CHAPTER FIVE: GHOSTS IN THE BLACKNESS
Freyr froze when Kei’s lips covered his own. But then Kei stroked the back of his right hand. It was a gesture he had done a million times to assure Freyr that all would be all right. And Freyr relaxed into the kiss. Everything would be all right. Everything.
Immediately, Kei intuited Freyr’s acquiescence and the kiss deepened. There was another stroke of his hand as if to thank Freyr, to reward him for his compliance. But there was no need to thank him. Freyr had imagined a kiss like this from the Japanese businessman for so long, though he had denied it at the same time. It seemed wrong to fantasize about a man that he adored and respected so much. But arousal coursed through his system as if it had been waiting for years for Kei’s mouth to be on his own.
Though the kiss was not long, Freyr felt every moment of it. Kei’s lips were soft and warm. He was as masterful with the kiss as he was in everything else. And, as in everything else between them, he taught Freyr. The young man’s lips parted and Kei’s tongue swept inside. It was this liquid melding of mouths. Their tongues stroked along one another. Freyr found himself arching up into the kiss as Kei’s tongue flickered against his palate. Finally, Kei rasped his teeth over Freyr’s lower lip, enflaming it, before he then he drew back. Freyr gasped as if the sound was pulled out of him. He tried to reach towards Kei, to keep him near, but all that happened was that his cuffs jangled against the metal railing. Immediately, Freyr colored hotly. Not only had he shown Kei how much he liked that kiss, he had done so in front of other people.
Why did he kiss me? Why did he do it in front of them? He’s so private, but this was almost an … exhibition.
Freyr’s eyes searched Kei’s. The Japanese businessman was only inches away. Freyr could feel Kei’s breath on his face. Both of them were breathing heavily, too. Kei’s cobalt eyes were hooded. His pupils were huge with desire. The aura around him was a silvery white, which Freyr couldn’t interpret as he had the doctor’s earlier.
“You — you came to get me,” Freyr whispered. His voice was flooded with gratefulness and relief. Kei was here. Kei would fix this. Kei would make sure that he was safe.
“I will always come for you,” Kei answered with such certainty that Freyr’s breath caught. “Always.”
Confusion and desire ran through Freyr then. Again, he asked himself why had Kei kissed him? Why did the general think that they were lovers? Did Kei tell them that they were? His words seemed to indicate as much. Kei stroked Freyr’s hand once more and then began to undo the restraints.
Kei didn’t undo them earlier, because of the kiss, Freyr realized at that moment. He was worried that I would react badly to him kissing me and ruin the ruse that we’re lovers. That must be it. But why would it be necessary to pretend that at all? Why can’t he have just done all this for a good friend’s son?
But then Freyr looked over Kei’s shoulder and saw the general’s face. He was smirking smugly. The man’s aura flared a hot red as he regarded them and Freyr quickly dropped his eyes in mild disgust.
Desire, Freyr realized. He understands coming for a lover, but not so much for a friend or the son of friend. It was the easiest sell. Kei knew that.
Kei’s cobalt eyes met his again. Freyr shivered. There was something there though. Something that Kei had been careful to keep hidden or not acknowledge for some time. Freyr’s stomach muscles tightened. He didn’t know what this was. He didn’t know if it could be anything. Kei was his father’s good friend. Kei was his father’s boss. This likely wasn’t a complication that either Kei or Freyr’s father needed.
But he feels something like I feel something. Only maybe it can’t be …
Dr. Kimble gave a snort, which drew Freyr’s attention. She was seething. Her arms were crossed tightly over her chest. She kept looking up at the general’s face and then over to him and Kei.
“General, Freyr Brand is showing every sign that he will be an incredibly powerful Survivor, like nothing else we’ve seen so far!” Dr. Kimble objected.
What does she mean? She makes it sound like I have super powers or something! Freyr looked at Kei, hoping to see some explanation in his handsome face, but Kei was looking down now as he undid the restraints.
The smug look drifted away somewhat from the general’s face and a suspicious look took its place. He obviously knew Kei well, too. “What do you mean, doctor?”
“Just that Kei Wakahisa’s involvement in this is not coincidental. We find a young man with untapped potential and Kei is suddenly here,” she said. “Conveniently claiming that a young man that has never been linked to him romantically is his lover! What is more likely, General, that Kei is here to rescue a lover or procure an asset?”
