GRADIENTS OF INFECTION
The plague struck the city in the June of 1630 but Leo didn't know what was going on until the house of his father fell a couple of months later. Before then, all the bodies dragged out of the buildings and burned in the squares had meant nothing to him but being forced to stay indoor and bear the horrible stink that came up from the smoking piles.
Then the first of their servants caught it. She didn't show anybody the pustules growing in number by the hour on her back, lest Leo's father threw her in the streets like everybody else was doing with their servants in every other noble house in the city. So, she kept quiet. Within few weeks, all the servants were sick and it was a matter of time before the disease spread to the family too. The first to die was Leo's mother, the plague finding her weak from the pneumonia of the year before. Then went Leo's little sister Tana, and his uncle with his wife. His father was last. When the signs of the disease started to show on his chest and arms, he locked himself in his bedroom, hoping that the plague wouldn't reach the last member of the family still alive. He wouldn't let Leo inside and only speak to him through closed doors. So, when he died, he was alone, and Leo was left on his own and on the run.
Leo's father had told him what was left of the family's fortune and where to find it. His last order was to join the rest of the family out of the city, on the hills but it was too late to do that. By the time Leo had reached the town's walls, the gates were closed and the guards would not open them. Nobody could go in or out by king's command. The city was considered lost and condemned to die, eaten from the inside by the plague, that was spreading faster and faster now that the livings were gathered so close together with the dead.
The only help they got came from the nuns and friars that had always refused to flee the city as the authorities had done. They would walk around the city, bringing what little they could offer to the healthy people and comfort to the dying ones; but the food was scarce and the water poisoned, so even their labor was vain. The lazar house was quickly filling up, and of those who went inside, only a few came out.
A few doctors had stayed in town, wanting to avoid the accusations of cowardice from their colleagues, but they were mostly useless as they didn't know what they were dealing with. They had no cure, only experimental solutions that at best would kill the patient, putting him out of his misery.
People were scared and desperate, a combination that led to superstitions and the strong conviction that the disease was either God's punishment or the result of the action of plague-spreaders sent by the Devil himself. People were looking suspiciously at each other and lynchings were often performed on innocents accused to be greasing door handles with the epidemic.
That was the reason why Leo was running now.
He had entered what he thought was an abandoned house to search for food or something to sell for bread in the only tavern still standing, and an old woman had seen him rummaging in a wardrobe. She didn't give him the time to explain and just called the others. If Leo had learned something in the past few weeks was that a group of people that had been laying about in the streets for days could easily recover and run as if they had demons at their heels to beat the shit out of a man if they thought he was responsible for the plague. Leo had seen it happen too many times already and he didn't want to be the victim this time, so he propelled himself through the alleys as quickly as he could, trying to avoid the corpses scattered around or the more dangerous infected people who reached out for him.
People were screaming at him, calling to others as they passed by and providing each other with sticks and clubs to use once they would catch him. Leo was running out of options. He could keep going the way he was now, hoping that all the noise the crowd was making wouldn't alarm the people that was standing in the square he was heading to. But that was a miracle he couldn't really hope for because the city was so silent lately that you could have heard a pin falling, let alone a whole crowd screaming that there was a plague-spreader. So he was left with only one thing to do, and that was entering the area where the monatti stoked the corpses before burning them. There the infection was said to be raging and there was no way to leave the place safely once you had entered it.
But it was either die for sure by the hands of a furious crowd that had almost caught him already, or take his chances and go beyond a long line of dead bodies that could not harm him unless he touched them. He had been lucky enough to stay healthy all this time, maybe his luck was to last a little longer. Anyway, he had no time to think and he just entered the street where the stink of death and disease was strong enough to make him want to puke. Unluckily for him, the crowd chased after him, the desire of putting an end to the cause of the plague stronger than their fear to catch it.
The street was lined up with corpses wrapped in rags and piled up one on the other, sometimes in towers of three or four. Every now and then there was an empty cart ready to be used. The monatti would pull it around the city, going where there had been a death to take the body away. They were preceded by men with bells on their shoes and belts, who warned people of the cart's arrival, so that they could go out of the way both to make room and stay safe.
Avoiding the bodies wasn't as easy as Leo had thought, especially with the angry mob at his back. He kept stumbling and he was often forced to stop and look around to find a way out from a wall of dead people or carts blocking the streets. He came across a couple of monatti, who looked at him in disbelief. One of them cursed at him and called him crazy, while the other laughed and told him to run as fast as he could. Leo knew the man thought him dead already but his suggestion was sill valid.
He had just left them behind when he turned to see what the crowd was at and tripped over a body he hadn't seen. It was a matter of seconds and he would land on the rotting corpse or one of the many equally infective puddle in the street. But he didn't. Someone caught him in mid air and dragged him in the dark shadow of a sideways alley. He saw the crowd pass him by without seeing him as the stranger kept a hand on his mouth to prevent him from screaming. As soon as the crowd was gone, the hand was too.
