(Author's Summary: In a future where gene-shifts are common-place and democracy is a thing of the past, Tyrell, a relative of one of the world leaders, finds himself trapped in a deadly web of deception, lies, and politics in which even his friends might be his own worst enemies.
Disclaimers: All of the characters belong to yours truly.
Warnings: Shounen ai, violence, murder, profanity.
Author's Notes: Yes, yes, I should be working on The Minstrel Boy or Oistin, but I've been working on this little story for a couple months now, and I really like the whole plot, and I hope you all enjoy it as well.
Amends for the Dead
Cinaed, Born of FireChapter One: Show Me Lonely
The young man on the bed screamed and writhed, his eyes squeezed tightly shut as his body contorted with pain. It felt as if someone had embedded a knife into the middle of his forehead and was ever so slowly twisting the dagger and shredding his brain. Sweat gleamed upon that tanned frame, the droplets glittering in the dim light of the hospital room. His damp mane was plastered against his skin; the golden streaks were obvious within the bronze strands as he thrashed against his constraints, bucking wildly in a vain attempt to elude the agony.
A soft humming sound filled the air as the room's door slid open and a single doctor hurried inside, his face anxious as he rushed over to an ebony computer that gleamed in the faint light. Daring a quick glance towards the tormented boy, the gray-haired man began to type. His long, nimble fingers were mere blurs as they touched the keyboard. He cursed a moment later, but the profanity could not be heard over his patient's odd keening. There was something bloodcurdling about the way the young man screamed—something grief-stricken and longing in the reverberating cries that filled the room.
After a long moment, the doctor gazed at the youth once more and then walked over to the bed, his white lab coat making soft sounds as it trailed upon the floor. He pressed a gentle hand to the boy's cheek, feeling the dampness and the heat for a second or so. The keens faltered and ebbed at the human touch until finally the writhing boy was silent. At last, the doctor withdrew his hand and smiled faintly. Despite all appearances, the young man was regaining strength from the incident that had left him in a near-death state for several weeks.
A pair of bloodshot eyes flickered over to the computer, as if to double-check the readings. Thank all the emirs of the world that the boy hadn't died! In a month or two, his patient might be able to go home, and then the doctor would be able to sleep the whole night through. Stroking those long bronze strands, he smiled down at the youth who had finally stopped thrashing. The patient now gazed blankly back at him with a half-conscious gaze. "Sleep well, Master Tyrell. For my sake and yours, sleep well." His deep baritone words seemed to soothe the boy, and soon the patient was lost in peaceful dreams. The doctor remained there for a lengthy while, long after those brilliant tawny eyes had fluttered shut. He watched the rhythmic rise and fall of the boy's chest with something akin to relieved obsession, knowing that each breath meant he too could enjoy the free oxygen of the world.
After an hour or so, a mournful melody from the crystal embedded in the back of his hand signaled that someone else needed him. Casting a final glance towards the dreaming youth, the doctor found himself murmuring, "Good night, young master; may your cousin smile upon me." As the whisper lingered in the air, the middle-aged man left the room, leaving behind the soft murmurs of the ebony computer that monitored the young patient./ Two and a Half Months Later /
The strap was beginning to irritate his still-sensitive skin, and Tyrell frowned as he shifted it from his left shoulder to his right. This was the fourth time that he had had to switch the strap to a different shoulder, and he hadn't even gone to a single class at his new school yet!
His tawny gaze examined the large building that housed his teacher and new classmates of the prestigious university that he was now enrolled in. The building was cylinder-shaped, the onyx and marble exterior snaking upwards like the patterned neck of an extinct beast called a zebra. (Tyrell had seen images of the animals on his handheld computer.) Thinking of the miniature computer, he reached into his backpack for it. After fumbling with the tiny silver handheld for a moment, the young man pressed his thumbprint into the depression and murmured to activate the tiny computer, "Initiate. My name is Tyrell. Access Reminders."
"Accessing," a pleasant soprano voice whispered to him, and then added, "Please state the needed reminder or create new."
"Reminder of Professor Hart's Class Time," Tyrell stated calmly, his tawny eyes flickering around as he hoped that none of the students passing by noticed him speaking to the handheld. Silver ones were rather rare, after all. Only children of high-ranking officials were allowed them.
