"Maki, get down." Jaden floored the gas pedal. Bullets pierced the car as he pushed Makani to the floorboard. "Just stay down there. Okay? I'll get you out of here." He looked in the rearview mirror and watched the large cement walls of the quarantined area shrink with distance. Bullets continued to be fired from the watchtowers. The car reached the speed of one hundred miles an hour. Jaden threw Makani a quick glance.
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Makani trembled. He looked sick. Jaden could tell that he was in a large amount of pain. "Jaden," Makani let out a quiet cry.
"What is it?" Jaden focused back on the open road ahead of him.
"It's okay. I'll get you out of here safe and sound. I promise."
Makani said nothing. He rested his head on his knees.
After the gunfire ceased, Jaden asked, "Are you okay?" Watching Makani nod, he added, "You can come back up here, now. We're out of their reach."
Weakly crawling back into the seat, Makani softly mumbled, "I think I'm gonna get sick." He put his hand over his mouth and held his stomach.
"It's the Omatone. Isn't it?"
Makani nodded as he lay back. He let a few tears run down his face and sobbed softly, "I can't take this anymore."
Jaden took Makani's glove hand in his. "We'll stop soon. Ash's place isn't much farther. He'll be able to help you."
"What if they find us? You know what the punishment is for leaving the quarantined area. They run that place worse than a prison. They'll kill us."
"They won't find us." Jaden pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed a number.
"Ash, it's Jaden. I got him out."
"Are you crazy? How the hell did you get past security?"
"I work there you know. It was pretty easy."
"Did any one see you with him?"
"The guards in the towers. They'll be heading out for us soon if they haven't already. I need you to meet me a few miles from your place."
"Oh, no. No, Jaden, it's way too risky. You guys can't stay here."
"Ash, please, do this for me. You're the only one left who knows the cure. He's dying." Jaden forced back his tears. He could not let Makani see him cry. "I just need you to do this for me. I'll never ask you to do anything else even if I get Omatone. Just cure him."
"You know how badly it will hurt him?"
"If it cures him, we're both willing to try. I've already talked to him about it."
"Okay, fine. Pull over. I'll be there in a few minutes." Ash hung up the phone.
Jaden drove for another minute or so and pulled over. He turned to Makani. "Ash said he could do it."
Makani said nothing as he cried. His breathing was shallow.
"Ash will be here any minute now, Maki. Hold on. Okay?" Jaden squeezed Makani's hand. "I knew I should've grabbed your medicine."
"It never helped."
"Why didn't you ev—What?" Jaden turned after watching Makani's eyes grow wide with fear.
The car door opened. "Get your things. I'll get Makani." Ash pulled Jaden out of the car. "Hurry."
After Ash had lifted Makani out of the car, Jaden quickly grabbed the bags from the back seat. He threw them in the trunk of Ash's car and went to get in the front seat.
"Get in the back with Makani, and stay down. I can't risk being seen with you two." Ash put the car in drive after Jaden climbed in.
Jaden sat on the floorboard of the back seat. He gazed up at his friend. "Thank you for doing this."
Not taking his eyes off the road, Ash answered, "I know how much you love him, and I know how hard it is to watch the one you love suffer with Omatone."
"Rita had Omatone. Didn't she?"
"Your father and I didn't finish the cure on time." Ash whipped the car down a narrow road.
"How long will it take to cure Maki?" Jaden shifted his gaze to his lover. Makani lay crying on the back seat. Black mascara ran down his face with his tears. He bit his lower lip avoiding his lip ring. Jaden pushed the tears off Makani's face. "Sh—it's okay."
"I don't know how long it will take. I'll have to see how far along the Omatone is." Ash sighed, "There are different stages of Omatone, five being the worst. If he's at stage five, it could take a few months to a year. I don't know if he'll be able to endure the treatment for that length of time."
"But you're willing to try, right? Even if he's at stage five, you'll try? Won't you?" Jaden nervously asked.
"I'll do my best."
Ash pulled the car into the driveway, quickly got out, and looked around. "Hurry up and get him inside. Put him on the table in the basement."
Jaden quickly carried Makani into the basement where he was greeted by a familiar smile. "Falen, what are you doing here?"
"Learning how to cure Omatone. Ash is finally teaching me."
Jaden let a slight smile play on his lips. "Finally. How long has it been since he took you as an apprentice?"
"Six months." Falen pulled the thick curtains closed when Ash entered the small room.
As he entered, Ash said, "Put gloves on. Don't let your skin touch his. It's the only way Omatone will spread." He put on a pair of latex gloves and walked to the side of the table. "Makani, do you know what stage you're at?"
