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Original Fiction

Part 6

"You know, dear, there is an idea that came to my mind," the Commander leaned towards Simon over the low table and handed him the little box of the stuff. His own voice was slightly muffled as he was sucking a jelly. The stuff meant that talk on business matters was over. Simon settled back in the irresistibly comfortable armchair of the Commander's lounge and put a jelly into his mouth. Well, one jelly now and then... especially when the Commander treated - it was okay; Simon could allow himself to do it. With his eyelids half-mast, he nodded waiting for Duvall to go on.

"Do you know my little slave - Seth? Did I show him to you?" and, when Simon shook his head. "He's a pretty thing, though stupid. I'm sure you'll enjoy him."

"Do you offer me to buy him?" the stuff worked fast, making him find this proposal so amusing that he couldn't hold a giggle. He heard the Commander laugh, too, his bird-like thin hand patting Simon's wrist in a gesture that was intended to be affectionate but Simon didn't want to guess how sincere it was.

"Nope, child. I wouldn't like to part with him forever. What I propose is to make a little exchange. For a week or for a few days. You can take my guy to play and I'll take yours."

Simon coughed; a bit of jelly-melted saliva must've gone wrong way. And yet when he coped with the fit and looked at the Commander again, he realized that he still needed a bit more time.

"You mean Peter?"

"Don't be daft, honey," the words were rude but the tone softened them almost to endearment. "Do you have other slaves? Think about it - diversity can be very entertaining. And you really can do to my boy anything you want - just return him to me in one piece... Well, let's say comparatively in one piece."

"Ugh..." he didn't feel completely sober suddenly, it was not that. But the stuff stopped having its elating effect on him. He coughed again. "Actually... I dunno."

He saw the Commander lean towards him again. Boyish slender figure in black old-fashioned uniform and smooth gracefulness of motions. What gave away the Commander's age - and what one couldn't see on his portraits - that his face and hands were covered in a frequent net of little wrinkles - smile wrinkles around his eyes in particular; the Commander loved to smile.

"But why, child?" the cool hand fondling his again. "Aren't you interested in my boy? Or don't you want me to have... But wait! The rumors are you are more than eager to share."

Yeah, rumors. The City lived on rumors.

"It's different," Simon muttered. Somehow a part of his mind wondered why he didn't say 'yes' yet... a week or a few days - there was no reason to refuse. After all, the Commander was right - he did like to send Peter to the bar to pick up clients.

Or didn't - but sent Peter all the same.

"Different like what? Like you think he'll enjoy it too much at my place?" the Commander was laughing, an easy, almost childish laughter that Simon usually caught; not this time. "I promise you he'll beg you to take him back."

He kept silent. He knew he should've said something easy - like 'okay, deal' - and the embarrassing moment would be over. Because it was embarrassing, he could sense it, even though the Commander kept smiling as if noticing nothing. All of a sudden Simon felt a fit of anger overwhelming him - he didn't even know whom he was angry with - with Duvall for pushing, with himself for resisting unexplainably - or with Peter for causing this inconvenient situation.

"Well," a moment more and Simon would probably agree - but the Commander's hand was gone as he straightened in the armchair; he never settled back, never sprawled - but somehow every pose seemed comfortable for his frail but wiry body. "I don't want to make you feel unhappy, child. Forget it."

"You don't make me feel unhappy."

"Don't think that I don't understand. Slavery is a double-edged weapon. You own them but after a while you get attached, too."

"I am not attached," now declaring it was easy, wasn't it?

"And that's right, child, that's right. Trust my long, long experience. When you allow them to mean something for you - they use it to hurt you."

Simon knew it. Losing control - that's how he called it for himself - and he always tried to watch hard for it not to happen.

"At first you give them an easy time - just because somehow it seems that you enjoy it the more seeing them contented," the Commander's voice was soft and thoughtful, his eyes looking somewhere only he seemed to be able to look to. "You spare them punishments - because you feel that hurting them hurt you hardly less. And then, when you expect gratitude and affection from them - you realize that you cherished a snake on your bosom. And when the snake bites - sometimes it is too late."

Too late? No, not for Simon. For it was not Simon's situation. He had one reason to remember what Peter was and what he, Simon, had been - the reason that others didn't have.

