There are times you take things for granted. Things like love. Things like a possible new start and a possible new beginning.
“We didn’t even get started…”
I’m reduced to tears. It’s funny isn’t it. At my strongest I find myself being at my most vulnerable. I don’t know who else is looking at us at that moment. In those moments it felt like we were by ourselves.
“Don’t get like that…” he states.
Pride is dying. It’s even more painstaking knowing this poison is fast acting and certain. It’s even worse than in those moments there’s no one yet that I can be clearly angry at. Sloth pulled a trick when she didn’t have to, but it was Desire who made her touch Pride.
And this is how I was going to lose him.
“No one understood me like you,” I explain.
“You were in love before me and you will be in love after me. I assure you,” he tells me, “Everything is going to be OK. Everything is going to be fine.”
Was this the monster that they spoke of? What kind of monster consoled people? What kind of monster put someone else first even on their death bed? He leans up and presses his hands up against the side of my face. No, he wasn’t a monster.
He was a boy.
And I loved him.
“Everything will be made right.”
“I have faith in you. It’s Ok…”
“It’s OK,” Pride states, “This isn’t my story. This is yours. Stop looking at me. Look at the people around you. This is your story, Ardor. Your time. Who can you trust? Who can’t you trust?”
I look around the room. At this point the others can hear what he’s saying to me. It’s awkward. Tears rolling down my eyes. People not wanting to leave because Pride was spilling his guts but also not wanting to just blatantly stare. So they act as though they are focusing on anything else. The wind. An animal outside. Anything.
“I’m not the person you think I am.”
“Yes you are,” Pride states, “You are the person they thought I was…”
“What do you mean?”
“Switched at birth,” he states, “Think about it. You should have been the one in that cage. You should have been the one they kept away because they were afraid of your potential. This is your story. Become the monster they all were scared I would be. And there’s one more thing.”
At this moment he pulls me in close. Real close.
When he pulls me in, he cuffs the side of my face. No one hears what he says to me. It’s his last words. The last moments he prepared for me in case he should die in battle. He’d always had them prepared and this was the perfect rehearsal.
I’m standing there on my own. My head facing the light. The others look over at me. I wipe my eyes before I look up though. I know they are still red, but at least they won’t be wet. I won’t let them see that weakness for long.
“He’s dead,” I state, “One of you want to confirm?”
“We believe you,” Urge states, “Hey…I’m…sorry man. This shouldn’t have happened. This never should have happened.”
“He tried to kill you and you apologize to him?” Willful Ignorance states, blustering underneath her breath with anger rising directed at Urge, “Urge, be reasonable. I am not your enemy. I am Desire’s moth—”
It shocks everyone. That climactic moment that no one expects to happen. People stop breathing. People’s minds go blank. The end of Willful Ignorance. The end of a legacy in a flash second. It was dramatic, quick and beautiful all at the same time. Everyone. Even me. I turn at that moment and Willful Ignorance’s brains were scattered all over the goddam wall. It’s Desire himself who has done the act. He’s the one who has taken it upon himself to destroy Ignorance once and for all.
And that’s a problem.
He was supposed to give it to me.
“You feeling sour about that?” Desire asks.
He directs it to me. His eyes dart like some sort of tamed dragon puffing out smoke but still ready to breathe fire at any point. I think he expects me to be some terrified princess. Unfortunately for him I don’t play that part too well.
“Why would I feel bitter about that?”
“I said sour. There’s a difference,” he explains at that moment, “And you know why you would feel some type away. I stole your kill. I promised you Ignorance and I chose to kill her instead. Do you want to know my reason why?”
He thought because Pride was dead he didn’t owe it to me.
“No. I get it. I should feel some type of way,” I state.
I’m not aggressive. I’m not loud. I just state that. It seems to piss him off beyond anything at this point. I can see him boiling up a little bit. It’s quite hilarious actually. These mind games that assassins play with one another.
“You should do something…”
He’s challenging me.
I can see the look on his eyes.
