This is a rawfeed story, which means that it’s coming direct from my brain to the computer screen. There may be word usage errors and editing problems.
THAT TIME I TOLD YOU by Sol Crafter
They met for the first time in the lunchroom when they were 10 years old. It wasn’t an instant connection–it took two weeks of sharing a table before they got to talking–but they became best friends after that.
To Conrad, meeting Jamie was the first time he felt alive. It was as though color flooded into an otherwise empty world.
It had never been great at home. His parents were always fighting, always yelling, always looking at him with resentful eyes as though to say “It’s your fault all our dreams are dead”. Going to school was his chance to get away from the tension and the loneliness. He did okay in his classes.
Until Jamie came, he only went to school to get away from home. The other kids were just the kids he played with at school–he wouldn’t call any of them a best friend.
Jamie was his best friend.
And so, because Jamie played the guitar, Conrad learned to play the bass. Because Jamie loved singing and music, Conrad learned to carry a tune and even started writing songs in a spiral bound notebook.
He would spend the night at Jamie’s house with Jamie’s doting mom who always tried to get Jamie whatever he wanted, even though she was a single parent without much money. He might have been jealous if she hadn’t been so nice to him, welcoming him into her home as though he were another son.
He became part of their family.
“We should start our own band.”
They were in Jamie’s room, each taking up an opposite end of the bed as they flipped through magazines and listened to music. Jamie had a tendency to flail his feet with the music, so Conrad had thrown a pillow across his ankles and had his arm propped on top.
“Huh?” he asked, looking away from the glossy pictures of pocket monsters fighting a guy in mecha armor.
“I said,” Jamie raised his voice with a mock-serious frown that turned into a smile, “we should start a band. What do you think?”
Conrad looked at him. He seemed serious, or at least determined to have his way. They were already playing instruments together. It didn’t bear much consideration. “Okay.”
Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: superhero, mm
Chapter Eleven was split into two posts due to size. This is the part two.
CHAPTER ELEVEN continued…
Following Seth was like second nature. Tony had to admit that the guy had fallen into the role of leader as natural as breathing. Probably a result of the leadership courses he’d received at the Training Center as a teenager. Tony had only managed summer classes until the CMPF scholarship, but Seth had been training to be a superhero from the time he was fourteen years old.
Part of Tony would always wonder what his life would have been like if he’d had the money for the intensive training Seth had received. But that was an old regret, one that he couldn’t do anything about now.
They were jogging a winding path that cut through side streets and down alleys, keeping an eye out for any people. Everything seemed deserted. It was eerie to see no people bustling about during the day. It gave a horror movie vibe that made the patch of skin between his shoulders itch.
Seth must have shared his unease, because they were moving at a good clip. It wouldn’t take them too long to reach Triangle Park, maybe another twenty minutes.
Tony was starting to think things were looking like cake. They’d reach the Park, lay the charges, and be out of range before the fireworks started. They were going to make it.
A flicker of warning. He body-slammed Seth out of the way with a flying tackle. “Get down!”
The ground they would have passed through exploded with a rain of pulverized asphalt and burning debris.
Tony rolled off Seth, his rifle already firing. He was in that headspace where everything seemed to move slowly and his targets were limned by some inexplicable brightness, drawing his attention. The squeeze of the trigger was like breathing, and he felt nothing as unarmored human bodies exploded into blood and vaporized bone.
He felt Seth at his back and heard the echoing discharge of another gauss rifle. They moved in sync, a crabwalk that carried them through the crowd of zombified civilians. There were a few AR-15s, an RPG here and there, but most of them had only small arms, knives, and makeshift clubs–baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs, and a few cricket bats notable mostly for their “Huh” value.
Dozens of people quickly became hundreds, maybe even thousands, until they crammed the streets in a mass of blank-eyed aggression. The alien controllers didn’t care if their human meat puppets were hurt or killed. They kept feeding them out onto the street in an overwhelming mass.
Tony was questioning the hive mind’s plans when the first cape arrived. Flying low to avoid the overhead air patrols and the ion cannons mounted on the satellite weapon’s platforms. The hive had learned not to tempt the airspace quarantine.
Tony wondered how many flying metahumans had to reach the height limit and be vaporized before the aliens had learned to keep their drones below twenty feet. He tried not to think of how many of them had been people he’d known.
Now wasn’t the time to think about all that. He had to focus on the battle in front of him and the trouble flying up on them. Monteressa, the Iron Woman of Prague. Her flesh gleamed like silver nitrate and her hair was writhing coils of living metal.
Her origin story was mostly rumors and speculation. She was a foreign national that had fallen in love with an American superheroine named Hartache. They rotated their residency with six months in America and six months in Prague, and they were lauded as a great example of international cooperation. It didn’t hurt that Hartache was sexy in form-fitting reddish-brown leather and the exposed portions of her face looked like they belonged to an equally attractive face. They were a power couple in every sense of the word.
“Keep an eye out for Hartache,” Seth advised.
“Roger.” Tony was already scanning roof tops and vantage points where the crossbow wielding shapechanger could be crouching.
Hartache could transform herself into a white hart–a beautiful doe with hooves she’d had specially shod to enable her to punch through human flesh even easier than a natural deer. She was also a deadly shot with a crossbow and had won a bronze medal at the Meta Olympics. It was where she’d met Monteressa, who’d won the silver in the Mid-Range Strength category by lifting and crushing a tank within the thirty second time limit.
There was a crawling sensation between Tony’s shoulder blades and he whirled around to see Hartache take the shot. She was firing between the safety rails of an apartment’s balcony, her mouth a tight line and her movements sure.
Time seemed to slow down as the arrow came toward him. Over the shouts and growls of the crowding drones, he thought he could heard the buzzing thrum of the arrow’s flight, but that had to be pure imagination.
It seemed natural to grab the nearest drone–he refused to think of it as a man with a family and a life, with children and an everyday existence–and pulled it in front of him just as the arrow struck.
The razor-tipped arrowhead jutted obscenely through the drone’s chest. The drone made a gasping, gurgling sound, blood pouring from its mouth as it died.
Tony threw the body toward Monteressa and dodged Hartache’s follow-up shot. There was the dull whump of the drone’s body exploding as the charge in the shaft released. Monteressa disappeared from view.
Time was moving and jerking and he was seeing things in snapshot movements, but he didn’t let himself hesitate. He kicked a woman in the face and made a linebacker’s charge through the crowd.
“Come on!” he shouted, thundering through bodies with a single minded purpose. They needed to get away before Monteressa recovered. Before Hartache took her next shot. Before the already approaching flyers reached them, capes a trailing point in the sky, painting a rainbow above the street.
The only thing saving them was the height of the buildings and the flyers’ inability to go above twenty feet. But it was only a matter of time before the flyers made it through the maze to their location. They needed to get under cover and evade, otherwise they’d be overwhelmed.
Tony could feel the warm rush of Seth’s power against his back. The white glow reflected around him even as his helm automatically adjusted the brightness level. He didn’t look back, trusting that Seth was following. He could hear the screams and cries as drones got too close and were burned by Seth’s aura; he didn’t need to see it.
There was the sound of Seth’s gauss rifle firing, clearing some of the path ahead, but it was Tony that slammed his way through the crush of bodies. It was Tony that broke bones and smashed delicate human flesh with a single-minded forward charge.
The flyers were closing in, but Tony reached the nearest building and plowed through the door with glass shattering around him. He charged through aisles stocked with baby toys and clothes, maternity wear, and furniture that broke with startling ease. He kept going, Seth keeping the following drones from crowding around them, slowing them down with their breakable human bodies.
All Tony knew was that he needed to keep them moving before the drones manages to clear the pile up of bodies from the door. Or before Monteressa knocked down the wall, letting in the swarm.
Tony suddenly cut left and plowed through the side wall into the neighboring store. It looked like some kind of Scottish supply place, smelling of leather polish and wool, framed tartans mounted on the walls.
Tony kept moving, shoving what he could out of his way, but mostly crashing through it. His heart sounded a steady beat in his ears, faster than normal, but a tempo that he could move to.
He focused on putting one foot in front of the other as he crashed through three more buildings before judging from the map that breaking through the back wall of the furniture store would put them on Fuller Avenue. The other shops would have opened on a narrow alley of tight-squeezes.
Breaking through that final wall, he staggered a little dazedly before shaking it off. Even with his near invulnerability, he was going to be aching tomorrow.
Like in most big cities, the buildings were reinforced to prevent the average metahuman with superstrength from being able to blow through the walls. So while the adjoining walls had been rebar laced cinder blocks filled with concrete, the back wall of the furniture store had been reinforced with plastisteel. Which would be dangerous if a fire broke out, as the firefighters would have a hard time breaking through it, but it was more than enough to stop most thieves.
“You okay?” Seth asked.
“I’m good,” he growled through gritted teeth, not slowing down. They were running at speed, boots pounding the pavement.
Already he could hear the shouts of the mob changing direction, closing in. He was glad the hive mind had been too dumb to pack the neighboring streets with bodies, but he wasn’t going to underestimate its ability to learn. If they slowed down, they’d be hedged in, trapped for the metahumans with superstrength and offensive capabilities to handle.
They had to keep moving or they were done. There were too many people in the city for them to fight every single one and survive.
“Take the lead,” he said, moving back so Seth was in front. Even with his helm adjusted, he was blinded for the seconds until Seth’s bright aura blinked out.
Tony knew himself well enough to recognize when he needed to pass off command. He had no idea where they should go next, which meant it was time for Seth to step up.
“We’ll lose our pursuers,” Seth said, “then get back on track with our mission.”
“*Roger, roger*,” Seth said in imitation of a B1 battle droid.
Tony rolled his eyes and felt some of the tension leave his shoulders. As long as there were jokes, then there was hope they would see things through. They would complete the mission and make it home.
He followed Seth and held onto his belief that they weren’t going to fail. Not today.
* * *
Stealing a car would have been an option worth exploring if there had been other vehicles driving around. It was eerie with no motors running and empty streets in which to run down. He wondered if maybe the hive mind couldn’t use enough control to get groups of people driving.
It was the telecontroller’s dilemma. Being able to remote control human beings, but only able to move them like action figures. Because the more bodies one mind tried to control, the harder it was, and the more jerky and unnatural the motions.
Setting a bunch of mindcontrolled people to a single task was easier than trying to focus on too many minds at once. There was a reason Mindswap walked around in one meatsuit at a time. Suppressing the native mind without causing the body to die from shock was a talent.
Still, having millions of bodies that responded to the same attack command was hard to beat. Even if they couldn’t drive cars and act autonomously, they were able to converge on the same location and clog up escape routes. It gave the drones with metabilities the time to gather.
Part of Seth was panicking at the near to impossible task in front of him. Most of him kept moving forward, ducking and dodging down streets and running through buildings as needed. The rest of him was a gibbering mess praying they made it through alive and unmaimed.
“This is the last circle round,” he said. “We’re in it to win it after this.”
“Good. We’ve run more today than I’ve run in months. I might possibly be out of shape.” The sound of Tony’s voice belied his words. His breath wasn’t coming too fast and he was wasn’t straining to keep up with Seth.
“You’ve got longer legs than me. I have to have run *twice* as much as your lazy ass.” Seth held his left hand out at his side, counting down three fingers before flipping his thumb in the down direction.
“Let’s do this,” was all Tony said. It made Seth wonder if he was really worth all the trust Tony was showing him. Then he decided that he was grateful for it.
They ran through a series of building and jumped between one parking garage to the next before getting back on track to their target.
There were no pursuers in sight, proof that they’d thrown off the hive mind. It wasn’t going to take very long before they were tracked down, but by then they should have set off their charges and would be free to hole up until the end of the world was over.
Triangle Park was a bright green beacon on their maps. The mileage counter at the corner of his map told Seth they were only 4.6 miles away from their goal.
They were almost there. Almost ready to do or die.
“When we get home, I’m going to make an ice cream sandwich cake with raspberry jam filling and chocolate cream cheese frosting. I’ve been wanting to try it for a while.”
“What are you talking about?” Tony asked.
Seth’s lips quirked, though he couldn’t quite manage a real smile at the moment. “I saw some pictures. Three ice cream sandwiches lined up one way, then three more on top in a cross hatch, then another three on top, all slathered with frosting before being sliced. It’s all chocolate graham crackers and vanilla ice cream. I almost licked the screen, the pictures looked so good. I don’t want to die without trying it first.”
“Hey, don’t talk like that. We’re not going to die,” Tony said.
“I know,” Seth said. “I refuse to die before I’ve eaten an ice cream sandwich cake. So we’re going to have to live through today. Deal?”
Seth turned his face forward and focused on running. He was feeling the burn in his legs and there was blood drying stiff on his sleeves, but he wrapped himself in the moment. Holding tight to the thought that they were going to go home and they would have something to celebrate when they got there.
All they had to do was complete their part of the master plan. It was simple.
Triangle Park had recently gone through a redevelopment. Millions of dollars had been poured into transforming it into the park version of paradise, with a splashing fountain, decorative fish pond, exercise area, children’s playground, and the kind of groundskeeping marvels that had seen the park featured in magazines. Only now there was a makeshift circus tent shrouding whatever project the drones were working on. Thousands of sheets had been sewn together into a rippling wall of white, red, and Spongebob Squarepants.
It should have been whimsical. Serious adult bedsheets interspersed with the sheets of childhood. An apparatus looming high in the sky to hold up a tent made out of bedsheets. It should have been a hint of the strange in an otherwise normal world, and instead it made Seth feel threatened.
Because whatever was behind that sheet tent, it was dangerous. It was something a single-focused hive mind had gone out of its way to hide from human satellites and their cameras. It was some secret weapon that was waiting to be unleashed.
Which was why Seth and Tony had been tasked with blowing it up.
Aliens were trying to get a foothold on Earth. There was a lot of suspicious activity happening in Star City, but the aliens were smart enough to keep things obscured. Which meant dozens of superhero groups had been given lists of probable targets before being sent out.
Any target could be the one that stopped the aliens. Any mission could be the one that stopped giant killer aliens from making Earth their new home. Each target had a chance of being the one that stopped a war. And no one knew which missions and which group was the important one.
So right now, examining the scene that was Triangle Park, Seth felt his focus tightening. This could be for all the marbles, and he refused to be the one to fuck things up.
“Good luck,” he breathed.
“You too,” Tony said.
Then they were moving in opposite directions, Seth headed toward the swan-topped fountain, Tony toward the gazebo. If they survived, they were to meet up past the East Gate on the far end of the park. If they didn’t survive… well, then they’d be dining in Valhalla and none of this mattered anyway.
There were drones moving around the big tent. Carrying planks of wood and coils of wire, tromping around in their own little world. Seth was glad not to be noticed.
He stayed to the peripherals, moving amongst the trees. He wanted to use the cover as long as possible before he was forced to expose himself. He felt like he had a target painted on his skin. One drone catching sight of him too soon and everything would be over.
As he walked, he dropped tiny thumbtack charges. Unless they were being shoved into a keyhole to blow the lock on a door, they were mostly a popping firecracker sound and a bit of light. But they could be activated with a simple remote, and he figured a bit of distraction would do him good.
Ghosting amongst the trees, he set the camera on his helm to 360-degrees and hoped it was recording everything. No matter what happened, Overwatch would appreciate the enemy intel. Even if they got it from a satellite transmission after he was already dead.
He knelt down to pile the last of the thumbtack charges on the ground and smoothed a handful of loose dirt on top of them.
He wasn’t looking to start a fire, but the surrounding brush was dry and he could hope a little. It would make the perfect distraction while he made his getaway.
Seth rose to his feet, slipping his pack into his arms, and moseyed around the edge of the park, trying to remain unnoticed. He was glad the aliens were in their own personal world for the most part. It let him walk right past the fountain and drop the pack under one of the benches.
He kept walking at a steady pace, ignoring the nerves crawling along his spine. He wondered how Tony was doing and hoped that he’d gotten away.
He drew even with a public restroom and reached into his pocket to toggle the detonator.
The thumbtack charges went off with a series of popping cracks that culminated in a mass detonation that was surprisingly loud. He saw drones running passed the bathroom and took the opportunity to head toward the East Gate.
* * *
Sweat was soaking through Tony’s shirt and paranoia made him think that he was being watched. He could be caught at any moment, though he kept walking.
*Five minutes*, he thought. That was how much time he had to get away before the bombs blew.
Seth had set up some kind of distraction, and how Tony hadn’t wet himself when the crackling-pops had gone off was a pure miracle. But the drones were still occupied, a gathering crowd circling the distant tree-line.
If Tony had a grenade launcher, they’d all be dead in two shots. The brain controlling the drones wasn’t very smart, or at least hadn’t learned human tactics yet.
There was a reason the precogs were saying this was the only time to prevent a foothold. Because once the Gate was open, the more dangerous minds would come through and straightforward guerrilla tactics would no longer work.
It was with a sigh of relief that he spotted Seth lingering at the East Gate. The drones wouldn’t have spotted him under the brush cover he was ducked behind, but to Tony’s HUD he glowed friendly green.
