This story contains homoerotic thoughts. If you are not supposed to be here: leave, or lock the door and remember to remove your virtual footprints once you finish reading.
I really do like dogs. Please, don't be upset! It's just a story.
Please, let me know if you have any questions or comments. (Or let me know if you don't.) Your response is really appreciated.
Lots of thanks to the Beta-team Christopher and Paulo. And Whit - hey, Whit?? I think she fell asleep again. She is all too crazy with JC. Sleeps as much as he does, too. If anyone can snore per email it must be her.
Hope you enjoy this. Please let me know.
Hugs from Morgenfryd
The Tail of The Tiger , chapter 5
The deep end
It was odd driving through the streets late in the day, following the slow flow in same pattern as the neighbors. I was only here for a visit; most of the others probably had done it for years and would do it forever.
It made me feel like a spy.
So of course, I looked at the other drivers and tried to make out who else was a spy, like spies are supposed to do. The fellow in the yellow car had to be one, who else would wear a pink hat with Mickey Mouse on it?
Right. Perhaps this was the one place where such a man was not a spy.
Full of doubts about the quality of the briefings that I had received, I turned down Mormor's street.
Finally, back at Headquarters. There was the house and the driveway I was supposed to park this car in.
Only I couldn't. This time, it was blocked by two cars. It had to be a conspiracy of some kind. Resolutely I parked behind both of them, effectively and carefully blocking them both, making sure they could not escape before I had id'ed them.
I knew my mission into foreign normalcy was over when I saw a furry little fellow come tumbling towards me. The small male I had duped Samba.
"Hello, Samba." I picked him up and looked around. Another pup came running, the timid one, Aunt Brown, happy to find a human. She almost peed on my foot in sheer excitement.
I picked her up too and walked towards the back.
'Fuck' seemed an appropriate comment when I saw that the gate was ajar. Still I managed making it a good-natured oath, not wanting to upset the pups.
There wasn't a single dog in the enclosure.
I put the pups down and closed the gate before I called for Frida, Violet and Leika. There was a puppyish bark from outside the wall at the opposite end. I jumped it, which King Kong, the large male, took to be the start of a little game. I spent a moment convincing him that a good scratch was better than games before I picked him up. Three down, five to go...
I called again and got none of the reactions I had hoped for.
"That scream of yours is really primal." Chris voice preceded him through the door to the dogs' den. "Leika and Violet are inside. Hi, and welcome home."
"Hi, Chris. Good. That leaves three to go and not five. Give me a hand looking for them will you. Frida, Busta and Aunt Green are missing. The gate was open and they got out. Take a look around the dogs' den will you? I'll check around the rest of the yard."
"Fuck. Sure. I'll get the other guys." He headed back inside while I once again jumped the wall and began my search in the yard while calling quietly for the dogs, trying not to sound alarmed but rather real friendly.
"None of them are inside." Chris jumped over the wall, so did Tom and a guy I hadn't seen before.
"Hi," I said to him and Tom. "I'm Mikkel. Paul, right?"
"Hi." He nodded and looked a little shy. He was kind of plain and very well groomed. Medium sized medium blond. Good looking in a very ordinary way.
"Did you check the basement?"
We split up and began the search. We met without any of us having stumbled over a dog.
By then I was getting slightly nervous. The sun was hanging ominously low over the horizon.
"Maybe we should check the neighbors' yards?" Tom brushed a cobweb from Paul's shoulder. Paul reddened a little.
"Yes. Get the dogs inside and we can leave the gate open in case any of the runaways should make it back. We probably better ask people before we begin yelling in their yards.." Jennifer had taught me a lesson.
We split the houses between us and stocked up on leashes and goodies. An unusually quiet and grim Chris went with me.
The elderly couple across the street was very helpful once I had explained who we were and what the problem was. The man even came out and helped search the yard and that of the next-door neighbor whom he knew and who wasn't at home. There were no dogs, though.
"I'll call around and tell the neighbors to expect you," he said when we parted and I thanked him for his help.
"What was that about?" I asked Chris, once we were back in the street.
He seemed to shake himself, turned his head and raised his eyebrows, questioning my intelligence. "Look at us."
His braids were meticulously bunched on his head and decorated with beads that clicked when he moved. He had worn make up and hadn't quite managed getting it all off, there was a little dark paint around his eyes, almost too little for people to notice, unless they knew what he usually looked like. The tiger striped thing he wore under his dark leather vest looked good on him. The thin slick cloth left no doubt about the shape of the body underneath and when he moved, so that the vest parted, one could see his nipples poking at the cloth. The dark baggy pants hugged his hips and hid a mystery that I wanted to explore with my hands and mouth.
He snapped, "I said look, not eat!"
I stopped scrutinizing him. "You look good." Yes, right, as if he didn't already know what I was thinking. "You really should be the front man." My old work clothes had oil on them, and my hair felt like it was close to maximum mop. Where he smelled faintly of something good, clean and masculine I smelled of machine oil, sawdust and sweat - and that not freshly.
