Warnings: The usual ones apply: real people slash, sex between men, explicit language. In addition: - well. I don't know. I mean, I can't keep adding warnings. Right? Hey, why don't you tell me what warnings are missing? If you email me a good one I might even put it up here here and/or at my web site next time a chapter goes up. "Post chapter warnings" - a whole new trend! Not that I'm saying anything about when the next chapter will be, mind you.

Memory prodder, if necessary: there's an overview of the chapters at my website.

Lots of thanks to Kenovay for betaing. She's a plum. Not literally, but. You know. A bit pruny in the upholstery after getting rained upon a lot in Scotland but still. Very plummy. No, no, - it's got nothing to do with plumming what so ever. That's JC. All right, I'll stop babbling:

Hope you enjoy :-)



The Tail of the Tiger, Chapter 22

Lost treasures

If the smell of Heaven is the green smell of high-quality, Italian olive oil mixed with the smell of last night's romp with Chris - then I woke up in Heaven. Or rather: I woke up under it. Heaven was surprisingly heavy and sweaty, sprawling right on top of me and drooling on my shoulder.

Chris smacked his lips when I stroked his back: perhaps the smell of olive oil made him dream of food. It certainly made my belly rumble, and I was licking the Chris Shoulder before I had come properly awake, reveling in the heavenly taste Chris Skin. Luckily, I awakened before the inclination to take a bite overwhelmed me. Being chewed awake was an unlikely item on Chris' list of favored kinks.

I had a vague memory of being pushed around until I pulled him on top. Judging by the flatness of my chest it had been quite a while ago. My abused rib cage cracked and ached when I as gently as possible rolled him off me. He kept on sleeping. Beautiful Chris sighed and shifted. A loosely curled fist came to rest next to his face, and he looked peaceful in the way he only did when he was fast asleep. If I listened hard enough I could hear the tiny snores from the tangled nest of thin, dark snakes that lay around his head.

My dick was sated - but full of itself as usual: Chris. More Chris. It should have been yawning, or snoring like the snakes, only it hadn't acquired that ability. Yet.

I want vocal chords.

Chris' mouth relaxed and fell slightly open. In a moment there would be drooling.

The measure cup on the table next to Joey's bed was empty of oil. A lot of the oil had been soaked up by Chris' skin and mine, leaving Chris' skin so soft and fragrant that I just had to take another lick. Or two. Well, three. Perhaps - four? Five definitely was not overdoing it. Or six. Why count? I stopped counting.

We had been seals at sea: adolescent seals in high spirits, not quite sure how to go about mating but very full of determination. Diving in and out of each other's bodies, slipping apart at the absolutely most frustrating moments: having sex with that amount of oil involved had been a first for both of us. There had been wrestling games, and experiments provoking laughter and more games.

Squishy, slippery Chris. Want him. Diving into the recent archives of my memory, my dick was waking up quickly. I want Chris! With oil! Play catch-game!

No, no. He needs his sleep. Chris had a couple of tough days ahead, starting with a flight out of Orlando in the evening. In order not to wake him up with my compulsive touching and licking, I swung my legs over the edge to sit up.

A peacefully curled hand suddenly turned into a much less amiable cobra. Blind but ever so sensitive towards its goal, it closed its maw around a handful of hair and pulled me down before I was properly seated. Then it slithered across my chest. Chris the Mystic Animal Trainer grunted - and the cobra settled possessively, quite obedient to his command. Once settled, it transmogrified into a masculine arm and hand. If I hadn't seen it happen, then I wouldn't have known that there were dark powers at work.

Even in his sleep the Mystic Animal Trainer was combative. He smacked his lips, likely to tell the Cobra to stay watchful, and slept on.

Love him!

He wants me! Send the Cobra to me!

I slithered under the drowsing Cobra, moving towards the foot of the bed. Just when I thought that I had made it to freedom, the Cobra woke up to deed and corrected my impertinent assumption, filling its maw with my head-fur. Only this time the pull was along a different vector-

Yes! Lick Partner, suckle and lick!

There's ransom and there's ransom. This one I didn't mind paying at all. Partner jumped merrily at first lick. Chris smacked his lips again. I activated the industrial vacuum cleaner, taking my time, working at low wattage and high moistness. The Cobra patted me sleepily: suddenly less sure in its movements, it nearly poked my eye out with a tentacle. Encouraged by Chris' grunts, the Cobra snuggled into my hand when I trapped it by the neck, and it stayed there until the shivers and the sigh.

Chris smiled sleepily down at me, gave my hand a small pull, and wriggled deeper into the mattress.

He wants me! I want in!

But what Chris wanted was a kiss on lips puffy and soft from the recent orgasm. Not really awake, he grunted and slipped deeper under the surface. I tugged him in and made sure he was comfortable before I went to take my shower.

I moved through the house as quietly as I could. Lance was camping out on the sofa; perhaps one of his temporary roommates Joey or Justin had snored too much for him to - oops! Joey's room was right next to Lance's. Normally, Lance had Joey's bedroom as a buffer between himself and the Chris Noise. I hope he'll accept penance.

I took Busta for an airing and some play in the garden before I went into the kitchen to make dough for breakfast rolls. And French Toast! Definitely French Toast - there has to be that for Lance, three kinds and ten slices at the least. After that and after having built up my courage, I went into the basement to set up a proper work light before clearing up the mess. The stink sweat of fear alone would have been cause enough for another shower.

I had finished clearing the horror-room, and had just started unbolting the shielding on the furnace, when a door opened and a cannonball rolled down the stairs. Chris! Chris!

