Chapter rating: PG-13
Coupling: Midvalley 'n Wolfwood (WolfxMid & MidxWolf), possibly WolfxVash
Warnings: Angst, yaoi, citrus, Lots of Offensive Things, shota, NCS in later chapters
Chapter two, which took a long time to write/post, because I've purchased a copy of Final Fantasy VII. Eeeeeeeeeee.
The life at Sam's club - the Black Sheep - was easy to get used to for Midvalley, who settled in like he had lived there for his entire life. He surprised many of the girls upstairs by being both a good singer and quite popular with the customers, he surprised Sam by being willing to clean and do menial labor for more money during the slow hours of the day. He slept from two AM to eleven AM, on a small cot Sylvia had moved into her room, wrapped in a thick, moth-eaten blanket for the duration of the night.
Within the Black Sheep, it was perpetual twilight. The first thing Midvalley had noticed was that there were no windows - those that were present were either boarded up or swathed in black tarp, stifling away all light. The second thing he noticed was that if he chose not to recall his times in the arms of the men of the town, he could simply block them from his memory and pretend that his days were spent sweeping floors. With that effective tool in his arsenal, the boy began asserting himself more and more, learning what people not only wanted from him, but what they expected as well.
Seldom did he see any women other than those that roomed above the bar - and there seemed to be no set number. Some days Midvalley would wind his way down to the bottom floor and only three or four women would be eating breakfast there, clinging to their respective coffee cups like a talisman against evil, other times more than twenty, all in curlers with face make-up smeared across their skins, eyes heavy with mascara that didn't quite wash clean. He found that most of the women were not good company, most of them were quite stupid and treated him as if he were four, not eight. They stopped talking about the men they had 'serviced' when he entered the room, curtailing any speech that might be inappropriate for the ears of a child, as if he hadn't just been flat on his back at the mercy of another man.
Midvalley thought that was incredibly ignorant, and made a point of not socializing with any of them in earnest - when around the girls or the customers he had a 'look', a lost, confused look that most normal children would use to beg their parents for another toy. He used it to draw in customers, a helpless act - and it worked well. If he played his cards right, Midvalley found he could make over one hundred ten double dollars a day, not counting his pay-check for the dishwashing and cleaning. All the money was deposited in a bank account Sylvia had helped him open the first week she had been there, promising that unless the banks had his money it would not be safe.
The second thing Midvalley really noticed was that he was more intelligent than everybody in the club, despite his young age, save Sylvia, who he saw as a muse and a wise woman, and possibly Sam, who seemed to see past the 'normal-lost-kid' act Midvalley let prevail.
Each night he would stand on the stage with his skin oiled (the girls backstage insisted), makeup painted over his eyes and across his lips. He would sing softly, tight pants, slung low over his barely-defined hips and microphone caught in a tiny hand, his voice high and almost wistful beneath blue lights, a startling break between the acts of gyrating females. The song was always different, something slow and peaceful, and Midvalley would not so much dance as move to the music, tiny and small and swallowed up by the empty stage and the soft clink of glasses in the room. He looked alien, small and perfect - and knew it. He had confidence.
He was happy beneath the lights, remained there for as long as he could, and when a customer's loose money was pressed into his palm, his heart remained in the cerulean glow of attention and applause, as his body was elsewhere, doing things he was sickened to imagine.
It was like that for years.
They way Midvalley saw it through his (not quite rose-tinted) vision, all he had to earn was enough money to get out of town - then he would have a world to explore and life would be good. That was at age eight. By the time he was thirteen he had saved more money than he really knew what to do with and it was rotting away in the bowels of the local bank, however -
Things had gotten more complicated than they had been, he reflected, after his mother had died and his father...
He had always known what he wanted. At first he had wanted to use the Black Sheep as a stepping stone to greater heights above petty prostitution, he had thought that if he lived through Hell, Heaven was sure to follow. Those beliefs had been brilliant, rainbow colored bubbles that popped into sprays of liquid when they drew near to his reality - however, once the glittering bubbles were gone, he could see what was really there - and that was that in Hell, at least, people banded together, made families for themselves despite their sin, and that was what he had unwittingly stumbled upon.
