Across Time: Book One
Chapter 6 [Revision #1: 08/07/04 | Revision #2: n/a]
"I don't know what to do!" Sen wailed to himself on his way back to his childhood home. It was located in one of the seediest parts of town, literally surrounded on all sides by drug houses, brothels, and other unsavory places. Scruffy heads turned and bloodshot eyes examined his slender form as he strode unafraid down the filthy street. The criminals -- who had the audacity to conduct business in broad daylight -- recognized him. Figuring that he was no trouble, they returned to their transactions.
Number 27 Ucliss Street was a tiny wooden house in sad need of repair. Fallen shingles from the roof littered the brown lawn, mixed in with exterior pain peelings and discarded refuse. He disgustedly walked through the knee-high weeds -- hoping that nothing sinister had decided to make a home in it -- and opened the unlocked front door.
"Who's there?" asked a slurred voice from somewhere in the small house. Senneth ignored it and stepped over the threshold. The smell of old liquor, kriss weed, and several layers of dirt assaulted his nose. Sen nearly took a step back into the reasonably fresh air outside before he caught himself. With determined steps, he strode across the living room and toward his sanctuary.
"I said, 'who's there'!" The harsh voice was louder and coming from the direction of his sister's room. Once again, he pretended not to hear.
Miraculously, his room was exactly as he'd left it two days ago. Clean clothes covered the small single bed, dirty clothes covered the beige-carpeted floor, and his box of treasure was still hidden in the back of his narrow closet. Contained within were the few things of value he'd accumulated over the years. There was a brilliant red blossom -- an eternity flower -- that bloomed only once every century. It was said that it would cause a bond to form if given to someone very special, one so strong that it would last forever. He'd been out exploring as a child on one of the few trips he'd taken outside the city's walls and found it growing all by itself beside a clear spring. And even then his ideal mate had been male in his mind's eye.
The second treasure was a shiny, smooth, iridescent stone found in a riverbed. It, too, was from that wonderfully sad trip. His mother, who hadn't been quite right after his father had been killed over a bad deal with their corrupt government, had grown even worse after that vacation. Synael was perpetually ill and nothing seemed to help her. Eventually she just faded away, dying peacefully in her sleep one cold winter morning. Sen had been nine, his sister fourteen.
Now, at sixteen, he figured that it was better that she had moved on. It would have wounded her deeply to see the neighborhood go straight to Hell. The flower and the pebble were carefully packed away just as the door flew open, doorknob banging against the wall and probably leaving an indentation.
"So you came back," Azael sneered. Her narrowed eyes were bloodshot from smoking her narcotic of choice and he could tell that she was more than a little hung over from the night before. His sister was shorter than he -- and even fragile looking -- but she exuded an air of authority and strength that usually had him cringing. Today, though, he could care less about her.
When he grabbed a large bag and began shoving his remaining possessions into it she began spouting a stream of words designed to get a rise out of him. "You moving out? Did some perverted low-life make you his bitch?"
Soon, the only thing standing between him and freedom was his older sister. Sen gazed down at her, eyes emotionless, and said very carefully, "Please move out of my way."
Azael smiled cruelly. "Make me."
For a moment he didn't move or say a word. His eyes never wavered from her face, never showed even a quick flash of fear. Then a profound amount of pity flooded them even as he bodily moved her aside. "You could have been someone great, Azael. You could have done something real important with your life." He sighed heavily. "I'm so happy Ma isn't here to see this."
Fury contorted her lovely features into a twisted mask of ugliness. She snarled at him, sounding more animal than person, probably envisioning his gruesome death by her small hands. Steps quick, but not at fleeing pace, Sen left his former safe haven and childhood home. Even if things didn't work out with Kilandreau for whatever reason, he knew that he would never again return to Number 27 Ucliss Street.
Dinnertime rapidly approached and the only person in the dining room other than Kilan and his parents was a somewhat aloof girl known as Michella. She was beautiful with high cheekbones, full lips, and a curvy figure. Unfortunately for those around her, she fully realized it.
"We should start without them," she said casually, hoping to win by default. "You did say to be back by dinner."
Alania nodded in agreement. "She's right, dear." Relandreau's eyes lit up at the prospect of a very attractive daughter-in-law and adorable grandchildren. Kilan merely nodded stiffly and silently prayed for Sen to hurry back.
