(c)Pelaam: October 2007.
The five year old boy screamed with terror as he was swept into storm-churned oceanic depths. The swiftness and severity of the squall had caught all aboard the yacht by surprise. Although he wore a life vest, water was in his eyes and mouth. He could neither see nor continue to cry for help. The salt water made him cough and choke. Then a voice was telling him to breathe deeply and hold his breath. Instinctively he obeyed. He felt himself moving swiftly, and he clung tightly to the bigger body that held him, trusting it implicitly. He was at the end of his endurance, air bubbling free when his journey ended. Then his memories began to fragment.
A face, framed with long dark hair. Rainbows. Crying not to be taken away from the dark-haired figure as other voices spoke. Being rocked gently by that same figure, the other nuzzling into his chestnut hair, soothing him. A voice promising it would never leave him. Another, older, deeper voice, telling him to sleep. Finally, being found by his sobbing parents and older brother and only being able to remember a rainbow had saved him.
Ewan looked up and stared appreciatively at the azure Tasman that stretched out before him. He had been doing some research at Auckland University and had decided to enjoy a few days' rest and see the North Island of New Zealand. He had gone to Rotorua and experienced the unique sulphur smell of the area. He had taken a trip on Lake Taupo, the lake equal in area to Singapore. He was now on the beach in Oakura, just outside New Plymouth. He had looked around the town and was currently enjoying being stretched out on the black sand. He intended to spend the next day going partway up Mount Taranaki, whose presence dominated the local landscape and which was still regarded as an active volcano.
He adjusted his shades. Whilst in England he would have considered anyone with glasses of such a size ridiculous. Here however, the sun was bright and hot and shade and sunscreen were essentials. He gave an envious glance at a couple walking by. Although he looked like any other attractive, single man he had seen over the last few days, he did not feel like one. The offer to come to Auckland had come at the right time for him. He had just broken up with a boyfriend.. yet again.
Ewan wondered what it was that constantly attracted him to tall, broad men with long dark hair. He had been attracted to boys from the moment puberty had struck. He had always been honest with his parents and found them to be rocks of support every time a relationship went wrong... and they did.
Despite his near-brush with death as a baby, Ewan loved the ocean. His only memory of that day was of the rainbow that rescued him. He had no fear of the sea and had successfully gained a degree in Oceanography and a Masters in Marine Biology. He had been so focused on study that he had devoted almost no time to relationships. Then as a newly graduated MSc, he had fallen and fallen hard.
Ste was perfect: tall, dark, handsome and intelligent. He had been a few inches taller than Ewan at six feet two and his glossy, jet black hair had reached his broad shoulders. They had dated a few times, during which Ewan had barely noticed the niggling headaches. However, as their relationship had become more physical, Ewan's headaches had become more intense. The one time Ste had used his mouth on Ewan, the smaller man had barely climaxed when his headache had made him so ill he had spent the next day in bed. He had been diagnosed with migraine. However, that did not explain the sensation of 'wrongness' that had accompanied his orgasm. Within a week he and Ste had gone their separate ways.
The next couple of potential partners had fared less well. Moderate kissing and light making out were fine. Anything more intimate triggered a migraine and the unwelcome feelings. Ewan could find no explanation within himself for what he perceived as some kind of fear of sexual intimacy. He knew there were no skeletons in his closets. He smiled when he remembered his mother's words when he had confided in her; "When you find Mr Right, all your headaches will vanish. Just be patient."
Sometimes Ewan dreamed of a dark figure, rainbows swirling in the background. Occasionally the figure seemed close, but he never truly 'saw' them. They would call to him, holding open their arms and Ewan would run, desperately trying to reach them, always waking before he reached their embrace. Then he would discover he had come in his sleep. Those dreams left him wanting to throw things at walls in sheer frustration.
That was when he embraced the joy of free-diving. He relished the freedom of swimming without the encumbrances of diving equipment. He was an accomplished free-diver, well able to hold his breath for considerable periods of time. Now, whenever he felt sexual tensions building up, he dived. He knew he could not always turn his back on his problem and he was glad he enjoyed his work so much. He returned his gaze to the sea. He hoped his mother was right. As much as he loved his job and the ocean, he felt a part of himself was missing. Something he could no more explain than the migraines.