Tony walked past, not breaking stride, and Seth appeared at his side. They kept moving at an even pace as the clock in the corner of the HUD counted down to 00:00.
There was a flash of light behind them and the sound of a million birds chirping. Instinct had them breaking into a run, the noise dampening on their helms not enough to completely block the *sound*. To unprotected ears it must have been agony.
“What was that? I though those were bombs–you know, ones that go bang–but whatever that was did not seem like an explosion.”
“No clue. Keep moving.”
There was the echo of wailing cries around them, a harsh counterpoint to the shrilling bird chirp. Tony risked a glance back and saw drones writhing on the ground, hands clutching ears that bled red.
He spotted something shiny and metallic rising from behind one man and that was enough for him.
He faced forward and ran until his lungs ached. Fled the memory of whatever that thing had been, with spiderlike legs on a centipede body and a needle-ridged maw gaping where a mouth should be. All he knew was that he didn’t want whatever that was to touch him. Didn’t want it to find a home in his body, nestled snug along his spine as it fed through into his mind.
He ran as though his life depended on it and didn’t stop until the sound of birds was a distant memory.
They were squatting in a small two bedroom apartment. Wordlessly they shared the master bedroom, huddled around each other on the queen-sized bed. The door to the second room stayed firmly shut, the child’s single bed with its cartoon sheets undisturbed.
Tony hadn’t let himself dwell on the rust-colored stains on the playmat or the drag marks on the carpet. Definitely didn’t focus on the small size of the fingers that had made those marks, desperate and clawing.
There wasn’t a lot of food in the kitchen, but they had ration bars in their pockets and they made do. The last thing they wanted was to be wandering the city streets scavenging, not when the hive mind seemed to have changed tactics.
Drones had taken to the streets in roving packs. They hadn’t quite gotten to the point of doing building-by-building searches, but Tony figured it was only a matter of time. The hive mind was adapting.
They’d watched as a family of four was run out into the middle of the street. The woman had bucked and screamed as her husband was pressed facedown on the ground. The angle was bad, keeping Tony from seeing the details, but within moments the man was up, helping to hold down the two terrified children, then his wife.
Fifteen minutes later, the drone pack had four new members. They slunk off into the dusk in search of prey, gliding together as though they shared one spine. It had been a chilling display, one he couldn’t look away from.
“I feel like I’m trapped in a horror movie,” he said. They had fallen into whispers since leaving Triangle Park. It felt strange to be so afraid all the time, but Tony thought that he had forgotten any other way to be.
“There’s a reason why I don’t like horror movies.” Seth turned off the burner and carried the pot of ramen to their nest of couch cushions and blankets. He settled opposite Tony in a crosslegged position.
Tony blinked at him. “Uh, why don’t you like horror movies?”
Seth passed him a fork and an oddly shallow blue bowl. “Because they’re too much like my real life and I don’t need that kind of drama. Eat up. We’re supposed to call in tonight.”
Tony used his fork to scoop noodles into his bowl. At Seth’s frown he took some of the cut cabbage too. He was worried about the call in; it would be their first contact with command in two days.
They would find out how many of their comrades had died or been subverted by the enemy. He didn’t want to hear that they were alone, that the mission was a failure.
“When did saving the world get so hard?” he muttered.
“About the same time we actually started saving *the world* and not just a few people living on it. I mean, if saving the world were easy, then everyone would be doing it.”
Tony ate some ramen, careful not to slurp juice everywhere. “Saving the world is important. I think I’m going to ask for a raise when we get out of here. Like a cost of living increase or something.”
“Do you want me to go in with you? That way we’ll present a united front.”
Sitting in the darkened living room of the apartment, the curtains drawn tight over the windows to increase the cavelike intensity, Tony got an erection.
He was only half-hard, but it was accompanied by the realization that Seth was beautiful. Not soft and pretty like a girl, but beautiful in the way of a handsome man that was healthy and who took care of himself.
It wasn’t a sudden realization–Seth *had* been voted #5 on the list of Magnificent Metas–but Tony had never thought about it. He’d never had the reality of Seth’s beauty strike him like this, a burst of raw arousal, of *want*.
They could die at any moment, or worse. They were alone in a hostile city with no backup and no easy escape.
*I would fuck him*, Tony thought. He lowered his face over his noodles, hoping the steam would hide his blush. But the thought was in his head, the idea had been planted.
He wasn’t blind, he’d caught the interest in Seth’s gaze before, the speculation. There’d been times when he’d wondered what it would be like–who’d do what, touch where, how Seth’s mouth would taste–but he’d already fucked one teammate and had things turn bad. It wasn’t something he wanted to risk with Seth, who was his friend and had been so awesome and supportive.
Except here they were, Tony’s dick was hard, and they could be attacked at any moment.
It was stupid and dangerous. It was a risk that distracted from the danger.
But Seth’s lips were made for kisses. His shoulders were broad and his body was all lean muscle. And though Tony winced away from the idea of sucking Seth’s dick, he’d seen it enough times in the locker room to be curious about the feel of it in his hand. Would it be weird touching someone else’s dick, or would it be like handling his own from a new angle?
*What is wrong with me?* he thought. *Nothing*, the answer floated back.
It felt like a mistake, but it was something he wanted more than anything. If he was going to die, he was going to taste Seth’s mouth first. One kiss, one firm press of lips, one brush of tongue. *One time with his mouth wrapped around my cock*.
“Can I kiss you?” he blurted. His cheeks were burning hot, but he forced himself to meet Seth’s eyes.
“Can I kiss you?” Tony repeated.
Seth wore a disbelieving expression and he stared at Tony long enough to be uncomfortable. Then, “Okay.”
Tony’s heart was trip-thumping, but he didn’t hesitate. He set his plate on the floor and crawled close to Seth on his hands and knees.
He licked his chapped lips before leaning forward to press his mouth to Seth’s. He kept his eyes open and saw Seth’s lashes flutter as they kissed. Their tongues brushed and tangled.
Tony pressed close and closer to Seth, finally pushing Seth onto his back so he could straddle his thighs. Tony leaned over Seth, their kisses turning into a furious clash of teeth and tongue. He ground his hard on against Seth and felt an answering hardness as Seth rocked up against him with a desperate moan.
It was dumb to do this with danger so close, but Tony wasn’t going to miss this chance. They could die or be captured at any time. This could be their last opportunity.
*And maybe you’re fooling yourself*, he thought. *Who cares? I want this*.
Tony fumbled at the front of Seth’s shirt before remembering how the seals worked. He wanted to feel naked flesh against his own.
“Wait,” Seth said. He pressed his palms flat against Tony’s chest and pushed him away. “What are we doing?”
“We’re having sex,” Tony said. He wanted to grab Seth and grind their dicks together. He wanted more heady kisses. He wanted to come all over Seth’s face.
“But you’re straight.” Seth’s fingers caressed the front of Tony’s uniform shirt.
“I think I could better be described as bi-curious,” Tony said. “And the person I want to explore this curiosity with is you. Do you not want to?” If Seth said No, he would go to the bathroom and finish himself off, then they could pretend that nothing had happened.
“Well, I …” Seth chewed his lower lip, his gaze roving over Tony’s face. “If we do this, are you going to freak out?”
“Of course not,” Tony said. “We’re friends. If it doesn’t work out, then we can treat it as a lesson learned. But if it does work out, well, we can have great sex before dying.”
Seth snorted a laugh. “This is going to be a disaster,” he said, but his hands slid across Tony’s chest to grab his shoulders, pulling him down against him.
They kissed and touched, and somewhere in there they ended up naked and it was good. Seth’s skin was warm, almost hot, and Tony loved the feel of so much heat wrapped around him.
There was no penetration–Tony wasn’t ready for that step and they didn’t have any lube anyway–but they rubbed off against each other, Seth’s hand wrapped around both of their dicks.
There were kisses and caresses and the feel of Seth’s mouth sucking on his balls helped Tony’s decision to have sex with Seth again when they had more time and lube.
“Wow. That was awesome,” Tony said. He was splayed on the floor, his head resting on Seth’s shoulder.
“No gay freak out then?” Seth asked. He stroked his fingers down Tony’s side.
“Why would I freak out? That was great. I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t like the idea of another penis, but it was you, so whatever. Was it good for you?”
“Yeah. It was good.”
Tony tipped his chin so he could get a clear view of Seth’s face. It was a relief to see Seth’s pleased smile and know that he hadn’t managed to ruin everything.
Tony closed his eyes and relaxed, his body going limp. He’d been wound tight for days, fearing attack at any moment. It felt good to have the tension release his muscles.
Having sex with Seth should have bothered him. He’d never been attracted to another man before. He *should* be having a big gay freak out, except Seth was his friend. The orgasm had felt great and he wanted to have more with Seth.
*I’m not gay*, he thought. *I still like women a lot. But I can accept that I’m bisexual*.
Tony smiled and curled his body closer against Seth. He would nap before they called in to headquarters.
*And if I’m lucky, maybe I can get Seth to give me a handjob later*. Tony smiled contentedly.
Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: superhero, mm
Because Chapter Eleven is 10,000 words, it has been split into two parts. Thank you.
Evan agreed to be Henry’s nanny and Tony felt some of his overprotective worry ease. If someone decided to come after Henry they would only have a few seconds to be surprised before they were vaporized by one of the world’s strongest pyrokinetics. Which meant Tony felt ready to go back to work, secure with the knowledge that Evan was keeping Henry safe.
It was still hard that first week, leaving Henry behind. He’d grown used to taking care of the little guy. Saying goodbye even for the day felt horrible. But at least he knew he could trust Evan. The man *had* nearly been his father-in-law after all.
Once he’d gone on his first patrol since Henry’s arrival, Tony could admit that he’d missed it. From the feel of the uniform against his skin to the thrill of facing down bad guys, he’d missed it all. The only thing he hadn’t missed was the paperwork–that he could have happily done without.
Being back on duty wasn’t without some stress. He was on call, but his schedule had been worked so he went home at night rather than being in the Demi Lair 24/7. There was still some tension over the whole slept with Solar/had a baby with Solar/ran Solar and Pulsar out of the group awkward drama. And then there were the two new members, WarSong and Saint Kloude. Adding new members to any group always changed the dynamics and he hadn’t had a chance to fully adapt to the changes when there was the first all hands on deck call.
“What’s happening?” Tony pulled on his body armor and his knuckle busters. Just because he was near impervious when powered up didn’t mean he went on duty in a tee shirt and a pair of jeans. He liked the added protection of armor and some offensive weaponry.
Seth had finished suiting up and was industriously loading both of their guns with lethal rounds. It wasn’t an optimistic sight for whatever they were facing.
“No clue, though it’s an All Call. We’re being assigned as backup for the League,” Seth said.
“Shit.” The last All Call had involved the 10-foot-tall Dogbryan rampaging through Midtown, which was bad enough, except he’d been working with the Dark Magician. Tony had spent two hours transformed into a chicken, which had resulted in a week of cock jokes once he’d been turned back.
Tony hurriedly finished dressing, then accepted his guns. He checked them before snapping them in their thigh holsters, but it was more by rote than anything else. He trusted Seth with his life.
“Here.” Seth held out the heavy-duty helm Tony usually eschewed. “Wouldn’t want to lose an eye.”
“Thanks.” The helm was actually a helmet that fit over Tony’s head and latched to the near-invisible clamps attached to his armored neck protector. Heavy and black with no visible eye slit, the inside padding conformed to the shape of his face and the plastisteel was one way transparent–he could look out, but no one could look in.
“I feel like a big dildo,” he said, fighting a shudder at the eerie reverberations. He hated the helm.
Seth laughed and put on his own white helm. He was also wearing full battle dress, the armor adding bulk to his shoulders and chest. “At least you’re not the only one all dressed up. I felt like a tool when I took on Parakeith.”
Tony winced. Seth had won the battle of course, but he’d also had to spend a month in the infirmary. He wondered if Seth still had pins in his left leg or if they’d all been removed. The armor had been the only thing that saved the leg–healers could repair most anything as long as they had something to work with. After that point there was only the cybernetics department at Lucifer Labs.
Tony checked himself over in the mirror, running through his mental checklist. “I’m ready,” he said.
Seth slapped him on the shoulder. He didn’t feel it through the armor. “Let’s go find out what’s threatening the Earth today. I’m kind of hoping for zombies.”
“Bite your tongue.” Tony held the locker room door open for him, then they walked down the hallways side-by-side.
An All Call meant massive amounts of danger and failure not being an option. Maybe Tony should have been scared, but mostly he was excited. With Seth at his side, geared up as Sunfire and looking ready to kick some ass, Tony thought there wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.
They were the heroes of this story, and the heroes always won.
Four hours later, Tony wasn’t so confident. The briefing had taken most of the wind out of his sails and he was seriously wondering if any of them were going to make it. Not that he would ever think to back out.
He had a duty to perform even if it killed him. Countless lives were depending on him and the fifty other superheroes crammed aboard the three re-purposed and armor plated school buses. No one was allowed to fly, not if it gave the Zarplaxian Horde a chance to adapt to their defenses.
He stared out the bus window and was glad of Seth’s presence on the bench seat beside him. Tony’s expression was grim and he forced down his fear, his gauntlets clenching against his helm where it rested on his lap. He hated breathing in the thing and would put it back on when they were closer to the mark.
“You doing okay?”
Tony glanced at Seth. “Sure, why not? We’re only facing the real life equivalent of the Borg. Why would I be worried?”
“I promise that I’ll rescue you if you get assimilated,” Seth said.
“Thanks.” One corner of Tony’s mouth lifted. “Just don’t let me go all Locutus and we’ll be all right.”
“Nerd,” Seth said fondly. He’d taken his own helm off and was sipping from a juice box, his right leg jiggling. There was no other sign of nerves about him, and just seeing him let Tony pretend that everything was going to be all right. None of his people were going to die today.
He glanced over his shoulder at where Powergirl was giving a last pep talk to the rookies with Queen Midnight adding her own words of advice here and there. Saint Kloude looked like he was about to piss himself, but WarSong was grimly determined. Tony hoped they didn’t die.
He twitched when Seth leaned against him, resting his head on his shoulder. Tony thought about making a comment, then swallowed it back down. He wrapped his arm around Seth and pulled him closer.
Minutes passed and he could feel Seth start to sag then jerk himself awake.
“Take a nap. I’ll wake you when we’re there,” he said gruffly.
“What about you?” Seth asked.
“Please. You know I can’t sleep before a mission. I get too excited.” He brushed his gauntleted hand against Seth’s ear. “Go to sleep.”
Tony took Seth’s helm and rested it on the floor between his feet. He stared out the window and listened to Seth breathe against his shoulder. It was a soothing sound, not quite a snore.
He was glad Evan had Henry. No matter what happened, Henry would be all right–Evan would kill anyone that got too close. So even if they lost today’s battle–which the precogs only gave them a 40% chance of winning–Evan would take Henry far away and join whatever resistance managed to form itself.
Needing the comfort, Tony hummed softly. A tuneless melody that eventually became an old lullaby his grandmother used to sing to him. He couldn’t remember her face, but he could still feel her love, and he wrapped it tight around himself as they rode into battle.
Not everyone was going to survive today. But he promised himself that he would keep Seth safe. It wasn’t going to be like the day Ashley died, alone and miserable, out of view of everyone as Tony let himself be distracted and forgot to watch her back.
*I’ve got you*, he thought. And it felt right to press a kiss against the top of Seth’s head, sealing the deal. *I’ve got you*.
* * *
There had been a time when Seth never would have thought he could sleep before a battle, but experience had trained him to rest when he could. It was better than brooding about what was going to happen. Plus he appreciated being well-rested before a fight.
Tony had kept his word and woken him before they’d entered Star City, which was eerily deserted.
“Where are all the people?” someone loudly wondered.
“They’re being turned into alien killing machines. Weren’t you listening during the briefing?” someone else replied to a round of nervous laughter.
Seth put his helm on and made sure it was thoroughly clamped down.
The Zarplaxians were able to control their victims through robotic spiders that injected nanobots in through the base of the skull. From the captured videos it had looked excruciating, the victims writhing and screaming, blood coming from their eyes, ears, noses, and mouths until they were thoroughly infested. Then they became drones to the Zarplaxian Hive Mind located half a galaxy away.
Their mission today was to keep the Zarplaxian scouts from gaining a foothold on Earth. The Teen Demis and other supergroups were to contain the situation in Star City while a second group was working on taking out the subspace ansible and destroying the connection to the Hive.
If things went well, the victims would be freed from Hive control and there would be time to clear the nanos from their bloodstreams. If things went bad, they’d be facing a city full of rampaging people under the control of a remorseless ubermind able to infect more drones while building what one precog had termed “a giant space toilet” that was able to bring in Warriors from the Zarplaxian homeworld. All the precogs agreed that letting even one Warrior Caste through would spell disaster for Earth. Evidently a Warrior was three hundred tons of world devastating power with the equivalent of a micro-singularity in its chest capable of swallowing cities whole.
