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Kindar

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  1. I owe you an explanation (Patreon post for 07-15-18)

    If you have questions, you can ask them in the comments below or by emailing them to s.stpierre@thetigerwrites.com

    I’m sure certain of you have noticed I’ve been silent for a while. I missed two Sunday posts at this point. Don’t worry, like they love to say, it’s not you, it’s me.

    On the way home, to take my vacation on the 1st of July, I felt my energy wane. Writing became harder not just the motivation to write but the actual ....

    If you want to read the rest of the post, which includes more about my week, as well as my thoughts on the movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," you can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/20092262

    If you prefer, you can support me by Buying me a Kofi: https://ko-fi.com/Y8Y6BC87

  2. Kindar

    Chapter 28

    The Missing Son 28 "How did it go?" Patrick asked once the door closed. He checked on the meatloaf, it would be done in a few minutes. His mother didn't answer immediately. He heard her take off her shoes before she came into the kitchen carrying her suitcase. The smile she gave him was hesitant. "I passed the course." She sat down. "You don't sound as happy about it as I thought you would." "I am." She forced her smile larger. "It's just. They already promoted me and four others to team supervisors. I'm just stunned and a bit nervous. I got the news when the bus dropped us off at the factory." "You'll be great mom." Now her smile was genuine. "Thank you. I'm going to be on probation for three months, after that they'll decide if I'm staying there or going back to the floor. Regardless, I'm getting a fifty-cent raise. If I become a supervisor permanently, it'll be another dollar and a half." "Two bucks an hour?" Patrick sat down. An extra eighty dollars a week could mean much better food, not going hungry as much. "Yes. With that, you wouldn't have to worry about working at the junkyard." Patrick hadn't thought of that. "Or you could slow down at the diner." "I suppose. You know I don't really like you working there, there are so many chances you could get hurt." "Mom, we're careful, and I like working there. I probably would even if Joey didn't pay me, so focus on yourself. It's your money, try to make your life a little better." She nodded. "Or we could continue as we are and improve things over all. Get us some news clothes, buy fresher food. We could get you your own phone." Patrick almost stammered. "Ahh, mom, don't." "Why not? you shouldn't have to rely on mine all the time." "I'm used to it. I'm fine. I really don't need one. I mean, really, you don't have to leave it at home. I don't spend that much time here, and my friends don't really bother calling me." "I don't know. I'd feel a little better if you had one." Patrick went to the oven to prevent himself from fidgeting. What was he going to do if she just bought him a phone? He couldn't stop her from doing that, it was her money. The meatloaf was done. "I'll buy one." The words were out of his mouth as the thought struck. He put the loaf on the stove and put the sheet of foil over it. "I can do that," she said, "I don't want you worrying about bills." Patrick already spent most of his time worrying about them, but he didn't tell her that. "I know, but if it's going to be my phone, I should be the one buying it, and I should buy my own plan." "Patrick, that's forty-five dollars. It's half that if I just add you to mine." "I know, but I'm eighteen. I think it's time I start having bills of my own." He tried to be casual about it. he had to convince her to let him do that. He didn't want to have her spend money on a phone he'd never use. She couldn't afford to waste that money. When he turned to put plates on the table she was looking at him, beaming. "Oh, I get it now." Patrick almost dropped the plates. "Wh... what? I just mean..." Her smile became brighter. "I know what you mean. Come on Patrick, I'm your mother I know how you think." Patrick put the plates on the table, because he knew he was going to drop them if he didn't. What had he let slip? She couldn't know about his phone. Had one of the neighbors noticed Albert dropping him off and told her? They couldn't have, it had been really late, and she wouldn't be smiling if they had. She almost laughed. "Patrick, it's okay. I get it, you don't want me to find out about the girls you're calling." The who? She thought? He almost told her that wasn't what he meant at all. His mouth was open, but he stopped the words form coming out. "You're right," she said, not quite stiffing the laugh this time. "You're old enough to have your own phone and not have to worry about me figuring out if you're seeing someone. My worry is if you're going to be able to afford it." He had to get his brain to work again. He couldn't just stare at her. "I... err... yes, I can. I mean, I wouldn't give you as much as before since I'd be using part of it to pay for the phone, but I can probably get more work at the junkyard to make up the difference." He closed his mouth to stop the babbling. He was probably going to reveal everything if he kept talking. He busied himself with setting the table. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to embarrass you," she said as he put the meatloaf on the table. "That's not it," he replied. he had control of his voice now, and his mind. "I just didn't realize you knew." The lie tasted like ash. His tongue was dry. he drank two glass of water and it didn't help much. She put a hand over his. "Patrick, it's okay. I'm not going to be that mother who needs to know everything you do, but if you ever feel like introducing one of them to me..." she left the offer hang there. Patrick nodded. He couldn't bring himself to say anything. he didn't think he'd be able to get another lie to pass his lips.
  3. Going Home is a series that Explores the city of Tiranis through the eyes of Eric Clarkson, a returning veteran, who finds that the city has changed more than he expected in his absences. Each section of the series will focus on a different part of the city while Eric gets pulled into problems typical to that area, or sometimes not so typical. This is about 1000 words of the 7,800 words chapter. You can read the full story, as well as other stories set in the world of Tiranis by joining my Patreon at the 1$ level Going home: Strongburgh, Part 2 of 4 “Builder Division.” She frowned. “You told me you barely had any Builder Aptitude.” Eric tried to give her a rueful smile, but it faltered. He sighed. “Yeah, I sort of lied about that, but no one knew. I was trying to avoid getting noticed and drafted so I downplayed it.” “I didn’t think you could do that. I’ve interacted with my share of Teckers here, and they seem to have a drive that pushed them to create. The more powerful the ability, the stronger the drive. Most of what they do in Tecker classes is teach them control over that drive.” Eric shrugged. “I can’t comment about other Build—Teckers. I’ve done my best to stay away from them, avoid temptation.” “Then how did the Builder Division find out about you?” “I told you about the attack while my unit was on patrol, right?” She smiled. “That was a long time ago for me. I don’t remember everything you’ve told me.” He nodded. “Gist of it is that we got pinned down. Two of the three transport got shot to pieces and the third was in real bad shape. We knew it was just a question of time before the Hismerite soldiers got reinforcement so we were dead if we didn’t get out of there. I wasn’t going to let my unit die, so I fixed the transport. I didn’t go mad doing it, but I came close. When I was done we all packed in. Trust me, a unit’s worth in one transport, I know how your spinach feels.” She chuckled. “We got back to base and I put it out of my mind. We had our second date that evening.” He sighed. “Someone must have talked, because the next morning someone from Builder Division was there to talk to me. I did my best to downplay it, make it sound like it took longer for me to fix it than the others thought because of the stressful situation. That the transport wasn’t in that bad of a shape, but I’d screwed myself over. I’d been so focused on the work I never noticed the improvements I made to the transport.” He unfolded the napkin. “I’m sure you heard stories. Builder Division won’t let anyone go unless they are certain you can’t contribute to the war. They had me under guards while escorting me. I thought about running, about deserting. I knew what was waiting for me.” “But you didn’t.” There was no doubt in her voice, and that made him smile, a little. “Turns out I’m not a deserter. I must have known on some level that it was just a question of time before I was found out. I didn’t want to leave you wondering, so I asked them to give you the letter, but I guess they didn’t. I took some comfort in the knowledge that as part of the Division, my madness would be used constructively.” He sighed, folded the napkin and pushed it aside. “Long story short. They drove me insane and I built for them. I have no idea how long I did it. Time doesn’t mean much once you’re crazy. What I did know is that I built ever more destructive weapons.” He shrugged. “I don’t know why I’m surprised about that. It was war, of course it was going be weapons and not something constructive. But I didn’t care, all I wanted was to build.” Isabel opened her mouth, but the server returned with their food. Eric had a seared steak, boneless, with potatoes, carrots and beets. It smelled good, but his appetite wasn’t there anymore. “If it helps,” she said once the server left, “it was a year and a half from the moment you disappeared to when the camp was destroyed.” She had a large salad with many colorful vegetables. “Really? When I think back on it only feels like a couple of months.” “No, a year and a half.” “Anyway, I don’t know how familiar you are with Buil—Teckers, but we’re goal-oriented, and we don’t really care about what *you* want. It’s all about us. Our creations. If you need something specific, you need to give us all the details, because we’re going to take every inch of leeway available to make it our own. He poked at the beets with his forks, then forced himself to eat one. It was good. It was drizzled with a dressing that was just spicy enough to balance their sweetness. “The officer in charge told us to build something to end the war. He wanted something decisive, final. He wanted the Hismerites to have no other option but surrendering when confronted with it.” He cut the steak. “I set to work. I have no idea where the idea came from. Most of the time, the seed of the idea is something around me, but I don’t remember anything about the initial thought. I borrowed and stole the parts I needed. I took over more and more of the space assigned to us. What I was building was big. At some point they moved the other Builders to another tent.” He chewed. The meat was tender, the slightly burned crust had a sweetness to it that went well with the other spices. “I don’t remember sleeping or eating. I was consumed with making this.” He smiled. “When it was done, it was magnificent. Of course, at that point there was only one sensible thing left to do. I pressed the big red button I’d put on it.” Isabel’s fork was to her mouth, green leafy vegetables stabbed through along with red and orange ones. “You pressed it? Shouldn’t you have waited for instructions?” Eric gave her a sad smile. “I wasn’t sane, remember? Another thing to remember. Never leave a mad Builder unattended. We want to use what we create. We want to see what it will do, if it will behave the way we know it should. A friend of mine who studies here mentioned weekly explosions.” The bovine smiled as she chewed.
  4. Kindar

