THIS IS NOT PROOFREAD OR EDITED THIS IS JUST A PEAK
Another addition to the ART APPRECIATION COLLECTION
It's Music, and science fiction, and holiday crap all in one. I have so many works in progress, this is my current rabid bunny.
Read the Work in Progress:
“Sempre Dolcissimo Cantabile”
(Always Sweetly Singing)
Author: D. Sanders
Crispin Tinks, or just “Tinks” as the small starfreighter crew called their communications officer laid his headset down on his console and stretched turning to their Captain as his bones popped and he groaned. He smiled brightly, his jovial nature and prankster ways both endearing and annoying to his Captain and fellow shipmates. “So, how long are we gonna be planet bound?” He asked, a hint of mischief in his voice.
“Until this shipment is picked up.” Captain Eran Callum replied eyeing Tinks with a warning look over his shoulder. “Do not get arrested.”
“Come on Boss, I ain’t that bad.” Tinks laughed standing to continue his stretch.
“No you’re worse.” First Officer and co-pilot Enjoe Moira said as he exited the command bridge.
Tinks just flipped him off, Enjoe was gruff and blunt as always.
“He’s right Tinks, don’t get in trouble. I don’t want to be here long. I hate this planet.” Eran said not moving from his chair and pulling out a cigarette from his vest pocket.
“Weren’t you born here? Don’t you want to see your family?” Tinks asked, his mysterious captain kept most of his history a secret, all Tinks knew was he had been born on Pirotaine and that was the extent that anyone knew about their kind, but melancholy tight lipped Captain.
“I have no family.”
“I’m sorry Eran.”
“Don’t be. It’s been a long time since I’ve been back here, I’d rather not stay long. This place has bad memories for me.” Eran said taking a long drag of his cigarette, his eyes ghostly haunted with sorrow.
“I know it’s none of my business Eran, but…”
“You don’t want to know my past Tinks. It’s not pleasant.”
“I do actually. You’re my best Friend and I know Fuck all about you, other than I’ve known you going on ten years when you picked me up off the streets of Mirastor and I’ve not seen you change even a hair in all that time. You look human but you certainly don’t age like one. I was a kid, I now look older than you do.”
“And you’ll be old and dead and dust and I’ll still look like this. I can’t die. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
That was certainly more information than Tinks had ever gotten out of Eran even if it did sound ludicrous. “Right. Immortal Eran? I’m serious.”
“So am I.”
“Alright Eran. Enough of this bullshit, just who are you?”
Eran turned to face him and Tinks was almost knocked out his chair by the weight of misery in Eran’s eyes. “Who am I? You really want my Story Tinks?”
Tink reached out and laid his hand on top of Eran’s forearm where it rested on his leg. “I love you like a brother, you practically raised me. Tell me, please.”
Eran nodded, Tinks was right if anyone deserved the whole truth, it was Tinks. He has taken in that strange unruly twelve-year-old kid and became an older brother of sorts. Tinks was always there to alleviate the hell he lived in, he should know it all, from the beginning.
“How old do you think I am?”
That was a strange way to start Tinks mused and shrugged. “Ten years ago I would have said ‘my age’ now? I’ve no clue.”
“One-hundred and eighty give or take a year or two.”
Tinks jaw was resting somewhere in the vicinity of his chest. “B-b-but you’re human. We don’t live that long.”
“I am human, I know that. Something happened here, I don’t know what, but I should be dead. Literally. I had my whole chest blown off and it just grew back. That’s when I learned I couldn’t die. That was during the Tsionic Wars.”
“Wait a minute. You mean THE TSIONIC WARS?”
“There was only one of those.” Eran gave Tinks a sardonic look and Tinks frowned.
“Okay, sorry go on.”
“I was your age, for real. I grew up in the Capitol and I’d had enough of filth, I’d always wanted to see the country so I went.” Eran began lighting up another cigarette as the previous one burned away in the ashtray.
“I was twenty, hardly more than a rowdy street brawling kid, like you would have been had I not gotten you out of there. I went from town to town, gambling, working odd jobs, and not settling anywhere, just wandering around really. I did that for a couple of years, then…” Eran’s breath hitched involuntarily, whatever he was going to say next was still highly emotional for him.
“Then I met… God I haven’t told anyone this before.” Eran’s eyes were glassy and as he closed them a tear ran down his cheek.
“I think I can guess here.” Tink sighed, so the ever stony and celibate Eran did have a softer side buried under all the stoic certainty.
“You’d not even be close to imagining the perfection if you were to guess.” Eran said wiping his tear and looking away at something only he could see. “It was the voice that drew me into that small tavern. So bright, so clear… I’ve never heard anyone before or since who sang like that. It was like a siren calling to me and I sat there for hours just listening and staring like a lovesick idiot.”
“Was she pretty?”
Eran turned and cocked an eyebrow. “HE was beautiful.”
“Well seeing as I don’t ever see you look at either sex, ever, sue me for assuming. It’s not like you advertise your sexual preferences.”
“I have no preferences anymore. I died when I lost him.”
“What didn’t? I stayed in that tiny town; I sat in that tavern every night drooling into my brew and shoes. I stayed waiting outside for him one night when I couldn’t take it anymore, and he came out and smiled at me and I’ll never forget it he just turned to me and said ‘took you long enough handsome.’” Here Eran chuckled at the memory, wiping the tears from his cheeks.
“Yes. He had remarkably keen perception. Thank Goodness.”
“The best year of my life. He was and is and will always be the love of my life. I cannot and could not replace him if I tried.” Eran sighed stubbing out his cigarette.
“What was his name?”
Eran just smiled sadly and shook his head it hurt too much to say. “Now you know why I want to leave as soon as possible. I lost him during that war and I must live an eternity without him, this place is my hell. Now go on Tinks, go have some fun.”
“What will you do? I don’t think you should be alone.” Tinks was concerned, Eran had opened up more than he had ever done in the past, it seemed cruel to leave him alone in his sorrow.
“I’ll be fine Tinks. I prefer to be alone when I’m in a mood like this.” With that statement, Eran stood and headed back to his cabin. Leaving Tinks to watch him walk away.
“Now I understand. I’ll never give you a hard time about being miserable again. No wonder.” Tinks sighed grabbing his coat and heading out to hit the local bar and get a stiff drink. He needed one after that story.
