I've been asked for this forever. I haven't looked at it in a long time, and I'm not going to; just give it over. Probably the end, open-ended though it may be. Enjoy.
A Long Way From Home
Bruce/Clark, NC-17. Violence, language, explicit m/m sex.
Part II: Fugitives
"One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it's left behind; I dare say a prisoner begins to relent toward his prison after he is let out." - Dickens
- Stowing Away -
Tama followed Sata’s newfound ease at creeping about; his own feet made soft crunching sounds even when he went slow and gentle, but Sata was like a silent shadow. As if he’d spent his entire life creeping about in the dark. Sata’s smile never faded, even at close brushes with patrols in the street. The danger made him grin like a madman, showing off those troublesome teeth, but Tama was still too worried about getting away much enjoy himself.
Sata had stolen them loose clothes with hooded cloaks, so loose that they’d had to tear strips of the layered drape off their shoulders to wrap down their calves to run decently. But it was still clothing, it still made him feel like a man, and... that had always been difficult when tied up and naked. To say the least.
He couldn’t help but think someone would notice two hooded figures running like Death itself was right behind them. Li’stra might wake up in the night and find him gone. She might not even think them intelligent enough to do anything but find a hole to hide in, but they couldn’t rely on that. Sata had spirited himself from some sort of official captivity in a government building, after all. Tama liked to think that act in and of itself meant something in regards to their worth.
Or she’d simply be indignantly furious, which was far more likely.
They mounted a rise of land overlooking the space port, little more than a wide circle of flood lights in the wasteland, and stopped at the top, got down low and catch their breath.
What would she do to them if they were caught? With how much she liked Sata, and the likelyhood he’d be going right back to the authorities, he’d almost certainly take most of her anger by himself. They’d both be broken when it was said and done, far worse off than before, and the hope they would ever find themselves again would be lost. There wouldn’t be any hope left.
“Stop it,” Sata growled. “You’re supposed to be the optimist.” He was glaring at him, at the same time he reached over the sand to put his hand on Tama’s, squeezing it once before he looked back over the flat, illuminated space below the dune. “Get it straight, because I won’t waste time on morale.”
“Of course not, wouldn’t be right.”
Only a walled terminal for passenger craft in the distance had landing-lights; about it was clusters of smaller vessels, only lights from the ships themselves a few occasional patrols eyeing cargo. Aliens without identification and of a species held to be inferior could not hope to board a ship legally; that much they did have figured out. Everywhere on this planet they’d seen people flashing their documents.
“There, at the far right.” It was a dented, ancient-looking cargo ship that had a heavy, lumbering look to it as compared to the others. Sata nodded in it’s direction and Tama saw no reason to question his judgment.
An instinct, perhaps, but they went with it. Instincts were serving them well, knowing everything they’d forgotten.
The far side appeared quieter, darker, their target the only vessel with an open bay, so they skirted the light altogether.
Their cargo bay doors were open wide and inviting as the crew loaded greenish crates onto hovering platforms, and the pair watched as they snuck ever closer, finally hiding in the shadow of it’s wing, only a few feet away, but unnoticed as the crew worked in the light. The species had wide skulls with asymmetrical horns and formidably large reddish bodies, but were amicable with each other, sharing some sort of thick cigars they’d hold in their teeth.
If Li’stra had been concerned about their teeth, she’d obviously never seen the fearsome jaws these beings had. Tama was fairly certain his head would fit in that jagged-edged mouth.
The crew went away with the platforms when they were done, a few staying behind, but their voices went out of hearing. Sata crept out from under the wing, keeping down as he peeked around the edge of the cargo bay door, then waved Tama over.
One at a time, they snuck inside and darted along the walls, all the way to an unlit ledge of space in the back, where the ceiling was low and all the boxes were empty and dusty. The whole cargo bay was massive, catwalks up above, a few large parts to unfamiliar equipment and land vehicles in various states of wholeness here and there in the back.
Between the wall and a stack of flat metal sheets three times their height was a dirty crawl space they squeezed inside, getting comfortable. Smelled like grease, oil, and dust. It wasn’t so bad once they got situated, sitting beside each other in the middle, in almost total blackness, just gray triangles of wall visible on either side.
The idea of freedom really set in, now that he had time to think on it and just rest in each other’s arms. They weren’t going to live in cages anymore. Not going to constantly mauled or filled with drugs out of the passing fancy of some wealthy woman and her self-important lot of kin.
Wearing clothes and thinking for themselves felt right, and he smiled, couldn’t stop smiling. There was no further proof needed to know that they’d never belonged on leashes, and perhaps he’d had doubts about that, because he could feel them leave.
They also had nothing to eat or drink, but it couldn’t be helped.
A real life was out there, somewhere. Even if they could never find it and lived out their lives as lost creatures on some alien world, now they would do it on their own terms... and that, that felt like nearly as good a prospect.
Even after the bay doors were shut with a shuddering ‘Thud!’ and the engines began to whine, they didn’t even dare to speak or breathe too loudly. It was all for nothing if they were discovered before they even got off the ground, but the loud crew never went near their hiding place.
- Strange Little Aliens -
After waiting what the cycle of occasional voices and silence told them was about three days, they but whispered a bit to each other, agreeing that they would wait until the ship landed again and see where they were before risking anything. They didn’t sleep, rarely spoke even then, like they went into a sort of trance of patience and fear.
They waited another day and began to discuss revealing themselves. They needed water, at the very least, and it couldn’t wait any longer.
“Let me go alone,” Sata finally said. “There’s a better chance I’ll keep out of sight by myself. You can do the next dangerous act, if it makes you feel better.”
So Sata crept out, a bit stiff at first from being in one place so long, but once he was moving out and into the light he was quick and fluid. They guessed the crew was resting, because of the long span of silence all around, but even so, Tama waited apprehensively.
Tama continued to wait a very long time, until it seemed far too long.
There’d been no yelling or indication Sata’d been caught, but it was a big ship. His tongue was starting to feel thick in his mouth from thirst, his head constantly aching.