    Chapter 27

    @WolfBearHybrid If you are patient, things will get way more interesting
  5. Kindar

    Chapter 27

    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.
  6. Kindar

    Chapter 26

    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.
  7. Kindar

    Chapter 25

    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."
  8. Kindar

    Chapter 24

    The Missing Son 24 Patrick rolled his shoulder again, the healing bandage had been off for a week now, but it was still tender. It had ensured his shoulder healed well, the scars at the point where the bullet went in were so thin his growing fur already hid them. he still had a few weeks of stretching exercises to do to make sure he didn't lose any flexibility, but he did those at home. One more visit with the doctor in two weeks and he'd be done with this. He'd gotten out of the house immediately after dinner, his mom wasn't working tonight, so he told her he was just going out for a walk, maybe visit some friends. When he saw the bus, he knew what he was going to do instead. He'd been finding reasons why now wasn't the right time to go to the bar, at first was because his shoulder was still healing. Then it was because he wasn't a hundred percent, then he didn't quite feel like it. He'd had enough of procrastinating, this was something he'd told himself he'd do, He was going to do it. He'd talked about it with Mother Rosetta, with himself, and even with Joey. So, he got on the bus. He'd been saving money, planning for this trip, scraping every penny he could manage, since he hadn't gotten more work. he had enough for the bus both ways and a couple of sodas, if the bar didn't over charge for them. Tonight was a good night to go, being Thursday, Don wouldn't need him at the bar and it was probably going to be less crowded at this one too. It took two hours to reach the area the bar was in, and then he had to walk thirty minutes to get to it. It wasn't impressive, a low brick building with dirty windows, graffiti covered walls. The rooster sign above the door wasn't lit up. Getting closer it looked like one side was broken. A parking lot across the road had a few old cars in it. He hesitated at the door, wondering if he really wanted to do this. Just like when he'd entered his father's house, he couldn't shake the feeling that crossing this door would change everything for him. He reached for the handle just as the door swung open at him and he stepped out of the way. A tiger wearing a cowboy hat and a tan trench coat walked by without acknowledging him. Patrick found himself looking at his feet and he was wearing cowboy boots. Patrick had never seen someone dressed as a cowboy outside of the old movies his mom watched every so often. The man took a few steps toward the parking lot then stopped. He turned to look at him. "Can I help you with something?" he growled. Patrick immediately looked away with a quiet. "Sorry." And just to get away he entered the bar. Only realizing what he'd done once the door closed behind him. Well, he was in now, he couldn't really back out anymore. The room was smaller than Don's place, maybe half the size. the bar was in the opposite corner to the door with a few tables scattered about, only three of which were occupied and four of the six stools were taken. Like their website said, the atmosphere was calm. The music, something old and country sounding, was soft enough he couldn't make out the lyrics. No one paid him any attention as he crossed the room and sat at the bar. Looking at them, he was happy to note most wore jeans and shirts, so he didn't stand out too much in his jeans, T and jacket. He asked the bartender, a skinny brown bear, if he had any orange soda, and got a strange look in return. "Are you even legal?" Patrick showed him in ID. "Okay, how about a beer then?" "No thanks. what soda do you have?" "Got coke." "I'll have one." The bar man shrugged. "It's your money." He filled a glass for him and asked for six dollars. Patrick paid it without commenting. Don only charged four for soda and he kept a wider selection. Patrick sipped his soda slowly, watching the other men in the bar in the mirror. At the tables they were paired up but weren't acting the way gays would. they weren't holding hands or doing lewd things to each other, they were just sitting there, talking and enjoying their beers. The gayest thing he saw was when two of them left. They waved to the barman, then held each other's hands had they walked out. Maybe this being gay thing wasn't going to be all that bad. "Hey, buddy." An arm fell across Patrick's shoulders and he froze. "You new here? Never seen you here before. And trust me, I'd remember a body like yours. Patrick forced himself to turn his head and look at the man almost completely draped over him. he was a dog of some sort, rottweiler maybe? He didn't sound drunk, but his breath stank of rum. The dog leaned in. "You know, we kind of have a tradition here." "Harold, leave the kid alone," the barman interrupted, but the dog just waved him off. "Yurick, why don't you get this fine fellow another rum and coke on me?" Patrick wanted to refuse, but he couldn't get his mouth to work. he was horrified to see another glass appear before him and smell the alcohol wafting off it. The dog leaned in even closer. "come on, just drink them up, it'll help loosen you up, you're all stiff. After that I can show you a good time." The arm on his shoulder dropped off and Patrick felt his ass being groped. Patrick bolted off the seat, finally able to move. "This was a mistake," he said and he headed to the door, although what he wanted to say and do was a lot more vulgar, and violent. He pushed the door open and stalked out. "Hey Buddy!" the dog yelled after him. Patrick ignored him, the closing door cutting off what else he said. Yeah, this had been the worst mistake he'd ever made. He'd hoped that with a quiet atmosphere it would be different from the other placed he'd read about, like the fuck markets down in the gay district. He'd stayed away from those because he wanted nothing to do with that kind of life. He'd been an idiot to believe this place would be any different. Fags were the same everywhere. Was this what it meant to be gay? sleaze? His father hadn't seemed like that, but he'd seen him only twice, how did he know how he behaved the rest of the time? as far as he knew they could be stalking the bars, looking for anyone to take advantage of. Patrick shuddered at the though. If that was true, he didn't want to be related to them. "Hey buddy!" the voice came again. Great, the dog had followed him outside. "Leave me alone." The dog grabbed Patrick's shoulder and spun him around. "Listen here buddy. You don't get to come in here, parade that yummy body of yours around and then run off when someone responds to the advertisement." The dog licked his maw. Patrick wriggled out of the hold. "What the fuck are you talking about? Just go back inside. I'm not looking for any trouble." The dog leaned in close. "I'm not offering you trouble. I'm offering you a good time." He grabbed Patrick's crotch and squeezed. He didn't think. Patrick's fist flew and the man staggered back. "Don't you fucking touch me you fag," he growled. "I don't care what you say. I know you want me. I can smell it." The dog's speech was starting to slur. "I'm just going to have to convince you to come with me so I can show you a good time." The dog came at him. Patrick sent a jab at his muzzle and then swung hard, sending the dog spinning back and crashing to the ground. Patrick looked at him, panting. For