Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kai Cover

Kai Stubborn

by Nix 'Nick' Winter
all rights reserved
copyright 2006

Note: This story was published by Thunder Mouth Press in 2006, in the 'Zowie, It's Yaoi!' anthology, but the rights have reverted to me now.

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Summary: Kai withdrew from the realm of the Fae, leaving behind the man he loved and all his friends. He'd been injured in a mission. With a ruined hand, a broken heart, he thought he was completely retired. Then Dorian came for him. They both have secrets. These secrets are going to drag them into the middle of a war of succession for the throne of the Fae. Love and war can be very hard on fragile new love, even for a dragon and his elf prince.

There were two of them, standing by the ocean, a lone bed and breakfast in the distance. One was tall, wearing a black trench coat, jeans, bare feet. His blond hair lifted, dancing tangled as the breeze danced lightly down the beach. Cigarette smoke curled back and around him, lazy and yet also tangled on the breeze that promised the world had not yet really stopped for them. He drew his hand slowly to thin piles, the white filter of his cigarette tucked between two bent and stiff fingers, to pull a slow drag of smoke in. Green eyes, half-closed, watched the weak wave as it broke down to nothing. “You shouldn't have come.”

The man next to him was younger, perhaps, but not by much. In a suit and tie, polished shoes that left their own imprint in the sand, he stood with both hands in his trouser pockets, short dark hair untouched by the breeze. He could have been a samurai or a yakuza, a ghost of some of the things a man does for his country that are never spoken of, but when he leaned forward a smile lightened him and hew as just a man. “I had to come, as soon as I knew where you were. Kai, I have missed you so much.”

Surf came closer to them, leaving little bubbles unsaid of the ocean's soul. Kai touched the back of his wrist to his forehead, pushing suicide blond back, smoke trailing over the dark roots. “And now you've found me,” he said, in English, voice mellow, a playboy's voice that could never quite give up on the lazy sensual being. “You're going to miss the ghost I was.”

“I missed the man much more,” Dorian said. It wasn't a Japanese name, but it had been his name for as long as he could remember.

Kai pulled another moment from his cigarette, then tossed what was left into the encroaching ocean. “You should go away and pretend like you didn't find me. I can't work with the team anymore. Even Spades acknowledges that. I could never do intelligence only. I'm just not that smart.” He held out his hand, the mangled remains of a skilled weapon, three fingers broken so badly in an interrogation, left to the ravages of infection and damage. The other two fingers were better only because they'd been broken for less time when the rest of his team had found him. The problem with being an undercover terrorist hunter was that it was sometimes hard to tell the good guys from the bad. “I'm finished, Dorian. Done. Ruined. You have always been smarter, kinder to the world and yourself. You can make a place for yourself in the organization, to do something more than hunt and strike.”

One hand came from the warmth of Dorian's pocket and reached fro the twisted hand, but Kai turned way from the guilt in his friend's face, to the reaching touch. “I didn't find you to invite you back to the team, Kai. I know that's done. If we'd rescued you sooner... if you'd just told her who you were.”

“If I'd started talking, I'd wouldn't have ever shut up, and how was I to know she was really a cop like she said? Terrorist lie too, you know.” Kai pushed his foot in the sand, plowing up a small trough that water slipped into. “I couldn't give her anything that might have been used to hurt you.”

There were so many things that might never rise to the surface, like a soul dragged down to the bottom of the ocean. Usually, things that one hadn't meant o think or do. It didn't stop a person from wanting someone to love them, wanting to believe that someone could, not a ruined hand or a ruined soul.

Kai dropped then, to a squat, then down on his ass in the sand. Salt water and sand weren't going to ruin his faded-out jeans and he'd had about all he could stand of pretending he didn't care about Dorian being there. “Just get out of here. Or are you planning on breaking my fingers to make me talk?”

“Don't be a goddamn ass, Kai,” Dorian snarled, dropping to one knee, a hand reaching cautiously for Kai's t-shirt, to grab hold.

Cautious or not, he had him, a fistful of black t-shirt and Kai looked up, not so cocky, more vulnerable and afraid. “Dori, you want to kick my ass, fine. But I can't go back to being who I was. I learned things about myself, too. It's not just my fucking hand.”

“I understand,” Dorian said, holding Kai's green eyes locked with his gaze. “I learned, too. I learned that I love you. I love you, Kai. You're the only person I've ever really let get into me that deep. You know me and I now you, maybe better than you think anyone can. It's more than just knowing you, it's something so primal. You're the only person I'm attracted to, and I don't make it out like it's some kind of fucking joke. 'Dorian's a fag.' Whatever. I....” He paused, his eyes finally letting go of their hold as his power rolled back out like the tide, leaving little bubbles of feeling that he couldn't quiet put words to. “I love you,” he whispered. “I love you so much.”

Kai's other hand had healed much better and with it, he reached to touch Dorian's cheek, caressing smoothly shaved skin, his thumb moving over soft lips. It had always been that way between them, words of foam, but deep moving emotion that pushed the current of their lives. Kai's other hand, his mangled one, rose, the side of his little finger smearing away a tear and he leaned close, shifting to one knee, smashing sand against Dorian's expensive trousers.

Their kiss was a tentative brush, a passing of spirits where there should be none, Kai's chilled lips against Dorian's blush-swarmed lips that opened back with a willingness of a Christmas just one day delayed, hunger, need, roaring back from the oblivion of a soul which knows it's banished. Deeper into each other, tongues dancing nervous, afraid to touch, needing to touch, until dorian took the kiss, his fingers combed into Kai's hair, holding to him as if he were the only breath. Cigarette smoke, salty ocean air, heat of needing the touch of someone you love and respect and redemption.

Kai moaned into the kiss, his heart and body both waking. Panting, Dorian pulled back, dark eyes dancing with hope and happiness. “And you love me, too. I know you do.”

“I do,” Kai said, lips full of color now, a crooked smiles forcing it's way into being. “I'm not any good for you.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Excerpt: Kai Stubborn

Kai Stubborn
by Nick Winter

Copyright 2006
all rights reserved

This story was originally published in 'Zowie, It's Yaoi' by Thunder Mouth Press. The rights have reverted to me though and here it is.


Kai and Dorian have loved each other for a long time. They never consummated anything though. Each has secrets. Some of those secrets might be deadly as a fight for the throne of Underhill forces them out into the open. It's an erotic thriller with warring elf princes, dragons, well intended peace corps workers, and the fate of lives in the balance.


Their kiss was a tentative brush, a passing of spirits where there should be none, Kai's chilled lips against Dorian's blush-swarmed lips that opened back with a willingness of a Christmas just one day delayed, hunger, need, roaring back from the oblivion of a soul which knows it's banished. Deeper into each other, tongues dancing nervous, afraid to touch, needing to touch, until dorian took the kiss, his fingers combed into Kai's hair, holding to him as if he were the only breath. Cigarette smoke, salty ocean air, heat of needing the touch of someone you love and respect and redemption.

Kai moaned into the kiss, his heart and body both waking. Panting, Dorian pulled back, dark eyes dancing with hope and happiness. “And you love me, too. I know you do.”

“I do,” Kai said, lips full of color now, a crooked smiles forcing it's way into being. “I'm not any good for you.”

“I'm a grown up. I'll make up my own mind on that. Make love to me?” Dorian asked, the breeze now moving his hair, tousling it forward against his cheeks.

