They were silent as they walked but for Caius giving Anakin lessons on the layout of the area. Anakin seemed to soak up the
information like a sponge.
Then they arrived at the bookstore and Anakin stopped for a moment in shock. “This is it?” he murmured. “It's
so... there are so many of just one kind. How long does it take the scribes to-”
“No, no, there are no scribes.” Caius smiled. It seemed that they were far behind technologically, but then how
did Anakin get here, to his room, bound to his wall? It was so strange.
Of course, he had to wonder if he'd lost his mind. That was just as viable – no, more viable – than the idea of
a strange man appearing randomly before him after he woke up. But he didn't want to consider that.
So for now, he would just open the door and walk inside and grab some toddler books and buy them and then go back to his house
and teach Anakin the alphabet. Then... 'then' he would find out later. He couldn't think about it yet. He just... couldn't.
“You are disturbed by something,” Anakin noted. “Would you like to tell me what?”
“You keep asking,” Caius whispered, “but the answer is still no.” He opened the door and stepped inside.
The place was clean and fresh, with stands of new releases before the rows and rows of different genres of books. He hunted
through the rows until he finally found the Children's area. He moved in and continued down until he found some simple books
for babies and toddlers. He picked a few of them, then grabbed a book of nursery rhymes. “This should be good to start
with,” he murmured.
“These are labeled children's books,” Anakin said. He sounded irritated.
“Almost every child in this country can read English,” Caius whispered. “We're taught from childhood. That's
what it means – these are fairly simple books. They'll help you get started. I'll try to teach you the alphabet myself.”
“You are going out of your way.”
“If it were me, I would want to be able to read the things around me. But I'm not good at learning other languages.”
He flipped through one of the books.
“If it were you?”
“Hm.” Someone passed him, going down to another aisle. He shut Peter Rabbit and looked through another. It listed
different things that were red, then those that were blue, then yellow. It was simple enough. “That's right.”
“I see. A strange way of thinking.”
Caius frowned. “Not really.”
“Your father may disagree.”
Caius snapped the book closed. “Yeah, well, that's him.” He added it to his little pile, then began tallying the
money they would take from him. He winced. He didn't have that much money, and he didn't have a steadily-paying job. It would
eat up a bit.
“Is something amiss?”
“Hm? No, it's nothing.” He turned to Anakin. “How well can you learn languages, do you think?”
“I very recently had a mission to Cornage, where I had need to learn their language. It took me about a month to speak
and read fluently.”
“A month? Damn,” Caius muttered. “I've taken two semesters of Spanish and all I know is 'adios' and 'hola'
“Only when one practices outside the classroom shall one learn,” Anakin pointed out.
“Where am I going to practice speaking Spanish?” Caius complained. “No one here speaks it.”
“Then why learn it?” Anakin asked.
Caius laughed. “Good question. I guess because people are starting to enter the country who only speak Spanish.”
“Should they not learn the native tongue? To demand a country to change for them is crass.”
“You know, Anakin, I'm beginning to like you.”
They walked back to the house in silence, but it was more companionable. Caius felt more at ease with the man beside him.
Was it because the man had shared a belief that Caius himself had? Was it because he'd spoken it so perfectly and without
thought? Or was it simply because he knew that he may have made Anakin up, a superficial illusion made so that he could survive
the interminable loneliness?
In any case, he was glad that he was no longer alone, even if it was with a stranger.
And when they got back to the house, Caius set up some computer paper and sat down on the couch beside Anakin. There he showed
Anakin the letters as he wrote them out, uppercase and lowercase, and gave him their sounds.
And he enjoyed every minute of it.
Anakin was a quiet student, but a fast learner. By four o'clock that afternoon, Anakin had memorized most of the alphabet
and was studiously reading the book of colors.
“What are 'bananas'?” Anakin asked.
“They're a fruit. I think we have some-” Caius stopped his explanation at the sound of a familiar engine. “Oh,
shit! Father's home! Quick, help me get these upstairs!” Caius grabbed up as many books as he could.
“Is there a problem?” Anakin asked.
“There will be if my father comes in and sees all these books lying here.” He snatched up another one.
Anakin quietly closed the book he held. “Why?”
“Are you kidding me?” Caius turned. “And why the hell would I have a whole bunch of children's books?”
Anakin nodded. “I see.” Without another word, he picked up the books.
Caius stilled for a moment. “Shit, shit, shit! Was that an order?”
Anakin nodded again, saying nothing.
“Shit! I'm sorry – leave the books... if you'd like. Shit, I don't even mean to order you around and-”
Anakin touched his shoulder. When Caius turned to face him, Anakin smiled slightly. “It is good enough that you try
“Not nearly,” Caius muttered. “Hold on; I'll be... oh, right. You have to follow.”
“Yes, so I might as well help.” Anakin deftly took most of the books in Caius' hands. “Now, shall we go
upstairs? Your father should be near the door.”
“Shit!” Caius said again, and raced up the stairs.
