Green's Hill-Amy Lane's Home - News

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cold, cold hands

So, last night my older children were going to come get me and take me to the movies--we all wanted to see The Shape of Water, and for some reason the grown kids thought Mom would be the best grownup to see it with.

Right when we were gathering things to leave, Mate got a phone call. His mother had called an ambulance that morning and asked to be brought to the hospital. Mate was a little hurt--he'd just gone to visit her on Sunday, and she'd looked very frail, her health not great. He'd taken the kids to wish her a happy holiday, and some baby food and plain bread, because her stomach had been a little tetchy. He wanted to help. Why hadn't she called him?

Well, we asked her--she said she'd felt too horrible to actually walk through the ER. She knew the ambulance would bypass that, and then she'd asked her sister to not call Mate until she thought he got off work.


Such a humble, sane line of reasoning.

We made sure she was okay--secure for the night, as it were. She was going in for a CT Scan on a mass in her abdomen, and trying to loosen it so it would pass. We would see her in the morning.

Before we left I went to kiss her cheek.

She'd never been a big woman--5'2", small boned, enormous hazel eyes--she'd always been so simple. So unassuming. She'd spent the last three years since her mother's death making her life as spare as possible--she wasn't going to get much on social security, right?

But as I kissed her cheek I smushed her a little (God, I'm clumsy) and I pulled back and apologized, horrified.

"No, that's okay." She grimaced and adjusted herself more comfortably. "Your hands are so warm."

I was wearing my mitts--like always.

I took them off my giant ham-fists and put them on her hands--her tiny, tiny hands.

We got home around nine and told the kids that she seemed to be holding stable. I started a pair of mitts for an absurdly small pair of hands while we watched Troll Hunters until 11:30 at night.

We got a call at 12:10--she was doing much worse, and she was asking for Mate.

We called Chicken to come watch the children. They were upset--and I told them what I tell anybody who worries about these things: Did you tell Grandma you loved her before you left?


"That's all you can do, every day, with anybody you love. Tell them you love them. Hug them. Know that they knew when you parted."

They'll never know it's how I'm not rendered completely dysfunctional whenever there's a public act of violence, and I have to drop them off at school.

When we got back to the floor, we had a choice to make--balls-out surgery, full stop invasive procedures, intubation, crash cart, bells and whistles, EXTREME MEASURES RESUSCITATION, or...

Or keep her comfortable.

She had an ischemic bowel blockage--and had been suffering with it for days. She was going into sepsis, and even if they could remove it, her organs were initiating shutdown.

Her vessel--her teeny, tiny, delicate vessel was done.

That was a bad moment.

But after the decision was made, we sat in the quiet of the room while the ICU nurse monitored her vitals, and watched her slip away.

I worked on the mitts for part of it.

Mostly, I just held Mate's hand.

This morning we went up to the newly refurbished house she'd just moved into. It was once the bear trap I couldn't gnaw my way free of--but now it was lovely (if nut-shriveling cold.)  Clean, bare, neat as a pin, The new flooring couldn't hide the fact that no, they still hadn't put a foundation under it, but other than that, it was a lovely space.

She'd been there about ten days.

We looked and looked--all of her paperwork was nicely ordered, in boxes. We saw paperwork for the work done on the house, paperwork for the service work she did with the church, paperwork for the rescue cats, her medical problems, her work with genealogy and calligraphy--all in order. But we couldn't find a single slip of paper indicating where she wanted her tiny body to go.

I called my stepmom, and she gave me ideas for where to look--she's done this before. We were exhausted--we'd slept maybe three hours of shitty, shitty sleep, our grown daughter between us needing solace.  But still, I was grateful.

My stepmom, the one who'd given me common sense and practicality, who had raised me to believe in the sacred power of the DNR, who had taught me how to give the elderly and the dying respect and dignity, and to be kind to their fragile bodies while their sturdy souls ventured on, was still here to guide me.

I'm so very, very grateful.

We even searched her computer, but in the end, all we found was a surrender request for the two rescue cats hiding behind the washing machine.

"They were supposed to be barn cats," it read. "But they were wounded and now live in the washroom. I am the only one they will let touch them. They are invisible cats."

It was so very, very much my mother in law.

Practical. Kind. A touch of sarcastic humor.

We made sure the cats were secure and came home, stopping for takeout for all our kids on the way.

As we were getting out of the car, Mate suddenly laughed. (This is not as odd as it sounds--it's how we cope.)


"Heh. Invisible cats."

We laughed softly again.

When I got home, before we both crashed to start our investigations again tomorrow, Chicken showed me the envelope she'd addressed for the mitts I'd finished. A friend of mine has a tiny teenaged daughter.

With delicate, birdlike hands.

Hug all your people tonight. Be grateful for every one of them. Be sure to tell them you love them as they venture out the door. Our bodies are fragile, even if our souls are strong. Be good to your bodies, take care of your souls, nurture all the love in your life.

When I die, I want to be cremated. I only want extreme measures if my body is healthy and ready for the fight. And I want music playing--my family knows my favorites. At the end there, last night, as my husband's mother was breathing her last, I got tired of the incessant beeping, and Mate and I had already said all the things we could think to say. I sang at first--hymns, although my pagan self couldn't remember many. Finally I pulled up Simple Gifts on my phone--because the melody is beautiful, and with the faith that sustained her in her last years, I thought she might enjoy it.

I hope so.

I know she will be missed.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

An Amy Lane Christmas Anthology

by Amy Lane

So, a few thousand years ago (eight!) DSP published their first Amy Lane story-- it featured an adorable kitten on the cover and it was called If I Must. And after that? Christmas stories just seemed to be my thing.

Now some of the stories-- Candy Man, Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters, Winter Ball--went on to have more stories attached to them, and all of them ended up in print in one way or another. (With Candy Man, you can find the print version in the same volume as Bitter Taffy.)  But some of the stories just sort of floated around a little-- they were completely stand alone, very adorable, and totally holiday, even if the holiday wasn't the focus. 
Those are the stories gathered in this anthology. 

I've loved writing each story--they've been proof, in a way, that I can do adorable and light (and so have the Dreamspun Desires, for that matter) and still have moments of poignance. I've got the synopsis of each of the stories here, and if you haven't read them--or even read just one--the bundle price is a really good deal.

And some folks have told me that the shorts totally made their keeper shelf, and that's why the print story.

So, thank you all so much for reading my Christmas stories, for making a big deal out of them, for loving the adorable and fluffy as well as the angsty--and I hope your Christmas was as awesome as mine.  (I have some pictures at the end of the post--crappy, as is my signature photo style, but these are some very happy kids here.)

Anyway-- here are the story blurbs, and I hope your holiday was as adorable and fluffy as possible! And I'm leaving the DSP link because the store is on sale, but also available at Amazon!


If I Must
Joel Martinez, a practical and organized computer programmer, is roommates with Ian Cooper, a certified IQ-in-the- stratosphere mathematical genius who literally can't find his own underwear in the mess of his day-to-day life. When Joel uneasily leaves Ian for the holidays, he ends up telling stories to his sister and discovers he feels much more for Ian than he thought. So when Ian calls, distraught because the only other thing in his life that loves him (a half-feral cat named Manky Bastard) is going to have to be put down, Joel hurries back home hoping that opposites really do attract.

Christmas with Danny Fit
In a perfect moment of cold November sunshine, pudgy accountant Kit Allen realizes Jesse, his new office assistant, is everything he's ever dreamed about in a man. Feeling supremely unworthy and desperate to get a life—even an imaginary one—Kit embarks on a self-improvement campaign featuring DVD fitness guru, Danny Fit.  
In the meantime, Jesse has begun a subtle campaign of his own, one designed to bring Kit out of his DVD dream world and into Jesse's arms. Jesse isn't perfect—he's no Danny Fit—but he hopes that the kind, funny man who has been looking at him so soulfully since his first day at work has what it takes to be everything Jesse has always wanted.