Eran returned to his cabin unsure why he had told Tinks so much. Because Tinks reminded him a little of himself at times, the man he used to be. Before the war he had been carefree and fun loving before the weight of the world dropped on his shoulders and his spirit had been crushed.
He crossed the room to his desk and opened a small box that sat atop it, he took a small disk from within and put it in a now ancient player and tentatively pressed, “play”.
“Eran stop it.”
“I’ll stop if you make the damn recording.”
“You hear me sing every day. Why on earth do you want this?”
“Because I want it. Sing for me gorgeous.”
“You’re already recording!”
“I know! Play already damn it!”
“Alright! Alright! Goodness gracious you can be demanding.”
“But you love me.”
Eran lay down as he listened to the old recording. He missed Beau terribly, every day seemed an eternity and with an actual eternity to go without him, Eran wept alone into his pillow another piece of his soul irrevocably destroyed.
He had given Tinks just a glimpse of the truth, the actual details that comprised the whole story he’d never share with anyone. They were precious memories of a life that had held such promise in his youth and as he listened to Beau sing and wept he reached back to happier times.
Beau had been eighteen and totally naïve to his own charm. He was captivating with whimsical charisma, so handsome it should have been illegal to walk around looking that beautiful and without a doubt had a voice that reached into souls and could make you weep or cry for joy with the majesty he projected in a brilliant tenor.
Eran had wooed him like a man possessed. It didn’t take too long before Eran had Beau neatly molded like clay in his hands and it was during one eventful and wonderfully timed Spring Rain Storm that Eran had made love to him for the first time.
They were walking through a field, holding hands, on their way back from the Spring Festival when the downpour hit and they dashed into one of the myriad of caves that dotted the craggy mountain face. A huge interlocking catacomb, like some large colony of ants had made a nest in the rock and then abandoned it to mother nature.
They had picked the first entrance they came to and huddled inside, laughing and drenched to the bone. Eran started a fire near the entrance and they hung their clothes up to dry while they waited for the rain to subside.
Youth, privacy, love and hormonal desires soon got the better of them and kisses turned to touches and touches turned into caresses and before either of them realized what was happening they were devouring each other with moans and sighs. They made love right there on the cave floor in a bed of moss that clung to their damp skin and hair where they thrashed in it in the throws of passion and first time awkwardness.
It was much later that evening, after the rain had stopped and they awoke from napping they noticed what a mess they were. The moss had left a residue on their skin like a fine dust, and they were covered in it, it was in their mouths, their hair, on their skin, and in other places unmentionable.
The ever-fastidious Beau had been mortified and it had taken days to wash off completely. Needless to say, he had never let Eran make love to him again in the outdoors. Beau had a personal hygiene fetish; the youth was never dirty, ever.
Eran, the rotten youth he had been back then, took great delight in tormenting Beau over it.
How he’d give anything to have Beau smack him with a pillow again when he became frustrated with him.
Gone. All gone.
They had lived together in Beau’s small one room dwelling almost a year, when they had been awakened by a loud roaring boom. They had rushed out to see Tsions everywhere, crawling over everything, shooting anything that fought back.
He and Beau stood in horror as everything around them burned and screams of agony filled the air. The women and the children were being herded into containers and Beau ran for his sister, Eran right behind him when he felt the burning in his chest.
He saw the terror in Beau’s eyes as he fell.
Beau screaming his name sobbing and pleading in gut wrenching painful cries of sheer torment and loss, then silence.
All sound had ceased; he saw blood all over Beau’s hands and face, his blood. He saw his chest torn open; he saw rage in his Beau’s eyes and then darkness.
He awoke alone in a sea of dead bodies and the burning stench of charred human flesh.
He himself, not a scratch marred his frame. He would have thought himself mad had the state of his clothing not shown he had indeed been ripped apart by a Tsion blaster rifle.
He stumbled across the remains of his town calling for Beau and looking at every body to find him, seeing friends and loved ones dead, but no Beau. The town was deserted, those he could not identify as corpses were gone as if they had never existed.
His journey of revenge and hatred had begun that day. Survivors of the Tsion attack banded together and it had taken fifty years but finally the Tsions lost and the slave camps emptied of its human and other races.
He had never found Beau. Had he lived he would now be long dead from old age.
Eran lived on and faded from glory. Now he was just Captain Eran Callum, trader and smuggler. He had Tink for communication encryption, Enjoe for navigation and his second in command, Mandala for accounts and in charge of the crew’s health and wellness, and Farin for engineering and maintenance. His crew was small, dedicated, talented and all of them he had picked up in his travels as youth’s on the wrong side of the law.
And none of them asked questions. Except for Tink and even then if told ‘no’ Tink knew when not to press.
The recording ended and Eran got up to put the disk away to keep it safe. It was all that had survived the destruction of his life and it was his most precious possession. It was all he had left of Beau and his heart.
Eran took a hot shower to purge his sorrow then laid down to sleep until his patrons came to pick up their cargo and they could get off this forsaken rock.
Tinks wandered the spaceport district, his mood dour and thoughtful. His best friend was living a nightmare and he was powerless to help. He sighed as he headed into the first tavern he came to and went straight to the bar and ordered a shot and had the bartender leave the bottle.
“You look depressed. Careful not to drown it too badly in booze, it never helps.” A light voice beside him said, nursing his own bottle of brew. Tinks looked up to see a youthful and handsome profile under a thick mane of sandy blond hair.
“It helps enough and they aren’t my problems handsome, they belong to someone else I wish I could help.” Tinks replied and the blond turned to look at him a sad smile on his face.
“You sound like a good friend if you care about him so much.”
“Yeah, I owe him my life really. I just wish I could help.”
“Some things are beyond our control and all we can do is watch the world change around us, powerless to alter it's course.” The blond said again finishing his beer and tossing a chip on the counter before standing to leave the bar.
“Where you going handsome? Stay a while?” Tinks asked intrigued by the youth’s words and his even more comforting countenance. The blond only smiled at him.
“I have work to do. Besides, as much as you remind me of someone I used to know, I can’t I’m sorry.”
“I was once.”
“You don’t look old enough.”
“You’d be surprised.” The blond began to walk away and Tinks took his hand the blond tenderly disengaged his hand and pressed a disk into it. “I cannot give you anything but a song.”
