I opened my eyes, blinking sleep from my heavy lids. The room in front of me was sparsely illuminated by a few rays of sunlight seeping through the curtains. I didn’t recognize the place at all. But at the same time I couldn’t remember if I should be familiar with it.
Something was very wrong.
When I attempted to take a deep breath, a wave of pain rolled over me. I gingerly rolled onto my back and pulled down the blanket, discovering two things in the process: one, my chest was covered in bruises. Two, a man was sleeping next to me.
I didn’t recognize him either.
I stared at him for a couple of minutes, futilely willing my mind to offer up any semblance of memory. If I was into men — which I could only assume I was; judging by the fact that I made up one half of a pair of naked men, in bed together — surely I wouldn’t forget bedding such a gorgeous creature. Golden strands partly obscured his face, but that didn’t hide the fact that he was beautiful.
Without really meaning to, I reached out to brush away his half-long hair. Next thing I knew, a pair of dark eyes were looking straight at me.
“I, uh, didn’t mean to wake you. Sorry,” I blurted. It seemed like the thing to say.
My bedmate sat up, stretching his finely muscled arms above his head. The blanket pooled in his lap, low enough to reveal a few golden curls.
I tore my eyes away, feeling heat flood both my face and groin. Yep, definitely gay.
“How are you feeling?”
That seemed like a really roundabout way of asking ‘how was it?’ — but perhaps he was shy. “Good, thanks. Ah… and you?”
He snorted. “For someone who was dead yesterday, you sure are easygoing.”
Feeling affronted, I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, well, I’m having some issues remembering last night — among other things — but I couldn’t have been all that bad.”
I was given a completely blank stare in return, before he suddenly burst out laughing. Gritting my teeth, I looked around the room in search of some clothes. The sooner I got away from this asshole, the better.
“What, you think we…?” he finally wheezed out. “I didn’t mean you were a dead fuck! I meant dead, like literally.”
Forgetting all about the clothes, I turned back to him. “Huh?”
“Dead,” he drawled, serious again (though it was somewhat belied by the tears of mirth still in his eyes). “I found you yesterday, floating headfirst in the water. By the time I got you up your heart had stopped beating.”
My hand flew by its own accord to cover my heart. I could feel it thumping beneath my fingers, in a silent reassurance.
“Oh yeah… that’s my doing, I guess. I’m not gonna apologize though; being alive is well worth a couple of bruises, don’t you think?”
I could only nod, mind reeling. “Do you know what happened to me?” I managed to ask.
“I was hoping you’d tell me,” he said, frowning.
I shook my head. “I don’t remember.”
“Hm. Let’s backtrack then, and try to figure it out that way. You must’ve been on a boat, in order to end up here.”
“Yes, unless you’re a damn good swimmer — which I highly doubt, for obvious reasons.” He actually had the gall to smirk, as if it were all a grand joke. My savior or not, I really felt like socking him one. “See, you’re on an island,” he finally clarified.
“That’s right. So, do you recall being on a boat of some kind? Perhaps a party on a yacht or something?”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay… What is the last thing you have a clear memory of, then?”
“Nothing!” I snapped. “I can’t remember anything previous to waking up here, not even my own fucking name.” Groaning, I buried my head in my hands. I had short hair, apparently — a nice surprise, all things considered (with the way things were going, I’d been half expecting to discover that I was bald).
“Whoa. Holy shit. Um, don’t panic!”
I growled in response, not having the strength to point out that he was the one who seemed to be panicking.
“Like, you have amnesia?” he squeaked.
“How should I know?!” I yelled. I couldn’t stand being in bed for one more second, nakedness be damned. The wooden floor was cold beneath my feet, as I stomped through the room.
“Where are my clothes?” I demanded.
The rustling of bedclothes heralded him getting up too. “They’re still in the bathroom,” he said as he walked past me, clearly unfazed by his own nudity. He opened a closet and began rummaging through it.
“Bathroom?” I parroted.
“Mhm,” he mumbled, pulling out a pair of jeans and holding them up in front of me. Pursing his lips in an annoyed fashion, he threw them aside and went back to digging through the closet. “You were cold as ice. So I dragged you into the shower and tried to get some warmth back into your body.”
“Oh. Is that why…?”
“We were in bed together, naked?” he finished.
He chuckled, mumbling something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like ‘this time’. “Indeed,” he said. “And hey, I can at least tell you one thing about yourself.”
I perked up. “What’s that?”
Pulling out a couple of slacks with a victorious flair, he grinned. “You don’t snore!”
I gaped at him as he thrust the gray pants into my arms. “Those will fit you, I think. They might be a bit short though; you have really long legs.”
Feeling like an animal on display, I kept silent as he kept throwing clothes my way. Once I had everything I could possibly need, he grabbed a tank top and a pair of sweatpants for himself. He went commando, apparently.
Grimacing, I turned my back to him — not thinking it a wise idea to watch him getting dressed, and wanting some modicum of privacy for myself.
I heard him laugh behind me as I pulled on the clothes. “There’s really no need to hide; I already saw everything last night.”
I wished I could remember if people were normally this frustrating, or if he was just a particularly fine specimen. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but how do I get out of here? Ferries? A bridge?”
“Ah, I’m afraid it’s not that easy. There are no public transportations like that.”
Getting the last sock in place, I turned to him. “All right, do you have a rowboat then?”
“What about your neighbors, do they have anything I could use?”
He snickered. “I doubt it.”
“What’s so damn funny?” I asked, trying very hard to stay calm.
“Sorry, sorry. It’s just that I’m the only person on this island — or I used to be, in any case, before you came along — so my neighbors are hares and such.”
“You live here alone?” I asked, incredulous. He didn’t seem like the hermit type at all.
“I have somebody come by with plenty of supplies once a month. But he was here less than a week ago, so…” he shrugged, not appearing too concerned.
“But — you have to have a phone, at the very least!”
“I don’t. No phone, TV, radio, computer, or anything like that.”
“But you have electricity here, don’t you?! There’s lamps and, and…” I stalked out the door, leaving the bedroom behind with a sense of relief. A small living room came next, leading into a kitchen. “And a fridge and so on!” I finished, pointing at the offending technology.
He came sauntering after me, mouth set in a grim line. “I have electricity, yes. There’s just no communications; I came here because I wanted to be alone for a while.”
