The boy was lost. He stood, naked and shivering, in the middle of a huge, white… place. He was used to white. He thought he was used to white. There was definitely something inside him that said that he knew what white was. But there was also something that said that white places were bad.
This white place was no better than the last white place, he thought. He took a step, and then another, then found himself on his back, with a sharp pain in his bottom and his foot.
“Aw,” His voice surprised him; startled him. He was surprised that he had a voice. He didn’t know what he was sitting on, but it was cold; very cold. Struggling to get to his feet, he realised it was also very slippery. Slipping and skidding he hurried along. Having no idea where he was going or where he’d been, he simply walked.
After a short time, the slippery white became a soft, powdery white that hurt his feet. No, it was something underneath the white powdery stuff that hurt his feet. Ignoring the pain, he kept walking until his legs gave out and he fell. Surprised, he knelt on the ground and reached out his hand to the beautiful, soft powder that was glittering and sparkling all around him. Suddenly, it was hard to move, hard to do anything. The sparkly stuff seemed to be getting closer and, not long after he realised it was under his cheek, everything went black.
The boy was still lost, but he was no longer cold. As his fluttering eyes cleared, he saw something golden over his head, a long way away. ‘Wood,’ he thought; and then, ‘Ceiling’. The fact that he’d thought anything at all surprised him. And then lots of other thoughts flooded into his head, telling him that he was lying in a ‘bed’ with a ‘pillow’ under his head and he was ‘warm’ and ‘comfortable’ and… ‘safe’. Really? Safe? A worm of fear crawled into his guts. Was he safe?
Thoughts about running away came hot on the heels of the others – thoughts of danger and pursuit, and pain and… danger. Danger! Danger!
Sitting up, he got a flash of a smallish room with wooden walls and furniture, before the sharp, shocking pain in his head made him fall back again. Okay, maybe ‘escape’ wasn’t an option, just yet.
A soft sound sparked thoughts of ‘door’ and ‘open’; then ‘pain’ and ‘danger’. Gritting his teeth against the feeling he’d labelled ‘pain’, in his head, he raised it and saw a figure manoeuvring a tray through the door.
“Hey, you’re awake. I thought you would be. I’ve brought you something to eat, if you’re up to it.”
Closing his eyes, the boy sighed and let his head fall back. He was in no shape to ‘fight’ or ‘run’, so he just had to ‘accept’. Wetness ran down the side of his face and into his pale blue hair. ‘Tears’, he thought. ‘Crying’.
“Hey, are you okay? I didn’t mean to startle you.” Something touched his arm and he jerked it. “It’s okay. You’re safe now.”
“Ssssssafe?” The voice hissed sibilantly, surprising him again, and he moistened his lips with a quick, forked tongue.
“I know what you are and where you’ve come from,” the person said, as the boy felt the weight of someone sitting on the bed. Turning his head he blinked at the figure which had resolved itself into a young man, with golden skin and fair hair twisted into long plaits either side of a pretty, oval face. Blue eyes twinkled in a friendly way, as the man smiled.
“My name is Dee. I used to… work at the lab, and I know what goes on in there.”
“You talked a lot when you were feverish.”
“Yes. You’ve been ill for a few days. I found you collapsed in the snow. You’re lucky. If I hadn’t found you when I did, you would have died from cold and exposure. How did you come to be out there in the snow, so far from the facility?”
“I… don’t… know.” It was difficult to talk, and the forked tongue flicked out again, trying to moisten dry lips, with no moisture.
“Oh,” Dee said, anxiously, “you must be very thirsty. Here…” Reaching for something from the tray, he slid his hand and then his arm, under the boy’s shoulders and lifted him so he was sitting up. The boy’s head lolled, the soft blue hair tickling his back, and Dee steadied him against his shoulder, holding him up with a strong arm around his back.
“Easy,” he murmured, as he held something hard and cold against the boy’s lips.
‘Glass’, he thought. ‘Danger’. “Wh… what…?”
“Just water. I promise.”
Still suspicious, the boy opened his lips and let the cold, sweet, water flow into his mouth. It felt so good. Eagerly he swallowed and raised his hand to tip the glass further. Water sloshed over them both, as he drank deeply. When the glass was empty, he frowned, disappointed.
“I’ll get you more, in a minute. Are you hungry? Could you eat something?”
“Hungry?” He paused, to ponder ‘hungry’. “I… ththink…” His abdomen squirmed, as if something was moving under the skin. It didn’t hurt, wasn’t uncomfortable at all. It was… Unconsciously, the boy smiled. “Yess, hungry,” he said.
“Do you have any idea what you like to eat?”
The boy shook his head.
“Well,” Dee said, moving the tray so it sat across his knees, “I figured, from your eyes and tongue, you have some reptilian in you somewhere, so I made up a tray with meat. If you don’t like it, say so and we’ll try something…” He broke off, because, as soon as he saw, and smelled, the meat, the boy’s hand had shot forward, and he was throwing impossibly large chunks of raw meat into his mouth, swallowing them without chewing.
“Oookay. Mental note. He likes raw meat.”
The boy stopped, licked his lips, and smiled. He wondered why Dee recoiled a little.