Puppy, Car, and Snow
Ryan’s entire life changed the night Scott surprised him in a bathroom at a party.  Now Ryan’s soulless climb up the corporate ladder has stalled—but his quality life has become a whirlwind of laughter, joy and surprises, thanks to Scotty’s playful, gentle heart.  
After three years together, they’re going to Ryan’s parents’ cabin to spend Christmas.  Snowed in by the weather and locked under the icy glare of his mother’s disapproval, can Ryan show he has found the most profound happiness in the simplest of things?

Turkey in the Snow
Since Hank Calder’s four-year-old niece, Josie, came to live with him, his life has been plenty dramatic, thank you, and the last thing he needs is a swishy, flaming twinkie to complicate things. But when Justin, the daycare worker at his gym, offers to do something incredibly nice for Hank—and for Josie—Hank is forced to reconsider. Justin may be flamboyant in his speech and gestures, but his heart and kindness are as rock steady and dependable as anyone, even Hank, could ask for. Can Hank trust in his dramatic “turkey in the snow” to offer his heart the joy he and Josie have never known?

Going Up!
Every dreary day, Zach Driscoll takes the elevator from the penthouse apartment of his father's building to his coldly charmed life where being a union lawyer instead of a corporate lawyer is an act of rebellion. Every day, that is, until the day the elevator breaks and Sean Mallory practically runs into his arms.
Substitute teacher Sean Mallory is everything Zach is not—poor, happy, and goofily charming. With a disarming smile and a penchant for drama, Sean laughs his way into Zach's heart one elevator ride at a time. Zach would love to get to know Sean better, but first he needs the courage to leave his ivory tower and face a relationship that doesn't end at the "Ding!"

ZoomBoy got three or four different models, including this one of BB-8 built of Legos. It took him Christmas Day--and no, we weren't home all day. Let's hear it for ZoomBoy!

Yes, the dogs got walked on Christmas Eve, and yes, Mate came with me. Because. 

ZoomBoy, spending his Christmas Eve the way God intended--wearing fluffy Jedi pajamas and his Jedi robe, to celebrate the birth of the New Hope and the existence of the Force. Don't tell him that's not what Christmas is all about--we've got him convinced!

The beginning of the great BB-8 assemble, while his sister looks on in amusement.

Squish asked for very little-- a phone, because most of her friends go to different schools, a long-sleeved shirt, and those pink boots. The hat was mom's idea, and the fuzzy kitten mitts were her brother's. In all, she's a vision of savoir faire. 

And everybody got fuzzy pajamas for Christmas. Because. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Why Did the Snakes Cross the Road? Part 2

So this is a continuation from yesterday's post wherein I put random characters in the middle of a great snake migration for no other reason than to see what they would do.  Now, when I post these ficlets, there's usually one or two naughty scenes, but this time... well... I was having trouble.

I mean, my guys usually have pretty strong libidos, right? But they're sitting in a middle of a snake migration. I mean... snakes.

So, of course, I had to ask my bestie. "Hey--which of my characters are DTF?"

Then I had to explain what DTF meant, but then, she gave me the perfect suggestion. You'll know them when you see them.

So enjoy--and Merry Christmas from me and mine!

*  *  *

Harry and Suriel-- Familiar Angel

 One minute Harry was driving the empty U-haul along a deserted road, Suriel sitting sunnily next to him, talking about how grateful their last batch of rescues had been to be reunited with family, and the next minute, he'd slammed on the brakes, threw the truck into park, and turned cat.

Very angry, hissing cat.

"Harry!" Suriel snapped. "Harry! I know they startled you, but I can't drive the truck!"

Harry spat, leaping to the front window and clawing at the glass. Oh my God! Look at them! Writhing deadly nightmares! Harry the human could pull out a gun and kill them--but Harry the human didn't like senseless slaughter.

Harry the cat, on the other hand, would be a fair fight. Between his magic and his enhanced hunting capabilities, Harry could go out into the wild, take down the snake colony, and feel good about himself.

Except Suriel had picked him up by the scruff of the neck and was shaking him gently. "Harry!" he snapped, "You have more intelligence than this! I have no magic, but you've studied for over a century."

Harry growled, low in his throat, his tail lashing behind him. He twisted his body and gestured with his paw--could Suriel not see that one of his most primal enemies had the snake-sticles to cross the road unchecked. The logical thing to do was roll down the window and let Harry go out and fight!

Harry had always been their best fighter, and since Edward and Francis were in another car that apparently didn't take this turnoff, this was Harry's job and Harry's job alone!

"No," Suriel said, flat-eyed. Suriel didn't tell him no often.

Harry spat and tried to claw his wrist, to show him that he didn't like no.

"I don't care if you don't like no," Suriel told him, magnificent brow lowered, angry brown eyes snapping with irritation. "You know better. Killing is never the answer."

Still dangling by the scruff of his neck, Harry licked his paw to indicate boredom. Yes, telepathy was one of his first spells, but cat-language sometimes got the point across so much better.

"Harry..." Suriel warned. "You know I'm right."

Harry rolled his eyes. You would think an angel would be less tolerant of a species that was said to bring down the entire human race, but no. Apparently that was a stupid human prejudice, and Suriel was all about enlightenment.    

Harry didn't need enlightenment. He could clean his balls on the front seat of the car all day.

Suriel took a deep breath and tossed his glorious red-gold hair back. "I'm not putting you down until you turn--"

"Ouch," Harry snapped. "Let go of my hair."

"Have we come to our senses?" Suriel asked, and Harry's brother Edward would have sounded like a sarcastic snotty twat.  Suriel sounded... sincere. As though the entire hissing episode were merely a lapse in judgment.

Harry scowled at the road, but he couldn't bring himself to yell at Suriel. Of course, yelling at an angel was never a good idea, but now that Suriel's wings were gone, Harry knew that it was only his love--real, passionate, eternal--for the man at his side that kept Harry from loosing the full fury of his razor tongue on Suriel's tender back.

"What do you suggest I do?"  Harry stared at the arrogant fuckers crossing the road like his looks alone could frighten them into unmaking. "If I so much as drive the truck I'll squash them all and wouldn't that defeat the point?"

"You lack imagination," Suriel said, sounding disappointed.

Oh God. Anything but disappointment. All they'd gone through to be together, and the idea of disappointing Suriel was one of Harry's worst fears.

"What would you suggest?" Harry asked humbly, and to his dismay, Suriel shrugged.

"I don't know what skills you have, Harry--or at least not all of them. But I do know you have more at your disposal than death and killing. Please--for me? Could you at least try something besides slaughtering the innocent beasts of the brush?"

Oh, fine. Harry closed his eyes, centered himself, and summoned one of his most difficult spells.  In his mind's eye, he saw a brand of fire, and he used it to write the words, Latin this time, When serpents fly my way is clear. 

Because seriously-- couldn't the primal nightmares just get the fuck out of the way?

He grunted and waved his hand, and next to him, Suriel gasped in wonder. Harry looked up from his pout and felt his scowl loosen up a little.

They still slithered in the air, their muscular bodies sinuous and graceful. They didn't look down, they didn't panic, they just kept going, like if they made their bodies do what instinct told them, then the absence of ground beneath their bellies was immaterial. A swarm of them, continuing in their same path, their same pace, as the snakes migrated from dry high ground to wet low ground, and water, and safety, and relief from the searing heat.

They did look fairly impressive.

Harry kept muttering the spell until the last one he'd reached out for had sailed over the road and been deposited, none the worse for the air, down on the other side.

"Can we go n--"

Suriel leaned across the seat and kissed him on the cheek, and the last of Harry's resentment faded. He turned and captured his angel's mouth, tasting his very human warmth, and the joy that apparently came with not running out like a furry barbarian to battle.

"Mm..." Suriel pulled back and rubbed noses with him. "Thank you, brave Harry."

Harry's smile was unfettered and fond. "Anything for you, my angel," he told him truthfully. "Shall we--"

In his head, he heard Edward, telepathy set on "freaked out". Holy Jesus, Harry, did you see the fucking flying snakes? What in the holy hell was that? Frances is trying to chew the window glass with his fucking teeth!

