Book 1, Chapter 7

Phineas was dwarfed behind the stack of take out containers he had carried home from the Great Wall. Ethan wasn’t sure why the boy had insisted that he carry all the food with no help, but he hadn’t wanted to argue with the precocious redhead. He placed his hand against the access panel at the door to the lab while Phineas waited with impatience. As soon as the door was open, he swerved around Ethan and began to set out the food on one of the work tables, arranging the containers with the same care he used when working on Gabriel’s old inventions. It seemed like the only things Phineas cared about were food and machines he had found in the lab.

He’d replaced the access panel and repaired the mechanical parts of the door. Now all it took was Ethan’s thumbprint to get in and out, and there was an entry code as backup in case the panel was damaged again. The boy had made similar alterations throughout the lab--he’d even fixed and upgraded Gabriel’s old terminal. Not it ran like a much newer model, and Phineas had only had to use pieces that were already there in the lab. Whatever mental quirks made Phineas so fragmented and out of touch with the real world, he certainly was a genius when it came to machines.

Phineas had already started in on the food when Ethan joined him at the table; somehow he had gotten sweet and sour sauce on his forehead. He surveyed the containers on the table and quickly picked out the one he wanted to start with before Phineas had the chance to grab it out from under his fingers. There was no time out for prayers, though he was thankful to Gabriel for the financial security to afford such luxuries.

Meals were quiet times with Phineas; the only sounds were the normal sounds of food consumption and the hum of machinery all around them. The florescent lighting gave off an electric hum as well, though they had a tendency to flicker and cast uncertain shadows. Between the two of them, nothing went to waste and when they had finished it off, they settled on the floor beside the table.

“You know that place on the next block core-ward?” Phineas asked, rubbing his somewhat distended belly, which would be back to normal within an hour. “The one with the picture of the guy with the huge nose on the window? I want to try their pizza. And their hot wings. And cheese sticks. And fried apple pies.”

Ethan grunted his approval. He liked the way this kid thought.

And the way he dressed layers to keep his small frame warm.

And his unruly bright red hair.

And the look he got on his face when he was in the middle of something that required intricacy.

And the fact that no matter what he ate, it managed to get on his forehead.

Ethan sucked the sauce off just above the violent red eyebrows with a kiss. Phineas squirmed a bit, rubbing at his head with one hand dismissively. The older boy smirked a little at the action and put an arm around Phineas’s shoulders.

“So, big boy, where’s this tattoo you got located?” Ethan asked, bending his head down close to Phineas’s ear. He licked away a small droplet of sauce there as well, earning another annoyed swipe of the younger boy’s hand.

“My back,” Phineas answered, his mind obviously elsewhere.

“Can I see?”

Phineas pulled away from him and pulled both of the shirts he was wearing up over his head to best show off the fresh markings. Ethan’s warm fingers traced the ink through the clear plastic. “Nice. Guess you’re a man now, huh?”

“Gender-wise, that’s never really been in question. Besides, it’s not like it’s a rite of passage to let someone draw on me. I used to draw on myself all the time when I was bored.” Phineas let his shirts drop back down, though Ethan’s hand remained near the warm, abused flesh.

“Still, a tattoo is an adult thing.”

Phineas shrugged a bit and pulled away from Ethan’s hand only to find it stuck between his back and his undershirt. He leaned forward further and wiggled. Ethan obliged after a moment of watching in amusement.

“So, what’s next? Piercings? Booze and chicks?”

The redhead’s face pinched in disinterest, his mind steadily wandering further from the conversation by the look in his eyes.

Ethan put his arm back around Phineas, pulling him closer. “If not those, what do you think about guys?”

Phineas had already lost all interest, though. He squirmed away from Ethan without a word and hopped to his feet.

Ethan watched him walk away and hurry over to the pile of machinery he had abandoned hours and hours ago. He frowned to himself, feeling the emptiness in the spot beside him as acutely as he had felt Phineas’s body there a moment before. Maybe Madam Cho was right--maybe Phineas was too small for him. There was more than just youthful innocence in the redheaded genius. Between all the knowledge of machinery and science, there was a naivety that just couldn’t be tainted.

Feeling heavy, Ethan stood up. “Guess you’ll be busy with that for the rest of the night, huh?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. I think I can make these things recognize DNA instead of fingerprints. That would increase security in my lab by a hundred and forty-eight percent. The trick is to pick out certain protein combinations that are unique to me that will still be able to block possible blood relatives. I’ll have to make a new panel though, one that is sensitive to the dead cells of the epidermis and can use them for identification a gelatin.” He began unscrewing the metal plates from a circuit board as his mind continued to rattle off ideas and procedures.