His parents were currently in New Zealand for a holiday themselves. They had only just arrived and he intended to take them with him up Mount Taranaki. It would be nice for them all to be together for a while.
Ewan and his parents returned tired but exhilarated from their day exploring Mount Taranaki. His mother disappeared to check the phone for messages. Ewan and his father went to sit out on the bach's balcony, enjoying the view of endless ocean. Ewan looked up as his mother joined them, a piece of paper in her hand.
"You've had a call from Professor James, Ewan," she said, leaning to give him a kiss on the cheek. "It was a lovely day, thank you," she added.
Ewan flushed with pleasure and headed inside to return the call. Professor Richard James had been a guest speaker at a couple of Ewan's Master's classes; the older man holding doctorates in Oceanography and Anthropology. He wrote many short articles, as well as having a private income inherited from a wealthy family. He and Ewan had become fast friends and kept in touch despite the distances that could separate them. Richard was now in a remote part of South America close to where Ewan had his accident. He was interested in a small tribe's local legends of sea spirits. He was also doing papers on their art, folklore and the fauna of the river which was a large part of village life. The note had said to call anytime, so Ewan did.
"Ewan, thank goodness," Richard's voice was tired, excited and, although it seemed ridiculous, afraid. Ewan was puzzled and intrigued instantly.
"What is it, Richard?" he asked.
"Can you come here?" came the distant reply. "I'll pay all your travel costs and send everything you need."
"Um ... sure, but what...?"
"Not on the phone," Richard's voice was barely above a whisper. "When you're here."
It took several days to reach where the Professor was living; a flight to South America, another local flight, a train journey and then most of a day in a truck. That still had Ewan in a fairly civilised part of the tiny country. He could then opt to hike to a small village and then further to the Professor's location. Or he could get a boat and sail around the coast, land in the small lagoon and walk from there. He chose the latter. Out on the sea he was able to relax more than he had for the last several days. As Ewan piloted the small craft towards the lagoon he noted the huge luxury yacht that was anchored at sea. Given there was nothing nearby, the ship seemed out of place, but it held little real interest for Ewan.
Richard James was soon to hit fifty and his years of outdoor work had given him a leathery, tanned skin. His hair, although receding, was still dark and close cropped. He stood on the beach watching for Ewan's arrival. There was no jetty here, but he had installed lights to illuminate the beach and the way there from his home. They were solar powered, although he did have a generator and could use electricity when necessary. He owned the land here and was considered a friend by the village whose customs he studied.
His blue eyes glared angrily at the big yacht and then warmed as Ewan's boat came into view. It seemed just minutes later that older and younger man were embracing tightly and laughing joyfully. Richard said nothing other than generalities as he led Ewan into the lush foliage, away from the beach, and his own home.
"I think it's safe here," Richard said, as they sat under large leaves for shade.
"What is it?" Ewan asked, his curiosity almost making him vibrate.
"I made an incredible discovery. A mummified fin, one the likes of which I'd never seen before. It seemed to be almost between a fin and a hand. There are many local legends around the river and the ocean, just as you would expect for people who rely on them for their livelihood. There is a drawing, which I can let you see. However, I didn't realise I was under surveillance."
"Government?" Ewan asked, his chocolate brown eyes, wide with excitement and anticipation.
"You must have seen the yacht?" Richard asked and received a nod. "Max Goodman. The name ring a bell?"
"Hunter, playboy, magnate," Ewan intoned. "Doesn't he have his own large reserve where he permits hunting?"
"It's also reputed he can get even protected species for his 'guests'." Richard nodded grimly. "I don't know how he found out about my fin, but he approached me offering ludicrous amounts of money if I passed anything of 'interest' I found over to him. I sent him away, but knew I didn't dare keep the fin. I'm good friends with the village Shaman. I gave it to him."
"What happened to it?" Ewan asked.
"He consecrated it by fire and sprinkled the ashes into the river," Richard smiled grimly. "He tells me that the spirits used to come into the river more often, but are rarely seen now. They want no dealings with 'modern' man. He swears his father spoke face-to-face with them. It is possible that the fin was a mutant, an aberration. But if there is a marine creature of dolphin size living hidden in these waters, it would be an immense scientific find. Although, in honesty, I'm not sure our world is ready to know of it."
