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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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."
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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."
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Rod_3rich


    The villa of Colonel Achilles Graves was in an unusual state of uproar. At least a dozen members of the Anatolian police were spread around the villa’s front porch with their automobiles parked all over the snow covered yard. The officers, thickly clad in large woolen overcoats, were busy taking statements from the guests, while a small group of officers were leading away three of the guests. Various emotions were displayed on their faces, from miserable to murderous rage. Their paws were cuffed on their backs as they were escorted towards the awaiting automobiles. One of them, a tiger, had to be restrained by three of the officers as he kept struggling against their grip. The feline was heavily bruised, bloodied, and had lots of cuts on his face. He snarled and tried to fight his way out twice and nearly succeeded until a boar officer went in and helped his comrades to shove the offending tiger into the police van. The master of the house, the distinguished Colonel Achilles Graves, looked weary as he answered a few questions from the tall and shrewd labrador. The golden bands on his uniform indicated that the canine was the lead inspector. There was an air of relief in the black panther’s features as he answered yet another question. “...yes, exactly. If it wasn’t for detective Cross’ quick action, that tiger would have succeeded in his attempt to stab me.” He answered. “I see.” The inspector nodded, hastily scribbling the colonel’s words on a notebook. He hummed as he thought his next question. “What can you say for Mr. Nikolai Vasilyev? I understand he’s your guest. However, he wasn’t on your guest list.” “Oh, young Vasilyev. He was standing in for his uncle, Admiral Vadim Vasilyev, who had fallen ill and couldn’t come. The admiral and I had gone a long way back.” The inspector made a long, drawn out hum. “Ah, that makes sense I suppose.” “Vasilyev helped to restrain Rogers when detective Cross was struggling to restrain him.” The colonel added. “Furthermore, without his help, that damned tiger and his accomplices would have managed to steal some valuable information.” “Did he now?” The labrador’s eyebrow rose Colonel Graves gestured to the two felines who were being interviewed by another police member several feet away. “See that they had sustained a number of cuts and bruises?” “Mmm…” The inspector continued to ask several more questions to the colonel, before he nodded in satisfaction, and signaled for his subordinates to move. Breathing a sigh of relief, the black panther turned to the cougar who was making his way towards him. Trotting directly behind the cougar was a male lynx. Both were draped in long, heavy coats and scarves wrapped their necks. “I really cannot thank you enough for your help, Mr. Cross… I am forever in your debt.” He said to the cougar. Detective Leonidas Cross, or Leon as he liked to go by, gave a dismissive wave to the panther before he brushed off the snow that had accumulated on the top of his hat. A small smile was etched on his bruised face. Indeed, the feline looked slightly worse for wear after the small brawl earlier that evening. “Anything for an old friend, colonel. The worst is behind us with Rogers gone.” He nodded towards the tiger who was glaring balefully at them through the windows of the police car. “I think you can sleep well now without anything burdening your mind.” The detective added, pulling the coat closer around himself. “I suppose.” Colonel Graves exhaled, watching as the police shoved the bound tiger into the car and slammed the door. “Still, I hadn’t thought it was Rogers of all people…” Cross gave a comforting pat on his friend’s shoulder. “At least Mr. Vasilyev was kind enough to subdue Rogers and recover the stolen plans.” The entourage of police and their cars soon drove off, leaving the villa back in its relative peaceful state once again. With the police gone, so was the excitement. The guests and servants slowly trickled back into the villa. The colonel, Cross, and Vasilyev soon followed the others, walking side by side as they headed into the warmth of the colonel’s villa. “All clear with the police?” Cross turned his question to the lynx as he handed his coat and hat to the butler who was standing helpfully by the door. Nikolai Vasilyev looked worse for wear. His face bore a few scratches, some were bleeding openly, and his dinner jacket was in disarray. However, the feline’s expression was one of immense satisfaction. “I’m all clear once I showed them my identification and papers. Good thing the good sergeant can read Cyrillic.” The lynx voiced with a small grin on his face. His voice bore almost no traces of his Rosvenian heritage. “I must apologize for deceiving you both however. It was imperative that my real identity was to remain hidden for my mission to succeed.” Cross nodded. “Yes of course. And we’re grateful that you’ve recovered what had been stolen, aren’t we, colonel?” “Hmm? Oh, yes.” The colonel nodded, absentmindedly caressing the folder that was pinned under his arm. “The Avalorian army is grateful for your help, Mr. Vasilyev.” “I’m just here to help.” The Rosvenian agent gave a small chuckle. “Well, I don’t think any of us is ready for bed now.” The colonel continued. “There was too many excitement for the night.” With the expressions of agreement from the two feline companions, he continued, “Why don’t we retire to the library for the time being?” The library, which had been used by Cross to confront Rogers of his motives early that evening, had been efficiently tidied. Looking at the room now, one would not expect that a brawl had taken place inside the richly paneled and thickly carpeted room. The servants had tidied the books back to their respective shelves in an orderly manner, the seats and chairs rearranged back into their prior position, and the colonel’s writing desk had been returned to its original, upright position by the tall windows. There were several blotches of ink on the carpet from the bottles that had shattered when Rogers slammed Cross to the desk in an attempt to escape, but the ink stains would wash off, hopefully. As the two felines made a beeline to the fireplace, the colonel went over to pour them whiskey from the side table, which had been thankfully untouched during the confrontation. “Thank you, Colonel.” Vasilyev nodded at the panther gratefully and drank. Colonel Graves went to take the spot beside the cougar detective. “So, you will be returning to Rosvenia soon, Vasilyev?” Cross inquired, sitting on the nearby velvet settee. “Since you’ve completed your objective here and whatnot.” “In a few days.” The lynx nodded as he sat to the adjacent settee. “I’ll be taking the train straight to Pierrograd,” said Vasilyev. “My services would be needed with how the country is at this moment… What about you, Mr. Cross? You’re from the Hesperian Federation, aren’t you?” The cougar took a big gulp of his whiskey before replying. “Yes, yes I am. I’ll be taking the train home, all the way to Valmagne-sur-Mer in Gallia. From there, I’ll take the connection to Kingshaven by ship.” “Sounds like you’ve got a long journey ahead, Mr. Cross.” Vasilyev sipped his whiskey. “Which train are you taking? The Continental Express?” Cross shook his head. “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll either take that or the Nightliner Limited back. Whichever won’t deplete my wallet.” He added with a small dry chuckle. “Why not the Mercurius Express?” Colonel Graves chimed in. “It’s the fastest, and not to mention the best train in all of Ivoria. Takes just four days to travel from here to Gallia.” “That’s true, right there.” Vasilyev agreed. “I’ll be on that train myself. Fine meals, cocktails, and not to mention, charming travelling companions.” The lynx chuckled. The colonel gestured in agreement with his glass. “You would be right.” “However, it’s also the most expensive option for me.” Cross sighed. “I simply can’t afford spend so much on a trip. I’ve used quite a huge amount of my savings to get here from Hesperia by airship.” He said. “It’ll be cheaper if I take the regular express trains.” Colonel Graves was quick to protest. “Oh, no, no. I can’t allow that. You’ve helped me a great deal, Cross, and I intend to repay the favor.” “Oh, but you shouldn’t—“ “I insist.” The colonel smiled. “I’ll cover for your travel expenses from Anatolia to Gallia. Besides, I’ll be taking the train too, but only as far as Ansburg. We could all travel on the same day.” Cross blinked. “I didn’t know that you’re heading back so soon. Why Ansburg, pray tell?” “There will be a joint military drill between Avaloria and Arlemania, requested by the Kaiser Albert himself.” The colonel replied. “Part of his plan to smooth out relations between the two countries.” Vasilyev hummed. “I heard rumours that the Kaiser is eyeing Princess Alexandrina for marriage. Perhaps this is one of his attempts to soften relationships between his empire and Avaloria.” “Judging from the number of times the Kaiser himself has visited Avaloria, I wouldn’t be surprised.” Cross remarked, sipping his whiskey. “Either way… you will be overseeing the military exercises, am I correct?” He turned to the colonel. The black panther nodded. “Quite right! And what better way to travel back with good company, eh?” He chuckled. Cross fell into a long, ponderous silence, sipping the last drop of his whiskey all the while. “Well then…” he gave a sigh and showed the colonel a small, amused smile. “If you insist, colonel, I would be happy to join you two.” The colonel grinned brightly. “It’s settled then!” He clasped his paws together. “I say why don’t you two enjoy a few days here before going back? Enjoy the rest of the week to recuperate, and then we can head to Hieropolis to catch on the Friday afternoon train next week.” He suggested, standing to his feet. “And to be frank, you two don’t look like you could travel without gaining a few looks.” The other two felines turned and glanced at each other, noting the bruises and scrapes on their faces. Cross chuckled. “Yes… I think you’re right, colonel.” “I could use a few days of rest.” Vasilyev nodded in agreement. “Splendid! I’ll have our berths arranged.” The colonel spoke again. “You won’t need to worry a single thing.” Vasilyev poured another helping of whiskey to himself. “Looks like we’ll have a pretty enjoyable journey ahead of us.” Cross couldn’t agree more. “Looks like we will.” He smiled at the lynx, and asked to refill his glass. * * * Richard Caine took a large drag of his smoke and blew, looking down to the open air palm court from the balcony of his hotel room several floors above. Tables and chairs had been arranged by the hotel stewards so that the guests could dine under the fine, clear night. He could see a few guests had trickled out from the adjacent dining room, clad in dinner jackets and elegant gowns. Some of the ladies braved to bare their shoulders and arms even though it was quite a chilly night. Nights in Misarya could be very cold, especially in winter, contrasting to its daytime temperatures. It baffled Richard to no end how extreme temperatures could shift in the desert. The wolverine continued this idle activity of observing the servants and guests for a few more minutes before he flicked the butt of his cigarette and headed back into his room. Closing the doors behind him, Richard went to check his reflection on the nearby mirror, straightening his collar and bowtie, before he went to grab the black tailcoat hanging by the open wardrobe. There came a knock on the door just as he was straightening his dinner jacket. “Yes?” “It’s me, Rick.” Came his uncle’s voice from the door. “Just a second.” Richard went to the door and turned the lock open. His uncle was standing just outside, sporting the small grin that seemed to be permanently plastered on his face. Like Richard, Simon Caine was dressed in a dinner jacket, which was slightly stretched over the wolverine’s large, but sturdily built figure. His salt and pepper hair was neatly combed back, and Richard thought his uncle looked pretty dashing for his age. “Well, well. You look strapping, as always.” The older wolverine smiled appreciatively, before he blinked and made a small gesture with his paw. “Your bowtie is slightly off.” He told his nephew. His fingers were already reaching for the tie. “Do you mind if…?” Richard had a bemused smile on his face as he shook his head. “Not at all.” Simon made a short work to straighten his nephew’s bowtie, and took a few more seconds to make sure the younger wolverine was presentable. “There. Perfect.” Richard chuckled and beamed. “Thanks, uncle.” “You’re welcome!” The older wolverine smiled. “Oh right, these just came in.” He then pulled out several enveloped from inside of his jacket. “Oh?” Richard quickly flipped through the letters and tore them open. The first two was from his alma mater, the Stainbridge University in Avaloria, inviting him for an alumni spring reunion. The second one was a letter from his archeology professor, asking about his recent expedition to the Misaryan Great Tombs. The third envelope was a telegram, sent from a hotel in Hieropolis, Anatolia, dated today, and it was sent just about an hour ago. The name of the sender was his friend, whose letter Richard had been waiting for a few days now. Opening the envelope, Richard’s eyes fell to the neatly printed letters which read, ‘FOUND NEW INFO ABOUT THE BOX = OLD BIRD KEPT ASKING ABOUT THE TRINKET = WILL HEAD TO AS-QAIR & MEET YOU AT THE HOTEL IN TWO DAYS’ “Was that from Warren?” Simon inquired when Richard folded the telegram back to its envelope. The younger wolverine nodded. “Yeah. Sounds like Trent had finally found a lead on our nifty little trinket here.” He said, turning his head slightly to the corner of the bedroom. “Oh, really?” Simon hummed. He followed his nephew’s line of gaze, looking at the large, solid black trunk nestled right next to the end table. It was heavily secured by three locks with a combination number on each lock. Opening them would also require a special key, which the two wolverines always kept on themselves. Getting that little souvenir from the Great Tombs had been quite the grueling task, and not to mention the permits they had to apply to get it shipped across the country. The ancient and valuable trinket they found held a few surprises… if not shocking. Richard didn’t want to risk it being lost or stolen after all the trouble he and his uncle had been through. Especially not when their client had promised a large amount of payment for that artefact. “Well any information about that strange box there would be good. What did he say?” Richard shook his head. “Nothing, really…” He handed the envelope to his uncle. “He said he’d meet us here in two days, and that’s all.” Simon hummed as he read the letter. “Looks like your client is getting more impatient to get his souvenir.” Richard let out a soft snort. “Ainsworth is too impatient for his own good. We’ll give him the box when he’s given us the payment.” “Of course, boy.” The older wolverine chuckled. “Well, let’s head down. They’ve rang the dinner gong a while ago.” Nodding, Richard went to lock every windows and doors before he followed his uncle to the hallway outside. Simon’s paw was on Richard’s shoulder as they headed for the elevator lobby, pulling the younger wolverine close. The elevator brought the two down to the ground floor and they made a beeline towards the dining hall just off to the side of the lobby. The magnificent hall, two stories high and lined with windows on two sides, was already filled with guests. The orchestra was playing a lively waltz to which several couples were dancing to on the marble lined dance floor. Wall to ceiling glass doors opened to the palm court outside. It would seem most of the guests wanted to enjoy some fresh air tonight, Richard noted as he and his uncle were shown to their table by their waiter. They weren’t lead outside, thankfully, but it would seem their table had already been occupied by a single guest. He was a tall, broad shouldered grey wolf with a stern looking face and a predominantly black and white fur, with shades of brown spread evenly along his robust figure that was clad in impeccable set of tails. The wolf’s sharp amber eyes flicked between Richard and his uncle for a moment before he gestured to the empty seat with a flicker of a smile. “Good evening.” Simon greeted as they sat down. “I’m Simon Caine.” “Heinrich Luther.” He introduced himself. His tone carried the slight guttural, Arlemanian accent. Richard introduced himself as well before he picked up the menu card and looked through the list of food that was offered that night. For some reason, he felt that Luther was scrutinizing him and his uncle a bit too closely. When he went to glance at the wolf, the canine’s gaze was already somewhere else, casually so. It would seem that the wolf was studying a pair of lions who were dancing slowly with the music, Richard thought as he followed the canine’s gaze. Honeymooners, judging by their expressions on their faces. Richard thought that the lioness was very beautiful in her simple, but undoubtedly expensive black dress. An impressive necklace was draped over her neck, consisting of huge, intricate golden beads and beautiful sapphires. The lioness’ husband was also very handsome, with strong jaw, a dazzling smile, neatly trimmed auburn mane, and brilliant grey eyes. His white dinner jacket fitted his athletic frame perfectly. “Those two made a really good pair.” His uncle remarked thoughtfully. “Oh, isn’t she Eliza Baxter?” “She’s Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer now.” Heinrich Luther intoned. Simon Caine regarded the wolf with interest. “Indeed? I didn’t know she’s married. That Meyer is a lucky bastard.” He chuckled. “And she’s a very lucky girl.” Richard remarked, eyes fixed on the couple. “Undoubtedly.” Luther nodded, drinking his wine. “News of her marriage was all over the newspapers in Avaloria for the past week.” “Ah, I see. My uncle and I had been busy with the excavation at the Great Tombs for the past month, hence why.” Richard chuckled. “She’s a big star then?” “I tell you, nephew, Elisabeth Baxter—or Meyer as she is now, is one of Avaloria’s richest women.” Simon Caine explained. “I was well acquainted with her father. Julius Baxter was a brilliant businessman. He also invested a lot on theatres and cinemas at the Cross End. We’ve been to one of his theatres a few years ago, actually.” He chuckled. “Remember, Rick? It was a performance for Wilhelm V.” “Oh, really?” The younger wolverine nodded slowly. “Oh, right, right. That theatre was quite opulent, and I remembered it was quite the brilliant play too. And… did you say Julius Baxter was a brilliant businessman?” He added. “He had passed away two years ago.” Luther remarked in his guttural baritone. “Mrs. Meyer now holds his businesses.” “As it is expected.” Simon nodded, drinking the champagne which had been poured by the waiter. “I heard she’s also a shrewd businesswoman.” The wolf nodded. “That she is. How well are you acquainted with the Baxter family, Mr. Caine?” He asked, levelling his gaze to Simon. The wolverine blinked. “Just quite, actually. Me and Julius were schoolmates. We shared the same dormitory and classes, but never really talked to him that much outside homework and school projects. I’ve also made a few business deals with the late Mr. Baxter, with his obsession on ancient artefacts and such.” Luther nodded with a hum. “I see.” He uttered, before his attention was drawn to the waiter who had come around, bringing another person to their table. It was a male Akita with handsome brown coat with black markings. He looked pretty young, perhaps in his early twenties. However, despite a hint of nervousness tugging on his smiling muzzle, the canine had an air of ease about him, like a well-seasoned traveler. “Hullo. Spencer Calius. Pleasure to meet you.” Richard blinked, not expecting the fluent Avalorian, if not slightly inflected with a hint of an accent, coming from the Akita’s lips. His name itself suggested that the canine wasn’t wholly oriental in his origin. “The pleasure is mine, young man.” Simon Caine shook his paws with the Akita, giving a very wide, if not a rather too friendly grin. Richard nudged his uncle slightly. Simon Caine quickly cleared his throat and toned down his smile. “Travelling all by yourself, Mr. Calius?” “Yeah, I am. I had friends actually, but we parted ways awhile back,” said Spencer. “They wanted to go back to Columbia and I would like to explore the old world a bit more so, we agreed to split up here.” He explained with a shrug of his shoulders. “Understandable. However, it’s rather taxing, travelling by yourself, isn’t it?” Richard went to ask. Spencer hummed. “Hmm, that’s true but it’s rather refreshing actually. I got to sightsee every interesting part of Misarya with my own, leisure pace. My friends could be rather excitable, really.” “Of course.” Richard nodded. “So, you’ve toured the Nahail River then?” “Oh yes, it’s quite the adventure!” The Akita said with a wide grin. “I’ve seen so many interesting ruins and sights. My fellow passengers were quite interesting too. Professors, archeologists, novelists, honeymooners… like those two over there,” he nodded to the Meyers couple, “and uh…” He turned to Luther, tilting his head to the side. “Huh… didn’t we meet on the boat?” The wolf’s response was rather noncommittal. “We might have.” “Ah? Er… alright then.” Dinner proceeded without many comments. However, Richard did engage Spencer in a small discussion about their excavation work at the Great Tombs and what they found. It certainly drew interest from Akita, who had apparently visited the location during his tour down the Nahail. The Meyers had gone to occupy the small table next to theirs, and Richard couldn’t help but admire the couple. They looked truly in love, especially Theodore Meyer. No doubt, his new wife had truly captivated him. However, aside from the cheerful music and the splendid food, dinner progressed rather uneventfully. Heinrich Luther offered a curt “Evening,” before he stood up and left, making his way towards the bar that was outside the dining hall. As the waiter brought out the desserts, Richard watched as two guests rose from the table across the room and made their way towards the Meyers, hand in hand. One was a young lioness with her hair curled into fashionable waves, and the other was a rather boyish looking leopard. Both of them were quite good looking, but they didn’t quite stand out. Richard guessed that they were another newlywed couple, or perhaps recently engaged. He couldn’t be sure. However, the strange, intense expression on the lioness’ face was quite startling for him. “Oh, Eliza! I didn’t know you’re staying here. What a pleasant surprise!” The lioness exclaimed. From the expression on Eliza Meyer’s face, it was indeed a surprise, but far from pleasant. Her husband, Theodore Meyer, also looked quite shocked. In fact, the two lions looked rather awkward meeting this Cathy. Eliza quickly stood up after she managed to gather he bearings. “Cathy! I didn’t know you’re staying here!” She turned her attention to the leopard standing beside Cathy. “Oh, and who is this?” Cathy pulled the leopard by his arm, smiling rather brightly. Too brightly at that. “Zachary Hale. Meet Eliza Bax—I mean, Eliza Meyer. And I’m sure you knew Theodore Meyer?” She nodded her head to the lion. Theodore Meyer nodded wordlessly. He was still staring at Cathy and Zachary Hale, but mostly Zachary Hale, in surprise. “Oh yes. We met a couple of times,” said Zachary Hale. The leopard smiled somewhat shyly at the lion in question. Theodore Meyer gave a small, if not nervous smile. “Yes… we studied at Bridgeford together.” There was an unreadable expression in the lion’s grey eyes, which was reflected by Zachary Hale. However, the leopard turned his attention to Cathy who had continued speaking. “Well, I just wanted to tell you, Lizzy. Me and Zach are engaged!” Cathy practically exclaimed to her friend. “Engaged?” Came the astonished reply from the Meyers. Richard quickly turned away from the conversation, knowing how women liked to gush and gossip, especially when they were going to get married, or during their honeymoon. His attention was completely drawn away the next moment, as one of the waiters came down towards him with a small tray bearing an envelope. “Telegram for Mr. R. Caine.” The uniformed bear announced. “Oh, that’d be me. Thank you.” Richard went and took the telegram from the waiter. He quickly opened it when he read that it was sent by Trent Warren. ‘CHANGE OF PLANS = DEPART MERCURIUS EXPRESS NEXT FRIDAY 5 PM HIEROPLS. CENTRAL STATION = OLD BIRD WILL BE THERE WITH THE GOLD = REPLY PROMPTLY = YOUR PAL TRENT’ Folding the telegram, Richard made a mental calculation in his mind. Travelling from Misarya to Anatolia will take half a day by air. Two if they were delayed by the weather. If they left the day after tomorrow, there will be still time to catch up with Trent and take the Friday train. He turned his head to his uncle when the older wolverine nudged him softly. “Something urgent?” Richard gave a slight shrug. “Well, sounds like it. Looks like we’ll have to meet up with Trent in Anatolia instead.” He said. “Why the sudden change?” His uncle voiced his confusion. “He didn’t say, but it sounds like he found some new leads.” Richard replied, lowering his tone slightly and handed the telegram to his uncle. “Well, we can catch up with him if we take the airship in two days.” “Ah, that’s rather sudden, isn’t it?” Simon remarked. “I suppose so.” Richard sighed and stood up. “I better reply to this telegram, so please excuse me.” He added to the guests on his table. “No problem!” Spencer gave the wolverine a nod. “It sounds urgent so I don’t mind. Perhaps we might even meet in Anatolia later on.” He chuckled. Evidently, he had heard about their part of conversation. Simon smiled rather tightly as he turned to the Akita. “Oh?” “I’ll be going back to Columbia after this. A friend of mine was kind enough to book me a passage on a train.” Chuckling, Richard straightened his jacket and made his way out of the dining room, intend to find the telegram office in the hotel. He was sure he saw one this afternoon, close to the lobby. * * * Several hundred feet above the vast, arid desert of Eravia, a silvery airship was sailing lazily through golden dunes with several dozen passengers housed within its cigar-shaped hull. While not being the largest airships, the Adhara was one of the fastest with the most comfortable, finely appointed accommodations with affordable price. It was that sole reason that Dr. Hector LeFevre took the Eravian airship on his return trip to Anatolia. From there, he would take a transit flight back to his home in Gallia. The badger, short and robust but also unusually tall for his species, was seated by the airship’s small, but cozy lounge. A cup of chilled sweet tea was wrapped around his paw. The doctor’s attention wasn’t directed to the drink or even the view outside the wide, picture windows of the lounge. Instead, LeFevre was fully engrossed with the newspaper before him. It was the international edition of the local papers that had been printed and translated to Gallian. “Là là.” He muttered in annoyance as he read the headline on the third page, which announced that weather conditions in northern Ivoria had worsened. Weather forecast predicted that snow will come down heavily in the next few weeks. All flights to and from Avaloria, Hesperia, Gallia, Arlemania, Rosvenia, and Norvdal would be canceled until further notice. “Looks like I would have to take the train instead.” He said to particularly no one. “Perhaps you should, old friend.” LeFevre stood, let out a delighted exclamation, and went to give the sabertooth that had been standing right behind him a friendly hug. “Armand, mon vieil ami!” LeFevre beamed. “What brings you here? Come, come, sit with me.” Armand Förstner was a sabretooth tiger of middle age with a friendly demeanor. A single silver plated false fang was in place of his original right-side fang. His bright brown eyes were energetic and playful as he gave a good-natured slap on the badger’s back (who was a few heads shorter than him) while grinning brightly. “I am here on business, LeFevre. The usual duties of a director: monthly supervision and other nonsense.” The sabertooth replied in his usual, slightly synthesized voice as he sat down. LeFevre could see the mechanical collar that wrapped around his old friend’s neck partially hidden under the feline’s shirt collar. It assisted the sabertooth’s speech since Förstner had his vocal cords damaged during an accident a few years ago. “Ah, you’re overseeing the grand project to connect your train lines from Southern Ivoria to the East?” LeFevre guessed. “You’ve been monitoring the progress in Evaria then?” “Quite right my friend.” Förstner nodded. “Progress is slow, but the Ispania-Misarya-Anatolia-Eravia railway would be completed by the end of next year if favor is in our side.” “And soon your gleaming trains will thunder through the sandy deserts, eh?” LeFevre grinned. “It would be a dream come true for your bosses, no?” The sabertooth nodded with a small smile. “Quite right. Trains bearing the Mercurius Ferroviaire name would soon be rolling through this new route. I’m thinking of naming this route as the Horus-Aerion Express.” “The Horus-Aerion Express? After the Horus Mountains?” The mustelid doctor tilted his head slightly. The sabertooth smiled. “Naturally! The new train route will pass through the mountain range.” He revealed. “The company had decided to extend the Aerion Express’ route from Ispania onwards so I think it’s the most fitting name. This new line will be our most profitable one, I’d wager.” “That is a pretty fitting name, I agree.” LeFevre chuckled. “And I’m sure it will. This rail will link all of your company’s train routes, doesn’t it?” “Why of course!” The two continued to talk about Förstner’s new train project as the day slowly passed, discussing about how the new line would connect all of Förstner’s train services throughout the continent. When fully completed, the Horus-Aerion Express could take passengers from Madrino City, Ispania towards Misarya, and then all the way to Asaddia, Eravia where the train will continue towards its terminus in Hieropolis, Anatolia. “I didn’t get to ask,” said the sabertooth when he and LeFevre were strolling around the glass enclosed promenade deck, “what business have you in Eravia? I’ve never known you’d like to travel too far away from home.” “It was a patient’s request, you see,” replied the badger. “A Gallian diplomat had fallen seriously ill after a trip to the local excavation site. I won’t bore you with the details, but I had to perform an emergency surgery on him. He’s in fine condition now, but I had him sent to Gallia for better treatment ahead of me. He’ll be arriving approximately tomorrow morning in Luciere.” “Ah, that’s good news then.” Förstner nodded. “Still, it was surprising that you would fly all the way this far south.” The doctor chuckled with a nod. “Life can give us some few surprises, yes. Like the news of the cold front brewing in the northern regions for instance. No doubt a telegram informing that my airship to Gallia is cancelled would be waiting for me in Hieropolis.” He lamented. Förstner gave a slight hum. “Well, when airships couldn’t make it due to bad weather, trains or boats certainly can. At least, I’m confident my trains could go through the cold weather with no problem. No problem at all.” He chuckled at that. “You’re heading back to Gallia then?” “Yes I am. I must see my patient, after all.” “And you haven’t booked a berth on a train or a ship?” LeFevre knew where his friend was going, but he humoured him nonetheless. “I haven’t, yes.” “Well then, as the director of the line, let me provide you with a berth on the Mercurius Express, my friend. No, no, it won’t be a problem. It’ll be a pleasure, travelling with a friend, yes?” With Förstner’s insistence and persuasion, the badger doctor finally agreed, much to the sabertooth’s delight. “I owe you, my friend.” He said. “Consider this a debt repaid. After all, you did save my life during the Great War.” Förstner was practically purring pleasantly. LeFevre responded by giving a warm pat on his friend’s shoulder and a small smile. “You flatter me.” He added with a slight chuckle. “You will be joining the train then?” “Oh yes, but only until Obersthaven. I’m personally overseeing that some important guests will have a comfortable journey to Arlemania.” The sabertooth said. “Like Dirk Thorstein, the famous Columbian violinist who’s in this airship with us right now. He and his two friends had just completed their tour, playing for the Eravian sultans. In fact, I think I saw him and his group right there.” Following the sabertooth’s line of sight, LeFevre saw a tall, broad shouldered arctic wolf standing a few ways away, leaning over the promenade windows. He had a rather sophisticated but approachable and charming air. Standing close to the wolf were his fellow musicians, as it would seem. One was a ram whose curled horns caused him to have the impression that he towered over every everybody else, and the other was an gangly, lean, male leopard. All three were in the company of sophisticated, important looking people, conversing about their latest performance and whatnot. However, Dirk Thorstein was talking with a rather unassuming wolf with a predominant dark grey fur. “You said you’re also a violinist, Herr Schroeder?” LeFevre heard the wolf spoke as they walked past the two canines. “Yes I am, but I’ve fallen out of practice, unfortunately.” The grey wolf replied. “I used to have a tutor from the… Ansburg Philharmonic. I am not as good as you, Thornstein, I must admit.” “It takes time and practice.” The Columbian violinist replied amicably. “And a tutor from the Ansburg Philharmonic? Really? Well, I say that was quite the distinction!” “Hmm, where did you say Dirk Thorstein was from again?” LeFevre finally asked as Herr Schroeder replied in a humble manner, adding that his tutor was talented but quite the slave driver. “I didn’t say.” Förstner hummed. “Also, I’m not quite sure. I knew he debuted in Centropolis a few years back and gained prominence in Columbia as a brilliant soloist. He had even toured around the world a few times.” LeFevre nodded. “I heard of that as well. I do believe he has a bit of an accent… Norvdallian perhaps?” “Still have an eye over the details I see!” The sabertooth chuckled. “Well, Columbia is a big melting pot of a country, my friend. One living there could have any strange accents from all over the world.” The doctor pondered his friend’s statement. “I guess you’re right.” He said. “Well then, tell me more about your special guests you have to escort.” “Gladly! We have a few celebrities beside Thornstein. There’s Diana Adler, the famous Cross End actress; and also, Arturo Lazzari, the world-renowned opera singer. I heard he’s going to tour the North Columbian continent for the season… Ah, aside from the celebrities, there’s also Count Viktor Konstantinov and Duchess Natasha Nikolaevna of Rosvenia who will be travelling back to their home. No doubt they would be needed in the royal court with the current political turmoil in their country…” The day quickly turns to night and along came a very satisfying dinner in the airship’s wide, and cozy dining hall. Even though it was somewhat simple, the meal was extremely delectable, thought LeFevre. The badger soon found himself strolling along the promenade once again, intent to get a little exercise after the hearty meal. He couldn’t do to sleep with a full feeling in his stomach. Humming a little tune, the Gallian doctor greeted a couple of passengers who had went to have a nightly stroll just as himself. Most had turned in for the night. The sky outside was calm and cloudless, he noted. Stars shone through brightly in the inky black sky and there’s no moon in sight. It was almost poetic, LeFevre mused as he continued his stroll and rounded through the hallway that would lead to the other promenade on the other side of the Adhara. Just as he was approaching the entryway to the staircase, he heard hushed voices, almost like a lament. The doctor slowed down his steps as the noises became slightly clearer. “I wish I’m strong enough to get through this…” A pause, a light, almost inaudible gasp, followed with a sigh. “You are strong. Why did you ever think otherwise?” “If only I could.” The first voice said again. It was Herr Schroeder’s voice, LeFevre realized. Only, he sounded not like himself. “I just…” “You can, and you will. We’ll get through this… together.” The second voice, which LeFevre had identified as the firm voice of Dirk Thorstein, intoned. “After that… nothing can touch us…” Schroeder agreed softly, before it abruptly stopped. LeFevre turned his head away from the doorway where he had caught a glimpse of the two wolves standing closely under the staircase. Both men seem to be frozen in place, and the doctor could feel their eyes following him as he walked past. “The stars are very bright tonight,” he thought to himself absently as he continued on his stroll, smiling lightly to himself. When he came around to the staircase landing again, the two wolves were nowhere to be seen. Nor the doctor could see the end of their tails in the corridors as LeFevre returned to his cabin on the lower decks of the airship. The sky was clear and blue the next morning, with a blanket of white covered the hilly fields that surrounded the city of Hieropolis. It marveled the badger doctor on how snow could even fall in a country known by its humidity and heat in the summer. During breakfast, LeFevre was reminded of the conversation he overheard last night as he was seated right across Dirk Thorstein. The arctic wolf was alone, while Herr Schroeder was sitting a few tables away, apparently engaged in a conversation with a family of huskies. The Columbian violinist was barely eating his food. Schroeder would occasionally glance to Thornstein’s direction, but the musician didn’t give him any signs of acknowledgement. Within a blink, the grey wolf’s gaze was directed to something else entirely. It would seem that the two wolves were keen not to acknowledge each other today. LeFevre observed that the two men merely gave each other curt, polite greetings as they walked pass by. “This is a funny little drama I’m witnessing.” The doctor thought to himself when he saw the two men standing side by side by the lounge windows a few hours later. None of them spoke a thing, appearing to be very lost in thought. Or perhaps they were just amazed by the sight of the snow covered, sprawling city of Hieropolis that loomed underneath them. Thoughts of the two wolves eluded the Gallian doctor’s mind as the Adhara finally landed at Hieropolis International Airfield. LeFevre was wholly distracted for the next few hours, as he had to mind his large number of luggage during disembarkation. He barely even noticed when Herr Schroeder bumped past him as he and the other passengers descended down from the airship. The Arlemaninan wolf was apparently in a hurry, as LeFevre quickly lost sight of him in the crowd. After getting through the immigration checkpoint and making sure that he had all of his luggages with him, LeFevre found Förstner by the airfield’s entrance. The sabertooth had took it upon himself to escort the doctor to the Continental Court Hotel. Apparently, the hotel was operated by a subsidiary company to Förstner’s train company that managed hotels which would provided quality accommodations for passengers of his train, before and after their train journeys. Perhaps it was a coincidence that LeFevre had booked a room in the hotel in advance beforehand, but he found it really convenient that the hotel would provide a shuttle service to Hieropolis Central Station on the day he and Förstner would have to depart. Not a few hours after he had checked into the hotel, a telegram from the airship company came for the doctor. It confirmed LeFevre’s prediction that his flight to Gallia was cancelled due to bad weather. The sabertooth was quick to book LeFevre a berth on the Mercurius Express when the doctor told his old friend about the news. “The earliest train would leave this Friday afternoon.” The sabertooth had said as he rejoined his exasperated and bemused friend on the hotel’s bar. “You will be berthed in the finest first class compartment onboard, and your expenses will be on me. All in good will of course.” LeFevre’s polite protests fell on deaf ears. “Like I said, you won’t need to worry about anything,” said Förstner with a broad smile. “I had the nuisance of the ticketing and registration taken care of. You’ll only need to sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey back to Gallia.” “If you say so, mon ami.” LeFevre nodded to his friend with a small smile. “If you say so.”
  10. Kindar

