Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chapter 49

That Saturday, the two men had been buried and most of the people in town had shown up to offer the families their condolences.  TechCorp NY, the company that Angelo's father worked for, had paid the burial expenses, caskets, funerals, hearses and limousines for the families, so some of the students and parents who showed up for the meeting felt that they, the families, had been more than compensated.


Darren St. Martin, one of the students, got up and reminded the audience that while the funerals had been paid for, there was still the matter of widows with young children to consider.  Mrs.  Molina had the new baby and two other children, ages five and three, and would need help until she could find a job and a reliable baby sitter.  Mrs. Scheffield also had two young children and worked part time but had counted on her husband to be home nights so that she could work at her job as a waitress, which, even including tips, was not going to make up the loss of her husband's income.


Many of the people in attendance applauded. Some held out, refusing to be convinced.  It was at this time that Angelo was asked to present his ideas.


"I'd like to add to Darren's comments," Angelo said, trying to remain brave in front of so many people,  "That it's not just taking care of the children, but helping to pay their bills until they can get on their feet."


"One of my ideas had been for the students who like kids to offer to baby sit and then donate their fees to the project, but now I'm also wondering if there are any folks out there willing to baby sit for free while Mrs. Molina looks for a job, and if there are any adults out there who have jobs open where they work where they can refer her."  he said, licking his lips nervously and wondering if there were going to be cries of protest at his first idea.  No one spoke.  He could see that people were really considering his words so he continued.


"Some of my ideas are run of the mill, some of them, some might consider funny although a rather unpleasant word was used for one of them in jest, but we have to remember that these ideas are for a good cause, and are meant in the spirit of fun, not mean spiritedness.  All right?"


"What have you got for us, young man?"  Mrs. Haver, one of the board members, asked kindly.



"Well, there are the usual bake sales and lemonade stands.  I wrote out copies for all of you with the prices I thought people would find affordable and reasonable, such as cookies for five cents and brownies for ten.  Whole batches of brownies or whole cakes for a dollar.  Lemonade would be five cents a glass except for the special lemonade my mom makes with strawberries or raspberries in it, which, while it might sound strange tastes really good.  We could charge ten cents for a glass of the specialty lemonade."


Again, hearing no immediate protests he continued down his list.  It wasn't until he got to the idea that the students loved that the adults protested.


"That's extortion!"  or,  "That's blackmail!"  or,  "And who gets to clean it up afterward!?"



Angelo tried to smile.  He'd known that this one was going to be a harder sell but he'd already spoken to the football team, who had, with Coach Young's permission, been more than willing not only to do the deed but to do the clean up afterward.


"Well," he agreed, "Yes, it could be thought of that way, but remember it's for a good cause, and the cost for either service isn't that high."


"So if I paid for Burt's house to be... treated, he'd be warned and able to pay to avoid it?"  asked one man, with wide grin.


"You'd receive the same consideration, Mr. Greene, in case Mr. Carlton decided to ask us to TP
your house."  Angelo laughed, which got the audience laughing as well.


"Where do you plan to get all that toilet paper?"  asked one interested parent. 


"A... place... that wishes to remain nameless... has offered to donate as much as would be needed, but the hope is that people would be willing to pay the... fee... to protect their house from being TP'd which would make the offer of the donation unnecessary."  Angelo grinned.


"What other ideas do you have?"  asked Mr. Peters, another of the board members.


"Lots, sir.  Donation jars in each classroom.  The class that collects the most money gets a School Sanctioned Hooky Day."  The announcement of that idea was met with cheers from the student population.  "We already talked to Mr. Cobrane and Mr. Barnes about the idea and they said it was up to you, so please, consider it?" Angelo asked politely.


"A bunch of us have already approached businesses in town about this next idea, ladies and gentlemen,"  Angelo continued, hoping to follow the apparently unpopular idea with a more acceptable one.  "One is that they will match whatever we raise, and some have donated items in lieu of matching donations."


"The sporting goods store has agreed to donate darts, and Kregees has agreed to donate two hundred bags of balloons.  Georges' Barber shop, the A&W, Grammarcy's and several other places have offered coupons for free or discounted services.  We would put the coupons in the ballons, blow them up and mount them.  We'd sell five darts for twenty five cents and people would throw the darts at the balloons and win which ever prize or service that was printed on the coupon."


That was met with applause and Angelo took a breath to calm himself.  He'd never spoken to an audience before but the more he did it the easier he found it.


"One idea that was brought to me by Mr. Cobrane was a talent show.  We would charge ten cents for students and twenty five cents for adults, and volunteers would put on a variety show.  Mr. Cobrane says he knows several clowns in the school who would be worth the money to see."


The audience laughed heartily at that and Mr. Cobrane smiled and bowed genteelly toward the people who turned and saluted him.


Angelo went down the list, hearing no more complaints or protests from the audience or the school board, even when he suggested allowing students to wear inoffensive tee shirts to school for a week provided they paid ten cents per day and didn't violate any other school rules with them.


There were ten more ideas which Angelo had either thought of or had been given to him, and he credited each person with their idea


The only other idea he didn't present to the audience but which every student in the school knew about and looked forward to was 'the invasion of the Garden Gnomes'.  


Morkey's, the store which had anonymously offered the donation of the toilet paper, had also donated the stock of Garden Gnomes which hadn't sold the year before.


The students would, sometime during the evening hours, leave the Gnomes on a lawn with a number to call for their removal, for a fee. The fee would be lowered if the person calling gave the address of another lawn which would be happy to host a party of Gnomes.


**********************************************************************************************************
NOTES

Other ideas for fund raisers:

car wash   .25 cars, .50 pick ups,  1.00 for large vehicles (No 16 - 18 wheelers)

donate portion of birthday money or allowance

offer to babysit and donate earnings

Garden Gnome invasion - A large number of garden gnomes will be left on someone's lawn,
they will have to pay for removal, and if they want the gnomes 'relocated' to a different
neighbor's house, that will cost a little extra.
(Make sure it's a house where they don't *like* garden gnomes or might not get them back.)

Communal tag sale where everyone donates something for sale

Silent bidding - tables/chairs, donated crafted items

Tee Shirt Day - anyone wanting to wear a tee shirt must pay .25 per day (with restrictions)

Halloween in September - door to door wearing Halloween costumes and asking for pennies, nickles or dimes instead of 'candy'

Arrest and Bail - Pay to have someone arrested and then bail must be raised.

Sale of better art projects from Mrs. Christoff's classes

Cook Book - collection of favorite recipes made into booklets and sold,  2.00

woven bracelets and necklaces made from embroidery threads with bead clasps, the more intricate ones cost more

Ideas for Fundraisers by Sign Up Genius 
http://www.signupgenius.com/nonprofit/50-creative-and-easy-fundraising-ideas.cfm



Chapter 48


Angelo, despite the events of the night before, was motivated in Mr. Young's gym class and overexerted himself to the point where the teacher sent him to the showers early.


"I appreciate your efforts, Mr. Di Marco but I can't have you passing out on the gymnasium floor.  You're beet red right now.  Take a lukewarm shower and get dressed.  Go to the fountain and get a drink.  Drink slowly!  You're done here for the day."  the man ordered.  "I expect you to take things more slowly on Friday.  Understood?"


"Yes sir.  Thank you."  Angelo replied, walking quickly toward the showers.  Once in the locker room he glanced around, then turned his back on the large mirror above the sinks and gently pulled down the back of his gym shorts.  There weren't many of them but he couldn't help but notice the round, spoon shaped bruises.  A couple were crescent shaped where the rim of the bowl had caught him rather than the bowl itself.  He gently pressed one of the bruises, wincing as the muscle twinged.  He'd been very concerned that the bruises would be exposed during gym, and everyone would know what had happened.  While he was exhausted and sweatier than usual, he was glad that his plan had worked, and that Mr. Young took such good care of his boys.


He took a quick shower, keeping his shorts on as he soaped up and washed his hair just in case anyone else came in early, and then dried off and dressed in one of the bathroom stalls.  He was doing a more thorough dry of his hair by the time the other boys filed in.


"What got into you today, Angelo?  You made the rest of us look like snails in there!"  joked Marshall Jakes, one of his classmates.


"Did you get your drink?"  asked another boy named Kevin.  "Your face is still kind of red."