"Scientists would want to descend here," Ewan said thoughtfully.
"The villagers' life as they know it would be destroyed. The local flora and fauna would be razed to have accommodation erected. Roads would be needed. The whole ecological system would be destroyed. And what of the animals themselves? Could we be certain of their safety? Even with scientific watches, poachers would try and capture them."
"So what do you want?" Ewan asked.
"You to free-dive," Richard said excitedly. "No noise, no equipment, just you and the sea. If you could just get a glimpse of anything, it would be enough for me. The land I own here is willed to you and your family and I know I can trust you. I want Goodman to up anchor and leave. I'm hoping if he sees what looks like just swimming and enjoying ourselves, he'll decide there's nothing worth hanging round for and go."
"And if I see anything?" Ewan breathed.
"It's between us and the Shaman. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Ewan nodded.
The next day, Ewan stood on Richard's porch and breathed deeply. The browns and greens were relaxing and the heat tolerable, although he knew the humidity would rise. He was anticipating his free-dive, even if he saw nothing. He felt Richard's hands on his shoulders and let himself relax back against the bigger man. There was nothing sexual between them, although when they had first become friends, Ewan's imagination had run riot. Instead their friendship was one of the most cherished he had. He trusted the older man implicitly, second only to his father and equal to his older brother. He felt the hands stiffen and then leave his shoulders before seeing what had clearly angered Richard.
Two men were approaching. One was bleached blond and perma-tanned with an artificially white smile that did not reach his cold green eyes etched across his face. He wore only white cut-off denim shorts that showed a powerful, smooth body, with well-defined muscles and six-pack. The man behind him was dark and had an even more powerfully muscled physique. Ewan could imagine both men working out for hours to keep themselves in such condition. He guessed the identity of the blond. He would have detested the man for the look and aura of arrogance and superiority he projected, even if he had not known of the man's nature.
"Well, well, well, Professor," Goodman drawled. "When were you going to introduce me to this juicy little morsel?"
"Mr Lea is a colleague and a family friend," Richard growled. "I had no intention of introducing him to scum such as you," he snapped.
Ewan saw the flicker in the cold green eyes, but the fake smile never wavered.
"So you're available," Goodman said, eyes raking over Ewan's body, stopping to stare blatantly at the younger man's groin.
Ewan suddenly wished he wore more than the thin, drawstring white pants through which his swimming briefs would be visible. The purposeful stare and deliberate leering were unnerving him and making him flustered. Then he gasped, not believing such a large man could move so fast. His arms were pinned against a solid chest and a hard mouth crushed against him. A sharp pinch to his rear made him gasp and a tongue rapidly invaded and then withdrew. The headache that came in the wake of his assault almost brought tears to Ewan's eyes. Then Goodman was back at his bodyguard's side.
"No, Richard," Ewan whispered shakily, as the older man went to stalk forward. "He's not worth it."
"Hot and sweet, my favourite," Goodman said lasciviously.
"You are as far away from my preferences as it is humanly possible to be," Ewan retorted, trying to keep the tremor from his voice.
"I can make you a very rich young man if you 'assist' me," Goodman said suavely.
"I wouldn't assist you across the road," Ewan snapped. "You revolt me."
"You're trespassing. Get off my property now." Richard demanded. "I am in the process of obtaining an injunction to prohibit you from landing in my lagoon or being anywhere near me or my property.
"You want pretty teaching some manners?" the dark man asked as Richard moved Ewan protectively towards the door of his home. The voice was no less menacing for its softness.
"I will teach him my own lesson, Greg," Goodman hissed sibilantly. "He will scream and beg like all the others when on his hands and knees impaled on my flesh." Goodman's hand slid to rub his burgeoning erection, letting both Richard and Ewan see his arousal, before Richard whisked Ewan inside their refuge.
Greg smiled nastily. His employer was as likely as not to share the pretty young man. While Greg's preference was for women, he would not turn down an attractive male, especially at his boss' order. Greg had seen the 'sessions' Goodman had with those foolish enough to refuse or annoy him. No one wore any visible marks of Goodman's prolonged passion, but all left with their spirits broken and none brought charges. His boss was far too good and far too rich. He was untouchable and he always got what he wanted.
