked critically at Keith. "I think that if you were to be named in Balthosian, you'd have to be called...Yas al'Shara. 'Flower of my heart'. Because that's how I see you," Lance whispered into his ear. The rosy heat of his body washed over Keith--a good heat--as Lance leaned down next to him, hands gently caressing his body.
Keith snickered. "Now I know that we're really a couple. You're getting sappy and I actually like it."
"Hah, hah. Anyway you are a flower to me. You're a rose. With very sharp thorns." Lance kissed Keith's shoulders, arms sliding under the still damp skin to wrap around his waist, head falling to rest on the smooth back. Though he couldn't see it, Keith felt the frown that pulled at Lance's face, the troubled expression caused his brow to furrow, and Keith sighed, knowing what would be asked of him.
"Keith...what did you mean when you said the Army would need you to assassinate someone? Why do you have these scars. Where did they come from?" A smooth finger accompanied the whispered words, traced one of the pale white lines, ran around the large patches of shiny flesh that marred the smooth tan of Keith's back. "What happened to you?"
"Long story to say the least," Keith mumbled back. He was so tired. Too tired to resist, too tired to keep the secrets buried. His head, his body, throbbed with an unknown pulse. Whispering voices from a time long past cried and murmured just beyond the range of his hearing, distracted him.
"If you...if you don't want to talk about it, I understand," Lance whispered, voice hesitant but filled with concern.
"No. It's okay. Do you know why I'm here, at Cogdah?" Lance shook his head against Keith's back, brown hair tickling the sensitive skin. Keith shivered at the sensation, shivered at the memories the feeling dredged up. "Well...I'm sure you know that before I came here I was in the Land Forces division of the GG, training to go into that division of the military. But...but that's not all I was doing there. There is this...squad, this special division that belongs to the entire GG...They're called the 'Redcaps' and they do the Alliance's dirty work. They're assassins, thieves, terrorists, spies, named after goblins that killed and dipped their berets in the blood of their enemies until their caps were stained the same brilliant red as that blood. And every member of that squad is a child.
"Or at least, there was a squad like that. After...after our little disaster on SinisIV, I don't think they reformed the squad.
"But I used to lead them; led them since I was nine. I wasn't even part of the Land Forces when I started, and they still put me command. All those scars--they're from missions. Ever last one of them; every mission that I've been on, every kill, every stolen piece of intelligence, or sabotaged machine or terrorist attack has embedded itself in my body, left a permanent memory. Kami, they hurt sometimes. Especially those patches on my shoulder blades; those were my first scars, I got them from the bomb that killed my brother Ash. At least, that's what the Docs tell me--memories of my life before I awoke in the Sanatorium on Methe in '25 are fuzzy, non-existent practically.
"Kami, I didn't even know what the hell I was doing when they put me in charge of the squad four years ago. I didn't have a clue as to how to lead, or what part of the body was the most sensitive to a knife thrust or a punch. Six months training and I still didn't know, not really. Hell, I don't even know now. I don't know why--No, I do know why. They made me a leader because being able to do all that, was instinctive for me. Knowing how to kill and how to maim and injure and hurt and sabotage and do such horrible horrible things---they were all just sort of there I just sort of knew. Sometimes I hate the Alliance for that, for thrusting me into such a position, for showing me things too early. But then I remember that it's all their fault that Ash died, that the people I'm killing took one of my own and threaten the safety of everyone in the Alliance. And I so, I killed them. Because they would hurt the Alliance if they weren't stopped and because sometimes, this was the only justice that they would answer to. And for that, they made me a Captain."
It didn't hurt so much, the memories. Not as before. The wound in his soul was still there, but it was no longer raw, no longer bleeding. And it felt so good to just talk, to fuck the classified warnings, and just speak, honor his fallen comrades in any way he could.
"There were six people in the squad--six kids defending the justice of the Alliance. Dorian, Michael, Kes, Inai and Rani--they were twins--and Jade. I was the second oldest--Dorian was a year older than me. And we were damn good at what we did. Damn good. We averted wars, ended scandals...killed for the Alliance, killed at a word, and we were all just children...All of us were just children. I mean, Jade wasn't even ten when she died. She wasn't even ten! Where's the justice in that? We killed because we could, because we were trained to kill, because we had special skills."
Blood, so much blood. And so much pain. Can't tell where the pain is coming from. So many missions, so many deaths, my hands stained with blood. The Knife of the Alliance. Chosen to kill, chosen to be the best because of who we were, because of what we could do, because we all looked so God damned innocent and nobody would ever suspect a bunch of kids would go around killing people. But what we were doing was right...right?
"Like Dorian--Kami was he good at building bombs. His favorite was this little device--no bigger than the palm of his hand--that could level the United Plant's building. And little Jade was the best assassin I've ever met. She could charm tears from a stone; and she never left a trace after killing her target. She was only five when she joined, you know? It was because she was a Hyperion, because her little body had more strength, more stamina and agility than a Terran in their prime. And she never even reached her full potential. Then there was Inai and Rani; they were top-notch spies, they could get into anything, anything. Even into the Lykorn defense system. They were eight years old when I met them. Michael had a mind like a steel trap. He remembered anything you told him, and could break codes in a matter of seconds. And Kes...Kami, Kes was special. He was an escape artist--better than Houdini, even. Kes was the same age as me. He grew up on Kelari, he's the only who survived SinisIV, besides me--well the guy we were supposed to kill, Yuri Kingmaker did too, but he's in some insane asylum somewhere.
"You know, if I hadn't fucked up, we'd still be killing. I don't know whether to be glad about that or not. I don't know if getting out while I could was a good thing or not. If I hadn't let them come, if I had just told them that it was a solo mission, than none of this mess would have happened. They'd all still be alive."
"What happened on SinisIV?" Lance's voice was soft but filled with a sick wonder. To know death so young...No wonder he's filled with such pain...
"I fucked up, is what it all boils down to. The mission was to kill Yuri before he could make the nephew of the king of SinisIV into the figurehead of the rebellion that was threatening the planet. The nephew was all right--he was only ten months old--Yuri was the real trouble-maker. Anyway, he was in this building, that was like a cross between those old castles up in Europe and dEkk-mnzvar forts, and I was supposed to go in and take him out. I had too, I was the only one good enough in all the fields--assassination, espionage, sabotage, terrorism--that the squad dealt with to be able to get to him safely. The fort was a death trap, and we all knew it was a death trap. Of course, being the idiot that I am, I decided that it'd be a good idea to take some back up. We tripped one of the warning systems on the fifth floor and one thing led to another--" Keith stopped suddenly, swallowing as memories of that day crashed down on him, drowned him in their intensity.
Voices, their voices. I can still hear them. I can still remember what they said...
"Shit! Keith, the alarms!"
"Michael, calm down! Get to work on disarming those alarms. Rani, how bad is it?"
"Pretty fucking bad. Keith--it's a set up."
"We've got to abort! There's a bomb wired to the foundation! Five minutes until they'll only be enough of us left to put in a sandwich bag."
"No! We do not abort. Failure of this mission is not an option. Come on, we've got to kill this guy. Do you want that kid to grow up like us? Do you want to be responsible for the civil war that'll tear this planet apart? The Alliance needs these mines."
"Fuck! Gun fire!"
"Christ Almighty, they knew we were coming, they knew we were coming!"
"Hysterics aren't helping! Head for cover and shoot back at them, damn it!"
"Keith, they've got some kind of new armor. Our bullets are doing jack shit."
"Ahh! I'm hit! Inai, help me, it hurts, it hurts, OGodOGodOGodOGod."
"Jade! Don't worry, we're going to get out of here. Don't worry--O lord, there's so much blood. How can she have so much blood? Jade, open your eyes. Please, open your eyes."
"No! No, you bastards! You bastards, you killed her!"
"Inai! You crazy fucker, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Keith, we're not going to make it out of here."
"Kes, don't say that! We'll get out; we always get out."
"Not this time."
"Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..."
"Five seconds 'till detonation."
"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven...
"See you in hell, buddy."
But Keith pushed on. He didn't care anymore, didn't worry anymore. He was past that, damn it. He was a soldier--a warrior--and death happened. He should know, he was often the dealer of death. It was time to move past the pain. It was time to move on, time to let them go, time to let old spirits die and stop them from disturbing his dreams by their tapping, their incessant tapping on his window, bloody faces pushed up against the glass smearing the clear surface--
He cut off that line of thought abruptly. Hysterics never helped, only hindered; that was the first rule he learned. "We were attacked, and the building pretty much exploded right out from under us. Kes and I were lucky; when we fell through the floor, we hit a wine cellar or something. Of course, the rest of the building fell on top of us, but at least we were alive." Keith shuddered. Those last five minutes still plagued him, even now, half a year after the attack. "It took two days for the rescue team to dig us out. The Alliance cooked up some half-ass story about an honors program and a field trip to cover why we were there, Kes and I got plastered all over the news briefs, got a bunch of honors and shit, and the 'Redcaps' got quietly retired. Doesn't quite make up for about a month of reconstructive surgery, and having to put up with idiot psychologists, but that's about the extent of what happened." Keith closed his eyes and swallowed around a suddenly dry throat. "You're the first person that I've told any of this to, Lance. I'm actually a little sorry that I did so. Didn't mean to burden you with my problems."
"You're trembling," Lance whispered, voice filled with compassion. Gentle fingers ran through his hair, stilled his limbs.
"Huh. So I am. Fancy that."
A Brief History of New Earth
An Essay by Kai Jhe'va
Professor of Terran History
The history of New Earth is a long and complicated one. The origins of this planet span both Time, and Space, stretching back aeons before this foundation of this planet to the First Earth, Earth-prime, which was found in the now almost mythical "Milky Way Galaxy". From the records left by the founders of this planet--those who came in the Colony Carrier Ganymedes--we have learned that the settlers who crashed on this planet were part of the first wave of a Preservation colony destined for the moon "Calisto" of the planet "Jupiter" in the Solar System and that Earth-prime was in the middle of its third millennium. The fifty-thousand settlers who happened upon New Earth through a 'Worm hole', were ill prepared for the harsh life that greeted them on this uninhabited planet. The intellectuals of the colony, few among them knew how to build and maintain their current level of technology, and they quickly regressed into a highly primitive culture, similar to that experienced during the "prehistoric" era on Earth-prime.
These first settlers originally stayed in a close-knit community, building the famous city of Athens at the spot where the transport crashed. This city, long thought to be lost, was primitive by the standards of 37th century Earth-prime, but to those on New Earth, it was a technological marvel, made of indestructible alloys and Calarium powered machines. This city was ruled by the Sixteen, and all the knowledge of Old Earth was stored within the great, silent buildings that lined the streets. However, like all things mechanical, the cities technology eventually failed, leaving these early settlers without a means of providing for themselves. The inhabitants of the city drifted away, each racial and cultural group creating their own small clans, and for the next thousand years, spent their time forming nations exceedingly reminiscent to those they had left behind; these early countries are so similar to those of Old Earth that they are almost exact in geography, and all bear the same names as those found in their "mother" country. These early settlers also began to rebuild their level of technology, slowly moving toward their former glory. Oddly enough, these settlers seemed extremely conscientious of the state of their environment, appearing to hold extreme reluctance to destroy the natural environs. Some hypothesize that this was a hold over from the first settlers advanced state of civilization, but it has been conclusively proven that it was easier for our ancestors to work in concert with their environs, rather than attempting to control them.
