Warning: Real people slash. Homoerotic touches. Outlawed behavior. Foul language. And evil cockroaches.

Disclaimer: I don't know any of the two-leggers, four-leggers or six-leggers in this story.

Feedback: Greatly appreciated. Especially if you're a cockroach; I never had an email from a cockroach before. However, please be assured that you don't have to tell me about you leg-count for your response to be appreciated. Lots of thanks to you who wrote me. (And, yes, I'm in a much better mood today than when I did the previous posting.)

My homepage (where chapter 1 just suffered a minor update, nothing important, really.)

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The Tail of the Tiger, chapter 13, part 2

Fred's Dance

The edges of the pillar digging into my bag contrasted sharply to the tingling warm sensation of Chris' hand in mine. The hair on his arm tickled me and I had sweet goose bumps all the way up to my neck.

Inside the house the staircase creaked as Lance walk down it.

I let go of Chris' hand. The secret part of holding hands had me somewhat unsettled. I had never been very good at secret-games, not when they involved people that was around me, and I had no doubt that if any of us did anything stupid it would likely be me.

Lance came to the garden door and sat down on the step to put his shoes on. He fumbled with the shoes before he spoke without looking up. "My mother said to say hello."


Lance nodded.

"Is everything alright in the fish pond?"

"Yeah. Yeah, they're fine." Lance sounded distracted. Talking and tying shoelaces at the same time was a complicated process. Behind me Chris moved and I twisted around, our eyes met across the pillar. We both knew something was up with Lance.

That the shoelace on Lance's left shoe was seriously misbehaving. He studied it carefully before he undid the knot that he had just tied, and measured the ends against one another. Meticulously he adjusted the shoelace back and forth until the ends were of equal length before he retied them.

He fondled the other shoelace, as if considering untying and adjusting that one too.

"Need help?" Chris was unable to let the play run itself.

"No. Of course not." Lance swallowed and looked up. "Um. She cancelled her visit."

"Diane cancelled her visit? Really?" Chris sounded almost bored.

Lance nodded and bit his lip.

"I see." Sounding even more bored Chris deliberately put his beer bottle down.

Lance nervously got to his feet. "I have a few things-" Then he thought better of it and turned and ran like a squirrel. Chris was a streak of panther and Lance the Squirrel didn't really stand a chance.

There was yelling and thumps and the sound of Lance being tickled in the living room. Like Chris, Lance had quite a lot of lungpower. Considering how deep his voice usually was, it was impressive how he could screech. Fragments of what was coming out of Chris' mouth were intelligible and involved words like 'washing', 'slaving' and 'bitching' and of course it was all wrapped in swearing.

It sounded like it might take a while, so I got back to the fencing project. Eventually the sounds of torture stopped. When I looked towards the house, Chris was watching me from the porch. He smiled his wicked smile of victory. My heart skipped beats between meltdowns; the answering smile on my face felt goofy.

A red-faced Lance came out behind Chris, tugging rumbled clothes into place and glaring at Chris' back. Lance's smooth face underwent a sudden transition, contracting in a naughty wrinkle-nosed grimace. The pink tongue aimed pointedly at Chris was a delightful surprise.

Chris whipped around. Lance had pulled the tongue in and wiped the grimace off his face with expert speed and didn't get caught.

"What?" he asked Chris, raising his eyebrows and looking honestly puzzled.

Chris was grinning when he turned and jumped down from the porch; he ran across the lawn, horsetail swinging. Soon after, the sound of hammering rang out again. It had a new rhythm to it, as if it was matching a secret melody inside his head. Lance rolled his eyes and sent me a sunny smile. Then he donned his uniform, the yellow hat at a perky angle.

All I had to worry about when looking at Chris was Lance, who was very much into using maul and hammer.

So I did a lot of looking at Chris, watching him move about or using a hammer. For no obvious reason the tips of his ears would suddenly turn red, which was really fascinating.

Sometimes I thought he was looking at me, and that was nice too.

It was a neat little game of 'look-tag' we had going.

I got caught. Still bent over what he was doing, Chris offhandedly gave me the finger.

There were sweet clenches layered by a string of rather singleminded proposals from my dick - neighbor to the sweetly clenching area. My cheeks were burning. Chris squinted and grinned.

I put my attention to what I was doing, thankful for the shade; the heat had suddenly gotten a lot worse. Maybe I should give myself a dunking in the pool.

Chris staring at my ass sent the heat back up. I stuck my tongue out at him. His ears reddened.


Shortly after, I felt a sharp sting on my behind. The reflected item looked a lot like a small pinecone and the direction it had come from fit Chris' position. Also I couldn't imagine Lance having such sure aim with anything but his tongue.

The next time I needed an extra set of hands I didn't just call out for Lance but walked over to him, making sure to walk past Chris almost within touching distance. He tensed, eyeing me warily.

Feeling delightfully wicked I decided to see how jumpy I could make him.

It worked quite well sneaking up on him and handing him a can over his shoulder with an innocent "drink?" or starting to talk when I was right behind him.

Or borrowing his hammer when his back was turned. Unfortunately I couldn't see his face when he realized that it was his hammer that I was using. It must have worked because I got another pinecone for that one.

Also the chump of me biting into a carrot made him jump. Chris didn't want a carrot but Lance did. Chris was fighting laughter listening to us eating carrots.

The very best part was when I turned on the water hose for watering the flowers and herbs that I had planted and the first weak sprout of water pattered wetly on the grass. Chris flew over the fence and rolled into cover behind the small pine that had supplied him with ammunition. Lance was bent over laughing and I watered the flowers.

"Barbarian fucker!"

I smiled and waved, feeling very much at peace with the world, not minding the rain of pinecones. He dared go back to what he was doing, twitching and glaring each time the hiss of the water moved around. It only took small movements of my hand to make him really nervous.

When the flowers had gotten a good soaking I rolled up the hose and hung it back on the peg by the tap. Chris was in a defensive crouch when I walked around the corner and back into view.

My alarm bells went off when he bounded to the house.

As soon as he was out of sight, I sprinted to the corner by the front of the house. He came out of the front door and disappeared around the opposite corner.

When I paused by the next corner I could hear the faint hiss of the thin spray of water escaping the tap. I dared a peek. Chris was quietly laying out the hose, his back turned towards me.

Nice ass, touch and fondle. Slap nice Chris-ass.

The little hiss helpfully masked any small sound that I may have made when I half-ran to the tap. I folded the hose with one hand, instantly cutting off the water supply, and turned the tap with the other.

Chris spun around. "Fuck." He pulled at the hose, but there were too many coils to straighten before he had a go at pulling it out of my hand. I closed the tap. "You take the fucking fun out of everything!" He threw the hose down, scowling at me.

"Yes?" I walked towards him.

"Yeah." He backed up a few steps, eyes sparkling. "Barbarian jelly-brained slowp-"

I jumped and he ran like a squirrel on crack.

Chris and I took over the entire yard. None of us cared very much about the nature of the obstacles but more about how to get past them in the fastest way possible or, in Chris' case, how best to use them for defense. That included the Lance-obstacle. After he had had Chris sending him sprawling and me jumping over him in quick succession he opted for a quiet corner on the porch.

On more than one occasion I thought I had the bugger, but my tackles caught nothing but empty air; he knew when to jump and evade and I was sure he had a third eye or some kind of radar in his neck.

I managed to touch him with my fingertips. It was amazing how he could find that extra little burst of energy that brought him out of my range. There was enough in it for a squeal too.

"Giving up yet, slowpoke?" he gasped when I finally had him trapped against the fence surrounding the pool. The sweat was running off his face and he was flushed. His eyes glowed and he was grinning. I was in an even more ragged condition and he knew it.

He knew as well as I did that this time he would be very lucky to get away. But then it wouldn't be the first time he had that kind of luck. There was no way I was going to waste precious oxygen on answers to his insults. Not when I almost had him and there was so little oxygen to be had. I didn't think I could do another hunt around the yard.

A feint? No. He jumped the fence and I was right behind him and he continued ahead, jumping into the water.


I jumped in. There was no way he could escape me there.

