Collar and Leash
August 2006

 

“I’m a fucking stalker,” Bryce Tyler muttered around the chewed straw of his drink.

Seated next to tall windows, the sixteen-year-old rested his cheek against an open palm and kept his caramel-colored eyes focused on the café across the street. Dressed in loose jeans and a ragged t-shirt with the number 8 on the back, Bryce was a tall, leanly built youth with longish hair that was losing its bleached coloring. Though fairly popular due to his position on the lacrosse team, Bryce no longer spent his free time with friends or the occasional girl who wanted to be more than ‘just friends’. Instead, for the past five weeks, he found himself going back to the same old fast-food joint where he would order a medium coke and sit down at his usual spot right by the window.

After all, it was the best seat in the house.

Glancing at his watch, Bryce grinned with the knowledge that it was nearly seven o’clock, just moments before his favorite part of the evening. On time like always, a young man of shaggy black hair stepped out from the café entrance and savored a long stretch. His black apron was smeared with something Bryce assumed to be powered sugar, and noticing the same whiteness brushed against a cheek, Bryce promptly lowered his gaze back to the safety of the apron. A white nametag stood out from the black material, and by memory alone, Bryce knew it claimed the man’s name to be, ‘Char’.

Bryce smiled as he watched the man begin closing up the café by moving chairs onto the tabletops and locking them in place with chains. There was something graceful to Char’s movements, how he picked up each chair without knocking it into something or other. Every move was planned and executed to perfection, a careful nature that Bryce liked to imagine was also evident in the pastries and cakes that the raven-haired man baked.

When Char quickly finished his task and headed back into the café, Bryce stood up and slung a backpack over his shoulder. Trashing his empty cup on his way out, Bryce lingered at the entrance until Char once again stepped outside with his apron traded for an old leather jacket.

“Yup, a stalker,” Bryce commented as he studied the man’s backside. “Probably going to jail, too.”

Following a good distance behind, Bryce tried to assure himself that he didn’t really want to stalk the guy. No, he was just trying to build up the courage to face Char and ask if he was a model, or if he believed in past lives, or something that would help him to understand why he felt like he knew the man. But until that day, Bryce was happy enough to observe from a distance.

A sudden wail for ‘Mommy’ made Bryce look up and notice a pigtailed girl who was standing by herself in the middle of the sidewalk. Char stepped directly to the young girl and knelt down to console her. Unable to hear the quiet words, Bryce assumed he was asking her about her mother, and after receiving a big shrug along with a sob from the red-faced girl, Char stood up and offered his hand. Bryce just barely heard something about a police officer before the pair began moving in the direction of a park that always held a wandering cop or two.

Following from behind, Bryce was the first to see the frantic woman step out from a dress store. She spotted the pair immediately, and running after them, she jerked her child from Char’s hold and slapped him before he could manage a word otherwise. The little girl, relieved to see her mother, started to cry anew as she mentioned being lost and that the ‘nice man’ was going to take her to a policeman. The mother obviously didn’t share the child’s trust, and with a hissed out warning to the silent man, she turned with her daughter in her arms and stormed off in the opposite direction.

Rubbing the back of his hand against his cheek, Char smiled weakly before returning to his typical path to the metro.

Bryce didn’t follow as he watched the retreat of the raven-haired man. With a hand pressed to his chest, the blond teen cursed quietly at the ache he felt for Char, a seemingly good person who always got the short end of the stick. Too many times Bryce had seen the guy get involved in a misunderstanding that ended with him being yelled at and occasionally punched. And every time, Char would smile softly without a word of complaint, as if that’s how life was supposed to be and nothing else could be done about it.

Sighing, Bryce adjusted his backpack and turned around to start the long walk home. “Maybe tomorrow,” he muttered, quickly followed by a sharp laugh as he shook his head. “God, when did I become a hopeless fag?”


Ashen clouds stretched across the late evening sky, the last remains of a storm that had drenched the city in warm rain. The asphalt streets seemed cleaner given the sheen of water, and with the city lights reflecting off the clouds high above, there was a peaceful beauty to the everyday metropolis. Even a few night birds could be heard, just slightly louder than the distant noise of cars and sirens.

Altogether it was something Charles 'Char' Despres would have enjoyed much more without a gun pressed against his forehead.

"You're lucky, kitten. I'm going to make this a lot faster than when you killed my brother."

There was no reply to offer the sneering man, and knowing that a plea for mercy would only sweeten the kill, Char held his tongue. Eyes closed, the seventeen-year-old kept his head low with his disheveled black hair hiding most of his face. His knees ached from a rough landing to asphalt, but he was more concerned about the reduced feeling to his hands bound by a plastic tie.

"Hey, look at me when I'm talking to you," the gunman growled as he jabbed the teen with his revolver.

Char looked up from his vulnerable kneeling position and stared into the face of his apparent executioner, a middle-aged man who didn't seem to realize that a comb-over wouldn’t fool anybody.

In a bored tone, Char asked, "I'm sorry, but who was your brother again? It’s hard for me to keep track.”

The gun handle to the side of his head was expected, a welcomed reaction to something more... final.

The man's younger partner chuckled at the hit and decided to join in the play as he jumped forward and placed a switchblade to Char’s throat. "You are so dead, pussycat. So dead," he announced in a singsong tone.

Wincing when the blade cut into his flesh, Char glanced up at the older man and decided that he had changed his mind – it would be better if the fucker would shoot him already. With the inevitable finale of death hanging before him, the problems of life didn’t feel so daunting. But until the middle-aged idiot decided to pull the trigger, Char had to deal with a sniggering man on his back, a moron who normally wouldn't be allowed to live after spilling his blood.

"Alright, boy, get out of the way," the comb-over man announced with a wave of his gun. "You don't want to get shot, do you?"

"A-aw, just a little more, Dad? I won't kill him."

"Don't argue with me, boy. I've been waiting for this moment for too--"

The short argument was interrupted by the dull thud of something hard against an even harder skull, resulting in a startled silence that lasted until the heavy fall of the heavyset man.