Kei’s hands stilled for a moment as he undid the right restraint from Freyr’s wrist and rubbed it to get the circulation back. Freyr flexed his hand gratefully even as his stomach clenched.
“Dr. Kimble must have a very active imagination, Alan,” Kei answered without turning around.
“How so?” The suspicious look was still there on the general’s face.
“Because no test could possible have come back in time to tell Dr. Kimble any of that,” Kei answered as he undid the left restraint. “She is guessing, and her guesses stem from her dislike of me and not objective evidence.”
“Is that true, Dr. Kimble?” The suspicion turned from Kei to the doctor and Freyr felt like cheering.
She straightened and her aura flared a hot orange. Yes, it was true. “I’m sure of it!”
“Why? Because you wish it to be so?” Kei scoffed, again his back was to them both.
Dr. Kimble straightened and her eyes flashed with anger. “How dare you-”
“Doctor,” the general’s voice stopped her dead in her tracks.
“Alan, I am offering you data from the Monarch Program. Even if Freyr has more worth to me than affection, does it really matter?” Kei’s eyes rose to Freyr’s and his aura glowed a brighter silvery white.
The general’s red aura though had black laced through it, another desire, a less pure one than before though Freyr wouldn’t have classified the other as “pure” other than in the sense it was “potent”. “Yes, yes, that is worth quite a bit.”
“You can’t just trade the Survivors for information!” Dr. Kimble sounded horrified, but Freyr didn’t believe her motives were altruistic. She just didn’t want Kei to get something she considered hers.
“On the contrary, doctor, and I’m surprised with your level of patriotism that you aren’t as eager as I am to have access to Monarch,” the general said.
What’s this Monarch thing? I think I’ve heard Dad mention it, but always in the vaguest terms. He never discussed it with Mom or me.
“So you’re saying that this is a done deal?” Dr. Kimble’s hands were on her hips and she regarded the general with almost as much distaste as she did Kei.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” the general answered her archly. “Freyr Brand is free to go. Well, free to go wherever Black Ocean determines.”
Kei undid the last restraint.
Freyr let out a huff of relief and rubbed his wrists, trying to get full sensation back into his hands. There were faint red marks on both wrists. It felt so good to move them. “Thank you.”
Kei caressed his cheek, but there was still a hint of anger as he said, “No one will bind you again.” He then snapped down the right handrail. “Can you stand, Freyr-kun?”
“I can do anything you need me to do to get out of here,” Freyr answered as he glanced at the scowling doctor. A wave of relief mixed with fear ran through him. He was afraid that this hard won freedom that Kei had just gotten for him might be snatched away again. That meant he had to move. He would not hold back their escape.
“Good, good,” Kei said and though it wouldn’t have been obvious to those that did not know him as well as Freyr, he was anxious that they leave, too.
“I want it known that I object to this, General,” Dr. Kimble said. “The tests will come back and will show that Freyr Brand is something extraordinary and-“
“Heard and noted, Dr. Kimble,” the general said.
While his aura still flared with that red veined with black, there was still interest in what Dr. Kimble was saying. If Dr. Kimble got her tests back before they got out of there that would be a bad thing. Whatever Kei had already conceded might not be enough and Freyr already regretted that the Japanese businessman had to give up anything for him let alone something as important as Monarch sounded.
Freyr looked down at his long, pale legs that stretched out from the edge of the hospital gown. His head was pounding again in sickly waves, but that would not stop him. He swung them to the side and off the bed. Even though he wanted to just keep moving, he paused as the very action exhausted him.
“Freyr, do you need a wheelchair?” Dr. Kimble asked. “We can call for one.”
Thinking that it was a delay tactic, Freyr snapped, “No! I’m fine! I can do this.”
“One is outside the door, Freyr-kun,” Kei said. “Or I can carry you.”
“Kei, I weigh a little bit more than I did when I was ten,” Freyr responded with a fond smile. That was the last time the Japanese businessman had carried him anywhere. He remembered giggling helplessly as Kei had pretended to be his trusty mount as they had gone on a quest to kill dragons. The dragons were his mother’s beloved cats, Kit and Kat. They were not as amused as he and Kei had been chasing them around the garden.
