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    @WolfBearHybrid If you are patient, things will get way more interesting
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    The Missing Son 27 Patrick knocked on the door, then remembered the buzzer. He didn't have the time to consider pressing it. The door flew open and a small tiger latched himself to him. "Hi Arthur." He hugged him back. "I'm so glad you came back." "I'm sorry I hurt you." Arthur took a step back. He was only wearing knee length shorts. "It's not your fault, I'm just happy your here." Patrick looked in the hallway. no one was there. "Are you always the one who answers the door?" "No, but this time I was by the window looking for you. I almost reached the door before you knocked." Patrick chuckled. "Where's everyone else then?" "In the pool. Come on." But before Arthur could pull him in, their father joined them. he had sweat pants on. "Hi Patrick." "Hi dad." They hugged. When they stepped back Arthur was grinning wide. Their father ruffled the short tiger's hair. "Go join your brothers. Patrick needs to change, we'll join you after." Arthur glared at his father and rearranged his hair. He hugged Patrick again then ran off. His father put a small ball of cloth in Patrick's hand. "That should fit you." Patrick unruffled it. It was black and smaller than his briefs. "You're joking." "What? It's Lycra, so even if it's a little too small it stretches. Aaron volunteered it." "Maybe I should just go in my underwear." His dad chuckled. "Just try it on. you'll see Speedos are very comfortable." He opened a door a few steps away to a bathroom the size of Patrick's bedroom. Patrick looked at what he was holding dubiously. There was no way that would fit him. Still he went in and closed the door. The room had the same dark floor with gray walls. a sink, toilet and large shower stall. He shook his head in disbelief. A shower by the entrance. He guessed it was useful when coming it dirty. On the back of the door was a full-length mirror. Taking another look at the swimsuit he undressed and put it on. "Shit." His father had been right, it stretched, but it was hugging his form so tightly it was showing every detail of his junk. He rearranged himself a few times until his cock no longer showed so much detail. "Dad? I don't think this is a good idea." "How about you show me?" Patrick opened the door. "Looks good on you." "Dad, it shows everything." His father looked him over critically and Patrick felt his ears heat up. "No, it doesn't. It just hints at what you have. There's nothing wrong with that." "Dad, that isn't hinting. I wouldn't be showing much more if I was naked." His father reached for him, hesitated and then put his hands on both of Patrick's shoulders. "Son. You have a beautiful body, you should show it, even flaunt it a little." "Isn't the point of flaunting getting someone's interest? Everyone here related to me. I'm not sure that's a good idea to have that happen here." "Among family is the perfect place for you to get comfortable wearing it." "I didn't see Arthur wearing something like this, or you. This is starting to feel like you're tr..." Patrick lost track of what he was going to say as his father stepped out of the sweatpants and showed he was wearing a yellow and green stripped Speedo. Patrick quickly looked away when he realized his father hadn't tried to keep the details of his package from showing. "Arthur had his shorts on to avoid freaking you out. Come on, let get to the pool. you can leave your clothes in there." Patrick hesitated only a moment before following his father. "Fuck, feels like I'm naked." "You'll get use to that." Patrick wasn't so sure. He was too distracted by how it felt to pay any attentions to the frames on the wall again. The patio door in the kitchen led to the backyard. Patrick stopped on the threshold, taking it in. It was gigantic. his whole block could fit in this yard. The grass was green and well cared for, not the patchwork most of the front yards in his neighborhood were. The pool in the middle of it. That pool was at least three times the size of his house. Everyone in the yard, except for him and his father were in the pool. "How deep is it?" Patrick asked. "Thirty feet at the diving board. two at the shallow end, going down to four for a few feet, then five. After that it levels at six for three quarter of the pool. It drops quickly after that. Danny is the diving fan." They had a diving board just above the water and another one maybe twenty feet in the air. "Come on. Let's join everyone." His father ran to the deeper side and plunged in. Patrick stepped in at the shallow end and walked until he was at the five feet zone. The water was cool, but not as cold as he'd expected. As soon as he got comfortable there he was mobbed, dragged under the water lifted back up hugged and limbs accidentally bushed against his crotch multiple times. "Alright guys, give him room to breathe. we don't want to send him running off in terror again." Patrick laughed. He didn't think his family could do anything that would scare him. They tried to get him to the deeper end, where they started a water fight, but Patrick declined the invitation, holding on to the edge and letting himself float. One of his brothers swam by him twice then stopped. Patrick studied him. "Aiden, right?" "Yep." He pushed himself off the side, swam under water to the other, came up for air and returned to Patrick. "You don't know how to swim, do you?" "No." "I kind of figured since you didn't have a swimsuit. You want me to show you?" "I don't think there's any way I can learn how you do it." Aiden chuckled. "That's pretty advanced stuff. we've been swimming since we were three. But I can show you basic stuff, the waving and kicking to keep you afloat in place and the quad paddle. Those two are so basic that if you don't panic when falling in the water you start doing one or the other almost automatically." Wanting to do something with one of his brother, instead of staying on the outside, Patrick agreed and Aiden had him moving about the pool in short order. Everyone then joined in, doing quad paddle races, and endurance test by swimming in place. That lasted for almost an hour before they decided to call it a draw. After that was a game of water polo with an inflated beach ball. Which had them climbing on over the others at times and the ball outside the pool more often than in it. At some point someone cursed and everyone scrambled away. Not knowing what was going on Patrick was still looking around when his father jumped off the twenty feet high diving board. Patrick looked at him mesmerized, not quite understanding what it meant when the tiger made himself into a ball. The water explosion when he impacted hit Patrick hard enough that for a moment he couldn't find his footing. When he surfaced again coughing his father was swimming in his direction. "Can someone go get me a swimsuit? This shredded another one." Patrick looked down and couldn't see any green or yellow. He tried to work out how he'd hit for the swimsuit to be destroyed. The only thing he came up with made him wince. "Didn't that hurt?" "Not anymore." Patrick almost asked what he meant but decided he didn't want to know. "Come on guys. we have a guest. I'm not stepping out of the pool without a swimsuit." Someone went inside. Patrick looked around and noticed someone else was missing. "Where..." he searched for the term to use in his case and then shrugged. "Where's dad?" "He went to deal with dinner." "What are we having?" "Dinner's here!" the other adult said, stepping out of the house with a tall stack of pizza boxes. He put them on the table and spread them, opening them. "Danny, Patrick, aren't you coming?" "Not naked I'm not," Daniel replied. Donald looked like he would comment, glanced at Patrick and nodded. "Right, I'll go get it." "Anakin's already gone, he should be back... there he is." Anakin threw the red and black Speedo in the pool then grabbed a pizza slice. Daniel swam to it, grabbed it and sank under water. Patrick waited for him to come back up, looking around when he hadn't after a minute. he screamed in surprise as he felt himself lifted in the air. Daniel broke the surface his head between Patrick's legs and his son's knees on his shoulder. he tried to straighten but lost his balance and both of them fall backward in the water. They resurfaced, sputtering water. "Okay, not doing that again," Daniel commented, turning to check on Patrick. "You okay." "Other than almost having a heart attack, sure." "You're way too young for one of those. come on, let's go eat before there's nothing left." "Dominos?" Patrick asked on seeing the logo on the boxes. "What's wrong with Dominos?" Adam asked. "You guys are rich and you ordered Dominos?" "It's good pizza," Albert said, finishing his slice and taking another one from a different box. "And if you pay more for pizza than this, you enter 'gourmet' territory, and that stuff's crap." "Watch it Alex," Aaron said between bites. "Patrick maybe a foodie." Patrick laughed. "I'm way too poor to be a foodie. I've had more than one breakfast where I had to put water in my cereal. What's the selection?" There was a moment of uncomfortable silence then Donald said. "There's two of everything, so don't worry about it." He looked at Daniel. "Really? Anakin, you grabbed those for him?" Anakin finished chewing. "He didn't specify." Donald looked down at his swimsuit then Daniel's. "What's there to drink?" "Albert, you and Adam go grab a few cases," Daniel said. "Do you have any preference?" He asked Patrick. "Do you have any orange?" That earned him a few disgusted faces. "No. I'm afraid we don't." "I'll have whatever they bring then." Patrick quickly ate a slice of meat lovers then had a second one. Donald followed Albert inside and came back out a minute after he and Adam brought cases of coke, root beer, sierra mist, and grape out. His fathers stood one next to another and again matched fully. The ten of them decimated the pizzas, except for the two vegetarians, they lounged on the grass for a time. Patrick found himself with Arthur snuggled out against his side and Aaron's head on his thigh. For a moment he wasn't sure how he felt about it, but then he figured it was innocent enough. After half an hour Adam and Anakin stood. "We're going inside to play Battle Crowd. Who's coming?" Patrick didn't move, neither did Arthur or Aaron. "Are you guys coming in?" Albert asked. "Maybe in a bit," Arthur replied. "I'm enjoying this." "Okay. Be nice then." He went inside. Patrick wondered what he meant by that. "I hope it's okay," Arthur said. "You're really comfortable to snuggle with." He had a hand on Patrick's chest and was tracing circles in his fur with a finger. "It is. I've never done this before. I like it." Aaron repositioned himself so he was lying against Patrick's other side. "Never? not even with your mom?" "Sure, when I was a kid, but now? It would just be weird." "It isn't weird," Arthur offered. "Snuggling is always nice." "Are you saying you snuggle with your dads?" "Or course," Aaron answered. "We all do. Sometime we'll watch a movie in their room and we'll all pile on, a big snuggle pile, all together. And that pretty much always becomes..." He stopped talking. Patrick looked down to catch Arthur giving Aaron a warning glare. "Always fun." Aaron said. Patrick rested his head back and looked at the sky. "Yeah, I guess it could be nice." He liked the image of his fathers holding him tightly between them. He closed his eyes for a moment, and came awake when he felt Arthur move away. "Sorry," the small tiger said. "I didn't mean to wake you, but it's getting chilly and I don't have as thick fur as you do. I'm going inside." The sun was at the horizon, with the sky darkening. Patrick could feel the chill too. "I didn't mean to fall asleep. I'll go in too." "I guess that means I'm going in," Aaron said standing and offering his hand to Patrick. As soon as they entered the kitchen they heard exclamation of joy and anger from the living room. Aaron ran there. Patrick and Arthur ran after him. The couches were moved to the edge of the room, freeing the center for the four tigers standing there, one of his fathers, Alex, Albert and Anakin. They were facing the large screen and making gestures at it. The three seated screamed encouragement. "What are they doing?" Patrick asked moving behind the couch. On the screen characters were moving around on a field striking each other. "It's Battle Crowd," his father answered. "Okay, but where are the controllers?" "On their hands and legs. Come on Danny! how can you let your son trounce you like that?" Daniel swore at Donald, and while his father laughed, Patrick's ears burned. He paid attention to the players and he could see they had rings at all their joints on their fingers, on each wrist and ankles. "I've never seen a game controlled that way." "It's a new system by Aguiron. It isn't on the market yet." "I guess that's an advantage of being rich." Donald laughed. "no, it's the advantage of designing a game for it. They had to let us have one so we could test it." "You make games?" "Yeah, didn't you see the framed covers on the wall?" "I didn't pay attention to them." "All games we made. This new game is more challenging to make since it's... Danny! watch out!" Donald winced and Patrick looked at the screen in time to see a character disappear in the distance. "I thought you were good at that game, you're being shown up by your children, that's not very adult of you." Daniel glanced over his shoulder then back at the screen when his character reappeared. "You keep dissing my playing and I'm going to kick your ass later." "The way you're playing, I'll be the one to..." Donald didn't finish what he was going to say. He looked at Patrick, then back to the game. "Anyway. The Aguiron Room is more than the controls. It's a projection system that lets you play a game in three dimensions." He pointed to multiple small boxes around the room at the top of the walls. "Yeah, but for playing Battle Crowd it sucks," Anakin said. "Aaron kept kicking my ass." "You kept moving in front of me." Aaron replied. Patrick looked at Donald, not understanding what they meant. "Crowd isn't made for the Room, so it didn't convert very well, made it tough to judge distances and on top of that, we started moving with the characters, instead of standing in place. That's what lead to being kicked and punched." The game ended, and Anakin was proclaimed the winner. The players changed and Daniel flopped down next to Donald. he looked up at Patrick. "Do you want to play?" Patrick looked at Arthur, Adam, Aaron and Aiden getting ready. "I'll pass. I'm not much for video games." He watched them play, joining in the cheering. Watching the game was surprisingly engaging. Anakin seemed the be the best player, with Arthur a close second. An hour later a car honked repeatedly on the driveway. Aiden ran to the window and peered outside. "It's uncle Damian! Adam! he has a new car!" Adam quickly took off the control rings and dropped them on floor before running off. The other players cursed and Anakin jumped in, awkwardly putting the rings on as he tried to keep the character from being killed. As interesting as the game was, Patrick was more curious as to what would make Adam run like that. He followed him down stairs, and a corridor ending at a large garage. A silver car was stopping next to a blue sedan. there was another car next to that, a sportier dark red model. On the other side of the garage sat two minivans with still space for three more cars. Patrick looked at the silver car while Adam studied it carefully. He didn't know anything about cars, but Patrick could see some odd things about this one, for one thing it didn't have any logos, model, brand or manufacturer names on it. The door lifted open and Damian stepped out. He left it open while he watched Adam. Adam ran a hand over the side. "Okay, this is from a GT-R." He crouched and studied it. "The 2814?" Damian nodded. Adam opened the passenger side door, observing it as it lifted. "I think the doors are original, I can't think of any models that has doors that look like this, but the opening system is obviously inspired by Ferrari." He ran his fingers along the side as he walked to the back. "That's off the F-Type, the one made in 2019" "I didn't think you'd get that," Damian commented. Adam stood behind the trunk and studied it. He frowned leaned in close and ran a hand over it. Curious as to what caught his attention Patrick moved closer. he didn't see anything unusual, the surface was smooth, without any imperfections. "Why don't you have a spoiler? This is a sport design, what's the point if you don't have a spoiler. I expected it to be recessed, but there's nothing here." Damian raised his key chain and pressed a button. The top of the trunk shimmered, making Patrick back up a step. Then the surface melted up and into the shape of a spoiler. "Oh, my, God!" Adam exclaimed. "This is amazing." The shimmering stopped and the spoiler looked solid and to be an integral part of the trunk. Adam touched it with a finger, then used his hand to push on it. It didn't move. "How is that done? Nanotech?" Damian nodded. "I didn't realize anyone had gotten that level of control." Adam continued