I over-jumped him and the little punk almost managed to climb back up before I caught him and pulled him back in. If not for the breath he wasted on that last little taunt he may have made it.

We didn't have air for much splashing and dunking. I had the least and Chris had enough to cackle when I called uncle.

"Beat ya, slowpoke" he gasped and grinned triumphantly at me when we were hanging on to the edge of the pool.

"Fucking grizzly-get" was about the longest sentence I could do in one breath. The pulse was hammering in my ears. All meters were redlining, warning about imminent explosions and meltdown.

"Bad loser much?"

I glared, not sure there was breath for an answer and not about to give him the satisfaction of having me stop mid-sentence. My glare just made his stupid grin grow even wider.

His grin was really irritating. Getting rid of pants and sandals was a sensible evasive maneuver. The pleasure of cool water swirling gently around overheated balls is vastly under-rated. Chris chuckled and I figured that the loud groan probably had been mine; it had matched the relief I had felt pushing off and sliding through the water on my back.

"Ran you right into the ground, huh." There was no escaping that irritating grin - it was quite evident in his voice.

I gave him the finger and he laughed. There was movement in the water, movement not created by me. I shot Chris a quick look but there was no reason for alarm - yet; he was just getting rid of his cut-offs and sneakers.

I bumped against the other side and pushed against it for another slow, cooling slide. Joey must have added some kind of chemical to the water, altering the boiling point; otherwise I would have been enveloped in hissing steam.

Chris swam over to me, dipping his mouth in the water and blowing bubbles. His eyes glittered with mischief.

Beautiful imp.

It was late in the afternoon, the shadows were long and most of the pool was in the shade; I was really fond of the shade. "Ever heard of a shade-god?"

"No." He rolled onto his back and drifted into me. "Why?"

"Makes more sense than a sun-god right now." I countered the bump with small hand movements to ensure body-contact.

"Haven't you cooled down yet?"

"No." I slipped below the surface; the water was pleasantly cool against my face. He was grinning his stupid winners grin at me when I got back up. "Stop that."

Chris held on to my arm and pushed lightly against the side, changing our direction. "You're never gonna make it without an army, man. I'm the champion forever!"

"Irriterende lille skvatnakke."

He couldn't hear me; the victorious fist that he raised made his head go under. He resurfaced. "Nothing but weaklings around." He frowned to the heavens. "Actually, it's fucking boring being the champion forever. You know, no challenges at all."

I groaned. "I'm not listening to this."

"Next time we can dope you up or something. A combination of crack and steroids might give me a couple of minutes of fun. Maybe intravenous-"

"Shut up!"

Chris didn't give a damn. I spent a good while with my head under water, trying to escape his insufferable complaints about the loneliness of being the height of evolution impersonated.

"You're not listening to me!" He was complaining about that, too.


"Ha! You listened! Did you hear the part about you being covered with shit colored scales and your dick being the mutated uterus of a newt?"

He's talking about me!

"Jeg bli'r vanvittig. Gaaah! Sindssyg!"

"What was that?"

He's looking at me! Hi, nice Chris, beautiful Chris. So wet...

"The sound of my mind slipping into another twisted warp."

"That's bad."




He was still looking at my dick. "I think you're pregnant."

I pushed him under.

He came up, sputtering and grinning, and put his feet to the bottom, pushing off to get some height in order to dunk me properly. On my way up from the dunk I grabbed him by the hips. Once he figured out what I was doing, he stopped struggling and let me throw him. He was whooping right through the splash of the landing.

"Higher!" he demanded, and swam towards me with too quick but powerful strokes, eyes shining.

I knitted my fingers and he put his foot into them, wet hands resting lightly on my shoulders. The water was just level with his nipples and my own nipples contracted in delighted empathy with the soft slide of water over skin.

"On three," I said and he nodded, counting with me and milking the take-off for everything I could give him, his body changing like a powerful spring from compact to slim and long, flying through the air and making a good splash out of the landing.

He doubled back under the water; his head came up, hair shiny black and sleek, teeth flashing in a grin. "Again!"

His foot snuggled into my grip. I gave it a squeeze and rubbed it with my thumbs. Chris hissed and shivered, squinting at me from under long lashes. The tips of his ears were red. He wasn't the only one shivering under a caress of a thumb; his hands rubbed my shoulders.

I'm right here, hello, here! Rub me in Chris-thighs; wet, wet Chris, nice Chris all wet!

Chris raised an eyebrow questioning.

"My uterus really likes you wet," I said.

He grinned and pulled his foot out of my grip. "Man, give me a sec, my knees need a recharge."

So did most of my joints.

Chris hands stilled on my shoulders and he looked into the water. "Hi, there."

He's looking at me! I look good, look at me! I'm a big guy. Hi Chris!

"Stop it," I muttered, not at all sure where Lance was and mentally stumping down on powerful impulses to pull Chris close and bite his neck.

Chris twinkled at me, merry and hot. "Talking to me or to your loud-mouthed dick?"

"To both of you loudmouths."

He bent his head and looked into the water again.

Beautiful Chris, nice Chris, wet Chris! Touch me! Now!

"Chris, you jerk," I hissed. "Stop communing with my dick."

Chris hummed and made wet kissing-noises.

Kiss Chris! Lick Chris-belly, nice wet Chris-belly! Kiss me Chris, suck and lick, nice warm Chris-mouth, fine Chris tongue-

There is something about black hair matted to glistening pale wet skin and drops running off a sleek horsetail... I couldn't tear my gaze away. "I'm about to bite the nice wet Chris-neck." Which was the truth, my mouth was watering, drawn towards the spot, the junction of neck and shoulder.

He threw himself backwards and I dunked myself. He was laughing quietly when I came back up. I found myself laughing as well and for a good while we were like schoolgirls, laughing at nothing; the minutest eye contact would set us off. I really had to splash him but that just made things worse because he came at me sparkling behind arches and curtains of glittering water.

Eventually he got his jump and splash. And lost his boxers during the landing.

Yes! Behold! Naked nice Chris-buttocks in a water near me!

I dove and picked up the boxers.

"Give them to me!"

I swung them above my head and threw my entire soul into taunting and making faces. Taunts cross the language barrier beautifully. I didn't really have to think of what I was saying as long as I threw in some of the insults that Chris already had learned.

He came right at me, snarling and name-calling, and when he launched himself at me, I let the boxers fly and raced him to them. There were no officials to throw me out of the water so I used any foul necessary to get to the boxers before Chris. And did it all over again.

I really liked that game.

"Fucking barbarian cheat." Scowls and suppressed laughter were tearing his face in several directions.

He swam at me. This time the delight in the taunts tempted me to make one taunt too many and he had surged out of the water and grabbed my wrist before I could let the boxers fly.

His body moved against mine and I couldn't care less about boxers, not when none of us were wearing any and there was a Chris to wrap my arm around and wet skin to lick.

Yes! The neck! Make nice Chris-squirm, fine little Chris-grunt.

He locked his arms around my neck, gripping my hips with his legs. The skin warmed quickly where we touched; cool water was sucked in where we parted and squished back out when we moved close.

Cool lips, hot lively tongue and sharp teeth attacked my jaw, sliding and nibbling a trail to my mouth. I shivered and pulled Chris closer and up higher, running a hand down his side to his buttocks. He shivered, freeing my dick that had been trapped against his thigh.

Oooh! Hello! Knock, knock! Open up, please. Heavens Door, please? It's meee! Open up!

Chris went still, the eyes right in front of mine widened with apprehensive questions. I raised an eyebrow at him for being an idiot; he grinned and rolled his hips before diving tongue first into my mouth.

The clack of a hammer was about as hot as a liquid nitrogen shower and worked like the glare of a basilisk, instantly turning us into a tangled statue. Luckily it was a mechanical statue, the heads of which could turn. Magic bushes countered the petrifaction by just being there, shielding us from the view of the source of the sound.

The uneven clacks continued unperturbed; the occasional click made both of us wince. The dull claps followed by pauses, indicating a smarting Lance-finger, were blessedly absent.

"He's getting better at hitting things without smashing his fingers." I licked Chris' lips.

"Damned reassuring." His breath was hot on my face and he tried to catch my tongue. "We need his signature on things. No hands - no contracts."