He shook his head and the beads rattled. "No, you'll do just fine." He pushed me ahead of him towards the door, his warm hand leaving a pleasant imprint on my shoulder. "Once you open your mouth people are helpless. It's getting them to open the door that's the problem. Come on."
I rang the bell; it was a while before a woman opened the door.
"Yes?" she said and gave us a quick once-over, her lips just a thin line, probably thinner than they usually were.
I thought Chris had been wrong about putting me in front. "Good evening, madam." I was suddenly uncomfortably aware of my ragged exterior; my English came out very stilted. "I am Mikkel Svendsen, grandson of Rose Werner across the street. Some of her dogs ran away, and my friend and I are out looking for them. We would like to look around your yard, if you don't mind, please."
She hesitated. A girl of about ten had sneaked up behind her, and was listening with a serious expression on her face. "Did the pups run away?"
"Yes. Two of the three runaways are pups."
"I can help you look."
"No!" The woman turned towards the girl. "You stay inside the house, Lisa." Then she turned to me. "You can look around, but please don't harm the roses."
"Thank you, madam. We will be careful."
As the door closed, I heard the girl's argumentative "But, Ma!".
"See?" said Chris.
"See what?" For a split second, I had thought he had seen a trace of the dogs and wanted to show me; my heart had speeded up... But he was looking at me and not pointing and I had to swallow my disappointment.
His mouth quirked, "Never mind. Let's look for the little buggers. I go left."
"Alright, if you prefer. I'm not about details."
So he went right, and I went left going around the house, looking under prickly bushes and into neighboring yards, calling for Frida. The house on Chris' side was dark; it looked like there was nobody at home.
By the time we could see one another again, there were still no dogs. I had a couple of rather dense rose beds on my side so Chris' path took him further into the yard while I stayed close to the house.
My eyes were drawn to the pool that Chris was checking. He noticed me looking and shook his head; I could breathe again.
It was getting really gloomy; there could be hundreds of pugs sleeping in the shadows under the bushes. If the dogs had exhausted themselves and were comfortable where they were, they may not react to my calling; the pups, because they didn't know what the calling was about, and Frida, because she made up her own mind about things.
I thought I saw something in the grass and went over to make sure.
I couldn't remember ever before feeling such relief at seeing a dog turd.
"What?" Chris came over; maybe he heard something in my voice when I called for the dogs.
I pointed and looked around for a stick and found one.
Chris hunkered down to see the turd better. He grinned, teeth flashing white. I flicked the turd into the flowerbed.
A window was pushed up. "Hi," the girl said quietly. "You found something?"
"A dog turd. Pup size." Chris smiled broadly. "They've been here."
There were lots of roses under the window. "Is there anything under the window?" I asked the girl.
She leaned out to look. "Wait." Then she was gone. A moment later, she was back with a flashlight. The deities bless smart kids. "You can borrow it if you want," she offered while she lit the bushes, leaning out to look closely.
"Thanks. I would like that." I thought I had seen a flashlight in the basement. If necessary, I could fetch it once we finished looking at this yard.
Chris made his way towards the back to continue where he had left off, calling out for the dogs. His voice was lighter than before.
"Isn't that paw prints?" The girl pointed.
I gingerly made my way through the bushes to where she pointed at and hunkered down, getting my backside stung by an impertinent rose.
She was right, there were paw prints.
"They could be asleep under the bushes." I looked around before rising and called Frida.
"I think I heard something."
I had heard the rustle too. The bushes moved. I nearly broke into tears when a small furry body appeared right in front of my foot.
It was. I hunched down and greeted her. Minding the kid, I kept my soft swearing in Danish. Another and smaller dog cannoned into me. It had to be Aunt Green, who still had not learned to brake properly.
"Chris - I have Frida and Aunt Green here." I picked both dogs up to save the flowers from their enthusiastic greeting ritual.
"No Busta?" His beet-top silhouette appeared above some bushes in the back of the yard.
"Let me just get a leash on these two. Busta is probably-"
"Fuck!" He moved so quickly I lost sight of him for a moment, and then I saw his shadowy form smoothly jump the fence that separated this yard from the next.
I ran to the girl in the open window, loosing all consideration for the greenery. She reached for the pup.
From the neighboring yard came a splash, it was too loud to be that of a pup falling into a pool. There was too much mass going into the water.
The girl got hold of the pup and I leaned in before I let Frida jump to the floor. I snatched the flashlight from the windowsill, and then I was off, through the bushes, across a patch of lawn and over the fence.
Like the pool in Lisa's yard, a fence surrounded this pool. Chris was in the pool, chest high in water. He was lifting a small limp shape onto dry land. I didn't want to go the last distance. Didn't. Did it anyway, heart hammering and throat shrinking.
I knelt next to them. Put the flashlight down on the ground, unlit.
Chris stayed in the pool, stroking the wet pup. "Busta-boy?" he called in a small voice. "Wakey, wakey."
