Fiction~~The Last Pure Human~~Ch. 29
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Chapter 29 - Funny Meeting You Here
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Max had nearly passed out so many times he’d stopped thinking about
anything but tucking his head against his shoulder and breathing. He
couldn’t vomit, couldn’t hyperventilate. He had no breath to spare to
moan in pain as he was bounced against a shoulder blade yet again and
it pulled sharply at his bound arms and legs.
No thinking about Kasan and Androcles and Aosh.
Tears pricked his eyes and he blinked them frantically away. No crying! Crying meant stuffy noses and stuffy noses meant no more breathing. Max bit it back down. He couldn’t tell how much time was passing as he struggled to get oxygen in through the far too small nostrils, mouthing his gag as he tried to breathe through it, too. He just wanted out. He wanted out and he wanted Kasan.
He didn’t want to be a sack toy anymore. Inhaling again, Max tried to focus back on his breathing when the sounds around him changed. He’d heard doors open and close already, but now there were more of them. The stops were closer together. The murmurs between the two cats had gotten louder, or there were more cats around, and the sound added to the fear that he had to shove down into his already nauseated stomach.
The urge to vomit surged as one very loud door opened, squealing, and Max’s sack was swung wildly. He tumbled inside the bag. His face hit the fabric and he rolled frantically to keep his nose free of the cloth. The small breath he managed to get choked in his lungs as the bag dropped and landed hard enough to jar his entire body.
Max only had a moment to be thankful he’d landed on his shoulders instead of his head when someone upended the sack and sent him rolling out of it. Everything spun. Rough stone scraped his bare skin. He ended up on his side, sucking in air desperately, eyes trying to take in everything all at once. He was in a small room, three of the cats in between him and a large open doorway, with a door that opened out on actual hinges.
“That’s it? Smaller than I imagined.”
Max stared up at the cat who spoke, blond with cold green eyes, and tried to remember him. Did he know him? What did they want? He looked around and saw nothing in the room with him that could give him a clue. The walls and floor were a dark brown stone, grainy with mustard and black speckles. Above them, the ceiling was stories high, dark stone going all the way up. He felt like he was in the bottom of a giant well. There was no furniture, nothing on the walls.
He couldn’t tell where the light was coming from until he saw small sconces up higher than he could reach, even if he were standing. The cats stared at him as he looked around, while he tried to pretend that they weren’t. Max wriggled his hands and feet, and there was no give in the cloth they’d tied him with. What were they going to do to him?
“Was there any trouble?”
Waran didn’t answer. He glared at Max as though Max had done something wrong.
“Prince Aosh came in before we secured the human.” Quim shrugged. “I doubt he survived long enough to tell anyone.”
The blond barely scowled at Quim, but it was enough to scare Max into utter stillness. “That’s not good. You’ll have to explain yourselves to the elders later. Shovak and the others will want to hear.”
Max shivered. He heard ‘Aosh.’ An ache somewhere low in his stomach lay over his own nausea like an oil slick. Kasan knew Aosh; what would he think when he came back into his room and found him there? And all the blood….
Max wanted to look at the ceiling and wish them all away like a bad dream but he was too frightened to take his eyes off of them. Lying on the cool stone, in pain, with the cats looming, Max was cast back to the first morning he’d woken up.
This was exactly like his worst nightmare, just without the sex. They could do anything they wanted to him and they barely glanced at his face, like he was less than human. God, Max wanted Kasan so badly! What was he going to do without Kasan? The last time a cat had been a bastard, Kasan had been right there, helping him, and now Max had to do it on his own and he was cold and scared as shit and he didn’t know what to do!
“It looks like it’s panicking. Do you know if it can tolerate that? I don’t want it to die before we get the samples we need.” The blond looked to Waran.
“I…don’t know. I think it might have a weak constitution. Prince Zonta was concerned about its fragility when it was trying to escape during the greeting. And Aosh was worried over too much stimulation, as well.”
“I’ll leave you to undo the bindings then. That should keep it from injuring itself. We can use the argenta on it next time.”
