The heat was climbing higher than ever,
and inside the car it was almost intolerable. The air conditioning
wheezed and coughed, but provided no air at all; a haze of hot air blew
back from the engine periodically, stifling the driver and passenger.
They'd had to take whatever car was left at the back street sales
place -- their money didn't stretch to anything else. And it
was pretty obvious that this one had been left because no other goddamn
fool would ever consider using it for anything except housing chickens.
It shuddered over the track -- it spat venom out of the exhaust.
It threatened every fifteen minutes to stop and leave them wherever
it chose; they could believe it was that malevolent.
"There's nowhere for miles," hissed
the young, dark-haired passenger, twisting a map viciously in his hands.
"Where did you say we had to take that turning?"
"God knows," the driver snapped back.
He was of a similar age; a trail of sweat trickled down from under his
long, chestnut fringe, sadly limp on his forehead from the heat.
"We must stop soon -- I'm exhausted. This track is like driving
through lumpy treacle. My head feels like a lead weight -- I
can't focus properly in this glare --"
"Shit, don't give up now, Trowa!"
cried the other man. "It's almost dusk now -- the temperature's
bound to go down then. And we'll find a motel or something to
stay the night."
"Heero..." sighed Trowa. He
shook his head, made a frustrated noise. But he continued to lean
forward over the wheel, now burning slightly into his hands, peering
out into the hazy distance to find some landmark or other.
"Are we lost?"
Trowa didn't grace him with a reply.
Of course they were bloody lost! Neither of them had ever been
this far out of state; never imagined this part of the desert highway.
The last town they'd passed had consisted of nothing but a couple
of small, shack-lined streets. And since then, there'd been
nothing. There should have been the road to a city.
The road to their future. But then, there should have been a lot
of things to this journey; things they'd promised themselves; things
they'd hoped for; planned for...
Things that weren't materialising any
time soon, as far as he could tell. He felt rather bitter.
Bitter, exhausted, and a little scared that it had all been a bit of
a mistake. He couldn't say it aloud. Heero mustn't know.
He'd been the one to persuade Heero to come with him in the first
The next five miles were tedious; hot,
sweaty, and filled with a bunch of assorted tensions. The light
in the crimson sky faded to a darker burgundy, as the day slid towards
night; a slight wind teased at the sides of the car as it rattled on.
The temperature eased, but only a drop of maybe one or two degrees,
so that there was little effect on their damp, tired journey.
Neither spoke for a long while. Trowa brushed the salty beads
of sweat out of his eyes more than once; Heero growled at the map, and
shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Is that something up ahead?" said
Heero, suddenly, craning forward in his seat. The car's headlights
were another disappointment; a thin, pale light jerked up and down in
front of their progress, giving little help to visibility. The
car gave a particularly vicious hiccup, and his head nearly crashed
on the windscreen. "Damn it, be careful, Trow!"
"Like I have any control over this
blasted machine --" hissed his companion. But he peered ahead
as well. "It may be a house, or something..."
"Stop the car!" called Heero.
"Let's get our bearings. I think it's more than a house
-- praps it's a motel or something."
"This crock may never start again,"
warned Trowa. His hands were cramping on the wheel -- he'd
like nothing more than to stop. But he felt he had to regain some
control of this fiasco. He'd given Heero the responsibility
of navigation, and look where that had got them -
"Who cares?" Heero was shaking his
head, and allowing a grin to split his tired face. "I reckon
we could walk from here, anyway. Look, it is
something! Looks like a motel, all right. It ain't big
-- but they must be able to put us up until tomorrow. God, I
just want something to eat that isn't potato chips, and a cold drink,
and a bath --"
"And sleep," sighed Trowa.
"Sleep, please. For hours."
"Thinking of bed?" said Heero, a
little shyly. "I mean, just say the word, we could share a room,
and you could come wash my back in that bath --"
"Just sleep!" repeated Trowa, firmly.
