Chapter Twenty

Travis ignored Bobby's constant jokes about dropping the soap and kept to himself for the two months he was under house arrest. Sarah and Eli forced him to do all the house work and threatened to report him to his parole officer if he didn't comply.

"Hey freak, your boyfriend's here," Bobby hollered up the stairs.

Josh rolled his eyes and went to Travis's room. After the first day of classes Josh went around to Travis's teachers and collected his assignments. Every day since they did their homework together, and then hung out. Kyle showed up from time to time when Tommy and Jenny came to check up on him. Travis chuckled every time the blond came because his sister fell over herself to find excuses to be around them.

He kept up his training by swapping off with Phoenix. When that wasn't an option he poured part of his consciousness into a homunculus, which bought him a few hours before the jig was up.

When they removed his ankle monitor Travis sighed then whooped. Finally he could begin, he thought to himself and prioritized the places and people he needed to visit.

"So you ready for school tomorrow?" Josh said, jarring Travis from his thoughts.

"Meh, it beats this place. So what brings you here on a Sunday?"

Josh replied he wanted to chill and they talked about school. Travis spent the past week taking placement examines and was slated to begin tenth grade with a few freshman classes thrown in, along with senior level math and science classes. He and Josh shared all but those three classes and were scheduled for morning PE with Jason and David.

Josh fidgeted and stared at Travis when he thought the boy wasn't looking. They popped in Call of Duty, but Travis could tell Josh wasn't into it like normal.

"What's your malfunction today?"

"I'm not a toy you can play with whenever you want and then act like I don't exist afterwards."

Travis paused the game and turned to Josh with a bored expression on his face.

"You knew from the start what this was."

"I want to be more than food."

Travis rolled his eyes and groaned.

"I don't do love."

"Then find someone else."

Josh made for the door but Travis locked it and pointed to his bed.

"Sit."

"Let me go!"

A flick of his wrist and sound damping wards were activated. Travis pointed to the bed but Josh refused.

"Fine but you will listen to what I have to say. I know your feelings, but what about mine?"

"Let me guess, you could never love another guy right?"

Travis's irises changed from brown to red and his hair flashed grey for a second.

"I've lain with the old, the young, the living and the dead. I have tortured, maimed and shed more blood than you can imagine. Do you think something as insignificant as your gender would perturb me?"

"Then what the fuck is your issue?"

Travis formed a fire ball and squeezed it like a stress ball.

"Emotions don't just trigger my powers, they amplify them as well. I must walk the razor's edge, feeling enough to use them without losing control or opening myself to possession."

Josh made his way to the bed and sat.

"So then you could be with me, but you're scared."

Josh placed his hand against Travis, only to have him flinch back. He made for the door again.

"I don't know if I can love. And even if I could the risk of losing control is unacceptable."

Josh balled his fists and got in Travis's face.

"No what's unacceptable is you continuing to use me. I'm willing to give this thing a try, if you are. But I want all of you or nothing."

Travis mulled over Josh's words before he responded.

"Fine but we go slow. Don't expect us to live happily ever after though."

"I can live with that. For now."

Josh placed one shaking arm around Travis, and then another when he got the go ahead. Travis fought against the urge to push Josh away and returned the hug at a snail's pace. They stood there, Josh's willowy arms around Travis's stomach and him looking down at the redhead with a contented smile. Not so bad, he thought.

Hey dingus! Hate to break up the love fest, but we got trouble.

After confirming with Phoenix it couldn't wait he disentangled from Josh and they said goodbye. There was an awkward pause where they debated hugging again, but settled for a fist bump and Josh drove home.

***

"What took ya? I'm getting my ass beat raw."

"Blame the parental units for not letting me go without signing over the rights to my first born." Travis dodged the incoming blast and sent one of his own. It hit the target with a satisfying boom.

"Love to catch up but you got anything to slow these pussies down." Phoenix took a punch to the jaw and spat out blood and a tooth.

"No working prototype, but I do have a theory. Draw their fire for second."

Phoenix summoned his axe and sent of a blast of energy from it.

"New attack?"

"Less talk, more action."

Travis crouched behind a stone wall in the desert landscape and focused on where he sensed the enemy and envisioned a wall surrounding them.

"You the man!" Phoenix said when he saw them hit an invisible wall and stop in their tracks.

"Not what I had in mind, but I'll take it. You shecking twunt!"

A fur ball got the drop on him and blasted him in the back with its energy cannon. Travis punched through his chest and chunks of bone and flesh rained down after he exploded the Nekoshin.

"A little over kill don't you think?"

Travis rolled his eyes and took out another fur ball as it popped up from a hole in the ground. They fought back the horde until the Nekoshins retreated.

They sat around comparing injuries and shooting the shit. It felt good to be back in combat after the long stint in juvy plus being under house arrest.