I touched the pup gingerly. The soggy lifeless thing looked so unbelievably small. Looked, felt, unbelievably... dead.
Busta shivered. Or was it just my imagination? No. She burbed.. She cramped and began sputtering weakly and vomiting while trying to roll onto her belly. Chris helped her hold her balance while she coughed and heaved.
"Oh, man," whispered Chris. "God, please." A short prayer but it couldn't have been more heartfelt.
A cough and the dog lay still. Chris pulled her gently away from the little pool she had made on the flagstone.
"Is she still breathing?" I asked him.
"Think so. Yes, yes he is. Oh, man.." He sounded like he was choking.
"You die on us and there will be no eating shoelaces for a week." Maybe threats would work. I rubbed at my eyes that were blurring a bit.
"And no more Doritos, boy." Another series of spastic coughing shook the small creature. "Busta, come on." A weak whine and another cough and a whine. "Yeah, yeah. Good dog. I'm sorry Busta. God, I'm so sorry."
I pulled off my dry shirt and folded it a couple of times before flattening it on the flagstone. Chris put Busta down on it and made a loose wrap. Then he got out of the pool while I picked up the bundle. Busta was shivering. But breathing. Sneezing. She whined a little.
I stroked her neck. "It's alright, girl."
Chris reached for Busta and I let him have her.
"What about the other two? You tie them up?" He nuzzled Busta. It looked like he was licking her but it was hard to tell in the gloom.
"No. Threw them through the window. They are with the girl."
"You're giving the dogs away like that?"
"I didn't count on it being a permanent arrangement. That's why we are picking them up."
His teeth flashed briefly.
The front door was flung open before we reached it. Lisa stood there with Aunt Green. Behind her was her mother, holding Frida. "What happened?" Lisa asked. "Is the pup alright?"
"Yes. I think so. It fell into the pool in the next yard but my friend saved it." I put the flashlight down beside the doorstep. The woman quietly handed me Frida and I put the leash on her. Once I got the pup Lisa went over to Chris. I slipped the collar on the pup and held on to both leashes while I patted the two runaways.
"No sudden moves, okay?" Chris said softly to the girl and she nodded and stretched to her toes to see. Chris lowered the bundle enough for her to see the pup.
"Poor little puppy.." She stroked its head gently. "Did it really almost drown?"
Chris merely nodded. The girl looked up at him. Then she patted his arm as gently as she had just touched the pup. "It'll be alright. You saved it."
Chris was still saying nothing.
I walked over to them. "We better take the pup home to the mother so she can take care of it. Thank you for lending us your flashlight and for helping." The girl nodded gravely and stood aside to let us pass.
The woman smiled a little. "Lisa, come here."
"Good night. And thank you for your help."
"Good night. Night puppy, night doggies."
Chris' shoes were making odd wet noises in time with his step. I wasn't sure he was in a mood to appreciate it so I didn't say anything. We made the short walk across the street to the back of the house in quiet. I had to steer him around the cars; all his attention was on the bundle he carried.
Violet welcomed her two exhausted pups. Busta groggily whined and snuggled against her dam. Frida continued into the house, probably to see if Tom's door was open and his bed free.
Chris kneeled by the pups' den reaching in to pat the pups that came up to him. I went outside and called the rest of the search party home. Chris was still patting pups when I got back.
"I wonder just what they have been up to. They are all exhausted." I hunkered down next to him. He was apparently unaware of his clingy wet pants and soggy shoes. There were goose bumps on his pale golden skin and a shiver ran through him.
"Lots of fun, I hope. Enough to be worth this." There was not much power in his voice.
"Yeah. I'll find you some dry clothes."
A distracted, "Uh" told me that my words went through one ear and out the other. Another shiver ran through him. "You think he'll be alright?"
"Yes." I made myself sound surer than I was. "Violet will take care of her. You alright?"
Finally, he turned his head and looked at me, met my eyes that were probably red rimmed like his own. A nod. The pain and exhaustion made him look like one big hard knot; there was no trace of shimmer.
"Hi. You found them?" Tom came into the den followed by Paul.
"Yes. All three of them."
"What happened?" Tom studied Chris. "You are wet." Smart fellow, my cousin.
Chris shook his head and pulled himself part way out of his funk. "Busta fell into a pool. I thought he was dead. Stupid little punk was only pulling my leg."
Tom hunkered down and reached out to pat Busta. "Will it be alright?" That question was for me.
"Looks like it. We'll have to keep an eye on her though." I rose. "I'll get some dry clothes for Chris. And call the vet."
"It's alright," mumbled Chris. "You don't have to go all JC on me."
"No it isn't all right. You are shivering."
That one got me a glare. I went to find what clothes I thought that he might stand a chance of not getting lost in. In case he insisted on being stupid, I picked up the largest bath towel to wrap around him. Then I phoned the vet whom I had been told to call in case of a late emergency.
