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Walking With The Dead

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Sai slipped into the room like a child on his way to admit some grievous wrongdoing to a pair of disappointed parents. He looked young, in the half light, with his hair a tumbled mess and his eyes huge with worry. He had both arms wrapped about his middle, as if he were cold, or afraid.

Rowan blinked sleepily, fighting the drugs that were keeping his body from realizing just how much damage it had taken.

"Hey."

Sai didn't say anything. Sai's lips trembled and he stood with his back pressed against the door, staring at Rowan like --like he were some bloody accident victim.

"I'm alive, okay? Don't look at me like I'm a corpse on a slab."

"Don't say that." A tremulous whisper. Rowan barely heard it.

"I'm okay."

"You were dead. I felt you die." There was horror in his voice. Shock and confusion. It was in his eyes too. Kento said they had him on pain killers, too, and Rowan thought with some trepidation that they shouldn't have let him just walk around.

"Yeah -- well. It didn't take. Kento said you had busted ribs. You okay?"

A slow nod of affirmation.

"Come here."

Sai shuffled over. Stood an arm's length from the bed and stared at his feet.

"Sai?"

"I'm sorry." A breathy whisper, bordering on a sob.

"What? That you couldn't stop him? It wasn't your fault."

"No. I'm sorry about -- about everything. I'm a fool and I've been terrible and -- and I wouldn't blame you if you hated me and --" He was leaking tears now. They rolled down his cheeks and dripped off his jaw, gathered at the corners of his lips so that he had to pause and swallow.

"Shut up." Rowan said before he could take up the lament of guilt again. He wasn't certain he was up to deep emotional bonding at the moment. He settled for short and to the point. "I forgive you. You forgive me. We're cool, all right? Get over here."

Sai did. Hesitantly at first, sidling up so that his hip touched the edge of the bed, close enough for Rowan not to have to move his hand far to brush his knuckles across Sai's thigh. He stroked Rowan's forearm with his fingertips, as if he were afraid he'd hurt him with a stronger touch. His eyes still glistened with tears.

Rowan sighed and murmured. "Love you," Because it had to be said or Sai wasn't going to snap out of the melancholy.

Sai let out a little breath and sat down on the bed as if his legs had collapsed out from under him. He picked up Rowan's hand and twined it in his, bringing Rowan's bruised and scraped knuckles to his lips. "I don't mind if you go and see strippers, really I don't. Just don't bring me candy that they've -- they've done bad things with anymore. Please?"

"Promise." He used the last of his strength to draw Sai down. It hurt a little, but not enough to negate the sheer pleasure of Sai's face against his neck and Sai's soft hair under his hand.

"Rowan -- I'll hurt you --"

"No you won't. Just stay like this for a little while. It feels so good." He shut his eyes and drifted, inhaling Sai smell and glorying in Sai warmth. It had been far too long since they'd been this close.

 

Somewhere over an ocean the name of which Ryo didn't have the slightest clue of, he woke at the urging of his bladder. A half dozen Bloody Mary's tended to do that to a body. With the jerking lurch of someone truly blitzed he staggered to his feet. Seiji reached out and caught his wrist, looking up at him curiously.

"Bath -- room." He enunciated slowly, carefully. Seiji's pressure on his arm was seriously messing with his balance. The simple motion of the plane made him feel weightless and dizzy. "Hafta go'n pee."

"Thank you for the clarification, Ryo." Seiji stood up and he had to shift a step down the aisle to make room for him.

"I don' need your help." Ryo hissed indignantly.

"Hmm. Is there a phone in the bathroom?" Seiji smiled at their personal stewardess who was down the row delivering drinks.

"Why yes." She smiled helpfully at them.

"You need my help." Seiji said and got him moving down the row towards the first class restroom. "He's drunk." He explained to the stewardess as they passed her. "We wouldn't want to make a mess of things."

She blinked and watched the two of them disappear into the small cubical. After what she'd already seen, Ryo blushed to think of what notions she might hold as to what they were doing together in the john.

"You wanna unzip and aim for me to?" Ryo snapped, embarrassment bringing with it a little clarity. Seiji folded his arms and leaned against the door.

"No. You go right ahead."

