In which Arik sermonizes, albeit internally, and remembers that he has a set of balls.
Which means that it's time to find out some truth behind Blaze's fear.
"Arik, please shut up ... And let me hold you."
Arik had considered reaching out sexually... Tasting. Stroking. Fucking. That was how moments like these were supposed to play out. At least, that's what his head told him. The rest of him, including his cock, told Arik that no greater intimacy was possible than what the two of them were sharing through simple touch. It felt right. It felt good. Perfect, in fact. And when the anger burned itself out, when the moisture leaking out of his eyes dried up, Arik felt more sated, more exhausted, than he would have if they'd spent the last six hours banging like rabbits. He gorged on that feeling — defying the water to cool, and clinging to Blaze without care or concern over wasting water or time or to cramping limbs. He sat under the shower, and he thought of a pretty boy with a bright future and a brilliant smile. He considered a life so hard to live that a self-inflicted death was the only possible peace. He thought of the man he held against him, of a belief so strong that it caused blood cells to rupture. Then he mused destiny. Fate. Decisions and consequences.
There was a joke his father used to tell, a proverb, so to speak, of a man whose boat had sunk in the middle of the ocean. As the man clung to a buoy, fighting waves, and watching the fins of sea life appear above the surface of the water, the man prayed for his god to rescue him. A fishing boat appeared, offered the man assistance, and the man waved them away. "God will save me."
The night got darker, the water got colder. Another boat appeared, and the man turned them away, telling the people onboard that his god would save him.
A storm rolled in. His fingers got too tired to hold, but his tongue never gave up his prayers. And when a cruise ship came by, tossing out a lifesaver, and begging the man to grab it, once again they were turned away. "God will save me. I believe."
When, finally, the fragility of the human body was proved, and the man sunk beneath the waves, the man was angry. He stood in front of his god and demanded to know why he hadn't been saved. All those years, all that faith — how could he have been so carelessly disregarded?
And God had looked down upon him, lifted an empiric eyebrow up his forehead, and said ... "I sent you three fucking boats!"
Arik remembered his father speaking the words, recalled the round of laughter that had always followed it. Why that story stuck with him, Arik couldn't really say. It might have only been the ludicrous paradox of his father speaking words of turning away assistance that was being begged for. This wasn't about his father, though; Arik had to understand that. Blaze was right. Arik wasn't his father. He wasn't going to be the man bobbing on the ocean and turning a blind eye to the assistance being offered by divine intervention. At the same time, though, he damn well wasn't going to be one of the ships that sailed away.
If this worked, if they worked, something beautiful could happen. At the same time, if Blaze believed there was an ulterior motive as to why they were there, then there was a good chance Blaze was going to turn into a spewing fountain of the most macabre kind.
I will not be my father, Arik repeated in his head. I will not succumb to madness, because I do not believe that the 'gifts' I have, if in fact that is what they are, are gifts that I continually have to earn. I did not ask for this right. I do not want it. However, if some otherwordly something has deemed it fit to grant it to me, then it is mine to use.
He caught the imagined tendril of insanity, and he envisioned himself fisting it. He snagged the rein of woe-is-me relationships and added it to his palm. If he stood around and let the stallions stampede, as stallions were wont to do, then that's when the hooves would get him. It was time to force his control over the beasts that hoped to crush him.
Arik pushed away the mental image of a goat—a much smaller, comedic-yet-ornery counter-cousin image to his stallions—and he added that tendril of a concept to his fist along with the rest of them. It was time to face this horseshit. Yes, it was galloping way past his comfort zone. And sure, he'd probably needed to get the fear out of his system. But if he sat around wallowing, that's what was going to drive him crazy. If he did nothing but cower and whine, those were the leads that would end up dragging him over a cliff.
The sigh that echoed from behind Arik's closed lips had Blaze lifting his head and smiling somewhat confusedly. "Mood swing?"
Life path reorientation, Arik's mind offered up. His tongue, however, replied with, "We're about to use every drop of the hotel's hot water supply. I can only imagine what they'll want to charge us for that."
He reached for the toggle that would redirect the water, but was stopped by Blaze's hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay, Arik? I mean—" Blaze stopped himself, caught his lip and frowned, and for another rare moment Arik thought how nice it was to see the man behind the mask. To see something other than piety. Disturbed was almost more of a windfall than lust. Because it was real. Something lit in the back of Arik's head.
Let's see what boat we're waiting for, shall we?
"I mean, I know you're not okay," Blaze said. "I know you're dealing with a lot of things you don't get, or know how to manage—"
"I'm okay," Arik cut him off with slow words and an even slower smile. "My life isn't going to be resolved in an afternoon, any more than yours will. You're not here to help me get over my daddy issues." He paused, waited for Blaze's frown to deepen. And he pushed again. "I don't want you to help me get over my hate for my father. Every once in a while, he gets in my head. He whispers stupid shit in my ear from whichever beast's shoulder he's now perched on. He probably always will."
