If you're here and you are all like, "Where the hell is the next alien novel??!" I'm working on another Alien Love story... but Rhylent's love isn't coming along very fast. I'm thinking about it. So while I wait for that MS to percolate, I'm working on something new. As you might know, I have a second love affair (The Ice Era Chronicles), so I started on this little story. If you're confused, I apologize in advance. You might be a little behind, but I wanted to write this anyway. It was in my soul just clawing its way out. Thanks for reading and being awesome.
M. From C.M. Moore
Please Note: This story would fall shortly after the meteorite hit Earth, the government fell, the new Ice Ear just began. Also, Snow Flu just started to emerge.
Place: A ramshackle hut in the snowy areas of the Confederate Territories of North America (C.T.O.N.A.)
Time: 1:45 a.m.
Brice licked the gash on his arm like a dog licking his wounds. When the bleeding stopped, he tightened the knot on his shirt wrapped around his crushed foot. The Originals had broken his toes while trying to glean information from him. The cloth looked like a psychiatrist's ink blob test.
Struggling, he couldn't bend forward with his broken ribs to tend to the injury. At this point, Brice simply prayed that the appendage would be fine. At least fine in the sense that he didn't get gangrene. Whether he would be able to walk or run again was too big a question to face right now.
As Brice picked a new jagged cut to close using his saliva, his gaze popped to Agent Toby's still form. Toby was faced away from him. The agent slumped on the other side of the enormous boulder in the middle of the sagging hut. The chains attached to the agent were also wrapped around the massive rock and locked in place. Both Toby and Brice had been secured to the five-foot squat stone probably because the little hut would be easy to escape. With the heavy shackles around both Brice's wrists and ankles, escape was out even if the walls were nothing more than bundles of sticks.
"Toby?" Brice whispered. "Agent Tobias?"
The other man didn't move. In fact, Brice's ex-boyfriend hadn't moved for the last two days. Brice tried to remember when he last saw Toby do anything. On some level, Brice knew the agent was dead. It was only that he couldn't tackle that reality without losing hope.
Before Brice could whisper again, the door to the run-down shack was tossed open with a bang. The wood struggled to stay on its hinges. Two Original members dragged a mangled stranger into the tiny space. The guy was dumped next to the rock and secured like Toby and Brice. The new person's face was nothing but blood, bruises, and swelling. One eye didn't even open. For a second, Brice met the stare of one of his captors. Not wanting to get beat again, he dropped his glare to the dirt and huddled into a ball.
The two men finished hooking the beat-up man to the boulder and then unlocked Toby. They hauled his ex-boyfriend out of the shanty. The door slammed shut. An ice sickle hanging from the hole in the roof fell and broke in half.
Brice wasn't sure how long he stayed curled on the dirt floor, but the sound of thunder brought him out of his pain and cold limbs. Raising to a sitting position, Brice eyed the hole in the roof. He pushed the cracked plastic bowl under the opening and prayed for rain instead of sleet or hail or... God-forbid snow.
As the first drops hit the pathetic container, the stranger moaned. Brice turned in time to watch the man roll toward him and try to rise. The manacles rattled as if cackling at the guy's effort. He collapsed on his second attempt.
"The chains aren't long enough for you to stand." Brice leaned his head against the stone. "Save your energy."
The man scooted toward the rock. Their eyes met. This man's one open eye was a green-blue like pictures of the ocean. The color Brice would've described as clear aquamarine. The agony in their depth stole Brice's breathe long enough to distract him from his aching limbs.
"I think The Originals must shit out chains. I don't know how they always have so many."
Brice cracked a smile, and the stranger returned his grin before he crept closer.
The Originals had beat Brice too, but this person was covered in more blood than anything else. His shirt was nothing more than two shredded scraps hanging on his biceps. His gray underwear clearly offered no protection from the elements, and he had no pants or shoes. His brown hair was shaved short. It appeared like not even that part of his body could be warm. One grimy sock held on valiantly to his right foot.
"I..." The man ran a hand over his short, bloody brown hair. "It's cold here. I..."
As a rain-sleet mixture pelted the flimsy walls, the temperature continued to drop. The air that puffed from Brice's lips was a white mist hanging between them.
"I know," Brice whispered. "I guess we can talk about the weather."
"Yeah, the weather or whatever polite conversation you want." Once more, the new guy crawled closer to Brice's shoulder. "You were here first. Prisoner's choice." He made a sound that was a cross between a laugh and a groan. He tried to hug his arms around his middle for warmth. "Are we outside Dallas?"
"I don't think we're in Dallas anymore. It's too cold here. I think we're further into the C.T.O.N.A." Brice wrapped an arm around the stranger and pulled him into his arms. Since his shirt was on his foot, the other man's cheek met with Brice's naked chest. The bitter chill ate at Brice as well, but a deep part of him told him to help the brunette, no matter the cost. "North."
"I don't remember the journey here and..." The half-sentence ended with teeth chattering as the stranger hugged Brice's chest. "Thank you."
"We'll be fine. Close your eyes. Or at least close the open one," Brice directed. "I'm going to use my gift."
