The Fics of R.M. Slater

 

To Dance With the Devil

 

Chapter One:  Rhythm of the Night

 

Cameron Parish loved to dance.  He didn’t care if he was with a partner or alone, so long as he could lose himself in the music and forget for a little while.  Forget the overzealous mother who had tried to drown her six year old son while claiming to drive the Devil out of him, forget the abusive father who had used him as a punching bag more times than he cared to remember for far too many years, forget the string of loser boyfriends and one night stands who had used his body and then thrown him away like yesterday’s news and so much useless refuse.  Forget that there was a hole in him that he could never hope to fill.  But Cameron wasn’t alone this time.  He very rarely was anymore.  He’d been told that he looked like an angel; soft features, leaving him looking forever young, platinum blond hair that fell in carless wisps about his face, crystalline blue eyes that were far too old for any twenty-two year old to have, even if he did try to hide everything away behind a mask of casual indifference and easy flirtatiousness.  All of it topped off with a body meant for sin.  His looks and attitude made certain that there was no shortage of eager hands and willing bodies to touch and tease as he writhed on the dance floor.  Deep down, none of it meant anything to him, and Cameron knew that the same was true for his never-ending stream of attentive partners.  But, just for a while, it all helped him to forget.

 

The music of One Wayward Sperm filled the room of Cameron’s favorite club, the heavy beat and suggestive lyrics of “Hey Mister, wanna play?” driving the young man to sway his hips and move his body, kohl-lined eyes heavy lidded but deceptively observant.  There were two men touching him, one in front and one behind, their hands roving over a body encased in low slung leather pants and a shirt that was so transparent that the ring in his navel and the angel-wing tattoos on his shoulders would have been clear if his partners had bothered to look.  The feeling of hips grinding against his, the sensation of calloused fingers running under his shirt to tease at his nipples, was not enough to keep his attention.  Even the teeth nipping at the side of his neck, usually such a turn-on, wasn’t enough to satisfy him.  He’d gone out knowing that he needed something more this time.

 

“Why don’t the three of us take this somewhere else?”  The rough voice was accompanied by a thrust against his ass, the evidence of what getting lost in the music had done for the other man made clear to Cameron.  The two had been trying to entice him all night and, although the wild look that he got from the man in front of him should have served as a warning, he seriously considered going with them.  One night his urges were sure to end in disaster, and more than a few almost had, but Cameron considered that to be an unavoidable conclusion to his search for fulfillment.  His mother was bound to be right at some point, after all.  The only thing stopping him was the always nagging hope that something better would come along, something worth waiting for… or, more precisely, someone worth waiting for.  Twenty-two years was not quite enough to rid him of such desires.

 

“Come on, baby, it’ll be fun.”  He doubted it, but Cameron shrugged his shoulders anyway.  There was always a chance that they’d fill his void, if only for a moment.  A moment was all he wanted.  All that he deserved.  Just one moment.

 

Then he found it.  His something better.  And it was walking right towards him, ignoring the debauchery around them, eyes intent on Cameron even in the near darkness of the club.  Coal-black hair blended into the shadows around him, a lean, strong, well-muscled frame moving effortlessly through the mass of bodies despite its size, eyes as dark as night boring into Cameron with frightening intensity.  But Cameron was not afraid.  Instead of drawing back in fear, of retreating into the falsely protective hold of the man behind him, Cameron let out a low moan of desire, his body igniting for the enticing stranger in a way that it had yet to respond for the two who held him.  This was what he had been looking for all night.

 

“My name is Venkata Mekjian,” his eyes never left Cameron’s; his voice was utterly serious, oddly easy to hear even over the screaming of lyrics and the beat of the drums, “and I’ve been looking for you.”

 

Cameron had certainly heard worse pickup lines.  In fact, the Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven, that the man currently trying to block his view of the handsome stranger had used earlier in the night was so old that he hadn’t even been able to laugh.

 

“Hey, Vending Machine, or whatever the hell your name is, get lost.  The boy’s with us.”

 

“Maybe he was,” Venkata didn’t seem impressed, even though the man talking to him was able to look at him eye to eye, making him at least six foot four by Cameron’s guess, and had maybe sixty pounds of muscle on him that the admittedly well-built Venkata just didn’t have.  “But he’s not now.  Take a hike before I make you regret not moving back the second that I got here.”

 

The big man seemed ready to fight, something that Venkata did not miss as a fire seemed to spark in his dark eyes at the prospect, but his partner was obviously wiser and put out a hand to still his muscled friend.  Cameron thought him smart for that, because there was something about the new arrival that spoke of unseen strength, and the possibility for bloodshed and pain.  The smirk on his lips said that Venkata would enjoy it, too.

 

The two men moved back into the mass of bodies still moving on the dance floor, one with apprehension, the other with an ignorant desire to continue the argument to its inevitable conclusion.  Cameron watched them go and couldn’t have cared less.  He had what he wanted right in front of him.

 

“I’ve been waiting for you, Cameron.”  Cameron didn’t question how the man towering over him knew his name.  Lots of people knew his name in places like the Forever Club.  He didn’t ask how he had been waiting for him when Cameron had been there first, either.  Something about the deep voice was almost hypnotic, and he wanted the other man to talk, not really caring what was said.

 

“You found me,” when he was more himself, when the overwhelming presence of the other man and the drinks that he’d had over the past hours had cleared from his mind, he might chide himself for being guilty of the same lame lines of his would-be seducers.  But that would be later.  Long after he had spent his passions at the hands of the handsome Venkata Mekjian.

 

“Yes, but what to do with you now that I’ve found you?”

 

Cameron had an idea or two as to what Venkata could do with him and, never one to be shy or reserved, he put a hand in the center of the taller man’s chest and leaned up on tiptoe to whisper in his ear, hot breath bringing a nearly imperceptible shiver to his dark-haired companion, “You could take me to the back room and fuck me so hard that I can’t walk right tomorrow.”

 

One dark brow quirked in what Cameron hoped was amusement, before a smile spread across Venkata’s features, making his starkly handsome face light up like the brightest star that Cameron had ever seen.  Cameron was speechless.  Never the sort to be swayed by a pretty face, knowing all too well that what one saw on the outside was only skin-deep, he still believed that he had never seen anything more beautiful in all of his life.  It might have bothered him that he was acting so out of character, getting sentimental about a stranger that he was probably never going to see again after tonight, but he was too taken by the piercing gaze that currently had him rooted to the spot.  He knew in that moment that he had never met anyone like Venkata before.  And he likely never would again, so he forced himself to smile his most winning smile, making it clear that his offer was anything but idle teasing.

 

“Lead the way,” there was a low rumbling to his already deep voice that made Cameron shiver.  He couldn’t wait to hear what that voice would sound like in the throws of passion.  He knew that the sound would be utterly unforgettable.

 

***

“Is this what you had in mind?”

 

Cameron was pressed face first against a black-carpeted wall, hands braced beside his head, his breath coming in harsh pants as a pair of well-oiled fingers moved within him.  They’d shared a few heated kisses when first they’d entered one of the club’s many private rooms, but Cameron had soon grown impatient, an almost overwhelming need filling him at the thought of the other man inside of him.  He wondered if his two dance partners hadn’t somehow spiked his drink, so strong was the need, but in the end he hadn’t cared as he’d turned around and pushed his tight pants down over slender hips.  That had been signal enough for Venkata to move things beyond kisses and groping, and he’d quickly produced a vial of oil from within the confines of his pants pockets, something that Cameron had been grateful for in the part of his mind that was still functioning normally.  The sorts of men that he was used to didn’t always bother with niceties like lube and preparation.

 

A large hand on his back pressed him forward, and Cameron moved so that his head was down, his ass better angled for Venkata’s eventual penetration.  The fingers within him never stopped, and when the new angle caused one of those invading digits to press against the tender spot within him, making him see stars, Cameron whimpered in appreciation.  Preparation that actually involved his prostate being stroked?  He was in heaven.

 

The hand on his back made its way smoothly up the planes of Cameron’s back, pushing his gaudy, neon-green mesh shirt up as it moved, and despite the feelings of desperation that surrounded both men Venkata took the time to lay a kiss upon the pale skin that he had exposed.  He laughed and leaned in to nip at Cameron’s earlobe, commenting on what he found with a voice that belied the urgency of his need.  “I knew that you were an angel the first time that I saw you.  But I didn’t expect to find wings on your back.”

 

His mother had always said that he was an unholy abomination, ever since he was a small boy, so the angel’s wings had seemed like the perfect statement of ironic mockery when he’d walked into the tattoo parlor.  Venkata wasn’t the first to find the pale blue wings spreading across his shoulder blades once he’d been bent over the nearest available surface.  He wasn’t the first to laugh either.  Somehow Cameron thought that they all knew just how out of place the angelic image was on his thrice-damned body.  It always made him laugh later on, although the sound was never one of humor, surely bitter enough to bring a true angel to tears.

 

“What were you expecting to find?”

 

Cameron didn’t get an answer, and instead his own words became trapped in his throat as Venkata suddenly pushed the burning length of his cock into his partner with a brutally efficient thrust.  Cameron gasped, Venkata moaned, and both men held deathly still as they waited to adjust to each other.  Then it began.  The dance that was as old as time and as familiar to Cameron as his own heartbeat.

 

Fingers dug almost painfully tight into Cameron’s hips, but the pain was just the right side of pleasure, causing him to revel in the way that Venkata held him fast and kept him in place exactly as he wanted with a strength that was evident in every movement of the larger man’s body.  Venkata growled in his ear when he tried to move, tried to push his hips back to meet each powerful thrust, and when the other man bit at the spot where neck met shoulder to hold him still, Cameron feared that he would cum from the helpless sensation of being pinned alone.

 

“Is this what you wanted?” Venkata demanded as he began to thrust harder, growling as Cameron’s heat stroked and tormented him, throwing his head back and closing his eyes, simply feeling as Cameron accepted every last inch of him.  “Is this how you like it, my beauty?”

 

“Yes!”  He felt consumed, filled to bursting as he was by Venkata’s cock, utterly controlled by the larger man’s movements, fingers scraping at the carpeted walls as he was rocked forward with every hard thrust.  “Yes!” 

 

The feeling of a hand on his own untouched member was more than Cameron could bear and, with only three quick tugs to his rod and a few strong thrusts from Venkata, he was coming hard and screaming his completion until his throat was raw, pumping his essence out across the wall in white-hot arcs.  Venkata joined him after a few more deep thrusts, and the feeling of the other man emptying into him, a warm wash of sensation, was enough to draw one last strangled moan from his abused throat, although he did not have it in him to do much else.

 

When all was still again Cameron clung to the wall as though it were his only support.  And, in so many ways, it was.  He had been with more men than he could count, but never had he experienced such a mind-blowing orgasm, never had he been left feeling as though his very world had crumbled down around him only to be rebuilt by the hands of his lover.  Had Venkata not still been buried within him, strong arms held tightly to his waist, Cameron knew that he would have fallen to the cum-splattered ground.  And, at the moment, he wouldn’t have cared.

