Disclaimer: Don't know them. It's fiction all the way.
Warning: Real people slash. Homoerotic contents.
Promise: This is not going to be a hate-Justin story! There's more than enough hate going around at the moment, thank you.
Thanks: As usual lots of thanks to the beta team and those of you who wrote me.
I got a homepage!! Thanks to Cris - he lent me a spot on a computer somewhere. You are very welcome to visit. It's mostly just the Tail, but - hey, I'm proud. It worked at first try! Anyway - the homepage will be where I post revised chapters. The postings of new chapters are likely to happen at the same time I sent them off to Nifty, so they may be up a day or two before they appear on the Nifty.
Response Still can't write without it...
Hope you enjoy the read.
Tail Of The Tiger, Chapter 12
"Hi, this is Mikkel. Is that Joey?"
"Hi, Mikkel. Yeah, it's me." He swallowed; his voice had sounded a little thick.
"I interrupted your breakfast."
"'S'okay. What's up?"
"Just wanted to talk with Chris. But, Joey - thank you for last night. That was a great concert. We enjoyed it a lot. Mormor has been humming your songs all morning."
"Yeah? It worked for you?" There was a smile in his voice.
"You can say that. My pants were crowded during the entire show."
Joey chuckled. "Watching Chris, huh."
Images of Chris making rhythmic, fluid and suggestive moves in colored lights flickered in my mind. "Oh, yes! Well, I looked a little at all of you; you kept getting in the way of the main attraction, but... " I tried to hold on to a really good one, Chris rotating his hips... Nice hips. "He's so sexy."
It sounded like Joey was smiling. "Man, I wouldn't know about that."
"Believe me, you're missing out on something."
I laughed and so did Joey.
"Is he up yet?"
"Don't think so. You want me to wake him up?"
"Could you just tell him we'll be over to pick him up about half an hour earlier than I said? That's in another hour. Mormor wants to make a stop on the way to the vet."
"Sure." He yawned.
"You got in late?"
"Yeah. We went clubbing after the show. I'm only up because I have to go out; JC's picking me up. You know how to get here?"
"Yes. We'll be fine. Since it was late last night - do you think he might want to bail out?"
"When Busta is having his x-rays taken? Are you crazy? He'll be up. I'll tell him you'll be here in an hour."
"Good. Thanks. Give him a wet kiss from me."
"No fucking way, man. He'd punch my face."
We said our good-byes and hung up. I went back on-line to finish my chat with Sonja before I had to help Mormor getting the dogs ready. I could hear Mormor and Rita talking out on the porch; Rita was giving the ramp its last coat of paint.
Rita had been in on that morning's talk with Johnny the physiotherapist. Mormor had issues. "I'll not have my grandsons handling my dirty underwear!" That and in related areas was where Rita came in. And doing ramp painting, but that had been Rita's own idea.
Sonja had finished her own phone talk and was back on-line for our chat session.
"Are you busy?" Mormor pulled me out of it.
"Mm. Almost finished. What is it?"
"We have to get the dogs ready."
"Two seconds..." I logged off and shut the computer down.
"Is your business in trouble?" she asked later, when we had gotten the van on the road.
"What? No, no. Why?"
"You talked about stomping liquids assets out of the ground... Tell me about it." Apparently Mormor had been listening in on my phone talk with Sonja. 'Stomping liquid assets out of the ground' was an inside joke; it merely meant borrowing money in the bank. The people at the bank had a rather inflated idea about the value of our business and were too willing to lend us money.
I blinked at her in the mirror and she looked expectantly at me. Well, she had asked for it and it looked like it was an honest request...
My mouth was still going when we turned down Joey's street. Somehow we had strayed into the topic of Internet-based businesses. "- like the emperor's new clothes; if enough people yell loud enough about air and illusions being silk and lace makes it true." I broke off my tirade, checking the numbers on the houses.
Mormor didn't answer. I looked at her in the mirror and thought that I had gone on long enough. People will get that far away look sometimes, when I should have shut up a good while ago.
"I believe I have shares in some of those businesses," she said when I stopped in front of a two-story house. It was a cozy place, surrounded by trees and bushes that needed cutting and a longhaired lawn. Apparently I had been wrong - she had been listening. "My financial advisor is very much into IT. You're saying the market is going to blow?"
"Something has to happen at some point. It's crazy the way it keeps going and going..." The front-door swung open and Chris came out, walking quickly in that liquid, rolling gait of his. Un-choreographed and pure Chris walk - much more intense than any of the dancing moves I had enjoyed the night before. Chris! My dick came awake with a start.
Chris pulled the door open. We exchanged good mornings and he climbed in next to Mormor. The pups recognized his voice and any chance of a conversation was lost in their eager welcome. In the mirror I could see Chris wince at the noise. His eyes looked a little bruised. Other than that there was no outward sign of a hangover. He was smiling and petting the pups in their transport cases.
"So where are we going?" he asked once the noise had ceased.
"We're going to the place where Mikkel rented the wheelchair." Mormor said. "I want mirrors on it."
"And a siren," I added and slowed down to check the traffic at a crossroads. While I waited for a few cars to pass I dug Mormor's sunglasses out from the glove compartment and passed them to Chris.
"No siren. And no bells. Brat."
"Thanks, man." The pink frames fit his coloring nicely. "But - a siren would be great. Like, a police siren or something." Of course when it came from Little Christopher it was an entirely different situation.
"You think so?" Mormor asked attentively.
"Yeah-" It was with some trepidation I listened to Chris giving my grandmother all sorts of ideas for gadgets she could mount on her wheelchair.
It was the spring-powered ram that made me lose my way. Mormor sounded frighteningly interested in that one after Chris explained just how impressively it would open doors and knock over big nasty dogs that threatened little pugs.
I found a place to stop and got the map out.
"What's up?" Chris spoke right next to me, his arms folded on the backrest, an elbow touched my shoulder. He pushed the glasses up on his forehead to see the map better.
"Are we lost?"
"Not really. We're still somewhere inside the border of the map."
Chris unfolded his arms and pointed. "There."
It was a moment before I could concentrate on the spot he had picked on the map; his other hand was rubbing my shoulder and it was warm and friendly. "Right. And we have to go there..." I figured out the route, taking my time to fasten it in my mind, distracted by the hand on my shoulder.
"Want me to navigate?" Warm brown eyes were touching me, soft enough to sink into, and I was teetering on the edge.
The edge was a nice dizzy place to be in and I knew I was smiling rather stupidly. "No thanks. I got it now. There's a bag by Mormor if you want something to drink or eat."
He grimaced and smiled back, shimmering, patting my shoulder before getting back in his seat. "Thanks, man. I'm not sure I can eat." He reached for the bag anyway. "Gotta remember not to race shots with Joey again."
I started the car. Mormor was telling Chris how much she had enjoyed the concert; I interjected my own comments and Chris was talking, drinking orange juice and keeping off topics that made me lose my way.
I found the place and rolled into the parking lot next to the storage building. Leroy came out when he heard the car, at first thinking it was the car that was the problem. For the fourth or fifth time I had to listen to all his excuses for there not being a newer model available. Chris and I stayed by the pups when Leroy and Mormor went inside; Leroy was still expanding on the subject of van models.
Chris and I were sitting next to one another in the open side door. We were in the shade of the building and he had taken the sunglasses off. He twisted to pull the bag over and found the wrapped sandwich, holding it in a hesitant hand before unwrapping it.
"That bad?" I asked him.
He grunted and eyed the sandwich with distrust. "Man, why do I always get trashed when it's a slow night?"
It wasn't really a question so I didn't answer. Instead I watched Chris bite into the sandwich, still looking as if he wasn't sure this was a smart move. He chewed the small bite slowly and swallowed gingerly. We both waited. Chris sighed and burped softly before he took another bite.
A rattling sound of an unhealthy motor made me look towards the small gas station on the other side of the fence. The sound came from an old pickup that coughed sickly before falling silent. A dark-haired woman in her thirties jumped out of the car. A small gray poodle slipped too and nearly got caught in the door when the woman slammed it. I held my breath until I was sure the slam wasn't going to cause the old car to fall apart. I let my breath out slowly; afraid that a quick breath would cause the car to fall apart, and that would have been a shame now it had survived the slamming of the door so valiantly.
"That car is a survivor," I said quietly. "Wonder what brand of steel wire she's using,"
"Good stuff," muttered Chris. "Could be some kind of extra-super super glue."
"Or band-aide. Women are odd like that." The poodle ran to the back of the building and the woman headed for the store. I was pretty sure she hadn't seen that the dog had gotten out.
"Band-aide's that strong?"
"Don't know. Never tried. Condoms are too soft."
"Yeah. Guys are odd like that."
I bumped him and he chuckled and bumped me back before biting into his sandwich, his chewing almost carefree.
There was a fenced area behind the gas station. The poodle had stopped just outside it, peering in, tail wagging hesitantly. A dog moved into view on the other side of the fence. It was a large black and white mixture of a lot of bloodlines. The happy poodle was small enough to squeeze between the bars of the fence and did just that.
It was a very happy poodle; he had just stumbled over a bitch in heat.
Chris chewed and watched the dogs sniffing and circling each other. He grinned. "Whoa. He's lucky."
"Looks like it."
The bitch stood still, letting the poodle sniff her, tail high and shivering.
Next to me Chris moved. I heard him unscrew the next bottle of orange juice and the soft gurgling sound of him drinking. "She's a bit tall for him. Man, isn't that a bummer? In heat and finally a guy comes by and then he's too short... Want?" He offered me the bottle; I took it and drank before passing it back to him.
