The Thrill of Magic by Kate Pavelle

January 26, 2015

Title: The Thrill of Magic

Author: Kate Pavelle

Pairing: Wyatt and Jack from Zipper Fall

Prompt:   celebration

Jack turned on the dishwasher, rinsed and dried his hands, and glanced toward Wyatt’s bedroom. Wyatt had never formally moved in with Jack, and Wyatt still had his old, cheap apartment, but he’d never made the commitment to living together, for better or worse. Moreover, Wyatt had been spending more time in his bedroom—one that Jack had set up and decorated just for him only half a year ago—almost every day.

The door was closed.

Damn.

Jack poured himself a bourbon on the rocks and crossed into the living room, where he slid behind his computer. The seat hugged him in its perfect, ergonomic way. The screen woke up, the unfinished spreadsheet opened.

Fuck!

He bit his lip and reached for the crystal tumbler. The ice chinked through its thin walls and the coolness of ice felt soothing and familiar as Jack tried to fight down a swell of panic. He sipped, feeling the sweet and woody notes, the smoke and the tannin and the sharp sting of alcohol on his cheek. The scent of adventure.

Adventure!

That was the problem. Adventure. Wyatt, the love of his life, was an incorrigible adrenaline junkie. Just the way they’d met, Wyatt rapelling into Jack’s bedroom, with burglary in mind, showed a lot about the sort of adventure that scratched Wyatt’s itch. It’s been about six months since Wyatt had done something like that, and the need within him must have been immense. Spring was in the air, newly awakened blood must have been coursing in his veins, and all those unattended houses, just waiting to be infiltrated….

Jack took a swig and broke into a bout of cough.

Dammit.

Wyatt’s restlessness had been getting worse and worse until right after Valentine’s Day when he had begun to regain a sense of inner calm. Jack had thought Wyatt had been blown away by their weekend getaway, but even though that might have helped, Jack knew that wasn’t it. His mind drifted to the ways in which Wyatt could get a fix. None of them were safe. All of them threatened the unity and the comfortable home they had both worked so hard to build.

His eyes began to water from having been glued to the screen for so long, and Jack realized he hadn’t done a smidgeon of work. He had been sitting there, staring at his spreadsheet, drinking bourbon.

Unhealthy. No shit, Sherlock.

He was tempted to burst into Wyatt’s room and demand explanations. He wanted Wyatt to account for his time alone. Wyatt’s room had a fire escape. Suppose he’d been sneaking out, going on a prowl, committing a quick home invasion here and an adventurous lock-picking there just to keep sane? He knew such action would have destroyed any trust they had built between them. The soft, comfortable nights with Wyatt’s head on his arm. Wyatt’s unruly hair in his face, making him sneeze. Wyatt’s passion, and the trust in his eyes as Jack took him and loved him and possessed him until the air got thin, the world receded, leaving just the two of them.

For that, Jack would keep controlling his temper. For that, he’d stay his hand and not intrude upon Wyatt’s privacy. He walked to the kitchen and reached for the bourbon.

Unhealthy.

Water. What he needed was water, and water he got.

 

Wyatt’s door opened, and Wyatt stepped out wearing jeans, a dress shirt, and a blazer over it. The look he gave Jack was cagey, as though he was hiding something. A shiver passed through Jack. So Wyatt had been hiding something—something that had scratched that wild, adrenaline itch of his. He considered Wyatt’s flushed face and wide eyes.

Drugs?

He couldn’t imagine Wyatt on drugs. That would be even worse than burglary, or risky rock-climbing stunts on the downtown office buildings.

“Would you like to go out?” Wyatt’s voice had a determined edge to it. “You look stressed. I think we need to get out of here for a little while.”

“I already had a  bourbon.” If Jack disclosed he’d had a drink, his coping mechanism wasn’t a problem. Or was it?

“There’s always ice cream,” Wyatt said. “Although I wanted to hit the South Side. Just walk around, y’know… take in the sights of crowds of rowdy party-goers.”

“Vicarious thrills?” The words were out of Jack’s mouth before he knew it.

“Maybe, maybe not. You comin’?” Wyatt’s eyes softened. He wanted Jack’s company. A sudden curiosity flamed within Jack. Wyatt was up to something.

“Sure. Gimme a minute to change.”

 

East Carson Street was the wild, bar-hopping part of Pittsburgh where bad things happened. One of the crowds of college kids roving the street spilling out of a beer bar and made a right toward Margaritaville. Careless and loose with drink, the guys joshed and elbowed one another while the ladies hustled to keep up in their high heels.

“Check this out,” Wyatt said, leaning in close so only Jack could hear. “Hey, girls, you lost something!”

As they turned around, Wyatt bent to the sidewalk. When he straightened, he had a five-dollar bill in his hand.

The three girls stopped. One called out to the guys, and the guys stopped to wait.

“Here,” Wyatt said and handed the bill out to them. Jack looked on. He didn’t quite know what was going on. Did someone really drop some money? They were right under a streetlamp, and Jack figured he’d have noticed.

“Not mine,” a short blonde said. The second girl shrugged and ran her hand through her hair in what seemed to be a habitual gesture. The third one, though, nodded. “Oh, thank you! How nice of you!”

Jack frowned. Something was off. A glint in her eye, a hint of a smile that tugged on Wyatt’s mouth. Wyatt offered the five dollar bill, and the girl reached for it, not looking down, smiling prettily into Wyatt’s face.

She screamed.

Jack looked down. Now everyone was looking at her hand, a hand with a writhing snake in it. She screamed again and shook her hand, trying to shake it off, but the snake wrapped its body around the warmth of her wrist.

One of her girlfriends took a few steps back while the guys guffawed with laughter, but the blonde stepped forward. “Don’t move,” she said in a level voice.

“Yeah, don’t move,” Wyatt said and moved forward.

He stepped back toward Jack again. Jack stood there dumbfounded. The girl had a five-dollar bill in her hand, all crumpled. The snake was gone.

“How did ya do that?” The blonde girl asked, giving Wyatt an accusing look.

“Do what?” Wyatt shrugged.

“Where’s the snake?” One of the guys was looking Wyatt up and down. “You better not be messing with them.”

“I can’t even return someone’s money anymore,” Wyatt said with a sigh. “Here, check my pockets. No snake!” He spread his arms out. The guy approached him as though on a dare, and Jack felt a pang of sudden sympathy. He knew this couldn’t end well. The guy gave Wyatt a polite, cursory patdown, apparently keeping his distance in case the snake made a reappearance.

“See, no problem,” Wyatt said in a soothing voice Jack knew all too well. He bit the inside of his cheek in an effort not to grin as he saw the guy step away.

“Shit,” the guy swore. “I figured… oh, whatever, man.”

“Yeah,” Wyatt nodded. He turned to Jack as though they were about to go, when he looked back at the group of college kids. “Oh, here. I almost forgot. I believe this is yours.”

Jack was amazed and appalled when Wyatt proferred an expensive-looking watch in the college kid’s direction.

“Shit, man!” The kid felt his wrist—empty—and grabbed the watch out of Wyatt’s hand. He then looked at his friends. Jack saw they were torn between outrage and laughter.

Wyatt cleared his throat. “Oh, before you go… you have something of mine in your pocket.”

The guy dove his hand in, only to pull it out and rip his jacket off. “Snakes! Shit, fuck, snakes!”

The blonde girl picked his jacket up, extracted the snake out of his pocket, and handed it over to Wyatt. “Be nicer to your friend,” she said in an amused voice. “I wouldn’t want to see him get stepped on!”

“Thanks.” Wyatt reached for the snake—and she ended up with that old, crumpled, five-dollar bill in her hand. Then he turned to Jack. Had it not been for the fine flush and slightly widened eyes, Jack would have assumed Wyatt was entirely calm and casual. He wasn’t, though. Wyatt was high as a kite, riding on a wave of adrenaline comparable to the ones he used to get from burgling a house, or free-climbing a rocky face.

Happy and exalted, Wyatt met Jack’s searching gaze with his playful one. “Can I treat you to a drink?”

Did you enjoy Kate Pavelle’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code KatePavelleFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 22, 2015.

Monopoly by Jameson Dash

January 24, 2015

Title: Monopoly

Author: Jameson Dash

Pairing: Aaron and Zach from Home Team

Prompt: monopoly

“You’re giving me the wheelbarrow?”

“Well, you’re not getting the dog. The dog is mine.” Aaron said this with Rocket’s head pillow on his thigh, the two of them curled up on the couch together.

“Yeah, I can see that.”

Zach hadn’t played Monopoly since he was a kid. Aaron explained that it was a ploy he and Rosie invented, a way to convince their parents to let them stay up late. A game of Monopoly could go on forever, and it was easy to beg for a few more minutes after bedtime.

“Let me say again that I don’t approve of you being the banker,” Zach said.

Aaron nodded. “Your protest has been noted for the record.”

He suggested Monopoly when Zach asked what he wanted to do for New Year’s.

“Seriously?” Zach had asked. “I thought you retired from hockey, not from life.”

But Aaron promised him a good time, even if it was going to be a good time at home. He promised Zach he would cook dinner, which was usually enough to get Zach to say yes to anything. But Zach didn’t tell Aaron that. Aaron had too much power over him already.