around the car, ending up in front of the hood. "What engine is in it? It is the Tesla XP? Or the Edison MAX? And whose turbo is in it? GE?" Damian didn't say anything, he simply kept his gaze on Adam. "Come on, you have to tell me. At least give me a hint? Is it an original design? Please, just open the hood." Adam was jumping form foot to foot. "How about I make you a deal?" Adam stopped moving. He looked at the car and back to his uncle. "What? What kind of deal?" Patrick felt his hackles rise at the worry in Adam's voice. He fought the urge to interpose himself between the two. He didn't know what this was about, maybe it was normal? Damian placed a hand on Adam's shoulder. "We go camping for a week, just the two of us. I'm thinking this summer, once you're done with your classes." Adams ears folded back. "A week?" His tail stood still, between his legs. For a moment Patrick thought he was going to bolt. "You don't have to give me an answer right now. I'm going to be here all night. Just think it over." Adam nodded and headed back to the hall in a daze, Damian a few steps behind him. Patrick grabbed his arm, forcing the older tiger to stop. "What the fuck was that about?" Patrick whispered between clenched teeth so Adam wouldn't hear. Damian looked at the hand holding his arm. "Patrick, let go of me." Patrick thought about tightening his grip. He didn't like how this guy was ordering him about. Then those cold blue eyes bore into him and he let him go. "Thank you." Damian straightened his sleeve. "Now, what did you mean?" Patrick looked to make sure Adam had gone up the stairs. "You just offered to go camping with him, so why does he look like he's headed for the electric chair?" "Ah, that." Damian smiled, and Patrick had to hold down a shudder at that mirthless smile. Damian ran a finger down Patrick's cheek. "You can always come camping with me and find out." "Absolutely not!" Patrick's father said, hurrying along the corridor. Damian looked him over. His father was still only wearing this speedo, just like he was, Patrick realized and suddenly felt naked. "And why not? He's old enough to make his own decisions." "Because he has no idea what he'd be getting into. I saw the state Adam is in, I don't like it, but he knows what's in store. Patrick doesn't" "Look." Damian pointed a finger at him, paused, studied him, then cursed. "Which one are you?" "Daniel." "Wait," Patrick said. "You can't tell them apart either?" "No." Damian growled. "The only time I know which one's which is when we're having sex." "Damian," Daniel warned. While Patrick stared. "You have sex with them?" "Damian." Daniel's tone was hard this time. "Of course," Damian replied, ignoring his brother. "How else should brothers show their loves for each other?" He canted his head at Patrick. "How do you think the kids do it?" "This is just fucking great," Daniel grumbled at Patrick's sick expression. He reached for him but Patrick bolted out of the room. "You just had to go and say that, didn't you?" Damian took a step back, raised his hand in a pacifying gesture. "How was I to know he was going to react that way?" "Don't bullshit me. You knew exactly how he was going to react. You don't love us, so you said that specifically to get a reaction out of him." Damian kept his face still for a moment. He had been rather blatant about it, hadn't he? Then he smiled. "Okay, you got me." "Damn it Dam. Why? Why did you go and do that? he's getting comfortable around us." Damian considered multiple expression to express his annoyance and settled on rolling his eyes. "Of course, he is. Look at you, wearing a swimsuit. Alex told me how you wouldn't get out of the pool because you were naked. I'm guessing everyone upstairs is behaving, keeping their hands to themselves? If I let you take it at a comfortable speed, Daniel, Patrick is going to go to his grave a virgin. He hasn't even had sex yet." "How do you know that?" Daniel's eyes went wide. "You're having him followed?" Damian stared at him. Didn't his brother know him? "Really? That comes as a surprise to you? What did you think I'd do? Close my eyes and hope for the best? This is my family we are talking about. I am not going to leave anything to chance." "I told you we would handle it! Damn it." he tuned. "I need to go check on him." Damian grabbed his arm. His brother wasn't the right person to deal with Patrick at this time, he could comfort him, tell him how Damian was blunt and had no tack, that he shouldn't think too much about what had been said. "Let one of the kids handle this." Damian already knew which of his nephews would go see to Patrick. They were now close enough the harsh truths would be easier to absorb. Daniel glared at him. He pulled once to try to get out of Damian's grip, but it wasn't enough. he didn't try a second time. * * * * * Patrick was bent over the bowl, but he hadn't thrown up. He was grateful for that, but he didn't move, his stomach still felt like it might decide to heave at any moment. When his stomach finally calmed down enough he believed it wouldn't rebel he closed the cover and sat on the floor, leaning against the wall. What the fuck had he gotten himself into? His clothes were by the door, he could get dressed and leave. they wouldn't stop him. Someone knocked. "It's busy." "I know. It' Arthur, can I come in?" Patrick thought about it. He wasn't sure he wanted to see any of them right now, but Arthur had been nice to him. maybe it was because he was so much smaller than the others, but Patrick felt safer with him. "Sure." Patrick was in the process of standing when the door opened. "Do you have a key?" Arthur looked at the handle. "No, it wasn't locked." Patrick stared at it. He'd forgotten to lock it? He had been in a hurry to make it to the bowl. He sat back down. his eyes fell on the large shower stall, only now he noted the entire family could fit in it. He stopped that image from forming, he didn't want to think about that. "Are you okay?" Arthur sat next to him and rested his head against Patrick's side. Patrick placed an arm over his shoulders. "Not really. No offense, but your family's crazy, you know that?" Arthur shrugged. "I guess it can look that way, unless you grow up in this environment." "And you're okay with it?" "What are we talking about at this moment?" "Your fathers and your uncle." "Ah, so it's finding out they have sex that sent you in here?" Patrick rested his head against the wall. "No. It was a shock, but I think I could have accepted it. It didn't trigger the reaction learning you guys do it too did." He paused. "How can you do that?" "Why shouldn't we? "Because it's wrong." "Says who?" "The..." He'd been about to say the bible, but after as many conversations about it with Mother Rosetta they'd had, he knew it wasn't much of an argument. He tried to come up with something better. "Everyone!" was all he found, and he knew that was as lame as it got. "Why?" "Because you're brothers, damn it!" Arthur looked up at him. "Patrick. I'm going to say something, and I want you to keep in mind it isn't a judgment on how your mother raised you, okay?" Patrick nodded. Arthur took a deep breath. "My, our, fathers, they raised us not to have any hang-ups about our sexuality. we've had sex for a long time. Way longer than you're comfortable knowing. I love my brothers, so I have sex with them. For us, it's as simple as that. we don't see anything wrong with it. Actually, it's people like you out there that we don't get. Why do you feel there has to be so much baggage when it comes to sex?" Patrick couldn't answer. He knew, deep down inside him, that it was wrong for them to have sex, but he couldn't say why. "I guess you guys are expecting me to just jump in bed with you?" "No. we'd never want you to be forced into it." Arthur smiled at him. "What we hope for is that you'll reach a point where you're comfortable with that, because we love you Patrick. You're our brother and we love you. We would love to be able to show you how much." He stretched and kissed Patrick's cheek. Patrick was surprised at the gesture. No one but his mother had ever kissed him. His ears warmed. "Do you think you're going to be able to continue hanging out with us? Or do you prefer going home?" Patrick thought it over. If he left now, he'd be able to go to the bar, work and earn some money. but what did that say about him? Yes, he was uncomfortable about how his fathers and his brothers lived their lives, but it was theirs to live, right? Did he want to be one of those guys who judged others even though what they did didn't harm anyone? No. he didn't. he also didn't want to let discomfort dictate how he acted around his family. He squeezed Arthur's shoulder. "I'm staying. Your uncle Damian isn't the most sensitive guy out there, is he?" Arthur chuckled. "That's putting it mildly." "You guys all have eccentricities. What's his?" Arthur shook his head. "No, you're not ready for that, thrust me on that. You're not comfortable with the idea of us having sex together, you're not ready to know that about him." "It has something to do with the camping trip, doesn't it?" Arthur looked him in the eyes. "Patrick, if you press this you're going to run away screaming. Uncle Damian is more extreme than the rest of us. That's all I'm going to say." The seriousness in Arthur's face and voice took Patrick aback. "Alright." They were quiet for a time. "Can I ask you something?" Arthur asked. "Of course." "How come you don't have a phone?" "I've got one at home." "But that's your mother's, not yours." Patrick nodded. "We can't afford more than one." "Is it really that expensive?" "Don't you know?" "We have a family plan and our dads pay for it. I never thought to ask how much it was." Arthur was silent for a moment, then he got up. "I have an idea. Come with me." "Where?" Patrick followed him. "My room. I have something for you there." The walked by the living room, where the others were still playing. Patrick then stopped by the frames. "So, these are games your dads made?" "Our dads, yeah." Patrick counted fifteen frames. most of the pictures were in bright colors with simple graphics. One was called Mountain top, showed a very simply mountain with a goat climbing it. The one next to it had a more detailed image in darker colors and was called Undertow. "That's a lot of games." Patrick indicated he was ready to move again. "Most of the games they create are pretty simple, so they can come up with three or four a year. The one they're making for the new system is more complex, they've been working on it for almost a year already." They went up the stairs, and there were more frames on that wall. Patrick checked the titles, not that he knew them, he didn't play. He stopped moving. "They made Castle Crash?" "Yeah, that was one of their big success. Have you played it?" "No. I don't have a phone, remember? But a few of my friends play it." under the picture was a number, thirty-three million. "It's still being played? Wow." "What's the number?" "That's how much they got for the game when they sold it." "They sell them?" "Sure. They wait until the game's popularity peeks and then sell it. I guess they miscalculated with CC if people are still playing it." Patrick counted twelve frames, and while the Castle Crash had the largest number by far, none of them were below three million. Arthur lead Patrick in a large room. Patrick chuckled as he realized his house could fit in it. "What's funny?" "Sorry. It's becoming a game to use my house as a way to measure the rooms in yours." The shelves lining the walls didn't go up above five feet and were filled with paper books, electronic component, clothing and a clear, unmarked bottle. The bed was larger than king size. A desk had a really impressive system, and on the opposite side was a closet, taking up almost the whole wall, except for a door next to it. Arthur pulled a box that was in the floor, under the lowest shelf. "I hope it isn't making you uncomfortable." "Not anymore." He looked at some of the book titles. "But when I came here before, I was really put off by the size of the place." Advance Bio chemistry, Programing, physics, Electrical schematics. "You like science I take it." "Yeah. what about you?" "Never really thought about it. Most of my reading is fantasy" "I'm not much of a fiction reader. Aiden is though. I did try the Iluminar Cycle, but I couldn't finish the first book, it was too boring." "Yeah, a lot of the first two books is world building and setup. I forced myself through it because everyone I knew who'd read the series raved about how good it got on book three, but that you needed the first two to get a sense of what was going on." "I didn't know. Aiden left his reader out and that was the one on it, so I tried it." He pulled a hand size rectangle out of the box. "There, that'll work." Patrick was about to ask what that was when he realized it was a phone. Arthur turned it on and the air above it filled with icons. He searched through them, swiping over to the next page, then the one after that. Finding what he was looking for he activated it and went on doing... Patrick had no idea what Arthur was doing now. Satisfied with what the holographic display showed him the small tiger moved on to another function. "What number do you want?" Patrick looked at him. "number for what?" "Your phone. I'm setting it up, you need a number." Patrick couldn't say anything for a moment. "I can't afford one, I told you." "I've set it to be on the family plan, you won't have to worry about it." "I can't accept that. I'd never be able to repay it." Arthur shut the display down and looked at him. "You don't have to worry about repaying anything. I doubt dad's even going to notice it, if they do they aren't going to mind." "But that can't be cheap." "Look around Patrick, money isn't something we're short on here." "That doesn't mean you can go and waste it!" Patrick eyed the door and thought about getting out. He wasn't worth it. Arthur looked at him and what Patrick was eying. He stood and gently took the taller tiger's hand. "Pat, it wouldn't be a waste if it means I could call you." "You don't get it," he whispered. "I don't get to have stuff like that. It probably costs more than I've earned in my entire life." "Maybe, but it isn't worth anything in my old phone box, is it? It would mean a lot to me if you had it. I know it would mean a lot to the others too. It isn't like we can call you on your mother's phone." Patrick looked at it, in Arthur's hand. It was black, the length of his hand from wrist to finger tips, and a little narrower than the width of his hand. "Do you have a lot of old phones?" he asked. "Yeah." Arthur chuckled. "Every time someone upgrades I take the old one and throw it in here." "Why?" "Dunno. I guess I'm something of a packer. This was Aaron's phone. It's last year's model. It doesn't have the clip, because Aaron left that in his pocket when he washed his clothes and it was ruined." "So, your dads just bought him a new one?" Arthur laughed. "Oh no. Aaron had to work to get a new phone. This one still works fine, but he just couldn't live without the clip, and they'd come out with a newer model, so he had to have that." "So, he had to 'work' for it?" "Yeah." "I see." Patrick squirmed a little. he didn't like the image that was forming in his mind of how the phone had been worked off. Arthur looked up at him quizzically and caught him as he glanced at the bed and away. "Wait, what? No, no, not with sex. He had to repaint every room in the house." Patrick could breathe again. He pulled the chair away from the desk and sat in it, his knees coming up very high. he stretched his legs out. "Pat, sex isn't a currency. It's something you do with someone you like because you like doing it. We don't use it as an incentive, although I guess if our dads wanted to prohibit it as a punishment it would be really effective." He thought about it for a moment. "Except they'd have to call the guys we know at school, as well as all the guys we could possibly hookup with there." Patrick stared at him. "You guys don't just have sex together?" As soon as he said that he realized the idea of them having sex outside their family bothered him a little. "Of course not. That'd get boring." "And you have sex at school?" "No. That's against the rules." Patrick saw the glint in Arthur's eyes and found he was smiling. "And you always obey the rules, right?" "Mostly. I did almost get caught under the bleachers having sex with Zack. I also know Aaron and the school's janitor have done it more than once in a closet." Patrick's ears were burning, but he watched Arthur and the casual way he was talking about it. "You're making me realize that for someone who's never done it, I have a lot of baggage when it comes to sex." Arthur opened his mouth, then closed it. He turned his head but stopped before he was looking at the bed. Patrick realized what his brother hadn't said, and he found he was strangely touched at what he'd though to offer. "Thanks for the offer, and for not saying it, but I'm not ready for that." Arthur nodded, then brought up the phone. "We got side tracked. Are you okay with getting this phone?" Patrick nodded. He couldn't see himself disappointing Arthur again. It was only an object, he'd learn to deal with it, even if it meant hardly ever using it. "Okay, so what number