When the long silence fell again, almost a day having passed, thirst and worry drove him out into the cargo bay, letting his joints loosen as he listened carefully, but heard no-one.
The ship was a maze of narrow corridors, and Tama frequently thought himself hopelessly lost only to find the same stretch of doors or landing again. The problem was an easy one to solve; he’d not even tried to read any of the signs on the walls, so used to being illiterate of everything around him.
There seemed to be a mess of languages on everything, as if it had passed through many hands, none of which bothered to take off old labels or paint over fading words on the walls. Whoever had first had it, from the age of the chipping paint, they were of a species that Tama must have met upon before. Not all of it could be deciphered, but enough.
He got his bearings, but there was no sign of Sata or anything to drink.
At a door marked ‘Recreation’ he listened, heard nothing, and turned the creaky metal handle, careful as he went inside.
There were narrow windows along the far wall, a nearby star system’s yellow sun shining inside, light enough that he didn’t turn on a switch he figured was for overhead lamps in the ceiling.
The sun was distant and small, a golden, beautiful spot drowning out all the stars, and for a moment everything was forgotten as he walked to the windows like being drawn by invisible strings, pressed his hand against the cool surface and sighed as he felt... better. The ship was moving quickly, and it became more distant before he could bring himself away.
It took some doing to find something that wasn’t alcoholic or completely undrinkable, and it tasted awful when he did find it, but after enough he felt much, much better, draining bottles until it made his stomach queasy.
Tama resumed his search invigorated, feeling... alive, sparked with energy, like he could do anything and a previously absent life was coming out of his surroundings as well. Amazing clarity.
To his surprise and reassurance, he could smell Sata. Knowing what direction he was in by the familiar scent of his skin in all this climate-controlled air and metal smelling of burnt oil and grease. The whole ship seemed to move and breathe around him, the hums and rhythms of it’s movement in space more distinct, the details of it’s construction all clearer.
It was a surreal experience, like he was out of himself and everywhere, hearing everything, and he made his way carefully, afraid of missing something right in front of him, even tripping over a piece of broken plastic discarded on the floor. But he knew there were about two dozen beings aboard, and most of them had even, deep breathing of sleep.
He was reminded of the first things he remembered, after waking up. The lizard-men dungeon and hearing everything.
The clarity of it ebbed in and out, but not before he stumbled right into the control room, ducking back out at the sight of three particularly nasty-looking aliens at the controls. He’d been so distracted at finding Sata he’d almost run straight into them.
“You smell that?” Tama was almost shocked that he could understand what the aliens were saying, the words, the whole language becoming clearer in his head.
“I don’t know, something. It was... oh, where were we last year at that thing?”
“The scrapper we stripped, with all that porn in the pantry, yes? The smell there was in the beds.”
“It wasn’t that, fool. It was whatever abandoned the thing.”
“I smell it, too. We got aliens on board, I bet you we do.”
“So go shoot them and stop bothering me with your ‘smells’ for a little while.”
“Can’t find the buggers. Invisible.”
Tama thought they sounded like reasonable enough beings, but if Sata hadn’t revealed himself to them, it was likely for good reason. There was no guarantee they wouldn’t be considered tossed out an airlock like rats in their food stores.
“Hey! What the..?!” He whirled around as a fourth barked at him, having come up from behind without Tama noticing, so distracted by the volume of the world going up and down.
The great red creature was blocking the hall with it’s bulk, and the only other way to go was right to the other three.
Tama waved and tried to smile, alarmed not only by the snarling face, but the realization there had to be something wrong with him. “I’m sorry, I... think I got lost,” he stuttered. “I, uh, I was, and...”
The alien went for his gun and Tama dropped to the ground, rolled through the doorway and hoped they’d be less likely to fire around computers. He was wrong, and ducked for cover as a beam hit a wall next to his head. His ears rang and left him deaf for a few dreadful seconds, pushed up against the metal surface like it could shield him on all sides.
“Hey hey HEY!” The gunfire stopped and Tama peeked out from behind a console. The biggest one, with a metal sash over his shoulders, was holding his hands out to his crew. “Do you know how much repairs cost us now that T60 is obsolete? Idiots!”
“Captain, there’s a weird little...”
“I saw it, I saw it. Think I’m blind, eh? Go clean your guns, would you? You too, Stek, get out of here. Everyone, go.” He waved them out the door, half pushing them out, and closed the door behind them.
The Captain went over to the various new blast marks, sighing as he examined them. “You can come out,” he said calmly.
Tama did just that, the secret out and this a good an opportunity as any to get them something to eat, if he could manage to survive the day. He knew Sata was up by the ceiling, hidden in the twisting conduits and wires and metal rafters up there, but didn’t dare look up to give him away.
“Alright, you, I heard you talk,” the Captain said. “What you think you’re doing on my ship, eh?” He had a deep voice, but it wasn’t so rough as their fearsome appearance would indicate. Not anymore.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Tama shrugged, not knowing what else to say. The truth might get the Captain thinking this rich lady of theirs might have something to offer to get her pets back and give a profitable solution to his uninvited passengers. “Your ship seemed very... nice.”
“Nice?” The Captain roared with laughter, a deafening sound like rocks tumbling together. “Alright, weird little thing you. Stay? Yes? I don’t think you eat so much I’ll bother killing you and waste my ammunition. That is more expensive.”
“Are you going to be landing soon?”
The Captain roared with laughter again. “Landing? No landing. Union heavy metal asteroid miners, we are, papers good. You listen now,” he said, pointing at Tama firmly. “I’ve been tangled with the law, I know what running is like. You be clear now, right here. First slip-up, first thing going missing that shouldn’t be and I’ve got one less mouth to feed, yes?”
He decided to continue letting the Captain think he was some sort of outlaw, if it would help.
“I already drank something in the recreation room,” Tama admitted.
“Meh, I think I don’t care so much about that. Iter, though, he may be different, but I won’t tell him I don’t think. Owes me for bet he lost.”
