Howdy gang! Welcome to part VIII of VISION QUEST. This chapter was written by Henley, who also wanted to say... (As I dearly love him grumbling over writing author's notes. *winks*)
When last we met our daring heroes, sparks were flying, flames igniting, and the boys were pretty well mind-blown. Lucky buggers. And with that post Kelly made good on the promise for some long-anticipated, amazingly-hot sex, which means, I assume, that I should make good on the promise for some information. Always the buzz kill, I am, I am.
So, to that end, I present... Vision Quest, Chapter VIII (and may I just say that I'm getting the opportunity to relearn my Roman numerals all over again? *grins*)
As it should be, Henley. As it SHOULD be...
"Feel that?" ... "Oh God, yeah!" ... "Fuck! Fuck!"
The air conditioner inside the suite pinged as it settled, the sudden lack of background noise somehow louder than the steady rattle. Arik opened his eyes, waited for focus and for reason, to make sense of the all too pleasing weight over top of him. From somewhere within the cobwebs of the subconscious mind—where thought still clung to the serenity of dream worlds—Arik saw blurry images of naked bodies, and a scene that did not quite seem to be from his own perspective. Pounding. Grinding. Sweat-slicked skin being stroked by smooth palms. He chased the vignette, trying to prolong the sense of peace and connection it gave him, but found the consistency watery, and the edges slippery. As if the mental images weren't his to follow.
Arik shifted under Blaze's weight, had to draw his eyelids back up, unsure of when they'd fallen again. He smiled. His skin was warm and pleasantly numb, as though overstimulated but entirely accustomed to the sensation. Blaze's hip rested on the mattress beside him but Blaze's leg was wedged between his, Blaze's arm still wrapped around his chest, and Arik had never felt so blissfully burdened in his life. He reached up, ran his fingers over Blaze's scalp, and traced patterns through Blaze's hair. But it wasn't until Arik dragged fingertips down Blaze's neck that Blaze pulled a long, low sigh and the butterfly-wing-brush of Blaze's eyelashes fluttered on Arik's chest.
"Hiya," Arik murmured. He didn't look down. On the contrary, he closed his eyes with the words and felt Blaze wake up against him. He registered the slight stiffening of muscles as brain questioned body to remind itself of whys and whats. His lips twitched with a smile as whatever answered brought with it the security of Blaze relaxing into Arik again. Blaze's palm slipped into a stroke over Arik's pectoral; Blaze's heel caught into the nook in which it rested in order to shift the two of them that much closer together, and they sighed in tandem.
Waking up with someone... what a nice fucking concept.
A low whine of rumbly greed from Arik's midsection protested his lack of schedule, and Arik's free hand flew to his belly with a chuckle.
"Was that you or me?" Blaze teased.
"Me. Sorry." Arik slid his hip, nudging Blaze to the side and grimaced at the spent release between them, now dried and doing its best to take on the property of glue. "Guess we should have showered." He sat up in bed, yawned and blinked through the window of the hotel room, the lack of drawn drapery offering a beautiful view of both the advancing evening, and the approaching cloud cover. No wonder the a/c had flicked off. If the room was any indication of the weather, temperatures had dropped, and be it a result of that, or just the encroach of evening, the once bright sky had given way to greys and purples.
"It's late?" Arik said, more question that statement. He set his heel on the floor and brushed at his chest.
Blaze answered without checking. "Just after six."
"Oh!" Arik turned back with a grin. He locked up their gazes, let himself get lost in azure blue so as not to wonder why he'd yet failed to try and count the tiny freckles that sunlight had warmed out of Blaze's skin. "Let me take you for dinner. Somewhere nice. With crystal glasses and desserts that neither of us can pronounce." He smiled and reached for Blaze's cheek, seeking out that fan-fucking-tastic spark of soul. "I have a jacket. Well... it probably won't fit you worth a fuck. But we could ask the concierge for something. Or, you know, to hell with the jacket. You can borrow a button-up and roll the sleeves."
Suddenly grinning, Arik slid out of bed. "After all, isn't this the scene where I get to woo you with escargot and sherbets " He wiggled his eyebrows at Blaze's expression. "Show you just how awesomely cool I am at ordering wine? Maybe even—"
"We should talk."
Arik nodded. "A nice quiet table then. There's a restaurant just a few blocks from here. It's probably late for reservations but if the hotel can pull some strings—"
"I'm sure the hotel has room service."
