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Katya Dee

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  1. - XVIII - When he pulled into his driveway, it was 6:30 in the evening. He briefly thought that he managed to make it all the way back here in four and a half hours, and silently congratulated himself for managing to do so without getting any speeding tickets. He turned off the car and climbed out without bothering to lock it. He unlocked the front door and walked inside, pulling off his jacket and kicking off his shoes as he walked. He almost started walking upstairs, and then paused and went into the kitchen instead. “Gem,” he said quietly a minute later, and Gemini who was making some weird-looking cupcakes it seemed, looked up, blinked, and dropped the spoon that he was holding. Yes, this was exactly what he needed, Stratos realized when he sank his fingers into the silky hair, trying to drink every single breath out of the perfect mouth, getting dizzy from the familiar scent and frantic heartbeat. This was exactly what he needed. Gemini’s mouth tasted like chocolate and cherry. Cupcakes, Stratos realized a minute later when he pushed the golden-haired kelari into the wall, tugging off his shirt and yanking off his pants. He was making cupcakes, and he had to keep tasting them to make sure everything was right. Making dessert relaxed him, Stratos thought, and threw a quick glance around after finally tossing the last item of clothing onto the floor. He blinked several times when he saw a few trays of little muffins, fruit cups, and something that looked like an upside-down pineapple cake. How much dessert has he made...? Then he felt his own shirt being pulled over his head, and stopped thinking about cooking. He let out a moan when he felt a frantic tongue trying to assault his entire mouth at once, kicked off his pants that slid to his ankles by now, lifted the trembling body in front of him off the floor, and pressed it harder into the wall. Gemini immediately locked his legs around Stratos’ waist, digging his fingers into the back of the musician’s neck. Stratos jerked his hand downwards, determined on starting working his fingers, and Gemini moaned at that and shook his head. “Mmm...” he breathed. “Don’t... Just forget about it... Enter me...!” “I don’t want to hurt you...” Stratos muttered unevenly. “I need to prepare...” “You won’t...” Gemini interrupted him. “You won’t hurt me...” He shook his head again. “Enter me...” he breathed. “Just enter me... Stratos, please...!” Stratos bit his lip, his expression hesitant, and when he heard another desperate ‘Enter me...!’ his eyes darted around the counter next to them. He saw what he needed and let go of his lip, letting a quick smile to run across his mouth. He reached out, managing to keep Gemini pinned to the wall, and pumped some oil from a bottle with olive oil not too far away from him. Gemini let out a strangled moan when he felt that oil being used with a very different purpose from cooking, and dug his fingers a little deeper into the back of Stratos’ neck. “Enter me...” he whispered again, and threw his head back when Stratos finally obliged, after using plenty of oil on both of them. He didn’t care about silencing his throat anymore. He set it free, letting every single moan and whimper to come out in a stuttering, endless wave. Stratos loved every single sound that emerged from the perfect throat, half-realizing that his own moans were echoing Gemini’s in ideal unison. His hips moved with impatient, hungry accelerando, and he knew that he wouldn’t last much longer, but he didn’t care about it right then. Restraints felt almost blasphemous, and he moved faster when the circle of legs around his waist tightened significantly. They stared into each other’s eyes, drowning in crescendo-ing moans, and when Gemini gasped for air some time later, Stratos knew exactly what he was about to say. “I’m gonna come...” Gemini muttered, and even though he knew it, hearing those words, pushed Stratos closer to the edge. “I’m gonna come... Oh, God... Stratos, don’t stop... Don’t stop...! I’m gonna come... Stratos, I’m gonna... I’m gonna... Oh...!” Stratos wouldn’t be able to stop even if he had a gun to his head. He felt the silky, tight muscles around him start trembling with sweet, familiar, anticipated contractions, and his eyes rolled backwards when a bursting rush of heat shot through him, making his head spin. “I’m gonna come...” Gemini stuttered again, and the contractions became stronger, making Stratos to breathe out several weird, non-existent words. “I’m gonna... I’m... Oh, God... Stratos, I’m coming...! I’m coming...!” he screamed out and threw his head backwards again, not even noticing that he bumped into the wall rather hard. “Stratos...!” “Gem...” Stratos moaned out in low-octave desperation, and that was as long as both of them lasted before the bursting, brilliant light decided to drown them in the explosion of pleasure. Stratos locked his lips on the helplessly opened mouth in front of him, swallowing every single breath and moan, and several minutes later, when both of them stopped shuddering, he felt the tight circle of legs around his waist to relax and start sliding off. He shook his head and sneaked his right hand down, making one of the legs to stay put. “Just like this,” he muttered, and the circle slowly came back, locking around him once again. “I am not done with you yet...” he said in a low voice a minute later, and swallowed another quick, shaky breath. He stood still for a few more minutes, just to make sure he could keep his balance, and then he slowly started walking towards the staircase, in the general direction of his bedroom – he was serious when he said he wasn’t done yet. **** “Mmm...” Gemini muttered an hour or so later, his eyes closed, head securely positioned on Stratos’ chest. His entire body was purring in perfect, singing content. “Mmm... Now I can finally sleep...” “Mmm...?” Stratos opened one eye without raising his head. Gemini let out a long, satisfied sigh. “Ever since you left, I couldn’t sleep,” he said quietly without moving. “And now...” He let out another sigh. “Now I can finally sleep...” Stratos opened both of his eyes when he heard that. “Really...” he said slowly and felt another satisfied sigh. “Uh huh...” Gemini murmured and scooted a little closer to the other man’s body, locking his arm around Stratos’ waist. Stratos closed his eyes again and held him tighter without saying anything, inhaling the familiar, sweet scent of silky hair that spilled all over his chest. They lay still for several more minutes, and then Stratos let out a sigh of his own; this one was slightly regretful, however. “Sleep sounds insanely tempting...” he muttered and opened his eyes. “...but there is no time for that,” he finished and unlocked the circle of his arms, sitting up and letting the relaxed, slender body in his embrace to slide down on the pillows. Gemini opened his eyes and frowned. “I want to get back there before two in the morning,” Stratos explained and got off the bed. “I only have two days left until the concert...” Gemini slowly sat up. “You are leaving again...” he muttered without looking away. “Uh huh,” Stratos nodded and shot him a quick glance, while heading towards the closet. “Get out of bed,” he said, and the golden eyes slightly widened at that. “Get out of bed,” Stratos repeated with a nod and opened the door of the closet. “You want me out of bed...?” Gemini muttered with dark confusion, and Stratos emerged from the closet with some clothes in his hands. “Yes,” he said patiently and put the clothes on the edge of the bed. “Oh...” Gemini blinked several times, bit his lip, and slowly slid out of bed, his expression almost miserable. “Go take your shower,” Stratos continued while putting on his shirt. “You could wait until we get there, to be honest, but...” He shrugged and reached for his pants after buttoning up the shirt. “...we both know that you will keep obsessing about it for the next five hours,” he finished with a slight nod, and Gemini’s expression became very confused. “Shower...?” he muttered, and Stratos nodded again. “Yes,” he said as patiently as before. “Oh, and by the way...” he paused, working his belt buckle. “Don’t get stuck there for an hour as you usually do,” he said finally after the buckle decided to behave. “We only have...” He glanced at his watch. “...thirty three minutes before we have to leave,” he nodded yet again. “So, you get twenty five minutes total to get your shower and to get dressed combined... So, hurry up,” he looked at Gemini, whose expression was now completely bewildered. “Wait...” he muttered. “Wait... We...?” “Oh, yeah,” Stratos walked towards the bathroom and flipped on the lights. “Haven’t I mentioned that? You are coming with me,” he grabbed the hairbrush from the counter and ran it over his messed up hair several times, making it to behave. He sighed when there was no response, put the brush back on the counter, and turned around, facing the huge golden eyes. “You are not the only one who couldn’t sleep, Gem,” he said quietly. “I didn’t come back here tonight just for sex... Don’t get me wrong,” he shrugged without looking away. “For sex with you, I would’ve traveled a hell of a lot farther, but it’s not the case tonight... I haven’t slept for more than forty-eight hours, and if I stay awake any longer, Saturday night will be a spectacular disaster...” He nodded again. “You are my remedy,” he said a minute later. “Therefore, go get that perfect ass of yours in the shower, and now you have...” He glanced at his watch again. “...twenty two minutes left,” he nodded yet again. Gemini finally blinked. “I only need fifteen,” he said quietly and a trembling smile lit up the corners of his mouth. Stratos snorted at that. “No, really,” Gemini nodded and walked towards the bathroom. “Taking long showers is just an old habit... A very old habit,” he added a second later. “I don’t need them now... I mean,” he shrugged. “I don’t feel filthy anymore, but old habits are hard to break...” “Yeah,” Stratos muttered without a smile this time. He leaned closer when Gemini was standing next to him, and placed a slow, deep kiss on the perfect mouth. “Go take your shower,” he whispered a minute later, and swallowed a quick breath. “Yeah...” Gemini said very quietly, and Stratos stepped aside, letting him into the bathroom. He stood still for a few minutes, and when he heard the sound of running water from behind the closed door, he sighed and closed his eyes. “Why haven’t I met you years ago?” he muttered with a small frown. “You would never feel filthy...” He sighed again, opened his eyes and left the room, heading downstairs and determined on making some coffee before they had to leave – he had doubts that Gemini would only need fifteen minutes total. …Exactly fourteen minutes later, Stratos heard light steps, and he looked up with a small, puzzled frown. Gemini came down the stairs, looking as perfect as he always did, his hair slightly damp from the shower, and he was wearing the same all-black attire as he did for the previous performance. Stratos blinked several times. “Impressive,” he nodded finally, and received a very familiar smile as a result. “Here...” He handed Gemini a travel mug filled with coffee and one of those weird-looking cupcakes he was making earlier. Stratos had three of them while the blond kelari was in the shower. They looked weird, but they tasted heavenly. “I put the rest of the stuff in the fridge,” he said seriously, and shrugged when he caught a slightly surprised golden glance. “We are not coming back home until probably Monday morning, and I would hate for them to go bad,” he said simply and received another smile. He grabbed the keys from the table by the door and pulled on his jacket. “Let’s go,” he said and handed Gemini a short dark coat that he pulled out of the closet earlier. “Put it on, it’s cold outside.” They finally left the house, and when Stratos turned the car into the main road, it was 20:15. Perfect timing, Stratos thought and bit into another cupcake without looking away from the dark road. They should be back in Brookland a little after midnight. Perfect timing... **** Robert could not believe his rotten luck. Here he was, waiting patiently for the sun to go down all the way, impatient for anticipated darkness, and when it seemed that there was maybe half an hour left – it would get dark delightfully early in December – who decides to show up all of a sudden? Stratos-goddamn-Gregorio, that’s who. At first, Robert thought that he drank a bit too much while he was waiting, and now was simply seeing things, but then he realized that he wasn’t looking at the fruit of his drunken imagination. It was Stratos himself, and he seemed to be in a hell of a hurry. Robert cursed through his clenched teeth and reached for his thermos yet again. Coffee in that thermos was still quite hot, Robert loved it. Of course, the fact that coffee was diluted with a serious amount of liquor, only added more appreciation. He knew that he became dangerously obsessed in the last week or so, and that his behavior was anything but healthy, and he couldn’t care less. Ever since that day when he somewhat restored his inner balance in that abandoned parking lot, he couldn’t stop thinking about the hateful original. He would even dream of him, and it was driving him crazy. Finally, he decided not to wait as long as he planned in the beginning, and if not throw cautiousness to the wind completely, but definitely take some risk. He started watching Gregorio’s house a few days ago, trying to come up with some sort of a plan. To his disbelieving but very pleasant surprise, he realized that Stratos was leaving the house on Monday morning (yes, Robert was that dedicated – he would watch the damn place for the entire day, and only leave at night when he knew there was nothing he could do), and that the only person going with him was Leon Rolands, Stratos’ manager. Robert liked Leon. He was a quick-witted, friendly guy with a great sense of humor. Also, it was quite obvious that he hated Stratos’ kelari with burning passion; he hated him almost as much as Robert did, and it only added to his charm. At first, Robert didn’t quite believe that Stratos would be gone for longer than a day, so he waited patiently, just to make sure – taking some risk was just fine, but impatient rushing was not. Then, yesterday afternoon, while listening to the radio, Robert heard an advertising announcement – Stratos was giving yet another performance. On Saturday night. In Brookland. That was better than great. That meant Gregorio would not come back until at least Sunday morning, and considering that it was Tuesday afternoon when Robert heard the announcement... He had troubles breathing for a few minutes, feeling almost giddy with joy. Finally, after he calmed down, he decided not to waste any more time and start taking care of business that very night – he would have at least four days of undisturbed intimate time with that damn kelari, and you could do a lot in four days. He almost started going through with his plan, but to his greatest frustration, one of Stratos’ neighbors decided to throw some ridiculously huge party, and there were people all over the street, even after dark. There was no way he would be able to be unnoticed while he would be breaking into Stratos’ house. He gritted his teeth and cursed that idiot of a neighbor for almost an hour, feeling extremely frustrated and furious. Then, after he somewhat calmed down, he drove back home, figuring that he might as well get some sleep, since it didn’t make any sense to keep watching the house tonight – it seemed like the party would last until sunrise. He drove back home, and after he managed to drown his fury in a bottle of liquor, he thought that three days of intimacy wasn’t too bad either. Granted, four days would be better, but three was more than acceptable. With that, he went to sleep, passing out in the familiar dark haze, and when he woke up in the morning, he felt better. He drove back to the house a little after one in the afternoon, and to his greatest relief, the party was finished and all those people were gone. He murmured along with whatever was playing on the radio, sipping his diluted coffee, and he felt content. All he had to do now was to wait for a few more hours, and a few hours felt like laughable nothing to him. He murmured along with the radio, and turned off the engine when it was finally almost dark. He started counting minutes out loud, his mood greatly improved, when to his astonishment, a slick, black car zoomed down the empty street, flew into the driveway, came to a jerky, impatient stop, and Robert couldn’t breathe for a few seconds when he saw Stratos getting out of it and all but running towards the front door of the house. When he realized that he wasn’t seeing things, he started cursing in a low, hissing voice. Finally, almost an hour later, he managed to calm down somewhat and kept watching the house, feverishly hoping that Stratos would leave again any minute now. He was right; thirty minutes later, Stratos did leave the house, except he wasn’t alone – his damn kelari was with him, and Stratos held his hand with so much determination that Robert immediately knew that both of them wouldn’t come back until at least Sunday morning. He grasped the steering wheel so tightly, he felt like he almost broke it. He was too close to his goal, he thought with helpless fury. He was too close to his goddamn goal to give up right now. He threw the car in gear and followed Stratos down the dark road, not caring about the consequences in the slightest. He was too bloody close, and he would be damned if he didn’t go through with his plan. He wasn’t sure how he would do it, but he was not giving up.
  2. Katya Dee

    Chapter 17

    Well, shit might...or might not!...hit the fan somewhat soon...
