Osanyin ducked into an alleyway, drops of black blood spattering on the cement as he raced for the fire escape ladder. He glanced back, seeing the group of men behind him. He ran up the wall, grabbing the bottom rung of the ladder and hauling himself up it. “Come back here you tainted bastard.” One of them screamed and hurled something at him. Osanyin didn’t bother trying to see what it was, he just kept going, racing up the fire escape to the roof. Even when he made it to the top, he kept going, jumping to the next building and then to the next. He saw a door, wrenched it open and slid inside. He leaned against the wall, his breath steadying. He looked at his arm, at the teeth marks where the dog had bitten him.
He sighed, hating that once again it had come to this, to lying low, to hiding. He wondered if the animal had smelled the taint of his black blood, if that’s why it had attacked. He was no longer pure in the eyes of the world. His blood had gone from milky white innocence to the black of the feared. None of them understood, none of them bothered to ask what crimes he had committed for it to get that way.
“You’re not supposed to be up here.” The voice startled him and his eyes were drawn down the stairs to the landing at the beginning of the next flight. Bright blue eyes stared up at him, the look on the young man’s face was one of shock and confusion.
Osanyin felt cornered and wondered if he could jump down and restrain the guy before he screamed or something. “My mistake.” He said as he readied himself. “What are you doing up here?”
The young man held up the mop in his hand. “Cleaning, I’m the complex manager.” His eyes moved to the wound on Osanyin’s arm. “You’re bleeding. What happened?”
Osanyin was taken back. Did he not notice the color of his blood. “Dog bite.” He answered truthfully.
“Are you planning on killing me?”
He nodded. “Okay. Come with me and I’ll fix that.”
Was this man joking? Was he luring him to his home where he could more easily kill him? It didn’t make sense to Osanyin that anybody would help him but maybe this was his lucky day and the man was color blind or something. To Osanyin that was the only thing that made sense. He cautiously began to walk down the stairs towards the man who introduced himself. “I’m Vale and I really am trying to help you. You’re bleeding pretty bad so come on, don’t be afraid.” Osanyin couldn’t help but study Vale’s face. When Osanyin couldn’t find anything there that foretold of bad things to come he hurried after him.
Vale took him to an apartment on the second floor and propped the mop up against the wall so he could unlock his door. Osanyin was wary as he stepped inside, ready to run if this was some sort of trap. “This way.” Vale said, leading him to his bathroom. “Could you sit please?”
“I’d like to stand.”
Vale’s eyes met his, searching them then he responded with an, “Okay.” He pulled a first aid kit out from under his sink, sat it on the counter, and flipped it open. “So, why did it bite you?” He asked as he pulled out some gauze and wet it.
Vale nodded as he started to gently wipe the blood away, apologizing when Osanyin flinched. “Not a dog person?”
“I…” he had to be crazy. Osanyin sighed. “You can see my blood right?”
“Of course.” He pulled out an alcohol wipe and rubbed it over the wounds then wrapped it. “There we go, good as new.”
“You see the color, right?”
“It’s just blood.” He threw the used items in the garbage then put the first aid kit away. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
“So, what’s your name? I think it’s only fair that I get yours since you have mine.”
“Well, Osanyin, I need to go clean up the mess you made.”
“Just like that?” Osanyin asked, his voice portraying how baffled he was by Vale.
Vale looked him in the eyes. “I don’t know why your blood is black and I’m not the type of person who assumes the worst in people. Regardless, even if you did something bad once, it doesn’t mean you are still bad. Maybe if people were a bit more forgiving instead of holding things over peoples heads forever more people would change.”
Horrible memories started playing in Osanyin’s mind of the things he had been forced to do. It made him look away. “Could I at least help you.”
Vale smiled. “See, you are a good person who deserved help. Thank you but just rest in here a little bit. Your arm has to hurt and it’s obvious you’ve been running quite awhile.”
