Author's note: My first original multi-chaptered story in English. (This version beta'ed by awesome Diluain was uploaded on 28.08.2011)
WARNING: This is GBLT/LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) themed fiction with explicit contents that is NOT appropriate for minors.
The light pouring in from the window was reflected in the shine of the dark wooden furniture placed alongside the walls of the long hall; only the white doors, two on each side of the hall, divided the cabinets. There were stairs in the middle of the hall and at the bottom of them a small child, about three years old,was sitting, a teddy bear in his arms, his gaze never wavering from the massive, white, wooden door before him.
The sound of the car pulling into the driveway followed by the sound of opening and shutting of its doors alerted the child. He slid three stairs lower, still clutching his teddy bear tightly against his chest. Black hair framed his round cheeks and he strained his ears to hear the footsteps that should soon be coming toward the house.
The entrance door finally opened. A slightly older, more mature version of the boy appeared, and immediately the child flew towards him, forcing his older version to drop the bags he was carrying to receive the affectionate hug and lift the child up.
"Set, you little dumpling. Did you miss me?" The older version tossed the child he was holding in the air then gently positioned him on his hip.
Set squealed in delight and grasped his brother's black shirt in his hands.
"Geb, your ass is blocking the door. Move." A tall man appeared behind Geb, his features so similar to both of the boys', and used his hips to push the older boy forward. "We need to get in."
The second door on the right side of the hall opened and a woman with brownish hair and a big sparkling smile came in sight. "Jack. Finally. What took you so long?"
"Troubles on the road," Jack murmured, walking past Set then climbing the stairs, two big bags in his hands.
The woman smiled at her husband then looked past Geb at the boy who was lingering at the entrance and waved at him to enter. "Come in, come in. I don't bite."
The boy stepped in and closed the door behind him. A shy smile flashed on his face and he tucked a wisp of his blonde hair that had fallen across his face behind his ear.
Set peeked over Geb's shoulder at the stranger, his blue pupils dilating as he drank in the sight offered to him: long, soft, blonde hair was falling over the boy's shoulders in layers, framing a face adorned with high cheekbones. Warm, green eyes were cautiously gazing around.
"Down, down." Set fidgeted in his brother's hold, and the moment he was set down, raced towards the boy, gluing himself to the blonde's leg, clutching it in a tight grip. Then, as though on second thought, he raised his arms towards the boy: "Up, up."
When the boy didn't comply quickly enough with his wishes, Set stomped his foot and a small sob of annoyance left his throat: "Up…up!"
Geb raised his eyebrow and sighed theatrically. "Oooh, love at first sight."
The boy lifted Set, who leaned his small body against the boy's chest, tucking his chin in the hollow of his neck.
"Preti. Preti," Set sighed, cheeks flushed as he fisted a hand in the long, blonde hair, the thumb of his other hand finding a place in his mouth. He closed his eyes in contentment.
"Well, that's something new," the woman said, closing the distance between her and the boys. "He's very shy and he usually hides in front of strangers."
A loud sound imitating the old-fashioned ring tone filled the spacious room and caused the stirring of a body hiding under the covers on the bed that stood in the middle of the room.
A pale hand emerged from under the blanket, blindly searching over the surface of the night table for the source of the sound.
Finally fingers grabbed the phone that was vibrating violently on the wooden surface and then disappeared with the phone back under the blanket.
The sound of the phone flipping open followed and then a sleepy: "Hello?"
"Set, Set is that you?" came the loud sobbing response from the other end.
The heap on the bed sighed. "Yes, Dad."
"Oh, Set. Something awful happened."
The blanket was kicked away, revealing long tresses of black hair and a long, muscular frame. "What is it? Did you lose your glasses again?"
There was a slight pause and the sound of the telephone on the other end shifting, before the voice replied.
"Hmm…no, no. I have them. It's Geb. They cut Geb's hair. Geb's beautiful hair is gone."
Set flinched and shifted the phone so that it wasn't in direct contact with his ear. His dad's high whimper had the ability to cause deafness, so care was always recommended. "Dad, calm down. Geb would never allow something like that to happen."
"But it did happen. Twenty years of work is flushed down the drain. How. Could. They. Do. That? Do you know how much work went into that? Do you know how many times your mother or I groomed that hair? How much times we spent combing the knots out? How much money went into hair products? And. They. Cut. It. Damn bastards. Smrk. It's that witch, I telly you, it's that fucking witch behind all of this. I bet it's her fault…"
Set covered his eyes with his palm and tried to ignore his dad's rambling. He loved his dad very much, but sometimes he was just…so frustrating, especially when he didn't make any sense. He knew his brother well enough to know that Geb would never have allowed something like that to happen, at least not while conscious. So, if this had happened, that means that Geb wasn't conscious and unconscious Geb equaled disaster. "Dad, is somebody there with you?"