"Morning." I smiled to Chris who appeared in the doorway.

"Morning." He smiled with eyes still a little puffy from sleep but wide awake nonetheless. He had his arms full of linen and Joey's rubber sheet. He dumped the pile on the floor and came to see what I was doing. "Need a hand?"

"Actually," I quickly redesigned my plans. "Yes."

"Okay. I'll go get Lance for ya-"

I pulled the laughing imp back before he could leave, and proceeded to kiss him into obedience. That kind of thing did not work with Chris, but the attempt was pleasant and he stayed and helped all the same. We chatted as we worked. He didn't tease when I in-between started humming; I could have loved him for that alone.

We had mostly finished when Diane's voice called out from above. "Hello? Anybody down there."

Chris cupped his hands in front of his mouth and called out in a ghostly voice. "Me, the Evil Bogeyman and his army of nasty zombies. We're coming to get you. Ha, ha!"

"Hello, Chris." Diane had a smile in her voice when she came down to see what was going on. She glanced briefly at the pile of bedding still on the floor and busier smelling of olive oil than getting into the washing machine. "Hello, Mikkel. You got all the critters?"

"Hi. Yes. I think we got most of them."

"You knew?" Chris asked looking from Diane to me and back again.

"Knew what?" Diane asked, beaming innocence with about the same effectiveness that Chris could muster at his best.

He grinned. "You were in on it!"

Diane nodded. "I caught Mikkel when he was sneaking around in the garden."

"Hey! I caught you."

"Well, You had to, otherwise I would have found you, so - effectively I caught you, didn't I?"

"Are you a lawyer?" I asked.

She smiled and shook her head. "Is everyone else still asleep?"

"Well, not for long." Chris told her, making it obvious that he would take painstakingly care of that if need be.

"I'll see to breakfast. Or brunch." She checked her watch. "Brunch. Somebody already started bread, I saw."

"I did. For breakfast rolls." I checked my watch. "It's ready to go onto the baking sheet."

Chris frowned at his watch.

"I can do that," Diane said.

I proceeded to instruct her until she broke it off with a lift of her hand. "Are you telling me how to make French Toast?"

As she was well up the stairs, I whispered: "She probably hasn't seen the Arctic Horrorshow yet."

Chris lit with mischief. Together we hurried up the stairs as quietly as possible, and sneaked out the basement door to spy on her through the half-open door to the kitchen. Both of us were gnawing on fingers to suppress giggles.

When she opened the fridge, Diane yelped "Shit! Oh, my gawd!" She caught us laughing, and she chased us back downstairs, threatening us with a spatula and dire consequences.

"Man, I'm so gonna decorate the fridge when I'm home with my sisters." Chris was tightening a bolt. "My mum'll tear my head off." His eyes glowed with a smile that came from deep inside him; apparently, having his head torn off by his mum was one of the better prospects of life.

I tried to imagine how my own mother would react but quickly stopped that train of thought. It wouldn't be funny. Well, I might have a little trouble with it too, if it was me at the receiving end.

"What?" Chris asked, eyeing me across the furnace.

"Food games. I used to be rather anal about them."

"Yeah? Are you talking about creative ways to use veggies?"

He wants me! Dress me up as cucumber!

"No, no. Like, when Palle or Karlo would start a food fight. Once, something like that fridge would have made me totally blow my top. Man, the one time it was meatballs made out of minced Daisy - I got so angry and I yelled at them until they ran out of the house without their shoes on. And it was in the middle of winter." I thought it over and had to admit, "I'd probably be angry again if anybody repeated that stupid game. I was really fond of Daisy."

"Daisy?" Chris frowned. "Isn't that the nickname you lowly, Danish commoners use for your queen? Regicide and cannibalism! Man, you really got yourself into something." We had talked about the Danish monarchy before; Chris had delighted in hearing the seedier rumors of the escapades of royal persons, both the living and the dead.

"Well, she was a very special pig, a real little princess. "Daisy" was a perfect name for her." And since he seemed inclined to listen, I proceeded telling him stories about Daisy the Pig, who had moved in at the Farm at about the same time I did and had been slaughtered for Christmas.

Later, when we had finished in the basement and had showered, we were sitting at the drawn-out table in the kitchen with all the others, eating brunch.

Chris eyed the sausage on his plate. "Hello?" He gave it a little push. It didn't answer. "You know," he said to me. "There's something really upsetting about eating stuff that you could've been on first names with." He looked back at his plate and gave the sausage another push. "I mean, maybe somebody gave this pig a name, and maybe they let it sleep in their bed when it was sick - like you did with Daisy." Another push. "Man. Hello, little Ghost of a Maybe-Friend - let me introduce myself: I'm Chris Kirkpatrick, and I'm gonna eat you. How do you do inside that artificial skin of yours?"

"Chris." Joey sighed. JC was busy scraping the contents of his plate onto Joey's.

"I hope that's the case." I took a bite of sausage. "I mean, consider the alternative: that nobody cared when it was hurting. I'd rather eat the meat of animals that have been well tended. It's matter of respect, you know?"

"Inter-species respect." Chris took a tentative bite of his sausage. "Like the American Indians."

"Do you eat American Indians?" I asked.

"In a sense, yeah."

"Do you check up on every animal you eat?" AJ asked, arching an eyebrow to make sure I knew he was being sarcastic.

I ignored the eyebrow. "For most of the meat, yes. I do regress when it comes to delicacies like good ham and sausages. Back home I shop at the farm, like, buying half a pig or sheep or a quarter of a calf at a time. Here, it's been only possible for me to find poultry so far."

