FIGHTING AGAINST the tremors of withdrawal, Qusay passed the Technicolor neon signs that littered the strip to a much darker corridor of the space station. An old souvenir cart that Otis called his shop stood off to one side, cluttered with toys and knickknacks. Otis was waiting. He was a big man, his pockmarked face twisted into that all-too-hungry smile that made Qusay uneasy. Dark eyes leered back at him, and Qusay fought the tremble of warning that raced down his spine.
“Looking for a fix, Qusay?” Otis asked.
Qusay bit his lip. The shakes were starting, each small tremor adding to the ache growing in his bones. The pain would start soon, morphing into a burn that would set every nerve on fire. He couldn’t deal with that, or Otis for that matter. The last time he had fallen in with Otis, he had lost days, maybe even weeks to the Kick. Otis had been happy to keep feeding it to him as long as Qusay stayed on his knees.
Torn, he took a ragged breath. “How much for one dose?”
As much as he disliked Otis, he had the best stuff on the station. He never had to worry what the Kick might be cut with, not like when he bought from some of the other dealers around the station. Cheaper did not mean better.
Otis’s hungry gaze rippled over Qusay’s skin and left him cringing. “We could work something out.”
“No, I got the chits.”
Otis shrugged. “Fifty.”
Fuck. Qusay didn’t have much more than that. He had hoped to fill his belly too. The nagging hunger, but the shakes…. It was so hard to think about food when a fix was inches away. He shoved the thought of food out of his head. The Kick would kill his hunger anyway. Right now, he needed some before the withdrawal got too bad.
Qusay stared down at the stand in front of him. Bobbles littered the cart Otis used as a front for his more profitable drug business. The toy in front of him had no name, just a mini metal person off some cartoon that no one watched these days. Reaching for one of the toys, his hand trembled and he jerked it back quickly before Otis noticed. Qusay turned his attention back to Otis as he pulled out a small box from under the cart. His heart quickened and mouth watered as Otis opened the box for him to see.
Kick came in all flavors, and the box held a kaleidoscope of colors. Inside were small vials, some with blue lids, others with green, but Qusay’s favorites were the pinks and yellows. The pinks were a pure sexual rush, raw and intense. The yellows were an adrenaline kick. The greens were just a calming numb and the blues a sinking mellow, neither of which he cared for. The oranges were fun and made you feel as though you were flying, but they were always too expensive.
Qusay hovered between the pink and yellow vials, and his fingers twitched with indecision. He needed not to think right now. He needed to be lost. Yellows were too intense these days. All he did was think, and thinking caused more migraines and reminded him of all the things he couldn’t remember. Pink would let him drift in sweet oblivion.
Otis smacked his hand away. “Chits first.”
He cursed and rubbed the sting from his hand. His addiction burned at his nerves. Damn, Otis. He had to have his fix. Glaring at the man, Qusay reached into his pocket and pulled out three twenty-mark chits.
“Gimme what you got,” Otis said, “and come back to my place. I’ll make you feel good and give you one to leave with.” He held up a pretty pink vial. It caught the light, glittering like a jewel just out of reach.
Qusay bit on the tip of his thumb, torn with indecision. The heat of withdrawal bit at his skin and a shiver crept down his spine. He didn’t have much time. A Kick now and one for later, god, that was a deal too good to pass up. On pinks, Otis was more than tolerable.
He closed his eyes a moment, remembering the sweet rush that made his skin tingle and his body ache. There was no other Kick like the pink ones. The memory alone made the lack burn all the more, and he fought to control the shakes quaking through his body. His gut clenched and he ground his teeth, trying to keep the need at bay.
“Come on, sweetie, I know how much you like a little pink Kick. I have something special at home you’ll really like. You won’t know if you’re coming or going.” Otis laughed at his own joke, and Qusay bit his nail to the quick.
“Not like before, right?” Qusay asked.