The car shuddered to a halt. The noise around them fell immediately
to nothing but the hiss of the overheating engine, and the whisper of
sand and stones on the track. He thought he'd probably sounded
too sharp to Heero, but that's the way he felt at the moment.
Heero would have to understand that...
But he knew from the clipped silence
beside him that he'd misjudged things again. It was so rare
for Heero to make any advance; to offer any sexual banter. He
was the more restrained of them in that; he still felt inhibited about
it all. And now he, Trowa, had slapped him down, just because
of this damned heat, and this damned heap of crap of a car, and this
damned ache in his head that was going to shoot ball bearings out of
his forehead before they reached the motel --
"Let's go see, then, OK?"
There was silence from his passenger,
and Trowa sighed. He cranked up the ignition, and the car hiccupped
into life again. Just one more mile, it sneered at them.
And that's your bloody lot! It lurched away up the craggy track,
staggering towards the horizon, and the thin, dark shadow that was gradually
growing larger as they approached. A low, dark building, set back
a way from the road. A narrow, wooden fence all around it.
A tired, illegible sign, creaking with the slightest breath of wind.
A corridor out to the side, looking for all the world like a row of
motel rooms. The darkening evening and the fickle lights of the
car made the shadows leap and stretch alongside the structures.
"Heaven..." breathed Heero, with
a thin laugh.
"Maybe..." murmured Trowa.
Trowa drove the car into the front yard,
a small cloud of dust rising around the wheels as he braked sharply.
There were no other cars there. There was no movement at all,
either inside or out. The front door appeared to be open, but
there was no light from inside. They peeled themselves out of
the car, their patches of exposed skin sticking either to their clothes
or to the flaky, plastic car seating. Or both. Heero cursed,
as his tee shirt ripped at the sleeve.
"Fucking car --"
Trowa winced at the expletive.
But today -- well, today was getting on everyone's nerves, wasn't
it? It was the heat...that's why he felt the coil of irritation
flare in the pit of his stomach. That's why he wanted to snap
back at Heero, to watch his tongue, and just get over it!
They both leaned back against the side
of the car that was nearest. They were reluctant to go straight
in -- neither could have said why. Trowa flexed his stiff fingers;
cricked the bones in his tense neck. Then he turned and leant
his arms on top of the car, gazing over at Heero. He was turned
to the side, and Trowa could only see his profile. It was a sight
that fascinated him.
Heero's face. His familiar face.
His scowl. Trowa's gaze ran over the dark, hooded eyes,
and down to the lush mouth, currently pursed in annoyance. There
was the shine of sweat under the young man's nose and lip; threads
of hair shadowed on his long neck. And Trowa's irritation settled,
and melted a little.
Heero... the man he dreamed about. The man that made his heart pump, and his groin ache. He laughed inside at his lustful thoughts; there was a time and place, surely...
"You look good, Heero, you know that?"
"Huh?" growled Heero. He didn't
move his head to look back over the car, but a blush rose high on his
cheekbones. It was visible, even in the fading light. "Like,
sweat becomes me?" He was gruff, but Trowa thought that he was
secretly pleased at the attention.
The chestnut-haired man didn't answer
-- his eyes did it for him. They ranged over the smooth, flushed
skin of his passenger; the thick, scrappy locks of hair that clung to
his forehead like they were pasted there. The dark patch spreading
over the front of his thin vest; the sultry shine of sweat on his muscled
upper arms. Trowa remembered the day they met; he remembered their
first touch. He remembered why they were here, and his body shivered
with imprinted delight.
Heero finally looked up sideways from under damp lashes. He swept the hair on his forehead back, almost as a challenge. His underarms were slippery -- he felt a thread of moisture run back up from his wrist to his elbow. And he knew Trowa was watching him, greedily. He could see the way that the man's eyes narrowed -- the way his breath was shallower than before. His slim frame pushed itself away from the car roof, and then he was walking round the boot of the car to stand beside Heero.
Trowa was a couple of inches taller than
him. When he gazed at him, it was as if he looked down on him.
It was a fond look -- but sometimes Heero felt that the expression
was more than physical. Trowa had organised the whole of this
trip. Their flight.