Harry grunted. "We freaked Edward and Frances out," he told Suriel, only a little cross. Cool your jets. Suriel didn't want to see blood.

Edward's voice in his head was just as sarcastic as Harry had anticipated. Well if you'd killed them fast enough, he wouldn't have had to see it!

Look Edward--he doesn't like senseless slaughter. They weren't hurting anybody. He maybe has a point, you think?

Tell him I'll forgive him when I get a chance to change my drawers and calm Frances down. There was a subtle shift, then, and Harry could picture is brother's cool amusement. That really was amazing, Harry. We should try that again in battle someday.

Harry grinned, fierce and feral, and Suriel's own expression in the car grew wary.

"What?" he asked. "What is that look?"

Harry just shook his head and put the truck back in gear. "Nothing. Nothing at all. I just think the next battle we have with the bad guys is going to be very interesting, that's all."

Suriel groaned. "This is all my fault, isn't it?"

Harry thought of launching all nearby serpents at the last bevy of human traffickers they'd faced. "Nope," he said, chuckling evilly. "Not even at all."

Suriel sighed, but placed his warm hand on Harry's knee through his jeans. "Just drive," he said, resigned. "I liked that last hotel we visited very much. Perhaps this one will have a bed just as large."

Harry shifted to the next gear, thought of Suriel, relaxed and grateful and naked on clean white sheets, and purred.

* * *

Ace and Sonny, Racing for the Sun

"You could have fuckin' run them over, Ace. You know that, right? Fuckin' snakes got no business in the fuckin' road--you're the bigger predator, you coulda fuckin' taken them out."

I glanced at Sonny and then glanced back at the snakes, appreciating the quiet hum of the borrowed SUV we were driving even if it did handle like shit. "It wouldn't be fair," I told him. "They got no self-defense when we're in a car. It's mean."

Sonny growled. "I don't give a shit. They're in our fuckin' way."

"Yeah, well, it's we're trying to be better people than that," I told him with dignity. An old snake, a big motherfucker, started to drift close to our front tire. I caught its eye and glared, cause not on my fuckin' watch was that thing crawling up into our engine or through our ventilation, and the snake seemed to take the hint because it backed off. I reminded myself I was a better person and stared at the road ahead of me in something like despair. Next to me, Sonny was so desperate for something to dothat he practically twitched.

"We could play twenty questions," I said hopefully. Sonny didn't like word games usually, but this was not a usual situation.

"Okay, I'll start. Why aren't we runnin' over the fuckin' snakes again?"

"Because they weren't hurting anything," I snapped. "It's like us. I'm not exactly an innocent little fuckin' flower, Sonny, but unless you kick me or hurt my people I don't bite. So we're not killing snakes because they're not hurting us, so leave it at that, okay?"

Sonny moaned and rubbed the back of his neck. "Sorry, Ace," he mumbled. "But nobody else is on this road--I'm starting to think that gate shoulda been closed, not open."

I grunted and moved my hand to his neck so I could squeeze gently. "I think you're right," I said glumly. "I think we might be the only car for miles. But it's almost dark, and I don't think they do this at night. Let's give them until sundown, okay? They're already starting to taper off. See over there? It's a turnoff. If we can just get the next thirty feet to the turnoff, we can turn this thing around and get the fuck out of here."

Sonny moaned softly, coming apart in my hand as I worked some of the tension out of his muscles. "That's a good plan," he conceded, melting a little into the front seat. I dropped my hand and he stretched, hands over his head, and I appreciated the tightness of his scrawny little body. I made sure the car was in park and turned a little, so I could run my hand from his neck down to the softness of his concave abdomen. He shifted, sensuous as snake under my palm.

"Mm... that's real nice, Ace. How hot is it outside?"

I glanced at the gauge on the dashboard. "High 70's," I said, wondering at the question.

"Will the snakes crawl up into the engine?" he asked, and I shrugged, hitting the gas pedal a couple of times to rev it.

"Don't think so--engine's hot and they're looking for cool. It's not exactly cold out there. Why?"

"Can we turn off the car?"

I sighed. I did appreciate good air conditioning but was probably for the best. It wasn't like we didn't live in the fuckin' desert anyway, and the swamp cooler in our house was plum defeated in the hell of the summer. I killed the engine and the dampness of night in the deep South crept along our skin.

"We good now?" I asked, making sure.

He looked at me sideways, blue eyes wicked in the fading light. "Kiss me," he said. "Then we will be."

Oh. I smiled as I leaned over the island so I could take his mouth. He lunged into the kiss, like touching my skin was cool water on this sultry night, and I mauled him like he kept me sane.

Our touch started out passionate and amped up to incendiary in short order, kicking up even higher when I rucked up his T-shirt so I could suck on his pointy little nipples. I loved the way his body quivered in my arms, loved how once there were no prying eyes on us, he was so completely mine.

He grunted and lifted his hips, shoving his cargo shorts down to his angles and then turning in the seat so his back was against the car door.

He spread his thighs, exposing his cock and taint for me and dared me with his eyes to leave him high and dry.

Like I'd ignore an invitation like that. I gobbled his cock down, sucking his hardness to the back of my throat and gagging slightly--but not pulling back.

He cried out, dragging his nails over my scalp and thrusting into my mouth. He didn't used to beg like this, didn't use to be so shameless, but two years of us sharing a bed, fucking, sharing our skin like partners, and he made me proud by offering himself like his body was the thing I wanted most in the world.

I pulled back enough to let my spit slip from under my lips, coating him, letting more spit slide down between his cheeks so I could thrust a finger inside him. He grabbed his asscheeks and spread them wide, and I groaned. Of course I wanted more than a finger, but I didn't have any lube. Sonny'd let me fuck him like an animal, but I didn't do that. He deserved better.

I spat and thrust two fingers, shivering as he moaned, and then took him in my mouth again, shuddering as he breached the back of my throat.  Nobody tells you how good a cock feels in your mouth, how badly you'll crave it when you're sucking someone you're crazy for, someone who's crazy for you.

He cried out again and bucked, and begged, "More! Harder! Faster! God, Ace--I fuckin' need--yes!"

I plunged my fingers as deep as I could and sucked him all the way down and he cried out, ass arching off the new upholstery as he came down my throat, body shivering around my fingers, hands flailing until I held up my hand and laced fingers with him. He moaned then, tightening his fingers and spilling one last spit of come down my throat, and I shuddered, hard and aching in my own shorts.

He pushed at my head which meant he was getting sore and I pulled off, grabbing some napkins from the side of the door to wipe off my mouth and my hand.

"God, that was good," he rasped. "How you doin'? You need any, uh--?"

I grunted and turned around straight in the seat so my abs didn't cramp. I was hard and aching, but I was also suddenly aware of our surroundings again. I turned the engine over, concerned when I heard a thump, but the sound quickly resolved itself.  With the engine running, I hit the lights and saw that the road was clear now.

"I'd love some," I told him, "But we're about forty-five minutes from our hotel after we hit the main road, and I'd rather get some then, if that's okay."

Sonny grinned at me, dirty and evil. "You're way more grownup, Ace. I can let you suck me off pretty much anywhere and any time."

I winked at him as I put the SUV into gear. "I'm happy to oblige," I told him, the taste of his come strong like whiskey on my tongue.  He chuckled and pulled his shorts up and did his belt as I pulled forward.

We'd made the turnaround and were heading back on the other side of the road when I saw it. Sonny was playing with the radio, and I didn't say anything, but there it was--the mangled corpse of a snake who'd probably gotten caught up in our engine when I'd turned the key.

I felt a little bad as we made our way through the Georgia night toward a hotel and a shower and God, yes, my share of the blowjobs, cause I was in need. The snake hadn't thought he was doing wrong, just got caught in the wrong place, wrong time, that was all. But then, if he'd gotten up through the ventilation, he woulda been a problem for Sonny and me--might even have bitten one of us, and that would be bad, because I'd kill for Sonny and he didn't function too well without me.

