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.
"It would be funny if people said, ''N Sync is so awful -- they have bad grammar, they stay up after their bedtimes and the ones over 21 drink alcohol.' Yeah, we're evil, rotten to the core! Once, I got a box of cereal and went straight to the prize -- I didn't even wait for it to fall into the bowl."
Thank you N :-)
And W - if you're still waiting outside the cleaners: Duck! I hope you like this one even if it's not the customer you have been waiting for.
Thanks to Christopher and lots of good luck wishes to Paul and the rest of you who are battling finals and midterm.
Hope you enjoy this. Please, let me know if you have any questions or comments. (Or let me know if you don't.) Your response is really appreciated.
Hugs from Morgenfryd
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The Tail of the Tiger, chapter 6
There were snores. I could hear them faintly through the closed door. None of them sounded human, though. The outer perimeter sentry stayed silent, forbidding in its silver wrapping. Quietly I opened the door. Not that the attempt at quiet would do much good because the dogs surely would wake and then wake up Chris once they saw me; it was well past the usual time of breakfast. But it still gave me about two seconds of Chris watching before they came alive.
He was fast asleep, on his side, one arm around the pillow. The braids spilled over the pillow like sleeping thin snakes with white heads. He looked really comfortable even though Leika and Frida had taken over half the mattress and were partly on top of him. Of course, with him it could be because of it.
Pugs really like their breakfast. Leika and Frida both got out of bed in a hurry and with no regard to the well-being of their human bed warmer. Chris gave a grunt. The pups and Violet started on their welcome of breakfast as well.
I got a grunt in response, a good-natured one, not at all like the dangerous morning sounds of Tom's. I fed the dogs and opened the doors so that they could get outside. As long as the rain kept pouring like it did, they would only be outside just long enough to turn their paws into little rubber stamps that would leave brown prints everywhere. Like on Chris and on his sheets.
His sleepy brown eyes had been following the dogs and me milling about. I thought I saw a question forming in them. "She's fine. No fever, she's her usual obnoxious self. No jelly in the bucket under the death-ray-jelly-converter. Do you want a mug of coffee?"
He yawned and nodded, so I went and got it for him. He moved about and got into a sitting position. My T-shirt looked huge on him.
"It's a little past seven. Do you have to be out of here at any set time?"
"Mm." He drank his coffee, looking like there was a really sluggish thinking process going on. "Around nine."
That was time enough for his clothes to go in dryer when Tom got out of bed. "Good. Paul will be in for breakfast around eight."
I left him to his coffee and the stamp pad gang.
I was opening the oven to put in the first batch of buns when he came bounding into the kitchen, stopping to see what I was doing, looking all cuddly in my T-shirt that reached him almost to mid-thigh. Nice legs. I had never before noticed the charm of bowed legs. The T-shirt was damp from the braids that hadn't escaped the shower, and it had acquired a whole new pattern of brownish smears and neat paw prints in two sizes.
"Is it safe to start the dryer?" he asked and took a sip of my coffee. He grimaced and put it back on the counter.
"No. But the preliminaries can begin, I think. Let Leika and Frida into Tom's room, wait five, bring him a mug of coffee. Wait another five and then you can start the dryer; just make sure to tell him you are going to do it."
"I already let the dogs into his room; they looked like they wanted to." He grinned. "Pugs on a diplomatic mission, huh."
"They are the experts." I prepared Tom's coffee and handed it to Chris. He balanced off with it and I began setting the table. I thought I heard a sound from the outside and, yes, we had gotten the paper like Tom had been promised when he ordered it.
"Is there anything I can do?" Chris asked coming down the five steps.
"Get the cereal and the jam." I went to fetch the paper, wondering what kind it would be. Probably one with a huge sport's section. It was.
When I came back, Chris was still by the cupboard. He had all four kinds of cereal out on the counter and he was busy looking into one of the new boxes. For what? Hopefully not for cockroaches or other creepy-crawlies; though, I could not fathom why else anybody would be staring into a box of cereal like he did. "Anything wrong?"
"No, no. Just looking for the price."
"Price? The magnetic stripes are on the outside..."
"Pri-ze." He stuck his hand into the box and pulled a piece of cardboard out and waved it triumphantly at me. It looked like a picture card and I understood. Tom had an affinity for those too. Chris reached for the last unopened box and got the prize from that one as well.
He studied them; absentmindedly, tearing the bag in one box open and eating a bit of cereal.
He got a handfull of cereal from the other box as well.
"Is this a bear?" He came over and held out the card. "Or is it a fat dog?"
I took the card and I tried to decide what kind of animal had modelled for the over-cutified picture. "A teddy-rat?"
"Teddy-rat." He took the card back to study it again. "Yeah, could be."
He smelled good. Clean and-
"You don't want to know why. Do you want bacon and eggs for breakfast? There are buns and cereal too."
"Sure. I'll take it all."
I wish! I went over to the stove and got the frying pan out. "So, what's up today? Another photoshoot?"
"No." He appeared at my elbow. Stood leaning against the fridge, watching me cut the bacon. "Gonna pick up Dani in the airport."
"Yeah? Going to work on the concept?"
"Yeah. She wants to talk about money or something boring like that."
I grinned and nodded, knowing he was far more competent than he let on and that they had some serious planning to do. He was eyeing the growing pile of slices of bacon. I was sure that in a moment there would be a quick hand near the knife. I pushed the pile away from the area where the cutting was going on.
Chris was experimenting with my coffee again. It still made him grimace. He took a slice of the raw bacon and bit into it.
Two minutes later, he was pouring sugar into my coffee, eating bacon, and looking at the two prizes, all at the same time. I forgot about cutting the bacon.
Still engaged in the other activities he got the milk out of the fridge and poured enough of it into the mug to cool the solution to less than body temperature. Was he really going to drink that?
Chris tasted the coffee - and grimaced. Which was a relief, at least that showed there were some remnants of taste buds left. I was able to continue the cutting for two entire slices.
Then Chris put the mug in the microwave oven. I was sure he was he was doing it just to tease me and grinned to myself.
He turned the oven on and rested his elbows on the counter, chewing the last bite of bacon and apparently getting bits stuck in the braces on the inner side of his teeth which made for some interesting facial exercises. He was alternating between watching the mug turn inside the oven and looking at the prizes. Of course, he could have decided to heat the coffee just to see the mug rotate.
I had a delicious view of his backside and legs. One could see a strip of boxers; they were the checkered boxers Peter had given me two Christmases ago. Did Chris know what he was doing? Look at the nice round globes pushing at the cloth! Look! Nice legs, lick...
The back door slammed. It had to be Paul arriving.
Chris went over to the door to the small entranceway. I could hear him and Paul say good morning.
The microwave oven pinged, like it was my signal to say "Hi Paul."
"'Morning." Paul had come into the kitchen followed by Chris. Paul was rather red-faced. Maybe he had come on bicycle.
I got the frying pan going and another batch of buns into the oven. A fresh pot of coffee... I just had to check. Yes, he had really drunk some of the stuff. Chris caught me looking into the mug and smiled.
The shower was running so Tom was on his way up. Chris and Paul were finishing setting the table or rather Chris would set and Paul would re-set. It took a while for Paul to catch on or maybe he was just too shy to voice his protests. It was the frozen chicken that finally did it. Paul laughed and removed the chicken, the cayenne pepper, the pile of lemons, and the smoked fish from the breakfast table.
I enjoyed the company in the kitchen, the feeling of a house waking up. The pugs in Tom's bed would likely be asleep for a while yet, though.
Tom's "Good morning" was almost cheerful when he saw Paul. Chris grinned.
"Your clothes are dry," Tom said to Chris. I wished he had kept his mouth shut.
"Ok." Chris bounded off, braids swinging. A moment later, his voice rang through the house, "Mikkel - can I borrow your last pair of boxers?"
"Sure; you know where they are."
"I was so not going to ask why he left a wet pair of boxers on the floor," mumbled Tom.
The bacon was almost done and so were the eggs. "Paul, how do you want your bacon?"
He was red in the face again. Tom must have been teasing him while my back was turned. "Kind of soft?"
I nodded and piled bacon and eggs on a plate for him. Chris came bounding full speed through the kitchen and we almost collided when I was walking back to the stove. "How do you want it - soft or hard?"
"Your bacon - soft or hard?"
He turned and looked at the frying pan. "Looks fine to me."
"I think the word is 'crisp', not 'hard'," murmured Tom and poured cereal into his bowl.
I got the last buns out of the oven and brought Chris his plate and sat down with them. Tom was sifting through his cereal with his spoon.
"Coffee?" Chris asked brightly and poured for us all, keeping an eye on Tom out of the corner of his eye. Tom reached for the box of cereal and looked into it, frowning.
"Any of you had cereal?" Tom asked.
"No," I said and smeared butter on the bun.
Chris poured coffee into his half full mug and I shivered; he noticed the shiver and sent me a grin.
Tom poured his bowl of cereal back in the box.
"What are you doing?" Paul asked him.
"Just felt like having the other kind." Tom looked over at Paul. "Changed my mind, you know."
Paul nodded, chewed, and swallowed. "How's Busta?"