Looking more surprised than the other two people in the alleyway, a blond teenager held a broken brick in one hand as he stared down with wide eyes at the fallen man. Though no words were voiced, Char clearly saw full lips mouth out, 'Holy shit,' with an intensity which suggested that the youth had never before hit someone with a brick. Or at least not that hard.

"You... fucking bastard!" the son yelled out once shaking off his surprise. He launched forward with the intent to drive his bloodied knife into the chest of the teenager, but Char had enough mobility to slam his shoulder into the legs of the skinny man. The clatter of the dropped knife made Char sigh in relief until he realized that the man was quickly regaining his balance. Unable to do anything to help, Char was startled by the lunging attack of the teen, his tight fist making the son's head snap back at an odd angle and knock him unconscious.

Dark eyes focused on the teenager, Char watched as the six-foot-something blond bent down and retrieved the knife.

"Uh... should I... I mean, do you think this can cut through your binds?"

Char glanced down and noticed how the knife practically bounced within the shaky hand. "Are you certain that you won't cut me instead?"

The teen noticeably swallowed before nodding, something Char didn't find comforting, but he offered his bound wrists all the same. The switchblade slipped against the plastic tie that held his arms together, creating a minor cut along already abused flesh. The blond quickly apologized, something Char shrugged off while encouraging him to continue with the task at hand. After a few hard tugs of the blade against the tie, the dark-haired youth was freed with a loud snap of plastic.

"Why were they trying to kill you?" the teen asked, eyeing the bloodied knife in his hand.

Char carefully stood up while smirking at his younger savior. "Thanks for the help, Bryce, but I think you should head home."

Caramel-colored eyes wide, Bryce asked, "How do you know my name?"

"Let's see - a decently smart honor student, star lacrosse player, and all around wet dream for every girl and homo you meet.... I think I know more about you than just your name."

Bryce stared at Char for the answer, a gleam of wariness clear in the umber eyes.

With a sigh, the raven-haired youth explained, "I went to your same school a few months ago."

Eyes amazingly wider, Bryce asked, "Aren't you too old for high school?"

“… …?”

"Wait, no, I don't mean you look old... You kinda look young, but... Damn it," Bryce exclaimed while standing up, "You just had a gun pressed against your forehead. Why aren't you pissing your pants or something that a normal kid should do?"

"Like bashing in someone's skull with a brick?" Char asked with a grin.

"No, that was... that was very unlike me."

With no comment to offer, Char watched as the befuddled youth scratched his fingers through longish hair that had been dyed at least two months back and was growing out darker roots. Char became entranced by the silky hair weaving between long fingers, eventually deciding that he liked the contrast of blond and brown. Meanwhile, a part of him knew that, at any moment, he would attract the wrong attention with his blatant staring, but Char wanted to savor everything before they would be parted again.

It never occurred to him that there was a sweet smell in the air, an appetizing scent that had nothing to do with the surrounding city or the previous rainfall.

“What should we do now?”

Enchanted by the nervous voice, Char paused while considering a response that would reassure Bryce that he had done nothing wrong, but it was difficult to think when his first instinct was to hold the taller teen close... in comfort, of course.

And it was due to that distraction that Char never heard the quiet scrape of metal against asphalt.

The gunshot that sounded left crashing echoes to Char's hearing. Before him, bright red blood flew sluggishly into the air, eventually splattering him in the face as he stared incomprehensibly at the slow collapse of the fair-haired teen. The final thud of the lean body landing against the street woke Char from his trance as his dark eyes snapped to the elder man who was trying to steady his gun-hand for another shot.

A slow, chuckling growl left the raven-haired youth. "You're going to regret that, hunter," he promised coolly. His hands unfolded from tight fists as cleanly cut fingernails turned pitch-black and extended out into thick, curved claws well over an inch in length. Poisonous fire flaring in his eyes, Char announced quietly, "And I'm going to give you plenty of time to regret what you've done."

~ > < ~

Dark hair shielding his downcast face, Char leaned against the wall near the door that led to his room. The smell of blood was faint in the air, and though he trusted his guardian with his life, the raven-haired youth felt anxious at the idea of Bryce alone and unconscious with the wanton doctor. But given no choice in the matter, Char was made to wait outside as Bryce was treated for his injuries.

"What does he smell like?"

Frowning, Char glanced up to find that a woman had entered at some point, her crystalline eyes focused on him with a curious gleam. Dressed in a pale blue outfit and thin silver jewelry, the woman of long white hair had an expensive elegance about her. Joined with her slight frame, she wasn't intimidating in any sense of the word, but Char knew better about Selena Cichon. She was a businesswoman at the core and her business was hardly legal in the human world; however, it was completely necessary for those who didn't fit into that world.

After not receiving an answer, Selena smiled knowingly. "This is the third time that he has entered your life. Do you really expect me to believe that he isn't your Leash?"

"He's human."

"And what is that supposed to imply? Do you think that you are too good for him? Admit it - you’re lucky to have a chosen one." A manicured hand with long, white fingernails slipped beneath Char's chin as Selena forced him to lift his gaze. "Why do you continue torturing yourself like this, little one?"

A pained gleam entered dark eyes. "He was shot... Right in front of me."

"Then you want to protect him... or more likely, you only wish to protect your pathetic heart.”

“Make him forget again."

"I don't think so, darling. He saved your skin--"

"Don't remind me," Char stated with renewed coldness. "I want you to make him forget."

“And why should I?”

"Because… you won’t deny me this."

Crystalline eyes narrowed in frustrated pity for the youth. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“You know better than that.”

At that moment, the door opened with a quiet creak, the noise making both Char and Selena redirect their attention. A man wearing frameless glasses stopped at the doorway in surprise, but recognizing the constant friction between the teen and woman, Phineas Sanborn grinned smugly.

"Don't start, Phin. Just tell me how he is," Char said with a scowl.

"Well, in my professional opinion, he's absolutely gorgeous. Did you know that he has this little mole--"

"Phin, I meant his wound."

With a mischievous glint to dark blue eyes, Phineas tutted, "You just don't have a sense of priorities."

"... ..."

