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reclaiming austin

OK, WHEW!!!! I know everyone has been waiting for chapter 31, and it’s my next project-I promise, I just had such bad writers block on it, that I decided to write an auxiliary chapter as a “Christmas” present- I started it a week before Christmas and I had every confidence that it would be done by Christmas, or maybe by january…and, well… it’s a little late. The placement of this piece is a year after Alex and Austin are wed. as such a few things are revealed or mentioned that take place in the main story. Don’t bother asking me about them, you have to wait *evil laughter*
So here is your somewhat late Christmas present and chapter 31 will be out soon, my writers block seems to be over.
Peace and love to everyone

Reflecting love

I woke up that morning with a pleasant glow, I heard Austin down stairs in HIS kitchen, banging pots and pans excessively to try and wake me up. I knew if I didn’t get up soon, he’d let the hounds of hell come in to wake me.
“Smells great” I said walking down our stairs into the living room he’d been decorating with Christmas lights, tinsel, glitterballs, snowglobes, mangers, garlands, and a humungous fake tree.
“Ya know…” I said as I walked to the kitchen, “If Macy’s finds out you stole their tree; they’ll be pissed…”
“I bought it in their store; if they wanted it so bad they shouldn’t have sold it.” Austin said before pivoting around to kiss me. His look said “Go test your sugar and take your shot” we had gotten past the point where he had to actually say it anymore. I heard the last spritses of the coffee maker as I was getting to my blood testing stuff. “Like anyone has ever been able to deny you anything you wanted,” I remarked as Iwaited for the reading. Despite telling me to take a shot, I punched in the numbers into my new insulin pump.
Austin came over with a cup of coffee and a plate of eggs and toasted brioche he had made the night before. “Well???” He queried before releasing the plate. He wanted to know my blood sugar reading, “82,” I said with a sigh- I pretended like all his mothering bothered me, but I actually loved the extra attention. “That’s getting a little low” he said as he turned to get his food.
I replied, “Well, we were doing some pretty advanced acrobatics last night Mr. Lawenda.”
Austin laughed, “I can’t believe how long we could keep that up… Good thing I fucking busted my nut huh?” From many guys, that would have sounded crass and low class- but from Austin it was our own special poetry.
“Yeah’ well that’s why it’s low this morning… Probably why I got up before you set the dogs on me.” Austin smiled then thought a moment before saying, “I think you should go back up before I let them in, Smog will be depressed all day if he doesn’t get to jump on you.”
“Hey, are Lindsey and Fern gonna be at our show tonight?” I asked Austin.
“I think so, so no crazy manger scenes this year.” Austin said referring to the Man oriented Manger scene I’d done the year before.
“Relax baby, I put in a few surprises, but nothing that Marika would disapprove of.” Austin got up and walked to the back door. A moment later an entire pack of black and tan timber wolves came pouring noisily into the kitchen.
“Armageddon! Get your ass down!” I ordered with a snap of my fingers. At the jet black chow/ Rottweiler mix pretended he didn’t know there was bacon on the counter. “I think we need a bigger house for your ‘children,’ Mr. Camble.” I said.
“OUR children, and they’re fine.” Austin countered as he began getting their dishes ready on the counter. Smog was already on my lap begging for the few scraps of egg I had left.
“Did Cyclone come in or is he still trying to eat the bird feed?” I asked.
“He’s still out there licking up the seeds… weird dog!!!” Austin remarked about the jack Russell we’d gotten to guard the ducks and other birds.
“Oh, Marika called this morning, she wants you to get to work a little early for some surprise.” Austin said as he tried to keep the dogs back as he put the dishes down. Finally I snapped my fingers and said “SIT!” Smog was still on my lap cleaning my plate but the rest of the pack sat and whined as they waited for their food.
“I’m the one who picked them out and feeds them, WHY are you their alpha male?” Austin asked as he put the last dish down.
“If you want to be the alpha, you can take it from me.” I offered. Austin gave me a sideways frown. “Yeah, I just have to beat you up.” He scowled.
“Yeah, that’s all…” I began to offer.
“It doesn’t so much piss me off that you’re the Alpha, but shouldn’t I be the alpha mate?” It was obvious to all that Smog had taken that position. “So instead of beating me up, fight with Smog!” I offered as I moved the plate away.
“Yeah, I tried, he runs behind you when anything scares him.” Austin said as he was petting Oblivion, our 1/2 Akita ½ Rottweiler mix that wasn’t showing any signs that his growth spurt was near an end.
“Well you picked him out for me, why didn’t you get something that wouldn’t threaten you like a bunny or something.”
“Come on, Smog. I’m trading you in on a big mean bunny” Smog looked up briefly then curled up on my lap. He obviously didn’t feel any need to listen to Austin’s yabbing.
“You’ d be so pissed if the bunny turned on you too,” I offered,
“Yeah, your fucking finger snap would probably work on him too.”
“Besides baby, it’s not like you’re bottom of the pack, you’re at least the beta.” I offered to console his ego. He just did a little pout and turned away.
I stood up with Smog in my arms and leaned over to kiss the dejected Austin, “Honey, my finger snap works so well on you, the dogs are just following your lead.” And then I kissed his shoulder.
“Since you and the boys are working in the yard again to get it ready for the party, I’m just going to get cleaned up and get over to the theatre,” I said as I carried the slumbering Keeshhond up the stairs with me. Smog had become an almost integral part of my wardrobe. He was well behaved if a bit bratty and was always welcome back stage as long as he stayed in my dressing room. Michael and Marika insisted on calling him a quiche hound, despite the fact that both Austin I kept correcting them that it was pronounced “Kayz hawned”
Michael would just say, “He’s your faggot dog, he’s a little buttered quiche hound.”
I took the dress clothes that I planned to change into before the show. After a quick shower and shave I set off to work with my dog.
Although I got there at noon, the place was already hopping. Justin Stiller was now working there as a barrister and they all wished me well as Smog and I walked to the back. I was reading the messages Henna had left for me when Justin walked up and handed me my iced Latte.
“I figured since it was 87 out right now, you’d go for the iced,” Justin said. He had become so much more grown up and happy since he’d started UCF and gotten a boyfriend. “So are your dad and Charles going to be here tonight?” I asked. Charles was his new boyfriend he’d met at UCF, Charles was a goth, black clothing, morose music, wild hair and lots of piercings and jewelry. Aside from his clothing and mannerisms, he was a nice kid, and very good for the still shy Justin.
“Well, they would have been here anyways after I told them how awesome the show is, but when I told them you’d gotten them comped… Oh yeah, they’ll be here.”
“Is Marika here yet?” I asked changing the subject.
“No, she called Henna and said she was running late because Mahalia was sick, but she’d be here in time for the show,” Justin relayed. Mahalia was Marika’s 11y/o daughter.
For the rest of the time before the show, I went around making sure all the equipment was set up right. When our guests began showing up at the back door, I let them in quickly as I was expecting them.
Marika showed up all ready dressed in a beaded dress of white with silver beads that shimmered as she moved. Not that Marika had ever been a conservative dresser, but now that she had Natasha and all the drag queens on retainer, her wardrobe had exploded.
She wore a kinte cloth headdress in oranges, yellows, blacks, reds and greens on it.
