CHAPTER THREE - NOSCE TE IPSUM (KNOW THYSELF)
"So you moved him in beside you?" Cain's voice was amused. The older man was wearing a dove gray suit and an Egyptian cotton white shirt, which was flared open at the throat. His silk tie was tossed on the dinner table. His long legs were stretched underneath the table, nearly touching Damien's, even with his ankles crossed. He ran one elegant hand through his mahogany-colored hair.
"You say that as if it was revealing in some way." Damien played with the steamed asparagus on his plate. Cain had wanted them to eat a late lunch together and discuss his newest acquisition, Targus Corporation, but instead it had become a discussion about Jamie and Damien's bizarre decisions that day. The younger man feigned indifference, but he knew that moving Jamie in beside him was revealing.
And stupid. Incredibly stupid. But I can't seem to regret it.
"He's pretty, but then so are the others and you haven't been inclined to keep them close," Cain mused. He speared the remains of his white fish with his fork while his green eyes speared into Damien.
The younger man refused to squirm. He took a sip of wine. "I'm curious about his powers. You were so excited, how could I not be interested?"
"Oh? Afraid I'll replace you?" Cain laughed.
Damien rolled his eyes. "I know what his powers are now, Cain. I'm in no danger of being set aside."
He had discovered one of those powers earlier in a very personal way. As Cain droned on with suppositions about why Damien had taken a shine to Jamie, Damien remembered the short time he'd already spent with the boy that had him acting so out of character.
His hands had been sticky with the half-eaten peach. The fruit's juice was dripping between his fingers and pattering onto the runner. His erection was straining his pants. And Jamie was giving him a happy puppy dog look again, urging him to come into his new bedroom, to show him around. Damien's valued senses of control and neatness were completely shot. If he was going to get laid, he could accept these losses, but there was an eager innocence in Jamie's expression that told Damien that sex wasn't on the other boy's mind.
Jesus, I don't think he has any idea what he's doing!
Jamie grasped his wrist and dragged Damien after him into the new room. The other boy had taken two large steps inside before he froze and dropped his duffel onto the ground. Where that large hand touched him, Damien's skin tingled.
Damien cast about for a trash can to get rid of the peach. He couldn't take the slip of fruit in the same hand as that tingling. Once he found it, he gently pulled away to trash the fuit then he turned around to face Jamie. That wide-eyed look was back.
"Hey, are you all right?" Damien asked.
"It's like -- like something from the movies," Jamie said softly as he gestured around.
Damien looked at the mostly twin room of his own. There was the king-sized four-poster bed with heavy blue hangings. Opposite it was a large mahogany dresser with mirror. The roll-top desk in the corner that would be set up with a laptop of Jamie's choice. The fireplace beside the bed was filled with wood that only required a match to be lit to have a roaring blaze. The French doors were closed that lead out onto a balcony that they would now share. Oceans of sunlight poured through and Damien could see a snippet of white caps on the sea.
"You'll have to personalize it," Damien mused. "It's rather plain."
His own room was done in purples and blacks, of course. The walls were white though to show off his paintings. He painted with oil. His fair skin was often smudged with the thick paints. It helped him focus. Helped keep out the shadow's voices.
Jamie spun towards him. Eyes still wide. "Are you saying that this is my room?"
Damien shrugged. "Yeah, of course. I said it was. Here. Let's check out the closet. I don't know if this one has the organization system built in yet. If it doesn't they'll fix it."
He grabbed Jamie's duffel and lead the boy over to the walk-in closet. He snapped on the overhead light, pleased to see the closet system in place. The woody scent of cedar had told him it was even before the lights came. He loved the sense of order the organizer gave the space. There were cedar bars for pants, shelves for socks and underwear, and a shoe trees. There was the vanity and the locked safe where the watches and other jewelry Cain would give Jamie could be locked up when not being worn. Damien set the light duffel onto the luggage rack. He doubted anything in it would be hanging in here once Cain had his say.
"I don't have anything to fill even a few inches of this!" Jamie exclaimed, flapping his arms up and down.
"Don't worry. Cain will make sure that you're properly attired. This will be stuffed full in no time," Damien remarked dryly. Their "father" would enjoy outfitting the blond Adonis. Casting a glance at the boy's worn jeans and basic flannel, Damien was sure that the other boy had no idea about fashion.
He'll let Cain make all the choices. Be the perfect Ken-doll. Maybe I should ask to take him shopping instead. Stop Cain from turning him into a complete preppy freak.