Unaware of Goodman's tainted desire for him; Ewan was smiling and joking with Richard as they headed to the lagoon after their unwelcome visitors had gone. They had minimal equipment with them and as they sailed out into the middle of the water, Ewan began his series of deep breathing exercises to infuse his cells with oxygen for his dive. He preferred the single over-sized fin to propel himself along with an undulation of his body. He had a camera around his neck to take random pictures. As he swam, Ewan had the uncanny sensation of being watched; not from one side, but from several. Yet even when he performed a graceful pirouette, he saw nothing out of place. Shaking his head, Ewan slowly began to ascend.
Ewan performed another elegant rotation in the water and then stopped. There was a large powerful body before him, long, dark hair framing an undefined face and treading water easily. Arms opened, reaching for him and Ewan tried desperately to swim towards them, but could make no headway. He gave an impossible scream of frustration as the other performed a graceful flip to vanish from his sight and Ewan's eyes snapped open.
He blinked as he realised he was outside Richard's home, his heart thundering and his breathing as laboured as if he *had* just completed a free-dive. He hit the wood of Richard's porch with a muted cry of denial. He had never sleep-walked before, but then his dreams had never been so clear either. He gave a sigh and began to head for the beach. He stood at the water's edge for a long time, simply staring out. The placid water seemed to soothe his frayed nerves. He looked up at the moon; it would be full the next night. He turned to head back to the house, then he whirled as he heard a splash, but the sea was serene once more. Shaking his head, Ewan continued home.
The next day passed in much the same way, except for receiving no unwelcome visits. Richard admitted that an injunction was only good if it could be enforced, but as there was no one other than themselves, it was little more than an empty threat.
Ewan insisted he was only concerned that Goodman would find something before them. After his own free-dive he watched the comings and goings on the yacht through binoculars from the sanctity of the lagoon beach. However, as Goodman seemed to have no success, his divers climbing back aboard the yacht empty-handed, it made Ewan grin with a perverse satisfaction. Ewan was hopeful that another couple of days of the same and Goodman would tire of finding nothing. The young man ambled back to the house, whistling happily.
Ewan did not want a repetition of the previous night's nightmare. He decided to take another walk to the lagoon to settle himself before going asleep. He wore the cotton drawstring pants and had a towel over his shoulder. Although he would not swim out far, he did want to swim just a few feet from the shore. He smiled as he gazed out at the ocean. The moon illuminated it with its silvery touch and it looked ethereal. However, Ewan was unaware that it touched him the same way. He appeared to be a creature of silver and blue like the sea itself and even more beautiful in a cold, white way.
A strong arm wrapped around his waist easily, another around his mouth. He was hauled kicking and uselessly struggling towards the trees.
"My lucky night, little morsel," Goodman's voice whispered in his ear. "I was only checking out your boat, but this is too good an opportunity. Relax, it'll hurt less," he laughed mirthlessly, a cold dry sound devoid of humanity.
Breath whooshed from Ewan's body as he was crushed against unforgiving wood by the bigger body. A cruel hand in his hair rammed Ewan's head into the tree making the smaller man see stars. He heard the pants he wore tear, then felt them slide down his body and he moaned a denial behind the palm that still gagged him. A rough hand touched him freely, pulling and squeezing, seeking to cause pain, not pleasure.
Goodman's harsh breathing becoming quicker. Ewan could feel the bigger man's arousal pushing into his buttocks, stopped only by Goodman's own clothing. He was whirled around and pushed to the ground, Goodman climbing on top of him immediately. Ewan whimpered as much from the pain that stabbed in his head as much as the pains in his abused body. Suddenly the weight and pain were both gone and a familiar voice spoke.
"Breathe deeply and hold it."
Ewan obeyed as he had so many years before. This time he knew there was something... other...about the voice. Not only its calmness or smooth, deep tones. Then strong arms were enveloping him and he clung to the bigger body tightly. He felt them enter the water and travel at a speed he had no hope of matching. Ewan knew these were the arms in which he belonged. *This* was the man he had sought all his life. He held tighter, afraid that if his loosened his hold the other man would escape.