a moment he thought he'd killed him, but then he saw his chest move. He was still breathing. He turned and walked away. Fuck, this hadn't been what he'd wanted. A hand landed on his shoulder and Patrick spun around, fist raised. was that asshole already back for more? A jaguar with is hands raised was backing up. "Whoa kid, calm down." "What the fuck do you want?" "I was parking and saw what happened. Are you okay?" Patrick hesitated a moment, looking over the man's shoulder at the parking lot. He couldn't remember what car had been there when he arrived. He realized he was being paranoid. He lowered his fist. "Yeah, I'm fine." "Okay, that's good. You look a little rattled. Do you need me to give you a ride somewhere?" Patrick had a memory of a car stopping next to him, a window lowering and a tiger saying. "Come in, kid. I'm going to give you a ride home." That had been an uncomfortable ride. "I'm fine, thanks. I can manage on my own." "Okay, kid, you be careful out there." The jaguar turned and headed back to the parking lot. Well, at least he hadn't punched that guy. He actually seemed nice and considerate. He'd cared enough to check in on him, a complete stranger. Not like that fag who'd been all over him and thought they'd have sex just because he said so. Patrick stopped moving. Okay, he had something. The fags were the sleazy ones, and the gays were like that jaguar, normal guys, other than being attracted to guys. okay, he could make that work. He was gay, but he wasn't a fag. He'd never be a fag. He turned. "Hey mister." The jaguar stopped and turned. He was at the edge of the parking lot. "Thanks for caring." The jaguar just looked at him for a moment, head tilting to the side. "You're welcome," he finally said. "Have a good night." "You too." * * * * * Tom watched the tiger walk away. Thanks for caring? jeez, what world did that kid live in that he had to thanks someone for that? Once the tiger was out of sight Tom headed to his car. Sitting in it he checked again to confirm the kid hadn't double back and he placed a call. "Tom Bracha, reporting in." He reached back and groped at the back seat. "The kid had an altercation. he took care of it, but I had to expose myself to make sure he was okay." "Will you be able to stay with him?" the man said. His hand closed around something and he pulled it up. "Yeah, I can follow him on foot, but if something else happens there's no way he's going to believe it's a coincidence if I have to intervene." It was one of his baseball caps, but not the one he wanted this one had holes for his ears. he threw it on the passenger seat and looked back. "I can have Donovan Carmichael in your area in ten minutes." "That works." He grabbed his sport jacket. Under that was the cap he wanted. "Do we have the busses on this route covered? I doubt he'd going to walk all the way home." "I'm arranging that right now." "Okay. You also need to send someone at my location. The guy the kid punched will have to be looked after. I don't think there's anything wrong with him, he's getting up now, but we need to make sure he doesn't cause further troubles. He's a rottweiler, right ear notched. he's got on a blue shirt, black jeans and he's got a split lip." "Alright, I'll dispatch someone to keep an eye on him." "If they get him drunk enough he'll forget the night. I know the type." He knew from first-hand experience. It had been years ago, but something like that didn't leave you. "Understood." Tom ended the call. he took off the suit's jacket and replaced it with the sport one. He stepped out of the car, folded his ears back and put the baseball cap on. There, with that and keeping his hands in his pocket his silhouette was completely changed. There was no way the kid was going to make him. He ran to get eyes on him again and then followed him at a good distance. Tom didn't know why the company had the kid followed. it was strange, but after all the company had done for him, he wasn't going to nitpick why this one kid deserved the protection and all the personnel they had devoted to him. It wasn't as much now as it had been in the start. When they first started watching him there had been four teams on him at all time. The orders were simple, keep the kid safe and unaware he was under surveillance. Tom had stopped three attempts on him by gang members. He wasn't familiar with the local gangs, but they always wore the same colors. He knew of five other attempts over the first three weeks. In all, he was under heavy surveillance for a month or so, then the teams were pulled out. It matched the arrest of most of the gang leaders in the city so Tom figured that had been the threat on the kid. Until then he'd wondered if he was someone important, even with living in the Brownstones, then he figured he was an informant and someone within the police didn't want his involvement known but wanted him protected. The kid had been without protection for a few weeks, then the order came down to restart watching him. He'd been attack by one of the gang members. At the same time his boss had been replaced, which again made him wonder how important the tiger was, no ordinary target would cause that kind of reaction. the new surveillance wasn't as intense, a few people at first, now it was down to one on him at all time, with support when required. Someone fell in step behind him. Tom didn't react, but he paid attention to who was following him. A zippo flicked open, was lit and then the prickling of a cigarette burning. "You know Donovan, those things are going to kill you." Smoke flew over Tom's shoulder. "I'm more likely to die of lead poisoning." "Where do you even get those things? As far as I know no one sells them anymore." "Same place any other vices are filled. The internet." Another cloud of smoke passed him. "Anyway, I've got the kid. You go back to your girlfriend. We have Sandy on the bus we expect him to take and Emerson on the next one, so he's covered." Tom didn't say anything. He made the next right. He kept going for three blocks, then took an indirect route back to his car, regularly making sure no one was following him. Once in it he checked his watch. She would still be up. She answered on the second ring. "Tomas?" "Hi hun, how are you doing?" He smiled. hearing her melodious voice always did that to him. She was the best thing to ever have happened to him. "I'm good, I was about to stretch out and listen to a book. You don't usually call at this time, is everything alright?" "Yeah, I just wanted to let you now I'm heading home so I'll be there within the hour." "Really? that's wonderful. I wasn't expecting to see you until I got up tomorrow. why are you coming in early?" "They have to close the building for the night, something about a problem with the gas lines, we can't have anyone in so I'm given the night off." "And will you have to go in tomorrow?" "I won't know until I call them. I'll probably have to at least show up for instructions. I'll see you soon, I love you." "I love you too. drive carefully." As far as Ania knew, he was a security agent, and the company he worked for did building security. He had a varying schedule because he didn't always work at the same building. He didn't like lying to her, although except for it being people instead of buildings what he'd told her was sort of true. He felt it was better than her worrying about his life being in danger when it rarely was. His military training, his years doing black ops, saw to it that he could take on everything. Well, almost everything, a voice at the back of his head reminded him.
  9. Kindar