Diane snorted. "If everybody went and did that-"

"We'd eat a lot less meat." Lance calmly said and poured tea. "That wouldn't be so bad, nutrition wise."

Diane blinked at him. Then her eyes lit up with something very much akin to pride.

"Man, imagine a life without McDonald's and Taco Bell. I just can't." Chris was getting over his funk, and stuffed sausage into his mouth while talking, multitasking with the ease of much practice. "I'm brainwashed, man. I'm an industrial product eating industrially produced animals that've been suffering all through life to end up in little plastic tubes, mixed with cancerous chemicals. I'm the perfect zombie product of capitalism." He elbowed me. "Hey, check my neck - do I still have the stamp?"

He had a very fine neck with a small bite mark. I pulled his T-shirt down a little to look for the stamp. "You mean, like a blue, round one where it says "1st Class Citizen" and a small Stars and Stripes beneath it?"

"Yeah, yeah. That one."


Justin, sitting at the opposite side of Chris, checked, too. "It says "1st Class Pork", man."

Chris grinned, not at all dissatisfied with the stamp.

JC almost aggressively smeared jam on a bun, ignoring the butter that Joey had pushed in front of him. "What're you guys doing today?" He asked with an edge to his voice.

"Picking up laundry at my mum's." Joey unabashedly said, earning a frown from Diane.

"Going shopping." Chris waved his fork and swallowed a bite before he continued. "Mikkel's gonna buy me a new dildo."

Justin sputtered a mess of cereal and milk across the table, hitting both Joey and Joey's very full plate, barely missing AJ who nearly fell over when pushing away from the table in a great show of fast reflexes.

"I took the old one apart to get the vibrator for the mask in the basement." I added, just to make things clear.

Lance snorted softly, perhaps disappointed with AJ's escape, or perhaps it was just that Lance was trying not to choke. His facial color was really odd.

Joey looked down, sadly contemplating the gooey scene that he had just become. "What am I to you guys? A trashcan? Have I been suffering from delusions all this time? Somebody, please check my stamp."

"Sorry, Joey, man." Justin got up to fetch the paper towels. Joey smiled in satisfaction after Justin had turned his back - he smiled even wider when he had his neck checked for stamps by JC. Justin smacked Chris on the head as he walked past.

"Can I come?" JC asked Chris and me, while absentmindedly fondling Joey's neck. "Which store are you going to? I know a place where they've got-"

"Guys!" Lance spoke up. "Can I at least be allowed to have breakfast? I know it's only industry food but still. Please!"

AJ aped Lance's snort from earlier and earned a glare from Lance.

JC nodded. "Okay."

"Saner than my gang." AJ muttered into his food. Maybe it had become a mantra to him, something to keep him sane.

"We are." Lance spoke with conviction. When AJ raised his very doubting eyebrow, Lance smiled tightly at him.

At least talks have opened.

AJ had to leave shortly after brunch was over. When Chris and I got into Tom's car, JC joined us, getting into the back seat with Busta. I had handed the keys over to Chris who knew the way.

We were barely into the road when JC leaned forwards to speak. "Look, Chris, I mean, guys, about last night. I'm really, you know, really sorry about what I did. I mean, I knew you said I shouldn't meddle and - well, like, I wasn't thinking. I'm really sorry."

Chris spoke while changing gear. "Tell that to Fat Sue, dude."


"Man, we're okay. I blew my top, it's over, and you're not gonna meddle again unless you wanna end up as component in a sausage - and you don't. Can we stop this now?"

"I don't know. I mean, Mikkel isn't saying anything."

Mikkel was busy watching Chris handle the stick, appreciating the sureness and the way the muscles shifted under his skin. "Sorry. I wasn't aware you needed me to say anything."


"We're okay, JC."

"Yeah?" Had the lift of the weight in him caused any more lightness, the car would have risen to drive a meter above the road.

"Yes." I twisted so that I could see his face. "Will you explain something to me?"

"Sure." JC looked so earnest that I was tempted to ask him to explain the world to me.

Afraid I couldn't stop him if I did, I instead asked him the real question on my mind. "Where did you find those obnoxious candles? That's about the worst smell I've ever experienced."

"At a flea market. I thought they were okay - they were still wrapped and all. It was a real bargain. Only two bucks for them all."

"I guess you could call it a bargain if you like the smell. Do you really like it?" I was curious as to what signals JC received from that largish and very straight olfactory sensor of his.

"Well. If I take the price, like, into... erh."

"Account," Chris supplied.

"Yeah. If I take the price into account, then." He sighed. "No. Actually. They're pretty bad. I mean, if the price had been any higher, then I probably would have puked too."

Chris barked a laugh; on the back seat Busta got inspired by the sound and barked too.

JC grinned. "AJ didn't care much for them either."

Watching Chris drive was almost as good as sex: the warm Chris-shaped lump inside me swelled and ached sweetly. He caught me staring as he slowed down for a light, and the tips of his bear-cub ears turned pinkish. Since he didn't punch my leg, I took it for a go-ahead-and-watch-me signal.

Once we had parked, he turned in the seat to take Busta from JC. "Hey, JC."


"Are you sure you'll be alright with Mikkel and me in that kinda store?"

JC paused, then he nodded. "Yeah. I'm sure."

"Good." Holding Busta against his stomach, Chris plucked the keys out of the ignition and rolled out of the car.

