Rune and Luke

524459_3651734929505_1158471057_3352030_1437568213_nRune and Luke PART 1 THE DANCER

A loud, discordant, clash of sound, ended conversation and drew everyone’s eyes to the stage.

The sound faded into silence and nothing happened. The stage remained dark, but surely something was moving. Shadows; dark within dark, crawled across the stage and there were muted sounds of instruments being picked up and moved around. Then there was light.

The sudden change from dark to brilliant light made Luke recoil, hurting his eyes. He rubbed them ineffectually, while the rest of the audience erupted into applause. When he looked back, the stage was now occupied by a group of young people, dressed in leather, lace and feathers.

The world held its breath. The drummer raised his sticks. The breath held. The drummer lowered his sticks. The breath was released in a roar, as the music began.

The band was good, very good. They sure knew how to play. They were pretty to look at too, in a freakish kind of way. But where was the singer? The microphone in the middle of the stage was empty and looked strangely lonely.

“Is there a…” Luke began to whisper to his friend, Sammy, but his words died when, after a breathless swell, the music died and changed entirely, becoming softer, almost hypnotic. A light came on, that cast the rest of the group into shadow and left the middle of the stage illuminated in a soft, almost misty, way. And then someone came.

The figure was slender and pale, pixie like, dressed in tattered scraps of leather and lace that didn’t cover very much. Again, after a collective gasp, breath was held as the figure began to dance. It was a strange dance, beginning as a series of leaps and spins. Gasps and sighs swelled and fell as the dancer soared and crouched.

Then the music slowed and so did the dancer. It was hard to tell, from where Luke sat, whether the dancer was male or female. The long hair that whipped and flew around them didn’t help. As the music fell into a low, hypnotic thrum, the figure stood in the centre of the stage and swayed. It seemed boneless, its body bending like a tree in the wind.

It seemed that the dancer’s eyes were closed. From the fact that the tattered ribbons covered nothing from the waist up, Luke had to assume that it was a boy. He was as pale and slender as a candle flame and seemed to flicker and move in much the same way.

The throbbing beat of the drums increased slightly in speed and the boy’s dance changed again. He undulated his hips and bent his spine, his body rippling in blatantly sexual movements that made him gasp. If he’d looked around, he would have seen lust in every eye around him. His were no different. He couldn’t believe what this boy was doing with his body and what it was doing to his. He clenched, feeling a delicious shudder pass through him.

While everyone was still squirming in their seats, the dancer strode over to the microphone and began to sing. His voice was sweet and pure, the notes of the song picking up where the dance left off. As he’d leaped and thrust with his body, now he did so with his voice. Again, that uncomfortable tingling in his groin, had Luke squirming uncomfortably in his seat, trying to control the inevitable swelling between his legs. He was aching to…

He looked up and gasped with shock. The singer’s eyes were on him, giving a look that sent a spear of pure lust, straight to his cock. Wow.

For the remainder of the first half, Luke felt as though the singer sang just for him, and he was caught, like a butterfly on a pin. Awareness of everything but the band and the incredible boy who sang, danced and spoke directly to his soul, dimmed and became inconsequential.

For a time, after the music ended, he sat, immobile, staring at the empty stage.

“Is everything okay?” Sammy asked, with a smirk in his voice.

“What? Yeah, yeah, of course. I’m getting a drink, do you want one?”

It was a relief to get up and move through the tables filled with people who were talking animatedly, in the slightly blurred way of people who had been concentrating very hard on something for a long time.

While he was waiting for his drink, he stared at the bar, running his hands through his hair.

“Hello,” a voice said at his side and he jumped, not having heard anyone approach. Turning, he was caught in a pair of pale golden eyes that squeezed the rest of the breath out of him.

“Hello,” he squeaked.

Full, coral lips, smiled. “I saw you looking at me. Did you enjoy the set?”

“En… enjoy?”

He watched, mesmerised, as long slender fingers reached out and plucked an olive from the glass in front of him on the bar. A small, pink tongue slipped between the smiling lips and lapped at the green orb, licking the sweetness of the cocktail from its surface. His mouth fell open as, very slowly, the olive travelled towards the round ‘o’ formed by the pretty lips.

First the tip of his tongue moistened his lips, then they wrapped around the olive, before parting a little further, to show the neat, white teeth which accepted and held it, while the lips closed again, behind it.

After rolling the olive slowly around his mouth for a while, the boy bit and chewed, then licked his lips again. Luke was entirely transfixed throughout the entire performance. When his hand reached out and touched Luke’s, gently, he gasped, coming to his senses as a bolt of electricity shot through him.

“I…”

The lips were smiling broadly now, coming closer… closer…

“Oh,” he breathed as the slightly salty, olive flavoured plumpness touched him and sent sparks straight between his legs.

“Meet me after the show,” a voice whispered next his ear.

“Yes,” he breathed, but he had already gone.

PART 2 AFTER THE DANCE

Luke had no idea what he was doing there, at the bar, waiting.

The second half of the show had been blur, as he’d sat in a trance, staring into magical blue eyes that were definitely meeting his now, teasing, luring, enchanting.

Afterwards, he’d told his friends he had a headache, and they’d accepted it, although Nick had winked at him as they’d left, to move on to another club. And then… then he’d sat at the bar for almost an hour, drinking and trying to convince himself to leave before he made a complete fool of himself. Already, he was drawing stares, from the few people who remained, and the bar tender was giving him sympathetic looks.

With a sigh, he finished the last of his pint, and put it on the bar, finally deciding it was time to leave and chalk the whole evening up to experience, albeit an experience he would never forget.

“You’re in luck tonight, mate.”

“What?” Startled, he looked up, as the barman put a glass down, carefully on the bar in front of him. It was a cocktail; pale blue with a cherry, speared on a pink paper umbrella. “But I didn’t order…”

The barman motioned with his head. Luke followed and… Full, coral lips were moistened by a small, pink tongue. Long, fingers plucked a vivid pink umbrella from his cocktail and rubbed the cherry over his lips. Half closing his eyes, he let his tongue play with the sweetness, then sucked in his bottom lip, before letting them part to show the neat, white teeth, nipping the stick before the pouting mouth closed around it, and it was removed, empty.

Luke was shivering and, when he removed his own cherry, his hand shook, and jarred he glass. Sweet, sticky liquid spilled onto the bar top and Luke swallowed hard. He felt stupid and clumsy, but there was no way he was going to allow a show like that go unanswered.

The sticky, sweet cherry brushed across his lips, as his eyes remained locked with the ice blue ones that were watching him, smiling slightly mockingly. Ooh, that tasted good. He deliberately allowed a little of the cocktail to dribble down his chin. Wiping it up with his finger, he brushed it over his lips before sliding it into his mouth. He sucked on the finger, as he slowly moved it in and out, then withdrew and licked the tip.

There was a different look in the blue eyes now and Luke smiled, as he sipped the rest of his cocktail. For some reason, Luke was surprised, and a little startled when the singer put down his glass and moved towards him, with the same, sinewy grace, that had so captivated him on stage.

“I like the way you drink cocktails,” he said in a husky voice, when close enough for Luke, and no one else, to hear.

“I had a pretty good teacher,” Luke replied.

The boy smiled, the first easy, genuine smile Luke had yet seen from him.

“I’m Rune, pleased to meet you.”

“Rune? That’s a strange name.”

Rune grinned. “Strange as they come, but it’s not made up; I have strange parents.”

“Figures.”

“Are you going to introduce yourself?”

“Oh. Sorry. Luke.” He held out his hand, then realised what he was doing and would have dropped it, but Rune took it, turned it over and stroked his palm.

“I’m a palm reader and you have a very interesting fortune in your hand tonight.”

“I do?” Luke breathed, shivering at the touch of Rune’s hand.

“Indeed. It says you’re going home with a stranger, to have the best night of your life.” He let go of Luke’s hand, grinning, and Luke grinned back.

“Oh, well then… if that’s what my palm says…”

Rune licked his lips. “Your place, or mine?”

“I would say mine, but my roommates might get jealous.”

Rune smiled and, without saying a word, took his hand and led him from the club.

****

Rune’s house was as strange and beautiful as he was and, as soon as Luke stepped through the door, he was entranced. There was colour everywhere and the sweet scent of incense perfumed the air. He didn’t have much chance to look around, though, because as soon as the door closed behind them, Rune danced into his arms and brushed his lips against his own.

Shocked, Luke’s arms automatically went around him and drew him close. Rune sighed and rested his head on Luke’s shoulder.

“I knew you’d taste good,” he said, softly, “and that you’d feel strong and safe.”

“Safe? That’s not the most romantic thing anyone has ever said about me.”

Rune smiled gently and took him by the hand. He led him over to an overstuffed sofa and sat him down. Then, even as Luke held out his arms, Rune spun away and started to dance. Luke gasped as he writhed and spun, undulating his hips in a way that make Luke’s mouth go dry.

When Rune started to run his hands over his body as he danced, Luke trembled, rubbing sweating palms on his thighs. Throwing his head back, so his glorious hair cascaded down his back, Rune slipped his arms out of his waistcoat and let it fall to the floor. Running his hands over his nipples he moaned, then executed a pirouette, during which his shirt somehow came loose revealing a torso that was pale and smooth and well defined.

Letting the shirt follow his waistcoat, Rune lowered his head and gave Luke a smouldering look. Reaching out his hand he pulled Luke to his feet and into his arms. The dance was the same, but so different as Rune stood erect, arched his back and rolled his hips, bringing their cocks into contact through layers of cotton and leather. Luke whimpered and moaned as Rune’s body undulated and then moulded itself to his, as Rune whispered in his ear.

“Want to ‘dance’ with me?”

Part 3 RUNE’S ROOM

Rune’s room, was so much like Rune, it made Luke smile. He looked around, much though he would rather look at something, or rather someone, else. The walls were covered with pictures and posters of dancers in various poses. Every flat surface glittered, blinded or shone. There were brightly coloured scarves, glittering, jewel encrusted boxes, and silver, both bright and dull – wrist-bands, statuettes, bangles, and all kinds of jewellery and decorations. It was wild, colourful and chaotic. Yep, just like Rune.

One of the posters on the wall, caught his attention. It was the hair. It was incredible.

“You used to be a dancer.”

“I still am.”

“No, I mean a professional dancer.”

“I still am.” Rune took his hand and drew him away from the poster. “Come, dance with me.”

Luke frowned. There was something that bothered him about Rune’s responses, the tightness in his voice. He forgot all about it, though, when Rune let go of his hand, and pulled him into his arms, pressing his body against him, until he could feel every curve and every… Oh yeah, now THAT diverted his attention, completely.

Carefully, he put his hand in the small of Rune’s back, shivering at the feel of the warm, soft skin under his fingers.

Rune smiled, and kissed him gently. Pulling back, Luke stared into the depths of Rune’s eyes and felt as if he was falling into them. They dominated his vision and touched something deep inside that made him want to hold on tightly and never let him go. He was shocked. That wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. It was supposed to be a bit of fun, a wild night with a beautiful boy and then… then what? Then nothing. But now…

“You’re beautiful,” he breathed and Rune grinned.

“I know,” he said. Then the grin slipped. “But it sounds different when you say it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just kiss me again.”

Surprised, Luke complied and Rune hugged him closer still, pressing his body so hard against him he could hardly breathe. His hand moved from Rune’s back, to fist in his hair. It was so soft, like his lips.

“Oh Luke, Luke touch me,” Rune moaned softly against his lips, “touch me everywhere.”

Luke gasped and shuddered, running his hands over Rune’s back and buttocks. Rune hitched and wrapped one leg around him, pulling him in even closer. His hands were clenched, bunched up in Luke’s shirt.

“Take your clothes off, Luke. I want to touch you, too.”

Although he spoke the words, Rune didn’t let go. In fact, he clung even harder, his kiss becoming hot and almost desperate.

“You have to let me go first,” Luke said, a smile in his voice.

Almost pushing him away, Rune broke free and began to tear off his remaining clothes. Luke was frozen as more and more of the pale skin was revealed. When he was naked, Rune threw himself back onto the bed and lay there, among the bright cushions and throws, a slender, pale candle haloed with flame. Still Luke couldn’t move – he couldn’t think. He was entranced, ensorcelled by beauty, drunk with it.

“Luke,” Rune moaned, and snapped him out of his trance.

With trembling fingers, he slipped off his shirt and tugged his tshirt over his head. He heard Rune gasp as he unzipped his trousers, and began to wriggle out of them. With a desperate moan, Rune leaped up, kneeling on the bed in front of him. Small hands tugged at the soft leather and, as soon as they were low enough, he laid his head on Luke’s belly, breathing in his scent. He turned his head, to kiss the hot skin, as his hands caressed Luke’s backside. Luke let his head fall back and his hips thrust forwards. He whimpered when Rune rubbed his cheek against his freed manhood. Ah hell, that felt good.

When Rune pulled away and fell back onto the bed, Luke felt cold and bereft. Rune was panting. “Hurry, take off the rest. I’m cold. Please, Luke.”

Made clumsy by his desperation, Luke struggled out of the rest of his clothes and fell onto the bed, next to Rune. Suddenly, everything went still.

As desperate as they had been; now they were lying together, naked and exposed, they no longer felt the burning desire to consummate their love. Instead, they lay quietly and stared into each other’s eyes, their hands exploring every inch of the other’s body, with light, teasing strokes.

Luke stroked the hair out of Rune’s face and lightly traced his features with one finger. “I’ve never seen anyone so beautiful and strange and wild as you are.”

“Strange and wild? Is that what you think I am?”

“Absolutely.”

Rune laughed softly. “Yeah… I guess. And beautiful? You think I’m beautiful?”

“You know I do. You’re so beautiful you make me breathless.”

“I think you should know that I have no self control where making love to men who think I’m beautiful is concerned. It’s the greatest aphrodisiac to me.”

“Men? Have there been many men?” Of course he’d known there would have been. Rune was just too beautiful, too sexy and too… confident, for there not to have been many lovers before him. After all, he was neither beautiful, strange nor wild. Surely he was not the usual type of man Rune attracted. Although, there were many at the club that night who were far more so than he… and Rune had chosen him before them.

“Yes, many.” Rune looked sad, wistful. “Too many.”

“Too many?”

“I’ve…allowed myself to… to be…”

“Used?”

“No. No not that. Well… not just that. Influenced, I suppose. Influenced by men who tell me I’m beautiful then…”

“Then what?”

“Leave me,” he whispered and closed his eyes, nestling into Luke’s side.

Luke never knew quite what possessed him to say what he said next, although he meant it absolutely. “I’ll never leave you, Rune, never. I swear it.”

Part 4 – IN THE MORNING

Luke was cold. He wasn’t really awake and, at first, couldn’t work out where he was or why he was so chilly. Eventually, he realised that he was cold because Rune had all the blankets wrapped tightly around him. It was still dark, but the moonlight through the window was bright, bleaching the brilliant colours and making Rune’s pale face seem to shine with an internal light.

Raising himself on one arm and resting his head on his hand, Luke looked down at Rune. He was sleeping deeply and peacefully, with a half smile on his face. A wave of something washed over him and he frowned. How could he feel so protective of someone he’d only just met? And how the hell had he found himself waking up in a strange bed with someone he’d known for only a few hours. That just wasn’t something he did.

