Welcome to another free read Wednesday!
We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.
Each week, the contributing members write a chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!
Now that Arad has injured himself, it appears Roku insists on taking care of him.
Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
Roku ushered Arad into the infirmary, fine droplets of blood marking a dotted path from the cargo bay. Being dragged through the ship didn’t sit that well with Arad, but Roku’s determination stomped out Arad’s resistance. Although when Roku picked him up by the waist and wordlessly deposited him on the exam chair mounted to the wall, he considered being difficult.
“It’s not really that bad.” Arad wiped up a wayward line of blood trailing down to his elbow.
Ignoring Arad’s comment, Roku tore open the first aid stash and scavenged what he needed. He lowered the tray hinged to the wall next to Arad and dropped half the kit’s contents on it.
“At least the supplies here are sufficient. I won’t have to chuck you in the medbed.” Roku pried open Arad’s hand and pressed a sterile pad to sop up the wound.
“Ow. That stings.”
“Hold your hand open.”
With a lack of squeamishness Arad didn’t share, Roku prodded and examined the cut, probably to look for any debris, but his bedside manner could use some improvement. Arad couldn’t watch. The sharp twinges from Roku’s unusual rough handling was making him feel nauseous.
“You keep poking that hard, I’m gonna puke.”
Roku stopped and put a new sterile pad in Arad’s palm. “Then I’ll throw you in the medbed.”
“Wonder what that’s like. I’ve never been in one before.” Even when Arad still had his parents’ favor, he’d never been ill enough to require automated healthcare.
Roku side-eyed the medbed and gave a caustic snort. “I noticed the other day it doesn’t have any DemiShou parameters, so let’s hope nothing horrible happens to me.”
“Oh well, you know the Demi module is on order. Probably lost in shipping.”
“Your sarcasm is refreshing.” Roku sounded unimpressed as he squeezed the cut closed and applied a wound sealer.
Arad hissed at the sting, but insisted on keeping his composure. “Did you want me to sugarcoat it?”
“Why start now? It doesn’t change the fact that the DemiShou on board, myself included, were only a commodity to be sold. I don’t even understand why you care so much.”
“Because I know what it’s like to have no choice.”
Closing his eyes, Roku paused. His shoulders swelled, and he let out a gradual, cleansing breath. It did little to ease the tension in his body. “I’m sorry. Your being injured has me on edge.”
“It’s hardly life threatening.”
“I know. I didn’t say my reaction was rational.”
Roku finished the wound sealing and cleaned Arad hand. Far more carefully than before, he testing the cut for seepage. Satisfied he was no longer bleeding, he applied a new bandage and began wrapping Arad’s hand.
“I want to apologize for what I said before. You didn’t deserve that.”
Arad shook his head. “I know you didn’t really mean to judge me—”
“Yes, I did. And I’m ashamed to admit it. My missing past must have left me hardwired to be a little inflexible in my moral views.”
“A little?” Head titled and brow raised, Arad caught Roku’s eye.
“Perhaps more than a little.”
Since they’d entered the infirmary, Arad had noticed how Roku tended to him without making eye contact. As if he was only allowing one kind of intimate contact at a time, still keeping a distance.
“I’ve noticed you’ve gone out of your way lately to avoid touching me.”
Roku paused without looking at him. “It’s for your safety.”
“You’re touching me now.”
“You’re taking care of me.”
Roku tested the bandage and released Arad’s hand. “It’s a distraction.”
“You wouldn’t hurt me.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Not on purpose.”
A sad laugh lacking any humor tumbled out of Roku. “Ah, but there’s the point. Not on purpose.” Roku lowered his voice as if terrified someone else might hear his confession. “I have these urges. I remember how we met. How it felt. How you smelled. Sometimes I want to give in… touch you… hold you down. Stomp my morality into the floor and make you do things. I’m afraid if I give in, take what I want, I might lose control and be more animal than man because I won’t want to stop. I crave it.” A heady shudder raced Roku’s neck and shoulders. “Some days I think I should be locked up on the other side of the ship where I can’t see or smell you, but I can’t bring myself to do that.”
Was it suddenly warmer in the infirmary? Arad couldn’t understand why his mouth felt so dry. “I don’t think the ship is big enough to really do that.”
“Please. Don’t joke about this. I’m serious. I… I need to be near you. It will have to be enough.”
Arad covered Roku’s hand with his. “Roku, it’s okay. You don’t have to live like this—”
“Stop it!” Roku snatched his hand back. “Yes I do. I can’t trust myself. I just can’t.”
Eyes glossy and hands shaking, Roku began gathering up the used supplies, throwing the soiled items in the dispenser. Both in the same room, yet so far apart. Arad could feel the chasm growing. Now that he’d admitted things, Roku would walk out and it would all be different. Different as in worse and the realization panicked him.
“What about your human half? What does it think?”
“There isn’t a human side and an animal side. If I’ve learned nothing else since I woke, there’s only me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by that.”
Nodding, Roku collected the remaining med supplies and put them back into the kit, slamming it shut harder than required. Arad still sat cradling his wrapped hand as Roku stopped in the doorway, clutching the jamb.
“If there really were two sides to me, Arad, I doubt the human side would stop me.”
Roku stepped out into the hall, leaving Arad loathing the cargo bay and the empty crates it housed.
Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!