 

Laughter rumbling through his body finally brought Cameron back to reality, and he smiled despite himself, even though he didn’t quite have the strength to turn his head and look at the man who had so thoroughly decimated him mere moments before.  “I’m glad to see that you know how to take a suggestion to heart.”

 

“You did say that you wanted to be fucked to the point that you couldn’t walk right tomorrow.”

 

“I think that’s definitely been accomplished.”  He wasn’t generally talkative after encounters in the back of clubs, something that his partners usually encouraged, but somehow it felt very right to simply stay in Venkata’s embrace.  At least until the other man grew tired of supporting him and dropped him to the ground.  “It makes me glad that you got rid of those other two.  I don’t think that they would have done half so well, even with the numbers game on their side.”

 

“If you’re that glad,” Venkata leaned against Cameron’s back, kissing a line up his sweat-slick neck to rest his lips against the shell of a twice-pierced ear, “then invite me back to your place.  I’ll show you that I’m good at a great many things.”

 

Cameron knew that he should say no.  He always said no.  Venkata wasn’t the first to try to invite himself back to Cameron’s apartment, and he probably wouldn’t be the last, but no matter how nice the guy seemed, it always ended badly.  He wanted to say no.  It was important to say no.  But, in the end, all that he could say was, “Why not.”

 

 

 

Chapter Two:  What is Truth?

 

Dark hair falling about him in waves of silk… the delicious throb of his lips, swollen from harsh kisses that were painfully perfect… lips on his back… “More beautiful than any angel could ever hope for.”…  bites to his flesh, more tender than he was used to, more reverent in their touch…  a forehead that wasn’t quite right; sharp points like horns, but that was silly because it was a man in his bed, not a monster…  warm brown skin a contrast to his own paleness as they melded together, moving with sweat-slicked ease…  hands touching him, gently soothing while slowly igniting his passions…  his mind dizzy from things other than drink…  nails that were only slightly too sharp to be called nails…  the slow burn of being filled, so right that it should have been wrong…  wings rising up behind them to block out all of the light…  a voice so possessive that it should have been frightening, but wasn’t…  Mine!”…

 

Cameron woke with a start.

 

“A dream,” he assured himself in a strained voice, rough from sleep and lack of use, “It was only a dream.”

 

Even as he scolded himself for thinking, during that instant between dream and wakefulness, that his dream might have been anything more than an illusion, Cameron’s hand went to his lips, still tingling with remembered kisses from an imaginary demon, his other hand going instinctively towards the other side of the bed.  The empty side of the bed.  But, if his dream had been just a dream, then there was no reason for the bed to be anything but empty.  Although, in the back of his hazy mind, still reeling from one too many drinks the night before and angry at having been startled to wakefulness before noon, Cameron thought that he should be at least the tiniest bit surprised to find his bed empty, even if the reason escaped him.  His head throbbed, a reminder that he had been a bit too desperate to forget when he had gone out the night before, and he plopped back down on the tangled mass of sheets with a sigh that was part pain and part longing.  His head ached for sleep, for aspirin and a cool drink, while his heart begged for something else entirely.  A healing remedy that Cameron knew all too well was denied him.

 

Then a name came to him out of the fog, “Venkata.”

 

So, it had not been a dream after all?  At least, not all of it.  The wings and the horns, the claws and the black fire that had filled his dream-lover’s inhumanly beautiful eyes, even the tenderness and sweet endearments that had seemed so sincere, those were surely only products of his imagination.  The rest, however, slowly returned to Cameron as he lay sprawled across his bed, one leg hanging haphazardly off of the side, a small smile returning to his lips as he remembered the handsome stranger called Venkata Mekjian.  If the pleasantly sated soreness of his body was any indication, then he had been right to take the risk of allowing the other man into his inner sanctuary.  He was certain that he had enjoyed every moment of what had happened once they’d gotten through the door, even if he couldn’t remember all of the details. 

 

The fact that Venkata was no longer at his side, even though the hour was early, came as no great surprise to Cameron.  In fact, it was expected.  What was not expected was the odd sense of loss that he felt as he looked across the bed and found it empty still.  He didn’t like to let anyone get too close, especially when he was helpless in his sleep, but a part of him wondered what it would be like to hear the water turning of in the bathroom, to hear the door open and find the dark haired stranger standing before him in only a towel, chuckling at the disheveled sight that Cameron surely made.  Would he think the tousled blonde locks and the blue eyes still cloudy with sleep and drink were cute?  Or would he make excuses and avoid looking at Cameron while he tried to find his pants, promising to call when they both knew that he never would.  Would he want one last kiss before he was out the door, or would he simply be in a hurry, smiling that awkward smile that meant he regretted not leaving before Cameron had awakened?

 

“Doesn’t matter one way or the other,” Cameron reminded himself, pulling the blankets back around his body, thinking that it might be a good idea to just go back to sleep.  Maybe when he woke up his headache would be gone, and with it his unusually sentimental longings.

 

***

The phone rang for what felt like the hundredth time, and Cameron was forced to admit that he could ignore it no longer.  He heaved a great sigh, pushed his glasses from the bridge of his nose to rest on his forehead, and picked up the receiver.  He couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out why he hadn’t just turned the ringer off to begin with.

 

“This had better be good,” he warned.  “I’ve got a deadline and I don’t need any more interruptions.”

 

“And hello to you too,” a familiar voice chuckled on the other line, used to Cameron’s snap of impatience, finding it more amusing than offensive, “I see that someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, eh?”

 

“Tommy,” the warm, familiar tone that suddenly colored Cameron’s voice was the closest thing to an apology that Thomas Smithe was ever going to get.  In fact, had Cameron actually said that he was sorry, Tommy might have worried, and he didn’t have the time to go half way across town just to take Cameron’s temperature before dragging him to the nearest hospital.  “Is something wrong?”

 

“Why does something always have to be wrong for me to call you?”  They both knew the answer to that question.  Tommy was only twenty-six, yet he was raising his three younger siblings, all under the age of twelve, by himself after their parent’s untimely deaths.  He was also trying to keep the family business alive, managing Club Forever by night and taking business classes at the community college by day, all while suffering from a life-long illness that the doctors had been thus far unable to either diagnose or cure.  It left him too weak to get out of bed some days, which was usually when he called Cameron to look after the kids.  Not that Cameron ever minded.  The four of them were the only family that he really had.  Or, more precisely, the only family that he cared to have.

 

“Are the kids all right?”  A noise of affirmation from the other end of the line eased something that had been winding itself tightly around Cameron’s chest.  But it would not ease completely until the received another answer.  “How are you feeling today?”

 

“I’m fine,” since he wasn’t coughing or wheezing Cameron chose to believe him.  “I just thought that I’d call and see if you were doing okay.  James called and said that he saw you leaving with a guy last night.  Said that you told Johnny that you were taking him back to your place.  They both thought that you seemed pretty out of it, and since you usually don’t let them talk you into going home with you I’ll have to assume that they were right, so I thought I should probably check up on you.”

 

Cameron shook his head and laughed.  There were two sides to being the best friend of the owner of your favorite club.  On the up side you could get in for free no matter how busy they were, and no one ever made you pay for your drinks or tossed you out the back door if you got too carried away.  But, on the down side, everybody in the place became your babysitter.  And, if you didn’t behave, they’d tell big brother on you.

 

“Aside from the fact that I have to finish this website by tonight or the client’s going to throw a hissy-fit, I’m right as rain,” and it was true.  Aside from the nagging feeling of wanting to look across the room and find a certain dark-haired man sitting there, Cameron had been able to lose himself in his work for an entire afternoon.

 

“He must have been something if you agreed to take him home.”  Tommy didn’t share his tastes in lovers, his eye always going to something a little curvier and a whole lot less male, but he never seemed uncomfortable about dishing with Cameron over his latest conquests.  That was, when he wasn’t fretting over the endless stream of one night stands and badgering him to settle down with someone nice.  “Tommy said that he didn’t recognize the guy and that he didn’t stay too long.”

 

“That’s because he came looking for me,” Cameron couldn’t help but sound pleased.  In the light of day, away from the beat of the music and the strobe of the lights, Venkata’s pick-up line sounded cheesy.  And that was being generous.  But, even knowing that, Cameron still liked the idea that the handsome man had come to the club just for him.  Why else would he have left right after finding him?

 

“You sound like you’re smiling,” so did Tommy.  “Was he that good?”

 

“Better,” at least what he could remember.  Although Tommy didn’t need to know that.  He’d only worry that Cameron had been that drunk and had still left the club with a stranger.  Cameron knew that he would never hear the end of it.

 

Tommy sounded impressed, “You gonna see him again?”

 

“Can’t,” the same thoughts had occupied most his morning at he had fought to get back to sleep.  He hadn’t liked the answers any more then than he did currently.  “Don’t know where to find him.”

 

“If he knew to come looking for you at the club then he must know where to find you.”

 

“He’s already gotten everything that I have to give,” there wasn’t a smile in his voice any longer.  But he didn’t sound angry or bitter either.  It was just the truth.  A truth that Cameron had long ago accepted.  “I don’t think that he’ll come for me again.”

 

“Another bastard, huh?”

 

Cameron was oddly offended by that comment.  He wasn’t sure why, he knew almost as much about the man as Tommy did, even if he had let him take him at least three times that he could remember, but Cameron didn’t like Tommy calling Venkata a bastard.  It was true that most of his lovers were just that, and the ones that he did allow into his life and/or his home only to have them skip out on him after a night or two were doubly so, but something told him that he hadn’t completely misread Venkata.  Some of the kindness in his eyes, the tenderness behind his touch, had to have been real.

 

“Just the opposite, actually.”

 

“Then why-“

 

“I’m sure it was just a mistake that he came looking for me,” there was a reason that no one ever did, except, perhaps, for a few exes who had waited until he’d been drunk enough that they’d known that he wouldn’t say no.  “He won’t be back.”

 

“I really wish that you’d stop thinking like that.”

 

“Me too, Tommy,” he’d stopped insulting himself around Tommy, for the most part, but only because he knew that it would usually earn him a lecture from the older man.  But sometimes he just couldn’t help himself.  It was damn hard to believe in yourself all of the time when hardly anyone else did.  When you’d grown up being told that your whole family would be better off if you were dead, when your own mother brought you to her priest because she thought that you were a demon, when every lover that you’d ever had didn’t even remember your name after they’d had your body, and even your so-called friends had a habit of losing your number when they got to know you too well.  One good meaning best friend wasn’t quite enough to change twenty-two years worth of hard proof.  And the fact that Venkata had left without a word only proved that Tommy was the one who was wrong.  “But I think that dear old Mum might have been right about me.  I really am worthless.”

 

“Cam!”

 

There was a knock at the door, and Cameron had never been more grateful to have a phone conversation interrupted before in his life.  He’d been foolish to antagonize Tommy.  The other man never let him get away with his pity-trips, as he called them.  Cameron could only blame his odd behavior on the strange dream that he’d had, the dream that he couldn’t get out of his mind, and on his traitorous heart that continued to tell him that if he only went back to the club tonight he might find Venkata waiting for him.

 

“Wait a sec, would ya Tommy?  There’s someone at the door.”  He didn’t wait for an answer, instead grabbing his cordless phone and heading for the door, Tommy along for the ride.