    Chapter 18

    The Missing Son 18 When Patrick entered the kitchen, his mother was in the middle of eating her cereal. He made sure there was enough milk in the fridge before filling himself a bowl. "Mom, about the other day," He started, sitting down. "I told you last night, you don't have to worry about them anymore. They said what they had to say and they aren't going to bother us anymore." "Look, that's not what I mean. I..." "Shit, I'm going to be late." She emptied her bowl in the sink. She kissed the top of his head. "Don't worry about the dishes, I'll do them when I get back from work." And she rushed out. He looked at the clock on the stove, it wasn't even seven. His mother normally didn't leave for the bus until seven fifteen. Her transparent attempt at dodging the issue annoyed him. When she came back from work that evening he tried again. "Mom, can we talk?" "I'm sorry Patrick, I'm just too tired. I had a difficult day. I'm going to take a nap, and we can talk later." Her nap stretched through the night. The next two days, he didn't see her, Don needed him at the bar due of being booked for a party on both night, which meant he got home late and She was gone to work by the time he woke up. He tried again when they ate dinner, and she waved his attempt aside. It took all his will power not to scream at her. He realized she was determined not to talk about his father's visit. He could continue pushing and get angry at her, he'd probably snap at some point and say something hurtful, or he could drop it for now and wait until she was in a more receptive mood. After a week he didn't even want to talk to her. Anytime he thought about talking to her about his father's visit, he could imagine her waving it aside and he'd get angry. So, he didn't. He didn't want to be angry her, but he couldn't seem to stop himself, so he did his best to avoid her. If that wasn't enough, as time passed he realized he watched guys more and more. No, he wasn't just watching them. that wasn't right, he'd always watched guys, but now he was studying them. They had been right when they said he'd been turned on seeing naked guys in the locker room. Because of that anytime he watched a guy he didn't let himself look to close, he glossed over them. Now he was paying attention to them. Often, he caught himself looking at them closely. Their arms, legs, ass, and especially their crotch. Fuck, why couldn't he stop looking at guys. He thought he was tantalized because they were covered up. So, he went online that night, after his mom went to bed, and looked at pictures of naked men. He was shaking as he watched them, breathing hard, panting and, he suddenly realized, hard. He shut down the computer and took a cold shower. It didn't help, so he prayed. He forced himself to pray until he wasn't erect anymore. After that he went to bed and prayed until he fell asleep. He woke up with morning wood, like most mornings, and was under the shower, in the process of taking care of it when he realized that instead of just focusing on the sensation, like he'd always done, he was now seeing images of the naked men. With a curse he let go of himself, feeling guilty. He hadn't felt guilt over masturbating since he read up on it at fourteen and realized it was just a biological need and nothing more. But now because he'd looked at those pictures they kept coming back anytime he thought about taking care of himself. He finished his shower quickly, scrubbing himself down harshly, he preferred feeling pain to allowing those images to affect him. His fur felt raw once he had dried off and dressed, then he headed directly out to look for work. He had to stay busy and keep his mind occupied. Not for the first time he wondered where the Sarantos were, he hadn't seen any of them for more than two weeks, that rabbit had been the last time. He supposed it was how things went, when he could use them to vent his anger on they were nowhere to be found, but the moment he'd want some peace and quiet they were going to jump him. He didn't have any luck finding work. His near constant growling didn't help, but he couldn't stop it. The anger was directed at himself and he didn't know how to let it go. He should never have looked at those pictures. When he got home, his mom had already left, and there was a message from Joey asking him to come in the morning. Relieved he would have something to do he ate and tried to read. It didn't go well, but he forced it until he fell asleep * * * * * Patrick arrived at the junkyard in a bad mood because his morning hadn't gone any better than the previous one. Fortunately, three pickups were already there dumping appliances and various other household items in the sorting area. He greeted Joey with a grunt and set to work, picking up the heaviest items he could lift and carrying them to their designated areas. He thought that this would tire him enough he would stop thinking about his situation, but each time he came back to the sorting pile, the guys from the pickups were there too, and he couldn't help watching them. They were Cervids, elks, or maybe caribous, he couldn't tell, The four of them obviously related, with the eldest in his forties, then one in his mid-twenties, low twenties and the youngest probably eighteen. They got along, joking and ribbing each other. At one point the father and the youngest got into a friendly tussle and Patrick stared at them, envying their closeness. He grabbed a fridge and lifted it over his head, moving fast to avoid being toppled over by its unbalanced weight, all the while cursing his mother for robbing him of his chance to experience that closeness with his father. What right did she have to keep that from him while he was growing up. He reached the area where it went and threw it against the others with a scream instead of putting it down. A few of them tipped over. He cursed and got them upright again, forcing himself to remember his mother had done the best she could, the best she knew how to do. It still hurt. When he went back for the next item one of the pickups was gone, and only the guy in his mid-twenties and the eighteen-year-old one were there, trying to move a large industrial oven off the truck's bed. Patrick rushed to them as it started tipping over and the young elk got a panicked look as he tried to support it. Patrick put his back against it and braced his feet, feeling the strain as he took more of the weight. His feet slipped a little then he wasn't moving, and neither was the stove. He glanced to the elk who now had his shoulder against it. "Shit! Matt, you okay?" The one on the truck said. "Yeah, the tiger who works here his helping support it." "Oh thank God. I was scared you'd be crushed." "How the fuck do you think I feel?" the elk next to him grumbled. "Now what?" he asked. "I don't know, can the two of you push it back on the truck?" The elk looked at Patrick, who shook his head. "I'd need to move to get enough leverage," Patrick said, "And if I move I'm not going to be able to hold it up." "If I let go can you hold the weight? I can go get something to brace it." "No!" Patrick said. "If you're pulling your weight, keep at it, we're holding as much as we can. Don't let go." He looked at the office, he thought he could see movement in there. "Joey!" He roared. A moment later the bulldog ran out of the building. "What the fuck's going on?" "This thing almost tipped over and crushed this guy." "Then why the hell are you both still under it?" "Didn't know how valuable it was." "Fuck that, it's certainly not worth more than either of you." Patrick nodded. "Okay, on my mark we get out from under it." The elk nodded and Patrick counted down. As one they threw themselves away, and the other elk yelled in horror as the stove came crashing down. Patrick coughed in the dust cloud and waiting for it to clear before getting to his feet. The entire time the older elk was yelling Matt's name. "I'm fine!" Matt finally replied, then had a coughing fit. "Thank God, I heard conversation, but I couldn't make it out." "Sorry," Patrick said, rolling his shoulders. "I didn't think to warn you." "Hey, you have nothing to apologize for, if not for you my baby brother would have been crushed." "You guys are going to be okay?" Joey asked. "I'm fine," Matt replied. "Okay, I'll go get the loader so I can move that." With that the bulldog left them. Patrick leaned against the stove. Matt and his brother joined him, resting on each side of him. "Thanks," The elk said, shaking his hand. "Without you I'd be dead. I mean it, you saved my life." Patrick shrugged. "Don't worry about it, I'm just happy I was able to get under it in time." The older elk put an arm over Patrick's shoulders. "Hey you saved my brother, that means I owe you, big time." "Yeah, me too." Matt got closer and squeezed Patrick's thigh. "That's Jeff by the way." Patrick didn't know what to say, momentarily overwhelmed by their closeness. Even with a bit of dust in the air they smelled good, manly, and their closeness made him tingle. "Whatever we can do to thank you just say it," Jeff said. "Me and Matt always repay our debts." Patrick smiled, it wasn't often he dealt with people who looked forward to repaying their debts. But then he noticed the hand on his leg, the arm over his shoulders, their closeness. Had Jeff whispered that last part? Oh fuck. The image of the three of them, naked on the bed of the truck formed in his mind, and he found that he wanted it. He shoved them away. "Fuck no!" "What?" Patrick put some distances between him and them. "Look," Jeff started. "No! I don't fucking care what you think you're going to do. I don't want any part of it." "What's the problem?" Matt asked. "Jeff and me just want to thank you." he put a hand on Patrick arms and the tiger jerked away. "Don't you people get that I said no?" he growled. "Now leave me the fuck alone." He grabbed a washing machine and dragged it away. The gall of these people, just because they were fags they thought everyone wanted to have sex with them, well, he wasn't like that. He wouldn't be like that. He screamed trying to drown the voice in his head calling him a liar and threw the machine as far as he could. It fell among windows to the sound of breaking glass. He grabbed a crowbar someone left leaning again a post and Slammed in the closest object, a patio door. He broke anything with reach, yelling the entire time. He Didn't want to be a fag. He was following the Path, he would stay on it no matter the temptations. He wasn't going to let people like them lead him astray. he wasn't going to let someone like his father do the same. "Patrick!" Patrick turned, crowbar in the air and stopped, looking at Joey standing before the loader. "Put the crowbar down," the bulldog growled. "What the fuck is going on with you?" "With me?" Patrick threw the bar on the ground. "They're the ones pushing for me to have sex with them." "What the fuck are you talking about?" "You weren't there. You didn't see them get close to me and whisper about how they were going to thank me." Joey stared at him in disbelief. "Of course, they're grateful, you literally saved that guy's life. But I can't believe they would blatantly offer to have sex with you." "You should have felt them, close to me, arms over me, I could see what we were going to do." Patrick paced and growled. Joey watched him silently for a moment. "Right. you could see it. And you wanted nothing to do with it?" "Of course not!" Patrick glared at him. The bulldog stared back. "Bullshit." Patrick made fists. "Are you calling me a fag?" "Are you?" Patrick took a step toward Joey. "Don't you dare call me that." "Or what? You're going to hit me? Pound me until you feel all macho and tough?" Patrick took another step, but staggered a little, like the words hit him physically. He looked at his fists and then at Joey, confused. "Fuck Pat, you're acting like it's nineteen eighty and being gay is a problem. It's twenty forty-three, for God's sake." "That's the fucking problem. I don't want to go to Hell, but God's already damned me." "Pat, I'm pretty sure God doesn't work that way." "How the fuck would you know? you don't believe in Him." "And you wonder why? Who the fuck follows a god who decided you're already going to Hell even though you haven't done anything wrong?" Joey closed his eyes and calmed himself before continuing. "You're part of a church, do talk to them." Patrick laughed. "Right, because the guy who preaches every week about how God punishes anyone who sins is going to have a sympathetic ear for a sinner like me." "Then go to another fucking church," Joey growled. "Fuck Pat, You need to deal with this. I can't have you here if you're going to be this angry. You just destroyed a couple hundred dollar in doors and windows, so go home." "I can't go home, I don't want to be around that woman." "Then go somewhere else!" Joey cursed quietly. "Pat, go home, find a way to deal with this, because you are becoming a danger to yourself." "Fine!" Patrick grabbed his jacket and ran out of the yard. He hated himself for having talked to Joey like that. The man had never been anything but understanding and helpful, and he'd almost punched him. He ran as fast as he could. Since there was no Sarantos around on whom he could unleash his anger he needed to do something else to burn it off. He pushed himself hard and ran right by his house. He kept going. he didn't slow down when his body screamed for him to stop. he turned around and ran home. When he got there he hurt, but he was too tired to be angry. He took a quick shower and put on an old pair of shorts, old sweatpants that had been repaired often and then turned into shorts. the elastic was dead so he used and old belt he'd found a few years ago, it had been belonged to his father, and it had helped him feel closer to him. He stopped as he realized it hadn't belonged to him. He expected to be angry at the reminded of the lie, but he was too tired. He sat in front of the computer and turned it on. It was old, His mother had bought it when he was nine because the city started offering free internet access. He'd been so happy, He'd envisioned himself playing all the games his friends were playing, but that hadn't happened, He'd forgotten that he didn't have much free time, being busy with taking care of the house while his mother worked two and something three jobs to pay the bills. Now the computer was just too old to play them. He could barely handle the newer version of the browser as he started looking around idly. He wasn't sure why he was online, but then typed 'gay church' in the search bar.
  11. Kindar