With that thought, I stopped feeling bad. We were like snakes, Sonny and I. We did our own thing and we didn't hurt nobody--unless somebody hurt us. From one snake to another, that copperhead had been lucky. I had my brother's knife on me, and if he'd bitten one of us, his ending wouldn't be nearly so clean as the three pieces I'd seen on the road as we drove away.

As we hauled through the dark night to the safety ahead, I didn't give that snake anymore thought than he probably gave his last meal.

And I had Sonny's sweet mouth and sweet ass in my future, and after that, I had his company as we ate dinner and watched TV. That was my shelter, my low ground and water at night, and I'd kill anyone who tried to get in my way.

* * *
Dex and Kane-- Dex in Blue

"Kane, you psychopath, I love you, I love you so goddamned much, but if you open that door I want a divorce."

"But Dexter! Look at them!" The awe in Kane's voice was unmistakeable. "They're beautiful!"

Dex suppressed a shudder. "Yeah, sure. They're beautiful. But look at their heads!"  He could admit that snakes possessed a certain muscular beauty, and Kane had made him hold Tomas, their garter snake, often enough for Dex to admire the smoothness of his scales, and the miracle of the way he moved.

But that was one non-venomous snake in controlled circumstances.

This was like a cgi nightmare designed to make fun of people who liked snakes.

"Oh yeah."  Kane nodded with authority, assessing the wide, flat head of a snake with venom suppositories behind its teeth . "They're copperheads--totally poisonous. I mean, they're not interested in us, so much, but you're right. We'd need equipment and shit--gloves and those long hooks and some antivenin--but it would totally be worth it, right?"

Kane turned his shining face toward Dex and his heart melted. He patted Kane's shoulder and gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile and not a green death's head grimace. "Who knows, baby--maybe you finish your degree, you'll find a job that'll let you do just that."

"Yeah." For a moment Kane slumped forward. "But not this spring."  He was in all the classes that had not a damned thing to do with snakes or science this spring.  Dex knew it would happen--sooner or later every college student ended up with that semester that made them wonder if requirements weren't just some sadists way of making young people suffer. Kane had spent a year taking classes, and while his enthusiasm for animals hadn't dimmed one jot, his confidence that he'd be able to pass all his classes was a little low.

"Hey," Dex soothed. "You know, maybe you'll learn something surprising this year. Maybe you'll get to research weird jobs, or the history of zoology or something."

"You think?" Kane straightened hopefully. "Like, snake stories? Think we'd learn any snake stories?"

Dex smiled a little and took his hand, kissing the knuckles tenderly. "Like, one day two goombah's are driving down the road after a Johnnies gig in Atlanta and one of them goes, 'Hey, Dexter, I think we can take a shortcut here?'"

Kane chuckled a little, and rubbed Dex's cheek with his knuckle. "And then they saw all these snakes, and the guy driving who doesn't even like snakes stopped, because even though he doesn't like snakes he's still a good guy and didn't want to hurt things even if they could hurt him."

Aw. That was sweet. Dex would never tell him that he'd stopped out of sheer dumb panic. "Sure.  And then they had to sit and wait for it to get dark so they could turn around and get the hell out of there, and they didn't have anything to do so--"

"They fucked?" Kane said hopefully.

Dex shuddered. "No." Oh God no. Surrounded by snakes? Dex spent half his day on the computer--he'd seen footage of snakes coming through ventilation. And he'd spent a couple of nights with Tomas curled up by his balls. "Not gonna happen."

"Can't blame a guy for trying," Kane said sunnily.

Even though Kane had been the one who navigated him into this situation. "Nope."

"So what did they do next?"

Dex let out a long breath. "They tell each other what they're gonna do when one of them gets out of school and the other stops editing porn."

Kane's low, dirty laugh echoed through the car. "But you said we couldn't do that here."

Dex chuckled. "Besides that. Like, what if you could work at the zoo?"

"Yeah... or what if we could manage a reptile store?"

Ooh. "Both of us?"

"Yeah. And when Frances gets older she could work behind the counter and we could all do it together and we could have bunnies and mice in a different room and..."

And together, they spun a tale of far away in the future, when Kane could have animals to his hearts content, and Dex could manage everything in their world to perfection.

And the snakes could migrate majestically on.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Why Did The Snakes Cross the Road? Part 1

So, why did the snakes cross the road?

Well, in real life, to get from high ground to low ground, from a dry place to water, and then from flooding back to the dry place again.

Seriously-- there's a place in Georgia where copperheads migrate twice a year. Fortunately it's part of a national park, so they're able to close the roads, and people just, you know... don't go down that road.


Well, I had this wonderful, awful idea.

Lock two lovers in a car and send them down that road when they weren't expecting it. What would happen? What would they say? What would they do? How would each couple's reaction differ from the last's?

That, I thought, would be delightful.

It wouldn't matter how they got there (unless that was part of who they were) and it wouldn't matter how they got out--we shall just assume that eventually, they all get out, and nobody gets bit, and we don't have to shoot anything because of the snakes.

But for just a snippet of conversation, there's going to be guys, locked in a car, and there's gonna be snakes.

So Merry Christmas, everybody. I Wish you all hope and joy, family if they're good for you, peace if they're not. Kindness and food for your soul and, whatever your faith, I hope the next few days are full of solstice celebration of whatever belief gives you peace.

Now, if you're afraid of snakes, just stop there, because the rest of this is gonna be a big nope.

But if you can deal with snakes on the road... well, enjoy.  (And look for Part 2 in the next couple of days, too :-)

* * *


Regret Me Not-- Pierce and Hal

"Is it over?" Hal sounded peevish--and, for one of the rare times in their relationship, young.

"Is what over? I'm not looking either, remember?" But Pierce definitely sounded like a grumpy bastard.

"Oh Jesus. They climb up through the engine. I read that once. They can climb out of the ventilation at any time."

Pierce recoiled. He'd seen that meme too. "I hate you so much."

"I was going to offer you a blow job to pass the time."

For a moment Pierce forgot his fear and looked at Hal curiously, and Hal looked back, his magnificent amber eyes wide. Then they both clapped their hands over their eyes.

"OH holy trouser snakes, NO!" Pierce snapped.

"I may never have sex again," Hal said, sounding haunted. "I"m twenty-three. Those are some of my best years."

"We WILL have sex again!" Pierce said with determination. "But first..."

"One of us has to open his eyes."

They took a deep breath in tandem, and Pierce felt Hal's hand creep into his own. They laced their fingers together, and Pierce said, "Okay. On three. One, two, three, LOOK!"


"Oh Jesus God," Hal moaned. "We're going to die here. We're going to be the skeleton in Indiana Jones with the snakes coming out of the eyeballs."

"I hate you." PIerce thought he was going to throw up.

"But... but you love me, too, right?" Sudden vulnerability. Pierce opened his eyes and looked determinedly at Hal and only at Hal and not at the road in front of them.
"Yeah, baby. I still love you."

"Even though I took the wrong turn into the state park with the snake migration?"

Pierce breathed deeply. "It's going to make a great story. Just as soon as..."

"Yeah. As soon as the goddamned snakes stop crossing the road."

* * *

Fish Out of Water--Jackson and Ellery

Jackson couldn't help it. He stared at the road, fascinated. "I had no idea snakes did that," he mused, checking his phone. They'd been stuck there for about fifteen minutes, the engine running to keep the snakes from crawling up inside.  "How's the Lexus doing."

Ellery took a deep measured breath, the kind of thing he did when he was trying not to be perturbed. "Not overheating. Not guzzling gas. We're fine for another hour, and then we have bout fifty miles to find a gas station."  Another one of those deep, measured breaths, exhaled through his nose. "Do you think they'll be gone by then?"

Jackson assessed the situation with narrowed eyes.  When he and Ellery had first realized the gate must have been left mistakenly open, and had come to a halt, there had been two, maybe three snakes on the road, with four or five on their heels. Now there were a good ten snakes, all of them ignoring the hell out of the Lexus, intent on wherever they were going. 

"It's getting hot," he said after a moment. "You can tell--they're moving faster. Pretty soon it'll be too hot to hit the concrete, and then we can turn around and get out. See? That one there?"