Osanyin wanted to insist, but Vale walked out, seriously trusting him enough to leave him there. He couldn’t even feel the pain in his arm or the exhaustion. Osanyin was still struggling to grasp Vale and once again fighting off all those terrible memories. The fact his body was tired only came back when his knees buckled and he found himself on the floor. Osanyin picked himself up and found a place to sit. This man actually trusted him and Osanyin wanted to talk to him a little more.
Vale hummed as he headed back to the stairwell. There were a few blood drops in the hallway, but he would start at the source and work his way back. He wanted to get all the blood cleaned up before someone came searching for Osanyin and he was sure someone was looking. He quickly mopped every bit up, carrying his bucket of water back with him and cleaning up the hall. One of the apartment doors opened and he smiled at one of his tenants. “Hey Caroline.” He said as he wrung his mop out. The older woman’s eyes looked at the water, seeing it was tinted black.
“Is everything okay?” She asked as her eyes moved back to his face.
“Of course, just trying to be as helpful as possible. Someone was attacked.”
She sighed. “Well if anyone bothers you, make sure to get me and I’ll chase them away.”
“Yes ma’am Miss Caroline, thank you.” He thought for a moment. “Oh, do you have one of Gary’s old shirts, the someone is going to need it, his shirt’s all stained.”
“Of course, just a moment.” Caroline went inside. She didn’t take long to bring out two shirts. “Just in case he needs another.”
“The shirts may as well see some use.”
With the blood clean and shirts in hand Vale returned to his apartment, happy to see Osanyin really stayed instead of sneaking out. “One of my neighbors loaned me shirts for you to wear and no, she doesn’t know it was your black blood I was cleaning up so don’t worry.”
“I can shower then?”
“You are welcome to use anything you need in my apartment.” Osanyin took the shirts and Vale guided him to the bathroom. “Feel confident working the water?”
“Yeah, I can figure it out.”
“If you need me just yell.”
Osanyin was still incredibly confused, but he was also exhausted and wanted nothing more than to sleep. Vale went and put on a fresh pot of coffee and looked through his fridge for some for Osanyin to eat. He decided a sandwich was the easiest. Osanyin felt a little better once he got out and quickly dried. He dressed, being careful of his arm then tossed the towel in the hamper and decided to just toss out his shirt. He already knew how hard it was to get his blood out of things.
“I thought I was going to have to come in and rescue you.” Vale said when Osanyin came out, giving him a smile that made Osanyin’s heart jump.
“Sorry, was I in there that long?”
Vale chuckled. “No, I was just trying to lighten the mood. Is your arm okay?”
“Yeah and thank you for the shirt. Can I use your trash?” He held up the shirt.
“I can clean that.”
“It’s fine, I don’t need it.”
“As long as you’re sure.” Osanyin nodded and Vale showed him the trashcan under the sink. “I also made you a sandwich if you’re hungry.”
“No matter the color of your blood you’re a person. You deserve help just like anybody else. I’m sure there’s a story to how your blood got this way and you don’t even owe me or anybody else that story. Just eat and then relax here as long as you need to. I live alone so you aren’t going to bother anybody.” Vale handed Osanyin the sandwich and Vale took it. He wasn’t sure what to say. They sat down together and Vale asked, “Do you live far from here?”
“I’m currently without a home again…people see my blood and…well…”
“Well that isn’t true anymore. Your home is here now.”
“I…thank you.” He wasn’t sure how long he would stay with Vale. He didn’t want to cause him any trouble. He knew how cruel people could be and if they found him in Vale’s apartment they would probably hurt him.
“You don’t have to worry, you’re safe here. No one in this building will sell you out, I promise.”
“How do you know?”
“Because they’re all good people from different walks of life who have been through their own struggles and they all love me.” He smiled. “Selling you out means selling me out and they’re more likely to toss the people out who hurt you, than tell them you’re here.”
“Alright, I guess.”