    Chapter 23

    The Missing Son 23 Aaron was putting his books away in his locker, classes were finally over. It had been a long day, three exams, and a chem lab. He was looking forward to going home, and getting a massage from Aiden, but he'd have to wait some more. Only Adam and Alexander were here, the others must have been delayed. Adam was talking with Barry, someone he knew from shop class. From the sound of it they were talking about classes, and not making plans to have sex. That's what Alex was doing with Rufus, from the chess club, not that Aaron could hear their whispers, but the tent in the aardvark's pants made it pretty clear. Aaron hadn't been planning on doing anything, but then he heard the distinct whirl of the floor cleaner. He looked around his locker door and the old goat was pushing it down the end of the row of lockers. "Hey Fred," he called. The white goat looked up and smiled. "Hello Aaron." Aaron motioned him over. Fred took a moment to shut down the cleaner and walked to him, his steps deliberate. He was pretty spry for pushing ninety. His skin was starting to hang loose on his face, making folds of fur. He kept in shape although his muscles weren't what they had been when he was younger. He'd shown Aaron pictures earlier in the year. "About to head out?" The goat asked, nodding to Adam and Alexander. "That was the plan." Aaron ran a hand up Fred's side. "But that was before I saw you. I could stay and help you." He leaned in and nuzzled the goat's neck. What he really wanted to do put his hands on his ass, pull him close and grind against him like crazy, but they had rules. Public displays of affection were fine, but hands had to remain above the belt and over the clothes. But fuck did the old goat turn him on. Fred gently pushed him away. "Do you think you should be doing this in public?" Aaron indicated Alexander and Rufus, who were now kissing, with hands roaming each other's back. "No one minds them." Student were walking by without looking at them, Or the guy and girl making out further down. "Well, they are the same age. I'm old enough to be your grandfather." "So? I still love making out with you and having sex, let's not forget the sex." Fred chuckled, and Aaron could smell his arousal. "If you help me out, how are you going to get back home?" "I'll just take the bus." "Isn't that risky? You never know what kind of people you'll meet on there." "That's what makes it fun. I should tell you some of the great sex I've had on busses." Okay, so he'd broken the rule a time or two. "Actually, you should ride the bus with me one of these days." "I don't think that would be a good idea." Aaron leaned in. "Come on, just think about it," he whispered. "Pinning me against one of the poles, pounding my ass right there in front of everyone?" The goat swallowed. "You are going to give me a heart attack, young man." Aaron chuckled. "I doubt it." He rubbed over Fred's heart. "You had that replaced at the start of the year. It's going to pump for years to come. I mean, it works well enough to get this hard." Aaron almost groped the old goat. Fuck it was sometime difficult to control himself around him. He couldn't wait for them to be in his office after they were done. bent over the desk, the goat moving in and out of him, braying and swearing. Fuck it was going to be hot. "Guys! Guys!" Albert yelled running down the length of lockers. "We have to get home ASAP, Patrick's in the hospital!" "What happened?" Adam asked. It took Aaron a moment for the words to register. Patrick was in the hospital? "I don't know, I just got the notification of his admission a moment ago. The others are at the van waiting for us." Aaron looked at the goat. Fuck. "I'm sorry, I really didn't plan on turning you on like this and ditching you, but this is an emergency." The goat nodded. "I get it, and I know you'll make it up to me." Aaron kissed him hard. "I promise." He couldn't help himself, he groped him. He was definitely hard. Fuck he wanted that. He forced himself to step away. His three brothers were already halfway down the row and he ran to catch up. He took the passenger seat as usual and turned to Albert once Adam had the minivan moving. "What happened?" Albert was putting on the glasses. "Give me a minute." He moved his hand around in front of him, moving files only he could see. "Okay, I have the initial report. He was shot." "Shot?" Alexander asked. "Why in Hell would anyone shoot him?" "This doesn't say." "Is he going to be okay?" Aaron asked. Albert read for a moment. "It's shoulder wound, the right one." "That's the side where his scar is." Aiden said. "What hospital is he at?" Adam asked. "The Four Clover." Adam told the van and the information appeared on the windshield. "That's way north, and at this hour it's going to take a few hours to get there." "I don't think we should go," Arthur stated. They stared at him. "We can't let him go through this alone," Aaron replied. "We're his brothers, we have to be there for him." "He doesn't want to see us." "That doesn't matter," Alexander said. "Yes, it does. How do you think he's going to feel about us if we show up mere hours after his admitted because Albert's been a virtual stalker? It isn't going to endear us to him." Everyone was silent for a long moment. "He's right, you know." Adam finally said. "I know." Aaron looked over his shoulder. "Thanks for being the voice of reason again." "It's becoming a bad habit of mine, isn't it?" "No, it isn't," Anakin stated, "But You must be getting really tired of keeping us in line." Arthur shrugged. "Let's just go home," Aaron said. "Hopefully the dads are going to know what we should do." * * * * * They filed into the kitchen, where Daniel and Donald were preparing dinner. The adults looked at them then the clock. "we weren't expecting you for another hour. Dinner won't be ready till then." "Patrick's in the hospital," Albert said. "What happened?" "He was shot, but it's only a shoulder wound, nothing life threatening." Daniel and Donald exchanged a look. "You deal with this, Donny, I've got dinner." Donald sat at the table. "When did this happen?" "A couple of hours ago. He was admitted just as class ended." "Sit down, everyone." He waited until they did then looked at Albert. "How do you know this? It can't have hit the news yet" "I had a sniffer functions floating around the web looking for any mentions of him." Donald and Daniel sighed together. "You can't do that Albert," Donald said. "There are laws against cyberstalking. you know that." "I'm not stalking him, I was just wanted to know a bit more about him, I mean he left pretty distraught and I wanted to see what he'd say about it, but he doesn't have any social pages. As far as I can tell, he isn't online at all. all I found were pictures he's in with friends of his. So, I got the sniffer going to look for whatever it could find, which isn't much." "Shut it down, Albert." "Dad, come on. I'm not hurting anyone." "I know, but the law doesn't care. If anyone from the cyber-crime unit comes across your sniffer they are going to track it back to you. You're eighteen, you'll be prosecuted as an adult." Albert looked down. "Oh, I hadn't thought about that." "I know. I know you didn't mean any harm, but the laws are in place because before you were born a lot of people caused harm that way." Albert nodded, put his glasses on and manipulated the functions for a time then took them off. "I've erased it. How much trouble am I going to be in if they find traces of what I did?" Donald patted his shoulder. "I don't think they'll bother looking at the history unless they get a complaint, so you should be fine." "Dad, what are we going to do about Patrick?" Aaron asked. "There's nothing to do. He isn't our responsibility." "But he's our brother, we should be there for him." "Aaron, you can't force yourself on him. If you try you're just going to push him away. We have to let him come to us." "What if he never does?" "Then he doesn't. It's his choice." "But we could call him, right?" Adam asked. "Once his shooting hits the news feed," Donald agreed. "No, we can't," Albert said. "The number uncle Damian gave us is his mothers." "Why would he give us her number and not Patrick's?" "He doesn't have a phone." "How can he not have a phone?" Arthur asked. "You've seen where he lives. Phone cost money." "Come on Dad. Phones are cheap. I mean okay, ours aren't." He tapped the bracelet he was wearing. "But basic models hardly cost anything. They could afford that, right?" He looked at Albert. "Don't look at me. I don't know what their finances are like. I didn't go look into their private life." "If he doesn't have a phone," Donald said, "It's probably because he can't afford one." "If he can't afford that, how is he going to pay for his hospital stay?" Anakin asked. Worried expressions filled the table. "I can probably cover a good part of it," Aiden said. "My first album is selling pretty well." "Isn't that going to make him feel like your forcing yourself on him?" Alexander asked. "I just want to help him out," Aiden complained. "We can't force it on him. Maybe we can call his mother and offer to help?" "We can try that," Donald agreed. Albert looked at his father. "What if he didn't know the money was from us?" "It would be difficult to pay the bill without him finding out." "That's not what I'm thinking. He has friends who have online presences. we could talk to them and arrange for a crowdfund to be setup. I'm sure they'd want to help, and once people start putting money in it, so long as we keep our donations in the same range as theirs, no one would notice." "And we'd be able to give often," Aaron added. "that way we can cover whatever the others can't." "That sounds like a good idea," Daniel said, from the stove. "Just be careful you don't force it on them. It might not be sex, but no still means no." "Why would they say no?" Aiden asked. "I don't know, I just want you to be careful. Because we have money isn't a reason to force our ideas on those who have less." Aaron shared nods of agreement with his brothers and they left to set it up. * * * * * Patrick lay on his bed trying not to mess with his bandaged shoulder. The doctors had warned him against that, it was full of micro stuff that would help the wound heal. He had to wear it for three weeks, after which they hope it would be fully healed. Unfortunately, during that time Patrick couldn't do any heavy lifting, which meant working at the junkyard was out. At least, he could still bounce, so they wouldn't be too short on money. It was already enough of a miracle they hadn't gone broke paying the hospital bills. He listened to the saved call again. "Hi Patrick, it's Aaron." "And Alex." "And Arthur!" "Come on guys, we said I'd be the one talking," Aaron sounded exasperated. And multiple voices talked over one another for almost a minute. Patrick couldn't help smiling. "Alright, that's enough." An older voice sounded. "Hello Patrick, it's Daniel. Since the kids can't make up their minds as to who is their spokesperson I'll do it. we heard on the news you got shot. We thought about visiting you in the hospital but considering the way you left we weren't sure you'd want us there, so we agreed to call and let you know we hope you'll get better soon." There was a pause, and the silence was complete. "We hope that..." Now Patrick could hear some labored breathing. "Just get better Patrick." The call ended. His mom had been the one to listen to it first since he'd been in the hospital. She'd brought the phone on her next visit so he could listen to it. He'd been touched that she did, considering what Daniel and his family represented. And he'd almost cried when he listened to it for the first time. They'd cared enough to want to visit, and he did wish they had. He almost called them back, but his mother was there. What would she think of them