I met Tom and Paul in the hallway. "He's so out of it." Tom's forehead creased. "He threw us out."
"He's the one that forgot to close the gate."
He nodded in understanding. "We are going back to work on our project. You want me to get you anything?"
"Make coffee. Did you eat?"
"Yeah. Thanks. It was good. There's still a little left, I don't think Chris ate all the leftovers."
"Fine. We'll keep an eye on the dog. I better.."
"Yeah." He slapped my shoulder with the usual result as he went past. Paul's sent me a small knowing grin and followed Tom. Apparently, he knew the effect of Tom's friendly slaps.
Chris was still by the enclosure when I got there. I draped the towel over his shoulders and hunched down next to him.
"I called the vet. She told me to keep an eye on the dog for a couple of hours. There is a risk of a lung infection. If a fever sets in, we are to treat it with antibiotics and bring in the pup tomorrow. Mormor has some medicines stashed. I checked. The antibiotics are still good."
He nodded and didn't look away from Busta.
"Want me to watch her breathe while you get into the dry clothes?"
He grunted and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. "Promise?"
"Sure." I gave him the pile and settled down to watch the sleeping pup draw breath upon breath. Behind me, there was the clingy wet rustle of Chris removing his clothes. There would be pale golden skin with muscles flexing beneath it.
Watch the dog - I had promised to watch the dog. It was still breathing. Right. The wet sounds stopped. He was drying himself now; the sound of him moving and the towel rubbing was. soft. There were faint dull cracks from the beads. He was cold. His dick would be limp, a small and vulnerable thing peeking out from a dark bush.
Watch the pup! Breathing, it was still breathing, right, I was watching like I had promised. I touched the snout gently. It was cold and wet; there was nothing wrong that I could see, just a damp pup in deep slumber in a comfortable pile of siblings.
Behind me all movement had stopped. He had noticed me move; I could feel the worried glance against my back. "Still breathing. No fever," I reported keeping my voice down. The movements behind me picked up again. He was putting the clothes on now.
"You mind if I stay?" Chris hunkered down next to me.
"Of course not. We can make up a bed for you."
"Good. In here."
"If you want. There is a guestroom too."
"In here." He had kept his eyes on the pup while we talked. "Right next to the pups. A blanket will do."
"Two blankets, a mattress, sheets and a pillow."
He smiled a little. "Two pillows."
"Deal." My belly roared. "I'm going to get something to eat. You want some?"
He shook his head. "You want me to give the male's eye the treatment for tonight?"
"Sure. I'll get you the bottle."
He nodded. I got up and left him to keep watch while I fetched the bottle and paper towels. He was still keeping watch when I got back. I picked up his wet clothes, and put them in the washing machine together with some of the stuff in the hamper. His leather vest I left to dry on a hanger. Maybe something could be done about it later; the chlorine probably hadn't been good for it.
Tom and Paul were busy in the library. I could hear them talking while I nuked a plate of food. They were arguing about the principles in some process, it was all about cells and membranes. I didn't understand half of it. It was just like hearing the plumber - the words came together in sentences, the keywords being white spots on my linguistic map, making no sense.
After I had eaten, I took a quick shower before making Chris a bed right next to the enclosure like he had requested.
"What's this?" he smelled the vapors from the mug I had just given him. The pups were all asleep and Busta's nose looked wet, still no fever.
"Coffee, sugar and schnapps. We call it a 'little black one'. It's good."
There was an invisible barrier around him as if his zone of privacy had expanded. I sat down on the mattress at a distance that kept me outside the zone.
He sampled the drink and I watched the fascinating display on his face. That was not the face of a fan of Danish 'little black ones'. "No?"
"Well, it works." He took another sip and wrinkled his nose again. "Tastes like cat's ass."
"Thank you for the information. There is all sorts of liquor in a cupboard in the kitchen, you are welcome to find something you like."
"It's fine. I'm partial to cats' asses." He pulled at a threat in the blanket. "Look, I'm sorry about the gate."
I hunched down. "Accidents happen. Now, if you are so set upon a serious talk - why don't we talk about. Doritos?"
He eyed me. "You weren't supposed to hear that."
"What does Doritos mean? It sounds trademarked."
"Chips. They are really good with cheese dip, you know the stuff in little tubes and packets."
I shivered. "And you compare 'little black ones' to a cat's ass..."
Chris grinned, took another sip and grimaced.
"Well?" I waited.
He shrugged. "The bag fell out of my pocket. Busta is quick. Like a snake." He illustrated his words with a quick move of his arm, gracefully imitating a striking snake.
I waited for a second to make sure there would be no more snake imitation. "She's more like a rat, really." His glare almost slammed me bodily against the wall. I thought I better change the subject. "You want the lecture on what can happen to pups that are fed food that is bad for them? Or do you want the one on how not to make a social disgrace out of a dog?"
"Are you calling Busta a rat?"
"Well, you just called her a snake."
"I didn't either."