"Hey, Angelo," called a boy named Adam Krahe as he entered the locker room, "Boss says he wants to see you in his office when you're done in here."


"You might want to drink more water from the tap there and go see him."  Kevin suggested, nodding toward the faucet.


"Did he look mad?"  asked Angelo, looking at Adam worriedly, sipping some cool water and patting the rest on his face and neck, using the sleeve of his shirt to dry his face.


"Not particularly, no.  I'd say more worried.  I think you're OK."  Adam replied.  "But honest, Ange, what was with you today?"


"Just hyper I guess."  he hedged.  He took a breath, “OK guys, wish me luck."


"Luck!" the boys chorused, watching Angelo leave the locker room.


"He's toast."  quipped Kevin when his class mate was gone.  The other boys laughed uncomfortably.  They didn't want to change places with Angelo if the coach was mad at him.  Coach Young was the only other person in the school who would paddle the boys if they acted up in his class.


"Come in."  said Coach Young amiably when he saw the boy standing uncertainly at his door.  "Don't worry, you're not in trouble.  Yet.  I just need to understand what was going through your mind today?  I've told you boys before to monitor your pulse.  You had to have felt yours racing.  You had to have felt the heat in your body and I know you were aware of how much you were sweating; you could barely keep it out of your eyes.  So tell me what was going on today?"  he asked, casually approaching the boy to put a cool palm on the boy's forehead before turning toward the cooler at the back of his office.


"I guess it was just nerves, Coach.  I'm not really good at sports, you saw that last semester, and I think I just got a lot of adrenaline at once. I couldn't seem to stop myself."


Coach Young handed Angelo a bottle of water.  "Here.  Drink it slowly."  the man said, looking at the boy thoughtfully.  "All right then, Angelo, I’ll accept nerves as an excuse this time, but this is a onetime only thing.  If I see you overworking yourself and not monitoring your pulse and breathing again, you and I are going to have a different kind of meeting after class.  Do I make myself clear?"


"Yes sir."  Angelo said, taking a careful sip of the wonderfully cold water.  He knew that if the coach hadn't been watching he'd have swallowed it all in one go.  "It won't happen again."


"Everything is all right, Angelo?"  the coach asked, gently, concerned.  "I heard about what happened.  I know it had to have effected your father, being so close to the situation and the men who died.  It had to have effected your whole family.  Are you all right?"


"I'm feeling a little sick over it, sir, but I feel worse for dad and the people who got hurt... and killed."


Mr. Young nodded silently.


"Coach?"


"Yes, Angelo?"


"I was going to ask Mr. Barnes, I mean, I'm not sure who to ask but... Do you think there's a way to have a raffle, or... a rally or... something we can do to raise money for the families of the men who died?  It was an accident and all but... I mean, no one had to have expected that and dad said that Mister... uh..., Gus's wife just had a baby.  She's gonna need stuff for him... uh, or her.  I don't even know which it is."


"That's a great idea, Angelo.  If you like I'll talk to Mr. Barnes about it, or go with you.  I think the school board is going to get the final say, and then of course we'll have to get a lot of people's cooperation, but it's not impossible."


"Will you go with me then?  Please?"


"When is your next free period?"


"After social studies, at two."


"I had one appointment for then but I know I can reschedule.  Want to try then?"  asked Mr. Young.


"That would be great.  Thank you, Boss."


Mr. Young grinned at the nickname and clapped Angelo on the shoulder.  "Don't forget,” he said to Angelo as they left his office, "Mr. Barnes' office at two."


"Yes sir."  Angelo replied as he went in the opposite direction toward his next class.


Kevin, Adam and several other boys had been standing about, waiting curiously to hear or see what was going on.  When they heard the words, 'Mr. Barnes' office.'  Kevin once again asserted that their friend was 'toast', and the boys scattered to get to their next classes on time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Oliver’s Heart

Oliver’s Heart


 It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  The sun was shining.  There was a slight breeze that picked up on the scent of freshly mown grass and freshly overturned dirt.  The clucking of hens could be heard intermixing with the birdsong drifting through the air from the local bird population, with the occasional bleat or sneeze from a goat.  Yes, it was definitely a beautiful day.

Caiden sighed as he scrubbed the sweat off of his forehead with the back of his gloved left hand. 

“Again, I gotta ask,” said Oliver, “*why* are we doing this?  It’s too nice of a day to be doing this.  We could be, I don’t know, fishing or something.”

“I know,” replied Caiden.  “I don’t really want to be doing this right now either, but the fencing really did need to be fixed.  I don’t know how the goats keep managing to break the fence, but I can’t let it go or there’ll probably be another ‘Incident’.”  Caiden shuddered remembering when Chris had gotten a little too…playful…with Kathleen.  “I’m not sure my butt could survive another ‘discussion’ with Daniel about Chris’s penchant for playing tag.  Besides, you don’t even *like* fishing!”

“So not the point here.  Fine,” Oliver grumbled.  “But don’t say I never do anything for you.  And you totally owe me.  I’m thinking some kind of dessert would be in order.”

“Sure, as long as you quit grousing and start helping,” Caiden smirked.

“I do *not* grouse,” came the suspiciously grouse-like reply.

Caiden chose not to answer.  He just snickered quietly as he pulled the barbed wire taut and began to secure it to the wooden post.

~*~*~*~

Inside the house, Daniel was working on an upcoming case with his law partner and best friend, Quinn Thacker.  Well, it would be more truthful to say that Daniel was working.  Quinn was looking pensively out the window watching the two younger men as they struggled with the fence repair.

Daniel looked up at Quinn.  He’d noticed that his friend watched the two Brats more and more often these days…Oliver in particular.  He couldn’t help but wonder if Quinn was attracted to Caiden’s best friend.  Actually, he rather liked the idea of his best friend falling in love with his lover’s best friend.  In Daniel’s opinion, it would only serve to make their close little family just that much closer.

“Hey, Quinn,” he said with a quirky grin, “not that I want to interrupt your viewing of ‘Young Farm Studs in Action,’ but the case files are over here, not out there working on the fence.”

Quinn couldn’t stop the slight flush that graced his cheeks.  “I wasn’t watching them.  I was simply fascinated by the mechanics involved in fixing a fence.  I’ve never actually seen it done before.”  He picked up a file and began to study it in earnest, carefully avoiding the amused smirk that was adorning Daniel’s face.

“Just interested in the mechanics of fence repair, huh?  That’s pretty good, Quinn.  Have you been taking lessons from Caiden on avoidance answering?”  Daniel laughed as he dodged the wadded paper ball that Quinn sent his way, and then they both settled back down to work.

Daniel did notice how Quinn’s eyes would flick over to the window every so often when he thought that Daniel wasn’t watching him.  It was becoming increasingly obvious to Daniel that Quinn was attracted to Oliver.  The problem was, it was like pulling teeth getting the stubborn man to admit to it.  Daniel had to wonder just what it was going to take to get Quinn to face the reality that he was falling for the younger man.

~*~*~*~

It was about three hours later when two hot and sweaty young men came in looking rather wilted.  Caiden sidled right up to Daniel and promptly gave him a very sweaty and dust-covered hug, pecking him on the cheek.  “Ugh!  Caiden, really!  You’re a mess!  Go shower!  And make sure that Oliver gets one, too.”

“Love you, too, oh bossy one,” came the mischievous reply.

“Off with you, Brat!” Daniel ordered, with a smack to Caiden’s backside as he turned.

Caiden let out a yip.  “As ordered, oh captain, my captain!” he responding with a crisp salute.  “Come on, Ol.  Let’s go get cleaned up and let these two continue to drown in an unforgiving sea of legal forms.  Maybe we can send the Coast Guard out to rescue them in time for dinner.”

Quinn and Daniel watched with bemused smiles on their faces as the two young men headed to the bathrooms, Quinn already familiar with the lifestyle of his best friend and his best friend’s lover, even if he didn’t understand it completely.  Oliver could be heard as they left saying, “I still demand the dessert of my choice.  No complaining allowed, either!”

“Fine, fine,” came the answer wafting down the hallway behind its owner.  Daniel and Quinn shared a snicker at the antics of the other two. 

“So, are you going to stay for dinner?” Daniel asked.