"Sometimes you feel that it's *you* who are his slave, not he yours," the Commander added wistfully. And before Simon could say anything, shook the melancholic mood off. "Now this stuff sometimes makes me an old fool. I hope you'll forgive me, child."

A little while later, as Simon rose to leave, the Commander suddenly took a long narrow box out of the drawer.

"I want to make a little present to you, dear," opening the lid over the purple velvet bedding. "It's an object d'art - there are just three of them made - on my special order," a thin black whip with carved handle there. "Touch it - it's soft like silk... but oh boy, you wouldn't want to know how it hurts."

I know how it hurts, Simon thought feebly, murmuring his thanks. You didn't see my back under these soft expensive clothes. Yes, the scars were there - even if sometimes he forgot about them.

He opened the door to his apartment and stepped into the suite of bright-lit warm rooms, realizing with surprise that for the first time he'd gotten cold walking through the City. It was quiet - so quiet that for a moment he thought he was alone - and then he heard the slight rustle of turning pages from Peter's room. Yes, of course, Peter didn't know Simon was back.

Sudden sickness overwhelmed him - as if the stuff was playing bad games to him today. He looked at the box in his hand and wanted to put it away - to throw it away - and leave, go down to the bar and have a drink of fern vodka. The dim lights and muted colors of the bar would do him good.

He shook his head at the thought. He could barely believe it came to his mind. Was he going to drink cheap shit in the bar downstairs when he had his splendidly furnished apartment for doing anything he wanted?

The question was what he wanted.

He couldn't understand why it was so difficult to work himself into a rage - maybe, because he hadn't done it for so long - lost the habit, or something? He entered Peter's room - and saw Peter look up abruptly as he felt Simon's presence.

Isn't he too comfortable, Simon thought with deliberate exasperation; when the trapped and miserable expression in his eyes was gone? Yes, there still was wariness - it probably would never go. But it was not enough.

"Get up."

"I am sorry," he watched Peter put away the book and stand up, "master."

A proper answer. But he doesn't mean it, Simon thought, he doesn't respect me. He kept looking at Peter, opening the box - and saw how the man's eyes shifted from his face to the whip as Simon took it out.

Scared now? Should be. How much time had passed since Simon punished him properly last time? Apparently too much. He kept clenching his fist on the whip's handle, lacing the thong between his fingers. "...soft like silk..." Yes, it was.

"I am sorry," he heard Peter repeat, a tiny note of panic in his voice. "I didn't mean any disrespect."

It is not about you, Simon thought a moment before he struck. It is about me.

He hit with the handle, the blow heavy enough to send Peter to the floor, covering his split mouth. A familiar sight - blood leaking through his fingers and his staring eyes... but something new in them this time. Maybe, relief?

You didn't know how to handle it, too, bitch, Simon thought with a sudden flip of intuition... when I beat you and rape you - you know how to cope. But not my hands, my words, my presence making you feel warm and contented.

This thought did for him what nothing else could. He lashed across Peter's face and was amazed how easily it was to use the whip. The result was amazing, too - the dark red welt swelling over his cheekbone, the little sound of pain Peter made involuntarily. He struck again, this time half across his hands that Peter held at his face. He heard Peter gasp, saw a thin trace of blood smeared over the carpet.

Never mind, there is a maid to clean it up.

He didn't give Peter time to re-group. Nor himself time to look in Peter's narrowed eyes, black with pain - always became so fathomless when he was hurt... always made Simon want to hurt him more. He leaned over Peter, clasping the whip, thinking that he would do something mad now - would push the handle into Peter's bleeding mouth, would tear it more - break his jaw, tear his throat.

Do you want to kill him?

He wound the loose end of the whip around his palm, lopped it around Peter's throat and tightened, pulling up. He saw Peter scramble up on his feet hastily as Simon continued to pull. The son of bitch *wanted* to live, didn't he? Despite everything.

He was reminded how much shorter Peter was - as he raised his hands, tugging the ends of the whip aside, he felt Peter tiptoe and lose his balance inevitably - felt his body thrash and press against Simon's, his hands claw in the whip that cut into his throat. No way. Only when Peter went limp at last, Simon let go.