He hardly made it to his room before the door opened and his father entered the house. He didn't have the time to be sneaky;
he merely dumped the books on the floor and pushed them underneath his bed. Anakin did the same.
There was stomping on the steps, and his father peered inside his room. “You doin' homework, boy?”
“About to, father.” Caius pointed to his backpack, which Anakin had thought to bring up and dump beside him on
His father snorted. “Well, if you ain't gonna be anything but a queer, you might as well get good grades. You getting'
“I doubt it, you pansy-assed artist. What kind of a job is artist, anyway? You ain't got skill, either. God's name,
I don't know how you got to be such a pussy. Must be from your mother. My family don't have no queers like you.”
Except for me, Caius thought, but said nothing. He had loved his mother dearly, and she had been thrilled when he'd expressed
an interest in art. She'd taken him to art school behind his father's back. And because of that, she had died.
“Well, get to work, boy! Why're you just sitting there?”
“Pussy, always apologizing and 'yessirring' and shit. Look, you don't even look like a man. Short and skinny and with
that girly light brown hair. And why do you have green eyes? Real men have dark eyes, like me. Definitely your mother's brat,
There Caius said nothing.
“Son of a bitch,” his father muttered. He left, dragging himself downstairs.
Caius waited a moment before speaking. “Thanks for bringing up my bag.”
“I thought it would seem strange for it to be downstairs.”
“It would have been. Thank you.”
“It was nothing.”
Caius sighed. “Well, I might as well get started. You want to continue reading?”
Anakin looked at his book, then back to Caius. “What are you working on?”
“I have homework in math and history.”
“Well, history I cannot help you with, but math I might.”
“Really?” Caius looked up to him with hope. “Could you? That would be great!” He opened the math book
and placed it between them as Anakin sat beside him. “It's trigonometry.”
“Ah. I disliked learning that.”
“Really? 'Cause I hate it.” Caius laughed slightly. “Do you get it?”
“Ah, the inverse function.” Caius stared wide-eyed as Anakin started explaining how the inverse function worked
against the original equation.
“Wow, you're incredible,” Caius remarked. “This stuff always makes my brain fuzz.”
“It's interesting that you are learning this at your age. Or is it normal here?”
Caius shook his head. “No, it's not normal, but... it's still really hard for me. It's not my thing.”
“Even that which you are not good at can be mastered if you work hard enough.”
“And if you have a really smart teacher.” Caius beamed at Anakin. The dark-haired man seemed surprised by Caius'
reaction, because he stilled suddenly. He stood with a graceful flourish and walked to the other side of the room, his back
to Caius. “Anakin?” he called tentatively. Had he done something wrong?
Anakin turned on him. Caius saw that his fists were clenched. “In my country,” Anakin murmured quietly, “it
is considered acceptable to take a mate of the same sex. For warriors, it is expected. A woman would be inappropriate and
may even calm the warrior's heart. I am a first-class warrior. When I marry, it will be to a man.”
Caius listened with stunned confusion. “Anakin, I-”
“It must be spoken, then, that I find you attractive.”
Caius' mouth snapped shut.
“Yes, I understand that here it is abnormal and... what, freakish? But still it cannot be denied.”
“I...” Caius worked his throat furiously. “You think...?”
“Yes.” Anakin nodded shortly. “I will not force you.” He laughed softly. “In reality, I cannot.
Not with these on.” He lifted his hands to show the bracelets and shifted his head back to show off the collar better.
“All you need say is 'stop,' and I would be rendered immobile.”
“I...” But Caius' voice was now no more than a whisper.
Anakin strode up to him and knelt. Their eyes were level with one another. “I do not take by force, and I do not speak
to unnerve you. But I feel it must be said – you are beautiful.”
Caius' voice disappeared completely. Those violet eyes were staring right through him. That breath was flowing over him. He
felt his heart skip a beat.
“You have lovely eyes, large and expressive. The color of rare gems. There is a small ring of gold in them, as well,
right in the middle around the pupil. You have soft, pale skin and hair light enough to be silk. As I said... beautiful.”
Caius could only stare at the man before him, with his thick black hair and intense violet eyes.
What was he thinking? He wasn't gay! He wasn't a fag!
He scooted back on the bed fast enough to get rug burn. “No,” he managed to gasp, horrified.
Anakin said nothing as he stood. Caius watched like a mouse caught in the middle of a hawk's open field.
They stayed in those positions for an unknown stretch of time, each watching the other, both still. Finally Anakin put up
his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I will not touch you if that is your wish.”
Caius tried to speak once again. “I...” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
Just give me a minute. I'm sorry.” He covered his face and stood, turning away.
He hadn't meant to overreact like that. He had a couple of gay friends, and never had he been so cruel. It wasn't because
of Anakin. No, he'd had his friends joke about how good he looked. They hadn't been quite as intense as Anakin, but...
No, it wasn't Anakin's fault. It was his own. He had to take full responsibility for what had happened. He'd... felt something,
something strange. Something impossible. Friendship? No. Stronger. Interest? Impossible. He wasn't gay. He'd sworn not to
be gay. He wouldn't give his father another reason to hate him.