Tinks looked down at the music disk in his hand confused and when he looked back up, the blond was gone. But not for long, the crowd cheered as the young man took his place on stage guitar in hand and began to sing.
Tink sat transfixed like the rest of the crowd listening to pure magic, his sorrows being drowned out by liquor and song. He was halfway through his bottle when a hand gripped his shoulder. Tinks looked up into the steel blue eyes of Enjoe. “Hey Jo-jo whaddya know?”
“Yes I am.”
“Spoil sport. You never let me have fun.”
Enjoe grunted and just tugged Tinks out of his seat and dragged him out of the bar. “Oh I just love it when you’re all commanding.” Tinks laughed drunk and totally oblivious to Enjoe’s expression.
“Just… Never mind.” Enjoe sighed as they reached the ship and he deposited a very drunk Tinks in his room and left him to sleep it off. Tinks flopped into bed, clothes and all and Enjoe left with a sigh. Mandala was just leaning against the wall, arms crossed across her chest.
“Ya know Joe. You might want to tell him you love him.”
“Mind your own business Mandy.” Enjoe barked, his hard eyes and handsome face a blank mask over his pain as always.
“Whatever, suffer then. He’s not gonna ever know the way you treat him sometimes.”
“Don’t you have something to do?” Enjoe said going into his own cabin and shutting the door.
“Already done it tight ass.” Mandala said going back into her cabin; Farin was snoring away where he had dozed off with a book on the bed. She nudged him awake for dinner and sat complaining to him about Eran and Enjoe’s terminal moodiness. Enjoe’s easy to cure if he only would do something about he crush and no one knew Eran’s secrets, he never told anyone anything other than what to do. Nothing personal was ever divulged.
Farin let her chatter without offering opinion on the matter.
Eran awoke feeling miserable. He had dreamt of Beau and of the day they had stood in the town center hand in hand, dressed in white robes as the town shaman had tied their hands together with a strip of red silk ribbon. Binding them together as partners in life, husband to husband. The silk symbolizing their spiritual connection that would never be broken, the vows of love they had said before their friends and family still as vivid as if they had been spoken but a day before.
They’d been bound as one a very short time, but the love had spanned a lifetime. Eran still wore the ring Beau had given him around his neck on a chain and had never taken it off in over One hundred and fifty years.
Eran finger combed his thick dark brown hair, he’d gone to sleep with it wet and it was knotted and snarled from a fitful sleep. “Even after all these years, I can’t let you go.” Eran sighed as he dressed and went to find himself something to eat.
He heard Tinks snoring in a drunken stupor in his cabin, Mandy was chattering with Farin in their rooms, Enjoe was being quiet as usual, and the gallery was blissfully vacant as he made some strong coffee and chain smoked as he drank and munched on whatever was handy and didn’t require preparation.
Their clients came, the cargo was unloaded and Eran was already going over plans for their next mission perimeters with Enjoe in the main living area at the game table when Tinks wandered in wearing nothing but his pants, his long hair, that was usually braided was undone and falling in waves down his back. He wore a pair of headphone, listening to something as he disappeared into the galley in search of something to fill the bottomless pit he called a stomach.
Enjoe’s eyes just followed and Eran shook his head. “You do realize staring gets you nowhere.”
“Not you too. I get enough from Mandy thanks.”
“She’s right you know.”
“Fuck off Eran.”
Eran just lit a cigarette and shrugged. “Your loss. What do you know of the Shanta cluster?”
Enjoe glad to be back on topic scratched his chin. “Other than it’s nothing but nothing but one red light district after another? Not much. Why?”
“I got a message, forty crates of Shanta Lace for New Beruna.”
“That could get us arrested in fifty jurisdictions. New Beruna has an embargo against all shipments from Shanta, hell most planets have an embargo against Shanta.”
“Its just booze.”
“And only the most potent aphrodisiac ever made.”
“Demand is high.”
“And if you drink too much it could kill you.”
“But what a way to go eh?”
“I worry about you sometimes Eran.” Enjoe said as Tinks walked back into the room a hunk of bread hanging out of his mouth and coffee mug in hand. He flopped down next to Enjoe at the table.
“So where are we off to next?”
“We’re still debating.” Enjoe grumbled Tinks shrugged, used to Enjoe’s monosyllabic responses to him. He had no clue why Enjoe hated him so much it hurt, but he’d never let it show. Enjoe talked to everyone but him, he’d grown accustomed to his cold shoulder.
“It’s either the Shanta job or weapons for the Zaran Mafia.”
“Jesus don’t we ever get nice jobs where I don’t have to encrypt communication out the wazoo so the federation don’t arrest us? Why can’t we transport the occasional benign cargo?” Tinks grumbled.
“Where’s the adventure in that?” Eran said tapping Tinks’ headset. “What did you pick up?”
“I tried picking up a hot blond in a bar, all I got was this disk for my efforts. He’s damn good though, wanna hear?”
Tinks passed the headphones over and as Eran settled the headset over his ears. Tinks hit play and he watched Eran turn a ghostly pale, his eyes haunted and his whole body began to shake. He ripped the headphones off in a fury.
“That’s not fucking funny Tinks! Where did you get that?”
“I told you. Some blond dude gave it to me.”
“IMPOSSIBLE! No one could know that song!”
“Um, mind telling me what you’re angry about? I’m telling you the truth.”
Eran ran to his room and came back with his player and disk and hit play, the same song played on a very old home recording – in the very same voice.
“You cleaned that up! When did you steal my disk?”
“I’m telling you the truth Eran! I never tampered with that, I didn’t even know you had something that ancient.”
Eran looked faint. “It can’t be. That song, I have the only copy.”
“Care to elaborate?” Tinks said as the old recording continued.
“Tinks, that song was written for me.”
“I swear on my life Eran. I never touched your disk. I’m good, I’m not that good, that disk has got to be about as old as you are, I don’t have that sort of equipment to restore something that old and faded.”
“Take me to that bar.” Eran said still shaking and pale. Tinks got dressed and the Trio set out for the Tavern.
As they walked Enjoe leaned over to Tinks. “How old is he? Did he tell you?” Asked softly his curiosity getting the better of him.
Tinks smirked. “So now you decide to talk to me? Not my secret to share I’m afraid.” Tinks answered ending the conversation. Enjoe looked too stunned to reply, the hurt in Tinks voice was evident. He had never intended to hurt Tinks; he just never knew what to say.