Bending his head, he kissed Rune gently on the side of his head. Rune stirred and murmured something. He was unbearably cute and Luke had to kiss him again, this time on the lips. Rune’s smile broadened and he licked his lips with a sigh, still fast asleep. Luke caressed his cheek and blew on his face. Rune’s nose wrinkled and he stirred again, making sleepy noises that seemed to strike deep into Luke’s heart.

It took minutes to wake Rune and, even then, he was sleepy and confused. “Luke?”

Luke laughed. “I’ve never met anyone so reluctant to wake than you. You’re like a cute little mole, burrowing into those blankets. Selfishly, I have to add, because it was the cold that woke me.”

Rune grinned, then the smile faded and he blinked up at Luke, his eyes luminous. “Are you leaving now?”

Luke’s heart jumped at the sadness in his voice. “No,” he said, softly, brushing the hair out of Rune’s eyes, “I’m not leaving. For one thing it’s still the middle of the night.” Rune’s hopeful look faded, “and for another I don’t want to leave you. As crazy as it sounds after just one night, I don’t ever want to leave you.”

Rune’s smile blinded him and he closed his eyes, as Rune’s nimble fingers touched his face – hesitantly at first, then with more confidence. He drew Luke’s face down for a sweet kiss.

Carefully disentangling the bedclothes, Luke snuggled down, pressing his body against the little furnace that was Rune. “You’re beautiful, Rune,” Luke whispered. “I don’t know you, not yet, but from where I’m sitting it sure looks like the beauty goes all the way through.”

“It does?”

“It certainly does.”

Rune closed his eyes and pressed himself against Luke, his body coming awake in ways that left Luke in doubt about exactly how he was feeling and what was on his mind. His own body responded and his kiss became more urgent, as his hands roved over Rune’s slender body. Rune clung to him, his fingers gripping him tightly, the long nails digging in to his flesh.

With a sigh, Luke remembered their earlier lovemaking. It had been hot, heavy and wild. Rune was a demon once he got going. Luke smiled and squirmed as Rune’s nails found the deep gouges that still stung and burned.

That morning, however, there was no desire to rush, no desperation, only a deep desire just to be with each other, to touch and stroke and breathe in each other’s scent. Luke found himself dizzy with it and pulled Rune close, with a hand in the small of his back. “You smell so good,” he murmured and kissed him deeply.

He was so lost in sweetness that he didn’t, at first, notice when Rune went stiff in his arms.

“Luke… Luke stop, listen.” Rune pushed him away and Luke was confused and upset. “Listen, Luke… There’s someone downstairs.”

And then, Luke heard it. It wasn’t a loud noise – the soft sound of footsteps across the wooden floor. “Shit.”

Luke climbed out of bed and reached for his trousers. “No. It’s my house. I have to see to this,” Rune said, pulling on a silk robe that had been hanging on the knob of the wardrobe door.

“We’ll go together,” Luke said, with a smile that was returned nervously.

Hand in hand, they eased open the bedroom door and crept down the stairs. At the door to the living room, they stopped and froze. A dark shape loomed, clearly outlined by the light from the window. It looked strange, distorted, some kind of monster, lurking in the darkness.

With a trembling hand, Rune reached out and his fingers brushed the light switch. Frightened, he looked up at Luke for reassurance. Luke nodded slightly and Rune flicked the switch, flooding the room with light.

Luke had a brief flash of wild purple hair before whatever it was, cursing, took a step back and tripped on the stool, disappearing as it fell backwards, arms flailing.

Rune and Luke remained rooted to the spot, as the intruder clattered about, trying to scrabble up off the floor, and then the purple-headed monster reared its angry head.

“Hello, Rune,” it said in a cold, hard voice. “Is this your latest conquest? Lowering your standards a bit aren’t you?”

More of the monster – who turned out to be a tall, slender, man with a beautiful face and wild purple hair – rose and stood, hands on hips, glaring at them.

“Who the hell are you?” Luke asked, confused.

“Ask him,” the stranger said with a flick his head.

Luke turned to Rune. He was standing quite still, with a look on his face that seemed to change from moment to moment – from shock, to fear, to anger, to embarrassment and back to fear.

“Who the hell is he?” he asked and, after a pause Rune answered in a tiny, hoarse voice.

“He’s my husband.”

Part 5 – HE’S MINE

Rune’s revelation was met with deafening silence, broken by cruel laughter from his… husband.

“That’s right, plaything. But don’t worry; I’m not the jealous kind. Skip off upstairs and get dressed. Don’t let the door slam on your way out.”

“Rune?” Luke stared at Rune, who avoided his eyes.

“You heard me, pretty boy – make yourself scarce. Rune. Come here.”

Rune hesitated, shooting Luke a look of pure fear. Then, dropping his eyes, he walked towards the boy, who was grinning evilly. At soon as he was within reach, the boy reached out, grabbed his wrist and yanked him into his arms. Rune yelped, but his arms went around the purple headed demon. It seemed to Luke that it was an automatic gesture, with little affection in it.

“I’m not going to say it again. Get out of my house. My husband and I have business to attend to.” The slight stress on the word ‘business’ made it very clear what he had in mind.  Did he imagine it, or did Luke see Rune wince?

“Rio, please…” Rune whispered, so softly Luke barely heard him.

Rio, buried his hand in Rune’s beautiful hair and yanked his head back. “Ssh,” he murmured, bending to capture Rune’s mouth.

“I’ll leave,” Luke said, in a dangerous voice that surprised the hell out of him, “if and when Rune asks me to.”

Rio’s head snapped up and his eyes flared. Luke didn’t miss the fact that his fist tightened in Rune’s hair, making his whole body tense. “The hell you will. This is my house and, if I tell you to leave, you’ll get the hell out of it.”

“It’s Rune’s house, too.” Luke was shaking. He wasn’t a fighter, never been in a fight in his life, but he’d promised to take care of Rune and that strange protectiveness flared again, tearing through his guts and making him feel strong enough to take on the world. If he had to fight for Rune, then so be it.

Rio laughed and slid his hand around Rune’s slender frame, caressing his back and buttocks through the flimsy material of the silk robe, riding up the silk and following it down to slide a finger between his buttocks. Rune’s muscles twitched and he buried his face in Rio’s shoulder. More, Luke thought, to muffle any sound, than because he was turned on by the actions.

“Do you really think sweet little Rune gives a damn about you? He’s probably told you how lonely he is, how desperate for love; given you plenty of sob stories but the truth is, they’re all a load of bollocks. I travel a lot, and I’m not naïve enough to think my baby boy would take a vow of celibacy while I’m gone. Trust me, there’ve been many before you, and he’s fed them all the same lines. But don’t think for one minute he meant any of them. Whatever, he’s said and done – the boy is MINE.”

Luke felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach. It made sense. It all made sense, but…

“I don’t believe you.” He said it calmly and evenly, even though he had to fight hard to keep his emotions in check. Rune raised his head, turning towards Luke, as far as he could. Rio tightened his grip and Rune’s face twitched. He was hurting him. The bastard was hurting him.  Anger flooded him.

Rio laughed out loud. “If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say that… He’s a great little actor… should be on the stage. Oh, wait – that’s right: he is.”

Rune jerked as Rio’s balled fist ground into his back. To Luke it looked like a practiced move, as if he knew exactly what to do to give Rune pain.

“I don’t care what you say. I care what Rune says. Rune, do you want me to leave?”

Rune’s face twisted and his whole body jerked. Although Luke hadn’t seen what Rio’d done that time, he knew he’d done something and that it hurt. Rune’s eyes flicked rapidly between Luke to Rio. Then, he closed his eyes, bit his lip and whispered, “No.”

“What?” Rio growled, glaring at Rune as if he’d grown another head.

“You heard him. He doesn’t want me to leave, so I’m not going anywhere.”

Rio’s eyes flashed and he snarled. “Don’t be a fool, little flower. Ask your boyfriend to leave. Now.” His last work was punctuated by a little yelp from Rune, and Luke saw red.

“Let go of him, you bastard. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t like it. Let go of him.”

“Or what?” Rio snapped.

“What?”

“Or what? What will you do if I don’t?” Grabbing Rune’s hair again, he dragged his head back as far as it would go and bent to bury his face in the crook of his neck. Rune moaned loudly.

“No, Rio. No, please… please let me go.”

Rio’s head came up. “What? What did you say?”

“Let me go, please. I… I don’t want this anymore. I don’t…” At first his voice was tiny but, seeming to gain strength, he straightened his shoulders and tried to pull his hair out of Rio’s grip. “I don’t want you to hurt me anymore.”

“Hurt you? Baby, you haven’t felt hurt yet, trust me. As soon as you’re little friend has…”

He broke off as Rune began to struggle. When he brought his knee up sharply between Rio’s legs, Rio gave a cry and flung him away, like a rag doll. Rune stumbled, trying to catch his footing, failed and went crashing to the floor, his head catching the corner of the table as he fell. His body hit the ground with a thud and lay still.

Rio’s shocked eyes were fixed on him for a long moment, then raised to meet Luke’s. They were both utterly shocked. Without a word, Rio turned and fled the house.

Part 6 – FEELING SAFE

A groan from Rune, snapped Luke back to his senses. He knelt down, but had no idea what else to do. Rune moaned again and his eyes fluttered open.

“Fuck,” Luke said, “Fuck, you scared me.”

“Rio,” Rune cried and cringed back.

“No, Rune. Rune it’s okay. It’s not Rio. It’s me… Luke. Rio’s gone.”

“G…gone.” Rune was groggy and confused but, when Luke reached for him he opened his arms willingly and threw them around Luke, with a sob.

“He’s gone, Rune. It’s okay, he’s gone and he’s not coming back. I promise you he’ll never hurt you again.

Rune rested his head on Luke’s shoulder and wept, while Luke carefully stroked his hair and back. He felt completely helpless.

Finally, Rune pulled back to look at Luke, through eyes that were puffy and red from crying. Even though his face was paper white and streaked with tears, he was still startlingly beautiful.

“Rio,” he croaked.

“He ran away when you fell.” Rune nodded and Luke couldn’t work out if it was with regret or relief. “He hurt you didn’t he?” he said. “Doesn’t he?” Rune dropped his eyes, hanging his head. “Rune?”

Swallowing hard, he nodded his head. “Yes,” he whispered.

A wave of anger washed over Luke. “I knew it. The bastard. I knew it. I’m going to kick his ass ‘till Friday.”

“No!” Rune gasped. “No, don’t. He’ll hurt you.”

“Trust me, I can look after myself.”

“He’ll hurt me,” he whispered.

“No, Rune, he won’t hurt you. He won’t hurt you ever again, because I won’t let him.”

“No, Luke, you don’t know what he’s like. I should have told you. I should never have let you…”

“Yes, you should have told me, but it wouldn’t have made a difference. You’re stuck with me, whether you like it or not.”

Rune’s eyes widened. “Really?” he whispered. “Really? You’re not going to run away like… like…”

“The others?” Rune nodded, wincing. “I’m not going anywhere, not unless you want me to.”

“No,” he said quickly, “Please, no.”

“Good. Right, can you stand?”

“Of course I can.” And he did, although he was not at all steady on his feet.

“I’m going to take you to the hospital.”

“No, don’t do that. Please. I’m alright. I just need to rest.”

“Rune,” Luke said patiently, “you were knocked out. You might have a concussion.”

“Well… maybe but…”

“No buts.”

“Please, Luke. I’ve got such a headache.”

“Point proved, I think. Come on, we’d better get dressed.”

Rune was not pleased but, one pair of jeans, one tshirt, two shoes and two visits to the bathroom to throw up, later he had to admit defeat. He followed Luke meekly to the car and allowed him to drive to the local hospital. He dozed on and off all the way, with Luke panicking every time he closed his eyes.

Dizzy and sick, Rune said very little as they waited, resting his head on Luke’s shoulder and groaning every time Luke woke him up when he would have drowsed. After listening to the woman opposite play trivia with her precocious son, who really shouldn’t have known so much about Elvis or Dr Who and the Daleks, Luke began to wish he was unconscious himself, especially when the leggy blonde next to her spread her legs a little too wide, and started eating a banana…

Eventually, the doctor pronounced that Rune did, indeed, have a concussion and insisted that he stay the night for observation. Rune was not at all happy, but he was too tired and sick to put up too much of a fight and, presently, he was settled on a ward grumbling all the way.

“It’s only one night,” Luke said, trying not to laugh at the hospital gown Rune had been forced to wear.

“That’s not helping,” Rune grumbled, hurriedly pulling up the sheets.

“Sorry,” Luke smirked. Rune groaned. “Does your head hurt?”

“Everything hurts, and I feel sick. I’m not exactly the best company, am I? You should go home.”

“Do you want me to?”

Rune’s eyes filled with tears. “No.”

“Then I’m staying right here, until they throw me out.”

“No worry of that,” said the cheery voice of a nurse, appearing around the flowery curtain. “Visiting starts in half an hour and we’re not THAT mean.”

After checking his temperature, blood pressure and pulse, the nurse asked all kind of questions, which she noted on a clipboard. Luke noted that Rune gave a woman’s name for next of kin.

Finally, the nurse stopped asking questions, and Rune sighed, closing his eyes.

“Is he allowed to sleep?” Luke asked anxiously, and the nurse laughed.

“As if I could forbid that. Rest is the best thing for him.”

“I thought you’re supposed to keep people with concussions awake.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be taking his vitals every half an hour and if he’s rousable, he’s fine.”

“If he’s what?”

“If he wakes up okay. Otherwise, he can sleep as much as he likes.”

“Oh, okay. Thanks.”

Left alone with the sleeping Rune, Luke had no idea what to do. Hesitantly he reached out and touched Rune’s hand

Rune opened his eyes. Seeing Luke he smiled. “Thank you,” he said.

“For what?”

“For being here. For making me feel safe.”

“You are safe. No one’s going to hurt you again, Rune. Not Rio, nor anyone else.”

Rune gave a sad little smile. “I wish I could believe you.”

“You can believe me.”

“Rio has a way of getting what he wants.”

“Not with me he doesn’t.” Rune smiled a tight smile and gave a little shake of his head. “What’s the deal with Rio anyway?” How the hell did someone like you end up married to a prick like him?”

“It’s a long story,” Rune said, with a sigh.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Luke said, “and it’s not as if we have anything better to do.”

Rune looked a little uncertain then, with a sigh, he nodded.

Part 7 – RIO

“I used to be a dancer – a proper dancer, in a corps de ballet. That’s where I met Rio. He was a wonderful dancer, the lead. He was daring, fearless, beautiful… I couldn’t believe it when he started to show interest in me. I was sixteen and it was my first time away from home.

“He was older, eighteen, like a big brother to me. He helped me a lot and I stared to get really good. Once or twice I got the lead.

“We were only a small company and we started doing interpretative dance. There was this one move we had to do, where Rio did a lift on me. It was usually the girls who got lifted, but I was small and slender. The director thought he would be able to manage it easily.