Aaron came home on the afternoon of the 31st with a grocery bag and a bottle of champagne. Zach was sneaking a look at his work email, in his pyjamas on the couch, but he looked up guilty anyway when Aaron stomped his boots at the front door and announced his arrival.

Dinner was a lazy affair. Zach drank wine at the kitchen table while he watched Aaron dance around the kitchen. Staying home meant they didn’t have to dress up, and it also meant Aaron was wearing sweatpants. Zach watched his hips twitch as he rolled out the pasta, leaning over the counter.

They ate on the couch, Zach’s feet up on Aaron’s lap. When their lips were red and buzzing from the spicy tomato sauce, they kissed, hours before midnight, but not caring at all.

And then Aaron pulled out the Monopoly board.

“I don’t even remember how to play,” Zach told him.

“Of course you do. It’s like riding a bike.”

“No,” Zach said. “You’re thinking of a bike.”

“You buy things, Zach. That’s how you play Monopoly.”

He busied himself with starting a fire while Aaron set up the board, shuffling the cards and counting out the money. It was dark and cold outside, but still early. Zach wasn’t even sure he would make it to midnight tonight.

Last year, it had been a lot like this. Zach had the warm house, the cuddly dog, and champagne chilling in his fridge.

But he didn’t have this man sitting on his couch, brow furrowed over brightly-colored money, teasing Zach with a smile as he waved the tiny wheelbarrow in his face.

“I’d give you the shoe,” Aaron said, “but I know you’d never wear anything that looked like this.”

Zach left the warmth of the fire behind and climbed on Aaron’s lap. They didn’t make it to midnight, but Zach had nothing to worry about.

Their new year was going to be just fine.

 

Did you enjoy Jameson Dash’s story? If so, check out the rest of Jameson’s books and take 25% off at checkout with the code JamesonDashFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 24, 2015.

Wally’s Orphans by Andrew Grey

January 23, 2015

Title: Wally’s Orphans

Author: Andrew Grey

Pairing: Wally and Dakota from A Chaotic Range

Prompt: Marzipan

“Wally!” Dakota called at the top of his lungs.

He looked up toward the barn door where snow blew past, creating a curtain of white. Wally gently patted the goat he was examining. “Don’t worry. You’ll have your babies soon.” He stood and pulled his coat closed around him. The early spring snow storm had begun in the night and didn’t show any signs of letting up.

“What is it?” Wally asked as he reached the door. Dakota appeared out of the white and entered the barn, stamping off his boots. “I thought you were plowing the drive with the tractor.”

“I was, but I saw something in the snow.” Dakota opened his coat and Wally gasped. “There were two more, but they were already dead. The mother seems to have curled into a snowbank. She must have been injured because she was gone as well.”

Wally lifted two of the pups out of Dakota’s arms and let him keep the other two. “You poor things.” He whispered. “They’re cold, but warming up. Let’s get them in the house so I can look them over and then get the poor things something to eat.” He was already out the door and on his way to the house before he turned around. “What are you waiting for?”

“Shouldn’t we leave them in the barn?”

“No we shouldn’t. Now hurry up before you catch your death.” He turned and marched to the house. Inside, he waited for Dakota and got him to sit in one of the chairs. “Take these two and hold them all close. I’ll be right back.” Wally hurried to the back pantry and got a box. Then he raced upstairs and got two old towels and a heating pad. When he was back downstairs, he lined the box with the towels and heating pad, plugged it in, and turned it on. Then one by one, he placed the small brown puppies inside.

“I wonder how they got there. I nearly ran over all of them,” Dakota said softly. “The plow blade passed right next to them. If I’d been a foot to the right….”

Dakota was a huge man, but he had such a wonderful heart that he’d stolen Wally’s a number of years earlier. “I’m going to look each one over. Would you warm some milk? I have some droppers in the clinic that I can use to feed them. They’re going to need food quickly.”

“All right. I’ll run out to the barn and then I’ll be back to help you feed them.” Dakota took off and Wally picked up each of the puppies and gently looked them over. German Shepherds by the look of them, or at least in part, and they seemed about four weeks old. Their eyes were open and they seemed responsive.  “Are they okay?” Dakota asked after stomping in and closing the door.

“Yes. What about the plowing?” Wally took the droppers and syringes that Dakota brought.

“It’s taken care of.” Dakota took off his coat and sat down on the floor next to Wally. “What do you need me to do?”

“Get me some milk to start with.  I’ll make up a formula once we’re done that will be better for them longer term.”

Dakota nodded and got back up. He strode into the kitchen, and Wally heard the refrigerator open and close and then the microwave run for a few seconds. Dakota returned with a mug and sat back down. Wally got a dropper and picked up a puppy. He pulled some milk into the dropper and gently placed it on the puppy’s tongue. It licked it up and was ready for more. Dakota got another of the puppies and did the same.

“They’re hungry little guys aren’t they?”

“Yeah, that’s a really good sign. I’d say you got to these little ones just in time. I wonder why they survived.”

“They were in the middle and all curled together. The others were on the edges and more exposed to the snow. But you’re right. They wouldn’t have lasted much longer.” Dakota continued feeding the puppy. After five minutes, they switched puppies, placing the fed ones back in the box and picking up the others.

They switched back and forth until the puppies curled in a pile in the box and seemed ready to go to sleep. “We’re going to have to feed them often, but they’ll be okay.”

Dakota got up and stretched his back, then he pulled on his coat. “I’m going to bring in some wood and start a fire. We’ll all be warmer.”

“Thanks,” Wally said and sat next to the box, watching the pups. They snuggled in a little puppy pile. With the next round of feeding, he’d try bottles to see if that would work.

The back door opened and closed. Dakota trudged in with an armload of wood and began building a fire. It didn’t take his very capable partner very long to have a fire warming the room. Once he was done, Dakota hung everything up and made some hot chocolate for them both before settling on the sofa. Wally joined him, curling close. “You’re warm,” Dakota whispered.

“So are you,” Wally said as he wound his arms around Dakota’s middle.

“What are we going to do with them?”

Wally lifted his gaze. “They’ll make great ranch dogs. We can keep one or two. Milford will probably take one, and as soon as Phillips sees them, he’s going to want one.” Wally angled for a kiss. “Don’t worry. We’ll only keep two at the most, and I’ve already picked them out. See, I want the little boy with the honey coloring. He’s going to be Marzipan, and the one with the Black head and tawny ears is Sasha.”

“You’ve named them already?”

“Of course. How else do I get you to agree to add to our menagerie?” Wally chuckled and sipped from his mug before setting it on the coffee table.

“You know I’ll do whatever you want,” Dakota whispered.

Wally shifted closer. “And you know I love you for it.” Wally kissed Dakota hard, crawling on top of him and pressing Dakota back on the sofa.

“I love how you show your appreciation.” Dakota drew him down into a kiss, sliding his work-calloused hands under Wally’s shirt and up his back.  “Lock the door and pull the curtains.” Wally jumped up and did just that before rejoining Dakota on the sofa.  They showed each other their appreciation, deep and slow, not once, but twice, and ended up curled together as warm and comfortable as a pile of puppies in a box in front of the fire.

 

Did you enjoy Andrew Grey’s story? If so, check out the rest of his books and take 25% off at checkout with the code AndrewGreyFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 23, 2015.

The Scariest Halloween Ever by Pearl Love

January 22, 2015

Title: The Scariest Halloween Ever

Author: Pearl Love

Pairing: Reggie and Charles from Juicy Bits

Prompt: costume

“Come on, babe! The party starts at eight, and I promised to help Sam and Jen with set up.”

Charles ignored Reggie’s bellowed request as he held up his costume, or rather, the two strips of cloth that made up nearly the whole of his costume. He would honestly rather walk out in the black boxer briefs he had on than this questionable ensemble Reggie had forced on him. The final item, a large plastic bone, lay on the bed. He glared down at it balefully.

“Charles,” Reggie called out again, his voice getting louder as he approached the bedroom door. “I’m usually the one that takes forever to get ready, so what’s the hold up? Jen will kill me if we’re late.”

“What in the bloody hell is this?” Charles held up one strip of cloth in either hand as his husband stuck his head into the room.

Reggie blinked innocently. “It’s your costume, silly.” His body remained out of view, but a bone slightly smaller than the one laying on the bed was perched jauntily atop his head, held in place by an elastic strap. Charles thought he had no business throwing about the “silly” label with respect to anyone else.

“This is not a costume,” Charles sighed. “It’s at least a misdemeanor in several states.” He could hear his accent reach Colin Baker’s Doctor levels of crankiness. Reggie chuckled, his bright grin flashing against his dark skin. He came fully into the bedroom to display his own homage to Samhain. Charles blinked as his jaw fell open. “What in the bloody hell are you wearing?”

“Two ‘bloody hells’ in five minutes? You know I love it when you talk dirty British to me,” Reggie crooned unapologetically. He made a beeline for the bed and threw himself on it so he bounced on the firm, but not too firm, mattress. He picked up the forsaken bone and waggled it at Charles. “Don’t you dare try to get out of this. You promised you’d come. Jen is my boss—”

“No she isn’t,” Charles scoffed.