“Desire…” Urge states.
“No, Urge. He should do something. Now,” Desire states, “Ardor Hatashi-JOU!”
He would like that, wouldn’t he? He would like to get scrappy now when I have no allies around me to truly challenge him and Urge. He wants to make sure that in case he’s losing Urge would stop him. Sloth would try to help but he bets she wouldn’t be able to. Desire would LOVE to fight me now.
“He doesn’t want to fight,” Urge states.
“That’s the problem,” Desire states, “If you died, I’d kill everyone responsible.”
“He doesn’t want to fight,” Urge repeats.
Desire seems irritated. He takes a deep breath. I wondered if him pushing Sloth into Pride so cleverly was his way of trying to get me to engage him this entire time. He wanted to fight me.
“There’s something about him Urge,” Desire states, “It’s behind his eyes. He looks innocent. He looks calm. But there is behind those eyes it’s like Hiroshima. Looking up at me as though I am the sky and behind those eyes I see the explosion. He’s an atom bomb behind those eyes.”
Urge nods, “ I get it but he doesn’t want to fight. So we walk away and not assume.”
“You don’t get it.”
Urge reaches over and grabs his lover’s hand, “I get it. Because the same thing you see in his eyes is what I see behind yours. That’s what made me fall in love with you. There’s something powerful behind those eyes. This boy…he is your brother. He’s saying that he wants to have a relationship with you in some way. That’s fine.”
“I don’t blame you alone for Pride,” I assure Desire.
“I don’t like your wording. You are just saying that you’re blaming others as well,” Desire responds.
Urge looks over at me, “He says he doesn’t want to fight. So we’re not fighting. He is your brother Desire. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Fine,” Desire states, “Come here Ardor.”
He actually opens up his arms for a hug.
“You trust I won’t poison you?”
“I’d be able to detect it,” he says, “But I do want to give you a hug. A real honest hug. You’re my brother. You’re my family. And I do want this to work out.”
I’m not sure what he’s doing but I’m listening at least. That’s the first step right? I listen. The second step is to accept. So I lean in. And we hug. For a while. Longer than we should and for the moment it feels like maybe there is a time where we could have been brothers. Real brothers. He presses his hand on my back and for the moment I don’t know why I’m crying.
“I wish I got to know her the way you did, before this.”
“You had your own family, I understand?”
“It was his…my Pride’s.”
“It was yours too,” he says, “Whatever you thought you were going to find from Ignorance you wouldn’t. She was horrible. She was horrible to me and she loved me above anything else. So that proved how horrible she was. Go back to that other family.”
He had a point.
There are tears. But then I notice something. Something that I hadn’t noticed before.
“You’re crying,” I state, “Blood tears.”
Desire scoops up the blood with his hand and looks at them confused.
“That’s never happened before,” He states.
“He’s following us.”
Sloth has a point. I turn behind me and there is a car. It’s Lust. The idiot has been following us for quite some time. He wasn’t going to attack my family though. I wasn’t worried about that. Lust wanted me. It was personal in his eyes. He wanted to test his strength.
“You don’t need to do this,” I call out to Lust, “Whenever you’re ready, I’m ready too. We can finally settle this once and for all.”
“The world isn’t ready for that,” Lust states, with a smile, “Yet.”
He is continuing to smile and he just drives off leaving us in the smoke. I’d see him sooner than I wanted to. I knew that much. Now wasn’t the time for the threats though.
Time has passed. More time than I had imagined. It’s Christmas but we get off the bus and look at the house. I look to the right and see a little bit, “Zara’s toy.”
I pick up the toy on the driveway. The house looks the same.
“Eleven hours of smiling and usually around this time I wanted to kill something cute. Holidays- Dad ducks out, Mom gets stressed and my sister Tiana pulls some stupid stunt to grab all the attention. Different year, the same BS. I’d been pushing electronics at spoilt teens all day. Back then I’d wanted to ram their stupid gadgets right up their noses, or even better, down their throats.”
