Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mark and Luke 1

Protecting Charlie
by Jewls Winter
copyright 2008
all rights reserved

The Beginning

"You think I've always been a barista," Luke asked, grinning crookedly. It was the sunlight that tinted red to gold. Maybe it was the end of winter that made smiling easier, made the morning seem so easy, but he was pretty sure it was the cop who came to get his coffee. This cop wasn't just any cop either. He had Irish red hair and Luke was sure it hadn't been mixed with any blood, but that of the fairies. The man was beautiful. It could have been the dead of winter in Seattle and that slight, reluctant smile would have made fluttery shivers lift a person off the floor and the sun pour down. Luke grinned, caught up the shot of espresso and winked, "I have not always been a good boy. I can be quite wicked."

"I don't think I believe you," Mark Thomas said, dressed politely in a dark gray suit, corporately polite for a Seattle detective.  He leaned a little closer, just very slightly, so slight he might not even have been aware of it. "I thought all blonds were angels."

Jackie, the other barista, over shot the target cup, spilling milk on the counter. Luke ignored her, mischief sparking in green eyes. Jackie went to look for a towel in the back and it was late enough in the morning that there weren't people in line. That was good, because Luke wasn't sure he would have cared.  "Yeah? I'm a suicide blond though. I'm no angel. I think you're an elf, you know? Do you think elfs like movies?" Throat tight, Luke shook the whipped cream dispenser, he wondered why in the hell he was asking out a cop. Things had changed a lot. "Like, say this Friday?"

"I'm working Friday," Mark said, pulling his cell phone out, blue eyes flicking over whatever information was there.

For Luke Mark's reaction threatened spring with conversion to the Arctic. "Yeah, well, we've just been talking like for the last year and I just, you know, didn't mean to get out of line."

Mark flipped his phone closed, red eyebrows drawing down a little. "No, it's not like that. I would like a movie. We have been talking a long time, and well, I hate to think of a cute boy like you being alone on a Friday, but I'd hate it more if you were out with someone else. I don't have any urgent cases right now. How about Saturday afternoon? I have to work that evening, but earlier in the day. Lunch and a movie?"

Luke rocked up on the balls of his feet, grinning stupidly.  Mark wasn't like any cop Luke had ever known. He couldn't even see his handcuffs. Not that he didn't want to, but right circumstances were really important in that kind of stuff. "That sounds great. Say, maybe eleven?"

"You don't work or anything?" Mark asked, stirring his whipped cream into his coffee before capping it.

"Nope," Luke said, honestly not knowing. He'd get someone to cover him or make it up somehow. He was not going to be working at eleven o'clock on Saturday. "I'll be off."

After another moment where neither of them said anything, just kind of grinned at each other, Mark said,  "I guess I should go." Sipping his coffee, he didn't make any progress towards the door.  "Oh, let me give you my phone number!"

Luke blushed, wiping his hands and fumbling for a notepad. "Yeah. I'll give you mine too, and my email address. God, I think I know you so well, but I don't really know anything."

"Second thoughts?" Mark asked as he handed his business card over. "I don't know how bad of a boy you've been. Should I check for warrants?"

"No," Luke said, a little too enthusiastically. "There aren't any warrants out for me. Not even any traffic tickets. No second thoughts either, it's just, well," he said, voice mumbling off into nothing as he wrote out his email address, number, and name.

Luke shoved his thumbs into his jeans pockets, feeling shifty and guilty. "Won't be a problem, you know, if I had a record?"
"What kind of record? Are you a registered sex offender," Mark asked, casual, matter-of-factly.

"No, no, nothing like that," Luke said, eyes on the floor now.

"Hey." Mark's voice was really close. "Look at me."

Luke did, looking up to find blue eyes looking deeply into his. Smooth fingertips touched his cheek, drawing spring back into being. "Then I don't care, alright? Whatever it was it's in the past. Are you positive?"

"No, no," Luke said, eyes drifting towards the floor again, but Mark's hand caught him, drawing his chin back up. "I'm not. You?"

"I'm negative, and a virgin, just so you know," Mark said, grinning like the cat with the canary behind clean white teeth. "Anything you want to know about me before eleven o'clock on Saturday?"

"Uh," Luke fluttered, a little blond canary in Mark's hand. "Like I can think now, uh? I'm not a virgin, if that matters, but I'm clean."

"I'd still," Mark said, leaning closer to almost touch the tip of his nose to Luke's, "be interested even if you weren't."

Luke wasn't sure he could still breath. Mark's touch left marks on him, like light streaking across his soul. "Okay."

Mark pulled back then, taking his coffee and with a wink he was gone, striding out the door, tall and heroic. Luke's stomach burned with neon butterflies. He was still standing there, looking at the door when Jackie came back in and snapped at towel on his ass.

"Wake up, Cinderella! I'll work your shift on Saturday, but you're gonna owe me like millions."

"Okay," he said, mind still not working. That had gone better than he could have imagined.  Months of light flirting had caught fire and there were fireworks. He kept telling himself that fireworks hurt people, but caution had never really been one of his good traits.


Luke opened his eye a little wider, gliding the mascara slowly up, making sure that his lashes stayed separate.  Just lunch had nothing to do with how much he wanted Mark to be interested in him.  Mark had actually called him on Thursday, just to confirm, and Luke had nearly exploded. At least it had felt like that.  Staring in the full length mirror, all he could do was hope. Shorter than he would have liked, at five foot and five inches tall, he thought he could hide that as long as the taller Mark wasn't completely close to him. Not that he wanted to Mark at a distance either. Mark was going to notice.

