From Diamond to Coal

Title: From Diamond to Coal
Author: Sol Crafter
Genre: science fiction, mm romance
Rating: teen+
A/N: Chapters 1-8 have been released as Arc One.

Summary: William Neeley is a genius. At the age of 15 he started Cyber Angel Industries and has since completely changed the face of the modern world. From personal shielding technology to enhanced musculature to home electronics, William has a finger in every pie and is quickly becoming the world’s most wealthy individual.

He shares his life with his husband, Alan Trent, and their young son Morgan.

William always strives to maintain his image of “normal life,” though he is diverted at every turn. Whether he’s posing half-naked on billboards, creating massive death rays, or Alan is becoming the President of the United States, or Morgan has grown wings, or he’s accidentally torn a rip in the space time continuum… he will always say that his life is nothing but normal.

Welcome to his world.


The past:

Pushing open one of the bright red double doors that led into A Shot In the Dark, he couldn’t help laughing when Cindy, his usual barista, saw him and pointed. She was a tall faux-redhead that wore tee shirts at least two sizes too small for her busty frame. “Got you covered, babe. Go sit down and I’ll bring it to you.”

“Thank you,” he said, looking around to find a free table. The place was pretty packed for this time of day. It made him wonder if something was going on.

All of the little black tables were full of people and he only recognized the faces of a few regulars he’d seen before. The TV in the corner was playing a Muppet movie for the entertainment of the younger crowd sipping cocoa and eating sugar cookies, and there was a definite festiveness in the air. The chatter was a soft roar and the glow of the hanging cone lights seemed warm, reflecting off the white tiled floor with its gold leaf pattern.

William felt a frown tugging at his lips when he realized there was nowhere for him to sit. He really didn’t want to just grab his coffee and go, but that was what it looked like what was going to happen. Maybe he could drink his coffee in the park?

“You can sit here,” a voice called.

William turned to see a blond man sitting at a table to his left. “Really?” he asked, already walking over.

The guy smiled at him, flashing nice teeth. He was good-looking and William couldn’t help running his eyes over what he could see of the man’s body, liking the way his broad chest stretched his dark blue henley, the short sleeves showing off the cut of his arms. He had kind blue eyes beneath the fierce slashes of his eyebrows and there was a barely perceptible crook to his nose, the remnant of an old break.

William really wasn’t into the idea of sitting with a serial killer or something, so he made sure to look the man over thoroughly before he pulled out the empty chair and sat down. “Thanks. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

“I was surprised by how busy they are myself,” the man said. He had a newspaper folded under his elbow and there was a black wool coat hanging on the back of his chair. Up close, he had the beginnings of crow’s feet and faint smile lines around his mouth.

“Yeah, what’s up with that?” William asked.

The man shrugged. “I guess there’s some kind of convention or something going on a few blocks from here. Most of these guys came from that”

“Huh.” William held out his hand with a smile. “My name’s William.”

The man’s hand was warm and dry against his own, his handshake firm. “Alan. Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah.”

Cindy came swaying across the room, dodging tables and customers to bring William his coffee. “Here you go,” she chirped, “one quad-shot white chocolate mocha with a swirl of cherry syrup.”

William pulled a folded ten dollar bill out of his pocket and traded her for the cup. “Thank you,” he said, taking a quick sip before setting it down on the table. It tasted delicious. “Nice.”

She winked at him. “You’re the whole reason why I work here, sweetie. You’re the perfect eye-candy.”

“I try, ” he said, buffing his fingernails on the front of his tee shirt. “I pose in front of the mirror for a good five hours a day.”

“Oh you.” She lightly tapped him on the shoulder. “Well, I better get back to work. Are you going to be here for a while?”

William shrugged. “I was thinking I would be. Probably at least for another cup of coffee.”

“All right, I’ll leave the cherry syrup out just in case,” she said, walking away.

William shook his head and looked at Alan. “She likes to guilt-trip me into ODing on her drinks.”

“‘Quad-shot’?” Alan mock-shuddered. “And you’re going to drink two of them?”

“They’re good,” William excused. He carefully took a large gulp of his coffee. It was hot enough to burn his mouth, but there was no way he could wait until it cooled down. “So delicious.”

“Am I in the presence of an addict?” Alan asked, leaning back dramatically.

William shrugged. “Pretty much.”

Alan sat back up. “Oh, well, at least you admit it. There are some people out there… they won’t admit anything right to their graves. Very dramatic folk, those.”

“You’re kind of silly, aren’t you?” William covered his mouth with his fingers, hiding his smile. It was a habit he’d liberated one day in his youth and had never managed to give up.

