Mal watched Curt go, puzzled by the sudden strangeness with the radios. They had rehearsed that song, the music of it, but Curt hadn‟t sang it once in rehearsal. Now Malcolm knew why. Too personal, and singing it was akin to stripping in front of the audience, leaving himself totally exposed. Especially this audience, since so many of them knew Curt. God, what must they all be thinking now? Fortunately he and the band had picked an upbeat number for their final one. Mal hated leaving a show on a dark note. When the radios had been silenced, only after the song had ended as they refused to turn off before then, he grabbed the mic with a grin plastered on his face in an effort to regain control of the show. “My apologies to The Pixies for the slight changes to their classic…but I‟ve been told its fitting, so I‟m sure they‟ll forgive me.” With your feet in the air , and your head on the ground Try this trick and spin it! Yeahh! Your head will collapse, but there's nothing in it And you'll ask yourself? chorus: Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Way out, in the water see it swimmin´ I was swimmin´ in the Carribean Animals were hiding behind the rocks. Except the little fish But they told me,he swears Tryin' to talk to me,to me to me chorus: Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Way out, in the (gutter) see it swimmin´? With your feet in the air, and your head on the ground Try this trick and spin it! Yeahh! Your head will collapse if there's nothing in it And you'll ask yourself chorus: Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Way out, in the (gutter) see it swimmin´ He bowed, gestured to Taly and Kai to take their bows in succession, then shouted, “Thanks everyone! Good night!” into the mic before putting it back in its stand and following Curt backstage…hoping to find the man in one piece and still breathing. * Wow, Rachel cheered, whistled, clapped. She felt arms wrap around her and glanced up to see CJ, she grinned. "Wow, what a fun night..." She certainly needed this and now she didn't want to go home. "Are ya invited to the after party?" She asked CJ. He shrugged. No one had said anything to him but he guessed he might be, he was Curt's twin after all, but then again he didn't want to assume anything. "I'll go and see what's going on, wait here..." he told her then kissed her head and went to find Curt, first to congratulate him, then to find out what he was doing after. He would take Rachel home then come back. At least that was his plan. He hadn't a clue what Rachel's plans were. By the time Malcolm reached the green room, Curt had returned. But he was pacing, anxious, and not looking well at all. “Taly? You got anything…” “Nah, man…haven‟t had a chance to go out an…” “Shit!” Curt swung and drove his fist through the door. It was the first moment when Malcolm realized that Curt‟s drug use was more than just casual and fun. It was a problem…much the same as Taly‟s was a problem…and that scared him. He should have known before, from Curt‟s past. He should have seen the signs. “We can go out and pick something up. Shouldn‟t take us long.” Taly didn‟t bother to change and tugged Curt after him. “We‟ll be back soon.” “Better be,” Malcolm said. “We‟ve got people out there waiting for us.” The two headed one way, and Kai headed the other, going back out into the club in search of Cassidy. Malcolm wasn‟t far behind her. They encountered CJ in the hall; Malcolm stayed to talk to him. “You made it,” he said, offering his hand. "Sure did! Fuck man ya rock!" CJ grinned and took his hand, pulling him into a hug. "Good ta see ya again." Rachel found them talking and shuffled up to the side of CJ as she smiled at Malcolm. "Hi..." "Mal this is Rachel my mistress, Rachel, well ya already know who he is," The McGregor smirked. “No wonder I picked her out of the crowd…must‟ve known she was here with a Wild. I‟m on my way to find Tamara…” and maybe Cassidy, he thought, if only to say hello and thank him for coming. Rachel blushed and smiled at Mal. "She's out there last time I saw her... say there anything going on after, party or somethin'?" CJ asked. “I…maybe.” He shrugged and laughed. “Suppose to be, but these things change on a moments notice. Cassidy and his cousin were to join us…but I think Carl has left…Tamara too…and I honestly don‟t know what‟s going on. I‟m usually the last to know anything.” He grinned and gestured for them to follow him out into the club. "Tell me about it..." CJ said as they followed him back out, "Well if there's nothing goin' down, no worries..." Rachel was slightly disappointed she had missed Taly, but maybe she'd see him another time. "Can you tell Vitaly I said thanks," she smiled at Mal. “Sure will…or you can wait around for him if you want. Can‟t say for sure when he‟ll be back…but he should be. And we‟re playing Wednesday too…you‟ll have to ask Curt where. “You‟re welcome to join us there…and maybe we‟ll have our shit together by then. This was all pretty spur of the moment, but you play when you get the chance, know what I mean?” "Suppose we could stay for a bit," CJ said appeasing Rachel. "I know how it is, man, don't have to remind me..." he winked. "We'll definitely be there Wednesday..." Rachel added, grinning. They pushed forward until the crowd came between them. Malcolm turned, trying to see over the heads of the crowd for the Wild blonde hair, but for the moment he'd lost them. Most likely he'd meet up with them at the bar. Meanwhile Kai went into the club and snuck up behind Cassidy, putting her hands upon his hips and her mouth against the back of his neck. “You look smashing,” she purred. Other than the t-shirt, he was dressed almost like Malcolm in those black jeans and leather vest, but he sure didn't deny her compliment. He knew he looked smashing too. "I know." He turned in her arms and caught her lips with his own. "Don't look so bad yourself, Kai. Ready to party?" Where were the others, he couldn't but think. Would Malcolm be joining them? “Ready when you are. Malcolm‟s over there, and Curt and Taly will be back in a bit.” She moved against him. “We can wait or start without them…and I for one vote for starting without them.” "Out back? Sounds good to me." Cassidy knew what went on in many back rooms behind stages. He and Carl had once been assigned to attach themselves to a Brazilian heavy metal band, act like groupies, and then after a concert, when the band was either unconscious from drugs or in the middle of massive orgy style sex, he and Carl had slipped off, found their targets in another room, and quietly slit their throats. Only the Admiral's careful manipulation behind the scenes had kept the innocent band members from bearing the brunt of prosecution by the authorities. She was suddenly nervous, as she usually was in such instances. “Mind if I get a drink first…?” Was she stalling? Maybe. But her body language didn‟t change, nor did the way she was touching him. “Get two, hon, of whatever you're having. I'll meet ya back there. I'm sure I can find it." And maybe I can get a moment alone with Malcolm ..... “Sure…” She didn‟t question that he might have something to do before joining her; she‟d been here with his cousin, had other friends he probably wanted to say goodbye to. And it gave her a few more minutes to get her composure back…hopefully. Two vodka tonics were ordered then she retreated to the back again, waiting anxiously. Cassidy was anxious too, but not because of that "date" he had with Kai tonight. He needed to speak to Malcolm. The Irishman wasn't one to mince words. He wanted to stare at the man, drink in that body, that mouth, then speak his mind. "Follow me," he grunted to the singer the moment he saw that he was alone. What Cassidy was going to need was strict privacy. He didn't want anyone bumping into them on their way back stage. Malcolm hadn‟t even reached Tamara yet…and had become separated from Rachel and CJ in the crowd. He felt he should rejoin them, but Cassidy‟s grunt sounded close enough to an order for the smaller man to decide not to fight him. He was wary now, and a little annoyed inside that this man frightened him so easily. “What?” he asked as they reached the edge of the crowd and noise. “If this is about that song…” "Forget the song. I know the words and I'm sure you know what I said back to you when it was over. What I want to know, and this is a simple yes or no question .. is ... are you interested in me? And don't pussyfoot around what I mean by interested. I want a yes or no. Are you wanting, I'm not saying looking, but are you wanting to fuck or be fucked by me?" There was no shuffling or apparent nervousness, despite the fact that he was feeling quite fearful inside. “I‟d be lying if I said no. But take this for what it‟s worth. You‟re married. You made a commitment…and I respect that. I‟m not the sort to trespass so you don‟t have to worry about that.” "That's a simple yes or no?" Cassidy laughed with a shake of his head, wondering for a moment why he'd ever left the service. Malcolm shrugged. “That and an explanation. A yes with a qualifier.” He tried not to shift his feet as his anxiety tried to push to the surface. Now he was being laughed at. The thing that normally followed laughter from bigger, stronger men, was a fist. "Wasn't looking for an explanation or a qualifier .... just an answer to a question. But thanks." He shrugged too and turned away with an amused smile. "See you around, Malcolm." “Yeah.” He didn‟t understand what had just happened…other than the fact that he‟d been verbally stripped…and then left for „dead‟. Well, he sighed, he guessed that pretty much told him where Cassidy‟s thoughts lay. He remained there in the corridor, alone, for several minutes, feeling completely off balance. Cassidy was still chuckling in bemusement as he walked in the back room to find Kai. If he'd been a SID, Malcolm would have been unconscious. "Kai?" “Back here,” she called. There were two rooms off the central dressing room, more private ones, and she was seated on a sofa removing her shoes. “Sorry…I couldn‟t wait to get those off.” And I couldn't wait to see Malcolm alone, smell him, get close to him without touching, and now all I can do is laugh, he thought to himself with another shake of his head. "Feet hurt, eh?" He dropped to his knees and started massaging them with a smile. "Better?" “Much,” she smiled with a purr. “The price one must pay for fashion, I suppose. I should know better than to put these things on after drumming…but I didn‟t want my toes trampled while out there in that mob. Thank you.” One of the two drinks on the end table was handed to him. “Hope this will do…” "Oh yeah." He thought of the aborted encounter with Malcolm and downed the drink quickly. "It'll do." “Hey…” She caught his wrist. “Easy there, sailor…what‟s eating you?” Any man who downed a drink that quickly was either as nervous as hell…or upset or on edge about something…or had a drinking problem. She‟d prefer to know which upfront so she knew what she was in for. "What isn't eating me?" he laughed lightly. "Seriously, it's nothing, Kai. Nothing at all." A little disappointment, but I'm sure what's coming next with you won't be. His other hand moved up into her pink hair. "Told ya I liked this, and I do." She wanted to believe him, but didn‟t. Not fully. But why argue…especially when that might come soon enough. “I‟ve tried letting it grow out…but it just doesn‟t look right when I do. No style, no body…” She grinned and nuzzled his arm. “Unlike you…great style and great body.” Lame, maybe, but the truth in her opinion. "It's those Celt genes," he smirked, "both sides of the family tree. As for the body .... I work out a little each day." He shrugged, half in modesty and half with pride as he leaned more into her on that sofa. "Anything ya wanna tell me before we take this any further, Kai? I'm clean. Checked every six months." “Clean inside and out,” she breathed with a hiss, her arms encircling him. “And despite some of my recreational habits…I don‟t do anything with needles, so that‟s all clean too. You can check for tracks yourself if you want.” He did. And he wasn't ashamed to look. Then he kissed her, a deep kiss that slowly pushed her down beneath him with a groan of desire. Wasn't anything wrong with her he could see. And she trusted that he was clean, on instinct alone. The moan in her throat gave way to a soft cry as his weight settled upon her. Torn between the increase of passion and nerves, she clung to him. There was one more thing she should say…but fear kept her from it. What if she spoke…and he left? Odds were, he‟d leave anyhow…but he felt so good…tasted so good…that she was in no hurry at all to rush to the end. It kept her from speaking the words and instead made her focus on whatever skin her hands could find and the kiss that seemed to grow deeper and deeper with each moment that passed. "Let me help ya with that, hon," he murmured into her lips and reached over his back, pulling off the vest and then the t-shirt. "Your turn?" He was asking. He wasn't about to assume he should just take off hers too. The man was bold but he was no rapist. “By all means.” It required putting a little room between them so she could maneuver the pink tank top off over her head. Her breasts were round but small, the result being she never needed to wear a bra…unless she wished to hide them altogether by flattening them even more. Some men preferred more ample flesh, but since she hadn‟t ever misled him about their size, she didn‟t think he would complain now. Her eyes searched his for traces of disapproval, while the pink buds tightened with the anticipation of skin to skin contact. He gave that contact in the form of his mouth. Small but nice. Cassidy wasn't picky so long as the woman was old enough, clean, attractive and not fat. Too thin in that skeletal way some girls had wasn't exactly fun either. He was almost able to take her entire breast in his mouth, and as it popped back out, he nibbled on the nipple with a little growl. A hand was working on his belt. Well practiced and not shy. She liked that. True arrogance was a turn off, but a man who was confident of what he had and of his abilities was something she enjoyed. Perhaps, she thought with a sigh of contentment as her hands traveled down his torso and over his hips, pushing fabric away, because she knew she