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muta| maddox |   59d ago

The savory scent of garlic and onions filled the man’s nose. It was a comforting smell he’d grown fond of over the years in food service. He wore the scent like a badge of honor, just like the callouses on his hands, a reminder of his hard work and late nights. “Mads, stir the sauce it’s boiling!” a gruff voice bellowed from the front of the kitchen. Dozens of sweaty men shuffled about, slaving over stovetops and cutting boards. Laughter and Italian slang bubbled and lulled as the crowd worked. Maddox looked up from the vegetables he was chopping and quickly whisked the simmering liquid. With a clean spoon, he dipped it and tasted it. Bobbing his head, Maddox retrieved a glass jar stuffed with dried herbs and tossed in a pinch. 
He returned to his prep work and listened to the sea of voices. It was a typical Friday night at Vito’s Eatery, not a table empty and a waiting list out the door. The evening sun flickered off the stainless steel appliances and ignited the kitchen in a warm glow of orange.

Vito’s was an upscale Italian restaurant in Florence frequented by locals and tourists alike. It was a small stone building with traditional Florence decor and a tangle of grapevines. Vito's was named after the great living chef Giovanni Vito. Giovanni's reputation preceded him and Maddox understood why. He was a genius in and out of the kitchen. 

“Get the focaccia, Maddox and the good olive oil,” a willowy old man shouted as he burst through the kitchen door. His black suit was impeccable and the ivory apron tied around his waist was spotless. 

“Yes, Chef Gio.” Maddox barked. He quickly removed the flatbread from the oven and dressed it in oil on a clean plate. The man took the dish from Maddox and disappeared into the dining room.

The night hurried on in a whirlwind. Patrons streamed in one right after another. Maddox prepared at least a hundred dishes and cooked until his hands ached and his feet throbbed. Once the last customer was served, Maddox sunk into a wooden chair in the corner of the kitchen with a sigh. It was a quarter past midnight and the boy was exhausted. His black hair was slicked back with sweat, an unidentified red sauce stained his apron. The bags under his pale eyes had deepened to a plum color and his cheeks looked hollow and sunken. Maddox rubbed his face with his hands before surveying the damage that had been done. Saying the kitchen was a mess was an understatement; dishes were piled in the sink and the dishwasher was nowhere to be seen. Scraps of food and dirty cutting boards littered the countertops. 
Rising to his feet, Maddox followed the sounds of laughter coming from the propped-open back door. Four men stood at the dumpster smoking cigarettes and chattered under the starlit sky. 

“Got a light?” Maddox asked, pulling a pack from his pocket. One of the guys muttered an agreement and lit his cigarette. Maddox sucked in twice before exhaling. The cloud of smoke was ashen against the black sky. 

“Some night, huh,” Dante murmured. He was a thin Italian man in his late fifties. He’d been working at Vito’s longer than Maddox had been alive. The other men grunted in response, their energy low but still in good humor. 

“Yeah, I hate to admit it, but I’ll miss this,” Maddox replied with a shrug of his shoulders. He was only twenty-two but his body felt sixty. His bones ached and he hadn't been to a doctor since he got his middle school vaccines. Healthcare was for the privileged and Maddox was not. 

“When do you leave?” Enzo asked. His dishwasher’s apron was drenched with sink water and was speckled with flecks of pasta and tomato. He sat on a milk crate, a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other. 

“Sunday,” the words sounded far away, causing Maddox to frown. He’d lived in Florence all his life but he couldn’t imagine he’d ever miss the place. There was no home for him, just a few pit stops along the way. Vito's had become the closest thing he'd had to a family besides his potential adoptive parents. But he rarely let himself dwell on what ifs and should haves. 

"It was real nice of Papa Gio to get you that spot at Saint … Saint," Enzo frowned at his memory. "That fancy college for you and all." 

Maddox nodded. Giovanni Vito, Papa Gio to his friends, was a very lucrative man who kept his secrets close and his enemies well-fed. He appeared to have ties to the mafia but it was never confirmed. Between the constant high-value customers that came and went from his office and the strings he was able to pull, there was no way he wasn't. 

Maddox was grateful for the opportunity Vito acquired for him but he was suffering from imposter's syndrome. It was a fluke that Maddox saved Isabella. He knew it and soon enough, everyone else would. He replayed the day it all started over and over again, wracking his brain for answers. 

It was a rainy spring morning. Maddox was walking to work at his part-time job at the auto-body shop. He'd had a late start and the weather hadn't helped. The rain was light but persistent. A thick fog had fallen over the city street, blanketing the people of Florence on their commute. As he was about to cross 3rd Street, an image flickered in his mind. It was like he'd been flipping through channels on the TV and caught a glimpse of an old movie he'd seen before. The sound of screeching tires and crushing metal echoed in his ears. Blood and rain washed down the cobblestone like a crimson river. A young girl's face flashed through his vision. Raven hair and chubby cheeks, he recognized her as Isabella Vito, his boss's tween daughter. All of the elements clicked into place and suddenly Maddox was running. Frantically he searched for the street he'd seen. He blinked raindrops from his eyes and pushed his damp hair from his face. Just as he rounded the corner, he spotted Isabella with her pink umbrella about to cross the street.

When she stepped onto the crosswalk, suddenly a black sedan barreled down the road emerging from the fog. Without hesitation, Maddox lunged for the girl and tackled her to the ground. They fell to the cobblestone with a sick thwack. Behind them, the sedan slammed on its brakes. Hydroplaning, the vehicle wrapped itself around a light post. On his hands and knees, Maddox loomed over Isabella's limp, wet body. He frantically checked her for injury. Her chest rose and fell rapidly like a frightened rabbit. A small cut gaped at her hairline, blood trickled down her eyebrow. She blinked up at him in shock. After a few painfully quiet moments, she burst into tears and wrapped her arms around his neck. She wailed and wailed until the medics arrived. All Maddox could do was whisper. 

Vito arrived shortly after the emergency vehicles. He spoke in quick, frantic Italian and rushed to his daughter. Maddox found himself watching the scene in third person. His boss in his perfect black suit on his knees on the muddy sidewalk smothering his child with affection. When he'd asked what happened, Maddox couldn't form a coherent story. He couldn't explain how he'd known Isabella was in trouble. In the end, he'd shrugged and given a halfhearted, right place right time. 

As payment for saving his daughter's life, Vito scored a seat at Saint Francis University, the most prestigious private college in Europe. Maddox wasn't sure he deserved such a gift or whether he actually wanted to attend college, but Papa Gio didn't take no for an answer. Nearly six months later Maddox had no explanation for his premonition. Now he had his dingy one-bedroom apartment in boxes and a bank account with a few extra zeros heading for Austria in twenty-four hours. 

When he thought about it, maybe it was the smell of tomatoes he'd miss. Vito's Eatery had a rooftop garden where the restaurant grew most of its vegetables and Maddox was rather fond of the earthy smell of soil and green sprouts. Or maybe it was the constant hustle and bustle of the kitchen. The men were a family and were always getting in each other's way. No, he would miss all of it. The laughter and vulgar language had become his favorite sound. He'd miss Italy and he'd miss Florence. Most of all, he'd miss Giovanni Vito. 

Papa Gio had sent an unmarked black SUV and a driver a little after 3 AM on the Sunday of his departure. He'd told Maddox that he didn't trust airplanes just like he didn't trust banks and wanted to provide a reliable form of transportation. He'd offered two SUVs but Maddox turned him down due to the lack of things the boy actually owned. All of his belongings fit in one cardboard box and a backpack. 

The night before, the guys from both Vito's and the auto shop had thrown him a huge going-away party and Maddox was feeling the hangover in his eye sockets. He tried to sleep during the ten-hour drive but found himself plagued by glimpses of vivid visions as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Their drive flew by in a blur. Maddox tried to savor the view as the scenery changed from one country to the next. He’d never been out of the country, let alone Florence. As the architecture and foliage changed, Maddox couldn’t deny the excitement bubbling inside of him. 

Maddox was exhausted by the time they pulled up to the old stone chapel. His body ached and his head throbbed. Climbing out of the SUV, the boy nearly crumbled to his knees. The driver who he’d come to know as Gino, met him at the trunk of the car and handed him his bags. After they’d said their goodbyes, Gino handed Maddox a folder and an envelope full of cash. Frowning, he tried to object to the sudden gift but Gino shook his head and murmured, “Boss’s orders.” 

Exhaling, Maddox made his way up the stairs toward the church. The church was a beautiful small chapel made from a cool, pale stone. It had a dark oak door with iron studs and knockers. Overhead loomed a church tower with several small stained glass windows depicting biblical stories. Maddox was taken by the rich colors of blues and purples. He wondered what the rooms looked like in the morning light. When he had heard he’d be living in a renovated church just outside of the city, he had a hard time imagining it. But now, standing before the stone relic, he felt at ease, like he was meant to be there all along. 

After he was finished admiring the building, he rapped the knocker twice with one hand, the iron cool in his palm. A few moments passed with no answer. Maddox frowned and looked over his shoulder at his driver. Was he in the right place? Gino gave him a thumbs-up of encouragement. Just as he was about to knock again, the door clicked open. 

A young man around Maddox’s age stood before him. He was tall and lean with messy champagne hair. His pale grey eyes were alert despite the faint bags beneath his lower lashline. Maddox had met his fair share of people in his life but this boy was by far the most beautiful he’d ever seen. He had a face that artists made portraits of, angular and fair.

“Hello,” the man greeted; his voice was even and warm like syrup. He eyed Maddox, his expression gave away his confusion. 

“I’m Maddox.” Maddox introduced himself with a slight wave. He kicked himself internally for the stiff gesture. Small talk had never been his strong suit. 

The man nodded his head slowly, his eyes narrowed as he processed the information. Clicking his tongue, he smiled. Nice to meet you, Maddox. I’m Kendrick,” he said, offering a hand. Maddox felt the urge to look away or shield his eyes like he was looking at the sun. “So, what’re you doing here?” Kendrick asked. 

Maddox’s frown deepened. He, for sure, wasn’t in the right place. “I’m your new roommate. Or at least that’s what I was told.” 

“Oh shit, it’s Sunday, isn’t it? You’re Gio’s friend, right? Come in, come in.” He ushed his guest inside. “Can I help you with your other bags?” Kendrick searched behind him and raised an eyebrow when he didn’t find anything. 

“Nah, this is all I brought.” Maddox shrugged. 

“You know I did that once when I was visiting Thailand. I only packed the essentials and just bought new clothes when I landed. I can take you shopping tomorrow if you want.” Ken waved his hands as he spoke. A permanent grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. 

Maddox curled his lip in disgust and eyed Kendrick like he had two heads. Who was this guy?

