Chapter I - Fate Revealed
Matt was keen on getting in a good ride. He was sweating loads, but didn't let the salty streams running down his face, and occasionally into his eyes, slow his pace. The landscape slipped by quickly. Outcrops of jagged, dusty, red rocks stood against the distant horizon of an incredibly blue sky. The temperature, as usual, was hot. No, it was beyond hot. It was hot the way only Nevada can be hot. So hot the scrubby bushes lose their color and turn stone hard, threatening to shatter if bent too far, injuring you as you walk by them. There was no wind, not uncommon, but increasing the oppressive weight of the heat under the Sun.
He had ridden this route many times before today. He would surprise himself every once in a while when he would jerk from a sudden memory and realize that miles had dropped behind him since he'd last been conscious of what he was doing. It happened often now, lost in thought, or most likely, memory. As Time passed he found he spent more and more of it running from the present and returning to memories of his past. He was lost, wandering endlessly, and being present in his daily life only reminded him that he was getting tired. Extremely tired.
The Sun was high now; almost noon he would guess given it's proximity to the hills in the distance and the feel of its heat on his face. He was a Sun worshiper in all of its meanings, and she knew this of her son, something she never let him forget even when he wanted to. He gravitated back to the Sun as if her enormity was pulling him forward. Always returning, always back to her. But this too was coming to an end, he felt it as surely as if he'd spoken the words out loud to her already. One day soon the words would be said and he would leave this world for the last time.
To look at him you would suspect that Matt never spend a day out of doors. He was as pale as the night is dark; a complete contrast to the mop of black hair and black eyebrows that stood out prominently against his white features. His coloring was not his only stunning feature. He was 6'4" tall, slender, but well muscled thanks in no small part to the frequency of his cycling addiction, and people considered him carefree and maybe even cool on a good day. He was the life of the party when he was out, but shy if alone in the company of only one person. His humor was legendary and saved his lives repeatedly. If one was to guess, 23 years would be a good option to pick as it was as close as you could get to what you would be seeing before your eyes. What you wouldn't know from looking at Matt was that he had lived repeatedly through thousands of lifetimes - since, in fact, from the beginning of Time. Time had told him that he would make a decision soon to end his life, and in truth, he welcomed this as the weariness had begun to weigh heavy on him. What Matt didn't know was that today was the beginning of that end.
He savored the warmth on his skin as he flew past the mile marker outside of Las Vegas. Having travelled for over 12 miles already he looked forward to the stop around the next corner. Harris' Roadside Store was a good place to replenish his water and give his legs a break before the final 2 miles home to the suite in the hotel where he was staying. It was the latest of many over the past 3 years since leaving behind his longtime home in Australia. He liked the US. It was big, confident - maybe even a little arrogant, outspoken and fierce in its own defense. It reminded him of his father, the Ruler. Tally Hall lyrics rang out in his head to remind him of his father's presence.
Are the ruler of everything
Ruler of everything
I'm the ruler of everything
In the end
They perfectly summed up his complicated relationship with his father. He brought himself away from his memories as he pulled up to the front door of the store and leaned his bike against the wooden stairs that lead inside. It should have probably been bulldozed to prevent it falling down on its customers, but it had been here as long as Matt had been biking this route, and he didn't think it would be going anywhere anytime soon. He pushed the door open ringing the tiny bell to announce his entry. There were a couple of people inside. He could feel this rather than see it, as he didn't like looking at people, so he normally kept his eyes averted from faces. Instantly he honed in on the song on the radio. He recognized it immediately and was trying to figure out the name of the artist.
It was the distraction of this thought, and the fact that he was looking at the floor as he was walking forward, that caused the collision between Matt and the metal stand that was directly in his path. It was one of those slow motion moments, where you know that any second all hell would break loose, but right now, as you watch the horror of the event play out before your eyes, all you can do is reach out uselessly to at least look, to everyone else, that your trying to prevent the inevitable disaster.
The crash sent shock waves through the store and what seemed like dozens of bottles of what could only be orange juice shattered on impact with the dingy, square, laminate tiles that made up the floor of the convenience store. Stunned, Matt took a couple of steps back as faces appeared before him and looked at the mess oozing out in every direction from the toppled stand and shards of glass. Fortunately, most of the bottles still clung in their little metal slots saving them from destruction. The store was utterly silent as a mother with her young boy looking around one isle and a teenage girl looking over another isle all stared at him. The boy caught his eye and stared at him intently, knowingly, an instant connection of being the same, regardless of the difference in years. Matt shook himself and was alert once again. Only seconds had passed while they gazed at each other.
"I like to make an entrance," Matt said casually, swaggering just a little to add emphasis to his quip. It had the desired affect, causing everyone to laugh. Everyone that is, but the young man that came running out of the back storage room, skidding to a stop, his mouth gaping open at the colossal and growing orange mess on the floor.
