Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Rivalries: Chapter Eleven, Part One

 Notes: Busy week, busy week, even though me and the fam are staying home together for the holiday. For those of you celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving, and please, please, please be safe.

Title: Rivalries: Chapter Eleven, Part One


Chapter Eleven, Part One


Charlie thought it would take a lot to surprise him these days, given the fuckery he’d lived through so far, but he still managed to be surprised right down to his core when he got a text the next morning at 5 a.m. from Johnny: Sorry, can’t make it today. That was it—not a word of explanation, just a quick, pithy apology and that was that.

Welp. Looked like he was on his own when it came to getting to school today. It was still early enough that he’d make it if he took the bus, but…

Everything okay? he texted back before getting out of bed and heading into the shower. He soaped up slow and careful, like he had to with the stitches still in, but the bruises were honestly feeling a lot better already, even after yesterday’s crater of a revelation. He felt…like he’d slept, really slept, without the zinging pangs of his knack’s untapped energy coursing down his nerves and keeping him awake. It was such a relief, he almost didn’t know what to do with himself. Even his morning erection, long vanished due to poor sleep and poorer dreams, had perked up today.

He ignored it as best he could, got out, dried off and impulsively checked his phone to see if Johnny had gotten back to him. Nothing. Shit. And here he’d thought the other man might be someone he could rely on. Someone he could…it didn’t matter.

He couldn’t stop thinking about it on the way to school, though. It was weird, going from having no close contact with anyone but his PT and being pretty okay with that to feeling weird just by being apart from Johnny, but that was where he was at. Hardly any time had passed at all since they’d come together again, and he was craving it. Was Charlie that starved for attention? “I need to get out more,” he muttered, even though he already knew he wasn’t going to. Get out in what? With whom? His nonexistent car, his nonexistent friends?

Pity party, table for one.

He folded up his petulance and hurt as the bus pulled in a block away from the school, grabbed his briefcase, and headed in to work.

Concentrating on his classes was easy—the kids might be little shits sometimes, but they were his to teach, and he was going to make sure they knew what they needed to whether they resented him for it or not. The seniors had had their first dueling session and were abuzz about it, more than happy to tell him about it and, in some cases, hammer home what he’d missed.

Honestly, it sounded pretty rote as far as Charlie was concerned. Face off—starting with similar knacks, for simplicity’s sake—and take slow, directed shots at each other, nothing to startle a knack out of alignment. Sure, it was just the first day, but still…they weren’t going to get far dueling, much less have an easier time of it in the military, which this was supposed to be preparing them for in the first place, without making it more interesting. There was something to be said for building confidence in the beginning, but there was also a lot to be said for working on specifics that would be good for the individual.

Mentioning that didn’t help, though. “Colonel Applegate is one of my dad’s friends,” said Willard, puffing out his chest importantly. Jesus, could this kid get any more self-important? “An actual colonel, not a sergeant like you were. He said my shield is one of the best he’s ever seen.”

Sure, mkay. “That good, huh?”

Willard scoffed. “Professional level, he said. Probably better than yours.”

“Yeah?” Charlie was about to do something unwise, something really dumb, but he’d already had it with today. “Okay, then. Move me backward.”

Willard had frowned while the rest of the class giggled and stared. “What?”

“Move my chair backward by, oh, no more than a foot. That’ll take a decent shield. You don’t have to do it,” he added. “Technically I’m not allowed to offer my input when it comes to practical demonstrations, but—”

“I can do it!” Willard shot out of his chair and held his hands out in the classic diamond pattern. Charlie, meanwhile, tapped into his knack with his right knee and left hand and prayed that he wasn’t about to blast his own ass into the air.

“Go ahead,” he said. Willard concentrated, gathering his knack, and then—

It sizzled out of his hands like a wave of blue lightning, hitting the desk and blowing the papers on it all over the front of the classroom.

