by Blue Soaring
The days, like the nights, were hot. The air was heavy with moisture,
pressing down upon the inhabitants of the city. Tempers rose, patience
lessened. People fled the heat of the day, retreating into air-conditioned
buildings. The city was tense with anticipation, waiting for the sky to
crack and let the rain pour down, cooling heated skin and fevered minds.
Still, the night was alive. It pulsed with a heartbeat of its own,
breathing with the energy only the cover of darkness could give. The
oppressive heat could never hope to drive away the people who lived for the
night. Lights blazed, music pounded and people moved.
I stood on the edge of this throbbing, animate thing. The press of bodies
and the sharp tang of sweat and smoke weren't a part of my night. My world
was safer, cleaner. Structured.
I needed sleep; I had work in the morning.
I turned my back on the night beyond the doorway and into the comfort of my
apartment building. The cool air struck me in the face as I passed through
the sliding glass doors and they closed behind me with a small sound of
displaced air. Goosebumps rose along my arms from the difference in
temperature. I nodded at the security guard as I passed by - I'd never
bothered to get his name, even after two years of living in the same
I suppose I was that way about most things, people, and places. I've been
called a wide range of things from antisocial to indifferent. Indifference
suited me fine, it kept the majority of the population from bothering me.
There were a few people who tried very hard to 'drag me out of my shell'. I
can admire their persistence, but that's about it. It does more to annoy me
than encourage me to actively seek out their company.
The lobby was deathly quiet after the pulse of the night. Subdued, waiting
for the somewhat questionable safety of morning's light. I pressed the call
button beside the elevator, slipped a hand into my pocket and waited.
Seconds later, the doors opened and I stepped into the softly lit interior.
My night was over, while outside it had just begun.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Morning dawned a painful, blinding white. The sun never rose quietly in
this city, it stormed over the buildings and people, unmercifully beating
down upon the earth. It made the metal gleam through the haze.
Although the morning had waned, the dazzling light remained. The low hum of
conversation and the quiet sound of running computers filled the air behind
me. I stood at a window in the hall, staring out at the brightness. Beside
me, a co-worker chattered endlessly. This would be an example of a
relentless person trying to break that shell that's supposedly surrounding
"Honestly, Heero, it won't kill you. You're what, twenty four?" He paused,
waiting for confirmation.
I bit back a sigh and turned to him. "Yes."
He'd been trying to convince me for the last ten minutes or so to accompany
him and his friends to some of the bars and other entertainments that were
available, if you knew where to go. The hint that there was a woman in it
for me was painfully obvious. I just wasn't interested.
"It's one time. And we're not planning on dragging you to the seedy
underbelly of the city." He absently blew a strand of light blond hair from
his eyes. "I don't feel the least bit inclined to go there."
"I can't, not tonight." Not ever, I added silently.
"You mean you won't."
Fine. I nodded. "I mean I won't."
"Alright," he said, turning away from me. We walked together until the
hallway split and went our separate ways. "There's more to this place than
stifling heat, Heero. You never know what you'll find, you might even like
it," he said, pausing just around the corner.
I shrugged. "Maybe, but whatever I might find, I won't find it tonight."
"Right. See you later," he said with a smile and left me alone in the hall.
Truthfully, I was slightly intrigued by the night. It was like an entirely
different world, as if shadows had the power to change everything. Maybe I
was afraid that the night would swallow me whole. Maybe I avoided it
because it seemed to want to pull me in, wrap a blanket of darkness and
decadence around me and never let go. Then again, like almost everything
else, maybe I just didn't want to bother.
- - - - - - - - - - -
By the time I left the office, the sun had almost set. The last trace of it
was slowly fading behind the horizon, hanging on by a thin red thread. The
sun never died quickly, it always faded slowly like it was unwilling to let
the night take over. I could feel the world breathing easier without having
to contend with the blinding light in addition to the sweltering heat. The
weather hadn't yet broken and the air seemed heavier. Impossible, but it
did. Breathing was like trying to swallow thick liquid; it coated your
mouth and throat.
