Chasing the Horizon

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A Softer Approach

Hours after Dax had laid down in his room, he finally got up and went back onto the deck. Taking a deep breath, he smiled as he saw the stars fading in the sky in favor of the sun. They were still heading deeper into Tekoland before heading towards the Furhan Wastelands. Dax wanted to stay a good distance from the Toeaux border in case his father was actually looking for him.

His crew had set up Timothy and Konnor in guest rooms, the ship was big enough for them to each be in separate rooms. Dax was glad of that because he wanted to keep Konnor away from the others, especially Timothy. He hadn’t quite figured out if their relationship was anything more than friends but he just couldn’t stop the knot in his stomach when he thought of leaving them alone together.

He went to the room where Konnor was before going to the kitchen for breakfast. He got to the door and sure enough it was locked, at least his crew had done one thing right. He looked around the door to see if they’d left the key somewhere nearby. He found it on the top of the doorframe. He figured his crew was too scared to bother him so they just left the key here. He shrugged to himself, easier for him that way.

He put the key in the lock, opening the door a little. Konnor was laying on the floor with his back to him, his knees to his chest. Dax had to wonder if he’d driven him to this. He shook off the feeling and walked inside, closing and locking the door behind him, slipping the key into his pocket.

Konnor sat upright and immediately turned around, looking right at Dax. He didn’t look afraid, not like before, no there was mostly caution in the look Dax saw on his face. Dax just shrugged again and went to lay down on the bed. This guest room was fully furnished and looked quite lavish, Dax didn’t know why Konnor had chosen the floor of all places to rest on.

Konnor stood up, looking at Dax and keeping his distance. It kind of annoyed Dax, but he did understand that he had definitely given Konnor reason to be wary of him. He let out a long breath. “I’m not going to hurt you.” Konnor stayed as far away from Dax as possible. Dax rolled his eyes and finally sat up, looking right at the redhead. “Would you believe me if I said I was sorry about yesterday?” Konnor shook his head and Dax couldn’t keep from rolling his eyes again. “Well that answers that.” He fell back onto the bed. He raised a hand slightly, motioning Konnor to come over to him. “You don’t have to keep standing there.”

“What do you want?” He made no motion of moving.

“I made the situation clear or did you not understand me before?” He glanced at Konnor, waiting to see if he would come over to him or just keep standing there.

“And if I keep refusing?” Konnor looked back at him, locking their eyes together.

Dax was quiet for a moment before saying, “Well I have all the time in the world to wait. It doesn’t matter to me if you refuse for a day or week, you’ll still be here.”

Dax could see the color drain from Konnor’s face, that was not a good sign. All he wanted was to get a little farther with Konnor. Maybe he had gone about it wrong, but he could tell that this goodie-two-shoes wouldn’t have said yes to him the night they met no matter what. Now, he couldn’t do anything but wait and hope that Konnor would change his mind. He knew that he said he had all the time in the world, but did he really? He figured that his father was probably searching for him already. He could keep running but it would be only a matter of time before he was dragged back home to Toeaux. And if he made it to the Wastelands, he didn’t know that bringing Konnor with him was a good idea. Despite his size, Dax could tell that Konnor wasn’t a fighter. He didn’t want Konnor to get hurt in the middle of Dax’s battle.

He looked back at Konnor, tilting his head to the side. “What was a good boy like you doing in a Tekoland Floating Town anyways?”

Konnor’s eyes widened and for a moment just staring at Dax. Dax could only hope that his surprise was a good thing. Konnor shrugged, looking down. “It’s a long story.”

“Well, I’m listening.” Dax was more interested now, he wanted to know what the redhead felt like it was important to keep secret.

In a small voice directed at the ground, Konnor said, “I was running away.”

Dax sat up, looking at him intently, suddenly intrigued. Konnor did not seem the type to run away, he seemed too virtuous and meek. He wanted to know more. “Why?”

Konnor just shook his head and looked up, right into Dax’s face. “What about you, why were you in that town?”

“I was running away,” Dax threw Konnor’s own words back at him.

“Why?” Konnor only answered back with Dax’s same question.

Dax smirked, maybe he could use this to get the redhead to open up to him. “I’ll tell you if you tell me.”

