tsked, gently angry. "I don't want any other services,
if that's what you're worried about." He nearly laughed aloud, but stopped
himself at the last minute. He'd had plenty of time to develop his self
restraint in that regard, over the last few months - though it wasn't as if
he'd ever been tempted by anything. This kid probably wouldn't believe him -
but he'd agreed to go with him, regardless. His hunger must be appalling.
He nodded his head out into the street, getting the kid to follow, and they walked in silence to one of the quieter cafes, set back in amongst clubs and private shops and strange, unidentified trading units. It was the place that Reven frequented most, because of this anonymity. Though the misery of it all was depressing, on most days.
He opened the door and waved the kid in - but the boy shook his head, eyes widening sharply, and insisting that Reven go first. Reven rolled his eyes up, but marched in, drawing out chairs to a table and waving a hand at a fat woman behind the counter. He was obviously a regular, for she needed no other direction. Her eyes glanced over the kid, recognising there were two for a meal, then she bustled out through a back door to the kitchen.
Reven snagged a can of soda from the cabinet by their table and put it in front of the kid. He saw him gazing hungrily at a couple of slices of bread left on the empty table beside them, and so he reached over, picked up the plate, and pushed it beside the can. That would keep him going until the cooked food arrived.
"So what's your name? If you want to tell me. Can't keep calling you 'kid', can I? Makes you sound 11, or something."
The brunette began to wolf down the food immediately, and as he was on the second piece, he realized a question had been asked of him. "Kalain," he replied through the bread, "But most people call me Lain. And I'm not 11! I'm fifteen."
He finished the piece in his mouth and reached for the third, choking slightly on his first bite before cramming the rest in his mouth and trying to chew.
He looked up at the man and realized he was being watched, and looked away once more with a slight blush as he tried to swallow the gob of bread. He never used to be like this. He never used to eat like an animal and smell like one to boot.
I had manners, and a house, and a family, he wanted to declare to this man. But what purpose would it serve?
He was here to 'discuss business' wasn't he?
He blushed further at the thought. The man had said he didn't want any other services, but he had no reason to tell Lain the truth. If he was asked to bargain for the price of his body for one night, how much would he ask for?
He wished Sphynx were here.
"So..." Reven looked at the kid as the plate of food arrived. Hot, steaming, full of grease and sauce and more thick bread, and he almost laughed at the way that Lain's eyes lit up at the sight. He signalled for a jug of water, and then picked a little at his own, much smaller plate. He wasn't really hungry, but he didn't want the kid to know he'd only done this for him.
"You like the dancing?" he asked, really just for something to say. "I know the club - it always has something a bit different. Breck is a bastard, but he knows what appeals to the clients. I -" he paused, feeling a bit odd at talking about himself. It's not like he'd done that for some time. "I used to dance a bit myself. For the hell of it. For the buzz - the rush."
His eyes ranged over Lain. He'd seen the grace of the child's body in the alley, earlier. He'd seen the swift way he'd darted past him - the smooth, slick movements of his hands, picking his wallet. Guess he moves well, he thought, and wondered why he felt goosebumps across the back of his neck.
Lain tried to eat with more civility this time, cutting his food and eating one forkful at a time.
When the subject of dancing came up, he blushed once more. "I... used to like dancing. Sphynx taught me everything I know. But lately it became something dirty, something that made me feel bad when it was over each night. Breck lifted the 'no touching' rule, and ever since then hands would always get on stage and wander where they weren't supposed to. Some nights I would barely get a chance to walk on stage and I'd be pinned down and..."
He shook his head quickly and avoided finishing the rest of that sentence. Instead, he ventured a question of his own. "If you used to dance, how'd you get out of it? How'd you leave the job ad find one that was decent and gave you enough money to live on?"
Kalain looked up at the pretty stranger, as he filled his mouth with three large cuts of meat.
Reven gaped. He didn't think anyone had ever asked him that! As a kid of Lain's age, no-one asked him anything, except to keep still and let people cut him - then he'd met ... then he'd ...
