Dusk was once a time of peace for humanity; the fiery blaze of sunset across a darkening sky signaled rest, the quiet stillness of night. Centuries ago, humans welcomed the night- now they feared it, with the knowledge of prey fleeing into holes to escape prowling predators.
But there was no running from the darkness in the city of Kamai; it thrived after the sun set, lit by warm yellow streetlights to emulate the sunlight which its most powerful inhabitants couldn’t tolerate. The paved streets were alive with anxious humans traveling to jobs and schools under the silver light of the moon. The stars twinkled in the velvet sky like the many eyes that watched them: cameras on every street corner, the doors to every building… the entrance to every home.
Leaning against the bank of windows that covered the northern wall of his room, a young man stared down at the city beneath him through the thick, protective bars placed over the glass. The clear surface was cool as he pressed his forehead against it, helping to ease his throbbing head. He pressed his fingers against the glass as he gazed into the sprawling courtyard below his second story window, watching well-dressed humans bustle across the manicured lawns. All captured by discrete cameras with softly blinking green lights, registering motion and temperature as they carried on with their business.
A faint smirk twisted his lips as he caught the gaze of a scurrying child for a brief moment; he knew what they saw, the specter he appeared to be with lank ashen hair and eyes a blue so pale they seemed luminescent. The silver glow of the moon painted him in pale, ghostly light; any who looked up quickly tore their gazes away from the sight of his gaunt, haunting face.
A sharp rap at the door pulled his attention away from the courtyard. Turning, the young man shook away a wash of dizziness as he pushed away from the cool glass of his barred windows. Pacing across the floor, his shoulders were tight and his breath stilled as he opened the door- not knowing who to expect on the other side.
His breath left in a light sigh of relief as a comfortingly familiar face met him, the shadow of a slightly crooked smile on the visitor’s full lips. “Evening, Cass,” the man said, his voice low and smooth as he looked down at the slight man who stood before him.
Cass nodded, stepping back to allow the taller man into the room. “I didn’t expect to see you tonight, Syrus,” he said, watching the man walk over to the same bank of windows he had been peering through.
Leaning against them, braced on one muscular forearm, Syrus glanced over the grounds before turning to face Cass. His auburn hair was disheveled, the rich color dark against his pale skin where it covered his face to mask his left eye; the other was a pale green, watching Cass carefully. The right side of his head was shaved to the scalp, revealing a tattoo of sweeping lines in dark red and dazzling gold; the pattern of flames would shimmer when Syrus’s fingers were lit with sparks of fire, but now they were simple decoration reflecting the moonlight through the windows.
“How do you feel?” Syrus asked, the inquisitive tip of his head making the single dazzling blue gem hanging from his ear sway gently.
Cass swallowed and dragged his gaze away from it; though he had given the softly shining stone to his partner, it brought up memories of an incident he would rather forget. “Fine,” he said tersely, shifting under Syrus’s narrowed stare until he quietly admitted, “My head hurts, but it’s tolerable.”
Frowning, Syrus pushed away from the window, striding to stand in front of Cass; he was several inches taller, towering over the younger man. Reaching for Cass’s arm, he always made the younger man feel small and delicate- knowing the large fingers wrapped around his wrist, his skin warm against Cass’s constant chill, could easily snap bone. There was only gentle concern in Syrus’s touch as he turned Cass’s hand palm up to inspect the veins on the inside of his wrist.
Syrus’s thumb brushed over the soft skin; Cass shuddered, biting his lip against the leap of his pulse. Swallowing the instinct of fear, the expectation of pain- he knew Syrus’s inspection was clinical, but memories of fangs and agony flashed through his mind relentlessly.
“Blue and pale, good,” Syrus murmured, giving Cass an apologetic smile as he met the younger man’s frightened gaze. He released Cass’s arm, fingertips dragging against the back of his hand before it dropped to his side.
Cass took a steadying breath, fingers curled over his palm as he tried to blink away the memories. “I told you I was fine,” he muttered, his eyes dropping to the floor.
Syrus held his tongue against an apology, knowing how little it would mean. Instead, he gave the reason for his invasive inspection: “Our master called for you.”
Stiffening, Cass’s pale gaze flashed back to his companion. “So soon?” His voice was a shadow of a whisper, barely audible even with so little space between them. “But I’m allowed to rest-”
“He said there is an urgent matter that requires your attention- and it can’t wait until your rest period is over.” Syrus’s expression was full of sympathy as he watched Cass’s chest move in quick, fluttering breaths, his hands trembling. “I can try to beg for time. It may cost me, but-”
“No!” Cass was quick to snap the word, his voice thin as he set his jaw.
Syrus couldn’t help wondering at the strength which sometimes shone in Cass’s eyes; it seemed so out of place on a thrall who had been trained from a toddler’s age. “Are you sure? It’s been nearly a week since the last treatment. I don’t want you to get desperate again.”
Cass’s stomach roiled, nails biting into his palms as he looked away. “I can handle it,” he replied, tense with guilt as he turned away from Syrus. Though his steps were quick, Syrus’s long stride caught up to him quickly as they reached the door together.
Cass shivered as he exited into the hall, glancing up at the camera aimed at his doorway, blinking a soft yellow light as it took in abnormal temperatures. They stood quietly in the hall, waiting for the guards to recognize Syrus at Cass’s side before the light turned green- disabling the alarm that would wail if Cass attempted to leave his room alone.
Hesitating for a moment, Cass stared down the empty hall, away from Syrus’s long steps as he guided the way. A soft longing stirred in his chest, his body shifting slightly toward the potential of a moment truly alone.
“Cass?” Syrus’s gentle voice calling his name made him stiffen, eyes flashing up to see a pale green gaze full of concern- and a silent warning.
Cass froze, appalled by the moment of weakness. There was no reason to tempt his master’s wrath- not with whatever emergency awaited them. Shaking himself, Cass turned his back on the quiet temptation of solitude.
Syrus relaxed slightly, but kept a sharp eye on Cass as he gestured ahead of him, and spoke the words that always chilled the younger man to his core. “Let’s not keep the master waiting.”