I put on the mint green shirt Jason had bought me for Christmas and the grey striped trousers I’d gotten from Ryan. “Good lord Alex, you look like a real man and not a Hooty and the blowfish commercial,” Marika said with admiration.
“You ready to rock this place to its knees, Hon?” I asked her as I ignored her teasing.
“We’ve got a bigger audience than we’ve ever had baby, and what with us comping all our relatives and spouses.” She said, I could see that despite her bravado and usual mastery of everything- she was genuinely nervous. I smiled at her and patted her beaded shoulder. “This place is packed, it’s not like the old coffee house we used to play, there’s probably 10 times the audience we used to have.” She said nervously.
“We are gonna walk on air after tonight’s show sweetheart!” I said to ease her mind. I gave her a sparkling smile to let her know I believed it. “Honey, this place just means we have more to allow us to move more people, and believe me Marika, that spirit is gunna flow though you and lift up the audience same as always.” She smiled and patted my arm affectionately.
We’d rigged up a switch that had all the lights in the bar attached to it, it blinked twice and I heard the announcement over the intercom, “The show will start in five minutes, please take your seats as the room will be darkened prior to tonight’s show.”
“That wasn’t Jorge; that sounded like Justin.” I said to Marika who was holding onto my arm while she tried on a different set of shoes.
“Ok, that’s my cue, Hon, I’ll see you on stage soon.”
So I went out and found the faint glow in the dark tape we were using to place ourselves in the dark theatre.
I hit a little button on the microphone to signal Robert I was ready. Robert was leading a small orchestra of music students we’d hired from UCF. The music began and slowly a small white spot light came up on me as I began singing…

“Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly Singing O'er the Plains,
and the mountains In Reply,
echoing their Joyous Strains. “
I had been singing a solo on stage with only a soft white spot shining down on me, but when I got to the chorus, I tensed a moment as I knew the wall of sound that was about to rush out and throttle the patrons. When 40 powerful voices suddenly joined me, small white spots suddenly popped up on the black robbed Gospel choir who seemed to appear out of nowhere.
“Glooooooooooria in excelsis Deo.
Gloooooooooooria in excelsis Deo.

The Music changed to adopt a more high spirited gospel beat as I began the next chorus, the Gospel singers waited to relive their chorus verse.

“Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ, the Lord, the new-born King.
Glooooooria in excelsis Deo.
Glooooooria in excelsis Deo.

“See him in a manger laid
Whom the angels praise above;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While we raise our hearts in love.
Glooooooria in excelsis Deo.
Glooooooria in excelsis Deo.”
In our program, we had listed a few surprises, and most regulars assumed it was like the “big cats” I had enlisted for my manger the previous year. But this year, due to the greater sense of drama we could now get away with in a real theatre, and due to the frictions that had existed over my being gay in a gospel themed group… we opted to go for gold with a full gospel Christmas. The roar of the audience lead me to believe that it had been the right decision.
Maki and Vinda next fronted for “Silent Night” with phil backing them on Spanish guitar. Next I went back to stand by Tiago, who was dressed in what looked like a soft head wrap with white muslin for his shirt. We did a fantastic version of “Little Drummer Boy” with only drums and a violin to back us.
The entire cast sang along with the gospel choir on “Do you Hear what I Hear?” And we had worked hard on the next song – it wasn’t a song you normally hear Gospel choirs covering, but we did and the world was better for it. We did an amazing if classical version of “Carol of the Bells” with the orchestra behind us.
After our first break, I finished my latte and stepped back on stage to start our next set, Marika however put her hands up and stepped up to the mike, “A Merry Blessed Christmas to each and every one of you. Although, tonight we are featuring classical Christmas songs to celebrate our lords birthday; and we are focusing on Gospel Christmas songs, A little angel told me that our very own Alex Johnson-Camble has a favorite Christmas song, one that has greeted us all as children and we’re going to surprise him with it.”
As she put the microphone up, Robert began the unmistakable piano sound of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi.
It was, as Marika had said, one of my favorite Christmas songs. It seems as though many people felt the same way as heads were seen bopping and bouncing to the beat. There wasn’t a vocal part, which is one reason I figured the gospel crowed wouldn’t mind a performance of a secular Christmas song.
When it was over we resumed our normal set and filled the theatre with the upbeat and joyous sounds of a Christmas gospel choir and their little white boy mascot. We did a good 2 hour set, and at the end, I took a microphone and stepped up in front of our regulars and the gospel choir.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’all are having a have a fantastic, glorious holiday and all your friends and family have an equally wonderful season.” I turned and raised my hands to include the stage behind me, “I want to deeply thank the talented student gospel choir from Bethune Cookman collage for traveling down here and helping us with this concert, this night wouldn’t have been nearly as spectacular without their help. Would y’all please show these fine people how warm and friendly an Orlando audience can be.”
There was a great round of applause which I allowed to go on for at least a minute before I began, “And to the lovely voices of our own ebony queens, , Maki, and Vinda…” A long applause. “And for the Unsurpassed guitars of Phil Reynolds, And the bass cords of Spider, and our own Little drummer boy, Tiago Cortez,” I paused after each name to allow the respected star to receive their own applause. “I certainly want to thank the wonderful help we’ve had tonight from the UCF student orchestra. “ A nice long applause followed. “And how could any Christmas show be complete without the soul lifting vocals of our Black Empress, Marika Williams!“ As usual, the crowd gave her a long healthy applause. Vinda’s voice popped in suddenly, “And don’t y’all forget the master of ceremonies and the brainchild behind this evening, our very own little blond brother - Alex, Camble-Johnson”.
The applause went on and on and even after the lights fell dark, the audience kept applauding. As we were going back stage Marika said to me, “For a little gay white boy, you done real good work tonight Alex!” I smiled.
“Does that mean you forgive my manger from last year.” She continued smiling, “No, it means I now know your wicked little mind can be used for good as well as evil.” Then she added, “Course, if there had been a black panther in that stable…”
We stood off stage a few moments and the crowd began yelling, “Encore, Encore!” I looked at Marika and said, “That’s your cue honey” And I tip toed up to kiss her cheek.
The blackened stage we had just exited suddenly had several coloured spots hitting one spot as Marika stepped out with her shimmering white dress. She stood for a moment to give her an airs of drama, then she took her microphone and in a voice so loud and pure it was perhaps dulled by the electronics meant to boost it, she began her version of O’ holy night. Even a year after her last version of it, and having heard it for weeks of practice, it still made my hairs stand on end. The audience was enraptured, on her last few notes, even the blinking Christmas lights seemed to pause so as not to take away from the holy spell she had cast. If angels had voices, they surely spoke with hers.
Henna was waiting at my dressing room door. “Alex, that was amazing! You guys went way over expectations this time. We already have a full house booked for next year, we’ll have to do this all month long next year to give everyone a chance to experience this.
I smiled then rolled my eyes, “Oh great!” I muttered.
“What is it honey?” Henna asked concerned.
“Well, I surprised everyone last year with my manger scene, I got everyone this year with the Gospel choir- NOW I have to start planning for next year’s big surprise.”
Henna smiled then put her hand on my shoulder, “Honey, you could just do this show again, but knowing you, I’m convinced you could easily pull another surprise out of your bag if you wanted to.” With that she kissed my cheek and strode off to greet Marika.