Sighing, the doctor scratched his fingers through short grayish-brown hair that darkened to black around his ears. "You're too serious, little one. He'll be fine. The bullet went straight through his shoulder without causing too much damage. I've flushed out the wound and dressed it nice and tight. There's not much else that can be done at this point."

Char nodded and whispered a quiet, "Thank you."

With a roguish grin, Phineas ruffled ebony hair. "Wait until I decide how you’ll have to repay me."

The hand knocked aside, Char glared at the doctor.

"And what about my repayment?" Selena spoke up. "Do you know how long it took my men to clean up that mess you left? They were still finding pieces after several hours and had to use a hose on the whole alleyway."

Glancing to the long-haired woman, Char bit out, "And what would you want?"

“Tell me what he smells like,” Selena replied, her red lips curling into a hungry smile.

Char met pale eyes as long as he could before averting his gaze. "It doesn't matter. He's human, he's male, and I want nothing to do with him."

"What does being--"

Phineas interrupted the woman by placing an arm around her shoulders and whispering something unheard into a small ear. She frowned at whatever was said, but then leaned against the far taller man in surrender. Turning his dark blue eyes to his ward, Phineas smiled gently and said, "The boy is asleep, so you can visit him without worry. I suggest letting him rest before you play with his mind yet again."

Char hesitated before nodding and moving into the open room. The door was closed and locked behind him, Char not trusting the couple to remain outside. Dark eyes lifted to view his bed and the sheet-covered body resting there. Lowering his defenses, Char inhaled the warm smell in the air, a sweet scent of baked apples and brown sugar. He figured Selena would laugh at him for the utterly unromantic scent of a dessert, an ordinary apple crisp, but Char had no desire to change that comforting smell.

With silent steps, Char moved to the bedside and sat on the edge opposite of the younger teen's injured shoulder. He gazed down at the face slack in peaceful slumber and smirked at the bare slip of drool forming at the corner of the relaxed mouth. Char used his thumb to wipe away the fluid, but lingered while touching the soft flesh of full lips. Praying that Bryce was still under the influence of drugs, he bent down and placed his tongue beneath the lower lip, needing to taste the sleeping man. Char breathed a laugh at the flavor of vanilla, wondering which gods found humor in making his match a complete dessert - a warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.

Moving lower, Char lightly kissed and began tasting the teen's neck, purring quietly at the faint flavor of blood that hadn't been fully cleaned from soft skin. The idea to steal a sample of fresh blood came to mind, but Char could easily imagine the violent response of the person who had never been with another man.

Sitting up at that thought, Char placed a hand into longish hair. "I know you would hate this, but I haven't slept all night from worry, so I think that you owe me. Would it be unforgivable if I lied down for a while?”

Char waited as if expecting some kind of response, and then breathed a derisive laugh at his pathetic desires. Stretching out onto the mattress, he rested his head next to Bryce's uninjured shoulder and stared at the peaceful expression of the younger teen. It was the only thing Char wanted for his match, a quiet happiness that Bryce would never have next to his side. And with his arm wrapped at a lean waist, the raven-haired youth curled closer to his desire and closed his eyes.


Bryce woke with a start, his caramel-colored eyes wide and unseeing as he tried to escape his dream by sitting up. With too much weight placed onto his left arm, the teen gasped out from agonizing pain and fell back onto the mattress. Looking to his shoulder, Bryce stared at the bandaging and was eventually reminded of the events in the alleyway with the heavyset gunman and his knife-welding son. Only recalling the loud crash of gunfire, Bryce felt sudden panic at the idea that something had happened to Char.

Clenching his teeth against the pain, Bryce attempted once again to sit up, and though successful, he dropped back against the headboard with a complaining groan. Resting there, he studied his current surroundings, and with some surprise, he realized that he wasn't in a hospital. But before he could further study the bedroom, Bryce flinched when the door opened and flooded the room in bright light.

"So, I did hear some injured idiot trying to get out of bed."

Umber eyes wide, Bryce looked at the stranger of short hair and frameless glasses. The thirty-something man was dressed in a blue business shirt and gray slacks, and though the blond didn't know why, Bryce had a strong feeling that he was the one who had dressed his bullet wound.

Letting the door close behind him, the grinning man stepped to the bedside. "How are you feeling?"

"Uh, I'm fine... for someone who got shot, I guess."

The doctor smiled at the reply. "Well, you're pretty lucky - the bullet went straight through. I don't imagine that you'll have any problems beyond typical soreness. Soon enough, you'll have a perfect scar to show the ladies. They love that sort of thing."

Bryce frowned, hardly in the mood for humor. "Where is this? And why haven't I been taken to a hospital?"

"A-ah, forgive me. I've been treating you all night and it feels like I had already introduced myself. Dr. Phineas Sanborn. I work at a nearby hospital in the trauma ward."

“Thanks, but you didn't answer my questions."

"My, you're as impatient as my dear ward," Phineas stated with a fond grin as he walked to the dresser that held a pitcher of water. "I understand that this must be frightening, but I assure you that it was necessary to bring you here. At the hospital, there would have been too many questions to answer and it gets a little messy if the police start poking their noses into our business. It doesn't help that our little kitten got upset when you were shot," he added while offering a glass filled with water.

Though accepting it, Bryce lowered the glass to his lap. "Are you talking about... Char...?"

"That I am. He's fine, by the way, thanks to your actions."

The young man sighed in relief. "Thank God. I was worried since... By any chance, is he here?"

Phineas hesitated before nodding. "He's around, but he's in one of his more troublesome moods."

"Oh," Bryce commented with lowered eyes, bothered by the idea that the raven-haired teen was avoiding him.

"Well, I'm afraid that we’ll have to cut this short. My wife has been waiting for you and she's a very busy woman."

Without further explanation, Phineas moved to the front of the room and opened the door to reveal a striking woman of waist-length hair and pale blue eyes. She smiled softly with a naturally seductive air that made Bryce forget his breath until the woman shifted her gaze to the doctor, momentarily releasing her hold on the youth. Phineas graced her with a kiss before he turned to his patient and waved in parting.

"Hello, Bryce."