Quinn looked up as if the idea hadn’t yet occurred to him.  “Oh, I might as well,” he replied nonchalantly.  “That way we could maybe get a bit more work done afterwards.”

“Right…work,” Daniel couldn’t help but roll his eyes at his best friend as they both settled back into their work.

~*~*~*~

Dinner was delicious.  Caiden had wheedled his way into getting Oliver to help him and between the two of them; they’d made a wonderful meal.  They had made apricot chicken served with spaghetti, zucchini, walnuts and raisins (which Oliver was quite unsure of, but Caiden insisted was actually quite good).  The pièce de résistance was the Bavarian Apple Torte served with homemade vanilla ice cream that Oliver had demanded in payment for spending the afternoon ‘slaving away’ with Caiden.

Both Daniel and Quinn were impressed with their culinary efforts and didn’t hesitate to tell them.  “Caiden, Oliver, this is fantastic!” Daniel praised them.

“I couldn’t agree more,” added Quinn.  “This is really amazing!”

Both young men preened under the compliments.  “Well, it was mostly Caiden,” Oliver admitted.  “I just followed directions.” 

“But you followed them perfectly and helped me get it all together.  I couldn’t have gotten it all done on time without your help,” Caiden told him.

“Well, my compliments to the chef and the assistant chef,” Quinn said after swallowing a mouthful of pasta.  “You both did a great job!”

Both young men smiled and Oliver ducked his head, pink staining his cheeks at Quinn’s obvious approval.  Daniel and Caiden shared a look.  Daniel could see that Caiden had come to the same conclusion that he had, Quinn and Oliver were most definitely interested in each other.

~*~*~*~

After dinner, Caiden and Oliver cleaned up while Daniel and Quinn finished the preparations on their upcoming case. 

Later, when they had seen both Oliver and Quinn off later, Caiden and Daniel made their way into their bedroom to retire for the night.

Caiden stripped down to his boxers, leaving his clothing piled haphazardly on the armchair in the corner.  He was about to slip between the sheets when he heard Daniel clear his throat.  He looked over at Daniel with a coy little smile on his face.  “Yes, Daniel?”

“Either the hamper has somehow morphed into a totally different design, or you’ve just tossed your clothes on the chair again.  Pick ‘em up and put them away properly, Caiden.”

“Fine,” Caiden huffed.  “I was just really tired.  I was going to do it in the morning.”

“Sure you were,” came the disbelieving answer.  “We both know your theory on ‘tomorrow’ and procrastination.  Do it now, please.”

Caiden put the offending articles of clothing into the hamper and headed back to their bed with a jaw-cracking yawn.  He slipped beneath the sheets and cuddled right up to Daniel’s side, tucking his head against Daniel’s strong shoulder.  Daniel wrapped his arm around Caiden and pulled him snug against his side.  Caiden sighed.  In his opinion, this was the most perfect place in the world to be.  His heart dropped a bit with his next thought…Oliver. 

He didn’t like thinking of his best friend still being alone.  Oliver was a fabulous person.  He was smart, he was funny, he was loyal, and he was handsome.  It just wasn’t fair that he was still alone.  ‘If I could find Cupid, I’d punch him in face for ignoring Oliver,’ Caiden thought.  He shifted a bit in Daniel’s arms.  The idea of Oliver and Quinn just wouldn’t leave his mind.

“You wanna tell me what’s eating you up, or were you just planning on keeping us both awake all night while you stew on it,” said a soft, deep voice near his ear.

Caiden looked up to see Daniel’s deep blue eyes looking at him in amused concern.  “Sorry, Daniel.  I was just thinking about Oliver.  I hate that he’s still alone.  Honestly, I’d thought he’d have found someone already.”

“I worry about him too, Scamp.  But what else are you thinking?  And don’t bother to lie about it.  I can see the hamster wheel spinning in there.”

Caiden gave Daniel a hurt look, “I’m offended.  I never lie.  I merely…obfuscate sometimes.  Or practice a little bit of ‘creative truth telling.’  But that’s all.”

 “Uh huh,” chuckled Daniel.  “You wanna pull the other one now?  And in my line of work, obfuscation and ‘creative truth telling’ are called lying.  Now stop trying to change the subject and tell me what’s crawling around that magnificent mind of yours.”

Caiden nestled back down onto Daniel and sighed, “I was just thinking that it seems like Quinn and Oliver really seem to like each other.  But it’s like they don’t realize that the other one is interested.”  He let the rest of his thought hang.

“I know there’s more to it, Cai.  What else are you thinking,” Daniel asked.

“Well, I was just thinking that perhaps we can give them, you know, a little nudge in the right direction, just a little subtle hint or two…”

“Subtle?  You?”  snorted Daniel.  “Caiden, I love you, but sometimes you’re about as subtle as a freight train in the living room.  Maybe you should just let nature take its course.”

“You’re kidding, right?” came the incredulous answer.  “We *have* been letting nature take its course and those two are completely blind, deaf, and dumb to the fact that the other’s interested.  If we keep letting nature take its course, they’ll both die old, gray and lonely.  And I really don’t want to face an angry Quinn or Oliver in Heaven.  I’ll just bet that they could do a lot of damage with one of those golden harps!  And just imagine the uncomfortable places that they could shove Gabriel’s horn!  No way, Daniel!  I’m thinking plans here, schemes, plots, the whole nine yards!”

Daniel had to laugh at that, but he also felt the need to deliver a warning, “You just be careful.  You know that every…”

Caiden cut him off, “Yeah, yeah, I know.  Every time I come up with a great idea, I get into trouble.  But it’s all for a good cause.”

“You just remember that when it all blows up in your face,” Daniel warned him.

“Oh ye of little faith,” chided Caiden.

“It’s called experience.  Now go to sleep.”

Caiden gave a small snort, but snuggled down and let himself drift off.

*~*~*~*~

At the same time that Caiden was settling down into a peaceful sleep, Oliver was just walking in the door of his apartment.  He dropped his keys onto a small table near the door with a long sigh.

Sometimes being at Caiden’s was almost too difficult.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like spending time with Caiden and Daniel, he did.  Caiden was like a brother to him, closer even, because he didn’t have the urge to kill him all the time.  But it was hard, sometimes, to see Caiden and Daniel so happy.  It just made him feel all the more alone.  He gave a humorless chuckle.  How stupid is that?  He would feel more lonely when he wasn’t alone than he did when he actually was alone.

He went into his bedroom, stripped off his clothes and padded into the bathroom.  Turning on the shower, he looked at himself in the mirror, but had to turn away.  He couldn’t stand seeing the empty sadness in his eyes.  No wonder he was still alone.  If he couldn’t stand to look at himself because he felt so pathetic, why would anyone else want to?

Oliver shook his head and climbed into the shower, washing quickly.  When he was finished, he quickly toweled off and headed back into his bedroom.  He flopped down onto the bed, not caring in the least that his hair was still basically dripping wet.  He just wanted to fall asleep, fall asleep and not have to think about how dismal and sad his life was.

*~*~*~*~

Several weeks passed by and Caiden spent them watching Oliver and Quinn intently whenever they were together.  He was one hundred percent certain that they were head-over-heels, utterly and completely in love…or at least really attracted to each other.  Now he just had to plan the perfect scheme to get them together.  The question was…how? 

He had a few plans, he just couldn’t decide on the right one.  Now, he could ‘accidentally’ lock them in a room together.  But that was sort of cliché and overdone in his opinion.  He felt that such a simple plan was beneath him.

He didn’t like watching Oliver look longingly at Quinn and vise-versa.  To Caiden it was simple; I love you, you love me, I tell you, you tell me, and, voi la, happy family.  He didn’t see the need to drag it out.

By the time a month had passed, Caiden decided to attempt a more direct approach, he confronted Oliver.

~*~*~*~*~

Caiden and Oliver were grocery shopping.  It wasn’t a chore that either man particularly enjoyed; rather they considered it a necessary evil if they wanted to eat.  Caiden was pushing the cart whilst Oliver meandered along beside him, perusing the shelves for anything that looked particularly appetizing.

“Ol?” Caiden casually addressed his friend.

“Huh?” Came the slightly distracted reply.

“You need to ask Quinn out,” Caiden blurted.  As Oliver looked at him, jaw scraping the floor, Caiden could hear Daniel’s voice in his head, ‘As subtle as a freight train in the living room.’

