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    Cards on the Table Chapter 63 Kendall let out a whoop as he spun around to embrace Michael, leaning back and attempting to lift the big man off the ground. Succeeding only after his fiancé jumped up in celebration, he staggered, laughed, and held on tight. They’d just walked out of the lawyer’s office with the keys to the stone house. The procedure had been short and simple. A few signatures in a few places and it was done. They were poorer in money, but Kendall had never felt richer. “We did it, Ace! It’s all ours!” Michael’s answer was more whooping. He followed up with a smacking kiss before he uncurled his legs and let his feet drop back to the concrete. “Jeez, you’re heavy. Come on. Everyone’s waiting for us. Do you want to drive?” “No… I’m too excited… picked a great time to call me fat again.” Kendall groaned. “I have never called you fat… ever. You’re perfect, and you know it.” Michael grinned, the twinkle in his eye unmistakable. “You’re an ass.” “Not a fat ass, though, right?” Kendall rolled his eyes. “Shut up and get in the car.” “No time for that now. We’ve got to get moved in first. Maybe later, though.” “Maybe?” Kendall raised an eyebrow as he slid in behind the wheel. “Okay. You’re right. We have to have sex to initiate the new place. You win.” “Oh my God. Shut up, will you?” Laughter pealed out of Michael. “Someone else is excited too.” “Damn right I am.” “About getting lucky?” “Shut… can we stop this?” Kendall returned the laughter. “Cloud Nine, here we come.” The act of turning into the driveway held a new significance this time. It was a momentous moment in their lives. The house stood in dazzling morning sunlight, a tangible symbol of what he and Michael were building. “Finally,” Michael uttered. “We’re home. This is home.” Kendall slowed to a stop, switching his attention from glistening grey stone to his fiancé. “Yes, we are. What the hell are we going to do with all this room?” Michael met his gaze. “What are you talking about? Won’t take long to fill it, and besides, we already have Nate.” “Yeah, true. And that means Bodie… and then my parents….” “… And then our son.” “Full house and we haven’t even made it up the driveway,” Kendall said, swallowing down some emotion. “Aren’t you forgetting something? Someones?” “Oh, right… the girls… we can finally have them with us.” “Can’t wait. Lots of possibilities, Deuce. Doesn’t seem so big now, does it?” “No, it doesn’t… but it’s still a huge house.” “Yup, and I love it. Are you ready?” “Absolutely. Can’t wait either.” “Then drive us up. We’re getting stared at… I think they’re wondering what we’re doing.” Kendall switched focus to the group waving at them, looking almost as excited as they were. “There’s not that much for these guys to help with, but it’s nice they’re here. We’ll be done before noon.” Michael snorted. “You’re going to keep us busy all day, knowing you.” “Probably,” Kendall admitted as he edged the truck forward, joining Michael in waving back at their friends. He hadn’t expected Lanny would be there on a middle-of-the week workday. He and Janine were standing with Arron and Chet, while Mom and Pop were backing their truck in beside the steel container, sitting with its big sliding door facing the side entry. The movers had dropped it in the most convenient spot. Whatever was packed in the back of Big Mike’s monstrous shop truck had him curious. He’d put the tall homemade rails on the box, so only a bit of cardboard was visible. Just as Kendall put Beauty in park, Nate and Bodie came running into view from the back of the house. They looked flushed and out of breath, and both were holding poorly concealed snowballs. “You see that?” Kendall asked. “Uh huh.” “They wouldn’t dare.” “Sure they would. They’re still mad at what we did to their fort.” “We?” “Okay, me. We need Mom’s help. Bodie’s got a major league arm.” “Yeah, and Nate’s almost as good.” Kendall grinned at Michael. “Look at us… two old scaredy-cats.” “Damn right. I don’t want any more balls to the head… unless they’re yours.” Michael grinned back as he swung his door open and stepped out, keeping it between him and the boys. “Mom, look at what your grandson has in his hand.” Colleen had just stepped out the truck, and looked around at Nate and Bodie. “You two put those down right now. We all have work to do, and this isn’t the time for someone to get wet.” “Yes, Grams,” they uttered at the same time, but Nate, and then Bodie, made a show of carefully putting their snowballs down for later. The challenge was issued, and Kendall snorted. Michael’s response was to show them his tongue. “Hi, Mom. Hi, Pop. It’s all wrapped up, and we’ve got the keys. Hey guys. Thanks for coming,” Kendall said as he went around the truck and gave Janine a hug. He shook Lanny’s hand before moving on to Arron and Chet. It was impossible to wipe the smile off his face at all the congratulations. Michael, copying his actions, wore a similar one. “What’s in the truck, Dad?” “Something your mother picked it out. You’ll see. Open the damn door so she can check out this house.” Kendall grinned at the exchange. “So Mom can check out the house?” “I’ll take a gander too, smart-aleck.” “Thought so.” “Hey, who’s driving the van?” “That’s us,” Chet answered. “We got you a housewarming present.” “And you needed a van?” Kendall's curiosity was piqued again. “Yeah. You’ll find out what it is in due time,” Arron said teasingly. Michael stopped moving, his attention on the driveshed. “What the heck is that?” Kendall followed his gaze. There were chain link gates of some kind stacked inside, really big ones, against the far wall. Bodie spoke up. “Yeah, my Dad and I brought those over this morning with our box trailer, but he didn’t want to set them up until you saw them.” “What are they?” “A movable dog kennel. It’s ten feet by twenty. We don’t need it anymore… haven’t used it since we had the kennel built… so we thought you guys might want it for Lily and Rose? Two of the panels have gates that open inward… they can’t be pushed open… well, unless you turn the panels around… and it’s really solid. Two people can lift it, but it’s easier with four. If you want, Nate and I can put it together, and then you can decide if you want it.” “Oh, we want it. This is great.” Michael was at the panels now. “We could set it up at this end, right against the driveshed.” “Right against?” Bodie asked. “Yeah. I’m thinking we could put an opening in the wall and section part of this off for shelter… something insulated. That way they wouldn’t be stuck inside while we’re at work.” “Oh, that would be convenient,” Colleen enthused. “I’ll say,” Kendall agreed. “I like that idea a lot. We’ll have to go thank your dad later, Bodie. Um, Michael?” “Yeah, Babe?” “The keys are all on one ring still, and you’ve got it.” “Oh, right. Sorry, Mom.” They let Colleen go first. Her soft exclamation as she entered the kitchen was totally understood by Kendall. His memory didn’t do the room justice. It barely registered when Big Mike pushed past him, but Michael’s arms encircling him from behind, did. “Look at Mom’s face,” was murmured into Kendall’s ear. He sighed. “I probably have the same look. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it makes me want to cook something. I forgot how great… check out that gas range—it looks brand new—and serious.” He twisted at Michael’s chuckle. “I've never heard you get excited about a stove before.” “I never was before.” “Wow,” was exclaimed from the doorway. Kendall took in Janine’s rapt expression. “What do you think?” he asked her. “This is a dream kitchen if ever I saw one. Like something out of a magazine. Oh, Lanny”—she turned and gestured—“isn’t this amazing?” “Ah, I have snow on my shoes… I don’t want to make a mess,” he answered from the entry. Coleen halted her silent inspection and turned. “Don’t you worry about that, lad. I brought my mop with me, and I’ll wipe up after you men as you move stuff in. Janine, you can help me if you don’t mind. I have to wipe all these cupboards out before we put stuff in them.” “Sure, I’ll help with that, and the mopping.” Lanny blushed as he walked further in, treading carefully while looking unconvinced, and uncomfortable. “Dude, we all have our shoes on. It’s only water. Go ahead and check the house out. Seriously.” Visibly relaxing, Lanny said, “Wow… something else,” as he looked around the room. Extremely pleased, Kendall turned to Colleen. “What do you think, Mom?” She continued to open doors and drawers as she spoke. “Seeing photos isn’t the same. It’s way better in person. I could cook here all day, and be happy doing it.” “Feel free,” Michael joked, finally letting go of Kendall and walking over to look into the dining room. “Yeah, Grams. I might starve to death here if you don’t.” Nate was standing at the doorway, with Bodie right behind him. “Holy crap. This is unbelievable. Can we go see my room?” “We’re all going to learn to cook, nephew, and that includes you, so if you starve it’ll be your own fault,” Michael said without turning around. “Hey, I can cook. So, can we?” “Go ahead. Check out the place and then we’ll get to work,” Kendall answered. “Don’t worry about your shoes for now.” “Sweet.” He took off for the stairs with Bodie on his heels, the squeak of wet sneakers on hardwood impossible to ignore. “Oh, Uncle Mike, we need tools for the kennel,” he called out. “Toolbox behind the seat of Kendall’s truck,” he responded as he turned back into the kitchen. Kendall shot him an alarmed look and Michael clued in as to what was also behind the seat. “I’ll get it for you,” he said, spinning around and leaving the room with a barely-heard chuckle. Kendall followed Colleen as she prowled the downstairs, gushing effusive praise about everything she saw. Big Mike had already toured the main floor and was now upstairs with Lanny, Janine, and the boys. “It’s so beautiful… so perfect. My goodness, beautiful boy, I’m so happy for you both.” “Thanks, Mom. It’s kind of classy, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is… elegant, I’d say.” “Elegant… I like that. There’s lots more to see. Are you ready to head upstairs?” They were in the future office, across from the kitchen, and Colleen stood at the window, looking out. “There’s a lovely view from every room, and you can’t see any sign of neighbors.” “The view across the road is my favorite. I can picture us sitting out there on our new verandah, once it’s built, looking out over those hay fields.” Colleen turned from the window. “All those years you two weren’t truly happy, this was what I wished for you. So many times I was tempted to interfere, and I was always second guessing myself, but you boys found your way all on your own. And now look… everything has fallen into place. Come on… show me the rest before I get all misty.” Colleen was smiling, but Kendall saw the tears. It hit him again just how hard it had been for this diminutive woman. He should have known she’d have seen through him and how he felt about her son. And, it turns out, she understood the man better than he did himself. It was her prodding, nudging Michael to see his truth, which made this all possible. He gathered her up in his arms. “Thank you for always being there for me. I owe you so much.” “Oh, don’t be silly. You don’t owe me a thing. I owe you for what you give Michael. For what you give all of us. Seeing my boys this happy is all a mother could ask for. Now, show me the rest of this beautiful home.” They passed Big Mike, Lanny, and Janine on the stairs, and Kendall reveled in the exclamations. Colleen wandered while Kendall went right to the master bedroom window and looked out over the driveway. “Mom,” he called, “is that a bed in your truck?” He already knew the answer because he could see the plastic wrapped mattress and what looked like a split box spring, also wrapped. “Yes, it is. Oh, my, this room is wonderful. A fireplace is such a nice thing to have in a bedroom.” “I love this room too, other than the color.” “I like it, but it is a little outdated, I suppose.” “It’s nice enough, but it’s just not us. So, you bought us a bed?” “Yes, dear, we did. I know it’s such a personal thing… buying a bed… but when you talked about turning yours around so you could see into the nursery, I immediately thought a sleigh bed would be perfect, because the headboard and footboard are exactly the same… I’d racked my brain trying to decide on a housewarming gift….” “Oh, that’s a sleigh bed?” “Yes… a king size one, and I’m relieved to see it will fit in here with lots of room to spare. We could have used a king size bed when Megan and Michael were growing up… there were lots of times one or the other ended up in our bed. So, what are you thinking?” “I’m thinking we could have used a King at your house… Nate takes up a lot of room,” Kendall said with amusement. “I’m also thinking you already gave us a housewarming gift with your down payment help, not to mention Pop’s insistence on paying for the veranda materials.” “Oh, now you know those weren’t proper housewarming gifts.” “Of course they weren’t.” Kendall smiled warmly at her. “It’s a fantastic idea… the sleigh bed. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right… it’s the perfect solution. Thank you so much.” “You’re welcome. And there are two dressers on the way… a long, mirrored one, and a tall one. They had to re-order them because they arrived at the store in the wrong color. It’s possible they could be delivered this afternoon… there’s a rush on them, but the manager said not to count on it. We decided yesterday to pick up the bed so we could make certain it, at least, would be here today.” “You and Pop really are the greatest—I just realized this means we’ll have a spare bed for guests now. I was worried about filling this place up, and this really helps. I guess I should go down and get started. Oh, we’re going to need some new bedding to fit the King… I can slip out later,” Kendall said as they left the room. “Already taken care of, dear.” Bodie and Nate were busy putting the kennel together, Colleen and Janine were doing their thing in the kitchen, Mike, Michael, and Lanny were unloading the new bed, and Kendall, Chet and Arron had begun unloading the moving container. It was going well, and fast. The bed went in through the front door and straight up the stairs, Kendall could hear talking and some laughter from above as they went about setting it up. He decided to stay clear… too many cooks philosophy was best. He was astonished at the speed with which the two women unloaded each kitchen box he brought in. Colleen seemed to know exactly where everything should go without even thinking about it, and when they were done, there were still a lot of empty cupboards. Setting the stools at the island was a satisfying moment, and he took a seat on the final one, looking around the bright room. It was the kind of kitchen to be lived in, much like Colleen’s. All it was missing was a proper table in the windowed corner, but the stools would do for now. “I set it up like my kitchen, to start, and you can change it to suit yourself,” Colleen said after she turned on the tap and filled her glass. “Oh this is good tasting water. Have you tried it?” “No, actually, I haven’t, but it has a state of the art UV filtering system according to Chet.” Colleen filled a glass and passed it to him. It was astonishingly good, and he downed the whole thing after savoring the first sip. “Tastes nothing like the water at the apartment.” “There’s nothing like good well water,” Colleen said as she handed another full glass to Janine. “How much is left to do?” “Just the bed and dressers, and the couch and chairs. Oh, and the rug and coffee table.” The words had just left his mouth when Arron walked by with the rug, and Chet with the table. “No sitting down on the job,” Chet said with a huge smile. “What do you want to bring in next, boss, the bed or the couch?” Kendall stood with the same smile on his face. “I guess it’s time to wrestle the mattress upstairs. It’ll give me a chance to peek in at the new bed. They should be done putting it together by now.” The sound of multiple feet on the stairs confirmed it was the case. “Babe, come see our new bed. It’s like an island.” Michael entered through the dining room, grabbing Kendall’s hand and urging him off the stool. “I checked, and you can see straight into the nursery from the foot of the bed. I think we have it in the right spot… it’s centered under the south window and it only blocks a few inches of it. It’s, like, the perfect bed.” “I’m glad you approve, Michael,” Colleen said. “I more than approve, Mom. Thank you so much.” He let go of Kendall’s hand and scooted over to give his mother a hug. “You’re welcome,” came out muffled by the much shorter Colleen. “Come on,” Michael repeated, once he let her go and grabbed Kendall’s hand again, his excitement causing smiles around the room. “You guys go ahead. We’ll bring up the bed. The room next to the master, right?” “That’s right, Arron… thanks,” Kendall answered as he followed Michael. “What about me?” Lanny asked after leaning down to give Janine a peck. Kendall tried to stop, but Michael kept tugging. “You and Big Mike can bring the couch and chairs in if you want. And then we’re pretty much done. Oh and the dressers,” Arron said. “And the stuff in the van,” Chet reminded him. “Oh, yeah, right,” was all a curious Kendall heard as he was pushed up the stairs by an insistent Michael. “So what do you think?” “Oh, wow.” He sat on the edge, and looked around the room. “Yeah, this is far enough from the fireplace, but not too close to the door. There’s lots of room for a dresser on this side.” “Dad says two of them are coming that match the bed.” “I know. Mom told me. They are way too good to us.” “It makes them happy.” “I know that too. Jeez, this is amazing.” He let his upper body fall backward into the softness of the memory foam mattress. “It is, isn’t it? Nice and firm.” Michael sat beside him and did the same. There was still lots of bed beyond their heads. “Think of the fun we can have on this.” He turned his head sideways, wiggling his eyebrows at Kendall. “We have our own playground.” “We can test it out tonight, right?” Kendall heard footsteps on the stairs, so he murmured as he sat back up. “It’s a date.” He chuckled at Michael’s happy grin. “Come on. We’ve still got work to do.” “Yes, boss.” The rumble of a large vehicle caused Kendall to walk over to the corner window. A truck was moving up the driveway. “Hey, Nate’s bedroom furniture is here. Perfect timing.” He turned around to see Arron at the door. “That’s a beautiful bed. Damn, you guys are spoiled.” “We are for sure,” Michael agreed. “I can’t wait to sleep in it.” “Yeah, I’m sure that’s what you can’t wait for.” Arron rolled his eyes and grinned. “So… the dressers… you want them in here until the new ones arrive? Colleen told me they might take a few days.” “I don’t know,” Kendall answered. “Michael?” “Let’s put them in the spare room. Most of our clothes can go in the closets until they get here.” “That’s true… we have a lot more closet space now. So, yeah, we’ll put them in the spare room. Makes the best sense. I better get down there and greet the furniture guys.” “And I’ll help with the dressers,” Michael said. Kendall laughed at Nate’s little happy dance when he walked out the door. They were still hard at work on the new kennel. "What’s taking you guys so long?” “We put one of the panels backwards so the door opened the wrong way,” Bodie answered sheepishly. Kendall laughed again. “That’s my new bedroom stuff, right?” “Yup, it is. Stay out of their way until they’re finished, okay?” “We will,” Nate answered as Kendall approached the delivery truck. “Need some help?” “No help needed, sir. We get paid to do all the work, if you could just point the way.” “Sounds good to me. And don’t worry about those booties. It’s only snow, and it won’t hurt the floors,” Kendall assured the delivery men. “It’s the first room at the top of the stairs, and you can go in through the front door. It’s the simplest way.” He watched as they put the first chest of drawers, protected by substantial wrapping, on the hydraulic ramp. When they were ready, he led them to the Nate’s new room. He discussed with the older one where the furniture should be placed and they came up with a plan he liked. It did make sense not to have the bed on the west wall as he originally envisioned, because, as the delivery guy had pointed out, Nate wouldn’t have to walk around the bed to access his dressers. Chet met him at the bottom of the stairs, and Kendall was hit with the smell of brewing coffee. “Time for your housewarming gift.” “Oh, we finally get to see what’s in the van?” “Nope, the van’s empty now. Follow me.” Chet’s grin was huge. When they entered the kitchen from the hallway, he stopped dead. The one thing the room needed, hell, the one thing the house needed, was now in place under the hanging light in the corner. It was a solid-looking pedestal table with four chairs, and it looked absolutely perfect. Michael stood silently at the island, a smile on his face, but other than Arron, everyone else had disappeared. Vaguely, voices registered, coming from the back section of the house. “Well? Say something,” Arron said from where he was leaning against the counter. “Sorry… I’m almost speechless… you guys are the best. I love it. It looks like it belongs in here.” “That’s what Chet said when we saw it at auction.” “Auction?” Kendall had walked over to the table, his hand gliding over the dark wood top. The tone was the same as the surrounding woodwork of the house. “Yeah, an estate auction. We saw a list of the main items in the paper saying there was a pedestal table, circa 1904, so I figured we should go take a look,” Chet answered. “That’s the year this house was built, right?” “Yes, and that’s why we wanted to check it out. There’s a stamp underneath that has the date and maker, and it turns out it was crafted in Ontario, which makes it even more fitting.” “Cool. I love the chairs too.” “The table is original, but the chairs are typical Windsor reproductions. They’re only about thirty, forty years old, but we thought they looked good with the black finish, so we picked them up at the same time. They were a steal considering they’re all armchairs.” “The black really stands out, guys. You really didn’t have to do this, but thank you so much. It was the last thing we needed to make this a home, right Michael?” “Our first table, Deuce. We’re finally grown-ups.” I wouldn’t go that far,” Chet said with a cheeky grin, “but, you’re welcome.” “It was our pleasure… this perfect kitchen deserved a perfect table,” Arron said as he walked over to it and sat down. “Now could someone pour me a cup of that coffee so we can celebrate that you’re all moved into your new home?” It was closing in on four in the afternoon, and all the help had left, other than Bodie. Colleen had provided lunch for them all, in the form of sandwiches and delicious date squares, and had stocked their fridge with a couple of coolers full of prepared food. She’d also gotten the bathrooms in order with towels and soap, and Kendall had unpacked their toiletries. Michael and Kendall were now wrestling with the gorgeous black, grey, and burgundy bedding Colleen had picked out for their new king, and the boys were doing the same thing in Nate’s room. It was one of the last things needing to be done to make the house habitable enough to call it a day. The TV’s had already been set up, hooked up to the cable, and the internet wifi, thanks to Lanny, was working perfectly. Kendall had fallen in love with the house more and more with each passing moment. The office, for example, situated as it was, turned out to be more convenient than he’d previously considered. With the door open, he could see and talk to whoever was in the kitchen. That wasn’t possible at the apartment. The only difference that had hit him as less than ideal, was the laundry being in the basement. Still, it was bright and roomy down there, and as Michael had pointed out, they could set up a gym and work out while they laundered their clothes. Kendall, though, was toying with the idea of moving it to the back part of the house so it could be shared by his parents. He’d have to talk to the contractor to see if it was feasible. Like Michael had said when they first arrived… so many possibilities. They still had boxes of clothing and such to unpack, but that could wait. There was one more pressing matter to attend to, and that was bringing Lily and Rose home. “Did you hear that?” Michael asked. “Yeah. I think someone is knocking on the door. Oh, maybe it’s Mira and Scott.” “Could be. I’ll go.” “No, we both will… our first visitors.” Kendall gave Michael a high five before they rushed down the stairs. Nate could be heard laughing over the music coming from his room. They were breathing heavy by the time they reached the entry. On the other side of the door stood a regal Mrs. B, again clothed in black, holding what looked like a cake tin. “Hey, Mrs. B. Come on in,” Kendall said as he pulled the door wide. “Hi, Mrs. B. You look lovely today.” “Why thank you, Michael, but you can’t fool this old woman with your silver tongue.” She beamed at the two of them, but Kendall thought it somewhat forced. “I was going to bring these over earlier, but I had an unfortunate mishap. I see the vehicles are all gone now.” “Yes,” Kendall responded. “We’re all moved in, and our helpers have left. Come in, come in. We’ll show you around.” “No, dear, I can’t today. I’m way behind, and it will be dark soon. I’ve missed my constitutional, but I still have time to walk as far as the Taylor’s. Now, you take these cookies. I’m sorry I didn’t get them here before your helpers left, but they’ll keep in the tin for a week or two.” Kendall took them from her and shared a look with Michael. “Thank you. We’ll have no trouble eating these up, I guarantee you.” He smiled, but didn’t get one in return. “Is everything okay, ma’am?” Michael asked from beside him. “Did something happen?” Mrs. B was in the process of turning away, and she hesitated. “It’s nothing. Mr. B took a spill, is all.” “Ma’am? What does that mean? Are you all right?” Another look passed between him and Michael. How could her deceased husband take a spill? “Oh, now don’t give me those looks. I’m fine, and I’m not losing my mind.” She hesitated, her reluctance showing. “I was cleaning, and when I was putting Mr. B back on the mantle, I dropped him… he went everywhere.” Her hand rose to her mouth and her eyes looked pained. “It was… very upsetting… but I’ve gathered him up and put him back together. I believe I have most of him, but it took me quite a long time, and well, it’s impossible to gather up all the dust. I don’t bend like I used to.” Kendall was taken aback at what must have been devastating for the poor woman, and was about to offer his sympathies when Michael spoke. “Well, who doesn’t want to lose a little weight, right?” Kendall was, at first, mortified at his comment, but Mrs. B started to cackle. “That’s true, Michael, and the man did love his food.” “So, there you go then. He probably likes feeling a tad lighter.” “That’s a good point… he was always self-conscious of his belly, so he probably does, and to be honest, the man did spread himself all over the furniture when he was alive. He didn’t sit… he sprawled.” A softer giggle followed her words, and Kendall found himself chuckling. “Maybe you should seal his urn this time so it can’t happen again?” He shrugged at Michael. It was a weird conversation. “It wouldn’t have made any difference. The urn was porcelain, and it shattered when it hit the hardwood floor.” “Oh, right, that wouldn’t have worked. You didn’t cut yourself, did you?” His gaze went to her leather-gloved hands. “No, dear, I was careful when I was separating him from the pieces.” “Where is he now, Mrs. B?” Michael asked. “He’s in the cookie jar.” “The… cookie jar?” Michael’s gaze went to the container Kendall was holding, and a chortle burst out of Mrs. B. “Don’t worry… your cookies were in there long before this happened, and they were out on the kitchen counter.” Now the tiny woman was back to cackling. “I put him in a teapot first, but there was too much of him.” Her amusement grew, and so did theirs. “The only thing I could find big enough that had a lid was my old cookie jar… he always had his hand in there anyway.” “Well, it’s fitting then, isn’t it, and you can always order a new urn.” “That’s what I thought at first, Michael, but I’ve decided he’s staying right where he is. He knows his new home well, and he always hated the idea of moving… twice in one day is enough. I will have to get a new cookie jar, though.” Her smile was genuine, and her twinkling eyes had completely lost their earlier pain. “Sounds like you had a tough day. Are you sure you don’t want a cup of tea or something?” Kendall asked. “No, but thank you, and thank you for helping me see the humor in Mr. B’s little journey. I should have remembered his wicked sense of humor. I’ll be back another time. Now you boys enjoy those cookies, and I’ll continue my walk. Oh, and welcome to the neighborhood,” she called out as she marched away in Mrs. B fashion. Kendall chuckled as he closed the door. “That poor woman.” “I’m sure it was traumatic for her, Babe. She’s a tough old bird, though.” “It was nice to hear her laughing about it. I was a little worried at first that she’d lost it when she said he took a spill.” “There’s not a thing wrong with that woman’s mind.” “Nope, it appears not, but she is a little eccentric. I wonder if we’ll ever see her in a color other than black… or without a fancy hat.” “I doubt it, but who knows. Lots of widows wear black. Oh, jeez, these melt in your mouth.” Michael was already munching on a cookie. He held out the other half for Kendall. “Oh, wow… peanut butter and white chocolate… so good.” The thunder of feet on the stairs was followed by, “Hey, where did you get those?” “Our neighbor,” Michael replied to a flushed Nate. “What were you guys up to?” he asked. “Nothing. Just making my bed up.” “Yeah, right. Why’s Bodie’s hair such a godawful mess?” “So these are from Mrs. B? Oh, her cookies are awesome,” the blond boy exclaimed, trying to adroitly change the subject. Kendall wasn’t fooled, and grinned at Michael’s amused gaze. “Help yourself… no more than a couple. We’ll have dinner after we bring Rose and Lily home and get them settled. You want to join us, Bodie?” “For Gram’s meatloaf? Heck yeah, if you’re willing to share.” “How did you know we were having meatloaf?” “Nate said,” was his answer. Two young hands went into the tin at the same time. “You know how to work the dishwasher?” Michael asked. “Yeah, of course.” “Then we’ll share out meatloaf. As long as your mom agrees.” “She already knows,” Bodie said slyly, and he and Nate burst into giggles. Kendall rolled his eyes at the pair. “Are you two ready to walk over? We’re going to run out of daylight, and I want to play with the puppies outside for a while.” “We’re ready,” Nate mumbled his answer around the cookie in his mouth. “Man, these are amazing.” “Told ya. She bakes all the time.” Bodie was mumbling too as he took a second cookie. “Their crate is already folded up in the kennel. I can carry it back.” “That’s great, Bodie, thanks. Okay, come on… get your coats and shoes on.” “I’ll get their leashes and collars,” Michael said excitedly, causing Kendall to smile at his retreating back. Today was the beginning of their little family. They were out the door first. “Make sure you lock it,” Kendall called to Nate as he took Michael’s hand. “I’ve been waiting for this all day, Ace.” “Me too, Deuce, me too, but we were smart to wait till we got organized. Hurry up, you slowpokes,” he said to the boys. Neither one was expecting the snowballs that splattered on the back of their heads seconds later. “Why, you little shits,” Michael sputtered. “We’ve been waiting for that all day,” Nate said from about twenty-five feet away. His partner-in-crime was grinning broadly as they both pulled their arms back and let loose two more snowballs.
  2. 53 points
    “What is he doing here?” “Captain—” “I left express orders not to bring him to the infirmary. Do you want to terrorize him? Why is he sedated?” The harsh, angry voice made me flinch, and I started breathing faster, but then something grabbed ahold of my body and control was wrested from me. My breathing slowed, the panic welling up inside faded, and the protesting voice shushing the furious protest couldn’t capture my attention from the strange, peaceful twilight I floated in. If it was possible, I wanted to stay here. I hurt, but it was distant. Like my memory of the bed I’d slept in for my early years. I’d had a soft, puffy pillow I’d bury my head in as I fought against getting up for schooling. A pillow was a luxury I hadn’t had in too long. Nothing soft, nothing warm. No sensory input that would make me seek out touch. I’d learned control, especially once they put me in the suit, but that desire for comfort was like a sickening need inside me. Sometimes I’d take the pain, just to ease it a little. Right now, I felt nothing. Physically, emotionally… just nothing. But I would be afraid, if I could have been. That was how they’d wanted me to become, the aliens. Indifferent to comfort, even averse to it. A physical null, an emotionless robot. But they never managed it. Or maybe they had. Maybe that was what this test had been. One last, major test to see if I’d pass or fail. But was this distance from my body a reward or a punishment? I couldn’t be bothered to figure it out, because even as the thoughts tried to pierce the veil around me, they floated away, leaving me once again in darkness. A metallic taste flooded my mouth. I smacked my lips a few times, grimacing. I blinked my eyes open. I was in a big room and there were flat surfaces—beds—along the walls. There were people here and there. There were also beings. Aliens in colorful plumage and iridescent bodies like I’d never imagined seeing. The aliens who’d held me had been gray, hard skinned like a flexible shell covered their bodies, and they’d had next to no features. Just two eye slits and a lipless slash across their face that was covered with some sort of bristles. The one time an alien came in my room I couldn’t smell anything or feel any heat from its body. The device it carried spoke in a monotone digital voice—it hadn’t even made a sound. I’d never even seen them touch or speak to each other when they observed me where I could see them. It made me wonder if they were experimenting on me to change me to more like them. I’d been trained to avoid touch, emotion, contact. My suit was molded to my body and hardened away from my joints. I shivered, oddly cold. The air was swirling in the room. I glanced down, the cold distracting me from the taste in my mouth. The sight of my arms, pale and bony, was something I hadn’t experienced in all the long years I’d been held in that room. I lifted both arms and held them stiffly out in front of me. There was a garment covering my chest, but it was loose. “W-what—” My scratchy voice broke. Aparoe stood on one side of the bed. They held out a container with fluid inside. “We removed that wicked thing they put on you. Here, you have to be thirsty. We’ve had you on fluid replacements, but it took several days for you to recover after the nerve surgery. I’m sorry we had to keep you under, but your body needed time to repair. It would have been agonizing if you were allowed to wake. “I did… one time.” “Yes, just after the surgery was complete, but we kept a body block active to prevent the damaged nerves from causing you any pain. They couldn’t heal that way, though, we had to keep you under.” When I didn’t take it from her, Aparoe put the container on a table that hovered beside the bed, then pushed it close. “Please drink.” I picked up the cup, sniffing the pink fluid. It smelled… sweet. Like fruit. I vaguely remembered eating fruit one time. I took a sip. My taste buds practically danced. Flavor! I greedily tipped the cup, but it didn’t hold much. “You can have more soon, but we need to make sure your body doesn’t reject normal food and fluids. All the tests we’ve run show a successful removal of that horrible technology, and your nerves are regenerating nicely. You’ll be healthy in no time.” Food? I’d had nothing but a bland paste I sucked out of a tube. Sometimes I pretended to chew, just to make sure I didn’t forget how. Maybe they’d have fresh food. When I was a kid, I’d looked up spaceship jobs, and the rations had seemed pretty bad. But compared to what I’d survived on… anything would be an improvement. “Aparoe, if you’re not too busy there, can you give me a hand?” one of feathered beings asked. They nodded and stepped away. “Do you remember me?” Captain stood on the other side of the bed. I nodded, staring straight into his eyes. Captain was carved on my brain. He took me out of my cell. He was warm and smelled good, standing close to me. I leaned closer to him, closing my eyes. What was it about him? “Good. Do you have a name?” I opened my mouth, then shut it. The first thing that popped into my head was seven-six-delta-nine-nine-two. I’d almost said it, having responded to it for years. But those memories I’d struggled to remember were a little closer. Maybe from the dreams I’d had while they drugged me. I only remembered snatches… but I knew one thing. “Kohen.”
  3. 52 points
    “Maternity?” I panted out of breath to the lady at reception, who was on the phone. The receptionist pointed to her left, I ran in that direction and came to an elevator bank. I pushed the button – ten times, frustrated that it didn’t make it arrive any faster. An elderly couple walked up next to me to use the elevator. “Come on, come on,” I cursed and fidgeted watching the numbers on the panel change. The couple moved a step away. The damn thing finally dinged; what a fuckin’ week. I barged into the elevator; luckily no-one was exiting the thing. The elderly couple indicated they’d wait for the next one – whatever. I pushed the button with Maternity written next to it, the doors closed and the elevator moved. Last Sunday was the best day of my life, Ian took me back. I still can’t believe it. I have the love of my life back. It’s like I can breathe again. Ian loves me, Pat loves me; I’ve moved into the apartment with them, we are finally a family. We are just missing the final member of our small family. After getting out of the elevator, I followed the signs to maternity and found the nurses station. “Anna Price,” I said speedily to the nurse, the man typed her name on the keyboard. He looked up at me, then back at his computer. “Uh…” he looked at me again, “do you have any identification?” I pulled my ID from my wallet and gave it to him. He inspected my license and bit his bottom lip as he looked at the computer. “Could you please take a seat, someone will be out to see you in a moment.” “Is there a problem? Is the baby okay?” I asked panicked. I’d tried to call the Wrights after I landed but it kept going to voicemail. “Sorry, Mr. Price, I didn’t mean to worry you,” he smiled warmly and handed me my ID, “if you take a seat, someone will be out to see you.” I took a seat across from the nurse's station. Crap! I forgot to ask if I had a son or a daughter. Yesterday, Thomas Wright – Ian’s father – called to let me know that Anna had gone into labor. I caught the first flight I could out here to Connecticut. I begged Ian to come with me, but it was too hard for him to get off of work and Paddy had school. I also think it had a little to do with Anna, he has decided to cut her out of his life. Even though they didn’t really have a relationship before, he wants, “Nothing to do with that toxic sociopath.” His words, not mine, I promise, even though he’s right. Ian did say that he’ll support me any way he can so I can get custody of our child. That’s precisely what I plan to do. I’ll be getting full and sole custody of the baby, we don’t want him, or her, to have anything to do with Anna. If Ian agrees to marry me, I’ll be adopting Pat, and Ian will be adopting the baby. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get Anna’s rights terminated. No matter what happens, we’ll be a family. “Adam,” I looked up from the floor into the warm and loving face of Mrs. Wright. She sat down next to me, “Hello sweetheart, I’m glad you came.” Mrs. Wright cleared her throat, “You have a beautiful baby girl.” “A girl,” I beamed, “Wow,” I swallowed roughly, my throat has gone dry. Mrs. Wright watched me for a moment, she reached and took my hand and held it between both of hers, “Your daughter was born yesterday, at 10:56pm,” her voice was soothing and calm. “She was born prematurely, and is currently in the NICU,” I stiffened and started to panic. “Is she going to be okay?” Mrs. Wright smiled affectionately, “She is going to be fine, but she will be here for probably another week. They are monitoring her closely, and she has already improved since last night. She’s a little fighter like her Dad.” I let out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding, “Thank God,” I slumped into the chair, “How is it possible to love a person this much and I haven’t even met her yet.” “You just do, I don’t know why. The love is there, you’ve loved her from the minute you knew you were going to be a Dad,” she smiled at me, “It never goes away.” “Would you like to see your daughter?” Mrs. Wright asked after a moment. “Uh… not yet.” Mrs. Wright frowned, “could we sit here a little longer. I want to be calm when I meet her for the first time,” I fidgeted anxiously, she smiled sweetly and gave me a nod in understanding. We sat for a while, not saying anything, she was terribly considerate and let me find my bearings. She smiled and patted my forearm after letting go of my hand. It’s amazing the strength you can draw from a loving soul. Ian’s Mom stood up, “Let’s go see your beautiful baby girl.” I followed Mrs. Wright to the NICU, the nurse stopped me from going in. Anna had told the hospital there was no father, I hadn’t been listed as a parent, and my name wasn’t on the visitor’s list. I tried to reason with the nurse, Mrs. Wright actually vouched for me telling her I was indeed the father, but no, she was still unable to let me in. I offered my ID, but without a copy of our Marriage Certificate, there wasn’t much she could do. Apparently, none of that helped, because of the paperwork Anna had provided on admittance. The nurse explained the protocol apologizing, but it didn’t matter; I wasn’t allowed in to meet my precious baby girl. The nurse gave me a form to have Anna sign amending the visitor’s list. Mrs. Wright took it from me and went to Anna’s room promising to get it signed. It will be in everyone’s best interest if Anna and I are kept apart. Even if Anna did sign, the form still had to go to the director to be approved. Who knows how long that is going to take. So here I stand with my forehead plastered to the window of the NICU. The nurse thankfully was very sympathetic toward me and the situation. I’m sure it helped that Mrs. Wright was with me. She was the Grandparent and a named visitor but unfortunately wasn’t allowed to admit any other visitors to the NICU. However, the NICU nurse told me where to stand and wheeled my baby over to the window. She said it was no problem for me to watch her from here for as long as I wanted, or until the paperwork come through. I’ll have to remember to get her a little gift, not everyone would be as considerate as she has been. “You look besotted,” Mr. Wright chortled standing next to me, putting his hand on my shoulder. “I just want to go in and hold her,” I said while watching my daughter, it’s impossible for me to take my eyes away from her. Mr. Wright, stood with his hand on my shoulder and our faces plastered to the window, “Mom’s working on Anna. Hopefully, we’ll have you in there soon. I’m sorry you have to go through this Son.” “Will you stay with her? I don’t want her to be alone,” I said sadly, “I want to call Ian. I haven’t spoken to him since I left home.” “You go ahead, I’ll look out for our princess. Send Ian and Paddy my love,” Mr. Wright smiled affectionately at our girl. I moved quickly to the cafeteria, I knew I’d be able to use my cell there, and I am dying for a coffee. I ordered three coffees and called Ian while I waited. “Hey, Babe, I don’t have long I’m in the cafeteria grabbing some coffee; I want to get back to our baby girl. She was born prematurely last night at 10:56pm, she’s in the NICU for now. I’ve been told she’s doing really well and is a fighter, who is improving remarkably.” I told Ian quickly, he’s a worrier and I didn’t want him to get upset. Better just me worrying at the moment. “We have a sweet baby girl,” I could hear Ian choke up, “and she’s going to be okay?” “The nurse told me that she’s already improved since last night, are you okay Babe?” “Yeah, it’s…I wish… we have a daughter, do you have any pictures, I really want to see her,” Ian was in tears, but they were happy ones. “Yeah, I’ve seen her,” my answer flat and withdrawn. “What did Anna do?” Ian growled. Sighing out loud, I told Ian of Anna’s latest fiasco; he was furious. He taught me a few new words that even I didn’t know. “Your Mom has taken the form to get Anna to sign for the hospital to update the visitor’s list.” I will not tell him that I still would not be able to be with our girl until the Director signs off on the change or until I produce the Marriage Certificate. “She better sign it Adam,” Ian hissed. “I need you to do me a favor, Babe,” “Anything, what do you need?” I told Ian where to find my Marriage Certificate so he could get a notarized copy to me as soon as possible. If Anna didn’t sign the document, I could get it changed myself, but I needed the Marriage Certificate to do so. But until it is sorted out I can’t get into the NICU to be with her. The lady gave me the coffees, and I finished up talking with Ian – after I received an earful about moving my stuff over to his place. I’d moved in with him and Patrick last Sunday. It’s been a slow process, I’ve been bringing clothes and leaving them there, but I still had my apartment and all my possessions in it. There just isn’t any room in the apartment for all of my things, we really do need to look for a house when I get back with Riley. It was hard not to run back to the NICU. Hopefully, Mom has got the papers signed, and I can get in and hold… the baby. It’s pissing me off that we all keep calling her ‘the baby,’ as if she was just a material possession. My baby girl deserves a name, at least for now, something sweet like ‘angel’ or ‘blossom.’ Mr. Wright was still standing where I left him. I gave him his coffee. Pointing at our sweet baby girl, he smiled, “She asked where you went. I told her you went to buy her a pony,” He laughed. “God she’s beautiful,” I whispered, while I watched her. “Thomas,” Mrs. Wright interrupted our vigil, wiping her brow, “Anna won’t sign the paper, she’s flat-out refusing.” “I’ve had enough of this, how many lives is…” Mr. Wright stalked off. “I really am sorry for all of this Adam, dear, we will get you in to see the baby as soon as we can,” Mom observed me, waiting for my reaction. It is hard to feel what I feel and be respectful of Ian’s parents at the same time. They are trying to help me, I do not want to throw a tantrum, or show my anger. None of this is their fault. I tried to think about something else. “I wish we could all stop calling her ‘the baby,’” I remembered Mom’s coffee, which I was still holding, “I got you a coffee, sorry it’s probably almost cold,” I nervously thrust it into her hand. “Thank you, I’ll still drink it, I’ve been dying for one all morning,” she took a sip, “you’re a godsend, it’s still warm enough to drink, thank you.” We watched her sleep for a little while, Mrs. Wright finished her coffee and stood with me. Her hand on my back like a Mom would do to help comfort her grown child. Ian’s Mom turned her head to watch me. “What?” I chortled. “You and Ian have already picked a name for her, haven’t you?” she asked fondly. I couldn’t help but smile, “Yeah, Riley Abigail, for a girl, Riley Finn, for a boy.” “Oh, that will fit with Patrick nicely,” Mom’s smile beamed, as she turned her focus back to the baby, “We’ll call her Riley, instead of ‘the baby.’” I felt warm, loved and happy inside. It will be nice if her name stays that way, but who knows with Anna, she’ll be able to name her, and we will not get a say. I think I will enjoy it while I can, I am way too happy to care what will happen later. “Mrs. Wright?” we both turned to see a lady doctor, she was about Mom’s age, but small and elf-like in appearance. “I’m on my way to see Anna, would you like to join me?” Mom introduced me, “Yes, I would. This is little Riley’s father, Adam Price.” I have a Riley, my smile could probably light up a night roadwork crew on a highway right now, “It’s nice to meet you, can you tell me how Riley’s doing?” “Why don’t you go and see for yourself,” the doctor indicated at the door to the NICU. “They won’t let me in, I’m not on the list.” The doctor frowned, Mom explained to the doctor our situation and previous attempt to get in. “Oh, I see,” the doctor raised an eye. She looked around, “come with me, I’m Doctor Ingram by the way, I’m a psychiatrist here at the hospital,” interesting, she turned toward the door indicating for us to follow. The young nurse we had dealt with previously, came to meet the doctor. They had a few quiet words, and the nurse’s face lit up as her eyes met mine, then she waved me over. The nurse gave Dr. Ingram what looked to be a chart. She wrote on it and gave it back to the nurse, the doctor passed by me and squeezed my forearm. “If anyone gives you any trouble, you have them contact me or Bell,” the name of the nurse, “we’ll sort out the paperwork as soon as possible. You take your time and be with your daughter. Congratulations, Mr. Price.” The doctor left the room while making a phone call, “Sully, Joyce, about the Price baby…” Mom followed behind her but gave me a wink, then gave me the ‘shoo’ signal with her hands as she grinned. Ian’s very much equal parts of his Mom and Dad, the very best parts if you ask me. He is stubborn, kind and charming, like his Mom. Ian can also be stoic and quiet at times like his Dad, but always resourceful, loving and caring like him too. All the crap that Anna has put her parents through, they have not turned their back on her, they might not be happy with Anna at the moment, but they keep trying to help. I hope I am like that as a parent; I will be that kind of parent. Bell, had me gown up and took me through all the protocols and procedures. She had me sit in a wing back chair and wheeled Riley over to me. When Bell opened the capsule thingy and took her out, I thought I was going to fall apart. “You okay Mr. Price?” Bell asked. I grinned anxiously, nodding my head, “This is all overwhelming, and I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid I’ll hurt her.” “That’s okay, you’re not the first to feel that way. I’ll show you how to hold her, don’t be nervous. She’s a tough little one. She’s come a long way in such a short time. I’m optimistic she’ll be allowed to go home in a couple of days,” the nurse said proudly. Bell manipulated my arms, then leaning down with Riley wrapped tightly in a pastel yellow baby blanket, she laid her in my arms. This is by far the scariest, most exciting, and incredible thing to ever happen to me. This past week has been one of the hardest but happiest of my life. The second Riley was in my arms, my chest exploded with love. I felt the tears run down my face, my heart swelled, and the pit of worry in my stomach deepened tenfold. Riley is so tiny, she weighs nothing at all. Her skin is pale, but still pink and a little blotchy, she has the smallest whisper of hair covering her head. Her eyes have been closed the entire time I’ve been here and still are, I wish I could see the color of her eyes. I watched her beautiful face as she yawned. Riley probably wasn’t happy to have been disturbed. I dropped my head down to her so I could kiss her forehead. “Hey, Riley, I’m your Dad, you had me worried,” I whispered to her, “you’re so beautiful, you are going to have your other Daddy wrapped around your finger in no time. I know that because I’m already hooked. Yep, one look into your adorable face, and he’s going to melt. You also have a big brother Patrick, he’s excited to meet you,” I ran my finger gently down the side of her angel-face. It is bewildering that I could help make something so beautiful. “Bell,” I tried to say, but it came out as a croak like a frog, “Could you please take a photo of us, I want to send one back home to my family and to my parents.” “I’d be happy to,” Bell answered. I carefully found my phone, desperately trying not to move too much with Riley in my arms. Bell took a photo of us and gave my phone back. I snuggled into the chair, with Riley in my arms. I wish Ian were here for this. It’s something I would have loved to share with him, and I can not wait to see Pat’s face when he holds Riley for the first time. We need to clear up this situation with Anna now. One thing I am sure of, I am not letting go of Riley, she is coming home with me. Eventually, Bell came back to get Riley from me and put her back in her little hub. I felt her loss immediately, she belongs with me, in my arms. Bell told me I could stay and sit with her as long as I liked. After sitting with her for a few hours and had to move around, as much as it pained me to leave her, I needed to walk around and loosen up. The walk through the hospital grounds did me some good. Still, I can’t wait to get back to Riley. I gave Ian a call, he was contacting a lawyer for us to start the custody proceedings. We don’t want to waste a minute, Anna is unpredictable. Heading back to Riley, I spied Mrs. Wright sitting in the waiting room. She looked pensive and lost, so I sat down next to her. “Everything okay Mrs. Wright?” “Of course dear, everything is going to be just fine.” “Thank you for your help earlier, Mrs. Wright,” I thanked her gratefully. She nudged me on the shoulder, “You’re welcome Sweetheart, but it was Thomas.” “Thank you anyway, I’ll thank Mr. Wright later, I don’t know if you’ve spoken to Ian, but he wasn’t able to get off of work and Paddy had school,” I shrugged my shoulder. “I have spoken to him Dear, I understand why he’s not here. I am happy to hear you boys have been able to repair the damage that Anna caused. I’m very sorry you both had to go through that,” Mrs. Wright said kindly. I shrugged my shoulder, “Some of it was my own doing,” I said meekly, “I’m just glad he took me back.” “There was never any doubt in my mind, Ian loves you. He can be a bit of a stubborn… SOB like his Daddy,” she chuckled gently knocking my shoulder with hers. “I can’t believe I’m a Dad, I have a daughter and a teenage son. All in one week.” “That young boy thinks you hung the moon. Thomas and I are very grateful to you. You’ve given our two boys more than you’ll ever know and now you’ve given us a granddaughter.” “Thank you, Mrs. Wright,” I replied bashfully. “Please call me Mom, if you’re comfortable with it. You are part of this family whether you want to be or not.” “Thank you, Mom, I’d like that.” “I’m going to be upfront with you, Mom. I’m going to fight Anna for custody,” I braced myself for the woman to get angry. She sighed, “I hoped you would, I’m glad. I think it would be best for the baby. She deserves to be with loving parents. Unfortunately, Anna is not stable enough to raise a child. Once she’s out of the hospital, we’re trying to get her to seek some treatment. I have a feeling whatever the diagnosis is, it will be a lifelong battle for her. I’m truly sorry we didn’t see all the behavior sooner. In hindsight, we did and worried a little bit, but we put it down to her being – Anna. But after this recent outburst…It’s too hard to ignore there’s a real problem. We could have saved you boys, a great deal of hurt… You will let us see the baby won’t you?” I was relieved, “You’re her Grandparents, of course, as much as you want. Once I have full custody, I’m going to propose to Ian. I’m never letting him, and Paddy slip through my fingers again. Pat calls me Papi now,” I looked at her smiling, “I still can’t believe it.” <>-<>-<> I heard my name, and a gentle push on my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see Mr. Wright standing over me. I sat up in one of the joined chairs, I had fallen asleep in the waiting room after talking with Ian a few hours before. I reached my arms up stretching and yawning. Joints and bones cracked throughout my back after sleeping on those ridiculous chairs. Mr. Wright shoved a coffee in my face. “Ah, you are my favorite person right now, thank you,” I smiled and took a sip of the coffee. The pleasant bitterness of hospital coffee hit my tastebuds, and he went down in the rank of favorites as I screwed up my face. Mr. Wright smiled at me, “It’s pretty bad right?” “Crap!, yes, it tastes like poison,” I laughed. “How’s our Riley this morning?” I stood up and stretched carefully, with my cup of hot poison in my hands, “I came out here at about four in the morning because Ian rang, I couldn’t sleep. I only sat down for a minute, and I must have dozed off. She was doing well when I left her. The nurses have been really good to me going in and out to see her.” “I’m happy to hear it,” he smiled at me happily. “Anna hasn’t been in once to see her,” I said bitterly. Not that I want to see Anna, but I expected she would at least want to see her own baby, feed her anyway – but nope, selfish to the core. “I expected as much,” Mr. Wright growled. “I’m sorry Mr. Wright, I didn’t mean to say that out loud, this must be really hard for you,” I said sheepishly. “That’s okay son, I’m angry too,” Mr. Wright squeezed my shoulder, “Mom’s just gone in to see Anna when she comes back we’re going to see our little granddaughter.” “She is an angel,” I grinned, “I can’t stop smiling.” He chuckled, “I was like that after both of mine were born,” he rolled his eyes, and smiled, “then they become teenagers, they aren’t so cute anymore.” “Oh god, I hope she doesn’t take after me, I was hellish in my teenage years. Mom still says today, she wonders how she made it through.” “Well, if she’s going to take after anyone in our family, you’ll want it to be Ian. Except for the coming out hell he went through, he was a pretty good kid. He and James had each other, and I think a couple of other friends and he got through high school pretty much unscathed otherwise.” “I hope she’s a lot like Ian, he is the most even-tempered and loving person I’ve ever met,” I gushed. Mr. Wright was eyeballing me, “You love my son quite a bit.” He stated. “You’ve no idea,” I manage to get out, then realized who I was talking to. He gave me a knowing smile and squeezed my shoulder as Ian’s Mom appeared, she was moving quickly and seemed upset. “Thomas, she’s gone, Anna, she’s gone,” Mom put her hand to her chest. I looked at them both and ran to the NICU, my heart was heavy, and I felt like throwing up. I pressed the button outside, and a nurse let me in, she had a big smile on her face. “Mr. Price, did you want to come in and sit with Riley?” she asked. “She’s still here?” I asked panting, bent over with my hands on my knees, man I need to exercise more. The nurse gave me a quizzical look, then smiled, “Of course she is, Riley is doing spectacularly this morning. Her color has improved, she’s breathing easier. She’s a tough little girl,” the nurse said proudly as if it were her own daughter. “Just give me a minute to catch my breath, and I’ll come back,” I told her and leaned up against the wall trying to catch my breath. As the relief hit me, I felt a tear run down my cheek, and I was shaking. Becoming a father is liable to kill me. How the hell do people do this? I quickly wiped the tear away and signaled to the nurse through the window, I would be back, and went to find the Wrights. They were still in the same spot I had left them. Mrs. Wright looked distressed, and Mr. Wright just looked angry. I didn’t say anything as I approached them. “Riley still here?” Mr. Wright asked sternly. “Yes, sir,” “Good,” he nodded his head once. A couple came around the corner as I reached them, it took me a moment, but I realized it was my folks. “Mom, Dad, you didn’t have to come all the way up here.” Shit! Mom, please behave. “Nonsense Adam,” Mom said dismissively, she saw Mrs. Wright, and looked back at me, “is everything okay?” she asked approaching Ian’s Mom. Dad came to me and gave me a hug. Mrs. Wright was standing with one hand on her hip the other over her mouth, she shook her head “No,” then sighed. “Anna left in the middle of the night, I’ve tried calling her, but her phone doesn’t even ring it just goes straight to voicemail. They’re sending up security now, but I doubt they can do anything she’s an adult.” “Oh Dear,” my Mom gasped, “should we look around the hospital, maybe she’s just taken a walk. Nobody likes to be stuck in these places.” “There’s no point but thank you, she took her things with her,” Mrs. Wright seemed flustered, understandably. “Thomas, you stay here, I’m going to check at home.” “I’ll come with you,” my Mom followed behind Mrs. Wright, “you probably shouldn’t drive, we’ll take my rental,” she ran her hand up and down Mrs. Wright’s back soothingly. Thank God, she’s in help mode. We watched the two ladies enter the elevator and the doors close. “Are… you okay Mr. Wright?” I asked watching the flurry of different emotions run through him. He wiped his hand over his face, “Yes, there’s nothing I can do about that now, let’s go and see our Grandaughter, hey?” he slapped my Dad on the back. “I’ll be with you guys in a moment,” I told them and hung back. I let them go so Dad could talk with Mr. Wright privately. I pulled out my phone and called Ian. “Hi, how’s our baby girl this morning,” Ian said brightly. “She’s beautiful and perfect, of course.” “Are you okay Adam? Did something happen? She is okay isn’t she?” “Yeah, yes, she’s doing better than yesterday, according to the nurse in the NICU,” I said somberly, “but yeah something has happened.” “Do I need to come out there?” he asked so quickly, his words almost ran together. “Nope, Anna took off in the middle of the night, don’t panic she didn’t take Riley,” I answered curtly. I heard Ian gasp on the other end, “Shit! How did the folks take it?” “Your Dad just seems angry but also resigned like he expected it. Your Mom has gone with my Mom back to your folk's place in case Anna went there. Our Dad’s have gone to the NICU to spoil Riley with attention and gooey Grandpa noises.” “Shit, okay, I’ll try and get Paddy and me a flight asap and send you the info,.” “Ian you don’t have to do that, it’s too expensive,” I sighed. “I’m coming! You’re not alone Adam. I won’t let you do this alone, we are a family,” my entire body relaxed hearing him say those words to me. It was almost better than when he says, “I love you,” Ian said at the exact same time I thought it. “I love you… listen don’t be mad, but I’m going to use my position as a detective and get a missing persons report out quickly. I’m doing it for your Mom and Dad.” “No, that’s good, it will give Mom a little peace of mind rather than having to wait and wonder. Mom’s gonna be a handful so watch out,” Ian chuckled evilly at the end. Shit! What are we in for? “Okay, thank you for understanding. I’ll be at the airport to pick you up. I love you so much, Ian.” “I love you right back, I’ll see you soon. I’ll make sure I bring the legal papers you asked for.” We ended the call, then I looked up the local police station, and dialed the number. “Hi, this is Detective Adam Price, from Lexington, Kentucky. I’d like to file a missing person…”
  4. 51 points
    I opened the front door to an older version of Oliver, Sasha’s brother, “Hi, you must be Quinn?” “Yes, I’ve come to pick up Sasha,” he said nervously. “Come in,” I moved out of the doorway so he could enter, and he came in and stood behind me. I shut the door and put my hand out, “I’m Patrick’s Dad, Ian.” “It’s nice to meet you,” Quinn said shaking my hand. “The kids are in the living room, come on through,” I led the way to the living room. We walked down the hallway, “Sasha tells me you’re in college to become a teacher?” I asked over my shoulder. “Yeah, English teacher,” he said laughing, “I don’t know whether I’m nuts or a glutton for punishment.” “Hey! Dorkface,” Sasha called out before running to her brother and hugging him. Quinn wrapped his arms around his sister and kissed the top of her head. “Missed you horse head,” he said affectionately to Sasha as he pulled out of the hug. “I didn’t miss you so much, Mom and Dad let me have your room,” Sasha giggled. Quinn chortled, “I know, I’m bunking in with the boys.” “Sucks to be you,” she laughed and went to gather her things. “Hi Pat, how are you? It’s nice to see you again.” “You too Quinn, how long are you back for?” Pat asked as he walked over and greeted Quinn with a fist bump. “Um… Two weeks, I have my practical teaching unit, starting tomorrow.” Quinn announced. “Really?” I asked surprisingly, “If you feel uncomfortable being amongst the teachers that used to be your teachers, come find me, we can have our breaks together.” “That would be great, thanks, Ian. It’s going to be weird going back, but not as a student. Even just this afternoon doing the orientation was weird, my old teachers still spoke to me like I was a student. It was bizarre, to say the least,” He laughed, “I’m really nervous, I remember how we used to be to the student teachers.” “You’ll do fine,” I smiled reassuringly, tapping his shoulder as Sasha returned to the living room. “Come on then girly-girl, Mom’s got dinner almost done. If we’re late, she’ll make us eat it cold.” “Okay,” Sasha agreed, she hugged Pat goodnight and gave him a quick kiss. She then sashayed her way over to me giving me a hug. “Night Uncle Ian, good luck tonight.” “Thanks, Sha, goodnight sweetheart.” “Thanks again Ian, I’ll look for you tomorrow,” Quinn said shaking my hand, “Goodnight.” After Quinn and Sasha left, Pat and I got a start on dinner. Pat took a large pot out of the refrigerator, “I thought we’d have something different, I found a simple recipe online for shepherds pie. I cooked the meat off yesterday, and I already boiled potatoes earlier and mashed them. If you want to get the veggies started, by the time this is in the oven and cooked it will all be ready at the same time. I’m even going to make a beef gravy to go with it.” “Okay?” I asked quizzically, and giving him a questioning look, but smiling. Pat laughed, “I’ve been looking at English recipes, just be thankful it’s not toad in the hole.” “What is that?” Sounds disgusting. “I thought it was the French who ate frogs?” I asked as I put the broccoli and beans on to steam. I turned and observed as Paddy put the shepherd's pie together like a pro. He put it in the oven then started on the gravy. “It’s not what it sounds like,” Pat snickered, “it’s beef sausages cooked in something called batter pudding. It’s basically sausages inside soft biscuits. Something like that anyway, a lady put the recipe online as a meal to make for a big family on a budget. It was a meal her Grandmother made during the depression, and she continued to make it after her Grandmother passed. I thought we’d give it a go tomorrow,” Pat shrugged his shoulder. “What brought all of this on?” “It is an assignment for my food sciences class, I thought if we actually taste it, it might give me a better idea of how to write my assignment,” Pat looked at me sideways as he stirred the gravy, “that’s okay isn’t it.” “Of course it is, you do what you need to do for school. It all sounds nice, like comfort food to me,” I squeezed Pat's shoulder, “Adams here.” I moved out of the kitchen and headed toward the front door just as Adam let himself in with his key. After turning around, he stopped and stared at me. His mouth hitched to one side in a smile, his dimple on full display. God, he’s gorgeous. He shuffled nervously down the hallway until he reached me. Smiling I threw my arms around his neck and pulled him to me and kissed him stupid. He pulled back a little breathless, “I’ve missed this so much,” he said putting his arms around me and hugging me. “Is Pat okay that I’m here?” I nodded my head, “I spoke with him last night after he came home. He’s excited to see you,” I kissed Adam, it was nice. Everything felt right again, him being here for dinner, kissing him because I could. “Holy crap! Are you two going to be doing that all night, or do you think you could help me get dinner ready,” Pat, rolled his eyes, as he cleared the dinner table smiling broadly, “one of you could at least set the table, I’m not an octopus you know.” “I guess we’ve been told,” I chuckled to Adam. “Hmm, it would seem so,” Adam grinned as we moved toward the kitchen, “what are we having?” he took a deep breath, breathing in the aroma that was wafting through the apartment, “it smells good.” Pat looked up from the gravy to see Adam, and his whole face lit up, “Shepherd’s Pie,” he said proudly. Adam smiled at Pat and tapped his shoulder with his fist gently. Adam set the table while I helped Paddy get the everything ready to plate once it was ready. We busied around in the kitchen and chatted about Pat’s assignment. He loves cooking and could talk about it passionately for hours. Yet with his art, he’s very private and almost never talks about it. I only catch glimpses when he’s working on something at the table or on the couch in the living room. It’s his escape from everything, I think everyone is entitled to their own place to unwind, de-stress, and a safe place to escape, so I never say anything about his art until he invites me to. During the dinner, there was a comfortable silence settled around the table as we tucked into Paddy’s meal. Lot’s of smiles passed between the three of us. After finishing off my last mouthful of my second helping, I rubbed my stomach, it was so good I ate way past my quota of acceptable gluttony. I let out a burp “Sorry, excuse me, I ate way too much! It was so good Pat, we’ll have to add that to our normal dinners,” another little burp escaped, “Sorry.” “Maybe… it would probably be better during winter for something warm. I think I’ll try it with pumpkin mash next time and see what that’s like,” Paddy scraped his plate for the last mouthful with his fork. “Is there any more? This is freakin' awesome,” Adam stood with his empty plate heading for the kitchen. “There should be unless Dad pilfered it all,” Paddy called out as he pushed his empty plate away while he stared at it. “You want to lick the plate don’t you?” I eyed Pat then laughed. “A little bit,” he answered shyly his face gave away a small blush. “It’s not fancy, but you were right it is comfort food. I think I know how I’ll get started on my assignment though. I’m going to hunt around and research more about meals that were served by families during the depression and how they managed.” “That sounds like the right direction Pat, will you let me read it before you hand it in,” Pat frowned at me, “I’m not questioning your ability to write the assignment, I’m just curious about the subject is all.” “Oh, sure, yeah. Thanks, Dad.” “God, this is good,” Adam said with a mouthful, and eating from the plate as he walked back to the table. Pat and I bust out laughing at him, Adam ate guarding his plate like we’d steal it from him. “Anyone would think you haven’t eaten in weeks,” Pat said, then realized what he’d implied and hung his head quietly. Poor Pat, I leaned across and squeezed his shoulder. “I’ve missed your cooking, that’s for sure. My God, this is so good Pat,” Adam smiled warmly at Pat. Paddy lifted his head and nodded without a smile. “Hey Buddy, cheer up, you are allowed to talk about the last couple of months it’s not taboo, we are going to talk about it. It affected you, probably as much it did us.” “I’m okay,” Pat mumbled. “Paddy, don’t just sweep it under the rug. You need to say what you are feeling, or what you want. This is about you too. None of this was handled very well by your Dad or me,” Adam winked at me, “and you’ve no idea how sorry I am about that Pat.” Paddy looked down at his lap, his hands clasped together, “I understand.” I saw a tear drip from Pat's eye to his lap, I wanted to die. We’ve really hurt him. I knew he’d been holding it in, but he wouldn’t talk about it. His shoulders started to shake, Adam dropped his fork, and it clanged on the plate. He jumped out of his chair and come around to stand next to Pat. Adam put his hand on Pat’s shoulder, as his face contorted in pain. I felt sick, I dropped from my chair to my knees next to Paddy, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and head, then pulled him to my chest. He tried to pull away, but I wouldn’t let him I just held on to him tighter. Eventually, his resolve gave way, and he clung to me sobbing, I sat and rocked back and forth gently with him in my arms. “I’m so sorry,” I just whispered it over and over again. It’s killing me that I’ve hurt my son. My eyes started weeping. Adam shuffled to stand behind us, his one hand not leaving Pat's shoulder, the other on the top of my head. His love giving me the strength I needed not to fall completely apart. Tucking Paddy’s head under my chin I looked up at Adam, he was watching Pat and me with watery eyes, he swept my hair back and mouthed “I love you.” It’s incredible that that one little gesture flowed through my entire body. Pat slowly pulled away from me and lifted his head so he could see Adam, “You’re staying now, right? You’re not going to leave again?” he asked with a quivering chin. Adam smiled warmly, “I’m not going anywhere, I promise. I’m so sorry we’ve hurt you, Pat, we were so caught up in our own problems that we didn’t see how you were hurting too. This whole thing has been mishandled with you caught in the middle, I can’t tell you how sorry I am. You and your Dad mean the world to me.” “Good,” Pat mumbled shyly, “I like it when you’re here. You belong with us,” Pat wiped his eyes, “We’re supposed to be a family. You, me and Dad.” “Yes we are Pat, it’s something I want. As long as it’s what you want too?” Adam asked warily. Adam squatted down, so he was eye level with Pat and me. His hand moved to the back of my neck, and his thumb rubbed back and forth soothingly. Pat looked at Adam, “I… It’s what I hoped for since… and then Anna ruined everything,” Pat wiped his still moist eyes. He looked at me, then back at Adam. “What’s going to happen when the baby is born? You aren’t gonna let Anna keep the baby, are you? We are going to get the baby, right? You can’t let her have him, I don’t want the baby to end up like me?” “There’s nothing wrong with you Pat,” Adam stated fondly. “No, I mean, he won’t be loved. We can make room for the baby here. I’ll even help look after him,” Pat pleaded to Adam. He blew out a frustrated breath, “If you leave him with Anna, he’ll eventually end up in and out of foster care, a group home or even worse. I hated it. Hiding everything I owned, moving from place to place. Some places I had to sleep with my shoes on in case I had to leave in a hurry. My bag was always packed. Adam, please, we have to get the baby. I don’t trust Anna she won’t look after him, and she won’t keep him safe. We will. He belongs with us, just like you.” “Why don’t we sit in the living room and get comfortable to have this conversation. I’m too old to be sitting on my knees,” I chortled, Adam, helped me off of the floor. “The dishes can wait a few minutes. They’re not going anywhere.” Pat claimed his usual spot on the couch and sat with his legs to his chest. Adam sat at the other end of the sectional sofa closest to Pat, and I sunk down leaning into him. “You okay Pat?” Adam asked Paddy. “I think so, I’m glad you’re here.” “Me too,” Adam kissed the side of my head. “Look, Pat, I know this is all happening fast. But I meant what I said, like you, I want us to be a family. Your Dad, you, me and the baby, the four of us together in one place. I have, no, we have no intention of leaving the baby with Anna, your Dad and I are going to figure something out. Unfortunately, it might not be as easy as we’d like it to be. This has to be done right, we fight her now, legally, so we don’t have to fight later. We can’t leave her any wiggle room to disrupt our family or the baby later. You understand right?” Pat nodded his head to confirm. “Are you really okay with the baby coming to live with us, it’s a big adjustment. We’ll probably have to move,” that thought just dawned on me, Adam put his arm around me pulling me in tight, “it’s going to be a tight fit in this apartment for three of us let alone adding a baby?” “I don’t care, Dad, we are a family, and we can’t leave the baby with Anna, he can sleep with me in my room,” Paddy wrapped his arms around his legs, resting his chin on his knees. “We are going to fight like hell for custody, but with Anna, it's going to get ugly. I’m only telling you so you can prepare yourself,” Adam and I watched for Pat’s reaction. “Um… is it going to upset Grandma and Grandpa?” Pat asked nervously. I shook my head, “No,” I answered adamantly, “I think they’d be more upset if we didn’t.” “Oh okay, then I don’t care what we have to do, I’ll do whatever you need me to do. I don’t want that poor baby having to go through the things I did. That’s all that would happen if he stays with Anna.” Paddy fidgeted around getting more comfortable, but his face still bore the worry of the situation as he saw it. “What’s bothering you, Pat?” Adam asked. “I um… well… I'm still scared that Grandma and Grandpa will be upset.” “They want what’s best for the baby. Give me and your Dad time to hash out what we plan to do, then you can call and talk to your Grandparents about it,” Adam answered honestly and squeezed my shoulder, I nodded along with his answer so Pat could see that we were in agreement. “That’s fair I guess.” Paddy went quiet again as he played with the fabric of the couch. “So if you're staying what am I supposed to call you?” “Call me whatever you want, and make sure you call me whenever you're cooking,” Adam chuckled. Pat scoffed, “Only after Dad and I eat first. Otherwise, we’d never get any.” “Seriously Pat, call me whatever you're comfortable with. Adam’s fine, whatever.” “How ‘bout Detective?” Pat grinned. “Mr. Detective, Sir, to you,” Adam quipped. “Lucky you're not a ‘Private Detective’ I could call you Di…” “Patrick!” I reprimanded him quickly, chuckling in spite of myself. I saw Adam roll his eyes to Pat, so I dug my elbow into his ribs, “You two don’t get to gang up on me now either,” I pointed between them. “Yes Dad,” they said in unison. Then Adam leaned over to fist bump with Paddy. “I hate you both,” I chuckled getting up from the couch to sort out the dinner dishes. I left Adam and Pat to have a chat in private. I felt they needed it. As I was drying the last pot to put away Pat came into the kitchen, “I love you Dad,” he said his eyes red and puffy. I put the pot down and gathered him into a hug. “I love you too. Everything okay between you and Adam?” I asked into his shoulder, the bugger has grown another few inches and is my height now. “More than,” Paddy squeezed me tight quickly and let me go, “I’m going to have a shower and go to bed, I’m tired.” “Me too, you sure you’re okay with Adam moving in?” I studied his face. “Yes Dad, I promise. Best of all, eventually I’ll have a little brother,” Pat grinned. “Or a sister,” I reminded him. “Hmm… she’s not gonna like me very much,” Paddy quipped. “Why not?” “No boys till she’s thirty,” Pat laughed as he left the kitchen. “Or girls if the case may be,” he called back. I shook my head, he’s the funniest kid. I faintly heard him say “Goodnight Papi.” I smiled, and my heart soared, as I put the pot away, then threw the dishcloth in the laundry. I finally curled up next to Adam on the couch, all tucked into him. It was taking everything I had not to ask what he and Paddy spoke about. So I told him what Paddy said if he was having a girl. He corrected me by saying, “if we have a girl.” Adam yawned, “I’m wiped, I should probably get going?” I frowned at him, “I wasn’t joking when I said you were moving in here, I don’t want you to go home. It wasn’t a sooner or later statement. Please stay, we can work out the logistics later.” “Are you sure Babe? It’s a big deal.” “It’s a bigger deal if you go home.” Adam stood and put his hand out to me, “Let’s go to bed.”
  5. 51 points
    Roar • Part I Following his meeting with Hillary Clinton in late 2015, CJ wrote her a note expressing his gratitude for the interest in him and her faith in his ability to represent her U.S. Presidential campaign. He composed it on his laptop, reviewed and revised it several times, and had his dads read it over asking for their input. Once satisfied, he rewrote it by hand on good stationary, using one of César’s fountain pens, and mailed it to her Washington home. He politely declined to take an active role at the moment, explaining he wanted to wait until after his eighteenth birthday in December when he would become an adult and be able to register to vote. The same day he posted the envelope, he called Robbie Mook―Clinton’s campaign manager―and explained his thought process to the young, gay man who had become a friend in such a short period. “I disagree with your thinking, CJ. But I’ll respect your decision. Your contact info says your birthday’s the twenty-third. Does that mean I can expect a call from you on the twenty-fourth?” There was no doubt in CJ’s mind the man teased him. “Funny, Robbie. Not a chance. We’re planning a ski trip for the week after my birthday and politics will be the furthest thing from my mind. I’ve never done it before, so I’ll be concentrating on not breaking any bones as I fly down a mountain instead of who our next President will be.” “That’s one way of looking at it. Safety first while you’re on the slopes. Where are you going and is your boyfriend going with you?” “Ummm, Colorado. And of course Ozzie’s going. The dads own a place out there I’ve never been to before. If things work out the way I want them to, it’ll be like a dozen of us. I’m inviting a few close friends to go with. The dads and my brother will be part of the trip too.” “That sounds awesome, buddy. I won’t bother you again until next year then. But I expect us to talk in early January.” “Fair enough.” “And… I want your permission to add you to our list of surrogates on a tentative basis. What that means is you’ll be included in our e-mail blasts and receive the same information all the big-shots will be seeing.” CJ realized he was being courted. By telling him he would be at the same level as VIP supporters, Robbie was stroking his ego. CJ had to admit it did feel good but vowed to remain firm in his decision. “That’s fine, Robbie. But it doesn’t mean I agree to anything else right now. And please make sure if there’s anything I shouldn’t discuss in public, you let me know. I don’t want to screw up.” “You got it. I’ll be spending most of my days in Brooklyn from now on but I’ll be visiting Washington frequently. Let me know if you make it up to New York City before December and I’ll buy you lunch for your birthday. Or we’ll get together when I go down to DC.” December came and along with cooler temperatures brought a flurry of activities, each with a corresponding emotional reaction. The World AIDS Day event the GSA organized and he oversaw―in particular the display of segments of the AIDS Memorial Quilt―brought sadness and tears. His acceptance by Georgetown University left him elated and wishing the next eight months to be over in a hurry so he could begin his freshman year at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service. The trip to Colorado to celebrate his eighteenth birthday was everything he had hoped for and much more. CJ’s Squad―he’d come to accept the moniker originally uttered by his brother Ritchie―its numbers bolstered by his fathers and cousins, had spent a week playing in the snow. And on New Year’s Eve, CJ had publicly declared his love for his boyfriend. • • • Three weeks later, a winter storm forecasted to dump inordinate amounts of snow along the I-95 corridor caused schools in DC to close and brought the nation’s capital to a standstill a day before the flurries even started. At Owen’s suggestion, the guys decided to repeat the prior year’s trip and headed up to New York City early Friday morning. CJ pocketed the credit card receipt the cab driver handed him and reached for the backpack between his legs in the foot well. When the taxi’s door was pulled open, he stared into a pair of bright, shimmering blue eyes. “Ajax!” “Welcome back, CJ. Hey, guys.” The dark-haired doorman for the building on the corner of Lexington Avenue and Seventy-Sixth Street smiled when Owen, Chipper, and Ethan bumped fists with him. “You're all nuts, you know that?” “And exactly why do you think so?” With the other guys trailing, CJ walked inside the lobby in search of warmth. “Because we expect the storm to hit us tomorrow. You may be stuck inside most of the day.” “Don’t worry about it, bud. We’ll find a way to keep ourselves occupied. Hey, Tank. This is Ajax Karalis. He’s our favorite doorman and a friend. Ajax, this is our buddy, Tanix Janda. Better known as Tank. It’s his first trip to the City.” “Welcome to New York, Tank. Sorry about the weather. You may not get a lot of sightseeing in this weekend. But I hope you enjoy your stay anyway.” “Thanks, man! I’m sure we’ll have a good time.” Inside the apartment, CJ’s first stop was the kitchen. He made a list of what he felt they would need for the weekend and handed it to Chipper. “Dude, you and Ethan show Tank around while Ozzie and I head to Brooklyn, okay?” “You’re meeting your friend today?” “Yeah, Robbie suggested this afternoon would be best. On your way back from wherever you guys go, stop and pick up the shit on the list. Make sure you pay, okay? We’ll settle up later. I’ll text you after we’re done and then we’ll meet back here.” He and Owen decided public transit would be too time consuming and instead hailed a taxi for the trek to Brooklyn. The wide, sun-lit space they encountered in the Clinton campaign headquarters was dotted with cubicles and colorful signs. The excited buzz of activity assailed their ears while the riot of colorful posters proclaiming support for the candidate had their eyes dancing, trying to take it all in. “Hey, guys.” It took a few moments for Robbie Mook to greet them in the welcome area after the receptionist alerted him about the visitors. “So glad you’re here!” “How are you, mate? Ready to get snowed in?” The Aussie shook hands with Clinton’s campaign manager while still glancing around the place. “We’re closing down the office early and not opening again until after the storm. Lots of telecommuting on the horizon until then.” Robbie placed an arm around the shoulders of each guy and steered them towards the rear of the space. “Listen, I figured we’d have lunch in the conference room instead of going out. We have a tray of sandwiches from the corner deli.” “That works for me.” CJ removed his knit cap, stuck it in a pocket of his overcoat, and then took off the garment. “A few less minutes outdoors sounds just right.” Robbie introduced them to several campaign staffers and guided them to a conference room with windows facing the Manhattan skyline. He pointed to a long credenza with food piled on top. “Help yourselves and then take a seat. What can I get you guys to drink?” “What are you having?” CJ picked a pickle spear and stuck it in his mouth before taking a plate and placing a pastrami sandwich on it. “Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda but we also have regular ones, water, and some fruit juices.” “I’ll take the same thing you’re having. What about you, Ozzie?” “A Coke, please?” “Be right back. Oh, and I have a couple of people joining us for lunch. I’ll let them know you’re here and ask them to come in and introduce themselves.” The people Robbie wanted them to meet were part of the media group and gave the guys an overview of their plans. At one point in the discussion, there was a knock on the door frame and Hillary Clinton walked in the room. The visitors instinctively stood as she did. “Sit down, please. Sit down. I’ll be heading home to hibernate in a little while but I wanted to say hello before I left. It’s good to see you again, CJ.” “Same here, Mrs. Clinton. Once again, thank you for my birthday present. I’ve watched the first two seasons so far and I love it.” “I had a feeling you would. The West Wing’s one of my favorite shows.” Secretary Clinton turned her attention to the tall blonde towering over her and extended a hand. “Hi. Hillary Clinton. I’ll take a wild guess and assume you’re the boyfriend I’ve heard about.” “Owen Liston, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Secretary Clinton.” “So, I have a few minutes before I need to head out. What have you guys been talking about?” Robbie was quick to respond. “We were telling CJ about the areas we’d like him to speak on. GLBT topics because he’s out to the world. Military affairs since one of his father’s a retired Marine and his late step-father was in the Air Force. And, because of his age, issues important to Millennials. Particularly the environment.” “What about you, Owen?” Clinton had been nodding her head while her campaign manager outlined the plans for CJ. “Will you be making appearances on our behalf too?” He took a quick glance at his boyfriend and received a slight wink. “I don’t think so, Madame Secretary. I’m an Australian citizen and have been in the United States for less than two years. But I’ll be by CJ’s side whenever appropriate. And since my interest’s environmental law, I’ll try to help whenever I can. But behind the scenes only.” Robbie stared at the two young men momentarily. “Guys, we’ve used both your pictures in a few focus groups. The reaction has been quite positive. The two of you are handsome and appeal to both men and women and to all ages. We’re uncertain when or where, but if possible, we may want you to make joint appearances at a fundraising event or two. One other thing, CJ. We’d like to place your name on the list of delegates to the Democratic National Convention.” “Me?” “Yeah, you.” Robbie chuckled while CJ scrunched up his face. “We’re confident we’ll win the DC primary and we’d like you to be part of the slate. Your first election, buddy.” CJ and Owen were the first to return to the apartment. They had enjoyed their late lunch with Robbie and during the evening, Owen would not stop talking about the role his boyfriend would be playing in the campaign. “Who would have thought this is where I’d end up the first time I said I wanted to study in the United States. Rubbing elbows with bloody celebrities and with one of those big shots as my boyfriend.” • • • On Valentine’s Day morning, CJ woke up before Owen as was the norm. After glancing out the window at the Chicago skyline, he walked to the bathroom, closed the door, and started the coffeemaker on the granite-top counter before taking a leak. Using the phone in there, he dialed room service and ordered a carafe of juice, a basket of baked goods, and a plate of sliced fruit. He’d stolen extra coffee pods and tea bags from the housekeeping cart the previous day, so he also requested a container of cream since Owen liked it in both his tea and his coffee. Back in the room, he slipped on a pair of gym shorts and thumbed through his phone while he waited. The knock on the door was loud enough to make Owen stir but not awaken. CJ signed the receipt, charging the meal to their hotel room while the young server who delivered the tray stared at his hairy chest and CJ was certain licked her lips. It was time to wake up his boyfriend. “Morning, Ozzie. Time to get up.” CJ leaned over the man, brushed away stray hairs from his forehead, and gave him a soft kiss on the lips. “You want tea or coffee this morning?” “Tea, please. What time is it?” “A little after eight. I ordered something from room service to tide us over until we meet the family for brunch.” “When are we seeing them?” Owen was coming awake. He scooted back against the headboard and accepted a glass of juice and the painkillers CJ handed him. “Thanks for the pills. Two straight nights of drinking are enough for me. I’ll be staying sober for a long time.” CJ’s laugh made the Aussie cringe; he definitely had a headache. “Yeah, right. That’s until the next wedding. Or until you go out after a rugby match with the team.” “I hate you! How can you be so cheerful this early?” “Because I didn’t drink half what you did last night. I can’t wait to see Randy and Ty this morning. Those two kept knocking back the tequila shots. I betcha they didn’t even have sex on their wedding night!” “Neither did we!” Owen placed the empty glass on the bedside table and threw the covers aside. “I need to hit the bathroom!” “Hurry back and we’ll make up for abstaining last night. I’ll give you something to remember during the flight back to Washington this afternoon. You can think of it as a Valentine’s Day present.” • • • “We have Americans without jobs because dark-skinned, funny-sounding people are being hired instead.” Fran Poulter spewed her vitriol while CJ watched the split screen and cringed. He forced himself to maintain his composure when what he wanted to do was reach through the monitor and throttle the notorious conservative. “Building a wall across our southern border and banning Muslims would be a good way to start taking our country back. And refusing to take in Syrian refugees makes perfect sense. Why should we allow potential terrorists in?” Classes had ended on Friday and CJ had agreed to make appearances for the Clinton campaign during spring break. With Owen and Ritchie in school, he’d asked Bradley and Patrick if they wanted to go with him to the network’s Washington studio on Monday morning. Bradley had lacrosse practice early every day but Patrick jumped at the chance of seeing what he referred to as the magic of television in action. “CJ? I’d guess Secretary Clinton might disagree with Ms. Poulter’s opinions?” MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts sat in the New York City studio while CJ was in Washington. Immigration policy wasn’t one of the areas Robbie Mook had mentioned they wanted CJ to concentrate on but he’d done a little reading the day before to get ready. “Of course she would disagree. And so would most of our fellow citizens. What the Republican presidential candidates and Ms. Poulter propose goes against everything our country stands for. Although I realize there’ll always be bigots around we can’t stand by in silence and allow them to ruin our nation. Let me read you a newspaper quote I recently came across: ‘Last Sunday, thirty Syrian Arabs were landed at Castle Garden. This makes about 3,000 of these people who have thus far come in. Most of them are devoted to one of two industries—thieving and begging. It is time the bars were put up.’ This attitude―” “That is the correct approach to dealing with the hordes of people Clinton and Obama want to set loose in our country!” Poulter’s interruption made CJ smile. Her ranting and raving appealed to fringe, right-wing elements but made her unpopular with more moderate Americans. “If I may finish my comment…” CJ wanted to shout shut up bitch but knew he’d be dealing with her type in the coming months and this was good practice for him. “The quote’s from an 1888 writer in the Boston Journal. Xenophobia’s nothing new in our country. Bigots have been around for a long time. “Our view of immigrants hasn’t always been enlightened. Our treatment of Irish and Italian people at the turn of the century or the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two are blotches in our history. Secretary Clinton’s views are more in line with what the majority of Americans believe today. Our attitudes have evolved. Most of us embrace our diversity and acknowledge the crucial role played by those who have come to the United States from other countries. “We live in an interconnected world. The smart ones amongst us have discarded obsolete approaches while dealing with those different from us. We acknowledge and cherish our multi-cultural society. It’s time we put aside our differences and accept the fact people who look like the three of us can benefit from associating with those of a different skin color, nationality, or religion. It’s not right we treat refugees as second class citizens. If we adopt the views Ms. Poulter has, our country will suffer. And for the sake of our children, we must not allow that to happen.” • • • CJ did a second show the following day appearing on CBS This Morning. The remainder of the week he was at the gym every morning, hung out with the Squad, and cooked dinner for his dads and brother almost every night. On Friday, he granted one more interview but instead of wearing a coat and tie, he was barefoot and shirtless, sprawled out on the couch, wearing cotton gym shorts. It was a telephone interview with a Mexican radio network conducted in Spanish. “Bruh! You ready?” Harley had flown to Wisconsin the previous Friday, spent a day at his grandparents’ dairy farm outside Oshkosh, and then ridden his motorcycle back to Washington. “Almost…” CJ glanced up at his friend while lacing up his boots. He had traded vehicles with Owen and his boyfriend drove the Jeep to school leaving behind the 2008 red Harley-Davidson Fat Boy for CJ to use. He and Harley were spending the day riding. “You want anything to drink?” “Nah, had a Mountain Dew right after texting you. I’m ready to go.” “Great! Let me grab the brain bucket and we can get on the road.” The guys rode across the Francis Scott Key Bridge into Virginia and then headed north on the George Washington Parkway. Instead of full ones, they wore half helmets, leaving their faces exposed to the sun and the wind. The feeling of freedom CJ experienced as they followed the road hugging the Potomac River shoreline was one of the reasons he loved riding a motorcycle. Leaning into a curve―man and machine performing as one―was something which couldn’t be experienced inside a metal cage. And that was what a car was most of the time: a prison trapping the driver inside and disconnecting him from his surroundings. “I’ve never been here before. It looks kinda cool.” Harley stared at the wood-clad, barn-like structure as he retrieved two water bottles from a saddlebag and handed one to CJ. “Are you serious? You’ve never been here? I can’t believe that!” CJ had allowed Harley to lead them while on the GW Parkway. The moderate speed the lanky skater set allowed them to experience the thrill of the ride without turning the landscape into a blur. Near the end, they’d switched position and CJ guided them to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. “We’re gonna have to fix that.” “Why did you want to stop if you’ve been here before?” CJ tossed the empty water bottle to Harley and started walking towards the building. “Because whenever I’ve been with the dads, the place’s always full of cars and people. I wanted to look around and take pictures with it empty.” “So when were you here last?” “Last summer. We came in May to watch a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. Do you know what that is?” “Yeah, a show on public radio with some guy out of Minnesota. My grandparents listen to it all the time. He’s okay, I guess.” “Dude! That’s Garrison Keillor. It’s like the longest running show in the US and it’s funny as shit. We need to start getting some culture in you, Harley.” “Yeah, whatever. Can we go to lunch now? I’m getting hungry. Oh, and if we’re all going out to the movies tonight, I’m hanging out at your place the rest of the day. We can play pool and stuff but I’ll need to borrow a shirt after I shower.” • • • Owen still slept as CJ rolled out of bed, used the bathroom, and after slipping on a pair of boxers, headed upstairs in search of coffee. School was over and done with. He had his last exam the previous week and graduation from Walls would be on Tuesday. It was almost nine and he needed painkillers. The previous night he had gone out with Owen and most of his Scandals Rugby Football Club and he had more than his share of alcohol. The hangover was not too bad but he suspected he would be dragging his ass for a while. Being a Sunday morning, CJ expected to have the house to himself for a few hours so he was surprised when he found his dads, Tom, JP, and Dragon nursing mugs of coffee watching the television screen on the first floor. “Morning. What are y’all doing up this early?” CJ’s voice was raspy due to his night of partying. “Good morning, buddy. You look like shit.” César stood and walked towards the kitchen where his son was pouring himself coffee. “What time did you and Ozzie get home?” “Not sure, Dad. It was late. We closed down the bar. Tank and a few of the other guys wanted to go to someone’s place and keep drinking but I’d had enough so we called an Uber. What’s going on? Why are you people so quiet? Did something happen? Is that why you’re all staring at the TV? ” He walked behind his father when César motioned to follow, heading towards the front of the room where the older man took up his spot on the couch next to Brett once again. There was a box of tissues atop the coffee table and lots of them crumpled on the floor. CJ noticed all the men had moist eyes and Dragon’s were particularly red. The big black guy shook his head and dabbed at his face. “There was a shooting in Orlando last night, CJ. Some asshole walked into a gay nightclub and started firing. We don’t have a good idea of the number of people murdered. But they’re calling it the worst massacre in US history.” CJ felt as if the air had been taken out of the room. He placed his mug on the table and sank to the floor; his back rested against the couch between his dads’ legs. “Fuck! Did they catch the bastard?” “Fucker’s dead.” Brett’s words were clipped growls. “Cops stormed the place around five this morning and killed him.” “Do we know who he is or why he did it?” “What difference does it make?” Dragon was not his usual boisterous self. The tone struck CJ hard; Devon Jefferson was like his fathers and their other friends―someone who confronted problems and dealt with them. Right now he sounded defeated. “Remember you and I talking about going to bars? How they were a place the gay community could be itself and not be judged? It was fucking Latin Night! It’s the kind of night I would have loved to be in there. I… I… SHIT!” “I’m sorry…” CJ didn’t know what else to say. When Dragon put his head down, covered his face with his hands, and started sobbing, he realized in some ways he could not relate to what they were feeling. He had been to a few gay bars in the past months―thanks to the fake ID Sean had given him as a present―but it was not the same. He did not have the same sense of belonging the older men experienced. His life was different. He felt the pain but most of all he was angry. “As much as my fellow cops may disagree with me, these are the times I wish more people would carry concealed weapons.” Tom Kennedy, a District of Columbia Police Detective, wasn’t known for advocating violence and his statement took them all by surprise. “If assholes like this guy knew a few fags and dykes carried guns and could defend themselves, maybe this crap wouldn’t happen. I’m glad you own one now and you carry it around, CJ.” Thiago was the first one to text. He wanted to know if CJ was awake and if he had seen the news. Before replying, he looked at his dads and the men he acknowledged as uncles; their shock and sadness made him realize he wanted his friends around him too. He texted Thiago back, inviting him to come over whenever he wanted. CJ suspected there wouldn’t be much going on this Sunday. Deciding it was time to wake Owen up, CJ stood and returned to the kitchen to fix his boyfriend a cup of coffee. César’s phone rang at the same time his did. He listened to his dad greet Dr. Matt Calhoun―their friend and family physician―and invite him to come over to the house and bring his partner Dasan along. CJ at last answered his own phone. “Hey, Patrick.” Figuring out there were more people coming over, CJ started a fresh pot of coffee. “Yeah, your dads are here and I think they’ll be staying for a while. Turn on the news. Dragon’s also here and Doc and Dash are coming by too. So’s Thiago. Scoot over whenever you want to, we’ll be here. And let Brad know.” His phone chirped again while he opened up the freezer in the pantry and retrieved a bag of bagels. It was Chipper, letting him know he was tagging along with Matt and Dasan. “Hey, dads, gonna go wake up Ozzie. I started a fresh pot and took bagels out to defrost. Chipper’s coming with Doc and Dash and Thiago will be here soon. Patrick called looking for Tom and JP. I told him to turn on the TV and then come over whenever he and Brad wanted to.” “Dude, take out more bagels. Danno just texted us. He and Trip are on the way too. Do we need them to bring anything?” Brett looked sad when his eyes met CJ’s. He ran a hand over his short-cropped hair and sighed. CJ wasn’t used to seeing his tough Marine father looking so lost. So beaten. “Yeah, tell them to stop somewhere and get cream cheese and a couple cartons of OJ. I think we’re gonna have a full house pretty soon. I’m going to go get Ozzie, okay?” JP spoke before CJ reached the stairs. “Please ask him to text or e-mail his family. Even though they’ll hear this happened in Florida, they’re going to worry.” As soon as he reached the basement, he heard Owen’s phone chime and grabbed it from the coffee table his boyfriend had dropped it on the previous evening. Walking into the bedroom, he put the mugs and phone on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed next to his sleeping man. Running a hand through the Aussie’s hair he tried to imagine someone walking into the bar they had been at the previous night and opening fire. It was too gruesome an image and he shook his head trying to dispel it. “Hey, babe. Time to wake up.” CJ used the remote control to turn on and mute the television set. The local station’s weekend anchors were at their desk, images from Orlando playing on a corner of the screen and a ticker running along the bottom repeating the news. Owen ran a hand over his face and opened first one eye and then the other one. “G’day. What’s going on? You almost always let me sleep late on Sundays.” He shifted his gaze to the television screen and smirked. “Damn you’re turning into a junkie. Did you turn on the TV to get your fix of politics?” “Not this morning. There… there was a shooting at a gay club in Orlando last night. Lots of injured people and quite a few dead.” “WHAT?” Owen was definitely awake now. “What happened?” “That’s as much as I know. Tom, JP and Dragon are upstairs with the dads. And the rest of their group’s coming over. Check your phone. You have a message and I think it’s from some of our friends. Thiago, Chipper, and the Kennedy brothers already called or texted and are also coming over.” Owen reached for his phone and ran his finger over the screen to unlock it. “Two messages. Ethan and Tank. Wow! About the same from both. They want to know if I’m awake and suggest I turn on the news.” “Text them back and tell them to come over if they want to. I’m going to jump in the shower and put on some clothes. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long morning.” By the time CJ was done and opened the bathroom door Owen was lucid. He stepped into the shower stall as soon as CJ vacated the room. “Harley texted both of us. I sent him a message letting him know we were all getting together here.” “Okay. I’m gonna wake up Ritchie.” He didn’t have to. When he walked upstairs he found his brother sitting at the breakfast bar next to Patrick, both of them with a Coke can in front of them. “I’m sorry, CJ. I… I’m glad you’re safe.” The younger boy jumped off the stool as soon as his brother walked into the room. He wrapped his arms around CJ and wouldn’t let go. “Hey, hey. I’m okay. We’re all fine. This shit was in Orlando.” “Yeah, but what if it happened here? I mean, it could, you know?” “True, but it could happen anywhere. It was a gay club in Florida last night but it could happen anywhere. Are you going to hide in the house from now on? Is that what you want me to do?” Ritchie let go of his brother and stared into CJ’s eyes. “No… I’m… I’m just scared. Why do so many people hate gays?” “I’m going back home to shower and change.” Patrick stood and spoke loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. “If anyone wants to join me, I’m going to church. Services are at ten.” “I’ll go with you. But I need to shower and get dressed too,” Ritchie said. “I’ll go with you guys. I’ll just throw on some jeans right before we leave.” Owen had walked upstairs wearing shorts and a polo shirt. “CJ?” “I don’t think so, Ozzie. But you three go ahead. I’ll be here. I don’t want to leave the dads and we’re going to have a full house by the time you guys get back. I’m gonna slice some fruit and get the bagels ready to feed everyone.” He looked at his phone when it pinged again and saw a message from Robbie Mook telling him he might be asked to speak on behalf of the campaign and begging him to call as soon as possible. • • • Ethan slipped in between CJ and Owen and draped an arm around each of the men. “Alright, CJ, what the heck were you and your Dad arguing about before we left your place?” He glanced to the side and nodded toward the muscular blonde on the other side of Owen. “Tank and I heard you guys shouting at each other while we waited for the Uber. Are you in trouble?” “Nah, it’s fine. It’s not the first time I get into a loud argument with one of the dads. And I betcha it won’t be the last.” “Can I ask what the fight was about? I’ve never seen you argue with them.” Tank was the newest member of CJ’s Squad and had yet to spend significant time around César and Brett. “The dads are cool, but now and then they get protective of their little boy, mate.” Owen squeezed CJ’s hand for a moment. “César didn’t want us coming out tonight.” “But why?” Tank sounded surprised and confused. “The little I’ve seen of the two of them they always sound very supportive of whatever you want to do.” The four men slowed down as they approached the crowd on Dupont Circle. A group of Muslim women had organized a candlelight vigil in memory of the Pulse shooting victims. “Thank you.” CJ accepted the plastic cup with a candle inside it and waited as the woman handed each of his friends one and then lit them. “They are supportive, Tank. But after those nasty comments on my old Twitter account, they’re always warning me to be extra careful.” Owen took CJ’s hand once again and interlaced their fingers. “César’s concerned about safety tonight. He’s worried a bunch of Muslims organizing an event for a bunch of gay people could bring out the loonies.” “Isn’t that why they bought you Lola? Are you carrying it tonight?” Tank had previously been introduced to the Sig Sauer p226 Brett had bought for his son and CJ had named Lola. CJ had worn motorcycle boots, jeans, a t-shirt, and the new leather vest Danno and Trip had given him the day before as an early graduation present. “Yep.” He patted the vest where a small bulge could be seen if one looked close enough. “This has a built-in holster. Papa insisted I carry it when Robbie asked me to say a few words tonight on behalf of Secretary Clinton.” “Nice vest!” Trip’s voice made the guys whirl around. CJ smiled and gave the man a quick hug. “What you doing here, Trip?” “My job.” Charles Beauregard Houston, III―Trip to his friends―was a reporter. “Covering the vigil by talking to participants. Your dads mentioned you might be speaking tonight. That still on?” “I guess…” CJ was hesitant. “I’m supposed to meet someone from the campaign. They thought I’d be the right spokesperson tonight what with me being gay and some of these people having already seen me on TV. Dad wasn’t happy about it.” All five men reached for their phones at the same time when they chirped. “Speak of the devil.” Trip chuckled as he read the text message. “César’s being his usual anal-retentive, thorough self. Take a look at who he sent this to. All the Elite and I’ll guess the other ones are the Squad.” CJ shook his head and smiled. His dad wanted them all to remember the next day was meant to be a celebration and asked them not to let the massacre in Orlando mar Walls’ graduation ceremonies. The previous day had been a blur with so many friends sitting around the house talking and sometimes shedding tears. “Leave it to Dad to think ahead.” A while later, as he stood with a microphone in hand, CJ estimated there were a few hundred people in the crowd. “Good evening. My name’s CJ Abelló and I’m here representing Hillary Clinton. On behalf of the secretary, I want to add her voice to ours as we mourn this horrible loss. She wants you to know her prayers are with us.” He paused as he tried to decide what else to say. “That’s my official statement. But as a gay man I have something else in mind I’d like to share. “When a presidential candidate ignores the massacre victims in his tweet. When he instead pats himself on the back and claims he’s being congratulated for his remarks against terrorists. When the lieutenant governor of one of our largest states sends out a bible verse implying it was the victims’ fault they were killed because of their sexual orientation. When politicians keep trying to make us into second class citizens, it’s time we stand up and speak. “Tonight, we eulogize. Tomorrow, we organize. For the fight is far from over. It may never be. But if we stand together, if we join our voices and speak as one, we can and will make a difference. So I urge you to go out and get involved. Go out and speak up. Go out and work for candidates who support us. Go out and be heard. Let the world know we’re not victims. And let them know we’re ready to fight back! We will not be cowed and we will not be silenced. ” • • • “I can get used to reading newspaper articles the day before they get published.” Brett thumbed through his phone, reading the message Trip had sent him and César. They were in bed and the bedroom door was open; they had heard CJ and Owen come home but had not talked to them. “I know, right? Let’s talk about CJ. I may not have wanted him to go out tonight but I have to say our damn kid continues to impress me. He’s turning into one heck of a public speaker.” César sounded like the proud father he was. “Yeah, but I’m pissed at him. He mentioned the tweets from those two assholes but never said their names outright.” “Yeah, well, that’s the budding politician. He’s learning how to set the bridges on fire but not burn them down. And I think skipping their names was effective. It’s a way of not validating their comments.” “That’s your fault he’s so careful choosing his words. You and your damn politeness.” “Fuck you, Jarhead. He’s yours too. So you get some of the blame. I must say him not mentioning Trump by name surprised me at first. But the more I think about it, the more I believe it was the right choice.” “No more surprising than when he sent that nice message to Rubio after the Senator dropped his presidential bid.” “That, was masterful. After ripping Little Marco a new asshole on more than one occasion, he turns around and plays nice. But he was smart. Rubio may not be thrilled with losing to Trump and Cruz but he’ll remember that when he was down, CJ was nice to him. Our boy’s going to have an ally in the Senate if he ever needs one.”