Midvalley swiped another dish dry and slung the chipped porcelain plate into the rack next to the sink, sighing gustily as he did so, his expression exhaling along with him. The small washing room behind the kitchen was sticky and musty with sweat, the single tiny window doing nothing to ventilate the area. Overhead lights swung on the faint, burning breeze, casting shadows across the metal basin and the mirror fastened over it, a mirror that reflected the changes in the dishwasher - his long hair had been carelessly tied back at the nape of his neck, he boasted a slightly broader face, a body still lean and scrawny despite his attempts to add definition to the child-like curves. He was growing up, slowly.
There were things on his mind, at the moment. Namely the way his performance the night before had come to a screeching halt as his voice - the voice he had prided himself on - had picked a particularly ruthless note to crack on. He picked at the dirty dishtowel around his neck with graceful fingers, and thought hard.
Midvalley closed his eyes for a moment, resting his forehead on the dinted tin mirror, recalling the night before with a viciously accurate memory. He had finished the song (though the audience had cat-called all through the remaining portion) and then fled from the stage, to the backroom and then beyond, finally resting just outside the shadow of the flickering overhead light, his back bare against itching brick, his toes burrowing in the stained sand.
Working for Sam taught him a bit about what dreams were possible, and which were naught but fantasy. He had wanted to sing forever beneath the lights of the backwater Black Sheep men's club, but if his voice was changing, that was no longer an option - he knew, through limited experience, through books Sylvia sometimes let him read - that singing with a developing voice could injure his vocal chords. So what was to be done...?
"Midvalley!" Turning his head, the young man glanced over one shoulder, quickly dropping his arms back in the basin of the sink, splashing suds all across the counter.
"Yeah?" He called back, relieved that his voice didn't break on the note. He wasn't quite sure what to expect of puberty - it was a little scary, but nothing he wasn't aware of. 'As long as I don't sound like an idiot when I try to speak,' he grimaced for a moment.
"There's someone to see you."
Someone to see him...? Midvalley snorted and rolled his eyes - if one of the street kids he knew quite well interrupted him, he would never get finished, and that would lead to being shouted at by both of his 'guardian's. "I'm dishwashing! Send them back!"
Moments later his visitor appeared anyway, and much to Midvalley's shock it was not one of the street brats - but a full grown man with a short, clipped brown beard and blue eyes. He was taller than Midvalley, though didn't appear intimidating at all - he had his hat off, and was wringing the brim nervously between his fingers.
It took the teen a few moments to recognize his visitor, and then he could barely believe his eyes. "'Deus? What are you doing here?" There was a very strictly kept, very well-known rule when it came to Midvalley's profession - and that was that In Daylight Hours Thou Shalt Not Keep The Company of Thine Adult Friend. For that very reason Midvalley's jaw dropped wide open when he realized the man before him was one of his most frequent customers - 'Deus, who had been his first. 'Deus, who was the only one of the multitudes that payed him extra - by the hour - to lay with him after sex and talk. He had bought Midvalley a birthday present and during the holidays, chocolate. Once he had even purchased his choice toy for an evening and done nothing but lay with his head in Midvalley's lap - absurd.
"I... Wanted to talk to you," the other man answered. "About last night."
Midvalley opened his mouth, gaping like a fish as he stared at the man before him - different in daylight, where the teen could see the precise hue of a scratchy red beard, thin brows and long copper hair that he had so often tangled his hands in. Different in the daylight - very different, much more human, much more nervous. "Me?" Midvalley squeaked, softly, turning back towards the sink. That time his voice did jump, and he winced slightly at the scratchy sound. Deus seemed to shrink into the shadows at the sound.
"Yeah. Just...wanted to know if you're alright." the redhead muttered, flexing his fingers. Midvalley detected an unfamiliar note in that, and turned, staring at the other man in surprise.