“Jen is in charge of payroll, so without her, my half of the bills don’t get paid. So, get with the dressing, and let’s go!”

Charles groaned, knowing he was fighting a losing battle, but unwilling to give up without at least trying to salvage his dignity. “What is this thing even?” He tossed the larger strip of cloth, which was orange and bore some odd pattern of large, triangular polka dots, toward the bed while waving the longer swath of dark brown cloth he held clutched in his other hand for annoyed emphasis. A small surge of petty victory rose within him when the orange fabric landed on Reggie’s head.

Undaunted, Reggie flipped up his new headgear and raised his eyebrows. “What, you’ve never heard of the Flintstones? The modern stone age family with their dino-dog, their adorable daughter, and her super strong toddler boyfriend?”

Charles stared incredulously. “What are you talking about.” He paused as a memory sparked. “Oh, wait. The old cartoon show, right? I think I’ve seen an episode or two, but I don’t remember the main couple or their neighbors having children.”

“Ah.” Reggie held up a finger. “Then you haven’t seen the latter part of the show. Yeah, Fred and Wilma have a daughter—” He lifted up the hem of his green top, which had the same triangular dot pattern as the fabric currently on his head. The motion revealed the scandalously tight blue shorts he wore underneath. “And Barney and Betty had a son. That’s you,” he added, pointing toward Charles.

“Hmmmm.” Charles pondered the explanation, seeking and failing to find a way to poke a hole in Reggie’s now obvious idea. “You’re dressed as the daughter, right?” he asked for clarification and reassurance.

Reggie chuckled. “Yeah. I figured I’d pressed my luck enough by asking you to come to this costume party with me without also making you play the girl. Besides,” he said in a slow drawl, “your abs will look way better in the Bamm Bamm costume than mine ever could.”

“Bamm Bamm? Seriously?” Charles felt a throbbing in his temple heralding a headache.

“Pebbles and Bamm Bamm.” Reggie sighed and shook his head. “You’ve been in the U.S. for years now. It’s past time you caught up on the pop culture. I’ll show you some clips of the show when we get home.” Before Charles could politely decline, Reggie hopped up from the bed. He whisked the orange fabric off his head and approached Charles with a menacing grin. “But now, it’s time you got ready for this party.”

Six minutes later, Reggie was stepping back with a self-satisfied smirk on his full lips. “Oh, yes. I was so right about that costume.” He abruptly grabbed Charles’ arm and angled him toward the full-length mirror standing in the far corner of their bedroom. “There, see?”

Charles stifled what he really wanted to say in favor of “Well, I guess it’s a good thing one of us stayed out of the candy stash.” The orange cloth was secured around his hips and the brown piece was draped over his left shoulder with the bone secured at his waist so it appeared to be holding the brown fabric in place.  “I feel ridiculous.”

“Well you looked hot.” Reggie bit his lip. “In fact, why don’t I call Jen and tell her we’re going to be about a half hour late—”

“Oh no.” Charles spun around and speared Reggie with his best glare. “If I have to wear this…thing, then I refuse to let you enjoy it any more than you absolutely have to.” He caught Reggie’s grin before he turned to stalk out of the room.

“We’ll see.”

Charles laughed despite himself as Reggie’s taunt followed him down the hall toward the front door of their condo.

 

Did you enjoy Pearl Loves’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code PearlLoveFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 22, 2015.

Flying by M. Raiya

January 21, 2015

Title: Flying

Author: M. Raiya

Pairing: James and Ambient from Another Healing

Prompt: friends

“Are you ready?”

“No,” Ambient said quickly, heart pounding. “James, I can’t do this!”

“Yes, you can,” their friend Jules said.

Ambient shook his head emphatically and gave James what he hoped was a pitiful look. James—his lover, fiancé, and demon—looked back, face set and unreadable.

Jules laughed. “You two are hopeless.”

“No, just scared,” Ambient said.

James and Jules were sitting next to each other on a large boulder the glaciers had abandoned on top of the hill a few thousand years ago. Ambient stood on the grass about twenty feet in front of them. It was a still, dark summer night, moonless and warm: perfect for witches and demons to practice their arts unobserved by Vermont’s more human population. No one was awake for miles, but they hadn’t risked a fire, just in case. All three could see well in the dark.

“Forsooth,” Jules said. “Thou both agreed to enter into my training, choosing myself over the esteemed Dr. Anderson to develop and hone your talents to prodigious heights. By doing so, thou didst pledge to let me determine the pace and subject matter of thy learning. Therefore, thou both must trust me and accept my judgment as law.”

“Jules, going all Elizabethan doesn’t make this easier.”

“Ancient phrasing doth indeed open the channels of the ancient ways and power into which we tap.” The jewelry maker nodded sagely. “Here on this hill beneath the sky, the earth and the heavens do meet and cradle us in the hands of the old ones, that their memory be not erased from this earth.”

“We only chose you because Anderson is too busy training my sister,” Ambient said. “And the poor old ones will never be the same again if they’re trying to cradle James and me.”

Jules flung back his head and let out his big, comfortable laugh. Even James cracked a smile, Ambient noticed, which was saying something. He knew James was really nervous too.

Jules, an experienced witch, had been instructing them since last fall. They had raced through the preliminary skills because James was damn good for being self-taught, and he was a powerhouse as well. Ambient was a quick learner, even though he hadn’t known he was a witch until a few months ago, and had almost gotten killed shortly after discovering his birthright. A few renegade demons had wanted to experiment on him and James. One of them had been Jules’ ex-demon. It was due in no small part to Jules that the two of them had survived to become the working team he was trying to make them. They trusted him implicitly. But that didn’t make what Jules had planned for tonight any less frightening.

Ambient was going to learn how to fly.

“Are we going to do this?” James asked, jumping down from his perch on the boulder.

“But of course,” Jules said. He stayed on the rock, crossing his legs casually and folding his arms. “Ambient, we have discussed the technique many times. You and James have become very proficient at stacking wood without touching it. It is time to move to the next level. You are in control and may draw power from James. James, your role is to bolster Ambient, anticipating his needs, feeding energy through your link even before he requires it. Your shared concentration must be perfect.”

“Don’t you think we could touch each other for this one, while we start?” Ambient asked.

“No,” Jules said firmly. “You cannot count on being able to touch James or even having your diamond to draw power from. I want you fully accustomed to working on your own. Only when you’ve mastered your exercises may you have the luxury of working in contact.”

Ambient sighed. Jules was right, of course. But was Jules so adamant about it because he’d had lost his own partner years ago?

“Fine. James, be ready to heal me if I fuck this up.”

James’s gaze was steady. “I won’t let you fall.”

Ambient drew a deep breath. How the hell could James be so confident all the time? James hadn’t been fazed by anything Jules had had them do. On the other hand, James always had his feet on the ground. It was Ambient who was the focal point, the one in charge of the working. Tonight, he could literally break his neck if he didn’t get it right. This was the most difficult exercise they’d worked on so far, and the most dangerous.

The problem was that he could make even simple exercises dangerous. He’d dropped a chunk of wood on Jules’s foot a few weeks ago, trying to stack it, and broken one of their mentor’s toes. Last week he’d almost gotten them struck by lightning, just trying to make a little rain cloud. And they wondered why he was worried now.

“Jules, have you ever actually done this?”

He saw their mentor hesitate. “Only once. And I’m not going to delay your first experience by telling you the story. Gentlemen, please calm your bodies and focus your minds.”

Well, if he was going to break his neck, he’d better get on with it.

Ambient drew a deep breath, let it out, and raised his eyes to James’s. In the shadows, James’s dark eyes and hair and tanned skin blended into the night. All three of them were all dressed in black.

After a moment, James’s eyes began to glow red. It was a warm, comforting light; it was a feeling of tangible strength and love.

Ambient let his next breath out with a sigh. He might feel jittery, but he knew in his soul that he would never come to harm. Not when James’s single wish in the world was to keep him surrounded by a bubble of love.

James was his demon, destined to be his magical partner before either of them had been born. He was also destined to be far more.

“You’re still thinking,” Jules said.

“Sorry,” Ambient said. He centered his mind, letting go, letting James’s steady gaze fill his senses. For a moment, he thought about what their lovemaking would be like later tonight. Using magic hit James like an aphrodisiac. Then Ambient let even that thought slip away until he closed his eyes and held his own essence in balance.

“Deeply centered,” Jules said. His low voice was a familiar anchor.

Ambient perfected his balance and then poised himself, ready.

“Now, James,” Jules said. “Reach out and surround him. You are becoming the air that holds him and the air he breathes.”

Like a soft tendril, Ambient felt James’s touch. He opened himself to it, felt the warm sensuousness of it, felt the power. So much! He didn’t even have to draw on it; it was as though he and James were one, and the power was theirs to share. He could feel it surrounding him as Jules had directed. It held him and filled him. It was wonderful. Their magic had never felt like this before. He had no idea what they’d done differently this time. Maybe it was just the natural result of the months they’d been working together. Whatever it was, Ambient felt for the first time that maybe he really could fly.

“That’s it,” Jules said encouragingly.