  6. 51 points
    He was a prince. Well, that sort of put a damper on my hopes about Peter and any future. He might have been receptive, but there would be no future. How could there be? I was assuming the same rules I had been taught applied for this situation were just…it wasn’t done, but what did I know? I knew there were plenty of royals that were homosexual…but kept quiet about it. Usually. What was it they have in Makarovia that was now so important? The weeks were passing and I couldn’t help it. I liked Peter. What I saw was even as his face…and I assumed the rest of his body as I hadn’t seen it his body…was clearing of that horrible acne he had. I figured with that one hurdle being taken care of, his self-esteem would improve. The others at Northeastern were noticing Peter’s improved appearance. He was a handsome man, but Peter preferred to spend his time with me. He would come over and study at my apartment. I didn’t mind, but…could I be just a friend to the man? He was active. He was doing something...hockey probably. Ice hockey, thinking where Makarovia was on the map. They had cold, cold winters. That’s what I read. I was a runner. Track and field was what I preferred and I did run often. Yuri was still watching Peter carefully, but was giving Peter more freedom and space. I was curious often, but I really didn’t pry. If there was something I needed to know, I might mention it, but let the other person tell me if they wanted to. Peter was beginning to drive me crazy. He was only irritating in that…he liked me, I could tell. Did he make any moves on me? No. Still…if his time with me said anything to me. He enjoyed my company. He would help me financially…as in he would bring over groceries and even cook…only twice. After two meals he cooked…I insisted I cook. Was he my friend because I knew who he really was? He felt safe with me? Sure. I could accept that. I was getting frustrated. It was a small apartment and we often would touch, whether we wanted to or not…it would happen as we passed each other. He had the nicest smile and my thoughts were telling me to touch him more! Damn it! Usually I’d have to take care of it myself to get my erection down after he left! When he brought some more things I needed to wash, he brushed my arm. He was sending lightening through me. Did he do it on purpose? This had to stop one way or the other. I let out a frustrated groan and turned quickly. “This may end us as being friends, but…I’m gay and I’m really very attracted to you!” He wasn’t offended. He knew! “I thought you could tell I was attracted to you. I like you very much.” Then he got a little bashful. “My life has been sort of complicated and…I wasn’t kidding about never dating. In a situation like this, I didn’t really know what more I should…” I nodded, but right then…I didn’t really care. I pulled him close and kissed him pretty intensely, pressing my lips hard against his, which only took not even a second before he was kissing me back, just as intense! His arms went around me pulling me even closer to him. I felt his hands travel over my back as mine were going over his, and I liked what I felt there! He was warm, solid and getting warmer as he was breathing harder. There was a surge I felt. Desire and yes, I was getting light headed. This was dangerous, because now, I didn’t want to stop. I pushed him slightly away as I caught my breath. “We need to talk.” I managed in a croaking voice. “You want this, don’t you? You kissed me.” Peter asked and I sensed the Peter I’d met when we first met come back; the less confident Peter. “I do!” I almost whined. “Oh god, I really do, but…how will this work?” I asked. “Are we just fooling around? You may have obligations, I wouldn’t know about.” I looked in his grey-green eyes as I saw the apprehension there. “I’m not saying no, Peter, but…if we do this, there will be emotions involved for me.” I sighed. “I’d love to get to know you that way.” Peter nodded. “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?” I waved at him. “But you’re more…” there was no other word, “complicated.” Peter nodded a little. “You see that.” He said sadly. “I would like to have someone in my life, but it will be complicated.” He let me go and started to walk away. “Being just Peter was great! You and I became friends without the swinging pendulum. I can’t tell you what’s ahead, because I’ve never done this before.” He sat on my daybed. “I was hoping the someone in my life could be you.” “You’ve never done this before? You’ve had sex before with a guy.” Peter chuckled. “Not a lot, but there were…a couple in the past, but nothing serious.” He looked at me. “I was hoping…it could be serious with you.” He said hopefully. I came and sat by him. “So, you weren’t planning to just slap a condom on and just…do it.” Peter looked at me surprised, but smiled. “I can…” he chuckled, “just do it, but…I would welcome the opportunity to find out if there could be more. I think there could be.” “You think we could get serious?” I asked a little…well…those of us that are gay are becoming more accepted, but… “What do you think we can be other than secret lovers? You can’t marry me.” Peter nodded. “Not until someone proposes first.” He smiled. “Peter, you are in a royal family!” I said like that would be enough. “So?” “So!?” I repeated. “You said that things were about to change in Makarovia. Why?” Peter looked now like he was battling something else. “It is going to change.” He turned to me. “I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone…” he sighed. “We have uranium; a lot of it.” I gave a shrug. “It’s found other places. I can see where this would be profitable for Makarovia.” Peter held a finger up. “If we are kept independent. That’s the problem.” “Let’s go back to the whole gay thing before we go to the other problem.” I said. “You can’t be out!” I stated. “Out?” Then he nodded as he thought what that meant. “Oh, yes, out. My family knows I’m gay. I am out.” “That can’t be okay with them!” Peter looked confused. “It doesn’t matter if they are okay with it or not. It is just the way it is. You said you looked up Makarovia on the Internet. You saw our history, didn’t you?” “Hey, I read over it, but I don’t remember seeing anything about it being okay for a prince to be gay in Makarovia.” I growled. “When you first said where you were from, my first thought was, Makarovia? Where the hell is that?” Peter chuckled again. “You read that we harbored all the unwanted that came to us, from other parts when Hitler was doing his ethnic cleansing?” “Yes.” “We hid everyone…including homosexuals.” He shrugged. “When the war was over, if they wanted to, they were welcome to stay.” “You welcomed them.” “Sure.” Peter nodded. “Homosexuals, Jews, Gypsies…everyone that wanted to stay; were welcome to stay. We didn’t just tolerate them. They became a part of Makarovia. Life was hard for a while and many did stay, but it wasn’t easy. The USSR came in and…we were left alone…as long as we kept the iron coming.” He looked at me hopeful. “I don’t know what life will be like with me.” He confessed. “But if you’re worried about my brother or mother not accepting you because we’re gay…forget that. It is. They know that. We’ll either date…like each other enough to explore the possibility of something more serious, or go our separate ways.” He rolled a little closer. “To see if it can work…” he hesitated. “How about you attend a Makarovian function?” “Like a dinner or something?” Peter nodded. “If you can weather what’s happening…” “I’ll go as your date?” Peter nodded. “Are you willing?” “Why not?” I threw my hands out. “It must be here, it can’t be in Makarovia.” Peter shook his head. “No, but it won’t be here. We’re meeting with some other political heads. It’s in Washington, D.C….at the White House.” “The White House.” I hated that I kept repeating what he told me, but this was…blowing my mind! “The President of the United States’ White House.” I didn’t want to know, but I’m sure my face told him what my mind was going through. “The President of the United States.” “We’ve asked for his and some other countries to help us. They would have access to what we have, if they help us keep it!” Peter said. “This dinner is part of that to get support.” He looked at me curious. “Is that a problem?” “It’s not a problem, but it’s a very big deal!” I said. “There will be security questions and clearances…” “You’re not a criminal, Eric.” Peter said simply. “You’re not a terrorist. You’ll pass. Will you come with me? I’d like you to be there.” This was happening so fast. I was getting a bit overwhelmed. “It’s formal.” Peter nodded. “It is.” “I don’t even have a tux!” Peter shrugged. “I know there’s a place here where they rent them.” He could see I was…in a state of disbelief. “I trust you, Eric. I’ve told you things no one knows except for those in government know about.” He moved again close to me. “I like you, Eric. I’m falling in love with you, but if it’s too much…” This time, I slowly leaned in kissing him gently. I looked at him. “I will go with you.” I said softly. “With you.” I said. “I’d love to be with you. This is just a huge responsibility. Forgive me, I am just having the issue with that.” “It is.” Peter nodded, his face so close I could feel him breath. “I asked you because of how I feel about you. I think you can handle it, or I wouldn’t have asked.” “You want a relationship with me.” I said to be certain. “I hope we can have one. I believe we will, if we both want it.” Peter nodded. “We can try.” “You’re willing to move on with this…relationship?” He shrugged. “We sort of have to.” He grinned. “We kissed. It’s kind of an obligation.” I pushed him back on the daybed. “Want to do kiss again…” I smiled, “and maybe something more?” “Definitely.” Peter kissed me again, slow and with desire again flowing, not only through me, but through him. Due to having gotten him new clothes that were…tighter fitting, I felt the front of his pants grow harder. “Touch me.” Peter said softly. I didn’t need to be asked again as I was pulling on his shirt to get it off. I never really got a look at him outside of clothing, but I wasn’t disappointed as I gazed over his bare chest. He worked out or something. He hadn’t spent a lot of time in the sun so his skin was a little pale, but his chest was lightly covered with very black hairs that showed up in a sharp contrast. I sat up more and pulled my own shirt over my head. Peter smiled at me. “You’re so beautiful.” He said as his hand went over my equally bare chest. “I am feeling…more affection for you.” Then he sat up a little. “You have what we need?” “Well, I have lube...for…” I said did the motion with my hand indicating jerking off is what I used it for. “I even have condoms…in hopes I would find someone to use them with.” Peter chuckled. “I know about…” he did the same motion I had given him. “I’m clean. No diseases or infections. You don’t have sex with anyone else, you don’t sleep around…” “I don’t have any diseases or infections either.” I said. “You want to make love?” Peter smiled a little softer. “I do.” Then…Makarovian was similar to Ukrainian, but he used a term I had to gather the meaning. “Do you wish to отримувати любов or ай любові?” “Was that bottoming and topping?” I asked in English to be sure. Peter’s eyes grew humorous as he had to think what I meant. “Yes.” “With you? Both.” “I do, too.” Peter said pulling me down more and kissing me with desire sending more sensations through me. “I do have one thing.” I said smiling as I unfastened my pants. “Oh?” “It’s kind of a fetish.” I grinned and lowered my head down, raised his arm and stuck my nose in his armpit and darted my tongue in his hair there making him yelp a laugh as he was apparently ticklish. “Will you let me do that?” Peter chuckled. “You just did!” “Can I do it again?” He nodded. “Sure. You’re not into pain or anything, are you?” I frowned. “How could I ever hurt you?” I shook my head. “No, I don’t get any pleasure from pain, giving or receiving.” He nodded, smiling with relief. “It’s been a few years since I had sex with anyone.” “Same with me.” I confessed. “We’ll take it slow. This will be our first time together. Not sex. I want to make love with you, Peter. We won’t just be having sex.” “That’s what I want.” I got up. “It’s getting cold out.” I said. “I’ll start the heater up and get the lubrication.” Peter sat up and began unfastening his own pants. “We’ll need heat a little…” he looked at me, “I want us naked a while.” I laughed. “I want to see you, too.” The heat on and lube, I had removed the rest of my clothes as I walked back. I saw his eyes as he looked at me. “You’re so beautiful.” Peter said as he stretched out naked over the top of my bed which he had pulled out to give us more room. He had a trail of black hair that seemed to spill out of his naval and trickled down to a patch of thick black hair at his crotch. I knew he’d be uncircumcised, I wasn’t sure what country did and didn’t, but I knew the part of the world he came from, didn’t. What I also saw, was now his penis was more than ready. He was aroused and so was I. We took it slow, enjoying our bodies before we began to make love. Using our hands, tongues and mouths to get it started. He was going to make love to me first. People who can’t see why or how men make love to each other just don’t know. There are sensations only a man can feel that are so powerful. Without getting too graphic, when he entered me, I felt every inch of him slide into me and he was not a small man in height or the size of his penis. Slowly he began pumping and I felt…we were connecting. When finished saying he was falling in love with me and I felt it him cum in a mighty burst. Then he simply got in position to have me do it to him. Again, slowly. He was loving what he was feeling, it was on his face. Our kisses were still consuming, but as I felt my nearing climax, I told him. “I’m falling in love with you, Peter.” I said and came deep inside him. Nature was finished and things were less urgent now. We had done one of the most important thing one person could do with another. Our kiss now was more…letting the other know how important what we’d done was to each other. “Can you call Yuri in a minute?” I asked softly. “Tell him you’re staying the night with me? I don’t want you to leave.” Peter shook his head as he smiled. “I don’t want to leave either.” When Yuri came to the apartment this time, I was waiting with Peter who was holding my hand as the car stopped. “Yuri, we need to get a couple of tuxedos. I’ve found a couple of places online.” Peter instructed. “Let’s go.” Yuri just looked back at me questioning. “He knows, Yuri.” Peter said. “He found out by looking up Makarovia in the internet. He even knows why we’re going to the White House. It’s fine. He’s my date.” He held our joined hands up. “Why did you let me take you to Walmart?” I asked him as we started off. Peter smiled a little sheepish. “Because I didn’t know where to go or what I should look like, but like you said; I wanted to be like Americans, now I do.” He sighed again. “This money thing is new.” “Why?” He looked at me. “When we found a large deposit of uranium. Now all the countries are going to want in.” He explained. “We were offered incentives to go in particular directions. The United States offered the best.” Now it made sense. “I see.” I nodded. “Why the whole man out of sorts routine at the beginning?” Peter looked at me questioning. “What are you talking about?” “Were you always looking and acting like you were out of sorts and had no esteem.” Peter looked a little embarrassed. “Olek was the one everyone looked to for answers. He was the playboy. Not me. I was out of sorts. It was no routine.” “How could anyone stand by and watch you be in misery?” I asked. “You were miserable.” He chuckled. “I’m not miserable now.” He shook his head. “You saw me. I was pathetic.” He grinned. “Until you showed up, I was lost. Our Economics Professor did me a big favor, pair us up. You just wouldn’t give up. You drew me out. You made me laugh.” “I had to.” I said simply. “I couldn’t be partnered with you and let you be miserable! I understand this deposit gives you power and potential money, but someone had to see how bad it was with you.” “I was 19 when they found the deposit.” He explained. “It’s a huge deposit, bigger than the one in Australia and very powerful. Mining it won’t be a problem; we’ve mined iron for generations. This is very deep. My mother was appearing with my brother asking the United States and England to help protect it. To protect us.” I shook my head. “You’re not understanding me. I’m not talking about Makarovia. I’m talking about you.” I sighed. “I hear what you’re saying about what your brother and mother are trying to do and they were busy. I understand it’s important. I’m talking about you.” I looked at him. “You tell me you were lost. You wanted to fit in with the West. Where was your family? Didn’t your brother or mother see this?” He sighed. “It wasn’t all their fault. It was mine, too.” Peter said sadly. “This is new for us. I spent all of my life in Makarovia. In the palace. I lacked the social exposure and I refused to be with other people. Being the second in line for the throne of a small kingdom, I was never made to be out with other people. I just sort of studied and well…” he looked away. “I was hideous to look at and I felt safe hiding.” “You were not hideous.” I was trying to understand. “They had to see you were not happy. I could see it right after we met.” He shook his head. “Olek was always away, doing something…the same with my mother. Mother is still very much the Queen. Olek is King and they were just better at being out with others. That was their job. Not mine.” I decided to drop it. I might never understand. “Look, Peter. I like you, really, I do.” I confessed. “But where will a relationship with me get you? You’re a prince. I’m no one.” “You are not no one.” He shook his head. “When you asked me about being my friend, you didn’t know who I was other than Peter, correct?” I nodded. “Why?” “I liked you. You are a nice guy.” He nodded. “The fact that I was pretty well covered in acne didn’t bother you.” I nodded again. “That wasn’t your fault. It’s a medical condition. Which, by the way, has gone away now.” I ran a hand over his unblemished face. He chuckled. “Again, thanks to you. You saw the problem and made me deal with it.” “It just bothered me, because it bothered you.” I explained. Peter smiled. “It bothered me. Not you. So, why help me?” I shrugged. “To give you the means to get out, make friends. I could see it was holding you back.” I grinned. “And I was attracted to you.” “Even with the acne?” “That’s beside the point.” I shook my head. “That shouldn’t be a hindrance to who you are. I saw that. I liked the you I saw.” Peter nodded again. “That’s why you’re here. You liked me before you knew who I was; you helped me without asking for anything in return, but friendship.” Then he smiled. “And for how a relationship would be, if there is to be one with me. Would you object?” My head was spinning. We hadn’t even dated, not really other than the student union, Walmart, the mall and my apartment. “I would be less interested if you came at me as Prince Petro Ivanov. I’d be fine, if it were just Peter. I’m fine with you.” I shook my head again at the unexpected chain of events. “Pete, I came here for an education, not to enter a relationship at all.” Then I looked again at him. “It’s not that I wouldn’t want one with you, I just wasn’t looking for one, but this was…unexpected.” He kissed me gently. “I wasn’t expecting a relationship either.” “I don’t know.” I admitted. I held my hands up. “Let’s just….get through this one date.” Then I chuckled, “though it would be hard for anyone to top a dinner party at the White House for a first major date.” “I need you.” Peter said softly. “We’ve spent several weeks together. I do like you a lot and we are falling in love. We made love. I would have asked you out before.” He shrugged. “But this isn’t my country; I didn’t know where to go at first. My experiences has been limited socially. This isn’t my President, but I have to make a good impression for my family and for Makarovia. Just help me not make a fool of myself.” “Aw, Peter.” I said quietly. “You won’t make a fool of yourself. You’re kind and you certainly know what fork to use when.” He chuckled at that. “Why do you think you would make a fool of yourself?” Peter looked very uncomfortable. “I always fear I will. My mother is beautiful and been around the world. My brother is practiced as a diplomat and is very handsome. He is King. I was always in the shadows. I just need…a friend to be with me. I feel different with you. More confident.” I nodded. “I will be. I’m with you.” Peter smiled and rested his head against mine. He had some things he was dealing with about his family. I didn’t know if I wanted to meet them. Boston did have some exclusive shops. The one we went that had every major designer formal wear for men. “Makarovia is paying for my tux.” Peter said. “They will pay for yours, too. You are going to a function for Makarovia, asked to by me. We have to pay for yours.” It was fun picking out a tuxedo, but I hated that they were paying for it. I told you, he was a paradox! It didn’t make sense. He was shy to everyone, except me. He was well mannered, but lacked confidence. The truth was, saying what we did to each other about falling in love, was not just an utterance in the heat of passion. I was falling in love with him. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I didn’t want to be hurt either. We looked and did decide on a couple of tuxedos though. Sharp looking, too. We only had a week before the dinner was scheduled. And I had to give some representative of the U.S. Government my information for security clearance. The Thursday before we left, I was picked up from my apartment and got my first look at Peter’s home while here. It was a townhouse downtown. A pretty ritzy neighborhood. Peter opened the front door for me. “Here’s where I live.” He said looking to see what I thought. Well, it was no embassy, but very tastefully decorated. And while not sprawling, it was nicely arranged room wise. There was an entrance circular black and white marble floored foyer that stood two stories. A chandelier hung overhead and a staircase spiraled up to a recessed portion above. To the left was a living room. A hallway at the end of the foyer went to other rooms. Peter walked with me down the hall to a large kitchen where a man was busy with gathering some pots and preparing to make a meal. “Boris?” Peter greeted the man, about forty. “This is…” Peter smiled at me, “my very special guest. Eric Richards. He will be joining us for dinner and breakfast.” Peter said in Makarovian. The man didn’t even blink. “Very good, sir.” He smiled. “Will there be a change in dinner time?” Peter shook his head. “No. The same time as usual.” “Welcome, Mr. Richards.” The man bowed slightly. “I pretty much take care of the house. If you need anything, just ask.” I nodded. “Thanks.” The townhouse was three stories, but Peter led me up to the next floor and into a room. Now, this was a huge bedroom. The center on the far wall was a king sized bed. “Well, this is where I sleep.” Peter smiled. “You wanted to see the place once before. What do you think?” It looked like it came out of one of those magazines like Architectural Digest. The only thing that said it was his was his computer at the desk. “It’s nice.” I turned to Peter. “I guess this isn’t really home, is it?” Peter looked surprised. “No…but why do you say that?” I shrugged. “Nothing here says Peter. Other than the computer, there are no pictures of home, family or even a hockey stick in the corner.” Peter chuckled. “A hockey stick? How’d you know I played hockey?” I grinned. “You come from a mountainous area of some cold mountains. I did research. Ice Hockey is often played there, what else is there with ice? You look as if you do something. It gets cold there, so it just made sense.” Peter nodded. “You’re right. This isn’t home, it’s not even rented. As long as we pay the bills…utilities…your government allows us to stay here.” I looked at Peter. “Can I ask a personal question?” Peter’s eyes grew. “You’re asking that now?” “You said you’ve not been able to date.” I said quietly. “But you’re had sex.” Peter nodded. “With two people.” He walked to the sitting area in front of a nice fireplace and sat on the sofa. “My first was when I was 18. He was a guard.” I nodded. “Only one for me.” I sat in a chair beside him. “Chuck. He was a football player in high school.” I looked at him and asked, “Have you ever been in love?” Peter shook his head. “I’ve been in like, but not in love…” he smiled at me, “but getting there now. It feels very different with you.” I smiled. “I was.” I confessed. “The reason I asked, was I heard you say you hadn’t dated, so I was wondering how you knew you were falling for me?” “I was drawn to you shortly after we met. I longed to touch you.” Then he looked at me with a leering smile. “You gave me many erections I had to do something about.” “That’s just lust.” “So?” Peter asked. “That’s what we’re supposed to feel for another human being.” My eyes widened. “And how do you know that?” “I read!” Peter shot back. “Knowing what was supposed to happen...” he kissed me lightly, “and having it happen…is different. So what happened to Chuck?” “In the United States, it is getting easier for gays to live. Things are more tolerant, but even here….a football player that gay? They aren’t welcome. That was Chuck’s feelings. I loved him, but…” “And you want to be sure the next time.” Peter nodded. “And being what I am, gives you doubts.” I shook my head quickly. “No, no doubts about you at all. I just don’t want to be a problem with your family…or your country.” Peter nodded. “Makarovia was always repressed. That’s why lives were accepted there more than anywhere else. In fact, Boris and his husband have been married almost fifteen years.” “He’s gay?” I asked surprised. “And married to Yuri.” Peter smiled. “That’s why I was surprised when you asked if Yuri was my boyfriend. Even when the Soviets were in power, we set policy in Makarovia. Homosexuals have always been welcome. In Boris’ and Yuri’s case, they fled Russia to Makarovia for that reason. Jews and others were also welcome, but few Jews stayed after World War II. Marriage was never really a question in Makarovia. An adult could marry another adult and it was legal, in Makarovia.” “But not when it was part of the USSR.” “No.” He shrugged. “But we never really were a part of either Russia or Ukraine; as long as we gave them our iron. They left us alone.” I shook my head. “It seems Makarovia is more tolerant than the United States.” “Maybe.” Peter nodded. “But nowhere near as powerful.” I sat forward. “I just don’t want there to be a problem when this comes out.” I motioned to him and me. “About us.” Peter got closer to me. “We…” he motioned to include both of us like I did, “…are fine.” He smiled. “You don’t believe me when I said Olek and my mother don’t really care.” Now he did look confident. “I believe they will be very happy I’ve found someone.” He pressed his lips to mine again. He’s never been on a date…but he was a damned good kisser! “All this time, you’ve worried about my family. What about your family? How will they feel?” Peter asked. I waved that off. “Grandma’s known since I was sixteen. My parents are dead, no siblings. No problem.” Looking at him, I felt the swell in my heart. Peter nodded. “Good.” Then he looked back at the bed. “Do you want to stay here tonight?” “Why won’t I?” Peter all but stuck out his bottom lip almost disappointed. “But, I like your apartment.” He said in not quite a pout. “This is nice.” I said. “I just sleep here. I’m more at home at your apartment.” “We’ll go back.” I promised as I got up and pulled him back toward the bed. “How long until dinner?” “A few hours.” Peter smiled. “Why?” I looked around the room. “Do you have lube?” He nodded as he grinned and did the motion telling me he jerked off with his lube, too. He opened a cabinet by his bed and pulled the bottle out and then tackled me and dove his lips into my neck as he began nibbling as his mouth and lips travel over places on my neck and was pulling my shirt up as I was pulling on his. Yes, I loved Peter. I had no doubt now.
  7. 51 points
    I drove up the East Coast, heading for my future. I was tired, I'd driven a long way and was nearing where I hoped my future would begin. My car was doing well cruising up Highway 95. Behind me was my home, Charleston, South Carolina and I had been through some big cities Washington, DC; New York, even Providence. Now I was reaching Boston! But more important…Northeastern University. It was just South of Boston, and the best school for what I wanted. I wanted to bring industry into the twenty-first century. I wanted to make them not only successful, but green. Economically sound as well as ecologically sound. I was 24 and yes, I was late getting my college education. But I had some setbacks after high school. My father had passed away some ten years ago. Mom had gotten sick with cancer in my senior year of high school. So, I stayed and helped her until she lost her battle with cancer. Add a year to sell the house and close things up. Once that was done, I was told by Mom before she died to spend the money and get the car and go start my life. I had been accepted in several Universities, but this one was the best for what I wanted to do. I was both anxious and nervous about it, but mostly excited I began my life. People can say it’s what you know rather than who you know, but if I didn’t have Grandma, I would be in much sorrier shape than I was then. Let me explain. My Grandmother was Katrina Sams. She was a ballet dancer. Not just any ballet dancer, oh no…she was the Prima Ballerina for the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia in her twenties. She met my grandfather and he helped her defect. Then she was the Prima Ballerina for the New York Ballet Company. She was very, very good. When she was in the New York City Ballet she had a friend, Carla. Carla and Grandma have since put their ballet slippers up and retired, but Carla owned an apartment building in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston I needed to be. Carla told Grandma that normally, she didn’t rent to college students, but as they were friends, she’d bend the rules. See? In this situation, is was who Grandma knew. That was where I was heading. I loved the new car, it was cherry apple red Cobra! Mustang! It had everything, including GPS. I was directed to this old building. Old, but very nicely kept up. It was only two blocks from the Northeastern campus. Surrounded by nice shrubbery and flowers, I looked at it and loved its appeal. I had been told it had been a hotel at one time, but converted in the 1950’s into an apartment building. It was very nice. I went in and looked where I saw the manager’s office was. Correction, it wasn’t an office, but an apartment. Carla lived there. I rang the bell and in a few minutes the door opened a crack. The chain clinked but remained hooked to keep anyone from storming in. I saw a part of a woman’s face and one blue eye clearly. “Hello, Mrs. Bowers.” I said. “I’m Eric Richards. Katrina Sams’ grandson...she called…” I jumped a bit when the door slammed shut and then thrown open wide. “My god! Eric! It’s nice to meet you!” The woman greeted as if I were an old friend. She wasn’t fat, but…pleasingly plump? Her hair was done up on her head and blonde. Like I wouldn’t doubt that was her real color. She was in her sixties. Grandma was 72, and I remember Grandma saying Carla was ten years younger. The floral dress wasn’t ugly, but…. “Welcome to Boston.” I nodded. “Thanks.” “I haven’t seen your grandmother in…” she thought. “Must be fifteen years now. Does she still run that school?” I nodded. “Still runs the school.” Grandma opened a ballet school when she and grandpa moved to Asheville, North Carolina, teaching local mountain children ballet, but unlike Carla, Grandma was still trim and could still stand on pointe. I will tell you now, I am not…and never would be a ballet dancer. Not that I thought guys couldn’t dance ballet; that was fine. All of the guys that did dance ballet were in great shape and risking pissing them off? You might want to reconsider calling them names or anything. They would and probably could beat your ass. Pointe? That thing ballet dancers do, standing on the toes? I tried it at ten and gave it up a few minutes later declaring it was just unnatural. Nothing that odd and hurt so much could be a good thing. “Okay.” Carla reached in a got some keys. “I’ll take you up. Now understand, I don’t rent to college students as a rule. Your grandmother said you were twenty four, right?” “I stayed home after high school with a sick mother. I’m starting late.” I explained. Carla looked a face of regret and sympathy. “I’m sorry. You’re grandmother said Betty got cancer.” I nodded. “She did.” Carla nodded. “Well, that says a lot about your character if you stayed home with a sick mother. I don’t rent to college student because I don’t allow those wild parties of any kind in the apartments. College kids can be so loud and reckless. All of my tenets are young working men and women. A lot of young lawyers and professional types starting out…most are graduates from the university right here.” She smiled. “Of course you’re free to have anyone over you want, just remember to keep the noise down.” She led me through a nice lobby. I noted her gait; you could recognize a ballerina by how she walked, just like Grandmother. The poise and gait was drilled so deeply you just did it naturally after so many years. The building’s interior had a lot of polished wood and brass. The carpet was a deep, dark red. There were stairs, also polished wood, but the deep red carpet in the center where there was traffic. She led me to a little elevator. “You’ll be in 3C.” She closed the wooden door and then the metal gate door and pressed the third floor. “The elevator is old, original to the building when was built in the twenties. I don’t have the heart to replace it. The whole building was done in the Art Deco style, so a lot of wood and brass. But there are times the elevator will stop working. Just be aware of that.” Once on the floor, it was a short walk and she opened the door. “Here we are.” It was indeed tiny, but there was only me, so no problem. It was a long apartment, not that wide. There was only one window to the right in the kitchenette/dining area. It was a furnished apartment having the small table and two chairs were there to eat on, a little range/oven and a refrigerator was there and the whole kitchen area was in the right corner. There was an iron stove in the middle to the left of the entrance. I assumed it was for heat. There was a couch/day bed that at the moment was a couch. She explained it would expand to make a bed if I needed more room and there was a desk in the middle area but essentially, it was all just one room. A door that led to a long closet and another door at the end of the closet to a bathroom. The impression I got was, they had some room left, decided to add another apartment as an afterthought. Here it was the afterthought. “This will do great, Mrs. Bowers.” I said smiling at the room. It was cozy! “You have a neighbor above, a lawyer, very quiet. A neighbor below, a secretary. The divisions are sturdy, but noise can penetrate.” I nodded knowing what she was saying over and over. “Got it. No noise.” She smiled patiently. Then her hand stroked my face with loving familiarity. “You look a lot like your grandfather. He was a very handsome man. You’ve got his same black hair and brown eyes.” People often told me that. “I take it as a compliment.” Then I smiled. “I’m here to get a degree. Not party, so we should have no problem.” Carla laughed like she knew better. “You come from Katrina, I can see that, too. She had wild streak, but, I’m sure we’ll get along fine.” She handed me the key. “There’s a parking space labeled with your apartment number. Don’t park in any other space. If anyone is in your space, let me know. Laundry is on the ground floor and there is another elevator toward the back to bring your stuff in.” “I have clothes and my computer. That’s it.” She nodded. “There is a cable service. I’ll give you the number. They provide internet service and TV.” Moving in was not hard. The elevator toward the back was a little bigger, but not much. It took five trips to bring everything up, call the Cable Company and get things in place. It was Friday, orientation was on Monday. The thing about the Cable was, everything was already there, all they did was activate it with my name. I had a credit card, so no problem there either. Other than my car, my computer was the most expensive thing I owned. It was a laptop with a docking station. I could take the lap top and go, or when I was home, plug it back in and it expanded the memory, charged the battery and had a separate twenty-one inch monitor. The monitor was what I used to watch TV. The kitchen had some pots, pans and limited plates and silverware. I needed groceries. I searched for the nearest grocery store and got some provisions. I was not wealthy by any means. The money from the insurance policy Mom left me with, and the sale of the house and property made most of my tuition and living expenses, but I would watch it carefully. Moving was not hard, but I was tired. So, I chilled out the weekend. Then Monday came and I went to Orientation. There were those tables set outside as it was still warm, Fall had not gotten here yet. I stood in line to get my class schedule and syllabus. As the many students did the new student thing, excited and making new friends. The campus was nice. There were different schools for Fine Arts, Engineering, Law and others, spread across the few blocks. I did feel a little uneasy, I was a freshman, but older than some of the juniors and seniors. All it took was one friendly guy that handed me my schedule. The usual pleasantries and he sat back and smiled at me. “You sound a little Southern.” He drawled his own unique accent heard clearly. I shook my head. “No, that’s incorrect.” Then I smiled. “I’m not a little Southern, I’m very Southern. From what I’m hearing from you, you’re Southern, too.” He grinned. “I’m guilty. Where are you from, Eric Richards?” I nodded. “I’m from Charleston, South Carolina.” He grinned. “Ted Dawe.” He stuck his hand out. “Tuscaloosa, Alabama is where I’m from.” His accent was clearly Southern and his size a build under his t-shirt told me he was a jock. Football would be my guess about the big blonde man. “Pleased to meet you, Tuscaloosa.” I shook his hand. “The school is having welcoming party, but we’re having a Return Party of our own on Friday. You should come.” I smiled. “But I’m not returning.” “One party with those…” he did finger quotes, “just out of high school and on their own…group is more than enough.” Ted chuckled. “The students are older and you might feel more welcome there…come.” I nodded. “Okay. I will.” I was thinking he was friendly enough and likable. There was no better way to get to know people than a party. But like most Ivy League schools…there was very little preamble, classes started immediately almost the moment you sat down the first minute. I got a glimpse of my classmates. The usual jean clad late teens and early adults of all kinds, all states and cultures. My first class was my Economics class and I was one of eighty students in that morning class with one of those theater like seating across the wall, the professor on a raised section in the front and center behind a desk. The professor, a balding man in his forties stated with a bang. “Welcome to class. I’ve assigned partners for a project due at the end of term. That project will be a third of your grade. Let me state, no one is going to hold your hand here. If the partnership isn’t working, let me know in the beginning and I will reassign you, but do it quickly. Be certain that’s what you want because you don’t want to get a bad grade, not because you don’t think they’re cute enough. No one will make you come to class or pay attention. I will present the information. What you do with it is up to you.” He looked at some papers on his desk and held it up putting his reading glasses on to read the print that was too small without them. “There is one exception. Mr. Richards.” He looked us over to see if I was there. I looked up. Why was he calling my name? This was day one and only the first fifteen minutes into the class. “Yes?” “It says here you speak Ukrainian?” “I do.” “Fluently?” “I have most of my life.” I answered wondering why he was asking about that. “And Russian.” Thanks to grandma. “We have a student, Peter Ivanov who may need help. He is fluent in English…conversationally, but some terms and translation may be required. He might without you, you might not know some of the terms. That’s why I assigned you two as partners to help him find out. Do you object?” My only problem was…who was he? “No.” “Fine.” The professor said. “Peter is there in the back.” He pointed to the back of the class. I looked back to find out who he was. One person stood out from the others. He was dressed in black with black hair that could use a comb, not to mention style. He was pale. The other thing was he was older than the others, like me. He looked about twenty-five. And my heart ached for him for I saw him…he had very bad acne. Not just a few zits, but his face was covered in them. Then the professor went on. It was after class when I approached Peter. He was talking with another man. The other man was in his thirties, close cropped hair that was thinning at the crown. This man Peter was talking to had a look that said military kind of. I heard Peter say, “I can go and come on my own to class.” But it wasn’t Ukrainian…not exactly. It was a lot like it, but…for instance; the same sentence. If you heard, a lorry overturned on the m5 but I had to get petrol to get home versus a truck overturned on Highway 5 and I needed gas. It’s the same language, it was the words and accents were different. The message was the same. So, he spoke a similar language as Ukrainian, but different enough not to be, but I understood him. I approached Peter. He was nearly six feet to my five feet and ten inches. “Peter?” Peter turned questioningly. I greeted him in Ukrainian. “I’m Eric Richards. I was assigned as your project partner.” Peter nodded. “I told them I can speak English.” He said in heavily accented English. “I’m sure you can.” I said in English. “The professor just wanted to be sure there were no translation problems.” Then I switched back to Ukrainian. “Personally, I don’t get a lot of chances to use Ukrainian. Only my grandmother and mother spoke it.” Peter smiled a little tightly. “I am not Ukrainian. I am Makarovian.” He wasn’t rude, but…there was something else going on. “I’m afraid I don’t know where that is.” “Not surprising. Most people don’t.” Peter said. “It’s a small country. We are west of Ukraine, east of Hungary, Poland and Serbia. North of Romania. Most of the world has forgotten us.” He said a little bitterly. I nodded. “That explains the accent, sort of a mixture of all of those countries.” Then I sighed. “We were assigned a project. Do I go back to the professor and tell him we’re not doing it together?” Peter closed his eyes and let out a sigh. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have been rude. Demands are...” he was thinking and nodded. “Of course we’ll do it. No problem.” I felt a little better. “Meet at the library? Say Wednesday? Eleven o’clock?” Peter nodded. “I’ll be there.” He was interesting. The truth was he was a paradox. What he wore showed no real style, he wore loose, baggy clothing, mostly black. His eyes were a greyish green. If it weren’t for that acne, he would be very good looking. There was something about him that told me he was trying to make himself invisible. We met that Wednesday, decided on what we were going to do. Then Friday came and the party for the returning students. The party was in a frat house. There were students all over this house…and of course, flowed with beer. I didn’t really drink, I just didn’t care for beer, but I took one and that would be the only one I would sip on. “You came!” I heard Ted’s Alabama accent behind me, his arm around a pretty young brunette, a good foot and a half shorter than Ted. Ted pointed at me. “Amanda, this is Eric Richards. Eric, my fiancé, Amanda.” “Hi, Eric.” She greeted. “Gotta be sure all Southerners are welcome.” Ted explained. We exchanged some other topics, where we were from, what we were majoring in. The party was not much more than a high school party. Only the students were old enough to legally drink here. They were rowdy and made messes. That was universal. I met some of the others that were in Ted’s fraternity. All jocks. They were on the football team. Nice guys…with the exception of one. He might be a nice guy, but tonight, he was drunk. Some that drink…they get a little nasty or pushy. A space opened beside me on the couch and suddenly a guy leaped from behind it and landed next to me. “I don’t remember you.” The guy said. I sipped on the beer. “That’s because this is my first year.” The guy was nice looking enough. Dark brown hair and well built. His accent, even drunk said he was not too far from home here in Boston. “Oh. Where’d you transfer from?” “I’m not a transfer.” I shook my head. “I’m a freshman.” “Really?” He asked. “I thought you’d be a junior or senior.” “I started late.” He finished the beer he had. “Better late than never.” Then he caught me completely by surprise. “Ya wanna have some fun?” I didn’t understand, but he was leaning in on me, toward my face. “What?” I asked backing up a little. “Are you into girls or boys?” He asked. “Maybe both? I like guys.” I knew I was in a state that was the first to legalize gay marriage. I appreciated that he felt free to say he liked men. “I don’t even know you.” I objected. He shrugged. “We can solve that problem.” He pointed up. “My room’s upstairs.” I nodded. “I appreciate the invitation, but no…” “No!?” The guy looked incensed! “No?” I swear he looked like he would hit me. Clearly he was drunk, but we weren’t alone, so I wasn’t scared of him. Everything about him said, how dare I say no!? He was starting to get up. A large hand came on his shoulder pushing him back down. “He said no, Brad.” Ted said firmly. “Male or female; no means no.” “Get off me!” Brad jerked his shoulder away and got up quickly. “You’re drunk, Brad.” Ted said. “Just stop it.” “I am not drunk!” He got up and swung at Ted, who merely dodged the swing and blocked the other punch. “You are if you think you have a chance in hell of fighting me and winning?” Ted chuckled; then looked at his friend seriously. “Now, knock it off.” Brad walked away in a huff. “I’m sorry, Eric.” Ted began embarrassed. “Don’t tell me.” I chuckled. “He’s a nice guy when he’s not drinking. I wasn’t too worried.” Ted chuckled. “No. He’s just more tolerable when sober. He’s always an ass.” Ted was bigger than most everyone; including Brad. I liked Ted. He was a good guy. The week began again. That Wednesday I met again with Peter. That man was with him again, but I didn’t want to pry. Well, I did want to pry, but I didn’t want to offend him. Peter was always….so formal. He didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence or just had a low self-esteem. It was as if he couldn’t allow himself to relax. It seemed a struggle at times to get him to smile, but he would if I kept trying. Then that afternoon he asked the first question not related to our project, but personal. “How is it that you can speak Ukrainian and Russian?” He was reaching out, I thought. “My grandmother was born and raised in Kiev.” I answered. “She taught my mother and they taught me, thinking it would pay off one day.” “But your mother was born in America.” I nodded. “Grandmother defected from the USSR fifty years ago.” “So, she was a citizen of the Soviet Union. What was it she did?” “She was Prima Ballerina with the Bolshoi.” I explained. “She, with the help of my grandfather, defected while they were on tour in New York City.” I watched him nod as his listened. “Tell me. Why are you here?” That question surprised him. “I wanted to be educated in the West.” Now most Eastern Europeans lumped all of the Western Countries in one whole. That includes Great Britain, Germany, France and the United States in that same whole. “So why America? There are other good schools in England, Germany and other countries. Why here? Why this university?” Peter almost looked embarrassed. “I see programs from American TV. I see how they walk, talk….so proud. I think if I can bring just a little of that back with me.” He sighed. “My country has been ignored since the beginning. Makarovia was independent once; then part of the Soviet Union; then part of the Ukraine. We aren’t a very wealthy country. We have iron and mines. All of which is about to change. My government wants to be sure we can handle it.” “Okay.” I said slowly. “That sounds good, but why here? Why this university in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States?” “I research, it’s the best school for what we need.” He shrugged. “To interact with others from the West, I need to know how to be from the West.” I nodded again. “You want to become like an American.” Peter nodded. “Yes.” “Don’t you think you need some help doing that? Like from an American?” Peter bowed a little ashamed, but then nodded. “I suppose I do.” “Could you relax a bit?” I asked smiling at him. “You’re a nice guy. Peter. I like you. Let’s start being…I don’t know…friends maybe?” Peter’s eyes grew. “You like me?” “Why shouldn’t I? I’ve seen nothing I don’t like. You’re a bit reserved, but you’re nice.” He looked very uncomfortable now. “I’ve not really here to make friends.” “Then you could study online.” I didn’t understand that. “Okay. Being here tells me you want to make friends. Would you like to have one?” Peter chuckled. “Sure.” I threw my hands out. “Then, I’m your man!” Now Peter laughed. “I don’t know….” “Oh,” I grinned. “You don’t like me, is that it?” Now he was really laughing. “I like you just fine…but…” “Your boyfriend won’t approve?” I dared to traverse the tricky subject. “My boyfriend?” Peter asked surprised. “That guy who always escorts you to school and takes you home. I’ve seen him every day.” I explained. “He drops you off and picks you up…” “Yuri!?” Peter asked. “He’s not my boyfriend….” He seemed to be thinking what to answer about that, almost guarded. “He was sent by my country…to protect me.” I nodded. “So, can we go out and do something? As friends?” “What do you want to do?” Peter asked hesitantly. “Well, for starters. I’ll help with the American part. You gotta ditch the wardrobe. It’s too…Goth. Not that Goth is bad, but…” Peter looked down at his clothes. “Too Goth? What is that?” “You look like a vampire, Peter.” I said. “But since the sun is out and you’re here out in it, you can’t be.” “I’m not.” Peter chuckled. “What should I wear?” “Jeans and a regular shirt?” I stood up. “Tell Yuri we’re going shopping. Can you do that? Then we’ll get something to eat.” Peter rose, thinking about something he was working up to say to Yuri. Then he shrugged. “Okay.” I didn’t mean to, but I overheard him talking to Yuri. In Russian, don’t forget I understand that, too. “Это вся причина я здесь.” Telling Yuri that was the whole reason he was here. Peter stressed in Russian. “Now stop it. You are my guard, yes, but I’m going out with a friend I made here. I will be fine. You’re my guard, not my jailor.” “So where do I pick you up?” Yuri asked. That’s when I turned the corner. “Моя квартира.” I said in Russian for my apartment. I gave him the address. “Don’t tell me…he has a curfew.” Yuri didn’t know I could speak Russian. He was startled. “No, he doesn’t, but I am here to keep him safe.” I nodded. “Okay. I’m taking him to Walmart and the Mall. How is that dangerous?” Yuri looked flustered. “I don’t know where those are.” “He’s free to come and go, right?” I asked. “Of course, but…” “You watch him all the time.” I said. “Be with him everywhere?” “No.” Yuri sputtered. “He is unfamiliar with this part of the world.” “Well, this is how be becomes familiar. You’ve heard of GPS?” I asked. “I didn’t know where they are either, but I found them. He’ll be fine. You’ve got a cell phone?” I asked Yuri. “Yes.” Yuri answered. “He’ll call when he’s ready.” I said. Peter smiled as I pulled on his arm and headed out. As always, I walked to school. That’s why I chose the apartment I had. I didn’t have to drive. Peter was a guy and liked the car I had. They just appeal to our testosterone. It did mine. So, we drove to Walmart and there I pointed at many pairs of jeans and shirts. “You can afford this?” I asked. “Do you want to do this?” “Sure.” Peter nodded. “How tall are you?” I asked. “One hundred and eighty-five centimeters.” Peter answered. I looked at him in disbelief. “I forgot. The metric system. Okay.” I got a pair of jeans and held them up to him. “Try these on.” “Where?” I pointed to the booth. It took a few tries, but we got the right size. Once that was done and we knew what size, we got several pairs of jeans and trousers and some shirts. “What is your budget?” I asked. “Can you afford this?” “I have the money, I just haven’t gone out and bought.” I nodded. “Good. We’ll stop a couple places at the mall, get you some good clothes. In case you date.” Yes, I was testing him. “Date?” Now I was really not understanding. “Is there another language I should use? Date. You know, you see someone you like, ask them on a date to get to know them better that could lead to more?” I looked at him. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand me. It was as if the concept of dating never occurred to him. “Oh, Peter, haven’t you ever been on a date?” “I haven’t been able to.” Peter explained. “My life has…other things.” “I’m sorry.” I realized I had no business judging him. “I didn’t know. Well, now…if you want to…you can.” Then I looked at him again. I wondered if perhaps he couldn’t. “Can’t you?” He shrugged. “Who would date me?” He asked sadly. I was saddened by this admission. He wasn’t a bad looking man. He did have very bad acne, but he wasn’t an ugly man at all. I had begun to like him very much. “Now, why do you say that?” “Look at me!” Peter growled pointing to his face. I sighed sensing it may have played a lot on his self-esteem. “Okay. Let’s talk about that. I am your friend. We agreed. Have you seen a doctor?” He nodded. “I’ve done everything. Those creams and watching what I eat.” “Peter, there are many kinds of acne. Yours could be treated.” “I’ve had them for years. I was about twelve when they first came.” Peter admitted. “I’ve used many creams and other products.” “It’s a medical condition.” I said. “I don’t know how you’re covered, medically, but can you afford to see a doctor?” Maybe they didn’t have access to good medical care in Makarovia. They send him overseas for a good education, but no medical? Something wasn’t adding up. Peter shrugged and then nodded. “Okay, there are a lot of different kinds of acne, the creams may be the right medicine.” I said slowly. “We’ll make an appointment for you.” Peter looked at me doubtful. “Where?” “This is Boston. There are medical schools all over. I’m sure someone has an answer.” I assured. Like I said, he was a paradox. He was shy to the point he was nearly invisible. Yet, when confronted he was well mannered, almost regal. I was puzzled about his government sending a guard with him. Why? And I didn’t want to admit it yet, but I was beginning to be attracted to him. At the mall, it was almost like he had never been to one. He was astounded by the food selection. We ended going to three places! One Cajun, one Asian and one for desert, but the longer I spent with him, the more I liked him. We ended going to a couple of clothiers, Hot Topic, Abercrombie and Fitch. It was while he was trying on the pants and shirts, I noticed he wore things loose, giving no clue he was in good shape. Athletic even. Then we went back to my apartment where he called Yuri. Now, I was curious about his country. I didn’t know it. So, I internet searched it. Makarovia was a country that was in the Carpathian Mountains. It was a lot of mineral resources, mostly iron. Like he said, it was independent, then taken by the Ukrainians; then when the Soviet Union liberated the Ukraine from Hitler after World War II, it was used for the iron. When the Soviet Union dissolved, it was left floundering for a place in the world. It was a country about the size of New Hampshire. Hitler had promised to free it from the Ukraine, but ended up using the Makarovian people as laborers to get to the iron. Makarovia was a place that harbored the unwanted in a series of caves that came about because of the mining. Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals were hidden in these caves. It was a Monarchy. There was a picture of the royal family, but it was ten years old. The king was Olek Ivanov and about thirty in the picture. I sat back seeing the name. But Ivanov was a popular name. Then I looked at the Queen, how she was very beautiful and about ten years older than the reigning king. She was the dowager queen. She was the king’s widow. Olek was her stepson. She was a Russian. Alla Ivanov. They sat on thrones, beside her was a young man who was fourteen, maybe, at the time. Now I was a little uneasy. The picture wasn’t the greatest quality, but the teenager had the same black hair as Peter. And they did look a little alike. Blowing up the image on file didn’t help clear it up. Was the Peter I knew, this Peter in the photo? He was from Makarovian! It couldn’t be. When Peter and I met again. I didn’t say anything then, but looking at this man, I was more suspicious. He needed to trust me and he would have to tell me. We went to the doctor, who told him… “This is one of the worse cases I’ve seen.” The doctor said. “If not treated, it will scar.” The woman smiled. “But we have a treatment. It will take a few weeks to clear, but it should do the job.” The acne spread down his neck to his chest and back. I watched as the blemishes began to fade over the next two weeks, but Peter started to…relax. He liked spending time with me. “Okay.” I grinned. “You’re looking so much better. Now, let’s get a haircut.” Peter touched his hair. It was short, but again, no style. “It’s not long.” I nodded. “And has no shape. Let’s go.” When the girl cutting his hair turned him around, I knew I was in trouble. He was gorgeous. “Wow.” I managed after seeing the results. Who was that sculptor that fell in love with his statue? I didn’t create Peter, but I got him help. Was I doing that? Pigmalion? He looked at his reflection. “Does it look okay?” “Yes.” I answered. “You are a real lady killer.” I said in English. He blushed, and with his pale complexion, it was too easy to see. “I am not killer of ladies.” He said in English with that Russian…Ukrainian….Makarovian…whatever! He had an accent! I gave him a friendly shove. “You kn0w what I’m saying.” Peter liked coming to my apartment. I would often fix dinner and we’d have a good time. I was wondering if he was Peter from Makarovia…the prince. He liked what I cooked. Hamburgers! I was liking him more and more. He liked spending time with me. What’s more important, he was relaxing more and more with me, letting me see the real Peter. Then one evening, after we were clearing up what we’d eaten. We were relaxing on the sofa. “Peter, we could do something at your place.” I suggested, and yes, I was fishing. Was he that Makavovian prince? He had opportunity to tell me, but... He got a little stiff, going back to the Peter I’d first met. “That wouldn’t be….convenient.” “Why?” I looked at him and decided to risk it. He wasn’t telling me on his own. So, I asked. “Because you’re royalty?” Now he sat up straighter. “What?” “Are you Prince Petro Ivanov?” I asked. He bowed his head. He didn’t want to reply and got up, but didn’t leave. “If you’re not, fine.” I said. “If you are, how is that a problem?” “Please don’t tell anyone.” Peter urged. I shook my head. “Why? You’re a prince!” Peter shook his head. “I wanted to just be a guy here.” “Why?” “Everyone expects things from me after they find out. I was raised in a secured home, taught by tutors. I would like to be just Peter.” I nodded. “I can’t understand why, but I didn’t live your life. Anyone with a computer could work it out. I did! It will be found out and broadcast on the news.” Peter walked over. “But until that happens…when I first met you, you didn’t know who I was, did you?” “Other than Peter Ivanov, no.” “And you liked me then, right?” I frowned. “I did. I still do.” “We not like the royal family in England. I’m no Prince William of England.” Peter said. “I’m more like a poor Prince Harry. My brother is King. We are a poor country, but now, we have something a lot of countries will want. The repercussions are hitting us now. Money will be no problem soon if we can keep our independence. That’s the problem.” My eyebrows rose. “Oh?” “That’s one of the major reasons my brother wanted me to get an education in the West. That’s why he’s negotiating with your President and the Prime Minister of England now.” Peter explained. “If word gets out, the Ukraine will want us back, and we don’t want to go back under them again. They didn’t want us before, now that we have something they may want part of…they will take us back.” He shook his head and laughed, but with no humor. “I mean, take us back or just take what we have and not even ask for it.” I was unsure what to say, but… “So, hiding the fact that you are Petro Ivanov was for security reasons?” I saw him look very unsure what to say. “We have to be careful.” He said. “My brother Olek is king and he couldn’t come for the education. So, he sent me here to be educated here.” He sat heavily. “I made friends with you…you didn’t know who I was, I wanted to keep that friendship as friends between Peter and Eric.” He looked at me. “Do you understand?” “I see.” I thought a moment and then shrugged. “Well, nothing’s changed. I’ll keep it a secret. You’re still Peter, to me.” Peter visibly relaxed and grinned. “Thank you.” I grinned at him. “So, do you want another hamburger?”
  8. 50 points
    “Kohen? Is that your name?” I nodded. “Good. Kohen, do you know where you are?” I licked my lips, wishing for more of that fluid. “Are you still thirsty?” “Yes.” He walked over to a spot on the wall. A hum, a flash of light, and another cup appeared. He stretched out his arm, not getting too close. I touched the cup, and he settled it into my hand without our fingers brushing. Relief swamped me along with a tiny bit of regret. The fluid was cool, and I jerked, nearly spilling it. “Careful, careful.” Captain’s warm hands cupped mine, steadying the cup. My heart started to pound in my chest, and I froze. Quick as a flash, I looked at his face and then away. I focused on the cup and took a drink. Captain didn’t say anything else as I finished the cup. I snuck another look when he took it from me. He was pale but his eyes and hair were the same warm color. Brown? Like dirt. Or wood. I remembered them, sort of. Clods I broke with my feet. Big plumes racing across the fields on the backs of strong breezes. I hadn’t felt the movement of air on my body in so long. I looked down, unable to believe the suit was gone. I ghosted one hand over my arm, but I didn’t touch. Couldn’t touch. “Kohen? I need to ask you some questions.” I stiffened. Tests. They’d ask questions, endless questions. Zap me all over with the suit if I got it wrong. My breath hitched in my throat, and the fluid I’d just swallowed came back up. Sickly sweet and bitter bile burned my throat. I vomited everywhere. Stomach heaving, I curled onto my side. Hot tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes, dripping down my face. “Okay, no questions. Just calm down, Kohen.” Captain put his hand on my shoulder, and that was too much. I bolted from the bed, falling onto the ground and then scrambling to my feet. There were people all around, and the space was big, too big. I went from ice cold to hot in a flash. Aparoe hurried over. “Hey, it’s okay.” But it wasn’t. It wasn’t okay. “Kohen, don’t—” I ran, dodging around the bed, and Captain, and the other people in the room with their arms spread wide. The door opened when I neared it, and I took it. I looked around wildly, but they were coming for me. I had to escape. Stumbling, banging into the walls from side to side like an unstable livestock after a tremor, I went as fast as I could. Doors stayed shut, and I banged at the panels beside them, but none opened. My whole body hurt, but I was used to that. The corridor turned, and I darted around it, running smack into something hard. I landed on my butt, and stared up, mouth open. It was a… I didn’t know what he was, but somehow I knew it was a he. He was tall. Wide. Horns spiraled out of his head. He had on a green and white robe. A blue light flashed, and my heart calmed, my breathing slowed, and the fear faded. “That’s better.” He crouched down, and I curled up, hugging my knees. “My name is Lakshou. What’s yours?” “Kohen.” “Did you hurt yourself when you fell, Kohen?” I shook my head. I wasn’t hurt. Just cold now. “Do you need help?” I nodded. The captain wanted to ask questions. They were all looking for me. I was too much. “Peace can always be found in the temple to those who seek it. It’s just through here.” Lakshou touched the wall and a door I hadn’t noticed before opened. “When you’re ready,” he said. He waited while I studied him and the door. It was dim in the room, and when I rolled onto my knees and inched closer, I could smell something light and sweet. The tremors wracking my muscles eased, and I made it to my feet. Glancing at Lakshou, I edged past him and into the room. “Good lad.” Lakshou entered behind me and the door slid shut. The room, temple he’d called it, was small. A small blaze burned in a round jar, and smoke curled up and reached thin tendrils through the room. Large cushions dotted around the room. They looked so soft. I leaned down and stroked one. My hand sank in to the cushion, and the covering was smooth and warm. “You can lie down, if you like. Rest. No one will harm you here.” It was less a matter of believing him, and more that I felt like I was about to collapse anyway. Exhaustion dragged at me, and the pain in my arms and legs was making my muscles crawl. Still, the fear I expected to return didn’t, and I closed my eyes without worrying that I’d wake back up in that suit, in my cell… or worse. I woke slowly. It always hurt, staying too still for too long, but moving brought its own special agony. This time was different. The room was dim but colorful, and a lovely scent filled my nostrils. I took a deep breath, and my cheek slid on something smooth and soft. Nothing in my cell was smooth and soft. Slowly, the memories came back to me. I flicked my eyes open, and the being I’d run into was still in the tiny room with me. The lights flickered on his horns. “Welcome back, little one. I hope you rested well,” Lakshou said. I nodded. I had slept without nightmares, and the panic that had swamped me was missing. “Good. Captain knows you’re here.” I darted a look at the door, but it was closed. “But you don’t have to leave until you’re ready.” “I don’t?” “Of course not. You’re not a prisoner. I would like to teach you some meditation techniques though.”
  9. 49 points
    “Meditation?” “When you ran into me, you were nearly mindless with panic. Anyone who is feeling that lost could benefit from some techniques and time to center their thoughts.” Lakshou shifted on his cushion, arranging his robes over his knees. I clenched my teeth. “I’ve had time.” Hours, days, months, years, in that cell alone. Most of the time I had no input, nothing but my thoughts. “Do you want to tell me about what had you so scared, then?” “No.” I shook my head violently. “No questions.” Blue light flashed, an arc that went from horn to horn on Lakshou’s head. My anger and fear faded, and my hands stopped shaking immediately. I tilted my head, my hand going to the edge of the cushion. I stroked it. “What was that?” “I apologize.” Lakshou leaned forward. “I don’t always remember that my kind aren’t widely known through the galaxies. I am a Triberiom. When we are in the presence of those who need our counsel, we release an aura that helps soothe them. It is not an impulse I can use to control you in any way, and the effect is only temporary. It eases your body’s physical response to stress, allowing your emotions to calm as well. “If you wish to leave, you may. I only wish to help you learn how to help yourself do the same.” Lakshou seemed like he meant what he was saying, and, above all, I didn’t want to leave. I curled back onto my side. I couldn’t remember feeling like this, ever. I rubbed my thumb against the cushion, then my cheek. “It’s so soft.” “Yes. A special material from my home world. We believe in surrounding ourselves with comfort. It is a pleasure we see no reason to deny.” Lakshou rose. “That uni from medical is probably far from comfortable. Would you care for a robe?” “Like yours?” Lakshou’s face crinkled as his lips turned up. A smile? I thought it was one. “Similar. I don’t think you would like to wear this particular robe, but I have others.” He tapped a spot on the wall that was nothing more than a small depression, and the wall faded. There were robes of all kinds in there. Lakshou rifled through the fabric before pulling one out. “Here. I believe you would like this one.” The fabric was a uniform light gray, but it shimmered in the low lights in the room. Muted, but not in a bad way. “It has long sleeves and a head covering as well. Space can be cold.” “Yes, it is,” I said softly. I’d been cold a lot. Never freezing, but never really warm either. Pressing another depression, Lakshou opened another door to a cleansing chamber. “You can use the facilities if you need them while you change.” Lakshou held out the robe, and I took it from him. Our hands didn’t touch, and I was relieved when he moved around me. The small space didn’t afford much room, and the floor was littered with pillows, but he made a small circle around the edge of the room and knelt in the smoking jar. He muttered a few words and then sprinkled something yellow in the hole. I retreated into the bathroom. I twisted and ran my hands over the clothes, but finally figured out they just pulled off so I could clean up. When I pulled the robe over my head and arms, it slithered down my body to my feet. I shivered and wrapped my arms around my torso. “Oh.” It felt so good. Lakshou was twisted up in some bizarre pose. He could have scratched the base of the tail I didn’t know he’d had until his robe parted down the back as he flexed and his whole body contorted as he faced me upside down. He chuckled when he saw my face, and I snapped my mouth shut. “Triberiom are very flexible. It’s part of our meditation.” “You don’t expect me to do that, do you?” “No, no.” He uncoiled and righted himself. “Simply sitting and closing your eyes would be fine. I know you must have been through a lot, considering the captain brought you on board after the last raid. No one we rescue has had an easy life. But I can help you center and handle the changes better, if you will let me.” What did I have to lose? “Okay.” Lakshou settled on a cushion facing me. “Just close your eyes and focus on your feelings.” “My feelings?” How did I do that? “Imagine them as a ball inside you.” Lakshou’s voice took on a hypnotic note. “Fear, anger, loneliness.” Behind my eyelids the light in the room flashed. “I sense them all.” I shivered, pulling my hands into the sleeves. I whimpered. He was putting names to the swirling in my core that threatened to make me pass out again. “Imagine that ball getting smaller, lighter, as you peel away the layers and discard each negative emotion, exposing the core of calm inside you. Breathe in, and breathe out the fear and push it away.” Lakshou took a deep breath, and I mirrored him, trying to do what he said. I’d gained an ability to create vivid mind pictures during my reprogramming, and I used it now. Fear was an ugly red, a pulsing virulence. I took it in my hands and shoved it away, outside of my body as I let out a hard breath. A band around my chest loosened, and I opened my eyes. “I did it.” Lakshou smiled. “You have begun.” “More.” I needed this. I closed my eyes. There was more in there, more I wanted gone. I wanted the peace Lakshou promised, the one I’d felt so briefly when he’d influenced me. This was like a once in a lifetime chance to help myself, at least do this one thing. I could take away my own fear; I could do anything.
  10. 49 points
    I anxiously looked both directions, up and down the path in front of the cafe. Ian had sent me a text to meet him here. My palms are sweating, my leg restless, I can’t stand still. I’m excited to see Ian and reluctant at the same time. I’m scared he’ll walk away. I need to calm down, I just know I’m gonna say something stupid. The past couple of months have been hell without Ian. Payne’s noticed how grumpy and irritable I’ve been. I told her Ian and I had a fight, but she doesn’t know the extent of it. So I guess I haven’t been dealing so well. I love him more than I’ve loved anyone before. I’m angry, but I’m angry at Anna, not Ian. I know he didn’t know who I was, any more than I knew who he was. Looking down the path again I catch a glimpse of Ian, my knees go weak, my chest tightens, and my stomach did it’s usual happy dance when Ian is nearby. I nervously stuff my hands in my pockets as he approaches. All I want to do is reach out and pull him to me. The closer he gets to me the more nervous I am. He is walking with his head down, and his arms crossed over his chest. When he lifts his head, I can see the apprehension on his face. He did not want to be here. My heart sinks and I immediately feel nauseous. “Hey,” he said sullenly. Fuck! “Hi, I thought we could take a walk. Did you want to get a coffee first?” Ian looked inside the café, “Uh… No, I’m fine, but you go right ahead.” “No, we can just walk if you want,” I pointed up the path, and we headed away from the direction he had arrived. I didn’t want him to walk past his car for fear he’d just jump in and take off. We walked together in silence for a while. Our shoulders occasionally touching, my heart surges every single time. I miss him so much. We reached a fork in the path, one way crawled further along the street, the other into a small empty park. It had a picnic table and a swing. I directed Ian into the park so we could sit. Ian sat on the other side of the table from me, it felt like he was purposely keeping distance between us. “How’s Paddy?” I asked Ian clasped his hands together resting them on the table in front of him. He shrugged a shoulder, “Sad, upset, angry, confused, pretty much the same as I feel I guess. I haven’t been a very good father lately.” “I’m sorry Ian,” my hand reached out for his, and he pulled back out of the way. A lump formed in my throat from holding back my emotions as I withdrew my hand and put it on my lap. “So why did you want to see me, Adam?” Ian asked curtly. “To tell you I’m sorry,” I croaked out, the lump in my throat making it hard to talk. I swallowed trying to find my composure to continue. Ian tilted his head and squinted his eyes from the sun, he shrugged his shoulder again,“I don’t know what you want me to say, Adam.” “I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you about Anna and the baby. I realize that if I had, there’s every chance we’d still be together,” I felt my eyes sting, fuck this is hard. Ian leaned over his hands slightly, “You’re right Adam, yes, and we probably would have found a way to be together, even if you were married to my sister. You should have told me, if you had we may have figured out sooner that your Anna, was my sister and I could have helped you, would have helped you. She’s always been a narcissistic nightmare.” I picked at a paint chip on the table, “I know, I regret how I handled the entire thing. The only reason I never told you about Anna is that I was ashamed. We’d had an argument about money, I came home from work the next day, and she was gone, my baby was gone.” I paused for a second to stop my emotions from coming to the surface, “I realize now that if I had have told you in the beginning, you would have understood, you had to deal with her your entire life. “Why do you think me and her didn’t have any real contact, she’s a god damn narcissistic sociopath Adam.” “I didn’t know that; she kept your family away. I’d only met your parents when it came to organizing the wedding. After that, we rarely ever saw your parents, and she never spoke about you. It was like you didn’t exist. In fact I don’t even remember seeing you at the wedding.” “I don’t really remember much of your wedding to be honest,” Ian mumbled and looked at his hands, “we’ve never really liked each other. Me and Anna, not even growing up,” Ian’s gaze met my eyes, “That has nothing to do with why you didn’t tell me about her though, Adam.” “It was like I had failed, we hadn’t been married very long. I did everything I could to make Anna happy. Nothing was ever enough,” I could feel myself getting angry, “Ian, she blew all our savings, my savings I guess. Every week she would waste my entire paycheck, I’m not really even sure what she did with the money. I had to go to my parents so I could pay the bills. Do you have any idea how pathetic that felt?” I ran my fingers through my hair angrily. “When I met you I was infatuated with this beautiful man I’d met. You seemed like you had it all together, you’d been through this awful tragedy, you have this amazing son, with whom you have a great relationship. You were full of life and happy with yourself. Can’t you see how intimidating that would be to me?” Ian's gaze narrowed on me, “And you thought I would judge you. You think that little of me? I’m nothing like Anna,” his voice rose in anger at the end. “It wasn’t about you,” I barked, “I never gave any thought to how you would take it. It was about me,” I thumped my fist against my chest, “I’m ashamed of what Anna did to me, I felt like a failure. Payne doesn’t even know about Anna, Ian. I didn’t want anyone to know. The only people that do are my parents, and now you,” I growled, “There is also the baby, I was so excited I was going to be a Dad. It was all ripped away; my entire life was turned upside down when she disappeared. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, sorrier than you’ll ever know,” I took a deep breath, I could hear myself getting angrier the more I spoke, I shook my head and looked back at a spot on the table. I couldn’t stomach the expression on his face. Ian didn’t say anything, and we sat in silence for what felt like forever. “When I saw Anna in your house in Connecticut, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe I’d found her. The only reason I was looking for her Ian, was because of the baby. It had absolutely nothing to do with Anna. I was stunned when I saw her, furious, at the same time it’s hard having everything that had happened play out again, the reality floored me. I felt all the same feelings again, the hurt, the shame, and embarrassment. But at least I found my baby, I want my baby. That’s the only reason I’ve been trying to find her since she left, Ian, but then she was her usual spiteful self… After everything she said to me that day, I was no longer just ashamed, I was fucking humiliated, and you had witnessed the things she had said. That killed me, you got to see first hand how pathetic I really am. I felt less than a man, everything I managed to regain since I moved to Kentucky, my confidence and self-worth, disappeared in the blink of an eye. She played me for a fool, and I lashed out at you,” I quickly wiped my eyes before they started leaking. “Why… why did you lash out at me? That really hurt Adam,” Ian stuttered, I looked at him and saw his eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know, I didn’t even feel that way, I didn’t blame you at all, but you’d witnessed my shame, Ian,” I looked away, it is so hard to look at him, everything I felt from that day at his parents came slamming back into me. “I have no idea why I even said that crap. Better to self-sabotage I guess… than to lose you because I’m not enough… I don’t know.” I flicked my hand like I could swat away the hurtful words I’d spewed. “It was like I couldn’t hurt her no matter what I said so I lashed out and took it out on you, I didn’t want to hurt you, I never want to hurt you, ever.” I quickly wiped my eyes again, hoping Ian wouldn’t notice. “Yeah well, it hurt Adam, a lot.” Ian looked down at his hands, “I couldn’t believe the things Anna said to you, my heart broke for you listening to her spew on about how she used you. I mean she was always a bitch and spiteful growing up, but that day, it was the cruelest thing I’ve ever witnessed. Then you accused me of knowing and playing you. I would never do that.” A tear fell from Ian’s eye, “You broke my heart.” His voice strangled fighting his feelings. “I know, I wish I could take it all back. I’d do anything to be able to take it all back. I never wanted to hurt you. I’m so sorry Ian, the second the words came out of my mouth…” I shook my head and looked away, then back at Ian. His face had softened a little, and his eyes were no longer on fire with anger they just portrayed… something… hurt… resignation, I don’t know. My chest tightened, my eyes stung, “Do you really…” my emotions all came to the surface, tears ran from my eyes, a sob lurched from deep within me to relieve the weight on my chest, “do you really wish you never met me?” I looked Ian in the eye, I needed to know what he was really feeling. Ian stood from his seat. Unfortunately, everything I was taught on the playground as a kid about a man not showing his emotions went out the window. He was going to walk away, Ian really did wish he never met me. My head bent down into my hands as I sobbed my heart out. I didn’t dare watch Ian walk away from me, I’m not sure I could take that. A pair of arms wrapped around me, it warmed my entire body with love. Ian’s lips kissed the side of my head as I crumbled into him. He rested his forehead against the side of my head and whispered in my ear, “No, I don’t. I love you, and I miss you terribly.” I held on to Ian as tight as I possibly could, “I love you. I’m so sorry, so sorry.” “I’m sorry too,” he mumbled quietly in my ear. We stayed wrapped up together at the picnic table until Ian received a text from Patrick. “Paddy is going to Sasha’s for dinner, did you want to get something to eat with me?” Ian said as he ran his hand through my hair. “I’d love to,” I took his hand and kissed the palm, then held it in both of mine, “where did you want to go?” “Let’s go to that bar where we went on our first date, I could go for some hot wings and potato skins.” Ian chortled. “Me too,” I said standing up, pulling Ian up with me, “can we split a chicken quesadilla as well.” “Sounds good,” Ian smiled and wrapped his arm around my waist as we walked out of the park on cloud nine. <>-<>-<> “Here you go Babe,” I put Ian’s beer down in front of him while sipping on my own. He sat on a stool at a high top table. I stood next to him, he closed his eyes, and his head dropped down. “I’ve missed that,” Ian whispered almost inaudibly. “Me too,” I pulled the other stool around the table so I could sit next to him. The big screen at the bar had the end of the race on. We sat in silence, sipping our drinks while we waited for the food I’d ordered when I bought our drinks. The longer the silence went, the more nervous I became. Ian put his hand on my thigh to stop it from bouncing; I didn’t even realize I was doing it. “Please stop being anxious,” he leaned his elbow on the table, giving me his undivided attention. “Sorry, I can’t help it. It doesn’t feel real to me yet. I guess I’m just worried you’ll change your mind,” I chewed nervously on my bottom lip. He shook his head, “I love you, Adam, that’s not going to happen.” I relaxed a little and took a shaky breath, “I love you too,” I put my hand over his that was resting on my thigh. “I guess I’m just… I want to know, where do we stand now? Where do we go from here? What do you want?” Ian smiled warmly and squeezed my hand, “To answer your last question first, I want everything. I don’t want to pussyfoot around Adam, I want everything with you. I want us to build a life together I guess. I want to know everything there is to know about you so we can make sure that no-one can come between us again.” My heart swelled, and my stomach flurried with excitement. Taking a deep breath, I nodded, “I want that too, more than you know,” I sipped on my beer. “I…I have some things to work through, are you going to be okay with that?” I felt him stiffen next to me and he took his hand from mine, sitting up straight. “Are you not sure?” he asked brusquely. I took his hand, putting it back on my leg, holding it in place as it was before, “Of course I am, I just mean, Anna and the baby. You and I are the one thing I know I want… I need. But there is going to be plenty for me to deal with when it comes to Anna and the baby.” Ian relaxed, “Oh, we’ll deal with it together. You’re not in this alone, so to answer another question you had is that we are a couple. We are going to deal with everything that comes our way together.” I couldn’t help but grin at him, he tittered as our food arrived, “Here you go, gentlemen, hot wings, potato skins – extra ranch dressing, and a chicken quesadilla. Can I get you anything else?” the young lady whose name badge bore the name Emily, smiled at us. “We’re fine, this looks good, thank you, Emily,” Ian smiled warmly at her. She leaned in and spoke quietly, “Can I just say you two are a beautiful couple. I just wish my brother could find someone and be as much in love as you two look. He’s a police officer, so it’s not easy for him. He has this on again, off again thing with a real douchebag,” she rolled her eyes. “Really? I’m a detective,” I put my hand out and shook her hand, “Detective Adam Price, this is my boyfriend Ian,” I chuckled. She ripped her hand from mine and clapped, “Oh, my God, my brother talks about you all the time,” she smiled from ear-to-ear, “it’s so lovely to meet you. Wade will be here shortly to pick me up.” “Oh, isn’t he the officer that was with you at the diner that day?” Ian said pointing to me. “Ah, yeah it was, Officer Potts,” I answered Ian, “I like your brother he’s a good guy and officer.” “He is,” she gushed, “I love him to death,” Emily smiled, “well I better get my side work finished so I can end my shift, it was so nice meeting you.” Emily moved on, Ian smiled as he reached for a potato skin. I put a ramekin of ranch dressing in front of him. “You’ve been trained well,” he gave me a sly smile while I chuckled. I leaned in and quickly pecked him on the lips. “I haven’t told Paddy anything yet, he thinks I’m getting coffee with a teacher from work,” I frowned at Ian, that hurt, he saw my face and quickly followed it up, “he assumed, so I let him.” “He’ll be fine with us,” I said confidently. “I know he will, I’m just nervous. I’ve been such a crappy father to him lately,” he said sadly, “I don’t want him thinking he’s going to lose you again.” “He knows he didn’t lose me in the first place… Can I show you something, and you promise not to be mad?” I asked worriedly. Ian shrugged his shoulder, while he piled chicken wings on his plate. I pulled my phone out and opened my messages and gave it over to Ian. He read a few as his eyes got bigger and bigger, I started to worry. “We’ve still been talking since everything happened, those are texts are from earlier today. Pat already knew we were meeting. I hope you don’t mind we’ve been in contact.” “I don’t mind at all, I think you should have your own relationship with Paddy,” Ian scrolled down to the latest text and guffawed, “and you should also tell him to watch his language.” I took my phone back confused, not knowing what he was talking about. The last message he’d sent was after Ian met with me, and my phone was on silent. I didn’t want to be interrupted while I was talking to Ian. Paddy: Don’t fuck this up, Detective. “God, I love that kid,” I said laughing. Ian smiled, “He loves you back,” Ian said seriously, reaching for my shoulder. “I know,” turning to face Ian, I cupped his face with my hand, “I want us to be a family Babe, you, me, Paddy and the baby. That is what I want,” I smiled affectionately at Ian, “For us to raise Pat and the baby together.” Ian turned his head kissing my palm, “We’ll find a way, let’s make it happen.” “We’ll have to talk to Pat. First, he might not want that,” I piled the empty plates on top of each other, then took my last mouthful of beer. “I’m sure it will be fine, but you’re right he should be included. How about you come for dinner tomorrow night, and we’ll talk to him then. Once he goes to bed, we’ll figure out where we go from here and what to do about Anna?” Ian asked as I walked him to his car. “I’ll be there, seven-ish?” Ian turned and leaned against his car, “Perfect,” he said gazing into my eyes. I cupped his face with both hands, leaning into him as I kissed him good night, “Thank you for meeting me today and for giving us a second chance.” “Don’t call it that,” he said wrapping his arms around my waist, “we both let someone come between us. We were both angry, it’s just a little bump, and when everything is squared away, we won’t even remember it happened. I believe in you… in us… in our connection, we were meant to be together.” I leaned against him bringing my mouth to his, “I love you so much…” then closed the distance and kissed him passionately.
