by Chris White
trying to hear whether their quarry had fled down the left or right
hall, but all was silent. Pointing fingers to Bee and Haney, he gestured
them down the left fork, while he led Jake down the right.
floor secure," announced Sola over the headset.
to the fifth," Black ordered.
Lack of word
from Starr made him nervous, but he didn't have time to pamper the
empath. Starr would just have to learn how to deal with Sola on his
flickering overhead lights lent the hallway a drunken aura. Fortunately
none of his team had been hurt in the explosion. If he had his way,
the perps wouldn't have time to set another charge.
sighted at A-21," announced Bee, breathless. "In pursuit."
passing Jake and tearing around the corner just in time to see Bee
and Haney vanish to the left at the end of the hall. As they passed
what might be a parallel route, he waved Jake to take it, and then
prepared to take the next.
rocked the building, knocking Black off his feet and showering him
with ceiling chips and dust.
down," said Sola over the headset. "Fifth floor, C-29."
A chill shot
through Black's pulse. Starr.
apprehended," Handy added a moment later. "Four of them.
Prepping for transport."
is Leopard's condition?" asked Black, pleased that he managed
to keep his voice level.
his time answering. Black gritted his teeth and tried to decide if
he should assist the others in handling the prisoners, or go and make
sure that the Wolf wasn't slaughtering the injured lamb.
but vitals are stable," Sola finally responded. "Idiot ran
right for the tripwire."
His legs wobbled
slightly as Black got up and pulled out his PRU. Two bombs. No one
lost. At least, not yet.
screen showed that the transport vehicle was on its way, along with
medics. Whatever Dickerson wanted with these dealers, they had better
be worth leading his men into two different traps.
In a way,
Black was pleased that even Jake was tense while they loaded the dealers
up to move out. If everyone was concerned for Starr, that meant that
his team was getting stronger as a unit. The sight of Starr's limp,
pale form being loaded into the evacuation unit, however, tied his
stomach in knots. He didn't let himself stop to ponder the why's.
the transport to make sure it gets there," said Black to the
others. "Wolf, take command."
of eyes blinked at him in shock. He didn't feel like arguing. Sola
was perfectly qualified, and maybe giving the man the nod would calm
some of that alpha male edge for a bit. "I'm going in with Leopard."
his mouth to say something, but Black turned and hopped into the back
of the evac. As the medics closed the hatch, he was pretty sure he
caught sight of Jake shooting him the bird while Sola barked orders.
He smirked and shook his head.
signs are normal," said the medic as the evac transport surged
into motion. "Pupils dilated. He might just have a concussion,
but we'll want to run some tests to make sure."
not trusting his voice to remain steady. He'd never seen Starr so
still, not even when flying on Bliss. Was he really missing that cocky
grin and teasing tone?
If there was
ever proof that he was a masochist, Black supposed that was it. Still,
he couldn't stop hoping that a hand would snake out and try to grope
him. Then at least he would know that Starr was okay.
stop pacing, even if it did make him look like he belonged down in
the maternity ward waiting on a newborn.
to the others bicker over the headset wasn't enough of a distraction.
Sola had led them with military efficiency, and they were preparing
to stand down and return to the house.
sure you don't want one of us to come wait with you?" asked Jake,
sounding a little too hopeful.
got it covered," said Black. "Head home."
doctor appeared in the hall. Black watched him, and only realized
he was holding his breath when the man turned and came straight toward
Sir. What's the news?"
of bruising, a severe concussion, and a few broken ribs," answered
the doctor. "I want to keep him here for at least overnight for
What were the chances that some of Starr's old friends might find
Captain suggested that your man be kept under guard," said the
doctor. "Should I call security?"
said Black. "I'll take care of it."
nodded. "Room 638."
As Black watched
the doctor leave, he wondered whether Dickerson wanted Starr watched
for his own protection, or to make sure he didn't try to escape. Either
way, Black headed for the elevators. Might as well take the first
watch over Starr. At least if the empath was smothered in his sleep
after making too many lewd comments, he would know who did it.
to focus on the team's latest training vid, but suddenly realized
that he couldn't remember what section he was on. He rubbed his eyes
and looked to his PRU. No updates from Haney. Starr was still out.
still up?" asked Jake from the hall.
work to do," said Black, rewinding the vid. The last thing he
needed was Jake's unwarranted jealousy right now.
the last time you slept?"
his jaw and stopped the vid at the spot he last remembered paying
attention. "I caught some sleep at the hospital. I'm fine."
just annoying him further. "Sure, Lieutenant Black let himself
sleep during guard duty."
play." Black sat back to return to taking notes. When the couch
shifted under Jake's weight, he pretended to be too engrossed to talk.