all here. Now he wished he had called them anyway. He had to stop making decisions with his mother's wellbeing as the deciding factor. He had to live his life for himself. Holding the phone, he saw the time and it reminded him of the call he needed to make. he punched in the number. "St-Benedict, Mother Rosetta Speaking." "Hi, It's Patrick." "Hello Patrick. How are you doing? I saw on the news you got shot. I've been praying for you." "Thank you. I think God listened to you." "How so?" "We don't have insurance, so I expected my mom to have to get a loan to pay for my treatment, but some of my friends got together and setup a social site for people to donate money toward my medical bills. So many people donated that it's all covered, as well as my checkups. Whatever's left over afterward I'm thinking I'll donate it to the hospital." "That's very generous of you." Patrick chuckled. "I don't know about that. I'm just not comfortable keeping it. To be honest, as grateful as I am for the donations, I feel a bit weird about it." "You have friends, you should cherish that." "I do, I just never realized how many people actually cared. Except for a few friends, I always thought of myself as a loner." "You don't have to run around shaking everyone's hand to have an impact on their lives. A kind word, or a gentle action are sometime all that's needed. From our conversations I have no trouble believing you've affected the people around you in a positive manner." Patrick felt himself blush. "I suppose so." He fell silent, still not quite believing he'd touch the lives of so many people. "And about your other situation, have you made a decision?" "Yeah, I'd decided to follow your advice and start exploring the gay culture. I've found a gay bar a few miles away, but with getting shot, I didn't get a chance to go. I'm going to wait until my shoulder's healed before going." "Alright. And have you told someone? Your mother?" "No, not my mom. there's no way I'm telling her." "You should." "You don't know her. I've tried to bring it up, well, to bring my dad up and she always shifts the subjects. When she doesn't, she acts like he's a threat to me." "You've never mentioned your father before." Patrick was silent for a moment, then told her about their visit. The only thing he left out was that they were brothers. "So, you're father's gay too. And he knew you were gay?" "Yeah, he said every man in our family is. I don't know if that's true, but I am." He didn't mention his brothers. It was such a strange idea, he had brothers. He hadn't really thought about them since visiting their house and he wondered how they were doing. Maybe he should call them? go for another visit? "Well, I don't know anything about genetics," she said, "but I'd think it couldn't be all of them." "I guess it doesn't matter, not really. If they are, or aren't, it doesn't affect who I am, and I'm the one who needs to come to terms with this." "True. So, you haven't told your mothers. anyone else?" "No, well, Joey knows, but he was kind of instrumental in screwing my head on straight. I was thinking about talking with Natalia, I've known her for years, I'm curious if she knew, but she's out of the city until summer." "You could call her." Patrick smiled. "I'm not much of a phone user. and for that kind of conversation I prefer face to face." "Then have a video call." "I mean in person." "Are you sure you're not just finding reasons not to ask her?" Patrick considered it. Would he know if he was? "I don't think so. I know that on the day I was shot I wouldn't have asked her, but during the few days I was in the hospital, I had lots of time to think. That's when I decided to ask her, but I couldn't manage to have her alone, and by the time I was released she had to go back to her college." "Hopefully you'll be even more comfortable with yourself by the time she'll be back, asking the question won't feel uncomfortable. Speaking of your shooting, how were you during the fight?" "I don't remember it clearly, it happened pretty fast and I lost blood. I got angry, but I think I stayed in control. I slashed him a few times, claws out, but I don't think I was trying to do more than force him to back off." "The news made it sound like you just held your own until your friends intervened." "Yeah, I heard that too, and I guess that's true. It's a blur and I'm just happy it's in the past." "Well, I'm glad you're alright." "Me too. I think I'm going to nap. it was good talking to you Mother Rosetta." "And to you too. God be with you Patrick." "And with you." he disconnected the call, placed the phone on the bedside table and fell asleep as soon as he closed his eyes. * * * * * The beep sounded from his comm system. "Yes Alice?" "Miss Tremaine is here to see you." "Send her in, Alice, thank you." He wiped his desk clean of the file he was working on and brought up the one that was relevant to this meeting. "I see you're still using a flesh and blood receptionist, Damian." She said as soon as she'd closed the door. "You really need to get yourself a reception kiosk, they're a lot cheaper" "Please take a seat Josephine. Alice does a perfect job. I don't see any need in replacing her with a machine. I take it you are using one?" "More than one. I have them anywhere I can make it work. Now, what did you want to see me about?" Damian studied her for a moment. Her reddish-brown fur was graying, unusual considering she was the same age as him. Genetic predisposition? Stress? She was relaxed. It wasn't the first time she'd been in his office in the ten years since he'd appointed her to run the security company. She'd been the only one in the company who hadn't given into corruption when he bought it. She'd been an army captain when she was kicked out for bringing her corrupt superior to justice. She hadn't been very discreet in the process, and the army, like most large organization hated it when it's disgrace were made public. Josephine paid for it by being discharged with honors. She'd done a good job running the company, as far as Damian knew. He didn't micro manage, she was a competent leader with an exemplary record, so had been the perfect choice. He hadn't heard anything until this incident, and her comment about saving money made him wonder if she was still the right person to run it. He tapped the file and slid it to her. "I'd like to know what happened." She activated it, and a news report played before her eyes. It was short, simply stating that a young tiger had been shot in the Brownstones while playing basketball. That the incident seemed to be gang related. and that he had been hospitalized but the wound was minor. The report was from one of his news company, and they all had rules to keep to the fact and avoid theorizing. Other reports from other news agencies went more in depth, and tried to interview Patrick, but wisely he'd turned them down. Damian hadn't worried about how that might have affected the family, there was nothing out of the ordinary here, but Patrick would have found that once he'd let the news media get its teeth in him, they would have been reluctant to let go. He felt his life was difficult now, it would have been more so under the constant eye of the news hungry public. If not for his friends, the news might still have stayed focused on him, but three of them, a bear, an ermine and a panther with bleached fur had been more than happy to relate everything, and how this was affecting them, making themselves a spectacle the news was happy to consume. She looked up once it stopped. "What do you mean, what happened?" He looked at her blankly. He found the result far more interesting when he didn't ask questions and let a person's paranoia speak for them. he did note her pupils were dilating. "Look, you can't be blaming us for this. We had no way to know this was going to happen. We did everything you told us to." We? she was including the whole company in this, trying to shift the blame. She knew she'd done something wrong but didn't want to take the blame. "What did I tell you to do?" "You told us to protect that kid from the gangs." "What else?" Was she misremembering or purposely altering her recollection? "What do you mean, what else?" She was becoming agitated. She was worried. Was this the tip of an iceberg she didn't want him knowing about? "You know what I mean Josephine. I was quite clear in my instructions when I gave them to you on the eighteenth of March. I want to know if you still remember them." She gave an exasperated sigh. "You said to protect him from the gangs and make sure he didn't know we were doing it." "Good. Now, please answer my question. What happened?" "I just..." "No, you didn't. You made sure I knew this wasn't your fault. You did not explain how it was that, not only did someone wearing gang colors was able to get close enough to this young man to shoot him, but the young man and his friends had to be the one to deal with it." His voice was cold, something he knew made people uncomfortable, they expected the heat of anger, not cold calculation. "Considering your instructions, I'd like to know how this happened." "Damn it, Damian. What did you expect me to do? The gangs were all arrested. I needed my personnel for other jobs. I didn't see a point on leaving people on him if there were no threats." "If there were no threats, how do you explain he got shot?" "I couldn't know that was going to happen." Damian nodded to himself. "I see." When had making money become more important to her than protecting someone she was told to protect? "Very well, that's all Josephine." "What do you mean that's all?" "I mean, I have no more questions, and you can leave. Unless you have something you'd like to add?" She opened her mouth to say something, and then must have realized the situation she was in because she closed it. "No. I don't," she growled. She glared at him and Damian could tell that gaze had intimidated many people over her carrier, but it was wasted on him. When he didn't react, she got up and left, slamming the door behind her. He waited a moment going over what she'd said and what she hadn't. It was apparent she was no longer the person to run Royal Securities. "Contact Audit." there was a beep. "Auditing department, Emil speaking. "Emil, Damian." "Mister Orr, what can I do for you?" "I need you to get an audit done on Royal Securities. If anything criminal is found, get an outside agency to redo the audit, otherwise forward me the results." "Yes sir." He disconnected. "HR." there was three rings. "HR." "This is Damian." "Oh shit. Yes Mister Orr. I'm Beltane." Beltane Dupree, nineteen, been with the company for a year. "Beltane, let me start by saying I expect more professionalism from the people working for me." "Yes sir. I'm sorry sir." "Now, I need you to go through Josephine Tremaine's employment record. I need her transferred to a position better suited for her, not a leadership role. Then go through the personnel at Royal Securities and give me a list of the ten most qualified to run it." "Yes sir." "And Beltane, as you are doing this. consider that Miss Tremaine is someone who didn't measure up to my expectations." Damian disconnected the call before the young possum could say anything. He brought up the files he'd been working on before. It was his nephews crowd sourced funding for Patrick's hospital bills. He was pleased with them. They had beat him to it, setting it up within hours of the incident, and in a way Patrick wouldn't know they were involved unless he got his friend to dig into it, and Damian had seen to it there were a few level of security added to make it much more difficult. He was glad to know they were this eager to help their brother even if they haven't gotten to know him quite yet. At this rate, Patrick might actually manage to join the family without any intervention. That would certainly be best for him.
  10. Kindar