  11. 48 points
    Roar • Part III “Please wear yours.” Owen held CJ by the arm and whispered so none of the other guys could hear. Before the group left Washington, Harley was anointed road captain and led the way with the other motorcycles riding in staggered formation behind him. It was an easy ride and the weather was beautiful. After crossing the state line into Pennsylvania, somewhere near the halfway point of their ride, they stopped at a gas station. It was as they were ready to mount up again the blonde Aussie approached his boyfriend. CJ looked at him, smiled, and nodded. “Okay, because you asked. But you better get ready for me to ditch the brain bucket at some point too.” While Harley took the lead, Brad brought up the rear in the chase vehicle. Defiant―CJ’s bright yellow Jeep―carried their luggage since the only bikes with saddlebags belonged to César and Brett. Pennsylvania did not require a helmet and as soon as they stopped, Harley and the dads removed theirs and stored them in the Jeep. “It’s no surprise Brett’s taken his off. Your dad has a crazy streak running through him. But César? He’s always so careful and protective…” “You’ve heard the stories passed down from Uncle Rico to Randy and Rod. Dad was a wild man in his younger days. I think he controls himself because of me and now Ritchie. He doesn’t want to set a bad example.” “Well, he’s not being careful right now for sure. It still blows my mind you guys have different rules depending on the state. Everyone should be required to wear helmets.” “Cultural differences, Ozzie. Just like with gun ownership, cultural differences. Helmet laws are just another example of government overreach. Like requiring people to wear seat belts or have special seats for kids.” “Come on, CJ. You can’t tell me you’d want your kid to ride in a car without a child seat and risk injury!” “Nope. If I ever have kids, they’ll be strapped in. But I resent politicians making decisions for me. If somebody wants to ride without a helmet or drive without seatbelts it should be their choice.” “Even if it means they could suffer serious injury or die?” “Yep, even then. Life may be precious to some of us. We may want to cling on to it no matter what. But some people prefer to take the risk. Part of the you only live once approach. We should respect their choices. Here’s a perfect example. I’ve heard when drinking laws started changing and the age limit was raised to twenty-one, Louisiana held out. They didn’t want to lose out on the tourist dollars New Orleans brought in during Mardi Gras and other celebrations. The Federal government stuck their butt into it and threatened to withhold highway dollars if they didn’t go along. Perfect example of the Federal government infringing on state’s rights!” “I’m sure people wanted the laws.” “Yeah, a bunch of stupid bitches who couldn’t leave well enough alone. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is nothing but a bunch of bullies. They want to force their beliefs on everyone. Fuck ’em. They wanna wear seatbelts and helmets, let them. Just don’t force me to do the same.” Owen shook his head and sighed. “Not arguing with you, CJ.” The sun was still up when the guys returned to the motel after dinner. They decided a swim would be nice and changed into bathing suits before reconvening around one of the tables by the pool. Harley had brought a couple of joints and Brett carried a handful of cigars. By the time they retired to their rooms, the six men were pruned from all the time in the water, smelled like a fire pit due to the cigar smoke, and their eyes were red-rimmed thanks to the Oskosh Organic grown by Harley’s grandfather. CJ thought it was funny to see both his dads stoned simultaneously. It was a rare occurrence. • • • “Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator. He promoted organic architecture, which is best exemplified in his most famous work: Fallingwater.” The twenty-something man smiled at the small group surrounding him “Welcome. I’m Baylor, an architectural student and volunteer intern with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Today, I’ll help guide you through this magnificent structure. And not to take credit for words not my own, my opening was a direct quote from our website.” CJ paid rapt attention to the guide even though he was familiar with most of what the man was saying. After his visits to Wright’s home in Oak Park, Illinois and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, his interest in the famed architect had grown. He owned a couple of books on the man’s work and Fallingwater had been high on his list of places to visit for a while. “The house was designed as a weekend home for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh.” Baylor stood with his back to the structure while CJ split his attention between the man and the house. “The total cost of the project was $155,000. Adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of $2.7 million in 2016 dollars. The cost of restoration work done in 2001 was estimated at $11.5 million.” CJ had read the cantilevered home was built partly over the waterfall on Bear Run against the original wishes of the homeowners. The Kauffmans wanted it located on the opposite bank to provide a view of the cascade. But now, as he listened to the guide, the background of water spilling over rocks provided an incredible soothing sensation and he realized Wright had made the correct choice. This was the perfect location for the home. CJ thought how wonderful it would be to live with the splashing sound as a constant soundtrack. “And now, if you’ll follow me, let’s take a closer look at the house Smithsonian Magazine lists as one of the places to see before you die.” Walking through the front entrance, Baylor explained the design had been influenced by the Japanese style the architect loved. “Mr. Wright sought harmony between his man-made structures and the surrounding natural environment. His use of locally quarried stone and glass encouraged a feeling of being outdoors even when surrounded by walls.” Standing in front of one of the large windows, CJ surreptitiously ran a finger over the juncture between the glass and stone wall. He was unsure of what he was allowed to touch and what was off-limits. There was no metal frame. The panes were set into a caulked channel creating a seamless joint. Baylor took a couple of steps in his direction staring at him, and CJ withdrew his finger as if scorched. “I see our friend has discovered one of the endless number of Wright special touches in the house,” the tour guide said. “Frank Lloyd Wright embraced the use of glass in his quest to open living spaces and permit interaction with nature, while providing protection from the elements. You’ll notice that although he inserted glass into the stone without any sort of wood or metal railing, he didn’t hide the window frames connecting an individual pane to the ones next to it. In fact, he painted them red to attract attention and provide a continuous line as counterpoint to the stones’ jagged edges.” CJ stepped back until his vision encompassed the outside wall and the hearth. Both were clad in the same stone. It resembled an unbroken surface bisected by the glass panel. He recalled Wright had a fixation with fireplaces―Fallingwater had four―considering them a focal point for gatherings of friends and family. This one was considered the grandest of all in the Pennsylvania house. The original rock outcrop the property owners cherished as a sunning spot had been kept in place. It protruded through the polished flagstone floor fronting the grate, further highlighting the connection between indoors and outdoors. “Aside from stone and glass, wood and reinforced concrete are the other two primary materials used in construction. Like many other Frank Lloyd Wright structures, Fallingwater was plagued by leaks and due to the location’s high humidity, mold also became an issue.” Baylor spoke while moving around the first floor of the house allowing the guests to take pictures. “Over a number of years at the turn of the century, the Conservancy embarked on an ambitious preservation project. Although neither the exterior or interior appearance was modified, high-strength steel cables were fed through the blocks and exterior concrete walls, and then the cables were tightened using jacks. The changes repaired sagging on the cantilevers which had reached a critical stage in the late 1990s and threatened failure.” Stealing a glance at his traveling companions, CJ was somewhat surprised when he noticed Harley was the one paying the closest attention to the guide’s presentation. He smiled, remembering how his buddy admitted during the road trip to Wisconsin the previous year, he had enjoyed CJ fascination with architecture. Harley must have felt eyes on him. He took a quick glance at his friend and was rewarded with a quick wink. “You’ll notice a lot of the furniture in the house is built in.” Baylor motioned towards the two large sofas standing perpendicular to one another underneath the expanse of windows. “They’re upholstered in simple materials which provide a suitable background for the specialty fabrics on pillows, throws, and carpets. Early on, a critic wrote the details of the house were as much in their place and as consistent in themselves and in relation to each other, as the whole house is to the surroundings.” Wright was known for designing not just a house but most of the fixed and freestanding furnishings, including light fixtures, textiles, and decorative glass. It was part of a philosophy which aimed at consistency. Often, his designs would evolve from the initial drawings and a motif would repeat itself throughout the entire project. “Take a few minutes to look around at some of the details on the first floor and we’ll then move upstairs. It’s a beautiful day outside. I think you’re all going to enjoy the views from the terraces.” Three hours after arriving, the group had toured the inside of the house and explored the surroundings. It was then Harley’s interest came to an end. “I have no idea what you guys are thinking but this is enough for now. This place’s sick and I enjoyed myself a lot. But it’s waaay past lunch time. I’m hungry.” Lunch preceded additional hours riding back roads through rural southwestern Pennsylvania. Leaving the Jeep behind, Brad took turns as a passenger on the back of the dads’ motorcycles since those were the two largest. By the time they stopped for dinner, he swore he’d be learning how to ride and getting his own bike sometime in the foreseeable future. • • • “Are you ready?” Earlier, Owen remained by the pool talking to César and Brett while CJ retired to their room. “Yeah, I looked through my luggage again in case I’d forgotten something. And read and replied to a bunch of messages. This coming week’s going to be crazy.” CJ had laid out the next day’s clothes and plugged in all his electronic devices so they’d be charged in the morning. “Excited?” “Ummm… Some, but also hating it a bit. Some things I won’t enjoy. Like having to shave and wear a tie every day. But overall? Hell yeah, I’m excited. I just wish you’d be there with me.” “You know I can’t. I have to be in the office early on Monday and my week will be just as hectic as yours.” “How come? I didn’t see you this hyper over any assignment at the Nature Conservancy last year.” “This one’s special. I get to make the first run through all the legal documents. A senior attorney will have to sign off in the end, but this is my baby. And it’s an Australian project, mate!” CJ stripped off his shorts and jumped in bed, patting the side next to him. “Come here. We need to get up early so we should go to sleep. But I want to hear about this thing first. You haven’t mentioned anything before.” “You have enough on your plate, CJ. I didn’t want to add to it and bore you with my stuff.” “You’re such an ass. It doesn’t matter how much I may have going on. I’ll always have time for you. And listening to you share what you’re working on isn’t a burden. It’s a treat.” “Thanks. Anyway…” By the time Owen finished describing what the Australian branch of the Nature Conservancy was proposing and what his role in it would be, both men were yawning. It didn’t take long for them to fall asleep. • • • The bright yellow Jeep and the five Harley-Davidson motorcycles drew plenty of attention as they stopped at the hotel’s entrance in Philadelphia. They rode across Pennsylvania on I-76 making one short stop for gas and then another one for lunch once in town. Brett insisted there was no way he was stopping in the city of Brotherly Love and not getting a cheesesteak sandwich. He and Harley bought an extra one each to take home. “Call me after you get to Washington, okay?” CJ gave Owen a final kiss and watched as the Jeep and motorcycles roared away from the curb. He followed the cart carrying his luggage, promising the valet he would return to move the motorcycle after checking in. Ensconced in the room afterwards, he unpacked and put away his clothes, checking the shirts and jackets to ensure they didn’t need ironing. He showered, changed into jeans and a button down shirt, grabbed his blue blazer, and headed out to register and retrieve his credentials for the week. CJ spoke with Robbie and planned on attending a breakfast meeting the following morning with him, campaign staff, and official surrogates to review the tentative schedule for the week. The first day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention would be a busy one but the remainder of the week his time commitments would depend on each day’s developments. That evening, he attended a reception for Pennsylvania delegates as a guest of State Representative Brian Sims and, after much pestering from the man who had started him on his journey through the political world, promised to return to Philadelphia with Owen later in the summer so they could go out to dinner together with Brian’s partner. Afterwards, he stopped at the hotel bar and had a soda while talking to delegates and visitors from all over the country. Later in his room, he raided the mini bar and enjoyed a couple of beers while talking to his boyfriend and checking messages before collapsing in bed and falling asleep. • • • “Good afternoon. My name’s CJ Abelló and I’m with her!” CJ smiled when his repeating the phrase so often used to express support for Hillary Clinton was greeted by a roar from the crowd. He waited until the noise level diminished and once again stepped up close to the microphone. The teleprompter was something new and unsure of how he would react, he had a printed copy of his remarks atop the podium as a backup. “I’m a delegate from the District of Columbia. Home to Washington, our nation’s capital, and the next state in the union.” The comment was met with a vociferous response from the DC delegation and the approval helped calm any remaining jitters. This was by far the largest audience CJ had ever spoken in front of and he tried not to think of the millions following the proceedings on television sets and computer screens around the world. The dads had said they would record everything so they could watch it later in the evening after they had returned home from work. And Harley―being the most tech savvy in the group―had promised to set everything up for them so CJ’s appearances could be saved permanently on a flash drive and shared with family and friends. CJ was given five minutes for his speech and tried to cram as much as possible into the allotted time. He disclosed he was gay and praised the candidate for her support of the GLBT community. After acknowledging he was the grandson of immigrants, he decried the xenophobia exhibited by other candidates. He brought up race relations, recounting the experience of being stopped during a recent road trip by a cop and the fear shown by a black traveling companion. Mocking those who would deny the science behind climate change, he praised Clinton’s support for environmental protections. The reaction from the crowd was supportive. His statements were greeted by cheers and applause until he spoke with pride about his father being an officer in the Marine Corps. CJ stood motionless, the bank of screens behind him displaying a fluttering American flag. The booing and jeering from a section in the Wells Fargo Center shocked him. But his frown turned into a smile when a loud response rose from other sections of the arena. The roar of hundreds chanting, “USA, USA!” rose and drowned out the negative shouts. The less-than-enthusiastic reaction to his praise of the military and Secretary Clinton’s support for the armed forces and veterans rankled him; he was however, gratified by the applause when he was done and stepped away from the podium. He had mixed emotions concerning his appearance and thought he might have to rethink his political involvement. He wanted to speak to the campaign manager but knew he would not have a chance this week. Robbie had already told him he was swamped with everything he had to do. Any conversation and subsequent decision would have to wait. He was met by the campaign’s director of communications soon after he walked backstage. She raved about his performance but told him he would have to miss some of the proceedings. They’d scheduled an interview with Armed Forces Radio for the late afternoon and an appearance on a cable news network show for the early evening. • • • “It’s good to have you with us tonight, CJ.” The host of the eponymous Hardball with Chris Mathews flashed a friendly smile at his guest. “This evening we have with us CJ Abelló―a surrogate for Hillary Clinton. He spoke at the convention earlier today and had a rough time of it with the audience. Didn’t you, buddy?” “Thanks, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here. I didn’t think today was so rough. It was actually―” “Oh, come on! You can’t tell me you were happy with the Bernie Bros booing after you brought up the military.” The reference was to Bernie Sanders supporters; many of whom populated the left-leaning fringes of the Democratic Party. “For goodness sake, you were telling the world how proud you are of your father and they dissed you. I thought it was uncalled for.” “The way I look at it, those people were exercising their First Amendment―” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. The usual platitudes referring to free speech.” Mathews waved his hands around as CJ had seen him do on those occasions he had watched the show. “Just because it’s protected by the constitution doesn’t make it right. And it being directed against your family had to rankle.” “This afternoon wasn’t about me, Chris. My goal was to show why I support Secretary Clinton and why―” “Well, I have no doubt she was happy with what you said. Clinton’s always going to be a bit too hawkish for me.” CJ stared at the blond, older man and smiled. He thought it was time to take over the interview. “You know something, Chris? I seldom watch your show.” “Ouch!” The host held a hand over his heart in mock pain. “Oh, not just because of you. It’s not that personal. It’s because I spend very little time in front of the TV. But those times I have watched you, I’ve noticed you tend to talk a lot. And you interrupt your guests all the time. You’re doing it to me right now and it’s annoying. Maybe you can give me a chance to utter a complete sentence?” CJ’s rebuke was delivered with a smile. Matthews stared at his guest in silence for a moment and then chuckled while shaking his head. “You got spunk, kid. I like that. I like you. Not too many people would have the hutzpah to call me out the way you just did. And on my own show! Okay, go ahead. Finish your thoughts. I’ll try to stay quiet.” “Yeah, right!” CJ’s response elicited a guffaw from the political pundit. “Anyway, the times I’ve seen you you’ve always come across as a bit too dovish for my taste. Your pacifist nature’s not appropriate in the world we live in. Yes, war is horrible. Yes, it should be a last recourse. And yes, we’ve been involved in several senseless ones. But sometimes we have to fight for what we believe in. Or to protect unfortunate ones from oppression or even genocide. “To paraphrase one of our great presidents: We must speak softly and carry a big stick. And not be afraid to use it when they stop listening. After all, except for ending slavery, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, armed conflict has never solved anything.” • • • On Wednesday, CJ felt the need to escape the charged environment around the convention’s venue and the nearby hotels. When the session ended for the evening, he returned to his room, changed into jeans and a t-shirt, retrieved Lola from the safe, and with it secure in his motorcycle vest’s built-in holster, he took a taxi to The Bike Stop. There was no way he was going out late at night to a gay bar in a strange city without protection. He discovered the Quince Street establishment on the internet and decided to venture out for a new experience. He had been to gay bars in Washington and New York but none of the ones he had patronized resembled the place he was headed to. He told himself sometime soon he would ask Dragon or Dr. Pres and Gray to take him and Ozzie to The Eagle. “Hi there, I’m Matt. You in town for the convention?” The man used his beer bottle to point at the Clinton t-shirt CJ wore. “CJ here. And yeah, I’m a delegate.” “Cool. It’s rare I come out during the week but I figured there might be some interesting people out because of it. Where are you from?” “Washington, D.C., but originally from Miami.” CJ studied the twenty-something hunk in front of him and thought how pissed off Owen would be. He could not deny the man was hot. The tight tank top Matt wore revealed a hairy, muscular chest and the low-slung jeans didn’t leave much to the imagination. CJ realized he was not alone in going commando that night. “Cuban?” “Yeah, my grandparents are from the island but both my parents were born in the US. And you? Native to Philadelphia?” “Nah. New Hampshire originally but I’ve been in Philly for a while.” Matt was friendly and CJ warmed up to him. It felt good to talk of things other than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. “What do you do for a living? I’m a teacher.” “Student. I’m starting my freshman year at Georgetown University this fall.” “You’re a freshman?” Matt raised his voice in surprise and CJ looked around to see if anyone was paying attention. “Keep it down. The bartender doesn’t need to hear you.” “Dude, what are you, like eighteen or something?” “Yep. Be nineteen in December. How old are you?” “Twenty-five. You look older, you know? How did you end up being a delegate for Clinton?” “Long story. Want another beer? My treat.” “Sure, man. Thanks.” Over the next half hour, CJ recounted his relationship with Hillary Clinton and Robbie Mook and what he’d been doing on behalf of the campaign. At one point, Matt moved a bit closer and CJ smiled. He felt he was being naughty by not bringing up Owen and it gave him a small thrill. If this Philadelphia stud was going to flirt with him, he was ready to flirt right back. After all, it was just innocent flirting. “So, you’re a big shot in the Democratic Party, eh?” Matt signaled the bartender asking for another round. “This one’s on me.” “Thanks. You’re pushing it by calling me a big shot. And I don’t know about the party itself. I’m a little peeved at a big chunk of it.” “Why? What’s going on?” “The more liberal arm of the party should have an equal say, but when everyone’s starting to sound like Bernie… I’m a big time capitalist, I support lower taxes, gun ownership, the death penalty, and a strong military.” “You sure you’re not a Republican?” Matt chuckled and shook his head. “Definitely not. I support a graduated tax rate. I support the estate tax. A woman’s right to choose. Equality in opportunities regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. I support efforts to help the environment and think we need to deal with immigration in a way we keep the best of those who’ve come to the US seeking a better life. But I also support throwing back the bad hombres.” “Okay, I’ll vote for you.” The men clinked their beers in a toast and laughed. Matt grasped CJ’s bottle by the neck and shook it. “You’re almost out. Another one?” “Nah, thanks. I’ve had three and that’s enough. I think I’m going to get an Uber and head back.” “Are you sharing a room with anyone? If you’re not, maybe I could come over for a nightcap? I’ll buy from the room’s mini bar. Or you could come back to my place. I live in the Gayborhood.” CJ pulled a Papa Brett move and raised an eyebrow before chuckling. He retrieved his phone, swiped at the screen a couple of times, and handed it to Matt without saying a word. The Philadelphia man tilted his head while staring at a picture of Owen. “Good looking guy, even if I prefer dark-haired men to blondes. You’re sharing a room with?” “I wish, but not this week. But that’s who I sleep with most nights. Ozzie and I have known each other for two and a half years and we’ve been a couple for the last two. Sorry, Matt. You’re sexy as shit but no matter how tempted I may be, I don’t cheat.” • • • By the end of the week CJ had had enough of politicians and reporters. He spent a few minutes with Bill Clinton one night and was able to thank him in person for writing a letter of recommendation for his college application. The President was thrilled with his acceptance and plans to attend Georgetown, making him promise to keep him abreast of his progress. He shed tears when the mother and father of a Muslim soldier killed in Afghanistan spoke and was appalled by the dismissive and insulting reaction from Donald Trump. And one afternoon he came close to getting arrested while trying to break up a fight between protesters he blundered into while walking through the street crowds. Knowing the dads and Ozzie would be at work, he was not in a rush to get home on Friday. After checking out and entrusting his luggage to the concierge for overnight shipping to Washington, he strapped on his backpack, mounted Hunter, and followed back roads instead of the interstate. It was his first long-distance solo ride on the motorcycle. When he at last arrived in Georgetown, he found a Post-It note on his bedroom door letting him know César was bringing food home that night and Tom, JP, and Brad would be joining them for dinner. • • • “You need to practice reading from the teleprompter.” César broke off a piece of bread and waved it in his son’s direction. “You looked real awkward at first. And then we could tell you stopped using it and read from whatever you had on the podium instead.” “I know. I could tell right away. And the thing is I did practice before going out on stage. In the morning before they opened up the doors to the public.” CJ looked around the table and realized everyone was eating without paying much attention to their food. Instead, their eyes were focused on him. “Dude, I don’t care what your dad says. You looked good out there. I was real proud of you.” Brett sounded a tad more serious and somber than he was most of the time. “It kinda reminded me of attending political events when I was a kid. My parents used to drag me to them now and then. Watching you on the screen brought back some memories. It never happens when I watch politicians speaking but with you out there…” César placed a hand over his husband’s. “It was different because it was your family out there, Jarhead. It had to mean more because it was your son and it reminded you of your father.” “Yeah… I guess.” CJ reached into the pocket of his short-sleeved sports shirt and retrieved two business cards. He placed one on the table and reached over to hand the other one to Brett. “Here you go, Papa. That’s for you.” Brett stared at it and shook his head. “I don’t recognize the name. Who’s this?” “That is a California Mexican-American. A former member of the Bush White House. A Republican who’s backing Clinton. And an old acquaintance of Grandpa Davenport. He wants you to call him.” “A friend of my grandfather?” “NO! An old friend of my grandfather. He knew your father.” Brett looked confused. My father? Your grandfather?” “Duh, Papa. If you’re my father, then your father’s my grandfather.” “Asshole! Don’t be getting cocky with me. How’d you meet this man anyway? How old is he?” “I don’t know. Somewhere in his late sixties or early seventies? Anyway, there were all these meetings and receptions going on all week. I had an invitation to one geared towards Hispanics. I ended up talking to him and when I mentioned your name he asked if you were related to the California Davenports. It was cool hearing him talk about your dad. He told me Grandpa Davenport would have been proud of me even if he didn’t agree with all my political opinions.” “What’s the other card, CJ?” Owen sat to CJ’s right who had taken the seat at the head of the table at his father’s suggestion. Brad was on his left with JP and Tom next to him. “This one’s for Tom. Hand it to your dad, Red.” Bradley looked at it before passing it down. “Representative Joe Kennedy III? From Massachusetts?” “Yep.” CJ looked at Detective Tom Kennedy who flipped the card over several times. “He wants you to get in touch. He said they have a detailed genealogical chart and he wants to know if you’re related.” A smile creased Tom’s face. “We are. If I remember right, this is the grandson of Bobby Kennedy. Which makes old man Kennedy―that would be Joe Kennedy the first―his great-grandfather. This guy’s a little younger than me, I think. But his great-grandfather and mine were cousins.” “Really? You’re related to those Kennedys? How come you’ve never mentioned it before?” “I don’t know… Not important? I mean, the connection’s so thin. My family knew of it and it’s why I was named after Jack Kennedy. Never had to explain my middle names being John Fitzgerald back in Boston. But it was never a big deal. How’d you meet him?” “Oh, at one of those events I mentioned.” CJ smirked and glanced at Owen. “Oz, if I was ever gonna cheat on you, that’s who I’d do it with. The man’s a hunk. Fucking great smile. Friendly as shit. And the red hair looks real good on him. He looks like what I think Brad will look like in fifteen or twenty years.” “You better not be trying to get in my pants when I’m that age!” Brad’s comment brought laughter to the table. “Don’t worry about it, Red. Your ass’ too bony for my taste. But your cousin…” Owen leaned over, acting as if he was about to kiss CJ, but instead he slapped him on the back of the head. “Asshole!” CJ’s hand flew up to swat his boyfriend’s arm away. “Watch it, Aussie. You’re doing and saying the same thing Dad always does. What is it with you guys? Leave my head alone.” “Children…” César used his annoyed parent tone. “How many cards did you end up with this week, CJ?” “I have no idea. A shitload? It’s one of the things I discussed with Joe Kennedy. After the speech on stage and the TV appearance Monday night, my Facebook account was flooded with friend requests. I have a gazillion new followers on Twitter and I think my phone has twice as many names and numbers in it than it did before the convention.” “You brought up social media with this Kennedy guy?” “Yeah. I mean, he’s a politician and he has one of the most famous names in the country. I asked him how he dealt with the loss of anonymity.” “What did he say?” “That I better get used to it. He grew up with a spotlight on him because of his name. He learned early on what he said and did could be fodder for real newspapers and tabloids alike. So when in public, he assumes someone’s always recording. And he assumes it’ll end up on YouTube. He has private e-mails and social media accounts just his family and very close friends know of. But even then he’s careful.” Owen had mentioned before he had received Facebook friend requests from complete strangers. Some mentioned they were following CJ already. “That sounds horrible, mate. Are you gonna have to do the same? Am I?” “Ummm, not sure what I’m going to do. I guess a lot depends on what happens in November. Who knows how involved or public I’ll be after the election. But I need to get over my paranoia about sharing. If I end up running for office one day…” CJ looked at the men paying close attention to his words and lowered his gaze. “It’s too far away in the future to worry about it. But you guys need to realize that if I’m a public figure, some of the attention’s going to spill over. I haven’t mentioned your names in public and I don’t plan on it. I already made my relationship status private so Ozzie’s name wouldn’t be visible. But any of you, or the other guys in the Squad, could end up being approached by a reporter.” “And what are we supposed to say if they do?” “Whatever you want! Not up to me to stop anyone from speaking. But if you don’t want to talk to them, tell them so. Joe said to let my family and friends know they don’t have to speak to anyone. It’s up to you guys. You can always punt and tell a reporter to come talk to me if they have questions to ask.” • • • Chipper was still in Buenos Aires. His most recent e-mail to CJ mentioned he would be flying to Miami in mid-August. His mother would be traveling with him and his father planned on driving down from Tampa to help him settle into the dorms at the University of Miami. Classes at the Frost School of Music began on the subsequent Monday, a week ahead of the first day of class at Georgetown. Patrick had spent two months in Maine, working as a camp counselor. Ritchie had been at the same camp for the last month. They were in Boston now, visiting Patrick’s mother and her husband. They would be flying back to Washington on Monday. CJ looked forward to spending time with both before school started for all three of them. Ethan was still in New York. His summer job having ended, he planned on spending the next week at the beach before returning to Washington for his senior year at the George Mason Antonin Scalia Law School. He and Sean would be on Fire Island for a few days, staying at the rental Sean’s bosses had shares in. “This is like old times, CJ.” Thiago slid into the Uber’s back seat and slammed the door. “Remember how I’d often go home with you on a Friday after leaving the dojo? Harley would meet us at your house, and we’d spend the night watching movies and playing video games.” “Don’t forget eating! Harley was involved so food was always high on the list. I hope the dads remember he’ll be there tonight and order enough. Dude, can you believe we’re all out of high school?” Harley’s motorcycle was parked in the side courtyard when CJ and Thiago arrived at the Prospect Street townhouse. CJ looked at it and smiled, remembering the fun they’d had on the recent trip to Fallingwater. He was somewhat jealous of his friend who would be heading down to Orlando on Monday. He vowed to get on his own bike as soon as he could and ride all the way down to Florida. Inside the house, they found César, Brett, Tom, and JP at the bar enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail. After a quick hello, CJ and Thiago headed downstairs to shower and change. On the bedroom door they found a note from Owen letting them know he was next door with Brad, Harley, and Tank. He wanted CJ to call as soon as they arrived home. The ten men eventually sat at the dining table to eat, the television set on but muted. The opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympic Games were about to start. “Oh, man, this is bringing back memories” Thiago pointed at the screen as the camera panned across the Tijuca Forest National Park and came to rest on the Christ The Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain overlooking the city. “That thing’s so incredible. Did you guys know it’s almost 100 foot high?” “You’ve been there?” Tank’s question made CJ realize the newest member of their group and Thiago had spent the least amount of time together. When the blond bodybuilder came into the picture, Thiago had already graduated from Walls and started college at Howard University. His time with the Squad had diminished since he had left high school. “Yeah, last year. The trip was a graduation present from my parents. You do know my family’s from Brazil, right? I spent two weeks down there and I hope I can go back sometime soon.” “Anybody else want a beer?” Tom stood and headed towards the refrigerator. “Hey, CJ, I sent my long-lost cousin an e-mail and he replied. Thanks for putting us in touch. JP and I are meeting him for lunch this week.” “That’s cool.” “He asked a lot of questions about you. But I think he’d already talked to somebody. He had a pretty good idea of who you and your fathers were and was fishing for personal impressions.” Wingnut kept sticking his nose all over Tank and the guy kept pushing the dog’s snout away. “Damn dog must be smelling my cat on me. Is that the Kennedy politician Brad was talking about before? The one CJ met in Philadelphia?” “Yeah! Can you believe that shit? I have a relative who’s a member of congress. Thanks, Pops.” Brad accepted the food container JP passed him and refilled his plate. “You need to watch the video of CJ speaking in front of all those people, Tank. It was cool to see the loser all dressed up looking and sounding like a big shot.” “Fuck you, Red.” Dinner over and the kitchen picked up, the group settled in the basement to watch the remainder of the ceremonies. CJ was first one to speak as the commercial break began. “Guys, you keep talking about my week in Philly and I don’t think it’s that big a deal. What Ozzie was doing during the time I was blabbing away is a shitload more interesting. And a hell of a lot more important to boot.” Owen sat on the floor next to CJ with César right behind them. The older man nudged the Aussie with his foot. “Yeah, Ozzie. How come we never hear much about what you’re doing at the Nature Conservancy?” “I… I don’t know. I’m not doing anything that special. And CJ’s involvement in the campaign is more interesting. He spent a week surrounded by famous people and I spent mine reviewing legal documents and talking to people in Australia.” “Bullshit!” CJ wasn’t about to allow his boyfriend to diminish the importance of the work he was doing. “Your project will influence Australia, and the world, for a lot longer than my involvement in a political campaign. Go ahead, tell them what you’ve been doing.” “Well, if you’re sure. I’ll try not to bore you guys. Anyway, I’m certain you’ve all heard about the Paris Agreement signed last year. It aims to reduce greenhouse emissions in an effort to control global temperature rises due to climate change. A lot of it is geared towards using technology to get us there. “But scientists have determined that about a third of the reductions in carbon needed can be achieved by protecting and restoring nature. The project I’ve been working on involves work with indigenous communities in northern Australia. And we have similar initiatives in other parts of the world.” “Tell them about the fires, Ozzie.” “Damn, CJ, give me a chance to breathe. The area’s tropical savannas. Towards the end of the dry season, wildfires are a problem. They devour the dry vegetation and in the process spew large amounts of carbon into the air. Our program sets small fires at the beginning of the dry period. The controlled burns are less intense. They restore habitat for small animals and birds. And they help prevent the out of control fires, with the resulting carbon emissions reduced. It’s a practice the aboriginal communities employed for years. But all that changed after the Europeans settled in the country. “At one location, the indigenous rangers have cut the amount of land affected by wildfires from almost forty percent to just one percent. Since it started, the project has cut carbon emissions and the healthier surviving plants end up storing even more carbon.” “See? I told you what my boyfriend’s been working on is important. A heck of a lot more important than me talking to a few people at the convention.” Owen gave CJ’s knee a squeeze. “Can we talk about something else now? I don’t like being in the spotlight.” “Shit!” Brett leaned in to César and tried to lower his voice but CJ was still able to hear. “If these two stay together, they’re gonna be dangerous.”
  12. 48 points
    Peter and I did return to our apartment. It had been a nice evening the night at Jocks. Peter had issues in this unknown world, but given a little nudge, he did fine. We had a nice evening at the apartment, too. Getting up, we both showered and changed to go to class. As we were ready to head to class, there was a knock on our apartment door. I looked at my clock. It wasn’t even seven thirty. Opening the door, I saw Yuri who had four large men behind him. Looking at these men, what they were, wasn’t even hidden or disguised. Dark suits and even had those damned dark sunglasses, with this blank look, but even now they were paying attention to what was happening to what was happening around them. Of course, I didn’t just let that slide without a comment. I nodded. “Yes, I sort of guessed this.” I said in English to the men with a sigh. “Do you guys go to class to have this look? Everything about you says security.” Yuri looked behind him at these large men. Turning back to me Yuri spoke to me in Makarovian. “They were assigned to guard Peter. They are more of them at the other residence, as well. They are private securities service.” It was a small apartment, Peter came out of the closet area after brushing his teeth as we were heading out. He looked at the men at the door and his eyebrows rose. He thought only a second and nodded. “Olek.” I looked back at Peter. “We knew your days as just Peter was coming to a close.” Peter nodded a bit reluctantly. “You’re right.” He looked at me. “Are you okay with this?” He was again looking a little uncertain about how I would react. “It just is.” I said simply. I looked at Yuri and the other security. “I have a tiny apartment, so you’ll understand if I don’t let you in. It is big for just me. It’s cozy with two, it will wall to wall if I add five.” I looked at the security. “Five very large men.” I turned to get my books and pulled the laptop from its docking station. “We’re ready.” Before we went in the hall, I smiled at them. “Just a second.” I didn’t shut the door, but almost. I looked at Peter. “I’m fine with this.” I said softly to him. “Are you going to be okay?” Peter shrugged. “I’m sort of used to it.” “I’m not scared off, Peter.” I said again kissing him gently. “I’m not leaving you.” I looked at his small smile come to his face. “Okay?” Peter nodded. “Okay.” He got his books. We were used to walking to campus, but no, we were escorted to a limousine with an SUV behind it. The typical black. It wasn’t a super-stretch, but a limousine. “So much for keeping a low profile.” I said to no one as I got in the car. I looked at the apartment building. I knew Carla didn’t like noise, but I’m sure she won’t like these men hanging around. Our days here were also coming to close. What Makavoria had was very valuable. Keeping Peter safe was important to not only Makarovia, but for the United States, thus the security. Yuri sat in the back with us. “King Olek called last night.” Yuri said. “He said the news was breaking today.” Peter nodded. “It was going to come out.” He said sadly and looked at me. “When what we have comes out…there will be other concerns about our safety, it will be harder to go to Northeastern.” “Others have done it.” I said simply. “Hard, but not impossible.” Arriving at the campus, we got out of the car and began to walk to class. Peter was withdrawing again when we saw a number of people looking our way. The whole campus knew we were a couple. Soon, everybody was going to know everything. I got closer to him taking his hand, making him look at me and smiled. “Stay with me, Peter.” I told him softly. “It will be fine.” Ted came walking up. He was directly approaching us. Two of the security came in front of us in case there would be trouble. The big blonde man stopped holding his hands up saying with gesture he meant no harm, but held some paper. The article was in it, I knew. I touched the security guard in front of us. “That Ted. He’s okay. We know him.” The security nodded to me and backed away. Ted smiled and walked toward us, handing us the copy of NSUNews. “Here it is.” He looked at Peter. “I hope this goes well.” He looked at some other students that clearly had read the article and now was looking at Peter to confirm for themselves that what they read was true. I took the paper and looked at the headline. “A Real Prince of a Guy.” That was the title. I nodded to Ted. “It will be fine, Ted. Thank you.” I took the paper and read it. The article said who Peter was and what he hoped would happen while here. Ted smiled, not sad, but he knew it would be a shock to many. “This is just the hard copy.” Ted said. “Copies go out by internet to all alumni and…” he shrugged, “others that subscribe. Just to let you know. It is on the wire now; all the newspapers and media will see this. Just be prepared.” He smiled and patted my shoulder and did the same with Peter and walked away. Peter looked over the paper with me. “Not a lot about Makarovia.” He grinned. “Makarovia? Where the hell is that?” He read and chuckled and read more, “…but in the first time in recorded history…” Peter read on out loud. “Prince Petro of Makarovia, who is openly gay is marrying his fiancé, Eric Richards from Charleston, South Carolina. Open and not hiding anything from the world, they will marry publicly with the support of Makarovia and the royal families’ acceptance and approval. Eric Richards will become the newest royal member of that family in Makarovia as he will become Prince Eric of Makarovia.” I smiled and bumped Peter lightly. “I guess it’s now official. We’re engaged.” I pointed to the written word telling everyone we were getting married. Peter smiled, but gave a shrug. “Well, I still want to ask you in a more romantic way.” He grinned. “I’ve asked and you said yes, so I guess it doesn’t matter. There is something I want to do…” I looked at him waiting, but he said nothing. “…but you won’t tell me.” Peter looked away a little. “Well, it’s kind of important.” He put his arm around me. “You’ll find out what it is.” He smiled bigger. “Later.” Our first class was together. The second semester of our Economics course and the same professor that put us together in the first place was teaching this part of the course. He did look at the new people in his class…the men with us. Yuri and the other security service guys stood behind us as we sat along the back wall. The professor’s teaching began again with no real sign he’d changed. I don’t think the heads of the departments were told about Peter other than he was from this little country no one really knew of. The other students tried to remain unaffected, but there were the looks…in passing of course, glances to see the extra men in the class and knew why. Peter and I didn’t have all our courses together. His course of study was more…economically driven. Mine was industrial and management. As our paths parted for some classes, I pulled Yuri over. “I know this is your job; securing Peter.” I said quietly to Yuri. “I also know that you care for him.” Yuri nodded. “I have for ten years.” “He’s never been outside Makarovia like this.” I said. “I know you’ll keep him safe, but…” I looked as Peter was reading for his next class, “he may retreat back into himself.” I looked again at Yuri. “Perhaps you could be…closer to Peter when in class, keep him from doing it as much.” Yuri nodded. “I can do that.” He smiled. Then I grinned at Yuri. “The same threat goes here as when I took him to my grandmother’s house for Christmas. You told me this, now I’m saying it to you; do not let anything happen to him, or you will lose your head.” I was joking a little, but I might if Peter got into trouble. Yuri chuckled. “Got it.” I was escorted to my next class. Yuri and two of the other service men went with Peter and two came with me. What did give me a little evil pleasure, was I shared my next class with Brad. I was sitting toward the back when Brad came in. I didn’t really look too much at Brad, more of a glance, but Brad looked at me and the two large service men beside me. Brad had begun to bruise where I’d hit him the night before. He didn’t dare come over to me. Knowing what would happen and having it happen was different. We progressed through the day, but coming out of class there were news trucks waiting; with reporters and cameras. They all were beginning to come at me. My service men, who really didn’t talk much to me, took my arm and were now very close as they spoke to whomever was on the other end of their earpieces I didn’t see. The reporters began their questions all at once as microphones pointed at me. I wasn’t answering them. My service men held them off and divided them as we went to have lunch, but arriving at the cafeteria…a lot of others were waiting to try to talk to us. Peter, Yuri and the other service men joined me. “Perhaps we should reconsider dining here at this…charming establishment.” Yuri said quietly to Peter and me. I grinned, yes, he was gay. “We need to eat, Yuri.” Peter said logically. “Getting in the car and going somewhere else won’t help.” Yuri nodded. “Okay.” I looked at the service men. “Do they have to just stand there?” I asked Yuri. “Is it possible that they can just sit with us?” Of course, I had been speaking in Makarovian. “They have to stand.” Yuri shrugged. “They can see better and are ready for…anything.” Campus security was also there, to keep students away from us and the press away outside the cafeteria. Peter just didn’t really understand all this attention. He was raised in a country where men and women like us were not…so rare and not treated like we were in many parts of the world. He kept looking at the reporters that were being kept out of the dining area. “They don’t even know what’s happening in Makarovia. Why are they so interested in us?” Peter asked me. “Because you and I are doing what has never been done.” I said simply. “I know you were raised in a country where those gay and lesbian are not thought of as unnatural. You are a member of a royal family. That’s an impressive position, Peter and we are marrying. That’s never been done before.” He shrugged a nod. “I guess.” “When you were in Makarovia, you had to see movies and television.” I said. “You had to know gays weren’t really thought of well in the past. They had to fight for even a partial acceptance; still not by some.” “What should we do?” Peter asked. “You’re asking me?” I asked a little surprised, but he needed help with this. Peter sunk a little. “When Ted came to us with what he found out, we told him.” I tried to think of the next logical step to stop what was happening outside. “Are you willing to tell more to other people?” I asked. “Who?” “There will no doubt be invitations by other major networks.” I said. “CBS, NBC and others. Perhaps, if we appeared in a broadcast and told them the answers most have questions about; that would cool things down.” “I guess.” Peter and I kept things as they always were. We didn’t hide affection from each other before and we didn’t now. When we parted again for our separate classes, we parted with our usual kiss, only now there were the sounds of camera’s clicking near us for the photos and we were being watched by other students as we parted. Northeastern told the reporters they were not allowed on campus anymore; not without an okay from them. How that was going to be enforced I couldn’t figure out. Now security in the campus patrol cars were posted at most of the entrance ways had security cars with a officers there at each entrance. Cars weren’t stopped, but watched as they came through. When we got in the car that afternoon as classes for us were over for the day, I looked over at Peter who was retreating again. “Are you okay?” Peter’s eyes widened. “You’re asking me if I’m okay!? Are you okay with all this?” He waved as we headed back to our apartment. I smiled. “I was fine.” Peter’s face still held doubt, but nodded. “Okay.” “But I think…we may spend the night at our apartment, but we shouldn’t stay there afterwards.” I said. Peter nodded. “Because of all this attention.” “Carla was fine with having you stay with me when you were just my boyfriend.” I said. “Ms. No Noise will not like armed security at her entrances.” Peter was now more distressed. “I am so sorry.” I turned to him, pulling his face to me. “Stop that, Peter.” I said firmly. “This isn’t your doing.” He shook his head and let a moan out. “Yes, it is. I should never have come here and involved you in this.” Even Yuri was surprised by Peter’s lament. “Peter!” I said making his eyes look at me. “You don’t regret meeting me, do you?” Peter looked away, clearly upset. “I’ve turned your life upside down…” I pulled him back to me and kissed him. It didn’t take too long before he was kissing back and I got the Peter I loved back. “Listen. You stepped out of your comfort zone to help bring Makarovia into this century; to make things better. You were scared and unsure, but you’re doing it. Meeting you was not even on my to do list, but I don’t regret one moment since we met.” I pressed my forehead to his. “You are who you are and what you are. The most amazing man I’ve ever met. I haven’t regretted a moment. Do you?” “I regret what is being done to your life.” “Do you regret meeting me?” I asked again. He smiled shaking his head. “No.” We to our apartment and Carla’s apartment door opened. “Eric?” She asked, but didn’t really approach seeing the large men with us. “Can I talk to you?” “Sure.” I walked over, but brought Peter with me. “This is about what’s happening.” Carla nodded. “I get the NSUNews online…” she looked at Peter. “You’re a prince?” Peter nodded. “I am.” “Before you say anything.” I said to Carla. “It wasn’t planned, but this is what happened. I know how you feel about noise, we won’t be here but tonight. We can go tonight if you want…you’ll be paid for the rest of the year.” Carla nodded and upset to say what she did next. “Understand, I’ve loved having you here. You have been very good as tenants, but you’re going to have security here?” She asked. Peter nodded. “We can keep them at our door.” “They will be posted at the entrances, too, Peter.” I said. “My other tenants shouldn’t have to show their ID’s to come home.” Carla said. “Or their guests ID’s.” I nodded. “I’ll get some things from the apartment. We’ll go tonight.” Carla stopped me. “I meant what I said. You and…then later when Peter arrived…you were good tenants. I hate to see you go, but…” “I do understand.” I said to her and hugged her. “Thanks for renting to me in the first place.” “I was glad to do it.” She smiled. “There have been a lot of calls here about Peter, and you.” She warned us. The she smiled. “Losing a prince and one about to become a prince…that’s just a shame.” She hugged Peter. “Good luck.” We got…really almost nothing. I was told by Yuri that someone would come and empty the apartment of our belongs. We went to the house that Peter lived in. There were again the news trucks and people standing outside to speak to Peter…and me. They were kept at bay by other security men at the front door. We were driven around back and pulled directly into a garage I didn’t even know was there having always come in the front. Unlike other times when we came in, there used to be just Boris and Yuri, now with the extra security, men at the front and a man posted at the back entrance…and additional persons doing…house things like dusting and other things…but there were more. Boris looked up as we came up from the garage by the stairway up to the living level. He smiled at us, but his smile had sympathy in it. “Greetings, Peter,” he said. “Hello, Eric. Dinner at the same time?” Peter nodded as he looked at the new people in the house. “Why do we need them?” “Olek thought I needed more help.” Boris said with a shrug. Then I saw Yuri greet his husband by saying just a hello. “Oh, come on, Yuri.” I grinned. “I know you’re married. I never greet Peter without a kiss. You’ve seen us do it!” Boris chuckled waving at Yuri. “He’s a stickler to standing on protocol.” Peter grinned. “He’s your husband, Yuri.” He pulled me to him and kissed me. “Now, greet your husband properly. We know you love him.” However Yuri had been trained or taught, he still didn’t give Boris that good a kiss. “Work on that.” Peter said lightly. “It’s protocol to try to do as I say, right?” “Well, yes…” Yuri began and he was already turning pink. “We just didn’t. I’m on duty.” “When are you not on duty?” I chuckled. Peter walked over to Yuri. “Your very loyal, Yuri. I love that about you. A good man to have in Makarovia’s service, but you are my friend, too. You and Boris are family! Relax.” Yuri nodded as he was still blushing. “I’ll try.” “We’ll be down at the right time, Boris.” I said taking Peter’s hand. Boris nodded. “Very good.” In the room Peter and I shared, I shut the door and yes, I locked it. Peter’s eyes got a little humor as he saw that. “No one will just come in.” Peter said smiling. I nodded. “I’m not taking chances.” I said backing him toward the bed. “I’m very protective…of us and mostly you.” Peter nodded. “I saw that last night,” he grinned, “when you gave Brad a bloody nose.” I nodded backing Peter up until he had to sit before falling. “If he’d tried to touch you again, I would have broken his nose.” I stretched out next to him. “You are the most precious anything to me. I am going to be protective of you.” I said making him smile at that. “You are a grown man. We’re only two months apart in age, but please…don’t regret asking me to marry you.” Peter did look at little sad when I said that. “This is just going to be hard.” I nodded. “It will be. I knew that.” I agreed. “I’d be lying if I said I knew what was going to happen. This will be a hard and sometimes difficult life ahead of us. We’ll get through this. Together.” I said running my hand up his chest. “I love you, baby.” His eyes softened. “I am your baby?” I nodded. “The most precious person or thing in my life.” I kissed him gently. “Never doubt that.” “I love you.” Peter said softly. The next day didn’t let up. Instead, it got worse. Only now, security had increased on the campus of Northeastern. Our own security with Yuri, the service men that went with us to class, campus security and now the police department was also there. “We need to be on one of those shows for that interview.” Peter said. “Do they act like this when Great Brittan’s Royal family come here?” “If Prince George came to school here, maybe…I don’t know.” I said. Then we discovered the joys of the Paparazzi. Those guys clamoring for those photos. We were standing on the walk when a motorcycle drove across the grass; the man had a camera and snapped shot of us. Yes, we were holding hands. Nothing new about that here! Peter still was having a hard time understanding what the fuss was about. “We’re not doing anything!” I chuckled. “Sure we are. We’re getting married!” I was walking with him on to class. “We’re…breaking the rules on what’s done.” I nodded. “Remember when Queen Kate first dated King William? That made all the headlines.” Peter’s head wavered as he tried to remember. “Vaguely.” “Actually, this is a very good thing.” I said. Peter looked at me surprised. “How can you say that?” “Because, the focus is on Makarovia, but not because of that other thing, but about you!” “And you!” Peter reminded. “I’m not marrying alone.” I shook my head. “I’ve only known one story about a person who married themselves.” “Married themselves?” “Had a wedding, wedding dress, the wedding ring and reception.” I said. “All of it to marry themselves.” “Why?” “Everyone was pressuring her to marry, so she did!” Peter shrugged. “Well, I was pretty intimate with myself for a long time, I’m sure she was too.” Then when we got home that evening, we met Penelope. Both Peter and I were surprised when she suddenly walked directly up to greet us. “Penelope Baldwin.” She said holding her hand out to Peter. “I was hired by King Olek as your Press and Social Secretary.” Even I stepped back as she came toward us. She was…well, there’s one word to describe her. Crisp. She wasn’t unattractive. She was in her late thirties; her brown hair was done above her shoulders in a pretty nice hair style and she wore this dark blue business suit/dress that just said…crisp. She was also British. “I didn’t know we needed one.” Peter said cautiously shaking her hand. “This is Eric…” She nodded. “Oh, yes. I certainly know who you two are.” She smiled. “And you will definitely need a secretary.” She waved us to come to a room that…she had taken over? I had never been in it before, but whatever it had been before; now there was a desk on which a computer sat and telephone. “I will handle all calls that come in.” She said. “And the phone has rung quite a bit. Requests for interviews and appearances...” I nodded. “We knew there would be.” She never stopped smiling, which that was a good thing. “I will give the requests to you and of course, it will be your decision to do as you deem necessary.” “My brother hired you?” Peter said to be clear. “He knows you.” She nodded. “I’ve worked with him several times on his trips throughout Europe. I think I have his confidence.” “I’d say you do, if he hired you to do this.” I said. “I’ve never dealt with someone that…” I waved at her computer and office, “did this stuff.” Peter shook his head. “Neither have I. Olek could have told us.” “We’ve been gone all day, baby.” I reminded Peter. “How was he going to tell us? We have email on our phones…” “That is also being handled by me.” Penelope Baldwin said. “To assure you, your private emails I won’t touch, but general emails and solicitations, I go through as with calls or texts on your phones. You’ll see there aren’t many on them now. They have been routed here.” She walked to her computer and waved at her set up. “I got a list of your contacts. All emails sent to you by those contacts were left alone. The others, I’ve gleaned out and will go through like junk email and that sort of thing.” She brought out a folder. “In here are requests by several networks for interviews; the web addresses and contacts are included. You can go through them, contact them and make whatever arrangements you think you need to. Just let me know.” Then the phone rang. “Excuse me.” She said and took the call. I saw him doing it again. He was just…looking lost. “Peter.” I said pulling him out the door of Penelope’s office. “Stop it, baby.” I said softly. “This is a good thing.” I looked in his eyes that weren’t looking at me and made him look. “Talk to me. Remember that rule.” Peter just let out a frustrated sigh. “This is just a lot. You lost your apartment because of me. Going to class is now a prob…” I quickly kissed him, stopping his worry about what happened. “I’ll tell you as often as I have to. You didn’t do this. It’s the world’s reaction to what we’re doing, but I’m not sorry.” I grinned as we walked back through the house. I waved at the townhouse. “This is much nicer than our little apartment.” “But it’s not even ours.” I stopped him. “It will be.” I said. “You know how?” “How?” Peter asked smiling a little. “We’re adding things.” I said. “I mean, personal things. Pictures of Queen Alla and King Olek.” I grinned. “But not as queen and king, but as your Mom and brother.” I smiled and almost bounced, “and I’m putting that hockey stick in our room!” “I haven’t played hockey since I got here.” Peter said grinning. “We need to change that, too.” I wrapped my arms around this. “We’ll make this a personal space. Yours and mine. Then maybe you’ll feel like you’re home; it won’t be just where we sleep.” Peter smiled. “Pictures of Mom will be easy, I have tons of her.” “Oh?” “When she was about fourteen, she was discovered by this man that thought she’d make a good model.” Peter said proudly. “Come on, I’ll show you.” He took us up to our room and sat at his computer. I watched him type quickly. “This…” he said proudly, “…is my favorite.” This image, beautifully done, a head shot of her from her neck up, her long thick blonde hair around her shoulders cascaded down and this…coy sort of smile. She would have tempted ME! I said before, she was stunning. That didn’t even come close. Photogenic? Hell yea! She was gorgeous! “She was eighteen here.” Peter said smiling. “She was becoming one of those international super models.” He said proudly and then laughed. “Until she met Dad.” He did another couple of keystrokes and an image of her and a man that looked a lot like Olek…or rather, Olek looked a lot like his father. It looked at the time he was the same age as Olek is now. A very handsome man, also with that close-cut beard of black hair like Olek wore and together with Alla, they were a beautiful couple. I looked at Peter and yes, he had some of his father’s good looks, but Olek looked more like his father. Peter had features that were his father’s, but a lot of his mother was in him, too. His mother and father were at a party, and her gown was nice, but tastefully done. He wore one of those tuxes with the white jacket. The thing was they were laughing at someone off to the side in the picture, but it wasn’t posed. “Oh, yes…” I said to Peter. “You all need to put more out there on the web.” I smiled. “You are every bit as handsome as your brother and father. Your mother is gorgeous! The world will want to see this.” I waved at the computer. “Can I?” Peter looked at me and smiled. “Sure.” He moved over for me to type. I typed quickly and pulled up what was available for Makarovia. There some pictures of the castle. It was an older structure that was hundreds, maybe a thousand years old. It wasn’t the pretty castles I only saw in pictures from other cultures, but it looked strong. Brown, but strong. There were a few pictures of the towns. I nodded. “This needs to be updated.” I smiled. “A better picture of your mother, brother and you.” I waved at the monitor. “Your family needs a website and so does Makarovia. People don’t know about you because there’s nothing to attract their attention. A few more attractive pictures of Stryia and Makarovia will help. People will be moving there.” “Because of the Uranium.” Peter nodded. “Yes. I’m sure Olek has it under control, but the military personnel coming to Makarovia will need housing and they will also need things like…a place to get groceries and have entertainment. What are Olek’s plans for the uranium?” I asked. “It needs processing and all that.” “Yes.” “And those that are mining the uranium are going to come from Makarovia, but Olek said it was deep.” Peter nodded. “That’s right.” “Deep core mining will require special skills. Someone will have to teach your people those skills. The processor is going to need people with specialties, they will probably come with families. They will want things as well; schools and even for shopping.” Peter nodded. “That sort of infrastructure isn’t happening right now.” “Plans need to start.” I said. “I’m sure Olek knows this.” I smiled at Peter. “The population of Makarovia will be growing.”
  13. 48 points
    This was a different life for me. I got the feeling it was in a lot of ways different for Peter. He didn’t act like he was ready to be so…out there. Not about being gay or our relationship, but politically. That focus, more than our relationship, was playing on his mind. I could tell. We went down to dinner, which was delicious. Boris was fine cook. I understood why Peter didn’t cook well. He didn’t have to. Then we went upstairs again and got ready for bed. Peter came out of the bathroom and sat on the side of the bed with a sigh. “Are you okay?” I asked. Peter was thinking about something and it seemed I interrupted what he was thinking. “What?” Then he nodded. “Oh, yes. Fine.” I sat up and moved across the bed behind him, putting my arms around him from behind. “Okay.” I said lightly. “We’re going to set some rules.” I said kissing his neck. Peter looked back at me with raised eyebrows. “Rules?” I nodded and kissed him gently. “The only real rule for us…when you see something about me…when I see something in you; if I ask are you okay, I want to know what’s on your mind. I can tell there is something. I don’t pry. I won’t drag it out of you, but be honest. If you can’t talk about it, tell me that. Don’t just say you’re fine or something. Talk to me.” Peter grinned as he turned to see me more directly. “A very good rule.” He nodded. “Okay, I’m just feeling a little…uncertain. You said it yourself. This dinner is a big deal.” He sighed. “There are some important things about to happen for Makarovia; things that will change the way Makarovia is seen by the world…many who don’t even know who we are.” I nodded. “What are you feeling about that?” “Nervous.” Peter chuckled. “Getting an education in the West for me was more than getting the universities’ education. My country is stepping out of the shadows and will be seen…more than it has, but a few times in history. I needed to be educated more about how to interact with people. I was preparing to be able to blend in better.” He chuckled again. “You saw me when I first arrived. I wasn’t ready.” He leaned in kissing me gently. “You really helped me there. I just want to be…someone that doesn’t detract from what my mother and brother are trying to do.” He shrugged. “That’s why I’m nervous.” I pulled him back on the bed. “Now, that wasn’t hard to tell me, was it?” I smiled. “Just know…I’ll be there. Whatever you need. I’m there for you.” Peter smiled as his grey-green eyes held emotion. “I’m falling in love with you.” I shook my head. “I’m sorry.” I frowned. “I’m afraid I can’t say that to you anymore.” I said straddling his middle and raised his arms above his head, dipping my nose in the black hairs of his armpit. He didn't mind. It still could tickle, so I was careful. His face got a puzzled look. “I’m no longer falling love, Peter.” I said kissing him. “I’m there already. I love you, Peter. Now, it’s just getting stronger.” Now, I saw his eyes get softer and he nodded. “I love you, too.” He said kissing me. “We’ll get married, you know?” I had not expected that. Not yet. I sat up quickly. “We haven’t…” “I’m not asking you yet.” Peter said carefully. “We’ve know each other several weeks, I know what I want with you. This is nice here, but…you may not be ready to say yes. I don’t want to be your boyfriend or even your life partner, but I would like you in my life. I want you as my husband. I want to be your husband.” He gave a shrug as he looked around the room we were in. “I’d like it to be in a more…romantic setting.” Okay. I was just told by a prince…a real prince he loved me and was planning to ask to marry me? Could I do that? It didn’t even take a second before I smiled. “When you’re ready ask me; I know the answer will be yes.” I leaned in kissing him deeply. Then looking in his grey-green eyes. “I love you.” We did have a relationship. We made love. It was always wonderful. When the morning came, we got up and were taken to a small airport. A plane was sent up to Boston for Peter to take him to Washington. We had no waiting. We flew to this private airport in Virginia and was taken to a hotel near the White House. I was a little nervous about meeting all these important people. His brother Olek was a king, and his mother, though a dowager queen was still very much a queen. Don’t forget I was meeting the President of the United States. Peter wouldn’t necessarily know this, but our President was Republican. I’m not saying that was bad, but…well…Peter and I…others that were gay, weren’t always welcome or treated well by people and most often, they were Republicans. There was the Log Cabin Republicans; gay people that were Republican? They wanted to change people’s minds. I don’t know. I wasn’t a Republican. I bring that up because, I knew for a fact the man that was Vice-President had taken a strong stance against us. He hadn’t wanted to grant us the right to have a real “marriage” when he was in Congress. The people of the United States said we were to be allowed to do marry. His opinion didn’t matter. I had another issue. I didn’t really know about Makarovia. I did more searches on the web. The little country was in the mountains; that much I knew. They had a long history going back more than a thousand years. It had been fought over and taken over by several countries. Russia was the last power to have control. The Ukraine was one…even Romania had it once or twice. The capitol city was Stryia. Again, it was not a big country and very mountainous. What they had were metals. They had a lot of iron; which was their main export. There were valleys in Makarovia and Stryia was in one of those valleys by a river. It had a few farms, so importing food and other things to support the population was a constant. Being that dependent for basic necessities made it easier for other powers to take control. The population had grown since the end of World War II. Before then, they had maybe a few hundred thousand scattered around Makarovia. Now they had almost two million people! I frowned at that. The pressure for King Olek and Queen Alla had to be enormous. I was feeling less angry at them for not seeing Peter’s misery. They had been very busy. It was on the flight that Peter looked over at my laptop as I read. He smiled at me. “You’re researching Makarovia?” I looked back at him. “I have to.” I said simply. “I will be there with you as you and your brother and mother are talking with some people to help Makarovia with their situation. I need to know about the country you came from. How can I talk with any knowledge about a country I really didn’t know about before I met you?” Peter chuckled. “That’s a good idea.” He leaned in a kissed me. God! He was good at that. “I came to Northeastern to learn how to make industry and things…green.” “Green?” Peter asked. “The color green?” I chuckled as somethings didn’t translate easily. “Well, yes; green as in the color of leaves and keeping those leaves green. The environment. Green, understand?” I said as he nodded got it. “What I’m finding interesting is the dependence Makarovia has for food and things like that. It made Makarovia vulnerable.” Peter nodded. “There’s not a lot of fertile land to plant on.” He said logically. I nodded and raised a finger. “Yes, but there could be.” I watched Peter’s eyes widen. “Take the Aztecs.” I began. “Or any mountainous community as in Asia, they would plant on tiers or terraces.” I said. “Shelves that were constructed, fertile soil would be brought in and contained. There would be more land to plant crops. It’s not a new idea, but it works.” Peter grinned. “There is still the environment issues such as the cold weather to deal with.” I nodded again. “I looked it up. There is a period that most of the crops are planted and harvested in Makarovia. It can be done.” I shrugged. “It would take some construction and work, but very possible. You would be less dependent on imports, making you more independent.” Peter smiled even bigger. “It would.” He nodded. “With the influx of money now, it would be even more possible.” I said. “You’re taking this very seriously.” Peter smiled, impressed. “Of course, I am.” I said. “I’m involved in your life. You all but asked me to marry you.” I waved at the computer. “This is a huge part of that a life I have with you, therefore, I’m involved with Makarovia. When we do marry, I’ll become Makarovian.” I nodded as I read more. “Improved farming, medical services, business…many of the other things will be done. It has to.” Peter nodded. “You’re right.” When we landed, we were taken to a hotel where we were given a suite. Washington and all around it was not cheap. The idea of getting something so important to the United States and the world; staying here made sense. It was secure, that was the most important. King Olek and Queen Alla would be arriving just before the dinner at the White House. I finished getting dressed while Peter was putting the finishing touches on what he was wearing. He looked too good, I almost didn’t want to go and stay here with him and undress him. Later, I told myself. There was a knock on the door. Peter was in the bedroom putting his tie on, so I rose and answered the door. The man on the other side looked surprised at seeing me answer. “I apologize.” He said with a slight look of confusion as he looked at the door and number. “They must have told me the wrong room. This isn’t Petro Ivanov’s room?” I recognized him from the photo I’d seen, even if it was ten years old he looked the same. His English was accented. Well dressed in the tuxedo and the red sash across his chest and the medallion with the royal crest hung around his neck. I bowed and said in Makarovian. “No, this is Peter’s room, Your Highness.” His eyebrows rose. “You speak Makarovian?” He said surprised. Didn’t Peter and his brother talk? “I do.” I said waving him in. “Peter’s finishing getting ready.” “But you have almost no accent.” King Olek marveled. “Where are you from?” “Charleston, South Carolina actually.” I replied. “America.” Peter came in the room and smiled. “Olek.” He walked up and hugged his brother. “How are you?” There might have been problems with the family, but what I saw was genuine affection, from Peter and King Olek. The king was indeed a very handsome man about forty; the dark beard only added that touch of elder statesman to his appearance making him more distinguished. “Peter!” Then he said holding his brother back, but didn’t let him go. “My god! You’re acne! It’s gone!” Peter actually blushed. “Yeah, well…a friend told me there were some good medical schools in Boston. I went and this is what happened. I wanted it to be a surprise.” He grinned. “Surprise!” Olek looked astounded at his brother’s face as he ran a hand over his face. Then he turned to me. “King Olek Ivanov.” He did the formal sharp little bow most Europeans did. He even did the little heel click as he did. I grinned. “I certainly know who you are, Sire. Though I have to say, that picture on the internet is a little dated. You’re much better looking now than you were then. You should have that updated.” The king gave a hearty laugh at that. “We do need to update that. We’ll have to now.” The he put a brotherly arm on Peter’s arm. “We will need to, if for no other reason…my brother was always handsome, but now?” He stroked and kissed his brother’s unblemished cheek. “He’s very handsome.” He looked at me. “Do we have you to thank for that?” Olek asked. “You do.” Peter answered for me smiling. “Eric is the man who is…” he smiled at Olek, “my date tonight.” Olek smiled at hearing that and looked delightfully amazed. Then he looked around the suite. “Okay, where’s my brother? You look like him, sort of, the blemishes are gone and you don’t act like him. A date? That’s wonderful!” And he sounded as if he really meant it. “So tell me, Eric. How is it a boy from America’s South speaks Makarovian? With no real accent?” “I was taught Ukrainian by my mother and grandmother. My grandmother was raised in Kiev. Makarovian is not too different from Ukrainian. I speak it all the time with Peter.” I said. “I was assigned Peter as my partner for a project we have due at the end of the semester. That professor saw I spoke Russian and Ukrainian, I was assigned to make it easier for Peter. It was pretty easy to switch to Makarovian after I heard it a while.” Peter nodded. “His grandmother was a dancer with the Bolshoi.” I held up a finger. “No. She was the Premier Ballerina.” I corrected. “A star.” Peter nodded chuckling. “Sorry.” Olek’s eyebrows rose. “Really?” “And she was the Premier Ballerina at the New City Ballet a number of years.” I nodded. There was another knock at the door. Only King Olek was closest and he answered the door. I have to say, Peter’s mother was beautiful! No, that’s not right. She was stunning! Queen Alla was thin and blonde hair coming down in soft waves over her perfect skin and piercing green eyes. The gold gown glittered as did the little gold tiara on her head. She looked regal. A she had a figure men drooled for. Well…most men. “Is Peter ready?” She asked Olek. “The limo…” she stopped seeing her son. “Peter!?” Then she walked over to her son, turning his head to see his face better. “What on…it’s gone!” “Hi, Mom. Surprise.” Peter smiled. “Yes, it’s gone. Thank so Western Medicine.” Then he grinned. “Don’t I get a hug?” She caught herself. “What? Oh, of course! Honey! This is wonderful!!” She hugged her son. “And this…!” King Olek said directing her eyes to me, “is his date who convinced him to go to the doctor here.” She looked at me with eyes that grew wider and then looked at Olek. “Date?” Then back at her son. “You have a date!?” Her tone told me she was delighted to hear that. No, neither his mother or brother had a problem with us being on a date; delighted and surprised, but there was no problem. “Not only that, but he found someone, an American that speaks Makarovian as well as a native.” Olek said incredibly. “Queen Alla, this is Peter’s date. Eric Richards.” He waved to me. I was introduced by and the king to the queen! The queen’s face showed no objection. There were no signs that my coming with Peter was a problem, but liked the idea. I was beginning to see that they really did love Peter. Maybe they weren’t so oblivious to Peter’s problem in the past. “Mr. Richards.” She said holding her hand out to me. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I can’t wait to hear how you charmed my son.” She smiled. “But unfortunately, there is a car waiting to take us to the White House. We can’t have the President waiting.” “You’re Majesty.” I bowed, kissing the back of her hand as I was taught. Then she looked again at her son. “How handsome you are.” She ran her hand over his tux. “We could be looking at a new Petro.” Peter nearly blushed again. “I’m still the same Peter, Mom.” She shook her head. “No. You’re better.” She kissed him on the cheek. Of course, I noted that neither the king or queen had escorts other than a few guards. I wondered if…no, they didn’t seem like anything but family…their familiarity with each other gave no indication other than they were friends. Only Peter had the date, which they were not ready for. Olek and Peter walked a little ways behind the queen and me as they talked, but Queen Alla put her hand in my arm. This was a very familiar thing to do. There were things like…never turning you back and never touch a royal person, which a former First Lady did with Queen Elizabeth, but Queen Alla did it to me. I was surprised, but not bothered. “Understand.” She said softly to me. “It is truly remarkable how Peter has changed, Eric. Not only in appearance, but just his whole person has changed. He seems more confident.” She looked back at her son. I nodded. “He has.” I answered. “When I first met him, he was so shy, if the professor hadn’t assigned the project and me to be his partner, I doubt we would have even met.” She smiled and chuckled a little. “It’s hard to imagine, the acne he had would prove to be such a hindrance to his confidence. I tried everything I could to help him, but he refused to be with people. He saw what he had as an obstacle. He had such a hard time at a very crucial time in life.” I nodded. “I think it was. He was a puzzle to me. He had the manners and knowledge to fit in, but didn’t really use that.” “When he said he wanted a Western Education, I was thrilled, but also terrified.” The queen told me. “How could he mix with others of other cultures if he couldn’t mix with people in his own culture? I tried talking to him, even bringing a psychologist to see him. Nothing worked!” “Perhaps that was the key.” I suggested. “We were so different, he felt he had a chance.” She smiled. “I bet you had to work on him.” I nodded chuckling. “It was only because of the assignment he had to talk to me and I couldn’t give up. I finally got him to laugh.” The queen smiled. “And to find someone that speaks the language as fluently as you do. It had to be fate.” “But he lacks the confidence in situations like this.” I said. “He wants to be a part of improving things for Makarovia. He’s afraid he’ll embarrass not only Makarovia, but you two.” “I know.” She bowed sadly. “But, with you helping him, perhaps he’ll see that will be avoided. While Olek and I are here in a more statesmen fashion. He feels he’s here as just a member of the family; an unneeded person. You will get him to see he’s not.” “I’m working on it.” I nodded. “I’ll do my best.” She stopped and looked at me. “He loves you, I can tell.” I nodded. “He does. I love him.” “So, this is more than just a date with a boyfriend?” She asked, but held her hand up. “Not that I’m asking, but…you are more than a boyfriend.” “Yes.” She gave a look to the ceiling, more as a thank you to God Himself. “I am so thrilled!” She said and…another breech. She hugged me! Now, I will admit, being at the White House was exciting. I was meeting the President and her husband! That was something I never dreamed I would be doing. The negotiations had been done. This was more of a meeting to get everyone in the room on the same page. There was going to be a joint base on Makarovian soil; for the United States, Great Brittan and a limited amount of other countries. It was almost a United Nations for Makarovia. The UN was not someone who would interfere if another nation wanted to take over Makarovia. Having these forces in place would cause other countries to think again if they didn’t want to piss off the United States, Great Brittan or the other assorted countries having their military there. Russia had wanted to be included, but let’s just say, Russia’s history had proven itself not a trustworthy as some. The USSR had been in control once. Their presence wouldn’t be that positive for the people of Makarovia. Especially in light of what they did with the Ukraine. And NATO!? Forget it. I was impressed that the king and queen of Makarovia did not show surprise that Peter’s choice of a date had bothered them. I wish I could say the same for the others. Our President at this time was a Republican, but she started off as a Democrat and still had some of those views, so there was almost no reaction when I was presented to her. However, when she realized I was American; that did surprise her. The Vice President’s eyes narrowed when we were introduced, but he kept his mouth shut. The British did react with surprise, but I let it go, because what could they do? If they were to get anything from Makarovia they couldn’t object to who Peter had brought as King Olek and Queen Alla were proud of Peter…and me! I noticed no TV cameras, but there were camera, but none really focused on Peter or me. It was a good meal! It sort of had to be, this was the White House! It went well! I watched as King Olek and Queen Alla were charming all those at our table. Occasionally, I would see Peter begin to withdraw, but a simple touch…a squeeze of his hand and he came back with a smile to me. He also could be charming. His fear of making a fool of himself was done. I told him, I was there for him. Both King Olek and Queen Alla smiled when I did support Peter that way. The Vice President frowned, which King Olek clearly saw. It was King Olek that brought it up, not Peter or me. Olek had stated that he wasn’t going to give his resource for making weapons. What he wanted was to provide what was needed to provide power for hospitals and industry. Then King sat back as he looked at the Vice President. “…I hope those in power realize our country is open and diverse.” King Olek said calmly. "Anyone that wanted to stay in Makarovia was welcome to do that. The Hebrew people after World War II…most went back…we don’t turn our backs on people regardless of what religion they practice.” He then looked more directly at the Vice President. “That includes those of the human race that are homosexual.” He said pointedly. “To get something needed, acceptance is sometimes necessary.” The Vice President was embarrassed, but cleared his throat. “It’s just…there are people here that see homosexuals as unnatural.” He said what he’d said in the past about us when he was in Congress. Queen Alla smiled. “Really?” She said. “Whether you believe it is or isn’t is irrelevant. It is. I challenge those who think that way to look around. The number of people that don’t seem to worry about a gender being the reason to love is huge. Their numbers are in the millions worldwide.” “I dare say in the hundreds of millions.” King Olek said. “If there were just a few homosexuals scattered about, I might agree, but millions!?” Queen Alla nodded. “Whether you believe God created man or nature itself. I say the sheer number of them would tell those people it is very natural.” Queen Alla said pointedly to the Vice President. I was smiling even bigger, but didn’t look at the Vice President. The fact that both King Olek and Queen Alla supported Peter, me and the millions of gay people in the world; I now loved both of them. The President looked at her Vice President. “Well, we all need to be more tolerant of others.” She knew there were millions of voters out there who would take a stand against her if she said otherwise. Then she guided the conversations elsewhere. Peter leaned in and whispered. “I told you.” He said bumping his head gently to mine. I smiled. “Yes, you did.” We had a good dinner. What I found out, both the king and queen had separate jobs. King Olek did the negotiating with foreign powers about trade and other things for Makarovia. Queen Alla was more about the people of Makarovia. The schools and hospital needs and more social things within Makarovia. They were both dedicated to Makarovia, but different aspects. They were friends, but I sensed nothing more. They had jobs to do. After we got back to the hotel, King Olek and Queen Alla met with us before turning in. “I’m glad you were here, Peter.” King Olek said to his brother. “You both were great assets for us.” He looked at me. “He chose wisely to include you tonight.” Then he put an arm over Peter’s shoulder. “I hope you see that you are a prince of Makarovia, but you’re my brother. I love you. I am so happy you found someone.” He looked at me. “We’ll meet again, I hope.” Peter took my hand. “I hope so, too.” He looked at his brother. “I will tell you, I told him I would marry him. I haven’t officially asked…I will in the right setting, but I think he’ll be around a very long time. Tonight was to be sure he wanted to do this.” “You know I will.” I said. “I’ll be glad to marry you.” I grinned. “You have to ask me, though.” Queen Alla did her look to the ceiling again, let out a girly squeal and then she hugged her son. King Olek grinned and came over and hugged ME! Switching places, they hugged both of us. “Then I say: welcome to the family.” King Olek said happily. Yes, I loved them! Then we went back to campus. Peter was blossoming, but was still somewhat reserved with others. The idea of gays was not new to Boston or areas of the United States. Like King Olek and Queen Alla said at dinner, we were in the millions upon millions around the world. The South was not as tolerant as the bigger cities of the North, but even I had issues with being as open as Peter was with me. We often walked through campus and I smiled as he put his arm around me or would take my hand without even thinking about it. We were a couple. Why hide that? The rest of the world had a long way to go to be as open and accepting as Makarovia. Peter was raised there and didn’t see it as a problem. I had to talk to Carla, my landlord. Peter did feel better at my apartment. It was convenient location wise to the campus, but he pretty much moved in. We lived at the house he was using on the weekends. He hadn’t been kidding when he told me he liked the apartment and felt at home there. I looked at my grandma’s friend and my landlord. “…so, should I pay more? He’s pretty well moved in.” Carla smiled. “That apartment really is more for one.” She said knowing there was a romance going on. “I’ve seen him come and go. You’re both quiet, so there’s no problem.” Peter and my joint Economics project got an A minus. Then Christmas came and I was to fly to Ashville to visit my grandmother. I wanted to take Peter to meet her, but there were issues if we did that. Yuri and Boris being one of those issues, mostly Yuri. Peter only had those two here from Makarovia on staff. Yuri was his security. Yuri was thinking he had to come with us. “I have to keep him safe!” Yuri said again. “He’ll be with me.” I told Yuri. “We’re going to fly commercially to Asheville. No one really knows who he is right now. We’ll be staying with my grandmother. He’ll be safe. Having armed security just calls attention.” Yuri didn’t like it, but finally gave in; after he gave in, he warned me if Peter was hurt…I’d lose my head! He wasn’t joking. You know me and hugs, I hugged the man! He cared about Peter and not about his job. Next, I had to tell grandma I was bringing someone with me. I called her. “I’ll be arriving the 23rd.” I said. “I’d like to bring someone with me for you to meet.” Grandma didn’t even think about it. “Sure.” Then I heard the humor in her voice. “I’m gathering this is someone important.” “Yes, very.” I said. “I’ll tell you everything when we get there.” Flying to Asheville was done, a car was rented and I drove us to the house where grandma lived. “This is nice.” Peter said looking at the large Victoria home on the large lot, the house was surrounded by flowers. He looked at the surroundings and mountains. “It needs sharper mountains, but it’s nice.” He grinned. I didn’t even have to ring the doorbell as we approached on the porch. Grandma opened the door with a big smile, glad to see me, but wanted to meet who I brought. I said grandma was seventy-two. She had been a ballerina most of her life. She was thin, but showed little sign that was a problem as she still held herself straight and proud. Her hair was white now, but it was thick and done up on her head. She was a very beautiful woman. She came, hugging me tightly. “Приємно бачити вас, дитина..” She said telling me it was good to see me in Ukrainian. I nodded and said. “Це приємно бачити вас, теж, бабуся.” Telling her it was good to see her. She looked up at Peter and smiled. Then I switched to Makarovian. “This is Peter.” I waited for her to hear not only what I said, but what language I used. “He’s from Makarovia.” Her eyes showed surprise, but not recognition. Yet. “Peter Ivanov.” I finished said carefully. Like I did, the last name and where he was from told a lot. “Oh?” She asked now more surprised. While most of the world, including me at first, didn’t know where Makarovia was, the people from East Europe did; especially in the Ukraine. She looked at Peter carefully. “You’re…” “Yes. He’s Prince Petro Ivanov. King Olek’s brother.” Her eyes widened. “He is?” I nodded. “It will probably come out eventually, about his dating someone male and an American.” Grandma nodded. “I see.” She put her hand out to Peter who did…what they do. He bowed, took her hand and kissed it. “It is an honor to meet you, Mrs. Sams.” Peter said. Grandma smiled. “It’s an honor to meet you, Your Majesty.” She bowed slightly and waved to the door. “I think we should go in. I need to sit down.” Coming in, the house was like it always was to me; elegant and very tidy. Peter and I sat on the couch of her den and without thought, Peter took my hand. Grandma was not shocked, but…her face said she wasn’t expecting that. She sat down slowly. Her mind going over what I’d said. “And you’ve considered all those ramifications if it does become serious?” She asked me and Peter. “I assume it’s more than just a fling.” “I don’t do flings.” I growled. “You know that.” “You don’t.” She said and looked at Peter more directly. “I don’t either.” Peter said. I gave a shrugging nod. “This wasn’t what I planned for. I was going to get my degree first. I still intend to, but…” “My grandson wants more.” She said to Peter, ignoring me. “Something permanent.” Peter said with a nod. “So, do I.” She nodded. “I mean permanent like marriage.” “I’ve met his mother and brother.” I said, then smiled a little slyly. “It was so fast, I really didn’t have time to tell anyone, but I met his family when there was a dinner….at the White House.” Grandmother looked more surprised. “You had dinner at the White House?” I nodded. “I did. I met the President and the British Ambassador. The truth is; I know how he feels. I know he loves me, but…” “My point is…” Grandmother said sitting forward a little more. “This will be an important step for you and Peter, if it happens. He may be in love with you. How do you feel?” “I love him.” She nodded. “You may see him as just a man. But he isn’t. I know he’s second in the line for the throne of a small kingdom, but it is a kingdom. You will face media scrutiny when this comes out. There’s never been a relationship like this. You tell me it’s not a fling and you love each other. Can your love handle it?” I shrugged. “I hope so.” “Know so before you do anything.” She cautioned. Peter smiled. “We have talked about the future.” He said. “No one’s proposed yet, but…we both know this will be different for everyone. I don’t know what life with me will be.” He looked at me. “I do love him.” He looked at grandma. “I’m not letting him go.” “I do love him.” I looked at Peter who smiled at me. Grandma just looked a moment and just smiled, nodding. “I see that.” She rose and came to Peter who stood up. “Welcome, Peter.” She was about to hug him. “Can I hug you?” Peter answered that question by hugging her. “Anytime.” He said. “Thanks for understanding.” Grandma smiled and did what others did stroking his face gently. “Love is so important. Treat as what it is, something very valuable.” We had a great time spending Christmas with my grandmother, but we had to go back to Boston. The next few days were interesting. Peter and I didn’t hide that we were together and most people didn’t care. Not that we did anything much to see, but neither of us were concerned. Until…about midways through the Winter Semester, I saw a familiar figure walk toward me across the quad. We’d see each other around campus and we did talk. We even went to a few parties, but since Peter I got together, I didn’t go that often. “Hi, Eric.” Ted Dawe greeted and nodded to Peter. “Peter.” His tone was telling me he was concerned about something. “Hi, Ted.” I nodded. “Can I talk to you?” Ted asked and looked pleading. “In private, please. Really, I need to show you something.” Peter nodded and Ted and I walked away a little. He opened his laptop. “I was doing an assignment in my journalism class. Current events and all that shit.” I almost knew what he’d found. It was just a matter of time. “I was going through some footage about a dinner at the White House.” He cued up some footage. “And who do I see right behind the King of Makarovia, which I had to look up, by the way. And who do I see?” The image showed King Olek and Queen Alla well, but right behind them was an image of me and Peter clearly. “So I looked up some information about this king and his last name is Ivanov. He has a brother named Petro Ivanov. Peter is Prince Petro Ivanov, isn’t he?” He pointed at Peter. “Are you really from South Carolina? What’s going on?” I took Ted’s arm and led him farther away. “Yes, I’m from South Carolina. I went to high school at James Island High School. I have a grandmother who is from Ukraine. That’s why I can speak his language.” I looked pleading at Ted. “Peter just wants to be Peter for now.” Ted shook his head. “I don’t understand. He’s a fucking prince!” He said louder than he wanted attracting Peter’s attention, causing him to look curiously. “Who right now is just a regular guy!” I said urgently. “Your boyfriend is the prince of Makarovia!” Ted hissed. Then he shook his head. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s going to be found out. There are many others in my class and we’ve all got access to all these files. Someone is going to make a connection.” He closed his laptop. “I’m not here to say anything. Really, Peter made himself invisible on campus. What got my attention was you!” He pointed. “Here’s a guy I know, at the White House, having dinner with the President of the United States and other country’s political heads…this friend never mentioned he’d had fucking dinner with the President to anyone. Not only that, but Germany, French and Great Britain’s Ambassadors were there so it must be big, whatever it was. Makarovia is a tiny country. Why?” He wasn’t mad, but wanted to find out what was going on. He was a reporter, though. I didn’t want to answer that. “I can’t answer that.” I said. “It’s not my answer to give.” Ted nodded. “So there is something big going on and you were with King Olek. He knows you’re his brother’s boyfriend, so does Peter’s mother.” “Again, I don’t want to say anything.” “NSUNews will find this out!” Ted practically hissed telling me the university’s new paper would dig it out. “I’m not threatening you or Peter. I like you, but this is huge. It’s going to come out!” I nodded. “Let me talk to Peter. Then he will decide whether to tell you or not.” “Do it fast.” Ted warned and then he sighed. “I’m not trying to get a story, believe me. I want to be a sports newscaster. I don’t give a damn who is fucking who as long as it’s legal. Like I said, I had to look Makarovia up! I mean, Makarovia? Where the hell is that? But something’s going on. Tell me, I’ll get it out respectfully. I swear.” I nodded. “We’ll get back to you this afternoon.” Back in our apartment Peter was a little annoyed with what I told him. “He just wants a story.” “Peter…he’s not that interested. He knows this will be coming out and he wants to warn us or give us the chance to tell what’s happening. He’s doing as a friend. He could have just printed what he has.” I defended. “But if he figured it out, others that are interested in a huge story will. So, it’s either Ted or just let it happen. You choose.” He sighed. “We would have control.” He nodded. “Okay. We’ll tell them about me, and us.” He smiled. “But then they tell the world why we were at the White House and what Makarovia’s got. I can’t do that.” I nodded. “I trust Ted to do as he said. This is going to be a big story in itself. A prince that’s gay isn’t new, but he admits it!?” I grinned. “We’ll be on the cover of Out and The Advocate the next day!” I chuckled. “I don’t think it will be that big a deal today. You’re next in line for the throne. Your brother had better get busy to create an heir.” I joked. “As hard as we try, neither of us is getting the other pregnant.” Peter laughed. “I’ll tell him yourself when we go to Makarovia.” Then Peter grabbed me, hugging me. “Me!? You want to me to go to Makarovia?” Peter smiled. “You’re doing it again, repeating what I say. Would you come with me to Makarovia for the summer? We’ll be on break.” Peter asked. “You can see how pretty it can be. When we marry, it will be your home, too.” “You need to ask me first.” I said making Peter chuckle and roll his eyes. My mind had worked on the possibility as the relationship developed. “Okay. I can visit the mines and see what’s planned for storage of the rods. I have some ideas for waste disposal and alternatives using spent rods.” Peter’s eyebrows rose. “You do?” “Sure.” I nodded. “You’ll have a lot of uranium going out. A lot of spent rods, and most rods are only five percent used, leaving ninety-five percent left unused. A lot of that can be recycled.” “Really!?” “Sure, most people find it easier to just change the rod and dispose of it, rather that recycle.” I said. “I studied it.” Peter nodded. “I understand.” He kissed me tenderly. “So, you’re coming?” “I can’t wait!” I grinned and tackled him onto our bed kissing him.