Vale reached over, grabbing his hand. “Take as much time as you need to settle in, there’s no rush, but be prepared for some of the residents to be curious.”
“I’m used to curious.”
“Well, I’m gay so I’m pretty sure eventually they will start wondering if we’re together romantically. There will be a lot to be curious about.” Osanyin smiled then felt embarrassed for doing it.
“I can handle any curiosity…it’ll be nice to have somewhere to settle again. I get so tired of having to move.”
“If we find you a good job there’s a vacancy in the building too so you can really just stay here. I’m the manager so you won’t have to worry about not being approved.”
“We’re friends now, this is the kind of things friends do.”
“Yeah, okay, thank you.” It had been years since he had had friends. Everyone of them had been horrified the moment they realized what color his blood was. He kept eating, enjoying the food and the company.
“So, do you have any family?” Vale asked.
“No, it’s just me. I lived on the streets for awhile and now I just kind of go wherever I don’t have a reputation.”
“I’m sorry, that must have been rough.”
“I did some things that I…” It was hard talking about his past. He didn’t want Vale to find a reason to hate him like everyone else.
“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.”
“I should be honest with you, especially since you practically saved me.”
Vale waved his hand. “Tell me when you’re ready, not because you feel obligated and if anyone in the complex gets too pushy, not that I think they would, let me know.”
Osanyin finished his sandwich as he and Vale continued chatting, Vale avoiding questions about his past. He didn’t want him to feel forced to open up. Osanyin wasn’t surprised when Vale told him his blood was completely white. Of course it was, with as beautiful and as kind as he was, of course he would be pure. Osanyin’s heart stuttered. Had he really just thought of Vale as beautiful? He shook his head, knowing it was just his tired mind getting ahead of itself.
The next day after breakfast Vale said, “I need to be in my office today until at least one. You can hangout there with me or just hangout here.”
“I’ll come with you, maybe I’ll be able to help today somehow. I could become a maintenance man here if you like my work. I’ve found the easiest profession to get into when you move around a lot is anything to do with your hands. Not everyone is willing to take that sort of work.”
“That would be perfect, we’re actually two maintenance men short of how many the owner prefers to have. Like you said, those positions can be hard to fill. Don’t stress about cutting yourself on the job. These are really good people in this building and they’ll listen to me.”
Vale smiled. “You seem so nervous.”
“I am, a little.”
Vale couldn’t help but hug him. He just looked so troubled, like he might bolt at any moment. He wondered how long Osanyin had been running, how many people had hurt him or tried hunting him down. It took Osanyin a moment to respond he was so surprised, but he finally managed to hug Vale back, his heart stuttering in his chest. “You’ll do just fine, just breathe.”
“Okay, thank you.”
Vale hadn’t been kidding when he said people would be curious. As they passed those who were coming in or going out, they got looks. Vale just smiled, greeting each of them. Osanyin followed Vale outside and across the parking lot to the office. There was a pool next to it where a couple of families were swimming. “I hope that wasn’t too bad.” Vale said as he unlocked the front door and stepped inside.
“All of them staring at you.”
“It was fine, you warned me.” He flopped down in one of the chairs and let out a sigh. “I hope I don’t cause you any trouble.”
“I’m fine with trouble, Osanyin, trust me. I’m not worried.”
Osanyin nodded. “Sorry I’m so anxious.”
“Don’t be, you’ve went through quite a bit yesterday.” Vale wished he knew how to get him to relax. He knew being that stressed wasn’t good for him, but all he could do was give him time and comfort.
“Yeah, thanks, again. I’ll pay you back, I promise.”
Osanyin only had to help with one issue that day so he felt mostly useless, but it was nice spending time with Vale. He hadn’t really had friends that actually knew him so this was unlike any friendship he had experienced before. Once Vale could lock the office and leave he asked, “Would you like to go back to my place or can I take you somewhere?”
“We should give it more time, hopefully they will stop looking for me.”
“Alright, maybe we could watch a movie.”