“Perhaps I have grown stronger since then,” Kei answered with a twitch of a smile that did not meet his eyes and Freyr wondered if he was somehow serious.
“I’d love some pants though,” Freyr said as he prepared to push off the bed. He already felt his bare ass against the sheets.
“Your clothes were removed for analysis, I’m afraid,” Dr. Kimble said.
“Then half naked it is,” Freyr muttered.
Kei took off his suit coat and wrapped it around Freyr’s shoulders. It smelled of sandalwood and Freyr surreptitiously sniffed the collar. The Japanese businessman promised, “We will get you clothes very soon.”
“And a shower,” Freyr said as he launched himself to standing.
Everything went sideways when he did. His legs trembled beneath him like a newborn colt’s. The ache in his head became stabbing pain. The auras slid sickeningly around the room. He would have fallen on his face if Kei hadn’t caught him in a shockingly strong grip.
“I have you,” Kei said.
But then Dr. Kimble was at his side. “Freyr is in no state to leave the hospital.”
Those words caused ice to flow down Freyr’s spine. Panic, sheer and utter terror, flowed into him. If she managed to keep him here now then he would never leave. He would never see Kei again. He would never be with father. He would never talk with his friends.
And that’s when he heard it.
A susurrating sound. Like waves lapping at the beach. And there was this electricity the air while, at the same time, all the warmth in the atmosphere seemed to be sucked again. Freyr’s eyes slid towards the corner of the room where the least light was. There was a momentary feeling of deja vu. This had happened before. He had been feverish then. He had thought he had imagined it. This time, his head was banging like a drum.
But he wasn’t a child now. He knew what was real and what was imaginary. This was real. The corner of the room went black as pitch and the sound grew louder. It wasn’t waves, it was voices. Hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe even millions of voices whispering, whispering, whispering … And if he listened closely enough, Freyr had a feeling that he would know what they were saying.
The blackness started to spread when Kei’s hands tightened on him. Freyr’s eyes snapped back to the Japanese businessman. Kei’s nostrils were flared. His eyes were wide and unblinking. He saw the blackness, too. But Freyr had a feeling that Kei knew what it was.
“Freyr-kun,” he said so very softly. It was a warning. It was a plea.
Freyr was about to ask him what Kei thought Freyr could do about the blackness that was lapping at the corner. He saw Dr. Kimble staring at him with her head cocked to the side. She didn’t see it. The general was adjusting his coat as if he felt something was wrong, but wasn’t sure what it was. He looked over his shoulder right at the blackness, but apparently saw nothing.
The whispering grew louder. More insistent.
“Do not listen,” Kei whispered.
“What? What are you saying? Don’t listen to me?” Dr. Kimble snapped.
Freyr swallowed and shook his head. He wouldn’t listen to the whispers. He wouldn’t let them in. Or rather, he wouldn’t let them out.
Freyr straightened as much as he could on trembling legs. “I’m not staying here. Not one more second. Kei, please.”
“We are leaving.” And in the next moment he had Freyr in his arms, carrying the young man as if he still weighed the same as he had when a child. Kei carried him out into the door.
The general went ahead of them and held the wheelchair still that Kei had mentioned earlier. The Japanese businessman tenderly deposited Freyr into it and took the hands. He began to push the wheelchair down the hallway.
“I - I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Freyr murmured as he sagged against the wheelchair’s back. Why was he so weak? What was that blackness? Why did Kei think that he was in control of it? And why was Kei afraid of it?
“It will be all right,” Kei soothed. “I promise.”
The general walked alongside of them as Kei pushed him briskly down the hallway. Freyr had to shut his eyes tightly after a few seconds, because unlike his hospital room where Dr. Kimble had dimmed the lights, there was no such concession made here. The lights were harsh and unforgiving. Freyr could still see them even behind his tightly shut lids.
He heard the tap of Dr. Kimble’s heels as she came after the three of them.
Don’t stop. Get us out of here, Kei, Freyr thought and, as if Kei had heard him, the Japanese businessman squeezed his shoulder. Freyr burrowed further into Kei’s jacket.
“I want that Monarch data at the end of the week, Kei,” the general said. “The raw data not just your tech’s conclusions!”