    Chapter 16

    The Missing Son 16 "Mister Calmander is here to see you Mister Orr," Alice said on the intercom. Just on time. Damian liked that about his acquisition officer. "Show him in, Alice." The bull entered. Today he was dressed in a sharp Hermmione suit in a dark green that flattered him. Damian did note that it was a little tight around the waist. Jeremy wasn't keeping up with his exercise regimen. Damian stood and extended his hand, "Ah, Jeremy, where do we stand?" Jeremy shook the hand and handed Damian a folder. "The managerial reorganization is proceeding well," the bull said. Damian looked through the list of names while he continued. "We've identified those who just do the bare minimum to keep their jobs and we're looking for the best positions to promote them to. We expect that within a month of their promotions they will be so overwhelmed they will either quit or fail in such a spectacular way we'll be able to fire them." Damian found the one he was looking for, closed the folder and sat. "Good. How about the rest of the employee restructuring?" Jeremy followed his example. "We want to wait until the management situation has calmed down. A month at the most, then we'll inform the employees of the takeover." The bull paused, and Damian could read the coming question on his face. "Sir, why are we doing this?" "It's a good factory. With a few upgrades we should be able to increase productivity." Damian answered casually, knowing that wasn't what Jeremy meant. "People will always need mattresses, Jeremy." He'd learned quite young that people became very uncomfortable around him if he was too perceptive. "Yes sir, I know that. I mean the company paid employee training. That's going to cost us millions and all that's going to do is let them get paid not to work. I can guarantee that none of them are going to bother learning anything." "Really, Jeremy? So tell me, why do you think all those people are poor and stuck working what is basically a dead end job?" Jeremy talked and Damian listened, but didn't pay attention. He has bags under his eyes, not sleeping well. His suit is wrinkled, and smells like it's his second day in it. Not going home? Fiddling with his wedding band. He's been married for twenty years. So it's because it's troubling him. yes, problems at home. He doesn't realize he's pulling on it, but he hasn't taken it off. He's thinking about toughing it out. "So, if I understand," Damian said once Jeremy was done. "You feel that they are where they are because they don't work hard enough. they are lazy and deserves to be where they are." Jeremy nodded. "I see. So tell me, if your marriage were to fail-" "What's my marriage got to do with this?" Jeremy interrupted. Damian's only reaction was surprise. He's getting flustered. He sees my comment as an attack. "Excuse me? I was just throwing a theoretical scenario out there." He paused. "You're married? I didn't know." Jeremy nodded. And he's calm again. with that he believes I didn't know and meant nothing by it. His face showed none of the pleasure even such a small manipulation caused him. I need to find someone to let loose on. Jimmy is nice, but he no longer offers any challenge, and it isn't looking like I'll be taking Adam camping anytime soon. "So, if it were to fail, would it be entirely because you didn't try hard enough? Isn't it possible that some outside forces might be involved? Maybe your wife had an affair?" Jeremy just managed to stop himself from wincing That's what he suspects. "Maybe you did try had hard as you can, but she isn't willing to work with you to save the marriage." Jeremy had trouble keeping his worries off his face. Reluctantly he nodded. "Then, can't you accept that it's entirely possible these people." He tapped the folder. "Might be trying as hard as they can, but just have the deck stacked against them? Look Jeremy, I want to do this because educated employees are much more productive than uneducated ones. Yes, I'm certain that you're right, some of them will see this as a paid vacation, but those people will weed themselves out of the company in time. We're going to be left with people who can do their jobs better. even if they don't learn the skills needed to climb the corporate ladder, they will have skills that will let them improve how they do the work, which will help the factory be more productive. You'll see, this is going to help them, and in return it will help us." Jeremy stood, "Yes sir." He tried to hide it, but it was obvious to Damian he didn't believe him. Damian stood and shook his hand. That didn't matter, Jeremy was good at his job because he followed the plan and didn't let his personal prejudice interfere. Damian sat down once the bull was out of his office. Of course, what he'd said was total bullshit. Something he'd come up on the moment, a good, if long, sound bite. Good enough in fact he was going to condense it, print it and make sure is was distributed at the factory when the employees were informed of the takeover. Something to keep moral high and reassure them they weren't going to lose their jobs in the process. No, the fact that all these people were going to get an education out of this endeavor, a better life, was irrelevant. Only one name in that list mattered, not that he actually cared about her either, but Patrick did, even if he was angry with her at the moment. He hadn't lied to Patrick. A woman like her, steeped in the negative side of her religion, would never accept anything from someone like him. So he wasn't going to give her anything, he was going to set things up and see how far her hard work could take her. His eyes fell on the frame on his desk. It only had three pictures in its memory. one was a picture of him and his brothers, taken when Damian turned twenty one. The other of his nephews, taken on their sixteenth birthday. But the one that always showed was of him and his father. The way things were going he would have to add a fourth one, since it didn't look like Patrick was going to pose for a picture with his brothers any time soon. The one he was looking at was of Damian and his father. He was five, seated on Brian's lap, they were waving at the camera. His smile looked fake, he hadn't perfected how to smile at that age. He didn't keep this picture because it engendered some emotional response. He had it because he had wanted a picture of his father and this one perfectly exemplified what he meant to him. What wasn't visible in the picture was that Brian was whispering to him, explaining why they were waving, why they smiled, helping him behave normally. He smiled at the picture, a smile that could fool anyone, even if it was just an act he put on. Not for the first time, he considered what his life might have turn out like if he hadn't looked in on him that last time.
  12. Kindar

    Chapter 19

    The Missing Son 19 He didn't know what to think. He had no idea there were so many different churches. Sure, he knew about the Presbyterians, the Anglicans, the Jesuits, but the Church of Jesus the Lover? Who claimed that Jesus had been gay. The Church of the Strong, who had Jesus as a lion. And there were others, who didn't claim anything quite so extreme, but who's views on God and how He expected us to stay on the Path varied greatly. He'd always only known his Church, and Father Durony. They'd had visiting priests, but they had espoused the same things Father Durony had. For a moment he didn't know what to think. Had someone else lied to him? Had a priest led him astray? But no, Father Durony had never claimed his was the only Church, he'd never said anything about other churches, Patrick had just assumed they were all the same. He spent hours being amazed at the variety of thoughts out there on God, and how so few of them actually preached an angry God. By the time he fell asleep his head was swimming with various images of God and Jesus. He dreamed of floating, of being held with love by someone he couldn't see but felt familiar. Strong arm, solid chest, deep soothing voice. He didn't know that person, and yet there was a sense of familiarity to him. For the first time in a few weeks, Patrick woke up without feeling like his mind had betrayed him in the night. he quickly got dressed and set the table for breakfast. "Morning mom," he said as she entered. "Good morning Patrick." She sat and he placed two cups of coffee on the table. "How late did you come in? I didn't see you when I got home." "I was already in bed. I was exhausted when I got home and crashed. I haven't been sleeping well recently and it caught up to me yesterday." She looked at him with concern. "Is it anything I can help with? You know you can always talk to me." He smiled and shook his head. "It's okay. I'm working it out." He didn't want to bring it up. He realized that as much as she wanted to help him, his father was a subject she didn't want to deal with, so he was going to drop it. Joey had been right. he needed to find someone else to talk with, and now that he knew not all Churches were as restrictive as the one he'd been going to, he thought he could find someone who would listen to him and not pass immediate judgment. It was a pleasant meal, with his mother talking about the people in the factory and at the diner. She got into the story so much he had to point out she'd miss her bus if she didn't get going. She smiled at him, an expression he saw rarely because of how exhausting her jobs were and hugged him before heading out. He looked online for an hour, searching for a Church that was close enough he could go to it and suited his needs. He didn't want one that would just validate his view. He wanted genuine Church views, but without the fire and the anger. He hadn't found it, but he'd eliminated a lot of them by the time he called the junkyard. "Joey's Junk." "Hey Joey, it's Patrick." There was a moment of silence. "How are you doing?" Joey's tone was guarded. "Better. Thanks for sending me home and telling me to find someone to talk to. I haven't yet, but I'm looking and I think I'm on the right track." "I'm glad to heard that." "Look, I called to say I'm sorry for how I behaved. I had no excuses, and I'll work off the damage I caused." "Don't worry about it, just focus on working through your issues." "No, Joey, I'm serious, figure out how much you could have made off the stuff and I'll work all of it off." "Alright, we'll figure out something." "Thanks." "So, do you think you can work this week? I'm expecting the same guys as yesterday to be back tomorrow. I could use a hand." The elks. Patrick's breathing sped up in worry. Did he really want to see them again? No, of course not, he'd acted like an asshole. They probably didn't think much of him, but he owe them an apology too. "I'll be there." He disconnected and felt better. he'd worried Joey wouldn't want him to work for him anymore. Losing the money would have hurt, but loosing Joey's friendship would have been worse. He went back to his search, spending the day sifting through information. By the time he started on dinner he had a headache, but he had the address for St-Benedict's Church. He'd read their blog and they had balanced opinions. They didn't excuse everything like some of those Churches who tried to be 'all inclusive'. They gave well thought out opinions on where they felt God stood on different topics. It also helped it was only a few hours walk from the house. * * * * * Patrick watched the pickups backup, the beds filled with more large households items. The four elks got out and the two brothers exchanged a glance on noticing him. Patrick didn't give himself time to worry about it. he went to them. "Matt, Jeff, I'm sorry for how I behaved." The father looked at the three of them over the truck. "We'll be there in a minute, dad," Jeff said, then looked at the tiger. "What happened? You seemed fine one moment and then you flew off the handle." Patrick nodded. "Yeah, I was working very hard at not dealing with some stuff. That and what you said sent my paranoia flying. I've started dealing with it." Matt slapped Patrick's shoulder. "Man, I'm glad to hear that, you kind of freaked me out." "Yeah, sorry. It won't happen again. How about we get to it." "Sure," Jeff said, "And we don't have anything that big, so there isn't any chance I'll accidentally kill my little brother this time." They worked in good humor, and the rest of the day went well. At the end Joey tried to pay him. Patrick refused, and they ended up agreeing on half of it. While preparing dinner Don called him and asked him to come in. There was going to be a party at the bar and he needed him to help keep things under control. Patrick was more than happy to help him out. He and his mom could use any extra money.
  13. BigPuppyStuart

    A wider world

    The world famous linguist Jeanauques kaywaagh was surrounded by admiring colleagues as they swaggered off their ship into the bustling capital. They were on their way to give a lecture at the most prestigious university in the Valperet kingdom. Speaking there was a once in a lifetime opportunity and a privilege that only the most well connected and meritorious academics got the chance to speak at. It was not enough to be wealthy and well connected, it was not enough to be the best in your field, you had to be both to get such honors as speaking at the Royal capitol Academy and he was on his way to it do it. He and his entourage were strolling up the docks toward their waiting ride to the Academy. It did not fill him with the pleasure it should have. He was about to give the most soul crushing speech anyone in his field could give. It was essential a speech presenting the argument that there was nothing else to be discovered. Every language had been catalogued and codified, cross referenced and put down on paper. Everything from the most elegant Valperet dialects to the cumbersome complexities of the oldest forms of Djarlendt to even the obscure human languages only spoken in the desserts of the Fanock regions. There was nothing new left out there to discover and all he and his esteemed colleagues could look forward to would be trying to decipher the remnants of the Thethen language which linguists have been working on for a thousand years now. It was a disheartening prospect for someone as young as he. He had just turned 50 and while that was a respectable age it meant he had to figure out what to do for the 170 years he had remaining. He hid his feelings well, he cheerfully bantered with his colleagues and they discussed the fine dinner that would be waiting for them when they got to the Academy and the luxurious accommodations they would stay in before they got to their lectures to the best, brightest and most well connected the next morning. They even made haughty jokes about the riffraff that dock sides, even this one, exclusively for the wealthiest vessels with the most high class passengers was crewed by roustabouts and laborers. Valperet were fond of pointing out class divides and this was a perfect opportunity to exercise that pastime. They even laughed to each other when they caught the workers rolling their eyes as they picked up on what the group was saying. You had to be fluent in Valperet to work here so they all knew everyone understood them as they reminded themselves of their higher status. Jeanauques was so wrapped up in his thoughts and presenting a veneer of haughty cheer he almost missed it, but the moment he turned his attention to what he was hearing and stopped dead as if he had just slamed into a wall. He was utterly astonished at what he was hearing and what he was hearing was singing in a language he couldn't identify and who's roots and phonology were unlike any he had heard. It was issuing from the mouth of a large Hesken male whole was singing as he carried boxes. Jeanauques stopped to listen. " Oy, na hori karchata, a v dolyni divchata, Sichy-rubay derevo, kudy hlyanesh, zeleno, karchata. Des' uzyavsya Ivanko, des' uzyavsya Ivanko, Sichy-rubay derevo, kudy hlyanesh, zeleno, Ivanko. Vsich divchat vin rozihnav, lysh Mariyku sobi vzyav, Sichy-rubay derevo, kudy hlyanesh, zeleno, sobi vzyav. Poviv yiyi u sadok, narvav yiyi yahidok, Sichy-rubay derevo, kudy hlyanesh, zeleno, yahidok. Yiz, Mariyko, yahidky, zabuvaysya za divky, Sichy-rubay derevo, kudy hlyanesh, zeleno, za divky. " The singer stopped and looked over alerted by the sudden silence and a group of 10 Valperet staring at him one with a gaping mouth and wide eyed shocked face. He stared at them for a moment then when they didn't ask him anything he picked up a box and begin walking off. He had gotten a few feet away when Jeanauques came to his senses and gave chase. " WAIT COME HERE LAD" he shouted in Valperet. He was about to repeat the plea in Djarlendt when the worker responded. " No, I'm busy" he said without looking around and turned sharply to carry his box up a ramp and onto the deck of a ship. Jeanauques annoyed but still ingrigued waited for him at the bottom of the ramp impatiently tapping his cane. He was considering storming up the ramp to find him when he spotted the lad coming back down. " Move, i have work to do." The hesken ordered. Jeanauques bristled at the impertinence but Politely plyed him with questions. " My good lad, i am rather interested in that song you were singing, please repeat it slowly so i may record it." Jeanauques requested more politely then a person of his class was required to a laborer. He prepared a small book and a pencil to mark down the phonetic symbols linguists used to record language. The Hesken lad who was at least 6 feet tall and had the common heavy build of his race looked annoyed and Jeanauques thought he was about to be shoved out of the way. Instead the Hesken snatched the book out of Jeanauques hands and begin writting in it himself. The Valperet all begin to mutter and looked about to make a scene when the laborer handed the book back and made his way around the crowd and went back to work. Jeanauques started walking as he inspected what the lad had written. The page was covered with small, neatly efficient writing in the universal phonetic alphabet outlining the sounds used in the song and how they were separated into words. At the bottom of the entry was a list of the song and its place of origin. He stared at this part intently. " Ii say the nerve of that Roustabout, we should have him flogged" on of his companions put in indignantly with the special petulance the privileged have for when they are treated like everyone else. Jeanauques waved this away without even looking at the speaker. he was too busy skimming the text again and again. They loaded into the luxurious carriages and he stayed absorbed in the few neat lines of text. Mid way through the trip he looked up from the little book and asked aloud. " What do any of you know about Earth, Specifically a place called Ukraine. " He stumble over this last word, it was written both in the universal phonetic alphabet and in a set of characters he had never seen before. There was some general muttering but nothing new was said. none of his companions had ever heard of Ukraine and there was some muttering about earth being a filthy place since humans came from there. " Lads i won't be at dinner tonght, i have some reading to do, i will be in the library." He announced He no longer cared about pretentious speeches or grand dinners. He had just been introduced to a wider world of possibilities. he was going to have to alter his speech. End of part one. part 2 His compatriots were used to his fevered research habits so he was left alone and brought any books he sought from the were supplied by the Academy. His efforts did not pay off as well as he had hoped but they definitely supported his new conclusion. He found reams of references to books compiled by the mage's guild of things that humans had said shortly after their arriival on this world, and even before the peoples of gai'talar learned the trade language from the humans, a language that at the time was called English. The most intriguing thing was that when the humans first tried communicating they had used phrases that were purportedly inquiries as to weather the people of Gai'talar could speak certain languages. In Valperet lands it seems multiple groups of humans had used the same phrase over and over. " Est-ce que tu parles français" The phrase sounded very much like someone trying to speak Valperet but using strange words. Sadly instead of trying to understand the human visitors the Valperet army of the time had chased the new comers northward and had pursued them until they left valperet territory. The independent sionact villages had taken them in but never wrote down their utterances so Valperet sources were fairly lacking. He was not the only one who seemed to be irked by this. He did find a diatribe from a scholar at the time that a perfect opportunity to study a new people was wasted. There was a further entry that again lamented this because it seemed the Hesken of the Djarlendt kingdom of Hrectfuldahm had compiled a massive amount of information about humans and their languages. At the time the Hesken were not on good terms with the Valperet Royalty and so that information had not been available for 150 years and by then no one really wanted it. Luckily that was more than 500 years ago. Unluckily there was no way for him to get a copy of those texts at the moment. He did however have enough information to revise his speech. He feverishly wrote it down and worked it into his speech then retired to the Lavish bed supplied by him. He fell asleep thinking of the renewed passion he hoped to see in the faces of his listeners in the morning. His dreams were in vain though, he gave his speech to a packed crowd of intellectuals and wealthy patrons of the Academy. They seemed to take in the first part of his speech with a smug assurance that the languages of gai'talar were all mapped out and known down to the last detail by Valperet society. When he droped what he thought would be a world shattering revelation that there could be more Non-native languages to study he was met with a mixture of disinterest, confusion and outright politely masked disdain. They even seemed disinterested when he read off the strange song that had hinted at new avenues to him the previous day. His position as one of the world's foremost linguists kept anyone from outright jeering but the majority seemed to tune him out. Still he finished strong and didn't let the crowd know they had wounded his pride by dismissing him. He Took questions and many of the were intelligent as expected from this crowd but did not touch on his new interest. Then one question utterly baffled him. A young very well dressed student from what looked to be a fine family asked him: " Sir, have you visited the Grand Merchant's Plaza at midnight of the midweek day?" Jeanauques looked baffled for a few long moments before responding. " No lad, i have not, what reason do you ask." " I think you will find it enlightening" Was all the youth responded with. The evening finished up and he went to dinner with his cohorts. It was somewhat subdued, they had also picked up on the crowd's disinterest. Jeanauques kept a good face on and just lamented that no one was excited about new possibilities. The whole time he was wondering about that last question though. He now knew that the youth had been trying tell him to go there and just disguised it as a question. He would be at the Acadamey for another 3 days before he went up north to speak at another University. A hesken university. One that would likely have some of the books he couldn't find here stocked. But that was weeks off considering travel time. He ate in calm silence and decided that he would visit the grand Merchant plaza tomorrow night. He resolved to go alone so he did not inform anyone of his intent. To allay any suspicions he did say he looked forward to getting access to a wide range of reading and would spend tomorrow night in the library. He went to bed found the idea of covertly stealing off to the city chasing a clue to light knows what rather exciting. If he got nowhere with this new line of inquiry it would be worth it to just have something exciting to do. After spending an uneventful day meeting casually with the faculty and asking after books. He made it clear he would study all night in the library and wanted as many volumes as possible concerning linguistics mad ready for him. He had resolved to then send an apology to the Librarian claiming illness. The subterfuge was intriguing and he felt like a naughty child filching sweets from the kitchen instead of an aging linguist. He bidded his time till night fell and he walked into the library stayed long enough for the librarian to wander off then he snuck out the maintenance room window. He had spent the day talking to students and professors and had picked up a sure fire way to sneak off campus. in 15 minutes he was on a tram to the merchant quarter. He noticed some Students from the Academy also on the tram but never made eye contact. When he arrived he walked in a different direction than they did and then circled back and made for the Plaza when he was sure no one was observing him. As he neared the plaza he saw it was packed. There were people everywhere and they all seemed to be waiting. The majority of them were humans but he spotted Valperet, Hesken and Lutrondae all rubbing elbows. He also saw the group of Students who he had been trying to avoid on the tram. They all saw him and looked away uncomfortable at him noticing them. " I believe you will have a better view if you all follow me." The students and Jeanauques all turned to see the Student who had asked the question that had brought him here. He was accompanied by a female Skitritch maybe in her late teens who looked to be a sailor of some sort. She was dressed like one anyway. They all followed in silence as they were led into a building and up a flight of stairs. They paused at a landing and the Skitritch girl opened the window and climbed easily up the side of the building. soon a rope ladder lowered and the Student that had lead them here climbed up. The other students looked around and then one by one climbed after him. Jeanauques went last, taking his time as he wasn't as spry as he was in youth and found himself on a little flat part of the roof between large windows in the side of the building. The spot overlooked the Plaza and the crowd. There seemed to be a group of musicians in the middle of the plaza on this side of the grand fountain. The Musicians were of many Species. One of them he recognized as being the young Hesken Dock worker who had been singing that strange song. The woman at the drums a dark skinned human with ribbons in her hair beat out 3 loud bangs and the muttering crowd fell silent. Then the music started. Jeanauques was wondering what a public concert would concern a linguist until the vocals came in. " As më jep nj'er ujë moj balluk' e prërë As më jep nj'er ujë moj balluk' e prërë Me se të të japë trendafil me ere? Me se të të japë trendafil me ere? Jarnana, jarnane, jarnana moj të keqëne, Jarnana, jarnane, jarnana moj të keqëne O me dorënde tënde moj balluk' e prërë O me dorënde tënde moj balluk' e prërë Dora m'u ndodh zënë trendafil me ere? Dora m'u ndodh zënë trendafil me ere? Me se t'u ndodh zënë moj balluk' e prërë? Me se t'u ndodh zënë moj balluk' e prërë? Me unazëne tënde, trendafil me ere Me unazëne tënde, trendafil me ere O me dorënde tënde moj balluk' e prërë O me dorënde tënde moj balluk' e prërë Dora m'u ndodh zënë trendafil me ere? Dora m'u ndodh zënë trendafil me ere? Me se t'u ndodh zënë moj balluk' e prërë? Me se t'u ndodh zënë moj balluk' e prërë? Me unazëne tënde, trendafil me ere Me unazëne tënde, trendafil me ere " Jeanauques being an expert linguist and speaking every known language immediatly realized that this was something new. It was different from the song he heard at the docks and he could tell from the phonetic pallet that it was a seperate language. He whiped out his notebook and began copying as much as he could into the universal phonetic Alphabet. He could see the student that had got him here tonight grinning at his furious writing. He was only half finished when the song changed. " Krummi svaf í kletta gjá, - kaldri vetrar nóttu á, verður margt að meini; verður margt að meini; fyrr en dagur fagur rann freðið nefið dregur hann undan stórum steini. undan stórum steini. Allt er frosið úti gor, ekkert fæst við ströndu mor, svengd er metti mína; svengd er metti mína; ef að húsum heim ég fer, heimafrakkur bannar mér seppi´ úr sorpi´ að tína. seppi´ úr sorpi´ að tína. Öll er þakin ísi jörð, ekki séð á holta börð fleygir fuglar geta; fleygir fuglar geta; en þó leiti út um mó, auða hvergi lítur tó; hvað á hrafn að éta? hvað á hrafn að éta? Sálaður á síðu lá sauður feitur garði hjá, fyrrum frár á velli. fyrrum frár á velli. 'Krúnk, krúnk! nafnar, komið hér! krúnk, krúnk! því oss búin er krás á köldu svelli. krás á köldu svelli.'" He began furiously writing that as well thinking it sounded somewhat like Djarlendt but with unfamiliar words. He couldn't keep up so he soon put his notebook Away and just listened. The players went through various songs many of which were in different languages and had different cadences. He was no musicologist but Jeanaques was sure they were from different cultures. The singer, the big hesken dockworker Amazed Jeanaques by singing away in several different languages all of which were new to him. When the performers took a break Jeanauges turned to the grining student and just said. " Explain." " What makes you think i can?" the student replied. Jeanaques started to get annoyed. " I just knew of this concert and the unknown languages that the singer uses and thought you would be interested given the subject of your speech. That is all." The student says. Jeanaques was sure there was more to it but the music had started again so he thought that questions could wait. The other Students from the Academy seemed as wrapped up in the performance as was physically possible. They were already making plans to sneak out and come to another one of these. Jeanaques was listening to the students making plans so he almost missed it. The singer had started again but this time it was a language he recognized as Viatorem, the mystery language that was widely used in Academic and mage circles. The language was well known but its origins were a mystery. The big lad was singing in a deceptively high sweet voice. He began writing it down phonetically and would translate it when he got back to a library. It was the same words repeated with vocal flourishes added to them. Kyrie eleison Christe eleison Kyrie eleison Kyrie eleison He was so intent on writing this down that he started violently when something flew past his face and struck the wall wiith a loud crack. He looked over and was startled to see what looked like a bullet hole in the wall of the little flat spot they were sitting in. Everyone else turned to look at it for a moment then scrambled away from it in panic. Someone was shooting at them and it could have come from anywhere. "up the roof to the other side boys" the Skitritch girl commanded and then scampered off to follow her own directions. They did not need told twice. While they scrambled to safety another round impacted the roof and sent a cloud of shattered roofing tile shards into the their midst. They double timed it and huddled panting in safty on the other side of the roof line. " Oi which one of ye has enemies bitter enough to shoot at ye?" The Skitritch demanded of the frightened group of Valperet. They looked around nervously and some gave petulant shrugs as if resenting the implication that they might have such enemies. The student that had gotten Jeanaques her with his question spoke up. " Well we can determine that later, right now we should get to safety. What is the safest way back to the Academy." " I would say across the rooftops iffin' this be normal but since some one be snipin at us i would suggest the street down there, take it to the dockyard then ride a supply train to the Academy. I know the tram operator 'e can drive us into the loading bay at the Academy." The Skitritch girl suggested and none objected. They followed her as she nimbly scrambled to a decorative outcropping that had a long rope coiled up out of sight from the ground. She deftly tied it into place then Dropped the rope down to the street bellow. It was a long thin rope that while long enough was distressingly thin and looked as if it would not hold much weight. " Will that Hold us?" Jeanaques asked Nervously. "yeah it will not to worry, it is a stevRipit, what you Valperet like to call a 'theif's rope'. " The skitritch replied then began climbing down. Jeanaques had heard of these. Ropes that were strong and thin and were supposedly made as a theif's tool so they could hide them more easily. On his travels around the world Jeanaques had learned that they had been invented by mountain climbers. The name StevRipit meant mountain rope and was used because its light weight and thin profile made room for other supplies. Knowing the root of the device and how it was named didn't mean he knew how to use it any better, the thin profile meant it dug painfully into his hands as he climbed the thin cord. He was glad to get to the ground and compulsively straitened his suit. He froze when he caught sight of some dangerous looking character squating on the sidewalk looking over at him. They were all armed and rather rough looking and almost dirty. They looked like Skitritch sailors. They had knives and revolvers at their side. After a tense moment of observation Jeanaques realized that none of them reached for a weapon or had a hostile expression. They were squatting in a loose circle around a candle lit playing field Strewn with cards and little tin playing pieces with a small pile of loose coins of small denominations. It was nothing more than a penny ante card game. The skitritch girl barked out an order to get moving and they all followed her down the street toward the docks which were a few blocks away. All the Valperet followed even if some of them bristled silently at taking orders from a Skitritch. In the Valperet capitol skitritch were excluded, politely of course, from most of valperet society but were tolerated as dock workers and couriers. Valperet believed each race had its place in the world and should not expand beyond their predetermined path. To valperet, skitritch should never lead but no one else seemed to know what to do so they followed sullenly. They made their way down the alleyways and along the street only if necessary, their eyes darting nervously. They eyed every group with trepidation wondering if they may be a threat and they were woefully conspicuous about it. Jeanaques knew they must have looked obviously nervous and hoped they were ignored. By the whispering and glances they were getting that likely wouldn't be the case. " What are you so furtive about gentlemen?" They all started at the voice and looked over to see a policemen, tall and strongly built for a valperet. His physique was displayed in a finely fitted uniform with brass buttons shined to high polish. He had a firm suspicious expression as he eyed the group of young men in student attire and the old well dressed gentlemen all with bug eyes darting around in what must have been a guilty fashion. Jeanaques was about to spin a tale of him guiding some students around and being unnerved by an attempted mugging, a modified version of an excuse taught to him by a sionact linguist who had tried to pass as Valperet if he ever got caught acting nervous in a part of town that was Valperet only to explain his unsettled behavior. He was composing himself to say this when he noticed the Skitritch girl was taking charge again and was facing the policeman and moving her hands. At first he was terrified she was casting a spell but he recognized it as a form of sign language. The officer seemed to be paying intense attention and even signing back, perhaps asking questions. Suddenly the officer nodded and went off at a near run toward the plaza. " what excuse did you give him?" Jeanaques asked. " No, excuse, i just told him the truth, we got shot at and are heading to safety. If anyone suspicious is near by they didn't hear our plan." She whispered, The started off down the sidewalk. They must have been close because they heard a ship's bell. The Skitritch girl veered off and walked parallel to the sounds of the sea then walked up and tapped on the window of a small building next to a cargo tram station. The window opened and a grinning scruffy gray Sionact peeked out. " evening Miri, whats amiss?" The jovial sionact woman asked. The Skitritch Explained with hand signs and then pointed to the tram. The Sionact woman didn't look jovial any more, she looked concerned. She hurried off and moments later a brawny Hesken came from around the building and motioned them all to follow. The skitritch girl went without hesitation and the Valperet all hustled up to not be separated from the person who had seen them through all this. They came to a cargo tram that was being loaded by Hesken, though not all of them appeared to be laborers. There were 3 shirtless lads loading boxes but their pants were too decorative to be that of common workers. They also all wore boots which hesken usually didn't except in the coldest weather. There was also a hesken woman carrying iron boxes and she was wearing a shirt and tabbard embroidered with the symbol of the mage's guild. They were all loading things into the second tram down the line, the burly man that had motioned them was opening the first in line. He motioned that they should enter and the Skitritch did. The rest of them paused and stared. " Do you want a ride to the Academy or not? " The Burly Hesken ask impatiently. They piled in and took seats on the boxes inside. Jeanaques was settling in when he noticed the driver had a gun. He was about to cry out in terror when the driver handed the gun to the Skitritch girl then reached into a locker and produced another then held it out butt first toward Jeanaques. He just looked at it confused. " If you are going to ride then you can act as guards." the Driver said. He sounded slightly cheerful and his expression seemed to indicate he was amused Jeanaques discomfort at seeing the gun. Jeanaques suspected he was thinking he was nothing more than a useless intelectual or a labor averse elite. Jeanaques took the weapon and checked the chamber with some knowledge. " Good weapon, a little more power than i am used to." Jeanaques commented. He had carried a pistol while on expeditions and so knew how to use them. He usually carried a smaller caliber and half feared this would fly out of his hand if he tried to fire it. He glanced over at the one the Skitritch girl had been given. It was an 8mm pocket pistol that was more his comfort zone. " I ain't trading." the skitritch girl said flatly. If Jeanaques couldn't handle his pistol she couldn't either. She was petite and most likely still in adolescence. The hesken had pulled out another pistol and was offering it to the group of students who shrank back from the proffered pistol. All except the one who had asked the question that had drawn him here. He reached into his sleeve and produced a wand. " I better stick to this, i actually know how to use it." He said calmly. " Almost know how to use it more like." the skitritch girl muttered. The Tram driver shrugged then put the pistol away before taking out a short shotgun of the type Jeanaques had seen Hesken explorers carry. This was a semi automatic 10 gauge monstrosity that could reduce even large predators into ruined masses of flesh. He was quietly glad he had not been given that instead. The tram driver sat down and layed the shotgun across his lap and then Started the tram. " We are going straight to the academy and it should take about an hour." He shouted over the sound of gears and springs rumbling to life. There was a tiny shaking as they started off. "Can't it go faster?" one of the students said with a trembling voice. " Not as loaded down as we are." the driver says calmly " Besides if someone is after one of you, rushing will draw attention. And before you get all suspicious" the Hesken tram opperator says and glances back at the group of Valperet who had indeed looked at his broad back suspiciously " kaileewen told me, that Miri said someone was shooting at one of you." Without looking at what he was doing he worked the levers and the tram switched gears as it started up the track gradually speeding up. The cargo rails carried supplies to the whole city so they would be moving sideways before they switched track toward the academy. They rode in uneasy silence until. "Alright so which one of did somthin worth being shot at." The Skitritch demands. " How dare you!" one of the Valparet students snaps. Then he adds " You should teach your street servant some manners" the same student demands of the Student with the wand who was sitting quietly. " I ain't no servant and someone be lobbing lead at me because one o' you so speak up." She responds undeterred. " I am sure i have the most Enimies here but they are more likely to write scathing reviews of my work" Jeanaques said. " I don't think any of us know why we were fired upon." They all went back to sitting in nervous silence. Eyes Darting around the drive section of the train and occasionally at eachoother before sliding nervously away. The silence was as pressing as a sickly heart beat. The gears of the train churned and chugged in a manner that seemed to highlight the silence among them. " It is Awefully quiet, mind if I sing?" The driver says into the silence. He sounded like he was enjoying the awkwardness of the situation. " Please no, someone talk about something, he sounds like a vomiting seabear when he sings." Miri said with an actual hint of desperation in her voice. " Professor why did you come to the plaza concert, does it have something to do with some horribly complicated feild of study it will take an hour to explain?" The Hesken train driver laughed at this obvious diversionary tactic. " Well it does, in a way, I came because i heard a lad singing at the docks today, but it was in a language i had not documented so i revised my speech that i was giving to mention new possible lines of inquiry into human languages. After the talk i was asked if i would be attending the events of tonight by this student here." He motioned to the Student with the wand. After a moment of silence when it was obvious he wasn't going to continue the skitritch spoke again. " For the love of the light keep talking or 'e will sing" she pleaded. Just then the door rattled as if someone was trying to open it. They were moving at a goodly pace so someone trying to get into the cabin must be determined or up to no good, and both was likely. After some more rattling the door stopped. Jeanaques Peaked out the small Grimy window to see who would be trying to force the door. He flintched back when something struck the window and cracked the glass. He withdrew to the middle of the compartment and another blow shattered the small window and in was thrown a segmented metal sphere that was smokiing slightly from the top. Without thinking Jeanaques caught it. Then he realized it was a grenade. In panic he stuffed it out the broken window and moments later a boom rang out and the Cargo train shook. " BANDITS!" one of the students screamed in panic. " Naw bandits use smoke bombs to choke the drivers and force them to open the doors and leave cargo undamaged, they be trying to kill anyone inside, cargo be damned." Miri said an pulled her little pistol. She went to the door and grasped the handle. " On three, let im have it." She commanded. All that were armed pointed at the door. " one, THREE" she shouted then threw the latch, the door slide open a bit and they caught sight of a tall masked figure in a long coat preparing another grenade. Jeanaques saw their danger so he didn't hesitate and raised his pistol and fired. The kick of the Hesken pistol was not as bad as he feared but it had the wonderful effect of knocking the figure back as the round struck its chest just as he had yanked the cord of the grenade. The grenadier toppled back into the night and slammed to the ground and rolled off away from them. As miri and 2 of the students that weren't cowering pushed the door closed they heard another boom. " I am putting on the bandit lights." The driver said and flicked a few switches. A bell started to clang insistently and orange lights started reflecting on the windows as they began flashing on top of the train. Moments later thought close by gunfire range out and the lights stopped and with a lound PANG the bell flew off infornt of the conductors cockpit and feel to the tracks. " There's at least one more out there." The conductor said and stood up holding the shotgun. He oppened a little hatch in the ceiling and fired upward. The loud bang of the shotgun was followed by a splatter of blood that strayed then driped through the hatch. The Hesken driver's face was spattered with it as he calmly sat back down after closing the roof hatch. " We are coming up to the hill that will take us up toward the Academy, it will also mean we are the most visible so lets hope who ever it is isn't desperate enough to draw that much attention to themselves as to attack where all can see." The conductor said as if he hadn't just splatted someone with a shotgun. They rounded the bend that brought them up the hill so they could see the Academy in the distance. They all looked toward what they thought would be safety. Their jaws dropped in horror, the Academy library was on fire. " I don't think we want to go there right now." The skitritch Miri commented blithely. " Yeah lets go somewhere else." the Student with the wand commented. " Where else? there aren't many stops between here and the academy and non are expecting us." The conductor said cradling his shotgun like he was about to need it. " I may have an idea, let me at that hatch." The student with the want said then practically crawled into the Hesken's lap and stood up. He oppened the hatched and thrust the his arm up through it and fired off some sort of flare from his wand tip. The hesken looked up. " Mage in distress, attacked, need... uh it is to fast for me to read." He commented while looking at the flare as it changed color rapidly sending out code. The Valperet climbed down and looked out the window soon a green flare that strobed red a few times before returning to green. " We can pull in there." The young mage said. " It will be safe, it is my aunt's warehouse." In a few minutes the Train pulled up to an unloading bay. Instead of Workers there was a robbed figure With a staff standing looking intently at the train. They pulled in and the conductor brought the motor to slow but dind't fully deactivate it, leaving it to idle with whisper quiet clicks of internal workings. These gentle sounds were the loudest silence after the rumbling of full power and desperate gunfire. The conductor peeked out a side door he open cautiously leading with his shotgun. There was a shouted conversation about assurances on cargo safety before the conductor shut down the engine fully. The wand weilding Valperet student pushed forward and practically climbed over the hesken conducctor to shout out his own question " What has happened at the Academy?" "Get off me!" the conductor orders before any answer comes, then pushes his bulk out the side door after the Student gives him some space. To be continued.
  14. Kindar