"They'll figure it out, I'm sure. It's deeply programmed."
A couple of minutes later Chris grunted. "Deeply programmed, huh?" He swallowed the last of the sandwich. "Them's famous words, Mister Expert. Unless dogs takes the opposite approach from everybody else, he just picked the wrong end of her."
"Undoubtedly that's how his humans do it. This is a severe case of upbringing overriding instinct..."
Chris elbowed me, knowing a bad save when he heard it. "Too bad somebody forgot to upbring the bitch... There, good girl, show him... Yes... Fuck! Man, that poodle is stupid. Look at him."
"Uhu. This is frustrating."
"Me too..." Chris rummaged the bag and found the other breakfast package. Curiously he opened it while keeping an eye on the dogs as well. They were still going about it all wrong. Or the poodle was, the bitch apparently knew what she wanted. "You know, they remind me of us."
"Do I want to know why?"
"Probably not." He smiled and I wasn't sure if the smile was because that he found this morning's leftover pancakes inside the paper.
He pried a couple of pancakes apart to see what made them stick together before he bit into them and chewed thoughtfully. "Butter and sugar?"
"Yes." I elbowed him. It was futile to get him to say more about what he was thinking but it was a good reason for elbowing him.
He elbowed me back. "Look, his mum just came out of the store."
She carried a box towards the car and put it on the ground in order to open the door. She leaned in to look around inside the car, saying something that we couldn't hear. Her dog was still trying to figure out the complicated act of reproduction. She straightened and looked around, yelling "Fred?"
Fred the Poodle was on the verge of discovering the secret about the difference between the rear end and the front end on a bitch in heat.
"If Fred's mum looks this way then point towards the road," instructed Chris.
"You want me to lie?"
"No, of course not, dude. I just want you to direct her attention to the road. Man, he's almost there..."
"No reason to poke the ants nest yet. More fun this way." The woman had gone to look up and down the road.
"Weirdo. Hurry, hurry. Come on, Fred." Fred jumped up again, this time rubbing his little poodle dick against the thigh of the bitch; that was the closest he had been on target so far. For the umpteenth time she shook him off and backed up against his face.
"You think he'll get to finish it or is his mum gonna stop it before he spews?"
"Okay, no interfering. I say he'll finish it. A twenty?"
"I say she'll stop him before he gets there," I slapped Chris' proffered hand.
Fred's mum walked around the gas station in a completely random pattern, calling the dog. A woman who was washing the windows of her car paused for a couple of seconds to look at Fred's mum.
In the enclosure the bitch lowered her behind and Fred finally got it right.
Perhaps Fred was smarter than his mum was.
What a horrifying thought.
"Yes!" Chris slapped my back. "I'm gonna win this one. You're a pathetic looser. Pay up."
"He isn't finished yet. Klaptorsk." I slapped Chris back and waited for an opportunity to, discreetly of course, point the woman towards the back. The problem was that she wasn't looking our way at all. She got closer and closer to getting Fred in view. I bit my lip. Hurry, hurry, hurry, stop Fred. Then I felt bad for wishing that.
"Go, go, go, come on, Fred." Chris was mauling my shoulder with small hard punches in time with the gos, jumping up and down, hangover quite forgotten. I grasped his wrist and wrung his arm unto his back. He leaned against me, warm and squirming. I loosened my grip and he kept leaning, both of us watching the moment Fred's mum discovered what mamma's little honey baby was up to.
"Fred! Oh, God, stop that! Fred!" Of course Fred didn't listen and God didn't interfere. Fred was moving like there were rabbits in his family.
"Come on, come on," muttered Chris.
Fred's mum ran to the enclosure. She reached for Fred and for a moment I doubted she could reach far enough. Then she rose to her toes and pulled the compulsively thrusting Fred off the bitch.
And screamed, flinging Fred away. He tumbled to the ground outside the enclosure. For a split-second I thought Fred had bitten her. She was shaking her hand; her face contracted in disgust and panic while she yammered loudly.
Fred barked and began running in circles around her.
The woman who was washing the windows of her car dropped the sponge and ran to Fred's mum who was holding her hand as far away from her as she could, jumping up and down yelling, "take it off, take it off! Oh God. Take it off!"
After that Chris and I couldn't hear what was being said. We were howling with laughter, and things got kind of blurry, water was running from my eyes.
The laughter was winding down, enough for me to see the helpful woman washing the Fred's mum's hand with a sponge. My belly was hurting, and I couldn't breathe. Chris and I were leaning against one another for support.
"What are you two on?" asked Mormor and I got the feeling that she and Leroy had been watching us for some time and perhaps she had said something before that.
"Poodle spunk," said Chris and despite our hurting bellies we were off again.
Leroy was of more use to Mormor than we were, getting the ramp down so that she could get onboard.
"So, what was all that about?" asked Mormor once we were on our way. Chris told her the story and I lost my way again but not by much. Mormor laughed, making the pups bark.
When we stopped for a red light Chris leaned over and poked my shoulder. "You lost." He rubbed his thumb and index finger with a dry sound.
I got out the twenty and gave it to him. By the next red light he had the note neatly put away. "Chris?"
"What? No you lost. Goof."
"He didn't finish. You lost."
"Hey, yesterday on the court you weren't that kind of stickler. Lord Foul of the Inferior Team. Fred was spewing."
"Exactly - he wasn't finished. Now pay up."
"Bugger." Grudgingly Chris stuffed a piece of paper down my shirt. I pulled it out and made sure it was a twenty before I put it in my pocket. He snorted when I checked the watermarks.
We got to the vet just in time for our appointment. Chris and I carried the two transport cases with pups inside.
Vet... It was like no vet I had ever been to. It was more like a small hospital. For rich humans. I didn't say anything; the pups were excited enough as it was, and the last thing they needed was for one of us to be upset.
Bert the Vet listened gravely when Mormor talked about liver shunts and he preferred to do without the anesthesia until he had the results of the blood tests. Which meant that the pups couldn't be x-rayed in the position that showed the hips properly; there might be things that wouldn't show up. Mormor decided having the x-rays taken anyway.
"So, which one was it that fell into the pool?" asked Bert when we got to the examination.
"Busta." Chris looked hopefully at Mormor. "Can he go first?"
Mormor smiled and nodded. I helped Chris get Busta out of the cage and he walked over to Bert cradling the small pup, calming it.
"Healthy looking little fellow," said Bert when Chris transferred the pup to him. "Er, you are aware that this is a bitch?"
Chris grinned and nodded.
If being watched by a brown-eyed curious hawk while he examined the pup bothered Bert, he didn't show it. He spoke quietly, telling what was going on and what he was seeing, patiently answering questions. Chris lit up like a sun when Bert offered him a stethoscope so that he could listen in when Bert checked Busta's heart and respiration. Chris checked her brain and belly for good measure.
When Busta's examination was through Chris spent most of the time studying her x-rays on the lit boards, cradling Busta. In between he used the stethoscope making sure Busta's belly sounds still were properly gurgly. He compared them to his own. I caught a glimpse of a soft hairy belly when Chris pulled the stethoscope out from under his shirt.
Samba was all over the place and quite a handful when he decided that stethoscopes were the world's best chew toys; and Aunt Green wet herself from fright. Other than that, everything went smoothly and Bert found no apparent problems with any of the pugs.
Busta's digestive system had suffered no shutdown nor upsets by the time we got ready to leave.
We dropped Chris off on our way back. Lance's car was the only one in the driveway. The curtains were missing from what I guessed had to be the kitchen windows so perhaps Lance was doing house cleaning.
"Finished?" asked Mormor tartly when I turned from watching Chris disappear into the house.
"Hey, he's worth looking at." I got the car rolling again.
Mormor chuckled. "You have it bad, kid."
"Well, he is."
I met her eyes in the mirror and stuck my tongue out at her and she stuck her tongue out right back at me and grinned.
It was straight back into business when I got home. I hardly noticed when Karen arrived and she and Mormor started on their project right next to me. Sonja dumped a load of routine work on me; the phone kept interrupting her, and it wasn't all because of the virus scare.
When I read through Today's Last List from Sonja, I realized that we had to hire more people, if only for a period. Luckily for us it was still early in the term so we stood a good change hiring among fellow students. It was one of the things I'd really have liked to do hands-on.
Kurt shouldn't be doing physical installations - and he was doing cabling, damn it. Of course we could sub-contract; it was an obvious thing to do - and we had done it before but had bad luck. It had cost us a lot of money. I wasn't about to try again without doing a thorough background check. Which was difficult from where I was.
Apart from that - we really needed a bigger place. Kurt suggested using my room for an extra office and it was really the only thing we could do to make room for more people.
Lunch was a brief thing. Karen and Mormor were talking project and I was thinking work thoughts and I doubt any of us really tasted the food.
After lunch when I logged on to send a batch of emails there was a mail from Niller waiting for me in response to the one I had sent him the day before.
I got myself a fresh mug of carefully prepared coffee before I opened that one.
The first part of the message was from Palle.
Palle - writing?
Niller had forced him to write this, he was fine and would likely be 'released' tomorrow and he needed his freedom and a smoke badly. And I had better call him when I got back and here was his address and phone number.
The second part was from Niller. He hadn't forced Palle, he had told him nicely and Palle was just being an ass about it. And it would likely be a couple of days before the oaf was released.
I sat for a while staring at the clumsy wording and misspellings. The ten lines could very well have taken them a couple of hours. More, if they had been arguing.
At the bottom was the signature for Niller's company.