Set stood up. There was no point in staying in bed anymore; his dad's whimpers had woken him completely. "Good. Could you put him on the phone?"
"But I'm not finished yet."
Set walked to the white doors and opened the left one, the one that lead in to the bathroom. "Please, Dad, just put him on the phone."
Set chuckled. The tone in his dad's voice told him that he was in his immature mood again, probably sulking by now. He leaned on the sink and waited.
"Set, Geb had an accident. I need you to come to the city hospital, room 415 and I need you now." Aton didn't bother with preliminaries.
Set's eyes widened in shock. "When? How?"
"I don't have time for explanations. Just come, please. I can't deal with Dad and the doctors at the same time."
Set was already in his closet pulling out clothes with one hand. "I'm on my way. Room 415?"
Four hours later Set had arrived at the hospital. He sat in the long green-grey corridor on an ugly plastic chair between his father and Aton, patting his inconsolable father's back while Aton was informing him about Geb's current situation.
It seemed that somebody had pushed Geb's car off the road, which had then flipped and rolled until it ended up in the ditch by the road. Geb didn't have any critical injuries, except the blow to his head, which was worrying because he still hadn't woken up and the doctors didn't know how bad his concussion was. To take care of the head wound, the medical stuff had had to cut Geb's hair and of course, this was a big tragedy for his father. But Set knew that this was just his father's way of dealing with the circumstances. Focus on things that didn't matter, so you didn't have to face the reality before it was necessary. He probably didn't want to think about the seriousness of Geb's injures.
Set just wished his mother were here. She had a knack for dealing with their father when he was in a state like that. On top of that she could have talked with the doctors and handled their grandmother -their father's mother - all at the same time. Too bad she was miles away, visiting her family ,and even now that she was on her way home, it would take some time before she could take things in hand. Until then, he and Aton were in charge of the situation. Damn.
The phone in his father's pocket rang. Aton quickly grabbed it from his father's hand, ignoring his protests, put some distance between them and answered it.
Set gently shushed his father's complaints, got up and stepped toward Aton, who had shut the phone closed.
"Helen's coming. She's just heard about Geb."
"Fuck." Set had known that she would rush to the hospital as soon as she heard that something has happened to her favourite grandson, the apple of her eye and heir of her empire, but not so soon. He wasn't ready. "How did she find out?"
"Who cares?" Aton grimaced. "I'll take father, get him out of the way, and you deal with her."
"I don't want to." Set shuddered. Helen could be really scary, especially when Geb was involved. In the same way it was ironic how fond she was of her son's family, when his dad was constantly trying to annoy her and encouraged his sons to do the same. The long hair they all had was one way, because she couldn't stand that on men, except on her grandsons, while nagging that they should cut it; not to mention that she was the greatest homophobe ever, but when at seventeen Geb had declared himself gay, that hadn't lessened her affection toward him. The fact was that she hadn't even blinked at the news. But his dad had, he had done more than blink. He had thrown himself at Geb in delight and declared that he was so proud, that this was the best news ever. And the 'take that, bitch', that followed was probably directed at Helen, who, thank god, wasn't present at that time.
"I don't care. I'm younger and so I get the easy task." Aton turned around, walked toward their father and pulled him up. "Come on, Dad, lets grab something to eat. You must be hungry."
"Well now that you mention it …"
Set gazed at them longingly before they disappeared around the corner.
Half an hour later Set was standing beside Helen who, for the last fifteen minutes had been causing havoc with the medical staff.
So far so good, for him that was. But he wouldn't have wanted to be in the doctor's shoes. The poor bastard who was in charge of Set was stammering and shivering under Helen's icy gaze and cold words.
"Helen. Why don't you let him to do his job? Geb has to wake on his own. To pull him out by force could do more harm than good." Set decided to intervene when he saw tears gathering in the doctor's eyes.
The doctor straightened his sagging shoulders and for the first time showed that he had a spine. "That's right, madam. We did all we could. All we can do now is to wait. Don't you worry, patients in this kind of coma usually wake up in a day or two." And then the man nodded at them and hurried the hell away.
Set narrowed his eyes at his retreating back. Coward. Then he faced his grandmother, who was for a change not being a bitch toward him. "Geb was always the tough one and I don't believe that he would let a little accident like that change that. Knowing him he'll get out of this without a scratch. He always has in the past."
Helen patted Set on the shoulder. "Seth, I know all that, but I'm still worried."
"Grandmother. It's Set." Why did she always call him and his brothers by her version of their names?