The first settlers faced many trials, not the least of which was the difference in time between New Earth and Earth-prime. Through the study of the earliest records, it seems as if the death rate of the settlers is greatly disproportionate to that of the Earth-prime. Many of New Earth's early inhabitants died in their late-twenties and early-thirties, instead of in their hundreds as was common on Earth-prime at the time. Many of the deaths were due to harsh living conditions, lack of proper medical facilities, and the dangers of primeval New Earth, but it also seems as if a day on Earth-prime were roughly half that of a day on New Earth; so, these earlier settlers were far too used to living at nearly twice the speed of their new planet. However, due to the radiation and spatial anomalies found in the worm hole--a spatial anomaly in and of itself--these settlers did not physically age as fast. Instead, it seems as if their physical form outwardly adapted itself to its new environs (as in, one year on the planet aged the body one year), but the onset of old age seems to have nearly tripled from that of what they had experienced before; their ancestors started to show signs of old age generally around the age of seventy, while our ancestors reached the peak of their life at age seventeen. This led to the bestowment of responsibility and power upon their offspring at a much earlier age than normal (see Appendix A). The legacy of our ancestors adaptation to their new environs can be seen even now, with fifteen being the age of adulthood, and our near-obsessive view on time; no other known planet can claim to achieve as much from a second of a day as New Earth.
...In the third millennium of New Earth inhabitation, the populace was contacted by an alien race. Though outwardly the copy of the Terran race, these aliens, dubbed Arusians after the name of their planet, were by far and away the superior race, exceeding Terrans in all things. Arus joined in alliance with New Earth. Although originally heralded as a time of equality, Arus' greater knowledge of space and superior armaments quickly established her as the more powerful planet. This arrangement was galling to the Terrans and, though never outwardly challenging their ally (especially after the Alliance blossomed into the grand entity that we know today), the Terrans surreptitiously attempted to gain the upper hand in any dealings that the fledgling Alliance had. Though the Terrans did not emerge as superior in these affairs, they did manage to make impressive headway into their ultimate goal; namely, the establishment of New Earth as the base for the United Planets Counsel. This ensured that the power of the Alliance rested solely in Terran hands, and it is no coincidence that New Earth is the greatest source of personnel in every tier of the Alliance.
...It wasn't until 8000 that New Earth managed to break free from the stalemate that had occurred between her and Arus. The advent of the Fourth Plague and the death of over 1.6X1030 life forms in the Alliance was one of the darkest periods in New Earth history...[during this time] the Arusian Civil War erupted. These two events devastated Arus, and the planet was forced to turn inward for a thousand years, attempting to heal from these dual wounds. It was during this time that New Earth committed its most heinous crime. Not content with snatching every last scrap of power from the Alliance and molding it into a system that was agreeable to her inhabitants, New Earth also refused to send aid to Arus when she was attacked by Olran Bandits in 8023. Though the Arusian space force managed to repel the attack, her already-exhausted economy collapsed once more. So devastated was Arus that the entire planet regressed to a culture that reflected the feudal era of 1500 New Earth...
However, it should not be said that Arus is without some of the power that she once possessed. Though New Earth managed to stage a small coup, and seize control of the Alliance, Arus is still the primus iner pares and the Arusian monarch is still the Chairman of the Counsel of Five, holding the closest thing to absolute power there is in the Alliance. However, since Arus has not attended a meeting of the Five since 8008, this rank is now considered nothing more than an honorary title. Indeed, many consider New Earth as the Chairman for all the power now attributed to this planet...
Comparison of Physical attributes between inhabitants of
New Earth (c. 10038) and Earth-prime (c.3620)
New Earth age <--> Earth-prime age
Age 1-9 <--> Age 1-12
Age 10-15 <--> Age 13-18
Age 16-20 <--> Age 19-25
Age 21-30 <--> Age 26-55
Age 31-40 <--> Age 56-80
Old Age (retirement):
Age 40-50 <--> Age 80-110
Age 50-60 <--> Age 110-130
Note: The record for the longest life cycle of a full-blooded Terran since the founding of New Earth goes to one Syrus O'Shea, who lived in 3990 and reached the incredible age of 72 years.
Date: December 20, 10029 A.F.
Location: Hapsar platform, Halarnath station,
Francisco City, Epsilon quadrant
Time: 1240 STG
The transport was late, and someone had forgotten to turn the snow off. Lance fidgeted in the simulated cold, wondering again, at the human drive to make things recognizable. Environmental Regulators are all well and good, he thought, but couldn't they just forget about this miserable season? Lances' thoughts grew darker as he reflected on the furrowed lines that marred Keith's brow, lines that were well on their way to being permanent.
It had not been a happy two months for either boy, despite the sudden revision of their relationship from friendship to intimate. Lance was still leery of Keith's commitment, of whether or not he would awaken in the morning with Keith beside him. Too often was he caught in the throws of aversion, a distancing from the one man who caused his soul to scream in euphoristic pain, too afraid that Keith would leave him. Yet, there were times when he found himself in the thrall of a passion--a love--that was frightening in its intensity, so powerful that he often could not hold himself in check, jumping upon Keith with an animal desire, kissing and petting in need but still too wary to allow himself--or Keith--much more than that. And lately, those times were becoming and more frequent. Too frequent for the reservations that Lance still held.
But far too infrequent for the need.
Keith, on his part, was driving himself slowly insane with need. Unsure of whether his advances would be met, whether Lance still desired him, still wanted him, Keith had forced himself to maintain an even more rigorous hold on his hormones than he had before they had both gotten plastered and confessed. He had surprised himself, though, in the ease with which he had become used to the few kisses Lance allowed. That he could be so familiar, the only member of his squad who had never been part of the casual--almost intimate--touches, was frightening in a way; yet in its way, exciting beyond belief.
In a way, it was almost amusing at how their roles had been reversed; the chaser now the chased, the hunter the hunted. It would have been hilarious, had it not been them. Still, Lance was finally letting himself trust, letting their rocky beginning go, not letting his fears destroy what might be. It was this new resolve that had them out on the platform in the first place, waiting for the ship that would take them to Tyrs'ai and Lance's family for their Winter break.
"You're sure your parents aren't going to mind that I'm coming with you?" Lance sighed and turned to his boyfriend, rolling his eyes as Keith asked the same question for the umpteenth time that day. Feeling in a playful mood, Lance grinned at Keith.
"Yes, I'm sure. They expect me to bring home strays." His breath formed a small cloud in the air before him; an occurrence that never failed to fascinate Lance. It was just about the only good thing to come from winter in his opinion.
"Strays?" An eyebrow quirked, the beginnings of a smile forming on Keith's face.
"Oh yeah. Dogs, cats, birds, Sven...You should be no surprise. After Sven, I think my joh'ri--sorry, my parents--will be able to handle everything. You won't even present a challenge."
"Really now." Keith's arms wrapped themselves around Lance's waist, enfolding him in a comforting warmth.
Hmm...So this is why this season is so popular. Lance leaned back, relishing how Keith filled his bones with warm, melting into that heat. "Yeah, I don't think that there is anything you could do to challenge my parents."
"Even this?" Keith leaned forward and in, kissing the soft mouth that tilted back in expectation. "Or this?" he breathed, hands traveling southward, slipping into the waistband of Lance's jeans.
"Well, they might notice that," Lance sighed, melting under Keith administrations, silently congratulating himself on not flinching away, on accepting Keith's touch with out that wary mistrust which had marred their intimacy up to this night. It was nice that his whole being was finally believing the oath Keith had sworn almost three months ago.
Keith gave a strangled gasp and jumped away from Lance at the soft, slightly amused cough, his hands whipping from Lance's jeans faster than they had gone in. Lance whirled around to glare angrily at whoever had coughed, knowing that his face was flaming red in embarrassment. The heat which stained his checks now grew even greater as he saw that it was Sven who had coughed, a knowing--almost lecherous--grin on his face. Still, however much embarrassment he was feeling now, was surely less than that of Keith, who looked absolutely mortified.
"Vell," Sven began, "I vas going to wish yew a happy Christmas, but I think that yew two vill be having a happy Christmas where ever yew go."
"Your just jealous that you don't have anybody to spend Christmas with," Lance shot back, trying to get his embarrassment under control. "All you have to go home to his your mum and her boyfriend."
"Yew've found me out, Lance. I secretly vant Keit. In fact, the only reason that I've come here is to steal him away from yew. Come, Keit! Let me take yew away from this moon and back to the beautiful fjords of Sweden."
Lance smiled. "Ahh, you've progressed far, Little Grasshopper. But you will never beat the master of sarcasm!"
"Vell, ve'll see." The platform shook as the transport to Tyrs'ai arrived. "Looks like yer ships here. I'll see yew guys in two weeks."
"Yep. Come on, Keith. I can't wait for you to meet my family." Lance grabbed Keith's hand and pulled him onto the transport. He smiled and grabbed a quick kiss in the entrance-way, mind already thinking of what the fun they would have-- preoccupied with what was going to be, he completely missed the flash of jealousy that marred the normally impassive Swede's face.
Date: December 26, 10029 A.F.
Location: Tiazone holdings, Ashakl
Tyr'sai, Shoal quadrant
Time: 1620 STG
There was a cliff in the Tiazone holding, that looked out across the Bay of Horses, and cast a shadow across the dark water that foamed and moaned below. It was strong in its solitude, a bastion from an ancient time, once used as a lookouts post for marauders. Now a days, however, it was more often used for a secret tryst, the flat head covered in a tangle of sweet truskawa bushes which kept prying eyes away. In the warmth of the Tyrs'ai season of Jhan--so different from New Earth's winter--the dark red fruit were just starting to ripen, glowing thick and juicy in the setting sun. Keith lay among them, lips stained with their juice, belly aching from his gorging. It was still too early for the young lovers of the village on the bay to make the trek up the bluff and Keith loved the solitude.
Kami, where is Lance? First, he tells me to make sure that I'm not late, and then he forgets to even show up. Sighing, rolling over onto his protesting stomach, Keith gazed at the setting sun's reflection on the clouds. I'd swear he was adopted if he didn't look so much like his father...
Keith smiled at the thought of the rest of the Tiazone family, and let himself slip into a wistful, dreamy state. It would be nice to have a family like Lance's, to have such a loving, expressive mother, and a wise, dryly humorous father. To have siblings that ran and played, and joked. From the first moment that he had laid eyes upon the horde that was Lance's clan, he had felt welcomed. Mama Tiazone hadn't hesitated to wrap him in a hug--the sort of bone crushing bear hug that Ash used to give him when on leave--and then the hard, jarring, friendly clap of Papa Tiazone's hand on his shoulder and the whirling chaos of the five brothers, chattering, greeting, sweeping and swirling in a flurry of clothing and bags and air-brushed happy kisses.