Oh. I lowered my arm, feeling like an idiot. “Sorry,” I whispered.
Grimacing, he shook his head. “Don’t apologize. I can’t even begin to understand how you must be feeling. I’m sorry that you’re stuck here, but hopefully someone will come looking for you.”
“Yeah,” I mumbled.
Silence reigned for a good minute or two, before my host cleared his throat. “I’m Edmund, by the way.”
A smile came unbidden to my lips, sincere and completely unexpected. “Hi Edmund. I might not act the part, but I’m actually really damn glad I met you.”
He returned the smile. “Me too.”
“I wish I could introduce myself as well, but yeah.” I shrugged apologetically.
Edmund made a wry face. “Y’know, I was just about to ask if you had a favorite fictional character or something — thinking we could call you by his name — but that wouldn’t work either, huh.”
“Guess not. Nice idea, though.”
Moving past me, he entered the kitchen nook. “I still have plenty of fresh eggs left, so how about omelets for breakfast? Sound okay?”
“Sure, that’d be great.”
I stood by and watched as he prepared the food. He was humming to himself, low enough that I had to strain my ears to pick out the melody. It felt vaguely familiar, but perhaps that was just wishful thinking.
“Say, do you have a mirror anywhere?” I asked.
Edmund stiffened, and the cheerful tune was abruptly cut short. “A mirror,” he repeated, voice flat.
“Uh, yeah. I just — want to see what I look like.”
“There’s one in the bathroom.” He pointed with the spatula, gaze never straying from the stove. “It’s busted though.”
“Okay,” I slowly said, not understanding the mood swing. Leaving him to the cooking, I hurried towards the bathroom.
I somehow managed to get in and lock the door before finding the light switch. One stubbed toe later, the room was lit up. A shower stall was in the corner, with a heap of soggy clothes still on the floor. I’d have to look through them later, in case they contained a clue to my identity. Taking a deep breath, I turned around to face the wall that the mirror had to be on.
…’Busted’ was an understatement. It was completely broken; shattered beyond repair. Large chunks were missing here and there, and the shards of glass that remained seemed to be just barely clinging to the wall.
What truly unnerved me, however, was the blood. It was splattered all over the mirror, even smeared out in some places. I could see myself behind it, distorted and bloody.
I reached out, shaking, meeting the twisted hand of my mirrored counterpart. Somewhere deep down, I’d hoped that seeing myself would spark my memories. But the lean, almost lanky man staring back at me was — and remained — a complete stranger. Black hair made for a sharp contrast against my pale skin, making me look as ill as I felt.
Disappointed, I looked away. The discarded clothes caught my attention again, and I knelt to look through them. It was easy to figure out which ones were mine; I couldn’t exactly claim to know Edmund, but I did understand that he wouldn’t have been wearing a suit — complete with a tie and everything. So, tossing aside the T-shirt and jeans that doubtlessly belonged to my host, I began going through my clothes.
It was a very standard suit, all in black with the exception of the dress shirt. Every single pocket came up empty, containing no wallet or clues whatsoever. Slumping against the wall in defeat, I let the clothes slip from my fingers. They hit the floor with a wet smack.
Perhaps my stuff had gotten lost in the water. Only one shoe had apparently made it back, so it wasn’t impossible. Edmund would have to show me where he’d found me, and then I’d search through the area. Yeah, that was a good plan.
In somewhat better spirits, I left the bathroom. Edmund was setting the table, and the smell wafting through the room made my stomach rumble.
“Hungry?” he asked, a teasing smirk on his lips.
“Seems that way,” I laughed. “Say…” I hesitated, not wanting to wreck the mood — but at the same time I was too curious not to ask. “What happened to your mirror?”
As I had expected, Edmund closed off immediately. “Nothing,” he said curtly.
“I’d hardly call that nothing,” I insisted. “Hell, it looks like someone’s been killed in there!”
Dark eyes narrowing, Edmund bared his teeth in a mockery of a smile. “You don’t say,” he drawled. “Perhaps I’m a crazed killer, hiding out in the woods — this might not even be an island, for all you know.”
“That’s not fucking funny.”
Instantly, Edmund’s demeanor changed. “No,” he whispered, covering his face in his hands, “it really isn’t.”
“Well, shit,” I muttered. Part of me was screaming to bolt out the door without looking back, while another wanted to stay put and figure him out. The joke — if it could be called that — had been in really bad taste, yeah, but it wasn’t anything worth getting so upset over. Yet Edmund looked as if he was about to cry.
“I’m really sorry,” he said, words muffled by his hand. “I… I have this issue with taking cues.”
“I thought I was over it by now,” he continued, seemingly speaking more to himself than me — especially considering that I didn’t get what the hell he was talking about.
“Let’s just forget it,” I tried. My stomach was rumbling again, reminding me that the omelets were currently getting pitifully cold.
“This is why I wanted to be alone.”
What was I supposed to say to that? The guy obviously had issues, and even if isolating yourself didn’t seem like the smartest course of action to me, I still respected it. But I had barged in, and apparently wrecked it. And I couldn’t just take off either.
“No, don’t get me wrong! Shit, I made you look miserable.”
Surprised, I raised my head. Edmund was smiling apologetically. As I watched he picked up the frying pan and put it on the kitchen table, moving an omelet over to one of the plates.
“There,” he said, “go ahead and get something into that starving tummy of yours. I’ve kinda lost my appetite, so I’ll just be taking a walk. See ya later.”
“Wait…” I started, but Edmund just breezed past me; undaunted. He only broke his swift stride to bend down and scoop up a pair of boots, and then — without even putting them on his bare feet — he was out the door.
I listened to his departing footsteps until I could hear nothing but silence. Trying hard not to think about how silent (and empty) my own head was, I sat down to eat.
The unidentifiable dream clung to me, refusing to let go despite not letting me catch more than a fleeting glimpse of its contents. All I saw was a syringe, with a glistening droplet of liquid running down the thin needle.
Struggling awake, I gasped for air. I was still on the couch I’d sat down on after eating — I must’ve been more exhausted than I’d thought, to have dozed off like that. Looking down, I frowned. A blanket was draped over me. It hadn’t been there before.
“Edmund…?” I called, hoping he was still around. Strange though he was, he was nonetheless company. And I really didn’t want to be alone.