Ambient opened his eyes, wrapping the power around himself like a cloak, and locked gazes with James again. Despite Jules’s encouragement, he waited for James’s nod. Then he spread his arms like wings and drew on the skills Jules had taught him. This time, instead of seeking to move a chunk of wood, he focused on himself.

For a long moment, nothing happened. It felt strange and awkward to twist the energy back around himself instead of sending it outward. He felt James seeking to help him, but this was in the range of abilities that only witches had, leaving him alone to figure it out. All James could do was offer support by firming the air around Ambient as Jules had directed.

And then, suddenly, he had it. Holding his body motionless, he practiced in his mind. It was a bit like driving a car in reverse, using mirrors. Cautiously, he felt it out, working backward, experimenting, going from side to side until he found the middle of the road. Then, more confidently, he began to pick up speed.

“You’ve got this, Ambient,” Jules said.

Amazed, he realized that he did.

“I’m with you,” James said, moving forward a pace.

Ambient held his breath, gathered his courage, and lifted himself into the air.

Despite his new confidence, he fully expected to crash down. But he didn’t. He was floating a whole foot above the ground! He heard himself laugh with delight.

“Stay focused!” Jules said sharply.

Ambient’s focus was the last thing in the world he would give up. This was the most amazing thing he’d ever done. He bent his right leg and raised his arms higher. This felt incredibly like swimming. Then he tweaked the energy just—so.

He rose higher with ease, as light and free as he’d dreamed he would be. He stopped when his feet were as high as James’s and Jules’s heads, held there for a moment, and then flung back his head and soared.

“Ambient!” Jules shouted.

The earth was too far away to possibly matter, to have anything to do with him. He was part of the wind, part of the clouds, a song that rose and glided across the heavens in the light of the stars that burned so close….

A sudden memory came to him. Eighth-grade English class in a hot and stuffy room, part of a life that meant nothing to him now that his world was filled with power and magic. Old Mrs. Eldridge’s voice came to him: “But Icarus flew too near the sun, and its warmth melted the wax that held his wings together. Without them, he plunged to his death in the sea….”

But oh, what a glorious death it must have been.

“Ambient!”

A tug from far below. His anchor, his mentor. Jules.

Ambient resisted.

“Ambient, get your fucking ass down here now!”

No! He was the sky! The land spread out below in a patchwork of trees and fields, cut by snaking roads and rivers, all silvery in the moonlight, shimmering like the sea in the wind.

But something else tugged at him. Someone he did care a great deal about. Someone familiar and sensuous and… James! God, how could he have forgotten James? The lure of flight and the desire for his partner warred within him for a moment, and then, reluctantly, he started downward.

Suddenly, exhaustion burned through him. He became aware of channeling energy again, aware of how much strength it took. Shit, what if he’d drawn too much from James? Swiftly, Ambient let himself plummet. Wind tore at his clothes and hair, filling his ears with its rushing sound. When he slowed, sounds from the ground reached him again—a car horn, a dog barking. Then trees became individuals instead of a waving green mass. He slowed and aimed for the clearing below. Even as tired as he was and as strong as his love for James was, letting go of the sky was brutally hard. Only the knowledge that he could do this again soon kept him going down. The clearing became a hilltop with a round boulder in the middle. At last, he could see the two men standing beside it.

James.

He wanted James’s arms around him again. The pull of that longing brought him the rest of the way down. Something in him, some of the wild wind that was now part of his soul and would be forever, made him pause and then gracefully sweep in a circle around the boulder before coming to land lightly on the balls of his feet, chin raised. For a second, he poised there, and then he let gravity have its way with him again. He lowered his arms, fully expecting both of them to light into him about being a reckless idiot.

But Jules had turned away and was leaning heavily against the stone, his head buried in his hands. Before Ambient could figure out why, James swept him into his arms and gave him a kiss that threatened to explode Ambient’s mind. Passion seared between them with such intensity that, had they been alone, they would have been naked and on the ground behind the boulder in moments. As it was, only the knowledge that James had to be angry with him made Ambient pull back and look cautiously into his partner’s eyes.

James sent him a look that clearly said the kiss would be continued later and whispered, “Do you have any idea how fucking hot you looked?”

Ambient stared at him. “You aren’t furious with me?”

“Hell, no! I had you all the time. It was effortless. You knew exactly what you were doing. You could have stayed up there an hour. I only tugged you back because Jules was freaking out.”

Ambient shook his head. “I was starting to feel the strain, at least once Jules called my attention to it. I shouldn’t have gone so high. I was totally caught up. How much were you feeling through me?”

James’s eyes burned with so much exhilaration that he didn’t even have to answer. “Can you lift me with you too?”

Ambient only had to think about it a moment. It would take some major reconfiguration, but… “Hell yeah!”

James started to pull him back into his arms, but Jules cleared his throat.

“If you two are through congratulating each other.” Jules’s voice was curt and snappish. Ambient braced himself again. James might have understood, but their mentor could not have been pleased with Ambient’s loss of attention, to say nothing of common sense. Jules hadn’t specified how high Ambient could go, but Ambient didn’t think it would do him any good to point that out.

They turned to him.

But all Jules said was, “We’ll meet after breakfast tomorrow,” and stalked off toward the woods, not toward the path that led down to the farm.

Ambient shivered. The three of them had always walked home together after a training session. God, Jules must be really furious. Ambient felt worse than if Jules had lit into him.

James hesitated a moment, then ran after Jules. Ambient groaned, knowing that was just going to make it worse. If Jules needed time to cool down, they ought to let him take it. But Ambient couldn’t help going after James.

“Hey!” James called.

Jules didn’t pause. He was almost at the tree line, about to disappear under a large pine. Ambient couldn’t shake the memory of how the tree had looked from above. He longed so badly to see it that way again that his feet actually left the ground for a few steps. This was going to take some getting used to.

“Jules!” James called again.

He didn’t stop.

Let him go, Ambient thought. This is only going to make him angrier. Usually James was so perceptive. Why was he doing this?

“How long ago was it that you flew?” James called to Jules’s back.

Jules froze.

Oh, Ambient thought.

He caught up to James. When Jules finally turned, Ambient realized that he’d completely misinterpreted the situation. There were tears running down Jules’s face.

“Damn it, I thought I had this under control!” Jules wiped at his eyes furiously. “It was a long time ago. It doesn’t matter.”

“Jules,” James said. “It was the night you broke up with Allen, wasn’t it?”

Jules drew a ragged breath and looked away again. Holy shit, Ambient thought. James had really figured this out fast. Then Ambient shuddered. Oh, how he understood what Jules was feeling right now. How thoughtless had his question been when he’d asked Jules if he’d ever flown?

“I would kill Allen right now if James and I hadn’t already done it,” Ambient said.

Jules finally faced them. “Allen killed himself. You two just assisted him. But what was between Allen and me was a long time ago. I’ll see you both in the morning. I’m sure you have urgent, pressing needs to deal with.” Jules attempted a grin.

Ambient and James exchanged a quick look and came to an instant agreement. James said, “I’m not sure we’ve ever really thought about the sacrifice you’re making to teach us.”

Jules looked up at the sky, where Ambient could see the moon trying to break through thinning clouds. He fought an urge to feel moonlight in the air, and he looked away quickly. Jules was clenching and unclenching his hands as he struggled with his emotions. “I wanted to teach you,” Jules finally said. “I can deal.”

“Do you want to talk?” Ambient asked quietly.

“Nothing to talk about,” he said quickly, but made no move to continue on into the woods.

“Damn it,” Ambient said, moving closer to Jules. “After what I just experienced, I can’t imagine breaking things off with James and making it so I could never fly again. It would kill me. What did Allen do to you, Jules?”

“Oh, hell,” Jules said. He roughly leaned against the pine trunk, then let his shoulders slump in defeat. “Allen was a bastard however you looked at him. I don’t know if he was always evil or just grew to be that way, but he was corrupt by the time we recognized our connection. At first, I was thrilled because I’d known Allen for years as your family chauffeur, James, and I figured he must be all right because he worked for good people. I—”

“When was this?” James interrupted.

“After we’d graduated high school and you were trying out college. I never had any idea you were a demon. I didn’t even know Allen was until the day Anderson introduced us and we both felt the connection. I’d always known what I was. My parents were witches; I was trained from my first breath. When I finally found my demon, it was wonderful. At first. Then I began to realize we had vastly different interpretations of what witches and demons were. He chose a more—I don’t know—stereotypical understanding? And he began to force those values onto me. I resisted. Our relationship suffered. Suffice it to say that the day I flew for the first time—and was caught up in the emotions of it the way you just were, Ambient, the way a person should be—he twisted me in a horrible way. He got me to fly through a woman’s open window to steal a jewelry box full of family heirlooms. It was for me to gain inspiration from, he said, because he knew I was opening my own jewelry store and making my own pieces. He made me think it was all right, until I had the box in my hand. And then when I faltered, he sent pain through our link.”

James gave a low groan. Ambient darted him a look, remembering the time James had told him it would be just as easy to kill as it was to heal with his powers.

“When I came back to land—without the box—we fought. It was terrible. But I proved stronger, and I cut him out of my mind and burned our link. I tried not to hurt him. I tried to make him see the other choices he could make, but he was not having it. What I ended up doing left him with only a shadow of his own strength, he had put so much of himself into me to control me. And you two know well what a wreck of a man that made him. My mistake was that I didn’t know he could still be dangerous to our kind. And to make up for that, among other reasons, I am offering my knowledge to you two.”