He couldn't stop the heat from gathering in his cheeks. He turned his back to Seiji and succumbed to nature's call. He had to lean one hand on the wall to do it, or risk toppling over. He finished and shook and prepared to zip back up. Seiji pressed up behind him, hands slipping around his hips to forestall that action. Ryo stiffened and braced his legs, grabbing at Seiji's wrists to pull his hands away.

"Ryo," Seiji said softly, unresisting in Ryo's grip. "Let me lay out the rules of this little venture. If I tell you something, you do it or we part ways. If I touch you, anywhere and in any company, you let me or we part ways. If you do anything to displease me in any way -- we part ways. Is that clear enough for you? Please feel free to voice any questions or uncertainties you might have now, while the rules are fresh in your mind."

Ryo stared into the mirror over the toilet, at Seiji standing close behind him, of his own dark hands over Seiji's pale wrists. Of himself unzipped and exposed. Seiji was staring at the reflection as well. Waiting.

Ryo let go of his wrists.

"No questions?" Seiji asked softly. Ryo shook his head silently. He understood well enough.

"Good." Seiji backed away and let him arrange himself. Opened the door and ushered him out. The stewardess tried not to look at them when they passed. Ryo tried not to be sick until the next few drinks managed to blur the embarrassment . . . .

. . . . . and the time. Hours. Hours and hours of forced company. The booze dulled the revulsion. It kept his hands from shaking. It kept him from spitting out resentful, nasty things on the few occasions that Seiji -- that the thing inside of Seiji -- he wasn't even certain of her name, or what she was or who she had been -- deigned to speak to him. It made the one stop at some distant and foreign airport to switch planes a disturbingly vague and hazy experience. He went where he was told, with Seiji's hand on his elbow. Waited in a hardbacked chair, half dozing, half aware of the chatter of people speaking some unidentifiable language around him as Seiji took care of whatever business needed to be taken care of. He couldn't have found a phone and managed to convince a foreign operator what he wanted, even if he'd remembered how desperately he needed to call home. Seiji didn't give him that much time alone anyway.

They boarded another plane. This one was smaller. The seats were not as comfortable. The ride was rockier. Ryo threw up not an hour into the flight, bent over his knees with the small paper barf bag supplied by the airline pressed to his face. Seiji patted his back and rubbed his shoulders, which made him want to heave again. It was all he could do to dry retch after that, stomach emptied of all contents.

After an eternity, they landed. There was no boarding ramp leading into the airport. Just a tall, narrow set of mobile stairs that they latched onto the plane. The passengers filed down it into a hot, dry day. Ryo had no notion how long they'd been in the air for it to be afternoon again. He thought it had been late evening when they'd left familiar territory.

"Where is this?' he asked, because the writing over the terminal entrance was beyond his comprehension. All the people here were dark. Darker than he was, with black hair and black eyes. Middle eastern, if he were to guess. Seiji stood out like some golden idol amongst them, drawing stares as he moved through the airport. Ryo followed along leadenly, bone weary and starting to feel hungover. All his aches and pains were coming back home to roost. The thought of lying down somewhere solid and stable and just passing out for a few days was tantalizingly tempting.

Seiji was speaking to someone in uniform and at first Ryo thought it was the exhaustion and that he was hearing things, but as he listened he realized that Seiji was actually speaking the foreign tongue. He'd known Seiji was fluent in a couple of languages, but as far as he'd known, Arabic or some other middle eastern dialect had not been among them. He stood there blinking like an idiot while Seiji calmly carried out a conversation, while something in an envelope changed hands and the uniform waved Seiji and Ryo on their way. A bribe to customs maybe. Ryo had no idea. He found he cared very little.

"Are we in --like Arabia or something?" he asked while Seiji was waving down a cab. A beat up, tan colored vehicle that looked as if it should have been banned from the streets a decade ago roared up the curb outside the airport. A turbaned, dark skinned, sunglassed driver babbled something at them. Seiji said something short and concise back and the driver nodded and urged them into the back seat.

"No. Not Arabia." Seiji finally chose to answer.

"Where then?" Ryo let out a breath of frustration.

"Cairo."

"Cairo? As in -- Egypt?"

Seiji nodded, a slight smile on his lips. "Very good."

"Why?" He might as well push it to the limit since he'd gotten one answer.

"I have my reasons."

"Yeah, yeah. Right. Where are we going now?"