"I know - you called him a rat. And you already gave me the unedited sermon on ice cream, kids and germ exchange."
"Ah. I did, didn't I." That one had come up while we walked the dogs yesterday morning.
"And Busta isn't a rat."
"No. She's a snake."
The viciously elegant cobra struck; it closed its fangs around my nose, and was gone again before I could catch it.
"Ouch." I rubbed my nose.
Chris smiled and turned away from me and took his time checking the pup, showing off his behind as he settled in a kneeling position. Everything about him was so neat and masculine...
I was eating him with my eyes, wasn't I? And it had made him uncomfortable. I picked up my mug and forced myself to study it, there was nothing left in it to drink. The mug wasn't exactly good at keeping my attention.
"He's alright." Chris lithely shifted into a cross-legged position facing me. "If it's alright that he sleeps so deeply."
"It is. Pups will do that when they are exhausted."
He pushed a couple of thin braids away from his face and caught me looking. "Duh! Stop it."
"Believe me, I try."
"Yeah?" He looked me with curiosity. "You really want me like that?"
My cheeks flushed when heat spread through me. I nodded. "A lot." Ask him for a kiss! Stupid dick.
"Man, this is good for my ego." He chuckled. "You need to get laid, Dude."
"I know." I held up my mug. "I'm going get myself another one of those. You want one too?"
He emptied his mug and made a face. "Yuck." He rose and reached for my mug. "Let me get us drinks. A cupboard in the kitchen?"
"Yes, next to the phone. Not too strong, please."
"Strong? I don't make strong drinks. They're perfectly balanced."
"So are blue whales."
"Exactly." He left the room almost at a run. The only time I had seen him at a slow walk was when he carried Busta back, Busta who was now snoring. I reached in and stroked her. She was still out cold. So were Aunt Green and the rest of the bunch.
Violet came over to me and I picked her up and sat with her in my lap. A bit of dog therapy was just what I needed to wash all the bad might-have-beens out of my system. Violet snored softly, contend to have me mess with her fur. Her obvious comfort seeped through my jeans and through my skin, spread through my body with the flow of my blood.
There was movement next to me. A square hand brought a glass an alarmingly green liquid within my field of vision. "Here."
Chris set his own glass on the floor before sitting down next to me. After he had checked on the sleeping pup, he eyed Violet wistfully and I transferred her to his lap so that he could have some of her magic too.
The drink Chris had brought had an intense fruity tangy taste that kept changing as it made its way downward. The liquor wasn't apparent until the very last; when the after burn kicked in.
Chris looked expectantly at me.
"It's good," I told him. "What do you call it?"
He smiled. "Polymorphic Martian Yellow. Though a bit of the polymorphic had to be left out, there wasn't any."
A fitting name indeed. I took another sip and once against the taste morphed its way across my taste buds. "It doesn't taste like anything is missing."
"It's not for the taste, really, but for the extra kick."
"A bit of hash oil. I'll make you a proper one later."
I laughed and shook my head. "Believe, me the last thing you want, is me high on dope."
"Oh, yeah. I get randy."
"How's the pup?" Tom and Paul came through the door with Leika at their heels.
"Fine. Sleeping. No fever. She'll be her old harassing self tomorrow."
Tom smiled and sat down next to me. Paul sat down on the floor next to Tom. Leika was quick to see an opportunity and climbed onto Paul's lap. Chris sent him a smile and he turned red and looked down at Leika.
"You had a couple of phone calls while you were gone." Tom hesitated.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Some good news, some bad news and some bad good news."
"Mormor is fine, she said to say hello. Mr. Miller has arranged for a removal firm to bring my stuff over on Monday. Actually she is so fine she will be released Friday instead of Tuesday."
"Oh. That was the bad good news?"
He nodded. "Sara called, Magnolia had six healthy pups and it went without a hitch. She said that she, Karen and Beth would come to help clean the house on Thursday or Friday morning, what ever fits you. Mormor will be released after lunch. I called the car rental, we can have the car from Friday morning."
"Ah, good." I waited for the bad one.
"Mrs. Phillips called this afternoon. Her husband will not be able to come on Monday. She's tried to find someone who could take over at short notice but she couldn't."
"I don't know. She wouldn't say."
Mr. Phillips was the volatile bricklayer. My plans shattered like threads of glass and began growing back together in new shapes.
Tom put an arm around me, perhaps thinking that the reason for me bowing my head was something else. "I'm alright. Just thinking... Fuck."
"Spare me the language lessons."
I grinned and poked him before leaning against him. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, but he said it wasn't important, just something he forgot to tell you this morning. He had an odd name... 'Iensptr' or something like that. Danish, I think."
"Could be that. He said he would send you an email."
I let out a breath. "Email. Good. Anything else?"
"No. That is yes - Paul will help out on Sunday. We'll finish the project tomorrow, maybe before evening so we can have some work time tomorrow too."
"Yeah?" I smiled at Paul. He smiled back shyly. "Thank you. I really appreciate that." He bobbed his head.