The Zarplaxian Horde was not looking to add humanity to its empire. They were creating drones for the sole purpose of using them to build the giant machine through which they traveled. Then the Warriors would wipe away all animal life and the colonists would come through and take over their new home.
It seemed the Zarplaxians only used space travel to launch their drone ships–economy car-sized spheres loaded with nano spiders and the ansible components. For the Zarplaxians themselves, their species was so vast in size that humans were like ants. As their population grew, they needed more and more planets to contain them, and their Empire was expanding outward, swallowing countless worlds.
Seth drew in a deep breath as the bus rumbled to a stop in a grocery store parking lot. The other two buses in their group had already separated to their own target locations, and he knew there was another twelve buses loaded with superheroes out there, though he didn’t know where. Command hadn’t wanted anyone on the ground to know the full troop locations and plans because there was a real risk that any one of them could be infected. They were all considered expendable.
“All right, haul your asses off the bus and make way on foot to your target locations. Maintain radio silence and good luck,” Kid Nitro said, pulling the lever that opened the doors. He didn’t wait for a response, zipping down the steps and away in a blur that quickly disappeared. He had his own mission to perform, as did they.
Seth shuffled off the bus and met up with the other Teen Demis. Their group would stick together, though after the ansible went down they were supposed to separate into pairs–Seth had already claimed Tony as his partner.
Other groups had already gathered their gear and were trooping off. Seth saw Captain Ferocious from the Young Bloods starting his guys moving off at a trot, Pyremaker missing from their team. Like the psionics, the pyrokinetics were being kept in reserve. If the situation got bad, the order was for the pyros to torch everything in the city, including their own teammates.
Seth wasn’t too concerned for himself, but Queen Midnight was the only other flame resistant member of the Teen Demis. Everyone else would go up like a roman candle, and anyone trying to fly away would be shot down by air support.
Command was not risking any Zarplaxian drones escaping. They all knew what was at stake here. They all knew their own people would put them down for the greater good. It was sobering, but there was no room for failure.
“All right, guys, let’s get moving,” Powergirl said, her voice echoing eerily through her helm. “We’ve got about a million drones between us and our objective.”
It felt vaguely disrespectful to think of them as drones, but there needed to be some disassociation. Otherwise there was a real concern that one of them might hesitate at the wrong moment, caught up in the realization that they were killing people–mothers and fathers, young children with their whole lives spread out before them–and not saving the world.
It was unfortunate, but the citizens of Star City had already been written off by the CMPF and the World Council. What were the lives of a few million when compared to all of humanity? It sucked, but they were all marked expendable, and it was something that needed to be remembered when they confronted a bunch of “drones.”
Seth glanced at the rookies. It was impossible to read expressions with their helms on, but he figured they had to be scared. It sucked that their first All Call involved an apocalypse scenario, but that was the luck of the draw. He hoped they survived.
“Let’s go,” Powergirl said, not even bothering to try for a cheery pep talk. She sounded grimly determined and her shoulders were square as she set off across the parking lot.
They followed after her. They had twelve miles to go and they were making them on foot, their Command assigned packs bulging with gear.
Their mission was to reach the Alcott building and lay the charges for the experimental ELF bomb. The satellite dish on the roof was supposed to boost the signal somehow, though Seth hadn’t understood the specifics.
All he knew was they were laying the charges, and if things went well, all unshielded humans–drone or not–would be knocked unconscious for up to 26-hours. It would cause some kind of biological system reboot.
The whole thing felt really sci-fi to him, but considering they were fighting aliens he was willing to accept the idea as long as it worked. He just hoped the transmitters they’d been given really would shield them from the blast. It would suck to get knocked out by their own tech.
“Keep an eye out for flyers,” Powergirl warned.
Queen Midnight had her gauss rifle ready in her hands. “On it.”
From the briefing they knew Star City had nearly a hundred thousand metahumans of varying ability levels. After Behemoth’s rampage most of the active alphas had been wiped out, but things were still dangerous. Some flying kid strapped to a bomb could still ruin the plan.
Seth kept near Tony and tried not to think of the last time he’d walked these streets. Sure, it had happened on the other side of town, but he didn’t think he’d ever forget the screaming agony as his leg splintered in the grip of one meaty hand, his hip dislocating with a squelching-pop.
“God, I hate this city,” he muttered.
Tony bumped his shoulder, his helm still facing forward as he watched the road ahead. “We got this. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got you.”
It was dumb to feel so relieved, considering what they were headed into, but having Tony close soothed him. It was hard to be afraid when Tony was nearby.
He remained watchful and wary as they followed Powergirl’s lead. Tony watched the left while he had the right, and between the two of them they guarded the rear from attack. The newbies were kept toward the middle of the group where they could be somewhat protected.
There was something eerie about walking down the empty streets of a once bustling metropolis. It might have been more soothing to know the people were all dead, at least then there wouldn’t have to be so much wondering about where they were, what they were doing. Millions of people didn’t just disappear. Not when they were being controlled by an alien hive-mind.
“I’ve got movement in the high rise on our nine,” Tony said, voice low even with their secured coms. “Window on the fourteenth floor.”
“I see it,” Queen Midnight said. “There were reports of unaltered humans hiding out. Might be one of them.”
“We can’t risk it. WarSong, you’re up,” Powergirl said. “Take out the target with a minimum of fuss and meet us on the corner of that peach building. I’m marking it on your map. Follow the caret.”
“Yessir.” WarSong drifted to the edge of the group and into the shadow of the building. Their watcher wouldn’t be able to see her from that angle.
The Teen Demis moved on, Queen Midnight’s shadows a near invisible pressure against their body armor. She’d be able to block a few armor piercing rounds, enough that they’d have a chance to prepare for incoming.
“Did she call me sir?” Powergirl asked.
“Yessir,” Seth said and there was a brief chuckle in response. They were all wound tight, waiting for a mass of mind-controlled zombies to fall on them.
“I’m too old for this shit,” Powergirl said. “Stay frosty, people. Hive-mind means if that was a hostile then they already know we’re here.”
They made their way to the peach colored building, which turned out to be more orangeish when they got close. Seth kept an eye on his side, tensed to catch any motion.
He hoped it was an unaltered civilian that had been watching them. Then wondered what kind of monster he had to be that he was wishing WarSong was killing some poor regular shmoe. They just couldn’t risk their op being busted–all witnesses needed to be handled, quietly and surgically.
Seth pushed any guilt away and focused on the Now. He’d have time for guilt and self-recriminations later, when the world wasn’t invaded by a hostile alien force.
He kept alert, eyes scanning his section. Tony was a spot of warm presence on his left, a green-for-friendly blob on the map located in the corner of his helm’s HUD.
He pushed away everything but the mission and firmly gripped his gauss rifle, ready to fire at any sign of hostiles. He was ready.
* * *
Tony was sweating into his jock. Every time there was a hint of serious danger, his balls decided to sweat until he was a drippy mess between the legs. Moisture wicking underwear kept him from swimming in his own fear, but he could tell the material lining his cup had worn thin. It was a minor irritation, but he had to force himself not to be distracted.
Getting his team killed because he had sweaty balls would not go over well with Overwatch. Plus the guilt would probably send him right over the edge.
Tony kept his eyes sharp and ignored the discomfort in his pants. “She’s taking a while,” he said.
They’d been waiting near to fifteen slow crawling minutes. WarSong should have been in and out in less than ten. Even spread out under the overhang with parked cars to hopefully conceal them, they were dangerously exposed. The longer they spent in one place the more vulnerable they were to detection.
Tony shifted in his crouch, trying to give his crotch some room to breathe. The sweat was making him itch and he gritted his teeth at the sensation. It was like fire ants infesting his balls, little nips that were getting worse and worse. Sweat trickled down the side of his face.
“I feel uncomfortable saying this,” Seth sounded strained, “but I feel like there’s ants in my pants. My, uh, my balls feel like they’re getting, uh. It’s very uncomfortable.”
“You too?” Queen Midnight breathed. “Oh shit, I think we’ve been made.”
With her pronouncement, it suddenly felt as though someone had literally set Tony’s crotch on fire. With a propane torch.
His knees hit the pavement and he hunched over the agony in his groin. It was not just his balls anymore, but his dick and deep up into his pelvis. His nerves were screaming out and there was nothing he could do to stop the pain.
Tears flooded his eyes and he gritted his teeth hard enough to hear his molars grate together. He hunched over himself, his armor keeping him from clutching his tormented genitals.
“Fu-fuck,” he groaned.
Dimly he heard shouts and crashes, but it wasn’t until the pain cut out that he knew the world around him still existed. Strangely distorted with bright splashes of color and sound that echoed through his skull, but still there.
He was grabbed by the shoulders and pulled away in time to watch a mid-sized car cartwheel through the spot where he’d been kneeling. He blinked at the strangeness of everything and let himself be pulled along in a stumbling run, Seth’s hand gripping his hand hard enough that he could feel it through his gloves. It was an anchor keeping him from slipping away.
Tony followed Seth, counting on him to lead him to safety. He was too out of it to trust himself.
It was a whirl of alleyways and long stretches of street, of using cars and buildings for cover as they fled as fast as they could on foot. Tony could feel his heart thudding in his chest and his panting breaths made his helm hot and moist inside. All he knew was that they were running from the enemy and he was glad the sharp pain had stopped. His dick and balls still ached, though it was a dull echo.
Finally Seth seemed to think they’d thrown off pursuit. He shoved Tony into a narrow alley between two brick buildings and pulled him down into an exterior stairwell.
Tony panted for breath, resting his head against Seth’s back. He tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. His brain felt scrambled and words were too hard to get out.
“I think we’re good.” Seth peered down the alley toward the street, his back a tense line. “We might be good.”
Tony shuddered and breathed and wanted to take his helm off except that probably wasn’t a good idea. At the moment he couldn’t have said why it would be bad, he was just trusting his training.
“Are you all right?” Seth turned around, his hands holding Tony’s shoulders. He sounded concerned, though it was impossible to read his expression through the blank smoothness of his helm. “Tony? Teen Steel, respond!”
It was the snap of command that had Tony stiffening. His mouth opened and moved, though it took several tries to get sensible words out. “I… I’m all right.”
Seth’s sigh of relief seemed weirdly close, intimate, through the coms. “Thank God, I don’t think I could handle any of this alone.”
“Where’s…” Tony cleared his throat. “Where’s the team?”
“I don’t know. We scattered in different directions. We have to figure they’ve all been compromised. We’re alone. Mission parameters have changed.”
Command had figured something like this could happen. Until the threat was taken out and the All Clear was sounded, they would be a two-man group and they weren’t to trust anyone, not even their own teammates.
“Shit,” Tony muttered. He was glad he wasn’t alone, but it was going to be tough completing the mission with just the two of them. Tough, but not impossible.
“We can do this,” Seth said.
“Yeah.” Tony tried to keep the doubt out of his voice, knowing they didn’t have any other choice. The Earth was at risk and duty didn’t stop just because the team had been split up and his balls hurt. “We can do this.”
Seth gripped his shoulders tight and leaned forward to clunk their helms together softly. “We can do this. We’ll stay here about half an hour and rest up, then we’ll fulfill our secondary objective. We got this.”
“Yeah.” Tony wanted to believe. “We got this.”
* * *
Whatever that attack had been, it had hit Tony hard. Enough to put the guy’s body into shock, at least that’s what Seth figured was going on.
In the scuffle, Seth had caught a glimpse of their attacker before the man’s face had exploded into vapor under the high-powered fire of his gauss rifle. It had been the minor supervillain known as Hotfoot. He had the ability to manipulate the nerves of his victims, bringing a burning sensation that could focus on a group of people with one target taking the brunt of his focus. It looked like Tony had been his main target.
Seth looked toward Tony and saw that he’d folded himself into the corner against the door. His knees were drawn up against his chest and his head was tilted sideways, the side of his helm pressed against the cement. He looked like he’d be uncomfortable, but Seth didn’t want to bother him when they were going to be moving out in a few minutes.
He wished that he could see Tony’s face, but they weren’t to remove their helms during the mission. Not when the enemy could take control of a host within a few seconds of tapping a spinal node. Safety had to come first, even if Seth was worried about Tony.
Hotfoot didn’t give his victims permanent nerve damage, but Seth had seen the Bingo Books. Hotfoot was a smalltime villain with an ability that could cause psychosomatic pain in the people he targeted. He’d only used his powers on a small scale, not wanting to end up on some cape’s hit list, but there had been notes in the file speculating that a concentrated enough dose of his metability could create a permanent disability in his targets.
It would be psychological in nature, but Tony could spend the rest of his life suffering from the symptoms of nerve damage, including recurring flareups of agonizing pain.
Seth’s chronometer vibrated on his wrist before he turned off the alarm. It was time to move out. They had a mission to complete.
He laid a hand on Tony’s shoulder, not squeezing and definitely not shaking. He didn’t need to trigger an aggressive response. “Tony, it’s Seth. Time to wake up.”
There was a discontented groan through the coms and Tony’s helm covered head shifted. “I’m awake.”
“Good. We’ve got work to do. What’s your status?”
Seth moved out of the way as Tony climbed to his knees, his arms and head rotating as he worked the kinks out. “I feel like I’ve been run over, but I’m ready.”
“All right. I’ll hold you to that.” Seth didn’t have a choice. This was an all-hands on deck op and he wasn’t looking to complete the mission alone. “We move out in five.”
“Yes, sir.” There wasn’t a trace of mockery in Tony’s voice. He’d put his game face on.
Seth pushed all the worry and affection away from his mind and pulled the mission to the forefront. There was no time for sentimentality or affection. They had a job to do, and in the end they were both expendable. Even if he loved Tony.
“Let’s get out of here. I’m marking the secondary target on the map and denoting it Primary Objective. If we get separated, you go after your backup target and you don’t hesitate. Understood?”
Just as Seth didn’t know what Tony’s fallback target was, Tony didn’t know what Seth’s was. If they were lucky, neither one of them would have to activate their solo missions–the Suicide Plans. Because if Seth was forced to switch his powers to max and burn his way through the central mass of enemy territory, there wasn’t going to be anything left of him–win, lose, or fail.
Being able to burn hotter than the sun was an awesome power in theory. But there came a point when his own body couldn’t protect him from the damage anymore. He’d burn like a road flare–fierce, bright, and hot enough that there’d be nothing left inside, just a burnt out husk.
Given his choice, he’d rather stay as far away from Objective Three as possible. And he didn’t want to even think about what Tony’s solo mission would entail.
*It doesn’t matter*, he thought. *We have our PO and we’re not going to let anything stop us. We* will *complete the mission*.
He looked down the alley. “It’s clear. Let’s go.”
They’d wrapped their packs with dull black duct tape, which meant there wasn’t a single jangle as they moved out. Seth kept an eye toward Tony for a few steps, but the other man seemed all right. There was no stiffness in his stride at least and he didn’t voice a complaint.
Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: superhero, mm
The situation blew up. Seth cursed himself for being a jinx. Especially since it *literally* blew up along with most of Bill’s Discount Computer and Electronic Component Emporium and the people inside.
The scene was a mess of blood and body parts. Saint Kloude had already thrown up and WarSong looked like she wanted to, though she was maintaining a stoic expression. Right up until she tripped over the charred remains of an arm and was caught mere inches from face-planting in a pile of red that Seth refused to identify. WarSong gagged loudly, and not from the firm grip Powergirl had on her cape.
“You’re all right,” Powergirl said. “Don’t focus on any of this and don’t breathe through your nose.”
“We… we could have died,” WarSong stated. She was shocky, her suit sporting burnt holes that revealed the pale skin beneath. Strands of long black hair hung wild around her head, but her torn and dirty gloves couldn’t tame them and she didn’t have a hair-tie anyway.
Seth watched her for a few seconds before turning away. She wouldn’t want him close to her right now and he didn’t have the words to make anything okay.
He looked around the cordoned off blast zone, the press already gathering around the edges. The air was heavy with the scent of burning, and acrid black smoke trailed up into the sky.
Baby Calypso was dead. It wasn’t his fault, but it had happened on his watch. He thought he could still hear the echoes of her screams, but that was just guilty imagining. Because he hadn’t been fast enough, smart enough, and he hadn’t made sure the rookies were prepared enough.
Large black boots clumped across the wreckage to stop in front of him. “Sunfire, report.”
Seth looked into the grim face of Caspian Dukes, Watch-Commander of the League of Superheroes. His appearance here was proof that Seth had screwed up.
“The situation was more volatile than expected,” he said, keeping his voice even. “We didn’t realize they’d wired the hostages to blow until seconds before the explosion. We managed to contain the blast zone, but neither the hostages nor the prisoners survived.”
Dukes looked around the wreckage. There was no expression on his face. “No, they did not. This is going to be a media nightmare, kid. Get ready to take some heat.”
“Yes, sir,” Seth said.
It might have been unfair since he’d no longer been in command at the time, but he’d been the first arrival on scene. To the media and the world at large, this cock-up would be tied to the name Sunfire forever more. *He’d* certainly be carrying the guilt around.