do you want?" "It doesn't matter to me." "Okay." Arthur brought the display back up and went to work, by the time he was done he was grinning. "okay, it's setup. This is the phone function." He swiped to the previous page. "That's the calendar." he had to search through multiple pages to find the next icon. "This is your number's list." He activated it and a lot of numbers came up. "Right, I'm going to clean that up. I don't think you want all of Aaron's buddies." With a few gestures there was only one number left. "That's your number." Patrick nodded. "What are all the other icons for?" "They're functions Aaron installed." "Can you remove them? I just want to have the phone function." "I can't remove what came already installed, but the rest's easy." A few more gestures and only eight icons were left. Arthur pointed to the up. "Those are your management functions." "I'm familiar with them. Mom's phone isn't holo, but it has those." "Okay, hold this." Arthur handed him the phone. Then he flicked his hand open and a holographic display appeared over his hand. Arthur quickly went through pages and functions until he had a list of numbers up. He grabbed them and threw them at Patrick's phone. Eight new numbers appeared in the list. As he watched names added themselves to the numbers. "Those are our numbers." Arthur said. Patrick looked at the display floating over Arthur's hand. "Where's your phone?" Arthur tapped the thin band at his wrist. "I have the wearable version of it." Patrick had noticed it before but thought it was just a bracelet. Arthur closed his hand and the display vanished. Patrick studied the numbers on his phone. "What are you doing?" "I'm memorizing the numbers." "You don't have to do that. That's why they're in the phone." "Yeah, but what if I lose it, or forget it at home. If I know the numbers I can borrow someone's phone and still call." Arthur gave him a surprised look. Obviously, that had never occurred to him. When Patrick was done he showed him how to turn the display off. "Do you have a charge plate?" "Yeah, the one that came with mom's phone." "So it's a few years old?" "Yeah, six." Arthur went to the shelves and pulled a plate among all those staked there. "I have no idea what kind of range they had six years ago. This is the one that came with Aaron's phone. It's got a hundred fifty feet of range. That should be enough." Patrick looked around the room. "so you have one per room? do all the room have one?" "Oh no. The entire house is wired for remote charging." Patrick eyed the box of phone. "So those are all being charged?" "Except for the bottom ones, they needed to be plugged in the wall back then, the rest, sure." "Isn't that a waste of energy?" "Considering we can have up to eight cars in the garage being charged, a box of old phones won't really be noticed." Patrick shook his head. It was still wasteful. He didn't say anything, it was their money they were spending. "How about we join the others?" Patrick looked for a place to put his new phone and was reminded again he was only wearing a very tight swimsuit. He couldn't believe how natural it felt when no one drew attention to the fact he was pretty much naked. "Where are your clothes?" "In the bathroom you found me in." "We can drop it off there before joining the others." They exited the room and walked by a partially opened door. Moaning and groaning came from it. With a quiet curse Arthur quickly closed the door. Patrick stared at it. "That was...?" "Our dads. It's their room. they're usually better at closing the door." Patrick wasn't really listening to him. His fathers were in there doing it, having sex. He swallowed and marched to the stairs. Arthur rushed after him. "Are you leaving?" Patrick shook his head, repeating to himself that he wasn't going to let what his fathers did in the privacy of their room chase him away. While studiously not thinking about the thing he really wanted to do, which was go peek in that room and see what they were doing. Back in the living room three of his brothers were playing, the other three on the couch, watching them while snuggled together. Patrick noted theirs hands were caressing each other in a way that was definitely more than casual. That stopped when Arthur cleared his throat. "There you are." Albert said. "We through the folks kidnapped you." "No, I gave Pat Aaron's old phone, and I had to set it up." Patrick nodded, his gaze on the guys' crotch, the way the swimsuits showed everything made it even more clear what the intent of the caressing had been. There was a cheer and he looked up, ears burning. "Alright, we'll finally be able to call you. what's your number?" "I'll give it to you later," Arthur said. Not wanting to look at his brothers again, he looked around the room, and realized Damian wasn't there. "Where's Damian?" "He went with the folks." Adam said. "To their room?" Patrick said in surprise. Adam hesitated. "Y, yeah?" "They forgot to close their door," Arthur said. "We heard what they were up to." His brothers looked at Patrick with concern, but he didn't pay attention to them. He was reeling at the realization Damian was having sex with his fathers. He'd said as much in the garage. something else bothered him, underneath the shock, Patrick was a little jealous of him. He forced the feelings aside. He didn't want to deal with that right now. He wanted to spend time with his brothers, with his family. he couldn't do that if he dwelt on what happened behind closed doors or when he wasn't in the room. He answered the worried looks with a forced smile. "I'm not leaving. I don't have any rights to dictates what happens in their room. But, is there any chance we can all put on something a little less revealing? I get you guys are really comfortable with yourselves, but being able to see how... err... excited you are is kind of uncomfortable." With a series of curses the guys on the couch covered themselves before running off. The ones standing laughed. "I wouldn't laugh too much," Patrick said. "You might not be, err... hard, but you aren't leaving much to the imagination." "Sorry," Albert said, trying to act casual as he covered himself. "We didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." "It's okay," Patrick tried to be casual too. "Most of the time I kind of forgot about it, it's just here and there that I get reminded we're not wearing much, and some of you really shouldn't be wearing something that tight." Aaron tilted his head. "What do you mean, some of us? You also fill yours nicely." Patrick blushed hard and was happy the couch hid his lower half. The idea they had ogled him during the day made him uncomfortable. He very much wanted to leave, to retreat to the safety of his mother's house. But again, he forced himself to stay and think. They had looked him over, but he hadn't noticed it and they hadn't made any sort of comments about it until he brought it up. He came out of his thought when someone draped sweat pants over his shoulder. He put them on quickly and felt much less exposed after. Everyone else was also less self-conscious now. "How about we get back to the game?" Albert said. "Patrick, how about you join in?" Patrick shook his head. "I don't really see the point of it." "It's fun," Adam said. "I have fun watching you guys play. I'm not interested in trying it." "Actually," Aaron said. "You fight, right?" "Please tell me you aren't planning on sparring with him," Aiden said. "Of course not. So, do you fight?" "No, of course not." "But you were attacked and won, so you have to be pretty good." "I was shot, and I defended myself. If it wasn't for my friends I'd probably ended up dead. Look, I'll fight if I have to defend myself, but I don't like it. I don't like hurting other people." "Okay. I wasn't thinking of having you fight me or one of us, but the system has a fighting game. You against a virtual opponent. I'd love to see how you measure up against it." "I doubt I'm any good." "Let's find out. Come over here." Patrick hesitated before walking around the couch. Aaron had him put on the controls on his hands. He hadn't noticed when the others were using them, but each ring was linked to the other one on the finger by a thin wire. Aaron also placed arm bands on his forearms, biceps, ankle, top of his calves and thighs. "You guys weren't using that." "CC doesn't really use arm and leg movements. just foot forward and back to move. everything is in the finger motion. For the fighting game it uses more points. The projectors also have sensor that tracks out your body, but they can't do fine details." He moved to the side and a blocky male figure appeared with no features. It had a fist extended in front of itself. "Put your main hand on his fist. It's a calibration thing." Patrick did it and his hand went through it. "Is it suppose to do that?" "Yeah. We don't have a sensory suit. Just put your hand where you see his and hold it there. He'll move once he's calibrated. The game uses a point system. the more vital a spot you hit the more point it's worth. Forearms and shins don't have any value." "So I use that to block." "The points you've accumulated shows above his head. When it resets it's because you've advanced to the next level. It gets progressively more difficult." "I don't know any fighting styles, is that going to cause problems?" "No, the game has enough learning capability that it will adapt to challenge you." The opponent took a step back and brought his hands up. "It's ready, have at it." Aaron moved to the side Patrick stood there, waiting for it to make the first move. "You have to attack it to get it started." Patrick reminded himself it was a game, he wasn't going to hurt anyone by starting this fight. He punched it, it moved back and responded. He hadn't expected the punch and it struck him in the side. the fist stopped as if it had made contact, but he didn't feel anything. When he struck it again it dodged, he expected it and hit it hard across the jaw to knock it out. His fist went through the head and he lost his balance. "You okay?" Anakin asked. "Yeah, didn't expect that." "You don't have to make actual contact, if you get about an inch from the image it counts." "Okay, got it." He punched at it, not putting any force in the blow, just aiming it. he struck it a few times in succession, easily blocking of avoiding it's blows. Then it started avoiding more of his. He focused on what he felt were the holes in its defenses and got in more blows. After that it had him on the defensive for a time. At some point Patrick stopped thinking. he used his fists, knees, feet, elbows to attack it and it countered faster and faster. He was sweating, but he was enjoying himself, forgetting it was just an image, but still knowing it wasn't a real person. They exchanged blows after blows until Patrick found he couldn't keep up with it and it stuck him in the chest a quick half dozen time. There was a chime and his opponent disappeared. "What happened?" Patrick asked, panting. No one answered. He looked at them, and they were staring at him, his fathers and Damian included. "What?" "I thought you said you didn't know how to fight." Alex said. "I don't." "You made it to level eight." "Okay, is that good?" "Level eight would be purple belt if you want a martial art analog," his father said. "I still don't know what that means." "You know what a black belt means, right?" Aaron asked. "Sure, the guy's a master." "Not really, he's proficient and can move on to the advance stuff. Think of it as having enough schooling in something to get a job. Purple puts you only two belts away from getting a black one. Considering you said you didn't know how to fight, that's really impressive." "I guess I do know how to fight a bit, I've been attacked enough over the years. I just never thought about it as 'knowing' how to fight, you know? What?" he asked Damian, who was watching him carefully. "You adapted very quickly to changes your opponent threw at you. It only got the best of you once your stamina ran out." "Okay." "If you build up your endurance, you'll be able to last longer." "Ignore him," his father said. "Dam's always analyzing everything." Patrick noticed their fur were wet. they'd taken a shower after they were done. they must have arrived close to when he lost. How long had the fight gone on? "Are you going to spend the night?" his other father asked. "Ah, no. I want to head home at some point." "Are you sure? we can find you a bed to sleep in." "You may have to lock the door," Damian added. "Dam," his father warned. Damian rolled his eyes. "He has a very fuckable body, and you're all thinking it." "Damian, that's enough. If you can't behave I'm going to ask you to leave." Damian sighed. "Fine, I'm sorry." "No, you're not," Aaron mumbled. Patrick had a moment of discomfort, but by now he was used to dealing with them, well, pushing it to the side to be dealt with later. "I'm going to take that as a compliment," he said, which earned him surprised looks. "That doesn't mean I'll take you up on it. I'm not sure I'd be able to deal with spending the night, even if I locked the door." "Alright. What time do you need to be home?" "At some point tonight, maybe even in the morning. So long as I can sleep before working tomorrow night I'll be fine." "How does working nights affect your studies?" His father asked. Patrick froze in the middle of removing the armbands. His ears burned. "I'm not in school." he whispered, focusing on taking off the controls. "Why not?" His father's tone was very casual. Patrick handed the bands and controls to Arthur and sat next to him. "Look. I dropped out in my freshman year because even with working three jobs my mom could barely pay the bills. I had to get a job." "Have you thought about going back?" "After missing four years? No. I'd be an old man compared to the kids there." "You could take the equivalence tests. you might need a few remedials, but you could probably catch up to your age group in a year or so." "And how do I pay for all that?" "The test's free I think." Patrick shrugged. "I don't see the point in going through that since I can't afford to pay for school." His father placed a hand on his shoulder. "We could pay for that." "No. I'd have to explain where it came from to my mom, and there's no way she'd accept that." "I could arrange it so she wouldn't know it came from them," Damian offered. "Right, like you could hide that." "I can be very sneaky when I want." Patrick shook his head. "Look. I'm okay with the life I have. Especially now that you're in it. Just accept that, okay?" "Alright. Just know that if you ever change your mind, we'll be here to help you." His fathers hugged him, and they went back to playing games. Patrick watched, always having two of his brothers snuggling up to him. It was late in the night when things quieted down. They talked about games, books and shows, whiles snuggling. Somehow Patrick found himself seated on the floor, Aiden behind him, Arthur between his legs, Alex on one side and Albert on the other. Eventually, some of them started falling asleep and they called an end to the night. Damian offered to drive Patrick home, but he refused vehemently. He was never getting in a car with him again. Albert volunteered. Everyone hugged him before they were willing to let him go. He dressed and Arthur hugged him again. In the garage Patrick saw that the hood on Damian's car was up. He guessed that Adam was going to go camping with him, whatever that meant. The ride was quiet and comfortable. Albert talked about his drawings and paintings, and made Patrick promise to check them out the next time he visited. They hugged again at Patrick's house, and then he went to bed. * * * * * Patrick walked into the living room. The large room was empty, the screen on the wall was off. Where had everyone gone? He'd just left it for a moment to... What had he gone to do again? He couldn't remember. He went to the couch. The controllers were on it, so they had to be close by, right? He turned to leave planning to check the rest of the house. He froze. His brothers were on the other side of the room, naked, gyrating and rubbing against each other, looking at him invitingly. He swallowed hard and took a step back into someone. he spun and looked into his father golden eyes. The older tiger ran a finger down Patrick's cheek. "I'm so happy you've agreed to become part of our family. We are going to make you so happy." Someone leaned into him from the back, hugging him, his hands rubbing his stomach and then lower. "You are such a handsome guy." His other father whispered in his ear. A hand cupped Patrick's balls, and another rubbed his cock. He felt good, but why was he naked? He felt a cock press between his cheeks, moving back and forth. "Whenever you're ready," His father said, "we will be here for you." And he kissed him. * * * * * Patrick woke with a gasp. He had trouble breathing and his heart was beating a mile a second. What the fuck had that been about? His fathers touching him like that? At the memory his cock twitched and he realized his crotch was wet. He lifted the covers and stared at the cum there. He couldn't believe it. He was eighteen years old. He hadn't cum in his sleep since he'd started masturbating. He swallowed hard as he felt those hands against him again. And realized he wished it hadn't been a dream.