They both stared at him.

Jules pushed himself away from the tree and ran a hand over his eyes again. “So yeah, it hurts like hell to see you flying, Ambient. But at least I get to feel your joy tonight. Allen did not, since he is finally dead and gone.”

Ambient suddenly found James’s arms around him. He hadn’t realized he was crying too, until he was sobbing into James’s shoulder. The emotions of what he’d just been through were still rushing around inside him, and it was impossible to reconcile Jules’s terrible story to some place in his mind where he could process it later. The agony in Jules’s voice hurt so bad.

Deep inside the link in their minds, James whispered, I can help him, if it’s all right with you. And he shared his plan with a few quick images.

Love blossomed up in Ambient’s heart, and gratitude for this wonderful demon who was so truly his partner in all things. Do it, he whispered back.

James let him go and turned to Jules. He stood before him with open hands. “Draw on me. Fly again.”

What?” Jules looked completely stunned.

For answer, James closed his eyes and let the power flow.

“No!” Jules gasped. “That’s between you and Ambient. This has never been done!”

“Who cares? I’ve been raised outside the system, and I’m a healer first and foremost. I’m constantly trapped in situations where I can’t heal without revealing myself. Please let me do what I love to do when I can. Besides, I’ve got a shit-ton of power. You’re an incredibly talented witch. Fly.”

He shoved so much power at Jules that Ambient, watching, felt like James just slung Jules into the night sky. The moon came out an instant later, and through a fresh wash of tears Ambient watched their friend fly higher and higher. He stood silently beside the motionless James, reveling in a different kind of flying. For the first time, he understood what it must feel like to be James when he healed.

James’s eyes never left Jules’s dance in the stars. But after a while, James reached out and pulled Ambient into an embrace, physical and mental. Together, they soared with their friend.

Did you enjoy M. Raiya’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code MRaiyaFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 21, 2015.

Ring by Jameson Dash

January 20, 2015

Title: Ring

Author: Jameson Dash

Pairing: Jeremy and Miles from A Terrible Husband

Prompt: ring

The call went straight to voicemail. It didn’t even ring.

“Where the fuck are you?” Miles said as he listened to Jeremy’s message. He was only waiting for Jeremy to get through his spiel, reciting a half dozen numbers where he could be reached. When the tone sounded, Miles repeated himself. “Where the fuck are you?”

Then he hung up.

Miles was waiting at the restaurant, a half empty bottle of wine on the table, an empty basket of bread at his elbow. This was meant to be their anniversary.

Now it felt like a mistake.

When Miles missed dinners, which was, admittedly, often, he always called. Even when he was backstage, a makeup brush in his face and fingers in his hair, teasing it up to the ceiling. He had made that call too many times to count over the course of their relationship. The least Jeremy could do was return the favour.

This feeling was new. Jeremy was suddenly famous, and Miles was still getting used to the new way of doing things. He was used to the paps, the press, and the inappropriate questions.

He wasn’t used to reporters on the red carpet asking Jeremy for music recommendations. He wasn’t used to them ignoring Miles in favour of whatever ridiculous patterned shirt Jeremy was wearing that night.

He wasn’t used to Jeremy missing dinner.

Miles opened Messages on his phone, scrolling up through the last few days of texts. They had been chatting about a trip to America last night. Jeremy’s band was heading out on a US tour, and Jeremy didn’t have to go with them, but Miles suggested they make it an adventure.

He figured it was the only way to keep track of his wayward boyfriend.

Not that Miles didn’t trust Jeremy. He knew Jeremy wouldn’t stray, not with other boys. He might wander afar when they were in a department store or exploring a back alley in a new city. But he usually had Miles’s hand in one of his own.

Miles felt better with Jeremy’s hand in his, their fingers threaded together. After only a few years together, Miles felt weird walking the runway without him.

The waiter stopped by the table, ducking down with that sad and knowing look on his face.

“Would you like to order an appetizer while you wait, sir?”

He had asked before, and Miles had said no before, but he was hungry. And Jeremy was late.

“Something with prawns,” Miles said.

The waiter’s eyes lit. “I’ll bring you a bottle of white to go with them.”

Miles watched him go. Miles could have him, if he wanted him. It wouldn’t be too hard to convince the waiter to step into the bathroom with him.

But it didn’t hold the same thrill it used to. It didn’t satisfy Miles like it once did. He would rather wait for the call. For the man who belonged in the chair on the other side of the table.

He dove into his food when it arrived. Miles was hungrier than he knew.

He tried the wine and checked his phone again. He couldn’t help himself. He sent a few emoji. Let Jeremy sweat, wondering what they meant.

“What’s this?” Jeremy said, coming up from behind, putting his hand on Miles’s shoulder and leaning down to kiss his opposite cheek. “Am I supposed to know what this means?” He showed Miles his phone, open to the Messages screen, Miles’s emoji staring back at him.

“It means I love you,” Miles said, turning his face up for another kiss, a better one.

“You taste like prawns,” Jeremy said.

“See what you miss when you’re late.”

 

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Nightmare by Amy Lane

January 19, 2015

Title: Nightmare

Author: Amy Lane

Pairing: Dex and Kane from Dex in Blue

Prompt: nightmare

The little girl’s scream ripped them both out of a dead sleep.  Dex was halfway down the hall before he even recognized what he was running after, and in Frances’s room before Kane was even out of bed.

“Whatwuzat?” he muttered, turning on the light and kneeling at Frances’s bedside.  “Frances, whatwuzat?”

“Unca Dex, bad dream!” the little girl wailed, reaching her arms out for him.

Dex didn’t hesitate.  He picked her up, awed as always by how tiny she was.  “No worries, bunny,” he muttered, trying to get his bearings.  What day was it?  What time was it?  The flap of approaching feet—big flat ones—alerted him that Kane hadn’t slept through the emergency, he’d just been a bit late.

“Whatwuzat?” Kane mumbled, leaning against the wall and staring around the little girl’s mostly pink room like it had just materialized next to them as they’d slept.

“Bad dream,” Dex murmured, rocking the little girl against his chest.

“What’d you dream?” Kane asked, waking up a little.  “Was it something cool, like robots?”

“No,” Frances shook her head against Dex’s chest.

“Creepy dolls?” Kane asked, like he was seriously curious.

“No,” Frances said again, shaking her head vigorously.

“Scary clowns?”  Kane asked, like it was a legitimate line of questioning.

“No,” Frances denied, but her voice was getting sleepy.  Dex rocked her some more, looking around the room.  The snake and the iguana, in their giant glass habitat that looked both into the room and out into the backyard, seemed to be asleep, doing snakely and lizardly things.  The small turtle was crawling around in his terrarium, oblivious to the fact that someday, he was going to get a turtle hardon and terrify everybody in the room.  The gecko—added new to Kane’s collection—had hidden in his little house as soon as the light had gone on.

Jesus, no wonder the little girl was having nightmares.  She was surrounded by monsters!

“Frances,” Dex asked, afraid it had been wrong to let her sleep here for the past six months, “was it about animals?”

“Yes!” Frances wailed.  “It was about bugs!”

“Aw,” Kane reassured, taking her from Dex and patting her gently on the back. “That’s simple, bunny. You just imagine all the guys here eating the bugs, and you’ll be just fine.”

“Oh yeah!”  Frances sat up in her uncle’s arms.  “They eat bugs.”  She snuggled some more.  “That’s okay, Unca Kane.  The guys’ll keep me safe.”

Kane smiled, tired and relieved and tucked her into her little pink bed.  “That’s right.  Night bunny.”

“Night Unca Kane.  Night Unca Dex.”

“Sleep tight,” Dex mumbled.

On the way back to bed, Dex found himself chuckling.

“What?” Kane asked.

“You.”

“What about me?”

“You’re the only guy I know who could turn a room full of scaly things into an army to keep her safe.”

“Yeah?”  Kane yawned again.  “You’re the only guy I know who’d think like that at ass-crack-thirty.  Go to bed, Dexter.  We got a big busy day tomorrow, and I want sex tomorrow night.”

Dex chuckled, recognizing the slightly sore feeling in his body that indicated they’d gotten sex not too long ago.  “We just had sex. You think you’re that lucky?”

Kane grabbed him about the waist before they walked into the bedroom and nuzzled his ear.  “I like sex with you.  Keeps the monsters away.”

Dex allowed himself to be pawed and nuzzled.  “Good,” he said softly.  “The guys can do that for Frances, but I’ll do that for you.”

“Can you do that for me tonight?”

“No,” Dex mumbled, sliding out of his arms and into bed.  “You want to see something really scary, you’re gonna see me if I don’t get some sleep.”

“Yeah, okay,” Kane agreed, sliding into bed next to him.  “You keep the monsters away, you get to call a few shots.”

“As long as your snake doesn’t sleep with my balls pulling his own guard duty, that is a deal.”

Suddenly Kane sprang up from bed.  “Oh fuck!  Tomas!”  And with that he went padding down the hallway again, ostensibly to make sure the snake was double-locked in his cage.