“I don’t know what went wrong but… one minute I was in the air and the next I was on the floor.” He stopped, looking into the distance. “I broke my ankle and, although it healed well, it wasn’t well enough for the stresses of ballet. That was the end of my career.”

“Hell,” Luke breathed. He could quite easily imagine Rune dancing ballet. On the poster in his bedroom he’d been all in black, his hair flying around him and he was leaping. Lights, refracting through what looked like a find spray or mist, made the background indistinct, so it seemed as if he was in the air. He’d been so beautiful and it was so tragic, so…

“I bet I know how it happened,” Luke ground out.

“You do?”

“Rio was supposed to catch you, right?”

“Yes.”

“And you were starting to get lead roles.”

“Yes but… Oh, no Luke. Rio’s a bastard but he wouldn’t have done that. He… he wouldn’t have… would he?” The conviction had disappeared from his voice by the end of the sentence and he stopped, closing his eyes, as hot tears forced themselves under his eyelids, catching in his eyelashes like liquid diamond.

Luke squeezed his hand and said nothing.

“After the ballet,” Rune said, at last, “I didn’t know what to do. I was seventeen and had nothing. School’d never interested me, because all I wanted to do was dance. The director of the ballet corps rang one day and asked if I was interested in trying out for an interpretative dance troupe. That kind of dance puts a lot less stress on your ankles, so I could do it. I tried out and got in.

“From there, I got into show dancing and, eventually a music video. I had a lot of attention because of my looks. I’m… unusual. Memorable.”

“You certainly are.”

Rune smiled miserably. “I was starting to get a name again. And then Rio turned up. I was over the moon. I’d missed him so much. This time it was more than a brotherly thing, much more. We became lovers very quickly and, at first it was good. He was sweet and loving and I thought he was taking care of me. It took me a long time to realise that taking care of actually meant controlling. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything without him. I even turned down gigs and roles if he didn’t think they were right for me.”

He looked up at Luke, biting his lip. “Looking back, I think… I think he was jealous and he didn’t want me to do well.”

“You think?”

Rune smiled a tight smile. “It was then he started hurting me. At first, it was only little things, squeezing too hard, biting my neck, bruising my arms. He was always sorry… at least in the beginning.”

“Why didn’t you leave him?”

“Because I didn’t have anywhere to go. We were living together and he controlled everything. I didn’t go anywhere, do anything, unless he was there. I had no friends, nowhere to turn, nowhere to go.” He paused and sniffed, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. Then he pulled himself up and gave Luke a challenging look. “I wasn’t a coward, but it happened so slowly… and… well, whoever said love was easy, right? That’s what I thought… then.”

“I know you’re not a coward. You’re brave and fierce and that’s what I love so much about you.”

The defiant look melted into a soft smile. “Rio used to tell me all the time I was a coward. I was weak. I was stupid. All I had was my looks and nothing else to offer. I should be grateful to him for taking care of me.” He stopped, shaking his head.

“The verbal abuse got worse when the violence got worse. He used to say I’m ugly on the inside and no one really wanted me for anything but a good fuck. Sometimes, he’d put his hands around my neck and tell me he had control of everything, even my life. Then he’d squeeze until I passed out. He got all kinds of… stuff. He’d tie me up and whip me till I bled. Or he’d put a bag over my head until I passed out. He’d say that the border between life and death was ecstasy and I should thank him… he made me thank him.”

“And you married him?”

“It was another way to control me. I was so ashamed of the things he did. He was going to tell everyone all the sickening things he made me do. I couldn’t… I just… It was easier to go along with it.

“After that, he let go a bit. In a way, he lost interest in me. He joined a dance troupe and started travelling and I wouldn’t see him for weeks. It suited me. I met the guys in the group, started off with dancing then singing and, for the first time is such a long time I was happy.”

“Oh pulleeze. You’re making my heart bleed.”

Both looked sharply up

“Rio,” Rune gasped.

Part 7 – FACEDOWN

“No,” Rune cried, holding tight to Luke’s hand to stop him throwing himself at Rio. Luke sat down hard on the bench, having already started to lunge and being pulled back sharply.

“That’s right, pretty boy, listen to Rune, he knows the score. Don’t make me have to kick your ass out of here. Just get up and wiggle it through the door for yourself.”

“Bastard…” Luke growled, and tried to lunge for him again.

“No, Luke,” Rune pleaded. “Don’t. They’ll make you leave. Please don’t.”

As angry as he was, Luke realised Rune was right and subsided, snarling. Rio looked very out of place in the bright, artificial lights of the hospital ward. He was garish now, rather than exotic, his purple hair clashing with the oranges and yellows of his flamboyant clothes. Even his extravagant eye makeup was more clownish that seductive. He was still undeniably beautiful and charismatic, though. No doubt every eye in the ward would have followed him here.

“How touching,” Rio sneered. “One could almost imagine that Rune means it this time. Grown fond of your little plaything have you?”

“Get out of here Rio. Leave me alone.”

Rio looked genuinely surprised. “You must have hit your head harder than I thought.”

“And how hard was that Rio? You knew I was hurt. You ran away.”

“I came back didn’t I?”

“Yeah, and I wish you hadn’t.”

Rio’s arrogant grin slipped. He crossed the cubicle to the side of the bed… the opposite side to Luke, he wasn’t that stupid. Leaning close, he hissed into Rune’s face.

“Do you really think your ‘friend’ is going to stick around when he finds out what a sick puppy you really are? Do you think he’s going to want you any more than the others did when they found out the truth? Face it Rune, you’re a piece of trash and no one else is going to want to pick you up, so you had better be very, very careful that you don’t push away the only person who doesn’t feel sick at the sight of you.”

“And that would be you, I suppose?” Luke hissed. “Well, you’re wrong there. For your information I know exactly what you’ve been doing to Rune, and you’re the one who makes me feel sick.”

For a moment Rio looked shocked, then his lip curled. “Doing to him? You say it as if he didn’t want it. Let me tell you something, he was the one begging for it. You should have seen him… on his hands and knees, hog tied with his ass in the air, begging for more, more, more.” His eyes glittered with the sick delight he was having from the stricken look on Rune’s face.

“Or when he was tied to the bed, crying and begging me to ram the dildo in harder while I…”

“Rio, no, please…” Rune moaned, his eyes squeezed tight as if trying to dispel the images behind them.

“Heard enough, plaything?” Rio smirked at Luke.

“More than enough,” Luke ground back. Rune opened his eyes and stared at him in fear.  His hand in Luke’s trembled, and Luke squeezed it. “Let me tell you now, son of a bitch, if it wasn’t for Rune, and the fact that I don’t want to make a fuss in front of sick people, I’d be over there, making you choke on your filth. Don’t ever let me hear you speak about Rune like that again.”

At first Rio looked taken aback, then he grinned. “Or what?” he chuckled. “I think we’ve been here before. You’re full of shit. Now get the fuck out of here and let me comfort my sick puppy.” Keeping his eyes locked with Luke’s, he ran his hand over Rune’s face and down over his shoulder. Rune turned his face away, but he didn’t stop him. At first Luke was angry about this but then he realised that it was going to take some time for Rune to break away from a situation that had held him caged for so long.

“Take your hands off him.”

“Or what?”

Neither realised their voices were rising until the curtain twitched and a nurse appeared. “What the hell’s going on in here? This is a hospital.”

“Nothing’s at all,” Rio said smoothly. “I’ve come to take care of my husband so his… friend, can leave now. It seems as if he’s trying to outstay his welcome.”

The nurse, a little taken aback looked from Rio, who was exuding easy charm, to Luke who was flushed and angry, to Rune, who was crying quietly, looking defeated and exhausted.

“Well,” she said, “I don’t know what’s really going on but my main concern is my patient and whatever the situation is, it’s not doing him any good, so I’m going to have to ask BOTH of you to leave.”

“No,” Rune’s head came up and he turned pleading eyes on her. “Please don’t make Luke leave. Please.”

“Which one of you is Luke?”

“Me.”

The nurse narrowed her eyes and nodded. “I think it would still be best if you both stepped outside for a few minutes while I have a word with Rune.”

“You can’t make me leave, I’m his husband.”

“I don’t give a damn who you are. You will step outside or I’ll have security escort you from the hospital.”

Rio tried to meet her eyes but knew he was on to a loser and, like most bullies in the face of implacable resistance, he backed down.

“Whatever you say. I’ll be just outside, Rune. Don’t worry, I won’t go far and I will come back.”

The stress on the word ‘will’ made Rune wince and Luke go cold.

“I don’t want to stay here,” Rune said suddenly. “I can’t. Give me my clothes, I’m going home.”

“Don’t be silly Rune. Just…”

“I’m not being silly. I just can’t do it. It won’t work. I’m not safe. Take me home, Luke, please.”

Part 9 – AN UNWISE MOVE

“For the record, I think you’re completely insane. It was madness to leave the hospital because of him.”

“You don’t understand, Luke,” Rune said, leaning his head against the car door, with his eyes closed. “He wouldn’t have given up. He would have caused a scene, made you get thrown out and told everyone about… about me. I couldn’t bear that – not having you there; them all looking at me as if I’m scum.”

“They wouldn’t have, Rune. They’d all see that you’re clearly not scum. They’d see what I see, not what Rio’s trying to make you see.”

“Maybe,” Rune said, tiredly, “but he’d still have made a fuss and I couldn’t stand it.”

“Your health isn’t worth the risk.”

“My health’s fine. Just take me home.”

“Are you sure you want to go home? Rio’s going to go straight there. I’m surprised he wasn’t waiting for us in the car park. He’s not going to give up, you know. Not until you stand up to him and tell him to get out of your life.”

“I know. I know that, and I will. Just not… not now.”

“Okay, not now, I understand. When you’re better. Why don’t you come to my house? You’ll be safe there. Rio doesn’t know where I live.”

Rune turned to him, his eyes wide. “Your house? Do you mean it?”

“Of course I mean it. I share with a couple of people, but they won’t mind. Stay as long as you like. You can take my bed and I’ll sleep on the sofa.”

“No you won’t.” Rune gave him a hot little smile. “You’ll sleep right next to me.”

“I doubt you’d get much sleep if I did that.”

“That’s the idea.”

“When you’re feeling better.”

Smiling now, Rune relaxed and closed his eyes. “Whatever you want,” he murmured. “Whatever you want.”

It was a short drive to the house Luke shared with three friends. It was a student house, close to the university they all attended. None of them was in, which was surprising for a Sunday evening, but Luke wasn’t complaining.

He insisted that Rune went straight to bed and Rune didn’t argue. However, once they got there, he was in no hurry to lie down. Instead, he wandered around examining Luke’s things.

“Rune, I wish you’d change your mind about going back to the hospital. I’m not going to sleep all night worrying about you. You’re obviously still not well.”

“I know I’m not, but I will be soon. You heard the nurse, Luke, I just need to rest.”

“Okay, whatever you say. But I’m not happy, and if anything happens I’m going to kill you.”

“What if I’m already dead?”

“I’ll find a voodoo witch doctor, resurrect you THEN kill you.”

Rune smiled, a wide genuine smile that transformed his face into something like that carefree, sexy, enigmatic dancer who’d stolen his heart.

“Smiling suits you.”

“I know. Shame I don’t get to do it more often.”

“You will now.”

Smiling seductively, Rune turned, pressed his body against Luke’s. I need help to get undressed. I’m sick you know. Maybe you could give me a hand.”

“Anything you want. Until you’re better, I’m your slave.”

Rune’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Luke fluttered his eyelashes. “What do you want from me, Master?”

“Hmm.” He pondered, then grinned. “Alright, slave, I order you to take off my shirt… without using your hands.”

“But how…?”

“Use your imagination.”

With a sultry smile, Luke bent his head and took the bottom of Rune’s tshirt between his teeth, tugging it out of his jeans. Nudging it up with his nose, he licked the exposed skin and felt Rune shiver. Rune buried his fingers in Luke’s hair, gently massaging his scalp, as he found Rune’s navel, and began to kiss around it, lapping at it with the tip of his tongue. Rune moaned and arched his back, to press his belly into Luke’s face. Luke put his hands on Rune’s buttocks to steady him, and felt the muscles tense.

“I’m a terrible slave, Rune,” Luke said hoarsely, “because I can’t do what you ordered.”

“You can’t? Why not?”

“Because my mind’s on other things.”

“What kind of things?”

“Things like this.” He undid the front of Rune’s jeans and tugged them, with his pants, down over his hips and thighs. Sliding his hands up under the tshirt, he ran them over the soft, warm skin on Rune’s sides and back, while he rested his cheek against his belly.

“Oh well, I… I… Ah, Luke that… that feels… I’ll forgive you for being a bad slave if you keep doing things like that.”

“Things like what? Like this?” Luke rubbed his nose into the soft silver fur around Rune’s stiffening cock and inhaled deeply. Rune’s legs trembled and he whimpered.

“Luke… Oh God, Luke.”

Luke looked up, alarmed. Rune’s voice sounded as if he was in pain. “Are you alright? Do you need to lie down?”

“Hell, yeah, I need to lie down. I need to lie down right now.”

Luke sprang to his feet. “I’m sorry. I should have thought about you being ill, I…”

His words died on lips, as Rune grabbed him by the front of his shirt and spun him round, throwing him onto the bed. Luke gawped as Rune, elegant even in his desperation, kicked off his shoes and clothes, eventually standing naked and panting.

“Are you…?”

“Ssh.” Lithe as a panther, Rune climbed onto the bed and knelt over Luke, straddling him, with a look on his face that was so hot it could melt ice. The tips of his silvery hair tickled Luke’s chest and his incredible eyes bore into him with the intensity of a diamond tipped drill.

Luke raised his hand to tuck one side of Rune’s hair behind his ear and left it resting against the side of his face. The look that passed between them spoke more than words ever could.

Part 10 – BREATHING SPACE

Breaking the look finally, Rune stretched out on the bed and stared at Luke, with a clear invitation in his eyes. He writhed on the covers, arching his back and raising his hands over his head; putting on quite a show for Luke, who could hardly breathe as he watched. He had never seen anyone dance while lying in bed but, effectively, that was what Rune was doing and Luke was entranced. He was itching to reach out, but, every time he tried Rune batted his hands away until, finally, Rune gasped. “Touch me, Luke.”

Eagerly, Luke reached for him, stroking his naked body, watching it come to life under his hands, as Rune’ breathing quickened and his hands clawed at Luke’s back. Rune’s eyes were closed and there was a look on his face that might have been pleasure and might have been pain.

“Are you alright?” Luke asked.

“Oh God, yes,” Rune moaned. “Yes. I want you, Luke. I want you so much it hurts. I want you to make the pictures go away.”

Luke raised himself on one elbow and looked down at Rune, stroking his belly and idly toying with his cock, making it bounce and Rune squirm.

“What pictures?” Rune went still and bit his lip. “What pictures?” Luke repeated.

Rune turned his head away. “The pictures in my head – of what Rio did to me.”

Luke laid his hand against the side of Rune’s face and turned it gently back. “I know it’s hard, especially after today, but you must understand two things. First, those days are over. I’m here now, not Rio and I’ll never treat you like that. And second, what he did to you was wrong only because you weren’t willing. There’s nothing in what he said that disgusts me or makes me feel less for you.”