“No,” he barked. It came out harsher than he intended, so he cleared his throat. “I mean, no, I’m good. Thanks for the offer.” 

He followed his new roommate through the corridor. Maddox was surprised at how light the church was despite its stone walls. The worship hall had been converted into a kitchen and living room. It had a dozen uniform stained-glass windows on either side of the room—technicolor light cast patterns on the flagstone floor. His eyes followed the dark oak beams up to the high ceilings. Vibrant fresco paintings of cherubs and angels lounged in a pale, clouded sky overhead. Maddox audibly gasped. 

Kendrick turned to see what had caught his guest’s attention. “Those are originals for the 16th century. I had to go through hell with the Historical Society so they’d let me restore them. I didn’t have any experience with fresco at the time but it was fun to learn,” he said with a nonchalant air like he was recalling a warm summer day. Maddox stared incredulously at his new roommate. 

“Okay, so that door is to the bathroom. It’s got a shower and everything. The door on your right is to my room. The one next to it is the guest room. Back through the hall we just came through leads you to the stairs. Your room is in the tower. There’s a private bathroom and a study that you can claim if you’d like.” He pointed rather than leading him on a tour. Maddox appreciated that; he hated feeling like he had to perform. “Over there,” he pointed past the kitchen to a set of large glass doors, “that leads to the annex, which is the most recent addition to the church. It’s the only part of the house that isn’t original. That’s where the library is and my studio. Feel free to look around and make yourself at home. I need to go into town this evening if you’d like to come.” He added. 

Maddox’s first instinct was to say no but he couldn’t bring himself to turn the guy down. “Sure.” 

Maddox took the staircase up to his new bedroom. He took a moment to look at the small study before pushing the wooden door open. There was an old desk beneath an arching window. Two bookshelves reached the ceiling on either side. Maddox could see himself working there and it was a nice feeling. He was relieved that his bedroom was small and sparsely decorated. In the middle of the room, there was a queen-sized mattress and a large ornate rug that appeared to be imported. On the furthest wall from the door, he had an antique wardrobe and a lounge chair. It was simple, just the way he liked it. He was content to find that his windows were the same stained glass he’d noticed outside earlier. After he dropped his bags on the chair, he inspected the ensuite bathroom. When he finished, he flopped on his bed with a sigh. He was in desperate need of a nap.

muta| ken |   58d ago

Augustus Zachariah Leroy Kendrick the V started the morning like he did every morning, with a line of his favorite coffee and reruns of Gilmore Girls. He sat in the sunlit living room, leaning over the low oak table, his eyes transfixed on the tv. Lorelai and Rory were fighting over a random miscommunication like always. Kendrick wouldn’t say he was a fan of the show but rather an enjoyer of the aesthetic. He liked the soft, warm glow and the small American town in fall. He was in desperate need of a chilly fall day and a cup of cider. 

Sniffling, Kendrick rubbed his nose with his fingertips. The rush had finally hit his brain and he was on a roll. A knock at the door pulled his attention from the tv. He cocked an eyebrow and thought for a moment. He wasn’t expecting anyone, was he? Rising to his feet, he tied his silk bathrobe tight and padded down the corridor and wrenched open the door. The midday sun was hot in August, making the man sweat in his kimono. 

Standing on his doorstep was a man he didn’t recognize. He appeared to be around Ken’s age but his face seemed older. Hardship had marked his flesh with hard lines and bruises and he wore it well. His light eyes seemed tired, yet his gaze was steady. Ken felt naked underneath their intensity. The man was handsome in an unassuming way, not flashy but rather a hidden gem. He stirred under Kendrick’s stare. It wasn’t that he lacked confidence, Ken thought; no, he seemed to prefer to fade into the background like a wallflower. 

They introduced themselves and Kendrick was surprised to discover that it was Sunday and not, in fact, Saturday as he’d thought. Not that it really mattered anyway; it was summer, after all. Ken recalled his conversation at the beginning of the season with an old friend needing a favor. In exchange for housing for his prodigy, he’d cook all of Kendrick’s favorite dishes. Ken was a reasonable guy and agreed without hesitation, he was already thinking about the delicious food he’d been promised. But now, with the said prodigy standing before him, Kendrick had to admit he’d forgotten entirely about the deal. Despite this minor slip-up, Ken invited the stranger in and showed him around. 

He observed Maddox as he gave him a general tour. His guest was quiet but his eyes were inquisitive as he soaked up his surroundings. The small details, like the stained glass windows and the fresco murals that were usually overlooked by others, were enchanting to Maddox. That was a good sign, Ken thought. 

After their short tour, Maddox wandered off toward his bedroom. Ken took his place on the couch and resumed his lounging habits. With a wave of his hand and the sound of a summer breeze, a bottle of black nail polish appeared in his hand. He twisted the top off and painted each nail with care, periodically looking at his tv show. Once his nails were dry, he puttered around the kitchen. He wasn’t much for cooking. Well, he couldn’t cook at all, with the exception of grilled cheese or microwave Hot Pockets. Usually, his housekeeper prepared several meals for him when she worked on Mondays and Thursdays so he had something to reheat when he got hungry. But by the time Sunday rolled around, his options were minimal. He opened the freezer and frowned. He closed it and reopened it in hopes something better would appear but it didn’t. Glancing at his watch, he pursed his lips. It was nearing 8 PM and takeout was sounding better and better. They’d have to stop somewhere on the way to his appointment. 

Ken pushed the door open to his room and stepped through the gauntlet of dirty clothes. He picked a fresh wine-colored dress shirt and charcoal dress pants. They were pressed with the perfect line down the front of the leg just the way he liked it. Discarding his robe and pajamas, he slipped into his new outfit and finished it with a black leather belt. He took a moment to admire himself in the mirror; his pale blonde hair was untamed. His eyes traced the line of his jaw to the small mole beneath his lower lip. Letting out a sigh, he ran his hands through his hair once before exiting the room.  

Once he was in the living room, he texted his new housemate to meet him downstairs. A few minutes later and Maddox appeared in the mouth of the hallway. He was clad in all black, a worn sweater and jeans; even his Vans were black. Kendrick noted that the look suited him. Maddox frowned when he saw Ken. He eyed the man up and down before looking at his own clothes. 

“Should I change?” He asked. 

“No, I have a quick meeting somewhere with a dress code,” Ken said with a wave of his hand. “Do you like Chinese food?” 

“Yeah, who doesn’t?” Maddox replied dryly. 

“Weirdos, I guess.” Ken let out a laugh.

There wasn’t a food the blonde didn’t like. His favorite was the kind he didn’t have to prepare himself, though. “Alright, I’ll drive.” He grabbed a black sportcoat, slung it over his shoulder, and retrieved his keys.

Ken led the way through the glass doors and out the back. In the driveway was parked a sleek red antique Porsche sports car. It was obnoxiously expensive and a gift from Kendrick’s father, one of the many luxurious things his family showered him with rather than genuine affection. Maddox had instinctively wandered up to the hood. He ran his hand over the smooth finish. 

“I can open her up for you tomorrow. She’s an original.” Ken offered, waiting for an offer.

“Wow, yeah, I’d like that. I’ve seen my fair share of European cars but this one is a gem,” he praised. 

Ken beamed. He didn’t know much about cars, but he knew the one he had was special. Unlocking the doors, he climbed into the front seat and turned over the engine. It roared to life and Maddox was gitty with excitement. 

“Alright, first we’re picking up dinner at Hot Wok. Then I need to meet up with someone at the Midnight Riot. It’s a club in town just a few streets over from Hot Wok. Anywhere else you want to go?” Ken asked as he maneuvered out of the gravel drive and made his way down the hill. The Oxner Cathedral was a beautiful twenty-minute drive from town. It passed through farmland, lush greenery, and a few old villages. 

“No, I’m just along for the ride,” Maddox hummed, his eyes glued on the passenger window. 

Maddox wasn’t thrilled when Ken offered to pay for dinner, but he eventually relented. Kendrick handed the cashier his Black Card in exchange for several bags of Chinese food. They piled their dinner in the back and returned to their seats. The savory smell of noodles and meat filled the car. Ken’s mouth watered at the thought of tearing into the styrofoam cartons of hot food. 

After a few minutes of driving, Kendrick pulled up to an old textile factory and parked. A large black metal sign read ‘The Midnight Riot’ over the front entrance. A long line of people snaked around the street and out of sight. Maddox eyed the building warily but didn’t say anything. 

“Okay, I just need to make an appearance and then we can leave. Do you want to come in or hang out here?” Ken asked, turning to his roommate.

“I’ll stay out here. I need a smoke anyway,” he said, patting the pack of cigarettes in his front pocket as if to make a point. 

Kendrick nodded; his blonde locks fell into his eyes with the gesture. They climbed out of the car and a man in a valet uniform approached them silently. Kendrick handed him the keys and whispered something. He gave a small wave to Maddox and approached the bouncer. The two exchanged words and Kendrick erupted with laughter. People in line poked their heads out to see what was happening but were disappointed when Kendrick disappeared inside. 

Maddox wandered into the alleyway and lit a cigarette. The summer sun was nearly set and the day was starting to cool off. He wondered what kind of meeting Ken had at a nightclub on a Sunday evening. Maybe he was a hooker? To be fair, Maddox didn’t know a thing about his new roommate and he didn’t care to find out.

Inside the club, Ken made his way through a sea of sweaty bodies. Loud trap music blared overhead; its bass vibrated in his chest, making it hard for him to breathe. He squeezed past a group of people and stepped into a clearing of leather couches. A woman armored in gold sequents sat on a loveseat, one tan leg crossed over the other. Her dark hair was tied in neat Bantu knots and a gold circlet rested on her forehead. She rested her hazel eyes on Ken and smiled coyly. Patting the seat next to her, she invited Kendrick into her lion’s den. 

Without hesitation, Ken joined her and rested his knee against hers. She rested a hand on his thigh and leaned in close to speak in his ear directly. 

“Here, your majesty,” she murmured. A small white baggy appeared between her fingers and she tucked it in the front pocket of his dress shirt. “And another.” She fished out a folded piece of paper and placed it in his palm. 

Kendrick let out another warm laugh and squeezed her fingers lightly– a hundred-dollar bill passed between their grip. She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek before ushering him away. As Kendrick swam through the crowd, he stopped when he spotted a raven-haired boy at the bar. He felt a pull to approach like he was a string pulled taught.