Makani shook. He was terrified. "N—no."
"I'm going to have to take a look, then." Ash gently began unbuttoning Makani's shirt.
Jaden stepped forward. "Ash, uh—let me. He's scared. I don't want him to have to go through any more than he already has to." He slowly unbuttoned Makani's shirt and pulled it out from underneath him. His heart broke when he heard Makani let out a soft sob. He untied Makani's boots and pulled them off followed by his socks and pants. He removed the gloves last. "Oh—God, why? Why him?" Jaden quickly turned away and put his head in his hands. He heard Makani cry out his name, but could not bring himself to look at him. He shook his head.
"Stage five." Ash whispered softly. "Falen, can I speak with you for a second?" He pulled Falen out of the room. Before he closed the door, he ordered, "Don't let your skin touch his."
Jaden finally turned and looked at Makani. As hard as he tried, he could not fight back his tears. He took a deep breath. He walked to Makani's side and took his hand. Jaden tried not to look at the large, gray bruises that covered Makani's porcelain skin. "Ash can help you. He can save you, Love." He pushed the tears off Makani's face. He helped Makani get dressed but left his shirt off.
Ash reentered holding a syringe. "I'm going to give him the strongest dosage I can. Help him sit up, Jaden, and be ready to hold him."
Jaden nodded and slid one arm under Makani's neck helping him sit. He let Makani rest his head on his shoulder.
Ash readied the syringe. "It will be just a little prick, Makani." He stuck the needle into Makani's upper arm and emptied the syringe.
Makani's body went stiff. He cried out Jaden's name.
"It's okay, Maki." Jaden ran his fingers through Makani's long, black hair. He tightly wrapped his arms around his lover. "What the hell is going on, Ash?" Jaden felt Makani's heart rate quicken and his breathing grow unsteady. Makani's body relaxed then tensed again. Jaded ran his hands along Makani's back. He did not know how else to comfort his lover without touching him.
"His body is starting to fight the Omatone. I told you this would be hard on him."
"How long will it last?" Jaden asked over Makani's cries.
"It will gradually get easier on him as the Omatone starts to die off. I can't say exactly how long that will be, but judging by the severity of his case, I would say maybe two to three weeks."
"How many injections a day?"
"Three to four depending on how long each dose lasts. Fighting Omatone is nonstop until it is completely gone."
Jaden bit his lip and lowered his head. His brown hair fell in his face. He gazed down at Makani's body as he continued to hold him. "How long will it take for the Omatone to not be contagious?"
"We have to get it down to stage two. I know it's hard not being able to touch him, Jaden. I went through it with Rita."
"We've never even kissed. He told me he had Omatone right after I met him."
"I'm sorry. I know that must be hard."
"Ash, I got the room set up. It's ready for him." Falen entered the room.
Ash gently pushed Jaden out of the way. He lifted Makani off the table and carried him up to a bedroom on the second floor. The room was small and dark. Ash laid Makani on the bed and flipped on the light switch. He turned to Jaden and said, "Don't open the drapes. Don't leave the house. Keep him as quiet as you can. We can't risk you two being found. We'll all be killed." He threw a quick glance at Makani and then focused back to Jaden. "Either Falen or I will be in here every hour to check on him. If anything happens, let one of us know immediately. All right?"
Jaden nodded as he sat down next to Makani. "Okay." He kept his eyes focused on Makani but spoke to Ash, "This Omatone virus, what is it really? I mean I worked in the quarantine, but they never told me exactly what it was."
Ash sighed heavily, "It starts on the skin but works its way into the blood stream. It starts to eat away at the blood vessels and organs deteriorating its victims from the inside out. The bruises on Makani's skin are where the Omatone is the worst. I take it he's had this for quite some time. Omatone victims usually die within two years of contracting the virus."
"Maki's had the virus for over a year and a half. How badly do you think his body is damaged?" Jaden squeezed Makani's hand.
"The damage is more than likely repairable, but his body will probably never be the same. It's hard to tell right now. I will have to run some tests once he is feeling better." Ash turned and began to leave the room. "Let me know if anything happens." He closed the door behind him.
Jaden held Makani's dark gaze. After a few minutes passed by in silence, he whispered, "I'm so sorry you have to go through this." He caressed Makani's cheek.
"Jaden, I—"Makani could not hold back the cry of pain that broke his sentence. His body shook violently. "I—I can't do—this."
Jaden pushed the tears from his eyes and shook his head. "Don't say that, Maki. You can do it—for us. I'll be here with you the whole time. I promise: I'm not going anywhere." He pulled Makani into his arms.
