CHAPTER TWO - FIRST MEETING
"No way. Can’t be true. Can’t be," Anarion whispered, but it was as if his Kin heard him.
Abaddon fully turned towards the boy and his mouth parted as if he were about to say: no, it isn't true. I'm not what your father said. There is no betrayal here.
"What are you looking at my son for, you bastard?" Tranis shrieked as he saw the silent communication between Abaddon and Anarion. "Don't you look at my boy! DON'T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT MY BOY!"
Tranis launched himself out of the dock and lunged towards Lord Abaddon. The two Kin commandos on either side of Abaddon jumped to their feet, weapons drawn. But Abaddon sat unconcerned, staring at Anarion. He hadn't even flinched. The boy leaped up and cried out. He didn't know who he was crying out for: his father’s safety against the commandoes or Lord Abaddon’s against his father. But Tranis didn't get far. Human soldiers threw him face first across the defense table. His head was slammed against the plastiglas as they brutally cuffed his hands behind his back.
"You bastard! You stay away from my son! STAY WAY!" Tranis screamed.
His father’s normally pale face was flushed a deep red. Spittle flecked his lips and his eyes were wild. Anarion drew back from Tranis. His rage was frightening. Insane.
The whole room seemed to erupt in shouts. Anarion covered his ears, but the noise kept rising. Mercy gripped his shoulders and held him to her as if to hide him from Abaddon's sight. Her hands felt like claws and her body against his seemed alien and strange. Bony and rigid in places where it shouldn’t and too soft in others. She pressed his face against her throat. His mother smelled of hot metal. She had an iron tang. A gush of saliva filled Anarion's mouth.
“Order! ORDER!” Admiral Strawn shouted, his face going a mottled shade of crimson as he pounded the gavel against the Counsel’s bar.
Anarion jerked away from his mother. His stomach was twisting in on itself and he couldn't focus. The lights were too bright. The sounds too loud. That metallic smell made him feel good and sick at the same time. He turned on his heel and ran out of the Council Chambers into the hallway.
Anarion's chest heaved. He wrapped his thin arms around himself. His running slowed to a walk then he stopped when he reached the end of the hallway. He stared at the marble wall and wished he could disappear. A hand on his shoulder made him jump around.
It was Lord Abaddon. Anarion knew that Kin could move fast but it was still surprising to see him right there, half a foot away.
He must have come right after me, Anarion thought and warmth filled him. I shouldn't like that he did! Dad would be so angry! He's probably mad I ran out!
But all of Anarion's thoughts scattered when he really looked at his Kin. Lord Abaddon was even more beautiful close up. Abaddon's eyes weren’t just one shade of green but hundreds, like a faceted crystal. His skin was the color of creamy milk. His crimson hair was plaited and hung to his waist. It looked like a rope of silk. But despite his beauty, Abaddon was a killer. A drinker of blood. His father had told him tales of the Kin ripping open children’s chests to feast on their hearts as those were considered a delicacy. Because of all these tales, Anarion should have been afraid of him, should have been nervous at least, but he wasn’t. His breathing slowed down, the painful thrumming in his body ceased, and his thin shoulders relaxed the more his Kin looked at him.
“I know you are not all right, Anarion,” Lord Abaddon said. Anarion’s name sounded so rich coming from Abaddon's mouth. It resonated between them.
“I -- I …” Anarion dropped his gaze to the ground, but Abaddon would not let him mumble this away.
The Kin Commander dropped down onto his haunches. The black Teklan suit that protected him from sunlight gleamed in the low lights of the hall. His fingers slid under Anarion’s chin and tipped his head up.
“There is something in particular that is distressing you now. Tell me, little one,” Abaddon insisted.
With his other hand, he grasped Anarion’s shoulder. Wherever Abaddon touched him, his skin tingled. Kin aren’t supposed to touch without permission. But it's okay. I want him to.
“You know my name," Anarion whispered, finding that comforting and scary at the same time.
"Yes, and now you know mine," Abaddon said quietly. "I'm sorry you found out like that. It distressed you and for that I am sorry."
Anarion shook his head. "The way Dad talked about you, I thought ..." He bit his lower lip. He couldn’t repeat the things that Tranis had said. They were bad.
"You thought I would be a monster?" Abaddon guessed with a sad smile crossing his face.
Anarion’s mouth opened in surprise. But was it so shocking? Surely, Lord Abaddon had heard of the things Tranis said in his speeches. “Yeah, a little.”
"Now that we have established I am not a monster, will you tell me what happened in the Council Chambers? You seemed ill," Abaddon pressed.