“Are you poisonous?” Dee asked, and the boy wondered what ‘poisonous’ meant.
“I… don’t know. What doess it mean?”
“Never mind. Just, never bite me, okay?”
The boy frowned, puzzled. “Why would I – bite – you?”
“Never mind. Don’t worry. Do you feel better now?”
“I… yess. Feel… ssleepy.”
“Then, you should sleep. That’s what you need more than anything right now. Let me help you.”
Laying aside the tray, Dee held the boy close to him as he fluffed the pillows. The boy thought that he ‘liked’ the warmth and ‘smell’ of him, and then he was laid back onto bliss. With a sigh, he closed his eyes. Startled, he opened them again, when something soft brushed against the side of his face. It was Dee’s hand.
“What’s your name?” he asked, and the boy frowned.
A moment ago he would have said that he didn’t know, but it came floating to him, from the darkness in his mind. “Ssyththssuththssyss,” he murmured. To Dee it sounded like a long hiss interspersed with flicks of the long, forked tongue.
“Riiight. Do you mind if I call you Sys?”
“No,” Sys whispered, as the world around him faded into softness, and a gentle hand stroking his cheek.
While he slept he dreamed. He dreamed of a white room. He dreamed of a silver room. He dreamed of metal and leather, and of acid, and of pain. He woke screaming.
“Easy. Easy, Sys. It’s alright. It’s okay. It’s me, Dee. You’re safe. Everything’s alright. You’re safe.”
Sys stared at Dee. The huge golden eyes, with their slitted pupils, darted about, looking for a way to escape.
“Sys, it’s okay. You’re safe. I promise.”
The cool hand against the side of his face, brushing away the tears, calmed him, as did the scent of the man to whom it belonged. It was spicy and sweet and delicate and strong. Danger; danger, something was screaming at him. Safe, safe, something else whispered, deep in his heart. A strange sense of calm washed over him, as he realised that whatever else might happen in his future, Dee would never hurt him.
Allowing himself to relax, he released Dee’s arms, which he had been grabbing so hard, his long nails had punctured the skin.
“Thank you,” Dee said, rubbing the sore places. “I guess you remember now.”
“Yess. Ththey were bad people.”
“Oh yeah, they were bad; very bad. How long were you there?”
“I don’t know. Long time.”
“Where did you come from?”
Sys raised his eyes to the ceiling, taking on a misty expression. “Up there.”
“I figured. Do you know the name of your planet?”
Sys shook his head. “We don’t have a name. It iss jusst home.”
“I understand. Do you know how you can get back?”
Sadly, Sys shook his head. “Wass bad, very bad. Ssent away. Can’t go back.”
“You were exiled? Banished from the whole planet?”
Sys blinked. “Yess. They gave me ship and ssent me away. Can never go back.”
“What the hell did you do?” Dee sounded uneasy. Only very bad people were banished like that, right?
Sys sighed deeply, sad when Dee took his hand away. “I loved.”
“You were banished because you loved?”
Sys met Dee’s eyes and sighed again. “Wrong persson. King’ss sson. When we were found, I wass charged with treasson and ssent away.”
“Hell. That was… it must have been…”
“It wass. I wanted to die but… but I had to live. I had to.”
“Yes, of course you did. And now you will. I’ll make sure you’re taken care of, Sys. When you’re well enough, we can talk about what you want to do next. You can go anywhere you want, do anything, be anyone.”
“Yes, you can.”
Sys looked upwards and sighed. “Not, anywhere.”
“No, not there. I’m sorry.”
“No ssorry. You ssaved me. Noththing to be ssorry for. You weren’t the fool who fell for a pretty face and falsse tongue.”
“Didn’t he stand by you?”
Sys shook his head sadly. “He wass the firsst to assk for exssile.”
“Becausse… becausse - he didn’t want me anymore. It wass a way out for him.”
“He must be crazy.”
Blushing, Dee looked away and swallowed. “Well, you’re very beautiful, Sys and you seem sweet and gentle and…” Dee stuttered to a stop, biting his tongue. “If you’re okay now, I think it would be a good idea for me to get back to bed.”
“You think I’m beautiful?” Sys’ eyes were wide and shocked. Dee’s hair was loose tonight, rippling in the breeze from the open window, almost as if it had a life of its own.
“I… I think I’d better go to bed. You need to rest. I… I’ll bring you something to eat in the morning.”
“I ate today.”
Dee was on his feet and turned, surprised. Sys was watching him, his golden eyes soft in the light of the moon that shone onto his face. The turquoise hair that stood out like a hood around his head, running in a crest down the centre of his back, looked metallic and was ruffled by the same breeze.
“You don’t eat every day?”
“No.” He frowned and absently patted his stomach, “Not ussually. Maybe being here hass changed me.”
“Are you hungry now?”
“Do you want me to get you some food?”
“Yess… but I can get it.”
“You’re still weak. You need to rest.”
“I’m okay. I want to get up. I feel… resstlesss.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
Throwing back the bedclothes, Sys slipped out of bed. He was very slender, but with a ripple of muscle under the skin that suggested he was stronger than he looked. Dee was very conscious of the fact that he was naked. Sys didn’t seem self conscious about it at all.