"Fine." Chris smiled and sipped the solution in his mug. "He had a nightmare last night but he was full of it this morning. No fever."
Chris looked at me. "We are going to get wet when we walk them."
"We'll stick to doing a few things with them out on the patio, see if they are in the mood to learn new things. You all right with that?"
"Sure." He dug into his food, keeping a clandestine attention on Tom.
Tom was poking his second first serving of cereal. His frown was getting seriously deep. Paul with puzzlement on his face watched Tom pick up the other box. Chris' eyes sparkled.
I picked up the jam and put a good spoonful on my bun. "Tom, I was wondering, do you think you have time to talk with the woman across the street when it looks like they are awake over there?"
"Huh?" His nose was stuck inside the box.
"I think I damaged a couple of her roses. She may want new ones. I can talk with her tonight if you don't want to." I began eating.
After a moment, Tom got out of the box and glared at me with accusation written all over his face. "You took the prizes."
I shook my head and Tom's glare swung like a heavy beam; it landed on Chris who smiled brightly and after a moment under Tom's dark scrutiny pulled the prizes from his back pocket and handed them over. "You want these?"
Tom took the cards and looked at them for a moment before turning his attention back to Chris. "They are supposed to be in the box. Like this." He carefully chose the card that went with that particular box and dumped it into the box. "See. Now it's in the box." He tilted the box. Chris stretched his neck to see and nodded. "The box isn't supposed to opened before somebody is going to have cereal." Tom deliberately closed the box. "You still watching?" Chris nodded earnestly, brown eyes twinkling behind the glasses and the edges of his mouth pulling upwards, one more than the other did. Paul was biting his lip to keep from laughing. Tom carefully opened the box again and checked that Chris was still with him before he poured the cereal into the bowl. The prize fell out as well. "Did you see it?"
"Yeah." Chris nodded and the braids clicked. He made a small motion with his hand. "It kind of... fell out. Into the bowl. With the cereal."
"Yes! That is exactly what happened. Now, look." Tom pointed to the bowl. "See that corner of the prize, right there? You can't see the rest of it because it's covered by cereal. Now. Watch closely." He waited for Chris' nod. If Chris watched any closer, he would be climbing into the bowl. "This, this is the way it should be revealed, from a bed of cereal, like this. Listen real close, the sound is important too." He slowly pulled the card from its cover of cereal, sending Chris a quick glance across the table. Chris was still watching, apparently fascinated. "That's the proper way to treat prizes." Tom gave Chris the cards back. Chris smiled and put them in his back pocket.
"Sure, I'll talk with her. There was a couple of kids we spoke to, they'll want to know what happened so I already planned on making the rounds." Tom got the milk and poured some over his cereal.
"I'll go with you." Paul bit into a piece of bacon.
"Leave the bill for the plants to me. Don't be stingy," said Chris.
Tom eyed him for a moment before he nodded.
I got myself another bun. "I need your shoe size, by the way."
"Eight and a half. Why?" Chris shoved food into his mouth.
Yet another of those weird ways of measuring things. I would have said he was a forty-one or a forty-two. "It's for the protectional foot gear. Pneumatic hammers can jump and walls will be going down..."
Paul was trying to sneak a peek under the table. He wasn't succeeding much with the sneak part and Tom was grinning.
"I get to use a pneumatic hammer? Like rrarratctct-rraaatctc-rrarratctct-rraaatctc?" Chris used his fork on the egg, emulating a pneumatic hammer and looked expectantly at me.
I nodded and his smile made my inside do like the butter on the bun - melt. At that moment I was ready to let him break up the living room floor, heck, let him take the kitchen floor too.
Tom grunted, "I wanted to do that."
"Sorry, you guys are the paint division." Never mind family connections.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Chris making faces at Tom. Paul was fighting a loosing battle against the bubbles of laughter coming up from his belly.
Leika and Frida had decided to get out of bed and came trundling into the kitchen. With four sets of feet under the table, they had plenty to choose from when looking for a foot to lay on.
When we finished eating Tom found the paper and I removed the empty plates so that the three of them could read the sports section. Together.
'Together' as in hands slapping, pushes and head locks. I found the section with comics and sat down to read.
A headline in their part of the newspaper caught my attention. There really was only one way I could get to it. I waited for my chance, and tore it out when Paul was holding Tom in a headlock so that he and Chris could finish reading about some team out of Pittsburgh. Tom hadn't wanted to wait for them to finish looking at the picture.
The room fell ominously quiet. Three pairs of wide eyes looked at me.
"What do you think you are doing?" Tom straightened when Paul let go of him.
Paul turned the torn page in the newspaper to check the leftovers of the backside of my article.
"Reading the paper." I flattened the paper slip on the table so that it would be easier to read.
Chris looked the slip. "Water polo?"
"That", murmured Paul considering the torn page, "was the interview with Bill Cowher. Look, he took almost half of it."
"Actually, it's about water polo," I tried but they all ignored me to look at their part of the evidence.
"He took half an interview with Cowher?" Chris touched the ripped edge. "Man! You see that? Half an interview with Bill Cowher!"
"Yeah..." Tom's growl was menacing and full of threats.
Chris took his glasses off.
It had been a really bad idea to sit down when both Chris and Tom were standing.
I made it just inside the living room. Then they were on me, all three of them. Chris wrapped around my legs, Tom on top of me, and Paul neatly plucking the article out of my hand.
The tickling really wasn't necessary, I mean, they had their half article.
They didn't stop until I lay totally dissolved on the floor. Chris putting his foot on my belly, hammering his chest and giving a fair imitation of Tarzan's primal scream did a lot to make me feel better. He stopped all too quickly.
"Skidderikker... Hundehoder... Buggers." I was gasping; it was an effort getting into sitting position and swearing at the same time. Tom grinned and gave the back of my head a slap and went back into the kitchen with Paul, brandishing the article.
Chris hadn't finished enjoying the victory. He was grinning down at me, so full of triumph it was visibly pouring out of his skin in the way of the worst of winners, prancing even when he was standing. Leika and Frida dared come over sniffing me. "Yes, it's an evil pack...." I scratched them. They wagged their tails and ran after Tom and Paul, probably to make sure that everything was all right with them too.
"Evil? You tore up an interview with Cowher. That's like book burning. Heresy, man." Chris poked me with his foot. "You only got what you deserved. Well, almost." Another poke. "We really should hang you by the nipples from a pole in the driveway for all to see and despise." Poke, poke.
Why did he have to involve Tom, Paul, and the rest of the community in that project? I gave his ankle a push while the other foot was off the floor in mid-poke.
He landed right on top of me.
There is a lot heavy material in Chris. There has to be; after all, he is carrying an entire universe inside, stars, black holes, nebulae and everything. For a short moment, I was sucked into the velvet darkness. Then he swore and rolled off me, sending me a withering glare while he got to his feet.
Ask him for a hug? Poles in the driveway indeed. I rolled to my feet. That I could do, achingly. "I'm going to train the pups. You want to come?"
He relaxed visibly and nodded, sending me a smile as if nothing had happened.
* * * * * * *
It was dark. I hadn't intended to be this late but one of the machines in the workshop had given trouble. I drove with the window open. The car reeked of the oil on my clothes and my sweat. But the door and the doorframe were finished. Miguel would bring them over in a couple of days, when the glue was dry .
Everything was in place for me to do some slave driving the following day. Miguel, who at the moment had the role of a rescuer, would bring over a truck load of tools and materials the following morning.
Tom had left the light on in the driveway. Paul's car was there and I parked next to it not bothering with opening the garage.
Stiffly I got out of the car. There was stuff in it that had to be carried inside; I would just take what I could carry and let the rest wait for tomorrow, or, at least until I had eaten. That was probably why I felt so weak; I hadn't eaten properly since lunch.
"Hi, Mikkel." Tom came out of the kitchen door and helped me get things from the car. "You are late. Did everything work out?"
"Yes. The planing machine acted up, that's why I am late. I had to fix it. Man, I'm hungry."
"There are Chinese leftovers. We ordered out."
Tom shifted. "There is something you should know.."
"Chris came by.."
"He's here now?"
He should be with his friend Dani talking about boring money.
"Yeah. He took a cab. He's been potty training the pups."
Potty training the pups? This was bad. He had told me he didn't see Dani as often as he liked.
"Chris cooked. Sort of, I mean.."
"He burned one of the pots while he was on the phone with Granny; the kitchen still reeks."
"Burned? Like in a fire?" Blast, why did I have to worry when he wasn't going to let me?
"No, not that bad, though I suppose the smoke alarm ought to have started, now I think about it. I really should have kept an eye on him... I'm sorry."
"Hey, things happen. You have to admit life isn't boring around him." I followed him up the steps to the patio. He was right. It reeked from inside and I hadn't even reached the doorway yet.
"It has occurred to me. I still haven't figured out the point of conspiracy he was trying to tell me about. He was pretty pissed that I tidied up the dogs' den."
"I did. Don't you start too!"
"Well, I guess that leaves you to do the slaving if he wants the defence system up again." I couldn't help wrinkling my nose when the smell settled in my nostrils. Tom grinned ruefully at me and put down the grocery bags before he took the stairs to the basement, favouring his leg a little. "What did he, ah, cook?"