Blaze's voice was quiet and calm, but it had a backbone of insistence in it that told Arik it was only being presented as a suggestion. Arik's arms fell to his sides. "No, I know. It's just... I thought... " He paused while anxiety shut down his tongue.
For thirty years of his life, Arik had fought away the madness. And that's what it was — fucking madness. Imaginary creepings of pseudo-religion-inspired hallucinations, and fears granted entry into consciousness. If Arik paused too long to listen, if he let them get a finger hold, before sanity would understand what was happening, Arik would tumble headlong into the same terrifying pit that had consumed his father. He'd be the one mumbling fanatical bullshit masked as prayers, or pontificating with strangers over worlds that did not exist and abilities outside the realm of normalcy.
Arik was a businessman. He had savings and an investment portfolio. He had furniture from Italy and a car from Germany. He was normal and whole and it was really, really, really fucking important that he stay that way.
Blaze unfolded himself from the bed, lean legs so perfectly shaped to his body that they had an illusion of length even with his small frame. Then Blaze stood, ignored clothing, or sheets, or anything at all that might have offered a sense of propriety to his naked form. Not that Arik's current state of undress was any more modest. They stood, face to face, stripped bare and filthy.
"You shower. I'll order," Blaze said quietly. "Then I'll shower, and you'll pay." Blaze's touch was light and warm when he put his open palm on Arik's chest. "I even promise to ask for crystal glasses."
The heat from the shower still leeched off Arik's skin. That should have been enough to stop the constant shivers of chill from rifling across his shoulders. It wasn't. The hoodie didn't help either, nor did the pajama pants, or the socks. Arik would have sold damn near everything he owned to have been graced with a suite that had a fireplace at that moment. Even the fake logs and the gas-enhanced flames of the usual variety found in that kind of hotel would have sufficed.
Instead, Arik crossed his arms over his chest, closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, listening to Blaze's quiet voice sing an unknown song in a thick, foreign accent. Even though the tone was gentle and the volume low, there was an underlying darkness that spoke of sadness and loss, pain and grief. It made Arik want to climb under the covers, bury his face in the sex-spattered sheets, and weep.
There had been very little exchange between Arik and the suited porter when the man had arrived, uncorked the bottle, flourished the napkins, and then stood smiling patiently while Arik had signed for the delivery. Blaze had ordered more food than any two men could possibly eat: salad and soup, appetizers and bread. A peek under the steam-capturing lids over the entrees had revealed both steak and chicken, pasta and potatoes. Between it all, a bottle of Bordeaux sat breathing. An odd choice, considering the meal, but somehow fitting for the mood.
A curtain of steam followed Blaze out of the bathroom. A towel was wrapped around his waist and tucked with the requisite fold to keep it in place. It was the flush of pink that covered Blaze's skin and the smiled he offered Arik before he shook his hair that drew Arik's attention, though. As if the man had semi-boiled himself in the water. And enjoyed every moment of it.
"Ah," Blaze sighed. "Awesome. The food's here. Just give me a minute to put on some—"
"The goat came to life," Arik blurted. And once the words started, Arik couldn't stop the spew. "I mean, not really, of course. It's not like it found its feet and ran off to join the circus. But I saw it animate. I saw... abuse. I saw skin being torn and things being broken and... God, Blaze... the sounds." He caught Blaze's eyes, expected disbelief and fear, and saw none of it. Arik's teeth caught the inside of his cheek, and he chewed.
"But that's not the weird thing. That kind of moment is easily written that off to bad coffee or too much sun, you know what I mean?" Arik paused, doubting his ability to make the words sound like his head wanted them to. "I think that what I saw at the course was part of what we saw on the television at the bar. The breaking and the distorting, and the wet—" Arik cut himself off, scrubbed at the side of his face with one hand, and yanked the bottle of wine out of the holder with the other. Then he started pacing beside the table—back and forth, back and forth—with the bottle of wine gripped in his fist. "I mean, I know it probably sounds stupid."
Arik stopped, stared again; unblinking and begging with his eyes. "They're related. I don't know why or how, but I know they are. I know it." He nodded. Repeated the words. "I know it."
Blaze stepped forward. "I believe you."
"Why?" Arik huffed the word as though Blaze's belief was more ludicrous than the vision.