They were all so different from Lance, and more so than just in physical appearance. Lance was dark, almost dusky compared to them, with his dark brown eyes--so different from the rest of the Tiazone's crystal blue orbs--and lovely, silken, mahogany hair. And they were all thicker set, less impish, less puckish than Lance. They were all so...grounded. Almost sedate, with an earthy feeling. Everything the did was...subtle. Every small gesture was filled with meaning. It was so very different from Lance's passionate and expressive manner.
"Keith?" Lance's voice floated through the sunset air, breathless and confused. Keith sat up, wincing slightly as his over-full stomach protested. He smiled slightly as the other boy continued his trek up the cliff path, hauling a basket behind him. "Keith, where the hell are you?"
"Right here, Lance." Keith stood, carefully avoiding the thorns that covered the truskawa branches.
"Well, get your ass over here and help me with this food," Lance grunted, pulling the basket along, straining under the weight of the fare packed within the wicker confines. Keith edged his way out of the tangled, brambly underbrush, cursing softly as the softly as his clothing was caught and his skin pricked. Arms covered in small, ruby patterns, Keith met Lance at the edge of the bluff, too late to offer any help. Lance wrinkled his nose at Keith and snorted.
"Some help you are."
Keith shrugged and grinned. "How was I supposed to know that it's harder to get out of those bushes than it is to get in?"
"You're hurt." Lance reached out to touch the myriad scratches, looking at the red which stained his finger tips in a strange sort of wonder.
"It's nothing. Merely a flesh wound," he proclaimed grandly before prodding the wicker basket with one foot. "So, what exactly is in there?"
Lance sighed. "Well, I wanted this to be a really special night, because I have something really important to tell you. So, I tried to cook." Keith raised one eyebrow in perfect disbelief. "Don't worry. That isn't what you're going to be eating. That stuff could probably pass as a level one biohazard. The stuff that's in there is the best fare that fifty credits can buy down in the village."
Grinning, Lance opened the basket and pulled out a colorful blanket which he spread upon the ground, setting up a candelabra as well, to replace the now dying sun light. The blanket was followed by various dishes from conjured up from the depths of the basket: a meat dish, drowned in a thick gravy; fruit so plump and ripe that it was bruised just by gazing upon it; salads, pastas, a pie that smelled sweeter than the flowers around it...Keith felt sick just looking at the feast.
"Yeah?" Lance was humming as he set up the meal, carefully arranging the medley of dishes.
"I, uh, I don't think I can eat any of this." Keith felt himself wilting under Lance's surprised stare, and he hurried to explain himself. "I, um, I was hungry when I got up here, and I kind of gorged myself on those berries over there," he waved vaguely towards the copse, "and if I eat anything more right now, I'm either going to explode or vomit."
"Oh." Lance rocked back onto his heels. "Well, this puts a bit of a crimp in my plans." He sighed. "Well, I'm still hungry, and most of this stuff keeps over-night, so it won't be that much of a loss. Damn it, this was supposed to be special."
"Why?" Keith sat down on the blanket, across from the now petulant Lance.
"Because, I wanted to say I was sorry--and I am, I'm very sorry for being such an ass lately--and I wanted to give you a truly romantic dinner, and I went through all this trouble and you went and ate yourself sick on berries. I swear, the Gods have conspired against me in everything."
"You didn't have to go through all that trouble just to apologize, you know," Keith chuckled. "Just saying sorry would have been enough for me."
"Oh. Well, damn, I wish I'd known that before I bought all this stuff." Lance pouted for a minute, then shrugged. "No big loss. It just means that we'll be eating leftovers." He lapsed into silence, staring expectantly at Keith. Keith looked blankly back, unsure of what was expected of him.
"Well?" Lance finally asked impatiently.
"Well what?" Keith replied.
"Do you forgive me?"
"Oh! Yes, of course."
Lance smiled, an almost smug smile. "Good. Because you are just too damn sexy to let go." He leaned across gently kissed Keith on the lips. It was a chaste kiss, but a willing one that was more passionate in its unreserved purity; it was sweet and full of tempting, tantalizing secrets. Keith licked his lips when they broke apart, wanting to explore those secrets, to unravel each layer in gentle adoration, to know every wrinkle, every crevice in the lips which the candle flames flickered over. Lance smiled seductively and grabbed his hand, pulling him down to the blanket with shy, alluring glances and air-light kisses over suddenly tingling skin.
Behind them, the moon rose.
Date: June 1, 10030 A.F.
Location: Halpenny Auditorium,
Time: 0800 STG
The new term had not yet started, but Sven was already learning a valuable lesson: the opening assembly was vastly different from the audience than it was from the stage. The whole ceremony was rather...boring without the expectation of singing that had consumed him last year. Sven leaned back in his seat, contemplating the wisdom of joining the poker game Lance, Keith, Holden and Klin'ra had going on. However, he wasn't so sure if he wanted to lose the credits his mother had given him so early in the term. They were all notorious cheats and card sharks in the making, and whenever the four played cards together, the games quickly disintegrated into seeing who could cheat better.
"Hey, did you hear?" Nanaki nudged Sven with his head. The giant fire-red Olran's voice was low and gravelly. What the peaceful creature was doing in the Galaxy Garrison was still a source of great speculation--and not a few betting pools. Though savage looking--his one good eye a fierce yellow, the other nothing more than a scar, body marked with the symbols of his tribe, hair spiked into a fearsome mohawk--and shaped more as a killer than a pacifist, Nanaki was too softhearted to ever be a fighter. He was destined for scholar work, a teaching position. And Sven was glad of that. It would be a crime to force such a peaceful, gentle, creature into a position where he would be forced to kill.
"Well Sven? Did you hear?"
"That ve got some mechanical geniuses coming here? Da, yew told me a few days ago."
"No, not that. There's something new."
"Vell, vat is it?"
"Keith's up for an award."
Sven groaned, and rolled his eyes to say 'So what else is new'. Nanaki grinned, rough, pink tongue hanging out of the toothsome mouth. "Yeah, but this time it's for a painting he did."
"A painting." Nanaki wrinkled his nose. "I didn't know that he painted, did you? D'you suppose there's more to him than just fighting?"
"Hah! I win." Keith was grinning broadly as he swept the pile of credit chips in his direction. Holden hissed, lizard face wrinkled in disappointment. The Harmonai hated to lose, and her thin, forked tongue flickered with agitation. Klin'ra merely shrugged his huge shoulders and shifted his bulky form. The Renstat surely had something up his sleeve. Probably an ace. Or perhaps five.
Sven shook his head, unable to comprehend the idea of a non-competitive Keith. The thought that Keith might take his focus from the martial classes in Cogdah to dabble in...art, or poetry, or something fanciful that didn't involve some element of battle was just too alien. The world would end before something like that happened.
"No, really! I saw it!" Nanaki protested. "It was actually sort of...beautiful. In a bloody and disturbing way. I think that it was part of the whole anger management course that they're making him take."
"Oh. Vell, that explains it then."
"Yeah, well, did you see it?" Sven shook his head. "It was a little bizarre. See, there was this winged man--"
"Like an angel? If yew ask me, the whole guardian angel thing has been done already."
Nanaki shook his head. "Not quite this way. I don't think I've ever seen a guardian angel standing on a pile of bodies and holding a severed head."
Sven blinked. "Hmm. Vell, that certainly is a twist. Yew know, I don't think that those courses are helping too much."
"Yeah," Nanaki mumbled. The two cast a surreptitious look at his gambling, bloodthirsty friend and edged a little further away.
Date: February 05 , 10032 A.F.
Location: Tudor Residency Hall, rm. 113.
Cogdah Academy, Fransisco City, Epsilon quarter.
Selene, Priman Quadrant.
Time: 0800 STG
Lance was annoying the hell out of his room mates, bouncing off of the walls and making a general nuisance of himself. He had snuck into the kitchen earlier that morning to steal a cup of coffee; the jolt of forbidden caffeine had turned the normally energetic boy into a bouncing, aggravating, hyperactive gas molecule. And Sven was quickly running out of patience.
Pulling his head out from under his pillow he glared across the room at the bundled form in the other bed. "Vell, vhy aren't yew doing something, Keit?"
"Why should I be doing something?" Keith grumbled back.
"Yew are his boyfriend. Can't yew control him? For chrissake, it's our late day."
Keith sighed and opened his eyes. Waiting for Lance to make another pass by the bed, Keith reached and snagged the bouncing boy, pulling him onto the bed. The two disappeared under the blankets, and Sven smiled as peace was restored to their dorm room. He flopped his head back down onto his pillow and closed his eyes, preparing to slip away into the realm of sleep once more. Until the giggling started, anyway.
At first it was soft, just on the edge of his hearing. Acceptable, if somewhat distracting. And then it got louder. And louder. Until it was all that Sven could hear. It consumed him, took over everything, and by God was it irritating.
Normally, Sven was the calm one of the trio. He had to be with Lance the psychopath on one side and Keith the sociopath on the other. He was the one to smooth things over with angry classmates after Lance's pranks got out of hand, and calm Keith down before he used a pen to gut a teacher that he disagreed with--and Sven had no doubt that Keith could indeed do this.
Sven was a master of Zen, in complete control of his face, able to let the world pass him by without managing to get a single rise from him. He had perfected the art of aloofness, blue-ice eyes always calm. He could withstand angry rants, juvenile pranks, the grating sound of a whetstone running over a knife. But, to hear Keith and Lance giggling, to know that his roommates had something special, something that Sven could never possibly have, because he was so aloof, so distant, was just beyond his scope of endurance.
At least, that was the reason he gave himself as the source behind his annoyance at the giggling. He wasn't prepared to think about the real reason, about why the noise grated so. He wasn't ready to face the truth behind the gut wrenching feelings he got at watching the two of them kiss; the itching feeling to run his hands through the silken hair and push errant bangs away from entrancing eyes...
Sven shook his head to free himself from such thoughts. It was too early for soul searching. And besides, he was tired damn it! His two room mates had kept him awake all night playing strip poker--or did it just disintegrate into a drinking-and-pranking session?--with Holden, Nanaki, Klin'ra and the two newbies (Pidge and Hunk he thought they were called) the mechanical geniuses. So it was all their fault that he had ended up naked, half-drunk and streaking down the hallways at five in the morning, in the girl's wing, screaming something about chickens and the Russians. And the hangover was their fault as well.
He hurled his pillow at the slightly squirming lump, hoping that it would get them to shut up. His ploy failed pathetically and now he was left without a pillow.
Deciding that it would be impossible to gain further rest, Sven rolled out of his bed, landing on the floor with a thump. Gathering a clean uniform, Sven snatched his pillow back from his dorm mates' bed.
"I'm going out. Perhaps there vill be a pretty young woman who vill be villing to share their bed vith me."
Lance poked his head out from the blankets. "Have fun. Don't to anything I wouldn't."
"Lance, that only expands the list," Keith murmured, head appearing beside his boyfriend's. Sven rolled his eyes and snatched up his school materials.
"Vell, I'm going now. Please try to remember to go to class today. I'm tired of covering yer asses."
Lance snorted. "Please. We are plenty good at covering each other's ass."
Sven sighed and rolled his eyes. "I meant outside of the bed, yew idiot. Now, I'm leaving before yew two ruin my whole day." The tall Swede slipped out of the room, leaving Lance and Keith alone. Lance waited for the door to close before turning to Keith, a twinkle in his eye.