“They figured out the dosage? I thought they were still having trouble.” Quim knelt down and yanked at his bindings. Max fought, biting down on the gag as the other two started to walk towards the open doorway, talking casually while he struggled.
“A minor problem. Shovak’s been testing it on the little mongrel the last few weeks. Its nanites don’t clear the drug out before we get it into the lab and strapped down. Long enough by far. We can set up a drip for the human after that point if needed.”
Max hit the ground with another painful thud as Quim yanked the last strip off his wrists. He whimpered. The pain as blood rushed into his arms and legs was excruciating. He couldn’t control them at all, even to pull off the gag and get a little more air.
Quim headed out after the others and the blond glanced back at Max once. “This creature’s contribution to the cause will be substantial. Maybe it will be enough to eliminate the stain of Shovak’s failure. The elders will approve. ”
Waran glanced at Max as well. “Will we actually be able to take out the human strain?”
“Now that we’ll be able to determine what it is, of course we will. Do you doubt our dedication?”
“Of course not,” Waran muttered. The door closed behind them and their voices grew muffled, but not completely.
Max could still hear the blond one talking. “We can finally prove that the throwbacks are caused by impurities, not purer strains. Quim, inform the science team that we have their specimen; they’ll want to get started right away. Waran and I will need to speak to the Elders.”
The door closed behind them and left Max in the dim, empty room. He whimpered again. His limbs were boneless, clumsy streaks of pain attached to his body. Groping at his face with hands that were so clumsy he actually punched himself in the nose, Max finally pulled the gag away from his mouth and gulped down air. It tasted antiseptic, with hints of alien muskiness and plants. The sound of running water filled the room now that he wasn’t so focused on trying to breathe or watching the cats to make sure they weren’t going to hurt him.
Max forced his arms to move again, muscles screaming as he pushed off from the floor. He sat up, although it felt more like he was trying to balance on his ass. The room…no, it was a cell, wasn’t it? The stone walls weren’t as polished as the walls of Kasan’s room. Guess they didn’t need to waste the effort for a prisoner. And the floor was made of one solid piece, no blocks. The door, now that it was closed, was huge and heavy looking, some kind of dark, studded metal that looked like it was just waiting to open up into the next demon dimension.
Good way to keep prisoners in, he thought. Just scare the ever-loving crap out of them so they don’t even want to go near the damn door. Swallowing the painful lump in his throat, mouth barely able to work up the saliva, he just stared at the door for another minute. There was a small opening at the bottom, a wide, slim rectangle. Max wondered if it was for food.
And what the hell was making that water sound?
Max turned and looked to the back. The stone didn’t change – there wasn’t even a pile of freaking hay to sit on and make things easier. But following the line of the back wall, a small canal was bricked into the floor, just a few inches separating it from the wall. Water flowed out from one side of the cell and left through another hole on the other side. It had to be one of the cat bathroom…thingies.
Seeing it made him think of Kasan all over again, showing Max the cat’s toilet in their bedroom. Or that stupid blond cat Leero showing him the other toilet just before everything went to hell. And the water in the baths just before they’d…
Max trembled, rubbing his arms. What was he going to do? There was no guessing, this time, wondering if the aliens were bad or good. He knew these bastards would hurt him. His body was already bruised, his wrists and ankles raw and red still. And Androcles….
Max bit his lip hard. Knowing he could finally breathe now made it worse; he couldn’t stop the few stupid tears that started to fall. Wiping them off his face roughly, Max glared back at the door. Androcles was just trying to protect him and they’d cut him down like he was nothing. So freaking fast, with those huge, broad bladed spears slicing in. Stabbing into Aosh. Max had never seen something that violent. Fist fights, sure, but he’d never- He’d never heard someone scream like that.
And these sadists didn’t even care.
Taking a few deep breaths, he tried to keep his breathing from getting too fast and shallow. He couldn’t lose it right now! He had to keep it together and stay awake and pay attention and then he could help when Kasan came. As long as the big cat could figure out where Max was.
Max looked up, focusing on letting his breath go in and out rather than what had happened in Kasan’s room, and he stared at the faint lights from high up in the wall. The smell of antiseptic was blown away in small airy drizzles of damp earth and green, growing things. He thought the breezes were coming from one of the small openings in the stone high up near the ceiling; he could just make them out.