"Chili con carne."
As we descended the stairs, it became apparent that a lot of the smoke had made it down into the basement.
"We got the true story after it burned."
"Uhu. He has driven all the bad spirits out of the house and that was what it was all about. No more gates that 'accidentally' open."
"Judging by the smell he must have been driving spirits out by the truck load. Does he expect keeping them at a thirty kilometre distance on a permanent basis or something like that?"
Tom snorted. "You ask him. Considering that I'm under suspicion of being on the wrong side in the Alien Conspiracy I'm surprised he would admit to practising voodoo in my grandmother's house at all. I doubt I'll get the details."
I laughed. We put the stuff away in the proper piles and walked back upstairs.
"Go wash," Tom said. "I'll take your food to the patio in the back. You can take a proper shower afterwards."
That earned me one of Toms 'pats' on the shoulder. "Hey, some times it's your turn."
I did as I was told, not at all minding taking my turn.
Someone had been in the shower recently. Maybe the same somebody who had left a faint smell of carbonized chili con carne in the room. Pleasant pictures of Chris in the shower popped up in my head. He had looked good in a towel.
I filled the sink with water and washed enough to remove the worst smell. The oil took some scrubbing. So did the sink after I had finished washing.
They had made themselves cozy on the patio. Chris and Paul greeted me cheerfully. Tom pushed a full plate and a bowl of salad my way and I was pretty much out of the conversation while I inhaled the contents.
Not that I could have brought anything to the conversation other than stupid questions. They were talking about some kind of sport, using words that held no meaning for me. It had all of them going like fanatics, reminding me of Kurt, and the guys on the water polo-team when they talked soccer. Paul apparently had gotten over being star struck, not hesitating one bit gainsaying Chris. It wasn't until I polished off the plate that I found out it was about baseball. By then, my head had cleared remarkably and my blood had picked up speed. The evening picked up a renewed glow. I hadn't really recognized how much in need of fuel I was.
"You want more or are you ready for ice cream?" Tom asked me.
"Is there more of the hot stuff?"
He nodded and picked up the plate and bowl and walked back into the house. I leaned back and sipped my beer, listening to the incomprehensible discussion and perfectly content to watch the glowing faces of the combatants.
Another plate of food appeared in front of me. I could get used to that. This time I took my time tasting it.
"You don't like baseball?" Paul asked me at some point, apparently feeling bad about me not joining their discussion.
I smiled. "Don't know anything about it. Go on. I like listening."
"He's a European. They are into soccer and bicycle races." Tom lifted Frida unto his lap.
"Yeah?" Paul seemed a little at a loss.
"You play baseball?"
"He's one of the best on the school team," smiled Tom.
"Yeah? I was a captain when I was in high school." Chris smiled. "When is your next match?"
"Friday. You are so not going to be there," Paul said and turned crimson.
"I'll bring the guys." Chris smiled mischievously. "We'll be real supportive."
"I would faint." Paul said it with such conviction it made all of us laugh. There was a pleasant silence after the laughter had died out. The air was getting a little cool; it wouldn't be long before we had to go in or pull on more clothes.
"You finished what you wanted to finish?" Tom asked me.
I nodded. "All is set for the slave driving session tomorrow. How's your knee?"
"I hardly think about it anymore. I think it will be alright tomorrow."
I took a quick look at Paul to gauge his thoughts on this. He bit his lip but didn't comment. A so, so.
Tom changed the subject. "Paul and I talked with the neighbours about damages. A couple of Ms. Connigan's roses looked a little out of shape but she didn't want us to do anything about it. I figured we could send her a bouquet or something."
Chris shifted. "I'll take care of that." He didn't sound like there was room for much discussion.
"Fine." I nodded and pushed my plate away and leaned back.
"Thanks. I think I will take my shower first."
"Don't thank me. The Medicine Man conjured it."
The Medicine Man grinned unabashedly. The yellow lights on the porch caught in his glasses, the reflection mingling with the mischievous glitter in the brown eyes. "Me and my magic starter of self-inflicted body searches."
Mmm. Chris doing his own body search, dressed in a towel... A good reason for acquiring a cell phone.
Tom got up and collected the dishes. "Man, I wish you had used magic body search starter instead of... what ever you did to drive all the bad spirits out of the house."
Paul chuckled. "Hey, we got to visit Mrs. Werner's neighbours, they are really nice people. Why did you tell us that you were cooking?"
"I wanted to take them by surprise. Wham." Chris slapped his hands together making all of us jump and looked very satisfied with himself. "It should keep for a while." I hoped it would keep for a long time. Chris continued. "You should put up a totem."
A flash inside my head, a picture. I pondered it, turning it over in my mind until I knew I would remember it. "Would one above the front door do? One carved in wood?"
He nodded sagely. "As long as it has teeth."
"Oh, it will have." My voice was more fervent than I expected. "It will be very sinister towards evil spirits and friendly and welcoming to friends. I am going to steal your potato-idea."
He blinked and nodded. "Good." His voice rang hollowly. "My job here is done." He got up with the dignity of a great sage and continued with a totally different voice. "It's freezing cold out here. I'm going in."
Laughing all of us got up and tidied the patio. When the last chair was brought inside, I went to the door and whistled softly. The dogs came running; both those inside the house and those outside. So I sat down on the floor, stroking and scratching them, hoping they would connect my whistle with a good thing the next time I used it.
"Man, you're keeping them all to yourself out here." Chris said from behind me. I hadn't been aware he was watching.
"I think this pride is big enough for both of us." I picked up Aunt Green for a closer inspection. She had a scratch on her snout.
Chris plunked down on the floor next to me. "They are boring."
"Tom and Paul?"
"Yep. Doing school work again."
"Don't know what youth is coming to, huh. Not at all like I was a kid."
He grinned and began playing with Busta. The other pups weren't going to let Busta have the attention herself and joined the game. Aunt Green wriggled down from my lap. Chris' eyes followed her. "She has a scratch."
"Yes. I've never come up against this one before."
"A pup ramming random objects when it needs to brake?"
"Uhu. Quite a unique method I think. I'll have to ask Peter. Mormor hasn't heard of it either. How do you teach a pup to brake?"
"Yes, you really should mount little roller blades on her paws. She would be good. I mean, she already had the right attitude. Wrrom." He made a wrooming gesture with his arm and continued moving his arm wildly and saying odd sounds, illustrating the jumps and artistry of Aunt Green on roller blades. It was even better than the cobra. "She'll be the terror of the entire pug community."
"Of the entire neighbourhood. Imagine Aunt Green on her roller blades and Mormor in her wheelchair racing down the aisles at the shopping centre. Mormor whooping like a cowboy, waving her crutches, using a shelf with flour for random object..."
"Yeah... Aunt Green would be a real bad influence on your granny."
"Yes." I pondered the prospects.
Chris was studying Busta's paws and grinning to himself. No doubt all sorts of weird images were running through his brain. Busta wiggled free and ran to the other pups that had made a pile of snorting little wild beasts. Chris' eyes followed her wistfully.
I reached out and picked up Violet. She looked like she wouldn't mind some snuggling. I put her in his lap. He sent me a fleeting grin before pulling her close, burying his nose in her neck.
"Tom demolished the defense system." He spoke softly into the fur.
"I know. He told me. You want to put up another?"
"I don't think so." He did some more dog nuzzling and Violet was really getting into it. "He said I could stay the night."
"Good." Stay the night? "What happened, Chris?"
He shook his head once and without looking my way.
We sat a while in quiet. I began to believe he wanted a moment alone with the dogs. It definitely was not the time to push. The Zone was a hard barrier around him.
I got to my feet. "Shower time. I feel like a torn rag doll. I have sawdust all over."
"Wouldn't be so bad if you held your head still."
He sent me one of his 'innocent' smiles and turned his attention back to Violet.
I went to take my shower. Suddenly I couldn't wait to have the hot water wash the spinning thoughts in my still planning head into the drain. Some nights it just wouldn't stop. It stopped planning all right, but to take off in another direction, skittishly. Had I done right to leave Chris alone? I wasn't sure. Couldn't read him, but something was bugging him mightily.
Maybe I should get him good and thoroughly intoxicated, just to get his mind of what ever was riding him. We would regret it fiercely in the morning if we really got drunk, but it was the only thing I could think of. Not 'little black ones', that was clear enough. Spirits, stupid drinking games and proper hot chocolate. Very few people are aware of the power in chocolate. It had been a very good secret weapon against Peter's attacks of gloom and may work in this case too. There was a bar of good chocolate in the cupboard, unless a prowler had come by.
They may not like proper hot chocolate at all. Anyway, I would try.
I finished the shower and put on a pair of sweat pants, the ones Kamilla had forbidden me to wear in public. When I got into the kitchen, I could hear voices from the library, Chris was there too, Paul and Tom laughed at something he was saying. I went down the basement to fetch the ice cream from the freezer and to prowl the shelves of preserved foods in the small room under the staircase. There might be something interesting to pour over the ice cream.
I was roaming the freezer looking for the ice cream when I thought I heard yelling from upstairs. I straightened and listened. What is Chris up to now? Something had sounded off.