"You're not Amy," Matt said disappointed that his regular convenience store clerk wasn't there to make things a little easier.
"What the f…" he was about to finish yelling but was stopped by Matt's outstretched arm with his palm held toward the guy. The international symbol for "you should probably stop talking right now."
Matt pointed at the mother and her young son. "There's a kid here," Matt said rather sheepishly. "And this is totally my fault, and I swear I will clean it up and pay for everything. I'm so sorry. I walked right into it not even seeing it. I guess I was just thinking, you know and …" he stopped when he saw the anger growing on the guys face.
"I have to get something to clean this mess up," he stated in an obviously pissed tone and stormed back through the door he had come through moments earlier.
"I'm sure your day's going to get a lot better!" Matt called enthusiastically after the clerk, but there was no reply from the behind the door. He looked toward the mother and her young child who caught his eye once again and grinned at Matt. He winked at the boy who grew instantly shy and buried his face into his mothers pant leg. She smiled at Matt and tugged her child out of the store avoiding the spreading juice. Soon after their departure the teenager girl ran out too, just a little to fast for Matt's liking, and he made a note to try and pay for whatever she had stolen - it was his drama after all that gave her the opportunity.
The young clerk returned from the storage room carrying a large grey garbage can and a mop. They spent the better part of an hour cleaning up the mess and washed the floor twice so that when you walked on it your shoes didn't stick to the floor. On a couple of occasions Matt continued working while the young man tended to customers who had come in. It felt almost as if he worked there. Nothing was said between them as they worked in silence, and Matt began to actually look at the young man who worked at the store.
He was almost as tall as Matt was, and appeared to be a little older in years, maybe 25. His skin wasn't as pale as Matt's, but it was on the whiter side as his hair was a subtle shade of red, thick and closely cut off of the back of the neck. Looking out of the corner of his eyes at the young man's face, he saw a hint of freckles on the nose and cheeks and bright, soft lips …
"Could you please stop staring at me?" The clerk asked in frustration.
Wounded, Matt tried to cover up, but didn't succeed. "What? I wasn't staring at you, I was just, ah, checking to see if you were still mad." He brightened noticeably as the guy stopped what he was doing and turned to face Matt, making it even harder to avoid being seen. So he stopped trying.
"I'm sorry," Matt said matter-of-factly. "I was trying to figure out if you were going to kill me with that mop."
The guy laughed. "Do you ever stop?"
It gave them a chance to make eye contact and Matt instantly fell into his deep grey eyes. "Oh my god, your eyes are stunning!" Instantly he realized his mouth had ran ahead of his brain, "I mean… I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have said that, I mean… Oh shit, I don't know what I mean, I just… your so damn cute and here I was checking you out and then you caught me looking at you and …" He tapered off when he realized he was most likely making it worse for himself. He looked up stupidly into those grey eyes once more and melted.
"Are you hitting on me?" the young guy asked with genuine curiosity in his voice.
Matt looked away trying to find someplace to hide. "No, I'm not hitting on you! I'm just… well, you know, trying to make things… ok, yes, I was hitting on you." He looked away from the man staring at him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make things weird. I should probably go, but I want to pay for the damages. I counted 16 bottles that we cleaned up, and I'm pretty sure that girl that was in here stole something before she left, so if you could add on an extra twenty dollars to whatever I owe for the juice that should cover it."
Without a word the young man walked over to the till and rang in the amount. "One hundred and thirty six dollars." He stated plainly.
Matt eyed him curiously knowing very well that he was being seriously overcharged, but didn't say anything. He just handed the guy his bankcard.
The young man looked disappointed that Matt didn't say anything about it. "Ok it's only thirty-six dollars for the juice, and don't worry about the girl stealing something, the whole place is wired and I will look at the video. She comes here all of the time, so she'll be back and I can deal with her then. The extra hundred is what I expect you to spend on dinner when you pick me up in four hours after my shift is over." A smile spread slowly over his lips.
Matt's eyes widened as he heard the last of the clerks words flow from his perfect lips and watched as a slightly smug smile spread on his face. He matched it with his own and kept quiet as he completed the payment transaction on his card.
He glanced up to meet the young man's eyes. "I'll see you in four hours then." He turned to leave. "Oh and one small thing," he said turning back to look at the clerk, "if you hear a small girl screaming in delight after I go outside, I'd like you to ignore that and just go about your business."
The young man laughed and his perfect smile returned. Satisfied, Matt turned and left, grabbed his bike and hurried the two miles to his hotel. The entire way, he was wrapped in his thoughts about his new friend's eyes and his amazing mouth, and he started to sweat just a little more than his ride could account for as he thought about the possibilities of being with this beautiful, young man whose name he didn't even know.