"You look fine," Rachel said, around a mouth of cereal. "You look like an Abercrombie and Fitch model.  I guess you're okay with that, or you won't have given them so much money."

Luke sighed, hips shifting to the side, playing up all the best features of the curve kissing pale jeans, the thin black tee-shirt. Green eyes stood out, vivid and soulful,  with just enough liner and mascara. "I don't look too girly?"

Rachel laughed. "Little brother, you look like you could catch flame any moment. You are so flaming. What shoes are you wearing?"

Giggling nervously, Luke brushed blond waves back behind one ear, "I'm not that flaming! Am I? You think it's too much?" He turned back to the mirror, the side of his lower lip between his teeth. "He is kind of straight looking. It took me two months to realize he was gay!"

"He's a cop," Rachel said, now sitting lotus style on Luke's futon. "Mom would be proud of you, you know? You've done really great."

One arm went over his head, kind of protectively, lower lip between his teeth again, green eyes watching his sister with a vulnerable seriousness. "You really think so?"

"Yup. Lu… pretty gay boy dating a suit wearing cop, same job for three years, a couple of books out that you actually get paid for," said, slurping milk from her bowl, "Or armed robber now doing twenty to life? Yeah, Lu, you done great. Most people never get those kind of mistakes unfucked, you know?"

"Thanks," he said, voice low. "We're not really dating. It's just a movie."

"You want to wear my pink converse?"

Luke blew air into his cheeks, eyes looking to the side. "I think I'll wear my black leathers."

"Suit yourself," she said comfortably. "I bet you come home with a cherry on a chain."

"Damn! Don't you tell him I told you about that!" Luke grabbed his shoes with one hand, his sun glasses with the other and ran after his sister. "Hey, promise me!"

She caught him coming out of his room, palming him in the forehead, bowl held out to the side. Fake indignation in her voice, "Far be it from me to embarrass a cop about his cherry or his taste in cute blond gay boys!"

"Hey!" Luke snarled, wrinkling his nose. "What about embarrassing me?"

She snorted, hugging him as he tired to get his shoes on. "You are beyond hope. So no loss there."

"You are such a bitch!" He complained cheerfully, leaning against her as he put his shoes on. "When I have kids, I'm gonna teach them to call you Auntie B!"

"Just you do that," she said, smug. "Luke, you know, adopting is not going to be that easy."

He twisted his foot, making sure his foot was right in the shoe, then pulled his black shades down over his face, unconsciously posing. "Easy is for wimps. Do I look like a wimp to you?"

"No," she said, smiling, "But again with the almost catching fire! Get out of my apartment, Oscar!"

"Actually," he said nose in the air, as if it were brand new information, "The condo is in my name, thank you. See you when I get back!"  Wallet in his pocket, small Japanese make phone dangling like a pocket watch from his belt, he half ran out the door, down the stairs. Five minutes till eleven, and he was sure it was going to be a perfect day.


The sky had forgotten that Luke was in a good mood. The rain was light and gray, but it kept him behind the glass door.  Asking what kind of car, Mark drove probably would have been a good idea.  The butterflies in his stomach were steel, paper thin, and really active, fluttering around, swearing that he was going to get stood up.  Beautiful red headed cops did not date bleach blonde convicted felons. No. Didn't.

Maybe the mascara was too much. Maybe he should have… and then there was a smear of black, sharp and the door was opening. There was his red headed cop, who hadn't stood him up, holding a big black umbrella, wearing a white shirt, open at the collar and perfect black slacks. Luke grinned, wishing he could think up some un-sexy thought to prevent any hard to explain lines to his outfit.  "You came!"

Mark smiled, smaller, shy, a bit of color flashing over his cheeks as he held out his arm. "Well, I haven't yet. I was saving that for later."

"Ha!" Luke said, taking Mark's arm, hooking his around it, just like some fairytale. "I don't want to get thrown out of the theater."

"Definitely not," Mark said guiding Luke around the corner, where a white horse and a polished brass and black carriage waited, "I just wanted to make sure of where we stood, what has and hasn't happened yet.  I hope you don't mind." Mark opened the door to the carriage.

"Wow," Luke said, climbing up into the carriage, finding a very nicely wrapped pair of truffles on the far seat. "Just wow. Mark. This is a lot."

Mark followed, after he closed the umbrella. "I just wanted to make sure you didn't run away when I ask if I can tie you up."

Blush can evaporate rain if it's hot enough. "Like I would. I'm not sure I'm not dreaming."

"You're not," Mark said, as the horse started forward, hooves loud and distinct against the pavement. "I have a confession to make."

"You're a registered sex offender," Luke asked nervous, fingering the chocolate.

"No!" Mark said, rolling his eyes, shifting to turn a bit. "No, but I have kind of being stalking you."

"You liked me so you kept coming back to the shop?" Luke sniffed the truffle, wondering if it was just a chocolate or a really fancy truffle.

"I know what you write," Mark confessed, "and I still don't like coffee."

"What? Why do you," Luke asked, eyes growing wider. "You read my books?"

"I do," Mark said, eyes on the carriage floor, hands between his knees. "I looked for you, after I read your books."