He’d have to ponder it later; they were back at the tavern and Eran looked too afraid to go inside.
Eran closed his eyes, saying a silent prayer as he stepped into the dark room filled with people, liquor, gambling and smoke.
The Lotorainian Woman on the stage dancing topless was not what Eran had hoped to see and he scanned the multitude of men and women of all races that were packed in like sardines in search of anything even remotely blond.
He felt deflated and empty; he had stopped daring to hope years ago for this very same reason. He felt cold and numb as he shut down emotionally and fell into an empty barstool. The bartender walked over and Eran ordered a shot and downed it in one gulp as it burned its way down his throat.
“Another.” Eran said slamming down his glass to have it filled again.
“What’s eatin’ ya Captain?”
“Mind your business and pour.” Eran grumbled as Tinks and Enjoe found him.
“Hey barkeep! The singer here this afternoon, where is he?”
“Kid that’s an open floor, I don’t pay performers, they work off tips. There’s a different performer there every five minutes.”
“Come on man, it’s important. Is he here often?”
“Which one? They’re all here often.”
“Blond, easy on the eyes, even better on the ears.”
The bartender seemed to think a moment. “I’m sorry I can’t help you unless you want to get drunk.”
“I hate this rock. Too many ghosts.” Eran said finishing a fourth shot before shoving his way toward the door. He was almost out the door when he stopped dead in his tracks. His back was to the stage and a voice made his feet stop cold.
What did you see in me to make you pause that night?
Was it a spell I cast unaware?
Was it a love at first sight?
What did I see in you to make me want to sing all night?
Did you cast a spell on me unaware?
Was it a love at first sight?
The days go by, the nights go by
And you are always there.
The Days go by, the Nights go by
And I am always here.
Love like flowers bloomed that spring and two were one at night.
By summer’s end I wore your ring
It was love at first sight.
Through autumn’s chill I held you close and kept you warm at night.
Long winter nights you loved me well.
It was love at first sight.
The days go by, the nights go by
And you are always there.
The Days go by, the Nights go by
And I am always here.
The days go by, the nights go by
And you are always there.
The Days go by, the Nights go by
And I am always here.
I am always here…
I am always here…
Eran has turned halfway through his song, and he stood there awash in a voice he had never dreamed he’d hear again. He stood there drinking in the beauty of the man on the stage, not a single hair had changed and his handsome head. He fell in love at first sight all over again. He was crying rivers of silent tears as he weaved his way closer to the stage, under a spell of unbelievable joy.
Tinks had unconsciously taken Enjoe’s hand as he bounced with anticipation. “What the hell is wrong with Eran? Who is that?”
“Eran’s Husband I think.”
“What?! Eran’s not married!”
“Yes he is. What they hell do you think that ring around his neck is?”
“That kid is younger than you, we’d have like noticed Eran getting married over the past decade!”
“Joe you are so blind. Have you not noticed Eran never gets older while WE DO?”
Enjoe just turned to look at Tinks. “Come to think of it, you’re right.”
“The light bulb finally comes on. Welcome to reality Enjoe. Eran’s a hell of a lot older than he looks and the blond bombshell there I suspect is just as old.”
“You and I will talk later.”
“Joe… really I’ve already said too much, it’s for Eran to tell not me. Just watch, this is gonna curl toes better than Shanta Lace I’d wager.” Tinks said turning his attention back to Eran who made it to the stage just as the last notes faded.
The singer had his eyes closed and as he opened them he blanched as if he had seen a ghost.
“Beau, my beautiful Beau.” Eran’s voice was choked as he lifted his arms.
Beau fell into them off the stage with a cry of joy. “ERAN! ERAN!”
Frantic kisses fell everywhere and gut-wrenching sobs were cried and followed by desperate arms reaching, grasping and holding tightly to the phantom before them in fear and longing.
“How?” Eran finally managed to ask as he cupped Beau’s face in his hands.
“I spent a long time figuring that out and I’ll tell you much later.” Beau said leaning over to breathe into Eran’s ear. “Other things first, my love.”
Eran’s grin looked almost feral as they made a mad dash toward the door.
“What the hell? When does Eran grin like that?”
“When he’s about to get laid obviously. Really Joe, you’re such a smart guy, but so dense.” Tink teased laughing and wiping a tear from his eye. “God that was beautiful.”
“Closet romantic Tinks?”
“I’m well out of the closet thanks.” Tinks replied turning and leaving Enjoe at the bar. He sort of felt bad for Enjoe the man was obviously harboring emotions in there somewhere, too bad they were wasted on Eran. Given half the chance Tinks would more than oblige the First officer’s fancies. He’d had a crush on the handsome co-pilot since he hit puberty. Enjoe was just a few years older, but those few years had seemed a lot larger a gap ten years ago. Now? Now it was too late, Enjoe hated his guts, never talked to him unless it was about Eran or giving orders, or to insult.
Tinks was off to go sulk for a while alone. He was thrilled for Eran, his own love life sucked. He was in love with someone who despised him; it hurt too much to think about he needed to get some fresh air.
Eran played idly with a silken strand of wavy spun gold where a sated youth used his sweaty chest as a pillow. “I can’t believe any of this. You’re a phantom of my imagination from being back on this rock.”
Beau just reached down and squeezed Eran’s equally sated sex making him hiss with the gentle assault on his still overly sensitive flesh from their lovemaking. “That feel real enough for you?”
Eran chuckled as Beau shifted to lay propped up on his elbow where they were stretched out in Eran’s rumpled bed. “Still so handsome.” Beau said breathlessly brushing hair from Eran’s face. “I knew you were alive.”
“How? You saw me blown to bits. I didn’t come to until after the bastards were gone.” Eran asked lacing his fingers through Beau’s and kissing each knuckle.
“At first I just suspected that first month after I was taken. My gut feelings especially when I couldn’t suicide and I tried probably a dozen times or more.” Beau sighed and Eran’s hand clutched tighter. “I was more than emotionally dead, life without you in a prison internment camp was not how I wanted to live and I was stuck with it with no escape.”
“I looked for you. For years I looked.”
“I know you did. Sometimes we got word of the war on the inside. I heard about ‘the crazy, fearless, Eran Callum who could not die no matter how many times the Tsions blew him up.’ It didn’t take long for me to put two and two together seeing as I couldn’t die either.”