wasn‟t overly confident about what she had. She wasn‟t ashamed or embarrassed…but she knew what to expect from most others when they looked at her. Denim followed by cotton boxers went down to his ankles, exposing something he had no shame about and a lot of confidence using correctly. His chest was similar to Carl's, lightly sprinkled with soft blonde strands, below sporting slightly darker curls. There were no tattoos, piercings or any kind of body art anywhere. He was a party man, but he was a conservative party man too in some ways. He'd drink til sunrise, dance and orgy and go wild in those ways. But he'd never do drugs, never force himself on someone, and he'd always use protection, always. "I'll put it on, baby," he purred around her neck with hot kisses as a hand groped into his jacket pocket on the floor. "You finish undressing." It wouldn‟t be easy to do from beneath him, but at least it would keep his eyes above her waist. Did he feel the change in her body temperature as she felt her skin go clammy? If he moved to put that condom on, sat up…he was going to see her. Really see her. With no darkness, no blankets, not turned back or anything to hide her body from him. Frequently she waited to get to this point until her partner, male or female, was drunk or high enough to not remember anything clearly the next day. By not doing so with Cassidy, she was taking a very big chance. Shaky hands wiggled her trousers down off her hips, then her toes worked them off the rest of the way…by which time she was shaking so much that he HAD to notice, though maybe he‟d interpret it as excitement. The big man was busy rolling that condom, still leaning over her but leaving enough room between them as he supported himself on one arm and used the other to put the latex in place. She was shaking, and it made him smile. She'd probably taken one good look at his shaft and couldn't wait to have it. "There." A quick glance below at her body showed she was still partially dressed. He didn't look closely. "Think you forgot something, hon," he chuckled and started gently tugging on her panties. "Unless you've changed your mind? Just say the word." She didn‟t always wear panties, but sometimes it was a necessity…and in this instance they served as one last protective barrier. “No…I haven‟t changed my mind,” she managed to say with a teasing grin, “but it gives you the final moment of conquest.” She giggled, nervously, knowing that right now, if anyone changed his or her mind, it was going to be Cassidy. "You like to be conquered?" he teased, catching her lips again as that material moved away under his hand. "I think I can do that. I think I can do that just fine." A hand moved her legs, opening them, and that's when he felt something strange. "Chastity belt?" Why? Why would a hot little thing like this be doing wearing one of those unless it was for a joke? “Not…exactly…” she whispered. Do or die time. No turning back. “Depending on what I‟m wearing…it‟s…necessary… "Necessary for what?" He worked the belt type thing off her hips, and the moment he realized what it had been hiding, what it had been pressing down in a way that wouldn't show easily to someone glancing below, he froze. "Ahhhh ... ahhhhhh......" Brown eyes went wide with surprise. "You're ... You've .... You're a ..... " He knew the word. Cassidy was well-educated through the Army, SEAL and SAD team. Undercover espionage missions didn't work with men operating at standard high school levels. "Hermaphrodite?" Her face showed surprise. “Wow…” She blinked and cleared her throat. “Most would have said transvestite…but all the plumbing‟s there for both genders…yes…natrually.” Shifting, she propped herself up on her elbows. Now what, she wondered. “And all fully functional…” "Functional like .... " He gulped. "You can have full sex with your dick and not just your pussy?" “Yes.” Seeing his discomfort she inched up to sitting to give him space. “Sorry. Not about who I am…but…for not saying. Normally I would‟ve waited til you were too plastered to care…but I wanted this to be…honest…with you. Was afraid to say anything though…but I won‟t blame you if you want to go now.” Not for the first time she wondered why she‟d never corrected that abnormality. But she knew why. This was who she was. It had advantages, gave her a unique identity. She didn‟t want to change really…only sometimes, in moments like this. "Not that I wanna go," he sighed and sat up too, taking the condom off his still hard erection. "But I can't now. Not if ya got a dick that .. that works. Be like cheating on my boy, and I'm not gonna do that." Maybe if it was just a useless piece of flesh hanging there, she couldn't do anything with it, he would be comfortable sleeping with her. But if it worked, could have sex, it made the Irishman very unwilling to go further ... all because of that vow. "You're not the first herm I've ever seen, but you are the first up close like this. Sorry if ya think I'm an asshole now. Guess I'm just being .. honest ... too." She nodded, not looking at him, hiding what she was feeling. She wasn‟t a male, at least not fully, and there was no reason to exercise that part of her. She could use one or the other…or both…but there wasn‟t any reason to point that out. It would make her look desperate, and she didn‟t want that. Nor did she remind him what he‟d said the last time they‟d met. He had his reasons and she could respect them, even when it hurt. There wasn‟t anything to say except, “Not an asshole.” "No reason we can't still party, eh?" he smiled as he dressed, eyes no longer looking at her with any sexual interest despite a manhood that remained erect, waiting for more attention. "And I don't think I told ya how much I enjoyed the show. Three of you are really talented. I may come to the next gig if I'm not busy." He'd meant to tell that to Malcolm too, express his appreciation for their act on stage, but the man had thrown him off balance, resulting in surprised amusement instead, then bringing a strangely felt disappointing end to their encounter and Cassidy leaving to find Kai sooner than planned. "If .. If you want me to still come....." “Sure.” She didn‟t think Taly and Curt had come back yet, or they would‟ve come bursting into here. She didn‟t know where Malcolm was either. Maybe out in the club. She dressed as well though she no longer felt like partying. It showed, in her eyes at least, just how little he really felt for her. Any interest had vanished when he‟d learned the truth…and it wasn‟t just because he was married. If it was…he wouldn‟t have continued to look at Malcolm with obvious, to her, desire. Married didn‟t mean dead below the waist…but he most certainly was now. It would just take a few minutes for the previous arousal to dissipate. “Guess we hang in the club til the others get back. Take it your cousin isn‟t coming…so may be just you and us…” Cassidy…and two thorns. She didn‟t think he‟d stay. "I doubt Squidward'll show. He's either out busting heads or busting pussy." His manhood wasn't lessening because he still found her to be attractive, he still wanted her like he'd told her, but he wasn't about to do anything now, not a thing, with a woman who had a functioning dick. That was cheating, in his books. “Shouldn‟t be busting anything. It isn‟t productive.” Although right now she thought that it sounded like a good enough outlet. It appeared she was going to have to turn to one of her usual standbys…which wasn‟t what she wanted at all. “Come on then. Let‟s see what the rest of the hoodlums are up to.” "Sure thing." He stood, fixing his pants over that straining bulge and held out his hand to her. "Really, Kai. I'm sorry. Still think you're hot, would slam ya into that couch right now, extra bits of flesh or not ... but a dick really working? ... I'm sure that's cool for you ... but it's not for me, no matter what my body is trying to tell me otherwise," he chuckled with a laugh down at his groin. “It‟s who I am,” she shrugged. “My whole life. I could have done surgery, to be just one or the other…but I like who I am. I just some times wish…people didn‟t judge me because of it.” "People suck." He kept his hand out to see if she'd accept it or not. "Depending on where I am, I just bust their head in for judging me. 'Course, all it does is reinforce what they think, but at that point I don't usually give a shit." “That‟s an option I don‟t have,” she sighed, accepting his hand though now feeling a little awkward about doing so. "Could learn?" he suggested. "If ya want that option. Lots of girls know how to fight too. Come 'round my place some day if ya wanna learn how to stand up for yourself like that. Offensive, defensive ... either or .... I can teach ya, hon." She walked beside him back towards the noise of the club. “Maybe. I‟ve so far managed to avoid violent confrontations…as an adult that is…and I hope to keep it that way. Too much of a pacifist for my own good, I guess…which is probably a surprise coming from a military brat.” "Actually," he had to laugh, "not really. Some of my best friends in the military are pacifists. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it isn't." He moved into the other room with her, brought her into a hug, and kissed her cheek. "Friends?" She nodded and hugged him back. “I hope so.” The word stung a little, but there wasn‟t any option. It was friends or nothing…and she wouldn‟t accept nothing if she could help it. ** Outside the back door of the club, Taly pulled out his cell phone. “Relax, Cee. This new guy‟ll come through.” “Ya just met „im…what the fuck makes ya think he‟ll make house calls?” “It‟s a sale, man. When the money‟s good enough…” He paused mid-dial and looked at Curt. “You do have money…right?” “Yeah.” He wrapped his arms around himself as if he was cold. The shivering had nothing to do with being cold however, and everything to do with the lack of chemicals in his system. His foot was throbbing, his head pounding, and his chest heaving with shallow breaths. If he was thinking straight, he would have recognized the symptoms. He wasn‟t thinking at all, however, except about the need to calm himself and the desire to party. “Oh yeah? Hand it over.” Neither of them knew the voice, but the hand that knocked Taly‟s phone out of his hand startled the Leto. He stumbled back and crashed into a pile of crates. They didn‟t recognize the curly headed man confronting them with a drawn gun either. Curt looked him up and down with a grunt. “Fuck you.” “Money. Now…” “I said fuck you!” Wise or not, Curt charged the waving gun, not planning on allowing that weapon to shoot his new friend. The gun discharged once and Taly screamed, but Curt was too engrossed now in trying to break the man‟s grip on the gun to see if Taly had been hit. Blows were traded until the gun sailed across the alley and went off again. Their assailant was bigger and stronger then Curt, but Curt fought as hard as he could, taking out his anger over Sid‟s death and his desperation for chemical stimuli on the man who happened to have come across him at the wrong place and time. What started out as self defense was now the desire to inflict pain, as much of it as he could. But a lucky blow to his shoulder sent a flash of pain through him much greater than it should have, making his eyesight swim red, and then black, before he slipped down to the ground. Hephaistion only happened upon the scene in his search to find his Twin and meet him personally this time, not like they'd met on webcam. Experienced eyes saw immediately what was going on, though not for the reason of it. The Macedonian didn't need any reason to defend a Community resident and his Twin, so he charged the large man, kidney punching him once as his other hand easily slid a dagger up under that thick neck. He'd give the brute a chance to surrender, but if he didn't, Hephaistion had no problem with dispatching him like a rabid dog. “What the…” the man croaked. He hadn‟t noticed a third man in the area, and without his weapon, with a blade at his throat, he knew he didn‟t stand a chance. Especially since Taly had picked up the gun and was pointing it in their direction with shaky hands and a sick, terrified expression. "Apologize to these men," Hephaistion growled. "Vitaly, see to Curt." The McGregor wasn't moving, but Hephaistion didn't dare go to his aid. “Nothin‟ to apologize for,” he spluttered. “Only wanted their money…” Vitaly wasn‟t moving, too much in shock to act. "Do it!" The blade cut into flesh. Being more interested in living then in bravado, the guy managed to squeak, “Okay, okay…sorry. Keep your bloody money. I don‟t need it…” Using all his strength, Hephaistion shoved the man away from him, though he held the knife at ready in case the man came back. "Leave while you still can," he warned in a very quiet tone as he backed towards Curt to check on the man. He couldn‟t run away fast enough, his hand covering his bleeding throat as he fled. Curt groaned and stirred. He hurt everywhere, especially his shoulder where the first bullet had ripped clean through him and he hadn‟t even noticed it. "Vitaly, put down the weapon before someone else is hurt. Curt needs medical attention of a modern kind I'm not equipped to handle. One of us needs to stay with him and the other to get help." He could tell that his Twin was frightened, but this was no time to freeze, not when someone's life might be in danger. “Blood…aw…shit…” The gun clattered to the ground as he rolled over to vomit. He didn‟t deal well with blood, especially the sort that came with the potential of dying. Curt managed to open his eyes and said, “I‟m okay…but fuck…it hurts…” "It appear to be non life threatening, but you still need medical attention." He looked over at his Twin and sighed, though it was a sympathetic sigh for a non-warrior. "I'll return with someone. Watch each other. And here." The blade was put into Curt's hand. “No fuckin‟ doctors…” But then he passed out again, that much pain in his physical condition being more than he could cope with. Vitaly managed to push up to his knees. “A gun shot like that needs a doctor…coulda severed some arteries…splintered bone…infection…know he doesn‟t want a doctor…but he‟ll need one…” With Curt passed out, Vitaly having shown that he was in no condition to protect him if their assailant came around again, Hephaistion took the knife back and started