  14. 47 points
    The Phoenix Foundation Fury: "Matt, line one is for you!" Bellowed through the intercom, startling him. Matt was so focused on the paper he was reading, he’d forgotten there was anybody else in the office. "Hello, this is Matt," He said picking up the telephone as he rubbed his eyes which were tired from reading contracts all day. "Matt, this is Sheriff Cooper, I realize you are just preparing to open your youth home, but I need a place to put a kid that has been living on the streets for almost two years according to what he has told me." "Can you tell me a bit about him?" "Well, he is fifteen, originally from Texas. His parents kicked him out when they discovered he was gay, he was only thirteen at the time for FUCKSAKE’S!" "I’m guessing he won’t have an issue with me and Jon then. What’s his name?" "His name is Caleb James." "James? You said his last name is James?" Matt asked curiously. "Yeah, that’s what I said. Why?" "Well... My last name is James, Steven and Claire are or were, my parents. As soon as I turned eighteen I got the hell out of their house. I was gay, and they made sure everybody around our family knew they didn't like homosexuality...." "Matt, we have a problem, you said your parents are named Steven and Claire?" The Sheriff paused. "Unfortunately, yes...." Matt sighed at the thought. "How soon can you come down to my office Matt?" Sheriff Cooper asked respectively. "I just need to grab a few papers to take home with me,” Matt scratched his head, “I guess I could be there in fifteen minutes." "Thanks, Matt, I’ll see you then,” Sheriff Cooper ended the call. Walking out into the outer office area, "Jen, I am leaving for the day. If, anything important pops up just handle it how I would," Matt walked to the elevators pushing the button. "You got it boss, have a good day," Jen called out to his back. "Thanks, you too Jen," Matt said over his shoulder, as the doors to the elevator opened for him to step inside. Matt walked swiftly through the lobby and out of the building to get to his car. Matt hopped into his Hummer turning the key, and the engine roared to life, he loved the sound, and it never got old. Putting it in gear, Matt eased his way onto the roadway desperate to get to the Sheriff's Department. Along the way, Matt couldn’t help but be curious why the Sheriff was so interested in his parent's names. Pulling into the Sheriff's parking lot, Matt did not resist the urge to smirk at the thought that his parents. They can no longer mess up or interfere in his life anymore. Since he is a grown man, married and won one of the largest lotteries in history when he was only twenty-three years old. Matt shut off the vehicle and walked into the dingy Sheriff's office. "Hi, I’m Matt James, Sheriff Cooper is expecting me," Matt smiled toward the petite deputy working at the reception desk. "Certainly Mr. James, just one second, I will let the Sheriff know you are here," Deputy Arglass stated. The deputy picked up the phone and informed the Sheriff of Matt's arrival. A few minutes later, a large fifty-ish-year-old man sauntered into the reception area. "Hello, Matt, I’m Sheriff Cooper. Would you please follow me to my office where we can talk privately?" The Sheriff shook Matt’s hand in greeting. "Sure," Matt still could not figure out what all of this meant as he walked into the Sheriff's sanctum. "Matt, have a seat,” he pointed to a chair in front of his desk, “Would you like something to drink?" he asked before taking his seat on the opposite side. "Um… no, can you please tell me what’s going on, and why you’ve called me down here?" Matt scratched the back of his head. "Well it seems we have a bit of a dilemma, do you have any contact with your parents?" Sheriff Cooper questioned. "No, I haven't spoken to them in about seventeen or so years. Why?" Matt asked irritatedly. "Well, it seems you have a brother that has lived on the street for the last two years. Your ever-loving parents kicked him out when he was thirteen for being gay," Sheriff Cooper clasped his hands together on his desk in front of him. "Those assholes, after the hell they put me through growing up they had another son?” Matt slammed his fist on the Sheriff’s desk, “What did you say his name is… Caleb, right? Is.... is he okay?" "Woah! Matt, calm down buddy,” Sheriff Cooper rubbed his forehead, “Caleb is sitting in one of the other offices, he is sort of a quiet kid, and seems like he may have trust issues," the Sheriff said shifting in his chair. "Does he know he has a brother? I mean did they tell him anything about me?" Matt asked worriedly. "He knows he has a brother, and knew you lived somewhere in Maine, but that’s about all he knows. Unfortunately, your parents never told him your name, or he probably wouldn't have been living on the streets for the last two years," Sheriff Cooper stated dryly. Matt wiped his sweaty palms on his pants, "Do you think I could see my brother?" "Sure, Matt, he is two doors down on the left, good luck,” the sheriff stood up from behind his desk, “Go talk to him, just remember he’s vulnerable and may not be very responsive. When you’re both ready, come back and we can try and wrap this up." Matt exited the office and walked into the designated room. Pausing at the door, Matt worried if his parents had taken the liberty of poisoning his brother against him. Matt shook his head to clear his thoughts, he took a deep breath and knocked on the door. "Ya, come in," Caleb said sulkily towards the door. "Caleb?" Matt called out. "Uh ya.... who are you?" Caleb sat with one arm crossed in front of him, leaning lazily on his fist of the other, trying to look like he did not have any interest in the man in front of him. "I'm Matt, your brother,” Matt stood just inside the door, “I guess our parents didn't even show you a picture of me?" "Nope, they said I had a brother,” Caleb studied Matt carefully, “they never showed me a picture of you or even told me your name." Matt walked over and sat across from Caleb and asked, "Caleb, would you mind if I gave you a hug?" Caleb moved back in his seat, creating more distance between him and his brother. Matt scratched his head after watching his brother back away, “Caleb, once I left home I had to do some pretty shitty things to survive myself.” “Oh yeah, like what?” Caleb asked with disinterest, almost bored with the conversation. “I’ve slept on the streets, I’ve hitchhiked to move on from no-where good, I’ve done things that I hope you’ve never had to do for a meal,” Caleb fidgeted in his chair, pretending not to pay attention. Matt, strummed his fingers on the table thinking how to proceed. “Caleb, I left home with a few clothes and a measly hundred dollars in my bank account from work at McD’s flipping burgers,” Matt sighed, “Once I made it to Maine, I kind of ran out of places to run.” Caleb leaned forward with piqued interest. Matt continued, “I knew that Jon’s Uncles’ owned a restaurant or something and I tried looking for them. It was sheer luck and coincidence when I slept in the alleyway that night. Jon’s Uncle was the one who found me sleeping beside the dumpster the next morning. As you know it’s dangerous on the street, he could have been ax-murderer,” Matt shuttered, “I thought he was going to call the cops. Instead, he made me take a shower, then he gave me some breakfast. Once I’d finished eating he smiled, handed me an apron and said, “nothing in life is free kiddo, except the meal you just ate. Now get to work so you can look after yourself.” Matt paused for a moment observing Caleb, who was now giving Matt his full attention, “Eventually, I found a shady motel, that bred rats, and cockroaches to live in.” “Is that where you live now?” Caleb rolled his eyes, but anyone could see that the kid was hanging on every word out of Matt’s mouth. “The Uncles never gave me anything but a job and support. I worked for everything, after working there for a while, I finally told them my story and who I was, then Jon’s Uncle contacted him after a while telling him where he could find me. He made his way up to Maine, his Uncles’ gave him a job also, then Jon and I decided to get a small apartment we could afford between the two of us. His Uncles’ continue to give both of us a lot of support emotionally, but we both worked hard for everything we have. I know that life wasn’t easy for you Caleb, but you’re not alone, I do know what you’ve gone through.” “If I give you a chance, how long until you decide to kick me out? What if you change your mind? We don’t even know each other, how can I trust you?” Caleb questioned him glaring. “If you’ll just give me a chance, let me be there for you, let me help you. I know it will be rough for a while, but we’ll get there, I promise, I’d never turn my back on you,” Matt was almost pleading. “I know I’m going to mess up, are you gonna kick me out then?” Caleb stared at the table knowing he would eventually screw things up. “I’m still goin’ to be right here Caleb,” Matt reached across the table testing the waters. Caleb smiled, letting his defenses down as he anticipated the first caring touch from his brother. Without hesitation, Caleb launched himself over the table into Matt's arms. Matt knew this was a temporary grace, they had their work cut out for them going forward. "I am sorry you had to deal with those people Caleb, I didn't even know anything about you until the Sheriff explained to me about you bro," Matt kissed the top of Caleb’s head while hugging him. "So, what happens to me now?" Caleb asked while clinging to Matt. "Well buddy, you and I need to get to know one another and make up for the years we didn't have together," Matt smiled at Caleb. "But I don't have money to pay my way, maybe I can find a job," Caleb mumbled as he buried his head in Matt’s chest. "Caleb it’s not your job to worry about money. It’s my job to worry about money. It’s your job to be a teenager. We’ll be okay, I’m more than prepared for you, you are my family. It will be just the three of us," Matt tightened his arms around Caleb. "Three of us?" Caleb looked at Matt curiously. "Well ya, you really never heard anything about me? Jon, he is my husband now, but he was my boyfriend from the time he moved into our school district when we were in ninth grade. Ultimately it was Mom and Dad who forced me to leave home because I’m gay, and they refused to accept my ‘lifestyle’ so I left," Matt smiled as he described his and John’s life. "Wow bro, seems like we have a lot in common," Caleb joked while brushing his hair out of his eyes. "But how can you afford to keep me without me working?" "Well, when I came into a little bit of money, I decided to put it to good use and help kids like you and me who have been forced to leave home and have nowhere safe to go. I’m actually in the process of opening a youth home, well the foundation is. I started a foundation, it’s called The Phoenix Foundation, I’ll tell you more about it later. I know you’re young, but I would really like it if you’d want to be a part of it eventually,” Matt had a twinkle in his eye. Caleb was a little in awe at his brother, "Thanks for helping me Matt, I figured I was going to be alone the rest of my life – as far as family went." "No way man, but where are your belongings, Caleb?" Matt looked around quizzically. "All I have is my backpack,” Caleb pointed at a mangy red colored backpack sitting by the door, it looked like it had, had a hard life, “I have a couple pairs of boxers, a spare pair of socks, a hoodie sweatshirt, and a pair of shorts, other than what I have on." Caleb shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, we are going to fix that,” Matt smiled at Caleb, “Let's go see the Sheriff and get any paperwork out of the way so we can get you home. You look like you could use a shower and something to eat." "I’d actually love a hot shower,” Caleb radiated with appreciation, “washing up in sinks wherever and whenever you can; it sucks really bad." "I promise you that you’ll never live like that again," Matt patted Caleb’s shoulder with a warm smile. Caleb got a huge grin on his face, "It feels really good having a bro’,” Caleb had a cold chill run through him as he thought of his parents, Matt seemed nothing like them, all kindness and no reservations, “Back home I was just sort of invisible to them, didn't matter if I did well in school or sports." "Well that’s all over now Caleb, so just forget that life,” Matt caringly gave Caleb a one-armed hug, “We have to do something about your schooling. You can play a sport or not, that’s entirely up to you. Jon, and I will make every effort to be there if you do. No one is going to force you though if you don’t want to." "That’s easy, school is almost done for the summer break,” Caleb smiled as he thought for a moment, “If I can get a tutor, I should be caught up by the end of summer, I promise you school is so easy. I never had to study for anything, it just comes to me. I can't explain it but dude homework is a joke." Caleb chuckled at his bewildered looking brother. "Matt, I was only joking, make arrangements with the school I am positive I can test out of the two years I missed.” "Okay, let's just go wrap up whatever loose ends we need to do here, and head home." Matt retraced his steps to Sheriff Cooper’s office. When they both walked into Sheriff Cooper's office, they noticed a woman standing alongside the desk. "Hello, I am Katie, I work as a caseworker for Children and Youth,” She smiled warmly, “I understand Caleb has been homeless after his and your parents kicked him out?” "Yes, I was, but I have a home with Matt now,” Caleb almost shouted. "Well, that is what I am here for,” Katie pulled out a folder with a bunch of papers inside it, “Matt do you want to take guardianship of Caleb?" "Of course, I do. He’s my brother. I have a lot of years to make up for without him," Matt smiled at Katie, “I have a feeling we will be working closely together, once the Phoenix Foundation opens its doors to the youth home.” Katie pulled out a few forms looking them over before placing them on the desk in front of Matt, “Okay right here Matt,” she pointed to a spot on the form, “once you sign there you are legally Caleb’s guardian. Are you positive this is what the both of you want? I’m sorry but I have to ask, especially you Caleb, we want you to have the opportunity to have a loving family.” Caleb stared at Katie for a moment and then focused on Matt, “Katie for two years I lived wondering where I would eat and sleep, today I found my brother. I’m sure him being my guardian is what I want if he will do it.” Matt picked up the pen determined to provide Caleb the loving family he himself never had and signed the guardianship papers, “I guess there’s no question what I want. Right?” Matt laid the pen down then reached out and squeezed Caleb’s shoulder. Katie picked up the form countersigning it then made a copy of the paper before handing a copy to Matt, “These are temporary guardianship papers. As you know this is a unique situation, you’ll still be subjected to a home visit and your husband will be interviewed, along with you Caleb. It will be quick and painless. I want the both of you to know that if you ever have an issue, either of you can contact me and I’ll do what I can to help,” Katie handed both of them her business card and headed back to her office at Children and Youth Services. Matt shook Sheriff Cooper’s hand and turned to Caleb, “What’d you say if we got out of here and went home?” Caleb smiled nodding his head. Caleb picked up his backpack tossing the strap over his shoulder, “Let's go Matt.” Matt placed his arm on Caleb’s shoulders leading their way out of the office. Matt stopped by the Hummer digging into his pocket to locate his key’s. Caleb’s eyes grew to the size of silver dollars, “Is this your car, Matt?” Matt nodded his head with a smile, “Oh my god,” Caleb ran around the Hummer staring at it, gently running his hand to and fro, “If I ever get my license can I drive it sometime?” Matt chuckled at Caleb’s excitement, “When you’re old enough and you have a license I’ll let you drive it. Now, how about we get in and go home, Jon is expecting us,” Caleb hesitated as he crawled into the hummer thinking, ‘What if Jon doesn’t like me? Will Matt send me away?’ Matt turned the key bringing the beast to life while he studied Caleb clutching his backpack to his chest anxiously, “Caleb, Jon is gonna like you so try to relax, please. Jon is a pediatrician, he recently got a partnership with an older doctor who is planning on retiring in a few years,” Caleb sat there quietly during the ride home, as they pulled into the driveway of the brick ranch home, Caleb took in the large flat yard which had a few dogwood trees scattered throughout it. “Wow,” Caleb responded as he got out of the truck, “This is yours?” Matt walked side-by-side with Caleb, “It’s not only mine, it’s home for the three of us,” placing his arm on Caleb’s back, “Jon and I got this place a few years ago, it’s a little big with five bedrooms but with you here it will fill the place up. The house isn’t anything fancy Caleb, to be honest, neither of us like living extravagantly,” opening the door they walked into the house with the smell of country fried steaks permeating the air causing Caleb’s mouth to water. Jon rounded the corner from the kitchen, his friendly face lit up as he offered his hand to Caleb, “Hi, I’m Jon, your brother's husband, which would make me your brother-in-law,” He said with a smile as Calebs fears of Jon dissipated almost immediately.
  15. 47 points
    Roar • Part II “Don’t forget to text us after you land, okay?” César glanced in the rearview mirror as he slowed the car by the departures area at Washington National Airport. “Really, Dad?” CJ rolled his eyes in disbelief. “I’d think by now you’d know better than remind me. Weren’t you the one who told me a while back I didn’t need to check in all the time anyway?” “Don’t get smart with me, boy. Just because you’re a high school graduate doesn’t mean I won’t put you over my knee if you get too big for your britches.” It was three days after CJ’s graduation from School Without Walls High School and he and Ritchie were headed to Miami to visit their grandparents. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just you try and spank me, old man.” A giggling Ritchie unbuckled his seat belt as soon as the vehicle came to a complete halt. “I’ll text you after we get to Miami, Mr. A.” “Stop kissing ass, bro.” CJ’s teasing brought a second outburst of giggling from his brother. “I swear, sometimes I wish you were going away to school instead of staying in Washington.” César’s smile was a clear sign he didn’t mean what he was saying. “You’re a bad influence on your brother. You guys have a safe trip and we’ll see you in a few days.” “Love ya, Dad!” The brothers strolled towards the security gates drawing constant looks and smiles. Ritchie wore flip flops, cargo shorts and a t-shirt while CJ had on high-top sneakers, jeans, and a short-sleeved Harley-Davidson sport shirt Dragon had given him as a graduation present. Friends often mentioned CJ’s features resembled his dad’s, and while he and Ritchie didn’t have the same father, there were still enough similarities between the siblings for strangers to recognize they were related. Before reaching the departure gate, CJ stopped in front of one of the many coffee stands scattered throughout the terminal. “You want anything, bro? I’m getting a latte.” “Nah, I’m fine. I’ll just wait for you out here.” As CJ returned with a cup in hand he realized his brother hadn’t moved and was busy typing away at his phone. “Move it, Ritchie! You stand there any longer you're gonna grow roots. What are you doing, anyway?” Ritchie looked at his brother and blushed. “I… Lucy and Sasha texted me wishing me a good trip. I was just replying.” “Lucy Wilkinson? Sasha Obama?” CJ questions were answered with quick nods. “Bro! You got two girlfriends? You little weasel. I’m so proud of you. Two-timing the women and you’re not even fourteen yet. Ritchie’s got two girlfriends… Ritchie’s got two girlfriends… Ritchie’s got―OUCH!” CJ raised his hand to balance the cup; the kid’s smack on his biceps nearly made him spill the coffee. Ritchie spent most of the flight playing games on his phone while CJ was on his tablet. He read over several e-mails from the Clinton campaign and perused the day’s headlines from The Washington Post and The New York Times. He had purchased subscriptions to the electronic version of both newspapers earlier in the year and often spent his time riding the bus to and from school keeping up with national and world events. The brothers put away the devices as the flight attendant rolled the beverage cart next to their seats before bringing them each a tray with snacks. “What were you reading, CJ? And why were you writing things down on that little notebook?” “Mostly stuff about Secretary Clinton’s campaign. And I was jotting down comments from her and different people. I may want to quote something or other during one of my interviews.” “I still can’t believe you’re doing all that stuff. And that you have accounts with Twitter and everywhere else. You always said you didn’t want people knowing all your business.” CJ chuckled at the direct way his brother always asked questions. “You and me both, bro. Sometimes I can’t believe how much things have changed myself. You know I was never big on sharing a lot of stuff on Facebook. After I moved, I realized Dad was the same way and Papa was close. You heard about how I didn’t want to sue those cops who screwed with me two summers ago. I agreed to keep things quiet after they resigned so my name wouldn’t be all over the news.” “So what changed?” “A lot’s changed since then. And if you pay attention, I still don’t share a lot of personal stuff. This is all related to the campaign for the most part. One of the dads made a comment when Robbie asked me to get involved. About the importance of a presidential campaign.” “What was it?” “I can’t recall which one of them said it or the exact words, but the gist was my involvement was important. And if I was to do it right, I might have to give up some privacy. One thing about the dads is they let me make my own decisions. And then they support me no matter what most of the time. I don’t mind it too much. But as soon as this is over, I’m staying away from social media for a long time.” “I don’t know how you can say that. It’s how I keep in touch with my friends.” “You mean how you keep in touch with all your girlfriends?” CJ smirked while nudging his brother. “Leave me alone, CJ. Stop picking on me. Lucy and Sasha are just my friends.” “Right. Is that why you had lipstick all over after you returned from showing Lucy the Exorcist Stairs at my graduation party?” “Ceee Jaaay. Stop it!” “Relax, little brother. Stop being so whiny. And anyway, I like Lucy. But there’s something else which happened that night we haven’t talked about.” CJ’s tone became serious as he stared at his brother “You broke into my Harley-Davidson coffee can. And you know the dads don’t want you smoking.” “I… I…” Ritchie looked and sounded scared. He stared at CJ before dropping his gaze. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d mind. And I only took one. I was showing Lucy around and she said her grandfather had one just like it in their farm’s garage.” “That he does. I’ve seen it.” “Really? Does he use it for the same thing you do?” “Yep. That’s where I got the idea.” CJ sipped his ginger ale and bit into one of the cheese sticks included in the tray. “Look, Ritchie, I don’t mind. For real. And don’t worry, I haven’t told the dads. And I don’t plan on it.” CJ looked around and lowered his voice even further. “But next time you want to get high, you come talk to me and we’ll do it together.” Ritchie’s head shot up and he stared at his brother smiling. “For real?” “Yeah, for real. I’d rather you do it with me around than with people I don’t know.” “Okay…” “But, and this is a big but. I’d rather you hold off until you start high school. You know the dads don’t give me shit about smoking or drinking. Heck, they let you drink wine if we open a bottle for dinner. But they know I don’t do either very often. I do enjoy it though, and now and then I might get a little tipsy.” “A little?” “Don’t be a dick, bro. Nobody likes a smartass. Anyway, they preach moderation and I try to follow their way. So no more stealing joints from my stash. You want to smoke, you ask me. We can do it in private. Just you and me and Ozzie. We can plan on doing it one night when we’re all back in DC towards the end of summer. We’ll do like a Marvel movie marathon and raid the kitchen. And if you give me at least a half-day’s notice, I’ll bake some of those red wine brownies you liked so much when I last made them.” Arriving in Miami close to lunch, Ritchie texted César as he had promised and CJ did the same with his grandparents, letting them know he and Ritchie were at the airport and would be in Coral Gables soon. “Campeón!” Sebastián Abelló’s usual greeting made CJ wonder if his grandfather even remembered his name. For as long as he could recall, Campeón—or Champ—had always been the way Sebastián addressed him. “ROSARIO! The boys are here.” The white-haired grandmother rushed to the entrance. “Ohhh, it’s so good to see you boys. Drop your bags right there. We can deal with them later. I hope you’re hungry, we brought in Cuban sandwiches for lunch.” “Abuela!” CJ wrapped his arms around his grandmother, lifted her, and twirled her around until she started complaining. “Put me down, CJ! Put me down. You’re making me dizzy.” Once back on the ground, Rosario patted her hair, holding the other hand against her chest. “I’m too old for this. I’m still suffering from jetlag and you’re not helping.” “I think the problem’s you’re hung over.” CJ glanced at his grandfather and gave him a conspiratorial wink. “You were drunk when you called me on graduation day. Flying back from Europe after your cruise didn’t help for sure. But Abuelo says you developed a fondness for wine while on the trip.” The woman scowled, shifted her gaze to the younger boy and smiled at him. “Hi, Ritchie. I’m not talking to your brother anymore. Welcome back to our home. We’re so glad you’re staying with us instead of at the hotel.” “Hi, Abuela.” Ritchie hugged the woman while she peppered him with kisses. “CJ wanted to stay at a hotel in South Beach but the dads wouldn’t let him.” “Bah! Why would you want to do such a thing? Waste of money if you ask me.” Sebastián picked up CJ and Ritchie's bags and walked towards the staircase. “We have plenty of room. I’ll take these upstairs. CJ, you’re in the room you always used before. We’re putting Ritchie in the one next to it.” CJ looked at Ritchie. “I get Dad’s old room. It’s were I slept whenever I stayed here before moving to Washington. You get Uncle Rico’s. And, Abuelo, I wanted to stay on South Beach because I miss the sand and salt water. I haven’t been to a real beach in like forever.” “You boys can take the car and go one day.” Rosario slipped her arm through Ritchie’s and started walking towards the door she’d come through before. “Let’s go eat. I told Olga we would come over after you guys had lunch.” CJ was surprised. “You’re coming with us?” The Palace―the community Olga and Juan Santos had moved into―was located in western Miami-Dade County, about a half-hour drive from the Abelló home. “Sure. We go visit them once a week. But we haven’t seen them for a while because we were on the cruise.” “How’s Abo doing?” Rosario motioned for the two brothers to sit at the kitchen table and busied herself opening up a large brown paper bag sitting on the counter next to the sink. “I’ll let Olga give you the details. But he’s not doing well. What would you guys like to drink?” CJ had tried most of the so-called Cuban restaurants in the DC area but had yet to find a decent sandwich. The bread wasn’t toasted enough, the roast pork never tasted the same, and the ham was some sweet stuff instead of the serrano used in the authentic Cuban sandwiches found in Miami. “A Coke would be good, Abuela.” Ritchie had already bitten into his but nodded his agreement. Later the same afternoon, Olga Santos sat on a stone bench in front of her building and waved at her grandsons. CJ was behind the wheel of Rosario’s Beemer while his brother rode in front with him. Ritchie didn’t wait for his brother or the Abellós; he unbuckled the seat belt, opened the door, and ran to his grandmother. “ABA!” Sebastián and Rosario were deliberate when getting out of the car and stopped a short distance from the group, watching the reunion. CJ turned and gave them a wink while kissing his grandmother and listening to Ritchie talk a mile a minute. “Ritchie, give it a break, bro. You don’t have to tell Aba everything you’ve been doing right now. We’ll be here for a while and we’ll come back tomorrow and Sunday.” “Ooops, sorry. It’s just I miss her and Abo. Where is he? Can we see him?” “Of course you can!” Olga accepted a tissue from Rosario and dabbed at her eyes. “I’m so happy to see you boys… Come on, I’ll take you to where Juan is. It’s a good day for him, boys. But he’s changed since you guys last saw him.” “In what way, Aba?” CJ wasn’t sure what to expect. “His speech’s become more confusing. It’s hard to understand him. He seldom recognizes people unless they’re someone he’s been close to for a long period. And in the past couple of weeks his appetite’s disappeared.” “Can they give him anything so he’ll eat?” “For now he’s still drinking those nutritional shakes. If he stops eating entirely, the gastroenterologist says they can put a tube in his stomach to feed him.” “There’s one more thing we’ve talked about we think might help for a while.” Sebastián placed a hand on CJ’s shoulder when he interrupted. “I asked one of my cousins who’s a professor at Florida International University to put me in touch with someone at their School of Medicine. I suggested to Olga medical marijuana could help. I remember your father getting the munchies after he got high. He didn’t realize it, but it’s how I always knew.” “Is it legal in Florida? “Medical marijuana’s on the ballot in November. But there are special cases which get it under certain conditions right now.” “Stupid Florida laws! We can always move Abo to a state where it’s legal right now and―” “No!” Olga wasn’t loud but her tone carried authority. “We’re not moving anywhere. I’ll try the marijuana if it’s possible but we’re not moving. And if he stops eating I’m not approving any kind of tube.” “But, Aba, he’ll starve to death!” CJ glanced at Ritchie who listened without uttering a word and looked scared. Olga stopped in the middle of the large lobby and pointed to a couch while looking back and forth between her two grandsons. “Sit and listen to me, boys. Your grandfather and I have enjoyed a pretty good life. We left Cuba thinking we would return but after a few years realized it wouldn’t happen. Miami was our home by then. We were blessed with your mother and then the two of you. If it’s time for one of us to go, so be it. But Miami’s where we belong and this is where we’ll stay. And as far as the tube goes, would you want your grandfather to be a vegetable? Unable to do anything? What kind of life would that be?” “But, Aba―” “Let me finish, CJ. A long time ago both of us signed one of those legal papers that say we don’t want anything special done to keep us alive. I will respect your grandfather’s wishes. And I hope you realize when Lourdes died, you became the person with the right to make decisions if anything happens to me. Your dad has copies of all those documents but I want you to hear it from me. If I end up like your grandfather, or so sick the only way they can keep me alive is to hook me to some machine, don’t let them. You let me die.” “Aba…” CJ almost whispered the word and then remained silent as Ritchie sobbed and hugged their grandmother. The mood was somber for the remainder of the visit. CJ thought his grandfather was cheerful although he looked a bit gaunt. The following morning, CJ and Ritchie woke up early and returned to the home to visit their grandparents. The mood was a bit lighter and they ended up laughing while eating breakfast with the elderly couple. After breakfast, CJ drove to South Beach and the brothers spent time on the sand and in the water, in time walking to one of the outdoor cafes on Ocean Boulevard for lunch. CJ kept staring at the Art Deco hotels and the tall modern apartment buildings and decided his next visit he would stay at the beach. • • • “I hate you, CJ.” For the second Saturday in a row, the brothers were in César’s Cadillac by the departure gates at National Airport. Only this time CJ was driving, Ritchie was in the front passenger seat, and the dads were in the back. “No you don’t.” CJ chuckled while flicking the lever to unlock the rear door. “You love me!” “Yes I do! I do hate you. How could you give me a drone as an early birthday present the day before I leave town for a month?” Ritchie and the dads were traveling to Boston where they planned on picking up a rental car and then driving to Maine where the boy was spending four weeks at summer camp. “Stop whining, Ritchie.” Brett was already outside the car and held the boy’s door open. “But you’re right. Your brother’s a dick. Come on, time to go. We’ll spend the next few hours plotting how to fuck with him when you get back.” CJ stared at his father and shook his head. “Asshole!” • • • “I’m home!” CJ shouted, slamming the front door and dropping his backpack on the ground. His arrival was met with complete silence before sounds of conversation resumed. Kicking off his flip-flops, he walked towards the kitchen in the back of the wide open space and was met by Owen at the half-way point. “Hey, babe. How was practice?” Owen wrapped his arms around CJ and gave him a kiss. An arm around the Aussie’s waist, CJ strolled towards the group gathered around the breakfast bar. “It was good, but I must smell like a skunk right now. Thiago says hi. He and Nadine want to go out to dinner sometime next week.” Aware his Chicago cousins were expected to arrive while he was at the dojo, CJ skipped the bus and relied on Uber to get him home quicker. Out of the corner of his eye he watched Randy and Tyler place their drinks on the counter, stand, and move towards him. But his attention was fixed on the thin, black boy sitting on the floor scratching Wingnut’s belly. “About time you made it home, cuz.” Randy was the first to hug him and moved aside allowing Ty to repeat the process. “We’ve been waiting for hours and we’re hungry.” “Don’t start with me, Randy. I’ve been holding back my punches all night while at practice but I’ll deck you right now if you give me crap.” CJ dismissed his cousin with a wave of the hand and crouched next to the dog and the boy playing with it. “Hey, Silas. I’m CJ. It’s great to meet you at last, bud. I see you’ve made a friend.” “Hi, CJ.” The kid had a friendly smile but sounded a bit shy. “I like your dog. I wish I had one to play with back at home.” “When’s your birthday? I’ll get you one as a present.” “Hey! Stop that. Don’t Ty and I get a say in the matter? What if we don’t want a dog?” Randy tried to look stern but failed. “Tough titties. If the kid wants a dog, I’ll get him one. You wanna make something out of it?” César shook his head and drained the remainder of his beer. “Crap! Here we go again. I swear the two of you revert to being children when you’re around each other. CJ, why don’t you go shower real quick. You and Randy can keep arguing while we walk to the restaurant.” The Tombs―the family’s go-to restaurant for casual meals―was closed for the summer for upgrades so once CJ had cleaned up, they walked to Kafe Leopold. The Austrian style konditorei located on Cady’s Alley behind M Street featured a large outdoor space popular with locals and tourists alike. Known for its baked goods, the dinner menu was full of Germanic delicacies but CJ always ordered the same thing: skillet cooked bratwurst with celery sauerkraut and roasted potatoes. “So, when are you moving in with Rod?” Tyler sat next to Taisha with Silas on his other side between him and Randy. “I mean, now that you’re engaged.” “Not going to happen for a while, Ty.” Taisha lowered the menu and reached for her glass of water. “I’m not sure how Rod does it but the thought of living across the hallway from where I work isn’t high on my list. I love my job but I don’t want to think about it every time I open my front door.” When Rod accepted a position with Brett’s development company, he’d moved into one of the apartments in the rehabbed Georgetown Theater. The Third Line Development offices occupied the other one in the rear half of the building’s top floor. “I’m waiting until our Takoma project’s finished. We’d like to move into one of the townhouses.” The Takoma neighborhood was located on the northwest corner of Washington abutting the Maryland state line. The green and leafy neighborhood held on to the teetotaling, community activism, and vegetarianism popularized by an influx of Seventh Day Adventists who inhabited the area in the first years of the twentieth century. Brett’s company had purchased an entire city block with half a dozen townhouses fronting one street and an assortment of small warehouses on the opposite side. “How’s that project coming along?” Randy had been perusing the meal choices with Silas who seemed unable to make a decision. “As good as or better than we could have hoped for!” Brett always became animated discussing his projects. “We’ve been concentrating on the condos. Didn’t want to have people moving into the houses while the heavy construction was ongoing. But we reached the fifty percent mark in pre-sales last month. We’re hoping for a certificate of occupancy before the end of the year.” CJ had followed progress on the multi-million dollar project with interest. The townhouses and the corner neighborhood convenience store were preserved while the other structures on the property were razed. In place of the warren of small warehouses, a mid-rise building now stood in their place. The fifty units in new construction were being sold while a separate subsidiary was created to own and lease the townhouses. He’d spent time discovering the neighborhood and watching the construction progress thinking one day he might like to follow in his father’s footsteps. “Tell them what you’re planning next, Papa.” The comment went unanswered until the server had taken their order. “You guys know the gas station right behind our house? We made an offer on the property. We’ll see what happens but I’d like to be in control of what gets built in our back yard.” In the evening, CJ and Owen were surprised Wingnut failed to follow them to their bedroom. The dog slept in Ritchie’s room on the second floor most nights, but whenever the kid spent the evening at a friend’s house, the dog came to the basement and settled himself in a corner of CJ’s room. When Owen called for him after everyone said good night, Wingnut had followed Silas instead. “What do you think of Silas?” Owen scooted behind his boyfriend and reached for the toothpaste. “I like him. And he definitely needs a dog. Wingnut took to him like a duck to water. But he seems kinda quiet. And I think I caught flashes of something or other at times.” “Mate, everyone appears quiet when they’re around the Abellós. You and your family could talk anyone to death. Well, except for Harley. He can hold his own.” CJ chuckled while drying his hands. “True dat. I think Silas may also be experiencing a little culture shock. He went from living in a black neighborhood in Chicago’s south side to being surrounded by affluent white people. That’s gotta be like an earthquake.” “That could be why he spent so much time near Taisha. Although his attention was focused on you most of the night.” “Really? I did catch him staring at me a few times. But I thought that was just because I’m hot. After all, the kid’s gay.” “Asshole!” While fixing breakfast on Saturday morning, CJ thought about what Owen had said the previous night. Silas had been looking at CJ throughout the evening and he suspected it was due in part to CJ being the youngest one in the crowd. And to Randy and Tyler telling him about how the boy’s situation was similar to their cousin’s: both were rejected by their parents when they came out. CJ removed the doors and bikini top off Defiant before he and Silas left the house for a tour of Washington’s landmarks. Randy and Tyler had asked him to spend time alone with their foster son. “We can’t see everything in one day, buddy. But I’m gonna try and give you a nice tour anyway. We’ll start across the river in Virginia at the Iwo Jima Memorial. It’s like one of my favorite spots.” “Is that the statue of the guys raising the flag? How come you like it so much?” Silas was a soft spoken kid, and combined with his shy demeanor, it was often hard for CJ to hear what he said. “Yeah, that’s the one. I think the main reason I like it so much is because one of my dads was in the Marine Corps. Plus, you can’t beat the view of Washington from there.” CJ took a quick glance at the boy as he turned onto the bridge to cross the Potomac. “You know, Silas, you don’t have to be all shy around me. I’m only like three years older than you.” “I… I know. It’s just that I’m still trying to get used to being around you guys.” “How come? Is it because we’re all older?” Silas stared out the open side of the Jeep as CJ drove. “Maybe a little? And because you’re all white? It’s just weird. I grew up in the hood and there’s been a lot of changes in the past few months. It’s not only that Randy and Ty are white. They’re rich! They’ve been spending a lot of money on me and that’s scary. And then I meet you and your dads and it’s even worse. You guys live in a mansion. And when we went out to dinner last night, the guy in front knew you and your dads by name. You guys are like big shots!” CJ laughed so hard he couldn’t talk until he slipped the Jeep into a parking spot and turned off the engine. “Big shots? I don’t think so, bud. The dads and I tend to like a few restaurants and we go to them all the time. That’s why people know our name.” “Yeah but it’s like they’re real restaurants. I saw the prices on the menu. Randy and Ty keep telling me not to pay attention to it but it’s kinda hard when I’m used to McDonalds being a treat.” “Come on, let’s get out of the car. You know you and I have a lot in common, right? We were both thrown out of our house when our parents found out we were gay.” “Yeah, Ty and Randy told me your step-father was a jerk. Like my dad.” “That’s right. And we both got lucky after. I ended up moving in with my real father and Papa Brett and you ended up with my cousins. And let me tell you, Randy and I are always putting each other down but it’s all in fun. He and Ty are awesome guys.” “I know that already. Kinda figured it out when the social worker first took me to meet them.” Silas’ smile disappeared as his mouth hung open when they came through the copse of trees separating the parking area and the monument. “Wow! It’s so big!” “Pretty cool, eh? Let’s walk around it and we’ll take some pictures. Anyway, my first couple of days in Washington, the dads took me to a bunch of places and spent a shitload of money on me. It scared the crap out of me.” “Why? You knew they were rich before, right?” “I knew they had money but I had no idea how much. They kept spending and I kept getting scared. I was stupid. I kept thinking they might get tired of me. That they would realize it was expensive to have a kid living with them full time.” “That’s how I feel!” More than before it seemed Silas connected with the similarities between what he was experiencing and what CJ had gone through three years before. “I don’t want them to send me back. After my dad put me in the hospital and all my mom did was tell me to pray and repent, I’d rather die than go back there.” CJ placed an arm around the trembling boy and rocked him in a gentle manner. “I don’t think you have to worry about that, Silas. My dads explained to me how happy they were to have me. That they never wanted me to move out. And I know that’s how my cousins feel about you.” “But they were your dads! At least one of them was. I’m nobody to Randy and Ty. Plus I’m black!” “Dude, are you serious? Skin color?” CJ turned the boy around to face him, placed both hands on the kid’s shoulders, and stared him in the eyes. “I think we need to get the race thing out of the way. You may have missed it last night but my other cousin’s fiancé is black. One of my best friends, Thiago, also has a hell of a lot better tan than me. And so do two of my dad’s best friends who I’ve been calling my uncles for years. It… doesn’t… matter… to us. Okay?” “Yeah… I guess... It’s still weird.” “Let’s get outta here. There’s a bunch more places I wanna show you. Like I said before, we won’t be able to do everything but we’ll do more next time you’re in town.” “You think I’ll come back?” “Shit, yeah! Of course you will. Heck, if Ritchie was in town―or if I didn’t have so much stuff going on this month―I’d tell the guys to let you stay with us for a week or two. You’re family now, bro.” They did a drive-by at Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon; CJ stopped both times to take pictures of Silas in front of the landmarks but explained both would require too much time to visit and they’d do it next trip. He crossed back over the Potomac River and into DC via the 14th Street Bridge, driving into the parking lot he always used when visiting the Jefferson Memorial. “Okay, bud, we’re on foot from now on. We’ll walk along the river and head towards the Lincoln. Then we’ll weave through all the war monuments and end up back here.” “Do you do this all the time? I mean, visit all these places?” Silas was much more talkative while they strolled through West Potomac Park. The boy seemed to be relaxing around CJ. “Not all the time, but I’ve been to all these places a gazillion times. And I like to show visitors around. Ozzie and I do come to the Jefferson Memorial now and then. We like to sit and watch the tourists. Last time we were here―during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival when everything’s in bloom―there was a wedding on the grounds next to the monument. That was pretty cool. Or sometimes we rent a paddle boat and spend time on the Tidal Basin. Those boats have pedals like a bicycle and are a blast.” “Can we do that this weekend?” “Ummm, I guess we could do it on Monday. Tomorrow we’re all going out on the boat. In the past we’ve spent the night on it and watched the Fourth of July fireworks from the water. But since everyone has to work on Tuesday, we’re just going out tomorrow morning and returning late afternoon.” “So we’re going to miss the fireworks?” The idea seemed to disturb Silas who sounded surprised. “Not a chance. They’re on Monday, remember? We’ll pack a picnic basket and come early to find a spot on the lawn around the Washington Monument. There’s a concert by the Marine Corps Band and then we’ll catch the fireworks. Maybe we can come early in the afternoon, spend time on the paddleboats, and then meet the rest of the family to eat and enjoy the performance. We’ll play it by ear, okay?” • • • School, the gym, traveling, time with friends, reconnecting with Ritchie, and the growth of his relationship with Owen kept CJ busy his last two years in high school. When he added in his expanding role in the Clinton campaign, family foundation responsibilities, and assorted sporting or cultural events with the dads and or Owen, he didn’t have a lot of time to sit around trying to figure out what to do. But that was the situation CJ found himself in after dropping off the Chicago visitors at the airport. He knew quite a few overachievers amongst his peers who had stretched themselves so thin they lacked a significant social life. He tried to pace himself, to find a balance between too much and too little. Yet he found himself with nothing to do this day; he was bored. He couldn’t even go to the gym. Anticipating free access when he enrolled at Georgetown University, he allowed his membership to expire. He explained to his dads he could survive a couple of months not lifting weights and did not want to waste money on renewing it; the payment would become superfluous once school started. Access to the facilities at Yates Field House was included in the activity fees all students paid. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be out campaigning or something?” Danno, the owner of Rogo’s Bar & Grill clasped a hand on CJ’s shoulder and sat on the bar stool next to his friends’ son. “Hi, Danno. I’m so fucking bored. I’m alone in the house and there’s nothing planned for me this week by the campaign.” The lonely sound of his complaint made CJ realize he was whining; if his father had been around, César would have smacked his head and told him to knock it off. “Figured here I would have you to talk to.” “Dude, really? You sound like a spoiled bitch. Not that I’m complaining mind you. You know you’re always welcome here. So, where’s your boyfriend?” “Working. And since my only real commitment this summer is to Clinton, I kinda have nothing to do but play with the dog.” By the time he returned home, CJ’s boredom had dissipated to the point he thought he would be fine until something else came along. However, later in the week, the situation deteriorated. Owen had a conference in Richmond, Virginia and was away from home for three days; CJ was accustomed to sleeping next to his boyfriend and missed having him in bed. The shooting of several police officers in Dallas by an armed madman, and the emotional conversation with his dads, JP, and Tom left CJ in turmoil. It was one of those occasions he felt somewhat lost and was happy to be home with his parents. On Saturday, César, Brett, Doc, and Dash caught the train to New York City for a few days stay in Manhattan, leaving CJ and Owen alone in the house, neither felt like going out. They decided to order in every night and binge on TV shows they had not been able to watch before. “Hey, what do you feel like eating?” Owen’s voice made CJ glance at their bathroom door. His boyfriend had finished showering and leaned against the door frame while stepping into a pair of gym shorts. “I think I’m in the mood for Indian.” “That works. Do we have a menu down here or are they all in the kitchen?” CJ sat at the bedroom desk, the muted TV on a cable news channel, writing while taking constant looks at his laptop’s screen. “I think they’re all upstairs again. What are you doing?” Sebastián and Rosario Abelló had gifted him a fountain pen for his graduation from high school as they had done before with their sons and other grandchildren. “Transcribing some of the things I wrote early in the year.” They had coordinated the present with his other grandparents; Juan and Olga Santos had bought him a leather bound journal. “I thought I’d use the book to chronicle all the political campaign shit.” “Speaking of political campaigns. I’ve been meaning to ask how come you didn’t go up to New York with your dads. I mean, they bought tickets for Hamilton and I thought you’d be going. I mean, it’s a benefit for the Clinton campaign after all.” “Two of those tickets were meant for us.” “Really? I couldn’t have made it because of work. But how come you didn’t go? You could have asked Ethan or Sean to go with so my admission wouldn’t be wasted.” “I didn’t go because you couldn’t. We’ll catch the show sooner or later. But I didn’t feel right going to see it without you.” “Awww, that’s sweet.” Owen leaned over the back of the chair and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend while kissing him on the cheek. When he began twirling his fingers through CJ’s chest hair, the younger man turned his head until their lips met. The kiss intensified and CJ pushed his chair back; he stood and they embraced while running their hands over the other one’s body. “I’ll show you sweet. Let’s work up an appetite.” Much later, after they’d showered again and eaten, they curled up on the couch to watch a movie. “Sorry I wasn’t around when you guys were talking about the stuff that happened in Dallas. Damn meeting ran so late the boss insisted we stay another night at the hotel.” “It’s okay. You wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway.” CJ reached for Owen’s hand and intertwined their fingers. “There was a lot of talk about guns and I know you wouldn’t have liked it.” “Actually, CJ, it would have been okay.” Owen’s tone became serious. “I still hate the bloody things. I wish the US had laws like they do in Australia. But my attitude has changed a lot since I moved.” “I know that! But still…” “No, listen to me. I may not like it but I accept it. It’s a cultural thing like Tom said a long time ago. And to be honest, after your dad was held up last year and Brett saved the day by shooting the mugger… After you were threatened on Twitter… And after the Orlando shooting, I’m glad you have a gun and a permit to carry it. I didn’t mind too much when you had it on you during the vigil at Dupont Circle. I know you’re not crazy and you’re not going to start shooting unless it’s to save lives. And I know you support some restrictions on ownership of firearms. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, if it takes you carrying a gun to ensure your safety, I’m all for it. If having one means I get to have you around for a long time, then I’m good. I love you, mate. I don’t want to ever lose you.”
  16. 46 points
    (Four years ago) “If you must know, Trick moved to another school because of how you and other assholes have been treating him. He couldn’t take the bullying anymore. I know this must be so hard for you, but you won’t be seeing him anymore,” Zoe said venomously, looking Cody in the eyes as she closed her locker and left. He stood in the hallway, feeling like someone had just run over his puppy before his eyes. A few seconds later, he came to his senses, wiped his tears and hurried to the bathroom. Trick left because of him, and now he won’t see him again. He didn’t even get a chance to tell him how he felt, tell him he knew everything and that he felt the same way. But maybe it wasn’t too late… He entered the bathroom and went to the sink to wash his face, hoping to hide that he’d been crying. As he finished and got ready to leave, Mason came in. “Hey, did you hear the fag left the school?” Mason said gleefully. Cody had never felt angrier in his life. Surprising both of them, he shoved Mason into the cold tiled wall as hard as he could, making him fall to the ground. “Fuck you, Mason!” “What the hell, man?!” Mason started to get up, confused and angry. “Don’t talk to me again or I’ll fucking kill you!” Cody shouted and hurried out, leaving stunned Mason standing there, wondering what just happened. Passing the hallway and the classrooms, Cody ran out of the school. Skipping classes for the day seemed like the least of his worries. That evening, Trick was in his room, doing homework. He had a bit of catching up to do in his new school, but he didn’t mind it. Now that he was able to go to school without feeling like everybody hated him, studying didn’t seem like a problem at all. It was only his second week at Lake Heights, so he still hadn’t made any real friends, but people seemed nice. He didn’t go out of his way to talk to everyone, but there was also no fighting or teasing. There was even one openly gay guy in another class, which was a shock for him. Even though the new school seemed miles better, he missed having Zoe and Brad around. They still saw each other a few times a week, but it wasn’t the same. Also, he didn’t want to admit it to himself, but he missed Cody too. He knew it was stupid, but he couldn’t help it. He was used to looking around the class and catching Cody looking at him shyly before quickly turning his head. As he was doing homework and thinking about his friends, Trick had no idea that the guy from his thoughts had just parked his bike outside his window, trying to gather the courage to knock on the door and ask to talk to him. Minutes were passing by as Cody sat outside, looking up at Trick’s window. Eventually, the lights went out and he got back on his bike and drove off. “Coward,” he muttered to himself as he was driving through the night, going back home. -- “I know you’re sorry…” Trick said. “I don’t mean just about the bullying… I mean about everything.” Cody felt his heart beating harder and faster. He was sure Trick could hear it. Well, this is it. He has started the avalanche and he can’t stop it now. “What do you mean?” “Uh, Trick, I need to tell you something.” Cody was thinking hard, as if he was trying to divine how the entire conversation is going to go. He sat at the nearest bench and motioned Trick to come sit next to him. “Is this what Brad told me you wanted to talk to me about? It sounded important.” “Yeah, it is.” Cody reached for Trick’s hand, wanting to hold it. He thought it would give him strength to continue, but he stopped himself. “I don’t know how to tell you all this because I don’t want to hurt you anymore. Just… promise me you’ll try to understand, ok?” Trick was confused and a bit scared. Can’t they ever have a normal conversation? It always has to be marred with the past. “Ok, I promise…” Trick looked him in the eyes and nodded, trying to be encouraging even though he wasn’t sure what was coming. Cody looked around, as if he was trying to absorb energy from all the trees around them. “Ok, I guess I should start from the beginning… Back in high school, I did a lot of stupid shit, you know that… But then I realized something that made me change. I stopped harassing kids, I left you alone…” “I know. First you were… ruining my days, and then you started avoiding me like the plague.” Thinking about it, Trick didn’t know which was worse. “I just… didn’t know what to do,” Cody said, sounding sad and lost. “What happened?” “I, uh, heard you guys talking one day at school – you, Brad and Zoe. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I was just there. You were talking about your… situation and how you, uh… had a crush on me.” Cody stopped talking, waiting for a reaction from Trick, but nothing happened. Trick was too busy sweating and hearing his heart beat loudly in his head to say anything. “That was something totally new for me. I kept thinking ‘What is going on? Why would he feel anything for me?’ No one had ever shown any interest in me, told me I was special, nothing…” “You knew all this time… That’s why you avoided me,” Trick said in a weak voice. “Every time I caught you staring at me… You knew. What were you thinking, that I was some pathetic idiot to fall for a guy who treated me like shit?” “No, Trick! I never thought that. In fact, I thought I was a pathetic idiot. That’s why I didn’t get why you would even like me… I was just trying to understand.” Cody was now sitting turned to Trick, looking at him and hoping Trick won’t bolt and leave him alone. Trick refused to turn and look at him, keeping his eyes on the path in front of him, his hands clutching the bench he was sitting on. “So what did you understand?” “That you’re a sweet guy who was able to look past my horrible behavior and see something in me that no one else did… And that you’re pretty damn cute, too.” Cody knew he crossed the line with that last sentence, but it was a line he had wanted to cross for a long time. Trick frowned for a second, unsure what Cody was saying to him. “Trick, do you understand what I’m trying to say here?” Cody asked softly. “No, I don’t,” Trick replied. He had a pretty good idea, but refused to believe it. It couldn’t be true. How could Cody reciprocate his feelings? “I like you, Trick. More than I ever thought I could… I don’t know if you still feel the same about me, but if you do…” Cody stopped talking when Trick finally turned to look at him. His eyes showed desire, but also sadness. “Why didn’t you say anything? We could’ve…” Trick just shook his head. He wanted to say how they could’ve been together all this time, all these years, but then realized it probably wouldn’t have happened that way even if he had told him the truth. He was too angry at Cody and wouldn’t have been able to forgive him then. “I was a coward. By the time I came around, you were gone. I was afraid to look for you because I thought you would hate me, and I couldn’t take that. I couldn’t stand the thought of you hating me.” Cody finally gathered his courage and placed his hand on Trick’s. Their eyes met once again. At this point, both of them were fighting tears, but knew they wouldn’t be able to keep that up for long. Before he knew it, Cody gently placed his hand on Trick’s cheek. Perfectly synchronized, they leaned in, closed their eyes and their lips met in a soft kiss that made them feel like their hearts would explode. Cody hoped time would somehow stop, leaving them frozen like that forever. He’d kissed guys before, but none of them could compare to Trick. He could already feel getting addicted to the taste of Trick’s warm lips. It was as if his entire body was being filled with warmth and happiness. Trick had a million thoughts running through his head, but he didn’t want the kiss to end. He squeezed Cody’s hand and kissed him more passionately, when he felt Cody’s hands around his face. To feel his fingers on his skin was heaven, to have their lips locked together was something he’d been dreaming of forever. He thought he’d start crying from happiness and never stop. When they finally ended the kiss, breathing heavily, reality hit them again. For a while, they managed to forget everything they have been talking about, but now it all came back. They went silent for a few moments, letting tears fall down their cheeks, before Cody dared to speak first. “So, you don’t hate me?” he asked nervously. “Of course I don’t hate you, Cody,” Trick replied with a guilty look on his face. “But…?” Cody sensed there was something. “But this is too hard. I don’t know how to just get past everything. I’m not the same guy I used to be back then,” Trick said, hoping his words would not hurt Cody. “You don’t trust me…” Cody realized and let go of Trick’s hand, feeling a little chill in his heart. Trick looked down again. “I don’t know. I want to trust you, I really do, but… This has more to do with me than you. You have to understand… Ever since high school, I don’t know how to trust people, how to make friends. I feel awkward doing anything in public, I can’t go out alone without feeling people are judging me…” Cody felt his heart would break. He never realized how much being bullied had affected Trick, how deep the scars were. “This is my fault,” Cody said, wiping tears from his face. “Cody, don’t…” “It is. Maybe I wasn’t the only one guilty, but I was there. I did nothing to make things better for you.” He grabbed Trick’s hand again, squeezing it and bringing it to his mouth to kiss it. “If you let me, I will be there for you. I won’t let anyone hurt you again.” “Cody, it’s not gonna be that easy.” “I know, but I meant everything I said. I can’t let you go away again.” Now that he’s had a taste of Trick, he wasn’t sure he could live without it again. He wanted to feel him and hold him every day. “I need to think about all of this, it’s all too much.” How could this be happening? Being with Cody had always been his biggest wish, but he was resigned with being alone forever. Could his dream really come true? Trick was sure something would go wrong, it was just too good to be true. How could Cody be feeling the same way? He must be lying… But he seems so honest. And that kiss…. Oh my God, that kiss! The real thing was a million times better than the dreams. “Ok, I understand. But I’ll be waiting, and I’ll keep trying,” Cody said, giving him a small smile. He saw a tiny glimmer of hope in Trick’s beautiful eyes and decided to hold on to it. Trick was worth the wait.
  17. 46 points
    We met Ted in his frat house. We followed Ted to the room he shared with one other, that wasn’t there. It was a guy’s room. Clothing scattered and little cluttered, except for the desk where his computer monitor was on a page preparing to receive what Ted wrote. Peter sat on Ted’s bed as Ted did the simple niceties as we met with him, like offered a drink, asked how our day was…he was being patient. Then he leveled a look at Peter. “Why the secret, Peter? You are a prince, so why keep that a secret?” “When I first got here…in the West.” Peter began and I saw a little of that Peter that I first met. I reached over and took his hand, causing him to smile at me and look up again more confident. “I was raised in Makarovia, but I was…” he looked at me, “how do you say…ізгоєм?” He did speak English well, but his accent was…not difficult to understand, if you listen. “Outcast.” Peter nodded with a smile. “Thank you…I was outcast.” He smiled a little shy and shrugged. “I made myself an outcast.” He looked at Ted more directly. “I was unprepared to meet anyone.” He looked at me, bumping his forehead against mine lightly. “I wasn’t prepared to find Eric. I did and we fell in love.” He shrugged. “You now know I’m a prince. You know the title and I can only imagine what you think that means.” He chuckled. “I’ve seen movies. The Princess Diaries? A princess who didn’t know she was a princess? Only this is reversed. I knew I was a prince. You didn’t. We aren’t a big country. We don’t have the grand palaces and unlimited wealth.” “But you are in line for a throne.” Ted said again more as a question. Peter nodded. “I am.” He sighed. “But I am second to the throne. My brother will marry. He will produce the next king or queen. I accepted that a long time ago.” “But right now…” Ted stressed sitting forward. “You are in line. One assassin, a disease or accident; you will be king!” I looked at Peter. He was very uncomfortable with the idea. “My mother is queen. She would probably step in.” “How old is she?” Ted asked. Peter nodded. “She is nearly fifty.” “She might buy Makarovia some time, but she can’t have another child, can she?” Ted pointed out. “You’re it!” “I know!” Peter said a little louder, not angry, but he knew. He didn’t want to think about that. It probably had been on his mind a long time. His hopes that King Olek would marry and have a child was what he held on to all that time. Then he said softer. “I’m sorry.” He waved his hand to Ted and rubbed his face. “I know.” Ted tried to understand. “From what I read…” he chuckled, “and really, there wasn’t a lot about Makarovia. The throne has had everybody from Ukrainians, several Russians…your mother is Russian.” Ted tried to remember what he’d read. “There was a Romanian in there somewhere…” He looked at Peter. “Well…someone has to come up with an heir.” He looked at me. “Your boyfriend…” “He’s not my boyfriend.” Peter said quickly. “He’s my fiancé.” Ted’s eyes widened. “Okay, your fiancé…what will he be other than your husband? Will he become a prince?” Peter looked at me. “Yes.” He shrugged. “My mother became queen by her marriage to my father. Eric will be a prince by marriage to me.” Okay, I wasn’t stupid. I knew there would be something like that, but me? A prince? Hearing Peter say it just sounded…odd to me. “As I was saying.” Peter said quietly. “We aren’t a rich country. There have been powers that took control many times. We are independent now and want to stay that way. Ted nodded. “Yea, yea…” he pressed on. “But is he going to be in position to take the throne?” I sat up a little more when he asked Peter that. “Your mother did.” Ted said logically. “She was Queen Consort, but now is a real reigning Queen!” “And does a good job.” Peter defended. Ted let out a grunt. “You’re not getting it. Maybe you’re not understanding what I mean, but I can’t speak…” He waved his hand again, “whatever you’re speaking to each other.” He looked at me. “You could be in line for the throne! Didn’t you realize that?” I shook my head. “I don’t want the throne.” Ted again nodded. “Yea, yea…” said again. “I understand that, but one more time. A plane crash or something; all of them are gone. You would be next in line if you are left!” My grandmother was right. I needed to think about the ramifications. I hadn’t even been to Makarovia yet. Peter was now looking at me…he hadn’t thought of that either, but recovered. “I have no doubt if that happened…” He said to Ted. “I know he’d do a good job. He already has ideas for improving Makarovia.” Ted nodded and got up as he thought. He turned back. “The big dinner at the White House…what was that about?” “I can’t answer that.” Peter said, now not uncertain, but as a ruling member of the royal family. “I will say…there is a reason. It will become public knowledge, but until it does. I won’t say.” Ted nodded again. “It must be big, whatever it is.” “It is.” Peter agreed. “Okay. Tell me about your family. Your brother? He is king now.” “Because my father was King.” Peter replied. “Our father died when I was about six, my brother, Olek took his place.” “What do you think about life here?” Ted asked. “How does it compare to life in Makarovia?” “I wasn’t ready for life here. After my father died, I was kept at the palace and taught there. Until I got here, because Eric didn’t know who I was then…I’d never even seen the inside of a mall. I’d seen them on TV, but was never able to go.” “Really?” Ted asked. “Yes.” Peter nodded. “That’s why I liked being just a man here. With the freedom to go where I wanted to go. I would not give that up.” Then he looked a little uncomfortable. “And there was…” he was searching for a word again. “How do you say Спотворення жорстоке?” I frowned and argued in Makarovian. “You were not disfigured!” “I was!” Peter argued back. “Guys!” Ted said urgently. “English speaking person here. I have no idea what you just said.” “He thinks he was disfigured.” I said to Ted. “His acne.” Ted nodded. “Oh.” Then he shrugged. “I’ve seen worse. There were no real zits or blackheads.” “You can’t have.” Peter snorted. “I had it all over.” He motioned over his chest. “His acne was a form of acne called Conglobata Acne. He’s still undergoing treatment.” “So, it was more than just zits.” Ted said to confirm. “No, much worse.” I said. Ted nodded, but was ever the reporter. “Let’s go back. You and Eric going to marry, right?” Peter nodded. “There’s only one that is a prince and came out as gay.” Ted said. “That was in India, I think. There are plenty people in royal families that are gay, but it’s kept secret. Or at least try to. You’re not even trying to hide it! Just that alone is going to attract serious attention.” Peter and I explained why Makarovian society was more tolerant. “So there would be no objection.” Ted said. “No one objects to you two getting married?” He grinned. “Not that I proposing you do, but my cousin married his partner when it became legal. You guys will do that. Publicly.” Peter nodded. “Of course.” Then he looked a little smug. “It was never illegal Makarovia for anyone to marry.” I rolled my eyes when Peter said that and looked at Ted. “We’re not as evolved as they are, apparently.” I grinned at Ted. “When we told them, they were very happy about it.” Ted rose from his computer chair and did a slow circle, thinking. “Really!?” He was getting excited about the story he was going to break. “Oh, this is going to be huge!” He looked at us again. “I don’t know what’s happening with the White House and all those other countries there with you…that will be big, you say. This alone is going to be enormous!” Then he sat down again. “Just to be correct when I write this…” Ted scrunched his face. “Your mother is not King Olek’s mother, right?” “No.” Peter chuckled. “Olek’s mother died. My mother is our father’s second wife.” Ted nodded with a grunt and then pressed on. “No one in Makarovia will object to a gay king.” “No.” Peter said. I thought a second. “The problem was always about the line of succession. There are other ways to have a child now.” Peter nodded to me. “There is.” I brightened. “Maybe we could use that with Olek.” Peter smiled. “I was just thinking that.” “I guess we need to contact your brother.” Ted looked at the two of us. “This story will be in school paper tomorrow.” He warned. “It’s connected to the national feed. This is one big secret that will come out like gangbusters.” “Gangbusters?” Peter repeated. “I don’t know that word.” “Later.” I kissed him quickly. We went back to Peter’s temporary home to make the call. We sent a request to King Olek asking him for a video call. It wasn’t long before we got the reply for us to make it happen. It was a secure channel, that’s why we came here to use their computer. This way we could not only hear King Olek, but see King Olek. Say what you will, but King Olek was a very handsome man! He had that black hair, a trait he shared with his brother. Whatever else, the two Ivanov men were obviously athletic. You could tell not only in the way King Olek’s clothes and Peter’s clothes fit, now that Peter was wearing clothes to see that. “To what do I owe this call from my favorite brother?” Olek greeted amicably. They might have different mothers, but the two were close. Peter grinned as his brother and his friendly greeting. “Well, the news about Eric and me is going to come out tomorrow.” King Olek nodded. “Hello, Eric.” He greeted. “I take it things are still good between you two still.” He said, but had no doubting it wasn’t good. Peter chuckled. “They are. What you and mother said at the White House…thank you. However, that isn’t worldwide. This may and will be soon.” King Olek nodded. “There will be countries that don’t like that.” King Olek simply shrugged. “But we have a resource now that if they want part of it, they can’t say a word about it.” He said simply Peter nodded. “Has the time for the world to know what that resource is going to be soon?” “Forces are arriving this week.” King Olek said softly. “Soon there will be a military presence on Makarovian soil. We have gotten word of potential enemy presence trying to find out what that is about.” “Potential enemy? Like who?” I asked. “Ukraine and Russia. I don’t even have to guess about them.” Olek said a little terse. “Spies.” I said. “Precisely, but with a kingdom this small, strangers in our midst is easy to find.” King Olek nodded. “And there has been a gathering of Russia’s troops near our eastern border.” “The eastern border; in what country?” I asked trying to remember the map. “Slovakia? Poland?” King Olek smiled when I knew that. “Poland. From what I’ve been told, they are just having…” he did the air finger quotes, “exercises.” He shook his head. “I don’t want to have happen what they did to the Ukraine.” “That would be tough to stop, Your Highness.” I nodded. King Olek laughed lightly and looked closer in the camera. “Okay, Mr. Richards.” He said mockingly formal. “I think under the circumstances…the titles and all that should go. I’m Peter’s brother. I will be your brother.” He smiled again relaxed. “I’m Olek to you. Okay?” “Sure.” I nodded happy it was all so…friendly. He was a nice guy. “Russia wouldn’t dare an incursion!” Peter stated in disbelief. Olek chuckled. “Oh, yes they would, but having the presence of American, British and German forces here will keep them at bay.” Peter nodded his head. “When everyone believed we were nothing but a burden, they threw us away to fend for ourselves.” “Now, they want us back.” Olek said. “They just don’t know why yet.” “But with other powers there, they won’t risk it.” I said. “They still might try. The Ukrainians and Russians will think they are entitled to it.” Olek shrugged. “At least with Western forces there, they will think twice rather than cause an International Event. So far, there are America and British forces and promises ensure our right to govern ourselves. Half of the profits we keep, the other fifty percent they are splitting and negotiations are continuing.” “With the German and French?” Peter asked. “They say they will help, but I don’t sense that’s their true stance. If we let up a fraction, I think they could threaten us, too.” Olek confessed. “That’s why I insisted all meetings be recorded and stored in a few places. No one will be able to deny what has been proposed. The other countries will ensure the other country compies.” I nodded. “Wise.” “Crucial.” Olek pointed out that correction. “Now, about this story coming out about you and Peter, don’t worry about it.” He chuckled. “But it will be momentous! You will become the first couple like you to openly marry…for love.” “So, I’ve been told often today.” Peter looked at me. “It’s not too late.” He said softly. “We don’t have to go forward with our plans.” “We really don’t have any plan except to marry.” I couldn’t believe it! “We can’t break up!?” I stood up. “How can you think that would work? I fell in love with Peter, not Prince Petro. I’m not breaking up with you. Are you saying you want to break up with me?” “No.” Peter shook his head. “But I’m considering you. This may be more than you bargained for.” I sat by him again. “No couple has a clear shot at life. There will be problems. This is ours. I gave my heart to you. I don’t want it back.” I looked at him. “We joked around, but you did ask me to marry you. I said yes!” Peter pulled me back down beside him grinned, bumping his forehead to mine gently. “I don’t want to give your heart back.” Then he looked at Olek. “So when are you going to get serious with someone?” Olek looked surprised. “How could I? How can I? I’ve been busy.” Peter nodded. “I know. But we have to plan for a future in Makarovia. If the monarchy is to survive, we need to do things. Like marry and produce an heir. Do I need to explain that biologically? Perhaps make a diagram of what to do?” Olek chuckled. “Since the discovery of our Uranium, I’ve done all I can to do what’s best for Makarovia. Women I meet are too fleeting. We go out, we don’t see one another often enough to form a relationship, but I’ve made inquiries…” Then he frowned. “A diagram? I know what to do and have done it a few times…” Then he called Peter a word I didn’t know in Ukrainian, Russian or any word I knew in Makarovian. Peter looked at me and whispered. “That’s Makarovian for wiseass.” “Oh.” I nodded, but was smiling at Peter and Olek exchange. They were really and truly brothers! They didn’t just love each other. They liked each other. They were good friends. Peter chuckled when he looked back at Olek. “Well, I wanted to make sure you knew. Women love a stud like you.” Olek, only few times laughed heartily, but he did now. “A Stud!?” He did sit a little straighter. “Perhaps, but shouldn’t there be love? You have to become friends with another person for love to form. I haven’t had time.” Peter smiled. “But needs to be done. If the monarchy is to survive.” Olek nodded sadly, but looked at his brother. “Should it survive?” I was surprised to hear Olek say that. “Why shouldn’t it survive?” Peter asked. “A monarchy was a good idea, when countries were small, like Makarovia. Now you have countries like the United States, a monarchy would be hard to maintain, but in Makarovia which is poor financially, and an education isn’t always possible, but most graduates manage to go to colleges outside Makarovia, stay because they are offered jobs. Careers. They don’t come back. Now we have a chance to educate and keep what we ourselves grew. Why, right now, we are building more schools, hospitals and libraries in the bigger towns. Our country is old. The cities and towns are old. We will be making money soon, we can improvements, create business and industry…more than smelting iron ore. Is there anyone in our country that you would think would make a good leader right now? A President? Anyone?” Peter grimaced. “Not really.” “Anyone who would have been a good candidate moves away and never comes back.” Olek smiled and looked closer at the screen. “This monarchy has another generation or two, but we need to have governors, mayors and that needs teachers. And to be honest, I was looking for you as a possible contributor for the succession. Eventually, there won’t be a monarchy in Makarovia.” Peter nodded. “And I still can, and so can you. We discussed this, Eric and I…there are other ways to create an heir.” Olek nodded. “I’ve thought of it.” He grinned. “I’m just thrilled you are interested in this, Peter.” He shook his head. “For years you didn’t seem interested in anything to do with the upkeep of Makarovia. It’s hard work. It was a brave decision to go to the West to get an education. I’m glad to see it’s paying off.” Peter nodded. “I was a bit antisocial, but loyal to Makarovia.” “I know you are loyal. Antisocial? Ya think?” Olek said ya think in perfect English. I laughed at his joke. “That was pretty good, Your Highness.” Olek grinned. “Olek!” He growled and shook his head. “Sorry…Olek.” “Now his mother….” He held the sound of dread. “I still feel like I should call her Your Highness or something even today! It took me five years before I could call her Alla.” I smiled. “I don’t think I could ever do that.” “No.” Peter smiled at me. “It may be possible she will let you call her Mom.” “Until someone asks me offically, that’s all moot.” I said in English. I didn’t know the word for moot in Makarovian. Peter and Olek chuckled. But Peter bumped foreheads with me. “You know I love you.” “I do.” Olek cleared his throat. “Well, don’t worry about the media coverage. It’ll all be good. We’ll handle it on our end.” He looked seriously at us. “Be ready on your end.” “We will do our best.” Peter assured. “We just wanted to warn you.” Peter said. “Well, that done. I’ll see you back in Makarovia.” “Did you invite Eric?” Olek asked hopefully. “He did.” I said. “I look forward to seeing Makarovia. What I’ve gotten from the internet about Stryia shows a charming city.” Olek chuckled. “Charming. I suppose it is. If I don’t see you sooner, I’ll see you there.” He looked at Peter. “I love you, Peter.” Peter nodded. “I love you, too.” He smiled. “I’m really starting to love you, Eric.” Olek said. “You’ll be a welcomed asset to this family.” “I’m loving you and Queen Alla.” I said. “We’ll talk again.” Olek said and cut the connection. Peter grinned at me. “So, what do you want to do now?” I smiled a little slyly. “I was thinking…about leading you further down the road to debauchery. Have you ever been to a night club?” “A night club.” I nodded. “As this will be your last night as just plain Peter, we need to end this with a bang. Tomorrow you’ll be Prince Petro of Makarovia to everyone on campus and probably Boston. Does that sound okay?” Peter frowned a little. “I’ve never been to a night club. I’ve seen them in movies….but…” “I chose one that’s geared for us.” I said. Peter grinned at me. “Wow, they have a night club for men to come out as a prince and gay?” I gave him a friendly swat. “If I didn’t love you, I’d kick your royal ass.” I pulled him close and got serious. “Now…about what you said…” I kissed him gently. “I love you, Peter.” I saw him smile at that. “You and I are going to marry. Please, don’t ever doubt that. This is new to me. When you mentioned we didn’t have to go through with this…relationship…that bothered me.” Peter bowed his head a little, but I pulled his face back up for him to look at me. “I just know…” Peter began. “This life I asked you join with me will require more than just walking down the aisle.” “You thought this would scare me away from you?” I asked. He shrugged a little. “It might have.” He saw my face and hurried on. “You’re not just going to marry me! You’re be married to Makarovia. I would have asked you sooner, but…” he again shrugged, “…there was that dinner.” He brightened. “Which you did great!” He kissed me. “You kept me from making a fool of myself…” “Peter.” I said in sort of warning. He nodded. “I know…you said I wouldn’t…but there were a few times, I began to retreat, I know it. You pulled me back!” I pulled him into a hug and held him there. “I don’t know what happened to you. I don’t know how you felt growing up.” I said softly. “But never…” I said firmly, but softly, “…I mean never doubt my love for you. I will always be at your side. I won’t ever leave you.” I heard his hitch in breathing and felt him tighten his hold on me. “Just keep telling me that.” “I do better than that, Peter.” I said quietly. “I will prove it, by doing what I said. I’m not leaving you.” There’s nothing sexier someone a little vulnerable. He needed me and I needed him. I had begun to get a better, clearer understanding of Peter; his issues with that horrible acne and his lack of trust and no confidence, I understood more. His father dies when Peter was five. His mother was Queen and had obligations. His brother was King and also had obligations. I understood that in his time of emotional need, he was often alone. The acne just forced him to stay away and hidden from the world. Developing social skills and coping skills requires interacting with people. The paradox was…he was taught what to say and do socially. He knew what was required. Add to the fact, a mother that was super beautiful and very confident, but had things she had to do. Then a brother that was very handsome and also very confident, but also very busy with duties and obligations. At a time when a person’s personal confidence is at its lowest as a budding teenager and he stayed away from people because of his medical condition. It was a wonder he found the courage to even venture to Boston to go to school. He had abandonment issues. His mother and brother loved him very, very much…that was evident, but Peter’s very soul seemed to be damaged. If by telling him over and over that I loved him helped, I’d do it gladly. I knew that the most important thing was if I did what I said. I could never abandon him. I’d would help him heal. I kissed him deeply and then held him back a little. “You’re going to dress a little…more…” I grinned, “sexy.” Peter grinned. “I am?” He looked down at what he had on. “What should I wear? I’ve never been to a night club.” I nodded. “I’ll put it out.” I kissed him quickly and then stopped. “You can dance.” Peter gave a shrug and nod. “I have…in my room to videos and music.” “Good enough.” It was colder now in Boston. He looked sharp in the electric blue shirt and leather jacket. Not a bomber jacket or anything like a biker, but a nice black leather coat. The black pants that showed he had a nice butt! The pants just hugged his butt showing he had a very good shape. I wore a nice red shirt and black pants. I had done some research and found a nice club near the Northeastern campus. Jocks! There was Hooters where assets of women was in the name and we had Jocks! Perfect name for a gay club, that or they could call it The Banana Hammock. It was not far, but I drove us over to Jocks. I looked at Peter as we approached the club’s entrance hand in hand. He was staring at the people going in…all guys in various…couples or hoping to become a couple with a lone guy there…even if for one night. It was near a university, so most of the guys were at least legally old enough to drink, but young. There were the daddies there, but with younger men. Peter was smiling we heard the fast paced music and bass thumping rhythm. This was unknown territory for Peter. He said he’d seen clubs on TV, but he was here, until now. “Do you want to do this?” I asked him. He nodded readily. “Absolutely!” He smiled at me. “This is exciting!” Inside the music was naturally louder, but we could make out the tune better. It was music to dance to, which many guys were doing. Hanging our coats up, I grabbed Peter’s hand and led him out on the dance floor. Peter was looking a little more nervous. He wasn’t feeling the freedom yet. But he might if I supported him. “You don’t have to dance at all, if you don’t want to.” I said loud so he could hear me. I waved at the other guys. “There are good dancers and really bad dancers.” I waved toward a guy…I’m sorry, but he really didn’t have a sense of rhythm, but he was smiling and enjoying being with his date! “No one will care.” I said pulling his face toward me and kissed him gently to take his mind off the other guys. “If you want, focus on me. Dance for me.” I pressed my forehead to his and looked in his grey-green eyes. He smiled, shrugged and began to move. It didn’t take too long before he and I were dancing up a real sweat! He was good at dancing! All that time back home dancing to videos and music paid off! I don’t know how long it was, but I was getting winded. “Let’s get a drink.” I said regulating my breath. Peter nodded, but breathing a little harder as I was. He threw his arm around me. “This is fun!” “That’s what the place is for!” I said as we walked to the bar. “It used to be the only place those of us who are gay had to gather, meet and have fun. This is like that, but freer. They have clubs in Makarovia?” He shrugged. “I don’t know.” He said sadly. “I never went. I’m sure there are.” “With as many gay guys welcome in Makarvia; there has to be.” I smiled. “And you and I find out and will go there! If they don’t, we’ll start one.” I wondered if The Banana Hammock would translate in Makarovian? I wasn’t a big drinker, but there were a few drinks that I liked. White Russians were my favorite. Naturally, it’s Russian! I loved many things, but I loved someone that had Russian in him. Knowing Makarovian history better, I bet he had a lot of Russian in him. Drinks gotten and I heard the call of nature. I moved closer to Peter’s ear. “I’ll be right back.” Going into the bathroom, I chuckled at what I found there. I wasn’t surprised. There were guys here, but they weren’t having to use the bathroom at all, but it was quieter so they could have conversations. The booths were being used, but not for doing what it was there for. Then again, may they were. But four legs in one booth, facing the same way with pants loose or toward their ankles? I just hoped they were being safe. I headed back to Peter. The club was crowded, I winded through bodies until I saw Peter…he was holding his hands up to stop someone. I saw who it was…Brad. The guy at the frat house that Ted and he shared. The guy who asked me if I wanted to have fun with him that night? The ass? Brad was getting dangerously close to Peter who was shaking his head, but Brad reached down and stroked the front of Peter’s pants at the crotch! I instantly closed the distance, grabbed Brad to turn him around and punched him as hard as I could in the face making him spin around, almost colliding with others who were watching it happen at the bar. His hand came up holding his mouth and nose. “Don’t you ever touch my fiancé like that again!” I shouted to Brad with my fists still held to go again. Peter put his hands on my shoulders. “It’s okay.” Peter said in Makarovian. “No, it isn’t.” I shouted back, not angry at Peter, but Brad. “No means no! Ted told you that when we met, Brad. I told you no and Peter told you no.” Brad turned wiping his nose as red stained his hand. “You think you can take me!?” He shouted coming toward me. I cocked my head. “You want to find out?” I came closer to Brad, yes, I was up to the challenge. Right now, I could kill him! We were all jumped, startled at a loud “BANG!” Turning to the bar, one of the bartenders had a…bat? It was long and wooden, shaped like a bat…kind of. It was shorter. Bigger than cop’s billy club and it wasn’t being used to hit baseballs. “Knock it off, Brad!” The bartender shouted. “No.” He shook his head. “Leave, right now.” He pointed with his bat toward the door. “Leave or I will throw you ass out and bar you from coming in here again!” Brad looked as if he was going to take on the bartender. I stepped in front of Brad. “We can go outside and you can see if I can take you.” Looking in his eyes and slight stagger. “You’re drunk again! Ted told me you were an ass. Jesus, you are pathetic!” The bartender was coming over the bar. “No.” He was big! I mean very big. “Do what you want outside, but for now…” he grabbed Brad by the shirt and drug him towards the door. I turned to see Peter smiling at me and even laughing lightly. “My hero!” He grabbed me in a hug. He pulled my right hand up and looked at my knuckles, then brought my hand up and kissed the slightly damaged knuckle. “I was fine.” He said grinning. “I could have beaten him.” I nodded. “I’m sure you could, but nobody touches you without your permission. I just saw red.” Again, languages are tricky and translation was not always accurate. Direct translations, like red or green don’t mean the same things. “Red? A color again?” But his eyes widened as he got it. “Oh, yes. Red. Anger. Like a red thing the matador uses to make the bull angry. I get it.” He grinned hugging me again and kissed me gently. “I love you.” The bartender came back…without Brad. “You two okay?” Peter didn’t let me go, but nodded. “We’re fine.” “Did I hear you say fiancé? Does that mean you’re getting married?” The bartender asked smiling. “When he officially asks me.” I grinned and saw Peter roll his eyes again. “Huh?” The bartender asked. “It’s complicated. He asked me and I said yes.” I said. “We are getting married.” “Congratulations?” The bartender was a little mystified. “You’ll understand when the NSUNews comes out in the morning.” Peter said again accented in English. “You do get that here?” The bartender grinned. “Of course! Most of my clientele comes from Northeastern. I advertise in it.” I nodded. “Read it in the morning.” I grabbed what little was left in my glass then turned to Peter. “Another dance, or do we head home?” Peter smiled. “Home. With you, I’ll always be home.” He looked at the dance floor. “Maybe a dance or two more.” He said. “And then we’ll go home, and you and I can touch all we want. We have our permissions.” He kissed me again. “I love you, Eric.” “I love you, Peter.”
  18. 46 points
    The softness underneath my body, the smooth fabric against my face, the scent permeating the air… it was too much and yet not enough. I took small, quick breaths and gripped the edge of the pillow. It smelled like him, like Captain. Not even the pain of touching these things could take away the wonder of them. “What is he wearing?” I peeked out of the corner of my eye, not wanting to face them head on. “Not sure,” Captain said. “I didn’t feel any seams.” “Certainly fits tight enough. I won’t have to do much of an exam to ensure he’s not injured.” Captain’s cheeks turned red, and he cleared his throat. “I’ll leave you to it.” He turned and walked away, but the other one stayed. Man… woman… I couldn’t tell. I wasn’t stupid; the aliens had educated me, and I remembered what humans were, but there was an unknown quality to this one. Their hair was level with their pointed chin, narrow shoulders and hips, soft in a way but not rounded. Their eyes were sharp as they studied me though. I wanted that to stop. A second later, I wanted the person to go back to where they were. “No,” I said. I squirmed away from the edge of the bed. “It’s just to check you don’t need any medical care, so I need you to take off that garment” They spread their hands out to the sides. “My name is Aparoe. I won’t harm you.” I shook my head. “It stays on.” It had never been off. My torment, a constant punishment if I sought comfort. Even the touch of my own skin on the outside triggered it. Sometimes my need overwhelmed my resistance to touch, like when Captain appeared. Everywhere he’d touched me burned like fire now. It might go away in a little while or last for what felt like forever. I never knew. But I was out of my cell, at least for now, and that was worth it. Aparoe cocked their head. “You don’t want to take it off?” “Can’t.” I shook my head again, watching Aparoe closely for signs they were moving. “Hmm.” They pulled out some device, and I recoiled, falling off the other side of the bed. The blanket came with me, and tangled around my legs. I flailed, trying to get it off. Aparoe was hovering over me before I could free myself. I yelped. “Please stay calm. Maybe you should slow down a little. I won’t touch you. I’d like to scan this… thing you’re wearing.” I couldn’t get free, and if they came closer, I’d endure the punishment for their touch. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I froze, watching their every move. Waiting for the betrayal. My family had given me away. Aliens had tested and punished me. The universe was a vast array of planets and peoples who didn’t care what happened to me, or any other person turned into property. To be harvested or purchased for the worth we could provide and then tossed aside. Like how Captain had just left me here. Resentment washed over me, and I glared at Aparoe for a second before they inched closer and I tried to melt into the floor. But that had never worked for me in the past. “Oh stars and moons,” they said breathily. “That thing is grafted onto your nerves. It’s doing something, stimulating them. What is it doing? What do you feel?” “Itching.” Confusion marred Aparoe’s face. “Itching?” “And pain.” Their mouth dropped open and their eyes widened. “Pain?” I nodded. “Always.” “Why?” “To punish me. To keep me from touching. From being touched.” Not that there had been anyone in my cell to touch me. But they’d sometimes sent in machines that did things, made me see things, and then the needles would become spikes that pierced my brain like giant shards of ice, freezing me in eons of agony…. “We’ll get it off you.” Aparoe touched my arm, and I yanked it back. They looked down at the machine and their eyes widened. “Your arm.” It was on fire. I held it to my side to avoid making it worse. The impulse to cradle it close was there, but I’d learned to suppress it a long time ago. “Your arm. Your back. Under your legs. Anywhere you’ve been touched.” Their color was pasty-white, nearly as pale as me. They scooted back, farther away from me, and I slowly moved too, untangling my legs from the cover that had slipped off the bed on top of me. “How are we going to get it off you?” I inched back, looking over my shoulder. There was a corner, one I could sit in and brace my body without actually touching myself, just like the corner in my cell. There was even some sort of table there that would protect my head. The room hadn’t felt big at first, but as my pain and panic grew, I found myself wishing for my cell again. This was too different. My heart raced, and I couldn’t slow down my breathing. I risked my own body heat triggering the suit if I leaned too hard against the wall, but I couldn’t move. This all had to stop. “Hey, hey, calm down. Take a deep breath.” Aparoe held up a hand and patted the air in front of me. “It’s going to be fine.” I shook my head, my shoulders curved and my stomach caving in with each gasp. Nothing was fine. This had to be a test. One of those things they’d put in my head to make me lower my guard. Make me break the rules. I’d already done that, so the punishment had to be coming soon. I’d never left my cell, not since they locked me up. It was going to be bad. So bad. Darkness swirled around me, and I lost control, slumping sideways against the wall.