“You will have it, Alan,” Kei said levelly.
“I can’t believe you’re just letting them go,” Dr. Kimble objected again. “Freyr cannot even stand and you’re allowing him to leave the hospital!”
“I just want to go home.” Freyr’s jaw clenched. Kei squeezed his shoulder again.
Kei slowed down for a moment and Freyr nearly panicked. He cracked his eyes open. They were in front of a pair of metal elevator doors. He saw Dr. Kimble standing behind them, her arms tightly crossed over her chest. The general was standing loosely as if at ease. He was smiling at Kei. The Japanese businessman was staring straight ahead. Freyr then heard the soft wick of elevator doors opening and confirmed that they were with his eyes before Kei wheeled them in.
Kei held up a hand. “I think we can make it from here. Dr. Kimble’s presence is upsetting Freyr.”
The general actually held up a hand to stop Dr. Kimble from boarding the elevator. “Remember that data, Kei.”
“I could hardly forget it, Alan. You have done me a great service,” Kei said.
Just as the elevator doors, Freyr heard Dr. Kimble say, “The test results will be done within the next hour, General, and you will see what a terrible mistake you’ve made.”
“Kei?” Freyr’s eyes were slits and even that was letting in too much light. He wasn’t sure what he was asking.
Kei’s hand squeezed his shoulder. “I know, Freyr-kun. I know.”
“Do not!” Kei’s voice was sharp then he lowered it as he added, “Do not think of it now. Just … just think of getting out of here.
Freyr nodded and shut his eyes tightly. His stomach quivered as the elevator rose up incredibly fast. Then another wick of sound and Kei was pushing him rapidly forward. Freyr tried to open his eyes again, to check where they were, but the lights were like acid on his eyes. He only knew that they had passed out of the facility when there was the whoosh sound of a set of doors opening and cold, night air flooded over him. He breathed deeply.
“We are out,” Kei said unnecessarily.
Freyr risked cracking open his eyelids again. They were in a parking lot. There were lights here and there, but plenty of darkness for his poor eyes. Freyr though didn’t look at any pool of blackness for long for fear he might hear the whispering again. Instead, Freyr’s head tilted back, looking up at the sky. Light pollution should have blocked any view of the stars, but Freyr could see them. Huge sweeps of glittering stars like diamonds studded in black velvet. His heart hurt at their beauty.
“Sensei, please let me help!” It was Elsa’s voice. Elsa Lockhardt was Kei’s personal bodyguard. The one that was silent except for now. Her voice had a pleasant lilt to it.
“Elsa-san, get the door. We must get Freyr out of this chill,” Kei answered her.
Freyr saw Elsa’s bright blonde hair done up in a neat ponytail. Her Nordic looks and pale skin were accentuated in the all black outfit of boots, tight pants, and form-fitting turtleneck. Only her arms were bare showing lithe muscles. Elsa hurried over to the discrete black Mercedes that idled at the curb. She opened the back door.
Freyr’s gaze swung back over his shoulder towards the military hospital he and just been inside. It looked incredibly benign. It was a nondescript building with few windows. It looked only to be one story. Freyr realized that most of it must be deep underground, built into the hillside that rose above it. There were two MPs with their helmets showing the white lettering on them indicating military policy, but no other sign that this might be a place where Survivors were kept prisoner. Kei stopped pushing the wheelchair. He was then lifting Freyr out of the chair and sliding them both into the back seat of the spacious Mercedes. Elsa closed the door after them before jumping into the driver’s seat. The Mercedes’ powerful motor was already running.
“Get us to the airport, Elsa-san,” Kei ordered.
She nodded. Her cobalt eyes met Freyr’s for a moment in the rearview mirror. “You got him out of there, sensei. All will be well.”
“We will see,” Kei said. “Go fast, Elsa-san. I fear Dr. Kimble and her tests will cause Alan to have second thoughts. We must get Freyr out of his reach.”
But my home is San Francisco. Is that far enough out of his reach? Freyr wondered.
Elsa was already speeding out of the parking lot and onto the highway beyond. It was then that Freyr had the wherewithal to speak again. There were only lights from the oncoming cars and if he kept his face pressed to Kei’s chest he was okay. He breathed in the Japanese businessman’s scent deeply, it calmed him.