"I'm not Dom," Luke said, just getting it out in the open now. "Why didn't you say something?"

"I," Mark said, turning to look, letting his heart show, "I'm not a sub, but I'm a little shy. I had to know you were the right Luke Wells.  I needed to know you were single. I had to know more about you than just what you wrote, and I wanted to see if you liked me. I want to know you better.  I want you to give me a chance to be your Dom."

"Upfront," Luke said, offering one of the truffles to Mark. "A stallion on a leash doesn't get you a free ride."

"Oh my," Mark whispered. "No. Just a movie today. Just a movie for a month, or a year. I just wanted to be clear."

Luke popped the remaining chocolate into his mouth whole, slowly, deliberately sexy, teasing, then laid both wrists over his head and watched the rain outside the carriage. Silence fell between them, electric possibility doing it's best to bridge. "Did you bring me a collar?"

"I thought that would be presumptuous,"  Mark said. "Have I made you angry?"

"No," Luke replied, tilting his head back. "I want you to buy me a collar. No movie. I want to have sex."

It took a full five seconds for Mark's jaw to drop, like paint slowly sliding down a canvas, shock just slipped over him. "Now?"

"Well, not in the carriage," Luke said, turning, one bent knee coming up on the seat. "Life is short. I want you. You want me. We're both clean. You don't know the chocolate until you eat it. Buy me a collar?"

"What kind?" Mark said, cautiously reaching out to touch Luke's hand, slipping his hand over Luke's, as stealthy as he could.

"Something I can wear all the time. You can't taste anyone else while you're tasting me and I won't taste anyone else either. You'll be my Dom and I'll make you something other than coffee from now on."

Mark swallowed slowly, then lifted Luke's hand to his lips, kissing the knuckles. "Okay, no tasting other chocolates. Where do I buy the collar?"

"There's a shop just past the convention center," Luke said. Those steel butterflies were now all soft leather and buckles. "You can also buy some restraints and a butt plug. You're my Dom, but I'll want to fuck you too. Will you be okay with that?"

"As long as I get to stay in charge," Mark said, licking his lips. "Do they sell condoms?"

The driver coughed loudly, educationally.

Luke wrinkled his nose at the driver's back. "I'm sure they do."  It was okay. Condoms were not the greatest, but it was one thing to know he was clean, another to really trust that. Sex didn't run out. Health could. "Lube too. We're going to need that. You're going to fuck me today."

From blush to pale as the Seattle sun, but the intensity of Mark's emotions made him seem genuine to Luke, honest, vulnerable even. "Okay, but Luke. I don't really know what I'm doing. I wasn't lying when I said I was a virgin. I just… I didn't realize I was gay until I read your books."

"Maybe you're not gay," Luke said, one hand reaching out to brush a finger tip over Mark's lip. "Maybe you're Luke-sexual."

Laughing shyly, Mark kissed Luke's finger. "Maybe. So, why are you single?"

"Uh," Luke said, "Well."  He was single because he…. "Mark, I don't know why. I had some troubles and liking you just built up so long that I couldn't help myself."

"See? My plan worked!" Mark laughed.

The carriage was coming to a stop, in front of the movie theater.  "Wait here. I'll get a taxi," Mark said, smiling, as he already was out with the umbrella.  A couple of minutes later, he was back, opening the side door where Luke was, holding the umbrella for him, so he could cross to the taxi.  Luke smiled up at his date as he shifted over in the back seat of the taxi. A red headed, devoted, hot, Dom, with hand cuffs… he didn't want the cherry so much as he wanted the heart, on a chain.

Mark slipped in as well. "We want to go just past the convention center. I'll let you know when to stop."

The driver nodded and pulled out into traffic.

"I promised you lunch too. What would you like?"

"The desk scene from 'Office Mate'?" Luke teased, watching Mark blush again. "Some room service might be okay."

Mark had evidently read 'Office Mate' and lost his voice over a desk somewhere, as he just nodded.  Luke liked this. "We're going to Toyland," he said, "My new Master is going to buy me a pretty collar today."

Mark groaned, moving the umbrella between his knees as if that were going to help at all.

"Congratulations," the cabdriver said, accent thick, but good will evident. "It is always good to find what you're looking for. Six dollars please."

Mark paid up, face as red as his hair.  The rain had stopped, leaving a watery spring around them.

"Hey," Luke said, "There's something else I gotta tell you."

"Unusual fetish?" Mark said, trying to tease back.

"Well, no," Luke said, "I want kids. At least one. I want a kid, to be a parent."

Mark's smile brightened. "God, I hope we work out. I'm going to be broken hearted if we don't."

"Wah!" Luke said, brushing past into the shop.

It was a lovely shop, classy and clean. Beautiful glass dildos, beautiful vibrators in all colors and shapes on display to be played with, the shop was a wonderful toyland. There was nothing reserved about the shop, nothing held back. That was the way to live. "I read this essay, once," Luke said, moving directly to the collars, "by this writer I liked. She said, never save anything back. Give it all. Life will give you something else to write about for the next story. Put it all in. I want to live that way."

Mark nodded, looking attentive, involved, and even though he didn't say anything in return, Luke felt validated, listened to. "Velvet, vinyl, leather, or metal?"

"Velvet," Luke said, fingering them. "I'm not putting it on until you make me cum."