“If that's what you want,” Kai said, swallowing. “Dorian, don't call yourself a fag anymore, ever, or I won't do this with you. Understand? I'm not going to do anything that would hurt you, not even you hurting you.” He stood then, good hand on one knee as he pushed himself upright. It had been more than his hand that had been hurt and he would not have been fine even if he'd healed faster. There weren't anymore bruises or open wounds. Those had been gone a long time. Now it was as if he'd aged twenty years, as if his soul didn't quite believe he'd survived and was waiting for him to just fall over.

“I want,” Dorian said, eyebrows drawing down. He'd found Kai standing on the beach and he hadn't been briefed on the stiffness Kai was moving with. “I want to make love to you. Why are you stiff? What happened?”

“You don't want to know, Dorian. Just let it go. I can't go back to the company for many reasons and maybe they wanted to make sure I didn't go to work for anyone else either.” Kai said. Where he'd come from, before the company, had been a permanent group, not the kind you walk way from, but the company had taken care of that for him. The company had take care of everything, until he couldn't take care of problems for them anymore. “Dorian, are you sure this is what you want?”

“Do you know how hard you are to find Do you know what kind of favors I pulled in to find you, and once I had, to make sure that the company left you and me alone? Kai, I don't want you to do anything you aren't interested in, but I'm not just going to go away. We have been friends. I want to be more, but you if you don't, even after that kiss... come on, that was a good kiss, wasn't it?”

“It was the best kiss I've ever had,” Kai said, wishing he had another cigarette. “That kiss, it just happened, Dorian. I can't say I haven't had my hand wrapped around my cock thinking about you plenty of times, because I have. God, you're so beautiful and watching you work is like watching one of the gods. You're just perfect. You're kind and you're human and I'd give anything to kiss you again, and if you want that, I want that too, but listen to me,” Kai demanded, watching as the sunset settled over the distance with the most striking of violets, storm clouds and sun, as if the two had anything to do with each other. His thoughts were a run on sentence and his soul a train wreck. “Dorian, I'll come back if you want, run the shop, be there when you come home. You don't have to suck my cock to make me come home.”

“Kai, what if I want to? And I've wanted to for a long time, but you're such a stubborn fucking bastard that you wouldn't take a hint.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lady Harwood 1

The Lady of Harwood

by Beth Heart
aka Nick Winter

copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved
Do Not Archive

She sat bolt upright, green eyes dancing with angry fire. Long red hair framed her face and drew back into a braid that disappeared under the thick royal blue cloak. Ermine from her hood brushed against flawless cheeks. She glared down at the man reaching for her reigns. “Do not dare,” she commanded. “I will see your commander or no one.”

The man arched an eyebrow.  “We lay siege to your castle, Mistress. We can not allow you to pass.”

“I am Lady Harwood and I will see your Commander, Sir.” She danced her mount a step away from him, while glaring down at him.

He crossed his arms, lifted his chin stubbornly. He wore only dark fabric pants that tucked into black knee high boots. A phoenix lined his right shoulder, black ink tattooed into his skin. His hair touched   the same shoulder, the pony tail resting, clinging to firm muscle. “Lady Harwood have you come to sue for terms?”

“I will speak only to the Commander.”

Amusement colored his pale blue eyes. “Very well, My Lady. Gaius!”

Another man moved forward at a quick jog, from where he'd been holding back. He bowed quickly.  “Yes, My Lord!”

“Fetch the Commander. He is obviously working at something other than his job.”

“My Lord,” Gaius said again, bowing a couple more times before he scurried off. 

Another solider brought a thickly woven towel to the man and a bucket of water.  He set about washing his face, chest. Water ran over hard muscle.

She turned her head to look away. Nervous gloved fingers stroked her mount's mane.

“Your Majesty,” a rumbly voice growled. “Ohhh! At arms!”

“Do not be ridiculous,” the blond man said, waving his hand at the soldiers rising at the commander's orders. “She is unharmed. There are no warriors hidden. My team would have found them if there had been. This is why there has been little progress!” Now clean, he held a hand out to the Lady Hargrove. “My Lady.”

Much paler, she took his hand and dismounted into his strong hands, as he lifted her down to her feet. “You are King Roland.”

“I am,” he said firmly. “What terms does My Lady wish for?”

“I wish,” she said, recovering her nerve as she stepped back from him slightly. She lifted her chin and stared right into his eyes. “I wish that all my people are allowed to live and to be given governorship of my lands. For this, I will faithfully pay reasonable tithes and be loyal only to Your Majesty.”

“What I require, Lady Hargrove, is your unconditional surrender. I will unite all of Alish. All people will be one people.”

“What of my people?”

He reached out, a strong hand brushing red hair back from her face. “I want you. Will you serve me to protect your people?”

“Do I have your word?”

“You have my word.”

“Then, Your Majesty, I surrender and I give you my loyalty and service.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

the full cover :)

Cover for The Art of War, a Jewls story

Jewls Line art

I'm working on a manga, back to working on Jewls.

Pic of Dr. Patrick Black

A Great Review for Muse's Vacation

I did the cover for this one :) It's a very sweet and loving Christmas story.

Patrick is pretty new to the idea of having a Dom. When Leo gets trapped in that endless cycle of word-lock, and the inspiration just doesn't come for his writer Dom, Patrick decides discretion is better than taking his needs and frustration to Leo and asking for what he wants. Leo is not pleased to find his sub trying to satisfy his own desires, but even giving Pat what he needs doesn't break through the block, and Patrick knows drastic measures are in order. He has to drag Leo half way around the world before the writer realizes it's time to put his muse, and his sub, in their places

Check out what Dark Diva Dakota had to say about Muse's Vacation: "Ms. Samms has brought us another tale which strikes home even if you’re not gay."

She liked it enough to give it five Divas and a recommended read!

London Heat 1

London Heat

by Nick Winter

copyright 2009
all rights reserved
Do Not Archive

Professor Cummings titled his head, smirked. "So, Miss Allen what you're saying is that gender is little more than a self-selected social group?"

Miss Allen sat up just a little bit straighter. Her red hair was trimmed scandalously short, but her blue eyes were sharp and unyielding. "Yes, Professor, that is exactly what I'm saying."

"Really?" Professor Cumming's rubbed his chin with thumb and forefinger. The classroom held no empty chairs and even though only five of the hundred some odd students were female, it was a graduate level class, and not a person had the nerve to snicker at Allen's outlandish idea. "You probably think that being French or English is simply a self-identified social group as well."

Cheeks bright as her hair, black hardback notebook held firmly to her chest, she cleared her throat, swallowing visibly. "Actually, yes. It's easy enough to find people who will change their allegiance."

He moved to the front of his desk, hands resting on the polished wood behind him, ankles crossed casually.  For a professor, he was dressed well enough in a crisply pressed white shirt, a worn black brocade vest that probably won't have been fitting for less than a formal dinner, even if it had long since passed any semblance of ideal condition. The silver chain that hung from his waist to the pocket watch concealed shone nicely against the black. His slacks were pressed, creased well even though the class was late afternoon. The ephemeral spring sunlight hardly made a dent through the classroom's many windows, though it was enough to bring out highlights in his sandy blond hair.  "So exactly how do you plan on putting this idea of yours to the test, Miss Allen?"

"Sigmund Freud has the answer for you," a dark haired student snarked from the back of the class.

"Oh and what would that be, Mr. West?" Professor Cummings asked, head tilting in the other way, after just the slightest pause. He hoped no one noticed he was being very careful not to look out the window.  Nervously, his thumb rotated the ring on his left pointer finger, around and around, noting the carved roses under his fingers. Daily had really left him, made it permanent, gone off to Asia like a fool. It was not possible that the clumsy brunette could be standing outside his classroom widow. "Well? Share with the class, Mr. West."