A blond head popped into my line of vision, almost making me jump. I hadn’t heard him approaching, so I could only assume he’d been sitting behind the couch or something.
“Hey,” he grinned. “Sleep good?”
I debated lying, but didn’t see a point. “No, not really.”
The grin faded, and I could’ve kicked myself for being honest. “Sorry to hear that,” Edmund offered.
“No worries,” I said, trying to shrug it off, “I’m sure it’s to be expected.”
“Yeah… still can’t remember anything, I take it?”
“Nothing so far. Oh, by the way,” I said, eager to change the subject, “I saved some of the omelets for you. I put ’em in the fridge.”
Edmund’s dark eyes softened, a warm smile slowly curling his lips in a way that made me want to reach out and just touch — with my own lips, preferably. “Mm,” he said, “I saw. Thank you, that really made me happy.”
Feeling horrible self-conscious, I looked away.
“Oh!” The sudden exclamation made my head snap back up, in time to see Edmund running for the door.
“Where are you going?” I yelled, panic rising.
He looked over his shoulder. “I got a surprise for you, so don’t peek!”
Breathing a sigh of relief, I closed my eyes and fell back on the couch. I stayed put, not moving even when I felt Edmund sitting down beside my supine body.
I opened my eyes, only to flinch back when something black and wet was thrust towards my face.
“I found your other shoe!” Edmund said proudly.
“Hey, that’s great,” I grinned. Wearing too-small clothes was one thing, but shoes that didn’t fit was another story. “Where did you find it?”
“It was stuck in some branches right before the waterfall. Which means you actually plunged down it — I was wondering about that.”
Edmund nodded. “Yeah, there’s a pretty big river that crosses the island. It turns into a waterfall at one point. I found you in the lake right below it — you’re damn lucky you missed the rocks.”
“Will you take me there?” I asked, not feeling particularly lucky. “Seeing it might jog my memory.”
“Sure, of course. Whenever you feel up for it.”
I shrugged. “I’m good to go now, if you are.”
“I get it. The sooner the better, huh?” Edmund seemed to hesitate, before reaching out to squeeze my forearm. “Just don’t try to force it, please. Your memory will come back to you in time, I’m sure of it — stressing out and pushing it will only make you feel bad.”
Swallowing, I resisted the urge to lean forward and rest my head on his shoulder. “It’s just hard,” I mumbled. “Not knowing who I am, I can’t even… I got some orange juice from your fridge when I was eating the omelet. And I hated the taste, had to force myself to drink it. I can’t even remember something so basic!”
Edmund released his hold on my arm. But I only had a second to mourn the loss of contact, before his long fingers encircled the back of my neck. He pulled me forward, until my face was a hairsbreadth away from his.
“It will come back to you. Until then, we’ll figure out your likes and dislikes together. You hear me? I got you. You’re not alone.”
I blinked rapidly, trying to clear my suddenly blurry eyesight.
“It’s okay to cry, you know.” Without waiting for a reply, Edmund pulled me forward again — closing the final distance between us. His shoulder was warm.
Before I knew it my arms were around him. And so I wept, clinging to Edmund — the one solid fixture in an unknown world.
“Is it much further?”
Edmund laughed. “What, you tired already?”
“No, but my feet are killing me.” I’d opted for borrowing a pair of Edmund’s shoes instead of wearing my own, drenched ones. A decision I now bitterly regretted.
“My feet aren’t that much smaller than yours,” he muttered, sounding almost offended. A hunch intensified by the fact that he let the next branch swing back behind him; not holding it aside for me like he’d done previously.
Rubbing my stinging forehead, I decided to keep my mouth shut for the remainder of the trek.
“Anyway,” he said a minute later, “we’re almost there now. If you listen, you should hear the waterfall.”
Straining my ears, I eagerly picked up my pace. We rounded a final curve in the forest path, and there it was.
It probably wasn’t the biggest, by waterfall standards, but considering that I had fallen down it… It was damn well big enough. And, like Edmund had mentioned earlier, the lake itself was littered with large rocks — shit, they were more like boulders.
“Ring any bells?”
Edmund’s voice tore me from my thoughts. I turned to him with gratitude, glad to replace the view of the murky water with his visage. “No,” I replied.
“We could climb up and travel along the river, if you want. It reaches the ocean pretty soon — it’s a small island, you can easily walk around it in a day.”
I shook my head. “Maybe some other time. Just… not now.”
“Mm, I understand. Must be kinda freaky, seeing this. I still can’t believe you survived the fall.”
A shiver passed through my body, as my eyes were drawn back to the waterfall. “But I didn’t, did I?”
“I didn’t survive,” I tried to clarify, speaking in a rush. “I mean, whoever I was… the man I used to be, he died. I can’t remember anything about him or his life, and that’s the same thing as death. Isn’t it?”
My shoulder was suddenly grabbed, and my body wrenched around — away from the bewitching water. Next thing I knew, a pair of lips were invading mine.
It was all power; no gentleness whatsoever to be found in the contact. Although that didn’t seem to matter to me, as I found myself opening my mouth to allow the kiss to deepen. But Edmund just nibbled my bottom lip teasingly, sweeping his tongue over it after each bite.
I was moaning by the time he finally deigned to stop tormenting me. His tongue swept around mine, as his hands crept around my back — pushing our hips together.
And then Edmund stepped back, leaving me painfully hard and gasping for air. His cheeks were flushed, and his lips would’ve been invitingly plump and red if it weren’t for the fact that they were set in a grim line. “Funny,” he said icily, “you sure don’t kiss like a dead man.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but shut it again. I didn’t have the slightest clue what to say, or how I should behave around him.
Edmund glared at me for a few more seconds, before his face contorted into a violent grimace. “Ah fuck, I got carried away again. Sorry,” he groaned.
“Uh…” I felt like my brain was slowly leaking out of my ears.
“I know what we need!” Edmund suddenly exclaimed. “Let’s head back, and get moderately drunk.”
“Why just moderately,” I grumbled.
Edmund had already moved past me, briskly walking towards the cottage. But he stopped when hearing my comment, turning to face me with a serious expression. “Because if we get totally wasted, we won’t accomplish shit. And if we don’t get boozed up enough, neither of us will be able to open up — I won’t at least, and I kinda think you deserve an explanation for my erratic behavior.”