Five minutes to six o'clock a servant announced the arrival of Nari and Lika, but no other name passed his lips. Hands sweating and heart pounding, Kilan's thoughts ran around in unceasing circles when Sen still did not show. 'Did he give up? Does he like me? Is he hurt? Is he... dead?' The second hand on the grandfather clock swept around the numbers at a seemingly blazing pace. 5:59 and 49 seconds... Kilan's heart stopped a few seconds away from 6:00 p.m. He couldn't bear to look anyone in the eye for fear of seeing an entirely inappropriate smugness. Instead, his eyes were glued to the clock face, watching helplessly as those last few seconds counted down. 3, 2, 1...
"Now announcing: Lady Sennie," an elderly man in black said regally. Kilan didn't try to stop the relief from flooding his face and wasn't even sure that he could have. The clock chimed in the new hour solemnly.
Sen nodded to everyone in turn. "I apologize for my near-lateness. I was finishing up with my third item and lost track of time."
"No problem," Kilan was quick to say. "You're here now and that's all that matters."
Michella and Relandreau both were seriously annoyed. Sennie was the only real competition that the pretty young woman had in mere appearance alone. Worse yet, Kilandreau favored her above all others! Michella knew that, in order to move ahead and stay there, her gifts would have to utterly blow him away.
After everyone had eaten as much as they could, the table was cleared and objects placed before their current owners. Numbers were drawn and Sen was to go first.
"Well, um, I've had this rock and this flower since I was a kid." He then proceeded to tell the story of how he'd found them. Alania was smiling with approval and Kilan was completely in love. He shook himself free of the haze and inquired about his third gift.
"I made this," Sen explained. He held up a woven bracelet of blues and greens. It was fastened securely around Kilan's wrist. "It represents our lives and how tightly intertwined I want them to be."
When a completely uncharacteristic look of adoration moved onto Kilan's usually blank face, the other three contestants knew that they'd lost. It didn't matter what gifts they'd brought; nothing could top Sen's.
"Thank you for coming," Alania said with a smile. "I'm sorry that you weren't selected and wish you all the best."
Nari and Lika nodded mutely, but Michella refused to leave without, at least, one final word. "There's something not right about you and I won't rest until everyone knows exactly what it is." Actually, she wasn't sure if anything was abnormal, but the sheer panic in her adversary's eyes made pleasure fill her own. Michella left the room without a backward glance, content to know that worry and doubt would be tormenting Sen for a long time to come.
"You think she'd cause trouble?" Goku asked before taking a long drink of water.
Vegeta didn't have to really think about it. "She's a scorned woman, Kakarotto. If she doesn't cause it, she'll at least try to."
He frowned fiercely at the book as if trying to convey his disapproval to the mean-spirited young woman. "I want Sen and Kilan to live happily-ever-after. You know something, 'geta?"
"I think you're sort of like Kilan."
Surprise flooded the small Saiya-jin's face and he began to laugh. "Have you lost your mind? I'm nothing like him!"
"You're both small, your fathers both tried to control you, and you're both head-over-heels in love with males."
Vegeta gave him a bland stare. "You don't know if that last one's true for me."
"You also don't like dealing with emotion."
A look of self-disgust crossed his face. "You're right about that."
Goku marked the page and drew the now morose Saiya-jin closer to him. Vegeta laid his head on his chest and forcefully stopped himself from snuggling into the larger man's embrace. Then, after mentally berating himself, moved in even closer and breathed in the musky scent of his mate.
"For years you've had to turn off everything not related to combat," Goku began. "Nothing was more important to your father -- then Furiza -- than that. You were only six years old when he took you away from your home."
"That doesn't excuse that way I acted once I was old enough to decide for myself," the former prince muttered. "That doesn't explain the way I act now."
A calloused hand made soft with love gently stroked the exposed side of Vegeta's face. "I don't expect you to do a complete 180° overnight. It might take years for you to be comfortable with this -- if ever." The wince those words caused was clearly felt. "You know I'll love you anyway. You could go murder someone in cold blood tomorrow and I'll still love you."
Though he still couldn't speak the intense emotion he felt (and not sure there were even words good enough), Vegeta could definitely show him. A pleasantly surprised Goku allowed him to push him down onto the couch and have his way with his body.