“And, I, uh... I’m not alone.”
“More things on my ship?” he barked angrily.
“No! Yes. Just... one more.”
Tama gave him a steady, innocent look as Sata leapt down and landed behind him. Not turning to look, but feeling a kiss on the back of his neck.
“My mate,” Tama explained. The Captain seemed a bit wary of aliens that were mysteriously dropping from the ceiling, but also seemed to have seen stranger things. “We’re both fast learners, just tell us how to earn keep until you land... well, if you go someplace besides back there, we’ll be gone,” he assured him.
“I think you are not so useful, but I keep it in mind, yes? You do things when I tell you to do things?”
Although his choice of words left Tama feeling a little grated, he nodded. “We will.”
“That one talk?”
“Yes,” Sata said evenly.
“Fine. We eat soon in forward galley, you can come. But you find trouble, you keep it, yes?”
“Thank you, Captain, thank you very much, we...”
“Very grateful, yes? Good. You keep being grateful until I need something done in very small space and maybe I have use for you.” The Captain thought that was very funny, chuckling a little. “Alright, alright, go go. I have work.”
Tama took Sata’s hand as they left, the Captain laughing as they kissed each other and walked away. “Strange little things,” he muttered, still chuckling.
- What Happened to Sata -
They didn’t wait for dinner to get some actual water to drink; Sata had been sneaking out of the galley with bottles and food when he’d almost been discovered. He’d been hiding in the control room ever since, waiting for a chance to bring them back; in fact, he gave Tama a few looks like he was annoyed that he’d come after him, but didn’t say anything, so they left the matter at that.
It seemed to have been a good risk to take.
The tins of food they kept hidden, just in case, but the water they shared up on a catwalk in the cargo bay, a shadowy corner where they’d see anyone coming long before they’d ever be seen in turn.
Still very much like some sort of animals that had taken to nesting in the cargo bay, but Tama didn’t mind. They couldn’t expect a better reception than food and a free ride.
He paused, no words seeming to be grand or meaningful enough. So he just said it. “You saved us.”
“I saved myself and brought you along for company,” Sata replied, his voice serious but his eyes twinkling.
“As long as I get to keep you company, I’m grateful.” He took Sata’s hands, pulled up close. “I didn’t know if you were dead, I just... I didn’t want to live anymore if you never came back. I gave up a little and... we’re here.”
A different, but just as passionate sort of feeling spread over Sata’s face.
“I think I went a little mad,” he whispered, then was quiet a long time, Tama stroking his hands. “Day and night, they’d either be howling or just... sitting there. I never slept. I think I became one of them... I stopped thinking and just howled with them, because I couldn’t stand to be one of the ones just waiting.”
It was difficult to imagine. Knowing they were civilized men and being able to be civilized men had been two very different things. But to be locked in with a dozen beasts barking and snarling, for days? Sata’s face was drawn in a way it hadn’t been before, his brow wrinkled, his lips, flat and tense. The wild look in his eyes seemed to be a new sort of feral aspect that had been driven to the surface and would not soon be leaving, and was not so joyous as before.
“Strange, though,” Sata continued. “I finally had one of them listen to me.”
“The doctor. I could never understand everything, but I knew they were looking at a file on me, of their... test results.” He swallowed and took a deep breath. “They were deciding whether or not to order that you be brought in, too.”
Tama hadn’t any idea he’d been in danger, too, and the memory of the building with the cages became even more unsettling. “But they never did.”
“No. The doctor knew I could talk, wasn’t surprised when I did. I told him that you were gentle and would never hurt anyone. That I’d stop trying to fight him if he’d leave you alone.”
“I’d been giving him a lot of trouble.” He took a drink of water, staring off over the side of the metal walkway and down to where one of their hosts had walked into the cargo bay below. “It always bothered everyone in the office that I could speak. He told me if I kept my mouth shut and stopped unsettling his staff he’d agree. I don’t think he wanted to hurt us, though. He kept telling me I’d feel better after he was done calming me down.”
Sata had never liked for Tama to do anything more than be present when he was obviously not entirely well, so he didn’t even try to kiss him, just rested in his company.
Sata took back his hands and looked at them thoughtfully. “They seem to remember so much more than I do,” he mused. “I electrocuted myself, but it worked.” He put them back down, looked at Sata, and smiled a little. “You haven’t eaten in days. We should fix that.”
“I won’t argue,” Tama said, though he didn’t feel like someone who’d not eaten for days. Not anymore.
He almost mentioned the strangeness of his hearing and vision a few times, but it seemed to be normal now, and some passing imbalance from having been shut in the dark too long.
They moved down from the catwalks, through the halls. The crew seemed to already all be there, because they didn’t encounter anyone along the way, but loud voices echoed up ahead as Sata followed.
To say that their experience left them less than trusting was still, however, an understatement. They ducked out of sight when one walked past thunderously.
Outside the open door of the galley, they stopped a moment to listen; all they heard was laughing and insults, which... seemed to be normal.
They stepped inside the room and stood at the door; the food was on a counter on the other side of the room, past a long table full of rather dangerous looking strangers. One of which had only so recently been shooting at him.
“Thank you, Captain,” Tama said, just to clarify to all the pointy ones that they were supposed to be there.
Even so, they went past hesitantly. Their appearance didn’t seem to be as alarming as before, or even interesting at all. Perhaps strange, but they weren’t bothered.
Sata took two plates and held them out while Tama dished out dubious-looking but decent smelling food and got them some hot drink out of a big container with a spigot on the front.
They went back close to the door and sat on an empty counter to eat.
Sata handed him an metal eating utensil that was half rounded and had tines on one side. Not only were they oversized for the aliens, neither were used to using anything but their fingers to eat, and went about it all clumsy and having to learn it as they went.
Tama kept stealing glances at Sata, the changes in him suddenly so obvious. How different they both were since they'd first seen each other on the other ship. Their hair was longer now, his own wavy and a curl here and there, always in his face, while Sata’s was straight and sleek. He watched Sata unconciously smooth it behind his ears, something he did often. The other differences were hard to place, but he knew the man facing down the lizards was not the man tangling with his food.