  3. - XVII - He woke up three minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off, slammed his hand on the smooth button without opening his eyes, cursed silently at himself for not canceling this damn concert (even though he had a perfect, scot-free opportunity to do so), sighed, and sat up on the bed, one of his eyes still closed. Gemini slowly shifted next to him, his face buried in the pillow, and Stratos opened his other eye and almost started running his hand down the smooth, pale hip, half-covered by the blanket, when he glanced at the clock and cursed silently once again – it was 7:30 in the morning, and Leon would be here in half an hour or maybe even sooner. “Son of a bitch,” he thought gloomily and got off the bed, thinking of taking a cold shower this morning, since he didn’t have time for anything else. He muttered half-hearted obscenities the whole time he spent in the shower, and when he came out of the bathroom ten minutes later, he saw that the bed was empty. Then he heard some sound that clearly came from downstairs, and a few seconds later, he smelled strong aroma of coffee. He sighed and smiled to himself, heading towards the closet, mentally scanning the scores that he was taking with him – thankfully, he packed them a couple of nights ago. Everything seemed to be in order in his mental files, and when he finished getting dressed, it was 7:50. “Idiot,” he grumbled at himself while walking down the stairs. “Idiot... Moron...!” He called himself a few more unkind names, and finally stopped grumbling when he came into the kitchen. “I didn’t have time to make any breakfast,” Gemini said quickly, his intonation apologetic. Stratos shook his head and took a mug full of coffee out of the slender hands. “Mmm...” he said and half-closed his eyes when coffee flowed down his throat in a glorious run. “Mmm... Don’t worry about that... I can’t eat anything this early in the morning anyway...” He opened his eyes. “Never could,” he nodded seriously and glanced at the clock. “Bloody hell,” he sighed bitterly when he saw it was five minutes to eight. “Bloody...” A loud, short, impatient shriek of the doorbell interrupted him, and he sighed again and walked towards the front door without putting down his coffee mug. He opened the door and took a small step aside. “Good morning, sunshine,” Leon said and walked inside. “Ready to go?” “Almost,” Stratos nodded, demonstrating his coffee mug. “Finishing this first.” “All right,” Leon sighed and followed him into the kitchen after closing the door. He felt his jaw lock unpleasantly tighter the minute he saw the hateful golden shine of hair. He did his best to ignore it and sat down, concentrating solely on Stratos and his mug. “Want some coffee?” Stratos asked him when he caught his glance. “Sure,” Leon nodded without getting up. He shot a quick glance at sitting by now Gemini. “No sugar, plenty of cream,” he said shortly, and Gemini blinked at that. Stratos snorted and put his hand onto the rigid, thin shoulder next to him, making sure the blond kelari stayed put. “He is not your maid,” the musician said with another snort. “Get off your ass and get it yourself! You know where the mugs are, and the creamer is in the fridge.” Leon looked at him silently for a few seconds, and then smiled without baring his teeth and stood up. “Right,” was all he said while he was reaching for a mug and looking for creamer in the large fridge. He leaned onto the tall counter when his drink was ready, and started sipping it slowly without looking away from Stratos’ face. “Mmm,” Stratos said when he was almost done with his coffee. “Slight change of plans...” “Oh...?” Leon raised one eyebrow, and his expression suddenly became wary. He shot a very quick, dark glance at silent Gemini, and Stratos rolled his eyes when he caught it. “I want to take my car instead of yours,” he said with irritation. “I’ll drive; you can leave your car here. You’ll pick it up when we come back.” “Oh...” Leon said again, and his shoulders slightly relaxed. “That’s fine, I suppose,” he shrugged and drank more coffee. “You packed the scores?” “Uh huh,” Stratos nodded while finishing his drink. “On top of the liquor cabinet,” he nodded towards the living room, and Leon sighed and nodded. “All right,” he said in a somewhat mild manner and put his mug into the sink. He went into the living room, and a minute later, there was his incredulous: “What the shit happened here...?” “Oh...” Stratos put his mug on the table and stood up. He completely forgot about the living room. He walked towards it. “An accident...” Leon stood next to the fallen on its side chair, and his expression was dumbfounded. He shifted his gaze towards Stratos. “An accident...?” he repeated in a low voice, and Stratos sighed. “Yes,” he nodded. “Help me to tip it over, would you...?” Yes, the chair was definitely heavy, he thought when they returned it into its original position. He headed towards the coffee table, noting that Leon followed him. “What kind of an accident?” Leon asked after they put the table back where it belonged. “Had an elephant charge through here?” Stratos snorted at that. “No...” He paused. “Just... Just an accident,” he finally shrugged, and his eyes darted towards the kitchen for a second or so. Leon immediately noticed that, and his eyes narrowed. “What the hell were you doing to him?” he asked in a low voice, and Stratos blinked at that. “I mean, I know that you are a good lay, but...” He looked at the chair. “How hard did he come to be able to do something like this?” He ignored Stratos’ rolled eyes and pressed lips, thought of something, and frowned. “What?” Stratos sighed when he noticed that frown. Leon slowly shifted his gaze towards him. “You still thinking about Unlocking him?” he asked in a low voice. “If that’s what he wants, then yes,” Stratos said seriously without looking away. Leon looked at him silently for a few seconds. “Stratos, this is insane,” he finally said in a quiet tone of voice. “Obsessing about it is one thing, but actually doing it? It’s insane,” he nodded. “Especially, knowing how much you love fucking him into oblivion every goddamn time...” “Drop it,” Stratos interrupted him in the same quiet manner. “...every time you make him come...” Leon was not the one to give up easily. “I said drop it,” Stratos raised his voice just a little, and Leon closed his mouth. Here it was again – the same dark, dangerous steel that sent a couple of unpleasant cold spikes down Leon’s spine. Stratos had never been able to do that before, to wake up someone’s fear with mere words... Hell, he wouldn’t even argue with anybody – confrontation was worse than torture for him. However, here it was again – the same dark, dangerous steel. “Loreya, you goddamn idiot...!” Leon thought and briefly closed his eyes. He sighed when he opened them and looked at his friend. “Do whatever you want,” he said calmly. “If you end up buried under debris of your own house, I’ll just say ‘Told you so’...” “Let’s go,” Stratos said without a smile. He turned around and walked away without looking back. Leon looked at the chair again. “Loreya, you miserable cretin...” he muttered very softly. “Why the hell would you...” He stopped talking, took a deep breath, and left the living room without finishing the phrase. He paused by the liquor cabinet and grabbed a dark, slim case with scores that was sitting on top of it. When he made it to the front door, he realized that it was still closed, and that Stratos wasn’t anywhere near it. He frowned and went back into the kitchen. When he came there, he stopped, gritted his teeth, and rolled his eyes. Of course, Stratos was sucking that goddamn kelari’s mouth, he should’ve known... “Give me your car keys,” he said shortly, and gritted his teeth again when Stratos handed him the keys without detaching himself from Gemini’s face. “Hurry up,” he said in the same short manner and turned away. He marched through the front door and headed towards Stratos’ car that was sitting on the driveway. A sudden, scolding-hot wave of pure hatred made him stop and slightly sway on his feet. He hissed something under his breath, unlocked the door of the car, and threw the case he was still holding in his hand into the back seat, not really caring if it would fall on the floor. He walked towards his own car, popped open the trunk, and pulled out a medium-sized bag – he always traveled lightly; this bag was the only one he would ever need. He threw his bag into the back seat of Stratos’ car as well, and then sighed when he saw the case with the scores slide backwards and almost falling behind the seat. He muttered something to no one in particular, reached for the case, and pulled it out. Without thinking too much, he shoved it into his bag and zipped it up in one jerky, angry motion. When he emerged from the car and shut the door, there was Stratos, his expression grave. Leon rolled his eyes again. “You are leaving for a week,” he said sharply. “Not for a decade...!” Stratos gave him a look that was clearly saying several unkind things at once, and grabbed the keys out of his hand. He went towards the driver’s door, yanked it open, and threw his own bag into the back seat as well. “Move it,” he said darkly and got inside, starting the engine almost immediately. Leon sighed and slid into the passenger’s seat. As soon as he shut the door, the car leapt forward, taking off so quickly that Leon almost bumped his head on the window when Stratos took a sudden, nowhere-near-slow right turn. “Goddammit...” he muttered, and then looked at his friend, and wisely decided to shut up for a while. **** Stratos couldn’t sleep. It was simple as that – he couldn’t sleep. They arrived to Brookland around 1:30 in the afternoon, stopping only once on the way to refill the tank and grab some coffee. By that time, Stratos was in a semi-decent mood, and his blue eyes stopped shooting daggers at Leon who seemed to be on his best behavior right then. After checking into the hotel and inspecting their rooms – every time they had to travel somewhere, Leon would always book two rooms, knowing that before the performance, Stratos needed isolation – they had a quick lunch, and after that, Stratos headed straight for the concert hall, determined not to waste any time. He stayed in that hall until eight in the evening, playing almost non-stop, and not letting the thoughts of him not seeing Gemini for the entire goddamn week to sneak up on him again. He had no idea he would miss him this much. Of course, he knew he would probably miss him somewhat, but nowhere near this much. Every time he would try taking a break from playing, his mind would inevitably throw several mercilessly-bright golden images at him, making him grit his teeth and abandon the idea of a break, forcing him to start playing again. Finally, at eight in the evening, he realized that he simply couldn’t play anymore – he was utterly exhausted. He closed the lid of the tired instrument and stood up, marveling at his stiff back and aching shoulders. He walked back to the hotel that wasn’t too far from the hall, and there was Leon, sitting outside on one of the large benches, his posture relaxed, a cigarette stuck between his teeth. “I thought you quit,” Stratos grimaced when he walked closer. “I did,” Leon agreed with him seriously. “For a while...” Stratos sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Let’s go eat something,” he said a minute later. “I am starving... And tired as hell,” he added a few seconds later after Leon flicked his cigarette away, making it bounce on the asphalt and burst into merry red sparks. “I will probably sleep until noon tomorrow,” he nodded when they started walking. He wasn’t exaggerating – he really was tired as hell, and he really did feel like he would be able to sleep until noon. He was absolutely positive that he would be out the minute his head touched the pillow that night, and couldn’t believe it when he stayed wide-awake for several hours in a row. “What the hell...” he muttered around two in the morning after he couldn’t get even close to dozing off, no matter how hard he would count illusionary sheep (he got to two-thousand-fifty-two, and lost count). He tossed and turned for another hour, desperately hoping for desired sleep, and tried changing the subject of the counting, figuring that sheep became completely useless. “One dancing little elephant... Two dancing little elephants...” he started silently saying in the most monotonous manner, hoping for the droning to finally push him into sweet oblivion. “...Three dancing little elephants...” ...“...Seven-hundred-fifty-four dancing little elephants...” He droned an hour later. “Seven-hundred-fifty-five dancing little elephants... Seven-hundred-fifty... Goddammit!” He hissed suddenly and sat up on the bed. “Son of a bitch...” He looked at the clock, cursed again (with more imagination this time) when he saw it was 4:30 in the morning, and got up, irritably slamming his hand on top of the bedside lamp, making it to flood the room with sudden brightness of light. He got dressed, and then thought about something for a few minutes. Finally, he shrugged, grabbed his jacket and his room key, and walked out into the foyer, shutting the door behind him. He knocked rather loudly on the door of the room next to his, not feeling too guilty about waking up Leon at this ungodly hour – he knew that his friend would go back to sleep the minute he came back to bed. Leon could fall asleep anytime and anywhere in a matter of minutes, making Stratos jealous every time he thought about it – he could never fall asleep so quickly, not even if he was tired. He knocked on the door again when there was no answer, and finally, he heard shuffling on the other side. A minute later, the door opened, revealing a shirtless Leon, whose expression didn’t promise anything good. He blinked when he saw Stratos. “What the hell are you doing?” he muttered darkly. “It’s not even five in the morning... And unless you woke me up for some mind-blowing sex...” “I need the hall key,” Stratos interrupted him impatiently, and Leon blinked again and stepped aside, letting the musician in. “By the mirror,” he yawned, nodding to his left. “Why the hell do you need the hall key?” he asked in a more normal voice a minute later when Stratos found the key. “I can’t sleep,” Stratos sighed. “Gonna go play... Beats counting elephants,” he added darkly, and Leon frowned at that. “You mean, you were awake this entire time?” he asked. “Uh huh,” Stratos nodded gloomily and put the key into his pocket. “Pharmacy is open,” Leon started saying. “I am sure they have some sleep-aids...” “I hate that shit,” Stratos interrupted him with a grimace. “Makes me drowsy as hell for the entire following day...” He sighed. “I’ll just play for a bit, no big... I am sure, I’ll be fine tomorrow... Go back to sleep,” he nodded, heading towards the door. “Call me if you need me,” Leon yawned again, and Stratos nodded at that before walking out of the room. Some extra practice time was definitely a good thing, he thought while walking towards the dark building of the grand hall. Plus, he was positive that tomorrow night, he would be out like a light, and that would feel exquisite. ...He went to bed at ten in the evening on Tuesday. At two in the morning, he was sitting in front of the instrument again, letting his murderous rage to pour into the music that was bursting from underneath his fingers, and hating sheep and dancing little elephants with burning passion. **** “Okay,” Leon said at noon on Wednesday after Stratos butchered another passage. “Okay, stop...!” He said louder when the musician tried making another attempt at the stubborn run. “Stratos, seriously, stop...! You are only making it worse...” Stratos stopped playing, slammed the lid of the instrument shut, and dropped his head into his hands in dark despair. He hasn’t slept even for a minute ever since they arrived to Brookland. He looked awful, he felt even worse, and he couldn’t play anything without making fifty mistakes in a row, it seemed. Even slow parts didn’t come out right – they would be sloppy, dull, and incredibly choppy. “Go to bed,” Leon commanded, and Stratos lowered his hands and looked at him. “Go to bed,” Leon repeated with a nod. “Take a hot shower, drink some tea, unplug your phone, close all the curtains, and go to bed. It’s the only thing that would help you right now... And if you still can’t sleep, I am going to force-feed you those sleeping pills...! Believe me,” he raised his voice when Stratos tried saying something. “Drowsy will be much better than...” He paused. “This,” he finished with another nod, pointedly looking at Stratos. “Anything will be much better than this,” he added a second later. “Come on,” he sighed and grabbed his jacket. “Let’s get you to the hotel, and for the love of God, go to sleep...!” Stratos let out a heavy sigh and stood up, following Leon without arguing – his friend was right, he knew that. They came back to the hotel just a little before one in the afternoon, and Leon took away the key to the grand hall. “Do not go there until you get at least a few hours of sleep,” he said warningly. “Turn off your phone... Go,” he all but shoved Stratos into the room. “Sleep,” he said before shutting the door. Stratos sighed and shuffled into the kitchen, quickly making himself a cup of hot tea. After doing that, he went into the bathroom and took a quick, hot shower, hoping it would relax him enough for him to be able to finally fall asleep. He had no idea what was happening to him – he had never suffered from insomnia. After drinking his tea, fifteen minutes later, he unplugged the phone in his room and closed all the curtains. Then he slid into bed, pulling the blankets over him and closed his eyes, too tired to count or even think. He lay still for about half an hour, trying not to let that same dark despair to flood him, when all of a sudden, he realized what he needed. He realized that with startling clarity, opened his eyes, and sat up on the bed. He sat still without moving a muscle for several minutes, blindly staring at the wall, and seeing nothing but shiny hair and golden eyes. That’s why he couldn’t sleep? All this time, he couldn’t doze off even for an hour because Gemini wasn’t right next to him? It was unbelievable and incredibly simple at the same time. He sat still for a few more minutes, and then blinked and got out of bed without trying to analyze anything. He got dressed in a hurry, grabbed his keys and his phone, and briefly thought of calling Leon. He decided against that almost immediately, and left the room without making too much noise. ...Fifteen minutes later, he was on his way back home.
  4. Katya Dee

    Chapter 15

    He's not the only one sponsor out there. Sorry, my brain gave me the finger and went to sleep...
  5. Katya Dee

    Chapter 15

    So is Robert.