    Chapter 22

    The Missing Son 22 Patrick had trouble believing how much of a difference three week made, not just with him, but on the whole neighborhood. Three weeks without the gangs walking around like they owned the place, intimidating people, breaking into houses, stealing cars. It hadn't happened over night, but now people were sitting on their porch after work, drinking beers. Kids were playing on the lawns and running around the houses. He'd mentioned it to Mother Rosetta, and she'd said much the same of her parish. The gangs had been this dark cloud over the area that no one really mentioned but that affected them all. The gravity of the change made itself clear not long after that, when the smell of cooking meat had drawn him outside and Mister Omaka, an older ocelot, three houses down the road, was barbecuing on his lawn, people coming over with food from other houses. Patrick had rushed back in and gone through the cupboard looking for something he could bring. He put together a quick potato salad from the bag of potatoes he'd cooked a few days ago to keep them from going bad. He walked to the ocelot, realizing he should have asked first if this was open to anyone or a private affair. "Mister Omaka, I hope I'm not intruding, I saw everyone coming with food and I thought I'd offer some too." "Patrick, call me Jinko, you know that." The ocelot's fur was very pale, an indication he was quite advanced in age, but he didn't show any other signs. Patrick had seen him running some of the younger gang members off his lawn more than once. "And of course, you're welcome. today's such a fine evening I just had to grill something, and seems everyone's feeling much more neighborly these days." "Yes sir. I've noticed that too. I brought potato salad, I hope that'll do." "Of course it will. Just put it on the table there and tell me what you'd like." "I'd take a sausage roll, and if I can I'd like a burger for my mom, she'll be back from work in a couple of hours and I know she'd enjoy something different from what we've been eating" The ocelot looked Patrick up and down. "You only want one? Seems to me a boy your age should be eating more." "I don't want to impose, I'm sure plenty of others are going be asking for some, and I didn't bring that much food." "I'm sure everyone is going to want some, but I've got plenty, and Gillian brought a few packs of sausages too, not to say of all the burger patties I have." "Well, if it isn't going to cause problems, I'll have two." Mister Omaka snorted. "You'll have four and you won't complain about it." Patrick's ears warmed and he fought a desire to refuse. He much preferred to earn what he got, but Mister Omaka was insistent, so he couldn't make too big of a deal out of it. He put the salad on the table and saw there were two other bowl of potato salad, but each smelled like different spices had been used, so he didn't feel too bad. There were three cakes, two platters of vegetables, three pies, and a large bowl of lettuce. Party plates and bowls were stacked at the end of the table. In a cooler filled with ice he found lots of soda cans, and even a few of orange soda. Patrick was surprise, he didn't realize anyone else drank the stuff. He grabbed one and Mister Omaka had his food ready. "I've set aside two patties for your mother, I'll cook them when she comes home." "You don't have too, if you cook them now I can take them home and put them in the over." The ocelot gave him the evil eye. "If you leave our little gathering, I am going to chase you down and beat you, got that? Now, go find a place to sit and eat." Patrick couldn't stop the grin from spreading on his face. "Yes sir." The rest of the evening was spent talking with people he'd seen daily, but hadn't spent the time taking with often, everyone then too busy looking over their shoulders or wondering who would cause problems next. When his mother got home, she saw the gathering and came to investigate. Mister Omaka handed her two burgers, pointing to the condiments. She tried to refuse, but like Patrick, she lost that argument and settled next to him. Someone brought her a coffee. The gathering lasted until late in the night. * * * * * Patrick ran across the court, stopped, dodged his opponent, looked for his teammate, waved to indicate he was clear. The ball was bounced to him. he caught it, dribbled two steps, leaped in the air and threw it at the basket. The ball hit the back board, then the rim and bounced outside the playing field. "You still can't get a ball in to save your life, Sanders," someone said. "I told you I sucked when you insisted I play," he replied, running after the ball. He grabbed it before it rolled on the street and threw it back. Of the people he was playing with he only knew two, Natalia was a tigress he'd met because their mothers worked at the same factory. He strongly suspected his mother had arranged it hoping he and Natalia would hit it off, but while they got along, the chemistry had never been there. Patrick had never thought about it before, but now he knew why. He wondered if she'd guessed it back then, but he hadn't worked up the nerves to ask her since it would mean telling her he was gay. it was one thing to have admitted it to himself, another to tell someone else, well, other than Joey, but somehow Patrick felt he didn't count. The other was the bull who lived across the street from him. he was a year older and heavily into sports. he'd managed to avoid being dragged into the gangs because he lived most of the time with him mom on the other side of the city, being here only every other weekend. He was the one who had insisted Patrick come play. Patrick jogged back to the court, an unused parking lot that had been a Soranto gathering point before their mass arrests. Someone had procured the two basketball hoops and set them up. Natalia pointed in his direction and yelled something he didn't get. He turned to see what had gotten her attention. Thunder rang through the air and something punched him in the shoulder, sending him twisting and then falling to the ground. He looked up to see a horse walking in his direction, waving a gun around, He heard screams over the pounding of his heart. His shoulder was hurting now, a lot. he glanced at it, and it was bloody. He made the connection between the gun and his shoulder. "You fucking shot me!" Emilio pointed the gun at him. "I said you were a dead man." Patrick couldn't believe he'd been shot. Fuck, this was going to cause so much trouble. How long would he be off work because of this? Things had finally been starting to look up, His mom had had a slight raise at the factory so she'd been able to put some money aside. this was going to wipe all of it away. "I thought you were in jail," Patrick growled. "Didn't they arrest the lot of you?" "Yeah, I guess me showing up is a surprise. I guess you thought getting your buddies the cops to rough us up and then arrest us would free you, but guess what. when I promise something to someone I make sure it happens." Patrick winced at the pain as he forced himself to stand. he was woozy for a moment but kept his footing. "What the fuck are you talking about?" "Ohhh, you think we wouldn't notice you had people watching out for you? What? you were so scared of us you made a deal with the cops so they'd take us down?" "You're not making any sense, as usual. I didn't call anyone, I didn't make any deal. I deal with my problems myself, without a gang to back me up, unlike someone I won't bother naming." Anger crawled up the horse's face as the words registered. "I won't have some mangy cat bad mouth me!" Patrick didn't wait for him to raise the gun. He ran at him. The gun went off, but he didn't feel anything. He slammed his good shoulder in Emilio's chest, sending him flying back, but Patrick almost blacked out as the impact caused his other shoulder to erupt with pain. The horse was standing up when Patrick could see again, but he wasn't holding the gun anymore. Patrick was going to kill him. He had fucking enough with Emilio and the Sarantos. Each step he took made his shoulder complain, but he didn't listen, he shoved the pain to the side, he'd pay for this later, right now he just couldn't give a damn. Patrick struck the horse across the face, hand open, claws extended. he felt them dig into the skin