"Alright?" 'Why does he care?' "Yeah, I guess. Embarrassed, mostly."
"Don't be. It had to happen."
The teen threw himself back into his dishwashing with gusto, sending waves of suds lapping at the edges of the sink. "Yeah. I know. I was just waiting for it, and now..."
"You may have a good singing voice when it settles," Dues said in a hopeful tone, watching Midvalley with affection though he was more than twice his age. "I mean-"
"I know," Midvalley shrugged, glancing over his shoulder and regarding the other man with a curious, slightly disturbed look, perplexed by his behavior. "The girls upstairs keep teasing me, mostly about having to move on to the other sex. No big deal, though - women I mean." He wrinkled his nose. "I'll have to learn how to please-"
Dues looked a little hurt, his brown eyes roving across the tin mirror and settling on reflections of themselves. A sneaking suspicion wound its way into Midvalley's mind, and he studied it silently, watching Dues' fingers worry the brim of his hat. "You don't have to move on to women..."
"Sure I do. Means more money."
"Well, actually, Midvalley - I wanted to talk to you about that."
The suspicion doubled tenfold, and Midvalley turned again, rinsing his hands. He was not at all surprised when Dues moved across the room, until they were closer than close and Midvalley was being pressed sharply into the edge of the sink, and warm arms were curling around his chest. "Dues?"
"I want to talk to you about us."
"How long have I been seeing you, 'Valley?"
The teen shifted, pinned too thoroughly to do more than squirm against broad arms - it was not an unpleasant feeling, just unwanted. 'I should charge him for this.' "Don't call me that."
"How long?" Warm breath in his ear, curious, hoping he remembered - expecting him to. And Midvalley did.
"About five years," he rolled his chocolate eyes, lips pressed thin. "I was eight. You were twenty-nine."
Midvalley considered, trying to remember. "Twice a week? Sometimes more."
"It's taken me this long to realize that I need you."
"Today is my birthday. And all I want is one thing. You."
For a long moment they stood like that, Dues' arms curling loosely around Midvalley, his hips snug and unmoving against the boy's backside as Midvalley struggled to evade the statement. He knew what Dues meant - he didn't mean want in the way Midvalley was almost always available, he wanted more than Midvalley had to give. So the boy cleared his throat and responded evilly, with carefully spaced words. "Oh. I see. A discount? I guess I-"
"No. I don't want to pay."
"Free, then, since it's your-"
"Ever. Ever again," his voice was low and hurried, and a shiver crept up Midvalley's spine. He sensed genuine devotion in that voice, and it made him nervous. "I want you. I love you."
"Dues-" His voice cracked. Damn it.
"Listen to me! I have this all planned out," the older man told Midvalley as the boy writhed, turning until they were facing one another, his nose buried against a warm chest. Dues was at least two feet taller than him - he had to tilt Midvalley's head at a sharp angle for their eyes to meet, mahogany and mahogany together. "I've had it planned out for years, me and you. Because you're so sweet, and so good - you make me happy. I'll buy us tickets on a sand steamer, we'll ditch this town, this place...I'll pay your way until your voice changes and you can sing again, and then we can buy a home. Maybe a bar, I'd like a bar-"
Midvalley squirmed again, slipping down to the floor, twisting sharply to the left and squeezing out between the taller man's legs and the hardwood counter. Standing again and huffing slightly, he curled his knuckles against the towel around his neck and fastened his companion with a silent look. "Dues, please. I... You're a very good customer, but-"
"Don't call me that! A customer!"
"But you are," Midvalley stressed the word, backing up slightly. He was not afraid of Dues - not exactly - but intimidated, yes. Definitely intimidated. The redhead was bigger than him - slower, Midvalley noticed as larger arms closed on the air he had been moments before in a delayed reaction. "Dues, I see dozens of people a week. I do it to make a living. I'm a whore."