“Honey, with this Kick, you won’t care.”
He glanced around the space station and eyed the crowd as they passed by the dark corridor where Otis had set up his shop. The neon lights of the strip glowed in the distance, and the dim lights of the back corridors gave the area a feeling of perpetual twilight. Once-gray walls were chipped and stained with age and water streaks marked the vents that constantly circulated air through the station.
Copper tingled on his tongue as he sucked the blood from his nail. A knot settled in his stomach and his nerves itched. The burn of his muscles grew more intense and bit at his skin. He needed it, every fiber of his being screamed for it. “Okay, I can do that. But I get one to leave with, right?”
Otis nodded. “Oh yeah. I’m a man of my word.”
QUSAY LAY on the bed. His mind was spinning and the throb in his groin intense. Otis stripped him out of the last of his clothes. Each touch on his skin sent a rush through him. His whole body ached for more. Cold fingers tickled over his back and Qusay shivered. His head spun with dreamy desire. Everything tingled as the sweet caress of the high filled his pores.
The small room floated around him as he lay on his side surrounded by dusty brown sheets. The heavy scent of Kick and sex danced on the air. Dim lights glowed around the room, hiding the clutter, and gave the place an ethereal feel.
“Mmm, so nice,” Otis whispered in his ear. “I love that ass of yours. You’re much too pretty for words.”
Qusay said nothing and closed his eyes, ignoring the man fucking him and getting lost in the haze. Every touch made his body vibrate with the growing heat of warm climax. He came with a rush and an explosion of sweet oblivion. It washed over him in huge waves, pushing him deeper into the cloudy high. His world went white with the intensity before slowly fading back into a dull hum.
Otis’s face faded and Max, Otis’s brother, replaced him. Qusay had a brief moment of panic before the Kick drove it back and he didn’t care anymore. He couldn’t feel the bruises they left behind as they fucked him and he sucked them. Nothing mattered but the white surge as he came and came again. The haze was a blur of beauty. All there was left for him to feel was the never-ending wave of sexual need and the incredible release of climax.
He woke from the high, his stomach twitching and head swimming. He squirmed from under the matted blanket and stumbled through the cluttered bedroom to the bathroom. His stomach heaved, but it passed quickly and he washed up the best he could. His skin was still hypersensitive. Every touch to his body sent little ripples of desire through him as he struggled to clear his head. The Kick wasn’t gone, just dulled.
Reaching for the doorframe, he breathed deeply, trying to focus while looking for his clothes. He had to get away before the Kick peaked again. Fumbling around the room, he found some clothes on the floor, but didn’t know if they were his or not. He grabbed them anyway as the door to the bedroom opened.
Otis stepped into the room and frowned at him. “Leaving so soon, sweetie?”
Qusay nodded. “Gotta go,” he slurred and reached for the nightstand beside the bed to catch himself from falling.
He struggled to keep his head together, but Otis was behind him suddenly, his hands roaming over his ribs and hips. Qusay’s whole body trembled in response, his cock surging to full attention so quickly he moaned. A wave of desire swept over his flesh. The Kick was starting to spike again.
“We aren’t quite done, sweetie. Not yet,” Otis said as his hands roamed over Qusay’s ass and he reached around to fondle his cock.
Qusay whimpered and thoughts of leaving vanished as the Kick arched into full effect once again. He found himself back on the bed with Otis, lost in the high that kept him in a hungry haze until the next lull.
The Kick began to fade again, and Qusay scrambled for clothes. The pink vial Otis had promised him was waiting for him on the nightstand. Then he staggered out of Otis’s home. Back in the corridors of the space station, he slipped away to enjoy the rest of his high alone.
CAMERON WAS having a bad day. Hell, a bad week. Trapped on a station in the middle of nowhere meant he would have to turn down the job he’d been counting on. Bodyguard gigs were sweet. Sit around, watch some rich asshole for a few weeks, and scare off the stalkers. By the end he was mostly bored with heavy credit in his back pocket. Now he was fucked and all because of engine troubles he had no control over.