to lift Curt into his arms. He'd have to carry him now. There was no other way. They weren't much difference in size, but at least Hephaistion had a strong back and strong arms from his canon life. It wouldn't be easy, but he could do it. "Can you get the door, Vitaly?" he groaned. Not about to leave that gun in the alley, even though he hated the things and didn‟t want to touch it, Taly picked it up and got the door open. “We could use the van if we need to take him somewhere…or his truck…” "Agreed, likely the van would be more comfortable for him." "Sid's Mate is bleeding again?" Sidi asked as he started to come through the open door on his way out. "What is it with that boy? Bleed, bleed, bleed, bleed. He could fill a river with it." “Wasn‟t his fault,” Taly said defensively. He thought the man was Sidney, not realizing that there were more than one of these men around. “Fuckin‟ saved my life.” "Truly? I find that surprising when he can't seem to save his own. Or rather not, upon further reflection of his Mate's memories." "Get out of our way, Sidney," Hephaistion barked at the man he thought was his First but at the moment was more concerned with helping Curt. "Sidious," Sidi sighed. "Yes, I'm wearing purple today, but I am not your brother, either of them." "Is my brother nearby? Or Laird Bruce?" "No. Are you seeking medical attention, I would presume, for that gunshot?" "He needs a doctor." "Indeed. I have four fully trained doctors in my Profiles and a host of others with medical experience of some kind or another. I can easily access their skills and treat that wound Perfect." “Let‟s just fuckin‟ do something before he bleeds to death.” Not that Curt was in immanent danger of doing that, but there was too much blood for Vitaly‟s liking. Curt moaned and in his twilight state reached out hand and gripped Sidi‟s arm wanting the familiar SID presence to stay. "Do you have a vehicle? I would rather not have him bleed all over my Porsche." He stepped fully out the door, closing it behind him. "Vitaly said we can take the van." "How .... quaint." He looked at the modern Leto and waved his arm outward. "After you then. I'll give you directions to my place. I'll want full reimbursement for the use of my supplies and my time. You're fortunate I have everything that wound will need." Then he glanced down at the McGregor's hand gripping his other arm and smiled. "You won't be joining your Mate yet, Curt, not if I can help it." Fortunately, Taly had left the keys in the van. It could have been stolen, yes, and Kai had scolded him many times to not leave them there, but this time, as rattled as Taly was, he was glad he didn‟t have to go back inside and root around for the keys. He opened the side door of the van for them, the climbed in to the driver‟s seat and started the engine. Hopefully he was calm enough to drive, he thought as he followed Sidi‟s directions to their destination. The apartment wasn't large, but it had two bedrooms off the main room and kitchen, was soundproofed by SID, of course, and was immaculate in a way that many would have seen as strange. Sidi didn't bother to explain the large dog kennel in the corner of the living room. He'd cleaned it out, washed it down, so there it sat, waiting for the next toy he brought home that caught his eye. Anyone who didn't know his character would just assume an animal had used it. "Put him on the bed in there." He pointed to the master bedroom and a bed that would be covered in SID scent as close to Sid's as could be. "I'll get what he needs." “Need help?” Taly asked Hephaistion as he held the door open for the man. He wasn‟t sure what help he could be, but he wasn‟t leaving Curt. "Pull back the coverings and help me undress him." "Don't worry about getting blood on the sheet," Sidi called out from where he was rummaging around in a closet in the other bedroom. "I always just throw them out when that happens." Taly threw Hephaistion a worried look. What did that man mean by that? On second thought, he decided he didn‟t want to know. He‟d just be happy if he didn‟t have to see any more blood. The sheets came back and he helped undress Curt as quickly as possible. There were several large bruises beginning to show across his torso and face now, but other than blood around his lips and nose, and his shoulder, there wasn‟t any more. Taly hoped that meant Curt was going to live. "Doctor Sidious to the rescue!" A naked SID stepped into the room holding a medical bag in one hand and dragging an IV pole with the other. He didn't care if Curt got blood on that bottom sheet, but he cared if any got on his nice purple suit. "Fortunate that the bullet went right through. Now to determine the amount of damage it did in that shoulder." The IV needle was slipped into a vein to send antibiotics directly into Curt. "Please hold his arms still for this part. Poking around in there is bound to bring pain." Taly held down one arm, knowing Curt wouldn‟t even notice that needle. “Shouldn‟t we give „im somethin‟ for the pain?” he asked, feeling squeamish all over again. Sidi's eye arched with a giggle. "No. And if you don't know why, ask him when he's feeling better. Or perhaps ask the Macedonian. He should know too." "Just fix him," Hephaistion growled as he held the other arm. "Exactly what I plan to do." Using sterile instruments, the Crowe examined that wound, humming and murmuring as he did so, not being purposely rough but not being exactly gentle either. He was just being professional and efficient in all ways except the giving of pain-relief. As high as his tolerance was for pain, Curt didn‟t react to it right away. When it did finally register as a bit too much in his brain, his eyes snapped open as he growled and tried to pull away. That of course, wrenched his shoulder more and he swore. “What the fuck do ya think yare doin‟?” he snapped, not really angry, just reacting in pain to what was being done to him. "Keeping you from having to go to a hospital .... a place I know you do not wish to go with your irrational fear of it." He poked around in that shoulder more until he was satisfied. "No bone or bullet fragments. A very clean shot." He cleaned it out again and went to work on extensive bandaging. “Coulda at least given me somethin‟ for the pain,” he groused, though he knew it wasn‟t a SIDs way. Something for the pain would have been chemicals in his system, however, something he wanted badly. “What happened to the asshole who shot me?” Taly feigned interest in something on the wall, both in an effort to hide the fact that he hadn‟t done anything to help Curt, and because all of that poking and prodding and blood was making him more faint by the moment. "He's gone," Hephaistion said quietly as he watched every movement that Sidi made. If it had been a sword or dagger wound, the Macedonian would have felt skilled enough to handle it. With modern day weapons, he was useless. "I told your friends I want reimbursement for my supplies and my time, but at least it kept you out of the hospital and you can go home whenever you want. I suggest you allow the male human or the elf at your residence to check upon your recovery. I believe they are both skilled enough to handle it." Curt managed a nod after another grunt of pain. “I‟ll reimburse ya. My hide yare savin‟…so thanks.” Some small part of him had hoped, perhaps, that he would get killed in the process, but mostly he had been reacting on instinct to protect Vitaly. He looked at Hephaistion. “Glad ya both happened by to help out.” "I was seeking my Twin," Hephaistion smiled. "He brought us here in the vehicle called a van. Is there anyone I should contact for you, Curt?" Hephaistion wasn't Curt's Second ... but he could have easily been if Curt had accepted Firsthood again for Carl. “I…” He looked back at Taly. “Do Mal and Kai know…” The other Leto shook his head. “Didn‟t have a chance to tell anyone…” “Should call „em then. They‟re expectin‟ a party…and I don‟t think I‟ll be partyin‟ any time soon. I feel like shit…” "You're welcome to stay here," Sidi offered as he stood, gathering things to be cleaned. "At no charge, but the noise may keep you from resting well." “Noise?” He shook his head, which made him groan again. “On second thought, maybe I don‟t wanna know. Soon as yare done patchin‟ me up, think I‟ll go to bed…if Taly can get me there…” And get me something to knock me out, he thought. “Don‟t need to be in yare way here…but thank you for the offer.” He managed a smile at the Crowe to show that he really did appreciate the offer. "You're welcome." He headed away, his nude hips moving gracefully through the room. "Your bed at Tigh Ard?" Hephaistion asked hopefully. "I'll certainly help you, Curt." He shook his head again almost too frantically, both because of that suggestion and watching Sidi leave the room and the memories it brought back. “I can‟t let „em see me like this. Shit…they‟ll never give me any peace then. Would appreciate it if ya‟d help Taly get me back to the hotel…but I‟m just not ready for…tonight…ya know?” He doubted Hephaistion would understand. Maybe no one would. He was, in some ways, a coward, afraid to face what awaited him there were he to move in full time again. "You wish to keep this incident from your family and friends?" Hephaistion didn't understand it, but he'd still respect the man's wishes. “Won‟t be able to for long…I know…but for tonight…” At the very least people would know by Wednesday…and at least five might know already, but by then he‟d be well into the healing process…he hoped. “Just wanna sleep tonight where no one‟s gonna hassel me about this. Ya can tell „em if ya must…but they don‟t need to see it yet. If I look as bad as I feel…” He tried to chuckle, ended up coughing, and then groaned. “Mighta cracked somethin‟ in here too. Shit. Shoulda killed the bastard.” "If I get bored later," Sidi said from the doorway, "I might do so. I already have his description filed away. He would fit nicely in the kennel and then you may come back and play with him when I have finished his training." Vitaly winced and glanced towards that cage, having a sinking feeling he wouldn‟t like to know what the Crowe meant by that. “Bet he won‟t be tryin‟ to rob people anymore,” Curt muttered as he sat up slowly. “Does Doc Sidious have any advise for the patient?” Not that he‟d necessarily take the advice, but it couldn‟t hurt to ask. "Other than common sense and continue to see a doctor during your recovery, no." Hephaistion moved closer to Curt, ready, but not about to touch the man yet, if he needed help in standing. “Doctors suck.” He smirked and reached out with both hands to grab whomever was closest to steady himself. “But ya made a good one. Thank you.” Always try to be polite to a SID. It usually helped further any efforts to befriend them. “Think I need some clothes…” "Why?" Sidi giggled as Hephaistion's eyes rolled and his other hand not helping Curt reached for pants. "And since the elf and the human male are not true doctors .... I see no reason why you can't give yourself over to their care if you are leaving here." “Cause if I don‟t put clothes on when walkin‟ through the hotel, I‟ll get arrested for indecent exposure…and I‟ve spent enough time in jail. Can let one of „em look at my shoulder…but like ya say…they ain‟t true doctors…and I still think doctors suck. At least,” he said as he tried to get his pants back on, “most of „em do. Yare welcome to come by and check on yare patient. I‟d…like it…if ya did…” The SID had rejected his previous invitation, but it didn‟t stop Curt from trying again. "Is that all you'd like?" He stepped up, still nude, to Curt, started to help him with those pants, then suddenly reached low, all the way down under to cup a hand around McGregor scrotum and squeeze. His eyes immediately dropped submissively and several ideas ran through his mind at once. The one closest to the surface was that maybe he deserved to be punished, spanked, for the noble, but not necessarily wise, act of charging a man with a loaded gun. His body shifted, intentionally bringing pain to his balls, which made him whimper as he looked up through his lashes into the Crowe‟s face…though not directly into his eyes. Could the man see his thoughts? Whatever he saw, it was enough to make Taly squirm and squeak, “I‟m goin‟ to the john…” Anything to get out of that room. "I'm not moving," Hephaistion snorted, not about to leave a wounded man alone with the stranger SID. "I believe I asked you a question," Sidi said in a very normal tone of conversation, though his hand tightened more. “I…I…would like…” Curt paused. He wasn‟t suppose to have likes…was he? Wasn‟t that part of what had cost him Sid, wanting things, driving the Crowe crazy, eventually killing him? Would it kill Sidi too? “If it pleases you,” he started shakily, hoping it was the proper way to voice his feelings, “I think I should be…punished…for acting rashly…” There was nothing wrong with having likes, preferences, needs, so long as the sub knew how to request them and understood that they might not be fulfilled just because they were spoken. It was up to the Dom to decide such things, though a good Dom made sure to fulfill them occasionally, often as a reward, to keep his or her sub happy, in line, and always eager for more such tidbits. "I think you should be too," Sidi agreed. "Your Mate would kick your ass all over this place for the risk you took. Find me when you're healed more and we'll discuss it then." The grip on that scotum didn't lessen. In fact, it tightened just a bit more. So long? By then he wouldn‟t feel he needed it any more…and punishment would seem superfluous. Meaningless. Would he be able to control his temper when that happened? Would he be able to not feel like a worthless failure when punishment came out of the blue, out of nowhere, with every appearance of seeming to be random violence? He didn‟t know. He didn‟t have a choice. His head nodded slowly, covering his disappointment, confusion, and everything else he felt so that no one else would see it. “Yes, sir,” he murmured. "Good. One thing to remember, Curt Wild, that perhaps my Twin was negligent in teaching you. Punishment does not necessarily come when YOU want it. It comes when it's time to come ... and a good boy accepts it gratefully whenever that time comes. Otherwise, the punishment is not truly punishment, is it? It would