Subgalaxia: Ch 17

Subgalaxia: Legend of the Bai Book 4 by Chapel Orahamm, man in gas mask with hand gun and rifle sitting in front of ring and storm

It was still dark out when Fane roused from a dead sleep.  He stretched and blinked. He had woken up two minutes before his morning alarm.  He had slept. He had really and truly slept solidly for once since before Melody had died.  No nightmares, no creatures, no interruptions. He glanced at the slowly lightening sky of pre-dawn through the slats of the blinds.  He turned to drink his fill of Ishan who was still sound asleep, his heart constricting. Ishan’s hair was falling around his face in waves.  He brushed at the strands gently and leaned in, tasting his lips. Ishan shifted restlessly, entering into semi-sleep.

Fane pulled him closer, nibbling along his chin and down his throat.  How had he ever been lucky enough to find this guy? He eased a hand up under the hem of Ishan’s shirt to trace along smooth lines.  Ishan finally opened his eyes just a slit, still groggy. “Morning?” he partially greeted, partially asked.  

“Good morning.” Fane kissed him gently.  

Ishan returned the kiss, beginning to warm to the invitation.  He groaned low in his throat. “It’s still night,” he protested.

“It’s 04:00.” Fane thought that was a legit excuse.

“It’s midnight.” Ishan pulled Fane in under his arm.  “Go back to sleep.” He laid his head back on the pillow.  Fane pulled his body closer to him and rubbed his head against Ishan’s shoulder before releasing his grip on the man.  He scootched himself out of the bed and pulled the covers up over Ishan’s shoulders. Ishan curled up under them, pulling them up to his ears.  Fane bent and kissed his head one last time before getting dressed for his run.

Fane eased out the door and made his way to the hall.  He felt light, like a plasma ball looking for somewhere to burn off its energy.  He hopped down the stairs and out the door to breathe in the crisp chill of the predawn air barely laced with humidity.  The smell of the earth was heady. He smiled and stretched his shoulders and back. This was peace.

Starting with an easy five-minute warm-up that took him from the compound and out to the highway, he  The three-miler turned into a five-miler before he knew it. The vacant houses kept moving past him, and the sun kept taking its time coming up.  His legs warmed to the rhythm, and his heart steadied to the beat of his body.

Sweaty, he returned back to the compound as the sun started glowing against low clouds on the horizon.  The sky dazzled a fantastic shade of orange and pink against the tree line.

Fane let himself into the warehouse.  Only one of the machinists had started at her bench already.  The warehouse was otherwise empty for the next half an hour or so.  He smiled. This was perfect.  

Heading out to the far end of the warehouse, where his rope was still strung up, he tossed his shirt in the corner and kicked off his shoes and socks before dusting his hands and feet.  A story, a line of thought, a concept brushed against his nerves. His senses were restless, and he just wanted to wear them out.  He flung the rope out wide, enjoying the sensation of flying, only supported by that single line. He rolled, hanging for a circuit before pulling his shape out into a crescent.  He could almost imagine wrapping himself around Ishan; the rope turned into his arms, his legs. He closed his eyes and let his body do the talking for his mind. He eased into the stretch of muscles and tendons with every contortion, the bite of the rope rubbing against inflamed skin.  The space warmed around him.

In frustration, he came down off of his line to pull off the bandaging from the day before.  Most had slipped and were getting in his way. A footstep caught his attention. Two other machinists had already joined the morning crew.  He recognized this footstep, though. As his feet touched down on hot cement, hands circled around his waist and drew along his abs, pulling his back against a warm chest. “Morning,” Ishan whispered in his ear hungrily, “you’re emoting all over the compound.  I could feel you from our room.”

Fane looked up, smiling.  “Finally awake?” he turned in Ishan’s arms.  

Ishan cocked an eyebrow at him.  “Now that it’s actually morning.” He pressed his forehead against Fane’s.  “Looked like you were having fun up there,” Ishan couldn’t keep from tracing Fane’s muscles along his back and hips.  