Oliver’s face flushed pink as he stammered, “I-I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.  Me ask Quinn out?  Why would you even suggest it?  Tha-that’s just ridiculous!”

Caiden stopped pushing the cart and turned to his best friend, “Look, I’m sorry I just sprung it on you like that, but I’ve seen the way you look at him.”  Oliver’s blush deepened, but before he could open his mouth, Caiden continued, “And I’ve seen the way that *he* looks at *you*, too.  You like him.  He likes you.  I’m really not seeing the problem here, except that neither one of you seems to notice the other one…notice, ya know?”

Oliver looked at him, hope glinting in his light green eyes, making them look like Chinese jade.  “Do you really think he’s interested?”

“Remember last week when you helped me build those extra roosting boxes for the hens?”  Oliver nodded.  Caiden smirked, “You took off your shirt when you got hot, remember?”  Again Oliver nodded.  “Well,” Caiden leaned in conspiringly, “I noticed him watching you.  He could hardly take his eyes off of you.  I swear, if he’d drooled anymore I could’ve dug a pond and he would’ve filled it!”

“He did not,” Oliver said disbelievingly.

“Oh yes he did!” Caiden replied.  “You can even ask Daniel.  He saw it, too.  He’ll tell you, and you know that he won’t lie to you.  It goes against the Top Code, or whatever it is they have.”

Oliver just stood there, not sure what to say or what to think.  It was almost too much to hope for.  He was tired of being alone.  He hated it.  He envied what Caiden shared with Daniel, even the discipline aspect of it. 

He, Daniel and Caiden had spent quite a bit of time discussing it after the first time Oliver had accidentally walked in on Caiden getting a spanking.  He understood the fundamentals behind a discipline relationship.  He’d even received minor discipline from Daniel when he and Caiden did something that Daniel called reckless or overly impulsive.  Unlike Caiden, however, Oliver wasn’t spanked.  Daniel said that it wasn’t his place to spank Oliver since they weren’t partners, but Oliver had been given lines to write, or spent weekends at Caiden and Daniel’s doing chores after being grounded.  He’d even spent time with his nose firmly planted in a corner.  But that was as far as Daniel was willing to go.  He understood why, but still it made him feel…well…lonelier for a partner, a Top, of his own.

Oliver couldn’t help but feel hope blooming in his chest.  He’d realized that he was falling for Quinn eight months ago; it was hard not to.  Quinn was a walking, talking dream in Oliver’s opinion, all six feet, four inches of him.  He loved the way his light blond hair looked almost like white gold in the sunlight, and how his gray-blue eyes would darken like storm clouds when he was upset or excited.  He even liked the soft, slightly out-of-shape roundness of his stomach.  Sure, he wasn’t some chiseled Greek god, some perfect male specimen, but to Oliver it didn’t matter.  To Oliver, it was his imperfections that made him perfect.  He was well matched to Oliver’s own 5’7 ½” frame and dark blond hair, at least in Oliver’s opinion.

“Daniel noticed, too?” he had to ask.  He had to be sure.

Caiden rolled his eyes and said in exasperation, “Yes.  Do you want me to call him and have him tell you himself?” Adding under his breath, “You’d think the word of his best friend would be good enough…”

“Okay, I believe you,” Oliver capitulated.  “But what am I supposed to do about it?”

“Ask…him…out!” Caiden said slowly, as if to a small child.

“Says the one who tripped over his tongue when he met Daniel,” Oliver shot back.

“Shut up,” snapped Caiden.  “We aren’t talking about me, we’re talking about you.  I think you ought to do it.  Just take a deep breath and *do* it.”

“I don’t know,” Oliver hedged.  “Let me think about it, okay?”

“Fine, but don’t think too long.  You’ll just end up creating a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place and never do anything.”  Caiden gave Oliver a sly smile, “Or I just might have to do step in and do something about it myself.”

Oliver’s face paled in horror, “Don’t you dare!  I mean it, Caiden!  Don’t you dare!”

Caiden just gave an evil cackle, then smiled innocently, “Not to worry.  I’d come up with a plan.  It would probably be a bad plan, and would probably fail spectacularly, but it would still be a plan.  Which is more than *you* have!” 

Oliver looked entirely unamused.

“Oh!  Look at the time,” Caiden said, looking at his watch.  “We’d better hurry up.  Daniel has this whole ‘artistic culture’ night planned out.  He’s making me watch some musical movie called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and some movie called Casablanca with some Boogie guy in it with him tonight.”  He grimaced at the thought.  “I’m not so sure if I’d consider old movies to be art, but Daniel says if he has to watch American Ninja Warrior and Mythbusters with me, then I have to watch his ‘classic’ films with him.”

“It’s Bogart, dumbass, Humphrey Bogart.  He’s a famous old guy actor.  Even *I* know that,” laughed Oliver. 

“You know, you could be, like, the best friend in the world if you came over tonight and watched them with us,” Caiden said with a slight tinge of begging.

“You can’t be serious,” came the incredulous reply.

“Oh, come on, Ol!  It’ll be great.  Really.  We’ll have snacks.  We’ll have drinks.  You can stay over in the guest room.  It’ll be fun,” Caiden pleaded, adding under his breath, “You’d *have* to be drunk to watch this stuff…”

Oliver looked at his friend and sighed.  He didn’t really relish the idea of an evening of old movies, but he supposed that it beat the heck out of the alternative, another lovely evening of wallowing in his own loneliness.  Rolling his eyes, he smiled and agreed to “suffer through the trauma of Daniel’s movie night” with Caiden.

The rest of the shopping trip went smoothly…well, as smoothly as any shopping trip of Caiden’s and Oliver’s could go.  But as they only ran over one man’s foot with their cart and only offended one elderly woman’s sensibilities by talking too loudly about certain noxious bodily functions, and managed to walk out with everything on their lists (plus a few extras), they considered it a successful trip.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Oliver dropped Caiden off at his house and proceeded to drive back to his apartment in the city.  He wanted to grab a change of clothes and whatnot for the overnight movie fest.  While he was looking forward to it, a small part of him dreaded it, too.  He felt like a first class heel for being jealous of their relationship.  It wasn’t that he wanted them to break up, not even close.  He just wanted what they had.  He wanted to have someone of his own.  He wanted to stop feeling like the odd man out.  Three wheels were fine for a tricycle, but completely wrong when it came to friends and lovers.

Oliver could feel the tears prickling behind his eyes.  He slammed his fist into the steering wheel in frustration.  Why did it have to be like this?  Why did he have to be alone?  Why did it have to get to him like this?  He hated feeling like this.

His thoughts drifted to Quinn.  Was Caiden right?  Did Quinn like him?  Or did he just feel sorry for him?  What if Daniel talked about him to Quinn?  What if he told Quinn how sad it was that Oliver was still alone?  What if all Quinn felt was pity for the pathetic little friend of his best friend’s lover?  What if he *did* tell Quinn that he liked him, and Quinn laughed at him…or worse, was disgusted that the wretched little friend mistook the pity that he felt for him as something else?

The more Oliver thought about it, the less he wanted to say anything at all to Quinn.  During the drive home to get an overnight bag and back to Caiden’s, he’d managed to convince himself that he was being incredibly stupid and that saying anything to Quinn would be suicide.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Oliver was just coming out of the guest room after putting his overnight back away, when he heard a familiar, deep voice call out, “Hey, Daniel?  Caiden?  Where do you want me to put these drinks?”

Oliver froze.  What was Quinn doing here?  No one said anything about Quinn being here!

Daniel walked out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a small towel, “Hey, I didn’t know you were coming, too.”

“Really?  That’s odd,” replied Quinn with a confused look on his face.  “The way that Caiden talked, I thought it was your idea…something about movies, culture and male bonding over shared suffering.  And what did you mean ‘too’?”

“It would seem that Caiden’s taken it upon himself to make this into some sort of mini movie party,” Daniel explained.  “He’s apparently invited you and Oliver.”

“Ah,” was the only answer.

Oliver turned and walked quickly to the sliding door leading to the yard.  ‘This had better not be that epically bad plan he mentioned,’ he growled internally.

He sought out his ever-so-helpful friend out at the chicken coop.  Sure enough, there was Caiden, watering the chickens.

