Jake Tyler pulled away from Kevin and stood up. “No, this is wrong.”
“What’s wrong?” Kevin asked. Things weren’t going the way he had expected.
Since Dave’s “disappearance” two and a half months earlier, the creature newly known as Kevin Landers had been working to seduce Jake. It had been easy at first; Jake had been more than willing to comfort Kevin after the loss of his friend.
Kevin found Jake to be an honourable guy and considered him an excellent choice as his next victim. Kevin had already established enough of a relationship that he would feel comfortable with “taking” Jake whenever he liked, but he wanted to give Jake a good final year before he acted.
Unfortunately, the seduction hadn’t been proceeding according to plan. Kevin wondered why Jake wasn’t taking things to the next level, so he decided to be the initiator. He invited him to his apartment one Saturday for dinner and a chat. They were on the couch and Kevin had just slipped his arm across Jake’s shoulders and tried to gently pull the blond guy into a kiss, when Jake stopped him.
Jake got up and walked over to the door without looking back. “It’s just wrong. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Wait, please. Don’t go. I don’t understand.”
Jake glanced over his shoulder. “I like you, Kevin. Maybe even love you, but sleeping with you wouldn’t be right. You’re not thinking straight. Even after all this time, Dave's disappearance is still messing with your mind.”
Kevin’s lips quirked into a wry grin. “Did you consider the possibility that I’m not thinking straight because I’m not?”
Jake snorted as a smile crept onto his face. “I’ve wondered, but that’s not it.” The smile disappeared as Jake shook his head. “I’m sorry, Kevin, I really am, but I’ve got to go.”
Kevin frowned as Jake closed the door behind him. He had the impression that Jake was feeling guilty. Kevin had established early on that Jake was single, and he thought he had made it clear that he wanted Jake, so he was puzzled.
A smile appeared as Kevin stood and stretched. He saw a challenge in front of him, and the first step would be to solve the mystery of Jake’s reaction. It was things like that that made life interesting for the shape-changing body snatcher.
* * *
“Wait up, Jake!”
Kevin was pleased when Jake paused before entering the lift. Jake hadn’t answered his phone over the rest of the weekend and Kevin wasn’t sure how he would react at the office on the Monday. Their interaction that morning had been strictly professional, but Kevin had caught Jake as he was heading out for lunch.
Kevin gave Jake a smile of thanks as the two entered the lift. Jake nodded, but his expression remained one of stiff neutrality. Kevin stayed silent. He wanted Jake to know that he was there, but he was waiting for him to take the initial lead.
Nothing was said on the way down, though Kevin saw Jake give him several glances. He smiled reassuringly in response, but Jake was quick to look away.
Kevin hung back as they exited the building, letting Jake direct where they were going. While Jake didn’t appear keen for Kevin to be following him, he didn’t give any indication that he was unwelcome.
A few minutes later, the two were ordering meals at a nearby food court. Kevin waited for Jake to find a table and sit down. He then moved over and stood there. “Can I join you?”
Jake sighed and gave a single nod.
They ate in silence, Jake finishing first.
“Do you really want to know what’s going on?” Jake asked, startling Kevin.
“Yes. I thought something good was happening, but now I’m confused.” Kevin was quite pleased with the plaintive tone he’d achieved.
Jake looked away. “Yeah, it was good, but while I’ve said I’m single, I’m not. Not really.”
Kevin blinked. “You’ve got a boyfriend? Why haven’t you mentioned him?”
“Because he’s tried to break things up. I just won’t let him.”
Kevin reached across the table and put a hand on Jake’s forearm. Jake turned to stare at Kevin at the unexpected contact.
“I’m sorry, Jake, but it takes two to have a relationship. If, whoever he is…”
“If Ethan doesn’t want to keep things going, then maybe you should move on?”
Jake shook his head. “Ethan’s reasons are wrong. That’s why I won’t let go. He…” Jake pulled a face. “Maybe if you met him, you’d understand.”
* * *
Kevin stiffened. “This is St. Vincent’s Hospital!”
“This is where he’s living,” Jake said as he drove into the car park.
“How long has he been here?”
“Just over six months.”
Kevin made a guess. “He’s positive?”
Jake shook his head. “Why does everyone assume that? No, cancer. It started as a melanoma, but we didn't catch it in time. Now it's spread to his internal organs. He's had chemo, but it didn't work and now he’s been going downhill for the last year. We’ve got a place in Byron Bay, but we moved here when he became so sick he had to be hospitalised. We rent out our place to the tourists now, and that covers some of our bills. The only reason I’m working is to make sure we don’t go into debt, but I’d rather spend my time looking after him.”
Kevin heard the truth and the pain in Jake’s voice and knew that Jake was still very much in love.
It didn’t take Jake long to navigate his way through the maze of hospital passages. Kevin raised an eyebrow when he was led through into the private hospital, not the public. He knew that a stay of several months there wouldn’t be cheap, even with health insurance.
They paused outside a nondescript door. Jake grasped the handle and then glanced at Kevin. “I’ll go in first and introduce you. He’s very weak, so we can’t stay long.”