“There isn’t?”

“No. Maybe, when you’re better, you could show me some of the things you didn’t hate.”

Rune’s eyes widened. “You’d…?”

“Hell yeah; if you want to.”

Their lovemaking was soft and gentle. Neither felt the need to posess or control. Rune was a primal force, totally relaxed with Luke for the first time. He smouldered: he teased; he played Luke’s body like a musical instrument.

“Oh God,” Luke moaned, as Rune licked his way up his cock for the third time. “Please… don’t do this to me. I can’t… I can’t bear it. I need to…”

“Ssh,” Rune hummed against his throbbing dick head. “Just a little longer. Be patient.”

“I’ve been patient. I’ve been patient for hours and now I don’t want to… Ahh.”

Rune’s teeth grazed the skin, as he slid his finger between Luke’s buttocks.

“I’m warning you, Rune. Do what you’re thinking of doing and I’m going to blow, big time.” Luke groaned, no longer able to speak, as Rune slipped a finger tip inside him.

Releasing Luke’s cock, Rune went to work on him in earnest, preparing him for the finale. Luke couldn’t speak, couldn’t control the trembling in his body, the tension building in his belly and almost came right there and then, when Rune finally slid carefully into him. It was easy to relax for him, to savour every moment of his slow penetration and to be drawn totally into the wonder of his beautiful face, rapt in concentration and ecstacy.

Agonisingly slowly, but steadily, Rune raised Luke to the point of no return synchronising slow thrusts, with a firm massage of Luke’s cock. In all that time, Rune never lost control, not once and, if Luke had been thinking coherently he would have wondered about that, wondered if it was something he’d been ‘trained’ to do. But he wasn’t thinking clearly, he wasn’t thinking at all – he was merely reacting. His hands were fisted, clutching at the bedclothes, his body writhing, covered with a sheen of perspiration, aching and straining towards release.

Finally, neither one of them could postpone the inevitable any longer and Luke roared out, as he arched his back and was taken over completely by the mindblowing convulsions of an intense orgasm.

As if Luke’s release had given him some kind of permission Rune lost himself in his own pleasure and it wasn’t long before he followed Luke into a silent climax that had him collapsing across Luke, gasping for breath, with his heart hammering so hard, Luke could feel it vibrating through his chest.

“Rio was right about one thing.” Luke gasped.

“He was?”

“You are a slut.”

Rune smiled. “Only when I want to be,” he whispered against the side of Luke’s mouth, as he teased his bottom lip with his teeth and ran his tongue over and into his mouth. Rune sure did know how to kiss and, if he hadn’t been before, Luke was lost.

Finally, he raised his head and looked down at Rune. He looked exhausted but triumphant, his hair like a cloud around his head and his beautiful eyes glazed with passion. His lips, swollen from the kiss were parted and curved in a gentle smile.

“What are you smiling at?” Luke asked, stroking Rune’s face.

Rune sighed and closed his eyes, the smile widening. He arched his back and snuggled closer to Luke. “Feel good,” he murmured, sounding sleepy. “Thank you.”

“Thank me? For giving me the best experience of my life? Thank you, Rune. Rune the magnificent. Rune the sexy. Rune the… beautiful.” His thumb brushed Rune’s lips and he opened his eyes, as he kissed the thumb and sucked it into his mouth.

“I’ve never… You make me feel like no one else has ever done. I… don’t know how to…” He frowned, a dull, tired look creeping into his eyes.

“Love is in the air,” Luke teased, trying to make the smile come back.

Rune’s eyes brightened and Luke lowered his head to kiss him.

Before their lips quite met, they were startled away from each other by a thunderous hammering on the front door.

Part 11 – THE FIGHT

“Who’s that?” Rune gasped, terrified.

“I don’t know until I answer, do I?”

“Please, don’t go.”

“Don’t be silly. It’ll be one of the guys, forgotten their key again.”

“What if it’s not?”

“Rune, calm down. It’s not going to be anyone who’s going to hurt you. It’s not Rio. He doesn’t know you’re here.”

“I know, I… I’m sorry, Luke. I guess I’m just really jumpy, and everything’s jumbled up in my head, and I…”

Luke kissed him. “It’s alright. I’ll be back in a flash.”

Leaving Rune still looking decidedly uneasy, Luke ran down the stairs, anxious to get back.

“You want to put that bloody key on a…” he began, then froze. “What the hell are you doing here? How do you know where I live?”

“I think you have something that belongs to me,” Rio said quietly.

“Rune doesn’t belong to anyone, least of all you. How do you know where I live?” Luke demanded again, refusing to be intimidated by Rio’s icy stare.

“I followed you,” Rio said shortly and pushed past Luke into the house. “Where is he?”

“Hey! Get out of my house.”

“Sure, when I have Rune with me.”

“Rune’s not going anywhere with you. Now, in case I haven’t made myself clear – Get. Out. Of. My. House.”

“Or what?” Rio said, with that same smirk and arrogant look on his face. “There’s no one here to come to your rescue now, sweet cheeks. There’s only you and me. So…”

He didn’t have a chance to say more, because Luke had thrown himself at him and knocked him backwards onto the floor, kicking over a small table. The pile of jigsaw puzzle boxes that had balanced on it went flying, scattering puzzle pieces everywhere. While Like and Rio struggled, a firebird melted into an autumn wood and was followed by a pair of magpies and an unicorn.

Luke had no finesse and no experience. Rio clearly did. However, he was a good deal bigger and stronger and, eventually, he found himself kneeling on Rio’s chest with his fist raised. Rio was already bleeding from his nose and lip.

“Leave Rune alone. Get the message. He’s mine now, not yours. Get the hell out of my house and out of his life.”

“Or what?” Rio mocked, and Luke hit him. He found it surprisingly satisfying.

“Stop!”

Both paused and looked at the stairs. Rune had thrown on his jeans but, other than that, was wearing nothing. His hair was dishevelled and he was hugging the wall for support. The look on his face was of utmost horror.

“What are you doing?” he whispered, having apparently lost the volume in his voice. “Don’t fight over me.”

“Then stop this nonsense and come back where you belong,” Rio said, each word coated with honey but dripping poison.

“I belong here.”

“With this…?” Rio threw scornfully at Luke. “He’s nothing. He’s pretty enough but there’s no weight to him. He doesn’t know how to please you, how to treat you properly. I’m the only one who…”

“Who what?  Who told me I was worthless so often I believed you? Who dragged me out of clubs by my hair because I spoke to the wrong person about the wrong thing? Who beat me and raped me and told me I was lucky and I wanted it?”

“Raped you? Don’t be ridiculous. I never raped you. You were begging for it.”

“I was begging for it to STOP. You hurt me, Rio. Every day. You … hurt me.” His voice faded and he looked as if he was going to faint. Luke could see his hands trembling and knew how much it had taken for him to have said that.

“You bastard.” Rio shouted. “Don’t you DARE say those thing, you little slut. You WANTED it. You suggested half of it. You wanted to use the dildos and start experimenting with drugs.”

Rune pulled himself up to his full height and stumbled down the last few stairs. He advanced a few steps, his pale face flushing.

“Yes… yes I did. And do you know why?”

Rio stared and shook his head. Luke dropped his fist and said, “Rune,” in a concerned voice. Rune ignored him.

“I wanted to use dildos because I couldn’t bear to feel you in me anymore. When you finished and threw me aside, it made me physically sick to feel your cum in me. Anything was better than that. And as for the drugs – I would have done anything – anything to make the pain go away; to make YOU go away. But all they ever did was make it fade out for a while. It was all still there – you were still there.”

For a moment, Rio was silent, then he sneered. “If you hated me so much, why did you stay with me? I never tied you down… well, I did but…”

“Why did I stay? Because you took away my choices. You made me believe I HAD nowhere else to go. No one cared for me. No one wanted me. I was worthless. I was a slut.  I was sick and not fit to be with decent people. You said you’d tell my family, my friends, what you did to me and I was so ashamed. It made me feel sick – the thought of them knowing…

“I hated you, Rio. I hated you with everything I have. I hated what you did to me, I hated how you made me feel, I hated you because every time I found someone or something that started to make me feel better about myself you spoiled it. You made them leave me. You always sent them away. You… you always… you…”

Stammering to a halt, Rune swayed. Looking surprised, he blinked and stared at Luke. Reaching out a hand he moaned, “Luke,” then his eyes fluttered and rolled and he collapsed.

Again, both Luke and Rio were frozen.

Part 12 – DID YOU EVER LOVE HIM

“Fucking HELL,” Luke yelled, leaping off Rio, who also scrambled to his feet, this time not running but standing, cowering.

Luke knelt beside Rune, afraid to touch him. This time, there were no fluttering eyelashes. There was nothing at all. Terrified, Luke pressed his fingers to Rune’s wrist. He had no idea how to take a pulse and could find nothing.

Desperate, he pressed his ear to Rune’s chest. He almost passed out when he heard the thump of his heart. To him, it seemed faint and far away, but he didn’t know if that was normal or not.

“Rune,” he called, softly, brushing the pale hair out of his face. “Rune, please, you’re scaring the fuck out of me. Please just have fainted. Please wake up now. For fuck sake, Rune – please,” he moaned in anguish, but he may as well have been talking to the chair. “Don’t just stand there,” he screamed at Rio. “DO something.”

“What the hell am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know. Phone an ambulance, or something.”

“Look, there’s no need for that. He’ll be alright. The little bitch is probably faking anyway – he’s like that.”

Luke gaped. “Are you real? Look at him. He’s right out of it. If you think you can wake him, by all means give it your best shot.” Rio shrank back, eyeing Rune as if he expected him to spit poison. “Just ring for the fucking ambulance, Rio. I swear to God, if he— if anything happens to him, I’ll rip your heart out.”

“Yeah, right,” Rio sneered.

“Just fucking do it.” Luke was blazing mad and itching to lay hands on Rio, but he had more important things to think about. He was afraid to move Rune, so he knelt on the floor, talking to him, begging him, holding his hand, which seemed to be getting colder and colder. Or maybe that was Luke’s.

“You’re off your rocker,” Rio sneered, “talking to him. As if he’d know.”

“Five minutes ago you were saying he’s faking it.”

“Yeah… well.”

They lapsed into silence. Rio lounged against the sideboard and watched in silence, while Luke remained kneeling on the floor

“Make the most of it,” Rio said after a time, “because you won’t be doing it for long.”

“What?” Luke was startled. He’d been stroking Rune’s hair, still talking to him softly.

“You won’t be getting anywhere near him once we’re at the hospital.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Think about it,” Rio said, with a smirk. “I’m his husband and what are you? Nothing. Not even a friend. You’ve only known him for a couple of days. Who do you think is going to be getting all the news and sitting at the bedside?” He narrowed his eyes, a nasty little smile on his face. “And who do you think– won’t be?”

“You wouldn’t,” Luke gasped, his eyes wide, incredulous.

Rio’s smiled widened, happy that he’d nettled Luke. “Watch me. My face is the first think poor little Rune is going to see when he wakes up and he’s going to be so sad that his new best friend couldn’t be bothered to stick around.”

Luke stared at him for a few minutes, anger flooding him – then he sighed and shook his head. “Tell me… Do you care about him at all? Did you ever?”

“What?” Now it was Rio’s turn to look confused.

“Did you ever care for him, or was it all about possession and control?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rio said defensively, shuffling his feet. “I married him, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did. You also broke his ankle. You though it would mean he wouldn’t be able to dance anymore. When you found out that, despite your best efforts he’d pulled himself up and was making a new life and a new career, you just couldn’t leave him alone. You had to spoil it for him. You took away his friends, his career, his dancing, everything that meant anything to him… and you hurt him. You made him believe no one else would want him, and you abused him.”

“That fucking bitch!” Rio spat, looking as if he was about to kick Rune. “I don’t know what the fuck he’s been telling you, but…”

“He hasn’t been telling me anything, at least not about that. He’s so bloody naïve, it never crossed his mind you were doing any of it. I think he still loves you in some kind of twisted way – at least he wants to. And he wants to believe you love him. But I don’t think you do. I don’t think you ever did. You just wanted to possess him, to spoil everything for him.”

Rio glared for a moment, then turned his eyes away, looking uncomfortably. “That’s not true. I did love him. I do.”

“Then why are you trying so hard to hurt him?”

“I’m not.”

“Oh come on. I know you’re not naïve and I’m sure as hell not. I saw you do it and I’m not blind and I’m not stupid. I know he’s scared of you. Is that what you really want? Someone who stays with you because they’re scared of you? Someone you love?”

“He’s not…” Rio said, fading to a halt. He actually looked shocked, a sad expression creeping into his eyes, as he looked at Rune. It was the first honest expression Luke had seen on his face.

As the sound of sirens sliced the air outside, however, Rio sneered. “So what? It doesn’t change a thing.”

“Rio, please don’t hurt him anymore. You know it’s me he wants. You know…”

“I know one thing.”

“What?”

“He’s mine. When I first saw his eyes I just knew I had to have him, and I do; I do have him. He’s always been mine and he always will be mine and it’ll take more than a snivelling fool, who’s only known him for five minutes, to take him away from me.”

Part 13 – PLEASE DON’T TAKE HIM AWAY FROM ME

Luke had never felt so hopeless in his life. Rio had, of course, been right. From the moment the ambulance arrived, no one had wanted to know him. He stood in the background, feeling sick, while the paramedics did what they had to do. It all looked so serious. And there was Rio, pretending to be the worried husband, pushing Luke out of the way and travelling with Rune in the ambulance, leaving him alone.

He stood in his living room for a full five minutes, un moving. Finally snapping out of it, he grabbed his things and ran to the car.

At the hospital it was a repeat of the scenes at the house. By the time he got there, Rune and Rio had both disappeared and enquiries at the desk got him nowhere. As soon as they asked if he was a relative and he said no, no one wanted to know.

Who knows what would have happened if Luke hadn’t been recognised by the nurse who’d spoken to them earlier. She was off going off duty and called to him, as he wandered up and down outside, trying to decide what to do.

When she heard what had happened, she took him by the arm and dragged him back inside, towing him through the waiting room, through some doors and into a different waiting room.

“Wait here,” she commanded. Stunned, Luke sat down on a chair which was slightly more comfortable than the ones in the main waiting room. At least there were no bananas in here. He sat, with his hands hanging between his knees and his head down, as time ticked by.

Eventually, the nurse returned with another one, a male nurse. She said goodbye and left. The man sat down, and looked at Luke for a while.

“You know I can’t overtly go against his husband’s wishes. If I let you in, there’s going to be a scene and I can’t allow that.”

Luke nodded. “I know,” he whispered.

“I don’t know what’s going on between you,” the nurse said, tightly, “but I don’t like that guy. I don’t like his attitude and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t give a damn about your friend. It’s all for show.”

Luke looked up, anxiously.  “Yes. That’s it. He doesn’t care; not at all. All he does is hurt him. He just doesn’t want me…” Luke paused, grinding his teeth. “He treats Rune like a possession. He doesn’t want him but doesn’t want anyone else to have him.”