“What the fuck happened to us?”
“I spent fifty years in that camp with nothing but time to THINK about that. The only suspicion I had was… do you remember that cave? The one we made love in the first time?”
Eran nodded “I was just thinking of that earlier, we made a mess in that… THE MOSS! The DUST!”
Beau smiled. “That’s what I love about you, you’re so smart.” Beau kissed the end of Eran’s nose and continued.
“After you liberated the camps, I tried finding you. You just up and disappeared and no one knew or could tell me where you had gone. So I came home. I began to study the moss. It wasn’t the moss I learned that moss was just the living host; it was the dust, only it wasn’t dust. You and I my love have been ‘colonized’ for lack of a better description. They’re like mites, little microscopic workers living off us and our cell tissues and keeping alive by keeping US alive.”
“Can we get rid of them?”
“No. You and I are stuck like this I am afraid. They have taken over our infrastructure, we are one big colony of little, tiny, ugly bugs.”
“Funny I said that too when I figured it out about eighty years ago. It took me another twenty years but I scrubbed those caves clean, I have all the mites from the entire cave network that didn’t infest us and were still in the caves contained. First chance I get…”
“We’ll dump them in Deep Space. No fucker should have to deal what we have to.”
“Precisely. I see we still think on the same wavelength after being apart so long.” Beau said nestling closer to Eran where they lay talking.
“Can you answer why just you an I are infected?”
“I can actually. We ingested them. They tend to work their way into living organisms and become a part of the whole, just walking over the moss, as most people did, would not allow them inside the body. They will leave shoes and even skin, too many dead cells on the outer epidermis for their liking they’d bugger off shoes and skin for the grass you’re walking on instead. I tested several theories. How we got infected was easy to deduce after I exhausted my testing and ideas. Simple conclusion, we pulverized the moss hosting them with our antics, and then we slept in the mess we made. Not only did we inhale the little bastards, we swallowed some, and I’m positive a few got into other regions I’d rather not mention.”
“So in other words, one big fucking accident.”
“Bingo. An accident I hope won’t ever be repeated. I have them all in a nice sealed container currently living off algae in the controlled environment. It’s buried in the cave for now in a big titanium box.” Beau said stretching and pooping joints in the process.
“Haven’t you ever left this planet?”
“How? I had to hitch a ride home in the first place. I have no ship, I’m still a hand to mouth starving musician and I don’t trust anyone to ask them to take me into deep space so I can jettison out a fountain of youth. Too many questions and the thought of them landing into the wrong hands… I just kept them hidden waiting for you.”
“Sorry I took so long. I hated coming here, I never left the spaceport when I did, I thought I’d lost you and this place just only served to remind me what I lost or rather THOUGHT I had lost And I am not letting you go again. I hope you’re not too attached to this rock.” Eran said leaning in for a deep kiss.
Eran smiled as their lips parted. “No. The only thing I’m attached to is you. I’m going where you go. My home is with you Eran and I knew if I put your song out there with enough people you’d eventually hear it and come pick me up.”
“You have always been clever as fox.”
“I had to outwit you, that’s hard to do.” Beau chuckled as his stomach rumbled from hunger. “I hope you will feed me.”
“With my cooking?”
“You still can’t cook huh?”
Beau sighed and laughed as he stood and stretched. “Where’s the galley then?”
Eran pulled on his pants and began to lead the way when Beau paused and fingered the ring on the chain hanging from Eran’s neck.
“Mind putting that back on?” He asked and Eran smiled and tugged the chain free and slipped the ring back on his finger.
“I was afraid of losing it during the wars. And by the time they were over, seeing it on my finger hurt, so I kept you closer to my heart instead. I’ve never taken it off.” Eran said happily twisting it on his finger.
“I hid mine too while I was in the camp so they wouldn’t take it from me. I understand. Afterwards I needed it desperately to remind me you were out there somewhere.” Beau replied looking at his fondly.
Eran took Beau’s hand and kissed the ring and still clutching that hand led his husband toward the galley to feed their rumbling stomachs.
Both just dressed in pants, barefooted and shirtless rummaged through the galley for something to quiet the hunger, Eran pausing occasionally to rub up behind Beau suggestively.
“Didn’t I tell you before the kitchen is off limits? People eat in here.”
“After a hundred and sixty years give or take I think it slipped my mind.”
“Lying sack of shit.” Beau chuckled shoving a pickle in Eran’s mouth. “Suck on that instead you horny bastard.”
“Can you blame me? I’ve been celibate for a century and a half and you’re hot as ever.”
Beau turned around and winked. “Later love, as much as I want to see you naked and sweaty again in the very near and I do mean VERY NEAR future, I need food now.” Beau said popping an olive in his mouth.
Eran was chuckling and starting a pot of Coffee when Mandala walked in and just stopped in her tracks. Not only was Eran smiling and laughing, he had obviously just crawled out of bed and had someone with him who also looked as if he had crawled from the same bed. “What the hell?”
Beau smiled as Eran turned around to grin, GRIN at her. She knew Eran had finally gone psychotic. “Mandy, this is my husband Beau. Beau this is our medical officer and all around great woman, Mandala Corcoran. Tell me you’ve come to cook Mandy.”
“HUSBAND? Since fucking when?”
“What date is it on Pirotaine?” Eran asked Beau who grinned as he began fixing a sandwich.
“Auger the thirteenth, 4675.”
“Really? Hey tomorrow is…”
“Hello? I asked a question here!” Mandy said seeing as the two men in the galley were distracted, making sickening doe-eyes at each other and totally catching her off her guard.
“Sorry Mandy. We were married on Auger the Fourteenth, 4515; tomorrow will be our One-Hundred and Sixtieth anniversary. Jesus Christ I turned a hundred and eighty-two last month. I lost count.”
“WHAT THE HELL?” Mandy fell into a chair, eyes wide as saucers and jaw agape.
Beau shook his head. “Should I tell her or do you want to?”
Eran smiled “I’ll fill her in and catch her up to speed. Fix me one of those too please? I’m starving.” Beau nodded pulling out more bread acting totally non-pulsed as Eran gave Mandy the condensed version of their lives from beginning to current events as Beau continued making cucumber sandwiches.
“I always wished you’d open up more about your past, be careful what you wish for Mandy. Holy hell. Coming from anyone other than you I’d not believe a damn word.” Mandala gasped reaching for the coffee, she needed something stronger, but coffee was handy.