When Leo looked up he found the unmistakable long beaked mask of a doctor. He was a tall man with a long black robe and white gloves, his face completely covered. The eye of the mask were big and rounded, but so dark Leo couldn't see the man's eyes underneath. “Come with me,” the man says.
Leo frowned. He didn't think so. This man could dress like a doctor but he didn't act like one. They didn't grab people from the streets and hide them from angry mobs. Usually they were scared of strangers as everybody else. And they didn't touch you, unless it was strictly necessary. “Thanks, but no. I know my way out of here,” he nodded, trying to get away.
The man's grip on Leo's arm tightened. “I meant a way out where they aren't waiting for you,” the man said, pulling him along. “They have surrounded the area to get you.”
“How do you know that?”
His long beak pointed at him as the the man turned to look in his direction. “I saw them,” he said, quite obviously. “They seemed convinced you're spreading the disease.”
“Well, I am not. I was just looking for food,” he answered, doing very little to stop the man from dragging him around a labyrinths of little alleys he had never seen before.
“In an abandoned house? Good luck with that.”
Leo frowned. “How did you know that?”
But the man didn't answer. He stopped at the end of the street and peeked around the corner, keeping him behind himself. They were a few feet away from the city's walls and there were two soldiers guarding them. Pressed against the man's robe, Leo noticed that it didn't smell awful like those robes usually did. It smelled cleaned and freshly washed with something that reminded him of his mother cologne. “Now, listen to me” the man said, still watching the doors. “How good are your acting skills?”
That was a strange question. “I don't know. Never done that in my life.”
“Well, try to be good, then,” the man said, offhandedly. “I need you to play a part and I need them to believe you. So, as you see, the entire success of the plan depends on you.”
“Great!” Leo said, sarcasm pouring out of his words like acid. “I'm so much more motivated, now. Especially since I don't know who you are, what do you want and where the hell are we going.”
The man suddenly realized that he had dragged him around without any introduction on his part, and that seemed to upset him somehow. He pulled back his mask, revealing his face. He was a man on his thirties, with black curly hair and eyes of a golden shade of brown such as Leo had never seen before. “My name's Blaine Anderson,” he said, showing that the light accent Leo had heard wasn't because of the mask. “I am a physician.”
Leo looked closely at him one more time. “Leo,” he simply said.
Blaine nodded. “Leo, I can take you out of the city with me but we have to be very careful.”
“Now, that's bullshit,” Leo said, almost happy to be finally able to declare the man mad once and for all. “Nobody can leave the town. Believe me, I tried. You can't get past those doors.”
“Unless,” Blaine corrected him, retrieving a piece of paper from an inside pocket of his robe, “you have a special wavier of the Pope for medical research and merits.”
Leo frowns, eying the parchment. “You have Pope's wavier?”
Quickly, Blaine put the thing away. “Sort of. I have a very good fake one” he precised “and it never failed me. My assistant made it. He is a wonderful falsifier among other things. Now, listen to me. You are going to be my trainee. Your task is to assist me in my daily work. In case they ask you, tell them that you were with me even when I entered the city this morning. They just don't remember it.”
“This is crazy. They will never believe me,” he protested.
“They will if you do,” Blaine said seriously. “Just act like my trainee and leave the rest to me.”
There was no time for protesting any longer because Blaine pulled his mask back down and pulled Leo's hood up, then he grabbed his arm again and dragged him toward the doors. He approached the guards with long, sure strides and stopped a few inches away from one of them, forcing him to take a step back. “Open the doors, please.”
“I am sorry, sir. Nobody can enter or leave the city.”
“We can,” Blaine said. He showed them his fake wavier and as they checked its veracity, he proceeded to stun them with words. “Actually, we arrived this morning and you let us pass. My name is Blaine Anderson and I've been sent here by the Holy Father himself to try and find a cure for this disease.”
“I remember you,” the other guard said, looking at them suspiciously. “But not the kid.”
“You're probably experiencing some level of memory loss, because the kid was indeed with me and he has been for almost three years now,” Blaine said immediately while Leo at his side just held his breath. The worst that could happen was to be sent back. But after being one step away from escaping, even that seemed an awful punishment. “But don't worry, my friend, this is nothing to worry about. Long, tedious hours guarding doors that don't do anything but be closed would do that to anyone. A good night of sleep and everything will be alright.”
The guard, actually worried for a possible mental illness causing him memory loss, grumbled that he thought he remembered the kid now. “Is the wavier in order?” He asked his colleague.
The other guard read the thing again, causing Leo to tense even more. The man seemed to watch closely at some part of the parchment as if he wasn't convinced with it, but it turned out he only had problems reading in general. “Yes. You can go.”
When they opened the doors for them, Leo couldn't believe it.
By the time he managed to get his head around the idea of himself leaving the city, they were halfway to Blaine's house.