“Sure.” They started walking.
“What kind of movie would you like to watch?” Vale asked and Osanyin, not wanting to be difficult blurted out the first genre he could think of. “Western.”
“Hm, Okay, I’ll look through my DVD collection. I’m sure I have a couple.”
“Alright, I have Tombstone, Pale Rider, and Open Range. I guess I’ll have to buy more now that you’re here.” He said with a smile.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“You should have something you like watching too.”
“I like other movies too.” Vale chuckled causing Osanyin’s heart to flutter and he looked away as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Um…Tombstone sounds good.”
“Want me to order pizza?”
“If you want to.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Pizza sounds great.”
As Vale popped the movie in, he couldn’t help but think that for a big, supposedly dangerous, black blooded man, Osanyin was actually quite adorable. He didn’t like his lack of confidence or trust, but his nervousness was still cute. He went over and took Osanyin’s hand then pulled him over to the couch. “Relax, I’ll just be a few moments.”
Osanyin sat down as Vale went to call for a pizza. He hoped tomorrow he would be more needed around here so he could feel like he was doing something for Vale. Vale soon returned and started the movie before taking a seat right beside Osanyin. “I ordered two sodas with our pizza. Feel free to get some water until then if you get too thirsty.”
“I can wait.” It was easy to get into the movie. He found himself truly trusting Vale so he was going to just try and enjoy this normalcy and try not to let any attraction to him ruin this chance. They blew the rest of that day watching movies and eating pizza. The next day in Vales office they talked about other types of movies and what he should add to his collection.
Osanyin sat in the office reading and chatting with Vale except when he was called away to fix something. He was relieved to find that every resident he came across was nice. He could see they wanted to ask them questions, but none did. He was always eager to get back to Vale, his heart dancing every time he received a smile from him. “I hope I’m not working you too hard.” Vale said.
“Not at all, in fact I could do more if you need me too. Clean the pool, mow the grass?” He leaned against Vale’s desk, smiling down at him.
“You’re way too sweet, but we have people for that that come by.” He stood, stretching and moving to stand in front of him. “Want to go on a walk around the complex?”
“You’re not busy?”
“Taking an early break.”
“Are you sure your blood’s white?”
Vale laughed. “It’s nice to see you have a sense of humor.” Osanyin blushed and it had Vale grinning. “And shy?”
Osanyin looked away. “I’m not, just not used to someone being so…”
“Yeah.” He answered softly.
Vale reached out and took Osanyin’s hand. “Come on, let’s walk, it’ll be good for you.”
Osanyins heart stuttered again. It was almost overwhelming emotionally since this was far from anything he was used to. He managed to keep his composure though and was happy when Vale kept his hand as they walked. He wasn’t quite sure why Vale was doing this but Osanyin would be the last to question it. “So, what are some things you’ve never done that you really want to do?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
“Well think about it, we can start checking things off the list.”
“What if someone notices my blood? I don’t want you getting hurt somehow if it causes trouble.”
“Everything will be okay, you’re a great person. I’d hate for you to never really live because you were scared of how people will react to you. I’d really like you to make me a list of things you’ve always wanted to do and we’ll do them together.”
“I don’t really know how to live, survive sure, but…” he rubbed the back of his neck, letting out a sigh.
“Then we’ll start small, fairs, roller coasters, maybe a few hikes.”
“When I have to be.”
“You’re not going to be able to talk me out of taking care of you. I know you’re a big tough guy who could probably break me in half if you wanted too, but I’m not scared. You’re stuck with me now, so get used to it.” Vale nudged him, giving him a bright smile. “I like you, Osanyin, so let me help you.”
“Like me?” Why did his heart have to beating so hard? “Why?”
“Isn’t that what friends do, they like each other?”
Osanyin nodded. “Yeah.”
“Then maybe let’s start with a hike. It’s getting out without a crowd. We will pass people, but I think it’s a good first step into you getting comfortable.”