    Chapter 17

    The Missing Son 17 The call had reached him while he was going through the monthly expenses of the security agency he'd bought the year before, just to have something to do. The company had been a mess of illegal operations committed by employees wanted across multiple continents. "Damian," Dominic was crying. "There's been an accident, Dad's hurt bad." "Alright," Damian answered, comparing two pages, money was still disappearing. "Damian, please, listen to me, Dad's hurt. He's at the Memorial, you have to come." "Why?" There was a loud sigh. Of all his brothers Dominic was the one who knew how best to deal with Damian's detached attitude, not that it meant he didn't dislike him as much as everyone else. "He's your father too. He'd want to see you. You can act like you care about him, can't you?" Damian considered telling his brother he had more important things to deal with right now, like an embezzler. but something in Dominic's tone made him pause. "Just how badly is he hurt?" "Pretty bad. I don't know the details, they just took him out of the operating room and he's resting. All the doctor will tell me is that it's serious." Brian would understand if he didn't show, and Damian didn't care what his brothers thought about him, but still, as his son, he would be expected to put in an appearance. "Alright, I'm on my way." "Thank you." * * * * * When he reached the waiting room everyone was there, even his uncles, Bobby and Byron, they were holding each other, crying. Dietrich was in sweatpants and a jacket over his bare chest. He must have been competing close by to make it here this quickly. Dominic hugged him, still crying, and Damian hugged him back. "How is he?" Dominic dried his eyes. "I don't know. The doctor hasn't been back since I called you and the nurse won't let us in to talk with dad." "Why?" Dominic shrugged. "Okay, I'll deal with him, but first what exactly happened?" Dominic breathed in. "I was at the garage, seeing Harry. We'd finished fucking in Dad's office and were just talking in the afterglow when we heard metal break and crash to the floor. We rushed out and one of the lift had broken and the car fell on dad. I called 911 while the others got the car off him." "What was he doing on the floor?" Damian asked. Brian owned the garage, he had twenty employees, he had no business standing anywhere near one of the cars. "You know dad. He loves working on cars. Fuck I should have been keeping an eye on him instead of having fun with Harry." Damian agreed with his brother but didn't say it. He could see it wouldn't change anything, and to say it would hurt him. He'd promised not to hurt his brothers. "What happened next?" "They're raised the car off him by the time the ambulance arrived but we didn't dare move him. He was in bad shape, bleeding a lot, but he was breathing. I rode in the ambulance with him and they took him directly to operate on him. I was so out of it that I didn't think to call anyone. Someone from the garage called Donny. When he and Danny showed up that's when I thought to call you." "Okay, you go sit down, I'll go see him and let you know how he's doing." Dominic crumbled in the nearest chair. Damian stepped to the nurse, a tall gorilla, Silverback, by the gray poking out of the back of his uniform. He stepped in front of the door as Damian reached him and crossed his arms over his chest. "No one's going in." He stated. "That is my father." "I don't care. the doc said he needs rest. No one's seeing him for a few hours." Damian smiled at him. "You are going to let me in." The gorilla returned the smile but bared his teeth. "If I didn't let in that wall of muscle over there, what makes you think I'm going to let you in?" Damian quickly went through what he'd noticed on his way. wedding band, married, well groomed, she takes care of him, but he looks haggard, he has children, young. Damian dropped the smile. "How many children do you have?" The question took the nurse by surprise and he took a moment before answering. "Three." "The oldest, four years old?" "Four and a half." Damian nodded. The look was the same as he remembered on Brian's face while he was trying to keep up with him, Dietrich, Donald and Daniel. "I take it you love your children, and your wife?" "Or course." "Good." Damian looked at his watch. "If you don't let me into the room so I can see my father within the next five minutes, I am going to leave the hospital and drive to your house. Since you have three children and make good money here your wife is at home. You will warn her that I'm coming, but that isn't going to help her. I am going to subdue her, tie her down and then slowly cut up your children in front of her." "Are you fucking threatening me?" the gorilla growled. Damian got in his face. he didn't have to work at making his expression menacing. Dominic had told him that his neutral expression looked like he was a stone-cold killer. "No," Damian stated quietly, "I am threatening your family. You, I will leave here to suffer in the knowledge that you could have saved them." Damian saw the rage flourish in the gorilla's face. "If you lay one hand on me, I will break all your limbs, then I will see my father, and then, I will go visit your family. Think very carefully about what you do next." The anger was replaced by confusion. The gorilla looked at Damian, then around, back at him, the confusion was gone now, replaced by fear. He stepped aside. Damian entered the room. He was assaulted by the smell of disinfectant and the sound of the machines helping Brian stay alive. What wasn't covered by a thin sheet of bandages had been shaved. They had reset both the legs, pins were holding them in place, as was one arm. By the type of brace holding the other arm in place that one had been crushed. Brian's breathing was labored even with the machine's help. His lungs weren't working right. He took the chart and read it. The spine was broken in three places. The operation had been to realigned it and reattach the nerves. Now they could only hope it had been done early enough they would fuse properly. He read the rest of the notes and comments on what else they had found during the operation. He had read the entire medical library out of boredom during his first year at the university, so he understood what the expressions used meant. He'd taken psychology and that had proved so easy he'd gone there looking for something more challenging to read. It didn't look good. Damian felt something at the realization Brian wasn't going to make it out of the hospital alive. It surprised him, because he didn't love his father. He'd never felt anything but respect for this man who had raised him without fear. The only person who had known him and not been afraid of him. For all that they did love him, his brothers were afraid of him. He didn't hold it against them, they were right to be afraid. But Brian didn't. He had seen concern in that man's eyes, worry at time, love often, he could recognize the emotion even if he didn't feel it, but never fear. And Damian was now realizing that meant something to him. "Hey dad," he whispered, standing next to the bed and calling him the way Brian wanted to be called, the one that made him feel like Damian cared for him, even if he knew it was a lie. "Damian," Brian croaked, his voice weak. "How bad?" "Very bad Dad." Brian was silent for a moment. "I'm not making it, am I?" Damian didn't answer immediately. Was this one of those time when it was better to lie? Could he lie to his man? They had promised they would never lie to each other, and Brian had kept up his end. "No, Dad, you're not going to make it." Brian nodded weakly. "Damian, promise me something. Promise you'll look after our family." "I will, dad." Brian turned his head in obvious pain. "Promise me." Damian didn't want to make another promise. He didn't want to bind himself to something as long ranging as that. But Brian knew him too well. He continued looking at him despite the pain. Damian could walk out, He didn't have to say anything. But he owed this man too much. "I promise." Brian let his head settle back. "Thank you. And try not to hurt too many people." "I'll try." At least Brian hadn't made him promise that. He'd promised not to hurt his brothers when he was four, to only hurt people who deserved it two years after that. Another promise like that would have been troublesome. "I think I'm doing to sleep now." "Alright dad." Damian turned to leave, then stopped. He came back and kissed Brian on the forehead. This was the proper son to father behavior in this situation, wasn't it? The gorilla eyed him wearily and Damian smiled at him. "How is he?" Dominic asked, Dietrich and Daniel a step behind him. Donald was seated on the couch, looking after their children, who at eight seemed to be taking it better than the adults, but it was their second death in only a little more than a year. They might have been inured to this by their great grand father's death. Damian only shrugged, before sitting in the first seat he saw. He'd never promised to be truthful to them, and he expected they would be more comfortable believing there was hope. He had to think. If he was going to take care of the family he needed to change his plans. The security company couldn't accommodate what was needed. It would still play a part, but now he needed something larger. To accomplish what Brian asked of him he needed more money, more power. It would have to be a multinational. He couldn't limit his action to a local arena, he was going to have to remake the world. While he thought, he was aware of a code blue in Brian's room. His brothers expressing concern, then relief. They argued, blamed each other for the situation. Sometime later there was a second code blue. Doctors rushed in. There was furious activity in Brian's room, then it was silent. He looked up when he noticed the mass of people leaving the room, and his brothers and uncles entering it. He checked his watch, twelve hours since he'd sat down. He went to the door and looked in. Dominic, who was on the other side of the bed noticed him. "He's gone," was all he said. Damian nodded, looked at the others, who were focused on Brian, and left. He didn't care what people thought. Let them think he was overwhelmed by Brian's death and couldn't tolerate staying here. Brian was dead, there was no reason for him to stay, it was that simple. He had more important things to do. He had to set plans in motion to ensure his family's survival. * * * * * He put the frame back on his desk. Things would have been different if he hadn't made that promise, but they certainly wouldn't have been quite this interesting. "Mister Orr?" Alice called. "Your three O'clock is here." "Thank you, Alice, send Mister Hammer in." Damian leaned back in his chair and watched the fox cross the space to his desk. He still walked wearily, as if at any moment Damian might jump out an attack him. Damian was amused at the reaction, After six interview the man should know he had nothing to fear. Although, Damian supposed, the things he had learned during those conversations could make a less rational man uncomfortable. "So, Nicolas," Damian said once the man was seated. "What do you want to cover in this session." The fox took out his recorder and placed on the desk. He didn't immediately say anything. Damian could see him weigh how badly he wanted answers. Finally Nicolas' face took on a professional air. "Last week, you mentioned you had some sort of interaction with Bannerson Pharmaceutical. I'd like you to go into details about what happened. Damian smiled at his biographer. That had been such a good time. "It started when Bannerson bought farm land out from under me."
  15. Kindar