"That's fair," Mark agreed. "It means something though, wearing my collar. If you get tired of me, you must let me know."

"You'll be the third. First will be my sister Rachel. Then I'll know, then you. Same thing, you know. If you decide that I'm not it. This is moving awful fast," he admitted,  but couldn't find an excuse to stop. His knee didn't even hurt. It had to be a good omen.

"Maybe from your point of view. I've been planning the seduction of Luke for over a year," Mark admitted, lifting a thin velvet collar from the display. "Do you like this one? It has room for a padlock."

"Are you going to lock me up?" Luke asked, smiling. "Make me bring you breakfast naked?"

"You'll never be naked." Mark smiled, fingers passing over padlocks. "You'll always be wearing my collar."

"Good answer," the clerk said, leaning on the counter. "We have batteries, too."

"Good to know," Mark said, blushing again. "You said restraints and a butt plug?"

"Yup," Luke said. He'd never been this comfortable with anyone, except Rachel, and well, he wasn't buying toys with Rachel, not this kind of toy. "Do you have a thing for handcuffs or cuffs?"

"I kind of like rope," Mark admitted, while he looked at the leather cuffs.

"Have you ever tied anyone up?" Luke asked, stealthily getting his hand on the small of Mark's back, hinting at possible movement downwards.

"Not that wanted it," Mark admitted. "Cuffs to start with then?"

"Sounds good to me." Luke said, reaching for a roll of red bondage tape. “Actually, let's try this. It's not easy, you know, being a good Dom.”

Mark reached, laying his hand over Luke's. “Luke.”


“I will learn. It's not just,” Mark tightened his hold on Luke's hand, pulling him closer so he could slide an arm around Luke's back. “I am a patient panther of a man. I am going to be good for you, like you already have been for me. I've listened to your voice and watched you smile and seen you interact with people every working day for the last year. I want everyday with you. I want to see you in the morning and at night. I want you to know me. I have this chance to be your lover and that's what I want. The kids'll be okay too, but you have to be the primary care giver.”

“God damn,” Luke said, shocked, “Are you asking me to marry you? You haven't even kissed me. What if my teeth are bad? You're a cop. Crap. Mark, I'm not the kinda boy you'd take to the annual holiday party and be like, 'My boy's a math major.'. I write erotica and I'm a felon. I can't even vote.”

Bodies pressed together, attraction hard to ignore through jeans and slacks, Luke stared up into Mark's eyes, into a fairytale too sweet to be real.  “Don't you understand, Mark? This isn't a romance book you can buy and know it will have a happy ending.”

“Yes, it is,” Mark said, both arms holding Luke to him, voice warm against his ear. “Romance stories are just stories thought up by someone, daydreams to make a person less lonely. Life doesn't last forever, but while I'm alive, I want to do my best to make us both happy and not lonely. It's not a perfect story though. I work sixty hours a week. I've been shot three times. I lost my partner last year to a guy with a knife. I see ugly things everyday. I have nightmares. I scream sometimes, just come awake screaming. I could never be a white knight. Maybe a tattered gray knight?”

“What if I hurt you,” Luke whispered, his own arms going around Mark. “This is all something you've been thinking about, but it's new to me.”

“It's not that new. You want me,” Mark said, pulling back enough to smile.  “I'm not asking you to marry me today. I'm not scaring you off, am I?”

“The sixty hours a week,” Luke said, smirking, as he slipped open the tape with a thumbnail, “That's a little much. When are you going to have time to spank me? I am a bad boy, you know?”

“You're a thief,” Mark said, love softening his expression.

Luke froze though, eyes wide as open floodgates. “That was a long time ago.”

“I wasn't talking about the past,” Mark apologized, again reaching for Luke's hand. “I was talking about my heart.”

“Oh,” Luke said focusing on pulling out a length of red tape, shiny and thin, he caught Mark's hand and held it, lacing his fingers into Mark's. “Well, that might be the best thing I've ever stolen, but I wasn't even trying. Here,” he continued, wrapping the clingy tape around both their wrists. “One year. We'll be committed for one year, then we'll decide, okay?”

“That's wonderful,” Mark agreed, laughing gleefully. “Now I get to kiss the boy?”

“I dare you,” Luke whispered, letting his fears go, jumping straight forward into the future.

Mark slipped his fingers into Luke's hair, slow and gentle, until he got to the back, when he took a gentle fistful of blond hair. As Luke tried to look down at the floor, Mark pulled him back up, locking their eyes. “One year,” Mark agreed,  holding Luke pinned with their bound wrists and his hand in Luke's hair. His lips trembled against Luke's, soft and warm, and frightened. Intensifying pressure made them feel hotter.  A soft bite and Mark forced his tongue past Luke's lips, to press against smooth teeth.  The grip in Luke's hair tightened, becoming almost painful and Luke moaned softly, opening his mouth for the clean, hard tongue that dove right in, filling and demanding, stealing Luke's breath. Now he was the one shivering as, the kiss shifted. Mark's hand pulled his head to the side, holding him tight as the kiss took his throat, biting, sucking, demanding, accepting no refusal, and yet echoing back all the need and hunger they both felt.

Submission, the secret twilight lavender of passion, melted through Luke, and he relaxed into Mark's hold, soaking in the scent of the taller man, his warmth. Trembling, he pressed forward against his cop. Where could there be fear in such an offer? “Hotel now?”