They finished dinner shortly and the Captain yelled after them before they left, “stuff in there yours if you need it, yes! Trash.”
So, with what they could find in the cargo bay, they spent the rest of the day making a place for themselves in their back corner above the catwalk, where a ledge near the ceiling made for a spacious enough but concealed place to rest. They found blankets and rope to make a wall of sorts, should the ship come to a quick stop and send them flying toward the open space, and decided it would be enough for the moment.
He didn't let himself miss Li'stra's pillows for long, satisfying himself with being curled up on their thick bed, their clothes hanging on the rope wall. It was home enough for now.
“I think we’re going to be alright,” Tama said softly, smiling at the feeling of Sata’s skin under his hands. “We might just make it home.”
“Get some rest,” Tama whispered, kissing Sata’s forehead as he yawned and did just that.
- Tama Wins a Fight -
A few days passed uneventfully. They slept, found a secluded restroom to clean themselves up, and Sata began re-learning computer systems on a terminal in an unused medical bay. There was nothing in the data banks that helped them, but there were a few descriptions of beings of their general size in an annotated chart of the known galaxy. Daxamites, Tebans. Information was spotty at best, but he kept looking.
Most of them were in another galaxy altogether, as Tama had feared they’d be. And they were going at an angle away from it, toward unsettled reaches of space, ultimately to an asteroid field still some week’s travel off.
Once, the Captain found Tama and asked him to crawl through a space into the electrical system and find the source of some trouble, and they’d both gone, but Sata fixed the trouble like second nature and Tama found a familiarity to it as well.
Had they been soldiers or scientists?
Either way, freedom was so intoxicating they didn’t really care about having to wait to begin their search. They expressed it in much the same way they had when they’d belonged to Li’stra, cuddling in their bed, but this time they chose to stay there, and that made all the difference.
Cuddling was all there was, as time wandered on. Sata was never able to truly relax. Never entirely let his guard down, but that was fine. His company was enough, and they had lots of time.
And then they passed by a star system, this time with Sata there as well to enjoy the sight of it.
Tama pressed against the windows and sighed blissfully. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
“It’s pretty,” Sata replied, shrugging. “I don’t feel anything.”
“I do.” Tama sighed again, feeling a light tingle on his skin, a warmth almost like an emotion in his chest. He took off the cloak and opened the ties up the front of the oversized shirt, felt it on his chest. It wasn’t as strong as before, but it was still energizing.
“I can tell.”
Sata put his hands around Tama’s waist, moving in for a perfect moment when they were interrupted.
“Hey there!” It was Iter; over ten feet tall and the most surly of their hosts. He didn’t seem to like anyone, and the feeling was mutual.
“What are you doing in my space, eh?”
“It’s not yours,” Tama replied. “It’s for everyone.”
“Everyone if they are me.”
“Fine, we’ll leave.” Tama put the cloak back over his shoulders and Sata took his hand as they made to do just that and avoid a conflict.
Iter seemed bent on it, however, and snarled at them, stepping between them and the door. “I think I don’t want you around anymore,” he announced, and charged.
Tama’s instincts took over.
He shoved Sata behind him and moved into the blow, not away from it, without any hesitation, which he somehow had the time to consider as he did. The alien’s massive, bony arm came crashing down to strike him, and he threw up a forearm to meet it.
To his shock, his arm took the blow steady as a rock, his clothes tearing but his skin hardly even feeling a thing. It shook his bones a little, but the fight stopped then and there out of mutual surprise.
Iter stepped back and looked at his arm, then back at Tama.
The pause lasted only a moment, however; he threw another punch, and this time Tama neatly dodged it and took the opportunity to land a solid punch into the massive jaw.
Iter went flying across the room and slammed into the far wall, the entire ship shuddering from the impact.
Tama stared at his fist, slack-jawed as Iter took off and Sata silently stared at him in astonishment.
“Did I just do that?”
“I believe so.”
“How did I just do that?”
Sata was quiet for a long while, until Tama shook off the shock and looked at himself in curiosity, then up for an answer.
“Sunlight,” Sata finally said.
“I couldn’t do this back there. We would have been long gone a long time ago.”
“Maybe it’s... specific sunlight.”
“How? Why, that... I don’t understand. You don’t feel anything?”
Sata took out a small knife and nicked his thumb, to prove it with a drop of blood. “I’m still the same.”
The mystery left them in a strange sort of mood for a good while.
Iter never said anything to the others, and they decided keeping this quiet would be the best.
The ship was away from the sun soon, and over the next day the quick burst of energy gradually faded, and Tama was hardly stronger than Sata again. He had to have used it up in experimenting in the cargo bay, lifting everything just to see if he could.
He could. Even the land vehicles and the bundle of sheet metal they’d hidden under.
Sata watched him in quiet awe, as if a magnificent stranger had appeared in his place.
Tama looked forward to seeing what may happen if they were in a solar system of a star like that. He didn’t know when that would happen; space was humblingly vast, and their place on the ship was still not one where they could ask for a course change.
There was something exciting about hurdling into the unknown, to find whatever may come.
And he worried, too. Worried, not for the first time, that he might have something to remember that he’d never want to know.
One or either could already have other mates, have good reason to hate each other.
They could be murderers. He didn’t feel capable of terrible things, could hardly imagine it in Sata, but... there were a great many things forgotten, and a lifetime of memories could change everything. There was always the possibility that they really had deserved to be sold off by the Gordanians.
If Sata also considered these things, he never did mention it.
- The Phantom Audience -
Tama stirred and turned over at the sound of a clanking outside their nest; one of their massive hosts was outlined through the curtain. He sat up and pulled forward enough to draw it aside while Sata quietly covered himself and hung back, as he did. His distrust of anyone but Tama was always so obvious.
It was the Captain, leaning against the side of the wall.