“Why didn’t you?” Sloth asks me.
“I would have gotten beaten to a pulp that’s why,” I explain.
She laughs. Heartily. She knew that. She knew that well enough.
She’s gotten better. I never thought she would agree to come home with me for the holidays. We’d been on the run for quite some time.
“My other sister Sabrina and my little brother were the competitive ones though. Whatever our parents bought them they always want to upgrade, giving some whiny bull crap-“that’s what all my friends have!” In school and church Christmas is all about God. Bull. It’s a frenzy of consumerism and I see it every day.”
“Well damn. Ho ho ho,” she states, “You must not be feeling festive.”
For years my brother and sisters had continued this stupid tradition as though it was the biggest thing in the world. We were the all American family. Knowing what I know now it’s hard to see how me or even Pride would fit into this family. The problems they had were nothing. Maybe they went through some tribulations when they lost me. Definitely even more with what happened with my father. But the truth is no matter what they’d seen and what they’d experienced I’d seen far worse. They couldn’t understand. Ever.
“Let’s just get this over with. It’s more a fuck you to Tom than anything anyway.”
“You’re lying,” she states, “You want to see them.”
“They aren’t my family.”
“Yes they are.”
I roll my eyes as I walk forward. There is snow on the ground. It’s not real. My dad used to buy fake stuff. He was that corny. I wonder whose kept up the tradition since he’s been gone. I would put money on it that it is Sabrina. She was the corniest.
But now it isn’t about being corny. Now it is about remembering him. So I get it, Sabrina. If you want to go down that route that’s fine. Do your thing. I was just coming to visit for a short time so someone was going to have to take control of the family. Better you than anyone. We all knew mom would be overwhelmed and need the help. I couldn’t stay. Not for long. Unfortunately.
We open the door.
At this point Sabrina has been talking to mom about something important, “And I just ate a little bit of the brownie. I didn’t even think it was enough to get high…”
That’s when I clear my throat. My mother looks at me. Sabrina looks at me. Sabrina reacts first and expectantly mutters something under her breath that I don’t understand but then clasps her hands over her mouth.
My mother’s reaction is different. It’s almost heartbreaking. I could imagine what she’s been through. She’s had to hold the fort down by herself. And now someone she thought she lost in her life had magically appeared.
She drops her glass. It shatters to the ground.
“I know you guys weren’t expecting me for dinner,” I state, “And I brought a friend as well…”
“Your sister would be an amazing ninja,” Sloth states coming up to my old bedroom and sitting on my bed drinking whatever brown juice Sabrina has cooked up downstairs, “This brown juice really improves my reflexes.”
“Keep drinking it and you’re going to be improving your gag reflexes,” I respond sighing, “I have to go somewhere. I need you to keep my family busy.”
I loved them, but it was becoming a lot. All the love. Of course, extended family was down there and my homecoming had turned into this big party. My mother wanted to make a big scene about what happened to me and get the cops involved, but I got mad at her. She misses me enough that she doesn’t want to make me mad and sweeps it under the rug. I know there is a day I’m going to have to have a real conversation with her about what I went through. I hope on that day Tom is dead. Of course, though, I still don’t want to be the one to do it.
“Where?” she asks.
“To meet someone?”
I look away, “None of your business.”
“I thought we were partners,” she states.
“We’re clan men,” I correct her.
“You can’t just start a clan.”
She laughs, “Ok fine. We are a clan. Our clan is called the Order of Gym Rejects.”
I laugh. She was a trip, “Perfect. But honestly I know it seems weird but I can’t tell you where I’m going.”
“It’s not weird. I know who you’re going to meet and you don’t have to go,” she states.
“You think I want to meet Desire?”
“Desire willingly pushed you thinking you had poisonous powder into the love of my life. He killed my parents. He killed Victor Ward. He killed Willful Ignorance. He still has my respect but I will never forgive Desire.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” she states, “And the next time you see Desire?”
“Only one of us leaves,” I promise her.
She nods, “Good. Because I know.”