I Popped my head out the door a moment, “You and Jorge coming to our Christmas party Wednesday night?”
“Honey, we wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world.” She said,
I smiled. “I hope everyone can make it, “
“They will Alex, no one wants to miss one of your parties.” She actually meant one of Austin’s parties, but he was my husband, so it was all good.
I pulled out my cell phone after I’d changed into street clothes and called Austin and told him to pick me up at the back door. I would usually go and mingle a bit, but I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.
Austin said he’d be a minute then hung up, he called again a few minutes later from his truck at the back door. Several people were waiting, but I smiled at them and said I needed to get home.
“I need to stop at the walmart and get some dog food.” Austin said as we pulled out, it was something we did with alarming regularity now that we had an entire wolf pack. I scrunched up smog’s face as Austin drove. “DO we need anything more for the party?” I asked the event planner. “Maybe some more wine, I was going to make a winter sangria, oh, and some squash for dinner tomorrow, I’m making a winter squash soup.” I had long ago learned not to scrunch my face at his recipes that I thought sounded odd, they usually tasted good and it just ended up hurting Austin, so I sat quietly. Austin laughed to himself, “relax, it’ll be great, and I’m making fresh bread to go with it.”
Wal mart was… well… the adventure it always was. We saw the pierced Goths, the hump backed woman, the toothless man and his pig faced children, and the pallid lanky stock boys who looked like George Romero’s zombies. We of course, ended up buying a great deal more than we’d planned to. Smog greeted us with a merry dance when we got back to Austin’s truck. In warmer weather we would have left the AC on and had one of us stay in the truck, but now that it was dark, the temperature was 40 out just then, and I figured it was fine.
“How about when we get home, after we put the crap away, I’ll fix something to eat and you make us a big fire and we’ll eat in front it?” Austin asked.
I leaned over and lay my head on Austin’s large bicep as I yawned, “I don’t care what you say Smoggy, I’m keeping him.” Austin just wrapped his arm around me, he didn’t say anything, he really didn’t have to.
For Florida, the weather had gotten quite cold by the time we were home. Despite what we considered cold, the fur coat clad pack of wolves came out to greet us and bark their happiness that we were home as we pulled in. If I didn’t know the large black, and black and tan, dogs better, it might be frightening having 3 above average sized dogs, and several medium sized beasts charging in. As soon as our doors were opened though, I said “SIT” and all of them, large or medium sat down and waited for the praise we gave them. Smog though danced around feeling immune to the order until he caught my eye, then he too sat down and joined the pack.
I suggested Austin start on the food while I fed the pack and gathered some fire wood. I fed the pack and they ate like the lions were going to come and push them off their Alpo kill. Even Smog mixed into the pack on cool nights, his fur just wasn’t a good thing on hot summer nights.
After feeding the boys and girls, I tossed the grotesque rope chew toy their uncle Ryan had gotten them, and like the hounds of hell, they chased after it into the dark night disappearing. Fighting and barking could be heard as they tried to see who got to bring it back.
Inside, I had a very nice fire started when Austin came in with a tray, he had turkey noodle soup on it and some bread I knew he’d made as well as a couple of hot lattes thanks to the espresso maker Henna and Jorge had gotten us for our wedding. Also prominently on the tray was my testing equipment. No needles though now that I was on an insulin pump.
Austin sat on the couch in front of the fire and pulled me against his chest as I got my food and reclined against him, Smog and Tempest weren’t about to be left out and Smog curled up on my lap and tempest curled up on the top of the couch above Austin’s head. Austin had put on an old Christmas album his mom had given him, and as we reclined there, Jonny Mathis crooned to us.
“You were just awesome tonight baby…” Austin said in his deep rumbling voice. “You and Marika just… wow! I mean it, everyone was blown away, especially when that chorus popped in out of nowhere.” I snuggled closer to him, I suspected that he had opened the back door to initiate more snuggling with the influx of cold air.
“You really think so Hon?” I asked, I knew we had, but I really wanted to hear it. “Honey, you had to escape from the club, So yeah, I’d say you blew the pants off everyone there tonight. You guys were fabu-wow!!! I was expecting it and I still had goosebumps most of the night.” Austin had dug up my gayest of all words and used it to emphasize his point, more and more, that word was making the rounds around Orlando.
I snuggled against his neck and said, “Mmmmmm, but the only pants I want to blow off are yours.”
“Right here?!?” Austin quired, “in front of the children?”
“If they feel left out they can always scromp each other…”
“’Scromp? You think I’m going to ‘scromp’ you???”
“you can do it willingly, or I can tie you down and just use you for sex… your choice.” I said before lifting my bowl and finishing my soup.
Austin ran a hand smoothly up my back and pulled me to him, he then leaned over and began running his tongue from my ears to my neck. He knew of course I was putty when he did this. Suddenly his mouth was over my ear,
“How about we compromise?” Austin asked in my ear, letting his hot breath do its work on my sensitive ear, “I’ll make love to you all night long instead of ‘scromping?’”
I was fully pressed into his body as I moaned, “Ok, just so long as you scromp me later this week sometime.”
Austin took the tray off me and put it on the coffee table; he then scooped me up and carried me upstairs. “Count on it my little flea.”
True to his word, we made love most of the night before he spooned me and told me he loved me. I kissed him back and arched my back so I could press into him,
“I love you too baby, more and more each day.”
We woke up the next day and began frantically preparing for the party, I took the dogs to our private groomer Javier to get the pack cleaned and prettied up, Javier was also coming later to the party with his boyfriend Kurt. Austin was resigned to staying in the kitchen all day, though Ryan and Michael came over to help setting things up.
After I got home later I filled various dishes with candy and crackers, I set up the bar and was going to start breaking up the ice, but we had put it in the large extra deep freeze we had in the garage, and Austin had something inside I was forbidden to see so he had to retrieve the ice about an hour before the first guests arrived.
Tempest was locked in a guestroom so as to spare anyone whom the cat saw as competition for Austin’s affection. I had a free pass, but even Austin’s mother had received the angry hiss for hugging Austin. According to Austin’s directions, I made the winter sangria and had the hot mulled cider going in a large crock pot.
I was in the middle of building a fire in the fire place when I got shaky and began sweating fiercely, I got panicky and carried myself to the kitchen, Austin had his back to me and asked, “finished already?” I didn’t answer as I was heading to the fridge. Austin turned around to see why I wasn’t responding, he took one look at my pale sweaty face and said, “Go sit down, I’ll get the juice and your testing equipment.” He poured a large glass of Orange juice and got my testing equipment. As I began drinking he got the meter ready and took my hand when I sat the glass down. After pricking my finger he put the strip up to the blood and got the reading.
“35!?!?!” He exclaimed, “But you ate breakfast, did you take too much insulin?” I couldn’t talk yet so I just shook my head and drank some more juice. “You were too busy baby, I’m so sorry I was making you do so much.” Austin pleaded, It wasn’t his fault, but all I could do then was shake my head at him.
“Just drink your juice baby, I’m going to make you a turkey sandwich, God, I didn’t realize it was 2;30 already, you missed lunch Alex.” I wanted to say that I had been planning on it after I finished the fire, but all I could do was shake my head. Smog had wandered into the kitchen and rather than the dance he usually did, he jumped up and put his head on my lap. I was through the first half of my sandwich when I began to come back, Austin left my side only to turn off the food he was cooking.
