In a world turned hostile, safety always comes at a price.
Zed and Blake's perilous journey may have ended in sanctuary, but outside forces are set to shatter their newfound peace. Past mistakes have taught Zed that nothing matters more than keeping Blake alive. And that's exactly what he intends to do, no matter how high the personal cost.
Zed's actions leave Blake with an impossible choice. Give up the man he loves, or embark on a journey into the unknown. A journey which will make the last one seem like child’s play.
Both men are about to face their toughest test yet. Unless Blake can find a way to overcome the odds, everything they've faced so far could have been for nothing.
Love could be light years away.
- 1 To Be Read list
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Forbidden Love, Hero and the Great Quest, Hurt / Comfort, Rescue
Word Count: 60 000
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Zed smiled. "Entirely up to you. I—”
His words were drowned out by a loud grinding sound. Blake clambered to his feet, confused. He’d never heard anything like it before. Whatever it was didn't sound good. Had something broken? The air in the building? Something worse?
Zed was already out of the shower, flicking clothes in Blake’s direction as he pulled on his own before disappearing into the corridor. They met the two women out there, Cherry’s expression mirroring Blake’s own. "What the hell's that?"
Blake shook his head, his gaze immediately darting to Zed for reassurance. But his boyfriend looked stunned. In fact, not just stunned. If Blake didn't know him better, he'd have said there was a distinct note of trepidation there. Blake grabbed his arm, shaking him slightly when Zed still didn't turn to look at him.
"Zed, what is it? What's that noise? Why do you look so worried? Is it the air supply or something?"READ MORE
He shook his head, his gaze finally meeting Blake's own. "It's a ship."
"A ship?" At first the words made absolutely no sense to Blake. "What do you mean a ship?" Then it dawned on him, fear settling in his gut like a stone. "You mean like a spaceship. Your people?"
Zed nodded curtly, his gaze focused on the wall rather than on Blake. Then he seemed to shake himself, snapping out of the strange fugue state he’d been in since the noise had started. He scanned the assembled faces, his gaze lingering on Blake for longer than the other two. "Listen to me. We don't have much time. I need you to follow my lead and do what I say. Whatever happens..." Blake frowned at the intense expression on Zed’s face as Zed's gaze swung back to him. "...don't argue, just accept that that's the way things have to be. I thought we'd have longer, but..." The look of sorrow that settled on his face made a flutter of panic blossom in Blake's stomach. What wasn't he saying? What were Zed’s people going to do?
He instantly regretted not having pushed Zed more on the subject, but Zed had always made it sound as if they wouldn’t come back for him. He’d made Blake believe that one soldier would be far too inconsequential to trigger a return to a planet they'd only just left. Zed took a couple of steps forward. "Let's go. We need to... greet them. I want all of you in one place, so I know where you are."
Lauren tugged at the front of her sweaty T-shirt. "Okay. I'll just go and get changed."
Blake grabbed her arm and pulled her along. "No, you don’t. You haven’t got time for that. They’ll just have to take us as they find us. I'm getting the idea"—he sneaked a glance at Zed, but he was back to giving nothing away—"that they're going to have bigger fish to fry than you not getting dressed up for them."
They made their way through the bunker, heading down the stairs to the ground floor where access to the hollowed-out middle of the bunker lay, this bunker having the exact same layout as the one where Blake had first seen the spaceship and discovered that Zed was an alien. Blake had never been in there before. Why would he? It was just a huge open space with nothing of interest.
Nobody spoke on the way, everyone seeming lost in thought. Blake hoped they just wanted to speak to Zed, but the look on his boyfriend’s face before he’d masked it hadn’t indicated that that was going to be the case. But what could they do? He guessed he was about to find out.
They took the last flight of stairs, Zed opening the door that took them out into the corridor. Cherry and Lauren let out a collective gasp at the sight of the spaceship. Blake had forgotten that out of the three of them, he was the only one to have seen one. He'd described it to Cherry, but he guessed that was a poor substitute to actually seeing one. He’d seen one before and it still packed quite a punch. Blake winced as the same grinding sound started up again as the roof closed. It was even louder when you were stood right next to it.
Zed stepped over to the door, pressing the required number on the keypad before walking through it. He kept going until he reached the centre of the space, still a good twenty metres from the ship. The rest of them, Blake included, trailed after him, all of their eyes fixed on the silent ship as they waited for something to happen.
Blake's gaze kept drifting over to Zed, trying to pick up clues from his boyfriend’s body language about what he expected to happen next, but he was as still as a statue, his stance decidedly military with his hands clasped behind him.
Just when Blake didn’t think his nerves could take any more, a panel retracted in the ship with a whirring noise. Steps slowly descended from the interior until they reached the ground.
And still no one appeared.
It was so quiet that Blake could hear the sound of Cherry breathing next to him. He reached across, grabbing her hand to give it a squeeze. Whether it was meant to comfort her or him he wasn’t too sure.