Konnor was quiet for a minute, just looking at Dax. He finally said, “I wanted to be free, to live my life the way I wanted. Right now, that seems naive.”

Dax knew what Konnor was implying. Konnor had run away to be free only to have that freedom snatched from him by Dax. Dax did feel a little bad about that, but he wasn’t about to let the gorgeous redhead go. Not yet, he just couldn’t. He just smiled back, “Seems like we’re not too different. I ran away from my father so that he couldn’t marry me off. I’m only 17, I’m not ready to get married yet.”

Konnor finally took a step closer to Dax, he was just quietly looking at him. It took Konnor a little time to process the information, but then he finally said, “That is a funny coincidence... Who’s your father?”

Dax raised one eyebrow, looking up at Konnor. Why did it matter who his father was, why would this stranger care? He decided to humor his captive and tell him more, “I’m Prince Daxton Austeareus of Toeaux, the king is my father.”

Konnor was already pale, but he just got paler. He stepped back from Dax, practically tripping over his own feet. Dax looked at him curiously, standing up and walking towards him. Konnor kept walking back until his back hit the wall. Dax slammed his hands against the wall on either side of Konnor. They were practically the same height, but Dax was still looking down on Konnor with a dark expression. “Why does that scare you?”

“N-no reason...” Konnor stammered, shrinking down against the wall.

“Just who are you?” Dax narrowed his eyes, grabbing the redhead by his shirt collar.

He shrugged, letting out a nervous laugh, “Someone forgettable.”

“I don’t believe that.” He stepped back a little, looking over Konnor’s fine features. He rested a hand on Konnor’s cheek, moving his thumb across his soft skin, “I think you’re very memorable.”

Konnor only stared up at him, eyes wide. He didn’t pull away or push Dax’s hand off and that made Dax happy. It was a first step, he knew he’d get Konnor to trust him and open up to him more. Apparently, this softer approach was more effective with the redhead.

He stood there a moment longer, each of them looking into each other’s eyes. He was tempted to just lean in and kiss Konnor’s lips. They looked so soft and inviting. But he resisted, he didn’t think he’d get very far if he did actually try anything. Instead, Dax took a step back, his hand dropping down to his side. He didn’t say anything else as he turned around and walked out of the room, locking it behind him.

That Konnor really was quite gentle, Dax really did feel bad about how rough he had been with him when they first met. He didn’t want that angel to hate him. He did his best to push thoughts of Konnor out of his mind as he returned to the main deck. Most of the crew were already out doing the chores for the day and making sure the ship was sailing into Tekoland. Dax did not want them to see him softening up, he was still their strong leader and that was all they needed to see.

He ignored everyone and went to the kitchen. Luckily, the servant he’d dragged on the ship to be the cook was already there and standing over the stove. He walked over to the table, sitting down heavily and kicking his feet up on the table, waiting for food to be served to him. He didn’t have to wait long before the cook set down a breakfast plate in front of him. They were too nervous to say anything, they just stood there waiting as Dax started to eat, hoping that he would be satisfied. Dax ignored the cook and kept on eating, he didn’t really care about the food, he was just eating to be full.

Dax looked up when the kitchen door opened. Saria walked in hanging on the arm of Timothy. She was smiling and talking to him very flirtatiously, but he didn’t seem to be having it. His face was blank and he responded in short statements. Saria let him go when she saw Dax sitting at the table and skipped over to him, sitting down next to him. She immediately started jabbering in his ear and he wished that he was alone with the cook again, if only to get a little peace and quiet.

When Timothy sat down across from them, Dax set down his fork and looked at the short male. He cut Saria off mid-sentence, asking Timothy, “Konnor says he was on the Tekoland Floating Town because he was running away, but what about you?” He meant it as a question, but his tone came off more like a statement.

Timothy was quiet for a moment, just looking at Dax and opening and closing his mouth a few times. He finally said, “I was there to help my friend.”

“It doesn’t take two to run away,” he leaned forward in his chair, looking intently at the blonde. He couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more that Timothy wasn’t saying.

Saria made a huffing sound next to him, smacking his shoulder lightly. He turned to see her pouting at him. He knew she was mad that he hadn’t been listening to her. But she didn’t say anything about that, she said, “Daxi, don’t interrogate him.”