“There’s enough people here to handle the clean up, so why don’t you get out of here? Remember to turn in your after action report.”
“Yes, sir.” Seth gave him a nod and turned away. That was something he appreciated about Dukes: he spoke straight and didn’t waste time on lectures. He knew that sometimes things got screwed up and someone had to take the blame regardless of what really happened.
Seth was going to be stuck with the blame for this mess. Which was why his first words to Powergirl after leaving Dukes were, “I’m taking a few days off from public gigs.”
Her mouth opened, then closed as she looked around. She nodded. “I understand.”
“Thanks. I’m headed back to the Lair. Dukes cleared me,” he said. “Unless you need me for something?”
“No, you can get out of here. Maybe take a shower. You smell.”
“Thanks for the suggestion.” He held out his fist for a quick knuckle bump. It amused him to know that she thought it was childish but would do it anyway. “Laters!”
He got out of there before she thought to ask him to take the newbies with him. He couldn’t handle it at the moment.
Reaching the Demi Lair, Seth ducked through the balcony doors against protocol. He wasn’t in the mood for a full security check, which is what he would have gotten if he’d gone through the lobby. From the flashes of light and the sound below he knew the media was waiting to ambush him or any other member of the Teen Demis they could catch. He didn’t look in their direction, refusing to give them a clear face shot.
He paused long enough to wash his hands and make himself two sandwiches before retreating to his room. He left the sandwiches on the desk before going into the bathroom and taking a shower. He scrubbed his hair three times to get all the soot and stink out, then changed into sweatpants and a plain tee shirt before flopping into his desk chair.
He took a bite of sandwich as he woke up his computer and pinged Tony’s video chat. He needed something to think about that didn’t have anything to do with how he’d fucked up today.
Tony’s face appearing on the screen was like a balm to the soul. “Hello.”
Seth tried hard not to sound needy. “Hey, I know I’m early, but I felt like checking in with you. How’s Henry?”
Tony’s smile was bright. “No probs, man. I was tired of staring at the walls two hours ago.” He raked a hand through his hair. “Henry’s sleeping, if you can’t tell. I’ve already snuck in there three times to make sure he’s still breathing. I don’t think he’s ever slept this long. It’s scaring me.”
Seth could feel himself relaxing into the comfort of Tony’s odd sense of humor. “Well, I’m glad you’ve been enjoying your free time.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Seriously, someone should warn about how boring babies are. They’re like eating, sleeping jellybeans that spit up everywhere.” He brushed his fingers over a small discolored splotch on the front of his shirt.
“Gross. You’re still wearing it?”
“Hey, I got tired of washing laundry all the time. Plus I care about the environment.”
“Solar powered here, though I get where you’re coming from.” Seth laughed at the expression Tony gave him.
The whole “Sunfire might be solar powered” thing had been a long-running belief in criminal circles. Which explained all the dark boxes Seth had broken out of over the years. There were some people that refused to accept that his power was self-generated.
“You’re an ass,” Tony said, and to Seth’s hopelessly infatuated brain it sounded like an endearment.
“Thank you,” he said.
“I was having a bad day and seeing your face has made it better.”
Seth shrugged. “You’re probably going to see the story on the news in a little while. What should have been a routine arrest went bad. A bunch of people died on my watch. Same shit, different day.”
“Huh. It seems like there might be more to the story, but I’m not going to grill you.” Tony chewed on his lip. “I saw Evan Lee. Did you know he lives in our building?”
“I did not know that,” Seth said. “How is he?”
Tony shook his head. “Still trying to handle things. He looks much better than he did, but I don’t think he’s ever going to be all right.”
“I feel bad for him.”
“Me too. I feel like I should do something for him, but I have no idea what.” Tony reached forward and the image jostled as he picked up the laptop and carried it into his bedroom. At Seth’s look, he grinned. “Sorry. I couldn’t talk in the kitchen because the counter is too low. Wouldn’t want to force you to stare up my nose.”
A completely cheesy and inappropriate comeback was on the tip of Seth’s tongue, but he bit it back. There was no reason to make things weird. “Thanks for thinking of me.”
Tony disappeared from the screen for a few seconds as he set the laptop on the bureau facing the bed. When he reappeared it was to flop onto the navy blue comforter, his jean-clad legs looking ridiculously long. His white socks were heather gray colored across the soles.
It was stupid and embarrassing and Seth made sure not to shift uncomfortably, but he was hard. *Instant boner*, he thought ruefully. It was something he’d thought would stop happening when he was out of his teens, but Tony had always been able to push his buttons. And at least they weren’t in person, where his hard on would be obvious in his sweatpants.
“So…” He cleared his throat. “Evan is in our building?”
“Yeah. We went to lunch the other day and it was nice talking to him. I think I’m going to invite him over to our place tomorrow. Is that all right with you?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
Tony shrugged, the bottom of his shirt riding up to expose a sliver of skin. His jeans were button fly. Seth bit the inside of his lip to keep from making a sound.
“I don’t know. I guess I don’t want to invite someone over and find out it makes you mad.”
“Why would I be mad? It’s your apartment too, and besides, Evan is a cool guy.” When he wasn’t being the Flame Burst and roasting supervillains alive. His kill-count was in the triple digits, yet he was a good guy. Seth tried not to think about it too hard.
“Okay, cool. I’m kind of worried about him and I don’t like the thought of him being alone.”
Tony rested his head on a plump pillow, laying his hand on his stomach and crossing his ankles. It was an innocent pose that still made Seth’s heart beat a little fast. It was like one of those candid shots in magazines of attractive people being effortlessly sexy; where it shouldn’t have been masturbation fodder but was.
Seth felt ashamed of his own arousal in that Tony was his friend. He’d always thought it was wrong to lust after a friend that didn’t know the feelings they were invoking, but he didn’t feel brave enough to say anything either. Being rejected would be awful–days of weeping in his room, eating ice cream right out of the container, and watching things like *What Dreams May Come* and *Autumn of My Heart*–but he’d be able to deal with it. What he couldn’t face was Tony rejecting his feelings, then maybe deciding they couldn’t be friends anymore too.
*I’m pathetic*, he thought.
Give him a planetary threat and he wouldn’t hesitate to throw himself into the fray. But faced with the man he secretly loved, and he turned into a coward. All the words he wanted to say dried in his throat and his confessions turned to lies and promises that everything was okay.
*How have I become this? When did I start hiding who I am and pretending to be someone I’m not? I wasn’t friendzoned; I’ve just never gotten up the balls to say the words*.
To look at Tony, face animated as he talked, not noticing that Seth was responding with “Uh huh” and “Really?” when it came to his turn to speak, there was an ache in Seth’s chest. Because he wanted this forever. To listen to Tony, to laugh with Tony, to fight with Tony at his side.
He wanted Tony–best friend, lover, life mate, whatever he could have. It was desperation and indecision, a hunger that would never be tamed, because Tony had burrowed into the center of him and blocked all other loves from taking hold.
How lonely would it be to spend the rest of his life wanting Tony and never having more than this? When had he become so greedy that friendship wasn’t enough and he *burned* for more?
Teammate, roommate, lover–it was the progression part of him insisted he take. *Say the words*, some inner voice cried, but he couldn’t because he was too afraid. So he dithered in his one-sided love and lied to himself that what he had was enough.
To look at Tony spread across the bed, talking to him through a computer screen. Close, yet so far away; it hurt, but it was all that he had. He didn’t dare to ask for more because he couldn’t risk losing it all.
“… and kale. It was a strange first meeting, but the food was surprisingly good. So do you think it’s a good idea?” Tony asked.
Seth blinked. He’d been wrapped up in his personal angst and had missed most of what Tony was saying. He scrambled, but he had no clue what they’d been talking about other than it had started with Evan Lee.
“Sure?” he said, near wincing at how it sounded. There was no way Tony could believe he’d been listening.
“Great!” Tony beamed. “I’ll ask him tomorrow. I think he would make a great babysitter, but I was on the fence about it. You’ve made me feel better about the idea.”
“Awesome.” Seth didn’t know what had just happened, but he thought he might have recommended Evan Lee–the Flame Burst! Superhero voted most likely to vaporize his enemies–as Henry’s nanny.
For the rest of their conversation Seth stayed on point. It was a battle to keep his eyes focused on Tony’s face and not his muscular arms or chest. And he definitely did not stare at the juncture of his legs where the outline of his dick against the denim gave clear evidence that Tony tucked left.
There were no more important topics, but at least Seth didn’t have to feel guilty that he was objectifying his straight best friend. Though by the time Tony signed off to go check on Henry, the bread on Seth’s sandwiches was a little dry and his erection was pressed again his zipper to the point of distorting the metal.
He ate both sandwiches, washing them down with sips of water. Then he jerked off furiously into his fist, his eyes squeezed tight shut as he pictured Tony lying on that bed, legs spread and dick out, the button fly splayed wide, framing his pelvis. He imagined putting his mouth there, sucking on Tony’s dick, licking his balls. When he came it was with the imagined splatter of Tony coming all over his face then licking him clean, Tony’s scent absorbing into his skin, claiming him.
*I am so fucked*, he thought, but he had such a pleasant buzz that there was no fire in it. He’d become used to wanting men that didn’t want him back, though he tried hard never to think of Biotox.
There were so many people that had shown their interest in him, but he was the idiot that fell and fell hard for the ones that didn’t want him. Physically imposing men that hypothetically could hold him down and do whatever they wanted to him. Strong and decisive men that could wrap their arms around him and give him the illusion that he wasn’t the strongest person in the room. He could be the one protected for once, cared for and loved, with a larger body spooned around him at night to keep the nightmares away. Because at the end of the day he wasn’t a superhero, he was just a man.
A man that had fallen for his oblivious best friend.
Funny thing, I was desperate to watch episodes of Darkwing Duck a couple of months ago. I found some episodes on YouTube, and I realized that nostalgia is a lying b-witch. Anyways, here’s some Darkwing Duck love. T-Shirts, The Terror that Flaps in th… | TeePublic
Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: superhero, mm
Being on call had never felt like torture before, but four days in and he couldn’t help wishing he could at least leave for the night. The thought of going home to his own place appealed, where Tony and Henry were waiting for him. Instead he lounged in the common room playing first-person shooters and wishing there was some action.
At least if he was kicking criminal ass he could tell himself his time wasn’t being wasted. Plus there was something cathartic about punching supervillains in the face. Instead he was hanging out in the Lair *waiting* for something exciting to happen. It was frustrating.
There was the clatter of footsteps and Powergirl came in with their two new trial recruits, Saint Kloude and WarSong. They still had that faintly shocked look about them. That “I must be dreaming” expression of newbie superheroes everywhere.
“Hey Sunfire, can you do me a favor and take these guys out on a patrol?”
Seth was tempted to say No, but he could feel the walls closing in on him and the idea of getting out for a while appealed. He tossed his controller on the coffee table and stood, stretching his arms over his head. “Yeah sure, why not? Come on noobs, gear up and let’s get out of here.”
From the exposed portions of WarSong’s face he could tell she was surprised he had agreed to take them out, which called into question what people thought of him. Maybe he needed to spend more time bonding with his teammates–they were the ones he depended on watching his back after all.
How could he count on a team that didn’t trust him to be there for them? How could *Tony* count on them?
When a split second could mean the difference between living or dying, there was no room for doubt or distrust. There was training and discipline, teamwork and camaraderie. They depended on him and he depended on them, and funerals were never any fun.
Seth went to the gear room and pulled on his cape and strapped his matching yellow utility belt around his waist. He glanced at himself in the full-length mirror and once again had to wonder at his costume choice. White bodysuit, yellow cape and belt, and a mask that covered most of his face while leaving his mouth exposed.
He’d chosen his Sunfire uniform when he was fourteen years old. A young and idealistic kid, he’d never imagined a time when he wouldn’t have six-pack abs and the muscular physique of a young god. It wasn’t a problem yet–he looked damn good and he knew it–but in ten or fifteen years when his metabolism started slowing down he’d be looking at embarrassing bulges and unflattering angles if he didn’t keep to his workout routine.
Glancing at WarSong and Saint Kloude he knew WarSong at least would be regretting her outfit. Skintight red leather that hugged every curve and made her breasts look at least three times too large for her slender build. If she gained five pounds she wouldn’t just be uncomfortable in her outfit, she’d be looking at magazines and blogs pointing out the weight-gain.
Being in the public eye was one of the drawbacks of being a superhero. It could be brutal.
Seth pursed his lips, swallowing any comment he wanted to make. WarSong might better appreciate costume advice from another woman. He would talk to Powergirl and Queen Midnight later.
Saint Kloude, who had a stocky build garbed in black fatigue pants, a faux-muscled chest plate, and a black jacket, had left himself room to grow or contract in his uniform. He looked bigger and more muscled than he was, which would have the less serious criminals leery of facing him head on.
“You guys ready?” Seth asked.
WarSong shared a look with Saint Kloude. “We’re ready,” she said.
Seth nodded. “Let’s go.”
Flying over the city was one of those things that never lost its appeal. There was something about being able to look down and see the world spread out below–the people tiny ants crawling around–that brought a sense of being in control of one’s own life.
WarSong flew on currents of elemental wind, her black hair whipping around seductively. Saint Kloude was held aloft by a puffy white cloud that had appeared with a snap of his fingers. They followed Seth as he pointed out various features of the city below. The coms gave the three of them the same intimacy as if they were alone in a room.
“You don’t have to shout,” Seth said. “I can hear you perfectly fine.”
“Oh, sorry,” Saint Kloude blurted. “We just got the coms and…”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it. Just remember that even if I’m a mile away, I’m still really close on the coms. Speak normally and I’ll hear you fine.”
“Ugh,” Seth groaned, “it’s Sunfire, not sir. I work for a living.”
“Yes, s–… Yes Sunfire.”
“Smooth, real smooth.” Seth drew in a deep breath. “How you doing over there Song? Holding it together?”
“That’s WarSong, and yes I am.”
“I can see how Saint Kloude got his name, but what about you? Some kind of vocal control like the Whirling Dervish? Can you get people to dance until they die too?”
“No. I’ve got strength, flight, and a bit of empathy. With some concentration I can sow the seeds of discord in my enemies, but there’s no singing involved.”
“So why the name?” Seth asked.
She sounded defensive, “Because I like it and it’s the name I wanted to use.”
“Okay.” He was glad to spot something below. He needed to change the subject before things got any more uncomfortable. “I see happenings at six o’clock. Let’s check it out.”
There was an instinct every superhero got after they’d been on the job a while. It was an ability to spot metahuman happenings even when powers weren’t being tossed around.
Everyday crime was outside of his purview and was handled by the local authorities. Unless his stepping in could stop an immediate threat to a citizen’s life or safety, it was better to leave things to the police. Otherwise there started being bad blood and situations like New Stanwyck happened. The police came to resent the superheroes so much that there were riots and forty-six people were vaporized when someone threw a grenade at The Time-Keeper. Unable to stop the blast, he projected it outward, right into the crowd of his attackers. Mostly off-duty cops, it had been a bad scene all around.
Seth was happy to leave mundane crimes to the police. It meant less paperwork for him as well as a clear divide between what was and wasn’t his responsibility.
“We’ll come in low near that yellow building and move in on foot. Keep your powers holstered and don’t do anything until I say. Understand?”
The noobs hurriedly agreed and he barely kept from rolling his eyes. There was a more than good chance they were going to screw things up, but that was the fundamental part of handling noobs. He was here to keep the damage to a minimum and make sure they didn’t get themselves killed.
“WarSong, take point. Saint Kloude, you’re in the support position. I will observe to see how you both handle things.”
He hung back as WarSong dove toward the yellow building and dropped down to the street. He noticed she stumbled a little before catching her balance on her fashionable high-heeled boots. Saint Kloude dissipated his cloud when he was a few inches off the ground and drew his pistol, taking up a guard position at her back. Seth noted the way he kept a wary eye out even behind himself.
*Good eye*, Seth thought. *I’m not going to step in unless things go pear-shaped*.
He let them get a bit ahead, then followed after. He didn’t want them to get too far away. If things turned serious he didn’t want to have to explain to Overwatch how he’d let two new superheroes get themselves hurt or killed. It wouldn’t turn out well.
He watched as WarSong and Saint Kloude cased the suspicious activity. Their chatter on the coms made it clear that they didn’t know what had twigged his danger sense. Which didn’t stop them from charging headfirst into danger. And neither one of them bothered to ask him what he thought was happening.
Seth kept his expression blank as he followed them through the delivery gate of Bill’s Discount Computer and Electronic Component Emporium. The place was supposed to be closed, yet several people moved in and out, loading boxes into a van that was hidden from the view of people on the street.
To an inexperienced eye it might have looked like a simple off hour delivery of supplies, most likely to a large company considering the amounts being loaded onto the van. Except Seth had recognized one of the women as Baby Calypso in an ill-fitting coverall. She was a small-time criminal, but she’d recently been tied to Jericho Slim’s operation as a mercenary cape, which upped her danger quotient.
