Sharps

January 27, 2024

Corbin watches his brother undress with a peculiar mix of anticipation and contentment. While seeing Carson’s scars — accumulated over years of encounters just like this one — doesn’t excite him per se, they feel inviting, somehow. Like he’s left little pieces of himself behind as darker lines on the younger man’s skin. He reaches out to touch them and Carson melts into his arms, at least as eager as he is, for reasons that are nothing alike.

Kissing Carson isn’t like kissing his girlfriend. Never has been. It’s like his younger brother wants to drink him up. He lets himself be pulled into it, as much as he can manage, to make Carson happy. It’s hard to ignore that the chest he’s running his fingers over is firm, flat.

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Any Way You Slice It

January 21, 2024

Carson is sitting cross-legged on the floor of the bedroom-slash-living-area of his small apartment, back against the side of his bed, Princess Buttercup lounging on his lap and across his shoulders. When he sat down, it was to watch the latest episode of an ink reality show, but it’s long since ended and he’s at best paying token attention to the rerun that’s now on. Instead, most of his focus is on his snake, his face relaxed into a fond smile as he traces her yellow-and-caramel pattern with his eyes. He knows he will have to get up and dress up eventually, but for now he’s content.

A knock on the door between the converted garage he lives in and the main house breaks him out of his reverie. “Hey, Cars!” (more…)

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Head

January 4, 2024

The text message couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. Konah is “worried” about him again, which means they’re probably going to end up butting heads. Which means Roxeen will end up saying something that he’ll have to apologize for later. Sucking dick is a good excuse to avoid that confrontation altogether.

It’s not that he has a problem standing up for himself. More that he has a problem knowing when to stop, and Konah is a nice guy. A good roommate. He just sometimes worries about things that don’t warrant concern.

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Apocalypse

May 7, 2022

He was tall, trim, athletic, with a face that could put boyband idols to shame and a smile that made him that much more attractive. Like a boyband idol he remained perpetually single, yet managed to make the admirers that approached him feel special. Somehow he found time for both sports (no doubt there was an athletic scholarship in that boy’s future) and agility training with his dog. A rescue, of course, because of course he had to be that fucking perfect.

She was taller than she looked, always a little bit hunched over, uncoordinated as a newborn foal, struggling with her weight and skin that stubbornly kept looking like she’d spent too much time in the sun, red and dry and peeling. Her greatest accomplishment was scoring third place in a school spelling bee in fourth grade, and her greatest source of embarrassment the fact that her mother still would not take the trophy off the mantelpiece.

Then the apocalypse — or whatever it was — happened. The world went silent, and the few humans that remained thought they were alone.

When they met after the apocalypse, he hadn’t had a warm meal in weeks. Even with matches, it’s not easy to make a cooking fire if you don’t know how. It was just as well that he’d stopped trying before he managed to cause a house fire — or worse. He was cold, running on too little sleep, and looked it. She invited him and his dog to share her fire out of pity.

He was athletic, handsome, and — in this new world — helpless as a newborn foal.

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Saved by Grace

October 10, 2021

They’re both what can only charitably be described as “tipsy” – she can smell the alcohol on his breath, and is under no illusion that hers is any different. He smells of beer and fresh sweat and a bit of something else that makes her think of campfires. His skin radiates heat as she unbuttons his shirt, still damp with perspiration from dancing. He grins at her, one hand at her waist and the other grabbing her chin, only slightly awkwardly, to plant a kiss square on her lips. She finishes undoing the last button and slides the shirt down his shoulders, baring his chest. He has the body of a laborer, not a desk worker nor a gym rat, and he plants a kiss on the top of her head as she runs her hand through the dark blond curls covering his chest.

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The Fall of Judas: Sloth

December 31, 2019

He told himself the sin was not his, as he followed a man with a wedding ring on his finger from the club where he’d ventured in awkward desperation. It was not he who had made a promise to God to remain faithful to another as long as they both should live. Surely, when the promise was not his, the burden of breaking it was not his to bear, either.

He knew the truth, of course. And if he knew, so did God. He simply couldn’t bring himself to care, anymore. He needed to eat. He needed textbooks and notebooks and pens and toiletries. If his scholarship wouldn’t cover them – it didn’t – he had to find the funds elsewhere. Somewhere deep down, he still cared about his grades, so he still studied. He knew his only source of income depended on his ability to catch the eyes of strangers, and so he still kept himself as well groomed as his tight budget allowed. He knew that his body needed fuel for all of those things, and so he ate.