I tickled the edge of his mouth with my tongue. "Say, did you notice the bushes, like, as part of the strategy?"


"I don't think I did."

Chris sucked my tongue into his mouth, doing lazy suggestive things to it with his lips and his tongue.

His presence was still tingling under my skin when we swam to my pile of clothes.

He had pulled his boxers on like a cap and they slid down, covering his face. Due to the navigational hazard of his headgear he did a lot of bumping into me with arms and legs. "Watch where you're going! This is my lane, you idiot."

I pushed him out of my way. "How do you tell the difference between forwards and backwards when you aren't wearing your glasses and your nose looks like a dick?"

The wet cloth interfered with his breathing when he laughed; he stood and tore the boxers off. "You fucker!"

I did feel rather proud of myself, proud enough to forget about thinking, and I had pulled myself out of the water before realizing that I was leaving my ass open to a stinging slap with wet underwear. The slap didn't come. I looked over my shoulder, wondering if anything was wrong. Chris' dark gaze washed over me, drying the water of my skin. He grinned and stuck his head into the water, growling bubbles, ear tips flaming red.

Yes! He wants me!

I picked up my underwear. It was cold and wet.

No, no, not that! Stop!

It did put a damper on the loudmouth when I pulled them on.

We entered Lance's line of sight; he stopped hammering and his first words were "where are your glasses?"

Chris blinked, grinned and twisted to check his behind. "Glued to my ass?"

I had seen him drop them. "On a bush by the shed."

Chris grimaced and pulled clingy wet boxers out from between his buttocks.

I went over to his pick glasses off the bush and followed Chris into the mudroom. He gave me a large threadbare towel with Spiderman on it; it was the perfect towel for stinging slaps, the kind that would leave very red marks on soft buttocks. I recognized a favorite when I saw it.

"Tell me about your meeting this morning?" I asked while we toweled ourselves dry.

"My - oh, man. Boring." Chris was rubbing his hair and his muffled voice shook with the energetic movement. His belly and dick quivered.

Lick and nibble nice belly; suck nice Partner - make Partner big and happy.

"I mean, Johnny is okay, he listens to us but... not bad really. It's the schedules that are boring. Now I have to fucking listen. Fucking commitment. Can you baby-sit on Wednesday? From like half-past four a.m. till late. I'll pay you in sexual favors."


Sexual favors! Yes! Now! I know what I want-

"Next week is going to be interesting with the album coming out, only, well, not as busy as we'd like." He looked up, his hair an unruly dark mop falling in front of his face.

Kiss wet grizzly! I lifted the curtain and gave his nose a lick. "The grown-ups still don't fucking listen to twelve year olds." I repeated his own words.

Chris grinned and wiped his nose. "They will, man. Those kids are gonna fucking scream for us."

I began toweling my own hair. "Hard for the parents to ignore that."

"Yep. Wanna hint? Invest your fortune in hearing aides."

"Did you tell Johnny about your ideas for using the Internet more?"

"Dude, I'm a genius. The height of human evolution - the present top-link!"

"Your mum could have told him that."


"So, Johnny listens to you - but what?"

"You sure you wanna talk about this?" He wiped my back.

"Hey, I'm curious." I removed the towel. "You keep straying. Hearing aids, man!"

"Multitasking. I'm smart, remember?"

"I think you mentioned it, yes." I followed him through the kitchen towards the stairs.

"Well, Johnny listens to us, it's the other fucking suits-"

I managed to hang on to his words. Barely. Climbing a staircase with one's eyes level with a naked Kirkpatrick ass is an intense experience. I entirely forgot to use the special powers of the towel.

Joey was there when we go back outside, and shortly after, the truck arrived with JC and the piano. JC was in a flutter and the two men manning the truck looked like they were relieved to be away from him once the piano was safely inside and they'd been paid.

The four of them were gathered around the very flowered and very pink piano, taking turns playing. I slipped into the garden to finish my last bit and tidy up. The garden door was open. Joey howled as if in physical pain when Chris fell in with the off keys. As far as I could hear, Chris hit them dead on. JC did his donkey imitation, laughing.

I was dismantling the improvised worktable when a long, walking shadow made me look for the caster.

Justin's blue gaze washed over me, cold enough to make my skin prickle and grow goose bumps.

"Hi," I said, not really expecting a verbal answer and getting a lot of answer in the stiff neck and frozen air that he carried past me.

At least he was honest about disliking my presence and giving me none of that 'pleased to meet you'. I picked up the door and carried it to the shed.

Wonder what I'm personifying here?

Likely it was the same thing Leika did the day before.

Now, is Justin the jealous kind or did Chris give him reason to loose trust?

It's none of my business, really. But I have a feeling that somebody ought to kick their asses.

I slipped the door onto the hinges and went into the shed to make room for the trestles.

Somebody certainly ought to clear the mess in this shed.

The shed appeared to have shrunk several sizes. I remembered taking the trestles out of it so there ought to be room for them going back in.

Chris did something.

"Man, what are you doing? Can't see a thing in here."

"My eyes are used to it. Is there a lock anywhere?" I didn't like leaving the shed unlocked, not when it contained an axe and powered garden tools. For all I knew, Lance might be a sleepwalker and combined with the unsettling fascination he had shown with the axe...

"Yeah. On a nail above the door?"

"Right, I can see it now."

"Can you see any coals? I'm supposed to make the barbecue ready."

I found the bag of coals and handed it to him.


I found that too. Now there was room for the trestles. I decided to leave it to somebody else to fit the gas container back in. What did the irritating little trickster do?

"Utensils - like pokes and pincers?"

Now, that took a bit of looking before I found them. "You'll want to clean these."

"You should see the grill, man. Joey's such a pig."

Something in his voice clued me in. "Who was supposed to do the cleaning last time?"

"Shut up." Chris stepped back to let me out.

I picked up the trestles. "Those utensils were really sticky."

"I said shut up!"

"Nasty and dangerous - as in deadly."

"Shut. Up." He watched me put the trestles away. "I promised that you would make the salad."

"Okay. What are the others up to?"

"Leaving. Lance and Justin are picking up videos, Joey and JC are gonna shop for a few things."

They had left when I took a trip to the bathroom.

When I got back out of the bathroom, I almost ran into JC - which was a bit confusing since he should be in a car with Joey. And he wasn't. He was in Joey's house; I knew because I was there, and I saw him.


"We forgot a video."

"You forgot a video," said Lance, who was supposed to be driving in a car with Justin but wasn't, from the living room. "Where did you put it?"

JC sent me a smile and hurried into the living room. "It's not... I can't remember."

"Probably with the sheet music," said Justin, who was supposed to be in a car with Lance.

When I walked through the living room the three of them were huddled on the floor by the bookcase behind the piano. JC and Lance sent me a smile and went back to the search. Justin did what he had done since he arrived - ignored my presence.

I stopped in the open garden door, holding on to the doorjamb while trying to juggle the wet sandals on without using my hands.

Paper rattled and Justin spoke up. "Hey, what's this? New sheets..."

"I found them in a second hand shop. Seven bucks for the entire bundle." I didn't need to look to know that JC was smiling.

"Look at this, Lance..."

"Guys - looking for a video, remember? You... Hey, that's... Let me see that." Lance pulled the papers out of Justin's hands.

I got one sandal on without opening the fastener and started the battle with the other. Quick feet tapped across the porch and then Chris was next to me, not waiting for me to move out of his way but sliding his hot and handsome body past me and making me lose my balance.

I tightened my grip on the doorjamb. Chris already had his arms around me. Likely he read my stiffness as part of my fight for balance and not for the panic that it was.

Then, not loudly but huskily and very clearly, he said: "Let's go fuck in the tool shed." And rubbed his itching nose against my chest.

"Mm." I put a hand on his shoulder.

He leaned his head back so that he could see my face, blinked twice, caught on to my panic. I flicked my eyes in the direction of the very quiet corner and he grimaced comprehension. "All o'them?"

I nodded. He pulled me closer for a soft slide of lips and a quiet game of tongues. Chris!

"See you," I muttered and he nodded. We let go so that he could turn to face the ominous quiet.