"I knew that Mr. Cain was well-off, but this ... I don't know. I don't know how to deal with this." Jamie sank down on the floor, his knees drawing up to his chest. For someone so big, he looked ridiculously child-like and lost.
Damien was struck then that he knew nothing of Jamie's background. He had assumed that Jamie was a street kid like himself, but he knew that was wrong. Jamie had had a family. A Changed sister.
Until something went terribly wrong.
"What do you mean?" Damien asked, strangely uncomfortable to be staring at the top of Jamie's head.
How did he survive out there? He's Changed! We're spit on in the streets if people even get that close! But he's so open. So fragile and trusting. How did his parents keep him so innocent?
The boy's shoulders hunched and he wrapped his arms around his knees. "This has happened so fast. Everything's changed. Everything's different. I don't know -- know how to deal with this. My whole life is gone."
There was a suspicious tint of tears in Jamie's voice that surprisingly caused a stab of pain in Damien's chest. He grimaced, but he went down onto his haunches so that they were eye to eye. He wasn't going to sit on the floor, but he had to have Jamie focus on him.
"Hey, hey, it's okay. I know that this is ... uncomfortable, because it's new. But believe me, it'll get familiar real quick," Damien said. The comforting words were unfamiliar on his tongue and didn't come easily to mind.
Because they're polite lies that I don't bother to tell. Things will get more familiar here. But that doesn't mean they'll get better. Jesus, how will he handle Cain making a pass at him? Or Stephan sending one of his none-too-subtle barbs? Or Troy's physical bullying? Shit. He's going to shatter like glass.
There were tears in Jamie's blue eyes. When one trailed down his cheek, Damien couldn't help himself. He wiped it away gently. He felt the sizzle of electricity before he saw it. The bolt of lightening leaped from Jamie's cheek onto Damien's fingers. The blue-white energy slid up his arm until it zapped itself out against his chest. It stung. The shock caused him to fall backwards after it hit. Jamie grabbed him just before the back of his head impacted the corner of the luggage rack.
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! When I'm upset, I lose control of my powers." Jamie clutched him to his chest. Damien could hardly breathe as his mouth was stuffed with flannel. "Are you okay? Tell me you're okay!"
Damien pushed away from the boy's chest and took in a deep breath. He was enjoying the strength of the muscles he felt, but not being suffocated. When he could finally speak again, he said, "The lightening didn't harm me so much as the clutching currently is. You're smothering me, Jamie."
"God, sorry!" Jamie quickly released him though his hands remained on Damien's shoulders. "I tried to pull the electricity back, but it was intent. It wanted to connect with you."
Damien's eyebrows rose. "Your power wanted to connect with me? It wanted to shock me?"
"No." Jamie was shaking his head. "It wanted to touch you. Not hurt you. Believe me if it wanted to hurt you --"
"I'd be a smoking, blackened husk on the ground? I get the picture." The sorrowful look on Jamie's face confirmed that's exactly what would have happened.
Now I know what's exciting Cain. The kid's a human lightning bolt factory. He'll feel like he's controlling Zeus' power through Jamie.
Damien stood up on slightly shaky legs. Jamie quickly came up with him, placing a steadying hand on Damien's lower back. The touch was gentle and unfamiliar for its tenderness.
"I'm so sorry," Jamie whispered.
Damien waved him off. His throat felt strangely tight. "It happens."
He knew how "accidents" happened with powers. A flash of Carly's face in his mind, but he pushed it away. That was ancient history and he wouldn't think of it now.
Not now when I'm getting close to someone again? Was Carly the last person I cared for? Shit, she was.
Damien went over to the mantle of the fireplace and leaned heavily against it. Jamie was hovering anxiously, which was setting his teeth on edge and oddly enduring at the same time. "I'm okay. Really. Sit down somewhere."
The other boy moped over to the bed and sat down. Damien let out a chuckle as Jamie surreptitiously bounced on it a bit.
"You're like an overgrown kid, you know that?" he said with a trace of affection.
Jamie bounced some more. "C'mon, join me. It's fun."
"I'm sure." But Damien remained leaning against the carved fireplace mantle watching his own personal Adonis bounce up and down.
That luminescent smile was back. Jamie's sadness was forgotten for the moment. That was good. Damien wasn't sure what he would do if the other boy cried again. Two incidents of comforting in one day were too much for him.