Watching him ponder the line of dildos with deep concentration and carefully examining the different models was a highlight of the day. His tongue came out, curling over his upper lip, while he was reading the instructions. Chris went first for the colors. "I want a purple or black one." That narrowed the selection down to nine. "You think I can handle all of these?"

"At once?"

He elbowed me.

"I don't know about the biggest one, the rest - probably." I checked the power of the vibrator in the very purple one that he had looked the most at. It was one of the most expensive of the bunch, which just might give Chris second thoughts since neither of us had coupons. It had a good vibration, and it was also the one that had the nicest feel; the surface was soft and silky to the touch, and according to the instructions it could take cleaning with soap. "This one?"

Chris took it. I turned it on and it came alive in his hand. "I like it."

It's ugly! Look at me! "It'll look good in you." What about me? "Oh, shut up."


"What about me?" I can do better than that thing! "I can do better than that thing!"

Chris laughed, and took the dildo over to the cashier to have it exchanged for one in a box. I remembered to ask for batteries. He asked to have, and got, it all gift-wrapped.

"You gotta write a card, too," he told me.

I did: "To Chris, with batteries. Mikkel."

We found JC by the handcuffs. During tests he had accidentally gotten himself chained to a pipe. "Uhm. Help?"

Bubbling with laughter Chris went to fetch an employee with a key. While JC was being freed from the plumbing, he started asking the employee about shrink tubing. It was pretty obvious that it would be a while before we could get him out of there.

It was my good luck that it wasn't the oil section at the supermarket that we were in. I doubt I would have been able to handle myself with Chris around had we been there. Chains, dildos and racks with nipple clamps have no chance against a mind running free in a section with repetitive shelves stuffed with olive oil.

The imp kept showing himself off; and he did it quite on purpose, I discovered, when he casually offered his neck to me for the third time, not talking to me but to the collar in his hand. I spoke to him, just to have an excuse to breathe on his neck and see the little hairs stand out. "Try it on, dude."

Chrischrischris, nice Chris! In a collar. Eat him! Lick him! Bite him! Wantwantwant inside!

I let the message on and Chris laughed, a fuzzy, low sound in his throat.

Payback was easy: I merely had to browse the lowest shelves to have his burning gaze threatening the integrity of my leather pants; bending, kneeling and squatting worked equally well.

But - the place finally got to me, and the shelves started closing in on me. Busta was already fed up with being parked in a baby carrier. Between us, Busta and I managed to drag Chris and JC out of the store.

On the way back, the sexy mood fell totally apart when JC suddenly came alive in the back seat, yelling, "Flea market! Stop!"

Chris stopped the car. "Where?"

"Behind us. It looked like a whole street...." JC was so excited that he was almost crawling into the front seat. "Turn, man. Turn around. Flea market, and Joey's not here, or Lance. Go, Chris!"

"It's late - there's probably nothing left." Chris said, trying to curb his roaring, inner container rat. He was smiling and very busy turning the car.

"There's always something left. If they're closing, prices are low."

Who was I to stop two hardcore flea-marketers? Anyway, I'm not averse to take a look at flea markets myself. My evil mouth spoke up. "Wonder if they have candles - ow! Chris, JC is hitting me!"

"Go, JC."

JC forgot about hitting me. "Parking spot! There!" Had his arm been a few centimeters longer, his finger would have poked a hole in the windshield.

Chris demonstrated a magic way of moving a car sideways into very narrow places, and we got out. JC's smile was spanning the horizon and he was jittery.

Chris was trying to juggle Busta, the leash and the carrier while walking.

"Do you want me to take B-"

"Here." Chris the Ultimate Materialist put pup, carrier and leash into my hands, then he was off, heading for boxes of old records while JC charged a clothes rack. I left them to their things, and went looking for my own favorite, albeit in a more orderly manner since I had Busta to take care off. At the first walk-through, I didn't find any Truly Mysterious or Ugly Objects, so I picked the next item on my List of Favorites.

"Find anything?" JC asked me at one point, dragging me out of a box of magazines.

"Yes." I held up the magazines that I had already bought: a farmer's journal with a special on irrigation systems, a trade journal for the nuclear power industry, and what looked to be a fashion magazine in some Asian script, maybe Japanese. There would be some very good clippings for my inspirational scrapbooks. "You?"

He smiled and showed off his new pale orange shirt with sequins.

"I like it, really. It really sets off your eyes," I told him. It did - they looked very blue. The glow in them was probably due to the flea-market high.

He nodded. "I think I found a shirt for you. Come see?"


And that was where Chris found us - by a rickety clothes rack, me putting on the shirt while JC kept patting it and getting entangled in Busta's leash. JC smiled to Chris, "See, this shirt is just right with those pants. Look at his ass, man." Chris did, so of course I bought the shirt.

Chris had been shifting from foot to foot all along. "I found a box of weird stuff!" He said, and we were off to peruse the potential treasure. None of the objects were Truly Mysterious, but I found the world's ugliest mirror. And I'm not talking about the guy inside it, but about the intricate, slightly damaged and badly repaired frame of gilded plaster. The thing was just lying there, looking utterly abandoned in its monumental ugliness. That was almost as good as a Truly Mysterious Object.

My experience told me that this was one those cases where "tremendously ugly" would fade to "nearly plain" once I got the thing up on my wall. I left it behind with a mixed feeling of accomplishment and regret.

We bought drinks at a nearby drugstore and drank them by the car; flea-market dust has a tendency to stick to one's throat. That is - Chris and I took a drink while JC was dragged backwards by a clothes rack that had jumped out of hiding and sunk its hooks into him.