He wished there was a window. At least with windows he might be able to tell where he was, not that he would know what Kasan’s house would look like, because the stupid cat had only let him outside a few times and how the hell was he supposed to find his way back to Kasan if he didn’t even know what the stupid cat’s house looked like? He couldn't even see a way to get out of here in the first place.
Max ducked his head and clamped his hands down over his face, working on his breathing again. No hyperventilating! He was not going to pass out simply because he’d hyperventilated, dammit! He sat on the floor, breathing frantically into his hands. Sweat trailed down his neck and his back, then finally sneaked across his ass to the floor before Max felt like he could actually breathe without putting himself in danger like a moron.
He wished it made him feel any better. This was freaking scary. What if he died? The big ass cats didn’t seem to care one way or the other, so what if they killed him? What if he died and Kasan was still mad at him?
He couldn’t stand that. He didn’t want to die. He was so frightened of it that his skin felt icy, even when he tried to rub his hands together for warmth. But to die without Kasan…Max couldn’t even imagine it. It didn’t matter how long he’d known the big cat; he wanted him here, right now. If he could just figure out how to stay alive for long enough, Kasan would find him…. He paused as he realized he didn’t doubt, even for a second, that Kasan would try, no matter how pissed he was. Even if Max had no idea what he’d said. Even if Max smacked him in the head and said he wanted to sleep in a different room and only see Kasan for sex. Kasan wouldn’t walk away because Max had disappointed him, or screwed up and made him mad. Max wasn’t sure what the big cat would do, but he wouldn’t just leave Max here.
How would he find him, though? “I don’t even know where the heck am I!”
Nothing answered him. What if Kasan couldn’t find him? What if Max had to get out or no one wouldn’t find him at all? What if the last thing Kasan remembered about him was that he’d told him he didn’t want him and didn’t like him at all.
His entire belly ached. “God, I have to get out of here.”
“Hey, human, can you hear me?”
“Holy crap!” Max tried to jump to his feet and failed. He yelped, slamming back down onto his ass with a painful bounce on his tailbone. He looked around his cell frantically.
“Guess that’s a yes. Wasn't sure, with those puny little ears of yours. Jumpy little shit, aren’t you?”
The sound was easier to trace, this time. It was from the water. Swallowing, Max crawled over and leaned down over the water, looking into the barred opening where the stream emerged from the wall. The space was bigger than Max was wide and as he tried to peer into the shadows there, he saw an irritated set of golden brown eyes staring back at him.
“Wh-who are you?”
Max looked blank and the cat grunted. “One of the guards at the citadel. One of the few who wasn’t an asshole. What’s your name, anyway?”
Max worked that through his head. A guard? He pulled back from the water, clenching his fists. “M-Max. You g-guard me now?” Why would a guard even be talking to him and asking about his name? A name implied Max was a person, which was more than the other bastard cats had thought.
Could Max get him to help? Maybe if he told him about being kidnapped and Kasan? Or…or was he wanting Max to be n-nice to him? He shuddered, unable to think that through.
A loud, derisive snort blasted from the darkness. “Guard you? Hell no. I’m stuck here as much as you are, human.”
Oh thank god. Max knew that meant he’d be no help, but it was better to have no help than to have to think about what you might have to do to get that help and it was something that you didn’t want to do with anyone but Kasan.
Max peered through the bars again. “Why here?”
He thought he saw teeth gleaming as Shoru spoke. “Keeping Waran alive, the little bitch. So he can play god with Shovak and the other nutcases. Dumb, fanatic fuckers.”
“Uh.” Max had no idea what that meant. His arms were beginning to tremble as he tried to prop himself up against the wall to talk and he moved back to lie on the stone near the water, just listening to Shoru’s voice. “Not understand. Nutcases and…dum fanatic fuckers?”
“Of course you don’t understand. How could I forget. My luck always gives me goddamned flowers and what I really needed was a linguistically challenged moron to help me get the hell out of here. Fuck.” There was a pause. “Although you could do some good, if you can escape. No one’s gonna believe a freaking word I say about Waran, not like they ever do, but they’d believe you. You got that stupid cute thing going for you. You could bring back help.”