Jericho Slim and his collection of suit wearing killers was quickly gaining ground in the city’s underworld. Not just drugs and prostitution anymore; there were rumors that he was dabbling in superscience. Which made it likely that his people robbing an electronics supply depot wasn’t because they wanted to sell the parts.
This was the biggest part of a superhero’s job–preventing the major events from happening. Or at the least getting a much needed heads up about trouble before it appeared.
Seth ghosted after WarSong and Saint Kloude. He took a few seconds to send a text to Powergirl letting her know what was going on. He was a bit disappointed that neither of the noobs bothered to call in before heading into what might be a dangerous situation. They were showing a foolish level of self-confidence.
He wasn’t sure what they were expecting to happen, but he got to have a ringside seat as they stumbled directly into the path of a guy that had to be close to eight feet of solid muscle and bad attitude. And from the way he managed to grab WarSong by the arm and fling her, he had to be packing the superstrength.
Saint Kloude stood protection over his downed teammate until she was back on her feet. Then he was smart enough to stand aside as she went on the offensive.
Seth might have made a comment on how it wasn’t a good idea to fight mad, but WarSong was showing a remarkable ability to handle a fight. Especially when three of the guy’s buddies stepped out and immediately attacked her. Saint Kloude chose the wise course of guarding her back as she went to town with punches, kicks, and painful whacks with the baton she’d produced from her belt. Seth was duly impressed.
She’d gotten all four guys down and was zip-tying the wrists of the first one when Calypso popped out of the store to see what was going on. There was barely a second of frozen surprise before Calypso jolted into action with a *whizz*-crack! of her energy shield snapping into place. She didn’t look as if she planned to go down easy.
Calypso was a mostly small time criminal, but she packed a decent powerbase. If she had wanted to put some superheroes in the grave, she could have done it on multiple occasions, but she always held back in her fights. As a result, there was an unspoken rule that no superhero test her triggers, which included her mother and the embarrassing scene where DocTorious publicly humiliated her before dumping her during their joint heist.
“Hey, I know you. You’re that Baby Calypso chick. Didn’t DocTorious shoot you in the stomach and throw you over Niagara Falls?” Seth winced and wanted to tell Saint Kloude to shut the hell up. But it was already too late.
Calypso’s bright purple mask hid her expression, but every line of her body bespoke of killing rage. Seth wanted to tell Saint Kloude to run, but there wasn’t time.
Calypso struck Saint Kloude with a blast of yellow-orange force, sending him tumbling feet over head until he slammed his shoulder against the wall and collapsed to his knees. “You shut your mouth! Or I’m going to rip your voice box out through your throat.”
Seth stepped forward, ready to involve himself, but WarSong got in front of Saint Kloude with an aggressive stance. Her fists were raised and her red painted lips were a firm slash.
“Back off, bitch!” WarSong growled.
Calypso gave her a disbelieving look. Then she laughed. “And what are you supposed to be? Did the baby hero decide to visit an S&M shop for her first costume? Take some advice, little girl: go home. I’m outta your league.”
“Guess we’re going to have to find that out,” WarSong said. “When I kick your ass.”
“Tough talk from the baby cape.” Calypso brought her own fists up. “Physical offense only. If you bring on the powers, then I’m going to crack you open and suck out your juicy center.”
“Mm, meaty.” WarSong lunged forward to grapple Calypso. Her right knee came up to slam against Calypso’s spine with cracking impacts against her armor.
Seth watched the fight and was impressed with WarSong’s martial arts skill. Though he would have told her that physically fighting someone like Calypso was a bad idea. Because while WarSong had middle of the road superstrength, Calypso had alpha levels. It was a mismatched fight, and WarSong didn’t know how out of her league she was.
He winced at a particularly nasty strike of WarSong’s fist against Calypso’s face. It sounded like a mallet pounding a slab of meat. “Ugh.”
There was no way he could let these two keep going at it. Least because WarSong already had a bloody nose and blackened eye while Calypso was unmarked, and more because it was a waste of time.
He stepped forward and clapped his hands to gather attention. “All right, break it up. WarSong, what the hell are you doing? We’re here to arrest lawbreakers, not start a brawl on company time.”
He kept a lookout for any surprise visitors and used his cape to hide the tension in his shoulders. Looking confident was 80% of the job.
Still, it was always hair-raising to do a walk-up on a possibly deadly situation. Most villains were looking to make some quick cash and stay out of prison, but there were always exceptions. The villains that were looking to make a name and gain supervillain status. The crazies that didn’t care about consequences, just about fighting the strongest heroes they could and seeing blood splash concrete. The murderers and psychopaths that had been granted the genetic equivalent of small arms or nuclear weapons.
Seth was aware of his own mortality. He wasn’t a foolishly overconfident kid anymore. He’d seen too many superheroes die, their screams the last sounds heard from them. He’d made promises to himself about all the ways he didn’t plan on dying. And one of those ways was being murdered because he forgot that even the most harmless looking person could be dangerous.
“Sunfire,” Calypso sounded surprised. She’d thought she was only facing a couple of new superheroes. She hadn’t expected him.
“By order of the Central Metahuman Policing Force, you are under arrest. Stop resisting and come quietly or I will use force against you.”
“Wow, I never expected you to be so serious.” She pushed WarSong away with contemptuous ease, proving that she’d only been playing before.
“You’re really handsome,” she said. “I thought all those pictures had to be touched up, but you’re really very good looking. Have you ever thought about being a model? The world would pay tons of money for pics of your stunning man-breasts.” She laughed.
Seth was feeling a bit sexually harassed, which happened more often than he was comfortable with. “My so-called man-breasts are my own, and I choose not to expose them in photographs. It’s part of my strong sense of self-worth,” he said, laying his palm over his heart.
“Now, are you going to come quietly, or are we going to add resisting arrest to the charges against you?” he asked. He wasn’t going to let her take over the situation. She was the criminal, and he was here to arrest her.
“And what does resisting arrest get me? An extra six months in the slam?” She cocked her hip out, her dyed purple hair falling across her shoulder.
He kept his expression professionally stern. “Due to the recent passing of the McLaughlin-Hewett Metahuman Defense Bill, if you are deemed to be a serious threat to others through purposeful use of your metability, I am required by law to use lethal force.” At her shocked look, he shrugged. “People are tired of good men and women being killed in prison breakouts. When you have the power of a god, people don’t have it in them to be so lenient toward you.
“Give yourself up, Calypso,” he said. “I don’t want to have to kill you. But I will if you push it.”
She took two stumbling steps back, raking her hands through her hair. “Oh god. I thought it was one of those crazy rumors. There’s no way they could really pass deadly force as a law. Superheroes don’t kill. They lock us up.”
“Not anymore,” Seth said. “You have a long criminal history, and it’s basically three strikes and you’re out. People could have died during some of your crimes. The new law says there’s no more room for playing nice.”
“You mean *normals* could have died,” she sneered. “Like I’m some kind of freak.”
“It is what it is,” Seth said. “You’ve misused your metabilities for years and now the law isn’t on your side anymore. So wise up and turn yourself over.”
“And then what? Are they going to send me to Butcher Bay?” She was starting to look scared and that made him nervous. The last thing he needed was to have her panic and go berserk.
“You’re looking at Super Max and full dampeners,” he said. He always tried to be straight with the villains he put away. The last thing he needed was to earn the reputation of a jackal. It would make it harder for him to arrest criminals in the future.
Seth ran a visual check on the newbies. They’d taken up ready stances and were watching the perimeter. It looked like they’d finally remembered their training.
“You won’t be going to Butcher Bay, but you *will* be doing community service. I’ve heard that the two situations are comparable.” He let his lips twitch up in a smile and turned the Charm up a few notches, just enough that she would think her sudden interest in him was natural, but not enough for her to get suspicious if she had any kind of psionic resistance.
“How can I trust you? You’re going to lock me up or kill me if I fight. The law is wrong. So how can I trust someone that’s said he’ll follow the law and kill people? Me? How could you kill me?”
Seth kept himself from rolling his eyes and sighing. A little bit of Charm, and everyone turned into a drama queen. All sweeping soliloquies and the deep-rooted idea that they were the center of his world. Instant obsessive love that switched gears on higher brain function and turned even the smartest of people into momentary fools.
The slight bit of Charm resistance Tony had was one of the first things that had drawn Seth to him. Tony had enough that Seth could let his guard down and not worry about accidentally ensnaring him. There was a reason why Tony’s room at the Demi Liar was the closest to his. No one else had been willing to sleep next to a Charmer. There were too many disturbing stories around for them to feel comfortable.
He only had to look at Calypso to see why people were scared. He barely gave her a taste and she looked at him with the defiance already defeated in her eyes. The strength swamped and absorbed by her overwhelming desire to please him.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” *More than I already have*. “Turn yourself in, do your time. It shouldn’t be too long,” he said.
She wavered, he could see it, the brief reluctance as her mind fought back. But it only lasted a few breaths before she relaxed and held her wrists out invitingly. She smiled coyly. “Are you going to cuff me, officer? Do you want to give me a strip search?”
“WarSong will put the cuffs on you. You’re going to let her do it, aren’t you?” He didn’t want to get close to her. If he put her down too deep the result would be a permanent obsession on her part. And he wasn’t too keen on receiving hanks of hair in the mail or having her kill a President in his honor. It seemed like too much.
Calypso turned toward WarSong with a benign expression, her wrists extended. Credit to WarSong, she didn’t relax her guard even when the suppression cuffs were snapped in place. She’d realized how overmatched she’d been. It was an uncomfortable wake up call for every young superhero. Seth still remembered meeting the Inevitable Imogenia for the first time, and the sheer horror when he’d realized how helpless he was before her.
“Thank you for coming with us,” he said, giving Calypso a smile. She glowed under his attention and he pushed away the sense of unease.
Charm had a low risk, and a high yield of success. It was a subtle effect with a lasting result, and it scared the hell out of him. It was the gift he was the least likely to use in a fight. Except he’d been given his orders and he was signed on for another six years with the CMPF.
“Saint Kloude, call the wagon for a pick up. WarSong, make sure the prisoner is thoroughly secured.” He gave Calypso a smile and lightened his tone. “I know you would never betray my trust by escaping–everyone’s always said that you’re an honorable criminal–but the guys upstairs have gotten a bit paranoid and all these memos were sent around. You understand, don’t you?”
The tension that had been bunching Calypso’s shoulders slipped away. He could practically see her brain tuning itself to his frequency. It left a bad taste in his mouth and made him not want to look at her.
“Of course I understand. I will behave so well, you’ll see. They’ll give you awards for handling prisoners,” she said. Her face turned toward him, a blossom to the sun. She followed him with her eyes even as WarSong gagged her and immobilized her on the ground. She near burned a hole through him with her focused interest.
Seth shuddered at the creepy sensation and pulled his ePad out of his utility belt. It had an application that worked with the added sensors tech-support had installed to let it look through walls. The details weren’t great, but it let him tell where people were.
He was disappointed by the image quality. There were a lot of blocked spots due to electronics parts and EMP shielded alcoves. But he was able to make out six people inside moving around, and a mass of warm bodies all piled up in one room.
He glanced at Calypso, knowing she’d happily tell him anything she knew. But that was the one thing he wasn’t allowed to do.
Charm could be used to make criminals more receptive to turning themselves in peacefully, but they could not be questioned by the Charmer. He wasn’t even going to be allowed to speak to her after her Representative arrived. Not that he wanted to.
Sure, it would be great to ask her what exactly was going on here and have her spill everything. There’d be a lot less danger entering the building and they’d know everything waiting for them. Good intel all the way as she tried to impress him.
And right there was the problem for him. The fact that she would try to impress him. That every second of attention he gave her would reinforce the psychosis building in her brain. It wouldn’t take much for him to become the center of her world.
Humans were surprisingly fragile creatures, their minds malleable to whims and suggestions. Even the most stable of people were susceptible to Charm-obsession, and there was no cure. Only distance.
He kept in Calypso’s line of sight, but he did not look at her and he focused on the building before him. From what he’d learned at Charm School, he’d become an icon for her, an unattainable goal that would still keep her moving forward with her life.
To speak to her or give her further attention was to risk giving her a command suggestion. One wrong look and she might latch on to some passing notion. A worm of thought would burrow through her brain, unleashing the worst form of obsession and zealotry.
School had taught him that being an icon was a powerful and lasting impression. To introduce the idea of a behavior change and offer no other feedback–the criminal would come to their own decision to follow the laws. It was a legal method of using a Charm metability without being charged with misuse.
Iconography was a quickly growing field of study. It made logic out of Charm phenoms like Darkstar and Masque, who didn’t have to reinforce the effect they had. One time with them was one time too many.
Seth wasn’t a strong Charmer, or he had enough control on it to keep from affecting everyone around. He was able to pretend most times that he was a normal guy. Being a superhero was his job, and in his off time he ate pizza and played video games. Except–he risked a corner of the eye glance at Calypso–he had it in him to turn someone into a slave to his will. It was just a little push.
He hated that he’d been ordered to use his Charm on prisoners. Being the icon and impetus that made people live better was a great idea in theory, but he didn’t like the way it made him feel.
He’d met plenty of other Charmers that shared his distaste. The power felt unpleasant to use in an offensive capacity. It was like crawling naked through a room full of slugs. There was an instinctive gagging cringe as slime coated every surface and bodies burst beneath his hands and knees. Only it was all in his head and his superiors insisted that he use his ability again and again.
He’d heard there were some Charmers blessed with a fantastic biofeedback response. They enjoyed focusing their Charm on people and received a burst of pleasure in return. It was said that they could literally feed off of their victims, psychic vampires of the creepiest kind. They were secret life thieves.
Seth hated every second he consciously used his Charm. It did not like being focused and used. If he could get away with it, he would never use it again, but orders were orders.
Seth turned away from Calypso and did what he usually did when his morals started twinging away at him–buried the discomfort down deep. He’d already used his Charm, there was no taking it back. The best thing he could do for Calypso was to make sure they never met again.
Was it weird that he hoped prison therapists would be able to break through his Charm-hold on her? He didn’t want her to go back to her criminal life, but he didn’t want to forever be buried in her mind either. A ghost looming so large that she gave up being herself and lived for him instead. He hated it.
“Backup should be arriving in ten,” Saint Kloude said through the com.
“Roger that. I’ll take some more sensor grabs, but it looks like they’re doing a long-term project inside. We wait for backup.”
“But sir…” It was WarSong.
“Negative,” Seth said firmly. “There’s too much blockage to get a clear image inside and you’re both rookies. We wait for proper scanning gear and we follow protocols. Clear?”
“Yes, sir.” They both sounded disappointed. He’d tell Powergirl that they needed to learn how to hide their emotions better.
“Live and grow stronger,” he said. “Backup is always the best thing to have. We’re not a bunch of cowboys going it alone. We’re a team, which means there’s always someone to watch our backs.”
Their agreement was lackluster at best, but he didn’t care. Gone were the days when superheroes headed into danger by themselves. As a result, the stories of dead heroes had gone down significantly. At least the CMPF had done that much.
Seth ran his ePad scanner over the building, careful to stay away from windows as he flew around it. The scanner was taking constant snapshots and the app would be compiling them together to create a complete 3D image.
He remembered a time before imaging tech existed. He would have crashed his way into the building and hoped for the best. The idea had been to get in and surprise the bad guys before they had a chance to respond. It was an idea that had mostly worked, though there had been a few times when the bad guys were ready and waiting. It was then that he was grateful to have an alpha-class offensive metability. He was able to burn his way through most trouble while other heroes had died for the sin of going in without a plan. Capes that he had known and admired, but who didn’t possess the powerbase to claim the title of superhero.
He hoped that new heroes like WarSong and Saint Kloude would appreciate how lucky they were to have imaging technology and backup to call when there was trouble. Because as boring as it was to kids raised on stories of legendary heroes like The Deliverer and Blue Ice, the new ways were safer and had a higher success rate. The time of lone superheroes battling to stop the apocalypse were over.
There were way too many metahumans needing to be policed for single heroes to handle the job. There had been studies done about the veritable explosion of metahumans that had emerged from the population of normals since the late 1800s. From single digit beta-class to millions of alphas worldwide.
In the last ten years the metahuman-to-human ratio had risen twelve percent. There was talk that 46% of humans possessed some form of metability, though most were completely useless. Still, that was a massive shift in the human genome. There was a theory that normals would become extinct within the next one hundred years.
Seth shook his head to clear it. He was only thinking about that population study because he was trying *not* to think about giving Tony a call. He’d only watched that *Capes and Cowls* documentary because Tony was into that kind of thing. It was the same with the ancient alien stuff.
He sighed and kept his eye on the ePad, making certain that each scene was complete before moving on to the next. The software was still a bit buggy and not giving a scan time to process was a way to spoil the whole image. It was a lesson he’d learned the hard way.
His senses were alert to anyone spotting him, but he wasn’t too worried. From the infrared readings there was no one close enough to see him through the windows and there were no hot spots in the closet-sized room he was 98% sure was the surveillance room. Whoever was inside wasn’t expecting interference.