'... Security systems'.
... security systems? As in security systems - electronics - cabling - physical installations?
What am I thinking?
I ran over the numbers in my head. It certainly wouldn't be the deal of the century for either of us.
He will say 'no' if he can't do it. And I can trust him to do good work if he accepts. Unless he has changed a lot.
It wasn't exactly a bad deal either.
I hammered out a list and attached the file to my answer, almost not hesitating before I sent it off. I sent a 'hold job offers' to Sonja and Kurt in the same go.
I got myself another cup of coffee, and read through the list I had sent Niller, absentmindedly wondering what I had just done. My head was oddly empty and my heart was calming down as if I had just had a scare I hadn't been aware of. Mormor squinted at me and I smiled to tell her everything was all right. It just made her raise her eyebrows.
She and Karen had taken over most of the worktable, arranging little colored slips of paper on a black board, tracing pedigrees. They had been on the phone a lot. The pink slips held information on pugs whose owners they wanted to talk with. Right then Karen was writing the information of a pink slip onto a green one. The green ones were for the healthy pugs.
The phone rang and I picked it up without thinking. It wasn't until I held it that I remembered that it most likely was for the shunt detectives.
"This is Scrapheap and Son Incorporated. In three minutes you'll hear the crunch of your car being compressed into a very neat and small cube. Are you willing to pay the next installment?"
I shook my head at Mormor's unspoken question. No, this wasn't for her. "But I already paid!"
"That was just the first installment. You can have the lawn mower but not the car, man. Two minutes and fifty seconds."
"What!? I can't drive to the shopping center on a lawn mower. I want my car. You promised. This is the US, I can't survive without a car."
"Your survival doesn't really concern us. You'll get your car for another installment of nice little unmarked American dollars. Two minutes and twenty seconds."
"Pay? Pay - with what? My poor old grandmother is hungry and sick! I have nothing left..."
"That's your last word? Two minutes, ten seconds and still counting..."
I was hit by a crumbled piece of paper. "No, wait! You can have my grandmother. Her tongue is as sharp as ever, I bet it can cut grass long distance. She's formidable!"
"Mikkel!" Mormor was laughing.
"You want my grandmother? She really isn't that sick, I mean, it's just a temporary malfunction."
"Hm. Can she cook?"
"Yes, she can cook. And she's an expert on football. And pugs."
"Now you're talking."
"You want her? My granny for my car?"
"Well, not your car. But, okay. A very small car. With pedals and no motor, very friendly for the environment, by the way."
"My granny is worth more than that. A car with at least two sets of pedals. And brakes."
"Car with two sets of pedals and brakes for your granny and a can of gas. We can do that."
"Gas? For the lawn mower."
"Yeah. Of course you could bring me the gas and get to keep your granny."
"You don't want my granny? I'm hurt, deeply hurt. It's a very good granny-"
The phone was pulled out of my hand.
"Christopher - you can have my impossible grandson for free. ... No, not that one, the other one. ... Yes. Gasoline too. ... Do you want him wrapped or can I just put him in a bag? ... Sure. ... Oatmeal with soy-drink is fine; he just needs a lot of it. ... Yeah, you can keep him on a leash and force-feed him if necessary, no problem. ... Oh, I'll fix it with his secretary. She's a very sensible woman. ... Good. I'll send him over, wrapped in a carpet. Got that. ... Yeah, bye Christopher." Mormor put the phone back on its cradle. "I just sold you into white slavery at Joey's Plantation. It cost me a can of gas."
"I thought he said Scrapheap and Son."
"That one's a dupe, I believe. You have time for helping him out?"
"Yes." I closed down the computer. "What do you want for dinner?"
"We don't need you to cook for us; we're not teenaged boys, you know."
"Oh, we can order out," said Karen, knowing perfectly well that one got to me.
Mormor nodded enthusiastically.
"Okay." I got up to get ready.
A few minutes later I walked through the living room, juggling the car keys as I went. Mormor smiled at me. "Say hello from me."
"I will. You call me if Tom isn't back when Karen leaves. Promise?"
"No getting to bed without any of us here."
A thump behind me made me turn. Leika had heard me jiggling the keys and was doing her best to drag the Bag towards me. "You going shopping?" I asked her. She let go of the Bag and wagged her tail at me. When she figured I hadn't gotten the message she once again started laboriously dragging the Bag towards me.
"What's going on?" Mormor rolled over to see. "Oh, my," she laughed and Karen came over to see too. Leika let go of the Bag and barked at us before climbing into it.
"Mind if I take her along?" I asked Mormor. If Chris needed me for white slavery it wouldn't surprise me if he needed dog therapy too.
"No, no. You can take her."
"Want to come?" I asked Leika and she started barking, wagging her tail, perhaps telling me that it took me long enough to catch on. That's how I understood her, anyway.
There were no cars in the driveway when I arrived at Joey's house. The curtains in the kitchen were up again. I parked the van in the street since it would've taken up all the space in the driveway.
Nobody answered when I rang the doorbell so I walked around the house. A clanging noise from the shed in the far corner gave a broad hint as to where Chris was.
I walked past the pool. There was a fence around it. A green low plastic net had been attached the fence-posts with wire that still was shiny.
The brown shed huddled next to a large tree. Somebody in there was banging on metal. I had visions of a lawn mower bent totally out of shape. As I got closer, swearing entered the sound picture, too. Leika was wagging her tail, recognizing the high voice and not the least phased by the pissed tone.
The clang lost some of its timbre; something was giving. There was another clang followed by a triumphant and edgy, "ha! Got ya!"
Chris was bent over an old lawn mower removing a bolt, when Leika and I came to stand in the door. "Hi." I put the petrol can down inside the door and hung my jacket on a hook.
He looked up, face unreadable and harsh. "What took you so long?" Then he saw Leika and his expression softened a little. "Hi, girl." He picked up a rag. Leika pulled on the leash. I didn't let her go before Chris had finished drying his hands.
Various motor parts were scattered amongst other junk on the worktable under the spider-invaded window. On the floor the lawn mower was showing off its remaining innards to the world, looking obscene like motors will.
My, "couldn't find the oil filter?" was admittedly kind of teasing and it certainly earned me a dirty look from Chris, who was crouching on the floor. I waited for Leika's diplomacy to take hold again. "I brought Mormor's toolbox. You need it?"
He nodded and I went and got it from the car. Leika had made a bit more headway when I returned. I cleared a spot on the worktable and put the toolbox down.
Chris got up from the crouch and came over to see what was in the box. Frustration was coming off him in rays when he poked about. "Man, I tried like everything - cleaning the oil filter, adjusting the ignition, cleaning the sparkplug... Stupid thing is just fucking dead. So - I figured I'd take it apart until I found something that didn't look right."
It looked more like an act of revenge to me.
"What did it sound like when you tried to start it?"
Chris made a fair imitation of a lawn mower that was absolutely dead to the start attempt.
"No cough? Like-" I tried my own throat the sound and added a bit at the end.
He shook his head.
"There's gas in the tank?"
He glared at me. "You can be fucking irritating, you know that?"
"Yeah, not much but there's enough. Plenty of oil."
"Sounds like it doesn't get fed. I would check the logistics of the gas supply again."
He grunted and squinted at me before returning his attention to the toolbox. He found the bundle of steel blades used for measuring small distances.
I looked at the remnants on the floor. "You want to make sure it's absolutely dead first, huh."
He grunted and bumped me with a hip while playing with the bundle of steel blades, opening and closing it like a fan. I put an arm around his shoulders. When he didn't protest I leaned in and licked at the corner of his mouth, tickling him. "Fucker," he said but he was smiling so I tried to push my tongue into his mouth. He pressed his lips together but a tongue is a pretty sleek thing and I wriggled my way in anyway. He turned, kissing back, his hands groping me under my t-shirt; my hands slipped under his t-shirt, sliding over sweaty skin just as greedily.
The kissing was good but the snuggling afterwards was even better; his body softened and lost most of the edginess.
"Let's check the damned gas supply," he said and lifted up my shirt, looking with satisfaction at the black prints that his hands had left on my skin.
We got busy with the lawn mower, eventually finding and fixing what looked to be the problem. Then we put the thing back together, cleaning and oiling where appropriate.
Leika ran in and out, in between she lay watching us from a chair that Chris placed in the door next to a bowl of water. By the time we slipped the cover on the motor she had gotten to her late afternoon nap.
We woke her up when we moved the chair. Chris pushed the lawn mower out of the shed and - it started at first try. Chris cut the gas and we went inside to wash our hands and have a drink in the kitchen, stopping on the way to turn off the water that Chris had left running in a newly laid out flowerbed.
"Wait. I wanna show you something," said Chris and bounded upstairs, beer in hand. He came back a shortly after, carrying a plastic bag.
"There was this great store in Austin. Look." He began pulling toys out of the bag. "Tear-proof cat..." He grinned and threw a furry purple and pink cat at me. It gave a squeak when it hit me and Leika wagged her tail, recognizing the sound of a toy when she heard it. "These were on sale."
Out came a yellow rubber giraffe with red spots, a very green rubber turtle, an even greener frog, a fluorescent pink rubber rabbit, a blood red rubber bone, a furry ball in many colors and a furry blue and white mouse.
Chris took the giraffe and showed me just how much it could stretch, though I did look more at the muscles flexing in his arms and shoulders than at the stretched rubber toy. When he let go the giraffe slapped back into shape with a hoarse squeak. "Neat, huh."