It didn’t move the desk, the chair, or Charlie, though. His stasis shield had held. Stasis shields were weak shields that could hold you in place for a while—maybe long enough to hang onto a ceiling if you needed to sneak into a compound—but they only worked if you were completely still. He hadn’t cast one in over a year. Still…not bad.

“Woops.” He looked at the rain of papers, then out at the rest of the class. “No laughing,” he warned. “Unless you want to try your knack out too.” Some of them shifted in their seats, considering, but no one took him up on it. “Good.”

He lingered after class because why not, his bus wasn’t going to come for another forty-five minutes, and gradually his petty satisfaction at making a shield trick work again faded as he thought of Johnny. After ten minutes of staring at his phone wondering if he dared try calling him, Charlie pushed back his chair and stood up. He was done with this, he’d go walk around until the bus—

“Hey, Charlie!” Debra tucked her head around the corner of his classroom door. “Glad I caught you today. Any word on a source for equipment?”

“Yeah, I’ve put out some feelers,” he said, then did a double-take. “How did you know Principal Cross turned down using the stuff here?”

“Text from Johnny—Mr. Gibilisco, you’ve met him, yeah? He told me not to worry, but…” She shrugged. “It’s what I do.”

“He texted you? When?”

“Last night. Also let me know he wasn’t going to be in today.” Debra shook her head. “Damn treatments he has to get. They keep him going, but the attacks are almost completely random.”

Treatment? Attacks? “What’s wrong with him?” Charlie not-quite-demanded.

“Not sure. It’s been going on ever since he came to work at Stheno.” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Why do you care? Do you know him?”

“Yeah, some. We…we went to Stheno together. We were…friends.” Not back then, not really, and he wasn’t sure what they were now, but friends worked as well as anything.

“And he didn’t have this problem back then?”

Charlie shook his head. He hadn’t, but—shit. Had Charlie done this to him, the time he knocked him into the hospital? Had he damaged him permanently in some way?

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. He’ll probably be back tomorrow, unless it was a really bad one.” She sighed, then nodded. “See you later, Charlie.”

“Bye.” He didn’t linger in his room any more. His feet carried him, not to the bus stop, but in the opposite direction toward the little market at the corner a mile away.

It couldn’t be that difficult to find out where Johnny lived without calling, could it? No wonder he’d been terse—he was probably in the hospital. Shit. If he really was back home by this evening, though…

Well, then Charlie could make sure he was comfortable. That was all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Rivalries: Chapter Ten, Part Two

 Notes: One more from Johnny, and then next time--SOME DRAMA! SOME ROMANCE! Well, not quite, but the beginnings of romance. About damn time, too ;)

Title: Rivalries Chapter Ten, Part Two


Chapter Ten, Part Two




An hour later Johnny was sitting in a chair in the living room with a fresh cup of coffee, one of the muffins that he’d given to Charlie earlier in the week, and a noteworthy view of his freshly-showered companion sitting back on his couch and scrolling through his phone with an intent look on his face. “I’ve still got a lot of friends in the service, but not everybody is going to have the connections we need.”

“What kind of connections are those, exactly?” Johnny asked, almost as interested by getting a glimpse into Charlie’s life as he was in finding someone who could help the Stheno kids.

“When my old unit disbanded, people scattered across the service. I was the only one who had to leave, but more than half of them went into non-combat positions—training, experimentation, that sort of thing.”

Oh, Johnny had more than enough experience with “that sort of thing.” He’d already considered and discarded the idea of asking the experts he worked with for some of the testing equipment he used whenever he went to the “doctor.” It wasn’t that they would reject him outright—it was more than he was absolutely certain that they’d take the price of any request for help out of him in terms of more tests, always more tests, and Johnny was barely able to cope with everything they put him through each month as it stood now. He’d do a lot for his kids, almost anything, but he’d try every other avenue he could think of before he offered up more of himself to professional guinea-pig pokers.

All of this went through his head fast enough that Charlie didn’t seem to notice the slight pause before Johnny said, “So who’s at the top of the list?”

“I’m thinking Jem.” Charlie shook his head. “I mean Lisa Jemison. She was a Delta Force sniper for five years, army sniper for twelve years before that.”