Then I heard a loud crash, dogs barked and a woman yelled "No! Frank!"
As I tore up the stairs I heard Chris and he sounded pissed, "Get the fuck out of here, you prick!" Another crash, and a woman's scream.
I flew through the kitchen. The door to the living room was still open. Through it I saw Chris rolling across the sofa, nimbly getting to his feet and turning towards the man that was on his way around the sofa, mean eyes fixed on Chris. Blood was running down one side of the man's face. When I reached the living room I became vaguely aware of Tom and Paul on the floor to my left and a whimpering somebody against the wall to my right. I didn't stop. "Watch her!" was all I had time for before impacting with Frank, taking him with my shoulder. The momentum of all ninety-odd kilograms of me carried both of us through the room; we slammed against the wall to the library. Picture frames splintered between the guy and the wall. I could feel his ribs give and he gave a woof as the air went out of his lungs. Which gave me time to get him down on the floor, me on top pinning him, locking his arms on his back.
"Fuck!" Chris voice made me dare a look in his direction just in time to see him throw himself against Jenny, tearing the handbag out of her hand and flinging it away before pinning her against the wall. Paul had gotten to his feet. He plucked the handbag out of the air. "Will somebody fucking check her pockets."
Paul passed the bag to Tom who was still sitting on the floor and went over to help Chris check Jenny's pockets. She was crying loudly.
Beneath me, Frank came alive. He was still out of his mind; his pain threshold was way up. He hadn't gotten his wind yet, and a bit of rough handling was enough. I tried to forget what it was doing to his shoulders.
"Shut up!" Chris snapped and Jenny fell almost silent, the wailing subsiding to half strangled sobs.
"If breaking his arms is the only way to get him under control then that is what I will do," I said, hoping that some kind of sense could make its way into Jenny's head. "Your wailing is only making him madder."
"Oh, God, please," she whispered.
I didn't dare look away from Frank. "Tom?"
He must have been checking her handbag. "You all right?"
"Yeah." There was the sound of him moving.
"Wait... Let me." Paul's voice moved across the room.
"She was clean," Chris said tightly, realising I was lacking information. "Tom is alright but battered. Paul, give Mikkel a hand with the guy or come over and keep an eye on this one."
"It's alright. I can stand," said Tom. What had happened to him? I wasn't going to ask, didn't want things to turn into a chat room. I wished Paul would hurry up.
"You-" that was Jenny.
"You've said enough!" roared Tom revealing the were-bear. Good. Maybe that would get Paul moving.
It certainly got Frank moving which was less good. He had begun swearing now, which may mean he was getting back into his head. Or just that he was getting his air back. The pain threshold seemed lower, though, so it was probably the first.
"Want me to help you break his arms?" Chris appeared next to us.
"Please, don't. Please!" said Jenny.
"Then talk him out of it." I was loosing patience. "You want to stay for tea or you want out of here?"
Chris took control of Frank's legs, lying down across them, grunting when Frank began writhing. In a moment I would have his arms torn off, two bloody stumps ... why the heck couldn't he just lay still.
"Frank, Frank, please, stop. Honey, they are going to let us go. Frank, please. Can you hear me? Oh, God. Frank..." Jenny talked, her voice coming closer. I hoped Paul was ready. Chris and I were busy...
'Going to let us go?' What was going on in her head? Finally Frank fell quiet. Listening to Jenny, I hoped. Then she was by us, with Paul watching over her. All her attention was on Frank. She got to her knees next to him, talking to him, touching his face. Tears were running down her own face but she was in control of herself, barely. Frank turned his head towards her and I thought I could see the madness gone from the eye... Yes.
I looked over my shoulder at Chris and gave him a nod. We rolled off Frank and came to our feet, leaving it to Jenny to help Frank into an upright if wobbly standing position. We stayed between them and Paul and Tom.
"Just get out," growled Tom and threw the handbag to his mother.
Frank hesitated, he sent Chris and me a glare, but followed on unsteady legs when Jenny pulled him towards the door. "Thank you," she whispered, which I found a very confusing thing to say.
Frida and Leika came running and gave the door a good bark once it had closed behind Jenny and Frank.
"Fuck," said Tom softly and hid his face in his hands. Paul was by him in an instant and had both arms around him.
Chris was staring at me, red sparks flickering in his eyes. The smouldering darkness emitted a kind of heat I did not want focused on me. He was angry. "I could've fixed that guy." He clenched his fists and was tense enough to electrify the air around him. "It was my fight, you obnoxious pile of alien knucklebone!"
Alien knucklebone? "The guy had like ten kilograms on you-"
"So what?! I could've fixed him! Butthead!"
Annoying little twit. "No frigging way am I going to let you go ten rounds in my granny's living room!" I was vaguely aware of Tom trying to say something to us.
"It was my fight, you oaf!"
"There wasn't time."
"Time!" Chris eyes became slits and he moved towards me. Poking my chest in time with the rhythm of his words. "You left me take on the woman! Asshole."
I was poking him right back before I knew it. "Listen, you meandering hedgehog! You want me to stop'n wait for people to reposition themselves? Hu? Like a frigging retake-"
"You could've moved your lazy ass around the furniture-"
Grrr. "No time! I left you with the one I thought was carrying a frigging gun. So you can frigging stop complaining about not being allowed to be fucking hero enough! "
He paused. "You thought she was carrying a gun?"
"Yes! Damn it. And there was no time to warn you shit."
"You turned your back on her! I can't believe it." He began poking my chest again. "You don't fucking turn your back on somebody carrying a gun. Idjit!" The snap made the walls ring.
Did he have to be stupid? "Well, you were there."
Chris blinked. I didn't know how to read the expression on his face. Most of the anger seemed to disappear. He frowned and looked down for a moment. When he looked up and caught sight of my face, he flung an irritated and very confusing "Stop that!" at me.
I dried my face with my hand and it came away wet. "It's just water. Idiot."
"It's coming out of your fucking tear ducts, man."
"I know! Don't be such a sissy about it."
His eyes warmed and he gave me a small crooked smile. "You did warn me."
"Yeah. It was enough."
There were shards of glass and china on the floor. And pug paws. Where did I put my mind? I picked up the nearest pug. Chris picked up the other.
Shards, paws, hurt - Tom?! He was standing with an arm around Paul who was staring at us somewhat dazedly. There was an entirely new bruise on the side of Tom's face. In a short while, he was going to have a colorful area around his eye. By some freaky luck, the old wound on his forehead hadn't sprung up. Paul had a scratch on his cheek.
"What damage did you take?"
"Nothing serious. Are you two finished?" Tom actually looked like he found Chris and me amusing. The wetness on Tom's cheeks likely didn't amuse Chris.
"Probably not. Let's go into the kitchen. I want the pugs out of here and I want a look at you two."
Tom limped, favoring the other leg this time. It looked like he had a sore side too. Paul moved smoothly. I had both of them sit down near the sink in the harsh light of the cooking area. Chris disappeared for a moment and came back wearing his glasses. He plonked down on the floor and called the dogs over for a paw check. Tom's limping was because of a bruise inflicted by one of the Chinese tables during his fall. No blood but it was really sore. He had another bruise in his side from his collision with a comfy chair; he insisted that no ribs were cracked.
"Your turn," Paul said to me when Tom had been equipped with an icepack for the eye and had slipped down to sit on the floor for dog therapy gently administered by Frida who had passed paw check.
"Yeah. You are bleeding on the floor. Sit by the corner and put your legs up on the table."
I sat down and got my feet up for inspection. Chris declared the dogs whole and sound. "Anybody not up for a drink?" he added and set Leika down by Tom.
He got no answers and opened the cupboard with the liquor.
"So what happened?" I asked, trying to ignore Paul's prodding at the sore spots when he cleaned the blood of my foot soles.
The silence dragged on for a moment. It was Chris that spoke up while getting out the bottle he wanted and glasses for the drinks. "We were in the back room, the library, looking through the music when the door bell rang. You know your granny has a really interesting record collection?"
"Actually, I don't enough of the artists to say."
"Well, she does, very mixed. Tom went to answer the door. I heard a woman ask him what he was doing here - she sounded pissed off. I didn't catch it all, it wasn't really coherent." He turned to the fridge and got the orange juice. "I followed Paul in into the living room. By then they were inside, they must have pushed Tom aside and just marched in." All of us looked at Tom, who nodded. "When they saw Paul they went crazy. Tom's mother yelled at him and then Frank went after him." Chris frowned and shook his head. Paul's face was a mask and he bit his lip. "Anyway, Tom went between and caught the blow. He took Paul with him when he fell. Crash down on the Chinese table. Frank was going for them again so I charged him. I got him a good one and was just getting ready to get another one in, and then you came canon balling and stole my fight. I could've fixed him." He sent me a glare before filling a bowl with ice from the ice machine.
Tom stared darkly at me. "What took you so long?"
Chris turned to stare menacingly at Tom.
"I was looking for ice cream, vanilla, in the freezer in the basement. Didn't hear anything before aunt Jenny started yelling for Frank to stop."
"I said no such thing. You were good, man," Tom told Chris who nodded and began mixing the drinks. "Vanilla... I put that one in the other freezer, the one in the fridge."