  4. 1 point
    The Missing Son 26 Patrick's mother was at the table when he got home for dinner. "Evening mom. What are you reading?" She had a booklet and papers in front of her. He went to the coffee machine, but there was no coffee. He must have arrived only seconds after her. He got some coffee going and turned. She was still looking at the booklet. Or maybe she was very absorbed by that. "Mom, are you okay?" He sat opposite her. She looked up. "Oh, hi Patrick." "What's that about?" "It's information and forms for the supervisor training they've arranged." "You planning on going? How much is it going to cost?" "Nothing. It's paid by the company. They're really better than the previous owners. They even had these on paper for those of us who didn't have readers." The machine beeped to indicate the coffee was ready. He poured two cups and put them on the table. He took the milk out of the fridge and shook it to check how much was in it. He placed it in front of her and wrote a note on the board about buying more. He'd have his black tonight. "Free training? that's pretty good. When is it?" "It's on the weekend of the twenty third." Patrick nodded. It was a week and a half away. "But I don't know if I'm going to sign up for it." "Mom, why wouldn't you?" "They can only take twenty people. What if more than that sign up and I'm not picked?" "Then you're no worse off than before." "What if I don't pass the training?" "Then nothing changes. Mom, why are you hesitating? it's free. What do you have to lose?" "I'm going to be gone for a whole weekend. They fly those who go to New York City on Friday after work and they come back on Sunday evening. The weekend is the only full shift I get at the diner, we need that money. And it's the only times I know I'll get to see you." Patrick took her hands in his. "Mom. I think we can manage not to be in the same house for a whole weekend. And as for the money, I can tighten my belt. You can't pass this up. You were right when you said the new owners were good people. The previous ones never bothered trying to educate you or anyone working for them. Do you want to go mom? don't think about me, or the money. Do you want to grasp this chance to get a better job at the factory?" He kept the guilt he felt from showing, because he had another reason for hoping she'd go, a more selfish reason. She gave him a small smile. "Yes, I want to go." "Then go mom." She nodded. "I'm going to borrow your computer and fill the forms online." Patrick did a quick mental check of what was easily accessible on his system. He'd deleted the porn he'd been watching, and he'd erased the history like Richard had showed him. She wouldn't see anything inappropriate. "Go ahead. I'll start on dinner in the meantime." He didn't grab the phone as soon as she left. He needed restraint. He couldn't make the calls if there was any chance she would come back. After dinner, while she was watching her shows would be the time. * * * * * His hands were shaking as he punched in the number. He tried to calm himself while it rang. "Hello?" the voice he was learning to recognize said. "Hi dad." There was silence, then a soft. "oh my God." and then. "Patrick?" "Yes, it's me." Was something wrong? "It's Daniel. Donny was right. It hit me pretty hard when you called me dad." Patrick had a moment to wonder why he'd thought he was Donald, then remembered they were twins and sounded the same. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize you might be the one answering." "Both our phones have the same number. Whoever's closest to his answers. Give me a moment, I need to sit down." Patrick found he was smiling. He was talking to his other father. "Okay, I think I'm going to be okay now. I sort of promised myself that if this happened I wasn't going to cry. Are you still there?" "Yeah, I am. Sorry, I was just letting it sink in that I'm talking to you." "Does it feel surreal to you too?" "A little bit, but in my case it could be because you and Donald sound exactly the same." "Well, we are identical." "That must have driven your folks crazy." Daniel laughed. "No. We have no idea how he did it, but dad could always tell us apart." "Could your mom?" "She left us when we were two." "Oh. I'm sorry." "It's okay. It was a long time ago and to be honest, we never missed her." "I couldn't imagine being without my mom." "I get that. So, why did you call?" "When I talked to Donald on Monday I said that I didn't know when, but I wanted to visit you again." "Yes, he said that. The kids were overjoyed when they found out, especially Arthur." "Yeah, he seemed pretty heart broken when I said I wasn't coming back." "He has a big heart, and he'd not afraid of becoming attached." Patrick thought about it for a moment and felt a little guilty at having cause him, his brother, pain. "Well, if it's okay, I'd like to come over on the twenty third." "Yes, that's perfectly fine," Daniel said quickly. "If you have something already planned that's fine, I can come another time." He didn't want to impose on them, but that day was ideal. With his mother doing the training he wouldn't have to arrange for Don or Joey to cover for him. "No, no. it's fine. With the kids being still in school we don't plan anything big on the weekends. Just some quiet time at home. Some of the kids might have been planning on hanging out with their friends, but I'm sure they'll prefer spending time with you." Patrick felt like he was imposing, and he was about to say they shouldn't break their plans when Daniel continued. "The forecast calls for a warm and sunny day. We have a pool so bring a swimsuit." "Ah, a swimsuit?" Patrick tried to think if he had anything that could be used as such. He could probably cut his oldest jeans into shorts. "I can probably manage something." "You don't have one?" "No. swimming hasn't been something I've done." "I'm sure you can borrow one of the kids'. Alex or Aaron are close to your size." "Dad, you don't have to bother with that." There was a light choking sound. "Damn it. I wasn't going to cry." A moment later Daniel sounded calmer. "It's okay son, oh, I like how that sounds. It's okay, they have spares, and I know they won't mind." Patrick couldn't say anything for a moment, he was the one crying now. "I'll be there early afternoon." "Do you want me or Donny to pick you up?" Patrick considered it. He would certainly save a lot of money that way, but he shuddered as he remembered the one time a tiger gave him a ride. "I'd prefer taking the bus. I'm sorry, I'm just not entirely comfortable with the idea of being alone in a car with you yet." "I understand. We'll all be eagerly waiting." "I can't wait to see you dad." "I can't wait either son." They disconnected. Patrick needed a moment to regain his composure, but he hadn't cried this time. Once he was okay he called Don. "Don's Cup." "Hey Don. Patrick." "How is it going?" "I'm good. I won't be able to come in on the twenty-third I have some personal stuff to take care of." "That's a Saturday. We're normally pretty busy. That puts me in a bit of a bind." "I know, I'm sorry. I can talk to Kenneth, you met him a few months ago. He's the bull that dropped by on my birthday." "Do you mean the one I've been seeing everywhere online?" "Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. I'll see if I can talk Malcolm into taking my place. but even if I can't, I'll find someone and I'll make sure he comes by on Friday so you can meet him and tell him what you expect." "Alright, but really, if you can't find anyone, don't worry about it. We'll manage." Then he called Joey to see about getting more work. He'd need the money to cover the day he wouldn't work and to pay to go visit his father. He'd found a faster way to get there, since he'd taken the time to go through the options. There was no way he could afford the fast rail, but its predecessor was still running, and while much slower it was also much more affordable. All he had to do was convince Joey.
  5. 1 point
    The Missing Son 25 Patrick waited a few days before calling Mother Rosetta. Primarily because he'd been working all Friday at the junkyard, and then the weekend was busy for him and her. He also wanted to give himself time to think on what had happened, get some distance. But he hadn't meant to call her quite this late, it was almost five. Joey had called at ten, waking him, and needed his help with a surprise load of lumber. He'd just gotten home from that. He had some food slowly cooking in the oven, and by the time he was done with his calls it would be ready. "St-Benedict," she said. "Good afternoon Mother Rosetta." "Patrick, how are you doing? how is your shoulder?" "It's good. I'm basically all healed. One more visit with the therapist to go." "I'm glad to hear that. Did you go to the bar like you intended?" "I did." "How did that go?" "Not how I hoped it would." "What were you hoping for?" "Something normal," he sighed. "Instead I got this guy all over me, grabbing my ass and groping me even after I tell him I'm not interested and I'd left the bar." "He followed you out?" "Yeah, he was pretty sure that what he wanted was what I needed." "Oh my. That certainly isn't an appropriate behavior. What did you do?" Patrick sighed again. "I decked him. That's when he groped me, I didn't think, my fist just flew of its own accord." She was laughing, holding the phone away. She cleared her throat. "Yes, I hope you realize that wasn't an appropriate response either." "You might want to avoid laughing next time." "I know. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have." She paused. "I guess that soured you on the idea of being part of the gay community." "Actually, no. I mean I don't want to have anything to do with guys like him, but this other guy who was heading for the bar stopped to make sure I was okay." "That's certainly good of him." "Yeah, and it made me realized that I had this single image of how gay people had to be, they were either all good or all bad. It made me realize that people aren't that way, some are good and some are bad. I can't hold the whole community accountable for the actions of a few assholes." "That's a good start, but you must realize that it's still not quite that simple. Even individual people aren't all good or bad. We're all shades of the two." "Yeah, I know I'm over simplifying it, but it really helped me accept who I am, it's weird, isn't it? What I was afraid of was that by saying I was gay, I'd have to fit into this image I had on some level of what I thought that meant. if they ended up being bad, I'd have to be that way. Now I know what others are doesn't define who I am. I get to decide if I'm going to be a sleaze or a decent guy." "Yes, you do. I'm happy you've been able to see that. Does that mean you're ready to tell someone?" "Yes. I'm actually going to call her once we're done." "I thought it was something you wanted to do face to face?" "I'd prefer it that way, but I don't want to wait until she's back. I'd like her thoughts on some things." "Alright, then I'll let you get to it. God bless you." "You too." He got up and walked around for a bit and stretched. He checked on dinner, the lasagna was coming along nicely. He was in the middle of cleaning the shelves in the living room when he realized he was procrastinating. He went back to his room and called her. "Hey Natalia." "Patrick? wow, I never expected you to call." "Yeah, sorry. Are you busy?" "No, I just got back from classes and my roommate's off with her boyfriend. Look, I want to apologize for not staying while you were in the hospital." Patrick laughed. "Nat, I already got the six messages you sent me to apologize, and like I said on all of them, it's okay. I understand you had to go back." "I still felt bad about leaving you there." "Don't, at least you got to miss the media circus. I had half a dozen stations wanting to interview me. Even after I said no, some were still trying to pressure me in giving them my side of the story, like it would be different from what I told the police." "Did they call you a lot?" "No. one of the doctor told me it's illegal for them to do that, and if they call I can sue them for harassment." "I didn't know that." "yeah, but it turns out they lost interest in me after Ken talked with them. To hear him say it, he took down Emilio." "Yeah, that sounds like Kenneth, conveniently forgetting that Bruno and Trevor were part of that." "Yeah, and now he's something of a social media star, if you look online you'll find dozens of interviews he's given. He showed up on at least one family show, and he's lined up for a few more." "Wow, he's really milking it for what it's worth." "Yeah, well, they say everyone gets a week of fame. He's welcome to mine." "And mine. That isn't how I want to be known. So, did you just call to bring me up to date on what's going on in the Brownstones? That doesn't sound like you." "No, I have something to tell you." "That sounds serious, is your arm okay?" "Yeah, it's fine. The doctor did a good job. I wore a healing bandage for a few weeks and now the scar isn't even visible. I haven't lost any flexibility or strength." "That's good. So, what do you need to tell me?" Patrick had done it again, he'd found something else to talk about. He took a breath. "I'm gay." "Okay." They were both silent for a moment. "Wait, that's what you wanted to tell me? Not, you're gay and you have a boyfriend?" "Hell no," (sorry) "I'm nowhere near ready for that. You're not surprised?" "That you're gay? I guess. To be honest I never thought about it." "How about when we were thirteen. Our moms kept putting us together, hoping we'd become interested in each other." Natalia laughed. "Is that what that was about?" "What did you think it was about?" "I just thought my mom brought me over because she didn't want to get a babysitter or deal with the kind of troubles I'd get into without supervision. And she had us play together because that way I was out of her hair while she talked with your mom." "Huh. I never considered it could be anything other than a matchmaking attempt." "I never even thought about it that way. I was happy to be your friend, but I never considered anything more serious, did you?" "No. like you said you were my friend, and there were enough people our age in relationships in the neighborhood that I could see I didn't want anything like the nightmare it seemed to be for them. At least that's what I told myself. maybe I was just justifying my lack of interest in you that way." "You didn't know you were gay?" "No. I don't think the thought even occurred to me back then, and if it had, it wouldn't have stayed. Not the way our moms went on about sin and God." "Yeah, my mom was devout to the extreme. Is yours?" Patrick thought about it, how she'd reacted to his father's visit. "Well, she is devout." He left it at then, not wanting to be unkind to her. "My mom flipped when I told her I was becoming a witch." Patrick sputtered. "You're a witch?" He and an immediate image of Natalia being burned at the stake. "Yeah. I got into it on my first year here. It's a more tolerant belief system." "So, no spell throwing?" She laughed. "No, this isn't like in the entertainment shows. We just pray differently." She went on to explain her religion to him, and Patrick found himself intrigue by it. Not that he had any interest in abandoning God, but he'd never had someone described a different belief system to him with such intimate knowledge of it before. He had to stop her when he smelled the lasagna start burning. He took it out just in time, only the edges had burned. He promised to call her again then set the table. His mother arrived moments later and they had a pleasant meal. After he'd done the dishes and put the leftovers away he took the phone to his bedroom. His mother was watching a show in the living room, so she wouldn't hear him. He dialed the number. "Hello?" a man said. Patrick hesitated for a moment. "Hi, it's Patrick." "Patrick? Hi, it's Donald. How are you? Is your shoulder doing better?" Patrick felt his eyes getting wet. "It is. I should have called sooner. I was touched that you called." "I'm just happy you're okay. I'll get the others." "No, don't. I just... I just wanted to say thank you for calling." "You're welcome." The sound of a chair scraping against the floor. "Will... will you be visiting?" "Yes. No. I don't know." "I understand." "I'm not... whatever I was when I left that time, you can tell them that. I think Arthur would like to know that." "I'll make sure to tell him." "Dad, I just... I mean..." Donald was sniffling. "I'm sorry," he said. "I never thought I'd hear you call me that." "You're my dad, you and Daniel, you're my dad. I dreamed of having one for so long and now I do. I don't want to lose you. Yes, I'm going to visit again. I just have to figure out when it's going to be." "Thank you, son. I don't know if you realize how much that means to us." Patrick couldn't reply, he was sobbing now. He was someone's son. "I should probably let you go. It's a school night, you probably have to study, and I should share the news with Daniel." Patrick didn't tell Donald he wasn't in school. He dried his eyes and wondered how they would take the fact he'd dropped out. "Okay. I'll try to call again at some point." "We can call you. I know the kids would love to talk with you." "I'd rather you didn't. It's my mom's phone, we both use it and there's no telling who'll have it when you call." "Alright, I understand. Have a good night son." "Have a good night dad." Patrick cried for some time after that. He hadn't realized how desperately he wanted a father until now. After he was done crying he erased the call from the history and returned the phone to the kitchen table. His mother was still watching a show. Something more recent this time, a police drama from what he caught. He was surprised at his lack of anger at her for keeping his father secret from him. As angry as had been on learning about the lie, he'd imagined that the day he accepted his father in his life he would hate her for keeping him fatherless for so long, but he didn't feel that. She was his mother, and he loved her. She had her faults, but he loved her anyway. But she wouldn't keep him away from his father. It was his life to live and he wanted his father in it. She'd have to find a way to deal with that. He bent over her and kissed her head. "I'm turning in. Joey needs me to come in the morning, we still have a lot of stuff to move from today's delivery." she smiled at him. "Alright. you sleep well I'll see you in the morning." "You too. I love you mom." "I love you too Patrick."
  6. 1 point
    Wow, I didn't actually know that now the site has some parts of it translated to Russian! just a bit weird but I'll get used to that :) BTW how are you all?