"You think he needs rescue?" I asked Chris. They both had to get home and pack for the flight.

"Nah. He's almost out-shopped."

I watched JC pull out a pair of salmon colored pants and hold them against his middle to check the size. "He did well in the sex store." The pants were too short and went back on the rack.

"Yeah, he did. Those water bombs really had an impact."


"Yeah. Sometimes you kinda have to blow his mind to make him move on." He spoke absentmindedly, watching JC leafing through the contents of the clothes rack.

With Chris it's almost the opposite. He needs quiet to move on. Maybe it's a matter of contrast. I hoped, against all odds, he would have enough quiet in the next few days. That - or none at all.

I really need to start on the Totem.

A young woman was walking away her arms full of treasure, upsetting me. "Blast. Look at her."

"Nice tits."

"She. How can you see them through all that metal?"

"Super-superpowers - I can see tits through lead too."

"She stole my mirror!" I tried hard to convince myself that the ugliness of my mirror really was fading and not doing the opposite.

"Mikkel, you didn't want it, remember? It wasn't ugly enough."

"Now I do."

"Well, then," he put his bottle with what looked to be blue toilet cleaner down on the roof of the car. "Let's go buy it back."


"Come on." He made to take the can of root beer out of my hand. "We gotta move before she gets away."

I held my drink out of his reach. "No. I don't want to."

He frowned at me. "Do you or don't you want that mirror?"

"I do, but I don't want to want it, because if I buy it then it'll just be a plain mirror and it's still ugly enough for me to want to want it."

His eyes glittered with amusement. "Okay. Okay, man. I understand perfectly."

"Just let me be wistful, all right?"

"Sure. Go to town." He picked up his bottle.

"Look at her - she's stolen my mirror. It's got magic-"

"I still like her tits better." He lifted his bottle to take a drink, paused. "It's got what?"

"Magic powers. Like, it's cursed."

"You sure?" He studied her, or the mirror, intensely. "Then we shouldn't let her get away."

"She's probably an evil witch. Who else would buy a cursed mirror?"

"You. By mistake. Or me. By intent."

She had stopped by an old, many-colored car, and was juggling all her treasure, trying to get the key inserted in the lock. In the end she had to put it all down and use her full concentration on getting the key to turn.

"See? Evil, cursed item," I said to Chris. "The mirror is doing that, like it's a super jammer. You'd still want it?"

"Yeah. To use for a present."

"Are you crazy? Your zippers would jam for a year and a day even if you gave the mirror away the same day you got it. You'd have real trouble between sets at the absolutely wrong point in your career."

"Now, there's a point." He conceded. "Hey, you think her zippers have jammed?"

"Yep. It's that kind of curse, really powerful and fast. Tomorrow it will be permanent."

She let go of the key. Leaving it in the lock, she went to kick a tire. Her yelps had swear words in them.

There was a Noble Knight in Chris: "We should go save her." Or maybe he just wanted the magic item: "That mirror - Lou would probably like it a lot."

This time, the key worked and the car door opened easily.

I knew it! I'm not going into clinch with that one. "Okay. You're the one who has to be around a Lou who cannot get his pants off without the use of scissors. Is he the type who either doesn't need a bathroom or will buy several new sets of pants a day?"

"Ew. No." Chris sipped his drink thoughtfully. "Did you see what she did? She beat the curse. She's a witch. And evil."

"Yes. I wonder if that kick-and-chant trick works for the zippers, too."

"Like, man, imagine her handing out a note to a stranger at a public bathroom. "Kick me, please. And while you do it, please chant this"."

"Hey." JC had escaped the rack and come over. "Who are you talking about?"

"That one with the tits." Chris pointed her out. "She's a witch."

"Yeah?" JC watched her get into the car, then he picked up his bottle from the front seat. "She's got nice tits." He wrenched the lid off, breaking the seal with a loud crack.

While tits are a very practical and pleasingly shaped part of the female anatomy, they never held me in any kind of thrall once babyhood was done with. "I still like the mirror better."

"Really? Dude." JC hummed thoughtfully. "What if they're gilded bronze like the frame? Gilded tits look really good."

"Huh? Maybe. If you painted the rest of her a really poisonous fluorescent and dipped her in clear glass so that she'd function as a lamp." I wondered at the sudden but very real wistful sensation inside me. "I could set her up in the hallway." Sonja, being a great fan of IKEA, would have my neck.

Chris whistled softly. "Man, Joey'd hunt you down if you did that. He's really protective of tits. Their well being is his life mission or something."

We all held our breath when the car coughed and died. She turned the key again while her lips moved in what had to be another chant, and: voilà! The car started and spun like a kitten.


When I got home and ran into Tom and Paul making salad in the kitchen, the first thing I heard was: "What's that you're wearing?"

"My new shirt. What are you cooking?" There was something in the oven. I sorted through the smells and decided that it definitely smelled as if it would be edible.

Tom eyed me, quenching a grin. "Okay. A new shirt. I see. What happened to my sweater?"

"In my bag, unharmed."

"You wore that to town?" Mormor asked from behind me.

"Certainly. It's a very nice shirt. JC found it for me."

"JC - you have a shirt that JC picked for you?" Paul stopped choking on his tongue, and came over to touch the cloth reverently.

"It's very - red." Tom nodded to himself. "Very. Ah. Red."

Mormor narrowed her eyes at me. "You didn't tell anybody that we're family, I hope."

"Of course I did. I'm very proud to be your grandson. I carry this sign with your face on it around whenever I go to town-"

"Impertinent brat." She grinned. "As long as the sign covers the shirt, I may be able to forgive you."