My shirt clung to the small of my back, damp with sweat. I had rolled up
the sleeves in a vain effort to cool myself off and my hair hung limp around
my face, beaten down by the heat. Through that oppressive heat, I felt the
city stir to life around me. Soon, I would be home and the night would pass
me by. I was content; my apartment had climate control. As far as I knew,
no one had figured out a way to air condition the world yet.
I felt the bite of restlessness this evening. Declining the option of
public transport, I had opted to walk home. Probably not a very good
decision given the humidity, but I hoped that the exertion would rid me of
the agitation I felt. By the time I arrived at my building, I was no less
edgy and a lot more irritated. I'm in fairly decent shape, but the heat had
my blood pounding in my ears. I could feel my heart beat against my ribs,
sounding unusually loud in the stillness of the lobby.
I pushed the call button for the elevator, shoved a hand through my damp
hair and waited. And waited. I choked back an angry snarl and crossed the
lobby, jabbing the call button for the alternate elevator. Neither set of
doors opened. Resisting the urge to growl in frustration, I headed back to
the main part of the lobby. As soon as I turned around, the bell chimed and
the doors slid open.
A scowl firmly on my face, I stepped through the doors and into the small,
dim space. I punched the button for the third floor and determinedly tried
to burn a hole through the wall by staring at it. There was a screech of
metal on metal and the elevator shuddered. The lights above me flickered
and went out, flashing back on in seconds. The elevator had stopped between
I stood in the middle of the suddenly too small space, one arm thrown out to
grip the railing. I hated it when machines malfunctioned, though it
explained why it had taken the elevator so long to arrive in the lobby.
When the floor didn't try to jump out from under my feet, I released the
rail and straightened. I was still trying to decide if I should spend a few
minutes ranting and then call help, or call for help first and then rant
when the elevator shuddered again. The numbers on the display began
counting up. I didn't let go of the railing this time until the bell chimed
and the doors slid open.
The corridor in front of me was dark. The window at the end let in some
light, but it only seemed to make the blackness further down the hall that
much deeper. Sparse emergency lights tried unsuccessfully to beat back the
blackness and I paused, listening. There was no sound of thunder outside;
the power failure must have been internal. Still, I was uneasy. I can deal
with surprises, but that didn't mean I had to like them.
I turned away from the window - my apartment lay in the other direction -
and found myself face to face with another person. I bit back a shout of
surprise and took a quick, jerky step backwards. Fine, I was more than
uneasy, but I hadn't heard anyone moving in the hall. I hadn't heard a
I couldn't see very well in this light, but I could tell it was a man. He
shifted and the shadows fell away from his face like a curtain parting. His
skin was so pale that it seemed to glow against the blackness behind him.
Full lips curved up at the edges in a tiny smile and eyes the color of the
deepest ocean met mine. They had a strange cast to them, as if they were
trying to be two colors at the same time; rich cobalt and dark indigo, my
mind supplied. The colors were mesmerizing, almost swirling and melding
with each other. It felt like I could drown in them. The man's smile
changed and the eyes I was contemplating began to sparkle with dark humor.
I was staring.
"You surprised me," I said by way of explanation, cursing silently and
wrenching myself out of my self-imposed daze. That had been one of the
oddest - and disturbing - things that had ever happened to me. Then I
realized that his hand was on my arm, and again, I hadn't heard or seen him
His hand was very stark where it rested lightly against my bare skin. Very
stark and very cold since I was still overheated from my ill-conceived walk.
Long, slender fingers were wrapped around me with short, neatly trimmed
nails. He wore a black and sliver watch that glinted in the light. The
time read quarter past seven.
He released me, soft skin lingering against mine and my arm tingled where
his hand had been. I stared at the spot and resisted the urge to rub my
arm, realizing belatedly that he had said something.
"What?" I asked, completely at a loss. My skin was still tingling, it was
"I apologize," he repeated. His voice was low and flowing, brushing over my
skin like raw silk. It felt like he could reach out and touch you with his
voice alone. More goosebumps rose along my arms. I wasn't cold.
My face must have been blank because he continued, "For startling you."