As he sobbed, Makani buried his face into Jaden's shoulder. He clung to Jaden as tightly as he could. "Don't let me go." He spoke quickly in one short breath.
"I don't plan to." Jaden held Makani close. "I just wish I could do more to ease your pain. You've suffered too much already. You don't deserve this." Tears rolled down Jaden's face. He knew he could not do anything to help Makani. He had to at least try. Feeling Makani shake and hearing him cry broke Jaden's heart. What could he do? He felt helpless.
The door slowly opened, and Falen stepped in. He looked concerned. Pushing back his blond hair, he asked, "Is everything all right? I heard him scream."
Jaden shook his head. "Is there any way to make this easier on him?"
"Not yet. Ash is working on something right now that might help him." Falen sat next to Jaden. "How are you holding up?"
"How does it look? I can't comfort him at all. Do you know what it's like not being able to touch the one you love? You're so lucky Adele doesn't have this."
"I know." Falen responded softly, "Can I get you anything?"
Jaden shook his head. His eyes remained fixed on Makani. He ran his fingers though Makani's hair. "I just need something to take away his pain. It's so hard for me to see him like this."
"I can't even imagine."
Ash stuck his head in the room. "Falen, can you help me with this?"
Slowly standing up, Falen nodded.
After Falen closed the door, Jaden spoke gently, "They'll be able to help you, Love." He held Makani's thin frame tightly. "I'm so sorry."
Minutes passed by and neither of the young men spoke. Jaden kept his eyes on Makani. He felt terrible because he had not done anything sooner. If he had gotten him out just a few weeks earlier, maybe it would not have been so hard on him. Jaden's mind rushed. He closed his eyes and soon fell into a deep sleep.
"Hey, kid, are you okay?" Jaden knelt beside the stunning young man.
"I—I think so." The young man fixed his waist length, disheveled hair and wiped the blood from under his lip ring.
"Are you sure? That asshole gave you one hell of a beating from what I saw."
"I'll be okay." The young man got to his feet. "Thank you."
Jaden stood up as well. "Don’t mention it. Who was that bastard anyway?"
"My ex." The young man stared at the ground. His dark eyes glistened with tears.
"Do you want me to walk you home?"
"Yeah, it's no problem."
"I don't even know your name."
"Jaden. And you?"
"Never heard that one before." Jaden started walking out of the park.
"My parents were weird."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I hardly remember them." They walked silently for a few minutes. "Why did you stop him?"
"What do you mean?" Jaden gave Makani a puzzled look.
"Everyone else just stood and watched. Why did you pull him off me?" Makani watched the ground as he spoke. He held his hand under his bloody nose. "Fucker almost pulled my nose ring out." He mumbled.
"Well, when I see someone beating the shit out of someone else, I'm not going to sit around and watch. That's not my thing. Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine. I really don't know how to thank you."
"You don't have to thank me. It's no big deal. Why did he do it anyway?"
"He was just pissed because I left him. He knew it was coming. After years of abuse, I don't see how he thought I would stay." Makani stopped. "Jaden,"
"Jaden, wake up."
Jaden opened his eyes and stretched. "What time is it?" He looked down at Makani who still trembled in his arms.
Ash looked at his watch. "It's almost ten p.m. I have something that might help Makani. I need you to let him go, though."
Jaden nodded and rested Makani back on the bed.
"Jaden," Makani cried.
"It's all right."
Ash lifted Makani off the bed and brought him into the basement. He laid Makani on the floor of the bathroom. "Jaden, get him undressed and put him in the tub. I'll be back in a little while to see how he's doing."
"What is that stuff?" Jaden stared at the clear liquid in the tub. It obviously was not water.
"I'll explain it later. Just make sure all of the bruises are covered." Ash closed the door behind him.
Jaden gently got Makani undressed and lifted him into the tub.
Makani gasped as his body entered the liquid, "It's—like ice."
"Just give it a try. Ash said it would help." Jaden held Makani's head above the liquid. After a few minutes, Makani began to settle down. "Is it helping at all?"
"I can't feel anything." Makani's tone was grateful.
"Good." Jaden let a smile play on his lips. His eyes scanned Makani's body. "You knew you were at stage five. Didn't you?"
Makani nodded, "Yeah."
"Why didn't you tell me it was so bad?"
"I didn't want you to leave." Makani bit his lip. "I was so scared because I remembered what you said before you knew I had Omatone. You said that if anyone you loved came down with Omatone, you would have to leave because you wouldn't be able to watch them suffer."
"Maki—I didn't mean that."
