Souvenirs From Dead Worlds (boyxboy)

Sam's job is to make a record of cultures before the drones come and destroy them. He's supposed to take artefacts, not people. Kias doesn't know what's going on, but there are metal monsters flying around killing people and he doesn't want to be next, even if to live he has to give up the freedom he's only just reclaimed.


7. Chapter 7

"There, that—" Jules began, then broke off with a startled oof when Sam yanked him away by the back of his shirt.


"What the hell are you doing?" Sam demanded.


Jules stared up at Sam from where he sat on the floor for a couple of surprised seconds before speaking. "Not cool?"


"You don't know anything about his culture or what he's been through or how he feels about being kissed by other guys. No, it's not cool." To be fair, Sam didn't know a hell of a lot about most of those things either, but he also hadn't kissed Kias.


Jules winced. "Sorry, I was just messing around. I thought, you know, since he seems to be cool with you and all..."


"He didn't even know kissing guys was something I did until you kissed me." Sam sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Kias was watching the conversation carefully, his eyebrows drawn together with apprehension. That was a pretty normal expression for him, actually, but right then he looked a bit more worried than he did most of the time.


"Maybe you should go talk to him in our room," Cassie suggested. "Make sure he's all right."


Sam nodded, glad to have someone guiding him because he was no less lost than usual. He stood and held his hand out for Kias, who took it and allowed himself to be pulled up without the slightest sign of trepidation. Mostly he just looked confused. That was definitely normal for him.




Kias didn’t know exactly what was going on, but he was fairly sure he'd just seen Sam being possessive of him. When Jules had kissed Sam, Sam had barely responded, but when Jules had then kissed Kias, Sam had yanked Jules away and then snapped at him.


Sam led Kias down a short hallway and then opened a door off of it, switching on the light before leading Kias inside. The few pieces of furniture in the room were all things that were recognisable to Kias, and the large bed made it clear that the room was a bedroom.


Sam still looked riled up, which Kias thought was a bit of an overreaction. Then again, what did Kias know? Sam's culture clearly wasn't his own. Perhaps he'd just witnessed some kind of huge social transgression.


Similarly, he couldn't be sure why Sam had brought him into the bedroom. There were a few potential reasons bobbing around in his mind, the most obvious that Sam's jealousy had been stirred and he now intended to remind Kias who he belonged to, but Kias was beginning to realise the assumptions he made concerning Sam often proved to be false. When Sam gave him no direction, he sat down on the bed.


Sam remained standing and ran a hand through his hair, agitated. "I didn't expect him to do that. I mean, I'm also not surprised he did. He's just affectionate, you know? He didn't realise..."


Kias wasn't sure he understood the problem. Sam obviously wasn't too angry at his friend for what he'd done. "Isn't it okay if it was just a mistake?"


That bordered on questioning Sam's authority, but Sam didn't look angry. "Well. I suppose. You're okay?"


Hearing Sam express concern for his welfare shouldn't have felt as good as it did. Or maybe it was right that it should. After all, who else would keep him safe? Perhaps what truly troubled Kias was that, for a moment, he had considered saying no. Just to see what Sam would do if he said he wasn't okay. After all, most of the time since he'd come to Sam's world he hadn't been sure he was.


He was too cowardly to actually do it in the end, though, and averted his eyes and nodded instead.


"Do you want to stay in here for a while?" Sam asked.


Kias frowned and thought that over. And do what? was the obvious question, but asking would feel like inviting trouble. Would it be better to take his chances in the bedroom or out with Sam's friends?


Well, things so far with Sam's friends had been chaotic and stressful, and things inside the bedroom had been calm and controlled. If Sam had any activities in mind, he wasn't likely to be violent.


"Okay," Kias murmured.


"Right. Okay." For an awkward moment Sam just stood and stared at Kias. "All right, I'll go get you another brownie."


Kias didn't understand Sam, but he did understand food. Clearly the bedroom had been the right choice.




"He okay?" Jules asked when Sam returned to the living room.


Sam shrugged helplessly. "He seems to be? I don't know, the guy's an enigma. He hardly talks and I always get the feeling he's thinking a lot of things he's not saying."


"Aw, he's just scared, Sam," Laura said. "Wouldn't you be scared?"


"If I was all on my own on an alien world, surrounded by strangers?" Sam asked. "No, that's what I do for a living."


"That's not even remotely the same," Laura said. "You always know what's going on, you can speak to most of the people you meet, and after a few days or weeks or months you get to go back home."


Yeah, okay, so it was like when he'd lost his world as a kid only much worse. He knew that, but it was easy to forget it. Or perhaps convenient. With Kias being so quiet, often Sam preferred to imagine he was mostly just fine.