"It's nothing," I said, looking back up at his face. His hair looked short
and almost black where it disappeared into the shadows. Tiny locks fell
against his face, shining a rich brown in the light. It looked as if it
would shimmer with a life of its own in the light. Brown was too dull a
word. Chestnut suited it better.
The man stepped to the side, clearing the way for me. I walked past him,
his presence like a weight at my back. I glanced at him and couldn't think
of a thing to say. He watched me with unreadable eyes and I turned away.
I had my keys in my hand and was standing in front of my door when I looked
back. He was gone. My pulse was in my throat and I had no idea why.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Silk. I dreamed of silk and skin. Heated skin, heated hands and eyes with
a darkness in them. I heard whispers in the night and scented rain on the
air. Coolness washed over me in a breath of wind, replaced by heavy, moist
air. Eyes flashed in the dark, lips brushed mine. I smelled rain and sex,
heard my name whispered in a rich voice. I felt hands running over my body,
touching, worshiping, claiming.
I awoke with a start, eyes wide and staring at nothing. I sat up and the
light sheet pooled in my lap. My skin was damp with sweat and I could feel
blood rushing through my veins as I shook off the last remnants of the
dream. I rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands and looked at the clock.
It was barely past one in the morning. I swallowed hard, my throat dry.
The air conditioning clicked and I jumped. To say I was edgy may have been
I got out of bed slowly, walking over to my window. The city lights were
blazing bright. The streets were still dry, so it hadn't rained yet. I
pushed my hair back from my face with an irritated sigh. I was wide awake.
It was a good thing tomorrow was Saturday. I didn't think I'd fall asleep
again that night.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Amazingly, I did manage to get some sleep, but not the kind that leaves you
rested and refreshed. When I finally stumbled out of bed my eyes felt
gritty. I stayed inside most of the day and tried to do something
constructive, but by mid-afternoon my skin was crawling. My mind kept
replaying the encounter last night with the man in the hallway, over and
over again. I kept seeing his hand on my arm and it was beginning to bother
me. I needed something to distract me and nothing in my home was working,
but I didn't want to go out in the heat. If I stayed indoors, though, I was
fairly certain my mind would snap. It wasn't like me. I lasted another few
hours and when the sun set that night, I found myself walking through the
front doors of my building. I had no idea where I was going. I just had to
A few blocks away from my apartment, I was still wondering what had happened
to my sanity, wandering around in this sweltering heat. Why did I have to
escape my apartment, why did I have this undeniable compulsion to be
outside? I looked up at the sky as I walked along, almost growling in
The stars were invisible, overtaken by the lights of the city. Only the
moon shone clear and cold in the velvet blackness. I passed through a heat
wave and the air around me shimmered, making the world waver as if disturbed
by ripples in a pool. The air was heavy, almost tangible, like a dream that
solidifies when you turn your back and dissipates as soon as you try to see
In the distance, I heard the wail of sirens. Black smoke billowed skyward
and I could just see the tips of flames deep in the city. Absently, I
walked towards it. I was standing a street away from a roaring fire before
I consciously thought of what I was doing. My body seemed to be acting
independently from my mind. I felt disconnected, distant, and I really didn
't like it.
Even here, the heat of the fire was oppressive. Gawkers, much like myself,
had crowded close to the police barricade. There weren't many people near
me, most either ran toward or away from the flames. I stared at the orange
tongues and listened to the building burn.
"Spectacular, isn't it?" a voice I recognized said from right beside me,
making me turn. "Horrifying."
I must have made a sound of surprise because he turned laughing eyes on me.
I had to look up to meet his gaze. "Nervous?" he asked quietly.
The question, and his presence, made me frown. I flashed on the image of
his hand on my arm again and deepened my expression into a scowl. I had
nothing to be nervous about. That didn't explain why I was, though. "No,"
I said, for lack of any better response.
He nodded as if he had expected me to say that, unconcerned with my
reaction. "Walk with me." He turned and walked away from the fire without
waiting for an answer.
I was still scowling, but I followed him out of curiosity if nothing else.
I don't have a habit of giving in to random urges, even though I had
basically run away from my apartment today. What I was doing was completely
out of character and I wasn't sure I cared.
