Light Up The Dark
by Suki Fleet
The only good thing to have come out of this whole mess so far was his growing closeness to Nicky. Nicky with his mixed messages and sudden, startling shows of vulnerability. The longing Cai felt for him was like no longing he’d ever experienced before. He longed to be near him. His bones ached with it. When he wasn’t, the world didn’t spin right. The sky grew dimmer and duller. Nothing worked like it was supposed to. Inside he was chaos, his chest full of whirling, diving, buzzing things that messed with his concentration. And then he’d see Nicky and his chest would settle, and the buzz would become the thrum of a magnet that he had to resist with all his strength, lest he fuck up whatever tentative force was pulling them together.
A sudden blur of movement rounded the corner of the house. Cai froze. Nicky. Sprinting down the side of the house towards him. Something was wrong.
No one moved that fast unless they were being chased. Fear spiking his senses, Cai raced across the leaves and bracken to meet him. Over a hundred metres lay between them. Instinctively he gripped his shears more firmly in his hand and kept his eyes on the side of the house, waiting for the danger, ready for it. Too late Cai realised Nicky wasn’t looking where he was going, that he hadn’t seen the assortment of logs Cai had laid on the ground for chopping into firewood later.
“Nicky!” he yelled, just as Nicky stumbled and tripped.
Arms flung wide, Nicky twisted ungracefully through the air, before landing with a thump on his back on the leaves. For a moment he lay there unmoving, the wind knocked clean out of him.
Cai skidded to his side, his awareness thrown out like a net around them, still searching for any immediate danger. Nicky blinked up at the sky, blue eyes blank and unseeing, shut down.
Reaching forwards, Cai brushed back a loose strand of his autumn-coloured hair. “Breathe, baby,” he whispered.
And Nicky did. Sucking in one shaky breath after another.
“The cellar,” Nicky gasped, coming to life. “Something’s happened in the cellar.”
After checking Nicky wasn’t hurt, and being mostly convinced that whatever danger there was it was not immediate, Cai helped him into the passenger seat of the van. Nicky’s fear seemed to have blown wide open and that was probably why he’d run.
He handed Nicky his keys. “Can you drive?”
Nicky looked at him blankly, hugging his knees and rocking slightly. His clothes and shoes were dirty and wet. His hair was full of leaves.
“No? No. You’re not in any state to drive.” Cai shook his head—he needed to stop thinking aloud. “Okay. Lock the doors, then. I’ll be back in a minute or two.”
“Don’t fucking leave me,” Nicky whispered, his gaze suddenly so intense Cai couldn’t look away.
“I’m just… I was just going to take a look… to make sure we’re safe.”
“If you make me beg, I will fucking hate you. I will never forgive you. Never. Don’t fucking play with me.”
Cai’s eyes went wide. “I’m not. I….” He was at a loss. “I’d never want you to beg. I—”
“I hate that I feel like this.” Nicky squeezed his eyes shut for a second. “Like I need anything from you. Like you have fucking power over me. I’m not your fucking anything. Okay?”
Cai stepped back. Nicky’s words stung deeply. He’d never play with someone’s feelings. “I hate that you can hurt me too. But you can and you do. I’m not made of stone. I bleed. I fucking bleed, all right. I hate not knowing what’s going on here.” As soon as he’d said the words he wanted to take them back. His own bitterness surprised him and at the same time made him cringe. Honesty was freeing, but weaponising it was manipulative, and retaliating like this wasn’t at all what he wanted.
Nicky curled in on himself even further—if that were possible—and looked away. Sharp chin resting on his knee, jaw twitching, his expression was equal parts anxious and resigned.
Behind them, tall trees brushed branches against one another and the dead leaves swirled. Cai shivered as the icy wind bit into him and drew his arms across his chest. It felt cold enough to snow. He’d left Lance’s jacket on the ground by the bush, too warm to wear it as he’d worked, but right then he felt like he needed a little protection. But that wasn’t going to help Nicky. Cai uncrossed his arms. There had been a psychology class in the YOI and he’d learned all about body language and what it meant. He didn’t want to be defensive—he wanted to be open. He wanted Nicky to know he’d never make him beg for anything, ever—he’d never do that to anyone—he wanted Nicky to know all of him. To really know him. Then he would realise Cai would never hurt him. Not knowingly.
Still shivering, he knelt down on the gravel in front of Nicky’s seat. Nicky tensed. If he’d had a tail it would have been flicking warningly back and forth. When cats were scared they were all claws and teeth and hissing. But cats themselves weren’t scary—they were just defensive because they could be easily wounded, like that vicious tabby Soph had insisted on feeding behind the bookies. She seemed to think someone had tried to hurt it and that it just needed to learn to trust her. After it had bitten her a few times, Cai wondered where she found the patience to keep trying. Now he knew.
“Nicky, I’m not going to leave you.” Nicky refused to look at him so Cai said it again, then he added, “But I need to know what’s going on. We can’t ignore this. What exactly did you see?”
How someone’s body language could scream leave me the fuck alone and at the same time hit every protective nerve Cai’s possessed, he didn’t know.
“It’s my fault,” Nicky whispered.
Tentatively, Cai knocked his knuckles gently against Nicky’s leg. “I doubt it.”
About Light Up The Dark
For two years Nicky has wandered the dark empty corridors of the overgrown Thorn Hall, unseen and untouched, feeling like a ghost. His only company, the cold man who promised to keep him safe from harm, Lance.
But when Lance dies, Nickyís assurance of safety disintegrates and his world suddenly becomes a lot more real and a lot more dangerous. Scared to leave the house, Nicky longs for daylight. He employs a gardener to clear the over-grown bushes and vines that have nearly swallowed Thorn Hall whole.
The last thing Nicky expects a little light to do is show him something to fight for.
Eighteen months in a young offendersí institute has taught Cai two things: he occupies the playful puppy end of the How Dangerous Are You? spectrum, and he has an unfortunate knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Desperate for a job, he takes the first offer he gets. Even though Thorn Hall creeps the hell out of him and he barely knows one end of a pair of garden shears from the other.
Things start to fall apart when Cai is drawn into Nickyís strange world of sticky notes and secrets. Cai finds he is now a target, blamed for a crime he didnít commit. Desperate not to go back to prison, he digs deep and risks all the good things in life to help Nicky run.
But now Nicky has someone he wants to protect, he knows he canít run any more.
About Suki Fleet
Award Winning Author. Prolific Reader (though less prolific than she’d like). Lover of angst, romance and unexpected love stories.
Suki Fleet writes lyrical stories about memorable characters, and believes everyone should have a chance at a happy ending.
Her first novel This is Not a Love Story won Best Gay Debut in the 2014 Rainbow Awards, and was a finalist in the 2015 Lambda Awards.
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