"Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy? I don't know if our life has a purpose and I don't see that it matters. What does matter is that we're a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass." - The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K Le Guin
I dream of something hot and sweet, dark tea and citrus on the tongue, a memory of a time when I could indulge my passions on a whim. The land goes on for days, a wide expanse of gold mountains and green valleys that meet a sapphire blue sea. I hear the shuffle of feet on sandstone, the soft brush of eager hands. Yes, precious come to me, my treasure. There is music and someone is laughing, the heady scent of opium smoke as thick as dreams. The jewels in my lover's hair are as a thousand stars in a gaping night sky, the very illuminated blood of a million galaxies running between my fingers, like wine, like the night dark ocean.
How pretty. How trivial everything seems, like poppy smoke in the night air. Am I really any different than any other living thing? I want what all creatures want: comfort, pleasure, nourishment. The world left me behind, left me no grave in which to crawl into and find peace from the hungers of the living. Regeneration is a kind of torture, immortality a curse. Perhaps my grave lies at the end of time, when the sun too dies and every particle spreads so far and thin that the universe is a cold dead thing.
Maybe I will stop having such silly thoughts then.
I wake with salt drying on my cheeks, and my head aching. Owen sighs next to me, murmurs something in sleep and buries his face against my chest. I wrap my arms around him, enjoy the feel of his body relaxing at my touch. God the things I would do to keep him. It makes me sick with fear. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.
"Owen," I say, pushing him onto his back so that I can look at him. His eyes flutter and I cannot tell if he is waking or in a dream, his face still slack and smooth from sleep. My body thrums with the power of having him in my arms as I shiver down to the core of my being, ride out the wave of lust and possessiveness. It is near dawn, I can see the lightest tinge of pink to the sky outside my window. I lean over him as hungry and desperate as any beast has ever been, my fingers flexing with nervous anticipation. Oh the smell of him, the heat! Save me from my own disgusting weakness.
I lean down without thinking, press my mouth to his, tongue pushing between soft lips, tasting some mix of coffee and the lingering ashen flavor of those damn cigarettes he smokes. Blood thuds in my ears as I feel Owen gasp and go stiff with shock. I cup his cheek with one hand, while the other snakes under his shirt, holding him in place as I continue to take his mouth. My fingers explore ribs, slide up to brush a thumb over one hardening nipple. When I bite his lip, Owen makes a delicious little noise and hits my shoulder with a sharp wack.
I pull back, propping myself up on one hand, still cradling Owen's side with the other. He blinks, looking dazed and I watch his tongue dart out and run over his swollen bottom lip. "Umm…" He says uncertain, forehead furrowing into a frown. "You just bit me?"
I come back to myself and feel my face flush in shame. Stupid, stupid, stupid . I find I am annoyed. "And would do far worse, dear heart. Have you no wits about you? You are young, true enough, but you're not a child. You have a male lover no less. You must not be completely oblivious to my affections and yet you crawl into my bed in the night…"
"What?" Owen demands pushing me away and sitting up, his blush now mirroring my own. "Don't blame me for something you just did. That is really fucked up, Azi. Seriously, are you even listening to what you're saying? I'm not…" He pressed fingers to his temples. " God why is this even happening?"
"Because I am an idiot." I tell him, hastily pushing back the covers and moving to my feet. "I am so weak, Owen." My hands are making fists as my whole body trembles. "I don't know what to do." My voice is a desperate whine. "I don't know how to control it. This is a terrible dangerous game we play and the longer that I stay here the worse it will get." I grit my teeth and claw at my hair, a scream catching in my throat.
"Azi stop, please." Owen moves across the bed on his knees and reaches out, pulling me towards him. "You're making yourself crazy." I do not realize I am crying until his fingers are brushing away the tears. "I hate seeing you like this. It breaks my heart." I do not understand why he is not disgusted by me. "I can...I can feel your distress, like in my head?" He wipes my cheeks clean, meeting my eyes, still on his knees, on my bed. "I don't understand, but please. It's too much. Try to calm down."
"Okay," I agree, press my palms to my eyes and try to stop the shaking of my body. "Okay. Thank you, love. You're right. Let's go in the kitchen and talk."
Owen puts on the teakettle while I watch the rain from the dining room window, my head resting against the glass. "Birdbrain says it is my fault," I say. My voice sounds dry and hollow to my ears like wind rustling through dead leaves.
"What's your fault?" Owen asks absently. "I was going to make us some oatmeal with cinnamon and apples. Are you hungry?"
"Oh." He looks up out the window for a moment. "Because you're unhappy?"
"Something like that."
Owen sighs and puts down the oatmeal container. "Look, Azi, I feel like I owe you an apology." He chews his lip.
I frown. "What?"