I knew that the best thing I could do was to disappear - deserting him to do battle alone.

I picked up my jacket and sandal.

Justin wasn't about to wait for me to be out of there. "Dude! Are you getting it on with Crocodile Dundee?"


"Yes! I knew you were getting laid. Fuck, why wouldn't you tell me?"

I slipped out the door and pushed it shut behind me.

As I crossed the porch, picking up my t-shirt on the way, I heard JC through the open window. "Fuck, Chris. What are you doing?" His voice broke and then gathered momentum. "You and you fucking dick are gonna destroy everything-"

Having gotten out of hearing range I stopped and pulled my sandal and t-shirt on.

Well, one good thing about this - I won't have to explain why I'm not going into that shed after dark. Fuck.

Joey was getting out of the car when I reached the front.

"Mikkel. What's up?"

"Chris and I got 'caught'. JC is very upset. Maybe you should go in there."

"Fuck." He ran a hand through his hair. "Are you leaving?"

I nodded. "Can I borrow your keys? Your car is blocking the one I have the keys for."

He handed me his keys. "JC, huh?"

"Yes. Justin seemed sort of okay; Lance, I don't know, he wasn't saying anything but he was kind of green."

Joey nodded. "Just put the keys under the doormat. See you." He was off at a run.

I juggled the cars around and put the keys under the mat. When I was walking towards my car I heard yelling and someone came running from the backyard. It was JC.

He headed straight for me. "You!"

"JC." I swore at myself for not being ten seconds faster shuffling the cars.

"Do you know what you've done?" He poked me with an index finger; it stung when it hit my chest. His face was red and his eyes looked like they might pop any second. "Do you fucking care what Lou's gonna do? He's gonna... There are no fucking second chances!" Poke, poke. "We're gonna loose everything just because you're a horny fuck and your stupid dick..." Poke, poke. Behind him Justin came running around the corner. "You could have gone anywhere else and gotten some but did you? Did you? No. You-"


"I thought you were a good guy." Poke. "I really believed... and you're just some fucking horny dick-centered shithead-"

I'll just pretend I didn't hear that. Right?

"JC." This time it was Justin, putting an arm around JC. "Come here, fall down, JC."

"How can you be so calm about this?" JC let Justin pull him into a hug. "We worked so fucking hard and they, fucking Chris..." the rest was lost in sobs against Justin's neck.

"Hush, man. We'll figure it out, JC, it's okay, calm down..." Justin rubbed JC's back, cradled his head and spoke sensible nonsense in his ear and lead him inside. I'm pretty sure I saw Justin's hand sneak into JC's pocket and come up with a set of keys. He surely took something from JC and stuffed it in his own pocket.

"Fuck!" Chris had been watching from the corner. He punched the house. "Motherfucking bastard shithead-Lou," and kicked it, "tear his stinking balls off," and punched it again, "fucking perverted greasy fuckhead!" Another kick. The house didn't budge.

"Chris?" I was afraid he might hurt himself. What did Lou do to JC? Which was not a question I should ask right then; I had messed enough with the five of them as it was.


"If you really think that tearing Joey's house down will make Lou any less of a shithead, maybe you should go about it with a bit more horsepower."

He sat down on the porch and began kicking a hole in the lawn. "Aren't you supposed to be gone from here?"

"I tried. I'm going. I'm gone."

"I didn't want you in this. It's seriously fucked-up messy, dude." He waved me away impatiently. "Get out."

I nodded by means of goodbye and went to the car.

"Mikkel!" I had opened the door; Chris came running and he stopped at the other side of the car, resting his hands on the roof. And then he was just staring at me, frowning, as if he had forgotten what he'd wanted to say, which was not like him at all.

"Hey, Chris - can you deal?"

He bumped his forehead against the car. "Yeah." He looked at me. "I can deal. It's just - well, see you and so."

"See you, Chris."

He nodded and gave the car a push so that it rocked and I got in and drove off.

I wasn't quite ready to go home yet. My head was spinning with worry that maybe JC had a better grip on reality than I wished for. Mormor would have my head on a stick.

Tom, Paul and Mormor staring questions at me could wait. I went shopping for groceries, more for the brain numbing effect of supermarkets than because of the fridge situation.

Once I got home and started putting groceries away, Tom came to the kitchen. He didn't even bother asking if anything had happened but went straight to, "what happened?"

"The other guys found out about Chris and me and it wasn't pretty." I was hungry, not far from red lining, so I got myself a banana and when I next looked up the rest of the Spanish inquisition had arrived.

Tom frowned. "What do you mean, not pretty?"

I shook my head and swallowed a bite. "JC thought that their career was over. He was very upset with Chris and me."



"And Chris?" asked Paul eyes wide and unsettled.

"He's dealing."

Mormor grunted. "I hope you don't hold any silly notions, boy."

I took another banana and began peeling it. "What do you mean?"

"A fling isn't any competition at all to Christopher's career and the group. If they really are threatened he'll drop you in a backward second."


It hurt a little, but hearing it settled some of the residue flutter. "Yes, I know."

Mormor nodded. "Good. I just wanted to make sure." She left the kitchen. The whir of the wheelchair stopped just inside the living room. "Oh, Mikkel. The computer is acting funny."

"When you do what?"

"The things I write on it have disappeared when I want to find them again."

"Run the anti-virus program - disinfect the entire harddisk. You know, the program you deactivated because it was interfering?"

"Yes, I know which one. The picture keeps reappearing on the desk top."

"Tell me if you want me to help you find the stuff that disappeared. But run the anti-virus program first." I picked up the banana peels and threw them out.

"I still think I heard her say 'fuck' to the computer," said Paul in a low voice, apparently continuing an argument with Tom.

Tom eyed him, twinkling. "You want me to ask her?"

"No, no, no. Idiot."

A flickering sharp light on the windows made me look up and listen. Tom verbalized what was going through my mind. "The rental."

"Yes." I opened the fridge. "Any leftovers?"

"Not much. Paul and Granny really pigged out. Blue container."


"Relax. It's okay. There's plenty of other stuff." I pulled the blue container out and checked the contents. There wasn't enough for one person; it looked messy and the filling of the burritos smelled like it would work as a pizza topping. So, pizza it was. I closed the fridge and found the flour. And realized that the backdoor should have opened by then and there should have been noisy feet on the stairs.

Paul and Tom looked like they were thinking the same thing.

"Don't you two have math to do?" I asked and went out to see what Chris was up to.

I don't know what I expected. Certainly not to find him standing next to the rental, cheek pressed against the window in the driver's side, and making faces in the mirror. Which was exactly what he was doing.

"Lost a tooth?" I asked.

He straightened. "Man, the light is bad here. Do I have fangs?" He was wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt. His hair was smeared with something that made it look wet and the horsetail was rolled into a loop; it looked like a samurai's hairdo.

I rested my butt against on the hood of the other car. "Smile." He showed me his teeth. "No, no fangs."

"Do my eyes glow red, you know, evil red?"


"Toxic nuclear waste green?"

"No neon glow what so ever. Try holding your breath; perhaps... Yes, like that... No, nothing."

He touched his forehead and frowned when he didn't find horns. "Big, floppy, hairy warts?"

"Hm. There is the one on your nose. I would have thought that you already had noticed that, it's right in your line of sight."

His eyes rolled - not into cross-eyed position but the opposite way and I hadn't really been aware that that could be done on purpose. It was unsettling to watch.

The eyes rolled back into their proper place. "Yeah. Perhaps that's it."

"JC's still out of himself?"

"It's a madhouse, man. I so lost my position as top maniac." He kicked at the tire with his heel. "I wanna get trashed."

Trashed? Was he talking about a kinky brand of sex that I hadn't heard of before? He didn't sound like he was talking about sex.

"I want a shitload of alcohol and a joint." Aha. "A big," he straightened and showed me with his hands just how big, "fat," he gripped a big chunk of air, "oral, motherfucking monster of a joint." The oral part was reassuring. If anything of that size made it into his ass then he would be spending the rest of his days permanently attached to some complicated piece of hospital equipment.

"I'm hungry."

"Hungry? Here I'm talking about getting properly and manly trashed and all you can say is that you're hungry? What kind of spirit is that?"