“How did it get so low without you noticing baby?” Austin asked me.
“Too busy, too much to do.” I said as I wasn’t fully back yet.
Austin sighed, “well, you’re taking a nap after you feel better, There’s nothing left that has to be done.”
Insulin reaction is a strange condition, it can strike out of the blue sometimes as it just had, and sometimes you can feel it encroaching, the symptoms are usually accompanied by confusion, but few people have the same exact symptoms. Mine was always accompanied by a strong feeling of panic.
A few minutes after my sandwich Austin had me test my blood sugar again. It was 186 and Austin just shook his head, “Great one end of the spectrum to the other… well, take some insulin and we’ll check it again in a few minutes.”
I agreed but said I wasn’t taking a nap, I said I’d stay still and do easy things like decorate cookies or things like that.
An hour later my BS was at 121, Austin smiled and released me from my timeout and said I could return to making the fire. James and Christian were the first to arrive, followed moments later by Patrick and his Girlfriend Sam. In the next 90 minutes our place saw nearly 70 people arrive.
Michael and Jason had gotten there a little earlier than everyone else and when they stepped in , Jason and Michael both grinned at me, “What?!!?” I asked not sure what was going on. “Austin, we’re taking Alex up stairs for a few minutes, OK?” Jason asked. I still wasn’t sure what was going on, but my spider sense was tingling. Michael was carrying a Christmas themed cookie tin with him as we walked upstairs. Smog quickly figured out where we were going and raced to the top of the stairs between our legs.
In my bedroom Jason said, “We know you can’t have anything to drink, so we… well…” As Jason him hawed around the topic, Michael thrust the cookie tin at me and said, “Eat one, you can share with Austin, but no one else,” then he looked down at Smog who was already begging for what he guessed was in the cookie tin, “Except maybe your yappy Chihuahua.” Michael opened t he tin revealing a batch of brownies.
“Ya know, as much as I appreciate the brownies, Austin will kill you if he finds out you’re sneaking me contraband pastries,” I said to Jason, then turned to Michael’ “Especially store bought ones”
Michael smiled a wicked Grinch like smile then purred, “These aren’t store bought, Jason and I made them ourselves just for our little Alex who can’t drink…” Before I could ask the obvious question, Jason quickly asked, “You aren’t performing or anything like that tonight are you?” I shook my head then bent over and picked Smog up.
“No, Nothing I know of, what the hell did you guys lace the brownies with?”
Jason and Michael looked at each other then waved the tin under my nose, I picked up a strong earthy smell that was sweet and pungent. As the contraband hit me, Michael said, “Hash… about a quarter ounce.”
“Jezus Christ!” I squealed, “You know I love Hash, but shit- I’ll be flying around the moon tonight with that much… god, that had to cost you guys a fortune”
Michael got the Grinch smile again, “Well merry fucking Christmas little shit… Because it’s a real brownie mix, you can only have one, but this should last you a while.”
So while they watched and smiled, I ate the brownie Jason had gotten for me. “Oh man, I’d forgotten how good hash and Chocolate tasted together… “ I said as I ate the very hash laden brownie.
When I was done, Michael smiled and said, “It takes forever to kick in when you eat it, why don’t we step out on your back porch?” Jason just smiled and unrolled a baggy of pot for me to look at. “You guys!!!! I can’t be all stoned tonight with all the guests.” I protested.
“Bull shit, everyone else will be drinking, and Austin’s the designated… care taker!” Michael said, “And there’ll be plenty of the rest of us to help out where needed- now just come on and stop fighting me on this.” Michael said.
I buckled, Michael knew how to peer pressure me into just about anything, mostly because I trusted him. But it wasn’t until Jason smiled at me and asked if I trusted him. “Yeah, of course I do, but…” But I didn’t get to finish my objection as Michael had picked me up and was carrying me outside on the porch built on the back of the roof.
So Jason and Michael had between them and passed the bowel back and forth making me hit on each pass so that I got twice as high as them… By the time we went back inside, I was drifting on clouds. I heard the music downstairs and heard company coming in. “I gotta go guys, Austin might need some help…” I broke out laughing, whatever it was I’d just said cracked me up, this of course sent Michael and Jason over the edge.
After several minutes of this, Marika dressed in a stunning black dress with red highlights and accessories popped up, “Now what is so funny it has all you fools cracking up?” She asked looking around the room.
Michael and Jason laughed harder and rolled around on my bed but I felt a sinking pain of guilt. “Y-You kinda had to be here to get it.” I said faultering. Marika took one look around then marched up to me and looked in my eyes, “I can’t smell no pot- but lord child, you’re higher than a hookers pumps.” Then she looked at the two boys roaring on my bed, “And those two- M-M-M-M-M, lord almighty!” She said raising one hand to heaven.
I panicked and pleaded with her not to say anything to anyone down stairs, She looked at me and snorted, “Do you think I’m stupid?!?!?” She asked.
“No-No Marika” I said apologetically.
“What did you think I thought when you and Austin or you and Jason, or Anyone and Jorge went into his “sound booth” or the back closet???” She asked, “Besides, anyone who knows anything will take one look at those slits you call eyes and know you’re high.”
After a few minutes Marika shook her head side to side, “Well Baby, you be good, I’m going down stairs to collect Mahalia and see what Austin has thrown together.” Marika said turning to leave, I quickly offered to accompany her.
Although the party was just beginning, we already had a good sized crowd down stairs; I was getting paranoid that I really shouldn’t have gotten stoned.
“There you are!” Michael waters said as he walked over to me with his booming base voice.
“Hi Michael,” I said with a smile.
Michael gave me a smile then looked hard in my eyes. “My god, you are so…” I looked up at him panicked and begged him not to finish his comment. “Ok, but is there any more???”
I pointed up to my room and mouthed, “Ask mean Michael or Jason.” I turned to find Austin as Michael bounded his big athletic body up the stairs.
I found Austin in the kitchen with Mrs. Tremere she was explaining something about spinach being integral to anything “Florentine” . He was using tongs to move these cute little mincemeat tarts from the cookie sheet to the platter he meant to serve them on.
As I reached for the little delicacy, Austin swatted my hand and said, “go test your sugar first!” I pouted as I walked over to the counter we kept my testing equipment at.
Mrs. Tremere just said to him, “Go easy on the boy, he has the munchies.” I began coughing and sputtering.
“Alex, how many evenings did you sit in my apartment shoving food in your mouth like a starving man, I knew you weren’t so hungry, and I knew what you’d been doing. So relax Mon ami, we will tell no one else.” She said easing my mind as I was thinking about my mom and Austin’s Mom who were both coming together.
“You got stoned???” Austin said with some annoyance, “Without me?!?” I looked down at the meter and saw it was 223.
“Ummm, there’s plenty more, Michael and Jason said it was because I couldn’t drink- we have plenty though for later.” Austin went back to his tarts, “Probably better that I don’t until after the party anyways.” I was about to agree when he asked what my Blood sugar was. “
“Two Twenty three…” I mumbled knowing what coming.
“How the hell did it get so high?” He asked, I was going to deny it when I remembered the brownies. “Michael and Jason made… special brownies for me… Relax, I’ll pump up some extra insulin for tonight.”