"To find a place to stay."

Great. Ryo settled down into the seat, staring sullenly out at the arid landscape. At the passing cars, and the very few buildings between the airport and the city. Things picked up the closer they got. Not the richest of cities. Not even close. There were a lot of ratty looking modern buildings in the midst of a few nice ones. A lot more of the desert colored sandstone structures that one generally of when picturing middle eastern cities. Narrow streets filled with a foot traffic that seemed indifferent to the automobiles trying to get by. It was hot and dry, which wouldn't have bothered him so much if he hadn't of been feeling slightly nauseous from the drinks and the flight. He lay his head against the corner of the seat and the door and shut his eyes to block out the shifting afternoon sunlight. The smells and the sounds still got through.

They pulled up in front of an old sandstone building with a hand painted wooden banner over the doorway. There was a walled patio out front where a few people sat under umbrella's enjoying drinks or eating. It turned out to be a hotel. The lobby was quiet and relatively cool, with two fans turning lazily to stir the air. A small man rushed up to the lobby desk when Seiji rung the bell. They spoke briefly and Seiji signed the registration book. Money exchanged hands. Seiji got a room key. He ushered Ryo towards an old elevator. Fourth floor. The top of the world as far as this building was concerned.

It was a small, dingy room. There was an antiquated bath. The shower looked dangerous. Ryo relieved his bladder while Seiji sat on the bed and flipped through the telephone book. He made a call in that language that so baffled Ryo. Then when he'd finished he stood and with one yank, pulled the phone cord right out of the wall and stood holding the end of the chord in one hand and the phone in the other while Ryo gawked at him.

"I need to go out and do some things."

Ryo blinked at him. "Okay."

"You're not coming with me."

"Fine. I don't want to."

Seiji smiled and yanked the other end of the chord from the phone and held the wire draped across his palm.

"Come here."

Ryo swallowed and cursed to himself. He warily stepped closer.

"What do you want?"

"Give me your hands."

"What? Why?"

Seiji stared at him silently.

"You don't need to do this." He offered his wrists reluctantly. He didn't have much of a choice. If Seiji seriously wanted to take him down all he had to do was summon the armor. And all that took was a thought.

"Oh come on, you let him do it on occasion and you liked it then, didn't you?"

"Shut up."

A smirk and a wrench of the cord that made Ryo gasp at the tightness. Seiji shoved him backwards and he sat down hard on the bed. Seiji tied the cord around one of the bars of the headboard, then leaned down and whispered against Ryo's ear.

"If you work hard enough at it, you could probably get out of this, given time. I would recommend against it."

Ryo looked away. A hand trailed down his chest, sternum to navel. It was weird. It made his nipples go hard at the same time it made his dick shrivel in revulsion. The conflicting sensations more than anything else made him catch his breath.

"I like it when you're helpless. So does he. One more thing we have in common, humm?"

Ryo shut his mouth and didn't say the first thing that came to mind, which would only have gotten him into trouble. Seiji straightened and went about his business. Which was fine. It was wonderful being out of that confusing presence. Ryo was even comfortable, despite the feeling slowly leaving his hands. He'd wanted to lie down anyway. Now he got to do it without a possessed Seiji having his hands all over him.

He needed a plan. He desperately needed a goal to work towards other than the far flung and simple desire to have Seiji free of the bitch. He needed to confer with the guys. Which brought to mind their condition. Considering what had been going on the last time he'd seen them, he was more than a little concerned about that. Seiji wouldn't answer him at all on that count.

Getting a little private time with a telephone, he decided would be his first priority. If Seiji would let him. So far, Seiji was being damned careful. Damned methodical. Which was a very Seiji-like trait. He wondered if Seiji was rubbing off on the spirit possessing him or if they were just that much alike. Scary thought. Either way it was a scary thought.

 

Seiji came back an indefinite time later. Ryo had drowsed intermittedly. It was dark outside when the door opened and Seiji slipped back inside the room. He was carrying two satchels, which he sat on the end of the bed. He turned on the room's one lamp, who's dim yellow light valiantly tired to chase the shadows away. It failed. The room was still dark and dingy.