Didn't kill him, he knew it - and watched Peter lie curled on his side, taking his first, impossibly painful breath - then hack agonizingly and roll his head on the floor feebly. His eyes that opened as Simon squatted in front of him were not so black as bloodshot... and terrified. Good.

"Did you like it?" he saw Peter not understand, his ability to read lips and signs not returning yet. "Did... you... like... it?" he repeated slowly. "Say 'yes, master'. Did I make you hard?"

He reached his hand to check. Peter was not hard but wet - his bladder must've fail.

That's how you like him, right? Pissed and desperate and so vulnerable. He heard Peter gasp again and again - until he managed to say, almost incomprehensibly:

"What happened, Simon?"

And Simon wished he didn't comprehend that. Because it was a wrong thing to say. What happened? As if he needed a reason to punish his slave.

"Master, you bitch! Master. Stand up!"

He straightened and waited for Peter to get on his feet. The thong of the whip slid through his fingers and he knew they both knew what was coming now.


He saw panic in Peter's eyes - more than just fear of whipping. How dared he not to obey immediately, didn't he know how this delay would end up for him?

"Strip, fuck you."

"I can't... I... soiled myself."

Oh fuck... You miserable, silly, filthy little bastard... Why do you do all this to me?

"Bad luck for you. Strip. And take out the rings."

The whip would tear them out - and Simon didn't want the nuisance of having to get them stitched up again.

"Put the hands on the back of the bed."

The whip turned out to handle beautifully; making circles around Peter's body, reaching every place Simon wanted it to reach. Simon broke Peter's silence on the third blow - and stopped on the twentieth, when Peter slumped suddenly to the floor in mid-stroke.

Really, the carpet being a mess afterwards.

* * *

The man was a mean bastard. Arms wrapped around his legs, forehead to his knees was an exhausting position and Peter lost the count of time standing like this, with the man's cock slamming into him under the most absurd angle. It was a difficult night, starting pretty early with some fault of his - how did he dare to change his clothes without Simon permitting him. He knew Simon was just lashing out - as he lashed out so often recently, without any real reason. When it happened he tried to switch his mind off of what was going on. Sometimes it worked.

It worked with the first three clients tonight. Nothing hurt too bad, so, he managed to slip away into thinking about nothing. But now, almost at three in the morning, Peter was too tired and too sore for mind games. He stared at the floor and wondered grimly if Simon would feel better after his slave had been thoroughly used - and knew with a kind of resignation that it probably wouldn't be so. In some twisted way for Simon these things started as a punishment to Peter - but by the end they became Peter's fault.

One day he will kill you, he thought tiredly; and no chance to think that you'll be able to kill him first.

Eventually the man froze, his fingers stuck deeply around Peter's pelvic bones, and Peter knew the cum was pumped into his ass, adding to those three loads that already were there.

He was pushed away abruptly, feeling dizzy as he straightened after so much time in doubled-over position, and saw the man say something. As always. They either could never get that their efforts were wasted or just liked the sound of their own voice. He backed away to the corner, knowing well that it was better to stay as far as possible from the client - for who knows what other ideas would come to his mind if he found Peter too handy.

He barely made a sigh of relief when the man left - just pulled the robe over himself and slumped on the bed, wincing at the sharp pain in his bottom - when the feeling of another's presence in the room made him flinch.

Simon was already here - and another man with him. Peter felt a kind of panic... couldn't handle that - didn't count on that - and clenched his teeth, trying to keep on to the edge of sanity. For fuck's sake there is nothing he could do.

//"Another customer for you, slut,"// Simon's eyes were bloodshot - because of a sleepless night - or did he take a dose? Man, he was torturing himself for the sake of making life worse for Peter, wasn't he? //"Feel free to do whatever you want, mister."//

The last words were meant for the customer but Peter practically didn't have problems any more lip-reading everything Simon said, even if it was not articulated carefully. He looked over the man's shoulder how the door closed behind Simon - just a few more moments of rest before standing up and waiting for the orders.

The man was new; well, Peter was not sure that he had never been in the bar - and he couldn't say anything at all about the first night when he had been gang-fucked - but somehow Peter thought he had never seen him. Pale skin, smooth face of someone about thirty-five - and bright silver hair, cropped short to the scull. The man's small mouth was like a white dent, pressed hard, and his eyes, icy blue, looking at Peter who stood there with his robe open, the indecency that didn't mean anything but was just a part of his ordinary degradation, had a mixed expression of anxiety and annoyance - but no arousal.