The blond shivered at the low voice, unconsciously pulling the sheets closer to his body until he came to a sudden realization. "My clothes..."

"They were soaked in blood and essentially ruined. But don't worry - we have other clothes ready for you and our kitten won't mind you keeping his boxers," the white-haired woman stated soothingly. "May I sit with you?"

Focused onto piercing eyes, Bryce couldn't imagine denying the woman the simple request and promptly moved over. She smiled warmly and sat down with an elegant grace. When she then took the glass of water from his loose hold and placed it on a nearby nightstand, Bryce watched the movement of pale hands and noticed a tanzanite and diamond ring. It was a unique design that made the teen think of a winter flower, and yet, Bryce swore that he had seen the ring once before.

"Child," the woman said as she placed a chilled hand at his cheek, redirecting his attention back to her face. "Look into my eyes and take deep breaths for me."

Bryce wanted to question the request, but didn't feel motivated to speak out his reservation.

"That's right, sweetie. Just look at me."

Bryce grunted in agreement, not knowing why he wouldn’t want to look into stunning pale eyes that held an odd white light. But the longer he met that gaze, Bryce felt something slipping from him, something important. In his distracted state, he thought it had something to do with a dessert or a bakery, but the harder he tried to focus on that spark of an idea, it faded deeper into the darkness of his mind.

As he struggled against fading thoughts, a second hand began caressing his neck, and with it came the cold, reviving sting of silver. At that moment, Bryce continued to stare into crystalline eyes, but his attention diverted to the ring he knew he should remember. It was when silver brushed against his ear that a male voice came to mind, a cautious voice that told him, 'She's as cold as the ring on her finger, a regular winter flower. And never...'

"... never look her in the eye," Bryce whispered, his eyes widening at the remembered warning.

"What...?"

In a sudden move, Bryce shoved the woman off the bed, the act making him grimace in pain as he placed a hand to his shoulder. Glaring down at the woman, he demanded, "Char... Where's Char?"

Groaning, Selena didn't reply as she curled onto her side.

An abrupt opening of the door made Bryce turn, but he hardly noticed the hurried entrance of the doctor. Instead, his umber eyes focused on the lingering form at the edge of the doorway, a dark-haired teen who seemed to have no intention of entering the room. Forgetting his injury, Bryce launched from the bed and, without a moment wasted on thought, he tackled the unsuspecting youth.

Though seeing white spots given the pain from his shoulder, Bryce held his right arm at the bandaged throat of the shorter man. "You bastard. You fucking bastard."

Char smirked at the blond. "Interesting. Do you even know why you are calling me that?"

Confused and angry, Bryce glared down at the older teen and wished he knew the exact reason for the burning hatred within his chest. Betrayal rang in his mind, and staring into guarded eyes, he knew Char had done something. But with the details lacking, Bryce felt his resolve weaken. Mystified, he studied the features of the teen in search of something familiar, noting every detail down to the small scar next to the right ear. Umber eyes then trailed up to black hair, a wisp of a memory forming as he instinctively reached up with his free hand. Ignoring the tensing of the other youth, Bryce placed his fingers deep into messed hair and scratched lightly. Char tried to twist away, but then suddenly relaxed beneath the taller teen as a quiet noise rumbled in his throat. Bryce hardly noticed the purr, however, as his attention was completely focused on the slight rise of black fur.

"Holy shit... What are you?" he asked before hesitantly encouraging large catlike ears to fully reveal themselves from thick hair.

Char said nothing as previously hidden ears flattened in shame.

"Isn't that obvious?" Phineas asked mockingly from within the bedroom, his arms cradled around his hurting wife. "We're cats."

Bryce blinked at the simplistic answer, certain that there was more to it, but his attention was once again distracted as he stared down into brown eyes. "Your eyes... Those aren't your eyes..."

Char closed his eyes and muttered, "You always were fascinated by my worse features."

Bryce made to question the remark, but then Char reopened his eyes and gazed up at the silenced teen. Dark eyes had been transformed to their true color - bright green irises highlighted by hints of gold, the mix of color creating an unnatural glow that stole away Bryce's breath.

"Oh God... How did you... and why do I know?"

Char smiled weakly. "And to think, I once liked your stubborn side."

"Don't... don't say that like you know me."

His attempt of a smile vanishing, the dark-haired teen reached up and placed a gentle hand at the wounded shoulder. "What were you thinking? I was trying to protect you from things like this."

"'Protect me'…? You're trying to protect me?" Bryce asked with renewed anger. "And how were you doing that?"

Lowering his arm, Char said nothing as he continued to coolly meet the accusing glare.

"Just now," Bryce said quietly, partly to himself, "It felt like my thoughts were slipping away. I couldn't think straight and when I tried to remember... remember... Fuck, I can't even remember what I was trying to remember." Umber eyes sharpened at the suddenly obvious connection. "My memories... But how can you take away my memories?"

"It was necessary to save you."

"Save me? Save me how? By fucking with my mind and making me insane enough for an asylum? Is that what you want, for me to be ‘safe’ under lock and key and within padded walls?!"

"No... No, of course I don't..."

With his worn body beginning to shake from exhaustion, Bryce bent down and rested his forehead against the broad chest. "I thought I was crazy. From the moment I saw you working at that damned café, I thought I was going off the deep end. I couldn't stop thinking about you. I'd watch you from across the street, and I even... God, I started to follow you."

"You followed..." Char breathed an incredulous laugh. "Damn, I spent all night wondering why you were in that alleyway."

"It wasn't like me to attack like that,” Bryce maintained. “I don't know why I did it, but he had that gun to your head and... it looked like you didn't even care."

The raven-haired youth said nothing in his defense, and instead shifted from underneath the taller teen. Putting up only a minor struggle, Bryce let himself be helped to his feet as he was guided back to the bed that looked wholly inviting to his exhausted and sore body. Char helped the boxer-clad blond back onto the mattress, and though anger still boiled deep within Bryce, he felt weak under the cool, rough hands of the other man.

Char glanced down to the couple on the floor. "Will she be alright?"