The first thing they did was reach the house of Leo's relatives – despite Blaine telling him that everyone in the area had died or moved – but when they got there, they didn't find anyone. The house seemed abandoned. All the furniture was covered with white sheets and all the precious things Leo's relatives had owned were missing, but the house didn't look like it had been robbed. They had just moved somewhere else, probably in another country all together. So, alone and with no other places to go, Leo agreed to go with Blaine.
Blaine lived in a beautiful big villa on the hills, like the one they had just left. It had a beautiful garden around it that shined in all its glory even if it was clear that nobody had had the time to take proper care of it. The access to the property was through a gate almost completely covered in ivy and surmounted by two stone lions that looked gravely upon them when they passed.
“So this is your house?” Leo asked as they walked on the path that led to the villa. Trees and bushes were so overgrown that Leo kept looking around, sure that there had to be real lions as well as stone ones in there.
“My family's, from my mother's side” Blaine answered, taking off his mask and robe. “She used to live here when she was still a maiden.”
They passed over a little bridge – a miniature arch of wooden planks, like a toy in a country doll house – over a little river sprouting out of nowhere. This part of the garden had to be extremely pretty in the past. “You don't sound like someone who grew up around here,” Leo noticed.
“Because I didn't,” Blaine gave him a big relaxed smile. There had been something different in him since the moment he had entered the property. “I was born in Virginia.”
“Where is it?”
Blaine chuckled. “The New World,” he said.
“So why did you come here?”
Blaine chuckled again and ruffled his head, which was something Leo hated with a passion. “To be someone I've just met, you surely ask a lot of questions.”
Leo wanted to remind Blaine that he had just invited him to live in his house, which was a little bit more intimate than asking perfectly reasonable questions, but he didn't have the time because, when they were about to reach the villa, they were approached by a black haired kid about his age who threw himself in Blaine's arms before doing anything else, included greeting them. And then he proceeded to scold Blaine so badly that even Leo felt a little sorry for him.
“Are you out of your mind?” He screamed as his puffy cheeks turned red out of rage and anger. “You said three hours, Blaine! Three hours. And you've been gone all day!”
“I know, pet, I know.” Blaine spoke soothingly but he really looked sorry for having upset this kid so much. “I did wanted to come back on time, but nothing went as planned and I had to improvise.”
“I don't even know what your plans were,” he sighed in resignation. Apparently, his anger came only from his concern for Blaine. So, once he saw the man was well, he calmed down.
Blaine let out an amused little laugh. Leo expected him to ruffle Cody's hair too, but he didn't. “I didn't know what they were either, actually” he said. “By the time I figured them out, it was already late. I'm really sorry, pet. It won't happen again, I promise.”
The kid frowned at him, as if he didn't believe him. “Right, 'cause you usually keep promises like these,” he said in fact. Then he sighed, relaxing. “Never mind. The important thing is that you're here safe and sound.”
“Right,” Blaine nodded. “Now, Cody, this is Leo. Leo, this is Cody.”
Cody – who apparently had a real name and wasn't called pet
like Leo was starting to think – turned to him for the first time and looked as if he had only noticed him now. The expression on his face was unreadable and Leo couldn't say if he was fine or annoyed with his presence but, if he had to guess, he would have said the latter. Leo quickly waved at him, feeling a little awkward. Cody just gave him a nod and then turned back to Blaine, not actually asking anything to him but still managing to demand an explanation by the mere look in his eyes.
Which Blaine promptly avoided. He gave Cody his robe and mask with an elusive smile. “Please, dispose of these,” he said, gently. “And would you take care of Leo? He's gonna stay with us.”
“What?” The two kids said in unison, even if for two different reasons. What Blaine had just said was so incredibly weird for both of them, that they didn't even turn to look at each other in surprise for the twin outbursts.
Blaine ignored them all together. “He needs a bath and food,” he said as he climbed the stairs, already heading inside. “Oh! And check for any sign of the disease. You know how to do it, right?”
Cody's baby face just seemed to melt in annoyance and frustration. “Blaine, are you kidding me? I've still tons of other things to do!”
Blaine didn't stop to answer to him. “I'm sure you'll manage everything as you always do,” he said over his shoulder. “Leo, come to me when you've done. Cody will tell you where my lab is.”
For a few moments after Blaine had closed the entrance door behind himself, Leo and Cody just stood there in silence, Cody still watching the door in disbelief and Leo not knowing exactly what he should have done now, or even what was expecting him.
“Right!” Cody turned suddenly with a clap of his hands. He tried to make it look like what just happened was no big deal, but he made a poor job of it. “Come with me. It's gonna take a while with you.”
“Hey! What is this even supposed to mean?”