“What’s going on, Kei? There’s more to being a Survivor than you ever said,” Freyr tried to not sound accusatory, but his head hurt so much.
Kei stroked his hair and the pain eased slightly. “Yes, Freyr-kun, so much more that I hoped you might never need to know, but … but I am afraid I allowed sentiment to cloud my judgment. I did not wish to frighten you on the off chance that it would be unnecessary.”
“You thought this might happen to me, didn’t you? You knew somehow that I would be a Survivor, didn’t you? All those things you half told me were to prepare me for this, weren’t they?” Freyr took a risk and looked up at Kei’s face. So handsome. So serious. So sad. The anger died in Freyr’s chest then.
“Yes, Freyr-kun, I suspected it since the first day we met and the Ghosts swarmed for a moment before the fever overtook you,” Kei said and Freyr realized what the blackness was: Ghosts, hundreds, thousands, millions of them. Again, so mournful a look. “I thought that your mother would be strong enough as well to survive. That was a shock-”
“It wasn’t the Ghost!” Freyr suddenly became rigid in his arms and tried to sit up. How could he have forgotten? The kiss had knocked it from his mind and then the wild dash out of the military facility had kept it at bay. Still, shame that he could forget Freya for even a moment washed over him. His headache though came back to life and there was the sensation of an ice pick stabbing into his brain. “She — she was killed by someone else, something else. Her body … Dr. Kimble knows where it is. It’s the proof about what I’m saying. You have to get it back, Kei. It’ll help find her murderer.”
Freyr immediately sank back against Kei’s body with a groan. His strength wasn’t great enough to explain all that had happened to his mother. He prayed that Kei believed him, or at least would hear him out later.
“Do not strain yourself, Freyr-kun.” Kei’s hands were stroking his hair again, easing his pain.
“I know and I have heard you. I will do what I can,” Kei assured him.
“I - I was too late to save her, Kei,” Freyr’s voice sounded broken to his own ears.
“I know you did all you could. You must believe that, too,” Kei said.
Both of them went silent as Elsa drove the car at seeming warp speed towards the airport. Freyr’s eyes slid fully closed. Kei’s hands continually stroked his hair and he felt the faint puff of the Japanese businessman’s breath against his temple. Though his heart hurt at the thought of Freya, he found himself remembering that kiss with Kei. He rested his cheek tighter against Kei’s chest. As much desire as Kei drew out in him, the sense of safety was greater. Considering all that had happened that night, all of it so terrible, Freyr didn’t know if he would ever bring up the kiss. Kei had done what he had done to save Freyr. Maybe he had to leave it at that.
There was the faint buzz of Elsa’s voice as she received a call on her comm, “Yes, understood. I will let them know.” The call clicked off and she spoke to them, “Sensei, Conrad Brand is awaiting us on the plane. We will be there in two minutes.”
“Dad’s on the plane, too? Where are we going, Kei?” Freyr asked.
“That has yet to be determined,” Kei answered softly. “But it must be away from here.”
“You mean away from the military base?” Freyr asked stupidly.
“No, Freyr-kun, much farther than that,” Kei answered.
“How far?” The words seemed to open up a vast chasm inside of Freyr. The last thing he wanted was to leave San Francisco and Lucy and the rest of his friends. He would need them to deal with Freya’s death, if such a thing could ever really be dealt with.
“We need to get you out of the country,” Kei answered.
Freyr stilled. “I’m not safe here, in the U.S., like you aren’t safe here, am I?”
“That is right, Freyr-kun. Once Dr. Kimble gets her test results I am certain that she will convince Alan that he did not receive enough in return for you. They might even snatch you back.”
Freyr gripped Kei tighter. “No, not that. You can’t let them do that!”
“I will not let it happen,” Kei said with certainty.
“So … will we be going to Neo-Tokyo?” Freyr asked, remembering that Neo-Tokyo was the only place where Survivors had a real chance to live free.
“That would be my choice,” Kei said slowly.
“But?” Freyr asked the unspoken word.
“But your father may have a different destination,” Kei said.
“Where?” Freyr asked.
Kei was silent for a long moment before he answered, “Hong Kong.”