As I turned, I noticed that my first impression was wrong. His hair wasn't
short at all, it trailed down his back and past his hips in a long braid
that swished back and forth as he moved. It was like he didn't walk so much
as he flowed over the ground. He moved in an easy glide that made things in
my stomach tighten and my throat close. I don't think it was all nerves,
though I would have felt better if it was.
He stopped, finally waiting for me and I felt an irrational urge to run and
catch up with him. I ruthlessly pushed it aside and calmly walked toward
him. At least, I was trying for calm since I damn well didn't feel that
When I was beside him, he started walking again and I asked the question
that had been nagging at me for the entire day. "Who are you?" I looked at
him from the corner of my eye as I spoke.
He remained facing forward, but I heard the smile in his voice when he
answered. "I was wondering when you would ask me that."
His voice made me shiver and I grunted at him in irritation. It felt so
invasive, intimate really. No one's voice should ever sound like that. "I'
m asking now."
"Aren't you wondering what I want with you?"
I thought about that for several moments and decided I really didn't like
the way he phrased that. "I asked who you were, not what you want." I
thought he was obnoxious, so I felt that I had the right to be abrupt with
him and even if I didn't, I was going to anyway.
He laughed, a low sound that belonged in the privacy of your own home, not
the middle of a street. He stopped walking and leaned back against the side
of a building. I looked around briefly, noticing that he hadn't led me far.
I could still hear the crackling of the fire, but the streets were strangely
empty. The police must have blocked off the roads because of the blaze.
He crossed his arms lightly over his chest and crossed his legs at the
ankles, looking very relaxed. His clothing was dark, stretched tight across
his body. The shirt was plain and had a high collar. Over it he wore a
duster coat, despite the fact that it was entirely too hot for it. An
earring that glinted sliver in the light was in his right ear. He seemed
content to let me look at him and, for a time, I was quite happy to.
"My name is Duo," he said finally, wrapping his voice around me. I shivered
in the warm air.
Duo was smiling at me again, his face revealing nothing beyond light
amusement. I was annoyed, hot, and getting angry fairly quickly. I didn't
appreciate being led around by the nose, especially not like this. Nothing
worked like a little anger to regain your focus.
"What do you want?" I asked shortly.
"To talk, maybe," he said.
I shook my head at him in disbelief. I didn't doubt that was part of what
he wanted, but there had to be more, there was always something more. The
entire situation was almost laughable. I had no idea what he expected of me
and for that matter, I had no idea what I expected of him. Whatever it was,
I didn't think it would be a good thing.
"To know you, then," he said.
"Why?" It seemed like a fair question to me.
He shrugged. "I want to."
As much as I hated to admit it, that was a reason, though not a very good
one. But, it was why most of the human race did anything. I stared at his
face and tried to read the thoughts flowing through his eyes and saw nothing
aside from the warring colors. I tidily labeled what I was feeling 'unease'
and thought about how to extract myself from his company.
"Come here," he said quietly. It was a direct command and I found myself
taking a half-step forward before I thought about it.
"I don't think so," I said, halting and shaking my head at him. It was time
for me to head back to the relative safety of my apartment, away from Duo
and his ideas.
A group of chattering teenagers passed by on the other side of the street,
making enough noise to nearly drown out the sounds of the fire. Distracted,
I glanced at them.
"No?" Duo's voice was low, barely above a murmur. He was standing beside
me, nearly whispering into my ear. The scent of wind and rain washed over
me and I almost looked up at the sky in search of clouds.
"Dammit," I said, taking a quick step back with my heart in my throat. Just
like last night in the corridor, I hadn't heard him move. My pulse was
racing again and I'd had enough. I turned to leave and I felt his hand
close over my wrist, stopping me. "Let go," I said flatly, looking at him
over my shoulder.
His lips quirked up slightly at the corners and he said, "No, not this time,
I tensed and sucked in a sharp breath, narrowing my eyes as turned around
completely to meet his gaze. "Let go of me," I repeated slowly.
