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Parallels

Chapter Text

Just around the corner from Abel’s dormitory was an abandoned factory site. The fence surrounding it was broken in more places than it was whole, so most students used the path winding its way through the ruins of concrete and wire netting to save ten minutes on their way from the university ground to down-town Nova Moskwa. Abel had walked this very same path on countless occasions himself, though in broad daylight. After nightfall, he had to admit, it was a whole different thing.

The half-collapsed buildings were looming over the path like monsters from a nightmare, illuminated only by the silvery moonlight, casting the whole scenery in an eerie pattern of shadow and light.

A shudder ran down Abel’s spine. It was unnervingly quiet. The only sounds the ones of his own footsteps echoing overly loud between the ugly concrete walls. It was probably all in his imagination, but he felt as if cold eyes were following his every move and …

Get a grip, Abel, goddamnit!

Abel ran a shaky hand through his white-blond hair and quickened his pace. He just wanted to get out of here as quickly as possible. If only he’d waited for Ethos and the others to accompany him back from the bar to the dormitory. But Phobos constantly making snide remarks in his direction – something he usually had absolutely not troubles ignoring – had somehow been getting at him tonight, so he’d left. Alone and without telling anyone where he was going. Ethos was probably throwing a fit by now. And Abel couldn’t even text him to tell him he was okay, because his phone was out of charge. Typical for him.

A sudden sound to his right made him freeze on the spot. His heart lurched.

The darkness suddenly was full of moving shadows – or so it seemed to him at least. Abel tried to calm his nerves. He took a deep breath. Another one. Then he almost laughed out loud when he noticed the empty plastic bag being picked up by the wind and flung high into the air.

Abel felt a little silly now. This stupid bag had almost given him a heart attack. He should really know better than to be creeped-out this easily. Moving shadows? Scary noises? This was the real world, not some cliché horror movie. And since when did he believe in the supernatural anyways?

Right, not ever.

Soon, and without further disturbances of any kind whatsoever, he could make out faint street lights in a distance. Abel heaved a sigh of relief.

Never again! he swore to himself. He’d much rather waste ten minutes of his life. Gosh, just listening to Phobos’ endless bragging about how he’s Professor Cook’s favourite had probably cost him more than that.

There was a metallic rattle somewhere behind him. A smile tugged at the corners of Abel’s mouth. Yeah, sure. He was not going to fall for the same trick twice. Nevertheless, he turned his head to check for the source of this new noise – and faltered in his steps when his gaze fell on the dark figure lurking in the shadows.

Involuntarily, he spun on his heels and backed away. The rather small stranger followed his movement in absolute silence, stepping into the moonlight and allowing Abel to take a glimpse at the boy.

His face was ghostly pale, with round, rather childlike features. Jet black hair covered the upper left part of his face like a veil, so only one of his eyes was visible. Abel almost mistook him for a teenager at first – until their eyes locked.

The boy’s eyes didn’t match his juvenile looks at all. They were of a strange greyish-blue colour that seemed to glow in the dim lighting.

And they were old.

Suddenly, the rattling noise returned. And this time Abel could see where it was coming from and his blood ran cold.

The boy was twirling a butterfly knife in his hand. The blade gleamed threateningly as it caught the starlight from above.

Abel swallowed. Hard. Somehow he’d never been afraid of being mugged or harassed before. That didn’t make the situation any better for him, though, because it left him utterly unprepared.

“Okay …” He raised his hands in a placatory manner. “I don’t really have a lot of money on me, but …”

The boy hissed, baring his teeth and revealing impressively long canines. In fact, they even seemed to grow longer by the second. But that just had to be some strange effect of the lighting – didn’t it?

Abel stumbled backwards – and tripped over a piece of debris, that was lying in the way.

Swinging his arms wildly, he tried to keep his balance. But the effort was pointless. He went down like a sack of bricks and hit his head on the ground.

The last thing he saw, before he lapsed into unconsciousness, was the creepy boy’s face looming over him; his canines long and pointed and his eyes shining crimson.

Chapter Text

He was five, when he told his parents “I’m not a girl” for the first time. His step-dad laughed at him, demanding that he should “cut it out and go play with the other brats already”. He cried himself to sleep that night.

When he turned six, he took his mother’s sewing scissors and cut his pig tails off. He was sent to bed without dinner. But his rumbling stomach was worth it, when he saw his reflection in the mirror the following morning. There was a little boy with sleek black hair and piercing blue eyes staring back at him. He’d never felt that happy.

His step-father started drinking when he was eight. His Mom blamed him. Said it was because he refused to behave like a good little girl. His instant answer “I am not a girl” earned him the first slap in his rather short life.

It wasn’t going to be the last one by any means.

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They’d cornered him, once he left the rarely ever used boys toilet in the far corner of the school’s south wing. Due to economy measures the number of teachers had been cut back the year before, so half the class rooms in this part of the building were left vacant.

“Hey, Aleksandra,” Vitali sneered. His voice was so full of venom, it made Aleks shudder. “You do know that this loo is for guys only, right?”

He fought back the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes. If he cried in front of Vitali and his lap dogs, he’d never live it down. So he gritted his teeth and tried not to show how scared he was. If he was going to be beaten up again anyway, he might as well bear it with as much dignity as possible.

“So?” It came out as a coarse whisper. “I am a boy! And I told you to not call me that anymore. My name is Aleks.”

They laughed. Of course they did. They’d never take him serious, no matter how hard he tried to make people around him forget that a girl named Aleksandra Langkowski had ever existed. But that only made him try harder.

“Yeah, sure, Leksi.” Vitali cocked a provocative eyebrow at him. “I’ll believe you the second you show me what’s inside your pants, dude.” His supporters sniggered, nodding in approval.

“Hear! Hear!” a tall, creepy looking guy with short shorn hair and a bad case of acne, shouted. “I wanna see that dick of yours, too. I bet it’s really impressive!”

Aleks felt the blush creeping up his face. The bullies stepped closer and he recoiled until his back hit the wall and there was no getting away anymore.

“No!” he yelled, when two of the brutes grabbed his arms and rooted him to the spot.

Vitali closed the last distance between them with a single stride. He was towering over Aleks, forcing him to look up at him with a vicelike grip on his jaw. His other hand cupped Aleks’ crotch and an involuntary whine escaped the smaller boy’s lips.

“Getting wet already, cunt? Want me to show you what a real man’s dick can do to you?”

Aleks eyes widened from fear when Vitali wet his lip and leaned forward. His hot breath smelled so awful it almost made Aleks gag. He tried to free his head from the other boy’s grasp, but Vitali didn’t let go.

NoNoNoNoNoNoNONONONONO!

More than anything, he didn’t want Vitali to kiss him. He was sure he’d die from disgust and repulsion, if he did. But there wasn’t anything he could do.

He closed his eyes tightly, clenching his mouth shut and begging for a miracle that never came. So, when his tormentor’s lips brushed his eventually, he did the only thing he could think of in his panic-stricken mind.

He bit down as hard he could.

A sickening taste of copper filled his mouth at the same time as Vitali shrieked with pain.

Aleks almost slumped to his knees, when Vitali and his friends suddenly released him. Somehow he managed to stay on his feed, avoid the hands grabbing at him and almost make a run for it.

Almost.

Vicious fingers got a hold of his hair and he was pulled back forcefully. An anguished scream escaped his lips. He tumbled and fell, and the next thing he felt was a fist connecting with his chin.