He shook his head slightly, clearing his mind. Then in the last few years, no-one had dared ask him anything. He'd been feared; avoided. A cipher; a killer. Who'd call that a decent job?
Suppose that's how I seem to Lain, he thought. The kid saw a well-dressed, confident man, with a job that paid well. Ironic, huh?
And then he grinned. He couldn't remember the last time he did that! "You don't need to know that, Lain," he smiled. "Hell, I had some help though. Someone helped me out - someone taught me skills I needed. Saw my potential. You'll find something for yourself one day, if that's what you really want."
He suspected he was talking crap. He suspected that kids like Sphynx would pimp kids like Lain for time immemorial. That was life. But maybe he hadn't been mistaken in the spark of courage he saw in the boy. Maybe he'd pull himself out of the gutter, just like he, Reven did.
Lain's question was shut down with a smile and calm words.
So he wouldn't get his answer after all. Nodded silently, respecting the man's wish to change the subject.
He finished what was on his plate and drank the water in his glass, then sat back in the chair, feeling full and helpless. Electric blue eyes drifted across the floor as he knew that eventually this meal would end, and he'd have to return to the gutter. No more strange man with the sad smile.
Did he know how sad it was?
Lain murmured, "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but you don't have to pretend to be happy either." He pulled one knee up to his chest and hugged it, staring at the fork and knife on his plate.
He had a pretty good idea most of the time when people were hurting inside-- it was some sort of ability he had, to be able to detect it. And it drew him to people like that; he wanted to wrap his arms around them and make all their problems go away. That was how he'd met Sphynx.
Reven felt the first stirrings of nausea, and it wasn't the food. The kid was - he was odd, that's all there was to it. He had a weird way of talking, and then those vividly bright eyes were very - unsettling.
And now he thought he could read inside Reven himself!
Reven realised he'd made a mistake, getting involved like this. Should've let the kid take his few bills, and then let him go off with his partner, pimp, mentor whatever. Leaving Reven to get on with his life. Or what approximated for it.
He slipped a hand inside the briefcase, which he'd brought with him, and snagged a few bills. It really wasn't important to him, the money. He had plenty already. But guys like Breck needed to feel the pain - needed to know the cost of his involvement. He put them on the table, under his palm; pushed them towards Lain. "Take that," he said, gruffly. "Keep you going until you get another job. I'll see Breck - get him to consider having you back. He owes me. Whereas you - well, I think it best you just forget you ever saw me. OK?"
There was pain in the man's voice now, on top of written on his face.
Lain felt it reflected in himself, like a fist to the gut. He'd caused pain to this man, never mind detected it!
He stood suddenly, placing his hand atop the one on the table covering the money, holding it firmly to the worn wood. He stared into the liquid brown eyes firmly. "No!" he pleaded. "No, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings-- I didn't mean to upset you! I don't want to be given money and shoved off. I was wrong about you, you're not like the others, you didn't have evil intentions when you asked me to come with you. But I can't stand it if you leave now and I take food and money from you and all I've done in return is hurt you! It's not right!"
He continued to grip the large hand in his own smaller fingers, refusing to let it go though he was sure this man could overpower him without much effort.
Reven stared in astonishment at the hand on his. It was small, and grubby. It was alien to him!
Weird, the kid. Hadn't he thought that, already?
But there was something else, more surprising. Shocking, almost. He felt a strange warmth from Lain's palm, sinking into his own skin. He felt something that he hadn't felt for months - a comfort; a soothing. For a moment he just stared, trying to assimilate it.
Trying to understand what was happening to him.
Lain's voice was high, and tight with distress. "I didn't mean to upset you!" he said. Why did it bother him?
"You - didn't hurt me," he said, slowly, like his tongue was too thick to work properly. "Hell, kid, you couldn't!" Could he? "Go back to where you stay, I don't expect anything else from you. But I must go. Just forget all this, OK?"
He saw a shadow outside the cafe window, but when he turned his head slightly, it had gone. Was it just an aimless passer-by? Something prickled across his neck; something that told him the person had already passed the window once already - maybe even more.
Was it the other kid, watching out for his partner?
