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Louis Wu isn't sure what draws him to the young man--a boy compared to him, but most anyone under the age of thirty seems like a child now.
Louis Wu isn't sure what draws him to the young man--a boy compared to him, but most anyone under the age of thirty seems like a child now. He can't really understand why he's on Canyon, considering he looks like he belongs on Earth, with his oddly colored skin and hair that flashes every time the sun catches him just right. Louis thinks he might be a wirehead too, but doesn't really care; he's fun to watch.
The few times Louis has forced himself to leave his self-imposed solitude has been to watch the young man with the multicolored, every changing body. Distantly, Louis is reminded of Teela Brown by that boy, simply by his exuberant nature and every present smile. But he can see the guarded edge to the boy's eyes, and knows that he is no Teela Brown; he's been hurt too many times in his short life.
When he finally builds up the courage to ask the boy his name--an odd thing; he used to have courage, but now he seems like a puppeteer--the boy just smiles, and asks him to dance to the music playing out of a local restaurant. Louis declines, goes home, goes under the wire, and for a while forgets the boy exists.
Louis isn't afraid to fall in love any more. He has been married three times, has had countless lovers. Not all of the lovers were female, and a good number weren't human. But something about the youth with the hair that catches the sunlight makes him uneasy, makes his heart flutter.
The next time they see each other in person--for Louis does a lot of people watching from his balcony, and often sees him wandering the streets--he explains to the boy that he is no longer young, though he may look it. At that, the boy only grins, and shakes his head, and laughs a laugh that sends shiver down his spine; it is too like Teela's, and Louis wonders if perhaps this young man is a luck-of-the-draw as well. It would not surprise him, he guesses. There are thousands of Fertility Law children in human space.
When Louis finally gets up the courage to actually take up the offer of a dance with the boy, he has followed him to a small club. There are mostly humans there, but it is easy to pick out the few younger kzinti men who have lowered their honor for one night of revelry. It is then that Louis notices the slight slant of the boy's eyes, as they move close to each other, and the way his hair seems to glow like a black light, despite its currently pale coloration.
Louis is entranced by that hair, and can't keep himself from touching it. It's soft, softer than his own, and before he knows it, he's pulled the boy willingly closer by his hair alone; and the boy is grinning at him, a wild, crazy grin that reminds him of a grin given to him by a kzinti warrior on the Ringworld some years back, only he is sure that this boy does not wish to kill him.
Eat him, perhaps. Kill him. Louis thinks not, though he still doesn't know who the boy is, and his paranoia is thick and breeds incestuously with the self loathing that comes from being off the wire. When he leaves, the boy comes with him though, still smiling that dangerous smile, still warm against Louis' side.
Louis can remember explaining a bit of passion to Teela. He does not think he will have to explain anything to the boy, if he takes him to bed. Thoughts of Prill and her magnificent prostitution, however, seem to spoil him, at least that night. He pushes the boy away when he tries to kiss him, and hides in his room for seven Canyon dies, almost entirely spent under the wire.
When he sees the boy next, it is at the same club. The boy dances recklessly with a fairly young and virile kzinti youth who barely shadows him for height. It is a somehow intoxicating sight, though Louis isn't sure why; he's no xenophobe, but he isn't much for the idea of rishathra, though he's practiced it once or twice.
When the boy asks Louis to dance that night, he demands his name first. The boy laughs musically, and Louis is reminded of a maddeningly sane puppeteer, considered crazed by his own people. Perhaps by him as well. Thoughts of puppeteers and kzinti bring about thoughts of Teela Brown once more, and the boy, oblivious to those thoughts, offers the simple name of Orius.
The name, for a moment, seems completely obscure. But Louis' sharply analytical mind picks it slowly apart, and comes up with two names as they dance: Orion and Sirius. It is somehow poetically deceitful and vain for the boy wrapped in his arms to name himself after stars. But perhaps he didn't. Perhaps his luck-heavy parents were wishing on stars when they bore him.
Louis tries not to think, tries to focus on the body rubbing against him pleasantly. Sex without intercourse, without actually touching. Psychic sex, and for a moment, Louis Wu forgets about Teela Brown, and the Ringworld, and Prill, and the tasp, and his addiction. This is better, for just a moment.
And this boy; frail and naive youth; Orius is leaning in to him harder, his breathing heavily on his neck as though they really are having sex, as if he's about to collapse from an orgasm, and begins to kiss Louis Wu's naked skin hungrily. And suddenly Louis remembers all the blackness that comes with his falling in love, and pushes the boy away.
As he slips under the wire that night, still aroused and painfully confused, he cannot stop thinking of black-lit hair and the soft moan caught in Orius' breath.
It takes him nine days to build up his courage again. Then he finds out where Orius lives, learns he's a Canyon native--though his parents weren't--comes to the knowledge that the boy's night life is a bit more than well none.
It figures, Louis Wu chastises himself as he steps into the building that houses Orius' apartment. I always fell for the easier ones.
It's not entirely true, but in the depression that comes from being off the wire, he can believe it. He can also believe that Orius will bring a sharp repose to his insanity, if only for an hour or two.
Orius answers the door wearing nothing, which somehow does not surprise Louis at all. His skin is entirely blood red that day, and Louis wonders, for perhaps half a second, if he dyes himself. Then he is shoving Orius back into his apartment, and claiming his mouth forcefully, trying to take off his own clothes as the boy asks too many questions into their occupied mouths.
When they pull away, the boy stares at him incredulously with those big, epicanthically folded eyes of his, and darts his shining, pale hair out of his face. Then Louis drops his trousers, and Orius doesn't ask whatever he was going to. They tumble onto the bed, Louis' brown skin against Orius' red.
Two hundred years ago, when Louis was Orius' age, the red-skinned boy would not have been memorable. Louis would have taken him into the bed, fucked him, and moved on with his life. A hundred years ago, Louis might have done so twice. Twenty years after Teela Brown and the Ringworld, Louis wondered if he was thus to Orius--would he be flung aside when they finished? Would Orius keep him close until he bored? The depress was returning. He kissed the boy passionately.
When seated deep in the boy, looking at him blearily, Louis thinks of other times and other places with other people. Orius likewise seems elsewhere, but it could be the simple euphoria that sex always seems to provide, with or without emotions attached.
Afterwards, Orius doesn't kick him out. Louis watches him from the bed as he exercises sparsely, explains the complexities of such simply things as near-eternal life to a boy who is perhaps twenty or twenty-five at most, learns the basest steps of belly-dancing and the cha-cha. When he leaves, the cloud of dark oblivion that is always resting on his senses seems distant, foreign. Almost benign.
The sight of Orius at the club the next evening isn't unexpected, nor his miscelanious dance partner--another time, another person. There's still a dance left there for Louis, however. He relishes it powerfully, but thinks of his wire.
Louis Wu isn't sure what draws him to the young man--a boy compared to him, but most anyone under the age of thirty seems like a child now. He can't really understand why he's on Canyon, considering he looks like he belongs on Earth, with his oddly colored skin and hair that flashes every time the sun catches him just right. But it doesn't really matter to Louis. the boy pushes away the darkness, if only for a little while.