"Accessing, sir…. Reminder of Professor Hart's Class Time: 10:00 AM. The time is now 9:39 AM. Any further data requested?"
"No, thank you. Shut down." As the miniature computer obediently responded by going mute, Tyrell shoved the handheld back into his backpack and winced as the fabric rubbed the back of his hand.
The doctor had said that being ill and out of the sun had left his flesh easily irritated, but the young man hadn't expected his skin to be /this/ sensitive. Hell, his hand now had a brilliant crimson mark just from a fabric chaffing it for a second! The boy of twenty years scowled at the reddened skin and found himself shifting the strap to his other shoulder yet again. What was Tyrell to do with the twenty minutes before his class began?
"Jeepers, kid, how much are you gonna fidget?" The voice that called out to him was rich and filled with amusement, each syllable a resonating alto sound warbled from someone's lips.
The young man turned and arched an eyebrow towards the girl who had spoken to him; she smiled impishly back, bounding over. Her plaits of ebony whipped behind her as she fairly skipped to stand in front of him, acting for all the world like a six-year-old child.
"I said, how much are you gonna fidget, kid?" At a height of only five-four, the girl's voice shouldn't have been that powerful. However, each word seemed to be yelled effortlessly, her inquiry ringing through the cement courtyard and causing several heads to turn in their direction.
"I am going to fidget until my skin stops being so sensitive," Tyrell commented, a little amused at the girl's vernacular. She must be one of those Old-Age children who watched the remnants of 21st century movies. Still, his hands reached up to cautiously adjust the hat that kept his gold-streaked mane from view. There was no need for her to announce that he was related to one of the rulers of the continent before he'd even attended a single class. Tyrell wanted friends, not acquaintances who only put up with him because of his heritage!
The girl's eyes widened at that, and the boy could see that she'd altered her eyes so that the pupils were slit like a cat's. "What, did you use a gene-shift for your /skin/?" She wrinkled her nose at that. "That's real dumb, kid. You can just go to one of those tanning places without having sensitive skin from a 'shift. That's what my honey Nisei does, and he's got a glorious golden tan."
"No, I've been ill." This was said in a brusque manner. Ignoring her startled look (for no one /ever/ got sick, only injured, anymore), he squirmed, his brand-new shirt irritating his frame. "Are we allowed inside Mr. Hart's classroom before the lesson begins?"
"Ah, you're a rookie." Suddenly it all seemed to make sense to the ebony-haired girl, and her mischievous grin was back. "We can go into Hart's room if you really wanna. Most people come in at the late bell though, and Hart really doesn't care. What'd you say your name was, newbie?"
"I didn't, but I am called Tyrell." Taken aback at his companion's informal chatter about their professor, Tyrell nevertheless extended his hand to shake hers. Someone with political ties like his had to be polite to everyone, after all.
He found his hand being pumped up and down, the girl grinning enthusiastically and beginning to prattle with renewed vigor. "Helice, at your service, kid—I mean, Tyrell." A pleased flush spread across her creamy flesh, and Helice added, "Hey, anyone ever call you Ty? It suits you."
"No, no one's ever—" That was as much as Tyrell managed to answer. Suddenly that tremendous agony was back. An intense throbbing pierced his skull, each stab of pain seemingly laced with poison as a dull nausea swept all the way through his frame. He was vaguely aware of those teal eyes widening in shock and that Helice was yelling for "a medic, a medic—a doctor, goddamn you all!"
The world was a dizzying vortex that sucked at his very marrow, contorting his frame into writhing movements of blind agony. He felt his backpack slide from his shoulder to thump on the stone ground, and then Tyrell was blind and deaf as he fell face-forward. Feeling a pair of arms enfold him before numbing darkness began to pull him towards any lack of sensation at all, he succumbed to the nothingness that would ease his pain.
Soon, all was darkness.
"You said he would be fine!" The harsh, grating accusation was the first thing that Tyrell heard as his mind ventured cautiously towards consciousness. Despite the fierce words that hurt his ears, the boy felt awareness returning, bit-by-bit. After all, he had grown up hearing that reproving voice directed towards him.
"I said that he would be all right as long as he did not overexert himself, sir," came the mild response from another familiar man. "Obviously, he did something that caused a momentary setback. I assure you he will be fine in two or three days."