Austin gave me a serious look, “Ok, but until your BS comes down, no deserts!!” I punched in 15 units and said, “Love, I know you mean well, but this is a party- I just took a butt load of insulin, I’m going to nibble. I’ll hit the veggie tray hard, But ease up tonight alright?” I asked, Austin was all ready to argue, but Mrs. Tremere stepped up and put a finger over his mouth.
“Mon Fele, You can’t make this a prison sentence, Let him use his judgement, if it gets too high, he can take more insulin or you could… “She rolled her eyes at him, “Find other ways to burn off extra calories”
Austin’s ummm, “heart” grew 3 sizes that day. It was a thought he hadn’t considered.
“Here Babe, have a tart.” He offered as I was escorted out of the kitchen by Vinda. She stopped in our hall way and asked if my Guitar was at home. I confirmed this and she to go get, that Marika wanted to perform the number we’d worked on when we thought Roberts wife was going to make him quit.
So I ran up stairs to find a very stoned Michael waters with Michael and Jason. “You are bad people!” I announced as I grabbed my guitar. “Oh, are you going to serenade us?” Mean Michael asked, “Howabout some pink Floyd.”
I gave him a frown and said, “Marika and I are performing in a minute, you don’t want to miss this.” I said as I came down the stairs. I found Marika standing by our Christmas tree laughing as she fingered the stockings we had prepared for each of the dogs. She’d already scrounged up a chair for me to sit at to play for her. The entire party was now trying to get into the room as word had spread.
Marika had worn a deep brick red jacket to the party over her black dress, I think it was one of Natasha’s. Ryan turned out the main lights leaving only the Christmas tree and the neon Flamingos we’d gotten as gifts to illuminate the room.
She took one deep breath and then the angels began singing through her, every voice stopped talking, every dog stopped howling, the light of the fire place even seemed to stop, waiting for her to breath. She had preformed this song for our concert, but we had practiced a version with just a single acoustic guitar in case Robert had had to quit.
O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world
In sin and error pining
'Till He appeared and the soul felt His worth

The thrill of hope,
The weary world rejoices
For yonder brings a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
Oh, hear the angel's voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night,
Oh night divine
Oh Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world
In sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt His worth
The thrill of hope,
The weary world rejoices
For yonder brings a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O, hear the angel's voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night,
O night divine

There was no sound as she finished, the party held its breath and it was only the blinking lights that told us that time had continued. Applause began as the party goers began surging forward to thank Marika, I tried to step back to allow everyone to get up next to her.
“That was just beautiful Alex.” Mrs. Camble said as I turned to see who had tapped my shoulder. I stepped aside so that Mrs. Camble could access Marika. “Sweetie, you were part of that too.” She said turning to face me.
“Thank you Ma’am, but I just strummed a guitar.” I told her.
“And what would the moon be without the night sky hold’n her up?” The woman said suddenly sounding sage like.
‘She’s right Alex, as powerful as she is, she was accompanied by you.” Glen said as he reached out to shake my shoulder gently. “She may have been the star, the voice of creation, but you played your important part too.” He said with a smile.
“Next year that’s how we do it baby!” Marika said from behind me. “And Saturday, during church, I’d like you there too, we’ll just tell that organist, you’re doing that part now.” She said as the crowd began to thin.
“You feel like playing some more, I think these people need to sing some Christmas carols.” Vinda asked as she came up to me.” Um, maybe a few, but I know how to sing a lot more than I know how to play.” I said returning to my chair. Marika held up her hands and said loudly, as only she could, “People, people, if you’d all step back and allow Alex to start again, we can do a few rounds of Christmas Carrols.”
Someone who’d gone out back for some reason, had either let the dogs in or failed to close the door secularly, as a pack of large black and brown dogs was now running through the house greeting people happily and checking empty or discarded plates for any goodies. Austin’s desire for a pack of savage snarling guard dogs had quickly dissolved after the fearsome names had been given to Oblivion and Armageddon. Cyclone and thunder were busy looking for me or Austin and their tails were beating people’s legs like roman flails. Like friendly children, the “fearsome” guard dogs were happily licking and greeting the guests.
I gave one short loud whistle and suddenly all the dogs sat down, except Smog who was busy snuggling on Mahalia’s lap on the couch. I pointed out back as all the dogs were looking up at me,
Austin and Ryan who’d been talking by the back door opened it up and called the four dogs of the apocalypse to the back yard.
Once our house had returned to just normal party chaos and not dog infused chaos, I began to play and the people began to sing to Silent night. I played two more songs before Phil stepped up and allowed me to take a break. I was still buzzed as hell and barely functioning, I was glad to let my guard down for a bit. A firm arm surrounded me from behind when I recognized Austin’s cologne. He quickly nuzzled into my name and whispered by ear, “Promise me you’ll sing for me later?” he asked as much as told me.
I leaned into him so he had to carry me. I arched back to speak to him and he leaned closer to me, “How-a-bout now?” I asked happily.
He nuzzled his five-o-clock shadow across my ear, “Not that I haven’t ever skipped out of a party for a nice piece of ass babe, but we are hosting this and besides, you’re just horney because you’re higher than the north star right now.” And then he kissed me. “but I love you all the same little stoner.” and he kissed me again and pushed me back to a standing position.
Phil was playing the first noel and most of the guests were either singing along or reloading up on food and drink. Marika came up to me when I was grabbing some chicken and veggies to munch on.
“Honey, can I talk to you a moment please?” She sounded serious so I said, “You know how stoned I am, but yeah, if you want…” I said turning to follow her out back. The hounds were all bouncy and so happy to have some company they were actually bouncing like Austin.
“What is it Marika?” I asked.
Marika looked funny not her usual self. “ At church Sunday, after the service, a man I didn’t know came up to me, he handed me a card and said he’d like to record me and send a copy of my CD to some record labels.”
“So I told him I was in a gospel group,” Marika said looking down as though she were embarrassed.
“And he said he knew all about me and the “group” I was with.” She said looking off behind me.
“Why are you so cagey right now hon, you should be elated!” I said trying to find the thing she was so upset by.
She looked up into my eyes, “He said a real gospel group doesn’t have honky’s or fags in it and he wanted me alone or not at all.”
Although his comment stung, I smiled at Marika, “Baby, I know what you’re feeling, I’ve never doubted your friendship ever, but if this guy can make you a star…”
Marika looked up to catch my gaze, “I told him I’d think about it.” She said with what I guessed was steely resolve.
“In any case, I’m at your party and I’m sorry I threw a dead cat in your buzz.” Marika said suddenly smiling.
“Make sure you grab the prezzies for you, Mahalia, and Donny before you leave, and next time drag Donny down here with you.” I said as I was petting Oblivion.
Marika stopped by the entrance and turned to face me, “ Don’t hold your breath hon, He likes you and Austin well enough, but as soon as he hears any whisper about you having a party or something, he’s on his phone to all his boys and they sit around doing black “GUY” stuff.”
“And what does “Black guy” stuff sound like?” I asked,
“You know, they sit around trying to convince each other that ‘they’ wear the pants in the family, they’ll drink a few beers, belch a little and step outside to smoke cause they all know we’ll kill’em if they smoke inside.”