 

“Cameron Parish?”  The delivery woman asked, big green eyes raking over Cameron’s body, taking in the cut-off shorts that rode dangerously high on his legs and the beat-up tank that rode even higher.  Cameron preened at the attention, even if he wasn’t interested, and he winked at the young woman as he flashed her his most winning smile.

 

“At your service,” he glanced down at her name tag, masking it with an appraising look of his own, although his didn’t have the heat behind it that hers had, “Maria.”

 

“Um…”  He tried not to laugh.  It always felt nice to know that his charms were appreciated.  And, if Tommy was left scolding him on the other end of the line, telling him to behave even though he couldn’t possibly see what was going on, then so be it.  “I…”

 

“Have a delivery for me?” he provided helpfully.  He was enjoying the way that the woman was reacting to him, but his curiosity was fast taking over, and he wanted to know who had sent him what.  There weren’t many people who were likely to be sending him presents, and he hadn’t ordered anything online for a while, so he honestly didn’t know why the pretty green-eyed woman was standing at his door blushing like a virgin on prom night.

 

“Yes,” she came to her senses suddenly, covering her embarrassment with procedure.  She’d seen people, men and women both, come to the door in far less without it phasing her.  Admittedly, most of them didn’t look half as good, but still…  “If you could just sign here please, Mr. Parish?”

 

“Sure.”  Cameron took the clipboard that he was offered, listening to the delivery woman prattle on to cover her chagrin over her earlier behavior.  Cameron thought that it was cute.  He had a feeling that she turned her fair share of heads, although not for the same reasons that he did, or the same type of heads.  He had an odd urge to actually pat her on the head and tell her that she was adorable.  He suspected that would end in a broken nose though, so he did nothing, signing his name and handing it back to her like a good boy should.

 

“You must be really special,” the words caught Cameron off guard.  Had she been talking to Tommy?  It was almost laughable.  Everyone was out to get him, to convince him that he was worthy, or so it seemed.  “This was a custom order that was really hard to fill.  Almost all of them were out of season, but the guy who sent them said that it was very important that he send only the very best, and the color had to be just right too.  He said that the normal roses simply weren’t good enough.”

 

Cameron was speechless as he was handed the largest bouquet that he had ever seen in his life, the heavy crystal vase barely enough to contain all of the stems.  He could believe what the woman said about the flowers being special.  He couldn’t even identify half of them, and the ones that he could he had never actually held in his hands, but the thing that shocked him the most was that the main bulk of the massive arrangement was made up of a flower that matched the pale blue of his eyes perfectly.

 

When Cameron at last looked up from his flowers, wanting to ask where they had come from and if the woman was sure that they were for him, he found that she was already half way down the hall.  Luckily for him, however, there was a small note card stuck in the center of the flowers.  Ignoring Tommy’s questions coming from the phone, Cameron took his flowers inside, kicking the door shut behind him.  He took them to the kitchen table, breath tight in his chest, mind reeling as he waited to find out who they were from.  He knew who he wanted them to be from, but he wasn’t about to get his hopes up.

 

With trembling hands Cameron pulled out a small white card from the little plastic stick-holder and read it to himself.  Then he reread it.  Twice.  The card contained only two simple letters in sprawling script: V.M.

 

“Tommy?”

 

“Yes?”  Tommy sounded annoyed from being ignored, but at the shaky, elated sound of Cameron’s voice he couldn’t hold on to his anger.  Instead it was replaced with curiosity.

 

“I take it back.”

 

“Take what back?”

 

“Maybe she was right.”

 

“Your mother wasn’t-“

 

He didn’t know why, but the sight of the flowers, and the initials on the card, made his heart skip a beat.  He tried to tell himself that they didn’t mean anything, tried to chalk it up to guilt on the other man’s part at having left without saying anything that morning, but he could not seem to make his heart listen to his head.  Even without a message to go with them, without an explanation or a promise, the flowers seemed to mean something.  Something important.

 

“Not my mother,” Cameron said, a wide smile spreading across his face, the urge to scream like an excited school girl so strong that he had to put a hand to his mouth for a moment, lest he deafen his friend, “Maria.  She might just have been right.”

 

 

 

Chapter Three:  Good Enough

 

Cameron couldn’t ever remember being so nervous before in his entire life.  He’d faced his father’s belt, had watched his mother approach him with a wire hanger and refused to cry out, had stood strong against a Catholic priest of dubious credentials who’d wanted to drive his demons out in ways that most certainly weren’t sanctioned by the church, and he’d let men twice his size and meaner than his parents could ever hope to be tie him up while knowing that there would be no hope of escape once they were done.  And, although those things had taught him fear, he couldn’t ever recall his heart threatening to burst right out of his chest with the strength of its pounding rhythm.

 

He’d told himself that he’d only gone to the club because it was lonely back at his apartment.  Told himself that he hadn’t seen Tommy face to face in almost a week, and that since his best friend was working the Saturday shift instead of working on his paper on the history of the tattoo and its cultural significance in post-modern society, then the least that he could do was come and keep the other man company.  But that reasoning was as false as the easy smile that he wore on his handsome face, as false as the easy sway of hips and the relaxed slouch of his body against the bar.  He was waiting.  Waiting for Venkata Mekjian.  And nothing would ease the nervous fluttering in his stomach or the uneasy tenseness of his heart until he saw the other man walk through the front doors of the Forever Club.

 

“Can I buy you a drink, gorgeous?”  Cameron thought that the handsome, if somewhat non-descript man who was standing next to him at the bar might have been talking to him for some time, but he couldn’t be sure.  He would have blamed it on the music blasting the room from the stage up front, but that would have been a lie.

 

“No.”  Cameron didn’t care if he was being rude.  The guy would get over it.  He was cute and clean-cut, looked relatively well put together, and there would be no shortage of guys willing to show the other man a good time.

 

“It’s just a drink,” the guy didn’t give up, thinking that Cameron was just playing hard to get.  Any other night he might have been right.  “You look like you could use one, is all.”

 

As if Cameron weren’t already nervous enough.  Now he looked like he needed a drink?  He momentarily thought of running right past the persistent man and making a run for the bathroom to check his appearance in the mirror.  But he didn’t want to risk missing Venkata’s entrance, too worried that even if the other man came looking for him that he would turn around and leave if he didn’t see Cameron.  He could only keep his fingers crossed and hope that he didn’t look like something that the cat had dragged in.

 

“Look,” maybe talking would calm his nerves a little, or at least distract him from them, “I don’t mean to be rude, but-“

 

Just then a gust of warm air breathed across the back of Cameron’s neck and he froze, the words of apology that he was about to offer completely forgotten, the moment frozen in time as he waited with anticipation for what he hoped was to come.  He didn’t know how, but he knew that the thing that he had been waiting for all night was about to happen.  And then the breath at the back of his neck became the feeling of lips on his sensitive skin, the soft mouth forming the words that he had longed to hear, “I’ve been waiting for you, Cameron.”

 

***

“Are you seeing Venkata again tonight?”  Tommy fell back against the couch, propping his feet up and balancing his plate on his thighs.  He would have yelled at his younger siblings for thinking that lunchmeat sandwiches were an acceptable substitute for a healthy dinner, but for him and Cameron it was just fine.

 

“I hope so,” he never knew the answer to that question until he got to the club.  But Venkata had been waiting for him every night for the past two weeks, even though Cameron still couldn’t quite figure out how getting there after him was considered waiting.  Tommy thought that he was being strung along, thought that it was highly suspicious that Venkata always met him at the club and never talked about himself when he and Cameron were alone together, but Cameron didn’t care.  It wasn’t that he didn’t understand how odd the man’s behavior was, he did, it was just that he didn’t really mind so long as Venkata kept coming for him.  He couldn’t explain it, but over the past weeks he’d begun to crave the other man like a drug.  It was as if, when he was locked in the embrace of those strong arms, when he looked into those hypnotic black eyes, nothing else mattered.  He felt safe and wanted, cared for, and even if it was an illusion he wasn’t going to give it up for anything.

 

“Is he still pulling his disappearing act every morning?”

 

His lack of a comment was answer enough for Tommy.

 

Cameron didn’t see why it mattered so much.  So Venkata never stuck around to say goodbye?  At least he stayed until Cameron fell asleep.  That was enough for the blonde.  He turned his lithe body smoothly in the oversized armchair, coming to a rest with his head hanging down towards the floor and his feet planted on the wall above the headrest.  He let the blood flow to his head, the rush sending a strange thrill through his body, and hoped that Tommy would drop the subject.  Just because he didn’t mind Venkata leaving didn’t mean that he liked it either, and that made it a rather uncomfortable conversation.  He wasn’t about to demand more of his already generous lover, so there was no point in arguing over it.

 

“You don’t suppose…” Tommy didn’t want to say it, but he felt compelled to make his younger friend see the truth.  Although, he really wished that he didn’t have to.  Cameron had seemed happier in the past weeks than he had been in the entirety of the five years that Tommy had known him.  Despite always waking up alone, he seemed well rested, and his smiles were more real than they had been before Venkata had come along.  If the dark-skinned man hadn’t been so mysterious and evasive, Tommy might just have thanked him for the change that a little TLC had wrought in Cameron.

 

“Has a wife and kids to get home to?”  Cameron had already considered this.  And, again, he didn’t care.  As long as Venkata gave him his nights, he had no right to ask for the day too.  “It’s none of my business even if he does.”

 

“None of your…?”  Tommy had hoped that a new, more attentive and caring lover might have changed some of Cameron’s opinions about himself.  Apparently, it hadn’t.

 

“Do you see this?”  Cameron didn’t move from his wrong-side-up position on the chair, didn’t turn his face to meet Tommy’s; he just pushed the clingy fabric of his shirt up to lay his stomach bare.  They both knew what Tommy would see there.  The mark was anything but new.  “Well, he has, and he doesn’t seem to care.”

 

Cameron’s tapered fingers traced down the length of his scar, feeling the contrast between the smoothness of his stomach versus the roughness of the twelve year old knife wound.  His mother had told him that it needed to be done, had assured him that she was doing God’s work when she’d carved the inverted cross into his young flesh, and she had not stilled her hand until he was left with a mark that could never be ignored.  He had screamed and begged, fought with all of the strength that a ten year-old’s hundred-pound frame could manage, but she had not been swayed.  His scar was the proof of her convictions, proof that all of his struggling had been in vain, and that he had never stood a chance against his mother and her god.

 

“She told me that the inverted cross was a symbol of unworthiness and a fall from God’s graces.  It’s proof that you’re unclean,” he still couldn’t understand how a ten year old was unclean.  How one so young was capable of enough sin to earn St. Peter’s mark upon him.  He suspected that he never would.  It was another mystery better left to his mother and her Master.  “She wanted everyone who saw me to know just what I was, to warn them.”

 

Tommy put a hand atop Cameron’s, his thumb running across the edge of one of the cross’s arms, knowing all too well that wounds didn’t have to continue to bleed to still hurt.  Not for the first time did he wonder what Cameron might have been like with a mother as loving as his had been, if it would have made a difference.  He was pretty sure that it would have; relatively certain that he wouldn’t be sitting in Cameron’s living room listening to his friend talk about how unworthy he was of the simple love and affection that they all craved.  It made him shudder at the unfairness of life, of a world where his own mother had died without seeing her children grow up while he knew that Cameron’s still lived.