“Yes,” Mark agreed, voice thick and breathy in his ear. “I marked you though. Absolutely mine, for one year.”

“We'll talk about terms,” Luke said, moving towards the counter. “Oh a butt plug. Your virgin ass is going to need one before I fuck you.”

The girl at the counter was watching them both intently, hearts in her eyes. “Hi Luke. Who's the new boy?”

“New boy,” Mark asked.

Luke could feel Mark watching him, but smirked. “You're just new in here. I've never brought anyone else here. Are you the jealous type?” The smirk had turned a little more serious.

“Maybe,” Mark said, pulling his wallet out with his unbound hand. “Maybe just of you.”

“You know he's signing books here on Wednesday evening? There will be coo'ing fans.”

Mark stepped close enough to touch his shoulder Luke's. “He might  need a bodyguard.”

“I might,” Luke admitted, paying for the red tape on his own.

Mark's phone rang, a professional ring that probably not been changed from the default. With his free hand, he pulled it from his waist, “Thomas.  Damn. About twenty minutes. No problem.”

Luke looked at the ceiling, lips tight. He hadn't been ready for more than just a movie and some flirting, not really, but now that he had it, it was as if he'd always wanted it.  If Mark walked out the door, maybe that would be it.  Words didn't mean anything in the long run. He wrote about love because he was pretty sure that was the only way he was going to have anything even close to love. Knee suddenly tight and painful, he stepped a little farther away as he peeled the tape from their wrists.

Mark put the phone back on his waist and caught Luke's hand, holding the tape in place, “I meant everything I said. Dinner? Let me take you to dinner? It might be a short dinner, but I'll come get you?”

Luke wanted to believe. He shifted his weight off his knee as he studied Mark. “Dinner. Sex tonight?”

Mark grinned, picking up the collar and carefully putting into his pocket.  “As soon as possible! Here, I do have a gift for you though.”

“A gift,” Luke asked, his mind filled with all the things that could go wrong with  a felon and a cop. He'd loved only once and the worst kind of betrayal was when one did it one's self, crossing the line and pushing back, destroying both life and love.

“Yeah.” From his pocket Mark pulled a new silver key on a keychain shaped like a small pair of handcuffs. “So a year from now I'll either change the locks or we'll renew for life?”

“You're giving me a key to your apartment?” He wanted to scream that he was a burglar, but that was… years ago. “I don't even know where you live.”

“Address is on the key. I have to go. Dead people don't like to wait.” He pocketed his credit card again, winked. “Luke, don't be scared, okay? I don't care about your past. I only care about the future. We could have a safe word, for the whole relationship. A word to cool things down for a little?”

“I'll think about one,” Luke said, his mood going sour as the thought of a sexy afternoon date turned into nothing except promises. Labels lied. Maybe sex would have made it feel real. At least then he'd know he'd done something Mark actually appreciated.

Other than the collar, Mark handed Luke the bag of their purchases then half dragged the blond out into the street, away from the clerk's watchful eyes. “Luke, I'm sorry I can't stay. I'm going to give you a task to do though, as my submissive. I want you to go to my apartment, use my computer. Write a story, something blazing hot, then lay in my bed and leave cum everywhere. I'll come home for dinner. I want to find you waiting for me.”

Excitement flickered back to life. “Alright. You better not disappoint me, or I will write your fine ass into a story like no other.”

“Deal!” Mark grinned, flagging down a cab. “Wait for me. Don't leave until I get there.”

Neither of them noticed the dark haired woman watching them, leaning against the building in the shadows, talking on her headset. There was no logical reason for either of them to notice her.


"How did it go, your date?" Fa asked, as Mark picked up a folder from his desk.

"It went fantastic," Mark grinned. "I think I just got married."

He and Fa had been partners since his last partner's death. He hadn’t exactly been an ideal partner, but Fa had his moments too.

"You homosexuals are like rabbits. If you had to worry about having kids it won't be so fast for you." Fa crossed his arms, dark eyes watching Mark disapprovingly. "Has he even met your parents? Do his parents approve?"

"Yeah, I think it works a little differently than that. We're gonna have kids. You just wait and see. You called me in for this? You could have just asked me how it was going with Luke. This is a cold case. These people have been dead for six years. I remember the case though."

"I thought you would. Remember the kid? About a year old?"

"Little boy, Charlie Watkins," Mark said one knee on Fa's desk, a wrist resting on his knee. "How is the kid?"

"He's sitting in the Captain's office. Someone tried to kill him today. Possibly the same people who killed his fathers."

"Shit," Mark said, standing up properly. "We need to catch those bastards."

"They killed his therapist today. Strangled her, put her admin in intensive care."

"Why? The kid can't possibly remember anything," Mark said, now really pulling up all the details of the case. At the time he'd suspected someone powerful of the killings, with a hate motivation. The victims had been a writer of homosexual scene literature and his doctor husband, well, as close as one got when the law didn't recognize a person's natural rights. They'd moved in wealthy circles, museums, politics, and things. There had been no sign of forced entry. Along with desecration of the bodies, awards and bits of social meaning had been defiled. The killer had taken hours, burned books and written hateful things on walls. The kid had been home, but hiding. Mark had spent hours just sitting with the kid to get him to come out. "Where is he?"