Black, it's not your fault."
it's not my fault," snapped Black. "I'm trying to watch
to Jake in surprise. When he opened his mouth to argue, Jake leaned
forward, forcing him to sink back into the couch if he wanted to avoid
not your fault. You're not going to be any good to anyone if you don't
get some sleep. If anything changes, we'll wake you up. I promise."
and concern in Jake's eyes made Black's spine itch, but he had a point.
When the man leaned away, Black sighed. "Fine. Wake me up if
there's any news."
got it," said Jake.
it hard to believe that he would manage any sleep at all. Yet, once
he let himself lie down, it was only moments before slumber overtook
A sharp knock
shot Black out of bed. The room spun for a moment as he got his bearings.
Starr," said Jake from the other side of the door. "He's
himself that his heart did not just go pitter-patter. "I'll be
wait out front for you."
Jake was gone
before Black could argue. Could it be that the man was actually worried
about his imagined rival?
and pulled on some clothes. As much as he hated to do it, he also
grabbed some tabs of Bliss. If Starr was in significant pain or disoriented
enough, his ability to block what was happening in the rest of the
hospital would be dampened.
himself not to run down the hall. Jake had insisted on coming inside,
and Black was not going to give him any reason to think that his concern
was anything more than professional. Bee waited in the hall once they
reached Starr's room.
are you doing out here?" asked Black.
doctors are giving him the twice-over," said Bee with an awkward
his head. "He was acting a little ... odd."
asked Jake. "Odd for a regular guy? Or odd for Starr?"
his eyes, and Bee grinned. "Odd for Starr."
The door swung
open and the same doctor from before stuck his head out. "Ah,
Lieutenant Black. Would you come in?"
and followed him, noting the way that Jake and Bee tried to catch
a glimpse of what was happening before the door shut. Starr still
looked wan and pale, but those familiar green eyes were at least open
and focused on something, even if that something was a nurse's hand.
many fingers?" asked the nurse.
a pretty serious concussion you have there, son," said the doctor.
off to the side as the doctor moved in closer.
explains why my head feels like it's home to a construction project,"
said Star, slurring his words slightly.
your name?" asked the doctor.
I'm not sure," answered Starr groggily.
in a sharp breath breath, hoping that this was one of Starr's little
jokes at his expense.
remember what happened?"
his lids for a moment, and then lifted them. A little furrow appeared
in the middle of his brow. "No. What happened?"
is this gentleman?" asked the doctor, pointing to Black.
I don't know. Do I know you?"
frowned. "I'd like to keep him for at least another day for observation."
or where he
right," said Black, shifting with uncertainty.
he seems too muddled to be sensing anyone's emotions. Until he's better,
I don't want anyone near him without a Bliss tab on," said the
doctor. "What they sense after their brains get banged around
can end up amplified or twisted. The results can be," the doctor
paused, the ghost of some painful memory passing across his place,
we dose him instead, then?" asked Black.
said the doctor. "Bliss doesn't mix well with the other drugs,
and it will override his body's natural warnings. I take it that he's
assumption was natural, Black bristled at it anyway. Still, it was
true, so he nodded.
add a little something to his drip to ease the withdrawls then. Why
don't you head home, Lieutenant? No doubt he'll sleep for most of
the day. Make sure your men don't disturb him while sitting guard
Sir," said Black as the doctor stepped toward the door.
notify you when there are any changes."
and followed the doctor out. Jake and Bee looked at him expectantly,
and he found himself not sure of what to say. "He's pretty messed
up. Let's stick with the rotations for now, the doc will let us know
when we can get Starr out of here."
be okay?" asked Bee with concern.
said Black with more certainty than he felt.
to make sure that Bee and Jake were both wearing their Bliss tabs.
Jake wasn't, which was a testament to how quickly they'd left the
house. "No one's supposed to go near Starr without their tab
on until the doctor gives the okay, so I guess you're staying here,
got it," said Bee.
toward the elevators, not checking to see if Jake followed. Starr
didn't recognize him. Starr didn't even wink at him. Was this his
fondest dream, or his worst nightmare?