“Good,” he beamed. “Let’s get a move on, then!”
Not knowing what else to do, I hurried after him. I just wished my lips would stop tingling so.
“Listen,” Edmund said after finishing off his first bottle of beer. I was already on my second, but had yet to feel a buzz coming on. It was nice though, just sitting in silence and drinking — it had been nice, rather, since it now seemed like my companion had finally worked up enough nerve to talk.
“Yes?” I prompted, when it didn’t seem like he’d continue. I watched, feeling slightly amused, as he grabbed his shot glass and downed the clear liquid (what was it, anyway? I couldn’t remember) in one gulp.
“Look, I need to call you something! I can’t just say ‘hey you’ when I need your attention, right?”
I raised an eyebrow. Perhaps he hadn’t reached the adequate level of drunkenness yet, after all. The name issue hardly seemed like something we couldn’t have discussed while sober. Oh well. “Right,” I said.
“So, um…” Edmund hesitated, a blush slowly spreading over his cheeks. “I a-always wanted to have a dog!”
I raised my other eyebrow as well.
“But I couldn’t get one, ’cause… stuff — I’ll explain later — and so I never got to have a dog. But I was thinking, if you don’t have a preference anyway I mean, I could maybe call you Rover…?”
“Rover,” I repeated, foregoing the shot glass Edmund had poured for me and going straight for the bottle instead. Ah, so it was vodka. How nice. …Rover.
“You don’t like it, huh?” Edmund whispered, looking completely deflated.
“No,” I forced myself to say, “I don’t mind. It’s fine; you can call me that.”
His head snapped up, eyes sparkling. “Really?!”
“Mhm.” Sensing that my grin might be a bit stiff, I hurried to cover it with the bottle I was still gripping like some sort of demented lifeline.
“That’s great,” Edmund said. He had a soft smile on his lips, eyes unfocused as he twirled the empty glass in his hand.
“So,” I tried, “why couldn’t you have a dog? Allergic?”
The smile disappeared. “No.”
When nothing else seemed to be forthcoming, I leaned over to refill his glass. “I know I was just drinking straight from the bottle, but well — you’re already familiar with my slobber, yeah?” I winked.
“That’s one way to put it,” he snorted. The smile returned briefly, and he drank the offering without hesitation. “See,” he said as soon as he’d swallowed, “I’m an actor.”
“I’m famous and popular.”
I frowned. “Uh, congrats?”
Edmund flinched, turning to face me with a panicked expression. “No, no! I’m not trying to brag — shit, that’s as far from it as you can get.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled, eyes going back to staring vacantly at his glass. “My parents were both actors, so it was only natural that their only child should follow in their footsteps. My first role was when I was still a baby, and I guess you could say I got my big breakthrough when I was six. Did a bunch of movies aimed at kids after that, then mainly romantic comedies once I hit my late teens and started making girls swoon. Doing a bit of everything now, most recently an action flick — paper-thin plot, but a blockbuster nonetheless.”
“Wow,” I laughed weakly, “sure sounds like you’ve been busy.”
“That’s why I couldn’t have a dog. No time.”
“But see, the thing is, I played so many roles that I somehow forgot which one was my real one.”
“And that’s why you’re here, all by yourself?”
Edmund nodded. “As you’ve noticed, I can’t help but take cues — unconsciously acting the way that people around me wants or expects me to. I hoped that by isolating myself, I could find the way back to my true self.”
“Did it work? I mean, before I came along.”
“No,” he scoffed, grabbing the vodka and drinking straight from the bottle. “Not in the least.”
I chewed on my bottom lip. “At the risk of sounding corny…”
“Don’t worry about that,” Edmund snickered. “Over the years, I’ve become an expert at uttering cheesy lines with a completely straight face.”
I reached over and snatched the bottle from his hands. At his yelp of protest, I took hold of his shoulders and gave him a slight shake. “You’re tipsy enough as it is. Moderately drunk, remember?”
“Yeah,” he grumbled, trying to squirm out of my grip. “But that was so I could explain! I’ve done that now, so it doesn’t matter anymore. Lemme get drunk-”
“Listen!” I snapped. “I want to tell you something.”
“Yes yes, something corny, I remember.”
Gritting my teeth, I took a deep breath before launching into it. “Did you ever stop to think that there might not be any ‘false’ roles; that they’re all you, in some small way? Perhaps you’re just a multifaceted person, you know? I wouldn’t mind discovering that I was like that too, instead of some boring guy with one set personality.”
Edmund didn’t reply. His head was bent down, bangs obscuring his face from my view.
I let go of his shoulder, taking hold of his chin instead and gently tilting it up. There were tears in his eyes. “Hey now…” I whispered, taken aback.
“You really mean that?” he hiccupped. “You don’t think I’m crazy?”
Letting go of his chin, my hand snaked around his neck and pulled him forward. Our lips met, chaste and innocently. With the last kiss fresh in mind, I’d somewhat expected him to take the lead again — but no; he just relaxed into my hold, eyes fluttering to a close.
I deepened the kiss slowly, enjoying the languid contact. It was with a feeling of regret that I pulled back. “Funny,” I said, aiming a teasing grin at Edmund, “you sure don’t kiss like a crazy man.”
It took him a couple of seconds to recognize the words, but when he did he burst out laughing. The sound was infectious, and I easily joined in.
“You sure you don’t want any more pie?”
“God, no — another bite and I’ll burst.”
Edmund leaned over my shoulder to remove the empty plate, giving my full stomach a playful poke in the process.
“Oh,” I groaned, “I’ll get you for that.”
“Sure you will,” he mocked.
I tipped my head backwards over the edge of the chair, watching as upside-down-Edmund placed the dishes to soak in the sink. “How did you get so good at making food, anyway?”
He paused to look over his shoulder, meeting my eyes. “You think I’m good? Thanks, Rover, that’s really fun to hear.”
I resisted the urge to cringe over the name, instead giving him an expectant look.
“Well,” he finally said, raising a wet hand to rub the back of his neck, “there’s a lot of downtime when it comes to filming. So you gotta have something to do while waiting, or you’ll go nuts. My parents both knit, and I somehow ended up with this.”
“Huh. That must be nice though; having a hobby.”
Edmund turned around. “I’m sure you have one, too. Why don’t you take up baking or cooking meanwhile? I’ll help.”
