Across Time: Book One
Chapter 4 [Revision #1:
02/20/04 | Revision #2: 08/06/04]
When he finally turned in for the night there were ten extra people staying in his home. Kilan wondered how it would feel to go to sleep and never wake up. Would he drift on a sea of nothingness after his body gave its last breath or would he soar amongst the stars?
As tempting as it sounded, he knew that he couldn't go anywhere without Sen. Any suicide attempts would have to be joint ventures.
The regular dining room table just wasn't large enough; meals would have to be relocated to the table in the ballroom for the duration of his father's mad scheme. As Kilan entered freshly scrubbed and very gloomy, he saw the girls fighting each other for the two seats that were perpendicular to his own at the head of the table. Rolling his eyes, he sat down and propped his head up with his elbow in a bored manner.
"Hello," said a young curvy woman with what she probably thought was a "come-hither" smile. Instead, she looked as if she were grimacing in pain. "I'm Maerie." Just as she was sitting down in a seat only mere inches from his own, a body pushed her aside so firmly that she almost fell over.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Sen said in a saccharine tone. "Was this seat taken?"
"You know very well that it was!" she growled.
He pretended not to hear as he sat down. "Good morning, Ki! Did you sleep well?" Maerie glared at him one final time before stalking over to take the last empty seat. It was as far away from Kilan as you could get and still be in the same room.
His lips twitched as he fought the urge to smile at him, but just he couldn't help it in the end. Today Sen was dressed in a sleeveless white shirt and black pants. He had more muscle in his arms than was usually appropriate for a female, but it didn't really matter since he truly wasn't one. As Kilan served himself some of the fragrant food, he whispered a question he'd been wondering about all night.
"Where'd the breasts come from?" Granted, they weren't much but they were enough to be considered "womanly".
"Oh." Sen looked down at himself. "This was my friend's cousin's idea. We stuffed one of her bras with parchment. It took forever to get them to look right yesterday."
"Well, one's just a little..." Kilan reached out and made a little adjustment. "Much better."
Sen's face colored and he tried to cover it up with humor. "I do believe, sir, that your hands are touching my boobs."
Kilan leaned in closer with a intimate smile on his face and whispered, "I'd rather be touching you somewhere else." The teen now looked a little... bothered.
"Excuse me, sir." A girl a few seats away on his other side got his attention. She had short hair and wore round glasses over shy eyes. The girl pushed up her spectacles with her index finger. "If you don't mind me asking, what's next on the agenda?"
"That's a good question." He cleared his throat and raised his voice above the murmur of the girls. "May I have your attention please?" Ten pairs of eyes were now focused on his face and more than one held a lecherous expression. "After breakfast there will be a cooking competition. As well all know, there are few things more important than good food to a Saiya-jin." The girls laughed on cue, but Sen's face had paled and he was silently repeating something over and over again. It looked suspiciously like, "Fuck." An unusually negative reaction from the teenager. Kilan was momentarily startled. "Um, I'll taste-test and the creators of the first-, second-, and third-best dinner dishes will gain points. Good luck to you all."
Kilan pushed back his chair and prepared to stand just as Sen caught his arm. "I might as well drop out now," he said. "My food isn't even fit to feed your worst enemy."
"You can't cook at all?" he asked in a worried tone. Sen shook his head with a sigh. "I'll eat anything you prepare no matter what because it came from you."
"I don't want to poison you, Ki. Maybe I can go and get help from Thad before dinner tonight."
He nodded. "My best friend of seven years. His family is like my own."
Relandreau entered the room and spotted his son. "Kilandreau! It's time to leave." An irritated look appeared on Kilan's face.
"He works for Lord Chero," the young man explained, "and he wants me to observe today."
Sen was sympathetic. "I'm sorry," he said. Chero was a man of unquestionably bad taste and dubious honor. He blatantly favored the rich and did whatever he could to further screw over the poor. There had been many attempts to oust him from office, but none had even been slightly successful.
"I'll see you tonight," Kilan said softly, wanting nothing more than to kiss him breathless, but knew that it would be bad to do so in front of others lest they think he showed favortism. With one last look of longing, he joined his father.