He thought about calling Tony and seeing how Henry was doing, but he knew better. Personal calls during an operation was one of the biggest no-nos out there. He didn’t want to be called to the carpet by Overwatch. They monitored all the team phones with the obsessive detail of a bunch of retired capes.
A personal call had gotten Katmandu’s family killed. She’d called the babysitter to ask about her kid’s cold, and the call had been traced right to her house. It had been a gruesome lesson, one they still used in training.
Sunfire might scoff in the face of danger, but Seth refused to be the one to get Henry killed. Even with Tony there to save the day, a “Hey, I miss you” phone call wasn’t worth sacrificing safety.
He sighed and got back to work. Unless the situation blew up, he’d be able to call Tony in a few hours.
Love it? Tweet it, share it, buy a copy of the book when it comes out.
I feel like this tee shirt deserves a story. Though I’d want a happy ending, not a Torchwood-“time traveling romances never work out” ending. (Just saying. Torchwood turned into a very unhappy show ;_;) T-Shirts, Back For That Dance | TeePublic
Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: superhero, mm
Awkward emotional breakdown, check. Tony felt embarrassed even thinking about it, but Seth hadn’t said a word. There was no big push for him to talk about his feelings or to even explain why the thought of trusting Henry to strangers was driving him neurotic. Tony appreciated it; he was not ready to talk.
He was happy to spend the next week pretending that everything was normal and acting like he hadn’t had a big breakdown in the kitchen. He wanted things to go back to status quo, which was made difficult by the baby depending on him, but he was willing to repress and deny until the whole incident was forgotten.
He was sitting on the living room couch with Henry on his lap, watching Seth get ready to leave. It was weird to think that it was going to be just him and Henry for a while, but that was the way things worked for an active superhero.
The Teen Demis had a policy of two weeks on and two weeks off. There was the occasional stretch of vacation time depending on circumstances.
Seth pulled on his jacket and slung his overnight bag over his shoulder. “Well, I’m outta here for two weeks. Think you can handle things alone?”
“Please,” Tony waved his hand, “I’m a superhero. Changing diapers and baby food are no sweat.”
Seth laughed. “What about when he had that awful green poop? You were losing your mind.”
“Dude, that was just wrong. I still can’t believe *that* came out of this little guy. I thought he was really sick.”
Seth rolled his eyes and stepped close to brush his fingers against Henry’s head. “Be a good little man for Daddy. No weird alien poops please.” He leaned forward to press a kiss against Henry’s forehead. Tony couldn’t help catching a whiff of his cologne and the slight trace of his shampoo when he got close.
Seth pulled away reluctantly. “It’s hard to say goodbye to this little guy.”
Tony cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he said gruffly, not sure what he was feeling.
“Well, gotta go,” Seth said. “See you guys in a couple of days.”
Tony said “Bye” as he watched Seth leave, the door clicking shut behind him.
He’d never realized how hard it was to be the one left behind, but Sunfire was on call and Teen Steel was off duty.
“This sucks,” Tony said.
He looked down at Henry, who was wearing a fuzzy Blue Ice onesie with an attached hood that looked like Blue Ice’s mask. “You wanna get out of here for a while?” he asked. Henry laughed and tried to grab his nose. “I’m taking that as a yes. Let’s go for a walk.”
There was a baby carriage folded up in the hall closet, but Tony went for the carrier that attached Henry to his chest, his legs free to dangle and kick energetically. The kid seemed to really love being able to look around and see everything during their walks together.
Tony fumbled Henry into his tiny jacket, snapping the front buttons before loading him into the baby carrier. He stuck two diapers and the small pouch of wipes into the carrier pocket along with a juice bottle and they were ready to go. He didn’t figure they’d be gone too long.
“Come on, buddy. Let’s go visit the world.”
Henry laughed and wriggled excitedly. He was a cheery baby.
Tony made sure he had his wallet and keys, then used the elevator to get down to the lobby. Music played from the overhead speakers, some cheesy bit of pop that he thought he should recognize.
“You know, Henry, I don’t think Daddy is very cool,” he said. Then he had a moment of feeling weird at how easy it was to call himself “Daddy.”
Henry had wriggled his way into Tony’s life. It was getting hard to imagine a life without him in it. Tony didn’t think he would ever choose to go back. Henry belonged with him.
“I think I’ve fallen in love with you, in a non-creepy ‘I want to be your dad forever’ way.” He didn’t know what was going to happen when Solar came back for Henry, but he didn’t think it was going to be nice. For her.
“Come on. Let’s go for a walk.”
As a four month old baby there wasn’t much Henry could do yet. Still, Tony couldn’t help admiring the massive playground located four blocks from The Archon. Once Henry was big enough to play, he was going to love the brightly painted slides, swings, and seesaws. There was even a spider-cage jungle gym.
Tony walked around the park, taking in all the kids. There was no graffiti and he saw a maintenance worker picking up the few pieces of trash with a metal stick. The grass was bright green, the picnic tables were clean of bird poop, and in all he felt like Henry was going to love the place once he was mobile. It was better than anywhere Tony had played as a kid.
He continued on their walk, checking out the shopping areas and restaurants, making mental notes of the places he thought Seth might like. There was even a large baby boutique whose window he peeked through without going in.
Today was reconnaissance only, though he was tempted by some of the baby formal wear. The thought of Henry in a baby tuxedo was almost too much for him.
Finally he turned around and started home. They’d already had one diaper change and one mini-bottle of watery apple juice. Henry was about ready for some pureed sweet potato and formula, and there was a microwave pizza calling Tony’s name.
He was busy talking to Henry, who had slept for a while but was now wide awake, when he heard someone call his name. Turning, he was surprised to see Evan Lee, Ashley’s father. Also known as the Flame Burst.
It looked like Evan had come out of the Mexican restaurant, a takeaway box in his hand. He looked older than Tony remembered, more tired. He hadn’t taken the death of his daughter well and had taken a leave of absence from the League of Superheroes. Though from what Tony had heard, the LOA hadn’t been his idea. Overwatch had voiced concern over the Flame Burst’s brutal treatment of criminals. In the last two years he had become a superhero that all criminals feared, and not just the big offenders.
“Evan, hey.” Tony smiled. “How are you?”
“Good, good, I’m good,” Evan said. “I’ve gotten back into the yoga, and the meditation has helped clear my mind.”
He kept glancing at Henry, though he was too polite to inquire. Tony stroked Henry’s head. “Oh, this is Henry. My son.”
Evan was surprised. “A baby? Wow. I would not have expected something like this. Wow. Little Tony with a baby. So… have you gotten married? What’s going on with you?”
Tony shook his head. “Not married and not with anyone. I just… one night of unclear thinking and bam, his name is Henry. It wasn’t anything I expected, but I wouldn’t trade him, you know? I was wallowing for a long time there and I think Henry has anchored me. He’s this little life depending on me.”
“Yeah, I know how that is,” Evan said. His eyes went distant and sad, lost in the memories of long ago.
Henry made a snuffling noise and wriggled against Tony. “Oh, hey look, this guy is wanting to be fed,” Tony said.
Evan waved his free hand. “Oh no, I understand. You’ve gotta get him home.”
“Well, you still have my number right?” Tony asked. “I’m on parental leave right now, so if you want to get together or anything my schedule is free at the moment. We can have lunch or you could come over.”
“Still living at the Lair?” Evan asked.
“Naw,” Tony said, “I had to get a real place because of the baby. I’ve got an apartment at The Archon.”
Evan blinked. “You’re at The Archon? Me too.” At Tony’s surprise, Evan shrugged. “I had to sell the house–too many memories–and The Archon is pretty much the best place for someone like me.”
“Huh. What a coincidence. Are you going home now? You could walk with us,” Tony offered.
“Unfortunately I have an appointment,” Evan sounded genuinely regretful. “I just stopped off to pick up some of these amazing chocolate donut things.” He hefted the takeaway box. “It’s a little bribery.”
“That’s too bad,” Tony said. “But look, call me and we can get together.”
“Sure. Is tomorrow good?”
“It’s great. I’ve been worried I was going to lose my mind or something. I’m not used to so much free time.”
Evan chuckled. “Yeah, I hear you.” He glanced at his watch. “Look, I’ve gotta go if I don’t want to be late. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Sure. See you later, Evan.”
Tony watched him go, then turned to continue his walk home.
He hadn’t seen Evan in months and it made him feel guilty. Because not only had Evan been Ashley’s dad, he’d also been a kind of mentor. He’d offered advice and friendship when Tony had needed it most. In fact, Tony had met Evan first, back when he’d been a skinny nothing of a kid slinking his way to a training center with dreams of someday being something more than a nothing.
The Flame Burst was a legend. He’d worked his way up from being a member of the teen supergroup the Young Bloods to being a member of the League of Superheroes. He was the deadly flame guy that most supervillains feared meeting, one of the world’s strongest pyrokinetics.
And he’d been Ashley’s dad, who wore sweater vests and drove an electric car. He signed petitions and really cared about the environment and eating GMO-free organic foods. He made lame jokes and loved to barbecue in non-ironic way.
It was obvious at a glance that Evan had not handled Ashley’s death well. It made Tony wish he had kept in touch rather than walling that whole part of his life off. It had just felt like anything to do with Ashley was too much for him to handle. The wounds had been too raw.
But now Tony promised himself and the ghost of Ashley that he wouldn’t leave Evan to sink into his grief alone. He would do what he could to help Evan, because Evan was a hero, and this time *he* needed to be saved.
Henry squirmed in the carrier and made his mewling “I’m hungry” almost-cry.
“Settle down,” Tony said. “We’re almost home and there’s plenty of nummies for you to eat.”
He hurried his footsteps, not wanting Henry to really start crying. For a baby, Henry had some strong lungs when he chose to use them.
Title: Doggy Style
Author: Sol Crafter
Genre: mm, supernatural romance, urban fantasy, magical realism
Warning: Raw Feed
Summary: One minute Zack was uncrating the new shipment. The next minute he’s a dog. At least Sean seems to be a dog person. Now he just has to get Sean to be a Zack person.
Title: Doggy Style
Author: Sol Crafter
Genre: mm, supernatural romance, urban fantasy, magical realism
Warning: Raw Feed
Summary: One minute Zack was uncrating the new shipment. The next minute he’s a dog. At least Sean seems to be a dog person. Now he just has to get Sean to be a a Zack person.
Being a dog was oddly peaceful. All of the tough human decisions had been taken out of his hands and he was free to enjoy the moment.
It seemed perfectly natural to him that he would climb on Sean’s bed and curl up near the bottom. He could feel the lumps of Sean’s feet under the blanket and they made him feel strangely safe. Or maybe it was Sean that made him feel safe.
Any way that he looked at it, one minute he was comfortably slumbering at the foot of the bed, and the next there was a strange, liquidy gliding sensation.
It didn’t hurt. It was just incredibly odd. It felt as though someone had grabbed him by the skin and pulled. His skin peeled off somehow and suddenly he had hands and feet instead of paws and he came to the realization that he was displaying a whole lot of pale pink skin.
The bedroom was dark and Sean was softly snoring. Zack had to slide off the bed. He felt quietly panicked, a litany of “Oh crap, oh crap” running through his head.
Sean may have admitted privately that he had a crush on him, but Zack wasn’t going to bank on that keeping him out of jail. He was in the guy’s house uninvited in the middle of the night and naked. The situation was more than awkward. It was downright disastrous.
Zack crept across the room to Sean’s walk-in closet, quickly flipping the light on before going in and closing the door quietly behind him. He slumped back against it for a long moment, his right hand clutching the doorknob like it was his only lifeline.
He had no idea what was going on and a large part of his mind was half convinced that none of this was real. He had completely cracked up and was gibbering in some permanent care facility. He was currently dreaming everything and so nothing he did mattered.
Except his pragmatic side kept questioning what was going on. That same side also instructed him not to do anything stupid, because what if it was all real?
He had somehow been turned into a dog, then he had somehow gone back to human. He had no explanation how something like this could happen, but he would try to figure it out later.
Right now he fumbled around in the dresser Sean kept in the closet and found himself a pair of gray sweatpants and a black tee shirt for some band he’d never heard of before.
Considering how tall and lanky Sean was, Zack wasn’t surprised that the pants were too long and tried to hang off his narrow hips. He pulled the strings tight and tied them in place.
Creeping to the closet door, he pulled it open a crack and peered out. The room was so dark he couldn’t see anything for a long time, not until his eyes adapted, but he was relieved to see Sean still asleep.
Moving as stealthily as he could manage, Zack crept across the bedroom toward the door. He needed to get out of here.
He grasped the doorknob and turned it as quietly as he could. He started opening the door. He just hoped it wasn’t going to decide to creak.
He froze, then slowly began to turn. He could feel the blood flooding his face and his belly felt full of rocks. This was going to turn out badly.
* * *
No matter the setting, Zack Branagh was always the most attractive sight around. It was weird to see him without his fussy glasses, since Sean usually liked to watch him remove them, but this was extremely nice. Zack rarely wore Sean’s clothes in dreams, and Sean’s decided that he liked it, even if they were overlarge and sloppy on him. It added to the appeal.
Sean couldn’t help silently praying that he didn’t wake up as he sat up in bed, pushing the blanket down. “Why are you clear over there?” he asked. “I’d much prefer it if you were over here.”
Zack was adorably wide-eyed. “I… I …”
Sean laughed. He hadn’t realized just how much “shy Zack” appealed to him. It looked like this dream was teaching him all kinds of things he didn’t know about himself.
“Come here,” he ordered.
Zack hesitated a long moment, then walked across the room to stand at the foot of the bed. “Look, I really don’t know how it happened, but …”
Sean held his hand out to stop him, then flipped it palm up and made a “come here” gesture. Zack still looked vaguely stunned, but when he put a knee on the bed, Sean nodded and he began to crawl closer.
There was something about seeing the literal man of his dreams knee-walking across the bed toward him that made Sean draw in a deep, shuddery breath. Desire was uncoiling in his belly and he could feel his skin prickling with the need to be touched.
He kept urging Zack closer and closer until he laughed and darted his head forward to steal a kiss. Zack seemed frozen at first, not reacting, but Sean licked and nipped at his lips until he caught fire. Then they were kissing hungrily and Sean found himself with a lap full of aroused Zack. It was different from all the dreams Sean had had before. Better.
He flipped Zack onto his back and it felt natural to slide his hands up under the shirt and caress every bit of skin he could reach. Zack seemed to like it too, the way he arched his back and pressed against Sean’s hands.
“Wait, wait.” Zack was suddenly pulling away from him, tugging free of Sean’s clasping hands. “We need to stop!”
“Why?” Sean asked, trying to get his arms around him. His erection was straining against the front of his boxers and he was so excited there was a damp spot forming. More than anything he wanted to fuck Zack.
“We can’t do this,” Zack gasped, pushing Sean’s hands away. He slid to the end of the bed, his feet folded under him. His pupils were blown wide and his dick looked harder than Sean’s own, outlined against the sweatpants, but he gripped it with vicious strength and eluded Sean’s grasp. “This isn’t a dream!”
Sean grabbed Zack’s elbows and pulled them away from his sides, trying to get him to stop squeezing that beautiful dick. “You’re going to hurt yourself and I need you. I need you right now.”
“Except we can’t,” Zack gasped. He stared at Sean’s crotch for a moment before turning his head away with a shuddery gasp. He held both hands over his eyes as though battling some impossible temptation.
It ratcheted up Sean’s arousal to think that Zack was desperate for his dick, but that was highly unlikely. Real-Zack barely seemed to notice he was even alive and he’d given up any hope that he could win real-Zack over.
But dream-Zack, that was a completely different story.
“Is that what we’re doing this time?” Sean shrugged and flopped backward, shoving both hands down the front of his boxers, giving himself a couple of slow strokes before pushing the boxers down his legs so he could kick them off. “I’m ready if you are,” he purred, parting his thighs invitingly. “You can fuck me if you want.”
Zack made a garbled whine in the back of his throat and he was looking at Sean with such raw desire that it was shocking. “You don’t. Oh God, what do I do?” He gripped his shaking hands in front of him and it seemed like it was some mighty battle for him to meet Sean’s eyes and not stare at his body. “This… this isn’t a dream. I’m really here.”
“Oh really?” Sean arched a skeptical brow and reached down with his right hand to begin pumping his erection. He had no qualms about staring at Zack and imagining those long-fingered hands on his body or that cocksucking mouth wrapped around his dick. “If this is supposed to be real, then how did you get in my room?”
“You brought me here,” Zack said. “I don’t know how it happened, but I was the dog you brought home today.”
Sean snorted. “Wow, I must be really desperate if that’s how I’m explaining how you got here. I’d much rather say you flew in through the window and you need my sperm to power your spaceship. Can this be the alien seduction dream instead? I really like that one.”
“This isn’t a dream!” Zack shouted. “This is real and I’m here and I don’t know what’s going on but I think I’m about to have some kind of mental breakdown or maybe I’m already having one, because that would explain so much.”
