Across Time: Book One
Chapter 3 [Revision #1:
02/18/04 | Revision #2: 08/06/04]
A ray of sunshine through his window awoke him rudely. Kilan rolled over onto his back and considered his options for wasting away the day.
There was always the idea of visiting Sen. He had a burning desire to see the teenager again, one that closely bordered on obsession. He thought about the way he smiled, the way he smelled, the way his lean body felt against his own. Where did he live? How would he ever find him? Kilan imagined himself asking everyone he met on the street, 'Hi, I'm looking for a boy named Senneth. You see, we had so much fun together last night that I want to see him again... preferably naked. Can you tell me where he lives?' He groaned loudly and rolled out of bed.
After dressing in his favorite crimson tunic and tight black pants, he went downstairs for breakfast. His parents were already seated at the polished wooden dining table sipping hot tea. Alania smiled in greeting from one end of the table, but Relandreau only looked at him with glaring eyes from the other.
"Good morning, sweetheart," his mother said. "Did you have a nice rest?"
He thought of the dream he had about Senneth and suppressed a smile. "Yes. It was... pleasant." A moment after he took his customary seat between his parents, the maid, Kria, brought out a tray of food. She smiled at him and then exited discretely.
His father wasted no time. "You're taking far too long to find a mate, Kilandreau."
Kilan allowed his fork to clatter onto his plate in disgust. "Father, is it too much to ask for you to, at least, wait until I've had breakfast before you start in on me? Not that what I do is any of your business."
The tea cup Relandreau held in his hand began to tremor minutely as his face darkened in color. "If it wasn't for my sperm, you wouldn't even exist!"
"I'm an adult now and more than capable of making my own decisions. How many times must we have this argument before you realize that I don't find women sexually attractive?" The moment the words escaped his mouth, he wished that he could take them back. It was true that they'd argued many times about the subject of marriage, but never before had he openly admitted to being gay. Kilan's eyes dropped to his plate and waited for the imminent explosion.
"What did you just say?" his father asked calmly. It caused his son to look up quickly, only to look away again when he saw how his father's face was completely devoid of emotion. When such a thing happened, it was safe to say that it was time to duck and cover.
But he had come too far to back down now. "I'm gay, Father. If I ever married, it would be to a man." Distantly, he heard his mother gasp in horror (more so at the inevitable eruption than at his admission) and imagined her small hands flying to her mouth. Kilan didn't take his eyes away from Relandreau once he realized that things had never been so terrible in his home.
"If you won't choose a good woman to marry, Kilandreau, then I'll do it for you." He pulled his napkin up from his lap and tossed it down onto his plate. "Come along, Alania." She quickly trotted after her husband, but not before one last look at her son.
He tried to figure out what had just happened. Was Relandreau acknowledging his sexuality, but ignoring it in favor of what was "best for the family"? Or had his admittance gone in one ear and promptly out the other? "Denial," Kilan said at length. "In his little world, he has a perfectly straight son who's more than willing to produce a lot of perfectly straight sons of his own."
"Just a little while longer," he sighed. "I'll deal with his for just a little while longer."
He remembered how things were when he was a very young child. It was before his father had been killed ruthlessly by their own government, before his home life had fallen into shambles. His older sister Azael had been ten and was a sweet child who always been more than willing to spend time with her five-year-old brother. It had been a happy time full of pleasant memories that served him well when, four years later, his mother experienced grief so great that she never recovered. She just faded away one cold winter morning, leaving behind only a husk for her daughter to find when she entered her bedroom to inquire about breakfast.
Azael had taken custody of him even though she had still been just a child herself. She worked ceaselessly to keep their small home, to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. While having dropped out of school to work full time, she ingrained within her brother the importance of an education. Azael was his hero... until she began to take pills to relieve her stress.
At first, it was nothing more than something to relax her after spending ten hours doing who-knew-what but, eventually, this use became more compulsive in nature. The very first thing she would ingest would be those pills, even before eating breakfast. On the rare days she took off, Sen would watch her slip a few into her mouth when she thought he wasn't paying attention. Soon, her usually good mood was soured by mid-afternoon and she snapped at her younger brother for inconsequential reasons. He took to tiptoeing around her in the fear that she would approach him with physical violence that he wouldn't be able to defend against. One day, he just couldn't take it anymore. Sen confronted his sister about her problem, to which she replied, "What problem?"
That was when he'd given up on her completely.