"It's just," Sojourn West, an American student, said his own cheeks suddenly bright, "I understand that Sigmund Freud believes that when a woman wants to be a man, it's just penis envy."

"Is that what it is," Professor Cummings asked, looking to the rest of his class, spreading his hands. "Penis envy?"

Muttering went through the class. Professor Cummings went back to rotating his ring. "Come now. None of you are virgins, I hope. The word penis should not be shocking to graduate students studying in London. Perhaps if we were all from Boston. I understand people are a little repressed there, but we're in London, boys and girls."

"Professor," another male student started, "It's just a little bit delicate to discuss with the fairer sex present."

"So you're a gentlemen?" Professor Cummings turned then to look at the window, forgetting in a moment of pique that there was something in the reflection he didn't want to see. Why Jonathan was so much more beautiful in his memories, in reflections of memories than he had been in person certainly had to be something for poets more than minds of science. That did not mean he wasn't there, in the reflection, so real he could almost just step through the glass, brown hair tousled by the sunlight, collar undone, a smile on his face that sent emotion to places, evidently, unmentionable in mixed company. His favorite specter reached out for him and his heart skipped, just simply forgetting life in favor of the sweetness that obviously wasn't really reaching out for him. He made a decision.

"We," he said firmly, "Are anthropologists. We study humans. We should not be bound by human myths to the extent that we fear studying what actually is. So many prefer to study that which supports the dogma of the day. I have been offered an expedition to the Valley of the Kings. I had been of a mind to reject it, I must confess. Egypt is rather hot and inhospitable. Now, I feel duty must compel me to accept. Miss Allen, Mr. West, I would invite both of you, as you seem to be able to form opinions, to accompany me.  The rest of you will be reading my recent book and completing a project on a subject that I must approve. You have one week to get your proposals to me. Class dismissed."

If that wanker, Jonathan, could run away to Asia and never come back, well, a better man could go to Egypt for two months. That would solve everything.



"Certainly not," Jonathan Daily said, closing his book with a page subduing thwap. "Isn't it hot enough here for you? Mr. Whitehall hardly needs 'Pharaoh's Treasure'. He's doing quite well, as it is."

Leaning back against the thin wicker lounge chair, Jonathan closed his eyes and titled his head a little more into the shade. The Bejing summer trickled slowly down his temple, turning neatly trimmed brown hair to a darker color.

Perversely the advent of June seemed to have lightened London's hair to a very pale blond, pulled the blue from his skin until he seemed nearly a normal man. Elbows propped on Jonathan's lounge chair, his blue eyes sparkled with mischief and eventual triumph.  "It's 1928. Do you know what that means?"

Jonathan rolled a bit.  His book, an olive linen shape of solidity against his chest, grounding him even though the summer had long since defeated his tie and the top two buttons of his shirt.  "It means we live in a remote part of the world where time does not pass and no one cares a fig for who I live with. It means that I get to see you every day, sleep with you held close at night, and lie around all summer reading books that wash up in China like the flotsam of the world. Here in Bejing, my dearest London, 1928 means nothing at all."

"I have a car," London confessed, smiling brightly. "It's not my car.  I think I may have broken it, just a little, only one part, really."

Eyes wide, Jonathan sat up, upper lip between his teeth as he set the book down on his lounge, keenly aware that he might not get to pick it back up again. Such a lovely story. Fingers templing, he licked his lips and asked, "Whose car is it, London?"

London's cheeks filled with air, ruining any attempt at innocence.

"Come on," Jonathan prodded, "Where did you get the car?"

"So, before I saw you," London started.

"Christ in a biscuit," Jonathan hissed.

"It was my job," London protested. He stood, backed away just a step, hands in his pockets, "That if a human killed another, I was to visit bad luck on them for the number of years that the murdered person had lost."

Jonathan ran a hand over his hair. "I hardly expect they'd live that long with that kind of bad luck."

London touched the tip of his finger to the curve below his lip, blue eyes thoughtful. "Few people ever received the full measure of the bad luck they had coming."

"But that's not your job anymore," Jonathan said firmly. "You're a human being now."

"Yes, yes, but the temptation was so strong."

"Did you see someone kill someone," Jonathan asked, worry in his voice.

"There were two of them. They went into Mrs. Long's Tea House and opened fire. I just happened to be bringing out a pot of tea for Mrs. Long. Her son hasn't been feeling well and so she was short a waiter."

"You're working in a tea house? Two men came in with guns," Jonathan asked. He told himself he was not confused.

"The guns suddenly got quite cold," London admitted.

"Why were they in the tea house with guns?"

"Mrs. Long said they were gangsters."

"And how did you get a car?" Jonathan coughed, patting his chest for a moment, before asking, "Does the car belong to the gangsters?"

"Mrs. Long said it was very unseasonable that there should be ice on the floor. I suppose that's why the gangsters didn't see it, before they slipped. I could see right into their souls that they had killed people before and that they were the ones that broke Mrs. Long's son's hand."

"I thought you said he was sick."

"A broken hand makes one feel very unwell."

"Yes, I suppose it would do." Jonathan laid a hand on his book.

"It was terrible luck for their car to get stolen while they were trying to run from the police."

Jonathan nodded. "Now that I am utterly sure would be the case. One of the problems with gangs is that they tend to be made up of more than two people. Let me see if I have this right. Mrs. Long is your friend. You were helping her out in her teahouse. Gangsters broke her son's hand and then they came to cause more trouble."

"I'm sure they were going to kill someone."

"I think that is one of the things that makes gangsters so scary," Jonathan said.

London hid his face against his shoulder, blue eyes watching his lover. "So you're angry?"

"I'm not angry with you for doing what it is in your nature to do, London." Jonathan rose and reached out. Normally clumsy fingers took on a soft grace as he brushed blond hair back from London's face. "I don't think I could ever be angry with you. You are too wonderful, my dear."

"I knew you'd understand," London said, throwing his arms around Jonathan's neck. "So that's why we should go to Egypt with Dice and Dr. Black."

Holding him close, Jonathan gave into laughter. "I think it should be very hot and unpleasant in Egypt." Jonathan kissed London's forehead, then his temple. "Why don't we just stay here. They'll bring us back some sand and bones."

Shivering, London pressed closer to Jonathan, fingers slipping under the back of his collar. "Well, you see, I'm human not a sprite of winter and fate anymore. You've always been a human. Both the police and the gangsters are looking for that car and it doesn't go anymore."

"Just exactly which part was broken?"

"Hey boys," Dice yelled, letting himself into their backyard, "You know there's a car out in your front yard with a cracked engine? Broke right through?"

Jonathan fastened his collar, stood up a touch straighter. "You don't say. I expect that's not a good thing," he said, without much confidence.

"Yeah," Dice said, hands in his pockets, vest undone, tie possibly never even put on in the first place. Emile 'Dice' Whitehall had repaired his standing with his family a great deal since Christmas. He was no longer just a clerk employed because his father had asked. Now he was an archivist first class, working towards his PhD in archeology. "A busted engine is a bad thing. Whose car is it, London?"

"I didn't know them," London admitted, "But their intent to kill was seething all over them."

Dice ran a hand over the back of his head, ruffling black hair. "That's a very useful thing to know, London, but I got to tell you that if you know a couple of guys with machine guns are murderous, it's just not a good idea to steal their car."

Jonathan nodded. "I fear that in this case, Mr. Whitehall is spot on.  What are we going to do with the car?"