Tom snorted. "Where did he find it?"

"At a flea market."

"Aha." Tom sounded like that explained everything. "You went to a flea market."

"Yes. After we had been to the sex store."

"The what?" Mormor positively yelped. "Christopher didn't go there with you, I hope."

"Sure, and JC came too. We went to find Chris a new dildo; I had taken the old one apart. Don't look at me like that! We were very careful with Chris' career. It was a straight store." Well, mostly.

She grunted, somewhat placated.

"Hm." Tom had moved past the shirt. He was eyeing me with The Look on his face. Apparently I had misbehaved in some way. "There's a bunch of phone messages for you."

"Okay." I got his phone out of my pocket, and put it on the counter.

"Some of them had tried to reach you at my phone number, but it was off."

"Okay. Thanks."

"It was long distance."

"Yes, I know." Uh, oh.

Tom picked up the phone from where I had put it, and started punching buttons. Likely he was looking through the numbers that I had saved. I had forgotten to delete Tommy's and Bill's West Coast numbers.

Tom just stared at me. It wasn't like he needed to say anything.

"We'll fix it when you get the bill, okay?" I was hoping that Paul's presence would work in my favor.

"Huh. Why don't you just get your own phone?" He was curious.

Phew! I shrugged. "It seems a waste for such a short time."

"I can take it over when you leave." Mormor rolled over to the counter and raided the unfinished salad for sweet peppers.

"Wash your hands first," I told her.

She ignored me. "I'm going to need a cell, racing between here and Pugheaven and all sorts of places." She nibbled the pepper.

"You finally decided on a place?" Pugheaven?

"Well, we found one that will do; we want to see a few more places just to make sure we don't miss the perfect one. But we decided on the name. Pugheaven. I like it."

"It sounds like the name of a church. With a pug preacher."

"No it doesn't."

"Right. It doesn't. Much. A preaching pug might work for a logo, though."

Mormor crunched pepper. I went to the Library to check my phone messages and emails. Tommy and Bill had arranged for a stay at a cottage by the eastern coast of Florida. A couple of the guys that we knew from online were coming too - it was, as Tommy had written, going to be This Decade's Grand Gathering of Nerds.

I mailed off my confirmation, accepting his offer to take over the cottage for the remainder of the week after they had left. We had to pay for a week anyway: I might as well make good use of the opportunity. As far as I could remember, the period matched a hole in Chris' schedule.

I attacked the pile of messages. Even without the pile, this was to be a work evening. I might have to move to my room; Tom's football buddies were coming over.

Shit, shit. I have important things to do - like carving wood.

The Friday mail from Sonja needed an answer - or rather, what she needed was an explanation and directives. The persistent bugger, to whom I in a fit of exasperation had made the offer of services at the double of our going rates, had actually confirmed the deal by fax. Thus my little joke turned around and bit me.


It was Wednesday evening. I had packed up my little workshop, and moved it back into the basement, intending to put in another few hours of carving. That morning it had seemed a pity to waste the good weather by cooping up in the basement of Mormor's house, so I had moved everything outside in the shade of one of the large trees in the back.

I had been able to put in an hour here and an hour there during the day. It was possible to do it that way now that I was down to the details. During the carving of the rough shape I had had to be deep inside the work for hours at a time.

The Totem was coming along nicely - if everything went according to my plan, it would be ready for the first layer of wood preservative late the following evening. Publicly, I was determined to have the Totem in its place up above the front door on Sunday before the guests arrived for Mormor's birthday.

Privately, I was set on having it finished Friday morning, even if it meant pulling a couple of all-nighters. It had to be mounted over that door before the next time I saw Chris.

I'm not a superstitious man. Besides, I knew I was right, so it wasn't really superstition.

Tom found me in the basement when he got home. "The timer rang - I turned off the stove." He was juggling my new cell and his own but he put them both on a shelf when he saw me crawling around on the floor.

"Good." I had lost one of the fangs and was on all fours on the floor. The fangs had to be cut out of a harder kind of wood and glued into their sockets. If they were carved out of the block they would break very quickly.

"What is it?"

"I lost a tooth-"

"No, the stuff in the pot." Tom got down to help me look. "Smelled good."

"Red cabbage. Boiled and kind of pickled. Very nutritious, and low fat. It's one of my favorite side dishes for medister and roast pork. We'll have it with the meatballs tonight."

"Here it is." Tom had found the tooth, and inspected it. "I think it's all right." He passed it to me.

It was.

"So - when are we having those meat balls?" He got up and got the phones from the shelf.

"You hungry?"

"Yeah. Is this hooked up yet?"

"It should be." I took the phone and turned it on. When I called Tom, his phone started making noises.

"What was the pin-code again?"

I gave it to him, trying to appear unsuspecting; he'd misuse the knowledge in some way, I was sure, and I was curious about how.

"Maria called from school," he said when we were in the kitchen, preparing dinner. "Dad's being a fuck."

"Worse than usual?"

"Yeah. He's been yelling a lot. Man, I wonder what happens when they get the letter from the lawyer."

"That could be today."


We had dinner without any interruptions. Afterwards, I went back in the basement to work on the Totem, intending to pull an all-nighter between carving and work.

I was deep into the details of an ear, when I became aware that somebody was there with me and had been watching me for a while. I just knew that it wasn't Tom, and it couldn't be Mormor. With a growing sense of dread I turned around-


He reluctantly tore his gaze away from the Totem and winced when he met my gaze.

Where did he come from? I had been sure that I was safe until Friday morning.