Oliver leaned against the nearby oak tree and glared at Caiden.  “This wouldn’t be some pathetic attempt at matchmaking, would it?”

Caiden gave him his most wide-eyed, innocent look, “I have absolutely *no* idea what you’re talking about.”

“You invited me *and* Quinn over tonight,” snarked Oliver.  “You don’t really expect me to believe that you just decided to invite Quinn on the spur of the moment, do you?”

“I’m wounded!” Caiden grabbed at his chest.  “I can’t believe that you have so little faith in me, your best friend!  I’m not planning anything, nothing at all.  I just figured that the old cliché was perfect, ‘misery loves company’.  If I had to suffer through tonight’s so-called entertainment, then I might as well drag others down with me.  I’ve no other motives, none at all.”

Oliver didn’t look convinced.  But he supposed that it had to beat sitting home alone indulging in self-pity.  No one likes a downer, after all.

He pushed himself off the tree and sighed, “Fine.  But if I find out you did this as some sort of pathetic scheme, I just may have to hate you forever.”

“Moi?  Scheme?  Nope, I’m just sharing the misery of an evening of culture and sophistication.”

“I’m hurt that you would even accuse me of such a sad little transparent plan,” Caiden sniffed.  “Honestly, don’t you think that I could come up with something a hell of a lot better than that?  I am, after all, the king of schemes, the master of manipulation, and the lord of obfuscation.  Such petty plotting is far below my particular expertise.  I could come up with a better strategy in my sleep!  Honestly, grow up with a guy, live with a guy…dude, I was even there when you had your first wet dream, and this is the way I get treated?  That’s wrong, man, that’s just wrong.”  Caiden shook his head with a mock look of disappointment and dismay on his face.

“Geeze, Cai, relax!  You’re such a friggin’ drama queen!”

Caiden just smirked at his friend and gestured toward the house, “Come on, dude.  Let’s go see what the ‘cultured’ and ‘sophisticated’ men have to offer us poor little plebeians for our ‘artistic enlightenment.’”

Oliver snickered at that and turned to go back into the house, Caiden trotting up beside him.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Once the snacks were ready, they all settled into the living room and Daniel put in the first movie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Daniel and Caiden snuggled on the loveseat whilst Oliver and Quinn took the sofa, Oliver stuffing himself into the corner, making himself appear as small as possible.

Caiden looked at his oldest and best friend and heaved a frustrated sigh into Daniel’s chest.  Daniel looked down, “Something chewing at you?”

“No,” came the slightly sullen answer.

“Then pay attention.  The movie’s about to start,” Daniel said, wrapping his arm more snuggly around Caiden’s shoulders.

With another exasperated glance at Oliver, Caiden looked back at the screen just as the beginning credits began to roll.

The first movie swept by, faster than either Caiden or Oliver thought it would.  As it turned out, it wasn’t that bad of a movie; although Caiden did have to laugh uproariously at the choreographed dance/fight scene.

When asked by Daniel what he thought of the movie, Caiden answered, “It’s not something I’d choose, but it was pretty good.  Ol, what’d you think?”

Oliver’s eyes snapped up to meet Caiden’s and Caiden could see that his friend wasn’t exactly thrilled about having his presence called to attention.  “Well?” Caiden prompted.

“Well,” replied Oliver, “Firstly, I think that if someone had me named Frankincense, I’d be pretty pissed a lot, too.”

Caiden snorted at that and Daniel gave Oliver one of his ‘no gratuitous cursing’ Looks, although Oliver could see the smile trying to pull at his lips.

“Secondly, seems like women were pretty hard to come by if you had to fight for ‘em like that.  They’d have been better off gay.  Besides, some of those city boys weren’t too bad looking.  So were the brothers, but it’s kinda hard to take a guy seriously as tough-guy-lumberjack type when he’s slow dancing with an axe,” Oliver delivered with a straight face.

The other three men just stared at him for a minute, until Caiden let out another indelicate snort of amusement.  Suddenly all three men were laughing wildly.

As soon as the mirthful mood eased a bit, they all took a quick break bathroom/snack-fix break before Daniel started movie number two.

As the movie began, Caiden looked up at Daniel petulantly, “Black and white?  Really?”  Daniel’s only response was to give him a light swat to the hip and told him to shush.

The mood watching this movie was a little bit more sober than it was during the first movie, but there were still a few snickers from Oliver and Caiden at, what they considered, cheesy lines.

As the movie ended, Caiden leaped off the couch, threw himself to his knees in front of Daniel, grabbed his shirt front and pulled him toward him saying overly dramatically, “Of all the coffee joints, in all the towns, in all the world, you walked into mine.  Kiss me, Daniel!  Kiss me like it’s the last time!”

Daniel grabbed Caiden by the upper arms and drew him into a hard kiss.

Caiden laughed as they pulled out of the kiss.  “I don’t know if I’ll ever like these movies as much as you do, but once in a while…maybe…they aren’t *too* bad,” he grudgingly admitted. 

Oliver watched their interaction trying to push down his loneliness and envy.  He glanced over at Quinn with a hint of longing in his eyes.

Caiden noticed the quick look and huffed in frustration, “Oh puh-leese!  Just kiss him and get over with already, Ol!”

Oliver’s face blanched.  He looked at Caiden and then Quinn in absolute horror.  Then suddenly jumped up off of the sofa and ran out the back door, grabbing his car keys as he went.

“Caiden, could you, just once, try to engage the filter between your brain and your mouth!” Daniel said in complete exasperation.

“Daniel?” Quinn said, looking completely confounded by what was happening.

“Sorry.  Caiden noticed that Oliver seems to have some feelings for you and took it upon himself to try and jump start a relationship between the two of you.  A decision that he’ll soon be regretting.”

Now it was Caiden’s turn to go pale.  “Go find your corner, Caiden.  I’ll be in to ‘discuss’ things with you shortly.”

Caiden just stood there, wondering how things had gone so bad so quickly.  Daniel simply turned him towards the door and sent him on his way with a rather firm swat to his hindquarters.  Caiden squawked, but high tailed it to his corner.

“Daniel?” Quinn still looked completely baffled.

“Quinn, sit down, please?  I think we need to talk,” Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose and sat down.  “Here’s the deal…Oliver likes you.  He’s been interested for some time now.  But he seemed reluctant to do anything about it.  Honestly, I think he was worried that you wouldn’t like him and he didn’t think he could handle the rejection.  He hasn’t had the easiest of times when it comes to relationships.  He’s a great guy, but let’s face it, he’s a Brat, just like Caiden.  None of the men he’s been with before have been Tops, so they didn’t really know how to handle him.”  Daniel paused, wiping his hand over his face.

“You mean like you handle Caiden,” inquired Quinn.

“Exactly,” said Daniel.  “In fact, I’ve disciplined him a number of times along with Caiden in the past for one crackpot scheme or another.”

“Did you ever spank him like you do Caiden?” Quinn wanted to know.

“No,” Daniel sighed.  “I didn’t think it was right.  Oliver isn’t my Brat.  And I don’t want to foster false feelings in him.  Since you aren’t in a discipline relationship, you don’t realize that there’s quite a bit of trust and love that goes with spanking.  In some ways, it’s more intimate than sex.  Caiden has to trust that I’m disciplining him out of love and trust that I know how far to take it without it becoming abusive.  And I love him enough to know when he needs it and when it would do more harm than good.  While sex can easily be a one off and purely physical, a discipline relationship is much deeper.  It may not seem like it to most people, but Caiden and I *are* equals in this relationship, even if I do discipline him.”

Quinn looked at his hands thoughtfully, twining his fingers.  “And you think that Oliver needs a relationship like that, too.”

Daniel nodded, “I do.  I’ve seen his responses when I discipline him.  He responds to it just like Caiden does.  But like I said, it’s not something to jump into lightly.  You need to be sure you can do it.  And you need to be sure how you feel about Oliver, date him first, get to know him.”  Daniel stopped suddenly and looked at Quinn.  “Are you trying to say that you really *might* be interested?”

“Uh…yeah…I guess I am,” Quinn replied.  Then he smirked at Daniel, “What’s with the surprised look?  Come on, if Caiden knew Oliver was interested, you had to know that I was.”

Daniel grinned sheepishly, “Okay, you got me.  I did know.  Especially when you were ogling and drooling all over him through the windows.”