and rip. Emilio took a step back in surprise, four bloody lines on the side of his face and a piece of his ear ripped off. The horse was furious. He looked around, then fear replaced the fury. He didn't have anyone backing him up. He'd never gone up against Patrick alone. "I'm not going to let a punk like you do this to me and live," Emilio threatened. Patrick slashed again, but the horse moved back. Patrick slashed back and forth with his good arm, but all that did was keep the horse at bay. He was losing blood. How long could he keep fighting until he lost consciousness? If that happened, he was dead. he wasn't going to let that happen. He wasn't putting his mom through this kind of tragedy. He staggered, putting on a show of having trouble moving. his slashes were lower and slower. He panted heavily, but that wasn't an act. He lounged at the horse, even if he was still out of reach, and he saw the smile of confidence on his face. Emilio did a quick lunge in. Patrick forced himself not to flinch back and let him strike him on the chest. It wasn't very hard, the horse hadn't gone all in, but when he staggered back Patrick almost couldn't stop himself from falling. The horse pressed his advantage, and Patrick struck him. he'd aimed for his throat, intent on ripping it out, but his hand hadn't gone up that far. He ended up slashing deeply at Emilio's chest. He almost lost his balance, and a hand caught him. he lashed out, but that was caught too, then he saw the fur was striped instead of brown. "I've got you," Natalia said, and then he was unconscious. * * * * * Patrick came to with a start, felt hands on him and saw brown fur. He trashed, trying to get away but the pain in his shoulder screamed. "Hold him down damn it!." Hands pushed him down, tan fur, long tapered muzzle, canine. "Calm down kid, we're here to help." The brown fur again, round ears, short muzzle, small eyes. Bear. Not horse. The fight left Patrick. He closed his eyes and panted. He could hear beeps and whirls. he opened his eyes again. He was in the back of an ambulance, on a stretcher. The bear was scanning his shoulder. He looked around, but didn't recognize any of the equipment. "Sorry for trashing about. I hope I didn't hurt either or you." "It's okay kid," the bear replied. "We've had to deal with far more difficult customers than you." "How bad is it?" "All thing considered? not bad at all, the bullet's intact and lodged in your muscle. I'll give you some local anesthetic and pull it out." "Fuck." The canine, a coolie regarded him. "I don't have insurance," Patrick explained. "I can't pay for any of this." The collie looked at the bear and then out the door. "Don't you worry 'bout that. Our job's to do what we can, not to bill the customer. Wallace there'll take out the chunk, then we'll take you to the hospital so they can make sure nothing bad happens. Infection and all that." "Can you give me antibiotics? I can't go to the hospital. You're not charging me, and I'm grateful, but they're going to bill me for just looking at me. I don't want to think what it's going to be when they actually do something." "Look kid." The bear injected Patrick's shoulder, "Sure, we can give you stuff to make sure it doesn't get infected, but you've got muscle damage. If you don't get that looked at you could lose a lot of flexibility in your arm, is that what you want?" "Of course not, but It's not worth ruining my mom." "Maybe you should call her so she can make the decision?" The collie offered. "I don't have a phone." "That's okay, I'll lend you mine, you know her number?" "She's at work." "I'm sure they'll let her take the call, this is something of an emergency." Patrick thought it over. He didn't want to bother her with this. But no matter what happened, she was going to be affected. He cursed halfheartedly and recited the factory's number. The paramedic punched it and unhooked the top of the phone, bending it so it would fit around Patrick's ear and placed it there. He heard the ringing, then a click and a man's voice. "Olympic Mattresses, where we make mattresses fit for Gods, how can I improve your sleep?" "Hi, I need to talk to Margarette Sanders, she's one of your seamstresses." "I'm sorry, but this is the sales department." "Sorry, this is the only number I have. Can you transfer me her supervisor? I really need to talk to her." "I'm sorry, but I don't think floor employees are allowed to take personal calls during work hours." Patrick sighed, feeling tired all of a sudden. "I'm her son, I need to inform her I've been shot." "You've been shot? Oh my God, do you need me to call the police? an ambulance?" "No, they're already here, I just need to talk to my mother." "Yes, of course. I'm going to put you on hold while I find her." Patrick closed his eyes, and then opened them, he didn't want to risk falling asleep. He felt pressure on his shoulder and realized the pain was gone. He looked and the bear had thin pliers in the wound. There was a slurping noise as he pulled out and he had the bullets. "Can I talk to him?" a police officer asked from the doorway. "He's trying to reach his mother," the collie replied. "By the time he's done we'll have sanitized and sealed the wound, you can talk to him then. I'll call for you." The yak nodded and left. Patrick was about the thank him when his mother was on the spoke in his ear. "Patrick? Are you alright? They told me you've been shot, how bad is it?" "I'm okay mom. Just a shoulder wound, nothing vital. Look, they want to take me to the hospital." "Of course, doctors need to look at it. I'll explain things to my supervision and go there immediately, do you know which one they are taking you to?" "Mom, I can't go. We don't have insurance." "That's fine, I have some money aside." "Mom, this is a hospital, I don't think your savings are going to be enough." "Then I'll get a loan. Patrick, you are going, it's final. I'm not going to risk your health just for money, do you hear me?" "Yes, mom." He sighed. "Which hospital are we going to?" "Four Clovers is the closest one." "Four Clovers, mom. That's where I'll be." "I'll see you there as soon as I can." He took off the ear piece and handed it to the collie. "Don't worry, if Clovers can't take you I'll call her to tell her where we'll end up." "That the factory number. She doesn't have her phone." The collie looked at him questioningly. "We only have one phone for the two of us, so it stays at home." Patrick got two horrified looks. He was too exhausted to laugh. "If you're done I'm good to talk to the police officer now." That was going to be a pleasant conversation, he thought wryly. The collie called the yak over and stepped out so he could come in. The bear stayed and continued scanning his shoulder. "I'm officer Androny," the Yak said, "we're taking statements from all the witnesses. Can you tell me what happened?" Patrick took a breath. "I was playing basketball with my friends. I missed a hoop, the ball bounced away so I chased it. got it and was coming back when I heard thunder and fell. My shoulder was bloody. Emilio was pointing a gun at me. I defended myself." "You knew the man who shot you?" "We're had altercations before. He's been trying to force me to join the Sarantos for years now. I thought he'd been arrested with the others." "During the fight, did you slash him?" Patrick sighted. "Yes. my claws were all I had to defend myself." He really didn't need this. He's managed to avoid getting in trouble with the law his entire life. Now because of that horse he was going to end up with an assault charge on his record. "Look, I need to know. what am I going to be charged with?" The yak stared at him. "Charged? what for?" "I clawed him. That's assault, they teach us that really early at school." "Buddy, he came at you with a gun. What you did was self-defense. No judge is even going to want to see you in her court. All you're going to have to do is go over the statement to make sure it's accurate and sign it. Your buddy Emilio is sitting in the back of my cruiser right now, and he's looking at prison time for possession of an illegal firearm, not to mention shooting you." He stood. "You just focus on healing, we'll contact you when everything's ready for you to sign." He left. "So, you're ready to head to the hospital now?" Patrick smiled. "Yeah, I am."
  11. Kindar