“Wow, maybe this is going to be a rescue fantasy. Are you here to ask my help to save you from some as yet unnamed evil? Because that would be hot.” Sean clenched his teeth as he jerked off, feeling himself right there, just about to go over. He wished Zack would climb up on him, straddle his waist, and… “ride me like a cowboy.”
“Oh my God!” Zack covered his face with his hands and turned away, but Sean was already coming. He groaned as he spilled all over his hands and stomach. He huffed a laugh when he caught Zack peeking as he brought his right hand to his lips and licked his fingers clean.
“The next one’s yours if you want it. I want you to fuck me until I come again. Stuff your fat cock in me and…”
Zack threw himself across the bed to cover Sean’s mouth with his hands. “Shut up! Shut up! Oh my God, shut up.” He was shivering and he moaned and arched his neck as he thrust a few times against Sean’s knee. “I’m trying to be a good guy here, but geez, I want to fuck you so bad and you’re so filthy and… urgh, what you do to me.”
Sean blinked at the sudden wetness against his leg. “Did you just cum?”
Zack sat back with a blush staining his cheeks. He avoided Sean’s gaze with furtive glances away. “Yeah. Sorry.”
It was so ridiculous. Sean had to laugh. “He would do that, wouldn’t he?” Memories flashed through Sean’s mind of all the times he’d seen Zack looking less than cool, when he was downright klutzy. It was easy to imagine their first time being a mess of awkward but adorable bumbling.
He couldn’t wait to find out what it was like.
“Being like this is nice.” Sean reached out to grab Zack’s arms, dragging him down against him. “I don’t want this dream to ever end.”
Zack made to pull away, but Sean held onto him. Not tightly, but firm. Zack gave him a desperate look. “You have to let me go. I can see that you’re not going to be the help I need. I have to figure out what’s going on.”
“Come on, stay with me,” Sean pleaded. “At least until I fall asleep.”
“I can’t. I have to go.” Zack tugged himself free. Sean moaned and reached for him, but he was already too far away. He disappeared into the darkness across the room.
Sean stared for a few long seconds, then moaned discontentedly and rolled onto his side, burying his face into the pillow. There was no way the rest of his dream could match their brief encounter. He could still feel Zack’s cum on his leg.
His breathing evened out and he drifted into other dreams. The carryover of sexual satisfaction made the rest of his slumber sweet.
* * *
Running down the street, holding the too-large pants up with one hand, Zack had to wonder how his life had ever come to this. From dog to man to sex with his crush; he wasn’t sure what was going on. All he knew was that he had to get to Faraday.
Faraday would help him figure everything out. And hopefully he wouldn’t ask any questions about the wet spot on the front of Zack’s pants.
My life is garbage, Zack thought, then gave a wild giggle. It was either laugh or cry, and he didn’t have time for tears, not if he wanted to break whatever curse had been laid on him before it struck again.
Feel like buying me some inspiration? Or at least a new winter coat and boots?
Title: Doggy Style Author: Sol Crafter Genre: mm, supernatural romance, urban fantasy, magical realism Rating: Mature Warning: Raw Feed Summary: One minute Zack was uncrating the new shipment. The next minute he’s a dog. At least Sean seems to be a dog person. Now he just has to get Sean to be a a Zack person.
After discovering Zack’s phone abandoned on a table, Faraday wasn’t thinking it was a joke anymore. There was no way Zack would ever willingly go anywhere without his phone. This was a case of missing persons.
Freaking out, he called the police. He emphasized the fact that their shop contained lots of expensive things that someone might decide to kidnap someone over. He only relaxed a little when they said they would send someone around to investigate.
Then he drew in a deep breath and took the plunge. He called Angela Branagh, Zack’s mother.
He’d known the woman since he was a child, so he was intimately acquainted with just how crazily overprotective she was. He’d barely got the words “I think Zack’s been kidnapped” out before he was talking to empty air and he knew she was already gone.
He went out front to tell Lily to close the store and brace for impact. Hurricane Angela was on the way.
Lily was so shaken at the idea of one of her bosses being taken without her noticing, that she just quietly walked to the door and flipped the sign to CLOSED. She looked pale and scared, her fingers twisting and twisting the little pendant on her necklace.
“Do you think Mr. Branagh’s okay?” she asked. Her raccoon eyeshadow was looking a bit more raccoony and tear-streaked than usual.
Faraday shook his head. “I don’t know.” He wasn’t going to lie to her; not when he didn’t even have the freedom to lie to himself.
Fear churned in his guts and he couldn’t help imagining all the terrible things that could be happening to Zack. It made him want to throw up. And that wasn’t even counting the guilt he felt.
Zack had been his best friend since they were kids. They were closer than brothers. They’d made the decision to go into business together because it seemed like the thing to do, and they were good at the antique business. But Faraday had always been a free-spirit, and he had used that against Zack. He’d taken to slacking off and leaving Zack to pick up the pieces and he’d kind of talked himself out of feeling guilty about it, except now it was all coming back on him.
Zack was missing and it was his fault. Because if he’d been here like he’d promised, helping to sort through the new shipment, there was no way anyone could have broken in through the back and gotten Zack away.
Zack had always been quiet and bookish. He occasionally practiced yoga, but he’d never focused much on strength training and Faraday had always been there if anyone wanted to cause a fight. He’d taken on the mantle of protector, and all through school he’d taken the role pretty seriously, making sure that any bullies quickly learned to leave Zack alone.
Only when Zack really needed him, he’d been fucking some chick whose name he could barely remember.
Bile burned the back of his throat and he leaned against the counter, waiting.
He figured he only had a couple of minutes before Angela would make her appearance. And there was no way she was going to be any kind of calm and reasonable, not where her “baby boy” was concerned.
* * *
After dinner, Sean rinsed his dishes and set them in the sink for later. He usually washed them immediately, but he felt kind of lazy and just looking at the dog snoring away had made him a bit sleepy.
He figured he’d watch TV for a little while, then go to bed.
“Come on, boy,” he said, gently nudging the dog’s side with his foot.
The black dog woke with a start, jerking upright and blinking around rapidly. It made Sean laugh to see it. “You’re so silly.”
The dog gave him a reproving look, but followed him into the living room. He looked like he wanted to jump up on the couch for a second, but instead he just curled up on the floor next to Sean’s feet.
Sean reached down and stroked the dog’s head, liking the softness of his fur. “You sure are a good looking dog,” he said. “I bet someone’s really missing you right now.” He kept saying it because he knew he needed the reminder that he couldn’t keep the dog, no matter how much he wanted to.
The dog snuffed, then laid his chin on the floor. Sean leaned down to scratch at his neck, then reached further to scratch around his ribs. The dog sighed and uncurled, rolling on his side to expose a bit of his belly. His back legs spread a little and he stuck out his chest, his head falling back against the floor in bliss.
Sean laughed. “Well, I can see what you want.” He rubbed the dog’s belly for a while, making him jerk his leg spasmodically. He looked so happy lying there.
When Sean finally stopped scratching him and sat back on the couch, the dog still lay on his back with his feet in the air. He’d fallen asleep in that ridiculous pose.
Sean shook his head and turned the TV on, lowering the volume so as not to wake him. He relaxed back on the couch and felt more content than he had in a long time.
His stomach was full, he didn’t have anywhere to be, and he had a dog at his feet. All was right in the world.
At some point the dog started making a whining sound and his left back leg started jerking wildly. He rolled on his side and whimpered.
Sean looked at him concernedly, realizing that he was having some kind of nightmare. The sound he was making was so pitiful that Sean couldn’t stand it anymore and he slid down onto the floor next to him, carefully laying his hand on the dog’s side. The last thing he wanted was to scare him and get bitten.
He shook the dog gently. “Come on, it’s all right,” he soothed.
The dog woke with startling abruptness, staring at him. Then it whined and crawled close against his side, pressing its face into his stomach.
Sean sighed and gently stroked the dog’s head. “It’s all right. I don’t know what you were dreaming about, but it’s all right.”
The dog burrowed in closer, rising up on his back legs so he could put his front paws across Sean’s legs. He was trying to crawl into Sean’s lap, which was kind of cute, except he was big enough that Sean was unbalanced and fell on his butt on the floor.
The dog seemed to take that as permission and Sean found himself with a lapful of black mutt.
“You are the silliest dog,” Sean said, hugging him close. He laughed a little at the way the dog nuzzled his head up under his chin. “You really need a name if we’re going to be this intimate.”
The dog didn’t answer, of course, just snuggled close against him, practically forcing Sean to wrap his arms around him to keep him from falling over.
“You know, I’m glad I met you,” Sean said. The dog glanced at him, seeming to listen. He snorted a laugh. “I was feeling kind of down in the dumps, and then there you were. There’s always something so nice about having a dog around.”
He leaned his back against the edge of the couch. “You know, he came into the cafe again today. I tried to talk to him, but as usual he was in his own little world. I don’t think he even knows I exist.” He sighed sadly. “I thought crushes were something you outgrew once you stopped being a teenager, but I actually think it’s worse now then when I was younger.” He pressed his cheek against the dog’s head. “He makes me feel like a fifteen year old girl. I want to write in my diary about him and wallow in angst whenever I think about him. It’s kind of stupid.”
He stroked the dog’s ears. He could tell that the animal was starting to relax from whatever fright it’d had, soothed by the sound of his voice. And it was actually kind of nice to tell someone about what he was feeling, since there was no one else in his life he had even trusted the information of his crush too. And who would a dog tell anyway?
“He wears sweater vests and glasses. He should look like a total nerd, but he’s just too cute. He always orders the same thing, and the way he closes his eyes as he takes a big breath of the steam…” Sean shook his head ruefully. “Sometimes I use that for my fantasies when I beat off. He just… he looks like he’s having an orgasm or something when he breathes in my coffee, and I know it’s stupid to be jealous of a hot beverage, but I totally am jealous.
“He always orders the same thing, but he never just says ‘Give me the usual.’ And I think that it’s because he doesn’t even realize that I’m the same guy that serves him every day. He doesn’t even realize that I exist. And I just don’t have the balls to tell him that I’ve got a teenaged crush on him and I’d really like to carry his books to class please and maybe make out behind the bleachers later.”
Sean scrubbed a hand through his hair and looked into the dog’s eyes. He thought he saw understanding there, which was ridiculous. Though it was nice to pretend. “He’s my girl in a red dress. I see him, I want him, but he’s never going to even notice that I exist at all. So what do you think about that, huh?” He roughly scratched the dog’s neck ruff. “Huh? What do you think?”
There was no answer, not that he expected one, and the dog seemed to have completely relaxed against him. It must be nice to simply live in the moment and just be able to let go of all worries like that.
“I’d forget all about him if I could,” Sean said. “You’re one lucky dog.”
* * *
He hadn’t even realized that Sean was talking about him at first. Not until the sweater vest and glasses thing.
It was weird to realize that someone had been watching him every day, and he felt like kind of a jerk that he hadn’t even noticed he had an admirer. Though he really felt guilty that he’d made Sean feel as though he hadn’t noticed that the same guy was making his coffee every day. He had.
He’d also noticed that Sean was very good looking, and thus totally out of his league. So he’d kept his head down and tried not to show exactly how affected he was by the guy. Which must have come off as him being a jerk. But there was nothing he could do about any of that now since he was currently a dog, which he was still freaking out about, in an emotionally distant way.
It was incredibly hard to be bothered by anything. He would start to get into a real panic mode, then something would just kind of derail the whole emotion and he would find himself distracted by something.
Like how good Sean smelled.
Zack buried his nose against Sean’s shirt and snuffled loudly. Sean smelled like comfort and safety and home somehow.
Some animal instinct wanted to insist that Sean was his man. Not his master, because he hadn’t lost himself that completely, but still someone that belonged to him. And he wanted to stay close to him and stake his claim just in case some other dog wanted to move in and try to take his place. Which he would never let happen because Sean belonged to him and he would fight anyone that tried to take him away and…
He was startled to realize that that low growling sound had come from his throat. It was still vibrating through him and he was shocked because he hadn’t even realized he was going to do it.
Sean was looking down at him worriedly, his hands still on Zack’s back, but not moving anymore. “You’re not going to try biting me, are you? Because that’s all I need, a rabies shot.”
Zack lowered his head ashamedly and after a moment Sean resumed his stroking. His fingers were clever and worked in to find spots that Zack hadn’t even realized would feel good until he felt his bones trying to melt.
He had no idea what was going on or what he was going to do about it, but as long as Sean kept petting him he simply couldn’t find it in him to care. He’d been turned into a dog somehow, but all he wanted was for Sean to keep scratching him forever. Everything else was just too distant for him to even worry about.
It was as though “Zack Branagh” was some other person, and the only life that mattered was the one he was living right now. With fur and paws and sharp teeth that had him biting his tongue occasionally when he wasn’t careful.
This was the only moment that mattered and nothing else could ever mean as much as now. With Sean scratching him, the TV a warm background murmur, and the world something that happened to other people.
He yawned hugely and rested his head against Sean’s chest. He could hear the man’s heartbeat under his skin, a soothing thrum.
* * *
“What happened? Just tell me what happened.”
Faraday winced away from Angela’s eyes. “We’re not really sure,” he said. “Lily called me and let me know that Zack has gone missing.”
She cocked her head. “Where were you? Shouldn’t you have been here?”
“Yeah, I should have been,” Faraday ducked his head in shame, “but I wasn’t. I was… I was… He was here working and I wasn’t. And now someone’s kidnapped him and I don’t know where he went.”
Her hand was gentle and warm on the back of his neck. “There’s no time for any of that. We have to figure out what’s happened to Zack and get him home.”
He didn’t know what to say to her. The look on her face maybe frightened him a little.
Angela Branagh had always been nearly obsessive about keeping Zack safe. She had been so overprotective of her son that the idea of her never letting him go out on his own hadn’t really been that much of a joke. The day Zack had been allowed to move out of his parents’ house had been kind of a miracle day.
So Faraday knew she was only an inch away from completely nutting out. Not that he could really blame her. Someone had kidnapped Zack. How or why was a mystery, but they’d managed to force the back door and take him without anyone being the wiser.
“I hope he’s okay,” he said softly.
More than anything, he didn’t want to picture what kinds of terrible things could be happening to Zack. And if he died…
Faraday closed his eyes and just breathed for a minute.
There was a warm touch on his shoulder and he looked at Angela in surprise. There was kindness in her eyes when he would have expected to see blame, and it just about killed him.
“I’m sorry I didn’t take care of him,” he said.
She tsked softly. “He’s a grown man, no matter how I treat him. He’s not some little boy that constantly needs taking care of. I just…” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I’ll do if something happens to him.”
The second he saw the glisten of tears, he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight. “We’ll find him,” he promised.
“And if he’s just screwing around, I’m going to whip his ass,” she growled.
Faraday looked at her in surprise and she shrugged. “He’s my son,” Angela said. “I’m the only one allowed to beat him, even if he does need it.”
He rested his head on top of hers and sighed. She had always been the mother he had never had. She’d treated him more like family than as a guest when he was a kid, and she’d looked after him with no questions asked.
Zack was his best friend and Angela was the closest thing he had to a real mother. And if Zack turned out to be all right, Phillip Faraday vowed that he would start being a better best friend.
If Zack was dead…
He hugged Angela tighter, breathing in the fresh, floral powder scent of her perfume. Under it all, he caught the faint chemical smell that let him know she had just recently refreshed the light brown color of her hair. It was a familiar odor that his mind naturally seemed to associate with her and the warmth of family.
“He’s all right,” he whispered. “He’s gotta be.”
The gentle pats she gave him on the back made him want to throw up. He didn’t deserve to be comforted; he was the one that had screwed everything up, par usual.
But he didn’t say anything. Just let her hug him.
Coming soon: Chapter Three.
* * * * *
Want to read more? Please think about giving a donation. Every bit helps, and the money goes to pay for webhosting and groceries.
Also, I do make decorative tile coasters. So if you’ve got a favorite movie, television show, or anime that you’d like to see images of recreated on a heat resistant tile coaster, feel free to put in a request at Paypal.me/HarperKingsley or email me. It’s $6 for one, $24 for a set of 4, or $30 for a set of 6. I’ll see what I can do for you.
In case you’re unfamiliar, this story is presented as a Raw Feed. Before it appears as an ebook or pbook, it will experience a heavy going over and all the rewriting that it can handle. So if you want to wait for the official version, that’s cool. You can see this as kind of an early taste test.
Title: Doggy Style Author: Sol Crafter Genre: mm, supernatural romance, urban fantasy, magical realism Rating: Mature Warning: Raw Feed. Summary: One minute Zack was uncrating the new shipment. The next minute he’s a dog. At least Sean seems to be a dog person. Now he just has to get Sean to be a a Zack person.
Zack sighed as he pushed open the door and strode into Faraday-Branagh Antiques.
“Hey, boss, you weren’t gone that long,” Lily called cheerfully. She didn’t look like the kind of young woman that would work in an antique shop. Not with the blue streaks in her unnaturally red hair or her rather punk rock fashion sense. She seemed much too cute and perky to hang around dusty old things all day.