  7. 1 point
    The Missing Son 21 The Church was smaller than he expected. The photos on their web page made it look larger. The outside was worn, but well maintained. They had replaced one of the tall wooden doors recently, the varnish hadn't bleached in the sun yet. He entered and, as always, he felt a little smaller. This was the House of God, and he was just some insignificant tiger. He dipped his fingers in the basin of holy water and crossed himself. He walked between the pews, relieved they were unoccupied. It made sense, it being the middle of the afternoon. He would have been even more uncomfortable if it had been crowded with regular parishioners. As it was, he was nervous and starting to doubt the wisdom of coming. Part of him said it would be better to just bury his head in the sand. Ignore the growing list of evidence and go back to living the way he had been. And blowing up at strangers for imagined slight? He sat down and looked at the cross. Like every depiction of him, well, those who accepted Jesus was cervid, he now knew, his antlers were broken off and made into a crown, with the points sharpened and pressing in his head. His punishment for preaching the existence of Eden and that the Path was the way to return there He couldn't look at him for long without feeling like he was being judged. Looking down he saw a bible someone left in the nook on the back of the pew in front of him. He took it and leafed through the pages. He looked back up. "God," he whispered, "Why did you make me this way?" Someone put a hand on his shoulder. "Can I help you?" a woman said. Patrick jumped out of his fur and landed a couple of feet away panting in fright. He turned and looked at an otter in a cassock. She was also panting, a hand over her heart. It seemed his start had frightened her as much as she had him. "I'm sorry," he apologized once he found his voice. "It's alright." She gave him a small smile. "I should have made sure you knew I was there." She sat on the pew. "I'm Mother Rosetta. I don't remember seeing you here before." "I'm Patrick." He sat a respectable distance away. "I'm not in your parish, I live in Brownstone." "That isn't exactly nearby," she commented after a moment's thought. "What brought you to our church?" Patrick hesitated. "I need a different point of view on something. I've been looking online and came across the blogs on your site. They were refreshingly balanced." She tilted an ear in his direction in an invitation to continue. "Father Durony, the priest at my Church, he's.... Well, I've come to realize the way he interprets the bible isn't the way others do. From the reading I did, he takes a very old fashion view of it." She gave him a knowing smile. "He's one of the Revivalists then?" Patrick nodded. "Yes, they do tend to view God as being fire and brimstone. Why don't you tell me what you need help with?" "I'm...." He froze. He couldn't say it? He'd been practicing it in his head on the way here and yet the words didn't want to come out? "You don't have to say it, if you aren't comfortable," she reassured him. He breathed in, to calm himself. "I have to say it. I've been 'not saying it' for too long, it feels like each time I don't I'm actively encouraging a lie." Worry appeared on her face. Patrick closed his eyes and breathed some more. "I'm gay." There, he'd finally said it... and nothing. No being struck by lightning, no bursting into flames. He opened his eyes in surprise and she was smiling at him. "I take it you were expecting something to happen?" "I know it's stupid, but yes I was. It isn't like God has turned anyone back into an animal recently." She nodded. "I can see how growing up in a revivalist church would cause you to have problems coming to terms with your sexuality." Patrick leaned back. "Yeah, ever since I've been a kid I've been told how being..." he sighed and forced the word out. "How being gay is the quickest way off the Path. How God hates gays, that they are the work of the devil, stuff like that. If being... gay is so wrong, why did he make me this way?" She studied him for a moment. "God doesn't hate gays." "But the bible says he does." he shook the bible he was holding. "That it's against His will." She took hold of the bible and gently brought it down to his lap. "This book was written by us, not by God." "But they wrote the words of God, didn't they?" She smiled and was thoughtful. "Alright, let's say, for a moment, that we accept that those who wrote the bible were indeed, let's call it channeling God. Let's say that's true. "Do you really think that one of our minds could hold the thoughts of God and not miss something? Or misunderstand what He thought? God's mind is infinite. He knows everything, he sees everything. Our minds are very much limited. Even if we were to try to hold all that God is, we couldn't. At best we could only old a very small part of it. "If his mind is even a little bit like ours, it's a chaotic place, it isn't like a library where everything is ordered with a computer listing where to find everything. It stands to reason that anyone who tried to write down His mind couldn't put everything down, and what they did write might not be correct." Patrick looked at the book. "So, you're saying that the bible isn't accurate because we couldn't understand everything God had meant." She patted his hand. "No, that's not what I'm saying. That is something someone could argue as being valid. I, personally, don't believe the bible is the word of God. Patrick stared at her. "Shocking, I know." She grinned. "Thinks about it. We've had evidence the bible has been modified, rewritten, for decades now. We also know that many of those changes were done to bring the bible in line with what the rulers of the time wanted. Now, I'm not saying there aren't some good ideas in it, but in the end I'm not willing to believe God would have a hand in penning something with so much hate and anger in it. "God doesn't hate you. He doesn't hate anyone." "How about his enemies?" "God doesn't have enemies." "Of course he does. All those terrorists. The attacks in the early twenty first century, what was going on in Kenya on the thirties?" "They aren't God's enemies. God made them, he made all of us, how could they be his enemies?" "But they follow other Gods." "No, they don't." She paused. "At least, I don't believe they do. They might have given Him a different name, but there is only one God. Not one true God, simply one God." "Then why did they attack us? why did they call us heathen? The massacres in Kenya, the deaths in the Congo?" "Because they are people, they aren't perfect. Like you and me, they are flawed, and for whatever reason they decided to use God as an excuse to make war instead of following Him to peace." She was right, Patrick realized. He'd seen it in his neighborhood often enough. People proclaiming God's name while doing something He would never approve of. "Then what about God's first creation? He had to hate him for disobeying Him. He destroyed them after all." She canted her head. "Did He? The bible simply says the He removed man from Eden for eating the apple. I prefer to think that he took them somewhere else. Maybe a world of their own, where they could learn the consequences of their action. After all, when we asked permission to eat the apple, he warned us we would have to leave. That once we had the knowledge the fruit brought, Eden wouldn't be for us anymore. "After man was removed from Eden," she recited, "God elevated the animals to take his place, to care for Eden." "Except the snake," Patrick added by rote. Mother Rosetta smiled. "Yes, except the snake. For the part it played in offering the apple to man it has been fated to always crawl on the ground as a simple beast. But for the rest of us, we grew and cared for Eden, until the day our curiosity grew too strong. We tasted the apple and left Eden." "Do you think we'll ever make it back there?" She didn't answer immediately. "I don't know. I'd like to think God wants us to, since he sent his Son to show us the Path." She leaned toward him. "Did you ever think about why Jesus came to us as a cervid, instead of, say, a lion, or a tiger?" Patrick shrugged. "Not really." "I believe it's so we would see that power, or strength, wasn't what would get us back to Eden. Cervids aren't exactly known to be strong, although they certainly aren't the weakest of us. He wanted us to see it was our actions that would lead us back to Eden." Patrick looked at the bible in his hand, rubbed the worn cover. "If I can't use the bible to figure out what the Path is, how am I ever going to find my way to Eden?" "God gave you the only tool you need to find your way back." She reached over and put a hand over his chest. "He gave you a heart. He gave you the ability to feel, to care and to love. If you follow it, are nice to your neighbor, eventually you'll find your way back." Patrick let out a sardonic chuckle. "I hate to break it to you Mother but being nice doesn't exactly cut it in this world." "You're right. When I say nice I don't mean you should lay down and let others trample you. God wants you to defend yourself. He wants you to defend others, if need be, but do so without malice. Don't seek revenge, seek justice. Keep anger out of the fight." Patrick was silent for a moment. "That might be easier said than done," he sighed. She looked at him inquisitively. "I have some anger issues," he admitted. "How bad is it? have you ever wanted to hurt someone?" Patrick wanted to deny it. "Sometime. Mostly I scream a lot, but recently, with... this, I've been lashing out at things." "Do you think that will go away once you resolve the issue?" Patrick considered it. "I think so. I've been calmer ever since realizing that what I knew of God might not be all there was." She nodded. "If you don't mind me asking, what made you start questioning your sexuality?" "I'm not ready to talk about that, not yet. But it isn't that I had sex. I'm not ready for that." "I understand. When you are, you know where to find me. I'm just what, a five hour walk away?" Patrick chuckled. "Closer to three." She smirked at him. "Closer to three, he said, like even that's an easy walk." "I like to walk." She shook her head in amusement. "Tell you what. Let me give you my number." Patrick chuckled. "I don't have a phone." She started at him. "How can you not have a phone?" Patrick shrugged. "Never had one, I can't afford the plans, so I managed without." "Well, I'm not sure how I can give it to you then." "Just read it out, I'll remember it." She looked unsure but pulled out her phone and read off her number. Patrick repeated it to her, then a few times in his head. "If you ever need to talk, call me, day or night." She stood. "Will you be staying? Mass is in about an hour." "I can't. I'm working and with the walk, I'll be there just in time." "Alright, you're always welcome here. have a good day, and God bless you." "Thank you, Mother." Patrick stood in the aisle, looking at Jesus. He crossed himself and headed out. He stopped before leaving the Church. Next to the door was the donation box. He didn't normally give anything, he had so little already, but he dug in his pocket and pulled out the ten and twenty. He didn't have time to go home, so he'd have to buy something on the way. What could he afford to give? food wasn't exactly cheap. He put the twenty in the box. He'd buy a sandwich and soda on the way. He'd eat more at the bar. Don didn't have food, but he didn't mind if Patrick ate a lot of the peanuts.
  8. 1 point
    The villa of Colonel Achilles Graves was in an unusual state of uproar. At least a dozen members of the Anatolian police were spread around the villa’s front porch with their automobiles parked all over the snow covered yard. The officers, thickly clad in large woolen overcoats, were busy taking statements from the guests, while a small group of officers were leading away three of the guests. Various emotions were displayed on their faces, from miserable to murderous rage. Their paws were cuffed on their backs as they were escorted towards the awaiting automobiles. One of them, a tiger, had to be restrained by three of the officers as he kept struggling against their grip. The feline was heavily bruised, bloodied, and had lots of cuts on his face. He snarled and tried to fight his way out twice and nearly succeeded until a boar officer went in and helped his comrades to shove the offending tiger into the police van. The master of the house, the distinguished Colonel Achilles Graves, looked weary as he answered a few questions from the tall and shrewd labrador. The golden bands on his uniform indicated that the canine was the lead inspector. There was an air of relief in the black panther’s features as he answered yet another question. “...yes, exactly. If it wasn’t for detective Cross’ quick action, that tiger would have succeeded in his attempt to stab me.” He answered. “I see.” The inspector nodded, hastily scribbling the colonel’s words on a notebook. He hummed as he thought his next question. “What can you say for Mr. Nikolai Vasilyev? I understand he’s your guest. However, he wasn’t on your guest list.” “Oh, young Vasilyev. He was standing in for his uncle, Admiral Vadim Vasilyev, who had fallen ill and couldn’t come. The admiral and I had gone a long way back.” The inspector made a long, drawn out hum. “Ah, that makes sense I suppose.” “Vasilyev helped to restrain Rogers when detective Cross was struggling to restrain him.” The colonel added. “Furthermore, without his help, that damned tiger and his accomplices would have managed to steal some valuable information.” “Did he now?” The labrador’s eyebrow rose Colonel Graves gestured to the two felines who were being interviewed by another police member several feet away. “See that they had sustained a number of cuts and bruises?” “Mmm…” The inspector continued to ask several more questions to the colonel, before he nodded in satisfaction, and signaled for his subordinates to move. Breathing a sigh of relief, the black panther turned to the cougar who was making his way towards him. Trotting directly behind the cougar was a male lynx. Both were draped in long, heavy coats and scarves wrapped their necks. “I really cannot thank you enough for your help, Mr. Cross… I am forever in your debt.” He said to the cougar. Detective Leonidas Cross, or Leon as he liked to go by, gave a dismissive wave to the panther before he brushed off the snow that had accumulated on the top of his hat. A small smile was etched on his bruised face. Indeed, the feline looked slightly worse for wear after the small brawl earlier that evening. “Anything for an old friend, colonel. The worst is behind us with Rogers gone.” He nodded towards the tiger who was glaring balefully at them through the windows of the police car. “I think you can sleep well now without anything burdening your mind.” The detective added, pulling the coat closer around himself. “I suppose.” Colonel Graves exhaled, watching as the police shoved the bound tiger into the car and slammed the door. “Still, I hadn’t thought it was Rogers of all people…” Cross gave a comforting pat on his friend’s shoulder. “At least Mr. Vasilyev was kind enough to subdue Rogers and recover the stolen plans.” The entourage of police and their cars soon drove off, leaving the villa back in its relative peaceful state once again. With the police gone, so was the excitement. The guests and servants slowly trickled back into the villa. The colonel, Cross, and Vasilyev soon followed the others, walking side by side as they headed into the warmth of the colonel’s villa. “All clear with the police?” Cross turned his question to the lynx as he handed his coat and hat to the butler who was standing helpfully by the door. Nikolai Vasilyev looked worse for wear. His face bore a few scratches, some were bleeding openly, and his dinner jacket was in disarray. However, the feline’s expression was one of immense satisfaction. “I’m all clear once I showed them my identification and papers. Good thing the good sergeant can read Cyrillic.” The lynx voiced with a small grin on his face. His voice bore almost no traces of his Rosvenian heritage. “I must apologize for deceiving you both however. It was imperative that my real identity was to remain hidden for my mission to succeed.” Cross nodded. “Yes of course. And we’re grateful that you’ve recovered what had been stolen, aren’t we, colonel?” “Hmm? Oh, yes.” The colonel nodded, absentmindedly caressing the folder that was pinned under his arm. “The Avalorian army is grateful for your help, Mr. Vasilyev.” “I’m just here to help.” The Rosvenian agent gave a small chuckle. “Well, I don’t think any of us is ready for bed now.” The colonel continued. “There was too many excitement for the night.” With the expressions of agreement from the two feline companions, he continued, “Why don’t we retire to the library for the time being?” The library, which had been used by Cross to confront Rogers of his motives early that evening, had been efficiently tidied. Looking at the room now, one would not expect that a brawl had taken place inside the richly paneled and thickly carpeted room. The servants had tidied the books back to their respective shelves in an orderly manner, the seats and chairs rearranged back into their prior position, and the colonel’s writing desk had been returned to its original, upright position by the tall windows. There were several blotches of ink on the carpet from the bottles that had