The moment was almost instantaneous, and Midvalley gulped in pain, eyes wide as Dues spun on him and caught his wrists up in a vice-like grip. Heartbeats later there were wet, soft lips against his own, gentle and enticing - the boy gasped in surprised, and immediately regretted it, as Dues began sweeping his tongue across Midvalley's, nearly purring in the back of his throat as the boy wriggled faintly beneath him.
Midvalley swallowed back his alarm and forced relaxation to sweep down his nerves as Dues crammed closer and he found himself desperate for breath. 'Think. Think thinkthinkthink-' How was he going to get out of this? The hands around his wrists were too strong to be broken past, the lips on his own increasing in pressure, and he-
"MID! VALLEY!" Something lashed against his shoulder hard, and Midvalley felt Dues drop him and step back, shocked to the bone - and when the boy's eyes got past the redhead's form, he found Sylvia's stern expression gazing back. "What are you doing?"
"You know Sam hates that downstairs, not to mention during the day, not to mention while you're supposed to be washing dishes! Look at this place! It's a mess, and here you are, earning a few bucks on the side - I'm sorry, sir," she said to Dues, who was self-consciously dragging a sleeve across his lips. Midvalley was blushing furiously, especially when he noticed the gleam in his mentor's eyes that told him she was totally aware of the situation. "You'll have to come back later tonight when Midvalley isn't working. Alright?"
"Oh, I know what you weren't doing," the woman somehow managed to get Dues turned around and gave him a hefty, quick shove out of the kitchen. "Honestly, Midvalley," she rounded on him, waving an arm until the door clicked shut and they were alone in the room that now smelled of dishwater and sweat. The light overhead had been jostled in the struggle, and as the two stood it slowed in its mad dash across the ceiling, slowing the dance of the shadows.
"Thanks, Sylvia. How'd you...?"
"No problem," Sylvia swept back her blonde curls as she reached for a rag and began cleaning the spilled water. "Do you think Dues is the first person so starved for affection that the company of a whore seems desirable? Finish the dishes. I've seen it before," she smiled faintly and shook her head, "Just never with someone quite as...unusual as you."
Midvalley settled back at the sink, making a face at the cold dishwater as he set himself at the task once more. "I'm unusual?"
"Yeah, you are. You're young. You're...smarter than the average girl living under this roof, I promise you that. These girls were driven to this life, but you... you chose it."
The boy grinned - he had chosen it. Slipping the last wet dish onto the drying rack, he turned, surprised to be faced with Sylvia's soft expression. "Midvalley, be careful with that one. You're... A good kid, despite all this," she gestured to indicate the bar, the building, the planet - and Midvalley looked away, strangely embarrassed by her kindness, though she had shown him nothing else in the five years they had roomed together. "You..."
The two moved from the kitchen to Sylvia's rooms, where years before a closet had been emptied for Midvalley to sleep in after work. It was small and crowded now that he was full grown, but homely and comfortable, despite its size. On this particular afternoon, the tables were crowded with dusty boxes that had not been there when Midvalley left - he stumbled over a large case as he entered the room. "What?"
"Oh," Sylvia looked embarrassed, turning away and smiling faintly. "I suppose I'm just being nostalgic, hmm? I'm going through the old things.... Ken's things, I mean."
Midvalley blinked twice and placed the name - he knew Sylvia had been married once, and some voice in the back of his mind told him that Ken must have been her husband. "Oh..."
"Yeah. I always wanted a son, you know?"
"Because I was in an all-girl family, and right in the middle. No brothers, no sons, no dad, really... Ken was a gift, but we never managed any children," she smiled, expression melting into a smirk. "Not for lack of trying." Midvalley managed a weak grin back. "I'm thirty-seven, living in a whore-house - and have been for six years. Finding you was just about the best thing that could happen to me."
The boy opened his mouth, closed it again, gaping like a fish. Sylvia had never been the most emotional person - she was loud at times, soft at others, but she scarcely spoke out what she was thinking as she was now. He could almost see the thoughts tumbling through her mind - and her heart - and it lodged a lump in his throat. To think that someone was capable of feeling so much for him! "I.... I think so, too. I mean-" his voice broke, "I mean you're the only... only person who ever..."