He raised his eyebrows, was Saria really taking the side of this stranger? She just met him a little more than a day ago and she was already hanging on his every word. Sometimes his childhood friend drove him crazy. He looked back at Timothy, turning his frustration on him. “I just want to know why Konnor seemed to be afraid when he found out who I was.”

Timothy just stared back at him with that same blank expression that he had walked in with. Dax asked his question a different way, “Why would Konnor care if I’m a prince or not?”

Timothy’s poker face broke but only for a second, a flash of surprise, his eyes widened and his mouth dropped open ever so slightly. Next moment, Timothy was back to his empty expression and incessant stare. He shook his head, “I don’t know.”

Now Dax definitely knew that there was more going on. He’d gotten similar reactions out of both of them when he told them that he was royalty. What did that even matter? The way they dressed and the dinghy that they’d been flying in before made it seem like they were regular civilians who wouldn’t care about royalty from another country, let alone from their own country. He sat back, crossing his arms, “Explaining yourself is the least you could do to repay me for my hospitality here.”

A small smile made itself appear on Timothy’s face, “Being held captive is not included in my definition of hospitality.”

Dax looked at him with an eyebrow raised, that was the most he’d heard the blond say at once. He didn’t like Timothy’s opposition, “You’re living on my ship, in my guest rooms, eating my food. It could be a lot more difficult for you.”

“Like it is for Konnor?” Timothy’s question was bold and it did not sit well with Dax.

He stood up, towering over the other two at the table. He glared down at Timothy. “Konnor is being treated just fine. Don’t ask about him.” He probably had no reason to be jealous and he didn’t even know why he was. He just didn’t like the way Timothy talked to him about the redhead. Timothy had said that he and Konnor were just friends, but Dax couldn’t stop himself from thinking that there really was more between them. He wasn’t even with Konnor yet, but he didn’t want to share, especially not with this guy.

He walked away from the table, feeling Timothy’s and Saria’s stares on his back. He left the kitchen, shutting the door behind him. He didn’t know why he’d gotten so frustrated back there, he just couldn’t help it. And now all he wanted to do was go see Konnor again.

Konnor had been too stunned to even move when Dax touched his cheek. One moment, Dax had looked like he was ready to kill him and the next, Dax was gently caressing his cheek. Konnor’s mind wasn’t processing it fast enough. He did like this side of Dax though, it seemed like maybe he could be gentle or at least not violent. They both stood there so close to each other, faces inches apart. They were there so long, Konnor was sure that Dax would try to make another move on him. He was that surprised when Dax stepped back without doing anything else and turned away. He could only watch as Dax left the room and shut the door behind him.

He heard a click and rushed forward to the door, but he knew that it was already too late and he was locked in here again. He didn’t understand why he was being kept away from everyone, isolated in this room. He didn’t understand what Dax wanted from him. Why him? Dax could have anyone, so what made him special? Had Dax somehow found out who he really was and wanted to keep him here? But Dax said that he didn’t want to do what his father wanted, that he didn’t want to get married. None of it made sense to Konnor.

He went and plopped onto the bed where Dax had just been laying. It really was far more comfortable than laying on the floor. A room like this reminded of him of being at home. It all felt too pristine, like he couldn’t touch anything for fear of ruining it. He felt that way at home and he felt like that here. But in that moment, he didn’t care, he just wanted to lay on the soft bed, surrounded by the fluffy sheets and blankets. But there was a problem. He was hungry. There was nothing he could eat in here and Dax had locked him in here. Maybe if he just fell asleep, he could forget about being hungry.

Sleep was all he could think of to do, so he lifted up the covers and got in. He laid his head on the pillow, forcing himself to close his eyes and let himself fall asleep. Sleeping when he wasn’t tired and when he was hungry was a lot more difficult than he hoped it would be. He had to focus just to keep his eyes closed and he knew that even that was counter to his goal. He let out a long breath, turning onto his side and doing his best to just let go, to let every muscle relax.