"Did you take the car with some more tricks from your village?" Dice asked, "Do you think they know who took the car?"
"Of course we know," a very elegant female voice said.  Bai Lian, tall woman, with dark hair pulled into a bun, pinned with jade spikes, silk dangles swaying very slightly as she entered the garden.  She held out her hand, gloved in thin black leather.

Dice swallowed, violet eyes instinctively searching for an exit. Jonathan stood up straighter, as if that were possible.

She smiled. "The god of winter passes me by and I must notice or I shall count my skills as nothing."

"Bai Lian," London said cheerfully, taking her hand with both of his, and kissing her knuckles. "Those men were mean. You should teach them better."

"Yes, my dear," she said, laying her other hand over his. "Those men are my responsibility.  This city is my responsibility. "

Dice fidgeted. Jonathan took a step forward.

"So you're not going to let them go around murdering people," London asked, looking her in the eye.

"Xiàxuě, I will take care of what I need to. You take care of your love and your friends. Mrs. Long has graciously allowed me to buy her teahouse. I will be taking care of all her son's medical bills. Is that not gracious of me?"

Still holding her hand, even though little snow crystals aura'ed around their hands. "It's in you too, murderous intent," he spoke in Chinese, lips darkening to blue.

"Oh dear," she said, dark eyes glittering. "You've seen through me. The age of gods is over, Xiàxuě.  You have given your heart to a Christian and a man at that. I do not fear you. You can't be with him all the time, now can you, my dear."

Ice grew over London's hair, traveling as fast like a growing crack. "If Jonathan comes to harm bad luck will follow your line for a hundred generations."

Elegantly she pulled her hand back so that she could pull off the frozen leather, a finger tip at a time. "That is why you no longer frighten me, Xiàxuě.  You are no longer the god of snow and justice, but only just a man. Your desire for this strange little man and his books and his foreign ways has stripped you of power. I suggest you get him out of China before I introduce you to mortality in a much more personal way."

London's smile chilled the air around him. "You are going to be remembered for such a long time."  Behind blue lips his teeth had sharpened into tiny blue diamond razors. "You are going to have such bad luck, Bai Lian."

She dropped her frost-damaged glove and rubbed her fingers. "I don't believe in magic, not even the magic of a petty little snow god. Your time is over."

"Just exactly who do you think you are," Jonathan snapped, coming up next to London. "Madam, you may not come into my home and threaten either me or my partner."

Dice coughed, but stepped up to London's other side. "Your gangsters were threatening his friend, so of course he did something. He's a man after all!"

"That's everything that makes China weak right now. A creature that was a god is taking it up the ass from a skinny, cowardly Westerner."

Jonathan's right eye twitched. "Now you see here," he growled, a finger thumping right between her breasts. "I don't care a fig for your nationalistic ideas, Madam.  You've let yourself into my home uninvited and displayed the lowest level of grace. I expect you are little more than a thug yourself and probably a woman of low moral standards in all ways. Take yourself hence, Madam!"

London, blue gone from his face, teeth a nice normal square shape, smiled with complete adoration at his lover.

"You have no idea little man," Bai Lian snarled back, her red lips curving in a dangerous smile.

"Oh? I have every idea," Jonathan continued, finger still jabbing at her chest. "I know a bully when I see one. What would be best for you would be for justice and the rule of law to settle firmly around your heart!"

"Poetic." Her smile had gone though. In it's place she'd produce a small pistol from the small reticule at her wrist. "Do you know the Arthur legends of your people? I think you should be the lady of the lake. I know just where to plant you, foreigner!"

London's hands raced through symbols. Her finger squeezed. Ice exploded around him, latticed in front of Jonathan. The bullet hit, ricocheted, hit the very small sundial on the side of the house, came back and hit Bai Lian's hand. She dropped the pistol, one hand clutching the bleeding one. Cursing in Chinese, she took a cautious step backwards.  "One day! I will give you one day! Then I'll be back and I'll put you all at the bottom of the lake."

"I like lakes," London said softly, motioning the small, swarm of ice butterflies back to his hand. "I bet I know more lakes than you do."

"Crazy magician!"

"You better go get that looked at," Dice said. He shoved his hands in his pockets, lifted his chin dismissively. "Be bad luck if it got infected."
"I am going to kill all of you."  She lunged forward, grabbing her pistol, then backed away with it aimed at them. "Tomorrow!"

The three of them stood there, in the suddenly chilled garden. Dice eyed the icicles hanging from London's hair. Impulsively, he reached up and caught one, breaking it off. "I need a drink. Jon, where's the scotch?"

"I'm not sure now is a good time!" His attention was very much on London, his hand caressing a blue cheek, leaving tracks of flesh tone behind it.

Smiling, London broke off another icicle and held it out to Jonathan. "You're not hurt, right?"

"Of course not," Jonathan said, slightly indignant. "No such scoundrel shall ever cause a proper man any harm."

"Here it is," Dice shouted from inside the house.

London leaned into Jonathan though, arms going around him, face hiding against his neck. "I don't want anything bad to ever happen to you."

Jonathan held London tight, protectively. "I have never been loved like you love me. We can go back to the village where we met, if you want. I'll come with you back to your people. I'd rather be ice than live without you. I want to give you anything you want or need, London, forever."

"I don't care where we go. China is the whole world. I will go with you to England."

"Now there's a crap idea," Dice said clinking his ice and scotch around. "I'm thinking Egypt. Let's go to Egypt."

"I'd like to see Egypt!" London said cheerfully. "I hear they have giant buildings where kings live forever."

"Now," Jonathan said, brushing soft blue hair away from London's face, "I won't believe everything you hear."

"So, Jon my man, Egypt?"

"Egypt it is," Jonathan agreed.

Note: Just wait till they all get to Cairo!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Health Care

The Senate passed the health care reform tonight.  Just a couple more huge tasks and maybe I'll have health care. If I had lots of money, I could go buy whatever health care I wanted tomorrow, but I am neither smart enough nor conventional enough to be able to have either made my millions already or hold a job that would give me health care.

I think the divide on this debate really comes down to if one trusts the government or if one trusts big business. Make no mistake, insurance companies are big business. They exist to make a profit, not to make sure you're healthy.  They can take your health care away when they want, charge more when the want, and they don't really care if you die or not. If they did, they'd be putting a very lot of profit at risk.  Now let's see..what do we call people who put other people's lives at risk for profit... ~thinks~ Oh yes, pirates!

Now I know the government isn't perfect, but if we don't like the government, we can protest, we can vote, we can impeach. If we don't like what big business does, we can go home and cry.  Sure, you can sue, but money influences that a lot too.

I believe the health care bill will do what the President says that it will. I want to live. I want to have good health. I want you to as well.

London Christmas

London Christmas
by Nick Winter
copyright 2008
all rights reserved
Do Not Archive

An ebook of this story is available. There's a link up above.

There were three of them: a disgraced younger son, a soft-spoken doctor with a too pretty face, and a young man from the wilds of Asia who proved science didn’t know everything.

“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter,” Dice said, hands in his pants pockets. A clerk in the British Embassy, he should have been at work, his hair should have been shorter, and his violet eyes shouldn’t have lingered on the face of Dr. Black nearly as long as they did.

Standing in front of the store window, Dr. Black hardly seemed to notice his attentions. A slight man with ordinary brown hair, whose eyes only stood out for the keen intelligence and sarcasm that lingered there, the doctor was not usually the center of anything.