“I-” Max couldn’t understand the huge jumble of words, although ‘help,’ he knew. “Need help.”
“Yeah, we fucking do.”
Max started shivering and he shifted, turning around to put his back on the ground. He tried not to notice the grime on the floor that was now covering his front in dark smudges, blending in with a few bruises he could see. It was disgusting, and it could be anything from plain dust to alien rat poop – god, he didn’t want to think of that, he realized, his stomach churning again. He felt a bit queasy.
“Here, human. Stand where I can see you for a second.”
“Yes, stand. Over the piss-water where I can see you.”
“Because I want to jerk off to your scrawny ass,” Shoru bit out. “Dumbass question. Why the fuck do you think? So I can try to figure out if we can get out of here.”
Max scowled, slowly stood and shifted over, bracing himself over the water. He covered his dick with his hands, just able to see the cat’s eyes staring up at him.
“Thought I must have misremembered, but you’re skinnier than the kid, even,” the man muttered. “Good. Look, they’ll be coming back soon, human, and I can guarantee they’ve got some nasty plans for you. Just lookin’ at what they’ve done to that poor kid while I’ve been here makes me wanna puke.”
As if on cue, a terrified whimper echoed in Shoru’s chamber down along the water. Max backed away. What the hell was that? What was the big cat doing to someone in there? Maybe he’d been about to lure Max in closer to the bars and-
“Oh stop cowering. He’s in the cell on the other side. Throwback kid; they keep taking him away and…you don’t wanna know. Gimme a sec.” Max heard the man move, his voice low as he moved away from the hole on Max’s side. “Hey, shhh. It’s okay, kid. Just a dream. No one’s gonna hurt you right now. Go back to sleep, eh? Dream of kicking their asses. It’ll warm you up. Go on, go back to sleep.” There was a high-pitched murmur and Shoru grumbled. “No, I can’t stay nearby. We might have a way out of here; I have to see what I can do.” Another murmur. “Of course I’m not gonna leave you here. Who else am I gonna get to help me kick Waran’s ass once I’m outta here? Now go to sleep. You need to rest while you can, kid.” Shoru was silent a moment and then Max heard him coming back. He glared out through the bars when Max stared at him.
“What happen to him?”
“None of your damn business. You really wanna know, you can ask your precious Kasan when you get the hell out of here and all this shit is behind us.”
“-don’t understand. Yeah, I get that. How about I speak in stupid? You need leave. Get help. How’s that, dumbed down enough for you?”
Max didn’t like this cat. His voice was angry, his eyes were so angry Max expected them to shoot deadly sporks at him. At least when he spoke in that exaggerated fashion, Max got it. But unless Shoru had some ideas, Max didn’t know how to get out.
“You know way to leave?”
Shoru snorted derisively. “ Of course I do. You think I’d waste my time with you unless I did? The damn purists don’t keep this up for shit. Bunch of useless complainers, you ask me. ”
Shoru sighed. “This isn’t one of the Havens that the family keeps up. I doubt they even know about it. It’s old as shit, falling apart at the seams, and these assholes do fuck-all to fix it unless they have to. Or unless they inspect it, which they don’t tend to. Look across the way.”
“Across the way?”
“Turn around, moron. Look at the bars on the far side. I can see ‘em from here.”
Max looked down at the water, watching where it disappeared under the wall, and he finally noticed what Shoru was saying. It looked like part of the stone had crumbled from the other side, weakening the structure, and two of the bars were missing.
It looked big enough for him to fit through, barely, but would he be able to get out of the cell on the other side? “I see. How leave room?”
“How leave…oh. That other cell’s lock is busted all to shit. First cell they put me in, and they almost didn’t notice. I should be so lucky. Don’t worry. You can open it.”
Max swallowed, thinking about trying to escape, and exactly what that would mean. And how angry the other cats might be if they caught him. “Guards?”
“There’s none directly outside, that much I can tell you. But beyond that, I haven’t seen. You’ll have to figure it out.”