He tasted blood again – this time from when he bit his tongue at the impact. His vision went fuzzy. Black spots were dancing in front of his eyes and he blinked rapidly, only to see the pointed toe of a boot aiming at his side.

The pain was overwhelming. Excruciating.

They kicked at his face, his stomach, his back.

He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t scream. He couldn’t think. His world was being consumed by a fire so unbearably hot, it felt like the flesh was melting from his bones.

Someone fumbled with the fly of his jeans and a high-pitched whimper left his throat.

Godnopleasenonopleaseohgod …

A shadow fell over them and everything seemed to come to a standstill, when someone clicked their tongue disapprovingly.

“Five big ass guys beating a little boy to a bloody pulp? Wow, that’s fucking impressive, friends.” The newcomer started to clap his hands. Slowly. Mockingly.

Curled up into a protective foetus position and through a blur of tears, Aleks squinted up at the strange boy. His skin didn’t have the dusty-pale hue so typical for the inhabitants of Colony Five. It was darker, and his eyes were black like coals. His raven hair was shaggy with messy bangs framing his angular face.

“What. The. Fucking. Hell. Who do you think you are?” Vitali drew himself up to full height and crossed the arms in front of his chest, showing off his broad shoulders. His whole posture screamed superiority, but the strange boy didn’t seem intimidated in the least.

He smirked. “The name’s Sasha. And now leave him the fuck alone, asshole.”

With a snarl of rage, Vitali jumped the slightly smaller boy. But before he could even so much as throw a punch, Sasha had wiped his feet from underneath his body and Vitali dropped to the ground and stayed down, moaning pitifully.

The other bullies stood staring with their jaws dropped. Then they hastily scraped their leader from the floor and retreated down the corridor.

Aleks was sobbing from pain as well as relief.

“Fucking morons!” Sasha muttered under his breath. “You okay?”

His throat was still so tight he couldn’t speak, so he nodded frantically. His left eye was already swelling shut and he’d have a fat lip and bruises, but it could’ve been worse. He was alright – mostly.

“Then stop the fucking waterworks. What’s wrong with you, crying like a girl?”

“I’m not a girl!” he practically yelled.

Sasha raised a brow. “Whoa, yeah, whatever, calm the fuck down. What’s your name?”

“Aleks,” he rasped.

Pensively, Sasha tilted his head to the side, before he extended his hand to help Aleks up. “Guess, I’m gonna call you Myshonok.”

He turned around without bothering to check if the smaller boy was trailing along – he just took it for granted.

Aleks limped after him, silently smiling for the first time in what felt like forever.

Chapter Text


art by the talented beyondstarlight from tumblr *squeeeaaaals*


“… another violent blizzard going to hit the East Coast tonight. Authorities advise citizens to stay at home and …”

Sighing, Praxis turned the radio off and stepped over to the window. White, as far as the eye could reach. His front garden, the street, cars, roofs, trees – everything was smothered with a thick blanket of snow. And apparently, it wasn’t going to stop snowing anytime soon.

He lifted the patch that covered the ruin of his left eye, a souvenir from his last tour to Afghanistan, and rubbed the itchy scar. One reason to move to New England had been that he wanted to live somewhere he wouldn’t be reminded his time in Kunduz. He just wanted to forget about what he’d seen, what he’d heard. But he strongly doubted he’d ever be able to get rid of these scenes, his mind insisted to keep replaying for him every time he closed his eye.

Sometimes it was so bad, he hardly dared to sleep anymore. Then, he stayed up, watched ads and drank coffee until he was feeling dizzy from too much caffeine.

Occasionally he still had, what his therapist called, episodes. There was a loud noise – the neighbour’s lawnmower or the like – and the next thing he knew, he was lying under his kitchen table, taking cover from an attack that was never going to come anymore.

Praxis sighed again and turned away from the window, when a mewling sound let him suddenly stop in his tracks. He frowned, listening intently as to where the strange noise was coming from.

The veranda?

He hadn’t left the house in days, and the thought of sitting on the porch at twenty-six degrees Fahrenheit had not been very appealing either. So, when he opened the front door to find a furry little bundle on his threshold, he honestly couldn’t say for how long it had been lying there.

Carefully, he picked it up.

It was a kitten, its fur drenched and partially frozen. At first Praxis was almost positive, it had to be dead – until he felt a faint shiver going through the tiny body.

He practically bolted inside and kicked the door shut after him. Then, he put the shaking bundle on the couch and hurried to the bathroom to fetch some towels. Half way back to the living room, he went back and got the heating pad from the closet. He didn’t know if it was a good idea to use it, but it wasn’t as if there was anyone he could ask. His house had neither a phone connection nor internet access. All he owned was his rather prehistoric cell phone – and he didn’t know who to ask for help. Since he settled down here after being discharged from the rehabilitation clinic, he had kept pretty much to himself. He didn’t know his neighbours and he had no siblings, nor other family or close friends left from his life before the military.

The only person, he could think of, actually …

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“… and I don’t want to accidentally kill it, trying to do the right thing. Can you help me, please? You should know what to do, right? You’re a medic, after all.”

On the other end of the line, Ethos chuckled slightly. “Well, I’m not a vet, but I guess that doesn’t matter much in this particular case,” he said, and Praxis could practically picture his radiant smile in his mind. “The heating pad isn’t such a bad idea as long as you don’t turn it all the way up. Keep the kitten dry and warm, but not hot. That’s more or less the only thing you can do, Sarge.”

Praxis flinched at his former rank. “You don’t need to call me that anymore, Ethos. I’m Praxis.”

“Alright, Praxis. Sorry, but I’ve really got to go, now. My shift starts at 2100. Don’t be a stranger again, Sarge … um, I mean, Praxis!”

After Praxis had promised him to keep him updated on the kitten’s condition, they ended the call. Thoughtfully, Praxis watched the tiny pet bundled up in towels, so only it’s head was sticking out. Apart from a blotch of white from the forehead down to the nose it was completely black. And it’s right ear was kind of bent, so it was hanging down and partially covering one of the tiny creature’s light blue eyes. Praxis had never seen anything comparable on a cat. He hadn’t even thought it possible for cat ears to look like that. But who was he – a pet expert?

He’d rubbed it dry the best he could, before calling Ethos to ask for advice. Now, he plugged in the heating pad and turned it on a fairly low temperature before picking the whole cat-towel-bundle up and placing it on the pad. The instant reaction was a low purr coming from deep within the kitten’s throat.

A smile tugged on the corners of Praxis’ mouth; the feeling of it a little strange at first, because it’d been quite a while since he’d last had a reason to actually be happy about something. But it was something he thought he could get used to again pretty easily.

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That night, he actually went to bed for the first time in days. And he took his little friend with him and placed him on one of his extra pillows. The sound of its low purring lulling Praxis to sleep much faster than he’d thought possible.

He didn’t know for how long he’d slept, when he woke with a start in absolute darkness. His heart was hammering against his ribcage and his throat was so tight, he had actual trouble breathing. The deafening sound of detonating grenades and the anguished screams of his fellow soldiers was still ringing in his ears. For a second of madness he felt the warmth of blood on his face again – his own and that of his comrade and fest friend Pathos. The darkness surrounding him was suffocating.

Disorienting.

He was sure he was about to lose his mind, when suddenly something warm and fuzzy climbed his torso and settled down on his chest.