“Hitting the port soon, more like you I think, right side of Xudar for strange little things. Littler than you.” He smiled his smile of jagged fangs. “I think I will give you credits and send you along. We need new parts, drill busted.”
Tama sat up more, raised his brows in surprised interest. In being paid for their work as much as arriving to a port so soon; he’d thought they’d be out for months more.
“When we get back to galaxy right. Two days.” Xudar was the name of the galaxy they were in; or, at the moment, were just outside of.
“Thank you, Captain.”
He made a gruff noise, nodded, and left.
The Captain’s heavy footsteps echoed down through the cargo hold and Tama turned over, rumbled in his throat as he took Sata in his arms. He squeezed their bodies together and smiled as he accepted little kisses over his neck.
Sata’s leg drew up between his legs and Tama sighed heavily, his breath shifting to a groan of satisfaction. He wasn’t sure why the news that they would soon be cast back into the unknown sparked lust, but for the first time since they’d been two caged animals they moved their cocks against each other and moaned, arousal stirring again as if it had never left.
It was pleasure and haunting memories. Just to touch him now.
Faces propped on hands, laughing to each other, a musician playing in the corner, red sunlight in the windows, heavy black bars just for them. Their audience that never seemed to consider what their captives wanted. Thinking they already knew, smiling as Tama and Sata worked to forget they were there at all.
It was if they were there, still. Prolonging everything as much as they could while still always moving, knowing there would be locks and hands all over them when were done. He could almost feel the collar on his neck again.
Tama opened his eyes, gazed into Sata’s and knew he was reliving it just the same.
Their bodies locked together and they were two haves of the same whole, holding their gaze and breathing in tandem, moving a slow rhythm that grew faster. The heads of their cocks leaked wet into their bellies, warm and slick, prompting their waves of motion faster and faster, skin flushed as their bodies grew hot and they began to sweat, even with the blankets pushed off.
Sata gasped and arched into him as he came, throwing his head back.
“You’re so beautiful,” Tama sighed, and followed him into orgasm, long-repressed and rolling ripples that ebbed in every part of him.
Sticky and content, they stayed twisted together, gently stroking each other’s backs. Tama didn’t like to think that he was somehow different than Sata was.
Their ghosts had left them again, far behind as the ship hummed it’s way through empty space.
- Xudar -
Much to their mutual surprise, the rest of their journey on the Habk was uneventful. The crew was happy to see them go at the next port, and they were happy to leave with small bundles of what was worth taking with them, credits in their pockets and their clothes as neat as they could get in their patched-together state.
The space port bustled with birdlike yellow beings with a few other aliens here and there, a cacophany of languages and shrill or low sounds from all about, the sound of engines and the smell of their discharge hanging about it. Simply walking out into the crowds was unnerving, and Sata’s eyes kept flicking about in paranoid agitation, but nobody was particularly interested in yet another pair of shabby aliens.
There were buildings still wearing blast-marks, and as they walked down the ramp and looked over the city, they could tell it had been a site of war at some point in the not so distant past. Sleek and shiny, but rough and battered around the edges. Skyscrapers were impossibly high all about, gleaming with metallic stylistic form, with smaller buildings a relative statement, still impressively gracing. Tama wasn’t the only one staring up, he noticed.
Leaving the ship without goodbyes or sentimental attachments, they were both just relieved to breathe fresh air again. They’d never quite gotten on with the crew, another dependence happily shed for a chance to properly set out to finding their lives. It was a cloudy day, but Tama still felt energetic so close to a sun, like a diffused warmth all over his body, like permanent afterglow following him about.
Lost in the throngs of beings all chattering away in a variety of languages, they made their way, hand in hand and cautious, to what had been pointed out as the area most receptive to aliens. The people of Xudar were said to be friendly, but distant to other races on their planet. The War, it was said, had cynicized a once innocent people. Sata murmured something about reading up on this “war” later.
Regardless of trust, everyone seemed to live close together, even the prosperous yellow natives in their significantly larger sections of the city.
They soon figured their money may be enough to get them transportation on a freighter to Galt or Thanagar, but this was an advanced planet and a center of trade and commerce. Sata wanted to stay for a while, so they made their way to a more run-down part of the city with the same mix of races as the space port.
A bar advertised access to the Net, which Sata made a beeline for.
Inside the bar was a dark, rather somber interior accented with lit advertisements and a flashing jukebox on the wall. The terminal was in the back, a dubious smelling corner with lewd profanity carved into the wall. The terminal itself had a crack and grime on the screen, but Sata put in a credit and Tama turned around to watch the room.
The chance that anyone would find them, several systems away, was almost nonexistent. At least as far as danger from their former owner was concerned. But he was uneasy, just the same. Suspiciously watching everyone mind their own business. A few lumpy, oversized greenish creatures were playing a game at their table, a tall, hairy being at the bar huddled over his drink, others here and there, paying the newcomers little mind.
“I’ll need more time looking,” Sata finally announced. “We need a place to stay, first.”
They went back into the street, and found a similarly run-down and equally inexpensive lodging; they paid for a room of their size and general physiology through a terminal in a tiny lobby with empty bottles in one corner, the key falling out a slot with a cheerful chime once enough credits were put in. Sata paid them up for a week.
“I hope they clean it now and then,” Tama remarked as they found the room number in the maze of hallways.
Sata opened the door, looking inside before he stepped in and the lights came on. It was small and efficient; a bed under a set of narrow windows looking over the street, a desk-like Net terminal, a screen on one wall, a tiny dresser. All in metal and sturdy black plastic.
The bathroom, once investigated, proved to be equipped well enough for them, but boxlike and economical.
“It will do,” Sata decided.
He let his guard down a little. Tama splashed some water on his face and walked back into the room to find him with a faraway look on his face, staring out the window with his fingers laced together behind his back.
“No,” Sata quietly insisted. “Fine.” Tama sat on the bed, watched him standing there. Colored light flickering over his face from outside.
“It’s good to finally get off the ship, get some fresh air.”