Cody, as his master, didn't answer. He just led the way around the house, bringing him to a backdoor. Once inside, they walked through a narrow hallway and climbed down an even more narrow staircase to what looked liked a very spacious bathroom in the basement. Four little windows at ground level let the sunlight in and a line of oil lamps hanging from a rope on the ceiling gave the room all the light it needed. There was a bathtub right in the center and a coal-burning stove on the side, with several buckets filled with water resting on it. Cody threw Blaine's robe in the stove and put the beaked mask on a shelf. Then he grabbed the buckets with a rag, to avoid burning himself, and emptied them in the bathtub one by one.
“Take off your clothes, please” he said.
Leo frowned. “What? No!” He exclaimed outraged, crossing his arms on his chest. “Not until you leave the room.”
Cody seemed unaffected by this. “I'm supposed to give you a bath,” he just said.
“I can bathe myself, thank you.”
Cody tried the water in the bathtub as he would have done for a child, then he sighed and stood up, facing him. “No, you can't” He said. “I need to check you for signs of the plague. So, take off your clothes, please.”
“I know what the plague looks like!” Leo protested. “My whole family died because of it.”
Cody's patience seemed to run really short on this one, if the frown on his forehead deepening by the second was of any indication. “I won't look for the signs of the disease when it's already spreading, but for the ones that forecast it.”
“Which ones are they?”
Cody nodded. “Exactly. I know them, you don't. So, would you take off your clothes, please?” He asked again, this time barely containing his annoyance. “I assure you, you have nothing I haven't seen before. God, you're worse than a girl!”
Leo glared at him. It was weird to hear that coming from a boy who was way more effeminate than him. And that was saying something, considering that Leo was very small and slim for his age. Still, Cody was really petite and elegant, with delicate and feminine features, as if he had never hit puberty. It didn't even cross Leo's mind that Cody could be referring to his mien and not to his appearance. It had been only logical to him to hide his body from the eyes of other people, especially stranger. He had never undressed in front of someone else before.
However, he did now because it looked like Cody would do it for him if he didn't obey. Once he was naked and covering himself miserably, Cody took his clothes without a second glance to him and threw them too in the stove. “Hey!” Leo cried out. “Those were the only one I had!”
“We will give you others,” Cody assured him. “Now get in the tub, please.”
Leo complied, also because standing there naked wouldn't have been any better. The water temperature was perfect, which surprised him, because Cody clearly hated him and trying to boil him alive or making him freeze wouldn't have been so strange on his part. Once he was fully immersed, he let out a moan of real pleasure. He hadn't realized how long he had done without a bath. Now he understood how dirty he was, how tensed, how much he needed it. “God, this is heaven.”
Cody knelt beside the tub and started to gently sponge his back and arms, carefully checking the tone and color of his skin as Blaine had taught him. “When was the last time you ate?” He asked.
“I don't remember exactly,” Leo answered. “Maybe it was five or six days ago. A nun gave me a piece of bread.”
Cody lifted one arm and gently palpated his armpit. “Did you lose a lot of weigh?”
Leo shrugged. “Not that much, considering I haven't been eating enough,” he answered. “I've seen sick people losing way more than me. What are you doing?”
Cody shushed him and walked around the bathtub to wash and check his other arm. He stayed silent for the longest time, cleaning him carefully and even washing his hair twice. When he spoke again, his voice was lower and somehow troubled. “How did he find you?”
“I was running from an angry mob. They thought I was a plague-spreader,” he chuckles. “He hid me.”
Cody put the sponge away. “And you didn't know him?”
Leo shook his head. “Nope. Never seen him before.”
Cody's face remained dark as it was, but he nodded and smiled somehow gently at him. “Now get out of the water,” he said, giving him a towel. “I'll get your clothes.”
He left the room and came back five minutes later with a new pair of black breeches and a white tunic that were probably his own. “Here, for now you can wear these,” he said, passing them to him. “If you're really gonna stay with us, we're gonna buy some new clothes for you.”
Then, he barely waited for him to be fully dressed and told Leo to follow him again, leading him upstairs. He didn't show him the house at all. He walked fast, urging him to hurry up, until they reached a room at the farthest end of an awfully dark corridor. “This is your room,” he announced, opening the door for him. “If you need anything, you will find us downstairs. Blaine's lab is on the second floor, right next to the stairs. I suggest you to join him in a little while. Dinner will be served in two hours. Until then, I left you bread, cheese and some fruit in your room.”
Then he walked away. Just like that. Not really giving Leo time to say anything.
His thank you
- if he was ever prone to say it – remained unspoken.
Blaine's lab was not the crammed little space some other doctors had, but a spacious room with a big table in the center and shelves on the walls to keep everything in order. Cody would always see to that. The lab was cleaned twice a day – more if Blaine's experiments happened to be too messy – and Cody was always there at the end of the day to put everything back to his place, since he knew Blaine wouldn't do that more often than not.