He said something, and although it seemed to Peter that he got it:

//"Can you read by the lips?"// he frowned and shook his head.

Irritation flared in the man's eyes, he shrugged, took out a small plate and a kind of thin plastic stick, scribbled something and showed it to Peter. The letters melted into nothingness right in front of his eyes.

"Cover yourself. I want to talk."

The squeamishness in the man's expression lanced through him and he found it weirdly amusing that some things still could get to him. He wanted to say that he was the last one here who was supposed to enjoy showing off but just pulled the flaps of his robe together.

He saw the man come up to the bed, pull the edge of the sheet away and sit on the corner of the mattress. For a few moments his face was concentrated as he rummaged in his bag for something - and then he pulled a twisted piece of metal out of it.

//"What's that?"//

Peter caught the soft hissing sound he was about to make - and congratulated himself on doing so in time. He recognized the thing; anthracite polished surface, shiny, burnt-off metal on the breaking line - how wouldn't he recognize it? From the wreck of Kingfisher's shuttle. He looked at the man with polite, mild interest - meeting the pale iridescent eyes that stuck in him like merciless hooks.

"I have no idea," good - practically natural. "I thought you would tell me."

"Don't play with me, slut. It's not in your interests."

He should've called for Simon; fuck, let him handle the situation - and this madman with his prematurely grey hair and freezy-cold eyes. He sensed danger emanating from the man... who was he? An agent of the Commander - another one who wanted to puzzle out the mystery of hidden bag of the stuff? The shuttle... He recalled what Seth told him - that the Commander knew they were from outside - and didn't care shit.

"Don't call for anyone."

He breathed in hard, making his face blank consciously, willing himself into calmness. What did he risk, anyway? Was there so much he could lose?

"I know you came with that - you and your master. Tell me about this thing - and we can find something of benefit for both of us."

He is not my master, you fool.

"Let me see," he started slowly, sticking fingernails into palms - always helped him to think straight. "You offer me something for admitting that I 'came with it' as you put it. Well, let's imagine that I lied and said 'yes'. What can you give me for that?"

He saw a haughty, cold smirk twist the corner of the man's almost non-existent mouth.

//"What is it, then?"//

Two can play this game... oh yeah, for eternity.

"If you found this, you could find the rest."

//"We did."//

"Who are 'we'?"

He saw a flash of wariness in the man's eyes - and made a wild guess:


Uh oh. It happened too fast. One moment the man sat motionlessly - and then he was already over Peter, pressing him to the bed, the sharp edge of the wreck icy-cold under his jaw. The man's white lips, the smooth face were so close Peter couldn't miss a word:

//"I told you not to play with me, bitch. Do you want to die?"//

"No," he didn't shake his head, aware that his artery and the sharp metal were separated but by a thin layer of skin. "I don't want to die."

The man's body pressed hard into his, the violent, alive weight that suddenly made him think of a huge snake lying on his chest - something he had never felt, of course - and wonder where the image came from. The jagged edge of the wreck lingered at his throat for a while more - and then the man let him go, straightened, rearranged his clothes carefully.

"Let's have a fresh start."

"Okay. Say you know what the thing is - and you know things about me. Let's say I know things about you. If you want more information from me - I want something in exchange."

"How do I know if the information you have is worth anything?"

"I thought we talked about having a fresh start."

For a moment it seemed to him the man was going to strike again, his mouth curved painfully - but then he just wrote: "The spacecraft - can it be repaired?"

"It's a shuttle," Peter said. He thought about lying, telling that it could be mended - and he, Peter, was the only one who could mend it. "No, I don't think it can."

"Then it's worthless."

He felt his breath, blade-sharp, caught in his throat. He had to be careful now. He had to play his cards very, very cleverly.

"Did you find something else there - a green transparent crystal in a box?"

The man didn't answer - but he didn't need to, his eyes were too expectant.

"The crystal contains more information than you can imagine. It's the most perfect model of a computer - think how technology developed since the time you left the Earth. And I'll give it all to you if get me out of here."

"So, you want to be free?"

"What fuckin' else can I want?"

"I am going to discuss your offer with my comrades."