shattered when Rogers slammed Cross to the desk in an attempt to escape, but the ink stains would wash off, hopefully. As the two felines made a beeline to the fireplace, the colonel went over to pour them whiskey from the side table, which had been thankfully untouched during the confrontation. “Thank you, Colonel.” Vasilyev nodded at the panther gratefully and drank. Colonel Graves went to take the spot beside the cougar detective. “So, you will be returning to Rosvenia soon, Vasilyev?” Cross inquired, sitting on the nearby velvet settee. “Since you’ve completed your objective here and whatnot.” “In a few days.” The lynx nodded as he sat to the adjacent settee. “I’ll be taking the train straight to Pierrograd,” said Vasilyev. “My services would be needed with how the country is at this moment… What about you, Mr. Cross? You’re from the Hesperian Federation, aren’t you?” The cougar took a big gulp of his whiskey before replying. “Yes, yes I am. I’ll be taking the train home, all the way to Valmagne-sur-Mer in Gallia. From there, I’ll take the connection to Kingshaven by ship.” “Sounds like you’ve got a long journey ahead, Mr. Cross.” Vasilyev sipped his whiskey. “Which train are you taking? The Continental Express?” Cross shook his head. “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll either take that or the Nightliner Limited back. Whichever won’t deplete my wallet.” He added with a small dry chuckle. “Why not the Mercurius Express?” Colonel Graves chimed in. “It’s the fastest, and not to mention the best train in all of Ivoria. Takes just four days to travel from here to Gallia.” “That’s true, right there.” Vasilyev agreed. “I’ll be on that train myself. Fine meals, cocktails, and not to mention, charming travelling companions.” The lynx chuckled. The colonel gestured in agreement with his glass. “You would be right.” “However, it’s also the most expensive option for me.” Cross sighed. “I simply can’t afford spend so much on a trip. I’ve used quite a huge amount of my savings to get here from Hesperia by airship.” He said. “It’ll be cheaper if I take the regular express trains.” Colonel Graves was quick to protest. “Oh, no, no. I can’t allow that. You’ve helped me a great deal, Cross, and I intend to repay the favor.” “Oh, but you shouldn’t—“ “I insist.” The colonel smiled. “I’ll cover for your travel expenses from Anatolia to Gallia. Besides, I’ll be taking the train too, but only as far as Ansburg. We could all travel on the same day.” Cross blinked. “I didn’t know that you’re heading back so soon. Why Ansburg, pray tell?” “There will be a joint military drill between Avaloria and Arlemania, requested by the Kaiser Albert himself.” The colonel replied. “Part of his plan to smooth out relations between the two countries.” Vasilyev hummed. “I heard rumours that the Kaiser is eyeing Princess Alexandrina for marriage. Perhaps this is one of his attempts to soften relationships between his empire and Avaloria.” “Judging from the number of times the Kaiser himself has visited Avaloria, I wouldn’t be surprised.” Cross remarked, sipping his whiskey. “Either way… you will be overseeing the military exercises, am I correct?” He turned to the colonel. The black panther nodded. “Quite right! And what better way to travel back with good company, eh?” He chuckled. Cross fell into a long, ponderous silence, sipping the last drop of his whiskey all the while. “Well then…” he gave a sigh and showed the colonel a small, amused smile. “If you insist, colonel, I would be happy to join you two.” The colonel grinned brightly. “It’s settled then!” He clasped his paws together. “I say why don’t you two enjoy a few days here before going back? Enjoy the rest of the week to recuperate, and then we can head to Hieropolis to catch on the Friday afternoon train next week.” He suggested, standing to his feet. “And to be frank, you two don’t look like you could travel without gaining a few looks.” The other two felines turned and glanced at each other, noting the bruises and scrapes on their faces. Cross chuckled. “Yes… I think you’re right, colonel.” “I could use a few days of rest.” Vasilyev nodded in agreement. “Splendid! I’ll have our berths arranged.” The colonel spoke again. “You won’t need to worry a single thing.” Vasilyev poured another helping of whiskey to himself. “Looks like we’ll have a pretty enjoyable journey ahead of us.” Cross couldn’t agree more. “Looks like we will.” He smiled at the lynx, and asked to refill his glass. * * * Richard Caine took a large drag of his smoke and blew, looking down to the open air palm court from the balcony of his hotel room several floors above. Tables and chairs had been arranged by the hotel stewards so that the guests could dine under the fine, clear night. He could see a few guests had trickled out from the adjacent dining room, clad in dinner jackets and elegant gowns. Some of the ladies braved to bare their shoulders and arms even though it was quite a chilly night. Nights in Misarya could be very cold, especially in winter, contrasting to its daytime temperatures. It baffled Richard to no end how extreme temperatures could shift in the desert. The wolverine continued this idle activity of observing the servants and guests for a few more minutes before he flicked the butt of his cigarette and headed back into his room. Closing the doors behind him, Richard went to check his reflection on the nearby mirror, straightening his collar and bowtie, before he went to grab the black tailcoat hanging by the open wardrobe. There came a knock on the door just as he was straightening his dinner jacket. “Yes?” “It’s me, Rick.” Came his uncle’s voice from the door. “Just a second.” Richard went to the door and turned the lock open. His uncle was standing just outside, sporting the small grin that seemed to be permanently plastered on his face. Like Richard, Simon Caine was dressed in a dinner jacket, which was slightly stretched over the wolverine’s large, but sturdily built figure. His salt and pepper hair was neatly combed back, and Richard thought his uncle looked pretty dashing for his age. “Well, well. You look strapping, as always.” The older wolverine smiled appreciatively, before he blinked and made a small gesture with his paw. “Your bowtie is slightly off.” He told his nephew. His fingers were already reaching for the tie. “Do you mind if…?” Richard had a bemused smile on his face as he shook his head. “Not at all.” Simon made a short work to straighten his nephew’s bowtie, and took a few more seconds to make sure the younger wolverine was presentable. “There. Perfect.” Richard chuckled and beamed. “Thanks, uncle.” “You’re welcome!” The older wolverine smiled. “Oh right, these just came in.” He then pulled out several enveloped from inside of his jacket. “Oh?” Richard quickly flipped through the letters and tore them open. The first two was from his alma mater, the Stainbridge University in Avaloria, inviting him for an alumni spring reunion. The second one was a letter from his archeology professor, asking about his recent expedition to the Misaryan Great Tombs. The third envelope was a telegram, sent from a hotel in Hieropolis, Anatolia, dated today, and it was sent just about an hour ago. The name of the sender was his friend, whose letter Richard had been waiting for a few days now. Opening the envelope, Richard’s eyes fell to the neatly printed letters which read, ‘FOUND NEW INFO ABOUT THE BOX = OLD BIRD KEPT ASKING ABOUT THE TRINKET = WILL HEAD TO AS-QAIR & MEET YOU AT THE HOTEL IN TWO DAYS’ “Was that from Warren?” Simon inquired when Richard folded the telegram back to its envelope. The younger wolverine nodded. “Yeah. Sounds like Trent had finally found a lead on our nifty little trinket here.” He said, turning his head slightly to the corner of the bedroom. “Oh, really?” Simon hummed. He followed his nephew’s line of gaze, looking at the large, solid black trunk nestled right next to the end table. It was heavily secured by three locks with a combination number on each lock. Opening them would also require a special key, which the two wolverines always kept on themselves. Getting that little souvenir from the Great Tombs had been quite the grueling task, and not to mention the permits they had to apply to get it shipped across the country. The ancient and valuable trinket they found held a few surprises… if not shocking. Richard didn’t want to risk it being lost or stolen after all the trouble he and his uncle had been through. Especially not when their client had promised a large amount of payment for that artefact. “Well any information about that strange box there would be good. What did he say?” Richard shook his head. “Nothing, really…” He handed the envelope to his uncle. “He said he’d meet us here in two days, and that’s all.” Simon hummed as he read the letter. “Looks like your client is getting more impatient to get his souvenir.” Richard let out a soft snort. “Ainsworth is too impatient for his own good. We’ll give him the box when he’s given us the payment.” “Of course, boy.” The older wolverine chuckled. “Well, let’s head down. They’ve rang the dinner gong a while ago.” Nodding, Richard went to lock every windows and doors before he followed his uncle to the hallway outside. Simon’s paw was on Richard’s shoulder as they headed for the elevator lobby, pulling the younger wolverine close. The elevator brought the two down to the ground floor and they made a beeline towards the dining hall just off to the side of the lobby. The magnificent hall, two stories high and lined with windows on two sides, was already filled with guests. The orchestra was playing a lively waltz to which several couples were dancing to on the marble lined dance floor. Wall to ceiling glass doors opened to the palm court outside. It would seem most of the guests wanted to enjoy some fresh air tonight, Richard noted as he and his uncle were shown to their table by their waiter. They weren’t lead outside, thankfully, but it would seem their table had already been occupied by a single guest. He was a tall, broad shouldered grey wolf with a stern looking face and a predominantly black and white fur, with shades of brown spread evenly along his robust figure that was clad in impeccable set of tails. The wolf’s sharp amber eyes flicked between Richard and his uncle for a moment before he gestured to the empty seat with a flicker of a smile. “Good evening.” Simon greeted as they sat down. “I’m Simon Caine.” “Heinrich Luther.” He introduced himself. His tone carried the slight guttural, Arlemanian accent. Richard introduced himself as well before he picked up the menu card and looked through the list of food that was offered that night. For some reason, he felt that Luther was scrutinizing him and his uncle a bit too closely. When he went to glance at the wolf, the canine’s gaze was already somewhere else, casually so. It would seem that the wolf was studying a pair of lions who were dancing slowly with the music, Richard thought as he followed the canine’s gaze. Honeymooners, judging by their expressions on their faces. Richard thought that the lioness was very beautiful in her simple, but undoubtedly expensive black dress. An impressive necklace was draped over her neck, consisting of huge, intricate golden beads and beautiful sapphires. The lioness’ husband was also very handsome, with strong jaw, a dazzling smile, neatly trimmed auburn mane, and brilliant grey eyes. His white dinner jacket fitted his athletic frame perfectly. “Those two made a really good pair.” His uncle remarked thoughtfully. “Oh, isn’t she Eliza Baxter?” “She’s Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer now.” Heinrich Luther intoned. Simon Caine regarded the wolf with interest. “Indeed? I didn’t know she’s married. That Meyer is a lucky bastard.” He chuckled. “And she’s a very lucky girl.” Richard remarked, eyes fixed on the couple. “Undoubtedly.” Luther nodded, drinking his wine. “News of her marriage was all over the newspapers in Avaloria for the past week.” “Ah, I see. My uncle and I had been busy with the excavation at the Great Tombs for the past month, hence why.” Richard chuckled. “She’s a big star then?” “I tell you, nephew, Elisabeth Baxter—or Meyer as she is now, is one of Avaloria’s richest women.” Simon Caine explained. “I was well acquainted with her father. Julius Baxter was a brilliant businessman. He also invested a lot on theatres and cinemas at the Cross End. We’ve been to one of his theatres a few years ago, actually.” He chuckled. “Remember, Rick? It was a performance for Wilhelm V.” “Oh, really?” The younger wolverine nodded slowly. “Oh, right, right. That theatre was quite opulent, and I remembered it was quite the brilliant play too. And… did you say Julius Baxter was a brilliant businessman?” He added. “He had passed away two years ago.” Luther remarked in his guttural baritone. “Mrs. Meyer now holds his businesses.” “As it is expected.” Simon nodded, drinking the champagne which had been poured by the waiter. “I heard she’s also a shrewd businesswoman.” The wolf nodded. “That she is. How well are you acquainted with the Baxter family, Mr. Caine?” He asked, levelling his gaze to Simon. The wolverine blinked. “Just quite, actually. Me and Julius were schoolmates. We shared the same dormitory and classes, but never really talked to him that much outside homework and school projects. I’ve also made a few business deals with the late Mr. Baxter, with his obsession on ancient artefacts and such.” Luther nodded with a hum. “I see.” He uttered, before his attention was drawn to the waiter who had come around, bringing another person to their table. It was a male Akita with handsome brown coat with black markings. He looked pretty young, perhaps in his early twenties. However, despite a hint of nervousness tugging on his smiling muzzle, the canine had an air of ease about him, like a well-seasoned traveler. “Hullo. Spencer Calius. Pleasure to meet you.” Richard blinked, not expecting the fluent Avalorian, if not slightly inflected with a hint of an accent, coming from the Akita’s lips. His name itself suggested that the canine wasn’t wholly oriental in his origin. “The pleasure is mine, young man.” Simon Caine shook his paws with the Akita, giving a very wide, if not a rather too friendly grin. Richard nudged his uncle slightly. Simon Caine quickly cleared his throat and toned down his smile. “Travelling all by yourself, Mr. Calius?” “Yeah, I am. I had friends actually, but we parted ways awhile back,” said Spencer. “They wanted to go back to Columbia and I would like to explore the old world a bit more so, we agreed to split up here.” He explained with a shrug of his shoulders. “Understandable. However, it’s rather taxing, travelling by yourself, isn’t it?” Richard went to ask. Spencer hummed. “Hmm, that’s true but it’s rather refreshing actually. I got to sightsee every interesting part of Misarya with my own, leisure pace. My friends could be rather excitable, really.” “Of course.” Richard nodded. “So, you’ve toured the Nahail River then?” “Oh yes, it’s quite the adventure!” The Akita said with a wide grin. “I’ve seen so many interesting ruins and sights. My fellow passengers were quite interesting too. Professors, archeologists, novelists, honeymooners… like those two over there,” he nodded to the Meyers couple, “and uh…” He turned to Luther, tilting his head to the side. “Huh… didn’t we meet on the boat?” The wolf’s response was rather noncommittal. “We might have.” “Ah? Er… alright then.” Dinner proceeded without many comments. However, Richard did engage Spencer in a small discussion about their excavation work at the Great Tombs and what they found. It certainly drew interest from Akita, who had apparently visited the location during his tour down the Nahail. The Meyers had gone to occupy the small table next to theirs, and Richard couldn’t help but admire the couple. They looked truly in love, especially Theodore Meyer. No doubt, his new wife had truly captivated him. However, aside from the cheerful music and the splendid food, dinner progressed rather uneventfully. Heinrich Luther offered a curt “Evening,” before he stood up and left, making his way towards the bar that was outside the dining hall. As the waiter brought out the desserts, Richard watched as two guests rose from the table across the room and made their way towards the Meyers, hand in hand. One was a young lioness with her hair curled into fashionable waves, and the other was a rather boyish looking leopard. Both of them were quite good looking, but they didn’t quite stand out. Richard guessed that they were another newlywed couple, or perhaps recently engaged. He couldn’t be sure. However, the strange, intense expression on the lioness’ face was quite startling for him. “Oh, Eliza! I didn’t know you’re staying here. What a pleasant surprise!” The lioness exclaimed. From the expression on Eliza Meyer’s face, it was indeed a surprise, but far from pleasant. Her husband, Theodore Meyer, also looked quite shocked. In fact, the two lions looked rather awkward meeting this Cathy. Eliza quickly stood up after she managed to gather he bearings. “Cathy! I didn’t know you’re staying here!” She turned her attention to the leopard standing beside Cathy. “Oh, and who is this?” Cathy pulled the leopard by his arm, smiling rather brightly. Too brightly at that. “Zachary Hale. Meet Eliza Bax—I mean, Eliza Meyer. And I’m sure you knew Theodore Meyer?” She nodded her head to the lion. Theodore Meyer nodded wordlessly. He was still staring at Cathy