Today was no different. Even if Blaine had been away all day, he had still had enough time since he came back to make a mess. So, when Cody walked in the room and found everything scattered around, papers everywhere and tons of recently filled phials that he was going to either clean or label later, he wasn't even remotely surprised. He just closed the door behind himself with a sigh.
“You couldn't just call it a day, could you?” He asked, picking up notes from the floor.
“I had to write something down, but I couldn't find the right journal,” he explained, looking very closely at the liquid inside a phial that he was holding up in the air. “So obviously I had to check them all.”
“You could have asked.”
Blaine corked the phial and put it together with a bunch of others, all containing a different colored liquid. “You were busy taking care of our new guest,” Blaine said, quickly moving around the room as he was used to do. He was always doing two or three things at once. It looked like he couldn't bare to have a single moment of idleness when he worked. “I didn't want to bother you with my disorganization.”
Cody clacked his tongue. “Oh the irony!” He said, wondering if Blaine realized that his mere presence bothered him with his disorganization every single day. This Leo guy was simply the last proof of it.
That caught Blaine's attention. He finally stopped swirling around and looked up at him, frowning. “What is that supposed to mean, now?”
Cody crossed his arms to his chest. “I don't know, you tell me.”
Cody had never been the passive-aggressive type, so Blaine instantly got that something was wrong, and above all what it was. Anyway, knowing what the situation was didn't mean he knew how to handle it, so he did the only thing he was sure was going to work. He walked to Cody and grabbed him by his hips, pulling him closer. Then, he started kissing him along his neck, slipping his long fingers under Cody's tunic.
“Don't you even dare,” Cody threatened him, slapping his hand away.
“But I missed you!” Blaine looked at him with the perfect puppy eyes, but it was useless. Cody looked very dangerous, his clear blue eyes were a darker shade of anger.
“I said, don't you even dare.”
Blaine let him go, but he didn't step away. “You weren't so mean a few months ago,” he whined, massaging his hand in place of the hurt pride that he couldn't cuddle.
“I wouldn't have needed an explanation a few months ago,” Cody replied, his arms still firmly crossed to his chest, denying Blaine all kind of access preemptively. “Now, I do. And I don't reckon this is too much to ask.”
Blaine sighed, realizing there was no way out of it. “Well... He seemed fit,” he said.
Even the way Cody slowly raised his eyebrow was threatening. “Fit,” he repeated, dryly.
“For the experiments!” Blaine quickly added. “He is fit for the experiments.”
Cody didn't seem convinced at all. “Yeah. Sure,” he nodded, even more dryly.
Blaine thought that that was a pretty good explanation, but evidently it was not. Then, finally, sudden realization came and Cody could see it dawning in his dumb, unaware eyes. “Wait! Do you think I like him?” He asked with a nervous laugh. “Come on Cody. I don't even know him!"
“Yeah, 'cause you actually need to know people to like them, do you?” Cody replied, growing more and more annoyed with Blaine's every word. “You put your hands on me two weeks after we first met!"
"Well... Well, that was different!” Blaine said. He grabbed his arms, forcing Cody to uncross them, and pulled him to his chest. “You are you. It's a totally different matter. Can I have a kiss now?”
“No, you can't!” Cody pulled his hands away, closing both his fists in anger. “And you, Blaine Anderson, are unbelievable. How dare you try and win me over with some random romantic bullshit after you just brought a stranger you're all head over heels for into our home?"
"I am not... “ Blaine sighed, tiredly. “Cody, he's been alone in the city for at least three weeks. I saw him twice, two different time and places. He was wearing the same clothes both times and he had lost weight. Yet, he is not sick.”
The way Blaine was looking at him was clearly telling Cody that all those information were important, and he knew they were. Usually people got ill in two weeks top, less if they couldn't wash themselves or their clothes. Leo was the dirtiest thing Cody had ever seen in a while, and yet he didn't have any sign of the epidemic, which was a good sign for Blaine's research. And Cody knew Blaine cared for his research more than he cared for random fucks, which was saying something. “Yeah,” he sighed, finally giving up the pout. “So those gorgeous sky blue eyes and his wild black curls are in no way involved in your decision to bring him here?"
“Does he have sky blue eyes and wild black curls under the dirt?” Blaine asked, playfully. “I hadn't noticed that.”
Cody glared at him so bad that he was almost comical. “Blaine...”
“I hadn't! I swear! Besides,” he chuckled, not believing Cody to be seriously angry, “I already have my black haired beauty in the house.”
Cody put his hands on his hips. “Oh, really. And who would that be? Do I know him?”
Blaine smiled, amused. There was a time, a year before, when Cody would never play like this. So, seeing him doing that made Blaine extremely happy. “I don't know, maybe. He is a gorgeous boy, seventeen years old next week, best painter I've ever known and I'd be lost if it wasn't for him. Any idea of who he might be?”