“What makes you think that?” Alan asked in surprise.

William shook his head. “I’m pretty good at reading people, and no matter the volume, I can hear sarcasm at any time. You hide it pretty good though. Do you work with the public a lot?”

Alan shrugged. “That’s actually pretty close. I have to give speeches and stuff all the time and I have to answer peoples’ concerns in a warm and non-patronizing manner.”

William felt a sinking sensation. “With those kinds of experiences… do I have to guess that I’m in the presence of some kind of politician?”

“Possibly.” Alan took a drink of his latte. “Why, do you have an irrational dislike of politicians?”

“It’s not really that irrational,” William said, “considering all the lousy things politicians have done in this country lately. They almost disrupted the whole economy and wrecked America completely just a couple of years ago. It’s one of the reasons the progressive party got so powerful and…”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Alan waved his hands. “I can tell that you’re very into talking politics, but I can also see that you’ve got your mind pretty set. So how about this, we continue to talk, but it can’t be anything about politics.”

“But you’re a politician,” William said, “it’s your job.”

“Exactly,” Alan said. “It’s my job. So if we make a deal not to talk about either one of our jobs, we can just be William and Alan when we talk to each other. And I think I want to talk to you some more.”

William blinked. “What?”

Alan looked vaguely embarrassed and he ran a hand through his sandy blond hair. “I know we just met a little while ago, but in my life I’ve learned to grab onto opportunity as it presents itself. So I can’t help thinking that our meeting was predestined in some way. We were always meant to meet here in this moment and that’s a pretty beautiful thing.”

“Are you a hippy or something?” William demanded.

Alan snorted and shook his head. He had on a disbelieving smile, as though he didn’t quite know how he was supposed to respond. “What?”

“Well, you’re sounding pretty hippy to me, very pagan ‘the universe is all one’ type thinking.” William fingered the cardboard sleeve around his cup. There was something completely relevant about the sleeve, though he couldn’t think what. That or he was trying to distance himself from the surreality of the situation.

“It doesn’t bother me or anything,” William said, “that you’re a pagan. It’s actually kind of cool.”

“I’m not a pagan,” Alan laughed. The fact that he totally seemed to be getting William’s strange brand of humor was a big plus.

For the first time William was seriously considering socializing with someone new. His life had been so shut off the last couple of years that he wasn’t sure he would know what to do, but he kind of wanted to try.

If Alan didn’t turn out to be some awful creep.

“I could be around here again in a couple of days,” William said nonchalantly, trying not to sound too involved. He picked at the corrugated cardboard of the sleeve with his fingernail.

“That would be great,” Alan said enthusiastically, “and I can be here. Around this time on Tuesday?”

William was surprised the guy was so enthusiastic, but he couldn’t help being a bit excited himself. He took a big gulp of his coffee, emptying the cup. “I will be here on Tuesday,” he said.

Alan’s smile was bright and happy. He didn’t look like he could be a bloodsucking, evil politician. He just looked way too nice.

“That’s so great,” Alan said. “We can talk about movies or video games or whatever. It will be so nice to have a normal conversation without worrying that someone’s going to take it out of context and I’m going to be looking at my own face in some news report sounding like an asshole.”

William didn’t know what he was supposed to feel. He had been absolutely sure that Alan was totally into him and wanted to have a relationship with dating and kissing and hopefully sex in the future. Then Alan acted like they were simply going to be best friends forever.

It made William seriously have to wonder if he had read the vibe around Alan wrong. Sure, every fiber of his being was absolutely certain that Alan was gay, but maybe he’d made some serious mistake somewhere. It left him feeling off balance and maybe a bit afraid; he really didn’t like being punched in the face.

“So, do you watch any sports?” Alan asked.

William shrugged. “Not really. I played some baseball when I was younger, but I’ve never really liked watching other people playing games. It just seems boring to me.”

“Ah, you’re really missing out,” Alan said, then preceded to tell William exactly why he was wrong.

And maybe while William’s life wasn’t exactly enlightened by that conversation, his life was irrevocably changed. Because after that, his trips to A Shot In the Dark weren’t just to get away from the stress of his day-to-day life. They were also opportunities to see Alan.


The future:

Morgan’s door was slightly ajar so William gave it a soft tap before pushing it all the way open. He couldn’t help laughing at the sight in front of him and took a quick picture with his cymplant.

Morgan was wearing a purple tunic with a gold belt at the waist, brown curly toed shoes, and an ornate gold and gem encrusted crown on his head, flattening his black hair around his ears. His slightly pudgy face was wearing the most arrogant expression he could manage, his bright blue eyes squeezed half-closed by his cheeks. He looked really cute with one foot propped on the frame of the bed and holding a plastic sword in his left hand.