  19. 45 points
    The bell rang, marking the end of the break, and students slowly started returning to their classrooms. The halls were soon empty and after about a minute, biology teacher Mr. Wesley entered one of the classrooms, ready to start the class. All of the students were in their seats, except one. A couple of minutes later, there was a knock on the classroom door. “Come on in,” Mr. Wesley called out. The door slowly opened and a shy face appeared. It was a young boy with black, curly hair and big brown eyes. “Sorry I’m late, teacher. Can I come in?” Patrick Pierce said, shy and a bit scared. He’d never been late to a class before. He wasn’t a total nerd, but was still a very good student and didn’t like to break the rules. “Of course, Patrick,” the teacher said with understanding. The 14-year-old boy closed the door and headed to his seat, which was between his best friends Zoe and Brad. He hung his head as he walked through the classroom, avoiding making eye contact with other students. He was embarrassed and thought everyone was judging and laughing at him. He sat at his desk and pulled the biology book out of his backpack. “Hey, Trick, you ok?” Zoe leaned over and whispered to him. She was his best friend and was concerned, knowing what he’s been going through lately. “Yeah, I’ll tell you later,” Patrick (or Trick, as his friends called him) replied. “Don’t worry, man, we just got in ourselves a minute ago,” Brad whispered, trying to comfort him. He knew Patrick didn’t like being late. Brad was always the most practical out of the three. He wasn’t always good at expressing his feelings, but he would go to great lengths to help his friends. Zoe and Brad were Trick’s best friends, or more precisely, his only friends since a few months ago. That’s when the bullying started. Trick was a new target for the bullies in his class – specifically Mason, Logan and Cody. He had good grades and wasn’t good at sports. Oh, and he was gay. Of course, his schoolmates didn’t know that last thing, only Brad and Zoe did. Trick came out to them because the three of them had been best friends for years. They would always confide in each other and spend time together whenever they could. They trusted each other and were always there to help when any of them had problems. Still, a lot of people suspected about Trick being gay, and that was enough for some of them to tease him every day. Luckily, he was never beaten up, but the name-calling, teasing and the occasional shoving was getting worse and worse. The three guys from his class – Mason, Logan and Cody – would sometimes sit behind him in class, poke him in the back, throw stuff at him and whisper to him about how they would wait for him outside after classes to ‘deal with him’. Of course, they never acted on their threats. Whether they were afraid of getting punished, or just wanted to scare him, he didn’t know, but they made his life miserable nonetheless. Every day, when he thought about going to school, his stomach would twist in a knot and he’d feel sick, knowing he’d have to endure another day of harassment. From a happy, carefree boy who had a lot of friends and always liked to joke around, Trick quickly turned into a withdrawn, quiet guy who only spoke when answering teachers’ questions and never went anywhere without Zoe or Brad. Other kids gradually stopped hanging around with him. They either didn’t want to be another target for the bullies, or they didn’t care enough about him in the first place to try and help. That left him with only his two best friends, who never turned their backs on him. After the biology class had ended, the three of them went out for a break. They sat at a bench in the school yard where they would be away from other kids. “So, what happened?” Zoe asked with concern in her voice. “They waited for me outside and didn’t let me enter the school. I tried getting past them, but they pushed me out. I had to wait for the teachers to come and then I went in right after them,” Trick spoke, sad and embarrassed. “You have to tell the teachers, man… We’ll tell them together,” Brad said, frustrated that this was happening to his best friend. “You know I already told them once, there’s no point. They’d only warn them not to do it again, and that’s it. After a few days, they would start all over again.” “Then tell your parents,” Zoe said. “I know… I will. It’s just hard… and embarrassing,” Trick replied, trying his best not to start crying. He realized that the bullying was connected to him being gay, so how could he tell his parents what was happening at school without outing himself? He wasn’t sure how they would react, and he didn’t want to risk it, at least not yet. “I know, but you have to. We’ll be there if you want,” Brad said and Zoe quickly nodded. “I’m so sorry, Trick. I know how hard it is for you… Especially because of Cody,” Zoe said quietly. She was sensitive and always had the feelings of others in mind. She could easily tell how another person was feeling, and she knew very well about Trick, too. “I just don’t want him to get punished,” Trick said. “Trick, come on. I know you have a crush on him, but he’s an asshole. Almost as big as Mason and Logan,” Brad said adamantly. “If he gets punished, it’s his own fault.” The three friends continued talking, unaware that their entire conversation was being listened to. Several feet behind them, Cody was standing dumbfounded, his eyes wide open in shock. He quietly moved away so that he wouldn’t be heard, and once he was far enough, he ran as fast as he could. Although he wanted to stay and listen, he had to get away, find a place to sit and think. He had no idea what to do with the information he just got. That couldn’t be true, could it? How could Patrick have a crush on him? He’s been nothing but horrible to him these past few months. Besides, no one ever liked him. Sure, he hung out with Mason and Logan, he hung out with many kids at school, but they were not his friends, they were just kids he went to school with. Now that he thought about it, he didn’t have any real friends, let alone a crush or… something more. At least Patrick had Brad and Zoe. On the other hand, Cody had no one. Sure, he could talk to anyone and make them laugh, but when it came to real friendship, he was alone. He didn’t know how to do that, how to be a friend… but at times like these, he really wished he had one. Cody wanted to talk to someone about this startling revelation, but didn’t have any one he could confide in. His parents were not an option – he was too embarrassed to even think about talking to them about stuff like that. His sister was too young to understand, and his so-called friends were also out of the question. If he told Logan and Mason, or anyone else really, the word would immediately get out that Patrick was indeed gay. “If they knew, they would literally destroy him,” Cody was scared at the thought. He teased Patrick a lot, but he never meant him any real harm. Now, he was suddenly regretting his behavior. “Why would he even like me?” he honestly wondered. He couldn’t fathom that anyone could see anything special in him. All he knew was that he couldn’t tell anyone about this. -- Days and weeks were passing by, and the situation at school didn’t get any better for Trick. Mason and Logan were after him every day, along with a few other kids from other classes. However, Trick couldn’t help but notice that Cody didn’t take part in the bullying anymore. Zoe and Brad also noticed this change, so he knew he wasn’t just imagining things. At first he thought that maybe Mason and Logan cut Cody out of their little group, but they still acted friendly with him, so that wasn’t it. He didn’t seem that interested in hanging out with them, though. Sometimes, Trick would notice Cody looking at him strangely, as if he was studying him, but he always kept his distance. He couldn’t figure out Cody’s change of behavior for the life of him, but he didn’t really pay much attention to it because he had bigger problems to deal with: the bullies, as well as the news he had to break to his friends. Having arrived to school, Trick stood near the entrance to the school yard, afraid to go in any deeper. He waited for Zoe or Brad to come because he didn’t feel safe without them. As students from Mason’s and Logan’s group of friends would pass him by, they would yell ‘fag’, ‘pussy,’ or any other word that sounded like an insult to them, and then just laugh, looking at his sad and ashamed face. Maybe even worse were the looks of pity in the eyes of other students who just watched him from a distance, but did nothing to help. After what seemed like hours, Brad and Zoe finally showed up and the three of them entered the school building. The first class was chemistry and everyone was flustered because they had a test. Trick didn’t mind it because it meant that everyone will be focused on taking the test instead of teasing him. The entire day went without major problems, although the name-calling and the ever increasing range of insults were inevitable, as always. After the last class, the three friends headed home. Trick waited for that moment to finally break the big news, and he was getting increasingly more nervous. “Guys, I’ve got something to tell you,” he started, feeling even more insecure than usual. “What’s up?” Brad asked innocently, not expecting anything serious. “I talked to my mom and dad… Told them about what was going on at school.” “Oh, Trick… Did you… tell them all?” Zoe asked, reaching her hand to grab Trick’s. “Yeah… I came out to them. They don’t mind,” he said with a shy smile. “I knew they would be fine with it,” Zoe also smiled. “Although, they were upset that I didn’t tell them about the bullying sooner… But they understood.” “I’m glad, buddy,” Brad added. “Have they come to the school?” “Yes, but not because of what you think… I asked them to move me to another school.” “What?!” Zoe and Brad shouted almost in unison. “Are you sure about this?” Zoe quickly asked. “I don’t know… I can’t stay here anymore. I’m afraid to go to school every day. The only time I have a moment of peace is during classes, and sometimes not even then. I can’t go on like that every single day…” “I know, bud. I wish things were different…” Brad patted him on the back. He was gutted about losing a friend, but he knew it was for the best. “Which school will you be going to?” Zoe asked. She was concerned and scared, but she wanted the best for her friend. She knew Trick was unhappy here and that this was probably the right move. “The Lake Heights, it’s close to home. I’m moving there as of next week.” “We’ll still see each other,” Brad added, trying to put on a little smile. “I know. It won’t be the same, though…” Trick replied sadly. “Wanna go to my place and hang out for a while? We can play some Mario Kart?” he asked hopefully. “Of course! As long as you don’t make us play Rainbow Road,” Brad teased. “I’m not that gay!” Trick chuckled. He already felt a bit better. “And we’ll keep doing this even after you change schools, ok?” Brad said. “Next weekend, you guys are coming to my place.” “You got it,” Trick and Zoe confirmed, smiling. -- Next week was unusual to say the least for Brad and Zoe. Other than the two of them and the teachers, no one else knew why Trick wasn’t showing up for classes. Some thought he might be sick, others didn’t really pay attention to his absence. Except one person – Cody. He noticed Patrick was gone already on the first day, but he didn’t say anything. As Patrick didn’t show up the entire week, Cody’s curiosity grew even bigger. Next Monday, he saw Zoe alone in the hallway after the second class and decided to approach her. He was anxious, but he needed to know. He slowly came to her and cleared his throat. “Hey… uh, I don’t see Patrick around,” he said nervously, standing a few feet away from her. “Is he sick?” “None of your business,” Zoe replied coldly, not even bothering to look at him. She never forgave him for how he treated Trick. “That’s fair… Ok, bye,” he said quietly and turned to walk away. Suddenly, Zoe thought that making Cody feel guilty would be a great idea, if he could even feel guilt, that is. She wanted to make him feel horrible for what he did. “If you must know,” she quickly added before he went away, “he moved to another school because of how you and other assholes have been treating him. He couldn’t take the bullying anymore. I know this must be so hard for you, but you won’t be seeing him anymore,” she added venomously, closed her locker and left. Cody stood there for a few seconds before turning to go to the toilet, his eyes welling up with tears.
  20. 44 points
    Olek and returned to the dining room, where Peter looked up looking, but seeing Olek’s smile as we walked in, he relaxed. Olek walked over to Peter who stood up. Olek hugged Peter. “I could use some time away.” Olek said quietly. “We haven’t spent time together in a long time. I will love spending a week with you…” he brought me in to a hug with the two of them, “and your future husband who I see has become very important to you…and to me.” He sighed as his phone rang again. Queen Alla smiled. “Where you’re going is an island off the coast of Sicily, it’s private and no one will be there except you three, security and a couple of workers.” She said. “A wealthy man owns it, and he uses it to get away from the world…” she smiled. “No bars for your cellphone there.” She pointed to the phone. Olek looked a little surprised, but then nodded. “That could be nice.” He looked at his phone, frowned and put his phone down unanswered. “It can go to voice mail. I’ll talk to him later.” It was morning when I woke next to Peter as I heard something. Waking I recognized the droning sound a large airplane as it flew overhead. It even woke up Peter who looked puzzled. “A military transport or cargo plane from the sound of it.” I said absently. “I know we’ll hear that a lot.” Peter nodded. “Even the skies here are changing.” I rolled to face him. “Everything changes, it’s just life. Whether it will be good or bad, we do have some control. We’ll make it the best change possible.” I kissed him. He nodded giving me a little smile. “Thanks for talking with Olek last night.” “You said that last night, but it wasn’t a problem.” I said. “Olek’s a nice man, he was just so tunneled into what he had to do…he forgot about much of everything else.” I smiled. “This is a good thing, marrying you.” Peter’s grey-green eyes became amused. “That’s good to hear, but there’s something else in what you’re saying.” He said knowing me. “Sure, I’m flying all over the world, eating good food and now going…somewhere to vacation with two handsome Ivanov men…one of which I love more than I can express.” Peter chuckled. “Olek.” I sighed, mockingly sad. “You found me out.” I grinned. “But you know better. He did tell me if I was female, he’d try to steal me from you, so I think we’re safe, because I’m not doing any alterations.” We came to breakfast and it didn’t take too long before Olek came in…whistling. He was…dressed in nice slacks and nice shirt. “Good morning, family.” Olek said happily. “Olek.” Peter said to his brother. “You’re not dressed to go on a vacation!” Olek looked down at what he had on. “Well, you see…my brothers packed all the casual clothes I have.” He said sitting at the table. “You’ll change when we get there.” Peter said. It was around ten in the morning when we waited at that little airport to board its only plane. Again, there was the sound of a large aircraft which we all looked up and saw the large plane lower to land in Skoal. “We’ll see and hear that a lot more.” Olek said as he watched the plane pass over. “All for a good reason.” Queen Alla said to him and looked at him. “There is a phone on the island, so we’ll call if you’re needed, but…we’ll call you if we need you.” She smiled. “Now, relax.” She commanded softly and smiled bigger at Olek. “Your father would be so proud of you.” She remembered her husband. “And you, Peter. All of this will be for the better, you’ll both see to that.” She said confidently. “And you, Eric.” She smiled at me. “You’ve proven to be an asset to this family. Which you are now a part of.” I smiled. “Thank you, Queen Alla.” She frowned as she moved her head back a little. “Okay, we have to do something about that.” She shook her head. “I know who I am, but…I know you had a mother, but…I’m Peter’s mother and you’re a part of him now…can we call us something else?” I nodded. “Sure, if you don’t mind being called Mom by me?” She hugged me. “That will be wonderful.” She waved us to the waiting plane. “Now, go, relax.” She said to us. The plane ride was only a couple of hours before we were told we were landing. Then we were driven to a port and told to board a boat. We traveled a couple of more hours before we arrived at this island with one single building. Olek looked at his phone and gave a shrug. “Yep, no bars.” He said and tossed his phone aside. The island was not covered with trees, the only vegetation was brush, there were a couple of trees near the house, but they appeared to be for decoration. It was a villa, spread out overlooking white sandy beaches as it neared the end of the day. The only people here were people that worked here. One chef with that someone to help keep the place tidy. We had four men for security. That was it. The inside was spacious, but very open to the warm breezes. Bringing our luggage in, Peter and I got a room and put our luggage in it. Peter took my hand and we went to Olek’s room. Knocking, but the door was open as Olek was changing clothes. Okay, I admit it. Olek was very attractive. There were marked differences between the two Ivanov men. Both shared their father’s black hair, they were about an inch or two in height of each other. Peter’s skin was very fair, as you know because I’ve said that. Olek had more…color? He had pink in his flesh color. He could use some sun, but he was darker than his brother. Olek had brown eyes, Peter’s were as I said…light grey-green. Their mothers were different and that reflected in each. Peter I knew worked out, but so did Olek. It showed on both of them. Olek was forty-one, but his hair was cut short and well-groomed and solid black. His beard was cut short around his face, and no grey was seen for now. Whether he used anything or not…I couldn’t tell you, but I knew on men, the first grey often showed in the temples and beard. Whatever his busy schedule was, he took the time to keep that up. I wasn’t blind, and he was handsome, so, yes, I was attracted to Olek. I am human, but I loved Peter. There would never be any conflict there. Olek turned with a smile as he pulled his shirt on and I saw he was not bare chested, as in hair. There were dark hairs that covered his muscles. The differences again, was Peter’s hair were dark against his skin making a stark contrast, Olek’s was not. He looked down at the shorts he had on and left his shirt unbuttoned. “I guess I do need some more casual clothes.” He chuckled. He looked out the large sliding doors in his bedroom as setting sun shone through as it was heading below the horizon. “This will take a while.” He sighed. “I keep feeling there’s something I need to be doing.” Peter nodded walking over. “There is…you can do nothing. That for you is going to take effort for you.” I looked out the window at the beach, the sand and water were very inviting. “Do the workers here speak…” I asked. “They probably don’t speak Makarovian, but Italian. I don’t speak Italian.” Olek shrugged. “I can a little, but they probably speak English. We’ll be good.” Peter grinned at his brother. “I didn’t see a bathing suit when I packed for you. Of course Mom said you only need sunscreen.” Olek shrugged. “Well, I don’t need one, do I?” He asked looking at me and then Peter. I chuckled. “I’ll try not stare too much. I don’t mind seeing your naked royal ass.” Olek chuckled and shook his head. “We’ll all be naked, if we do.” Olek said firmly. “Understood?” Peter jutted his head to me. “He’s seen my naked ass many, many times. No problem.” “I don’t care.” I admitted. “However, there are a lot of people that would love to have a photo of naked king and prince. Remember Prince Andrew?” I asked. “One telephoto image of him naked on a boat went viral. And Prince Harry was captured naked. They went viral.” “But no one knows we’re here. We shouldn’t be stalked.” Peter said. “We’re not really on a frequented sea traffic area.” Olek nodded. “If a picture of us does surface…” he shrugged. “It’s not the worst thing to happen. We’re human males and we all have the same things; we have dicks and an ass!” Then he smiled at me. “Nude beaches are all over. How is it in the United States?” “I know there are a few.” I smiled. “If they get a picture of me or you two naked…” he shrugged. “Now, if if they caught me having sex, what would that prove? I’m human, it’s what we do. Now, if they want a detailed recording in Technicolor and High Definition up close, then I have a problem with it.” Olek said simply. “We’ll be okay.” We did walk on the beach…yes, we still wore our clothes. Peter and I both watched Olek. He was right, he was sort of fidgety. This was going to take a while. Later in our bedroom as we changed for dinner Peter sat on the bed. He sighed. “I am worried, you know that, about Olek.” I nodded and sat by him. “I know. The problem is…there’s no one really here for him.” I looked at Peter’s surprised look. “I mean…just for him. Like I’m here for you. He really needs someone in his life. A companion. A brother is great, but he needs companionship. Male or female, he needs someone. Someone he wants there, who wants to be there with him.” I smiled. “He’s definitely a catch.” I said smiling. “I’m sure there are many that would love his attention. We just need to make sure he takes the time.” Peter nodded. He bumped his forehead against mine gently. “I love you.” “That’s always nice to hear.” I said. “I love you.” We had a nice dinner and Olek was still having trouble…relaxing. The only female on the island was the cook and housekeeper. She was an older woman in her early fifties, her husband was also there to help out, keep things clean and do…things needed in the villa. I don’t know, unclog a sink and things like that. The security was there, but not with us all the time. It was later in the big room that was used for people to talk or watch TV or something where Olek let out a grunt from the plush chair he sat in. “This is insane.” Olek said in frustration. “No internet, no phone…I can’t sit still!” “We can watch a movie.” Peter suggested waving at the shelf of books and various cases of music and movies. “There’s a good library.” Olek smiled at us. “You two don’t have to worry. I can’t go anywhere and I can’t use my phone and there is no computer.” He chuckled looking at us. “You two don’t have to keep me company.” I nodded. “You’re right, we don’t have to. We want to. Are we bad company?” Olek shook his head and smiled. “No, of course not, but I don’t it to be like an obligation.” Peter smiled at his brother. “It’s not.” I waved at the library. “So, pick something.” Olek found something he said he’d wanted to see, but never had time before. He put it in the player. It took a few minutes and he became interested and watched…for a while. I nudged Peter and waved to where his brother was. Sound asleep. Peter smiled seeing that and we left Olek alone. When the movie ended, Peter got up, covered his brother with a blanket and held his hand out to me. “I prefer a bed.” He said smiling. “He’s finally starting to unwind, he knows where to go.” The next day, we saw that Olek had woken up during the night and had gone to bed. It was later when Peter suggested we go to the beach. Towels for the sand and sunscreen carried. No surprises as we undressed to lay in the sun. Yep, no surprises to see Olek was male. Now to me, he was just a man. He was fine being naked and so were Peter and me. I did insist Peter put on plenty of sunscreen. And before you ask, Olek put his own to his skin, except for his back, which Peter did this time for Olek. I loved how well the two got along. They were brothers, but also, they were good friends. We did spend a few hours in the sun and even swam in the waters of the Tryyhenian Sea. I found out the island we were on was north of Sicily. I even heard there was a volcano not far. A fact I asked Peter about, which he was quick to point out there were a few nearby. The closest was only twenty kilometers away… (yea, I was getting used to this whole metric thing) …the other about thirty. The area was known for them. I just got here and now they were going to erupt!? Still, it was on my mind at first. It took a day or so for Olek to get Makarovia and all that was going on off his mind. We didn’t just spend time at the beach, but there was little to do. Well, we did get Olek the chance to see the movie he fell asleep watching the night before. There were books and other things, like games we would play, and I smiled as Olek finally seemed to relax. Monopoly in Italian wasn’t too different, Monopoli in Italian, but places like Park Place was Parco della Vittoria, Free Parking was Posteggio gratuito and the money was in Lire. The rules were the same, so I was good. The cards like Chance were written in Italian, Impreisti, so Olek had to read them to me. There was a lot of laughter and things began to ease with everyone, especially Olek, you could see it. “Your major is in the industrial, correct?” Olek asked me as he counted his money had gotten during the game to buy a property, Via Roma. I nodded. “That’s right. I was focusing my studies to make things…” I remembered Peter had not understood at first when I told him about the green part of ecology. “I want to make sure it’s safe for the environment.” “What about mining?” Olek asked. I nodded. “There are dangers.” I said getting the dice to roll again. “I only just began reading up on it. There is a chemical leaching, there are means of dealing with uranium mill waste. There are ways of cleaning up…standards for stabilization and restoration. Things are improving with that.” I looked at Olek. “There will still be dangers.” Olek nodded. “I know.” He sighed. “We’ll discuss it in more detail further, but…would you be willing to ensure the ones helping us bring the uranium out adhere to the safeguards?” I sat back a little startled. “That’s a big job, Olek!” He nodded. “And a big responsibility. Do you think you could do it? If you can’t that’s fine…” I shook my head. “I’m not afraid of doing the job, but…will they listen to me?” Olek nodded. “They would have to.” He said simply. “The authorization and procedure have to go through me. I can say no to anything, including whether a group or country stay in Makarovia.” He sighed. “Most of what I’ve been doing recently is making sure the others are adhering to the agreement. To get the uranium out, we need help. To tell a country or group no and tell them to leave, we lose that help…and support.” “So, it will go through you. I report to you…” “At first, perhaps, but…you would have the throne’s backing and support. If you determine a country is not following the guidelines…you’re a member of the royal family…” he waved simply, “guidelines you will help form. You tell them to leave. They leave.” Peter was watching my reaction and smiling, but said nothing. “Olek, I need more training.” I said. He nodded. “Of course, you will. Where’s the best place to do that?” I remembered most of the information I found was one place. “MIT.” Olek nodded. “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” He looked at me. “Would you be willing to go there?” He reached over and took my hand. “No pressure. I swear, but I’d trust you before many. I understand that’s most important to you.” This was all to help Olek. Peter had said he wanted to and was willing to step out; even if he was terrified to do that. There was nothing to think about. How could I say no? “Sure, I’ll go. I won’t let you down.” Olek smiled. “It will be fine.” I nodded. “I need to finish my three years at Northeastern. Then I have to be admitted.” “And three or four more years at MIT.” Olek smiled. “The uranium extraction begins soon. There are those that are doing the job safeguarding the process for now, but it will be a long time doing it. I want to keep Makarovia safe.” “I’m your man.” I just hoped I didn’t bite off more than I could chew! “Now.” Olek said happily as I rolled the dice. “Prepare to go broke!”
  21. 44 points
    The two security men were young, early thirties. One, Karl, was as I had seen before in the United States, big. He was well over six feet and while he didn’t have the dark suit and glasses, everything about this blue eyed bald man said security. I could see from the razor used to shave his head, he was losing his hair and just decided to get rid of all of it rather than have a comb over. The other was Marko, sandy colored hair with his height just under six feet. “Is there a nightclub or something we can go to?” I asked. Karl nodded. “So, you want loud and to dance?” Peter nodded. “I’ve never done it here, but…yes.” Marko waved at an SUV. “We’ll have to drive there.” He said. “It’s not in Stryia…exactly.” “Since you know where…you drive.” Peter said. Once in the vehicle, they drove out that huge gate and we headed away from Stryia. We headed toward a range of mountains that shadowed the night sky. The road was well traveled and paved, arriving at the first parking lot I’d seen in Makarovia. Once we got out of the SUV, I heard the thump of bass rhythmically pounding. It didn’t matter what country or what nationality, there was one constant. People loved to dance. Looking around, I saw the scattered cars parked among the trees…parked wherever there was a spot. There was no building! And there was no line of people waiting to gain entrance with a man standing to let people in one or two at a time. There were people going in as they wanted to. There were lights to show the path that like the road we traveled and it was traveled by many people. The brightest light came from a gaping hole in the side of a mountain. A sign said “Grotto.” The entrance was wide, and the path was dirt, but gradually declined as we went in where the sound was even louder mixed with voices talking and laughter. It was what the name said. A grotto or cavern. The flashing lights and strobes were dancing as lively as the many dancing. There was a dance floor that was laid down and there were the bars on the edge of it serving drinks to many visiting and talking. A man was suddenly rushing over. He was in his late forties and balding, but he was smiling at us. “Prince Petro!” He said happily. “We’ve never seen you here!” Peter smiled. “You never saw me here, because I didn’t know you were here.” He smiled at the happy faces of men and women dancing. Couples of male and female, couples consisting of two males and couples that were two females…no one cared! The man nodded holding his hand out. “I’m Dan.” He gave a happy shrug and nod. “Danilo, really.” He waved back at the crowd. “Welcome to the Grotto.” Then we noticed another man, older than Dan come over in his fifties. “Dimitri! Look whose here!!” He said excited. Dimitri was a good sized man, not just height wise, he liked to eat! Not fat, but a few pounds he didn’t need. “Welcome, Prince Petro!” He said sticking his hand out to Peter. “My husband and I are so happy you’ve come.” He put his arm around Dan. Peter nodded and put his arm around me. “And this is…” “Oh, we know who you two are!” Dan instantly said happily. “All of Makarovia knows you both!” He waved behind him a giant screen set up. “We had quite a turn out that night, we all saw that interview.” I chuckled. “I suppose they did.” I nodded. Peter smiled. “And I prefer Peter, okay?” “Do you own this?” I smiled waving at the Grotto. “Sure!” Dan nodded. “There are two others that aren’t here right now, but Dimitri started it in…” he looked at his husband, “…what year was that? 1995 or 96?” “The summer of 1995.” Dimitri nodded. “I was a lot younger then.” He chuckled rubbing his greying head of hair. “He came from Russia, after the Soviets broke up and…” Dan waved at the Grotto. “He couldn’t build a place like this in town…too much noise, but he saw this cavern and…three years later it began to go crazy. Everyone’s welcome here!” I was just as bad as others. I was pleased to see another couple comprised of two men, but still surprised. And say what you will, no, it’s not fair, but…lesbians were not held accountable as gay men were during World War II! Gay men were the most imprisoned in the concentration camps. There were couples here that were lesbian, but male couples outnumbered them. Sorry. Don’t misunderstand, there were plenty of heterosexual couples, but they didn’t think anything about the other couples. They came and danced with everyone else. Then we heard very loud laughter and someone calling someone else “you fucking asshole,” clearly in English followed by hearty laughter. Looking there was a group of about five, three guys and two girls who were young, probably just out of high school. Were they old enough to even drink? The law for military was they could on base at seventeen. The reasoning there was they were willing to put their lives on the line and die for their country, so why not? I doubted anyone of these five even had that cross their minds. All were wearing jeans and shirts as it was warmer, but would get cooler as the night came on. The cavern kept its temperature mostly and with all these sweating bodies, it would be warm. These five were military. “Beware.” I said to Dan, Dimitri and Peter. “The Americans are here.” I said not sure how this mixture would work. “Beer.” Dan said sourly in distaste. “That’s what they drink…with chasers. No ales or stouts, just Busch or Michelob…something.” I grinned and slapped Dan on the arm. “And just think!” I said brightly. “Soon there will be even more of them! Though the British like theirs without it being cold.” Peter watched as the group was kidding each other and laughing. “What about security? They are surely getting drunk!” Dan grinned and pointed to the cavern wall. “They bring their own.” At the entrance off to the side and around, there were military uniforms. The letters MP on the sleeves. “Military Police.” I nodded. “That’s smart of them.” Dimitri shook his head. “No. I insisted they bring those. I’m not dealing with any drunken brawls here. This a place for everyone…everyone’s welcome.” He jutted his head toward the military members. “Including them; good behavior is a requirement.” Dan smiled. “Are you sure you’re American?” He asked. “You have no accent!” He marveled. Laughing back. “I am, but I’ve spoken Makarovian for almost a year now. Ukrainian all my life. I should hope I don’t have an accent now.” Peter was looking around at everyone here. “I never knew this was here.” He said amazed. I nodded. “Well, now you do.” I smiled as the song was one of those electronic never ending beats and just morphed to the next song. “Let’s go, Twinkletoes!” We danced several dances, but there was one problem. Most everyone there from Makarovia knew who Peter and I were and came over to speak. After about four hours, I saw Peter yawn. “Okay, Peter.” I grinned pulling him to me kissing him on the way up. “Bedtime.” Peter smiled. “Okay.” He nodded and we left to go back to the castle. On the way home Peter told me some more. “There is fifteen to sixteen years difference between Olek and me.” “That may be why you get along so well.” Peter nodded with a smile. “He was a great brother.” He smiled at me. “A big brother. Then when Dad died, he was thrust into being king and…” he shrugged, “he didn’t forget me. In many ways, he became my father after Dad died. I remember Dad, but not really that well. He’s more of a face occasionally and feelings. Olek is the one I remember being there.” He frowned. “Up until five or ten years ago; then he was gone a lot.” He shrugged a nod. “I don’t blame him for that…but, I wish he’d been there more.” I nodded. “You don’t blame him, but do you understand why he was gone?” Peter chuckled. “Not at first, I didn’t understand, but after I saw what was happening, I did.” He looked at me. “Mom told me that our father was just like Olek is now. Driven. Dad was only a few years older than Olek is now.” He frowned. “Dad died of a heart attack; most likely brought on by stress. I can’t let that happen to Olek.” “Then, you and I are going to make damned sure he goes and relaxes.” I smiled. “What about this Yvonne?” Peter nodded. “They met in Switzerland while he was in college. She was the daughter of a very rich banker and from Luxembourg.” He smiled. “You know where…” I gave him a look through lowered eyes. “I hate math, but I know Geography. I know where that is.” Peter chuckled. “Okay, sorry.” He smiled. “They were, I thought…heading toward a wedding, but this uranium thing came up and…” he shrugged helplessly. I nodded. “He did sacrifice a lot.” But I heard Peter’s fear about losing Olek like he had his father. Peter nodded. “He did. That’s why, I won’t let him down. I don’t want to let Makarovia down, but I can’t let Olek down most of all.” “I agree, you can’t.” I said. “You and I won’t let him down.” We got back and went to our bedroom. I emailed my grandmother to let her know what was happening and I turn around sensing Peter nearby. Turning, I grinned at the very naked Peter standing at the doorway between the bedroom and living area. The dim light and his naturally pale skin and that black, black hair…sent chills through me. “I’m a little cold.” Peter said smiling. “Care to warm me up?” “Practically every moment of the day, baby.” I chuckled getting up and pulled my t-shirt off and got rid of the pajama bottoms and tackled him onto the bed. Peter was becoming more…free with himself. What he’d experienced had an effect on him, which he was now recovering. As I said before, sex was always good with Peter and occasionally mind-blowing. That night was done in love again. No explosions of sensation, but warm and connecting in love. It was Saturday morning, the day before we were taking Olek where he chose to go. We come in for breakfast to find Olek sitting talking on the phone; which, when he saw us, told whomever he’d call back and hung up. He looked showered, but I wondered when he got up. “You had a nice night.” He stated grinning as he slid one of those tablet computer thingys over to us. He tapped the screen. “See?” Peter and I looked at the screen. There we were in the Grotto dancing our butts off. This image of course had the music and us actually dancing. A recording. “How…when….who…” Peter sputtered. “You left off what and why.” I grinned at Peter and looked at the screen. “Becky, Daryl and Kenny were there, too.” Olek smiled. “Didn’t you see them?” “No!” Peter shook his head. I nodded. “Then we got the right people for the job.” Peter agreed smiling, but looked at his brother. “So, where are we going?” He asked Peter. Olek sighed. “I really can’t…” Peter now was a little angry. “Olek!!” Making his brother’s eyes widen. “You are going to kill yourself, just like Dad did. You can and will!” He shouted nearly shouted and then sighed. “I’m sorry.” He said to Olek. “I’m not…” he thought, “well, yes, I am mad at you.” He nodded. “If you can’t see how important you are, not to just Makarovia, but to me…!” Olek smiled and nodded. “Okay. There is a place on the Italian Riviera we can go to. I haven’t been there in a while, but it’s nice.” “Sure.” Peter nodded. “They need contacting if we come. What’s the name of the place?” “There is the Excelsior Hotel in Rapallo. It’s on the water.” Olek said as his phone rang. “Excuse me.” “He’ll never relax with that thing.” Peter muttered to me. Queen Alla came in. “Has he decided?” She asked sitting at the table as Olek walked off to talk on the phone. “Excelsior on Rapallo?” Peter asked. Queen Alla nodded. “Which he knows is booked right now. It’s beginning of summer!” She smiled shaking her head. “Your brother’s not stupid.” She grinned, “But, neither am I. I know what he’s up to, strategizing that he can’t go because there’s no availability. I had a backup plan, you’ll be leaving in the morning.” She waggled her eyebrows. “Just you boys help him pack. Make sure he packs his swimming trunks…” she shrugged, “…or not. Where I’m sending you, you don’t necessarily need one. I want him to be tan when you get back. Bring sunscreen.” I grinned at Peter. “Lots of sunscreen.” I looked at his pale skin. Peter rolled his eyes. “Do you see a lot of sun here? When there is sun, it’s usually too cold to go uncovered!” “Apparently, that won’t be a problem where we’re going.” I smiled. Peter and I did our packing and were ready to go in the morning. Then we went to check on Olek. Peter walked down the corridor to another set of doors and knocked. It was late afternoon, so I wondered if Olek was even in his room. It just took a minute and the door opened and Olek was again, talking on the phone. His eyes widened seeing us. “Finish your call.” Peter instructed and walked past him into Olek’s room. Olek’s room was pretty much the same as Peter’s…only he had a slightly bigger computer…no, make that two computers. Both on and displayed different things I knew were about Makarovia. “Where’s you suitcases?” He asked Olek, but walked in more. Olek finished his phone call and looked at both Peter and me. “The hotel has no vacancies. We can’t go.” Peter smiled still looking for the suitcases. “Yes, Mom thought of that.” He bounced. “You’re going.” He looked around. “The suitcases?” Olek’s face sort of turned…not into a frown, but he knew he’d been outwitted. “Over there.” He said annoyed as he pointed across the room in corner. And his phone rang again! Peter went to the corner and picked up a suitcase. “And not packed.” He nodded. “Let’s get busy, Eric.” Peter and I started going through Olek’s clothes. Most of what he had were suits and dress shirts. We had to look to find more casual clothes. Short sleeved shirts and shorts were hard to find. Casual shoes? We couldn’t find them. Sunscreen needed told me it was a beach, so he could go barefoot…or we got them when we get there…wherever that was going to be. Finally we had him packed, the whole time he was on the phone and then sitting at the computer and talking on the phone. When that was done, he hung up and looked at us. “It’s almost dinner time.” Peter nodded. “So, let’s go.” He said helping his brother to his feet and pushed him gently out the door. At the dinner table Queen Alla asked about the upcoming meetings he had scheduled that had been rescheduled. Olek wasn’t too happy about leaving, but he was getting the idea he had no choice. After eating he got up after excusing himself and went back to his rooms. Peter watched his brother leave and shook his head. “He’s so attached to that phone.” Queen Alla nodded. “I’ve taken care of that, too.” She smiled. “We just need to get him on that plane.” She looked at me. Olek was just seeing what he needed do, not what he was doing to Peter and Queen Alla. “I can talk to him?” I suggested hesitantly. “What’s worse is he throws me out of Makarovia.” Peter chuckled. “He won’t do that.” I gave Peter the look that asked, are you sure? I walked up to Olek’s room and knocked softly. “What?” Olek asked slightly bothered before even seeing me. His eyes widened a little seeing it was only me. “Oh, I thought…well…” He sounded very irritated. “I’m going.” Olek said stepping away from the door, but didn’t close it. “Alright?” I looked at him and pointed to the floor. “Can I?” Olek just nodded, but didn’t look at me. “Okay.” I nodded coming in. “Now, I’ll ask you like I did before about why you’re doing what you’ve done. So, you’re going. Why?” Olek shook his head. “Because everyone insists I go.” “Why do they insist that?” “Because they think I can’t handle the pressure.” Olek groused. “But you know you can.” I reasoned. “I have to,” he said and I heard the stress in his voice, “who else would do this?” Olek asked. “Well, Peter may have to.” I said hoping he’d see that. “Peter?” Olek looked puzzled. “Again, I’m probably way out of line, so I’m sorry for what I’m going to say.” I said. “But, Peter is scared and so is Queen Alla.” I saw his eyes widen. “Peter lost his father and told his father died, I’m told because he was stressed and driven. As you are now. You mean so much to Peter. When your father died. Peter told me you were here, with him and he not only saw you as his big brother, but a father as well. He…loves…you.” I said each word pointing at Olek. “If you follow the same path as your father did, he’s scared you will die, too.” I shrugged. “No one should be forced to go on vacation. No one should be coerced to take it easy for a week, but you are making them do that. Peter will have to take the throne if you die. Is he ready? Did anyone ask you when you father died if he thought you were ready, did you think you were ready?” Olek was listening. His face got less defensive. “Peter is a smart man and I know he can do it, but he might not think he can. Your stepmother helped you and I will help Peter, but Queen Alla knew what is needed to rule from being at your father’s side while he was king. I don’t!” He was now looking away, but he was listening. “You have done a job that…no president could ever do. You have taken a resource and gotten people to help you…not only get this uranium out, but to protect Makarovia while doing it. That’s incredible! I don’t know of anyone that could do it half as well as you did, but you did it.” I smiled. “Now, if for no other reason than to make Peter feel better…to make Queen Alla feel better…they want you to take a week and calm down, relax…live!” I shrugged. “Because they want you around! Is it too much to ask that you take a week and do that to make them feel better?” I waved out the little window. “You have got millions of people depending on you, I know, but you’ve done a DAMNED good job. Everyone loves you, but Peter loves you the most!” Olek dropped his head a little, he got it this time and sighed. “I guess I just didn’t see that.” I smiled. “And I want you around. I’m liking you more and more each day! My family’s gone except my grandmother. Now I have a new family and I’ll be damned if I let you go. I love you Olek!” Olek chuckled. “Yes, I’m loving you, too.” He came over and hugged me in one of holding embraces he only gave Peter and now me. “Too bad you’re not female; I’d try to steal you from Peter.” I shook my head. “Well, it’s a good thing I’m not. If I had been, Peter and I wouldn’t have fallen in love and you and I wouldn’t be having this lovely conversation. Besides, I love that Ivanov man way too much.” Olek chuckled. “I saw that the first day I met you.” “Did Peter tell you? I am taking his name?” Olek’s eyes widened, but he smiled. “You are?” “I have no children to pass it down to and I told Peter, I want to be as much a part of him as possible. Taking the name just made sense.” I looked at Olek. “Do you mind?” Olek was smiling as he shook his head. “I think our father would be proud to have you in the family. Prince Eric Ivanov of Makarovia.” He nodded. “It has a ring to it!” “Do we go back and tell Peter and Queen Alla you’ll go willingly and gladly?” Olek nodded. “Let’s go.” He grinned and hugged me again. “You’re a good, good man, I’m proud you’re my brother.”
  22. 44 points
    Chapter 1 - Well that’s a lot of half truths “Dey you shouldn’t be here.” I looked around nervously. What if the blood wolves were still nearby. I had no doubt that they were close by, watching, waiting for another chance to attack. Besides, what had she meant by telling me the truth? What could be so important that she would risk her life walking into the darkness away from the pack’s protection. Dey shifted back and forth on her paws, obviously nervous. “I saw you being called into the woods.” The she wolf swallowed loudly as she looked around us with spooked eyes. “It was just like Vey.” Wait what? She’d seen me being called into the woods? What did that even mean, and how was that connected to her dead brother? I was so confused. I’d had one of the most terrifying experience in my life tonight and I was having a hard time keeping up with her. I couldn’t think about anything but what I was going to tell the pack— worse, what was I going to tell my alpha. “Dey I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I kept my voice down so no one in the dens woke. “I saw you go into the woods. It was the same thing Vey did before he died. It was like he couldn’t control himself.” The older she wolf took another deep breath. “I lied to you about my past. I...I lied to everyone. I’m so sorry but I was afraid.” Dey whined pitifully as her wolf eyes watered. Lied to me? I looked around cautiously for any signs of the blood wolves. “Dey what are you talking about? Can’t we talk about this in the dens?” Please can we talk about this in the dens? The more time I spent in the woods the more anxious I became. I wanted my alpha desperately. I wanted Zora’s scent to extinguish the sticky smell of stale blood that still clung to my fur. “No! The others can’t know. I… I couldn’t keep it to myself, not now that I know that it’s happening again.” “Again?” I really looked at her then. She was shaking, almost falling apart in front of me. My heart started to race as another bad feeling started to from deep in my gut. At the rate I was going tonight my pups were going to refuse to come out into the world. “Dey, what are you trying to say?” “Vey wasn’t the only one who was murdered. The same thing that is happening now happened to my last pack. Members started to disappear and their bodies were found and Vey, he would leave the pack at night. Wander into the woods with a blank look just like you… before he was murdered.” Her words were rushed as she spoke. “Just like me…” This had happened before? Everything we were going through had happen before to another wolf like me — Who had been murdered. The forest began to spin as everything crashed over me in one massive wave of shit. As my massive body hit the forest floor I wondered if I could possibly put in a good word with the bitch fate and ask her why she hated my guts so damn much. Fugly ass beaver faced bitch. *********** “Ira, wake up my little one.” Soft but strong hands pet over my head into my hair. I sighed into my alphas soft creases, smiling at his endearing words. Me little? That was a good one— little compared to what, a bear? Well maybe something bigger cause I was bigger than most bears too. “That is it. Wake up.” Zora rumbled happily kissed a path along my jawline. Sighing happily I opened my eyes to stare into the black gaze I loved so much. A soft smile graced his handsome face as he pet my cheek. “You scared me.” Zora’s nostrils flared. “I’m fine al—” Gasping I touched my throat. My hairless throat, hairless shoulders, hairless all over. Oh no no no no no no, HOLY FUCKING SMALL ALPHA DICKS! I was in my second form. This was bad! Worse than no squirrels, worse than being covered in moose shit. (I will tell you that story later) I could not be in this form, not right now. The pups! My hands shot down to my belly, were the taut flesh was stretched over my swollen belly. Zora rumbled comforting sounds as he buried his face in the crook of my neck. “Breath Ira. Everything is fine, the pups are fine.” He assured me while covering my body with his soothing scent. I wrapped my arms around him desperate to feel the strength of his muscles under my hands as the overwhelming weakness seeped into my conscious. This was so very very bad, I couldn’t afford to be in this form right now. I needed to be strong, and in my second form I was the weakest wolf in the pack. “What happened? Why am I in this form” Oh mother, my voice it was soft and lyrical instead of my normal growly tone. I couldn’t even enjoy the fresh moments in this form, I was to terrified. My alpha nipped my chin softly as he continued to sooth his hand over my hair. “Dey found you just outside of the forest. She said you were walking in your sleep right before you shifted into your second form. She came for me right after and I brought you back into the dens. I have been worried that you hit your head, but it seems that you are alright.” Yeah sure I was alright, if you didn’t count the crazy ass corpse bandits lurking in the woods determined to destroy my pack, dey telling me she’d been lying the whole time and me omitting everything I knew to the love of my life because I was in way over my now five foot head— then yeah, I was just peachy. “Sleepwalked? Wow that’s an odd thing for me to do.” I suck at lying but maybe Zora would just tack it up to me being awkward to begin with. “Dey has told me it is possibly caused by the pregnancy. I will have to keep a better eye on you at night.” He creased his hands down my sides and over my belly in a possessive but gentle sweep that caused goosebumps to form on my skin. God, I loved this form, everything was so sensitive. Zora leaned over my belly and licked at the skin, marking it with his scent and savoring my own at the same time. “ Sparks ignited inside of me catching every area on my body on fire. I didn’t want to think about the here and now, I wanted to focus on my mate and let him wipe away all of my worry with his touches. “Alpha, please.” I dug my nails into his back and urged him to continue. Please mother don’t make him stop, I really needed this right now. Zora growled deep, the vibrations buzzing between us and stirring my arousal even more. I wanted him to tie with me, connect our bodies in the most intimate way. In this form it was so much more, so much more with just a gentle touch and a— I grunted as he grabbed my legs and spread them around his hips so he could settle in between them his hard long— “OH MOTHER YES!” I shouted as he sucked one of my nipples into his mouth. Had those been so sensitive before? Panting I clung to him like a squirrel to its favorite tree. There was no doubt my alpha knew how to satisfy my body and I loved every single time we came together. Oh, he was moving down, kissing my tummy, my thighs...I knew where he was going next and I couldn’t wait to feel the tight heat wrapped around my— “ALPHA!” I shouted in surprise as Zora sucked in something lower than I’d expected and just as sensitive. Was he really sucking on my balls? OH Holy bear jiz that felt good. I tilted my head back as the fiery need burned wildly in my lower abdomen, sharp pleasure bursting from my body where he touched me. Zora stopped his black eyes catching mine when he looked up from between my legs a mischievous grin on his face that made my heart jump in my chest. “Put your legs on my shoulders little one.” I shivered, his demand thrilling me. “I’m not little.” I wasn’t normally. I lifted my legs and put them over my mates shoulders. Even my limbs seemed small in comparison to his massive shoulders. I panted as he slowly knelt up taking my lower half with him till only my shoulders remained on the pelts. “Mine.” Zora growled before he dipped his head and penetrated me with his tongue. Have I told you how much I love my mate? ********** I rode Zora until I couldn’t think about more more than if I would ever walk again. Did tying with your mate ever get old? I couldn’t imagine that I would ever not want to be claimed by him. It wasn’t just the abundant amount of pleasure either, it was as if I was the only thing that existed when he was buried deep inside me and he was the only thing for me. But now it was time to come back to reality and my reality was a bundle of shit that I could barely figure out. I needed to come up with something fast before anyone else in the pack was killed. I needed to talk to Dey. I remembered last night and I know she’d been about to tell me something important. Zora dozed beside me. It was unlike him to sleep during the day, but I put it off to the fact he’d been up so many nights keeping watch over the pack...and worry about me getting into trouble. Only another good reason why I didn’t need to tell him about the blood wolves, not yet at least. I slowly traced the healing scabs of my bite mark on his shoulder, my small finger tips dwarfed by the holes I’d left behind. I still couldn’t believe I’d bitten him. Besides Comira in the fight I’d never bitten anyone in my life. I watched my hand trace over his skin and down his broad chest, amazed at the size difference between us. I was so small in this form, smaller than any wolf in this pack and my last pack. I couldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy the size difference, not when my mate was curled around me like he was now. “I love you.” The words were soft, and sounded as beautiful as they were coming from this form. Zora’s eyes cracked open and a gentle smile pulled at his lips. “There are no words to express what you mean to me.” He nuzzled my cheek before licking a quick kiss along my jaw. “I do not want you alone in this form, even in the dens. Keep Koda with you until you shift back. I need to help the others hunt and we will be safer in a larger group.” He looked deep into my eyes with his strong black gaze the playfulness from earlier gone, replaced with his stoic seriousness. “Stay out of trouble, Ira.” Way too late for that. Somehow I’d ended up in a mess I wasn’t sure how I could dig me and my pack out of, but I had to figure out something. Otherwise, I might lose everything and everyone I loved. The idea of his going out into the woods caused my heart to clench painfully in my chest. I’d seen those wolves, and I knew nothing normal could defeat them, not even I could defeat them. What if they killed my alpha? Panic started to make my blood cold as I thought of all the horrible scenarios. “I promise as long as you come back safe, alpha.” Zora gripped my face between his massive hands. “It would take something very big to keep me from you.” That’s what I was afraid of. ************* “What the hell!” Koda barked as I emerged from the alpha den in my gloriously tiny second form. Moose farts it was hard to walk in such a weak little body. Zora put a strong hand on my lower back and rubbed his scent over the top of my head. I didn’t even reach his chin, I was at his collar bone. I might not even be 5 feet tall. This was pathetic I want my other form back I look like a pup who never grew up. Although it did feel pretty amazing to have my alpha surround me like he was when I was such an itty bitty thing. “Stay near Koda and stay by the dens.” Zora rubbed a massive hand over my small swollen belly, a deep possessive rumble coming out of him. “Keep out of trouble, Ira.” He kissed the side of my head before shifting and loping off towards the other wolves that had gathered by the tree line. I watched as he disappeared into the forest with Alloy and some other pack members my heart lurched fearfully in my chest but I swallowed the whimper and looked back at my brother. Koda stared at me with an open mouth gape an odd half grunt half word was trapped in his throat. It was pretty hilarious to see my sibling completely lost for words. It was such a rare occasion. “Bite your tongue Koda?” I made sure to add some sarcasm in there for good measure. Koda’s mouth snapped shut and he shifted to his second form, of course towering over me. Everything towered over me in this form, a teenager towered over me. “Holy mother Ira! You aren’t a mutant anymore! You’re really…” He looked down my body, over my slightly swollen belly and down to my itty bitty toes. “Really really really small. I think I’ve seen newborns bigger than you.” He laughed and I glared. That was a complete exaggeration...right I wasn’t that small was I? “I’m not that small.” That was a weak protest even to me. “You’re very different in this form, you’re very beautiful.” Koda shook his head violently and a horrified expression came over his face. “That was fucking wrong, I just...had thoughts about you. I need to scrub my mind of what I just thought.” “Eww! What is wrong with you!” I shouted Had he really thought of me sexually? “I’m your brother!” “Not by blood! I couldn’t help it something in my head turned off for a second! It was horrible!” Koda shouted back. “Change back, this is awful!” “I can’t! I don’t know how to change back and forth yet, it happens randomly.” I sure as hell didn’t want to be stuck in this weak form right now. I needed my strength more than I’d ever needed it. “Whatever it doesn’t matter.” I looked around us to make sure that no one was watching us. Surprisingly they were. Pack members watched me with wide confused eyes. Yeah I forgot about how much of a shock this would be for everyone. “Follow me. I need to talk to you.” I said as I grabbed his wrist and attempted to pull him along. I say attempted because it was like moving an unmovable force. My feet planted and I tugged again only to find I was literally unable to even teeter him. This was absolute bear scat! “This is hilarious.” Koda laughed, at my expense. “Move your ass! I’m serious this is important.” I tugged again and this time he followed me. “What are you talking about?” His eyes drifted down to my rump and I growled. Koda’s eyes shot up. “I can’t wait till you change back, this is absolutely wrong.” “Whatever. We need to go talk to Dey. Something happened last night, somehow I was called into the forest without even remembering it.” I walked towards Dey’s den ignoring the stares of other male wolves as they looked at me appreciatively. What was wrong with everyone? “Wait you went into the woods! Are you fucking crazy?” Koda barked. “I don’t remember doing it! There is more. The blood wolves, they brought me there somehow. They are like me Koda, they aren’t just wolves they have a form just like mine but much much worse.” I wish I could only explain how much worse it was. Koda stopped dead in his tracks. We were close to Dey’s den and I needed to get to her and talk about what had happened last night. My brothers eyes were wide and his nostrils flares a deep rush flush bloomed across his chest and neck. “Y-your serious. What did they do to you? Did you tell your alpha!” There was panic in his voice. “No, no I haven’t...I have to figure out what happened last night. They said things, that I didn’t know what I was and there was things I didn’t know. When I got back to the dens Deye was waiting for me and she said she had to tell me the truth about her last pack.” I looked towards her den. “Koda she said she’d lied, and that this had happened before to her last pack.” Koda looked towards the female's den before looking back at me. “Ira, what are you saying.” “I need to talk to Dey. She knows something about the blood wolves.” Something that could change everything. “You’re right Ira I do.” Dey said from behind us. Startled we turned to face the she wolf in her second form, her brown hair long and freckles littering her skin. Today she looked so much different than her normal bright self. Just like the night before she was tense and wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Dey, what happened last night?” How did I change? Why did I change? What were you telling me? Why did you follow me into the woods? Why didn’t you tell my alpha? All the questions didn’t need to be voiced, it was obvious. “You passed out and then you shifted. I brought you out of the forest, I didn’t want the alpha to know that you’d been in the forest, not before I could talk to you.” A stray tear trailed down her cheek as the older she wolf shivered. “I’m sorry, I should have told you before now. I know these wolves.”
  23. 43 points
    My view of what was happening in Makarovia was not from someone that knew Makarovia before, nothing for me had changed. I didn’t have a history here so it wasn’t as bothersome for me. Peter, however did. We did go over much Makarovia. As small as the country was it didn’t take too long. The thing was, there was a lot of land was there, but not necessarily all that fertile and very rocky. Nothing I was going to plan to get done was going to be done right away, but I wanted to see if it could be done and then plan how. I looked at some sites where there could be terraced farming. I was thinking about importing the soil needed. I would need to do research and find out the best way…new ways if possible to do this. We would lose this growing season, but we’d be ready next year. Peter and I walked through the many areas of this joint base. Uniforms were just uniforms and very similar, fatigues were green and differences were designated by the flags of their countries on their sleeve or lapel. Paths were now able to be seen due to the amount of foot traffic from the many soldiers and personnel that cut through grass and now was bare. What I didn’t like was the abundance of trash we saw. “This needs to be dealt with.” Peter said a little heatedly pointing at the beer cans around and various used bags from pretzels and chips. “No one in Makarovia does this.” I nodded. “The we need to address it now before it becomes a major problem.” I agreed and walked toward the command office, which for now, was a temporary office in a trailer like building. We entered the office and saw various military personnel doing various jobs to get things organized. The commander…or commanders were in the office discussing things about how it was to be done. One was British, the other was American. Both single star generals. The first one was very British, General Hammond from the sound of him…and the British flag on his arm. Thin and tall, well dressed in his uniform speaking clear and precise. A man in his late fifties with thinning hair that was also turning grey. The other was American and had a sort of drawl, not quite Southern, mid-west maybe? General Burke was…let’s just say…he apparently had to work to keep his waistline trim. He wasn’t fat at all, but I could see he would be if he didn’t work at it. Dark hair and in his late forties and not bad looking. Neither of them were. General Hammond turned as we walked in and smiled instantly. “Prince Petro! What a nice surprise.” He came over with his hand extended. “It’s an honor to meet you.” He turned to me. “Do I call you Prince Eric yet?” The American General didn’t look happy at our surprise arrival. “Just Eric is fine.” I said shaking his hand. “Until the marriage, any title would be honorary.” Peter nodded. “And I prefer just Peter, thank you.” He said using English with the accent heard clearly. “I realize that things right now are sort of up in the air as you are getting adjusted. However, there are some things that need to be done.” “Such as?” General Burke asked a little irritated. “We have limited services available and cooperation will be needed.” Peter said. “The main concern I have right now is waste.” “Waste!?” General Burke repeated in disbelief. “We’re trying to get things organized…and you’re worried about garbage?” Peter almost moved back at General Burke’s, not quite harsh words. “There will be a problem if we don’t deal with it now.” I stepped up. “It is a concern, General. It may not seem like an important issue now, but it will become one soon.” I walked forward, not bothered by his knowing how important his job was here…or so he thought. “What we saw was garbage left outside and not disposed of will become a problem.” I shrugged. “Not a lot, but you’ve just begun here. If not dealt with now, it will become a problem. It's more effective to be proactive, instead of waiting for it to be that problem to deal with it.” Peter was looking at me smiling. “Makarovia has limited ways of dealing with things like garbage and waste. It needs to be addressed before it gets out of control.” General Hammond was smiling as he glanced at his counterpart. “I agree.” “Your help is needed to help secure Makarovia…” Peter said, “but to keep things from getting out of hand. Cooperation is required.” Looking at General Burke, I got the feeling he was less excited about this…whole situation. “Why are you here?” I asked directly to General Burke. “And I mean, what is your position here with the military?” I asked him. He frowned at me. Whether it was because I was challenging him about something obvious or because I was half his age or because of something else…and we all know what that something else would be. I just knew he didn’t like us for that one reason. I was sure about it. “We’re here to establish a military presence in Makarovia.” “And that presence is held in control because you are an authority.” I said nodding. General Burke nodded. “General Hammond and I both are that authority.” “Well…” I patted Peter on the arm. “Peter here…is an authority in Makarovia. Whether or not you think so…we both have King Olek’s ear. Peter does have his ear as his brother. If needed, we can have him tell that to you, but…I don’t see a problem with complying with Prince Petro of Makarovia about how things work in his home country.” I smiled. “Prince Petro wants to talk about garbage. Fine. Your presence is needed in Makarovia. You get what they have by doing this, it just seems easy to do what he asks.” I shrugged. “You’re not actively mining, so have some of the troops police the area. That's no asking too much. Dispose of the trash in a way that eases what Makarovia has to do to get rid of it.” I smiled. “The trash we saw was in front the quarters for the American workforce, so…” I left the statement there as Peter stepped closer to me and took my hand. I saw General Burke’s frown grow as he looked at our hands. “And now I get it a little clearer idea of what the problem is.” I looked at General Hammond. “Did you know about Makarovia before you got here, General Hammond?” The British officer smiled. “I’m afraid I only read about before, but I did know about Makarovia’s remarkable history before I arrived.” “Did you, General Burke?” I asked. “I really don’t understand.” General Burke said. “I’m marrying Peter.” I said. “Here in this country Peter's and my wedding was not only allowed, but encouraged, by both his mother the Queen and brother, King Olek himself! It’s no crime anymore for a lot of Europe now. It never was against the law here.” General Burke shook his head. “I know that.” He said a little disgusted. I wasn't certain if the disgust was from our marriage or being confronted by what he didn’t approve of. I nodded. “The President said at dinner that night; that we all need to be more tolerant.” I saw his eyes grow a little darker and his dark eyebrows came together a bit more. “She said it because our own Vice President was having issues with Peter and me, that should be their stance with us and others like us. There are quite a few of us here in Makarovia. If our being what we are bothers you, perhaps there’s somewhere else you should request to be assigned.” General Burke nodded as he began to rise from behind his desk. “I’ll be honest. You’re right.” He admitted. “I don’t like gays. To me, it’s just…disgusting!” He said honestly. “But I was asked to do a job…” “Thank you for being honest.” I interrupted. “Someone asked you to do a job? Who cares!? That’s an easy fix. We tell King Olek, he calls the President and she assigns you somewhere else! She is your Commander and Chief!” General Burke stood holding his hands up. “No, please don’t do that.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “I did it because of how I feel. My wife tells me to become…tolerant...as you say. I don’t dislike you, but the thought of where you put your willies…” he shuddered. “I’ll just have to become…used to it0.” Peter shook his head and looked at me, asking what a willie was. Telling him, he frowned. “Why? Why do you care where we put..." he shook his head, "our willies...you aren't doing it.” “We just…didn’t have them…” General Burke explained. Peter again shook his head. “No, you misunderstand me. Why do you need to get used to it at all? You’re not involved.” I nodded smiling now at the General. “Frankly, what you straight guys do disgusts me.” I smiled. “What you touch and why…you put your willies…” I pointed at his crotch and shuddered. “Ew! Most of the time when I see a good looking guy with a girl, I think…what the hell’s he doing with her!?” I shrugged. “I guess we both need more tolerance.” General Burke nodded with a chuckle. “If we didn’t put our willies where we do, there’d be no human race.” He came around his desk and held his hand out to both of us. “I didn’t mean to offend you. We will have the men take care of the waste problem today. Please, I promise to do a good job.” I took his hand and shook it liking him more now. “That will work.” I smiled. “Of course, you know you were probably the focus of many erections that had to be taken care of by some of your men. You’re not a bad looking man.” General Burke started to turn pink, but nodded. “I’d rather not know about them. Thanks.” He said lighter smiling. I turned to General Hammond. “What about you?” General Hammond gave a shrug and smiled. “My sister is gay. I have a cousin I love dearly that’s been with his husband before they could get legally married! I have no problem with it.” “Wonderful!” Peter said shaking his hand. “We will be talking about what to do with all the personnel here now. We have to have plans in the works before it gets to be too much.” “Most of our refuse is taken care of.” General Hammond said. “Is there more we need to do with it?” “Take care of it how?” I asked. “We burn it.” I nodded and looked at them both. “Well…if you could…all of the organic garbage we can use for compost. They need to increase their farming output. That compost will help.” “There’s nowhere to plant.” General Burke said simply. “There will be if we build some place.” I pointed out. “At least, that’s the plan.” General Burke nodded. “We can help with that, too!” He volunteered. “We could even help with the construction of greenhouses.” “Enough to plant crops in?” I asked. General Burke smiled. “Why not?” “I thought of terrace farming.” General Burke walked slowly as he thought about what I said as he strolled around his desk. “Sure. That’s a good idea, we can do both, don’t you think?” “Greenhouse terrace farms?” I asked. “Sure, and they don’t have to be on the side of the mountain. There is land that is rocky, but can still be built on.” He shrugged. “Why not? You provide the material and we help you build them.” Then he grinned. “As you pointed out, we’re not the active miners, my people need something to do.” He said logically. “How do you know so much about terrace farming?” Then I smiled. “How do you know about farming!?” The General smiled. “I was raised on a farm. Nebraska.” I was liking him now. “That would be great, General! Perhaps you can come to the palace one evening. We can discuss it?” General Burke smiled. “It’s David.” He said holding his hand out again. “I’m Eric, as you know.” I said taking his hand. “Tomorrow night, if you have no other plans? Say about eight?” “I’ll be there.” “Bring your wife.” I said looking at General Hammond. “You come, too. Bring your wife.” General Hammond shook his head. “My wife’s in Bristol. She won’t make it, but I’d be delighted. I go by Edmond.” “Thank you for listening, David, Edmond.” I said and took Peter’s hand. “We’ll see you tomorrow night.” Peter and I walked back out to go back to the palace. Peter was just smiling at me. “Stop it.” I said without looking at him. “You’ve got something to say, say it.” “You handled that…very well.” Peter said. “Do you see how much you’re needed in Makarovia? You didn’t back down at all from General Burke’s words.” “He just needs to get over that discomfort about gay people.” I said simply. “After this, I think he’ll come around.” Back at the palace, we were presented with requests from many groups. Again, the fact that we were doing something that never had been done was at the forefront. Requests from groups with the LGBT community wanted interviews and one group wanted to do a feature about an American Prince in Makarovia. Those were things I needed to make sure Olek and Queen Alla knew about before we agreed. It was at dinner when Queen Alla looked up from her plate. “The pictures for the web site need to be done.” She said. “Is there a chance we can do it tomorrow?” I frowned. “Won’t we need dress clothes?” I realized I hadn’t prepared for that. She nodded. “You did bring a suit.” She said as if that was impossible. I am gay…but I was never a particular sort of fashion driven gay, but I knew what we needed to do. “You want me to be in a picture in a suit I got from Walmart?” She laughed a little and nodded. “You’re right. I’ll call Jori. He can come and do your size tomorrow. He does all Olek’s suits.” I tried not to make too much notice of Olek and Peter in a discussion that was done in very soft whispers. Peter finally nodded and whispered back to Olek who waved at me and whispered something else a little louder. “Guys.” I said smiling at them. “Whatever’s going on, couldn’t you have discussed this before dinner in private?” Peter sat up more smiling sheepishly. “Well…there is something that you should know.” He lowered his eyes slightly. “It’s just a tradition here and I didn’t see we really needed to do it, but…” “What?” I asked now puzzled. Queen Alla nodded. “Oh, yes.” She smiled at a memory. “The proposal.” “Proposal? He already proposed.” I said simply. “Yes, but…” Olek gave a shrugging nod. “It wasn’t done…traditionally. Not here anyway.” “Remember when I told you before…about something I was going to do to make it official?” Peter asked. I nodded. “Yes.” “The official proposal and announcement doesn’t come from any of us.” He waved at his mother and brother. “It comes from Makarovia.” “The whole country.” I clarified. Olek nodded. “I’m afraid so.” He shrugged. “It’s a way of showing the world we…as a country…are behind any future marriage. Queen Alla and our father did it. His father did it…it’s just…what’s done.” “Okay.” I said hesitantly. “How does this happen?” Peter looked at his brother. “I’ve never been to one, as Dad was the last one to do it with Mom.” “There will be a formal party.” Queen Alla explained. “A select few are chosen to witness the proposal. In the past, they were mayors or town leaders that came to the palace and witnessed the formal proposal. They will be asked if they back this marriage and the answer given by all. You give the answer of yes or no given to Makarovia and it is officially recorded.” My eyes widened. “That sounds like a wedding!” Olek chuckled. “Well…yes, it is sort of. Only this wedding will be between you two and Makarovia.” “We’re marrying the entire country!?” I asked astonished. “That’s right.” Olek grinned. “There is a small ceremony and you will be asked some questions about what your role will be…they will be asked about what their role will be with the new couple. They will be marrying you.” “Wow.” I said. “A whole country.” Queen Alla chuckled more. “It is quite a big event in Makarovia. The people will swear to support you and defend you both, then the announcement goes out officially…from Makarovia.” Peter reached in his pocket and pulled a little box out. A ring box. “An engagement ring!?” I said to Peter. He opened it and a gold ring, much like a high school or college ring, but with Makarovian Crest on the front. “And then…you and Makarovia will become more than engaged…but officially married, you to them, them to you, after we say I do!” He grinned. My eyes widened even more. “How many are living here now?” “Just over two million, why?” Olek asked. “Two million…that’s going to be a hell of a wedding night!” My mind just couldn’t quite grasp it. “I don’t think I’ll have the strength!” Olek laughed out loud, Queen Alla sort of giggled, but Peter’s eyes softened as he smiled. “The only Makarovian there that night, will be me.”
  24. 43 points
    The flight to Makarovia was…lengthy. This trip was on a private plane again. There were three students chosen from Northeastern going with us. Two guys and one girl, but I was told they were very good photographers. They knew each other, of course and were talking amongst themselves and seemed pleased to going. One refueling stop and we were airborne again. It wasn’t too long after the refueling before Peter smiled; looking out the window and turned to me. “We’re now flying over Makarovia.” He said and sighed contently. He was home. I had seen some images of Makarovia, but…looking out the window…it was a mountainous country. The mountains were not like the ones in North Carolina. They were darker, sharper. I’ll try to convey what I saw. The mountains were dark rock and dirt, in between the crevasses where trees and forests spread out from there over flatter land. There were houses scattered here and there were with the occasional farms nestled in wherever there was available land to plant on. We were lowering and passing over clusters of buildings making up villages. The one resource they used was the stones and rocks, which was the main thing all the houses were constructed with. The houses also looked like the mountains, dark. A circular approach we circled a town! This was a sizable town that was build out of necessity. The need for a house, you built one where there was land. In many ways, it was like this part of the world could be any time period. There was color here as some houses of Stryia were painted and some even had festive roofs of red. There was little evidence this was the twenty first century except for the cars, otherwise it could be hundreds of years in the past. The river was flowing through the middle of town. The largest structure was the large brown stone structure that towered over everything that stood on the precipice near the river. It was not the beautiful castles in other parts of Europe. Clearly, it was a fortress; hardly any windows on the tall structure on the lower levels to prevent any invaders from taking control. Back before guns and more modern forms of warfare, they used arrows, swords and spears. An arrow shot might reach the top, but the hard stone would block penetration and the windows there were small to prevent as many arrows they could from getting through. The palace just said one thing. Keep out! It looked strong and built for defense. What it lacked in appearance, it was practical with purpose. Then I smiled, Stryia didn’t have the skyscrapers or metal and glass buildings. Nothing below was more than two or three stories tall. Also, what they were missing were the billboards and tacky signs promoting a business or something like a cola or something. Except for an occasional gas station; and those weren’t those sprawling stores that sold everything including gas. Very little of modern times reflected in Stryia; there was no mall, no large structure surrounded by acres of parking spaces. I wondered how they got supplies. I looked at Peter. “Where do you get a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk?” I asked him. Peter gave a grudging nod. “We have stores.” He said a little defensive. “They are scattered throughout Stryia.” I smiled and took his hand, placing our foreheads together. “Remember what I said to you before? About my world and your world. Now, we’re in our world. Now, you will be my life partner…helping me.” I kissed him. “I will become used to it, with your help.” He smiled and nodded. “Sure.” He looked out the window as we lowered even more. “Now you know why I’d never been to a mall or even Walmart.” He shrugged. “There isn’t one.” “With so many changes coming…” I began as we neared the paved runway. “Will that change?” Peter nodded. “I hope so.” I waved out the window. “But Stryia is charming as it is! We can’t change it too much.” Peter again gave a shrugging nod. “We’ll just have to find a good middle ground.” With the increase of population, I feared it would have to change. We got out of the plane at a small airport and the temperature wasn’t bad, in the mid-sixties…or rather in the mid-twenties in Celsius. I had to retrain myself on that. It was midday now. It rarely got over 85 degrees…there I did it again…rarely over 30 degrees Celsius even in July. One small building that looked as if it had been converted and expanded as an airport. I got the impression that not many flights came and left here. The runway was a single strip of pavement. Then I noticed the first…modern structure; a covered hangar. The only plane was stored here. “There’s bigger airport in Skoal…” Peter said, again a little defensive. I turned him to look at me. “You don’t have to be ashamed of what isn’t here, Peter.” I said again. “This isn’t a big metropolis, I get that.” I got him to look at me. “I like what I’ve seen. It’s like…a window back in time. It’s like a storybook village. Show me more!” Peter smiled more. “You’ll see it all, I promise” Getting in an SUV, we were taken in a couple of cars through the town. The streets were…well…until a few decades ago, mostly horse drawn carriages were traveling these streets. Cars and trucks came about fifty or sixty years after their invention. Most of the cars were older models…many were Russian and European small cars. No big Cadillacs or Lincolns. Stoplights! Even they weren’t at every corner and only two lights, red and green. The streets were paved! Approaching the palace, it was even more intimidating from below. It stood…I guessed about fifteen or twenty stories, maybe. The road brought us to a large entrance at the palace’s base. Driving in the entrance way through, and I’m not kidding, a huge iron gate rose up to let us in. I smiled wondering where the moat was. There were huge, thick and heavy wooden doors that could be shut and barred presenting invaders with an even more of a challenge. We came in a courtyard that was surrounded by very thick, high walls. In the past, it was where people came and got off horses or out of carriages, now there were places to park cars. Even a gas pump! “In the past, this was where…if there was an attack we would house as many villagers as possible here for their protection. There are plenty of rooms.” Peter explained and waved me to a door in the side. “Now, you’ll see where you’re going to live.” Again, there was a large wooden door many inches thick that could be shut, blocking entrance. If they got into the courtyard, they’d get the message again. Keep out. I wondered how many times that was tested. Enough to warrant these precautions! Going through the wide entrance way we ended in front of…an elevator!? It was an older one, no enclosed elevator with walls, but a platform that was sturdy and could lift several hundred to several thousands of pounds! “The Soviets added this.” Peter said smiling. “They didn’t want to climb all the stairs.” I grinned and turned. “The poor things.” I said mockingly sad as he pushed me gently to get on the elevator. “How did the kingdom survive with the Soviets in charge?” Peter grinned and shrugged. “We supplied them with iron and other metals, they didn’t really do too much as long as we kept the supplies going.” A man in his forties got on with us and nodded to me. “Greetings, Prince Eric.” He said in accented English. I nodded and smiled to him and said in Makarovian. “I’m not a prince yet, but thank you.” The man smiled. “But you will be!” All the things Makarovia didn’t have, it did have a lot of kind and accepting people. That was just so rare! The man grabbed a lever and pulled. There was the whine as motors started and we began to rise. The path this elevator took had been made; chiseled out of the rock. We stopped at a landing? Peter again pushed me gently into a corridor that led to other parts of this castle. It was…rock! I expected to see torches instead of burning lights. They had electricity. Going in deeper, the corridor opened to a wide and tall area….a few feet away were more steps, not stairs, but finely honed rock that took you up to a large chamber. There were chandeliers that hung and the floor here was still rock, but polished rock and more decoratively placed. “Peter!” I heard Olek call out as he approached us with his arms open wide as he came. Dressed casually in dark slacks and white shirt, he looked comfortable. “Welcome home!” He hugged his brother and turned to me. “Eric!” He greeted and hugged me, too. “Welcome to Makarovia!” “I’m thrilled to be here, Olek!” I said sincerely. “Thank you.” Olek smiled still. “What do you think?” He looked around the castle. “This is nice!” I said again. “It reminds me of some of those stories I was raised on; a fairy tale.” “Peter!” A female voice I knew now greeted. Queen Alla did the same as her stepson had and me adding a kiss on both of us on the cheek. She was also comfortable, dressed in a nice dress, but not fancy. She was at home. “I know you’re all probably very tired. How long was your flight?” Peter nodded. “About eighteen hours, stopping to refuel in Germany.” Olek nodded. “Well, your quarters are still there and waiting. Go, rest and we’ll have a good dinner later tonight, okay.” He looked at me. “You’ll be fine for now, but…” he let out a moan. “You’ll know jetlag by morning. Time changes are the hardest.” He said kissing Peter on the cheek. “It’s so good to have you home!” He leaned in and kissed me on the cheek! This was Europe! They did that as a custom, but Olek’s greeting was heartfelt. He patted his brother on the arm. “Go rest. Welcome home, you two.” Peter reached and took my hand. “Now, you will see our rooms.” He said turning. The best way to say it, this was the palace in a castle. While the palaces in France, Germany and England were sometimes pretty on the inside and out. This part of the palace in Stryia was…they used what they had! The outside was a little rough, but here…it was pretty! The polished floor and light fixtures were elegant, no crystal chandeliers, but nice. The floor the steps led us on was wide. On either side of those steps were stairs going up. On either side of the…what is the word? Not a lobby, but from this area, there were doors that led to other rooms or halls. The ceiling of this lobby was about three stories up. Peter led me upstairs to a hallway and led me to a set of double doors. Peter opened the door and waved me in. Now I understood why he said “our rooms.” It was more than one! This area entered was where he lived and did his…whatever. There was a big fireplace on the left, a sofa and chair in front of that. He had a desk with a computer, a large screen TV. Through a door on the right led to the bathroom, another door on the right led to his bedroom…our bedroom. Heat was the main concern in Makarovia. The rooms were not big; in fact they were kind of cozy so the fireplace didn’t have to heat as much space. There were a couple of small windows not big enough for a person to get through on the far wall. It didn’t let anyone in, if they could climb the outside, but it limited the light from the sun. Electric lights were the illumination, but having those windows told me just how thick the walls were; they were at least a foot to a foot and a half inches of solid stone. Peter watched as I walked around. There were pictures and other things more personal, artwork, but he noticed a shelf of…books and CDs! I grinned as I read some of the titles in English, Russian, French and German. I smiled back at Peter. “This is very nice, Peter.” He smiled now, more relaxed. “I’m glad you think so.” He motioned to the room. “I spend many years in here. Hiding.” I nodded. “You’re not hiding now.” I said coming up to him. “I love you, Peter. I’m home where you are. This is very nice.” Then I grinned. “How’s your bed?” He smiled back. “You’ll see for yourself!” He took my hand and led me to the bedroom. The bedroom was mostly all bed which was at least queen sized. No jokes, please! With maybe a foot or a little more on either side was the walls. The ceiling in here was lower, heat rises and they wanted to keep the heat down where you slept. The fireplace kept the room warm, two small tables with lamps on either side; that was it. I didn’t care for hunting, but I could understand why there was a huge fur on the bed as a cover. With it getting that cold outside in the winter, what kept the bear or whatever warm worked well. I would also find they were damned warm to wear moving around outside in subzero weather. They were very necessary, but that would be later when I found that out. He kissed me gently wrapping his arms around me. “Are you tired?” I nodded. “Sure, you are too.” I said seeing it in his eyes. He didn’t need him to say so. He smiled. “I am, we’ll rest a few hours.” He kissed me again gently. “I want you to be comfortable here.” I nodded. “I am already. You’ll have to help me in Makarovia.” He nodded. “I will. You’ll do fine.” His arms tightened around me. “I love you, Eric.” I smiled kissing him back. “I know.” It is a rare moment when we lay down and didn’t make love, but it had been a long trip! The fur was removed as it wasn’t needed now. I lay down with Peter right next to me and we drifted off in minutes. It was a very comfortable bed. The thick walls also allowed it to be dark during the day. Sleep was not a problem. I woke as Peter moved slightly. I was spooned behind him. He was waking up. Hearing him move and feeling him turn slightly; I knew what he was doing, checking to see if I were awake. “I’m awake, baby.” I chuckled. “But you can’t really see that as its dark in here!” He turned and faced me. “I like dark.” He shrugged. “But I like to see you, too.” He turned again and turned on the lamp beside the bed. He grinned back at me. “Now, I can.” He reached under the covers and I felt his hand on me, taking my cock gently. “I love you.” “I love you.” He leaned over again and went in a small portion of the bedside table and pulled out a bottle. He grinned. “Show me.” He waved the lube in front of my face. I didn’t need any more encouragement. We did make love showing each other love. Afterwards, he looked at his watch. “I guess we need to get up, shower and dress.” He got up and smiled. “We can shower together.” I grinned. “We often do.” His home was an interesting combination of old world structure and modern ways. The bathroom was added from another room. The floor was covered with a rug to protect feet from the cold stone floor. The pipes and other things were added and ran along the wall. I would find that in the entire palace; electrical cables, satellite fiber optic cables and pipes were discretely lining the walls. This castle was over seven or eight hundred years old! Like the protection from arrows; which wouldn’t be used now. They just added what was needed. His shower was a nice one, but free standing. A large tank nearby provided the hot water. We showered and…well…we were both naked, so…why not? After we got through, Peter smiled and got his jacket and handed me one. “Before we go to dinner, you should see something.” Peter said. “It’s still a little chilly, you might need a jacket.” He said putting his on. “Okay.” I did what he said I should and he led me through the corridors, but instead of going down, we went up. On the roof of this colossal castle, the roof was flat. On it sat Satellite dishes, but we were up high and it was evening. The sun had set and he led me to the side to overlook all of Stryia. Instead of the harsh, bright lights of cities, the lights below were a soft yellow and seemed to add a touch of magic; to me, anyway. Almost no light pollution and above us was a near cloudless sky full of stars. The surrounding mountains were black on the horizon in all directions. I smiled at what I saw. “It’s beautiful.” I said reverently. “And tomorrow, I’ll show you more.” Peter said kissing me on the side of my head. “Welcome home, my love.”
  25. 43 points
    It was while we were looking at what little information about Makarovia that there was the beeping chime from Peter’s computer. Peter hit a key and saw it was a request from Olek to video call him. Peter smiled and activated the computer for the call. The screen quickly brightened. Olek’s smile was instant. I smiled at him, he was a king, but now…just a man. Shirt unbuttoned at the collar and open and he ran hands over his face as he smiled. “You’re there!” He said happily. “I was trying to figure out what time it was there so we could talk.” “We just got back.” Peter told his brother. “Hi, Olek!” I said to him, to say hello, but also let him know I remembered what he told me to use his name. “Hi, Eric!” Olek smiled even more. “Did you guys have a good day at the university?” “No.” Peter groused. I hugged Peter a little. “It wasn’t terrible. There are just a lot of people that want to see and talk to us.” Olek shrugged. “Well, you are doing what’s never been done.” He looked at us. “I guess you’ve met Penny.” Peter nodded. “Just before you signaled for the call.” He grimaced. “You could have told us.” “I’m busy!” Olek protested gestured helplessly with his hands. “But, you need her.” He said seriously. “She’s very good. She kept me straight over here.” “Over here? Where are you now?” I asked. “Paris.” Olek said without a lot enthusiasm. “Still working out the negotiations.” “But they’re coming, too?” Peter asked. “What more negotiations need to happen?” “It all has to be recorded, who gets the percentage of uranium in exchange for what help they can give.” Olek nodded. “We’ve got what they want, but we can’t get it out without help.” He said logically. “The military are arriving in a few days?” I asked. Olek nodded and smiled. “They’ve been arriving since yesterday.” “I know you worked out where they’re living.” I said. Olek nodded. “We began construction a year ago. Housing and things needed are going up. Other things will come with time.” “This is in Skoal?” Peter asked his brother and he looked at me. “That’s a small…” I grinned. “I know where Skoal is, baby. I studied that map. It’s a neighboring village northeast of Stryia.” Olek smiled even bigger and Peter’s eyes got wider. “Don’t act surprised.” I bumped my head against Peter’s forehead. “I even know…” I smiled, “Forgive me, I’ll probably mispronounce this… Skotarskoye?” I said hesitantly as Peter nodded, saying I got it right. “That’s where you do the processing or the iron ore and smelting.” I waved at the computer. “It’s on the internet.” Olek was beaming and he did the thing he did moving closer to the camera making his face larger. “You studied our maps?” I shrugged. “I’m going there in a few months and I will be living there. It will be my home, as it’s our home, so yes, I studied the maps.” I grinned. “Don’t ask me how far Skoal is from Stryia, I’ll have to give you miles, not kilometers.” I ran my hands in Peter’s hair. “You asked me to marry you.” I looked at Olek. “You welcomed me into your wonderful family. Do you mind that I become involved with Makarovia?” Olek raised his head to the ceiling like Queen Alla did shortly after meeting me. Giving thanks? “No! Your opinion is welcome and encouraged. We’ll love having you a part of our family and Makavorvia.” Then he grinned. “Are there more of you at home?” I shook my head. “Sorry. This Ivanov…” I said to Peter, “got the only one.” Peter smiled and turned to his brother. “He’s got some great ideas for the used rods and recycling them…terrace farming…there’s no doubt there will be more great ideas.” He said proudly. “The terrace farming is an ancient and proven way to raise crops on the side of mountains, I’m sure we adapt it in Makarovia. What it comes down to spending a little money, but mostly manpower. It can be done.” I said. “What are the financial gains projected for Makarovia?” Olek smiled. “Billions.” He shook his head. “When we can get it out of ground.” He pointed out again. “Funding for the development of refining and processing the raw uranium?” I asked. Olek nodded. “The United States and England are funding most of that; the rewards for them outwiegh the expense. The housing and other developments is going to be on us.” I nodded. “I saw pictures of your father.” I said with a smile. “You look a lot like him. Olek looked surprised. “Sure, he’s my father.” “And was a very handsome man. Just like you are.” I said watching his face become puzzled. “I saw pictures of Peter’s mother. You are beautiful human beings.” Olek was waiting as his eyes narrowed. “Thank you?” “How would you feel about a redoing of the webpage for Makarovia? Complete with some nice pictures…not only of you three, but more attractive pictures of Makarovia. Your country is going have a sudden influx of people. It would be nice if there was a webpage to tell them what they’ll find in Makarovia.” “Why not? We need one.” Olek now smiled a little more. “You can do that.” “Me!?” “I’m busy!” Olek said, but not mad at all. “You know what you’re looking for.” He looked knowingly. “Are you able to do it?” “I’m marrying into the family, I haven’t done it yet.” I argued. “But you’re going to.” Olek pointed out. “You are marrying Peter, right?” I nodded. “You know I’m marrying Peter.” Olek sat back. “As your first royal duty…you be in charge of that.” He grinned again. “With the understanding…you will be in the pictures.” He shrugged. “The marriage will happen, so we’re just…planning ahead. Can you do it?” My mind was working. “I can.” I grinned. “And I know who to ask.” “Great! Prince Eric.” Olek shook his head. “I’m not worried a bit.” He again got serious. “Things are getting better. Ten years ago, we did some work in areas like that.” He frowned. “There is money from iron, but…we just didn’t spend it for that.” He nodded. “You’re right, though. There will be people coming to Makarovia and we will need to be prepared.” “I can guarantee there will be people who will want to move there.” I added. Olek nodded. “You mean immigrate?” Peter shook his head. “What people, why? They didn’t before much.” “People like you and me.” I said to Peter smiling. I sighed. “You’re a very smart man, baby. You were blessed to be raised in country like Makarovia. You don’t really understand why what we’re doing is so shocking.” I smiled. “I think that lack of understanding is wonderful, but I will tell you, many gay men and women will want to move to Makarovia. A place where they’re not just allowed to be gay, but no one cares if they are. They want to be seen as just people.” I looked at Olek who was nodding. “You know this.” “I do.” Olek said. Then I smiled. “I will also guarantee when they do, you’ll have all the trendy things needed to make Makarovia grow even more!” Peter shook his head. “Like what?” “Bistros, coffee bars…trendy clothing stores.” I grinned. “Makarovia will become the Gay Mecca!” I saw the humor in Peter’s eyes. “People are beginning to see that when gay men move into their neighborhood, property values go up! And gay men can’t do without those necessary niceties.” “So, who are you asking to do this new webpage?” Peter asked. “They’re right on campus!” I said. “We have that great school for Arts, Media and Design!” I looked at Olek. “There have to be students that will love to be on the cutting edge of a project like this!” Olek chuckled shaking his head. “I knew you’d know. You can get started when you’re ready, but they will get an endowment as payment. I think it’s wonderful that you are so invested in Makarovia’s affairs.” I gave a shrug and nod. “I’m getting there. Thanks for including me. There will be others that will want to come to Makarovia. There are people who will want the same acceptance as we have.” I smiled at Olek. “A year ago, I never would have guessed this would happen…but I’m happy it did.” Olek nodded. “Me, too.” I picked up the folder of interview requests. “We’ll pick one of these and do the interview.” I looked again at Olek. “This will be about us, nothing about the uranium.” “Having you and Peter do this…” Olek smiled, “will take the focus from the uranium. Welcome to our family and Makarovia.” Peter and I had a good dinner, but as we were getting ready for bed. He came out of the bathroom in his t-shirt and flannel pajama bottoms. This was Boston. It was warm in the house, but it was winter. I noticed Peter wasn’t…unhappy, but he was thinking about something that was on his mind. “What are you thinking?” I asked in the bed moving toward him. Peter looked up from his thoughts, he smiled. “You’ll do well in Makarvovia.” He turned came to the bed pushing me back gently and laid over me pulling the covers over us. “The same rule applies to you. Tell me what you think about all this. What do you really feel?” I nodded reaching up touching his face gently. “Alright, that was our agreement.” I smiled kissing him and thought. “My first feelings about this was surprise. I was surprised when I met you. Before I even knew what you are. It didn’t take long before I saw a portion of you…I was attracted to you. I liked you.” Peter smiled. “Just liked?” I nodded a little defensive. “Well, yes…at first. With a little lust mixed in there.” I admitted. His head went up a little. “When!?” “That first trip to Walmart.” “Walmart!?” Peter looked as if that couldn’t be true. “I was still…” he waved at his face, “covered with those…things.” “So?” I shrugged. “You didn’t see what I did.” I laughed. “I hate to say it, but you were like this…flower that was began opening up.” I brought him down to kiss again. “You’re still opening up, but for now, I see something very beautiful.” I grinned at him. “And you have this great ass.” His head bobbed a little as he began to turn pink as he chuckled. “I’m glad you like it. I really like yours, too.” “I was presented with a challenge.” I said simply. “I liked you and I was determined to get you to relax and trust me. Then I find out about Makarovia and what you are there, I was again surprised. We became more than just friends.” I put my arms around him. “I love what happened next. Again, surprised, but I love it.” I looked at Peter seriously. “Above all else. I love you. That’s the first thing. Remember that.” Peter nodded. “Okay, I believe you.” “I meet you brother and mother…they had no problem with us.” I said smiling again. “Another surprise. Now, I’ve been given a responsibility by King Olek himself!” “Which you’ll do.” “I love a challenge.” I said again. “An exciting one!” I rolled us over. “I was not only invited to Makarovia, but work to start making improvements! Soon, no one will say again: Makarovia? Where the hell is that!? This all good! I see this life ahead as a challenge.” I grinned kissing him more. “This is exciting! I have never been bored since we met!” I smiled again. “But you are the important part of this for me.” “You don’t think your life has been interrupted?” “My life hasn’t been interrupted. It just took some unexpected, surprising turns,” I smiled. “And it’s not my life. You asked me to marry you and make it our lives. Nothing is interrupted.” I stretched out beside him. “Now, it’s your turn.” He sighed and thought to find words. “When you and Olek spoke…you both understand the world more than I do. Like when everyone is shocked we’re getting married…I understood a little, but I wasn’t ready for everyone’s reactions to it.” I smiled. “That’s what I told you before. The fact that you didn’t know is great! Being raised in Stryia…in a whole country where what we are is normal, is so sought after.” I ran a hand over his chest. “I readily admit…you’re kind of…innocent.” His eyebrows rose and he was getting an offended look. “That’s not a bad thing!” I said quickly. “It’s sexy…to meet anyone with any amount of innocence is hard to find…and you saw something in me you liked and you said you love me…!” “I’m ignorant! That’s stupid.” Peter groused. “I hid from the world instead of living in it!” This was going to be another challenge for me. “I am going to marry you.” I told him. “Do you trust me?” Peter nodded. “Of course.” “I’ve learned a lot about you. I still will learn more.” I said. “Ignorance is again, not a bad thing. You simply don’t know. You are NOT stupid. You don’t know because you’ve not been exposed. That’s different.” I needed him to understand. “Why am I with you?” “We fell in love.” Peter said logically. “I don’t want to be just your husband.” I said watching his eyes grow. “I want to be your life…partner. Meaning, you and are partners as we go through life from now on. You help me with problems that come up. I help you. Good or bad, for better or worse.” I as I said the known vows. “That’s how I view a marriage.” “But you’re always helping me.” Peter said in almost a moan. “When do I become your help as that partner?” “In three months.” I said smiling. “You know Makarovia, I know what I learned by the internet about Makarovia, but you already know the culture and how to act. I don’t! I will be dependent on you to help me keep names and faces…when to do what or not to do something. I will be out of my world. You won’t be.” “You’ll fit in fine in Makarovia.” Peter said. I nodded. “With your help, yes!” Kissing lightly again. “I wasn’t kidding when I told you my love for you would grow. I am more in love with you than when I first said I loved you.” Peter smiled kissing me. “Make love to me?” I nodded. “Oh, yes.” The next day was more of the same, but everyone seemed to find a way to make it work. Campus and city or other police were in place now watching cars enter the campus area. The media were kept off campus now. The students were also adjusting to our presence. We were shadowed with the five, Yuri being the fifth one. Between classes, Peter and I met and discussed things. It was in the dining area I took out the papers that Penelope handed us. “There are a number names here…most are the obvious. There are news programs that have harder news based reporters.” I said looking the names. “People with LOGO, Advocate and Out.” “And they are…?” He asked munching and wiped his mouth with a napkin. I chuckled. “They are networks…media sources that are geared for gays and lesbians.” I reached over taking his hand which I squeezed lightly. “Remember our discussion last night.” Peter nodded. “I haven’t forgotten.” “I realize what we’re doing is news, but I’d like the interview be about the marriage, but not necessarily because we’re gay.” I took a photo out. “I’ve seen him. He’s good, he’s a reporter first. He came out as gay over a decade ago. Anderson Cooper. He’s gay, but he was a reporter for years before he came out. He’s got a good reputation.” “Okay.” Peter smiled. “We’ll have Penelope contact him.” He shrugged. I nodded sitting back. “Now, we need to speak with Dean Sutton.” Peter looked confused. “Why? Whose Dean Sutton?” “Dean Thomas Sutton is the Dean of Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media and Design.” “Now?” Peter asked as I rose. “Now.” He nodded and got up, too.
