James hadn’t slept more than ten minutes the entire night. He would close his eyes, feel himself drifting off and then he would feel Seth shift beside him, bringing him back to full consciousness once again. Every moment could be the moment, the moment when Seth would once again disappear from his life.
Last night Seth had come home from work, casually asked how James’s day had been and then thrown in that he had a new job in the middle of the very mundane conversation. That had been it. “I leave tomorrow,” was all he had said. James had waited, praying Seth would provide him with further details. But Seth hadn’t said another word about it. They had gone to bed without discussing the issue any further.
The sun was rising, throwing long thin shadows across the ceiling. James watched them grow and chuckled to himself. They looked exactly like prison bars, fitting for the way he felt at the moment. They grew until the sunshine took over the ceiling, how James prayed being freed was that simple.
“Morning,” a sleepy voice said beside him. Seth rolled over and grinned at his husband.
“Morning,” James said back. His tone was cold and hard. He didn’t want to have this fight but it was all becoming too much. He couldn’t do it anymore.
“You okay?” Seth propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at James.
“The fact that you have to ask that question makes everything so much worse,” James sat up and leaned forward staring out the window.
“What are you talking about?” Seth asked chuckling to himself. “I’m not responsible for whatever dumb thing dream me did, you know.”
James wanted to scream. He was making jokes right now? “Seriously!?” James threw off the comforter and went to the windowsill. He needed to put distance between himself and Seth before he backhanded him.
“What. The. Fuck. Is. Your. Problem?” Seth asked slowly, his playful tone was gone. “Go slow it’s still the crack of dawn.”
“A. It’s freaking eight o’clock nowhere near dawn. B. You are the problem,” James said.
“I know that genius, what did I do?” Seth asked. He threw his legs over the edge of the bed and dropped his head in his hands. “It is too early for this shit.”
“Job,” was all James said. He knew Seth would understand.
Seth groaned and collapsed back onto the bed. James sighed; he could be so dramatic sometimes. “Not this again,” Seth said to the ceiling.
“Yes, again,” James replied.
To say James hated Seth’s job wouldn’t be conveying his feelings properly. He wanted to take this so called “side job,” dip it in acid, watch it crumple and burn in-between his fingers and then smash what remained beneath the sole of his shoe.
Seth was a paid, “time hopper.” Wealthy clients called on him to fix certain events throughout history. Generally, it was to benefit them professionally in some way. Seth got the call and was off to kill, maim or hide whoever or whatever the client wanted. He had been doing it since he was teenager. Every time James begged him to give it up Seth shrugged and said he would think about it. Same answer every damn time. No longer was that going to be enough for James.
“Babe I can’t do this right now,” Seth sat up and went to the closet. James knew he had precious few minutes left before Seth would disappear.
“We have to. You can’t do this job anymore. I can’t let you do this job anymore,” James said. “You can’t just throw it at me and expect me to act like it’s no big deal.”
“My job is what gives us this house. It is what allows you to concentrate on your art. Without it we would barely make it by,” Seth said. He threw a T-shirt over his head and went back to look for a pair of jeans.
“It is what also killed me once,” James snapped. Seth stopped looking for pants and let what he had in his hand fall to the floor. He leaned into the door jamb, exhausted and drained.
“That was an accident,” he whispered.
“An accident that could easily happen again. You don’t know what is going to happen when you screw around with time. Next time you might not be able to fix it,” James said. He wanted more than anything to wrap his arms around Seth’s broad strong shoulders and make that memory disappear, but it was that pain that he needed to use to make his point.
Seth had been given what seemed like a routine job. He was to go and prevent the birth of a certain political candidate. He had gone initially to stop the wedding. It hadn’t been difficult, the groom was very skittish. It only took a few choice words from Seth to end the whole thing.
He had come home to celebrate a quick simple job well done to find James dying on the floor of their bedroom. James, for some inexplicable reason, could still feel the rattling in his chest as he had struggled for breath and his heart had slowly stopped. A tear stained Seth still haunted his dreams.