Trowa had always been the one to call the shots.
But he was irresistible, wasn't he?
"You smell hot, Trowa!"
"Yeah, right!" The man's
soft, low laugh was rich with their shared desire. "Perhaps
I'll smell better after that bath you're offering." His
eyes were lingering on Heero's mouth; his fingers brushed lightly
against his hip.
Heero shook his head impatiently, as if he scorned the words he was struggling to express. "I - I want things to be good, now. Y'know? They will be, won't they?"
"They will be," Trowa reassured him.
As he had many times, since they left their hometown, a week ago.
He leant gently against Heero, the sigh of his tired, creased shirt
whispering against hidden muscles. He dipped his mouth down to
But Heero turned his head away.
"Not here, Trow. Don't touch me out here."
Trowa stilled. He straightened
up, slowly. "Why not? It's nearly dark... no-one to
see us..." His breath hitched, and his next words were a little tight.
"Isn't that why we ran in the first place, Heero? Are you
regretting it now?"
"No, of course not!" Heero snapped
back. His voice was sharp, but there was a flare of distress in
his eyes. "Never! Don't ever think that! I'm
"Hush..." murmured Trowa. "We'll
take it slow, OK? Just kiss me then, just that... Don't I deserve
that, for the intrepid trek across the desert sandstorms?"
Heero smiled, then. Smiled at the
pathetic joke; smiled at Trowa's plaintive need. Smiled at the
thought of the slender, smooth body that would hopefully lie beside
him tonight. This whole trip had given him too much time to think
-- to brood. Of course things were gonna be OK.
"You're all fulla wind, Barton.
Like your damned desert, eh? Come here, then..."
For a while, their heads were close together,
their hands clasping their waists tight. The kiss was slow and
deep, and hot, both with the temperature outside and the flickering
physical response of their bodies. Heero relaxed slowly against
his lover, his tongue teasing inside the other man's eager mouth.
Trowa felt his body leap with anticipation as a knee pressed gently
and tantalisingly against his thigh. He leaned back against the
warm metal of the car door, savouring the mixture of sensations.
"It's gonna be all right," murmured
Trowa, as he broke for air at last, his lips numb with the pressure
of Heero's. His mouth tasted dust, and sun and another person's
essence. "Gonna be our chance of freedom, Heero..."
Heero pulled away, but the mischievous
grin was back on his tanned face. Some of his moods were stormy,
but they passed like tumbleweed. "And I'm not gonna spend
another night of it in that car! You ready to go in, then?
See if there's anyone there -- if there's a couple of rooms..."
"Or just one," murmured Trowa. He saw Heero's sharp, sudden smile. He thought he was forgiven for his earlier harshness. The thought of tasting Heero's forgiveness brought an ache to his groin that battled unsuccessfully with the damp clinging of his pants.
Trowa dragged their bag out of the trunk,
and turned to find the entrance. Heero was already walking over
towards it. Then he stopped.
There was the slightest shimmer of light
in the darkened doorway; moving gently and erratically, as if on the
back of a moth. And yet it was more than a firefly. Heero
stared. He felt his heart beating a little faster. He wondered
why he'd never considered their vulnerability out here -- no other
people or habitation for miles; no idea of who or what may be living
here. And he and his companion, just walking in with their life's
belongings, expecting welcome, and civilisation, and 21st
He held a hand out behind him, as if
to warn Trowa.
He hadn't seen them, but there were
long, thin wind chimes in the doorway; he knew that, because he heard
them now, tinkling as if in the wind. There was no other sound
but that. When Trowa dropped the bag on the ground behind him,
"What is it?"
There was a darkness in the doorway that
was of a different texture -- it shifted slightly, and slowly it became
the silhouette of a person. A young man, it seemed. A young
man, holding a candle in an old-fashioned holder. Heero felt the
beats of his heart through his clammy skin.
"Hey," murmured Trowa, in his ear.
"He's no Bram Stoker, OK? Just a guy... we need someone to
put us up, right?"