He directed Ellery's attention to one of the smaller ones--a tender adolescent snake, as it were--which settled its chest on the asphalt and then lifted suddenly, unhappily. Well, Jackson wasn't fond of the heat either, and this part of the country didn't fuck around in the summer. 

"Yeah." Ellery studied the snake dispassionately. "He's going to cross, I think, but you're right. Not too many after him." 

"Poor guy." Jackson grimaced. "Guess you gotta do what you gotta do, you know?"

He became acutely aware of Ellery's deep brown eyes, running over his face. "Yeah," Ellery said again. "You gotta admire someone who works hard to survive."

Jackson's face heated. "These guys are going through that for a better spot," he said, knowing they were talking about his own life and not sure how not too. "I mean, that's good. They don't want to hurt anybody, but, you know, snakes gotta drink, snakes gotta hunt, snakes gotta not cook in the sun."

"Jackson's gotta eat, Jackson's gotta drink, Jackson's gotta not travel the world alone."

Jackson's mouth twisted fondly. "Ellery, I'm trapped in a car with you in the middle of a snake migration. I'm pretty sure I'm okay on the company front."

Ellery let out a sharp bark of laughter. "Although this was not quite what I had in mind."

Suddenly Jackson started to chuckle. "Hey, do we get cell reception?"


"We should call Kaden. He hates snakes. Wait, even better!" He pulled out his phone and started taking pictures. His brother was going to fucking kill him. "This is gonna be great."

"Mature, Jackson. I'm so proud."

"Whatever. Here--you take some too. I'll send to Kaden, you send to Mike--wait! Do you think Lucy Satan likes snakes?"

Ellery let out a pained sound. "I think it might be one of the few fears my mother has!" 

Jackson turned to him, eyes wide and full of light. "Please?" he begged.  Oh please. Please. Ellery's mother--the most terrifying woman on the planet. Just once... just once he would love to see her discombobulated. Just once.

Ellery's eyes narrowed. "You love my mother," he said mildly. "I'd hate to destroy that relationship."

"Killjoy."  Whatever. Jackson kept taking his own pictures. Ellery could play it safe with Lucy Satan, but Jackson's family would never forgive him if he didn't terrorize them with this experience via text.

*  *  * 

"Seriously?" Crick asked for about the third time.

"Give them time," Deacon said calmly. "They'll move."

"Not fuckin' fond of snakes, Deacon."  Crick's shoulders twitched, probably remembering the snake he'd told Deacon about in the desert "I mean, these guys are fucking poisonous too."

Deacon grunted. He wasn't fond of snakes either--especially ones migrating in groups. "Yeah. That's why the car's on." It was a rental--they were visiting folks and had decided to go sightseeing before they had to be back in Atlanta to catch the plane. The wrong turn into the national forest had not been on their agenda.

"They're fucking creeping me out," Crick said darkly. He shifted in his seat and tried to stretch, and Deacon could see him dorsiflexing his foot and calf. 

"Turn your back to the door," Deacon told him, "and turn. I'll rub your leg."

Crick grunted and did what Deacon said, manually hauling his leg up and over the island.  Deacon went to work on his foot and calf. Crick sighed and released some of his tension, leaning gingerly back against the car.  "Thanks, Deacon. How you holding up?"  It was a valid question. They'd visited Drew's family and Martin's as well, since Benny and Drew were making the rounds with the birth of their new baby, and while traveling wasn't easy on Crick, visiting was pretty rough on Deacon. 

"At least the snakes don't talk," Deacon told him with a shrug.

"I knew it!" Crick said grimly. "You were really good with all those people, but I could tell."

Deacon had tried to hide his discomfort--had, in fact, been mostly victorious over the shyness that had so crippled him when they first got together. But new people were new people, and dammit, Deacon missed The Pulpit. And, "I miss our son," he said wistfully. The trip was a short one--five days--and J.D. had an ear infection just before they were supposed to get on the plane. Kimmy and Lucas had offered to help Missy watch him for them, but it was their first trip away from him since he'd been born. 

"Yeah, well." Crick let out a breath.  "I just wish, if we were going to have all that time away from him, that some of that time could have been for us."

Deacon stared at him. Oh my God. He was right. They'd been caught in a whirlwind of visiting and getting to know Martin's folks and Drew's folks and talking about their families--ambassadors of gay, as it were, to two families that weren't as familiar with LGBTQ folks as the people back home. But that whole time they'd been focused on Benny and Drew, Parry Angel and little Conrad, and on Martin, the young man who was going to move out to California permanently and become part of their friend Colin's business. 

This moment here, trapped by a snake migration neither of them had foreseen, was their first private moment in a week.

Deacon stopped massaging Crick's calf. "You got cell reception?" he asked, and Crick struggled for his phone from his back pocket. 

"Uh, yeah?"

"I'll push back the plane ticket and make a hotel reservation if you talk to Kimmy and Missy," he said decidedly. 

Crick gaped at him. "What?"

"Private time, Carrick James. Don't you... you know. Want some? Just us?"

Crick's mouth dropped open and his eyes widened comically. "Oh my God!" 

"What?" Oh no. Was Deacon being a bad father? A bad friend? Irresponsible? They had kids from Promise House working with the horses--would that be too much to ask Shane and Mickey? "Nevermi--"

"Deacon Parrish Winters, don't you dare walk that back!" Crick said urgently. "No--no. I think that's a great idea! I'm dying for some private time with you in a hotel room. Room service? Can we get room service?"

Deacon had to smile. Crick did most of the cooking back at home--having someone else make and serve him food must have sounded like heaven. "Yeah. We can get room service. So you want to try?"

Crick leaned his head back against the glass and just smiled, his narrow face looking youthful and sunshiny and all the things Deacon had loved about Crick from their very first meeting, when Crick had been just a boy, watching Deacon work out his horse. "It sounds like the most wonderful idea in the world."  He shivered, apparently excited about the idea. 

Deacon smiled, warmed by his enthusiasm. "Okay--so, phones out--"

"Can we do two days?" Crick asked wistfully. "Please?"

Deacon placed his hand on Crick's arch, pushing a little so the stretch wouldn't end. "Sure," he said. He'd never been able to refuse Crick anything. 

"Good. I'll hand you the phone when J.D.'s on. He'll want to talk to Deek-Deek."

Sure he would. J.D. was three now, but Deacon reckoned he'd be J.D.'s Deek-Deek for possibly the rest of his life. 

Before he looked up the number to change his tickets and book the hotel room, he took a gander outside the car. The snakes were still migrating, making their focused, wiggling way across the road. Deacon would never love snakes--but he had to admit, he Crick had time together, private time, because they'd decided to cross the road. 

It could be the one time in his life he was grateful for snakes. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

From Gladiator to Idiot Dogs

Geoffie got groomed today. It's adorable.

She got a free toy with the grooming, and while I've mostly given up on toys, I thought I'd give this one a spin. I wanted to see if the dogs could actually fetch.

I was on the phone to Mate at the time--and after fifteen minutes of playing with the dogs and the toy, throwing the toy, and having the dogs come lick my hand, I said:

"Those dogs we brought home won't fetch.  They just stare at me, panting, and then lick my hand. You have given me idiot dogs."

Mate thought it was hilarious.

That is all.

Oh-- except this.

Squish washed her hair this morning and then left it unbraided.

And this happened.

And it's so very very pretty.

I had to share.

I had hair like that once--and I remember people saying nice things about it--and I never said, "I hate it," or "I wish it was blonde and straight."  Because even when I was a kid I knew that we only get a few gifts, and I was just grateful for this one.

So is she--and that makes me happy.

Family Dinner

So after my grandmother passed, my bio-mom's side of the family has sort of... lost touch. It's nobody's fault really-- grandma was our focus, and she was a woman of large personality and formidable will. Someone had to take charge, but she raised a  bunch of independent wandering souls-- it's been a conundrum.

Anyway, my Aunt Monica took charge and said, "We're meeting for dinner, here, at 6:30--no gifts!"