I laughed as Marika did her head bob to emphasize her point. She turned to go inside still going off about black man talk. “He tries to tell ME what I can do- oh no- mama ain’t play’n that…” and then she turned the corner and faded out.
I walked around to the garage door and was about to go in when I saw a sign made by Austin that said “Alex’s present inside, please use the back or front door, Alex, no snooping!!!” I trudged back to the back door and went in to look for Austin. Although I didn’t find him in the kitchen, I did see Natasha and some stripper she’d invited emerging from the garage. “Child! You’re going to have a baby when you see what Austin done did for you…” She looked over my shoulder and nodded, I turned to see Austin putting his hands down.
“I wanna see, I wanna see!” I pleaded up at him as I nuzzled his chest.
Austin looked down on me with a glimmer in his eyes, “I don’t know, you’ve been a pretty bad boy this year.”
As I was about to protest this, he smiled and added, “Of course I love it when you’re a naughty boy.”
Natasha snorted and said, “Please, not at your very own party… You know that guy from the Watermark is here to photograph the new gay uber couple.”
“ There’s a photographer here?” Austin asked me then added, “And what’s the Watermark?”
“There’s a photographer here?” I asked Natasha. “and the watermark is the local gay newspaper.” I said.
Natasha looked up and called out, “Jeremy, oh Jeremy,” A moment later a bright flash lit up from the doorway of the kitchen. “Jeremy, come say hello to Alex and Austin!” Jeremy, A small red haired guy with huge glasses came over with an outstretched hand. I shook it first and then Austin followed. Jeremy had us both pose for a few shots and he took some notes to add under the pictures when they ran. Austin was telling the guy some stuff about our house, and how we’d met.
At that moment the front door to the living room was opened and a loud crying reached us. We all went in to the living room to see what was causing so much noise. It was Mahalia cradling Smog, Marika was holding Mahalia trying to comfort her, and everyone was crowding around trying to find out what had happened. Mahalia Let Smog loose as Austin and a few of the guests got everyone to move off and give them some space. After a minute, Marika managed to calm Mahalia down enough to ask a few questions, she didn’t seem hurt in any way, maybe a little out of breath, but the crying might have done that. Smog wiggled free and came over to me.
“I-I was walking Sm-Smog down Tangerine street and coming b-back down the Palm street, A-A-And this tr-truck *sob* Drove by me and stopped and the guys got out and began yelling at m-me. They called me the N-word a-a-and a bunch of things I didn’t know- A-A_and they said I was out here to steal and rob someone- *and she began to cry once more* “A-a-and then they got back in their red t-t-truck. She cried some more and someone said they had called the police and a wagon was on the way. Finally Mahalia calmed down “They tried to turn their truck around and run us over So I grabbed up Smog and ran as fast as I could back here.”
Ryan was at the door ready to charge who ever had chased Mahalia, Austin said, “I wish I had my damned guns right now.”
I was panicking because I was stoned and realized Michael and Jason were carrying and had left a tub of brownies for me.
Marika was the only one who seemed to have a grasp of what was going on, “Ryan, go wait by the curb for the cops, Austin, go make sure Michael and Jason’s stuff is out of site, Alex, come take Smog and keep the dogs quiet. And Mahalia,” She said cradling her little girl,” You got to tell the police what happened ok baby?” At that moment flashing lights and sirens announced the cops had just pulled up. I went to the back door and after a few moments, got the barking hounds of the Baskervilles to quiet down. I looked over and saw Ryan and Austin talking to an African American police officer. After I made sure the dogs were sitting down behaving, I walked up towards the police and Austin.
“Well?” I asked Austin.
“Well, apparently we brought this on ourselves for being a gay couple.”
“WHAT!?!?!?” I asked angrily.
“Go inside Alex, please?” Austin asked. I Stood and thrust my chin out, “He’s going to explain how a truck full of white men yelling curses and trying to run over a little girl is OUR FAulT?!?!?” I said loudly. Austin patiently said he was asking that very question. Ryan finally touched my shoulder and suggested I go back inside. I fumed but turned around and marched inside.
“So what’s goin on?” My mom asked once I had reentered the house.
I was angry, god almighty I was pissed, “That fucker’s trying to say this was all our fault!” I blurted out, A millisecond later an enraged Marika was shooting out the door, before anyone realized who had escaped, she was on that black officer and had him backing up to his car. I could only here the occasional sound from her, but her arms were flying all over the damn place and often pointed in the man’s face.
“Is mom telling the police what happened?” Mahalia asked from next to me.
“She’s telling him alright, oh yeah, there’s no doubt that he is getting schooled in everything he’s ever done wrong.”
It was then I remembered the number officer Corbin she had left me. It was her office number she’d given me after the whole shooting thing at that bar. She picked up on the third ring, We exchanged pleasantries and she asked why I was calling on Christmas eve. I explained what had happened to Mahalia and what I was told by Austin and about Marika leading the charge from heaven against the offending officer. We talked a minute and she asked what car was out there, I told her and a moment later she was gone, a few seconds passed and then I saw the police officer answering his police radio and they talked a moment. When Officer Corbin came back on the line with me she said, “Lieutenant McOnell will be talking to the little girl and will be filing a report, I’m truly sorry you felt the need to call, but if there are any other problems, just let me know ok?”
We wished each other merry Christmas’s and hung up.
“Well?” Mrs. Camble asked echoing what an entire room was wondering.
“Well, as you can see, between Lt Corbin and Marika, poor officer McOnell is having to take a statement from Mahalia and treat this as a real crime and us as real people.” Then I smile and added, “It’s all in who you know…” Several people laughed.
“Ain’t you all worried about rotten men like that round here?” Mrs’ Camble asked.
“And where would we go to escape people like that?” I inquired. Mrs. Camble thought a moment then shock her head and turned away.
Just then Ryan stuck his head in the door and asked me to go talk to the police. So I shrugged and went out.
“Hey Alex, what did that truck look like that yelled ‘faggot’ at you last week?” Austin asked as I got near him. I thought a minute and said it was a red pickup with a bunch of bumper stickers on it.
The officer asked if I could describe the stickers, all I remembered was the big purple one had a few letters on it starting with W, I’d assumed it was a wrestling event.
“Was it “WWJD” Alex?” Asked Mahalia who was standing there against a still very tense Marika.
“Yeah, that sounds right, I wish I’d bothered to get their license plate number”
“Mrs. Williams already gave us the first few numbers and letters, we’re running a check on it now.” The brow beaten officer volunteered. He gave a quick glance at Marika and quickly looked back down at his notes, I couldn’t wait for Austin to describe a full on Marika attack to me. Some voices came out over the officer’s shoulder mike. So he went and sat in his car a few minutes, when he got out he said a list of possible vehicles with the numbers that Mahalia had memorized were being matched against vehicle registration and they’d be in touch as soon as they knew anything. Marika snorted and I patted her shoulder waiting to tell her about how Lt. Corbin had made the officer take this seriously. The officer drove off after handing copies of the report he’d been forced to make to Austin and Marika.
We were just heading back in while I was telling Marika about Lt. Corbin, when Austin’s cell phone rang. He answered it and suddenly walked off by himself a moment with his finger up for silence as well as to keep us all there. He thanked whoever he’d been talking to and turned to us.