She looked through the glass wall at the motionless figure lying on the bed, ignoring Set and talking more to herself than him. "There have been too many accidents happing to Greg lately. We'll have to do something about that."
"What?" That was the first time he had heard that.
"This is the third one. Except, it's more serious this time."
"Why don't I know about that? Why didn't anybody tell me?"
"But Greg will be fine. He is my grandson and my grandson won't allow a little thing like a car accident to take him down." Helen had decided to ignore him again.
"Grandmother! Why didn't anybody tell me about that?" Set stepped between Helen and the glass.
"How many times did I tell you to call me Helen? I'm too young to be a grandmother. And shut up, I'm thinking." The cold gaze that she directed at him sent shivers through his body.
Damn. He should have known better. You never, ever went one on one with Helen and you didn't demand answers from her; not unless you were Geb. She adored Geb and Set knew that there were a bunch of contracts in his father's safe that she had signed just so Jack wouldn't keep his children out of her life. Dad may have been his childish and immature self a lot of times, but he had made sure that Helen had no influence over him and his family life or over his children's decisions about what they wanted to do with their lives. His sister hadn't and the results had been… Set shivered again.
He loved his dad, deeply.
Geb did wake up the next day to find his mum was finally home and had everything under control. So after a week or so, everything was back to normal, except that Geb was still in the hospital under observation, just in case. He still had some minor dizziness; even though if it had been up to Geb, he would have been out of the hospital faster than a cheetah. But mum was having none of that; she was still pretty worried and she always had her way. Always. And besides that, Helen had arranged a lovely private room for him, which had to have cost her a bundle.
Set quietly and slowly opened the door just in case Geb was napping. Time for his daily visit. He was about three hours earlier than usual, since later he was meeting his friend from the academy; but Geb wouldn't mind. It's wasn't like he had any other visitors.
Wrong. Set closed the door, leaving it open only a crack to peer through. He didn't know why he didn't just walk in, why he was acting sneaky like this? There was a blonde, tall man at the foot of Geb's bed having a glaring contest with his brother, that much was obvious. Who was that? Was this one of Geb's boyfriends?
"Just give in. You can't win." The blond's melodic voice travelled to Set's ears. Nice voice, but from where Set was standing, he was nice all over. Not that he was batting for Geb's team, but you can't go through life not noticing when a beautiful creature crossed your path, not when you were in the profession he was. Ignoring something well-proportioned and fine like this would have meant that he his missed his calling. He was an artist after all and he would love to have him as a model.
"No, damn it. We had a deal!"
"The deal is off. You'll do as you're told."
"Do you want another accident?" The blonde shook his head. "Your life is threatened and you're debating me. That's stupid. Did you consider the lives of your family?"
"That's not fair…"
"I don't care. I have my orders. For once you'll do as you're told."
Jesus. With a soft, hushed click, Set closed the door. The guy's posture and voice hadn't sounded dangerous or cold, even though the softness was laced with steel underneath, but the words he had uttered… What kind of a mess had Geb fallen into? He quickly distanced himself from the room. It wouldn't bode well if the guy saw him.
When he was outside, he called Duncan. He had met Duncan at a Japanese class that some students from the linguistics department had organised and they had been attending it for the past few years, which had woven a tight sort of friendship between them. Set regarded Duncan as one of his closest friends, but the funny thing was that he had not even once mentioned him to anyone in his family but Aton. It was probably because none of the other members shared his passion for anime and manga; and Duncan and his activities revolved mostly around those thing. "Duncan. Set here. Where are you?"
Set listened for the answer. "That's close to the hospital. How quickly can you get here?" He paused, listening. "Good. I'm in front of the hospital. Get your ass here. Now. It's an emergency." He flipped the phone shut.
Only ten minutes passed and Set was sitting in Duncan's car, listening to his bitching, how he was supposed to be at a job interview in half an hour and that his father would have a fit when he found out he hadn't shown up.
"Oh, shut up already. This is urgent." Set put his hand on Duncan's mouth to stop the flow of the words and looked at his friend with annoyance. The two of them looked surprisingly similar, if you overlooked the difference in the cut and colour of their hair. And Duncan wore glasses. "There's some guy threatening my brother and we're going to follow him."
Duncan swatted Set's hand away. "What?" His eyes started to glow. "Follow the bad guy. This sounds dangerous." He leaned over to the windshield to have a better look at the people coming in and out of the hospital's main door. "So where is he?"
Set spotted the blonde coming through the entrance and going toward the slick, black motorbike parked near by. He pointed him to Duncan. "Damn. He has a bike."
"No worries." Duncan adjusted his glasses. "Not when I'm the one who's driving."