  6. - XVI - When Leon informed Stratos about the moved concert date, the musician became helplessly furious, but soon enough, he cooled off, figuring that it was actually a good thing – after this rushed concert he would have almost two months off until the next performance; and even though he didn’t like having too much time off before, now it was completely different – now he was longing for it. He grumbled at Leon the next day half-heartedly, since it was somewhat expected, but secretly he was glad. He suspected that Leon knew it, however – his friend could always read him much better than anyone else could. When Leon said that they weren’t okay but they would be, he meant it – everything felt fine soon enough. Because of the rapidly nearing concert, Stratos dove into work headfirst, practicing a hell of a lot more than he usually did, since he decided to change the program somewhat, figuring that he would have enough time to perfect a few different pieces. It wouldn’t be an issue if not for the moved concert date. There was no way he could change the program now, it was too late for that, since it had been announced and printed a few days ago. He had no other choice but to slave away at the instrument, ignoring everything else. Everything else did not include Gemini, of course, even though Stratos wouldn’t mention the golden-haired kelari too much whenever Leon was around – he didn’t want another argument between them, there was no time for that, to be honest. He brought up the subject of the Lock several more times, but Gemini would avoid it with envious creativity, and finally, Stratos gave up and stopped mentioning it, correctly figuring that Gemini would talk about it when he was ready. He couldn’t figure out why Gemini was so hesitant about the whole thing. He would think that the blond kelari would jump at the opportunity to obtain an impressive power that’s been hidden from him for so long. He imagined Gemini going crazy with the desire to get the damn Lock off him, and when he acted completely the opposite, it puzzled Stratos immensely. Finally, he told himself to stop obsessing about it, figuring that Gemini was probably scared to find out for sure whether he was truly Locked, terrified at the possibility of a simple coincidental mistake. He would probably rather not know than to lose that hope altogether. Stratos tried talking to Katherine finally, but he could not reach her. He called her several times, left a few messages, but she never called him back, nor did she answer the phone. Finally, Stratos gave up, figuring that she simply left the city for a bit – it wasn’t anything new. She would do it quite often, take off without letting anyone know where she would go and when she would come back, disappearing from everyone’s horizon. This was one habit of hers that Stratos could not stand when they were together. Now it didn’t annoy him; it left him disappointed and slightly frustrated instead – he was anxious to talk to her about everything that has been happening lately, and now he had to wait for her to come back, and he had no clue when that would happen. He hated the fact that he would have to play this particular performance alone again, without his golden inspiration in the front row, since Leon told him plain and clear that if Stratos brought Gemini along this time, he would have to deal with everything by himself, without Leon’s help, until next fall. “You owe me, Gregorio,” he said warningly after Stratos tried saying something about the positive effects of inspiration. “You owe me, and you know it! I won’t dump you, I am not that petty, but...” Here he stuck his forefinger above his head, towards the ceiling, as if making sure that Stratos had better take him seriously this time. “...if you drag him over there, I am going on a very nice, relaxing vacation, and I am not coming back until next October!” Stratos sighed, gritted his teeth, fumed silently, but then he gave a reluctant, grumbling “Fine” answer to the ultimatum, knowing that Leon would do as promised. He wasn’t that petty, but he was petty enough. Stratos thought about all the performances he had lined up until next October, shuddered slightly, and gave another “Fine” answer, although this one was a bit more irritated. Lately, he started noticing that Leon’s semi-aggressive manner (usual and quite habitual by now) was beginning to get on his nerves. He realized that until now he hadn’t even noticed it, since he would be avoiding any kind of altercation if there was even a shadow of conflict appearing on the horizon. Lately, however, he started feeling those sharp, quick jabs of annoyance every time he had to deal with yet another ultimatum. Today was Sunday, they were planning on leaving tomorrow morning, and Stratos hated that with the passion. He knew he had to go, though. Every single concert hall had a different instrument (naturally), which meant that it would feel and sound differently as well, and since a grand piano wasn’t a violin and you could not possibly carry it with you while you were touring, it meant that he had to arrive a few days earlier so he could get used to the new feelings and sounds. He looked at his watch, sighed, and slightly winced when his stomach let out a demanding growl. When was the last time he ate today? He frowned, trying to remember, and then blinked. It was 9:30 in the morning. He looked at his watch again. It read 18:12. He sighed and closed the lid of the tired instrument, pushing the bench backwards, and finally standing up. “Done,” he said firmly when Leon opened his mouth, clearly about to say something. “I am tired, hungry, and tired...” he nodded, and Leon snorted at that. “You forgot to mention ‘tired’,” he said, and Stratos smiled. “Eight in the morning tomorrow?” he raised his eyebrows, and Stratos sighed. “Yes,” he said with a slight nod. “Ugh...” he winced at another growl that escaped his very frustrated by now stomach. Leon laughed and grabbed his jacket off the back of the nearby chair. “Let’s go eat,” he said, and Stratos sighed again and shook his head. “No,” he replied and grabbed his jacket as well. “I’ll eat at home.” Leon rolled his eyes at that. “You mean, you will be ordering take-out again,” he said in a low voice, and Stratos gave him a quick glance. Leon shrugged. “Your housekeeper is on vacation,” he said. “And the last time you cooked something yourself was back when you were ten, and a microwave and a hamster were involved...” “Mmm...” Stratos winced at that. “Poor Billy...” “Told you not to name the damn hamster,” Leon shrugged. “It only added to the guilt... Anyway,” he straightened up. “Let’s go eat some normal, good food... Take-out will give you ulcers eventually...” Stratos hemmed, not quite sure why and how take-out food would possibly give anyone ulcers, and shook his head, quickly pulling on his jacket. “No take-out tonight,” he said, leaving the subject of ulcers alone – he was too tired. “Gregorio...” Leon rolled his eyes, and Stratos shook his head again. “No, really,” he said and checked his pockets, looking for his car keys. “Gemini said that he would cook something tonight, and to be honest...” He smiled, ignoring Leon’s expression. “...I am curious to see what he can do,” he finished with a nod. “You are blowing me off for a sex doll,” Leon said quietly, and Stratos raised his head, his smile gone. “He is not a...” He stopped talking, suddenly realizing what Leon was trying to do – to provoke him into another argument, which would win him more time and more ‘you owe me’ from Stratos eventually, since he was always excellent at turning almost every single one of their arguments into his favor somehow. Nice try, he thought and pushed away a sudden wave of annoyance. “Never mind,” he sighed and let out a very small smile when he noticed a quick, frustrated mouth twitch that Leon couldn’t hide. “And I am not blowing you off,” he added, heading towards the doors. “You are welcome to come with me...” “Oh...?” Leon raised his eyebrow. “You are actually inviting me over? Dinner at your house...? In the evening...? Master Gregorio...” he said slowly, and Stratos rolled his eyes. “Dumbass,” he sighed. “Get your jacket, let’s go...” He turned towards the door again. “I am sure Gemini made enough food for all three of us,” he said with a shrug, and this time, there was no retort. He stopped once again and turned around. “I’m sorry, what?” Leon said finally. “I thought you just said ‘all three of us’...” “Yes,” Stratos nodded slowly. “Him, me, you...” He raised three fingers. “Three.” Leon’s eyelid twitched at the counting order. “So he would be eating with us,” he said without putting a question mark at the end of the sentence. “Yes,” Stratos replied in the same slow manner. “Where else would he be eating?” Leon muttered something Stratos couldn’t decipher. “What?” he blinked and Leon sighed. “Nothing,” he said tiredly. “I simply realized that I am not hungry. Good night,” he said when Stratos opened his mouth. “See you at eight in the morning... Lock the door when you leave,” he nodded and quickly walked towards the door without waiting for Stratos’ respond. Stratos stood still for a minute or so when he was left alone in a grand hall, sighed, rolled his eyes again, and left the hall, clicking the door shut after him and making sure it was indeed locked. Thinking of locks immediately switched his line of thoughts to Gemini, and he didn’t think of anything or anyone else all the way home. **** Stratos wasn’t lying when he said he was curious to see what Gemini could do in dinner department – he hasn’t cooked even once since he came to Stratos’ house. For some reason, Stratos had doubts about his culinary talents, and he almost did pick up a sandwich on the way home, just in case. Then he sighed and decided against that – he was sure that the food would be at least edible, and that would be good enough. If he didn’t like it, he could always say that he was too tired to eat too much tonight. When he finally got home, the smells that floated from the table, somewhat reassured him that dinner would be definitely edible. Then, after he sat down and grabbed the first forkful (well, half-full, to be exact), trying not to look too reluctant, he bravely deposited its contents into his mouth, ready to say something enthusiastically, blinked several times, frowned, blinked again, and did not utter a single word until his plate was empty. He wasn’t quite sure what was in there (he recognized chicken, barley, butter, and a very light coat of garlic), but he didn’t really care. “Bloody hell...” he muttered after he finished second helping. “Is there anything you are not perfect at?” Gemini blinked at that. “I mean...” Stratos pushed away the empty plate. “This...” he nodded at the dinner table. “...was amazing!” “Good,” Gemini murmured with a small smile and got up. “I was hoping you’d like it...” “What are you getting now?” Stratos watched him dig in the fridge. “Dessert...” Gemini emerged from the fridge with a small silver tray in his hands and kicked the fridge door shut. “Dessert...” Stratos repeated, staring at the tray. “You made dessert...” “Fruit cups,” Gemini shot him a quick glance. “Frozen fruit cups,” he nodded a second later and put the tray on the table. Stratos watched him uncover the tray and get two small spoons without saying anything. “I had no idea you could cook so well...” he said finally, and got another quick golden glance. “I like cooking,” Gemini said seriously. “It relaxes me,” he shrugged, and then smiled. “Especially dessert,” he nodded, and Stratos reached out and took the spoons out of his hand. “You are my dessert,” he muttered when he pulled the blond kelari closer. He put the spoons on the table and wrapped one of his arms around the slim waist when he lowered Gemini into his lap. “Fruit cups will... melt...” Gemini breathed when he felt lips caressing the side of his neck. He closed his eyes and tilted his head slightly to the left, giving those lips better access. “Mmm...” Stratos said and ran his tongue up the smooth skin towards the small ear. “You’ll freeze them again...” he finished after he lightly flicked the pink earlobe. Gemini almost said that it wouldn’t be the best idea for the fruit cups, but then Stratos’ hand sneaked underneath his shirt, and then there were very talented quick fingers caressing his stomach and tweaking his nipples in the most teasing fashion. “Mmm... Yeah...” he said instead and slightly arched his back when those fingers performed another creative trick, sending sweet shivers all the way down to his toes. Stratos’ other hand slowly traveled towards his face, and Gemini parted his lips when he felt fingers stroking his mouth. He wrapped his tongue around several digits, sucking on them lightly, and almost bit down when the hand underneath his shirt did something indescribable. He stopped himself from biting down on the fingers in his mouth at the last second, and sucked harder on them instead. Hand underneath his shirt, combined with the lips that kept working his neck and ear, made him shudder, and he whimpered and slightly shifted in Stratos’ lap, trying to loosen his suddenly tight, extremely uncomfortable pants. The hand underneath his shirt started slowly sliding downwards, correctly interpreting his whimper, and a minute later, the same insistent, talented fingers were effortlessly undoing the button and the zipper of his pants. He let out a moaning exhale and slightly raised himself off Stratos’ lap when the zipper was finally undone, letting the hand on his lower stomach to pull his pants down, freeing his straining self from the tight prison. The pants slid off his hips easily and he shifted again, making them to slide all the way down to his ankles so he could kick them off completely. He let out a rather loud ‘Ooh...!’ and arched his back, dropping his head backwards onto Stratos’ shoulder when he felt a tight hand wrap around him with slow, steady strokes. He sucked harder on the fingers in his mouth and started pumping his hips into the firm fist around him, aching for more. He bucked upwards more forcefully several minutes later, trying to drive that fist forward, trying to make it to pick up more speed, silently begging for more, and the fist obliged, quickening its strokes and adding some delicious thumb rolls to them. He realized that the lips on his neck relocated to his face by now, caressing his temple and cheek, and he let out a muffled moan, while his tongue became much more frantic, flying around the fingers in his mouth, dancing across everything it could possibly reach. The hand around him tightened its grip ever so slightly, and his hips’ movements became more erratic, impatient to get to that sweet, abrupt edge, making his entire body tremble in anticipation. He started moaning around the fingers in his mouth, his throat ready for inevitable crescendo, when all of a sudden, the grip around him lessened immensely, and all the stroking and thumb-rolling came to an abrupt, torturing stop. His eyes flew wide open when his desperate pumping received no response whatsoever, and he finally let go of the fingers in his mouth. “What...” he muttered in a strangled whisper. “What... No...! D-don’t... S-stratos, don’t... Stratos, don’t stop...!” he finally managed, and the lips on his cheek quickly traveled towards the corner of his mouth. He turned his head and met those lips in a trembling, sloppy kiss. “Shhh...!” a quick whisper smoothly rolled down his throat. “Shhh...! Don’t come just yet...” Stratos silenced the unborn, stuttering words with another shaky, deep kiss, and stroked the trembling lips with his fingers one more time, receiving a few quick, desperate licks. “Don’t come just yet...” he said again without pulling away from the perfect mouth. “Believe me, if you stretch it out, if you prolong it...” He paused for a few seconds, just so he could deliver another frantic kiss. “...it will be a hell of a lot more intense,” he finished in the same quick whisper. Gemini moaned at that, his eyes closed again, teeth locked on his lower lip, and his hand suddenly jerked downwards, aiming for his silently weeping, demanding length. Stratos let out a quick, teeth- locked inhale, and caught his wrist before it got anywhere near its target. “God, Gem...” he muttered, entwining their fingers together. “As much as I want to watch you do that...” He produced another shaky inhale. “Just go with me on this one... Gem, please...!” Gemini moaned out something very unintelligible and locked his fingers tighter around Stratos’ hand, drawing air into his lungs, forcing his quick, desperate breaths to become calmer and longer. Stratos kissed him again, slower this time, drinking every single drop of his breath, and when both of them were almost completely out of air, he finally pulled away. “Get up...” he whispered, and Gemini blinked at that. “Just for a few minutes,” Stratos nodded. “Just for a little...” He delivered a few quick, determined licks to the fingers that Gemini’s mouth bathed so thoroughly just several minutes ago, and Gemini blinked again, this time, with understanding. He shakily got up and pressed his palms into the tabletop, slightly arching his back and making his hips to get a more prominent angle. He closed his eyes and bit his lip when he felt those slick, slightly trembling fingers smoothly sliding inside him, aiming just for the right spot, and stretching him in a semi-patient hurry. He was about to moan something else; something about the fact that he didn’t really care about this part right now (well, he didn’t care about it that much and definitely not right now). He was about to moan it when all of a sudden, Stratos seemed to hear every single unsaid word, because he leaned closer and placed several long, lingering kisses on his lower back, while whispering: “I will never hurt you, Gem... Never...!” Gemini made another long, moaning inhale without opening his eyes, and started slowly rocking his hips, impaling himself on the trembling fingers. His eyes flew open once again when those insistent fingers suddenly slammed into his pleasure spot dead-on, making his back arch even more, stealing more air from his lungs. He rocked his hips harder, realizing that was all he needed, knowing that he didn’t have to be touched or even kissed in order to get over that tantalizing edge, trying to rush his body to the desired explosive ending, when suddenly, the fingers came to the same, frustratingly-familiar stop, making him to groan something out in a semi-intelligible, very frustrated growl. “Don’t come just yet...” Stratos said again, and suddenly, the talented fingers left Gemini’s body without any warning, making his teeth to lock harder on his lip. He let out a half-strangled moan, and opened his eyes when he felt gentle but firm hands slowly, carefully pulling him apart, preparing him, anxious for him to lower himself down. He straightened up and quickly pulled his shirt over his head, taking it off and tossing it on the floor – it was too damn hot for clothes right now. He placed his own hands over the ones on his hips, spreading himself slightly wider apart, and slowly lowered his body onto the slick, impatient hardness, exhaling somewhat loudly when he got all the way down. He sat still for a few seconds, and then slowly shifted in Stratos’ lap, desperately looking for the right angle. Stratos wrapped one of his arms around his waist, stopping him from moving. “That’s my job,” he murmured, and performed some strange, quick semi-circle with his hips, slightly moving Gemini’s body to the right and back, closer to himself. His movement wasn’t too big – it was more of an adjustment, really – but the minute he performed it, Gemini’s entire body shuddered head to toe, making his head to fall backwards again in a desperate, helpless jerk. Stratos brushed aside several golden silky strands of hair, and started placing small, open-mouthed kisses on the side of the flushed neck, while his hips began moving slowly, but with great determination. Gemini pressed his palms into the table in front of him, pushing against it and using it to support himself while his body followed Stratos’ rhythm, mirroring his movements perfectly. He rocked on top of the other man’s body for a while, his eyes closed again, his mouth helplessly open, and his head was swimming in a beautiful haze of all the sensations, feelings, and half-formed thoughts that kept shooting through him. He felt complete, full, oh, God, so full... To the brim, to the last possible notch, without even a hint of emptiness. He felt absolute, all that fullness getting everything at once, every single sweet spot, everything – at once. It felt almost impossible, almost unbearable, agonizingly glorious, every move, every shudder, every single thrust, getting right there, over and over, making him almost lose his mind, erasing every single concept of yesterday and tomorrow, leaving only now. Now and right-there-right-there-right-there... Making that huge, excruciatingly brilliant fullness to grow even bigger, to spread around every single inch of him with pulsating heat, shooting those small, sharp spikes through him, getting him closer to ‘Ohgodyes!’ while building, building, building... He half-realized that the body he was riding, suddenly started to lose tempo, slowing down bit by bit, trying to pull him away from that absolute completion yet again, and he shook his head without opening his eyes, grabbing the tabletop harder, digging his fingernails into the dark wood. “I... I can’t...” he panted. “S-stratos... I can’t...! I... Oh, God... Stratos, I can’t hold back anymore... Even if you stop, I’ll come... Oh, God, I can’t...! S-stratos, I’m gonna come... Please...” He heard a sharp, loud inhale, and suddenly, the tempo came back with new determination, new rhythm, new rush... He heard himself saying something, he felt himself saying something, but he had no idea what it was, the only thing that existed right now was ‘Don’t-stop-don’t-stop-don’t-stop...!’ That was exactly what he was saying, he realized suddenly when he heard Stratos’ strained: “I won’t... I won’t stop... I won’t...!” Heat, spreading, blooming, merciless heat that kept building, building, building... Heat and ‘don’t-stop-don’t-stop-don’t-stop!’ – there was nothing else left. So full, so warm, so tight, so tingly, so close...! Oh, God, so close... He gasped for air, and his gasp immediately turned into a loud sob when suddenly, there was a warm, trembling hand wrapping around him, determined to stroke fast and hard, ready to deliver those excruciatingly sweet thumb rolls. There was no need for stroking, nor was there any need for thumb rolls – the mere touch on his twitching, pulsating self sent him headfirst into the exploding light, finally bringing that incredible rapture. They screamed out almost simultaneously, somehow being able to feel each other’s pleasure along with their own that was twisting both of them into the same convulsing, sobbing brilliancy, which was the only thing either one of them could see or hear right now. Stratos half-heard, half-felt some other sound through the roaring brilliance in his ears; some sound that didn’t belong, sound that came from somewhere else, somewhere behind him. His mind registered it automatically, checking the empty box with a hurried mark in his mental notebook without him even being aware of it. This wasn’t just unreal, he half-thought, half-visualized. This wasn’t just unreal, this was something else... Something else entirely, something that shouldn’t even exist, something that should be impossible... Nothing this intense should be allowed to be, to burst, to rip itself into those countless pieces of mind-blowing pleasure, because experiencing those pieces felt almost unbearable. It felt like every time they were with each other, it would become more and more intense; every time would be another step, it would get up a notch, raising the plank, blowing up every single limit. This was literally unreal... He knew that it shouldn’t be, he knew that it wasn’t simply bizarre or weird, he knew that there had to be something behind it – he knew all that, and he didn’t care in the slightest, hungry for more, never fully satisfied or tired. Even now, when it felt almost unbearable, he still craved more. Roaring brilliance finally started to disappear, and all of a sudden, Stratos’ mind exploded with a silent, glorious sound. The sound was so great that he couldn’t breathe for several seconds, feeling as if he was drowning in the silent wave of perfect music. He had no idea what the hell was happening to him, and then suddenly, he recognized it. It was that goddamn melody again, he realized in sharp, disbelieving astonishment. It was that melody... It was amplified and augmented what felt like, times ten, as if someone suddenly turned the volume knob all the way up, but it was the same goddamn melody... He let out a sharp exhale and pressed his face into the golden hair that spilled all over his shoulder when Gemini’s head helplessly dropped backwards after the blond kelari collapsed against him as if he couldn’t even move, which was probably the case. He pressed his face into the golden silk of the familiar-smelling hair, and suddenly, the melody disappeared. It didn’t diminuendo, it didn’t echo away, it didn’t come to a peaceful, perfect conclusion – it simply disappeared, cut off in mid-sentence, as if someone unplugged the radio. They sat in breathless, panting silence for a while, and then Stratos finally managed to raise his head and straighten up. “I have to get up at ungodly hour in the morning...” he muttered, and Gemini slightly shifted in his lap and turned his head. “That’s right...” he said quietly several seconds later, his face right next to Stratos’ neck. “You are leaving tomorrow...” “Yeah,” Stratos sighed and made some interesting, quick move, somehow turning Gemini around, so now the blond kelari was facing him. “Believe me...” he nodded seriously when he met another golden glance. “I don’t want to go, but...” He sighed again and stood up, never letting go of the slender body in his arms. “...it’s too late to cancel it now...” Gemini sighed as well and wrapped his arms around Stratos’ neck, while his legs habitually slid up and locked around the other man’s waist. “I know...” he muttered and lowered his head, fitting it onto Stratos’ shoulder, and lightly pressing his lips into his neck. “I’ll take off as soon as it’s over,” Stratos promised in a low voice and started slowly walking towards the stairs. “Hmm, which reminds me...” he muttered with a small frown. “I want to take my car tomorrow, not Leon’s...” He sighed. “If we take his, we won’t leave until the middle of next week, I know him...!” Gemini didn’t say anything to that, but the ring of his legs around Stratos’ waist became a little tighter. “Oh...!” he said suddenly when Stratos was slowly walking upstairs. “I didn’t clean the table...!” Stratos snorted at that and continued walking. “Forget about the table,” he muttered and absent-mindedly glanced downstairs, to his right. Then he stopped walking. “Mmm?” Gemini said softly, and raised his head when he didn’t receive an answer. “Stratos, what...” He followed Stratos’ unblinking gaze and stopped talking. Both of them remained completely still and mute for a minute or so, staring at one of the big leather chairs in the living room that was lying on its side, as if some gigantic foot kicked it over in a fit of white-hot fury, and at the coffee table that for some reason, ended up in the opposite corner of the room, upside down, with all of its four legs shamelessly spreading upwards. “What the...” Gemini finally muttered, his expression completely bewildered, and Stratos blinked and looked at him, immediately remembering that weird, loud sound that came from somewhere else, the one that didn’t belong. “Do you still think that it might be a mistake...?” he asked in a low voice, and Gemini slowly shifted his gaze towards him. “Your Lock,” Stratos said in the same low voice. “That’s why you don’t want to talk about it... Because you are afraid that it might be nothing but a coincidence...” Gemini’s eyes widened at that, and Stratos shrugged. “Told you already...” he said without looking away from huge golden eyes. “You are easy to read... Anyway, do you still think it’s nothing but a coincidence?” He glanced downstairs again. Both, chair and the coffee table were heavy, he knew that. It would take some serious effort to flip the chair in such fashion, and even bigger effort to toss that coffee table all the way across the entire room. “Holy hell,” he thought in astonishment and looked at Gemini again. “He did it at the same time? He threw both of those things at the same time? While being Locked...? Holy hell!” “Are you saying I did that...?” Gemini muttered, his eyes still huge. “Stratos, there is no way...” “Yes,” Stratos interrupted him. “And this...” he glanced downstairs again. “...is anything but a coincidence!” He nodded and shifted his gaze back to Gemini’s face. “I didn’t...” Gemini started saying, and Stratos interrupted him again. “Yes,” he said quietly. “You did... Gem, you did it when you came... You had no idea you were doing it, but you did it when you came...” Gemini’s expression became astonished, scared, and miserable at the same time. “I...” he started saying, and Stratos covered his mouth with his own. “Shhh...” he said. “Shhh... Let’s go to bed. There is nothing we can do about it right now, let’s just go to bed... We will figure it out in the morning... You will think about what you want to do in the morning... Don’t worry about it right now...” Gemini’s lips trembled as if he was still trying to say something, and Stratos silenced him with a long, deep kiss. “In the morning...” he whispered a minute later without pulling away. Gemini let out a long sigh that immediately slid down Stratos’ throat. “Okay...” he said in barely audible whisper, and Stratos kissed him again. He started walking, determined to get to the bedroom, and right before he walked into the wide hallway, he glanced downstairs one more time. “Holy hell...” he thought yet again, and finally made it to the bedroom, pushing the door open.
  7. Katya Dee

    Chapter 15

    He was one of the sponsors for several of Stratos' concerts and he'd go to almost all of the after-parties -- it'll be explained a bit later. Not a spoiler 😎
  8. - XV - Robert Knox was a proud man. He was a man whose pride defined his entire existence. Therefore, Robert Knox was not one of those who took failures lightly. Failures always led to humiliation; and humiliation was fate worse than death. Humiliation could sneak up on you in different forms – forgetting to fix the zipper on your pants after leaving the bathroom; tripping on your own feet and falling down in the middle of the street for everyone to see; being on the receiving end of a practical joke or a nasty prank; or making a complete fool out of yourself in front of everyone because you couldn’t stop chugging down alcohol... Humiliation is a powerful and very creative force – Robert knew that for his entire life. He learned it from his mother, and she firmly believed that it was much better to face death rather than being humiliated in public. He has been drinking coffee for the last hour, blindly staring out of the big window across from his chair, knowing that sooner or later, he had to do it. He had to go there and do it. He had to apologize to Stratos Gregorio. He had to apologize to him for his drunken behavior Friday night. Robert had never had many weaknesses, but alcohol was it – his one and only vulnerable spot. He was perfectly aware of that, and would always make sure that he didn’t drink enough to drown his self-control. Once in a while, however, he slipped. Friday night was one of those occasions. What the hell was he thinking, even talking to that damn kelari, let alone grabbing his arm! “You are drunk... However, tomorrow, when you are back to normal, I will expect an apology...” he heard in his head yet again, and closed his eyes without letting go of his coffee cup. Today was Monday, not exactly ‘tomorrow,’ but Robert simply could not bring himself to do this on Saturday or even Sunday. He was finally able to force himself to go through with it today. He opened his eyes, emptied his coffee cup, and took a deep breath, shutting up a shrill voice in his head (“You are pathetic...! You are weak...! Why the hell did you even walk over to that goddamn kelari?! What were you thinking?!”) that for some inexplicable reason, seemed to belong to his long dead by now mother. He put a couple of bills on the table and stood up, feeling tension from his rigid back spread onto his jaw, locking his teeth. He took another deep breath and headed towards the front door, determined to finally rip off this particular bandage. ...He knew where Stratos Gregorio lived. Back when Stratos was still together with Katherine Maltino, there was a period of time when she lived in the musician’s house. She was famous for the amazing parties she would throw quite often, and Robert attended several of them. Then Stratos and Katherine broke up, and she disappeared from the horizon for two full years until Friday night. Friday night... That goddamn Friday night... He got to Stratos’ house in less than half an hour, and sat very still in his car without turning off the engine for a minute or two. Finally, he took a slow, deep breath, and turned the key in the ignition, concentrating on sudden silence that attacked him as soon as the car stopped purring. The walk across the street towards the tall dark-brown door of the big house felt excruciatingly long. When he finally made it there, he stood still for almost a minute, and then took another deep breath and slowly lifted his arm, forcing his finger to touch the smooth black button of the doorbell. The door opened a few seconds later, and Robert stared at a professionally-unemotional expression of some woman in dark clothes. “May I help you?” the woman asked in a dignified voice, and Robert blinked. This must be Stratos’ maid, he thought. He nodded. “I need to see Stratos,” he said, and the woman slightly tilted her head in an agreeable manner, and stepped aside, letting him into the house. She led him to a huge living room and gestured towards the large chair not too far from him. “Would you like some coffee?” she asked in the same dignified voice, and Robert shook his head. “Just get Stratos,” he said tightly, and she gave him another half-nod and walked away without saying anything else. He ignored the chair and stood rigidly-still, staring at the paintings on the walls without seeing them. He blinked and slowly turned around when he heard footsteps behind his back. “Robert...” Stratos said slowly without a smile when he walked into the living room. “Stratos...” Robert slightly lowered his head in a vague resemblance of a nod. Both of them were silent for a few seconds, Stratos’ expression slightly dark and clearly expecting. Robert’s teeth were locked so tightly that he could feel the tension in his temples. Finally, he took a deep breath. “Phenomenal performance on Friday,” he said sincerely, and Stratos slightly nodded without shifting his gaze. “Thank you,” he said tightly, and Robert let out an inaudible sigh when there was another wave of dark silence. “About Friday night...” he started saying slowly, trying to find the words that wouldn’t take away all of his dignity. “I have had too much to drink and it affected my actions... My behavior was inexcusable... I apologize,” he lowered his head without looking away from the bright-blue eyes that remained calm and blink-free. “Apology accepted,” he expected to hear, and straightened up in rigid disbelief when Stratos suddenly said: “No.” “Excuse me...?” Robert said slowly, several stunned seconds later. “No,” Stratos said again in the same quiet, calm manner. “You don’t need to apologize to me... You need to apologize to Gemini.” Robert blinked at that. “Gemini...?” he repeated with a small frown. “Who is...” “The one you insulted on Friday night,” Stratos said without letting him to finish the question, and Robert stared at him, suddenly speechless. “Your kelari...?” he finally managed, and Stratos’ expression darkened. “You want me to apologize to a kelari?!” “I don’t see why his race should be an issue,” Stratos said with dry tightness. “It certainly wasn’t on Friday night...” He was not joking, Robert realized a second later. He meant it. He closed his eyes. “Fine,” he said very evenly after he opened them. “Fine... Would you please tell...” he stopped his jaw from locking again. “...Gemini...” he forced the hateful name out of his throat. “... would you please tell him that I...” “No,” Stratos interrupted him in the same quiet, dark manner. “You are going to tell him yourself...” Robert remained mute longer than he did several minutes ago. “Don’t do this,” he finally said very quietly. “Stratos, don’t do this... Do not humiliate me by making me apologize to your pet...!” “I