He felt the vibration, deep and rumbling, more than he heard it. It was calming. Soothing, almost. And after a couple of deep, laboured breaths, he actually started to feel better.

Stroking the purring kitten’s fur, he fell asleep again soon after.

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When he woke up again, he was the most relaxed he’d been in what felt like ages. During the night he’d wrapped himself in his covers like a human burrito. It was warm and comfy, and he didn’t want to get up just yet.

There was a comforting weight pressing down on his chest and he smiled when he remembered, he had a flat-mate now. He opened his eyes, and in the dim light filtering in through the gap in the curtains he saw a familiar mop of black hair and …

He froze.

One moment. Hair? And why was there an arm snuck around his waist and legs tangled with his?

He scrambled back on the bed, until he hit the headrest, shoving the sleeping figure off him unceremoniously.

The boy – the boy? his mind screamed – stirred, stretching his limbs and blinking slowly.

The one eye Praxis could actually see was light blue – the other one was hidden underneath a veil of sleek black hair. The boy was small, tiny almost, but not all too young. Praxis thought he was in his late teens, early twenties. And he reminded Praxis of someone – or something, actually.

“No,” he mumbled, positive, he truly must’ve had lost his mind for good now. “No, that can’t be real.” He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping against hope that when he opens them again, there’d be a kitten curled up on his duvet again.

But, of course, that didn’t happen. Instead, the strange boy – the strange naked boy, he only just realised – gave a shy smile.

“Who the hell are you?” Praxis asked a little breathless.

The kitten-boy pointed at his throat and shook his head.

“You cannot speak? But how do I know how to call you?”

“Whisper,” he rasped tonelessly and made a beckoning gesture with his finger.

Praxis arched an eyebrow. It probably wasn’t very reasonable to completely trust a naked stranger he’d miraculously found in his bed just a couple of minutes ago. But he couldn’t help it – he just did.

Could it possible get even weirder?

He crawled over and allowed the kitten-boy to wrap his arms around his neck. When his lips were really, really close to his ear, he mouthed: “Deimos.”

Praxis sat back in surprise. “That your name?”

The kitten-boy nodded, smiling radiantly. Then he leaned in again. “I wouldn’t have survived without your help”, he whispered, his breath tickling Praxis’ earlobes. “Thank you.”

“Oh, that was nothing … Deimos, right? You obviously feel much better now. My clothes are probably going to be a bit big on you, but if you want me to bring you somewhere … The mall, maybe. I mean, the weather is still pretty crazy and …”

He didn’t know, why he felt such a surge of sadness at the thought of saying goodbye to the boy. They basically only just met – and under more than bizarre circumstances, at that.

What was even more surprising was the fact that Deimos seemed miserable, too.

“What’s wrong?” Praxis asked hesitantly. “Do you not want me to take you anywhere?”

He shook his head vehemently and mouthed. “Stay?”

Praxis couldn’t have had stopped the grin that spread from one ear to the other, as he looked at Deimos. “Well, I guess … Why not?”

The kitten-boy jumped on Praxis with a delighted squeak and gave him a bone-crushing hug. Warmth flooded the ex-sergeant’s body. It would most likely be a little strange, to have someone living with him after all this time.

But, he thought, smiling to himself, strange in a very, very good way.

Chapter Text

“Mom, I’m sorry, but … No, I really can’t make it. You know I’d love to come see you and Dad for Thanksgiving. It’s just, there’s so much work, you know? Yes, sorry again, Mom. We’ll talk again soon, okay? Yeah, love you, too.”

   I almost cry, when I end the call with a swipe of my thumb. My phone slips from my fingers and lands on the floor with a thud. It sounds as about hollow as I feel inside.

   Afterwards, it’s always like this. When I speak with someone from my past life. My other life. The one without Cain.

   With a deep sigh I bury my face in my hands. I need to get a grip of myself. Cain’s going to be home any minute now. And I really, really, really don’t want another dispute about how much he dislikes me talking to my parents – or to anyone else, for that matter.

   I take a look around and wonder, when these four greyish white walls have ceased feeling like home, and become my prison cell instead.

   The clatter of keys announces Cain’s return from work. I rush to greet him at the door. I know his mood is going to be unbearable, if I don’t. I kiss his cheek and refrain myself from wrinkling my nose.

   He’s been drinking again. I can smell it on his breath.

   But I know better than to tell him off. Last time I tried, I had to use concealer to hide the bruise on my cheek for a whole week. He apologized afterwards. Said, he didn’t mean it. That it wasn’t going to happen again.

   He always means it, then. But it never lasts.

   So I keep quiet and smile sweetly. I need to get on his good side, so maybe – just maybe – this’ll be one of our better nights. It’s been so long since we’ve slept together and I’m longing to be kissed, to be touched. To be loved.

   Do I still love Cain? Honestly, I don’t know. So much has changed between us. He has changed. have changed, for certain. Sometimes I don’t even know myself anymore. If I could travel back in time and speak with Abel from three years ago, my former self probably wouldn’t believe what kind of life I’m leading today.

   It’s pathetic.

   am pathetic.

   At one point, Cain has taken complete control over my life, and I’ve let it happen. And now I don’t know how to take the power back.

   Should I leave him? Take my things and ask my parents to take me back in?

   They don’t know how much I hate everything. No one does. I keep up appearances. Towards my parents, my colleagues, my friends. Find excuses as for why I can’t visit, why they can’t call me, why I wouldn’t come to the corporate party. Lies. Lies. Lies. I’m twenty-seven now, and I don’t want their pity. I don’t want them to realize how weak I am.

   It’s already bad enough as it is.

   I take Cain’s leather jacket and put it on a hanger. A folded note falls from its pocket and sails down to the floor. I pick it up and open it.

   The handwriting is as neat and tiny as the person it belongs to.

Cain, I can't take this anymore. You have to choose. It's either him or me. Just now, I have and will always love you. D.

   I feel numb. I’ve known he’s been seeing Deimos behind my back. I knew it all along. But somehow it’s different to be finally confronted with the proof.

   Strangely enough, it’s not me I feel bad for, but Deimos. Maybe it’s a good thing, I’ve found this note today of all days. Because suddenly everything seems crystal clear to me.

   Cain sure as hell doesn’t love me anymore. He’s possessive, yes. Jealous. But love? I doubt, he’s reciprocating Deimos’ feelings, either, but it’s not my place to judge. I just know this has to end, one way or the other. And since Cain seems so adamant about maintaining our status quo, it’s on me to take action.

   “Abel, where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he sneers, when I enter our bedroom instead of going straight to the kitchen, to prepare his dinner.

   I take my trolley from underneath the bed, open the closet and throw all my belongings into the suitcase.

   Cain’s leaning in the door frame, watching me with an angry frown. “Cut it the fuck out, Abel! What the ever-loving fuck is wrong with you?”

   “Nothing’s wrong,” I tell him, actually surprised about the strong and steady sound of my voice. “I’m setting you free, Cain.”

   That said, I zip-up the suitcase and pull it along with me, out into the living room.

   “If you fucking leave now, don’t even bother to come crawling back to me, once you figured out your mistake!”

   I heave a sigh. I never wanted it to end this way, but on the other hand I know it’s either ending like this or not at all.

   “I’ll send someone to fetch up my other things,” I tell him.

   He grabs my upper arms forcefully. “You’re not leaving!”