After two steps, Sys swayed and Dee reflexively threw his arm around his waist and steadied him against his side. Only a couple of inches shorter, Sys tilted his head up and smiled. The flash of the long, sharp, fangs made Dee shiver, Although, suddenly it wasn’t with fear but because he could imagine what it would feel like for them to scrape his skin and… he shivered again.
“Are you cold, Dee?”
“No, not cold. Do you think you can walk by yourself?”
“Yess, but I like it here. You make me feel ssafe.”
“I’m not so sure you are,” Dee muttered and Sys frowned. “Sorry, it’s okay. I didn’t mean that. It’s just… just…”
At that moment, Dee made the mistake of looking down into the luminous, golden pools of moonlight and he was caught, breathless. Sys smiled gently and his eyes drifted closed as he stretched upwards to meet Dee’s lips with his own. For a moment, Dee was fluid in his arms, melting into his body and parting his lips for the nimble tongue to take possession of his mouth. He sighed and shuddered… but then gently pushed Sys away from him.
“I can’t do this.”
“Why not? You want to. I want to.”
“It’s not right, Sys; you’re too vulnerable. You’re sick and alone and you’ve been badly let down by your people, and the man you loved. It would be wrong of me to take advantage of that. You’re confused and don’t know how you feel right now and…”
“I know how I feel, Dee. I feel ssafe and I feel sstronger than I wass before. I’m not in love withth you but I like ththe way you look and I like ththe way you ssmell and I very much like ththe way you feel. You’re ssoft and ssmooth and you ssmell sso good.” Sys’ tongue flicked out and he hissed softly. Dee shuddered again. Hell, this boy was hot. Even the way he spoke – the way he hissed softly though his teeth on the ‘s’ sounds and the way his tongue vibrated the ‘th’ sounds. It made him wonder what the vibration of that nimble tongue might feel like against…
“It just wouldn’t be right, Sys. Please…”
Tilting his head to one side, Sys drew back and smiled. “You are good, Dee. You are sstrong and you are honesst and I like ththat. Not now, but ssoon, I will sshow you.”
“Maybe,” Dee said, steadying Sys as they walked from the room, out into the cabin. One wall, of the wooden house was made up almost entirely of glass windows and, while Dee went into the kitchen in search of meat, Sys wandered towards them. Outside, the world was silent and glittering white. In the distance, he could see the dark smudge of the tree-line, and dark patches in the snow, which he now realised must be the ice of a lake, or body of water.
The snow was deep and seemed to blanket sounds as well as the earth. Above the whiteness, the night sky was inky black, scattered with the bright points of light; each a planet, or a moon, or a star. He pondered how many, if any, of the lights he saw were inhabited planets. He sighed, wondering if any of them were his. Thinking back, he could remember piloting the ship on an erratic course, narrowly missing space debris, planetary orbits and other dangers, until he finally realised he had nowhere to go and allowed the nearest planet to pull him down, with no idea if it was habited or even capable of sustaining his life. In some ways, he’d been lucky, but he’d absolutely no way of knowing where he’d come from, up there in the crowded night sky.
“Are you okay?” Dee asked softly, coming up behind. Sys jumped and shivered.
“Yess. Looking at ththe sstarss.”
Dee slid his arms around Sys and rested his chin on his shoulder. “We’re all missing something, Sys. The pain gets less with time.”
Sys turned his head to look at Dee. “What are you misssing?”
“Pretty much the same as you. My home; my first love. I left my home through choice, not because I was exiled but, other than that I guess my story is pretty much the same as yours. A love that let me down. A family who didn’t approve; didn’t understand. A young, headstrong fool who thought he could take on the world and win.”
“I never th…thought I’d win. I th…thought I’d die. I wanted to. That’ss why they ssent me away. It wass worsse.”
“Yeah, I guess so. You’re okay now, though. You’re here and things are going to be good for you now.”
“Are they?” he asked sadly, and sighed.
Dee turned Sys around and took his face between his hands. “You’re beautiful, Sys. I’ve never seen anyone like you before. You’re so alien and strange, but so beautiful. You’ve no idea how much I want to kiss you, how much I’ve wanted it since the first moment I saw you, such a brilliant, bright, blue, flower trying to bloom through the snow.
“No, Sys, please don’t. I know you want to kiss me too, that you want to cling to me, and feel safe with me. Maybe one day we will. Maybe one day we’ll be together, and maybe we won’t. I can’t do it now. If we do this now then I won’t know if it’s because you truly have feelings for me or if it’s because you’re desperate just to have someone… anyone. I won’t know if you want me for me.”
Sys frowned and then, slowly, nodded. “I undersstand. I undersstand that you don’t know me enough to be ssure. I know. I always know. But I resspect you and I will wait. There iss more that you musst know about me and it’ss hard to sspeak of, sso better to wait and tell sslowly.”
“I can’t say I completely understand what you’re saying, but I think we understand each other. Let’s just take it slowly, okay?”
“Sslowly. Yess. You have meat?”
Dee smiled. “Yes, I have meat.