Ishan had come fully awake to the distinct sensation of fingers tracing over his legs and up his arms, lips trailing fire down his chest, hair sweeping across his stomach and hips, to be greeted by an empty room.  He had followed the trailing sensation down to the warehouse floor where he had found Fane suspending himself from the ceiling.  

The dance was slower than the modified version of Pan he had done before.  This one was much more free-thought, developing as Fane went. Ishan had watched the contortion, the twist of the back as it bent almost in half.  The chest had opened wide and lean, accentuating curvature. A dropped leg pulled the form again as the other foot came up to touch the back of the head.  He marvelled as Fane exposed his stretch, owned it, dreamed in it. He watched the shudder run through Fane’s body as the stretch deepened, elongated, curved, bent, folded, pushed and pulled.

Fane smiled slyly.  “Could show you what I was thinking?” he offered.

Ishan returned that sly smile.  He had felt at least half of what Fane was coming up with from way across the warehouse.  He wasn’t entirely sure that Fane was aware of what he was doing. His talents were developing rapidly.  Bern could connect two people through direct contact as a White Horse. Fane was a Red Hare though – the polar opposite.  He was broadcasting loud and clear to the whole building.

His emotions were wrapping around every heartstring beating, brushing, burning, inflaming, arousing.  The poor crew was going to come to a rude awakening and an awkward wet dream most likely. “Do we need to find our room first?” Ishan whispered, aware that more people were coming in to the warehouse now, and some were not the regular machinists.

Fane nipped at his jaw just below his ear.  “Only if you’re not an exhibitionist,” he untangled himself from his boyfriend and went to collect his shirt and shoes before pulling away his bandages and tossing them in the bin.  The gashes had healed to simple scabs.  

Ishan groaned and smirked.  He pulled Fane to his chest once more to whisper, “only when there’s rope involved.”  His boyfriend was the one being the exhibitionist at the moment. Fane was turning into a right tease.  

Fane trailed a finger up Ishan’s leg before detaching himself, his eyes laughing.  “I think that’s all I’ve been playing with this morning.”

“What’s got you in such an exceptional mood this morning?” Bern interrupted them from the shadows as they walked back to the middle area of the warehouse.  He had been much more keen on the intrusion in his sleep and had been watching the dance a while longer than Ishan had. Red Hares were amazing creatures, but this one was still young and untrained.  He was projecting everything. Bern’d have to find a way to point the predicament out and even more challenging, help Fane stop broadcasting.

  Fane snorted, and Ishan groaned again, leaning his head back in frustration to look Bern up and down.  Fane cocked an eyebrow at Ishan, who returned the movement. They approached Bern as they made their way to the door.  Fane tapped a hand against Bern’s arm. Slept well enough.  Corbin comes ‘round, tell him he better duck and cover if he interrupts my morning.  I’m in a good mood, and it better not change.  Fane eased just a touch of burning pressure and heat that had been wrapping his body up in knots that morning through the connection.  Bern felt the numbing blow to his lower gut and had to keep from buckling under the weight. His eyes went round at the feeling as air escaped his lungs.

There was a level of difference between Fane’s projection and Fane’s touch, and Bern had not realized it until that moment.  It was the difference between a needle and a claymore. What had the Fyskar clan lost when the Red Hares had died out? He turned his glance away from Fane and nodded his head, more than aptly getting the hint.  The snowman had flipped a switch from his exit the night before.

Fane walked a step behind Ishan, just far enough that the prince didn’t notice his boyfriend nabbing a bundle of rope from the supply shelf as they passed on their way to the stairs.  He tucked it into his back cargo pocket as they walked back to their room.

“Fane!” Bern called after him.  Fane dropped his head with a frustrated sigh and turned to glare back at Bern.  Bern jogged up to him and Ishan.  

“Bernard?” Fane hissed.  What was so important?  

Bern leaned down to Fane’s ear, his hair hiding his lips from Ishan.  “Take him somewhere that won’t burn,” Bern cautioned. Fane glanced up at his green eyes in confusion, furrowing his brow in a question.  “Red Hare possibility…just…legends. Won’t hurt him none, but would rather keep the warehouse intact.” Bern shrugged and pulled back from Fane, glancing at Ishan.  Ishan looked between the two of them, curious.  