Phineas was prepared to answer for his wife, but Selena growled out first. "I'll be fine. He broke the connection between us before I was prepared. It doesn't help that I hit my head against the floor when he attacked me."

"You were raping my mind!" Bryce argued as he attempted to sit up, but a steady hand at his chest kept him in place.

"I asked her to do it," Char said without meeting umber eyes.

The blond stared up with plain disbelief. “You…?”

With a readying breath, Char turned to the teen and smiled softly. "You must be tired, Bryce. You should get some sleep."

Though wanting to disagree, Bryce wasn't given the chance when the dark-haired teen placed a pair of fingers against his lips. With a quiet shush, Char focused his bright eyes onto golden-brown and encouraged that sleep would be best. Bryce fought against the command, but his eyelids drooped despite his will otherwise.

Though plunged into darkness, Bryce held onto his consciousness long enough to hear a quiet conversation -

"What now, little one?"

"... He needs to forget."

"Kitten, stop this insanity. He's grown resistant to me and I can't--"

"I know, and I'm sorry. It's my fault that he lashed back at you."

"Hmph, I don't need false pity from you. If you would just surrender to Fate's blessing--"

"Blessing? Hardly. The bitch is taunting me with what I can't have and enjoying every minute of it."

"Then, do you admit that he's the one?"

"... No. I refuse to accept him as mine - I'll get rid of him myself."

Lacking the desire to hear anymore words, Bryce slowly lost his battle against the urge to sleep. His last thought was to wonder why he was fighting against the loss of his memories if he wasn't even wanted by the person he was trying to remember. It didn't make sense, and yet he still craved to touch the soft midnight fur of unusual ears, and with that desire, he hungered to know what else was different about the so-called 'kitten'. Most of all, he wanted to remember...

~ > < ~

There was a sound, a pained noise that called out to Bryce and made him stumble through a forest of shadowed trees and entangling vines. He couldn't move quickly, needing to be prepared for the occasional root or branch that would appear out of the darkness to impede his progress. But despite the suggestion that the forest was against him, Bryce plowed forward in search of the source of the sound that tore at his chest.

After a fight against a particularly clingy bush, Bryce was surprised when he stumbled forward into a small clearing. Umber eyes glanced around the open space, taking in the sight of a small pool of oily water and the sparse flowers that drooped near dead. But he didn't focus for long on those things, his attention quickly drawn to slivers of bright green within the darkness.

Backed against a rotting tree was a tiny kitten, black as its surroundings except for glowing eyes and a small pink tongue. In a quieter version of the previous cries, the kitten mewed - wanting help, but afraid to attract the wrong attention. Bryce smiled gently at the small creature and attempted a step closer, but froze when the image of the kitten blurred and transformed into the far larger form of a dark-haired teen with his clawed hand pressed ashamedly against his face.

"You came."

Bryce frowned at the comment. "You make it sound like I wouldn't."

"Because you don't have a reason to look for me," Char stated as he stood from the ground. His light brown skin held a subtle warmth compared to the rest of the forest, and though Bryce specifically kept his eyes from other regions, he couldn't help a glance at the dark swaying tail.

Revealing long fangs, Char spoke in a low voice. "It's a shame you've driven me to this point. You could have been happy, and I would have been satisfied, but you’ve made things difficult."

Bryce watched the teen’s slow approach, entranced by the graceful stride of the shorter man, but he then noticed the matting of dark hair and a smear of red at the edge of the attractive face. "You're hurt..."

"It's none of your concern."

Despite that claim, Bryce stepped closer and reached for the injured area, but his hand was promptly taken into a clawed hold and placed against the bare chest of the other teen.

"Spread your fingers."

With no reason to argue, Bryce followed the simple order, noting the tremble of flesh beneath his fingertips. But before he could question anything about the intimate touch between two males, Bryce stared confusedly at the sudden appearance of a dark wire that started between his fingers and ended at his own bare chest where a strong hand lightly clawed into his skin.

"There it is," Char murmured, an odd glow darkening his eyes.

"What... is that?"

"It's the one thing keeping you from a good life. It’s time to get rid of this burden."

"Get rid..." Instinctively, Bryce tried to jerk away, but the hand at his wrist gave him no option of escape. "Don't do this."

A cold laugh came from the dark-haired youth. "You know nothing about this connection between us, and yet you want to protect it? Do you realize how ridiculous you sound?"

Bryce shook his head. "No, I get to see the real you and you're going to take that away from me again, before I have the chance to know you or understand..."

"But you did know me once."

Bryce straightened, surprise clear in his open expression.

With a sad smile, Char clarified, "It was almost a year ago. You knew me and you got hurt. And now, even though most of your memories are gone, you were shot because of me. I'm tired of seeing your blood."

"No... That isn't fair. You're making decisions for yourself. What about my choice?"

"It doesn't matter."

Bryce stilled at the succinct answer, the voice low, but unable to hide all emotion. Light brown eyes glanced down at the kinked metal between them, a binding piece of wire that had been twisted too many times and appeared about ready to break on its own. Focused on that dark wire, Bryce asked, "What if I come back?"

"You won't."

Lifting his gaze, Bryce demanded, "What if I do? From what I've heard, you've tried to get rid of me before."

"This is more final."

The somber gleam to the eyes caused a deep coldness within Bryce’s chest. He knew the older teen was serious, that Char would destroy whatever it was between them for his own peace of mind. “I won’t let you.”

“And how would you stop me?”

Not wasting time on thought, Bryce let his legs collapse beneath him. The move caught the other teen off guard, forcing him to join the fallen blond or else injure the arm that he still held in an iron grip. Bryce smiled at the angry look that was directed his way and felt excitement at the returned flare of green light.

“This is just a dream, right?” Bryce asked as his free hand skimmed the ground next to his bent leg, locating a broken stick close to his foot.

“It’s close enough to reality for me to accomplish this task.”

“But not if I wake up first, right?” Just as the question was asked, Bryce grabbed onto the thick piece of wood. Aiming for the shadow scar of his bullet wound, he stabbed into flesh...