Oh yes, of course... Peter felt so strung-up that he was about to break into laughter - not good laughter but hysterical one. He would kiss the man's hands, kneel in front of him, would fuck him silly if he said he would take him away... right now. But it couldn't be like that - Peter knew it all too well.

"I'll contact you again. But first of all - you have to understand - if we are going to help you, we'll need a pledge."

A pledge? Sure, whatever.

"Blood pledge," the man wrote. "So that next time when I come for you, the Commander's security doesn't wait for me."

Peter thought he knew what the man meant - wanted from him. And wasn't it what he wanted himself desperately? He thought about blood - pools of blood on the floor of their flashy apartment - and Simon's dead body lying in it, the gaping wound on his throat like the second mouth.

"I don't have any weapon."

"You'll get it."

"I'll be looking forward to it," he said and smiled. And as the man continued to look at him - the gaze of blue icy and yet burning intent - not knowing what to do, Peter added, almost despite himself. "Care for some sex? No need to waste your money."

For a few moment the man was silent and motionless - and when he moved, it was not to get what he paid for - but to write again. "We, revolutionaries, believe that slavery is a crime and a greatest social injustice. Just like the fact that thousands of people have to work and die on the factories and fields to feed and satisfy the needs of the rich. We fight the order and we fight slavery - and we think everybody deserves freedom. Except those who allow themselves to become slaves - and whores," a measuring look over Peter, "in their mind."

The man left - and Simon was back again, now alone. While showering, Peter bit the inside of his lip until his mouth got all salty and wet with blood - driving himself into tranquility... not to show a sign of anything that happened, not to give himself away.

He hoped he looked his usual self when he came out to Simon - and was almost happy as the man just told him go to bed and then entered him, abruptly and without interest. But as he kept driving his cock into Peter's loosened rectum, Simon started talking suddenly, not looking at Peter, not caring if he was understood or not - but with strange vengeance both in his expression and in the rage he moved with:

//"I am going to marry. Gonna have a family, have children. The Commander will cancel the birth limit for me. I bet you thought I would never have children - and if I did, they would become slaves for you. But my children will be free - and will have everything. I'll be able to build the best life for them - rich, sheltered, happy life. Because I'm everything now - and you, slut, you are - nothing."//

* * *

In the stuffy room, in near-darkness, on soft crumpled sheets he was out of time and space, feeling with his fingers Seth's face, memorizing it by touch the same much as by sight - the wide soft mouth saying something - smiling - nipping the tips of his fingers. His cheek lay against the hollow softness of Seth's belly, arms around the twigs of his ribs under the taut skin.

"I don't want to leave you."

//"What?"// long stick-like fingers flew in front of his face in a questioning gesture. //"You don't need to leave so far. They always talk and talk when they come together... the order... the money... the stuff... blah blah blah."//

Silly thing. It was not what Peter meant - wasn't that at all.

Seth's wild-eyed face, the shadow of an evil smile directed at the men behind the wall - he would like to look at it... forever. At nothing else but this face. Had he ever wanted to see any other face turned up to him, lips ready for a kiss? Joanie had been sweet and kind and beautiful - and yet Peter had never wanted her like this... He had even wondered if he could feel anything like this at all.

And how crazy it was now that he did feel it - it was about a whorish slave with birdie brains - who was probably ready to fuck anyone who got to be around... whom Peter couldn't trust more than for an hour or two they spent in the same bed...

And whom you are going to ditch this night... You don't want to leave? What a lie.

He hadn't known if he would ever hear from the silver-haired man again; he had told himself he would just have to learn to live with it: with the chance of freedom never come true. Just as he lived with lots of other things.

He remembered the sudden anger that seized him when Simon had been telling him about his plans that night - of the safety and well-being he was going to build for his family... and how he wished desperately for this never to happen. All his muscles must've shrunk - and Simon whose cock suddenly got squeezed in the vices of Peter's insides, unresisting till now, stopped talking abruptly and looked at him with a kind of delighted amazement:

//"Yeah, do it again, it feels good."//

Peter hadn't seen the stranger after that. But this morning - in his bed - after the maid had cleaned his room - he found a thin blade wrapped into white cloth - and a scrap of paper with one word on it: "Tonight."