He kept his eyes locked with mine and released my wrist, taking a silent
step toward me, radiating confidence. The colors of his eyes swam,
darkening, and I felt a shiver pass over me in spite of the heat. I was
rooted to the ground and suddenly, I didn't want to leave him. That one
irrational thought scared me more that I'd like to admit, and my breathing
turned shallow, fueled by my fear and something else just as base and
"I can taste it," he said, closing the distance between us. "Taste it on my
tongue like wine."
I swallowed hard enough to hurt my throat. "What?" I asked, not certain I
wanted to hear the answer.
Duo smiled at me again, and it wasn't friendly. He stood in front of me,
close enough that a deep breath would have made us touch. He trailed a cool
finger across my lips and down my throat, pressing against the pulse there.
"This," he said, bringing his face close and brushing his lips over mine.
My eyes widened at the contact. Duo's lips, like his hands, were cool
against my skin, but not unpleasant. In fact, it was a little too pleasant,
his lips unbelievably soft, like velvet. His other hand curled in the hair
at the base of my neck, tipping my head back so he could press his lips
firmly against mine. He pulled away, far enough so that I could focus on
his face and very slowly, very deliberately, licked his lips.
"Why did you come out tonight, Heero?" he asked softly, sliding the hand at
my throat up and running it over my mouth.
"I had to," I said, not really understanding either why I did or why he
He seemed to like my answer, but said, "You should have stayed home. Go
home, Heero, and stay behind your walls of light where it's safe."
I frowned at him and he stepped back, his hands falling away from me.
"Go," he repeated.
The urge to do as he said was so strong that I almost stumbled out into the
street. I turned away from him, walking back to my apartment. The further
I went, the more like myself I felt and I realized that there were some
questions that I really wanted answers to. Something cool brushed against
my neck, making me shiver, and I didn't have to look to know that he was
gone. If I saw Duo again, and I had no doubt that I would, I'd get the
answers I wanted.
- - - - - - - - - - -
I was back at my apartment, sitting crossed-legged in the middle of my bed
and wearing only a ratty pair of red checkered pajama pants with black, gray
and white mixed in, when my mind finally decided to wake up. I almost
preferred it didn't, since it was running a mile a minute and getting
nowhere. My thoughts consisted of the rather clear visual of Duo's hands
and how they felt when he touched me. I flashed on the feeling of his lips
against mine and growled in frustration. At least I was feeling like I was
back on the planet now and not walking around in a daze.
I ran my hand through my hair for what had to be the hundredth time that
night and looked at the clock again. I'd somehow managed to waste a few
hours, the bright display read quarter to ten. I scooted back to lean
against the headboard and ran the entire evening through my head again.
It still didn't make much sense, although I had managed to come up with a
few conclusions - rather obvious ones. One, Duo was a certifiable nut. An
attractive nut with an amazing voice, but a nut nonetheless. Two, he had
somehow discovered my name, either before or after our meeting in the
hallway. I was much more comfortable with if it was after that, since it
would be an easy matter for him to find it if he knew my address. If it was
before . . . well, I didn't really want to think about that. I've never
been really comfortable with the concept of stalkers.
His interest in me was more than a little disturbing, and so where his
cryptic words. I wondered more than once just what he had meant by 'not
this time' and why he had asked what made me leave my apartment that night.
It was like he was waiting for me, even though logic told me that that
particular idea was completely unfounded. When it appeared in my head, I
had to acknowledge the thought that Duo had been a large part of the reason
for my restlessness today, but adamantly refused to even consider that Duo
had something directly to do with my leaving.
I gave another half-sigh, half-growl of annoyance. I almost wished I had
taken the offer Friday to go out, at least then I wouldn't be sitting here,
thinking about this. But I had the nagging feeling that I would have met
Duo no matter what I did. That thought didn't lead me into a very restful
- - - - - - - - - - -
I woke up Sunday feeling much that same as I had yesterday. I had
continually woken up during the night, drenched in sweat and panting from
yet another dream. They were getting worse, and a lot clearer. I awoke to
the morning blaze with the sensation of hands on my hips and lips against my
stomach. The feeling lingered, and I rubbed the pads of my fingers over the
tingling skin. It was ridiculous.