The third of the friends wore mittens and scarf, but was most comfortable in the Beijing mid-December. Skin slightly blue, if anything the snow brought more color and an easier smile to his face. Even his blond hair had a blue tint to it. Another of their friends, London’s lover, Jonathan Daily, had assured everyone that London was not unusual for the village he’d come from, and London, not fully understanding the forms and patterns of human speech, had failed to understand why such a seeming lie might benefit anyone.

“So,” Dice said, shoulders a little hunched against the cold he’d sworn wouldn’t bother him at all, “London, what are you getting for Daily?”

“I still do not understand why the lack of a present will cause him distress,” London said. “I asked him. He said that he needed only my company and for the influenza to leave him well enough alone.”

“Here, here,” Dr. Black agreed. “What a sensible man.”

London pulled his cap down a little more, afraid it would blow away, hoping it would. He liked the cold, longed for it with a strength that could only compare to what Dice had called ‘homesick’ when once he’d drank more than his share of rice wine. Jonathan Daily pulled harder though, and now his friends, Dice and Dr. Black. He very much wanted to see them happy. “Gifts cost money,” London pointed out the obvious.

Dice sighed. “We’re a perfect trio. The wicked, the good, and the beautiful.”

“Daily’s right,” Dr. Black said. “Each other is all we really need. I have a ham and some potatoes. Daily has a kitchen, and we can cook there, can’t we, London?”

Before London could reply, Dice leaned forward, those wickedly knowing eyes sorting through Dr. Black. “So you’ll cook for us, Blackie?”

“Sod that,” Dr. Black grumbled, “What makes you think I can cook?”

“You’re…,” Dice said slowly. He bit his lip and whatever word might have been about to present itself. “Irish. I thought all Irish could cook.”

“And you’re English Ton,” Dr. Black said, nose wrinkling. “I thought you lot had money.”

“I guess we’re all the odd man out then,” Dice said with a smirk.

“How so?” Dr. Black gave him a good shove to the shoulder.

Dice skidded on the snow-dusted wooden sidewalk. They might have been the only ones there for all the people around them paid any mind. Two Europeans and an elemental spirit posing as a European didn’t get much notice from Chinese going about their day. It was too cold for the wives of the diplomatic core to be out, and almost everyone else had serious work to be about, with only three days until Christmas.

Dice dodged the second push, a grin on his face. Dr. Black caught up a couple handfuls of snow and threw them at a laughing Dice. London ran after them, feet sure and steady on the building snow. His hat flew off, freeing long silky pale blue hair to dance in the breeze. Snow picked up, swirled in greater density. Laughter, light, and sparkling seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.

Dice and Dr. Black froze, stumbling over the now thicker ice. Down the street, onto the bridge, they ran together, acting more like boys than the men they were supposed to be. Dr. Black made it to the top of the arch of the bridge first, turned and made a face, until, quite without warning, ice overcame traction and he slid perilously backwards. Dice lunged and reached for one flailing hand, his boots much more suited to the now thick ice. Within time too small to count, the good Dr. Black was held close to the very wicked Mr. Emile ‘Dice’ Whitehall. Color flashed over bright on Dr. Black’s face, and he looked down, struggling lightly to get out of the arms that held him. “Really, you can let go now, Mr. Whitehall.”

“I suppose,” Dice said through a grin, “But it’s cold out here. I won’t want either of us to catch ill.”

“Not at all,” Dr. Black said tersely, blush bright as summer blazing.

The ground hit London’s feet hard, as if it had jumped up to find him.

Immediately the snow flurries subsided, the ice ran off, dripping over the side of the bridge. He grinned, not at all sure that there should be pale blue sakura blossom petals flitting through the air, but there were, and he was happy.

“I wish to give presents to both of you,” he said, loving them both, though the feeling was quite different from what he felt for Jonathan. He turned to look down the street for his hat, which would keep him warm and keep him from
being seduced by the cold air back into the world from whence he’d come.

Filling his blue eyes with an innocence rare, a perfect treasure, he grinned a little brighter and pulled off his mittens. Slender fingers wiggled, expressing happiness at being free of the mittens, very slightly blue fingers, just like the rest of him, but fluid and comfortable in the snowy cold air.

“What are you on about,” Dice complained, still standing too close to Dr. Black, but he shoved his hands back in his pockets again.

“It’s just…,” London said. It was hard to come up with the right words. “It’s just that with you as my friends, I’m not homesick like I was. I’m sure I’ll be able to stay and I want to stay. I love Jonathan very much and I never want him to be sad.”

Dice and Dr. Black looked at each other, then back at London. Grins broke out on both their faces at the same time. “Of course,” Dr. Black said, moving to slide an arm around London’s waist, “we’re your friends and not just because it’s Christmas either. You’re a brilliant chap.”

“Don’t go all mushie,” Dice said and slid his arm around London’s shoulder, fingers just happening to be close enough to accidentally touch Dr. Black. “London’s a decent enough chap. No one I’d rather see the city with, except
maybe the fine Dr. Black, but I still won’t go so far as brilliant.”

London held out a mitten to each one of them. “Here then, Christmas presents.”

Dice rolled his eyes. “You can’t give someone one used mitten for a Christmas present.”

Dr. Black took it and gave it a good look over. Handmade, certainly, a nice variegated blue. “I think it’s a very nice gift. Thank you, London.”

“Always a new take on things,” Dice said, pulling the single mitten onto one hand. “Does it mean something, you know, where you come from?”

Walking between them, London leaned his head back to watch the few falling white fluffy flakes. “Where I come from, it’s always cold, always in snow. Everything is ice and rainbows. The sun shatters through the palace walls so
brightly that it’s like walking inside a diamond. There is dancing all the time. Everything is clean and bright. There is no money, and no one has to do anything they don’t wish to do, not like Jonathan having to work so hard to make money so that we have a place to live.”

“Sounds like a sodding fine place to me,” Dice said. “Why’d you leave?”

“I saw Jonathan the very day he arrived at the village below where I lived. He was a new kind of light, and I had to have him.”

“I bet your family was hot over that,” Dr. Black said, sounding like the voice of experience.

“My family wasn’t happy, but I knew I couldn’t leave him. I hear from my family a lot. They want me to come home, but I know I will stay here. That’s why I gave you the mittens. Just because my hands can feel the call of home, does not mean I’ll go home.”

“That’s deep, London,” Dice said, head down a little. “At least your family wants you. Where’d you get the name London?”

“It was a word I got from Jonathan. I thought it was the most beautiful word.”

“What’s your real name?” Dr. Black asked.

London slipped away from them, just at the foot of the bridge. Naked hands danced in the air and formed crystals, rather like Chinese written characters, except more complicated, three dimensional, and gracefully intricate. “It can only be written like this,” London said.

The other two studied the delicate and already fading ice sculpture that hung in the air. “London ain’t nearly as pretty as that, but it’s a damn sight more practical,” Dice pronounced.

“It’s very strange and lovely,” Dr. Black said. He pulled off a glove to reach out and touch the ‘word’. “How do you make it hang in the air like that?”

“It’s just the way it’s done,” London said, not at all sure how to answer.

“It’s like the boxers, you know? Breaking boards with their faces and stuff,”

Dice said, bare hand back in his pocket again. “What is that stuff called? Chi gong? I’m sure it’s like that.”

“I’m certain I could never learn to do that,” Dr. Black said firmly. “What would my name look like in that…language?”

“You,” London said, tongue between his lips, “Um…this.” The ice swirled, spider webbed, made a complex, inside-out structure that seemed to beg to be unwrapped, but really communicated not a thing in any language spoken in

Beijing. Still, it seemed very telling, intimate, in some unspeakable and magical way.