"I want a clean shirt too. I smell."

"Dude, nobody can smell that goat of yours once we get that motherfucker of a joint burning. Besides - you're a foreign barbarian, you're supposed to smell of goats, vintage sweat and, yeah." He opened the car door. "Come on. Get in."

I walked towards the house instead. "Quick shower and a bite to eat. I can't trash for shit on an empty stomach. Your shirt is clean." If he had forgotten his jacket he may want the shirt instead.

"My shirt - hey, did you iron it?" The car door slammed.

I stopped by the staircase. "Just one sleeve, then I had to stop. A bunch of twittering birds and mice with their mouths full of needles and pink cloth kept getting in the way. You coming?"

He jogged over and grabbed my wrist, pulling me the other way. "The ramp, man, we gotta use the ramp."

So I raced him, starting before he could declare the race, which he usually did after he had started running. I actually made it to the top of the ramp before he caught up with me and began slapping me on the head for cheating.

"I knew it." The door opened revealing Tom. Chris got a free slap in and ceased. "My decade older, mature cousin and his playmate." Paul peeked over his shoulder. "Granny thought it was a herd of stampeding buffaloes."

"Did ya bet her?" asked Chris.

"No time. She chased me out to fend off the herd." Tom stepped aside to let us in. "Hi, Chris."

"Hi, girls."

Chris slapped Paul on the shoulder. Paul grimaced.

"I believe we are going trashing."

Tom had closed the door and followed us into the living room. "Erh. You what?"

So maybe the word didn't work that way. "We have an appointment with this huge," I showed the shape with my hands and Paul got red in the face, "forbidden word joint."

"Mikkel!" The dragon had come out from the library.

"Correction: Forbidden word, forbidden word."

Mormor snorted.

Christopher looked up from petting Leika and Frida. "Hi, Rose."

"Hello Christopher. Are you two going out tonight?"

"Yeah. Mikkel's just doing a quick decontamination and then we're off."

"And a bite to eat. I'll-"

"Forget it! I know a place where we can eat."

"But-" I gave up saying anything; Paul had put his soft paw over my mouth.

Chris gave Paul a thumb up and bounded off, likely to say hello to the Busta and her mates.

"Idiot," muttered Paul. "He just invited you out."


Paul removed his hand and dried it in his pants.

Tom folded his arms across his chest. "Man, I still don't understand how you two figured it out without the assistance of an army of diplomats."

Alligators for diplomats? "Do you realize what kind of place he's likely to take me to?"

"Stop whining," Mormor snapped. "Besides, we ate almost everything that Rita made; you'd have to cook from scratch. Paul really likes Mexican food."

"What? Hey..." Paul made a weak protest and shut up faced with Mormor's dangerously innocent expression.

"I know; I was going to make a pizza."

"Get moving. Put some nice clothes on."

"I have a shirt," said Tom.

Mormor nodded. "And you take good care of him." I was tempted to point out that we were heading for Christopher's turf. "Go easy on the forbidden words and none of that modern stuff. Or acid, no acid."

Modern stuff? "... All right. No ecstasy and no acid. Anything else?"

Mormor shook her head and I fled before she could think of more instructions. I don't know if she imagined that I had some kind of leash on Chris.

"I really think you should stop calling them girls," I said to Chris when we were on the backseat of the taxi that Tom had called without asking. "It reinforces the worst in them and Mormor catches it, too."

Chris grinned, his teeth flashing in the restless light of passing cars and street lamps.

"I mean, I told them we were going trashing, right?" I dug into my pocket. "My grandmother gave me money for the transport. How's that for manly trashing?" I unfolded the notes and counted them. "Isn't this a lot for cab-fares? What is the rate if you throw up in a cab?"

Chris leaned against me, pushing my hand out of the way so that he could do his own counting. "Man, for that we could stop by in LA, do Rio on the way back and vomit all the way."

"What do you need for the weed?" I held the notes out to him. "I've got more cash than this."

Chris plucked a couple of notes. "Let's skip Rio."

"Okay. I wouldn't mind skipping the vomiting, too."

"This is fine. Mexican food suit you?"

I put the money away. "Sure." I didn't remember having seen any fast food chains that had a Mexican look to them, but then it wasn't a thing I had been looking for. Still, it seemed safe.

Also, it made Chris nod with satisfaction. "I know this place that makes killer-tacos. I wanna smoke up first, though."

"Okay." I pulled a couple of buns out of my pocket and offered one to Chris. This was not the time for hunger induced crankiness.

The cab let us off on a corner not far from Chris' old apartment in a slightly less shabby area.

"I'll get the dope." Chris touched my arm and pointed towards a storefront. "Meet you in there, okay?"


He patted my shoulder and was gone before I got a proper look at the establishment that he had pointed to.

The neon sign above the front was shining "Hubert's" in red. So did the small neon sign in the window.

He wants me to wait inside that?

Considering where we were, he likely knew what kind of place this was.

Bet they spray the windows with the used oil. Hope they do it from the outside, though I wouldn't bet on it.

Do I smell vengeance here? Something sure smells funny.

I took a couple of deep breaths to steel myself and walked up the place. The door opened with a merry ping. There were just four tables, two in front of the window and two by the wall facing the long side of the counter.

Not that I was counting tables when I first stepped inside. I was busy fighting nausea - I had found out where the funny smell came from.

I'm going to get the little fucker for this.

The greasy-gray woman behind the counter got up from watching TV and eyed me. Her eyes had as much expression as those of a four-day dead fish and she didn't say anything. I tried not to look at the dishcloth she had wrapped around her middle. When I didn't succeed, I tried to be positive and think of Kandinsky's paintings of exploded breakfasts.

Something safely encased in a bottle or a can. I almost said it aloud. Instead I looked at the displayed bottles and cans; they needed both scrubbing and disinfecting. The startling white of the cardboard tags hinted at recently raised prices. I swallowed to clear my voice; she was already reaching for the fridge when I pointed, so I didn't really need to say anything other than, "thanks, don't bother with the glass" when she put the can on the counter. I counted out the money, barely remembering the tip.

I took the free table by the window. A wrinkled old guy was drinking his coffee by the other one. He didn't react when I sent him a nod so he probably preferred to be left in peace. He and I were the only customers and it was a very surreal place to be in when the woman got back to watching the small TV. The TV was turned down low; one could only hear what was being said when the commercials were on.

This is not beer.

I checked the can.

Non-alcoholic... Root beer. What the heck is that?

Looking out the window I wouldn't have been too surprised seeing weirdly shaped people with antennae attached to their foreheads walking by.

If any of them had antennae then they were hidden under headwear.

I was well into the can, trying not to think of what had been in contact with the straw, when I saw three teenage boys crossing the street and a moment later they came through the door, laughing noisily and pushing at one another.

They ordered fries. And tacos.


I hadn't bothered before but now I checked the greasy menu with the pristine price tags above the counter. Burritos too... There were more Mexican-looking items.

Does Chris intend us to eat in this place?

The thought was a bombshell of fear and it was a moment before I could think coherently again.

By then the boys had gathered around the gambling machine in the corner, feeding it coins; it returned the favor by making wooly electronic sounds that for the most part was drowned out by their loud voices.

Maybe this is the kind of place that makes killer-tacos.

Suddenly I don't like that expression at all.

A movement caught my attention. A small brown movement. With antennae. On the counter.



My mind was a very scary and confused place. Then, oh wonder, common sense returned. I had my plan - I was going to wait for Chris outside Hubert's, and when he got here, I was going to wring his cute little neck.

Another brown movement - now there were two cockroaches on the counter.

I'm going to wring it until he looks like he was born with thread.

I pushed the chair back to get up. It was like a signal for the door to open.

"Hi, Becky." Chris sent the greasy-gray woman a smile and gave me a wave.

"Chris." She smiled back, and suddenly she looked alive. Shapechanger? "You're home for a spell." She returned her attention to the food making, moving with a bounce that had been absent just a moment ago.

"Yeah. Actually, I've been back a while. I'm living with Joey right now." Chris put a couple of coins on the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. He added the usual amounts of sugar and milk. I wondered if I should warn him about the pride of cockroaches that had him surrounded.