Cody pretended to be thinking about this mysterious brunette beauty hanging around the house. He pushed one of his hips out in an even more girly pose of himself and tapped his bottom lip with his index finger, pensively. “Mmmh, I don't know,” he eventually said, shaking his head. “Nobody comes to mind.”
“Really? Last time I checked, there was only one painter in this house,” Blaine chuckled as he tried again to slip a hand under Cody's t-shirt. “Did you multiply when I wasn't looking?”
Cody giggled happily, but he he slapped his hands anyway and he moved away too. “You'd surely like that, wouldn't you? Maybe that's why you brought the new kid in!”
Blaine rolled his eye. “Again? If you keep saying that, I'll start thinking you are the one who likes him.”
Cody made a face, pretending with himself more than Blaine that he hadn't looked at the new kid twice. But he had, so the comment hit home a little bit. That's why he stirred the conversation on Blaine again. “I bet you thought about that too. I can totally see you picturing us making out for your pleasure.”
Blaine became suddenly still as his eyes fixed on something that was only in his head. Just for one blissful second his lab disappeared to leave him in his bedroom, looking at Cody making out with another kid. He hadn't seen Leo clean yet, so the other kid on the bed had some generic features resembling those of Leo, but the perfect picture of the two of them naked exploring each other body did the trick anyway. Actually, it was good enough to make Blaine swallow in discomfort. “Now, that's not fair.”
Cody slapped him on his chest, outraged. “You thought about it!” He slapped him again. “You actually just thought about it, right in front of me!
“Stop it!” Blaine whined and laughed at the same time, wrapping him in his arms to make him stop. “You were beautiful in my head!”
“Should that justify you in any way?” Cody slapped him again as he tried to wriggle out of his embrace, but not really managing because he was light as a feather and outrageously small.
Blaine couldn't stop chuckling. Cody was always incredibly beautiful, but he was never so stunning to look at as when he was mad. Anger made his beautiful porcelain face fierce and a pout just stressed how much puffy and rounded his face could still be despite his age, and these two characteristics just made him irresistible for Blaine. “Yes!” He answered, in fact as he kissed his cheek. “Because I always picture you, anyway. You're always there in my head.”
“I'm always naked and doing inappropriate things in your head!” Cody protested, trying unconvincingly to push him away. “Come on, stop it!
“Because you do inappropriate things very well.”
Once turned on, Blaine rarely could be stopped. Mainly because he didn't even try to control himself when he had toyed with the idea of having sex. It was like lighting up a fuse, the sparkle would always run to the explosive way much faster than you. And it was clear to both of them that Blaine's fuse had been burning for minutes now by the way his voice lowered and his kisses had move from Cody's cheek to his neck.
“I do not!” Cody said, tilting his head to try and reduce Blaine's space of action. But his denial was way less effective since he was already caressing Blaine's arms more than pushing them away.
Blaine nodded, slowly. “I clearly remember you doing very inappropriate things on my bed yesterday,” he insisted, going back to kiss him on his cheeks and lips. “But I may be wrong. I say we should check if you really can do them, now.”
“You can't possibly want to check now! I still have to go and take care of dinner, and set the rooms for tonight, and prepare for tomorrow's breakfast and clean up the lab...”
Blaine had long stopped listening to his pointless protests. “Actually, I do,” he repeated as he picked him up and moved away with one arm everything that was on the table, so he could place Cody on it. “Everything else can wait, pet.”
Cody squealed a little as he landed on the table. “Blaine, I didn't even lock the door! What are you even thinking?” He protested, closing his legs to make himself clearer. Apparently this wasn't enough to stop Blaine, who was all over him anyway. “Somebody could see us.”
“Who?” Blaine asked as he started unbuttoning Cody's tunic without permission. Cody, still chuckling between his protests, allowed him to do so. “With the sounds you're making, Sam will know better than entering here.”
“I'm not making any sound!” Cody said outraged, and actually moaning. “Besides, we did it already, today! I was half asleep, but it still counts.”
At this point, Blaine was totally unaffected by Cody's slapping, pushing or weakly protesting, especially because he knew they weren't real. “Yes, and you were so totally cute... “ he confirmed, murmuring in his ear. “But it still counts as only one and I want you again.”
Cody sighed affectionately, as his hands finally stopped pushing and slipped underneath Blaine's jacket, reaching inside to tug at his waistcoat and at the shirt underneath. “Aren't you even tired? You've been out running around the city between corpses forever!”
“I don't actually run,” Blaine smiled, feeling him relaxing under his caresses. “I'm a slow walking man who peacefully stroll between patients and bodies.”
Cody rubbed the tip of his nose against Blaine's jaw, watching him closely. “So you didn't get tired saving that kid's life and all? I can totally picture you play prince charming as you hide him under your coat.”