Now, their relationship was almost non-existent. He lived with her to avoid living on the streets and put up with her short temper and the endless parade of men through their house without comment. Even though he told himself that he didn't care about her anymore, Sen loved his sister just as much now as he had when they were younger and felt a little responsible for her miserable situation. If there was a way to way to fix everything magically so that none of this had every happened, he would have searched for it until the day he died.
He rolled over onto his stomach and pulled the thin blanket over his head. There was no way in Hell he was getting up so early this morning. Nothing was out there for him save his pissed off sister and a few enterprising drug dealers. Their neighborhood was notoriously known for being one of the worst in the entire Commons, something that had only happened within the last three years. None of the decent people could afford to move and the not-so-decent were pleased to have a personal playground.
'I could go see him,' he thought suddenly. 'I could put on my best clothes and try to blend in with the snobs.' Then the futility of the plan hit him. "I don't even know what side of the Courtyard he lives on!" he moaned out loud.
Eventually, he fell into a light slumber for a few more hours. When Sen awoke again it was early afternoon and the noise outside was too loud to ignore. The shouts and calls of children playing blended with the general rowdiness of the Ucliss Street Gang until it all resembled a jumbled mess of sound that pounded at his ears until he could take no more. All traces of sleep gone, Sen made a decision: he would go see his friend Thad and help out the store until the sun set on yet another wasted day.
His father's words haunted him for hours.
After breakfast, Kilan headed off to Master Luhan's home for his daily martial arts training. The much older man was like a father to him and had been ever since he was seven. Relandreau had never spent time with him doing the things that other fathers and sons did together. They'd never played games or had long talks or went on bonding trips. In fact, it even seemed that Relandreau had gone out of his way to avoid doing those things with him. 'That was what convinced Father to allow me to take fighting lessons,' Kilan thought, 'the fact that I'd be out of his hair for majority of the day.' What used to cause him to question his self-worth, now only served as additional proof of Relandreau's inadequacy as a member of the Saiya-jin race.
On his way home later that afternoon, he passed by the most prestigious bank in town on the long route instead of taking his usual shorter one. Kilan was in no hurry to return to Dreau Manor and he hoped to see Sen even though such an occurrence was unlikely. Several posters hung on the beige stone wall, ranging from hand-lettered declarations of anarchy to professionally printed advertisements for goods and services. One poster in particular caught Kilan's passing attention.
"Do you desire this man?" it said in large, bold print. Right below the words was a very good artistic rendering of himself.
"What the hell?" he gasped. He moved closer and peered at the text below his smiling (as if he did that often!) face. There the address of Dreau Manor was listed for all to see.
Quickly regaining his wits, Kilan ripped the poster down from its place and crumpled it into a ball. How many people had seen it before he came along? His head jerked up and he slowly scanned the street. How many of these damn things were up around the city?
He suspected that, by the end of the day, the word would have spread like wildfire. Women from all over Crenix -- and maybe even a few brave men -- would be knocking on his front door, begging entrance. He could only hope that his mother could talk sense into his father before it was too late.
Home was the last place he wanted to be, but he knew that he couldn't stay away forever. Gritting his teeth, Kilan steeled himself for the hardship that was to come.
Sen hummed to himself as he swept the sidewalk outside Thad's store. It was boring work, but it helped his best friend so he didn't mind very much. Today he was dressed conservatively in a short-sleeved dark blue tunic and long pants, but both fit closely on his long body because he thought it was interesting to see the reactions of people on the street. His clubbing outfits did come out of the drawer during daylight hours occasionally, but only when the temperature had soared so high it would be suicide to be covered by too much cloth.
Thad's father -- who was also named Thad -- managed a general store that he'd inherited from his own father. Thad was the only one of Sen's friends who had a real chance to make something of himself -- even if it was only from inheriting his father's store upon his death.
Sen, on the other hand, knew that he was never going to get anywhere in life. Like so many other Commons-born children, he was going to be stuck in the slums forever. He could claim no skills or talents (other than the art of seducing men) and knew that he had a habit of getting himself into trouble. In fact, Azael told him all the time that he was probably going to get himself killed one day and, when it happened, she wouldn't bother having a funeral for him. Then again, she had been drinking at the time so her credibility was seriously lacking.
Thad exited the store and leaned against the wall. He held a small piece of paper in his hand and was nodding to himself in an absent way.
"What's that?" Sen asked him. The large teenager with the gentle black eyes offered him the flyer. What he saw made him stop breathing for a moment.