“But…what do? Not know where go, what do!” He wanted to escape, but what good was it going to do if he didn’t even know what to do after that!
“So what? You’re our best chance. Hell, you’re Kasan’s best chance. No way he’s finding a forgotten Haven.”
“Yeah, Kasan. Your mate? The first time he needs sex and you ain’t there, that’s it for him, human. Done and over.”
Max worried his lip. He couldn’t quite figure it out.
Shoru cursed. “No Max means no sex means no Kasan, got it? Kasan die.”
Max started to tremble. He hadn’t thought of that. Sometimes Kasan and he had sex once a day, sometimes twice a day, but if Max wasn’t there and they needed sex? Would Kasan really die? Aosh was gone, Androcles was gone, but Kasan…no, he couldn’t die. That stupid sex-enforcing STD, it couldn’t really be that bad, could it? “No sex, Kasan…die?”
“Yeah. Like every other person in the whole godforsaken planet.”
Max swallowed and looked at the broken bars again, fear wrapping itself around his throat and strangling him. Kasan could die because he couldn’t find Max? Which meant that Max couldn’t just sit and wait for him to come and rescue him. He had go find him. He couldn’t let him die. If Kasan died, and Max never saw him again? Max’s throat constricted; he could barely breathe.
“Hey, calm the fuck down. You can get us out and it won’t matter, right?” Max swallowed, thinking of Kasan, and took a step toward the drain. “Not right this second, you moron! You have to wait a minute. Wait until no one hears. These doors have been loud as hell so far. If you just open it up right away, they’ll hear and come running.”
Shoru was quiet for a long minute before he growled out, “Wait until I have sex.”
Max took a couple quick steps away from Shoru’s drain. He couldn’t have heard that right. “What?”
“Sex. You know the word, right?”
“Yes! Know word, but what…don’t understand.” He had to save Kasan, but there was no way… He wasn’t going to have sex just because big cats kept telling him that people were going to die otherwise! Kasan was the only one, dammit!
Max saw a crooked, self-mocking grin through the hole in the wall. “I gotta have sex to live, too, keerac, even if my mate is a self-righteous bigoted bastard who would have rather died than fucked me, if he knew I was a bit more throwback than normal. He should be coming soon; the next heat spike is close.”
Max still didn’t catch it, except for the sex and mate, and he suddenly realized they were talking about Shoru having sex with someone else.
Oh thank god.
Stupid. He should have known that. All the cats had to have sex, right? Which meant…this guy’s husband had to be one of the bad guys, to have him locked up like this. It made Max cringe.
“Look, don’t sneak out until he comes in the cell. This time, I’ll fight him. Make a lot of noise to cover you, right? He’ll enjoy it, the fucker.” The grin was more savage now. “I gotta tell you, since I have to fuck him anyway, I’m gonna enjoy fucking him over while he thinks he’s fucking me over.”
Max swallowed. He didn’t think he’d feel the same way, but…it was a good plan, wasn’t it? If they had to have sex, at least he could get away, maybe, and get help?
What a terrible thing to have to do, though. “After I open door, where go?”
Shoru was quiet, the sound of the water and a soft, childish snore from the far room keeping it from being completely silent. “I don’t know,” Shoru said slowly. “I was unconscious – asleep – when they brought me in. I don’t know where the tunnel back is. Try going down to find it. But if you can’t find the tunnel, go up. We’re underground. There should be access to the surface. This is under the forest, from what they’ve let slip. You should be able to see the citadel. Just…if you go to the forest, be careful.” Shoru’s voice wasn’t very confident.
Go down for a tunnel, or up to a ‘forest,’ whatever the hell that was. “Careful? What be careful of?”
“The forest. Lots of shokan in the woods this time of year. Springtime, they’re real protective of their babies. More aggressive.” His voice fell to a mutter. “’Course, you’re kinda puny, and they’ve never seen one of you before, so if you see one, don’t run, don’t meet their eyes, just back away slowly and maybe they’ll leave you alone. If that doesn’t work…run like hell and find someplace too small for them to follow.”
Shokan? Wild Androcles? Max thought of how big Androcles was getting and imagined meeting one in the wild. Crap! He was finding the tunnel!