“Ooh, what was her knack?” The army docs had pushed Johnny to experiment with a dozen different knacks when it came to enhancing his ability to see—and hit—things at long distances. Farsight was the best, hands down, but he’d also had some very interesting results with echolocation and other sonar-type knacks. Not gonna lie, standing in that completely darkened lab and seeing things appear in his mind had been a pure superhero moment for him. It had made him feel that hopefully, finally, his strange ability might be party to something that would actually make life better for people instead of boxing them further in.

“Farsight.” Yep, no surprises there. “She’s a drill instructor now—at the same camp I trained at, funny enough. Fort Abenard, it’s in upstate New York.”

“Not so far away,” Johnny said judiciously. “You think she’s got spare equipment, maybe?”

Charlie’s mouth quirked up. “The army would say there’s no such thing as spare equipment, but any decent supply sergeant knows that for the right price, lots of things can get lost in the shuffle.” He stared at his phone contemplatively. “There’s a big market for military equipment in the civilian world—mostly for police departments—and there’s a big black market to go along with that. I’m not happy I might have to play into that system, but…”

“The kids don’t even need that much equipment,” Johnny promised rapidly. “There are only a dozen or so seniors who even want to bother with dueling skills among the Stheno students, and they can trade off. Just, even just four helmets, some dampener vests, a few of the gravity imbuers would be enough.”

“Yeah.” Charlie blew out a breath. “Yeah, okay. I’ll—” All of a sudden his phone was ringing. “What the—oh shit!” He immediately answered the phone. “Huda! Yes, I’m here—no, it’s fine, I’m sorry I wasn’t on my computer, a minor emergency came up but—no. Is he okay? Yeah, I can—let me open it up.” Charlie tucked the phone in between his head and shoulder and reached for his laptop, then paused and looked at me. His expression was agonized, somewhere between “I don’t want to kick you out but I have to” and “Oh my fuck, leave right now.”

Johnny stood up and grabbed his coat. This was none of his business, and Charlie clearly didn’t want it to be either. “I’ll pick you up in the morning,” he mouthed, and Charlie nodded with relief. Right before Johnny closed the door behind him, he heard Charlie say, “Hey buddy! Yeah, I’m so sorry I’m late, I missed you too. How was your day?”

That’s the sort of call someone has with their kid. Does he have an ex? When would Charlie have had the time to be married, in all his covertedness and missioning and martial shieldiness?

Don’t be mean. After all, with a few slightly different decisions you could have had a part in all that military bullshit too. It had been very tempting. Johnny hadn’t figured his knack out until really late—he’d been halfway through college by then, and on the verge of losing his mind from the stress of too many credit hours and too little sleep before he saw someone else using a memory knack and, somehow, picked it up and managed to use it. He’d gone to register himself, feeling proud, and a day later the military had come knocking. Or, really, the CIA, but they came under the guise of the military.

We’ll pay off all your student loans. We’ll cover your graduate study fees. We’ll give you a living stipend and a guaranteed job when you’re done with school at a very competitive salary, as long as you give us your time, your mind, your heart. Your knack. Your soul.

Drowning in student debt, it had been tempting. So tempting. But Johnny had refused, and continued to refuse until he’d caught a knack he couldn’t get rid of, one that a mind that hadn’t grown up with it couldn’t properly comprehend, and it had almost driven him insane. He’d caved then, but hired a good lawyer before he made any deals with scientists who were sniffing at his trail like wolves after a deer.

They take so much already. Look at Charlie. Hell, look at poor Roland.

They’re not getting any more from me. Not even for the kids. If Charlie’s deal fell through, they’d find another way. They’d have to.

Please, please. Don’t fall through.

Friday, November 13, 2020

New serial novel Triumvirate!