But he didn’t care. He went through the motions a shell, told himself that no one noticed, and took risks he wouldn’t have some months prior, consequences be damned. On the occasion that he passed a church or a chapel, he felt a sting of guilt, and carefully pushed it into a dark corner of his mind. It just wasn’t enough to give him pause, anymore. Not after he’d met a man who might as well have been the Devil himself.

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Mothership

October 25, 2013

On the surface, there was little to distinguish the ship from the ones docked to her right and left. They might practically all vary in make and model, something commonly seen in the temporary docking of larger stations, but they all had sturdy metal hulls, most of them with some blemishes after close encounters with this or that free-floating desbris. None of the ships in this section were flashy, high-ticket rigs; anyone who had the money and the inclination to spend it on impressing people would pay extra for a better docking spot.

A casual visitor invited into the ship might start to realize that she was something else, led to that conclusion by glimpses of transparent tubes, filled with softly glowing liquid, organically-shaped capillaries joining and forming veins, converging into larger vessels as they approached the ship’s heart. But a casual visitor wouldn’t be invited to the bridge, this most vulnerable section of the deceptively-normal-looking ship.

Her crew knew her for what she was, and even among them, only a select few truly knew her. She wasn’t simply circuitry and metal, this ship, transcending the state of being a simple machine not as the advanced AI systems installed in top-of-the-line vessels did, but like those fitted with prostethics after violence or ill fortune had taken their flesh. Yet this, too, was a superficial resemblance, for they had been born flesh and blood. She was their opposite, a machine that had been given life, rather than flesh and soul that had been given new, mechanical strength.

A man approached the docked ship with the hidden secret, Captain’s insignia on his jacket, a quickly-schooled smirk playing with one corner of his mouth. A hatch sighed open, and he stepped inside, the smirk returning as the hatch closed behind him and his features blurred, the uniform becoming ill-fitting as his body changed. A faint line glowed in the floor, and, pulling out a small, concealed pulse stunner, the intruder followed it.

Laughter bubbled, bright as a child’s, through the ship’s strange tubing, as the stranger followed the line marking an emergency evacuation route backwards, closer to the heart of the ship. He didn’t take much notice of the sound, figuring it part of some ambience package that had been included by an upselling dealer when the vessel was new.

As another pair of doors whispered open, he readjusted his features to fit his assumed role, and found himself face-to-muzzle with a half-dozen energy weapons easily dwarfing his own compact model, wielded by as many disheveled, incompletely-dressed spacefarers, looking suspiciously like they had still been sleeping when he’d first boarded their vessel.

“Stand down!” he ordered in their superior’s voice, to absolutely no effect.

“Did you really think,” purred a petite, silky-furred feline woman from behind the wall of nude and half-nude defenders, “the Star Siren wouldn’t know her own Captain?” She came closer, her black coat clinging for a moment to her fellows with the static from their charged weapons as she passed between them. “If I were you, I’d tell me where to find him.”

He spent just a moment too long searching for an answer. A vice grip around his wrist sent his stunner, now seeming pathetically small, clattering harmless to the floor and caused his fingers to spasm painfully.

“Do you reckon,” the woman asked over her shoulder, grinding tendon against bone with her deceptively delicate hand, “station security strictly wants this scumbag in one piece?”

At that point, self-preservation won out.

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Criminal Carpooling

August 17, 2012

The worst part of the job in the skyrise on the island had always been the commute. Nobody with less than a five-figure salary could afford a decent place to live on the island, and if you had that five-figure salary, or were willing to settle for a cleaning closet, or both, it was still a toss-up whether you’d find a flat, anyway. The skyrail was always crowded, and John was pretty sure homeless people slept, or eliminated, or slept in their own urine, in the skyrail cars, anyway. So he’d bought a nice black car – not can-afford-to-live-on-the-island nice, but nice enough there was no shame in taking good care of it. And at least he had bought it new. That had to count for something, right?

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Collateral Trauma

August 3, 2012

There was a weight, like an invisible heavy black blanket, dampening the mood in the cozy booth at the back of the café. The startling blue eyes of one of the two people at the table, a seal-point shorthair cat, were fixed on the steaming mug clutched in both her hands. Her fingers flexed slightly in time with her breaths, claws extending and retracting with each such small movement, the sharp tips tapping the glazed-black china. Her companion, a chocolate-black pony with snowflake-like dapples, whose neck and face were half hidden under a shaggy cloud of silver-white mane, tentatively reached across the table and brushed the hard, hoof-like tips of his fingers against the back of her hand.

She jerked back, some of her hot mocha sloshing over the edge of her cup, and the pony hastily withdrew his hand.