"You know, we're all alone now..."
"Why yes," Keith made a great show of looking around the room, "I believe that we are."
"You do realize what this means, don't you?" Lance's voice had dropped to a husky whisper, body shifting until it covered Keith's.
"I don't believe I do. Why don't you educate me?"
Lance grinned and kissed Keith's nose, moving slowly downward with feather light brushes. Keith moaned under the ministrations, hating Lance for this exquisite torture, loving him for the feelings that he aroused.
Somebody knocked on the door, loudly and instantly, demanding to be let in. "Keith? Keith, open up. It's not nice to keep your parents waiting, son." The voice was rough and gravely, and it chilled Keith to the bone.
"Shit! The General!" Keith sat up, scrambling out of bed in a tangled rush of blankets and limbs. Lance, who had been pulled onto the floor with him, looked up at Keith in confusion.
"What's going on?"
"My parents are here. Lance, I gotta go. I'll catch up with you later." Keith was already halfway changed, somehow managing to look decent even though half a minute ago he was but a few seconds away from a rather pleasurable carnal encounter. He swooped down to plant a brief kiss upon Lance's forehead, before dashing out of the room. Through the door, Lance caught a brief glimpse of General Tsumetai, the man in charge of Japan's military, and a pretty Japanese woman before the door slid closed and he was left all alone and dreadfully confused.
It wasn't until the end of their first class that Lance finally managed to corner Keith. He fell in stride with his boyfriend, waiting expectantly for the promised explanation. When it became obvious that one wasn't forthcoming, he grabbed Keith's hand and pulled him into a nearby door alcove, out of the flow of traffic.
"Well? What's going on? What were your parents doing here?" Lance demanded.
"It's not important." Keith brushed off Lance's questions, moving to merge with the stream of students once more. Lance grabbed him arm and pulled him back, eyes demanding.
"Bull shit. Tell me."
"Fine," Keith sighed. "But, you have to promise not to get angry."
"Now why would I get angry?"
"Because my parents have no clue that we're going out. As far as they know, I'm looking for a nice girl to settle down with."
Keith sighed, rubbing his forehead, trying to sooth the beginnings of a headache. He did not need this. "Okay, you know my brother Ash is dead, right?" Lance nodded. "Well that means that I'm the last hope for my family to continue the genetic line. My mother can't have any more children, and my father is too honorable to take a mistress--my father is really big on honor. So, I need to go find some willing female, spread my seed, and make sure the Tsumetai line continues into the future."
"You don't have any cousins?" Lance wasn't sure if he should be annoyed or sympathetic.
"Nope. In fact, I'm not even carrying down my parents genes. My father--General Tsumetai--isn't really my father, nor is my mother my real mother. My blood-father died of...cancer, I believe, when I was just a child and I've always been told that my birth-mother died giving birth to me. I don't remember any of this life--from what memories of my childhood I do have, the General has always been my father--but the doctors say that partial amnesia is common in victims of severe head trauma."
"You can't remember your father at all?"
Keith sighed. "Lance, for all intents and purposes, the General is my father. It's that whole 'Nurture vs. Nature' question. The General and my mother are my uncle and aunt through nature. However, I view them as my mother and father because they nurtured me."
"So, basically, you've been adopted. And you don't have the slightest clue as to the whole genetic thing, because what you're talking about is something entirely different from your whole situation."
"Well, yes. But it sounded intelligent, didn't it?"
"No. And why the hell do you need to impregnate some chick!"
"Because," Keith spoke slowly as if to a slow child, "it's my duty to make sure that a line which stretches back to the first settlers continues. My parents expect that of me, and I'm not about to disappoint them." Keith paused. "And it's the only concrete duty expected of me that I've been able to get out of them. I honestly think that they don't know what to do with me."
"Oh well, that's great. So you pick screwing a girl as the one thing to honor your parents." Lance sighed. "Why can't you use one of those 'create-a-kid' centers, and find a willing host mother?"
"Tradition for the most part. It needs to be as 'natural' as possible. And my father is a strict traditionalist. Which brings up another thing. You cannot tell them we're going out. The shock could kill my father. Worse, he may feel that I've compromised the family's honor and that I must commit seppuku in order to atone. Neither of which are exactly pleasant prospects, especially if he believes that this is a grave enough offense to allow some bending of tradition. Besides, he hates gays." Lance shot Keith a 'You've got to be kidding' look. Keith shrugged and defensively replied, "I told you; he's a traditionalist. He doesn't believe that there should be homosexuals in the military."
"But that issue hasn't been a controversy for five hundred and fifty years!" Lance practically shouted. "What lifetime is you father living in?"
"Well, he barely tolerates gays in any situation, so it's a sort of widespread hatred. He thinks the whole thing is unnatural." Keith sighed and checked his watch and pulled Lance into the quickly thinning stream of traffic. "Look, we need to get to class."
"Fine. So, how exactly does this effect our relationship? Am I now the 'other man'? Should I expect you to come back to the dorm after poking some girl?"
"No. Look, I'm sure I can work something out. Maybe a nice lesbian couple would be willing to bear my child."
"Oh yeah, that'd be a good for the kid. Four parents; no, no. That's not going to confuse the poor child."
"Well, do you have any suggestions?" Keith asked shortly.
"I heard there was this medical breakthrough recently where males can bear children. It's based off of the genetic code of some...sea creature I think. Or perhaps it was a frog. Anyway, it's highly experimental right now, but I bet that in a few years it'll be common enough. We could try that."
"You'd be willing to undergo a medical procedure that will enable you to have birth?"
"Oh no." Lance shook his head vehemently. "You'd be the one giving birth. I've seen enough delivery vids to be scarred for life, thank you very much. Besides, you'd make the better mother. You can actually cook."
Keith snorted. "Wuss."
"Damn straight. Besides, I tend to think that it's a good idea to stay away from medical procedures where the needle is the size of my hand." Lance sobered, taking Keith's hand in his. "But, yes, if it means that I get to keep you, than I would carry your child."
"That's so sweet." Keith kissed Lance on the cheek, pulling Lance's arm around his waist and snuggling closer. He tilted his head to rest it upon Lance's shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I don't have to worry about some hussy stealing you away, do I?"
"Nope. Well, unless you become a woman...But I would think that that occurrence would be one of the signs of the apocalypse." Keith checked his watch again, then looked up at Lance. "You know, we've managed to stall long enough that going to class is going to be sort of pointless."
"Really? Hmm...Want to just skip the rest of the day and go back to the room to continue what your parents interrupted?"
Keith grinned and let himself be steered back to their room.
Date: May 21, 10031 A.F.
Location: Tudor Residency Hall,
rm. 113. Cogdah Academy.
Time: 0800 STG
Keith sighed as he packed his bags. His parents were gone on another mission and all that awaited him on New Earth was a lonely and empty house. Endings always depressed him, and the last two years had been...nice. Very nice.
Well, it's done now, so no use getting all teary eyed over something that cant' be changed. Keith placed another perfectly folded shirt in his suitcase. Moving on again. Isn't there a song about this sort of thing? Or is it 'On the Road Again'?.
"Hey." Lance's warmth settled on him, arms draped over his shoulders, impish face peering down at the packed clothing. "What're you doing?"
"Getting ready to go home." Keith shrugged Lance off and moved toward the dresser. Lance trailed after him, hurt by this sudden lack of interest.
"Oh. You do know that you're always welcome at my house, right?" Keith nodded curtly and checked to see if he had packed all of his books. He would hate to loose a single one of them. Lance sighed and tried again. "Well, where'd you get posted?"
"Oh cool! Sven and I are going there too! Hey, maybe we're in the same squad." Lance wrapped his arms around Keith's waist, kissing his neck. "That'd be good, right?"
Keith stilled, then turned, eyes solemn and dark. "Lance, we need to talk."
Lance sighed. "Oh Gods that doesn't sound good."
"Lance...Things are going to be different."
"Yeah, no duh. We're not going to be bound by Academy rules anymore."
"No, there's more than that." Keith sighed and grabbed Lance's face, forcing the young man to stare him in the eyes. "Lance, we're going to be killing for a living now. There is nothing romantic, or simple about this. Lance, you have to understand that we are at war, now. There's no more training, no more mistakes. This is real life. And we will really be hurt, and, in all likelihood, we will really be killed or tortured as well. There are things out there...things that nobody should ever see, let alone experience; and we're going to see and experience and live through them. There are going to be days when every inch of you is covered in blood, when there are corpses piled five feet deep and all you can think about is how good it would be to put your gun to your head and join those rotting, stinking bodies because they're in a place that's a thousand times better than what you are. There are going to be days when you'll be the only survivor of your squad, and times when you're going to have to kill people who look and act just like you--may even be related to you--and are fighting for a cause that you might believe in as well, but the Alliance doesn't. There may even be times when you'll be forced to kill you team members, because it's better to give them a mercy kill than to let them suffer. You could be tortured, brutally treated and ignored by the Alliance because it's easier for them to just forget you ever existed than try and get you out. And through it all, you're going to have to be faithful to your oath as a soldier of the Alliance, be faithful to the principals of war, or be branded a traitor and killed by your team."
Lance rolled his eyes. "Keith, I understand. I'm not so naive as you believe. I know that what we're about to go into is dangerous. I haven't been slacking off every minute of the past two years. I may not have your experience, but I know what war is, and I know what death is and I know what killing is. I think I can handle whatever the Alliance throws my way; and I have faith that the higher ups wouldn't just toss green soldiers into the middle of a full-fledged war. There would be a shit-fest if we were treated as cannon fodder."
"Oh." Keith suddenly relaxed, a broad, relieved smile lighting his face. "Good." He grabbed Lance's arms and pulled the other boy close, burying his face against Lance's chest. Lance tucked Keith's head under his chin.
"So, do you want me to help you finish packing?"
Keith shook his head. "Just...just hold me for now. I want to remember peace."
Are you concerned with your child's education?
Worried about what the state of the Alliance?
Well, worry no longer!
If you are concerned with the future, if you are a good citizen of the Alliance, why not look into sending your offspring to Cogdah Academy?
Yes, Cogdah Academy, home of some of the greatest leaders of the Alliance. Along these hallowed halls have walked such leaders like Admiral Oshane, General Hotspur, and the great Black Prince. Cogdah Academy has always had long tradition of excellence, graduating some of the finest soldiers and officers in the Galaxy Garrison. Small in size, with only two hundred students, Cogdah Academy accepts only the best of those students selected from through out the Alliance territories. Without a doubt, the students within Cogdah are the brightest hope for the future.
Set amidst the splendor of the ancient moon-city of Francisco, on Selene, first moon of New Earth, Cogdah Academy is the perfect place for the aspiring protector of the Alliance. Far enough away from the city to ensure a concentration on the important lessons learned, Cogdah Academy is still near enough that the delights of this most ancient and historic city can offer.
Surrounded by beautiful parks, there is a plethora of running trails available to the students, perfect for the health conscious being. The cafeteria offers local cuisine from every region of the Alliance, to accommodate the dietary needs of all of the students. The medical team is the best that can be provided, and will ensure that the health of all of Cogdah Academy's students.