Looking like a kid that never really hit puberty – let alone grew out of it – Cody was indecently beautiful. Blaine knew that that should have made him thinking, but since he only liked Cody and not every kid in general, he ascribed his desire for someone nearly twenty years younger than him to Cody alone. And currently lost in said desire, Blaine really didn't get what was going on with Cody's fixation with their guest but he played along. “I didn't hide him in my coat,” he explained, letting Cody's shirt sliding off his tiny shoulders.
“Didn't you?” Cody asked, biting the man's jaw. “But he had the smell of your cologne on his skin.”
“How do you know that?” He asked amiably as he slipped a hand in his pants and cupped his butt. “I only pressed him against myself to keep him from running away in front of the city guards.”
Cody moaned a little bit, surprisingly founding himself more aroused already than what he had thought himself to be. Now the open door was only a distant concern he was not sure he really had. “I had to clean him up, remember? You asked me to,” he answered, slowly parting his legs. “I'm jealous.”
Blaine had never heard this word coming from Cody's mouth before, but he thought it to be quite predictable, if not justified, after he had brought home a kid his age. It had to have something to do with some sort of territoriality. Hopefully, it was cuter than dangerous. “Jealous?” He asked, sweetly as he teased him between his buttocks. “You shouldn't be. I plan on doing way more than press you against me.”
Cody moaned a little louder, lost between his need to let himself go to Blaine's ministrations and to be reassured about Leo. “But you like him,” he insisted as he closed his hands around the fabric of Blaine's shirt and lifted his hips from the table to help him take off his pants.
“Maybe he is cute under all that dirt,” Blaine conceded. “But I don't like anyone as I like you.”
Cody looked at him, pouting. “I hate you so much, really.”
Blaine leaned down to kiss his chest and belly as he strokes his open legs. “Why now?” He asked, just barely looking up.
Cody sighed and caressed Blaine's cheek, rubbing his knees against his sides. “Because I love you too much,” he said with a little chuckle. “And because you're wearing too many clothes.”
“That's something that can be easily fixed,” Blaine smirked as he stripped, looking Cody in the eyes. But when he went back kissing him and he reached down to resume touching him too, the position wasn't very good, so he had to fix that too. He made Cody slide all the way down toward himself, until his naked ass slammed against his crotch. ”Now, that's better.”
Cody squealed again, only louder, and he grabbed the edge of the table, scared to fall down even if he knew Blaine wouldn't let him. “God, you're so rude!” He protested, biting Blaine's bottom lip. His perpetual complaining nullified by the lust filled noise he was making.
“I'm not rude, pet, I'm rough,” Blaine precised, and as if to make a point, he inserted two fingers in him, knowing both Cody could take them and they needed to speed everything up since he was dying to be inside him and Cody had been teased enough.
Cody moaned loudly, closing instinctively around them. Since Cody was generally so small, Blaine's fingers alone were cumbersome and extremely intrusive, especially when they didn't waste too much time in foreplay. “Blaine! Slowly... “ he whined, but still met those fingers with his hips. “This is not... you shouldn't with your fingers... It's dirty!”
“Do you like it?” Blaine asked, looking up from his neck. Cody's cheeks turned a brighter shade of pink because he did like it, no matter how dirty it still looked to him, and he could never lie to him. So he nodded and Blaine smiled, leaving a tender kiss on his forehead. “Then it's not dirty.”
After that, Blaine pulled his fingers out and, following a request that had not been made by either of them but could be read on both their bodies, he slipped his cock inside, tearing out a proper yell from Cody's throat.
The boy crossed his legs behind his back, calling Blaine's name and telling him things that only made his thrusts stronger, deeper and rougher as the lab, drowning in the shadows of the upcoming night, was filled with their moans.
Apparently, Blaine and Leo weren't the only people living in the house. While Leo was coming down for dinner, as Cody had told him, he came across a tall blond woman who responded to the name of Sam, and who squeaking welcomed his presence with a – frankly quite strong – bear hug, insisting on walking him to dinner. She told him that she was Blaine's colleague, more of a lab assistant than a real physician though, which made Leo wonder how many assistants
Blaine had exactly, and what the word really meant to him.
In fact, Leo had had the unfortunate experience of choosing the wrong moment to show in Blaine's lab half an hour ago, and saw Blaine and Cody together. He had gone away before they could see him, but he had seen them nonetheless. And not only the sight upset him in ways he couldn't – or didn't want to – explain to himself right now but it also made impossible for him to look at either of them now that they were both sitting at the table with him, let alone the fact that sodomy was illegal and punished with death.
Dinner was served in a big old room of the first floor, where the kitchen was too. As Sam was explaining to him right now, about thirty people lived in the villa when Blaine's family was still alive, but it was too big for just the three of them now, and only a few rooms were used.
“And they are enough mess to clean for me alone to add another room,” Cody said, not so casually glaring at him.
Blaine put a hand on Cody's. “You do a wonderful job, pet,” he smiled. “We would all be lost without you.”