"Like I said," Fa complained, taking his folder back, "Captain's office. I don't know what they're going to do with him. The foster family won't take him back. Can't place him with another. It's too dangerous."

"I'll take him," Mark said, before he'd even thought about it. "Whatever we do, we'll make sure he's safe."

Mark patted Fa on the shoulder as he walked towards the captain's office.  Maybe this life was just too much to bring Luke into. The walk to his Captain's office was short, but by the time he'd reached the office, the connection between a murdered writer of homosexual scene lit and a writer of homosexual romance was too close for comfort. He was going to get Luke killed. That was something he'd have to take care of, but when he walked through the door to his captain's office, all he could see was a scared little boy.

"Hey there," he said, squatting down as the boy ran to him. "Charlie, I have you. Don't worry. We're going to catch the bad guys."

"'Ou promise," he asked, voice all stuffed up from crying. "Promise?"

"I promise," he said, holding the crying little boy in his arms. "I promise to take care of you."

"Aren't you the maternal one," his captain growled. "The kid picked a picture out for us."

"Who is it?" Mark asked, trying to keep the anger out of his voice.

His captain picked up a framed photo from his desk and handed it, still face down. "Third from the right."

The photo had been taken at the annual police ball, the previous year. There was the Captain's wife, the Mayor's wife, the mayor's son, the mayor, and then the captain. Mark's breath dropped like lead. "Ideas?"

"Not any good ones," the captain said, leaning back in his chair. "I'm checking to see if we can get the kid into the witness protection program.

"Stay with Mark Mark," Charlie said, arms around Mark's neck.

"Why don't we go with that then," the Captain said. "You take the kid with you. Take him to dinner somewhere private. Make sure he's safe. We could put him in Juvenile hall for a while."

Whatever reservations Mark had evaporated with that. He'd call Luke, tell him that they got carried away. It was just a first date, after all, the man couldn't be that involved. Angry, but not heartbroken, and very much alive, that was something Mark could live with. "I'll take him with me. I have a place I can stay that's not my apartment. I haven't been to the house in a while, but it's secure."

Running from criminals made him angry too, roiled in his soul like a cancer forming, but there were things he could do right now and things he couldn't do. Protecting Charlie was something he could do. Arresting the mayor's son without enough evidence was something he couldn't do.

"The foster parents sent over a backpack full of clothes and toys." Apology in his voice, the captain grabbed the bag and held it out as he opened the door. "I'll let you know tomorrow about the program. He'll be safe, then we can go after the bad guy, you understand?"

"I understand, Captain," Mark said. "Call me when you know something. Fa! Get me a booster seat, will you?"

"Married and a kid all in one day," Fa teased. "You've heard the joke about Lesbian second dates?"

Mark wrinkled his nose. "You've heard the one about the cop who didn't keep his mouth clean in front of kids?"

"Such a vanilla," Fa complained, motioning for them out, a booster seat under his arm. "Someday I'm going to have kids. You and my wife are gonna get along great."

Mark winked conspiratorially at Charlie, who was still clinging to him, then to Fa, as the elevator carried them down, "You mean we'll both think you're a loud mouth jerk?"

"Yeah," Fa said, grinning, "Pretty much. You can be a bride's maid."

"You have to find someone willing first," Mark pointed out.

"Why didn't I get invited to your marriage? This is the guy you've been talking about for a year, yeah?"

"Yeah, that's the one," Mark said, beeping his car unlocked, "Back seat, passenger side. It was very spur of the moment, but it isn't going to matter. I have too much to do to have a spouse, of any kind."

"That's bu-aloney," Fa said, hands on his hips. "I've never known you to be a f, er ducking coward."

"It's not cowardice to do what's right for someone." Mark fastened Charlie into the booster seat, then fished around in the bag for some kind of bear. He found a worn green bunny and handed that to the upset boy. "Don't worry. We're going to get some pizza. Do you like pizza?"

Charlie nodded, dark brown eyes red around the edges from crying. "And tofu."

Mark's face must have dropped because Charlie started laughing. "You're cute," Mark said, "We can get some tofu too."

"Tofu is yucky!" Charlie said gleefully.

Mark understood how truth could be so far away for a child, even if it didn't make it go that far away.  There were still pockets of not far enough away in Mark's mind.  He wanted to make sure that Charlie had all the help he could so that those ghosts won't linger.  The world had moments of being a really great place, like this one afternoon with Luke. Charlie needed lots of great days as he grew up, not just one afternoon and a demanding job.

"Mark," Fa called from where he held the elevator. "You okay? Don't do anything rash, right?"

Fa, even though he wore his own masks, was perceptive and caring, a good friend who would listen.  "I'm okay," Mark assured him, "I just have to focus on what's important."

"Love is important," Fa pointed out.

"Not more important than breathing," Mark said, closing the door on Fa.


Attraction blooming into love was improbable.  The apartment was on the ground floor, which Luke was very happy about. Stairs were not his friend. He held the key, his thumb running lightly along the ridge.  Entering some unknown domain, seeing things that belonged to other people, picking and choosing, the addiction to that still slithered around in his blood. It was not burglary though, if a cute cop gave you a key. Mark was cute though. Luke smiled, stroked the key slowly. He could leave. He could just get a new job, or even just stay home and write full time. It wasn't like Mark would really stalk him.