~ > < ~

Eyes snapping open, Bryce woke and immediately pushed up into a sitting position where he pressed a shaky hand to his face. The dream was vivid in his mind, and though wearing a long-sleeved shirt and loose pants, Bryce’s entire body suffered from an aching coldness as he recalled the lingering chill of that dark place, as well as the hard gaze of verdant eyes.

The twist of a doorknob had Bryce glancing up, and though surprised to discover that he was in his own room, he was more surprised by the appearance of the raven-haired teen bare of ears and tail. Their eyes met briefly, Bryce with confusion and Char with hesitation, until the older teen lowered his gaze.

Scowling, Bryce asked, “Why are we here? How do you know where I live?”

“I’ve been here before,” was the only response, a reminder of lost memories.

“My parents…” Bryce couldn’t finish his thought, worried for his mother and father.

“I ‘encouraged’ them to go have dinner and see a movie,” Char replied as he stepped to the bedside and held out a glass of water.

Instantly wary of the older teen, Bryce ignored the offered glass.

Sighing, Char revealed the pill bottle in his other hand. “You’re supposed to take one of these. It’s to keep away infection.”

“Why should I trust you?”

“Because I don’t need human drugs to twist your mind,” Char replied in an offhanded manner. Even so, he didn’t force the medicine onto the blond, and instead placed the glass and pills onto the nightstand. Turning back to the younger teen, Char asked sharply, “Why did you do something so stupid?”

Bryce stared at him for the abrupt question, unable to respond as he placed a hand to his shoulder. It hadn’t been a conscious decision to do whatever it took to escape that dream. All he cared about was the sight of the dark piece of metal, a wire that had been bent in all directions, chipped from persistent abuse, and even rusted in the deeper cracks. And yet, despite that neglected appearance, it still existed between them as an unfulfilled bond, a symbol of tenacity that made Bryce question what could be worth that torment.

With an irritated huff, Char leaned back against the wall along side an old lacrosse stick. “You’re a fool to play with magic you don’t understand.”

“Magic…?”

“Of course. How else would our souls be able to meet?”

“Our souls…” Bryce repeated vacantly as he glanced at Char. Focused on the small scar located next to the right ear, he recalled the sight of blood. “If that was your soul, why is it injured like that?”

“… It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“But if that was true, wouldn’t it have healed by now?”

“… …”

Not surprised by the lack of an answer, Bryce smirked as he pulled aside the sheets and stood up from the bed. His steps slow, he brushed back bleached hair from his face and overtly studied the other teen. Though shorter by at least three inches, Char wasn’t ‘smaller’ than Bryce in any sense of the word. Slender muscles filled out the man’s frame, making up for the lack of height with the suggestion of quick and dangerous strength.

Bryce stepped directly in front of Char and lifted a hand to brush his fingertips along the hair-thin scar that curved above the right ear. Following that aged line, his sensitive fingertips slipped into strands of thick ebony and trailed back until locating the spot that he couldn’t resist. He felt the shorter man tense at his touch, but when Char did nothing else, Bryce encouraged the rise of large ears covered in midnight fur.

Lightly rubbing the very tip of an ear, Bryce asked interestedly, “What are you?”

“A cat,” Char replied quietly. “A luckless black cat.”

“You don’t seem entirely feline, so I don’t think that’s the answer I deserve to hear.”

Char exhaled deeply before asking, “Do you believe in witches?”

Though his first instinct was to laugh, Bryce glanced up at his fingers stroking impossibly soft fur. “I suppose that I could be open to the idea.”

Char smiled weakly at the admission. “They don’t really exist anymore, but back in the day, witches were powerful beings who could summon rain over a desert or even breathe life into a corpse. Most had peaceful intentions, and yet, humans put witches on the same level of murderous demons and decided to kill everyone who displayed even a hint of magical ability. For that reason, my kind was born.”

Bryce lowered his gaze and focused on the fingernails that had a different, far more deadly form. “You were meant to protect them?”

“I assume so, though I believe they were also thinking of revenge. Why else would they subject the world to monsters who can hide behind a human mask?”

“You’re not a monster.”

With a dark chuckle, Char argued, “I’ve murdered for you.”

Bryce met the predatory gaze of green, and though his heartbeats sped up at the easily spoken confession, it wasn’t from fear. “Why me?”

“It’s their fault. They couldn’t let their pets run free in the world without some kind of leash and collar.” Under his breath, Char added, “But damn it, why did they have to be so cruel about it?”

Bryce frowned at the words, and though he didn’t understand the exact meaning, he was offended by the implication that his existence in Char’s life was ‘cruel’. With a step forward, Bryce pressed the raven-haired teen flush against the wall and glared down into golden-emerald eyes. He intended to yell at Char, to demand a better explanation concerning the ache to his chest, the loss of his memories, and the occasional scent of apples. He wanted answers to his questions, and yet Bryce didn’t realize that there was something else he wanted more.

Lips came together in a hard press such that Bryce could feel the bump of elongated fangs, the sensation encouraging him to delve deeper into dangerous territory. He licked the corner of dry lips in warning, and when those lips unconsciously parted, Bryce took advantage of that opportunity. Previously unresponsive, Char moaned at the invasion as his hands slid up the long neck and his rough fingers buried deep into dyed hair. Bryce mimicked the firm, almost massaging touch as he ran his hands down the curve of the man’s spine, but he wasn’t given the chance to search lower for a tail of dark fur.

With long fingers twisted into bleached strands, Bryce’s head was jerked back at an awkward angle. His umber eyes shone with confusion as he stared at Char’s abruptly displeased expression, and without the opportunity to question the changed mood, Bryce was pushed backward with a hard shove.

“Don’t fuck with me!”

“Don’t fuck…?” Bryce breathed a laugh as he repeated incredulously, “Don’t fuck with you? Forgive me if I’m confused here, but haven’t you been the one fucking around with my head for months?”

“No, not months,” Char countered. “Only twice. And the dream. That’s it. I never played with you like this.”

“And how am I ‘playing’ with you?”

“… You don’t kiss men.”

“Wha—“

“You told me that, Bryce! You said that you could hold me as a friend and even scratch my ears as if I was your pet, but you could never… would never kiss a man!”