From the unsettled
gurgling in his stomach, he wasn't sure.
with the tab as the elevator approached Starr's floor. He could have
sent someone else to pick up the empath and then just avoided the
problem, but Starr was part of his team and he was responsible for
what had happened. As the doors slid open, Black slapped on the tab
before he could change his mind. The thing made his skin crawl, but
he wasn't going to risk hurting Starr any worse.
Jake was waiting
at the door on guard as Black approached. "They should have him
ready by now."
you seen him?" asked Black.
his head. "Just really briefly, when they wanted to ask if Starr
in Jake's eyes answered the question before his mouth did. "Nope.
He didn't even make any comments, or ask about ..."
on the door, not wanting to be reminded that a healthy Starr would
be whining that he wasn't there. The nurse from earlier popped it
open, and let him in.
Lieutenant," said the doctor. "Are you sure you're ready
to take on this patient yourself?"
in a wheelchair, purple and yellow bruises still flowering on the
side of his neck and his arms. While the look in his eyes was alert,
his demeanor was all too calm. Black had a brief impulse to grab the
empath and shake him at the soft, curious look in those green eyes,
but resisted. "He'll be safer back at the house. We've all got
medical training, it should be fine."
remember this fine gentleman?" asked the doctor, looking at Starr.
me earlier, didn't he?" asked Starr.
not from before then?"
as Starr looked him over with an unsettlingly platonic gaze.
sighed. "No. I don't."
run into any trouble," said the doctor, "call me immediately.
I've sent instructions to your PRU for his care."
"Bringing him back to the house should jog his memory, I'd think."
well might," agreed the doctor.
do my best," said Starr.
get you back to the house," said Black.
were full of questions as an orderly took over Starr's wheelchair
and they left the room. Black just shook his head, and Jake fell in
beside him. What were they going to do with an amnesiac Starr? What
happened if they were called out on a mission? What if he never remembered
As he helped
Starr into the car without a single attempt at a feel, Black tried
to tell himself that this Starr was much more pleasant than the old
one. The words rang hollow in the empty hole that his new teammate
had once filled in his head.
Black gripped the wheel hard through the silent drive home. A testament to Jake's discomfort was the fact that he actually had told Starr to sit up front. The quiet calm oozing from the empath was enough to make
to pull over and scream.
we are," said Black as they pulled up to the house.
a little furrow again appearing on his forehead.
it time," said Jake, sliding out of the back seat.
as well, and noted that Bee and Haney had both appeared on the porch.
Their jaws dropped, and he looked over to see Jake helping a tentative
Starr out of the car. For a brief moment, Black wondered if Jake,
too, had taken a blow to the head during the mission.
Calyx," said Bee as he and Haney bounded over.
are you feeling?" asked Haney.
shoved his hands in his pockets. He looked terribly lost, like a child
who found himself in the wrong neighborhood and couldn't imagine how
he would get home. Black resisted answering for him, in hopes that
the more Starr interacted with the rest of the group, the sooner his
memories would return.
feeling okay," said Starr.
faces fell after a moment. Starr looked away.
still don't remember us," said Bee. "Do you?"
on," said Black, placing his hand on the empath's shoulder. "We'll
give you the house tour. Maybe that will shake something loose."
right," said Starr.
The open compliance
Black felt as he led his companion into the house made his stomach
twist into knots again. As the tour proceeded, Starr obediently let
them lead him about, touching what they suggested he touch, looking
at what they suggested he examine. Nothing brought back that mischievous
spark to his eyes.
Black realized that the empath was trying very hard to remember just
to make them feel better, and was becoming exhausted with the effort.
Bee, Haney, and Jake didn't seem surprised when Black nodded for them
to walk away for a while. They left without argument, giving Black
the beginnings of a headache.
look tired. Now's as good a time as any to see your room," said
reaching up to rub the back of his neck. "If you don't mind,
I could really stand to lie down."
and couldn't seem to meet Sola's feral grin.
now, Sola," grumbled Black.
door slammed shut.
was that about?" asked Starr.
not have taken his medication," sighed Black.
The shy smile
that answered left Black itching to head to the target range and gun
down any simulated movement. "Here we are. Your room."
trembled slightly as he reached for the knob. Black forced himself
to stand back and let the empath enter in his own time. As the door
swung open, Starr took a step backwards. "This is my room?"
said Black, shifting from one foot to another. "Do you want company,
or to be alone? My room is just across the hall if you need anything."
and took a slow step toward the garish, glittering mess before him.