"Fancy a little spar?"

"Thought you'd never ask."

After they were done the pair collapsed on the blue sand and kicked back watching the stars overhead. Phoenix ribbed him about Josh, to which Travis sent him flying with a plasma ball. Phoenix laughed and they bounced back plasma balls until they got bored.

"Your thingy still broke?"

After his laughing fit passed Travis told him his Aspect had yet to manifest but he managed without it. Their conversation drifted to the Nekoshins and how Phoenix was no closer to tracking down their leader.

"Now that I'm back in the game we can do this the smart way. First order of business is to find their supply centers and shut them. Then while their distracted rebuilding we pin down their movements and go in for the kill."

"And how do you plan to do all that, huh?"

"Easy build up contacts and use them to do the dirty work for us."

"Not like I can speak that gibberish they call language."

"Don't you know anything? Money is only language that matters."

"Well excuse me. I've been busting my ass keeping shit at shoe level while you've been off with your boyfriend."

Travis ignored the slight and laid out his plan. Phoenix gave him a slow clap.

"Not bad but where are you gonna find time for this on top of everything else?"

"Good question. For the time being I'll alternate between Earth and off world scenarios until you're capable of handling things out here."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, captain, my captain." Phoenix bowed then flipped Travis off.

"We good or do you need more kin?"

"Three hundred should hold me over."

"You're worse than a crack head."

"Least I'm addicted to the normal stuff: fast food, easy woman, and good music.

"You forgot alien drugs and gambling, but who's counting. Now don't blow it all in one sector. Tell Knox I'll hook up with him when I get a chance and that he still owes me for the job on Pylia."

Phoenix nodded, they said good bye, and Travis went back to Earth.

***

Travis looked to be engrossed with his dog eared copy of the Art Of War, but he was analyzing the latest data from Phoenix. With the last bit of info the puzzle came together and he whistled. A flick of his eye brought up a twenty by thirty inch display visible only to him. The glowing red dots indicated supply hubs, numbering in the hundreds, while blue dots representing his allies and contacts; fifty in total. He stifled a yawn then saved the data and shut down.

It was the week before Christmas and they again opted to play dodge ball. Being the odd man out he chose to sit, rather than go through the drawn out debate over who would pick him last.

"Come on, I'm the team captain this time. So get your butt in there."

"Travis is not home. If you leave your name, number and a message, he'll get back to you when his brain is awake."

Josh stuck out his tongue and pulled him on the court. Jason and David glared at Travis, but he ignored them and counted the seconds until he could get hit out.

Since coming back to school Travis tried his best to be invisible to everyone. But that was damn impossible when his classmates had him under constant surveillance. He ignored the rumors but their stares grated on his last nerve.

"Look out everyone, easy out."

Jason and David laughed along with the others. Josh gave Travis a reassuring look, then reached down and squeezed hand. Travis returned the gesture but Josh saw a malevolent glint in those eyes.

Dude, whatever you're thinking, don't.

"Don't worry. No one will get hurt, much," Travis sent back to Josh.

When the match started he made his way to the back of his team and used them for cover. When it was down to him Josh, Jason and David he stopped holding back.

"Try not to screw up too bad."

Travis smirked at Jason and got down ready to scramble for a softball

"Watch and learn."

When the coach blew his whistle Travis was the first to the half court line. He scooped up a ball and launched it at the captain of the other team, hitting him square in the chest. He caught a ball headed for him and deflected the one zooming towards Josh. Travis caught another ball in midair and lobbed it a chubby black kid. The other he tossed to Jason with smirk and dodged three more balls that came his way. When the match was over Travis yawned.

"See nothing to worry about."

"Show off."

Josh punched Travis in the arm and took off for the showers. After they washed up Josh asked if they were still on for dinner and a movie at the mall. Travis nodded, barring any change in plans.

Earth to Gramps, I need back up now!

Don't shout. I'll be there in a second.

Travis went to the bathroom and formed a homunculus and breathed life into it.

"You know the drill, go to classes and make nice with Josh. If I'm not back by the end of the day then it's off to the soup kitchen."

It nodded and ran off. While he followed orders well enough, Hope could be such a ditz.

Travis arrived on the barren desert planet and pulled up his HUD. The display read delta437, better known as Draccon: the Hebin home world.

"Bout time your ass showed up." Phoenix tossed a hooded figure on the ground

"Can it. What's the situation?"

"These over grown lizards ambushed this old couple."

"So what's the problem?" Travis dodged a handful of red sand thrown in his face and coughed.

"That right freaking there. These bastards keep blinding me before I can off them."

Travis summoned his cowl and mask and wrapped Phoenix face with a spare cowl. Their faces protected Phoenix summoned fireballs and went on the offense.