Now it was Quinn’s turn to sigh, “So what should I do now?  You know Oliver better than I do.”

Daniel cocked his head thoughtfully and then said, “Go after him.  He’s probably gone home.  Go talk to him.  Tell him how you feel.”  Daniel then stood, “And while you’re doing that, I’m going to go have a ‘discussion’ with Caiden.”

Quinn got up and fetched his car keys.  As he was leaving the house, he heard the low rumble of Daniel’s voice followed by Caiden’s, “Daaannnielll, it was an accident!  It’s not like I did it on purpose!”  Quinn just chuckled, he had a feeling that a certain Brat was *not* going to weasel out of that discussion.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Quinn spent the entire drive to Oliver’s apartment thinking about what he wanted to say to the young man.  He knew that he was definitely developing some deep feelings for him.  It was easy.  While he was just as fun loving and witty as Caiden, he also had a quiet, pensive side that Quinn found enigmatic and adorable.

When he reached Oliver’s, he knocked on the door.  He heard a thick voice say, “Whoever you are, I’m not interested, I don’t care, I’ve found God, I’m too poor, and it’s too friggin’ late to be bothering me anyway!”

“Oliver, it’s Quinn.  Can I come in?”

There was only silence behind the door for a bit.  But then he heard the rattle of a chain being removed.  The door opened a mite, and there was Oliver…with suspiciously reddened eyes.  “Can I help you with something?” he asked cautiously.

“I just want to talk.  I really think we need to talk.  Don’t you?”

Oliver just stared at him uncertainly for a minute, then he pulled the door open and said apprehensively, “Okay, you can come in.  But if you’re just going to pat my back or ‘let me down easy,’ don’t waste your breath and my time.”

Quinn sighed, realizing that this wasn’t going to be easy, but he just knew that it would be worth it.  “Can we sit down?” he asked.

Oliver eyed him warily, but gestured toward his battered, secondhand, but well-loved sofa.  “Go ahead.  You thirsty or anything?”

“No.  I just want to talk,” Quinn told him.

They both sat.  Oliver worried his bottom lip and stared at the floor while Quinn tried to formulate his thoughts.  This was *not* a discussion that he wanted to go badly.  “Oliver, look at me, please?”  As he looked into Oliver’s light green eyes, he realized, for certain, that this was a pivotal moment in his life.  This was someone that he could really let himself fall in love with.  He couldn’t let himself mess this up.

“Oliver, I know that you’re embarrassed by what Caiden said,” he told him. 

Oliver opened his mouth to respond, but Quinn cut him off before he could.  “I just need you to know that you have nothing to feel embarrassed about.”

Oliver’s face crumpled in pain, “How can you *say* that?  He just up and said…he told you that I…he…”  Oliver’s voice broke off and he slumped back onto the sofa, his face turned away from Quinn.

“What?  What did he tell me about you?  Can it really be that bad?”

“Yes,” Oliver spit back.  “Yes, it can!  He wasn’t supposed to tell you!  It wasn’t any of his damn business to tell you!  But no, he just had to open his dumbass mouth and blast it to the friggin’ world!”

“Not the world, Oliver.  Just Daniel and myself, and apparently Daniel already knew.”  Oliver looked up at him, a shocked look on his face, he had still been unsure that Caiden had been completely honest about that.  “That’s right, kid.  It wasn’t such a huge secret after all.  Seems the only two who weren’t in the loop were you and me.”  He tapped Oliver on the end of the nose with his index finger and said, “And I really would rather not hear any more curses come out of that mouth.  You’re far too intelligent to have to rely on those four letter words to express yourself.”

Oliver’s face darkened in a blush.  He looked down and stammered out an apology.

“It’s okay.  Just file it away for future reference, eh?” Quinn said with a grin.

Oliver looked up at him, a tentative smile lighting his features.  “Does this mean that you aren’t angry, upset or disgusted by this…me liking you, I mean?”

“Look at me, look at my face.  Do I look upset, angry or disgusted?  Because I’m not.  As a matter of fact, I’m flattered.”  He put his fingers under Oliver’s chin, keeping the younger man’s gaze on him as he continued, “To be honest, I feel basically the same about you.  I think I have for a while now, I just didn’t realize it.  You kind of snuck into my heart when I wasn’t looking.  And I would really like it if we could explore this and see where it leads.  If you want to, that is?”

He could see the hope building in Oliver’s eyes.  “Are you sure?  You’re not just saying this because you feel sorry for me or anything…are you?”

“Didn’t you hear what I just said?  I’m interested, very interested.  I wouldn’t be sitting here with you if I weren’t.”

Oliver cleared his throat.  “Um…okay then.  I think that sounds good.”

“I’m glad,” murmured Quinn.  He leaned forward and pressed his lips against Oliver’s.  He could feel Oliver’s body stiffen and then gradually relax as he wrapped his arms around the younger man and pulled him closer.

As they came apart when the need for air presented itself, Oliver looked up at him shyly, “So…what now?”

“Now?  Now comes the fun part.  Now we get to know each other…and probably kiss a lot, too.”

Oliver smiled, “I think I can handle that.”  Then he paused, looking down at Quinn’s chest.  “Um…what about…you know…like Caiden and Daniel…are you…”  He broke off his thought uncertainly.

Quinn pulled him close again, encouraging Oliver to lay his head on his shoulder.  “Why don’t we spend some time really getting to know each other first, and then see where that takes us, hmm?  We have a whole lifetime to work out the rest of details.”

“Yeah,” Oliver agreed quietly.  “That sounds like a plan I can live with.”


Quinn had to smile.  It may have taken a while, but he finally realized that he’d hit the jackpot.  He’d won the universal lottery.  He’d begun the journey toward winning Oliver’s heart…and he was going to treasure it forever!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Goat: Another Four-Letter Word

Goat: Another Four-Letter Word
By: Prairie Girl
Copyright 2010-2016



Caiden smiled as his hens fought for the feed that he was spreading about the coop.  He liked seeing the bright variety of colors and temperament of his “ladies.” The one rooster of the coop strutted about like a sheik in his harem. ‘You’d think he was a peacock the way he preens himself,’ Caiden thought with a chuckle.


All of his ladies were now laying, but none showed any signs of wanting to sit yet.  But Caiden wasn’t worried.  He knew it wouldn’t be long before he heard the tiny peeping of baby chicks and saw them hustling about behind their mother.  Maybe come spring he’d get a set or two.  He was already putting aside a smidgen of money to fund enlarging the coop a bit.  His plans were mainly for selling the eggs, but it never hurts to get another generation in the making to take over when his ladies were no longer able to lay.


He put the bowl back in the feed container, closed the lid securely, and let himself out of the coop.  His dog, Trip, was waiting for him outside the door.  “Hey, boy, are you ready to go check the goats now?” he asked the Blue Australian Cattle Dog sitting patiently.  Trip stood, shook himself off, and headed toward the goat pasture.


Caiden was pleased with how well his farm was taking shape.  He had a small herd of Nubian goats that he was planning to raise mainly for milking.  He currently had eight females and one male, all of which were, for the most part, very sociable and intelligent.  Sometimes he worried that perhaps they were a bit *too* intelligent.


He retrieved the feed bucket from the storage shed and filled it with goat pellets.  He didn’t need too much because the goats mostly fed from the grass that grew in their pasture.  But he felt that it was always good to supplement…just a little.


He entered the pasture, looked at Trip and said, “Cast.”  Trip immediately sped away from him and began to herd the goats toward Caiden and the feeding trough.  Caiden loved to watch Trip work.  He honestly felt like his dog was thing of beauty to watch as he worked.


As the goats approached him, they noticed that Caiden held the feed bucket and they rushed toward him eagerly.  Caiden snickered to himself as he watched them try to push and butt each other out of the way to get to the food.  ‘Reminds me of elementary school lunch lines,’ Caiden thought to himself.


Now that the goats were more than happy to come, Caiden looked over at Trip and said, “That’ll do.”  Trip immediately stopped herding and trotted up near his owner and sat to wait patiently for Caiden to finish.