I nodded, testing the sound in each of the toys, driving Leika nuts by ignoring her; she knew perfectly well that toys are not supposed to hide on high kitchen tables when there are nice little pugs waiting on the floor. "Look. Like the European Melody Grand Prix." I squeezed the giraffe; it was louder than any of the others were. "This is the Irish contestant, they are usually the best..."
"I saw that on German tv," Chris grinned and we lined the toys up at the edge of the table so that Leika could be the jury when the singers performed one after the other.
"I think she liked Flat Fred's Blitz of Deadly Lovebites best," said Chris and I nodded; she certainly had shown a lot of enthusiasm at that one. For some reason all the contestants had 'Fred' in their names. He gave Leika the turtle. "Here, chew the Swedes."
I emptied my beer. "What do you want me to do?"
"Trim the edges that I can't get with the lawn mower. In front and around the pool, the porch and the patio."
We went back out and Chris started the lawn mower. I collected Mormor's tools and looked around in the shed for something to cut the grass with. Leika had disappeared from the doorway. Perhaps she had run to Chris.
I heard voices and looked out as a guy crossed the patio, heading towards Chris. The stranger was cradling Leika in his arms. His hair had the very yellow blonde color that Lance from Chris' group had sported the night before; it reminded me of the nylon hair on a doll. I couldn't see his face but I was pretty sure that it was him; he walked up to Chris who stopped the lawn mower.
"Hi, Lance." Chris smiled somewhat testily.
"Chris, I can't believe it! You broke your promise," Lance said. "You take this dog back where you got it from, right now!"
Chris face... fell shut, became unreadable in an instant. "What promise, Lance?" And the voice was soft, deceptively so. I could barely hear him. "I don't remember putting anything up for a vote."
Somebody had accidentally had spliced the wrong realities together and I somehow had ended up in an argument that had lost its beginning.
Lance's back stiffened but I couldn't be sure whether it was from anger or fear. Was Lance aware that he was carrying one of the most effective shields against physical Chris-attack? Only the Busta-shield could beat a Leika-shield.
"Fuck, Chris!" said Lance and surprise flickered over Chris' face. "You can't take a dog on tour, for heavens sake. It's gonna go completely crazy and you're gonna mislay it in freezing cold Canada or something." None of them seemed to hear the outburst from deep inside the house. "Don't you care about the dog at all? It's just you, you, you. You're so unbelievably selfish and irresponsible."
Even from where I was standing I could see the shiver go through Chris; his chin came up with a jerk and his eyes blazed.
I wasn't supposed to be there, I knew. I was stranded in the wrong cut, had somehow grown roots and couldn't move. Chris took a step forwards, liquid and tense, eyes glittering dangerously. Ooh, beautiful! Lance took a step backwards. The Leika-shield offered no protection against a mean tongue.
"Yeah - I'm evil," Chris snarled. And sounded it. And looked it. Lance backed up another step. "Aren't you proud you finally figured it out, Mississippi-boy? I'm a fucking pervert getting off on-"
"Chris! You fucker!" Justin, easily recognizable by the poodle hair, came storming out of the garden door, red-faced, all legs and waving arms. He was brandishing the rubber giraffe and it squeaked when he clenched and unclenched his fist.
Leika began writhing. Lance hurriedly set her down. Stupidly she ran towards Justin, barking, eyes focused on the toy.
Justin is angry enough to-
I was running. Somebody yelled "No!" It could have been me.
Not quick enough...
Chris tore into Justin, fist hitting Justin's belly with a sickening thud; Justin staggered backwards.
Shit! No - Chris!
The world around me shattered like glass, I was navigating in the shards of an incomplete time-shift.
I slammed into Martin,
tearing him with me into a fall,
tumbling and rolling into Lance.
All my attention was on the snarling Martin. But the ferocious attack never came; he squirmed in my grip and lay still.
"Mikkel, what the fuck!" Suddenly it was Chris speaking and the time-shift stopped, withdrew with a snap and left me dizzy and floundering.
My mind cleared. I was wrapped around Chris in the middle of a flowerbed. Huge dark eyes flashed at me. Chris spat at a leaf that clung to his lip. "What are you doing?"
"Uhm. I thought that you had lost control." He was solid and warm, smelling of grass and motor oil, an anchor keeping me grounded in this side of reality. I really didn't want to let him go yet.
"Well, I didn't; let go of me, you freak." His eyes searched my face speculatively and glittered with sudden amusement. "I'm not Fred, you know." His hair was decorated with twigs and leaves from the pile of garden debris we had rolled into; he was every inch the shaman. I wanted to kiss him and I wanted to laugh, so I laughed, remembering that we weren't alone.
I could let go then and we rolled up to sit.
Lance was on his feet again. Justin was sitting, rubbing his belly and glaring at me. Perhaps he was thinking that I had stolen his fight.
Leika wagged a question with her tail.
"It's okay, girl," I told her and she came running, moving just fine; the kick hadn't hit her harder than that. Still, I ran my hands over her, checking her for damages.
Chris stared at Justin. "What did you think you were doing, kicking a small dog like that? You could've hurt her."
Justin flared. "The stupid dog fucking attacked me!"
"Attacked you!?" Chris sputtered. "She just wanted to play. You were coming at her with her toy. And, fuck, it wasn't like she showed her teeth or anything. Sorry kid, but this time the world wasn't out to get you. Either."
"How the hell would I know? Stupid animal was barking. And. Don't. Call. Me. Kid."
"Then stop acting like a spoiled infant." Chris put a hand on my shoulder. "She okay?"
"Yes. A sore spot; it's just a small bruise."
Justin rolled up to stand. "Infant, huh. You calling me infant, mister I-want-a-puppy." The last was said with a sneering imitation of an obnoxious child's voice. "Spoiled - who the fuck gets his way every time but Christopher fucking Kirkpatrick? But you know what - this is it. I'm not having no fat, ugly, drooling, stinking, stupid, hairy rat on my bus. You try and bring it and I'll throw it out the fucking window."
Justin's eyes were slits full of anger. He looked like an imitation of Chris who stared right back with an expression very much the original of Justin's.
"Now that would really make you the center of attention, wouldn't it. Bet it would make you real happy."
Lance bit his lip, worried gaze flicking back and forth between Justin and Chris.
This wasn't about dogs at all.
"Man, can you two screech," I muttered.
Chris' mouth snapped shut and his nostrils flared. "What do you expect?" He said between clenched teeth. "We're in a fucking boy band."
Justin glared at me. "You just stay out of this, mister; it's no fucking business of yours." His gaze got stuck on my hand and something about it made him even more upset. Perhaps he had a thing about oil smudges or people with oil smudges on them. "Who the fuck are you anyway?"
Chris got up and I did too.
"The dog guy, huh."
Whoa, I hadn't known that there was asbestos in the sun blocker that I had put on, but there really wasn't anything else that would explain why I didn't burst into flame when Justin's heated glare hit me.
"Justin." Chris warned. Justin jerked into motion and marched off without another word.
"What the fuck is up with him? Lance, do you know?"
Lance shook his head. "You want me to..."
"No." Chris stalked after Justin.
"This is bad." Chris had called Justin his best friend on more than one occasion.
Lance nodded, worry and pain in his eyes.
I could hear them talking but not what they were saying. The heat in the exchange was quite apparent; it didn't sound like they were really communicating. I trusted that we would hear it if they started to fight.
Lance looked down. "Hi, there." Leika dumped the giraffe on the ground, wagging her tail expectantly at him. He picked up the toy and threw it; Leika barked and ran after it.
Something pricked at my scalp and I began pulling twigs out of my hair. "You're wrong about Chris," I said to Lance.
He blinked at me. "What do you mean?"
"What you said to Chris when you charged him - it was pretty obvious that there are things you don't know."
"Yeah? Like what?"
"Listen to Chris." I struggled with a virtual rolling pin and an image of Lance with a huge, shiny, red bump in a nest of neatly trimmed but disarranged blond hair
He looked down at Leika who waited for him to throw the giraffe again. Lance picked up the giraffe and squeezed it thoughtfully for a moment before he threw it. "This your dog?"
"No. My grandmother's."
"Your grandmother is selling Chris a pup?"
He looked curiously at me. "Have you any idea how things get? Like, there is really no free time when we are on tour and the schedule is completely crazy. And once we start practicing the new choreography... It'll be seven a.m. to ten p.m. or something like that."
"Chris has thought about all that."
Lance blinked. "Seriously?"
I nodded. "Very seriously, yes. Really, you should ask him."
"I don't think it's right of any of us getting a dog. They really attach themselves to you." He picked up the giraffe and threw it. "We can't be there enough for a pet."
"It's not going to be perfect. But that isn't the same as unacceptable."
He was listening. As far as I could judge, the heart of the argument was about the pup for him. I put away the virtual rolling pin, hesitantly. "You are very welcome to visit and see what kind of place it is and ask all the questions you want. You can come when ever. You got pen and paper? Let me write you the address."
"I..." He stopped when a deeply frustrated "dumbass!" reached our ears from around the corner of the house. Chris' voice. There was a spot of quiet then a car started.
"Justin's leaving," muttered Lance.
"Are you guys usually this bad at communications?"
Lance shook his head, sighed - and shrugged.
A toxic thundercloud came around the corner, dripping oaths and curses; the grass shriveled and blackened at its feet. A small fearless beast attacked the dangerous cloud on a very low level, offering shared prey at its feet.
Chris stopped. Leika looked up at him, tail wagging. "You..." Chris melted. "Aw, fuck." He picked up the rubber animal and threw it, completely ignoring Lance and me.