Tian hated the feeling of waking up most days, his head feeling heavy with a mental weight that sleep only ever seemed to make heavier. His eyes stared up at the ceiling of the room he occupied that wasn’t actually his but was filled with his things, enough so as to bury anything left behind by its real owner as if he was establishing some animal-like territory by leaving things with his scent sprawled out across the space. The young man laid still even after waking. It was early; too early for his friend and owner of this overly opulent yet still somehow rustic home, Ken, to be awake. The sun was only just breaking out over the mountains in the distance, and it painted the room through the glass in a hazy-dreamlike red.

His head turned, a mess of hair sprawling out like a halo of black ink across the pillowcase, his soft green tea shaded eyes taking in the hands of a clock and trying to logic out the time in his morning daze; he had once tried to fight Ken on bringing in a normal, digital clock but Ken didn’t like the way it looked in the room and , accidentally short circuited the thing. Slowly he was able to read the time, 5:52 AM. His breath shot out in an annoyed snort before he lifted his body into a sitting position. 

For someone who had hardly gotten a good night’s sleep since he turned fourteen Tian looked quite good. But then again it was hard for someone as attractive as him to look bad. Tian was tall, having inherited his mother’s height, and stood over 190 cm with an athletic build and defined muscles. His skin wasn’t tanned but it was hard to say he was pale as he had a healthy glow about him, which was broken up by the dark black-and-white tattoos on his right arm and up his shoulder which flowed out to his back. They weren’t, however, real tattoos but intricate temporary tattoos designed by his younger sister who was working on an apprenticeship in the UK, they typically lasted about a week before fading out and looked real if one didn’t know better. His green eyes were sharp and framed with long, uncurled lashes that made his gaze look lazy and held an almost teasing flirtation too. His ink like hair was cut short at the nape but was left longer at the top, he usually left it messy as that bit of wildness seemed to suit him. He stretched lazily, his muscles flexing and coiling like a snake beneath his skin the metal of his piercings glinting in the morning light.

Tian rubbed the Mala beads wrapped twice around his left wrist as he slowly stood up from the bed, or rather the mattress, the former bedframe that had been in use in this room had been disassembled and was currently leaning against the wall as Tian preferred his mattress on the ground. The sheets pooled around his feet as he paced over to one of the many mountains of books he kept scattered about, he quickly selected one of the ones on top, “The Alchemy of Dreams: A guide to common symbolism in the psyche” not a subtle title when taking in the second line but the multitude of post-its and dog ears combined with the wear to the paperback spine showed its use. He flipped through the pages, already familiar with which passages would be useful to him.

Since adolescence Tian had started to see things in his dreams, perhaps a normal person would have probably dismissed it, but Tian was hardly ordinary. These sorts of visions were not merely relegated to his dreams, he saw oddities even when awake. His mother often said those of her family had “sight” beyond what others could see. This wasn’t totally insane since his mother descended from Odin, so several family members had similar abilities though from what he knew his mother’s ability was especially powerful. In the day his visions were hazy, as if he saw them through smoke, and normally pertained to specific places or people allowing him to know things he should not be able to. And at night these visions were no longer bound by sight but instead played out in his mind’s eye much larger and more complex and admittedly draining for time meant for rest. Last night he’d seen himself sitting in a red tinted room, blindfolded while strangers without faces danced and fought around him. A fire slowly consumed the crowd while he sat unbothered even when the walls and floor were cracking. All the while he was holding tightly to a red string that seemed as if it would unravel at any second. Tian knew what the red string represented but the rest of the dream was a fucking mystery, and he really didn’t have the brain power to figure it out. Plopping back down on the bed he flipped through various books while scrawling barely legible notes on the edges while he worked out what it was meant to represent in the real, logical world. 

A reminder went off on his phone, a simple alarm telling him to head out to meet his younger brother, Xiaowen, to help him settle into the dorms since he would be enrolling this semester. Tian technically lived in the dorms but Elijah wasn’t there to kick him out of his room so he was staying until he couldn’t. Honestly Tian wasn’t sure his roommate would recognize him even if he did bother to show up to their room during regular waking hours. Tian hadn’t realized how much time had passed while he was absorbed trying to figure out about his weird dream and whatever meaning his omniscience was trying to communicate to him.

The Chinese-German student leisurely walked to the bathroom, not too worried about making his baby of a brother wait a few extra minutes. Tian was prepared to Ken’s politely veiled complaints about being flashed when he exited his room without getting dressed but as he walked down the hall to the bathroom, he could hear the sound of the TV from the living room and realized the blonde had probably gotten his fix and wasn’t going to be moving without reason. Ducking into the bathroom Tian roughly washed his face, brushed his teeth and combed through his ink black hair before slinking back to his bedroom and getting dressed.

He dressed comfortably in ripped blue jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and comfortable sneakers. Before leaving his room, he shoved his wallet and phone into his back pocket with a pack of cigarettes while carrying his helmet and keys in one hand while he approached the door. Tian paused with his hand around the doorknob of his room, he could feel something creeping up his spine like a warning. He could feel that he wasn’t meant to open the door. Swallowing a groan of frustration, he dropped his hand and turned away from the door. Trying not to grind his teeth he strode over to the casement window and opened it; he flung his helmet out before easily lifting himself over the windowsill. He didn’t bother with closing the window since he may have to use it to come back if this feeling was still there, so he just didn’t want to bother. Putting on his helmet he jogged to the front of the house and hopped on his motorcycle to head towards the center of the city where the university was located.

Tian spent most of his day trying to wrangle his brother in while unpacking him in the dorm, after a few hours of that he couldn’t help but wonder if they made adult-sized child leashes because if anyone needed one it was Xiaowen. That boy had the same energy as a husky that wasn’t being exercised properly by its owners. At least the day hadn’t been a total wash while speaking with Xiaowen Tian had gotten a clue about what his dream may have been trying to tell him.

That was why at sunset he was speeding across the city towards the more fringe, district bordering southern Vienna. This district that bled into the Industrieviertel quarter was dotted with old, abandoned factories left over from the industrial revolution period of Europe. Over the past decade these properties have been bought up and refurbished and reimagined into trendy restaurants, apartments, and underground clubs. It was one of those clubs that he was on his way to now. The club was called “The Midnight Riot” and Tian had gone there a few times with Sable; Sable was a younger student Tian had met by chance in his own dorm room being pinned beneath his roommate during the smaller boy’s first semester. An awkward first meeting to be sure but Tian had quickly learned that Sable wasn’t shy enough to get embarrassed about his escapades and the two ended up becoming friends. He vaguely recalled running into Ken here once or twice, but he’d never actually come to the club with him.

To avoid the valet attendant Tian parked his motorcycle by the back of the building, confident in the knowledge that a normal person would be able to try and steal it. Cutting through the alley on the side of the building towards the front of the club Tian caught sight of the old and rusted fire escape staircase, it was broken at the bottom and clearly wasn’t functional anymore, but it made him recall the fire from his dream. Tian was able to easily scale up the wall using the dumpster as a steppingstone and the rough texture of the bricks to dig his hands into, once the fire escape was in range, he leapt towards it and hoisted himself up. Was he sure this was the place his dream meant to indicate to him? No, not at all. Did that matter? No, not really. There had been plenty of times Tian had incorrectly interpreted his dreams, no matter how badly he fucked it up the visions would come to pass with or without his intervention. It was merely that going along with the dreams instead of going against them went better.

Tian absently dangled his legs through the railing while leaning back to look up at the sky. The city was too close and light pollution was too high for mortals to see the stars, but his eyes drank them in greedily. From below him he heard the noise of a lighter clicking as someone lit up below him. Peering down from his perch he could see a young man with messy dark hair and even darker shadows bellow his eyes. Looking at him Tian felt his lung tighten, like the air had been knocked out his lungs. There was subtle halo through the haze as his green eyes drank in the boy. The boy was just like him and Ken, they had a magic bloodline, it was a strong halo as well so likely a strong bloodline and connection to his heritage, but Tian didn’t recognize the boy.

Conscience of the nearly full pack of smokes in his back pocket he spoke up, “Mind if I bum a smoke?” Tian’s lips curled as the boy looked around for a bit before his head snapped up to see Tian. Before hearing the boy’s response Tian stood up and then dangled himself off the ledge so he could drop down to where the boy was. By the time he landed he saw the boy extending a cigarette towards him. He took the cigarette with his lips; Tian never carried lighters, normally he just produced the flame himself to light up his smokes and angled it so that no one would notice any strangeness. Rather than asking for a light from the boy Tian playfully leaned in towards the boy, pressing the ends of their cigarettes, the two were close enough to feel each other’s body heat through the coolness of the summer night setting in. Slowly as Tian sucked in air through the cigarette it slowly lit up.

The heat of the summer mid-day seemed to seep into the building as Sable walked around his apartment watering his parched plants. The apartment was absolutely covered in plants, they hung from the ceiling, were stacked up in greenhouse like armoires, sat out on tables, and basked in the sunlight by absolutely every window. Sable carried the yellow glass water can that resembled a tall kettle about towards the plants that called out to him. Of course, the plants didn’t call out to him with voices but with feelings. It was his unique bloodline, a descendant of Hades and more accurately his bride Persephone, which allowed him to feel and understand the plants. As he watered them, he curled his fingers around their stems gently or lightly touched their leaves letting their feelings of happiness and contentment fill his mind. As he watered the forget-me-nots by his bedroom window, he felt the happiness of sunlight and water, the subtle reminders of his care towards them boosted his own mood in return.

The noises of Vienna carried in through the open window along with the heat; it was so hot Sable could hardly wear proper clothing, he walked around his apartment wearing just loose shorts to try and keep cool. There was really no other way to describe Sable than ‘pretty’, he did not have a masculine beauty but a more androgenous or even feminine beauty that made him almost universally attractive. Sable was a small, thinly built young man with pearl toned pale skin that set off the black, lightly curled locks of hair. His pale blue, upturned fox eyes were so similar to those of his mother and older sister, with exceptionally long black lashes. His features were delicate but had a sharpness to them that made him feel cold. His pink toned lips were shaped to sit in a natural pout.

Finally finished with watering his plants he sat down in the open window of his bedroom, his hand buried inside the mixed geranium that grew in his windowsill box, the vibrant colors of pink, purple, magenta, red, and even the cooler blue and white happily transmitted their feelings to him as he listened to the noise of his neighbors upstairs. The couple was going at it again. Sable hadn’t previously thought of himself as a voyeur, but it was hard to ignore the pair when they were so loud, Sable was convinced the pair liked to keep their windows open just for this purpose and not because the older style of the building they lived in lacked an air conditioning unit. The window style of these buildings was too inconvenient for a portable air conditioning unit and even if they weren’t those units were far too ugly for Sable to even consider getting one; he’d rather suffer in the heat than live with one of those things.