And which am I? he wondered. Dusty, old, or both?
“I was just getting a cup of coffee,” he said, holding it up. “Has Faraday called?”
She shrugged. “Not as such.”
Zack growled and headed toward the back room. “That ass. I guess I’ll be sorting the shipment by myself. Let me know if you need me.”
Lily shot him a salute, her bracelets jangling wildly. “Will do, boss man.”
He rolled his eyes and slammed through the double doors into the storage room. Just seeing the mass of crates awaiting him made him want to strangle Faraday even more. The only thing that let him settle into his mind-breaking task without committing murder first was the wonderful aroma of the coffee in his hand. Just holding the warm cup and breathing in the scent of heaven made some of the tension leave his shoulders.
Phil Faraday had been his best friend since they were kids, but sometimes he seriously thought he could kick the guy’s ass and it would be all right. Especially when he pulled one of his stupid little tricks, like right now.
Zack glared at the crates, wishing he had the power to blow things up with his mind. Faraday was supposed to be here helping him sort the new shipment. Instead he was off doing who-knew-what and was somehow unable to answer his phone.
Taking a gulp of his coffee, Zack reluctantly set the cup on a worktable and grabbed a crowbar. He began prying the lids off the crates.
It had been Faraday’s idea to put in the blind bid for this auction lot, but of course he wasn’t going to appear and help Zack catalog everything. He was probably shacked up with some woman enjoying a tumble in the sheets.
Zack didn’t even want to think about the last time he got laid. It had been too long ago, and not even all that good.
After loosening the lids of four crates, he set the crowbar aside and opened one of the boxes. His hands shook a little as he reached out to move aside the straw that had been used as packing material. He felt like some great explorer about to make an awesome find.
His mouth made a moue of disappointment at what he found. There was no great treasure. Instead, nestled in the crate were several badly kilned pottery bowls and a…
He lifted out the black Anubis head statue. It was actually pretty well crafted, but he didn’t think it would be worth much.
“Great, a box of expensive junk,” Zack complained. He made to put the Anubis statue back down.
It felt as though someone suddenly grabbed him hard by the balls and gave a great big yank.
The sound he made might have been a scream if it had been in human hearing range. White light flared behind his eyes and he barely noticed his knees folding.
All he could feel was that sudden, radiating pain. From his balls all through his belly, down through his legs, and shoved up through his chest until he couldn’t even think about breathing. He had never experienced anything like it and he honestly had to wonder if he was going to die.
Passing out was a relief.
He came to curled up on the floor, his breaths coming in heaving pants. At least the pain was gone.
Zack tried to reach down and make sure his balls were still there… And that was when he realized something was dreadfully wrong.
For one thing, he was no longer wearing his khaki pants, blue shirt, or sweater vest. It also seemed as though his glasses were gone, and his eyesight was worse than ever–everything was in shades of monochrome.
His body was covered in a coat of heavy black fur. He didn’t have hands and feet. He had large paws.
He was a dog.
A frickin’ dog.
Zack curled in on himself on the floor. He was completely freaking out, but his emotions seemed muted somehow. More simplistic than he was used to.
He was shocked to find himself a dog, but he wasn’t losing his mind about it. Not the way he thought he probably should be, anyway.
There was the annoying sound of whimpering. It took him a moment to realize he was the one making it. But he couldn’t seem to stop.
Rolling over on his stomach, he climbed to all four feet. Balance was a real issue for a moment, then instinct took over and he was able to walk.
Zachery Branagh had always been a realist. So he knew that if he was found in the backroom as a dog, he would earn himself a one-way ticket to the pound. Where they still practiced euthanasia as a last resort.
Lily was an incredibly sweet girl, but she had a real hate-on for dogs of all kinds. She’d never bothered to explain, but she positively loathed dogs. So she wouldn’t hesitate to turn him in, no questions asked.
Zack was reluctantly glad he hadn’t gotten around to getting the back latch fixed. Because with just a bit of doggy effort, he was able to get the back door open and let himself out into the rear alley. He had no idea where he was supposed to go, but he had always been great at responding to situations. He thought he would somehow figure things out as he went.
Walking was a clumsy balancing act, but he somehow managed, walking out of the alley and trying to ignore the strange feeling of a tail brushing against the backs of his legs and occasionally smacking him in the face. Everything looked so different from his new perspective and the smells were so intense they were like a whole new kind of sight.
He really didn’t know what he was supposed to do, and he was kind of thinking he was having some surreal kind of dream. That or he had a brain tumor.
Then his nose caught some wonderful scent, and without even really knowing why, he was running. His tongue hung from his mouth, his ears flopped, and he just felt unbelievably eager. For what, he had no clue.
* * *
It had been a great day so far. He’d woken early, gone for a jog, then came to the shop to find everything running smoothly. He’d greeted his usual customers and settled in for a day of making and serving great coffee.
He’d even gotten to see his favorite cute antiquarian. The guy barely noticed him, of course, but he was adorable in his clueless and nerdy way. Sean always had the urge to peel the man out of his sweater vest… with his teeth.
He was smiling maybe a little goofily as he carried the trash to the dumpster, and he really wasn’t paying attention to the world around him. Which is how he was nearly knocked off his feet by the black dog that barreled into him.
“What the…” He pushed the enthusiastically licking beast away.
The dog had deep black fur and looked to be part-Lab, part-pony. It was a good-looking animal with bright eyes, a friendly wagging tail, and a big panting tongue. And all its attention was on him as it bumped him with its shoulder and tried to nuzzle close.
“Whoa, guy,” Sean said, taking a quick sideways peek. A neutered male, so he had obviously belonged to someone at some point.
The dog whined and gave him soulful brown eyes, still trying to get close against him.
“You’re very friendly, aren’t you?” Sean couldn’t help scratching him behind the ears, laughing at the way the dog’s eyes rolled back in bliss. He didn’t have a collar or anything, which was a little worrying. He was such a good dog, there was probably a family frantically trying to find him. Maybe he’d jumped out of a car or something.
“Hold on,” Sean said. He pushed away long enough to finish tossing the trash bags in the dumpster. “Come on.”
He didn’t know what he was doing, but it was obvious the dog was lost. He really didn’t want to send such a friendly guy to the pound, so he figured he could keep an eye on him and put up fliers or something.
“You hungry, guy?” he asked.
The dog’s tail wagged furiously.
Sean wasn’t willing to take a dog inside his shop, but he did duck in the back real quick to grab his keys and a ham sandwich. “Hey Charlie, you’re in charge, man. I gotta go.”
“Sure thing,” Charlie called back from the front. The guy was a rock. Nothing fazed him.
Stepping back outside, Sean found the dog sitting on its haunches, patiently waiting for him.
“Hey boy, you hungry?” he asked, peeling the plastic off the sandwich and holding it out.
The dog barked once happily, then almost delicately took the sandwich from his hand. Where it proceeded to gulp it down in two bites.
Sean laughed and shook his head. Dogs.
“Come on,” he said, heading out of the alley toward the parking lot. He didn’t really know about the idea of letting some random dog in his truck, but there was just something about the dog. He was getting the feeling that he didn’t need to worry about him messing his truck up.
Glancing down at the dog walking beside him, he had to raise his eyebrows. The dog seemed to mince almost, as though it were just learning to walk.
“You’re kind of a funny fellow, aren’t you?” he said.
The dog rolled an eye toward him, but kept walking.
“You’re not going to rip my upholstery up, are you?” Sean led the dog toward his small blue truck. He opened the driver’s side door and waited. And waited.
Sean looked down at the dog. If he could read the dog’s expression correctly, it looked nervous. “What’s your problem? Get in.”
The dog stared up at the seat above its head. It seemed to sigh, then wriggled its butt and jumped. “Whoa,” Sean said, catching the dog by the rump before it could fall back out. He pushed the dog inside. “What was that? You couldn’t even jump that high?”
The dog whined. It spun around to sit on the passenger side, attentively looking through the windshield. It looked almost embarrassed.
Sean shook his head. It looked like he had somehow managed to find the world’s weirdest dog.
Still, there was something oddly nice about driving his truck through town with a dog sitting on the seat next to him. It took him back to his teenaged years, before they’d moved to the city. Back then, the family always had dogs around.
“I wonder what I should call you?” Sean asked, glancing at the dog out of the corner of his eye.
He really was a good-looking dog. Solid black with alert features. He looked like he’d be a smart dog, one of those that learned tricks easily and turned out to be very loyal.
“I could call you ‘Blacky,'” Sean said. The dog whined and Sean laughed. “I’m just kidding. How about ‘Pedro?’ ‘Kojack?’ Howie?'”
None of the names he thought of seemed right. “I think I might have to get to know you a little better before choosing your name.” He pulled into the parking lot of Paolo’s Market and carefully parked between two tiny cars. “Please don’t rip up my vehicle while I’m gone. There might be treats in it for you if you don’t.”
As he walked toward the store, he couldn’t help glancing back.
The dog looked forlorn, with his nose pressed against the gap in the slightly opened window. At least he wasn’t a howler. That would have been awful.
Sean had had a dog as a kid–Mitchie–that barked whenever she was left in the car. But she also ripped up the house when left alone. Other than that, she’d been an absolutely great dog.
Sean shook his head in regret. Thinking about Mitchie was always bittersweet. She was such a good girl, but she’d died badly when someone left antifreeze out. He’d been certain the neighbors had done it on purpose.
He strode into the store, grabbing one of the mini-carts from the kiosk. The store owner was standing near his office door with his arms crossed. They nodded at each other.
First Sean grabbed a big bag of dry dog food and two dog bowls. Then when he started to head toward the produce section, he just had to turn back and grab a few cans of Alpo and a large chew bone. He knew the dog wasn’t going to be around for long, but still…
He had to laugh at his own silliness.
Once he was sure the dog was covered, he grabbed the ingredients for his own dinner. A nice sized steak, salad fixings, and a couple russet potatoes.
He’d found over the years that long hours at the shop meant he didn’t really like to cook when he got home. Hundreds of dollars worth of groceries had gone to waste before he’d finally started buying perishable ingredients a meal at a time.
He waited patiently in the mid-sized line, then gave the cashier a charming smile when he paid. The kid was kind of cute in a “Please show me the world/I’m a virgin” kind of way. Not that Sean would be doing anything to educate him. Still, he wasn’t dead yet.
Sean carried the dog food over one shoulder and a plastic grocery bag in his free hand. He could see the dog peering out at him from the truck when he walked up and he couldn’t help grinning.
It was stupid, he knew, but there was something kind of nice about being greeted by a friendly face, even if it belonged to a dog.
He’d been dedicatedly single for over six months. Things had just kind of gone to crap–from relationship to relationshit in the blink of an eye. Things had even gotten a bit physical at times before he finally just said “Enough” and booted Derek out of his life.
So he’d been coming home from work to solitude. It had been kind of nice at first, but now it was just lonely.
Seeing that dog patiently waiting for him in the truck… it made something loosen in his chest. That doggy grin just made him feel happy.
He tossed the dog food and the groceries in the back, then climbed into the cab of the truck, having to shove the dog over a little so he could sit down. “That’s right, big guy, I got you some chow.”
The dog wagged its tail, its ears pointed toward him.
“You really are one good-looking dog.” Sean shook his head with a laugh.
He started the truck and drove home. They were both hungry for dinner.
* * *
The last thing Faraday expected was a frantic call from Lily saying Mr. Branagh had disappeared.
As usual when he was hiding out, he let his calls go to voice mail. But he kept up with them.
So the frantic message from Lily–“I don’t know what happened! The back door was open and Mr. Branagh is gone! What do I do?”–had him throwing clothes on and hurrying to his car. He barely spared Myka’s questions a glance. Zack was more important.
Zack had been his best friend since fifth grade. He was the one constant in Faraday’s world–so many other people had come and gone, including his deadbeat dad and a mom that hadn’t seemed to really care about him, but Zack was always there. In the end, he was the most important person in Faraday’s life.
As he drove to the shop, he couldn’t help wishing Zack was playing a prank on him. Except faking his disappearance was something he would do. Zack would never do something like that because he was too nice.
Which meant Zack was really gone. Possibly kidnapped.
Just thinking of Zack in some dangerous situation made Faraday’s stomach roil with acid.
He couldn’t stand the thought of Zack being hurt or scared.
* * *
It was a disgusting realization, but dog food was actually pretty tasty. Not the dry stuff Sean had first tried to feed him, but the canned stuff.
He should have been embarrassed by the smacking, gulping sounds he made, but he couldn’t help himself. The sandwich earlier hadn’t felt like nearly enough and he was starving.
He licked his bowl clean, then whined when he realized there wasn’t any more. He wasn’t really hungry, but the food had been so delicious he figured he could happily eat himself fat.
“God, you’re a pig!” Sean laughed. He’d rolled his sleeves up his muscled forearms and was searing his steak in a pan on the stove. He’d poked holes in one of the potatoes and tossed it in the microwave.
Zack couldn’t seem to resist the impulse that had him walking over to Sean and sitting practically on the man’s feet. He just really wanted to be close to the guy.
“You really are very affectionate, aren’t you?” Sean said, looking down at him.
Zack rolled his eyes up to look at him. Without even knowing why it happened, a low whine escaped his throat.
“You smell this steak, don’t you?” Sean laughed. “Sorry, guy, but you have your own food and this is definitely people food. Not going to happen.”
Zack curled his legs up under himself and rested his chin on the top of Sean’s sneaker. There was something incredibly nice about being close to the man.
With a sigh, Sean gently shook him off his foot so he could shut off the stove and carry the frying pan over to the kitchen island. He slid his steak onto the cutting board to rest, then went about making himself a fresh salad.
A chunk of tomato dropped on the floor and Zack wandered over to sniff it, though one tentative lick had him leaving it there and retreating back against the cupboards.
He sighed heavily and folded his front paws under himself. He rested his chin against the floor. He let his eyes drift closed, his nose filled with the rich scents of cooked meat and Sean.
For some reason, there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
* * *
Sean couldn’t help smiling when he realized the dog had fallen asleep. He would have thought the beast would have been underfoot, trying to cage ground scores, but the dog was surprisingly well-behaved. It was obvious that he’d had some great training.
He couldn’t help feeling a bit of sadness. The dog had belonged to someone that had put some serious time into his training, and that someone was going to want him back. So no matter what Sean was starting to feel about the dog… he was only going to be a visitor for a short time.
There was just something so nice about having a dog around. He got all the benefits of having another presence in the house, and he didn’t have to do anything in particular to keep him happy. As long as he fed the dog, played with him a little, and made sure he had a comfortable place to sleep, the dog would happily be his best friend.
“Too bad people aren’t like you,” he murmured at the sleeping dog. A bushy black tail wagged once, though he didn’t open his eyes.
Sean carried his food to the kitchen table and sat down. Usually he ate in the living room with the TV switched on for company, but tonight there was something oddly peaceful about the quiet kitchen, the dog’s rhythmic exhalations the only sound.
It didn’t feel as lonely as it usually did.
Want to help me out with some funds? I’ve gotta pay for webhosting and there’s some essentials I need in my life.
Otherwise, expect Chapter Two shortly. Enjoy the story.
* * * * *
PERSONS OF INTEREST:
Zachery Branagh–half-owner of “Faraday-Branagh Antiques.” Black hair, brown eyes, cute guy. Dresses in sweater vests and suits. 31 years old.
Sean Amend–proprietor of “A Shot In the Dark” coffee shop. Tall, lanky, reddish-brown hair, hazel eyes. A jeans and tee shirt kind of guy. 28 years old.
Phillip Faraday–half-owner of “Faraday-Branagh Antiques.” Blond hair, good-looking, kind of egotistical. Really does love Zack as his best-friend, he just sometimes loses track of what’s important. 32 years old.
Lily West–works at “Faraday-Branagh Antiques,” but is also an art student. Short, cute girl, dyed red hair with blue streaks, brown eyes. 22 years old.
Angela Branagh–Zack’s mother. Very overprotective. She brings him dinner twice a week to make sure he’s not starving. 58 years old.
Jack Branagh–Zack’s father. Curly brown hair, laid back attitude. 59 years old.
Detective Stella Nawisky–curly brown hair, green eyes, Polish/Irish. 38 years old.
PLACES OF INTEREST:
Faraday-Branagh Antiques–upscale antique shop owned and operated by Philip Faraday and Zachery Branagh.
A Shot In the Dark–popular coffee shop owned and operated by Sean Amend. Located just up the street from Faraday-Branagh Antiques.
Paolo’s Market–a small grocery story near Sean-Amend’s condo. Sean Amend’s condo–built in the 1930’s, the complex has been fully restored. Set up in an old mission-style with ten condos facing a central courtyard. Sean has an upstairs unit with balcony. He enjoys working in the community vegetable garden.
Zachery Branagh’s house–a small, three-bedroom cookie cutter house his mother talked him into buying. Looks like a 1950’s bachelor lives there, which goes in theme with his classic movie collection, his old books, and his dream of meeting Cary Grant once time travel is feasible.