Byron was kneeling in front of him with a frightened look on his handsome face as he cringed away from the cruel tyrant. He was wearing a dark brown jerkin over his regular clothes and had pulled a lumpy looking hat down on his head.

They were an evil prince and a downtrodden peasant. From the weary expression on Byron’s face they had been playing for a while, still he would happily play for hours more without complaining. He’d always been like Morgan’s favorite uncle and he took the role seriously.

“What’s going on here?” William leaned against the door frame with his arms crossed and a big grin pulling his lips.

On seeing him, Byron hastily removed the jerkin and tossed it on the bed. He knocked the hat off when he tried to rake his hand through his dark brown hair, then had to twist around to catch it. “We were just playing evil tyrant,” he said, sounding surprisingly cool despite his flustered appearance. His cheeks were pink and he quickly straightened his tie before grabbing his jacket off the bed and slipping it on.

Morgan turned in surprise. He gave a bright grin. “Daddy!”

Morgan was seven, a tiny elfling of a boy with straight black hair and serious blue eyes. His face was chubby, but his body was skinny, and someday he was going to be a real heart-breaker. Byron was twenty-nine, tall and muscular, and trying to brush the wrinkles out of his dove gray suit jacket that William suspected might have little footprints on it. Byron looked embarrassed at being caught playing make-believe.

“Well, well, if it isn’t my little Mordred,” William said, standing up straight and holding his arms open. “Aren’t you going to give me a hug?”

Morgan grinned and ran across the room to wrap his short arms tight around William’s waist. “We were having fun,” he said. “Byron’s my serf. He has to do whatever I say or I’m going to take his land away.”

William made a mock-disapproving face. “I don’t know if I like that game. Should you be being mean to him?”

“It’s not real,” Morgan said, grabbing hold of William’s belt loops and leaning backward. He stared upward into William’s face, squinting a little at the overhead light. “I would never really be mean to Byron like that. He’s my friend.”

William braced himself to keep from going over and smiled down at Morgan. “Well, that’s good. Your dad’s out there waiting for you. I said we would hang out together.”

Morgan’s face brightened. “Dad’s not too busy tonight?”

William bit his lip. He hated the fact that Alan’s position kept him away so much and wished he could spend more time with Morgan. It just didn’t seem fair.

“Why don’t you go wash up real quick? Your dad’s waiting for us,” he said.

“Okay!” Morgan ran off toward the bathroom attached to his bedroom. There was some clattering, then the sound of water running.

William looked at Byron. “Thank you for keeping him entertained.”

Byron shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. He’s a funny kid.”

“Yeah, he kind of is.” William smiled fondly as Morgan stepped out of the bathroom. His face was still a bit wet and his hair was standing up on one side from his crown.

William ran a hand over Morgan’s head when the boy came to stand next to him, smoothing his hair back down and pressing a quick kiss against the top of his head. “Let’s go see your dad.”

They walked hand-in-hand into the living room with Byron trailing behind them.

William had gotten used to having bodyguards around at all times. It was one of those things that had just kind of happened when he’d made his first billion dollars. And now that Alan was the President of the United States… there was never a moment where they could just be alone.


The present:

“So, is this going to be my thing from now on?” William asked sardonically. Waking up after his nap to the reality that he was in the hospital again had him grumpy before he’d even opened his eyes all the way.

Alan gave him a stricken look and William felt a twinge go through him.

Alan looked terrible. His eyes were bloodshot and his skin was ashen but for two spots of color high on his cheeks. He looked exhausted, as though he hadn’t slept in days. He had been wrung empty by terror and had nothing left to give.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” William said. His hand shook when he lifted it up and he could feel sweat dotting his brow at the effort of lifting his arm at all.

Alan reached out and caught William’s hand, holding it close against his chest. He didn’t say anything. His lips pressed together in a tight line.

William closed his eyes for a long moment, trying to escape from that expression on Alan’s face. “I’m still here. They didn’t get me.”

“But it was so close,” Alan’s voice was whispery. “You could have died and there was nothing I could do about it.”

“But I didn’t die and we’ll be more careful from now on.” William licked his dry lips and tried to seem as alive as possible. “We were incredibly lucky, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean we should give into fear and just stop living.” He saw Alan’s expression shifting and thought that maybe he was getting through to him. “I have to make jokes about it to keep from screaming.”

“I understand,” Alan said, “but it just jolts through me every time I’m reminded that I could have lost you.”

“I’m sorry.”

Alan leaned forward over the hospital bed to brush the hair from William’s forehead. “You always are.”