They both heard a door squeal at the same time and Shoru leapt away from the hole. Max could imagine him, standing in the middle of the room, crouching, claws out. Footsteps came closer, and then Shoru’s door squealed open and slammed shut.
“What, you’re going to fight me?” Waran’s voice echo from the other room.
This was Shoru’s husband? Shit!
“Hey, I ain’t got anything better to do, so why not make your life shit, eh?” Shoru sounded almost eager.
“You’re only going to make it harder on yourself, Shoru.” Waran didn’t seem sad about it. “Hell, I’ll make sure it’s harder on you.”
“Same here, bastard. Why don’t you try and see if you can take me without your damn gun, coward.”
“I don’t need a gun to deal with a throwback.” Max heard clothing being shucked. “I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this.”
“Fuck you, too, honey.”
Spitting and snarls erupted, like two REALLY big cats in a sack yowling in bass stereo. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Max shuddered, scared for Shoru suddenly. He tried not to hyperventilate, and then realized this was it. He didn’t know how long Shoru would last. Max needed to get out now, if he wanted to help Kasan and Shoru and anyone else at all.
Sprinting to the water, Max grimaced as he stepped into it and crouched down. It didn’t smell foul, like he would have imagined. Looked like a regular stream, actually, but the thought of what it was had his stomach roiling. He clamped his lips shut and sucked them into his mouth. He didn’t want ANY of this water touching his mouth. If he could have sealed himself in plastic, he would have. Shuddering again amidst the battle still raging, he grabbed the bars with both hands and inched his way through the hole, feet first.
It only took seconds. The space had been wider than he’d thought, rubbing against his skin but not even hard enough to take off skin. The other side was exactly the same as his own cell had been, except he was miserable and cold and ever more frightened than he’d. He could still hear Shoru and his mate fighting in the next cell, and no one had stopped to see where he was or what he was doing. With a shiver, his dick shriveled up to next to nothing from cold and fear, he crept across the floor.
Max looked at the door for a long moment. It looked exactly like the one in his cell, too. Dark, corroded, the bolts large and angry: a mouth into hell. He had to steel himself to even touch it, and with a jerky shove, he finally pushed. It didn’t move.
His heart kicked in and he shoved against it with a rush of adrenaline, pushing against the floor with all his strength. It slowly creaked open, light rushing in from the hallway. “Oh thank god!”
Max clamped his hands over his mouth, freezing, looking frantically for anyone who might have heard. Shoru and his mate were still at it, Shoru making as much a racket as possible. It sounded almost like they were already done fighting and enjoying really violent sex….
Max shuddered as he realized it was entirely possible. Even thinking about having sex with anyone but Kasan, who always made it good just by being Kasan, was abhorrent right now. He had to get out of here and bring back help.
Max looked around frantically. There were only four more cells, three on the opposite wall, and one on the other side of Shoru’s. One door was at the end of the hallway, without the small opening at the bottom that all the cell’s had.
He tiptoed past Shoru’s cell, pausing every time there was the smallest slow down in the noise, and then he froze as he heard a small gasp. Looking to the right, he saw light glint off a pair of lambent eyes, shining through the hole at the base of the door. It was the cell where Shoru had said there was another cat, hadn’t he? Max held his finger up to his lips and the eyes blinked back at him before disappearing back into their cell.
Max wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
He swallowed heavily as he approached the door that hopefully led out. It was huge – of course it was huge, stupid giants – and he had no idea what was behind it. He’d just have to move really, really fast, and try not to think about how fast they could move.
He knew that he could get under their legs, at least. They didn’t seem to expect that when they ran at him. He drew in another breath and started to pull at the door, only realizing just in time that the speed with which it was opening had nothing to do with some newly discovered super human strength and everything to do with the person who was pushing the door open from the other side.
He slammed back against the wall and flinched as the door stopped an inch from his face. It would have crushed him if not for the small stone doorstop embedded in the floor by his feet. His blood was so loud he couldn't hear anyone at first, and he stared, wide-eyed, as the door nearly kissing his nose began to close. Water dripped down his body, a small puddle forming under his feet. Two large cats walked through without even glancing his way. He froze for a long moment before he realized they were heading to his cell, and then he realized the door was half shut already. They would see him the moment they looked back if Max didn’t slip out now!