His mother couldn't stop crying. She straightened and pulled at his stiff formal clothing, making sure that he looked his absolute best, and dabbed at her eyes with a lace handkerchief throughout. Frankly, Kilandreau was mortified. He hoped that she wouldn't embarrass him in public.
He couldn't believe that the day had finally come when he would be joined with Sen. Granted, he didn't know very much about him, and was deceiving everyone by going through a ceremony with someone they had no idea even existed, but there was no way he would allow such things to ruin his day.
All night, servants had been cleaning and preparing for the ceremony to be held later that afternoon, with the watchful eyes of Alania never missing a single thing.
Having no real friends, Kilan didn't invite anyone to the ceremony. The odd thing about it was that the backyard was packed anyway. He assumed that his mother and father had invited their friends as well as important people who'd expressed a wish to be present. It annoyed him a little to see the faces of so many strangers but there wasn't much he could do about it.
For the entire day so far, his father had been conspicuously absent. Kilan was half afraid that he was plotting something to ruin his special day. The other half of him was positively overjoyed not to have to deal with him.
His mother, having gone briefly to check on "Sennie", now knocked softly on his bedroom door. "Kilandreau? It's time." He took a deep breath and descended the stairs.
A wide aisle carpeted in deep red ran from the back door to the altar by the flowered hedges. Rows of white chairs sat on both sides and were nearly filled to capacity. Kilan stood on the right side of the altar, convulsively swallowing and trembling slightly. Those were the only outward signs that he was nervous.
From the house emerged a tall, burly man with short-cropped hair. His powerfully built form was squeezed into a formal black and silver tunic that did little to flatter him. The young man didn't look like someone his parents would associate with and he definitely couldn't identify him. By process of elimination he knew that the uncomfortable guest had been invited by his beloved.
Music began to flow softly throughout the garden from hidden musicians, signaling the start of the ceremony. The last few stragglers took the remaining empty chairs and then his formerly missing father made an appearance. The older man sat beside his still-weeping mate and stared ahead at the shikar.
As the music raised in volume, Sen stepped forward from behind the edging hedges and slowly made his way to the altar.
Breath caught as the beautiful boy passed by the guests. He wore a long white gown edged in milky white beads. The modest V-shaped neckline was trimmed in the same adornment. His hair, made tame by some miraculous method, was curled artistically and pinned by white-beaded clips. A huge grin spread across his face. It marred the angelic appearance just a little, but no one seemed to care very much. Sen turned his infectious smile toward Kilan and almost caused him to grin unabashedly back.
"Please clasp hands," the shikar intoned once the slow-paced music had ceased. They did so and electric shocks coursed through their bodies from the contact. "We are here today to join Kilandreau and Sennie for all eternity. Few enter this sacred bond lightly for it binds two people together tighter than anything else in the world." He paused in significant silence. "If there are any here who think that these two should not be joined, speak now or forever hold your peace."
Sen held his breath. When no one said a word, the knot in his stomach eased. The shikar opened his mouth to finish the ceremony and a loud drunken voice interrupted him.
"Oh, you got yourself into some serious shit this time," the feminine voice shouted gleefully. "I can't believe they let you near their son, let-alone stand by and watch you bind yourself to him!" Sen didn't have to see the woman to know who she was. His greatest fear was realized when Azael stumbled down the aisle toward him.
"Why did you come?" he asked. "To humiliate me?"
She smirked and took a quick swig from the bottle clutched in her right hand. "They don't know the truth, do they? I heard you were really careful to hide it from them."
He knew, he absolutely knew, that his sister was going to ruin everything. It was exactly her kind of thing. Sen didn't bother trying to stop her -- for what good would it do? Silently he stood before everyone, his head held high, refusing to be shamed by something that didn't embarrass him in the slightest.
"This girl, the one you find so charming and pretty, is nothing more than a perverted, cross-dressing, effeminate boy."
There was a collective gasp. Most looked at Sen for confirmation and he gave a single nod. Then the very same look was directed Kilan's way. His response was short and to the point. "I knew."
Many things happened at once. Alania let out a hoarse cry and fainted, the guests all began to talk loudly amongst themselves, and Relandreau rose from his chair with an enraged look on his face that would have caused even Lord Chero to run away screaming. His father stalked toward him and said very gruffly, "Come with me."
Kilan's eyes immediately went to Sen's face. The younger boy smiled and told him to go ahead. "I'll be back no matter what," Kilan promised.
"I know," was the reply.