“Alex, you remember how nasty the couple that bought Mrs. Nottenbach’s house were when we went to say hi?” I remembered quite vividly the praying and yelling we faced when we brought over the rolls and stuff Austin had backed.
“Yeah, the self righteous asses, what about them?” I responded.
“Guess where Officer McOnell found that truck as he was pulling out?” Austin smirked happy to see the surprise on my face.
“No way!” I said. Before Austin could reply Marika got in his face,
“Where are these people, Someone’s gunna pay for what they did to my girl.”
Austin gulped, he sure didn’t want get between Marika and a threat to her daughter, I’m not sure why, but the term ‘mother grizzly’ kept repeating in my head. Austin held his hand up and said soothingly.
“It wasn’t those asses, but a visiting friend, and they’re being served with a summon’s and will most likely be fined big time, but There’s no sense you going over and giving those asses what they deserve, you’d land up jailed and I don’t want to be part of that.” Austin said with a level of diplomacy that really impressed me. “Now why don’t you come inside and see what I got Alex for Christmas?” He placated.
“Hey, no fair everyone but me getting to see it.” I whined playfully.
“No baby, I want you to see too, I think tonight it’s appropriate.” Austin said leading the way to the garage. He took the threat he’d left for me down and hit the key pad to start the automatic door. I appeased him by facing away as it rumbled open.
Marika gave a snort of approval before I turned to see a thick green mat on the floor in a full sized Dojo. I even saw the Pictures of Jigaro Kano, the founder of Judo, and the flags of both Japan and the United States on one wall. It was amazing what he’d done, wooden floors, a partition to use as a dressing room, he’d had some of my Japanese swords and staves mounted on the walls. I was just stunned.
“Collin helped with the official stuff, and he already arranged for you to be a sanctioned Sensei, So no more whining about how much you miss Judo.” Austin boasted joyfully. He’d done good and he knew it.
“We just have to figure out how to get Mahalia down for lesson’s now.” Austin announced. I was so excited to have a judo mat in front of me again I just kicked my shoes off and dove onto the matt in a perfect judo roll and popped up facing the crowd.
“So you like it?” Austin asked grinning ear to ear?
“Oh baby, I love it, I absolutely love it.” I said walking back to him for a kiss.
After we smooched a moment, I turned to Mahalia, “So, do you want to be my first student?” Austin was laughing, “I already got it all cleared with Marika, and I even bought her a judo costume,” He was going to go on but I corrected him,
“It’s a ghee honey, not a costume. In feudal Japan I’d have had to kill you for that insult.” I said smirking.
“My little blond samurai!” Austin grinned as he ran his fingers through my hair.
“So, you interested?” I asked her.
Mahalia turned to Marika, “Can I mom?”
Marika shook her head laughing, “Long as we can find you a way down when I’m not working you can, It’ll be good for you.” She said with a small hug to Mahalia.
“You gunna teach me to fight with swords and all that?” Mahalia asked excitedly. I looked up at Marika nervously before saying to Mahalia,
“Judo itself doesn’t teach swords or karate chops or anything like that, but when you’re older if you do good and are still interested, I can show you a little. IF, and I mean only IF you get a note from your mom saying it’s ok.”
I left smiling as Mahalia begged her mom to let her use the swords. I was still amazed at what Austin had done for me, a real life Dojo in my own house? I was just amazed. Austin was walking with me smiling, “SO I did ok huh?” He asked me.
“Baby, you’re golden, you’re just solid gold right now!” I said tippy toeing to kiss him.
We mixed and mingled a bit when Ryan came over and out of public ear shot asked where his husband was.
I smiled up at him and said, “My Michael and Jason brought some particularly strong pot over and got me stoned…” Ryan just nodded understandingly before he cut me off.
“And Michael smelled it or heard about it and is either out back or upstairs turning Japanese. Right?”
I nodded and said, “Upstairs last I knew.” Ryan just shook his head and turned to check on his Husband’s whereabouts.
I turned to Austin who’d been standing there eating a tart of some kind, “Is that going to be us?” I asked him bluntly. “Well, as far as I know, you’re ok with me getting buzzed every now and then, I have no problem if you do as long as it’s calorie free.” Then he began laughing and managed to spit out, “It’ll be you upstairs with a donut…” He said laughing. It was contagious and I was soon laughing too.
“I’m not cheating on a damned donut.” I said, “Maybe for a donut you made, or maybe…” I sucked on one of his fingers that had held the tart, “A tdart” I mumbled with his finger all the way in.
“Ya know, giving me a hard on won’t stop me from spanking your bare ass!” Austin said just as Mr. Stiller walked in, as soon as he saw what was going and Heard Austin’s proclamation, he blushed and turned to leave.
“I quickly disentangled from Austin and Followed Mr. Stiller, “Wait, wait, I’m sorry you walked in on that.” I said catching up to him.
Mr. Stiller turned still blushing, “No, No, after some of the things I’ve walked in and seen Justin and Charles doing to each other...” He said shaking his head.
“Do I wanna know?” I asked him.
“No, no, I guess it’s normal for two guys that age, I’m just worried because Charles seems to be getting Justin to smoke and I’m worried he’ll get into drugs with that crowd…” He said.
“Smoking huh? I’ll fix that, and I’ll get him to cut down on the PDAs too.” I said turning to walk into the main room.
“PDAs?” Mr. Stiller asked.
Suddenly, before I could explain, Austin’s voice boomed out, “Public displays of affection, like you caught us doing.” He said.
“No, what you were doing was fine, I walked in on full out sex last night.” He said as I was disappearing. I asked a few people and finally Susan, his friend who had introduced us gave me a rolled eyed scowl, “He’s outside with Charles smoking in the back yard.” I didn’t say anything to the revelation, I thanked her and went out back to see Charles and Justin both smoking around a can we had set up for the smokers (Older smokers), Justin blanched a little when he saw me coming over.
“Justin, come over here!” I ordered.
Sheepishly he strode over, “Yeah?” He asked in that tone teens take late in youth.
I yanked the cigarette out of his hand and stepped on it, “You just gave up smoking!” I said then turned my head to look at Charles, “You too, now put it out.” Justin tried to say something when I cut him off, “most people who smoke started out in their early teens, you have to be damn near stupid to start now. Charles, this speech goes for you too.”
“I’m glad you’re doing better since you came out Justin, I’m pleased your mom’s influence is over, I’m pleased as hell you two met.” I said before looking up to catch Justin’s eyes, “But no more smoking- ever again, that goes for you too Charles, you just quit.”
“But all my friend’s smoke…” Justin said as way of an excuse, as though that was going to carry any weight.
“Most of your friend’s are straight right?” I asked,
“When you begin having sex with women, I’ll listen to your ‘well, everyone else is doing it’ excuse.”
“But why do I have to give it up, I’ve been smoking since I was 12.” Charles said.
“You already know all the reasons not to smoke, give me one good reason why you should be allowed to.”
Charles thought a moment then said, “It calms me down.”
“Actually,” I said, ”you think it does because it satisfies your addiction, in reality, it constricts your blood vessels and increases your heart rate, both symptoms of higher stress. Besides, what in your life is that stressful?”
I was quiet a moment waiting for them to make any reservations known, none came so I continued, “Aside from that, you have to stop having sex where people can walk in on you, be courteous to parents and roommates ok? This would be the same rule if you were straight or gay. In exchange for giving up smoking, I want the two of you to start showing up to my dojo for formal judo lessons three days a week, the only other thing I ask, is that you go pick up Mahalia for classes. I’m going to ask Susan too.”