But Mate was making fudge, and I had the most adorable gift boxes, and so everybody got fudge.

And I was feeling pretty good about that--I admit it.

Now those who read The Virgin Manny may vaguely remember the guy who hired Artie. Artie was (as many people suspected) based on my oldest son, Big T, and the guy who hired him--Phil--is a dead ringer for my uncle, who hired Big T to work in his small warehouse.

Big T gets along very well in his job.

Seriously-- he works hard, he's kind, and my Uncle Phil and Aunt Barbara are also kind, and in a way, it's been really awesome because there's a link to that side of the family that I wouldn't ordinarily have.


Barbara is scary competent.

T says she does the work of five people in the office and I believe him.

Her home is lovely--flawless and originally decorated, and homey and warm.

Her two sons--full grown now--are kind and charming and handsome and thoughtful

Scary. Competent.

Well, tonight, after I gave everybody their fudge and sat down next to Barb, she turned to me and said, "You guys have to come over for dessert afterwards. I've got presents."

"No gifts," I said, a big panic light going off in my head.

"You brought fudge. You broke the rule first."

*panic panic  panic*

Well the gifts were awesome--and dessert was wonderful, and we had pictures taken of the family together and generally it was an awesome time.

But I'm not going to forget or forgive.

Next year, I'm frickin knitting.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Twas the week before Christmas...

So seriously, if I was going to write the list of things yet to do I'd still be here at Christmas, writing.  So just little short takes tonight-- some stuff that may be of interest to you...

*  Re: The newsletter. It's a learning curve. Everybody who's entered their name for the newsletter by Dec. 26th should be getting one on January 2nd (or thereabouts-- Ambrosia is in Atlanta for Christmas so things are very long distance.)  If you entered your name on the page on my website, you'll get a notice on that page immediately that says you're entered--so don't panic. The names have to be entered by hand and it's Ambrosia's baby-- she'll get to it. (She's the one with the OTHER baby, the adorable one that shows up on my blog from time to time ;-)

*  Watch this space and my social media--I wrote a lovely sized ficlet for Dex and Kane and Christmas--it's going to show up on LITERARY ESCAPISM sometime in the next week!

*  So, Mate and I went shopping on Friday--and we did accomplish something, but we also had a little bit of fun.

Because Mate.

*  We went shopping this morning with Squish and Zoomboy and dropped a load of cash at Hot Topic. The worst part of that was wandering through Hot Topic going, "Oooh... gonna get this and this and this..." and then turning around to one of the kids going, "So, Mom, what are you getting?"

This was usually met with "AUGH YOU SUCK!"

"But why? Why do we suck?"

"Never mind. Walk away from the Pusheen and Overwatch sections. Now."

*  Also, while in line at Hot Topic, someone behind me said, "You're Amy, right?"  It was Mate's cousin, whom we hadn't seen in years.

So that was fun, and she's lovely and grown up. Like, a real grownup. I mean she was three when we met, but that was thirty years ago.

*  The dogs were feeling neglected today, and I didn't realize how much until I sat down to write and Geoffie started to headbutt my knee. She has to jump in the air to do this, so it usually means she wants something.

I thought she wanted a dog snack.

What she really wanted was for me to pick her up and lavish attention upon her as she deserves.

Of course she does.

* I'm crocheting a simple area rug with a yarn made of fabric selvage (called Fettuccine by Lion Brand) and I thought I'd share cause it's coming out sorta cool.

* Yes, we saw the movie. THE movie. And I refuse to give spoilers, but I am going to voice an observation I made.

After the movie the question came up about character sacrifice.  Now this can apply to any movie, really so again, no spoilers.

But the person I was talking to was complaining that the sacrifice didn't have to happen because they could have done this or this or this instead and even if they didn't know if it would work as well as the sacrifice they could have tried.

And I found myself getting really passionate about arguing against this until Mate had to calm me down, and then he asked me why this bothered me so much.

And what I came up with was this, which I posted on Twitter:

For people who continuously search for plotholes as a reason for a character to not make a sacrifice, you are missing the meaning of what character IS. You can't technicality your way out of the Kobayashi Maru. You have to face it, or it isn't the Kobayashi Maru.

And I think we should all thank Star Trek for the Kobayashi Maru reference, because both timelines made us think about this in a really excellent way.

It's just that finding tiny plotholes as a reason a character sacrifice didn't have to happen is looking at storytelling in a really superficial way.  The best stories are universal, which means the plot vehicles that carry our characters to the universal choices are inconsequential. What matters is that EVERY SOUL can identify with the most basic of human dilemmas. To invalidate that choice because HooHa X doesn't necessarily work with HooHa Y and the Squirliedoo could be jimmyrigged into a Whoosiwhatsit is to completely overlook the fact that someday WE might have to make a decision in which we put the needs of the future generation--or even a person we love--over our own powerful self-interest.

And that making that sacrifice needs to be worth it, and it's our job to choose well.

Anyway... my thing to think about.

And I was going to go on, but hey, long enough already!

I'll DEFINITELY let you know when Dex is posted :-)


Friday, December 15, 2017

Yonder Star--A Pierce and Hal Ficlet

I promised y'all, right?  Here's the first road trip ficlet from Regret Me Not. 

* * *

"Huh," Hal said skeptically as he piloted his CR-V through the little suburban street.

"You sound disappointed."

"And you sound tired," Hal said, giving him a once-over at the light. The house was small and unassuming, and Hal wondered what he was doing here, when so much about himself was big and assuming a lot.

But Pierce's family was here, and he loved them, and Hal loved Pierce, and family was always sort of a test, right?

Hal really wanted to pass this test.

They'd talked non-stop from Tampa to Orlando, making plans, tentative timetables, hotel arrangements. Pierce was pretty handy with his phone, and Hal was forced to remember he was a computer engineer with lots of business cred under his belt. He'd certainly organized their next month and a half to within an inch of its life.

But they'd agreed--they'd mapped out the trip, they knew how long they were staying at Sasha's and about how long it would take them to get to Hal's parents and even had reservations for a week in New York City.

Pierce wanted to see the statue and Hal wanted to see Hamilton and Pierce wasn't sure he could get those tickets, but they had almost a month so he said he'd try.

Pierce, excited and planning their journey in the seat next to him wasn't any less wonderful than he had been when he'd ventured up the stairs to knock on the door and ask Hal to come with him forever.

But now they were here, at an average sized suburban house, green, with a shady oak tree in the front yard and probably a pool in the back.  Possibly an alligator in the pool--Hal had always hoped to see one.

But he was more excited about Pierce, green eyes fluttering closed, reddish-toned brown hair flat against his head as he fought off the effects of an eventful morning--and a really awesome night.

"Pierce? We're here."

Pierce sat up quickly and winced, then gave a self-conscious smile. "Here. Let's get the presents out, and my overnight bag and one of your suitcases--"

"Here, Uncle Pierce," Hal said with a wink. "Let me get the presents out and you can go say hi to that scary woman with the apron and the spoon." Her hair was a mane of curls--thank you Florida because nobody was safe-- and the spoon was covered in cookie dough, and Hal sort of loved her already.

"Sasha!"  Pierce's face lit up like Hal had seen when he'd been on the phone, and he had a moment's wistfulness for siblings he'd never been granted. He got out creakily, and Hal had a moment of hesitation. Did he need help? Would he stumble? A month of watching Pierce rehabilitate himself from someone wiped out with an hour in the water to somebody who could make it through almost a whole day and much of the night, and Hal still had moments of panic:

This person spoke to Hal's heart in a way no man ever had. God, let him be okay.

But Hal needn't have worried.

Sasha was small but just as fine-boned as her tall, lanky brother. Pierce wrapped long arms around her shoulders and hugged her tight and she waved the spoon over her head so she didn't get gunk on him.

"You made it! We started without you--I hope that's okay!"

Pierce pulled back and smiled, part of his mouth twisting higher than the other as he bit his lip self-consciously. "Is that cookie dough? Cause if that's cookie dough, I want that."