already told you...” Stratos said slowly, his eyes darker than before. “He is not my pet... And I am not making you to do anything... You owe him an apology...! But if you don’t want to do that, then don’t...” He shrugged without looking away. “I am sure he will forgive your debt... If that’s the case, then please leave... I am rather busy,” he finished with a small nod, and Robert’s vision splashed with a painful red haze for a minute. Forgive? He will forgive his debt? It was bad enough to hear that he owed something to a kelari, but to be forgiven by one...? A dark-red haze exploded into a startlingly crimson cloud, and Robert blinked when all of a sudden, that cloud made him feel eerily calm. So calm that he felt cold. Icy-calm. “Fine,” he said, and marveled at the fact that he couldn’t feel his lips move. It was almost as if someone else was doing the talking for him. “Fine... Call him...” He tried stretching his mouth in a small smile, but wasn’t sure whether it worked or not – he couldn’t feel his face. “Or do you want me to go to him...?” he asked in a low voice. “No,” Stratos ignored the possible smile and turned his head. “Gemini...!” he called rather loudly, and some seconds later, Robert’s vision wrapped itself into another crimson cloud when he saw the familiar shine of golden hair appearing in a doorway. “You called...?” the blond kelari started saying, and then he froze in his spot, immediately recognizing Robert, his eyes growing suddenly wide. “Yes,” Stratos walked towards him and put his arm around stiffened shoulders. “Robert has something he would like to tell you,” he said quietly, and Gemini blinked at that. Robert attempted another smile, having no idea whether he succeeded or not, crimson calmness enveloping him with comforting ice. “I apologize for my behavior on Friday night...” he paused. “...Gemini...” he said a few seconds later, marveling at how alien his own voice sounded to him right now, and wondering why he couldn’t feel anything. He looked into the widened golden eyes that turned him on so much on Friday night, and suddenly, he had an impossibly bright image flash in his mind – an image of two black, bleeding holes where those eyes used to be. The image felt so real that Robert felt dizzy for a moment. “Apology accepted,” Stratos said in the same quiet manner, and Robert blinked when the image disappeared. He nodded without feeling it and walked out of the living room without saying anything else. He left the house and headed towards his car, crimson calmness caressing him with icy tentacles. When he started the engine, he suddenly smiled, and this time, he felt it. The beautiful image was gone but not forgotten. He knew what he needed to do to start feeling better. **** “You shouldn’t have done it...” Gemini muttered after the strangely lean and chubby at the same time man left the house. “You shouldn’t have made him apologize to me,” he answered Stratos’ silent question. “Yes,” Stratos said seriously. “I should have! He owed you an apology, and he was perfectly aware of that...!” Gemini bit his lip for a few seconds. “He looked...” he paused for a second. “...furious,” he finished slowly, and Stratos sighed and started walking across the living room, never letting go of the stiffened shoulders under his arm. “He was fine,” he said, and then shrugged. “I mean, he probably hated this, but he took it well enough...” “He didn’t,” Gemini said quietly, following the musician. “And he wasn’t fine... He looked...” He paused again. “I’ve seen that expression before,” he finally said, and Stratos looked at him. “I’ve seen it before,” Gemini nodded. “Whenever I saw it, I knew that they were going to lose it... And they always did,” he added a few seconds later, and Stratos tightened his grip on the stiff shoulders. “Forget about him,” he said in a low voice. “This is over and resolved, so just forget about him...” He pushed open the door he was heading towards, and Gemini’s eyes widened when he saw the broken window. “What happened here?” he asked incredulously, and Stratos shot him a quick look. “Doesn’t matter right now,” he said and let go of the tight shoulders, heading towards the piano, which lid was still open. “I want to play something for you,” he nodded and sat down on the bench, wincing from a sudden gust of wind. “What is it?” Gemini slowly walked towards the instrument, his eyes darting towards the broken glass on the floor. “Just listen,” Stratos nodded and looked at the dully shining keys. He sat still for several seconds, thinking. Finally, he nodded again and brought his hands up, wondering why he started feeling uneasy all of a sudden. His fingers touched the cold keys, and a few seconds later, there was that very familiar melody floating through the air, weaving its way through the circle of fifths. He was somewhere in the middle, when all of a sudden, Gemini said: “Stop!” Stratos glanced at him without taking his hands off the keyboard, letting the melody to survive for a few more measures, and Gemini’s expression tightened. “Stop...!” he said again, louder this time. “Stratos, stop! Please...” Stratos frowned when his hands refused to leave the keyboard, and forcefully pulled them down, quickly shutting the lid of the instrument. He looked at Gemini, whose expression was tight, dark, and worried. “Why did you want me to stop?” he asked quietly, and the golden eyes shifted towards his face. “Do you know this melody...?” “No...” Gemini said slowly. “I have no idea what it was...” “Then why did you want me to stop?” Stratos suppressed a sudden desire to start playing again. He stood up instead. “I don’t know...” Gemini said in the same slow manner. “I don’t know...” he repeated and looked at the instrument again. “It just felt...” He paused, looking for the right word. “It felt bad,” he said finally, and Stratos frowned at that. “I don’t know how to explain it... Just bad... It felt like something horrible was about to happen if you didn’t stop...” he looked into the bright-blue eyes. “Don’t play it again,” he said quietly. “Please...” “Okay,” Stratos nodded and stepped closer to him. “I won’t,” he said after he wrapped his arms around the tense shoulders. They stood silently for a minute or so, Gemini’s shoulders finally relaxing under Stratos’ arms, his face pressed into the other man’s neck, when Stratos said suddenly: “Do you want to take it off?” Gemini straightened up. “The Lock,” Stratos nodded when he received a slightly confused golden glance. “The one they put on you... Do you want to take it off?” The golden eyes widened at that. Stratos patiently listened to the silence without saying anything else. “I don’t...” Gemini finally said slowly. “I don’t... know... I don’t even know what would happen, how bad it would...” He stopped talking for a few seconds, his expression perturbed. “I have no idea how to control it, I...” “You’ll learn,” Stratos interrupted him. “You’ll learn,” he said again when he caught an unblinking golden stare. “I will help you...” Here he smiled. “A few broken lamps and some picture frames are not going to make me change my mind...” “This is...” Gemini said as slowly as before. “This is... I have never... This is... I don’t...” “It’s a part of you,” Stratos said when he fell silent again. “Gem, it’s a part of who you are...” He paused. “You don’t have to decide right now,” he finally continued without looking away from the flushed face. “Take all the time you need... But this power...” He paused again and placed his hand onto Gemini’s chest, right on top of rapid heartbeat. “...is a part of who you are,” he finished with a small nod, and Gemini slightly bit his lip. “I don’t know...” he finally muttered, his expression miserable, and Stratos pulled him closer. “Take your time,” he said and closed his eyes when he felt a tight, desperate circle of trembling arms lock around him. **** Robert loved this neighborhood. It was a dirty, disgusting, absolutely foul shithole, and it was perfect. He found it a few years ago, by mistake, when he managed to make a navigational error and instead of getting to the new trendy club, he ended up here. At first, his reaction was the same as everyone else’s would be – pure disgust. However, a little bit later, when he was trying to find his way out of this filth, he suddenly saw the possibilities. Oh, the possibilities...! This neighborhood was what would happen if a place hit rock bottom and then some. Every single militia station has given up on this place a long time ago, pretty much scratching it off their maps – not a single cruiser would as much as drive by, checking the order. There was no order here. The other great thing about this neighborhood was that no matter what happened, nobody would see, hear or say anything. You could be committing a mass murder in the middle of the street, and you would be able to work in peace without being disturbed. It was a place where literally nobody would hear you scream. It was perfect. ...He’s been driving around this ideal shithole for about an hour, scanning his choices methodically, without getting frustrated and without even a hint of rush. He never rushed himself when it came to restoring his inner balance – it was too important. He kept glancing around, keeping his speed at 25 miles per hour, giving himself enough time to look at each choice carefully, when suddenly, he noticed another golden shine straight ahead. He concentrated on that shine and picked up speed just a little. It will probably be another imperfection, he told to himself silently when his heartbeat decided to skip a few thumps in another rush of hope. No need to get too excited just yet. He drove closer and his heart skipped another thump, and then its suddenly-rushed beating made Robert slightly lightheaded. This was exactly what he was looking for, he realized and wrapped his fingers tighter around the steering wheel, bringing the car to a smooth, desired stop. The reason for his sudden excitement immediately noticed him, smiled, and slowly walked towards the standing-still vehicle. Robert waited for the reason to walk closer, and then he pushed the button next to his elbow, making the window silently slide down. He ignored a sudden wave of stench that immediately burst in and waited semi-patiently for the reason to lean in. “Are you lost, darling?” the reason asked him in a husky voice. “Do you have any glamour?” Roberts asked without wasting any time, and the reason smiled again and batted its long eyelashes. “I have one left,” it said, and Robert finally smiled. “Get in,” he said shortly and unlocked the door of the car. The reason gave him another smile and smoothly slid into the front seat. Robert closed the window and threw the car in gear. “What do you want me to be?” the blond reason asked him a few minutes later and pulled a small green capsule out of its pocket. “Make your eyes the same color as your hair,” Robert commanded, and the blond blinked at that. “Have a thing for kelari, huh...” he muttered, and then smiled again. “All right... As you wish,” he murmured and put the capsule in his mouth, swallowing it in one quick, habitual move. Glamour was illegal, addictive as hell, and therefore, expensive, but it was worth it. If you wanted to last in sex-selling business for longer than a week, glamour was a must – clients liked variety. The blond knew that it would take five or ten minutes for the capsule to kick in, and he threw a questioning glance at the man next to him. The man kept driving without slowing down, and the blond let out a small sigh, realizing that he would have to wait until the pill took its effect – the client was not going to touch him until then. He looked through the tinted window, scanning the surroundings with boredom, when all of a sudden, there was a very sharp, and firm command: “Look at me!” He jumped in his seat, startled, and turned his head. He looked into the slightly slanted eyes and realized that this particular client was one of those. He locked his teeth, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to work for the next few days – nobody liked bruises and battered face, glamour or not. He watched the man who seemed to be concentrating solely on the road in front of him for the next five minutes, not daring to look away, when he felt a warm rush of euphoria zoom through him, making him pleasantly ecstatic. He immediately recognized the effect of the drug, knowing that it finally kicked in, and closed his eyes, concentrating on the request (“order”) that he got. He sat still for a minute or so, and finally, took a deep breath and slowly opened his eyes. The man behind the wheel threw a very quick glance at him, let out a rather loud, short exhale, and took a sudden right turn, bringing the car to a hurried stop in the empty lot of some abandoned building. “You like this, darling...?” the blond asked in a low voice, even though he started feeling uneasy. “Oh, yes,” Robert answered sincerely and leaned forward. The blond immediately pulled away. “Mmm...” he said softly. “I don’t kiss on the lips, darling... I do everything else though...” He let out another smile, trying to tame the growing fear inside his chest. Robert smiled as well. “Oh, don’t worry...” he said in a very low voice. “I am not going to kiss you...” He reached out and ran his fingers through long silky hair, marveling at the golden shine. He caressed the soft strands for the next several silent seconds, and then suddenly, his fingers rolled into a tight fist, locking harshly on those strands. The blond let out a startled, loud inhale when the man yanked him towards himself by his hair, and instinctively tried pulling away, getting another harsh pull as a result. Robert leaned closer. “You have my deepest apologies, Gemini...” he murmured, getting intoxicated on the rapidly growing fear that was splashing in the widened golden eyes. “My deepest apologies,” he repeated, and suddenly, the blond knew that he wouldn’t be coming to work any time soon. In fact, he would never work or do anything again. He was right. **** Robert threw another glance at the broken, lifeless body and felt a gentle smile caressing his face. He was right, he thought while looking at two black bleeding holes on the frozen in an eternal scream face. This image was beautiful. He looked at the ideal picture in front of him for several more minutes, and then sighed and took a big white lighter out of his pocket. He picked up a dry twig that lay nearby and clicked the lighter, making it come to flaming life. He threw the burning twig onto the thoroughly soaked body (Robert always came prepared), and smiled again when there was a familiar hungry ‘Whoosh...!’ of the satisfied fire. He took a few steps back, admiring the blazing madness in front of him, the same gentle smile never leaving his face, and he felt whole again. His inner balance has been restored. Not completely, of course, but it would do for now. It would be restored completely when he got the original, and that required thorough planning. This was good though. This was good indeed, he nodded to himself and turned away from the glorious picture, heading towards the car. This one burned as easily as all the other ones, he thought while opening the door. Right before he got inside, he tutted with slight annoyance when he noticed a small spot of blood on the inside of his wrist. He slowly licked it off, making sure he got the entire thing, and then got inside the car and started the engine. Soon enough, he was back in the healthy part of the city, on his way home, ready to celebrate his inner restoration. He was almost in his neighborhood when he caught himself whistling some light, mindless tune, and he let out another smile. “Most sincere apologies, Gemini...” he murmured and started whistling again.
  9. Katya Dee

    Chapter 13

    Mmm... Maybe not.