Chewing on his lip, the butterflies in his belly wanted into that apartment. They wanted to be there when Mark got home, wanted to smile at him, wanted to do just what he'd been told to do, write a story and masturbate. Everything moved so fast though. Everything. He'd committed to a year, but commitments were like promises. The key slid so perfectly into the lock though, smooth and well oiled.

Smirking, being the erotica writer he was, he pulled the key back out, then slowly back in, before laughing and just opening the door. Commitments could be broken later. He just didn't want to do it right now.

Cleaning supplies was not what Luke had expected to be greeted by, but there it was, a bit antiseptic, a little bit orange.  The place was spotless. Luke closed the door, turned the deadbolt.  The living room and kitchen could have been a show room for renting apartments. Luke toed his shoes off by the door and meandered off through the apartment.

The bathroom looked showroom too, until one counted that some of the bottles of shampoo were really bottles of oil and the industrial strength handrails that would be perfect for bondage. Opening the medicine cabinet, he found a very clean razor, neat bottles of pills, the labels all, facing to the front. Among them was a bottle of sertraline which made Luke pause. Anti-depressants. Luke didn't touch them, or move any of the bottles, but closed the door and let Mark keep his secrets there.

Blue silk covered the bed, pooling and draping like a Roman emperor's bed or a plot-less porn set. In ether case, Luke appreciated Mark's attempt and arrogance.  Sitting on the edge of Mark's bed, looking at the open closet and the disorganized shoes, the shirt sleeve peeping out, Luke found himself smiling. The antiseptic house was all special preparation.  Luke flopped back on the bed, arms out, fears dissolving.

He didn't want to do as he was told. He wanted to make some dinner, find an apron and meet his pretty red head at the door wearing just the apron and a smile.  They could sit together and write some story and he wanted his new master to stroke him to completion.  The vibration started first, then the ring, unknown caller ring. He sat up, legs spread wide and answered. "Hey."

"Hey," a voice mimicked back, distorted and impossible to identify. The voice recited Mark's address, then after a pause, which found Luke standing, turning around slowly, looking to make sure he was alone, the voice said, "I know where you are, purveyor of degeneracy. I will always know where you are, but that won't matter much longer. Did you make a will? Are you leaving everything to your sister? She's really hot. I need to make sure she's not lesbo, don't I?"

"Who are you," Luke snarled. One hand a fist at his side, his knee suddenly so tight that he staggered to the doorframe. "You leave my sister alone, you fucking bastard."

"Words, words," the disguised voice said, "I'm going to kill you, the cop, and the kid tonight. Which one should I do first?"

"You're sick," Luke said, letting his voice go slightly seductive, "Why kill any of us? There's room for you."

Holding the phone between his shoulder and his ear, which never worked well with mobile phones the size of a kiwi he woke up the computer that Mark had left for him, called up his email and spammed text messages to Mark's number. He didn't know what carrier Mark was with, but he knew the email extensions of all the carriers that serviced Seattle. There would only be one phone number that was Mark's so, he sent, "Help. Death threats on cell phone now. Do you have a kid with you?"

"You think I'd want to touch you? I'm not going to touch you, even when I kill you, pervert! Your kind doesn't deserve to live. I've read your books. Men fucking men. The world would be better with you dead."

Luke didn't know, maybe Mark could track the person back to wherever they were. The government could do things like that, so he figured it was worth a chance. In kidnap movies they always tried to keep the kidnapper on the phone to give enough time. The same was true of suicide calls. You wanted to keep them on the phone. Maybe it worked the same for homicide. "Have you killed before?"

"Shit, yes, I have. Fuckers said anything I wanted to hear after I started cutting parts off. Promised to leave each other, to be good men. I should have killed the kid then."

Those butterflies turned to dripping blood. Luke's hand shook when he sent the text spam again. "Caller says he killed two people and should have killed the kid. I'm at your apartment."

"What are you typing? Are you writing now? Does my voice turn you on?"

"What if it does?" Luke said, typing help me over and over again, "I can't really hear it can I? You're going to kill me, aren't you? I want to hear the sound of your voice."

"I bet you'd like that," the voice said, "Death turns you on?"

Luke was sure he was turning blue and if he had to act in person, he'd never pull it off. "Maybe. I never tried it. Does it turn you on?"

"Yeah," the voice said, now that of a young man, smooth, American, cultured, spoiled sounding. "It does. I like blood."

"So it'll be a party then," Luke said, shaking, eyeing the kitchen to see if there was a rack of knives or something good to defend himself with. "How many people have you killed?"

"Nine," the man said, very pleased with himself. "You're really pretty. Typing 'help me' isn't going to help you though."

The voice was in stereo and Luke's eyes went to the window in the dining room.  Still light outside, but so close to twilight that the light of day hardly counted. A man, in a red haired wig, a baseball bat in one hand, and a hockey mask over his face. His left hand held the mobile phone to his ear and deep satisfaction oozed from his words, "I surprised you little fagot, didn't I? I'll tell you something else, little boy, I'm not alone. We're a club. We're going to get rid of all of you."

"I hate baseball bats," Luke ground out, ending the call.

Hockey mask battered up and Luke ran for the bedroom, his knee hating him every step of the way. Glass shattered with homerun intensity, then the bastard took time to break off the remaining shards.  Luke had really wanted a dumb villain for this story.  The only thing he found even remotely defensible was a leather wrapped spreader bar. He couldn't out run the man and if he got outside the apartment, not even his body might be found. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!"