He shifted the bag back up on to his
shoulder, and walked right past the frozen Heero. "Hi!
Are you open? Do you have a room for us? Just the night..."
Heero heard Trowa's words, but as if
they were enclosed behind glass, or thick fabric. Muffled.
And yet the rest of his hearing was more crystal-clear than he'd ever
known. He heard the man's footsteps on the tiles of the step;
heard the flame of the candle crackling. It had to be imagination,
of course. He smelled a thick, citrus fragrance, as if someone
were preparing fresh juice. He felt the weight of the man's
eyes on him, as if he had actually touched his skin.
And then the man stepped out into view,
and the spell was broken. He was young indeed, probably only just
out of his teens. Blond, boyishly short hair; bright blue eyes.
He was shorter than they, dressed in a thin, casual shirt, buttoned
only once at its hem, and open on his hairless chest. He wore
denim shorts, low on his waist, and cut high on his thighs, with the
fringed edge of cut-offs. His legs looked good, stretching out
of them; slim, muscled thighs. Heero thought it looked as if he'd
only just thrown them on, to come to the door. Perhaps he'd
He moved to greet Trowa, and to take
the bag. "Hi! Yes, of course we've got your room ready.
Sorry if we don't seem very alert tonight. The winds last week
brought the power cables down, and we're still trying to get the emergency
generator to settle down. It comes and goes at its own whim.
Bet you thought we looked like some kinda ghost house, eh?"
His laugh was smooth, and soft, and it sang like the wind chimes.
Heero saw Trowa smile broadly in response; he was surprised to see it.
It was rare for his lover to be instantly sociable like that, with strangers.
He wondered briefly how many other surprises
there might be, now that their circumstances had changed so drastically.
"Come on in," smiled the boy to them
both, but he turned his eyes to Heero. Heero bit back the gasp
that tried to escape him; his senses were collapsing around him, telescoping
into a narrowing channel in front of his eyes, sucking life from his
limbs, drawing him down into a dark, stifling tunnel...
He was aware of Trowa beside him, but
it was the boy's arm that was round his waist, holding him upright
still. Their baggage had been dropped at his feet; he'd caught
Heero as he slumped forward. "You oughtta come in out of the
heat, now. It gets people that way, sometimes. You're
exhausted, and you look hungry. I've got supper on now."
‘He hasn't eaten much all day,"
came Trowa's worried voice. "But whatever you're cooking
tonight, it smells delicious. Is that goulash? With coriander,
Heero heard the conversation through
his aching ears, blood still throbbing through his head. What
did Trowa mean? He couldn't smell any food cooking.
All he could smell was the tang of citrus -- the floral, fruity
aroma that seemed only to get stronger. A smell he'd always
Trowa took the candle, and the boy hoisted
Heero's arm up on to his shoulders, supporting most of his weight.
He was deceptively strong. He looked around Heero's bent head,
and smiled at Trowa. ‘You enjoy your food, I can see!
And you've a nose for cooking, too -- you're right about tonight's
"It's my favourite," said Trowa,
a little embarrassed.
"I know," the boy smiled back.
His eyes flashed, bright pinpoints of reflection in the dark.
He turned, and led Heero carefully into the building.
What a strange thing to say! thought
Trowa. He paused for that moment, caught between the need to look
after Heero, and the confusion about their host. He saw the boy's
pale, bare legs striding across the yard, his blond head at the height
of Heero's dusky neck; his shirt hitched up under Heero's arm, as
he guided the dark-haired man inside. He wore no vest underneath;
the thin fabric was scarcely generous enough to cover his torso to start
with. His young, smooth skin shone dully in the shaky candlelight.
How could the boy know that about him?
And why had he allowed a complete stranger
to tend to his own lover? Why wasn't Heero supported across
He roused himself, knowing that the important issue was to find somewhere to rest for the night. The rest was nonsense, of course. He was a pragmatic man, everyone knew that. He picked up their neglected bag, clutched the candlestick securely, and followed them in.