Chris eyed me over the Polymorphic Martian. "I have Sunday off, count me in on the team too."
"Thanks, man." I leaned against Tom and sipped my drink.
"So you get to be slave driver for a day," smiled Tom and took my drink and tasted it. "Hey, what is this? It's good!"
Chris beamed. "Polymorphic Martian Yellow."
"It's also mine." I reached for the glass but Tom held it out towards Paul. Chris looked with amusement from one to the other.
"Try it, Paul."
Paul looked at me with a mix of shyness and mischief in his eyes. He took the glass from Tom and sampled the contents. He blinked when the afterburner kicked in. "It's strong. Good." He gave me back the glass.
"Do we have any more?" asked Tom and frowned when I pushed his hand away from the glass.
"In a second." Chris put Violet in Tom's lap. "You want one too, Paul?"
He reddened when Chris looked at him. "N-no, thank you. I'm driving."
Chris nodded and bounded out of the room. Paul sighed and bent his head and scratched Leika's neck. Tom smiled down at him. "See. He's just another guy and a really nice one."
Paul laughed softly. "So you say. It still takes some getting used to."
"You are a 'NSync fan?" I asked.
He reddened and nodded.
"And he won't even ask for an autograph." Tom looked at my glass and I held it outside his reach.
Paul's eyes flashed. "He's got a right to some time off. I don't wanna bother him."
"Hey. I told you - I'm sorry I laughed." Tom raised his hand in defense and smiled at Paul who looked exasperatedly at the ceiling.
There were restless sounds from the pups' enclosure. It was just puppies waking up. Busta was trying too hard. I got up and went in to pick up the others and put them outside the enclosure before I got Violet for Busta.
"What's up?" Chris asked tensely when he saw the pups on the floor and me in the enclosure. He pushed the door shut behind him with his foot.
"They woke up, all set on pup games and Busta tried to join. She's so afraid she'll miss something." I knelt next to Busta and stroked her. "There, calm down girl... You have to wait until tomorrow."
Chris gave Tom his drink and passed a can of Coke to a red-faced Paul before coming over to Busta. Busta weakly wagged her tail when she saw another human's attention come her way.
"That's a boy." Chris sat down next to her and I let him take over calming her down. He pitched his voice just right. She settled under his gentle strokes. Never mind that he was telling her about the big fat alligator next door that would come eat her if she ever ran away again. He sent her slowly and surely towards sleep with loving words of horror. It was a magic spell.
Then - quiet. For a moment, I thought the spell had taken Tom and Paul too, but they had merely gone outside with the pups. I could hear them through the open door.
The quiet stretched. Chris' gentle strokes had become mechanical. He was distant, I thought, even though I couldn't see his face because his head was bowed. A touch to his shoulder brought the Zone up with a snap and earned me a quick glare. I was inside the Zone so I got up and left the enclosure.
I tidied up the room, collecting the toys and the shredded paper towels that Chris had used for Sambas eye and that the pups afterwards had torn apart. It had grown quiet outside.
I went to the door and looked out. Paul and Tom were sitting on the wall and talking quietly, their heads close together; it looked like they were holding hands. The pups were on the patio, a pile of snorting little wrestlers.
I spoke quietly over my shoulder. "You know, after today she'll be wary of water. Now she just needs to learn about the Alien Conspiracy and she'll be perfectly able to take care of herself."
"Yeah." Chris appeared next to me. "Looking for flying saucers?"
"Hmm." Flying saucers? I couldn't see any. A plane and a satellite were quite visible on the city lit sky, but there were no saucers.
"There." Chris pointed to what I had thought was a satellite.
I really couldn't see the shape of it, squinting didn't help. "That's a flying saucer?"
"Yes. There's a jump point somewhere out there. Of course it could be patrolling..."
We watched it move across the sky until it winked out.
"You saw that?" murmured Chris. "Did you see it?"
"Looked like it entered hyperspace."
"Don't overdo it."
"It's just odd-"
"I mean, what did they want? It's odd how they left once the pups on the patio got into their line of sight. Like, the one they wanted wasn't there and they wouldn't risk going closer when we were here."
A hand landed on my shoulder and I was jerked around. Chris' eyes had become as round as saucers. The whites was visible all the way around the velvet brown centers. "They're out to get Busta!"
I shrugged indifferently. Nice, strong hand, that. Warm... "Looks like it, doesn't it?"
"We gotta do something - set up a defense system." He let go of me and was jumping up and down, hair bouncing, and all in all being a strain on my resolve not to eat him with my eyes. "Defense - you have any saucers? Nets? Anti-ray foil?"
"There is... Hey, I'm not gonna turn my granny's house into a battleground just because of some rat-"
He was quick, slapped me good on the top of my head before I registered the way his move was going. "It's Busta! You moron. We can't just let 'em take him!"