   Any other time I would’ve caved in. But it’s now or never.

   I don’t have a clue where I’m going to go. Maybe I’ll check if Keeler’s willing to let me crash on his couch for a while. But one thing I know absolutely for sure.

   This is the right decision to make.

   Gently, I remove Cain’s fingers from where they painfully press down into my flesh.

   He’s too stunned to react when I get up onto the tip of my toes and breathe a kiss to his lips.

   “Farewell,” I whisper.

   He doesn’t move when I step through the door and out of his life.

   We’re free now, both Cain and I. I won’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. But it’ll get better, eventually.

   I’ll live – and that’s already so much more than I can claim to have done for a very, very long time.

Chapter Text

It’s Aleks’ first day at the E & K’s Sleipnir Café and he’s so nervous, he’s feeling slightly sick. If he’s completely honest, he isn’t even sure why Mr Keeler and Mr Encke gave him the job in the first place. He’s really not the most sociable person. No, scratch that. Huge gatherings of people make him anxious, he’s bad at making acquaintances, can’t speak in public and doesn’t take critique very well. If there’s ever been anyone to fit the term ‘antisocial’, it’s definitely him.

With a sigh and slightly shaky fingers he ties the slate coloured apron behind his back. Underneath, he’s wearing a light grey polo and black jeans, hugging his ass and thighs much more tightly than his own clothes ever would. It’s making him feel somewhat uncomfortable, but – hey! – he’s going to have to interact with total strangers for the next six hours, so his work-outfit is the very least of his problems.

“Aleks, are you ready?” His new colleague – a friendly blonde called Ethan – sticks his head inside the staff’s locker room, making Aleks flinch violently.

“Yes,” he rasps. His throat tends to tighten when he’s stressed. Perfect. He’s probably going to whisper all day.

Ethan arches his eyebrows. “You okay? I mean, you look really pale and …”

“I’m fine,” Aleks interrupts. He doesn’t want Ethan to think him weak. He probably comes across as rude instead. Brilliant. “Give me one minute, okay?”

Thank god, Ethan leaves him alone. When the door clicks shut, Aleks doubles over, pressing the palm of his hands to his knees, and tries to keep himself from hyperventilating.

This is going to be a disaster. He knows it. But he also needs this goddamn job, if he wants to pay his rent. He can’t move back to the dormitory. He just can’t. Believe it or not, but this job is unquestionably the lesser of two evils.

When he has his breathing under control again, he straightens up and closes his eyes for a second. You can do this, he tells himself. But who is he trying to fool, anyways?

The coffee shop is not open yet. Ethan has already started to take down the chairs that had been put on the tables the night before, so the cleaning crew could do their work properly. Without a word, Aleks walks over to help. Manhandling chairs he can do. Serving customers, not so much.

 

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Three hours later, Aleks is ready for a nervous breakdown. It’s been incredibly busy ever since Ethan has opened the front door at seven sharp. Aleks feels like he’s been standing in his colleague’s way for most of this time. Since no one’s shown him how to fix drinks yet, he’s in charge of the cash register. Ethan’s taking the customer’s orders and operating the pretty impressive coffee machine. All that’s left for Aleks to do is, telling the price of the drink and collecting the money. Easy. Theoretically. But unfortunately, telling the price involves actual telling – in other words, using your vocal chords in a manner that makes another person understand what you’re trying to bring across.

Hence, problem.

Big, big problem.

“The fuck was that? How about you take the blanket out of your mouth and try again, stupid emo!”

The man is much taller than Aleks – no wonder, almost anybody is – and staring down at him maliciously. He’s wearing a sharp business suit and his hair is slicked back with some kind of styling product. There’s a rapidly pulsating vein on his temple that Aleks watches, utterly enthralled.

“I …” The air leaves his lungs in what sounds like a screech. He swallows, but there is a lump about the size of a boulder in his throat. He feels a violent blush staining his cheeks and looks around desperately. Ethan went to fetch a new carton of whole milk from the storage a couple minutes ago. There’s nobody around to help him. He has to manage this situation all by himself.

Oh, how he wishes for the ground to open up and swallow him! But of course he isn’t that lucky.

The customer’s lips are moving. He’s clearly shouting at Aleks now, but he doesn’t hear a thing above the ringing sound in his ear. His heart is beating too fast or too slow, he isn’t sure. What he is painfully sure about is that he’s probably going to black out in front of a crowd of strangers.

He’s already feeling it creeping up on him. This strange lightness in his head, the numbness in his fingertips …

“Would you please stop it, already? For the love of god, don’t you see he’s ready to faint?”

The voice piping up isn’t very loud, but oh so determined. When Aleks opens his eyes, he didn’t even realise he closed in the first place, he’s startled to find himself sitting on the floor behind the counter.

A blond angel is kneeling next to him. A mop of unruly curls surround a round face with a little round nose and light blue eyes that watch him so intently – so worriedly – he feels a flush of warmth melting the ice in his veins.

“Are you alright?” he asks, tilting his head slightly.

Aleks nods and smiles shakily.

“If you promise me you’re not going to pass out the moment I turn my back, I’ll handle the rest of the customers for you until Ethan returns.”

Again, Aleks nods. He leans his back against the fridge and concentrates on his breathing while watching the blond angel work quickly and efficiently. When Ethan emerges from the depth of the storage room, they exchange a few words and the other blonde takes over.

“Come here.” Aleks’ saviour extends a hand and helps him up. Then, he leads him over to one of the tables next to the rest room that are always the last to be occupied, and makes him sit down. He goes back to the counter and when he comes back, he holds a bottle of water for Aleks and a steaming mug for himself.

“Feeling better?” he asks, sipping from his drink.

“Much better,” Aleks whispers. Now, that he’s calmed down a little, he’s feeling embarrassed. He bows his head, watching his hands intently. “I’m sorry.”

“What for? This guy is an asshole – and I’m usually not one for cussing. Thank god he’s not a regular. You did nothing wrong. By the way, I work here, too.”

Aleks looks up again and notices that his angel is blushing.

It’s cute.

He doesn’t know, where he takes the courage from, and the words leave his mouth in a rush, when he says: “IamAleks.”

“Brandon,” the other boy says, smiling. “But for some incomprehensible reason my friends call me by my last name – Ethos.”

“Ethos,” Aleks mouths. He likes the ring of it.

“Ethan already told me you’re cute, but I had no idea just how cute.” He gasps – obviously he never meant to speak out loud. He’s blushing even more furiously.

Aleks stretches his arm over the table and takes Ethos’ hand who looks up to him underneath batted eyes.

“I think you’re cute, too”, he tells him, blushing himself.

If work means seeing this incredible boy more often in the future, he thinks he probably can cope.

Chapter Text

For Ethan, it’s always been dancing.

While his schoolmates went to the beach or to the park to play volleyball or soccer, he took off to go to Monsieur Jules’ Academy of Dance right after the bell signalled the end of their last lesson. It didn’t matter if it was raining, snowing or if it was ridiculously hot. Every day, without fail, he practised pliés, Tendus und the different positions for hours on end.

Sometimes, it was already way past dusk, when he finally went home. And he’d gotten so used to constantly having blisters, bruised toes and aching joints that he almost didn’t feel the pain anymore – which was a good thing, considering he had to go through the same routine day after day, regardless of how swollen and sore his feet might be.