Beau set Eran’s sandwich in front of him on the table and sat beside him reaching across the table to take Mandy’s hand. “I know it ludicrous to hear, but it’s true and a hard secret to keep.”
“I can imagine. Wow. Welcome aboard I guess is in order and like Eran I’ll never see you for medical reasons I suppose.”
Beau smiled. “Healthy as a man with a symbiotic life support system I’m afraid.”
Mandy chuckled. “I’d love to study them.”
Beau looked horrified. “Too dangerous, but I’ll be more than happy to give you all my research data if you’d like.”
“Good enough. I might even be able to figure out how to purge you of these things eventually if you’d like.”
Both men looked hopeful. “Mandy, I think we’d both take you up on that offer. No human is meant to live as long as we have. I’m grateful to have my Beau back, but I always sort of looked forward to becoming a crotchety old fart with him, liver spots and all.”
Beau choked on his sandwich. “Liver spots? You’re still disgustingly gross at a dinner table I see.”
Mandy smiled at the banter, Eran was alive, truly alive. Gone was the shell of a man she had always known, his dull eyes were vibrant with joy, his smile had not left his face and she had to admit, she’d never seen a more handsome couple before, they complimented each other in personality and looks.
She was about to comment when Enjoe walked in and nodded to the pair. “Joe did you know?”
“Yes. It was quite… heartwarming to witness.” His voice was low and looked rather sad.
Eran quirked an eyebrow perceptive to Enjoe’s non-mood swings. “Sit down Joe and Mandy call Farin and Tinks in here? I might as well tell you all so I’m not repeating myself over and over.”
Farin was just across the hall and Tinks was still not back on board, Eran sighed. “Tinks, is he the one I met earlier drinking his sorrows into whiskey, killer hair?” Beau asked sipping from mug. Eran nodded.
“That would be him. Enjoe you were with him.”
“He left.” Enjoe said just sitting in his chair arms folded over his chest.
“I swear you are pissing me off now Joe.” Eran growled shoving his chair back and running a frustrated hand through his hair. “Go out an find him damn it! Farin you take the hopper, I’ll take the cruiser with Beau and Enjoe walk the port local. Mandy wait for him here.”
Eran and Beau returned to Eran’s cabin to dress and while dressing Beau broached the subject. “What’s up?”
“Enjoe being a dickhead.”
“Care to elaborate?”
“I picked him up when he was fourteen, he’d have been a fucking mercenary assassin had I not gave him a job. Two years later I picked up Tinks who was twelve and picking my pockets, or trying to. Mandy and Farin practically raised them.” Eran said as the headed toward a small shuttlecraft hanger that held a cruiser that would let them drive around the port city outskirts in search.
“Tinks was always a nice looking kid, grew into a nice looking man. He hit puberty, figured out he like boys, Enjoe in particular.”
“I can guess. Enjoe doesn’t like him back?”
“No he DOES, but for some insane, known only to Enjoe reason, he treats Tinks like absolute shit, barks insults at him, and totally makes Tinks shut down sometimes. Don’t ask me why, because I’ve no fucking clue. Tinks is so used to Enjoe being an asshole he’s all but given up, Enjoe’s gonna be shit out of luck if he doesn’t face the facts.” Eran said as they settled into the Pilot and co-pilot seats and headed out.
“You can’t force a man to come out of the closet. Some men think love is a weakness.”
“It got nothing to do about coming out of the closet. Enjoe’s no stranger to bringing back one-night stands. Tinks will wander out and come back much later his eyes all red and complaining of allergies. It’s obvious he’s cried his eyes out. When Enjoe forgets to be mean and allows himself to just be real, he’s a nice guy and Tinks falls for him all over again, the second he gets close though, Enjoe goes all bastard again and we’re into round two. Between Mandy and I we must have told him a million times to just face up. No good.”
“How sad. Poor Tinks.”
“Yeah, and he’s probably drunk off his ass somewhere trying to wash it away. He’s ended up really messed up a few times. He tends to gravitate towards men who treat him like shit.”
“Yeah. We gotta get to him before he ends up in a ditch somewhere passed out drunk with his pants around his ankles. I try to keep an eye on him, he’s been getting better, I worry when I don’t know where he is.”
“You’re a good father.”
“More like a big brother. But yeah, I feel responsible for them all.”
Beau smiled and just watched Eran’s profile as they flew out and around the city looking down into alleys for any sign of the wayward communications officer.
Tinks for a change was not drunk, not even tipsy, as he walked up and down busy streets, his hands shoved deep into his pockets kicking trash occasionally, just downright blue and contemplative.
He thought about Eran and the absolute hell he must have endured. He had no idea how Eran was a nice as he was, he knew had he have had to go through a life like that he wasn’t sure he could be kind to strangers, much less thieving smart ass pre-teens like he had been when Eran had picked him up off the streets and gave him stability and a home.
Eran had always listened to him ramble on and on, sometimes offering advice, sometimes making Tinks figure out his own answers. He was father, brother and friend in one.
He made the loneliness bearable.
Mandy was more like a distant older sister. He couldn’t talk to her like he could Eran. Farin never talked much to anyone, not even his own wife. Enjoe … Thoughts of Enjoe just twisted Tinks’ gut. For years he had loved the handsome youth, and no matter how hard he tried, he had never been able to get Enjoe to like him. Enjoe made it plain; Tinks was tolerated because Eran liked him. Given half the chance, he’d have blown Tinks’ out of an airlock ages ago.
Tinks often wondered just what he had done to cause such hatred, and he gave up trying to fathom the answers. It just was a fact. It was also a fact he still loved Enjoe, and could not think of a single reason why he did, again it was just fact and a love that defied explanation and was entirely one-sided.
Tinks rounded a corner and Saw Enjoe walking up ahead and he ducked out of sight. He just could not face him at the moment so he hid behind a pile of packing crates and as soon as Enjoe passed Tinks turned and ran the other direction.
It was several hours later and Tinks was sitting on a pier overlooking the sea on the farthest western edge of the City, the dual moons of Pirotaine dancing on the water as he tossed bits of his uneaten flatbread sandwich into the water to watch them bloat with water as they floated away on the tide.