"I am bleeding sorry, sir! I was just talking to him, and he keeled over." The girl who was apologized in a panicky tone was unknown to the sleep-befuddled young man. "I was just talking to him about going to Hart—Mr. Hart's class!"
"Did I ask /you/ a question?" The crisp inquiry was ruthless enough to silence the girl. When she didn't respond, the grating voice continued. "Now, Doctor Wainwright, you said my son would be all right in two or three days. I shall be holding you to that."
"Understood, sir." If the doctor was frightened at the prospect of what would happen to him should the young man not be well by the allotted time, his serene response didn't reveal it.
There was a disbelieving snort from Tyrell's father, and then the older man said, "Can't you give him some sort of medicine to prevent these relapses? He'll never catch up if he misses any more time, especially at a new university!"
"With all due respect, sir, you must understand that in cases such as your son's, we have the same problem as we do with gene-shifts. Although we have become genetically superior to our forefathers, any tampering we do with genes leaves us unable to use medicine that our ancestors could."
"Damn straight." Helice—for Tyrell had finally recalled her name—seemed to have gotten over her momentary submission to the scolding. "When I got a 'shift for my eyes to make 'em look like a cat's, I had to stay in total darkness for two whole weeks and even then my poor eyes wouldn't stop burning. I couldn't use any goddamn medicine either! That's the bloody worst thing about 'shifts, I'm telling y'all."
"The normal medicine of our forefathers reacts…/badly/ in bodies of those who have had gene-shifts. If we had tried to use any sort of medicine on Master Tyrell, there is no telling how his body might have responded," Doctor Wainwright explained.
At that point, the young man dared to open his eyes, his vision blurry for a moment. All he could see were vague outlines of several dark shapes. His eyes burned for a few seconds, and he blinked rapidly to get rid of the mild pain, once again wishing that his father hadn't forced a gene-shift of his eye and hair color when Tyrell had turned ten. He had /liked/ his dark brown eyes and straight tendrils that his mother had called fawn-colored. The boy had also liked being able to cry or at least have his eyes water! Being forced to put droplets of liquid in his eyes every morning and evening to keep them from drying out was quite annoying.
As if reading his mind, one of the blurs shifted, and then Tyrell felt droplets of cool liquid trickle into his itching eyes, soothing the irritation. His vision cleared after another bout of blinking, and he smiled a little at Doctor Wainwright. "Thank you, sir." The young man liked the doctor, even if his father didn't.
The laugh lines at the corner of Doctor Wainwright's eyes became more prominent as he smiled a little, his gray eyes twinkling. He was one of the few citizens who had never gotten a gene-shift, and it was obvious since he seemed older than most men would his age. "You're quite welcome, Master Tyrell. How are you feeling?"
The patient considered the question even as his gaze flickered towards Helice and his father. The former was gazing at him with concern in her teal eyes; the latter was simply scowling. "My head aches a little, but it is nothing compared to earlier," he admitted after a short pause. "And the rest of my body feels a bit sore. Otherwise I feel fine."
Seeming satisfied with that answer, the doctor nodded and turned to Tyrell's sire. "You see, Master Mateo? It is all to be expected. I assure you that your son will be well as long as he is not forced to work too hard."
Mateo's eyes narrowed at that, as if he wasn't sure if the doctor was implying that he was overworking his son, but he let the comment slide. "He will work at a healthy pace at the new university," the sixty-nine-year-old man commented, his tone a bit sharp. "I will make certain that he does not strain himself."
In other words, Tyrell would be forced to work at a pace that Mateo thought fitting, and that the doctor would be blamed should there be another relapse.
"Ty, are you all right?" Helice flopped down on the bed, her teal gaze regarding him with a trace of anxiety in those depths. "You scared the hell outta me, falling to the ground and twitching like that."
"I'm sorry for alarming you." The young man meant his words. He knew that his spell had probably been quite upsetting. "As I told you, I've been ill, and it seems I'm also able to have setbacks. And I thought I was getting better!"
The girl looked puzzled, ignoring Mateo's icy glare. Helice flipped a wayward plait over her shoulder before she asked, "Well, can't you pay the doctor to fix you up? I mean, this isn't the 21st century; this is the present! No one ever gets sick, and everyone lives to one hundred and forty years! Which is too bleeding long for me, but oh well…." She gave a blithe shrug at that, not seeming to mind too much.
