He waited until things had quieted a bit to visit William's room. It was late hours. He probably should've let him sleep.

...But he wanted to see if he was really the same person.

William was propped up in bed, foot in some sort of medical contraption sling, reading a book and eating chocolate.

" Ah, Nova. I'm surprised you're visiting. Don't you need to retrieve Lyeha-Lesa? Or, you'd normally be listening to classical music at this hour..."

He seemed the same as ever.

Which was so strange it didn't register properly.

" Lesa will be brought to us in a week," Nova answered, staring at William's prone form.

... With medical equipment around him, with his leg slung up in a cast, with all of Diurn's blood rinsed from him, he looked small and completely harmless again.

" Can Starka have chocolate? I can't remember. I'd offer some, if it's no offense," he said, popping another into his perfectly intact and actually very pretty mouth.

... Oh, Nova himself felt hopeless. He hadn't intended to think such things about William.

" I'm fine," he answered stiffly.

" I suppose you're quite relieved I didn't die," William said nonchalantly. " But I'm embarrassed. I showed off a bit too much with my opener, and now I'm going to have these claw marks scarring my legs.... I work so hard to keep myself looking nice... All my calisthenics, wasted... I'm going to have to wear some sort of body suit in the pool now..."

He reached over to get his glass of water, and instead accidentally knocked it over.

" Ah, Nova-!"

Nova didn't realize until it had fallen and broken that he could've caught it. He was still tied up in his thoughts.

" Ah. I should've caught that," he said out loud, still a bit surprised by it.

" I'm the clumsy one, it's fine," William assured.

A beat.

" Why'd you come so late, anyway?" William asked.

" So that it'd be quieter."

" Oh, so you wanted me all to yourself?"

" I never said that. Don't speak of me as though I'm some sort of pervert. When have I ever been untoward towards you?"

Wiliam shrugged.

" I was thinking of it, is all."

" I'm tempted to break your other ankle," Nova deadpanned.

" So, then, Nova, in what way are you fond of me?" he asked.

... Nova hated the look of serenity on his face. Like he already had an answer in mind.

" I'm terrified of you," he replied flatly. " You feral animal. Mistook you for human right up until the point you scaled my brother like a tree and stabbed him fifteen times in the face."

William flopped back on his pillow like he was pouting.

" I didn't want you to go home," he complained.

" William, you've spent the past day constantly annoying and terrifying me in equal measure, asking what I think of you, but have you ever considered telling me what you think of me?"

He seemed to consider it in his normal lighthearted way for a moment.

" I spend a lot of time irritated by you," he answered. " But I started thinking about it, and I think I'd like you to do any number of unholy things to my body as you please. To put it politely. Or I suppose I have what most people would term romantic feelings. It's hard to know. I've never felt like that before."

Nova stared at him, reproachful, a bit taken off-guard again by the nonchalance with which he admitted such a thing.

" I always factored sex into my life as a strategical advantage I would hold over those to whom it was applicable, with what I suppose would be only nominal attention paid to actual attraction? But, I've realized, I'm very fond of you. I like you quite a bit. I-it's the first time I've ever felt like this..."

His voice trailed off on that note, face reddening more from the confession of it than any of the other incredibly worrying things he had carelessly said.

" Wille, are you even listening to what you're saying," Nova deadpanned.

" 'Wille'?"

Nova suddenly felt defensive.

" It's easier to transpose things into my own language structure than say them with your own. You should be grateful I don't do it to every word I use," he said.

" So it's a cute nickname, then," he replied.

" Quit misinterpreting me. Take an inter-planetary sociology course, you menace to society."

William laughed.

... An odd feeling.

" Hey, Nova, now that you've given me a cute nickname, that means that you've accepted me, right? I've impressed you? I've proven myself to you? So let's go out with each other."

" Are you even listening to me at all? You've spent five minutes talking in circles trying to justify your xenophilic lust for me, which is completely unrequited."

" Oh, so you're not even curious? You don't even want to try?"

" Not right now, no, I don't want to be responsible for killing an injured man."

William sat up again.

" So I'd better recover fast, then," he observed.

" I'm not-" He paused, exasperated, looking at William's expression. " Masterson, you would snap like a goddamn toothpick."

" Try me," William challenged.

" God, I wish Diurn had killed you," Nova complained. " Then I wouldn't have to put up with this."

He stood to leave.

" Oh, leaving so soon? Without doing an-"

Nova grabbed him by his loose, soft blonde hair and dragged him up, pressing their lips together; mouths colliding; teeth clacking with little fanfare.

He had had enough of William's run-around.

He felt William's hand on his chest, and he also tasted sweetened chocolate and the strange copper tinge of human blood; he gathered him up about the waist and held him close; did not let him pull away or try to speak.

What a wreck his life had become.

In the short span of two months, he had very hopelessly fallen for a human man from DASS who had stolen an entire territory from him and then humiliated his (least favorite) brother in public.

Such was how raelis went.

Striking in unexpected places.


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