Sam frowned, looking at Leo blushing face. It was so obvious that he was feeling awkward that she couldn't let it go. “Are you okay, Leo?” She asked. “You seemed flushed.”
Leo turned even redder. “No, I am fine, thanks,” he quickly said. “I'm just wondering why exactly I'm here.”
“Then it makes two of us,” Cody chipped in.
Leo coughed. “I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that you got me out of the city and all, but it seems strange that you would go around infected cities to pick up perfect strangers and bring them to live in your home, don't you think?”
“Actually, that's exactly what he does,” Sam chuckled, amused. “Isn't it funny?”
Leo blinked a couple of times and the news even brought him to look up, forgetting for a moment what he had seen in the lab. “So you were all--”
“We were all sick,” Cody precised. “Blaine caught it on the vessel that was bringing him back here from one of his journeys.”
“You could say he actually brought
here the plague,” Sam mocked him. Blaine childishly threw her a piece of bread.
“He was brought to the same leper hospital I was in,” Cody continued, apparently oblivious to the bread war that was taking place across the table. He was taking some sort of pleasure in telling Leo how long back his history went with Blaine. “And we both recovered from it by ourselves.”
“So, when we were on our feet again, I started making experiments on our blood,” Blaine explained. “I was convinced that it contained something that had fought the disease and won it.”
“On blood? Isn't it something about the air?” Leo asked, confused. Cody laughed so mockingly that Leo felt instantly stupid and looked down. “At least that's what they said.”
Blaine looked at him tenderly, which actually brought Cody to pout a little bit. “Yes, and they are wrong. Some oriental physicians think that it's a blood infection caused by fleas, and I'm prone to believe this is correct.”
“Yes. Rats carry them everywhere. And there are rats on ships, so the plague can spread so fast,” Blaine explained.
“That's why we burn clothes, so the fleas die,” Cody added.
“So,” Blaine carried on, “I tried to mix parts of Cody's blood and mine to a formulation that in oriental medicine is used to cure similar blood infections, but it didn't work. Apparently, when you recover from the plague you're only able to avoid getting sick again. Whatever there is in your blood, it protects you and you alone.”
“And that's when I come in,” Sam barged in. “They were traveling a lot more one year ago, looking for some special place or person that could help the research, and they obviously found me.”
“And you were sick too,” Leo nodded.
“Sort of,” Blaine said. “She had it, but it was a different kind of what we had. She was experiencing fever, weigh loss, pale complexion, everything but the pustules. It was like she was at some first stage of the epidemic and it would never get worse than that. I waited to see if she recovered and, when she did, I tried to use her blood too, but it was useless.”
“Apparently, I recovered from it and I can't never get it again,” Sam shrugged. “But I can still give it to others. Don't ask me how.”
“We don't know how that works yet,” Blaine confirmed. “Anyway, she came to live with us and I continued my research for a suitable blood donor.”
“Which would be you, by the way” Cody said, with a little bit of acid in his voice. “You're basically a lab sample.”
Blaine beamed. “Yes!” He said, excitedly. “You didn't catch the plague in three weeks that you lived alone, malnourished, dirty and among sick people, so I'm positively sure you never will.”
“What do you mean? That I'm immune to it?”
“Yes!” Blaine exclaimed again, even more excited. “That's what I'm hoping for. So, if you really can't catch it, maybe your blood has what I'm looking for.”
Leo was even more confused than he was before. “So do you want to get my blood?” He asked, a little scared, maybe.
“Just a little bit,” Blaine smiled. “It won't hurt too much, I promise.”
Leo nodded, hesitantly. “And then?”
Blaine shrugged. “Then we will see. If it works, it will be the greatest discovery of all times,” he answered. “If not, we'll keep on searching and you could even stay with us, if you want.”
“What?” Cody asked.
Blaine smiled at him too. “He doesn't have any other place to be, Cody. What would you wanna do? Leave him in the streets?”
Blaine leaned on him and kissed him tenderly on his cheek, making Leo blush furiously. He got so agitated that his piece of bread slipped from his hands twice before he could get hold of it. Sam chuckled, as she often seemed to do, “Well, welcome home, Leo,” she said, smiling brightly at him. Then she leaned in to speak to his ear. “I reckon by the color of your cheeks that you must have seen something in the lab earlier. That's what you were peeking at, am I right?”
“I don't know what you're talking about,” he whispered back, trying to act casually and failing.
She chuckled again. “Yes, you do. But I won't insist,” she said. “Just know that if there's something that you want to know, you can easily just ask.”
Then she went back to eat as if nothing had ever passed between them.
Leo didn't ask that day or the day after but Cody would go on and be really loud in his appreciation of whatever Blaine was doing to him – which Leo would never peek at again since his memory served him embarrassingly well enough – and eventually, some day the question that was burning on his tongue right now would come out and make Sam laugh some more.
In the meantime, he just agreed to stay and hoped he hadn't get himself into bigger troubles than the plague was.