Then he absentmindedly brushed one of them off the counter before picking up a spoon and stirring the concoction. Apparently he had the situation under absolute control. "I never heard - did you find your cat?" Chris lifted the cup, then put it down without drinking, and peeked into the container that he had taken the spoon from.

"Yeah, she came back full of kittens, so I guess that tells what she'd been up to. Do you want a kitten? There's a striped little troublemaker left."

"Nope. I'm picking up a pup tomorrow." Chris lifted the spoons out and upended the container. A cockroach fell to the floor and lay immobile. "A pug." He put the spoons back and set the container on the counter.

Becky snorted. "Dogs!"

"Cats!" Chris sneered and they both smiled.

I didn't hear what else they were saying. The mobile one of the exiled cockroaches was moving towards me and I was getting ready to step on it. The critter was obviously expecting a counterattack; it scuttled off in a different direction whenever it was about to get inside my range. But I'm smarter than the average cockroach and was not about to let simple maneuvers of distraction throw me off. I had no doubt that the goal at the end of its convoluted path was a gory attack on my ankles.

A well-shaped foot wrapped in a sneaker obstructed my line of sight. Chris put his cup down on the greasy table and sat down across from me.

There was no crushed mess where his shoe had been. Neither could I see the cockroach and I feared that the evil critter had changed tactics and was going for a sneak attack. A quick check - phew, the immobile one from the spoon container still looked dead. Of course it could be playacting.

"What - root beer? Are you feeling sick?"

Yes. "This stuff tastes like something Tom would like." Was that dirt or was it a cockroach behind that table leg?

"Bad, huh."

I nodded, regretting not listening in on his talk with Becky. I hope he didn't order anything.

It's dirt.

Chris twisted in his seat. "What are you looking at?"

"Alligator disguised as a cockroach." I still couldn't see the damned critter. "It just went underground." Disguised as dirt?

Could it be hiding under Chris' shoe?

Shit, if that's so then it made it inside the inner line of defense.

"Mikkel." It was the shaman's 'look-at-me' voice.

"Uhu?" I looked at him.

He smirked. "Drink up and let's move."

"I'm finished."

"Okay." Chris swallowed the rest of his coffee and got up. He picked up the cup and the can and put them on the counter. I didn't succeed at getting a proper peek at the soles of his shoes. "Becky, can we-"


"Come on, Mikkel. See you, Becky."

"See you."

I nearly panicked when it became obvious that he wanted me to follow him into the territory of the bloodthirsty cockroaches behind the counter and through a narrow door to unknown terrors. Becky threw a 'bye' after me in answer to mine, and I slipped through the door, heart going at high speed.

In the next room there was a small table with a chair and a workspace with two sinks, a dishwasher and a stove.

All surfaces were confusingly clean.

Chris just pulled me through a gate.

Chris pushed a blue plastic dishwasher basket with clean glasses and cups out of the way. Then he pulled joint paper and a small plastic bag of weed out of a pocket. I looked around and found just the right kind of thin cardboard peeking out of a wastebasket.

"What're you doing?" Chris looked over his shoulder.

"Tips." I tore off a piece of cardboard.

He grunted and opened a cupboard, finding cigarettes and cigarette paper.

I got out my Swiss army knife and cut the strips for the tips while Chris mixed the weed and tobacco. The weed had a promising smell and was just the right kind of sticky. I rolled a tip and started making the first joint. The one that Chris was making dissolved between his chubby fingers. I looked up from licking the line of glue and found him staring at me, eyes dark and ears red. My joint almost fell apart when that hot gaze flooded me. Flushed, I gave the paper a last lick and finished rolling the joint.

Chris threw his wreck down with a disgusted grunt. Then he leaned against the counter, watching me roll the joints, moving about restlessly, thumping the floor with a foot and drumming his fingers against the plastic. Whenever I pulled out a new joint paper, he had a tip ready and pushed a joint sized portion of mix my way.

"Why don't you light one?"

"Becky would fry me like a chicken. The smoke goes right out front from in here. We'll sit by the back door. Now, hurry up. Roll'em."

Chris wanted three small joints for Becky. He put them in the cupboard next to the cigarettes.

The back door had so many bolts and locks on it that it was a wonder it didn't sack on its hinges when Chris pushed it open a notch.

He sat down on the staircase and lit the joint, drawing the smoke into his lungs hungrily. He grimaced at the taste of it and his face took on a rose color when he forced the smoke to stay down. The sharp spicy smell tickled my nose and the pull of it was strong; it was a long while since I had gotten any.

The staircase that Chris was sitting on was like everything else I had seen on this side of the gate - worn and clean. There were small framed pictures on the walls in the small entranceway and even more on the wall along the staircase; it was all about cats and they were too cute to be interesting but not cutified enough to be hilarious.

There was one picture that caught my eye - the one with a male cat seen from behind. I don't know of any other kind of animal, human species included, that has sensuously elegant balls. Cats do. And they know it - why else would they walk around with their tails pointing to the sky, displaying the goods like that? Whoever painted the original watercolor had been very aware of that fact.

Chris pulled one of my belt loops and I sat down next to him and took the joint. Yes! I sucked as hungrily on the thing as he had done. The buzz spread, promising the intense sensation of take-off that is the reward of a long period of abstinence.

Chris was watching me, amused.

"I really needed that." I passed him the joint, touching his shoulder with mine and very aware of his body-heat.

He leaned against me a little and didn't protest when I put an arm around him. I could feel tension go out of him as he smoked; his leg kept jumping, though. Take off began, slowly.

Chris caught me checking a corner on the staircase for dust and laughed quietly.

"Who's Hubert?" I asked.

"Becky's ex." He passed me the joint and leaked smoke. "Ran off with another woman."


"Couple of years ago."

I mulled it over while I smoked, trying to make things fit. "He used to be the one running the front desk?"

"Yeah. This place is his."

"Are they fighting over it or something?"

Chris shrugged and took the joint. "Don't think she's heard from him."

"Man... She's running the place into the ground."

"That's her plan."

"Shit." I watched him take a drag, a little envious of the joint that had his lips attached to it.

And the sucking - look at the sucking going on! I want that!

But I had my arm around him and that was nice too. The feeling of take-off was still happening; I could feel the texture of his shirt as well as the texture of the warm skin underneath it.

He almost grew to double size when he filled his lungs and his jumping leg stilled when he blew the smoke out.

I poked him. He smiled and passed the joint to me; it was almost done.

"Let's go." Chris was up and jumping up and down before I had finished.

"Can I see the soles of your shoes?"

"Sure." He turned his back to me and lifted a foot, twisting his upper body so that he could see it too. No flat cockroach.

"The other one."

He put down his foot, shifted he weight to the other hip when he lifted the other foot and twisted to look. No cockroach there either. "Okay." Now is that a good sign or a bad one? "Can I see the first one again?" It was just to see him twist and shift his weight from one hip to the other; it did tingly warm things to me.

I got him to make one more shift before he turned around. "What is this about?"

I had finished the joint and got up. "Let's go."

He muttered under his breath as he opened the door wide. It sounded like "barbarian fucker" and something more. I thought he had caught on but once we were out in the street he bumped his shoulder against me. "What was that about?"

My thoughts had jumped to another track by then. "Cat's balls. They are neat."

"What has that do to with the soles of my shoes, man?"

"It's the undercover agent-"

It got rather complicated from there. Chris stumbling on the connection to the Alien Conspiracy didn't exactly clarify things either.

We were both delightfully clear about being confused when we reached the restaurant. A real restaurant and a clean one, I was relieved to note, very Mexican looking, with big hats and bright weaves on the white walls.

"Just for clarification - this is on me." It was a statement, not an invitation to a debate.

I nodded, slightly overwhelmed by the noise level. With my head buzzing and high, sounds would jump out at me and stand bright against the muddy background roar.

Most guests were well into the meal. People were talking as loudly as I imagined they would at home. Chris got us a table in a corner and didn't need the menu for making his order. A pile of tacos for dinner, ice cream for desert and "no salad". I was intent on enjoying the experience and ignored his fidgeting, taking the necessary time to make up my mind.