The nurse nodded, seriously. “I understand, but I still can’t let you in when he’s there, not as long as he behaves himself and I’ve no reason to throw him out.”

“I know,” Luke said, sadly.

“But if you wait here, I’ll keep you informed.”

“Thank you,” Luke said, his voice barely making it out. The nurse squeezed is arm and disappeared. Luke realised he hadn’t told him anything. He figured no news was good news. At least Rune was… He was still…

Time dragged. There was nothing to do, nothing to mark time. Luke cursed he’d forgotten his phone, not only because he could have told the time but because he was cut off from the outside world. There was a television in the corner, but he couldn’t change channels. He quickly got tired of the children’s programmes, with their over bright images and forced humour. He turned it off when a unicorn started playing a mandolin, watched by a giant teddy, dressed as a clown and a talking pot plant in a floppy hat.

When the door opened, Luke looked up, expecting it to be the nurse. It wasn’t. It was Rio, but a Rio he’d never seen before. His purple hair was standing on end, as if he’d run his hands through it, time after time. His eyes were shadowed and his face pale. However, the one thing that really threw Luke was the look on his face. For once, he didn’t seem to be thinking about himself, about how he could get the advantage.

Rio stopped when he saw Luke. For a moment, he stared at him, then nodded and sat down.

“What’s happening?” Luke asked, scared by Rio’s broken appearance. Rio looked up, his eyes haunted.

“I’m sorry, Luke, I really am. I didn’t mean… I never meant to hurt him, not like this.”

“What do you mean?” The dull, lifelessness in Rio’s voice scared him even more.

“They’ve been doing all kinds of tests. I kept thinking they’d come back and tell me he’s fine. I was expecting to… to just… I don’t know… walk into a room and he’d be there and I’d see that look in his eyes.”

“What look? Fear?”

It said a lot that Rio ignored him, failing to take up the fight.

“When they told me, I… I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. I… I’m still thinking… hoping it’s a dream and…”

“Rio,” Luke ground out, clutching his hands tightly between his knees to stop him putting them around Rio’s throat. “Please. Just tell me what happened. Please, just tell me.”

Rio looked up, as if he’d forgotten he was there. “I’m not exactly sure what… I don’t really understand. They’re still saying it’s a concussion but… but worse than…than they thought and… and it’s made pressure inside his head.”He faltered to a stop, biting his lip. Then his eyes snapped up and he glared at Luke, his eyes pleading. “They said he might have brain damage, that he might die. He can’t die. He can’t. I… I don’t know what I’d do if… I don’t…”

Luke didn’t hear him. His world had slowed down to a stop. ‘He might die’. “No,” he whispered, sliding off the chair onto his knees. He wasn’t a Christian and he didn’t pray, but he raised his eyes to the window and sent a plea out into the universe. “Please don’t take him away from me.”

Part 14 – WAITING

Luke didn’t believe in hell but if it existed he was in it. Rio kept pacing, ranting, praying. It annoyed Luke intensely, but he didn’t have the energy to tell him to shut up and sit down.

He dragged himself into a chair and slumped against the wall. Although he watched Rio, he didn’t see him.

“What are they doing? What the hell are they doing to him? Why won’t they tell me what’s going on?”

Luke didn’t answer. He knew Rio didn’t expect him to.

“What did they say they were going to do?”

“More tests. They… they’ve checked there’s no bleeding or clots or anything like that. Now they’re checking how high the pressure is and exactly what’s causing it and whether they need… if they need to…”

“To what?”

“Surgery,” he croaked. “If they need to drill into his head and—“

“Okay,” Luke stopped him. “I get the message.” He’d asked but he didn’t want to hear. His stomach was roiling and, if he opened his mouth again, he was going to be sick.

“I wish I knew what happening. Why won’t someone come? Why won’t someone–?”

He was cut off by the opening of the door. It was a different nurse. She was dressed all in blue, and Luke’s stomach very nearly got the upper hand when he thought ‘scrubs’, but it wasn’t, it was just an uniform.

Rio, too had frozen, looking decidedly green. “What…? What…?” he stammered.

The nurse smiled. “Why don’t you sit down?” she asked and Rio sat, as if his legs had given way.

“Is he…?” Rio gasped, choking.

“Calm down,” she said gently. “Try not to work yourself up so much. It’s isn’t going to help Rune if you fall apart, is it? It isn’t as bad as we thought it might be. He’s responding to medication and the pressure’s already beginning to come down.”

“Oh God. Oh God,” Rio moaned and let his head fell forward, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. Luke swallowed hard. His errant stomach, not satisfied, was still threatening to rebel. If anything, it was closer to exploding, rising into his throat. He couldn’t speak. “ He’s going to be alright?”

“It’s a little early to tell for sure.  Head injuries are unpredictable. The pressure in his head is coming down and he’s stable. That’s all we can say for now.”

Rio looked up. “But… but he’s going to be… He’s not going to… He’s going to be alright?”

“The signs are good,” she repeated firmly. “Let’s just wait and see.”

“Can I…?” He flashed a glance at Luke. “Can we see him?”

“In a little while. You should be prepared… Where there is any injury to the brain, especially where there is increased cranial pressure, it’s very important to do everything we can to help the brain heal. So we take over as many of his bodily functions as we can. He’s deeply sedated to give him as much rest as possible.”

“What…? What does that mean?” Rio asked, dazed.

“He’s in a coma,” Luke said, in a dull, dead voice. “They’ve put him in a medical coma, on life support.”

Rio’s eyes flew open and, unconsciously, he grabbed the nurse’s arm, his eyes flicking over her face. She smiled and patted his hand.

“That’s one way of saying it. Just think of it as… taking him offline for a while. Not long. Maybe only a day.”

“Just a day? Just one day?”

“Maybe. We’ll see.”

When the nurse left, Rio started to pace again. “What does it mean? It means he’s going to be okay, right? When they let him wake up, he’ll be okay? He doesn’t need surgery. He’s responding to the medication. That means… that means he’s going to be okay, right? Tomorrow…”

Luke didn’t answer. He hugged himself, staring at the wall.

After more waiting, the male nurse arrived. He looked surprised to see them both. “You can come see Rune, now. Um… It’s supposed to be only family but…”

Rio shook his head. “I’m not a complete bastard,” he said, glancing at Luke. “Besides, Rune would want him more than me.”

Luke could barely believe what he was hearing. Feeling stunned, he looked from Rio to the nurse.

“Oh, don’t look so shocked,” Rio snapped. “I’m not a monster. Just don’t piss me off.”

The nurse winked at Luke, who scrambled to his feet and followed them.

Nothing can prepare you for seeing someone you care about lying in a hospital bed, lost in a maze of medical equipment and looking fragile and vulnerable. Rune’s face was so pale it made his hair look less silver and more gold. His small frame looked tiny, like a faery creature, wings torn off, laid out on a dissecting table. Luke’s heart lurched and it did nothing to help get his stomach under control.

Rio was frozen, rigid and unmoving, so Luke dodged around him and drifted to the other side of the bed.

“It’s not as bad as it seems,” the nurse said, encouragingly. “He’s just sleeping and, when we reduce the medication, he’ll wake up.” Neither failed to notice the slight hesitation, the unspoken ‘maybe’.

Luke looked up and gave him a quick, mirthless smile, before giving all his attention up to Rune. The room faded, the nurse and Rio disappeared, their voices blending with the bleeps and hisses of the medical equipment, nothing more than background noise. The only thing that existed for him, was Rune.

Gently, Luke reached out and brushed the hair from Rune’s face. Long strands were criss-crossing the pale skin and, for a moment, Luke was angry no one had bothered to do it before. Why had no one been so caught in his beauty they had to smooth his cheek, stroke his hair, touch his lips, hold his hand?

Bending close he whispered. “Don’t leave me. I’d follow you anywhere, but I can’t follow you there Stay with me.”

Part 15 – WHEN THE WAITING’S OVER

Luke didn’t believe in hell but if it existed he was in it. Rio kept pacing, ranting, praying. It annoyed Luke intensely, but he didn’t have the energy to tell him to shut up and sit down.

He dragged himself into a chair and slumped against the wall. Although he watched Rio, he didn’t see him.

“What are they doing? What the hell are they doing to him? Why won’t they tell me what’s going on?”

Luke didn’t answer. He knew Rio didn’t expect him to.

“What did they say they were going to do?”

“More tests. They… they’ve checked there’s no bleeding or clots or anything like that. Now they’re checking how high the pressure is and exactly what’s causing it and whether they need… if they need to…”

“To what?”

“Surgery,” he croaked. “If they need to drill into his head and—“

“Okay,” Luke stopped him. “I get the message.” He’d asked but he didn’t want to hear. His stomach was roiling and, if he opened his mouth again, he was going to be sick.

“I wish I knew what happening. Why won’t someone come? Why won’t someone–?”

He was cut off by the opening of the door. It was a different nurse. She was dressed all in blue, and Luke’s stomach very nearly got the upper hand when he thought ‘scrubs’, but it wasn’t, it was just an uniform.

Rio, too had frozen, looking decidedly green. “What…? What…?” he stammered.

The nurse smiled. “Why don’t you sit down?” she asked and Rio sat, as if his legs had given way.

“Is he…?” Rio gasped, choking.

“Calm down,” she said gently. “Try not to work yourself up so much. It’s isn’t going to help Rune if you fall apart, is it? It isn’t as bad as we thought it might be. He’s responding to medication and the pressure’s already beginning to come down.”

“Oh God. Oh God,” Rio moaned and let his head fell forward, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. Luke swallowed hard. His errant stomach, not satisfied, was still threatening to rebel. If anything, it was closer to exploding, rising into his throat. He couldn’t speak. “ He’s going to be alright?”

“It’s a little early to tell for sure.  Head injuries are unpredictable. The pressure in his head is coming down and he’s stable. That’s all we can say for now.”

Rio looked up. “But… but he’s going to be… He’s not going to… He’s going to be alright?”

“The signs are good,” she repeated firmly. “Let’s just wait and see.”

“Can I…?” He flashed a glance at Luke. “Can we see him?”

“In a little while. You should be prepared… Where there is any injury to the brain, especially where there is increased cranial pressure, it’s very important to do everything we can to help the brain heal. So we take over as many of his bodily functions as we can. He’s deeply sedated to give him as much rest as possible.”

“What…? What does that mean?” Rio asked, dazed.

“He’s in a coma,” Luke said, in a dull, dead voice. “They’ve put him in a medical coma, on life support.”

Rio’s eyes flew open and, unconsciously, he grabbed the nurse’s arm, his eyes flicking over her face. She smiled and patted his hand.

“That’s one way of saying it. Just think of it as… taking him offline for a while. Not long. Maybe only a day.”

“Just a day? Just one day?”

“Maybe. We’ll see.”

When the nurse left, Rio started to pace again. “What does it mean? It means he’s going to be okay, right? When they let him wake up, he’ll be okay? He doesn’t need surgery. He’s responding to the medication. That means… that means he’s going to be okay, right? Tomorrow…”

Luke didn’t answer. He hugged himself, staring at the wall.

After more waiting, the male nurse arrived. He looked surprised to see them both. “You can come see Rune, now. Um… It’s supposed to be only family but…”

Rio shook his head. “I’m not a complete bastard,” he said, glancing at Luke. “Besides, Rune would want him more than me.”

Luke could barely believe what he was hearing. Feeling stunned, he looked from Rio to the nurse.

“Oh, don’t look so shocked,” Rio snapped. “I’m not a monster. Just don’t piss me off.”

The nurse winked at Luke, who scrambled to his feet and followed them.

Nothing can prepare you for seeing someone you care about lying in a hospital bed, lost in a maze of medical equipment and looking fragile and vulnerable. Rune’s face was so pale it made his hair look less silver and more gold. His small frame looked tiny, like a faery creature, wings torn off, laid out on a dissecting table. Luke’s heart lurched and it did nothing to help get his stomach under control.

Rio was frozen, rigid and unmoving, so Luke dodged around him and drifted to the other side of the bed.

“It’s not as bad as it seems,” the nurse said, encouragingly. “He’s just sleeping and, when we reduce the medication, he’ll wake up.” Neither failed to notice the slight hesitation, the unspoken ‘maybe’.

Luke looked up and gave him a quick, mirthless smile, before giving all his attention up to Rune. The room faded, the nurse and Rio disappeared, their voices blending with the bleeps and hisses of the medical equipment, nothing more than background noise. The only thing that existed for him, was Rune.

Gently, Luke reached out and brushed the hair from Rune’s face. Long strands were criss-crossing the pale skin and, for a moment, Luke was angry no one had bothered to do it before. Why had no one been so caught in his beauty they had to smooth his cheek, stroke his hair, touch his lips, hold his hand?

Bending close he whispered. “Don’t leave me. I’d follow you anywhere, but I can’t follow you there Stay with me.”

Part 16 – WHY

Rio and Luke exchanged astonished glances, as Rune reached desperately for his husband, ignoring Luke entirely.

“Rio,” Rune moaned and Rio pushed past Luke to take him into his arms. Luke got up and backed away from the bed. He was in total shock. What happened? After all that, was he going to lose Rune after all?

“Rune,” Rio said, when Rune had calmed down. “Don’t you want to see Luke?”

“Luke?” Rune asked with a frown. “Who’s Luke?”

Rio turned his head. “I’m sorry, Luke, I…”

“No. No, it’s alright. I know it’s not you– of course it isn’t. I… I suppose I should go.”

“No, Luke. Come talk to him. Maybe…”

“I’m sorry, Rio, I can’t. I’m glad you’re feeling better, Rune. I… I hope you… I’ll see you round, okay.”

“Wait.” Luke spun around at the sound of Rune’s voice, wild hope flaring in his chest. Rune was smiling at him. He was smiling. He…

“I don’t know who you are but you must have been here for Rio so, thanks.” Luke stared at him in horror, then nodded curtly and backed out, closing the door behind him.

“Is everything alright?” a nurse asked in alarm as Luke blundered into her, blinded by tears. It was a nurse he’d got to know pretty well. “Luke, what’s wrong? Is it Rune?”

Sniffing hard and trying to pull himself together, he swallowed hard and nodded. “He… he doesn’t know me. He… he wants Rio, not me. He thinks I’ve been there for Rio, not him.”

“Come, sit down.”

The nurse led Luke to the visitor’s room and sat him down. She perched on a nearby chair, with her hand on his knee. “Amnesia’s very common after a head injury. Many patients lose the memories of what happened immediately around the time of the accident. Sometimes they never come back; sometimes they do.”

“But why did he want Rio? He hates Rio—he’s scared of him.”

“It’s a scary thing, Luke, to wake up in an ICU, surrounded by all that equipment, not knowing where you are, how you got there, or if you’re going to be okay. He’s going to be feeling ill and very confused. Rio’s a familiar face and he’ll cling to anything familiar, even if they aren’t usually close. When he starts to get better he’ll get perspective again.”

“But it took so much to stand up to Rio. Was that all for nothing? Will he go back to him and be trapped again? Why? Why is this happening? What if he doesn’t remember me? What if…?” Luke put his head in his hands and wept bitterly.