"That's probably why I couldn't find it in the freezer in the basement."
I hissed. What ever Paul was doing was smarting.
"I need a pair of tweezers," he murmured and I groaned. "Don't be a sissy," he replied, taking me totally by surprise and making me laugh.
I found out that having three guys staring at the soles of my feet can be a rather freaky experience. It didn't really make any difference that one of them was using only one eye.
"Jesus, it's huge," murmured guess-who. "It must be touching bone in there."
Tom elbowed him and grinned, shaking his head.
"Don't push," said Paul with the tweezers and dug in.
I closed my eyes. "I need that. Drink. Now. Never mind the... juice - av for fanden..."
"Sit still," mumbled the evil nurse.
"Wait a sec," Chris said. "We have an emergency situation here. He's talking Danish at us." Someone patted me on the head. I opened my eyes and found a smallish, masculine hand holding a glass of clear liquid right in front of my face. "Drink up." I gulped the schnapps down, lukewarm it burned in my throat, but it was a good burn.
"Just say when," said Paul.
I nodded; Chris was rubbing my shoulder. The sluggishness of the liquor in my blood set in and I took a deep breath, focusing on the touch on my shoulder. "When."
A strong hand gripped my ankle. The pain seemed to be going on forever. "I got it, two more to go..." Paul let me breathe for a moment. Then he nodded to Tom who gripped my ankle again. The evil nurse applied the tweezers. Fortunately, it didn't hurt as much having the last two glass splinters removed.
The hand disappeared from my shoulder, leaving me with an empty tingling spot.
Paul wiped my feet with disinfectant. "Better leave your feet up until this has stopped bleeding."
Suddenly it was very hard to sit still in one spot.
Chris handed out the drinks. Tom slid down on the floor to sit with the dogs; Paul hesitated then sat down too.
"What are you guys watchin'?" Chris plonked down on Tom's other side. "Ah, Big Foot and Bad Foot. Or is it still commercials?"
"Big Foot and Bad Foot, 'Holidays by the sink' part three." I tasted the drink; it wasn't as strong as I would have expected, a plain juice and vodka.
Chris smiled expectantly and watched my feet. And watched. "Hey, nothing is happening."
"Of course not. They have a really bad hangover from part two."
"We can't just sit here and watch your hung over feet."
I shrugged. "That's the way part three goes."
"Blast you two," murmured Tom. "Now I'm gonna sit here an watch Mikkel's stupid feet and wait for nothing to happen."
Paul sighed and rested his head against the door to the cupboard behind him.
"Did Frank and Jenny say anything about what they wanted?" I asked.
"They wanted to see Granny." Tom shrugged. "They got a surprise when they saw who opened the door. Heck, we all did..."
"I shouldn't have gone in there," murmured Paul. "That's when everything went out of control. It was so stupid..."
"What?" Chris leaned forwards to look at Paul. "We couldn't leave Tom alone with them, somebody had to help them find the door; he kept pointing them in the wrong direction."
"They might have left without starting a fucking fight. Mr. Collins went for me." Paul closed his eyes.
"Exactly, listen to yourself, he went for you. You didn't start nothing. He did."
"For all I know, if it hadn't been you then it might have been me. I don't know them anymore, my own fucking parents. Man, I was glad you were there, all of you. Even if Mikkel took his fucking time."
"Hiding in the basement, lurking and waiting to steal my fight. Sneaky bastard."
"Not going to get off that one soon, am I?"
"Nope. I carry grudges real well."
"I would never have guessed." I got up and sat down next to Paul.
"Paul - did you hear what they said?"
"You stole Chris' fight."
"Damn right, he did."
I tried to hold Paul's gaze but he slipped away. "You two need to talk."
"Really. Stupid stuff is another word for important stuff."
Paul looked at me with fearful questions in his eyes.
What ever made him look like that had to be important. "That too," I told him and his eyes widened in surprise.
"Back off, Mikkel," growled Tom and I lost sight of what was going on in Paul's expression because he turned his head to look at Tom.
"You need to tell him," I told Tom.
I shook my head. "I'm not fucking with you."
"I know. Say, aren't you ever wrong?"
Usually when it comes to the really important stuff. Lid on, I didn't need that now. "Sure."
"He stole my fight."
"Hear? The Medicine Man says I was wrong. Now, go talk."
Tom nodded; Paul and I helped him to his feet. "It's nothing! I'm just stiff." Right. They walked off towards the back. Tom called the dogs.
"Go to bed," I told them; they wagged their tails at the sound of 'bed' and ran after Tom.
"Well?" Chris folded his arms over his chest and watched me with glowing eyes.
"I'm waitin'," he said tightly. "Hey! Where you going?"
"To get a pair of shoes while you are busy waiting."
"Dude! You can't just walk off like that."
"I'm sorry about stealing your fight. All right?"
"You don't sound like you mean it. I want-"
I snapped. "You want me down on my knees, kissing your feet? Your ass? Fine. I'll do it, if it'll make you shut up about that fucking fight." I walked over to him and fell down on my knees.
He plunked down in front of me. "Hey?"
"I cannot get to your feet when you are sitting on them."
"I don't want you slobbering all over my favorite sneakers, man. Now, will you stop that!"
"It's just water."
"Yeah, it's coming out of the wrong tap and it ain't good for my sneakers." He reached out tentatively and put a hand on my shoulder.
There was no way I could stop the water works soon with him touching my shoulder like that. I sat back on my heels and dried my face with my arm. "I'm okay. I just don't like fights."
"Yeah? You put up a real mean one for somebody who doesn't like 'em."
"How else can I make them end quickly?"
"There is that. Well, you could, you know, run..."
"Dude." I wasn't sure what that word meant but the sound of it seemed appropriate. I could look it up later. "That won't make them stop."
Chris smiled his crooked smile. "So, you stop fights by butting in and beating up the guys?"
"Something like that." The light fell in way that made thethin platic straps around his straight white teeth cast shadows. For some reason I felt cheated, never having seen him with his 'own' teeth and never getting the chance either.
His eyes glittered. "I suppose that makes kind of sense when you really don't like fights."
I nodded. Now, why did he think it was funny? It made perfect sense to me. He opened his mouth. I recognized the wicked gleam in his eyes and just knew what was coming so I pushed him over.
I pulled the shoe off his foot.
Chris lay still, resting on his elbows and watching me. He wriggled his toes impatiently. "Well?"
It was a very nice foot. I set out to make sure he wouldn't complain that there hadn't been enough foot kissing.
He jumped when I got to the sole. Ticklish? The beautiful foot was ripped out of my grip. He scooted out off reach before I could get at the other foot and pull the sneaker off. I would have gone after him, but something in those black eyes of his made me check myself.
"Don't do that."
I touched my cheeks. They were dry. Oh? I picked up the shoe that I had pulled off and passed it to him before getting to my feet. "I'm going to put some foot gear on and start clearing the living room."
"We should video the room first." Chris was busy putting on the sneaker.
"True. Better not throw the debris out either."
He nodded and rose from the floor. "You got a video camera?"
"Yes. It's in the cupboard by the TV set. There are fresh tapes and batteries too."
"I'll find it."
I got socks and sneakers on and fetched work gloves and what empty boxes I could find in the basement. Seeing the red stains on the kitchen floor I remembered the stains on the carpet and got a bucket of water as well.
I put it all by the door to the living room and opened the door. Chris was in the door to the library, holding the camera in front of his face.
The room was a carnage. Over turned furniture, broken tables, one I hadn't even been aware of getting smashed when I manhandled Frank, and shards from broken glass and china ware everywhere. "Kors i himlen."
"What?" asked the man behind the camera.
"Guess I was too overloaded to take it all in before now. You finished filming?"
"Just started. I want to record some close-ups too. Did you know that almost all the photos on the library side of the wall fell down too?"
"No. Blast it. Can you start around the bloodstains? I'm going to see if I can get them off the carpet first thing."
"Yeah. The worst spot is over here." He went over to where Frank had lain with his split eyebrow against the floor. I tried to forget about the nausea and went to work once Chris had finished recording the area. It was just stains on a carpet, really.
Later, when the camera had been put away and we both were busy collecting shards and sorting repairables from the rest, Chris looked up from a pile of blue and white china. "How come I'm always working when I'm over here?"
"'Cause you always pop up at work time?"
"Yeah?" He returned his attention to the china. He was trying to find pieces that fit. "What do you like to do in your free time? Apart from work."
"Wood carving, water sports, mountain biking. What ever, really." I was sorting through the picture frames, separating them from the photographs. Most of the frames were beyond saving.
"Water sports? You're not talking about sex are you?"
"No. Water polo, windsurfing, water skiing, diving... that kind of thing. What do you like?"
"Lots of stuff. Go-carting. Roller blading, I used to do that a lot. Maybe we could go water skiing some time. That guy I told you about, the one with the boat, he has some pretty neat equipment for water skiing." He gently began putting the shards of blue and white china into a small box.
"I'd like that a lot. Go-carting would be fine too." When this week was over, I would likely be ready to shed my own skin. I would be ready for anything that had to do with outdoor games.
"What's your size in wet suits?"