“I must admit I’m surprised to find you here.” Tinks turned and offered Eran a halfhearted smile over his shoulder as stepped out onto the Pier, Beau by his side.
“Just thinking.” Tinks said as Beau and Eran sat on either side of the Pier with him dangling their feet off the edge.
“And not drinking, that’s a relief.” Eran replied lighting up a smoke.
“Why are earth are you two out here?”
“We were looking for you.” Beau said smiling at Tinks with a serene countenance.
“You shouldn’t have. I was just making myself scarce so the two of you could have some privacy.”
“You lie like shit Crispin Tinks.” Eran scolded laying an arm around the youth’s shoulders. “But I won’t lecture. I tend to go off to be moody by myself too.”
“You always did.” Beau interjected resting his chin on his hand, elbow resting on his knee. “Sometimes you need to be alone to sort out your thoughts. Sometimes it’s dangerous to be alone because thoughts can consume you. It’s a balance.” Beau began turning to look at Tinks. “Thank you for being there for Eran when his thoughts began to consume. Don’t be offended at the favor returned, we understand.”
Tinks smiled, Beau was like a prophet the way he spoke, soft and lyrical in speech, his face a mask of kindness and sincerity, his young face held wise ancient looking eyes that set Tinks soul at ease. “Thanks.”
“Anytime. And Thank You.”
“For what?” Tinks asked as Beau leaned over and kissed his cheek.
“For many reasons involving Eran’s sanity and for giving him my disk.”
Tinks grinned. “Insanity you mean.”
“Everyone needs a laugh Tinks. Even you.” Eran said standing and offering both Tinks and Beau a hand up. “Come on, let’s go back. I have some announcements to make.”
Eran walked in-between Beau and Tinks, arms encasing both their shoulders as they walked back toward the “Infinity”.
Everyone gathered in the Galley and over a very late dinner and coffee while Eran told them all the truth about his past in a little more detail in the second telling. Then he made an announcement.
“Beau and I were talking while we were out looking for Tinks. We’re all irritable, tired and Mandy offered to help analyze Beau’s data on our bug infestation problems. I plan parking here a bit, there’s plenty of space to dock the “Infinity” near the caves, it will give Mandy and Beau time to do a little studying in peace and time for the rest of us to take a much needed rest.”
“Hallelujah a Vacation.” Farin sighed with a smile. “Tell me there’s places here to barter parts. I wanna give the Infinity a nice overhaul.”
“You’ll need the shuttle. Beau and I used to live in the middle of nowhere, and the old village was never rebuilt. The closest city is ten clicks south now. We’ll have total privacy, but close enough to civilization for a necessities.”
“Mind if I stay in the city if you don’t need me? The country with nothing to do sounds boring as hell.” Enjoe grumbled, in a sour mood.
“Do what you want, I don’t care what the hell you do with your free time. Just keep a communicator so when we’re ready to leave I can contact you.” Eran said narrowing his eyes at Enjoe, he was getting worse daily, and of them all he needed a vacation.
“I’ve never been to the country.” Tinks said looking into his mug. “But I’d like to see it.”
Beau smiled “It’s not as boring as you think. Honest.”
Tinks looked up and smiled. “I always wanted to do some good old-fashioned fishing. I heard it’s fun.”
“Now that IS boring unless they’re biting.” Eran groaned and Beau chuckled.
“Just because you hated it does not mean he will.” Beau stuck his tongue out at Eran. He had loved to fish. “I’ll take ya Tinks. I love to fish, and I’ve a spare rod back at the house.”
“Then let’s head out, we can be there in an hour tops, it’s not too far from here.” Eran said as he headed into the cockpit to and Farin into the Engine room to fire up the “Infinity” and dock her securely at the base of the caves in the very same field Beau and Eran had once walked through daily many years before.
Enjoe grabbed a duffle and left the ship as the others headed out. He made his way to a local hotel and checked himself in at the front desk there was no way in hell he was going to the country. It was bad enough in deep space, he didn’t need to watch Tinks be a little nature boy in the middle of nowhere without distractions.
He wasn’t needed and he was feeling angry about life in general. He needed to be alone. He made sure he left orders at the front desk never to be disturbed and then slammed the door behind him as he went to bed.
The “Infinity” was a small freighter, designed to carry precious and specific cargo. Cargo that needed to get to point A to Point B in the fastest time possible with enough weaponry to project the cargo from hijackers both from the Federation and Pirate organizations.
“You always did lean to the left of the law.” Beau mused where he sat curled up in the co-pilot seat as Eran set the “Infinity” down next to the café face and literally a dozen paces from the small house built in front of the cave he and Beau had once frolicked in.
“It pays good and is never boring.” Erin replied as he shut down the control panel.
“My rouge.” Beau laughed as he headed down the gangplank that dropped from the ships hull.
As Eran followed Beau he drank in his surroundings. Some things never changed much. “You built this right into the rock.” Eran mused as Beau keyed the security pad on the front door.
“I wanted no one just wandering into the cave. Mind the regular dust, I’ve not been back here in a while.” Beau said as the door whooshed back and stale air hit them in the faces.
Tinks came up behind them and coughed. “I’d fire your housekeeper.” He joked and Beau smiled.
“Careful, I’ll put you to work.” Beau playful threatened as he flipped on the lights. Eran’s breath caught in his throat, it was like walking back in time. The single room dwelling was almost identical to the one he and Beau had shared. A double bed was in the left back corner of the room, next to it a door that probably led into the cave itself. In the opposite corner was situated a small kitchen area, a few cupboards, and a small stove with a single burner on top, a cooling unit and a small sink. There was a small sectioned off part of the room which was obviously contained a bathroom facility and then the living space held a table and two chairs, a small couch and a fireplace. All of the surfaces covered in tarps to protect them from time and elements.
“Dear God…” Eran breathed his hands almost shaking.
“I know. It looks like our old place. Pre-fabricated units don’t change much Eran. Like I could build anything more? These are cheap, it’s why we lived in one in the first place remember?” Beau said moving to fold back a tarp from the couch.
“I know, it’s just… It feels like yesterday it all happened.” Eran said, phantoms from his past flashing past his eyes and he sank into a chair, tears coming on suddenly his shoulders shaking. Beau was instantly there and was folded into an embrace as Eran clung to him, purging years worth of loss into his chest. Tinks stepped back into the shadows, in all the time he had known Eran he had never seen him cry, much less show the sort of emotions that were breaking free like a flood tearing down a feeble dam in it’s wake.