“I’m going to head out then. Just make sure I can get in tomorrow, yeah?”

Phineas nodded absently, waving his hand for him to depart.

More than minimally aware that any carnal desires he felt were not going to be satisfied by his new friend, Ethan closed the door behind himself and headed back towards the Chink.

The Chink was Madam Cho’s attempt at wit and subtlety that people who knew the place smirked at, though most people never batted an eye at it. Located on the floor above the Great Wall, the Chink was an oriental menagerie of twilight desires orchestrated by the fine-boned bodies immigrants from Xifeng in a masquerade of culture and sex. Ethan always thought of the sound of a change purse, though, whenever he read the dimly lit sign pointing up the stairs above the Chinese buffet. He was sure the Madam would agree that a great deal of her profits came after hours.

Unlike its contemporaries towards the Core, the Chink wasn’t a legal establishment. The Madam kept it in operation thanks to the negligence of the law in No Town without even having to bother with bribes and payoffs. More burlesque than outwardly pornographic, Madam Cho’s girls were clever hostesses that catered to a man’s ego as much as to his libido, giving class and style to an otherwise cheap imitation of the refined brothels of Solace. Her girls were clean and well taken care of, at least, unlike other illegal institutions in the area, and though the law prohibited her to sell sex without a license, if two consenting adults decided to engage in sexual activities outside their roles as companion and customer, of course they were allowed to do so as long as they paid for the room--and no one at the Chink had ever turned her nose up at a tip. Any cop stationed in No Town would have to be a real pedant to find fault in Madam Cho’s establishment or methods--or at least, he’d have to be able to tell a fifteen-year-old girl from a small-framed eighteen-year-old one.

But that was what Ethan liked most about the Chink, honestly. Some men liked big boobs and some round asses, but what Ethan liked was androgyny. The younger they were, the more likely it was that the girls hadn’t developed breasts and hips yet and the boys weren’t covered in hair and sporting a prominent Adam’s apple. He’d heard of pedophilia before, but as far as he could tell, that only really applied to adults. Even if no one was exactly sure how old Ethan was, he’d settled on age once he’d hit puberty himself and it put him at seventeen presently. He’d worry about his tastes in men and women when he was legally an adult.

Ethan opened the door to the Chink quietly, slipping his large black boots off at the door. He put on a large smile as he waited with arms outstretched for his usual greeting; every girl and boy without a customer flocked over to him as soon as they noticed him, fawning over him like a prince as they led him over to his usual bed of pillows far away from the stage where the dancers waved apologetically at him with their fans. No one could blame them for their excitement. The lustful heir to a small fortune, he had enough money and enough of himself to go around.

Ethan sat on his pillows with two girls kneeling before him, assisting each other in massaging his feet while another stood behind him, her nimble fingers finding every knot of tension in his back and shoulders. He knew he was the envy of every man in the room for being given such an enthusiastic reception, but it was incredibly difficult to pick the ones we wanted for the night out of such a lovely group.

Madam Cho whacked him over the head with her fan as she stood over him, her short body only inches taller than Ethan as he reclined. “E-tan! You glutton! You pick one girl, not all girl!”

Rubbing the top of his head, Ethan smiled up at her. “Hey there, Miss Cho. You know it always takes me a minute to know what I’m in the mood for.”

The older oriental woman shook her head and motioned towards the girls attending her large customer. “You make brandy, not make goo-goo eyes! Go!”

The two girls at his feet moved away, heads ducked, while the one at his shoulders leaned forward, wrapping her arms around his broad chest. “Ethan, say you want me. It’s my turn after all. And I’ve been looking forward to seeing you for ages.” She swirled her hands into his hair, her nails raking across his sensitive scalp.

Ethan purred, smirking to himself. “Alright, you win. Miss Cho, I’ll take Ding Ding here. But I’d like you to send out Fan, too, when he’s got a chance.”

Madam Cho shook her head in disappointment and took a seat across from him as Ding Ding returned to her work, now under the scrutiny of her employer.

“How come no Genius Boy come too?”

“Phineas has his machines to work on. You’ll see him tomorrow at the buffet, though.”