It can't be him - I would have heard him on the stairs, like canonballs falling. Chris can't be quiet.

Besides: he can't be here when I'm not finished!

But he was. He was right in front of me, and looking like he'd rather be somewhere else. His eyes were shifting and it was obvious that it wasn't easy to look at me.

It's just a phantom. I'm projecting. Yes, that's it: just a projection of my fears.


"Hi, Chris." Even phantoms have a right to a polite greeting.

He winced again. My smile had probably looked rather peculiar. "Hi." His smile certainly was peculiar - if the small show of white teeth was supposed to be a smile at all.

Something's really wrong, it's got to be something else than- He suddenly looked so alone. And - fragile.

Do phantoms hug? "Chris?" Please, let me do something. Point me to a dragon - anything!

Tensing, he shook his head once. He straightened, wrapping his shields around himself. But they had become quite transparent to me: behind them he still looked fragile. "We gotta stop. I... I just can't anymore. Okay?"

Where's the dragon? I need a dragon! "What?"

"For fuck's sake," he snapped. "Don't jam up on me."

We're in the land of alligators, and the dragon is late!

"I don't want to hear you." Which wasn't true: I could listen to his voice unendingly without tiring of it - even his snaps and screeches were precious.

His voice softened. "Please, man. Get out of that place." His voice wove itself into my soul with the light touch of twinkling, magic fog.

If they've run out of dragons - an alligator would come in handy. I could fight an alligator. Hell, give me two fat ones!


To make the troll turn into stone, you have to look it right in the eyes, and say its name. I had just never imagined being the troll thus petrified. Or that you'd be bleeding when you said my name. "Yeah. I heard you." Am I breathing? "But I still don't want to."

He swallowed. "I know."

"You're just telling me like that?" Chris, please! Please, please-

He nodded, a very small nod that I did not want to see.

"No grand finale, no tap-dancing on the table, no black stockings, no bumper-stickers, no nothing?" No opening! Where is that stupid dragon when I need it?

"Shit. No." He looked down and took a deep breath before he looked up. "You'd find some way to turn it around and make me not do this."

Chris! I wanted to run, I wanted to not know that I was unlikely to see him again. He's beautiful even when he's hurting. Beautiful....

I wanted to drink every little drop of Chris-presence I could get, to draw out the seconds until they spanned forever, and fill them up with Chris.

Please! Dragon, come on! It's now! "I'd sure try." Chris!

He Blinked. "Mikkel, I'm sorry." Wisps of twinkling fog in my soul.

I nodded, not sure why my head moved like that. My beautiful Chris.

He made an odd sound in his throat. Then he turned.

Was gone. Silently.

Like that.


I don't know how long I stood there looking at that empty spot, listening to the emptiness, and waiting for something to happen.



Surely, there would be consequences like in any other case of being flung off a rotating carousel. There had to be a crash of some sort. It couldn't be just this silence, this empty space void of sound and movement - not when it had to do with Chris.


The door frame filled with Tom. "Mikkel! Are you deaf? We gotta go!"


"Dad's going fucking crazy in the living room. Maria and mum - they're trapped upstairs. Come on, Mikkel!"

"Fuck." Now, now, the dragon arrives! I cursed sluggish dragons and reached for my tool belt. "Did you get the ladder?" Now, where did I put the crowbar?

When I came out the front door, Tom was ready by the alarm and pushing buttons before the door had closed properly. Mormor was already on board the van; I ran to dismantle the ramp.

Tom came over and pressed the keys into my hand, wordlessly telling me to drive like he'd never wanted me to drive before; suddenly it all became real in the way nightmares are real.

This time even Mormor did not complain about the speed being too slow. She was tense and silent, listening in when Tom talked to Maria on the phone. I wasn't really listening, being too concentrated getting the unwieldy chunk of metal to teleport across town.

Two wheels are plenty when you're taking a corner. Tom did not complain.

Waiting for a light and drumming on the wheel, I briefly noticed that Mormor too was on a phone, "-officer, listen, I'm sure it's an emergency, the man just threw the TV out of the window-". The light changed, and I floored the pedal.

Finally the headlights lit the outskirts of the playground. One more turn and we were there. The house looked deceptively ordinary when we stopped in the street. All the lights were on. The curtains were drawn, in one window they had been torn loose in one side.

Tom and I got the ramp out and left Mormor to make her own way out of the car. She would take care of communications with the cavalry. Tom and I picked up the ladder and ran up the stairs and around the house to the backyard. The faint sound of roars and thumps coming from inside the house grew noticeable once we rounded the corner: it streamed unhindered through a broken window beneath which lay a smashed TV.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Tom muttered. "He'll see us."

Maria was looking out the window to Tom's old room. The window was right above the smashed one. "Tom!"

Inside the living room the crashes went on, interspersed with roars. Tom shushed her. "Be quiet, Maria. We'll get you out. I promise. Just stay there."

She whimpered. It sounded like assent.

I pointed to a window at the opposite end of the house. The window beneath it was reassuringly dark. "We'll take that one."

"That's the bathroom."

I didn't care what it was as long as it worked. Neither did Tom, really; he was pulling out the ladder as he spoke.

I ran up first. It was not the time for finesse: I charged the screen with the crowbar. The aluminum frame gave easily, I got the crowbar under the frame and then the flimsy fasteners snapped so that I could push the window open. Tom stood guard at the bottom. He sent a thumbs up - Frank was still going on. Not that I was in doubt; it was quite evident from the noise that reached me both from the outside and through the closed door that Frank hadn't lost any momentum.