Kelsey was an old backwater space station and barely what Cameron would call up to code. More than a few ship docks were red-light sealed to prevent hull breaches and atmospheric leaks. The throughway was worn and stained, and the walls, once painted a pale blue, were gray and chipped to the steel below. Many of the overhead screens flickered on and off, unable to hold images for long. Cameron couldn’t even be sure the information displayed was correct. From the shape of the place, the arrival and departure times were likely to be hours if not days old.
He ran his hand over his goatee and took in the travelers around him. Most were asteroid miners, real people that ignored the main corridor’s line of souvenir sellers behind their carts. They had come to the station for other, more interesting pursuits and headed off the main corridor into the deeper parts of the station: the strip.
Every station had a strip of some sort, a place where gambling, sex, alcohol, good food, and a variety of other, less savory pastimes could be found. Some were less legal than others, but out here on stations like Kelsey, most everything was legal and taxable. There was never anything but overpriced crap and sleazy merchants trying to get tourist chits on the main throughways. At least on the strip Cameron could get an unwatered drink and some company.
The neon lights called to him for some much-needed stress relief. His stomach growled when the distant scent of grilled meats called to him too. Not even the scent of the bitter recycled air of the station dulled his need for real food.
Rounding the corner to the strip, he smacked right into a skinny little wisp of a thing. He was covered in a sweatshirt far too big for him, and a bold yellow sports logo stood out against the dark background. The little body fell hard to the ground with an “oof” and back-scrambled out of his way in a mild panic.
The reaction surprised him, and he stopped in his tracks as the figure gasped and cowered away from him.
“Hey, hey, relax. I didn’t mean to run into you,” Cameron said. Guilt tugged at his chest. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
The figure stopped and looked up at him. His hood fell away from his head, revealing a mop of dark wavy hair and some vicious bruises across his thin face. Deep soulful eyes stared up at Cameron with surprise. Long lashes framed dark-brown orbs, and his mouth fell open in an O. He was just a kid, not more than twenty-five, a boy really.
“Huh? Oh, no, you didn’t. Thought you were someone else,” the boy said.
Cameron looked him over. His cheeks were hollowed and he couldn’t weigh more than a feather soaking wet. He couldn’t help but wonder when the boy had eaten last. It was sad, really, how people suddenly found themselves in such shitty situations. It didn’t take much; just one push, and life came crumbling down around them. He’d seen it happen more than once.
There was something… familiar about him. Something Cameron couldn’t quite place. He held out his hand. “Let me help you up.”
The kid flinched away. “No. Don’t touch me right now. I can get up.”
Cameron stood back as the young man got to his feet and the telltale scent of Kick drifted in the air. A rich sweetness like raw sugar clung to his skin. “What are you on?”
The kid smirked and flashed his wrist showing off his Clean-tab. “Why? You want some of me? It’ll cost you. I’m clean and legal, sweetie.”
Cameron looked him over. He’d seen way too many kids waste away on drugs and sex on stations like this. “Would you buy yourself a meal?”
“Honey, I would eat you like it’s my last meal.”
Cameron sighed. “And it might be, too. You’re wasting away, kid. Come on. Let me buy you a meal… as an apology.”
The kid shot him a confused look. “You’re apologizing? For what?”
“For knocking you down.”
“Oh.” The young man looked uneasy for a moment, but shrugged. “Okay. I guess.”
“Tell me a good place to eat around here.”
“Lacy’s. They aren’t the nicest people, but the food is good.”
He let the boy lead the way through the gray light of the strip and toward a small restaurant. The sounds of laughter and the occasional scuffle drifted from bars as they passed. Music deafened by heavy shields kept the noise level down to a hum of bass.
“What’s your name?” Cameron asked.