 

“She used to tell me that I was begotten of the Devil.  That my father had been possessed when she’d conceived me.  She used to blame his drinking on the demons, claim that he was possessed too when he’d beat us and rave like a madman,” he could understand all too well how she had believed that.  The man had been a terror when he lost control.  Funny that his only physical scars were not from that man.  “But apparently his demons were transitory, they only came to him when he was weak and gave in to temptation.  I was born bad.”

 

“You weren’t born bad,” he meant it with every fiber of his being.  He’d grown up in the darkness of a night club, had spent his youth there, was planning on spending most of the rest of his life there too.  He’d had chance enough to witness bad-seeds in action.  And Cameron couldn’t even come close.  “You’re a good man, and you deserve to happy, just like the rest of us.”

 

“But I’m not just like the rest of you,” there were tears in Cameron’s eyes when at last he looked at his friend, their hands still joined on the soft flesh of his belly.  There was genuine fear there, in the depths of his sky blue eyes, the look of a frightened child begging to be proven wrong.  But too many strange things had happened over the past years for any words of comfort to ever truly drive away the uncertainty of that particular fear.  They both knew it.  “I never have been.”

 

“So what, you’re a little different?”  Tommy wanted to be serious, wanted to pull Cameron into his arms and promise him that it would be all right, but he knew that the only thing that would accomplish was Cameron pushing him away.  When he fell into a mood tinged with memories of the past, it was better just to laugh it off, to let the other man go on forgetting.  Tommy was worried about what would happened when he couldn’t push it all to the back of his mind any longer, but that was a fear for another day.  “I bet Venkata appreciates that you’re such a freak.  I mean, who doesn’t want a double-jointed lover?”

 

“That’s not…”  It wasn’t what he had meant, but it would do.  He’d take laughter over heartache any day.  “Don’t you have kids to look after or something?  I have a date to get ready for.”

 

 

 

Chapter Four:  Too Good to be True?

 

Cameron wasn’t quite sure what to do.  Venkata had met him at the club, as always, but they hadn’t stayed long.  They had gone to dinner at a nice restaurant and then to the movies.  Now they were sitting on Cameron’s couch, Venkata’s arm thrown over his smaller companion’s shoulders, Cameron’s head resting comfortably on Venkata’s shoulder while they listened to the local news and talked about how absolutely terrible the movie had been.  However, despite the fact that they had been in Cameron’s apartment for just over an hour, the arm around his shoulders was the only contact that the two men had had aside from a kiss when they’d first sat down.  And that was the problem.  Cameron wasn’t used to the attention that he had been receiving over the past weeks, wasn’t used to being wooed before being taken to bed, and now that Venkata sat beside him without any indication that he wanted more than the simple cuddling that was going on, Cameron didn’t know what to do with himself.  He felt useless.  He feared that Venkata’s passion for him was already waning, and he felt certain that if he couldn’t bring the man pleasure, then that would be the end of it between them.  The thought of losing Venkata, even though he had only known him for a few weeks, tore at something deep within Cameron.  There had been a strange connection from the moment that they’d met, and he felt it still, the bond growing stronger every time that they were together.  He knew that it wouldn’t last forever, that Venkata would come to his senses soon and realize what all of the others had, that Cameron wasn’t worth the effort of a real relationship, but Cameron wasn’t quite ready for it to end just yet.  He would do anything to keep the other man near, if only for a little while longer.  Anything.  He just didn’t know what Venkata wanted.

 

“So,” Cameron might not know what Venkata wanted, but he most certainly knew what he wanted.  He wanted an end to the silence.  It was driving him mad!  “I… um…”

 

“Hmm?”  Venkata looked down at Cameron, dark eyes filled with amusement, somehow sensing that Cameron was scrambling to come up with something to say and finding the struggle very entertaining.  He did not provide anything useful to help his lover find a topic of conversation.  He was too cute when he was flustered.

 

"Can I ask you something?"

 

"Anything," and he meant it.  In fact, Venkata had been waiting for Cameron to ask certain questions.  Certain very important questions.  He hoped that one of those important questions was about to be asked, in fact.  It would make things so much easier in the future.

 

"Why don't you ever stay to morning?"  It wasn’t the question that Cameron had meant to ask.  He had promised himself that he wouldn’t push his lover, wouldn’t ask for more of him than he was already being given, but his frantic mind had struggled to find words, and when it had, it had grabbed on to one of the questions that had been plaguing it for weeks.  But it was too late to take it back, so Cameron held his breath and waited, hoping that Venkata wasn’t too mad with him by the time that their conversation was over. 

 

From the harsh and searching look that he was receiving from his handsome companion, Cameron thought that not only was it too much to hope that he hadn’t angered Venkata, but he had a sinking suspicion that he would be sleeping alone long before morning came.

 

"Because I'm not as good at hiding first thing in the morning."

 

"Hiding?"

 

"I guess it's unavoidable,” Venkata sighed, as though he had just come to the conclusion of some long debate, his dark eyes spearing Cameron’s paler ones with a look of such seriousness that Cameron was powerless to look away.  Something in that look spoke of the grave importance of his next words.  “It's not time yet but, since I've already broken the rules to see you, I suppose that it can’t hurt to tell you the truth."

 

"The truth?"  Cameron wasn’t sure that he liked the road down which they were now headed.  Why, oh why, had he opened his big mouth?  He didn’t want to know the truth.  Didn’t need to know it.  All that he needed to know was that he was happy for the first time in a very long time, if not ever, and he didn’t want it to end.  But if Venkata said what he suspected he was about to say, then it most likely would end, and end abruptly.  I’ve got a boyfriend, I’ve got  a wife and kids, I’ve got a family that won’t approve or a job that I would lose if they knew about my lifestyle.  He’d heard it all before.  And always afterwards they would promise him that it wasn’t his fault, since they were the nice ones, the ones who always tried to be kind and to pretend that they weren’t the type of man who was just out for a good time; but still they’d leave, going back to the life that most certainly didn’t involve him.  The only difference was, this time Cameron had no one but himself to blame.  He should have just kept his questions to himself and been content.

 

"You're an angel and I'm a devil, we were promised to each other by the Powers that Be, and together we're going to help to bring peace to the worlds Above and Below."

 

That was when Cameron knew that his happiness really had been too good to be true.  And why.  Venkata Mekjian was, it seemed, certifiably insane.

 

***

There was a long silence as Cameron and Venkata looked at each other, both waiting for the other to say something.  Why me, was all that Cameron could think.  He couldn’t understand why he had such a habit of attracting religious nuts.  He wondered if it had anything to do with the wings on his back.  Angels and devils?

 

Cameron’s hand moved to his stomach of its own accord, a move that was mostly unconscious, touching the scar that he found there as the tried to think.  Was the inverted cross a symbol of his curse, proof that he was forever damned, or did the scar bring the curse?  And how many nights had he lay awake and wondered the very same thing?  Either way, it seemed that he was lost, never to find happiness.

 

He was scared, but not for the reasons that he should have been.  Venkata was mad, to be certain, but Cameron was oddly unafraid.  He’d dealt with the mentally ill before, he knew that they could be dangerous, but he did not fear for his safety.  Instead, he feared that he could not play the part that Venkata had cast for him convincingly enough to make the other man stay.  He was not an angel.  Far from it.

 

“That’s ridiculous,” Venkata suddenly said, reaching out to pull Cameron’s hand away from his scar.  “Not those angels and devils.”

 

“Oh?”  Cameron was confused.  “Sorry?”

 

“Above and Below, the lands of angels and devils, they’re just sub-levels of this realm.  Unseen by most, but there none the less, just as physical as this place.  Havens for daemons of this world who do not belong with the humans.”

 

“I see.”  Venkata honestly seemed to believe what he was saying.  Cameron was oddly intrigued.  Later, he would probably be afraid, but at that very moment he considered playing along.  “I wasn’t aware that there was a difference.”

 

“In some ways there isn’t,” Venkata was smiling, his pale brown skin crinkling at the corners of his eyes, honestly amused by how hard Cameron was trying to control his fear while indulging Venkata’s delusions.  “A few thousand years ago a handful of humans accidently found their way to our worlds, and when they brought back their tales of what they had seen, we somehow got twisted up in their creation myths.  The fact that some of us like to tease the mortals from time to time doesn’t help matters, I suppose.”

 

“So, you’re saying that Heaven and Hell are actually alternate dimensions and God is not real?”

 

“No,” Venkata was patient, understanding how strange his words must seem.  “Above and Below, they’re a part of this dimension, just unnoticed and inaccessible to most.  And, as for Heaven, Hell and God?  I have no idea if the Christian god is real.  Or any other god, for that matter.  And I don’t know where any of us go when we leave this world.  I just know that the mortal imaginings of demons and angels came, in part, from our world.”

 

“And you’re…”

 

“A devil.”

 

“A devil?”

 

“Well, we used to be called something else,” Venkata defended, looking a little sheepish as he rubbed nervously at the back of his neck, “but over the years we’ve adopted the mortal’s name for us for some reason.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Someone’s idea of a joke, I suspect.”

 

“If you say that you’re a devil, then I believe you,” and, oddly, a part of him did, no matter how farfetched it seemed.  Cameron had always thought that there was something other-worldly about the mysterious Venkata Mekjian.  If he said that he was a devil from Hell, or Below, then so be it.  But, as ready as he was to believe, even in part, there was still something that he simply could not take Venkata at his word about.  “But if you’re looking for an angel, then you’ve got the wrong guy.  I’m anything but holy.”

 

Venkata had been trying to be serious, to explain to Cameron to the best of his abilities what was going on now that the other man had asked him to, but when he heard Cameron calling angels holy he simply couldn’t hold back the bark of laughter that spilled out of him.  “Angels are anything but holy, I can promise you that, my sweet.”

 

“Excuse me?”  He was sure that his mother and her priest would love to be privy to that little fact.  In fact, Mary Anne, Tommy’s little sister, would love to know it too.  She had angels all over her room, cherubic little faces looking up from every available surface of her bedroom, gentle eyes and kind smiles helping her to sleep once the door was closed and the six year old was left alone.

 

“As I’ve said, I don’t know what goes on in Heaven, should it be real, but the angels that I’ve known from Above have been some of the horniest, raunchiest, and all around blood-thirstiest beings that I’ve ever met.  Some of them can put devils to shame!”

 

“We are talking about angels, right?” Cameron had to clarify.  Maybe he had misunderstood?  “White wings, halos, choirs?  That sort of angel?”

 

“The halos are actually illusions, almost like rainbows in oil slicks, just the physical manifestation of their power while they’re here on the surface world.”

 

“And the wings?”

 

“They’ve got wings,” Venkata assured him.  “Just like you.”

 

“But mine are a tattoo,” Cameron reminded him, not quite sure how he’d gotten into such a discussion.  All he’d wanted was to be reassured that he was still wanted, that tonight’s date hadn’t been the last, but now he felt completely out of his depth.