  26. 43 points
    Chapter 18 - Into the woods...whoops Come find me. It called to me. How could I possibly ignore it? Something so strong that it moved my body on its own. I couldn’t fight, I didn’t want to fight the insistent pull. So I kept walking through the woods my instincts guiding me through the eerie darkness as if I knew exactly where I was going. I was floating through the haze as some unspoken voice pulled me along an unseen path. Sensations rolled through me in powerful waves, alighting my nerves with sparks. It was like the eyes watching me were touching every part of my being. I needed to find them. They were somewhere in the woods, calling so strongly my entire body was no longer my own. Nothing filtered through my mind except the silent call. Come find me. I’m calling you. It said over and over and over. The litany repeated until it was the only thing that existed. I’m coming. I hear you. Where— “-am I?” I looked around completely lost. How in hell had I ended up here? Where was here? Oh moose farts, I was in the woods. I scrambled to remember how I’d ended up in the woods. When had I left the den? “Think Ira, use your big ugly noggin.” I had been in the den with Zora. I’d been trying to piece things together in my mind. When had I left the dens? Panting I looked around the still space for any clue as to how I’d ended up here. I was deep in the forest surrounded by tall trees and shrouded moonlight. Was sleepwalking a pregnancy thing? If so I’d tell Zora it wasn’t technically my fault— the pups made me do it. That was definitely a solid argument. I needed to get back to the dens, then I needed to start tying my legs while I sleep apparently because I now sleepwalk. “Moose farts, Zora is going to be—” Something moved between the trees. My mouth went dry and my hackles rose a warning rumbled out of me. What the hell was that? My eyes darted after the creature, it’s silhouette the only thing I could see in the darkness. It stayed between the trees far enough away I couldn’t make out what I saw, but I could tell it wasn’t anything I’d seen before. What I was looking at was bigger than me. My breathing became labored and my stomach churned painfully. “Who are you?” “Such a pretty omega.” A voice floated from the woods its words a slow taunting drawl. It was deep, the words growled out from deep within the creature's throat. A shiver raced up my spine igniting the flames of fear in my gut like nothing else. How had I ended up in the woods? I could taste the beginnings of panic as my eyes scanned for the best way to escape my current spot. “Oh… but you are...broken.” The words slowly rumbled out as the creatures dark shadow moved languidly around the area staying well within the trees. “I asked you who you are.” I snarled. Should I howl? Would that be the smartest thing to do? My heart pounded in my chest to a stoic rhythm painfully in beat with my terror. “Hmmm...broken, broken, you don’t even know what you are.” The massive beast moved slightly closer, but didn’t exit the shadows. “How pathetic…” What was this thing? What did it know about me? Its voice sounded distant and emotionless, but definitely male. “I know what I am.” Didn’t I? Of course I did! I was a wolf, albeit a bit ‘broken’ but I was a wolf. “What are you?” The shadow slinked around the trees circling in closer as it moved. “No… you have no idea…” It made an odd sound that something between a bark and a growl. Was it laughing? “Such a pretty omega...such a shame its seed is already inside of you…” The way it spoke caused my stomach to turn violently. ‘Its seed’ could only mean my alpha. This creature, whatever it was saw my pups as an abomination. It had killed my pack members. I growled as I looked again for the best way to get out of the trap that it was beginning to set. As we spoke it was closing in on me, like prey. I was the prey. “I asked you a question, tell me what the hell you are!” I barked as I backed up towards the nearest tree. I would be safer if I kept it in my line of— A vicious noise from behind made me spin around almost falling in my quick turn. Another large shadow lurked in the trees, and another, and another. Oh mother no, there was a pack. An entire pack of creatures bigger than I was. Panting I tried to think of anything, any idea of how to get out of this situation. How had I even ended up here? This was obviously a trap, and I’d stepped into without even remember the walk that brought me there. Zora had been right. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was risking not my life, but my pups and my mates lives as well. I’ve always been the scariest thing in my life, but here right now I wasn’t the scariest thing. I was the scared while they were the predators tracking me down. “So wild and beautiful… I’ve been watching you… leaving... presents.” The voice rumbled with long pauses between each word. It completely ignoring the other creatures that now surrounded me in the darkness. To it we were the only ones there. Whatever this thing was it was freaking moose cake balls to the walls psycho. “Presents?” My nostrils flared, a tremble in my voice as I remembered the squirrels surrounding the dead bodies earlier today. I was terrified, there was no doubt. I wanted my alpha so much it was physically painful, but I would not howl for him. I would not lead him to this trap, no matter what happened to me I couldn’t let these creatures murder the one wolf I loved. “Yes...those wolves...so weak. Must shave away the…lessor wolves. Take that one she wolf...hmmmm...she’d been so scared...her blood so rich.” I shivered. Comira. It was talking about Comira. There was obvious excitement in its voice as it re-lived the gruesome murder. If Comira’s demise had been anything like Cantro, Fel and Gres’s I could not imagine the absolute terror she had felt in her last moments of life. Well, that wasn’t true was it? I felt her terror, right now as I watched the dark silhouettes circle closer and closer choking the noose on my trap even tighter. “What do you want from me? Why are you doing this?” My eyes shifted wildly between the trees. There had to be a way out, I had to find it, I could not die here. I wouldn’t die here. A gruff rumble emitted from all around me as the creatures laughed in unison as if my question had been the dumbest thing I could have asked. “Omega...you are mine… you came when I called...so beautiful.” Murmurs from the other shadows sounded like agreement. Fuck this thing, I might be terrified, but I only belonged to my alpha and I wouldn’t lay on my back with my feet in the air because this damn thing told me to. “I belong to my alpha and you aren’t my alpha. You and your pack need to leave my pack alone or I swear you will regret it.” “Oh a sweet one...breaking you will be….soooo sensual. The last omega who refused me was such a waste.” The silhouette moved closer not far from the nearest beam of moonlight penetrating the forest floor. “What are you?” I asked again, afraid to see and hear the affirmation. Somehow I knew what it was. I knew what ‘he’ was. Oh mother please, make me be wro— A large hand tipped in talons slipped into the moonlight followed by a massive brown muzzle and blood red eyes. Its full body came into the light revealing a massive creature who was an identical replica of my own form except much bigger. The reek of blood clung to its fur as if it had become a permanent part of its scent. Dark brown fur covered its body along with scars big enough to be fatal to anything other than a monster. This was one of the blood wolves, the nightmare of the woods was like me. Like me, but so much worse. “W-what are you?” What am I? Because if there was a pack of wolves like me, I wasn’t an accident. Breathing labored I shuffled backwards only to collide with another large half formed wolf with blood red eyes. Yelping I jumped back to my spot in the center of my trap as more and more of them came into my line of vision. There was at least five of them standing in a tight circle around me. “We are luperci.” The massive brown wolf stalked closer to me, his red eyes burning my skin as he got close enough to touch. “Don’t touch me.” I kept still, but I’d retaliate if the monster touched me. Suddenly I could understand how the wolves in the pack felt afraid of me. I was terrified of this luperci. “Stupid Omega...you cannot avoid me. When I called you came so easily you were coming to your true al— .” He paused. Without warning he grabbed my jaw, holding me in a painfully tight grasp as he stared me down with those blood red eyes. A weak sound escaped me as I tried to pull away from the restraint his claws dug deep into my maw. Instinctively my arms hovered protectively over my belly. What would this insane beast do to me? Why had I ever thought I could take this on myself? Those red eyes tracked over my neck to the side of my shoulder. I whined pitifully when the creature shoved its nose into the crook of my shoulder forcefully inhaling my scent with deep drags. Viciously he tossed me to the side and I hit the floor taking the fall against my shoulder with a loud moan. He hovered over me, white teeth bared. “Interesting….you don’t even know….it seems we will play our game a little longer.” A deep rumble came out of him and more followed from the others. “Let’s see how many we devour before he comes willingly.” What did he mean? What didn’t I know? Panting I stared at the monster in front of me, hate seeping from my soul. I may look like these beasts but I was nothing like them. Nothing! “Leave my pack alone.” A derisive snort escaped the male. “Such a hopeful omega.” I shivered repulsively as he dragged a big hand over my the side of my face almost gently. The reek of old and new blood flooded my senses making my gut churn even worse. I was going to be sick. I turned away from the touch, rejecting it as much as I was rejecting everything this creature said. Everything about these beasts was an insult to who I was. “Look for my presents.” He rumbled darkly. I clenched my jaw tight as the beasts began to melt back into the woods, their alpha stayed a little longer. He watched me with his eerie red eyes before he shifted into a big brown wolf and loped off into the darkness. Relief. All I felt was absolute relief. My body sagged against the nearest tree as I slipped down to the ground on weak legs. How could this be happening? All my life there had never been anyone who’d seen anything like me, but now— Now I was being hunted by my own kind? I wasn’t like the others? I wasn’t just an abnormality? A strangled whine built in my throat as I held back the desperate howl I wanted to make so badly. I couldn’t howl. If I did I would put the entire pack in danger. These woods were not safe for any of them. It wasn’t safe for me. I needed to pull myself together, I couldn’t afford to break down here in the middle of the woods. I got up slowly and began walking back towards the dens. ********** It took me awhile before I could figure out where I was but once I got my sense of direction I was able to make my way back. Every sound made the fur on my spine stand up, the crack of a twig, the rustle of a bush. My mind was racing with so many questions that I didn’t have the answers to. How had they found me? Why were they hunting the pack? Why did he want me? How many more of them were there? What didn’t I know? That last one, that one bothered me the most. Something pulled at my mind telling me over and over this was important this was what I needed to know. It felt like hours before I was passing familiar trees that lead up to the dens. I had to assume no one knew I was gone and I wanted to keep it that way. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone about what I knew. How could I? If the pack knew what the blood wolves were they would blame me, fear me even more than they already did. Maybe even blame their alpha for taking me in. How could this work out without everyone suffering? Without me losing the best thing I’d ever had in my life? As I got closer to the dens I felt more secure in my decision. I had to keep this from the pack, I’d have to find another way to warn them of the danger, because even if I told them the truth would they listen? A soft breeze through the trees ruffling my fur, cooling my hot skin and carrying a familiar scent. I turned around surprised to see Dey standing just within the tree line leading to the dens. Her usual bright smile absent from her face as she watched me. There was something completely different about her in that moment that I was truly panicked. Did she know? Was she going to tell the pack that I was the reason the blood wolves were here? “Dey?” “I need to talk to you.” Her ears lay flat on her skull and a small whine built in her throat. “I need to tell you the truth about my last pack.” End Book 1
  27. 42 points
    “Do you think you are ready?” My stomach grumbled. “If nothing else, I have to eat.” Lakshou smiled. “A very apt observation. And your energy is much calmer now. Just remember, no one in the crew wishes to hurt you. You are safe now, and no one will do anything to you without your permission.” “I’ll try.” I took a breath and blew away the tension starting to build inside me. My shoulders dropped; I hadn’t even realized I’d started to curl in on myself again. “Okay. Ready.” The door whooshed open, and I hesitated before following Lakshou out. The tiny temple proved to be a sanctuary I couldn’t ever remember having before. The air was cooler outside in the corridor. I pulled my hands inside the sleeves of the silky robe Lakshou had given me. He stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “At your pace, little one. No one is going to hurt you.” “Okay.” I stepped out. The door slid shut nearly on my heels, and I jumped forward. Lakshou led the way, explaining the ship layout as we moved. “Essentially, the ship is a long narrow capsule with short branches to each side. This is a mid-sized cruiser.” For someone who’d been trapped in a single, tiny cell for years, it felt huge. There were places the corridor turned and I couldn’t see beyond the wall. Doors, some open and some shut. And people. There were many more around than I’d seen earlier before I ran into Lakshou. “It is shift change and close to a meal time. There will be people around, but not too many since this early many people choose to eat something in their quarters. If you need to leave at any time, please don’t hesitate to let me know.” “Won’t you be able to tell?” He hesitated. “Well. My abilities don’t always work that way in a crowd. I can sense the overall mood in a room, but it’s harder to be sure of individual emotions. That is one of the reasons I usually work one on one with supplicants.” Lakshou ducked his head as they entered the galley, his horns barely clearing the smaller doorway. “Okay.” What he considered not too many people was still overwhelming for me. I struggled to stay calm because it felt like everyone was watching us—me—as we walked into the room. I took a step sideways, hiding behind Lakshou’s bulk as he led the way to a dispenser on the wall. The room was filled with a feast of food scents, and my stomach snarled in hunger. There were a lot of humans but there were also aliens mixed in here and there, all eating different things. It didn’t seem like there was any separation between them, except one big alien who was nearly colorless eating something bright red that was… wiggling. I even saw several aliens I’d never heard of. I could only hope they would all be as friendly and helpful as Lakshou. “Would you like me to pick something for you to eat?” Watching the scrolling choices on the dispenser screen, I nodded. There were too many choices; I wouldn’t even know where to start. “Thank you,” I whispered. “Think nothing of it. Hmm. Something simple, I think. A soup?” I wrinkled my nose at the thought of food in soft or liquid form. “Something crispy?” “We can do that.” Lakshou scrolled the menu down and then pressed a selection. “Toasted bread. And the cooked animal protein that gets crispy.” The urge to snatch the food that appeared below the dispenser was hard to resist, but I’d learned to control my physical actions over the years, if not my emotional reactions. I curled my fingers around the tray and waited for Lakshou to get his food. His plate had an electric blue cube that jiggled as we walked to a nearby table. When we sat, Lakshou folded up his legs up and leaned back in the chair, lifting his face and closing his eyes. I watched him, unsure of what he was doing, and even more surprised when a blue light flashed around him but I didn’t feel anything. After a minute, he opened his eyes. “Oh. You didn’t have to wait for me. I was just taking a self-communion moment.” “Okay.” I picked up the meat, something I hadn’t had in years, even before leaving Earth. The salty, smoky cube was crisp as I bit it in half, then dissolved into salty shreds on my tongue. I moaned, and grabbed another one, greedily shoving it in before I finished swallowing the first. “Easy, easy. You can always have more later.” The bread was coated with a sweet substance on one side, and I liked the dry crunch. I reveled in the taste and texture. There was a cup beside my plate. I sniffed it; it smelled like the one I’d had in medical. I looked up at Lakshou. “I was given some instructions by the staff. Just a nutritionally-balanced mix designed to give your body what it needs.” “And you’d know just what that is, wouldn’t you?” Some man stopped beside our table. He leaned in, getting closer than I wanted him to. “Who do you have here? A new disciple for your cozy little temple? I see he’s wearing one of your easy access robes.” Lakshou’s horns began to glow, and I eyed him warily. The other human was acting aggressive, but I didn’t understand why. “Kemit. You have been warned about your attitude toward my counseling before, especially in front of supplicants. How you wish to express your personal beliefs is your business, but you are not allowed to badger others about theirs. There is nothing wrong with my counseling others, and your hidebound, colonial sensibilities are the problem here. Don’t make me go to the captain again.” “You don’t need to.” Captain’s voice from behind me made me jump, and I spun in my chair.
  28. 42 points
    I was being pulled by Peter toward our room. “Is there a sale or something?” Peter looked back at me grinning. “Is it hard to understand I want to make love?” “Not at all, but we’re together every night, we make love every night, morning and a few times in the afternoon!” I chuckled. “I’m willing any time you want. Why the hurry?” Peter looked and didn’t see anyone and brought my hand to his crotch to feel he was aroused. “Because I’m…” he switched to English, “horny?” Then he switched back to Makarovian. “I am so often with you.” The result was I was getting an erection touching him. “Well, let’s not waste time!” I was now pulling him to our room. Peter laughed as he moved quicker. As you’ve heard me before, sex was always good with us. Occasionally, it was mind blowing. Tonight, was one of those that was mind blowing. Getting through the door Peter was quickly moving me back toward our bed as he pulled my shirt up and pushed it off. The whole time his lips were pressed against mine in a consuming, hungry kiss. That man could kiss!! “I want you.” Peter managed to get out as I pulled on his belt. “Now, we have a problem.” I chuckled, “because I want you.” I continued the kiss. “I’ll be generous, you go first…” I said as he kicked his shoes off and pealed his pants and underwear off in one motion. “After this…” I shoved him back on the bed and dove in, having done it so many times, I didn’t have a struggle taking him in my mouth in one shot and he almost yelled! He clutched my hair on both sides of my head pulling me even closer, which wouldn’t seem possible. He drove his hips up to make me get more of him. I worked on him a little, but then he pushed me off and gave me the same that I had given him, he made love to me, I made love to him and we started over again. It was only after he was gripping the sheets for one last explosion, I felt him cum again for the last time on our stomachs…last time for a few hours, at least. I was sweating and breathing hard I lowered myself over my head coming down next to his as he wrapped his arms around me as he tried to regulate his breathing. “I think…I saw…stars.” Peter managed in pants. “That was…so good.” “It’s always…good between…us.” I grinned as I stretched out beside him. “I did, too.” I said kissing him gently. “I love you, Peter.” Peter pulled me again closer, but not as hard. “I love you, Eric.” He brought my head to his lips as he pressed them to my forehead. “Don’t…misunderstand what…I will…say.” He began smooth out his words as he got a handle on his breathing. “I didn’t just want sex.” I looked surprised. “I know that.” He chuckled. “It was sex,” he stated the obvious, “but…not just because I wanted sex.” “You wanted sex…with me.” I nodded smiling. “There’s nothing wrong with just wanting sex for sex alone.” I admitted. “It’s nicer when it’s with someone you love. Who would be more willing to agree to sex than someone that loves you and you love?” I grinned at him. “There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to have sex. It’s what humans do. We chose to do it with each other. Willingly! Gladly!! Sex is everything! What other activity brings two separate individuals and connects them with no others on the planet?” Peter smiled. “People do it all the time with people they don’t love or even know. I just want you to know, it’s never that way with you.” “I know that.” I smiled. “Sex is more than just a biological function to keep the species going. It became something much more…there would be no biological advantage with us, we can’t produce offspring this way, but it connects us. I like being connected to just you and no one else.” I grinned even more. “However, when I see you with your clothes off.” I whistled lightly. “You’re beautiful…and when you bend over…I get very stimulated when you do that. I love having sex with you.” My eyebrows danced when I said that. Peter’s naturally pale complexion hid nothing as he began to pink up. “I’m glad you like what you see.” He kissed me. “I like it when you do, too. I think of you as more than just my…means to have sex. There are times…even when we’re out, you do something or move a certain way and all I want to do is come over and touch you and go further, but we can’t because we’re in a place where others wouldn’t necessarily appreciate that.” I was puzzled by what he was telling me. “Why are you telling me this, Peter?” Peter smiled. “Well…before…I did have sex with two people and that’s just what it was…just sex. I liked them, but…I value you. I love you. I know the difference and I want you to know that.” “As you know I did, too. I said it before. You want to have sex…with me.” I said. “I love to have sex with you. A lot! There’s always love involved with us. The next time you do feel that way.” I shrugged. “Let me know and we’ll go find somewhere you can! I love it when we do…so long as I get the same consideration.” I kissed him gently. “I never feel I’m taken for granted. I hope you don’t either.” “Never.” He kissing back. “Anytime, anywhere.” Peter chuckled moving so we were wrapped in each other’s’ arms even more. Even a great afterglow will fade. Before we went to sleep I asked a question that occurred to me. “This upcoming proposal…” I began, “is going to make me…what?” Peter looked at me. “Well, you are the intended. You tell the people you will serve them, they tell you…” I nodded. “I got that part, babe, but the ring and…I’ll not become a member of the family until we marry. Why this ceremony?” Peter nodded. “Oh. Well, a century or so ago, my great great…whatever grandfather fell in love with a princess. Only her father refused to give them his blessing for a marriage. It wasn’t politically advantageous for the marriage to happen. After a few months badging him. He only would agree if all Makarovia supported the marriage and she could prove it was love…not for just my grandfather, but Makarovia. So, a year before they married, she started this ceremony where she basically married the country and showed for the next year what she could do.” “Oh.” I said. “Is there something specific I have to do?” Peter grinned. “You’re doing that already, but it became a tradition.” He shrugged. He looked in my worried eyes. “The ring is symbolic. You have authority of the throne to make changes. No one will doubt your authority.” He looked doubtful a moment. “Is that a problem?” I looked at him and gave a grudging nod. “Not a problem, but…it just seems more…real.” Peter looked a little surprised. “We are really getting married, right?” “No,” I rolled my eyes, “all this was to get in your pants.” I muttered sarcastically. He chuckled. “I don’t have on any pants to get into!” He raised the sheets. “Neither do you.” “We just made love a few times.” I grinned. “I’m not ready for another round yet.” Peter rolled over pulling the covers over us more. “Good. Neither am I.” He nuzzled down more next to me. “We better get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be another busy day.” I’ve said it before, so you know I hate shopping. Being sized and measured and all that was even more annoying for me. Jori was French, a little heavy for a man I was guessing was in his late forties. Bald. He had an eye for fashion! It was kind of amusing to hear Makarovian with a French accent. I saw fabrics and all styles of suits shown to me in pictures, which I politely looked at with the amused eye of Queen Alla as she watched us. Peter was getting sized as well for his suit, but seemed to accept it better than I did. “This just shows you how much I love you, Peter.” I said holding my irritation in check as Jori was measuring my shoulder width again and jotted the number on a pad he brought; irritation from the fact that the measurement didn’t change. It’s great to make sure it’s right, but again!? Peter grinned back. “This is payback.” “For what!?” I demanded. “Walmart, Abercrombie and Fitch…Hot Topic!” He said reminding me of the stores I took him to when we first met. “And this isn’t for me, but Makarovia.” I grunted. “I know.” I said not quite sad, but this wasn’t what I did. “I’m going to be on the web page for Makarovia, I better have a nice suit. I got that.” Queen Alla chuckled. “There is also the Proposal suit and the wedding suit.” She pointed out. “What’s wrong with this one I getting made?” I pointed at Jori and his writing again. Even Jori looked at me surprised. “The same suit for all three events!? No, Monsieur, I won’t have that.” He said emphatically. “You represent Makarovia, but you represent ME! Both of you, new suits!” “I’m just not…used to this.” I admitted and tried not to whine. Jori nodded. “My Franc is the same way. He never likes being measured or trying on suits.” He smiled. “It will help Makarovia and I get known for being the designer and tailor for the royal family. It’s all good! I have a reputation to keep!” “Of course, you do, Jori!” Queen Alla nodded at the tailor smiling. I had cleared the dinner plans with Olek and Queen Alla and we were assembled before eight, meeting in what a room I understood was just for that reason, to entertain guests before dinner. It was nice with a huge fireplace which we didn’t need now, carpeted and had some nice furnishings. Comfortable chairs and couch to sit on and have good long conversations. Like with most rooms here, it was not huge to keep what heat was made in the room contained. We were all dressed, but not formally. I smiled as a woman waved the three guests in the room with us. General David Burke, a woman that was pretty in his early forties with dark brown hair and brown eyes. Like David, she had a few pounds more than she needed, but not fat. Edmond Hammond was with them. Both the Generals had on dress uniforms. Mrs. Burke had on a nice dress, but was more caught up with the palace. “Oh, my.” The woman said looking round the grand room. “Hello, Gentlemen…” I said coming toward them with my hand extended, “and Lady.” General Burke nodded with a smile and pushed his wife gently toward me. “This is my wife…Helen.” He turned to his wife. “This is Prince Eric…” he smiled at me, “or will be soon.” The Generals had met Olek, but not Queen Alla. I introduced all of them to her. “This is just so…surprising!” Helen said. “From the outside…it just…” She hesitated to say what she thought. Olek chuckled. “It’s okay to say it. It looks like a fortress.” “A very tall fortress, but this…is surprising!” Helen waved her arms at all what she saw. “This is a palace. It’s beautiful!” She smiled at us. “When David told me we were having dinner with royalty!” Helen said in amazement. “Suddenly, I realized…I had nothing to wear!” She motioned to her nice, but simple blue dress. Queen Alla chuckled shaking her head. “Nonsense.” She said in accented English and took Helen by the arm. “You look great! This was unplanned and you just got here.” She waved at her pretty, but no frills coral colored dress. “This is nothing fancy.” I smiled at the way Queen Alla put Helen at ease. Olek came closer to the Generals. “And you two.” He said. “It’s not cold, so…” He motioned toward them, “off with the coats. We should all be comfortable.” David and Edmond smiled at each other and shrugged, then took their coats off. Then it was just friends that came for dinner. Olek and the Generals just talked as Olek offered them drinks! Olek was serving them! I got the feeling Edmond was not ready for that. Would the king of England serve them drinks? I was pleased that these two men and Helen began to feel much more comfortable seeing Olek and Queen Alla as people rather than their titles. For the next three hours we discussed everything. It was General Burke who brought up the subject of the greenhouse/terrace farms and it was General Burke that offered his personnel to assist constructing them. General Hammond agreed to have his people help as well. We did talk about other things including the program with the waste…as I said…Makarovia had limited means to handle it, but Olek assured both that both countries’ military presence was needed and Makarovia would take care of it…with their help to maintain how it was gathered for processing. They talked about other things the personnel could do while here. They talked about free access to all of Makarovia to the men and women there from the other countries. Then it became conversations about…everything, but what they were doing in Makarovia. David and Helen had two teenage boys here and an oldest daughter back in the United States in college. Edmond and his wife had a daughter who had three children! Soon the guys were talking about their lives and it was three friends now. Queen Alla at dinner looked up at them. “In two weeks, Peter is going to do a formal proposal to Eric before selected people from Makarovia. It will be a ceremony. You are certainly invited.” Edmond smiled and nodded. “That would be wonderful. Eloise will be here by then.” He said mentioning his wife. I looked up at David remembering his words where he expressed he didn’t like gays…which neither Peter or I told Olek or Queen Alla about…I wondered how he was respond. David looked up at me and Peter. “How would you two feel about our coming? About me coming?” He asked quietly. Olek looked puzzled at me and Peter and then to the General. “Did something happen?” David nodded. “Bad behavior on my part.” He admitted. Helen groaned. “Oh, David…what did you do?” He wife asked, but her look and tone told us she knew what it was. “I didn’t like it when they came to our office yesterday and they held hands...” David confessed and shrugged helplessly. “It was the old me coming out…it was what you said, Helen. I just have to get used to it.” Helen sat back with a sigh and disgusted look to her husband. I smiled at David’s discomfort. “Don’t be too hard on him, Mrs. Burke. He admitted it and I admitted I didn’t like what he did with you. He’s really trying.” David chuckled. “I think we got things are better between us…at least I hope so.” He said hopefully. “I’d love to be there, if you want us to be.” Peter smiled. “We’ll be kissing then.” He pointed out, taking my hand. “How do you feel about seeing that?” David ducked his head a little. “A kiss is not a bad thing.” “So, what is this proposal?” Helen asked. Queen Alla explained what it would mean…how basically I was engaged to all of Makarovia. “So, he’s proposing to you,” he pointed at Peter, “but you’re engaging all of Makarovia.” Peter nodded. “I am and he will be. That’s why there’s my kissing Eric.” He said jutting his head toward me. David was embarrassed now. “I think I’ll be just fine.” He waved helplessly. “I apologize to you in front of everyone. Those were stupid words from a stupid man. I admit it.” I smiled. “You’re not stupid at all, General.” “David.” He reminded me. “David.” I nodded as I corrected. “I’d love it if you came.” I said. “Oh, but I guess I won’t be engaging you, though. I’m marrying all of Makarovia. Can I still get a kiss?” I teased the general. Now David was smiling, but really embarrassed. “Okay, but no tongues!” He chuckled causing everyone to laugh. Yes, I liked him now. It was as we were about to part for the evening and they were going to back to Skoal when David walked up to me in front of Peter, Olek and Queen Alla. “Again.” David said smiling. “I apologize. I wish to be friends and I hope there are no hard feelings.” Then I saw a twinkle in his eyes. “Since you asked me for one.” He leaned in pressing his lips to mine. It was a chaste kiss, but not a bad kiss. Then he smiled at me. “We’ll see you soon?” I grinned patting him on the chest. “You will. We are friends, David.” David winked at me and took his laughing wife and General Hammond to the elevator. Turning I saw Olek grinning and Queen Alla holding her hand to her mouth hiding her laugh. Then I saw Peter’s eyes wider and just…staring. “He’s trying and he’s coming around, Peter. You’ve nothing to worry about. You do much better than he does.” I said happily kissing Peter.
  29. 42 points
    Chapter 5 - Tell me something that isn’t a lie “Why?” Why did you lie to me? Why did you let me think I was alone? Why why why why! I wanted to cry. No, I think I was crying. My eyes were leaking without me even realizing my emotions were catching up to all the fucked up events they were tangled with. “Why didn’t you tell me!” Was he like the blood wolves? Was he like Lathos? Those nightmares, all I could think about was a huge massive luperci towering over me, pinning me to the ground. Zora shook his head violently. He looked back at the red she wolf at his feet. She clutched her throat as she took large gulps of air through her damaged windpipe. Her yellow eyes stared up defiantly at my alpha as they silently assessed each other. “Do not move female, or I will hurt you.” Zora growled a deep threatening sound that made my fur stand straight up. “That would be unfortunate for you.” Zora’s threat sent a noticeable shiver down the female's body, still she wolf bared her fangs in defiance her yellow eyes darting over to me. “A-another stolen o-omega.” The she wolf rasped, looking back at Zora. “Just l-like the other b-bastard. Y-you’re all the same.” Zora growled. “My omega is my own. I do not know who you are, but you know nothing.” “Maybe I s-should ask the omega.” The she wolf barked irritably. “Enough!” Alpha retorted, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up as he became more irate. “You have caused enough damage today. It is in your favor that I need answers.” “I answer to n-no fucking alpha!” She spat, teeth flashing violently. “You better ki—” Alpha’s massive hand to the side of her face sent her to the forest floor with a audible thud as she hit, out cold. He had reacted with such speed I could barely digest the sight of the other luperci completely unconscious with just one hard back hand to the face. Fear formed in my gut like a hot rock as I thought about the power it must take to be able to do something like that. The female was almost equal to my size and she wasn’t pregnant that alone would make me a much easier target. What was I thinking? This was still my mate he wouldn’t hurt me— would he? I looked away from her and watched my alpha turn and face me. Black eyes were clouded and tense, but no different than the eyes I’d fallen in love with. But I couldn’t help but keep feeding off the fear growing inside of me. So many doubts clogged my mind I kept asking endless questions in my head: Had he kept this from me from the beginning? “Ira, look at me little one.” His deep voice, so much deeper than my own, pleaded with me. And he was pleading, not giving me a command. “Why?” I repeated. “I asked you why.” I wiped furiously away at the tears on my face. I wanted a damn good answer from him. I gripped my belly as I sat up against the tree I’d fallen into, groaning as I moved. Oh mother my back hurt. I couldn’t hold back the whimper when the burn blaze up my spine. Zora approached me his massive talon tipped fingers reaching out to help me. My teeth snapped on instinct, a combination of inky fear and anger bubbling up into a poisonous concoction. I didn’t want him to touch me, not right now, not in that form. Zora pulled his hand back quickly, his black eyes flat and unreadable as he watched me. “Answer me!” I rumbled. My whole life I’ve been alone, and then I find out about Vey only for him to be dead, and then the blood wolves only for them to torment me, and now my alpha only to be lied to. I’ve been an outsider my entire life, and the one wolf who could have changed that for me didn’t even tell me. I deserved an answer, and I’d fucking sit here at the base of this tree till I gave birth waiting for the answers. Zora growled and shifted to his second form, the massive size of his body melting away as quickly as his shift between his other forms. It was practiced and smooth, as if he’d been doing it his entire life. “I was protecting the pack...and you.” He looked over his shoulder as the red she wolf still lying unconscious on the forest floor. “I have kept this secret for many years. When I first saw you I was sure you had come because of me, but it was very obvious you were unaware of what you are.” “You’ve known I was luperci this entire time?” The anger was boiling over along with pain. He said he loved me. How could he keep this all from me? How could he keep me so in the dark about who I was if he loved me? “How do you know about the luperci?” Zora asked quickly his eyebrows drawing into a deep furrow. “Secrets are beaver faced bitch when they aren’t yours.” We stared at each other, both with anger and what I could only assume on his part was fear. I was afraid. Mother, I was terrified that I wouldn’t like the answers to my questions. Zora opened his mouth again to say something when the sounds of barks and yips shattered the silence. It was the sounds of the pack, coming after they’d heard a disturbance no doubt. Alpha looked back at me, his beautiful face tense. “Ira, you will not mention this to the pack, do you understand. I know it is unfair of me to ask this of you, and I swear I will explain, but for the safety of the pack I need this to be between only us.” My muzzle clenched and I felt the fresh stab of pain his words caused me. “Does Alloy know?” Does anyone know? Right now he felt like a complete stranger to me. I thought I knew him only an hour ago, but now I was completely unaware who my mate really was. He nodded. “Yes. He is the only one.” The sounds were getting closer as we spoke and Zora’s tension was rising. “What about her?” I nodded towards the female luperci still out for the count a few feet away. “I will handle the she wolf.” He kneeled down in front of me, keeping a solid three feet of distance between us. “There is much we need to talk about, even so, nothing has changed, I am still your alpha.” Zora’s black eyes scanned over me, his body vibrating as he held back. He wanted to touch me, to see if I was hurt, to reassure me, but I didn’t know if I wanted him to touch me at the moment. No I did, but I didn’t. I was so angry and scared, and confused I didn’t know what I should do. The sounds of the pack became deafening as they rounded the corner and became visible through the trees. Zora stood and waited as his beta’s, Sallo, Geb, Hert, Vod and Shy, were all led by Alloy into the pathway. They all stopped and stared in amazement at the female luperci stretched out on the forest floor. “Are you both alright?” Alloy asked looking between the two of us. Zora nodded. “Ira is sore, otherwise we are unharmed. The wolf attacked us before we made it to the pond. We will take it back to the dens and figure out why it attacked.” Alloy nodded. “Hopefully this will give us more answers about the blood wolves.” Zora looked at me as he spoke, his black eyes assessing. “Yes, we require answers.” I looked away from them, unable to meet their eyes. What was I going to do? What did all of this mean for me...for my pups? I clutched my belly as I watched the beta’s shift and restrain the luperci female who was still dead to the world. Even with everything going on with Zora there was still her, a female like me. Overwhelmed. I was so overwhelmed and I didn’t know where to even begin to pick myself up. Never in my whole life did I feel more alone than I did right that moment. “Ira.” I looked up to see his black eyes staring down at me hand outstretched. I looked at the offering and at the pack members and Alloy who were busy picking the she wolf off the ground. I wanted to take his hand, I really did, but I was so angry and...and… scared. His hand clouded in my vision as my eyes began to water, tears burning as they forced their way back down my cheeks. “You do not have to forgive me, but you can always trust me.” He put his hand closer. “Please, Ira. Do not be scared.” There were so many lies floating around us, his— and my own. I wanted….I wanted….I wanted my mate, no matter what. No matter what I had to trust him, love him. He loved me. Everything that had happened since I’d met him hadn’t been a lie. I just know it hadn’t. I looked at his offered hand waiting so patiently for me. “I don’t forgive you.” And I didn’t, but I still grasped his hand. ************** “Omega….omega…..pretty little omega.” I panted as the deep voice crooned from within the darkness. Everything was dark, I couldn’t see except for two feet in front of me. Where was the moonlight? Why was I alone. I clutched at my massive belly, my pups moving anxiously in my womb as I listened to the sounds of the forest all around me. “Telling lies….little one.” I shivered and spun around still unable to see where the voice was coming from. Where was my alpha? Where was my pack. A shiver raced up my spine my fur standing on end as I tried to see anything in the absolute darkness. “Why are you doing this? What have I done to you?” I hadn’t asked to be the way I was, why wouldn’t they leave me alone. “My omega…..Ira, you cannot escape who we are.” The smell of blood filled the air, clogging my senses as it became overbearingly strong. I didn’t understand. Nothing he said made any sense to me. Escape who I was? I didn’t want to escape anything I just wanted to live in my pack, with my alpha and pups. I wanted to be normal— A massive ash foot stepped out of the darkness and I watched as a luperci with ash fur and black eyes came out of the darkness. “You cannot run my omega.” Zora rumbled. ************* “NO!” I panted as I looked around the familiar space, no longer surrounded in darkness. The smell of blood was gone, replaced with the warm scent of my den. I was in my den, it had been a dream. It had been a horrible, bloody squirrel balls, it has been so horrible but it wasn’t real. “It’s not real...it’s not real—” But it was, part of it was real. Zora really was a luperci, he was like me but so much bigger and stronger and worse he’d kept it from me. I curled back up in my pelts. Have you ever just wanted to pretend the world didn’t exist and go back to sleep? I was really contemplating just going back to sleep and pretending all of this didn’t happen. That wasn’t what I needed to do though. I needed to get my hairy ass out of this den and demand answers from my mate. I was completely alone and my back was still sore, but not as sore as I’d expected it to be. How long has I been asleep? I rubbed my belly which growled hungrily, my pups demanding their daily twenty meals. I remembered what had happened after I’d taken Zora’s hand. He’d helped me up and had inspected me for injuries and then we’d walked back to the dens along with the beta’s who carried the female luperci. We didn’t speak a word about the attack on the walk back and I went straight to my den where I’d curled up on . I kept my promise for now to hide it from the others, but I wouldn't forever. I needed to understand everything first, and I’d start by looking for answers. I got up slowly and walked out of the den and into the morning sunlight. Was it early morning? Had I really slept for sixteen hours? “Ira?” Koda trotted up to my den with concerned green eyes. “Koda? What’s wrong?” “Nothing except your mutant ass was holed up in your den and the alpha told us to leave you alone. What the hell is going on? Where the hell did that wolf come from? It looks like you— is it one of the blood wolves?” He looked around at as if looking for prying pack members. I looked around at the dens and noticed others were looking curiously in the direction of the other end of the camp. What were they looking at? “I-I can’t tell you.” Wasn’t that a load of rotten cotton tails? For once I wanted to tell my asshole brother something and I couldn’t tell him anything. “What the hell do you mean you can’t tell me?” “I need to talk to Zora first.” And possibly hit him over the head with something really hard repeatedly. That gave me a large level of satisfaction just thinking about it. He’d deserve it after keeping something so big hidden from me. What was even the point? Did he not trust me? Or worse was everything a lie? He’d told me to trust him if I couldn’t forgive him. “Talk to the alpha? Ira something is going on I can fucking tell. Now, tell me what is going on. Why were you asleep for sixteen hours?” Koda fidgeted his ears laying back anxiously against his skull. “I can’t talk about it until I talk to Zora.” I needed to steer the conversation away. “What is the pack looking at?” Koda looked over his shoulder at the other wolves who were attempting to go about their business but staring off into one general direction. “That’s where they are holding the blood wolf. The pack is wary she’ll get loose.” Koda said as he looked back at me. The female. I looked at the other side of the dens, farther than I could see. They had taken her captive then? Maybe she was where I needed to start. She had known about the luperci, and regardless of what happened I don’t think she was attempting to hurt me when she’d pushed me. No, she’d been after my alpha and somehow she’d known what he was. “Where is alpha?” Koda shifted uncomfortably— something that was so unusual for him. “None of the pack has seen him for a few hours.” No wolf had seen him for...hours? My heart dropped in my chest and my stomach cramped painfully. My mate hadn’t been seen by anyone for hours. “What the hell do you mean no one has seen him for hours? What about Alloy?” My voice came out a deep rumble, assaulting my brother with questions. “Alloy said the alpha doesn’t want to be bothered. That’s why I came to talk to you, and ask you what the fuck is going on!” Koda barked irritably. “It’s none of your hog barfing business!” Mother fucking hairy moose balls he’d scared me. I’d thought maybe Zora had been taken by the blood wolves. “Why didn’t you just start by saying he’d left on his own?” Granted that didn’t make me feel a hundred percent better, but at least I knew he wasn’t taken. I was angry, confused, and even scared, but I didn’t want him hurt. I couldn’t take it if he was hurt. “None of my business?” Koda narrowed his green eyes. “Yeah. As in keep your nose out of my rear end! It’s between me and my alpha.” Koda growled. “No Ira it’s not! Whatever is going on between you and the alpha affects us all! You’re the alpha mate and he is the alpha everything you do affects the pack! Stop thinking about just yourself for once, not everything revolves around you and your desperate need for acceptance!” His words burned me almost as efficiently as a fire's flames would. Why would he say something so cruel? Had I only been thinking about me? “I-I’m not desperate for acceptance.” Now that was a lie, wasn’t it? I’d left my last pack to find acceptance, I’d endured Naga for it, I’d bruised every part of my body working for it and I was holding back life threatening secrets because I was afraid it would jeopardise it. So yeah, that was a lie. Koda signed, his defensive posture melting away. “Ira I understand why you look for the packs acceptance. I shouldn’t have said that, but I want to know what is going on.” “I’ll tell you, once I’ve talked to my mate,” and I would. I looked out in the general direction of where the female luperci was being held. I wanted to talk to her, she would have answers to so much information that I’d want to know about. “Ok I guess that’s fair mutant.” Koda agreed and looked in the same direction I was glancing off into. “She hasn’t said anything...useful to anyone. Do you want something to eat?” Well that was a major change in subject, but agreeably a very good one. My stomach growled expectantly at the very mention of food. My brain started envisioning my favorite meals I’d eaten over a lifetime. Mother I’d love some toasted squirrels smeared with berries. A pitiful whine followed my stomach's noises and I nodded. I was so hungry while I was pregnant, and honestly I needed to keep my strength up so I could beat the beaver shit out of Zora for lying to me. “Please tell me you have some squirrel?” “Yes Ira there is some squirrel.” **************** I ate a lot of squirrels, again. It would be a miracle if I hadn’t actually killed the population before I gave birth. I only felt slightly bad eating as many as I did, they did breed quickly so they’d probably replace themselves fast enough extinction wasn’t an issue...I don’t think. I lay sighed as I curled up on my pile of pelts in my den. Thinking about squirrel extinction was a lot easier than thinking about my alpha, or the blood wolves, or even the female luperci. I really didn’t want to think about any of it anymore. My brain felt like it might actually melt and slip out my ear if I did keep contemplating all the questions and fears I had. Zora hadn’t come back in the few hours I’d spent with Koda, and I’d only seen Alloy long enough for him to confirm the alpha was taking time to think. I’m sure he was thinking. I needed to talk to him and he had to know he’d said as much before we’d come back to the dens, and here he was avoiding me like the next plague. My hand settled over my swollen belly and I rubbed the taut flesh where my pups were growing. Growing into what I had no clue at this point. If Zora was like me, then they would most likely be born luperci, right? That was a sobering thought. Having pups endure the cruelty I’d endured would be worse than having to experience it myself. I didn’t want my pups to feel the loneliness and contempt I’d grown up with. Hell, my own birth pack (or should I say something else since I wasn’t truly born there?) didn’t want me to return and wasn’t that just another talon in an already sore wound. “Ira.” I yelped, Zora’s deep voice interrupting my thoughts. I sat up rather quickly and watched as he walked into our den in his four legged from. Swallowing I watched him wearily. There was so much I wanted to say, but I didn’t know where to start. What questions did I ask first? “Y-you lied to me.” Wasn’t that obvious enough? Why in Mother green nature did I always state the obvious? Alpha nodded, black eyes watching me intently as he approached the bed where I sat. “I did and for some selfish reasons, but also to protect you.” “To protect me? Is everything I know about you a lie?” That was probably my biggest fear. He shook his head. “No. I have not intentionally lied about anything else.” “I don’t understand. How does the pack not know?” He sighed. “I do not change into that form in front of them, and I unlike you was not born in my middle form. As and alpha I did not take that form for a few years later.” “Not born in it? So you were born to your parents?” That was a valid question with both me and Vey being foundlings. He shook his head. “No I was also a foundling. My dama was unable to have pups of her own. I was found by pack members returning from a long journey away from the pack lands. I was only a few days old when they found me and brought me back with them. My dama had said she took me in the moment she saw me, even blind as I was.” Blind? A foundling? “I don’t understand? Blind? You aren’t blind now, I know you’re not.” Right? If he was then props to him for having a great and very accurate imagination. Zora snorted. “No Ira I am not blind, my vision has never been…” He trailed off, seeming reluctant to continue. “My strength, but I can see clear enough that it does not hinder me. My sight improved as I got older before I made my first change.” “You’re a foundling, but no one in the pack knows about it?” That can’t be possible, we had elder wolves. Granted not many of the old farts were still around but there was two or three that would remember something like that. “Yes, and they remember, but they do not think much of it anymore. No wolf but Alloy knows about my middle form. I have kept it from the pack.” Zora stood in front of me leaving only a few feet between us as he spoke. I needed the space between us, even though inside I wanted to touch him. I craved it, but I wrapped my arms around my belly instead. “Why did you keep it from the pack?” I figured this was another obvious question. If I’d had the option to hide it wouldn’t I have? It had been hard to live with the looks and contempt I’d lived with my entire life. “It was to protect myself at first. I was young when I changed the first time. Later when I was much older I left the pack lands looking for answers.” “Did you find anything?” He must have. “Not much, only mention of wolves with another form and that they called themselves luperci. When I returned to the pack lands I still did not know much, but I heard Dey speak about a foundling sibling who was very similar to me. That is how I knew for sure there was more out there.” “Then why hide it from the pack? Why hide it from me?” The last part came out with a growl as I thought about how’d he’d kept this from me from the moment I’d met him. “I did not find a good enough reason to tell the pack. With you, I was sure you didn’t know what you were, but I was not completely certain. Instinctually I knew you were an omega. I wanted to mark you the first time you slept in my den.” A resounding rumble vibrated out of his chest as he remembered that night. “I wanted you, but was unsure of your intentions. It was clear after many weeks you were looking for acceptance and I wanted to give that to you the only way I knew how without outright exposing my other form.” He’d wanted me from the beginning? My body heated as I remembered that night I’d slept in his den thinking about how good he smelled and how warm his body was. Now I wanted, no I needed to see him as he saw me. “Shift alpha. I want to see.” My stomach fluttered anxiously but I kept my intimidation to myself. Zora rumbled deep in his chest, his black eyes burning me as he stared straight at me. His shift was controlled and liquid, like it meant no more effort than breathing. From four legs he shifted to be much longer, taller. His talons grew out of massive hands and feet, his canines enlarged to twice the size of his wolf form. When he finished he was closer, his massive body taking up more room than his other shape had. In this setting I could appreciate what I saw. He wasn’t ugly. In this form he had every perfect piece of each of his forms in one. Unconsciously I whimpered my body heating as he watched me with his assessing black gaze. I wanted to touch him so badly, my mind was clouding and I couldn’t focus on any of the questions that were so important anymore. I wanted him to mark me, tie with me. Another desperate sound escaped me as my body began to vibrate. Zora’s nostrils flared, sucking up the scent of my pheromones. “Ira…” It came out a deep dangerous growl that set my body on fire. I couldn’t focus past the raging pressure inside of me, begging me to let him in. Panting I lay back in a submissive pose, baring my swollen stomach to him, parting my legs. Nothing filtered through except excitement, and anticipation. Alpha rumbled again, the sound thrumming through my body as his massive hands splayed over my belly, possessive and gentle at the same time. “My omega.” He growled. “Your omega.” I panted.
  30. 42 points
    We met with Dean Sutton. He was interested, but my telling him about the endowment carried some weight. Money talks. “This isn’t a rushed project.” I said to the man, so he’d understand. Dean Sutton was in his forties, a little heavy set with brown hair that was showing grey at the temples. “This is an important task we need done.” Dean Sutton sat back nodding. “We can begin the page.” He said. “We will need access to records and information about Makarovia.” He smiled. “I consider myself an educated man, but until this…unique incident occurred. I never even heard of this country.” “Most people haven’t.” Peter said sadly, but smiled. I leaned forward a bit and loudly whispered, knowing Peter could hear me. “Not even a year ago, neither had I.” I looked as Peter rolled his eyes and looked away, but smiled. “But, we need some updated information put on the page. Parts of that information will be photographs we have and others to be made. I’m sure you will know of a good budding photographer who’d like a free all-expense paid trip to Makarovia to take those pictures.” Dean Sutton nodded. “I can think of a few.” “This will be during the summer break, so we will need someone soon.” I said. “In the meantime, I can forward some pictures of King Olek, Queen Alla and Peter. Can we count on you and this school?” Dean Sutton nodded. “I will say yes.” He stood and offered his hand smiling. “Great!” I smiled and shook his hand. “I’ll send the pictures soon.” Going back home, Peter was more satisfied that he had been for a few days. “This was a good day?” I said quietly to Peter. He turned to me and smiled with a nod. “It was not bad.” He admitted. “Our conversation last night helped.” “Good.” There were still attempts by those photographers to get that picture. At the time of day, we were returning home, traffic was heavy. There were times we just had to stop and wait. The sought-after picture was worth more than safety to the paparazzi. As we waited at one point, the sound of the motorcycle was heard. Looking, this motorcycle could weave through the many waiting cars. Stopping by our window, which was dark tinted but you could see in because any darker was illegal in case you’re stopped by the police and they insisted they be able to see in. The motorcycle rider pounded on the window. “A picture of the happy couple?” The man shouted and pulled the camera and shot the picture if we said yes or no. Yuri got out from the passenger side of the front, but the photographer sped away. I shook my head. “We should have given him something to photograph.” I smiled pulling him into a kiss. Peter chuckled. “He missed the opportunity.” What other chaos was happening now…Peter and I did have school! Exams were coming up and we needed to study. We gave Penelope Baldwin our choice and she was contacting Anderson Cooper to set things up. It was as we were studying in our room it was time for the news..the sound was on very low, but on the screen was a picture of Olek. I reached over quickly, I turned the volume up. “…in Makarovia. A seldom heard from country and monarchy in East Europe. The reason for the increased military presence has met with no real feedback or explanation from officials. Makarovia is also now known for having the first same sex wedding of a royal family member. Homosexual marriage was never against the law in Makarovia and accepted. Known for being a place of refugee during the decades of war during World War II, they harbored a number of people; Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals as well as other groups Hitler’s forces were putting in Concentration Camps and executing.” The image of Peter filled the screen, but it was one before like when I first met him and needed the haircut, but none of his acne was seen. “Prince Petro Ivanov, the brother to King Olek Ivanov, who is attending a University in the United States, is confirmed to be marrying Eric Richards from Charleston, South Carolina…” the screen now showed a recent picture of me, then a picture of Peter and me together at Northeastern University as we headed to class with our hands clasped as usual, “other than this first of its kind of wedding in history; there has been no explanation as to the sudden increase of military in Makarovia…” I turned the TV back down. “Olek is going to be telling everyone soon as to why the military is there now.” I said to Peter who had looked up to watch and listened. Peter nodded. “Then there will be even more attention to Makarovia.” I nodded and got up from the desk I was using to study on. Going over I sat in a chair next to him at his desk. “You take a good picture, baby.” Peter nodded. “That picture was taken before I got treated. It was only because they touched it up, that my skin looks clear.” I nodded. “And now, with the photographer taking pictures for the wed page, they will all see how handsome you are.” “And how handsome you are.” Peter nodded kissing me. “I love you.” I said to give him the not the revelation of a new feeling now, just as a reminder. Peter chuckled. “I know. I love you.” He said kissing me grinning. “I know.” I smiled and got up. “Now, back to my study of Western Civilization.” “Soon, they will be reading about you in history class.” Peter smiled. “Makarovia will be making history and not just because of us.” “Then we need to make some good things happen.” I said touching his face and kissed him. “Study.” He saluted me and returned to his books. We were still bombarded with the press and paparazzi. Penelope had reached Anderson Cooper and scheduled our interview for Sunday night during primetime. The other news programs now were reporting their views on our approaching marriage. We were told by Penelope to watch this particular show in the morning as we were the subject for part of the show. Peter and I watched from our room as there was the group of women sitting around a large table discussing world events and other topics. “…but this has never been done!” The black woman in her fifties, known for being outspoken, outrageous and controversial said. “There has never been a marriage like this!” The other blonde woman in her late thirties or early forties nodded. “It had to happen eventually.” She shrugged. “Homosexual marriage is now legal in most of Europe now.” Then the screen showed Peter and me on campus again. “This is such a major event.” The other woman in her late fifties or early sixties, a comedian known in New York said. “There were marriages in the past, of men marrying men or women marrying women…for alliances between countries, but this is two human beings that want to spend their lives together! They love each other!” “It shouldn’t matter what gender they are.” The woman that spoke first stated. “Who cares?” She waved at whomever off screen and the image on the TV changed to Peter. The one taken before we met. “In this picture…he’s not a bad looking guy.” Then the scene changed to…and I was surprised. It was a picture taken at the White House the night we dined with the President. It was a good picture! Peter was decked out in that great tuxedo and I was right next to him in mine. “Of course they’d be hot for each other. Look at them!” The other female comedian was fanning herself with the papers she was reading from as if overcome with burning a burning urge. “I wouldn’t push either one out of my bed. They’re gorgeous! As my mother would say, they could put their boots beside my bed anytime!” “What does that mean?” Peter asked. Having heard her before, I told him that was her way of saying she’d willingly have sex with us…taking your boots off beforehand? Peter was turning a little pink in his face as he understood. “Yes, you are gorgeous.” I said softly to Peter, causing him to redden more. “We have got to go to Makarovia!” The blonde woman stated as the screen changed again to include King Olek and Queen Alla. “They are all attractive people!” “The point is…” the first woman said, “there has never been a royal marriage like this. A prince marrying…not only a commoner, but from America! If this had been from Great Britain, the Queen would never have approved. Look what happened with Prince Charles!” “Don’t forget about Prince Andrew who dared to marry a commoner.” The blonde said. “But something big is happening in Makarovia. To have dinner with the President and Ambassador from England and others…and it’s more than just about these two.” “We were told that King Olek will be telling the world about what’s happening on Friday next week.” The second woman said. “Whatever is going on, it has to be huge!” The blonde shrugged. “Well, at least no one will be saying, Makarovia? Where the hell is that, anymore.” Peter frowned. “Olek never told us that.” I used what Olek kept saying and I think I got his voice down a did a fair job sounding like him. “He’s busy!” Making Peter chuckle. Then there were the late night talk show hosts that kidded a lot. The dark haired man from the Tonight Show smiled. “…and the Queen is the King’s stepmother, not his mother…but I have a question. If Prince Petro marries Eric…how many queens will there be? When Queen Alla steps down as Queen, which one of them will be the new Queen? They might both be queens, but will one of the really become Queen?” He asked as the audience laughed. Peter frowned hearing that. “I don’t understand. My mother will be Queen a long time.” “Queens are what we are often called.” I explained. “Drag Queens?” I said in English. Peter shook his head. “But neither of us are Drag Queens.” “It’s a joke, baby.” I explained in Makarovian the meaning. “But neither of us will ever be in your mother’s tiara.” Peter shrugged. “Okay, as long as it’s done in jest.” “The world is seeing Makarovia at last.” I said smiling. “The fact that they joke about it is a good sign.” Then I got more serious. “I want to ask you something…if you say I can’t or shouldn’t…” Peter looked puzzled. “What?” He was a little concerned. “When we marry…” I said. “Do I take your name?” Peter’s eyes widened unprepared. “I never…no one’s…you won’t have to.” He almost stuttered. I closed the distance and kissed him gently. “I’d be honored to, Peter. I want to be as much a part of you and your life as possible.” I smiled. “Having your last name just makes that more so.” I shrugged and grinned. “I can hear it now; Presenting King Olek Ivanov, Queen Alla Ivanov, Prince Petro Ivanov and Prince Eric Richards!?” I shook my head. “That just doesn’t work.” I chuckled. “I want to be a part of your family, but mostly, a part of you.” Peter smiled even more as he nodded. “That’s what you are, but sure…you’ll be an Ivanov.” He began kissing me more intently as he came over me as his arms wrapped around me. “I want you so badly right now.” I smiled. “I’m right here.” As he was increasing his kiss, we heard the familiar ding from his computer and Peter let out a groan. “It’s probably Olek again.” I chuckled. “We can pick up where we left off.” Peter nodded and adjusted his pants. “Yep.” Activating the computer to see who was calling, Peter’s eyes widened, but hit the key and his mother appeared. “Hi, Sweetie!” Queen Alla greeted. “Hi, Eric…” then she smiled. “You’re both my sweeties, but…” “I got it.” I nodded as I settled next to Peter. “He was your sweetie first. I’m not jealous.” She laughed at that. “I’m calling because I will be there tomorrow.” “Here!? Why?” Peter asked with wider eyes. “Peter!” I jabbed him lightly. “She’s your mother!” Peter shook his head. “I’m not objecting at all, but…aren’t you busy?” Queen Alla nodded. “I am, but Olek told me about the interview coming up and…well…they need to see that I…and Olek…don’t have any objections. We back this marriage one hundred percent.” Peter nodded. “Okay, it will be great to see you. What time are you arriving?” “About two in the afternoon.” She said. “Then you two and I are going shopping.” “Shopping? Why?” Peter asked. “You’re going to be telling everyone you’re marrying and you need to present a positive image they will like.” She sighed. “This one interview is important. We’ll get some good clothes for both of you to wear and present the best image of Makarovia.” “Oh.” Peter said. “Sure. Okay.” He nodded. “I’ll be leaving in the morning from London.” She kissed her finger and touched the screen. “See you both soon. I love you.” She smiled. “Both of you.” The screen went blank again. “Shopping.” Peter said with little joy in his voice. “We could take her to Walmart.” I grinned. “My mother? In Walmart!?” He shook his head. “I’m fine with it, but…” then he grinned and leaned in to me. “Now, where were we?” He kissed me in a passionate kiss. One I gladly returned. We told Boris, Yuri, Penelope and the other of the Queen’s arrival. Let’s just say…Boris was quickly planning a menu and ordering things done to straighten an already straighten house. He was making sure the Queen had fresh linens and all the things a woman needs in the room she was staying in. Peter and I shared the master bedroom, but it would be too much trouble to move out for three or four days. Peter grinned, saying the house was three stories. There were other bedrooms with a bathroom here. At the private airport, we met Queen Alla’s plane. Dressed in a nice outfit, with pants! Coordinated shades of white with a white thermal coat over it she greeted us with the hug and kiss to each of us. Before we even headed back to the house, she ordered us to go downtown. I was pretty much like Peter. I didn’t do this sort of thing. I knew what I needed, I knew where I’d seen it and went and got it. Or used the internet to find it and go get. Done. No shopping. Peter and I endured what needed to happen and got nice clothes by whomever for the interview. When we got back to the house, Boris asked what time dinner should be and then left us alone. Queen Alla smiled as she was about to go up to her room. “I hope you realize why we did that.” She said to me. I nodded. “Sure, I do.” She looked at her son. “We’re letting people in our lives. We need to have the best picture of us. It’s important.” She stressed. When she said that, I saw Peter become tense; literally stiffen and begin to do it what he did again; retreat. Had he always done this before and she didn’t see it anymore? When his mother went to change, I took Peter’s hand. “What just happened?” I asked Peter. “Nothing.” Peter replied. “Bullshit.” I said in English in a loud whisper, making him look at me with raised eyebrows. I rarely cussed and never directed at him. This wasn’t at him, but because of his dismissal. Taking his hand I led him upstairs, dragging him up to our room and closed our bedroom door. “Talk to me.” I almost demanded turning to him. He turned away, but I grabbed his arm and I didn’t let him go. “You…doing that thing…” I said. “I can physically see it!” He looked helpless a second. “It’s not her fault, but…there’s so much riding on this. I was like this before the White House. Remember?” I shook my head. “I can’t help that you doubt yourself.” I said softly. “I was there before the White House. Trust that I will be there tomorrow night.” I said quietly coming to him. “I have no doubts about you, your mother doesn’t and neither does Olek.” He had said he was disfigured once. It was something he believed as he was growing into a man and so ingrained, he still believed it. “I will be with you. If you will…just trust me.” Peter nodded. “I do.” “You’ve tensed up so much…you need to relax.” I said. “I’m will do whatever you need, baby. Please.” Then I nodded at my idea and pulled him to the bed and began to undo his belt and opened his pants. Pulling them down I got him to sit down. “I know you want to do, but…” “Will it help you relax?” I asked. “We can strip and make love, if you need to.” I looked at him. “Sex isn’t necessarily the answer, but you tensed up. Will it help?” He shrugged. “I don’t know.” Unbuttoning his shirt I began working on his chest and nipples. I watched as he wasn’t reacting at first, but the more I did…I smiled as he was becoming erect and moaned as he pulled my head closer to him. I always did a pretty good job orally with him and I went slower until he was moaning more directing what he wanted by pulling my head back and forth. When he finally burst, cumming in three good shots; I swallowed what he gave me readily, licking him clean. Then I went up his now relaxed body as he sighed and smiled. “Are you better?” I smiled at him. “Oh, yea.” He nodded kissing me. “I love you.” “I love you.” I said returning his kiss. “I’ll do it again several times between now and when we have the interview…right before the interview.” I said. “I’m with you, Peter. I’m your life partner.” I grinned leering. “I’ll take any excuse to suck that beautiful dick of yours.” “We do every day! Several times!” Peter said smiling more. “You don’t need an excuse. We just do it!” “This was stress therapy!” I said. “I think it worked.” Peter laughed hugging me tightly. “Thank you.” We had dinner and a nice visit with his mother. The next morning we got ready. With his coloring, the dark blue chosen was a nice contrast and I naturally thought he was sexy. Mine was lighter in color. It was midafternoon when the TV van arrived and men came in with equipment and things they needed for the interview. The broadcast was going to be live at eight that evening. It was six when the car arrived and the reporter I’d only seen on TV got out and came in. His white hair was sort of shocking, he wasn’t that old. He was a handsome man. He was well dressed, of course. He was a reporter for a major network. CNN. People trusted him to bring them the truth. Peter was beginning to do it again, but I knew what to do…in a few minutes. I greeted Anderson Cooper at the door and let him in. “Hello, Mr. Richards.” Anderson greeted, knowing who I was without telling him made me smile. He turned and looked at Peter. “Prince Petro. Thank you for choosing me for this opportunity.” He looked at Peter. “Should I bow or something?” Peter shook his head and smiled. “Not to me, Mr. Cooper.” He turned using his accented English. “I prefer Peter to Prince Petro.” Peter turned to his mother as she walked over in the coral suit all one color with pants, her blond hair cascading below her shoulders; elegant, but casual. Again, she was stunning. “Perhaps to my mother, Queen Alla.” Anderson’s eyes widened, but he smiled. “I wasn’t expecting this.” He bowed to her. “It’s an honor to meet you, Your Majesty.” Queen Alla stepped forward and offered her hand to Anderson. “My sons didn’t know I would be here.” She explained shaking his hand. “But I wanted people to know that this marriage has my full support and King Olek’s support.” Anderson nodded and you could see he was delightfully surprised at her words. “That’s marvelous.” He looked at his watch. “We need to set up. There will be a light makeup applied to each of you to prevent shine from the lights of the camera.” I nodded. “We’ll do what we need to.” I said taking Peter’s hand. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.” I said and took Peter upstairs. Not rushing, I pushed him down gently and I did what I’d done the day before again. More relaxed Peter was fixing his clothes. “I know you know this. I love you, but I need you.” I nodded. “And I’ll be here whenever you need me.” I assured. He smiled. “Is there anything I can do for you?” I nodded kissing him. “Oh, definitely.” I said as my hands traveled over his butt. “Later. I get this.” I said and squeezed lightly. “You do every night!” Peter chuckled. “I make love to you and you then make love to me.” I nodded. “And I enjoy both.” I raised his arm and brought my nose to his shirt covered armpit. The smell of his cologne and deodorant filled my nose. “It will be better when you shower before bed. I love your scent.” Peter laughed. “After this is done…smell me all over and do what you will to my ass for as long as you like.” He said more relaxed kissing me. “I intend to.” I said taking his hand and going downstairs. Anderson was talking with someone on his crew, but turned as we came in. “I really didn’t get anything from Ms. Baldwin about things I shouldn’t ask.” I nodded. “I’ve seen you doing what you do, Mr. Cooper. That’s why I chose you. People will listen to you.” I looked at him. “You are openly gay, so I knew you’d understand us more, but what I hope is…” I thought of the best way to approach the subject, “do you want to be known as the gay reporter for CNN or a top reporter at CNN who happens to be gay?” He looked a moment and thought, but he smiled. “I get it. So, you’re just a couple that’s marrying. Understood.” “We are doing what hasn’t been done. We know that.” I said. “You can ask about that, but we’re just a couple of people that are getting married.” Anderson nodded. “Now, help me out. Is it Mak a rovia?” I chuckled. “It’s Mak’rovia. The second A isn’t really pronounced much.” I looked at him. “We’re trusting you.” Anderson nodded. “I’ll do a good job. I promise. You know what’s happening in Makarovia, don’t you?” I nodded. “I do, but we aren’t going to tell people what that is. King Olek is doing that at the end of the week.” “I’ll simply bring it up so you can say that, okay?” Anderson pointed to the living room where the lights were shining or the sofa before the fireplace. He looked at his watch as a man nodded to Anderson. “We’re on in fifteen minutes, so if you’ll sit and let Russ get that powder on, we’ll get ready.” The camera was on a rolling…whatever they call it to keep it steady. Sitting we watched as the clock behind the men and camera counted down. We were lightly covered in this white powder and Russ stepped away. “We’re on in five, four, three, two…now.” A man said. We all watched as the red light on the camera came on.
  31. 42 points
    Dear Patrick, I hope you’re doing ok. I’m writing this letter hoping that you will read it all the way and think about my words. This is the only way I thought I’d be able to reach you, as I wasn’t sure you’d want to talk to me in person. As you may have guessed by now, this is Cody Henderson. I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am for how I treated you in high school, and for making things so bad that you had to leave. I want you to know that did not affect only you… I know I’d been an asshole, there’s no excuse. I’m truly sorry for being such an awful person to you, and I hope that someday you’ll be able to forgive me and talk to me again. Maybe one day we could even be friends, but I’ll understand if you don’t want that. You probably don’t care, but I’d like to let you know that I’m a completely different person now. I stopped hanging around with the wrong people and I learned from my mistakes. I spent a lot of time thinking about everything, about you… As you probably know, we’re going to the same college, so I hope to see you around the campus. If you don’t want that, I won’t bother you. Well, if you’ve made it all the way, I’d like to thank you for reading this and say that I hope I’ll get a chance to apologize to you in person. It would mean a lot to me. Below is my phone number, if you ever want to call or text. Once again, I hope you’re doing well, and I wish you all the best. “What the…” Trick thought, stunned after reading something he never expected to receive. Inside his head, he felt an internal struggle like never before. As soon as he saw Cody’s name, he wanted to tear the paper up and throw it, but he couldn’t resist reading it all the way. Every sentence kept him wanting to continue. He had to admit to himself that it felt good to read the letter – it sounded like a sincere apology. If only he got this three or four years ago, it would’ve made all the difference, but now… It was too late. How could he be sure if it was really sincere or not? These are just words on a piece of paper. If he saw Cody telling him these words to his face, then he’d be able to judge if he was honest or not. Deep down, he really wanted to see Cody. He needed to talk to him and let him explain. He needed to hear the apology if he was to move on with his life. On the other hand, he couldn’t bring himself to look at him. He was just too hurt and angry for so long, and he couldn’t let go of those feelings. He knew they were horrible feelings to have, but he couldn’t get rid of them. He couldn’t forgive Cody for bullying him, let alone for unknowingly breaking his heart. Ever. Wondering whether he’s doing the right thing or not, he casually folded the letter, put it back in the envelope and threw it in the trash can. “So, who’s it from?” Brad asked, looking away from the basketball game he was watching and turning to Trick. He saw him throw the letter away, but pretended he didn’t notice it. “Oh… Uh, just my annoying cousin. Nothing important,” Trick replied, hoping that he sounded convincing enough, but knowing that he probably didn’t. At this point, he didn’t care. He didn’t want to discuss this with Brad, or anyone else for that matter, at least not yet. He had to go outside and clear his head. ”I’m gonna go out for a walk… I’ll probably stop by the supermarket, you need anything?” he asked casually, wanting to change the subject and leave as quickly as possible. As he was desperately trying to untangle his earphones so he’d have some music to listen to during his walk, he got progressively angrier. Finally, he just shoved them in his pocket and decided to deal with them once he got out. “No, I’m fine,” Brad said, trying hard not to laugh. “Ok, see ya later,” Trick replied and headed out. Brad waited for a few seconds and then got up and went over to the trash can, looking at the envelope. He saw that Trick was genuinely upset when he read it, so he knew it wasn’t just some annoying relative, it had to be something more serious. He wanted to help his friend, but Trick obviously wasn’t ready to talk about it, whatever it was… Also, if he read the letter, it would be a huge invasion of privacy. Ugh, why isn’t there at least the sender’s address written on this thing… -- The smell of freshly cut grass was all around Cody as he was mowing the grass in one of the city parks. He loved spending time there, surrounded by nature, breathing in fresh air and doing physical work. It was better than the gym. A few months ago, when he started college, he took a part-time job as a groundskeeper in the Prescott Park, the largest park in the city. His job involved trimming hedges, mowing the grass, planting new plants and maintaining the park in general, and he loved all of it. He was studying landscaping, so this was a perfect fit for him. Now that he thought about it, he regretted not looking for a job like this while he was in high school. As a part-time job, it didn’t take up much of his time, and he enjoyed doing it. This day, however, he couldn’t really enjoy himself as his mind kept reminding him about Trick and their recent encounter on campus. It’s been five days since he wrote him that letter, and still nothing. On the first day, he kept checking his phone every fifteen minutes to see if he’d get a reply, but nothing. Not even a text to tell him to leave him alone. The silence was even worse. Did he even read the letter? Cody knew he got it since he went there to drop it off in person, but did he actually open it and read it? Who knows… That was his plan B, but if it didn’t work, what next? He didn’t have a plan C. He couldn’t just keep harassing the guy and forcing him to talk to him. Eventually, he’s going to have to stop trying and just accept that they will remain distant as always. As he finished his shift for the day, he said goodbye to the other workers and headed home. He didn’t live in the dorms since his family had a house in the city. He wasn’t crazy about living with his parents and sister now that he started college, but at least he had fewer expenses this way. Even though his sister Angela was two years younger than him, they got along great, especially now that his problematic high school days were over. She gave him a lot of grief back in the day when he was impossible to deal with. She didn’t take any crap from him, and since she was the younger child (and a girl), their parents usually sided with her. Also, she had the tendency to always be right. That used to annoy him a lot, but now he just accepted it and chuckled whenever she’d tell him ‘told you so’. When he got home from the park, looking as if a rainy cloud had been hovering above him all day, Angela had a pretty good guess about what was going on. “Still no word from him, huh?” she asked, worried for her big brother. “No…” Cody said as he was getting out of his dirty work uniform. “He’ll come around, you know. You just gotta be patient.” “Yeah, I guess so,” he said, not sounding convinced at all. “He just needs some time to realize that you’ve changed.” “He doesn’t even wanna talk to me, so I don’t know how that’s ever gonna happen.” He sounded annoyed, but he knew he deserved it. “You want me to talk to him?” Angela offered, knowing the answer is going to be negative. Still, she felt it was worth a shot. She just hated seeing her brother down like that. “No, definitely not. I’m not gonna send people to intervene for me. If he doesn’t wanna talk to me, that’s it, I don’t want to bother him.” “OK, just… try and get your mind off of him for a while. Come on, take a shower and then come and help me pick out an outfit for tonight.” She was already halfway up the stairs, heading to her room. “Ugh, as if you need my help…” “You’re my gay brother, if you’re not gonna help me pick out what to wear, what good are you then?” She winked at him and he couldn’t help but smile. She knew he didn’t have a clue about fashion (especially women’s), but she loved teasing him. “Speaking of going out, you going to that college party tonight?” “Yeah, I guess so…” Cody replied. For a moment, he totally forgot that was tonight. He had already made plans with some friends to go together, and he was looking forward to it. It would be his first college party, and he could definitely use a good, fun evening with friends to get his mind off of… other stuff. Have a few drinks, maybe meet some new people and get that first taste of partying college-style. Yep, it sounded like a good plan for that night. -- “Come on, man, you’re not gonna spend the evening here alone, playing video games,” Brad said, annoyed at Trick’s lazy ass that didn’t want to move from the couch. “Why not,” Trick replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Ugh, don’t make me beg. Maybe the party will be fun, come on.” “Have you met me? You know I don’t like going to parties,” Trick said, rolling his eyes. He didn’t want to go, it felt like a total waste of time. He could be in his room, listening to music at a normal volume level, working on his app or playing Diablo 2. He loved his old-school games. Also, the place is going to be packed with people he doesn’t know. He already knew how the evening was going to go: they’ll arrive and get a table, order beers and sit there for half an hour. He’s going to pretend to be having a good time for a while, and then he’ll start checking his phone every five minutes to see if enough time has passed so he can go back to the dorms. “I know, but this is our first college party. Zoe and I will be there with you, and you know the three of us always have fun,” Brad said, his patience wearing thin. “Ok, look, can we just go, find a table, get a few drinks, and if you’re not having fun, you’re free to go. You don’t have to stay all night. Sounds good?” “Ok, ok, if that’ll shut you up,” Trick couldn’t help but smile at him. He realized that Brad wanted them to go together because they were best friends, and he didn’t want to let him down. If that meant spending a few hours in a crowded place full of strangers, so be it, Brad would do the same and much more for him. Saving his game and logging out, Trick got up to get changed, picking out a sexy white T-shirt, which was a great contrast to his black curly hair. He completed the look with dark skinny jeans and black shoes, looking hot in this simple, but sexy outfit. Brad also made sure he looked hot, with his fresh haircut, trimmed facial hair and a shirt that allowed him to show off his body. Zoe told him her roommate would be there, and he wanted to impress her. Zoe came to pick them up around nine, and they headed out to the club where the party was taking place. So far, everything was going on just as he thought it would. They arrived rather early so they managed to find a table, ordered beers and just sat there, chilling. So far, so good. Music was a bit too loud for Trick’s taste, but he could manage it. Zoe’s roommate Catherine joined them after a while, and Brad immediately moved to sit next to her. Trick managed to ignore other people and found that he was actually having a good time, just sitting there and talking to his friends. He didn’t mind Catherine either. She seemed pretty nice and Brad seemed to like her. Zoe was talking too much, even more than usual. Two beers were enough to make her relax. She was funny when she was buzzed, and Trick was amused seeing her like that. He was slowly sipping on his one beer and wasn’t planning on drinking more. He didn’t like getting drunk and potentially embarrassing himself, he preferred being in control. Overall, the evening was surprisingly fun and he was glad that he allowed Brad to talk him into coming with him. That is, until he turned and saw a group of guys sitting several tables away, talking and laughing loudly. One of the guys was Cody. Trick immediately thought that he was right, he shouldn’t have come here. Of course Cody was going to be here, why wouldn’t he? It’s a college party, and he’s a college student! If he had any brains he would’ve realized that and wouldn’t have come. As he was sitting there, thinking about whether to leave or stay a little more, Cody turned and their eyes met for a second. He looked so handsome with his caramel-colored hair and in his tight blue T-shirt. He made a shy smile (which made him even cuter!) and waved at Trick, who just nodded in response, acknowledging him. It didn’t take long for Zoe to see what was going on. “Is that Cody over there?” she asked, curious and surprised. “Yeah,” Trick said, turning to Zoe. When he turned back, Cody was already up and walking toward them. “Ok, let’s get this over with,” Trick said to himself.
  32. 42 points
    “Nope,” click, next channel. UGH! “Nope,” click, next channel. Geez! “Nope,” click, next channel. Hell no! My phone rang, it was Adam again, I rejected the call. “Nope,” click , next channel. UGH! More drama. “Nope,” click, next channel. What the…????? I tilted my head, my god it’s almost porn! “Nope,” click, next channel. UGH! Another ridiculous cop show. “Nope,” click, next channel. Gross! Nope moving on. My phone pinged a message from Adam, I deleted it without even reading any of it. “Nope,” click, next channel. How can we have like 400 channels and nothing on! “Nope,” click, next channel. Blagh! Comedy that’s not funny. “Nope,” click, next channel. Paddy huffed and clucked his tongue from the other couch, staring daggers at me with his arms crossed. “Nope,” click, next channel. UGH! Cooking Show “No…” Paddy snatched the remote from my hand. I looked up at his angry face, he was standing over me with the remote in his hand. “Six weeks Dad, six weeks. That’s how long we’ve been playing this game, every night the same thing. You ignore Adam’s texts and phone calls, you hog the remote and won’t settle for anything, and you’re always pissed off. Let’s go out to the movies, at least there you can’t change the freakin’ channel,” Paddy turned off the television putting the remote in his pocket and stormed around the couch to go to his room, “get dressed, this is ridiculous with you moping and channel surfing. They have ice-cream at the Cineplex, I’m going to call Grandpa and tell him to come out here.” Reality slammed right into me, damn it! “Isn’t parenting supposed to go the other way? God, I’m a shit, poor Pat.” I mumbled sheepishly. I felt my eyes sting and fill with tears, my chest was so tight. I went into my room to get changed and sat on the bed to collect myself and calm down. I let the tears fall, I’ve been holding them in for so long. My folks had been checking in just about every day, they're worried I’m going to slip back into a depression again. I slipped my phone out and called his Dad, “Hey Dad,” “Is everything okay Ian?” “No, Why does this have to be this way?” Dad was quiet for a moment, “What do you mean, why does what have to be this way?” “If Adam had told me the truth from the beginning, we’d probably still be together. If I’d have known who he was, I could have helped him with Anna, this would not have to hurt so much. I feel so betrayed.” I sobbed. “Ian, I think I should come down there,” Dad insisted. “NO!” I shuddered, “I’ll be fine Dad, honest.” “I’ll give you a little more leeway Ian, but you need to talk to somebody… and soon,” Dad was lost for words. “I have to go, Dad, Paddy is waiting on me.” “Okay, bye Son.” Adam lied to me. Well, he didn’t exactly lie, but he lied by omission. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have affected our relationship back then, but there’s every chance we could have worked past it if we had wanted. Now? I don’t think so. The hurt on my parents face when as they watched us all fight will haunt me forever. The fact that this all happened in front of Paddy kills me every time I think about it. The fact that my Mom had to get him out of there is unbelievable, it’s what I should have done the second it all blew up. I could have dealt with Adam later. And my… Anna I don’t even want to call her my sister. I can’t believe we came from the same gene pool. The things that come out of her mouth were unbelievable. I’m so angry, no matter what I do the anger won’t go away. The way she purposely tore Adam down, got delight out of seeing him hurt. The second my Mom had taken Paddy away from the situation, she went to tears and swept past Adam and into Dad’s arms crying. I can still see the ridiculous performance in my head. Mom gasped, Anna’s eyes were as big as saucers with that busted look in them. Then my Mom took Patrick out of the house, and they disappeared. Adam and I were stunned into silence, then Anna pushed past Adam with a fake sob and into my Dad’s arms, knocking the groceries onto the floor. “Oh, Daddy, do you see what it was like for me. He yells and screams,” she wrapped herself around my Dad. I’ve no idea what was going through his head because he kept looking at Adam and me. His arms stayed stiffly by his side, there was no attempt to comfort his daughter. “He’s abusive, and he’s been having an affair with my own brother the whole time,” sob, sniffle, sob, “Please Daddy make him go away, he wants to take the baby.” Dad stepped away from Anna, then he picked up the groceries and walked into the kitchen. I heard the bags land heavily in what I assume was the sink. Then I listened to the fridge and cupboards being slammed closed and opened roughly. I stood up, shaking my head, “You’ll stop at nothing will you,” a laugh jumped from my body, I’ve no idea where it came from. “Who are you? You just stood there with a smart ass attitude spurting a load of spiteful crap about only marrying Adam because you were pregnant and not wanting the baby.” “Don’t turn this on me, Ian, you’re the one having an affair with my husband behind my back,” Anna spat angrily. Adam stood still with no reaction, he just stood there. “It’s hardly an affair Anna,” I felt exhausted and emotionally drained, “If I’d have known Adam was your husband, do you really think we’d all be standing here right now having this conversation? I didn’t meet Adam until he moved to Kentucky, Anna.” Anna crossed her arms, “I don’t believe you, Ian, it’s just like you to do something like this. You’ve always been jealous of me, and when I got pregnant, you went out and adopted an orphan kid. You’re so pathetic. That kid isn’t your son and never will be no matter how much you pretend he is.” “That’s it I’m done,” I threw my hands up in the air. “You,” I pointed at Anna, “Stay the fuck away from me and don’t you even dare to speak to Patrick,” I looked at Adam again - nothing, “You can all go to hell.” I stormed out of the house, slamming the door, of course forgetting my jacket. I rounded the front of the house trying to catch my breath and calm down. I don’t ever remember being this angry in my life. Although, I could hear my Dad giving Anna an earful. I couldn’t really make it all out from the ringing in my ears, my vision had flickering spots, and my breathing had become short gasps. Most likely from the anger and rage seeping through my body. Adam had plenty to yell about once I was out of the house, between Adam, Dad, and Anna I couldn’t make sense of it all. By the end, Dad politely asked Adam to leave, and he would get in touch with him. I heard the front door close, and Adam passed by me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I followed him, “Why?” I must have startled him because his whole body jumped as he spun around. He just glared at me. “Tell me why you didn’t tell me about Anna?” my voice was croaky and it was hard talking around the lump in my throat. He swiped his hand over his face and then stood with his arms defensively crossed over his chest, “Why would I tell you, I was embarrassed, Ian. And this, this is fucking humiliating.” “I don’t get it, do you really think I would judge you over something like that? Is that how little you think of me? You know every single thing about me, I never lied about anything.” Adam looked away for a moment, then stared at the ground. “You realize if you had have told me, all of this could have been avoided, Adam? Anna is a god damn sociopath and gets off from seeing others hurt and upset. We could have figured it all out. Found a way so she couldn’t hurt either of us. But now we’re left with nothing, not even a friendship.” Adam wouldn’t even look at me, he put his hands in his pocket and shuffled from foot to foot, looking at the ground. My heart broke in two. “I wish I never met you,” I mumbled and turned away and started walking to the house. “NO WAIT!” Adam leaped forward and grabbed my shoulder spinning me around to face him. I shrugged him off, and when he saw my angry face, he took a step back from me. “Why would I? You can’t even be honest with me. I loved you, and you betrayed me. You broke my heart, Adam. How could you do that? You made me fall in love with you, and now…” my eyes filled with tears, like hell I was going to let them fall. “Ian please,” Adam gasped. “You should go,” I said turning from him again and all but ran into the house. Thankfully the living room was empty. I let the tears finally fall while I watched through the window as Adam debated with himself before leaving. Well, that’s that I guess. What do I do now? There’s only one answer – Go Home! <>-<>-<> “Nope,” click, next channel. Another week gone. Here I am again! “Nope,” click, next channel. Bitchy housewives! Ugh! “Nope,” click, next channel. Blah! “Nope,” click, next channel. UGH! Cop Show, hell no. “Nope,” click, next channel. Teen soap! “Nope,” click, next channel. Another freakin’ cop show. “Nope,” click, next channel. Another Teen soap! “Nope,” click, next channel. News! “Nope,” click, next channel. Another damn cop show, how many are there? Knock! Knock! On the front door. I looked at my watch, who the hell could that be? I reluctantly got up from the couch to answer the door. I had a quick peek through the peephole. Shit! I put a smile on my face and swung the door open. “Dad! What are you doing here?” I asked brightly. Fake! Fake! Fake! “Don’t play dumb with me Ian, I’ve had that sweet boy on the phone crazy with worry. Your Mother sent me down here, just be thankful it’s me and not her,” Oh I am! Dad barged his way into the house with his luggage. I closed the door and followed him down the hallway to the living room. “Not that I’m not happy to see you, but it wasn’t necessary to come all the way here,” Dad stared at me for a moment, “Yes, it was Ian. Pat says your angry all of the time, and you do nothing but channel surf. Last week he had to hide the remote and force you out of the house,” he sighed taking a moment before he continued, “Look, Son, after James passed away it took you so long to get over it. You were so deep in depression we were worried for you. I don’t want it happening again. I know your hurt and you're angry, but you have Patrick to consider. You're not alone anymore, that boy depends on you, he needs you to be his father, Ian.” “It’s not the same…” I stared a spot on the floor gathering my thoughts, “I’m not depressed Dad, I’m angry. It’s not the same with Adam,” I mumbled quickly wiping my eyes. “No it’s not, but this is different isn’t it? With James it was the end, nothing more could be done. But with Adam, he’s still here.” I crossed my arms, the anger welling toward the surface, “That’s finished, and you know that,” I said curtly. Dad chortled, “Don’t kid yourself, my boy, it’s far from done. If it were, you would have gotten over it by now,” I picked up Dad’s luggage and put it in my room, then started stripping my bed. After changing the sheets I put the removed sheets into the washer, taking my time so I didn’t have to face my Dad. I don’t want to talk about this. It’s done, over with. Adam lied, even still, how could we be together; he was, no is, married to my sister. Dad is now in my kitchen, I can hear him put the kettle on. Please, Pat, come home and entertain your Grandpa. Taking a deep breath, I steeled my nerves and went back out to talk to my Dad. “Are you hungry? Pat will be home soon I can make us something, he won’t eat after training.” “Um… Pat’s not coming home tonight, he’s staying with his friends, Will and Liam. He said you’d be okay with him staying over there,” stab to the heart, I’ve made my own son so uncomfortable he doesn’t want to come home. Damn it! “Okay,” I answered sullenly, I sat at the table my head in my hands. “Paddy must hate me, he deserves better,” I mumbled. Dad came in from the kitchen and sat down at the table and handed me a coffee, “He doesn’t hate you, he’s worried like the rest of us. And yes he does deserve better from you.” “Thanks,” I picked up my coffee and blew the top of the mug, then sat it down staring at it like it held the answers. Dad and I sat in silence, his eyes observing my every move. He leaned forward holding his coffee, “Tell me why you’ve been ignoring Adam’s calls?” “Really Dad?” I said dryly. Dad didn’t answer nor did the expression on his face change. I sat back a little defeated, “He lied…” “What did he lie about?” “He never told me he was married or had a baby on the way, then tried to say that I knew and was hiding the information,” I could feel myself getting angry just at the thought. Dad sat up straight in his chair, not saying a word. I moped at while drinking my coffee. I wish this were all different. “I honestly wish I’d never met him, I could just be happy again with the way things were.” My Dad thumped the table with his hand, “That’s a load of bullshit, and you know it,” he barked pointing at me. I was taken back by his outburst. I’m sure the surprise showed on my face, my Dad rarely ever shows emotion, and never gets angry. He used to leave it to Mom; Dad would stay silent. “How can you say that? I have eyes, I saw it.” “S..saw what?” “You two, that’s what I saw, you two. When Adam looked at Anna it was white rage, he couldn’t speak. Every time he looked at you, there was love overshadowed with hurt. If you don’t think he loves you, you’re a damn fool.” Dad fidgeted in his chair angrily, he took a sip of his coffee and put the mug slowly on the table. I looked at a spot on the floor hoping Dad couldn’t see the tears pooling in my eyes. “S..say we get past this, how..how do we get past the f..fact he is or was m..married to Anna?” I couldn’t help but stutter, the way my lip was quivering I’m lucky I’m able to talk at all. My chest hurts again, I hate this. Unable to hold the tears in anymore I let them fall silently. “I honestly can’t answer that for you Son,” Dad’s voice was quiet and soft, “all I know is, if you both love each other the way I think you do, you’ll find a way. You never know, due to the circumstances of the marriage, with a good lawyer he may be able to get it annulled.” “It hurts Dad, everything was so good, and now it’s gone,” I sobbed collapsing into myself. “Oh Ian,” Dad came around the table and wrapped himself around me, letting me sob into his chest. “Come on now, I’m sure you boys will work it out. It’s not all hopeless, he’s been contacting you, maybe pick up one of his phone calls and actually talk,” Dad said into my head as he rubbed my back. I clung to his shirt sobbing. “I’m so angry Dad, I’m mad at Adam, I’m angry at me, most of all, I’m angry at her. You’ve no idea the things she said to Adam. She’s so spiteful, and on purpose,” I pulled away from Dad, “and what she said about Paddy…” I shook my head I couldn’t even repeat it. Dad stood up his hand still on my shoulder and keeping eye contact, “Your Mother and I heard just about all of it. I hate to say this about my own daughter, but right now the only reason the girl is still in my house is that she is pregnant and has nowhere to go,” he said vehemently. “Paddy is my son, I don’t care what anyone says. I know I haven’t been a good father lately but he’s my son, he belongs with me.” “Yes, he is, Ian. Anna was trying to hurt you. Patrick is your son, mine and your Mothers Grandson. He’s our family and nothing is going to change that. Pat loves you, he loves our family and from what your Mother tells me he was excited about Adam being part your family. So try and talk to Adam, see if you can sort this all out. Yeah?” Dad sat down at the table again and nudged my phone toward me. It had been sitting on the table with my keys since I got home. “I think I’ll ring Pat first, then I’ll have a shower if that’s okay. We’ll go and grab something to eat since it’s just the two of us,” I suggested. “Well you ring Pat, and I’ll grab a shower and wash away this grimy plane air,” Dad smiled standing up, then walking toward my room where I’d put his luggage. “Dad?” “Yeah,” “Thank you,” He shrugged a shoulder, “It’s my job, I love you Son.” I flicked through the recent calls on my phone, pressed Paddy, then waited for him to answer. “Are you mad,” the first thing the poor boy said. “No, Paddy, I’m not mad. I’m ringing to apologize to you. I love you, Son.” “I love you too Dad,” Paddy said, and I could hear the smile when he spoke. My entire body relaxed just from hearing his voice. I couldn’t apologize enough to my son. By the end of the call, we’d both had a cry – yes, imagine that I cried. Great now I'm sarcastic to me. We ended the call with I love you and goodnight. <>-<>-<> “Don’t ever tell your Mother I ate that burger,” Dad burped and lightly punched his chest, “Or the loaded fries, she’ll string both of us up alive.” At least Dad was in a lighter mood now, less unhappy with me anyway. “Going down is the easy part, wait for it!” I chortled rolling my eyes. “Now if I turn the television on, I will have sole control of the remote. Paddy and I have decided your punishment shall be no remote for two weeks. That means my stay and then Pat gets a week when I go home,” Dad chuckled. “Is that right, seems harsh, but I still have ice-cream, so I’ll live.” “About that… Pat and his friend Liam, came by and cleaned you out,” Dad laughed. “Noooo…” I got up from the couch moving quickly to the freezer, “son of a… Are you kidding me?” Dad laughed again, “Nope,” then turned on the television. I text Liam to express my outrage. Ian: Where is all my ice-cream? Liam: It was delicious, that was very generous of you Uncle Ian. Ian: No not generous, it was cruel taking an old mans dessert. Liam: Sorry orders from above! Ian: Paddy? Liam: No, higher. Ian: My Dad? Liam: Uh-Uh, your Mom. Ian: Crap, enjoy the ice-cream. Crafty bastards, I was looking forward to that. I put my phone on the table, and it rang knowing it would be Paddy I picked it up. “Hello, you owe me a half gallon of rocky road and a gallon of chocolate-chocolate chip,” I laughed. “I’ll give you ten gallons if you don’t hang up,” Adam’s deep timber wafted through the phone, my stomach rolled, and my chest tightened. “Er… Adam,” I gasped. “Please don’t hang up,” My Dad mouthed “talk to him” and gave me the chatterbox gesture with his hand. I walked to my room, shutting the door behind me, and sat on my bed. “Are you still there?” “Uh-huh, yep, I’m still here. Why are you calling Adam?” I asked nervously pulling a thread on my bed cover. “I…I…” he sighed, “I miss you, Ian, can we please meet for coffee and talk. Maybe we can sort through this mess.” “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I said stiffly. “Please, Ian, it’s one coffee. It’s all I’m asking for. I realize…” “Fine one coffee, it’s too late tonight. Are you free tomorrow after work?” Adam sighed, “No, I have to go to Quantico for the next three days. I was ringing to leave a message in case you changed your mind about talking with me.” “I’m leaving on Friday for a cruise for a week with Bill, John, and Kitt. I’ll be back the following Saturday.” “What about sometime on the Sunday, after your back?” Adam asked timidly, very unlike him. This whole thing breaks my heart into a million pieces. I can’t believe this is where we are, I’m not sure what having coffee is going to do. It won’t fix it, it won’t change it, the facts remain the same. “Ian?” “Yeah fine, I’ll text you after family brunch on Sunday,” I blew out a frustrated breath. It’s ridiculous how you can dread something and be excited about it at the same time. “Thank you… I really miss you,” he said sadly. I miss you too.