“Do Dice?”

“No,” Dice said, slipping past them both, both hands again in his pockets.

“Hey!” Dr. Black yelled, running along.

All three were brought up short by Mr. Allen Albright, a bent and hawkish man who was eighty if he was a day. With Dice out front, the three of them had the good sense to look a bit abashed by being caught out on the town.

“So here we have it,” Mr. Albright started, his onyx-colored walking stick tapping rhythmically on the ground. “Mr. Whitehall, the never-do-well, that I had the good grace to take in and give a job to. You have brought me poor returns, Mr. Whitehall. Our trickster doctor, who thinks we’re all denser than lead and, yes, as I would expect, the mysterious master of the oriental arts, Mr. London Daily. Allow me, please, to ask if there is any good reason whatsoever that any of you should be gadding about instead of attending to whatever duties I may presume you perform for my school? A school devoted to serving Her Majesty’s diplomatic core deserves the utmost in service and respect.”

“Well,” Dice hedged. “It’s nearly Christmas, and I—we—needed to find some presents.”

Mr. Albright tapped his walking stick hard against the stones of the street. “That, Mr. Whitehall, is what you should be doing during hours when you are not at work for the embassy.”

“It’s just….” Dice stood up straighter, looking much more like a diligent employee all of a sudden. “I know that you wanted Irish whiskey, and as clerk second grade it is my job to procure needed assets at optimal times. With substantial snow predicted, I thought it would be an excellent idea to get needed supplies while we still can.”

“Odd that no one mentioned this blizzard to me,” Mr. Albright said suspiciously. Then, like a cat with feathers between his teeth, the old man smiled, tight-lipped and well too pleased with himself. “I’m sure your sources are very reliable, Mr. Whitehall, but I shall still compose a telegram to your father. Should your blizzard occur, I’m sure I shall be unable to post the letter, and your foresight in caring for the embassy’s needs will certainly soothe my discontent with your service. Otherwise, I’m sure Lord Devon will find some comfort in knowing that his son is as he most feared and there can be no further disappointments. Indeed, I expect that would be quite the holiday celebration for your brother, who would find his own estate no longer to be divided with a wastrel such as yourself.”

Calm as the pretty, fluffy flakes of snow, Dice gave a polite bow and smiled. “I look forward to earning your good opinion of me, sir. Reputations can be frightful things to defeat.”

“Be that as it may,” Mr. Albright said, still grinning as he turned to walk along his way, “If I were you, I’d pray for snow. I hope that you have not become so degenerate that such an act of piety is lost on you.”

“I, sir,” Dice complained loudly to the back of his employer, “rely on science! I shall have no need of prayer to be exonerated in this matter!”

As soon as he was a few steps away, Dr. Black said, “I think you’re good for his health, Dice.”

“How do you come to that?” Dice growled, murder in his voice.

“I’ve never really seen such a spring in his step.” Dr. Black’s head cocked to the side. “He must hate you. What are you going to do, Mr. Whitehall?”

“Buy Irish whiskey and hope for snow.” Dice leaned back to look up at the sky, which now seemed very stingy.

“It’s Christmas,” Dr. Black offered. “It always snows for Christmas.”

“Just what is this Christmas again?” London asked, running to catch up with the other two, who already strode forward.

“It’s a made-over holiday,” Dr. Black said, lecture mode on full. “Mithras done over by the emerging Christian population won over the Pagans with a little holiday redecoration.”

“Uh?” London rolled his eyes. “Jonathan gives me books to study, but English is so hard to pull meaning from.”

In front of the luxury provisions shop, Dice and Black both turned to stare at him. Dice tilted his head a bit. “What do you mean English is hard?”

Thumbs and pointer fingers making a diamond, London squeezed his eyes shut. “The characters are so small and stubborn. It’s an unexpressive language.”

“Maybe compared to yours,” Dr. Black agreed. “I can help you with history studies sometimes. I can teach you Latin.”

“Egghead,” Dice teased, grinning. “Latin, ancient gods, that’s not what Christmas is about. It’s about a whole lot of nice stuff that happens to good people.”

“What kind of good things?” London asked, fingers tapping against each other, eyes wide like a little kid. “We’re all good people! So good things will happen for us.”

“Speak for yourself,” Dice shot over his shoulder. “I am a very bad man and deserve everything I get. Besides, as soon as I’m gone, you know he’s going to go after you next, my dear Dr. Black.”

“Then we shall have to keep you around, won’t we?” Dr. Black held open the door. “Come on. No more bleak belly-aching. You’re not gone yet. It’ll snow.”

“I can make it snow,” London offered and followed them inside. “Do you want it to snow a lot? Would that make everything okay?”

“Don’t be a fool, London,” Dice said, throwing a friendly arm over London’s shoulder. “Parlor tricks are one thing, but stirring up a blizzard is out of reach of any man. You’re just a human, a little blue, but just a human, like the rest of us.”

London looked back over his shoulder for a moment, at the white fluff falling towards the ground. “Thank you.”

“Of course, silly,” Dr. Black said, “it must be really hard to be with strange people, but we’re all a little unusual, so we all belong together!”

* * * *

“Jonathan! I’m home,” London shouted. He kicked the door shut, arms loaded down with brown paper wrapped packages.

“Good Lord,” Jonathan cursed, “where did you get all that…stuff?”

“Dice’s father,” London said. He looked back over his shoulder as he set the stack down on the table. “We have ham and apples, sugar, some fancy tea for you, all the things to make a feast. Dice and Dr. Black are coming for dinner on Christmas.”

“You don’t say,” Jonathan said suspiciously. “Mr. Whitehall is not exactly the most reputable of persons, my dear London.”

Starched shirt unbuttoned at the collar, black tie hanging around his neck, slacks tailored and smooth against lean legs, draped in nice curves where slacks should, Jonathan blushed. He pulled his glasses off and glared sternly at London.

“Why are you looking at me like that? It is afternoon, not quite tea even, not the middle of the night.”

Hands under his chin, London’s blue eyes twinkled with mischief, tearing after Jonathan’s blush and very proper sense of timing like a cat after the end of a piece of string. “But when I look at you I feel very happy and I want to unbutton your shirt and I feel desire to hear you make contented, happy sounds.”

“Now, see here,” Jonathan said, fingers buttoning up his shirt, glasses hanging hooked over a finger, “Even with the fact that we’re in Beijing, gentlemen do not engage in certain pursuits until certain hours of the day. I have work yet to do, and London! Gentlemen do not lick their lips in that very, very, um, suggestive manner!”

The elemental bit the tips of his pointer fingers lightly while grinning in a very ungentlemanly manner. “Jonathan, I am not a gentleman.”

They were of a similar height, and with London now improperly close, his hand on Jonathan’s tie, another somewhere unmentionable, Jonathan fell tumbling into to the blue eyes of winter. “Yes, yes, well, now, what if, now…. Oh my lord. Perhaps it would be best to take some private exercise prior to tea.”

“Dr. Black tells me that exercise is very good for the body,” London agreed. “I want to lick you. I like when your face gets so warm and bright. You’re very beautiful, Jonathan.”

For all that he was an English teacher and had never given himself much authority, his arms were strong enough as they wrapped around London and pulled the magical man closer. “I am too common to be beautiful. You are
beautiful and rare. I am lucky to have met you.”