The day waned on while Sable mostly kept to his apartment, he ate a simple lunch of a thick slice of bakery fresh bread lathered with butter and a spread of creamed lemon honey paired with some goat cheese and slices of watermelon radish. But as night came closer Sable got ready to leave; as much as Sable loved his plant children and positive emotions they gave him, he still craved human interaction and the affections of others. He took a quick shower to wash off the sweat which had accumulated on his skin during the heat of the day. After drying off he put on makeup, he wore a powdery, velvety eye makeup look that started with a light lilac color in the inner corner of his eye and had a gradient fade to dark violet towards the outer corner following his black liner, he accented it with a light glittery porcelain white beneath the eye blended with some pink; and a fantastically vibrant pink lip gloss that looked almost wet on his lips.

With his face applied he went through his closet to find a good look; finally landing on a ribbed, short sleeved mini crop top in bumblebee yellow to contrast his eye makeup, a pair of black cargo caps with buckle waistband and gold chains with a pair of simple, black tanga briefs that showed off his shapely ass. He tucked his wallet and phone into one of the many pockets of the pants and tore through his closet for a cute pair of black, zip up boots that tucked just beneath the tapered ankle of the pants before ordering an Uber to take him to the south end of the city where the club was located.

Walking into the dimly lit club with its illuminated dance floor casting shadows upwards towards the dancers and the RGB lit DJ playing some EDM song that was mostly bass and could be felt in bones of the listeners, Sable felt alive. Sable had been a regular at The Midnight Riot since it first opened a couple months ago. He’d heard a rumor that the last club the owner had, had been shut down right before a sting operation to avoid any issues with the rather elite partiers the scene attracted.

As soon as he walked onto the dance floor, intending to head to the bar to get something to cut through the heat he was feeling he saw a young man approaching him. It was hard to make out the man’s features in the lighting but if they were confident enough to approach Sable, they had to be at least decent looking. Even before the approach Sable could feel an electric tingle at the promise of connection.

Unfortunately, a voice cut through his excitement rather rudely. “Ugh, of course you’re here, why is it your so insistent on following me around like a little lost duckling,” Sable rolled his eyes before he even bothered to look at the person addressing him. There was only one person he knew with that grating tone that would bother raising their voice to make a scene here. Felicie. Sable’s older half-sister and the fourth child of their mother. Regretfully Sable saw the attractive man who was approach him divert his path in another direction.

Turning to look, he let out a sigh as Felicie approached him with her usual band of four girls, they were all girls from weaker bloodlines who clung onto the little power Felicie had a child of the Lamberg family, even if she was denied the Lamberg name. “Felicie,” Sable greeted dryly, “I’d say it’s a shock to see you at the same club as me, but it really isn’t.”

“That’s because you’re a loser stalker who desperately chasing after me,” Felicie immediately cut in before Sable could say anything that might make the few onlookers eavesdropping on her very loud confrontation get the idea that contradicted her narrative. Several of those onlookers were doing little more than leering at his sister. Which was understandable, the Lambergs were very attractive people and Felicie’s father was specifically chosen by their mother for his good looks. The light purple sequined dress she wore was both tight and short and showed off her enviable figure. It was really no wonder that so many guys feel for her, if she wasn’t so hell bent on chasing after Sable’s scraps, she’d probably be a lot happier. 

Sable wasn’t in the mood to be part of her little circus, “Look Felicie, can you just leave me alone? I’m sure you have one of my exes to entertain tonight, so just go bother them instead. Okay? Okay.”Sable didn’t wait to hear whatever it was, she was going to screech at him, so he quickly made his way over to the bar to order something to drink. The packed club wasn’t doing anything to relieve the heat of summer, so he was already feeling himself sweating lightly.

At the bar Sable saw the usual bartender, a busty woman who he knew was of a mixed bloodline supposedly related to Dionysus which would explain her excellent skills at crafting drinks. She smiled at the dark haired boy as he approached the bar, her green eyes sparkling with an almost manic glint. Sable knew due to her weaker bloodline she was more affected by his own bloodline; it wasn’t an intentional effect of his part but occasionally his powers would passively make people fall for him, it normally only affected mortals or those with weak bloodlines so it was rarely something that would cause him too much trouble but he did dislike when women became enamored with him. “What can I get for you?”

“I’ll take a Wet P*ssy cocktail,” She laughed at the name, it was his usual order, he pulled out his black card and handed it to her before she started making the drink. The Wet P*ssy cocktail was a fruity drink with raspberry vodka, gin, peach schnapps, coconut rum, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and lemon juice with edible glitter, served in a frosted Collins glass over round ice balls and an orange twist to garnish. It was a sort of boozy, pink fruit punch.

Sable took a sip of the pink and glittery drink when the bartender slid it over to him. The fruity taste was sweet and refreshing and he felt the coolness of it seep into his already overheated body. “How is it?” The bartender asked, leaning towards Sable so the young man could hear. If he were straight, he probably would have gotten distracted looking down her shirt as she pressed up against the bar.

Fortunately, Sable was as gay as his pink concoction indicated. “Perfect,” He answered with a smile, “I’ll keep a tab until I decide to leave, is that okay?”

“Sure, if you leave before grabbing it you know how to get it back,” The bartender gave a wink to the boy. Sable had left his card here several times before when he left with friends. Sable just smiled and nodded his head. He never felt guilty about it, the bar got paid and he got to have fun and he’d definitely come back for the card later.

The black haired boy turned on his heel, planning to dance and drink and possibly go home with that young man who had tried to approach him before Felicie had showed up screeching at him. The momentum of his spin had him colliding with a body that was pressed dangerously close to him. His drink splashed onto the man’s deep red button up painting the color an even darker hue as Sable was pressed up against the firm muscles of his torso, “Shit, I’m so sor-”

Looking up Sable’s eyes nearly dilated from drinking in the near statuesque perfection of the man’s face. He had an angular but not un-soft face with a defined jaw and his grey eyes looked shadowed from how much taller he was than Sable. His muddy pink lips seemed to have a curl to them and were gently accentuated by the mole that dotted beneath them. His champagne colored hair was tousled but not in an unstylish way. Sable had half a mind to reach up and draw the man down towards his mouth for his good looks alone.

In fact, he may well have if the other wasn’t so recognizable, “Prince Charming! Oh, sorry, um,” Sable internally cursed. Of course, he had to literally run into Augustus Kendrick, the veritable prince of Saint Francis and the main target of Felicie’s affections. Sable didn’t actually know Augustus, but he certainly knew of him, and his family. Both of their families were old bloodlines that had descended from the prominent Olympic pantheon. Sable had met his sister, Elena, once at a party; she was a beautiful girl who seemed a bit like Sable himself. “I apologize, Augustus, I didn’t realize the star of campus was behind me. Feel free to bill me for you dry cleaning if that stains,” Sable wanted to stay and look at the boy more, hell he wanted to do plenty more than just look at him if given the chance but as much of a piece of shit as his sister was when it came to those Sable dated and slept with it didn’t mean he felt the need to stoop to her level and go after someone she was interested in. Hell, if Felicie went after Augustus, then maybe she’d leave Sable alone for once. So, it was really in his best interest to put some distance between himself and this storybook Prince Charming.

muta| ken |   45d ago

A wave of bodies crashed into Kendrick nearly knocking him to the floor. One of the drunk girls who'd knocked into him slurred an apology. When she recognized him, she quickly brushed a sweaty strand of hair out of her face and tried to speak to him properly. Uninterested, Ken did he best to let her down gently and turned his attention back to the boy he'd see earlier. Much to his disappointment, the raven-haired boy had disappeared. Glancing at his flashy old-wrist watch, he decided he could spare a few minutes looking before he had to return to Maddox. Running his fingers through his messy pale hair, he let out a deep breath. The volume of the music kept time with his pulse–bump, bump, bump.

Magenta and cerulean lights spiraled over-head, catching the expensive liquor glasses and flashy nightwear that adorned the Midnight Riot guests. Kendrick pushed forwards towards the bar. He passed several people who begged for his attention but he waved them off, he'd left his princely facade with the valet. It was hard to find anyone in the dense crowd and despite Ken's height, he couldn't see over the bobbing heads and dancing bodies. Just as he was turning to leave, a small figure collided with him. A wet, sticky liquid splattered his chest and soak through to his skin. The smell of fruit assaulted his nostrils mixing with the scent of sweat and cigarettes of the nightclub.  

A small swear came from  assailant and an apology but he was cut off when he saw Kendrick's face. His light eyes were wide with shock and recognition. “Prince Charming! Oh, sorry, um,” he paused, searching for his words, “I apologize, Augustus, I didn’t realize the star of campus was behind me. Feel free to bill me for you dry cleaning if that stains,” he apologized again, more formally this time. 

Ken winced at the sound of his full name but he gave the boy a smooth smile. He didn't recognize him but Ken was surprised to note he was even prettier up close. His doe-like eyes were wide and caught the party lights like a gemstone, reflecting the colors back in fractals of blues and pinks. Kendrick was significantly taller than the stranger so he had to leaned down to speak directly into his ear. As much as he enjoyed the club, he hated yelling. "Don't worry about it. And please, Augustus is my fatherYou can call me Kendrick," he said, his smile steeping his words. The sweet smell of an expensive perfume lingered at the nape of the boy's neck. Ken swallowed hard, he wanted to drink in the sugary scent. Desire was an old friend Kendrick never expected to see again let alone at a club on a Sunday. He wanted to steal the boy and hoard him for himself, like a dragon with a princess. Even the boy's voice has been delightful over the sound of the loud trance music. "Have breakfast with me and we'll call it even," Ken said instinctively, his boldness unsurprising. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. Catching a glimpse of his watchface, he swore to himself. He'd already been there too long. "Listen, I gotta run, but I look forward to seeing you again," he said gently tilted the boy's chin up with his knuckle before disappearing into to crowd. 


It was dark when Kendrick emerged from the club, the night air was cool and bit at the wet stain on his shirt. His chest felt weird with the absence of the loud bass and roar of the crowd. He smelled something savory like pizza coming from the storefront next door. His stomach rumbled, remembering the Chinese food waiting for him in the car. Glancing around the corner he spotted Maddox, his roommate's looming presence only illuminated by a cigarette ember. 


The princely boy smiled down at him, and again Sable was tempted just to yank the other’s head down so that he could taste him. Seriously, who gave this man the right to be so damn handsome? Sable vaguely wondered if this was how other people felt towards him when they were affected by his ability. The blonde leaned down, his frame towering and encapsulating Sable with the action; the other’s breath was hitting his neck as he spoke directly into his ear drowning out the club with his voice. “Don’t worry about it. And please, Augustus is my father,” Sable couldn’t help the small laugh that escaped him at that terrible line but nearly felt his knees go out when he continued speaking, You can call me Kendrick.”