Fane raised an eyebrow at Bern and shrugged.  His runs had produced enough possible locations that it wasn’t entirely impossible to find a good non-combustible spot.  He was well aware of his ice, so he wasn’t about to dismiss Bern’s comment out of hand. Bern waived and left them after that.  Fane furrowed his brow at the man’s back before turning to Ishan to look at him appraisingly. “What do you say to a private white sand beach?” he asked.

Ishan gave him a look of confusion.  “No room?” he asked.

“There are a few vacant gazebos?” Fane offered.

“All right, take me on a tropical vacation, lover boy,” Ishan smiled.  Fane walked forward to let him out the door on the side of the warehouse, having forgotten about his rope.

“What’s this?” Ishan ran a finger up the back of his thigh to prod at the bundle of line.  

Fane raised an eyebrow at him in return.  “Keep you from running off when it starts getting too good,” he replied back slyly.  Even for the scare the day before, he had been aware of Ishan’s reaction to Cashia’s ropes and wasn’t about to throw away an opportunity.  

“Cocky, aren’t you?” Ishan nipped at his earlobe before following Fane north out of the compound to an asphalt road that overlooked a manmade pond flanked by red roofed houses.  West of the pond were a set of tall condos that looked out to the ocean. The warm salt air hung low around them. He followed the blacktop until a road jogged them left. Ishan spotted the gazebo Fane had mentioned, and beyond it was a man-made squared-off white sand beach that looked out over the ocean.

They made their way out to the sands where Ishan pulled off his shoes and let his toes sink into the warming sand happily.  He tossed his shoes and stepped out a few more steps, amused with the feeling. His loose hair glistened as it picked up in a light breeze.  He tucked a strand behind his ear. “Nice place you found here.” He turned to Fane. The redhead was watching him through contented, half-closed eyes.  Ishan blushed, not having realized he was being watched. Why did he feel like this was his first crush all over again? Ishan reached for Fane’s fingers, twining them together shyly.

Fane followed Ishan out to the edge of the beach where the waves lapped at the sand.  He sank into the sand and watched as Ishan dipped his toes in the water, the hem of his red churidar getting soaked to the mid calf from the spatter of the waves.  Ishan pulled off his kurta and tossed it up to his boyfriend. Fane caught it and folded it, setting it beside him and the shoes as he watched Ishan enjoy the beach. Seagulls were floating out over the water, setting the sky to sparkle with glints of white and grey.  He watched him wander the length of the man-made beach, collecting seashells and beach glass to accumulate in a small pile at the edge of the tide.

Ishan eventually returned from the tide line to approach the redhead sitting in the dry sand.  Fane looked up, content, as Ishan walked up to put his feet on either side of his legs. He slowly knelt down to straddle him.  Fane reached up, a little surprised at Ishan, to run his hands up his prince’s back. Ishan leaned down, tucking a strand of hair behind Fane’s ear, kissing him.  “This is beautiful,” Ishan murmured behind closed eyes. Fane’s skin was hot to the touch and the sand was just a shade cooler.  

Fane crept his hands down to pull Ishan’s lower back and butt more closely to him, interested in the hard heat that pressed between him and Ishan.  “Yes, you are,” he whispered against his prince’s lips. He watched Ishan’s face turn a light shade of pink and smiled at the reaction. Fane was guessing that Ishan wasn’t used to that type of compliment.  He leaned back, flopping into the sand, pulling Ishan down on top of him along the way. Ishan rubbed along his stomach, savouring his lips. Fane returned the kiss with more fire. Their tongues tasted, tangoed with each other.

With a quick flip, he had Ishan pinned under him, his hair spreading out on the sand.  He looked up at Fane in surprise. Fane leaned down, keeping eye contact as he nibbled along a pec and out to swirl his tongue around a nipple, encouraging it to go taught.  His hands dragged down Ishan’s sides to push fully against him restlessly. He elicited a moan from Ishan who couldn’t keep his eyes from closing at the pressure and heat that was beginning to play along his skin.