Sen had no idea what to do. Never before had he been required to cook a good meal. Azael handled things at home when she was sober and, before her, it had been his mother. There was just no way he could make anything fit for Saiya-jin consumption on his own.
He searched for the Lady of the House. She was in the foyer adjusting her straw hat with the wide band of lavender silk ribbon. Alania slipped on her gardening gloves and eyed herself one last time in the mirror. Though majority of the yard work was done by a hired hand, she refused to let anyone touch her prize-winning passion lilies.
"Excuse me," Sen said very politely. She noticed him over her shoulder in the mirror and smiled.
"Did you need something, dear?"
"May I please leave the Manor, ma'am? Just for a little while?" He thought quickly when her open expression changed to one of regret. "My sister is ill and I wish to check on her. The doctor is afraid that she will expire soon." A few tears were squeezed out for effect and he dabbed at the corners of his eyes with the hanky she offered him. In truth, he doubted that very many people would grieve over the prospect of Azael's death -- himself included. "It was her wish that I marry before she died."
Alania's face became sad. "Oh, you poor dear. Of course you can visit your sister!" She hugged Sen tightly. "It's really against Relandreau's rules, but I'm sure he would make an exception in your case. Will you return in time to prepare your meal?"
"Thank you so very much, ma'am. I promise to be back promptly." The moment the front door closed behind him, Sen hung his head and asked himself, "What am I going to do now?"
For reasons he didn't quite understand, he went through with his decision to seek Thad's help. Maybe it was because they'd forged a strong bond of friendship that had pulled them both through various problems over the years, or maybe it was because he supported his obsession with Kilan. Whatever the reason, he listened to Thad's advice as if it had come straight from his mother's mouth.
"You're screwed," was the none-too-optimistic response after his dillemma was explained. "I wouldn't even feed the crap you call food to my worst enemy."
"That's exactly what I told him," Sen groaned and suddenly, without warning, he burst into noisy tears. "But I need to cook something! If I'm to ever Bond with him, I need to win him over!"
"Wait a minute!" He was so shocked at what his friend had just said that the tears went unnoticed. "You want to Bond with someone you barely know?"
"You don't understand," he whispered. "We didn't meet by chance, Thad. It was fate and I feel it in my bones."
"But a Bond?" He was, to put it mildly, afraid for his friend. Bonds weren't something you entered into lightly and would be a connection that lasted between the couple even beyond death. Thad sighed when he realized that Sen's mind would not be changed. "Maybe Marna can help you since she's the best cook in the neighborhood."
He shook his head. "I can't let her do anything for me; it wouldn't be right."
"How about a cookbook, then? My mother has tons of those."
"Sure. I can follow directions."
Sen followed Thad to the back of the store where his family lived. The small living room was spotless as always and there were books crammed on every available space. Both of Thad's parents were avid readers and, also, often lent books to friends since they were of the few people in the neighborhood with enough extra money to purchase them. Thad's thick finger traced the spines of several titles before pulling out one called: "Delicious Dishes To Drive Him Wild". Sen's eyes brightened as he considered all the "wild things" he and Kilan could to together.
"Get that lecherous look off your face. You probably don't even know what to do, virgin."
"I can dream, can't I?" he asked, blushing furiously. He admitted only to his best friend that he and his "lovers" had never gone "all the way". His dates had been mostly make-out sessions and grope fests with Sen calling everything to a screeching halt right before he and his gentleman friend went too far.
"What kinds of dishes do you like?" Sen asked while thumbing through the book.
"Anything with meat is good. You can't go wrong with that and it really fills you up." Sen snickered and Thad blushed when he realized what he'd said.
"I had no idea you swung that way. My advances always go unnoticed...." His eyes lit upon a recipe that made him grin. "This is it! I love it!" Sen rushed back to Dreau Manor with a quick, "See ya later!" tossed over his shoulder.
Kilan wondered how much more he could take of Chero's obnoxious presence without murdering him. An hour had seemed reasonable in the beginning, but he wondered if he'd been just a little too optimistic. The man was filled with bad jokes about women, about the poor, about anyone who wasn't cut from the same cloth that he was and, frankly, Kilan was starting to see red.