Hands sliding under Jonathan’s shirt, London hooked his leg around Jonathan’s. “Well, if I’m beautiful, it’s because you are, because you drew me into this world. You seduced me into staying in this world where I am a stranger, yet your presence makes me long to be here above all places. Make love to me, Jonathan,” London pleaded, eyes full of genuine feeling, unclouded by any concepts of culture and propriety. “You’re hard for me. Just a little hotter and the kettle will give off steam!”

“You are a wicked,” Jonathan growled, kissing pale blue throat under a silken curtain of blue hair, “wicked, wicked man, and I love you.”

“Say it again!” London jumped a little, easily lifted by his lover, to wrap his legs around Jonathan’s waist. “I love you too! Loving you is so happy! I feel so happy!”

“London,” Jonathan said softly and held him close, face hidden against London’s shoulder. “You are so bright, so full of life. When you’re not here, I slip back into books and verbs, vocabulary, and my red pencil can feel like the most powerful force in my life, but then you come back and it’s like a rolling avalanche swirling around my boring little life. Where is your hat?” Jonathan asked, suddenly concerned. “You didn’t…?”

London touched both hands to the top of his head. His eyes rolled up to look kind of to the side at the ceiling. “The other called me, but now there’s not only you, but Dice and Dr. Black too. I have friends here. I don’t want to go back.”

Jonathan touched a fingertip to the end of London’s nose. “You don’t sleep with Mr. Whitehall or Dr. Black, do you?”

“Am I supposed to?” London asked, pulling away a little, hands on his hips. “I don’t want to.”

London peeled his shirt off as he walked towards their bedroom. “I want you to rub my back and rim me!”

“Is that so,” Jonathan said loudly, smiling though, eyes watching London’s ass sway. For one tiny second, David’s memory grayed out the world, but London’s laughter glittered brighter than any gray could ever manage. With a very fast stride, Jonathan followed his lover down the hall, caught him, and took them both over onto the bed. The bedroom was meant to hold one single bed and a small desk, but they’d need a larger bed, and well, now it held the bed and many good memories.

Jonathan shivered when London’s fingers caressed his cheek. Both of them lay on their sides, so close, legs entangled, clinging to each other.

“It is so,” London nodded slightly. “And then I want you to penetrate me and fill me with heat. I like your heat.”

“I still can’t believe you like me, that you want to be with me,” Jonathan whispered. “I am sure I’m drab in the extreme.”

London smirked. His blue eyebrows rose in an arch as he rolled so that he straddled Jonathan. “English still confuses me sometimes. Does drab mean comfortable, addicting, something that makes a person feel giddy, something that
makes me hard and in need of gentle attentions? Does drab mean that you inspire people to kiss you?”

“Take your pants off,” Jonathan begged. “I want you to ride me, like this.”

“Umm-umm,” London agreed, slipping his pants off to shove them over the edge of the bed without ceremony.

While London was getting rid of his pants, Jonathan took his and his boxers off, hanging them both over the mahogany stand with a minimum of neatness. The brief separation gave a chance for both of them to look each other over again. Coming back together in the center of the bed, now on their knees, chests together, Jonathan ran his fingers through London’s wild blue hair. “You’re paler than you were,” he observed.

“The more I let go of my home, the more I become a man of your world,” London said. His slender fingers took a teasing hold of Jonathan’s nipples, twisted them gently. “I want to be a man of your world. Then you can marry me.”

“We must discuss that,” Jonathan said, voice thin, his thoughts much more centered where their bodies touched. “The intimacies of physical touch are making more prosaic thoughts less possible.”

“I don’t understand,” London said and moved lower with kisses whose trajectory were obviously meant for Jonathan’s hardened manhood. “But the intimacies of physical touch make me want to touch you more!”

“Yes, quite!” Jonathan managed as London nudged him over. “More!”

Jonathan spread his legs, letting the avalanche who was his lover have control. Laying there, naked before tea and waiting for the touch of another man, he knew London had left everything of his old world behind. He wanted very much to believe that London was always going to be with him, would always value him. Like no one Jonathan had ever imagined, found somewhere in the wilds of Asia, from a tribe that held strange ideas, London had more energy and curiosity about the modern world than maybe the entire university that had been Jonathan’s home before. Love filled him, glowed warm, made him feel that he must be as happy as London looked sometimes.

“Your smile is like light snow that swirls in the light,” London said. “Reach the oil?”

“Oh yes, of course,” Jonathan said. He scooted up in the bed a little to reach out and pull over a bottle of very nice olive oil. “Is this for rubbing your back?” he teased.

“Later.” London took the bottle, poured a bit in his palm, then handed it back. “Want something else now.”

“What,” Jonathan started, just getting the stopper back in the bottle when London’s hands encircled his penis, igniting every nerve a British man wasn’t supposed to have. He clenched his eyes shut. “Damn!”

London slid down around him, stealing whatever might have been left of his mind, sheathing his most private self in heat and pleasure.

“Oh certainly,” Jonathan gasped, making the words into a blaspheme, an expression of uncontrollable intensity, then softly rising from love and connection, “London!”

Touching, hands clasped, they moved together, pleasure building and cresting, sweetly braiding them into one person. With a possessive growl, Jonathan rolled them over, an arm around his slighter lover, and held him close as if he’d never let him go. Friction of movement caught London between them, carrying him up into the spiral of pleasure with Jonathan. London wrapped his legs around Jonathan’s waist, head tilted back as he moaned. His breath frosted the air around it, making little dancing rainbow crystals in the air.

“Jonathan,” he cried out; the rush of air disrupted the lingering crystals, surprisingly warm.

“Deeper!” Jonathan groaned, fingers tangled into London’s silky hair. “Fuck,” he swore softly, the word very intimate and loving, as his peak grabbed him. Deeply inside his love, he hid his face and held tight as the milk of life shot out of him in spasms. “Oh, London!”

London’s own release followed very quickly, with only a few strokes of Jonathan’s hand, and they curled there next to each other, the extra blanket over them for a bit. Jonathan combed his fingers through London’s just-past-shoulder-length hair. “You’ll never leave me, right?”

“I want to be here with you,” London promised. “This is my home now.”

“Being with you is my home too,” Jonathan agreed.

* * * *

Home and Christmas equate to turkeys and hams.

“You’re a doctor,” Dice said and stared at the pale, flaccid bird that was their turkey. “You take babies out, you can put stuffing in.”

“Idiot,” Dr. Black said before smacking Dice with the bubble end of the baster, which only managed to shoot white wine and melted butter back. “Ick!”

“Now, really,” Jonathan said, a finger in the now stained and tattered recipe book, “I don’t think that stuffing the turkey is completely mandatory. We could just leave it empty.”

“Now what man leaves such a cavity empty like that? You want the bird to die happy, don’t you?” Dice picked up an almond and popped it in his mouth.

“This bird is well and truly dead,” Black pronounced. “It’s going to be rotten before it gets cooked. Where’s London? Maybe he knows how they cooked it in his village.”

“I don’t really think ‘cooked’ would be the right description,” Jonathan said. He turned the page and squinted through his glasses at the slightly archaic French text. “What, exactly, is a caper?”

“Yeah, where is he, Jony?”

“He’s gone out on the back steps to talk to his family,” Jonathan said crossly.

“Like ancestor worship or something? I hear the Japanese do that.”

“Must be,” Dice said. “Will the turkey fall in on itself if we don’t stuff it?”

“I don’t think so,” Black said, dark eyes peering into the cavern. “The ribcage is intact, so I think that should hold it up.”

“It’s cold out there. Did Idiot Boy take a coat?”

“You know it’s not going to snow, don’t you?” Black said.