I slumped back into my pillow and threw and arm over my eyes to block out
the light seeping through my drapes. I needed heavier curtains. A few
minutes later I scrubbed my hands over my face and finally got out of bed,
feeling thoroughly exhausted.
My apartment is clean, airy and comfortably modern. My bedroom is large
enough for a queen sized bed, a night table, a chair that ended up being
used as a place to toss my clothes, an old chest of drawers and an
entertainment center. I liked to sit or lie in bed to watch television,
which is why my living room looked different than most. I felt like I
needed something for my blue couch and matching chairs to focus on, so the
fireplace that I had never used was nominated.
The bathroom had a whirlpool bath, a separate shower stall, toilet and
pedestal sink, all white with chrome fixtures. The walls, like the rest of
the apartment, were off-white, making the bathroom the most severe looking
room. It was even a bit much for me, and I attempted to fix it with a few
prints and a large shelf. It helped a little. The appliances in the kitchen
were stainless steel, a look that most people thought cold but that I found
suited me fine.
A lukewarm shower helped clear my head a little, the first cup of bitter
coffee twenty minutes later even more so. I cradled the mug in my hands,
leaned against the counter and thought about what I needed to have done for
tomorrow, determinedly ignoring the irritating restlessness that was growing
in the back of my mind.
Several hours later, I was pacing the length of my apartment, scowling at
anything and everything that fell into my line of sight. I had that same
feeling again, that burning desire to be anywhere but here. I looked out
the window and the sun was still bright in the sky. It had to be at least
another few hours until sunset and I took a disturbing amount of comfort in
that fact. Thoroughly aggravated and furious with myself for what I was
about to do, I grabbed a light shirt to wear, since I had a habit of
wandering around in the privacy of my own apartment in only jeans and socks;
found my keys and left. I shoved the keys and my hands into my pockets and
proceeded to storm down the street. The look of alarm one woman threw my
way was strangely satisfying.
- - - - - - - - - - -
It was almost sunset, and I was still outside. I had made my way to the
Riverside area through the choking heat, nearly half way across town from my
building. I felt the same disconnected feeling, recognizing it this time
and actively fighting it off. Somehow, I knew where I had to go and what
would be waiting for me when I got there. The thought should have sent me
running in the opposite direction.
The Riverside is one of the darkest, corrupt, and most fascinating parts of
the city. It was where you went to sample the things that never dared show
their faces in the bright light of day. As far as these things go, it was
in a higher class than most and a lot safer than other parts of town.
Violence, when it wasn't a part of the entertainment, was frowned upon and
quickly dealt with.
The buildings were tall, reaching for a sky that was now colored a blazing
red. Through the clear glass doors, you could see men and women mingling
freely in lush, dark surroundings, sipping on glasses of the drink of their
choice. Some buildings had a more modern look, chunky and metallic. The
people there danced, holding brightly colored glasses with even brighter
liquids in their hands. Music poured from the open doors that spilled
shadows out into the street. It flowed on the thick air and forced its way
through you, daring you to come inside where the flashing, multicolored
lights threw your world off-balance. The entire area pulsed with a life of
its own, it was in places like these where the heartbeat of the night city
As I walked quickly through the area, the sun set slowly, unwilling to give
up its place in the blood colored sky. In the end, it always failed and the
night gleefully embraced the city. Electric lights burst into brightness,
taking over the sun's role but providing none of its sparse comfort. These
lights didn't try to push back the night, they were more like a part of it.
My path led me down to the river's edge where the water glittered with the
city lights. It was dimmer here, away from the majority of buildings and
their laughing occupants. I could barely make out the blurry outline of the
moon on the water, and it reminded me of how everything looked last night
through the haze of the heat.
It was full dark when I felt his presence at my back. I couldn't hear him
move, but I knew he was walking toward me. I shivered when his hands slid
over my shoulders to loop loosely around my neck and he leaned into me,
trailing his lips over the shell of my ear. His skin was warm tonight and
the smell of rain surrounded me. I realized that it was Duo's scent, he
smelled like the wind before a storm.
Duo's breath was hot on my neck when he spoke. "Welcome back, Heero."