"He's hot, ain't he?" Thad said while playfully elbowing his friend in the side. "Just your type." The words were said with just a little jealousy. While not bad looking, Thad knew that he could never compete with a guy like the one printed on the flyer.
"He's Ki!" was the startled, breathless reply. Sen staggered and caught himself against the smooth stone of the wall. He stared blankly at the portrait in shock. His friend laid a concerned hand on his shoulder.
"You know him?"
"I danced with him yesterday at the club. We had so much fun together and he felt so nice in my arms." His cheeks flushed with remembered pleasure. "I think I've fallen in love, Thad."
"Okay," Thad said vacantly. Before Sen could get offended at his inattentiveness, the other teen's wide face lit up. "Okay! I have a plan!"
Sen's stomach sank. "Excuse me if I show my understandable dislike for those words."
"Oh, come on! My plans aren't that bad." His friend snorted. "Anyway, you like this guy, right?"
"And you want him as your mate?" The deep blush in response was all the answer he needed. "So, go tell him how you feel."
He shook his head sadly. "He lives in the 'yard, Thad. Besides, I'm not a girl if you haven't realized it yet."
"Really? The 'yard? Wow." He glared at the other boy briefly for distracting him and continued. "Dress like a girl and impress his folks, first. Then you'll have it made."
"Do I look like a girl to you?!"
Thad didn't even have to think. "Yeah, you do, actually."
"Fuck you!" But he wasn't really upset. He'd always known that he was more pretty than handsome and, for once, it could even work in his favor.
The number of people crowded outside the gates to Dreau Manor was ridiculous. Kilan observed them despondently from his window, seriously contemplating suicide so that he wouldn't have to put up with such a farce. Relandreau strode out to the gate with a swagger, honestly enjoying the spectacle he was making of his family. Kilan's eyes focused on his head and thought hard enough to make his brain explode -- if he'd possessed the power. The older man spent time speaking to the crowd and he watched as some of the people -- including a small crowd of men -- walk away sadly. Those that remained, he assumed, were either remarkably desperate or incredibly brave.
"Boy!" he heard his father call from the bottom of the stairs mere minutes later. Kilan didn't move. If anything, he rooted himself to the spot even firmer. Irritated pounding on the stairs caused him to tense but nothing else. A rough hand on his shoulders, turning him away from the window, startled him. "When I call you, Kilandreau, I expect you to answer."
His eyes were tired as he gazed at his father. "How many times do I have to tell you that I'm an adult until you understand? This plan of yours is bullshit, Father. I'm not merchandise you can give away as a prize."
A small tick in Relandreau's right eye made itself known. Even more deadly a sign than utter calm, this tick signaling that a complete meltdown was close at hand. "You act as if your opinion really matters to be, boy. As your father and the head of this household, it is my duty to the maintain honor of this family."
"You know what, Father?" He said this word as if spitting out something vile and disgusting. "I'm not taking this anymore. Fuck your moronic plan and fuck you!"
The backhanded blow connected before he could dodge. Stars burst before his eyes and the world grew dark and tattered around the edges for one brief moment as the force of the slap caused him to stumble and knock his head against the windowsill. Kilan took a moment to calm his heartbeat and feel lucky to be both conscious and alive.
"You are going to dress in your finest clothing and come downstairs to greet our guests. Then you will go about the process of choosing a wife."
"Yes, Father," he said dully. It really wasn't worth the effort to argue anymore. Kilan closed his eyes and rested his cheek against cool wood. His father departed quickly for parts unknown and he hardly noticed. Slowly, his body curled into itself, his tail curving around to rest against his palms. He held it tightly against his chest for comfort and allowed the tears to fall.
Kilan stood in the entrance hall, greeting someone he had absolutely no interest in. The girl was petite with very lively eyes and cute features, but he only had eyes for Sen.
Long ago, he'd wrapped his tail around his waist so that it didn't betray his true feelings to girls he didn't know. When no more girls came up to meet him, Kilan relaxed considerably.
"Wait! Don't forget about me!" A girl shouted as she ran up the front path with a small backpack. On the way, she nearly tripped up the stairs in her haste and the other women stifled amused laughter. The girl, teetering slightly in her tall heeled boots, regained her balance. Bowing deeply before Kilan, she said, "I apologize for my lateness."
"There really wasn't any timeline that I was aware off..." Color rose in her cheeks. "...but I accept your apology anyway. What's your name?"