"I promised I'd get him another brownie," Sam said instead of offering a proper response.


Laura sighed in irritation and hefted herself out of Cassie's lap. "I hope he's still going to want dinner after all these brownies. He's scrawnier than Cassie, he can't eat that much."


"He can and he does," Sam told her as he followed her to the kitchen. "He eats like he might not get another meal for a week. He's probably going to become obese in no time."


Laura opened the container with the brownies in it and put one on a napkin before handing it to Sam. "There. Go feed the boy up."


Sam took the brownie, then hesitated. "It's actually really, really awkward in there. There's nothing to do and we just kind of look at each other."


"You could talk," Laura suggested.


"He doesn't talk!” Sam said, flinging crumbs across the kitchen as he gestured wildly with the brownie. “He just listens and nods and looks anywhere between vaguely concerned and completely terrified and if he does talk it's mostly to say really damn agreeable things. I don't know how to interact with him!"


Laura shook her head sadly. "I swear, you are the worst person for this to happen to. Interacting with people from other worlds is what you were trained for, Sam!"


"That's different," Sam insisted. "For one thing, when I do that I mostly lie. Interacting with people on their own worlds isn't the same, and nobody's relying on me there. I've never dated or had a roommate, I don't have any siblings. I lost my parents when I was young. I have friends, yeah, but I'm starting to realise I know shit all about actually connecting with people. I don't know how to be what he needs."


Laura must have seen that Sam had gone beyond grumpy and into genuinely upset, because her expression softened. "Take him the brownie. Bring Whiskers. If he just wants to lay down and pet robo-kitty for a couple of hours, let him. If he wants to talk, talk. If he wants to rejoin the group, bring him out."


"You make it sound so easy and it's not," Sam said, a frown firmly etched on his face, but he turned and headed back out into the living room, throwing a, "Thanks," back at Laura over his shoulder.


Eyes followed Sam as he passed through the living room, but he didn't stop to chat and they didn't interrupt his passage. He called Whiskers over and told her to follow him, and with a mew she complied. That was one aspect in which robo-kitties were far superior to regular cats.


Kias was sitting on the bed exactly where Sam had left him, and his eyes instantly gravitated to the brownie Sam was holding. When Whiskers padded in on Sam's heels Kias' gaze momentarily slipped to her, but they quickly returned to the brownie.


Sam shut the door behind himself and Whiskers and then handed the brownie over to Kias. For a moment Sam shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot, then decided to sit down next to Kias before they ended up staring uncomfortably at one another. Staring at the carpet was far less awkward.


Despite his obvious enthusiasm, Kias ate slowly and carefully, somehow managing not to drop a single crumb. And then Sam realised he was staring at Kias while he ate and averted his gaze.


Whiskers wound around their ankles and Sam leant down to pet her, glad for the distraction. "You know, it's funny. They could have made these things look like anything, but they decided on plain old regular cats indistinguishable from real cats. I mean, there's no cat shortage going on. So why cats?"


Kias shrugged his shoulders and Sam glanced over to see him lick his lips. "They can be repaired, can't they? Maybe people like cats, just not that they die."


Sam let out a pleased chuckle of surprise. "I was just kind of babbling, but that's actually insightful. I think you're right. Of course, that doesn't mean I don't still want my own squirrel monkey."


Kias licked his fingers clean and scrunched up the paper towel the brownie had been on. "What's a squirrel monkey?"


"It's, uh..." Sam said. "Well, if you have a word for 'monkey' I sure don't know it. They're furry animals that climb around in trees. They're cute and smart and have a certain amount of dexterity with their hands like people do. There used to be a lot of them, but now they're... Uh, I guess you probably don't have a word for 'extinct', either. They're all dead because people destroyed the places they lived in. Keeping a real one as a pet would generally have been a bad idea anyway, but a fake one designed to behave itself would be much more interesting than a cat."


While Sam had been talking Kias had been inching closer until, by the time Sam was done speaking, Kias was leaning up against his side. For a moment Sam considered pulling away, but that might have given Kias the wrong idea. Sam had no objections to physical contact with Kias, he just didn't want to make things weird between them if he reacted in the wrong way.


"Let's lay down," Sam said when Kias leant against him more heavily, and then scooted up the bed so that he could lay down with his head on the pillow. Kias followed and, without hesitation, snuggled in close next to Sam.


And it felt so good. It wasn’t particularly erotic; it simply felt nice to have someone curled up warm against his body. Not that there was a complete lack of sexual feelings, and that disturbed Sam. He wasn't sitting there with a boner or anything, but there was that certain kind of tension in him he was sure wouldn’t have been there if Kias had been a girl.