For a moment, Dex contemplated letting this keep him awake, and then he changed his mind.

He had scary monster guard duty tomorrow, and the snake was one of the good guys.  Nothing to be afraid about here, folks.  Just Dex and the reptiles, keeping the scary monsters at bay.

 

Did you enjoy Amy Lane’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code AmyLaneFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 19, 2015.

 

A Hat’s a Hat, For All That by J.S. Cook

January 18, 2015

Title: A Hat’s A Hat, For All That

Author: J.S. Cook

Pairing: Inspector Raft and Constable Freddie Crook from Come to Dust

Prompt: hat

“Go away.” The only visible part of Scotland Yard Inspector Philemon Raft was the top of his head and one shoulder. The rest was buried under a voluminous pile of blankets and not a few fluffy feather pillows.

“The lady asked for you specifically.” Constable Freddie Crook, Raft’s lover and useful right hand, shook him none too gently. “She’s downstairs.”

Raft sat up like a marionette pulled by strings. “Downstairs?” He blinked at Freddie as if he’d only just seen him for the first time. “Now? At this hour of the morning?”

Freddie’s eyes narrowed. “It’s ten past eleven.” He poked Raft in the side, none too gently.

“Ten past eleven on a Saturday,” Raft hissed.

“Get up,” Freddie said. “I’ve been holding her off these past twenty minutes with excuses.”

Raft grunted. “Better if you held her off with a fire poker.” He cast about him for his dressing gown, saw it draped over the back of the bedroom chair. “Could you?”

Freddie retrieved the garment and tossed it at him carelessly, so it fell across the bottom of the bed. “What else would you like? Bathe you? Shave? Feed you breakfast from a silver cup?” He raised his eyebrow. “I’m not your personal valet, Phil. Now hurry up.” He turned and left the room.

When Raft appeared in the sitting room some moments later, a short, plump woman of late middle age was standing before the fireplace wringing her hands. In appearance she rather resembled a turnip, in that much of her substantial bulk was concentrated above the waist. She was a daughter of one very influential London family, long-time members of the landed classes whose holdings included several hundred acres in Sussex, a fleet of ocean-going ships and some small part of a rural Welsh railroad. At the sight of him, she uttered a short, sharp cry and fainted dead away on the carpet.

“Not the first time that’s happened,” Raft muttered, “I can tell you.”

Freddie stood over the woman, looking down at her. “What should we do?” he mused. “Cold water in her face?”

“She’d have you up on a private prosecution,” Raft said. He gestured at the sideboard in the dining room just adjacent. “Smelling salts in that drawer, there.” But scarcely had Freddie waved the bottle under her nose than the woman regained her senses and leapt to her feet. She glanced about her wildly, apparently in some distress.

“Where is he?” she cried. “Tell me at once!”

“Madam, you are perfectly safe,” Raft said. He helped her into a chair. “Constable Crook tells me you are in some distress.” He poured a glass of water from the carafe on the table and offered it to her. “I understand that your family might take issue if you were to go directly to Scotland Yard. You did right by coming here. I want you to tell me everything, starting from the beginning.”

She stared at Raft as if he’d spoken to her in a foreign language. “I beg your pardon!” She huffed. “I am Lady Barnstable.”

“My lady,” Raft amended. “How may I be of assistance?”

“It’s about my hat,” she said. She opened her rather large reticule and pulled out a flower-covered monstrosity with a veil. “I’m sure you can readily discern the problem,” she said, handing it to Raft. And, when he gazed at her blankly, “Put it to your ear. You’ll understand immediately.”

He did as she asked, but heard nothing, of course. Nevertheless, his duty as a Scotland Yard man was to serve the public, and he intended to do just that. “I see what you mean, Lady Barnstable.” He nodded to Freddie. “Constable Crook and I will look into it.” He made to give the hat back, but she stepped away, fixing him with a poisonous look.

“I beg your pardon,” she said, “I intended that you should uncover the reason for it. I shan’t rest easy until you do.”

“Perhaps you can give me some more information,” Raft said, turning the hat in his hands. There was nowhere to put it, really, that wouldn’t give offence to Her Ladyship. Mostly Raft wanted to put it out the window, where it would fall to the street below and hopefully be trampled by a draught horse.

Lady Barnstable looked at him incredulously, then turned her gaze on Freddie. “And I suppose you think more information necessary, as well?”

Freddie shifted uncomfortably. “Er….” And, at a warning glance from Raft, “Of course. Absolutely. The police must have every resource at our fingertips if we are to assist you, my lady.”

“It talks,” she said.

Raft felt something crawling up his back, dismissed it as his imagination. “The hat?”

“Yes. It talks. Says the most horrible things. Filthy things, really. I’d rather not repeat them if you don’t mind.”

Raft didn’t dare look at Freddie. “Of course. I assumed as much. I’ve… er… come across these sorts of cases before.” He helped her rise from the chair and escorted her to the door. “Leave it in our hands, Lady Barnstable. I’m sure we can solve this matter.”

“I couldn’t just walk into Scotland Yard, you see.” She nodded vigorously. “Not a person of my standing, you understand.” She shook their hands formally, an unusual gesture for one from the upper classes. “Good day.”

Raft waited until the downstairs door had closed behind her before sinking into a chair and giving in to the fit of mirth hovering underneath his breastbone. Freddie joined him. “I must ask Mrs. Stringer,” Freddie said, between gasps of laughter, “what the devil she put in the porridge this morning!”

****

Freddie had theatre tickets for opening night of a new comedy in the West End, so it was quite late in the evening by the time he and Raft returned home. They unlocked the front door quietly, not wanting to wake their landlady, Mrs. Stringer. Mrs. Stringer valued sleep above all else and was a veritable gorgon if awakened unexpectedly. He and Freddie crept upstairs to their flat, closing and locking the door behind them. Raft, predictably, was the first to speak.

“If you take me to anything by Gilbert and Sullivan ever again I shall have you killed.” He drew off his gloves and tossed them onto the table with an expression of disgust. “Three little bloody maids from school are we.”

“It was light comedy,” Freddie said. “Did you not find it light?”

“About as light as iron underthings,” Raft muttered. “I’m going to bed.”

“I’ll come with you,” Freddie said, “just as soon as I have a cigarette.” He shrugged out of his coat and sank into the armchair with a sigh. Spying Lady Barnstable’s hat lying on a side table, he picked it up. “Quite a singular hat, isn’t it?” he said. Raft had gone into the bedroom to undress. “Really, women have absolutely no taste when it comes to haberdashery.”

“I believe if it’s women it’s millinery,” Raft said, peering round the door. “Anyway, the woman is barking mad.” He disappeared back into the bedroom.

“Do you think so?” Freddie asked. He drew gently on his cigarette, examining the hat.

“Daft as a bloody brush,” Raft said, once again appearing at the door. “Are you coming or not?” he asked peevishly. He was wearing his nightshirt and holding a toothbrush.

“Be right there,” Freddie replied absently. He couldn’t stop looking at the hat. It really was the most god-awful thing he’d ever seen—well, except for that time he and Raft had gone to a burlesque show in Paris. Skinny women had no business wearing flamboyant corsetry, he thought with a shudder. He turned the hat round, looking at it from all angles, and was suddenly beset by an idea. He tossed his cigarette into the fireplace, rose, and began to get undressed. He couldn’t stop smiling.

****

Raft was lying in bed reading The Illustrated London News when movement in the doorway made him look up. For several long moments he stared in disbelief. “What the devil are you doing?”

Freddie, completely nude except for the strategically placed hat, grinned. “Remember that burlesque show we saw in Paris?”

“I’ll never forget it,” Raft said, distractedly. “Horrible.”

“Lady Barnstable was right,” Freddie said. “This hat does indeed talk.” He drew the hat to one side—not quite enough to show anything of significance—and then to the other. The soft light from Raft’s reading lamp fell on Freddie’s naked skin, bathing him in a golden glow. He was incredibly beautiful, Raft thought, not for the first time. Suddenly his newspaper held absolutely no appeal.

“What is the hat saying to you now?” Raft asked. He sat up, grasped the hem of his nightshirt, and pulled it off. “I suspect it’s something rather important.” The cold air prickled on his bare arms and chest and drew his nipples into hard little peaks.

Freddie dropped the hat on the floor. “It’s very important,” he said. “In fact, I would say it’s of utmost importance.” He slid into bed beside Raft, his body making a pool of heat in the blankets. “It tells me you’re in need,” he said.

“Am I?” Raft kissed him languidly as all his blood rushed to his cock. “What is it I need?”

Freddie slid a warm hand between Raft’s legs. “A bloody good rogering,” he said. “The sooner, the better.”

 

Did you enjoy JS Cook’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code JSCookFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 18, 2015.

Baby Talk by Rick R. Reed

January 17, 2015

Title: Baby Talk

Author: Rick R. Reed

Pairing: Hank and Ollie from Dinner at Home

Prompt: baby

Ollie pulls down the quilt to reveal their striped flannel sheets. He’s exhausted. The catering business, Dinner at Home, he runs with his husband Hank has flourished since they brought it to life two years ago and now, with the holiday season in full swing, both he and Hank are putting in twelve- and fifteen-hour workdays, even with the additional staff they’ve taken on to help them get into the New Year alive.