 

“They’ll manifest in time.”  Cameron highly doubted that.  He was sure that, if he had really been intended to have wings, they would have shown sometime in the past twenty-two years.  He didn’t think that he was that much of a late bloomer.

 

“And why would they do that?”

 

“Well, your father was an angel, and the Seers found you easily enough when they were looking for my other half, so there’s no reason not to think that you’d get your wings sooner or later.”

 

It was Cameron’s turn to laugh.  His father, an angel?  “My father beat me within an inch of my life more times than I can count.  He used to enjoy kicking me until I’d piss blood.  Doesn’t seem very angelic to me.”

 

There was murderous rage in his eyes when Venkata responded, and had he been feeling a bit more sane Cameron might have drawn away from him when he saw that all-too familiar expression, but instead he got closer and put a hand on his lover’s arm.  The pain was old for him, but the fact that it was fresh and stinging for Venkata eased some of his old wounds.  Pity he was used to, but not many people bled for him, the way that Venkata’s dark eyes said that he did.  It made him believe the man’s next words.  “If he’s still alive then I’m going to kill him.”

 

“He’s dead.”

 

“Good,” Venkata didn’t seem entirely pleased to hear that.  “But that worthless piece of mortal trash was not your father.”

 

“As much as I’d like to believe that, my mother never would have cheated on my father,” the idea was actually laughable.  His mother, cheating on his father, conducting an illicit affair right under their noses?  He doubted that the idea had ever even occurred to her.  “Adultery is a sin.”

 

“Angels, and devils for that matter, can be very convincing when they want to be.”

 

Cameron still couldn’t believe him.  The idea that Venkata could be something other than human, the knowledge that Heaven and Hell were real, even if the weren’t the real Heaven and Hell, seemed far more believable than the idea of his mother breaking her marriage vows.  A man would have to be a lot more than convincing to accomplish that feat.

 

“You’ve never been normal, have you?”  The change of topics caught Cameron off guard, although the new question made him far more uncomfortable than the others had.  He’d driven people away with his decidedly non-normal talents more than once.  Although how Venkata could know that was beyond him.  He could still remember being a seven year old boy, shocked to see a car hit a cat and keep going as though it were nothing; he’d run out into the street towards a wreck of flesh that had previously been a kitten only to return with a purring ball of fur that was the picture of health a few moments later.  Even he had understood why his mother had called him unnatural, forbidding him to talk of the incident after taking the belt to him for what he had done, although he still didn’t know how he had done it.  He’d learned to stay clear of road-kill over the years.  “Strange things happen around you.  Things that can’t be explained.”  He didn’t make it a question.

 

“Venkata,” his voice had taken on a desperate quality.  Why couldn’t Venkata have just fucked him into the mattress and disappeared before morning, like usual?  “I-“

 

“Need more proof?”  The familiar smile was back, dark eyes twinkling mischievously as he stood from the couch and started in on the buttons of his dark red shirt.  Cameron suddenly wondered if devils weren’t psychic, and the man had heard his plea.  The bed he understood.  The rest?  Not so well.  “Ask and ye shall receive, my little angel.”

 

 

 

Chapter Five:  Lost and Found

 

“This isn’t how I planned any of this, you know,” Venkata slid his shirt over his broad shoulders, revealing an expanse of pale brown skin that made Cameron’s body ache for him despite the situation.  His black eyes never left Cameron’s pale blue ones.  And, even though Cameron knew that he should have made a run for it the moment that the other man had started talking about angels and devils, he couldn’t find it in himself to look away.  “I broke the rules to come here.  When the Seers said that they had found my other half I didn’t care so much about the union between Above and Below as I did about meeting you.  I had to see who the Powers had chosen for me.”

 

That was, Cameron knew, the real reason that he was having trouble believing Venkata.  For some odd reason he wanted to believe that the man was telling him the truth about Above and Below, about angels and devils, and all of the Powers and Seers that he was going on about.  Even the fact that he himself was an angel was almost believable.  Whatever he was, Cameron was far from normal, he knew that.  Why couldn’t he be an angel, if they weren’t the pure and holy things that he had been taught that they were?  It would be as good an explanation as any.  But what he absolutely could not believe, under any circumstances, was that he was meant to be the soul mate of anyone.  Especially someone like Venkata.  It just wasn’t possible.

 

“I had intended to woo you, to treat you right, to be better than the humans that you were used to.  I’d watched you for a while, so I knew what not to do, and I wanted to court you properly.  To show you that you were more than a body to be used and discarded,” he bent to remove his shoes, never releasing Cameron’s gaze, somehow knowing that this was the part of his story that the other man would have the hardest time accepting.  But he needed him to know that, whatever he believed, this was where the most truth was contained.  “But then I stood beside you for the first time, saw those eyes looking back at me, and I couldn’t help myself.”

 

“I didn’t mind,” and Cameron hadn’t.  He didn’t still.  In fact, he would like nothing more than to be pinned beneath the other man, letting his body be used, taking pleasure as he gave it.  It would have been so much easier than the current conversation.

 

“I know,” Venkata answered with a knowing look, grinning lasciviously as he went for his belt, drawing it from the loops of his pants with deliberate slowness.  “And that’s why I was lost.  But, what is it that Blake said:  Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained?  What I feel for you is anything but weak, I promise you.”  

 

And then Venkata was bared before Cameron in all of his glory.  He was stunning, as always, but Cameron saw nothing different than any other time that he had seen the man nude.  Venkata had the same pale brown skin covering a body made of grace and strength.  Broad shoulders, tapered waist, a dancer’s legs made up of lean muscle and flawless flesh.  The same hair, as black as pitch and flowing like liquid silk, fell in thick waves to rest on his shoulders.  The same thick cock that Cameron had become so intimately acquainted with over recent weeks, already partially hard as he stood confidently before Cameron’s appraising eyes, rested proudly in a nest of midnight curls, making Cameron’s mouth all but water.  As a whole, it was a sight that Cameron enjoyed greatly, but he did not see how the man’s nude body showed him the proof that he was a devil from Below.

 

Then the air around Venkata seemed to shimmer.  Cameron blinked his eyes a few times, wondering if he had been staring too hard at the sight of his lover’s nude form, and when his eyes refocused the world was suddenly not as it should be.  Where once a human man had stood, now there was something else, something more.  Venkata’s face was the same, yet it wasn’t.  There was something alien about the familiar features, everything sharper and more predatory, and where there had once been a high and unmarred forehead there were now a pair of small dark red horns sticking an inch out from either side.  Upon Venkata’s back, rising up behind him to cast the room into shadow, were a pair of thick, leathery wings, the flesh shading from the pale brown of the majority of his skin into a deep red to match the horns upon his forehead.  Flicking behind him Cameron caught sight of a spaded tail, as thick as a man’s wrist at the top and tapering down to thin out before the point, also colored a deep crimson shade.  And, perhaps most shocking of all for never having been noticed before, Venkata held Cameron’s gaze and flicked out his tongue to lick smiling lips.  With a forked tongue.

 

“Do you believe me now?”  Venkata took a cautious step forward, afraid of spooking his already rattled lover, to run the pads of his fingers along the side of Cameron’s face, grateful when the other man did not flinch at his touch.

 

“Yes.”  How could he not?  At least, as far as Venkata himself being a devil was concerned.  The proof was impossible to ignore.  As for the rest of his story, Cameron was still uncertain.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to believe, it really wasn’t, it was simply a little hard to take it all in at once.

 

“Are you scared?”

 

“No,” and, again, it was the truth.  Venkata was Venkata, that had not changed, he just looked a little different now that he wasn’t hiding his true form.  In fact, Cameron actually found himself aroused by the dangerous, animal air that the other man had taken on.  He had always looked exotic, but now he had an alien, other-worldly quality to him that no other man that he had ever seen had possessed.

 

Venkata saw the honest, appraising look in Cameron’s eyes, utterly unafraid and unwilling to judge, and his heart rejoiced.  He’d feared that Cameron would not take his revelations very well.  It seemed, however, that he had underestimated the angel before him.  He did not know what he would have done if Cameron had rejected him.

 

It did not occur to Cameron to pull back from the touch to his cheek, or when Venkata moved closer to him, bringing their faces close before the larger man closed his lips over his own.  It did not even occur to him to shy away when that forked tongue slid between his lips to tease at his own.  All that he could do was what he had always done when Venkata kissed him.  He lost himself to the pleasure and pulled the other man closer, drowning in sensation, moaning into the kiss.

 

Then, as suddenly as he’d acquiesced, Cameron struggled for control, placing a hand between their bodies to push wordlessly at Venkata’s larger frame.  He regretted for a moment the look of pained confusion on Venkata’s face, afraid that he had unintentionally hurt the other man, or devil’s, feelings.  But a thought had suddenly occurred to him, and even his desire for Venkata was not enough to still his mind now that it had awakened to the possibilities.

 

“Wait,” he did not pull back more than enough to speak, wanting to lessen the sting of his refusal, needing Venkata to know that it was only to ask a question that he had pulled away, “If you’re a devil and I’m an angel, then shouldn’t we be enemies?  How could I be your other half?”

 

“We don’t fight much, as a rule,” Venkata said as though it were the simplest answer in the world, one eloquently raised eyebrow saying more clearly than words that he shouldn’t have asked.  “Most of those stories are human tales.  We mess with humans more than we do with each other, in fact.  It’s our favorite sport.  We used to play with the humans together, even, but things have been a little strained between us lately.  A series of bad decisions and unfortunate turns of Fate changing what was once a wonderfully friendly coexistence.  That’s why the Powers are trying to join the two worlds together, through unions like ours, because they don’t want things to ever get as bad as the stories say that they are.  A real war between Above and Below wouldn’t be good for anyone.”

 

Now Cameron was scared.  Not only was he supposed to be an angel worthy of having Venkata as his soul mate, but together they needed to bring peace to two opposing factions of an unseen daemon world?  He couldn’t see how he was supposed to manage that feat when he couldn’t even keep his own life in order most of the time!

 

“Yes, but-“  A demanding mouth against his own silenced Cameron, stilling his tongue and giving it something else to do.  Venkata thought that there had been enough talk for one night.  Either Cameron would accept what he had been told or he wouldn’t but, no matter what, it would not be easy.  And it would not be quick.  He’d known that since the day that he’d gotten it into his mind to disobey the Elders and go to the surface world to find his soul mate.  So, Venkata took it upon himself to silence the other man’s thoughts for a little while, if for no other reason than to give him time to sort things out.  It was the least that the devil could do for his lover.

 

Once Venkata really began to kiss him, putting his whole behind the actions of his lips and tongue, Cameron suddenly couldn’t remember what he had planned on saying.  And he didn’t care.  Whatever it was, he was certain that it couldn’t have been more important than the heat that was currently burning through his veins like a wildfire.  There would be time enough to worry about angels, and soul mates, and war some other time.  Some time when he didn’t have a beautiful, and obviously horny, devil pressing him into the soft cushions of his couch.