"It's all right. I'm really tired. I should rest."
into his room, trying to ignore the recriminations flying about his
head. He should never have paired Starr with Sola. Who knows what
that asshole did to the empath? Or had Starr really just not seen
be in the field. They can be too easily distracted without enough
Bliss in their system to render them useless as officers. A sudden
blast of fear or pain from anyone nearby could get Starr killed, or
all of them killed for that matter--if the empath didn't distinguish
quickly enough between his own emotions and those he was picking up.
his door and leaned back against it. If Starr came through this okay,
he would give the empath a choice: desk duty, or more intensive training.
But what if Starr didn't come through this okay?
He let himself slide down until he was sitting on the floor. If the empath didn't regain his memories, then he would have essentially caused the death of Calyx Starr, the most insufferable person he had ever met. That man across the hall was someone else. Someone with no capacity to understand the secrets and pain that
with day in and day out.
Only now did
he realize how much he had come to rely on having someone like that
stood there. This couldn't be his room, could it? He picked up a shiny,
short shirt and tried to imagine it against his skin, what it would
look like on his body. Why would he ever want to flash that much flesh
at people? What was he? A hooker?
A yawn escaped
from him that practically swallowed him whole. He was tired, so tired.
for more detective work later," he muttered, still surprised
at the sound of his own voice. After tossing the shirt aside, he lay
down. Better to sleep than face the hopeful stares of the others.
All he could do was disappoint as not a single memory surfaced.
When he closed
his eyes, it was the troubled chocolate gaze of the Lieutenant that
haunted him most. There was something Black wanted from him. What
awake at the sound of a soft knock. He was drenched with sweat, and
nightmares swam just behind his vision in a way that they hadn't for
quite some time. "What is it?"
Black," said Jake from outside the door. "I think you should
come see this."
He growled and nearly snapped at Jake before he realized that something might be wrong with Starr.
I'll be right out."
on some clothes and running his fingers through his hair, Black swung
the door open. Jake waited there with a nervous look.
really have to see it," said Jake with a crooked smile. "In
behind Jake, still trying to wake up. If Starr made it to the kitchen
things couldn't be that bad. However, as he stepped around the corner
he saw what Jake meant. There was Starr in a baggy sweatshirt, his
hair swept back, whistling and stirring something in a bowl.
at him with a definite I told you so lift to the brow.
good morning," said Starr. "I couldn't sleep so I figured
I might as well make some breakfast."
Starr. These two words were so at odds that in his mind, Black could
see them cringing away from one another. "I didn't know you could
stopped, and he held still for a moment, making Black regret what
he said. Then Starr began stirring again. "I must have known
how. It's not like I just picked it up out of thin air, right?"
someone around here can cook," said Jake. "We eat way too
much fast food around here. Now that we know, you might be on cook
and sat the bowl aside. "Eggs, pancakes, bacon ... am I forgetting
said Jake. "OJ."
stood in the doorway as Starr rummaged in the fridge, his sweats nicely
accenting his firm ass.
up and bent to look as well. "We seem to be out. Want me to go
pick some up?"
if you don't mind," said Starr. "Will it take long?"
than it'll take you to whip us up a proper breakfast."
and Black thought he saw something pass between Starr and Jake. He
rubbed his eyes and told himself he was definitely not awake yet.
asked Starr as Jake trotted out.
retreating to the ignorant safety of his room, but if Starr's concussion
got the best of him the whole place could burn down. At least that's
why he told himself he was sitting down at the table as though nothing
was wrong. "Sure."
He had barely
answered when a steaming mug slid onto the table in front of him.
cops, right?" asked Starr as he tossed bacon into a heated pan.
The meat sizzled like Black's brain felt every time this stranger
spoke to him.
special forces," said Black, not sure of how much he should divulge.
do I do if we're called out?"
stay here," answered Black. "At the very least until I test
you and see if you've retained your skills and training."
and lifted a pan, flipping a pancake like a pro. Black blinked and
considered skipping breakfast and going running.
shouldn't take too long to get ready. Would you mind waking folks
sure," said Black, gladly fleeing the kitchen rather than using
his PRU. Maybe he should take Starr to the shooting range after breakfast.
That might jog a few memories.
Jake sat silent in the car, not daring to speak. The tension radiating off of Black cut the air like razorblades. After all of his bitching about having the empath on the team, why would a month of a placid, confident
Starr be getting
asked, but the moment he turned his head and opened his mouth he saw
a muscle in Black's jaw jump. Okay, no questions then.
as they turned the corner. Black was definitely worked up, and this
was more than just him blaming himself for what had happened. Jake
knew him that well, even if the old Starr would have claimed otherwise.