  10. - XIV - Leon watched Stratos’ car disappear in the night, and when it did, he considered throwing something big into the dark window of the library not too far from him. Instead of doing that, he sighed and pulled out his phone. “Hey,” he said a minute later. “Hey...” she said slowly, as if trying to figure out who it was that called her. “It’s...” he started saying, and she immediately interrupted him. “I know who you are, Leon... I am just wondering why you called me.... What’s up?” “You feel like getting drunk tonight?” he asked seriously, and she was silent. “And by ‘drunk’...” he continued. “...I mean ‘incoherent-dropping-on-the-floor-drowning-in-your-own-vomit’ shitfaced,” he nodded, and this time, she let out a small sigh. “What’s the reason?” she asked, and he didn’t say anything to that. “I see,” she said seriously a couple of silent minutes later. “Well...” she sighed. “It’s been a while since I drowned in my own vomit... So, yeah, let’s do that!” “Meet me in the Mist Bucket in half an hour,” he said without a smile. “See you there,” she replied in the same serious manner, and the phone clicked dead. ...“I thought you quit,” she said, nodding at the cigarette in his hand. Leon looked up. “It’s either this or a sniper rifle on top of a clock tower,” he replied seriously, and she gave him a quick smile. “What did he do now?” she asked after she sat down and signaled for a drink. “Stratos,” she said patiently after he wouldn’t say anything. “He is the only one who can reduce you to...” She paused. “...this,” she finished with a firm nod and a slight hand movement. “How was your date last night?” he asked suddenly, and she glanced at him while lighting up one of her own cigarettes. “Tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine,” she said without smiling this time. He sighed and leaned on the back of his chair. One of the waiters came closer to refill his drink and he looked up. “Just bring me the entire bottle,” he said tiredly, and nodded at the look he received from the waiter. “This way, you won’t have to come back here every five minutes.” He looked at the waiter who was walking away, his expression thoughtful. Finally, he sighed again and looked at her. “You know,” he started saying with the same thoughtful expression on his face. “Two years ago, before you left, while you two were still together...” He glanced up and nodded once more when the waiter set an almost full bottle of gin in front of him. “...I hated you,” he continued after the waiter walked away. “I did,” he nodded after she raised one of her eyebrows. “I kind of figured that,” she said in a low voice. “With all the screaming matches we would get into... And if that wasn’t enough...” She smiled and reached for the bottle. “You, crashing your car into that tree, while I was with you, was a dead give-away...” “Yeah,” he hemmed, watching her through the blue floating cigarette smoke. “You would’ve done the same, just admit it.” “No,” she said immediately, and he snorted at that. “I wouldn’t have slammed on my brakes right before we went into that tree... I would’ve driven faster...” He laughed, feeling better. “I had to slam on my brakes,” he said with a small smile. “You were my only witness... I had to do it, so you would tell them that I did everything I could to prevent the disaster...” She laughed as well. “So...” she said a minute later, and he sighed. “So...” he repeated without a smile this time. “He called me today,” he said a minute later, his eyes fixed on the half-empty glass in front of him. “I knew that he would be kissing up,” he let out a very small smile and shrugged without looking away from the glass. “I had some plans, I admit...” he nodded and picked up the glass. “Figured that I might as well take a full advantage of the situation,” he continued after emptying the glass in one swift move. Katherine wouldn’t say anything, watching him patiently while he lit a cigarette. “Well,” he sighed a minute later. “It went promising in the beginning,” he nodded and leaned onto the table with his elbows. “For about...” He frowned thoughtfully. “...oooh, I would say, for about two hours... After that...” he hemmed and refilled his glass. “He started looking at the goddamn clock every three minutes...” “Clock...?” Katherine blinked at that, and he looked at her. “Yeah... He couldn’t wait to get rid of me finally... The only thing he wanted to do was to go back home...” He twisted his mouth in a bleak smile. “Two hours...” he nodded slowly. “That’s how long he could handle being away from him...” She leaned a bit closer, pressing her elbows into the tabletop as well, and he glanced at her. “Away from his goddamn kelari...” he said without any smile this time. “What did you do?” Katherine asked a few silent minutes later, and he sighed. “Told him to fucking go home already...” He let out humorless laughter. “Turns out, I still do have some pride left... Surprised the hell out of me,” he muttered and emptied his glass once again. “I mean...” he shrugged. “I could’ve played dumb... I could’ve pretended that I never noticed anything... I tried,” he nodded thoughtfully. “Didn’t work,” he sighed and reached for the bottle again. “So, how was your date last night?” he asked a minute later. She looked at her almost empty glass for almost a minute without saying anything. Finally, Leon sighed, picked up the bottle that was sitting next to him, and refilled her glass to the brim. “There,” he said with a slight nod, and she threw a quick look at him, still silent. He watched her semi-patiently after signaling to the waiter for another bottle, and finally, she sighed and emptied almost the entire glass in one quick, wince-free move. Leon blinked at that. “Look at you go,” he muttered with a shadow of respect. “I am a pro by now,” she said seriously and lit a cigarette. “My date was disappointing,” she said without a smile, and Leon raised one of his eyebrows after taking another bottle out of waiter’s hands. “Do tell,” he nodded when she wouldn’t say anything else. “It started in a promising enough way...” she gave him a tiny smile with the corners of her mouth. “We had dinner, got to dessert... I was about to offer to open the wine...” She emptied the glass completely, and Leon immediately refilled it, noting her slight nod. “Then...” She sighed and took a slow drag on her cigarette. “I decided to take a risk,” she shrugged after she lowered her hand. “Risk,” Leon repeated, and she nodded again. “Yeah,” she blew a cloud of blue smoke out of her nostrils. “I made a move...” “Oh, God...” Leon briefly closed his eyes. “He pushed you away...?” “You would like that, wouldn’t you?” she asked in a low voice, and he opened his eyes. “Yes and no,” he said honestly, and Katherine let out a quick, short laughter. “No,” she sighed and stabbed her cigarette in the ashtray. “He didn’t push me away... Actually...” She frowned somewhat thoughtfully. “I think he liked it...” She slowly nodded and drank more gin from her glass, not as quickly this time. “Yeah,” she nodded a few seconds later. “He definitely liked it...” “So what happened?” Leon frowned when she fell silent again, and she hemmed. “What happened was...” she paused once more. “His...” There was another pause. “His ‘goddamn kelari’...” she gave him a slightly hazy, mocking look. “...stormed off, jealous as hell...” “Jealous...” Leon repeated very slowly, and she gave him another quick look. “As hell,” she nodded seriously. “You should’ve seen the way he looked at me... If looks could kill, you’d be drinking with a very pissed off ghost right now...” “He was jealous...” Leon said in the same slow manner without looking at her, and she slightly narrowed her eyes. He noticed the look on her face and straightened up. “What happened then?” he asked without saying anything else. She looked at him for a few thoughtful seconds, and then shrugged. “After he stormed off, that was the only thing Stratos could think about,” she said almost casually and lit another cigarette. “Didn’t hear a single word that I was saying...” She looked at the glowing tip of her cigarette. “Kept staring upstairs and muttering ‘He is hurting’ every few seconds...” She twisted her mouth in a quick, bitter smile and took a drag on her cigarette. “What did you do?” Leon asked her seriously, and she sighed and stabbed her half-finished cigarette in the ashtray. “I left,” she said simply and smiled again in the same bitter manner. “Turns out, I have some pride left as well...” “Good for us...” Leon muttered and refilled both of their glasses. “To pride...!” He raised his glass a few seconds later, and she gave him another smile and did the same. “To pride,” she said with a serious nod and clinked their glasses together. They smoked in silence for a few minutes after finishing their drinks, and then Katherine let out a soft snort. “Mmm...?” Leon glanced at her. “If you ask me...” she said in a low, slightly slurring voice. “...this whole affair is not going to last much longer...” “Uh huh...” Leon snorted as well. “That’s what I thought almost a month ago...” “No, seriously,” she nodded and whipped out another cigarette. “I know Stratos well enough, and when he will finally realize that I was right about that kelari lying to him... Which he will...” She nodded again, flicking the lighter several times in a row without producing a single spark. “When he realizes that, he will kick him out sooner than you could say ‘Told you so’...” She tutted with dark, impatient irritation when the lighter wouldn’t cooperate, and Leon sighed and lit his own lighter, bringing it closer to her. “Mmm...” she said with appreciation after dipping the tip of the cigarette into the small dancing flame. “What do you mean, lying...?” Leon asked when she wouldn’t say anything else, and received another soft snort. “That kelari fed him the cheesiest bullshit ever,” she said and leaned on the table with one elbow. “He told him that Stratos was the very first one in his entire life who made him come... Said that he’d never orgasmed before...” She slightly frowned. “That’s a word, isn’t it...?” she asked no one in particular, and then snorted yet again. “Stratos swallowed that without even blinking... Talk about gullible...! A whore that never came... Hey, that would make a great movie title!” she nodded with sudden inspiration and reached for the bottle. “He wasn’t lying...” Leon said dully, watching her filling up her glass, and she frowned and looked up. “Huh...?” she said after several silent, dumbfounded seconds. “He wasn’t lying,” Leon repeated in the same dull manner. (“The kid was completely asexual... Ironic... No matter how much you would try to pound his brains out, he wouldn’t get even semi-hard... ”) Katherine set the bottle on the table, her glass half-full. “How do you even know...?” she asked incredulously, and was about to say something else when he sighed and interrupted her. “I just do,” he said shortly, and then snorted himself. “And apparently...” he started saying slowly, watching her to pick up the bottle again. “...apparently, he is a partially Locked telekinetic who sleepwalked last night and freaked the shit out at some melody Stratos was playing at four in the morning, exploding the entire goddamn window in that ro...” He jerked and spilled some of his drink when there was a sudden loud crashing sound interrupting him. “What the f...” he started saying, and Katherine leaped off her chair in one quick, angry move, interrupting him once again. “Son of a bitch...!” she growled, and this time, her voice wasn’t slurry in the slightest. “You dropped the bottle?” he asked incredulously, and received a very dark look from her. “You should be a detective,” she said sharply and stepped aside when the same waiter who served them earlier came to clean up the mess on the floor. “How drunk are you...?” he laughed rather loudly, and she rolled her eyes. “Not that drunk,” she answered in the same sharp manner, and moved her chair to the other end of table, away from the broken pieces of glass. “Your fault...” she looked at him again. “Bring us another bottle,” she said quickly after the waiter straightened up, finishing with the broken glass disaster. “My fault,” Leon repeated, feeling slightly better by now – the scene really did make him laugh. “Telekinetic...?” she narrowed her eyes. “Locked...? You don’t say shit like that when someone is trying to pour a drink...!” She took another bottle out of the suddenly appearing waiter’s hands and dismissed him with a barely noticeable nod without even looking up. “Seriously...” she blew a curly strand of hair off her forehead and quickly opened the bottle, making Leon blink with another shadow of respect when she made it look incredibly easy. “Go ahead...” she said in a low voice after refilling both of their glasses. “Elaborate... It’s fine now,” she threw him another dark glance, and he sighed and drank some of his gin. “Well,” he said a few seconds later. “Apparently, Stratos had a hell of a night...” ...“Holy...” Katherine said slowly almost half an hour later. “...everything,” she finished after pausing to search for the right word. “Mmm,” Leon shrugged and finished his drink, pushing away the empty glass. “Right now, I don’t even care...” “Holy...” Katherine muttered again without looking at him. “What the hell was he playing?” She finally glanced up. “And what the hell was he doing, practicing at four in the morning?” “He wasn’t practicing,” Leon thoughtfully looked at the bottle in front of him, wondering if he wanted more gin. Then he sighed and lit a cigarette instead. He’d had enough alcohol for tonight, he knew that. If he drinks any more, then tomorrow morning he would probably try to throw himself in front of a bus to end his misery. If he would be able to walk far enough to find the said bus, that is. “He wasn’t practicing,” he said again, and briefly thought that Katherine didn’t look inebriated in the slightest, even though she drank more tonight than he did. She frowned and leaned onto the back of her chair. “You said he was playing...” “He was,” Leon agreed with her, feeling pleasantly numb. “But he wasn’t practicing; he was impro...” A suddenly loud hiccup shut him up in mid-sentence and he blinked several times, as if not believing he just did that. “Sexy,” Katherine nodded without a smile. “You were saying...?” “He was improvising,” Leon sighed, feeling no shame whatsoever. “He said he woke up, couldn’t sleep, went to play some random music... Oh, hey...!” he let out quick laughter after remembering something. “Funny thing...!” Katherine glanced at him in the same serious, thoughtful manner as she did before. “He said that he played the same thing as he did a few days ago... I remembered what he was talking about, I was there... It was a peculiar little melody, but original...” He managed to swallow another hiccup. “Went something like this...” He half-closed his eyes, thought for a few seconds, and then hummed a small portion of the melody that he remembered somewhat well, slightly waving his hand in the air. “Well...” he shrugged when he stopped humming. “Not exactly like this, but close enough... Wonder if he decides to start composing now... Hey...” he called when Katherine just sat there without saying anything. “Hey... You okay...?” He leaned a little closer when she didn’t reply, and then blinked at her expression. She looked like someone who has fallen asleep with their eyes open. “...and speaking of your eyes...” Leon muttered and leaned a bit closer, wondering whether he drank too much and was now seeing things. For a second or so, he could’ve sworn that Katherine’s black eyes weren’t black at all right now – they were some weird, dark-maroon color, and they didn’t have pupils or whites. “What the shit...?” he muttered and leaned even closer, when his elbow slightly slipped and knocked over the ashtray, spilling dead ashes and cigarette butts all over their table. The sound came out unexpectedly loud, and Katherine finally blinked and looked at him. “Smooth move,” she said in her usual sarcastic manner, and Leon blinked again – her eyes were tired and somewhat sad, but they were the same bright black, and looked like any normal eyes would, demonstrating both pupils (even though it was difficult to see them in the middle of bright blackness) and perfectly fine whites. He sighed and picked up the ashtray, quickly swiping the mess off the table with a napkin. The light in this place, he thought. It was dim, and everything was hiding in shadows – the usual light settings for an intimate bar. He crumpled the napkin into a misshapen ball after the table was somewhat clean, sighed again, and thought that he wouldn’t mind going home now, just so he could fall on his bed and blissfully pass out. He was about to say that he would take off soon, but Katherine spoke first. “He shouldn’t Unlock him,” she said very seriously, and Leon leaned on the table again. “That’s exactly what I told him,” he nodded, and gave her a quick, cynical smile when she looked at him. “And he pretty much told me to stick my head up my own ass and mind my own damn business, since he didn’t give a flying shit about my opinions...” “He shouldn’t Unlock him,” she repeated without a smile. “If he does, it’ll be...” she paused. “...idiotic?” Leon helped her with the word search, and she slowly nodded. “I was going for impulsive and irrational, but that works...” “Tell him,” Leon shrugged and grabbed his lighter and a half-empty pack of cigarettes off the table, absent-mindedly shoving them in his pocket. “You...” he paused. “...he might actually listen,” he nodded a second later, and she let out a sigh. “I doubt that,” she muttered. “You were right,” she threw him a quick, serious glance. “He is completely different when they are together... At first, I thought you were bullshitting me out of spite, but you weren’t...” She fell silent again, and Leon stood up, pushing his chair back. “I am going home,” he announced after he threw several bills on the table. “All I wanna do right now is to pass out for the next decade or so... What’s kelari’s usual lifespan...?” She looked up at him, and this time, she smiled. “Same as humans’,” she nodded. “But if he is really telekinetic, then it’s a hell of a lot longer...” she sighed and pressed her chin into her palm. “Abilities let you live for a very long time...” she nodded thoughtfully. “You should know,” she added after a second, and Leon grimaced. “Well,” he said shortly. “I am going home, good night...!” He was about to start walking away, when she said: “Gem...” Leon turned around and looked at her. “What?” he asked and she straightened up and lowered her hand. “That’s what Stratos calls him,” she said seriously. “Gem...” “Ah...” Leon said a few seconds later, almost changing his mind about leaving. Gem, he thought. Short for ‘Gemini.’ “Screw it,” he muttered darkly and pulled his car keys out of his pocket. He started walking away, and then thought of something and stopped. “How much does it take nowadays to get you drunk for real?” he asked with genuine curiosity, and Katherine blinked at that. “I mean,” he continued. “You drank a hell of a lot more than I did, and I am not a light weight, but I am beyond warm and fuzzy right now... But you...” he hemmed. “Seriously, what’s your secret?” “You have no idea how wasted I am right now,” she said in a low voice. “I seem fine because I am sitting down, but believe me, the minute I get up, I will probably try kissing the floor...” She gave him a somewhat goofy grin. “There is no way in hell I am driving tonight... I am going to call for a cab...” “I can drive you...” he started saying, but she quickly shook her head. “Nah,” she gave him another goofy grin. “I don’t want to leave just yet... Cab will be fine. Thanks though... Oh...!” Her eyes widened to a comical degree when an unexpected and rather loud hiccup jumped out of her throat, making her hand fly up and cover her mouth. “Sexy,” Leon hemmed, and she looked at him with the same wide eyes. “Try not to puke,” he said and walked away for real. ...He was half-way home when he suddenly realized that tonight, he was the only one genuinely drunk – Katherine wasn’t intoxicated in the slightest, and that last loud hiccup was nothing but an attempt to hide the fact that she was stone-cold sober. “How is that even possible...?” he muttered without looking away from the empty dark road. “And why would she hide it...?” He had no idea. He kept thinking about it and muttering to himself all the way home. When he finally got there, he left his car on the driveway, never bothering with the garage, opened the front door, and made his swaying way to the bed, pulling off his clothes as he walked. He collapsed into the inviting, tantalizing softness of the pillows and blankets, exhaled with great satisfaction, and fell asleep almost immediately. Right before he was completely lost in the growing darkness, he thought, “Actually, he should Unlock him; it’ll be better for him too... What he shouldn’t do, is to play that goddamn melody ever again...” He had no clue why he thought that, but before he tried figuring it out, he was asleep. When he woke up at noon the following day, he had no idea that thought even existed – he remembered nothing.