 

Cameron obediently arched his back and turned his head to the side when Venkata moved from his lips to his neck, moaning when his lover laved the sensitive flesh with the flat of his forked tongue.  It occurred to Cameron that it should have felt weird, the two tips of Venkata’s tongue tracing separate patterns across his skin, but instead it drove him wild.  He’d never felt anything like it before in his life.  He hardened instantly within the confines of his pants, moving a hand to grasp at the soft strands of Venkata’s dark hair, the small part of his mind that was still working properly trying to figure out what it would feel like to have that same exotic muscle wrapped around his cock.

 

The hands pushing at his shirt while simultaneously pulling at the button of his jeans told Cameron more clearly than words, his mouth otherwise occupied with more entertaining pursuits, that Venkata found Cameron overdressed.  It was something that Cameron completely agreed with him on.  Man or devil, Cameron still wanted Venkata as much as the night they had first met.  If not more.  The wings and the revelations could not change that.

 

In record time Cameron was naked, pale body pressed once again against Venkata’s darker one, hands roaming over a flesh that was at once both familiar and alien.  He held tightly to the base of one wing when Venkata bit his nipple, startled when Venkata moaned and pressed back into the touch, and he silently reminded himself to remember just how sensitive the devil seemed to be in that particular area.  Then Venkata switched to the other nipple, teasing the small nub with the tips of his tongue, and Cameron promptly forgot what he had been trying to think about.

 

Venkata was in heaven.  Not the Above that he was familiar with, not the realm of angels with tarnished halos, but the realm beyond where everything was perfect bliss.  His lover showed not an ounce of trepidation towards his newly revealed true self, and the feeling of those small hands touching one of his most erogenous zones caused wave after wave of pleasure to course through him.  Any lingering fears that he had held of rejection fled in the face of such acceptance, and Venkata worked hard at pleasing his lover, wanting to prove to the human-come-angel that he had not made the wrong choice.  Venkata was certain now that if he could still win over the man’s body, his heart might not be far behind, for Cameron was nothing if not a creature controlled by his passions.

 

Cameron reclined back into the plush comfort of the couch cushions as Venkata moved steadily down his body, all but purring with contentment as those sinfully talented lips slid across his stomach, sharp teeth leaving the lingering sting of love-bites in their wake.  Hands that were not willing to be idle stayed to toy with nipples now plump from recent attention, and it was all that Cameron could do to hold himself still as fingers teased and tormented, his own hands holding tight to the cushion above his head.  He had never known such an attentive lover before in his life, and Cameron thought that if one among them was an angel, it must surely be the man who was slowly kissing his way down towards the straining erection between his legs.  He was used to being the one to please his lover, or of quick trysts that ended before they’d ever really begun, so to be lavished with such attention was the ultimate indulgence for Cameron.  And, if the same man who teased him with tender torture also wanted to look upon him kindly and call him his soul mate, then Cameron was willing to indulge them both for the night.  He didn’t expect it to last, he liked Venkata far too much and Fate cared for him far too little for that to ever happen, but for the night he decided to be Venkata’s angel.  It was the least he could do in exchange for the pleasure that he was being given.

 

“Venkata,” he had meant the name to be a moan of encouragement, a plea to continue, but then his foggy mind caught up to his mouth and it became more of a question.  He still had function enough to count, and what he was feeling did not add up.  Two hands teased his nipples while a mouth suckled at his navel, the sensation as tickling as it was sensual.  But that was not the extent of the attention that Cameron was being gifted with.  He also felt feather light touches smoothing across his balls, rising every so often to scrape at the base of his erection, raking sensitive skin and awakening nerves, causing his body to arch a writhe.  However, pleasure or no, two plus one plus one did not add up.  “How?”

 

Venkata rose his head slowly, a wicked smile on his face as he pushed his body up with an arm on either side of Cameron’s head, lifting himself just enough so that Cameron could look down the length of their bodies.  He’d wanted to show Cameron that there was more to this devil than any mere human ever could have offered him, and at the slight widening of his lover’s pale blue eyes, he knew that he had succeeded.  He let the spaded tip of his tail move a little lower, flicking it a time or two across the puckered opening that he longed to plunge himself into, his smile growing even wider as his little lover let out a strangled squeak of surprise.

 

“Will I get a tail too?”

 

The comment wasn’t what he had been expecting, and hands and tail both stilled as Venkata blinked at Cameron, momentarily shocked into inaction.  Then he threw back his head and laughed, long and loud.  His soul mate, in his opinion, was absolutely perfect.

 

“No,” he tried hard to get his amusement under control.  He thought that it wouldn’t do much for the mood to laugh at his naked lover.  Not only was it not that funny but, as a man, he knew that it wouldn’t have made him very happy.  “But don’t worry about it.  I’ll lend you mine any time that you want.”

 

Of that, Cameron had no doubt.  And he could see some distinct possibilities in the offer, a thought that brought his own answering smile in the face of Venkata’s smirk of satisfaction.  “What a generous offer.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Venkata was tired of words, and he decided to reign in the conversation before it went any further.   He had already promised himself that there would be time enough for talk later.  At that moment, in that situation, he had better things to do with his mouth.  He kissed Cameron with bruising force, putting all of his passion behind the gesture, and waited until he felt the upturned lips begin to respond.  This time he wrapped his arms around his lover, holding him close, while his tail went back to teasing at his lover’s puckered hole.  He heard no arguments.

 

Cameron didn’t know where Venkata had gotten the lube from, nor did he care.  All that he cared about in that moment were the thick fingers pushing into him, the hot mouth eating hungrily at his own, the spicy taste of his lover as they devoured each other, and the strangely extrinsic touch of a tail wrapped around the base of his weeping arousal.  Tail and fingers found a rhythm, and it was all that he could do to hold on to Venkata’s shoulders as they alternated squeezing and thrusting.  He would have felt guilty for not doing more to pleasure his lover, but for once he was content to let his partner do the majority of the work, especially considering that the repeated brushing of his prostate had left his mind feeling like a useless puddle of goo.  He’d make it up to Venkata later.

 

The first thrust of Venkata’s cock into his tight channel was enough to tear a moan of pure bliss from Cameron, the pleasure-pain of being stretched to fullness almost sending him over the edge.  It was with iron control that he held himself back, putting his own hand hard against his mouth and biting it to ground himself before he shamed himself.  He screwed his eyes shut, the hand not stuffed in his mouth grasping at Venkata’s shoulder as the other man moved above him, thrusts slow and even despite the labored breathing that spoke of the danger that they were both in of losing control.

 

“No,” Venkata panted, a growl coming fast on the heals of a sharp intake of breath, “Don’t close your eyes.  Look at me.”

 

Cameron was helpless to look away, but he wished that he could when he was captured and held by the most intense black eyes that he had ever seen.  They stared at him, unblinking and unwavering, as deep as the darkness of a midnight sky and every bit as constant.  They spoke of want and need, of desire and possession, of pain and peace.  And of truth.  They spoke of the future and of promises that Cameron was terrified of hearing voiced.  Venkata seemed to see right down to his core, to reflect back at him things that he had tried so hard to hide over the years, and that scared Cameron more than anything that he had ever known.

 

Tears came unbidden, silent save for a single shuddering breath, and Cameron turned his head to the side to burry his face in a cushion rather than look into those knowing eyes.  He didn’t want to know what they saw within him, didn’t know how Venkata would react to what he must have already seen, but he didn’t want them to see any more.  All he wanted was to be lost in sensation, to let his body speak for a heart too wounded to find a voice, but Venkata was having none of it.  Fingers griped firmly at his jaw, gently turning Cameron’s face back up towards that of his dark lover, the voice of the devil every bit as commanding as his hand.

 

“Don’t hide from me,” his body did not stop moving within Cameron’s, and every thrust of Venkata’s pulsing heat seared Cameron from the inside out, marking him for all time.  “Never hide from me.  I want all of you, your tears and your pain, your joy and your pleasure, just as you are… my tainted angel.”

 

It was all too much for Cameron, and with a scream that was pain, pleasure, frustration and release all in one, he came in a blinding haze that left him blind to the world.  He thought that he felt his lover finish within him.  He thought that he felt soft lips brushing away his tears, taking them with reverence upon a forked tongue before leaving gentle kisses in their wake.  He thought that he could feel strong arms raising him up off of the couch and carrying him further into the apartment.  He thought that, for just an instant, he felt safe and cared for as he was engulfed in a warm embrace, a soft voice telling him that it was time to rest, that everything would be different in the morning.  But it was just an instant, and then the darkness claimed him, and he knew nothing else.

 

 

 

Chapter Six:  Strange New World

 

It was strange, not waking up alone.  There was an arm thrown possessively across his hip, holding him tight to the body behind him, the steady beat of another heart pounding out a rhythm against his back.  It was soothing, the gentle presence of another living creature pressed close against him, warmth engulfing him, and Cameron found himself lulled into an easy calm as he shook off the last remnants of slumber.  It was an altogether unfamiliar sensation.  A most welcome one, as well.  Cameron smiled, feeling utterly content, stretching his body and wondering at how he was a mixture of sated contentment and sore muscles.  Then he remembered why, exactly, he was sore.  After the flood of memories came rushing back he was anything but content.

 

He and Venkata had made love, and that in and of itself did not bother Cameron, the memory being a very pleasant one.  The thoroughness with which his lover attended to him, the gentleness of his touch, the kind yet forceful dominance that Venkata controlled their encounters with was something that Cameron would be more than happy to get used to.  What did bother him, however, was the memory of his winged lover smiling down at him as he pleasured him with a surprisingly flexible tail and kissed him with a devilishly forked tongue.  It wasn’t the appearance, that didn’t bother him, but the implications of what the man’s appearance meant that staggered him.  Cameron remembered talk of devils and angels, of other worlds, and of soul-mates meant to bring peace to their people.  It seemed as impossible in the light of day as it had the night before.

 

“Do you always squirm around this much first thing in the morning?”  The words were slurred, distorted by a yawn, and accompanied by the sound of nails scratching across flesh.  “If so, I’ll have to start tying you down before bed.”

 

Cameron couldn’t make himself turn around, no matter how hard he tried.  He pulled himself free of Venkata, sitting up and swinging his feet over the side of the bed in one fluid motion, looking at the far wall while wondering if he could make it out the door without offending his lover.  Venkata’s words were casual and he’d yet to say anything about the previous night’s discussion, but to Cameron’s frantically racing mind words like soul-mate hung heavy in the air, causing his pulse to quicken and his breath to stutter.  All he’d wanted was a lover who took care of him, who gave a damn about whether or not he was happy, and now he had to worry about acting like an angel?  He didn’t know what to do.  Cameron considered just ignoring the night before, like Venkata seemed to be doing, perhaps pretending as though he remembered very little of what had been said.  It would be so easy to just sink into the welcoming embrace of his lover and spend the morning exploring each other until exhaustion and hunger eventually drove them out of bed and into the real world.  So very easy.

 

“You think too much.”

 

“I-“ He was suddenly falling backwards, strong arms wrapped securely around his chest, holding him almost painfully tight.  He tried to ask what Venkata thought that he was doing, but then there were lips suckling at the side of his neck, just the way he liked it, and a frighteningly skilled tail was sliding up the inside of his thigh.  Cameron found that he didn’t care enough to ask questions after that.