    Chapter 21

    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.
  12. Kindar

    Chapter 20

    The Missing Son 20 Patrick paused by the living room, his mother was sitting there, watching the news. It was such an odd sight, her being home this early in the day that he took a moment to appreciate it. The television had woken him up and it was barely noon. For a moment he thought he'd forgotten to turn it off when he got home, but then remembered he'd headed straight to bed. "Hey mom, what are you doing home?" She looked over her shoulder and muted it. "Hi Patrick. The factory closed early." "Closed? in the middle of the day? They've never done that before. is everything alright there?" "It's fine. I guess the new owners wanted to look over the machinery." "New owners? Are they going to close it down?" Patrick hoped not. "No, of course not. They assured us everything would continue as normal before giving us the rest of the day off, with pay." Patrick hoped she wasn't being too trusting, sending everyone home didn't seem like a good sign. They couldn't afford for her to lose that job. He doubted he could bring in that kind of money even if he did odd jobs all day, every day. "What time did you get home last night?" she asked. You still weren't in when I went to bed." "About four in the morning. Don asked me to help out with a private party and it ran late." She frowned. "You know I don't like it when he keeps you out that late." "I know, but it's extra money, and we need it. I put it in your checkbook." Not to say that being offered two hundred dollars by a woman to get him to dance on the table had been a strange experience. He'd been scared of the idea, of making a fool of himself in front of them, but tempted by the money. When she pressed, and told him there could be more, if he took off his clothing, He'd been even more conflicted. There was no way he'd ever undress in public, was there? Just how much money was she offering, and why had he been excited at the idea of doing it? Fortunately for him, the decision was taken out of his hands when Don reminded her his bar wasn't *that kind* of place. "I hope you've kept some." "Thirty bucks. That's enough to see me through the day." By her lack of reaction, he didn't think she's seen how much he'd left. Even with disappointing the woman, it had been a good night. They tipped heavily, and she slipped him a fifty after he'd agreed to dance with her. The dance had been - interesting. She'd rubbed herself all over him in the process, ran her hands over his entire body. The way she licked her lips as she gyrated against him made it clear, even to someone as clueless as he normally was, what she really wanted. Even if he'd been interested in giving her what she wanted, for all the touching and rubbing she did, his body hadn't reacted. He'd done his best not to show it, but once they were done he spent ten minutes in the bathroom dealing with the shock, the disappointment, of realizing he truly wasn't straight. He might have spent longer there, but he had a job to do. "I'm going to head out after I grab a shower. There's something I need to take care off this afternoon." "Alright, are you going to be back for dinner?" "No, it'll take most of the day, and I'll go directly to the bar after that." The Church was close to ten miles away, so it would take him most of the afternoon to walk there. He stopped by again after his shower. He was wearing his best everyday clothes, not that they were that great, but at least they didn't have any holes or rips. He wanted to make sure she was okay. He didn't think she would have lied to him about her job, she would have told him if she'd lost it, but now that he knew she'd lied to him before, he felt like he needed to verify it. He watched her silently, and she did seem unconcerned as she watched the news. On the screen a gazelle in a deep blue suit was standing behind a podium. Someone said something to her and she nodded, putting papers in order. the 'live' icon flashed in the left corner and next to that 'police commissioner Hyacinthe press conference' Patrick had been about to turn away when he saw the words, 'gang violence down.' crawl at the bottom of the screen. "Thank you for coming," the gazelle said. "I called this press conference because today we are celebrating a major victory against gang violence." 'Leaders and lieutenants of Saranto, Claws and Infernals arrested. Gang in disarray.' scrolled at the bottom. "Over the last few months we have been conducting a series of undercover operations with the goal of infiltrating multiple gangs. This morning, using information gathered from those operations, we arrested the leaders of the Sarantos, the Claws and the Infernals as well as all their lieutenants and most of the gang members. "When I became commissioner, I promised the citizen of San Francisco I would address the city's gang problem. This is only the start. Know that the police aren't going to rest until all the gangs have been broken. Gangs are parasite on this city and it's time we got rid of them. "I want to thank this fine city's citizens, who are in large part responsible for making this possible. Your donations helped us properly fund the gang task force. The information you provided allowed us to pinpoint who to target and where to find them. a long time ago the gangs declared war on this city, and now, together, we are fighting back, and winning." Patrick took a moment to let what she'd said sink in. This certainly explained why the Sarantos had been leaving him alone. was that also why they'd tried to kill him that last time? They thought he'd inform on them? They were idiots if they thought that, Patrick would never bring the cops into his private business. Then he remembered something that stole his breath. He went to the kitchen and sat down. "You'll never have to worry about your safety." Damian had told him, during that unnerving car ride. Had he made this happen? How could he? She said they'd been working on this for months, and the ride hadn't been that long ago. But it couldn't be a coincidence either, could it? He forced himself to calm down, pushed the disbelief aside so he could focus. Damian was rich, a quick online search had told him that. He owned so many companies he hadn't been able to read the entire page listing them. So, he had the finances to do something like that, but why have the commissioner say they had been working on it for months then? To make his involvement less obvious? He shook his head. This was something out of the novels he read. No one would spend that kind of money on him. It had to just be a coincidence. He looked up. God sure did work in mysterious ways. He made himself a sandwich and ate it on his way to the door. As he put his jacket on he looked at the frame, on the table by the door, of his mother and 'father'. He didn't feel the ache he used to when looking at it. The wonder about what it would be like to have a father was a memory. He wondered why she kept it here, now that the lie had been exposed. Was she trying to keep it going? or was it simpler, she'd grown used to the idea of the family they represented. The family she dreamed they had been? were? He didn't have to imagine anymore, he had a father, well, two. That was confusing. He hoped that in time he could get himself to do see them again. Even with them being... the way they were. He wanted them to be part of his family. Now that he had a father, he didn't want to never see him. His mother didn't have that. he didn't know if she'd ever be able to accept them as his father. So she kept her illusory family alive with the pictures. He found he didn't blame her for that.
  13. Driving hard (Patreon post for 06-24-18)

    If you have questions, you can ask them in the comments below or by emailing them to s.stpierre@thetigerwrites.com

    After all the sitting I did last week, it was nice to never stop this week. There was a slight snafu, when, after my delivery in Chicago Monday morning, they wanted to send me to British Columbia, even though I’d told them I needed to be in Brampton by the 1st of July. It can be done, to BC and ....

    If you want to read the rest of the post, which includes more about my week, as well as my thoughts on the movie "The Greatest Showman," you can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/19653757

  14. Kindar

    Chapter 18

    @WolfBearHybrid yes, Patrick has some work to do to get to the point he is seeking, even if he doesn't quite know it yet
  15. Kindar

    Chapter 16

    @WolfBearHybrid I'd say that being scared of Damian is a completely understandable and normal reaction.
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