By the time
they reached the house, Jake was ready to leap out of the car and
kiss the ground.
got the next couple of days off," said Black in a cool, distant
tone. "I've got some business to take care of, so I won't be
around much. Keep the guys from killing one another while I'm gone."
got it," said Jake.
peeled again as Black backed out. Jake let out a deep sigh. Time for
a shower. He needed some heat to melt off the frost that riding with
Black had left on his skin.
down in front of the TV, and cycled through the movie selections.
What did he want to watch? Something mindless? Action? They'd been
training non-stop while they re-integrated Starr, so he'd seen as
much action as he could stand lately. Maybe an adventure.
Mind if I join you?"
Starr," said Jake, glad that Black wasn't there to project daggers
and flee the room. "Sure, have a seat."
am I doing? With the training?"
doing really well."
like my body remembers what it's supposed to do, even if I couldn't
explain why," said Starr with a slight smile. "It's a relief.
I can still fit in, at least."
through the action movie listings, trying very hard not to think of
Starr's aforementioned body. They had spent a lot of time together
in the last month and those tight buns and firm form were starting
to creep into his dreams. It was easier to resist the empath before
when Starr was so obnoxious he was easy to hate, but once in a while
he could have sworn that the growing interest was mutual.
one of these you want to see?" asked Jake.
matter," said Starr with a grin. "I won't remember any of
and picked one. The space battle effects were supposed to be top notch,
but the plot wasn't so involved that they couldn't talk. He scratched
the back of his hand. Since when had he cared about being able to
talk to Starr during a movie?
think the Lieutenant likes me," sighed Starr after the opening
credits ended. "Did we get along before?"
how to answer that one. "Yes and no. He'll warm up to you. He's
like this with everyone."
we get along?"
have sworn that the couch shifted and Starr's tone of voice dropped
just slightly. His breath quickened, and his sweats suddenly felt
less roomy. He reached up quickly to check that his Bliss tab was
on. It was. "Yes and no."
think you could warm up to me?"
closer. Jake gulped and turned, expecting to see a patented Calyx
Starr leer. Instead, his gaze met with soft green eyes, vulnerable
and even a bit needy.
is out. No one would have to know," said Starr.
his lips, trying to tell himself that this was not a good idea. When
his memory came back, Starr would have a huge gloating party about
this. If it came back. The doctor seemed less and less sure that it
up a hand and gently stroked his fingertips along Jake's cheek. Jake
shivered, unable to remember the last time someone had touched him
so intimately. So innocently. It was pathetic of him, but he decided
that it was worth the ribbing later. As much as Starr won't want to
admit it when he's in his right mind, this person was as much a part
of him as the smooth-talking addict.
in and breathed a sigh into the soft, hesitant kiss Starr planted
on his lips. Was this what Starr would have been like if he hadn't
been raised on the streets? Without having had to sell his body and
without giving himself over to the ravages of Bliss to keep from going
didn't want Starr to remember. Jake wanted to wrap his arms around
this newborn and keep him safe, locked away from anything that could
harm him. He pulled Starr in close, and felt the empath's tension
drain away as he dug his fingers in to massage Starr's back through
his sweatshirt. A languid purr was his reward.
nice," whispered Starr.
his cheek. "It is, isn't it?"
As Starr began
to do the same in return, Jake decided he could get used to this.
in the driveway cursing his luck. Dickerson was busy at some society
social function. The police scanners had all too little going on tonight,
as though most of the city was just too tired to cause any trouble.
Even most of the lights in the house were off. The team must have
taken their night off to heart and gone out clubbing.
Maybe if he went in quietly he'd avoid them. Mind you, Starr's door would be open as it always was lately.
The room had
been cleaned, all of the garish clothing tucked into the back of a
closet in favor of newer, more modest wear. Crazy magazines and objects
Black had never dared to ask the origins of had vanished as well.