    Chapter 15

    The Missing Son 15 He'd reached the main road, then gone a few blocks before he started shaking. Fuck, he shouldn't have come here. Why couldn't they have left him alone? He would have happily gone on thinking he was the son of a war hero. Now he was going to have watch what he did and thought all the time so he would remain on the Path. He looked up again, but there was too much light here, he couldn't see the stars. Why did life have to be so complicated? Isn't my life miserable enough, God? I'm doing everything I can to be a good person, why do you keep piling the crap on top of me? He sighed. "Sorry, that isn't fair to you. I know you haven't made me Job. You aren't testing me. It just... Some time it doesn't feel fair." He realized the car had been pacing him for a time. he wasn't worried, he'd have time to get out of the way if it swerved on the sidewalk, and if the driver got out he was going to beat the crap out of him. "Hop in, kid. I'll give you a ride." Patrick didn't look at the person in the car, although he had a sense he was leaning in the passenger side to talk to him "No thanks. I'm just going to the bus stop." "Really? How are you going to pay the fare?" "Fine, I'll walk then." Was the way he was dressed so telling any stranger knew he didn't have any money? "I don't get into some stranger's car." "Kid, I'm not a stranger, I'm your uncle. Now get in. I'm taking you home." Patrick stopped and turned to look at him. the car stopped too and the tiger straightened back in the driver's seat. The door clicked and opened. It was a gray sedan, it looked expensive. The driver leaned toward him again when Patrick didn't move and pierced him with his cold gray blue eyes. "Patrick," he said in measured tones. "Get in the fucking car." Patrick blinked, he was seated in the car and it was in motion. He looked at the driver trying to understand what had just happened. The tiger looked to be the same age as the men in that house. Was he really his uncle? "Who are you?" "My name is Damian." "And you're my uncle?" He nodded. "And you were just waiting there, waiting for me to leave so you could pick me up?" Was he like the others? If he was, he better not even think of trying anything. "Calm down, Patrick. I'm not going to do anything. I wasn't waiting for you, I was just coming over to visit my nephews and saw you leaving. You looked out of sort so I thought I'd give you a ride home. Considering how long it took you to realize I was there, you were out of it." "I'm not going home." "Yes you are. Your mother's been worrying herself to death since you left. You need to take better care of her you know. Not everyone's fortunate to still have his parents in his life." "Why the fuck do I care if she's worried? She didn't give a damn about me when she lied to me." "Most people lie, Patrick. That's how they are." "Do you?" Patrick asked without intending to. The tiger got a thoughtful expression and Patrick couldn't believe he had to think about it before answering. "Yeah, I guess I do, but always with good reasons. Not that you'd know what they are." "Fine. I still don't care. I'm not going home. I'll tell you where to drop me off when we get close to it." Damian didn't reply. he drove in silence for a minute, then he swerved the car into an mostly empty parking lot and stopped. Damian stared ahead for a moment. When he turned to look at Patrick his face was expressionless. his eyes had lost all the gray and were pale blue. They were cold and emotionless. They weren't looking at him, Patrick realized, they were looking through him. he swallowed and tried the handle. "Door's lock," Damian said in a flat tone. Patrick looked for a way to unlock it, but there weren't any buttons. He slammed his elbow in the glass and only got pain for his effort. "Bullet proof glass. You're not getting out of this car unless I let you." The tone, the words, they made Patrick shy back, trying to push himself as far from this man as he could. He remembered what he'd been told about the Orrs having eccentric tastes. He now realized that the few he'd heard might be nothing compared to some. "What are you going to do to me?" Patrick had told himself if this man tried anything he'd beat him up. Now he through he might not be able to do anything to stop him. The eyes blinked, and warmth seem to come back to them. Damian gave him a wry smile. "I'm going to explain a few things to you." He looked at him and the smile widened. "Relax kid. You have nothing to worry about. Not yet anyway." He thought of something and chuckled. "But one day someone's going to tell you about me and you're going to piss yourself remembering this meeting." He got the car moving. "When my father was on his deathbed he made me promise to look after my family. I take my promises extremely seriously. And to be clear, to me it isn't your last name that makes you family or not. It's your blood. So, no matter what you call yourself, you're an Orr. That means I'm going to take care of you." Patrick watched him drive for some time and wondered what he meant by that, but he didn't dare say anything and interrupt whatever thinking that tiger was doing. He'd gone up against multiple gang members over his life and something told him none of them had been anywhere near as dangerous as this man was. "And your mother," Damian said, as if he hadn't been thinking for some time. "She isn't blood, and normally she wouldn't matter, but you care for her, so I'm willing to make an exception, this one time." They drove in silence again. Maybe he'd imagine the danger coming from him. After all he said he'd take care of his mother too. Not that Patrick was sure she deserved it. "What do you mean by 'take care of me'?" He asked after a time, curiosity getting the best of him. "Are you going to shower me with money so I never have to work? Get my mom a house like the one Donald and Daniel have?" He realized he couldn't think of one of them without thinking of the other. Damian laughed, a cold mirthless laugh. "Your mother would spit on anything a fag like me might give her. No, I'm not going to give her anything." He was silent for a moment. "That's not how I work anyway. You need to make your own way in life. You don't appreciate it if you don't have to work for it." Patrick studied this man, his uncle for a moment. "What are you going to do then?" "I'm going to promise you something. I'm going to promise you'll never have to worry about your safety again." Patrick stared at him. "Yeah, I know about them. About how you got that scar." Reflexively Patrick put a hand over his bicep. How did he know about the gang? "They won't bother you again. I swear that to you." "How?" "How do I know? Or how can I promise that? The answer is the same for both questions. I know people. Which reminds me." He pulled a business card out of his breast pocket and handed it to him. The card was plain, with a diamond in the center of it. 'Diamond Industries' was written over it, and 'because diamonds are just coal under pressure' under. Patrick looked at it, read what it said a few times. "You do know that doesn't make any kind of sense, right?" Damian smiled. "Sure it does, kid." He glanced at him. "And something tells me that if anyone ever manages to figure it out, it's going to be you." Patrick stared at him. "Anyway, on the back is the number to my company's recruitment office. Give it to that friend of yours, the one who managed to give you my brothers' address. If he ever gets tired of shady deals and going hungry for weeks at a time, I'm always looking for talented people." "If you know so much about him, why aren't you making the offer in person?" "Come on Patrick, you can answer that yourself." "He doesn't know you from the serial killer down the block. I'm not sure I trust you myself." "That's very wise of you." Patrick was silent for a long time. Considering what this meant. He was offering Rich a job. He was looking for talented people. "You're not offering me a job, are you?" That made sense. No one wanted a dropout like him. Damian didn't reply immediately. "Do you want me to offer you one?" Patrick almost said yes. He'd do anything for a real job, a way to help his mother with the bills once and for all. Well, almost anything he thought as he remembered those eyes, blue and cold. What might it be like to work for a man with eyes like that. What things might he be required to do? He shook his head. "I think I'm going to make my own way." Damian smiled. "Another wise thing you've said." Patrick felt a smile creep up his muzzle. "Although I could use someone to pay my tuition for school" Damian snorted. "Don't look at me for that. that's what fathers are for." They were silent again, for the rest of the drive. When the car stopped Patrick realized they were in front of his mother's house. "How did you know where I live? I never told you." Another wry smile. "Who do you think gave your brothers your address? You go in, your mother's going to be relieve to see you." The door clicked and opened. Patrick stepped out and looked in, holding on to the door. "D... uncle Damian." The words felt strange coming out of his mouth, alien. He'd never had an uncle before. "Why am I scared of you?" His uncle gave him the brightest smile he'd ever seen, but it didn't comfort him, the smile didn't reach those eyes. "Because you are a wise young man, Patrick, very wise indeed." He motioned for him to close the door and drove off. Patrick watched the car pull away, then looked at this mother's house. There was light, so she wasn't at work. He stood there for some time, trying to figure out if he wanted to go in or not. No that was the wrong question, he didn't want to go. The question was, did his mother deserve to suffer for trying to protect him. He sighed, No, she didn't. "Patrick?" she called as soon as he closed the door. "Yes, mom, it's me." She rushed out of her room and hugged him. "Oh my God, I was so worried. You just walked out and I didn't know where you were. Please don't ever do that again. Where were you?" "I just stayed at friends." He didn't return the hug, but he didn't push her away, even if the urge was there. "Looks, about what happened." "It's okay, Patrick. Don't worry about it, those men are gone and they're never going to bother us again. You don't have to worry about them." Patrick almost told her this wasn't about them, but his anger was just waiting for an excuse to lash out at her, and he wouldn't let that happen. He gave himself long enough for his temper to quiet down. "Mom, you're working tomorrow, you should go to bed, I'm okay. I'm not leaving." She looked at him, her eyes were wet. She wiped them. "I'm sorry, I was just so worried they might have taken you away from me." His anger flared. They aren't interested in taking me away. you're the one determined to keep me away from them. But she'd already turned away, so she didn't see the snarl on his face. He headed to the kitchen for a glass of water and to calm himself. It wasn't her fault, he told himself, she grew up in a different time, her parents were pretty stern, not that he got to know them, It had always just been him and her. He wondered if he had grandparents now. Were is father's parents alive? He couldn't excuse her attitude. She'd raised him the same way she was raised, and he was over coming it, wasn't he? He'd gone to see them, asked questions, gotten to know them. And screamed at them before rushing out because what they said made him uncomfortable. How could he be so angry all the time when he was trying to follow the Path, while they seem perfectly happy living in sin? He should ask Father Durony next Sunday. Maybe stepping off the Path, deciding you weren't going to even try to reach Eden again meant you didn't worry about anything else. Was that kind of bliss worth going to Hell? Fuck, he had to stop thinking about that, he was going to give himself nightmares. He drank two glasses of water and headed to his room. He dressed down to his underwear to sleep and lay down. Seeing the frame with the picture of the man he had thought was his father for all his life, he shoved it in the drawer of his side table.
  16. Kindar

    Chapter 14

    The Missing Son 14 Patrick got off the bus, looked around and wondered where he was. This didn't look like the San Francisco he knew. Sure, he knew Old San Jose was where the rich folks lived, but this... He was standing next to an eight-foot wall made of white stone. On the other side of the road was a similar wall, with trees behind it, and in the distance a house. A large house. The people on the side walk were looking at him and he didn't blame them. Fuck, he should just turn around and go back, he had no business being in this part of the city. If he had enough money he'd get on the next bus and do just that. As it was he might as well see this through before walking home. The street he wanted was the next one, and it slowly wound up the hill. After the first one, the houses we no longer walled, but they were all very large and the one with the bright red wall with purple... waves? and yellow awning was rather gaudy. How could he be related to anyone living here? The number he was looking for was on a post next to a driveway winding further along. Next to it was a path, which he took. It was lined with some bushes and purple flowers. He looked up from the flora and stopped. He'd called the buildings he saw on his way here houses, but standing close he now realized how wrong he'd been, this was a mansion. His mom's house could probably fit twenty times in it. Just who the fuck was his father to live in a place like this? The driveway led to the garage, partially inside the hill. He stared at the door. It was bigger than his house, how many cars did they have? And why wasn't this place gated to keep guys like him out of it? Above that and slightly recessed, was the two-story mansion in a tan color stucco. At least it wasn't as bright as some of the other houses, Patrick thought. Then realized how stupid that thought was. so, it wasn't brightly painted, it was nonetheless extravagant. Again, he considered turning around. This was a mistake, but since he'd already made it, no point in leaving now. He forced himself the rest of the way to the door, which was a deep red clay in color. He knocked, then noticed the buzzer. Maybe he should have used that instead? He waited for a moment and was about to press the button when the door opened. The smallest of the tigers who'd shown up at his door stood before him, mouth agape and eyes wide. Patrick didn't remember his name, but he thought he'd been the one to knock on his door. He was bare chested, and well built. Patrick's gaze lingered for a moment on this pecs and biceps before realized what he was doing and looked up at his face. his breathing had intensified, and he couldn't stop a though that the short guy was pretty good looking. He smelled sweaty and wore only sweat pants. Patrick hadn't realized it the last time, but he was one of those dwarfs who was built proportional, he looked like a miniature person. "Hi," Patrick said in the stretching silence. The tiger closed his mouth. "Hey," he said in what sounded like a forced conversational tone. "I'm Patrick, you and your brothers came to my place the other night." The small tiger nodded. "I remember." "Is your dad here?" The guy nodded, took a deep breath and yelled. "Dad! Patrick's here!" Patrick winced and took a step back. For such a small guy he had one Hell (sorry) of a pair of lungs on him. Once his ears stopped ringing he thought he heard people moving about further in the house. Not long after that a man showed up. He too was only wearing sweat pants and smelled sweaty, but there was something else mixed in that scent. Patrick didn't know what it was but his heart started racing. He forced himself not to look at the well-defined biceps and abs. "Thanks Arthur," the man said. He had to be in his forties, but he looked good for an old man. What the fuck was he thinking? Patrick wanted to run away. This was the worst mistake he'd ever made. The man ruffled Arthur's hair and sent him back. then he moved out of Patrick's way. Patrick looked at the large hallway behind them and felt like this was the cave leading to the dragon that would threaten to eat him. Get a grip, he told himself. This isn't a fantasy novel. And even if it was, the dragon always holds answers. And regardless of anything else, he wanted answers, didn't he? The dark cave, he realized what this was. the place where everything changed for the stories' main character. Would things really change for him if he crossed that threshold? It wasn't just the obvious wealth. These were f... what they were and they acted like it was the most normal thing to be. They claimed he was like them. Would going in confirm that? "Are you okay?" the man asked. Patrick realized he'd been fixed in place for some time. He'd made the journey, crossed the wild land to come here. He entered. "Should I take my shoes off?" he asked. The floor was black, polished to the point he could see his reflection in it. The walls were off white, slightly gray maybe? At least it didn't feel harsh against the black floor. There was a mirror on the wall in a gold frame, over a small table. At this point, he figured the frame was actual gold and promised himself he wasn't going to touch it. he should probably avoid touching anything, if he broke something he'd never be able to pay it back. "Only if you want to. Don't worry about getting stuff dirty. We have seven kids, nothing stays clean long in here." Patrick eyed the shiny floor and had trouble believing him. they probably had an army of people keeping this place clean. "If you want to take off your jacket the closet is over there." He pointed to the opposite wall. There was a polished wood door, it had to be solid wood, not the wanna-be stuff the closet doors in his mother's house were made out of. Should he leave his jacket there? was he expected to leave all his close in there? "Is there a dress code or something?" "excuse me?" "You and Arthur are only wearing sweat pants. Is that how you dress here?" The man looked down at himself, as if he'd forgotten what he was wearing. "Oh, no. You just caught us...exercising. If you prefer I'll go put on something more appropriate." "Exercising? like the whole lot of you?" "Yes, it's a family tradition. We like to stay in shape. It looks like you do too." Patrick shrugged, he was muscular, sure, but it wasn't because he worked at it. Working at the junkyard took care of that, as did having to defend himself all the time. But that explained why they were sweaty. He put his jacket in the closet, and it looked like rags next to the others there. "Look, I don't want to offend you, but I don't know which one you are. I wasn't really paying attention when you, or the other one, said your names. I only remember one, are you Daniel?" "No, I'm Donald. And I understand. That meeting wasn't exactly smooth." Donald, so he was the one with the temper, Patrick thought, just like him. "That's certainly one way to say it." "How would you describe it?" Donald asked. Patrick thought about it for a moment. If he was back home he'd never think of using the kind of language that kept coming to his mind when he thought about it, but thinking back on Donald's behavior then he got the feeling he preferred honesty over proper language. "I'd call it a fucking load of shit, blowing up over everyone." Donald laughed. "That's certainly colorful. And don't worry about not being able to tell me and Daniel apart, no one can. Don't be afraid to ask who's who. The kids just call us dad so they don't have to worry about it, but I don't expect you to call us that." "I wasn't planning on it," Patrick replied, harsher than he'd intended. "I understand. How did you find the house?" "I know a guy who's good at finding stuff like that out. I gave him your number." He left it at that. They walked by what had to bed a living room, by the large couches, plush carpet and large entertainment center. Donald hadn't been kidding after all, the place was a mess, cushions all over the floor and one of the chair was tipped against another. A strong scent of artificial freshener came from the room, roses or something. "What happened there?" he asked. "Like I said, we have seven kids," was all Donald gave as an answer. not long after the opening to the living room was a stairwell going up, and after that the wall had frames with pictures in them. not photos, Patrick noted, art of some sort, bright art. They entered the dining room which, again, was larger than his house. At one end of the table, which could seat at least twenty people, was Daniel, with the seven kids seated close to him. "Grab a seat," Donald said and went to sit next to Daniel. Patrick didn't move, watching him. Donald had said no one could tell the two of them apart, but Patrick hadn't believed him. No two tigers had the exact stripe patterns. You could always tell them apart on a subconscious level. You might not know what was different, but you knew they were. Now he looked from one to the other, and realized it was true. Not only couldn't he see any differences, but he felt like he was looking at the same person. He looked at the teens, their arms and chest, the patterns on their furs, the shape of their muscles, ears and muzzle, and he could easily tell them apart. And now he was breathing hard from looking at those bare chests so he focused on the table. Chestnut colored wood polished smooth with years of use. calmer he sat at the opposite end of the table. "I have questions," Patrick stated. "Feel free to ask them," Daniel replied. It was Daniel, right? He was pretty sure Donald had sat on the left. Did it matter? no, it didn't. he was delaying what he'd come here for. "First off, why do you even want me to be your kid? I mean, I'm poor, I live in the bad part of town. I won't exactly fit in here." "Hey, you can fit in anywhere you want to," one of the kids said. Donald and Daniel looked at one another and then Donald? spoke. "It isn't about us *wanting* you to be our son. You *are* our son. That you live here or not, and we don't expect you to, we are still your fathers, but I don't expect we'll ever be your family." "Actually, can you clear up something for me? Exactly which one of you is my father?" They shrugged in unison. "We don't know." "How can you not know?" "We both had sex with your mother, so there's no way to tell." Patrick noticed none of the kids displayed any of the discomfort he was feeling at hearing people talking about sex. "okay, but we can get a paternity test done." They smiled, and even that looked identical. "I don't think that is going to help," the other man said. How the fuck was he going to tell them apart? They hadn't move and he was getting a headache trying to figure out who was whom? "Of course, it will, everyone's DNA is different, so it'll tell us whose genes I got." "just like no two tigers ever has the same stripe patterns?" the other said. Patrick closed his eyes and massaged his forehead. Forget the names, it's the left one and the right one from now on. "I'm not saying we won't do it," the one on the right said, "We'll be happy to, but I don't think you'll get the results you're hoping for." Patrick looked at the other teens. "How do you deal with it?" "What's there to deal with?" said the one who had been in the minivan's passenger seat. Aaron maybe? or Albert? At least he could tell them apart. he'd just have to learn the names. "They're both our fathers, we don't care whose genes are in us." "So long as they are in us," someone said, softer, which elicited chuckles from a few of the others. "Aiden," the one of the left warned. "Watch your language, we have a guest. You know the rules." "Sorry dad." "Next question?" the same one asked. Patrick took a breath, okay, this was the big one. The secret that would change his live. "How do you know that I'm...." He couldn't say it. Fuck, he'd thought he'd be able to say it. He didn't want to say it in anger, not only was it wrong to do so, but he wanted to do what Joey had suggested, get to know them, respect them. Maybe there was a chance the bible was wrong and he could stay on the Path even with being...? They didn't say anything. they gave him the time he needed to formulate it, but eventually he gave up. "I can't say it," he growled. "I'm sorry, but I can't. But you know what I mean, right?" "That you're gay?" the one on the right said, and Patrick felt like he'd been slapped. He wasn't like that. he couldn't be. "Yes, we know." "How do you know that?" he asked through clenched teeth. "Because you're one of us, you're an Orr." "I'm not an Orr, I'm a Sanders!" The teens looked at him with a shocked expression, but the two adults kept their steady gazes on him. He felt like he should apologize for his outburst, but he wouldn't. They wanted to take away who he was. "Sanders is your last name," the one on the left said. "We're talking about the blood that flows through your veins. That's what makes you an Orr. "I could take after my mother." "You don't." "How can you know that?" Patrick's voice broke, and they waited for him to regain his composure. "Somethings you take after your mother, you have her eyes. But when it comes to your sexuality, you take after us. It's always been that way in our family. We always have sons, and they are always gay." "And eccentric," added one of the kids. "Albert," the one on the left warned. Okay, if that was Albert then the other one was Aaron, he was sure of it. "What? It's true." "What does he mean, eccentric?" "Do you mind if we keep that question for after we've answered all the other ones?" said the one on the right. "The answer to it is going to make you uncomfortable, and I'd prefer we go through the ones you have first." "Okay, sure." What could he mean by that? "You had kids, so you're not entirely...." fuck. "like that. I could too." They gave him a sad smile, and Patrick felt his hopes crumble. "We're not bi, we're gay. Yes, we had sex with women, but that was only so we could have children. We could have gone with tubes, but that didn't feel right to us." He paused. "have you had sex?" Patrick felt his ears could start a fire and looked away. When he looked aback the teens were staring at him in disbelief. "The sex was good," the one to the left said, "sex always is, but we were able to perform through will power, not because we felt anything for them. We're virile men, even as old as we are." "Speak for yourself, I'm still young," said the one on the right in a failed attempt to break some of the building tension in the room. "Like I said, we're virile," the one on the left continued, "and yes, if we set our mind to it we could have sex with a woman, but we wouldn't want it. we want men, that's what makes us gay." He paused. "That's what makes you gay." Patrick closed his hands into fists. he didn't want to be angry at them, he really didn't want to, but he didn't want to hear this. "Fine, but I don't have to do anything about it, right? I don't have to act on how I feel." "What?" Aaron exclaimed. "Why would you ever not want to have sex with another guy?" "Alexander!" "But dad?" "Enough!" "Yes dad." Alexander looked at the table. Patrick continued to control his anger, but he could tell from the whispers that Alexander's opinion was shared by the others. What was wrong with them? Man didn't sleep with Man, it was a sure way off the Path. He forced himself to take a mental step back. Okay, he could accept, for the sake of the argument, that the desire wasn't the work of the devil, that it was genetic, like a lot of people claimed. But they also claimed that fighting was genetic, ingrained in us from century of evolution. it didn't mean that was something he should do. He wouldn't act on how he felt, that was final. That resolved he went to ask his next question, but nothing came. He knew he'd had more of them, but he couldn't think of them. He glanced in Albert's direction. Might as well get that over with. "What's the eccentric thing about?" The men sighed, but the teens looked up, excited. "We did promise ourselves we wouldn't lie." The one on the right said. "Yeah, we did." The one on the left took a deep breath. "okay, on top of being gay, Orr men have eccentric tastes." "What does that mean?" They looked at each other. The one on the left nodded and the one on the right continued. "As an example, me and Donald, we like to tag team our partners. It isn't a fetish, it isn't something we need to do to reach orgasm, but given the chance, it is how we prefer doing it." "Aaron likes them old," Albert said. "What's wrong with liking mature men?" Aaron countered. "with wrinkles." Albert shuddered Patrick swallowed. "okay, I think that's enough." "Adam likes them married." "Enough!" Patrick stood his weight was on his hand and the table was holding him up, he was shaking. He couldn't tell if it was fear of anger. "What's wrong?" someone he didn't know the name of asked. "You were right, this is making me very uncomfortable, so I'm going to leave." "But we haven't showed you!" "No!" Patrick slammed his palms against the table. "Look, I came here of my own free will. I asked for answers, so as much as I want to be angry at you all, I have no right. But. I. Really. Don't. Want. To. Be. Here. Anymore." "I understand," one of the man said, "Arthur, why don't you escort Patrick to the door?" "Yes dad." Patrick started walking, barely aware of the small tiger next to him. He grabbed his jacket and the door was already opened by the time he had it on. He walked out. "Patrick?" Patrick felt the motion close to his arm and he thought Arthur would grab him, but he didn't. He stopped, but he didn't turn around. "I'm sorry we made you uncomfortable. I hope you'll visit again." "I don't know." Patrick looked up, there was so little light pollution here he could see the stars. He tightened his jaws. "No. I won't." He thought he heard sniffling as he walked down the path to the road.
  17. Kindar