"I got something for you." Seiji said, coming around to the head of the bed and loosening the chord. All feeling had long since left Ryo's hands. His fingers began to tingle painfully when the blood was once more allowed the freedom to flow fully. He sat up warily, rubbing his wrists, wincing at the sparks of discomfort, waiting to see what horror Seiji might wish to visit upon him this time.

It was only clothing.

"Something a little less -- grungy." Seiji explained and tossed various items of apparel at him.

"I'm not the one who got them dirty." Ryo grumbled. "Are we going somewhere?"

"Yes, out to eat. Change."

Seiji had acquired things for himself as well. He went into the tiny bath to wash up and left Ryo the privacy to look over what he'd picked out for him. A pair of khakis and a soft short sleeved, shirt of the same neutral color sporting delicate blue embroidery of some native design across the shoulders and down the edge of the front.

"Don't wear the sneakers." Seiji called from the bathroom as Ryo was beginning to pull them on. "They don't match. There are boots in the blue bag."

Ryo sniffed and sat there with his elbows on his knees wondering what the hell it mattered what his shoes looked like. He leaned over sullenly and looked into the open satchel. There were a pair of brown hiking boots, ankle high with thick, rubber soles. Not a terrible choice. At least Seiji wasn't making him wear loafers or -- god forbid, dress shoes. He shuddered and pulled the things on. A good fit. Everything was a perfect fit.

Seiji came out of the bathroom with his hair a little wet and pulled back into a neat tail at the back of his neck. He had changed shirts and now wore a silk, blue short sleeved button down. He looked at his watch and waved Ryo over.

"Come on. We're running late."

"Late for what? You've got an appointment or something?"

"Or something." Seiji agreed and pushed him out the door ahead of him.

There was a great deal of nightlife in Cairo. The streets were full of pedestrians. A sea of dark faces with only the occasional foreign shaped or colored one among them. There were a multitude of restaurants and cafe's, bars and cantina's and even some nightclubs on the street Seiji led him to. Lots of smooth customers in sports jackets and gold jewelry working the crowd. Some wore traditional Arab headwear. Not too different from other places he'd been. They went into a cantina made of sandstone and sporting a great fresco of the famous Egyptian pyramids on the outside walls. Ryo couldn't read the name.

It was dim inside and crowded. A lilting native music blared over the rapid conversations of the patrons. He almost gagged as he got his first real whiff of the air. It was filled with some pungent, sweet smoke, of alcohol and of human sweat. The floors looked as if they hadn't been cleaned since the time of the pharaoh's. Some of the patrons smelled as if they hadn't washed in an equal amount of time.

"You wanna eat here?" Ryo yelled at Seiji's back. Seiji didn't answer. Seiji weeded his way through the crowd to a table set behind a string of beads in a corner enclave. Someone came over almost immediately and spoke to Seiji. They had a long conversation, during which there was much hand movement. It was very un-Seiji-like to use such gestures, but it seemed to fit with the conversation. Ryo sat with his chin in his palm and let his eyes drift around the room. There were a lot of weapons concealed or not so concealed on bodies. A lot of guns under coats or in belts and a lot of wicked looking knives. Not a nice crowd. A dangerous place.

The man who had been talking to Seiji went away. Someone else came with a bottle of wine and two glasses. Seiji ordered food. Maybe. He could have been discussing the weather for all Ryo knew.

The food came and Ryo looked at his place suspiciously. "What is this?"

Seiji didn't get the chance to answer. Two men melted out of the crowd and without so much as a by your leave slid into the seats of the booth. Seiji was on the outside, so it put Ryo between him and the two strangers.

"Do you know these guys?"

Seiji smiled. Seiji folded his hands under his chin and tilted his head, waiting for them to initiate the conversation. They did, with a few short, not particularly nice sounding sentences. It didn't seem to phase Seiji. He answered back coolly. Ryo pushed his food around in his plate, thinking that the big one with the unruly beard squeezed in next to him smelled like rotten eggs. Or rotting teeth. It made the notion of eating any of this unfamiliar food sickening.

Seiji handed something across the table to the men. It was several pieces of folded parchment with a neat little wax seal keeping the pages together. The men took it warily and one of them put it in his pocket. The one next to Ryo grinned and said something that made Seiji shrug. The big man leaned in and in doing so placed a hand on Ryo's thigh. The fingers squeezed suggestively. Ryo drew a breath, coming very close to gagging at the closeness of the man's breath.