Fane’s connection was providing him with some interesting feedback he wasn’t aware he’d get.  What he hadn’t anticipated in all of this was losing control and tumbling into Ishan’s void by accident.  Clearly, this was going to take practice.

He landed in the midst of what he could only call a rotunda, but that didn’t quite seem correct.  He stood up to take in the space. The room was circular. Halls jutted away from it radially. From the ceiling hung a massive drop style crystal chandelier that looked to be much newer than the tilework that sored up in the pendentive dome.  The tiles were mirror finished, reflecting light back and forth within the space. He glanced around until his eyes fell on Ishan who was staring back at him in confusion.

Fane raised a questioning eyebrow and turned in the space once more, taking in the vast detail that this void contained.  “You’re awake?” He could have sworn that Bern said that most everyone else slept in their voids. Nat was part Red Hare and so wasn’t completely asleep.  He wasn’t completely awake either, but that had been due to the coma apparently. Yeller had been asleep when he had gone rummaging for music. Ishan though was very much up and about in his space.

“Looks like.” Ishan was staring at the reflective tiles with uncertainty.

“Where are we, Prince?” he asked, feeling a bit out of place.

“A movie set for a location called Sheesh Maha.” Ishan turned to look around him, surprised to be in a different location then he was expecting.  This was his first time encountering his own void, and it wasn’t something he wanted to face at that exact moment.

“Movie set?” Fane asked, confused.

“The real room from the Sheesh Mahal was in quite a state of disrepair.  This is a replica they used for a few movies in Bollywood. I was given a private tour when I expressed an interest.  I wanted to meet the space designers.” Ishan crossed his arms and shifting his feet just a touch. Memories were gnawing at his gut.

“It’s glamorous,” Fane touched one of the struts appreciatively.  The tile was cool to the touch. It felt as solid as his own void. “Were you a fan of the movies?” He turned back to his prince.  Ishan was frowning up at the chandelier in contemplation. He shrugged and shook his head.

“This was something you enjoyed, though?” Curious, Fane walked up to Ishan and gently rested a hand at his back.  Ishan stepped away to walk around the outer edge of the rotunda. Fane waited and watched. This was not something Ishan had expected and Fane realized he was intruding.  Eventually Ishan had made a complete circuit and came back to him. Fane watched the mask come up. The cool, aloof one he would carry around with him, when he had to be a prince and not a man.

Ishan clenched his jaw momentarily.  His eyes dashed about the space under furrowed brows.  He ground his molars in thought and opened his mouth, but thought better of it as his cheeks washed red and his lips began to tremble.  He closed his eyes and breathed out a sigh. Fane could only wish at that moment that the wall wasn’t coming up, but he could feel the distance driving him away.  He stepped back, away from Ishan and dropped, falling out of the void. 

He came to, hovering above Ishan, who couldn’t quite look him in the eyes.  Fane backed up quickly, his lust abating, fearing he had killed the mood. He stood up and offered Ishan a hand.  Ishan took it, letting Fane drag him up to his feet. Fane began brushing off his skin and his pants as Ishan did the same.  “I’m sorry about that, Ishan. I didn’t mean to intrude…I didn’t mean to – “ Fane went to apologize.

“It’s all right, Aashiq,” Ishan pulled him in under his arms, burying his face in Fane’s neck.  He hadn’t anticipated this. This was the second time in as many days Fane was distinctly aware of hot tears on his skin.  Ishan’s arms trembled around him. Fane settled his hands on Ishan’s back once he realized that Ishan was not angry about the intrusion.  He soothed his prince, gently rubbing his hands up his back. “I left myself open and didn’t realize that was a two-way street. I thought I’d end up in yours,” Ishan admitted through sniffles. 

 “It’s all right.  It’ll be okay,” Fane sank them to the sand, pulling Ishan’s much longer frame into his lap and waited patiently.  Fane guessed the man still had limits, lines he wasn’t quite ready to touch yet. He hadn’t meant to distress his prince like this.  

Sometimes it wasn’t a matter of fixing everything, though.  Sometimes it was just listening and waiting. Sometimes it was being the sounding board.