How much pain had Eran been hiding from them? Eran who was always there for Tink to lean on in times of need, always there to offer advice if asked for, Eran had always been his rock of support and to see him suddenly shaken proved he was human after all. It suddenly made all of Tinks’ problems seem trivial. He had a family of sorts, he had Eran and Mandy and Farin, he had a good job, and he had food in his belly and no major problems other than a crush on someone out of reach and rapidly falling from his heart. It seemed trite now to him in comparison. He also felt like an intruder all of a sudden so he slowly edged his way back out, intercepting Mandy and Farin before they could walk in on the scene.
Eran needed a few minutes to purge and compose himself first, no man ever wanted to be seen in a moment of weakness, Tinks refused to let Eran’s pride suffer when he needed this good cry. Tinks took charge outside instead, he helped Farin set up work tent and helped collect firewood for Mandy and just made himself useful until Eran and Beau reemerged from within.
Beau and Mandy quickly went back inside to get the kitchen clean and useable for several people and Eran took Tinks aside.
“Thank you.” Eran said and Tinks shrugged it off.
“Hey man, no worries.”
“No Tink I mean it. You’ve no idea some of the things I’ve seen, and they all sort of came crashing down on me in there. I appreciate your tact in my moment of vulnerability.”
“Listen Eran, you’ve been there for me more times than I can count. You’re the only family I got so like I said no worries okay. You can trust me.”
“I trust you more than anyone other than Beau. I mean that too, I’ve never met a more loyal person and I’ve known a lot of people in my time. You’re a good man Tinks, don’t let anyone ever tell you different.”
Tinks just smiled and shrugged. “It’s nothin’ Eran. Come on, Mandy is dying to cook in a real kitchen and I gotta help Farin set up temporary housing for us since he’s taking the “Infinity” off-line for over-haul we’re all camping out.”
“Why don’t you take the shuttle into town, see if there are any pre-fabs in salvage. They’ll be warmer than tents, it’s the end of summer here, fall comes fast and winter even faster.”
“How long we staying?”
“I don’t know yet. Until Mandy can get some work done and Farin gives the ship a good solid make over. I know my cabin will need a bigger bunk in it.” Here Eran grinned and Tinks laughed.
Tinks almost doubled over laughing; He decidedly liked the new Eran a lot more. He had suddenly become a lot more fun to be around, that was for sure. He made a mental note to thank Beau for that later as he pulled out the small shuttle and set out for the small village just a few minutes away, hopefully someone would be open, it was very late or very early depending on how you looked at the situation.
The small port town of Rael was quaint and situated at the edge of the sea and a connecting River. It was obviously a good trading port for all sorts of commerce from agriculture to various other wares coming in from the Capital to be distributed inland. Tink piloted the shuttle to what obviously looked like a machinery district and landed the craft at the end of the street. Many of the shops where closed, but the second hand surplus supply store was open at this hour and he walked inside. A very tall, and very nice looking young man with dark auburn hair, piercing dark green eyes and perhaps just a few years older than Tink was sipping from a mug of coffee, reading a manual at the counter he was seated at and had an old food processing unit torn apart on the counter where he was obviously trying to make the ancient device usable again. He smiled as Tink walked in. “Early Bird or Night Owl?”
“Today the Early Bird and Night Owl combined, not been to bed yet and probably won’t for a while.” Tinks answered as he walked up to the counter. “Damn man, good luck getting that contraption to work again. That unit hasn’t been made since before my Great Grandmother’s time.”
“I know. It’s just a hobby of mine. I like Antiques. What can I help you with stranger?”
“My shipmates and I are combining a little R&R with some research and maintenance on the ship nearby, I’m looking for a pair of pre-fab dwellings we can set up for a while.”
“How big? I got a couple of salvage units from military issue out back.”
“Anything is better than a tent while Farin overhauls our ship and turns off the amenities.”
The clerk at the counter chuckled. “Follow me, I’ll show you what I have.”
The young man lead Tink out into a warehouse space and down a few rows until them came to some large crates. “I’ve got these three units here that are all interconnecting. They’re dual room with facilities. You have to dig the septic system trench, but these come with all the plumbing. Pre-wired for power, just plug them into a generator and they’re good to go. They take no time to set up, and you can make them free standing or connect them all together for a larger space.”
“That’s more than enough space, how much for all three? We already have one unit, same issue already set up, these will be easy to add onto the space.”
“You mean that old unit set up near the caves? That unit belongs to someone already.”
“It belongs to one of our crew.”
“Impossible, Beau doesn’t belong on a crew, he’s a musician and he’s not been back since I was a kid.”
“Ah you know Beau? His husband is my Captain, I’m not pulling your leg man.”
“Mind if I come with you to verify? He asked me to watch over his place before he left.”
“I have no problem with that. But you never answered my question. How much?”
“If those are for Beau? Nothing. I owe him a lot. Where’s your craft I’ll help you load the units.”
“This way… What’s your name?”
“Vitale, Valerian Vitale. Just call me Val.” The youth said holding out his hand, Tinks took it and shook.
“Tinks, Communications officer for the “Infinity”. Nice ta meet ya Val, you saved the day. Looks like I picked the right shop.”
Val smiled “Tinks? Strange name.”
“Nickname that stuck. Tinks is my last name.” Tinks said as Valerian pulled out a hover pallet jack to move the boxes out to load.
“And just for shits and giggles, what’s your first name if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I don’t mind its Crispin.” Tinks said as he helped guide the boxes out without a catastrophe in the cramped warehouse.
“Good name, shame not to use it.”
“Just a name, I answer to just about anything. Shithead, asshole, idiot…”
Val laughed. “I’ll reserve judgment on those for now.”
“Smart man. Here’s good, let me open the hatch.”
“Nice shuttle, what sort of ship you work on?”
“Cruiser Freighter called the “Infinity”. Small but a damn good ship.”
Val stopped and eyed the young man with the sinfully long hair coming loose from a haphazard braid. “Smugglers?”
Tinks just grinned. “Want the truth?”
“We skirt a few laws here and there.”
“Interesting.” Was Val’s only comment but his eyes looked intrigued as he loaded the boxes and locked up the shop and sat in the co-pilot’s chair as Tinks flew them back to the caves.