Someone finally appeared in the doorway. Six men. All dressed in military gear. All with a gun akin to an assault rifle clasped in their hands and aimed at their reception committee. They marched down the steps, assembling themselves into two lines on either side of the steps. Cherry nudged Blake with her shoulder. "Well, fuck... that's a bit—"
Zed held his hand up in a clear instruction to be quiet, all without tearing his gaze away from the ship. Cherry for once did as she was told, even if it was accompanied by an expression that indicated she wasn't happy about it.
A man appeared at the top of the steps, a man Blake had been hoping never to see again—the general. He paused at the top, the familiar piercing gaze sweeping over the small congregation gathered before him before fastening on Zed. The last time Blake had seen him, he'd been dressed in the same black jumper and camouflage pants as the rest of his subordinates. This time he was dressed in what appeared to be a full dress uniform, his white hair contrasting sharply with the dark colour.
He took his time traversing the steps, the procession on either side standing to attention. Blake pushed down the bubble of hysteria that threatened to escape at the ridiculous show that was being put on for them. There was only three of them. Was it really necessary? Obviously, the general thought it was. The man clearly revelled in all the trappings of his own importance, and didn't care who knew it. He was in no rush to reach their little group, strolling towards them as if he had all the time in the world, yet still managing to project arrogance and power with every step.
Blake cringed as Lauren's voice rang out clear as a bell, Cherry shushing her immediately.
Heavy footsteps sounded, the general coming to a stop directly in front of Zed, the expression on his face unreadable. Blake held his breath. The general's eyes narrowed as Zed said nothing, not even bothering to acknowledge the general's presence. "What, you don't salute your superiors anymore, Lieutenant Z34528?"
Zed didn't so much as twitch, his voice coming out surprisingly even given the overpowering presence of the general and his armed escort. "I made a choice to no longer be a part of your army. Therefore, under the circumstances, a salute would be hypocritical at best.”
The general made a sound of disgust. "Choices. That's an interesting way of phrasing it. I'm sure you know why I'm here, Lieutenant?"
There was finally a sign from Zed that he wasn't as comfortable with the conversation as he was pretending to be. Nothing major, just a slight shift of his shoulders that Blake was only able to detect because he knew his boyfriend so well. Sweat trickled down Blake’s spine. If Zed was uncomfortable, then he was too. The silence seemed to stretch for an age before Zed responded. "I assume you have orders to take me back."
Ice slowly worked its way through Blake's veins, and he had to force himself to remain still when instinct told him to put himself between Zed and the general.
"Correct." The word was released as sharply as a whip crack from the general's mouth. "We'll be leaving in an hour."
Zed's chin came up, his gaze darting over to the armed men before returning to the general. "And if I refuse to come with you?"
Relief filled Blake's body. He'd been scared that Zed would just agree, that the reminder of his duty would give him doubt and sway him from his choice. He should have known better, should have had more faith in Zed. Zed had made his choice, and he’d chosen Blake. Nothing and no one would change his mind.
A small smirk played on the general's lips. "Then I've been authorised to implement protocol three six four with immediate effect." For a moment, his glance encompassed the whole group. "Your choice, Lieutenant Z34528. And I'm sure given your irrational"—his gaze lingered for far longer than was comfortable on Blake—"liking of some of these humans, you'll make the right one."
Zed had gone rigid. Whatever protocol three six four was, it couldn't be anything good judging by Zed’s reaction to the general mentioning it. Despite Zed’s earlier warning, Blake stepped forward. "You're not taking him. Whatever you're threatening him with won't work. What the hell does it matter to you anyway if you've got one less soldier? Just let him live his life. Get in your spaceship and go back to where you came from."
"Blake! Don't." Zed reached out, his fingers wrapping around Blake's arm, the grip not hard enough to bruise, but firm enough to send a clear message. Brown eyes met his, Zed offering what Blake assumed was meant to be a comforting smile. Zed’s eyes, though, told a different story.
Blake was lost; he didn't have a clue what was going on. From the look on Cherry’s face, she felt the same. As for Lauren, well, Lauren looked confused a large percentage of the time anyway, so it was hard to tell what was going through her head. "Tell him, Zed. Tell him you won't go back with him."
If the general even registered Blake's impassioned plea, he chose not to respond to it. Blake may as well not have been there for the notice he took of him. It was obvious to Blake that as far as the general was concerned, he was nothing more than the dirt on his shoe, just a meaningless earthling.
The general’s eyes were still focused on Zed’s face. "Make your choice, Lieutenant Z34528, what will it be?"
Blake watched a muscle twitch in Zed’s cheek. "What's protocol three six four?" The fingers still wrapped around Blake’s arm tightened for a moment and then relaxed again. Apart from that involuntary movement, Zed didn’t acknowledge the question, his attention on the general, the two of them locked in a staring contest.
Zed exhaled, his fingers dropping from Blake's arm. "I'll go with you. Voluntarily."
Blake's shout of "no" was almost drowned out by the collective gasp from the two women behind him. Shaking his head in disbelief, Blake tried to catch his boyfriend’s eye, but Zed seemed hell-bent on not looking his way.COLLAPSE