"You're a very serious person, aren't you?" Jamie stilled his bouncing.
"You say that as if it's a bad thing." Damien crossed his arms over his chest as the other boy continued to observe him.
"I think it's going to be my job to make sure you're not so serious all the time," Jamie said solemnly.
"Really?" Damien cocked up an eyebrow. "I'm not exactly an easy person to change."
"Meaning you don't change," Jamie interpreted with a smile. "I'm not trying to change you. I'm trying to bring out the fun in you."
"There is no fun in me," Damien deadpanned.
"You've just forgotten. I can tell," Jamie said.
"Is that another one of your powers?" Damien asked.
Jamie laughed and shook his head. "Jessica always said I could read people pretty well."
"Hmmm," Damien hummed.
Jamie got up from the bed and pointed towards a closed door. "Where does that lead to? Not another closet?" He almost looked horrified at the thought.
Damien was horrified when he realized where it did lead. "That's -- that's the bathroom."
He'd forgotten that these his room and Jamie's shared a bathroom. The other boy loped over and threw the door open. He gave the familiar now gasp of shock at how big it was. He disappeared from view within the bathroom, ooohing and ahhhing over everything. Damien stood there frozen.
"Is this your stuff? It is! I can tell from your cologne," Jamie pattered on as he looked into the bathroom. "We share this, don't we? Cool! Your room and mine are connected by it. We can keep our doors open and it's like we're in the same room!" Jamie's head popped out of the bathroom. He was glowing with happiness. "I admit I was worried when I thought about being alone here. But I won't be. You'll be right here. What's wrong?"
Damien's mouth was opening and shutting. His privacy was very important to him. He needed his alone time. For as much as he was going to enjoy seeing Jamie get in and out of the shower, wet, golden skin and flashes of a firm, paler ass, he was also going to have to deal with togetherness. His normally brilliant mind skidded to a halt as to how to fix this.
It's simple. Tell him that you made a mistake. You didn't mean this room, but the one next to it. One more farther down. He'd be near me and I'd have space.
But one look at Jamie's rapidly sorrowing expression and hunching shoulders dried the words on his tongue.
"You don't want to share. I mean, of course you don't. You want your privacy and stuff," Jamie said. He scuffed his foot against the floor. "We're teen guys, we should want our time by ourselves."
"No!" Damien shouted and winced. It was like watching the sun setting into evening, the dying of the day, as Jamie had been talking. He couldn't stand it. There was a surprised look on the other boy's face. "I mean, you're right that I -- ah, forgot, about the shared bathroom. I was just thinking ... look, I want you here. I really do."
Where the hell did that come from? Damien ran a hand through his hair. He gave me an opening to send him away, but I didn't take it! Jesus, he's rocking on his heels with that smile again. Happy puppy is back. Just think of all the naked skin I'll see. And if he is interested in more than eating out of my hand, this will be the perfect set up. Just got to set boundaries.
But Jamie was already ahead of him. "I promise I'll give you your space. I won't be underfoot and all. And I take really quick showers. Don't spend much time primping."
"And you think I do?" Damien asked, slightly nettled. He wasn't high maintenance. He smoothed down the front of his spotless black sweater.
Jamie grinned and ducked his head. "Your hair. I bet it takes time to make it look like that."
"Like what?" Damien's back was stiff. He was very proud of his hair. But he didn't spend hours doing it. Not every day in any case.
Jamie's mouth opened in surprise at Damien's cool tone. "I'm not criticizing! It looks really cool! Really awesome! I just -- just thought you would have to work to ... shit, I'm making this worse, aren't I? Just forget I said anything. I'm sure we'll both be in and out of that bathroom lickity split."
"Lickity split?" Damien laughed. His earlier pique was forgotten as Jamie blushed and stammered and used phrases that should never come out of a seventeen-year-old boy's mouth.
"My father used to say that," Jamie said with a deeper blush.
"If you said your grandfather I might have believed you," Damien said.
"So what do you believe?" Jamie was trying not to laugh.
"That you're a traveler from another time that only existed on black and white television. Speaking of which, we've got to get you some electronics." Damien glanced around, picturing where the flatscreen television could go and a stereo.
"Electronics? Really, I'm good with just this," Jamie assured him.
Damien was about to explain some of the perks being a Cain brought when Jeffrey discretely tapped on the door to Jamie's new room. He was still in the perfect black suit, but the cap was gone.
"Hey, Jeffrey!" Jamie said brightly.