Seth had held him until he had passed, then he had run off to fix what he had done. Instead of preventing the marriage, he let the two people marry. He had then helped push them toward a quick divorce. The child was never born and Seth returned home to a whole and alive James.
James didn’t understand the details. Why he could remember dying? And what those strangers had to do with him was a complete mystery. How could their halted marriage made him kill himself? He had asked Seth those questions so many times but Seth always became angry and stormed out of the room.
Now wasn’t the time for that fight, one issue at a time. Seth went back to the floor of the closet and tried to find the jeans he had been holding.
“It won’t happen again,” he said with a slight quiver in his voice.
“How can you be certain? You don’t know what all the side effects will be. So many things are connected,” James said. “Please. Just. Stop.” The last words were a plea, a plea that came from the deepest part of his heart.
“I can’t. I’ve told you more times than I can count. It is what I have to do. This is my destiny,” he pushed past James and stripped off his socks and boxer shorts. He pulled on a new pair of underwear and the jeans he had pulled from the closet floor.
“That destiny stuff is complete bullshit. You are destined to mess up lives and endanger yourself? I don’t think so. Try again,” James grabbed Seth’s fumbling fingers and stared him dead in the eye. “Why won’t you give it up? Am I not worth it?”
Seth stared right back at him. Without looking away he brought up his wrist and flipped open the catch on the side of the bracelet he never took off. Inside the small square was their wedding picture. “You are worth everything. I’m doing this for us.”
“BULLSHIT!!” James shouted, pushing Seth’s arm away from his face. “If you cared about us in any way you would stop saying stupid stuff and give it up already!” James felt the tears in his eyes prickle; he prayed he could hold them in. Tears were not appropriate right now.
“Dammit ,James!,” Seth paced the length of the room twice before turning back to James. He was angry, but scared at the same time. “Fine, you want the truth? You want to know why I have to do this dumb ass gig?” Seth stepped back into James’s face. His gaze was pure fire. James wanted to back away and forget this whole ordeal. He wanted to hide, that look made him fear what words Seth would utter next.
“Yes,” he finally breathed out. Though he was terrified of what Seth was going to say he knew he had to hear it. They had come this far, this had to end somehow.
“I have a contract. A blood contract. I do what they ask or I die,” he said it so simply. The happy flirty man he loved was gone instead in front of him stood an enslaved man who had no way out.
“No,” James breathed. He retreated until his back hit the wall. He collapsed onto the ground and let the held in tears fall. “No!”
A blood contract had no loopholes, there was no way of ever ending it. You were at the mercy of whoever held the contract. You couldn’t refuse them. They could make you kill, they could kill you and there wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it. Only the most desperate entered into something like that.
“Why?’ James asked with a rattling breath.
Seth sighed and rubbed his hands down his face. “I was a teenager. We had no money and were on the verge of losing the house. No part time job was going to be enough. I met this Jordan at a party, he told me about a man named “The Fixer,” who would pay me well to help him. I was desperate. When he told me about the contract, I signed without a second thought. I figured I would save my family then run off and live as a hermit doing whatever he asked of me. I would be a loner and never hurt anyone should I decide to give up the life. Then I ran into you and I couldn’t stay away. I hoped I could find a way out of all this but I haven’t,” Seth shrugged. “I’m out of ideas. I can’t change it. This is what our lives are.”
James’s head snapped up. “Yes you can,” he ran to his lover and held his face in his hands. “That’s what you do, you change things.”
Seth gave him a sympathetic smile. “Babe I can’t go back to that moment, he has it locked away. Do you really think he would let someone go back and end the agreement? He would lose everything.” He gently kissed James’s forehead. “I have to go. We’ll talk more when I get home. Remember I love you,” he kissed James lightly on the lips and was gone.
James watched the place Seth had just occupied. For a moment he wanted to breakdown into a fit of tears and drown in sorrow and fear. But he couldn’t do that. If Seth couldn’t go back then someone else would have to.
James changed into a shirt and jeans and ran out of the house. There was one man who could do anything, for a price. James didn’t care what it cost him, he was going to save Seth and their life together if it killed him.