Bryce couldn’t reply, unsettled at being told what he had apparently said during the days stolen from his mind. But when he took the moment to consider it, he knew the words were true. He had never wanted a man in his past, and yet, as he looked to the distressed teen of flattened ears and averted eyes, Bryce didn’t feel revolted at the new and peculiar emotions. Confused, uncertain, and perhaps a little bit curious, but he couldn’t identify a wholly negative emotion in connection with Char.

Breaking the silence, Char said, “I’ve stayed too long. I only meant to tell you about the pills and… I won’t bother you anymore. You stopped me earlier, but I saw the state of our connection. It’ll break on its own soon enough.”

“What does that mean?”

“That what you feel now should disappear and, eventually, you’ll forget.”

Stunned, Bryce stared in disbelief. “And that’s it? I’ll forget everything and you’re alright with that?”

A somber gleam entering verdant eyes, Char smiled with a familiar curl of lips. “That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Bryce stilled at the expression he knew far too well, a look of silent surrender that he always hated on the handsome face. Watching from the shadows, he had cursed the people who made Char swallow his pride and take his misfortunes as if they were deserved. And now, to find himself as the cause of that resigned expression… He hated it all the more.


His smile fading, Char noticed with some surprise that umber eyes were smoldering with golden fire. Needing to appease that anger, he said, “It’ll be fine, Bryce. You didn’t want this in the past. What you feel now, it’s not real. And once I leave—“

“Not real?” Bryce shot back. “What right do you have to say that what I’m feeling isn’t real?”

“Because… I know.”

With an incredulous glare, Bryce countered, “And what, I don’t ‘know’ because you made me forget? Because there’s no possible way that I could feel differently than before? Is that how you ‘know’ what I should and shouldn’t feel?!”

Briefly closing his eyes, Char took in the anger of his Leash and refused to respond in kind. “If you don’t want to listen to me, then ask yourself this – when have you ever wanted another man? And really, have you considered what it means to be with a man?”

When no reply came from the suddenly confused teen, Char chuckled to himself and stepped to the doorway. “It’s alright. Just consider this a time when you questioned your sexuality. Once you’re free of me, you’ll find a lovely girl and have a perfect life.” In a low voice, he added, “And I’ll do my best to ensure that happiness for you.”

Focused on the door to his escape, Char didn’t register the steps on carpet until a moment too late. Long strides had quickly closed the space between them, and with hands propped against the door on either side of him, Char wasn’t allowed to leave.

“Answer one last thing for me,” Bryce requested with controlled anger. “Why did you take my memories?”

“… …”

“Was it because you wanted to be rid of me?”

Char promptly shook his head. “No, that was never the case. We were good friends, but… You don’t know what it’s like for me to be near you. I tried so hard to restrain myself, but in the end, that backfired. I wasn’t thinking straight and I…” Drawing in a steadying breath, he continued, “You were disgusted. And though you said we could still try to be friends, I saw the truth in your eyes. I was going to lose you, and so, I decided that it would be safer if you forgot… Everything.”

After a quiet moment, Bryce encouraged, “And what happened the second time?”

Char didn’t want to answer, but the words still came. “Somehow, a group of hunters found out about you. You didn’t remember a damned thing about me, but they still used you and hurt you… I lost it when I saw what they had done, and you witnessed their deaths. Afterward, you wouldn’t let me touch you, let alone carry you to a hospital.” Char left it there, hoping that the partial answer was enough. He didn’t want to think about that time when Bryce had cowered away, terrified to the point of fainting when Char had laid a hand on his shoulder. It was one thing to be hated and quite another to be feared.

“I don’t understand – why did they take me?”

“Because, you are my leash and collar.”

“… I’m what…?”

Turning slowly, Char smirked at the blond. “Those witches weren’t naïve enough to let their demons roam free on this earth. Instead, they ‘gifted’ us with a Leash, a partner we would do anything to protect, even if it meant obeying the orders of a witch.”

With crossed eyes given their closeness, Bryce asked dumbly, “You… would do anything to protect… me?”

His smirk broadening, Char replied, “You don’t understand.”

He intended to only kiss Bryce, to take his chance of stealing a final taste the person he craved. He didn’t expect the taller teen to welcome the hard press of lips, and when a curious tongue met his rougher thrusts, Char heard himself embarrassingly mew at the flavor of creamy vanilla that overloaded his senses. He wanted to surrender to that instinctual comfort and allow his Leash to become attached, but when unsteady fingers began stroking a large ear, Char was startled back into the world that didn’t include the affections of the one he desired.

Leaning back, Char stared at full lips set into a smug smirk, a sign that Bryce was of the assumption that he had won. A frustrated growl rumbling in his chest, Char renewed their previous kiss and awkwardly guided them in the direction of the bed. Once fallen onto messed sheets, Char promptly grabbed onto slim wrists and held them high above Bryce’s head in a single-handed hold, the move creating a gleam of wariness to golden-brown eyes. While standing, Bryce may have had the greater height, but with their new position on the bed, Char had the clear advantage of muscles trained to attack.

“You should’ve let me go,” Char scolded as he presented thick claws. “But now I see that you won’t recognize the truth without some kind of… demonstration.”

Char tore down the center of the long-sleeved shirt, reasoning that it was his shirt to ruin if he so desired. Though not the first time viewing sun-kissed skin, Char had never been given the opportunity to freely gaze upon the firm chest bruised by ambitious lacrosse sticks. Bending down, he lapped his rough tongue along the newest of the discolored regions, distractedly wishing for the ability to heal away the pains of his Leash.

Following the curve of the bruise, Char curled his tongue beneath a hardened nipple, drawing a sharp breath from the blond. Intrigued by the response, Char glanced up at Bryce’s face to find eyes tightly closed.

With a derisive laugh, Char trailed his clawed fingers along the waist band of loose jeans. “How does it feel to be with a man?”

“… …”

Smirking at Bryce’s silence, Char unbuttoned and carefully unzipped the jeans, purposely letting each click of metal be heard by the blond. By the time he reached the base of the zipper, Bryce’s body had gained an interesting flushed appearance that made Char grin delightedly. Removing the button to the borrowed boxers, Char slipped his hand inside the fold.