He didn’t really have friends and people had stopped inviting him to any activities outside school long ago. No one gets turned down for the umpteenth time and still tries again and again. Ethan didn’t blame them. Neither did it make him feel bitter. If at all, he might’ve felt a little lonely from time to time. But since he didn’t have time to concentrate on anything apart from school, homework and ballet, he very rarely allowed himself to dwell upon it.

It wasn’t as if his life was unsatisfactory as it was. Not at all. To him, dancing was his passion, his love – his life. And he wouldn’t exchange that for friends or even … yes, or even a boyfriend. Why should it have bothered him that he was seventeen and hadn’t even been kissed yet? Apart – on the cheek – from his Mom and Grandma of course. But that didn’t really count, right?

So, Ethan, all in all, was pretty satisfied with the way his life was going. He’d managed to get the male lead role of this year’s MJAoD’s ballet production – the youngest dancer to ever achieve this goal – and was on top of his class at most of his courses at school.

He had no interest in wasting precious time socialising with people who thought a plié was some weird French baking-good, thank you very much. And that probably wouldn’t have changed ever, if Monsieur Jules himself hadn’t come up with the crazy idea that Ethan should take part in some, apparently hyper-popular, dance talent show on TV called Move To The Music – in short MTTM.

Ethan had protested. When that didn’t work, he’d tried to reason with Monsieur Jules, but to no avail. He’d already enrolled his most promising student for MTTM. So, basically, Ethan didn’t have much choice than to go, if he didn’t want to get on his company’s headmaster’s bad side.

Which he didn’t.

ø¤º°♠°º¤ø

The deafening beats of some hip hop song boomed out over the cupboard-sized loudspeakers in the far corners of the warm-up room. A group going by the breathtakingly inventive name ‘Hip Hop Dance Connection’ was in the middle of their last practise run-through before having to perform in front of the jury.

Ethan was standing at the barre, stretching. His lower leg was resting on top of the rod while his upper body leant down until it was almost parallel with the bar. He tried to not let the droning music distract him from the state of utmost concentration he was in.

It wasn’t the first time for him to take part in a competition. Far from it. But usually those were strictly limited to ballet and contemporary dance. MTTM, however, was a whole different story since it was open to anybody who wanted to enter. It was a colourful clash of different not only dance but also life-styles. Ethan couldn’t help but wonder if and how the jury was going to take that into account when judging the contestants.

The last sounds of the tune faded away and the members of the hip hop group were called up to take their turn on the stage. Ethan didn’t even look up to see them leave (at an incredible noise level) and calmly continued with his stretching routine.

Only moments later the music started up again. This time it was a pretty upbeat song with a deep, thumping baseline and hard, pushing electronic effects.

Despite his better knowledge Ethan let his focus be broken and he raised his head to see who had chosen this particular song for their performance. It turned out to be a duo – two black-haired, dusty-skinned guys. One of them was rather small and scrawny. Long bangs covered almost half of his face, so only one piercing-blue eye was visible. His features were round-ish, almost a little childlike. His companion was almost two heads taller, with blue highlights adorning his bangs. His eyes were dark like Ethan’s, his cheekbones sharp and his chin angular. Ethan instantly felt attracted to him – a feeling he was not at all used to.

He couldn’t stop himself from staring at the boy who had started to dance now. His movements were fluid and seemed effortless, even though Ethan knew that certainly wasn’t the case. This guy’s dance style was not exactly Ethan’s field of expertise – yet he was an experienced enough dancer to see that his technique was elaborate, the execution of his moves flawless.

Only a heartbeat later the other boy joined in and soon they were both whirling around on the floor in such perfect sync, it left Ethan gaping slack-jawed.

This was … WOW!

He’d never been interested in dance styles other than ballet, but he had to admit that he was intrigued. Their performance had breakneck acrobatic elements as well as classical dance moves, jumps and turns.

The music was about to reach its climax, when the small guy suddenly yelped when his feet connected with the ground after a particularly high jump figure. He landed on the floor with a pained expression, gripping his right ankle.

“Myshonok, what the FUCK?!?”

The music played for another minute or so, before someone had the decency to turn it off. The hot boy with the black and blue hair was crouching next to his dancing partner, whispering to him quietly but harshly.

Ethan didn’t get the chance to see what was happening next, because his name was called – he had to get on stage.

ø¤º°♠°º¤ø

Ethan tried his best, he really did – but he also knew he could’ve done a lot better. But he was far from calm and composed when he stepped in front of the jury and started his routine.

He performed well, but sometimes his timing was slightly off, his en pointe a little shaky. Overall, the judges weren’t overly impressed by his performance. He was told that he had to wait until the end of the show to hear their final decision, since he was one of three shaky candidates.

When he came back to the warm-up area, the two black-haired boys were called up to the stage. The smaller one was limping slightly and Ethan noticed the worried glances his partner stole at him.

They returned around fifteen minutes later; the small guy leaning heavily on the taller’s arm.

“Fuck, Aleks,” he growled. “You should’ve fucking told me how bad it was.”

“To achieve what, exactly?” His partner – Aleks – all but whispered. “We made it, didn’t we? That’s all that matters, Vadim.”

Vadim. Ethan couldn’t help but quietly test how the foreign sounding name rolled from his tongue. Not too bad, he figured.

“No, it’s fucking not!” Rudely, Vadim shook him off, which made Aleks land unceremoniously ass-first on the floor. “What’s the use of us being one round further if you can’t put any fucking weight on your goddamn foot to dance? I tell you what! It’s no use AT ALL!”

He was furious, so much was obvious. And even though Ethan felt sorry for his partner, who surely didn’t deserve such a harsh treatment on top of all, he couldn’t deny that his heart beat faster at the display of raw emotions he’d just witnessed.

Since when did he have a thing for rude assholes?

Well, apparently, he did.

The timetables for the next round were announced. Since his further participation in the contest was not yet decided, Ethan’s name is not on the list.

He was getting more jittery the more time passed by. Eventually, a stagehand called him and two other contestants in front of the jury.

“Ethan,” the head-juror – a renowned choreographer – addressed him. “My colleagues and I strongly believe that your performance here today was not at the height of your capabilities. Unfortunately, we can’t take any possible skills that are yet to be shown, into consideration.” He heaved a dramatic sigh. “I am deeply sorry, Ethan, but you’re MTTM-experience ends here for today.”

Ethan nodded. He had not expected any other decision, so it wasn’t as if his hopes were crushed. Still, he felt slightly disappointed, because he knew he could’ve done better.

He went backstage again to grab his things and head home. He could only hope that his failure wasn’t going to make it into the show, but he was fairly sure it would.

“Cut this shit, Aleks, we’re leaving,” he heard the voice he instantly recognizes as Vadim’s hiss.

“No, Vadim, please!” Aleks was still sitting on the floor, massaging his ankle that had swollen to a least twice his usual size. The sight alone was painful. “Let us at least try and …”

“Look at your fucking ankle, Myshonok. There’s no way you’re gonna dance like this. Not today, not tomorrow, nor anytime soon. And our performance is scheduled for tonight at eight. Can’t you see this is fucking pointless, goddamnit?”

“But this is our chance,” Aleks says softly. “This is your chance, Vadim …”

“Do you think I do not know that?” he almost yells. But when he sees his partner flinch violently at his outburst, he heaves a heavy sigh. “You know what, fuck it, there’s always another time.” He ruffles the smaller boy’s hair. “It’s not your fault, so don’t look like I’ gonna skin you alive.”