and Zachary Hale, but mostly Zachary Hale, in surprise. “Oh yes. We met a couple of times,” said Zachary Hale. The leopard smiled somewhat shyly at the lion in question. Theodore Meyer gave a small, if not nervous smile. “Yes… we studied at Bridgeford together.” There was an unreadable expression in the lion’s grey eyes, which was reflected by Zachary Hale. However, the leopard turned his attention to Cathy who had continued speaking. “Well, I just wanted to tell you, Lizzy. Me and Zach are engaged!” Cathy practically exclaimed to her friend. “Engaged?” Came the astonished reply from the Meyers. Richard quickly turned away from the conversation, knowing how women liked to gush and gossip, especially when they were going to get married, or during their honeymoon. His attention was completely drawn away the next moment, as one of the waiters came down towards him with a small tray bearing an envelope. “Telegram for Mr. R. Caine.” The uniformed bear announced. “Oh, that’d be me. Thank you.” Richard went and took the telegram from the waiter. He quickly opened it when he read that it was sent by Trent Warren. ‘CHANGE OF PLANS = DEPART MERCURIUS EXPRESS NEXT FRIDAY 5 PM HIEROPLS. CENTRAL STATION = OLD BIRD WILL BE THERE WITH THE GOLD = REPLY PROMPTLY = YOUR PAL TRENT’ Folding the telegram, Richard made a mental calculation in his mind. Travelling from Misarya to Anatolia will take half a day by air. Two if they were delayed by the weather. If they left the day after tomorrow, there will be still time to catch up with Trent and take the Friday train. He turned his head to his uncle when the older wolverine nudged him softly. “Something urgent?” Richard gave a slight shrug. “Well, sounds like it. Looks like we’ll have to meet up with Trent in Anatolia instead.” He said. “Why the sudden change?” His uncle voiced his confusion. “He didn’t say, but it sounds like he found some new leads.” Richard replied, lowering his tone slightly and handed the telegram to his uncle. “Well, we can catch up with him if we take the airship in two days.” “Ah, that’s rather sudden, isn’t it?” Simon remarked. “I suppose so.” Richard sighed and stood up. “I better reply to this telegram, so please excuse me.” He added to the guests on his table. “No problem!” Spencer gave the wolverine a nod. “It sounds urgent so I don’t mind. Perhaps we might even meet in Anatolia later on.” He chuckled. Evidently, he had heard about their part of conversation. Simon smiled rather tightly as he turned to the Akita. “Oh?” “I’ll be going back to Columbia after this. A friend of mine was kind enough to book me a passage on a train.” Chuckling, Richard straightened his jacket and made his way out of the dining room, intend to find the telegram office in the hotel. He was sure he saw one this afternoon, close to the lobby. * * * Several hundred feet above the vast, arid desert of Eravia, a silvery airship was sailing lazily through golden dunes with several dozen passengers housed within its cigar-shaped hull. While not being the largest airships, the Adhara was one of the fastest with the most comfortable, finely appointed accommodations with affordable price. It was that sole reason that Dr. Hector LeFevre took the Eravian airship on his return trip to Anatolia. From there, he would take a transit flight back to his home in Gallia. The badger, short and robust but also unusually tall for his species, was seated by the airship’s small, but cozy lounge. A cup of chilled sweet tea was wrapped around his paw. The doctor’s attention wasn’t directed to the drink or even the view outside the wide, picture windows of the lounge. Instead, LeFevre was fully engrossed with the newspaper before him. It was the international edition of the local papers that had been printed and translated to Gallian. “Là là.” He muttered in annoyance as he read the headline on the third page, which announced that weather conditions in northern Ivoria had worsened. Weather forecast predicted that snow will come down heavily in the next few weeks. All flights to and from Avaloria, Hesperia, Gallia, Arlemania, Rosvenia, and Norvdal would be canceled until further notice. “Looks like I would have to take the train instead.” He said to particularly no one. “Perhaps you should, old friend.” LeFevre stood, let out a delighted exclamation, and went to give the sabertooth that had been standing right behind him a friendly hug. “Armand, mon vieil ami!” LeFevre beamed. “What brings you here? Come, come, sit with me.” Armand Förstner was a sabretooth tiger of middle age with a friendly demeanor. A single silver plated false fang was in place of his original right-side fang. His bright brown eyes were energetic and playful as he gave a good-natured slap on the badger’s back (who was a few heads shorter than him) while grinning brightly. “I am here on business, LeFevre. The usual duties of a director: monthly supervision and other nonsense.” The sabertooth replied in his usual, slightly synthesized voice as he sat down. LeFevre could see the mechanical collar that wrapped around his old friend’s neck partially hidden under the feline’s shirt collar. It assisted the sabertooth’s speech since Förstner had his vocal cords damaged during an accident a few years ago. “Ah, you’re overseeing the grand project to connect your train lines from Southern Ivoria to the East?” LeFevre guessed. “You’ve been monitoring the progress in Evaria then?” “Quite right my friend.” Förstner nodded. “Progress is slow, but the Ispania-Misarya-Anatolia-Eravia railway would be completed by the end of next year if favor is in our side.” “And soon your gleaming trains will thunder through the sandy deserts, eh?” LeFevre grinned. “It would be a dream come true for your bosses, no?” The sabertooth nodded with a small smile. “Quite right. Trains bearing the Mercurius Ferroviaire name would soon be rolling through this new route. I’m thinking of naming this route as the Horus-Aerion Express.” “The Horus-Aerion Express? After the Horus Mountains?” The mustelid doctor tilted his head slightly. The sabertooth smiled. “Naturally! The new train route will pass through the mountain range.” He revealed. “The company had decided to extend the Aerion Express’ route from Ispania onwards so I think it’s the most fitting name. This new line will be our most profitable one, I’d wager.” “That is a pretty fitting name, I agree.” LeFevre chuckled. “And I’m sure it will. This rail will link all of your company’s train routes, doesn’t it?” “Why of course!” The two continued to talk about Förstner’s new train project as the day slowly passed, discussing about how the new line would connect all of Förstner’s train services throughout the continent. When fully completed, the Horus-Aerion Express could take passengers from Madrino City, Ispania towards Misarya, and then all the way to Asaddia, Eravia where the train will continue towards its terminus in Hieropolis, Anatolia. “I didn’t get to ask,” said the sabertooth when he and LeFevre were strolling around the glass enclosed promenade deck, “what business have you in Eravia? I’ve never known you’d like to travel too far away from home.” “It was a patient’s request, you see,” replied the badger. “A Gallian diplomat had fallen seriously ill after a trip to the local excavation site. I won’t bore you with the details, but I had to perform an emergency surgery on him. He’s in fine condition now, but I had him sent to Gallia for better treatment ahead of me. He’ll be arriving approximately tomorrow morning in Luciere.” “Ah, that’s good news then.” Förstner nodded. “Still, it was surprising that you would fly all the way this far south.” The doctor chuckled with a nod. “Life can give us some few surprises, yes. Like the news of the cold front brewing in the northern regions for instance. No doubt a telegram informing that my airship to Gallia is cancelled would be waiting for me in Hieropolis.” He lamented. Förstner gave a slight hum. “Well, when airships couldn’t make it due to bad weather, trains or boats certainly can. At least, I’m confident my trains could go through the cold weather with no problem. No problem at all.” He chuckled at that. “You’re heading back to Gallia then?” “Yes I am. I must see my patient, after all.” “And you haven’t booked a berth on a train or a ship?” LeFevre knew where his friend was going, but he humoured him nonetheless. “I haven’t, yes.” “Well then, as the director of the line, let me provide you with a berth on the Mercurius Express, my friend. No, no, it won’t be a problem. It’ll be a pleasure, travelling with a friend, yes?” With Förstner’s insistence and persuasion, the badger doctor finally agreed, much to the sabertooth’s delight. “I owe you, my friend.” He said. “Consider this a debt repaid. After all, you did save my life during the Great War.” Förstner was practically purring pleasantly. LeFevre responded by giving a warm pat on his friend’s shoulder and a small smile. “You flatter me.” He added with a slight chuckle. “You will be joining the train then?” “Oh yes, but only until Obersthaven. I’m personally overseeing that some important guests will have a comfortable journey to Arlemania.” The sabertooth said. “Like Dirk Thorstein, the famous Columbian violinist who’s in this airship with us right now. He and his two friends had just completed their tour, playing for the Eravian sultans. In fact, I think I saw him and his group right there.” Following the sabertooth’s line of sight, LeFevre saw a tall, broad shouldered arctic wolf standing a few ways away, leaning over the promenade windows. He had a rather sophisticated but approachable and charming air. Standing close to the wolf were his fellow musicians, as it would seem. One was a ram whose curled horns caused him to have the impression that he towered over every everybody else, and the other was an gangly, lean, male leopard. All three were in the company of sophisticated, important looking people, conversing about their latest performance and whatnot. However, Dirk Thorstein was talking with a rather unassuming wolf with a predominant dark grey fur. “You said you’re also a violinist, Herr Schroeder?” LeFevre heard the wolf spoke as they walked past the two canines. “Yes I am, but I’ve fallen out of practice, unfortunately.” The grey wolf replied. “I used to have a tutor from the… Ansburg Philharmonic. I am not as good as you, Thornstein, I must admit.” “It takes time and practice.” The Columbian violinist replied amicably. “And a tutor from the Ansburg Philharmonic? Really? Well, I say that was quite the distinction!” “Hmm, where did you say Dirk Thorstein was from again?” LeFevre finally asked as Herr Schroeder replied in a humble manner, adding that his tutor was talented but quite the slave driver. “I didn’t say.” Förstner hummed. “Also, I’m not quite sure. I knew he debuted in Centropolis a few years back and gained prominence in Columbia as a brilliant soloist. He had even toured around the world a few times.” LeFevre nodded. “I heard of that as well. I do believe he has a bit of an accent… Norvdallian perhaps?” “Still have an eye over the details I see!” The sabertooth chuckled. “Well, Columbia is a big melting pot of a country, my friend. One living there could have any strange accents from all over the world.” The doctor pondered his friend’s statement. “I guess you’re right.” He said. “Well then, tell me more about your special guests you have to escort.” “Gladly! We have a few celebrities beside Thornstein. There’s Diana Adler, the famous Cross End actress; and also, Arturo Lazzari, the world-renowned opera singer. I heard he’s going to tour the North Columbian continent for the season… Ah, aside from the celebrities, there’s also Count Viktor Konstantinov and Duchess Natasha Nikolaevna of Rosvenia who will be travelling back to their home. No doubt they would be needed in the royal court with the current political turmoil in their country…” The day quickly turns to night and along came a very satisfying dinner in the airship’s wide, and cozy dining hall. Even though it was somewhat simple, the meal was extremely delectable, thought LeFevre. The badger soon found himself strolling along the promenade once again, intent to get a little exercise after the hearty meal. He couldn’t do to sleep with a full feeling in his stomach. Humming a little tune, the Gallian doctor greeted a couple of passengers who had went to have a nightly stroll just as himself. Most had turned in for the night. The sky outside was calm and cloudless, he noted. Stars shone through brightly in the inky black sky and there’s no moon in sight. It was almost poetic, LeFevre mused as he continued his stroll and rounded through the hallway that would lead to the other promenade on the other side of the Adhara. Just as he was approaching the entryway to the staircase, he heard hushed voices, almost like a lament. The doctor slowed down his steps as the noises became slightly clearer. “I wish I’m strong enough to get through this…” A pause, a light, almost inaudible gasp, followed with a sigh. “You are strong. Why did you ever think otherwise?” “If only I could.” The first voice said again. It was Herr Schroeder’s voice, LeFevre realized. Only, he sounded not like himself. “I just…” “You can, and you will. We’ll get through this… together.” The second voice, which LeFevre had identified as the firm voice of Dirk Thorstein, intoned. “After that… nothing can touch us…” Schroeder agreed softly, before it abruptly stopped. LeFevre turned his head away from the doorway where he had caught a glimpse of the two wolves standing closely under the staircase. Both men seem to be frozen in place, and the doctor could feel their eyes following him as he walked past. “The stars are very bright tonight,” he thought to himself absently as he continued on his stroll, smiling lightly to himself. When he came around to the staircase landing again, the two wolves were nowhere to be seen. Nor the doctor could see the end of their tails in the corridors as LeFevre returned to his cabin on the lower decks of the airship. The sky was clear and blue the next morning, with a blanket of white covered the hilly fields that surrounded the city of Hieropolis. It marveled the badger doctor on how snow could even fall in a country known by its humidity and heat in the summer. During breakfast, LeFevre was reminded of the conversation he overheard last night as he was seated right across Dirk Thorstein. The arctic wolf was alone, while Herr Schroeder was sitting a few tables away, apparently engaged in a conversation with a family of huskies. The Columbian violinist was barely eating his food. Schroeder would occasionally glance to Thornstein’s direction, but the musician didn’t give him any signs of acknowledgement. Within a blink, the grey wolf’s gaze was directed to something else entirely. It would seem that the two wolves were keen not to acknowledge each other today. LeFevre observed that the two men merely gave each other curt, polite greetings as they walked pass by. “This is a funny little drama I’m witnessing.” The doctor thought to himself when he saw the two men standing side by side by the lounge windows a few hours later. None of them spoke a thing, appearing to be very lost in thought. Or perhaps they were just amazed by the sight of the snow covered, sprawling city of Hieropolis that loomed underneath them. Thoughts of the two wolves eluded the Gallian doctor’s mind as the Adhara finally landed at Hieropolis International Airfield. LeFevre was wholly distracted for the next few hours, as he had to mind his large number of luggage during disembarkation. He barely even noticed when Herr Schroeder bumped past him as he and the other passengers descended down from the airship. The Arlemaninan wolf was apparently in a hurry, as LeFevre quickly lost sight of him in the crowd. After getting through the immigration checkpoint and making sure that he had all of his luggages with him, LeFevre found Förstner by the airfield’s entrance. The sabertooth had took it upon himself to escort the doctor to the Continental Court Hotel. Apparently, the hotel was operated by a subsidiary company to Förstner’s train company that managed hotels which would provided quality accommodations for passengers of his train, before and after their train journeys. Perhaps it was a coincidence that LeFevre had booked a room in the hotel in advance beforehand, but he found it really convenient that the hotel would provide a shuttle service to Hieropolis Central Station on the day he and Förstner would have to depart. Not a few hours after he had checked into the hotel, a telegram from the airship company came for the doctor. It confirmed LeFevre’s prediction that his flight to Gallia was cancelled due to bad weather. The sabertooth was quick to book LeFevre a berth on the Mercurius Express when the doctor told his old friend about the news. “The earliest train would leave this Friday afternoon.” The sabertooth had said as he rejoined his exasperated and bemused friend on the hotel’s bar. “You will be berthed in the finest first class compartment onboard, and your expenses will be on me. All in good will of course.” LeFevre’s polite protests fell on deaf ears. “Like I said, you won’t need to worry about anything,” said Förstner with a broad smile. “I had the nuisance of the ticketing and registration taken care of. You’ll only need to sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey back to Gallia.” “If you say so, mon ami.” LeFevre nodded to his friend with a small smile. “If you say so.”