"Sen," she said without thinking. Then she quickly corrected herself. "-nie. Sennie. My name is Sennie!" The triumphant look on her face caused Kilan to raise an eyebrow.
"Alright, Sennie," he said while writing her name down on the paper his father had "kindly" provided. His hand stilled before he finished as he considered the girl before him. There was just something about her and made him feel so warm.
He watched the very tall girl in the tight red dress walk away, her hips swaying due to the unbalance caused by the shoes she wore. His eyes were riveted to her remarkably sexy rear and the gently waving tail above it. 'There's just something so familiar about her.'
Seemingly endless question-and-answer sessions filled rest of the day. The first round consisted of the conduction of many, many interviews. Apparently, judging by the questions Relandreau had come up with, he only wanted a woman of the very best stock for his son.
Kilan rubbed at his temples and willed his headache to go away with no such luck. The last girl, Girna, had been more than a little.... well, her fascination with the size of his "endowment" was more than a little disconcerting. He felt that the only good thing to come of the interviews was the elimination of most of the bride candidates. Sennie's tousled black-topped head poked around the door of his father's study.
"Is it my turn now?"
"Oh, sure. Have a seat." He sat up a little bit straighter and pondered the attraction he felt to this girl. Never before had any female caused him to seriously question his sexuality. Sennie sat in the only other chair in the room and crossed one long, slender leg over the other, tugging at the hem of her dress. A generous amount of thigh still displayed against her wishes, however. His eyes automatically focused on the movement and he found that it was quite hard to look away.
"Hey," Sennie said, amusement lurking in her voice. "My face is a little farther north." His face reddened and his eyes focused resolutely on the region above her neck.
"First-" He cleared the embarrassed squeak from his voice. "First question: why are you the best candidate?"
"Well..." One long finger tapped against the side of her face. "I'm not like most girls. We would really have fun together."
He smiled and imagined the "fun". Then he realized what he was doing and cringed slightly. "Um, how many children are you comfortable with having?"
Sennie blinked, then stared. "Come again?"
"As my mate, you're expected to produce at least one child. It can be either male or female since I'm not particular about the gender of the heir."
"Aw, damn," she muttered and the falsetto slipped. "Damn, damn, damn! Why the hell didn't I consider that question?!"
A delighted smile spread across Kilan's face. "Sen!" Now he understood what his body was telling him! As a woman, Sen was even more beautiful. Whoever had done his make-up was a true expert.
"My friend's plan backfired, didn't it? I told him it was stupid." Sen pulled the back of one hand across his burning eyes and smeared eye make-up that began to wash away as crystalline tears fell. "I felt something special last night and I think we'd be good together." He sniffled. "For the first time in my life, I regret being born male."
Crying people made him uncomfortable. Kilan's hands hovered uncertainly in the air around Sen's hunched body. Finally, one hand descended to awkwardly pat him on the back. "Here," he said while offering his own handkerchief to him. "You shouldn't cry."
"I know, I know; boys don't cry." He took deep gulps of air in an attempt to calm himself but the tears continued to fall. "My cute masculine charms won't work on you."
"In a dress like that, I can see why not," Kilan said wryly. More serious, he said, "I was attracted the moment I saw you on the street."
"Really?" was the hopeful query.
"Yes, really. You are the most beautiful person I've ever met. Inside and out."
In a burst of giddy pleasure, Sen threw his arms around Kilan's neck and almost choked him. "Ki, I love you!"
"What?!" His eyelids slid to half-mast as the teen tenderly rubbed his cheek against his own.
"I love you," he repeated at a volume hardly above a whisper. "You're the man I've been looking for my entire life."
Kilan wasn't sure he knew what love felt like, but this was, at least, certainly something pretty damn close to it. He sighed pleasantly and listed to Sen purr in contentment like a giant feline as he perched on his lap.
A knock startled them out of their peaceful universe. "Kilan, dear, is everything okay? None of the other interviews were this long."
"We're fine, Mother," he called back. "Just wrapping up."
There was nothing else he wanted more than to continue holding Sen in his arms. His skin smelled faintly of some sort of perfume used in his ruse and of a spicy muskiness that was uniquely Sen. His hand rested lightly on his thigh just at the edge of the red dress's hemline. The need to slide his hand upward to see what kind of underwear he wore beneath was almost overpowering.
"Dresses have a lot of benefits," he murmured to himself.
"What was that?" the teen asked sleepily.
"Nothing," he smiled fondly. "Nothing at all."