The man did as Brice dictated. As soon as he was no longer looking at him, Brice summoned his added ability. Using his tongue, Brice began to lick at any open cuts on the stranger's face. There were many. Although Brice hated the taste of blood and knew that ingesting body fluids carried health risks, he couldn't seem to stop himself. Gently, he licked and let his saliva stop as much of the flow as he could. The small action was what he could offer other than his body heat.
Moving down the man's neck, Brice licked at a long wound across the stranger's chest. When he glanced up, the brunette stared at him.
"My saliva stops bleeding and helps natural clotting and healing for the epidermis. It's my gift," Brice murmured in hopes The Originals wouldn't hear him. His captors had been known to keep people for their extra abilities. "I told you to keep your eye closed."
"It's hard when a stranger is licking me." The man tried to smile, but his expression ended in a grimace.
"I will give you a C plus for effort."
"Only a C plus? Fuck that noise. I deserve an A for keeping my eyes closed while you licked my face."
Brice found a smile buried somewhere deep and grinned.
"My turn." The man snuggled into his arms. "Close your eyes. Both. I'm going to—"
"Use your gift?"
"Yeah, but the least you could do is let me finish my sentence. I'm freezing to death after all."
As Brice's eyes closed, he laughed quietly. The stranger placed his hands flat on Brice's chest. The move could've been to fend off hypothermia, but before he could ask what the gift was, Brice felt the sensation.
A flood of happiness filled him and overflowed into every inch of his soul. Suddenly, Brice could feel the summer breeze on his face and sunshine melting away the chill in his bones. In an instant, Brice was transported back to his favorite place where joy ruled. He was in that spot near the ocean. The rocky area was where Brice and his brother had built sandcastles. No longer was Brice in the hut, but now he was with his parents before they died. He relived the time before he and his brother, Colin, met Keith and became assassins for the organization known as the Seemyah.
As the feeling began to fade, slowly, Brice opened his eyes and returned to reality. A little dazed, he glanced down at the man in his arms.
"You have a nice smile," The stranger said.
Brice felt like smiling more at the compliment. He figured the tingling in his chest and the warmth must be the lingering effects of this man's gift. The multiplying heat spreading through his arms chased away the frosty air.
As he tried to come up with a thank you, Brice noted the streaks of blood on his pectorals. Those were fresh and wet. He picked up the brunette's hand and stared. The tips of all his fingers were split open. Red drops gathered on the skin to roll toward his palm.
"The bleeding fingers is my side effect." The stranger tried to tug his hands away. "It's no biggie."
"No biggie?" Brice kept his grip on the other man and brought the brunette's fingers to his mouth.
"Yeah. It is what it is." The sentence ended with a shiver, and one by one, Brice licked the tiny cuts until the bleeding stopped.
"You can't afford to lose more blood."
"It was worth it to see your face like that."
After a few minutes passed, the stranger began to talk in low tones. He snuggled into Brice's arms as he spoke about the cold, their captors, and possible escape. Together they whispered and then eventually fell silent. Sleet and rain beat their shelter. Soon, the violent storm became their cocoon. After what could've been hours or minutes, Brice tugged out of the stranger's hold and picked up the now full bowl. He sipped on the water as he stared at the space where Toby died. An ice layer formed at the top of the water. Distracted, Brice pushed at the jagged edges with his tongue.
Brice helped the other man hold the broken dish while he sipped.
"If they take me away, put this dish back under the hole in the roof," Brice instructed. "It's the only water you will get. If you see a rat or a mouse, catch it and eat it. If they leave my body here, take my clothes, and wear them to stay warm. I'm dead. I don't mind."
"I'll remember that." The stranger handed back the bowl. Brice could feel his eyes studying him as he placed the dish under the opening. Unfortunately, now the outside rain was turning to hail. More water might not happen for a while.
"When you say to take you away..." The stranger lifted the chains on his wrists. "You mean like the man who was in here?"
"Earlier, I saw them take someone to a pit behind the outbuilding. It's another holding area?"
"It's a mass grave." Brice returned to the boulder and put his back against the stone. "Toby was dead."
"I'm sorry." The other man tucked his large frame into Brice's arms and set his head on his chest again. "He was your friend?"
"Toby was my boyfriend a long time ago. An ex-boyfriend, but we were still friends." Brice didn't know why he told this stranger that, but in this hut, he felt closer to the man in his arms than the people at HQ he'd known most of his life. "Toby came to me and asked for help. Said his friend's mother wouldn't come to Headquarters in Dallas. Supposedly she feared the H.S.P.C. agents." Brice shook his head at his gullibility. Really, he shook his head at both his and Toby's lack of caution. Brice knew better. He should've told someone where he was going and what he was doing. He could've easily informed Rea or Karma or Keith, but Brice wasn't thinking. He just wanted Toby back in his bed. "I thought I was helping my ex-boyfriend by coming here. I guess I thought if I did this for him, he'd date me again."
"Same?" Brice asked.
"It was my cousin, not a boyfriend, but it's the same story. Carl said that his new friend needed help. The friend's mother was too scared to move to a water base. I was loading all the sheep, and I said I'd talk to her."