"Eight and a half-" I never got around to tell him I had brought my own wet suit.
Paul was standing in the door. "You two shouldn't be doing this alone."
"Exactly," murmured Chris.
"Did you guys finish your talk?"
Paul reddened and smiled. "Yeah. I'm just going to make a call, then I'll come help."
"You do that."
Chris put the small box by the pile of repairables.
"Why that one?" I was curious. The vase had really been tacky.
"Well, I like it. Besides, I think I found all the pieces."
I nodded. There was a faint murmur from the kitchen. Apparently, Paul had reached who ever he would be calling this late.
"Anything else that needs sorting?"
"Just this pile here. I'll go talk with Tom for a minute."
"Sure. I'll catch Paul."
"Fine." I went to Tom's room.
I knocked and entered when I heard the murmur from inside. Tom turned towards me; he had been pulling the old, heavy desk out from the wall.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Looking for a phone jack. There must be one in here."
"Move away, let me." He stepped aside and I got the desk out far enough for us to take a look.
"Ha, I knew it. See there is one. I'm going to buy a phone."
I pushed the desk back. "So, how was your talk?"
"We talked. It was good. How did you know? Paul thinks you're a fucking mind reader now." Tom stiffly sat down on the bed.
"How did I know what?"
"That... You didn't, huh?"
I grinned and sat down next to him. "I just could see you both were too knotted up to listen to one another. So, what had you in such a knot?"
"Like you said it was stupid. Like, it's my fucking fault that Paul was outed when he wasn't ready for it and my fault that my parents hurt him. My mum did, you know, with what she said and it wasn't even true."
"What did she say?"
"That it was Paul that made me a fag. She called him 'evil'."
"He believes that?"
"Yes, no, well, in a way, some of the time; you know what I mean?"
I nodded. "I guess you're the same way with your guilt trip?"
Tom nodded. "Yeah. Stupid. And important, like you said. It's just..."
"Like, I mean, I know it's stupid, but still..."
"I know I am not my parents. They are responsible for their own fucking actions. But... It's just not that easy. I can't help feeling responsible."
"Yeah. I know that one. I have it with my mum."
Tom smiled. "For how long in a stupid way?"
"Ten years, more really. Hey, don't look to me. I'm a bad example."
Tom chuckled. "Well, family should take responsibility for family, well, I mean some responsibility. It's just..."
"Sometimes you have to let go. There is nothing you can do."
He nodded and frowned.
"Tom, what is it? Something is really bugging you."
He hesitated and leaned against me. I put an arm around him. "You know, when my fucking dad went for Paul... I could've gotten a good one in, a punch... but I just couldn't do it." He fell silent for a moment. I rubbed his shoulder. "If Chris hadn't been there... I don't think I could've stopped dad, even if I hadn't lost my fucking balance. Couldn't even have tried..." He swallowed and sighed irritatedly. "Stop that." He sounded almost like Chris.
I got the tissue papers from the nightstand. "That guy has so many twists, you don't want to learn from him. Here." I held the box so that he could pull out the amount he wanted.
He dried his face. The crying was not helping the swelling around his eye any. Then he looked quizzically at me. "Chris? Is anything wrong?"
"Yes. I just know something is wrong, not what it is."
"But he seems so, well, happy."
"You're the cheat-"
"I know - I stole his fight."
Tom smiled. "But?"
"Is all I know. Now, what bugs you so about not being able to beat your dad to pulp when you have the muscle for it?"
"I'm scared. You, know, fucking scared. What would have happened if Chris hadn't been there? Dad would have fucking beat up Paul, he's such a klutz in a fight... I would just-"
Whoa! It wasn't taps that were opened. It was a dam that broke. I sent my uncle dark thoughts while I held my cousin, then thinking better of it, I tried to figure out what to do next. The answer partially presented itself when the door was pushed open, revealing Chris and a teary Paul, holding hands.
Holding hands? Chris got a panicked look on his face when he saw Tom crying on my shoulder. Paul's gaze fixed on Tom and he let go of Chris' hand. I mouthed 'just water' at Chris who rolled his eyes at me.
Paul sat down at the other side of Tom and put a hand on his shoulder. "Tom? What happened?"
"Fucking mind reader." Tom sniffled and took Paul's hand in his while fumbling for tissue paper with the other.
Paul stared at me, clearly expecting me to explain.
"He could have gotten a punch in with Frank, only he couldn't make himself hit his dad. He said that if Chris hadn't been there, Frank would have gotten to you even if Tom hadn't lost his balance. He's scared that he cannot protect you like he thinks he should and that you will think less of him for it."
"I told you, my fight." Chris had stayed in the door, now he dared come closer.
"But - that's stupid!"
"Yeah. I'm sorry Paul. I..."
"Not, that, you oaf. Do I have to tattoo 'not your fault' on my forehead?"
Paul's outburst made Tom give a weak little chuckle. "Your mum would have a fit..."
"Yeah. So, you cannot hit your dad. It's fine; don't feel bad about that. Chris was there. Besides, you went between even when you knew you couldn't hit back. That's a very brave thing to do. You did what you could. Now, turn off the wrong tap. Okay? Tom?"
Tom sighed and raised his head to look at Paul. "Still..."
"Stupid," murmured Paul. And leaned forwards, eyes widening just before he made contact as if he really hadn't been thinking and it was too late to decide if he really dared. Kissing my cousin on the mouth and pulling back before Tom could shake himself out of the stun. Suddenly both of them were blushing a deep red.
"Wasn't that a bit quick?" asked Chris.
Paul and Tom stared at him.
"Mikkel? Too quick, won't you say."
"Yes. Definitely too quick. I think that maybe we should leave. We are disrupting their timing."
"But I wanna watch."
I got up. "You can ask for a show later."
Chris sent me a glare. It looked like 'later' was one of his hate-words. I grabbed him by the bunched braids and pulled him with me. "Hey! My do! Hands off, you barbarian." Two strong hands closed around my arm but more for balance than for anything else. "You heard 'em! It was my fight! I can watch! Let go of me you son of a-"
"Can't hear you. Tada, tada."
"-bratwurst und sauerkraut."
"Tsk, tsk." We had reached the hallway and I pulled the door close behind us. I let go off him and stepped away, keeping an eye on him, knowing perfectly well that I was likely to get a bruise or two. His head came up. Dark eyes flashed fiercely at me, he was ready to move in for an attack just as I had thought. Beautiful! Heavens, so beautiful! He didn't have to do a thing to knock me over but look at me like that. Except - "I think that maybe you don't want to come too close for a minute or two. All right?" How could I suddenly loose my voice like that? Beautiful! Shut up, tell him closer is good.
His eyes widened. "Man, you are weird," he said softly.
I shrugged. "I think not."
He grinned and shook his head. "Sorry, man. Not my style."
"Oh, well. Suppose I can't be lucky every-"
"You are going to put me to work again."
"Damned good guesser." I turned and he followed me to the living room.
"Are the two minutes up?"
"Are you going to tell me when they are?"
We had just started on the shard picking when Chris straightened, remembering something. "Paul's dad."
"Paul's dad - what about him?"
"He threw a fit when Paul talked with him on the phone. That's why Paul freaked. His mum made it a bit better but his dad still hurt him."
"You know, I'm frigging tired of impossible dads."
Chris grinned. "Paul's mum promised to make sure her husband didn't come over."
"Did Paul tell what his father said?"
"Told him to come home and stop seeing Tom altogether."
"Perfect. This one is mine."
"What! No way. No way! You owe me one and I didn't get to watch, blockhead. He's mine. Shut up and work."
"That's the way."
We finished the shard picking in the living room. Chris moved into the library to continue the shard picking while I got the vacuum cleaner and started vacuum cleaning the furniture.
I was well into the comfy chair that had gotten Tom in the side when Chris tried to sneak past me. I saw his shadow on the carpet. Figuring that he had finished shard picking and was up for some interesting mischief I acted as if I hadn't noticed. Then a draft told me that the front door had been opened and I turned the vacuum cleaner off in a hurry.
Mischief indeed; I could hear voices and one was pretty loud and it wasn't Chris'. "I want my son, now!"
Great, just great. Late again.
I stormed after Chris.
"Well, you can come in - but no yelling." Chris actually sounded almost pleasant, standing in the door, blocking it, whether it was for me or the fellow outside wasn't exactly clear. I looked over Chris at the man standing on the patio. He was red in the face and rage burned in his eyes.
There was no way he would be good for Paul, not while he was in that angry mood. There was no patience left in me. "I am having no more parents acting like screaming monkeys and hurting their children in this house!"
The man stared at me and some of the anger seemed to go out of him to be replaced with fear.
Chris poked me with an elbow. "He's mine, now shut up."
The man blinked at Chris, suddenly he seemed much less sure of the situation. "Just send Paul out here. I'll wait."
"No, no. You can come in and listen to the whole story. "
He poked me. "Go talk with Paul. Tell him his dad is here. Ask him if he wants to see him."
"He's mine, now off with you. Diplomatic mission."
I growled but did what he asked, knowing I was too angry to be smart. I heard Chris behind me. "So, do you wanna come in for a beer and the whole story?"