“I see you, I no let you in. You both glutton.” Madam Cho’s face was very stern. “First eat all food, then take all girl. I don’t care your penis big as bus, you not boss of Madam.”

Ethan laughed loudly, leaning his head back and smirking at his attendant’s sultry features. “Ah, she’s only saying that because she wants me. What do you think?” He sat back up, leaning towards the old hostess. “Come on over here and gimme a hug.”

“No, no hug!”

Ethan wrestled himself out of his comfortable seat and pulled the older woman to his chest, though she fought and slapped him from the time he started after her until he let her go.

“You no listen! You not boss!”

“Oh you love me, Miss Cho. Don’t lie.” Ethan watched a faint smile perk the corners of her thin lips as she sat back in her seat, trying to regain the superior air she normally had about her. “I’ll give you a tip for the hug, that make us even?”

“You should work for me. Dat make us even.”

Ethan shook his head. “I don’t have it in me to be a pimp.”

“Bouncer, not pimp. My girls stay here.”

“Either way you spell it, I’m not interested. But, if I ever run out of funds, I promise you I’ll think it over real hard,” he lied. As consistent a patron of the erotic arts as he was, he had no intention of getting involved with them again in any fashion. Things like that always seemed to start out innocent enough and then ended up on the far side of the scale.

A round of brandy was set down on the table and Ethan smiled up at the errand boy who had become his fast favorite. Fan was an excellent example of the way things change with time. When Ethan had first seen him, he was a cashier in the restaurant. Within a few months he was serving drinks for the Chink and now he was a regular man-whore. Small-framed, cherub-faced, and meek, Fan had the most intoxicating “sexy face” Ethan had seen on any of Madam Cho’s prostitutes. Ethan patted his lap and waited as Fan sat down on him and immediately began petting the crotch of Ethan’s jeans in an absent sort of manner while Ding Ding’s fingers continued to scratch down his back.

“She got you doing any shows yet?” Ethan asked his favorite, smelling the spiced fragrance of his shampoo.

“No one want to see boy strip,” Madam Cho answered in his stead. “He give you nice private show.”

Ethan smiled to himself a little. He was always happy to hear his favorite boy toy was practically his on reserve. “Well, I’m sure Ding Ding and I would enjoy that very much. I hope you’re not working tomorrow though because you sure as hell won’t be walking in the morning.”

Fan blushed and hid his face in Ethan’s chest while his hand went harder to work on the rising bulge in his client’s pants.

Madam Cho frowned. “You act dat way with Genius Boy too?”

Ethan shook his head, thinking back to the laboratory he’d left less than half an hour ago. “He doesn’t exactly let me. I don’t think the kid knows his cock from a screwdriver. And the screwdriver defiantly gets more attention than it or me.”

“You leave Genius Boy alone. He not interested, he not interested. No foul play.”

“I’m not going to rape him.” Ethan’s expression was sour as he kissed Fan’s forehead and moved him off his lap so they could rise. “Trust me, I’ve got better things to do then force myself on Phineas.”

Madam Cho still looked hard at him, her finger pointing at him in an accusing way. “You like Genius Boy, you not bang Fan instead. You wait and be like gentlemen. Otherwise, you let boy go and don’t bother him no more.”

Ethan smirked, putting an arm about each of his tempting treasures. “If I did that, you’d lose a customer.”

“You like big son. All this, no that,” she argued, pointing to his dick and head respectively. “Like your money, but like you more, E-tan. You be good boy and you be happy. Good boy no play here all night.”

Ethan looked at her oddly for a second, a foreign kind of warmth pulsing in his chest. He smiled slowly at her, feeling a little color rising in his cheeks. “You’re a Madam, not my mommy. I’ll keep it in mind though, Miss Cho.”

She shook her head at her giant patron and slapped him gently across his cheek twice. “Maybe you listen next time instead of hear. Go play.”

Nodding in compliance, Ethan took his two companions towards the back rooms set aside for late night fun. The warmth in his chest still lingered making him feel strangely giddy. It was more than just the anticipation of the coming sexual escapades: it reminded him of the feeling that left when Gabriel had died, a flicker of light in a place that was otherwise so dark he hardly noticed it at all. Someone was worried about him. Someone cared about him. He smiled to himself as he opened the door to his favorite suite and let Ding Ding and Fan precede him into the dimly lit room.

No caress, cuddle or copulation could compare to the gentle warmth inside him, though. Someone was thinking of him and as far as he was concerned, that was as good as it got.

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