I watched him in silence for a while, trying to make sense of the emotions tumbling within. I finally got up from the chair, slowly walking across the kitchen until I stood in front of Edmund. I leaned forward, bracing myself on the counter behind him.
“Rover?” Despite being a question, his voice was steady — as if he knew what was coming, and calmly accepted it.
“I want to kiss you,” I said. “Without there being a reason or something to prove.”
A slow smile spread over his lips. “Yeah,” he murmured, “I’d like that too.”
Like the other kisses we had shared, this one was completely different and unique. It felt natural, right; a mix of passion and serenity that wasn’t even questionable.
My hands released their grip on the counter to roam over Edmund’s back. Breaking the kiss to nibble his ear, I let them drift to his zipper. His hips reflexively thrust forward, a low moan escaping from the throat I had moved onto licking.
I took his half-hard cock in my hand, roughly stroking it to full attention. Within minutes, I was on my knees.
“Wait,” he gasped even as his fingers buried themselves in my hair, “you don’t have to do that.”
I paused briefly as his words penetrated the hazy fog in my head. Just what was I doing? My hands dropped from their possessive hold on Edmund’s ass.
A low whine made me look up, meeting his gaze. His eyes seemed darker than usual, heavy-lidded and full of desire. But his lips had mournful quirk to them — disappointment, though he tried to not let it show.
Doubt dispersing, I bent my head and lapped up the glistening pre-come. Edmund’s legs almost gave out when I teased his slit with the tip of my tongue, so I put a steadying grip under his balls.
“Oh fuck Rover, don’t stop, don’t stop,” he implored breathlessly.
Well, shit. If he kept saying it like that, I soon wouldn’t give a damn whether it was a dog’s name or not.
I ran my tongue along the underside of his cock before taking it all in my mouth. The fingers cupping my head spasmed, yanking my hair — but I couldn’t care less.
I did, however, care about the semen that suddenly filled my mouth. It was unexpected, and I almost choked before I managed to swallow down the bitter fluid. I pulled back, gasping for air, as Edmund slid down the counter to land on boneless heap on the floor.
“Sorry,” he panted, chest heaving. “It’s been a long time, I couldn’t…”
Smiling, I lay down beside him. “Don’t worry about it.”
He rolled towards me, and I automatically stretched out an arm for him to use as a headrest. He accepted the offering with a grin.
“It’s fine,” I protested, as his hand drifted towards my straining erection.
“Mhm,” he replied. His fingers rubbed the obvious bulge, effectively quieting my protests. “What do you say,” Edmund continued, “wanna take this to the bedroom? Not that I have anything against the kitchen floor — in fact, I’ve gotten quite the newfound appreciation for it — but…”
“Yeah, okay,” I said, feeling both nervous and excited.
With one last pat on my cock, Edmund got to his feet and headed for the bedroom. I followed him, sidestepping the clothes he carelessly shed on the way.
He dropped to the bed clad only in boxers and socks, sending me an inquisitive look. “What, you’re still dressed?”
“Ah, sorry,” I mumbled.
Edmund bared his teeth in what could only be described as a predatory leer. “No, that’s good,” he drawled, “I’d rather do it myself.”
Surging up, he clasped my wrist and pulled me down on the bed. With one smooth movement he reversed our positions and straddled me.
“Shh. Don’t talk, and don’t think.” He shifted above me, grinding his ass against my cock.
I was more than happy to obey the request.
I woke up screaming, struggling against the hands that were holding me down. Something sticky was on my fingers, and I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.
“Whoa, easy now! Rover, it’s me.”
The words slowly filtered through my head. “E-Edmund?”
“That’s right. It was just a dream, calm down.”
Shaking, I reached out for the bedside lamp. I looked at Edmund, squinting against the sudden light, and froze.
He was bleeding.
I tore my eyes from him to look at my right hand. The steady stream of red from his nose perfectly matched the sticky blood coating my fingers.
“What happened?” I heard myself choke out.
His hand flew to his face, grimacing when his fingers came away wet. “You were having a nightmare,” he said, voice muffled. “I tried to wake you up.”
“Oh God, I didn’t mean to, I-”
Edmund cut me off with a shake of his head. “I know! Relax, it was my own fault anyway. You were thrashing wildly, and I stupidly thought I should pin you down so you didn’t tumble off the bed.”
“That’s no excuse! I’m sorry, I never…”
“This isn’t a big deal, honestly. I’ve had much worse.” Removing his hand, he gave me a wide grin. It was probably meant to reassure me, but his teeth were red and seeing that only served to make me feel worse.
“Like, um — the mirror!” he continued. “It was a regular bloodbath that day; I was bleeding like a stuck pig. This is absolutely nothing in comparison.”
“That was all your doing?” I asked, curiosity piqued against my will.
“Yeah, on my first day here.”
“Well, uh… I was pretty high-strung when I got here. And I just saw someone I didn’t want to see in it.”
I frowned. “You?”
“Yeah, me, the actor. Kinda stupid to try and run away from yourself, huh?” Edmund offered me a sheepish grin.
“No,” I said slowly, reaching out to touch his face, “I don’t think so.”
He leaned into my touch. Unable to resist, I scooted closer and carefully kissed him. Edmund deepened the kiss almost immediately, throwing his arms around me in a tight hold.
The taste of blood was alarmingly familiar.
The morning sun beat down on the forest path. I walked along it, a firm grip on the bowl I carried.
Edmund had suggested that I go pick some berries while he dealt with the dishes from breakfast. Together, we’d bake something with them as soon as I got back. I really looked forward to it.
Spotting a bush ripe with blackberries, I made my way over to it when a noise caught my attention. It was a hollow metallic sound; a low but constant clicking.
Frowning, I put the bowl on the ground before moving in the direction of the sound. Peeking out from the trees, I scanned the beach.
A speedboat was floating in the water, and a man stood on the shore — opening and closing a silver lighter.
My first instinct was to run onto the beach, greeting the stranger. Perhaps he was there looking for me, and if not he could at least help me get to the mainland. But then images of Edmund flitted by; the way he’d looked this morning, making pancakes for us. His nose had been swollen, but that in no way dimmed his bright smile.
I took a step back. About to take off, something caught my attention and made me stop dead in my tracks.
Slung over the man’s shoulder was a rifle.