While the Hebin had no energy manipulation abilities, they shook off his attacks with ease. Phoenix gritted his teeth and dashed head long into the nearest enemy. His fist bashed it in the jaw causing it to freeze for second, and then he recovered.

Phoenix summoned his axe and sent a blast of gold flames its way. With a scale clad hand the alien pulled back a long sword made of bone and the crescent blade knocked his attack aside. Phoenix charged forward, and when their blades met, the force knocked his shoulder out of the socket.

Fuck. He hopped Travis was faring better than him.

***

Travis sought out the strongest energy signature and pursued it. The fighter charged at him and Travis socked him in the jaw. The only effect it had was to make the warrior glare at him through the thin slit of his head wrap. He was joined by several other creatures and they charged as one.

Travis called up a sand storm and in the confusion took out three of them. He struck the strongest with a plasma ball. When it had no effect Travis powered up and blitzed around the area. They clashed, but he countered Travis blow for blow.

"Play time is over."

Travis transformed into battle mode and tried summoning his Aspect. He missed its touch and wasted no time getting reacquainted. From under his billowing tunic the warrior pulled out a gnarly curved blade of blue metal and charged at Travis. He waited and side stepped at the last second and then made him pay. The S-blade bit into the Hebin's flesh. Blue blood spurted from the wound staining the bright white head wrap and tunic.

Travis removed his mask and began devouring his soul, but he felt an uneasiness in the pit of his stomach and paused. The warrior had multiple opportunities to deliver critical wounds, yet had opted to defend instead.

He used the opening to kick Travis in the head and send him zooming towards a giant sand dune. Travis righted himself in midair and retaliated with a blitz attack. His first kick launched it in the air. The next sent him hurtling to the ground. His last three punches knocked him unconscious.

Phoenix appeared next to Travis and they stood side by side weapons held at waist level as they were surrounded by the aliens.

"I'll take the thirty on the right, you the forty on the left."

"Deal."

Before they could attack Travis noticed the Hebin he fought earlier stir and remove his head wrap. The creature had purple eyes, a shock of white hair, and its skin was covered in brown scales. He removed the tunic and fashioned a tourniquet from it. It was then Travis saw he was actually a she.

She approached and Travis slipped into a fighting stance. Then she kissed him. Her forked tongue rubbed against the inside of one cheek then the other. She broke the kiss as sudden as she began it and did the same to Phoenix. He returned it with gusto, pulled her into him and ground against her.

She shoved Phoenix off and dropped into a battle stance.

"Oooh, burn."

"Kiss my royal ass."

"Can it. We're in the middle of a battle here."

"Right, but I can't fight a chick."

"How precious, but your scruples will get us killed."

Travis approached her and they fought until she collapsed. He prepared to finish her off, but couldn't shake the uneasy feeling again. Travis tapped his forehead and drew a white string from it. When he touched it to her forehead the link was established and all her memories poured into him.

Her name came through as Manasa and she was the leader of this pit. They attacked the old couple because their supplies had run out due to a baby boom. Travis returned to Earth and brought back what he hoped was enough food and water to hold them over for a while. When he presented the steaks and bottles of water the Hebins celebrated. They removed their head wraps and hoods of skin fanned out around their heads.

Manasa told Travis he'd brought enough to last until the seven year harvest cycle began three years hence. She also dropped a bomb. They were now betrothed.

"Look I'm flattered but you're not my type."

Manasa scowled and they fought again while the pit watched.

"Maybe we can work out a suitable arrangement?"

He told Phoenix the Hebin wanted to honor them with a fest and that night Manasa and Phoenix were wed. What a gullible idiot. Travis laughed to himself and worked up plans to train and equip the Hebin to handle the Nekoshins. When he checked his HUD he saw the time was 8:15PM earth time.

***

"Sorry."

Josh gave him hurt look and crossed his arms. Travis slipped his arm around the annoyed blond.

"All's forgiven."

They snuggled close and turned back to the action flick. Throughout the film they'd turn and share a big grin them break into a fit of laughter. After the third time the user told them to quiet down they left and grabbed dinner at a burger joint.

Later they were parked outside of Josh's house in his second hand BMW. Travis pulled Josh close and kissed him. Josh cupped the boy's firm butt and ground himself into Travis's crotch. Josh's free hand snaked into Travis's fly.

"We should stop."

Josh whined when Travis pushed him off and straightened his clothes.

"Why the fuck now?"

"Because I'm two seconds from losing control."

Travis's eyes flashed red and he felt the hunger building again.

"Damn it!"

"I know, besides it's almost my curfew."

Josh pouted but accepted it.

"Yeah, later."

"Later pervert," Travis said and they shared one last kiss before he walked home.

 

Well that's it until next time and Happy Halloween. Send comments to silentbutcudly@hotmail.com and remember to donate to nifty to keep stories like this one free