Cogdah Academy has a grand tradition of excellence, and not just in the field of war. Cogdah has graduated some of the greatest minds of our time; scientists, teachers, writhers, and artists have all come from Cogdah. Besides providing the students with detailed lessons on the martial aspects of the Alliance, Cogdah Academy also cultivates the imaginative and fanciful aspects of life. Cogdah Academy offers a wide range of courses in the liberal arts. Painting, sculpting, metal work, creative writing, and drama are just a few of the many excellent courses offered by Cogdah.
So, if you have an exceptional child, one who cares deeply for the Alliance, send them to Cogdah Academy where they could join the exalted ranks of this grand academic institute, and protect the peace and sanctity of the Alliance throughout the known universe.
Date: February 17, 10033
Location: Platform 3, Jasmine station,
Los Angeles, California,
New Earth, Primian Quadrant.
Time: 2200 STG
Keith checked his watch for the fourth time in two minutes and gave an exasperated huff. He scanned the sea of heads, tapping his foot impatiently.
Damn it. He had better hurry up. If we miss the transport, I'm going to kill him. This is no way to start our month of leave.
"Hey!" Lance ran up to Keith, panting and grinning. "I'm here."
"And where have you been?" Keith questioned, pulling away before Lance could give him a peck on his cheek.
"I needed gum. And then, I ran into an old friend." Lance looked behind him, then sighed. "Hold on a minute, I'll go get her."
"No, Lance we-" Keith snapped his mouth shut as Lance disappeared back into the crowd. "Never mind. You go get her then." He ran his hand through his hair in frustration.
"Here she is!" Lance came back a young woman pulled along behind him. Keith felt his breath catch as the two stopped in front of him.
Kami...it's a female Lance...
A little smaller in stature, the girl that smiled at him looked so like Lance it was disturbing. The same sparkling brown eyes, the same waving brown hair, the same impish features...Keith had to physically force himself to look away, a rosy blush spreading across his cheeks. No woman had ever made him stare. To be fair, no man had ever made him stare either.
Well, until he had met Lance of course.
"Keith, this is my cousin Aeris Ilyna. She's part of the troupe of the Black Lamb. Aeris, this is Keith Tsumetai, my boyfriend."
"It's a pleasure to meet you at last." Aeris smiled warmly and extended her hand. "I feel as though I know you already; Lance talks about you constantly."
Keith smiled back and shook her hand. "Likewise. I'd love to stay and chat, but we really must be going. This baka," Keith turned his attention to Lance, a frown settling on his face, "is going to make us miss our transport to Pelos. Now, come on Lance. If we hurry, we can make the final boarding call." Keith grabbed Lance's hand and tugged him away, both of their duffel bags slung over his shoulder.
"Bye Aeris," Lance called as he hurried after Keith.
Keith shuddered slightly at the name. There was something about the girl that disturbed him.
She may look like Lance, but she's nothing like him inside. I'd stake my life on that.
Date: February 19, 10033
Location: Kemas island, neutral waters
Pelos, Emerald Quadrant
Time: 0730 STG
Lance closed his eyes tight against the bright sun. Two days hopping transports to get to this somewhat remote quadrant had ruined even his fun-loving disposition. He fished out his sunglasses and popped them on his nose before glancing up at Keith.
"So, we're here. Now what?"
"Now we catch a boat." Keith narrowed his eyes and peered through the clear Pelos air, a wide grin spreading across his face as he spied the promised craft. "There. Come on. You're going to love it here. I have this great friend whose letting us stay with him on his island. There are these great waterfalls there, and these hikes...you can see forever from the top of the mountains." Keith sighed, a dreamy, wistful smile on his face. "And the stars are so clear. And the air is so pure that it feels as though you can leap from the tress and fly."
Lance sighed and followed the babbling Keith. Typical. Two days of travel, next to no sleep, and he's going off about some island. He grabbed his bag and followed Keith to the small, rickety looking thing that Keith called a boat.
Lance sat down carefully, feeling grimy and disgusting and dreadfully envious of Keith who appeared even more beautiful in the planet's warm sunlight. He glared at Keith, then settled in against the bags. He was so tired. Behind the sunglasses, his eye lids began to slip closed. Perhaps just a little nap...
Within moments he was fast asleep.
It was two hours later when he awoke, confused and dazzled by the sun. He slowly sat up, blinking against the sun and wondering where his sunglasses had gone.
"Hey there, sleepy head." Keith was grinning down at him, a black form against the brilliant blue sky.
Lance grunted and shaded his eyes with a hand, gazing up at the black shadow that was Keith in a dazed bewilderment. The boat bumped and rocked against a wooden dock, a gentle rolling motion that was soothing in its somewhat nauseous inconsistency. The dock opened out onto a deserted wharf, empty of life and full of barred and boarded buildings of grey weathered wood. In the city bred mind of Lance, it was utterly boring.
What the hell are we doing here? He glanced up at Keith who was busy paying the captain of the boat.
"Hey, great. Thanks." Keith grabbed their bags and climbed out of the boat, sending the craft rocking. "C'mon Lance, time to get off."
Lance groaned and followed with shaky, uncertain steps. He was already sick of this place, and they had only been on it for two hours. How he would survive the entire month he didn't know. Keith smiled at him and turned to survey the wharf, looking for something--or perhaps someone. He made a strange picture, his normally neat exterior rumpled and casual, relaxed and at ease. It was strange to see him so, but Lance supposed he shouldn't be so surprised. After all, Keith had been begging to go to Pelos, petitioning the higher ups for some leave for a long time. The whole scenario had Lance off balance enough that he had agreed without even thinking about what he was agreeing to. Now if he had been in charge of their vacation, they would be on some pleasure planet, engaging in some pleasantly debaucherous and depraved acts.
Lance grinned and glanced over at Keith, wondering how many people would notice if he abducted him and high tailed it off this miserable little planet to someplace better. A hotel, for example.
Keith was bent over a map, the paper crumbled and torn, grumbling to himself as he traced half-faded lines. The pair of sunglasses perched on his head--Lance's sunglasses--were perilously close to falling. "Damn it, he was supposed to meet us right here. Where the hell did he run off to?"
Lance sighed and moved behind his boyfriend, resting a chin upon Keith's shoulder. "And were, exactly, is here. And why do you have my sunglasses?"
"Because you were going to roll over onto them, that's why. And here happens to be the only dock on Maluhia island, and since the boatman just left, you're going to be here for at least another week--that's how long it'll take for the next boat to come--so don't even think about trying to leave." Keith sighed and looked up, scanning the empty wharf. "My friend--the one we're staying with--was supposed to come pick us up."
"Oh well. Hey, do you think there might be an airfield around here? Because if we hurry, I'm pretty sure that we can catch a transport to Bacchus III."
"Nope. I guess we'll just have to search out his house on our own."
Keith looked up at the shout, a broad grin spreading across his face. "Never mind. There he is. Ahoy, Gilligan!" Keith strode down the dock towards the owner of the shout.
The man was about their age, and small and wiry. He ran--no, glided--towards them with a natural grace that made Lance's mouth sour with envy. He brought to mind an image of a Jel'ar; delicate, graceful, beautiful and deadly. Lance felt his heart drop as he watch Keith and the man meet, hugging each other hard. He trailed despondently after his boyfriend, wondering who the other man was, and what hold he had on Keith.
Keith gestured impatiently, forcing Lance into a sort of half-jog--though why he was jogging was beyond his comprehension--until he came to a jolting halt next to Keith and the other man.
"Lance, I want you to meet my dear friend Kes. Kes, this is my boyfriend, Lance Tiazone."
Lance blinked. Kes...That name was familiar. "Nice to meet you," Lance mumbled, shaking the other man's hand. Where have I heard that name?
"Same here. C'mon, the flitter is this way." Kes nodded toward the end of the wharf, pulling his two guests along with that nod. "Oh, by the way, I have your knife for you if you want it."
Keith waved the offer away with fierce shake of his head. "No. C'mon, Kes, it hasn't been that long. Surely you remember that once I give something--"
"You give it for ever. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember. And don't call me Shirley." Keith groaned at the bad joke as Kes winked at Lance. "But, seriously, you need to take that damn knife back."
"Why?" Keith questioned.
"Because I'm always afraid that my wife will pull it out and gut me if I piss her off too much." Kes shook his head. "I tell ya, Skip, never marry a warrior princess. No matter how much shit you'd get into for refusing, it's bound to be better than life with one of them." Keith began to laugh, a hearty, free laugh that caused Kes to scrunch his thin face into a petulant and beseeching expressing. "I'm not kidding, Keith! Living with her, well, it feels like I've been emasculated!"
"I'm sorry, Kes, but man, I'm really going to need to hear that story." Keith calmed down body loose and relaxed as they walked toward the vehicle. "So, what the hell took you so long? You used to be so prompt."
Kes laughed slightly. "Yeah, well, you try being prompt with a wife. I had to go visit the in-laws, you know, make nice-nice; so I don't get tossed into the volcano to appease the angry Gods. It took me forever to get away."
"Ha! So, the master finally met his match, eh?" Keith grinned and elbowed Kes in the side.
"Hey, I got out, didn't I?" Kes led them to the small land craft, gesturing for them to hop in. After his guests had settled themselves in, Kes started up the engine, sending the craft skittering across the lush, tropical landscape. "You guys will be staying in the light house. Demari and I figured that we'd be nice and put you in a place some distance from the brats."
"You have kids? You never told me that." Keith kicked the back of Kes' seat, grinning easily.
Lance sighed. It's going to be a long week. And if Keith keeps this up, I swear I'm cutting him off from the Lance lovin'.
Keith heard his sigh and leaned over, lips just barely touching the gentle curve of his ear. Voice soft and sultry, he whispered, "There's a hot tub up at the light house. What say we get in and get nasty? And I know a great make-out spot. Ever done it under a waterfall?"
Lance's lips curved up in a slow smile. Okay, I'll wait it out. Maybe it won't be so bad...
Date: March 17, 10033
Location: Maluhia island, Keminis waters
Time: 1230 STG
Chest aching with strain, heart pounding, beating, heaving against ribs and soaring in the air so high so very high until only tree tops are below and the wind rushes past in breathless power as shoulders strain and hum and blood flows in liquid fire and higher, higher, higher ever higher toward the sun on wings of flesh and blood and it feels so good, better than anything else, better than sex, better than fighting, better than love, because it's like being one with God, with the earth, with the stars and space and everything and nothing and it's truly being alive, truly feeling, filled with this oneness, buoyed on golden wings until, suddenly, those wings are stained with blood, covered with blood, weighted and it's harder to fly, harder to soar, but still struggle toward the sun and then the wings are gone, only bloody stumps left, still beating but going no where, and there is only pain and loss and fear and shame and then falling, and falling, and falling harder and faster and pain from the air and faster and faster and the world is darker, and frightening and the screaming, screaming so loud so much so much and never stop and full of fear and loss and wanting to die because life is dead, life is gone, there is no life without flying, no life without wings, no life at all and the screaming is louder and louder and the ground is ever closer and so barren and this is a fitting end, a fitting end because the wings have been lost, have been taken, and it's right and can't stop screaming and then--
"Keith! Keith, wake up! Please, wake up. It's just a dream. You have to wake up!"