He dashed for the closing door, shimmying out just before it crashed against the doorframe, breathing in desperate pants. He was at the very end of another hallway, but there wasn’t a guard outside. He couldn’t see anyone at all, just the empty hallway with a low ceiling, as dark and dim as his cell.
Max was going to have to run, right now. Wet and cold, he sprinted down the hallway and paused as it ended, a tunnel leading off to either side. A quick peek around each corner confirmed that both directions were as devoid of people as this one. He randomly picked the left tunnel and jogged down it as quickly as he could. There were more openings now, doors and hallways, but none of them seemed to lead down to a tunnel or up to the ‘forest.’ He didn’t hear anyone, didn’t see anyone either, but he took a few quick turns, in case the men checking his cell were already out looking for him.
Could these stupid cats not live in a damned maze, just once?
The air over his naked body and the constant worry that someone was about to walk out and see him had his nerves on the ragged edge. He had to get out of here! If he didn’t get out, then they’d catch him and Kasan would die and no one would ever know what had happened to Androcles and they’d do things to Max’s body and….
He just had to get back to Kasan.
Max came to the end of a hallway again and turned left at random, feeling panic well up when it led to another series of blank tunnels and turns without anything but incomprehensible plaques on the walls to help figure out where he was going. He was going to die. Kasan was going to die. Shoru would die. The other cat in the cell would die. And all because Max was a stupid idiot who couldn’t even read a sign!
His breathing sped up and he stomped it back down. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” His mind could just shut up! When he got out and found Kasan and had sex, then Kasan would come back and kick these bastards' asses. And help Shoru and the other one. That was all that was going to happen. Max wasn’t going to get caught and no one else was going to die.
No dying, and lots of sex. Max and Kasan would go have celebratory sex and he’d grab Kasan by the ears and kiss the shit out of him because the stupid big cat deserved it for all the crap he put Max through and Max… didn’t want to see that horrible sad look on his face, or go this long without feeling his hand over Max’s head or down his back or even touching his ass.
He never wanted to be this frightened for someone ever again, not even himself. And Max had to hurry. He wasn’t sure how much longer he had – less than a day? – before Kasan would want sex again. And if Max wasn’t there…
Max started running faster, trying to catch himself before any corners. He looked up at the plaques that gave directions, but he couldn't stop long enough to try and remember them. Now he could hear angry voices coming and going, however, echoing around him as he second guessed himself and turned back so often that he was starting to lose track of where he was going. He could be going in circles for all he knew. In fact, he was pretty sure that the letters that looked like a cat humping a log were the same one as the sign three turns ago.
“Kasan, don’t give up.” God, Max was going to screw it up. He always screwed things up. He knew it, his parents had known it, and even Shoru knew it. He couldn’t do this!
He threw himself against a doorway as he thought he heard footsteps coming closer but it turned out to be another echo and he ran even faster to get away from it. Dammit, he was such a freaking wimp! Shoru had taken it up the ass during a catfight just so Max could get out, and now he was going to give up? And Kasan was going to be looking for him, but what if he came and Waran found him first? What if he was as nice to Waran as he’d been before and Waran hurt Kasan?
Kasan needed him. Breathing into his palms to stop the hyperventilating that was coming as sure as rain, he tried to keep it controlled. He had to do this! No panicking! Dammit, he wasn’t going to panic. He wasn’t!
Leaning against the wall, he pushed through the fear and was rather amazed when he stopped it in time. His breathing slowed and the tingling buzz in his hands and feet dissipated. Okay, okay, he could do this. Just…slow down a little, be careful, find a way out. He knew they were looking for him now, big basketball-player-sized cats that could come storming down the hallway to find him at any time, but he could still-
Five basketball-player-sized cats stomped into the hallway from a side corridor and stopped dead, staring at him.