“Qusay. You can call me Q, or….” Qusay shot Cameron a seductive grin. “Hell, I’d come to just about anything you said.”
Cameron chuckled and shook his head. “You’re buzzing on Kick.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that you are sexy as hell. Hmm, touch me and watch me melt.”
Cameron sighed, torn between amusement and annoyance.
“You don’t like boys?” Qusay said.
“I like men just fine.”
“Aww, honey, I’m older than I look.”
They stepped into the restaurant and sat down. Qusay chose his seat with extra care, eyes on the exits as he scanned the crowd. Cameron frowned, wondering just how long the kid had been on the station. Beneath the banter, Qusay’s eyes had never stopped searching the crowd. He stuck just close enough to Cameron’s side for them to be considered together while still easily out of reach if need be.
Cameron let Qusay order whatever he wanted and ordered more food for himself so the kid could take away the extra. Qusay reached for the breadsticks on the table, and Cameron could see the bones in his wrist and bruises on his arms.
“Who did that to you?” Cameron asked.
Qusay pulled his hand back quickly with a breadstick grasped tight in his fist. “I was stupid. Sometimes I am.”
The boy looked so familiar to Cameron. Why couldn’t he place him? He wracked his brain trying to fit the pieces together, but not even his name rang any bells. He was usually very good at remembering faces.
“Have we met?” Cameron asked.
Qusay flashed him that seductive grin, his dark eyes glittering with mischief. “Anything’s possible, beautiful, though I think I would have remembered you.” His smile fell and he ate another breadstick. “Then again… maybe not.”
“You can stop the games,” Cameron said. “I’m not interested in bedding you. You haven’t even asked my name.”
Qusay shrugged. “I don’t ask tricks their names. I don’t wanna know, and I certainly don’t care. No offense, handsome.”
Cameron flinched but let the comment pass. The kid needed to eat. Cameron didn’t want to chase him away by arguing with him.
Food arrived and Cameron watched as Qusay filled his pockets with fried goodies and cleaned his plate of everything on it. Cameron gave him the food he wouldn’t eat, and Qusay ate that too. He couldn’t see where the boy put it all but was glad to see Qusay was eating. He was so terribly thin.
Cameron had seen his cousin save young people like Qusay. He had helped her pull them out of the gutter more than once. If someone didn’t help this kid soon, he was likely to end up dead before his next birthday.
Qusay started looking around outside the window leading to the strip. He was beginning to get restless. Cameron watched as Qusay leaned across the table suddenly and licked his lips nice and slow. “Sure I can’t interest you in a quick BJ under the table before I go?”
Cameron felt the stir of his groin but shoved it aside. “No. But, since you seem eager to leave, I will be here for breakfast and dinner every day for the next week while the ship is in repairs. If you come and join me, I’ll feed you. No strings attached.”
“There are always strings.” His dark eyes filled with skepticism.
The comment tugged at Cameron’s heart. The kid was much too young to be so cynical. “Not this time.”
Qusay got to his feet. “I’ll think about it.”
The kid slipped out the door and was lost in the crowd before it closed behind him.
Cameron stared into the crowd and shook his head. He hoped the boy came back. He was in serious need of some help, even if he didn’t realize it. The Kick was going to kill him, but maybe all he needed was a hand to help pull him out of the gutter. Cameron hated the thought of such a young thing wasting away. He was a cute kid, and everyone needed a second chance.
Sometimes all it took was one bad decision to put a person in a place they couldn’t quite get out of by themselves. And sometimes all it took was one person to give a shit to help put them on a better path.
He’d stumbled a few times as a kid. Not everyone had the kind of family he did. He could have ended up in a much darker place without them.
Cameron let the thought go. He had promised to find Benny a few extra crewmen for his ship while he was stationside. He was willing to agree to anything if it got him off the ship for a while.
Getting to his feet, he left the restaurant and went to check the Hopper Boards for spare crewmen to fill out the ship’s roster.