“You are apologizing?”
Caius carefully turned back to Anakin. He hadn't moved, but waited patiently for him to get himself back under control. “Yes.
I...” He cursed. “Fuck. It's been a minute, hasn't it?” Caius wanted to scream. He couldn't handle all of
this! He was just a sixteen-year-old high school student! Life was stressful enough without this lunacy!
“Dammit!” He whirled to Anakin. “I...” Why did he think Anakin so beautiful? Why were his eyes so
intoxicating? Why did the sight of him dressed in those immaculate clothes interest him?
Because, and he damned himself for it, it was impossible to ignore the proof that was straining against his own jeans.
He turned back away in disgust. “I'm sorry for reacting that way. It wasn't...”
“It is an appropriate reaction here, is it not?”
“It's not appropriate anywhere, Anakin.” He wouldn't get an erection for a figment of his imagination. Or a guy.
Or a stranger. He was confused. He was insane. He was tired.
“You have a strong heart.”
Caius jumped. Anakin had sneaked closer. He looked over his shoulder and came face-to-face with Anakin. He shivered. “I
don't.” He backed up. “Look... I still have... have history homework, and...”
“And you'd rather forget this conversation ever existed to begin with.” Anakin's eyes were still boldly assessing
“It's not that...” Caius crossed his arms over himself. “It's not that. I have friends...” He couldn't
keep his eyes level with Anakin's and let them fall. “I have friends like that. I never... ever... reacted like that
to them. I'm sorry. It was cruel.”
Anakin stepped forward, then stopped. “Do you mind if I touch you?” he asked quietly.
Caius involuntarily took a step back.
“That would be a 'yes,' I presume.”
Caius wanted to argue, but he couldn't speak.
“If you never reacted in such a way before, then did you react poorly this time because you feel similarly for me?”
Caius jumped. “I... of course not!”
“You are lying.”
He hunched into himself. “Enough!” He backed up until his back hit the wall. “Enough.”
“I see. Is it because of your father?”
“Enough, Anakin!” he shouted.
“Caius, what the hell are you yelling about?!”
Caius turned to his door with a jerk. “Nothing! I'm sorry, father.” He glared at Anakin. “Shut-” He
realized he was about to issue an order and snapped his mouth shut. He wouldn't forgive himself if he destroyed who Anakin
was with orders and demands. He wouldn't do it.
It felt strange, having this power. He wanted to use it. He wanted to make the man shut up, to order him to never bring it
up again. “Oh, God,” he murmured. “I'm awful.”
“I want to make you be quiet. I want to tell you to never speak of it again. I'm a horrible person, aren't I?”
Just like my father. He'd sworn he'd never be anything like his father.
He slid to the floor and covered his head as if to ease a migraine. He couldn't deal with all this. He'd taken it one step
at a time and still the road was so thin and he was walking blindly. Each step could make him fall, and there would be no
one to catch him. As always, he was on his own through all of this.
A warmth enveloped him, as suddenly and completely as the sun. He felt strong, lean arms wrap around his back, felt as one
pulled his back closer and the other cupped his head and carefully placed it into the crook of an equally strong shoulder.
Legs furrowed between his own, and a firm chest molded to his. He blushed.
“Shh, don't fight it. This is nothing sexual. Have you ever been hugged like this?”
A vague memory shifted in his mind, as an image of a blond woman swam before him. “Once... I was crying, and my mother...”
Anakin didn't ask any questions, just held him tighter. “When?”
“I don't know,” he whispered. “I was young.” Too young to not think his parents were immortal. Too
young to realize how na´ve such a thought truly was.
“Often when someone says they want to be alone, it truly means they don't want to be alone anymore.”
Caius felt tears back up in his eyes. He didn't know why they were there, only that he felt warm and safe now. Why would this
make him feel like crying? “I'm fine.”
“You are not a horrible person, Caius. You have treated me with dignity, and for that I am grateful. You can make me
do anything, you know. Anything.”
“Stop. Stop, please, I don't want to hear it. I can't hear it.”
“All right.” Anakin was silent then.
Caius almost screamed. “I ordered you again. I did it again-”
“You said please, and thus negated the order.”
Caius stopped mid-rant. “Is that the truth?”
He sighed and let his eyes close. It felt good, just to be held. Anakin was right – it wasn't anything sexual. It was
nothing more than contact, blessed physical contact without any pain. It felt good. So good. How had he lived so long without
such a simple thing as touch?
“Thank you,” he breathed. His arms lifted on their own and curved around Anakin's firm stomach. He felt protected.
The burn in his eyes became dangerously strong. He had to take a moment to battle the tears back.
“You need not thank me,” Anakin murmured. “Whenever you need this, do not be afraid to ask. I will give
it to you willingly. No orders are needed.”
“Thank you,” he repeated, and let himself relax completely. He felt so safe, as if nothing could touch him here,
in Anakin's arms.
He fell asleep with a smile.
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