Lord Chero was the very distant relative of the first lord of the Capital, Crenix himself. Though his ancestor had been kind and just, Chero was anything but. His beady little rat eyes glared at anyone who had the nerve to be different than he and his pudgy hand had signed more anti-welfare laws, anti-women laws, and any-homosexual laws than any other ruler combined. It was even rumored that a law demanding all gay and lesbian citizens register with the city was close to being passed by the ruling council. The public listing would make it open season on them.
He, the lord, and his father sat in the lord's pretentious office. Relandreau was Chero's chief aide and also had a seat on the ruling council. Kilan sat on a low sofa near the door and watched the two men talk with growing unease.
"Those nuts on the north side are growing out of control," Chero said to Relandreau with a look of utter distaste on his ugly face. "There's even talk of starting their own community!" One fist came down hard onto the solid wood of his desk. "I will not have the people of Saiya believing that my Crenix is a haven for perverts!"
"Of course not, sir," Relandreau said with an equal amount of disgust. "That would shame not only you, but also every good citizen that lives here."
"What should I do about this without causing a riot?"
Kilan's anger was slowly reaching the boiling point. How could these two men sit here and casually decide the fates of ten percent of Crenix's citizens as if only choosing what pair of shoes to wear for the day? Relandreau smiled slowly and slyly. "A law should do it. We could make it illegial to engage in any homosexual acts or relationships. All those who oppose to death will be put to death.
"I like that," the lord said gleefully. "I knew there was a reason why you were my number one aide!"
Anger exploded within him and sent a rush of scalding heat throughout his body. Kilan had heard enough prejudice and hatred in one hour to last an entire lifetime! Behind him, every hair on his tail lifted and puffed outward like that of an irate feline. "You both dream of a world where everyone was exactly like you, a world that will never be! I don't want to share a planet with people who would punish others simply for being differerent. Saiya is better off without the both of you."
Kilan marched over to the door and yanked it open. "Oh, one last thing!" He glared at the two stunned men with all the venom he could muster in his slight body. "I hope you two rot in Hell!" He made sure that the door slammed loudly on his way out.
His foul mood lasted a long time. As he walked home in the unusually cool air, deep gray storm clouds gathered on the horizon and threatened the city with a cold torrent of summer rain. The people on the street scurried like insects with the hope of reaching home before the heavens released their heavy burden.
"Even after he knows that I'm gay-!" he muttered to himself. "I have to warn Sen and give him enough time to get away. Maybe I can join him later outside the city. I love him too much to see him dead." Kilan froze as the full import of his words hit him. "Love? Did I just say that I love him?"
"Yeah, you did." He looked down to see a little girl about nine whose long hair was in pigtails. She wore a little pale yellow dress and shiny black shoes. Her pixie-like face wore an expression of annoyance. "If you're finished talking to yourself, mister, can you get out of my way?"
"What?" Kilan looked up and realized that he was blocking the entrance of a candy shop. "Oh, sorry," he apologized as he moved aside. Muttering to himself again and forming plans, he hurried down the sidewalk.
"Big people are sure weird," the girl said as she entered the shop. "I don't want to ever become one!"
Sen found himself in the Manor's gigantic kitchen after lunch feeling more than a little overwhelmed. The girls around him bustled to-and-fro, intent on their meals. He stared at the recipe and had no idea what majority of it meant.
"I can't let a recipe defeat me!" He squared his shoulders and began rooting around in the cupboards and searching the already-littered counters for ingredients. Soon, there was quite an assortment in front of him.
Once that was complete, he was at at total loss. "How can I follow directions when I don't even understand them? It's like reading a foreign language!"
The girl who'd queried Kilan earlier at breakfast passed him with a large cast iron pot. She strugged to lift it high enough to hang it on the hook in the fireplace and almost overbalanced herself. Sen rushed over just in time to steady her.
"Thanks," she smiled at him shyly. "I appreciate the help."
"Can you help me?" he asked hopefully.
His hand beckoned her over to the nearby counter where the cookbook waited. "This was my dearly departed mother's favorite recipe. I'm so used to cooking from memory that I have no idea what these abbreviations mean. Please, can you tell me?"
"Of course. My soup has to simmer for a while anyway. My name's Nari; what's yours?"
"Sennie," he answered. Somehow things were falling into place. For once, luck was on his side.