It could be a trap - Peter understood it very well. They could wait for him to do what he was supposed to - and then leave him alone - that is, to never come for him - and he knew what awaited a slave who killed his master. But somehow Peter knew he would do it just the same.

Now, having a weapon and an opportunity - he *had to* kill Simon.

He pressed his lips to the warm angular place where Seth's ribs were joining the sternum. He could catch the tiny shifts of muscles and bones like that, could lick and taste the salty blend of Seth's skin. He licked - and slid down with his mouth to the pierced navel, kissed it and around it, his hands under Seth, stroking the smooth curves of the narrow ass.

Yes, I am leaving you, little brother. This way or that.

"How did you become a slave?"

"Was a stupid slut... Slept over with a wrong guy and then was dumb enough to try to leave him. He was the Commander's friend... they arranged some scam and my family got broke within one month, all in debts. It was either joining the collective farmers or giving me out - and since it was all my fault... since I was their black ship all the same..."

"But why the Commander?"

"Dunno... There was the auction and then - oops - the bastard owns me... allowing a farewell night to my former lover, though," the painted fingernails ran along the jagged traces of burnt flesh on his side.

He wanted to ask if Seth ever thought about escaping. If there was any way... No, Peter couldn't. He would never endanger *his* chance of freedom by talking to someone.

Even to someone you...care for?

But was it about caring about Seth? Or was it about being free... at least in his mind, at least in fucking - wanting to fuck - someone... who was not his master? And now, with *real* freedom in front of Peter - his little psycho lover just didn't have a chance.

//"Hey, wait, what are you doing..."// Seth writhed under the touch of Peter's lips, laughed, flipping him over - rose over him - and then sank his head down suddenly, enveloping Peter's cock in his mouth.

"What are *you* doing?" he laughed, too - and felt dizzy and happy - and thought that for a little while - for a few minutes - he could forget about the blade and the closing night.

* * *

Now do everything like a smart boy, Peter, and don't you dare to fail on me.

He looked at the lights going out and tried not to let the sickness overwhelm him. There was nothing to be uncertain about, right? Not only he would do what he had to do - but he *wanted* to do it. Nothing changed since that time when he had tried to stick the pincers into Simon's eye.

At least you have to prove that nothing changed - that you still are a man, Peter.

Yes, father, I know I have another chance.

And if he ruined this chance... Well, there would be little time to remind himself what a failure he was. If everything went wrong - he'd better finish it before he got to the Block, right?

He saw the light switch on in the bathroom and knew that Simon went to take his evening shower. As usual. And there was one more of Simon's habits that should help.

He walked to Simon's room and saw the cooling glass of herbal tea mixed with a good dose of fern vodka - a specialty of the Sphere. A nice relaxing thing - and totally harmless... a much better way to relax than using the stuff. But this time Simon was going to have both; not that he would know about it.

Yes, it was not going to be a fair fight. But Peter couldn't afford to loose.

He took out Simon's box of the stuff and pinched a few jellies out of it. How much would be enough to send him to sleep... or to immobilize him? Well, this much will do, he thought. For a few moments the jellies lay on the bottom of the glass, translucent blue in greenish liquid - and then melted softly into nothing. He stirred it with the spoon, wondering if the consistence changed significantly; then took a swallow.

Slightly bitter; but Simon might think it was vodka. Peter put the glass back and suddenly felt a fit of terror, imagining that Simon came out of the bathroom and stood behind his back - and he couldn't turn around and look if it was true - he just couldn't.

There was no Simon; he understood it when time passed and nothing happened - and he put away the box, hoping that it wouldn't come to Simon's mind to take a dose today. God knows, he already has enough, Peter thought with ill-sounding irony.

He was in his room, over the chessboard, when Simon must've come out of the bathroom. Peter knew he walked around the apartment - and thought desperately how inconvenient it was that he couldn't hear; a clicking sound of the spoon in the glass - that much could tell him his plan was working.

He felt hazy. Oh my, he just made one mouthful of the potion - and there were lights dancing in front of his eyes. The colors of the board were not black and white any more - but jolly blue, yellow and red. He looked at them intently - until the door opened - and Simon came in, the glass of tea in his hand. And even though Peter told himself it was silly, he had time to feel choking panic at the thought that Simon somehow puzzled out his secret and was going to make him pay.