 Guess who's got a serial novel being published on the Radish Fiction app one delicious chapter at a time? This girl! Triumvirate is an (eventual) m/m/m fantasy romance with magic, shapeshifters, assassins, and more intrigue than you can shake a stick at. You can read the first three chapters for free on the app :) https://radishfiction.com/

 One wedding. Two grooms. Three lovers, preparing to fight for themselves, and their kingdoms. 

 Sy Parador, adopted prince of the tiny country of Bekkon, is getting married. He doesn’t want to. Quite frankly, he’d rather walk over hot coals—he’s got a spell for that—than marry Petur Alloui, the powerful brother of the queen of neighboring Riyale. Petur is a powerful shapeshifter, and mages like Sy and shifters like Petur have a long and violent history. With the Harrier countries making alliances that foreshadow war, though, they have little choice. If it was just that, Sy might see the bright side to marrying Petur, but the prince is already as good as married to his renegade Harrier lover, Deyvid. Sy wants love, but how can he possibly fit in with this pair? 

Petur has a lot of roles to fulfill already. To say he’s displeased when his sister announces he’s marrying the spare heir of their tiny neighbor Bekkon is an understatement. Someone is trying to kill Petur, and he doesn’t need a fumbling bystander getting in the way and possibly getting hurt, or worse. He’ll marry the man—he has to—but he doesn’t have to like it. He certainly doesn’t expect to enjoy it, but Sy—and Deyvid, to his surprise—might just prove him wrong. 

Deyvid Clearyeyes is more than just human—he’s a gifted warrior who’s immune to magic. He and Petur have been together for nearly a decade of relative peace. Now war threatens, Petur is in trouble, and Deyvid might be the only one to see the bright side of this marriage. A powerful mage like Sy could help protect Petur against threats Deyvid can’t fight off alone. He doesn’t count on coming to like Sy—even love him—himself. He certainly doesn’t count on Sy loving him back. Weddings, spells, assassins, and intrigue—Triumvirate is an erotic romance story told from the perspectives of three very different men learning to love and fight for each other, saving their homelands in the bargain.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Rivalries: Chapter Ten, Part One

 Notes: We're back to the story! The world is still a shitshow, but at least I'm not glued to Twitter. Enjoy some gents making plans ;)

Title: Rivalries: Chapter Ten, Part One


Chapter Ten, Part One



Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god… Johnny sprinted for the baseball field, his mind going a hundred times faster than his body. In a fucking hole in the ground, what the hell did that even mean? How had Charlie ended up in a hole? Why couldn’t he stand?

Johnny swiped through the list of knacks he continually updated in his mind before chancing on a useful one. Speed—minor speed, more like something you’d get as a boost in a video game than a genuinely useful knack, it let him go faster for ten seconds or so before the price it enacted came due. It was one of his least-favorite knacks because it always left him gasping, but screw it, he was going for it today. He focused, took a deeper breath than his already gasping lungs wanted to, then activated the knack and—

Zoomed for the next ten seconds, his stride so long that his feet barely seemed to hit the ground and shit, if he wasn’t careful he was going to go right past the baseball field and have to backtrack and if Charlie was watching, that would mean having some explaining to do and he did not want to—

The knack exhausted itself five feet from the edge of the enormous hole where home plate used to be. Johnny stumbled to a stop, bent over his aching legs and desperate for air. He forced himself to walk the rest of the way to the hole, though, looked over the edge, and—

Jesus Christ. There was Charlie, lying on his back and grinning like he’d just won the lottery. He was filthy too, covered in dirt and grass, and wasn’t that going to be a delight to load into Johnny’s car, but his grin was so genuine that Johnny couldn’t help but grin back between gasps.

“What…the…fuck?” he managed, and then Charlie was laughing like he had over the phone and it wasn’t manic or desperate or, god forbid, frightened, it was a sound of pure joy.

“Yes, exactly,” he said, pointing his hand at Johnny. “What the fuck, I know, that’s what I’ve been saying since this happened.”

“What…did happen?”

Charlie’s eyes closed, and for a second he looked almost beatific. Filthy, but beatific. “I made a shield.”