Kevin waited outside and listened as Jake first said hello and then mentioned he’d brought a friend. Taking that as his cue, Kevin stepped into the room. His gaze was drawn immediately to the skeletal, hairless figure propped up in the bed.
“Ethan, this is Kevin. Kevin, this is Ethan.”
Kevin caught the intense stare he received from Ethan, and realised that even though his body might be failing, Ethan’s mind was still sharp. “G’day, Ethan.”
“Hi, Kevin. Jake’s told me a lot about you, so it’s good to put a face to the name.” Ethan’s voice was thin and Kevin had to strain to make sure he didn’t miss any words.
“Oh? What’s he been saying?”
“Not much,” Jake said.
Ethan gave a soft snort. “He told me he’s been flirting with you, but he got the shock of his life when it looked like he’d caught you.”
“ETHAN!” Jake went bright red and then started to rearrange the blankets on the bed in a feeble attempt to keep Kevin from noticing.
Kevin smiled. “Jake’s someone special.”
“He is. He deserves someone special, too.”
“I’ve got you. I don’t need anyone else,” Jake said before leaning over and kissing Ethan on the cheek.
Ethan rolled his eyes before again fixing Kevin with a stare. “He won’t look elsewhere while I’m here, the stupid fool, but will you be there for him when he needs you?”
Kevin nodded. “I’ll be there. You can count on it.”
“Stop it, you two. I don’t need anyone, Ethan, because I’ve got you, and you’re going to get over this. I know you will.”
Kevin listened as Jake and Ethan sparred for the next few minutes. He knew that he couldn’t have Jake while Ethan was still around, and that realisation showed him what he’d have to do next. He kept the smile from his face as he started to make plans. It would be a lot work, with some risk, but he knew how to get Jake. The most difficult bit would be working out how to sneak into Ethan’s hospital room without being seen. He would also need to make sure that everyone believed he was far away at the time. Kevin liked a challenge.
* * *
Ethan’s voice was weak but his gaze fixed Jake to the spot. “What’s wrong?”
Jake fidgeted for a moment, but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to hide matters for long. Ethan knew him too well. “It’s Kevin. He changed after he came to see you last month — I don’t really know why. He became sullen, like he was frustrated with something, and would lash out at people without reason. It all came to a head three days ago when the boss fired him.” Jake shook his head at the memory. “He stormed out saying he didn’t want to be there anymore, anyway.”
“You like him, don’t you?”
Jake leant over and kissed Ethan on the lips. “It’s you I love.”
“I didn’t say love, I said like. You care about him — maybe even worry for him. Am I right?”
Jake sighed. “I can’t fool you, can I?”
“I know you too well.” A faint smile played on Ethan’s pale lips. “Do you have any reason to worry?”
“Only that he seems to have moved out of his flat already. I went there yesterday and found it empty. He’s gone. When I ring his mobile, it tells me it’s no longer connected. I’m afraid he’s going to do something stupid.”
Jake went to the window, which looked out over the Sydney streets. He watched for a moment as nameless shadows strolled along the footpaths. “I don’t think he ever got over Dave’s disappearance. He might decide it’s time for him to do the same.”
The silence that followed that statement had Jake look over his shoulder. At the sight of a frown on Ethan’s face, he moved over and grasped his friend’s bony hand. “What’s wrong?”
The ends of Ethan’s lips twitched upwards. “I was just reflecting about the time to make decisions. I made one today.”
Jake waited. In his gut he knew what Ethan was going to say, but he had been dreaming that moment would never occur.
“The doctors tell me there’s nothing more they can do for me. All they can do is make me comfortable.” Ethan’s eyes pleaded with Jake to understand. “I don’t want to die here. Can you take me back to Byron Bay? I want to spend the rest of my time near the beach. With you, if you’ll have me.”
Jake smiled. He had been afraid that Ethan would try to push him away again. “Have you? Of course I’ll have you! That’s all I’ve ever wanted. When can I take you away from here?”
“The doctors have some paperwork they need done, but we can leave tonight, if you like. Or tomorrow, if tonight’s too soon.”
“Tonight it is. I’ll get everything sorted out and then we can go.” Ethan paused for a moment. “I’d better leave a voicemail for my boss, too, to let him know I won’t be back.”
A couple of minutes later, Jake was heading out the door, whistling quietly to himself.
Ethan smiled as he looked down at the wasted remains of his body. Once they were secluded in Byron Bay, Ethan's cancer would mysteriously go into remission and he would start to regain his health. It would be twelve months before Jake would find out why. It had been simple in the end; when Kevin had absorbed Ethan’s memories and DNA, there had been no point in taking the cancer cells as well.
It had been a risk since he didn’t really know the guy, but when he had put the offer to the dying man, Ethan had accepted. Kevin had slipped away, stripped off his few clothes, and hid them before returning to the room. It had been a smooth transformation and the new Ethan was looking forward to the year with Jake. Meanwhile, with a bit of luck, it would be a long time before anyone declared Kevin a missing person. Long enough that any trail that might have led back to Jake and Ethan would be cold.
One way or another, Ethan knew he was going to make Jake’s last year a memorable one.
Copyright Notice — Copyright © January 2008 by Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to thank Rain from The Mail Crew for editing this story for me. I can thoroughly recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.