He watched Simon who stood in the doorway, his long soft-cloth robe opened on his smooth chest. No, fuckin' don't do that... don't gasp, don't stare at him with cow eyes. A small figurine of the bishop was in his hand and he clasped his fist, letting the spike of it enter in his skin. Remember how your father made you clasp the pushpins in your hand? Was it more difficult?

//"Who's winning?"//

"Whites, in four moves. I still didn't find the way."

He saw Simon bring the glass to his mouth and make a few gulps. He didn't come in and didn't go. Well, he could do what he felt like, right? Even hanging around in the doorway.

//"Chess is one of a few things that is the same - on the Sphere... and in the League,"// he said wistfully - making Peter look at him in surprise. Was it looking like a conversation, huh? After weeks of orders and curses. //"Do you miss things from the League? Books and holos and music..."//

"I don't think much about it," he suddenly understood it was true. "I don't think about the League any more."

He saw Simon drink again and thought that he was ready to say anything to him, that he loved the Sphere, that he was happy there - just to make him empty the glass.

"And I don't think they think about me, too."

//"How many months passed? Did they write you off? Consider you dead - just as your father is dead."//

The bastard may be dead but he's pretty much alive in my mind.

"You know my uncle killed my father," he said and was amazed how easily it came out. He had never said it to anyone, had forbidden himself to think about it for years. He probably needed a good dose of the stuff to face it. "He killed my father over me."

It was never found out. Nobody had told him... nobody had to; he just knew.

//"And now when you are gone your uncle has no one."//

Oh yes... The glass was empty. Now it was just a matter of time... and didn't he see Simon sway? Just please, please, don't let him guess... let him just fall asleep.

//"He must've loved you, your uncle."//

It *was* the stuff talking.

"He did. I think he was the only one who ever did."

He saw a delirious smile on Simon's face - and then the man swayed so hard that almost fell.

//"That's why it was so important for you? That you didn't need to deserve his love, he took you as you were?"//

"My father took me as I was," looking right in Simon's eyes, Peter thought that he was telling the truth about it - for the first time in his life recognized it for the truth. "My uncle... for him I tried to be better than I was. But it was worth it."

He watched Simon raise his hand - the glass slip out of it and roll on the carpeted floor.

//"What the fuck is it? I feel fuzzy... Should lay down... Come here..."//

Now he would understand... Peter made himself stand up and come up and Simon leant against him as they walked to Simon's bedroom. There Simon fell on the bed, face up, turning his head slightly but not looking any more.

//"No... stay with me..."// and as Peter knelt at the bed, //"you stupid... just sit with me..."//

It'll be over soon, Peter. He'll be asleep and you'll waste him. He'll pay for everything he did to you.

It looked like the silver-haired man was not the only one who wanted a blood pledge.

The sleep came - Simon's face smoothed, eyelids not shifted any more - and then Peter got up and walked back to his room. The blade was under the mattress - shining dully as the cloth fell off of it.

Wasn't it something he waited for... for so long?

He came back and raised the blade over the solid tower of Simon's neck, the pit between his collarbones deep and fluttering slightly with peaceful beating of his pulse. This time there was nothing that could hinder Peter to do it.

Come on, finish it. Clean your name with his blood!

Fuck you, father, don't tell me what to do... Peter moved the blade suddenly, setting it between Simon's lips - in the thin slit between his unclenched teeth, moving them apart. The man's jaw dropped open so easily as Peter turned the blade, showing the insides of Simon's mouth - so pink, so tender.

The man gave a snore, shaking his head slightly, as the air caught in his throat; Peter waited. But the stuff was too powerful - Simon never woke up. Not when Peter pushed fingers into his mouth and took the warm moist snake of his tongue, pulling it out. Not even when the blade started slicing through in - in smooth sawing motions - with blood first welling around it, then pouring in two streams from both sides of Simon's mouth.

Yes, it was blood that got into his windpipe, choking him, that made Simon's eyes snap open - right at the moment when Peter severed the last layer of flesh - and took his hand with the bloody lump away.

Blood gurgled in Simon's throat as if he tried to say something, his huge fiery eyes staring without recognition - but he didn't try to move, didn't try to get up or grab. And Peter reached and turned his face on the side - feeling for one moment the warmth of Simon's skin - so that blood might leak out of his mouth, not into his throat, not choke him.