Someone was touching him where the dream wings used to be and it hurt so much, the ghostly pain still there. Keith gasped, pulled himself out of sleep with a physical wrench, shivering, huddling in on himself, tears threatening behind his eyes but not falling--he had never cried before and he wasn't about to start now over some stupid dream--body wracked by gasping breaths.
Warm arms wrapped themselves around him, rocked him back and forth in gentle, soothing motions. A head rested against his bowed back, voice soft in his ear, whispering nothings that soothed and calmed. Slowly, Keith felt himself come together, return to the present, to the warm bed and the warmer body beside him, and his too tense muscles released.
Shuddering, breath coming in slow, desperate gasps, Keith fell limp into Lance's embrace, listening to the thrum of their hearts. Lance brushed back the wild bangs which clung to his forehead in sweat streaked clumps, kissing Keith's neck and offering silent strength through the touch of skin to skin.
"Same dream?" he murmured. Keith nodded his head slowly, closing his eyes against the lingering, ghosting pain. "Shhh. It's all right, now."
"I don't know why I keep having these nightmares." Keith breathed out in a long sigh as Lance nodded and tightened his grip. Quiet peace, so different from the fear filled screaming which had ricocheted from the room's stone walls only moments before, closed in around the two boys. But the silence grew too quiet, almost suffocating in the stillness, and Keith had been too close to suffocation in his dream to feel comfortable. Restlessly stirring, Keith slipped from Lance's arms and out of the bed.
"What's wrong?" Lance asked softly.
"I don't know." Keith sighed and sat back down on the edge of the bed. "I'm just too wired too sleep."
Lance nodded. "Want to head down to the beach?"
Keith thought for a moment. "All right." Lance smiled and stood, reaching out for Keith's hand. Keith smiled back and kissed him on the cheek. "You know, I never really thanked you for doing this. I know that you weren't that excited about coming here, and it means a lot to me that you stuck through the entire month."
Lance shrugged. "It's not that big of a deal. Pelos is actually a very nice planet, once you get used to it."
"No, really Lance." Keith pulled back on Lance's hand, easing him to a stop. "This means a lot. I haven't seen Kes since the accident and--well, it means a lot to me. And I want to make it up to you somehow."
"Well...we could take an unscheduled detour to Bacchus III," Lance suggested, leering at Keith.
"No way, buddy. I don't think my heart would be able to stand debauchery on that level."
"Fine. Can I call you 'Skipper', then?" Lance grinned.
"Only if you don't mind being called 'Gilligan' like Kes." Keith smiled back, then paused as his eyes caught the glitter of moonlight on strings. The grin grew broader, almost mischievous. "Hey, grab your guitar. I've just thought of the perfect way to thank you."
"Nope, not 'buts'. Asses, perhaps, but not a single butt." Keith grinned and tugged on Lance's hand. "Now come on." Then Keith glanced down at himself, wrinkling his nose at the sweat stains which darkened his clothes. "But first, a shower."
Lance sighed and sat back down on the bed. Sometimes Keith could be so infuriating.
There were two beaches owned by Kes. The main beach was wide and open, part of a long stretch of coast, and nearly public for the variety of people that used it. The second beach was below the lighthouse, a small cove surrounded by the ring of a coral reef. The cove was practically useless for most water sports; it was too small for large parties, too rocky in most areas for picnics, and the jagged edges of the reef promising an end to the hull of any boat larger than a two-man canoe--the cove was rocky and unappealing in the extreme. However, hidden past the rocks, there was a second cove, a smaller one with crystal waters and a line of palm trees which swayed and danced in the wind. And--while it too was useless for most things--for two lovers, it was absolutely perfect.
The moon was just beginning its descent into the black ocean when Keith and Lance stepped onto the white sand. Theirs were the only footprints to break the gleaming strip, the only marks of man to mar this postcard scene.
Keith led Lance to the strip of soft grass which sprang at the base of the palm trees. He sat his boyfriend down, a slow, seductive smile on his face.
"Play," he whispered.
"What?" Lance asked back.
"Anything. Something I can dance to."
Lance sighed and opened his guitar case. Pulling the gleaming guitar from its bed of velvet red, Lance began to stroke the strings, summoning a slack-key melody. Keith grinned, nodding his head in approval. And then he began to dance.
There is something supremely erotic about the hula. Though surely not meant to be, the grace of the dancer conjures a heat that spreads through the body. There is something about the movement of arm and leg, head and body, that is sensual and alluring. And Keith had learned the art of this dance well, had learned how to speak a legend with his arms, with his legs and head and perfect, exact movements. He was entrancing, beautiful against the star studded sky, moonlight gleaming in his hair.
Lance could feel his mouth go dry, feel his blood rush with a sudden heat that turned his browned skin ruddy, eyes widen at the seductive, whirling dance performed for him. His fingers stilled, the music trailing to an echoing halt as the image of Keith consumed his attention. But it didn't stop there, for Keith filled in the missing music with a low, thrumming, sultry song of his own. Lance swallowed as the dark, smoky voice spread over him, called him forward, raised him up from the stand to take step after halting step toward the singer.
Keith met him halfway, taking Lance into his arms, gently leading him in a dance to soundless music, the music of night and sea and blood. Their bodies twirled on the soft sand, a sensual melding of night and magic and flesh until the bodies sank lower and lower and melded closer with nothing in between until they were one undulating form of smooth skin against moon bathed sand.
Over time, Lance had noticed that Keith had a thing for hands. He loved to play with them, hold Lance's hand up to his own and run his fingers over the long, tapering digits. Whenever they lay in bed together--or anywhere else they happened to have sex--Lance could count on exactly three things: cuddling, being tired and having Keith play with his hands.
Tonight was certainly no exception and he smiled into the dark mane of hair that rested on his chest as Keith began to stroke his hands. He closed his eyes, ready to sleep now and worry about the sand that would be in the most uncomfortable places tomorrow. However, as Keith stirred on his chest, Lance realized that tonight would be one of the talkative nights. That was the major difference between he and Keith; Keith often had more energy after sex, instead of feeling like an empty sack.
And so it starts. Lance bit back the sigh and hoped that this would be one of the short conversations. "Mm?"
"You know I love you, right?"
"Mm hmm. Love you too."
Lance let himself release a long breath as that answer seemed to satisfy Keith. Now maybe I can get some sleep.
Lance almost groaned, but reminded himself that patience was the key to dealing with Keith--though the Gods knew how little he used patience. "Yeah?"
"Did you know that Holden started a betting pool on us getting married?"
Lance sighed and shifted. "Yes, I did. It's up to fifteen hundred credits now, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Keith grew silent, holding Lance's hand up against his own. He stared at the appendages, at their outline against the star bright sky. "Lance, have you ever thought about marriage?"
Lance almost choked at the question. That was not something he expected. "Well, yeah. Sort of. I mean, I know that I'm going to get married eventually."
Keith sighed. "Not like that. I mean really thought about it. Like, what the wedding day would be like, what type of ceremony, even what the ring is going to look like."
"Nope, can't say that I have, really." Lance paused, tasting out the lie. "Well, actually, there was one thing--but you'll think it's silly."
"No, no, tell me!" Keith sounded so excited about this that Lance almost laughed. It was nice to know that there was something other than war that could get Keith excited.
"Only if you promise to let me sleep afterwards."
"Sure, sure. Just tell me!"
"All right! Don't have a hernia." Lance did chuckle, before settling into a more contemplative mood. "I've always known what my wedding ring would look like. That's the only part of a wedding that I've ever really thought about." He shifted Keith's warm body in his arms. "It'll be gold, not expensive, but enough so that it'll shine. And it'll be made of roses, a band of twisting, twining roses, in a pattern; like the one on the arch to the Baths in Kaballa. But it won't be big. Nothing ostentatious. Because this is a sacred bond and I want to keep it special; like a secret for two people alone."
"That's it?" Keith's voice was filled with disbelief, as if the prospect of such a simple thing was beyond Lance's imaginations.
"Well, yes." Lance replied, slightly affronted. "I'll have you know that you're the only other person to know what my wedding ring will look like."
"Hell, I can make that," Keith muttered to himself, voice almost lost beneath the crash of the waves. "Just need to get some tools..."
"What was that?"
"Oh, nothing." Keith sighed, then yawned. "Mm. It's late."
Lance chuckled. "Oh, you've noticed."
"Shup, baka." Keith grinned, then nestled further into the crook of Lance's arm, eye closing to slits. "Look, the sun's coming up."
Lance looked up at the still dark sky and the slowly falling moon, all slowly disappearing behind the dull white glow coming from over the cliffs. Strange...The sun shouldn't be up for another couple of hours. I mean, we're good but we're not that good. I don't think we were at it for that long.
He looked towards the light, frowning as it grew faster than it should have, increasing into a blinding whiteness that burned through his eyes with ever increasing pain. He felt Keith stirring, standing, even as he lay there, eyes screwed shut against the pain.
"Kami! Lance, it's Lykons!"
"Shit!" Lance scrambled to his knees, searching for the guitar case. There were weapons in there. He heard Keith growling something, the soft snik of clothes being pulled on. Beyond those sounds, beyond the sound of surf and wind and birds awaken too early, was the noise of marching--whose knew how many squads were heading toward them, strapped in that damn armor, augmented by cruel scientists until they weren't recognizable as any sort of flesh and blood creature.
His scrambling, searching hands connected with the hard case and he tore into the velvet lining, pulling out the hard metal laser. He could feel the vibrations of ground as the Lykon armored soldiers marched toward them. He forced his eyes open, tearing at the pain which stabbed straight to his brain. To his side, he heard Keith cursing, and then they were upon them.
Aiming with half-blind eyes, Lance tried to get to Keith, to protect him with his weapon. From the grunts and sounds of flesh hitting augmented flesh, it sounded as if Keith was holding his own--at least for now. But there were so many of them. For everyone they put down, there were five to replace it. It was only a matter of time until they fell as well.
Surprisingly, it the battle lasted far past Lance's expectations. Still, when the end came, he wasn't surprised. It was quick, which Lance appreciated. One moment he was firing upon the machine-men, then there was a sharp crack--heard, not felt--and a thick, warm liquid which flowed down his back, and screaming from two throats.
And then there was nothing.
When Lance opened his eyes, he was greeted with an impenetrable blackness, darker than the blackness behind his eyes. This was the blackness of hell, the blackness caused by the total absence of light, absence of hope. This was despair, endless, senseless, mad. He was cut off from everything, stripped of sight and sound, from smell and speech, voice blocked by a heavy collar cinched painfully tight around his throat. He supposed that he should be grateful for the possession of his sense of touch--the feeling of the icy wall against his back and the floor which numbed his legs gave him hope that he was still alive and not about to face Divine Judgment--but even that was dulled and blunted, as though he was observing what someone else touched. The darkness that surrounded him ate at his mind and sucked at his sanity. This went beyond the mere absence of sight, for it infected at all his senses, and he screamed from a silent throat, wanting to retrieve even the smallest portion of his self. He flailed about, trying to make some noise, sense something, anything that let him escape from the inward bent of his mind.