“Know what?” I ask.
The lights flicker. Cold enters the room. The shuffling of feet. It’s soft. Slight. It’s so gentle that I don’t know in the darkness where the person has gone. I just know that someone was now in the room who wasn’t in the room a minute ago. Swift as lightning.
“She knows who you were going to meet.”
That’s when I see him. He’s perched on the ledge. He’s shirtless for no goddam reason but I don’t mind it. I don’t mind the hairiness spreading too. He’s so fucking sexy. In a matter of seconds I run over to him and almost push him out of the window from running into his arms.
I hit him.
“I told you I was going to fake my death,” he states, “That’s the last thing I whispered to you.”
“You never said Sloth was involved!”
“Who do you think got the sleeping oils,” she asks rolling her eyes.
Tricky. Tricky. Tricky. Sloth and Pride give each other winks. It’s clear that they are more in line than I originally thought. They must have planned to fake Pride’s death all along.
“We needed to test his strength,” Pride states.
“He didn’t awaken until the end,” I state, “That’s when I saw the blood tears.”
“Who knows how strong he is now,” Sloth states, “We need a plan. We have the upper hand. They think Pride is dead. They’ll be willing to meet. We can tell them we want to join Desire’s clan but really we have our own Gym Rejects Clan. And then we can kill them off from the inside. If we —-”
“Can we have a minute?” I ask Sloth.
She looks at me confused. But then she nods.
“I get it. Fake death and all that.”
He waits until she leaves and then he walks up to me. He breathes me in. He’s affectionate in his own way but so much so like an animal. The way he claims me from behind just feels like I am his. He licks the back of my neck. The hairs stand on end.
“Gym Rejects?” he asks.
I laugh, “It’s our clan name.”
I turn to him. His abs are highlighted in the moonlight. He was a wild child but he was my wild child. It would have been dumb to just fight Desire without really knowing what he and Urge were capable of. He played dead so we can have the drop on them next time but also just so we can have some time to ourselves. Time like this. I lean over and rub my fingers from his nipples to his abs. I touch every last bit of it.
“Desire doesn’t have a name for his clan yet I don’t think. Kintsugi clan goes way back. The Assembly is cool. But Gym Rejects? Really?” he asks.
“This is the beginning of something beautiful,” I assure him, “We need to recruit. We need to do all of those things that Sloth was talking about—-”
“We need to rest,” he states, massaging my soldiers.
“I can’t wait until you meet your brother and sisters. They’ll love you.”
“Our brother and sisters. We are going to live.”
He leans in and kisses me. He’s aggressive pushing me back.
“No not this way,” I state.
He looks at me trying to figure out what I mean but then when he figures it out I realize the dominant beast gets submissive. He looks at me. His eyes melt at that moment. And then he goes to the carpet in my room. He bends over on my childhood rug. And he arches his muscular ninja bubble butt on my floor.
“Release the Creature,” he states, “The real creature they are afraid of.”
I pull my dick out. Desperate to dominate him this time. I get up behind him like a stallion. I grab onto his hips. My long hard dick goes into his asshole. His tight hole clamps and he strains hard. Really hard. He lets out a loud bellow. One I think my family hears.
But just when I am about to get in the door opens. It’s Sloth. Locks were useless when it came to her.
“Have you lost your mind?”
“We need to leave the country now…”
“This entire country is going to turn into a battle zone,” Sloth states, “I just got word that the Black Widow Society has arrived on the East Coast. And they plan on killing Desire.”
I slap Pride on the ass. We’d have to hold this for later. But I’d be seeing Desire soon, when the Ancient ones almost kill him.
There were those who would choose their sides. And that’s fine. Choose your side. I’m not the villain of this story. Sure it was all Pride’s plan but Desire was fine with killing the love of my life. He was willing to do more. I’d tried to work with him. And I couldn’t. He had his motivations and I had mine. But I wasn’t a fucking bad guy. And I’m not going to apologize.
Something was coming. This was a new age. The age of Ardor.