Sable was pretty sure he’d call Kendrick whatever he asked if continued to in this manner; darling, babe, daddy, God, whatever he wanted Sable would gladly say. Every time the boy breathed out and his breath hit Sable’s skin, he felt his spine tingle with excitement. His earlier thought of putting distance between himself and the other seemed like a joke now. “Have breakfast with me and we’ll call it even,” Sable’s first thought was that the boy was inviting him to spend the night with him, something Sable was familiar with; breakfast was simply the invitation but to his surprise Kendrick pulled out a card and slipped it into Sable’s free hand which at some point had snuck its way to press against Kendrick’s chest. “Listen, I gotta run, but I look forward to seeing you again.” Kendrick tilted Sable’s head up as if to force the smaller boy to look more deeply at him, his knuckle leaving a searing stretch of skin beneath Sable’s chin before he disappeared.

Almost dazed, Sable turned his blue eyes down to look at the card Kendrick had slipped into his grasp. Augustus Zachariah Leroy Kendrick V, the almost pompously long name stared back at him embossed in golden calligraphy with a cell number printed neatly beneath it. He laughed looking at it, “What kind of college student has business cards to give out to people they want to hook up with?” He was a player, clearly. Sable almost felt bad about it, but he wasn’t in any place to judge others. Felicie would screech and throw a tantrum if she saw Sable with this. He knew well how much his half sister desired this particular boy, all the others she chased were just to get some reaction and feed her insane desire to one-up Sable, but this was the only one she wanted just for her own sake. For a moment he contemplated just giving the card to her, but the bitter taste that filled his mouth at that thought was too much for him entertain the idea any longer. Felicie and Sable were not so close as to facilitate a favor like that. If she wanted to chase after Kendrick she could do so, but she’d do it without his assistance.

Sable took a sip of his drink, the level much lower than before. “I spilled like half of it,” He laughed again, thinking of the wet stain he’d left on Kendrick. His head was filled with the blonde and the card in his pocket seemed to promise that he’d think of him again but for now he didn’t want to think. He could think about him tomorrow.

Almost like a cursed promise Sable spent the rest of the night focused more on the card which sat in his pocket next to his phone than on anything else. When he finally went home around 3 AM he’d done little more than think about Kendrick and his charming smile and feel of his breath on Sable’s neck.

Sable had slept in the same top he’d gone out in and his tanga briefs, his cargo chaps were resting on the floor next to his shoes. Laying on his bed he had Kendrick’s card in his hand. “I shouldn’t call him. I should definitely not call him. I should just toss this out. I’m going to toss this out.” Despite his repeated statements he made absolutely no motions to move to throw out the card or even get off the bed. At this point he could probably recite the number without looking at the business card.

Sable couldn’t even think of any positive to calling the number, besides the obvious of getting to hear the other’s voice and potentially getting to see out some of the fantasy he’d had of the boy all night. “I should not call him.”

“I think you should call him, whoever this ‘him’ is,” The voice came from outside Sable’s open window. Getting up Sable peeked his head out the window and looked up, the voice had clearly belonged to his neighbor; her French accent and tone was very distinctive. It felt awkward to look at her given how much of her he had heard in the recent month.

“Good morning,” He sheepishly greeted, “sorry if I was bothering you. I was just…”

“Trying to talk yourself out of calling a boy?” She asked, clearly having heard him and his dilemma. 

“Yeah, I really shouldn’t call him, it wouldn’t be a good idea,” He explained still fingering the card.

The woman took a drag of her cigarette, seeming very interested in the drama of the boy below her, “Why not?”

“Because he’s attractive?” Sable refused to admit that he was so attractive that looking at him made Sable feel like he was going to drown in him. She snorted as if to say, “how could that be a reason not call”, “He’s attractive, and popular, and clearly a player, and my sister likes him.”

“Oh, so you’re giving up on him because you love your sister?” Asked with an almost sagely tone.

Sable, to his credit, pulled a face like someone had squeezed a lemon directly onto his tongue. “Gods no. I hate my sister. She’s a demon from hell on the best of days. If she finds out I hooked up with the guy she was interested in, I’ll never hear the end of it.”

A laugh sounded above him, “Then you have to call him. You can’t let your demon sister have him, the poor boy. His only sin is to be attractive and as for being a player… Are you not one yourself?”

Sable grumbled, clearly the many people he had brought home over the course of the last eight months hadn’t gone unnoticed by his neighbors. He could only imagine the reputation he had gained among them. “Fine, I’ll call him, maybe.”

“Yes, and tell me all about your liaison with this attractive man when you’re finished,” She winked at Sable through the puff of smoke she blew out.

Back in his apartment he flopped onto his bed after grabbing his phone. Holding up the card he entered the number into his contacts. It would be simple enough to call and breakfast could just be breakfast. Right? Sable promised himself that Kendrick didn’t answer he’d throw out the card and never call again. 

muta| maddox |   45d ago

Sirens wailed from a few streets over, the sound echoing in the large alley way. Some things never changed city to city, the faint roar of cars flying up and down the streets, soft voices on balconies and laughter from couples strolling up and down the sidewalks, the smell of greasy food and trash. Maddox had to admit the night life was a comfort. He wasn't sure he would easily adjust to the quite old church yard and unique roommate. However, he promised Papa Gio he'd try his best and there was no letting the man down. Taking a drag off his cigarette, he exhaled through his nose; the bitter tobacco burned his nostrils. 

A loud creak overhead caught his attention and a voice called out to him. Instinctively, he reached for the knife in his pocket, but the voice was too fast for him. A boy his age loomed next to him, his heat haunting at his side. Maddox couldn't get a good look at his face but he had a feeling his knife would be useless against someone like this stranger. He had an energy about him that Maddox didn't understand. As the man stepped into the setting sunlight, Maddox caught a better look. He was handsome like a movie star, broad shoulders and a slender waist. His face was all angles and thick locks of dark hair that ignited like bronze in the summer evening light. Maddox's eyes fell on the exposed flesh at the man's collarbone, pale against his white tee shirt. He swallowed hard and squared his shoulders to appear more confident rather than allowing himself to gawk any longer. He hadn't caught what the man said at first but the way he leaned in, Maddox registered he'd asked for a smoke. 

Fishing into his pocket, he pulled out another cigarette and handed it over. To his dismay, the man took the smoke between his lips and pressed himself in close enough to light it off of the one in Maddox's mouth. Their bodies were so close, Mads could smell the man's cool aftershave and sweat. A shiver snaked up his spin and goosebumps blanketed his skin, betraying his almost calm demeanor. After the cigarette was lit, Maddox expected the man to move aside but he didn't, their shoulders brushed making his skin tingle. 

Growing up, Maddox never understood why he felt so charged around other men his age. He thought maybe it was the desire to impress his peers or some sort of innate primal instinct to bond with his species, but once high school hit, he realized it might be something else–something more. But that was a secret Maddox never touched. It was a secret he kept in his lock box right next to his first kiss with Daniel Locke and the time he crashed his foster parent's Lexus on prom night. 

Maddox took another hit and then cleared his throat. When he smoked with the boys back at Vito's, the conversation was good and plenty. But now that he was alone again, he wasn't sure he knew how to make small talk. He was out of practice and this stranger was a little intimidating. 

"Nice night," he said, nonchalantly. With a free hand, he gestured to the now-blackened, sky. The yellow of the city lights turned the smog pink. Faint twinkles of starlight flickered just at the edge of Maddox's vision just enough for him to know they were there. He opened his mouth to say something but closed it. There was something familiar about the man but he couldn't put his finger on it. Maybe he was famous? No, it wasn't that. He was familiar the way a classmate was, someone you saw every day in the hallway or jumped into in the lunchroom. A boy from a dream. 

As the cigarette lit up in the dark alleyway Tian didn’t move away from the boy, he stood just as close as before, his body still slightly curled towards the other. Their shoulders touched and Tian almost chuckled when he felt the small shiver the other tried to suppress. There was an almost magnetic pull between the two young men.

Tian didn’t pull back his gaze as his light green eyes traced over the details of the other man who seemed lost in his own mind. His own mind pulled up images of his dream and the red thread that had tied this boy to him. Fate was a weird subject for Tian, he couldn’t really say he believed in it or that he didn’t. Was fate really fate if he knew it would come to fruition? Tian didn’t try to pull the boy into some stilted or forced conversation with him, he could be more than content just watching him.

The young man cleared his throat as he drew in another breath of his cigarette and this time Tian couldn’t help the chuckle that gently racked his body. He couldn’t help but lean in just a bit closer, amused by the others’ reactions to him. “Nice night,” the boy tried to pass off his uncomfortability with small talk. His hand gestured vaguely to the sky as night set into the city. Rather than looking up where the boy seemed to be directing attention Tian continued to stare at him.

He hummed in response, not really agreeing or disagreeing with the statement, Tian wasn’t much for small talk, and he didn’t see much point in talking about the weather or the night. Taking a drag from the stolen cigarette he leaned even closer to the boy the way he had when he lit his cigarette up. “I want to know your name,” Tian confessed, his free arm snaking out to touch the boy’s waist. His thumb rubbed against the rough texture of the boy’s waistband.

muta| maddox |   45d ago


The stranger hummed absently; Maddox could feel his intense stare hanging on his every movement. The attention made him a little uneasy; he'd always been a wallflower, unnoticed and uninteresting. Sweat pricked at his browline and he tried to ease his nerves by clearing his throat again. Maddox kicked himself internally, he was rarely knocked off balance yet here he was shaking like a dog in front of a wolf. 

“I want to know your name,” the man murmured–the words reverberated in Maddox's chest. His heart skipped a beat when he felt fingertips press against his hip bone. The cigarette in his hand slipped from his fingertips, landing soundless on the cobblestone. Maddox was frozen for a moment, encapsulated by his captor. He forced himself to crush the still-lit butt beneath his black Vans, never taking his eyes from the stranger. 

"Maddox Klein," he answered slowly. His name felt foreign in his mouth. He wasn't sure why he gave his name so freely but he felt there was nothing he wouldn't tell this man. His head told him to run but his body denied the request, it screamed with the desire to press closer, drink more. "And you are?" He asked; his voice finally falling into a more casual range. Maddox searched the stranger's pale green eyes for his own answer. Why was he so familiar? His voice, his scent, even the way their bodies fit together felt easy and known. Realization washed over him, chilling the heat burning from head to toe.