then be reward." The hand moved away and he stepped back. "Toodles. I'm sure you three can see your way out." It might not make it punishment now…but doing it at some random unconnected time, in Curt‟s view, made it appear to be simple random violence. At least, that was what he had grown up with. Brutal punishment immediately after a mistake…real or imagined on his parents part…or random beatings for no reason. Even in the early stages of his relationship with Sid, pain and punishment had come as direct response to something else. Curt couldn‟t recall any episodes where it had been delayed to some random time…unless of course the random pain inflicted was punishment for things that he‟d never been told about. He was confused, but he couldn‟t ask about it. And it wouldn‟t do any good now anyhow. Sid wasn‟t there. “Thank you,” he whispered. "Strange," Hephaistion murmured as soon as Sidi was gone and finished helping Curt dress. "Sooner we get you back to the hotel, the better I'll feel." His shirt was ruined and he didn‟t want to put his shoes back on so he let Hephaistion help him with his pants. “What‟s wrong? Don‟t think ya need to worry about him…long as ya don‟t piss „im off.” "I'm not so sure of that. And I think we better check on my Twin ... He does not look well at all. I fear his constitution and mine are very different, despite our outer similarities." “His brother was a weapons dealer…Taly got roped into it,” Curt said quietly, “cause he couldn‟t stand up to the brother he adored.” How many older brothers had warped the younger ones…intentionally or not? “He didn‟t cope well with the violence…and apparently still doesn‟t.” Leaning on Hephaistion, he made his way to the living room where Taly was sitting on the couch with a glass of water. "Vitaly?" Hephaistion held out his other hand. "Come, Brother. We leave this place now." Sidi was already gone. “Sure.” He took the glass back to the kitchen, put it in the sink, and helped Curt back to the van. “Everything gonna be okay, Curt?” “Yeah…but I don‟t think I‟m gonna be partyin‟ tonight. If ya wanna go back and get Mal and Kai…party with them…I‟ll be okay…” "If you wish to spend time with your bandmates," Hephaistion offered, "I'll stay with Curt in his room tonight." Vitaly shrugged. “I dunno what‟s going on. Called Mal but didn‟t get an answer. Same with Kai. Maybe they‟re still at the club…maybe she‟s still with Cassidy…maybe Mal hooked up with…” “Fuck…” Curt realized his cell phone was still at the club too. He couldn‟t get any incoming calls. He didn‟t know what made the most sense to do, felt scattered and weak, in pain and in need of something only Vitaly seemed capable of getting him. “Tal…drop us off at the hotel…and if ya could get our stuff…” Taly‟s eyes sparked. “Yeah…our stuff…” He knew exactly what Curt was saying. “Sure…I‟ll take ya to the hotel. You sure you don‟t need a ride back, Hephaistion? Won‟t they be expecting you?” "No. No one is expecting me tonight. As Second, I'll stay with the man who should be my First ... who is my friend." He settled into the ride with Curt back to the hotel. It felt like the right thing to do. ** Hando used that walk up to Labor & Delivery to make a "few" quick phone calls, leaving the same brief message on each one. "At Lincoln hospital now. Gonna be a dad real soon." He called Andrea, Baz, Curt, Danny, H, HandoK, Jilly, Max, RiggsV, Robbie Williams, Stardust, Timmer, Timmy, and Timothy. Spike was already there, and he grinned at his vamp mate the entire time. Curt only slept once he had Taly‟s pills in his system, but when he did, it was of a constant roller- coaster of pain interlaced with images of blood and white and a woman‟s cries. If he hadn‟t been under the influence of pain himself, and the drugs to combat it…on top of Sid‟s death…he might have recognized the „dreams‟ for what they were…the connection to his sister in the throws of labor. Not having his cell phone when the call had come, and not being coherent enough to check it for messages when Taly brought it back, he hadn‟t gotten the message at all. And when the images and sensations ended they left a deep heavy sorrow…on top of what Curt already felt, kept him asleep much longer than usual in an effort to purge his memory. By the time his eyes saw daylight, the nightmares would be forgotten. *** All there had been were a few pills. Taly hadn‟t scored any heroin lately, and what coke and pills he‟d scored were gone now, used in the „party‟ before and after the party. Curt was getting irritable, snappish, and Vitaly wasn‟t much better. Still, Delilah got through rehearsals, but this time without Curt. With his arm in a sling to keep it immobile, he couldn‟t play the guitar, and with the deep bruises to his jaw and torso, speaking and taking deep enough breaths to sing were nearly impossible. It meant that Delilah performed their Wednesday show without him…not that they needed him to succeed. Still, it made him even more unbearable to be unable to do anything for them…and because he didn‟t want anyone to see his condition, he didn‟t go to the show himself. He remained a prisoner to their hotel room, even going so far as to call Timmy and Julian and beg off going out those 5 days because of being „sick‟. That excuse had gotten him quite a collection of „remedies‟ from his family. Soups, ice cream, CDs and DVDs, affectionate trinkets, and a smattering of hand drawn cards and pictures. He did talk to the boys every day, and by a careful application of makeup and lighting, and adjustments to the cam, much of the facial bruising could pass as the pallor of illness. He didn‟t think Julian bought it however, as the younger man was as experienced in this life as Curt in some regards. But Julian said not a word, and barely one about anything else either. Faith didn‟t speak to him either, though Curt tried every day. That much, he learned, was not a result of his own actions. She had, apparently, stopped speaking to anyone…and so, apparently, had Tamara. Brothers were fighting or not speaking as well. Deep inside, Curt knew he had to go home, had to make this all right, but he couldn‟t. Sid was gone and his entire world had ended that day. He couldn‟t just pretend that life would go on as before. There was still the assault of images, music, colors and scents…even flavors…that seemed to grow exponentially every day around him. Things of Sid…reminders and memories. Convinced he was going crazy, it served to make Curt more irritable, if only because it hurt so much to be constantly reminded of what he didn‟t have…and there were no readily available pharmaceuticals to take the ache away. Nothing took it away for long. During that Wednesday show, feeling at the lowest point he had been since the day of the burial, Curt went out in search of something, anything, to make the hurt stop. But he didn‟t know any sources, and those he recognized as potentials avoided him. Maybe they recognized him. Maybe there was something else at work. It made him angry enough, desperate enough, to walk into a drug store, lift a bottle of sleeping pills, and with a well-practiced ease he hid in the bathroom long enough to open it, pocket a handful of pills that he could just as easily have bought, and then walk out of the store. Liquor store. Bottle of Vermouth. Yeah, that ought to do it. Between the two, he‟d sleep. Sleep for a long time. Back at the empty hotel room, he cranked the stereo and listened to himself singing „Gimme Danger‟…which he was in no physical condition to sing along with. He paced. Bursts of rage resulted in busted up furniture, a fist through the TV screen, glasses and pictures and lamps thrown around the room and broken. Damn you, he swore. Ya lied to me. Said ya‟d always be strong for me…so where the fuck are ya now. I‟m such a loser ya couldn‟t wait to get rid of me. I‟ll show ya. I‟ll be that loser… Three voices argued and swore and raged about the room, none of them in control, none of them wanting to be. They all felt disjointed, fractured, lost…with no one to latch on to and no current strength of will to go on alone. He didn‟t want to die necessarily, but he didn‟t want to go on like this either. Something had to end. How many pills did he swallow? Some by themselves, others in clusters. He didn‟t know. He didn‟t care. About a quarter of the bottle was consumed, each swallow wrapped in a „loser‟, until the combination of things in his system knocked him on his ass. Literally. * In Tigh Ard, alone again as she preferred these days, Tamara curled into a ball on the bathroom floor, staring into darkness, riding the bursts of chaotic pain and anger. If only, some part of her thought, she could reach out to Curt and take his burden from him. But she didn‟t know how any more. She didn‟t know how to reach out. Doing so only resulted in rejection. She didn‟t want more of that. It was so much easier to withdraw. To hide. * Some fifteen minutes later, and fortunately no longer, Malcolm was the first one through the door. He was on a high from a successful performance, and from a bit of flirtatious fun with Curt‟s Mistress, but the high crashed abruptly when turning on the lights showed the state of their room. First glances might have suggested a robbery, but all three knew better. This was the scene of a rage induced rampage. They‟d all seen, and participated in, trashed hotel rooms. “Curt?” Taly called from behind Malcolm. No answer. Mal took a few more careful steps into the room before seeing the McGregor passed out cold on the floor, bottle in one hand with its contents spilled upon the carpet and a scatter of pills trailing from his other hand. “CURT!” Malcolm rushed to him, broken bits of glass and furniture forgotten as he knelt beside the man. Oh gawd…he couldn‟t die. Malcolm couldn‟t bear it. He slapped his face, trying to rouse him. “Curt…man…wake up. Don‟t do this. Come on…” It didn‟t seem to accomplish anything. “He breathing?” Taly asked from Curt‟s other side where he had just knelt. Pressing his ear to the man‟s mouth, Malcolm said, “Yeah…and there‟s a pulse…” “Coming through…” From the table, Kai brought the dregs of melted ice and dumped on Curt‟s head and face. It made the McGregor choke and splutter and gasp, a sign of life that Malcolm latched on to hopefully. “Let‟s get him up…get him moving…coffee…” Vitaly said, already working to get Curt to his feet with Malcolm on his other side. Kai started brewing a pot, a little surprised to find the coffee maker still intact. More slaps on Curt‟s face as the moans and groans got a little more frequent. “Maybe a cold shower would help while the coffee‟s brewing?” Kai suggested as she cleaned away some of the disaster Curt had made. Taly nodded. “Yeah…good thought…Come on, Curt. You‟ll be okay. We‟re going to take good care of you…” Malcolm couldn‟t speak yet. Having been made aware only days before of Curt‟s problem, it had become his mission to keep the drugs out of Curt‟s hands…and out of Taly‟s too. A fortune of powder and pills had been flushed without Taly noticing, and all Curt knew was that there wasn‟t any…not that there had been and it was gone already. It had been an effort to get him clean, which was why Mal had been willing to put up with the McGregor‟s mood swings and boorish behavior. He should have known better than to leave Curt alone tonight. Withdrawals were a bitch, and going through it alone, with no one‟s support, was probably worse, especially when one was already coping…or not coping…with grief issues on top of that. That the man had resorted to finding his own pills only emphasized the size of the problem Curt had. Much more of one than Malcolm had wanted to see. He was going to lose Curt if he couldn‟t help him…just as he was going to lose Taly. Taly was impossible to control, since he was the one with the suppliers, the one who did the buying, though it hadn‟t stopped Mal from trying. Before Curt, Taly hadn‟t been too bad off, as there had been a pretty limited supply of cash. Curt had changed all of that, so while he was helping Delilah, he was killing himself…and Taly…and Mal. They propped Curt up in the shower and turned the cold water on full blast. Curt struggled at first, but as he had little strength or coordination right now it was easy for the other two to hold him. When he stopped fighting, slumped against the wall in his shorts, shivering and muttering beneath his breath, Taly stepped back. “I‟ll get some extra towels…” “Here.” Kai popped her head into the bathroom and tossed a bottle to the Leto. “Something to induce vomiting. Gotta clean his insides out too.” Malcolm took the bottle out of Taly‟s hands, opened it, and pressed it to Curt‟s lips. “Drink, Curt. Vile crap, but it‟s for your own good. Can‟t leave that stuff in there…poisoning you…killing you. You don‟t want to die, Curt. Not when there‟s people who love you and need you…” “Who?” Curt muttered, the first coherent thought to pass from his lips in many long minutes. “No one needs a loser like me…” “Not a loser, Curt,” Mal murmured holding the man up as the McGregor began to wretch. “You‟ve helped us so much…we‟ve got the Saturday gig…thanks to you. We got a record underway now. You‟ve introduced us to new people. You‟ve been a big help to us…and I know there are others who love and need you too. Your boys. Those two SIDs. Your Mistress…your sister…your family…” Their eyes met as Mal‟s voice faltered. He would have included himself in that list, but he didn‟t believe Curt wanted to hear that. Besides, he‟d already included himself in the „love you and need you‟. It was doubtful anyone heard his words for what they were. But Curt did see it there, in his eyes, and heard it in the break of the smaller man‟s voice, and bent down without thinking to press his mouth against Mal‟s. Just a touch, but Mal now felt as if his entire body was on fire. The dark haired man blinked in surprise, then jumped back speechless as Kai‟s medicines hit Curt‟s stomach and began their work. Fingers to his tingling mouth, Mal used his other hand to keep Curt upright until his body stopped retching. Then he forced his head clear enough to murmur, “Come on…out of those wet pants…dry you off…get you some coffee…” Curt let the Brit take care of him, though deep inside he wished it were someone else. He was propped up in a chair and force-fed cup after cup of strong black coffee, and helped into the bathroom