All Ollie wants to do is bury himself beneath the worn flannel sheets and his grandmother’s handmade quilt, with its pattern of stars and moons. Hank beside him is an added bonus because the man is like a small furnace. All the hard work they do and it’s this Ollie sees as his biggest reward—curling up next to this man whom he loves and lusts for every night of his life. In spite of his weariness, Ollie smiles as he plops down on the bed, struggling out of his sweats to leave them in a heap on the floor.

“You coming to bed?” Ollie falls back, not bothering to cover himself. He hopes the sight of his naked body is still an enticement. He cautions himself mentally, thinking he shouldn’t be too enticing, because he doesn’t know if he even has enough energy left to deliver on that particular promise.

“In a minute,” Hank says. He stands by their bedroom window, which faces the street. His back is to Ollie and he stares outside. What could be so fascinating about their street here in the Central District of Seattle? Ollie loves their home, but come on, the view—of their neighbors’ houses—is not exactly awe-inspiring.

Hank pulls the curtain back a little farther and leans forward so he can, presumably, see better.

“What are you looking at?” Ollie wonders. He gives up and settles into bed, pulling the quilt and top sheet over himself. “Some hottie out there?”

“Do you know what it’s doing?”

“What what’s doing?” Ollie asks.

“It’s snowing. It hardly ever snows in Seattle.” Hank turns to look at him and this is what Ollie loves about the man: how his excitement can turn his features into a little boy again. It is simply so very sweet that Hank is thrilled by the sight of a few flakes of snow.

Ollie can’t just turn over and go to sleep now, much as his weary body would like him to. He gets up from the bed and crosses the room to peer out the window over Hank’s shoulder. He lets his chin rest on Hank’s bare shoulder and wraps his arms around his trim waist. He sees that it’s not just a few flakes, but a blizzard out there. The snow is blowing around and is coming down so heavily in big fat flakes that it completely obscures their view of their neighbors’ houses across the street. In the illumination from the streetlight, the flakes seem heavier, rushing down to meet the ground.

“Wow,” Ollie says softly. He plants a gentle kiss on Hank’s neck.

“She would have loved this. I just imagine taking her outside in the morning, making a snowman, making angels, having a snowball fight…all that stupid shit.”

Ollie tugs on Hank, pulling him back and toward the bed. “You talk about Addison like she’s dead, for heaven’s sake. She’ll be back at spring break.”

Ollie knows Hank has been sad that his niece has left and gone home to Pennsylvania, after spending Christmas with Hank and Ollie, along with her mother and Hank’s sister, Stacy. Once upon a time, the little girl had been in Hank’s care and he loved her, Ollie knew, as he would his own child.

Hank shrugged and followed Ollie back to the bed. They climbed in together. Hank was quiet for a long time and, as much as Ollie felt for his husband, knowing how much he was missing little Addison, he felt himself drifting off to sleep.

Hank rolled toward him and tweaked one of his nipples. That brought him awake again!

“We’ve been married now for two years,” Hank said.

“Hard to believe, isn’t it? It’s gone by so fast.” Ollie smiled and then leaned in close to Hank to kiss him.

They stayed that way for a few moments, lips and bodies pulled together, close, almost as one. Then Hank pulled away a little and stared into Ollie’s eyes. “Don’t you think it’s time?” Hank asked.

“Time for what?” Ollie didn’t really wonder. He knew what Hank was thinking. It made him smile…again.

“To grow our family. To have our own baby.” Hank stared into Ollie’s eyes and Ollie didn’t think he ever knew how a single look could contain so much love and want.

Ollie said, “Oh, sweetie, that would be wonderful. But we’re so busy these days, what with the catering growing and growing and growing.” They planned on hiring more people in the New Year and still, Ollie wondered if it would be enough.

Hank gave him a peck on the lips, biting down gently on Ollie’s lower lip as a kind of flourish. “We’ll always be busy. And we’ll always be in love. If you think that perfect moment of stillness is going to come out of the blue one day and we’ll just know the time is right, well, by the time it does, it may be too late.”

“You really want to have a baby? With me?” Ollie wondered about the logistics of it. A surrogate? Adoption? He supposed Hank wasn’t really looking to clarify such details right now. Right now, Ollie knew, all he was looking for were the three A’s: assent, accord, and agreement.

“No, with the mailman. Of course with you.” Hank grew quiet. He rolled away from Ollie to turn off the lamp beside the bed. The room was plunged into darkness, save for the rectangle of the big window opposite the bed. Outside the snow blew around crazily. Ollie knew it must be cold, blustery outside, but all the sight of that snow did was make him feel snug and warm.

With Hank.

He tapped Hank on the shoulder. “Wanna try right now?”

Hank rolled back over, smiling. “We could. Who knows what might happen?” Hank was already climbing on top of Ollie and Ollie opened his arms (and legs) to welcome him…home.

Suddenly, Ollie was not so tired.

 

Did you enjoy Rick R. Reed’s story? If so, check out the rest of his books and take 25% off at checkout with the code RickRReedFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 17, 2015.

Immodest Proposal by Felicitas Ivey

January 16, 2015

Title: Immodest Proposal

Author: Felicitas Ivey

Pairing: Hagar and Shibito from A Modest Proposal

Prompt: drink

They arrived at Dunmore station and docked. Shibito shivered involuntarily, remembering his time here.

Hagar looked down at him, “The Serpent’s gotten a new registration and a bit of an upgrade, thanks to your people. We don’t have to worry about the authorities because of the way we left, because they don’t know it’s us.”

The ship was now called the Loose Goose. There were a couple of different registrations and names for the ship now, and all from places nowhere near the Nipponese Imperium.

“It was so confusing here,” Shibito murmured, thinking about the first time he had seen the station. “So many minds.”

He unconsciously leaned against Hagar, sighing when the other man put his arms around him. “You’re better now,” Hagar rumbled. “You got that under control. We can talk to Mama to see what he knows.”

“That’s if he even recognizes us,” Shibito said.

It wasn’t just the ship that had gotten an upgrade. Both of them were dressed like high-level freelancers, in expensive business suits. Hagar looked both wonderful and uncomfortable at the same time.

“I feel silly,” Hagar said, as if he could read his mind.

“No one would believe you would be interested in the slave trade if you wore your normal clothing,” Shibito explained to him. “We now look like the kind of men who would buy helpless people.”

Hagar’s reply was to hug him harder.

“Mama or his computer will give us the information we need,” Shibito said softly.

He didn’t add that after this was all over, Hagar could come back to Dunmore if he wanted to. He didn’t know if he wanted that. Hagar seemed to be the one person he could let his guard down around. If he remained emperor, he would need the man due to what the Chozyume had done to him. It was an anti-psionic drug that he had been dosed with by his mad cousin, since the man thought he had been a threat to him. He had been the more powerful psionic and had had a better claim to the throne. He hadn’t been up until then. He had been a shy scholar, more interested in hunting knowledge then power. He still wasn’t interested in the power, even if he could claim the Imperial throne. Shibito wondered idly if he could just stay with Hagar and ignore his obligations for once. Well, after he rescued all the cousins Kōgon had sent into space, because they were a more powerful psionics than he had been, and he wanted them out of his way too.

“We’ll get them back,” Hagar whispered in his right ear, before kissing it.

“I hope so,” Shibito said softly. “In what condition is what I’m afraid of.” He took a deep breath. “Shun’ei’s sixteen. Aoi had never even been off planet. Midori….”

Six lives ruined because one man thought they could be a danger to him. Seven if you counted himself. He had met Hagar, but the cost to his psyche had been high. His psychic power had increased, but he had changed in ways he had never thought of.

“We’ll stop at Mama’s to tell him we’re fine and to get some information,” Hagar said. “And while he doesn’t like or deal with the people we need to find to get your cousins back, he’ll be able to tell us where to find them.

Shibito sighed and just let Hagar hold him for a little while longer, before he slipped out of his hold. “Let’s go,” he said in a hard voice, shutting down his emotions as he left the ship. He couldn’t afford to slip up now, he wasn’t the person he had been before and that was it. He had to rescue his cousins, and hoped something like this hadn’t happened to them.

 

Hagar followed Shibito to Mama’s, slightly behind and to the left of him, as if he was his bodyguard. He was amused people were moving out of their way, as Shibito strode forward. It could have been how they were dressed or the fact that Shibito was radiating a cold fury he had never seen before. No one would remember him as the dishwasher he had been before when he was here, if they could even believe it had been him.

They got to Mama’s and Shibito walked through the door as if he owned the place. Hagar was relieved to see Mama was manning the bar at this hour, and not one of his few trusted minions. Mama was dressed in an emerald green corseted gown, with a matching hat and veil. He looked striking. Mama’s eyes widened when he saw the two of them, but said nothing until Shibito got to the bar.

“You made it out of here,” Mama said softly, as he studied them, checking it see if they were all right and curious why they were dressed the way they were.

Shibito nodded and Hagar swore he saw the man relax a little. “And yet,” Shibito said lightly and softly, “I need to throw myself on your mercy again.”

Hagar didn’t miss the look that passed between them – concern and support, and a promise to answer Mama’s questions later.