Months earlier, Maddox had the same dream three nights in a row. Everything came to him in threes like the past, present, and future. He'd found himself in a meadow caged by stretching evergreens, the smell of winter clung to his senses despite the flowers beneath him in full bloom. Wildlife haunted the woods; he couldn't see them but he felt their eyes, watching and waiting. In the patch of wildflowers, another man waited for him; the midmorning sun blanketing his skin in a warm glow. A falcon called overhead, drawing Maddox's attention away from the boy. When he looked back, the boy was draped in his lap like he'd always been there. Maddox had a strange tilting sensation, like he was in two places at once. A string of rich red beads tethered one of Maddox's wrists to the boy in his lap. 

The two slumbered and lounged together until the sun set and when night came, the boy disappeared from Maddox's grasp. An unbearable ache always woke Maddox from his dream when the boy left, tears streaked his cheeks, his chest throbbing. At the time, Maddox thought it was from drinking too much hot chocolate before bed, but now, with the boy from his dreams standing next to him, he felt the world tilting again. 

A hundred questions came to mind and before he could decide on where to start, the familiar sing-song voice of his roommate stole the moment. Maddox couldn't hide his disappointment. This wasn't the kind of thing for prying eyes and suddenly Maddox remembered the man's hand on his waist. 

"Hey Mads, ready to go?" He called at the mouth of the alley; the streetlights backlit his tall frame giving him a pale halo. 

Great, he had a nickname for him now, Maddox thought. He turned to say something to the stranger and was surprised to see he was alone. Frowning, panic bubbled in his chest. Had he imagined it? It wouldn't be the first time he'd seen things that weren't really there but he'd thought it was under control. Hesitating for just a moment, Maddox scanned the alleyway for his ghost. But to his disappointment, he truly was alone.

"Yeah, coming." Maddox replied, dragging himself towards Kendrick.


muta| ken |   44d ago

Kendrick flicked his eyes to where his roommate was staring down the alleyway but he saw nothing but darkness. After a few long moments, Maddox trailed after Kendrick towards the main road. The car was parked at the curb with a young valet waiting for them. A few people in line for the club ogled the flashy vehicle but Ken ignored the attention. He'd grown accustomed to staring eyes in his childhood; it didn't matter what he did or what he wore, he was always the center of attention. His mother loved to dress him up and parade him around like a small dog in frilly dresses. He was her precious little doll, her flashy toy. 

The smell of warm Chinese food soaked the interior of the car. Ken's mouth watered as he imagined tearing into his dinner right at the steering wheel. "I'm starving. You ready to head home and gorge ourselves into a food coma?" Ken asked and he pulled into traffic. He glanced over his shoulder and merged onto the one-way street, the Midnight Riot disappearing in his rearview mirror. 

"Yes, I'm starving," Maddox replied, his eyes fixated out the passenger window. His attention seemed far away but Ken didn't care to ask. Maddox would share if he wanted to, Ken though. They were strangers after all. 

When the boys pulled into the driveway of Oxner Cathedral, it was nearing 10:30 pm. Ken gave Maddox an apology as he unlocked the back door and led them into the dark kitchen. He'd thought the outing would have been short and sweet, but someone short and sweet had caught his attention. 

Maddox took a seat at the marble kitchen island as Kendrick unloaded the Chinese food. They'd acquired noodles, rice, chicken, shrimp, beef, and pork dishes. Takeout containers covered the countertop corner to corner. Maddox seemed a little uncomfortable at the amount of choices but Kendrick urged him to dig in. After a few moments of uncomfortable hesitation, his roommate caved and began piling his plate. Kendrick filled a bowl with a little bit of everything, the sauces mingling in a dark pool. Sweet and savory scents filled his nose as he took the three steps into the attached living room. He'd shed his sport coat and dress shoes and sunk into the couch. Flicking the TV on, he picked up where he'd left off with Gilmore Girls earlier that morning. 

A few minutes into the show, Maddox joined Ken on the couch. The boy was careful to stick to his corner and carefully kept them from accidentally touching each other. Ken thought the action was peculiar but he didn't judge. 

"What are you watching?" Maddox asked genuinely through a mouth full of noodles, sauce clinging to the corner of his mouth.

Ken's eyes snapped to Maddox, a dramatic expression plaguing his face. "You don't know Gilmore Girls? What do you watch in the fall to get you in the mood for sweaters and pumpkin spice?" He demanded. 

"Uh, I guess I like horror movies. But I honestly don't-didn't have time for TV I guess," he corrected with a shrug of his shoulders. There wasn't any shame or sadness in his tone, just honestly. He said it like he'd report the weather or say the sky is blue. 

Kendrick frowned and wondered how often his roommate actually got to relax. He'd noticed the calluses on his hands and his muscular body when they'd met but Ken hadn't thought about how he'd gotten that way. 

"Hmm, we'd better start with the first episode to get the full experience," Ken decided

The two sat and chatted through a few episodes as they filled their bellies. Maddox seemed to get into the show and began to understand the appeal of a small New England town. 

"Alright, I wish Stars Hollow was real," Maddox admitted as he placed his empty plate on the coffee table. He pulled his legs into a crossed position and leaned into the couch cushion. During their marathon, Maddox had nestled under the handmaid quilt Kendrick had pulled over his legs. Kendrick was happy his roommate was beginning to relax. 

"You and me both. I try to capture the magic of a small town here in Oxner but it's not the same." Ken said with a wave of his hands. His family always pointed out the way he talked with his hands and how unprofessional it was, but it was a habit he couldn't kick nor did he particularly want to. "At least we have the lovely Norway Maple growing on this very holy ground," he said, gesturing to the window. "It's gorgeous here in the fall."

"I'd like to see that," Maddox said with a yawn. 

Kendrick beamed. His roommate wanted to stay and that was enough. 

muta| elijah |   42d ago

“Did you really give up my room?” Eli said into the phone pinched between his ear and shoulder. He was multitasking by scribbling in a notebook balanced in his lap and nibbling on a piece of toast. Exams were barreling towards him at a breakneck pace and he was feeling the heat. Despite his photographic memory, he did have to arrange the wild thoughts and ideas that brawled in his mind. 

“Well, yeah. I thought you’d be gone the whole year. Most people don’t test out of their program.” Kendrick explained on the other end. Eli had lived with Kendrick over the last decade, whether it was in the guest bedroom of his childhood home or the Oxner Cathedral. He’d been the only constant friend in his lifetime besides Tian. 

Kendrick had been a force to reckon with and Eli was still feeling the aftermath of their friendship ten years later. The two had met in school the year of Eli’s 9th birthday and he remembered the day vividly. During his primary school years, Eli had recoiled on himself and rarely spoke, even when spoken to. Adults and children alike didn’t like having their feelings analyzed or their lives meddled with, causing a lot of disproportionate anger directed at the young boy. His peers avoided him, and his teachers scrutinized him. Augustus Zachariah Leroy Kendrick the V was a warm summer sun on his cold winter heart. Just being in his presence melted his hard exterior and welcomed spring. Eli was impressed by the sheer openness that Kendrick had; he felt things so deeply and unburdened. He’d promised himself little by little that he’d bloom like Ken.

“It’s not my fault the Americans are so behind in their education. I don’t know vat I expected. I thought maybe they’d have something to teach me,” he exclaimed, his German accent making an appearance on his vowels and his w’s. 

Laughter erupted on the other line causing Eli to break out into a smile. “Vat, Vat? I’m serious.” He chuckled. 

“Okay, fine. I hear you. So when do you move out of the dorm? I’ve been in contact with my contractor. I’m imagining a sleek double garage with a studio apartment. Thoughts?” His friend had always been a dreamer and a bit of an architect buff. Of course, that was how the man had ended up buying a 16th-century catholic church and restoring it single-handedly. 

“Hmm, alright. But I want a walk-in closet and a fancy stone shower,” Eli replied indignantly. He had a luxurious taste and wouldn’t be ashamed. “Oh, miss? Yes, you,” he called to a tall woman who’d strolled passed him in the library. She stopped and looked over her shoulder; her long blonde hair tousled with the motion, glittering gold like warm honey. “I see a small child in your future. Brown hair, brown eyes, Italian father. You should take a pregnancy test and tell your boyfriend. No, vait, your hookup from last Monday,” Eli remarked, tapping his pencil to his chin. 

The woman stared at him incredulously. Fury, then understanding, washed over her round face. A gasp escaped her lips and she hurried from the room without another word. 

“Sorry, vat vere ve talking about?” He said into the phone. 

“That power of yours is crazy, Elijah Krämer. You just ruined that poor girl’s day,” Ken said, unable to hide his impression. 

“Vat? I didn’t ruin her day any more than a child would,” he sniffed indignantly. “Alright, I have to go. I expect the apartment to be done by the time I get back. Tschüss” he said and hung up the phone. 

“Maddox Klein,” The boy answered, crushing his cigarette under his worn shoes to snuff it out. He could tell the boy was truthful, the truth felt different than lies and he’d encountered enough lies to know all of the different ways a lie could feel. He’d felt sharp lies, full of hate and ambition, soft lies, like a warm blanket or his mother’s arms trying to shield from a harsher truth, sweet lies spoken in between sweat stained sheets that felt of empty promises and parting, or even cold lies that hung with a weighty sadness, the kind of lies ones told more to themselves than to others. Sable sang in sweet yet cold lies, Ken was covered in his cold lies like they were his armor, and Elijah refused to carry the weight of any lies whether to others or to himself; Tian wondered what lies Maddox would whisper to him, he wondered if he would be willing to swallow them so long as they were said in the tones of his voice?

Tian could feel how aware of him the other boy was, the air between them seemed to hum with electricity and magic. The Hong Kong native vaguely wondered if he was the cause of that, control had never been his strong suit and he was as impulsive as his mother at times; this wouldn’t be the first incident his lighting element caused trouble with. “And you are?” Maddox seemed to relax into him, looking up at his eyes Tian felt as if Maddox somehow recognized him; there was a light of recognition in his eyes like Tian was someone he’d been waiting to see again. Tian was sure if he had seen Maddox before he’d never forget him; hell, he probably never would have let the boy leave him.

“Hey Mads, ready to go?” The familiar voice of Ken came from the opening of the alleyway. They were here together; the thought was sour in his head. Tian didn’t like to jump to conclusions, but he felt at this moment he might be willing to fight his friend for this one, Maddox didn’t really peg Tian as Ken’s type so he could probably get the blonde to back down if he asked. Though only if Maddox wanted him too, if the blonde was the one, he wanted he’d put an appropriate distance between them. The mood between the two boys was crashed by the outside voice, Maddox’s attention was directed towards the mouth of the alley, so Tian dropped his hand and backed off using his magic to slink back the way he came towards his motorcycle. 