They followed the bike from a safe distance. They both remembered the first rule of pursuit from the movies: Have at least one or two cars between your target and you, so they don't spot you. And they said you couldn't learn things from the movies.
So they had no problems in finding their target's final destination.
They parked their car across the road from the ordinary house at the edge of the city centre. Judging by the small metal board at the entrance of the building this wasn't a private residence.
After the man parked his bike on the pavement and disappeared through the door, Set asked "What now?"
Duncan opened the door of the car. "Stay here," he ordered Set, who wanted to go with him, and followed the path the blonde had taken.
It would probably be a bad move to show his face in the place that hosted the man who threatened his brother, but that didn't mean that Set liked this. He didn't, not one damn bit. This was his case to solve, not Duncan's. And besides, Duncan was too reckless for his own good. Set just hoped that he wouldn't do anything stupid while in that house.
His fears grew as the time ticked away and, when twenty minutes passed and no Duncan came out of the building, Set started feeling very nervous.
Right about the time he started thinking about calling the cops and then barging in on his own, the door opened and out came a very smug-looking Duncan. At this precise moment Set would have enjoyed putting his hands around Duncan's neck and squeezing the life out of him, but he satisfied himself with simply narrowing his eyes in a cold fury as Duncan sank down into the driver's seat.
With a goofy smile Duncan turned towards Set. "Don't look at me like that. You should pat me on my shoulder instead and say what a good job I've done." He took a big breath and continued, before Set even had a chance to open up his mouth. "This is actually same kind of detective agency. The owners are three ex-marines. The one we were following is Lucas Cage and the other ones are Tian and Chris Drake. Chris is about our age, he's the one that told me all that. And you'll never guess what happened." Duncan was almost jumping up and down on his seat in his enthusiasm. "Father's going to be so proud; I was accepted on the spot." Another big intake of breath. "You my friend, have just gotten yourself a job there as a receptionist, secretary and coffee-boy under the name of one Duncan Badelt."
Set blinked. "What! Are you crazy? Why did you do that? I'm not going to work there."
Duncan scratched his forehead. "Hmmm…. I thought you wanted to know what's going on." He looked at Set from under his lashes. "Don't you want to know?"
Set rubbed the bridge of nose with his fingers. He suddenly had an idea of what was really going on. "You have to get a summer job again, don't you?"
Duncan nodded. "Father insists. I told you about the interview that I have to attend… It's for a courier… Boring. So when that bloke thought I came because of the ad… I took the job and hoped that…"
"…I would work for you." Set rolled his eyes. Duncan always took things too lightly. They had successfully switched identities a couple of times when they were at university; usually Set just did Duncan a favour and worked off the summer jobs in his place, but it hadn't been done for free, of course. There was always something to gain, always some kind of a deal behind between the two of them.
But this was serious. A lot more serious. If they were ever found out… Back at university, the worst that could have happened was getting expelled. Here, however, the worst-case scenario seemed to be a bullet between the eyes.
"Duncan, we aren't at university anymore. What if somebody finds out? Can you imagine the consequences?"
Duncan grabbed Set by the shoulders. "Nobody will find out! Nobody knows you there and we've pulled this kind of shit on the people who know us all the time and they've never noticed. We can make this work! This is your chance to dig behind the scenes, and me…Well, it gives me time for my little projects. Think about it. You can pull this off easily. Piece of cake!"
The gears in Set's brain slowly started to grind the information and somehow the idea that had started out as just a stupid stunt Duncan had tried to pull transformed itself into brilliant plan that destiny was kind enough to bestow upon him.
"Maybe. I could be a receptionist slash secretary slash coffee-boy and do a little investigation under your name."
"Of course you can, just like old times. I wouldn't lend you my name if I thought you couldn't pull it off." Duncan started the car. "Next destination, hairdresser."
Set groaned. Duncan had a weird haircut now, asymmetrical, very short on one side and long on the other. Dad was going to kill him.
Set refused to release the blonde, silk soft tassels from his hold. He whined. "Li, just one more story, please. Just one more."
Li tried to pull his hair out from Set's fist. He couldn't, not without tearing his hair or hurting Set.
"Just one more. Please." Set's lips made a small pout and he gazed at Li with the expressionhis mother called his adorable puppy look, the one he used when he wanted something really badly.
"Okay, okay," Li sighed and lay back down on the pillows. "Just one short one and that's it. No more."
Set nodded, happily snuggling close to Li, nuzzling his face in Li's chest. "You know, I'm going to marry you when I grow up."
Li chuckled, pulled up the blanket that slipped down, tucked Set in and patted his back. " Set, guys don't get married to each other."
Set raised his head, his sky blue eyes flashing decisively. "I don't care. I'm marrying you!"