four times to either empty his stomach or his bladder, until by the time the sun came up the three members of Delilah concluded he was out of immediate danger. “You know,” Kai quipped, wiping Curt‟s forehead with a damp cloth again. “This isn‟t exactly the sort of party to have after a gig…” “Kinda looks like you started without us,” smirked Taly, though his eyes looked vaguely haunted. Curt glanced around them at the broken furniture, lamps and television. “Sorry…I dunno what…” A finger touched his lips and his eyes focused on Malcolm. Malcolm knew…and so, apparently did the others. There was no reason for Curt to hide amongst these people…except that he was mainly hiding from himself. It appeared, however, that Malcolm even knew that too. Tears pricked Curt‟s eyes and he slumped forward to drop his head onto Mal‟s shoulder. “Think you need to sleep, Curt,” the smaller man murmured. Taly stood to help. “Let him take the bed…I‟ll get the couch this time.” Nodding weakly, Curt let the two men help him to the bedroom. “Thanks…” “Any time,” Taly said. They got Curt as far as the bed, then the Leto stepped away. “I‟ll leave you in Mal‟s care for now, but if you need anything…” “Yeah…thanks…” He dropped heavily back onto the bed and draped his arm over his eyes to block out the light, causing Malcolm to scramble to draw the shades. “S‟cold in here,” Curt whispered. “Here…get under the blankets…” He pulled them up over Curt‟s still nude form. “And if that‟s not enough I‟ll turn on the heat.” Curt‟s hand caught Mal‟s wrist as he started to move towards the thermostat. “No…just…stay with me…” “I‟ll be right here…” “No…I mean…” A storm blew up in Curt‟s eyes, shifting them from blue, to dark blue, to pale silver-blue, to the dark blue flecked with silver…then finally back to their normal blue. “Stay. With me. Hold me.” There was no please, but he knew he didn‟t need it. The plea was already evident in his voice and eyes. Malcolm nodded once, shrugged off his black jeans and leather vest, and slid beneath the blanket to spoon up behind the shivering McGregor. Curt whimpered once, until the arms tightened around him protectively, then he closed his eyes to sleep. There wasn‟t anything submissive about it. It was just one man, sick in body and soul and heart, seeking comfort in the presence of another. A comfort that Mal willingly gave. ** “You okay with this?” Mal asked, sitting beside Curt at the bar of the club where they were to do their third Havensport concert. Taly had been pushing for more, but Kai had joined Mal in their resistance. Her argument was that they needed to get back to recording. Mal‟s was more personal. Try as he could, he hadn‟t been able to spend all of his time with Curt since that close call, and twice he‟d come back to find the McGregor passed out drunk on the bed. Better that than the drugs, but he had a suspicion Curt had managed to get something from Taly anyhow. It was the only explanation for why the McGregor wasn‟t bouncing off the walls or desperately ill with withdrawal symptoms “I swear,” Curt said, hand raised in an oath. “No drinking tonight.” He traced his fingers over Mal‟s cheekbones. “I wanna be able to watch ya from out here…see what the audience sees…and I can‟t do that if I‟m fucked up. I‟ll be okay. Mal smiled with a little bit of a blush. They hadn‟t been intimate beyond that unexpected kiss in the shower, but Mal had spent every night sharing the bed with Curt. If it was what Curt needed, if it helped him at all, Malcolm was willing to do anything. But little touches like this one made him feel good and continued to give him hope for something he‟d wanted since the first time they‟d met in canon. “You better be right here…or better yet…” He tugged Curt‟s arm and pulled him across the room to a table right in front of the stage. “Here. Sit right here. Then I‟ll be able to keep an eye on you and know you‟re keeping out of trouble. Don‟t move outta this chair, okay?” “Okay, okay…yes mother…” Curt laughed with a gesture of surrender. He‟d taken his arm out of the sling and the bruises had faded away to yellow now but he knew he wasn‟t in any condition to be up there on that stage. He wasn‟t part of Delilah. He didn‟t belong up there with them. Malcolm grinned and backed away. “Gotta get back to the others. Just wanted to come check with you.” “I‟m fine…but thank you. Oh…and in case I haven‟t told ya…yare fuckin‟ hot in that outfit…hottest person in this place.” “Nah…I think that honor would go to you.” Still Malcolm turned so that Curt could see him all the way around. Black boots came almost to his knees, black tights went up from there and disappeared under what might have been a skin-tight, long-sleeved, black dress with a low cut V neck. From the rear he would certainly be mistaken for a woman, which was the affect he was hoping for. It was so much fun to fuck with the audiences heads about his gender. He smiled at Curt and pushed through the growing crowd towards the door that would take him backstage. That was when he saw another familiar face. His smile faltered a little, not sure how to feel after their last encounter, but it didn‟t fail. He closed the gap between them and said, “Hi, Cass…good to see you could make it.” Cassidy knew how to feel because he didn't even remember their last encounter. He'd been out drinking all night and was nicely drunk now, though a working drunk that didn't make him noticeably sloshed and boorish. "Wouldn't miss it for the world ...." His grin was just a bit lopsided this night. "Miss what?" “Somehow I don‟t think this is the sort of place you‟d come to just to drink,” Mal smirked. “Having a good time already I see. How‟ve you been?” "Busy savin' the world," he drawled in that thickening brogue. "You? How's Kai and the others?" “Kai‟s good…” He didn‟t bother to point out she was disappointed with the turn of events the last time. “Taly‟s…Taly. Same as always. Curt…” He shrugged and sighed. “Been better, but he‟s improving now.” "Good to hear it. I know Carl worries about him a lot. Hope ya have another great show, kid. Ya look good. Break a leg." Actually, he looked sort of funny in a dress, but Cassidy didn't see any reason to say that. It was still .... good. Malcolm opened his mouth to say something, bristling a little at being called a kid. He hadn‟t been a kid in quite some time, even if he was younger than Cassidy. Then it snapped shut and he paused before trying to speak again. “Thanks…old man…” he shot back with a smirk. "Yeeeup, that's me .... " he agreed easily, smirking too. "Even skipping the after party this time. My old bones just can't take it anymore. I can hear'em creaking at me now," he laughed, completely tongue in cheek. “Am sure I could come up with something to take care of that creaking…” He didn‟t see any harm in flirting. Flirting didn‟t mean anything would, or had to, happen. “Lots of lube usually does the trick.” All the levity drained from the Irishman's face. Eyes narrowed, bristling as he stepped forward, growling. "What are you saying? Spit it out. Ya want me?" One question, or technically two, but mostly just one. He‟d learned his lesson last time, although why Cassidy couldn‟t take harmless flirting for what it was Mal didn‟t understand. “Yeah.” He‟d given him the disclaimer before. Which Cassidy had no memory of and was going to make sure the "kid" knew it was no-man's territory he was stepping into. He moved closer, much closer, until they were so close they should have been touching and only a piece of paper could have been slipped between them. Dark eyes stared down into blue ones, the growl still in his voice, heating now, "I don't wear the ring, but I take the oath I gave him seriously. No men. Only women. I don't like being tempted, and YOU, with your silly but still somehow fucking sexy tight dress and made-up face and hair tempt me more than it should. Why is that, kid? Why do YOU, outta all the men I know, tempt me?" “I don‟t know. But I‟m not touching…and I won‟t. I respect what you‟ve got with your spouse. Flirting isn‟t touching…but if you‟d rather I didn‟t…say so.” He wasn‟t sure how to take the words about his attire, whether to go with the compliment or the insult, so he said nothing, only pushed those feelings aside. "I know what flirting is," Cassidy snorted down at the man. "I've been doing it since my mama took me off the tit. What I don't like is flirting that feels .... MORE .... and that's what's going on here, Malcolm ... MORE. You want me, I want you .. and there's shit we can do about it." "Cassidy?" Draven couldn't hear the conversation over the background noise, but he could see those sparks between the two as he approached them. "Draven." The man immediately stepped back, taking his spouse's hand in his as a way to prevent Draven from running off. "Meet Malcolm Windsor, one of the band in Delilah we came to see tonight .... Malcolm, meet Draven... my husband." Draven just stared in a young face not that different than his own, even with similar hair and body build. “A pleasure, Draven.” He offered his hand. He took in the similarities and understood then what it was Cassidy saw in him. A mirror of his husband. It would have been more reassuring if they‟d been completely different. “Cassidy speaks very highly of you.” "Does he?" Draven turned and pulled on that hand. "I'm going home." He didn't see it that way at all, and neither did Cassidy. If a man already has that, it made more sense that he'd look for variety, in different coloring, different body shape, for an extra-marital affair. That Cassidy was mostly content with Draven AND tempted by Malcolm actually said a lot. It should have been, if Cassidy were to speak of it to Malcolm, very reassuring for the man. "Yeah," he sighed and allowed Draven to pull him away. He gave one look back over his shoulder at Malcolm, locking eyes with him again. He got that message too. No flirting…and probably better off with no talking. Cassidy was totally off limits now, in every possible way. Mal nodded his head at the pair, still smiling despite what was beneath it. To get through yet another unexpected disappointment, deciding that maybe next time the man asked him a question he‟d lie, Malcolm threw himself into the show…and into flirting with everyone in the audience but most especially Curt. He‟d been disappointed that Curt‟s mistress hadn‟t come to the last show, on top of Curt not being there, and he was disappointed again to see her not here. At least he understood from Curt that she had been ill…and with the condition Curt had been in it made Malcolm wonder curiously about just how connected Curt and the woman were. But he was very glad Curt was here tonight, glad that the McGregor stayed put during the entire show, looking him over with definite interest as Malcolm strutted about the stage. Once he even managed to touch Mal‟s leg when the man was close enough to him. The jolt made Mal want to jump off the stage into Curt‟s lap, but instead he threw the McGregor a wanton leer and went back to center stage. Maybe it was the residual high from the pills he‟d gotten when Malcolm wasn‟t there. Maybe it came as a result of having slept beside the man for several nights running. Or maybe it was just the physical and emotional need for what Malcolm was offering was particularly high tonight. Whatever it was, Curt‟s response to Malcolm was hard beneath the denim of his black jeans. Mal was being a tease…and Curt wanted to fuck him senseless. There set was finished to much applause, and Curt got up, intending to meet the band backstage, but Delilah remained for an unexpected encore. He paused at the stage as Malcolm took the mic in both hands. “A song for a very special friend,” he said heavily. “Actually…” his gaze flicked to Taly too though it was possible no one but Curt noticed it, “to two of them.” You’re the one who’s always choking Trojans You’re the one who’s always bruised and broken Sleep may be the enemy But so is another line It’s a remedy You should take more time You’re the one who’s always choking Trojans You’re the one who showers always golden Spunk and bestiality Well its an Assisi lie Its ahead of me, You should close your fly I understand the fascination The dream that comes alive at night But if you don’t change your situation Then you’ll die, you’ll die, don’t die, don’t die Please don’t die You’re the one whose always choking Trojans You’re the one who’s always bruised and broken Drunk on immorality, Valium and cherry wine Coke and ecstasy, You’re gonna blow your mind I understand the fascination I’ve even been there once or twice Or more But if you don’t change your situation Then you’ll die, you’ll die, don’t die, don’t die Please don’t die Please don’t die Please don’t die Please don’t die If Curt understood the words, took them to heart as Malcolm hoped, it wasn‟t evident on his face as he applauded and whistled at the band and continued to grin with lust at Mal. The Molko was disappointed, but there was only so much he could do. Curt had to come around to seeking help. Intervention only went so far. And sometimes not far enough. At the back, Rachel looked on, watching and enjoying the performance. She had come on her own tonight, much to Stanley's protest. CJ had been sick and he still wasn't feeling up to going out but was happy for Rachel to go without him. In fact he insisted on it. He didn't want her to miss the singer she'd got her eye on and was happy that, even if that was the case, it was making her get out of the house. The only times she seemed to do that was for work or when he or someone else insisted on going. She wasn't sure if the singer had seen her or not, but it didn't matter tonight. Maybe she would see him some other time, if they were hanging around Havensport with Curt, there was a good chance of that. Maybe she could get CJ to set a meeting up or something. She could pretend she was doing some research for her company. * Kai had picked up some Goth-looking kid of indeterminate gender and Taly had two blondes, probably sisters, draped around him by the time Curt pushed his way back to the greenroom where Mal met him at the door with a tight embrace. “Fuckin‟ awesome, you guys,” Curt said loud enough that all in the room would hear him. “One of the best fuckin‟ investments I‟ve ever made.” He was trying to be professional, but his body, seeming with a mind of it‟s own, was