"I don't want you to go yet!" he cried, taking hold of the man's wrist now, staring up at him with solemn stubbornness.
Why the hell not?
Lain couldn't quite place it himself.
Certainly he hated leaving people after seeing the wounded parts to them, but he wouldn't force somebody to stay with him against their will over just that. It was something else. A connection he had felt with this man, shortly after his fear of him had waned.
If he did nothing else for the rest of this day, he was going to comfort this man in some way...
He warmed slightly in embarrassment at the thought of what that might mean, but it only made him all the more resolute. If this man was going to give him money and food, he was going to get something in return besides having his wounds ripped open!
Kalain would... would... He steeled himself to the thought. He would please this man in any way it took if that's what it came to. He would earn the money and the forgiveness and the delicious meal as a man should.
"Don't leave me," he whispered pleadingly, staring into his eyes, wishing he was able to hear the thoughts milling about behind those dark cinnamon irises.
Reven was perplexed - for maybe the first time in a long time. The boy's hand still gripped him; the warmth of his boyish body still ran tremors up Reven's nerves. The eyes were fixed on his now - bright, vibrant blue, so unusual with the brown hair, making him look all the more striking. The expression in them was fierce and very emotional - Reven felt shaken by it.
Kid just wants more money, he thought, grimly. I'm a meal ticket. I'm a mark. But something didn't sit that well with his usual theory - he didn't feel that Kalain could be dismissed quite that easily. What was it with this kid?
Reven was astonished to hear his own voice, when he said, quite clearly and calmly, "I'm on my own, Lain, and that's the way I like it. But I can see you back to your place, if you're - worried about anything." Or anyone. "Or if you want to come back with me for tonight... I have a couch. Some old clothes might fit you. I can cook us something later. There's a couple of other errands we could talk about, unless you've had enough of doing my dirty work already..."
Fuck, what was he talking about?
Something about the boy.
Something you need,sighed his inner voice. Something you've been missing...
Lain nodded quickly, and released the wrist, though with some hesitation. He bit his lower lip and smiled softly. "I'll do all the errands-- I'll do anything you want," he said quickly, nodding once more, a firm devotion in his eyes.
He purposefully avoided talking about being walked back to his 'place'.
Kalain and Sphynx didn't exactly have a place; they just slept wherever they could find shelter. And if they couldn’t, they'd huddle together for warmth in a doorway or behind trash bins.
...Well, that's the way it used to be. Lately Sphynx was gone more and more during the night, leaving Lain alone to fend for himself. Many times he'd been scared Sphynx wouldn't come back, when the blonde was gone for several days at a time.
But he seemed to show up just when Lain was giving up hope every time.
Reven knew the step had been taken. Obviously the kid had no place of his own - he could see that, from the state of him. He must have been additionally glad of the job at the club - could get a wash and clean up, periodically. He sighed. There was no problem really - if Lain got troublesome, he'd throw him out. Or scare him sufficiently to keep him away. Reven knew he could do either thing - and with efficiency.
He pushed back his chair and stood up. Put some money on the table to pay for the food. The money he'd offered Kalain still lay beside the empty plates. "Take the money, Lain, whatever. For helping me out." For compensation. "Let's get going."
The boy didn't touch him again, but he seemed to have additional energy after his meal, and he skipped quickly to his side. Reven could hear his excited breathing, as if he were anticipating something ahead; he could feel the warm movement of his body, walking beside him. The boy looked young, true, but he wasn't that much shorter than Reven himself. He was just leaner - just a different body altogether.
They left the cafe, Reven deciding on the route to take them back - circuitous, maybe to confuse Kalain, should he ever need to keep his apartment secret from him.
The shadow was there again, maybe. Reven felt the stirrings of unease - yet he knew he could protect himself from anything that may attack.
It was just a nagging concern in the back of his mind. Something to be wary of...
He hurried along, and Kalain clung to his heels like the echo of his footsteps.
Kalain followed behind the man for a bit, then beside him, then paused for a moment to pick up a new stray cat. He nuzzled it and played with it as they walked, humming happily to himself.