The nurse let him cry for a while, then put a warm hand on his shoulder. “You’re exhausted, Luke. You haven’t slept for the best part of two days. Why don’t you go home and have a good sleep. Give us a call tomorrow and we’ll see what the situation is by then. Whatever happens, Rune knows you were here. He knows you care. A day can make a lot of difference in cases like this.”

Luke was torn. He didn’t want to go home. He didn’t want to leave Rune, but Rune didn’t want him. He wanted Rio. Why? Feeling utterly defeated, he dragged his body out of the hospital, into the car, and home to bed. The room still smelled of Rune. He collapsed onto the bed and sobbed himself to sleep.

It was late in the afternoon when he woke, feeling like shit. The sunlight streamed through the window and, for a few blissful minutes, he snuggled into his blankets, warm and comfortable, feeling at peace. Then he remembered.

Crawling out of bed, he showered, changed and sat at the kitchen table, eating cereal and staring at his cell phone. Should he ring? Did he want to know?

As he pondered the door bell rang. With a sigh, he dragged himself out of the kitchen and opened the door.

“Rio? What are you doing here? Is Rune okay?”

“He’s fine. Much better. I… told him you’re a friend and he wants to see you, but…” Luke’s heart soared, until Rio’s next words, “… he doesn’t remember you. He has no idea who you are, except that you stayed at the hospital with him when he was sick.”

“Oh.” Rio couldn’t have hurt him more if he’d punched him in the stomach.

“Will you come?”

Luke shook his head. “No. I don’t think I could bear it. I’d have to pretend not to feel what I feel for him and I couldn’t do that. I’m sorry. Maybe in a couple of days. When I get my head around it.”

“I’m going to take him home– my home. I’m going to look after him. I don’t… I don’t want you to see him anymore.”

Luke laughed bitterly. “So that’s it. You didn’t come because you care – for either of us. You just wanted to warn me off.”

“It isn’t like that, Luke. Not anymore. I don’t want to fight you anymore. I know Rune cared for you and I know you care for him. If he remembers you I won’t stand in his way, if he wants to come back. But I don’t want to prompt the memory. I want him to be mine again. I’m going to take care of him, Luke, I promise. I’m really going to give it a try and I won’t get the chance if you’re on the scene.”

“You mean it? You’ll take care of him and treat him right?”

“Yes. I’ll do my best to be the kind of husband I always should have been.”

“Okay. I want what’s best for him. If that’s you: if you’re what he wants… But I’m warning you. If I find out you’re hurting him again. I’ll hunt you down and tear your head off.”

“Fair enough.”

Rio held out his hand. Luke stared at it for a long time before he took it.

Part 17 – HELP ME

The next few days were a nightmare for Luke. He wandered through life as if in a dream… a bad one. His time with Rune had been brief but so very bright. Rune had been like a comet, blazing into his life, burning away the crap and changing everything. Nothing was the same. Nothing was right.

He’d heard nothing from Rune or Rio and had no idea what Rio had told Rune about him. It didn’t really matter. It wasn’t as if he was ever going to see Rune again. That thought hurt every time he let his mind touch it. Never again would he look into those strange shifting blue/gold eyes. Never again would he run his hands through the wild white hair. Never again would he…

Gritting his teeth, Luke shook his head and tried to concentrate on the lecturer. He’d spent too much time away from school to be able to afford any more and so, here  he was, trying to concentrate on the teacher’s words when all his mind could hold was Rune.  Rune’s smell, Rune’s touch, Rune’s… But it was over. There would be no more Rune.

He’d thought the pain would fade with time, but it had been almost a week and nothing was changing, nothing was fading, nothing was getting better. Rune had got under his skin and it was going to take a long time to work him out again. Every time the phone rang or someone knocked the door or called his name in the street, his heart lurched, wondering if maybe… possibly…

Luke jumped when his phone began to sing. Why had he used such a stupid ringtone? He had a certain fondness for jazz but maybe not in a philosophy lecture. Why hadn’t he turned it to ‘silent’? Everyone turned to stare at him, and his fingers groped to turn it off. He glanced at the screen to see an unfamiliar number. With a shrug he slipped it back into his pocket and tried to concentrate on the rest of the lesson.

When he switched his phone back on, there were six missed calls and a couple of voice messages, all from the same, unfamiliar number. Mildly curious, but expecting someone trying to sell him something, he rang his voicemail and waited impatiently. He almost dropped the phone when he heard Rune’s voice.

“Luke? Luke, please pick up. I know it’s your number, I rang your house and they gave it to me. Please pick up Luke. I need you. I need you so much.”

With a pounding heart, Luke listened to the rest of the voicemails, which were silent, until the last one, which had been left only fifteen minutes ago.

“Luke. Oh God, Luke… Please, please answer the phone. You’ve got to answer the phone Luke. Please… please help me.”

In a complete panic, Luke redialled the number and it seemed to take forever for Rune to answer.

“Luke? Luke is that you? Please say it’s you Luke, please.”

“Yes, it’s me. What’s wrong? What’s happened?

“It’s Rio. He won’t… he won’t let me come back. He won’t let me find you. Please, Luke, he’s hurting me again. Please help me.”

“Rio’s hurting you? But… but he said… Rune, do you remember me?”

“Remember you?” Rune sounded shocked and confused. “Of course I remember you.”

“You didn’t remember me. When I was at the hospital. When you woke up, you didn’t remember me. You wanted Rio.” As hard as he tried, Luke couldn’t help a note of accusation creeping in.

“You were there? When I woke up, you were there? But I… I don’t… Rio said you’d skipped. He said, as soon as you knew I was… that I might… He said you didn’t really care, that I couldn’t expect you to, not after such a short time.”

“Oh fuck. I’m going to kill him. I… I was there Rune, I swear it. The whole time. I never left your side. Ask any of the nurses… they knew. I was there every step, every minute. I watched you dream and I watched you wake and you… you didn’t know me. What could I do? Rio swore he’d tell me if you remembered. He came to see me the next day… to tell me you’d like to see me but you didn’t remember me. I couldn’t… I couldn’t face it…”

“He told me you’d said you didn’t want to come, that you… you were glad I was better but you didn’t think you were up to taking care of me and didn’t want to see me anymore,” Rune whispered.

“I’d never say that, Rune, never. I thought he’d changed. I thought he really cared about you. I thought he’d look after you, that you’d be better off without the complication of someone you didn’t remember.”

“But I did, I do.  I don’t know what happened in those first minutes. I was scared, confused, I didn’t know what was happening. Rio was there but you weren’t. I… maybe I was still out of it at the very beginning but I did remember you Luke, I did remember. I thought you didn’t care.”

“I’ve never stopped caring.”

“Then help me. Please, Luke. I was praying you’d still care, just a bit. Praying you wouldn’t turn your back on me. When you didn’t answer–”

“I was in a lecture. I didn’t know the number. If I’d known it was you I’d have run. Tell me where you are. I’m on my way.”

Luke could tell Rune was crying as he gave an address in Manchester, about sixty miles away. Luke scribbled it down on one of his school books.

“Stay put and stay safe. Do whatever you need to do to keep safe, understand?”

“I’ll be alright. He’s not here. He’s dancing tonight. He won’t be back until late. Please hurry Luke. He’s getting worse and worse all the time and I’m scared.”

“I’m coming for you, Rune. I’m coming.”

Part 18 – HE BELONGS TO NO ONE

Luke broke every speed limit as he rushed to Manchester. The afternoon traffic seemed to conspire against him. Putting his phone on ‘hands free’, he rang Rune regularly, keeping him up to date with progress.

When he was about fifteen minutes away Luke answered a call from a hysterical Rune.

“He’s coming, Luke. I don’t know what happened but the show’s been cancelled and he’s coming home. He… he said he’s going to… He wants me to… to be… ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“He’s angry, Luke. Not with me, but he’s going to take it out on me. He wants me to… to wear… to put on the… the things…”

“Then do it. Do whatever you have to, to keep safe until I get there.”

“No, Luke, I can’t. I can’t let you see me like that.”

Luke groaned inwardly. He was torn apart. Should he beg Rune to give up his dignity? Could he bear to see…?”

“Do it, Rune. Whatever you have to do; do it. I’ll be there in ten minutes. How long will Rio be?”

“About the same. I… I won’t do it, Luke. I won’t. I can’t.”

Luke smiled at the strength stubborn rebellion brought to his voice, but his heart thumped painfully. “Then lock the door. Don’t let him in.”

“I can’t keep him out. He’s got the key.”

“Then lock yourself in your room, the bathroom, anywhere. Just please Rune stay safe until I get there.”

As he spoke, Luke swerved, trying to find a quicker way towards the city centre. He found himself tearing at almost fifty mph along a suburban street that was mercifully free of traffic. Provided he didn’t get stopped by police, his sat nav was telling him he’d be there in five minutes.

“Hold on, Rune I’m—“

He was cut off by Rune’s terrified yell. “Luke… Luke he’s here. I can hear him outside. I’m going to the bathroom. Please, please don’t be long.”

“Stay on the phone. Don’t hang up. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Luke sped on as he listened to Rune’s ragged breathing. Then to a manic hammering on the door, along with a muffled voice.

“Rune? Rune, are you in there?”

“I’m on the toilet, Rio. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“You’d better be. And why are the harnesses still on the bed? I thought I told you to get ready.”

“You did but I… I wasn’t feeling well.”

“Yeah, yeah… You’re not playing that one anymore. Get out and get ready. I’m going to have a beer and read the paper. You’d better be ready when I’m done.”

“O…okay, Rio.” There was a pause then Rune whispered. “Are you still there, Luke?”

“Yes, I’m here. Don’t worry, I’m close. Don’t be afraid, Rune. I can take care of Rio. He’s not going to hurt you anymore, never again.”

“But he… He’s so… Be careful, Luke, please be careful.”

“I can take Rio, remember?”

“I know but, please Luke. Rio’s crazy. I don’t know what he might do.”

“Frankly Rune, I don’t give a damn what Rio does. When I go home, you’re coming with me.”

“I want that so much, Luke.”

“I’m almost there. Get ready. Stay where you are until I call you. Keep the door locked.”

“Okay. Luke I… I’m scared.”

“Don’t be. I’m here.”

Luke restrained himself from hammering on the door. Rio might not answer if he did. When he heard the footsteps approaching, he balled his fists at his side but managed to stop himself from punching Rio in the face as soon as he opened the door.

“You? What the fuck are you doing here?” Rio looked shocked, but anger was close behind and Luke watched carefully, ready to put his shoulder into it if he tried to slam the door.

“I think you know the answer to that, Rio. I was clear about what would happen if you hurt Rune again.”

“But how…? He…” Rio pulled himself together and glared at Luke. “I don’t care why you’re here or what you want but you can turn around and walk away. Rune doesn’t want you, and neither do I?”

“How could I ever have believed you? How could I have been taken in by your bullshit? I believed you when you said he didn’t remember me, he didn’t want me. I believed you were going to take care of him. I’m an idiot and I let Rune be hurt again. I won’t make the same mistake again. Get out of my way and let me take him home.”

“He is home.”

“No, Rio. This isn’t his home. It will never be his home. His home is with me. Let me take him home.”

“Fuck off. I’ve told you before… Rune is mine. Body, mind and soul… mine.”

“Rune belongs to no one.”

“He belongs to me. Get out of here.”

Rio tried to slam the door and Luke, ready and waiting, threw his shoulder into it. The door burst open and Rio went flying backwards. Not giving him a chance to gather himself, Luke leaped on top of him and, after a brief struggle, had him pinned to the ground.

“Rune,” Luke shouted. “Rune, it’s alright. Come down, hurry. Get out to the car.”

Immediately, the bathroom door slammed open and Rune came flying down the stairs.

“You knew,” Rio hissed. “You knew he was coming.”

“How do you think I know where you live?”

“He… he found you? He called you?”

“He sure did. Not quite the broken spirit you thought he was, is he? You said he didn’t remember me, but he did. He remembered me and the way I made him feel… safe.”

“No, he wouldn’t have. He wouldn’t have done that. He loves me. He needs me. He’s mine. He’s all mine. You can’t take him.”

“He’s not, and never was yours, Rio. He belong to no one. He’s not yours. He’s not mine. He’s just Rune.

Part 19 – WELCOME HOME

Rune was very quiet all the way home. After being agitated and tearful to begin with, as soon as the adrenaline rush faded he fell asleep. Luke kept looking over, hardly able to believe what had just happened was real. Rune was here, with him. Everything was alright again. Except that it wasn’t, not really. He had a dread feeling in his stomach, worried about what Rio had been doing to Rune that had scared him so much, and how it was going to affect him.  And it had only been a few days since he’d left the hospital, what if what Rio had done made him ill again? What would he do? How would he cope?

His thoughts whirling in his head, Luke arrived back home to find his housemates’ car in the drive. Great, he was hoping they’d be alone. He pulled in next to the red Mazda and gently shook Rune awake.

“W…what? Where are we?”

“Home. Well, my home. I hope you don’t mind I brought you here.”

“No. No, I don’t want to go back to the house, not yet. I… I know it’s silly but I’m a bit scared. It’s Rio’s house, too and although I know he won’t be there… I’d rather not for a while.”

“I can get some stuff for you.”

“Thank you.” Rune rewarded Luke with such a bright smile the icy feeling in the pit of his stomach melted and he felt warm.

“My housemates are home. They’re a bit boisterous so don’t worry if they tease you. They’re nice guys really.”

Rune looked a little nervous but smiled and nodded.

Jeff and Jayden were in the kitchen. They were twins, both fiery redheads and both extremely gifted musicians, although Jeff tended towards rock music while Jayden was strictly classical.

“Hey, housie,” Jeff called, hearing Luke. “Where the hell have you been? Rob said you kicked out of uni so fast he thought your arse was on fire. Oh.” He’d appeared in the doorway and seen Rune. “Who’s this? I know we haven’t met before because I never forget a face and I definitely wouldn’t have forgotten that one.”

“This is Rune,” Luke said simply.

“Oh,” Jeff said again, his eyes widening. “Jay,” he called over his shoulder. “Luke’s brought Rune home.”

“He what?” Jayden appeared beside his brother and gave a low whistle when he saw Rune, who was blushing furiously and trying to hide behind Luke. “Well damn, and I thought he was exaggerating.”

“Hey, you two, leave him alone. He’s had enough for one day, without having to put up with you. It’s been a hell of a day. Were going up to my room. Don’t disturb us.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Jayden said with a wink.

Taking Rune’s hand, Luke let him past the two grinning men up the stairs to his room. As soon as he closed the door, Luke took Rune into his arms and held him close.

“God, this feels good.”

“Oh Luke,” Rune breathed, “I thought I’d never see you again.”

“If I’d know I’d have been with you from the start. If Rio hadn’t lied…”

“Rio lives on lies. Sometimes I think he even believes them.”

“Never mind; it’s over now.” He stroked Rune’s hair as Rune’s head rested against his chest. “I’ve missed you do much.”

“I’ve missed you too,” Rune whispered, then tilted his head to look up. “Kiss me,” he pleaded and Luke was only too happy to oblige.