“Do you hike a lot?”
“Not really, but when I do I normally make a day of it. We can bring a picnic.”
“Alright, I’ll try to relax.”
“Then let’s talk lunch for our hike. I think peanut butter and banana sandwiches with some fruit would be good. We can also pack some jerky for snacking. Do you like those things?”
“Yeah.” They went shopping right after work then prepared a back pack that night. Then Vale began showing Osanyin different places to hike on the computer.
“I mean really we can just go to the nearest one tomorrow and work our way out over time. I can make a list so we don’t forget places we’ve already spent the day hiking.”
“Sounds good to me.”
It was hard for Osanyin to fall asleep that night as he thought about their hike. What if they ran into someone who recognized him or he accidentally cut or scraped himself? He wouldn’t let anyone hurt Vale, he’d rather have the entire world hate him. Vale was everything he had never had, beautiful and bright and incredibly kind. His heart skipped a beat at his thoughts. What was going on with him? There was something about Vale that drew him in and it both intrigued and frightened him. He sighed as he turned over and hugged his pillow to his face, Vale and his worries following him into sleep.
“Time to wake up Sleeping Beauty.” Vale’s voice roused him from sleep the next morning and he felt his heart skip a beat when he found himself looking into his eyes. “Good morning.”
“Oh, good morning.”
“I made breakfast.”
That was something else that he was going to have to get used to, waking up to breakfast and someone who was happy to see him. He found himself reaching up, his fingers brushing Vale’s cheek, feeling his skin warm beneath his touch. “You’re still real.”
Vale chuckled. “Of course I am.”
Osanyin pulled his hand away in embarrassment. “Sorry, still trying to wake up.”
“That’s okay, come on, I don’t want your breakfast getting cold before you get a chance to eat it.” Osanyin got up and followed Vale to the kitchen
“A ham, egg and cheese breakfast casserole.”
Osanyin sat down at his plate and took a bite, washing it down with coffee before saying, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, I really enjoy this and it will be breakfast more than once. You ready for hiking?”
“It’s really so much fun, especially when you go slow and take the time to truly enjoy the animals and nature around you.”
“Since I’m not used to taking things easy I’ll go at your pace today.” They finished their breakfast and Osanyin grabbed their bag, insisting he carry it at least to start with today. Vale smiled at him and it sent Osanyin’s heart racing again as they walked to the car.
They talked as Vale drove and enjoyed the route to the hiking spot they had picked. Osanyin couldn’t believe how comfortable he felt in Vale’s presence, how much his heart skipped when he received one of his smiles. He wanted to touch him again, to stay close to him. What was wrong with him? They barely knew each other and Osanyin still hadn’t been able to bring himself to talk about his past. He felt like he was being dishonest, even when Vale told him not to worry. He was relieved when they finally made it to their destination and he was able to breathe.
“You okay?” Vale asked as Osanyin shouldered the pack.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
Vale came around the car and Osanyin’s heart jumped when he grabbed his face and pulled him down, pressing their foreheads together. “You’re warm. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Y…yeah, just excited.”
Vale smiled and Osanyin found himself smiling back. “Good, come on.”
Osanyin tried not to be in his head too much as he followed Vale. He wanted to enjoy and savor these moments and more importantly he didn’t want to absent mindedly touch him again. It was an urge that was actually hard to resist. Today and the following days of hiking were amazing. Osanyin was happy just to keep doing this when Vale said, “Want to try something besides just hiking together?”
Osanyin blushed, it becoming so easy for Vale to cause. “Like what?”
“I dont know, I just want you to experience something else.”
The only experience Osanyin could think of that he wanted was kissing Vale. “Um…you decide something.”
“Hm, maybe we could mini golf somewhere. There’s a glow in the dark one only fifteen minutes away.”
“Are you sure you can handle it? I wouldn’t want you to get overwhelmed.” Vale teased.
“I’ll be fine as long as you’re there and I don’t start bleeding.”