He didn’t know if it worked or not, he didn’t feel any better, if anything he felt more hungry. But he did feel something else, he didn’t feel like he was alone anymore. He opened his eyes and glanced down to see a tanned arm draped over him. He was pretty sure who it was, he just wanted to be wrong. He looked along the arm, looking back to the person lying behind him. Sure enough, there was Dax’s sleeping face right next to his.

He gulped. He didn’t feel any different, he was still in his clothes, it seemed like Dax just came into the room and decided to sleep next to him. Konnor hadn’t heard anyone come in, he must’ve fallen asleep for Dax to have snuck in like that. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, he knew that he should push Dax away and get as far away as possible, but what if Dax woke up? Surely Dax would be unhappy and perhaps not as gentle this time. Pushing Dax away, he wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted. There was something else Konnor couldn’t deny. He liked having a strong arm wrapped around him and a warm body next to him while he slept. He just wasn’t sure that he liked Dax.

Dax was starting to stir, so Konnor instantly turned back over and pretended to still be sleeping. It was the only way he could get out of the dilemma, to just pretend that he had no knowledge that Dax was even there. He could feel Dax’s grip tighten around him and he gulped a little. It wasn’t necessarily bad, he just didn’t want to be in a bad situation like yesterday again.

He could feel Dax’s hot breath against his neck. He did his best to stay still, with his eyes closed. He just didn’t want Dax to know that he was aware of what was going on. After a minute or so, Dax took his arm away and sat up. Even though Konnor was still wrapped in the blankets, he couldn’t help shivering a little when Dax left his side. Having the heat of another person next to him really was so much better than any blankets. He could feel the bed lift a little when Dax stood up and he just couldn’t keep his eyes closed anymore. He opened them, turning to look back at Dax, who was now standing with his back to him. He knew he’d probably regret it later, but he spoke quietly, “Daxton...”

Dax whipped around, looking down at Konnor. He let out a little breath and smiled, well it was more of a smirk, but Konnor could tell that there wasn’t any derision behind the expression. “I thought you were sleeping.”

“I was,” Konnor sat up, rubbing his eyes, “Something woke me up.”

“Sorry,” Dax stepped back a little to lean against the wall and look back at Konnor. “It was probably when I opened the door.”

Konnor just looked back at him, he knew that wasn’t true. Apparently, Dax didn’t want to admit that he’d been sleeping next to Konnor any more than Konnor wanted to admit that he woke up in this guy’s arms. Konnor finally broke the eye contact, looking down, “What do you want?”

Dax shrugged, making no move to go back over to Konnor, “I was bored.”

Bored... Konnor had to wonder if that meant Dax was going to try again to get Konnor to have sex with him. He really hoped that Dax wouldn’t try anything on him, he could actually relate to the Dax that was frustrated and angry with his parents, but the violence and force directed at him, he couldn’t take that. He let out a whisper, “I don’t want to...”

He didn’t know if Dax heard him or not, he just kept standing where he was, not moving. Finally, Dax stepped forward and sat next to him on the bed, laying back on the mattress. Dax looked at the ceiling as he spoke, “I don’t like you being afraid of me.”

Konnor just stared at him, he really did not expect Dax to say that. He didn’t know how to respond either. He couldn’t tell Dax that he wasn’t afraid of him, because that simply wasn’t true. He got the feeling that when Dax had him tied up and the things he was going to do, those were Dax’s true colors. But this side of Dax now made him wonder if Dax really had been telling the truth earlier, when he said that he was sorry about the day before. Konnor didn’t know if that made anything better, it just gave him hope. He just wanted to be let go, to be free again. Konnor decided to be brave, “Will you let me and my friend go?”

Dax gave him a dirty glare for that remark and he wasn’t even sure why. Dax looked back at the ceiling, “I don’t think I can. Not yet.”

“Can I have-” Konnor was about to ask for something to eat when Dax suddenly stood up. Without a word, he went back to the door. Konnor’s throat went dry, he tried to get him to stop, “Daxton, wait.” But it wasn’t enough, Dax was already through the door. There was a click and Konnor knew that once again, he was locked inside this room. Only now, he didn’t think he could fall asleep to ignore his hunger. The last time he ate was before he and Timothy even left Seslin. He could only hope that they weren’t treating Timothy the same as him. He laid back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling, his stomach growling. He needed to get out of this room.

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