"I'll get my calendar," muttered Lance and disappeared into the house.
I got the wheelbarrow and a rake from the shed and set out to tidy the remnants of the flowerbed. An irritating scratch made me stop to pull out more twigs from my hair. One of them had thorns. It was no wonder that Chris' braids stuck together more and more as he tumbled in the grass; he had several of that kind of twig stuck in his hair. I considered briefly, very briefly, going over to Chris and tell him I had to fix his hair. It wouldn't go over well, that was a certain. It was better to let Leika work her magic.
Lance came back out. "Here." He passed the open calendar and a pen to me. I found a clean spot on my dirty jeans and dried my hands before taking the book, and scribbling Mormor's contact info, carefully, making sure that it was readable to others than me.
"There's usually somebody there but you might want to call first to make sure. Let it ring for a while."
"Thanks." He took the book and the pen. "You don't have to do our garden work."
"It's okay. I like doing it." The squished and uprooted small plants looked very sad, and the formerly neat pile of twigs and weeds was scattered all over. Joey really didn't need to see the flowerbed at its worst. Somebody had put a lot of work into it; of course it could have been Lance. "When Chris is over at our place I usually put him to work. It's kind of a tradition. And I like doing things with him."
"Oh, okay." He seemed a little flustered when he looked down at the address. "Chris and Joey already tried to make me come visit."
"Why didn't you?" I picked up the rake again.
"I saw no reason to." He watched the two playing on the lawn. "I mean, I really don't think he should get that dog and I doubt anything will change my opinion on that. But it doesn't look like Chris is putting it up for a vote, so..." He looked at me. "Perhaps I'll come visit. Did he tell your grandmother what his job is like?"
"Yes. I think both of she and I have as clear an idea as one can have without having been there."
I dumped a rake load of debris in the wheelbarrow and stopped to pull another thorny twig out of my hair, this time without breaking the twig. Feeling around I found the last big one.
Lance winced. "You want a hair brush?"
The question was so at odds with what was on my mind that it took me a while to figure out what the words actually meant. "Please. If you have one of those with metal sticks it would be really great."
"Metal sticks? I think Dani left one of those." Lance twinkled shyly. "I always thought they were for horses."
I whinnied; Lance smiled and went inside.
"What was that about?" Chris asked and plunked down in the grass at my feet, reaching out for Leika who came running and settled in his lap. "If you're gonna change into a horse you might as well eat the grass so I won't need to cut it."
"Sorry, the trick didn't work like he said it would. The grass is probably wet in that spot."
"Really?" Chris wriggled, testing the surface under his neat behind.
I sat down next to him. The ground was damp. "Kind of wet."
"Say, who made the flowerbed? It looks recent."
"Joey did it yesterday." Chris nuzzled Leika behind the ears.
"When is he coming home?"
"Anytime, now. He and JC went to look at a piano that JC's interested in buying. It's probably nothing, it sounded too cheap, but that's JC."
"Well, if what he wore when we met is any indication, then he's got a good nose for second hand clothes. He might be lucky with a piano."
Chris stared at me. "What?"
"I heard you. Say you didn't mean that."
"You didn't mean that. Are you opposed to second hand clothes?"
"No, no. I wear them myself. It's - man, JC!" Finally I got a grin out of him. "You told him you liked his clothes?"
I shook my head.
"Please don't." He was perfectly aware that now I would compliment JC on his clothes at the first reasonable opportunity. "Shit," he muttered, looking at Lance walking towards us. He had changed clothes and was wearing old faded jeans and a large comfortable sweatshirt. On top of his head sat a very bowl-shaped yellow hat. In his hand he held a hairbrush and a pair of garden gloves with little blue flowers on them. "You've been meddling in my affairs again, haven't you? And giving your granny's address to strangers?"
"Yes and yes." I took the hairbrush that Lance passed me and attacked the tangle. "Thank you."
"You're from Europe, right? Norway?" Lance winced; his hand jerked as if he wanted to take over the brushing.
"Close. Denmark, just South of Norway. It's basically the same language so the accents are probably a lot alike." It was a very effective hairbrush and it was good getting back at the itches.
"He's juggling hot potatoes in his throat when he speaks, that's how you know he's Danish." Chris petted Leika before lifting her off his lap. "I better get mowing. You need the wheelbarrow, Mikkel?"
"I can get it when." I checked the sun and spoke to his back. "You might as well take it easy. You won't finish on this side of sundown."
"I'll finish." He walked off with the wheelbarrow. "I'm gonna put lights on the mower when it gets dark."
I wasn't really surprised.
"Chris." Lance bit his lip and walked after him.
"What?" He took the container with the cut grass off the lawn mower and dumped the contents in the wheelbarrow.
"You don't have to, I mean, it can wait..."
"It's okay; I promised." Chris pushed off with the load of grass and Lance followed him. "I can do this, no problem."
"But - I didn't mean-"
Chris let go of the handles and the grass pile looked like it might topple. "Will you make up your fucking mind?" he snapped.
I had gotten to my feet and was making myself scarce. Leika followed me to the other side of the house where I got her a fresh bowl of water from the outside tap. We were well outside view and hearing range of Chris and Lance.
"Suddenly I remember one of the really frustrating things about living in a co-op," I told her. Leika drank a little and looked up at me, water dripping from her face. "My-turn-your-turn-your-turn. I can't think of a more stupid game than that. It gets into everything." Leika bent her head and drank some more. I should have known she wasn't really interested in the explanation. She was after all on permanent 'no-turn-no-concern'.
I peeked around the corner; Lance and Chris were by the pile of garden debris and the wheelbarrow was empty. They were still talking and it looked like there was listening going on too. They were far enough away from the flowerbed for me to finish tidying it up.
Leika found a chair on the porch and took a nap.
In the shed I found one of those grass-cutting devices with a rotating string. Only there was no more string left in this one. I found the strings and after a bit of cleaning and a tank full of gas it actually worked. Joey had the helmet to go with it too.
By sundown I joined Lance trimming the grass around the porch in the back; it was scissors work. The noise of the lawn mower was muted; it was eating grass in the front.
"Is he going to stop by dark?"
Lance nodded without interrupting the cutting. He was still wearing the yellow hat even though we were in the shade.
Maybe he was like Peter about his garden gear. It was some kind of ritual with Peter, as if he couldn't really be there without it. He was like that about fishing too, only the fishing gear was way more impressive than the garden gear. I liked the fishing hat best; it had little hooks and brightly colored feathers in it. Even though he always denied it, I was pretty sure that fishing had something to do with the occult. The hats, that the members of the inner circle wore, were plenty of evidence.
I was curious. "You ever go fishing?"
"Fishing? No. I don't think I ever did. Do you like fishing?"
"No. I like the fish, though. Served on a platter, I mean."
"Yeah." He squinted at me.
Sometimes I suck a casual conversation.
Lance squinted again, catching my squint going his way. He bit his lip.
"It was kind of stupid, wasn't it."
He nodded and smiled. "Why did you ask?"
"Because of your hat."
"Now, that was a really enlightening explanation. What has my hat to do with fish?"
"I could just sort of imagine you with a fishing hat, one of those dark green ones with lots of feathers and hooks."
He laughed and when I looked up I found him studying me. "You ever had a motor bike?"
"I get to ask again, then. Um... You're an outdoor man; you like to go canoeing and trekking for weeks and to sleep in the wild in this tiny little tent."
"No, no. That's my granddad. I've done camping but I really don't like to sleep in a tent, I can't sleep without my pillows, and mosquitoes drive me crazy." And I'm afraid of the dark. "My turn... You like rules a lot."
"What do you mean?"
"Like, you invent little games like this one and make rules about a lot of things. You like rituals too. I'd say your mornings are pretty complicated." The lawn mower had stopped. The container was probably full again.
"Yeah." He chuckled. "You like rules too, I think."
"I like to see them change - hey, you're breaking a rule. My turn still. You like dogs better than cats."
"Really. And I like ferrets better than cats. My turn... You've got kids - a daughter."
"What? You sure?"
I laughed and nodded. "You'd like to bungee jump. You haven't done it yet and you have made some rule for when. A birthday or an event - maybe your album coming out in the US."
"How did you know that?"
"What's the event?"
"I'm not telling. How did you know?" He threw a tuft of grass at me.
"Since you won't tell me, I think the event has to with marriage."
He reddened and nodded.
Something soft and damp, smelling of freshly cut grass slammed into the back of my head.
Chris had finished grass mowing for the day.
Lance must have seen him coming. I was pretty sure Lance was one heck of a poker player, deceiving those who didn't know him with his innocent eyes; I didn't get around to ask because we had a wheelbarrow full of grass that needed fighting with.
Chris squirmed and fought my grip when Lance washed his face with a huge handful of grass; Lance made sure he got some in his mouth too. "That's cheating, you fuckers," spat and sputtered Chris.
"Not according to my rules," said Lance and washed my face with the next handful.
It was pretty much everybody against everybody after that.
We ended up on a breathless and thoroughly grassed and tickled pile. When I rolled up to sit and spit grass I discovered that we were being watched. Joey and JC sat on the edge of the porch, beers in hand and they were smiling broadly. Leika sat in the grass in front of JC and was getting a scratch.
Joey hadn't noticed the destruction of the flowerbed until I told him I was sorry.
"What happened?" he inquired and not, I was relieved to see, upset at all.
Chris had pulled his shirt off and was shaking the grass out. "Justin happened. I got so pissed that Mikkel thought he had to stop me from beating the little punk to pulp and we ended up in the flowerbed when Mikkel tackled me."