“Why is it so important that it blizzard?” Jonathan asked, closing the book
with a loud clap.

“Because Dice told Mr. Albright that he was out, avoiding his job, because he had to get things because there was going to be a blizzard. If there’s no blizzard, then Dice gets fired and his father is going to disown him.”

“Thanks! Thanks for bringing that blackness to the holiday. Mr. Albright hasn’t shown up to fire me yet, has he? He might forget what with that whiskey I got for him.”

“I doubt it,” Black said, arms folded, mouth tight. “What will you do?”

“Disreputable gambler in Beijing,” Dice said, looking up at the ceiling, “I’ll think of something. At least I won’t just be waiting for the old man to tell me how he really feels. Jonny, where are you going?”

“Hey, get a coat!”

Jonathan was out the door, though. The other two followed just as fast.

London stood in the middle of the yard, wearing only his pants, hair now much longer, flowing around him with a life of its own as it danced with small flurries of snow.

“London!” Jonathan called and ran across the yard, right into more fierce winds. “Don’t you do this!”

Turning, London smiled, but ice glittered over his cheeks, clung to the ends of his eye lashes. “But they can’t hear me. I have to go closer.”

“The hell you do,” Jonathan shouted against the wind, trying to force his way through.

“Stay back, Jonathan! They don’t like you,” London yelled back, skin much bluer now.

“I don’t like them either!” A strong gust of wind threw Jonathan back, landing him hard on his ass. “London!”

Strong arms caught Jonathan up to his feet, Black and Dice to either side of him.

“That is one hell of a ritual,” Dice said.

“He’s going to go away!” Jonathan cried. “He’s going to leave us so that he can make it snow for you.”

“Sod that,” Dice grumbled.

Together the three of them pressed forward against the swirling winds, until Jonathan drew close enough to lunge and grab hold of London, wrapping him in warm arms. “Stay with me!”

“I’m gonna come back,” London sulked, head resting on Jonathan’s shoulder.

Dr. Black draped a thick black coat over London’s bare back. “You’re freezing! You must be hypothermic. We should get him inside!”

“Damn fool,” Dice growled. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Making it snow so you don’t have to go away!”

“I won’t go away,” Dice promised. “Unless Jonathan kills me for costing him you, uh?”

“But you’ll get fired!”

“It won’t be the first time,” Dice said with a wink.

“Speaking of fired,” Dr. Black said meaningfully.

The wind and snow had abandoned them, but Mr. Albright strode forward purposefully, a look of satisfaction in his eyes.

“So I’ll take it like a man,” Dice said. He moved to stand between his friends and his soon-to-be former employer. “Merry Christmas, Mr. Albright!”

“Umn,” the old man said, holding out a telegram. “From your father.”

Dice’s hands shook as he reached for the folded sheet of paper.

My dearest son,
I always knew that you would find your place in the
world. I am deeply grateful that Asia has had such a
wonderful influence on you. Your mother and I send
our love. Merry Christmas, Emile!

Father and Mother

Dice read it over three times. “I don’t understand.”

“Frankly, it’s Christmas. Miracles happen. As he’s buying me a new Bentley and funding five more scholarships, I would be an ungrateful lout to discharge his son, however questionable the quality of his work may be.”

“You’re not firing me?” Dice said, blinking. “Why?”

“Probably has something to do with your spending spree. Merry Christmas, Misters Daily and Whitehall, Dr. Black.”

“Merry Christmas, sir,” they all chirped.

As soon as he was out of sight and hearing range, Dice turned on London. “I said you could buy anything you wanted on my father’s line of credit. What exactly did you buy?”

Still held in Jonathan’s arms, London recited, “Fifteen hams, one for each of the teachers, 193 scarves for all the students, new shirts for them all as well, and the carriage driver said that his horse was old and couldn’t keep working, so I bought him a new one, and the two horses seemed to like each other quiet a lot. I paid Xi Hua’s medical bills so she won’t worry anymore about her daughter. I bought shiny copper tea kettles for all the work staff at the school. The woman at the carving shop said that the yellow fat man would be a good gift to send to the Emperor and that there couldn’t be good Christmas unless the Emperor got nice

By that time they were just about back inside, Dice covering his face. “Anything else?”

“I bought Jonathan some shiny clear rocks to go in his cuffs and Dr. Black a long red dress.”

Dr. Black meeped like a frightened mouse. “Why on Earth?”

“Most women wear them,” London said. “I thought maybe if we weren’t working tonight, maybe you might like to wear that kind of clothing.”

“Well, Merry Christmas,” Dice said, surprise coloring his voice a little. “It’s just us.”

Dr. Black looked out the window. “I do believe it’s really going to snow. That’s amazing. How about stuffing that turkey now?”

“Are you a woman?” Jonathan asked, working on buttoning London’s shirt up. “Would it matter if I was?” Dr. Black challenged.

“Not at all,” Jonathan said. “We’re about as far from Britain as we’ll ever be. This can be a world as we choose it. Especially on Christmas.”

“Seems like a fair option to me,” Dice said, his smile encouraging.

“Fine. Then I’m a woman.” She crossed her arms. “But I’m a doctor first.”

“I think we’re all in good health, except for the turkey,” London said, face even paler, hardly looking blue at all.

“A toast then!” Dice opened the claret, poured it easily into flutes. “To Christmas and a world of our own!”

“To Christmas and a world of our own!” They all toasted, glasses clinking. Jonathan heard something as they all drank the toast. It was just a moment for him to glance at the window, to see eyes, narrow and jealous, teeth, so tiny like icicles. He shivered, sure completely that such a face had not been pressing hard against the glass of his kitchen window.

London took hold of his hand, and really, it was Christmas, and nothing else mattered.


I was a bit of a coward during the Bush Administration. I was afraid to speak my mind. Afraid that religion would be imposed on me.  Fear is a crushing thing, diminishing the spirit, innovation, hope, and growth.

I wonder how much that fear and control contributed to our current financial issues. Humans thrive with hope and opportunity. I'm way more of a socialist than a Republican, but people don't put in effort without the hope for reward.

And now I'm side tracked... God I love science!

So global warming is bad. I was talking to this bus driver the other day and he says to me, "Global warming could be natural."

And I replied, "Humans evolved here. We're natural. Of course global warming is natural. Extinction is natural too." *smile*

Brings to mind a line from a Bruce Campbell movie, "You had a case of terminal stupid and I've just cured you."

So.. back to global warming... and there is this guy, Nathan Myhvold! He's got this brilliant idea how to stop global warming!  A bit of geo engineering! So brilliant. So volcanoes explode. Yes, yes they do. Laki when Ben Franklin was alive and Mount Pinatubo exploded in 1991, they had a cooling effect on the planet. 

Nathan Myhvold has a way to do that without the exploding and falling rock!



It's still morning here :)

I am feeling like I'm going to go by Nick.  I wish I hadn't had to change my name before I was really ready to do it. I think I would have picked Nick.

I had an experience recently where some information that I won't have released about myself was released to a broader audience. It took a couple of days for this to really kick in for me, but I didn't like it. I really didn't like it. So I step back a little and think how much I want of public life anyway. There is something enticing about being a recluse. Crazy old writer guy, and a rich recluse. *laughs*

Well, I could do part of that. The rich seems to be out of my grasp.

This is our public square, isn't it? You are my fellow villagers.

No man is an island. Woot!

*temples fingers* Now, I'm thinking about being a street performer. I've always loved card manipulators. I don't know if I could get good at that. Maybe I should think about some other form of street performance. *considers*