A beer? Perhaps some of the parts in the male bonding rituals on this side of the Atlantic were pretty much like those at home. What was the little imp doing?
Diplomatic mission. Right. Stupid me.
I knocked on Tom's door and waited for his response before I slipped in. They were on the bed, sitting and not touching. Both they and the bed had a rumbled look. "Sorry for disturbing." I should have waited, letting them have a few minutes more, there was not that much of a hurry, really. Too late.
"What is it?" asked Tom tensely.
"Paul, your dad is here-"
"Yes. Chris is going diplomat on him at the moment, it'll be all right."
Tom frowned. "Chris diplomat?"
"He's good at it," murmured Paul.
Tom didn't look convinced. "He took the prizes-"
"He said I should ask you if you wanted to speak with your dad."
"I-I suppose I better." He made as if to get up.
"You can wait, let Chris have a few more minutes with him, making sure he won't yell."
Paul blinked. "He probably will when he sees me, anyway."
Paul smiled a little. "Yeah."
"You guys good for now?"
Paul smiled and nodded.
"Yeah. Tell Paul that you-"
"-cannot read minds. Well, I can't."
Tom rolled his eyes and Paul stared at me. "You can! I knew it."
"Really, I cannot."
"Then how did you know...?"
"I didn't know what you were thinking. I could just see that you and Tom weren't communicating."
"Oh." He didn't look convinced.
"Look, Tom's parents had just attacked you most wickedly and Tom had gotten hurt too. There is bound to be something to work through when something like that happens to boyfriends."
They both turned red.
"Or what ever you two are. All right? No mystery, just common sense."
"I'll come get you, when Chris says to."
He nodded and I left them to cuddle in peace. Just as the door closed, I heard Paul. "But how did he know what you were going to say?" Tom groaned.
I took a trip to the bathroom before getting myself a beer from the fridge. The door to the living room was ajar and I could hear Chris and Paul's dad talking.
Chris was busy being diplomatic. "... so I punched the bugger and I got him real good. You know, he was bleeding from that one."
Mr. Peterson sounded almost happy. "He was bleeding?"
"Yep. Like a pig; split his eyebrow, the blood was running down his face. I was circling him to get in another, going for the other eye, you know, to blind him. Tom's mum was standing over there wailing."
"What happened then, did you get him?"
I moved over to the door and looked in. They were standing in the middle of the living room and drinking a beer.
Chris shook his head. "No."
"No. Mikkel had heard us and he came running from the kitchen and he picked up Frank, right around here", Chris waved his hand, "and kept on running, right through the room until they got to the wall at the end, and then he squashed Frank against the wall and flung to the floor, like wham wham, and sat down on him. End of game... I was, like, all set on that punch, had it all planned, you know, and that big oaf just picked up my target and ran off with it and squashed it." He stared indignantly at me. "You stole my fight."
I shrugged and sipped my beer, fighting nausea.
Chris watched me for a moment, then he smirked and turned his attention back to Mr. Peterson. "Mikkel had Franks arms like this, well, something like this," Chris set his beer on the table and imitated the awkward position of Frank's arms. "Every time Frank made a move Mikkel pulled them like, man, this hurts, like this, only real hard." Mr. Peterson nodded encouragingly. "There's a mark on the wall and we couldn't get all Franks blood of the carpet either. Wanna see?"
"Sure." Mr. Peterson inspected the damages carefully and hunkered down to touch the stain on the carpet. He rose and looked at me with an odd expression on his face. "What's your weight?"
I sipped more beer. What was this about? "My weight? Nine... about a hundred and ninety."
They were both staring at me. I felt like a farm animal on the sales block. Though, I didn't mind the way Chris' gaze traveled down me, no, I didn't, not at all, didn't mind the way his darkened gaze seemed to be stuck a little lower than midway before it flicked up to my face. Our eyes met. His eyes glittered, and then he sent me an impish grin.
"Football team?" asked Mr. Peterson.
I was saved from the sales block by the phone. Mr. Peterson went white. "That's probably my wife."
I went and picked the phone off the hook. "Yes?"
"Mikkel? This is Kate, Kate Peterson, I'm sorry for calling this late. Is my husband there?"
"Yes, he's here. He's talking with Chris."
"Paul is fine, still a little shook up but fine. Chris wanted to tell your husband the detailed version of what happened before we let him see Paul. They are inspecting the living room."
"It's very civilized." Admittedly, the diplomatic corps did appear rather bloodthirsty. She didn't need to know that.
"Thank God... Can I talk with him, please?"
"Certainly, just a moment."
I put down the phone and went into the living room. "Kate wants to talk with you."
"Ah. Right. Excuse me." Mr. Peterson put his beer down and hurried into the kitchen, closing the door behind him.
"Looks like your plan is working," I said to Chris.
He smiled and nodded. "What about Paul?"
"He'll talk with his dad."
"You got at good show?"
"I'm still sweating."
"Yeah? What were they doing?"
"It's a bit outside my vocabulary... I can show you, though."
"Dude!" He made a face at me, rolling his eyes. Then the eyes found their customary position and he frowned. "Say, do you mind if I tell Paul that you are gay?"
"I'm sure he already knows."
"No, not that Paul, daddy-Paul."
"Daddy-Paul? They have the same name?"
"Yeah." Chris didn't look like there was anything odd in that.
"Oh, you can tell him. It's not like it's important or secret. They really have the same name?"
"I'm sure they figured it out."
"It makes me confused."
"Oh. Now, that's surprising."
I was not hearing the sarcasm in that, not! "Yes." I walked over to the table and put the empty bottle next to Daddy-Paul's. Chris eyed me warily, I wasn't looking at him but I could feel it. The imp was just outside my reach... I tried anyway. I can be quick, too.
I had caught him in a headlock and almost let him go in sheer surprise over the success. It was only the conviction that it wouldn't be that easy the next time that made me hold on. "Listen, Punk." Feels good, warm and- "No more talk about Frank hurting, you understand?" He struggled to pull free; I knocked him on the head. "Anybody in there? Audio sensor check; please answer."
"I can see the stains from here. Did you see the stains? Ouch!"
That last part sounded sincere enough for me to let go of him. "Sorry, are you-" was about as far as I got before he had me in a headlock. "Devious imp!"
He chuckled, warm breath touching my cheek. Strong arm around my neck, never mind the pain, his body was pressing against mine, shifting... Yes! Feels good! "Stop that."
"I'm trying! Stop rubbing, damn it."
"Stop rubbing, right, no more rubbing," he murmured and stood still, very tense and ready to counter my moves, not letting his guard down for a split second. After a few breaths he asked, "Is it gone?"
"Not quite." Nice, so nice...
"Hey, you're enjoying this!"
Smart fellow. "Always liked dominant men with- Eeek!"
Why do I have to be ticklish? Chris was, not surprisingly, a master tickler.
Unfortunately, shortly after, Daddy-Paul saved me. Chris let go of me when Daddy-Paul came back from the kitchen to stand in the door and watch us.
"Boys." He smiled.
I wondered if this, too, had been part of Chris' plan. He nodded to me and it was a thought or two before I realized he wasn't answering my question but telling me to go get Paul, Son-Paul, that was.
They were still in Tom's room, sitting on the bed and talking, not looking rumbled this time. Paul sent me a nervous look. I smiled to him. "Chris has it in hand. Coming?"
They both got up and followed me to the kitchen. Daddy-Paul looked at his son then at Tom, his eyes widening at the sight. He winced. "Your own dad did that?"
"Dad, what are you doing here?"
"I came to pick you up. Now your mum just told me to tell you good night and get out of here... How are you, Paul?"
"Oh, dad..." Paul went over and gave Daddy-Paul a hug.
Chris swore quietly to himself and went around the counter that separated the kitchen in two, heading for the cupboard with liquor. When Daddy-Paul called Tom over Chris swore again. I slapped him on the head and looked into the cupboard, not for the first time wondering at the huge selection of liquor that Mormor kept.
"Mikkel?" Chris nodded without looking at me. "Chris?" He nodded again, put two glasses on the counter and began looking through the selection. He pulled out a bottle from the furthest corner. "What's this?"
I looked at it, trying to make out the gothic letters. "I don't know. Some kind of German liquor. From Frisen, that's in the north."
"I figured that much out." He screwed the lid off and smelled the contents. He blinked a series of very rapid blinks. "Whoa. We gotta taste this."
"Can I see?"
He put the lid back on and passed me the bottle; I tried to make sense of the long German text on it.
"Well? Hurry up. Give me that bottle."
I turned away before he could grasp the bottle, reading part of it the second time to be sure I got it right. "I think we are supposed to set the stuff on fire before we drink it."
"You're kidding." He let his hand fall and leaned in, trying to read as well, not making it any easier for me to concentrate when reading out in a mumble, and pronouncing the German in a very creative way.
"Cold and fire... We have to wait for a snow storm..."
"Dude! This is Florida. Just check the part about the fire. How come we never had this when we were in Germany?"
"Da dum, da dum... Well, to get the full effect, it has to be served by a buxom blonde with braids tied around her head, like the one on the picture, see?" He cuffed me on the head. "Stop that. Look, she is carrying a tray of burning glasses into a candle lit room with a fire going in the fireplace. And there has to be a snowstorm outside, see the window? Says so in the text too." Another cuff. "You put the fire out before you drink it. Not the one in the fireplace-"
"You talk too much." He took the bottle out of my hands. "Got any matches?"