Rune’s hands in his hair, his soft lips pressed against his own, the warmth of his body, made Luke’s head spin. He’d been dreaming of this moment so much lately he had a flash of fear that it was just another dream. But no, Rune was far too solid, too eager, too desperate to be a dream.

Luke let Rune kiss him for a while, then reluctantly broke away. “Hey, give me room to breathe,” he joked. For a moment Rune looked dazed then he smiled his slow, sexy smile.

“I’m sorry Luke. It’s just that I missed you so much and I’ve been so afraid I’d never see you again, I have to keep reminding myself it’s not a dream.

Luke chuckled. “Me too. It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it?”

“That’s one way to put it.” Rune lay down on the bed and held his arms out to Luke. “Please hold me, Luke. It’s all too much. I need to feel safe right now, safe and truly wanted.”

“I truly want you Rune. I care for you so deeply it hurts. When I thought I’d lost you I almost went insane. It was like a nightmare. First you being ill, and then not remembering me, and then Rio… I really thought he’d changed after what we shared when you were… Dammit, I should have known better.”

“Ssh,” Rune said, touching Luke’s lips where the words had become strained and angry. “Rio fools a lot of people. He fooled me and I really should have known better.”

“I’m not going to fall for any of his crap again. Do you think he’ll come back for you?” He’d voiced something that had been bothering him since he’d taken Rune from the house.

“Absolutely. He won’t let go as easily as this. He thinks I belong to him and he doesn’t like his belongings taken away from him.”

“You belong to no one.” Luke said harshly.

“I know. I truly do know, but Rio doesn’t. He’ll make trouble for you.”

“Nothing I can’t handle.”

Rune smiled again. “I have something you can handle.”

“Really?” Luke raised his eyebrows. “And what might that be?”

“Me,” Rune breathed as he moved closer and, once again pressed his body and lips against Luke’s

Part 20  –  I NEED YOUR LOVE

Rune was back where he belonged, in Luke’s arms and Luke had no intention of ever letting him go.

“You’re safe now, Rune. I promised before and let you down…” Rune touched Luke’s lips and shook his head.

“You didn’t let me down, Luke. You never let me down. You’re the only one in my whole life who never let me down. I don’t deserve you.”

“Deserve me? Hell no. You deserve so much better than me. You’re an angel, Rune. From the very first moment I saw you on the stage you took my breath away. I thought you were the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. Then, when we talked at the bar… phew the things you did to that olive–” They both smiled and Rune sucked his bottom lip into his mouth a blush tinting his pale cheeks.

“You’re an incredible dancer and a beautiful person. You’ve got the most amazing eyes, the sweetest smile and the sexiest body I’ve ever seen… or touched.” Rune blushed more deeply. “But more than that, more than all of that, you’re strong and brave and proud and I have so much respect for you.”

“Is that really what you think about me? That I’m strong and brave? That’s not true.”

“Oh yes it is.”

“No, Luke. I wish it was, I really do. If I was brave and strong I’d have left Rio long ago. I’d have made something of myself.”

“You have made something of yourself. You’re a talented dancer, a fabulous singer. You have a band, a career…”

“Had. Rio warned them off. Rio always warns them off– my friends.”

“Rune,” Luke cupped his face and gently stroked his cheek with his thumb. “You did it. You broke away. You got away from him. “

“You did that, Luke. You saved me.”

“I came to pick you up. If you hadn’t found me, persevered in calling me, been brave enough to tell me where you were, and to walk out of the house when I got there, you’d still be there. And before that– at the hospital; when we were fighting… You stood up to him.”

“But I was so scared.”

“So what? No matter how scared you were; you did it. In fact… the more scared you were the braver it was that you did it.”

“I’m not brave,” Rune mumbled.

Luke scooted closer and took Rune into his arms, kissing him softly. You’re the bravest man I know.”

“I wish I could believe you.”

“Don’t worry,” Luke said, teasing Rune’s lips with his teeth. “You don’t have to. I’ll believe double — enough for both of us.”

“But…” Luke silenced him with a kiss. Pressing him back onto the bed, Luke tugged Rune’s tshirt out of his jeans and ran his hand around his waist, shivering at the feel of the warm skin under his hand. Rune shivered, too and Luke felt the tiny pimples rise under his fingers.

“Luke,” Rune breathed arching his body so Luke’s hand could caress his back, then he whimpered.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Rune?” Luke drew back and looked into Rune’s face. “Something hurt you. What was it? What did I do?”

“Nothing. You… you didn’t do anything.”

“Rio,” Luke hissed. “Rio hurt you.” Rune bit his lip and nodded. “Show me.”

Reluctantly, Rune sat up and pulled off his tshirt. Luke was speechless. Gently, he ran his hands over the bruises that discoloured Rune’s ribs. Turning him to the side he gasped at the long angry weltson his back. “He did this? Rio did this to you?”

“Yes,” Rune whispered. “I thought… I thought he was going to kill me.”

“When?”

“The night before last.”

“What happened?” Rune shook his head and turned away. “Rune please… please tell me what happened.”

“I… I was asleep. I must have been dreaming about you. He said I’d said your name. He made me get up and put on… He has a… harness… straps. He likes to tie me up, to…” Rune shuddered and bit his trembling lip hard. “He strapped me up so I couldn’t move and he… whipped me. He made me beg and plead with him not to hurt me. I had to tell him I love him and he’s the only person I want and have ever wanted. He said… He said I wasn’t being convincing. So I told him the truth. I told him you’re the one I want, and he… That’s when he really started on me. He threw the whip down and punched me, over and over. I couldn’t protect myself because my hands were… I was still strapped up.”

Luke shook his head. “The bastard. I’m going to fucking kill him.”

“No, Luke… That wouldn’t do any good. Let’s just forget him please, just for now, can we forget him?”

“How can I…?” Taking in the look on Rune’s face, the defensive way he was holding himself, Luke sighed and forced himself to smile. “Okay. I’m sorry, Rune. I’m sorry. Come here.”

Gently wrapping his arms around him, Luke drew Rune’s head down onto his shoulder and stroked his hair. Rune put his arms around him and hugged him close. Desperately, hungrily Rune kissed Luke, pressing against him as if he was trying to push his body right through him.

“Hey, hey it’s okay. It’s okay, take it easy.”

“Make love to me, Luke. It’s been so long. Rio doesn’t make love to me… he fucks me and I want someone to make me feel beautiful, to make me feel special and important, to believe I’m worth something.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Rune. Listen to me. You’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen, ever held in my arms. I’m blessed to have even met you. Don’t you ever, ever think you’re not worth anything, because you’re worth everything to me.”

“E… everything?”

“Absolutely everything. Now… come here and I’ll make love to you in any way you want.

Part 21 – I LOVE YOU

Rune sighed and folded himself into Luke’s arms as if he’d been born to be there. For a while, they were content just to lie together, with Rune’s head snuggled into Luke’s chest and Luke’s arms wrapped gently and carefully around Rune. Then Rune raised his head and they spent more time simply looking at each other, their eyes speaking into the silence.

Finally, Rune stretched up and brushed his lips across Luke’s smiling at the shudder that went through him. “You’re beautiful, Luke,” Rune breathed, “all the way through.” He didn’t give Luke a chance to answer because he claimed his lips again, teasing them with his teeth and feather light flicks with the tip of his tongue.

As they kissed their hands began to explore, hesitant at first, then with more confidence as they touched skin and felt the tremors beneath their fingers.

Quite suddenly, Rune pulled away and stood up. Luke gasped and reached for him, feeling bereft. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Rune said. He wasn’t smiling, but the look in his eyes said that he wasn’t unhappy. “I want to dance with you.”

“What? You can’t be serious. Dance? Now?”

Rune said nothing, but held out his hand. That look was undeniable and Luke took the hand as if in a dream. As soon as he was on his feet, Rune wrapped himself around him and began to sway. Luke was reminded that Rune didn’t just dance, he was a dancer. Raising his arms, Rune closed his eyes and seemed to lose himself in music that was playing nowhere but inside his head.

Luke held on tight as Rune bent backwards, relying entirely on Luke’s arms to hold him up. Luke gasped as the backward flex ground Rune’s pelvis into him.

“Mmm,” he murmured, closing his own eyes as Rune gyrated his hips.

With one hand anchored in the hair at the back of Luke’s head, Rune brought himself upright, one leg hooked around Luke’s waist as he leaned back again, draping himself over one arm and presenting Luke with a vision of loveliness. Despite the bruises, Rune’s body was beautiful, a real dancer’s body, toned and perfect, the skin as pale as milk. Luke couldn’t resist; he had to touch.

As Luke ran his free hand down Rune’s body, Rune undulated, as cats sometimes do when being stroked. Soft sighs escaped Rune’s lips as he rolled his head and arched his back, the evidence of his pleasure showing clearly in the growing bulge in his jeans. Smiling, Luke brushed his hand over the taut fabric and Rune squeaked. Raising himself upright and turning, he leaped lightly and wrapped his other leg around Luke, gripping tightly.

With Luke’s hands on either side of his waist, Rune lifted himself, flexing so Luke found himself face to face with the large, bright opal, shimmering with every imaginable colour, that nestled into Rune’s navel.

“Wow,” Luke breathed and began to kiss around it. Humming with pleasure Rune continued his dance, arching and swaying, his hair a cascade of silver which, at times, almost touched the floor.

Finally, Rune sat up straight and bent his head forward so the glorious hair fell around Luke like a curtain shutting him off from the outside world. Tilting his face upwards, he met Rune’s dazzling gaze and that, even more than the hungry lips that covered his own, took his breath away.

Feeling weak, Luke bent over the bed, lowering Rune carefully onto the mattress. Rune let go readily and lay spread out, his eyes dazed and his lips bruised from the kiss. Breathing hard, Luke knelt on the floor between his knees and ran his hands lightly over his torso.

“My beautiful, beautiful Rune,” he crooned and Rune smiled a slow, sexy smile, as he raised his hands over his head and arched his back. Leaning down, Luke kissed his lips, then worked slowly down over his chin and throat to one of the shell pink nipples that stood out like pebbles on the sand. Rune shivered as he gently bit and little whimpers escaped him and drove Luke wild. He wanted him more than he had ever wanted anyone: anything, but he wasn’t about to lose control. This wasn’t about him; this was about Rune. He was going to show Rune what it was like to be loved, to be really loved.

“I want to be naked, Luke,” Rune moaned. “Please.”

“Whatever you want, beautiful boy,” Luke responded, kissing all the way down to the waistband of his jeans. By the time he got there Rune was shaking and sweating and begging under his breath, whispering, “Please, please, please,” over and over.

Grinning, Luke undid the jeans and slipped them off. Rune moaned loudly as he was exposed to the cool air.

“Ssh,” Luke murmured blowing cool air across his hot skin.”

“Touch me. Touch me,” Rune moaned.

“Patience.”

Standing up, Luke wriggled out of his clothes, then sank back to his previous position. Battering down anger at the bruises on Rune’s thighs, which joined those on his belly ribs and back in crystallising the vow in Luke’s heart to make Rio pay for every one of them, Luke ran his hands over the trembling flesh making him moan and writhe.

“Luke, Luke, Luke,” Rune moaned over and over and eventually Luke could bear it no longer and flung himself down onto the bed next to Rune, taking him into his arms, pressing his body against him, feeling the hot, trembling flesh slide over his own.

Suddenly thrown onto his back, Luke gasped and arched as Rune began to suck, lick and bite him. He almost lost control but forced himself to gently push Rune back and lay him on his back on the bed. “Not today, little one,” he said into Rune surprised and almost hurt face. “Today it’s all for you.”  Smiling gently he lowered his head and showed Rune exactly what he meant.

PART 22 I CAN’T BELIEVE I COULD BE SO LUCKY

Rune was in heaven. He couldn’t believe it was happening. After all the fear and pain of the last week, he was here, in Luke’s arms—safe.

“Oh God, Luke. Jesus Fucking Christ I… Oh shit.”

“Ssh,” Luke crooned, his voice vibrating on Rune’s belly, his breath ruffling through his hair. “I told you—this is your time. Just lie back and enjoy.”

“But… but I…”

“But nothing. I’m not Rio, Rune. You’re with me now and I’m going to treat you like you deserve, so you’d better get used to it.” He growled and licked Rune’s navel. Whatever thoughts Rune might have had on the subject disappeared from his head.

Rune wasn’t used to being made love to. With Rio he was always expected to do the work… unless for whatever reason he simply couldn’t. He was used to being used, abused, even hurt. It was hard to just lie there and let Luke wake up his body in ways he never would have thought possible. It was hard to surrender to pleasure, to accept he was worthy of it. But every time he tried to reach for Luke, or sit up, or do anything directive, Luke reminded him in non verbal and very physical ways that he really wasn’t going anywhere.

Rune moaned and writhed as Luke carried out a slow exploration of his body, lingering over areas that obviously brought him pleasure and moving on quickly if he showed the slightest signs of discomfort. He’d never had such a tender, responsive lover. Not even the previous times with Luke had been like this. The intensity of the pleasure was almost painful and that, at least, he could understand.

By the time Luke finally entered him, his mind was unhinged. He wasn’t Rune anymore and Luke wasn’t Luke. They were some kind of fantastical being, blending and flowing, losing their individual identities in each other. He reached up and pulled Luke down, arching his back to meet him. Tangling his hands in Luke’s beautiful hair he crushed their lips together and plunged his tongue into Luke’s mouth, further intermingling their beings.

Panting and shaking, with incoherent noises and pleas unconsciously escaping him, Rune clung on for dear life as Luke rode him hard to an explosive orgasm that made him scream.

Collapsing in a tangle of arms and legs the two lay still, panting and shivering, until their hearts began to slow and life returned to their leaden limbs.

Luke raised himself on one elbow and looked down at Rune, who had his eyes closed. “Are you alright?” he asked softly, concern in his voice.

Immediately, Rune opened his eyes and grinned. “Alright? What an inadequate word. I’m…” He struggled to find the right word. Then laughed. “Transformed,” he said. “I’m transcended and transformed.”

“You look it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so relaxed and happy.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt it. Not ever.”

Still breathless, Rune raised his hand and tucked the wild hair behind Luke’s ear. His beautiful eyes were glazed and his lips swollen from the passionate kissing. Luke’s stomach flipped just looking at him and despite the recent lovemaking, his cock twitched. Rune, however, sighed and looked wistful, almost sad. “You’re so beautiful, Luke. What are you doing with someone like me?”

“Someone like you? Someone so incredibly beautiful it makes me breathless? So sweet and loving it hurts my heart? So brave and…”

“I’m none of those things.”

“You’re all of them and more. Much, much more.” Luke smiled in a lazy, sated way, and stroked Rune’s shoulder, but Rune’s smile had vanished.

“I’m broken Luke. You don’t know the half of it.”

“Then you’re going to tell me. You’re going to tell me all the ways you’re broken and we’ll fix them together. We’ll get help if we have to. I’m going to make you whole again, if I have to fight the world to do it.”

“You look so fierce, Luke, my very own macho man.” Rune’s fingers drew aimless pictures on Luke’s chest.

“I’ll be whatever I need to be; whatever you want me to be,” Luke said, with fire in his eyes.