  33. 41 points
    “You’re his legal guardian?” The woman twanged in her southern drawl at Wesley then popped her gum. “Yeah!” He answered, his skin crawling from the sound of the woman, smacking her chops as she chewed gum with her mouth open. “Just sign there,” she pointed to where the form said Parent/Guardian signature. Wes signed his consent and paid the entry fee for his brother Joseph, who he affectionately calls Jo-Jo. The woman handed him a receipt, the rules, behavior guidelines and Joseph’s numbered patch to be pinned to the back of his shirt during his events. Then screeching, “Next,” in his ear. Joseph is an up and coming all-rounder at the junior rodeo. That’s where they were currently, Junior Rodeo in Chattanooga, Tennessee, all heats and finals ran across the weekend. Joseph was competing in three events. Since Wes has been coaching him, his results have improved in leaps and bounds. He couldn’t be prouder of his brother, his one and only love in life – for now. They’ve always been close, Wes loved his little brother, he’d given up a lot of himself for Joseph. Not that he’d ever complained or seen it as a hardship. He’d do anything to secure his brother’s happiness, including sacrificing school, his own dreams of the rodeo, relationships and his free time. He’d worry more about himself once his brother was off at college. Wesley hoped one day he’d meet the right guy, settle down, get married and have babies. But now isn’t the right time. His brother came first and always at the moment. Their Grandparents ranch a close second. Their Grandparent's had left the ranch to him and Jo-Jo when they passed. So that’s where his focus laid for the time being. He wanted nothing more than to make them and his parents proud. And so far he felt pretty good how things were working out. Joseph is happy, doing well in school and the rodeo. The ranch is running in the black and making money, they weren’t by any means rich or wealthy, but they were holding their own and making enough to live and keep the place running. “Thanks, Wes,” Joseph smiled at his brother. “You’re welcome Jo-Jo. Let’s get the horses out of the trailer and set up.” Wesley clamped his hand around the back of his brother's neck steering him through the crowd, just like his Dad used to do with him. He smiled at the thought, it used to drive him crazy when his Dad did that to him. But here he was doing it with his brother. Wes understood now, it wasn’t about control, but keeping a connection with Joseph while they were walking. Much like you would, holding a toddler’s hand. Chase Ruttlidge walked by them talking with another man who was holding on to the cutest little kid, he was all eyes, hair and a big smile. Chase nodded his head in acknowledgment of Wesley without breaking his conversation. Wes remembered him from the circuit when he used to participate himself. Chase had gone on to become one of the top five cowboys in the country before he injured himself and had to give it away. Wesley turned his head to check out Chase’s behind as he walked away. “I saw that,” Joseph snickered. Wesley laughed, “Zip it ya little turd, or I’ll make you clean the trailer.” Two boys about Joseph’s age stopped him, “Aren’t you Joseph Cain?” Joseph answered shyly, “Um… Yeah?” he looked at his brother nervously. Wes gave him an encouraging smile hoping he would keep talking with the boys maybe make some friends. “This is my brother Wesley.” He pointed. The two boys waved with a smile, “I’m Cory, this is Shane. We’re going to go watch the little kids fall off sheep, did you want to come with us?” Joseph looked at his brother, then back to the boys, “We have to set up the horses…” “You go, have fun, I’ll take care of setting up. Have you got your phone?” Wesley asked. Joseph held it up for his brother to see. “Great, have fun. If I’m not with our camp, I’ll be in the beer garden having a well-earned cold one. Call if you need me.” Wesley waved his brother and new friends off and set out to fix up their camp for the next few days. <>-<>-<> Wesley threw some change in the oversized brandy tip jar and grabbed his beer. He looked around the garden for a free table, they’d set up a 40-gallon drum with fire, the nights could get a little chilly in the mountains. Thankfully the folks at the table next to the fire were leaving, so Wes took up residence at the table to keep warm. He pulled his phone from his pocket and sent a quick text to his brother to let him know where he was, then commenced checking his email. They would call from the Ranch if there were anything urgent, everything else is sent in an email at the end of the day. “Uh, hey, mind if we join you?” A smooth deep baritone voice asked interrupting Wes’s reading. Wesley looked up to find himself staring at Chase and the gentleman he’d seen him with earlier as well as the little boy. His breath caught in his chest for a moment, how easily he could get lost in those chocolatey brown eyes and warm smile. “No, by all means, I have prime real estate here all to myself.” “Wesley Cain, right, if I remember correctly?” Chase asked sitting down on the bench seat next to him. That voice turned Wesley inside out. “Yeah!” He said nodding, not trusting himself to say anything further. “Chase,” Chocolate eyes said to Wes, holding out his hand in greeting. Wes shook his hand, not wanting to let go. But who would? Chase looked like Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a pair of tight Levi’s, with a couple of days scruffy growth on his face that did nothing to hide his gorgeous dimples. That deep, deep, jock-dropping voice and cheeky smile. “This is my boss Jase, and his nephew, Benny, the big boss.” Chase pointed as he said their names. Wes shook both Jase and Benny’s hand. Wes pretended Benny’s handshake hurt his hand, by shaking it. “That’s quite a grip you’ve got there, I guess that’s why you’re the big boss,” Wesley said smirking at the youngster. Benny giggled and nodded his head in agreement. “I have Batman pajama’s,” the tyke informed Wes. “Really, you’re lucky! All my pajama’s are boring.” Wes told him pouting. “Do you have a horse?” Benny asked. “Yes! I do, her name is Sherry. Do you have a horse?” He nodded, his eyes went big in excitement, “Sanna bringed him, his name is Promise,” “Yeah! Wow, you’re a lucky boy, you wanna know what I got for last Christmas?” Wes asked. “Yes!” Benny chirped. “The bill,” Wesley laughed. Chase and Jase laughed with him, and Benny screwed up his face looking at the three of men like they were from another planet. Poor kid had no idea what Wes was talking about or why the older men were laughing. “Why?” Welsey forgot kids ask difficult questions and believe in Santa. It shut the three of them up anyway, all looking at each other for an answer. “Um… Well, you see… Santa slipped on my roof and fell down the chimney, dragging Rudolph with him. So I had to pay to fix the chimney,” Wes had no idea where he got his answer, just thankful, Benny accepted it so readily. “Well done,” Chase said under his breath, his beer bottle hiding the movement of his mouth from Benny. Wes turned his head away from the boy and toward Chase's ear, “Pulled it out of my ass, thankfully.” Chase smirked at Wesley and quietly confessed, “As I recall, it’s a quite an ass to be seen.” Wesley blushed, looking over to Jase who was snickering and looking at his watch. “If that son of mine and Shane don’t show in ten minutes, I’ll head over and start on supper. Would you mind watching Benny, I don’t like cooking on the camp stove with only me to keep an eye on him. He gets distracted by all the animals and tends to wander.” He looked over at Chase. “Yeah, I don’t mind. Benny said he’s going to teach me how to play “Snap,” anyways. No time like the present, I reckon.” Chase replied, taking the last mouthful of beer. “Yay!” Benny chirped letting his happiness show by pumping his little fists in the air, “you can play wiv us.” He sang to me. “Okay, but you’ll have to teach me how to play,” Wes told the boy. “It’s easy, Poppy teached me.” Benny nodded his head and pulled a scruffy deck of cards from his jacket pocket. They had seen some action, Wes smiled. He liked the fact that someone had obviously spent a lot of time playing games with the young boy. Too often these days parents just didn’t have the time to sit and play with their kids. It’s not because they don’t want to but the economic climate almost demands that both parents have to work to make ends meet in a two-parent household. In a single parent family, the parent has to sometimes work two or three jobs to just barely put food on the table. It made him feel guilty, he had been lucky that his grandparents had been kind enough to set him and his brother up so that it wouldn’t be an issue. Sure they both put in their own share of hard work at the Ranch, but they enjoyed doing it together, giving them time to bond. He had one-on-one time with his brother, a chance to enjoy watching him grow up, instead of struggling with menial jobs so they could just pay rent. “I’ll grab us some drinks before we play,” Wes stood to put one foot over the bench, ready to walk to the bar and looking at the empty bottles on the table, “Jase, did you want to stay for one more?” Jase paused contemplating his options for a minute, “Why not, we aren’t driving anywhere tonight. Can’t do any harm to have a second. Only to the steaks, when I burn them.” he said laughing and getting comfortable again. “Chase? Another?” He smiled and nodded his head in confirmation. “What about you Big Boss Man, beer, rum and coke, scotch, or do you like them fruity drinks with cherries, what’s your poison?” Wes smiled down at the little boy. “The cherry one please,” Benny said licking his lips in anticipation of a sugar rush. Wes looked over to Jase for his say so, and Jase looked resigned to the fact the kid would be bouncing off of the car tires the rest of the evening and mouthed “okay.” Wes felt terrible that he’d suggested the drink without even considering what he was leaving the other men to deal with. Wes ordered the drinks and took them back to the table, he’d also got bottles of water for his brother and two friends, when they came back. He put the beers in front of the other two men, who thanked him. “Benny, they ran out of the fruity drink, so the bartender gave you Sprite and put as many cherries on your little sword as he could get. I hope that’s okay,” Wes said giving the drink to the young boy, Wes even had his drink put in a small spirit glass. “Okay,” the youngster said unfazed, surprising Wes. Most kids want what they were promised, but this little guy just accepted what he was given with no disappointment. They should clone him in Wes’s opinion. “Alright Boss, are you going to teach us this game or sit around drinking with your good for nothing buddies here?” Chase asked Benny and slapping Wes on the shoulder. The warmth of Chase's hand on his shoulder almost had Wesley visibly shiver at the delight he felt. The quartet was about fifteen minutes into a marathon game of Snap when Joseph and his two friends came back from their afternoon of mean-spirited activities. “Did you have fun?” Wes asked the boys as they approached the table, “Here, I got you boys drink,” handing them the water bottles. “Thanks, Wes,” Joseph opened his bottle and drank half of it in two gulps, “Yeah it was funny, well… except if they got hurt, that’s not so funny,” his brother said screwing up his face. “Yeah, that’s not fun,” Wes agreed. “So you’ve met my son already?” Jase said with a smirk, “He better have used his manners then, not like just now.” He furrowed his brow at the two mischief makers. “Sorry. Thanks for the drink Wesley,” Cory said apologetically. “Yeah, thanks for the drink Wes,” Shane said. “And?” Jase said sternly. “Oh, yeah, Joe this is my Dad, Jase, and our trainer Chase,” Cory said pointing to the men in turn, “and this cute munchkin is Benny, my cousin and one of my best-est friends.” Cory smiled fondly at Benny and ruffled his hair. “I not a chicken Cory,” Benny huffed, rolling his big blue eyes. Wes tried not to laugh at the youngster, it was apparently a bone of contention for him. “It’s not enough for you to cheat me out of my pocket money, you're taking it from a little kid now?” Joseph laughed ribbing his older brother. “Hey, I’m cheating these two out of their pocket money too. That’s gotta count for something.” Wes proclaimed and pointed his finger at the other two men seated at the table causing all to chuckle. “So tell us about your mean-spirited activities.” Wes showing interest in what his brother got up to. “It was so cool, and the kids are cute. Their headgear is like two sizes too big, I have no clue…” Joseph started telling Wes about his adventure, his two new friends jumping in here and there. Soon enough the three boys were talking ten to the dozen excitedly and laughing at the things they’d witnessed. Wesley’s heart swelled as he watched his brother, he’d never been so animated, and he would hardly ever interact with kids his own age. He’s usually so quiet and shy, sure Joseph would talk to other kids, but he wouldn’t seek them out. Wes took him to a counselor once, worried he was depressed. Joseph only had one session, the counselor assured Wesley not to be concerned, he was a happy kid just quiet and shy. She suggested having him play a sport, which by nature would force him to interact and open up a little. He told Joseph to pick a sport. Joseph chose the rodeo, not surprisingly, they were around horses all the time, and Joseph could ride just about anything he hopped on, he was a natural. Worried his brother was too young and would get hurt Wesley said no at first. Joseph wore him down and begged him to teach him, Wesley eventually caved, but with the threat of taking it all away at one lousy grade. He had that in his back pocket. But Joseph was true to his word, he does homework for an hour when he gets home, then does his chores, trains for a couple of hours and returns to finish the rest of his homework after supper. Joseph shook Wesley’s arm to get his attention, “So can I?” Wes shook his head to shake away his thoughts and pay attention to his brother, “Sorry Jo-Jo, I was just thinking. Can you what?” “Can I have supper with Cory and Shane?” Joseph asked again. “Oh… Um…” Wes turned his gaze to Jase, to ask if it was okay. Before he could say anything, Jase nodded his head, “Yes.” “I can’t see why not, just come to the camp and pick up some meat to take with you.” Wesley smiled at his brother. “YES!” The three musketeers, high-fived and went back to enthusiastically talking over the top of each other. “You’re welcome to join us too if you like, the more, the merrier,” Jase happily told Wes. “Thanks, but I should take care of things and water the horses. So to speak,” Wesley replied, “I better head out anyway. Benny thanks for the game, you’re a worthy opponent, I don’t know if I can take getting beaten by a kid again. But we’ll try and have a game another day,” Wesley held out his hand to shake Benny’s, the little man shook his hand. Wesley made out it hurt again, causing the young boy to snicker. “Joseph, mind your manners and help clean up after supper please.” “I will, thanks, Wes,” Joseph hugged his brother. “You’re welcome, don’t forget to come and get meat for Jase to cook.” Wesley pats his brother on the back while they hugged, “Thanks for the drink and game of cards, night all.” He waved his free hand the other in his pocket then made his way back to camp. <>-<>-<> Wes whacked his brother's foot with a piggin’ string, while he lay sleeping, “Jo-Jo, come on, up you get. You need to start your day. Your first event is in two hours, there’s a lot to do.” Joseph threw his legs over the side of the cot, sitting on the edge wiping the sleep out of his eye’s and talking while he yawned, “I’m up, just have a shower, first.” “Good one, I’ll have breakfast ready by the time you get back. Cereal okay or do you want eggs?” Wes asked. “Um… whatever floats your boat, I don’t care,” Joseph said as he passed his brother, whipping him with his towel. Wes mumbled under his breath about bratty brothers, while he was running through his checklist of Joseph’s equipment for the upcoming events. “Hi Wes,” A little voice startled Wes, and he hit his head on the lid to the equipment tub. “Hello Boss Man Benny, what brings you by?” Wes winced rubbing his noggin. Benny screwed up his face, “Are you okay?” Wes chuckled at the little boy's concern, “Yeah I’m fine,” “Can I help?” Benny asked innocently. “I don’t know, can you?” Wes asked him. Benny nodded his head vigorously while fidgeting. Wes was on to him, he narrowed his eyes and asked, “Does your Uncle know where you are?” The kid shrugged his shoulders, “Um… I don’t know.” “How about we find him and ask if you can help first?” “Okay?” Benny answered deflated, looking down at his feet, he moved some rocks with the toes of his shoe. “You wanna ride on my shoulders?” Wes asked him, he couldn’t take the sadness, Benny displayed. “Yeah!” he cried. Wes squatted on the ground and let Benny climb onto his shoulders. Then he stood and made sure the boy was stable and held onto his little legs, the boy's small fists gripping Wes by his hair. Wes made the ride fun for Benny, he would walk fast and then stop suddenly. Then he would maneuver through the crowd like an airplane or motorbike and make the noise from the motor. Benny giggling as they made their way to his camp. “Does this belong to you?” Wesley said smiling and hoisting the youngster off of his shoulders. “Benny!” Jase gasped, “You can’t keep running off like that, we’re not at home, it’s not safe,” Jase picked the boy up hugging him to death. Chase came running out of breath, “Jase,” then saw Benny and bent over putting his hands on his knees out of breath. “Thank God, you found him.” “I wanted to see Wesley…I sorry,” Benny said sadly. Jase pulled the boys head to his shoulder and kissed the side of his head cuddling him. Wesley smiled at the amount of love this little boy is shown. Jase put Benny on his feet and squatted next to him. “Benny, you can’t run off like that. It’s not like at home where you can run from house to house. There are too many strangers and horses everywhere, you could get hurt okay. Can you promise it won’t happen again?” Jase was firm but not intimidating. Benny sadly replied, “I sorry Uncle Jase,” a couple of tears dropped from his eyes. “Oh my Benny,” Jase kissed the top of his head as he pulled the young into him, “I love you, I just want you safe, okay?” the little boy nodded his head. Jase stood up and kept his hand lovingly on the top of Benny’s head while the boy clung to his leg. “Thanks, Wesley, sorry to have put you out,” Jase smiled warmly. “No trouble at all, the cheeky monkey arrived and asked to help me,” Wesley smiled fondly at the boy, “Well I’d better get back and help Joe get ready.” He squatted down to Benny, “You are welcome anytime at our camp, but not by yourself okay? If you ever want to hang out, that’s fine, but get Uncle Jase or someone to bring you.” Benny looked sadly at Wes, the sad little frown on the cute boys face broke Wes’ heart. He put his arms up, and Benny leaned into him wrapping his arms around Wes’ neck. Wes hugged him tight and gave him a pat on the back. “You’re a good boy, maybe after the boys have finished for the day I can buy you another fruity drink, and you can beat me at cards again,” Benny pulled back from the hug smiling from ear-to-ear, “make sure you’re a good boy. No more giving Chase and your Uncle a heart attack okay?” “Okay,” Benny said with a finger in his mouth smiling sheepishly. Wesley stood up, “Tell the boys I wish them luck for today.” “We will, thanks for bringing Benny back,” Jase held out his hand. Wes shook his hand and Chase who had his breathing under control, then made his way back to camp.
  34. 41 points
    We visited with Ivan and Katya a little longer, but separated after promising we’d get together again onboard. As we were about to separate, the officer that had been the first to respond during the “attack” on Katya came over. He smiled at us. “Forgive the interruption, Mrs. Belov.” He turned to Ivan, “Mr. Belov…you’ll be happy to know that the Gisons have left the ship and on their way to Sydney.” I smiled and told Ivan and Katya. The crewman nodded to Katya. “If you want, you can press charges. We have it documented if needed.” I told Katya who shook her head. “It was just…” she shuddered, “so…it was just a second or two. He’s gone.” She told me and shuddered again. “His hand was in a very personal and private place.” She said to us. “And I’m not talking just a boob.” “He was obviously not sane.” I smiled. “He should never have done that. Winning that money just re-enforced his belief that laws weren’t meant for him…or even common decency.” I put my arm around her shoulder gently. “I’m sorry.” Katya nodded as Ivan took her and hugged her him. “It will be fine now.” She smiled. “One thing, please…if you would.” Tony said to Ivan. “You’re a celebrity and you came here because you were…less known?” Ivan smiled. “Like you, most don’t know who I am here.” He shrugged, clearly liking the idea. “I’m on vacation! There are some here that know, but they are more…” he thought of a word, “sophisticated and less likely to scream and pester me for an autograph.” I smiled at that. “I know you made a little boy back home very happy.” Ivan gave a gesture saying it was no big deal. “He is your family, right? Or soon will be. It was the least I could do for such good friends.” I smiled at Katya. “Do you feel like shopping more?” She smiled a special smile I knew was only for Ivan. “We should probably go back to our cabin.” The way she said it left no doubt about her intensions. She needed more comforting in a way only Ivan could give her. Ivan’s eyes lit up and then he looked at Tony and me. “Okay. We will be on the ship.” Suddenly he was in a hurry. “We will have dinner one night, perhaps in Brisbane?” “We’ll do that. You know where we are.” Tony put his arm around me, but smiled at Ivan as they hurried off. Then he looked at me. “We should probably head back to our cabin.” He waggled his eyebrows, but then remembered something. “We will…after we take care of something.” He took my hand and led me in a particular direction. I was only a little curious until I saw the office we were going to. I grinned seeing the Travel Office and knew why we were here. Inside, a lovely young woman in her late twenties greeted and spoke with us…or rather to Tony about future cruises on this ship. “…we are often booked several years in advanced, but…” she pointed out. “Even we do have the occasional cancelations for many reasons. I can put you on a priority notification when that happens and you could book a cruise then.” She said brightly. “As you’re both passengers and traveling as VIPs and now in our best staterooms, you will have an even greater priority.” I grinned. “Do it.” I said making Tony look at me surprised. “We’re coming back to this ship.” “Any particular destination preference or length of voyage?” She asked. Tony looked at me and when I didn’t answer, he just said to her. “No real destination preference, but we’d like more than a week.” She nodded and typed in her computer. “It could be next month or next year.” She warned. “It all depends on the cancellation, but there will be one. I promise you that.” “Fine.” I said again without looking at Tony which made him look at me questioningly. She was very pleased with what was happening. “Alright, Mr. Delveccio and Mr. McKenzie…” she hit enter. “It’s in. You’re all set.” She stood and stuck her hand out as we rose from the chairs. “Enjoy the rest of this voyage and you will be welcomed back the next one.” We left the office and I could tell Tony had something to say. “We need to go back to our stateroom.” It wasn’t desire that was making him say that, but something was bothering him and Tony and I would be discussing it in private. That much he didn’t need to say. After we were in the cabin and he shut the door, I turned. “What?” I asked. “You tell me what.” Tony said. “You are never like this. You didn’t even question what we were doing. You’re changing.” I nodded. “Of course, I’m changing.” I waved at him. “So are you!” I turned away from him. “This whole situation is changing.” “Because of my illness.” Tony said to confirm what he knew. “Yes!” I said louder than I intended to. I sighed realizing I wasn’t angry, just frustrated. “This whole thing is going to change both of us.” I turned to look at him again and thought what to say. “When you told me about the plane hitting the World Trade Center and you were in an office just below it…it changed you. You looked back on your life and realized you were missing out on something you wanted and needed.” I shook my head. “You changed! Now, we are facing something…and as much as I was dismissing it for a while…you made a valid point. I was in denial until you said what you did. I’m not now. It may not be cancer yet. It could be pre-cancer, but you said it yourself. Dr. Keogh found something. You said you feel it. There is something there that we will deal with. Now, I changed. I’m still me, but I see things so differently now.” I came closer to Tony. “I was in a comfortable place before you…but now I have you in my life and…” I waved at the stateroom. “I’m damned comfortable with you here. I had a wonderful life with you. I never dreamed I would find someone like you and have this life, but I do, because of you. My priorities have changed. Now my priority is you. Us. Our life together.” I wrapped my arms around him. “I don’t have to tell you anymore that I love you. You know I do, but I will say it every day often. That’s what we do in a committed relationship based in love. I was not comfortable before…why? I asked you a while back why you needed all this…you said to prove to your parents their sacrifices were paying off.” I chuckled. “A lot of my father’s teachings did sink in. His…we don’t do that because it showy…bullshit, that is silly. I was silly to hold on to that. I’m not now. You are my priority. Us. We have a damned good marriage…I know what’s in the bank. We are more than fine. So instead of worrying about the future and possible loss, I will enjoy us, together, now.” I watched as his eyes grow bigger. “I do love you, Tony…more than anything or anyone.” Tony smiled and leaned in kissing me gently. “You know I do you, too.” Then I looked around and realized, the stateroom was spotless again. “Damn, they are fast.” Tony chuckled looking around with me as he nodded, then looked back at me grinning more. “Want to mess it up again now?” I kissed him deeper. “Yes, I do.” I took his hand and led him to the stairs. “Ya, know?” Tony began. “We’ve made love at least once or twice a day since we got together…sometimes more! That’s a whole lot of sex.” “Your point?” I asked. “Hell, one of us should at least be pregnant by now!” Tony was right; we did have sex many, many times, made love often, too. There’s a difference. We did however go to dinner and enjoyed our other friends’ company on the ship. I saw Tony get on a computer and do something. He often checked the stock market, DOW Jones or whatever it’s called and things to do his job, so I didn’t question it. He had to keep up with global trends. I had an appointment at the Canyon Ranch Spa to have my tan added, not that it was really important to me now. We had a nice relaxing few days sailing from New Zealand to Brisbane. No rushing anywhere. We did enjoy a few nights of dancing and a show. Even a pretty damned good off Broadway of Rent! I’d never seen it, so why not? The performers were great! We woke the day we arrived in Brisbane with a light blinking on our phone. That only happened when someone on the ship needed to speak with us, be it the crew on the Queen Mary or another passenger on the ship. I activated the blinking button to retrieve the message. “My good friends!” I smiled hearing Ivan’s cheerful voice. “We are in Brisbane! We should get together and decide where to meet and where we can dine! We will be at breakfast about nine in the dining room if you want to do this.” Tony looked as I was smiling. “Who was it, or is it who I think?” “Наши хорошие друзья!” I saying our good friends imitating Ivan. “They are eating a nine. We gotta go.” Making Tony chuckle getting up so we could meet them. “I really like them!” I said to Tony as I followed him. “Your just love every Russian you meet.” Tony grinned as he commented turning the shower on. “We can’t take these two home this time.” “We didn’t the last time!” I stated. “Sasha just followed us home!” Tiny grinned at me. “You, lost puppies and any animal you find you want to bring home. The donkey you named Bucky.” I knew he was teasing me, but I gave him back the angry Italian persona I learned. “Bucky was home, on Ios!” He grinned knowing how I’d react. “You would have if you could. You know that.” I looked at Tony who was smiling bigger. “You call Sasha a lost puppy,” I said, “see what happens. You’ll have a pissed off Russian at home.” We entered right at nine, I’m never late, remember? Instantly we heard… “Here! We’re over here!” The big Russian told us. There weren’t that many diners at that time. Most other passengers headed to Brisbane or elsewhere. Katya was doing the shushing thing to him, which he ignored. We got to them we got the given Ivan greeting he always gave us. “My good friends!” I’m a fan of hugging and our new friends were fans, too. Ivan’s hug was always pretty strong, but he definitely meant it! Katya hugged us, too, but not like Ivan. We agreed to see Brisbane with our individual spouses and meet at eight thirty here, where again to go off the ship to The Black Hide for steaks. Ivan heard it was the best in town. Tony and I got off the ship and I could tell Tony was happy at this stop on our voyage. It was a city! Bigger than Charleston, but not the size of Manhattan, but it was a city. With no rush to do anything we strolled around looking in many stores and saw exhibits. Our new perspective on our lives…we never hid our affection for each other, but we just didn’t care who saw us now or their reaction. We did buy a few things and I would have loved to go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, but we were running out of time. I made Tony promise we would come again and go next time we were in Brisbane. When we boarded the ship again to change and get ready, even before the crewman took our cards to log us onboard, he smiled at us. He knew who we were before he got the cards. We made a memorable impression apparently. “You need to go to the concierge desk, Mr. Delveccio. The package you sent for arrived.” “Great!” Tony said as he handed him his card. “Package?” I asked. “For Ivan and Katya.” Tony said smiling as we walked in the ship hand in hand. When I saw the package, I remembered another package he had gotten for us to use. “Good idea!” We met with Ivan and Katya to go to the restaurant. At Black Hide, we sat down as Ivan looked at the menu and frowned. “I’m afraid my reading of English is worse than I can speak English.” Ivan said sadly. “You will help us translate this?” He asked Tony and me. “I could, I figured you might have trouble.” Tony said smiling and brought the package out. “Here. Try this.” Ivan looked at the package curiously. Opening it, he held the little device up with the look that said, what’s this? Tony reached over and turned it on. “Go ahead.” Tony encouraged. “Say something.” (This is the tricky part, but almost everyone knows about what’s going to happen before I write it.) Ivan looked at Tony. “Хорошо, почему ты дал мне это? Что он делает?” Then the electronic voice came out of the translator. “Okay, why did you give me this? What does it do?” Ivan looked as his eyes grew, startled, as did Katya's. “Я только что сказал?” The voice came back. “Did I just say that?” Ivan’s eyes widened understanding enough English to know what was being said now held amazement. “Я просто так сказал! Это отличное устройство! Откуда это у Вас?” The translator came back with. “I did just say that! This is a great device! Where did you get it?” (Now, just back to single language reading. You know what they’re saying and what language is used when.) Katya took the device from her husband. “This translates Russian to English!?” Tony nodded smiling. “And English to Russian.” He looked to Katya. “I know you said no business on vacation, but this is something a man wanted to invest in…and he is, but needs more backing financially. We got the translator before Sasha and Alik came to live with us and…” Tony chuckled. “My Russian is better now, but I was in trouble a while. I had a six year old that didn’t speak hardly any English and, so I got this. It saved our lives, believe me.” He waved at the translator Ivan had. “You were looking for investment possibilities…” Tony waved again at the translator. “…here it is. They are working on an additional device…a type of scanner that will take written languages, scan them and translate them also to a language you can read. That’s in the works. We’d like it to do any language to any language, but that will take a larger database and memory.” “This is incredible!” Katya said staring at the translator. “Where can we get one?” Tony shook his head. “I’m giving that one to you.” Ivan’s eyes grew and he handed it back quickly. “We can’t do that! This is too valuable!” I nodded. “It is valuable, but if you get involved in this…you would be a part owner.” I said logically. “You can see it really works and it was worked on by me, Tony, Sasha and Alik to get some things ironed out with sayings and other local colloquialisms.” (The Russian word I used for colloquialism is разговор, that’s what Tony looked surprised at hearing.) Tony leaned into me. “What’s that mean?” Which I quickly told him. “Oh.” Tony pointed to me. “See, I told you he was better at speaking Russian…I didn’t even know the word for colloquialism in Russian until now.” Katya and Ivan were laughing at us. “It helps to speak with adult Russians, Tony.” I grinned. “I doubt Alik knows the word either.” Ivan marveled at the translator shaking his head, still not believing the wonder of the translator. “This will be big, I tell you BIG!” He saw the waiter come over and held the translator up. “Теперь он может поговорить со мной и он со мной, и мы понимаем друг друга!” The translator promptly said. “Now he can talk to me and he to me, and we understand each other!” Even the waiter was fascinated by what was happening. “Wow, what is that?” His eyes got big, too. The translator said. “Вау, что это?" Making the waiters eyes grow even bigger. “Cool!!” The translator came with… “Классно.” “Slang and what have you has to be programmed in, but…” I smiled as Ivan was studying the translator to see what buttons did what. “The slang term Alik taught me was Прикольно.” A little too proud he knew the translator was off. I rolled my eyes and grinned at Tony and pressed on. “Next we’ll get the scanner, because the Cyrillic alphabet Russia uses is a bitch!” I growled. “I’m getting it, but not quite there yet.” Ivan and Katya were laughing harder. “As I am not understanding your…A,B,C’s!” He said as he laughed. “I can see we are going to become very old, very dear, very, very good friends!” He said confidently as he nodding, looking at the translator. I took Tony’s hand. “Sono sicuro che lo faremo.” I said softer, in Italian saying I’m sure we will. Tony smiled nodding, knowing what I meant. “Ti amo.” Tony smiled more placing his forehead against mine. “Lo so.” (That was Italian. You know what we say to each other by now. I shouldn't have to translate it now.)
  35. 40 points
    Monday was a busy day for Cody. He had classes late in the afternoon, so he was working the morning shift at the park. This was unimaginable for most of his friends, but he was a true morning person. He loved getting up early in the morning, watching the sun rise, seeing drops of dew on the wet grass and feeling that cold air at the crack of dawn. He got to the park around eight, ready to get to work, knowing there’s a lot to be done. Also, he didn’t want to have to stay longer than needed because he had plans to see Trick later that day, before classes. There was so much he wanted to talk to him about, about their past, as well as the present. He wanted to know all there is about Trick, get to know him better and make up for all the time they’ve lost. But most of all, he wanted to just be with him, look at his cute face and hold his hand. He couldn’t stop thinking about their kiss from a few weeks ago and how it made him feel. He wanted that feeling back, more than anything. Now the truth was out in the open, he felt so much better and more certain that now they had a real chance to make it work. After greeting his fellow workers and making plans about what to do for the day, Cody grabbed his pruning shears and started trimming the hedge. He was soon joined by another worker, Theo, who started working on the hedge from the other side. Theo was three years older, also a college student. His father worked in the park and got him the job so he can have extra income while he was in college. He was a good guy, although he often seemed aloof and had a weird sense of humor. Despite him and Cody being on friendly terms, they never really spoke much. It was just the way Theo was – he liked to keep his distance from people. However, this day was different. After some hesitation, he approached Cody and they struck a conversation. “So, uh, the guy you were with the other day, you seemed pretty close,” Theo inquired casually. “Oh, Trick? Yeah,” Cody immediately broke into a big smile. “That your boyfriend?” “No, not yet anyway. Hopefully soon…” “So, you’re gay, huh?” Theo asked, not looking Cody in the eyes and hoping the question wasn’t too forward. “Yeah. Is that a problem?” Cody asked curiously. “No, no, of course not, just askin’…” Theo replied, biting his lip. Cody could see that the guy had something else to say, but didn’t want to press him. After some thinking, Theo continued. “I, uh, think my little bro might be gay. He didn’t say anythin’ to me, but I’m pretty sure. I’m, uh, not really good with words, but… Do you think I should ask him, or do I wait for him to tell me?” “Well, how do you feel about it?” “I honestly don’t care, dude, as long as he’s happy. It’s just that we never talk about this stuff, I don’t really talk about feelings and all that, but I just wanna let him know I’m there for him. You know, in case he’s afraid or somethin’…” “I think that’s great of you, he’s lucky to have your support. I don’t know, maybe he’s not ready to talk about it yet, at least not with you… Or maybe he’s afraid of how you’d react. You could just let him know indirectly that you’re ok with gay people. For example, tell him that you have a good friend working with you at the park, and that he’s gay.” “Yeah, I guess…” “Just make sure you’re there for him. I know all about people struggling with being gay and coming out, so trust me, he’s gonna want your support. He’ll need someone to talk to.” “Thanks, dude, I appreciate it,” Theo looked at Cody and nodded. That was as far as his display of gratitude went. Cody guessed that Theo was not a hugger or a kisser, so he just smiled at him. “No problem, man. Let me know if anything happens, ok? If you need any help, I’m here.” The rest of the work day went almost without any small talk, as they were all very busy. Fortunately, things were going as planned, so they finished that day’s work right on schedule. Great! Now he can go home, get cleaned up and go see Trick! Although he liked to sleep, especially when he didn’t have morning classes, Trick got up early that Monday to work on his app a bit more. Over the past few weeks he didn’t get much work done – at least not as much as he had expected – because he was spending more time with Cody. They were only seeing each other as friends for now, and Trick was ok with that – at least for the time being. Cody made him feel good, there was no other way to put it. Trick began to realize how kind, friendly and funny Cody was. They always had something to talk about, whether it was music, video games, college or work. So far, they’ve been avoiding the topic of their past, ever since that meeting in the park when they had their first – and only – kiss. The kiss… That was another thing they’ve been avoiding and Trick wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He wanted a repeat of that amazing moment, but he also didn’t want to go too fast. In the end, he decided to just let things happen in their own time and try not to think about it too much. Yeah, that was definitely going to be hard. Just as he was finishing the work on the new features for his app, the phone started ringing and Cody’s cute face appeared on the screen. “Hey!” “Hey, what’s up?” “Not much, just working on the app. You?” “I just got back home from the park. How’s the app coming along?” “So far so good, hopefully no major bugs appear!” “I’m sure it’s gonna be great! Hey, wanna grab a cup of coffee later?” “Sure! How about in… maybe two hours?” “Sounds great. I’ll come and pick you up! I’ll text you when I’m nearby.” “It’s a deal.” Trick almost said ‘date’, but managed to correct himself on time. They never really had an official ‘date’, even though they were well aware of their feelings for each other. Cody didn’t want to rush, and Trick just expected Cody to make the first move, as he always had so far. That’s not to say they didn’t enjoy spending time together as friends; they just didn’t want to ruin the delicate balance they managed to achieve. His thoughts of Cody were quickly interrupted by someone knocking on the door. Zoe said she’d come to hang out and help him test the app, but she was running a little late. “Hey, come on in!” Trick smiled as he saw his friend. “Do I have a treat for you!” “Really?” Zoe smirked, thinking Trick was about to share something about Cody now that they started hanging out more. “What is it?” “I bought us cheesecake,” Trick grinned and went over to the fridge. “Oh,” Zoe frowned. “If you don’t want it, I don’t mind eating both pieces…” Trick teased her. “Ha ha, hand it over!” she said sarcastically as she practically ripped one of the plates from his hands. As they sat on the bed and ate their dessert, Trick took out his phone to show Zoe the new version of his app. “Look, I’ve been working on some of the features you mentioned, what do you think?” He handed her the phone so she can look at it herself. “You can now set your preferences, like age, gender and location. It’s still a work in progress, though.” “I like it! And you’ve changed the design a bit, it looks much cleaner now!” She was clearly impressed. “Yeah, that was actually Cody’s idea. I guess he’s got a knack for more than just landscaping design,” Trick said, smiling. “Speaking of, how are things going between you two?” “It’s been good. We’re just hanging out, talking...” “I’m glad for you. For both of you, actually. I know what I said about him before, but I guess I see him in a different light now. To think that he’s been having feelings for you for so long…” “I know. It was hard for me to believe it too.” “And for all these years, he never said anything. It must’ve been so hard for him, poor guy,” Zoe said sympathetically and Trick slowly nodded. It suddenly hit him that she was totally right. How had he never thought about this? All this time he was focused on himself and his own suffering, but he never considered how the whole thing must have affected Cody. “It’s funny, right… How quickly one can go from being a bully to being a victim,” Trick said, thinking about Cody’s realization that he was gay, but having no one to share it with. “Just goes to show you never know what someone might be going through,” Zoe wisely concluded. Soon after she left, Trick got a message from Cody saying that he’s coming over, so he quickly got changed for their not-date. Less than ten minutes later, he was in the passenger seat of Cody’s car. “So, where do you wanna go?” Cody asked, all upbeat. His good mood was even better now and Trick could feel it, it was infectious. “Just somewhere quiet where we can sit and have a cup of coffee, if that’s fine with you?” “Sure, whatever you want,” Cody replied, wanting to please Trick and make him feel comfortable. He liked to let Trick choose where to go instead of forcing him to go to places he might not enjoy. Maybe later, once they spend more time together, he can work on helping him get out of his shell. A few minutes later, they settled on a small café in one of the tiny cobbled streets with colorful old buildings. As they entered it, Cody led Trick upstairs, to a table in a secluded area where they would be alone, away from the eyes and ears of other visitors. Little things like that didn’t go unnoticed by Trick. He realized that Cody was arranging things so that he wouldn’t be uncomfortable, and he appreciated it very much. At first, Trick was glad that it wasn’t crowded so that they could relax and talk freely, but after a while, Cody and he were so deep in conversation that he didn’t even notice any of the people around them. It was as if they were in his room, all alone, laughing and having a great time. Although they’ve been avoiding talking about the past, Trick decided to broach the subject once more. Thinking about what Zoe said earlier that day, he got the urge to learn more about Cody, if the guy was willing to share. “Can I ask you something?” “Sure,” Cody replied, looking Trick in the eyes as if he was trying to find the question there. “When you realized you were gay… Did you date a lot of guys?” Trick felt a bit stupid for asking the question, but he couldn’t help it. He wanted to know. Since Cody was so attractive and confident, Trick assumed it must’ve been so easy for him to find a date. “Well, no, not really. You see, after you left…” Cody had a sad expression on his face, he couldn’t help it, “I, uh, stopped hanging out with Logan, Mason and their crowd. Other kids also avoided me because they still saw me as that annoying asshole, so I was basically a loner for a while. I started hanging out with Peter… You know, the guy who never talked to anyone?” Trick nodded. “Yeah, he turned out to be not that bad actually. He was basically my only friend for a long time. I wasn’t out to anyone yet at that point, plus I couldn’t stop thinking about you, so I didn’t date anyone… It wasn’t until the senior year that I finally had the guts to come out. I dated two guys for a while, but I knew there was no point in it. I was still stuck on you,” he chuckled. “I saw you a few times on the street, you know… But I never approached you. I didn’t have the courage.” Trick just sat and listened, letting Cody tell the whole story without interrupting him. He realized that it wasn’t a walk in the park for him either. Sure, some people might say that he had it coming for being a bully, but Trick wasn’t one of those people. He used to think he was, but now he realized that there are more important things than revenge – things like forgiveness and redemption. Now that he was finally getting to know Cody after all these years, Trick came to the unexpected realization that forgiving him would actually be easier than he first thought. “What about you? Did you date anyone in high school?” it was Cody’s turn to ask. “There was one guy in the new school, but we dated out of convenience more than anything else. We didn’t know any gay person other than each other, so we thought we’d give it a try. I never had any romantic feelings for him, and I don’t think he had any for me either. We eventually ended it and just stayed friends for a while. I, uh, I was kinda interested in someone else,” Trick laughed. “Oh, I see…” Cody chuckled. “Well, fingers crossed for you and that someone,” he winked, looking at Trick’s smiling face. “Yeah,” Trick winked back and crossed his fingers.
  36. 40 points
    Winter Wonderland Tony Bennett Day Three: 24 December - Christmas Eve The next morning, Trevor woke startled, in a strange bed, in a darkened bedroom, to the sound of someone opening and closing cupboards in the kitchen next door. His racing heart brought on a pounding headache from a well-deserved hangover, relieved only slightly by the crisp chill air of the bedroom. Not as arctic as the frostiness that had hung over the dinner table the evening before, he remembered, but just as portentous. Despite Brenda’s amazing cooking, dinner company had been, at best, punctilious. Once they had all trailed into the kitchen, each of them selecting their preferred seating around the table, sides had been drawn. Brenda held court at the end, with Johnny and Frank next to her, across from each other. Trevor and a bleary-eyed Cheryl came next—providing a kind of no-man’s-land—then Jess and Anthony, oblivious to the earlier heated words, while Karl and Mary sat at the far end. Brenda had begun by laying down the ground rules with military precision. Breakfast buffet and dinner she would prepare at regimented hours, and write up the day’s choices—both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes—on the blackboard in the kitchen. Unless otherwise instructed, at lunchtime—except, of course, for Christmas lunch—each of them would be left to their own devices. If they wanted to use any kitchen equipment, however, everything should be washed up or placed in the dishwasher, and all surfaces cleared before three in the afternoon, when Brenda began dinner preparation. Trevor had been more amazed at how quickly Brenda had come up with a vegetarian alternative for Mary, until she had whispered the truth. “Already pre-prepared a batch of meat-free dishes for Jenna,” she had confided, as they’d tucked into their dinner and a surprised Mary had been handed a special Brie and sun-dried tomato tart. Trevor had forgotten Cheryl’s ex-partner had been a part-time vegetarian. “Pies, quiches, bean casserole. Brought them anyway, rather than waste the food. Just need heating up. But don’t tell her ladyship.” Karl and Mary had barely spoken a word that evening. Maybe, thought Trevor, they had decided to play along, because not once did Mary interrupt while Brenda spoke. Eventually, Jess had cottoned on to the tension and distracted Mary with chit-chat about her own older sister’s recent pregnancy, offering advice on water births, best-buy nappies, breast milk pumps, and post-natal depression. Trevor had tried his best not to listen in. Only then had he glanced up and caught Karl’s eye, getting a warm smile from his ex that made his stomach squeeze. As soon as dessert had been completed, the four newest arrivals went off to their respective rooms, claiming travel fatigue. Left behind, the five remaining friends finally breathed a collective sigh of relief. After helping Brenda clear up, Frank had insisted they head for the main living room and enjoy a glass of one of the bottles of Taiwanese single malt whisky he had been saving, while catching up on old times. Both bottles polished off, and the rest of the night had been a blur. Barely seven in the morning now, and, instead of trying to get back to sleep, Trevor decided to get up and shower. Afterwards, in between brushing his teeth, he checked his phone and huffed to find no signal once again. And then he heard a soft tapping sound. At first he wondered if the plumbing was playing up before realising the sound came from his bedroom. Inside the room, he stared at the door and waited. Once again, the tapping sound came but this time clearly from the window. When he pulled the curtain aside, he gasped to find the smiling face of Rudy at the window. Unlatching the pane, Trevor allowed a breeze of freezing air to invade the room. “What in God’s name are you doing here?” he asked. “Needed to drop off a basket of goodies. From my mother. And then I was going for an early morning stroll. Wondered if you fancied joining me? Show you some of the sights around the moor.” “Early riser, eh? Is that a habit?” “Och, no, not really,“ said Rudy, his smile slipping which, for some reason, made Trevor heart pinch. “Just don’t sleep much these days.” Trevor might have been mistaken, but that tiny admission appeared to carry a whole depth of personal pain. “Tell you what. Why don’t you come to the kitchen. Brenda’s there fixing breakfast, and I know she’ll be delighted to see you. Grab a mug of tea, and pour me one—milk with one sugar—and I’ll be out in five. Deal?” “Deal,” said Rudy, blowing into his hands. “It’s going to snow today.” “No, I don’t think so.” “It’s not a question. I’m telling you, it’s going to snow.” “When every weather person in the country says there’s going to be no snow across the British Isles, Rudy Mortimer begs to differ. Is this some Scottish myth like when the cows lie down in the field with their legs in the air, farmers know it’s going to rain?” “Lots of snow. You wait and see.” “Okay, I believe you. Now bugger off so that I can put some trousers on.” Rudy’s laughter lit up the morning and was worth the freezing air in the room. When Trevor entered the kitchen togged out in thick woollen jumper and jeans, Rudy sat at the kitchen table with Brenda, chatting happily. Rudy appeared so at home in the kitchen, maybe because as he had said, on many occasions this had actually been his home. Midway through talking to Brenda about the basket of goodies he had left—a local brand of Dundee cake and whisky with a picture of a stately home as the main symbol—Rudy looked up and held out a mug to Trevor, before offering another of his knee-trembling smiles. “What time will you be back?” asked Brenda. Trevor turned to Rudy and shrugged. “Around nine-thirty, if that’s okay, Mrs Madison” said Rudy. “It is as long as you call me Brenda.” “Of course, Brenda. But I want to show Trevor the moors before the weather turns.” “Weather turns? What do you mean?” she asked, turning to the unblemished sunshine outside the kitchen window. “It’s going to be a beautiful day.” “For now,” said Rudy, grinning, as though he had some secret knowledge. Somewhere in his youth, Rudy had stumbled upon the perfect vantage point of the area and Trevor felt a tinge of honour that Rudy felt comfortable enough in his company to share the spot with him. Rudy had insisted on leading from behind on the way up from the lodge, safer that way, he said, but probably did so to let Trevor sample the climb without having a guide blocking his view. Not that Trevor would have minded having Rudy’s form in his sights, he could think of a lot worse. A fallen tree provided their perfect perch on the crest of a steep hill. Beneath them, the landscape stretched out like a patchwork quilt of earthen browns and moss green. Scotland’s wild flora and fauna fought for existence, against a backdrop of cruel dark granite. Even without prompting, Trevor could make out the Celtic Cross shape of the lodge nestling against the loch. Ben Nevis stole the view, of course, rising from the earth like a leviathan, and dwarfing everything around. To the north of them, built into a hill, what looked like a small French castle or fortress painted beige stood out from smaller dwellings, humble cottages that huddled near the loch or around the small road circumnavigating the mountain. “Is that a castle?” asked Trevor. “No,” said Rudy, quietly. “That’s Mortimer Hall.” “Mortimer? As in Rudy Mortimer? Are you shitting me? That’s the house you live in?” “Please don’t make a fuss. It’s our ancestral home. “Ancestral home? Oh my God. Tell me the truth, Rudy. Are you royalty? Or titled, at the very least? And should we be referring to you as my lord or your highness? Oh no, should a commoner like me be kneeling in your presence?” “You’re going to get thumped in my presence, if you keep that up.” Trevor instantly fell into fits of laughter, and Rudy soon followed suit. “It’s beautiful.” “Aye, it is that. It’s also lonely,” said Rudy, a tinge of sadness in his voice. “But at least it’s going to snow today.” Trevor heaved out a steamy sigh, and turned to study Rudy. Quite a pleasant task, if he was going to be totally honest. With dark red hair and brows associated with the Scottish, flawless pale skin and moss green eyes, he could have melted into the scenery. “This again? Am I going to need to find you a local psychiatrist? What is this obsession of yours with phantom snow?” “Just humour me, and I’ll explain how I know.” “Go on, then,” said Trevor, folding his arms and crossing his legs at the ankles. “Where does snow come from?” “Is this a trick question?” “No, come on,” he said, bumping his shoulder with Trevor's. “Where does snow come from?” “Uh, the North Pole.” “You’re not a wee bairn, and this is not Nickelodeon. Think more scientific,” said Rudy, nodding exaggeratedly upwards. “From the sky. Snow is formed from water retained in clouds that freezes into ice crystals and then, when the particles become too heavy, they fall like rain—only slower.” “Correct. So if you’re going to predict whether it will snow, the first thing you need to do is keep an eye on the sky.” “Which today is cloudless, and as flawlessly blue as the Mediterranean. What’s your point?” “The first thing. The second thing is to take a deep lungful of air in through your nose and hold for a few seconds. Then, when you slowly release, try to taste and smell it. That’s a bit’s more difficult for you, because you need to be able to tell the difference. I’ve lived here all my life, so know the change. But when snow’s coming, the air smells and tastes different.” Trevor did as asked, and he did notice an almost metallic taste to the air. Not that he was going to tell Rudy and let him off the hook so lightly. “Next?” asked Trevor, causing Rudy to chuckle. “Next, you need to listen,” said Rudy. Trevor did as asked but could hear nothing. “What am I listening for?” “Just listen. What can you hear?” Once again, Trevor strained to hear something, anything. All he could make out was the gentle rush of wind and the distant sound of a car engine, navigating one of the small lanes around the loch. “Honestly, I can’t hear anything.” “Exactly! Even in winter the birds would be chirping on a morning like this. So why aren’t they?” “No idea. Gone for breakfast?” Trevor's stomach rumbled in sympathy. “Nope, look up there. Hiding in the juniper tree,” said Rudy, pointing to a branch in a nearby tree. At first he could make out nothing, but then he noticed a row of birds—unsure exactly what type—bunched together. “They huddle when snow’s coming. I’ve seen the same behaviour many times before. And the last thing is that if you’d stepped out of the lodge last night and looked at the sky—instead of getting bladdered on shite foreign whisky—you would have seen a halo around the moon. Sure sign of snow on the horizon.” “How did you know we had whisky last night?” “I can smell it on you. That hike up the hill must have opened your pores.” “Wonderful. So I smell like a distillery?” “You smell good, actually.” Trevor had no smartass comeback for that comment, but rather felt a trace of pleasure that went straight to his groin at the thought of Rudy noticing how he smelled. He tore his gaze back to the stately house. “So you’ve lived here all your life?” “Not really. Just spent time during school and college holidays. Moved back almost six months ago to the day. Spent the past seven years living and working in York. Studying and then managing a sports centre.” “What happened?” “Long story. I decided to come back home because—“ Trevor could sense Rudy looking sidelong at him. Was he making up his mind whether to let on the real reason? “Because of a bad break-up.” “Oh. I see.” “Actually, I don’t think you do. But that’s my problem. Let’s just say we were together for six years—I’m twenty-nine now—and in all that time we never moved forward. I wanted to, but things were difficult, the timing and the situation was never right. It didn’t help that Debbie spent a lot of time working or travelling and I found myself alone too much. Even when we were together, we were never a proper couple, due to one thing or another. And after a while I realised that not only was I making all the compromises, but I felt as though I was slowly being suffocated. So I decided to cut and run, come back home, much to the consternation of my father. But now I’m helping him manage our portfolio of holiday properties, which is not particularly taxing, but which nicely supplements our other family business—“ “The whisky distillery?” “Ah. Did you know all along?” “Only just figured it out a moment ago. I recognised the picture of your home on the label of the bottle and cake you brought. Very generous of you, by the way.” “I should have dropped it off to you all yesterday,” said Rudy. “If she asks, don’t tell my mother I messed up the electricity and the welcome gift. What do you do for work, Trev? Sorry, I didn’t ask earlier.” “That’s okay. Nothing special. I’m a freelance accountant. After I finished my exams—which took forever—I worked for a big firm for a couple of years; hated every moment. They tend to own your lives—well, the one I worked for did. More luck, than anything, my uncle working in the London restaurant trade put me in touch with a few owners who needed bookkeeping and accounting services. That was around five years ago. I’ve now got around thirty clients on my books, on and off, based in Central London, and although sometimes I’m completely swamped and rushed off my feet—end of tax year, naturally—at other times my time is my own. So I love my job, earn an above average wage, and I’m also lucky enough to have absolutely great clients, who I think of more as friends.” “Friends as clients. Sound great. Talking of which how are your friends settling in?” Maybe because of the wonderful morning he was having, the opening up of Rudy, maybe because of the whisky amnesia from the night before, but Trevor had completely forgotten about the dysfunctional group back at the lodge. “Come to dinner tonight,” he blurted, barely resisting the temptation to go down on his knees. “I beg you, Rudy. I’ll do anything you want, just…please.” “Whoa there, pal,” said Rudy, chuckling. The steadying arm Rudy placed around Trevor's shoulders almost undid him. “What the hell happened?” Trevor knew he was jabbering, but once emotions began to tumble out mixed with words, he couldn’t stop them. “Tension. Tantrums. Fights. Drama. Where to begin? Your basic soap opera nightmare. Not to mention my ex turning up with his new wife. If only you’d left me to drown in that ditch yesterday. But at least with you there at dinner tonight, people are more likely to be on better behaviour. Maybe even be civil to each other.” “Trev, slow down, will you?” said Rudy, smiling at him. After a moment, though, the smile faded and he pulled his arm away from Trevor. “Wait. What was that about your ex-wife showing up?” “Husband,” said Trevor, before catching himself and eyeing Rudy warily. “Oh, to hell with it. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s my ex-husband. Who’s now straight. And remarried. To a woman this time. Who’s six months pregnant. And if you hadn’t already worked it out through all that verbal garbage, I’m gay. But clearly not very good at it. I’m sorry.” Rudy tilted his head back and laughed into the day. Trevor chuckled along, and took Rudy’s reaction to mean he didn’t have a problem with him. “And you think I’m the crazy one, because I believe it’s going to snow?” “Seriously, Rudy. I know it’s an imposition, but if you could join us, you’d be doing me a huge favour. Plus the fact, you’ll get to sample Mrs M’s amazing cooking. She’s a virtuoso in the kitchen and because it’s Christmas Eve, she’ll be doing her traditional Beef Wellington. “So what?” said Rudy, folding his arms and frowning. “Just like that, at the drop of a hat, you want me to cancel my own carefully planned dinner arrangements? To keep you and your group of misfits from killing each other?” “Oh,” said Trevor, truly mortified. “Sorry. When you put it like that, I see what you mean. I assumed you were alone in the house tonight. Don’t worry. Forget I said anything.” “No, hang on. You were seriously expecting me leave my delicious can of tuna and packet of bread unopened, just so that I can be your dinner date?” Once again, Rudy’s wonderful laughter sounded in the crisp morning air. “Bastard,” said Trevor, putting his head into his hands. And once again, Rudy thrust his arm across Trevor's shoulders, hugging their sides together, and warming Trevor to the core. Never had he ever felt this connected to someone in such as short space of time, certainly not in all the years he had been together with Karl. “Trev, my friend, it would be an honour. Of course I’ll come. Now get me up to speed with the details of this band of miscreants you want me to meet—or kill—or both.”
  37. 40 points
    Peter smiled at me as the call ended. “I guess I didn’t understand the interview’s significance.” He shrugged. “I didn’t until Olek reminded us.” I said, then laughed at the other realization. “I haven’t even been to Makarovia yet. Your mother said it was cold.” Peter smiled and nodded. “It is in the winter; often minus twenty degrees below freezing at night. We are in the mountains.” He shrugged. “We will be there in spring. It will be cool at night, but it will be warm in summer.” He turned to me. “It is beautiful in summer.” I nodded. “Minus twenty degrees in Celsius is not much different in Fahrenheit!” I gave a shrugging nod at hearing that. “That’s cold.” Peter grinned edging closer. “There are many ways to stay warm there.” He said kissing me behind my right ear. “One I will look forward to...with you.” He said as his lips moved over my sensitive skin there. I smiled enjoying his affection. “Are you a little cold now?” He chuckled. “We can always warm each other up.” My fingers went into his hair. “Let’s do that.” I pushed back. “I’m feeling a chill.” Actually quite the opposite, but any excuse worked for us. The next morning, we bid Queen Alla good-bye telling her we’d see each other again at the end of May. Her flight was commercial this time and she was being driven by one of the men helping keep our home secure. We went to the university and began our week. Midterms were coming up and the stressors of what happened with Makarovia, Peter’s and my wedding and approaching midterms was a lot. Some stressors weren’t really necessary and not just from the paparazzi or students. Professors, as smart as they are supposed to be…or were supposed be, were just as…bad as some people were. I got to the dining area first and began studying a little waiting for Peter. It was now…just a day for most of the other students. They came and got a meal, walking past no longer just staring at me or my security. I studied geometry. Math. I hate math. I was looking over the theorems we were being tested at the beginning of the next week. That’s when I heard or rather felt books laid down a little heavier than usual. Looking up in surprise, Peter sat down blowing a breath in…frustration? Disgust? Both? He looked over at me. “Hi.” He said not really happy at whatever. Then, like he never did; he was preoccupied with whatever it was. He leaned in and kissed me. A peck! An afterthought!? I was not letting that one go. I looked at him puzzled. “I’ll ask about this...whatever in a second, but first…let’s try that again.” I grinned, grabbing his collar and brought him into a kiss like we normally did…with feeling. “Hi, baby.” Peter grinned and his eyes softened. “Sorry.” He said kissing me again. “Hi.” “No problem.” I said running a hand over his face. “I don’t need to tell you what to do now, do I?” He sat back sighing. “It was my Sociology professor. He was passing out what was being expected to be covered on the upcoming exams.” He frowned. “He says to me…” and he did a pretty good impression of the mousy little professor, “I hope you don’t expect favoritism in light of this new status you have.” Even I was bothered by that. “I guess he expects a certain entitlement from you now.” “Why!?” “Well, has he ever had dinner with the President or interviewed by Anderson Cooper? You have.” I asked. “What did you do?” “I merely told him…my status is not new, I’ve always been who and what I am…I hope that your new knowledge of the status I always had won’t affect how you graded me. I expect to be graded as before, not better…or worse. I mean, he’s been grading me for half the semester not knowing! Now because he knows my status, I’m now expecting favoritism!?” I shrugged and smiled. “That was a great response.” I said squeezing his hand. “I’d like to think it was just ignorance he was speaking from, but what he said was just stupid. He knew better.” “He is…” he transferred to English as he said, “…dickhead.” Perfectly. I laughed out loud at him. “Okay, who did you hear that from? I don’t think I’ve ever used that with you.” Peter grinned, his grey-green eyes sparkling. “Ted Dawe.” He said. “He’s in a couple of my classes.” I nodded. “We are so articulate…Southerners.” Peter chuckled. I kept in touch with my grandmother, but normally by email with the occasional call about once or twice a month. On that Wednesday following the Anderson Cooper interview, after classes and we were home, I smiled as my phone rang and saw her face on my caller ID. I touched her face and said: “Hi, Grandma.” I said casually. Peter looked over smiling. “Hello yourself, or do I say Your Highness now?” Grandma teased. “You’re moving up the world.” She said, and as she always did, spoke Ukrainian. She insisted I learn it and spoke only that to me. Ukrainian and Makarovian were basically the same, so Peter know what I would say. “Now, Grandma, you were the one that cautioned me about the ramifications of a relationship with Peter. Remember?” “I remember.” She chuckled. “Do you have a date for the wedding?” I looked back at Peter. “Do we have a wedding date?” Peter looked up from his studies and his eyes widened as he thought. “No, not really, but I will say it will probably be next spring. Mom will probably tell us that.” “It will be in Makarovia.” I said to confirm. “Absolutely.” Peter nodded. “Of course, she’s coming, right? We’ll pay for it.” “I heard that.” Grandma said. “I intend to be there, there is no choice. My grandson is marrying someone he loves. My place will be there. Is there a chance I can see you before you go?” “Can we go to North Carolina?” I asked Peter. Peter smiled. “We could…” he said, “but she might do better to come here. If we go, there will be several people with us.” He pointed out. “Come up here.” I said to her. “We have room.” “How about next weekend, if that’s no trouble?” “Stay a week or two!” I said. “I have a life here, honey. I still work. A nice long weekend is fine.” Grandma laughed. Then she added seriously. “I’m so happy for you. He’s a good man.” I grinned looking at Peter’s puzzled face. “Yes, he is. We’ll see you next weekend.” I turned back. “We’re booking this!” “I’m not arguing!” She laughed. “Flying into Logan isn’t cheap!” Then she said again softer, serious. “I love you, baby.” I smiled. “I love you, too, grandma.” Ending the phone call, I smiled at Peter. “Katrina Sams will be on the way!!” “Yea.” Peter said and he tried to put enthusiasm in it, but she was my grandmother. It was Friday. King Olek was in Makarovia, and this time…the TV broadcast was coming from there. We had to hurry home to hear the broadcast live. It was nearly five in the afternoon on the east coast, but eleven at night in Makarovia. The reasoning was most of Europe had an invested interest, so the broadcast needed to be more convenient for them. While it wasn’t like a visit from a president or something, there was an interest by the world as to why there were so many military in this little, often forgotten country. Peter and I gathered in what we had as a den/media room, so Yuri, Boris and anyone else that worked with us could see the broadcast on the big screen. There were a few cameras as Olek approached a podium. Dressed in a nice suit, he stood proudly. He spoke in English, again sort of accented, but understandable. Most of the nations that supported Makarovia spoke English. Translations in other languages were going to be by each country as the broadcast was showing. Olek cleared his throat and began. “There has been much talk about the increased military presence in Makarovia.” Olek said smiling as the flashes of camera bulbs for stills came. “I am pleased to tell you why that is now. A little more than ten years ago, a discovery was made; a discovery that will change Makarovia and many parts of the world as a whole. For the last five years, I and Queen Alla have worked with many more developed nations around the world to help us extract this new discovery. Beneath Makarovia lies a rich and sizable deposit of uranium.” His eyes sort of narrowed as he said. “It is beneath our ground and belongs to Makarovia. With the help of the United States, England, France, Germany and other nations, extraction of this resource will begin in a few weeks. The processing of the uranium will also…eventually be done here in Makarovia. As it is our resource, I tell you now; the uranium taken from us will be used, and contracted not use, to create weapons, but provide power for homes, industry, hospitals and business in places where needed. Responsible use and care must be done. The military is here to ensure that all comply with the peaceful and careful extraction of Makarovia’s uranium.” He smiled. “There is much to celebrate in Makarovia. This new source of income for Makarovia…the upcoming marriage of my brother Peter and Eric Richards just added icing to this wonderful cake of upcoming events. I plead with all that hear me. In the past, there were those that came to Makarovia thinking what we had, they deserved. I can’t say that this no resentment, but Makarovia and its people were frequently used and tossed away. We became a refuge, a sanctuary, for the many souls that other countries decided were unwelcome and unwanted, but steps have been taken place to be sure, no one is taking what is clearly ours. We will share with you, but I would think seriously about any incursion into Makarovia. This will be a good thing. Let’s work together to help it stay that way.” Olek smiled, but his eyes showed, he was very serious. He bowed slightly. “Thank you.” Peter sighed as he sat back. “Well, as you Americans say…” and he said in English, “…the cat is out of the bag now.” I nodded and looked at Peter. “Do we say that? I don’t think I ever have. Ted Dawe must have taught you that along with dickhead.” He smiled, but he was thinking seriously. “Things may also become more dangerous.” Peter said feeling the gravity of the upcoming situation. “There are many angry people out there. People who will think that threating one of us…or my brother or mother…will get them what they want.” I shrugged. “That is always the case. We’ve had two terrorists attacks in New York and the attacks in England and other cities…” I looked at the men here to protect us now. “These men are doing well. We should trust them to do their job.” I got closer to Peter. “They’re American.” Peter’s eyes widened, but then he laughed. “Well, I love this American.” He confessed kissing me. I wasn’t stupid. He needed to know that I knew what those threats could be. “And there are those who might be upset with us.” I said, he needed to know that. “Us!? You and me?” “Sure.” I nodded. “I remember…I read when the President…or whatever he is in Iran…Ahmadinejad…was questioned at a university in the United States; he was asked about Gay Rights. His reply was there were no homosexuals in his country.” Peter’s eyes widened. “How did they manage that!? We’re everywhere!” I shrugged. “They can deny it, but you’re right. We are everywhere.” I said. “Everyone there laughed at him…he often talks about God and science…but all he’s done was spew hate.” I shook my head. “He’s not alone. Our own Vice-President has a history of that.” I smiled. “What we’ve done, baby…is take what was hidden and in the back room and displayed it proudly. We told the world we were getting married, for love. We’re not going somewhere private to do what they think is immoral and wrong. You are a leader. Your brother is a king! He not only didn’t object, he loves us. Your mother went on national television and not only supported us, but told everyone she encouraged it.” Peter shook his head. “I don’t understand it.” He said distressed. He nodded to me and held his hand up to stop me. “I know…I’m innocent…all because I can’t see a problem. What’s wrong with the fact I love you?” “You’re not supposed to love me.” I shrugged. “They think that’s impossible and unnatural. Your mother said it; we’re not perverse or deviant.” “Crimes involving sex aren’t done by us!” Peter objected. “No, it’s done by criminals who identify as straight most of the time. Pedophiles, rapists are usually just…people; they have issues, but should be punished. Not necessarily gay.” I nodded. “I’m on your side. There are those that see what we are…is a crime; it’s against not only against the law of the land, but the laws of nature!” I smiled. “But we are now known by a great many, so targeting us wouldn’t be a good idea as we see many who don’t care who we love.” “But they may want to make a point.” He nodded. I gave a shrugging nod. “They could do that…it’s been done for a lot of reasons. It won’t be because of us.” Midterms done and we waited at Logan Airport for Grandma’s plane to unload. My grandmother finally arrived from the throngs of people getting off various flights. She was the only living relative I had now; if I didn’t count Peter, Olek and Queen Alla. Seeing her always gave me a warm feeling. Dressed immaculately for colder weather with a fur hat (it seemed to be trend in East and Northern Europe), but still stood straight and her walk was precise. She is always a ballerina. Seeing us, she had a bright smile on her face instantly, came and hugged me. “Hello, Darling!” She greeted hugging me hard, which could be pretty hard. She was a strong woman! “Hi, Grandma.” She looked over and grabbed Peter. “Hello, Peter.” She hugged him as hard as she did me kissing him on the cheek. “You’re my darling, too.” Then she noticed two of the men in the dark suits behind us. “Well, you did tell everyone. I guess that’s part of those ramifications I warned you about.” I nodded. “They are why it is easier for you to come here.” I shrugged. “There are more in the car.” Peter smiled. “Even more at home.” Grandmother looked at me. “How are you adjusting?” I smiled. “I’m fine.” The weekend began well. My grandmother loved where we lived, but was always watching the many people that were around doing…things. It was the following day when the doorbell rang. I knew who it was as I planned this, so I told Boris I’d get the door. Opening it, Carla Bowers, my former landlord was smiling at me, but then was looking at the men by the door, inside of course. It was cold outside! “I was happy you called me.” She said entering, but still looking at the men who weren’t moving. “I hope there were no hard feelings about what happ…” I hugged her. “None at all; don’t worry about that.” I said. “It’s perfectly understandable.” I waved at one of the men. “Otherwise, you’d have them at your front door.” Then I stage whispered. “I don’t think they can even talk!” She laughed as she walked in and looked around. “Well, I couldn’t offer you this.” She stated the obvious. “I loved that apartment!” I said smiling, “and Peter felt more at home there than here.” “Is that..?” My grandmother’s voice came as she walked quickly in the foyer. My grandmother was in her seventies, Carla was in her sixties, but suddenly they were just two little girls! There were two loud squeals as the two old friends were reunited, hugging each other and talking all at once! Grandmother told Carla she swore she was going to come by, Carla said how nice grandma looked and hadn’t really changed…it was chaos, but they understood each other. Peter walked in slower and stood behind me as they were still at it. “They aren’t speaking English.” Peter said to me. “I can’t understand a word of what they’re saying.” I chuckled. “No, they’re speaking a very unique form of English…Old Friends.” I grinned enjoying my grandmother and Carla’s happiness. I took his hand. “They’re using a special dialect for girls.” I led him from the room so the friends could talk. Later, after Carla said she had to go…which I didn’t get, she owned the apartment building and her life there. We again visited with my grandmother, had a good meal. She swore again she’d be at the wedding. We took her back to the airport and saw her off. I was pleased with the work I was shown for the web page for Makarovia. It was much more inviting. I was also happy they included photos Olek had sent of his mother. While she wasn’t like Queen Alla, she was pretty and Olek’s father loved her. I was surprised to see a picture of me! I was in that tux and at the White House with Peter. The caption even said I was “Future Prince Eric Richards of Makarovia.” I smiled. They’d have to change that when I took Peter’s name, but it was a nice picture. Life at the university remained the same. People were still clamoring for interviews and talk show appearances which Penny handled and let us know about. The semester was finally coming to a close. Now, it was time to get ready to go to Makarovia. I packed as did Peter. I was excited to see where my new home was, not that we were leaving Boston. We both had a few more years at the university and would be back, but I was going to see the new home for me…a home I was share with Peter. Peter walked up to me as I watched my suitcase being carried by Yuri. “This is it.” He smiled. “We’re off to Makarovia.”
  38. 40 points
    I realized that Dragon had really missed a lot of life. He’d lived a long time, but he didn’t see the world. He didn’t know the world. He was told things about it, but didn’t know it. If we did this and were successful, he could get to know it at last. The others on our team was getting ready to be out with the people for this Halloween. It wasn’t just one night, but three. We knew the attack was going to be the actual night the thirty-first. Things were building up even before that. Anticipation was high for the fun, but for us…it was like watching the clock count down the hours before all hell was going to break. What had been a somewhat busy town or village was now housing a lot more people. Most of these new guests were young; ranging from early twenties to mid-thirties. Transylvania was gearing up for a wild few nights. Vampires was the theme naturally. There were all the things about vampires hanging around, clusters of garlic and various crosses hung that were ornate. The whole feeling was Gothic, but fun! There were going to be witches there, too, but this was Transylvania. Dracula was the featured guest. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that is. We made sure we had enough of those serum cartridges to give to everyone. The batteries were all charged and ready for the sun guns. There was a lot of beer, ales and other alcoholic drinks being brought in. There would be other…things not so legal to be taken those nights to make the user who was having a good time, have an even better time. We discussed what we were going to do several nights with everyone. There were going to be fifty vampires on the serum out with the partying crowd, yet we knew that was still not enough. With the vampires coming from Thornwood and our English VUN family, the ones on our team and Dragon’s people, we were still going to be short. Vampire senses allowed those going out there who weren’t vampires to be paired with them and kept safe. Chuck, Mark, Shelly, Stan and Sorin were given the Disflavor, so they wouldn’t be victims of becoming a vampire, but they could still be hurt or even killed. The vampire detectors would not be needed if they went in pairs. We were feeling the tension. The 29th, as soon as it became twilight, people began coming out to the town square and were in the taverns and just…roaming the streets. The castle that was Vlad’s…or Dragon’s in the past, was going to be crowded as well. The mood of this was spread out all over Romania, but Transylvania was the main focus. Dracula’s Castle was impressive, large and just loomed. As the evening came, the lights began to shine brightly, focused on the castle making it glow. Set on a precipice the view from the main tower, you could see the surrounding countryside to watch approaching enemies. However, now it was for just tourists. Dragon had made a broadcast telling those that had access to a computer, not to do…whatever Iilya had planned for them to do. It would be all our deaths if they did. Dragon said they were being deceived by Iilya. The problem was, the ones that got the broadcast were not the ones that would be attacking. Those vampires with Iilya, if they checked a computer they had access to, would not really listen. We hoped that maybe a few would see it and rethink this attack. It was as we went through the crowds in the village square, Dragon was looking at the many “vampires” there in costume. Not one of them was a real vampire, it was just for the next three evenings; these people wanted to be a vampire. There were good costumes and some just had the teeth in their mouths. The skin was lightened to give the pale look. These days were the last of October, so the weather was cold, but there were portable heaters lit and spread about to give some relief. Dragon was looking amazed as there were so many that was loving being a vampire now. He was mystified. He watched as a woman passed by him…her costume was more like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark if you know Cassandra Peterson’s character on TV who hosted a show with those…often very bad movies. This woman had the pushup bra and showed she was well endowed. The real Elvira was funny. I loved her and many of those movies were really corny, but it was fun to watch and hear her crazy comments! Dragon turned as another vampire…complete with dark cape, the black tuxedo and the teeth. Good teeth, too, not those little white plastic ones often worn. “I don’t understand.” Dragon said still looking at all the ones having a good time. “They imitate being a vampire!?” He looked at me. “Why??” I nodded. “Because it’s fun.” I grinned. “I did the last few years I was a kid. Being a vampire was fun.” “Fun!?” Colin nodded. “To escape an otherwise routine and sometimes dull life…school, the burden of bills like rent, car payments and maybe a boss that isn’t very likable…it’s a form of escape from the realities of that life; a fantasy for one night only.” Then Colin gave a nod to the crowd, “…or two more nights for these people.” “Dracula isn’t you, we know and understand that.” I said. “But Bram Stoker did create a very powerful legend. His portrayal of the vampire was as a villain, but as the decades went; vampires often are shown as a lost souls looking for love.” I shrugged. “The vampire has become an anti-hero often; people who want to get their souls back. They are shown as trying to find that special someone that will mean something to them and wants to become that person’s love.” Colin shrugged. “Well, that is true.” He grinned hugging me. “I was.” The evening progressed, laughter and many voices talking loud to be heard over the noise and there was music! Groups took a podium/stage erected in the square. Dressed again like vampires, the performers played loud and sang, adding to the party mood. There were those that drank a bit much. There were those that got into confrontations with others, be it over a girl or just disagreeing. Around the square were high platforms where cameras were placed to film it all. There were the ones in this crowd, dressed in dark clothes with badges, but had bright yellow vest over the clothes that said, “Poliţia.” Sorin did not have that on, but most of the Poliţia knew him since Sorin was a part of the police enforcement. As we walked through town, we were all connected by Stan and Buddy. We had the earpieces in and could talk to the others. Not one vampire could be sensed. Colin and I knew this group following Iilya and Lucian were biding their time until Halloween. On Halloween evening, we gathered at the house. The overall feeling was; this was it. Everyone knew that what was going to happen, was going to happen in the next few hours. We really didn’t talk that much as quietly prepared. Dragon came over to Colin and me as we were getting ready to head to where Dragon had lived in his underground home for centuries. Checking the serum cartridges and made sure we had plenty, though one shot to the leg would hinder a vampire’s ability to walk. In the arm, they would not be able to wield a weapon well and the sun guns would drive them back. “Are you sure I shouldn’t go with you?” Dragon asked. “Gaius will be there.” Colin smiled at Dragon. “You need to be out there with those people. When it does come down and they start attacking, your voice will be needed to try and stop them.” I picked up a gun. It was a real gun, not a sun gun and made sure I had bullets. I made sure the safety was on and put it in my holster on my chest to the side. “I hate we have to do this.” I said to no one. Colin came over. “I know.” He said quietly. “We can’t think of an alternative. Iilya must be stopped. He kills and will do it again.” “I know.” I sighed and nodded without looking at Colin. “And Lucian?” Colin put his arms around me. “He’s a willing follower. He’s so convinced what we say is a lie, I don’t think he can be reached.” Colin turned me around. “Iilya has given him something he needs. I don’t think Lucian will listen.” He looked out the window as it was getting dark. “We’d better go.” He kissed me gently. “I love you, Mitch.” I smiled. “I know. I love you.” Colin kissed me again. “I know.” The others were ready as well. Mark was saying things to Stan as they parted for the night. Mark’s usual lighthearted and often hilarious demeanor was not at his usual level. Kissing and hugging Stan, he swore he’d be back and looked at Colin and me. “Are you sure you don’t need me to go with you to Dragon’s Lair?” Mark attempted his lighthearted joke, but if fell a little short this time. I hugged him. “No.” I told Mark. “We’ll need people down there who will be able to sense Iilya and any others he brings with him. Some of Dragon’s men will be down with us.” I patted his arm. “We’ll be fine.” I pointed at Dragon. “Stay near him.” I instructed firmly. “Stan doesn't want to lose you.” I smiled. “We don’t want to lose you.” I hugged Stan and ran a hand over his face. “Be careful. You have a sun gun and serum gun?” Stan nodded. “And an actual gun, just in case.” I was about to go, when Stan grabbed me and hugged me again. “Take care of each other.” He pointed to Colin and then looked at Colin and pointed to me. “You’ve got each other’s six.” I grinned. “What!? Are we on NCIS!?” I shoved him lightly. “We’ll be back.” Mom, Willie, Alex and Gabriella hugged both of us and said the same things. It was Willie that brought me close to him. “You’re a good man, son.” His voice a little heavy with emotion as he hugged me and even gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Colin said I was father to him. He means a lot to me, but you are my son as well. I love you both. I owe you and Colin everything. Be careful.” He really meant what he said. I could hear it in his voice. I hugged him again. “Thanks, Dad.” I looked at Mom. “Watch each other.” Along with two of the men that had been with Dragon, Gaius, Colin and I headed toward the caverns where Dragon had lived. Colin held my hand a while as we walked quietly toward the caverns, but soon he put his arm around me bringing me closer as we walked. In spite of what we said about it going to come out well…there was a chance that we could be hurt; even killed if we let our guard down. I was determined not to let my guard down. In the cavern, we gathered near what had been Repetate’s and Iustina’s cell…we sat and waited. No one had much to say right now. Time just seemed to crawl. It was just…quiet. It was about five minutes until eleven o’clock, when Colin suddenly sat up. Gaius tilted his head and then I felt it. Someone else was down here. My sensing other vampires was not as strong as theirs. I felt the two vampires that came with us and Gaius, but now…there were others. Several others were down here with us and my heart began to pound. This was it. The sound of hard soles on the cavern floor got louder. There was no need to hide, they could sense us as we did them, but from the sound, there were more than a few. Iilya was leading a group of six others. What I saw made me feel…he was dressed like a Soviet Military man! An officer with the greyish blue double-breasted coat, the belt around his waist and even that grey fuzzy hat. Behind Iilya was Lucian dressed in black, but no uniform. The other men were also dressed in various clothes…all black. There was that dress code again. Colin rose from his chair. “Iilya, you do know the Soviet Union is gone, right?” Iilya smiled again and just as he did when we first met him. There was little humor in his smile or eyes. “Where are they?” He asked taking his leather gloves off and waved the gloves at the empty cell. I got closer to Colin. “Your senses should tell you they are not here…or anywhere else in these caverns.” “They were taken to Manhattan with Dr. Holms.” Colin said. “We had to get them safe from you.” Iilya nodded and stepped slowly forward. “They’re killers.” “So are you.” I said. “I kill to stay alive.” Iilya pointed out, but not too defensively. “They are what started all this….according to you.” “Why would we lie about that?” Colin asked. “Use your senses, but also use your minds. We have evidence.” Iilya nodded and did a slow turn looking at the others. “Evidence you would show me, but tell me what I’m looking at.” He shook his head as he pointed in the air. “No…I won’t believe it.” “Lucian.” I had to try and reach him. “You are not stupid.” I waved at Gaius. “He was…what you are now! Look at him!!” I waved at the other two of Dragon’s men. “You’ve known them! Look! They are not like you are now anymore. How is that a lie?” “I’m human, Lucian.” Gaius said softly. “I am a human that got that…” he shook his head, “…venom, just like you have. It’s a physical condition that these men are doing something to try and cure us.” “Can’t you believe your own eyes?” I pointed at Gaius and the other two. “You can sense, I am a vampire. Colin is a vampire and so are they! We’re not lying. Please.” I begged. Lucian was looking…well…he was shaking his head, but as I asked him to. He couldn’t ignore what he saw. “Iilya?” He asked the big Russian hesitantly. “You said Gaius was a hoax; that they’d done someth…” “Shut up, Lucian.” Iilya said sharp and terse. I nodded. “Oh, I see. When we brought Gaius to meet Dragon that time…we’d done something trick you? Watch this…” I went to the cooler and opened it. “Stop!” Iilya demanded. “Why?” I asked. “I’m simply going to show Lucian it isn’t a lie.” I reached into the cooler and pulled out one of the many sandwiches we’re brought due to Colin’s huge appetite. “I said stop!” Iilya said again moving closer to me more rapidly, but Gaius pulled out his serum gun and fired at Iilya’s leg causing Iilya to stumble and lower to the floor. Lucian jumped startled and rushed to Iilya’s side. Iilya was inhaling as his eyes widened grasping his leg as pain shot through his leg. Colin pulled his serum gun out and so did the others before any of Iilya men could reach us stopping them. “We’ve got plenty more; come on!” Colin urged doing that thing with your hand when you were waving someone forward. “He’s in a lot of pain.” He pointed at Iilya. “Want to share the pain?” Lucian was trying to help Iilya, but Iilya was shoving him off. “Don’t be stupid, Lucian, they are lying!!” “Really?” I asked waving the meaty sandwich toward them. “Would you like some? We’ve got plenty of them.” Waving food in front of them. Like Willie did when he was first brought to the VUN and Colin and I ate with him, there were looks of revolution on their faces as they backed up a little. “You knew him as a vampire!” I handed the sandwich to Gaius who bit into the sandwich and began munching. “See? He’s eating it!” Gaius grinned and rubbed his hand over his mouth as juice spilled out. “Delicious.” Now the tension was lessened. “I’ve got to get Eva to make more.” He said and swallowed. “Good roast beef.” “It’s a lie!” Iilya shouted, but Lucian was wavering. “How is that a lie, Lucian?” I asked as loud. “You saw him eat and he enjoyed it! How can he lie about that? The problem is, when we brought Gaius down, having him here could have been a lie. We didn’t have him prove while you were here. Look!!” I looked at Iilya. “The only lies have been yours!” Lucian was moving away from Iilya. “What lies?” “He lied to you!” I said pointing at Lucian. “He used you. I don’t know who bit him, but…there is no magic about being a vampire. He wanted to get down here and meet Dragon. He wanted to be a part of Dragon’s empire here. The only way to do that was though you.” I looked at Iilya. “What do you want Repetate and Iustina for?” “They’re power.” Iilya grunted still in pain. Colin nodded as he came closer. “Power you wanted because of the venom we told you about.” “But Dragon never let them out.” I added. “He loved those two and so do I!” I nodded. “Yes, they killed. They were doing what they were created for. You had a choice!” I said. “Like these men here…they didn’t feed on people. They needed blood. They found how to get the blood without killing anyone! You admitted you did to stay alive. No one has to die!” I looked at Lucian. “I don’t know what happened to you, but…did he tell you he loved you? Do you believe he does?” Lucian looked at Iilya now very uncertain. “But it’s wrong.” He said softly. I smiled nodding. “Who told you it was wrong? Priests?” Then I asked softer. “You’re father?” I saw Lucian had emotional pain as he remembered. “It’s not wrong.” Gaius said simply. “I’ve loved a few men myself.” He said casually. “A human being seeks companionship with another human being. It’s what we do. Who cares what the gender is?” I smiled at Gaius. “You told me that before.” “I’ve loved one man for centuries.” He shrugged. “I still do.” Colin looked at Gaius. “Dragon?” Gaius nodded. “We’ve been off and on for centuries.” He held up his finger. “I loved Nicholae’s mother, but Dragon and I…have an understanding.” “No!” Iilya said again and reached to his side. “The venom was to make us powerful, I won’t…” he pulled a sidearm, but was still shaking from pain, he pointed the gun at Colin and fired. Watching Colin grab his left side and stagger, without even really thinking, I pulled my gun from its holster and fired, but my hand was steady and the bullet went right through the middle of Iilya’s forehead. I turned quickly to Colin who was holding his arm. “Colin!” I said rushing to my husband who was grimacing in pain. He smiled even though I knew he was hurting. “It’s a flesh wound.” He chuckled. “I’ve been shot a few times. I’ll be okay.” Hugging him to me, I turned to Lucian and raised the gun, pointing it at him. “Well? Do you want to go with Iilya? Or do we talk now? No lies.”