Osanyin happily went with Vale and Vale teased him further by comparing him to a puppy. It was strange how Vale’s temperament was a complete juxtaposition to how pretty he was. “Have you ever played before?” Vale asked when they pulled up to the mini golf course.
“No, having fun wasn’t exactly my first thought.”
“I’m excited I get to introduce you to it then.” They got out and Vale took his hand, causing goosebumps to cover his skin.
Osanyin really wasn’t very good, but Vale’s encouragement kept him going and he had to admit that once the sun was all the way down, the park was amazing. He couldn’t help the smile that pulled at his lips or how carefree he actually felt. Vale turned and smiled at him and Osanyin wanted very much to kiss him in that moment. Vale must have seen the way he was watching him because he reached out and took his hand and pulled him closer. “What’s on your mind?”
“I don’t want to make things awkward.”
“Tell me, come on, things won’t be awkward.”
It took Osanyin a few moments but he found the courage to say “I want to kiss you…The more we go out and do things together the more I just want to hold and touch you…I…I’m sorry.” Vale pulled Osanyin closer and met their lips. He gave him a long, gentle kiss before saying softly “You don’t have to be sorry about that. You want to go home and have a talk?”
“Could I kiss you one more time first?”
Vale smiled before answering, “Yeah.” They began kissing again as Osanyin moved his hands through Vales hair and played with it.
“Come on.” Vale said once they pulled apart. They walked back to the car and on the drive home Osanyin had no clue what to do with himself.
They soon pulled back up to the complex and walked back up to Vales home. “So um…it’s okay to touch you or just kiss you?”
“My hair would say its okay to touch me.” Vale said with a grin. He had tried to fix it but it was still a little messy.
“Quit apologizing to me, please.”
“I’m…I mean, I’m not trying to. It’s just…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve never had someone I could trust or…”
“Love?” Vale finished as he stepped closer to Osanyin and smiled up at him.
“Yeah, I…I’ve never wanted anyone or anything more than you.” He reached up and let his fingers brush Vale’s cheek. “I know I shouldn’t, but I love you.”
Vale’s cheeks reddened much to Osanyin’s surprise. “Say it again.”
“I love you.” Vale pulled him down into another kiss and Osanyin’s heart stuttered in his chest. Osanyin tangled his fingers in his hair, his lips moving hungrily against Vale’s. Vale slipped his hands under his shirt, pushing it up and off, letting his fingers slide over his skin. “Vale.”
“I want to touch you too.”
Osanyin quit holding himself back and soon they were both naked and all over one another. It almost seemed like a dream to Osanyin. Vale was such a good person but still, how could he want a man with black blood. He didn’t let the question ruin the moment, he couldn’t with one this good. The two didn’t stop until they were breathless. “I’m so happy that happened Osanyin.”
Osanyin moved onto his side, placing a hand gently on Vale’s cheek. “I’m so happy it did too.”
“I’ve wanted you as well but since I’m giving you a place to stay and a job I worried…well…I’m sure you can guess how I was worried that would come off.”
“This happening means the world to me…meeting you was such a gift.”
“Please just stay in this apartment with me…I don’t want you moving into another one.”
“I don’t think I could stay away from you now, even for a night.”
Vale smiled, rubbing their noses together. “I promise to make you the happiest man in the world. We’re going to do everything together.”
“I’m still scared about you being hurt, but…”
Vale gave him a gentle kiss then pulled back, smiling at him. “Hush, no more of that. No matter what happens, I’m not going anywhere.” He snuggled closer and Osanyin wrapped his arms around him. “Get used to being happy.”
Osanyin pressed their foreheads together, feeling for the first time in his life like he belonged. He knew he would still worry, especially since Vale was so pure and gentle. He would hate for something to happen to him, but for now he would let that go and be happy. “Thank you Vale, for saving me and loving me.” And he would do everything in his power to show Vale how thankful he truly was.