Ethan can’t really explain what possesses him, when he drops his bag and crosses the room until he’s standing in front of the two boys. He clears his throat.

Vadim looks up, scowling. “Is there anything you want?”

Ethan’s heart is pounding like mad. This has been a bad idea, he scolds himself. He should’ve really minded his own business. But since he’s already started it, he ca as well move through with his spur-of-the-moment idea.

“Well, yes, actually … I was wondering if you … After all you’ve made it to the next round and …”

“Look, I don’t have time for this shit, princess. You either say what you problem is, right fucking now, or you leave us the fuck alone.”

Ethan doesn’t know if he feels offended or slightly flattered by his new nickname. He takes a deep breath. “Yes, you’re right, so … I was just thinking, since you already made it to the next round and all, it’d be a shame to let this chance slip through your fingers, wouldn’t it?”

“Well, no shit, princess. But as you can probably see, Aleks’ here is hardly in the condition to dance tonight – so all your bullshit-talk is absolutely fucking pointless.”

“And if you could find someone who … let’s just assume there was someone willing to stand in for him.”

“A sub.”

Ethan nods. Maybe, he thinks, this wasn’t such a terrible idea, after all.

That is, until Vadim starts to laugh. “You must be fucking crazy!” he replies, utterly serious again. “It’s less than four hours until our next performance. Even if we found someone who’s willing to compete in Aleks’ place – there’s just no way he’d be able to learn our routine in a couple of hours.”

“I could try,” Ethan said quietly.

Vadim’s eyes widened. “You?” He stared at Ethan for what felt like an eternity but most likely wasn’t much more than ten seconds, before bursting out with laughter.

Ethan felt the eyes of every person in the room on him. Uncomfortably, he shifted from one foot to the other, his cheeks heating up with humiliation. He’d never wanted to turn around and run away quite so badly. This guy was steaming hot, but he was also an asshole.

“Forget it,” he hissed. “I’m not dancing with an self-centered bastard like you.” Ethan turns on his heel, ready to get his back and make a run for it, when he suddenly feels someone grabbing for his wrist.

“Wait.” It’s Aleks. He’s looking up at Ethan pleadingly. “Please.”

“What the fuck, Aleks?!” Vadim’s death-glare wavers between Ethan and his dancing partner.

Aleks utters a few words in a language, Ethan doesn’t understand. Vadim seems to get more furious at first, but eventually his shoulders slump downwards and he heaves a sigh.

“Fucking fine,” he mutters.

Aleks, who is still holding Ethan’s wrist, smiles radiantly. “He agrees with your suggestion.”

For a moment, Ethan stared at him, incredulously. Then it dawned on him: He was back in the game.

Chapter Text

I know I’m being used. I know it, but it doesn’t keep me from running back into Cain’s arms every single time he calls for me. Guess I’ve never really had an actual sense of self-preservation in the first place. Otherwise I wouldn’t subject myself to the inevitable heartache when – every single fucking time – he leaves me behind to go back to Abel.

Abel.

I don’t know if I should hate or pity the pretty blonde. I’m sure he at least suspects there’s still something going on between Cain and me. He doesn’t confront him about it, though. Fuck me, if I understand why. But I don’t want to think about him. Not now, when Cain’s right here with me.

His kisses let me forget everything else, at least for this very moment. He runs his hands up and down my sides and I shiver. Every kiss, every touch makes me fall all the harder for him. It’s certainly not healthy, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it, so I just let myself get swept away by the current.

His fingers are rough, calloused, just like my own. I love the way they feel on my skin. Rough. Possessive. I want him to touch me everywhere at once. Always. And I’m aching to touch him too, but he’s made sure that I can’t.

My hands are bound to the headrest of my bed with the white tie he has to wear at the bar. My chest is heaving violently. A light sheen of sweat is covering my whole body. I’m naked while Cain is still fully clothed. He likes it like this. Likes to have me vulnerable, while he’s in total control. And I don’t mind giving him everything he wants, as long as it keeps him by my side for a little longer.

He’s the air that I breathe, the blood that’s pumping through my veins. Without him I feel hollow. Like an empty shell, useless until it gets filled with a meaning – a purpose. I won’t claim to understand what he’s done to me and how. All I know is that I only feel alive when I’m with him.

His hands are on both sides of my head. He’s holding my eyes captive with the dark intensity of his gaze. Slowly, oh so slowly, he bows his head and mouths the skin of my neck, my clavicle, my chest, leaving a trail of wet spots that seem to burn when exposed to the air.

I can’t help but let out a soundless whimper at every contact. I’m vibrating like a piano string ready to snap. My lids lower almost on their own account, but Cain’s not having it.

“Look at me!” he demands and my eyes snap open. I’m shaking in anticipation. I’ll take everything he’s willing to give and more. He’s my sun, and I am caught in his orbit by his overwhelming gravity until the end of days.

When his teeth clamp down on my nipple, my whole body arches up and I let out a hoarse, drawn-out cry. Tears well up in my eyes. It hurts so brilliantly, I forget how to breathe for a moment. My vision goes white and I vaguely feel my wrists yanking at my restraints. I want it to stop and don’t want it to stop at the same time.

I clench my jaw and harshly suck in air through my nose.

When I look down to Cain again, his lips are stretched into a smug grin. “Such a good boy,” he says. “You’re so good for me, Myshonok.”

Good – but never good enough.

I have no idea where that thought came from suddenly. But I don’t get to dwell on it, when Cain spreads my thighs, climbs between them and rubs his jean-clad crotch against my straining erection.

I howl out. It’s pain and pleasure alike, and I’m loving it.

“More,” I moan, raising my hips to increase the friction. “Ngghhh … Please …”

But he wouldn’t be Cain if he just did what I asked him for. He retreats. I try to follow, the bonds that tie me to my bed momentarily forgotten. A whine escapes my lips when they hold me, force me back on the mattress.

He chuckles, deep and rumbling. “Always so fucking needy. You can’t wait for my cock to split open that tight little ass of yours, huh?”

His words make my head spin like crazy. I can’t deny it. It’s him that I want, no one else has ever been good enough – and no one else ever will.

But for him it’s not like that, remember?

The bitter thought makes my stomach churn. Cain’s been my first, and ever since he’s been the only one that counted. But he never felt the same way for me that I feel for him. I’m his convenient whore. The one he can live out his dark little fantasies with. With me, he doesn’t have to hold back. I wouldn’t want him to, and he knows it. But he’s made clear right from the start that this is something solely physical. He fucks me, then throws me aside. I sometimes wonder what it’s like between him and Abel. If it’s fucking – or if it’s making love.

He shoves his index finger into me without warning. There’s lube in the drawer of the bedside table, but he hasn’t asked for it. The dry intrusion rips a guttural scream from my throat, but at the same time I push my hips down, impaling myself on his finger. Wanting more. Needing more.

Quickly, before I really had time to get used to the feeling, he adds his middle finger and starts stretching and scissoring. Shameless moans fall from my lips. I close my eyes again and let my head loll from side to side.

“Mhnnnhaa!” I practically yell, when he closes his fist around the base of my cock and starts pumping in time with his thrusting fingers. “Enough,” I breathe. “Cain, please!”