"Justin thought Chris already had gotten the dog when he saw Leika." Lance was brushing grass off his jeans. "He was still angry when he left."
"Should one of us...?" JC asked.
"Not me." Chris used his t-shirt for beating the grass off his jeans. "I'm still pissed at him for kicking Leika and being such a prick about it. It's too early, anyway. Give him another hour or two to cool down."
"He's coming over later anyway," said Lance. "We're gonna talk about that meeting tomorrow."
Chris straightened. "Meeting? Fuck. I'd forgotten that. Shit." He beat himself with his t-shirt again.
I sat down next to Joey and pulled my shoes and socks off. There was grass everywhere.
"You found a piano?" asked Lance and Joey snorted.
"Yes!" There was a broad smile in JC's voice.
Joey plucked a beer from the six-pack at his feet, opened it and passed it to me. "It's pink." I looked at the can; it looked like ordinary beer to me. "The piano," grinned Joey.
The beer found a dry spot, tasting very good, as beer will sometimes when one is outside and surrounded by lots of earth smells.
"It's - it's perfect," breathed JC. "We've already ordered a firm to pick it up tomorrow."
"Somebody painted flowers on it. Huge, ugly flowers." Joey grimaced and drank deeply.
Chris sat down on my other side. He leaned over my thigh to get a beer. He sat back up popping the beer open with a content sigh. I made to pull my t-shirt off but Chris held it down and I remembered that I probably still had his oily handprints on me.
"It has a great sound; it's completely intact, just needs tuning." JC moved to make room for Lance between himself and Joey.
"I'm gonna have a pink piano with flowers in my living room. My self-esteem is plummeting, I tell you."
Chris grinned, his teeth flashing in the receding light. Lance patted Joey on the head, it took Joey a moment to discover that Lance had had an awful lot of grass stuck to his hand. Chris stopped grinning. "Hey, it's my living room too!"
"Pink piano with flowers on it. And grass in my beer."
"Fuck," muttered Chris.
"I'll have it painted later," said JC. "The colors are too noisy for me, anyway. Like I can't think and write when I look at them, they kind of..."
There was a long stretch of silence after that statement.
"Bad, huh," rumbled Lance.
"Uhu." Joey brushed grass from his shoulders.
Chris stretched his back. "I saw Busta's x-rays today."
All of a sudden Joey sat very, very still.
"Yeah? All's good?" JC leaned forwards so that he could see Chris better.
"Yeah. Well, the vet took a blood sample; we'll know for sure on Thursday. But the x-rays - his tail, man, his little tail, it's so neat." Chris' hand fluttered in the air. "Like, it curls, and the bones in his paws, they're so tiny and they don't feel like that at all when he jumps on your belly. I listened to his belly too, it rumbles, it's really spacy." He sighed and leaned against me, raising the can to his mouth.
"Is there a problem?" asked Lance.
Joey relaxed and drew a deep breath.
"It's the sire," I said because Chris was drinking beer with his eyes closed like he really enjoyed it. "This week Mormor learned that the pups may have inherited liver shunt from him. None of us really believe that Busta has it but Mormor wanted all the pups checked."
"When are you planning to pick him up, Chris?" Lance asked.
Joey stopped breathing.
Nothing in Chris' voice betrayed that he had tensed. "Wednesday morning." After breakfast; Mormor had insisted on that when she found out that Chris intended the pick up to be between four and five when I got out of bed.
Joey still didn't breathe.
"Oh. That's... that's earlier than I expected. What about the fence? I thought you wanted to put that up first."
Joey began breathing again, a little hesitantly.
"I'll do that tomorrow. After we've had that meeting and I've mowed the grass and cut the bushes." Chris rubbed his nose.
"I can finish business and the flowerbed tomorrow around two o'clock." I was hurt that he hadn't asked me for help; then I realized that that was exactly what he had done by shopping for white slaves. "If you need anything from our place, just say."
"Sure. I don't think Mormor needs it. You'll have to drop by Leroy and sign some papers, though. I'll call him tomorrow morning."
"I can help too," said Lance.
"But the basement-"
"Never mind the basement. My mum's not walking down there, anyway. And so what if she does, it's just a basement."
Joey chuckled and put an arm around Lance. "JC and I have to go down and pay for the piano. JC wants to ride back with the it."
"Man, you're finally getting a proper piano - it's great."
"Chris?" Lance stretched his legs.
"We're gonna have a pink piano in our living room." Lance sounded really morose.
"Yes! With flowers painted on it." Chris chipper voice was as counter as it could be and Joey laughed. There was a lot of relief in that laughter.
I gave Chris a manly, one-armed hug. And jumped when he butted me. "Av!" He stiffened. "You have a cactus on your head." I pulled at a twig. It was really stuck and it broke off. "Look."
He took it but let it go quickly. "Ouch! Man, I got thorns." He ran his fingers over the highly unconventional hairdo. "Fuck." He jumped up and ran inside. Leika ran after him.
"Did he take his shoes off?" Lance sighed. "Arrgh, never mind..."
From inside the house sounded pitiful scream with a bathroom ring to it. "Heeelp! I'm invaded by aliens. There's a cactus growing out of my head! Heeelp!"
JC disappeared into the house, laughing like the rest of us. We got up too.
"Mikkel?" Joey called after me; he had stopped in the door. "Where are you going?"
"Putting the lawn mower in the shed."
"Okay. You're staying for dinner, right?"
"Thanks. You got any clean clothes I can borrow?"
"Sure, I'll find some."
It was when he closed the door that I realized my mistake. It had grown dark and I was alone.
Oh, I was almost all right on the lawn, since there were lights on in the house. But the shed - the shed was really dark inside and I could hear the monsters whispering in that swirling darkness in the corners and under the worktable and I could sense them moving restlessly, getting worked up by my presence.
I got the lawn mower in. My belly was clenched and I barely held off the panic while I picked up the toolbox and my jacket. Amazingly, none of the monsters tackled me to the floor or ripped my throat out. I closed the door with shaking hands and sprinted back to the safety of the house.
There was nobody in the living room to see my unsettled state. I set the toolbox on the floor and took a moment finding myself. When the blood stopped pounding in my ears, I could hear voices from the hallway. Through the open door I could see that the bathroom door was ajar.
"Are you crazy? You can't kill aliens with a pair of scissors! They'll counter-attack, man - they'll destroy the entire planet."
Maybe Chris knew that I stood shaking in the living room. His magic certainly zapped the fear out of me and shoved my heart into its proper place in my chest.
"Look at you!" JC sounded exasperated. "It's not like diplomacy works here. Give them to me. Chris! Stop that."
I had to see what they were up to.
"We gotta take them all in one raid, commit xenocide or something. No - what am I saying? That would be evil... What're you doing?"
I pushed the door open and looked in. They were standing in front of the mirror. JC was trying to pry a pair of scissors out of Chris' grimed fist and looking very awkward about it.
Chris' obstinate frown changed into a grin when he saw me. In the bright bathroom light he looked like he had been into several colors of camouflage paint. His braids were a tangled mess on top of his head. Beautiful!
I grinned back, suddenly feeling very warm all over.
JC let go of Chris and blinked at me.
"Joey said he would find some clothes for me, do you know where he put them?"
Chris slipped the scissors into the other hand and hid it on his back. "Upstairs, first door to the right, my room. Bathroom is on opposite side."
"Okay. That alien protuberance on your head looks very dead to me."
"I can feel it move," said Chris.
"That's probably just the maggots."
"You think?" Chris looked in the mirror. "I can't see anything. Are there maggots? JC, help me here, are there maggots?"
JC grimaced and looked. "Yeah, lots of white wriggly things. One of them is really fat. Now, gi'me the scissors."
"Bet they have all kinds of weird death rituals."
"No, the aliens, you idiot. We gotta show some respect; we can't just cut up their dead with scissors."
I sneaked off. The discussion continued behind me.
"Where did you put them?"
"Hey - that's not maggots, that's the new little baby aliens."
"You think they eat brains?"
"If they do then you have nothing what so ever to fear from them, I tell you. Where did you put the scissors?"
Upstairs I was about to open the first door on the right when I heard Lance's voice through the open door at the end of the hallway. "You like my bed, honey? Nice, huh."
He was answered by a comfortable pug snort.
I slipped through the door on the right.
Not surprisingly it looked like somebody had tried to fit an apartment's content of treasures into the room. The large battered bed, the record collection and the enormous stereo took up almost all the space. There were sweats and towels neatly laid out on the bed.
I pulled my clothes off; suddenly I really wanted that bath. The dirt certainly looked very good on Chris the Shaman but it sure didn't feel good on me. Also, the sweat of fear doesn't smell nice at all.
Lance was talking in the hallway. "Now, watch out for the stairs... Come, honey, let me carry you, come here girl. Yeah, such a good little girl, good girl, don't worry, I got you."
The hallway was empty when I crossed it. Joey's laughter sounded from downstairs and Chris screeched. Somebody came running up the stairs on very quick feet. I thought I knew those feet so I stuck my head out of the bathroom door and, true enough, it was Chris; his eyes were wide with excitement.
He pushed me inside and slammed and locked the door behind him. "He wants to take the entire nest out, necromancer queen larva and all."
"Chris! Come out here." JC's laughing voice seeped through the door.
"No! I'm not letting you do it. They're babies. You're evil."
"Mikkel - you in there?"
"You want the scissors and the pesticide?"
"No thanks; I don't need him climbing all over the walls. I want my shower today and preferably before my skin breaks out in alien cultures."