"I know you didn't, now, but I was scared that if you found out how bad it really was, you would leave." A few tears ran down Makani's face. His gorgeous visage took on a sorrowful expression. "If I don't make it through this, I want you to—"
"Sh—Don't talk like that, Love. You'll make it. I'll make sure you do." Jaden pushed the tears off Makani's face. "Just think about everything we are going to be able to do when you are cured. Think positive, Love."
"Can we see the ocean?" Makani choked back tears.
"Of course, we can see what ever you want."
"I've never seen the ocean before."
"I know, and I'll make sure you see it. Okay?"
"Okay." Makani exhaled and closed his eyes. "I'm so tired."
"Go to sleep. You need to sleep while you can."
"Jaden, get him dressed." Ash's voice sounded from the other side of the door.
"All right." Jaden grabbed a towel and lifted Makani out of the tub. He dried Makani off and got him dressed in his red plaid pajama pants. "You'll be able to sleep in just a minute." He carried Makani into the bedroom and laid him on the bed.
Ash entered the room. "If he ever gets as bad as he did, just take him down there."
"Okay." Jaden gently tucked Makani in. He turned to Ash. "I can't thank you enough for doing all of this."
"It's not a problem. I just don't want to see you go through what I went through." Ash sighed as he leaned against the doorframe. His silver hair fell in his face as he lowered his head slightly.
Jaden looked at his friend for a moment before asking, "Why haven't you told anyone about the cure?"
"I've spent most of my life on it. Forty years or so. If anyone else finds out, do you know the chaos it will cause? There's nowhere near enough to go around and the resources to make it are so scarce I was lucky to find them. It would be way too expensive to mass-produce. It would start riots. You should know that better than anyone. Your father died for it." Ash shook his head and whispered, "I should've never pursued it."
Jaden looked down at Makani, who by that time had fallen asleep and back to Ash. "I'm glad you did." He sat quietly for a few minutes holding Makani's hand. "I don't know what I would do without him, Ash."
Ash walked over to Jaden and rested his hand on his back. "I know."
Falen entered the room with a syringe in hand. "Ash, it's time for another dose."
Ash nodded and took the syringe from Falen. Leaning over Jaden, he injected the medicine into Makani's arm. "He should do all right through this one. You should get some rest, too, while you can."
"I'll try." Jaden rested his back against the wall. After he watched Ash leave, he closed his eyes. As hard as he tried, he could not fall asleep. He opened his eyes after about an hour and looked down at Makani. Jaden pushed a few stray hairs out of Makani's face.
Makani stirred slightly. "Jaden?" He kept his eyes shut.
"It's okay, Maki. Go back to sleep."
"You'll be here when I wake up?"
Makani rolled onto his side. He pulled the blanket up to his chin.
Jaden watched Makani sleep. Makani's face held a tranquil expression. It was the most peaceful Jaden had seen him in nearly two years. What was he dreaming about? Was it about him? Jaden sighed and smiled. Makani was probably dreaming about the ocean. What was it about the ocean that fascinated him so much? Jaden shook his head. He would let Makani have is dreams.
Jaden leisurely stood up. He walked to his bag and unpacked it. He hung his clothes in the closet. After he had unpacked the rest of his things, Jaden started unpacking Makani's bag. As he unfolded a shirt, he came across a photograph. A beautiful young, woman stood on a boardwalk over looking the ocean. The woman's eyes held a playful look that Jaden was all too familiar with.
"She's my mother." Makani stated from the bed.
Jaden raised his head. "Sorry, I was just—um."
"This is why you want to see the ocean so badly. Isn't it?"
Makani gave a gentle nod. "I always thought maybe I could be closer to her in some way by going there." He softly laughed, "It's stupid. I only knew her for a few years, but I can still hear her voice."
"That's not stupid, Love." Jaden stood up and sat next to Makani. He whispered, "At least you have that much."
"I never knew my mother, and my father was so wrapped up in his science that he hardly acknowledged me. Ash has been more of a father to me than mine ever was." Jaden placed the picture on the night stand.
"Is that why you never talk about him?"
Jaden nodded. Changing the subject, he asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Okay I guess. Better than earlier." Makani stared at the ceiling. "What time is it?"
Jaden pulled his phone out of his pocket. "Two."
"In the morning?"
"Yeah, you've been sleeping for awhile." Jaden looked down at Makani's angelic face. "You should probably go back to sleep." He pushed a stray hair out of his lover's face.
"I'm not tired anymore." Makani whispered. He caught Jaden's gaze. "I had a dream about us."
"Really? Good or bad?"
"Good." Makani stretched. "Do you remember the day I told you I had Omatone?"
"Oh God, how could I forget. Is that what you dreamt about? How was that a good dream?" Jaden gave Makani a confused look.