Leaving the club, he didn’t feel like going back to the church just yet and potentially seeing his friend and Maddox in a compromising position, so he swung by a fast food place on his way home. The illuminating yellow arches were familiar and fast. He ordered as much food as he felt would fit into the bag on his motorcycle; several burgers including the new curry burger, plenty of fries, some nuggets, mozzarella sticks, hand pies, a few slices of their blueberry cheesecake, and three Twix flurries, normally he would have grabbed just two, but he got a weird feeling he’d need three today. The amount of food he was ordering was almost nauseating to look at, but it was the house rule to always bring back enough food to feed a small, or large, army.

After getting his meal he straddled his motorcycle on the curb, tearing into his curry burger immediately while watching the traffic out of the corner of his eye. The traffic here was significantly less busy and flashy than back home. People most preferred walking if their destination was close enough or biking or using public transit if not, several people walked past him while he ate; an older couple who were dressed nicely walked past him only briefly glancing at his attire and tattoos without any judgement, a woman with two children who eyed his tattoos wearily while she tried to steer the curious youngsters who seemed interested in him or perhaps his bike or both away from what she deemed ‘dangerous’, a few teenagers who looked at him and whispered with blush on their cheeks, a few of them elbowing one and whispering feverishly as if to try and egg them on to approach him, a two or so guys who looked close to his brother’s age who seemed ready to stride up to him and start something if Tian looked at them wrong; he was used to that sort of thing, tattoos weren’t exactly thought well of in Asia and his were too realistic to think at first glance that they were fake, the dirty looks and assumptions of being a gangster or hooligan had been around Tian since he was about fourteen so he was more than used to it.

Finishing the burger, he tossed the wrapper into the bag and put the rest of his order in the side-bag of his bike before kickstarting. Speeding back so as to not let the ice cream melt, he parked his motorcycle in his usual spot and unloaded his food; knowing that he left the bedroom window open he circled to the back and lifted himself and his food prize through the windowsill and into the room. Tian dropped the food on the bed and then peeled off his clothes and put on a pair of black sweatpants instead. Picking the bag of junk food back up he exited his room; he could hear the sound of the TV playing in English.

The smell of greasy fast food Chinese food filled the open space as he left his bedroom, “Oh you got ‘not Chinese food’, cool.” Tian announced himself with that sentence picking up the takeout containers and sniffing them until he found the Lo Mein, the container was nearly empty but that meant all the juices, oil, and sauce were still there. Tian popped the ice cream in the fridge and dropped the bag with the sweet stuff on the counter next to the other food before grabbing a pair of chopsticks; he carried the takeout box and bag of burgers and other goodies to the couch where he could see Ken and Maddox sitting. He couldn’t lie that seeing Maddox sitting with a good amount of room between himself and Ken made him feel a bit better about everything. 

Tian launched himself over the back of the couch while balancing all of his food precariously, his body fell in the space between Ken and Maddox not quite on accident. He plopped the bag with the burgers on the coffee table, “I grabbed stuff on my way back, there's cheesecake and fried apple pies on the counter and ice cream in the freezer.” Tian acted like he didn’t recognize Maddox, in fact he acted as if that encounter hadn’t happened. It wasn’t really malicious, he just felt it might be fun.

Pulling a cheeseburger out of the bag he unwrapped it with one hand, opened the bun and put the noodles from the container on top, and plopped a few in his mouth for good measure. University was for nothing if not for poor dietary choices after all. He placed the takeout on the table next to the bag and reclined while biting into his monstrosity, “Why do you always watch this anyways? Can’t we watch that new British comedy I told you about? Regency Island or whatever?” Tian directed his question at Ken, mentioning the show his sister had recently told him about, it was a funny show that was formatted like Love Island but with actors playing characters from the Regency era as the competitors, his sister had raved about it talking about how she nearly pissed herself laughing. 

muta| ken |   36d ago

Sleep tugged at Maddox's eyelids as he snuggled into the soft cushion of the couch. He'd eaten enough Chinese food to last him a lifetime and digestion lulled him into a daze. His feet were pulled under the covers and lightly brushed Ken's socks. Just as he was about to succumb to his exhaustion, a voice called from the kitchen, grabbing Maddox’s attention. For a moment, he thought he might have imagined the voice and its slight familiarity; however, before he could convince himself of his imaginary voice, a warm body lept over the back of the couch and sunk in between them. 

The smell of greasy fast food assaulted his nose, causing the meal in his stomach to turn; Maddox couldn’t eat another bite. Kendrick, on the other hand, leaned forward and retrieved two wrapped cheeseburgers for himself and dug in. Maddox stared at him incredulously but stopped when he caught sight of the man who’d sat next to him. His eyes widened and his lips parted; a sharp exhale whistled through his teeth. Brows furrowed, Maddox flicked his gaze to Ken, to the stranger, and then back to Ken. Obviously, the two weren’t strangers. He could tell by the way their knees touched and how Kendrick leaned toward him and laughed. The interaction felt like it was happening in slow motion–like Maddox was falling. 

“Why do you always watch this anyway? Can’t we watch that new British comedy I told you about? Regency Island or whatever?” The stranger asked Kendrick. 

Ken sniffed in annoyance at the dissing of his favorite show. Taking a bite of his sandwich, he waved a hand dismissively, Gilmore Girls is a masterpiece and I actually care about what I put in my body,” he explained. It was hard to take him seriously after he’d just ingested enough sodium to kill an elderly person and was now eating again. “I guess we can watch an episode since you asked.” Ken relented with a shrug. His eyes met Maddox’s confused and exhausted expression. Realization dawned on him and he glanced at his watch; the clockface read 1:23 AM. 

“Oops, raincheck, actually. It’s bedtime,” Ken said as he rose to his feet. “I have a date with the contractors in the morning. Did you hear Eli is coming home early? The bastard tested out of his program, whatever that means. I’m out of room in this lovely halfway house and need to expand.” He spread his arms out wide to emphasize the grandness of his idea.

Maddox was struggling to follow the conversation. Neither of the boys explained who Eli was and what Ken meant by expansion. But the thing he wanted to know most was who was the man sitting next to him on the couch. Why had he ignored him, and had he hallucinated their meeting before?

Kendrick paused in the kitchen to pack the leftovers into the refrigerator. Maddox caught a glimpse of the fridge and was shocked to find it empty besides a six-pack and a single energy drink. “I’m thinking Chinese food for breakfast, Ken said with a click of his tongue. Well, goodnight you two, he blew the boys a kiss and disappeared into his study. Maddox heard the click of the door and he was finally alone with the stranger. His mouth felt dry and he was painfully aware of how close the man sat; warmth radiated in the places where their thighs touched. 

Gilmore Girls is a masterpiece and I actually care about what I put in my body,” Kendrick stated, as if he wasn’t already tearing into two burgers. Tian laughed at his friend’s antics knowing full well Kendrick was aware of how ridiculous he sounded when he put on those pompous airs. “I guess we can watch an episode since you asked,” Tian was already reaching for the remote when Kendrick suddenly looked at his watch for the time, “Oops, raincheck, actually. It’s bedtime. I have a date with the contractors in the morning,” Kendrick confessed as he got up from the couch.

“Did you hear Eli is coming home early? The bastard tested out of his program, whatever that means,” Kendrick said with a shrug as if he was exasperated by Elijah’s accomplishments.

“Of course, he did, he’s always been a smart little shit,” Tian agreed, speaking as if he’d known Elijah since childhood rather than the truth that he met Elijah and Kendrick only four years prior.

Kenrick nodded thoughtlessly with Tian’s statement and continued speaking, “I’m out of room in this lovely halfway house and need to expand.” To emphasize his point, he spread out his hands gesturing to the church around him.

“Hmmm, Eli still has a room though, I just need to… clean out all my stuff,” The room Tian was staying in technically belonged to Elijah, but since he was overseas Tian had gradually taken it over. Previously when Elijah was living here Tian would mostly sleep on the couch or occasionally in Kendrick or Elijah’s beds when they got devastatingly sloshed; it was never a romantic or sexual thing just the pair, or on rare occasions all three, of them passing out in bed usually with all their clothes still on. 

Kendrick ignored Tian’s statement, he’d always asserted that Tian lived here after all and Tian’s roommate back in the dorms would probably agree with that too. Instead, the blonde packed up the food and tossed it into the fridge unceremoniously, “I’m thinking Chinese food for breakfast. Well, goodnight you two,” The boy blew an overly showy kiss towards the pair of them as he disappeared into his area of the house.

Almost immediately silence fell over the room, the only sound was the continuing episode of the American drama. Tian peered over a Maddox whose face was blanketed with confusion, clearly the interactions between Tian and Kendrick had gone over his head and neither of them had paused enough to explain anything; though, Tian didn’t think there was much to explain anyways. He stuffed a few fries in his mouth, still watching the boy he’d met earlier in the corner of his eye. Maddox wasn’t clearly looking at him, but it was obvious he was well aware of Tian next to him.

Tian couldn’t help but think to himself, ‘this is fun’. Maybe it was a bit cruel, but Tian felt Maddox looked a little too cute like this for him to just give in. The black haired boy stood up, quietly turning off the television as he did, and took his food the kitchen, putting it away in the fridge similarly to Kendrick, and took out one of the ice creams, he sat it on the counter so he could grab it before going back to his room. 

Suddenly Tian bent over Maddox, his arms coming down to semi trap the boy beneath him on the couch. Of course, Maddox could simply slide down to move away from Tian if he wanted. He raised one hand and placed it flat against the skin beneath Maddox’s chin, cupping the area in his palm and fingers before he pulled Maddox’s head upward to look at him. “Shao Tian,” He spoke his name simply and softly, an answer to this earlier question in the alleyway, “my name is Tian.” As he spoke, he let his hand drift down Maddox’s neck feeling his pulse and dipped down to rest on his collar, just barely beneath his shirt. The boy’s skin was warm, like it was on fire and his pulse was rising with each passing second. Tian smiled slyly before retracting completely and standing up right.

As he walked away, he grabbed the ice cream from the counter, “Turn off the lights before you head to bed, yeah?” 

muta| ken |   22d ago

Kendrick leaned against the door as it clicked shut. Standing in the silent darkness, his mask slipped from his face. Exhaustion haunted his muscles and threatened to pull him to his knees, but he willed himself to the bathroom, feeling his way through blackness. Finding the light switch, Kendrick surveyed his bathroom in the dim yellow light. Clothing littered the tile floor in messy piles, and his hygiene products were organized haphazardly on the marble sink. He let out a ragged sigh and shed his clothes where he stood. Leaning against the cool countertop, he rinsed his face. The water was refreshing against his hot skin. 