JC's laughter receded.
"Man, that was close." Chris leaned against the door. "Chemical warfare - can you think of anything more nasty?" He fell silent, looking at me.
His gaze slid over my belly and chest, leaving flushed traces of heat. He was looking, his eyes spilling heat, darkness and light. If it had been anybody else, the intensity would have scared me. It certainly left me breathless; the anticipation had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with Chris.
"You don't look bad in oil," he muttered and broke the spell that bound me. I could move and I went to him for a hug.
He smelled of grass, soil, motor oil and sun baked skin, carrying the memory of a whole day around on him. In a moment he would wash it all off; only the scent of Chris would linger. And tomorrow morning he would smell of Chris and a night. He would wash night off and dive into another day... It was dizzying to think of.
Chris pulled back, running a rough hand over my chest and up my shoulder. He picked up my hand and looked it over; it was as grimed as his own.
"I would have put on nail polish if you hadn't been in such a hurry getting me over here," I told him.
Chris grinned and slid a rough hand up my arm, tracing the muscles. He pulled me in for a kiss, a soft one, contrasting with the roughness of his touch. He nuzzled my cheek, the stubble there rasped against his nose. When he pulled back his nose looked a lot cleaner; he lifted his arms when I pulled at his shirt.
I pulled down his jeans, kneeling so that I could breathe the smell of his crotch and rub my nose in the sweaty hairy warmth. Nice, nice, lots of nice Chris-smell. Happy Partner wants to play, play with nice Partner.
Chris stumbled and held on to the counter, watching his dick in my fist. The arch of his cock matched the smooth arch of his thighs. Clear drops gleamed wetly in the small slit; the foreskin slid easily and lapped up the drops; the velvet skin turned slippery in my hand.
His cheeks were flushed; he smiled a small hot smile, looking a little shy.
"Can I watch?"
"Pervert," he chuckled and pulled my hair. "Say, you got an uncle named Fred?"
I laughed and got up, pulling him by the dick to the shower stall. We both needed to get intimate with large quantities of soap.
The soapsuds running down his pale chest got caught in dark curly hair and parted around rosy-brown nipples. The pearly foam was pure magic, playing glittering tricks with the warm skin. There was no way that anything that looked so fine on Chris could taste bad.
Chris' eyes widened in delighted disbelief just as I realized my mistake. Then he had to catch himself against the wall to keep from falling, laughing hard and laughing even harder when I spat soap and oaths.
"Uncle Fred-" he said and then he was laughing again and this time I joined him.
He seemed unable to stop laughing and his nice belly was surely hurting. I adjusted the water temperature, just to help him out, of course. He didn't like that kind of help and things detoriated from there.
We did manage to get clean. The bathroom got wet. My ears would likely be ringing with Chris' squeals for days.
"Shit," said Chris, looking around with a satisfied grin.
"You and Lance good now?" I asked while I dried the ceiling and Chris was busy around the door.
"Yeah. I think so. As long as he doesn't walk in here. What did you say to him?"
"Not much. Basically just asked him to listen to you."
"Well, I guess he did. He still thinks I shouldn't have Busta but at least it looks like he'll stop being a total ass about it. Now he'll just make sure I do everything right. It'll probably drive me crazy."
He fell quiet and when I looked at him he seemed smaller somehow. I wondered what he was thinking about. Justin. "Justin?"
"Yeah." He pointedly didn't look at me so he didn't want to talk about it.
I dumped the wet towel in the pile of other wet towels and began wringing the water out of them. A cool draft from the open window made me shiver.
Chris threw me his wet towel and I threw a damp one back at him.
He caught it neatly before it hit his face and he sent me small grin, telling me he knew perfectly well that I had aimed at his face. "So, what can I expect? Are you gonna tackle and squish me every time I loose my temper?"
I smiled and shook my head. "I'm sorry, I really misread you there; I thought you had lost it completely."
"It was close." He began drying the floor. "There was something else going on in your head."
"Yes. Kind of a... flashback."
"Ghost-riders?" The soft brown eyes looked searchingly at me and I nodded, relieved that he caught on and that what he caught didn't appear to phase him.
"What did you see?" he asked curiously.
"Martin, like you were him. The situation was a lot like one I've been in once, and it sort of... overlaid what was happening."
I threw a towel at him; he caught it easily and added it to the one he was using to dry the floor. "He would loose it seriously sometimes and we had to stop him."
Chris was quiet for a couple of heartbeats. "Did he beat you?"
"No, yes... I mean, we fought and sometimes it got ugly, but it was in the way that takes two. I was a stubborn hormonally disturbed teen-case and Martin had his own issues. None of us were really stable in the head."
Chris had worked his way across the floor to the shower stall where I was crouching and began wringing a towel. I picked the other one to wring the water out of it.
"Why did you stay with him?"
"We really clicked most of the time. Fighting was... just something that happened, like the weather. You understand?"
"Yeah... Good sex?"
A memory bubble burst in my sensory system and I got warm all over.
Chris bumped me lightly with a shoulder and grinned. "Eight years and you still do that? That's good."
"Think about sex with your first girlfriend."
His cheeks darkened and this time he bumped me so hard that I lost my balance and sat down on the cold tiles.
"Got you." I pointed it out just in case Chris had missed it.
He laughed and got to his feet, giving me a hand, pulling me up and into a hug. His damp skin was cold to the touch and I rubbed his back with a loose fist to warm him. He did the same with my buttocks.
"Man, your ass is cold." His breath was warm against my skin and his lips were cool when he kissed my collarbone. "Let's get some clothes on."
I took his hand and he slipped his fingers between mine. The walk across the hallway was way too short. It was tempting making a detour down the stairs and around the house, just to walk and hold hands for a while longer. The muted sound of voices from downstairs robbed me of the notion; Lance had done a lot of Chris related coming around in one day and the last thing I wanted was for him to go into Chris related regression.
We got dressed, moving about the cramped space companionably, pushing the other one down on the bed whenever one of us ran out of space.
Chris took the towels and the dirty clothes to the basement and I found Joey in the kitchen. He was layering lasagna and sent me a grin when I entered.
"I'm hungry," I told him.
"Good. What did you do to Chris? It got quiet all of a sudden."
"Locked him in the shed for the night. You wouldn't happen to know where I can buy a hearing apparatus?"
"You mean a hearing aide?"
I nodded, guessing that that was what I had meant.
"You can borrow mine."
"Thanks." The spicy smell of the meat sauce tickled in my nose. "It smells great. Need a hand?"
"No. It's just the salad." He opened the oven and put the pan in.
Chris came into the kitchen. "I'm hungry."
Joey closed the oven. "What were you two doing in the bathroom - or shouldn't I ask?"
Chris pointed at me. "That evil freak over there turned the hot water off."
Joey smiled approvingly. "Yeah? You know, a smart guy would just have moved out of the way or turned the hot water back on. But I guess that's expecting too much of you."
"He fucking held me."
Chris didn't find much sympathy; Joey laughed.
"It's not funny. Man, I tell you, it was so cold my dick fell right off!"
Joey just laughed harder.
I got worried. "That was your dick? It wasn't the queen larva's cast off skin washing down the drain - it was your dick?" I had started evasive maneuvers; Chris was moving in on me, looking mean and terrifyingly goal oriented.
I made one wrong move and he came at me like lightning, going right past my defenses, trapping me against the wall, digging his fingers into my ribs. He didn't stop until I swallowed my pride and gasped "uncle".
I dried water from my eyes. Leika was sniffing my bare feet. Lance and JC were in the doorway, talking to Chris.
"Sure, do what you want. Just leave the TV and I'll be fine," Chris answered and Lance nodded. "Are we finished."
"I think so," smiled Lance. JC watched me with an amused expression.
"Good. 'Cause", Chris turned to me, "we ain't."
"Uhm. We are not?"
"Do I have to?"
One of his eyebrows made a really impressive move almost all the way to the hairline.
"The whole thing?"
"The whole thing."
"I am not sure I remember..."
Chris stared evilly and raised his hands, wriggling his fingers at me like fat spider legs and an awful lot of them at that.
It definitely looked like a threat.
My memory improved. "I kiss the dust and hump myself at thee manly big feet," something wasn't quite right with that. Chris didn't protest so I plunged on, the next part was easy, "oh mighty Overlord Chris Kirkpatrick," now what? "eh, Evil Sparkplug of the new and improved great Lawn Defilers and...", what was that phrase he liked so much? "and ultimate ruler of the eternal Rubber Rabbit Empire. Was that okay?"
Joey sputtered and laughed.
Chris gently punched my belly and smirked. "Close enough. You gotta work on the fluency."
I nodded and plucked a twig from the nest. "Turn thee ultimate ass this way, Evil Overlord, and let me work at the alien infiltration." He did.
It was pretty obvious why JC immediately had thought of scissors. I did too. There was only one other way to do it, slowly and bit by bit, starting from the easy end.
Joey was standing with his back to us, cutting greens and giving off sputters of suppressed laughter.
"What's so funny?" I asked him.
Chris sighed, signaling 'very bad joke coming'.
"Sec," Joey chortled. Then he turned, holding up a carrot cut so that there was some likeness to a dickhead in one end. "Thought this would make up for the old one. Just needs a bit of glue-"
"What?!" Chris was outraged. "That one will split at first piss, Dude. My pants will get soaked. I'm a man and that's a fucking poodle dick, Joey."
"You know, poodle dick sounds about right for a size Kirkpatrick. Perfectly proportioned with the rest of you."