As he was pouring the food into the trough, Caiden was suddenly shoved from behind.  He turned to see his one male goat getting ready to butt him again.  He knew that he shouldn’t encourage it, but he finished pouring out the food and turned back the goat.  He smacked him sharply on the head between his horns.  The goat huffed at him and reared up sideways on his hind legs and came at him.  Caiden grabbed him by the horns and pushed him back roughly.  He laughed when the goat reared back up at him.  He grabbed the goat’s horns and held him as the goat tried to break free.  He let him go and laughed again as the goat reared back up at him.


“You really shouldn’t do that.  You could make him mean,” the sudden voice behind Caiden startled him and he spun around.  The goat took the opportunity to butt him in the back of his left knee causing him to stumble and land gracelessly in the dirt.


“You can’t say I didn’t warn you,” said Daniel with a smirk.


“Well, he wouldn’t have gotten me if you hadn’t surprised me,” grumbled Caiden, picking himself up and brushing himself off.


Daniel just smiled at him.  “Really, though, Caiden…you shouldn’t play with him like that.  He’ll get mean.  Or he’ll think everyone is a playmate and try to butt them.  Not everyone will find that game nearly as amusing as you do.”


“Yeah, yeah,” muttered Caiden.  He really didn’t see the problem with it.  They were just having a little fun.  What could it really hurt, honestly?


Caiden picked up the bucket and headed for the gate, Trip on his heels.  Daniel held the gate open for him and shut it securely behind them.


Caiden put the bucket back in the storage shed and walked back to Daniel.  Daniel put his arm around Caiden’s shoulders and pulled him close.  “This farm is really looking good, Scamp.  You’re doing a great job with it.”


Caiden blushed, pleased with Daniel’s praise.  This was something that he was putting his time and heart into and it meant the world to him that Daniel was proud of his efforts.


*~*~*~*~


One morning, a day or two later, Caiden came out to feed the animals.  He was surprised to find the goats out in the yard wandering around, the gate to their pasture wide open.  He called to Trip and together they herded the errant goats back into the pasture.  Caiden secured the door and stared thoughtfully at the goats, trying to discern exactly *how* they had gotten out.  He remembered that he had shut and secured the gate.  Not knowing what else to think, Caiden simply shrugged and moved on to finish his chores.


*~*~*~*~


On the following Saturday, Daniel followed Caiden out to help with the morning chores.  As he fed the chickens, Caiden headed off to feed and water the goats.


Once he was finished, Daniel headed over to the goat pen to check on Caiden’s progress.  He was hoping that they’d be finished early enough to allow them some “togetherness” time.  Unfortunately, he discovered that Caiden was once again teasing the male goat.


“Caiden!”


Caiden immediately stilled, but sadly, the goat didn’t and he ended up on his backside again.


Daniel shook his head as he walked into the pasture.  He held his hand down to his sheepishly grinning Brat.


“Hi, Daniel.  Done with the chickens already?” Caiden asked, looking deceptively innocent.


Daniel didn’t say anything.  He just pulled Caiden to his feet and proceeded to “dust” the seat of his pants off rather vigorously.


“Daniel,” Caiden whined.


Daniel turned Caiden to face him.  “I’m not going to tell you again not to tease that goat!  One of these days he’s going to hurt someone and it’ll be because *he* thinks he’s playing.  This *has* to stop!”


“I’m sorry, Daniel,” Caiden pouted.  “He just likes to play is all.  He looks at me with those funky eyes of his and I just can’t seem to say no.”


“Well, I can help with that,” Daniel told him.  “If you continue to have problems with that, I can give you some lines that’ll help the lesson to sink in, and if that doesn’t work, maybe a trip over my knee would.”


Caiden frowned sulkily at his partner.  He picked up the abandoned water and feed buckets and turned to take them back to the shed.


Daniel sighed.  He knew that Caiden didn’t have a mean bone in his body.  He just didn’t see the possible future consequences of his ‘game.’  That was one of Caiden’s biggest issues.  He often acted before thinking, consequences never really entering the equation at all.


Caiden came out of the shed, his head hanging.  “Come here, Scamp,” Daniel threw his arm around Caiden’s shoulders and pulled him close to his side.  He walked his Brat to the house.


********


It was sometime in the middle of the night when Daniel felt warm breath huffing on his cheek.  He grumbled sleepily.  The breath huffed on him again, and it wasn’t very pleasant smelling either.


“Caiden, I thought you said that you brushed your teeth before bed,” he groused.


“I did,” came the sleepy mumble to his left.


To his left?  The huffing was coming from his *right*!  Daniel jerked up in the bed and switched on the light.  There, looking at him like he had every right to be there was the male goat.  He looked at Daniel, blinked, and headed off toward the bedroom door, picking up one of Caiden’s dirty socks in his mouth on the way.


Daniel just stared after him.  Surely he hadn’t seen what he thought he’d just seen…right?


He reached over and jiggled Caiden’s shoulder.  “Uh, it can’t be morning yet,” came a whiny grumble, somewhat muffled by the pillow currently pulled over his head. 


“Caiden, wake up.  I think the goat’s in here.”


Caiden peeked an eye out from under the pillow.  “Very funny, Daniel.  You’re waking me up to play a prank on me?  And it’s not even a very good one because I know I closed the pasture gate.  I thought *I* was the Brat in this relationship.”


Daniel was about to say something when there was a crash in the kitchen.  Caiden sat up and looked at the door, eyes wide.  “What was that?”


“That would be my ‘not very good’ prank,” Daniel said dryly.


Caiden hopped off of the bed and headed towards the door.  “Slippers, Cai,” Daniel reminded him.


Caiden quickly shoved his feet into the slippers and headed towards the noise currently coming from the kitchen.


When he turned on the light he found the goat nosing happily into the trash that he’d knocked over.  He heard a noise behind him and turned.  There, standing around some of Daniel’s favorite potted plants, were four of the female goats casually munching away.


“Caiden, snap out of it!” Daniel said.  “We need to get these goats out of here before-”


He got no further as one of female goats squatted down and peed on floor.  Caiden rolled his eyes and groaned.  “How’d they even get in here?” He had to wonder.


Daniel went past him and into the family room.  He switched on the light, looked around, and pointed at the sliding glass door which was standing open.


“I would have to assume that that’s how they got in,” he answered.  “I’m guessing that you forgot to lock the door before coming to bed.”


Caiden had the decency to look chagrined.  “Sorry.  I was thinking about the possibility of getting some alpacas.  It must’ve slipped my mind.”


Daniel sighed, “It’s okay.  It’s not like we knew they’d get this clever.  Come on; let’s get these goats back to their pen.”


Caiden went to the open sliding door and called Trip.  With the help of the cattle dog, it wasn’t long before the wandering herd of goats was back in their pasture.  Caiden pulled the gate closed and studied it.  He knew that they had to be opening it somehow, but he just didn’t see how they could be doing it.


Daniel came up behind him and handed him a length of elastic cording.  “Wrap this around it.  It’s not a permanent fix, but it should keep Christopher Columbus and his intrepid band of explorers in for the night.”


After making sure that the gate secured, Daniel and Caiden headed back to bed.


*~*~*~*~*~*


A week passed since the ‘Great Escape,’ as Caiden had come to refer to it.  He had put a few more locking features on the gate in the hopes that they would be sufficient in keeping the newly dubbed Chris and his harem in the pasture.


Caiden was once again out feeding them when Chris nudged him again.  “Oh, no,” Caiden told him firmly, “you aren’t tricking me into playing with you again.  If Daniel ever catches me, my butt is toast!”


Chris just looked at him, cocking his head to the side as if to say, “Aw, come on!  You know you wanna!”


Caiden looked at his watch.  Daniel wouldn’t be home for at least forty-five minutes.  He reached over and smacked Chris between the eyes and the fight was on.  It lasted a good five to ten minutes before both combatants decided that they’d had enough.


Caiden should’ve been feeling guilty, but really, he figured, what could it honestly hurt?  It’s not like Chris was a free roaming boy anymore.  Right?


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny.  Caiden and Daniel woke, took care of the animals, showered, had breakfast, and started to straighten the house.  Daniel’s mother was stopping over for lunch and they didn’t want her looking around, tutting to herself, bemoaning the fact that the ‘poor dears’ just can’t seem to keep house properly.


Caiden began lunch.  He was making Daniel’s favorite creamy wild rice soup with sautéed mushrooms and grilled chicken along with freshly baked rolls and a garden salad.  He hummed happily to himself as he cooked.  He was always able to find himself in a peaceful place when he cooked.