Finally they reached an apartment building, and Lain released the cat with one last scratch behind the ears. He followed the man into the lobby towards the elevators...
"So! High and mighty Lain really has stooped to whoring himself!" a voice sneered from behind them.
Lain spun on his heels in horror, as he saw Sphynx standing in the lobby doors, smiling wide. "Hey guy, care for two-on-one? I bet I have more experience than Lain," he purred, walking over to the brunette and throwing an arm around him, placing a mocking kiss on his cheek. "Doesn't he just scream innocence?" he mewled.
Kalain's face began to burn bright with colour as he looked at his feet. Things had been going so well! And now this! He'd never be able to settle things with this man!
"You're such a fool about everything, Lain," Sphynx continued, whispering into his ear. "You left the goddamn money on the table in the restaurant, I had to snatch it up before somebody else did. I bet if I didn't come along now, you'd give this guy everything he wanted and then forget to collect afterwards!"
Lain bit his lower lip, staring at his feet. Sphynx was right-- he did mess up everything. He was a fool!
Reven stared at the notorious Sphynx. He was glad that his instincts had been proved right. Not so glad at Lain's stiffening body beside him - at the shudder of misery that suffused the boy.
"Maybe he's not such a fool," he said, smoothly, and caught Sphynx's startled glance. Thought I couldn't hear your whispers, right? "Because he's here by my invitation, and you're the one tagging behind."
Sphynx's eyes were hard as flint; Reven could almost see the calculations in his mind, running behind them. He didn't worry; Sphynx held no threat for him. The elevator door chimed softly, and slid open in front of them.
"Coming up?" Reven asked Kalain, gently.
The boy looked at him, wildly. Then back at Sphynx, who still had his arm round Lain's shoulders.
"We're a package deal today," wheedled Sphynx. "That's if you think you can handle it, of course -"
Reven watched the light in Lain's eyes; there was a mixture of emotions there, at the sound of his partner's words. Reven appraised the pair of them, stood in front of him - he could imagine how they would look together, naked and flushed with desire. Both striking young men; both without inhibition, if required. He could imagine the delights that they could offer together. Then he looked deliberately back at the arrogant mocking in Sphynx's face. "It's not a question of whether I can handle it," he said, grimly. "I just don't go for quantity over quality. Take your package some other place, kid."
In that instant, he saw the fury in Sphynx's eyes - a violent flare, like the eyes of an addict; of a fanatic of some kind. Reven knew he'd challenged the kid - that it had been taken and understood as such.
"I go with Lain or he leaves with me," Sphynx said icily, his grip tightening about the brunette's shoulders.
Lain opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it and fell quiet, looking over his shoulder, unable to meet either man's gaze any longer.
"You, my rich friend, would be surprised what we can do together. And it isn't quantity over quality-- Lain's good, but I've got more experience. I bet I could fuck you till you cried," he leered. "Fuck you both till you cried. Holding onto each other for comfort."
He reached out with his other hand and grasped Lain between the legs, through the cloth of his ragged pants. The brunette made a soft mewl, not a request for it to stop but not a request for it to keep going either-- simply a helpless mewl as the practised hand began to massage him.
Sphynx looked up at the dark-haired man with another leer. "Your call, mister. Lain and I, which is a great deal, or neither of us."
Reven felt something akin to disgust at the older boy's abuse of Lain - but at the same time he felt a strange excitement. It had been a long time since anyone had stood up to him like this! OK, so the boy was a fool - he could have no idea of what he might be taking on. But it was unusual, nonetheless.
He watched Sphynx's crude groping with a calmness that he knew would infuriate the boy. It wasn't as if he hadn't played the same games himself in the past - hadn't watched the same moves from people far more practised. But if this was the only way to offer Lain some protection...
He shrugged. He tried to catch Lain's eyes, but the dark haired boy hung his head, avoiding his gaze. He was obviously expecting to be dismissed.
"So come on up, the pair of you. But we better understand each other before you do. Any trouble and the security here is superb - you'll be out of my room and into a cell without seeing light of day again. I don't need that, and nor - I suspect - do you. So watch your step - all the way."
And he stepped into the empty elevator.