He inspected himself in the mirror—bags nested beneath his dull eyes, reflecting his routine of sleepless nights. His skin was pale and taught against his sharp jawline, informing on his habitual drug use. This wasn’t sustainable; the costume of the electric boy he paraded for the world was killing him. There wasn’t enough medicine or sleep to keep him going. But he’d try–he had to. 

Kendrick woke well after the sunrise. Unsure of how many hours he’d slept, fatigue smothered his senses. Fumbling from his bed, Kendrick made his way to the bathroom and quickly showered. He thought about everything he needed to do today as the hot water pelted his back. It had been almost nine months since Clara had died, and Kendrick was convinced something had happened. He wasn’t sure what, though. That’s when the obsession started. Maps and little bits of paper hoarded in boxes piled in his room–scraps of anything Kendrick would piece together.  Clara wouldn’t have killed herself. She was too proud, and anyone who gave a damn about her would know that. He needed to figure out who she was with that night. All of the information he’d collected suggested she’d met with someone, but no one could tell Kendrick who that person was. He was going to find out no matter what. 

After his shower, Kendrick dressed in a pressed white button-down and navy blue sweater. The collar of his dress shirt peaked over his sweater and was adorned with two ornate gold eagle pins on either side connected with a thin chain. He brushed the pin absently with a thumb. It was the only gift from his father he’d actually liked. 

Once dressed, Ken did a quick line before padding towards the kitchen. A surge of energy lit up his spine, causing him to shiver. Morning light poured through the stained-glass windows, igniting the room in vivid technicolor. Maddox sat on the couch, lost in a novel. He wore an old tee shirt, and a handmade quilt covered his legs. Kendrick noted the boy looked like he belonged in the old church. It was like he’d always been there. 

“Hey, Mads, you had breakfast already?” Ken asked as he yanked open the refrigerator. He located a piece of cheesecake and a fork—a breakfast of champions, he thought.

“Uh huh,” Maddox replied, not looking up from his book. 

Kendrick smiled and took a seat at the bar. He pulled out his phone–a missed call from his mother and a dozen Twitter notifications. Searching through his contacts, he located the number of his contractor. He listened to the dial tone as he took a bite of cheesecake. It was even better the second day, he thought. 

“Marcus, hey. It’s Ken.” He said with his award-winning smile.

“Ah, Kendrick, I was wondering when I’d hear from you. How’s that old church of yours? Are you ready to sell it to me?” The man asked on the other line.

“Hah, not today,” Ken laughed. Marcus Wagner, his contractor and family friend, had been trying to buy Oxner Cathedral since the boy finished renovations, but Kendrick refused to part with the old beast. He loved the church. It was a mix of both the old and the new–existing in the past and present, just like him. “I’m looking to expand. My family seems to keep growing.” 

This statement caught Maddox’s attention. The dark-haired boy lowered his book in his lap and angled himself towards Kendrick’s turned back. He watched Kendrick. His roommate sat regally on the bar stool; the midday sunlight fell over his broad shoulders, turning his champagne hair gold. 

“No, I don’t have a budget. I want the architecture to match the cathedral.” Ken waved a hand absently, his hand casting shadows on the marble countertop. 

Maddox’s lips parted at the statement. His roommate must have been richer than he’d realized. The wealth was evident between the fast cars in the driveway and the designer furniture, clear in the Italian leather shoes and the tailored dress pants. But Maddox had let that knowledge slip when Kendrick smiled at him or when he called him Mads. For a moment, he’d let himself believe they might be friends or even equals. But that was impossible, not when Maddox had been made from nothing.

“The bottom floor would be a two-door garage,” Ken's voice came back into focus. “Yeah, my friend here is a mechanic, and I want a spacious place for him to work.” 

Guilt scratched at Maddox’s throat. Kendrick was trying. Maybe he’d give it a chance. There were a lot of things Maddox was willing to give a chance. It must have been the charm of the old church or the cobblestone walk of the city that was getting to him–turning him soft and into a dreamer. God forbid, a romantic. The memory of fingertips on his throat and chin flashed in his mind; the heat lingered, bubbling in his chest. 

Shao Tian.

So, their meeting hadn’t been a dream or hallucination. Maddox was once again enthralled by the man’s warm scent and dangerous eyes. The familiarity of Tian struck him like they’d met before, and they’d meet again. Their closeness the night before felt like a thread of electricity charging Maddox. He wondered if he’d get to see the dark-haired boy again today. 

Tian was surprised to find that he woke up after sunrise, his green eyes blinked up at the bright room not fully registering what time it must be. His mind was drifting in a comfortable post-sleep heaviness, unburdened by weird omniscient dreams. How long had it been since he last was able to sleep fully without worrying about deciphering some weird ass symbolism he saw in his head? Probably a good couple of weeks. The dreams came more and more often over the last few years, ever since he started training his bloodline powers under his maternal family but occasionally, they were quieted. The young man missed the days when these dreams were few and far between.

He laid still on the mattress for a while, his decorated arm thrown over his eyes to block out the daylight while he briefly contemplated gambling with going back to sleep to see if he could get a few more dream-empty hours before ultimately figuring that he was more likely to end up having an omniscient vision and ruining the deliciousness of this feeling. With reluctance he got up from his bed, still wearing only the sweatpants from the night before. His phone held a couple of messages from his siblings, Liling had sent a quick good morning to their group chat as she headed out for work and Wenwen had sent about twenty, the messages mainly seemed to be incredulous about the fact that Tian was potentially still sleeping, of course he first thought their big brother was just ignoring them, but he seemed to realize after about an hour that Tian must really be sleeping. The only reason there weren’t even more texts from him was because Liling bullied him into stopping. Tian typed a quick response letting them know he was alive and that, yes, he had just been sleeping later than normal. The shocked sticker that looked like a cat making the Edvard Munch’s The Scream expression came within seconds from Wenwen while Liling just sent a generic thumbs up emoji.

Stretching his tense muscles, he walked out of the room seeing the other two residents once he walked down the hallway towards the living room. Kendrick was on the phone while perched at the bar with one of the cheesecake slices Tian brought home the night before; Tian could hear small snippets of the conversation being had. It sounded like it was Kendrick’s contractor, Tian had met the man once or twice but only had a foggy image of the man his mind. Nice, beefy, dimples, and magic was about all he could draw up in his head about the man. 

Leaning against the wall near the kitchen facing Kendrick while he spoke, he could Maddox’s head above the back of the couch, it looked like he was looking down at something, but Tian couldn’t tell what it was from here, maybe a book or maybe a phone. Tian paid attention to Kendrick first; he didn’t look good. Well, no, actually he did look good, he always looked good; Kendrick had the appearance of a young Hollywood star from the forties, so it was impossible for him to look bad really. It was more accurate to say that Kendrick didn’t look well. Kendrick spoke with a smile, his hand moving with his words in an animated fashion as if the man on the other line could see him; but Tian could see the fatigue under his eyes which were slightly sunken in and the way the corners of his mouth seemed to twitch when he stopped talking like it was hard to hold the expression, how hollow his cheeks were starting to look from all the abuse he put his body through. Maybe it was the older brother in him, but he was worried that Kendrick was on the brink of collapse. It had happened before, only once that Tian knew of, but it was bad; he didn’t want it to happen a second time.

As Kendrick got off the phone the pair made eye contact and Tian walked over, leaning towards his friend while placing a hand on the counter. “Hey,” The phone glinted in his eyes for a second, a brief flash where he saw something Kendrick missed but he pressed forward before Kendrick had the chance to distract from what Tian wanted to say to him, the blonde was good at reading Tian’s expressions and was sure to have noticed his ‘disappointed older brother’ face by now. “No,” The sight of Maddox in the corner of his eye made him faulter for half a second, he didn’t need to out his friend to this person when it was clear Kendrick wanted to make a good impression on him, coffee today. Okay? You look like shit.” He was fairly sure Kendrick may have already done a line this morning but if he could keep the boy from doing any more for the rest of day, and possibly the next day, it would be worth it. “Otherwise, I’ll punch you so hard you’ll swallow some of those pretty teeth of yours,” Tian’s threat was playful, but Kendrick probably knew well enough that Tian could easily see it through if he wanted.

Walking over to the couch he saw Maddox sitting there with a book, a quilt draped over his legs. Although at first glance looked like he was reading Tian could see that he was purposefully not looking up at him, with a grin Tian reached down and yanked the quilt away, letting it fall to the floor, before flopping down on the couch and draping his body over Maddox’s lap like he was replacing the lost blanket.

“By the way you missed a call, Ken. I saw it on your screen, probably came in while you were talking to your contractor. Looks like it was an important call too,” Tian stressed the words ‘saw’ and ‘important’ so Ken would know it was his ability. The color he’d seen swirling around the phone was a soft pink with tinges of gold in it, usually meant there were feelings there. Might be the feelings of the person who called but Tian got the impression those were Kendrick’s feelings he saw.

He stretched out over Maddox’s lap, arching his back and stretching out his arms to get a full movement, like a cat basking in the sun. Looking up at the boy he’d only met the night before he smiled a little audaciously with a mischievous glint in his eyes, “Morning.”

After only just one more minute of debating whether or not this was a good idea to go through with, Sable finally bit the bullet and pressed the call button. The young man could only barely hear the sound of the phone’s ring over his heartbeat. It felt like he was doing something he shouldn’t and somehow that excited him. Kendrick was handsome and the thought have having him even just for a few hours made Sable shiver. The black haired boy was under no illusions about his reputation or habits, he knew that whatever interest Kendrick had in him was likely coming from those same motivations. If Kendrick was from a lesser bloodline or mortal Sable might have believed that he was just simply attracted to Sable but with his ancestry there was no way that he would be affected by Sable’s passive bloodline power.

Despite his earlier thought of “breakfast just being breakfast” he knew that it wouldn’t be. But even if it wasn’t that would be okay. The boy told himself he would be fine with just fooling around for however long the campus prince wanted to. Sable had played pretend in his relationships more than once, after all.

The phone continued to ring while Sable’s thoughts of Kendrick spiraled further into his smile and his Cary Grant like charm. He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the slight upturn in tone that each ring had, an indication that the person he was calling on another line. Eventually his excitement turned cold as he heard the final ring before it cut to a generic voice mail message. Before the automated voice told him to leave a message after the tone he hung up.

Sable wasn’t quite sure why he felt so annoyed, but he did. Kendrick was the one who gave his number, shouldn’t he have at least answered? With a humph Sable wadded up the card and tossed it across the room. Turning over, he stared at his phone screen like it had offended him. After all that it took to make Sable actually give that guy a call and he had the audacity not to answer? The black haired boy was practically throwing a mini tantrum to the audience of an empty phone screen and all of his plants. Hugging one of his pillows he pouted, “I knew he had to be a player.”


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