  11. - XIII - “So, how was your date with Katherine?” Leon asked almost two hours later, when they were sitting at their table at ‘Black Lotus,’ after finally leaving the coffee shop. Stratos shot him a quick glance above the menu he’s been studying for the last ten minutes. “Good,” he nodded. “It was really good...” He returned his attention to the menu, and Leon slightly frowned without looking away from his face. “Good...?” Leon asked in a low voice, and received another quick glance. “That’s all...? Not going to share any details?” “There is nothing to share,” Stratos shrugged without looking away from the menu this time. “No details, really... She came in, we had dinner, chatted for a while, and then she left... No details,” he shrugged again. Leon frowned deeper. “Wait,” he said, and Stratos sighed and put the menu on the edge of the table. “She left...? You didn’t even...” “No,” Stratos said calmly, his expression undisturbed. “You haven’t seen each other for two years,” Leon started saying slowly. “At the reception, she looked like she was about to rip your clothes off, especially right before you left... Yes, I’ve noticed,” he nodded somewhat poisonously when he saw the look on Stratos’ face. “And with your history...” He paused. “I mean, you lived together for almost a year...! I figured...” “It is history now,” Stratos interrupted him. “It’s in the past. We are friends, nothing else... Things change, people change...” “Tell me about it,” Leon muttered darkly, and Stratos’ expression slightly shifted. Now it was somewhat darker. “By the way,” Leon sighed and decided to change the topic, feeling strangely relieved and irritated at the same time. On one hand, he was glad that the old spark between Stratos and Katherine hasn’t come back. On the other hand, however, he was frustratingly aware of the fact that he would much rather have Katherine as his rival than that damn kelari. “ ‘By the way’ what?” Stratos looked at him when Leon stopped talking. “Right...” Leon blinked several times. “The concert next month...?” “What about it?” Stratos absent-mindedly twirled a small silver spoon in his fingers. “It’s in twelve days,” Leon nodded, and Stratos just stared at him without blinking. “It moved,” Leon nodded again. “Has something to do with their governor, elections, and something else... Stratos...?” he called a minute later when the unblinking stare of the blue eyes never changed. “Stratos, you alive...?” He sighed when he received no answer. “I could cancel it if you want...” he started saying, and Stratos finally blinked. “So you are telling me about it now?” he asked in a low voice. “Why...? I mean, you are giving me way too much time...! Should’ve told me the night before the actual concert, why bother now...?” Leon let out a small smile, immediately noting a quick flash of very restrained fury reflect in the blue eyes. “They called me on Friday morning,” he said calmly. “Figured there was no need for you to stress about that right before the performance, so...” he shrugged. “I would’ve told you at the reception, but you were too busy blowing off Katherine and trying to drown in your kelari’s mouth... Bold move, by the way,” he smiled again when he saw the tightly locked jaw. “People wouldn’t shut up about it after you left... I wouldn’t be surprised if the photos of it ended up in yellow press... Any publicity is good publicity, right?” Stratos looked like he was about to start growling, and Leon gave him another smile, feeling strangely satisfied. “It’s not the end of the world,” he said patiently and drank some water from the glass that was in front of him. “As I said...” he leaned on the back of his chair. “I could go ahead and cancel. There won’t be any problems with that, since you are not the one who...” “No,” Stratos interrupted him gloomily. “Don’t cancel, I’ll be fine... Let’s eat already...” he muttered when he saw a waiter heading their way. Leon watched him for a couple of seconds, his expression thoughtful. Suddenly, he leaned forward. “I changed my mind,” he said, and Stratos frowned at that. “I changed my mind,” Leon nodded. “I don’t want anything in here. I want to go to that little place by the lake; there is no better place than that one...” “It’s more than an hour drive...” Stratos said slowly, and Leon straightened up. “I’ll drive, no worries,” he said in a carefree manner, and Stratos slightly shook his head. “That’s not what I meant,” he said as slowly as before. “I don’t mind driving... It’s just...” he paused. “It’s seven-thirty, it’s dark...” he quickly glanced at the window. “When we get there it’ll be probably after nine, and I am pretty sure it’ll start snowing again... We can go tomorrow...” “I don’t want to go tomorrow,” Leon said quietly but firmly, never looking away. “I want to go now... Of course, if you don’t want to...” He shrugged and leaned onto the back of his chair again, his expression indifferent, and Stratos rolled his eyes – he knew that expression too well. “Fine,” he said with restrained defeat. “Fine... Let’s go...” He looked up. “Turns out we are not staying,” he said to the waiter who was about to start announcing the specials. “Something came up,” he nodded when he saw the man’s puzzled expression. “We will come back another time.” “Certainly,” the waiter nodded stiffly. “Enjoy the rest of your evening...” He walked away, and Stratos sighed and stood up. “You are going to milk it, aren’t you?” he asked in a low voice, and Leon looked at him without a smile. “To the last drop,” he nodded seriously, and Stratos let out another sigh. “I am going to wash my hands,” Leon said suddenly when he noticed something on the inside of his wrist. “It looks like I have coffee all over me...” “I’ll wait for you outside,” Stratos nodded melancholically and headed towards the front door. He went outside and winced at the sudden attack of the cold wind that immediately reminded him of last night. “Don’t open that door...” He shivered from cold and a sudden image of emotionless, gold-filled eyes that flashed in his mind. “Don’t open that door...” He shook his head and pulled his phone out of his pocket. While he was punching in the number, he started humming something under his breath without even noticing it. He stopped humming right before he hit the ‘Call’ button. It was that melody again, he realized, and frowned when he almost started humming again. It was that damn melody... “What the hell...” he whispered, and then he narrowed his eyes and pushed the ‘Call’ button, pressing the phone against his ear. “Hey,” he said a minute later. “It’s me... I’ll be back later than I thought... Oh...” he sighed at the inevitable question. “Leon is being himself... He knows that I can’t say ‘no’ to him right now, so he is making sure he gets everything he possibly can out of this... I don’t know,” he said a few seconds later. “I will try to get back before midnight... Oh, believe me...” he suddenly smiled. “I will not be too tired...! Uh huh...” he nodded to the cold darkness around him. “Nice and slow, just the way you like it...” He let out a short, soft laughter. “I know you do...! You like it slow, and you like it to last a while...” A sudden, loud cough right behind his shoulder made him jerk and turn around. “Uh... I gotta go,” he said when he met a dark stare of brown eyes. “Yeah, I will see you in a few hours... Bye,” he sighed again and snapped the phone shut. “Good to go?” he asked with tired cheerfulness, and Leon narrowed his eyes. “Please, tell me that you were talking to Katherine,” he said in a low voice. “I was talking to Katherine...” Stratos nodded immediately. “...not,” he finished with another sigh, and Leon rolled his eyes. “Let’s go,” he said shortly and started walking towards the car without looking back to make sure that Stratos followed him – he knew he would. **** They were driving for almost forty minutes, and Stratos kept glancing at the car clock every couple of minutes. “When are we leaving?” he asked, and Leon stared at him. “Seriously...?” he asked very slowly, and Stratos sighed. “I mean,” he said patiently. “When are we leaving for Brookland? The performance is in twelve days, and usually, we leave a few days earlier... By the way,” he shot a quick glance to his right, noticing Leon’s relaxing posture. “What about the reservations...?” “All taken care of,” Leon nodded. “Everything is booked and secured. We are leaving next Monday morning... Next Monday,” he said patiently when he saw Stratos’ expression. “Not the upcoming one.” “Ah,” Stratos nodded and glanced at the clock again. “Still want to drive?” “Sure...” Leon nodded without looking away from Stratos’ face. “All right,” Stratos nodded again, and shot another glance at the clock. Leon kept watching him for the next five minutes, and finally, he gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. “Go back,” he said sharply after he opened them. “What...?” Stratos frowned at that. “Go back,” Leon repeated a little louder. “Take me to my car and go home...” “Leon, what is...” “You, looking at the goddamn clock every three seconds, that’s what!” Leon interrupted him in the same sharp manner. “Leon, we are more than halfway there...” Stratos said without slowing down. “I said I would go...” “Because you have to,” Leon snapped at him. “Not because you want to... The only thing you want right now is to get back home, and I am not going to force you into spending an evening with me...!” “Leon...” “Go back,” Leon said again, darker this time. “Goddammit, Stratos, just go back!” he yelled when the car wouldn’t slow down. Stratos jerked at that and stepped on the brake, making the car whine and skid sideways. He let go of the brake pedal, straightened out the car, and tried again. This time, he was more successful, and a minute later, the car came to a smooth stop on the side of the dark road. “Leon...” Stratos said after several minutes of heavy silence. “Go back,” Leon interrupted him quietly without looking at him. “Just go back...” They sat in silence a little while longer. “Are we okay?” Stratos asked finally. “No,” Leon answered shortly without looking at him. “But we will be,” he said quietly a minute later. Stratos nodded at that very slowly and threw the car in gear. ...“Wanna hear something weird?” he asked half an hour later, and Leon sighed and looked at him. “What?” he asked tiredly. “Do you remember one time, a few days ago, when you asked me about what I was playing...? I was improvising, it was morning, and you were...” “...getting coffee,” Leon nodded. “Yeah, I remember.” “Do you remember the melody I was playing?” Leon thought about it for a few seconds. “As a matter of fact, I do...” he said slowly, his expression thoughtful. “I have never heard anything like that before... I thought it was...” “...disturbingly-beautiful,” Stratos nodded with a small smile. “Yeah...” Leon muttered. “Disturbingly-beautiful... What about it?” he sighed again, and Stratos shot him a quick glance. “Okay,” he said in a low voice. “Last night, the weirdest thing happened...” ...“Don’t open that door...?” Leon muttered when Stratos finished telling him about what happened last night. “What door...?” “Have no clue,” Stratos shook his head without looking away from the road in front of them. “When I woke up in the morning, I thought it was a dream... But then I found my shirt at the bottom of the stairs, and the window in that room was broken... Wasn’t a dream,” he finished with a slight nod. “Did you ask him about what the hell it meant?” Leon frowned. “In the morning, did you ask him...?” “No,” Stratos shook his head again. “I am sure that he doesn’t even remember anything from last night... He was sleepwalking...” He glanced at Leon, managing to keep himself from looking at the clock this time. “I’ve never sleepwalked, but I am pretty sure that you don’t remember anything when you wake up...” “Leave it to Loreya to find you a damaged kelari...” Leon muttered, and Stratos’ mouth twitched with dark irritation. He managed to stay silent, however. “Wait...” Leon frowned again. “What exactly happened to the window...? You said it broke, but how? I am pretty sure that the wind last night wasn’t that bad...” “Oh, yeah...” Stratos said slowly. “About that...” “What?” Leon asked impatiently when Stratos stopped talking. “This morning...” Stratos started saying slowly. “This morning, we figured out... Well, I figured out...” he shrugged. “What?” Leon asked once more when Stratos fell silent again. “You figured out what...?” “He is telekinetic,” Stratos said quietly, and Leon looked at him without blinking for several stunned seconds. “Bullshit...!” he finally laughed. “Stratos, that’s bullshit...! Whatever he told you...” “He didn’t tell me anything,” Stratos interrupted him. “In fact, he didn’t even know...! Long story,” he grimaced when he caught another incredulous look. “He didn’t tell me,” he said again. “Pictures on my bedroom walls...?” “What about them?” Leon sighed, clearly not convinced. “Do you remember how heavy the frames are?” Stratos shot him a quick glance. “I remember,” Leon said quietly. “I remember lots of things about your bedroom...” “Right...” Stratos nodded without feeling any guilt this time. “Anyway, one of them flew across the room and smashed into the opposite wall...” “What did...?” Leon asked dumbfoundedly. “A picture,” Stratos nodded. “All by itself; and since I know it wasn’t me who did that...” He shrugged without finishing the sentence. “Wait...” Leon frowned deeper than before. “So he just went into your bedroom and threw a picture at you?” Stratos blinked at that and rolled his eyes. “No,” he said with less patience. “He didn’t throw it at me...! See...” he sighed. “I realized that things move on their own whenever he is experiencing strong emotions...” “Mmmk...” Leon said slowly. “So what did you do...? What did you do to make him...” He paused, his expression disbelievingly-sarcastic. “...to make him move that picture?” he asked finally. “Made him cry about his ruined childhood...?” Stratos’ expression immediately darkened. “No,” he said quietly. “He was...” Here he stopped talking and coughed rather loudly. “He was what...?” Leon asked with the same sarcastic look on his face. “He was what...?” he asked again when Stratos kept coughing. “Are you choking on something?” he asked a minute later with less patience. “If so, then pull over. I don’t want to get into a wreck because you’ve got a sudden hairball...” Stratos finally stopped coughing and threw a very quick look at Leon who was getting more impatient. “He was what...?” Leon asked one more time, and now he sounded tired. “Let’s just say, it was intense, all right?” Stratos asked quickly, and Leon narrowed his eyes. “It was intense, and right when it was happening, that picture...” “Ha...” Leon said suddenly, his voice low and not sarcastic at all this time. “He was coming, wasn’t he?” “Well...” Stratos said, and Leon snorted at that. “So, every time he comes, pictures start flying around?” he asked poisonously, and Stratos blinked. “Errr...” he said. “No...” “Ha...” Leon said again. “Must’ve been one hell of an orgasm...” he muttered and looked outside. “Errr...” Stratos said once more, and Leon sighed and looked at him. “Take the next exit,” he said calmly, and Stratos gave him a questioning look. “It’ll be faster,” Leon nodded. “I want to get to my car,” he said and looked outside again. “...because if I hear any more about how intensely that fucking kelari comes, I will murder both of you,” he thought without looking away from the window. “I think that he is Locked,” Stratos said a few silent minutes later, and Leon blinked and finally looked at him. “Huh?” he asked. Stratos sighed and quickly explained his theory. “Well,” Leon shrugged after he finished talking. “Problem solved then... Slap the remaining Locks on him and call it a day!” “What?” Stratos asked quietly, and Leon shrugged again. “Finish the job,” he said. “Lock him completely; who needs a toy that can explode your goddamn windows?” “He is not a toy...” Stratos said slowly, restraining himself from saying the words that were dancing on the tip of his tongue. “And no, I am not going to...” He slightly stuttered. “...finish the job,” he said finally. “In fact...” He slowed down before turning into the right exit when he saw that the traffic light at the end of the exit turned red. “If he wants to take the Locks off, I am going to find someone who can do that...” “Huh?” Leon straightened up in his seat. “You mean, you are going to Unlock him?” “If that’s what he wants, then yes,” Stratos nodded calmly and took his foot off the brake pedal when the light suddenly blinked green. “Are you insane?” Leon asked incredulously. “If he can make that bloody picture fly across your entire bedroom while he is Locked, can you imagine what kind of damage he will be able to do if you take the damn things off? Stratos, do you want him to explode your house every time you make him come?” “He’ll learn to control it,” Stratos said evenly. “Stratos...” “If he wants to take off the Locks, I will help him,” Stratos interrupted him. “Plus, I am pretty sure he only has one Lock on him... There is no way he would be able to do all that with two of them...” “But you don’t know for sure...!” Leon said heatedly. “Stratos, he has been Locked for a reason! And probably, a good one for that matter! If you...” “Drop it,” Stratos said quietly and jerked the steering wheel to the right, switching lanes, and without bothering to look in the mirror first. “If he wants it off, then it will come off, end of discussion.” Leon gritted his teeth and was relieved when he finally saw his car parked in the middle of the empty parking lot. “Are we okay?” Stratos asked when he stopped the car without throwing the gear into ‘Park.’ Leon paused for a few seconds, and then shrugged and opened the door. “We will be,” he said and got out of the car. “See you tomorrow,” he said without a smile. “You need to start rehearsing again.” “I know,” Stratos nodded. “Leon...” “Go home,” Leon interrupted him. “Go home and fuck him nice and slow, just the way he likes it...” He straightened up. “Just take down all your pictures first,” he nodded and slammed the door of the car shut. Stratos let out a deep sigh and tightly pressed his lips while watching his friend walk towards the lonely car in the empty parking lot. He watched him for a few more seconds, and then shrugged and let go of the brake. He really did want to get home finally.
  12. Katya Dee

    Chapter 12

    Actually no... But damn, that IS a good idea!