Breaking into a cold sweat, I slowly backed away. Once at a sufficient distance, I broke into a run.
He’d been guarding the boat, waiting. That meant he wasn’t alone. If something had happened to Edmund… Clenching my teeth, I ran faster.
I could hear yelling as I got closer. Resisting the urge to just rush straight in, I crept towards the cottage. I crawled the last bit, making sure that the shrubbery kept me from sight.
Edmund was there, kicking and screaming against the two men who held him in place. He didn’t seem hurt, but that could change in a split second.
Suddenly, a third man emerged from the cottage. One look at him was all it took, for me to feel like the world had just dropped out from under me.
I curled in on myself as my body convulsed. Feeling like my head was going to split open, I barely noticed that I was throwing up.
Slowly, slowly, the pain subsided. I didn’t know what had just happened, but one thing was certain: I knew that third man. Couldn’t place or recall anything about him, but he was without doubt familiar to me.
I spat and wiped my mouth, before carefully raising my head. The man was standing in front of Edmund — still in the firm grip of the two goons. Forcing myself to breathe slowly, I took a closer look at him. He had very sharp features, graying hair, and a bandage that covered the left side of his face. The one eye that was visible was cold and cruel.
“I shall ask you one more time,” he slowly enunciated. His voice sent a chill through my body. I recognized those particular words, and the way it sounded as if he sadistically hoped that the person he was questioning wouldn’t give in. “Where is Donovan?”
“And I’ll tell you one more time,” Edmund snapped, “I don’t know any Donovan!”
The man — Snake-Eye as I’d dubbed him — hummed slightly. “You’re right. I suppose he wouldn’t have told you his real name. After all, lying is second nature to him.”
I didn’t like the sound of that, particularly since I had a creeping suspicion that Snake-Eye’s Donovan might in fact be me.
“How nice,” Edmund mocked. “But you’re still barking up the wrong tree; I’m alone on this island. So you won’t find him here, no matter what name you search for him under.”
“Is that so? Then how come the table was set for two? Pray tell,” he sneered.
“Decorative purposes, naturally.”
Snake-Eye laughed. “Oh, I quite like you.”
“The feeling’s not mutual, I’m afraid. So how about you take your gorillas and get the fuck off my island? I’ll gladly pretend that we never met.”
“Tsk tsk, I’m afraid it’s not that simple. See, I also noticed a set of clothes in there. A nice suit, to be precise, that I know for a fact belongs to the Donovan you claim not to know.”
So. There was no doubt then (unless I had stolen the clothes or something, which I felt was a rather far-fetched idea). I clenched my teeth, hoping that Edmund wouldn’t keep baiting him. Snake-Eye showed every sign of being a man who wouldn’t hesitate to use dirty methods to get the information he wanted. I needed to come up with a plan, and fast.
Edmund had lowered his head, face shadowed by his bangs, but now he lifted it again. A nasty smirk was on his lips, and his eyes were narrowed in a threatening manner.
“I beg your pardon?” Snake-Eye said.
“I found him first. He belongs to me. Stay the hell away from him, or I’ll gut you.”
That crazy idiot! This was no time to pull his acting shit, dammit. I was about to reveal myself in order to prevent Snake-Eye from pulling his gun and splattering Edmund’s schizophrenic brains all over the place, when a loud laugh made me halt.
“I really like you, kid!” Snake-Eye laughed.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Still, this couldn’t last. Maybe I should run back to the beach, and try to take the guard by surprise. If I only could get hold of his rifle…
“If you refuse to cooperate, I suppose I’ll just have to find him myself. You come with me,” he pointed to one of the men holding Edmund before turning to the other, “while you tie up and guard this little spitfire.”
I could almost feel my adrenaline spiking. This was the perfect chance! I watched impatiently as Snake-Eye and one of the goons took off, before sneaking towards the remaining pair.
I had to move very slowly for fear of being discovered, so when I finally got close enough to act Edmund was already tied up. It would’ve been nice to be two against one in the fight, but at the same time it was a relief — I couldn’t risk him getting shot.
With the guard’s back to me, I managed to catch Edmund’s attention. His eyes widened momentarily, but thankfully the guard didn’t pick up on that tiny tell.
‘Distract him,’ I mouthed.
There was a flicker of concern in his eyes, but he did as asked nonetheless. “Hey, gorilla. What’s with that face of yours, anyway? Got smacked around a bit too much? I do dig those cauliflower ears though!”
The goon raised one of his hands, ready to give Edmund a slap. I surged forward, raising the rock in my fist and letting it land on the back of his head with all the strength I could muster.
He sunk to the ground without so much as a sound.
“Rover,” Edmund whispered as I began to untie him. “Oh, Rover. I thought I’d never see you again.”
Words were lost to me. I squeezed his hand instead, hoping it’d convey some fraction of my feelings. But Edmund just stiffened, eyes fixed on something behind me.
I swirled around, and came face to face with the muzzle of Snake-Eye’s gun.
“Really now, Donovan. I’m disappointed in you,” he drawled. “You couldn’t honestly have thought that I’d go traipsing around this godforsaken island! You know me better than that, don’t you?”
I swallowed. “No, I actually don’t.”
He raised any eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t even know who you are. I can’t remember you.”
He stared at me blankly for a second, before bursting into laughter again. Out of all the ways I’d imagined him reacting, this wasn’t even in the top ten.
“Oh my,” he finally managed to say, “I’m afraid that’s my fault. I just knew the dose was too strong. Ah, what a mess.”
He lowered the gun, tapping it against his thigh. “You don’t remember anything at all?”
His one eye narrowed. “Not even this?” he asked, lightly touching the bandage on his face.
“No… should I?”
“Why, it was your parting gift to me.”
I stared uncomprehending at Snake-Eye. He smirked, and then snapped his fingers. The remaining goon handed him a dagger. It was covered in dried blood.
“As you disappeared into the ocean, I swore I’d return the favor once I found you. I’d carve out your eye, if I so had to do it to your dead body — I was almost certain you’d drown, you see.”
I felt like I was about to throw up again. As I was struggling to speak, Edmund suddenly threw out an arm in front of me.
“Listen, he doesn’t remember that. Whatever happened between the two of you, he’s not the same person.” Edmund’s voice didn’t waver, and his arm stayed put; a protective barrier between me and Snake-Eye.