He looked out the window over the sink as he heard a car pulling in.  “Daniel,” he yelled, “your mom’s here!”


He jumped with squeal when he felt a hand land sharply across his backside.  “You know perfectly well that you don’t need to yell,” admonished Daniel.


“Sorry,” Caiden said sheepishly, rubbing his hind quarters.


“I love you, Scamp,” Daniel said, putting an arm around Caiden’s shoulders and giving him a squeeze.  “I guess I’ll go help Mom in.  What’dya wanna bet she’s brought a slew of casseroles for the ‘poor dears’ who are probably slowly starving death in abject misery?”


Caiden snickered as Daniel pressed a kiss to the top of head.  Daniel turned to head for the front door when a shrill scream pierced the air.  The men looked at each other and headed for the door at a run.


Flinging the front door open, they headed into the front yard to see a very flustered Kathleen Hurst surrounded by goats munching on several pans of spilled casserole, waving her purse at a rearing Chris, hitting him squarely between the eyes.  


“Chris, no!” Caiden yelled, causing Kathleen to turn towards him and Daniel.  Chris took that as an opening and rammed into her knees sharply, knocking her face down into the dirt.  Caiden looked horrified.


Daniel grabbed Caiden’s arm and spun him around to face his irate Top.  “Caiden, get Trip and get those blasted goats back into their pen.  Now!”


Caiden nodded, his stomach dropping to his feet.  Daniel ran over to help his mother and check her for injuries whilst Caiden called Trip and the two of them herded the goats back to their pasture.


Caiden returned to the house after securing the gate once more with several elastic cords.  He made sure that the food wasn’t burnt before poking his head into the family to check on Kathleen.


Daniel was sitting on the coffee table beside her while she lay on the sofa with wet washcloth over her eyes.


Caiden shuffled his feet and Daniel turned.  He beckoned Caiden over.  “How is she?” Caiden whispered once he reached Daniel.


“She’s fine.  Just a bit shook up.  She may end up sporting a few impressive bruises, but nothing seems to be broken.”


Caiden sighed in relief.  Kathleen had become to mean as much to him as his own mother.  He would’ve been devastated had she been hurt.


After letting Kathleen rest for a bit, Daniel packed up some of the soup and rolls for her and drove her home, promising that he and Caiden would drop her car off for her first thing in the morning.


While Daniel was gone, Caiden cleaned up the kitchen, then went out and cleaned up the remains of Kathleen’s casseroles.


He looked up from clearing up the last of the mess when he heard Daniel driving back into the yard.  He swallowed thickly, knowing that it was time to face the music.


Daniel walked up to him, “Caiden, let’s go into the study.  I think you and I need to have a discussion.”


He put his arm around Caiden’s shoulders and led him towards the house.  Caiden’s stomach was in nervous knots.  ‘Discussion, a lovely euphemism for getting my backside lit up like a bonfire,’ he thought glumly.


They entered the study and Daniel steered them towards the loveseat.  He sat down and pulled Caiden onto his lap.  Caiden kept his eyes lowered, picking at his nails. 


“Caiden?  Caiden, look at me,” Daniel said quietly.


Caiden slowly lifted his eyes and looked mournfully at Daniel.  “I’m sorry the goats got out again, Daniel.  Really!  I don’t know how they keep doing it.  I’m always careful about closing the gate.  I thought I had it fixed, I swear!”


Daniel placed a finger gently over Caiden’s lips.  “Cai, I’m not upset that the goats got out.  You weren’t irresponsible in regards to securing the gate.  What I have to wonder is, have you been continuing to tease that goat?”


Caiden’s cheeks flushed a bit and he began to stammer, “Daniel…I…I mean…”


Daniel once again placed a finger over Caiden’s lips.  “Think carefully about what you’re about to say, Caiden Isaiah.  You know I can always tell when you’re lying to me,” he warned his nervous Brat.


Caiden opened his mouth as if to speak, but then shut again without a sound.  He looked down at his hands again.


Daniel put two fingers under Caiden’s chin and gently guided his gaze upwards.  “The truth, Caiden, always the truth.”


Caiden looked as though he were desperately trying to hold back tears and nodded slowly, once more lowering his eyes.


“Out loud, Caiden.  I can’t hear a nod,” Daniel prompted.


“Yes, Daniel,” came the sorrow-filled whisper.  “I did tease the goat.”  Then his eyes snapped up to look into Daniel’s.  “But I never thought he’d hurt Kathleen!  It was just a game, a stupid game!  I thought it was funny!  I never meant for anyone to get hurt!”


“I know you didn’t, Caiden.  But didn’t I warn you that this sort of thing might happen?” Daniel asked him seriously.


“Yes, but I really didn’t think it could hurt.  I mean, he only took it as a game if you hit him between the eyes.  How could I know that he’d get loose and Kathleen would hit him between the eyes?”


“That’s not the point, Caiden.  No, you didn’t know he’d get loose again.  But you can’t pretend that your game didn’t have anything to do with it.  You taught that goat to play.  What would’ve happened if I’d walked into the pen at some point with, let’s say, the clippers to trim one of the goats.  What would’ve happened if he’d knocked me down and I’d fallen on the clippers, or, God forbid, you did?  Do you have any idea of how much it would hurt me if something happened to you?  You’re my life, Caiden, I love you!”


Caiden broke down into tears, “I’m sorry, Daniel!  I really didn’t think about it!  It was just supposed to be fun…a game…that’s all!”


“One that you had been warned on more than one occasion to stop playing, and someone could’ve been badly hurt as a result,” Daniel pointed out.


“You’re going to spank me, aren’t you?” Caiden asked quietly.


“Don’t you think you deserve a spanking?” Daniel inquired.


Caiden squirmed in his lap.  Then he looked up with red, tear-filled, despondent eyes, “Yes, Daniel,” came the heartbroken whisper.


Daniel stood Caiden up on his feet.  He walked over to the straight-backed chair and pulled it to the middle of the floor.  He looked over at the pitiful sight that was his beloved partner.  “Take off your shoes and jeans, please.”


Caiden slowly complied, carefully placing his shoes next to the loveseat and folding his jeans and placing them on the arm of the loveseat.


Daniel sat down and beckoned Caiden to him.  Slowly Caiden approached his right side.  “I really am sorry,” came the tear-filled voice.


“I know you are.  Now let’s get this over with, eh?”  Daniel held out his hand to Caiden who grasped it.  Daniel helped to guide Caiden over his lap.  It still awed him; the trust that his partner had in him, knowing that he would only go as far as was necessary and never harm him.  He was determined to never betray that priceless trust.


He drew Caiden’s boxers down to his knees, secured his left hand around Caiden’s hip, and looked down at the backside that he’d rather love on in a more romantic capacity than discipline.  


He lifted his right arm and brought it down on Caiden’s right cheek with a hefty smack.  Caiden let out a yelp, which was just as much from the shock of the first spank as it was the pain.  Daniel lifted his hand and gave the left cheek a matching smack.  He then began to spank in earnest, making sure to cover Caiden’s entire backside and upper thighs until they were a deep crimson.  


Caiden cried and wailed.  He promised to never tease the goat, make that *any* animal, again for the rest of his natural life.  But Daniel hardened his heart until he felt Caiden finally let go and simply accept the spanking.  He laid down a few more hard swats and then stopped, letting Caiden cry for a few minutes while he gently rubbed his back.


When Caiden had settled some, Daniel helped him to his feet, pulled his boxers back up, and led him over to the loveseat.  He sat down and pulled Caiden into his lap, careful to avoid causing any more pain to the already painful rear.  He cuddled Caiden close to him, drying his tears gently with a tissue. 


“I’m sorry, Daniel.  I’m so, so sorry,” Caiden said sadly.


“No more guilt, Cai, no more apologies.  It’s done.  We’ve dealt with it.  All is forgiven.  I love you so much.”


Caiden snuggled down into Daniel’s arms.  “I love you too, Daniel.”



They sat there together, simply holding each other.  Daniel could feel Caiden slowly slipping into slumber.  Just as he thought that Caiden was asleep, he heard a quiet, sleepy voice ask, “Does this mean that we have to wait on getting the alpacas?”