    Chapter 13

    The Missing Son 13 "Sanders!" Don yelled over the crowd before throwing the key to Patrick. "Alright everyone. This is the last call. Order up and enjoy." Patrick locked the door and then sat at the bar. The place was very crowded and they were loud. He was getting a headache from that and not getting enough sleep. He only spent one night at Zach's place, somehow his dad had learned about Patrick being there and he'd exploded. Patrick wished he'd been there so he could have taken the blunt of the anger. On Thursday he'd slept on Max's couch, the poodle was a guy he'd gone to school with, and who had stayed in touch with him after Patrick had left. Max was on track to get out of the neighborhood, he was graduating in the spring and had been accepted at Berkeley on a football scholarship. Of the few guys he still knew from school he was the only one getting out. Max couldn't let him crash over the weekend because of how late Patrick worked, so he'd used the cot at the back, and hadn't gotten much sleep. Mary brought him an orange soda, and he sipped it while keeping an eye on the customers. the last drink could make some of them forget themselves and become a nuisance and he'd have to escort them out, but tonight, for as noisy as they were, they were well behaved. Finally, the last one left, it was almost three, and Patrick enjoyed the quiet through the ringing in his ears. He reached over the counter and dropped his soda can in the garbage. Fifteen minutes later Mary hugged him before leaving and handed him sixty dollars. "Here's your pay," Don held the hundred twenty for the weekend. Patrick looked at it. "Can you hold on to it for me? I'm not comfortable walking around with that kind of money." "Then put it in the bank." Patrick stared at the panda. "To have a bank account I'd have to keep money for more than a couple of days. My mom opened one for me when I was a kid, I found out they'd closed it for inactivity when I started bouncing for you. Normally I give most of it to my mom." "You're not giving this to her then?" "Why should I?" Patrick snapped. "If she thinks so little of me she had to lie about my father why the fuck should I give her my hard-earned money?" Doc took a step back and raised his hands in surrender. Patrick sighed. "Sorry." "Still angry at her then." Patrick nodded. "Yeah, I can hold on to your money till you need it. You'll want to get a bank account if you're going to be keeping it. I mean I don't mind doing it for you, but I can't give you interest on it." "I'll do that tomorrow." "Good. I'm closing up. are you sleeping in the back?" "No. Thanks for the offer, but that cot is a health hazard. I made arrangement with a guy I know. I'm heading there directly." "You need a ride?" "No, thanks. I need the walk to clear my head." Don accompanied him outside and they went on their separate ways. Thinking about his mom had gotten him angry again, and had brought his father to the surface again, both of them, the fictional one and the real one. Thinking about who he had believed his father to be made him ache, he'd imagined so much about him he hated knowing it had been for nothing. Thinking about the real one made him long to know what it was like to actually have a father. It was why he'd called Rich before work. Richard Zilescky was a rat he'd met a few years before when he turned a corner and walked in on him being beaten up. He'd chased his attackers away and helped him to his place. He was a few years older than Patrick, another school dropout, but he was pretty smart, he'd taught himself programing and now he did hacking work for the gangs. He knocked on the door. Rich had a ground floor apartment in a converted house. The curtains parted, closed and then multiple locks turned. the door opened and a thin white rat pulled him in and hugged him. "Man Pat, I never thought I'd get to return the favor and help you out." "Thanks for letting me crash." "Hey, man, no problem, Mi Casa and all that. I never thought you'd ever call and ask for help, usually you're just checking in on me. Hell, when I gave you my number and you didn't put it in a phone I thought you'd just brush me aside as a good deed. I can't believe you remembered it from me just saying it once." "You said it once, and I told it to myself a hundred times while I helped you here. You sound like you're working on something, don't let me interrupt, just tell me where you want me to crash and when you want me out." "Yeah, I'm working, but it can wait. I guess I'm hyper, I've been drinking espresso all evening." "It's four in the morning." "Is it? really? Wow, I guess I've been at it longer than I thought, I must be close to being done then. I can't wait to be done with than and get paid." "Just tell me where to sleep." "Oh, just take the stuff off my bed and stretch out there." "Where are you going to sleep?" "Me? oh, I'm not sleeping, I still have work to do. I'm probably going to be going for hours and hours. I have plenty of espresso in the machine. I'm good, thanks." "Okay, when do you want me out?" "Do you have to be some place? I mean it's okay if you do, but if you don't you can stay here, as long as you want. you said you had problems at home, right? that was you, right? Yeah, it was. So, you can stay here until that's fixed. Don't worry about it, I owe you a lot more than that." Patrick hid a smile. "Okay, I'll go crash then." The bedroom was the first door he saw. In the living room Richard was typing on a keyboard so fast Patrick couldn't make out the individual key stokes. Across the hall was the bathroom. He used it, then took the electronic parts off the bed to make space. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow. * * * * * Patrick came awake as he felt someone against him. He'd turned in his sleep, he realized, and pressed against the guy next to him. Patrick had a moment of horror when he thought he'd gone to bed with another guy, then realized he was still dressed, and that it was Rich next to him. The rat had come to bed once he finished his work. Patrick carefully got out of bed to avoid waking him. Made a stop in the bathroom, then headed for the kitchen. It was a mess, cans of energy drinks everywhere, dishes piled up high in the sink and takeout containers on the table, and counter, so old Patrick worried they would attack him. The clock on the stove said it was seventeen hundred. That couldn't be right, the sun was coming in from the living room, and that was to the east. The clock on the wall said it was twelve twenty-five, that was more reasonable, but then he realized the seconds hand wasn't moving. Well, unless he was planning on going out to look for work the time didn't matter, and he couldn't do that. He needed to talk with Rich once he got up. To pass the time he decided to clean the place. He filled three garbage bags in the kitchen and two in the living room. There, the computer clock told him it was ten fifty-eight. He was in the middle of doing the dishes when Richard stumbled in. He blinked at him, considered something, then nodded. "Right." he looked around. "You didn't have to clean the place, Pat." He pulled the fridge open and took out an energy drink, which he downed. "I had nothing else to do. Should you really be drinking that? you just woke up." "Got nothing else until I get paid. Didn't you look in the fridge?" He sat at the table and looked at the top like it was the first time he's ever seen it. Considering how much stuff had been piled on there it was a distinct possibility. "Not my place. I didn't open anything except under the sink to get the garbage bags." He took twenty out of his pocket and put it on the table. "Here, buy something to eat." "Shit man. I can't take your money. I already owe you my life." "Would you take it if you did a job for me?" "What kind of job?" Patrick took out the card Daniel had given him, it was blank except for a hand-written number on it, and handed it to Richard. "I need the address that goes with this number." Richard took the card, looked at both side of it. "Who's is it?" "My father," Patrick replied after a moment. Richard nodded. "He owes you child support?" "No, nothing like that. I just want to talk to him. I guess I don't feel comfortable doing it over the phone." "Sure. You do know you can get that info by doing a reverse lookup, right?" "Sure, but you can use the money." The rat chuckled. "Okay, I'll do it. Shouldn't take more than a minute to get your info. Hell, Starting the system is going to take longer." "Alright. I'll go out and get myself breakfast while you're doing this." "Get me something too. There's a fast food place two blocks that way. Get me a number two combo, and that'll be my fee for getting the address." "are you sure that's enough?" "For a minute's work? that's plenty, and I finished my previous job so I'll be getting paid later today. I'll be able to fill the fridge then," "I'll be right back then." * * * * * Patrick returned fifteen minutes later and Richard was still at the computer. "Food's in the kitchen when you're done." He sat down, said a silent prayer then ate. He was in the middle of his second breakfast sandwich when the rat sat down. "Okay, who is he, really?" Patrick looked at him questioningly. Richard put the card on the table and slide it toward him. "Who is he?" The tiger swallowed. "He's my father." Richard studied him for a moment. "Okay, but 'who' is he? He is a spy or something?" "What? of course not... I mean, I don't know what he does for a living. I've only met him once at this point." "It was a lot harder getting the address then it should have been. I wrote it on the back. Nothing came up on the reverse lookup. Even the sites that hold private numbers didn't have anything. I had to hack the phone company to get the information." "Is that going to get you in trouble?" Richard chuckled. "Nah. Their security's decent enough, but it was nothing for me to slice through it. They don't even know I was there." Patrick turned the card over. "Can I use your computer to figure out how to get there?" "Sure. I'll go get it. It's on the south side of the city, in the Hills." While Richard was in the other room Patrick went through the money he had left. forty-eight and change. It had been a while since he'd looked at the cost of tickets for the busses, but he through eight dollars was enough to cross the city. Realistically he couldn't walk across the city. Not if he wanted to get there in a reasonable amount of time. "Here." Richard handed him his phone. It was a large black model with a homemade casing. Patrick took it and looked it over before raising his eyes to Richard. "I added a few things to it. I don't like that the government can track it or listen in to my calls. If you want I can do the same to your phone." "I don't have one." Richard didn't have as many programs on it as he expected. "Really? I can get you one, if you want. Wouldn't be as powerful as mine, but I don't think you need something that can slice through the city's security." "That's okay," Patrick said, starting the mapping program. He put in the address. "I can't afford a phone plan." It was pretty far. In the Saratoga Hills, just outside of Old San Jose. It would take a good part of the day to get there, but at least he'd remembered right. It was only six bucks for the trip, but a lot of transfers. He looked up. "Sorry?" "I said, I can get you a plan that wouldn't cost you anything." It took a moment for Patrick to realize what Richard was talking about, phone, right. Free plan? that could work, except. "That wouldn't be legal, would it." Richard shrugged. "Who's to care if they don't know?" "Thanks, I appreciate it, but I'll pass. I've lived this long without a phone. I'll be fine." He wrote down the list of busses he'd have to take on the card and stood. He put forty dollars on the table. "What's that for?" "To pay for the work you did." "I told you breakfast would cover that." "That was when you thought it would just take a minute. It was harder than that, so you deserve more. Look, just take it, Rich. Get some food, you look like you haven't had a decent meal in ages." Richard chuckled. "I guess I owe you again." Patrick shrugged. "I'm not keeping score. I'll probably be back late again. is it going to be a problem?" He'd have to walk back. "Nah, I don't expect to be working, but I never go to bed early anymore." "Thanks again for letting me crash here." He squeezed Richard shoulder on his way out.
  18. Kindar

    Chapter 12

    The Missing Son 12 Patrick wanted someone from the Sarantos to show up, as he walked hard toward... He didn't have a destination in mind, he just needed to get away from his mother and her lies right now. He'd have to figure out something soon, if only because he needed a place to sleep, but right now he was burning energy, and spoiling for a fight. His expression kept the people on the sidewalk from accosting him, and no gang member caused trouble. Why couldn't they be there when he actually wanted them around? Instead of making his life miserable the rest of the time? Brooding on the gang kept him from thinking about what those two men had said. Eventually he had to slow down, his legs were hurting from the forced pace, and he was hungry. That he couldn't do anything about, He'd given his mom all his money. He should have kept some. Hell (sorry) he should keep what he made. It was his money, not hers. He looked around, where was he? He didn't recognize any of the store fronts, nor the intersection he was at, Alida way and Country club. Okay, he'd walked longer than he thought. The area certainly looked better than his neighborhood. It took him a few tries before he got someone willing to give him directions to Don's Cup. The first people he tried to approached looked at him once and walked faster. Eventually a woman, a sheep, cautiously let him approach and she pulled out her phone to find the bar. Okay, he definitely was further than he expected. He thanks her and started walking, keeping his pace reasonable this time. The bar only had a few people there, even for a Tuesday it was a slow evening here. Mary smiled at him. "Pat, I didn't know you were working tonight." "I'm not, I just need to make a call. can I borrow your phone?" "It's in my bag, in the back. Once I've served these beers I'll go get it." "I'll handle it," Don said, suddenly standing next to Patrick. for a large man he could move quietly at times. "Come on, you can make it in my office." Once there the panda handed him his phone, and it took a moment for Patrick to find the call function among all the others on it. He thought, as he entered Zack's number, he had to be the last person left who memorized numbers, everyone else relied on their phone to keep them. "Hello?" "Hey Zack, it's Pat." "What's up?" "Can I crash at your place tonight? Had a fight with my mom and I don't want to go back home." "Yeah, sure. but you're going to have to be gone before seven in the morning. That's when my dad comes back and you know how he is about my friends spending the night." "Won't be a problem, thanks. I'll be there in twenty." That was tonight taken care of. "You okay?" Don asked. "You want to talk about it?" "No, I don't want to talk about it." Patrick forced a breath to calm himself, he'd almost snapped at Don. "I'm okay, just stuff with my mom." The panda nodded and motioned for Patrick to follow him past the store room. Don opened the door next to it, just before the back door that led into the alley. it revealed a small space with a cot. "I set this up a couple of years ago when me and the wife went through a rough patch. Haven't used it since, but never needed the room for anything." Don took a key off his keychain. "That's a key to the back door. If you need a place to crash feel free to use it." "I can't do that," Patrick protested. "Bullshit. You work for less than I'm legally required to pay you and you don't bitch about it, and you do a good job bouncing." "I don't need the money that badly." Patrick said, even though that wasn't true, but he didn't want Don to feel like he had to do this. "Fuck you can be stubborn." He put the key in Patrick's hand. "Take the fucking key. You're in a rough patch, make use of it if you need it." "Okay, thanks." He added the key to the ring containing his house key. "I better get going, I don't want to keep Zack waiting." * * * * * Patrick was taking lamps out of a pile of them as the Ocelot pointed them out. She wanted something antique looking, ideally from the nineteen-nineties, So Patrick was treading on the treacherous ground made by those lamps. Lamps weren't worth much so Joey only had them thrown in this pile. they were all broken in some way because of that, but it didn't stop her from excitedly pointing to one and then another. Over thirty minutes Patrick brought her eight lamps, all of which she loved. She hated having to choose only one of them. He pointed out the her that if she wanted all of them, Joey was sure to be happy to give her a great deal on them, just to be rid of them. She was brimming with joy and had him bring them all to her car. Joey asked for forty bucks and she happily paid it. "Come on in," Joey said, after she'd left. He sat at his old desk and reached in the older fridge behind him. He pulled out a beer for himself and a can of orange soda with a deli sandwich for Patrick. "Okay, what's going on? You were at the gate before I got here and you said you didn't mind working for free. You've never been someone who requires a lot of money to work, but I've never taken you for the kind to give away the work. So, what gives?" Patrick took a bite of the sandwich and a long swallow of the soda to give himself time to formulate an answer. Unlike with Don, he didn't mind talking about this with Joey. There was something comfortable about the bulldog in his ripped, dirty, jeans and grime covered t-shirt. "My mom's been lying to me about who my father was. He isn't the war hero she told me. he isn't even dead. He's a..." Patrick found he couldn't say it. He'd hurled it at them easily enough when he was angry, but he'd realized they didn't deserved it. That they were... the way they were wasn't their fault, and they hadn't done anything to him. It was his mother who had lied. And he found that if he wasn't saying the word in anger, he couldn't actually say it. "He's a homosexual. And he said I was too." "Are you?" "No! Absolutely not! There's no way I'm a fag!" Patrick yelled. "That's a pretty energetic denial," Joey said, unaffected by the anger directed at him, "for someone who said he isn't one." Patrick glared at him, but the bulldog just took a sip of his beer without taking his eyes off him. Patrick looked away. "I don't want to be one," he finally admitted. "Why?" "Really? You have to ask? even forgetting that it's a sin, you've seen the news. They molest kids, breakup marriage. Who in their right mind would want to be one of them?" "Really, Pat? I thought you were smarter than that. You're using the news? You know damn well that's nothing to go by, ignoring the fact that most of what gets reported isn't verified, of course those who make the news are the bad ones. Why else would the news talk about them? There's been a bunch of hyenas on the news recently for murder, are all hyenas murderers then? You're a tiger who's poor, are all tigers poor?" Patrick looked at the floor, finding his appetite vanishing under Joey's rebuke. "But it's a sin. I don't want to walk off the Path." Joey shrugged. "Look, you're talking about the bible now. A book that was written thousands of years ago. I never read it, but I have to say I'm suspicious of a book that old having any relevance in today's world." Joey didn't get it. He couldn't get how important God's opinion was to Patrick. It showed how to stay on the path. To set off it was to start walking toward Hell. "Let me ask you this." Joey finished his beer. "Do you think I'm heading for hell?" "What? of course not." "How do you know? Maybe I'm gay." Patrick started to answer but stopped. his reaction had been to say that of course Joey wasn't... "Are you?" "No, but that's beside the point. The point is, how do you know? You told me that gays are just the ones who see on the news, they do the bad stuff, so everyone else you see on the street is straight, right? You're assuming how people live their lives base on some fears you have from a book that's older than... Older than anything I know. Seems to me you're doing all of them a disservice." Joey stood. "Anyway, it isn't my place to tell you what you should do or think." Patrick shook his head. "No, thanks. I think I needed someone to give me a reality check. You're right. for all the reading I do, I haven't really tried to get to know all that much about them." "Look, don't worry about it. Maybe try to get to know him. You say he's your father, right? wouldn't it be better to know your father, even if he isn't perfect?" He took twenty out of his pocket and handed that to Patrick. "Here." "You don't have to do that. I said I'd work for free today." "I know, but if you hadn't been here, I'd have been the one to help that woman and fight with the mountain of lamps. And I only pay fifty cents per lamps, so even with paying you twenty bucks, I've made a really good profit on this." "Thanks." "Are you going home after this?" "No. I don't want to be in that house for now." "Okay. Do you have a place to spend the night? My place isn't much, but the couch is mostly clean." "Thanks, but I'm good." He'd call some of the guys he knew, hopefully one of them would be able to let him couch surf for a couple of night. and if not, he might take Don up on his offer to use the cot. "Once I'm done eating, I could use a shower, unless you have something you need me to do." "No, you go get clean and then enjoy your day." Patrick thought about the card in his pocket. Joey was right, he'd spent his childhood wishing he had a father, and now he did. He couldn't ignore him, and him being... what he was, was part of the package. he'd have to find a way to deal with it.
  19. Kindar

    Chapter 11

    The Missing Son 11 Patrick had just added the beans to the rice when the door opened. He quickly poked his head in the hall. "Hey mom, I didn't expect you'd stop by before going to the diner." His mother looked up from taking off her shoes, a tired expression on her face. "I'm not working tonight." She rubbed her feet. "Amanda owed me a shift for when I took hers a few weeks ago. I asked her to take mine tonight." "Cool. Then I'll have dinner on the table in fifteen. I'll grill some bread to go with the rice and beans." "Thank you, Patrick, that's very nice of you." She was still leaning against the wall when Patrick headed back to the stove. He stirred the beans in the rice, then turned on the oven. He took six slices of bread and put them in. The bread was going stale. He was going to have to find something to do with them before long. He put ice in a pitcher and filled it with water from the tap and put that on the table. He tasted the rice and added a bit of salt and pepper. They were running low on salt. They were running low on a lot of things. His mother let herself fall in a chair and rubbed her face. As tired as she was, she looked a lot older than forty-four. Patrick wished he could do something so she wouldn't have to work so much for them to make ends meet. "How have you been?" she asked. "It's been a few days since we've been here at the same time." "The weekend was good. The bar was pretty busy, so the girls were able to give a bit more of their tips. And I worked a few hours at the junk yard. Joey got a few pickups of stuff from one of the manufacturing building that closed. I put what I made in your check book." She gave him a tired smile. "Alright. I haven't had time to look at it today. I'll do that after dinner." He filled a plate with the rice and beans and placed it in front of her then filled his plate. He took the bread out of the oven and that went on another plate. Margarine went on the table. By the weight he could tell there wouldn't be enough for both of them. His mother cut a slice in quarters, spread margarine on them and put the pieces on her plate while Patrick grabbed glasses for them. He sat down, and she put her hands together. "Thank you, God, for the food before us, for my son who works hard to make his mother happy. I thank you for the work we get, and the blessings you send our way. Amen." "Amen." He broke a slice and forked his food on it before shoving it in his mouth. She took a small fork full of hers. "Slow down, Patrick. You don't have to rush off anywhere... do you?" Patrick shook his head and forced himself to eat slower. "How was your day?" She let out a heavy sigh. "It was okay. My department's getting a new supervisor, so everyone's nervous. They hired someone from outside, so we don't know what to expect." "Wasn't the position open internally?" She shook her head. "I'm pretty sure they have to offer it to their employees before they can look outside." She shrugged. "They're the ones who run it, they can do things however they want." Patrick decided to change the subject. "Since you're here, do you want to go do groceries after dinner? We're pretty much out of everything. If we can get a few eggs and some milk, I can turn what's left of the bread into dessert before that's inedible." He looked at the cupboard. "If we have any sugar left. I didn't check that." "Yes, that would be nice, going out together. I'll see how much we have available for food once we're done." She indicated the margarine as he took another slice and broke it in half. "Have some if you want." "Thanks, I'm okay. Don't worry about it." he forked more rice on the piece and bit it in half. She narrowed her eye at him but didn't say anything. Once they were done eating he did the dishes while she went to her room. When he was done she came back. "We have forty-two dollars for food this week." "Just that? No food credits?" "We already used what we had for this month." She sighed. "The electrical and phone bill came in today, the water's on Friday. Unless you know you're going to be making some money by then?" Patrick shook his head. "Joey isn't expecting anything large this week. I'll look for something, but not many people want to hire a stupid school dropout, even for labor jobs." She took his face in her hands. "You're not stupid, Patrick. I wish you hadn't had to leave school to help be pay the bills." "It's okay, Mom. I'm not complaining. It's the way things are. we'll get through it. God will see to it." She smiled at him. "Yes, He will." They went to the door. "Do you want to hit the day-old food store before or after the grocery?" he put on his jacket. and opened the door for her. "Let's do that first. Hopefully we can get most of what we need there." Patrick hoped so too. When he worked Joey fed him, so with him being here all week he'd have to go hungry if he wanted there to be enough food until next week. That or go to the soup kitchen at the back of the church. * * * * * Patrick looked around as they walked back home, unable to shake the feeling he was being watched. He kept expecting to see Saranto colors darting about, not that he thought they'd do anything on a busy sidewalk, that wasn't their style, they liked things more under their control. Now that he thought about it, it had been a few days since he'd seen any of them. That kid who attacked him was the last time. Five days? That had to be the longest he'd gone without one of them making his life difficult. Maybe one of the other gangs was giving them troubles. He could hope any way. "Is everything alright?" His mother asked. "Huh? Oh, yeah. Just looking around." She obviously didn't believe him, but didn't say anything. Still, he wished he knew why he felt like he was being watched. * * * * * Donald and Daniel sat in the car, silent. "I don't know if this is a good idea." Daniel said. "What's the alternative?" Daniel didn't say anything for a time. "You heard what Aaron said, Patrick thinks his father, singular, died years ago." "Even more reasons to have the talk with him. He needs to know this stuff, otherwise it's going to drive him crazy." Daniel sighed and nodded. He hesitated a moment then got out the car. The kids hadn't been kidding when they described the neighborhood. He knew some part of the city had been hit hard by the recession, but he hadn't thought any place had been hit this hard. Daniel's steps faltered at the house's front yard and Donald took a few more steps before looking back at him. Daniel looked at the small house, the faded blue paint, the weed covered lawn, the gray door and barred windows. Who could live in such a place? He forced himself forward and together they reached the porch. Donald knocked, and a moment later a tigress opened it. "Hello Margarette," he said before she could greet them. Her expression was tired, but curious. "Hello. Can I help you with something?" "Yes, we'd like to see our son." She was confused for a moment, then her eyes grew wide, before her expression hardened. "No. Absolutely not. He's my son, not yours." She tried to close the door, but Donald held it open. "Margarette, you sighed a contract, which you broke when you vanished. We didn't pursue it back then, but if you don't let us talk with Patrick we will drag you to court over this. Our brother has an entire law firm at his disposal and believe me, we will make use of them." Donald's tone was hard. Daniel put a hand on his brother's arm. "Donny, please calm down." He looked at the tigress. "We're not here to take him from you. We have sons, and we're happy, but he's our son too. And because of that there are things he needs to know, you too." "He's not here," she replied, "and even if he was, I wouldn't let two fags like you get anywhere near him." "Mom?" someone asked, further in the house. "Who's at the door?" Donald sneered at her. "Not here, huh?" He tried to push his way passed her, but Daniel held him back. "Danny, don't take here side on this. He's our son. She'd probably poisoned his mind already." "Donny, please calm down. I'm not taking her side, I'm trying to avoid this blowing up. Margarette, regardless of how you feel about us, Patrick is our blood, and that means he needs to be told some things. I really don't want to bring lawyers into this, but we will talk with him. You can either let us do that here, now, with you present, or we can go to court, and you will lose him." The tigress' face was a study in stubbornness, broken only when her son appeared behind her. "Who are you?" he asked. "Hello Patrick. I'm Daniel, this is Donald. We're your fathers." The tiger eyed them for a moment. "Is this a joke? Mom, who are these fuckers?" "Watch your language, Patrick," She whispered reflexively. Then her body deflated. "Come on in." "Mom? what's going on?" Patrick moved aside as his mother ushered the two tigers in. Daniel an Donald entered a small living room, crowded with Christian symbols, crosses on the wall, angels on the tables. The small couch was upholstered with Cherubs. "Sit down, Patrick." Her voice still barely above a whisper. She indicated two seats for Donald and Daniel to take, but they sat on the couch, close together. Donald smirked at her. Resigned, she didn't say anything. * * * * * "Mom?" Patrick was worried about her, he'd never seen her look so completely defeated. Not even when she'd lost the job she had before the diner, for not putting out to the owner. She sat and didn't look up from the floor. "one of them is your father." huh? "What? What do you mean, 'one of them'?" "I had sex with them and nine month later you were born. He stared at her for a long moment, just repeating what she'd said in his head. she wouldn't look up at him. he clenched his teeth, grabbed the picture frame on the side table and shook it at her. "Then who the fuck is that?" She looked up at it, then away. "You told me my dad was a war hero! You said he was deployed to Kenya just after I was born and died there saving his men! Are you telling me that was a lie? That I'm the son of one of those fags?" One of them made to stand, but the other held him down, getting a glare in return. Patrick could see the one glaring about to explode in anger, but he contained it and sat back down. The one holding him looked at Patrick, and Patrick realized who they were. They had seemed familiar on first seeing them, although he'd had no idea why, but now he realized they were those guys' fathers. He also realized he couldn't tell them apart. "You're gay too, Patrick." "No!" he yelled, his mother echoed him. "You can deny it all you want," he said, "but it's in your blood." "No, I'm not a fag," Patrick growled. "I'm straight. I'm no sinner." "What the fuck does sinning have to do with anything?" the angry one growled back. "Donny," the other one warned and was glared at again. Patrick let out a sardonic laugh. "What's it got to do with it? Everything. I'm a church going Christian. I've read the bible. I know right from wrong. I know being a fag's a sin." He wasn't a fag. There was no way he could be like that. "So is lying," the calm one said in a soft voice, looking at his mother, who looked away. He turned his gaze on him. "Patrick, if you don't want to act on it, that's your choice, but you need to know who you are. As our son, you are gay. That's in your blood. You can deny that you get turned on by watching guys in the locker rooms, but it doesn't change the fact that you do." Patrick tried to stare him down, to prove to him, and himself that what he was saying was wrong. He wasn't going to admit it to him, of all people. He was unable to hold the gaze for more than a few seconds, his ears burned as he looked away. "It isn't a sin," the tiger continued. "And it isn't a choice. If you decide not to act on it, make sure it's because you're making an informed decision, not because you're afraid." He stood. "Come on Donny, it's time to go." The angry one, Donny, startled then his face twisted in anger. The other one, Patrick through he'd said his name was Daniel took a card from his wallet and handed it to him. "I understand that this is a shock. If you want to ask us questions this is our number. Any time, day or night, call us." He took Donny's arm in his hand, but it was wrenched out as Donny stormed out. Patrick watched as the door closed behind them. he wasn't a fag it kept telling himself. He didn't care what they said. They couldn't make him one just by stating it. He realized he was still holding the frame and looked at it. His mother, in her early twenties with a man she'd claimed was his father. "Who is he?" She looked at him and he shook the picture. "Who the fuck is the guy in this picture?" She eyed it, and her face softened. "He's a friend." "He's alive?" She shrugged. "I guess. I don't know. I knew him when I was studying in Iowa." "And did you fuck him too? Is there any chance I'm really his son?" She shook her head. "That's great, that's just fucking great. I've got a fag for a father and you never through to tell me that? You just made up a lie about who my father was?" "I wanted you to be proud of him, not afraid he was going to hell." "And what about my soul? didn't you ever think about that? you heard them, I'm a fag too." "They're lying, you're my son." "How the fuck do you know?" the words slipped out and he couldn't take them back. But he wasn't going to add anything. Let her wonder what he meant. The dreams he'd had would stay in his head. How he'd felt in the locker room at school would stay there too. "I took you away from them to protect you. Don't you see? If I'd let them have you, you would have been drawn into a life of sin." "And living a lie is so fucking much better." "Watch your language Patrick Sanders." "Don't fucking tell me what to do!" "I'm your mother! You're going to do as I say!" "You're nothing more than a fucking liar!" The picture frame flew by her head before exploding on the wall. Patrick didn't stay to watch her reaction. In a few steps he was at the door, his jacket in hand, and then he was out the door, slamming it shut. * * * * * Daniel sped up to reach the car first. He didn't want Donny behind the wheel in his state. He grabbed onto the door and blocked his brother, which earned him another glare. For a moment he through Donny would shove him out of the way, but with a curse he went on the passenger side. Daniel sat and put his hands on the steering wheel. For a long moment the only sound in the car was Donald's heavy breathing. "Go ahead," Daniel whispered, "Let me have it." "What the fuck was that?" Donald yelled. "You saw what the woman's done to our son, He's fucking terrified of who he is!" Daniel closed his eyes. He hated seeing his brother when he lost his temper like that, so he wasn't going to look at him. "What did you want me to do, Donny?" He kept his voice calm, a counter point to his brother's scream, but all he wanted to do was cry. "We can't change things just by sitting down and having a talk with him. something like this isn't going to happen overnight." "So that's your idea? leave him with his mind twisted mother so she can add to the damage she's already inflicted?" Daniel flinched at the accusation. He could feel his eyes getting wet. he took out his phone an offered it to his brother. "What's that supposed to be for?" he growled. It took effort to keep his voice steady. "Go ahead, call Damian. Tell him to come take our son and bring him to that bedroom he has ready so he can do whatever he thinks is needed to fix him." Donald was silent. "Fuck." A fist slammed on the dash. "Fuck." Again. "Fuck!" Again. "FUUUUUCK!" When the scream ended the silence was deafening. Daniel let the silent hang for a long moment before opening his eyes. Donald was crying. He pulled him against him and rested his head on his shoulder and both of them cried. When he looked up and dried his eyes, he saw Patrick walk down the road, away from them. He thought about going after him, but there was nothing he could do right now. They all needed to take some time to let the night settle.
  20. Kindar