“I need him to be that person, unfortunately.”
“Then explain what happened! If you tell him what happened between you two and what you want from him, you might jog his memory.”
Snake-Eye lowered the dagger. “Donovan is a lucky man, to have found someone like you.”
I didn’t need him to tell me that.
Slowly holstering his gun, Snake-Eye lit up a cigarette. He blew out the smoke, a thoughtful look on his face. “There’s no harm in trying, I suppose. You were on a boat, Donovan. I boarded you because you had something that belonged to my employer.”
I frowned. Was I nothing more than a simple thief? Was that really all there was to it?
“But you were prepared for any eventuality, and thus — when my men had overpowered you — gleefully told me that you’d hidden the suitcase.”
“Suitcase?” I repeated.
“I… I don’t know.”
Snake-Eye hummed as he knocked some ash from his cigarette. “However, I was also prepared. I’ve known you for quite some time now, and I knew torture wouldn’t work. Which was why I had brought with me an experimental drug.”
The image of a syringe flashed through my head, the one I’d been seeing in my nightmares. Fighting to keep my breathing under control, I distantly felt Edmund grasping my hand and squeezing it.
“The drug is supposed to wipe out the subject’s memory of the last couple of hours. I injected it with the plan of hiding until you brought out the suitcase; having forgotten our presence. But you went into what seemed like an epileptic fit, and when I knelt down to help you…” he faltered, jaw working. “You grabbed the dagger in my boot, slashed my face, and jumped overboard.”
Snake-Eye’s lips twisted into an unbecoming sneer. “Still nothing? No matter, I have grown tired of this. You’re of no use to me now, in this state.” He threw his cigarette to the ground, stepping on it with more force than necessary, before pulling out his gun again.
“Leave him alone, he doesn’t have your fucking MacGuffin! ” Edmund yelled.
He smiled slightly. “I dislike having to kill you, my friend. It’s a shame you got tangled up with Donovan.”
“Wait a second,” I said, panic rising. “He’s got nothing to do with this! Absolutely nothing!”
“I know,” Snake-Eye replied, brushing some imaginary dust off his gun.
“Just leave him here,” I begged. “He’s got no way of communicating with the outside world, so you can get off scot-free even if you leave him alive.”
“No loose ends. If you could remember, you’d know that’s my motto.” He raised the gun, aiming it straight at my head.
“Wait!” Edmund shouted, “I know where the suitcase is; I’ll take you to it!”
Snake-Eye looked at him, raising an eyebrow. The gun stayed trained at me.
“I swear to God,” he continued, tears welling up in his eyes. “I found the suitcase next to him, and stashed it. I-I need money, and I thought he looked like a rich guy.”
I stared as Edmund broke down, sinking to the ground and sobbing without restraint. Unsure what to think, I knelt down to pull him close. I couldn’t stand seeing him cry like that, no matter what.
“Hn. I thought more highly of you, kid. Oh well. This is good news, after all.” Snake-Eye smirked, tipping his gun in a clear ‘get up’ movement.
Edmund got to his feet, still sniveling. I started to follow suit, but got a swift kick from the goon for my troubles. “You stay with me,” he grunted. “Right, boss?”
“Correct. Now then, shall we?”
“Can I say goodbye first?” Edmund asked, wiping his nose with the edge of his shirt.
It looked like the goon was going to give him a smack, but Snake-Eye calmly stopped him. “By all means, be my guest.” He looked disgustingly amused.
Edmund threw his arms around me, hugging me tightly. As I raised my arms to return the embrace, wracking my brain for something reassuring to say, he whispered in my ear. “Try to run. He won’t be happy when he finds out I lied.”
Astounded, I made no effort to stop him when he slipped from my arms. Without looking back, he left with Snake-Eye — gun pointed at his back.
As the goon grabbed me by the collar and hauled me to my feet, my mind went into overdrive. Edmund had been acting again. Taking on the persona of a desperate thief, knowing full well the ramifications when the truth came to light. It was a fucking sacrifice; for my sake. If we somehow managed to get out of this alive, I’d… I’d…
I’d love him for the rest of my life.
The goon held me pinned against the wall, yelling obscenities in my face (and inadvertently spitting while doing so). I let my legs go limp, making him hold my entire weight. He stumbled, shirt slipping from his fingers, and as I hit the ground I hurried to give his nether regions an uppercut.
He howled in pain, and I made an attempt for his gun. My fingers curled around the grip at the same moment his elbow connected with my face. Falling on my ass, I just barely managed to roll to the side and avoid the goon’s stomp.
“You son of a bitch,” he snarled, “I’ll kill you!”
I got into a crouching position before launching myself at his legs, tackling him to the ground. We rolled around on the ground, him easily overpowering me when it came to brute power.
His fingers closed around my throat, choking me. Instinct screamed at me to try and pry them off, but I forced my hand to go for the gun instead. As the blood buzzed in my ears, I managed to get hold of the gun. He discovered it almost immediately though, and released me in order to lunge for his stolen weapon.
We were struggling for dominance when the gun went off. I felt something wet cover my stomach, expanding to drip down my sides. For a split second I thought I had been shot, but then the goon’s still body clued me in.
Gritting my teeth, I pushed him off me. Prying the gun from his dead fingers was technically easy, but inside I was screaming. Was this the kind of person I was? A killer?
I crawled over the other goon, intending to tie him up before going after Edmund and Snake-Eye. A pair of unseeing eyes met mine as I rolled him over. I’d crushed his skull when hitting him with the rock.
It was only by focusing on Edmund, and the importance of reaching his side as soon as possible, that I kept from vomiting again. I got to my feet, and ran.
I found them by the river.
I moved towards them slowly, trying to make out their conversation. But the waterfall was just a bit further down, and drowned out all other sounds.
Swallowing, I raised the gun. My hand shook and no matter how I tried I couldn’t squeeze the trigger. I didn’t want to kill again — and there was a chance that my aim would be off, hitting Edmund instead.
While debating how to best proceed, the choice was made for me. I saw Snake-Eye punch Edmund, felling him to the ground. The gun was then aimed at him, and without even thinking I raised my weapon anew and made the shot.
Snake-Eye froze, gun slipping from his hand. I saw Edmund scrabble to his feet, looking around with fear in his eyes. I stepped out from behind the trees as Snake-Eye turned around.