Arik banged the toggle and the cooling water dropped from above to below, the sound intensifying from gentle rain to rushing river.
"Okay, but..." Blaze's words trailed.
"Nope," Arik said firmly. "No more daddy talk. No more trying to dig into my childhood, and I, in turn," he lifted his eyes and caught Blaze's gaze, "will not bring it up either."
He leaned over the taps, turned the knobs to shut off the flow, keeping Blaze's face in his peripheral. One reaction, that's all he would need.
Show me your disease, so I can find a cure.
That's all it had taken, if Blaze's word could be trusted. One shift, one step off the path and towards a different direction. "He took my hand," Blaze had said, "and he smiled at me, and..." Then the blood had come. Then the quest had taken over. Or the bits of Blaze's mind that told him he needed to see reaction in order to force himself back into the moment had, anyway.
Nothing colored Blaze's face. Not a single drip of anything but clear, fresh water over glowing skin. Blaze didn't believe, in that hidden part of him that convinced body to revolt, that he was there to help Arik get over his father.
"I want to go out," Arik said, nodding. "You need a jacket and a tie."
I'm going to buy you things, Arik thought, watching Blaze's face as if it held the secrets of the universe, and Arik merely had to figure out how to read it. I'm going to make you feel important.
There was no reaction.
"Something nice, so you fit in," Arik continued. "There's a dress code in both dining facilities. Apparently these people play hardball with their expectations." He loosened his expression into a smirk. "So, Vivianne, let's skip the scene where everyone makes fun of you, and get right to the one where I get to watch you prance for me in some cool fashion."
Arik snagged a towel off the rack, went to hand it to Blaze, then reconsidered and draped it over Blaze himself. Through terrycloth, Arik worked his fingers over Blaze's wet hair. For a long minute he lost reality in the way Blaze's eyelids fell to half-mast, and the feel of Blaze's fingers when Blaze reached up and gripped Arik's forearms, as if for support. But the towel stayed white. Blaze's face didn't spout with unexpected hemorrhage.
He's not going to beat himself up over me showing him attention. Leaving the hotel and perusing the town isn't going to wound him.
"And then," Arik slipped the towel off Blaze's head, and curls sprung wildly, free of both product and brush. Years slipped off Blaze's face; he could have been a teenager standing there, soaked and innocent, and something in Arik's chest constricted so tightly that Arik wasn't sure it was ever going to release again. He rested the towel over Blaze's shoulders, and used it as a harness to draw Blaze closer. "I'm going to wine you, and dine you, like the prince you are, Blaze. I'm going to get you tipsy, and I'm going to make you laugh, and we're going to have an awesome time."
He caught Blaze's hand and grinned at the concern falling over Blaze's face. "And when we're done, I'm going to bring you back up to the room..." He ran his fingers over Blaze's chest, barely-there touches that inspired goose flesh and hardened Blaze's nipple. "... and I'm going to light up sparks all over you skin. I'm going to lay you down on Egyptian cotton, and spread you open in every way, and with every appendage on my body that I can think of."
Blaze huffed a sound, although which emotion it was that backed it, Arik couldn't identify. Arik pressed a kiss to Blaze's forehead, thrilling at the feel of Blaze leaning into the gesture.
"Then maybe?" Arik followed words with kisses: eyebrow, cheekbone, and jaw. "I might even..." He parted his lips and inhaled the scent of clean, clear, shower-fresh skin. "Tell you..."
Warm breath. White skin. Freckles. "How much..."
The thud of Blaze's heart from inside Blaze's chest. The way Blaze's grip dug into Arik's muscles. The slow rise of both of their bodies. "I think I'm..."
Blaze caught a breath. Arik's eyelids fell, and he kept away Blaze's impending speech with a light kiss. He pulled back, only enough to let his words tickle Blaze's lips, "... falling in love with you."
A flash of brilliance slashed across the inside of Arik's eyelids. Blaze choked. The spark of sensation between their touches snapped into a sizzle that stung skin; an elastic band sharpness that was so intense it hurt. Arik opened his eyes with a start. Blaze pulled back and away. They stared at each other in stunned silence.
A single drop of onyx liquid slipped from Blaze's left nostril.
The sound Arik made surprised him — like the mewl of a child getting candy yanked away. With a slow hand Blaze reached up, dragged his fingertips along his upper lip, and drew them back again to stare at the smear that stained them. Blaze lifted his gaze, caught Arik's eyes with his own, and there was more pain than could possibly be associated with physical agony in Blaze's expression.
To be continued...
Until next time!
Tune in next week for more.