Neat, orderly, and bland. It made him want to drink himself into a
at least knew his place. If told to go away, he'd do so. With a sigh,
Black slid out of the car and quietly closed the door. As he suspected,
the house was pretty quiet as he stepped inside. Maybe he would watch
a movie. Something completely mindless, with a lot of blood.
he padded toward the living room. A quiet laugh made him pause. Damn,
there was someone else up. Wanting to at least know what he was dealing
with, he continued creeping forward until he was able to peek through
A movie played
on the TV, its rays illuminating two half-undressed lovers on the
couch. Bee and Haney, he figured, from the way they were gently enjoying
and exploring one another. That was, until a lock of hair flopped
from beneath them. A long, white-blond lock, with a purple tip.
shook as he continued staring. It was Starr, Starr and Jake. This
wasn't just a prelude to sex, they were very much working toward making
love from the purrs and soft whispers.
hadn't done that. Starr had dragged him kicking and screaming into
the light, more than once. Like a moth to a flame, he hadn't been
able to resist the temptation. What was he going to do now that that
flame had been doused?
An ache spread
out from his stomach through his heart. Starr wasn't coming back.
The doctor seemed fairly sure that if he hadn't by now, with all of
the swelling gone, then he may never do so. For a moment, he nearly
tore off his Bliss tab to let the empath feel the pain he was causing.
He barely stopped himself in time. They had purposely been shielding
Starr from everyone's emotions, even his own. The empath needed a
slow introduction to his abilities, and training to help him survive
them without reverting to addiction. Who was he to deny Starr that?
wet slid down his cheek. Black wiped it away, and decided that he'd
better retreat before the lovebirds noticed him. Maybe he would call
Dickerson and leave a message with a report. He'd been avoiding sharing
the doctor's concerns, in case it might upset the Captain. Yet, wouldn't
Dickerson prefer this new Starr? It was hard to tell.
Watching Jake and Starr giggle and feed one another had Black about to put a hand through a wall.
his PRU buzzed. He stepped out of the room and answered. "Black."
you to bring Starr in," said Dickerson. "I've sent the address
his nose, not wanting to face the all too sweet duo, but at least
he would have the satisfaction of breaking them apart for a time.
face vanished, and in its place showed an address in a pretty abandoned
part of town. Was Starr's training with his abilities going to start
today? With that few people around, it should be safe to let him feel
just one or two. Black winced, realizing that if that was the case,
he had to get himself under control. Otherwise he was going to send
Starr screaming into the night.
Both men looked
up as he entered the room. "Starr, the Captain wants to see you.
Come with me."
A shadow passed
over Jake's face, and Black didn't need to read the man's mind to
see his concern. Still, there was nothing he could do to make Jake
feel any better without lying, so he said nothing.
get my coat."
toward his room, and Jake looked him in the eye. "Dickerson sound
Black answered truthfully. "He didn't."
himself not to look back at Jake as he and Starr left, but he could
feel Jake's stare on the middle of his back. He could also hear Jake's
wishes as though they were drilling into his brain.
You take care
of him, Black. You watch his back.
As Starr slid
into the other side of the car, Black murmured a promise back to Jake.
seemed to be the case, the address led to an abandoned warehouse.
Sometimes Black thought that if they demolished every abandoned warehouse
in the city, crime levels would drop by two thirds.
it?" asked Starr.
out, and Black spotted Dickerson's form waiting in a doorway. "Leave
him here," said the Captain. "I'll call you when it's time
to pick him up."
Black blinked and then frowned. The last time he had left Starr with the Captain, things had not gone well.
wasn't so cocky now. He wouldn't be baiting the Captain into dark
leave him," said Dickerson. "Starr, come with me."
With a slight
smile and a shrug to Black, Starr followed the Captain into the building,
and something in Black's stomach snapped. Starr really didn't remember.
He didn't remember any of it, not even what the Captain had done to
Here he was,
trying to start over, and his demons plagued him day and night. Starr,
though, was truly getting to start again, from scratch. No demons.
No regrets. What kind of ass was he to begrudge him that chance?
If you love
something, set it free. Black fingered his keys as he slid into the
car. Did he love Starr, or just need that over the top empath to force
him to be a human being from time to time?
matter if he'd loved Starr or not. The old Starr wasn't coming back.
Black decided that he would go find a gift for the new lovers. He'd
never seen Jake so happy, and he'd never seen Starr so content with
himself. It was time to stop making Jake run scared and watch his
back. It was time to move on, he could survive without Starr, he'd
done so long before the crazy empath came into his life.
as he hit the wall, and threw his hands up to protect himself rather
than punching a superior officer as his busted lip inclined him to.