“There’s only one thing I want you to be, Luke.”

“What’s that.”

“Mine.” The word was almost a whisper, full of fear and pleading.

“Always. Forever. Eternally. Completely. Will you be mine?”

“No.” Rune was suddenly all eyes. He looked frightened and Luke was concerned.

“What?”

Rune frowned. “I don’t want to be yours, Luke,” he said, his voice trembling. “I… I’m sorry. I don’t want to be anyone’s. And I don’t want you to be mine either. I don’t know why I said that, what I was thinking. I don’t want either of us to belong to anyone but ourselves. I just want us to be together forever.”

“Your wish is my command,” Luke said with a flourish. “I think you’re right, especially after what you’ve been through. We should be careful about the labels we put on ourselves. You’re Rune and you don’t belong to anyone. I’m Luke and I don’t belong to anyone, but Rune and Luke are most definitely one with each other and, I hope always will be.”

“Always.”

Luke had never seen such a beautiful smile. He lowered his head and kissed Rune lightly, searching his eyes. Then he grinned.

“Come on. I’m starving. Let’s see what state the terrible twins have left the kitchen in.”

Part 23 – I’m Not Going Anywhere With You

“Of course you have to go to college. Why wouldn’t you? I’m fine. It’s not as if I’m a kid who needs to be looked after. I can look after myself, you know.”

Luke, with his head propped on one hand, pushed the sheets down a little so he could draw his lazy circles lower. “What if I want to look after you, if the only thing I care about in the world is lying her in this bed with me?”

“Then you’ve a very empty life. You’ve got a life without me, Luke and I don’t want that to stop.”

“But…”

“No. I never told you that I wanted you to give up your life. I want to fit into it. I want to meet your friends and your family, to do the things you like to do, and I want you to share my life, too. I… I’ve kind of been neglecting it but…” He smiled brightly at Luke, more life in his eyes than he’d seen since the first days. “I’m going to be busy today. I’m going to call the band, see if they’re up for some more performances, and I’m going to join a gym, to get fit again. And—“ He looked away and took a deep breath, then brought his eyes back, filled with determination. “I’m going to call my parents. They haven’t heard from me for a long time. At first, when I was with Rio he wouldn’t let me, then… I got too ashamed, but I’m ready now.”

Luke stroked his cheek and gazed at him, so full of love he thought his heart would stop. “I’m so proud of you. After what you’ve been through I wouldn’t have blamed you if you wanted to just curl up in a ball and stay under the blankets for the next ten years or so.”

“I know I’ve been pretty pathetic recently, Luke but that’s not me, honest. I’m so much stronger than this.”

“I know you are,” Luke said, his face serious. He fingered Rune’s soft hair and rubbed his thumb over his beautiful lips. “I  know you’re strong and that’s why I love you.”

“You love me?”

“With all my heart.”

“Tell me again.”

“I love you, Rune.”

Rune grinned and reached up to pull Luke’s head down. “I love you, too,” he said with a grin.

***

Rune was as good as his word and, as soon as Luke left, he got busy. Two hours later he was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich and feeling more positive than he had in… well, years. He’d set up a gig for the weekend and the band were coming round that night to meet Luke. He’d spoken to his parents and, even thought it had been a difficult conversation, the ice had been broken and he was confident it was going to be okay.

When someone knocked the door, he ignored it. The sandwich was a good one, cheese with spring onion and mayonnaise in seeded brown bread. With a sigh, he closed his eyes and savoured the taste.

The knock came again. He ignored it. The third time it was a huge bang and the fourth it turned to pounding. “What the fuck?”

As soon as he opened the door it was flung open knocking him backwards and, before he knew it he was pinned to the wall,= with Rio’s face inches from his own. “Hello, Rune,” he said.

“No. Get away from me. Get the fuck away from me.”

“Easy, Baby. Don’t want to hurt yourself, do you? That’s my job, after all.” Rio moved away from the wall and, keeping his hand firmly clamped around Rune’s wrist, dragged him from the house. Rune was stunned, numb. His mind couldn’t process what was happening to him.

“No.” Rune dug in his heels and wrenched his arm from Rio’s grip. “Leave me alone. I’m not going anywhere with you.”

Rio laughed. “Of course you’re coming with me. Where else would you go? Here? Are you going to hide out here forever?”

Rune thought it over, rubbing his wrist. His mind screamed that he should go with Rio, that he shouldn’t resist. There was no point resisting and if he went quietly Rio might not hurt him so much. He didn’t have anywhere else to go, anyone else to care for him or… Something occurred to him, quite suddenly, and he wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before. He didn’t need anyone to care for him. Care about him, maybe but he could take care of himself. Fuck yeah.

“No, Rio, I’m not going to hide out here forever. In fact I’m going to get Luke to take me home tomorrow. I’m going to live my own life in my own home in my own way. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do. I’ve called Urban Fantasy and they’re coming over tonight to talk. We’ve got a gig on the weekend and…”

“Don’t be so stupid,” Rio snapped. “Haven’t I told you there’s no point in these pipe dreams. Neither you nor the band are going to make anything of yourselves.”

“Maybe.” He shrugged. “Maybe I’ll never make anything of myself, but I’m going to try, and you’re not going to get in my way.”

“Just cut the fucking crap Rune and get in the car.”

“No. I’m not getting in the car. I’m not going with you. I’m not going anywhere with you, ever again.”

“Don’t make a scene, Rune. You know you can’t fight me and your friend isn’t here to help you.”

“I don’t need Luke to help me,” he said stubbornly, crossing his arms. It was strange but suddenly he wasn’t frightened anymore. He tested the feeling and realised that, although he still felt really nervous and wasn’t quite sure what was going happen next, he wasn’t afraid. “I’m not scared of you anymore Rio and I’m not going anywhere with you.”

Part 24 – Without Him

“Don’t be ridiculous, Rune. You were never afraid of me. You were too rebellious to have been afraid of me.”

“Really? You truly think I’d have done those things, been with you all these years if I hadn’t been too scared to walk away?”

“You did those things because you loved them and you stayed with me because you’d be nothing without me.”

“Nothing? Nothing without you? Without you I would be dancing right now. Without you I’d be happy. Well, I’ve got news for you. I am  happy and I am dancing. I’m going to dance with the band again and we’re going to make it this time because I won’t have you like a stone around my neck. I’m going to make it with Luke, too. He cares for me, Rio, truly cares for me, something you never did.”

“I care for you.” Rio started to pace. It was something he did when he wasn’t sure what else to do. Rune smiled. He had him rattled, but that was dangerous. He’d have to be careful. Still standing with his back to the wall his arms folded Rune watched him. “I’ve always cared for you. Haven’t I always given you everything you wanted?”

“No, Rio. No you haven’t. All you’ve given me is pain. Don’t you understand? I hated every moment I was with you. I was scared and disgusted and horrified but I had nowhere else to go. Now I have somewhere to go. I have Luke. He loves me. He truly loves me and I’m not going to let him down by going back with you.”

Rune was shaking now. It was partly because of the look in Rio’s eyes but partly, too because he was angry. “Get back in the car, Rio. Get back in the car and drive out of my life because I don’t want you in it anymore.”

Rio moved like lightening and, before he knew what was happening, Rune doubled over, gasping from a blow to his solar plexus. Already battered and bruised from Rio’s previous abuse, it felt as if every bone in his body was screaming at him and he couldn’t catch a breath. Rio hauled him upright by the hair and pressed him against the wall, holding him there with his body.

“Ungrateful little bitch,” Rio hissed. “How dare you, after everything I’ve done for you. Well. Let me tell you this. I will never leave you alone never. You’re mine, do you understand? Mine.”

“Fuck you,” Rune gasped, pushing ineffectively at Rio’s chest. “Get away from me. Get out of my head and out of my life.”

“Never,” Rio hissed.

“Oh really?” Suddenly, a wave of anger washed over Rune, so strong it forced him into action. “Get your hands off me, you bastard,” he yelled and spat in Rio’s face. When Rio pulled back with shock, Rune took his advantage and twisted away from him. Rune was no fighter, but he was a dancer and it wasn’t hard to dodge when Rio lunged at him.

Rune felt as if he was in a bubble that isolated him from the rest of the world, from help. But he didn’t need help, not this time.

Rio lunged again and this time Rune didn’t try to stop him. Instead, he brought up his knee, catching Rio squarely in the groin and dropped him like a stone. Rune kicked him over onto his back and put a foot on his chest, pushing him back every time he tried to get up.

“Like I was saying, Rio I’m not afraid of you and I’m not going to be a victim anymore. You hurt me, Rio, hurt me in so many ways and if you come anywhere near me again I’m going to pay you back for every bruise, every lash and, especially every bone you’ve broken. I swear to God, Rio, if I have to I’ll kill you.”

“But… but you love me. You’ve always loved me.”

“Maybe in the very beginning I did, but for as long as I can remember I’ve hated you but been too afraid to do anything about it. You had me mesmerised, hooked on you like a drug addict but I’m over it now. I feel clean and the touch of your hand dirties me. I’m not going to have it anymore. So just get up, get in the car and get out of my life.”

“But, Rune…”

“Get out of my life Rio.”

Rune took away his foot and backed up, allowing Rio to get to his feet.

“You’re nothing without me,” Rio spat. “You’ll never make it on your own and Luke won’t be around forever. Once he knows how sick you are he’ll be out the door and where will you be then? You’ll come crawling back to me. You always do.”

“No, Rio, you’re the one who keeps coming back. I’m perfectly fine without you. And as for Luke… maybe he’ll stay with me, maybe not, but if I have to I’ll do okay alone. I’ve been alone, Rio. You keep leaving me alone, coming back when you want someone to abuse. No more. You’re out of my life for good. Live with it.”

Before Rio could say or do a thing, Rune turned, walked back into the house and closed the door. As soon as he did so he turned and slowly slid down to sit on the floor, his back to the door. His ribs hurt, his lungs burned and his head ached. He felt he should be crying but there were no tears left, not for Rio. In fact he didn’t want to cry at all, he wanted to laugh. He’d been so scared and now…

He jumped when Rio started to hammer on the door, but that was just because he was startled. He wasn’t scared anymore. Rio was out of his life and he’d do just fine without him.

PART 25 – I’M FREE

Rune picked himself up from the floor and walked away from the door. Rio was still hammering but it didn’t bother him anymore. Calmly, he sat down at the table and picked up his sandwich.  In a while the hammering stopped and silence fell.

Rune put down his untouched sandwich and rested his head on his arms. The silence wrapped itself around him and his shoulders began to shake as a jumble of emotions bubbled out of him as sobs. He wasn’t sliding in his resolve. He wasn’t backing down. He wasn’t even thinking about what had happened and what was going to happen next. He was just… crying.

When he finished, he washed his glass, threw away the rest of the sandwich, tidied the kitchen, went to bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.

“Rune? Rune, are you alright?” Rune opened his eyes to see Luke’s anxious face hovering over him. He smiled.

“I’m fine. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I just… Rio… Rio’s car’s outside and…”

“What? Still?” Rune was a bit surprised, but not particularly bothered. “I thought I’d made myself clear.”

“You…? Made…? Clear…? To Rio…?”

“Make whole sentences, Luke.” Rune smiled and stroked Luke’s face. “Rio came to visit and I asked him nicely to go away and never come back.”

“You did?”

“Well no, not exactly. I wasn’t very nice at all. As I recall, I spat in his face and kicked him in the balls.”

“You did what?” Luke’s eyes went wide with shock.

Rune chuckled. “You’d have been proud of me, Luke. What do you think of this? He tried to drag me out to the car but, I don’t know… something snapped in me and I had to… I knew if I went with him that would be it. I wouldn’t leave him again. He… had me against the wall and I spat in his face to get him away from me. Then I kicked him in the balls and told him to get out of my life and never come back, then I closed the door, tidied the kitchen and came up here to lie down. I had such a headache.” He grinned. “My headache’s gone now,” he said softly.

“God, Rune, you’re full of surprises. I was so scared when I saw Rio’s car. Then, when I came inside and you didn’t answer, and you were… I thought he’d hurt you.”

“He did… but it’s okay. He won’t, ever again.”

“Too right he won’t. I’ll make sure of that. I’ll—“

“No, Luke. I’ll make sure of that. I feel… stronger. I’m… free, Luke. I don’t know if it makes any kind of sense, but I feel free now. Free of him. He’s not in here anymore.” He took Luke’s hand and laid it over his heart. “I love you Luke. It’s what I needed. I needed to love someone, truly love them and have them love me, so I could see what a twisted version of love— if it ever was love— I had with Rio.”

He sighed deeply. “I feel battered and bruised, but I’ve had worse, and it’s only on the outside. On the inside… I feel good, Luke. I feel really good. Come make me feel better.”

Luke searched his face, then he laughed. “You’re a wonder, Rune. You amaze me, humble me. God, I love you.” He lay down and took Rune into his arms. Rune winced, even though he tried not to. “What’s the matter? That bastard hurt you again, didn’t he?”

“He hit me. It doesn’t matter.”

“Of course it matters. I going to—“ Luke half rose, but Rune pulled him back.

“You’re going to make love to me, Luke. That’s what I need. I need love not revenge. Be gentle with me.”

“Rune, I…”

“I know, but Rio’s not important now. We are. Please. I need you.”

Luke softened and lay down again, stroking Rune’s face. “You’re beautiful, Rune. Inside and out. The most beautiful person I ever met. It would be my honour and privilege to make love to you.”

Rune sighed and closed his eyes, as Luke gently worked his hand up under his tshirt and stroked the soft skin of his belly, making it tremble and raising goose-bumps.

“Tell me if it hurts, okay?” Luke whispered.

Rune moaned. “Luke will you please stop worrying about hurting me. The only way you’re hurting me is by holding back. Please, just get on with it before I explode.”

“Wouldn’t want that, would we,” Luke murmured and bent his head to kiss Rune, while he slid his hand further up under his shirt, to brush then tweak his nipple.

Rune gasped and jumped off the bed. “Oh fuck, yeah,” he moaned. “That’s better.”

He moaned again, with a different tone, when Luke withdrew, but smiled when he stripped off his tshirt. Hurriedly, with no concern to tease or tempt, Rune fumbled with buttons to scramble out of his jeans and underwear. He hesitated for a moment before taking off his shirt but… what the hell. Luke knew the score.

When he was naked, he lay back and stared up at Luke, his eyes roving over every inch of his body. To Rune, it was perfect. If only his own were the same. A flush of shame washed over him and he felt exposed.

“What’s the matter?” Luke asked, laying down beside him. Rune shook his head. “Don’t lie to me,” Luke said, stroking Rune from throat to belly button, making him shiver.

Rune lowered his eyes and scanned his body. To him, it was ugly, disfigured by bruises and scars. He looked away, but Luke had seen.

“Don’t,” Luke said. “Don’t ever doubt you’re beautiful.” His finger followed a silvery scar over Rune’s hip bone. You have battle scars. So what? Wear them with pride. You beat him. You’re free.”

“Yes,” Rune whispered, a smile creeping over his face, as Luke’s hand dipped between his legs. “I am free.”