I found the matches while he poured the liquor. When I made to strike a match, he snatched both the box and the match out of my hands. "I wanna do this."
He held the burning match down in the glass and the vapors started burning with clear bluish flames. We watched them lick the air for a moment.
"On the bottle - did it say anything about how to put the fire out?"
"Not in the parts that I could understand."
"Guys, what..." Tom was watching us; the Pauls were standing behind him, watching as well.
Chris looked around a bit frantically. I picked the bottle up and held it over one of the glasses quenching the fire. He took the bottle from me and used it to put out the other. When he had put the bottle down he gingerly touched the edge of the glass with a finger; he hissed and pulled back his finger.
Daddy-Paul chuckled. "What is that stuff?"
"Fitzyblitzgeist or something like that. Some kind of German liquor. You have to burn it before you drink it." Chris frowned at his finger.
"You want one?" I asked Daddy-Paul.
"No thank you. I'm just leaving."
We followed him out and said goodbye.
"Thanks, Chris," murmured Paul while we watched the car roll out of the driveway.
"No, mine, really."
"Dude!" Chris waved him off and went inside.
Paul was looking at me with an oddly concentrated expression.
I shook my head. "Sorry, can't hear you. Are you two coming in?"
"Yeah." Tom slipped an arm around Paul's shoulder. "See, he can't."
Paul grinned shyly and looked down. "Maybe it's just as well," he mumbled.
"Yes. It's my cousin." I went inside. I could feel a blast of heat against my back, likely it was Paul turning red.
"Mikkel!" Tom sounded caught between laughter, outrage and embarrassment.
Chris was sniffing the liquor in one of the glasses; he looked up when he heard Tom. I shook my head and he grinned.
"How much needs to be done before we can go to bed?" asked Tom; he and Paul had followed me inside.
"Just the dogs and the beds. The living room can wait."
"I can fix the dogs," Chris sipped his liquor, sampling the taste with an unreadable expression on his face.
I picked up the other and downed the entire thing, which was how I had understood one should do for maximum effect. It was a roller coaster of the senses. The fiery-cold sensation of alcohol, menthol and something... petroleum, yes that was it, shot through my system. The oily consistency made sure to leave a coat on the taste buds so that the after-shock would stick around for a while.
I looked over at Chris and saw him empty his glass. For a short moment I feared that his eyes would pop out of his head. "Phew!" He grinned and shook himself like a dog shaking water out of its coat.
Paul plucked the glass out of my hand and sniffed it, then he picked up a leftover drop with his finger and licked it off. Tom was watching and swallowed when the pink tongue came out; it was difficult not to laugh. Paul grimaced, apparently totally oblivious of the effect he had on my cousin. "I can't believe you just poured this inside yourself."
"I can't either," murmured Chris. "You want one?"
Paul shook his head.
Tom was sniffing the glass. He wrinkled his nose. "It smells like petrochemical waste. No thanks, I'm sticking to chamomile tea."
* * * * * * *
I woke when a body landed heavily on me, trapping me beneath the sheets. Panic seized me for a moment. A "You stole my fight!" followed by a pillow slamming against my face took care of the panic, though my heart kept hammering, taking it's time to dump speed.
I could just make the silhouette of him in the weak light seeping in along the edges of the closed door to the hallway. "Chris?"
"Lie still. I'm not sitting here on top of you."
"No?" It sure felt like it, he was all warm and heavy, pressing me into the mattress. Strong legs were pressing my arms against my body.
"No. What am I doing here?"
"Need ideas?" I have some, I have some really good ones, like lick and -
He gave me another whack with the pillow. "No."
"Ah." What was going on here? "You brought a pillow?"
"Yes." He shifted a little; it sounded like he patted the pillow. "It's a very nice pillow. Very functional, you know."
"I noticed. There is a good whack in it." My heart had calmed down enough for the sensations of his presence to register properly. The sheet was a trap, holding me immobile under him; it was also a very thin membrane between his naked legs and my skin. He was wearing underwear and I wondered whose.
He chuckled and gave me another sample of the whack. "Yes. I'm taking it for a test run."
What did he want? I wished he had turned the light on before jumping me. Test run? Wake up, this is good! I wasn't sure I should trust my dick in this.
I tried to buck Chris off; he stuck like a bur and whacked me with the pillow. Finally, I managed freeing an arm and from there it got easier, not easy, just easier. Getting the other arm free and taking possession of the pillow earned me enough whacks to make my head spin. I added his pillow to my own pile of pillows and wrapped my arms around them all.
It was quiet for a moment. I had turned around, lying on my stomach, pillows under my head. Chris was sitting on my buttocks. Hey! I'm getting uncomfortable.
Make him wriggle! Take his pants off, there is nice naked skin inside them. "Mmm."
"You stole my pillow."
Now, why did that sound ominous? "Yes. Testing it. It's a pretty good pillow. Functional." It didn't really smell of Chris, more like soap powder, which was disappointing. I wriggled about enough to get my loud dick into a more comfortable position. More!
He wasn't crying, was he? Alarmed I snapped the light on and twisted around. No, no he wasn't crying. Phew!
He blinked at me and frowned. "What?"
"Just wanted to make sure you weren't carrying any secret weapons." I let my head fall back on my pile of pillows and held on to them. Maybe there was just a tiny trace of his smell on the pillow.
He poked my sides, making me jump. Determinedly I held on to my treasure.
"Give me back the pillow."
I pulled one out from the bottom of the pile, whacked myself with it and put it back in the pile.
"That wasn't my pillow."
"The testing is still going on." I had found a spot that smelled of Chris' cologne.
"Give it back, you moron. You have three pillows in that pile!" He poked my sides again.
I took a couple of breaths preparing myself. Then I pulled his pillow out and the grapple contest was on before I could whack myself.
It lasted until he lost his balance and fell against me, our dicks making hard and electric contact. I let go of the pillow, my arms folded around him, pulling him in closer, bodies sliding against one another, heat, hips thrusting...
He stiffened and pushed away. I let go. Noooo. He rolled out of the bed and stood panting on the floor. You let him go, idiot!
He clenched his fists. "Damn it! I'm twenty-six years old!"
I pulled myself up to sit. "Why is that important?"
He glared impatiently at me. "I'm too old for this."
I fluffed his pillow. "Too old for what?"
"For this kind of confusion."
"Yes? I don't think age is any guarantee against any kinds of confusion..."
He relaxed a little. "Man, I never thought I'd be a prick tease at twenty-six like some fucking virgin teenage girl..."
His, my, boxers were tenting out in front of him and I couldn't help smiling.
"It's not funny!" he snapped but his eyes glittered.
I bit my lip to keep from laughing, not at all sure what to do with the ache in my chest. "I know it isn't, it's just that... well, it is."
"What about the confusion?"
"What about it? You don't have tits."
I looked down myself. It was true what he said. "So?"
"It's confusing. I like tits."
"Hmm. You know, I think it would have been even more confusing if I had tits."
He eyed me. "Yeah. Guess it would look kind of odd with the hair."
"Maybe you like flatness and hair too."
"Yeah. Maybe I do." He chuckled and shook his head. "Man, at twenty-six."
"Chris, why did you come in here?"
"Pillow testing, I told you." He came over and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Give me that." He took the pillow out of my hands before I could give it to him.
"Couldn't sleep, huh?"
He hugged the pillow and shrugged.
For a moment, the world shifted and I found myself crossing one of my own old, misty and cold paths; my voice sounded odd as if I was speaking aloud into both the present and the past. "You want a good night story?" It wasn't icy blue eyes but surprised brown ones that held me and the past wrapped itself around the blue gaze, slipped away when Chris smiled.
"You offering to tell me a good night story?"
"Of course, if you want. Any requests?"
"Which one would you like to tell?"
"Which one..." I rolled out of bed and got into a pair of briefs and a T-shirt. "How about one of the old Norse myths - like Thor's Wedding?"
He grinned, looking a little shy. Beautiful! Should have held on to him, idiot. Which just might have barred me from ever having him look at me like that again. The cold from that realisation shut up my dick.
"Is there magic in it?"
"Magic? Well, Thor's hammer is there, though it's not until the very end, really."
Chris blinked. "He bashes his bride?"
"Tsk, tsk. You want to hear it properly?" I began straightening the sheet and blanket.
Chris got up and helped. "Sure."
We got under the sheet, laying on our sides and facing one another. Chris sent me an expectant smile and I began "Now, we are in the great hall in Bilskirner, Thor's home. Thor is in a really, really bad mood and his wife Sif is fed up with his grumpiness. You see, the giant Thrym has stolen Mjoelner, Thor's hammer, and..."
Chris fell asleep before the wedding. I watched him fight sleep, set on hearing the whole story. His eyelids got heavier and heavier. Finally the dark lashes settled against pale cheeks. He was hugging the pillow loosely and laying half way on his side. Beautiful, kiss... I pulled the sheet over his shoulder and turned the light off.
* * * * * * *