pushing into Malcolm‟s, holding him against the doorframe with the grinding motion of his hips. Mal, surprised, was too weak-kneed to move. Curt wanted him. Curt Wild. Of all people. “You gave us the chance to prove ourselves,” Taly called back with a triumphant smile. He raised the bottle of champagne he held and cried, “To Curt! The Man!” The two girls echoed his sentiments, as did Kai and her date. Malcolm was too busy trying to stifle the whimpers in his throat to say a word. Then Curt stepped further into the room with an almost evil smirk, leaving Malcolm in the doorway. “Let me have a drink of that,” he said as he reached for Taly‟s bottle. “Curt…” Malcolm whispered. “Just one drink…a toast,” the McGregor replied, although he knew that whisper could just as easily have been a plea of desperation and frustration because he was no longer touching Mal‟s body. Having that hold over another was something he‟d lost since Sid‟s death, and he found it made him feel very good. Powerful. In control of something. He took his one long swallow of champagne and handed the bottle back to Taly. When he grinned back at Mal, it was with a „come here leer‟. “See…told you. Just one drink.” Unable to resist that look, his entire body feeling controlled by an invisible leash, Malcolm came right to Curt‟s side and pressed against his hip with a groan. “You girls want to party?” Taly asked, prying himself from their arms to rummage through his bag on the desk. Guessing what was coming, Malcolm pressed his mouth to Curt‟s ear. “Can we go somewhere, just you and me?” he begged, one hand now cupping the McGregor‟s crotch and rolling. Curt‟s eyes were following Taly‟s movements, his tongue darting over his lips with expectation, until Malcolm spoke and did that with his hand. Tough choice then, give into his body‟s craving for drugs or into its other craving for much missed sexual release. If he did the drugs, he might not be able to perform…and he definitely wanted to perform. “Save some for me,” he grunted at Taly, decision made. The drugs would be there later. He didn‟t know if Malcolm would be or not, and that need, tonight, was screaming much more insistently than was the siren voice of drugs. The few pills he‟d taken earlier were working in Malcolm‟s favor. He guided the shorter man through the door with a wave to the wolf whistles and catcalls behind them. “Where ya wanna go?” Curt asked, his voice thick with lust. Malcolm‟s reply was barely a squeak. “Anywhere. Just not back to the hotel…” “Yeah…imagine the party will move back there soon as management kicks them out. Think we‟ll take the van…keep the idiot from driving while under the influence…keep him from killing himself.” “Good idea…oh! The van!” As a rule, the van was off limits for things like this, an unwritten, unspoken rule between the three of them since they all shared it as „home‟. Mal knew the others had used it before for dates, but so far, he never had. If Curt was game, Malcolm couldn‟t think of any better person to misbehave with. “We could take it somewhere…down to the beach maybe…” His eyes sparkled hopefully. “Beach sounds good,” Curt nodded in agreement. “Think I could use a dip…” He smirked and climbed in to the passenger seat. The beach was safe too, as it was one place he and Sid had yet to share together. He was already peeling his shirt off as Malcolm drove, which Malcolm found made it very hard to concentrate. There wasn‟t much traffic on the roads at this hour and Mal had driven to the beach enough times during the last few weeks that he was able to get them there in record time. There was an access road, meant for lifeguards and such, which allowed him to get the van down to the incoming tide. By parking horizontal to the surf it enabled him to open the side door so that they had full view of the moonlit sea…not that Malcolm was planning on doing much looking at the scenery. “Ya got any blankets in here?” Curt asked. “Yeah…had to, for livin‟ in here like we have.” Mal crawled into the back and opened the compartment under the single bench seat. He pulled out two blankets, a scatter of towels, and a couple of pillows. “How‟s…” he looked back to ask Curt a question, only to see the McGregor was finishing stripping off his jeans. Yes, he‟d seen the man nude before, but never aroused…and never when knowing that nudity was to be shared with him. It brought instant heat pulsing through his body, his mouth went dry, and the pillows he held dropped from his hand. “Fuck…Curt…you‟re…” Curt laughed. “We‟ll get to the fuckin‟ soon enough…if you‟re still up for it.” His eyes traveled downwards to the man‟s groin. “Get that stuff off and come for a swim…” He was already moving away. It wasn‟t a request; Curt fully expected Mal to obey him, and Malcolm, eager to please, fell over a number of times as he pulled off the dress, then the boots, then the tights. Compared to Curt‟s lean, muscled frame, Mal considered himself skinny. Though not an exhibitionist like Curt, he wasn‟t normally self-conscious either. Right now, however he felt that way, even though Curt had seen him nude several times already. He followed the McGregor down to where the man had stopped at the water‟s edge. Curt‟s arms, which had been wrapped around himself, reached out and pulled Malcolm to him so that the smaller man‟s back was pressed tightly to Curt‟s chest. “Like it here,” he murmured. “The sound is so…soothing…” More so then he had expected actually, making him relax enough to let his guard down. Nuzzling into Mal‟s hair, he whispered, “He loved the sound of moving water…rivers, fountains, oceans…use to wonder sometimes if that‟s was one of the reasons he liked to shower so much.” He chuckled a little, his voice heavy and dark. Yes he was breaking one of the cardinal rules of dating…talking about an ex to your date. But Mal was pretty sure this was the first time Curt had actually talked about Sid to anyone other than maybe the other SIDs. The first time Curt had allowed himself to remember. He needed to do both, talk and remember, and Malcolm felt honored and deeply touched that Curt was opening up to him. “Maybe,” Mal chuckled back, wrapping his arms over Curt‟s to show him he was accepting him there. Even if this turned out to not be a night of physical intimacy, the emotional would be worth every moment. But for this night, that small bit of sharing was as far as Curt could go. It ripped the scabs off of the pain inside and he didn‟t want to go there. He wasn‟t ready to dig that deep. For several still minutes they stood there, bodies tight together, watching the light on the water, feeling the warm waves creep up around their feet. That was when Curt decided to forgo the swim. He and Sid had once made love in the sea, and doing so with Malcolm, or even contemplating doing so, didn‟t seem appropriate now. The water still seemed appropriate for play, however, so Curt backed them both up a few feet to where the tide hadn‟t yet reached, and with a little nudging got them both down on their knees. Even though Malcolm had no idea what was going on, he complied, trusting Curt completely. With Mal‟s legs spread a little and one arm wrapped around the man‟s torso, Curt slid one hand lower to touch and explore swollen flesh for the first time. “This should go,” he rumbled against Mal‟s neck as his fingers tugged on dark curls. Mal nodded with a moan. “Sure.” What was a little hair…hair that he himself had removed himself in canon but hadn‟t felt any cause to in this life yet. The light touching continued until the surf began swirling around their knees, and then Curt‟s other hand moved low as well. Mal wrapped his arms back around Curt‟s waist to keep himself upright as the sensations in his groin intensified from light touching to stroking, kneading, pulling and twisting. “Gawd…Curt…” “I can be,” Curt growled. “Do you want me to be your god?” Mal‟s head nodded once and then he gasped when the sea splashed up to spray his cock and balls. The heat of his boiling blood made that water feel cold. “Keep doing that and you can be anything you want.” With a shift of his body that allowed him to thrust his shaft through the valley of the smaller man‟s ass and between his thighs, Curt began a serious milking effort, long slow strokes. “Anything?” “Anything.” “I‟ll remember that.” He bit into Mal‟s shoulder, not hard like he would have with Sid but enough to bring a small shriek from Malcolm. The Molko was getting a crash course in the world of what Curt wanted and needed in sex, at least on occasion, but he hardly complained. If anything, it was making him harder then he thought possible. Three times it took a tight grip around the bass of his shaft to keep him from cumming. He was almost delirious with sensation and need. He hadn‟t ever really thought of Curt as a sensualist, a hedonist, but he sure did now. Then Curt pushed him forward, down to his hands and knees, so that the thick head of the McGregor‟s shaft was now pushing against the quivering pucker. With one hand he used his own juices, and Mal‟s, to lube himself. “Ready?” Mal barely had a chance to murmur yes before Curt was pushing inside. “So tight,” he gasped, as Mal groaned loudly, just as a wave rolled in and broke against his arms, legs, and splashed his belly and manhood that Curt was still expertly working. He paused when he was all the way in, slapped Mal‟s pale, smooth ass once, then gathered a handful of long dark hair and pulled the man‟s head back before beginning to driver mercilessly into the man‟s ass. When he began to hear the whimper in Mal‟s voice over the surf he growled, “Don‟t do it,” and picked up speed. “Curt!” Mal begged. He‟d had many partners since being cloned, men and women, but none of them so far had made him feel like this. Wild skill, perhaps, or just the fact that unlike those others, Curt actually meant something to him, something more than just a random fuck. Curt laughed, an almost cruel sound though Malcolm understood it for what it was. The surf was now splashing into Mal‟s face, lapping at his entire body. Curt shifted again to aim directly for the man‟s prostate, and when he could no longer physically hold himself back, he grunted, “Now.” Mal‟s cry was lost into the wave that hit his face and washed over him, swallowing the seed that erupted from his body as Curt‟s filled him. He couldn‟t hear Curt‟s own cry, but he could feel it down in his soul. The McGregor waited only long enough to know he could get to his feet before doing so, picking the dripping Molko up into his arms and carrying him back to the van where he lay him on his back on the blanket. “Curt…” “Sssh…” With one of the towels, Curt began to dry the man off, brushing away sand from knees and hands, stopping frequently to lick and kiss away the salt water on the man‟s torso and neck, his face. He stole several kisses, seeking little nips and nibbles to the soft well-shaped mouth. Then he turned his attention to licking and sucking away the salt water from the man‟s groin, doing what Wild‟s did best…learning the weakness and preferences of their lovers, always looking for what provided the most pleasure for others. Enough time was spent in these attentions that Malcolm was hard again, writhing and bucking on the van floor with the blanket balled up in both fists. Then he moved up to lay beside him, propped up on one elbow, watching Mal‟s face as his hand worked him closer and closer to another release. “Can I…” Curt shook his head at the plea but smiled before kissing him again. He sucked Mal‟s tongue into his mouth, deeper and deeper until he was able to do what the sea had done, swallow the sounds of Mal‟s orgasm into his soul. When the last pulses were past, Curt‟s hand full of thick white fluid, he broke the kiss with a smile, then kissed each of the bright blue eyes. “Rest, Mal. Ya‟ve done good.” “But you…” “We‟ve got all night…” He lay his head back on the pillow and pulled the smaller form against him, layering the semen in his hand over the man‟s groin in an even layer as he stared at the sky. All night…and with Sid gone, maybe all their lives. ** He saw it, the beach, and for a moment Sid wanted to reach through that veil that separated them and pull Curt's heart from his body. He should have known that Lucifer would let him take a window right now of all times. He should have known he would only be further tortured if he took that window and went, for a second, time, to see Mate. The window closed and he fell back to the pit, cold fury gripping his soul, his mind, his entire being raging with hatred and desolation until he landed in the now familiar brimstone and started to sob. No wonder Mate hadn't recognized his scent and touch through Twin; Mate was moving on, his lost spouse long forgotten. It was there, in that brimstone as he came close to consuming what was left of his sanity with that hatred, that Sid felt something else in his soul, something cooling, soothing, offering ... and he took it. He took the comfort gladly this time because he'd finally hit rock bottom, literally. God spoke in Sid's heart like he'd been doing for years in that afterlife, and this time Sid was ready to listen. Tears of pain and fury subsided, changed, turning to the less wracking tears of happiness, peace, and joy. Of course. Why hadn't Sid seen it? Mate loved him but Mate lived, and the living lived very differently than the dead. It was good that Mate was finding comfort in another. It was good that Mate could open himself a bit with a man he didn't find threatening. And it was good to trust that in the end, somehow, everything would work out. And the reason Sid hadn't seen it that way at first? Had immediately wanted to kill and wreck vengeance against his Mate? Simple. Watch the movie again. Sid was SID. In that brimstone, the Crowe was given relief from the fire around him, cushioned by God as he came to his senses and truly heard what had always been in his soul but had never been heeded. If Sid no longer wanted to be alone, he now had a friend. And that friend gifted the SID with a beautiful Armani suit of white then, shimmering in goodness and light and so very "more" than what angels wore with their "standard" flowing robes of silk and demons wore with their "standard" shirts and pants of leather and polyester blends. Only God wore white Armani and Lucifer wore black Armani. What was God doing giving a suit to Sid? And