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Prize Plumage

July 20, 2012

This #FridayFlash fic was written as part of a prompt call themed around saws, idioms and proverbs; inspired by prompts by Shurhaian: “Don’t count your eggs before they’re laid” and “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush”

Rik was struck by the hypocrisy of the family members crowding into the stands, and it left a bad taste in his mouth. He’d overheard Aunt Tess crowing about her nephew whose animal was surely going to win the Grand Championship, and he’d tried to explain that these things were never to be taken for granted. He was happy to even be here, to have qualified for the most prestigious show in the country, and it grated on him that they had to set their sights higher.

“The harder they fall…” he muttered to himself, adjusting the almost jewelry-thin straps of the headcollar his prize stud wore. He didn’t wish himself failure, not exactly. He wanted to win – he wouldn’t have been here at all if he didn’t. But Aunt Tess, especially, wouldn’t stop her crowing until she saw disappointment.

When he’d started, all those years ago, she’d been singing a different tune. He was throwing away his life, money, and who knew what else, trying to compete with people who’d been at it decades longer than he. They’d all been singing that tune, in fact, every single family member sitting up there, waiting for him to enter the show ring with the fruits of his labors. Now that he’d beat out some of those longer-established competitors in the smaller shows required for qualification, of course they’d claim they’d believed in him all along.

They always did.

The animal beside him was a work of art. A narrow, wedge-shaped head ending in a wicked beak. Dark, piercing eyes, watching the surroundings alertly, but without any sign of alarm. Slick, silky feathers in sunburst shades of gold, red, and orange, growing longer down the creature’s nobly curved neck, so that the feathers underneath its deep chest almost brushed the floor. Black fur covering all four broad paws, and all of its hindquarters aside from its back, where the feathers extended into a train that would make any mere peacock hide in shame. Down that train the colors of the beast shifted, from yellow to green, and then at the very tips, a rich gemstone blue, and the gryphon’s wingtips had similar dramatic coloring.

Yes, Rik had succeeded in what he’d set out to do, and there’d be no shame in losing out to one of the other show animals that would enter the ring with him, no matter how many hours of oiling had gone into making sure those feathers lay just so and shone as much as they could possibly do under the bright lights.

Finally, they were called in, and he made a point of not glancing up towards the stands as he entered the ring and took his position, the gryphon he’d raised from the egg obediently taking position next to him with the lead slack. Further down the line, he could hear another one behave a little less exemplary, and clicked his tongue to remind his own beast of where its attention should be right now.

The judges studied each animal in turn with eyes practised to see through the layers of feathers and read the shape of the body beneath. One by one, the gryphons were approached, their beaks opened to inspect their teeth, their paws lifted, and their wings pulled open. No detail was too minuscule for the scrutiny of the panel that would, eventually, pick their Champion.

One black-red-and-yellow beast was sent out when it ruffled up its feathers and hissed at an approaching judge. Many gryphons had a hard time accepting the black desert dogfolk, but it was a flaw that couldn’t be accepted in a Champion, especially not when the dogfolk was one of the judges.

They were trotting the gryphons around the ring when some would-be funny-guy in the audience launched a spitball at the silver-white, blue-barred animal behind Rik and his tropical-bright stud, and from there, it all devolved into chaos.

When the dust settled and he got his breath back, Rik was lying on his back on the floor, his gryphon’s long chest feathers tickling his face with every panting breath it drew. He nudged one foreleg with his hand, and got the stud to back up, sitting up with a groan to survey the damage.

No blood stained the sunburst-and-black gryphon’s beak – so it hadn’t attacked, good – but what remained of its tail, now fanned in alarm and warning, was in a sorry state, and it seemed like another animal had managed to get a mouthful of feathers off its shoulders. With a croon, the animal lowered its head and gently nudged his chest, and he gave it a stroke before seizing a handful of feathers to let it help him back on his feet.

The confusion didn’t, of course, prevent the judges from picking out their Grand Champion. With most of his gryphon’s beautiful plumage being blown across the shown ring in the slight draft from the doorway, Rik didn’t need to hear the name being called out to know the title had slipped between his fingers. He stood stoically with his gryphon at his side, waiting for the formal announcement in the spirit of good sportsmanship. He had, indeed, not won, and he was fine with that.

“Before we close this year’s National Gryphon Exhibit,” the announcer spoke, “the judges would like to address you all.”

The dogfolk judge who’d sent out that black gryphon for hissing at him stepped up, spent a moment adjusting the microphone, and then looked straight at Rik. “What we would like to say to you, breeders and spectators alike, is unthinkable. Yet this year, the unthinkable has become the truth. We have named one Grand Champion already, and while the prize is well deserved, we all agree that another animal is the one we will remember above all. For the first time in the history of the National Gryphon Exhibit, the panel of judges have unimously decided to award an extra honorary prize.

“Rik Selasen, please come forward.”

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