Was this some kind of test?
a deal!" shouted the Captain.
kind of deal?" asked Calyx, pressing himself further into the
wall as the red-faced man stalked toward him. "I'm sorry, I don't
remember. Just tell me and I'll make it right."
leaned in close, and Calyx clenched his hands.
to see it for myself," said the man. "I had to make sure
that you weren't just trying to get out of it. You really don't remember,
his head so hard that he gave himself a headache.
huffed and stepped back. "You won't get out of this that easily,
fine, Sir. Just tell me what I need to do." Yet, there was something
in the Captain's eyes that told Starr to run. He tried to slide toward
the door but a gun appeared in the older man's hand.
going to play a little," said Dickerson with a nasty smile. "We're
going to see if we can make you remember."
if not?" asked Calyx, his voice cracking.
I'll have to find myself another empath, since this one will have
gone mad, unable to control his abilities."
picked up a briefcase and dropped it onto a small table. Calyx shook
as Dickerson opened the case and pulled out one vial after another.
He had seen some of the objects inside before, during his training.
Bliss, and other illegal substances.
Then the Captain
reached up with his free hand and tore the Bliss patch from behind
his ear. Emotions too strong for him to sort out slammed into him
like an explosion. Hate/lust/greed/anticipation/determination knocked
his knees from beneath him. As he slid to the floor, the Captain came
up to him and grabbed his mouth, forcing it open.
good little whore and swallow."
forced his mouth shut and Calyx swallowed reflexively.
sit still, I've got a playmate for us."
have gotten up if he wanted to. He tried to crawl toward the door,
but the room began to melt, and suddenly he couldn't find the way
A new wave
of emotions hit him. Calyx cried out and fell to the floor as terror/agony/hopelessness
punched him in the stomach. The Captain had dragged a young woman
into the room, her wrists and ankles were bound so that she could
barely move. She was covered with bruises and tear streaks tracked
through the dirt and blood on her face.
Dickerson punched the girl in the stomach. She whimpered and fell, and Calyx twisted in pain.
her," said the older man, Starr's rippling vision twisting the
grin into a gargoyle-like mask, "and then you, pretty whore."
pulled out a knife and cut the girl's dress off of her. Pure, unadulterated,
lust flooded through Calyx as Dickerson began pawing her. A predator's
lust, dark and hungry. Then the girl started crying, and on top of
the lust came shame/fear/loneliness so strongly that Calyx wretched
the contents of his stomach onto the floor.
In his head,
the Captain's words echoed. "First her, then you. First her,
the same time she did, as Dickerson thrust into her. Why was this
happening? What had he done to deserve this?
flickered in the back of his mind. He deserved all of this, and more.
in the middle of the store, pretending that he hadn't noticed the
attendants hovering close. What the hell did he know about buying
gifts, especially for new gay couples? Maybe he should phone his mother.
She might have an idea.
His PRU buzzed.
Black pulled it out, relieved and annoyed that it was Dickerson already.
He would have to find a gift later.
here," he said, stepping out of the store.
ready. Come pick him up."
face was unreadable, but Black detected a hint of satisfaction in
his tone. "Everything okay?"
hung up, and Black went to his car. At least he wasn't going to have
to go home without being able to tell Jake when he'd see Starr again.
As Black pulled
up to the warehouse, something felt different. He couldn't quite put
his finger on it, but it made the hairs on the back of his neck tickle.
Pulling his weapon, he headed for the door.
about time," said Dickerson, stepping outside.
He had the
same smugness to his tone that Black had noticed through the PRU.
That often didn't bode well.
sedated. Clean him up and bring him home. He won't wake up probably
until the morning."
"Sedated? Clean him up? What happened?"
slid into his car and shut the door without answering, leaving Black
to stare at the retreating tail lights. He kept his gun drawn and
moved through the building, making sure it was secure, until he finally
came upon Starr. The empath lay nude on the floor, pale as death.
Bruises marred his face, wrists, and much of the rest of his body.
Upon closer inspection, Black realized that there was damage in other
places as well.
with rage. The PRU nearly cracked under the pressure as he pulled
out the unit and called Dickerson.
clean him up and take him home. That's an order, Lieutenant,"
barked Dickerson, hanging up.
the unit into the wall and smirking at the satisfying crack when it
hit, Black stalked about, looking for something suitable to clean
up his fallen comrade. He would have missed it but for the smell of
cleaning fluid. A large stain had been on the floor, probably blood
from the faint tan against the gray concrete. Had someone else been
here? Or had the blood been Starr's?
managed to find a bathroom. Black went back to the empath and gently
picked him up. Starr might look light and lithe, but he was solid
muscle after all of this training, and carrying him was no simple
task. Still, Black managed, and tenderly cleaned away the stains of
tears and of whatever other abuse Dickerson had heaped on his companion.
the Captain do this?
something was wrong the moment Black stepped from the craft. Their
fearless leader wouldn't meet his eyes.
help me, will you?"