Sata shrugged, communicated ambivalence. He looked another moment, then sat down and flipped up a screen proclaiming Net access at no extra charge.
The bigger screen on the wall lit up with a commercial for some kind of resort on a moon, advertised by one of the yellow natives in a red robe-like dress. A woman whose appearance, alien or not, had his mind itch with something forgotten... and important, in that happy expression.
- Flight -
It only took a couple of days and a few bar-brawls to get the two of them something of a reputation in the ghetto. Notoriety was another strange thing to sit well with them a bit better than Tama suspected it should.
They discovered the practice this garnered made them both increasingly more proficient at defending themselves; sometimes, of course, they were hopelessly outclassed by some marauding bunch of seemingly invincible giants with talons or some-such thing - or they simply didn’t want to hurt anyone - and would re-discover the finer points of a quick escape.
Either way, they were hired for minor security jobs, bouncing at the bars and such, enough to pay their room bill, pick up a universal translator for each of them, and better clothes that fit them. Even two pairs of boots. Their small savings was a workable size now, enough that they even considered buying themselves forged identification.
Through the crowded streets, they always had to hold hands; Tama first, making way through the pushy, multi-species chaos. It would be all too easy to get separated, and they had a few times. Now Tama could always hear him, but it didn’t matter; he didn’t want them to get separated out here. Or anywhere.
He grew stronger every day, but any fears that alleviated only bred more elsewhere. He didn’t like the idea of being so different from Sata, so pointlessly afraid of being judged by him. It didn’t make sense. Sata would never do that. He would question and theorize and caution but never made any indication of fear or distrust.
“Watch where yer going!”
A burly, angry alien snarled down at them, halting the foot traffic around them as the signs of an imminent fight had people giving them space. Finally, a moment to breathe easy, and no time to enjoy it.
“I didn’t mean to bump into you, there’s no need to fight.” Tama held out his right hand, Sata lurking behind him with the other. “We don’t want any trouble.”
The being seemed to consider it, then merely spat on the ground and moved on. As did the rest.
For the first time since their arrival, the sun broke through the clouds and streamed down bright onto the street. A blessing from the sky.
“Rao,” Tama whispered.
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know.”
In awe, he stared at the yellow sun, felt it bathe him in golden warmth. He felt invincible. The sky pulled him up, as if he was floating.
Sata tugged on his hand to startle him back, to the street, where he was hovering a few inches off the ground. They locked eyes in wonder, the gears of thought fairly visible on Sata’s face.
Tama pulled him up, put his hand around his waist, and believed he could really fly. He could fly, he really could, sailing up into the parting clouds as easily and willing it to be. The changing air currents and the feeling of cool, wet clouds brushed over his skin, butterflies went crazy in his belly, and still he went higher.
He’d never dared to hope it could be true.
Above the ghetto, then above the entire city, they looked down at how small everything was up here in the windy heavens. He could.
He could fly!
Sata was speechless with awe, his eyes round and looking down... but mostly, looking at Tama.
Civilization was like gleaming spiderwebs over rich green and teal water, something like perfection or a dream. The damage of war, the crowded shabbiness of the ghetto, all fell to shapes and forms as a small part of many others that formed the cluster of the city. Tama took off, back down between the buildings and gaining speed, soaring easily through the gleaming spires.
“Yes!” he called in delight, spinning and taking a hard right above the center of the Capital. He couldn’t help grinning like an idiot and feeling so perfectly at ease in a rush of adrenaline.
Trusting in his companion’s arms, Sata reached out both arms and closed his eyes, a new kind of smile on his face. For just a moment, he seemed to stop analyzing and theorizing and simply was.
They flew around the city and back out, over other cities, white-dusted mountains, fjords that cut into the coastlines, a world of beauty that reminded him of things he couldn’t remember, a bittersweet feeling of longing. He kept going until he felt Sata shivering from the wind and altitude, cold he couldn’t quite feel himself, and he finally returned back to the Capital and the ghetto that was not quite a home.
Tama landed by the marketplace, their destination in mind, and gave Sata a wistful look. “I can fly,” he said, smiling again in spite of himself just to think of it.
Sata said nothing, beaming with pride as he tugged him into the throng of fruit-sellers by the front entrance. “We have to eat,” he reminded him. “Even wingless angels.” Tama wasn’t hungry, even considered that he could pick and gather anything he could find in flight... but normalcy was welcome.
- The Green Lantern -
A few days later, another routine had settled in; Tama worked at the bar next door, which generally meant throwing out anyone who caused trouble. Gently but firmly. Sata had been on the Net chasing a half-formed theory, in the meanwhile, something about the Daxamite invasion they called the War here. Regardless of how their relationship bound them so tightly together, Sata needed solitude, and so he had it a few hours each day.
Today, when Tama went inside to keep an eye out in the seedy joint, the bartender, Mart, didn’t merely nod, but waved him over, looking about suspiciously. She was a short being, not unattractive if he did say so, but only would come up to his knee; she did her work from a moving platform. Whatever she had instead of legs was unseen.
“Someone was looking for you.” She held out her hand; Tama gave her a few credits. “Green Lantern. Said she’d be around, had your picture,” she whispered. “What’d you do?”
“Said you’d have someone with you. Dark and quiet.” The bartender raised a silvery eyebrow. “Someone fond of capes and masks, by the picture.”
She held out a green glowing tablet with two pictures on it; himself and Sata. Not quite Sata; the way Sata looked in his dreams, with a black mask and a cloak over his shoulders. “Did they say anything else?”
“Name’s Laira. Big purple girl.”
Cold fear rippled through him. “What?”
“The Lantern. That’s her name... what did you do?”
“I don’t... Nothing. I have to go. Thank you.”
Mart smiled with thick lips only a bit quirked in suspicion.
Tama walked, ran, then flew back to the tiny room they were living in. He looked to see Sata there, safe.
Satisfied, he flew straight up and got a good view of the city.