  9. 1 point
    The Missing Son 18 When Patrick entered the kitchen, his mother was in the middle of eating her cereal. He made sure there was enough milk in the fridge before filling himself a bowl. "Mom, about the other day," He started, sitting down. "I told you last night, you don't have to worry about them anymore. They said what they had to say and they aren't going to bother us anymore." "Look, that's not what I mean. I..." "Shit, I'm going to be late." She emptied her bowl in the sink. She kissed the top of his head. "Don't worry about the dishes, I'll do them when I get back from work." And she rushed out. He looked at the clock on the stove, it wasn't even seven. His mother normally didn't leave for the bus until seven fifteen. Her transparent attempt at dodging the issue annoyed him. When she came back from work that evening he tried again. "Mom, can we talk?" "I'm sorry Patrick, I'm just too tired. I had a difficult day. I'm going to take a nap, and we can talk later." Her nap stretched through the night. The next two days, he didn't see her, Don needed him at the bar due of being booked for a party on both night, which meant he got home late and She was gone to work by the time he woke up. He tried again when they ate dinner, and she waved his attempt aside. It took all his will power not to scream at her. He realized she was determined not to talk about his father's visit. He could continue pushing and get angry at her, he'd probably snap at some point and say something hurtful, or he could drop it for now and wait until she was in a more receptive mood. After a week he didn't even want to talk to her. Anytime he thought about talking to her about his father's visit, he could imagine her waving it aside and he'd get angry. So, he didn't. He didn't want to be angry her, but he couldn't seem to stop himself, so he did his best to avoid her. If that wasn't enough, as time passed he realized he watched guys more and more. No, he wasn't just watching them. that wasn't right, he'd always watched guys, but now he was studying them. They had been right when they said he'd been turned on seeing naked guys in the locker room. Because of that anytime he watched a guy he didn't let himself look to close, he glossed over them. Now he was paying attention to them. Often, he caught himself looking at them closely. Their arms, legs, ass, and especially their crotch. Fuck, why couldn't he stop looking at guys. He thought he was tantalized because they were covered up. So, he went online that night, after his mom went to bed, and looked at pictures of naked men. He was shaking as he watched them, breathing hard, panting and, he suddenly realized, hard. He shut down the computer and took a cold shower. It didn't help, so he prayed. He forced himself to pray until he wasn't erect anymore. After that he went to bed and prayed until he fell asleep. He woke up with morning wood, like most mornings, and was under the shower, in the process of taking care of it when he realized that instead of just focusing on the sensation, like he'd always done, he was now seeing images of the naked men. With a curse he let go of himself, feeling guilty. He hadn't felt guilt over masturbating since he read up on it at fourteen and realized it was just a biological need and nothing more. But now because he'd looked at those pictures they kept coming back anytime he thought about taking care of himself. He finished his shower quickly, scrubbing himself down harshly, he preferred feeling pain to allowing those images to affect him. His fur felt raw once he had dried off and dressed, then he headed directly out to look for work. He had to stay busy and keep his mind occupied. Not for the first time he wondered where the Sarantos were, he hadn't seen any of them for more than two weeks, that rabbit had been the last time. He supposed it was how things went, when he could use them to vent his anger on they were nowhere to be found, but the moment he'd want some peace and quiet they were going to jump him. He didn't have any luck finding work. His near constant growling didn't help, but he couldn't stop it. The anger was directed at himself and he didn't know how to let it go. He should never have looked at those pictures. When he got home, his mom had already left, and there was a message from Joey asking him to come in the morning. Relieved he would have something to do he ate and tried to read. It didn't go well, but he forced it until he fell asleep * * * * * Patrick arrived at the junkyard in a bad mood because his morning hadn't gone any better than the previous one. Fortunately, three pickups were already there dumping appliances and various other household items in the sorting area. He greeted Joey with a grunt and set to work, picking up the heaviest items he could lift and carrying them to their designated areas. He thought that this would tire him enough he would stop thinking about his situation, but each time he came back to the sorting pile, the guys from the pickups were there too, and he couldn't help watching them. They were Cervids, elks, or maybe caribous, he couldn't tell, The four of them obviously related, with the eldest in his forties, then one in his mid-twenties, low twenties and the youngest probably eighteen. They got along, joking and ribbing each other. At one point the father and the youngest got into a friendly tussle and Patrick stared at them, envying their closeness. He grabbed a fridge and lifted it over his head, moving fast to avoid being toppled over by its unbalanced weight, all the while cursing his mother for robbing him of his chance to experience that closeness with his father. What right did she have to keep that from him while he was growing up. He reached the area where it went and threw it against the others with a scream instead of putting it down. A few of them tipped over. He cursed and got them upright again, forcing himself to remember his mother had done the best she could, the best she knew how to do. It still hurt. When he went back for the next item one of the pickups was gone, and only the guy in his mid-twenties and the eighteen-year-old one were there, trying to move a large industrial oven off the truck's bed. Patrick rushed to them as it started tipping over and the young elk got a panicked look as he tried to support it. Patrick put his back against it and braced his feet, feeling the strain as he took more of the weight. His feet slipped a little then he wasn't moving, and neither was the stove. He glanced to the elk who now had his shoulder against it. "Shit! Matt, you okay?" The one on the truck said. "Yeah, the tiger who works here his helping support it." "Oh thank God. I was scared you'd be crushed." "How the fuck do you think I feel?" the elk next to him grumbled. "Now what?" he asked. "I don't know, can the two of you push it back on the truck?" The elk looked at Patrick, who shook his head. "I'd need to move to get enough leverage," Patrick said, "And if I move I'm not going to be able to hold it up." "If I let go can you hold the weight? I can go get something to brace it." "No!" Patrick said. "If you're pulling your weight, keep at it, we're holding as much as we can. Don't let go." He looked at the office, he thought he could see movement in there. "Joey!" He roared. A moment later the bulldog ran out of the building. "What the fuck's going on?" "This thing almost tipped over and crushed this guy." "Then why the hell are you both still under it?" "Didn't know how valuable it was." "Fuck that, it's certainly not worth more than either of you." Patrick nodded. "Okay, on my mark we get out from under it." The elk nodded and Patrick counted down. As one they threw themselves away, and the other elk yelled in horror as the stove came crashing down. Patrick coughed in the dust cloud and waiting for it to clear before getting to his feet. The entire time the older elk was yelling Matt's name. "I'm fine!" Matt finally replied, then had a coughing fit. "Thank God, I heard conversation, but I couldn't make it out." "Sorry," Patrick said, rolling his shoulders. "I didn't think to warn you." "Hey, you have nothing to apologize for, if not for you my baby brother would have been crushed." "You guys are going to be okay?" Joey asked. "I'm fine," Matt replied. "Okay, I'll go get the loader so I can move that." With that the bulldog left them. Patrick leaned against the stove. Matt and his brother joined him, resting on each side of him. "Thanks," The elk said, shaking his hand. "Without you I'd be dead. I mean it, you saved my life." Patrick shrugged. "Don't worry about it, I'm just happy I was able to get under it in time." The older elk put an arm over Patrick's shoulders. "Hey you saved my brother, that means I owe you, big time." "Yeah, me too." Matt got closer and squeezed Patrick's thigh. "That's Jeff by the way." Patrick didn't know what to say, momentarily overwhelmed by their closeness. Even with a bit of dust in the air they smelled good, manly, and their closeness made him tingle. "Whatever we can do to thank you just say it," Jeff said. "Me and Matt always repay our debts." Patrick smiled, it wasn't often he dealt with people who looked forward to repaying their debts. But then he noticed the hand on his leg, the arm over his shoulders, their closeness. Had Jeff whispered that last part? Oh fuck. The image of the three of them, naked on the bed of the truck formed in his mind, and he found that he wanted it. He shoved them away. "Fuck no!" "What?" Patrick put some distances between him and them. "Look," Jeff started. "No! I don't fucking care what you think you're going to do. I don't want any part of it." "What's the problem?" Matt asked. "Jeff and me just want to thank you." he put a hand on Patrick arms and the tiger jerked away. "Don't you people get that I said no?" he growled. "Now leave me the fuck alone." He grabbed a washing machine and dragged it away. The gall of these people, just because they were fags they thought everyone wanted to have sex with them, well, he wasn't like that. He wouldn't be like that. He screamed trying to drown the voice in his head calling him a liar and threw the machine as far as he could. It fell among windows to the sound of breaking glass. He grabbed a crowbar someone left leaning again a post and Slammed in the closest object, a patio door. He broke anything with reach, yelling the entire time. He Didn't want to be a fag. He was following the Path, he would stay on it no matter the temptations. He wasn't going to let people like them lead him astray. he wasn't going to let someone like his father do the same. "Patrick!" Patrick turned, crowbar in the air and stopped, looking at Joey standing before the loader. "Put the crowbar down," the bulldog growled. "What the fuck is going on with you?" "With me?" Patrick threw the bar on the ground. "They're the ones pushing for me to have sex with them." "What the fuck are you talking about?" "You weren't there. You didn't see them get close to me and whisper about how they were going to thank me." Joey stared at him in disbelief. "Of course, they're grateful, you literally saved that guy's life. But I can't believe they would blatantly offer to have sex with you." "You should have felt them, close to me, arms over me, I could see what we were going to do." Patrick paced and growled. Joey watched him silently for a moment. "Right. you could see it. And you wanted nothing to do with it?" "Of course not!" Patrick glared at him. The bulldog stared back. "Bullshit." Patrick made fists. "Are you calling me a fag?" "Are you?" Patrick took a step toward Joey. "Don't you dare call me that." "Or what? You're going to hit me? Pound me until you feel all macho and tough?" Patrick took another step, but staggered a little, like the words hit him physically. He looked at his fists and then at Joey, confused. "Fuck Pat, you're acting like it's nineteen eighty and being gay is a problem. It's twenty forty-three, for God's sake." "That's the fucking problem. I don't want to go to Hell, but God's already damned me." "Pat, I'm pretty sure God doesn't work that way." "How the fuck would you know? you don't believe in Him." "And you wonder why? Who the fuck follows a god who decided you're already going to Hell even though you haven't done anything wrong?" Joey closed his eyes and calmed himself before continuing. "You're part of a church, do talk to them." Patrick laughed. "Right, because the guy who preaches every week about how God punishes anyone who sins is going to have a sympathetic ear for a sinner like me." "Then go to another fucking church," Joey growled. "Fuck Pat, You need to deal with this. I can't have you here if you're going to be this angry. You just destroyed a couple hundred dollar in doors and windows, so go home." "I can't go home, I don't want to be around that woman." "Then go somewhere else!" Joey cursed quietly. "Pat, go home, find a way to deal with this, because you are becoming a danger to yourself." "Fine!" Patrick grabbed his jacket and ran out of the yard. He hated himself for having talked to Joey like that. The man had never been anything but understanding and helpful, and he'd almost punched him. He ran as fast as he could. Since there was no Sarantos around on whom he could unleash his anger he needed to do something else to burn it off. He pushed himself hard and ran right by his house. He kept going. he didn't slow down when his body screamed for him to stop. he turned around and ran home. When he got there he hurt, but he was too tired to be angry. He took a quick shower and put on an old pair of shorts, old sweatpants that had been repaired often and then turned into shorts. the elastic was dead so he used and old belt he'd found a few years ago, it had been belonged to his father, and it had helped him feel closer to him. He stopped as he realized it hadn't belonged to him. He expected to be angry at the reminded of the lie, but he was too tired. He sat in front of the computer and turned it on. It was old, His mother had bought it when he was nine because the city started offering free internet access. He'd been so happy, He'd envisioned himself playing all the games his friends were playing, but that hadn't happened, He'd forgotten that he didn't have much free time, being busy with taking care of the house while his mother worked two and something three jobs to pay the bills. Now the computer was just too old to play them. He could barely handle the newer version of the browser as he started looking around idly. He wasn't sure why he was online, but then typed 'gay church' in the search bar.
  10. 1 point
    The Missing Son 19 He didn't know what to think. He had no idea there were so many different churches. Sure, he knew about the Presbyterians, the Anglicans, the Jesuits, but the Church of Jesus the Lover? Who claimed that Jesus had been gay. The Church of the Strong, who had Jesus as a lion. And there were others, who didn't claim anything quite so extreme, but who's views on God and how He expected us to stay on the Path varied greatly. He'd always only known his Church, and Father Durony. They'd had visiting priests, but they had espoused the same things Father Durony had. For a moment he didn't know what to think. Had someone else lied to him? Had a priest led him astray? But no, Father Durony had never claimed his was the only Church, he'd never said anything about other churches, Patrick had just assumed they were all the same. He spent hours being amazed at the variety of thoughts out there on God, and how so few of them actually preached an angry God. By the time he fell asleep his head was swimming with various images of God and Jesus. He dreamed of floating, of being held with love by someone he couldn't see but felt familiar. Strong arm, solid chest, deep soothing voice. He didn't know that person, and yet there was a sense of familiarity to him. For the first time in a few weeks, Patrick woke up without feeling like his mind had betrayed him in the night. he quickly got dressed and set the table for breakfast. "Morning mom," he said as she entered. "Good morning Patrick." She sat and he placed two cups of coffee on the table. "How late did you come in? I didn't see you when I got home." "I was already in bed. I was exhausted when I got home and crashed. I haven't been sleeping well recently and it caught up to me yesterday." She looked at him with concern. "Is it anything I can help with? You know you can always talk to me." He smiled and shook his head. "It's okay. I'm working it out." He didn't want to bring it up. He realized that as much as she wanted to help him, his father was a subject she didn't want to deal with, so he was going to drop it. Joey had been right. he needed to find someone else to talk with, and now that he knew not all Churches were as restrictive as the one he'd been going to, he thought he could find someone who would listen to him and not pass immediate judgment. It was a pleasant meal, with his mother talking about the people in the factory and at the diner. She got into the story so much he had to point out she'd miss her bus if she didn't get going. She smiled at him, an expression he saw rarely because of how exhausting her jobs were and hugged him before heading out. He looked online for an hour, searching for a Church that was close enough he could go to it and suited his needs. He didn't want one that would just validate his view. He wanted genuine Church views, but without the fire and the anger. He hadn't found it, but he'd eliminated a lot of them by the time he called the junkyard. "Joey's Junk." "Hey Joey, it's Patrick." There was a moment of silence. "How are you doing?" Joey's tone was guarded. "Better. Thanks for sending me home and telling me to find someone to talk to. I haven't yet, but I'm looking and I think I'm on the right track." "I'm glad to heard that." "Look, I called to say I'm sorry for how I behaved. I had no excuses, and I'll work off the damage I caused." "Don't worry about it, just focus on working through your issues." "No, Joey, I'm serious, figure out how much you could have made off the stuff and I'll work all of it off." "Alright, we'll figure out something." "Thanks." "So, do you think you can work this week? I'm expecting the same guys as yesterday to be back tomorrow. I could use a hand." The elks. Patrick's breathing sped up in worry. Did he really want to see them again? No, of course not, he'd acted like an asshole. They probably didn't think much of him, but he owe them an apology too. "I'll be there." He disconnected and felt better. he'd worried Joey wouldn't want him to work for him anymore. Losing the money would have hurt, but loosing Joey's friendship would have been worse. He went back to his search, spending the day sifting through information. By the time he started on dinner he had a headache, but he had the address for St-Benedict's Church. He'd read their blog and they had balanced opinions. They didn't excuse everything like some of those Churches who tried to be 'all inclusive'. They gave well thought out opinions on where they felt God stood on different topics. It also helped it was only a few hours walk from the house. * * * * * Patrick watched the pickups backup, the beds filled with more large households items. The four elks got out and the two brothers exchanged a glance on noticing him. Patrick didn't give himself time to worry about it. he went to them. "Matt, Jeff, I'm sorry for how I behaved." The father looked at the three of them over the truck. "We'll be there in a minute, dad," Jeff said, then looked at the tiger. "What happened? You seemed fine one moment and then you flew off the handle." Patrick nodded. "Yeah, I was working very hard at not dealing with some stuff. That and what you said sent my paranoia flying. I've started dealing with it." Matt slapped Patrick's shoulder. "Man, I'm glad to hear that, you kind of freaked me out." "Yeah, sorry. It won't happen again. How about we get to it." "Sure," Jeff said, "And we don't have anything that big, so there isn't any chance I'll accidentally kill my little brother this time." They worked in good humor, and the rest of the day went well. At the end Joey tried to pay him. Patrick refused, and they ended up agreeing on half of it. While preparing dinner Don called him and asked him to come in. There was going to be a party at the bar and he needed him to help keep things under control. Patrick was more than happy to help him out. He and his mom could use any extra money.
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