Silenced reigned king for a long moment before Midvalley composed himself. "You. Sam is nice, but you listen to me. And... you're the only person I can think of to talk to about last night and all," he trailed off, embarrassed now for a different reason.
"What, puberty?" Sylvia seemed to be treading on more familiar ground, because she began moving, shoving pictures into the moldy cardboard boxes that had been jammed in the basement of the building hours before. "There's not a whole lot to tell. You'll have mood swings and zits, but that's it... you're already very aware of your body." It was a frank statement, and didn't even bring a blush to her face, though Midvalley turned crimson at the words. He didn't like hearing it from her... "You'll do fine, but if you're not singing gigs, you'll probably need another source of income. I'm not sure what you're doing with the cash you earn, but I'm guessing whatever it is happens to be important...."
"Yeah, I know, but singing's all I'm good at." Midvalley rested his head against the soft cushions of the couch, his bangs flopping loose before his eyes as he made a distasteful face.
Sylvia's voice was carefully neutral as she replied. "What about playing an instrument?"
"Yeah. In a band or something. That won't require your voice, and you'd probably pick up fast - you're a musical person, Midvalley."
The prospect sounded encouraging, and Midvalley sat up straighter, looking hopefully up at the woman before him as Sylvia turned and knelt, hauling the case he had tripped over in the doorway up and setting it on the coffee table. "An instrument, you mean, like guitar, or violin, or drums-"
"Or saxophone, since that's really all that's available."
It was special in a strange way that he had never felt before, the massive black case with ancient letters pressed into the side. The way his fingers brushed against the latches, unhooked them and opened the case with utter care was a new sensation, heightened and shocking - later he would try to describe what it felt like to know you wanted to keep something forever at the first touch, and would fail, because he himself could not quite place the knot of knowing that settled in his chest. It was just....special beyond words, a memory that embedded itself deep within him the moment it occurred.
The saxophone was settled in green velvet lining, sectioned into several pieces, which Midvalley reverently picked up and turned in his hands as if the brassy metal were in reality the highest quality of gold. "It was Ken's, an alto saxophone." The boy reached first for the body, running his fingers along the bell, which was cool and intricate - the cork was in places dry and cracked, and the pads that lined the undersides of the keys seemed loose, however the body was in good shape, if not a bit dirty. He fitted the neck and mouthpiece together, placing his hands on the ivory keys that seemed curved to fit his fingers as if it had been made for him - he was unsure of the fingering, and yet - it felt like - "Yes, just like that," Sylvia said softly. "That's the right way to do it. He played all the time, and always said it was his life - me and his music."
"How does it play?" Midvalley asked, a little breathlessly.
"You need a reed. There should be some in there. Old, very old - put it in your mouth, wet it, and flatten your chin - I have a book around here somewhere." Moments later she had produced a yellowing book, 'Saxophone for Beginners'. "And you blow. It sounds easier than it really is, I could never get a hoot out of the thing. You might as well give it a shot."
Midvalley looked up hopefully. "You mean I can keep it?"
"Of course," she smiled. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather give it to."
The boy beamed, clinging to his new treasure protectively with a youthful fascination, eyes lit aglow with determination. "Thank you! Thank you- I'm, I'm going to fix it up-"
"It'll take a lot of work. It hasn't been touched in six years, and instruments need maintenance. It may cost you more money than you actually make playing the thing..."
"I don't care. I'll work on it, I'm going to find someone in this God-forsaken town that knows how to fix this, and I'm going to pay him all the money he wants!" Midvalley nearly leapt up, knocking a box of photographs aside in his haste to settle the instrument back into the case, which he immediately slung over one shoulder. "I'll be back before dinner."
Sylvia found herself grinning as he disappeared out the door, and she spoke to an empty room when she called out. "Have fun!"