I climbed in, slipped the crowbar back in the tool belt and waited for Tom to come up. "I go first. You've got Maria as priority one. I'll see if I can get Jenny out."


"Which door is the bedroom?"

"The one to the right at the opposite end. "

A deep breath, then I pushed the door open.

"Fuck - Mikkel we forgot Chris!"

"What?" No, no. It wasn't the real Chris. My imagination was running crazy from paranoia. It was just a phantom, a bad dream.


I took a deep breath. There was no denying it, really. "He, ah. He left."

"He? Oh, fuck, Mikkel." Tom had a very precise scope of the situation.

Don't think! "Ready?"

"Yeah. Fuck, man."

The noise from downstairs made the hallway stretch for hundreds of meters, the open landing in the middle was one huge maw of danger.

Forwards. Just that: forwards. I swallowed my panic, moved in.

Stopping briefly at the corner, I made sure Tom was with me. Downstairs, Frank was pounding something to dust. Apparently there were still breakable items left. But not for long.

Don't think. Move.

A door opened and Maria's tear-streaked, pale face looked out. I checked the staircase once more to see if it was still free before I waved her on. She came running to Tom, arms outstretched for a hug. He merely grabbed her hand and ran with her towards the bathroom and the ladder.

I took a deep breath and moved past the landing. The bedroom door was locked. Nobody reacted when I knocked softly on it. "Aunt Jenny? Open up - you've got to get out. Aunt Jenny, you hear me? We've got a way out." Perhaps she couldn't hear me; I didn't feel like announcing my presence in a loud voice.

There was a certain rhythm to the roaring and the smashing downstairs. I did my best to match it when I kicked the door open. The door sprung up and I jumped back, not all that eager to be climbing on ladders while under the influence of teargas. "It's Mikkel," I said and still there was no hiss of a spray can. Frank went on as if he had not heard me.

"Aunt Jenny?" I peeked in and met her wide-eyed stare. That is: one eye was wide, the other was half-closed, red and swollen. She was standing in the door to the walk-in closet, terrified but with her chin jutting out in something resembling defiance. She held a sheet in one hand and a knotted rope of bedding in the other.

My! I wish Mormor could see her like this. "We've got a ladder. You want to come?"

"... Maria."

"Tom's taking her down right now."

"I was going to-"

"Jennifer! Get down here! You hear me!" The voice of doom bellowed from downstairs.

She dropped what she held. "Where?"

"The far bathroom."

She whimpered but raced with me down the carpeted hallway, past the landing, reaching the bathroom just as doom began moving up the stairs. "Jennifer! Get down here, you bitch!" The voice reverberated through the house. I was sure I heard plaster falling behind the wallpaper. I quietly locked the door behind us. Not that the flimsy thing would hold much - it was the same kind as the bedroom door.

We had to wait for Tom who was still on his way down. The aluminum ladder danced under his movement, too lively for an inexperienced ladder climber to deal with.

"Jennifer!" Doom was on the landing.

Finally Tom was down and I helped Jennifer out the window and wished she would hurry - but she was doing as well as she could. I held on to the ladder, steadying it.

"Jennifer!" Doom was smashing things somewhere down the hallway, likely in the bedroom.

She was half way down when "Jennifer! You whore!" was back in the hallway. I swung out of the window and onto the ladder, ready to move as soon as the ladder went still.

Finally! Quick, quick! Down!

"Jennifer! Maria! Answer me!"

It felt like slow motion even though I'm quick on a ladder. There was a loud crash from the room right above me. Inspired by danger, I used Martin's trick, grasping the ladder between my knees, sliding the rest of the way, taking bruises when I passed the joints, burning my hands during the whole process - and finally landing hard on the ground, sound and relatively safe.

Tom pulled the ladder away from the window right as Frank appeared. "Jennifer!"

Jennifer wasn't answering; she was running with Maria's hand in hers.

"Dad?" Tom called.

Frank made the oddest roar and disappeared. I pushed the ladder out of Tom's grip, leaving it to fall where it wanted, and pulled him with me. Right behind us a cabinet crashed against the lawn.

"Fuck!" Tom was suddenly very easy to pull along.

We found Mormor, Jennifer and Maria in the driveway. There were a couple of policemen too: one of them was in their car, one foot on the asphalt, busy talking on the radio. A few other people were standing around out in the road, little groups of ordinary people talking with one another in low voices. Likely they were neighbors.

"There you are." One could almost imagine that Mormor had missed us.

"What's the plan?" I asked.

"We're waiting for reinforcement." Mormor shifted in the chair. "They're calling in a doctor and an ambulance, too."

"Do you know if there are any weapons in there?" The policeman asked Jennifer.

She shook her head.

"A can of teargas," I said. "Is that it?"

She swallowed. "A handgun, unloaded... I hid it and the ammunition."

"Madam, you should move out of sight all the same. All of you should."

Mormor turned the wheel chair.

Hugging Maria close, Jennifer was looking at the house, flinching when the crashes and roars peaked. "My house...," she whispered. "Can't you...." She looked at me. It wasn't really her house she asked me to save.

"Ma, what will happen to us?" Maria asked and suddenly all other sounds were naked.

Tom put a hand on Jennifer's shoulder and pushed her gently until she and Maria were coming along. She might not have known that she was moving. Once she stopped, I could hear her whispering a prayer; both God and Jesus were involved in what she said. But it wasn't God and Jesus that rounded the corner; it was another couple of police cars and an ambulance.


End of Chapter

© Morgenfryd 2004