"Because I do," Blaze smiled. "Because I've seen all kinds of things over the years, and I know that—"
Arik cut him off with a snort. "Oh, the drama you must have seen in the, what, twenty-five or so years you've been alive?" He tilted his head and made a duck face of annoyance. "Seriously. Not to get off topic or anything but... "
Blaze spread his fingers towards the cart that held their dinner and scooped both wine glasses off it. He held them up, cradling both bowls in his palm, stems dangling, and nodded at the bottle of wine before answering, "I'm older than I look."
"Oh? Do tell," Arik prompted. He poured a couple of inches in each glass with all the care due of a Bordeaux over a carpet somebody else owned.
"Yep, when you're done talking." Blaze grinned at the look Arik shot him over the glasses. "Have you seen these kinds of things before?"
"Not with that kind of intensity, no," Arik admitted.
Blaze sat down on the arm of the couch, adjusting the towel to fall between his legs. "With what kind of intensity, then?"
Arik shrugged and sat across from Blaze, on the coffee table that spanned the front of the couch. He reversed Blaze's previous movements and readjusted Blaze's towel to allow for a far more daring view, grinning at Blaze's chuckle. "Mostly just... well," Arik took a small sip of wine before setting the glass aside. He began to trace light circles along the inside of Blaze's bare thigh. The sharp intake of breath Blaze gave him for the effort made Arik's gut clench with delight. Whether it was Blaze's attention that spurred the bravery for Arik to continue, or just the need to finally spit it out, Arik wasn't sure. "I call it my 'watch, review, record' mode. I see things that I know will have importance later, and I make a note of how and why in my head. Then I store it up and set it aside so I can recall it when I need it."
Arik's lips twitched. "Little things. Weird things. Things that end up relating to one another. Like, yesterday morning, before I met you, it was everything red. The week before my father jumped, it was things with wings."
Blaze frowned. "Jumped?"
"Off a bridge," Arik explained with an eye roll. "God was calling, you see."
"So foretelling, more or less—"
Arik cut him off before Blaze could finish, frowning. "Tell that to our young mini-golf guide, Craig. That was obviously not foretelling. If it was anything at all, it was a taunt." Arik dropped his voice to a creepy, snarling parody of himself. "You can see it, dumbass, but you can't do a damn thing about it. Enjoy the view."
"Or it was," Blaze suggested. "Maybe it was the start of something huge. Maybe that really was the warning. Have you thought about digging into it, rolling with it, trying to figure out if there's some kind of indicator, or path, or—"
Arik snorted. "No. See, the thing is? I don't really pursue it. I'm more inclined to shut it down when I feel it creeping up on me."
Blaze laid a palm over Arik's fingers, holding them in place, and it was only then that Arik realized his previously light touches had become more of a dig. "Can I ask you why?"
"Long story." Arik stood; started pacing.
"I have time," Blaze prompted.
"My father—" Arik caught a breath and stopped. He swallowed a couple of times to force down the sudden rise of bile. "He was maniacal about things that were beyond the normal realm of consciousness. Books. Pamphlets. Scrolls." He turned and lifted an eyebrow at Blaze. "Yes, scrolls even. Where most religious freaks fear the metaphysical, Dad considered them gifts. But not gifts for one's own use, Blaze. God, no. They were tools. To right wrongs and vanquish evil. To manipulate thought and correct the things he saw as shortcomings in other people. Godlessness. Homosexuality. Whorish behavior Fuck, I don't even know. I wasn't that old when he finally flung himself into his deities' arms the hard way. But I do know this — he terrified me. It was easier to deny that there was anything there, than to get stuck being part of any of it. He'd tell me to watch, and I'd tell him that I didn't see anything."
Arik's reply was a whisper. "Yes."
"Awful things," Arik admitted. "Let's just say that the goat has cousins everywhere."
Blaze nodded. "Things little boys shouldn't see."
Arik parroted the head bob, and Blaze reached for, then handed him back his wine. "Okay. Good to know. Whatever it means, at least now we both have an idea of it." He leaned his own glass forward and tapped it against the side of Arik's. The bright sound of crystal checking crystal pinged through the room — a cymbal, a bell, as though announcing the call to game.
On your mark ... get set ...
Blaze smiled. "Ready to eat?"
"Not quite." Arik took a sip to seal the toast, and set the glass down yet again. He waited for Blaze to sample the wine as well, then followed suit with Blaze's glass. Arik rose, dropped down into the couch beside Blaze and with a circling of arms and a tug, he pulled Blaze onto his lap.
Arik leveled their gazes. "Your turn."
To be continued...
Until next time!
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Much love to you and yours,