 

“You?” Venkata prompted, his voice muffled against Cameron’s neck, hiding his smirk as he let one of his hands join his tail, cupping his lover’s rapidly reawakening sex with his fingers and giving a quick tug.  He knew that he wasn’t helping matters, but the breathless moans and gasps of pleasure were far preferable to what he was sure Cameron had been about to say.  Venkata knew that he thought very little of himself, the way that he had seen the younger man allow himself to be treated by others proof enough of that fact, and even if the angel did believe him about Above and Below Venkata seriously doubted that he believed that they were soul-mates destined to bring peace to their people.  But he didn’t want to hear any arguments, since he knew the truth and wasn’t about to back down on the matter.  So, he had decided the moment that Cameron had opened his mouth that it needed silencing.  “Must not have been very important.”

 

Cameron wanted to agree.  The hands on his body, the lips on his skin, the hardness that was poking deliciously against the small of his back all seemed far more important than whatever he had been about to say.  But Venkata’s words were too wrong to be ignored.  It was important, what he had to say.  And, the sooner that he said it, the better they would both be for it.  Venkata deserved to know what a mistake he had made.  He needed to know so that he could complete his mission and find his true soul-mate.  That person was surely waiting, and was likely far more deserving of being found than he had ever been.

 

“About last night…”  It was hard to think with Venkata’s tongue in his ear and the tip of his tail prodding his entrance, but Cameron tried his best to concentrate as he pushed weakly at the strong arms that were still wrapped around his midsection.  It was so tempting to let him continue, to let Venkata do as he pleased, but Cameron felt that it somehow wouldn’t be right.  There was an angel out there waiting for the dark devil, and that man, not he, should be the one to be caressed and kissed.  “I think that you got it all wrong.”  It had been nice while it’d lasted.  Cameron was grateful that he would always have his memories of their too brief time together.  It had only been a few weeks, but it was still the most fulfilling relationship that Cameron had ever had.  “I can’t be your soul-mate.”

 

“You can’t?”  Venkata was honestly curious to hear the answer to his almost-question.  He really wanted to know what Cameron thought made him so unworthy that everything else in his tale was believable yet this was not.  But, whatever it was, Venkata was certain that it was rubbish.  And, in time, he promised himself that he’d prove it to Cameron too.  “If you’re not my soul-mate, then what are you?”

 

“Cursed?”  Cameron tried to make it a joke, but failed, glad for the fact that Venkata couldn’t see the pain in his pale blue eyes.  Cursed.  How many times had his mother called him that as a child?  And how many times since had he agreed?  “A worthless slut that you met in some sleazy club?  A good lay, I hope, that you had a bit of fun with?  Someone that you’ll forget.”

 

“Never!”  Cameron hadn’t heard the growling, hadn’t realized how quickly Venkata had become enraged, until he found himself spun around and thrown on his back, pinned down by a devil with glowing eyes.  “My mate is not a worthless slut!”

 

“And that’s why I can’t be your soul-mate!”

 

The two men stared at each other, both certain that they were right and the other was in the wrong, the room silent save for the harsh pant of breath and the occasional rumbling growl.  Venkata’s tail flicked uselessly behind him, an unconscious gesture much like the nervous twitch of an eyebrow, as he looked down at the man beneath him.  He held tight to Cameron’s wrists, thighs straddling a thin waist, dark hair falling about them both like a curtain of black silk.  Then his eyes softened and his grip relaxed.  He could see the pain and uncertainty, the fear and the need, the overwhelming desire to be proven wrong all swimming within Cameron’s azure gaze.  It tore at his heart and strengthened his resolve.

 

“You’re a fool,” his voice was soft, tone gentle despite the insult.  Venkata didn’t think for a moment that the tears that began to slowly slide down Cameron’s cheeks were the result of his words.  Fool was certainly not the worst that the young angel had ever been called.  He let his lips follow the trail of one salty droplet, nuzzling his nose in the crook of Cameron’s neck when he lost the tear in the other man’s pillow.  “And what did I tell you earlier about hiding your tears?  I want everything that you are, even your pain, because your suffering is my suffering.”  He let his body settle more fully against his lover’s, warming skin that had grown chill, letting the other man take comfort in his body even if he would not take the same comfort from his words.  “My heart bleeds for you and your broken soul.”

 

“And you said that I’m a fool?” Cameron scoffed, trying his best to sound teasing despite the fact that all he wanted to do was disappear into the mattress, sink down until he was gone, nothing but a memory.  That, or wrap his arms around the man hovering above him and beg him never to let go.  “Why would anyone want my pain?  Especially someone like you?”

 

“Someone like me?”  Again Venkata’s curiosity was piqued.  He’d revealed himself, his true nature, to a human or two over the long years, and the reaction was usually the same.  He was a devil, a son of Below, and that word held a lot of meaning to most humans.  In fact, Cameron was one of the few who had not pushed him away the instant that he’d shown his wings.  Then again, none of the others had been his angel soul-match, so perhaps that made all the difference?  “And what, pray tell, am I?”

 

“You’re good and kind,” Cameron answered without a hint of hesitation.  He’d wanted to say these things to Venkata for a while anyway, so now seemed the perfect time.  He feared that he wouldn’t get another chance, not after the other man came to his senses, so he forced the words out despite the difficulty that he had in speaking from the heart.  “You’re smart and funny.  You’re handsome.  You’re amazing in bed.  You’re great, everything that any man, or woman, could want.  You’ve treated me better than I deserve, better than anyone ever has.”

 

“Well, yes, I am amazing in bed,” Cameron wasn’t the only one who had difficulty opening up and making himself so vulnerable.  But Venkata could feel how tense his lover’s body was beneath him, and that sobered him instantly, taking the weak smile from his lips.  Cameron had an old soul, due in no small part to years of suffering unjustly, but Venkata had to remind himself that the young man had seen no more than twenty-two summers, all of those without the love that he deserved, and that no matter how hard this conversation was for him it was even harder for the angel.  “But I’m the one who’s lucky to have found you.  You have no idea how special you are, how in awe I am that I’d be allowed to claim you as my own, and I promise you that I’ll make you see the truth in time.”

 

“Time?”

 

“Yes, time,” Venkata promised.  “I don’t say the word soul-mate easily.  You’re my other half and I’m going to be by your side always.”

“Why won’t you believe me,” Cameron pleaded.  There was panic filling his pale eyes, and he wanted suddenly to be away from Venkata.  He needed the devil to stop talking about futures and happiness.  He needed him to stop talking about any sort of life together, because Cameron wasn’t at all certain that his heart could take the pain of losing Venkata once he’d begun to believe that he could keep the man.  And he was certain that he would lose Venkata eventually.  A man like that would never stay with a person like Cameron, he knew that to the bottom of his heart, and the sooner that they both realized that the better.  “I’m not your soul-mate.”


 

“Yes,” Venkata said with just as much certainty as Cameron denied it.  “You are.”

 

“Why would you think that I was?” Cameron tried reasoning.  “How do you know that you found the right person?”

 

“Don’t you believe in love at first sight?” Venkata wondered, thinking back on the first time that he had seen the beautiful angel to whom he spoke.  The elders had said that he would know his other half when he found him, having asked the same questions that Cameron now asked, and when he’d found him he’d known that they had been right.  The heart did not lie.  “I knew that moment that I first saw you that my search was over.”

 

Cameron was silent.  Love?  That was not a word that he was accustomed to hearing.  Venkata thought that he loved him?  It was so preposterous that Cameron almost laughed, and he would have had he not been trying so hard to fight back tears.  It was true that he had felt drawn to Venkata at first sight, had felt some sort of instant and unexplainable connection that went far beyond simple lust.  It was also true that his heart beat faster when Venkata was near, that he thought about him and longed for him when he was absent, and that the mere mention of the man’s name was enough to bring a smile to his lips.  But to think that the other man felt the same way about Cameron?  Impossible.

 

“It doesn’t matter what I believe,” Cameron sighed, not willing to admit that he wanted nothing more than to beg Venkata to love him as much as he feared that he loved the other man.  It didn’t matter, he forced himself to say again inside of his own head, he wasn’t the type meant for love.  They’d both understand that in time.  “Now let me up.  You’re heavy and I need to get dressed.”

 

“Cameron-“

 

The ringing of the phone was shrill, stilling Venkata’s tongue, giving Cameron time to push out from under the devil and get some much needed distance between them.

 

“Yeah?”  He didn’t have it in him to try for politeness.

 

“Mr. Cameron Parish?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“This is St. Phillip’s Memorial Hospital calling,” something in Cameron’s chest tightened at the woman’s politely businesslike words.  There was only one reason for the hospital to be calling him, but he forced himself to stay calm, matching the woman’s tone almost exactly when he spoke.

 

“It’s Tommy, isn’t it?”

 

“Mr. Smithe has listed you as a contact in case of emergency.”  Even after their argument, Venkata’s arms around him, circling him from behind, was a welcomed comfort.  His voice was calm, but Cameron had begun to tremble, his hand barely able to hold on to the receiver of the phone in his panic.  “He’s suffered an attack of his illness, the doctors think that it’s rather serious, and he has had to be admitted.”

 

“I understand.”  He put the phone down without even giving the woman the courtesy of a farewell, speaking more to himself than to her, “I’ll be right there.”

 

 

 

Chapter Seven:  Open Your Eyes

 

“311… 312… 313.”  Cameron stopped before the last door at the end of the hallway.  Hospital corridors all looked the same, sterile colors and neutral paintings meant to be tasteful but only succeeding in being utterly forgettable, simple doors hiding untold pain behind each tiny brass doorplate.  He’d been a patient one too many times not to hate hospitals, the familiar sights turning his stomach, but as much as Cameron hated being a patient, he hated having to visit a friend who was left to the doctors’ tender mercies even more.

 

“Are we going in?”

 

Cameron hadn’t realized that he’d been standing, unmoving and unblinking, at the door to room three-thirteen for some time.  He was worried about Tommy, more worried than he could ever put into words, but he was suddenly less than eager to see the other man even though a simple door was all that separated him from his friend.  It was as if by not going through that door, not seeing him, it would keep the truth from being real.  And Cameron feared that this time the truth was going to be very real.

 

“In a minute.”

 

“Do you want me to go in and talk to the doctor for you?”

 

“No!”  Cameron was aghast at the very thought.  Tommy was his best friend, Tommy had called for him, and no one else should talk to the doctors but him.  “I can do it myself.  In fact, you can go now, Tommy doesn’t need you here.”

 

“Tommy might not, but you do.”  Venkata wasn’t offended by his angel’s words.  He could tell that the younger man was hurting, but he didn’t think that there was much that he could do for him other than be at his side when he needed someone to lean on.  If the look of desperation in Cameron’s pale eyes was any indication, he was ready to break as it was, and Venkata planned on being there to catch him when it happened.  “Besides, if this human is so important to you then I think that I should meet him.  My other half’s best friend is someone that I should know.”

 

“You don’t…” but anything that he would have said would be a lie.  Cameron wanted to be strong, wanted to be in control and push the other man away, but the truth was that he was glad for the company.  This wasn’t the first time that Tommy had been admitted with an emergency, although something deep in his gut made him fear that it was worse than before, but this would be the first time that he’d had someone at his side.  He wanted to tell Venkata that he didn’t need him, but he couldn’t.  He just didn’t know how to put into words just how grateful he was to have the devil with him.  “I’m sorry.”