  13. - XII - He looked at the phone in his hand, silently debating with himself – should he call Leon right now or Katherine? To be honest, calling Katherine sounded more tempting. He was itching to tell her about everything that happened – the strange melody, his weird awakening in the middle of the night, burning desire to create music, Gemini’s sleepwalking, his scary transformation, his stunning reaction to that melody, the revelation that both of them received an hour ago... He had to discuss it with someone, had to figure out what the hell was going on, and Katherine was the perfect candidate for that – the amount of knowledge that woman had could put a decent-size library to shame. He was sure that if he told her everything that happened, she would come up with a solution. Maybe not the solution, but at least, she would help. On the other hand, he knew that if he didn’t call Leon any time soon, he would have hell to pay next time he saw his friend. Leon would fume for a while, Stratos knew that; but he also knew that if he waited too long before calling him, it would make things even worse. If he didn’t want another angry explosion in his face (something like this happened a couple of years ago, and it wasn’t pretty), then he’d better call Leon right now and wait to meet Katherine until tomorrow. He twirled his phone in his hand for a couple more minutes, and then sighed and flipped it open. “Hey,” he said a minute later and closed his eyes when he received nothing but silence in return. Finally, there was a deep, long sigh, and Stratos opened his eyes, feeling relieved when he heard a gloomy: “Hey...” “It’s me,” he said, knowing exactly what Leon would say to that if he really cooled off by now. “No shit,” Leon said with mild amusement, and Stratos smiled. He was hoping to hear that. “Meet me at the ‘Breeze’?” he offered and smiled again when there was weak interest in Leon’s voice. “Oh...?” he said. ‘Breeze’ was Leon’s favorite coffee shop, and Stratos was perfectly aware of that. “Yeah,” he said casually. “After that we could head to ‘Black Lotus’...” “Gregorio...” Leon sighed, and Stratos smiled wider. Every time Leon would call him by his last name, it meant that Stratos was forgiven, even though he would still have some serious kissing up to do. He was fine with that. He looked at the clock. “Four o’clock?” Stratos offered, and almost laughed out loud when he heard: “You are driving.” “So you want me to pick you up, princess?” he asked, and Leon let out a sigh. “No,” he said. “I’ll meet you at the ‘Breeze.’ I need to hit the library.” “Sounds good,” Stratos nodded mostly to himself. “And after dinner, we...” “See you at four,” Leon interrupted him, and Stratos briefly closed his eyes when the phone suddenly clicked dead. Yes, he was forgiven, but it didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be punished. He sighed and put the phone on the table. After doing that, he stood still for a minute, thinking. Then he sighed again and headed upstairs; if they were going to ‘Black Lotus,’ then he had to wear something other than his jeans – it wasn’t a casual kind of place. ...He was in the middle of choosing a shirt when he heard the bathroom door open. He automatically glanced at his watch. 3:10; Gemini had been in the shower for longer than an hour. Stratos let out an inaudible sigh. Gemini always took long showers, and they got longer, depending on how upset he was – Stratos figured it out by the end of the first week they lived in the same house. If he was in a good mood, he’d be done with his shower in about thirty minutes, give or take. Stratos sighed when he remembered yesterday morning – it’s been two hours before Gemini finally left the bathroom. Stratos couldn’t figure out why he would be in such a bad mood, it puzzled him the entire morning. Now, however, he knew the reason perfectly – he was about to go meet Katherine for coffee, and apparently, that was a worse thing than discovering that you had some impressive powers for your entire life, except, you were unable to use them. Today the shower lasted for one hour and ten minutes. Stratos looked at the shirts in front of him, shrugged, and grabbed the one that was closer to him. He came out of the closet and threw the shirt on the bed. “You are leaving?” he heard behind his back, and turned around. “Yeah,” he nodded when he saw the slightly darkened golden eyes. “I have to meet Leon...” He sighed. “I’ve been an ass to him; I need to make up for that... You can come with me if you...” “That’s okay,” Gemini interrupted him immediately. “I’ll be here.” “Right,” Stratos muttered, figuring that it was probably a good idea. Actually, it was a great idea, considering that Leon wasn’t really fond of Gemini, to say mildly. He finished getting dressed in less than ten minutes, and quickly walked to the bathroom for his hairbrush. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” he said after he was satisfied with his reflection. “Figure out what you want to do...” Gemini let out a small smile, his eyes not dark anymore, and stepped closer, immediately finding Stratos’ lips with his mouth. He pulled away a few minutes later, and Stratos cursed silently when there was that very familiar, slow blink-like rising of the long eyelashes. He glanced at the clock. “I get your idea,” he nodded energetically after he realized that it was already 3:20. He had to leave, since he knew that if he were late to meet Leon today, he would have to deal with another fit. “And by the way...” He stopped right after he almost walked away. “Do you really need that towel...?” He received another small smile, and cursed silently once again when Gemini slowly pulled off the towel he had wrapped around his waist. “Of course, I had to ask...” he muttered with dark regret and shook his head. “I really gotta go...!” He walked away after catching another smile and a blink-like rise of the perfect eyelashes. ...He started the engine and sat still for a bit, forcing himself to concentrate on arpeggios and seventh chords of various keys, remembering the correct fingerings for every single one of them. That trick would work for him ever since he was sixteen – whenever he was aroused to the point that it would look obscene, he didn’t have to think of cricket or soccer to calm down his body. Figuring out fingerings for the seventh chords in every single key of the circle of fifths would do the trick perfectly. He was in E-flat Minor when he finally nodded to himself, took a deep breath, and threw the car in gear. **** Leon arrived to the cafe where he was meeting Stratos, almost forty five minutes earlier than he was supposed to – he had to stop by the library, which happened to be just two blocks away, and he didn’t expect to find what he needed so quickly. When he left the library, he headed towards the cafe, figuring that he would simply wait there instead of driving around. He hated driving in the snow. He bought himself a cup of coffee and was sitting by the table, slowly sipping his drink, and absent-mindedly looking outside, his mind wondering. He wasn’t a single bit surprised that Stratos hasn’t called him until this afternoon – he knew that his friend was perfectly aware of Leon’s cooling period; he had learned it the hard way a few years ago. He knew that Stratos was perfectly aware that if he spoke to his manager too soon, he would have to deal with hellish consequences. Leon hemmed to himself without looking away from the window when he remembered Stratos’ cautious voice on the phone a few hours earlier. He was tempted to throw a fit and hang up on him, but at the last second, he sighed and gloomily said, ‘Hey...’ instead. The cafe that Stratos chose for their meeting was one of Leon’s favorites – Stratos was perfectly aware of that as well. Leon let out a tiny smile, thinking that this part he actually liked. He knew that for the next few days Stratos would kiss up to him like there was no tomorrow; he would do pretty much anything to get Leon to forgive him for being a complete ungrateful ass on Friday night. “Oh, the possibilities...” he muttered and drank more coffee. He kept looking outside, scanning through different scenarios in his head, and watching some heavyset guy sitting down on one of the chairs underneath sturdy blue umbrellas that protected it from snow, and lighting up a cigarette. He watched the guy for a minute or so, and suddenly, he had a strangely strong craving for a cigarette. He used to smoke, but he quit four years ago when he got involved with Stratos, knowing that the musician couldn’t stand the smell of tobacco. When Stratos dumped him, Leon almost started smoking again, but then he figured that he managed to go cigarette-free for six months straight, and to start up the same addictive habit would be simply idiotic, stress or not. He was surprised when he didn’t have nightmarish withdrawals as he thought (dreaded) he would. He would experience a weak craving here and there, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. He watched the guy for another minute, slightly frowning at the strong desire that hit him so unexpectedly hard four years after he quit, and finally, he shrugged to himself, set his cup on the table, and got up, leaving his jacket on the back of the chair – a clear indication that he would be back, so they wouldn’t lose their table. It was Sunday afternoon, and the cafe was full; he really didn’t want to wait for another group of people to leave so they could get to their seats. He walked outside and slightly shivered from snowy cold, but shrugged it off rather quickly, and walked towards the heavyset guy, who looked up at him with mild curiosity. “Would it be all right if I bothered you for a cigarette?” Leon asked with a disarming smile – he knew how to work his smile; he hasn’t met anyone so far who would say ‘No’ to him after he would demonstrate it. The heavyset guy let out short laughter, and said the expected: “Help yourself,” after handing him the pack. Leon flashed another smile and pulled one cigarette out of the hard pack. “Here,” the guy handed him the lighter, and Leon nodded a quick ‘Thank you.’ He took a slow drag and half-closed his eyes. Holy hell, did it feel good...! Especially, after four years of not having any... The guy laughed again. “Grab a chair,” he said, and Leon opened his eyes. He thought about it for a second, and then pulled up a chair that seemed to be the driest of them all, figuring that he might as well sit down and have some light chat with the guy. “You quit, huh?” the guy said, and Leon shot him a quick glance. “That obvious?” he asked in a low voice, and the guy nodded, the same laughter still making his mouth twitch. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “I know the look... Had it myself several times... When was the last time you smoked?” “Four years ago,” Leon half-closed his eyes again, feeling his head slightly spinning from the forgotten kick of tobacco. “Huh,” the guy said, and he sounded impressed. “The longest I ever went was fourteen months...” Leon opened his eyes and smiled, letting out a small shrug. “You never really quit,” he said in a low voice. “You might stop smoking, but you never really quit... You will always think about it...” “Amen, brother,” the guy said seriously, and this time, they laughed together. They smoked in silence for a minute, Leon enjoying his brief cigarette high, when the guy suddenly said: “You don’t look too happy...” Leon blinked at that and looked at him, slightly raising his eyebrow. “...pardon my nosiness,” the guy nodded immediately. Leon hemmed at that and looked at the almost finished cigarette in his hand. “Yeah...” he muttered thoughtfully. “That’s probably because I am not too happy,” he said suddenly, surprising himself – usually, he wasn’t the kind to pour it out in front of complete strangers, smokers or not. “Oh...?” the guy flicked away his finished cigarette and lit another one. “Weather blues...?” he blew a cloud of smoke out of his nostrils that immediately mixed with the cloud of warm air that emerged from his mouth. “No,” Leon said thoughtfully, wondering why he felt like sharing something with this guy. Then he shrugged to himself. The guy was a total stranger, and Leon would probably never see him again after this shared smoke – it was a big city. He regretfully flicked his cigarette into the pile of snow not too far away, and blinked several times when the guy immediately handed him the pack. He looked at it for a couple of seconds, and then grabbed it and pulled out another cigarette without thinking about it too much. He lit it and stared at the glowing tip for a few seconds without saying anything. Finally, he sighed. “I am waiting for my friend,” he said slowly. “He will be kissing up to me... A lot,” he added with a small nod, and the guy said: “Oh...?” once again. “Yeah,” Leon smiled and shot him a quick glance. “He has to make up for being an ass to me...” He shrugged and took a slow drag on his cigarette, making the tip glow with comforting warmth. “That’s not the reason though...” He sighed once more. “The reason is...” he continued slowly a second later. “The reason is that I know that he is obsessed with a certain kelari...” His mouth twitched involuntarily. “He has been obsessed with him for the past month, and I can’t stand it...” “A kelari, huh...” the guy hemmed, and Leon nodded. “They are great in bed, you know...” “So I’ve heard,” Leon replied melancholically, watching two clouds mix together again. “Have never tried though...” “You miss out on a lot,” the guy nodded seriously. “I used to know a kelari...” He dragged on his cigarette and let out a wistful sigh. “He’s gone though...” “Dead?” Leon frowned, and the guy shook his head. “No,” he said. “Just gone... See...” he looked at Leon as if contemplating something for a few seconds. Finally, he sighed. “See, I used to favor this one place...” He paused and set another cloud free. “A naughty place, you know what I mean?” he raised one of his eyebrows, and Leon hemmed at that. “I get the drift,” he nodded and didn’t hesitate this time when the guy handed him a pack after his second cigarette has finally died. “Yeah,” the guy chuckled after he got his lighter back. “There was a kelari in that place... Gorgeous as sin... I have never seen anyone who would look even remotely close to what he looked like... Not just gorgeous,” he nodded after a quick drag. “Flexible as hell, and talented as the devil himself... I mean, things he could do with both of his holes...” He let out another wistful sigh. “I couldn’t get enough of him... Would go to that place four times a week...” He let out short laughter. “Used a credit card once,” he said in a low voice. “Had a bitch of a time trying to explain to my mate what the hell I was doing in a place called Sin Heaven after the bill arrived...” he laughed again, and Leon stared at him without blinking. “Was worth it though,” the guy nodded, and Leon slowly lowered his cigarette-holding hand. “Wait,” he said and slightly narrowed his eyes. “Sin Heaven...?” “Yeah,” the guy glanced at him above his flickering lighter. “Heard of it...?” “I might have...” Leon said slowly. “How many kelari do they have there?” “He was the only one,” the guy sighed and leaned on the back of the chair. “He disappeared about a month ago... Have no clue what happened to him... Pity though,” he sighed yet again. “I keep checking every week; he’s not there anymore... His owner won’t tell me where he is...” he grimaced, and Leon blinked at that. “His owner?” he repeated. “Yeah,” the guy nodded. “He runs the place... Tried to replace him for me, but nobody gets anywhere close...!” “What was his name?” Leon leaned on the cold table with both elbows, and the guy let out an amused, short laughter. “Name?” he repeated. “How in hell would I know his name? And why would I, for that matter? A whore is a whore, no matter how talented it is...” “Right,” Leon muttered, and his head was spinning. The cigarette wasn’t the one to blame this time, he knew that. The odds, he thought, and looked up again. “So, tell me about him...” The guy let out another sigh. “He was amazing,” he said simply, and suddenly, he chuckled. “Was ironic though...” he said in a low voice, and Leon frowned at that. “Ironic?” he repeated, and the guy nodded. “Yeah... All the things he could do...” he paused for a second. “Things he could do...” he continued. “...and the kid was completely asexual... Ironic,” he said again with a small shrug. “Really...?” Leon said very slowly, and received another laughter mixed with a sigh this time. “Yeah... No matter how much you would try to pound his brains out, he wouldn’t get even semi-hard...” “Really...” Leon muttered again, and then he thought of something. “He would fake though, right? I mean, he’d be loud...?” “Sure,” the guy snorted. “He’d be loud...” Leon hemmed and grabbed another cigarette out of the pack without being offered this time. The guy didn’t seem to care. “...if you call this chair loud,” he finished, and Leon almost dropped the lighter that the guy handed to him. “What do you mean?” he asked after managing not to drop anything. “Actually...” The guy looked at his chair rather thoughtfully. “This chair might produce more sounds than he ever did...” He chuckled at Leon’s look, and then his expression suddenly changed. Now it was darker. “Actually...” he said again. “That was the only thing about him that drove me nuts... Sometimes, I could’ve sworn that he was mute, except I knew better...” “What do you mean?” Leon repeated, and received another cloudy sigh in response. “The little bastard would be completely silent every goddamn time,” the guy said in a low voice. “No matter what you did to him – he wouldn’t even moan... I remember one time...” He hemmed and took another quick drag. “I had a hell of a day... Troubles at work, got into a screaming match with my mate, everything felt like it was turning to utter shit... So I went there, thinking that the only thing that would make me feel better would be to fuck that kelari into oblivion...” He paused for a few seconds. “Well,” he continued finally. “When I got there, I wanted to hear him... I mean, I wanted to hear at least something... A scream, a moan, some lousy ‘please’ – anything...! That little bastard wouldn’t make a single sound,” he said slowly, his expression dark again. “That was when I lost it...” he nodded as slowly. “Oh, man, did I lose it...! I beat the hell out of him... I made him cry blood...” Leon frowned at that. “He passed out eventually,” the guy continued meanwhile. “I guess I would’ve killed him if his owner didn’t walk in,” he shrugged and flicked his cigarette away. He slightly leaned forward. “But until he passed out...” he said in a low voice. “...that little shit hadn’t made a single goddamn sound...! Was dead-silent...” He leaned onto the back of his chair again. “I ended up paying a hell of a fee that night,” he said thoughtfully, and suddenly, he grinned. “Was completely worth it though...! Every single florin – was completely worth it...!” “I bet,” Leon said mechanically, his eyes fixed on the lighter in the middle of the table. Stratos had better never hear about this, he thought. Because if he ever does... “You will be dead, buddy,” he nodded to himself, immediately remembering Stratos’ expression that one Sunday night when he said, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you,’ and a sudden, furious slam of the piano lid a few days ago when Leon couldn’t stop himself from pushing too far. Stratos had never been this way; with Gemini though, he’s been completely different. If he ever heard this story, he wouldn’t hesitate even for a second before... “Finding you and sending you to hell,” he thought without hearing what the guy kept saying. He looked at the half-finished, still alive cigarette in his hand, and suddenly, he didn’t want to smoke anymore. He stabbed the cigarette on the edge of the table and flicked it away. “I gotta go,” he said, and the guy slightly stuttered, clearly not expecting being interrupted. “Thanks for the smokes!” “No problem...” the guys nodded, and all of a sudden, his mouth stretched in a sly smile. “Find yourself a kelari,” he said in a low voice. “Don’t fret about the price... Trust me, it’ll be worth it...!” “Right,” Leon nodded and stood up, pushing the chair aside. “Take care...!” The guy was saying something else, but Leon ignored that and went back inside the cafe. His mouth twisted into an irritated line when he saw a young couple sitting at his table. He walked closer and realized that his coffee cup was gone. “Are you blind?” he asked sharply, and the guy jerked and looked up. “Didn’t you see this?” Leon pointed at his jacket that was still hanging on the back of the chair. “Oh...” the guy muttered without getting up. “We figured you forgot it...” “You figured, huh...” Leon said darkly, feeling strangely angry. “Well, next time, don’t just ‘figure,’ buddy, because it might cost you some teeth...! Get out of here!” “Hey...!” the guy started saying heatedly, when the girl next to him looked at Leon’s face, blinked rapidly, and grabbed the guy’s hand, quickly whispering something into his ear. The guy blinked, looked up, blinked again, and then stood up without letting go of the girl’s hand. “Enjoy your coffee...” he muttered darkly, walking away from the table, and Leon snorted at that. “I would,” he nodded. “Except you sent it away, dipshit...!” He watched the guy’s posture tense for a few seconds, and hemmed when he saw the girl’s grasp tighten on her boyfriend’s hand while she hurriedly led him away. He sighed and sat down on the chair that he abandoned fifteen minutes ago, and glanced up when he felt a slight movement. “Here,” the waitress handed him a cup full of fresh coffee. “Sorry about that...” she nodded cautiously, and Leon sighed and took the cup. “Uh huh,” was all he said before turning towards the window again. The waitress stood next to the table for the next several seconds, and then she left without saying anything else. Leon looked outside, noting that the heavyset guy was gone now, and his mind kept replaying the conversation he just had. Suddenly, he had a bright flashback in his mind. A bright flashback of that Sunday night when Stratos went batshit, kicking him out of the house. He frowned when he remembered hearing only small, sharp inhales from the rigid figure in his lap that night; small, sharp inhales, and nothing else, not even a moan. He drank more coffee and frowned deeper when all of a sudden, that flashback made his stomach clench from a weird inner stab that suspiciously resembled guilty shame. He hissed something under his breath and drank more coffee without looking away from the window. He kept staring into the darkening outside when he blinked and straightened up. “Finally,” he muttered and set his cup on the table, briefly glancing at his watch. It was almost fifteen minutes until Stratos was supposed to show up, and Leon felt relieved that the musician managed to come earlier, freeing Leon from the tight, unpleasant trap of those sudden, vicious flashbacks. “Son of a bitch,” he said very softly, watching the familiar car outside to kill its headlights. “I do need to find myself a kelari...” He sighed again and pressed his chin into his palm without taking his elbow off the table, knowing that wasn’t the right solution. In fact, it wasn’t a solution at all.
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