He pulls his fingers out, leaving me empty and wanting, and shimmies out of his shirt and jeans. My mouth waters when I realize that he’s not been wearing anything underneath his pants. His cock looks incredibly hard. It curves up proudly, the tip touching his flat belly, leaving a smear of pre-cum on his skin.

Involuntarily, I lick my lips. And of course, this doesn’t go unnoticed.

“You want it bad, don’t you?”

I nod. There’s no such thing as dignity when it comes to Cain. Why deny what’s blatantly obvious anyway?

Slowly, he crawls up to my chest, the look of his eyes almost predatory. He positions himself so that his cock is practically in my face. The scent of him, heavy and musky, makes me feel heady. I lift my head from the pillow and open my mouth to lick a stripe from the base up to the tip.

“Fuck, yes!” he barks out and the sound sends a rush of heat straight down to my neglected hard-on.

I almost instantly take him in completely. His sheer girth nearly makes me choke, but I force myself to slacken my throat. Looking up at him, I try to communicate with him through my eyes. And he understands. With a growl, he starts fucking my face in earnest.

My eyes water and saliva drips from the corner of my mouth, but I keep going. Keep letting him use me as he likes, wallowing in the knowledge that it is me, who’s making him snarl profanities. His thighs are shaking with the effort of forcing his dick in and out my mouth with wild abandon. This is probably the most powerful I ever feel.

Abel might be the one he’s going back to, but I’m the one fulfilling his every need. I’m his dirty little secret. The one he jerks off to when he’s under the shower, thinking about the marks he’s left on my scrawny body.

I can feel his dick twitching and know he’s ready to blow his load. But before this can happen, he pulls out of my mouth with a wet plop, scrambles down so he’s kneeling between my knees. He grabs my thighs and lifts them up, placing my lower legs over his shoulders.

Then he lines up his cock with my hole and shoves it in, up to the hilt.

A broken moan breaks free from my mouth, and I can hear him groan as well.

“Fuck, still so tight …”

He waits for the fraction of a second, then he’s pulling out until his cock almost slips out and pushes back in.

My eyes roll to the back of my head when he brushes my prostate with a well-aimed thrust. He’s only just started and I’m so fucking close already.

There’s a coil of heat, building within my groin. My breathing gets erratic. Cain hits my sweet spot head-on every time, and I can’t help but scream from bliss. I try to meet his movements, but I’m quickly losing any control over myself.

I know I’m done for when Cain presses both his thumbs into my already oh-so-full hole and starts stretching it even further.

My whole body spasms, while hot come splatters over my belly, my chest. For a moment my heart simply stops and I almost wish it’d never resume its beating.

What a way to go.

But, of course, it starts thumping against my ribs again, like a fragile little bird trying to escape its cage.

Cain fucks me through my high until he himself comes with a shout. I can feel him fill me with blissful heat and almost orgasm for a second time.

This is all I ever wanted. All I ever needed.

But is it, really?

He pulls out and ruffles my hair before getting up from the bed and stalking over to the tiny bathroom of my apartment. A second later I can hear the tell-tale sound of the shower.

I take the box of tissues from my bedside table and clean myself up. Apart from the running water it’s absolutely quiet. And while his cum is running down my thighs I can’t help my thoughts from running wild.

It’s always like that. I’m not coming down, I’m crashing. And the higher I get, the deeper and harder I fall.

My eyes fill with tears but I blink them away. I can’t cry. But I can’t go on like this, as well.

On the spur of the moment I reach for the notepad next to the tissues and grab a pen. I know, I’m probably going to regret this the second Cain’s out the door. But right now I know with strange clarity that this needs to stop.

I write:

The shower stops running the moment I finish scribbling. Quickly I fold the piece of paper into a little square and shove it in the pocket of his jacket that’s lying on the floor next to the bed.

My heart is pounding like mad when he returns from the bathroom. There’s no turning back now – and while I’m scared, I’m also relieved.

When he’s dressed and ready to leave, I jump up from my place on the bed. I usually refrain myself from making our parting an overly emotional one, because I can tell he doesn’t like it. But today I can’t just let him leave like this.

I practically fly over to him, rising up onto my tiptoes to kiss him goodbye. I lay all of my feelings, my love, my hopes, my desperation into this one little kiss – hoping against hope that he’s going to make the right choice.

That this is not going to be our last time.

Chapter Text

Ever since they’d invaded Colteron space, Keeler’s nerves had been as tense as a piano string. They all knew things could go south pretty much any minute. And even though the Starfighter crews on board the Sleipnir consisted solely of volunteers, it didn’t really make things any easier on Keeler.

Officially, he himself was only responsible for the Navigators. The Fighters were Encke’s thing to deal with. But in reality, it wasn’t that easy to differentiate.

They were all human beings. And they were all so terribly, terribly young.

He knew the numbers. It was more than unlikely for more than twenty-five percent of them to survive this mission. One in four. It made Keeler’s heart break. And to think, he might be one of those survivors while Encke ended up dead, made him want to jump out of the nearest air-lock.

He couldn’t even tell, who were the lucky ones anymore – those who got out of this hell alive, or those who died.

Of course, he never let his feelings influence his work. If possible, he was working harder than ever. All in the very, very, very slight hope that anything he was doing might make a difference for at least one of his men.

And when the Commanders asked Encke and him to select two Starfighter teams for a job that was pretty much a suicide mission in itself, he didn’t show how much it affected him in front of anyone.

But he couldn’t hide what he was feeling from Encke. As soon as the door of their room closed, Keeler found himself enveloped by his Fighters strong arms. And he couldn’t help but to melt into the embrace.

“Are you okay?” Encke asked, his voice reverberating in his chest, so Keeler could hear as well as feel it.

“No,” he said. “I’m not okay. I don’t want to do this, Encke. It’s bad enough as it is, already. I can’t stand to be the one to choose who will live and who will die.”

“I know. I don’t wanna to do this anymore than you do, baby, but this is our job. This is what we’ve signed up for.”

Keeler shook off Encke’s arms and took a step back. He looked up, then, searching for his partner’s eyes.

“It’s not what I signed up for,” he all but whispered. “I thought I could help saving people. Make a difference. This is awful. I’m no better than the ‘Terons. In fact, I’m worse. They kill in the heat of the moment – I do the same, but with cold blood.”

“You’re not killin’ anyone,” Encke disagreed. “It’s not your fault this war is happenin’, baby. We just do what we have to do.”

“But what does that make us? Pretty much every aggressor in human history would’ve probably told you the same. What if the Colterons tell their people exactly that? That they’re only doing what they have to do?”

Keeler’s breathing was harsh and laboured when he was done with his speech. The long-familiar tight feeling in his chest was a certain sign that he’d been over-exerting himself. It was almost laughable.

Here he was, a delicate, genetically enhanced weakling with a heart condition, leading healthy young men to their untimely death.

It should be me, he thought, supressing a sob. It should’ve been me all along.

Slowly, Encke guided him to the bed and lay down next to him. Keeler felt his partner’s arm sneak around his waist, felt him drawing soothing patterns on the small of his back. He closed his eyes and listened to their combined breathing. Encke’s slow and regular, his own still too fast, but becoming less erratic by the second.

“I’m just scared,” he whispered after a while.

Encke placed a kiss on top of his head. “I know, baby. I know.”

“Are we going to do this, now?” Keeler asked. “Cook and Bering expect our answer in less than an hour.”

“Just two more minutes,” Encke said. “Two more minutes of peace.”