"I have a unique illness and neither ancient medicine nor modern medicine can heal me. I have to slowly let my body heal on its own," Tyrell explained, repeating almost word-for-word the speech that Doctor Wainwright had told him. "Not even all of the currency in the world would get me to my full strength any faster."
"What do you have?"
"It seems you have an inquisitive new…friend," said the boy's father, speaking in a tone that suggested he didn't necessarily approve of the curiosity or of the fact that Helice might be his son's friend. Mateo's stern gaze zeroed in on Helice, and he said, a warning note in his otherwise pleasant declaration, "Do you /always/ ask so many questions?"
"Only when I think I can get some answers," the girl said cheerily, seeming to ignore the implied threat as she flipped the stubborn plait back over her shoulder yet again. She suddenly jumped as a soft jingle filled the air. Looking sheepish, Helice brushed back her bangs to expose a small jade stone in the middle of her forehead, revealing her to be the daughter of a lower class professor. "My apologies, my da needs me. See you in class, Ty."
"See you in class," Tyrell responded, wondering what major the bundle of energy was in. Watching Helice flounce from the room, his vigor seemed to drift after her, leaving him to feel drained and weary. He sank back against his pillows, a yawn escaping his lips. He turned a drowsy gaze upon his father and the doctor. "Is it all right if I sleep?"
"Sleep is what's best for you right now," Doctor Wainwright said firmly, ignoring protocol and speaking before Mateo had a chance to. The gray-eyed man offered him a kind smile and bowed towards the young man. "If you need anything, you know to signal us. Until then, sleep well, Master Tyrell."
"Thank you, Doctor. Good night, Father." As exhausted as he felt, the young man managed a polite nod towards his sire, who scowled back and stalked from the room, muttering about 'damn relapses and uppity doctors.' As soon as the door hummed shut, Tyrell let his eyes close. One deep breath made his chest rise and fall, and then another, and then he was lost to the world of dreams.
/ He readjusted his cap in a nervous gesture, glancing around the university grounds. It was his first time gracing the school with intents to learn something from a professor, and the eighteen-year-old couldn't help the nervous somersaults his stomach kept performing within him. Tyrell slipped into the building where his first class would be, and smiled hesitantly at the assembled students. A few smiled back, but most ignored him, chattering among themselves.
"Your hat," a crisp voice thundered, and he jumped a little in surprise as the professor glared at him. The man was around a hundred or so, with a sour look to his creased features that made Tyrell think that the teacher wasn't used to smiling.
"Excuse me?" he said politely, and the man's scowl deepened, darkening the folds on his countenance.
"Are you deaf, boy? There are to be no hats in my classroom!"
"That wasn't in the rule book!" Tyrell protested, feeling his nervousness replaced by indignation. What was so horrible about wearing a cap indoors anyway? He could feel his hands tense into fists at his sides, and he focused on not revealing his anger as he said coldly, "I will not take off my hat!"
"Fine then. Fail my class." The professor turned away from him in dismissal, and the boy felt his cheeks redden with embarrassment as most of the students snickered at the argument.
He couldn't fail the class! Father would be furious…. With a low groan, Tyrell whipped off his cap and snarled, "There, it's off. Are you happy now?" He ignored the startled murmurs from the students who had ignored him beforehand. Now they all gazed at him as if he was an ancient god who had suddenly appeared before them and offered them all the riches of the world. It was a very discomforting sensation, all those eyes upon him….
The professor glanced at him, and looked astonished before bowing. "My apologies, Master Tyrell. I was unaware that it was you." The man's tone was so oily that it made him feel dirty, and the teenager felt his lips curl into a look of disgust as instinct took over.
"Well, now you do. Now, go ahead and fail me. I don't care." With that, Tyrell turned and stormed from the classroom, feeling white-hot tears prickle at the corners of his eyes. Damn it all, now everyone would know he was the son of a high-ranking official, and everyone would try to use him. Why had his father forced him to take on the streaks of gold and the eyes of golden-brown that symbolized a relative of an emir? It wasn't like Cousin Gair even liked his side of the family!