"Why not? They'll probably just perform their little sex-change operation or what ever experiments they practice on rats and-"
This time I was ready and ducked. The slap had been a distraction; I got a jab in the side and he wasn't gentle about it. The jabbing left him open for a slap on the head and at least I got that one in. Things escalated from there, became a flurry of slap, parry, ouch, jab, jab, parry...
"Guys?" Tom appeared next to us. There was enough concern in his voice to distract me and it cost me a slap on the head. "What's going on?"
"He's just gonna let 'em get away with it! Your cousin's a barbarian! Ha, got ya!"
I parried a jab and got a slap.
"I know that he's a barbarian-"
"Hey!" I got Tom with a slap on the top of his head; it cost me a jab from Chris. Parry, yes! I got a jab in without Chris getting a return through my defense. Chris's eyes had become wicked slits and he was grinning.
"Let whom get away with what? Will you two stop it?"
"He started it!" There was no way I was taking my attention away from Chris; he was too quick and fierce. Beautiful! "He's going to turn Mormor's house into a battlefield!" Jab, slap, parry, parry, slap...
"And you're gonna let 'em take Busta for free!" He gave me a mean slap on the head; my height wasn't the advantage it should have been, not with this guy. "My puppy, you heartless bastard."
"It's a rat-" That remark was expensive...
"I don't think I should get into this," murmured Tom.
"Ah. Night guys?" said Paul tentatively.
"Night Paul." Chris parried my jab without delivering a return.
I stopped my attacks and looked at Paul, exchanging smiles. "Good night. See you tomorrow. At breakfast?"
He nodded and turned away to leave. I ducked and twisted; Chris' slap hit my shoulder. "All right. I give up."
Chris eyed me warily. "You callin' uncle?"
What a weird thing to say. "Uncle? What has my uncle got to do with this?"
He grinned. "You give up?"
"Yes. I told you."
"Yes!" He raised his arms in victory, but brought them back down in a hurry when I moved.
I scratched my neck. "What?"
The slap he gave me for that one really didn't diminish my little revenge.
"Come on. You gave up; now you get to slave for me." He grasped my arm and pulled me along.
What an interesting notion. I followed willingly, protesting appropriately.
We had just reached the kitchen when Tom came barging in from the outside.
He was fuming. "Mikkel, you freak. How the fuck did you get the car into that position? Where did you put the car keys?"
"My room somewhere. Probably on the dresser."
"Sheesh! I should get you to move it yourself." He walked off towards my room.
Chris raised a questioning eyebrow at me. He had a small black smear of eye paint by his left eye, accenting his air of mischief.
"Across, like." I demonstrated with my hands. "It was very tricky getting it in there." And without the car getting a scratch, too; I was quite proud of myself.
Chris grinned and ran outside. Tom came back swinging the keys and glaring. I was real quiet and invisible when I followed him out to see how he would do.
With the help of Chris and Paul, it only took Tom about a quarter of an hour and a lot of swearing to get the car out.
"You!" he said when he came in. "You are going to tell me where the brake and cruise control are. Now!"
"I already told you."
He grinned and grasped me in a headlock and knocked me on the top of my by then rather sore head. "If you won't tell me then I'll just have to install them, won't I?" He let go of me and picked up the electric kettle. "Chris, you want tea?"
"No, thanks." Chris bounded into the kitchen.
I turned to him. "So, what do I do?"
"Show me around. I want nets, good quality anti-ray foil, string, ray-suckers and wires. That should do for a start."
"You want what?" Tom had been reaching for the tap, now he looked at Chris, kettle forgotten in his hand.
"I'm gonna set up a defense against the aliens."
I wasn't about to let Tom believe I backed that project. "Turn the house into a regular battlefield, I say. Should let them have the r-"
Chris shut me up with a slap on the head. "That discussion in over. Go to work, slave."
I sighed in resignation. Tom grinned and turned to fill the kettle with water.
Shouldering my hard destiny I said, "Maybe we should start in the basement, then. The big room is quite a junk yard."
Chris smiled delightfully and I soon found out why - there is a junk rat alive and kicking inside him. The oddest things would catch his fancy; even the box with old shoes was explored properly. His bubbling enthusiasm over the long unused fishing gear made me fear for being dragged out on nightly fishing trip in a boat he said we could borrow. The unearthing of the old box with kids' toys saved me. Chris beamed like a sun; clearly we had struck high-grade treasure and I could breathe easily, the fishing trip all forgotten. I hate being out at sea in an open boat after dark; it's too scary.
He put me to work stringing fishing line in an uneven net under the ceiling in the dogs' den while he made the contraptions. Chris' notion of proper traps and defense mechanisms involved a lot of rays and odd powers; the theory of it all was quite beyond my comprehension. It had better be strong magic, though, because the physical constructions were rather flimsy. Well, except the high-heeled woman's sandal; the thin heel and pointed toe lent it a vicious elegance. Of course the wrapping and wings of aluminum foil only added to the viciousness.
There was more ladder climbing for me, attaching an assortment of devices to the net.
