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by beetle
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #1990063
Alexei Stanton and Ri Friendly's life is pretty idyllic. Enter a mysterious visitor.
Word count: 1,000
Summary: Written for the week 5 May 4th-May 10th prompt(s): “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“I don’t think this is a good idea, Ri,” I whispered as we crept ‘round the auxiliary water reclamators out back of his daddy’s barn. Visible clouds of dust, bleached bone-white by the seemingly ever-present sun, puffed up with our every step, creating a cloud that—in the clear, dry night—could be seen for acres, at least, and might alert Ri’s daddy and/or his older brother Phillip to the fact that someone was out and about on the Friendly property. “I don’t think—”

“And now ain’t the time to start, darlin’. Leave the thinkin’ to me,” Ri said, grinning over his shoulder at me. I glared and stopped, crossing my arms. Ri stopped, too, pulling me into his arms for a kiss that I turned my face away from. Unfazed, he simply bussed me on my cheek instead of my lips.

“C’mon, ‘Lex, don’t be like that. I was just jokin’.” He armed sweat off his forehead. The night was relatively cool, though the day had been oppressively hot, as usual. One hundred fifteen in the shade, and it wasn’t even full-on summer, yet. Even after ten years I still dreaded the hellish Western summers. “You know how I get when I’m excited. I say all kindsa stupid shit.”

Just when you’re excited?” I huffed, and let myself be hugged tight. For a few moments, anyway. “Ugh, Ri, how come you’re so sweaty? It’s only ninety-five, ‘ccordin’ to the threedy.”

Ri laughed and let me go. But not far. “Just . . . excited, I guess . . . why? Ain’t you?”

“Well, yeah,” I admitted, taking his hand again and this time, instead of grinning he smiled. The sweet one . . . the first one he’d ever smiled at me, when we were both just first formers, and I was still new in town, and shy because of that. I’d talked funny and I’d looked different than everyone else. Too pale and too short. But Ri hadn’t minded then and he doesn’t now, even though he still swore that, despite the past ten years out West, I still sounded like “some City Back East.”

Whatever’s left of the Cities Back East.

“C’mon.” Ri’s usual grin flashed out again: white, white teeth in a dark, dark face. “The barn ain’t gettin’ any closer.”

And because I couldn’t resist the grin, either, I let him tug me to his daddy’s empty barn, where the shadows lay so deep and velvety and cool. And when we laid down together in the hayloft it was for the very first time. . . .

And afterward, Ri held me and we just laid there, and talked and talked about the future, and our hopes and dreams. We fell asleep gazing out at the constellations through the open window in the barn roof.

It was perfect.


“Wake up, Sleepin’ Beauty!”

I opened my eyes to see Phillip Friendly standing over me, smirking. Spooned up behind me, Ri grumbled and squeezed me closer, more asleep than awake.

Phillip nudged Ri’s foot with his own booted one. “You, too, Sleepin’ Ugly,” he said when Ri grumbled again and pressed his face to my sweaty nape.

“Uh—” I blushed, trying to wriggle away from Ri, who wasn’t having any of it, and just held me tighter. Phillip snorted and watched us struggle—me to get away while simultaneously trying to cover myself with the quilt, and him to pull me closer while tugging on the quilt as well, despite the already sweltering heat of the barn—still smirking. “Uh . . . please don’t tell your daddy about this, Phillip.” Or my Aunt Riva, went without saying.

Phillip snorted again. “Who d’ya think sent me to get you two?”

Now Ri was awake completely, scrambling to his feet and grabbing for his jeans. “Fuck me, daddy knows?” he all but squeaked.

“’Course. You two ain’t exactly sneaky, Riley. Make more noise than any three deliisks during a matin’ flight.” Phillip laughed and glanced back at me, giving me a thrice-over that made me blush and pull the quilt more closely about me. Phillip’s smirk turned lazy and he kept staring until Ri, half dressed and pulling on his t-shirt, noticed and stepped pointedly between his brother and I.

Finally, after what I can only assume was a stare-down, Phillip turned away, making for the loft ladder.

“Whatever. Woman from some City’s here to see you. She’s waitin’ in the livin’ room.”

“A City?” Ri glanced at me, worried, and I froze, mouthing: What did you do?

Nothing! was the reply I got. Then Ri was turning back to his brother, who was waiting at the top of the ladder.

“Someone from a City to see me?”

Phillip’s dark eyes ticked from Ri, to me, then back when Ri took a step toward him. Ri may have been younger, but he was bigger. And meaner in a fight, too. “To see you, Sexy-Lexei.”

Then he was gone down the ladder with a laugh before Ri could do more than snatch up his own boot and take aim.

When Ri turned to look at me, he looked scared . . . and excited.

“You ain’t do nothin’ either, right?”

I shook my head no.

“Well, then,” Ri knelt in front of me, took my hands, and kissed them tenderly. His own were shaking a little. “Welp, then, we ain’t got nothin’ to worry ‘bout, I guess. Still, an’ all . . . I wonder what she wants with you.”

Thinking of my early childhood Back East—before the internecine Feuds and Wars really began to proliferate and spread beyond what the Twelve Cities could control—and the circumstances under which I’d been taken (smuggled is more like it) out of Hightower, I shuddered, suddenly cold in spite of the hot, heavy, still air.

Ri frowned and wrapped his arms around me. “What’s wrong, baby?”

“Nothing,” I lied, shakily, wondering if they’d--whoever they were—finally found me . . . after all this time and distance. “Let’s go see a lady from Back East.”
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