A sick, scared
feeling clenched in Jake's stomach. He approached and found Black
trying to gently pull an unconscious Calyx from the car. One glimpse
of the bruises was enough to have him grabbing Black's shirt and snarling.
happened? What did you do to him?"
The hurt in
Black's eyes made Jake back off.
do this," said Black softly. "I ... I'm sorry. But I didn't
could see that Black was blaming himself for it, as usual. "Let's
get him inside."
and bit his lip, looking terribly young and close to tears. "He's
sedated. He shouldn't wake up until morning."
Jake took Calyx's shoulders while Black took his feet. Bee and Haney had returned, and stood silent and concerned, watching as they carried Calyx past.
did this?" Jake growled.
say," said Black, still not meeting his gaze.
Somehow, Jake knew it was him. How could Black let this happen? He
knew the man's moods better than anyone else.
Yet, as they
gently laid Calyx into his bed, the slump of Black's shoulders told
Jake that Black was wondering the same thing.
it's best that no one be on the bed with him," said Black, looking
away. "I'll bring in a chair. Sit with him as long as you can,
and then wake me up, and I'll take over."
Jake was nearly
sick as he stood as he realized what Black was telling him. "O-okay."
looking numb, and then stumbled from the room. After returning with
a chair, he stalked across the hall and into his own room. As the
door slammed behind him, Jake pulled up a chair and sat next to Calyx.
Faint lines creased the empath's face, lines of worry and fear. What
had happened with the Captain? What had happened to his Calyx?
A lump started
to grow in his throat. Jake tried to swallow it, but it wouldn't budge.
What if this wasn't his Calyx anymore? What if this was Black's Starr?
Calyx's door, sat down, and cried.
A scream shattered
the night. Black fell out of bed, scrambling for a weapon, only to
realize that it was coming from across the hall. Starr's room.
When he threw
Starr's door open, the empath was going wild, thrashing against Jake
who was trying to hold him still and calm him down. "Get the
hell away from me! Leave me alone!"
managed to fling Jake off of him, and then backed himself into a corner,
emerald eyes glinting feral like a trapped animal's. This wasn't the
calm, pliant Starr who had spent the last month winning Jake's heart.
This was Calyx Starr, the wounded addict, unless Dickerson had managed
to completely drive Starr out of his mind.
to Jake, and could see the pain in his friend's eyes.
all yours," whispered Jake as he slumped past and shut the door
He's all yours.
onto the bed, sobbing hard.
He's all yours.
This wasn't Jake's Starr. This was his, the cocky empath who could
reduce him to a quivering puddle with just a look. God help him, but
Black felt relief pooling in his chest.
closer instead, sitting on the bed next to him. "No."
take off that goddamned Bliss tab!"
inward and looked at the swirl of emotions inside him. So much guilt
and pain, surely Starr couldn't handle it at a time like this. "I
don't think that's a good idea."
his head, a mess of tears with a runny nose and puffy red eyes.
This was his
Starr, the one who tomorrow would probably go running with him just
for a chance to watch his ass the whole way, and probably try to grope
him while they were at it.
off that goddamned Bliss patch," said Starr more slowly, "so
I can know I'm not the only fucked up asshole here."
back tears at the pain lacing through Starr's voice. He reached over
and stroked Starr's damp cheek, and held Starr's gaze with his own
as he dropped his shields and removed the patch. Starr reeled, backing
away instinctively as self-recrimination/guilt/rage washed over him.
straightened up and leaned into his touch. Black continued stroking
as Starr's tears began to fall.
you," whispered Starr miserably.
back," whispered Black.
himself to feel the relief at having his Starr back, and a slight
smile lifted the corner of Starr's mouth even as he continued to cry.
make it without me?" asked Starr between sniffles.
not sure," said Black honestly, continuing to stroke Starr's
cheek. "Maybe not."
One day, he
would make Dickerson tell him why he had done it. One day, Dickerson
it when you get all protective of me, Darkness," sniffed Starr,
a hint of his usual cockiness back in place.
said Black, leaning down to kiss the top of Starr's head. "Just