Shade has been kept in the dark for eight long years. Now he’s facing a world that terrifies him. A world that seems to hold no place for him.
When the authorities are unable to find a home for Shade, Penny, reluctantly accepts him into the secure school she manages, despite thinking it’s the wrong place for him. Penny fears for his safety among the other troubled children. In an attempt to forestall the disaster she predicts will happen she appoints one of them as his champion.
Dory, an engaging seventeen year old with mental health issues, is proud to be chosen as Shade’s champion and throws his heart and soul into the job. In doing so he is forced to face the thing he fears most – his own emotions.
An unexpected friendship begins to grow into something more, until a spiteful act tears them apart and leaves them broken.
When Dory falls ill, Shade is forced to face his demons and struggles to find the strength and courage he needs to fight for the right to love, and to be there for his champion when he needs him most.
Shade flinched and moaned. “No,” he whispered. “Please, no.”
“No, what?” Dory asked, bending closer to hear. The next thing he knew, Shade had grabbed him, pulled him down, and was kissing him in a way that stole his breath. He’d never been kissed like this. In fact, he’d never really been kissed at all. With a gasp, he let Shade put his arms around him and draw him down, burying one hand in his hair to massage his scalp. Dory whimpered and moaned as the sensations sent a jolt of electricity straight to his groin.
Suppressed sexual urges he’d kept under strict control surged through him, and he threw himself into the kiss with desperate hunger. When Shade’s hand slipped under his Tshirt and stroked the hot skin on his back he almost lost it. Almost. But something was off. Something wasn’t right. Shade was whimpering, but it wasn’t with desire, and the kiss tasted salty. Concern cut through his endorphin-drugged mind, and he raised his head to find Shade was crying. It hit him like a slap in the face, and he struggled out of Shade’s embrace.
“Stop,” he cried, trying to catch his breath. “Just stop.”
Panic hit him. This was wrong. He wasn’t supposed to do it, and he’d made Shade cry. Shade was going to tell, and they were going to take him away to the hospital again. This was just like when he was angry, probably even worse. He didn’t want to go to the hospital. He didn’t want to talk about this; it would be horribly embarrassing. Most of all he didn’t want to be drugged, for them to change his medication again. He was just starting to feel okay. Dammit, he was starting to feel. And now he’d screwed up again. And worst of all, he’d let Penny down. Some champion he’d turned out to be. It had lasted all of five minutes. Now they’d all be disappointed in him and that was the worst thing of all.
Before he knew it, he found himself backed into a corner, hugging his knees and rocking. Someone was touching him. Usually when he was having a panic attack he couldn’t bear being touched, but somehow this was different. This was… okay. Gradually, as he got himself under control, he became aware of a voice.
“It’s okay. It’s okay, I’m here. It’s okay.”
Surprised, he raised his head and found himself staring into Shade’s golden eyes. “We’re not allowed,” Dorien croaked, and Shade nodded.
“I’m sorry,” Shade said.
“W… why? Why did you…?”
“I thought…. I thought I was… back there.” Shade’s voice was low and kind of distant, as if he wasn’t used to using it and had to think about every word before he said it. Of course it wasn’t helping that he was slurring because of the medication. All in all, it was quite difficult for Dorien to understand him.
“I… I thought….” Shade shook his head, crawled over to the bed, and sat with his back to it, hugging his knees.
“Thought what?” Intrigued now, Dorien forgot all about the panic attack. They were always no more than sudden storms in his usually sunny sky.
Shade shook his head.
“Is it somewhere bad?”
“Yes.” Shade looked scared now, and hunched like Dorien had moments before. Now it was Dorien’s turn to put a reassuring hand on Shade’s knee. Shade flinched.
“Don’t. I’m not going to hurt you.” Shade closed his eyes and shuddered.
“What’s wrong? What did I do?” Dorien snatched his hand back, worried he’d messed up again. “You’re okay. We can touch like that, to comfort people, you know. We can hug, too, just little ones. We’re just not allowed to touch, you know, inappropriately.”
Shade still looked scared, and panic slammed into Dorien again.
“You’re not going to tell, are you? You… you’d probably be okay, because you’re new, but…. Please, Shade. I’m not supposed to…. They’ll take me back to the hospital and I’ll have to…. Please. They’ll drug me again and I hate that. Please. Please don’t tell. I won’t do it again. I just… I can’t help it. It’s…. I’m… I’m supposed to… but you were…. And I, I did try.”
The gentle touch on his arm and soft words, “I’m sorry,” brought him suddenly back to reality. He sat back and his eyes met Shade’s. There was still a lot of fear there, but something else, too, something soft and kind and worried.
“I… I’m not supposed to let myself get carried away. I’m especially not supposed to let… well… those kinds of feelings get a hold of me. I have to learn to control myself. I don’t have any, see, control that is. I can’t control anything. That’s why I’m dangerous. That’s why I’m here.”
“Why…? Why am I here?”
“I’m not sure. I think it’s because you want to hurt yourself, and you have to be watched.”
“Why do you want to hurt yourself? I’d never do that, no matter how bad it got, because it always gets better in the end, and mostly I like my life. At least most of it… mostly. Sometimes it’s hard, but it gets better, and one day I’m going to be able to live on my own. They don’t think I can, but I’ll prove them wrong. I will get control. I will.”
Shade smiled and nodded. “I believe you.”