The Green Lanterns were supposed to be some sort of police, he knew that. Most of the population in the ghetto spoke of them in a poor light, one way or the other. He’d heard stories of running from them or getting caught on the sidelines, catching snippets of good intentions out of it... not enough to make him feel any better. His coat fluttered in the wind, blown back with a gust that felt unusually cold.
He took a deep breath and concentrated very hard on looking and listening all around for the very sort of being he’d feared might somehow follow them and hunt them down. It was insane to think even the most wealthy would chase down what they’d consider to be stray animals to another star system.
That would be insane. Wouldn't it? So who would be looking for them?
Someone who knew who they were.
Tama closed his eyes and remembered the pictures of Sata, of himself, and tried so hard to remember beyond it. He was the most powerful thing living in this little corner of this world, as far as he could tell, and yet... he felt weak and small as blankness and void came to him where his life should be. As it always did when he tried to remember.
Li’stra loved them and cared for them, and that was so wrong in it’s way. Going back wasn’t what he wanted, but that longing for home had never left and hers was the only one he could recall. Her kisses and affection, her soft beds for them, the warm meals and utter lack of concern for anything outside the bars of their lives. He could remember only that and the cold conflict of living on their own... and now they were being hunted for reasons they didn’t know a thing about.
It made him angry.
How could he even consider, even allow the thought of going back to enter his mind? If Sata heard such a thought he would be utterly disgusted. Perhaps it wasn't fair to be hunted for something he knew nothing about, perhaps it was, but it all made him... furious. At himself. At this Green Lantern.
His eyes grew hot, blades of the heat cutting the clouds in two tiny holes, enough to shake him out of his thoughts. Yet another amazing thing he could do? He shook his head and tried not to think about it.
Tama hovered over the city until night fell, and long after, waiting for a danger that never showed herself. He felt charged, ready, unwilling to rest. Reminding himself that freedom was not a mistake; he had a feeling, some uncanny inkling that things were going to change quickly from here.
The skyline glowed and glittered, the broken buildings and civilization appearing almost perfect in its abstract lighting. The sight nagged at his mind, between watching the area around their room anything suspicious.
Eventually he decided to return and talk to Sata, warn him and discuss their next move.
But the room was dark and empty.
The Net console was dark, everything speaking of Sata having been gone for some time. Dread settled in Tama's belly, the open window like a bad omen.
He shot out the window and back into the air over the city streets, scanning everywhere, trying to find sight or smell of him somewhere... but there was nothing, only the ever-flowing throng of strangers in all their shapes and sizes. Even hovering above it he could feel the sense of dirty claustrophobia this place never lost.
His ears perked up at a shout of fear that had him going straight for it before he considered it, an alley where a small, round alien was clutching a bag to his chest, looking up at a menacing gray figure with flaring nostrils. Tama made to descend.. then paused.
Another figure swooped down on the scene, black cloak flaring about him as gracefully leapt from a balcony to plant his feet on the back of the menacer's neck, back-flipping off of him to land on the street, a length of scrap metal in his hand.
The gray alien snarled, caught off-guard and stumbling forward a few steps before he regained his balance and turned toward the newcomer, the victim ignored. As soon as he did, the man in black leapt again, the metal sweeping towards his skull and another kick in his side.
Blue-gray blood now stained the wide forehead.
"Walk away," the man in black growled.
The alien declined. They clashed again, but briefly, the metal scrap well-placed in a flurry of acrobatics that left the alien on the ground and the portly victim scurrying off while he had the chance.
Tama landed when it was over, listening to Sata's rapid breath. Excitement more than exertion tempered it.
"That felt... good," he remarked, looking over the hulking body of the creature foolish enough to tempt him. Sata's voice sounded... different. Lower, darker, but... not wrong. "Very good."
"We have a problem."
"The Green Lanterns are looking for us. I don't know why, but..."
"Better safe than sorry."
Sata looked up then, a serious and intent gaze. "We should leave, now. Get the rest of our credits and meet me at the terminal, I'll find a less than reputable ship to get us somewhere without a lot of questions."
Sata snorted and dropped his makeshift weapon with a Clang! against the pavement, then joined the traffic on the street proper with an unassumingly casual gait.
There was very little in their room that needed to be taken. All he needed was their money and Sata's collection of handwritten notes theorizing who they might come from. All things that were quickly slipped in his pocket before a last look around the room. Some trash, their old clothes, signs that they had made a place of it, while it lasted.
Seconds later, he was out in the dark, cloudy sky without stars, headed toward the biggest source of light pollution in the city to find Sata.
He heard the sound of the atmosphere parting for another flier before he turned to see her, a green beacon arcing towards him.
With his enhanced vision, he could see a tall, muscular woman with purple skin, but dark red hair bound behind her in long, wild strands. She obviously saw him, too, her trajectory direct and her eyes focused right on him.
Tama rose higher in the sky, hoping she wouldn't be telling anyone that might be with her where he was headed, hoping to keep this just between them, but if she tried to contact anyone, he couldn't tell. She made no gestures, no change of expression, had only single-minded focus in every inch of her.
He simply waited for her to come close, slowing until she came to a stop only a few feet away. She hovered with her arms crossed, the vibrant ring sparking on her hand.
"You'll come with me," she said. "We've been looking for you."
"I won't be going anywhere without an explanation."
"What? Are you mad?"
They must not be used to anyone trying to face them one on one, from what he'd heard of them. He could feel the hot sparks of anger behind his eyes.
“Back off,” he growled, holding out his palm.
“I don’t have time for this!” she snarled, reaching out with her ring, its green glow expanding rapidly to form an enclosure in the air around him.
The world went verdant, then red.
He lunged, the beams from his eyes and the impact of his fists cracking, then breaking the transparent wall. Instinctively he moved aside, avoiding her own lunge, using it to get a momentary advantage; he grasped his hands together and landed them at the back of her neck. She screamed, her ring only partially protecting her from the blow, not enough to prevent her body from rocketing head-first into the ocean below.
Tama followed, anxious he’d hit her too hard.