When his shoulder was shook, his heart almost stopped from shock. And then, there was light and sound and smell and taste and his brain nearly buckled under the sudden rush of sensation. He screamed and fell to the ground clutching at his head. There was too much going on, too many new things demanding attention; he felt everything, heard everything, saw everything, unable to filter and control what he experienced. And it hurt, because his attention was suddenly fractured in five hundred different ways and his mind was stupefied by the rush of life that coursed through him. He struggled to control the chaos into which he had been plunged, before he shut down, drowned by everything about him.
Slowly, laboriously, he gained control over his body, filtered the information his senses feed to him into manageable doses, became aware of his surroundings and of the heavy hand which rubbed his back in comfort.
"Just take deep breaths, Lance," Keith's familiar, wonderful voice whispered. "Just breathe. You need to calm down."
"I'm better," Lance rasped, pushing himself up into a sitting position. He slowed his breathing, and looked around. They were in an empty metal chamber, surrounded by a darkness that was little better than the blackness he had just inhabited. The little light which spilled through the small barred window served only to make the darkness beyond the stripped patch even more impenetrable. The air around them tasted dry and thin and each breath rasped harshly against Lance's throat. He shivered in the bone-numbing cold, wrapping his arms around his bare torso, each painful breath creating a white cloud before him. "Where the hell are we? And what happened to me?"
"You had an Inhibitor placed on you." Keith kneeled back and held up the dreaded electric collar, black varnished metal just visible in the gloom. Lance shuddered and blessed the Gods that he was still sane after it's removal. The foul thing was mostly used on slaves to keep them in line, its hidden circuitry capable of administering varying intensities of shocks--as well as disrupting the wearer's neural impulses.
No wonder we didn't have any chains on. With that thing on our necks, they could have killed us in a nanosecond. Lance swallowed, still feeling the ghostly pressure of the collar about his neck. Wonder how Keith managed to get free of it. Those things are supposed to be impossible for the wearer to take off.
"I think," Keith's voice interrupted his thoughts, "that we're in a cargo hold on a Lykorn slaver."
"Fun." Lance slowly stood, stretching out his legs. He cast a glance at his boyfriend, envying his apparent comfort in the damnably cold hold. "So what now?"
Keith turned toward him, and Lance gave a strangled gasp, stepping back instinctively; anything to get away from the glowing, red, demon's eyes that had replaced the well known black pools.
"Holy shit! What the fuck happened to your eyes?"
"I 'volunteered' to have experimental night-vision installed by the Alliance doctors when I joined the Redcaps, to aide in our more...covert operations." Keith laughed, low and dry and humorless. "Ahh, isn't science fun?"
Lance shook his head violently, afraid, and Keith sighed. "Lance, it's not that big of a deal. It's just some bio-mechanic augmentation. It's not like I'm possessed by some demonic spirit. I'm not going to start puking split-pea soup. My head isn't going to start spinning like a top. In fact, this might be able to get us out of here. Now help me figure out how we're going to escape."
Keith turned away to prowl the back of the cell, missing the slightly disturbed look on Lance's face. "What more are you keeping from me, Keith?" Lance whispered. He stared after his boyfriend for a moment longer, before heading for the single window. He peered into the hallway, shivering and wincing as his skin touched the metal of the cell door.
"Lance, what do you have with--shit!" Keith's voice floated from the darkness, pulling Lance's attention away from the empty corridor.
"It's Kes!" Muffled movement followed and Keith emerged from the darkness, half-carrying, half-dragging the other man. Their host was pale and thin, missing the collar that had trapped Lance and Keith in their own minds. He looked only moments away from death, listless and lifeless, a blasphemous mockery of life. It was as if he had been turned off, his body still working but his mind burned away.
"Lance hold him. He might be our only way out," Keith snapped out, voice commanding and authoritative, brooking no argument.
"What? But-" Lance spluttered, reacting more to the voice than the command.
"But nothing." Keith pushed Kes into Lance's arms, forcing the limp form upright, then stepped out to look critically at his former squad member. "Come on Kes, snap out of it."
He shook the smaller man roughly, hard enough for Kes' head to snap back and forth. "Wake up! Damn it, pull yourself together, Kes! I know you can hear me."
"Demari..." Kes moaned, head lolling down.
"Demari? What about her, Kes. What happened?"
"Demari. Dead. All dead. All of them dead. My family is dead." The escape artists sobbed softly, the tears streaking down his pasty face. "I watched them die. I couldn't save them."
"Shit." Keith sighed and placed a hand over his eyes. "Great. Well, he's not going to be much help."
Lance stared at Keith in shock. "Is that all you can think about? Damn it, Keith, the man is your friend! His family was just slaughtered before his eyes! And that's all you can say? 'He's not going to be much help'?"
"Listen, Lance, we don't have time to grieve right now. I've seen first hand what Lykorns do to their slaves, and let's just say that being drawn and quartered would probably be a kinder fate. Demari and the children are dead, we're still alive! But we won't be alive much longer if we keep hanging around here! So let's get out while we can." Keith pulled Kes away from Lance, manhandling him to the door, forcing him to stay upright. "Okay, Kes. Work your magic."
"Can't," Kes whimpered. "Demari..."
Keith pulled Kes closer, mouth next to his ear. "Listen to me Kes. Demari wants you to help us get out of here, okay? Come on, buddy, don't fail me now."
Kes slowly nodded, vacant eyes gaining some modicum of focus. He stumbled to the door, leaning heavily against the smooth wall, fingers running up and down the barely acknowledged crack in that was the door. The zombie-like figure closed his hollow eyes, caressing the metal like it was a lover. His skinny, deft fingers probed each minute crevice, each hidden fissure. Then, his skillful fingers found the panel and he gently eased it open, revealing the panel filled with buttons and switches to the four eyes that watched him.
Then he fell, like a marionette whose strings had been broken.
Keith grabbed him before he hit the ground, gently lowering his old friend to rest on the cold ground. He stroked the curly hair that covered Kes' head, fondly smiling down on the broken man. "You did good," he whispered, soothingly. "Rest now."
Keith stood, the two collars in his hands, electronic locks held outward and sparking, blue light arcing and flashing from the metal teeth. "Stand back, Lance," he ordered, advancing determinedly on the door.
Lance did as he was bid, stepping back to shield Kes' body with his own, covering his eyes as Keith slammed the collars into the panel. The cell exploded into shower of white sparks, too bright to stand, burning where they touched flesh, sending the smell of cooking meat waving through the recycled air and a thick, choking smoke that spread outward in a malevolent cloud. It filled the chamber and flowed through the blackened hole left by the door as it fell from its electronic locks.
Lance swallowed against the pain, ignoring the burns that covered his chest and rushed for Keith, heart constricted in panic.
"Keith! Keith, are you all right?"
"Yeah. Pretty much, anyway." Keith emerged from the smoke, coughing and gasping, body an angry red of burned flesh. Lance reached out to gently touch the shiny red marks and Keith hissed, pulling away. "Don't touch. It hurts, but I'll be all right. How's Kes?"
"Not moving again, but otherwise fine. Look, Keith--" Lance stopped as Keith brushed past him, heading for Kes' inert body. "Fine. Ignore me," he grumbled before following.
Keith knelt beside the still form, one large hand gently placed on Kes' small, thin shoulders, red eyes searching his old friend's face. "Kes?" His voice was thin and shaky, questioning and lost. "Kes?"
The younger man opened his empty eyes and stared long and hard into Keith's face, features tensed in concentration as if fighting his way back from a long distance. Slowly, the tension eased, some small light of remembrance returning to the empty eyes. "Keith?"
Keith nodded slowly, hand tightening on Kes' shoulder.
"Do it." Kes' head lolled back, eyes losing their spark.
Keith nodded again, slower this time, hand leaving Kes' shoulder to come shaking down to his side. Eyes never leaving Kes' face, Keith softly spoke to Lance. "Leave. Now. Try to find the control center. I'll catch up with you."
Lance stubbornly shook his head. "No way. I'm not going to let the Lykorns kill the both of you."
"Damn it, Lance, just leave! Wait outside if you must, just leave!"
"Fine." Lance made as to move through the door, but faded instead into the darkness of the cell. He watched, silent and still, as Keith sighed and bowed his head, body motionless, demeanor that of a kneeling petitioner. He hands moved over Kes' still body, flitting here and there, probing what remained of the other boy's clothing until, with a sigh, he removed a sheathed blade.
"Oh Kes...Why this blade?" The voice was full of weary pain, and Keith slumped, looking drained. "I'm sorry, my friend." He slipped the knife from it sheath, turning the winking blade over and over in his hands.
It was a tanto blade, delicate and beautiful, handle a brilliant scarlet and very familiar to Keith's hands; after all, the blade had once been his. There was no doubt that this blade was sharp, for the edge was tapered so thin that it almost disappeared in the air. Keith shook as he heaved a deep sigh. He reverently placed the blade on the ground, before lifting Kes' small body into his arms, cradling the young man against his burned chest.
"I wish you peace in your next life, mea ashke," Keith whispered, picking up the knife. He tightened the arm that cradled Kes, holding the other boy closer to his chest.
No...Gods, he's not going to...Lance swallowed, suddenly sick and not wanting to see any more of this frightening side of Keith. Shuddering, he slipped from the cell, not caring if Keith saw him there or not, and waited for his suddenly unknown boyfriend outside.
A sharp intake of breath was the only sign that Kes had left this life.
Keith emerged moments later, holding the cleaned tanto blade in his hand. Lance tried not to look at the bloody streak which stained Keith's pants.
"Keith-" he began.
"It was necessary. Now, come. We don't have much time." Keith strode down the hall, straight backed and commanding, outwardly unchanged by his gruesome deed. Lance trailed hesitantly behind, unnerved and frightened.
When I outlive my use to you, will you do the same to me?
Date: May 23, 100033
Location: GG Headquarters, 1534 Kissinger St
Kulala City, Alliance Island
New Earth, Priman quadrant.
Time: 0930 STG.
It had been three days since their...triumphant return from imprisonment on a Lykon Strafing-craft and the hubbub was only now dying down. Which Lance found a little unfortunate, for it now meant that he would be alone with Keith more and more. He was still wary about his lover's mental state, plagued with nightmares of being gutted by Keith, his boyfriend's calm voice whispering to his ear that it wasn't personal--just necessary.
Still, the nightmares were countered by how Keith acted in public, still the loving and wonderful man that Lance remembered; in fact, he was more caring that Lance remembered, as if their imprisonment had strengthened their love, instead of shaken it. During the day, Lance could lie to himself and pretend that it had only been the situation that had caused Keith to act as he did, that it had been some temporary insanity which had allowed Keith to kill his oldest friend.
For Keith, the imprisonment had given him a whole new set of scars to ignore, a whole new set of torments to plague him at night. Though he successfully hid how much Kes' death had meant to him from Lance, believing himself weak for being so shaken, he couldn't hid it from himself. Though he rationalized it as best he could, knowing that it had been a correct tactical decision to kill Kes before the Lykorns found them, knowing that Kes had wanted Keith to kill him, it still made it no easier for the pilot; it still didn't ease the guilt he felt. He wanted to leave New Earth, to return to battle where he could cleanse himself by killing the enemies of his people. He needed to purge Kes' death from his soul, to take out the anger which filled him on something, anything, to distract his mind from the new phantom that haunted him. That was why he found the new command by the Alliance heads so irksome.