Mama laughed throatily, “And what trouble have you gotten yourself into now, Hagar?”

“A lot,” Hagar told him soberly.

Mama nodded, before asking in a louder voice. “And what can I get you gentlemen to drink?”

Hagar was hurt for a second that Mama was treating them like total strangers, but then it made sense to him. The clothing made him look different, and it helped he had darkened what little hair he had. And if Mama didn’t treat him like a regular, then he wouldn’t have burned his bridges here on Dunmore if this blew up in their face. Not that it mattered to him, because he wanted to help those kids that stupid fucker of a cousin had sent away.

“Whiskey,” Shibito said, his tone indicating he was doing Mama a favor drinking here at all.

A drink and a look around the place was a start. While Mama didn’t like slavers, it wasn’t as if he could be picky about his clients. And this was a place one wanted to be if you were looking for something or someone. Hagar was glad the bar had survived the raid that had thrown Shibito into his arms.

“And what else can I get you gentleman?” Mama asked, pouring Shibito’s drink.

Shibito inclined his head in thanks as he took the shot, and then slid payment over. The cred chip was worth a lot more than a drink, but Mama didn’t bat an eye when he slid it into the safe built into the bottom of the bar without offering to give them change.

“We are looking for people with a certain skill set,” Shibito told him smoothly. “Ones who have the reputation of trading in flesh, and are considered ruthless even for that group. They go by the name the Osprey Group.”

Mama frowned, but lifted his chin at a table in back. “You might want to talk to those people,” he said, his voice like ice.

Hager looked down at him, knowing Mama was furious. “Family,” he rumbled.

Mama tightened his lips, and Hagar knew he understood part of the reason they were asking about the Osprey group. The group was a loose consortium of slavers and drug runners, who bribed enough people to keep under the radar and out of prison.

Shibito tossed back his whiskey, like it was water. Mama reached under the bar and handed Shibito and unopened bottle. “This’ll help.”

“I owe you,” Hagar said softly.

Shibito strode over to the table, though Hagar thought it was more like a stalk. He followed him, wondering what was going to happen. There really hadn’t been any sort of planning, except to go to Dunmore Station and talk to Mama. But he was certain Shibito had some sort of plan— it was just that he hadn’t told him what it was.

“Gentlemen,” Shibito greeted them, setting the bottle on the table. “May we talk?”

Hagar wouldn’t call the two men sitting at the table gentle anything. Both of them looked hard and rough, and radiated an air of menace, even wearing cheap suits. He hadn’t seen them around Mama’s before, so it meant they were either here for a reason or they were new to the place.

One of them grabbed the bottle and looked at the seal, checking to see if it was unopened. Satisfied it hadn’t been tampered with, he poured some into his glass and the glass of his companion. Shibito set his glass down, a subtle hint he would also like some of the whiskey.

As some of it was poured into his glass, the smuggler told him, “Thanks for the drink.”

“It does seem to be the best way to open conversation,” Shibito said mildly.

In the mirror in back of the smugglers, Hagar noticed Shibito’s smile was chilling, colder than space and more dangerous than vacuum.

The smuggler set the bottle down, “I’m Smith. He’s Jones.”

“Keiri” Shibito told them.

“And the big guy?” Jones asked.

“He’s not important,” Shibito said. “And he doesn’t talk, so his name isn’t important either.”

The smugglers snorted at that, but didn’t press. This wasn’t a business you wanted to know names in. And Shibito indicated he was the hired help. It should have made him angry, but he didn’t know who this person was. Shibito had the persona of ice-cold smuggler now. It was sort of frightening, since it had happened the moment he had stepped outside the ship.

“We have the packages,” Smith said, taking a sip of his whiskey.

“I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t,” Shibito said mildly, as if the conversion hadn’t started in the middle of itself.

Smith and Jones shifted, uneasy. Hagar thought for one wild second they were frightened of Shibito, which he thought was funny. Because while he didn’t know this Shibito, , he wasn’t frightened of the cold bastard he was being now, even though Shibito could tear him apart with a thought or two. And he was certain these two didn’t know that.

“We can deliver them to your ship—”

“We’ll go to your ship.” Shibito said in a pleasant voice, one that didn’t match the ice in his eyes. “I want to make sure I have the right packages. The last pick up was… incorrect. It was —unfortunate— for everyone involved.”

Shibito drank his shot after he said that, and then poured himself another, smiling like he was talking about the weather.

Hagar watched Smith try to control his shudder and fail, while Jones looked like he wanted to be anyplace but here. Hagar felt the temperature drop, he swore.

“Our ship then,” Smith croaked eventually, when he realized Shibito wasn’t going to take no for an answer or tell him where his ship was.

“Thank you for cooperating,” Shibito told him graciously, taking another shot of whiskey.

Hagar was under the impression these two would agree to anything just to get the hell away from Shibito.

“We might as well get this over with,” Shibito said, standing up. “Then you gentlemen can get on with your business.”

 

Shibito was surprised when Smith and Jones led him to their ship. It was docked on the same level above Hagar’s, which would make things easier. For them at least. Shibito wasn’t going to make anything easy for Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. Hagar was a comforting presence at his back, and he was grateful he hadn’t said or done anything to ruin his plan, even if the man didn’t know what it was. He didn’t even know what he was doing, this was all instinct and feelings, and part of him was screaming how wrong this was, but it felt right to do it this way. Before, he would have planned and dithered, but letting it go now and letting his instincts run his plan was wonderful.

Shibito politely studied the ceiling of the dock while Smith punched in the access code to the ship. In the meantime, Hagar eyed the empty corridor for trouble.

“We have them here,” Smith said. “They’re still most of the way out of it.”

“Not much fun,” Jones complained.

Shibito swallowed his anger and the impulse to splatter the two of them against the interior of their ship. It was a nice looking ship, clean and well taken care of, but the aura of it was disgusting. Hagar’s fury was a comforting feeling behind him.

“I was promised undamaged merchandise,” Shibito said coolly.

Both men blanched and Smith hurriedly led him to a cabin. “They’re locked in, even if they’re so out of it they don’t know who they are, never mind where they are.”

Smith stepped aside and let Shibito stride into the cabin. Asleep on two raggedy futons were his cousins, Minomoto Aoi and Teike Murasaki. They looked fine, just that they were asleep. Thankfully, they were also dressed, even if it was only in some sort of loose, short dress.

He took a deep breath, reaching out to them psychically, scanning them quickly. Their minds were jumbled and opened to him, their shields were gone and he didn’t want to know what being on this ship, near these animals, had done to them. He breathed out slowly, keeping a tight control on the anger he was feeling. He couldn’t lose his temper now. Just one word would make him snap.

“We’ll take it from here,” Hagar rumbled behind him.

“The merchandise—” Jones started.

And that was the word, Shibito decided. Aoi and Mura weren’t merchandise— they were his cousins. They were young women, intelligent, talented, and above all innocent and Kōgon had taken that away from them. Shibito turned and before he could even think, he had created a psi-sword in his left hand, falling into the sword forms automatically. It had been an unconscious gesture, his anger manifesting into a physical presence, one he could use to punish men who thought women were merchandise.

Jones’s shriek of surprise was cut off, when Shibito swung and easily cut off his head. There was hesitation for a moment and then Jones’s head fell one way and his body the other. Thankfully, neither part was near his cousins. Shibito smoothly turned, dancing a few steps forward to do the same to Smith. It was over in less than a minute and he wasn’t even breathing hard. He banished the sword with a thought and looked over at Hagar.

Hagar looked back at him. “You do know this is going to look odd to the authorities.”

That was it. No censure about killing those two animals had been unwarranted. No fear at seeing his power. Just a simple statement about how ‘odd’ it was going to look to the authorities.

“Let’s get the girls out of here,” Hagar continued. “It won’t be good for them to see this.”

He leaned over and scooped up Aoi. “And we need to get them fed. She’s too damn skinny.”

Shibito choked back a laugh, because he knew if he started laughing now, he might not stop. He leaned over and picked up Mura, cradling her in his arms.

“Stay close to me,” he told Hagar. “No one’s going to notice us taking my cousins to the ship.”

“I was a little worried about that,” Hagar told him calmly. “But I figured you’d know something.” He followed Shibito out the door. “You might need to come back and do some work on the computers too.”

Shibito didn’t know what he had done to deserve Hagar, since the man was so accepting of him.

“After we get the girls settled, I’ll come back here and go through their computers and records and then think of some way of getting rid of the mess,” Shibito promised.

Was he as bad as Smith and Jones to think of them as a mess and not human beings? Mura sighed and snuggled into his shoulder. No, he wasn’t, because they weren’t human beings to consider other people as merchandise. He’d get what he needed from their ship, clean up the mess and think of someway of hiding their deaths until they were far away from here.

“I’ll see what we can borrow from Mama for them,” Hagar said.

“He’s too tall,” Shibito protested automatically. “But we can see where he can recommend to purchase clothing,” he added after a couple of minutes of walking.

“After we get these two settled,” Hagar said. “Then I’ll change and talk to Mama. They’ll feel better without seeing me right off.”

Shibito didn’t know what to say, so the rest of the walk was silent.

 

Did you enjoy Felicitas Ivey’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code FelicitasIveyFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 16, 2015.