“In the back,” he gurgled, “I can’t believe it. Did I manage to teach you something after all?”
Unable to answer him, I threw my gun to the ground. Edmund took a step forward, eyes fixed on me, and then the world went into slow motion.
“Sorry, but I refuse to go alone.” Snake-Eye smiled, as he reached out and grabbed Edmund. They both tumbled into the river and were immediately swept away by the current, heading straight for the waterfall.
I broke into a dead run, screaming Edmund’s name.
I was no match for the raging river. I saw them both go off the edge, while feeling as if my heart was slowly being torn from my chest.
Reaching the waterfall, I forced myself to look down. A body lay on one of the rocks, irrevocably broken. My eyesight was blurry, and I couldn’t see who it was.
“A little help, please?”
The voice, strained and almost drowned out by the roaring water, made me jump. Looking down the sides, I saw Edmund. He had a precarious grip on a protruding tree branch, though it looked like it might break at any moment.
“Just hold on,” I yelled, desperately looking around for something to pull him up with. He was too far down for me to reach myself.
The riverbank wasn’t littered with ropes, unfortunately, so I had to settle for another branch. I grabbed the sturdiest of the bunch, and hurried back. Getting on my stomach, I extended the branch down to him.
Edmund hesitated, but then grabbed it. The sudden weight made me feel like my arms were being ripped from their sockets, and I had to get into a better position. I dug my heels in, and pulled.
A few minutes later, I could take Edmund’s hand and help him over the edge. He collapsed in my arms, panting just as heavily as I was. I tried to move us both further in, not comfortable in the least with being so close to that damned waterfall, but couldn’t manage. I lay back instead, holding him tightly.
We stayed like that for a long time. Then, Edmund slowly let go and sat up instead. I mimicked his actions.
“Hey,” he said, “we have a matching set now.”
“Our noses. They’re both red and swollen. You’ve still got blood all over your face, though.”
“Oh.” I raised my hand, ineffectually wiping at the mess. I hadn’t really noticed, but it came as no big surprise — that guy’s elbow had been hard.
“But that’s not your blood, right?”
I followed his gaze and looked down. My entire midsection was soaked in blood, shirt more red than white. “No,” I said simply.
“Good,” he whispered. Leaning forward, he hugged me again.
I relaxed into the hold, closing my eyes.
“Ahem. Hate to break up the grand love scene, but you’ve got three seconds to tell me where my boss is.”
Blood freezing to ice, I turned my head. The goon from the beach stood behind us, rifle in hand.
I pushed Edmund back and moved in front of him. “Just leave,” I said. “You’re the only one left. We’ll let you go.”
He snorted. “Are you stupid or something? That just means my share will be bigger. Now, where’s that bloody suitcase?”
“I don’t have it,” I yelled, voice breaking.
“Bullshit. Let’s see if you spill once I’ve wasted your pal, hm? Move aside.”
“I’m so sorry,” I quietly said to Edmund.
“It’s okay,” he replied, “it’s not your fault.”
I wished I could believe that. As the final goon raised his rifle, apparently intending to blow us both away after all, I closed my eyes.
A shot rang out, overpowering the sound of the waterfall for a moment.
“Cutting it a bit close, aye Don?”
I opened my eyes. An unknown man stood by the final — dead — goon, smoking gun in hand. Behind him were three others.
“Who…?” I croaked.
The stranger frowned. “You okay there, man? You look a bit worse for wear.”
Another one piped up; “You look like shit, actually.”
“He’s been given some sort of drug and lost his memory,” I heard Edmund say from behind me.
“You don’t recognize us, then? I’m Jacob, ‘member?”
I shook my head.
Jacob grimaced. “We have a medical team on one of the boats, so just take it easy. And who’s this guy, anyway?”
I stiffened. “Leave him alone, he has nothing to do with this.”
“Whoa, whoa!” Jacob put up his hands. “Ain’t gonna hurt him. We’re the good guys, y’know.”
Nodding, I got to my feet. Edmund stood up too.
“These people wanted some suitcase,” I said, gesturing towards the dead body. “I don’t recall anything about it, but…”
“No worries,” Jacob said, “we’ve already recovered it. You told us where you hid it, in case something like this was to occur.”
“Let’s get going now, all right?”
Somewhere along the walk to the beach, I took Edmund’s hand in mine. He was pale, and for some reason looked more scared now than he’d done before at gunpoint.
I understood his feelings as soon as we reached our destination. There were two boats, and they seemed very intent on splitting us up. Edmund was an outsider, and had no business with us. In my current state I wasn’t truly part of their group either (nor did I wish to ever be), but they were nonetheless unwilling to let me go.
As they more or less had to pull us apart, Edmund called out to me. “Rover! When this is all over, come find me. Please.”
I was dragged away before I could answer him.
The restaurant was cozy, the kind of place people frequented to relax and feel at home in. I picked a table far in, and studied the menu. Just plain good food; no gourmet crap. I couldn’t help but smile.
A girl appeared by my table, a pad of paper and a pen in her hands. “May I take your order?”
With a nod, she disappeared into the kitchen. I leaned back in the chair, watching the ceiling with a feeling of total peace.
The omelet arrived quickly, and tasted as good as I remembered. When I was done, I called over the waiter again.
“Is the owner around today, by any chance?”
“Yeah, he’s in the kitchen. He’s really into cooking, so he sorta doubles as an extra chef,” she laughed. Then her face darkened, a crease of worry forming between her eyebrows. “Why do you ask? Is something the matter?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. I’d just like you to relay a message to him.”
The small crease turned into a full-blown frown. “Look, I know the restaurant has only been open for a couple of weeks — but I have gotten to know him during that short time, so I know he’s serious about this place. Which means you can take your damn tabloid rag and shove-”
I raised a hand to ward off the stream of words. “I’m not a journalist. Edmund is an old friend of mine.”
Her mouth closed with an audible snap. “Oh. Um, sorry?”
I shook my head. “There’s no need to apologize for loyalty.”
A blush spread across her cheeks. “Cool. So, what’s your message?
“Just tell him that his missing dog has finally come home.”
I gave her my most winning smile. “He’ll get it.”
“Okay, if you say so.” She took off, and I intently watched the kitchen doors. They hadn’t even stopped swinging when Edmund burst through them, looking around wildly until his eyes fell on me.