"What is this?" I asked when he gave me the vicious former sandal with instructions to hang it from the lamp and connect it to the net with a wire.
"Death-ray-jelly converter. The death-rays are sucked into the net by the ray-suckers," he pointed to the former spoon baits, "then they're conducted through the net, down the wire and, twap, into the death-ray-jelly converter where they're converted into globs of green jelly."
I eyed the floor; it was easy to imagine a death-ray's worth of green jelly on it. "You mind if I put a bucket under this?"
He thought it over for a moment before he nodded. "You can do that."
"Good." I hung the death-ray-jelly converter into place and climbed down.
Chris looked around the room and smiled to himself. I fetched a bucket and put it in place before getting glasses of orange juice for the opening ceremony.
"To the Anti Alien Alliance," he smiled and held up his glass.
"To... Hey, I don't want to be involved in an alliance."
"Well, you already are." His grin was wicked.
"I was just following orders!"
"Too late, Mikkel. They know who you are now."
"What? But..." I was too outraged to talk quickly.
"You! Leaving me to sleep outside the cover of the defense! That's no frigging alliance!"
He grinned and drank his juice.
Something woke me up.
Someone was in the room with me. For a moment panic seized me.
The door was open and in the light from the hallway, I could see Chris rummaging through the top drawer. He was naked except from the towel around his waist and the light caught in droplets on his shoulder. Seeing him did a lot to calm me and I watched the movements of the muscles in his back for a while. He found the T-shirt he wanted, closed the drawer quietly, pulled out the next one and began looking through my underwear. Something caught his attention. He pulled out the small psychedelic patterned bag that Peter had given me long ago. Chris turned towards the light to see. Obviously the black and the white angel in him were having a heated debate. The black one won, maybe hoping for some weed, and he opened the bag and looked at the condoms and lube that were the contents. He grinned and closed the bag again before putting it back into the drawer. It didn't take him long to go through my underwear since it was the boxers and not the briefs he was after. That left him with two pairs to choose between.
"There is a dirty pair in the hamper if you are into that kind of thing."
He jumped and smiled; unfortunately the jump didn't shake the towel one bit. "Hi, sorry. Didn't mean to wake you. These are fine, thank you." He waved the smallest pair at me and pushed the drawer in.
It wasn't difficult to guess what had happened. I listened for the sound of the washing machine and sure enough - there was the characteristic faint rumble of both washing machine and dryer.
Which definitely wasn't good, the machines being in the room adjacent to Toms.
"Oops!" I got out of bed in a hurry. Thinking that perhaps I could make it to the machines before the beast woke.
"What?" asked Chris.
"The were-bear.." Too late. Tom's door opened just when I entered the hallway.
It stared at me with malevolently burning eyes and growled. I backed up and bumped into Chris.
"Um. Eh. Hi..." I found myself waving stupidly and knitted my hands behind my back. "I was just going to turn it off. Sorry. You can go back to bed. Just give me a sec and quiet will be restored. Promise."
It glared at me and then at Chris. "Put some clothes on," the beast growled and turned. It stopped for a moment, eyeing the outer perimeter sentry by the door to the dogs' den. It shook its head, likely only seeing the foil wrapped teddy bear with wires for antennae; it growled softly and went back to its room slamming the door shut behind it. I hurried to the bathroom and turned both the dryer and the washing machine off.
"Man," said Chris in a soft voice full of admiration. "That was Tom?"
"Yes." I pulled the clothes out of the dryer. "Well, we are still alive. We should be happy."
He took the clothes from me and flung them over the washing-line.
That hard body of his, stretching and shifting when he hung the clothes up trapped my attention. He was a little soft around the middle, the skin looked warm, like it really longed for caresses. The brown nipples were surrounded by a thin growth of black hair. Maybe a lick, just a little one; nibble a nipple, just once, like real quick. Right, and then run like hell.
I held my breath hypnotized by the towel that slid further down his hips, threatening to come loose. The love trail! Yes!
"You're doing it again. Goof."
"Yes, I am." I shook myself. There was laughter in his eyes. Good. He was going to need a lot of humor around me if he continued running around dressed only in a towel and with diamonds sparkling on his naked shoulders.
"I thought I could just, you know, fix things and go back to sleep." His gaze fell on my crotch; his eyes widened and his gaze flicked back to my face. Surprised?
I shrugged, surprised by his surprise. "How's Busta?" I picked up a blanket that was already folded, unfolded it and began folding it. Well, I had to do something.
"He had a nightmare and peed on me so I put him back with his ma." Chris tightened the towel. "You think he's gonna have a lot of nightmares from what happened?"
"It's likely she'll have some. She'll be okay."
He frowned. "Where do I find the sheets?"
"In the closets in the hallway." He followed me, closing the door quietly behind us. "Here. There are blankets in the next one. You need pillows too?"
"No, just sheets and a blanket. I can fix this. You go back to sleep."
I did and made it through the rest of the night without any strange wake up calls.
* * * * *
End of chapter