Sasha had a gamine little smirk, the counterpart to her brother's goofy grin. "It's amazing," she promised, and gave Pierce probably four-hundred calories of cookie dough in one swallow.

His eyes actually rolled back in his head, and Hal decided that yes, he'd be fine while Hal got the luggage.

"Wait!" Pierce said, disentangling himself. "Here--let me help. At least let me bear the gifts!"

Hal chuckled, and Pierce grinned and for a moment they were just them. "Yeah, yeah," Pierce filled in, "since we know your gift is a bear..."

Hal let loose an actual laugh and met Sasha's smiling face. "I can get it all," he said, but Sasha shook her head.

"Nope. You're a guest too."  She turned toward the still-open front door and cranked her voice up to Mom-volume with a single inhale. "Kids! Marshall! Come help get stuff! Pierce needs to go inside."

Pierce grimaced. "I'm really much better--I swear, Sash, I didn't just curl up and die there."

"I can vouch for that." Hal pulled the last of the bags, making a tidy little pile on the lawn. "Swimming, walks--the works. He was a good boy."

"Well, he always was," Sasha said softly. Behind them, a tiny herd of elephants clattered across the porch and down the stairs, and Hal lost Sasha and Pierce as a medium sized man and two smallish children came tumbling across the yard.

Fifteen minutes later the kids had carried the gifts and put them under the tree and Marshall had helped Hal with the bags to the tiny guest room with a queen-sized bed.

"You'll both be staying here, right?" Marshall was a completely average caucasian man--brown hair, hazel eyes, skin that would tan with sunblock and burn without. But he didn't bat an eyelash when he asked that question, and Hal was a fan.

"Yes--thank you."

"So, Sasha said a week, right? We've been looking forward to Pierce's visit--I hope that's okay."

"Yeah--we're moving on to my parents' the day after New Years--we sort of put together a schedule."

Marshall laughed and looked behind his shoulder, like he was imparting a secret. "Look, between you and me? Don't let him get too hooked on his schedule, okay? This thing with you? That's as spontaneous as I've ever seen Pierce. Keep it up!"

And Hal had a friend.

An hour later, Pierce and Sasha and Marshall were all talking in the kitchen about jobs and markets and things that made Hal's eyes glaze over. He stole a couple of cookies and wandered into the front room where Darius and Abigail were playing with their own Legos and looking with awe and respect at the Lego tree Hal had made from random blocks.

"Did you make this?" Darius demanded. "I don't see the schematics!"

"I made up the design myself," Hal said smugly. "Want to do another one with me?"  Because he still had Legos in HIS box.

"Yes!" It was unanimous, and an hour later Pierce wandered out of the kitchen, moving slowly.  Hal turned and patted the couch cushion behind him.

"Here--sit down," he said, trying not to fuss. Their whole relationship had been built on him cheerleading instead of fussing. But now there were people--kind, beautiful people, but other people--who didn't seem to be cheerleading him in the right spots. He should have been urged to sit in the    kitchen.  Maybe a lie-down before all the socializing. They'd stopped to eat on the way, but all the sugar wasn't good for--

"I've got some veggies and bean dip," Pierce said softly. "There's more in the kitchen, but you disappeared."  He held out the plate and Hal took it gratefully. Building Legos was hard work.

"Look, Uncle Pierce!" Darius cried. "Hal's been teaching us how to make trees! Mine has pirate heads for decoration!"

Pierce snorted. "That's amazing, D. I think you should show your mother that--she'll be so excited!"

"Mine has shoes!" Abigail cried, not to be outdone. Hal beamed at her. She'd pulled out an entire box full of Barbie shoes and he'd helped her run sewing thread through them and put them up as tiny ornaments too.

"That's truly amazing," Pierce agreed. "Go show your mom, and then they said we could watch some TV."

The kids got up and disappeared, and Pierce sighed and sank back into the couch. "Get up here with me," he said softly.

"Why?"  But Hal was already scooping the Legos into piles and putting them away.

"Because I miss you. I know we got all involved but I didn't mean to drive you out of the kitchen."

Hal finished scooping Legos and stood up, plate of bean dip in hand. In the other room he could hear the kids chattering excitedly and being rewarded with cookies.

HIs irritation disappeared and he sank gratefully into the couch with Pierce. "Your family is nice," he said, but that seemed inadequate. The kids had been a charming disaster, squabbling, one-upping--but also playing. Helping. Darius had praised the shoe idea to the skies. Abigail had helped him decapitate fifteen Lego pirates.

"I wasn't ready to leave our little bubble," Pierce told him, leaning against his shoulder. "I had you to myself for a month. It was heavenly."

It was exactly how Hal felt.

"Your family loves you," Hal said as graciously as he could, remembering Sasha and the cookie dough and Marshall telling him not to plan and the kids getting excited because Uncle Pierce presents were the best.

"You love me," Pierce murmured. "That's still magic you know. We just said those words this morning."

And the disappointment at seeing the small suburban house faded away. The alienation of the grownup talk about jobs and income and taxes melted away. That feeling--that terrible feeling of being exiled from his lover's side to the kids table--it was like it had never existed.

"And you love me," Hal said, because he was right. The words were magic. And some magic spells had to be repeated before the magic became fully real.

"Course." Pierce snuggled against him. "The Barbie shoes were classic, by the way."

"All your niece."

"Heh heh--all Sasha."

But as Pierce's breathing got even and he sank into a much needed nap, Hal had to wonder. For all Marshall's warning, Hal had seen Pierce play, had seen him be spontaneous. Maybe the pirate heads and the Barbie shoes were a quiet gift from Pierce as well, just nobody saw it but Hal.

The thought gave Hal another layer of warmth for the man practically laying in his arms.

He melted into the couch a little more, finishing off the veggies and putting the plate on the end table so he could wrap an arm around Pierce's shoulder.

By the time the kids came out, Pierce was asleep against his chest, and he didn't stir when the kids turned on cartoon Christmas specials.

Hal was completely immersed in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas when Darius and Abigail crawled onto the couch too, Darius on one side of him, Abigail in his lap. For a moment, he sat, stunned, wondering why a child might possibly do such a thing.

But he remembered that Pierce loved these children, and they'd welcomed him when he'd been uncertain.

An hour later Sasha came out and had everybody wash up for dinner. The kids were put together a few hours later, with snacks and hugs and Pierce reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas with just enough drama for Hal to wonder if he'd ever dreamed of being on stage.

And finally, they were alone together, in the tiny bed in the tiny guest room, listening to the unfamiliar noises in the unfamiliar room.



"What if we want to change the schedule?"


"You're not going to ask how?"

"No." He was still tired.

"You're not curious?"

The chuckle in the dark reassured him. "I'm very curious," Pierce said, propping himself up on his good arm and facing Hal. "I mean, the kids sat down with plain old Legos and came out with pop art masterpieces. What can you do with an Atlas and a cell phone. I wait in awe."

Hal smirked. "But some of that was you!" he protested. "Those kids were bent long before I got here."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Pierce declared airily. "I never watched Coraline with them when their mother said no, and I certainly never played pirate execution last Easter when I was down here for a visit."

Hal frowned then, because Pierce had still been married. "Did Cynthia let you do that?" Oh, Hal didn't like his ex wife.

"No," Pierce said, voice sober. "Because I asked her not to come."

"Because why?"

"Because, baby. This is my family. And I know they're a little bit suburban and boring to you--but I don't let anybody near them I don't trust. And I was starting not to trust her by then."

Oh! And this made it all worth it. "But you trust me?"

"Very much. You were..." Even in the dark, Hal could see Pierce's face go soft. "Amazing. After you left, we must have paused half-a-dozen times, just to hear you play."

Not exiled to the kids table. Not forgotten. Listened to. Appreciated.  Trusted.

Hal had to swallow against the lump in his throat. He kissed Pierce instead, open mouthed, carnally, because it was Christmas Eve, dammit, and all he'd wanted for Christmas for his whole life was a Pierce.

They necked, kissing fiercely, until Pierce pulled away, grimacing. "Uh... Hal?"