We were well into the meal when Chris remembered. "You have a thing with cat's balls, huh."

"Just - they are neat, you know, elegant. If I had balls like that, I would walk around with my tail in the air too."

"Man, that would look funny." He looked up from his food, thoughtfully chewing and swallowing. "I mean, they're like Barbie boobs with fur on them, only without the nipples. Next to a cock... Man. Mind boggling."

I laughed and shrugged. An image fitting the description he had just given popped up in my mind followed by others and it was hard to stop laughing.

Chris grinned at me, dope-softened eyes glittering. "You really don't think that your nuts are - what did you say?"

"Uh." I had to think. "Neat? Face it - the balls of the human species are probably only sexy because it's hardwired into us. They feel good in a hand and in most cases they smell good and usually taste good too. But - neat? No. Too loose, wrinkled and dangling. Charming? With that hair growth? Absolutely not. And you get hair stuck in your teeth. But I still like them a lot."

"Hair in the teeth? Man, you should try going down a woman. And wearing braces - dude, believe me it's bad."

I don't know what he saw on my face but he began laughing and I did too. One of the two young women at the table next to ours waved the waitress over; they had finished their meal. The woman was shaking with suppressed laughter and when our eyes met she couldn't hold it inside any longer. Her friend was giggling but able to communicate verbally with the waitress and ask for the bill.

Chris sent them an unabashed smile and picked up another taco.

"You're under observation," I told him when we had finished the main course and were waiting for the desert. I'd kept an eye on a table behind Chris.


"Big sister, she's around ten, wants to come over, Daddy does not agree. Mummy is presently pinning down the youngest one to keep him from throwing food at the couple at the next table. I think he's impersonating a windmill. Big sister is persistent; Dad is on the defense. I don't think he can hold out much longer."

"She pouting yet?"

I sneaked another glance at the table. "Aggressively. Uh oh, she's changing tactics-"

"He's not eating dad, look," her shrill, exasperated voice cut through the din and her dad hushed her.

"Heard that?"

"Yeah." Chris sipped his beer and grinned. "She's good."

"They are getting up now."

"Excuse me?" The dad looked embarrassed. He was holding his daughter by the hand; her knuckles were white.

"Yes?" Chris looked up.

"I'm sorry for disturbing your meal. You're one of the guys singing... What was it, honey?"

"I Want You Back," whispered the girl, red in the face, staring fixedly at Chris.

He nodded to the girl. "Yeah. I am."

"Can I have your autograph? I mean, please, sir."

"Sure. Do you have anything that I can write on?"

The girl looked close to panic and the dad turned panic-magenta.

"Hey, we'll find something. What about the table? Do you think I should use the table?"

The girl shook her head emphatically.

"I guess it's kind of big... Then the door won't do either."

The girl giggled.

There was a small holder with a menu standing on the table. Chris plucked the menu out of it. "This one then?"

The girl nodded.

I passed Chris a pen and he pulled the cap of it. "What's your name?"

The girl got her autograph and the dad excused again and they left.

"The table?"

"Yeah. We did that a lot in Germany. Tables, doors, chairs, clocks - you name it, and sinks, dude, there were a lot of sinks. Our shows looked like garage sales, man. Once there was this girl with a bathtub-"

"A big one?"

"Sure. You know, one of these old-fashioned white ones with little feet?"

"Yes, I know those. So, she had you as a favorite."

"No, no. Joey was her favorite... Why did you think it was me?"

"The feet. You said they were small."

"Your ears are short-circuiting. She had this bathtub with really big feet-"

I hadn't been aware that the neighbor to my home-country had such creative traditions when it came to autographs; Chris certainly put me to rights and German 'N Sync fans rose a lot of notches in my estimation.

We finished our meal and left, smoking as we walked. I asked Chris what the local policy was on weed. Which was stupid of me. He had me thoroughly spooked by the time he pushed me into a noisy dark place that he had called a club.

My head was buzzing seriously. With the flicker of lights and the loud steady pulse of music, there was no way I could keep a reliable grip on the situation. I stayed at the bar when Chris headed for the dance floor. It was a half-truth when I told him I wanted to finish my beer at a proper speed. Chris had downed his tequila in one gulp as if it was medicine.

The truth was that there was no way I was getting out there in the open before I had looked the place over and I wasn't going to let him in on my paranoia until we both could laugh at it.

Likely his smirk meant that he already was perfectly aware of it.

Two women sitting at a table rang my 'cop-meter' and I almost bolted then and there. After all, I was the one carrying the joints and Chris had told me all about what happened to foreigners if they were caught by the 'narcs'. I really wanted to see living daylight and Mormor and Tom again.

In my haste to look away from the cops I almost plunged into another trap, getting caught staring by the scowling guy who was standing at the bar not far from me and whom I had filed under 'troublemaker, explosive, don't go near'.

"Hi," a woman's vice said next to me. I turned and looked into a face I had seen before. It clicked into place - she was the giggling one of the two laughing women from the restaurant.

"Hi," I returned her smile.

The bartender came over and she placed her order and spoke to me again. "What happened to your friend with the braces?"

"He's breaking the all safety rules out on the dance floor. Watch out if you're carrying drinks past him, his arms tend to knock bystanders over."

"You could give me a hand carrying them. We're at a table in the back."

"Sure. I'm Mikkel." I offered her my hand.

We shook. "Linda. Pleased to meet you."

The bartender had put the first part of her order in front of her. "Four drinks - are you in a hurry or did you meet up with other friends?" I asked, curious what I was getting into.

She smiled. "Friends, roomies and colleagues from the airport."

"The airport?" I had never met anybody working at an airport before. "What do you do?"

It turned out that I might meet her again when checking in my luggage for my flight home.

We managed getting past Chris without mishaps. Linda introduced me to her friends. Sheryl, the laughing one, was another one I might meet checking luggage in, while Dan, who had beautiful brown eyes, and Carolyn might be x-raying my hand luggage. I relaxed after the last presentations; both Dan and Carolyn had beeped on the 'cop-meter', not loudly but - beeps were beeps and I still carried the damn joints.

"I wanna dance," said Sheryl, who had to be home at twelve because the baby-sitter wouldn't stay longer than that. "Miguel?"

I was getting used to the new name. And I wanted to dance too.

Chris was at the bar for another shot of medicine. He grinned when he saw me with Sheryl and joined the fun, the rhythm pulsing in him with mad energy.

The lights were swirling and the music pumping, everything was movement and there was Chris amplifying it all and it was easy to get lost in.

By the time I noticed that the cops had entered the dance floor they probably had already been dancing for a good while.

I left, needing a moment to collect myself.

"Don't you dance?" I asked Dan when I brought back drinks for Chris and me. Linda sent me a wide smile and slipped out from the table leaving Dan and me alone.

He leaned towards me. Talking was hard work even though we were as far from the dance floor as we could get. "I do." His teeth were startling white against his dark skin. "I'll put you white guys to shame in a minute."

"Uh oh. Do they sell bottled rhythm in the bar? I'm looking for an emergency solution to insufferable embarrassment."

He shook his head. "That kind of stuff doesn't come bottled. You either have it - or you don't."

"Are you telling me I'm hopeless?"

"Hey." He lifted his hands, palms forward. "I'm trying to be nice about it."

I flicked soda at him and he chuckled.

His smile morphed into a wry one. "Linda was telling me about her plan."


He held eye contact and I finally understood what Linda's parting smile had been about. "She was quick herding me over to your table. She told you about the hairy experience."

He nodded, twinkling, waiting.

"I'm not free."

He grimaced. "There had to be a hitch, man-"

Somebody made a flying landing on the chair next to me, it tipped into mine, nearly sending both of us sprawling. Chris! Bright, doped, sweaty and grinning. He took a gulp from my glass and made a face. "Fuck. It's poison!"

I pushed his drink in front of him and introduced them. "This is Dan, this is Chris. And this is liquor."

"Pleased to meet you," said Dan.

"Pleased to meet you," said Chris, nodding sagely to both Dan and the drink.

Dan looked from Chris to me and smiled. "See you out there." He got up. "If you dare."

I crossed my eyes at him. He grinned, wriggled his nice ass and left towards the dance floor.