He heard someone fall into step behind him, but he ignored his living shadow until a cheerful voice spoke. "I apologize. If I'd have known you wanted to hide the gold streaks in your hair, I would have warned you beforehand that Professor Channing is all bark and no bite. He wouldn't have really failed you. Just disliked you intensely the entire semester."
Tyrell slowed down, sighing, and then turned to face the speaker. Tawny eyes met lavender, and he found himself remarking, "A cat eye gene-shift? You're good at conforming."
An amused smile lurked on the other boy's face, but he simply extended a hand. "Your name's Tyrell? That's an interesting name. Better than mine, anyway."
The two shook hands, and the bronze-haired boy found himself asking, "What is your name?" /
Tyrell woke up, his breathing labored as a dull ache began right between his eyes. He bolted upright, feeling his entire body quake with anxiety and frustration. "Damn it all!" The curse escaped his lips, and he fell back against the soft pillows. What had been the point of that dream? And why did the fact that it had ended right before the man with eyes slit like a cat's had said his name bother Tyrell so much? Rubbing at his forehead, he vented by letting another curse leak from his mouth.
He racked his brain as the memory of the dream seemed to escape his head mere seconds after the young man had dreamed it. Yes, he'd had an obnoxious professor known as Channing for his first class of the semester his freshman year in college, but after he'd stormed off, he'd…. The dull ache between his eyes exploded into a knife of agony, and Tyrell swore yet again, clutching at his head.
He'd…he'd…stormed off and sulked by himself for a couple hours before going to his next class. Yes, that had been it. The illness had simply scrambled his memory banks, that was all. Doctor Wainwright had mentioned that he might have some odd dreams. This must have been one of them.
The agony in his forehead eased as he reached that conclusion, and he sank back against the pillows, a relieved smile curving his lips. Tyrell couldn't wait until all these odd episodes were over and he could walk around campus without being frightened of having a spell and causing a scene in front of the other students! Although he would miss having such nice chats with Doctor Wainwright; the man had become like a true father to the twenty-year-old.
He brushed a damp tendril of bronze away from his eyes, glaring moodily at the strand as the dim lighting of the room turned it golden. How Tyrell hated politics! If it had been up to him, he would have been the son of a lower class professor like Helice so that there would be no expectations, no golden streaks and forced gene-shifts, no being used, no being anything but a young man named Tyrell who had opportunities to do anything except become an emir.
He looked up, startled. Having been so occupied with glaring at his hair, Tyrell hadn't heard the soft hum of the opening door. Still, he managed a grin towards the nurse, who smiled nervously back.
"I was just supposed to check on you, sir. How are you feeling?"
"I'm…fine." He hesitated only for a moment—after all, no nurse really needed to know that he'd been having an odd dream. If Tyrell needed to mention it to anyone, he would tell Doctor Wainwright of the dream—
Wait. In all of his weeks in the hospital, even half-crazed with his illness, the tawny-eyed boy could only recall the doctor at his side. He had never had a nurse check in on him, and had always assumed that Father had wanted it that way. Why would a nurse be checking in on him /now/? His suspicion must have shown on his face, for the nurse's demeanor abruptly shifted from nervousness to cold determination.
She leaned over him, her warm breath striking his face as her cold grayish-green eyes burned into his. The pseudo-nurse seemed to be searching his eyes for something, and finally exhaled, a frustrated sound. "It's all blocked, isn't it?" This seemed to be murmured to herself, and she clucked a little. "Poor boy…. That's what politics gets you, I suppose."
"Who are you?" Tyrell demanded, sitting upright and glaring at this demented intruder. "You're not allowed here! I'm calling Doctor Wainwright!" He reached for the glowing crystal by the side of his bed, but she grabbed his hand in a vise-like grip. "Let go of me!"
"Who's the boy with cat-like eyes?" she inquired coldly.
It was as if she had raised her hand and smashed her palm across his face. The pain exploded behind his cheekbones, and he gagged on the cry of pain that surged to the tip of his tongue. He stopped reaching for the crystal, instead grabbing at his forehead and curling into a ball on the bed. The agony burrowed into his brain, and his vision was bathed in white, even after he'd squeezed his eyes shut.
"I thought as much…." The woman's voice seemed to be shouted from a far-off distance, but Tyrell paid no attention as he slipped into blissful unconsciousness yet again, the whiteness of his vision gradually fading to black.
(To be continued)