"I'm gonna shove this guy's nose right up into his tiny little brain if he doesn't get his hand off my leg. You can tell him that." He suggested.

Seiji smiled and presumably did so. The man lifted a thick brow in disbelief, but nonetheless slowly moved his hand. They left not long after, disappearing into the crowd. Ryo didn't bother to ask what it had all been about. He shoved the plate away from him and sipped at the watered down wine, very much wanting to know what that had all been about. Very much wanting to know what had been on that passed parchment.

"You're not eating. Isn't it to your tastes?"

"It smells funny. It looks funny. What is it?"

"Bamya. Eat it."

Ryo crossed his arms and glowered. "No. It looks like its got --I don't like Okra or something in it."

"It does. Suit yourself and go hungry then."

Obviously the follow all orders dictum did not extend to forcing Ryo to eat anything remotely connected with okra. It did however cover the remainder of the evening and the things Seiji chose to make him do once they returned to the hotel. Ryo didn't remember falling asleep. It was the sleep of the righteously exhausted though.

He woke up to sunlight slanting through the curtains and in the embrace of another of Seiji's new purchases. A pair of shinny new handcuffs connected one wrist to the bed's headboard. It was better than having his circulation cut off by telephone wire. Seiji was long gone. There wasn't a clock in the room to indicate what time of day it was. The state of his bladder said it was well into late morning or early afternoon. Wonderful predicament. He pulled his knees up and cursed Seiji leaving him here without letting him relieve himself first. He could have woken him up. Bastard.

Bitch.

There was an empty basin on the sideboard across from the bed. A pitcher for water sat inside it. If he stretched and dragged the bed a few feet he could just reach it. The pitcher made an excellent impromptu bedpan. Thank god he hadn't eaten anything within easy memory or things could have gotten messier. As it was his stomach was growling its complaints. He'd have settled for a glass of water. Last night had left a nasty taste in his mouth. Literally. The bitch possessing Seiji had a particular fondness for oral gratification.

But there was nothing to drink and as the day grew hotter he began to sorely miss Seiji's presence. He might have even eaten some of the okra infested bamya in return for a tall cool glass of water.

 

***

 

There was a cascading rush of sound and color and sensation. Awareness swam in and out of focus with it. Voices chattered incoherently. Smells of a foreign nature abounded. A face swam up in his vision. A dark smiling face who chattered nonsense and held up a small plastic bag of brown pellets. The words meant something, somewhere in his mind. He reached into his pocket, as if his hand had a mind of its own and brought out a folded wad of strange looking money. The bag was deposited in his hand. He stared at it, baffled. The smoke was stifling. Slowly he turned his head and saw many other bodies in the haze, tucked into nooks and crannies, sucking lazily at long curved hooka's. Hooka's? He didn't know how he knew that.

He did not know how he knew a great many things. The confusion was overwhelming. The sense of self was a distant and hazy thing. In a daze he stepped out into a night dark street. There were buzzing neon lights in the widows of curbside clubs. There were street venders hawking their goods. A small turbaned man clutched at his arm and assaulted him with a barrage of gibberish. He blinked down, flabbergasted, vaguely offended. And slowly, something inside him translated the words. Something coiled and torpid understood and that understanding leaked into his mind.

"You want something even better than what you got back there, American? Come inside the La Caroomba and see things you never see in your country, huh?"

People always assumed he was American. He shook his head and pulled his arm out of the grip.

Don't touch me. He thought it. He couldn't quite make his lips form the words. He couldn't quite fathom why he was here. Memory was a strange and elusive thing. It danced at the edges of his awareness. He staggered against the curb and his legs almost gave way under him. Someone caught his arm under the elbow and it took him a moment to realize that they were asking if he were all right.

"First time with the hashish -- it can be hard, yes?" A round, Arabic face. He blinked up at it in confusion. "What?"

"It's in your eyes, foreigner. You smoke too much and sometimes things happen that you don't want to happen. Watch out for predators like that one back there, they'll take advantage. Where are you staying? I'll set you on the right way home."

He didn't know. He had no earthly idea. Then through the fog a name drifted to mind. He murmured it.

"Okay. I know that place. Its not far. What's your name American? You have pretty hair."

 

 

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