  39. 39 points
    We came back inside after a few minutes. He was right, it was still chilly outside even with it being the end of spring. After returning the jackets to our rooms, we went to the dining room. Peter led me through the corridors which he knew well. I needed to learn where things were in the palace. There was the dining room and a grand banquet hall. The difference being the dining room held twelve at a long table in the center, five on one side, five on the other and one on each end for King Olek and the other for Queen Alla. The grand banquet hall could hold much more which we would dine in a few times that summer. The dining room was pretty…okay, most of the palace was pretty. I’ll try to be…more expressive using other words. The table was in the center, again a lot of polished stone on the floor with decorative rugs. There was a fireplace on the opposite wall of the entrance. On the table....which was an elegant polished wooden table with everything needed, china, silver, crystal, but all assembled this time at one end to ease conversations. The three students that came with us were eating with us tonight. King Olek and Queen Alla came in and greeted the students. “We appreciate your coming to help us with our new web page.” Olek said to each of them in English. The only girl smiled. Her name was Becky and a senior. She had dark hair she had pulled back and hanging down her back. About five feet and five inches was young enough she was pretty without makeup. “I hope we’ll do things well for you. This is a great country, Your Highness. Your kingdom is so beautiful!” “We are pleased you see it that way.” Olek smiled. “That’s why Dean Sutton chose them.” I said. “They have good eyes and can capture anything on film.” I looked at Olek. “And since I’ve never been here, I can’t show them around.” Olek chuckled. “Not to worry, I have someone to take them around Makarovia that speaks English just fine.” I grinned. “I knew you would!” “We can all speak English.” Queen Alla said smiling. “And while you are here, we will, too.” The one named Daryl, blonde and blue eyed and sort of lanky at six feet and some inches was junior smiled. “Good, because I don’t speak a word in anything but English.” The one named Kenny was stocky and dark headed about five feet and eight inches tall, also a junior gave his friend a little shove. “And he’s not that good in English either.” He laughed. Daryl jabbed him back lightly. “And you can do better?” Kenny grinned. “I speak English gooder than you!” He teased. They were college students, the eldest was maybe twenty-two. That was Becky. Daryl and Kenny were about twenty. “I’d love to see around Stryia, it’s beautiful the way it is.” She smiled. “I promise we’ll capture that. It seems this whole country is unspoiled.” Olek smiled. “Most of our country’s exports is mining, so much of the land was not…spoiled. The mountains have a lot of mines. You will find some are dangerous, but the two I chose to guide you around know that.” “This six hours difference will have an impact.” Queen Alla said knowingly. “How long are you staying?” Becky smiled. “Six weeks, plenty of time to see a lot.” Olek nodded. “You can work out where to go. Go as a group or even separately.” Becky nodded. “Well, Kenny’s best at landscapes, while Daryl is good at natural things…like flowers and wildlife. We should probably stick together the first few days. And in the next six weeks, we need to get pictures of the four of you. We can do posed and candid. I know it will work out just fine.” Conversations flowed easily with everyone. It was toward the end of the meal Olek sat forward a bit. “I know with the time change…you might not be tired yet.” Olek said. “And since you are our guests, there is a little nightlife here. If you’re interested?” I smiled. “I asked Peter about that. If they’re not interested, I sure am.” Olek gave a shrug and did what Peter did. “It may not be like you’re used to…” “Olek,” I smiled. “What this kingdom does have, you seem to have in plenty. We don’t need all that…chaos.” Olek smiled and nodded. “I’m just warning you.” I got the feeling Olek and Peter would do that a lot. I understood that they were self-conscious about what wasn’t in Makarovia. They needed reminding about what was here. “We do have Wi-Fi.” Olek said brightly. “Were you given the password?” The three nodded, but I was surprised. Of course, they did. Olek and Queen Alla communicated all over the world. I found out most Makarovia didn’t have cellphones. Most of the cellphones owners were in Stryia. Many throughout Makarovia had a computer, but they were all connected to those satellite dishes on the castle’s rooftop. To have all those cellphone towers to connect Makarovia with the world made me worry again about cluttering the landscape. I inwardly sighed thinking that was inevitable. Things were going to change here. I wondered if they had a T-Mobile or Verizon in Makarovia. I supposed they could order a phone or even got it on vacation. I knew that in Skoal there would be all that…cellphones and towers. All would be transmitted here. It was later Peter and I came into what Peter called the family room. Where Peter, Olek and Queen Alla spent free time and saw other family members. Olek was there at the bar getting a drink. He looked up and smiled as Peter and I came in. “Help yourselves.” Olek waved at the different bottles of assorted alcohol. He wandered back to a chair sitting with a sigh. “We were thinking we might go into Stryia tonight.” Peter said. “We’re still on Eastern Time.” I was looking at Olek and seeing him be…just Olek. He let his guard down briefly with us before. I smiled. “This has been a busy five years or more for you, hasn’t it?” Olek let out a breathy laugh. “You could say that.” I always try to be caring…and tactful, but I saw a weariness in him that just wasn’t…just fatigue. “Olek.” I said softly. “Please, I’ve grown to love you and I do love you the more I know you. Maybe it’s because of my upbringing, but…when I say this…know I care about what happens to you, Queen Alla and…” I chuckled taking Peter’s hand, “and of course Peter, but you know I care about him.” Olek chuckled and looked up surprised. “Of course.” “Whenever I ask something inappropriate, just tell me, but…” I smiled. “I’ve not known you that long, but…I hope you’re taking care of yourself during all this.” Olek smiling softly. “I try.” He said sadly. Peter walked closer to his brother. “I wasn’t much help to you in the past.” He confessed quietly and regretfully. “My own feelings of not being to be with people and…my fear,” he sighed, “…part of the reason I wanted to go to Northeastern was to be a help to you. I saw what was happening and I couldn’t just let you and Mom do it alone.” Olek smiled and got up, walking to Peter. “You were uncomfortably shy, incapacitated really, yet you went to a university in another country to help me?” He grinned even bigger. “When you said you wanted to go, I was happy you wanted to go, but you did it to help me?” Peter nodded. “You’ve done so much and all I did was hide in my room! Eric’s right about you, I saw it.” Peter said. “You and Mom were off trying to make things better…you were trying to keep Makarovia from being taken control of and our uranium. I was doing nothing. You’ve sacrificed so much. I know you’ve sacrificed any personal life. I thought I couldn’t be out in the world, but that’s why I’m taking all those courses, Urban Development, Urban Planning…I thought I could take some pressure off and help here in Makarovia.” “To help me!?” Olek was…in shock, disbelief and he brought Peter in, kissed him hard on the cheek and didn’t just hug, but a long embrace! Keeping Peter as close as he could as he rocked gently back and forth. “That is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for me, Peter.” He held Peter back a little as tears were forming his eyes. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s done for me.” Peter smiled. “I love you, Olek. You can’t do this alone. My feelings about being out with people couldn’t keep me from helping you. I couldn’t let you do this alone. I still feel fear sometimes.” He smiled at me. “But not as bad anymore.” I smiled back and squeezed his hand. “You’re both your father’s son.” Queen Alla said coming in having heard what had been said. She was smiling at both of them. “Always considering others first.” Peter looked back at his mother. He shrugged a nod. “I suppose I am like Dad.” He looked back at Olek. “We will help you. Going to the university was scary, finding Eric was…unexpected, but he’s helped me...” He looked at Olek. “He got through to me.” I gave a sudden, somewhat embarrassed bow from the praise. “Peter’s right. We will do what needs to be done and take some of this burden off your shoulders.” I said. “You worked hard. There are people here that will protect what you’ve done. I hope you know, I’ll help as much as Peter will.” I got closer to Olek as well. “Have you had a day off?” Olek’s eyes widened. “A day off…I’m busy!” He smiled, “I didn’t dare take one.” “You need one, Olek.” Peter moved his head so Olek had to look in his eyes. “They are here…the military, the people to help train our people to get the uranium are coming. Mining will begin. Isn’t there a lull in what’s going on for you to take a few days off? Maybe go somewhere and just relax?” Olek chuckled. “I don’t know if I remember how.” Peter smiled. “We’ll go with you…or you go alone…anywhere you think would be good.” Peter shook his brother lightly in affection. “You’re stressed, it will kill you, if you don’t slow down. What happened with Yvonne?” Olek’s eyes widened again. “Yvonne!?” He shook his head. “I haven’t seen her in five years! She’s married now with a kid or two.” “Kids, that could have been yours.” Peter reminded. “Think about it.” Olek nodded. “There’s still so much happening. We have other governments here…more people from the west…I can’t! I’m busy!” He said again. “Peter’s right.” Queen Alla said calmly walking over to us. “We often go places together when visiting, so I know before I ask the question. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?” Olek gave another grudging nod. “As much as I can, I have things to do!” Queen Alla smiled. “As much as we do, I get at least six to eight hours of sleep a night. I’ve taken days off on weekends often…granted it is often where I’m visiting, but I take time for myself. You don’t.” Peter smiled. “I know there’s a lot of pressure.” He said. “But we’re here for two and a half months! Now, you’re going to pick somewhere…and we go!” “How can I?” Olek asked helplessly. “You have to!” Peter said firmly. “When Dad died…not much older than you are now…you were in college, younger than I am now. Who took charge of Makarovia until you finished?” Olek looked at all of us, but Queen Alla waved to Olek. She had. Olek let a frustrated breath out. “But things are different!” “I know.” Queen Alla nodded. “But I’m not going to doing anything to upset things. We have a few days to let things settle into place. You pick somewhere and go.” She took Peter’s hand. “They come with you to make sure you go and relax.” She smiled again. “They go…and you go. You’ll be a phone call away if you’re needed.” Olek’s mouth dropped open and he was about to protest. “Olek.” I said to him. “Why did you do all this?” “To make things better for Makarovia!” “Makarovia needs you.” I nodded. “But Makarovia needs you…alive.” “I’d like it to be two weeks.” Queen Alla said. “I’ll settle for one.” “I have meetings scheduled!” Olek protested. “I can’t leave.” “We’ll have those meetings rescheduled.” Queen Alla said. “They will understand, Olek.” “But...but…” Olek began. “You’re going.” Queen Alla said firmly. “And we’re going with you to see you do relax. Mom says.” Peter grinned. “Besides, we haven’t spent time together in a while. You can get to know Eric!” He said happily. “Don’t you want to spend time with me?” Olek smiled. “Of course, I do…” “Pick where we go…and we’ll be off!” Peter smiled. “We go.” Olek threw his hands up in defeat. “Fine.” Peter and I took the elevator down to the ground level. “You were five when your father died.” I knew from reading it and Peter had told me. Peter nodded. “I was. Olek was in college in Switzerland. He became king.” He smiled. “Mom stepped in as Queen after that. Regent really, since she was Queen Consort, but she did a great job and the people love her. After Olek became king, she just never stepped down. They don’t want her to.” I smiled. “She earned her place as Queen.” Peter nodded. “She’s good. She can charm anyone.” He waved his hand stating fact simply. When the elevator stopped Peter walked off walking backwards. “Now, I’m sort of new to Styria’s nightlife myself. We can investigate together.” He smiled as two men came behind us. Clearly, they were security. Not the security I had become accustomed to in Boston, but security nonetheless. “We aren’t threatened here, are we?” The one smiled. “There are others here now. Your brother didn’t think it would be…safe anymore.” I nodded and looked at Peter. “There were Russian military exercises just on the border. There are dangers now.” I reminded him. Peter nodded. “I suppose.” He sighed. “I guess this comes from having something others want.” He looked at the security sadly. “That’s right.” I said. “You’re become a power in the world…and a target.” Peter shook his head. “I hate that things will change, I wish that didn’t have to happen.” “I wish it didn’t, too.” I looked up the clear night’s sky. “I haven’t even seen much of Makarovia yet, so the change won’t be as shocking for me.” I took his hand. “It will be a change that hopefully will be worth it for everyone in Makarovia. It doesn’t have to be all bad.” “Not everyone here will be…as tolerant of us.” Peter said. “I mean Makarovians, not us…” “There will be some here that may not be tolerant of us, Peter. The more people thrown in the mix will bring trouble.” I said waving at the two of us. Peter frowned. “The people here have lived here a while and they learned to be tolerant because they weren’t tolerated themselves.” Peter shook his head and turned to our two security men. “Okay, where do you go for entertainment in Stryia?” The two security men looked at each other and then smiled. “We know just where to go.” One smiled.
  40. 39 points
    “Good evening. I’m Anderson Cooper.” Anderson said to the camera. “You are watching this because you heard or saw reports that a very unique marriage is in the works as a member of a royal family, a prince is marrying a man from the United States. I will introduce you.” He waved to Peter, who sat on the couch next to me. “This is Prince Petro Ivanov of Makarovia.” He nodded to Peter. “I want to thank you for letting me in to give this…” Anderson gave a sort of shrug as he couldn’t explain it any other way, “…situation a voice. You are a prince.” Peter nodded. “I am.” “Beside him is Eric Richards who is an American.” I nodded. “Born and raised.” “On the other side of Prince Petro sits his mother, Queen Alla Ivanov of Makarovia who…” Anderson smiled, “tells me, not only do you not object to this marriage, but support your son’s choice in marriage.” Queen Alla nodded with a smile. “I most certainly do.” Hearing her speak English, I heard the accent like Peter had. “My son loves Eric. Why would I object to my son’s choice in who he loves?” Anderson nodded. “I agree, but…most people are surprised hearing this. Marriage for those of us who want this with someone the same gender, was a hard won victory to even have that right. It wasn’t until the turn of this century did the idea of a woman marrying a woman…a man marrying a man was accepted.” He waved at Peter and me. “But saying that a member of a royal family…that’s very…unusual; you two will be the first in known history.” He smiled. “So, let me start with…and just to get this out of the way. There is a growing international military presence consisting of several nations growing in Makarovia. Do you know what that’s about?” Peter nodded smiling. “We do, my brother King Olek will be telling about that on Friday.” Anderson nodded. “Okay, moving on…” he grinned. “How did you two meet?” “We attend the same university.” Peter took my hand smiling. “It was because of they feared my use of the English language would lack…some ability to translate, that we were assigned to a same project.” “And that’s another question!” Anderson said. “How does an American boy…raised in the South, manage to speak Makarovian!?” He asked incredibly. “Fluently!” “My grandmother.” I answered. “She was raised in Kiev in the Ukraine. She danced with the Bolshoi in Moscow until she defected to the United States. She spoke Russian and Ukrainian. She and my mother insisted I learn to as well. Except for some words and pronunciation is a little different with some words, it’s basically the same language.” “That almost sounds like it was planned.” Anderson said. I smiled. “Who’s to say it wasn’t?” “Makarovia stands alone in their approach to differences in human nature where it comes to this sort of relationship.” Anderson said. Queen Alla gave a tilt of her head. “It’s not that different, nor is it perverse or deviant. When there is love and respect, it’s what we’re made to do; find someone to spend our lives with. It’s simply part of being human. You spend five minutes with Peter and Eric and that is more than evident.” She smiled. “When I met Peter’s father, King Olek the first, his country’s view of the world was just one of the reasons I was glad to be a part of Makarovia.” She leveled a look at Anderson. “The real concern about this in royal families is the successful birth of future rulers. There are more ways now to see that it happens. The fact is; future leaders were bred, raised and educated in times where that was difficult. That isn’t a concern now. Peter found someone to share his life with.” She shrugged. “Choosing someone that is equally raised is not the deciding factor now. I know Eric will be a good addition to Makarovia. That choice should not be because of beliefs, race or even gender.” Anderson was nodding the whole time Queen Alla spoke and his smile grew the more he heard. “Eric is going to a prince, right?” Anderson asked both Queen Alla and Peter. Peter nodded and took my hand. “He will be.” Anderson nodded again. “It’s just never been done.” “Now, it is.” Queen Alla said simply. The discussion went briefly to my family’s history and Peter’s history. I was very pleased to see…whatever Peter had felt before the interview, was gone. Now sat a confident, smart and articulate man…no pauses to gather his thoughts…no “ums” or “wells.” Peter knew what he needed to say and didn’t retreat once! At the end, some plans for Makarovia were discussed. Anderson did what he said. He talked more about the marriage and future plans, but less about the gay aspect. He did allude to the fact that I was American, a commoner and an outsider; the gay aspect was just one issue that made our upcoming marriage noteworthy and controversial. “Now, we’ve all been told about this first in history.” Anderson said. He leaned forward and stuck his hand out to us. “Thank you again…for letting me be the one to tell this amazing event about to happen.” He smiled. “I know there’s something very big happening in Makarovia that has nothing to do with this marriage. I know things are going to be good for you. Good wishes to both of you in the future.” Peter nodded. “Thank you.” He leaned in and kissed me. “It will be very good.” He hugged me to his side as he smiled. We all saw the red light go out. All of us, including Anderson, sighed when that happened. Anderson nodded appreciatively. “And we’re done.” He stood up and smiled. “That was a great interview. I look forward to hearing more.” I was pleased to see Peter was smiling. His mother however was smiling bigger and hugged Peter. “You were fantastic!” She said kissing Peter on the cheek. “I don’t need to know how or why, but you were perfect!” She said hugging her son again. Peter smiled a bit bashful. “That was pretty nice.” Then I realized Penelope Baldwin was still here. “Ms. Baldwin! I’m sorry, I forgot you were here!” She nodded smiling. “And that’s the way I will always be. I assist and don’t intrude.” “I’ll say.” I nodded. “You’ve been great!” Peter nodded in agreement. “Go home, Ms. Baldwin. Thank you.” “That’s why I’m here. Trust me, there will be plenty of requests to sort through in the morning.” She chuckled and cocked her head. “And, could you call me Penny?” “Sure…Penny.” Peter smiled and turned to me. “Now, if you’ll all excuse us. I want to spend some time with my future husband.” He took my hand. “Excuse us.” Up in our room he closed the door by pressing me against it as he gave me a smoldering kiss as his hands came up and around me. “Now, to keep my promise.” He said as he began pulling on my shirt to get it out of my pants and at the same time he was pulling on my belt to get rid of that as well. “The only promise I will ever hold you to…” I said as he went from my lips to my neck and began to nibble and kiss sending volts of lightening through me. “You promise to always love me?” Peter grabbed me and moved us back to the bed. “I promise.” “I will hold you to that.” I said enjoying the sensations, but brought his face up to kiss him one long moment. “I will always love you.” He grinned. “You promise?” “Oh, yes!” I promised as he pulled my pants down and slowly gave me what I gave him right before the interview. Damn, he was good. Whatever he was dealing with, he was suddenly…passionate! The man was on fire! He and I enjoyed a good sex life, but NOW!!! I don’t know how many times I came, I lost count for him. We started out on the bed, then in the shower and then the bed again. He did insist I do what I loved and did what he loved. Finally we climaxed together one last time, but we’d done it so often that night, there was nothing to come out, hardly. We were left panting to catch our breaths. “Damn.” I said hoarsely, rolling back nearly out of breath holding my head against the swirling dizziness. It wasn’t uncomfortable, it was very satisfying. “That…” I said, “…was…intense.” I propped up looking down at him as he smiled nodding. “What just happened to you!?” He looked a little…he didn’t know? “We were…with that…Anderson guy.” He shook his head. “I just…had this urge…I needed you right then. I wanted you so badly.” I smiled kissing him. “I’m always going to be with you, you can have me whenever you want.” I chuckled and looked at his grey-green eyes. “Sex is never bad with you, but that was over the top!” I put my nose to his chest hairs and down into his armpit, which he didn’t mind at all. He even moved so I would have better access. “Okay.” Peter smiled. “I don’t care, but what is it that you get by doing this?” “You.” I said simply. “Me.” He repeated. “I’m sort of sweaty.” I nodded. “That’s when it’s the strongest.” I explained. “I want to take as much of you into me as possible. You have a distinct odor.” “Not a bad odor, obviously.” He said logically. “No. It’s just you.” “Okay.” He smiled. “Knock yourself out.” He said raising his arms up to give me a choice. “One more thing.” He said with a tone of seriousness. “You know I need you.” I nodded. “I hope so.” “I never felt so…confident as I did tonight.” He kissed me. “That’s because of you.” “I’ll be here whenever you need me.” In the morning, I came down to see Queen Alla sitting enjoying her coffee. She was a real queen. Dressed in a nice robe and her hair done, she smiled at me, her eyes were telling me she knew what happened last night. “Good morning.” She greeted putting her coffee down. “I trust you two got some sleep last night.” Yes, she knew. I looked at her surprised. “Were we too loud?” She shook her head. “No.” She took a breath. “My son…” she thought carefully and said, “…is very sensitive.” Then she laughed lightly. “I’m not telling you something you don’t know. You know him better than anyone…even me.” She said a little sadly. “I don’t…” I began to defend against that. “No!” She smiled. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” She said simply. “The two of you chose to be that one person in each other’s lives.” She said. “It was for me and his father. I knew him better than anyone…except maybe his first wife.” She smiled at the memory. “There were times…I would be jealous sometimes of her…but she bore him Olek. She was a Russian woman like me.” “I love one that’s mostly Russian.” I smiled. “We are all mostly Russian.” Queen Alla said. “Peter’s great-great grandmother fell in love with a Russian Nobleman.” She leaned in. “She asked him to marry her.” She said nodding as my eyes grew. “That was sort of brazen.” “For the time…maybe…but she was Queen.” Queen Alla said. “But she did it. That’s why the last name is Ivanov.” She explained. “He agreed to marry her, if she took his name.” She said. “My Olek, Olek the first, was also very sensitive. The reason I bring it up…my Olek became…” she again thought of a way to say it, “not dependent, but…he needed me. I see that Peter needs you just like his father needed me.” She looked again to the heavens. “When he got this acne…it was just one more thing after his father’s death to drive him into himself. What I saw last night!” She shook her head. “He really needs you.” I frowned. “He’s a grown, very capable man, but…I don’t want to baby him too much.” “I know.” She smiled. “My Olek was that way, too. I know Peter’s success at the interview was because of you.” “I promised Peter, and I will assure you; I will always be with him.” I said. “He’s very happy.” She smiled at me. “He has that love in life at last. That’s what I’ve always wanted for him.” She said pulling me over and kissing me on the cheek. Queen Alla and I backed away from each other when Peter walked in and froze. “Okay, were you both talking about me?” “Yes, we were.” His mother answered simply. “But you’re not allowed to ask about what.” I smiled at Peter. “I’m learning a lot about this family. I’m glad you invited me in it.” “Okay.” Peter said coming over kissing his mother on the cheek. “How long are you staying, Mom?” “I have to leave tomorrow.” She sighed. “I’m talking with some people about some medical support for Makarovia. In time, we’ll have the money to improve medical coverage…until then…we have to have people willing to do it.” “Aren’t the military coming in bringing their own medical people?” I asked. She nodded. “Yes, for them.” She shook her head. “But more serious cases that occur are simply flown out. We need people for our people.” Peter shrugged. “Well, we’ll spend the day with you. Take you to lunch or anywhere you want to go.” “Don’t you have school today?” She asked a little worried. “One day without all those lectures…we’ll be fine.” Peter said a little sourly. “It’s cold out.” Queen Alla let out a short breath to say; big deal. “It’s cold in Makarovia. I’m used to it. We can do lunch, but it might be better to stay here after that.” It was later that we came home; going in our room there was the soft chime again. “Olek.” Peter said going to the computer. He read the message and looked at his watch. “He wants a video call tonight at eight.” “Sounds good.” I said pulling my jacket off, but Peter smiled, rushed at me and I was tackled on the bed. He began kissing me in a consuming, almost devouring way. I said before…even to Peter, he was like this flower opening. We’d been together a few months now, but…we became intimate in October. I knew him and I love him, but…I really liked this side of Peter. He was…playful! His mother had said, his father was like Peter and Olek the first relied on her. I would do the same for Peter. Gladly. Saying we loved each other was…just part of what we did together. I couldn’t ignore what was happening. He was growing more secure with me. I would not let him down. I arms went up his back, loving the solid feel of him, his warmth that radiated from him. Dinner was good, but a little early because of Olek’s call. At eight sharp, we let Olek know we were ready. A couple of minutes later, Olek’s smiling face came on the screen. “Hello, brothers.” Peter chuckled. “Hello, Olek.” “I saw what you did yesterday.” He said smiling, then he shrugged. “Okay, I recorded it to watch later, but I watched it! That was sensational!” “All we did was talk about our upcoming wedding.” Peter shrugged. “No.” Olek shook his head. “That’s not all you did. You were strong and assertive. You answered the questions well. You didn’t back down! You presented Makarovia very positively; our stance and philosophies…you made a good first impression.” “We did?” Peter asked. “We brought the world’s attention to Makarovia!” I said to Peter. Olek nodded quickly. “Yes! Until now, the only ones that even knew about us were some of the world’s leaders…and some of them didn’t even know who we were. Now, everyone on the entire planet practically knows where we are and what we are about; because of you two!” He said happily and did what he always did moving closer to the camera so his face grew on our end. “I want you to know, little brother…how proud I am of you. You showed the world we are a proud people and has solid leadership.” His eyes got a little softer. “I know a lot has to do with this magnificent person you have in your life. I was always proud of you, Peter, but…last night. You were amazing. Never again do I want you to say or think that you aren’t needed or useful. Your mother, me and Eric are now ambassadors for the world for Makarovia. So, when I say I was proud, I was, but I was never so proud as I was with that interview. I love you, Peter.” I watched as Peter smiled, but he was moved so much by his brother’s words. “You’re my brother. You are most definitely needed by a whole population in Makarovia. I know they saw that broadcast, too. All of Makarovia is proud of you.” He chuckled. “I just had to tell you.” I took Peter’s hand when I saw moisture in his grey-green eyes. “Thanks, Olek. I love you, too.” Then, in very unlike king breech of protocol, Olek stretched and let out a yawn. I chuckled. “Where are you now?” Olek grimaced again. “Berlin, but I’m going back to Makarovia tomorrow. I have a kingdom to run, as well as all this.” He stated. “Most of the negotiations are done now. It’s back to business at home.” He brightened. “How are things going with the new web page?” “I got the Dean of the College, Thomas Sutton getting things ready.” I said. “We’ll be bringing a few photographers with us at the end of May.” I looked at Olek. “Are there pictures of your mother available?” Olek nodded. “Sure.” He said sadly. “When I get back, I’ll forward some to you.” He sighed. “She died when I was young, so…I remember mostly feelings about her.” “She raised you.” I pointed out. “She must have been a good woman.” “What I do remember..she was.” Olek smiled at me. “You are very needed, too, Eric. I can’t tell you how glad I am you’re joining us. I love you, too.” He smiled. “Just love my brother.” “I do and will.” Olek nodded. “I know you do and will.”
  41. 38 points
    “This is breathtaking!” exclaimed Allen. We were standing on the shore of Sullivan Lake. I was standing behind him, as the setting sun silhouetted his naked body. I don’t think I had ever seen anything so beautiful. I walked up, put my arms around him and caressed his soft skin. He had put on weight over the past few months, and his body was firm and lean. He looked now as I imagined him in high school. “Mmmm,” he purred as he pushed himself against my rapidly growing cock. We’d made love twice, but I was ready to go again. I reached down, grabbed his hard cock in my hand and stroked it. “I love you,” I whispered in his ear. He turned, and our erections pressed against each other as we kissed. He led me over to the blanket and we lay down, him on top of me. “I never thought I could ever feel this way,” he said as he kissed me again. We had spent the past two hours making love. Our bodies had melted into each other, and we had shared a love that had been repressed for years. When he entered me for the first time, tears of joy ran down my cheeks as I thrust my body against his and begged for more. When he pulled out, I immediately missed his closeness and the togetherness we had shared. For months, I had been afraid that when we made love, our feelings would be diminished because of his health. However, it made them greater. I think because we weren’t having sex with wild abandon, and we did have to be safe, it made us go slower, and thereby intensifying our feelings. After slowly stripping me, he had roamed his tongue sensuously over my body. There wasn’t a part of me he didn’t explore. It was something I had never experienced. Before, my main motive had been to get a guy off, collect my money and go home. With Allen, however, I wanted the feelings to last forever. We touched, kissed and licked each other’s body for an hour. I was literally begging him when he finally rolled a condom over his cock and penetrated me. When he pulled out and came on my chest, it only took about five strokes of his hand before our cum was mingled together. Afterwards, we lay back and looked skyward as we came down from our emotional high. After resting, we ran to the lake and played together as little children. I kept grabbing him and pulling him into the water. It wasn’t a playfulness, but a need. I wanted my arms around him. I needed to feel his warmth. And I desired to express my love for him. When we had rested, he led me back to the blanket and then I made love to him. Again, we entwined our bodies as I entered him. He whimpered and moaned as I thrust into him. I literally saw stars when I later erupted on his chest. “God, Joey,” he muttered as he straddled me. He leaned in and kissed me. I grabbed his cock and began to slowly stroke him. He threw his head back and moaned. Minutes later, he shot another small load onto my chest. “Come on.” I grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. We ran together and jumped back into the lake to wash ourselves off. It was now that we were standing side by side watching the setting sun. “I wish today never had to end,” I remarked. He turned and looked at me. “I was just thinking the same thing,” he replied. “This has been the best day of my life.” He took my hand and squeezed it. We returned to the blanket and sat naked as the sun disappeared over the horizon. We dressed and then headed for home. Home was his apartment. I had been staying there regularly since I was working at the cleaners below his apartment. I would usually return a couple of days a week to Ticker’s house, but those times were becoming less frequent. Now that our love had gone to a new level, I was looking forward to spending my evenings sharing his bed, instead of sleeping on the sofa. On the way home we stopped at the bridge where we had first met. Now, it seemed years ago. We looked over the side at the rapidly flowing water. Neither of us said a word for several minutes. Allen turned and looked at me. “This is where it all began,” he said thoughtfully. “Who knew months ago, that two lonely guys looking for a way out would meet and fall in love?” “Things have really changed since then,” I replied as I took his hand and held it. “You told me that day to jump, and I did.” He gave me a puzzled look. “I jumped right into your life.” “I’m glad you did.” We embraced and kissed. In Allen’s arms, the lapping of the water against the banks sounded peaceful and soothing. ******** ‘6’ “Would you hold still.” Star was trying to straighten my tie. We were in the lobby of the arena where our graduation ceremony was getting ready to take place. “I’ve never worn a tie before,” I complained. “I feel like I’m being strangled.” “You have to look good, Joey,” she reminded me. “You are giving a speech.” She reached up and straightened the sashes that were draped around me, indicating that I was a member of the National Honor Society. Ticker walked up and whistled. “Don’t you look good?” He reached out and straightened the cap on my head. I smiled when I saw the gown he was wearing. The largest size available was an extra-large, so it was snug around his large body. “Do you have your speech?” Star asked worriedly. I reached into my back pants pocket and showed it to her. I had been working on it for two weeks. For years, I had planned to give a speech filled with hatred for the students who had tormented me. But the past year had been a different experience. I still wasn’t popular, but students treated me with respect. I think Gene had a lot to do with that. Even though we weren’t good friends, he did socialize with me occasionally at school. Other students followed his lead and treated me better. I hadn’t heard the word fag. As if on cue, Gene walked up and put his hand on my back. “You ready, Mr. Valedictorian?” I looked at him and nodded nervously. By being valedictorian of my senior class, I received a full scholarship to the local state college. I had been saving the money I made working, and I was set to begin in the fall. Gene had been accepted on an athletic scholarship to a university in another state. Star had been accepted to the same school I was attending. Ticker had applied, but he still hadn’t received a confirmation. I kept telling him not to worry. However, he was afraid if he didn’t get accepted, then he and Star would have to attend different schools. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please line up.” Mr. Walters was running around nervously trying to get everyone in their proper line. Since I was valedictorian I was to lead the others into the arena. “Good luck,” said Star as she tiptoed to kiss me on my cheek. Ticker and Gene reached out and shook my hand. “Show time,” I laughed nervously. Mr. Walters walked over and pulled me out of line. “Can I talk to you for just a second?” He led me about ten feet away from the other students. “I may not have time to tell you later,” he said as he stood before me. “I’ve never had a student I have been more proud of. There was a time when I was afraid I wouldn’t see you standing there in line.” Both of us were blinking away tears. “But you stuck in there, and tonight is your night. I really wish you all the best that life has to offer.” I reached out and threw my arms around him. “Thanks, Mr. Walters.” I whispered in his ear. “Thanks for being here for me.” He squeezed me tightly, and then I walked back and took my place in line just as the first bars of Pomp and Circumstance began to play. I was nervous as I approached the podium. Mr. Walters had announced me with a glowing introduction. It surprised me when my classmates stood and applauded. I became overcome with emotion when I looked into the stands and saw Allen sitting beside his mother. He was smiling down so proudly at me. Tears filled my eyes when he gave me a thumb’s up. Since we had rehearsed the graduation exercises several times, I was able to easily find Ticker and Star. Whenever I needed encouragement to continue, I would look down at them for strength. “As we stand here tonight looking down the road to a new beginning, let us not forget the roads we’ve already traveled. Nor let us ever forget the people who walked beside us on the journey to where we are today.” As I was completing my speech, I was looking around the filled arena. Suddenly, a lone figure captured my attention. I squinted to make out the figure. It was my mother! She had attended my graduation. Choked with emotion, I was able to conclude my speech and returned to my seat. Once there, I broke down in tears. A girl to my left put her arm around me and held me as I cried. I had regained my composure by the time my name was called to receive my diploma. When Dr. Hatfield placed it in my hands, I held it up and waved it for my mother to see. I watched as she wiped tears from her eyes. After the recessional, I left the lobby without talking to anyone and ran to the bleachers, searching for my mother. I finally saw her just before she was ready to exit the doors. “Mother!” I shouted. Her body tensed when she heard me call out her name. She turned and looked down as I approached. “I’m glad you came,” I said softly. She looked up at me with a tear-stained face. She stiffened when I leaned forward and hugged her. She kept her arms to her side. She looked up at me as tears began to roll down her face. “I’m proud of you, Joey.” She opened her purse and fumbled around inside. She pulled out an envelope and handed it to me. “I was hoping I could give you this.” I started to open it, but she stopped me. “Open it later. I have to leave. Your father doesn’t know I’m here.” She touched my arm gently, and the she disappeared through the door. I put the envelope in my pocket and returned to the lobby to find Ticker and Star. Gene’s parents had reserved a table at a very expensive restaurant for a post-graduation celebration. Later, alone in Ticker’s room, I opened the envelope. It contained a debit card to a savings account in a local bank. My mother had written me a note telling me how proud she was of me. She said she had been saving small amounts since I was five, and she had deposited the money periodically in a savings account in my name. She wanted me to use the money for my college education. The account contained $13,367. ******** ‘35’ The Epilogue “Happy Birthday, Mr. Carpenter, Happy Birthday to you!” Twenty-two smiling fifth graders were standing around me singing very off-key. In front of me was a large cake with my name on it. Instead of placing thirty-five candles on the cake, they had one large candle- a big yellow Mickey Mouse figure. “Blow it out and make a wish,” one of the students shouted. They giggled when I sucked in a breath of air and held it for as long as I could before finally blowing out the candle. Another student asked, “What did you wish for?” “If I tell you, it won’t come true,” I responded. “Here, Mr. Carpenter.” Angela, one of my students, walked up with a present hidden behind her back. “Open it up. It’s from all of us.” I couldn’t help but smile at the anxious looks on their faces. To add to the excitement, I took longer than usual opening the gift. They had given me a coffee mug that read, World’s Best Teacher. “Thank you,” I said appreciatively. “Now I have to go out and buy glasses that say, World’s Best Students. They grinned and giggled. “Cake and ice cream!” hollered out a student’s mother. She winked at me when the students ran over to the table, grabbed a plate and started devouring the cake. “Thanks. Now I’ll have to handle twenty-two kids on a sugar high all afternoon,” I laughed. She replied, “If anyone can handle it, you can.” After eating, I dismissed them to go to the playground for recess. One of my colleagues had agreed to supervise them while I took a break. She said it was my birthday gift from her. Of course, I had to promise to do the same when her birthday rolled around in a couple of months. I walked over to the table and looked down at the remaining slices of cake. I turned the gold band on my finger as I thought back to when I had my first birthday party at Ticker’s house when I was eighteen. My world had changed a lot since that time so long ago. I lost Allen two years ago. He got sick with the flu and ended up in the hospital. He developed pneumonia, and he was put on a respirator. Years earlier, we had drawn up living wills. It was his wish to die peacefully at our home if that moment ever came. I was holding his hand when he took his last breath. His stepfather visited him about three days before he died. It surprised me when he walked into the bedroom and looked sadly down at Allen. Allen looked up and forced a weak smile. I quietly left the room. When I returned later, his stepfather was sitting on the bed rocking Allen in his arms. He never again left his side. After Allen died, Mr. Albright got up, walked over to the window and opened it. He then turned, came over to me clutched me in his arms as we cried together. Allen defines who I am today. His love and overwhelming support made me the man I became. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. I guess because we both knew that our time together was limited, we lived each day fully and never wasted a precious moment. Ticker and Star tell me it’s time to move on, but I’m not ready for that yet. Allen was my life for fifteen years, and his love is wrapped tightly around my heart. I want it to stay there, at least for a little while longer. I know I’ll probably love again someday, but to do that means I’ll lose a part of Allen. Right now, I’m not ready to let him go. I cry myself to sleep each night, but they are not tears of sadness. They are tears of joy. I’m glad I had the chance to love, to experience a life with Allen, as brief as it may have been. I may love again, but I’ll never love as deeply. Allen is still with me. I know it each time I look up into the sky and see the stars at night. He’s the warmth I feel on a sunny day and the chill on a cold, winter night. He’s the smile on a stranger’s face, and he’s the giggle of one of my students. He taught me how to feel life and make the most of each day. Because of that love, I can get up each day and face life without him. I know he would want me to. So, when I return the smile to a stranger, I share it with him. When I am amused by a child’s giggle, he’s there with me, smiling as well. Allen will always be a part of me. Ticker and Star married three years after graduation. They were going to wait until they finished college, but they couldn’t bear being apart for so long. I was the best man at their wedding. The big lug dressed up nicely. I cried when Star walked down the aisle holding her father’s arm. I don’t think I had ever seen anything more beautiful. I am the godfather to their two children. They have a nine-year-old daughter named JoEllen. Her name is a combination of mine and Allen’s name. She is beautiful like her mother, but then again, I’m prejudiced. She calls me Uncle Joey. They have a seven-year-old son named Jeffrey. After all the years I’d known him, I didn’t know that was Ticker’s middle name. Star wanted to name him Albert, Ticker’s actual first name; but Ticker said he’d always hated his name, and he didn’t want to have his son be stuck with a name he himself didn’t like. It doesn’t matter anyway, because everyone calls him Booger. I’ll let you figure that one out. Ticker is also a teacher. He teaches English at the same high school we attended. He’s put on even more weight since then, so the kids have affectionately named him Giant. He loves teaching, but kids today are more difficult than when we were in school. He comes home exhausted most nights. Star works for an interior design company. She majored in computer programming; but after a few jobs that she found boring, she ended up doing something she really enjoyed. She helped decorate our home. She and Allen conspired and kidded me about having a pink living room. At first, I threw a fit until they started laughing. She ended up giving us a pink flamingo figurine which we put on a table in the foyer. It is the first thing people see when they enter our home. I attended the local state college and decided to get a degree in elementary education. I think that day I helped Ticker with his math, and he said I’d make a good teacher, made me realize that was what I really wanted to do. I had received a master’s degree in school administration, and I was working on my doctorate when Allen died. Everyone is trying to convince me to go back and continue my education, but I really want to remain in the classroom. I feel it is where I am needed most. Gene went to California to play college football. He did very well. He was scouted by a couple of professional teams, but he was never drafted. Instead, he remained there and married a girl he met while attending college. Today, he works for a pharmaceutical company as a regional manager. It allows him to do a great deal of traveling. We usually see him and his wife, Tina, at Christmas each year. On a few of those visits, they stayed at our home. They have no children, although it was obvious Tina wants a family. Allen told me once he didn’t want children because he didn’t want to bring them into a bad situation. He never explained what he meant by it, but I’m sure I understood. He still looks remarkably handsome. It is as if time doesn’t affect him. But inwardly, he seems hollow. I look into his blue eyes and I see the reflection of sadness. He has everything a man could want, yet he appears to have nothing. His life has become an empty shell, and he seems resigned to accepting it. He flew back for Allen’s funeral and stayed with me. We sat up all night talking. He told me he was envious of what Allen and I had shared. After talking with him, I realized he had locked his heart away and denied himself love and happiness. I felt pity for him, realizing he got up each day and did what was expected of him. He had lived his entire life like that, and he had resolved to continue doing so. It seems like such a tragedy. He still calls occasionally, but our conversations usually depress me. I hope that someday he’ll be able to live happily, but I don’t think he will. “Watcha doing, Mr. Carpenter?” Eddie interrupted me from my thoughts when he came bounding in the room and looked up at me. I smiled when he reached out and ran his finger along the cake pan, scooped up the leftover icing and licked it clean. Eddie had been an introverted student who I took under my wing the first day of school. He is rather small, and he is an easy target for the larger boys. With his long brown hair that covers his forehead and his big, beautiful brown eyes, he is rather effeminate in his appearance. At the beginning of the school year, he sat in the back of the room and isolated himself from the other students. When I would look back at his little body sitting drooped over in his seat, he reminded me of another boy who twenty-four years earlier had shut himself off from the world. Slowly, I tried to include him in our classroom activities, and I was able after several weeks to gain his trust. His trust was cemented the day I saw a larger boy push him into a wall and call him a fag. Without mentioning names, I spent an hour that afternoon with my students sitting around me on the floor explaining to them about discrimination. I explained that there were words that weren’t acceptable to call each other, and that bullying others was something I wouldn’t tolerate. At the end of the day, when the other students had left, Eddie came up to me and wrapped his small arms around my waist. He held me for a minute, burying his head into my chest before turning and leaving out the door. Nothing was said, but I understood everything that wasn’t said. I thought how different my life would have been if someone had taken the time when I was his age to stop other children from picking on me. After that, I carefully watched how other students treated him, and I would only interfere if I thought someone had violated the rules I had laid down that day. Eddie had over time, moved to the front of the class, and he is one of my better students. I know teachers are not supposed to have favorites, but I can’t resist the charms of my brown-haired, brown-eyed little Eddie. “Happy Birthday, Mr. Carpenter.” Eddie put his small arms around me and gave me a hug. Suddenly, he pulled back and said, “Wait a minute. I made you a present.” He ran over to his book bag and pulled out a piece of paper. He ran back over to me with a wide grin on his face. “I made this for you last night,” he said timidly as he handed me the paper. “It’s a birthday card.” Tears welled up in my eyes when I saw what he had drawn. It was a picture of him holding my hand as we stood before a beautiful rainbow. THE END This story is dedicated to the memories of Danny and Jamaal, two special people in my life who died during the writing of this story.
  42. 38 points
    We headed quickly back to the caverns. We got to the entrance as the others in our group were taking people inside the entrance. The entrance was not a gaping hole, but a crack that was kind of hidden even and would not be found even by accident. There were some of Dragon’s men and women watching for any...unexpected arrivals. Some were being carried in as they were going through the change due to the venom. “It’s a good thing the cavern is big.” I said to Dragon as people were going in. Suddenly Gabriella was running over and hugged her father, making him grunt from the impact and touch his left side as it hurt. Not from being shot, but Gabriella’s hug and Gabriella didn’t let go. “I heard what you said over the earpiece. I had to see you.” Gabriella said smiling with relief as she moved back enough to take her father’s face in her hands. “I heard you were fine, but…” she looked at Colin’s left side, “you were shot!” Colin nodded with a chuckle. “I’ve been shot before, this wasn’t any worse than the others.” He hugged me to his right side and kissed me on the head. “I have my own personal medic to see me through. I’ll heal.” It was the first time I’d seen the cavern crowded. There were well over a hundred people in what had been Dragon’s…throne room? There were the ones going through the agony of change and others that had been with them when attacked; friends, lovers or spouses. I sighed. “Well, this will be a different kind of triage.” I muttered. There were real vampires with them and I saw the look they were giving the people that were not vampires on the Disflavor with a hunger they were keeping control of. “We need to get those not on the serum away from temptation.” I pointed at them, but the others from the VUN were helping to keep some control by standing between regular people and the untreated vampires. “They have to be watched.” Colin nodded as our personnel were moving around getting things under some kind of the beginnings of control. Then I saw my mother and Willie come over smiling at me. Less urgently that Gabriella had greeted her father. Mom wrapped her arms around me. “I see you’re fine.” Mom said smiling. “That’s what I needed.” Willie hugged Colin first, then gently pushed mom aside. “Enough, woman.” He grinned and hugged me in bear hug. “I’m so glad things turned out so well…and you’re both fine…my sons.” There was a general chaos as people were asking over and over what was happening. That’s when Dragon did it again. He got up on his raised portion where his chair…throne…was. “Silence.” He said in English, almost quietly, but heard. His talent not turned up as strong as it was in the town square. The others turned to him. “What happened will be explained to you once we get some control. We need to get those who were victims of this attack to get them treated. The ones with them will stay with them to keep them calm. An explanation will be given in more detail.” Colin shook his head. “How does he do that?” He asked almost reverently. “He’s a good hypnotist.” I shrugged logically. “He’s been able to do it for centuries…he just got…better at it.” I looked at the many new faces mixed with those I knew from VUN from the United States and England. “What happened in the village will be a determining event.” Colin said looking at the now calmer people. “I think Dragon’s talent will help. If I understand about hypnosis, he can plant the idea of not talking to others about what happened with these people.” “We’ll monitor the televised broadcast of the Transylvanian Halloween.” I nodded. “There will be investigations from authorities. It was recorded and broadcasted.” We separated the real vampires from the victims and kept them separated. It was now past sunrise and everyone was safe down here for now. “All these people will need food.” Colin said. “And bathrooms.” He pulled his phone out. “I’ll call Stan to see what we can do.” I nodded. “Dragon has bathrooms, but they only pissed ammonia. This is going to possibly get messy.” Going to the holding area where Lucian and the others were. I was not surprised to find Lucian just…staring. Not at anything, no emotions on his face, not moving as he sat; his face completely blank. The others were just…it was sunrise and they weren’t going anywhere…most were asleep. I wasn’t even sure Lucian even knew I was here, but he didn’t look up at me, but asked. “How long do I have?” I looked at him. “I’m not answering that. Do you think we’ll kill you?” Lucian looked at me then. “I hope you will.” I thought about what I’d feel if I lost Colin. “Fifty years is a long time.” I said. “Something I hope Colin and I will have. Something Iilya was going to take away, if I let him. You understand, I couldn’t let him.” Lucian shook his head. “I have nothing now.” He said helplessly. “Your life is your own.” I said. “I know how I feel just thinking about life without Colin. I can only imagine what I’d feel after fifty years with him. I probably would feel like I see you do now.” I looked in his dry eyes. “Tomorrow, when the sun goes down…you need to decide whether you live or die. If you decide to live, which I hope you do, but that decision is yours. The serum will hurt for about five to six days. You will have to keep up with it. There is always the sun…you can willingly go out in it. I’ve known one that did.” Lucian nodded. “You didn’t know Iilya.” He said softly. “But you did.” I said. Lucian nodded again. “I did. There was that man you knew…hard and callous…but sometimes…he would let me in. He could be so gentle and kind…” he sat remembering. “He was…haunted. His past and things he did and things done to him…there were things he was told to do, but expected he would do what he was told.” I listened, but didn’t respond. Lucian shook his head. “I know he could be overbearing, not that stable,” he chuckled at that thought, “and he was obsessed, like I said, but I did love him.” I smiled at his words. “I know you did. I could see it.” “Please.” Lucian said tearful, with no tears. “Don’t think he was all bad.” I gave a grudging nod. “I’ll have to take your word on that.” I smiled. “Keep those thoughts about him, I don’t know if it helps now, but remembering the good things is best.” A few more hours working to get everyone to settled so we could tell them more about what was happening. There was another issue. When I had been bitten by Brett, I was flushed with new blood. We didn’t have that. I hope the ones we got to immediately would be alright with just the serum. Blood typing and the amount of blood needed…equipment…we simply didn’t have that here. I worked quickly. My problem was, I knew what was going to happen. The thought of Lucian’s loss and what I’d feel if it was Colin kept playing on my mind, but I didn’t want to think about that if I didn’t have to. I also knew that was a hopeless attempt. I was dealing with the victims and their loved ones or friends who wanted to know things about what happened and when they could leave. Dragon’s assurance that they would be told seemed to satiate the curiosity for the moment. I was talking with Stan to see that some food would be brought to the cavern. I was busy on purpose. I knew Colin was working, but he was also watching me. Colin finally came to me and grabbed me, stopping me from going to deal with another issue. “Devon.” He said turning me to him. “Stop.” Looking at him, I knew what he was going to say. “I can’t.” “What are you doing?” Colin asked, but he was concerned and I saw it in his emerald eyes. “Slow down.” “I can’t.” I said pleading for him to understand. The adrenaline and quick actions were now playing on my mind. “I can’t stop. If I do, I’ll think. If I think…” I began to shake as the thought surfaced, “…Colin…I killed a man!” I was almost in tears. I waved in the direction of where Lucian was being held. “I killed a man that meant something to someone! Iilya was crazy, I know that…but Lucian loved him! I killed him!” “I was there.” He said seriously and brought me to him and hugged me tightly. “I remember.” I buried my face against his chest. “I killed a man, Colin.” I said. “I’ve never killed anyone. I was in the military, but my job was to save lives, not kill.” “I know.” Colin said hugging me tighter. “I knew you’d have a hard time with this.” I was now beginning to cry more. “I couldn’t let him kill you! He would have killed you, I know it. I had to stop him!” Colin kept the pressure on, holding me. “I am so grateful to you for doing that, Devon.” “You mean everything to me, Colin. I can’t tell you in words how much I love you, the thought of someone taking you away from me…I had to! I love you!” Colin began to cry as well, not because he was hurting physically. “I know you do, Devon. I know that.” He pushed me gently away so he could press his lips to mine, tenderly and lovingly. “I love you so much.” He smiled as he cried quietly. “As stupid as this may sound…I don’t know how I made those two centuries without you. No one means more to me than you. No one! You’re my husband…yes…but you’re not just a big part of my life, you’re part of my very soul. Now that I have you in my life, I would do anything to keep you with me. Even kill. I understand how you feel.” As happy as his words made me…there was still the horror knowing I had killed someone. I hated Iilya for forcing me into that, but I wasn’t losing Colin. I wasn’t a wimp, but I hated to even kill a bug! Iilya wasn’t a bug. He was a human being. A vampire, but human. He had to be stopped and he was crazy. “I had no choice.” Colin pressed his forehead to mine. “I know.” He put his arm around me. “Come with me, you need some sleep.” My eyes widened. “How can I sleep!? I can’t control things in my sleep.” Colin smiled. “You’re tired. So am I. You’ve been up almost a full day. You need rest. I’ll stay with you.” Dragon had rooms. A lot of the caverns interior had wooden walls up with doors, so there was room for everyone, but Colin took me to a secluded part of the cavern to a room with a bed. Once he got me undressed and lying down, he took his clothes off and crawled in this bed beside me. Covering us with a blanket he settled down and spooned up behind me, Colin began caressing me on the head as he quietly said over and over. “It will be alright. I’ve got you. I’ve got you. You said it yourself, it wasn’t your fault. You did what you had to. Easy now, just let it go.” Perhaps Dragon wasn’t the only one who could influence with words. With Colin’s quiet reassurances, I did fall asleep. A few hours later, I woke feeling Colin’s solid presence behind me. I felt him move slightly. Rolling over, I faced him, seeing his eyes full of concern…and love. “You live.” Colin said smiling at me kissing me gently. I nodded. “I do.” Putting my arms around him. “Did you get any sleep? You were up as long as I was.” Colin nodded continuing to kiss lightly. “I napped.” He said with a slight shrug. “I’m sorry about earli-“ “No.” Colin shook his head. “Never apologize for valuing life…even Iilya’s life.” I was hugged by him again. “I love you, Devon.” “I love you, Colin.” Without either of us asking, we made love. Quietly and slowly, reconnecting once again. Food was brought for the many people there and…portable bathrooms. Those blue things you see at special events or construction sites. Everyone just loves those! We came back to the great room where we saw Gaius speaking with Dragon, standing close to each other. In light of what Gaius told us, that had a whole new meaning now. Or maybe I just wanted to see love. It made sense. Who else could you relate to other than someone who was at your side for centuries? Colin followed my gaze and also smiled at Dragon and Gaius. “It makes sense.” My eyebrows rose. “What makes sense?” Colin shook his head. “Gaius and Dragon.” He waved at the two. I grinned at him. “Oh, my god.” I smiled. “Can you read my mind now? I was just thinking about them!” Colin grinned at me and shrugged. “I can read you, but not your mind…exactly. You can read me.” I chuckled. “Yes, I can.” I looked at Gaius and Dragon. “I was just thinking it does make sense. They are just like George. John Burke claimed to like both male and females. George was…straight! I’m thinking that being homosexual is partly a choice.” “What!?” Colin balked. “You chose to find me attractive? I know you do, because I’ve seen your body react!” I shook my head. “And I always will, but…after you lose family and friends for so long, that physical attraction is not as important. Being there is makes that someone more attractive. Gaius did fall in love with Nicolae’s mother, but she died. Who knows many have been loved and died. We don’t know about Dragon, I know he was married had children with his wife, but she died. After all those losses, who is the one that always remains? Each other, it makes sense for them to come together. It’s safe.” I brought him closer. “I’m not saying all homosexual relationships are choices, but…like George, Dragon and Gaius, they do it because they know that other person has a greater chance of always being there. There’s comfort in that.” “You’re right.” Colin agreed. “Six hundred years and those two have been together.” I patted Colin on the chest. “We should be so lucky.” I pointed at Gaius and Dragon. “That…is a marriage.” Colin nodded appreciatively. “Yes, it is.” He turned to me. “Well, we better tell everyone what happened.” “We’ll have everyone meet in the main chamber. We can tell everyone at once. This won’t be easy.” Colin nodded. “I know.”
  43. 38 points
    *Ryder* I finally hear Jeremy come out of the shower and back to his room. I stayed up until 12am last night and he still was not home when I fell asleep. I walk over to his door and knock on it. “Yeah?” he yells from behind the door. I open it and he is lazing back on his bed in just his boxers. He looks skinnier, and I can tell he is exhausted. “You got in really late last night.” I tell him, leaning on the dresser. He gives a halfhearted laugh. “Thanks, Mom.” I can tell he does not really want to talk about it, but I cannot let it go at all. I have not seen him but at practice, which he leaves early, and he does not get home until late. Even Wilder has asked about him. “What’s going on with you, man?” “Just a lot, Ryder. You wouldn’t understand. Now, can you please leave? I would really like to get some sleep,” he says, putting his arm over his eyes. This angers me a lot. We used to talk, and the last few weeks, it’s like we barely know each other anymore. I shake my head and kick his bed, “That doesn’t make any sense, Jeremy. Tell me what’s going on.” I have never gotten this upset before at Jeremy; in fact, we have never argued at all. This would be the first time. He gets off the bed and grabs me by the collar. “Ryder, get the fuck out of my room,” he says, and I can tell from the look on his face that I am breaking him down, and it hurts, but he isn’t letting me in. I slowly peel his hand off my collar. “No, you are obviously hurting, and I want to be there for you. You have been so gone lately that I am worried about you.” Jeremy runs his hands through his hair; it really doesn’t help his cause. “Ryder…why the fuck can you not listen? I just want to get sleep, okay? I’m not ready to talk about this.”I wish he would give me the chance to understand. “You skip half of practice and then come home late. I have to deal with Jaxson’s sarcastic ass self when he is looking for you, Wilder is asking about you, and yet no one seems to want to talk about what’s going on.” He sits up, and meets my eyes. He looks terrible. He has dark circles under his eyes from not getting enough sleep. “I don’t know what to tell you, Ryder, other than I fucked up,” he says, sitting on the edge of his bed. “No, you don’t get to do that to me! You have always made me tell you everything that was bothering me. Now it’s your turn, you just don’t get to decide that you don’t have to tell me shit. You haven’t been here when I needed you a few times, and you were nowhere to be found!” I say, raising my voice. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles. I let out a frustrated sigh. “No, don’t be sorry. I needed you, but I found a way to cope without you. Not saying I never need you, but I don’t depend on you as I used to. Did you know Wilder has a really tough time sleeping? I have found him crying alone more times than I can count. He does me like I did you - he’ll come to my room and get in my bed. I know how you felt then, and I don’t mind it. Jeremy, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but you are never here, and it’s like a huge fucking hole in this family.” He lifts his head from his hands and he’s crying. “I know I haven’t been there for you, Ryder, and it hurts so bad. I haven’t been there for the team, the family…and that hurts me so much after everything we have been through.” He looks away, trying to regain his composure I kneel in front of him “Jeremy, can you tell me what’s going on?” Jeremy looks up at me, his eyes bloodshot. “Emily is pregnant, and she doesn’t want to keep the baby. So I am keeping it. We have signed the papers. I had to get a lawyer. I have been working a full time job at night to save up money because I know how expensive babies are, and I know I am going to have to get an apartment. I don’t want your parents to have to support a baby, as well.” He is shaking right now. I don’t know what else to do, so I hug him, and he takes a deep breath. “What about college?” He laughs, and I know it’s not funny, but sarcastic. “I can’t go. I won’t have time, and on top of finding a baby sitter for working, I can’t afford more than that.” I hear someone clear their throat, look over and it’s Coach. Jeremy wipes the tears away from his eyes and backs up. “Hey Dad,” I say. “So it’s finally getting to you, huh?” Coach says, walking into the room. Jeremy wipes his eyes again. “Yes sir.” I can’t read Coach’s expression, mostly because he only has one face. It always looks unimpressed, even though it’s just how he looks. “Come here, Son,” he says to Jeremy. As Jeremy approaches him, Coach pulls him into a tight hug, and puts his hand on the back of Jeremy’s head. “Son, you aren’t moving out of the new house when we move, and you damn sure aren’t quitting college. I have used my allotted stipend at the college to support you. Yes, you will have to work your ass off, but me or Kat will watch the baby. Hell, I will bring the baby to football practice if I have to. They have those things that you can strap the baby to you, hell, that seems like a good idea to me. Boy, we all make mistakes, but I won’t stand by and let you throw your life away.” Jeremy is clutching on to Coach hard, and he is crying, so I decide to let them continue their conversation in private and slip out of the room. I notice Wilder leaning against the wall near my door. “Hey, buddy.” He gives me a small wave. “I knocked, but I didn’t know what to do. You never said anything.” “Yeah, I was in Jeremy’s room.” “He’s here?” “Yeah, he and Dad are talking,” I tell him, opening my door, and Wilder follows me into the room. “You okay?” I ask, as I reach for my shoes and sit on my bed. He sits in my computer chair and spins around, and finally stops, and his green eyes are searching for reassurance from me, that it’s okay to talk. “I don’t like school.” I laugh, and he looks at me like he is confused. “Dude, no one likes school at all.” “I have hard time with all the words, and some kids are mean to me about it, and girls keep making me talk, ‘cause they like my voice.” I try not to laugh, but I do. “The girls like your accent, and probably think you are cute,” I tell him, and he blushes. “Is that boy coming today?” he asks in a more serious tone. I finish tying my shoe and look up at him. “Who, Tyler?” He shakes his head, “Not him. He’s nice to me. The other one, the crazy one.” I let out another laugh. “Jaxson?” He shakes his head. “Yeah, he is weird. I don’t understand him.” “How is he weird?” I ask, standing up and grabbing my backpack. “Just, he talks, and some words aren’t nice that he uses,” Wilder says, getting up from the chair and following me out of my room to the kitchen. I let out a laugh. “That’s just Jaxson. He probably thinks you are cute, too.” He gives me a weird look. “But I don’t like boys.” I just laugh; I broke the news to Wilder that I was gay a week ago. He just shrugged his shoulder, said he that he didn’t care. “What’s wrong?” I ask. He looks up with tears in his eyes. “I don’t want to go to school. You won’t be there.” I put my arm around his shoulder. “Wilder, it’s just for a few hours. We both have to go to school, and then I will be coming home after practice, and I will help you tonight with your homework,” I tell him. “Promise?” he asks, his green eyes searching mine for any hint of not telling the truth. “Wilder, I promise. You are going to be fine, heck, you might have the best day today. I will be home after practice, and then we will hang out for a little bit.” He hugs me, and I hug him back. “Morning, boys,” Mom says from the counter in the kitchen. “Hey.” “You boys hungry?” she asks. I nod my head and look at Wilder, who nods his. “Oh yeah.” “So, we have state Friday. How are you feeling about it?” Mom asks, as she gets up from the stool to grab a plate. “Of course I am nervous about it. It’s state, and there is so much pressure. It’s all anyone talks to me about, is about state. Only one who doesn’t pressure me is Tyler, mainly ‘cause he is clueless about it all,” I say. My mom gives me a look as she puts a plate of food in front of me. “Someone seems a bit sensitive about this subject.” I know I am, but it’s literally the only thing people talk about when I am around, and it’s already a lot of pressure. I feel like I am about to freak out and have a panic attack. Tyler is the only one who is not talking about the game Friday. Of course, he’s been prepping for the after party - the one between me and him. Like yesterday, all the girls and a lot of the guys who never talk to me were asking how I feel about it. It’s just annoying. “I’m sorry, Mom. Just, that’s all anyone will talk to me about. It’s just starting to get to me. I didn’t mean to snap.” She hands Wilder a plate of food and he looks up to her. “Wilder, I told you that you don’t have to ask permission to eat.” “Sorry…” he mumbles, picking up his fork. “Ryder, it’s a big deal, and I am sorry that you are under pressure. Coach is under a ton of pressure, too. He is a bit snippy lately. Speaking of him, where is he?” “He’s upstairs with Jeremy,” Wilder says, taking a bite out of his eggs. She nods her head. “How come no one told me what was going on?” I ask. “It wasn’t our place to tell, Ryder. Jeremy has been having a hard time with everything, and we didn’t know how you would have reacted.” I look at her as if she has two heads. “What do you mean, you don’t know how I would react?” “Ryder, mind your tone. I don’t appreciate the attitude you have lately, and if it keeps up, you will be staying your butt at home after the football game,” she says, scolding me. “Sorry, Mom,” I tell her. She puts down the towel she has in her hand. I feel bad that I give her attitude. She looks exhausted. She’s had to jump through many hoops to get Wilder into school. It’s only for a half day, and then he spends the second half with a tutor. I pick up my empty plate and take it to the sink, rinsing it, and Mom hugs me from behind and kisses the back of my head. “Don’t stress Friday, baby. Win or lose, you are still an amazing football player.” “Thanks, Mom,” I tell her, putting up my plate. Coach comes the kitchen, repositioning his hat. “Boys, you ready to go?” “Jeremy?” Wilder asks. I try not to laugh because how Wilder says Jeremy, it sounds like Germy. The kid is adorable even if he has no idea. Coach puts his hand on Wilder’s shoulder and I can see him tense up. “No, buddy, he is going to stay home today. He doesn’t feel good.” Wilder just nods his head. I remember exactly what it felt like when someone would put their hand on me a few years ago - it would scare me. I had no idea if they were going to hurt me or not. “Come on, Wild, let’s go get in the car,” I tell him. “I have to get my bag,” he says, and darts from the chair. I let out a little laugh and grab his plate, and put it in the sink. I watch as Coach goes over to Mom and kisses her. “Why do I feel like this kid is going to be a mess when he gets out of his shell?” My mom laughs. “That’s because he will be. How is Jeremy?” “He may need some motherly love this morning. Now I have to find my damn sunglasses. I have not seen them all morning!” Mom rolls her eyes. “Well, at this rate, Wilder will be a mess just like you, love, because your sunglasses are on your head.” Coach reaches for them and laughs. “I love you, woman.” “I am getting in the car now!” I say as they kiss again, and Coach just waves me off. *Tyler* I pace around my room with the envelope in my hand. It’s the letter I have been waiting on for a few months now. I have just been scared to see what it says. If it’s a yes my life changed for forever, but if it’s a no I will be crushed…..I applied to UT for early admission, because I decided to graduate early. I sit on my bed and take a deep breath. I wanted Ryder to be here with me, but I haven’t even told him I am graduating early. There are a few reasons I haven’t told anyone about this decision. I will be eighteen in January. I will age out of the foster system, and I know Kim wouldn’t mind me staying, but I don’t want to have those doubts in the pit of my stomach that she will, even though I am just being paranoid. When I do hit eighteen, I will get my inheritance from my dad’s life insurance. Plus his old job had set me up a college fund, , so I am pretty well off. The part that I haven’t told anyone is that I will be leaving to move into the dorms. I really need to tell Jaxson, but I have no idea how he’s actually going to take it. He’s been extremely erratic the last day; I don’t think he’s even slept. I could hear him crying last night, and when I went to ask him if he was okay, he just snapped at me to leave him alone. I know he’s thrown things in his room around. I heard them hitting the walls. Kim finally got him to calm down early this morning and he’s been quiet since. I sit on the edge of my bed, fiddling with the envelope. I tear the corner and slide my finger in, and slide it along the top of the paper, ripping it open. I take out the neat folded paper, and turn it over. I feel myself break out in a sweat from the anticipation. Reading the letter, I skip the first few lines to read, “Congratulations, you have been accepted into the University of Texas for the spring semester.” I can’t help but break out in a huge smile, and I lay back on my bed. I reach for my phone and check the time. Damn, Ryder is already on his way to school. I will just call him after practice to tell him. I hear a knock on my door, and it’s Kim. “Hey Tyler, Jaxson isn’t going to school today, so you don’t have to drop him off,” she tells me, standing in the doorway. “Is he okay?” I ask, sitting up. She nods her head. “He will be. I don’t know what set him into this manic high, but I had to try and get him to sleep. He still isn’t asleep yet. I feel helpless when it comes to my own child. I help so many teenagers, but when it comes to situations like Jaxson’s, I feel incompetent.” “Hey, it’s not your fault. Jaxson’s manic highs never last this long. You can’t be a therapist to him and a mom. You have to be a mom to him.” She comes into the room and gives me a hug. “When do you become an adult?” I shrug my shoulders and laugh. “I don’t know, guess I had a good person to look up to.” She spots the letter on my bed. “What’s that?” I give her a big grin and hand the letter to her. I watch as she reads the letter and wait for her reaction, and I see a huge smile break out on her face. “Tyler, that is fantastic! Congratulations! Sweetie! “I…uhh…yeah, I wanted to talk to you and Dadabout that, I guess I will be moving into the dorms. I turn eighteen soon, and I know I will age out of the foster system.” She smiles at the fact I referred to them as my parents “Tyler, you know you don’t have to move from here. We don’t care that the state stops sending a check for having you. All we do is put it into your savings account.” “I know, just, I thought it would be good to start being more independent. I mean, I am still going to come home on weekends and holidays.” “I am so proud of you. Have you told Ryder yet?” she asks, handing me back the letter. I shake my head. “Not yet, I just found out. I have had the letter for a few days, but I just opened it right now.” “I know he will be so happy for you. We need to go out for dinner to celebrate. How about tonight?” “I mean, yeah, if y’all are free, I would like that!” She kisses me on the head. “I will set up a family event reminder, and you just let us know where you want to go.” “Thanks, Kim!” I tell her as she starts walking out of the room. “Hey iss it okay if I ask Ryder to come if he’s free?” She turns around. “Of course. We haven’t gotten to see much of him lately. I would love for him to come. Why don’t you see if the whole family is free?” “Wait, really?” I ask. “Yeah, we only ever get to see Ryder once in a blue moon, and we never get to see his parents.” I get up nervously. “Mom, you realize they adopted another kid, and they have Jeremy, too.” She laughs. “Tyler, we can handle paying for dinner. We are not worried about that. I think they would like to join in on the celebration as well! Just ask them, or I will call Cat myself!” I can’t help but run over and hug her. “Thank you!” I say, close to tears. She hugs me back squeezing me. “For what, baby?” I choke up. “For this, for everything.” She holds me out at arm’s length, “Tyler, Dan and I love you. I know we have been busy this past year, and we haven’t focused on you as much as we should, but we love you so much, and we will do anything to make sure you succeed in life, and do whatever we can to make sure your dreams come true.” She pulls me back into a hug, and I hug her back. “Tyler, do you want to stay home from school today? Look after Jaxson so when he wakes up he isn’t alone?” I let a real laugh that started deep in my stomach come out. “You never have to ask me twice about missing school!” “Okay, sweetie, let me know if you need anything. We will leave some money on the counter in case you want to order take out.” I lay back on my bed, and grab my phone. I text Ryder to call me really quick, and I barely put the phone down and it’s ringing. “Hello?” I say. “Hey!” he says. I can hear the smile in his voice, which makes me break into a grin. “Babe, who are you in the car with?” He hesitates. “Coach.” I can hear Coach in the background asking what. I let out a laugh. “I need to talk to Coach,” I tell him. “So you didn’t want to talk to me?” “I always want to talk to you, babe,” I say. “Whatever, here he is.” I hear the phone being passed over, and Coach saying, “Hold on, damnit, I dropped it. Okay, gimme that slippery ass phone.” I am cracking up laughing by the time he finally gets onto the phone. “Hello?” Coach says in his gruff voice. I stutter, “Uh…C-c-coach, hey, it’s Tyler.” “Well hell, Son, I figured that out from the way Ryder is lighting up like the Fourth of July over here.” “My…um…Kim…um…she wanted me to ask to see if um…” Coach lets out a sigh. “Damn, boy, spit it out, I don’t think you are about to give me nuclear launch codes.” “Sorry, sir.” I say, sitting up on my bed, the butterflies exploding in my stomach. “Kim, my um foster parent, wanted me to invite you and the family to dinner tonight. We are celebrating, and they really insist you come.” “Is it something fancy?” Coach asks. I can hear the reluctance in his voice. I shrug my shoulder, even though I know he can’t see it. “No sir.” “Good, because I am in shorts and a blue polo. Have Kim text Cat the details. Now I am going to get going.” “Um...yes sir,” I say. “What was that about?” Ryder says, as he gets back onto the phone. “I guess I will be seeing you tonight!” I say, trying to contain my excitement. “Really?” “Yeah, babe. Hey, I gotta go. Someone is knocking on my door,” I tell him. “I love you!” he says. It shocks me, because he never says it first. “I love you, too.” I hang up the phone, and I know I am blushing. I can feel the heat in my cheeks, and the butterflies in my stomach are in a full tornado. I hear the light knocking again. “Come in!” I yell. The door slowly opens and Jaxson slips in. “What’s up, Jaxs?” He looks around the room wide eyed, as if someone is going to get him. He scratches his arm nervously. “What’s wrong?” I ask. He finally focuses back on me. “Can I…? Never mind, it’s stupid,” he mutters, and goes to leave. I jump off the bed, and grab his arm. He jerks away and falls into the door, a look of fear passes over his eyes. “Why did you grab me?!” “Jaxs, it’s okay, bubba, it’s just me,” I tell him, holding out my hand. He looks like he is half way dead. I haven’t really seen him lately, I have been so busy with school. He’s lost weight, and he has dark circles under his eyes. “Can I sleep in your bed? Ty, I am so tired, but I can’t be alone,” he says, almost in a whimper. This is weird, he’s never asked me anything like this. “Yeah, I was just about to lay back down. Come on.” He looks unsure about taking my hand, but finally does. I help him up and he jumps into my bed, moving towards the wall, and gets under the covers. I have the coldest room in the house, so I have a lot of blankets on my bed. I turn off the light and get in bed. I was expecting him to roll into me and grab my arm and pull it over him. “Jaxson, what’s wrong?” I ask. “I think I am gay,” he whispers. “Okay, is that why you have been so upset lately?” He shakes his head. “I didn’t want to be gay, but lately, I don’t know, I’m not seeing girls how I wanted to anymore, and I just can’t help it. There is… I liked it better when I thought I was bi…I saw them, well, I saw her!” he mumbles “Jaxs, you aren’t making sense. It’s okay that you are gay, man. We will always love you. Who did you see, who is she?” He turns around and he is almost in tears. “Her...my mom. I saw her. I know I saw her. And him. I saw the devil with her.” I pull him closer and hug him, “Jaxson, there is no way, man. Your mom is locked away, and your dad is in jail. They aren’t going to hurt you ever.” “I swear it was her, she looked right at me, and Cole saw her, and he knew too. You know Cole is my best friend, and he wouldn’t lie!” “Jaxson, you haven’t seen Cole in the last few days man. Let’s get some sleep, dude, you aren’t making sense. You might have thought you saw your mom, but you could just be extremely tired,” I tell him. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am just crazy, I don’t know, I haven’t slept in a day and a half.” I give him a nudge. “You aren’t crazy, man. So I want to talk to you before you doze off, but you need to promise me that you won’t freak out,” I tell him. Jaxson doesn’t answer me. I think he fell asleep until he flips over to look me in the eyes. “Okay, I promise.” I take a breath. I don’t know if I should wait, but he deserves to know before the dinner tonight. “So we are having a celebration dinner tonight,” I tell him, just to gauge his reaction. He is drawing circles on my arm with his finger. “Kay, but it’s like seven in the morning. What are we celebrating?” “I got accepted early into UT. I will be moving out in January,” I tell him and mentally brace myself for the worst. He continues to draw circles on my bare arm, and doesn’t say anything. So I ask him if he’s okay. He stops and his sleepy eyes look at me. “That’s good. It’s gonna suck that you are moving out, but you can’t forget me…I am the best fucking thing that’s ever happened to you,” he tells me, giving me his famous grin. “You are really okay with it?” I ask. “I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I mean, it sucks, but I am happy for you.” I let out a laugh. “I for sure thought you would be so pissed!” He shakes his head. “You are still gonna come home, right?” “Dude, of course!” “Then okay, listen, I’d like to stay up and chat and make you feel better, but I took a sleeping pill and I am having a hard time thinking. So if you feel better about leaving, then can we please go to sleep, or you can stay up, just shush, already.” I roll my eyes. Of course, Jaxson would be so elegant with his words. “Okay, I will be quiet.” He buries his head into my chest. “I love you, Tye.” I almost start crying, because Jaxson never says I love you to anyone at all. I whisper I love you back, but he is asleep. I wrap my arm around him, and pull him closer to me. He’s lost some weight. I feel bad that I haven’t noticed his behavior patterns change. I know he couldn’t have seen his mother - she and her husband are locked away. Well, she’s in a mental facility, but her husband is in jail. I text Ryder that I can’t wait to see him tonight. I put my phone on the bedside table, and lay my head back. Before I doze off, I check on Jaxson one more time, and he is lightly snoring, which makes me laugh. I pull the covers up more, and close my eyes. *Jaxson* I don’t know what wakes me up, if it is the fact I am sweating, pressed up against Tyler, or the fact I feel like I am going to piss myself. I slowly crawl out from Tyler’s arm to the end of the bed, getting off. I look back and he moves a little, but doesn’t wake up. I make my way to the bathroom. Finishing up, I walk to the sink and wash my hands, and look into the mirror. I look like pure shit. My hazel eyes have dark circles under them. I have this splitting headache. It’s probably from the lack of sleep, but I don’t need it. I know Tyler probably thinks I am crazy, and damn, most days I feel like I am crazy, though no one will say it. I splash water on my face, and tousle my sandy blonde hair. I leave the bathroom and make my way to the living room and sit on the couch. I look at the clock on the wall, and it’s just after 11. I want to go back to sleep. I don’t want to go back to Tyler’s room. I don’t even know why I went in there in the first place. I am totally calling dibs on his room when he moves out, though. I don’t know why he thought I would react badly to him moving out. I have known it was coming for a long time, I heard him talking about it with Ryder. I push the thoughts out of my head. I don’t care, I just want to actually sleep right now. I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I feel so out of control of myself. I haven’t taken my medication in over a week, until this morning, when I broke my phone. This is the first time I have ever gone this long without it, and I feel sick to my stomach, not to mention that my moods have been all over the pace. Getting off the couch, I start walking upstairs to my room, when I hear a knock at the door. I make my way to the door and peer out the side window. I let a breath out, and open the door. “What are you doing here?” “Wow, that was not the welcoming I thought I’d have,” he says, leaning on the inside frame of the door. I roll my eyes at him, “Well, you showed up unannounced,” I counter. He laughs, and his light green eyes squint. “I tried to call you, but all I got was your voicemail.” “Maybe I was avoiding you,” I say, and cross my arms over my bare chest. Now he rolls his eyes at me. “No, I just was worried. I know you have been off your medication, and when you didn’t show up to school I got really worried. So I said screw it, and skipped to come check on you.” I can’t keep faking being annoyed at him, so I blush and smile, not meeting his eyes. He closes the distance between us and lightly touches me and I open my arms to hug him. He leans in to kiss me, and I let him. He breaks the kiss. “I missed you,” he whispers. I bite my lip. “I know.” He shakes his head. “You are stubborn.” “I missed you, too,” I say, pulling him in close and hugging him. He winces. “Careful, babe.” “How bad?” I ask, trying to lift his shirt. Batting my hand away, he pulls his shirt down. “Not bad, I’ve had worse.” I grab his hand in mine, the warmth makes my stomach flip. “Come to my room. I want to lay down. I am so exhausted.” He looks around outside and into the living room, his green eyes searching for anything out of the ordinary. “Are you sure?” “Terin, come on!” I tell him, pulling him inside. I close the door, not letting go of his hand. I lead him up the stairs to my room, pulling him along because he wants to stop and look at the pictures on the wall. I finally get him into my room, and he looks around and chews the cuff of his long sleeve shirt. I look at him, he is so cute. His light green eyes looking all over my room, to his brown hair that’s short on the sides and long on the top. He is wearing a white long sleeve shirt with basketball shorts and black shoes. He looks better than me. I’m just wearing gym shorts, and my hair is sticking up everywhere. “What?” he asks, blushing. “You are cute,” I say. “Not as cute as you,” he says, getting closer to me. I kiss his soft lips. “Will you lay down with me? I am so tired.” He nods, and I pull him into my bed. “How much sleep have you gotten?” he asks. I shrug my shoulders. He kisses my bare shoulders and smiles at me. “Jaxson, please don’t scare me like that again. You know I care about you a lot.” “I won’t,” I tell him. He glances back to the door, “What if someone comes in?” I roll my eyes. “Only one home is Tyler.” I wish he would just relax. “Won’t he get upset?” he asks, and looks towards the door. I shake my head, “Nah, he has his boyfriend over all the time.” He breaks into a huge smile. “Did you indirectly refer to me as your boyfriend?” I roll my eyes. “Shut up!” we haven’t committed to boyfriends, but we are. I just don’t know why I won’t say it. I reach for his shirt again, and he grabs my hands. “Please?” I tug at his shift, and he takes a deep breath, he lets go of my hands and doesn’t try to fight me. I lift his shirt up and he raises his thin arms above his head. I put his long sleeve shirt on the pillow and look at him. I can’t help but feel turned on by his abs. I wish I had his. He just naturally has them, and it drives me crazy. I look on his right arm near his elbow - there is a bruise in the shape of a hand mark. I look at him and his eyes look to the bed as if the covers are more interesting than me. I get up and circle him. His back has whelps and a few of them broke the skin, I lightly touch a mean looking one and he winces. It’s burning hot. “I’m sorry.” “It’s fine, just wasn’t expecting your hands to be cold.” I laugh. “Yeah, sadly, they are either ice cold or sweaty - no in-between.” Terin grabs his shirt and puts it back on. I sit on the bed with him again. “It’s not as bad as it looks. I have had worse.” “Terin, why don’t you tell someone? Tell your Uncle, he would take you in. You love him.” He grabs my hand. “Jaxs, it’s not that bad. My dad just had a bad day at work, and I messed up. It’s fine. What about you? You look tired.” I nod my head. “I am.” He smiles, and I can’t help but smile back. “Want to lay down?” he asks. I nod my head. “I mean, that’s what we came up here for!” He moves closer to me as we lay down. “Jaxs?” “Terin?” I ask, mocking him. He play shoves me. “You know I like you like a lot, right?” I grin. “Who doesn’t like me a lot?!” He stops grinning and his pretty green eyes scan my face. “Jaxson, I am serious…” I let out a sigh. “I know. You said it twice now, and I like you too,” I tell him. He grabs my hand and squeezes it. “I just worry a lot about you. Please, can we make a pact that you will keep taking your medicine?” I pull my hand back. “This is what this is about, it’s because I’m bipolar!” I say, sitting up. He sits up as well. “NO! I don’t give a damn if you’re bipolar or schizophrenic! I have studied bipolar disorder for days, because when you’re on a manic high or low I want to be able to support you and comfort you! I like you, because you are snarky, cute, funny, caring, and you just say whatever pops into your mind. I don’t care about you being bipolar at all.” “Really?” I ask. He nods his head, “Yeah, I mean your mental illness is not a stigma. Everyone has it. You can talk to me about things. I want you to come to me about things.” “Okay…I’ll take my medication and keep it, but only, if your dad hits you again, you will tell your uncle,” I say, putting my arms across my chest. I know he isn’t going to take this deal. I feel like a dick for saying that, but I want him to know I care, too. “Deal,” he says, not even hesitating. I stare at him. “You didn’t even think about it?” “I didn’t have to,” he says, grabbing my hand again. *Tyler* Waking up, I instantly notice Jaxson isn’t by my side anymore. I look around the room. Getting off the bed, I check my phone, and there is a text from Ryder saying that he misses me. I reply back and tell him I miss him, too. I look around my room and pick up the few pieces of clothes that are on the floor. After I toss them into the dirty laundry basket, I guess I should go check on Jaxson. I don’t know how he really is after everything. Hell, I hope he has gone back to sleep. I walk up to his door and listen. I don’t hear anything. I slowly open the door and I see him in bed, but it’s not only him. I see another boy in bed with him. My first instinct is to say something loud, but I don’t know who the other person is. I walk to where Jaxson is laying, and I can clearly see the other boy’s face. He looks cute and innocent. I whisper Jaxson, but he doesn’t wake up. The other boy’s eyes flutter open, revealing these pale green eyes that get big as the moon when they see me. I can see the boy’s color drain from his face. I know I have a scowl on my face. I don’t mean to, but I don’t know who the hell he is. The boy nudges Jaxson who finally starts to stir. “What?” Jaxson mutters without opening his eyes. The boy nudges him again. “There’s someone looking at us,” he says, his voice cracking. Jaxson’s eyes fly open and he bolts upright. “Tyler, what the hell, man!” “What the hell? Who the hell is that?” I say, looking at the other boy. “I think I should go,” the boy says, getting out of the bed, looking at Jaxson. “No, you don’t have to,” Jaxson says, looking at him. I look from Jaxson to the boy. “Someone want to tell me who the hell he is, and why he is in your bed?” Jaxson rolls his eyes. “Fucking relax, Tyler.” This actually pisses me of. “No, who the fuck are you?” I ask the boy. I can tell I have scared him, because he’s backed up from the bed towards the wall. “I…I’m…I’m Terin. I’m….I’m with Jaxson,” he stutters out. “Fucking let it go, Tyler! He’s my…he’s fine!” Jaxson yells, getting off the bed. “He’s what? Your boyfriend?” “Whatever…Terin, I think you should go. I will call you.” Terin nods and starts to move around me. “No, I think he should stay if he’s going to be sleeping in your bed. I should at least know your boyfriend.” Terin stops and looks more scared than ever. “I…I got to get going. Call me later, Jaxson.” I gab his arm, and he flinches. Jaxson steps in and yanks my hand off Terin. “That’s enough, Tyler. Terin came to check on me, and I wanted to lay back down. He’s my boyfriend, okay?” “How old are you?” “Uhh…I’m fifteen, sir,” he says. I can’t help but smile. “I am no sir, dude.” He nods his head. “Okay.” “Do y’all go to the same school?” “Yes, Tyler, Jesus Christ! Stop the tough big brother act, okay?” Jaxson says, getting annoyed. I laugh. “You did it to Ryder!” He throws up his hands. “He deserved it!” “How?” Terin at this point looks a little more relaxed, but not by much. “Terin, it’s fine, dude, relax,” I tell him. “Thanks, but I really should get going. I need to get home.” Jaxson walks to him and gives him a hug, and Terin hugs him back. Jaxson leans in and whispers something, causing Terin to blush. “I guess I will see you around,” I tell him. “Yeah, I think so,” he says, and leaves for the door. I look back at Jaxson with a look as if to ask, what the hell was that? “What?” he asks, flopping down on his bed. I look back to the door, and back at him. “That the boy that you are now all the way gay for?” He shrugs his shoulder. “I don’t know what you are talking about. “Stop the bullshit, Jaxson,” I say, sitting on the edge of the bed. “I am not on some bullshit, Tyler,” he says, grabbing his broken phone, looking at it. I reach over and take his phone away, and he gives me a dirty look. “We need to talk about this.” “Talk about what?” he says, acting innocent. I take a deep breath. I hate when he does this crap. “Jaxson, you had a boy sleeping in your bed that no one in this house knows.” “You had Ryder in your bed,” he counters.