    Chapter 10

    The Missing Son 10 The minivan moved slowly through the neighborhood. Adam was driving and peering out, looking for the address his uncle had given them. The others were looking at the houses with lawns over grown with grass and junk, rusted cars in their driveways or parked on the street. The people walking by stared at them. "This can't be right," Aaron said, from the passenger seat. "Well, this is Caliban street," Adam noted. "And the numbers are going down, so we have to be getting close." "Maybe there's another Caliban street?" Arthur offered, "Or maybe the numbers restart at some point?" "Doesn't look like it." Alex raised his phone to show the map. Adam Brought the minivan to a stop against the curb. "It's that house." He pointed to the small one-story house with faded and pealing blue paint. Unlike the other lawn, this one was mowed, but there was still a lot of weeds on it. "Uncle Damian must have given us the wrong address," Anakin commented, which got him stared at. "Uncle Damian wouldn't have given it to us if he wasn't completely certain that was it," Adam replied. "Look at it," Anakin insisted. "How can he live in that if he's one of us?" "I wouldn't want to live there," Aiden agreed. "You have to remember, not everyone is as fortunate as us," Aaron contributed, "That doesn't make them any less good people." "Would you want to live there?" Aiden challenged him. Aaron didn't reply. His bedroom was probably larger than the whole house. They probably didn't have a pool in the backyard or workout equipment. Did it even have a backyard? "How about you Arthur? would you live here?" Aiden asked his brother, only to discover he wasn't there, and the door was open. Arthur was running toward the house. With curses, everyone left the minivan to run after him. They caught up to him just has he knocked on the door. * * * * * Patrick sat down to eat, his fur was still damp from his shower. He'd made a stew with the cheap meat his mom had bought and some of the vegetables that were getting a bit old. His mom had taught him all the tricks he knew for cooking, like the one about cooking tough meat for a very long time at low heat to tenderize it. He'd set the stew to cook as soon as he got up at two, and now he was going to enjoy it. There was a knock at the door. Patrick looked at the stew, fork in hand. Of course, his first meal in a few days where he can sit down and not have to worry about going to bed right after, and he's getting some door to door salesman. It wasn't like anyone else would knock at his door at seven at night. He thought about ignoring it, but he stood. It could be a neighbor who needed help with something. "Yeah?" he asked as he opened the door. A bunch of tigers were standing there, with one who couldn't be more than four feet at the front, gawking at him. They were dress way too good for the neighborhood. The taller of the group moved forward, standing next to the dwarf. He was wide shoulder and the muscles stretched what had to be a silk shirt. "Hi, I'm Aaron. we're your brothers." Patrick stared at him. Brothers? These guys were going to claim to be his brothers? He burst out laughing, then slammed the door shut. That would have been a good one, if they didn't look like they were Hollywood stars. He thought about going back to his food, but instead looked through crocheted curtain over the tall window next to the door. They looked utterly confused. What? had they expected him to go along with it? They exchanged a few quiet words, and Patrick noticed a few of them had wet eyes. What the Hell (sorry) was going on here? The tall one turned and they left, shoulders hunched, heading to a minivan parked on the opposite side, a little farther up. Patrick hadn't expected that. They were obviously rich, so why wasn't it a limousine? They entered it and stayed there. Okay, so why weren't they leaving? Well, whatever it was, it wasn't his problem. He turned and took a step toward the kitchen, only to stop and turn around. Fuck, he couldn't just let them sit there. Obviously, they were invested in coming here if some of them were crying. He grabbed his jacket off the coat rack * * * * * "I'm sorry," Arthur said, closing the door. "I shouldn't have run there. maybe it would have gone better if I hadn't been the one to knock." Anakin ruffled his hair. "No, I'm pretty sure we'd still be sitting here, debating what to do, or commenting on his house, but we certainly wouldn't have gone there and knocked on that door. You got the ball rolling, good on you." "Did we sound that crazy?" Albert asked, drying his eyes. "He laughed at us." "I guess it was a shock to him," Alexander offered. "Seven guys he's never seen before show up at his door and announce they're his brothers." "Maybe uncle Damian can get his phone number?" Aiden offered. "One of us can give him a call and try to explain the situation?" "And what could we say?" Adam said dryly. "The situation hasn't changed." "Hey guys?" Anakin nodded toward the tiger that was walking toward them. He'd put on a denim jacket over his wife beater. The jacket had seen better days. Aaron lowered his window as the tiger got closer. He could see fur through rips in his jeans, and he was pretty sure those rips weren't professionally done, but actual wear. "Look," the tiger started. "I'm sorry for laughing at you and slamming the door. But there's no way you guys are my brothers. I don't have brothers. My dad died right after I was born." Aaron had no idea what to say to that, so he did the introductions. "I'm Aaron, this is Adam, Anakin, Arthur, Alex, Albert and Aiden." The tiger didn't immediately say anything. "I'm Patrick." Most of the brothers winced to that. "What?" "We were kind of expecting your name to start with an 'A'," Adam said. "Why would you expect that?" "It's a family tradition," Aaron said. "Look, I already said I wasn't related to you." Aaron eyed him. "okay, on what day were you born? March thirteenth? Fourteenth? or fifteenth?" Patrick eyed him back. "Fourteenth." "Us too!" Aiden exclaimed. Patrick smirked. "Right, all seven of you were born on exactly the same day I was." Aaron realized it did sound a bit preposterous. "No, we were born between the thirteenth and fifteenth, but instead of having birthdays over three days we always ended up celebrating them on the fourteenth, so we decide to make it easy on everyone and picked that day as our official birthday." "So what? you guys were born a year apart, but basically on the same day?" "No, we're all eighteen, just like you." "Oh, so you guys are tube babies." "No, we have mothers," Albert said, "but our dads didn't want-" he didn't get to finish. "Dads?" Patrick stiffened. "Yes," Albert tried again. "Our fathers wanted..." "Look," Patrick interrupted again. "I told you. I'm not your brother. Now leave me alone." Patrick headed back to the house. "What just happened?" Albert asked. "I have no idea." Aaron sighed. "Okay, let's go home. We can ask the dads what we should do next. * * * * * Patrick slammed the door shut, but by now the anger was directed at himself. He shouldn't have snapped at them like that, but he'd just been taken by surprised when they said they had two fathers, which meant they were... Well, living in sin. He should go an apologize. The minivan was leaving when he opened the door. Oh well, it didn't matter anyway, they obviously had the wrong guy. He closed the door and looked at the picture of his mom with his father. It was one of the few his mom had kept around. She said the others just brought up too many memories. There was another one of him, on her bed side table, and Patrick had one on his, and he knew she had one in her wallet. As far as he knew they were the only pictures of him she'd kept, but she had so many stories of him Patrick felt he'd known him. He did wish he'd been around though.
  21. Kindar

    Chapter 09

    The Missing Son 09 Damian edged his car to his brothers' garage, and a moment later it opened. He parked next to Adam's Navaho, the hood was up, and tools carefully lined up on the liner. As he expected the minivan wasn't here. His nephews still had three hours of classes. He got out and smoothed the wrinkles out of his suit. His brothers ribbed him any time they caught him doing that. They also had many choice comments about the amount of money he spent on those suits, but Damian owned and ran the largest private multinational corporation, he had to dress the part. He looked at the Navaho's engine. The injector was off, he looked around and found it on the work table that lined the east wall. He looked at what else was taken out or disconnected. Adam was still trying to figure out how to turbo charge it, but he'd made progress. Damian was confident Adam wouldn't be asking him for help, so he was going to have to find something else to get him to take the trip with him. He ignored the doors on his right, all storage rooms, but peeking into the first one on his left, the lounge, not that they used it as such. Hooks on the ceiling for when they felt like using slings, as well as places against the walls for securing guys. lined the back. His brothers and nephews weren't into overly kinky stuff, but once in a while they felt like being kinkier than usual. In front of that three full sets of exercising machines, so the whole family could work out together. Staying in shape was a tradition every member of the Orr family embraced, except for Dominic, who'd been turned off it because of how Dietrich's ego got over inflated the bigger he got. The next door was Anakin's room. He didn't open it, even though he knew it wasn't locked. Other's privacy was a concept Damian had struggled with when he was young and his father spent a lot of time explaining it to him. In the end Damian filed it as something else that only applied to his family. The stairs took him to the main level. He walked down the hall dividing the house in two, currently the kitchen on his left and the dining room on his right. The wall past the opening had multiple picture frames, the extended family on one side, which he ignored and the other wall had the covers to computer games. He stopped just before the stairs going up another level. A new frame had been added, Future Action. He remembered his brothers putting it on the market four years ago, but he hadn't realized they'd sold it. He would have to look into it. Past the stairs, were Alexander, Albert and Aiden's bedrooms. He went up to the top floor, where he could hear someone typing. That would be his brothers, in their office. He passed Adam, Arthur and Aaron's bedroom, and arrived to his brothers. The door was open, the sound came from the open door on the right. Damian put a scowl on his face and stormed through the bedroom to their office. "How the fuck could you let that happen?" He yelled. "Hi Damian," his brothers said in unison, not looking up from their screens. They had repainted the wall since the last time he'd been here, they were now a rich earth red brown. The shelves were the same, with books after books of computer languages. Their desks were in the center of the room facing each other. They stopped typing and looked up at him. He studied them, like he always did, looking for something to tell them apart, any difference in the stripe patterns. He growled in frustration. "One of these days, I am going to carve your names in your foreheads. I shouldn't have to wait until we're having sex for me to tell you apart." He took a moment to calm himself, this was one of the few things that truly vexed him. "Now, who's whom?" "I'm Daniel," One said. "We can always start wearing name tags, if that'll help," the other, Donald, offered. Damian thought the idea ludicrous, they could switch them at will. Carving the names might be a bit extreme, but he could always scar one of them to create a difference, except that would go against his promise never to hurt a family member. "No. If father could tell you apart, then I will manage it also." Daniel smiled. "Good luck with that. Now, what has you screaming at us?" Damian crossed his arms over his chest and settled an angry expression on his face. "how could you let that woman leave with your son?" Donald sighed. "Well, that explains why the kids have been so well behaved for the last week. So, they told you." "Yes, on Wednesday, and don't you dare blame them. You had no right to keep something like that from me." "Hey, our lives are our own," Donald growled, pushing himself up. "We don't have to tell you every damn thing we do, Dam." "No, you are right, you don't." Damian made his tone reasonable now. "But when it affects the family, I have to know. I promised father I would look after everyone." "Dam," Daniel said, "Dad didn't mean that you have to be our guardian angel. we're perfectly able to look after ourselves, the lot of us." "You go tell that to Dietrich," He grumbled now. "Look, this isn't up for debate. He's an Orr and I'm going to go get him." "No! Absolutely not!" Donald got in his face. "You're not going to go there, storm in and breakup that family. He might have our genes, but he's her son now." Damian looked at Daniel, the less emotional of the two. "He's eighteen and no one has educated him. Do you have any idea what he's going to go through?" "The same thing the rest of the world does," Donald stated. Daniel continued. "So, he isn't going to be perfectly adjusted. So, what? Most people seem to manage." Damian couldn't stop the growled that escaped him. Why did these two have to be so obtuse at time. He expected this kind of emotional nonsense out of Dominic, but even Donald was normally much more rational for all that his temper tended to get away from him. "You are not thinking this through. His mother is a devout, old style, Christian, and she's raising him the same. She has filled his head with nonsense about sin and an angry god. Have you considered what will happen if he is the one who has a family? Do you really want our line to become tormented people, repressing what comes naturally to them? Because I promise you, if you don't do anything, that will happen. His religion will compel him to find a girl, have kids and raise them the same way he was." They were thoughtful now, so he continued. "I cannot let that happen, and I don't need your permission. Not if you are not going to see him as your own son." Donald sat down, shaken. Damian looked at Daniel. "Do you have anything to say?" His brother rubbed his temples. "Alright, you're right. We have to do something." Donald gave him a hurt look. "But Donald's also right. You can't be the one to deal with this. I'm sorry Dam, but you're not exactly the most well adjusted person. Your idea of helping him probably involves kidnapping him, locking him in a bedroom and twisting his mind until he doesn't know what he is anymore." Daniel locked eyes with Damian. "I can't let you do that to my son." Damian felt a tingle of excitement at the core of his being at having manipulated one of them into considering the child their son. "Very well, give me an alternative." He wasn't surprise Daniel had basically outlined his plan, of all his brothers, he was the one who could always work out how Damian thought. Daniel thought about it for a moment. "I think we need to let the kids handle it, at least at first. They're the same age, experiencing the same things, so it might be easier for him to accept it coming from them." Damian nodded, while he would have preferred his brothers take a direct hand in it, this was satisfactory, and it had the added benefit that if his nephews became attached to him his brothers would have no choice but to take him in. "Alright, and afterward?" "We handle it," Daniel answered. "As you pointed out, he's our son. he's our responsibility." "And if you screw this up?" "Then it's on our heads. We all screw up sometime, even you, we accept that. We'll do the best we can and see what happens." Damian nodded. He didn't screw up, but he knew he was capable of miscalculating, as the trip with Aaron demonstrated. He smiled at his brothers, now that this was resolved, he needed to take care of his tingle this manipulation had given him. He reached out and grabbed them by the collar. "Let's go seal this agreement in your bedroom." It wouldn't be as satisfying as when he was with one of his victims, but sex with his brothers had its own kind of satisfaction
  22. BigPuppyStuart

    Codex: Fauna

    Gai'talar is home to many animals that are recognizable to earth inhabitants but there are some that are different enough that they need to listed. Note that names for many of these creatures are mostly in english because all the races of Gai'talar have different names for them. Worldly: Creatures found on Gai'talar Magus sharks: A type of large shark that has somehow become imbued with magical energies. They are different enough in appearance from normal sharks to be recognizable. Seem to be able to use rudimentary magic. Magus Sharks along with more mundane Varieties are considered pests by Lutrondae. Ascendant Magus sharks: Like the more common magus sharks these are imbued with magical energies but are also gifted with greater intelligence. They have been seen working together to perform tasks and seem to have sophisticated communication. Ascendant Magus sharks have markings that are capable of emitting light as well as bending it. These Sharks are able to render themselves nearly invisible. Not much is know about Ascendant Magus sharks but it is noted that they seem to be non hostile toward seagoing vessels and have never attacked sailors in the water. Like normal magus sharks the Ascendant magus sharks use magic but are rather adept at it. It was once observed that a pair of Ascendants used a floating sphere of water to peer above the surface of the sea and observed the tropical port town of Mad Rat's Landing. Harper whales : This is a carnivorous cetacean that resembles an orca but is dark blue and grey instead of black and white. Harper whales are very intelligent in that they seem to be able to tell land dwelling species apart and may even be able to recognize individuals. They have a well established pattern of not bothering hesken but displaying extreme hostility toward Ulvaltar the hesken's close relative species. This has led to a practice among Ulvaltar to avoid beaches during certain times of year. There are a myriad of hypothesizes about why this is but no evidence to back any of them. They get their name because ancient Ulvaltar or Hesken used to use the jaw bones of washed up dead Harper whales to make harps. SeaBears: the catch all term for a group of predatory pinniped of large size. Their behaviour depends on which species of Seabear it is. There are 3 species. Domesticated SeaBears: Coastal Hesken have long taken to herding and breeding Seabears and have done so long enough for them to become domesticated. They use them as farm animals when they farm the coastal waters for kelp and use that as herding animals when fishing. it is not sure how large land based animals like the Hesken started domesticating large marine mammals but it happened all the same. Domesticated Seabears are only Dangerous if threatened or aggravated and are generally considered safe. The Alo still dislike Domesticated Seabears generally though despite the Alo and Hesken having a long standing close alliance. Mild Seabears: Are curious and playful and are no more aggressive than sea-lions. Mild Sea bears are still a threat to Lutrondae children. Malicious SeaBears: Larger, spotted, far more aggressive and territorial than other seaBear species they seem to enjoy cruelty and will swarm on land to attack villages and communities by the sea. They are particularity fond of attacking skitritch and Alo communities for some reason. They show some level of intelligence in that they attempt to cut off escape by guarding boats of villages they attack. They also seem to recognize different species. They seem mortally afraid of Hesken and Ulvaltar and will flee at relatively small forces of these species even when they attack larger numbers of other peoples. The theory is that Hesken and Ulvaltar are recognized as predators as the 2 species have been hunting seabears for hundreds of thousands of years. Hesken on the other hand love finding Malicious seabears as they enjoy hunting them ,provide challenging combat, a good source of meat, pelts and bones for art or tools. It has also been noted by a renowned SeaBear hunter turned naturalist that he and his wife both derived some extra glee from fighting seabears beyond what they can get from them. His wife put it this way "It is like i am fulfilling some old vendetta but I have no idea what the original grievance was." While he in his notes put it like this, " Seabears seem to enjoy terrorizing our Alo neighbors and i rather like the Alo so that seems as good excuse as any to kick the crap out of something. Though there is more to it than that, i just like fighting seaBears." Otherwordly: Creature that come from other realms. Shadowland creatures: Creatures that come from a particular realm called the Shadowlands. Not All Creatures from here are evil but it is home to so many unpleasant things it is not fondly regarded. Shadow Vipers: indistinct masses of darkness that are vaguely snake like and have a deadly bite. Appear to be matte black and completely non reflective. Evaporate into nothing when killed and don't seem to have a flesh body. Some mages are completely immune to their venom and can somehow eat them despite the serpents having no real flesh on them. Eating these creatures gives the mage some form of sustenance but it is not known exactly how. Anyone who tries to eat them that are not the particular type of wizard immune to their venom gets sick or dies and the creature just evaporates. These creatures are considered extremely dangerous but their bites are treatable and they can be easily killed. They shy away from intense normal light and retreat from most magical light. Divine light produced by a priest or religiously devout wizard causes them to burn. They can be killed using shadow based magic but it is not as easy to do unless you know what your are doing.
  23. Kindar