Anarion scuffed one foot against the shiny floor. He tried to describe what had happened. "I felt funny. Everything was so -- so loud and bright and ... it hurt.”
"Do you feel that way now?" Abaddon asked, his braid slipping over his shoulder.
Anarion itched to run his fingers along it, but he knew he shouldn't. I shouldn't even want to! "No, I'm okay."
Those green eyes pierced him. Anarion shivered.
His Kin asked, "Has it ever happened before? This sensitivity? Was there a smell that set it off? Think carefully, Anarion."
The boy stared back at him. Why did it matter? What was the big deal? He was always sensitive to things. The metal smell though was new. He could still taste that scent in his mouth. But that sounded too weird to say so he said, "I was just upset about my dad. It's nothing."
A sight smile quirked his Kin's mouth as if he knew Anarion was telling a lie. The boy's stomach twisted again.
"This is the first time you have been out of the Starn since you started to mature, yes?" Abaddon asked. "First time in the light and --"
Anarion jerked back from him, suddenly suspicious and tense. "You think I belong in the Starn? Down there with those freaks?"
Abaddon grasped his shoulders and Anarion stilled, his anger draining away like it had never been. The touch felt so good.
"No, never. You're not a freak. Has someone said you are?" Abaddon asked.
Anarion swallowed shallowly. People had. The way he could see in the dark and move so quietly and quickly. They joked he was half-Kin. Tears pricked his eyes. It was ridiculous. He wasn't a little boy. He wasn't going to cry about what some other kids said. "I -- I-- yeah. Maybe."
Abaddon squeezed his shoulders gently, his gaze softening. "That must have been upsetting. But they are ignorant, wrong, you know this, yes?"
"I guess, but -- but now that Dad -- that Dad is going to jail, we'll go back to the Starn," Anarion whispered.
The Resistance was paying for them to stay topside, but they wouldn't do that anymore now that Tranis' trial was over. He knew that somewhere inside he felt bad about the loss of his father, but he'd never been close to Tranis. There had always been distance. Sometimes his father looked at him funny like he was afraid of him or disgusted or something.
"It's so bad in the Starn. You don't know. Nobody knows,” Anarion confessed.
He was suddenly sobbing. All he'd held inside for so long just gushed out of him. It was totally unexpected when Abaddon pulled him into his arms. He went rigid against his Kin's hard Teklan armor, but the soft braid brushed his cheek. Abaddon’s hair smelled of spices. Anarion relaxed into the unfamiliar male embrace. His father had never held him, only lightly patted him on the back, turning away Anarion's attempts at affection. He had stopped trying to reach out to Tranis. He had told himself it didn’t matter, that he didn’t care, and some part of him had believed that and tucked away any disappointment or pain because of it.
Until now, Anarion thought and sobbed harder for reasons he didn't understand.
“You won't be going back to the Starn,” Abaddon murmured as he stroked Anarion's back. “You belong someplace safe. Someplace good. I'm going to make sure you're all right.”
“Why would you want -- want to help me?” Anarion asked, hiccuping slightly.
“Because no child deserves such a fate. But -- but you are special as well,” Abaddon said quietly with a caress to the boy's cheek that left Anarion’s rather breathless in a way he didn’t understand. “You have no idea how special.”
"Shouldn't you hate me because of my dad?" Anarion wiped the tears from his cheeks.
Abaddon pulled back so that they were eye to eye and gave Anarion a sad smile. “If we were responsible for all that others do, well, that would be a heavy burden indeed. I want to see you get the chance to live without such a weight.”
No one had ever said anything like that to him before. Warmth built up in the center of his chest. It was a tiny ember that Abaddon’s words fed.
“I want you to live happily, Anarion. For every day to be a joy. That is what I want for you,” Abaddon said. He smoothed a hand through Anarion’s short hair.
The boy's brow furrowed. "You aren't like Dad said. You aren't bad."
Abaddon feathered his fingers through Anarion’s hair. “I want to help you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. But your father doesn’t understand. He is afraid.”
“How are you going to help us?” Anarion asked. The din of the hallway suddenly went quiet. It’s like it's just him and me. Like there’s no one else in the world.
"Just you. Not your mother or father," Abaddon said, his green eyes seemed to glow with an emerald light for a moment.
"Not my parents?" Anarion asked, but his voice sounded far away and small to his own ears. His concerns for Mercy and Tranis fell into oblivion
“No, only you. Would you like to come with me? Live with me?” Abaddon asked, white teeth flashing, just a hint of fang, and his green eyes flaring again with that strange light.