I squeezed Chris shoulder. "Can I have it?" Joey gave the vegetable to me. It was rather short and deep-throating didn't really enter the picture and there was plenty of room for moving my lips and tongue. I pulled it out again with as wet a sound as I could make. Joey was staring at me. "This one doesn't compare at all." I bit into the carrot; it was a good carrot and Joey had peeled it.
"Fuck, I didn't need that picture."
Chris smirked, his eyes glittered mischievously. He lifted an eyebrow and I thought I knew what he wanted and I offered him the carrot.
"No, don't," said Joey. I'm sure he watched anyway.
Chris' dark gaze trapped me. Yes! He gave the carrot a flick with his tongue before he opened his mouth, sliding soft wet lips along the root; his sparkling eyes didn't leave my face. I want that, and you know it. He stopped short of my fingers and pulled his lips back in a vicious snarl before he bit down. There was a sharp tug in my balls and my skin flashed heat.
"I'm so not going out to eat with you. Ever. The last thing I want to see is you two sharing french fries."
I nuzzled Chris' temple briefly, filling my nose with his scent, and resumed my task dismantling the alien nest.
Joey looked at me oddly for a few seconds, and then he turned his attention to Chris. "Is that an alien queen larva in your pants?"
"It's my dick. It grew out real fast. Wanna see?"
"No. I'm scarred." Joey dove into the fridge for more tomatoes, taking flight into salad making.
Chris' hands came up, checking the situation on his head with light fingers.
"I'm sorting out the braids. Then I'll unbraid the most ragged and infected ones."
"What kind of fence do you want?"
"Gottacatalogue." He was out of the kitchen and up the stairs before the sound made sense to me.
"You two aren't gonna keep what ever you are doing secret from the other guys for long." Joey began cutting the tomatoes.
"How do you think they would take it?"
"JC will be alright. Lance... I don't know. He's very... uptight about some things but also very accepting, sort of. But Justin - whoa. I think that could be bad. Well, you saw him with Chris."
"What's going on with those two? Justin and Chris, I mean."
"If you find out, please tell me. It's like they've been pissing each other off for weeks now. It started before Chris talked about Busta. I think they both know why, but it's like they don't want to know that they know. Does that make sense?"
"I understand what you are saying. Could it be Justin going through teen-upheavals? He didn't want Chris to call him kid and he made an awful lot of noise about Chris always getting his way." And he had used a lot of Chris' body language.
"He always complains about being called kid. But, yeah, that's what JC says. It's just-" Joey stopped when quick feet drummed on the stairs. The drummer continued past the kitchen and into the living room. "I think Chris would've talked with us if he thought that was it, you know. I'm not saying-"
From the living room a faint clicking sound was followed by a loud squeal. A drum solo brought Chris very quickly to the kitchen. He ran straight for me, dropping the catalogue on the floor before he grasped me with both hands and swung me around, using me for a shield between him and the door. Nothing happened other than JC laughing in the living room; he sounded a lot like an asthmatic but very happy horse.
"Joey, stop him."
"JC, man, he's totally evil. He almost got one of my braids!"
"JC - evil? Next you'll be telling me you never had sex."
"Well, how can I stop him when he isn't here?"
"Go in there and stop him."
"I tell ya, somethin' evil got into him, he's not like our JC. I think the aliens got him..."
"See." Joey split a chunk of cucumber with a demonstratively slow cut. "Cooking. Important. I stay."
"Important! One of your best friends is possessed by evil aliens and you're just cutting cucumbers - that's cold, man, really, really cold."
"Lance is still going interior decorator; now, that's evil and I'm not going in there."
"Huh." Chris dared a peek at the door. "Better JC than us."
Chris patted my behind and moved past me to pick up the catalogue.
JC and Lance were talking in the living room and it sounded like they were moving heavy furniture.
A hand slipped into mine and pulled me over to the table.
Chris showed me what he had found while I freed the last braids and started undoing the most ragged ones.
"How long do you want the fence to last?" I asked when he had finished talking.
"At least a couple of years. Like, I may move out but Busta and I are probably gonna be over here a lot..."
Joey didn't seem to mind Chris' plans.
"Does it have to stay straight?"
Lance had come to the door, he looked like he was going to say something but he closed his mouth again and listened.
"Sure. You don't think this will work?"
"If you want it to still look neat by the end of summer you'll need longer poles. I'd say they'd have go about a foot deeper. More, if the ground is soft."
"Man, that's gonna be expensive... This kind may no longer be the cheapest."
Lance came over to the table as if pulled by a magic string.
A series of scissors' clicks from the hallway interrupted everything.
Eventually Chris calmed down and he and Lance ran through the numbers, Lance doing quick calculations in his head. Joey sat down and followed their talk without interrupting. But then JC was very good at interruptions and he didn't really need any help from Joey.
"What the fuck has gotten into him?" asked Chris nervously when yet another series of clicks had sent him on a return trip towards the ceiling.
Lance shrugged the question away. "It's a hundred and twenty-four. The price is almost the same."
"What?" Ah, the innocent clear-eyed poker face.
"What has gotten into JC?"
"JC? Oh. Remember Vienna?"
"Sure, I remember Vienna. What about Vienna?"
"You don't remember, huh."
"Remember what, Lance?"
Lance hesitated. "Brilliant bold balled men sport bald spots." He smiled proudly.
I had to run that one over in my head several times. It didn't really make sense.
"Bald..." Chris' voice fell to a harsh whisper. "But that's like years ago. JC wouldn't remember that. It's JC."
Lance shrugged and poked the catalogue with his index finger. "I really liked the second one best. And it's cheaper."
"Fuck," muttered Chris and looked towards the door, missing the small grin that flickered across Lance's face.
"Chris?" Lance had his poker face safely back in place.
"What? Yeah, sure. Mikkel - which one will last best?"
"The first one. Unless you guys have plastics I don't know about. I imagine the sun around here is very hard on plastics."
Lance blinked at me. "You know about fences?"
"Not like I'm an expert. I've done a lot of fencing, though."
"Yeah?" Chris turned his head and looked at me. "What did you fence?"
"Mostly sheep and dogs." For some reason my granddad had thought that surrounding his sheep with a fence would help make a real man out of me.
"You fenced sheep and dogs. Right." His eyes glittered with humor I didn't understand. "The first one, then," he said to Lance who nodded.
"You know where to get a ground drill and some kind of pulley? The best would probably be one of those with a lever." I made the movement one did when using it, frustrated by not having the vocabulary for this topic.
Chris looked like he understood perfectly what I was trying to say. "Pulley - for what?"
"Tightening the wire before you attach it to the poles. If you just pull it by hand it will get... ah, baggy."
"Shit. I just wanted a fence, a small stupid fence and not a frigging project." Chris was frowning at me and couldn't see JC who was walking quietly into the kitchen.
"Okay, what else?"
"A gate, right. A gate. We want a gate, don't we, Lance? A- aaaah! Get'im out! Joey! Help!"
Chris was up on his chair and from there he climbed up on me, scaling me as if I was a fence pole and he was a monkey.
JC quietly put the scissors in the drawer.
Joey and Lance took one look at Chris' face and began laughing.
JC smiled and came over to the table. "The lasagna smells good."
"Las-" Joey got up in a hurry to look to the forgotten food. "Phew. Five minutes more." He closed the oven again.
Chris climbed back on the chair and sat down again, keeping an alert eye on JC whom was a very peaceful and friendly person to look at. There could be no evil in somebody wearing wine red velvet pants and a baby pink shirt. Yet, Chris twitched when JC touched his hair with a light finger. "Need help? I can undo braids."
"I'm undoing the most ragged and tangled ones," I told him.
"Okay." JC took the smoothest one and began undoing it with quick nimble fingers.
Maybe it was because of the pulley and the gate; Chris didn't catch on to what JC was doing. Consequently we had a relatively peaceful dinner. JC beamed happily and gave expert advice when I asked if someone could direct me to the best second hand shops.
JC and I got back to the unbraiding project after dinner; Chris had a lot of braids left on his head even though we had undone most.
Lance had finished fixing the kitchen when Chris finally caught on; JC left the house in a blurry hurry with a screeching banshee at his heels.
While Lance and Joey got comfortable watching TV, I called Mormor from the quiet of the kitchen and cleared Chris' use of the van the next day.
I hung up the phone. A hand grabbed my neck and I jumped, nearly making it to the ceiling.
"Got ya," growled the Evil Overlord.
I turned, heart hammering from the shock, and couldn't help smiling. Frizzled hair hung in front of his face. It was mostly the nose that was visible.
"What?" he asked suspiciously, eyes glittering in the dark behind the fluffy curtain.
"Nothing." His hips snuggled into my hands. "It's just, suddenly, for no reason at all, it occurred to me that at some point Fred and his ma must have gone camping in grizzly country." I had studied up on North American dangerous wildlife since my meeting with the alligator.
Chris pushed the hair back and smiled. "You calling my mum a grizzly?"
"No, no. My survival instinct isn't a total disaster." And I wanted a kiss badly and had just begun looking forward to it, because Chris was moving in as if he wanted one too. He pulled away at the sound of human and canine steps in the hallway.
Lance and Leika came into the kitchen. "Chris - about that gate. I think I have an idea."
So we sat down with Lance until Justin arrived, talking about fences and gates instead of doing kissing and groping.
Hours later Chris woke me up, climbing through the window, shedding his clothes on his way to my bed. "Wanna do some pole fencing?" he grinned and glowed when I flung the cover aside to let him in. Indeed.
* * * * * * *
© Morgenfryd 2002