"You don't want to have sex in your sister's house on Christmas Eve?"

"Do you mind?"

"No. But it might cut our stay short. Do you mind?"

Pierce's teeth glinted in the dark. "Do I mind that you want sex with me? No. No I don't mind that at all."

"But it will kill your schedule."

"I already said that's okay."

"But how will you know when to stick to the schedule and when not to?"

Pierce spread his hand on the base of Hal's throat, almost a neanderthal move from a guy who'd been willing to follow. "You're my star, Hal. I'll follow you. I can't go wrong that way, you think?"

"I'm your star?"  Oh Jesus. His throat practically closed up.

"Yeah. My guiding star out of mediocrity and complete averageness."

"So... your schedule, your phone--I'm more important?"  As he'd never been to his parents. Either of them.

"Didn't we cover this idea this morning?" Pierce asked, swallowing a yawn. "The whole I love you? Save me from myself? If myself isn't on the track that gets sex with you, then by all means save me!"

Hal pushed gently at his shoulder. "Shift over," he ordered. "So I can spoon you."  Because Hal was the bossiest and got to be big spoon.

"Fine." Pierce yawned again. "Is this a magic Christmas spoon that's as good as sex? Because you kissed me and got me all het up."

"And you didn't offer so much as a hand job, you prudish bastard." Pierce rolled over and Hal wrapped his arm around his middle, squeezing tightly. "And it is a magic Christmas spoon that's as good as sex, because you are a magic Christmas unicorn and just being with you is Christmas even when I'm exiled to the kiddie Lego room and you get to talk about death and taxes with the grownups."

"You know, you left early. How do you know we didn't start talking about cartoons and DisneyWorld?"

"Please. If you'd said one word about DisneyWorld, those two lovely angelic children would have been all over your ass with bribery and blackmail."

Pierce chuckled softly. "Well, maybe we can come back sometime and take them."

Hal kissed him between the shoulder blades and settled down to being sex-less but Pierce-ful for the next seven days. "I'll do that," he said, not because he couldn't live without kids like Pierce apparently couldn't, but because he was invited, and trusted and appreciated.

And because he was Pierce's guiding star, and Pierce loved his family. Hal vowed never to steer him away from them, because this moment here was maybe the best Christmas he'd ever had.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pun-day and Fun-day!

So, we finally decorated the tree today--we were going to do it last night, but it turns out the Christmas lights were almost thirty years old and decided they weren't doing one more frickin' tree. After the kids' dental appointment, we went to Target--which was almost shopped out--and Squishy and I decided on the white lights with the big colored stars, and it worked out nicely.  Chicken and
I went out for dinner and came back and Big T, ZoomBoy, and Squish had done this--and I was so proud.

I told them to pick a Christmas movie. They picked Gremlins. Mate was also proud.

Well, only a little bit of fun-- but the following two conversations happened today:

ZoomBoy:  Did you hear about the security guy in the Samsung store? He was one of the Guardians of the Galaxy!

Me: Oh God.

Squish: What?

ZoomBoy: So, if you illegally download a movie in Jamaica, are you a Pirate of the Caribbean?

Me: You know, in some countries it's illegal to pun!

Squish: Well we need to stay out of those unpunny countries, don't we!

Me: *waves flag of surrender*

And this one, which I posted on Twitter, but which I will laugh about until the day I die...

Mate, over phone: Can we do the thing tonight?

Kids: 😳😳😳😳😳😳

Me:We’re on speaker phone!


 Mate (on text later): I meant Christmas list! 

Me: Too late— your oldest was rocking himself back and forth going “No no no no no...”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A brief recipe...

So, tonight was our night to go get the Christmas tree--it's currently hydrating in the appropriate corner, but not yet decorated.

I thought I'd share our goofy little tree adventure--and my recipe for Instapot Chicken Bake, which I started before I left and was done when we got back.


A. The Christmas Tree lot we've gone to (when we haven't gone to Forresthill, was closed. Like, forever closed. But the guy--apparently a good guy, left the address of two other lots in the area as a recommendation.

B. We drove to Roseville for one of the recs, and I told the guy at the counter that he'd been on the banner in front of Abe's. He told me that apparently the guy in charge of Abe's was also in charge of supplying things like tents and portajohns and water stations for firefighters--that was his other business. Scarily enough, business has been really good, which is why he decided that this was the year to retire the Christmas tree operation altogether. FTR, the banner said, "It's been a good 60 years" so I'm going to assume this is a family business.

C. There is a business supplying the heroes who are currently saving our state. That is something you don't think about a lot.

D. There is also a business renting guinea pigs in Switzerland. No, I'm not kidding. It's illegal to only have one--apparently they die of loneliness. But I digress.

E. After choosing a really expensive Christmas tree (because hey, ALL THE TREES BURNED UP this year, so they were super duper pricey!) we stopped at Starbucks for hot chocolate. Now, Starbucks has seasonal hot chocolate, in four new flavors.

F. My family, being my family, we all ordered a different flavor and sat down for ten minutes and drank each other's hot chocolate and discussed the pros and cons of each one in depth. Because we're dorks.

G. For the record--cinnamon. It's a thing that should be in all hot chocolate. This was the consensus. Now you know.

H. We got home and Mate found the extra speshul laser light reflector that he bought two years ago, lost last year, and found again during a recent table excavation. FTR, it looks AWESOME.

I. And we got the tree settled, sat down, watched Lucifer, and ate.  Lucifer was STUNNING. And the chicken bake was awesome.

So here's the recipe:

This worked in the Instapot, which is like a crock-pot/pressure cooker and stuff gets done really fast. In a crock pot, I'd say give it about two hours. The Instapot is about 45 minutes.


Fill Instapot with the following things:

One bag of frozen chicken parts (we like boneless, skinless thighs)

About five large potatoes, skinned or not, chopped or not, up to you

One medium bag of baby carrots

One cup of condensed mushroom soup

2 extra cans of water

One package of turkey gravy powder.

Close pot. Set on poultry. Come back when it's done.

Very simple, very tasty, and not even my kids wanted butter on the potatoes.

There you go.

Enjoy while watching devilish excitement while sipping your choice of hot chocolate.  Make sure there's cinnamon.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Dead Sprint...

Okay-- so I am planning a Pierce and Hal ficlet sometime this week-- stay tuned for it, I'll hit up all the media outlets as soon as it's up.


Ambrosia has been coming over to work on my newsletter, and her visits aren't complete without her entourage. That's her boyfriend, Idris, and their adorable baby who I've featured before, and yes, they're gracing my disastrous house with their awesomeness.

Seriously--the. best. baby. ever.

And Idris is very kind to listen to me and Ambrosia speak in code all day and make himself and the squishy little bean comfy. (I love this kid--I treat myself to about fifteen minutes of baby holding a day, because mostly we're working and making hay while she's here, but... BABY!!!)

I look forward to showing more of that baby. Is all I'm saying.

And Friday was... well, a dead sprint.

Chicken wanted my help dyeing her hair. Berry Jello wanted to go to Michael's and do some shopping for a soap party she had this morning. I needed to go grocery shopping before picking up ZoomBoy and then going back again to pick Squish up from the bus that brought her home from science camp.

And then we needed a babysitter so Mate could drive me downtown for dinner with the Sacramento Writer's Group and a reading at the Lavender Library.

Would you believe we did ALL THE FRICKIN' THINGS?  Damn. Just... damn.

Anyway, Squish is home (can you see her super speshul sweater we got from Michael's? The eye slight up!)  The kids and I spent yesterday cleaning up the house while Mate and Big T went to help Mate's mom move.  And today was the soap making party (we made bath bombs! They're so easy! And so cool! And I want to make more and more and more!) as well as a King's Game. Squish and I made soap and Mate and ZoomBoy went to the game.

And then we all went out for Big T's birthday!

So... damn.

Just... ZOOM.

Like, barely time to write, zoom.

Like, where did those days go?  zoom.

Like... damn. I need a nap to recover from my weekend, zoom.

But Pierce and Hal are coming--I promise. *yawn* After I recover from the zoom.