The fear was unfounded; she barely touched the surface before charging back up so fast he barely had time to throw up his forearms to block a monsterous green spike aimed at his chest, followed by her own fists. He’d been expecting nearly everything she was doing, too much to be a coincidence. Had he fought a Lantern before?
She snarled again and the green became a great hook, swinging into his side with a blow that did take him by surprise, long enough to let her slam him down into the water, a flash of wet cold and dark.
Strange sea-creatures avoided him, leaving the area as fast as their fluid bodies could take them. He held his breath and dove deeper, arcing back up and looking through the water to see her hovering over the waves, a beam of her ring searching for him. It found him, and she rocketed down to him.
Her body glowed green as she dove, water rippling away from her as his own mind filled with tactics. She can’t breathe underwater, his head was certain. Neither could he, but he was holding his breath and had yet to be bothered by it.
He didn’t linger on thinking too long, bracing himself for her impact, her arms grappling him, forehead sharply meeting his, turning them in a fury of little bubbles.
He needed to get her ring away from her.
Her grapple became tighter as she lashed out with her legs and another headbutt he met square, clamping his hands around her arms without putting all his force into pushing her away. In the heat of the fight, she didn’t realize what he was trying to do until his fists landed sideways against her hand once, twice, again. The shield weakened there enough for him to get his hand over her ring finger, feeling the energy pour out of the thing, feeling the grip of his hand met with amazing resistance.
Tama would not let her capture him. He felt his will meet hers underneath the physical contest, waver, then triumph.
The ring came loose in his palm.
He closed his fist around it and wrapped the other arm around her thrashing body, taking them back up into the night air, where her chest expanded to take in a deep breath.
“I don’t know why you’re after us, but I’m telling you right now, we won’t be taken again,” he informed her, then knocked her on the head just hard enough to put her out for a while.
She was left on the abandoned beach outside the city, with her ring beside her. He wasn’t a thief, he decided, and shook some water out of his clothes as he took off again to where Sata would be waiting.
Drops of water fell off him as he arced over the buildings and down to the lights of the space port. Below he found the crowds pushing back, away from the center of the plaza.
He gripped his fists at the sight. Another Green Lantern had already found Sata, restraining him with a pair of female constructs.
Picking up speed, he prepared for another attack, diving straight down at this one, a man in a mask, chattering away at a seething Sata.
The male Lantern looked up as Tama braced for impact, his mouth falling open as he fell back and threw up a green shield with STOP on it in blinking letters.
The barrier cracked and fell apart to Tama’s fists, nothing stopping him from wrapping his hands around the man’s neck, slamming him into the flagstones. The ground shuddered and the Lantern groaned.
But this one didn’t fight back, he just looked up at Tama with bewilderment.
“Superman?” he gasped. “Superman!” he said again, with more certainty. “Cut it out! What’s gotten into you guys?”
“What?” Tama didn’t let down his guard, but let go, taking a step back. He felt Sata, now free, tensing up behind him.
He took a better look at the man, and was stunned to realize he looked… just like they did. He had short brown-black hair, the same build under the black and green uniform, the same kind of fingers rubbing the back of his head as he picked himself off the ground without any indication he wanted to fight. This one wasn’t angry or set to attack, but… confused.
“Guys, guys, do you have any idea how hard it was to find you? Where have you been?” He held out his hands emphatically, then drew them back as he looked back at Sata, then held Tama’s gaze. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
They remained suspicious and silent.
“Um, hello? Kyle Rayner? We work together? The Justice League? Any of this ringing a bell?”
“My name is Kyle Rayner?”
“What? No, that’s me. Woah, okay, let’s just… take this down a notch, alright? What do you think’s going on here? I’m so not your enemy,” he insisted, holding his hands up.
“He could be lying,” Sata whispered.
Tama kept his eyes on this Kyle, but half-turned his head to Sata. “What if he isn’t? Do we really have a choice?”
Sata grunted noncommittally.
“You really don’t remember,” Kyle murmured in disbelief. “Okay, listen. We’re on a team together, from Earth? You know Earth? No? Alright… this is weird.” He rubbed his forehead and seemed to gather his thoughts, then pointed back at Sata. “You’re Batman. Bruce Wayne, disgustingly rich guy with a cave under his house, and I’ll bet you know I’m telling the truth now with… bat-sense. Um.” Sata must have been giving him the Evil Eye because Kyle looked back at Tama with a step back. “You’re Superman. Clark Kent, Daily Planet, Kansas?”
Now that they’d all calmed down, he could hear and see the steady pulse of his heart and his breath. He wasn’t making this up.
A crowd was gathering back, giving them space, but returning to their own business around them.
What kind of name was Superman?
“We’ve been looking for you since we all went to Rann, helped Adam Strange fend off some Gordanians looking to scoop up some Rannians for god-knows-what and when they left… well, so did you two.”
“How long ago?” Sata blurted out.
“Over a year. But we never gave up. The Corps owed you one. Or ten. I haven’t been back to Earth for… a long time. Don’t know about you, but I’m ready to go home.”
“We have to trust him,” Tama said over his shoulder.
Tama relaxed and held out his arms, smiling in spite of himself. “Alright, Kyle. Take us home.”
Kyle broke into a wide grin and leapt forward, startling Tama, but all for a tight hug, patting him on the back as he kept his arms around him a moment. “I knew you were still out here, big guy, I just knew it.”
When he let go, he flushed a bit, clearing his throat and shrugging off his awkward step back visibly. Tama couldn’t help but chuckle.
“It’s just… good to see you again. Everyone’s been really worried. I’m sure J’onn can do something about the memory thing when we get back. If anyone can, it’s him. Oh, right. He’s from Mars. Well, we’ll have time to talk about all that on the way. I’m sure ready to go.”
Sata.. Batman.. Bruce Wayne.. nodded when Tama met his eyes.
“It’s what we’ve been looking for, Tama. We have to go.”
Certainty and excitement sparked and flared in his belly.
This place he knew nothing about.