why white? Why not black like Lucifer's. Or a different color? What was he telling everyone by giving him one of white? Lucifer, watching from the riverbank, narrowed his eyes. That just wasn't fair. Wings were shared by heaven and hell, though Sid's were uniquely red to show he wasn't a fulltime inhabitant of either place; God had already given that standard angel halo, and Lucifer had countered it with a standard demon tail. Now God was giving something else, meaning Lucifer had to counter again. *poof* Horns appeared high on Sid's forehead, prompting delighted laughter from the Maker because not a single demon, only Lucifer, wore horns. Horns of Power that enabled those windows to open almost at will. Thankfully, Sid was too busy rejoicing in his deliverance from despair to rant about any changes to his body yet. He would later. Power or not, those horns messed up his Perfect hairline .... and the damn suit came with a pink flower stuck permanently in the lapel. ** As Curt had predicted, the club‟s manager expelled Kai and Taly and their playmates from the greenroom soon enough, not with anger but only because the club was closing for the night. They tumbled outside to discover the van gone, and while Taly cursed and swore, Kai called them a limo to take them back to the hotel where the party would continue all night…maybe. Taly had already snorted his line for the evening, as had the two girls with him. Kai smoked a joint as soon as they got back to their room, but hadn‟t gone any deeper into the stash yet. She was too interested in sex tonight, and the young man she was with was just high enough that he wouldn‟t have cared if she were a sheep. While they indulged themselves, she was aware of the sisters giving Taly head, but she wasn‟t aware of Taly taking a couple more pills…with a vodka chaser. It wasn‟t until one of the girls screamed that Kai really paid attention, bolting upright in time to see Taly go into convulsions. She screamed too, threw off her partner, and immediately rushed to turn Taly onto his side so that he didn‟t drown in his own vomit and drool as he began frothing at the mouth. “911!” she shouted. The first sister was still screaming, but the other was just calm enough to place the call. Until the ambulance arrived, Kai sat with Taly, both of their clothes askew but she didn‟t care. Keeping him alive was the only thing she cared about. “Don‟t do this to me, Taly…” The ambulance crew burst into the room and set to work, though they knew at once they had to get him to the hospital. Kai was allowed to go with them, the other three forgotten as the paramedics took readings and information from Kai as to what Taly had ingested. Twice during the trip he flat lined, and twice they brought him back. At the hospital as he was wheeled away from her into the emergency room, he flat lined again and Kai, near hysterical, was sure they would lose him this time. Mal had been right…and Kai had seen it too late. * With Malcolm sleeping against his shoulder, Curt stared up at the encroaching dawn. They had both slept for awhile, then Curt had fucked that beautiful bowed mouth, and now he was smiling at the traces of his cum scent on Mal‟s breath. It was a sweet smell, almost like milk on the breath of a baby, and it made Curt horny again, wanting to smell more of it. It wasn‟t the same as smelling it upon Sid‟s breath, and he would never let Mal know that everything they shared together was being compared to the Master of his heart and soul. For these first times, especially, the comparisons were inevitable. Maybe later he‟d be able to give Mal what he deserved, a lover who wasn‟t thinking of someone else. But that would require putting Sid out of his head…and Curt knew that was never going to happen. It wasn‟t fair to Mal, and Curt knew it, but he couldn‟t help it. Part of him also felt guilty for what he as doing, as if he was somehow being disloyal to Sid…or Sid‟s memory. But Sidney had said it was okay…had said that Sid would understand, and as Curt focused on the morning star, he found himself talking to the Crowe for the first time since he‟d died. Careful not to wake Mal, he whispered out into the night. “Ya‟d like him, Sid…I know ya would. He ain‟t judgmental, and he wouldn‟t fight with ya…like I do. I never knew him well…before…and still dunno a lot about him in some ways…but he‟s a good man…and without ya here…I need „im. Not as much as…but I do. He‟s not like you…can‟t be…everything…ya were…are…to me…but he…I need „im. No one else can give me what he does…not with ya gone…Ya understand, right? Sidney said ya would…hope he‟s right.” Mal shifted and latched his mouth onto a bit of Curt‟s flesh. The McGregor shivered. It seemed that Mal was still asleep so he kissed the top of his head and continued his whispered dialog. “Know I‟m nothin‟ but a loser…know I didn‟t deserve to have ya. Ya were too good for me…deserved so much more, so much better…but I really am grateful for…what ya saw fit to give me. I don‟t deserve him either…not after what I did to ya…and I‟m so afraid I‟m gonna kill „im too…but I need „im…so bloody fuckin‟ selfish…” Killed? Malcolm, who had stirred at the sound of that voice and had been listening to the words, had been about to sit up and question what Curt was saying, when the McGregor suddenly bolted upright as if he‟d been shot. Only seconds later, Mal‟s cell phone began to chime. “Taly!” Curt gasped as Malcolm crawled naked around the van trying to locate the phone. Curt, meanwhile, found his shirt and pants, and was pulling them on. Something was wrong. Very wrong. “Kai? Kai…calm down…I can‟t understand…oh…bloody fuckin‟ hell…is he…WHERE? Shit…okay…hold on…let me write that down…wait.” Curt had the van started and was pulling up off the beach as Mal found a slip of paper and pen in the glove box to write down the address she gave him. “Got it. Is he going to live? Okay…that‟s a start…we‟ll meet you there and get this sorted out. Don‟t worry, hon. Curt‟s here. He‟ll know what to do.” Curt gave him a sideways glance as Mal climbed into the back and pulled out a pair of sweat pants from the cabinet. They were bright pink, which meant they were probably Kai‟s, but he didn‟t care. “Know what to do? Meet her where? What happened, Mal?” Malcolm crawled forward and pressed his face against Curt‟s leg. “Taly OD‟d…” “Fuck…” “And flat lined three times. They got him back…pumped his stomach…go him stabilized…and then some uniformed goons came in and dragged him away…saying something about him being an un-owned clone and taking him to the compound…they gave her an address where she could go and adopt him officially…we gotta get him outta there, Curt.” Curt growled, his foot to the floor as he sped down the street. “I know where they‟re going. We‟ll meet her there. We‟ll get him out of there as soon as they‟ll release him.” ** Being closer to the clone „pound‟ then Lincoln General was, Curt and Mal reached it first. As it was just barely dawn, the facility wasn‟t open yet and there was only one car in the lot, likely the night watchman. “What if they won‟t let him go? What if he‟s…or they put him down because of drug problem…?” Mal had looked up when they stopped but he only took a quick look at the building before burying his face into Curt‟s shoulder. “They won‟t.” He wasn‟t certain of that, of course, but one phone call to Sidney and they‟d have Taly out of here in a heartbeat if these people gave Kai any grief. Hell, Curt would break in there himself if he had to. Vitaly was not only an investment, he was Curt‟s friend. He was a fellow clone. And if anyone should be put down for a drug problem, Curt knew, it should be him. Hell, he‟d killed two men already. He was the failure, not Taly. He wasn‟t going to let Taly die. When a dark blue SUV pulled up in front of the building, followed by a yellow cab, Mal started to get out of the van. Curt caught his arm. “Don‟t. If they know Taly‟s a rogue…they‟ll probably nab you too. Stay here where it‟s safe.” Even he was careful. They might choose to grab him too and hold him until Tamara could come for him. He‟d been here before, long enough to know he didn‟t want to spend any longer than necessary in that building. Kai ran from the cab to the SUV when two men lifted Taly on a stretcher from the back. He looked terrible, pale, drawn…death warmed over, Curt thought to himself. He thought back to himself the few nights ago when Taly and Mal had saved him from an overdose. He thought about what he would have been doing last night, if Mal hadn‟t convinced him to come away. He thought about the words Mal had sung to him just last night. Please don‟t die. Kai was arguing with the third, a man with keys and a hip holster, swearing she was Taly‟s „owner‟ but that their papers had been lost in a fire, that they‟d been living out of that van for months without ID or anything beyond her driver‟s license. He seemed prepared to believe her as she opened her bag to pull out that license…except that as she walked into the building behind him, silent alarms went off. “Clone?” the man said. Kai looked shell-shocked. She couldn‟t be. She looked around her, frightened, as if hoping there was some other cause for that conclusion. Curt started forward, panic gripping his throat too, but he was thrown back as the van door slammed and Mal ran by shouting “Kai!” She threw her bag at Curt; it missed and Mal scooped it up as she cried, “Call Cassidy!” Mal threw the bag right into Curt‟s hands. Then all three were gone inside the building with the last thing Curt seeing being Mal‟s eyes expressing their trust in him. Curt dropped to his knees, clutching that bag, for a moment feeling too stunned to panic or act. The three hadn‟t come back out for him so maybe they recognized him somehow. Or maybe they just couldn‟t be bothered and had their hands full with the three inside. “Mal…” he groaned, wishing Sid were here for him now. “Sid…I need yare help…” Maybe it was just his imagination, but for a moment he thought he thought he felt lips to his forehead. Either way, it calmed him enough that he opened the bag, found Kai‟s phonebook, and found Cassidy‟s number in it. It was early, but he didn‟t want to waste any time. This was far too important. The phone rang and he waited for the man to answer it. The voice that replied, however, wasn‟t Cassidy‟s. “Cassidy‟s residence, Father Andrew speaking,” came the sleepy Irish brogue on the other end. “Father? Uh…this is Curt. Can ya get Cassidy for me? It‟s urgent…really urgent…” Andrew looked at the clock, groaned, and rolled out of bed. “Okay, Curt. Hold on and I‟ll get him.” “I ain‟t going anywhere.” Pulling on his robe, Andrew padded down the hall and knocked on Cassidy‟s door. He didn‟t particularly want to interrupt whatever the two men might be doing, but he understood the nature of emergencies. * "Yeah, come on in." Cassidy wasn't sleeping. He'd been sitting by the window, staring outside, pretty much lost in thought. Draven was sound asleep on his stomach, a light blanket only covering his nude legs. The door creaked open and Andrew stuck his head inside to see the man at the window. “My apologies for disturbing you,” he said quietly, holding out the phone. “It‟s Curt…he wants to speak to you. Says it‟s urgent.” He did his best to avert his eyes from Draven‟s sleeping form. "Cassidy." So ... out of balance... Cassidy didn't even consider Andrew's priesthood right then in the room with two nude men. He just took the phone in his chair and spoke dully into it. Curt‟s voice was high pitched with desperation. “Cassidy…Curt. Kai asked me to call you…Taly OD…and the company took him…she came to get him released…but turns out she‟s a…one of us…and now Mal‟s there too…and I can‟t go in to get them out. Need yare help…please…” Malcolm was at that place? And the others too? He was putting on clothes as he spoke. "We'll be right there, get them all out." He turned to bark at the bed. "Draven! Get up and get dressed! Hurry!" Then he turned to Father Andrew. "Can you come with us, Father? Just in case ... for Vitaly. He's sick ... really sick." And at least, if he died, there would be a priest nearby. So long as Andrew was "claimed" by Cassidy, he'd be safe there. "Be there fast as we can, Curt." “Thanks, Cassidy.” Kai would be relieved. But there were three there, and a two clone adoption limit Curt then called the person he trusted most, even though he had a pathetic way of showing it. Hopefully she hadn‟t been here yet this month. Hopefully she would be willing to help him…when he‟d been so bad about being there for her. Her cell phone went unanswered, as did her personal line into her bedroom. Not wanting to call the main house number and waste any more time, he rang Sidney‟s line. “Come on…please pick up,” he murmured as he began to pace, watching other cars show up now. The doctor and his staff. They‟d likely been called as soon as the new intakes had come into custody. Oh gawd. What were they going to do with someone like Kai…what would they do to Taly…and Mal…! "Are you ready for help yet?" Sidney said into the phone at recognizing Curt's breathing. He was calling for help, yes, but not the sort of help Sidney was referring to. For the moment those issues were the last thing on his mind. “Need to find Tam but she‟s not answerin‟ her phones…Taly and Kai and Mal have been impounded…need to get them out…now. Can ya find „er? Can ya fly „er here…? Please?” "Certainly. I know where she is. The three of us will be right there, since you will need two humans to get all three of them, though I highly suspect Carl will not want to be the one who adopts Malcolm .. unless it's to take the man out back here and shoot him," Sidney giggled as he walked, heading out to find them. “Cassidy‟s coming…Kai asked for him…so please…I don‟t want…anything to happen…” Why did Carl hate Malcolm? He hadn‟t been on stage to see Carl‟s departure and hadn‟t known about the discussion between he and Tamara before that. "Farewell." He moved off, finding Carl first, telling him about the pound problem in knowing the man would be furious if Tamara went to a place like that without him there to protect her, and then found Tamara and told her about it too. Tamara was in her own bed, though not asleep, with her phones turned off. She‟d become more anti-social of late and had more blackout periods, but this wasn‟t one of them. She heard the