Sam started stroking up and down Kias' back almost on reflex. It simply felt like the right thing to do with Kias curled against him. He caught himself and was about to stop when he realised Kias had relaxed further and pressed his forehead against Sam's shoulder. Sam gave Kias' back another experimental stroke, and Kias nuzzled his shoulder in response. So he liked that.


Sam continued petting Kias, his hand stroking over the all too angular points of his shoulder blades, as Kias slowly relaxed and melted in against him.


A few minutes later Kias' body relaxed completely, and then shortly after his breathing evened out into sleep. Sam smiled at Kias’ sleeping form. Finally, finally it seemed like he'd done something right. It felt good to have Kias trusting him, to have Kias finding comfort in his company. He always seemed to be a little suspicious of Sam, maybe even fearful. Perhaps things would be okay once they got to know each other a bit more.


Of course, after about ten minutes sleepy cuddle time started to get really boring. Sam wasn't very good at sitting idle for extended periods, and there wasn't even anything to look at in the bedroom. For such interesting people, Laura and Cassie sure didn't do much in the way of home decorating.


But Sam stayed still and let Kias sleep anyway. Sam had to admit he was often quite selfish, but Kias deserved better than that and it was time Sam started acting like it. He let out a sigh. Whiskers had settled herself on the end of the bed, so Sam busied himself with stroking her with his toes.


When, a short time later, Sam's fingers started to get tingly from Kias lying on his arm, Sam did his best to carefully shift his arm from under Kias just enough to get the blood flowing through it again. Sam had hoped not to wake Kias, but when Kias suddenly stiffened, he knew he had.


"Sorr—" Sam started to say, but was cut off by the sharp pain of Kias’ elbow jabbing into his stomach. Suddenly Kias was a mess of kicking, flailing limbs, until he rolled away from Sam and promptly fell off the side of the bed.


Cautiously, Sam crawled to the edge of the bed and looked down at where Kias lay stunned on the floor. When his eyes met Sam's, awareness returned, but the panic in them didn't fade.


Kias quickly shuffled backwards until his back hit the wall before curling in on himself. "I'm sorry," he murmured into his knees. The still tender area on Kias’ stomach must have gotten knocked at some point because he clutched it and winced, but he seemed far more concerned about what Sam's reaction would be than his own pain. "I didn't mean to, I'm sorry. I'm sorry."


Sam climbed off the bed, careful to keep his movements slow, and went to kneel next to Kias. It was Sam's first instinct to pull the scared, upset boy into an embrace, and he tried to, but when Kias made a sound of distress and flinched away Sam withdrew. The rejection stung.


"I'm sorry," Kias murmured again. “I just, I didn’t—”


"Shh," Sam said, and resisted the urge to reach out to Kias again. "It's all right, no harm done. Are you okay?"


"Yes," Kias whispered, an obvious lie, and suddenly Sam wondered if he'd been lying when Sam had asked him the same thing earlier.


Sam decided not to press the issue. "Did you have a bad dream?"


"No, I just, I just... I forgot. Where I was, and who you were. And you were holding onto me and I just panicked." Kias was near sobbing, and when a tear ran down his cheek he scrubbing at it angrily and scowled as if cross at himself for the show of vulnerability. It just made Sam want to hug him more.


Clearly, this all had something to do with what had happened to Kias before he'd come to Sam's world. "Maybe I shouldn't touch you when you're sleeping then?"


Kias forced himself to sit up straighter, to stop cowering, and when he nodded it was with more confidence. "I didn't mean to fall asleep, and I didn't know that would happen... I can't guarantee it won’t happen again if you touch me while I’m sleeping. If I could control it I'd promise you it wouldn't, but..."


Sam nodded and sat back, giving Kias more room to compose himself. "I get it. You can't help your trauma, especially when you don't have anyone but me to talk to about it."


Kias studied Sam’s face carefully, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion. He opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again a couple of times before finally deciding on what he wanted to say. Even then, there was an edge of uncertainty to it. "Well, thank you for not getting angry about it. You have every right to."


Sam was about to tell him that no, he did not have the right to get angry with Kias about something he had no control over, but before Sam could speak there was a knock on the door and a second later it opened, revealing Laura.


Her eyebrows lifted at the sight of Sam and Kias’ huddled together against the wall next to the bed. "You guys okay?"


Sam looked at Kias, who had averted his gaze to the floor, and then gave a helpless shrug. "Yeah. Yeah, I think so. What's up?"


"Dinner," Laura said, though she was still eyeing Kias uncertainly. "I'll bring you some."


Sam sighed. He'd been looking forward to heading back out into the living room and spending some more time with his friends, but she was right. Kias had to come first, and he was not up to company just then.


"Yeah," Sam said. "Sounds good."