 

The arms around him were most welcomed, and for a moment Cameron simply let himself melt into the embrace, nuzzling his head against Venkata’s chest and wishing for all the world that they were anywhere but in a hospital.  The instant comfort that the gesture brought him even made him believe, if only for a moment, that Venkata might be his soul-mate.  It certainly felt right, there in his arms.  But, at the moment, Cameron didn’t have the luxury of thinking about his own life.  And he knew that, no mater how much he’d like to, they couldn’t stay in the hallway forever.  So, tugging at Venkata’s arm because he wasn’t willing to completely give up the contact, Cameron moved them both towards the door.  “Come on, Tommy’s been begging me to let him meet you.  In fact, I wouldn’t put it past him to check himself into the hospital just to get me to bring you to visit.”

 

“A simple dinner invitation would have sufficed.”

 

There were three doctors in the room, white lab coats stark and foreboding, all circled around the room’s lone bed.  Cameron could hear words like progressive, and incurable, and terminal, and had Venkata not still had an arm around his waist he most likely would have fallen, knees buckling at that last word.  Tommy had been sick for as long as Cameron had known him, but somehow the older man always managed to keep a smile on his face and his spirits high, promising his siblings and his friends that it was only a matter of time before he beat his illness.  Now, it seemed that that had been a lie.

 

A whimper drew all eyes towards the two men at the door.

 

“Cam!”

 

Cameron forgot everyone else in the room, even the devil at his back, and ran towards his best friend.  Tommy looked pale, and there were wires and tubes hooked up to him, but it was still Tommy.  And Cameron had never been happier to see him.

 

“Tommy!”  Cameron didn’t hesitate to climb up into the narrow hospital bed, ever careful of the various needles sticking out of Tommy’s body, wrapping his arms around the other man and holding him tight.  Tommy held him back, wincing when the movement pulled at an IV hooked to his forearm, smiling despite the pain.


Venkata stood back, arms folded across his chest as he leaned on the wall beside the door, watching as the doctors filed out of the room.  He felt a slight pang of jealousy at seeing Cameron so happy in the arms of another man, but the sense of brotherhood that emanated from the two men stilled his darker thoughts, unable to think ill of any man that made his soul-mate smile so.  He decided in an instant that he liked this Tommy Smithe.  Which left him with quite the problem, because his heightened daemon senses told him that the human before him was not long for this world.  Even the doctors didn’t realize just how precarious his hold on life was.


 

“You must be Venkata,” Tommy extended a hand, the other still holding tight to Cameron.  He’d seen the way that the dark stranger had been holding Cameron up when they’d entered the room, he saw the way that the other man’s eyes followed Cameron possessively, but the unmistakable look of kindness and affection that shone in those dark depths did Tommy’s heart well.  One appraising look at the man and Tommy knew why Cameron had been so happy lately.  It made him feel a little less guilty, knowing that he likely wouldn’t be there to take care of the younger man much longer, seeing that his friend would be looked after by a man like Venkata.  “It’s good to finally get to meet you.  Cameron can’t stop talking about you.”

 

“Is that so?” Venkata arched one midnight brow, a chuckle escaping him when he saw Cameron’s cheeks pink before he buried his face against the side of Tommy’s neck.

 

“Where are the kids?” Cameron tried to cover his embarrassment while distracting the two older men at the same time.  It wasn’t only a fear that Venkata didn’t care enough to meet his best friend that had kept Cameron from letting the two men get together.  “Do they know what happened?”

 

“They’re with James.  He took them to a movie after school,” Tommy looked a little guilty when he added, “They don’t know anything yet.”

 

“Tommy.”  There were tears beginning to well up in Cameron’s eyes.  As a rule, Tommy was always honest with his siblings, even when it was something that was likely to upset them.  If he was keeping this hospital visit a secret from them, then that meant that it was serious.  More serious than anything that had come before.

 

“You love him more than me,” it wasn’t a question, simply a fact, and Venkata frowned as he thought on how that made him feel.  It hurt a little, and in the back of his mind a possessive voice demanded that the angel love only him.  Cameron was his other half, the person that he had waited his whole life to find, and he wanted to demand his whole heart.  But something about the frail human on the hospital bed kept him from being too upset that he was being forced to share.  Not that it rid his heart of all anger and jealousy, but, since the human would likely be dead very soon, Venkata thought that the internal war was already pointless.

 

Cameron was speechless for a moment.  Love Tommy more than Venkata?  Wouldn’t that imply that he loved Venkata, even a little bit, despite the fact that he’d been trying to push him away not an hour earlier?  Even within his own heart, Cameron wasn’t sure.  But, one thing that he did know was that, no matter what he felt for the devil Venkata, Tommy was family.  “Of course I love him.  I’ve only just met you.”

 

“That’s not an answer,” Venkata pointed out, looking thoughtfully between Tommy and Cameron, before nodding his head once as though he had come to an important decision.  “I suppose that it’s unavoidable then.”

 

Without so much as another word Venkata walked over to Cameron and Tommy, smoothly pulled Cameron out of Tommy’s grasp, and began to walk towards the door.  It didn’t even occur to Cameron to struggle until they were nearly out into the hall.

 

“What the hell do you think that you’re doing?!”

 

“You don’t need to see this.”

 

Cameron wasn’t fast enough to make it to the door before Venkata shut it in his face, the sound of the lock turning very ominous in the otherwise silent hallway.  He had thought that he had been scared before, terrified by the phone call from the hospital and the sight of his best friend hooked up to machines in a hospital bed, but Cameron realized that he had not known true fear until the moment that he found himself on the wrong side of a locked door while Tommy was alone with a real devil.  It occurred to Cameron that he didn’t really know Venkata that well, and while he did not fear for his own safety while alone with the man, he had no idea what he had planned for Tommy.  He wondered if he wasn’t about to lose them both in one day.

 

“Open this door!” Cameron shouted, pounding on the door and rattling the handle, even though he knew that neither would do any good.  His heart pounded in his chest, a caged animal, and the sound of his own blood rushing in his ears was the only thing that Cameron could hear.  The small window set high in the door did him no good, and his imagination quickly filled his mind with a barrage of horrifying images.  He wanted to believe in Venkata, had wanted to ever since the man had first shown him his true form, but how could he when he had been locked outside without a word of explanation?  “Venkata, please!  Let me in!  Tommy!?”

 

Then Cameron found himself falling forward.  The door opened onto an eerily silent room, and it was with trepidation that Cameron looked up, kneeling on all fours, fear in his pale eyes.  Tommy was still on the bed, but his body was still, slumped forward, gaze fixed on some far off point.  The sight made his entire body tremble.  Cameron’s voice, when he finally found it, was small and frightened.  Tommy?”

 

Venkata walked past him, his steps sure, not a word for either Cameron or Tommy until Cameron’s hand latched on to his pants leg.  The angel looked up at Venkata, unshed tears swimming in his eyes, “What did you do?”

 

“What needed to be done.”

 

“Where are you going?”

 

Venkata moved out into the hall, forcing Cameron to let him go, “I’m going to get a doctor.”

 

Cameron was afraid to move forward, but he was even more afraid to follow after Venkata, yet at the same time he wanted to do both.  As it was, he cursed his weakness and stayed where he was, kneeling on the floor and shaking with fear.  Even when he heard footsteps approaching from behind him Cameron did not move.

 

“As I said before-“

 

“Just take a look at him,” Venkata’s voice still did not send a shiver of fear up his spine, even though Cameron knew that it should.  If he’d had the presence of mind to think on that fact over much, it might have frightened Cameron, or at least it would have made him ponder whether his answer to Venkata’s earlier question had been entirely true.  “I think that you’ll find it worth your time.”

 

Cameron cringed when Venkata knelt down and put a hand on either of his shoulders, but the touch was still oddly comforting.  Cameron wondered if there weren’t some validity to Venkata’s talk of soul-mates.  It was the only way to explain why he was leaning into the touch of a man who had just done God-knows-what to his best friend.

 

Then the doctor all but shouted, “It’s a miracle!” and Cameron forgot that Venkata was even there.

 

“What?” he begged, “What’s happened?  What’s a miracle?”

 

Cameron looked up at Tommy at last, and what he saw was more shocking than anything that his fevered imagination could ever have provided him with.  Where once Tommy had looked sickly and pale, eyes listless and breathing labored, he now looked the picture of health.  He looked better than Cameron had ever seen him looking.  It was a complete and utter turnaround accomplished in only a matter of minutes.

 

The walk back to room three-thirteen with the agitated doctor in tow had dissipated most of Venkata’s anger.  He knew that he was being unreasonable.  He had stepped into Cameron’s life less than a month ago, and now he expected the angel to drop everything and keep only Venkata in his heart?  Tommy had looked after his lover’s heart and soul up until the day that they’d met, had been the only person to show the unfortunate man any sort of love or affection, and Venkata knew that he should be grateful for that.  “If he means that much to you, then I can’t just let him die on us, now can I?”

 

More doctors came into the room, and words like unbelievable, and remission, and cured replaced terminal as they took their turns examining Tommy.  Cameron could only stare on in awe as doctor after doctor pronounced Tommy as completely healthy.  It was one of Cameron’s greatest wishes come true.

 

“Happy now?” Venkata wanted to know, his hand still on Cameron, smiling when his eyes caught Tommy’s.  Devil or no, he had done his good deed for the day.

 

Cameron didn’t know what to say.  How do you thank someone for giving you the life of your best friend?  All he could do was turn and throw his arms around Venkata, finally giving in to the tears that had been threatening to fall for so long.

 

“Hush, my little angel,” Venkata soothed as Cameron clung to him and sobbed.  He knew in that instant that he had done the right thing.  Even if it did mean that he’d have to compete for Cameron’s affections.

 

“Thank you… thank you… thank you…”  The words didn’t seem enough, but they were all that he had.  “Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Venkata held tighter to Cameron so that the younger man couldn’t see his smile, “But this still leaves one big problem.”

 

“It does?”  Cameron pulled away from Venkata far enough to look into his smiling face, wondering why the devil was smiling at him while remaining grateful that the doctors were still choosing to ignore them.

 

“The appointed time hasn’t come yet,” Venkata tried to appear serious, but he failed when his dark eyes twinkled with mischief.  “I told you that I came here without permission.”

 

“And?”

 

“That means that I’ve got to stay here for a while, and your shower isn’t big enough for two sets of wings,” he took pity on his lover and pulled him close again, kissing his lips, pleased to see that a matching smile graced his handsome features.  It was like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds after a storm.  “We need a bigger apartment.”

 

There was only one answer that Cameron could give.  And they both knew what it meant.  “Why not.”

 

The End

 

Please feel free to report any and all mistakes to TorchwoodKitty@yahoo.com.  Please label your message with something about MakaiKitty fics or some such so that I know it's not a piece of the ever dreaded spam that seems to plague all of our mailboxes.  Thank you!

Everything above is the property of MakaiKitty.  Don't steal!