"Is that your god? Fuck?" Hockey mask asked, filling the bedroom door. "Did you have a good day today? Riding around like a princess in a carriage? You looked like you were having a really good time."

"Fucker," Luke growled, hating the taint running over the memories of his day. "Bring it on, you bastard! I'll give you what you're asking for!"

"Really?" Hockey mask reached around and pulled a pistol from a holster at the small of his back. "You're too far away to take a swipe at me with more than words, pretty boy. I bet that knee of yours hurts bad sometimes, uh?  That'll make it really hard to get close enough for me, limping around like a broken princess. I don't have to get any closer to you. Want me to start with your other knee?"

"People are home. People will hear gun fire."

"Nope.  No one's home. The upstairs woman is at the vet with her dog, which got hit by a car today. Neighbors to the right are out looking for their kid, who didn't come home today. Place to the left is empty.  No body but me to hear you cry. Drop the toy or I'm going to take out your other knee."

Luke ground his teeth, but dropped the bar. "Why do you want to kill a kid?"

"Enough talk. The handcuffs on the nightstand, put them on."

Luke licked his lips nervously, but moved to do as he was told, as slow as he could get away with, exaggerating his limp. Mark would come. Mark would send the cops.  "Okay, there. On. Happy, you bastard?"

Slow movement wasn't one of Hockey Mask's issues. The backhand spun Luke around, busting his lips. With his hands cuffed, his knee stiff, he couldn't catch himself and fell, rolling only to have Hockey Mask follow with a powerful kick to his ribs. Pain made multi-fork lightning through his side, whiting out his vision. A fistful of hair picked his face up and smashed it back down against the floor. "Repent! Beg God for forgiveness!"

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Luke said, inching away, "What god am I talking to again? The god of murdering bastards like you?"

"I bet you were going to spread your legs for that cop, weren't you?" Hockey mask snarled, "After I kill you, I'm going to put you in his bed. Homosexuals are all death, that's all he should expect to find."

"Police," Mark said, voice frigid and controlled. "Gun down, slowly."

"You're here early," Hockey mask said, gun coming down slowly, then suddenly he moved, gun to the back of Luke's head, pulling them both to their feet, "You didn't want to miss his screaming?"

"The building is surrounded with police," Mark said, reasonably, gun aimed at the hockey mask. "Let him go and you can walk out of here. Everyone gets to live a while longer."

"I'm fighting for a cause greater than myself," the man said, pressing the pistol against Luke's head a little more.

Mark fired.

Blood sprayed.  Luke spun, the gunshot louder than all the world in his ears, but strong hands caught him, lifted him, in the strange timeless place of nowhere that he'd fallen into. Shock wasn't like in a story or movies. It was vile and unrelenting, making a person lose control as if they were no better than some animal, and he sobbed against Mark's chest, screaming even though he couldn't hear himself screaming. He couldn't hear Mark's words, though he could feel the breath of Mark's voice against his forehead.

Promises are like butterflies, fragile short-lived little creatures. It is human to hope. As darkness pulled him under, he let himself dream that Mark would hold him always.


"Mmm," Luke moaned, almost surprised by the sound of his own voice. "Where am I?"

"Hospital," Rachel said. "That was some date, little brother. No cherry on a chain for you."

"Is he gone," Luke asked, eyes cracking open. Broken ribs, he decided, but not much worse than that. Broken hearts were not medical concerns.

"Went to get the kid something from the gift shop."

A young boy waved from where he sat on the other bed, cross-legged, a thumb in his mouth. "I'm Charlie," the boy said, around his thumb. "You're going to be my dad."

"Oh," Luke said, looking back at Rachel before forcing his body to let him sit up. "That's good to know."

"I thought you might like to," Mark said, in the door way now, cleaned up and smiling brilliantly, "See, I had this idea. We're handfasted for a year, and I'm going to be protecting Charlie. I want to protect you. So, I thought we'd all try being a family together, if you want."

"How is moving in together going to help," Luke asked, holding his sister's hand tightly. "Not that I mind. I'd like to, really, yeah, I'd like to move in with you, and I've always wanted kids." Luke smiled at the boy, who smiled back, and god, now that was sudden. 'Insta-family: add water, stir'.  "What about Ray?"

"Oh me too," she reassured, "I'm on the hit list for that group of nuts too."

"Federal Witness Protection Program," Mark said, holding the new bunny out to Charlie, "Until we know we're all safe, that's the best way. If you want, you and Rachel don't have to come with me and Charlie."

"No," Luke said, wincing as he shifted to get out of bed. "I want to come with you. A commitment's got to be worth more than just a moment's breath, doesn't it?"

"Always was to me," Mark said, reaching to take Luke's hand.

After another squeeze to his sister's hand, Luke moved closer to Mark. Charlie crawled off Mark's lap as Mark stood up, both hands sliding into Luke's hair. "You are so beautiful. I love you. I have loved you for a long time."

Luke blushed, but smiled. "I'm happy to help you protect Charlie."

"Heart on a chain is much better than a cherry," Rachel said.

"Absolutely," Mark said, leaning forward to kiss Luke, his writer, his love, his dream.


  1. You sure have a way of putting things into words....
    "Heart on a chain is much better than a cherry.''

  2. I love it! Jewls, you so rock, hon!