"Three months grounding for debriefing? What the hell are we going to do for three whole months!" Keith groused as he and Lance strolled down the hall. "Three months!"
"Let it go, Keith. I'm sure you'll find out something to do. Now me. I've got to put with your whining and being stuck on Terra for three months."
"Hey, hey, hey! Welcome back!" Nanaki came bounding up to them, lion's face split into a broad smile. He slowed down to pace abreast of them, limping from a war wound that had destroyed a back leg. "So, what are the great war heroes going to be doing now?"
Lance snickered. "Drive the rest of the world crazy with whining about how much being on leave sucks?"
Nanaki snorted. "You guys are the only people I know who complain about being on leave."
"Well, do you have any suggestions to alleviate the boredom?" Keith almost snapped.
"If you ask like that, then no." Nanaki sniffed and turned his head away.
Keith sighed. "Sorry. It's just...it's been a long day. Or week. Or year." Keith rubbed his face. "I'm just tired."
"All right." Nanaki turned quiet, contemplative. "Well...there's not a whole lot going on right now. You could try teaching--you'd make a great war tactics instructor, Keith."
Keith shook his head. "No. I don't think I could deal with rookies on a daily basis."
Nanaki appraised Keith again. "Yeah. I think you'd kill them all. Lets see. You could try your hand at the arts. Or perhaps go back and take a few classes. Oh, I know!" Nanaki turned to Lance. "Your cousin, Aeris, is in a production of "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Black Lamb. Why don't you go say hi? I'm sure she has something for you boys to do. They always need help at the theater."
Lance's eyes lit up at the mention of his cousin's name. He turned to Keith, eyes wide and pleading. "Please, love, can we?"
Keith smiled fondly down at Lance. "Koibito, I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover I will go with thee to see thy cousin."
Lance laughed and smacked Keith on the arm. "Ham."
Date: May 23, 100033
Location: Black Lamb, 165 Laman St
Kulala City, Alliance Island
Time: 0940 STG.
"Yeah, well fuck you too! We don't need you!"
Keith pulled Lance out of the way of the young man who stormed out of the building, face red with rage. The pages of a script fluttered behind him and the two boys watched him go with confusion.
"You've just screwed us all over. We need a Benedick."
"Perhaps we should come back later," Keith suggested to Lance, all set to leave.
"No, no. We should go check it out." Lance gestured towards the door with his head, demanding that they enter the theater. Keith sighed and wheeled his boyfriend in.
The inside of the theater was...bizarre, to say the least. The stage was covered in a half-finished scenery. The actors lounged on the stage and in the audience, a strange mishmash of clothing and colors. And in the very center was the female Lance, Aeris Ilyana, face in the same petulant scowl that Keith had seen so many times on his boyfriend. The sharp gaze pinned him, and Keith swallowed, hoping no one saw his nervousness.
Lance stood straighter, puffing his chest out, a broad smile on his face. "Hey, Aeris!"
"Yes, what do you want?"
"Now Aeris, is that any way to treat your favorite cousin?"
"Favorite cousin? Is Stefano hiding back there?" Aeris grinned and jumped off of the stage to stride toward them. "Stef? You back there?"
"Oh ha, ha." Lance stuck his tongue out at Aeris. "I'm sure you remember my boyfriend."
"Yep. Nice to see you again." Aeris shook Keith's hand, then turned back to Lance. "Shit, man, what the hell did you do to yourself?"
Lance laughed, truly delighted by his cousin's ignorance, delighting in the opportunity to embellish the tale yet again. "Aeris, you must be the only person I know who hasn't heard the story."
"Yeah, well, you try getting a performance of some ancient Earth Prime playwright off the ground." Aeris sighed and ran her hand through her hair. "And now we don't even have a Benedick."
"Well, what about Keith?"
Keith started, staring at Lance in wide eyed horror. "What? No! Lance-"
"Oh, come on Keith, it'll be fun. You've already memorized the entire works of this guy. And you're such a ham, this role would probably be perfect for you."
"But-" Keith opened his mouth, but no words would come out, for Aeris was circling him now--prowling really--peering at him as though he were a piece of meat, appraising him for the market. He swallowed, suddenly dreadfully uncomfortable.
Finished with her inspection, Aeris returned to the front, a shrewd, though slightly bored, expression on her face. "Not bad...But can he act, that's the big question. We've already got a hot guy for the roll of Claudio. We need someone with real talent to play Benedick."
"Can he act," Lance scoffed. "Please. My boyfriend can put all of you to shame. Go on, Keith. Show them your talent."
"Please?" Lance turned his face to Keith, eyes wide and shining.
"That's not fair! You know I can't resist puppy-dog eyes!" Keith sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, conjuring up an appropriate speech. Closing his eyes, he began, slipping into a character that he knew well from a hundred, thousand hours spent reading his voice.
"O, she misused me past the endurance of a block! an oak but with one green leaf on it would have answered her; my visor began to assume life and scold with her. She told me--not thinking I had been myself--that I was the prince's jester, and that I was duller than a great thaw; huddling jest upon jest with such impossible conveyance upon me that I stood like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs; if her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her; she would infect to the north star. I would not marry her, though she were endow'd with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed: she would have made Hercules have turned spit, yea, and have cleft his club to make fire too. Come, talk not of her: you shall find her the infernal Ate in good apparel. I would to God that some scholar would conjure her; for certainly, while she is here, a man may live as quiet in hell as in a sanctuary; and people sin upon purpose, because they would go thither; so, indeed, all disquiet, horror and perturbation follows her."
Opening his eyes, he found Aeris staring at him with an unnameable glint in her eyes. Shifting uncomfortably, he looked away, training his sight upon the half-finished set which littered the stage.
"Well," he mumbled, "what did you think?"
"I think that you're our new Benedick." Aeris smiled a slightly predatory smile.
Keith smiled weakly back, but in the back of his mind, he screamed.
Date: July 21, 100033
Location: Officer housing, 1213 Lilan Ave.
Kulala City, Alliance Island
Time: 1845 STG.
Lance sat in the dark, slowly losing his mind.
This can't be happening. Not to me. Not with Keith. He would never...But then...Why her? Why did you have to chose her Keith?
Lance shuddered, the tears threatening but not quite falling. It was true that he had been having a few doubts about their relationship ever since they had been imprisoned, but he had never thought that something like this, something so drastic, would happen to him--to them. He had even thought that they were pulling through, working their way past the horrors of they Lykorn ship. They were almost there, almost as they had been. And then Keith pulled something like this and shattered their world.
He's leaving me. I can't believe the bastard is leaving me.
It hurt. A lot. And Lance knew that he should have seen it coming. After all, Keith had been coming home later and later as the play progressed, and he started looking too neat. He hadn't been so perfectly dressed since the beginning of their second year in the field. And he always smelt clean, freshly washed--with a shampoo that wasn't his.
Then there was the play itself. Everyone who saw it always said how great it was, how wonderful Keith and Aeris were, how great their chemistry was on stage--you couldn't fake that sort of chemistry. Everyone said it was obvious that there was something romantic going on between them.
I should have seen this. But, Gods, couldn't you have had the decent courtesy to break up with me before you proposed to her, Keith?
If he had seen this coming earlier, if he hadn't been so blind, maybe he could have fought it, fought for them. Now, it was too late. All he could do now was be a gracious loser and back away, leave them to their happiness.
Eyes stinging with hot tears, throat closed by the pain of his sorrow, Lance gathered his things, removing his belongings from this temporary home. With one last look at the now spartan house, he turned and walked away, fading into the shadows.
Date: July 21, 100033
Location: Officer housing, 1213 Lilan Ave.
Kulala City, Alliance Island
Time: 1900 STG.
Keith was whistling when he entered the house, flushed with the success of the last performance. He slipped off his shoes and floated in on a euphoric high that had nothing to do with acting and more with the small, black box that thumped against his thigh.
I really should thank Aeris for being so nice, letting me practice on her and use her metal shop. Oh Kami, I can't believe I'm going to do this. A large and somewhat loony grin took up a place on his face at the thought of what he was about to do. I really hope I don't screw this up. Okay, Keith. Breath, just breath. Remember that speech Aeris helped you work out.
He opened the door, and stepped into his temporary home, a little worried by the darkness that greeted him. "Lance? Lance you here?"
Strange. He should be home by now. "Lance?"
Keith dropped his keys onto the table, and flicked on the lights. He sucked in a breath at the emptiness that greeted him. There were no clothes on the floor, which disturbed him. It wasn't like Lance to clean up. Still, the few knickknacks which normally decorated the shelves--the result of a buying spree by Lance when they had first moved in--were still there, though. Keith sighed and moved into the bedroom. Perhaps Lance was just asleep.
But the bedroom was empty as well. Keith sighed and sat down on the bed. Something crinkled beneath him, and with confusion, he pulled out a small, wrinkled piece of paper. "What--?"
Sorry to do this to you this way, but I believe that it'd be better if I left as soon as possible. I just don't love you anymore. Please try to understand; we've grown too far apart. Goodbye.
Keith stared down at the note, not quite believing it. But there it was, permanent, mocking in its plain coldness. He could feel his heart breaking, feel his soul crying out in pain.
And he cried. For the first time in his life, he cried. He cried until he was sick, cried until he couldn't cry anymore.
Then he went out and got completely, roaring, falling down drunk.
CONFIDENTIAL: PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILES
DATE: June 16, 100031
TEST SUBJECT: Tsumetai, Keith S.
SUBJECT NUMBER: 01-36-95
ANALYSIS:...A dangerous man, with a dangerous mind. He does not see his enemies as sentients and, when coupled with his extreme reflexes and natural ability to kill, he makes an indispensable asset. There is the mentality of a serial killer beneath the veneer of civilization...He posses the ability to take commands well and has a natural charm that would make him the perfect leader...There appears to be an underlying belief that the living are a disease upon the universe...[there is] a strong undercurrent of a scholar to him and perhaps when he has outlived his usefulness upon the battle field he should be put to use as an instructor in the academy. He shows signs of compulsive neatness and a reticence to divulge personal information--he has a highly advanced resistance to torture and telepathic probing has proved futile. There appears to be a pain-linked psychological need to belong to the Alliance. He also experiences grave discomfort when breaking a rule. However, there is also a great flexibility to him; he has very few qualms about bending or working around rules. He does not hesitate to use every measure of his skill to defeat an opponent, but does have an inflexible sense of honor--he will not cheat in anything unless he can do it in such a fashion that he is technically allowed to. He does posses the ability to compromise his moral code when faced with a direct order.
His reflexes and reaction time, as well as responses to certain stimuli lead to the assumption of augmentation of some form; it is advisable to ignore any irregularities found during genetic testing at this time, for such augmentation may prove to be useful on the battle field...
...It is advisable to place the subject with test subject Tiazone, Lance G, number 01-42-77. There appears to be a calming or comforting factor involved in their relationship and test subject Lance inspires him to greater performance levels.
RECOMMENDATION: Specials Unit.