I spoke a little more with them and showed them the Dojo before saying good night and giving them Marika’s phone number for them to arrange a pick up.
“Classes start next Monday, show up and I’ll teach you how to tie your belts and give you an introduction.” I said before getting sizes for the Ghees.
I went back to the party for a few rounds of mixing and mingling and wishing people a great Christmas or Chanukah.
At the end of the night, everyone had left, most of the cleaning and food storage had been taken care of, and our parents had made plans to come the next day for a proper Christmas.
After we had shut everything down, I walked up stairs to find Austin greedily eating a brownie.
“Mr. Camble!” I accused loudly, he grinned up at me then with a mouth full of Chocolate asked “Wha?”
I walked over to him and said, “You are doing that all wrong!” And I mussed his hair up before turning and skipping down the stairs. A few minutes later, when he had cleared his mouth, he yelled out, “How does someone eat a loaded brownie wrong?”
I popped back into the room with two big glasses of milk, “You can’t do it without milk, that’s just icky wrong!” Austin laughed as he reached for the milk. I sat down and grabbed a brownie, he got an angry look and was about to reach for it when I said softly,
“That wouldn’t be the wisest thing to do baby.” I said looking up into his dazzling blues.
“Did you at least test your blood sugar?” he asked withdrawing his hand.
“93” I said proudly before biting the brownie I had taken.
“Hmmmm, and you’re eating a trillion calorie brownie… I think that’s 2 two hours of full on sweaty buck’n bronco, boots nock’n sex.” Austin said proudly before taking a long drink of his milk.
Several minutes later we went and brushed our teeth and by my last spit of water Austin had already entered me from behind. The next three hours devolved into an acrobatic blitzkrieg that ended when Austin coated the headboard and I decorated his chest.
The sun came in our room the next morning and I was already awake when I felt Austin move. “You as stoned as I am still? I asked him.
“Is that you Alex or are the blue raccoons still talking to me?”
“Go get coffee started while I get the shower ready.” I said to him, he trudged down stairs while I got clothing to wear after we were clean.
We washed each other and said over and over how stoned we still were, eating that stuff was totally different from smoking it.
We were half way through breakfast when the phone rang, it was Austin’s mom saying my family had just pulled up and they were leaving. This gave us about 20 minutes. We finished off that pot of coffee and had another ready when the troops rolled in.
We greeted our mothers and my brother Patrick and Sam as they entered through the front door. Sam had elected to stay over Christmas break rather than fly home to Madison.
We snacked on rolls and croissants for breakfast while we exchanged packages, Mom had picked up a large package for me from Ryan and Michael’s, it was my first big present for Austin. The fact that the box kept chirping and scratching meant we all knew there was something alive in the box. I told Austin to put Tempest outside in his pen before he opened the gift.
Austin gave me several quizzical looks before finally unwrapping his gift. My mom and my brother and his girlfriend were all transfixed as I hadn’t told anyone yet what we’d gotten each other. Inside the box was a small cage, maybe 18” square. In the cage were three skinny pigeon sized, muted brown birds on spindly legs. Although I hadn’t recognized them when I first got them, I knew what the ugly little birds were going to grow up to be. The rest thought they were ugly little birds.
Austin had the same quizzical look at first then what they were registered and his face exploded into an amazing display of blue eyes and dimples.
“Peacocks!?!?!?, you got me baby peacocks???” Austin asked excitedly.
I smiled and said, “Merry Christmas baby, yup, I didn’t know which one was a good “peepers” so I bought the lot.”
Mrs. Camble was particularly touched by my surprise, she actually got tears in her eyes and told everyone the story about how close Austin and the bird had gotten, and about the tragic accident that had taken the small bird’s life.
Austin and I had gotten both moms black opal necklaces’, earrings, and bracelets. We had also gotten my Mom a silk blouse and pants set from a Chinese clothing shop in Sydney. We bought his mom a white gold cross set with a tourmaline in the center.
We’d gotten my brother a black opal men’s ring and a nice laptop, and Sam a very pretty Black opal necklace and Austin got her some football stuff for the team she likes.
I fixed up the foods Austin had ready for dinner while Austin put the three baby peacocks in the pen with Cyclone and the ducks and geese. Cyclone had pretty much decided that he was a bird, he spent all his time with birds, the three wood duck ducklings followed him around like he was their big fuzzy mom. However, he was relentless in his task of protecting them, from the other dogs, from birds of prey, and from raccoons. Despite Cyclone’s vigilance, We planned to take the small birds in and keep them safe inside at night until the frosts were over and the birds had grown a bit.
We ate our lunch then loaded up in Mom’s minivan and went to visit Mrs. Tremere and Ivan in Deltona. Megan was there as were Christian and James since Christian had been disowned and James couldn’t get back to Canada. In a small way, Mrs. Tremere had taken both Christian and James under her wings.
We’d gotten there before Dinner so we just went right to presents. We’d gotten Mrs. Tremere the same basic Opal set we’d given our mothers along with a variety of silken scarves. For Mr. Riley We’d run out of basic ideas so I went with his interest in golf and got him an actual Scottish tartan golf cap, and a paper weight that was a wombat made out of a small but soft black rock and in it were naturally occurring opal layers.
We’d gotten Megan, James and Christian key rings with various Aussie animals with small pieces of opal where the eyes would be.
Mrs. Tremere had gotten us several thoughtful presents, she’d gotten me, through Austin, a highly recommended diabetic cook book, she’d gotten him a bunch of cooking stuff she said he’d failed to pick up for our wedding. She also made him a wonderful home made list of her favorite recipes put together in book form, it contained all the notes her mother in law and their ancestors had added to the original recipes. Also included were some of the native southern recipes from her dad’s side of the family.
It might have been the brownies lingering effects, but at that moment, when we sat down to eat a fancy Christmas dinner prepared by Mrs. Tremere, but augmented by My Mom, and naturally Austin. We had roast leg of Lamb, a gorgeous roasted goose, a variety of stuffing’s, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, breads, rolls, relishes, and a tray of condiments including mint jelly. For desert, Austin and Mrs. Tremere had made a fudge jelly roll style cake called a ‘Bucha Noel’ in a white cream cheese frosting.
I sat back detached a moment and had the warmest glow come over me, I saw all my loved ones, familial and adopted alike, sharing, laughing, and utterly at ease with one another and thought to myself how lucky I was. The laughter went on around me and no one seemed to notice my momentary departure until Patrick looked at me smiling and said,
“Watch out everyone, Alex is smiling and you know what that means!!!”
“He slipped laxatives into the cake batter” James surmised.
“He’s horney?” Christian asked.
“Oh god, I bet he farted” Patrick announced.
“Ok Alex. Give all back our car keys and credit cards!” My mother ordered.
Austin though, as caught up in the rouse as he was just looked in my eyes and said, “No, that’s not his ‘I just did something’ smile, that’s his happy contented smile.” Another round of conjectures went around about how he knew that. And long into the evening the camaraderie swept us all into it’s warm embrace, gay, straight, male, female, younger or older, we were a large extended family. And I mused to myself, “It is good!”

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