“How does it feel to be with me?” Char queried as he lightly caressed sensitive flesh with thick claws before wrapping his fingers around the beginning arousal.

Bryce jerked hard at the first stroke, nearly freeing his hands from their hold. With a smirk of amusement, Char watched every twist of the younger teen, wishing he could always be the one to cause such pleasure to his Leash. Unfortunately, even when aroused at Bryce’s panted breaths, Char could only hear words of rejection from the full mouth.

With the first gloss of pre-cum coating his fingers, Char released his hold on the hardened dick, purposefully running his claws at the underside of darkened flesh. Bryce hissed out an unintelligible curse at the touch, encouraging the raven-haired teen to go further. Moving his hand to the blond’s backside, Char had the pleasure to witness caramel-colored eyes snapping open in fearful disbelief.

Char smiled knowingly at the younger teen, and with the touch of his clawed fingers against the hidden opening, he met with his first resistance from the blond. Bryce bucked and lashed out with an undirected kick, but his leg was promptly captured beneath Char’s weight.

“Don’t move. You’ll just hurt yourself,” Char soothed as he continued to stroke the sensitive asshole.

“Why?” Bryce asked, his voice rough with fear and need.

“Because, I have to prove to you that you don’t want me.” And without further warning, Char plunged a finger deep into the resisting asshole.

Bryce gasped at the invasion, his body instantly trying to reject what wasn’t supposed to be there, but the fluttering of muscle just made Char smile as he leaned down to tongue an older bruise. Still, Bryce tried to escape his violation, squirming beneath Char in a most pleasing way. There was fight in the blond, a spark of energy that died in an instant when Bryce abruptly cried out with a buck of his hips.

“Surprising, isn’t it, that it can feel so good,” Char muttered against shivering skin.

Bryce shook his head, but was proven wrong with a second brush of rough flesh. A cry escaping through clenched teeth, he remained in a taut, half-thrust position as if denying what he truly wanted to do. But a human body can only resist so much pleasure before submitting to that sinful rush.

Two fingers deep into private realms, Char used his mouth and teeth on a hard nipple, almost to the point of piercing vulnerable flesh with his fangs. But no matter how tempting, he wouldn’t leave any scar that could be used as a reminder of his existence. Char wanted to be hated, avoided, and eventually forgotten by the person he wasn’t allowed to have.

The violent orgasm of the younger teen caught Char by surprise, the long body beneath him arching up such that their groins connected in a hard thrust, the material of denim doing nothing to save Char from the feel of rigid flesh and hot seed. A growl of frustration left him as his eyes closed tightly and he forced away his growing desire.

Soon spent, Bryce laid utterly relaxed on his mattress, hardly making a sound of complaint when fingers slid out from his anus. Char smiled fondly at the teen’s boneless sprawl, and unable to stop himself, he leaned forward to lightly kiss reddened lips. As if wakened from deep slumber, Bryce’s eyes snapped open to stare confusedly into bright green.

“I’m sorry,” were the first words that slipped from Char, his voice quiet and broken. “I wish you did want me, but—“

“Bastard,” Bryce interrupted with a shadow of a smile. “You do that to me and you’re just going to leave?”

“…Yes...”

In an abrupt move, Bryce freed a hand from its hold and grabbed onto Char’s shirt. “Don’t you fucking make me forget this. Not again.”

Surprise clear on his face, Char announced thoughtlessly, “We’ve never done this before.”

“… Wait… Are you saying that I rejected you without feeling… this?”

Sensing the impending backfire of his ill-conceived plan, Char turned away. “Damn it, that’s not the point. It’s wrong, disgusting, and completely against human nature. Nobody in his right mind would actually want shit on his dick, let alone a dick up his ass.”

Hesitating, Bryce asked, “Was I the one to tell you that?”

Firm in his silence, Char didn’t realize that his unwillingness to answer was enough of a reply. A heated hand stroked along his jawbone until forcing their eyes to meet, fragile green gazing into the warmth of golden-brown.

“I can’t believe this, but…” Breathing a laugh, Bryce continued, “If I really did say those things, I wasn’t really rejecting you. I was denying my attraction to another man and I took it out on you.”

“You weren’t—“

Listen, I’ve already had that exact same argument with myself. Several times, in fact, with a shitload of cussing and a few punched walls. But in the end, I’m still here.”

With wide verdant eyes, Char felt his body go cold at the simple words, the weary tone reminding him of another time.

“What, you don’t believe me?”

“No, you…” Pressing a hand to his face, Char said brokenly, “Back then, you told me that you wanted to talk, but I didn’t ask why. I assumed… I never met you that day. Selena was there in my place… to make you forget…”

“Idiot,” Bryce whispered before wrapping his arms around the shorter teen. “Don’t make me forget again.”

“I’m sorry—“

“No, don’t apologize. Just tell me what I want to hear.”

“… Your memories are safe,” he promised.

Bryce breathed in relief. “God, it’s hard to believe I want this, but…” He didn’t finish his statement, and instead stretched his long form against the older teen.

Welcoming that bodily contact, Char held the blond close. “Let this be real.”

Bryce leaned back and gazed into uncertain green. “Do I need to ‘demonstrate’ how real this is?”

Char winced at his words being used against him, but when full lips graced his, he felt like a man in the desert setting eyes upon an oasis and praying to God that it wasn’t a mirage.

“I think we’ve earned this,” Bryce commented quietly. “So stop fighting.”

Savoring the sound of sincerity to the tenor voice, Char smiled blissfully before kissing the bare chest of the blond. “As my Leash commands, I will obey.”

With his finger stroking a flattened ear, Bryce asked, “Then how about letting me see that tail of yours?”

 

{Owari}

 

Author's Whining -- This is the original fic I submitted for the Yaoi Con 2006 anthology and was rejected.  Ah, well.  At least I tried.  I imagine that I tried to put too much into a short story, but I just couldn't help myself.  I put way too much thought into these stories. =P