“They’re dead.  They’re all dead, Fane.  Mataji, Papaji, Nanaji, Bhenji, Veerji, Ajay.  All of my nieces and nephews.  They’re all gone,” Ishan collapsed into him and wailed and wailed.  Time stood still as pain and anguish finally broke. Ishan’s heart was torn to pieces, only held together by thread.  Grief and reality had put him in a chokehold.  

Fane held him and rocked as his heart shattered for his prince, ever aware that he was the catalyst that had brought Ishan to this point.  The sky darkened around them, sapping the heat off their skin. He held tighter and allowed his own tears to fall. He allowed it all to come to the surface.  Both his family and Ishan’s family were gone. All of their colleagues, everyone they had known had been wiped off the face of the planet two years ago, but to them, it had only been days.  They had not had the opportunity yet to let the shock settle in from those raw wounds. They had ran out of time. The boiling point bubbled and roiled over.

“I’m sorry, Ishan.  I’m so sorry,” he murmured around tears as rain began to pour around them.  Their connection shifted and waivered, only building the current that was threatening to drown them.  The storm intensified. Thunder rumbled underfoot as lightning flashed around them, lighting up the beach in chaos.  Yet, they didn’t notice as their own world became each other’s arms and radiating sorrow pushed at both of them.

“They never knew.  I never told them. I never gave them the chance to know who I was or the people I liked.  They were my family, and I never let them be the family I needed,” Ishan mumbled into Fane’s chest.  Fane listened quietly as Ishan turned himself inside out through stuttering, gulping breaths, laying his fears and trepidations at his bodyguard’s feet.  “I figured it out when I was young. I couldn’t have been older than seven or eight when I realized it. Boarding school was utter hell. 

“Abhi wanted to go see Bollywood one summer while I was in high school.  We all went out to do the tour. I wanted to see the prop from the Sheesh Mahal while we were there.  I was able to meet with some of the set designers while my parents went with Abhi to a different studio set.  I – I don’t know. I clicked with these guys. They all got it, without even having to point it out to me. They knew what I was, and I felt valid.  I felt valid for who I was for once in my damn life. I didn’t have to hide me. They weren’t just seeing me as a prince. They saw me for my interests and didn’t run away from me in revulsion or confusion.  They didn’t call me names or torment me.

“My parents never realized it.  I never gave them that option. I hid it as hard as I could,” Ishan hiccuped, burying his face farther into Fane’s shoulder.  “I never told them that I wanted out of electrical engineering. I never told them I didn’t want to be in charge of the nobility’s land rights and the taxes.  I never told them I was in the theatre group in college, the plays, or about my boyfriends, or anything. Now, I will never have that chance. I don’t know if they would have hated me for it or not.  I was too scared to find out,” he struggled around sobs that threatened to close off his voice.

“I just wanted them to love me, but it always felt safer to me for them to accept the me they had created and not the me they didn’t know.” He wiped at the tears on his cheeks and looked up at Fane who was wrapped over him, protecting him from the storm that raged around them.

“I’m so sorry, Ishan. You should have been given your chance. You should have had your time.  I’m sorry I took it all away.  I’m sorry for all of this,” Fane mumbled, tears mixing with the rain that was creating rivers down his face.  

Ishan curled into Fane’s embrace and shook his head.  “You should never feel guilty about this, Fane. It wasn’t you that put that chip in your head.  Someone made a decision for you and never gave you a choice or an explanation. I had so many chances, so many missed opportunities to come out to my parents, to stand up for who I was and what I wanted and to let them know.  I took that option off the table. I’m already in my thirties and I couldn’t do it. I wanted for them to know about us so badly that morning we woke up in the armoury. You’re the first of all of them that I really wanted for them to know about,” Ishan rested against Fane’s chest, his energy dissipating with the rain.

“Why me, Ishan?  You had so many options before me.  One of them had to be better. I’ve never been anything special, anything to write home about.  I don’t have anything that would benefit you now. I’m sorry it’s me and not someone better.” Fane folded, laying his head against Ishan’s shoulder as more tears escaped and the rain poured down in a deluge.

