The room was packed full of Myceans. Young and old, and in-between. Some were warming up their voices, others limbering up at the barre.
At almost fifteen, Sebastian was tall for his age. Even taller for a Cardinian. He had benefited from a steady supply of food as he was growing, unlike other children who had remained on Cardin. In a strange twist of fate, his life had improved when he was sold into slavery twelve years ago.
Two years old. He had been ripped from his mother’s arms while barely able to walk. Bought by a Mycean couple to be a companion for their then two-year-old daughter, Lakeda. The same age, they had grown up together. Lakeda had insisted Sebastian accompany her to school and her parents had worked the details out with the administration. Sebastian would sit at the back without paper or pencil and simply listen. When Lakeda had convinced the teachers to let Sebastian take the exams, they had been stunned.
A Cardinian slave that was articulate and intelligent was foreign to them. But that was only because they had not been looking. Myceans had little use for Cardinians. They were disruptive. Looking to prove their point, they allowed Sebastian to join the cadets at aged nine to begin the military training required of all Myceans. Once again—stunned. He had excelled. Rose to the top of his class.
Sebastian stretched out his shoulders. He scanned the room, wondering where he could run through a few vocal exercises. This was his first love; singing—and dancing. The military practice fulfilled a baser side of himself, but this … theatre, music—performance. It made his blood run hot.
Seeing a spot open near one of the pianos, he tossed his bag onto his shoulder and headed for it. As he was about to reach for the keys, a petite boy with cropped black hair scooted in ahead of him.
“Hey.” Sebastian dropped his bag. “I was about to sit down there.”
“Too slow.” The boy peered up at him. “Are you Cardinian?”
“What do you think?” Sebastian reached up and checked the knotted leather strip his hair was tied in. Down, his sleek, black hair reached his waist. Something he was proud of. That and his height. The boy staring up at him was likely the same age as him but easily two feet shorter.
Exceedingly Cardinian. Black hair, crystal blue eyes. He had the body of a dancer. Muscular and lithe in his tight leggings and bodysuit. It was the shoes that gave it away. “You’re a dancer.”
The boy huffed out a sigh. “Very observant.” He lifted his foot and wiggled it around.
“So, what do you need the piano for?”
“I sing a little.”
Sebastian rolled his shoulders back. “Well, I need it. I’m auditioning for the lead.”
“You?” The boy snorted through a laugh. “They will never want you.”
“Why? Because I’m Cardinian?” Sebastian crossed his arms. “They would be fools not to take me on. They have never heard anyone like me before, I guarantee you that.”
“Wow.” The boy clapped his hands together a few times, slow—mocking. “Arrogant much?”
“It’s just a fact.” Sebastian sat on the edge of the piano bench and began shoving the boy off the end. “I need to warm up.” It was true. Sebastian’s voice was special. He knew it—Lakeda knew it. Anyone who had ever heard him knew it. He gave the boy one final shove and knocked him to the floor.
The crimson-faced boy leapt to his feet and took off into the crowd, turning to flip Sebastian the finger. “Good luck on your audition today … you arrogant, flamboyant jerk.”
Sebastian looked down at his clothes. Flamboyant? He thought he had toned things down.
They had been practicing for weeks. Opening night was in ten days. The production of Moon Dance had a cast of thirty singers and dancers. Sebastian, as he had predicted, had secured the lead. The lead dancer who he had to work with intimately every day, none other than the boy who had annoyed him on the day of the auditions. He now knew him as Leo; an extremely talented Cardinian dancer.
Leo breathed out an exhausted sigh. “Sebastian. I don’t know why you can’t get this lift right.”
“It’s not my primary discipline, that’s why.” Sebastian set his pose, positioning his arms to catch Leo. This time the lift was successful. Ecstatic, he spun Leo around an extra time, making him giggle.
“That’s not helping any.” Leo placed his hands on his hips once he had been set back on his feet. “At least you got it right this time.”
“Oh, a compliment.” Sebastian bowed. “Thank you, sir.”
Leo pushed Sebastian in the shoulder. “We’ll get it. You’re better than I thought you were going to be.”
Sebastian grinned. “The compliments are just falling out of you today.” He brushed some sweaty strands of hair off Leo’s forehead. “You must be drunk.”
Leo laughed. “No, but I’d love to be.”
“That can be arranged.” Sebastian threw a few items of clothing into his bag. Rehearsal had been over hours ago. Leo and he had stayed behind. “I live outside the colony.” He looked at Leo. “Can we pick up a bottle of wine and head to yours? You’re probably closer.”
“I have wine.” Leo scrubbed the back of his hand against his nose. “My place is kind of small.”
“Then we’ll have to avoid any more practicing.” Sebastian smiled. “I can sit still, I promise.”
Leo shrugged. “Okay. I’ll lead the way.” Shouldering his bag, he led Sebastian through a labyrinth of tunnels deep into the Entertainment District.
After a few drinks, they found themselves stuffed onto Leo’s sofa together. Leo’s hands on his face. Sebastian clutched his glass, a warmth rushing through his body.
Despite their start, Leo’s soft, melodic voice and blue eyes staring up at him were the most beautiful thing he had ever seen …