“Oh shit!” Max flung panic to the winds and turned around, running so fast he was almost falling over. He heard the cats exclaim once before they were on his heels. They were going to catch him in just a few seconds. He couldn’t outrun things with legs the size of ostriches!
Peeling off down a side corridor he’d missed before, one darker than the others, he tripped and slammed onto his belly when he hit a set of stairs, just missing crushing his dick. They went up – shit, up, not down! – but the cats were coming behind him and he leapt up the steps so fast his muscles were burning through his skin. The stairway turned and he kept going.
Coming out of the turn, he fell over a chunk of rubble. With a painful stumble, Max nearly went headfirst into a section of masonry. “No!”
The entire tunnel had fallen in the middle of the stairs, huge piles of stone blocking his path from floor to ceiling. He turned; the cats were so close he could almost smell them. Max scrambled up, over a block of stone the size of Androcles, looking frantically for a way through. One of the cats leapt at him and he fell forward over the rubble with a yelp. The hand missed his foot by an inch. He ducked into a shadow between two small boulders of collapsed ceiling and fell into a depression.
Scrabbling into it on his back, he looked up, saw another cat’s shadow loom over the previous mound of rubble, and realized he was seeing a pale glow out of the corner of his eye. There shouldn’t be any there. He would have missed it if it weren’t for the cat’s shadow.
There was an opening between the boulders. Max threw himself towards the gap at the base of the pile where he was hiding, squirming into it like a baby seeking the light. He felt fingers slip off his heel and he yelped again, pushing forward. It was tight, like a fist squeezing his body through a tube, but he squirmed madly, seeing the cats tossing blocks of masonry about like cheesy styrofoam – at least in his imagination.
It opened out a little after he pushed through, rough and claustrophobic, but it looked like two large rocks had sheared off in sheets when they collapsed and fell against each other like a tent. They created a small crawlspace underneath that he was moving through as quickly as he could.
Could the cats get through this? Would they know where it came out? He crawled faster, bashing his head a couple of times and cutting his shoulder on a jagged rock pushing out into the little crawlspace. His knees burned where they scraped over the stone. He was panting and wheezing when he finally found an opening, as tight as the space that he’d entered through. He writhed through it, taking off skin as he struggled with the irregular opening. With one last shout, he flopped onto the steps above him, floundering like a baby seal.
Max stumbled to his feet, slipping and slamming into the wall before he righted himself. There was no one around, and dust was thick in the air where he’d just kicked it up with his feet. It coated his skin, damp from sweat and sour with fear and maybe a little pee; he’d been that scared. The staircase continued up, but he heard nothing. No one sounded as though they were coming down for him.
Maybe they were waiting for him up ahead like some creepy cat venus flytrap. Max shuddered and made himself move. He could do this. The stairs were too big, and there were too many, and how the heck was he going to find anything once he got out of this building, he didn’t know, but he could do it. If the outside of Kasan’s home was the same as the inside, Max could find it, but otherwise…
No, it would work. The outside of Kasan’s house would look just like the inside, all golden and big and stone-like. Max had this.
“Dammit,” he whispered, and shivered as it echoed far too loudly.
Sweating heavily now – the air seemed warmer – Max stopped as he came to a door at the top of the stairs. It was large enough for three cats to enter at once and looked like it hadn’t been opened in a long, long time. Dust was settled in front of it like a carpet, just like the rest of the staircase. Looking back, Max could see his footprints were the only ones in the grimy mess.
So…where did the door go? Could he get out, or would it take him to more cats? Or what if there were no cats but just guard blobs like in Kasan’s garden? Or wild Androcles? Or bugs that might inject him with poisons and suck his innards out through a straw and-
Max cupped his hands over his face again, breathing carefully. He wasn’t going to panic and screw this up. He was…he was going to save Kasan. That’s what this was about. Not himself. He was going to save Kasan, because if he didn’t do this, then Kasan would die and Max couldn’t live with himself if Kasan died. Something was wrong with the world if Kasan wasn’t in it anymore.
Max stared up at the door and reached out to open it up. He tensed, his muscles tight. He didn’t want to have to run again, but if he didn’t open the door, he’d never get to Kasan. He took a deep, unsteady breath, and pulled.
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