“You’re the first one to even cry in front of me, let alone for me, get angry for me, protect me and mine.  You’re warm and loving and I can only hope to ever be half the man you are. You gave me your heart with so few questions and I never want to break it.” Ishan pulled his face up to kiss him as they fought past tears.

The rain eased from its torrential downpour to a light spray as they desperately tried to live off of each other. Lips touched, and heat bloomed once more deep in Fane’s core.  He wanted to never let go of the man in his lap. He wanted to protect him with every inch of his being.  He wanted to be everything his man perceived him to be, but he knew he could never live up to that ideal. Instead he turned to what he could do in the here and now.

“Come on, Beithe.  Let’s get you back to the warehouse.  You’re cold and wet.” He picked Ishan up in his arms.  Ishan held tight, amused and disconcerted at the same time.  No one had done this to him since he was a child. Fane walked over to where Ishan’s now-drenched kurta and jutti were trying to become one with the sand.  Ishan reached down and snagged them and let Fane be a romantic.

Fane got him back out to the grass near the asphalt road before he had to set him down for a minute.  “I can walk, Fane.” Ishan smiled sheepishly as he tried to drain his hair of more water.

“Not in those.” Fane pointed at the jutti in Ishan’s hands.  “They’re completely water-logged, and you’ll end up with blisters.”

“It’s not like I didn’t go walking around the palace grounds with shoes on all the time.  The road won’t kill me.” Ishan began walking back in the direction of the warehouse. He was startled for Fane to sweep him up once more and returned him to the grass. 

“My biggest worry is hookworm and broken glass. The grass isn’t any better, and we’ll have to watch your feet from the sand.” Fane scooped him up once more after having gotten the initial kinks out of his shoulders.  He started on his way back to the warehouse, a nagging question bubbling up in his brain. He needed Bern. He hated admitting it, but it’d also be more convenient to have Sophia there for the initial question rather than doing it all a second time.

“You just like my feet being pretty.” Ishan teased.

“Well,” Fane smirked.

“You keep pampering me like this; I’ll never learn what a callus is.” Ishan didn’t fight getting down, though.

Fane kissed the side of his neck. “Calluses are overrated. Got enough for both of us.”

“You’re not gonna ask me who told me I was a pampered brat?”

“If you’re a pampered brat, I’m a gym instructor.”

“Gods, I love you.”

“I love you too, Beithe.

Ishan watched Fane think as he got them down the road and through the wetlands area to the compound.  “What’s up?” Ishan asked, curious at what had Fane so quiet. Fane eased Ishan’s jutti from his hands to hold them gently.

He raised an eyebrow at Ishan, a bit confused.  He blew out a sigh. “Bern said something before I brought you out here.  You know I can do ice?” Fane glanced at Ishan, his fingers tightening slightly around Ishan’s arms.  Ishan nodded. “I suspect that storm wasn’t just a Florgia thing. He told me to get you out of the warehouse for…” Fane’s eyes travelled everywhere but to Ishan’s eyes as his face turned a brilliant shade of crimson.  He cleared his throat. “Some Red Hare legend and burning things. He said you’d be safe with me but that they’d rather not have the warehouse burn down,” he admitted, biting his lip, unable to meet Ishan’s eyes.

“You want to see just what you can do?” Ishan guessed.  Fane nodded as they came to the side door of the warehouse.  The machinist shop had opened up the hangar doors to let in a breeze.  Seemed the shower had cooled the hot, humid air.

Fane let him down on the linoleum stairs.  “Need me to do anything?” Ishan asked. Fane glanced out to the machinist’s floor and over to the ship’s floor, grinding the gears in his head.  He wasn’t even sure what he needed. “I’m gonna get Sophia and Bern. Mind gathering up the kids? Make sure Sven stays in bed. He shouldn’t be getting up and down like yesterday.  Been there, done that, it sucks. I’ll meet you back in the ships’ bridge?” he asked. Ishan pursed his lips with a furrowed brow and nodded slowly. Hopefully, this wasn’t going to be a repeat of yesterday.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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