Makani closed his eyes and heaved a heavy sigh, "I know you almost left me."
"Maki, what would make you—"
"Don't deny it. It's why you didn't come around for a few days after I told you."
"It just shocked me. I never thought that someone I knew would come down with the virus.
"After you left, I thought I would never see you again, but you came back. That's what makes it a good dream. You came back."
"I never thought about leaving you, Love." Jaden sweetly caressed Makani's face. "From the first time I saw you, I knew I was going to be with you for a very long time. Now that I've known you for almost two years, I don't think I could get by without you—even if you're sick." Taking Makani's hand, Jaden laughed under his breath.
"I'm glad you stayed. I would've given up a long time ago if it wasn't for you." Makani winced slightly.
"Are you okay?" A look of concern washed over Jaden's face.
"I think it's starting again. Jaden, I don't want to go through that again."
"I won't let you. Okay? You don't have to suffer as badly any more. You'll be all right this time."
"I promise. Just let me know when it starts getting too bad."
"Okay." Makani rolled onto his side and closed his eyes. "You really think I'll make it through this?"
"I know you will, Love. There's no doubt in my mind." Jaden reassuringly squeezed Makani's hand. "Ash knows what he's doing. He won't let anything happen to you."
"Do you think the guards have stopped looking for us by now?"
"Probably not. They'll keep looking until they think we're dead. They still don't know about the cure, so it's only a matter of time before they give up."
"What if they don't?"
"They will, Love. Trust me."
"How do you know?"
"I used to work there. They're way too cheap to spend money looking for someone who they think dead." Jaden sighed, "They probably know by now that I didn't bring your medicine. Without that, they'll probably give you around three days to live. Then they'll give up."
"Won't they find it weird that you broke me out but didn't think to grab my medicine?"
"I don't know. Probably, but they still won't waste their time or money on us after three days or so. If they think you're dead, they won't look for us anymore."
"There's still that chance, though. What if once I'm cured, we run into them?"
"There's really nothing they can do then. It's not like you'll be spreading the virus everywhere."
"They'll know there's a cure."
"Maybe. Those guys are guards for a reason, Love. They're not the smartest group of men." Jaden smiled slightly. "Just stop worrying about it. Everything will be all right." The room fell silent for a few minutes. "You're getting tired again. Aren't you?"
Makani nodded. He kept his eyes closed. "I can hardly stay awake anymore. I hate this, Jaden."
"I know you do. You worry too much. You should get some more sleep. I'll be here when you wake up. You'll probably have another dosage coming up soon."
"Will you lay with me?"
Jaden lay down next to Makani. He was careful not to touch Makani's skin with his. He wrapped his arm around his lover. "I'll be here when you wake up." Jaden longed to kiss Makani.
After a bit, Jaden knew Makani was sleeping due to his slow, deep breathing. He slowly stood up trying not to wake Makani up. He finished unpacking Makani's things. Turning to the bed, Jaden stared at Makani for a few moments before leaving the room. He knew Makani would be asleep for quite some time.
"What are you doing up?" Ash asked as he nearly ran into Jaden at the bottom of the stairs.
"I couldn't sleep. Too worried about Maki I guess."
"How is he?"
"That's good. I was just coming up to check on him." Ash looked at his watch. "He'll need another dosage in about a half hour."
Jaden nodded in agreement. "Falen go home for the night?"
"Yeah, Adele thinks she's going into labor." Ash laughed softly, "I never thought I'd see the day when Falen had a child."
"That is strange to think about." Jaden chuckled. "Adele really has him whipped."
"Seems like it. It's a good thing she does, though. He really needed to get straightened out. That's one of the reasons why I took him on as an apprentice."
"I figured that was the case. You've never been one to let someone waste their life."
"It's hard not to be like that, Jaden. If you ever see some of the things I've seen, you'll understand it better. Life is not something to waste."
"I know." Jaden gazed at his friend. "I found that out when I met Maki."
"Why do you call him that if you don't mind me asking?"
"Oh—I don't know really. I thought it fit his personality better than Makani." Jaden smiled. "When he's with me it does at least."
"I really do wish the best for you two."
"I owe you for all you're doing."
"You don't owe me anything. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
"Sorry, I just can't thank you enough for this. They pretty much gave up on him in Laketon."
"Not surprising. Those doctors are the most unskilled people I've ever seen."
Jaden nodded in agreement. "Sorry I didn't call. I didn't mean to just barge in like this. I just had to get him out."
"Don't apologize. This really isn't a problem."
"Well, it's one thing just putting myself and Makani at risk, but now, you and Falen are at risk, too."