    Chapter 08

    The Missing Son 08 Patrick walked to the bar. It was Sunday night and he was feeling good. His knee no longer hurt. He'd used some of the tips the waitress gave him to get some medicine for it so that by the time Friday came about he was okay to work. He'd called Joey to get a few hours at the scrap yard, but the bulldog wouldn't talk to him until Monday. His mom hadn't been happy about finding out he'd been in a fight, but she knew he hadn't started it. She called the police, over his objections, and two officers took his statement, but since Patrick couldn't give them anything more species and gang affiliation, they weren't optimistic. Patrick didn't think they'd even bother looking into it, after all this was the Brownstones, the police didn't exactly care what happened here. Patrick lifted his jacket's collar and pulled it tight. Tomorrow was the first day of spring, and he hoped it would bring a change in the weather because he was getting tired of this cold. He caught movement out the corner of his eye, a flash of color, Saranto colors. He turned, but whoever it had been, wasn't there anymore. Patrick cursed. He was only half way to the bar. Was it worth running? His knee could take the run, but what if this led to an ambush? He couldn't afford to get hurt again. He couldn't spend any more time off work. He paid more attention, and he caught the colors again in a reflection. As far as he could tell it was only one person, with mottled fur. He didn't see enough details for a species, but he seemed on the smaller size. With this gang member tailing him he made sure to keep an eye in front of him for any indication more were waiting. They knew his route, he always followed the same path, which was stupid on his part, now that they wanted him dead. He couldn't afford to make it easy on them. He turned on a side street and picked up his pace. If there was someone waiting for him they'd have to reposition themselves now. Steps quickened behind him. This street had fewer people on it. Patrick wasn't sure how he felt about that. The Sarantos wouldn't attack him in crowded places, but now? Fuck it. He stopped and turned to face his pursuer. and barely ducked in time to avoid the baseball bat. The kid, a rabbit, wielding it couldn't be more than fifteen. "What do you think you're doing kid?" Patrick asked. "I take you out, I become a big man." The rabbit swung at him again. Patrick stepped back. "Kid, I took on three of yours last week and I walked away. I don't want to fight you." "Way I heard it, you had help. Don't worry We're going to find them too and make them pay. No one goes against the Sarantos and live." Figured they'd make up something. They couldn't just say he'd gotten lucky. "You got to be stupid, why else you'd refuse to join?" Patrick looked around, both to see if more Sarantos were coming and if some of the passerby might help. The few people there had moved to the other side of the road. He was alone, yet again. Patrick stopped and raised his hands. "look kid, you don't have to do this. The gang isn't going to do you any good. It's just going to drag you down with it." "You want me to be stupid like you? I'm not. I'm a Saranto. I'm going to be an important guy after I kill you." he swung at him, but this time Patrick was ready. He caught the bat in his hand and ripped it out. His hand stung and he could barely hold on to it as he threw it in the street while he caught the rabbit by the collar with his other hand. What the fuck was wrong with kids these days they'd want to join? When he was that age, threats were used to get kids in the gang. The rabbit's hand flashed and Patrick dropped him with a yell of pain. Three lines of blood appeared on his hand. "You little son of a bitch, that hurts." "You're going to hurt a lot more by the time I'm done with you." "Okay, kid. I'm going to teach you something about taking on someone who's bigger than you." It only took two steps to reach the rabbit and grab him by the base of an ear. He pulled him hard, making him scream in pain, and dragged him until he was against the wall. "That hurts doesn't it?" He slammed the kid against the wall a few times. "This is what pain feels like. you like it? You think this is just for fun? You think being in a gang's going to keep you from getting hurt?" Patrick stopped talking and moving. The kid was bawling his eyes out, his hands on his; trying to get him to let go of his ear. Fuck. what was he doing? He was just a kid. He let him go and took a step back. The rabbit crumpled to the ground holding his head. At least there was no blood anywhere. He would only have bruises. "I'm sorry kid. I shouldn't have done that." The rabbit looked at him, hate blazing in his eyes. "You're dead. you hear me? You think you can treat me like that and walk away. I'm going to kill you. you hear me?" Patrick just stared at him. he was threatening to kill him, after what the tiger had done? What was wrong with the kid. "I give up. You want to kill me, fine, you come and take you best shot, but you're going to want to bring backup, because next time I'm not going to be as nice." Maybe what had just happened to him finally registered because the rabbit's hateful gaze turned to worry. Patrick didn't stick around. He had to go to work. Fuck, why couldn't his life be nice and peaceful.
  24. Kindar

    Chapter 07

    The Missing Son 07 Damian walked back to his office. "Alice, I need you to find out what and when the next event that Commissioner Hyacinthe is attending is, and who we normally send there." "Yes sir." He entered his office and was about to close the door when she called to him. "Actually sir, there's one tonight." "Good, who are we sending?" She took a moment to find the name. "Benita Johanson, out of finances." It took him a moment to remember who she was. Benita was an armadillo, she was married, had been for twelve years now. She had a son and two daughters, twelve, eight and thirteen. She was a good worker, often stayed late when it was needed. "Tell her to do enjoy her evening, I'll go in her place." He started to close the door, then paused. "Wait, is this a woman only event?" "No sir, it's a gala to raise money for the police's retirement fund." "Alright, good, is there a required dress code?" "Yes, it's black tie. Do you want me to inform them of the change?" Damian shook his head, "No, there's no need. I'll simply look for Benita's card." He closed the door. He would have to stop by his condo and change. He still needed to decide what he was going to do with what his people found on the woman who had kidnapped his nephew. He could simply go take his nephew and fix him, it wouldn't be too difficult. But he was family, and he had to consider what that meant for the mother. The promise he'd made to his father only involved taking care of his family. The situation with his nephew wasn't covered by it. He wouldn't be breaking his word if he ignored the mother. Or he could approach this from multiple angle, set things up for him to take him, while approaching his brothers with the information and seeing what they did with it. There was one thing he needed to get started regardless. The meeting with the commissioner was one part of it, the other would be handled by the security company. He sent the necessary messages to get that started, then settled in for the rest of his day. * * * * * The gala was held at the Old City Hall, the room could easily host a thousand people, and it was almost full, even if Damian had arrived half an hour early. Finding out where the Commissioner was seated had only required him talking to the host. Having his card, Benita's, moved to be seated next to her was only a question of paying one of the servers to move it. He waited for the gazelle to sit down before heading for their table. Before he reached it, a slim black bear looked like he was going to sit next to her, noticed the name on the card, read it again, before heading out, searching for someone. Damian sat down. "Commissioner," He greeted her, setting his untouched glass of Champaign down. The gazelle looked at him, then the card in front of him. "Benita?" She asked. He gave her a charming smile. "Actually, it's Damian. Miss Thortorne's youngest daughter fell sick so she had to go home. No one with the right seniority in financial was available, so as owner of the company, it fell to me to come. I just had time to stop home to change and come here." "And which company do you own?" "Diamond Enterprises." Her ears went up. "Really? I know your company has given a lot of money to the police over the years." "The police do important work, I believe it's also important that as a company, and a citizen who benefits from that work, I show my appreciation for it." She looked at him. "You certainly have a concise way of putting it." "Thank you. Actually, it's fortunate that I'm here tonight, I've been thinking of contacting your office to discuss funding your anti-gang task force, I believe it's something you've been looking to do for some time." "Yes, but It wouldn't look very good for the money to come from a corporation as large as yours. It would make it seem like you're trying to buy our services." Before Damian could reply the lights dimmed and a hyena in police garb stepped on the stage. She talked for a time about the kind of work the police did and the financial difficulties the recession had caused. Here and there she must have said jokes, because people laughed. Damian patterned his reaction after those at his table, two police chief and their spouses. Damian felt the speech was boring, it wandered all over the place. If the speaker had taken the time to formulate it she could have said what she wanted to say under three minutes. Twenty minutes later she introduced the commissioner, who left the table to go say a few words. Her speech was better prepared, and well-rehearsed. Damian could hear the cue cards she'd memorized in the tempo of her voice. She didn't meander, and was only there for five minutes. What she said was summed up by, the police work hard, so those who reach retirement age need to be able to afford to enjoy it. And the people in this room were responsible for that to happen. As she came back to the table, and someone else took the podium, a server placed a plate of food before him and the others. It was a platter of expertly made sushi with a variety of fish meats and vegetable, each piece had a card indicating the provenance of the fish that was used. All of them came from well-regulated fish farms, he was pleased to see. "That was a good speech," he said as the gazelle sat back down. The others at the table nodded their agreement. He gave her time to savor one of the piece of sushi before whispering to her. "I promise you, I have no intention of trying to buy the police force. I already have enough to manage with just my company" She chuckled, and Damian wondered what might have been amusing in what he said. He let her eat some more, but she was the one who talk to him. "Regardless of your intentions, the public would see it as such." "Only if the public knows it came from my company. It's easy enough to route the money as donations from multiple origin." She eyed him. "That doesn't sound particularly legal." He smiled. "I assure you, it's completely legal. Politicians have made sure there's enough loophole in the donation laws I could drive your money in an armored car through them." She looked at him thoughtfully before going back to eating. He must have said that wrong, except he was certain he'd repeated it exactly as Rigel said it went. Another example of why he didn't bother with humor. He let them finish the plate in silence. When the server cleared the table, he looked at Damian's still full plate, but the tiger nodded for him to take it away. They brought a streak, from the smell of it, basted in a red wine sauce with garlic and sesame. He expected it to be quite tasty. "You seem quite determine to get me to agree to this, I have to wonder why." "Well, eliminating gang violence was part of your platform when you became commissioner six years ago. Since then you haven't seen much successes in that. As with many things lack of resources is why. I agree that gangs have become too strong in the city. I could certainly use the money to pay private security company to deal with them, but I expect you would frown on such actions." "Frowning is a very mild word for the reaction I'd have." Damian nodded. "Which is why I propose to give that money to you so you can fund more personnel, better tool and training." She was silent as she ate, and Damian didn't interrupt. once their plates were cleared, with another odd look from the server at Damian's full plate. "The food isn't to your liking?" she asked. "At two thousand dollars for the meal I'd expect you to want to enjoy it" "As I said, I wasn't supposed to be the one coming here, I had already eaten a substantial meal before coming." "You could have cut your food, made it look like you ate some of it." Damian looked at the desert placed before him, a rich looking cheese cake drizzled in a kiwi coulie. "I suppose I could, but I don't see the point. By leaving the piece whole, they are in a position to donate it to someone who is in need." She smiled. "I have to say the way you look at things is refreshing. How about we do lunch tomorrow to discuss this proposal further? I know a nice place by the waterfront that's very discreet." Damian smiled. "That would certainly be agreeable." She wrote down the address for him and they agreed on the time. He watched them finish the meal and then left. * * * * * Damian entered his condo and headed for his bedroom, where he undressed and folded his tuxedo. In the morning he would drop it off at the cleaners. After that he went to the kitchen, where he took out a thick steak, the making of a lemon rosemary glaze and a salad with a raspberry dressing. Watching those people eat made him hungry, so he allowed himself a larger portion than usual. After that he called Jimmy, his driver. He was slowly prodding how far he could push the wolf, and he was finding him pleasurably malleable. A few hours forcing him to have sex would be good before bed.
  25. Kindar

    Chapter 06

    The Missing Son 06 Adam parked the minivan in the school's parking lot. He looked to Aaron. "Well?" Aaron sighed. "Yeah, yeah. I know." He turned to the back. "Alright, Alex, you have all the stuff we found in the attic?" Alex patted his bag. "Alright, we're all agreed we need to ask uncle Damian for help?" "Well," Aiden said, "We agreed to it, you sort of just went along with it." "I said I'd go with the majority. Okay, so it's important the dads don't realize what we're doing. Make sure you all call one of them to let them know you're going to be home late and that you're going to arrange for a ride yourself." "Got it." They replied. Aaron wasn't looking forward to that visit, but they'd spend three days going through the documents from their births and hadn't come up with anything. He knew they could manage it on their own, but he couldn't know how long that would take, like them he didn't want to have to wait before meeting him. they had been separated for eighteen years, that was eighteen too many. Which meant Damian. Aaron shuddered then exited the minivan. "Hey guys," a broad shouldered wolf, in the green short of the football team, greeted them. The seven of them turned as one to look at him and they all smiled. "Hey Zack," Arthur said, licking his lips. "To what do we owe the pleasure of this encounter?" "I... errr..." The wolf rubbed the back of his head. "I was wondering if any of you were going to be at the football game this Saturday." "Oh yeah, we're going to be there." the brothers answered, Except for Alex. He stepped in front of the wolf. "I don't know." He ran a finger along the wolf's jaw. "What's my incentive for showing up?" Zack panted, then tried to swallow. "I can show up early, and ... you know." Alex smiled. "I'm kidding. I'll be there, you don't need to offer yourself to me for that." "Really?" The wolf sounded disappointed. "He's right," Arthur said. "You don't need to offer anything, but." He ran a finger down the wolf's chest. "If you were to lead your team to a victory, I know I'd be willing to reward you properly." "Yeah," Aaron added, "I'm sure we all would." Zack looked at them, then swallowed hard. "All of you?" Nods. "At the same time?" The smiles on the tiger's faces became even wider. "Oh, err, I, Okay. I have to go, errr, practice, yeah, right. I have to go practice." The wolf left in a hurry. They watched him go, their eyes on his ass. Aiden sighed. "He does have a great ass." "Yeah, he does," Adam agreed. "I don't know," Albert said, "I prefer his pecs. Don't look at me that way," he added when he felt his brother's stared at him. "You six as all ass obsessed. I happen to think there's more to him than just his ass." "You are absolutely right," Adam agreed. "He also has an amazing cock. Thick and veiny. I can't wait for him to fuck me." "You think he'll be able to fuck all of us after the game?" Aaron asked. "Sure," Alex replied, "but only one of us gets to feel him cum." Aiden discretely readjusted himself "Well, now that we've made sure I'm going to be hard all day, I need to get going. I have a music class in ten minutes." "I have a chemistry class," Arthur said. "I have math," Alex groaned. "I'll walk with you and offer moral support." Albert put an arm around his brother's shoulder. "I'm heading to the library." "alright," Aaron said. "I'll see you all here after class." and with that they went their separate ways. * * * * * Adam parked the minivan in the first available parking spot he saw on the street. They were downtown, and only his intimate knowledge of city streets allowed them to make it before the office closed. "Why don't we go in the underground parking?" Alexander asked. Adam looked over his shoulder. "Right, because they would let this heap in there. You probably didn't notice, but just in the time we reached this spot two Cadillacs exited while a Bentley and a Ferrari entered. This is a building where they only let people with money in." "We have money," Aiden commented. "Dads have money," Adam countered, "We're just the kids, and a minivan doesn't exactly scream 'rich family coming through'." "It's uncle Damian's building," Arthur said, looking up in awe at the tall skyscraper. "He'd let us park inside." "What's there to be impressed about?" Alex asked. "You've been downtown before. You where there when Dads won the game designer's award last year." "Sure, but this building is in our family, and it's the tallest one in the city." Alex looked out the window and smiled. "Okay, when you put it that way." "Well, we can't count on him cutting us any slack," Aaron commented. "He doesn't know where coming, so we'd have to pay anyway. It's going to be cheaper to put money in the meter. We won't be here long. Hell, he might not even see us." "You didn't call him?" Adam asked. "No." "Why not?" Aaron sighed. "Because I don't want to be here. Look. I'm sorry. I know I should have. I just couldn't get myself to do it and talk to... him." Adam looked at him with worry. "It's okay," Alexander interjected, "we're family so he's going to see us." "This isn't a family gathering," Aaron replied, "where everyone jumps from one bed the another as he pleases. This is his company; uncle Damian is a busy man." "Isn't that why it would have been better to call ahead?" Arthur asked. "No, it's a good thing Aaron didn't call," Adam replied. "For all we know he would have called dads, and we wouldn't have been able to leave school without them escorting us home. Alright, let's go." Anakin put the eight dollars in the meter and they now had half an hour. The lobby was large, with a water fountain in the middle shooting a jet of water in the air. Albert whistled at it. They attracted a few looked from the security people at the desk, but their school clothes were good enough to fit in with the other people. The elevator that took them to the top floor was large and luxurious, but played the same kind of muzak every other elevator they'd ever taken. Aiden hummed in time to it, and got stared at by his brothers. "Do you really have to do that?" Alexander asked. "I don't have my guitar to play along with it, so humming has to do." Aaron chuckled, glad for the distraction. Aiden was the musically talented one in the family. He played the guitar, the flute, the piano and the trumpet. He had perfect pitch, sang in the choir and composed his own songs. Their fathers had suggested he become a concert pianist, but Aiden didn't care for that kind of pressure. He preferred recording his songs on YouTube. He'd developed enough of a following with all the songs he'd uploaded there that he'd be an instant success if he decided to publish an album. Aaron looked at the numbers and his dread climbed with them as they come closer and closer to one hundred. "Adam," He whispered to his brother. "I can't do it. I can't be the one to talk with him." Adam squeezed his hand in comfort. "Don't worry, I'll do it. I just wish you'd tell us what happened between the two of you." Aaron closed his eyes, fighting back tears and shook his head. When the elevator dinged and the doors opened he'd gotten his tear under control and dried his eyes. They stepped out and looked at a wall with a diamond shaped glass in the middle of it. Above that a sign read: "Diamond Industries", Under the glass another sign: "Because diamonds are just coal under pressure". They stared at it for a moment. "Does that make any kind of sense to you?" Albert asked. Heads shook. "Uncle Damian must have been the one to come up with it then." Arthur said. Everyone nodded. They walked around the wall and the space opened up to cubicles and glass offices. It didn't look like there was a lot of people in the room, but they looked very busy. They headed for the largest office, at the back of the room. Like the others if was glass, but double the size, and the blinds were closed. The sign on the door read: "Damian Orr" Adam opened it. It was a reception. A gazelle was seated at the desk. She looked up from her computer at them, then at the clock on the wall. It was five forty-five. Her ears shook for a moment then she got them under control. The wall behind her was opaque, and had a door in it. "Can I help you?" she asked as they reached her desk. the plaque on it read 'Alice Turbone'. "We'd like to see Mister Orr." She looked at the clock again. "Do you have an appointment?" Adam shook his head. "Mister Orr is a very busy man." Her tone was friendly, but firm. "He doesn't have time for walk-ins. Specially not fifteen minutes from closing." Adman's smile faltered. "We're-We're his nephews. Could you check with him? Please?" She looked at him, then the others, studying them for a moment. She picked up the phone. "Mister Orr," she said after a moment. "I'm sorry to disturb you during your meeting, but there's a group of youth here who would like to know if you can find the time to see them." She listened for a moment, then looked the tigers over. "Seven of them, sir. Yes, tigers." She was silent, then surprise on her face. "Very well." She hung up. "He's wrapping up his meeting and he'll see you." "Thank you, Alice," Adam said, "thank you very much." Albert moved to the wall, studying the painting there, while the others found seats, purposely avoiding sitting close to one another. "Excuse me," he asked, looking over his shoulder, "is this an actual Rembrandt?" "No, dear, it's a reproduction." He looked at it again. "Are you sure?" "Yes, the original is in a museum." Albert frowned and moved his muzzle until it was almost touching the painting and he sniffed it. "Smells about right for the era," he mumbled to himself. He checked that she wasn't watching him and ran a finger over the part of the bottom, feeling the paint's texture. "This isn't a reproduction." He took out the small flashlight attacked to his key chain and used its powerful light to study it up close. "There's even cracks in the paint." and he thought he could see dirt in there, although that would require taking the painting to a lab to confirm. Albert took a step back and looked at the painting, the tumultuous sea, the gray sky with sun rays making their way through. The boat and the people fighting to keep it from overturning. It felt real to him. "If this is a forgery, I want to meet the painter." "Albert, stop peering holes in it and come sit down," Aaron said. Albert sat down next to him and started leaning against his brother, who cleared his throat and indicated the secretary. Albert straitened. "I don't get your fascination with those old painting. Your stuff is as good at them." Albert shrugged. "I'm no master. I just dabble in painting." "You dabble, just like Aiden plays with toy pianos. You have to stop selling yourself short. You should be studying to be a painter instead of planning on doing restoration work. There's no money in that." Albert sighed. "Can we not have this conversation again? You know I don't care about money. I want to make sure the work of the masters will survive." Aaron might have said more, but the office's door opened and an angry elephant in a very expensive gray suit stormed out. He glared at the tigers then left, slamming the door behind him. Alice didn't flinch at the sound. "Mister Orr can see you now." The seven of them entered. The office was larger than their living room, and they'd had parties with more than fifty people in that room. They now realized this office extended the entire length of the cubicle room. The only things in the room was a black desk, with two black seats, standing out against the polish white marble floor, and in front of a glass wall looking out over San Francisco. Damian stood behind the desk. "Come on in!" He had a wide smile. "I have to say this is quite the unexpected surprise. I'm afraid most of you will have to stand, this is the most people my office has ever seen at one time." "Hey uncle Damian." Adam realized he was nervous. What's wrong with you? he asked himself, you're never like this around him. You've had sex with him for God's sake. Snap out of it. But this wasn't home, in the living room or one of the bedrooms. He was in his office, and for all that he was smiling, right now the tiger before him didn't feel like his uncle, who could get him to try things he'd never dare, would be afraid to even contemplate, but would end up loving. No, here, in his environment, his uncle looked like what he was, one of the most powerful man in the world, one of the most feared. Damian directed his smile at Adam, and the teen felt himself relax a little. He knew that smile. he'd seen it often while on his back, his uncle thrusting in him. "There," Damian said, "that's better. You all know you've always been welcomed here, even if it's taken this long for you to visit." He came around the desk, hugged and kissed each one of them. leaving them smiling, blushing and sporting a hardon. even Aaron, who went stiff when his uncle wrapped his arms around him, couldn't stop himself from reacting when those lips pressed against his. He might hate his uncle, but the man was one hot kisser. Damian leaned back against his desk. "To what do I owe this pleasure." It took Adam a moment to find his voice again after that kiss. "We found out we have a brother we didn't know about." He then went on to recount the discussion with their fathers. Damian listened intently, standing eerily still. When he was done with that Alex took out a stack of papers from his bag. "We went through the attic," Adam continued, "And found a lot of papers about our births and the times before that, but nothing that helped us find out which woman disappeared with our brother. We though the contracts would help us, but that wasn't there." Damian took the papers Alex proffered. "They wouldn't keep those in the attic. They have a safe deposit box for those kinds of documents." "That's what we figured. Can you help us find him?" "Yes, I can." "What's it going to cost us?" Aaron asked. "Nothing," Damian answered. "This is family business, I wouldn't think to put a price on that. Leave these with me, and I'll let you know once I've found him." Arthur hugged him. "Thanks uncle, you're the best." "You're welcome. And if I don't see you before that, I'll make it up to all of you for missing your birthday during the summer picnic." Damian watched his nephews leave. "Alice." His phone beeped, then rang. "Yes, Mister Orr?" her voice came form the speaker. "You should have left after ushering my nephews in." he speed read the papers. "You aren't required to work pass six." "I know sir, I just wanted to make sure they wouldn't have any trouble leaving." "You are a horrible liar, Alice. You want to make sure I leave the office." "Well, you do have a bad habit of spending far too much time here." "That comes with owning and running a multinational corporation." "It doesn't mean you should be sacrificing your health to it, sir." "I promise you, Alice, I take excellent care of my health. Now, go home. Unlike me, you have a husband waiting for you, and while I'm certain he appreciates that with the kind of salary I pay you there comes some sacrifice. Tonight isn't one of those." "Does this mean you'll be leaving with me?" "Unfortunately, not tonight. I still have some work to do, but go home, Alice. Go enjoy your evening." "Alright, have a goodnight Mister Orr. I'll see you in the morning." The phone disconnected the call and he put the last page of the stack on his desk. His first instinct was to go see his two brothers and knock their heads together. What had they been thinking, letting one of their sons get away like that. What was this nonsense about them having enough kids? It wasn't about how many kids they had, it was about him being raised right. He spent the next hour making calls. Putting his best people on sifting through each and every scrap of information about his nephews' conception and the events around it. After the calls were placed he went home. It would take a few days before he had anything he could use. A good meal, some exercise, then a full night of sleep. Alice would be pleased he didn't spent the whole night in the office.

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