When she left, Sam turned to Kias to explain. "Dinner. She's bringing us some."


Kias' countenance brightened a little, but then he frowned. "Don't you want to go back out with your friends?"


Sam shook his head. "This is what you need right now, and I figure I should be something other than a massive bag of dicks for once."


The expressions Kias' face went through were hilarious, though it took Sam a moment to realise what he'd done. "Okay, I guess directly translating certain terms doesn't always work so well. I mean I should be nicer. Less selfish."


"Bag of dicks," Kias repeated. "I think I'm missing out on a lot about your culture by not understanding your language."


Kias was smiling just a little, though he did his best to hide it. Sam grinned broadly. "Well, we're definitely capable of being inventive with our insults."


They were still sitting there, a few minutes later, when Laura brought them their food.


She handed the plates of food over to Sam. "Are you sure you two are all right?"


"Thank you," Kias told Laura, and though his accent was thick he managed to pronounce the words correctly.


Laura beamed. "You're welcome."


"She says you're welcome," Sam translated as he settled himself in to eat.


"How do I say sorry?" Kias asked. "For being such a bother. Or would it be better to say it to Cassie?"


Kias was so busy fretting that he, for once, hadn't instantly started inhaling his food. Sam bopped him on the back of the head. "Don't worry about it, nothing that happened was your fault. Eat your food."


Kias hesitated for a moment, like he wasn't quite sure that should be the end of the conversation, but then he obeyed as he usually did when Sam gave him clear instruction. Dealing with Kias was difficult in so many ways, and that he was at least compliant was a blessing.


"Everything's fine," Sam insisted when Laura continued hovering. "Or as fine as it's getting tonight, anyway."


"I'll leave you two to eat," Laura said with a smile. She waved to Kias before she left and, after a moment of confused hesitation, Kias mimicked the gesture. Laura giggled in glee as she left the room.


"Did I do that wrong?" Kias asked.


Sam chuckled and shook his head. "No, she was just really pleased to see you learning to communicate, I guess. Waving is a way to say hello and goodbye without words."


"Oh," Kias said, and put his mind back to eating his dinner. It was a proper roast, and while Kias ate pretty much anything as if it were the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted, this was a better meal than any Sam had fed him. With his consistently high level of enthusiasm regarding food, though, it was hard to tell if Kias thought so.


By the time they'd finished and Sam had returned from taking their plates back to the kitchen, Kias looked exhausted. He wasn't being dramatic about it, but Sam was starting to be able to read him better and he could see it around Kias' eyes and in the slight sag of his body.


"I think it's time to go home, hm?" Sam said, and Kias just nodded in response.


Sam said goodbye to his friends before he left and made sure to let Jules know he was forgiven. It remained unspoken between them, however, that if Jules crossed any boundaries with Kias again the trespass mightn't be so easily excused. The only reason Sam hadn’t made a bigger deal of it this time was that it honestly didn't seem to have alarmed Kias too much. No more than most things did.


Kias seemed to have gotten used to travelling in elevators, but when they exited onto the street for the short walk to the parking garage Kias was on high alert despite his fatigue. It must have been quite scary for someone who'd known nothing but horses and carts his whole life to suddenly discover cars, and in such quantity. Travelling in one had probably been even more frightening. But what could Sam do? This was the world Kias was in now, and he'd have to get used to it.


For the first half of the car ride home Kias sat frozen rigid in his seat, staring anxiously out of the window, but gradually fatigue won out and he began to relax. By the time they reached the compound Kias still didn't look like he was ready to take a nap in the car, but he'd stopped looking like he expected them to crash at any moment. If Sam had thought it would do any good, he would have explained to Kias that cars were so automated these days that crashes were practically unheard of. He was tired too, though, and he was fairly sure Kias wouldn't have understood anyway.


"I'm sorry," Sam said as they got into the elevator to return to their room. "If tonight was awful for you, I'm sorry."


It didn't make Sam feel any better when Kias scrutinised him suspiciously, but in the end Kias just nodded. "The food was good."


Sam scoffed. "You think all food's good. You're right that it was, though. Good thing your standards are generally pretty low, though, because I am a truly shit cook."


Kias expression twitched slightly, and Sam realised what he'd said probably didn't hold quite the same meaning when translated into Kias' language. "I'm a terrible cook, I mean."


“Oh,” Kias said, a yawn interrupting him in the middle of the word. Whereas earlier he’d sounded shy and nervous when responding monosyllabically, now he just sounded tired.


The yawns kept up all the way back to their room, and as soon as they entered Kias walked over to his bed and flopped down onto it. He let out a deep sigh and relaxed against the soft mattress.


"Sleep," Sam said. "You've had a long day."


A few minutes later, Kias, ever obedient, did just that.

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