He took the keys and for the first time unlocked the door of the apartment.

It was quiet and cold on the stairs - and thoughtfully, without much hurry, Peter started walking down, stairwell after stairwell. It didn't come to his mind to take the elevator for some reason - and indeed, he thought, why was not to enjoy the last walk in his life, as it was? He didn't notice at once how blood dripped from his hands, into the dust on the stairs. Not neat... But who cared?

And then, on the floor whose number he didn't know, the door opened - and the man with bright blue eyes on pale face caught him and pulled him inside.

//"So, you did it?"// it was dim in the empty, disordered room - and the man's face was like a flash of white, his lips moving clearly. Peter saw his expression change abruptly as he looked at his hand that had touched Peter and saw the thin film of red on it. //"Oh Christ..."//

"You said 'blood pledge'," he smiled and handed him the dripping bit of flesh.

He saw a play of momentary fascination and revulsion on the man's face - and then he hit on Peter's hand from underneath, making the tongue fall to the floor.

//"Let's fuckin' go, do you think we have the whole night?"// for once he didn't look in Peter's eyes.

They came up to the elevator - and the man used some instruments that he had on his belt - pushed the doors apart and there was no cabin, just a cable. He caught the cable, fixed a clamp on it.

//"Hold on to me,"// now he was all business, no place for squeamishness or wonder or anything else. Peter grasped his belt - and they started sliding down into the seemingly bottomless well under them.

* * *

There was something wet - liquid heat spreading around him, not deep enough to lull him away - but still warm, still comforting. The smell hovered somewhere - sharp, coppery, so familiar - but it seemed to have nothing to do with enveloping warmth of the liquid around him - the same as the pain - huge and clawing that started somewhere in the back of his throat and grew, bigger than his whole body - seemed to have nothing to do with him.

He didn't want to hurt. It interfered with the warmth - with comfort.

He was a small boy; a little more than a baby - and the liquid around him was the water, clear and warm, on the bottom of an enamel bowl - and his small feet splashed it - out, out! - in brilliant warm sparkles - on the small patch of withered grass in front of the house.

And a woman with a tower of dark hair - a tall, slim woman with long arms of fluid bronze - reached to him and raised him, laughing, pecking his face slightly with her lips - carried him high until passed him in the hands of another giant - a man of white teeth and shaven scull, eyes flashing with laughter.

He was too small to talk - a plump soft kid of no thoughts at all - and no wonder that the word he tried to say came out so strange - muffled and incomprehensible:


He had never said this word before: had been too little when she was gone. Too little to be left at his own devices. Too smart to die without fighting - too strong not to win, whatever price he had to pay for the victory.

His life a never-ending battle - and he never gave up, waited out the downfalls - and rose again. He thought it was right, it was what he was supposed to do. But now, looking at the tall woman that waited for him in the misty place that he knew was somewhere inside his mind - he thought for the first time that it could be a mistake.

Look where it brought you... drowning in your blood on the cold bed in the place that will not ever be your home.

He didn't want it; never wanted it to go on. He just didn't know it. Twenty-eight years of clawing into life... his first knife he needed to defend his food... the cold, alienated world of the Academy... his ship encompassed in flame... and later, all twelve years of mere survival...

And even when he thought that he got the life he had always dreamed about - the life of pleasures and expensive suits, influential friends and slave-owning - how could he not know that in reality he was just going away from this tall woman of the floral dress and arms of eternal kindness who waited for him on the other end.

"I am coming to you, mom..."

He opened his eyes and saw strange, alien faces above him - fretful, unpleasant, lips moving, swift looks exchanged. His head was turned - bothersome, painful - and he said to them:

"Don't touch me," but they didn't understand and, maybe, he didn't manage to say it correctly for some reason.

He wanted to go back to the woman - he saw her again, her arms open for him - and he smiled - with his bleeding mouth. He knew nothing mattered - any right or wrong things he did in his life, anything he strove for, anything he gained or lost. Because she accepted him like that - naked and faulty and ruined.

He caught her embrace and slid into its warmth - and felt nothing except its softness - no matter how cold and rough and uncaring the hands were that raised him from the bed and carried him somewhere.

The End of Part 6

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