“You made a…” Johnny looked at the scene in a whole new light. He’d been told this sort of thing could happen when he was learning to make his own shields, and had come close a few times, but he’d never managed this level of destruction. “Oh, wow. First time in a long time, huh?”


“Made quite the, um, the bang, I guess.”

“It definitely did.” Charlie sat upright with a groan. “Don’t go making any refractory period jokes.”

“Me?” Johnny raised his hands. “No, nope, none of that juvenile behavior from me! Nothing about taking yourself in hand at last, or—actually, huh.” Now it was his turn to smile. “You cast a shield with just one hand? That’s great!”

“Not…exactly.” Charlie shrugged. “I was kneeling at the time.”

“So you cast a shield through your…legs?”

“More like my knee and my hand.” He described the scene, and all Johnny could think was What set you off, buddy?

Now wasn’t the time, though. “That’s so cool. Here.” He held out a hand, and after a second Charlie took it and let Johnny pull him out of the hole. “I’m not sure of the practical applications of dropping a knee every time you want to make a shield, but it’s still cool.”

“It’s better than nothing,” Charlie agreed, brushing some dirt out of his hair. By unspoken agreement, they moved over closer to the bleachers and Johnny handed over his bottle of water. Charlie used it on his face, then stripped off his shirt, turned it inside out, and put a little more on the cloth before wiping at his neck. Johnny forgot to breathe for a moment. Charlie had done it so casually, clearly not thinking about the picture he painted, a beautiful man covered in fresh bruises and old shrapnel scars. The scars sliced across his torso and back, a rough red cascade of them centered around his right shoulder. Johnny wondered if it still hurt much. He wondered if Charlie ever got massages, and if so…

Johnny cleared his throat, trying to get back on track, get the conversation going so Charlie wouldn’t realize he’d been leering like a perv. It was too late, though—Charlie had seen him staring, and his smile dropped away as his shoulders hunched. Shit, no, he’d gotten the wrong impression—the wrong wrong impression, damn it, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. “I can—I have a jacket in my classroom, let me—”

“You can have mine. What made you cast the shield?” Johnny took his jacket off, resolutely keeping his eyes on Charlie’s face. He wasn’t going to make this any more awkward than he already had, god damn it.

“Um.” Charlie ducked his head as he maneuvered his way into the jacket. “Frustration with Principal Cross, actually.”

“That seems totally understandable. Tell me more while we head back to the car.” They’d already pushed their luck by staying at the scene of the crime, so to speak, for so long without someone coming by.

Charlie explained, and by the end of it Johnny was seeing red. “Are you…she can’t…funding priorities that were an issue, what, two decades ago, and now all of a sudden she’s decided it matters? What the fuck?”

“I know.”

“That’s not right! Euryale kids don’t even use that equipment, they will probably never use it again because no one in their right mind who comes here to teach dueling is going to show up short on gear. So Stheno kids have to suffer because of it?” Johnny twisted the key in the ignition so hard he was afraid he’d break it off, then rammed the shift into drive. “That’s bullshit.”

“I know.”

“And we can’t go back into Stheno high for another month, minimum, due to structural damage. I can’t even sneak in there, they’ve got all kinds of fancy safeguards set up, so I can’t retrieve our own gear. Shit. Shit.” He pressed too hard on the gas and the car jerked forward.

“I know. It’s bullshit, but Johnny…” A warm hand on his shoulder jolted Johnny out of his rage rant. “Let’s not get into another accident, okay?”

“Sorry. Right. Sorry.” He stopped at the parking lot entrance and took a deep breath. “But we can’t let this stand, you get that, right? The kids need to be able to practice, this is make or break for some of them when it comes to getting into the right branch of the military or getting the attention of a talent scout.”

“I know.” Charlie looked thoughtful. “I actually think I’ve got an idea for that.”

“Let me help.”

Charlie half-smiled. “Don’t you have other things to do tonight than solve my problems?”

“These are my kids, their problems are my problems.”

The smile became a full one. “Okay, then. Let’s head to my place and I’ll put you to work.”