"Hello, Master Jamie." Jeffrey's pale blue gaze slid over to Damien. "Your father wishes to have you join him for a lunch meeting, Master Damien, in the dining room to discuss the Targus matter."
"Mr. Cain's here?" Jamie asked, eyebrows quirking up.
"Yes, he has just returned from business. I am sure that he will want to meet with you later, Master Jamie," Jeffrey said quietly.
Jamie's forehead furrowed. His confusion was almost palpable. This man had adopted him. Had taken him in after whatever it was that had happened. Surely, he would want to see Jamie? Surely, he wouldn't stand on ceremony? But that wasn't how this all worked. The adoption was a convenient way for Cain to have some kind of legal ownership of the Changed. It wasn't about love or family. But he doubted the other boy would have any concept of that. Damien gave Jamie a look that said: I'll explain but not now.
"I'll be back a little later. Get yourself settled or check out the grounds. I'll find you," Damien offered to cushion the blow. He tried to ignore the surprised stiffness in Jeffrey's posture. All of this, what he had said and done would be whispered fiercely to Cain before Damien was allowed in the dining room.
Jamie finally reluctantly nodded. "You'll come back right away?"
The neediness in the other boy's voice hurt to hear. "Of course. I'll be right back."
Damien guessed that the other boy was probably still up in the room. Perhaps sitting on the bed after having unpacked his meager belongings. Damien felt a sense of shock that he wanted to get upstairs. He wanted this meeting with Cain to be over, but instead of desiring some time alone, he wanted to see that brilliant smile and hear that bright voice.
"Are you still with me?" Cain's voice held an edge that shocked Damien out of his thoughts.
It was dangerous to be inattentive with Cain. He clawed for what they had been talking about and found himself asking, "How could Jamie's power help you?"
Cain smiled slowly. "That is the question that's killing you, isn't it?"
"Not killing me exactly. I'm just curious," Damien remarked coolly. He had ideas. None of them very good. But what had been an off the cuff question suddenly seemed important. Because the thought of Jamie's innocence slamming up against Cain's plans was not a pretty picture.
Cain stood up and came to the younger man's side. Damien tensed when he leaned down, his lips even with his ear. "I'm afraid I'm not going to satisfy your curiosity quite yet. You're always so adorably eager when you want to know something."
"You always have liked teasing me," Damien whispered.
He turned his face so that they were eye to eye. Cain's breath puffed against his lips. The older man's eyes hooded. The red-tint flooded his thoughts as he read Cain's mind. He pictured them fucking in front of a fire. The flames limned their bodies. Cain kissed along Damien's arched throat. He heard his own moans and saw as his hips shift wantonly. Cain's hand curled around his cock and began to stroke him, reward him for his desire. Damien wrenched himself out of Cain's thoughts. The older man moved closer. His head tilted to the side. Damien slipped off the chair and was standing a few feet away. His heart was hammering in his chest. That familiar mixture of disgust and desire soared through him.
Because I'm fucking masochistic. Maybe suicidal. Why else would I want this? Need a daddy figure to love me that bad?
And now there was the clean desire he felt for Jamie. It made these thoughts for Cain even more repugnant to him.
"And you've always liked teasing me." The older man laughed and shook his head.
"All of that's in your head. I have nothing to do with it," Damien gritted out.
"Nosce te ipsum. Know thyself, Damien."
Both of them stared at one another in silence for a moment. Damien held himself stiffly. Angered and dismayed that Cain read him so well even without powers. Finally, the older man leaned against the table. "About the Targus matter ..."
Damien's shoulders loosened. He was glad to be moving on from this. "Ask to see the real books."
"I have." Cain frowned. "I know that the ones they showed the SEC were bunk. They gave me everything."
"There's a second set of books. Only the CFO knows. He keeps them on his laptop off the servers. Check there. He also gambles and is having an affair with a sixteen-year-old girl. A friend of his daughter's. Name's Emily," Damien rattled off. He knew much more. He didn't feel dirty with the knowledge. The CFO's life was mundane. Nothing too shocking.
"You're invaluable as always, Damien," Cain said. "So you want me to leave Jamie alone in return? That's your price?"
"Yeah, that's my price," Damien found himself saying through numb lips.
Cain was grinning. "You do know that this is only the beginning of what you'll have to pay for Jamie? He's a valuable asset that you're asking me to leave alone."
Damien nodded. "I know what I'm doing."
Cain laughed. "I wonder if you do."