"Of course I noticed you like me. It's kind of obvious. Greg calls it puppy love. He thinks it's cute." I make an unpleasant noise and Owen looks even more guilty. "Fuck, I shouldn't have said that. It's dismissive. I'm sorry. We're friends and that's a shitty thing to do—to blow a friend off like that. I didn't know it was so serious or I would have done things differently." He points an accusing finger in my direction. "But dude you so can't go feeling people up when they're asleep and stuff. It's not okay and you should know better."
"It's what dragons do," I tell him, my tone flat and defeated.
"No," he says still pointing. "It is not. Dragons do earthquakes and guard treasure and talk to birds. They don't perve out on unsuspecting people taking naps. Not acceptable, like, ever."
I raise an eyebrow at him. "Since when are you the expert on dragons?"
He shrugs and goes back to making breakfast. "I live with one don't I?"
"Always so damn flippant." My eyes narrow. "And what will you do when I finally destroy something you love? What will you do when I tear your world apart, Owen? Will this still be so amusing to you then?"
Owen shrugs. "I don't believe you'd do something like that," he says, eyes meeting mine.
I laugh, cold and desperate. "But I have!" I say. "I have done so many horrible horrible things. You should fear me, not bring me to your lover's home, not make me damn oatmeal."
"Maybe," he agrees. "But that was then and this is now. You have a choice Azi. You can be anything you want to be."
I snort at that. "That one is the master of one's own fate is not the predominant philosophy of the ages you know." I smile sadly. "Your modernist individualism is showing, sweetness. In my case, indulging is such a fantasy would be the equivalent of waving around a loaded weapon. I am at the whim of the universe. I choose very little about this."
"Yeah okay. I tend to think that's kind of a cop-out, but it's one thing to be a volcano and it's really another thing entirely to be a weapon. Weapons are all about some arrogant asshole exercising their free will all over the place, mostly on other people."
"I suppose," I say.
He nods. "So which one is a dragon then?"
The twist of his argument is momentarily lost on me. "I don't follow."
"What are we really dealing with here?" He asks, tone matter of fact. "Are you a volcano or a weapon?"
"Uh the volcano I suppose." Owen brings me a mug of hot tea and stands with me by the window watching the rain. I catch his fingers, pull his hand to my mouth and kiss his palm. His eyes flutter. The connection between us has never been stronger and it takes all of my will power not to hold him, run my teeth down the column of his pale neck. "I'm deeply sorry about earlier," I tell him. "I didn't mean to blame you for something I did. I do care about you and would see you happy if I could."
"I am happy," he says. "And you make me happy. I'm just worried that I'm making you miserable is all." To desire is to suffer is it not? Could I have dreamed up a more beautiful torturer than Owen Byrne?
I bend and kiss his forehead, and really when did I become so much taller than him, my spine nimble and unbent, thawed from some nightmarish ice age by the new life fire in my belly. "My precious boy." My fingers lace though his hair as my lips barely brush his. Owen leans in this time, mouth opening, pressing against mine. I push him against the sliding glass door as his arms wrap around my neck. I pin his body there flush with mine. He smells like warm dessert nights, tobacco and sex. I devour him, taking every gasping little noise he feeds me, allowing the growing hardness between my legs to grind into his hip, my tongue in his mouth, my hands in his hair. Owen, Owen, Owen.
When I finally pull back Owen is flushed and dazed, a halo of dawn lit rain clouds behind him. I want to suck marks across his skin, pull off his bothersome nightclothes and rut against him, to feel our skin go slick with sweat. I want to lay him down here and now on the very kitchen floor and show him the hundred ways I can penetrate him—body and mind and soul—to teach him how much I own him, how much he belongs to me.
"I…we can't do this," he tells me, distressed. "I love Greg."
"Greg? Greg ?" I am incredulous. "You are in the arms of one of the most destructive monsters in history, even now the beating of your heart, your heat wakes me and you want to talk about that stupid man sleeping in the other room? When the very order of the world is at stake?"
"Don't call Greg stupid, Azi," Owen warns sharply. "He took you in when you were staying in that horrible motel place. He's real and caring and fixes things and and I'm in love with him."
"He takes what should be mine."
Own shakes his head. "He's my fucking boyfriend. He doesn't take anything I'm not happy to give."
I snarl, and smack the window with my palm. "Damn it, Owen."
Owen doesn't even flinch as his eyes burn into me with a hard determination. "You don't get to decide what I do. If I say Greg matters then he fucking matters."
"Do you really think you have the power to truly resist me?" My jaw clenches, my voice a hiss near his ear as I lean into him, keeping his body pinned between me and the window. "I have conquered far more than one little pet in my time. I could make you kneel at my feet and beg."
"Cruel isn't a good look on you." His head leans towards me until his forehead is resting on my chest, I feel his sigh more than I hear it. "Don't talk to me like that."
"Cruel is what I am! I don't know if you are too arrogant or too foolish to see it. You are a child playing with matches."
"Let me go." The coldness in his words are like a bucket of ice.
I make an angry sound and pull away, pacing around the room mumbling. "At this rate I will be a lunatic by sundown and we are all doomed. Completely and utterly doomed."