Chapter Text

 

 

“Niemand hat die Absicht eine Mauer zu bauen …”  

 

ø¤º° ♠ °º¤ø

 

With the back of his hand Sascha wiped the layer of sweat from his forehead, leaving a smear of dirt behind. The air inside the narrow tunnel was stifling hot and humid. Unbearable. Still, he came back day after day after work with his shovel and buckets, ready to do whatever if only it brought him back to Ethan.

Ethan …

He had counted the time since he had last seen the blond GI. It’d been five months, three weeks, five days and sixteen hours. And he still remembered that moment as if it was just yesterday. The blonde’s broad smile; the last stolen kiss in a corner close to Checkpoint Charlie. Ethan whispering to him that he’d be coming back for him. That, next time, he’d find a way to take Sascha with him. Over the border into the American sector. To West-Berlin.

But that next time never happened.

He took two buckets, filled to the brim with soil and rocks, and started crawling back to the entrance of the tunnel. The journey didn’t take nearly as long as he would have wanted it to. Despite being at it for more than three months now, he hadn’t covered much more than five metres. And the house might be close to the border, but he would need to dig at least another fifty to reach the cellar of the building on the other side.

If he continued in this pace, he’d have the tunnel completed in a little less than three years – not even taken into account that the way to get rid of soil and rubble would get longer with every metre he achieved. Also, he would soon have to think of a way to support the tunnel’s ceiling.

With a sigh, he climbed up the ladder and emptied his buckets on a slowly but steadily growing pile.

It was only the thought of Ethan that kept him going. Sascha’d learned from a friend, who’s heard it from a friend’s friend, that the GI had been denied admittance to the East from one day to the next. He would not be able to get Sascha out of here anymore.

Not that Sascha wasn’t used to being on his own. His father had been accused of treason when he was nine. One year later, his mother had died of cancer. He’d lived in a shitty orphanage after that. With his only living parent in the slammer, chances that he’d find a nice family to adopt him had been next to nought. His big mouth hadn’t helped much, either. No one wanted to adopt a trouble-maker.

And no one wanted to adopt a mute kid either.

That was probably how Aleks and he had become friends in the first place. Being brothers in misery. Both on the shit-list of that sadistic jerk of a director who thought corporal punishment was the single most effective educational method existing.

Alex.

They’d been lovers even, for a brief period of time, shortly after reaching legal age and leaving the orphanage. It hadn’t worked out, though. Not for Sascha, at least. He knew that Alex still had more than just friendly feelings for him. Even after he’d seen Ethan and him together more than once in the Mausefalle.

Even after walking in on them making out. 

 

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Ten months earlier 

There was this shabby hole-in-the-wall pub in Kreuzberg, far off the main street, that hardly a non-local ever stumbled over. The pub was merely façade, though. A nondescript door next to the toilets led to a spiral staircase, reaching deep down into the bowels of the building.

Another steel-door at foot of the stairs was opened only to those, who knew the secret knock that was another well-kept secret in and on itself. It was passed along from one carefully chosen client to the other. What had happened two decades ago had left the older members of the gay community of Berlin rather wary and mistrustful. And even though Sascha wasn’t one of them – had been born in the last painful throes of the Great War – he had had to experience that his sexuality was still very much frowned upon even today. They pretty much kept to themselves and hid their true selves from the world. But behind that plain, unremarkable steel door lay a world on its own, where they could drop all their pretences and just be.

Sascha had been introduced to the club Mausefalle by a guy he’d casually hooked up with in the toilet stalls of a cheap restaurant. They’d put themselves at risk to be discovered by anyone entering the room, and his new acquaintance – Keller or Kolle, he wasn’t sure anymore – handed him a business card with only an address on it. Nothing more.

“If you ever find yourself in need of a place where it’s safe to let yourself go, try this.” Then he’d told Sascha about the secret knock that would open the door to a brand new world for him and left. Sascha had never seen the guy again. But he’d thanked him inwardly at least a thousand times, for the Mausefalle became something like a second home to him and Alex.

That particular cold and rainy October night, they were both on their way to the club, when suddenly a group of six shady looking guys approached them. Both, Alex and him, were more than capable to hold their own in a fight. But the ratio wasn’t in their favour. Three on one – even with Alex being rather skilled with the butterfly knife he carried with him at all times, their chances were minimal at best.

They were fucked.

Royally so.

But Sascha wasn’t one to back down, and he knew very well, Alex would never let him down. So they fought.

Alex, the quick little fucker that he was, took a slash at the first of their attackers before those had even grasped what was happening. A bloody gash appeared, where the blade had sliced first cloth, then skin. The guy – a bulky blonde – was still gaping at his wound, when the heel of Alex’ boot connected with his chin.

He flew backwards, crashing into some trash-cans and collapsing onto the floor, apparently out cold.

One eliminated, five more to go.

Unfortunately, the inglorious fate of their companion didn’t distract the others for very long. And while Sascha was busy keeping his two opponents in check, he soon heard the metallic clatter of a blade hitting the ground.

He risked a quick look in Alex’ direction and cursed under his breath when he saw him lying on the ground, protecting his and guts the best he could, while three pairs of feet were kicking at him mercilessly.

With a vicious snarl Sascha pushed at one of his attackers forcefully enough to make him stumble into his sidekick. They went down in a tangle of limbs, and Sascha made sure they wouldn’t get up again anytime soon. Then, he directed his attention at those assholes that kept tormenting Alex.

He threw himself at the closest one’s back without hesitating even a second. But with Alex hurt, possibly unconscious, and definitely unable to help, he already knew he was fighting a losing battle from the start.

A kick to the stomach made the air leave his lungs in a whoosh. The pain was excruciating, but he clamped his mouth shut as to not give his opponent the triumph of hearing him cry out. The next kick aimed for his chest, and this time he couldn’t keep a howl of agony inside.

There was no way they would get out of this piece of crap of a situation without at least some permanent souvenirs in form of scars adorning their bodies.

If they made it out alive, that was.

Sascha mentally prepared himself for the next kick – but it never came. Instead he, suddenly, heard heavy footsteps that were approaching them from the entrance of the alley.

“Hey!” someone shouted – and the next thing he knew was their assailants scattered away, cursing and swearing.

Sascha wanted to get up, but a sharp pain made him crumple back to the floor. His chest felt like someone had stabbed him with a knife, but there was no wound, not blood. Fuck, that last kick had probably fractured at least one rib.

“A-Alex …?” He gritted his teeth against the pain and crawled over to the motionless lump lying next to the wall, trying not to pass out half-way. God, his ribcage hurt like a bitch! “Alex, verdammte Scheiße, you better not be dead, you hear me? Don’t you dare fucking die on me!”

Then, there were arms, trying to help him up. He yelled – half in pain, half in frustration. “I’m fucking fine! Go, look after Alex, he’s the unconscious one, goddamnit! I’ve had it worse. Do I need to dance a fucking Polka for you to prove it?”

“I may take you up on that offer,” a soft voice with a broad American accent said. “Just maybe not right now. Can I take a rain check?”

Sascha would never forget the first time he saw him. Cropped white-blond hair, dark eyes and a worried smile that made Sascha’s heart slam despite the shitty situation.

“My name’s Ethan,” he said, still smiling. “How are you feeling?”

Sascha didn’t know. He’d never felt quiet like this before.

Like I’m falling, he thought. And fast …