"Was he coming on to you?"

"He asked." His lips were wet from the drink and I really wanted to kiss him. "I'm having a good time."

He nodded in time with the music. "Me too and the trashing is riiight on track. Why are you drinking that?"

"Still buzzing like a bee swarm. I'm good."

"Buzzzta-fine weed, man." He flung an arm around my neck. "The Bezzzt." My cheek got a little wet from that one and then there was warm Chris squirming in the arch of my arm so I must have moved it.

Chris sparkled over the rim of his glass. I watched his throat work and said, "I'd like to lick you."

"Bzzz, me?" He burbed softly. "I'm a buztard."

"A buzz-tart - this gets better and better."

"Cuzzztard with muzzztard." He flicked my nose with a warm tongue. "Come, danze with me. I'm a spaze-cake."

Of course I followed the space-cake when it bounded towards the dance floor.

Sheryl beamed when she saw us.

The beam was for Chris.

I made a note to myself to remind her when it was time for her to leave. And pushed the sting away, throwing myself into the dancing, trying to keep my back to the cops. I mostly succeeded at forgetting that they were there and when they left the dance floor it got really easy.

Sheryl was harder to forget. Especially when she got scary - her arms were like ugly pale snakes when she danced close to Chris' back and did nasty things to his front with the ugly snakes. Her lips weren't red from lipstick - it was blood. Chris was laughing, but that didn't surprise me, not after I had seen him handling cockroaches.

She said things in his ear and I got a glimpse of her fangs. From the way Chris' mouth moved it was obvious that his words in return contained a lot of zs. I really liked the ztunned confusion on Sheryl's face.

Then the cops were back, teleporting into the spot right in front of me; it was really unsettling.

So - another drink, properly paced, not like the medicine shots that Chris was getting.

Dan put a glass of beer on the table and sat down next to me. "I don't think Sheryl is making much headway with your friend."

I looked up from my watch. "He's set on getting trashed. I doubt anything can deter him." I hope. Sheryl had another six minutes.

Dan was sweating, he drank and put the glass down with a groan, apparently the beer hit a really dry spot.

"Already running flat?" I teased. "What kind of champion is that?"

"Hey!" he protested. "Did you see me on that floor? Did you?"

I had seen him but not really paid attention so I shook my head.

"Fuck!" He stared at me, then he laughed and looked towards the dance floor. "Not that I don't get you; man, with an energy like that... What the heck is he doing now?"

"Dancing?" A kissing couple was in the way and I leaned over to get a look at the main disturbance on the dance floor. Carolyn was belly dancing - with Chris. Linda and Sheryl were laughing, leaning against one another.


"I kind of like the innovations... Did you see that?"

He pushed me out of his line of sight. "Man, look at those hips..."

"That's it. You can stop the commentary right there."

Dan laughed and shook his head.

Carolyn and Sheryl left the dance floor; Sheryl was checking her watch. Good.

Chris? I found him. He was determinedly heading for another shot of medicine.

Walking towards the wrong end of the bar.

Squeezing in next to the troublemaker.

The troublemaker sneered something to Chris. I was up and moving, had the whole room to cross and suddenly people were in the way, spilling off the dance floor. It was like one of those nightmares where you have to move but the only speed for you is slowmotion.

Chris jutted his chin and said something with a lot of zs that the guy looked really unhappy to hear.

That's when the red evil neon ignited in the eyes of the troublemaker; his talking mouth got really mean and he reached for Chris. Who evaded him and stepped away from the bar. And kept talking, likely stupid z-talk, because the neon glowed brighter.

The troublemaker took a swing at Chris who ducked and punched the guy in the gut, a good punch, all the energy focused in a narrow point just in front of the fist. A very good punch - but not a disabling one. Chris was scrambling to get out of the way and almost made it.

A fist connected with Chris face, I couldn't see how bad it was. Chris flailed his arms, he was running backwards very quickly, totally out of balance, overturning a chair and slamming right into me.

The feeling of slowmotion was over, I was trying to stay upright and get a hold on Chris and at the same time keep an eye on the other guy. There were people between us and him now, the two cops were there and others. Chris was squirming and swearing.

"Cool it, Chris-" I was barely aware what I was saying. Finally he stopped struggling but was still tense. I was afraid that he might not be finished with being stupid.

He glared at me. There was blood at the corner of his mouth and his lip was swollen in that side. "Let me fucking go."

"We have to get out."

There was a glimmer of comprehension in the hard glare and he jutted his chin angrily. It was close enough to a nod and I let go.

We moved through the confusion and out the door with a lot of others. I was rude, jumping ahead in the line at the wardrobe, but got away with it; people were surprisingly willing to give me room.

Chris had walked off a little. I was relieved to see that he waited when he saw me and I walked up to him.

I was seething.

So was Chris. "Fuck! You fucking stole my fight again, you sheepfucking barbarian nitwit. I don't need no fucking nanny! Do you hear - don't fucking fuck with me!"

"I am fucking with you? Look, I was having a good time and then you got into a fight, how's that for fucking with me, lamebrain? I like that place and I want to be able to come back to it."

"Nobody told you get in-fucking-volved. That guy was mine-"

"To use as you please?"

"Fuck! Do you know what he said to me-"


"So, what did he say?" Chris swung in front of me, walking backwards. He thrust his chin at me, challenging. "Come on, tell me. Tell me what he fucking said."

"He said exactly what you expected him to say, what you frigging wanted him to say. You bloody played him, squeezing in and attacking him with z-talk. I don't know what the fuck your problem was but I know it was not with him."

He swung around to walk next to me. "Fuckwad."


"Light the fucking joint."

I did.

We walked for a few blocks in silence, the joint going back and forth between us. There was a smear of blood on it.

"Your lip - are you okay?"

"Stop nannying me."

"Where are you taking me?"

"Old hangout. I want a beer."

He sounded collected enough to know if he needed a doctor or a dentist. I followed him down a street and, after a few blocks, down a staircase to a bar in a basement. The bartender looked suspiciously at Chris but poured the beer and served it spiced with a warning stare to both of us.

There were only a few people and most of them were by the bar, talking with one another like regulars. A couple of men were playing pool at one of the two pool tables in the back. I didn't see anybody that needed red-flagging.

I took the beers to a table and Chris went to the bathroom. When he returned, the blood was gone from his face.

"That guy, Dan," Chris said and sat. "He was fucking irritating on a dance floor and he sounded like a fucking irritating chainsaw when he was laughing." He sipped his beer, careful of his lip, and dabbed gently at the swelling with the back of a hand, checking it for blood.

Buzzing from a recent joint, it took me a moment to figure out what this was about. "Sheryl... When she laughed she sounded like... like a donkey getting the hiccups during its own castration without anesthesia. Did you notice her fangs?"

Chris' eyes glittered. "Fuck, no. I missed that. Really, she had fangs?"

"Yes. And cockroaches in her hair."

"She probably got the cockroaches from Dan. He had a lot of weird things living on him."

"Paul," I said.

Chris blinked. "Paul is living on Dan?"

"Not that I noticed. I meant, this morning. When he tried not to laugh at Tom, he sounded like on of those utterly stupid fart-balloons you put under a cushion. Flapping balloon-lips, really disgusting, and he had been all over your face with them like a vacuum cleaner."

"Man, you drank almost all the orange juice." The glass had left a wet circle on the table and Chris was spreading the water with a finger, turning the circle into a solid circular splotch. Splotch completed he looked up. "I wasn't gonna leave with Sheryl."

My belly warmed, my whole body felt lighter; I hadn't been aware just how much I needed to hear him say it. "I wasn't going to leave with Dan."

He'd been watching my face and now he smiled without moving his mouth.

"I think we just made a promise."

"Yeah..." He bent his head, his finger pulled wet lines out of the splotch; it looked like a sun. "When are you leaving?"

"I go home in five weeks."

He looked up from his drawing. "That's when it ends - if you aren't worn out by the hot monkey sex before that."

I kicked him for being stupid. "I know. Erh - monkey?"

He kicked me, dipped his finger in the beer and finished drawing the corona.

* * * * * * *

End of part 2 of chapter 13

© Morgenfryd 2002