"Sheep?" Brice's eyebrows rose. "You're a shepherd?" That was a new one for Brice. He didn't meet many sheepherders at headquarters. In fact, he didn't even know that job existed anymore.
"I was a shepherd, but then we closed down our ranch as the ice took over. My older brother, Butch, wanted to be an agent, so he asked the family to move to a water base so he could apply." The shepherd spoke as if lost in thought as he cuddled into Brice's neck. "After my parents died in an accident, Butch was the eldest, and he wanted the little kids safe from Snow Flu. I understood. Butch and my other sister agreed, and that was it. We sold our sheep, packed up the little ones, and moved underground."
"You don't like the base?" Brice thought the shepherd sounded disappointed in the outcome. Maybe he hated underground living. For some, the lifestyle took some getting used to.
"It's no biggie. I like the base." The shepherd paused. "It's different than being on a ranch in the sun, but you get used to it."
"If you were living on a water base, why were you out here loading more sheep?" Brice tipped his head down so he could look at the man in his arms.
"A few weeks ago, my aunt and uncle decided to move to a water base too. They still lived out here with my cousin, Carl. My brother and sisters were already on a base so moving near us seemed to make sense. My cousin asked if I'd help him sell their family's flock. My aunt and uncle went on ahead. We said we'd join everyone after we took care of the animals. We were finished. We sold the sheep and had the HOCs." The man lifted his head. Once more, their eyes spoke in words neither of them said out loud. Brice felt a warm tingle in his chest. A growing part of him wanted to lean down and kiss the shepherd. He had no idea why. They were both bloody and broken. For Pete-sakes, they were talking about sheep. Kissing should've been the last thing on his mind.
"I see. Crystal clear. You sold your aunt and uncle's sheep and then came here to talk to Carl's friend." Brice cleared his throat and stared up at the ceiling. One good thing about this odd feeling, the blush heating his cheeks warmed him for a second.
"Yeah, but I don't get it."
"Don't get what?" Brice returned to watching the other man. He was glad the sudden and inappropriate attraction passed.
"We were clearing the ranch. Why would The Originals want a couple of sheepherders on an empty ranch? What did they know about us? What did they want?"
"Why did you get beat?" Brice asked. "Start there."
"Start there?" The shepherd pressed his forehead to Brice's sternum. "They were torturing my cousin for information. They thought he was an agent like my older brother. They wanted to know things about Snow Flu. It was all about Snow Flu. They kept asking if I was an agent, and..." The man trailed off and swallowed hard.
"Is he?" Brice paused. "Is your cousin still...?" He figured he knew why Carl wasn't in the hut with them.
"They killed Carl. I feel responsible for that. I don't know what I'm going to say to my aunt and uncle."
"You can't blame yourself for the fucking Originals." Brice hugged the shepherd tighter. "They're crazy mean bastards."
Briefly, Brice thought about telling the other man that he was an agent, but he changed his mind. The less this guy knew about Brice, the better. Brice didn't even want to tell the guy his name. So far, The Originals didn't realize that Brice was an agent, and he planned to keep that information to himself. His captors thought he was dating Toby. Toby kept saying they were boyfriends all the time they cut off his fingers. Brice would never be able to thank his ex for the lie. The story probably saved Brice from losing more than his one foot. It would be a thank you for now. Brice still might die here.
"They asked Toby about Snow Flu too. Toby was an agent, and they want a cure." Brice rubbed the stranger's arms. "The mass grave is full of bodies."
"If they have a bunch of people dead or dying, The Originals in this area might think that the agents have a vaccine for Snow Flu and won't give it up." The shepherd tucked his arm between Brice's abs and his chest. "I should've figured that out before. They're using that fake story to get agents to come out here. They hope one of them will give up the antidote. We're being held and tortured for something we don't have."
"We all want a way to survive Snow Flu." Brice arranged the shepherd between his legs and tried to infuse more of his body heat into the stranger. "But the agents don't have a remedy. No one does."
"I don't think the people out here have Snow Flu. If there are that many bodies in a mass grave, then whatever is killing The Originals is something else."
"Why do you say that?" Brice asked.
"Because of how fast Snow Flu spreads. You know, they use the word flu, but I don't even think Snow Flu is from the strain of influenza. I watched influenza kill, and I've seen Snow Flu. I know what both look like and how they work. Snow Flu is something else entirely." One aqua eye met Brice's. "If The Originals had that many people dying from Snow Flu, even our captors would have the virus by now. Hell, we would have it."
"I'll give you a B plus for deduction." Brice ran his thumb over the stranger's cheek. This guy was smart. Even at HQ, Gears talked about how he thought Snow Flu was human-made and might even be a designed weapon and not a natural illness. As Brice stared down at the shepherd in his arms, everything inside of him hoped the other man would survive this hut. "You'd make a good H.S.P.C. agent."
"You're probably sarcastic, but I don't care. You can grade me all you want as long as you keep me warm."
Brice laughed as the door slammed open again. Their two captors had returned. The men grabbed Brice's arm, and they yanked him out of the other man's hands.
Thanks again for checking this out. It's new and raw and I'm playing around with it. I appreciate your patience. This Ice Era Chronicle holds a special place in my heart.