noises outside of her room before they reached her but had no reason to think the sounds involved her. Why should they? The rest of the world went on without her. Sidney stepped into the room, though Carl stayed in the doorway. "Curt needs you, beloved." “Curt?” That was enough to get her to move. She‟d waited to hear those words for weeks. Moving as fast as she could, she got up from beneath the covers where she always slept nude, and dressed in the first things she could find, a pair of jogging pants and t-shirt. Her hair was clipped back, sandals slipped onto her feet, and her bag snagged from the door handle. She didn‟t ask what he needed from her. Whatever Curt needed, she would give. Both men had watched her dress, both had found themselves automatically responding to it, but neither moved to touch her innappropriately, not at a time of urgency like this. "Taking the chopper," Carl grunted, moving ahead of them as Sidney held her hand and kissed the side of her face tenderly. "And I suppose you'll fly?" Fly or sit with Tamara? Despite what his body wanted to do, Carl replied evenly. "Yes." ** Curt had told them about this place, described what he knew about it in as much detail as he could and they had heard other rumors, but none of the three were prepared for the reality that faced them now. The room they were taken too was gray, sterile, more befitting a veterinary office or science lab than anything meant for people. The overpowering sterile smell only barely masked what was beneath it, a smell of terror and urine and other body fluids taken during examination. There were no other clones here now, the last one having been adopted early the day before, the first time they‟d emptied the building completely in months. Mal was glad Taly couldn‟t see it, and wished that Kai couldn‟t. With the tray full of instruments and probes that the doctor pulled out and set up beside the examination table, it was obvious this was not the sort of place Kai should be. Not the sort of place anyone should be…human or otherwise. While the doctor examined the unconscious Vitaly, checking his vitals and jotting notes down on a tablet, one of his assistants ordered Kai to strip and a second strapped Mal into a chair and began to cut his hair. He was horrified, both of what Curt might think of him when they next saw each other, and of what Kai must be going through now. At least, he thought wryly on his own behalf, the similarity with Draven would partially end here. Maybe that would put Cassidy‟s mind at ease. “Okay…strip and stand in that corner…” There was a grate on the floor there that made Mal slightly queasy to stand upon. What all had been washed down those slats in the floor? Would the harsh blast of cold water dissolve him and wash him right down the drain as well? Was there some sort of chemical agent in the water that could do that to clones? Was it true? Were they less than human? “Well now,” started the doctor as he lifted Kai‟s small but fully functional penis to examine the balls, and vulva, beneath. “What have we here? Never seen one like this before.” “One of a kind,” she spat, “and I‟m NOT a clone. There‟s been some mistake.” The doctor chuckled, in a good mood this morning since he had the promise of a short work day ahead of him. “That‟s what they all say. Now no more speaking or I will gag you…or perhaps remove your tongue to keep you quiet.” “You wouldn‟t d…” The look he shot her made her snap her mouth closed. He would dare. She turned her head and caught Mal‟s gaze and held there as the doctor poked and pried and prodded, testing sexual responsiveness in organs that shouldn‟t coexist on the same body. Mal was trying to shield his more sensitive parts from the blast but was forced to move his hands and winched in pain. Then he was thrust into a small kennel-like cage, from where he watched the entire examination of his friend who, until a few short minutes ago, had believed herself to be human. He didn‟t watch out of curiosity or to offend her; he wanted to be sure they didn‟t hurt her unnecessarily. She was already suffering enough in ways that couldn‟t be seen or measured on the outside. Not that there was anything he could do to help. Her other cavities were examined as well, her body shaved and sanitized with no amount of gentleness involved. Two of the assistants were examining Taly, shaving and disinfecting him likewise with no need of restraints since he was unconscious and still strapped to the board. With no monitoring equipment, it was impossible to tell by looking at him if he was alive or dead, so Mal clung to the hope that they wouldn‟t be going through all the trouble of shaving and cleaning him if he was dead. Kai was helped roughly up off the table and escorted to the grate for her turn at a hosing while Malcolm was pulled out of the cage and strapped down to the examination table. Like him, she wasn‟t dried off when the blast was over, but she was given a standard orange jumpsuit and made to dress before being put in the kennel where Mal had just been. He hoped it helped her feel warm and safer. As safe as they could be here. Maybe, if they were lucky, they‟d all be together for whatever came next. He hated to think about what would happen if they weren‟t. Then it was Mal‟s turn on the table as he watched her in that cage He‟d played in cages before, had played through episodes of sterilization and bondage, so the only part of this that really bothered him was the impersonal tone of it all. Not only were they being treated like animals, which Mal had also done in play…they were truly being SEEN as animals. That was unnerving, and it made Mal wonder more and more fervently where Curt was. He was coming, right? He wouldn‟t just leave them in here. Right? He didn‟t know what the rules were for getting clones out of this place, but surely they wouldn‟t have to stay here much longer…not for Kai and Taly‟s sake at least. Taly needed real care…and he wasn‟t going to get that here. * Curt was pacing out in front of the compound when the helicopter arrived. He almost breathed a sigh of relief, but he wouldn‟t fully until his friends were out of that retched place. As the three disembarked the helicopter, he saw how Tamara was for the first time, gaunt, pale, frail…not at all the woman he knew. He could literally see, smell, and even taste the hostile separation between her and Carl, and even Sidney didn‟t seem to be himself. Had he done this to them? Was this…any of it…his doing? Curt winced inside but drew closer, and then winced inside again when she collapsed into his arms. “What‟s going on?” she whispered. “Why are we at this place?” He wrapped his arms protectively around her and swallowed back unsummoned tears. “Mal and the others…Taly OD last night and the company nabbed him at the hospital. Kai came to get him out…but turns out she‟s not human like she thought she was…and Mal ran inside after them.” He kissed her head. “I‟m hoping ya all can help get „em out of there…” "I'll see if Davies will give me leeway again," Carl promised, "but I've already adopted my two, so I don't know if I'll have any luck." He wasn't gaunt or frail, but he was definitely pale, finding that he threw up almost every day at least once, making him try to eat more and more to keep nutrients in his body. Curtis was doing the same thing for the same reason, and Sidney, not needing to eat, simply looked lost in his eyes most of the time, like a fire was slowly dimming. “And I‟ve already adopted one…the last one that was here yesterday…but I can get someone out of there…” Curt looked at them both gratefully, noting how Carl and Sidney appeared. Surely his health wasn‟t affecting theirs. That made no sense. “Cassidy is coming…Kai asked for him so I called. Taly was on a stretcher when they came…looked to be still out of it. Got to get him out before they…do something…and Kai…she‟s not…I can only imagine what they‟d do to her…and Mal…” He looked back towards the van with a wistful, forlorn expression that said a lot without actually saying a word. He wasn‟t about to say anything else that Carl might take badly. There was enough tension in the air already. “We‟ll do what we can, Curt,” she whispered against his cheek, as another car was pulling up to the spot right by the door. Janine. Carl caught the look at the van too, but it had no weight on what he said next as they watched Janine enter the building. "Tamara, your choice, of course, but if Vitaly is still ill, if you can get him out, I can take a look at him, make sure he's going to be okay, then Cass can get the other two, assuming they're healthy so we're getting the sick man out of this hellhole first." “Maybe she‟ll let me talk to them.” She heard what Curt was saying and what he wasn‟t saying. "Should be able to see them too, like we usually do in the pen area." He opened the door for the two of them to step through, then went right to Janine. "Hey, heard you impounded three clones we know. We need to speak to Davies right away." "Sorry." Her eyes fell to two ringless fingers on the humans with a smirk. Divorce? "He's out and I'm in charge. Only got three clones today to choose from." "What are the chances we can take all three?" Carl had seen her look at his finger and put a big flirtateous smile on his face as he leaned down to her. Though the woman did respond, leaning up with her own smile, her mind stayed firm. "No chance, lover. You've had your two and she had one yesterday. And no deals ... even if ya have left your wife and I wanna bang ya again on my desk right now. I like my job too much. Gotta stick to the rules." "You .... sure?" His hand reached out, running fingers softly over her bare arm. "What's three measly clones, eh? Let us have them and you and me will have the desk soon as everyone's gone. ... Even have .... " he chuckled, leaning in further. "Davies' desk. Bet ya'd like that, honey." Indecision flashed over those attractive features, tempted for a repeat performance with Carl. But then she frowned and shook her head. "As much as I'd like it, I can't. Job's too important. Even your dick isn't worth it." The man sighed and straightened. "Well let us in so we can pick one." Back to all business. "Go ahead out back. Guards are everywhere to help ya. You know the way. You're lucky I'm in a hurry. Just in to check business and then closing for the day or I'd have to make them stay overnight like usual." She sneered a bit at Tamara and then went back to her paperwork. She'd never even looked at Curt. Did Carl have any idea how sick that little performance had made her feel? Probably…but odds were he didn‟t care. He‟d chalk it all to business, to an act…but Tamara knew the truth. No act. He meant everything he said and did. “Curt…stay here and wait for Cassidy please,” she said, hoping he‟d keep that man away from her so she didn‟t have to deal with both Carl and Cassidy at once. But she wasn‟t about to tell Sidney what to do…or ask him one way or the other. With the way she was feeling lately, she knew his loyalties had to be with Carl and she wasn‟t about to make him have to choose between them. Better to just keep to herself and not rely on anyone. “Sure.” It would give her a chance to speak to the three without Curt‟s interference. She then headed straight inside, not caring if Carl was with her or not…and actually hoping he wasn‟t. Sidney took his cue from Carl, staying behind to protect Curt as Carl followed Tamara into the pen area. He was extremely disappointed they hadn't been able to take all three out at once. What if something happened to Cassidy on the way? What if the Admiral pulled him in suddenly to base? Too many variables. Fucking that skank Janine was worth enduring to save these clones immediately, without waiting, and he was sure that Tamara understood perfectly his entire charade and willingness to do just about anything to help others in these sickening and deadly surroundings. She went straight back to through the main doors, not sure where she‟d find them but knowing she would. She expected to find them in the cells, but as she passed by the door to the examination room, sounds caught her attention. Kai was in the small kennel, Taly still on the stretcher, and Malcolm was strapped to the examination table. His face brightened at the sight of them, what he hoped were friendly faces. “Curt…?” “Called us,” she said, ignoring the look on the doctor‟s face that she would stoop to speaking to the clones. She moved closer and brushed her hand over Mal‟s head, where his once long hair had been just shortly before. “But I can only take one of you. Cassidy is coming, Curt said so…” “You can not let him have me,” Mal said, clutching for her hand. “Taly…needs…to recover…away from Curt…” It hurt him to say it but he felt it was the truth. “And Kai…” He looked at his friend, sharing a private look. “There are personal reasons I can not…reside with him. It would be very bad.” Through his grip, in his eyes and voice, in what she felt in him, she understood. It would separate him from his two bandmates, but Malcolm was expressing what he thought was best for everyone. She didn‟t know all of the details; maybe she never would, but she trusted her instinct. It had nothing to do with attraction on her part, nor anything to do with what she knew Curt and Mal seemed to share. It was purely because, when she looked into his blue eyes, she accepted his belief that it would be best for everyone. “Kai?” she asked, wanting to know how she felt about the matter. The shorn woman in the orange jumpsuit nodded. “It has to be this way. Cassidy will come for us.” “If he doesn‟t…I know someone who will.” Tamara stepped away from both of them, knelt down and kissed Taly‟s forehead, then returned to the door. “Do not cut his hair,” she said to the doctor, not expecting him to listen to her. Then she pointed at Mal and added, “I‟ll take him.” Carl was at Vitaly's side, checking his vital signs and sighing in further disappointment. He didn't care what personal reasons the Molko might have for not wanting to live with Cassidy, or at least be adopted by him and set free to live elsewhere, Vitaly was unconscious and shouldn't spend another minute in this place. That was, in his medical opinion, the priority. But he bit his lip, knowing he had no say in it, and looked over at Kai to smile as reassuringly as he could as he held Vitaly's hand. He'd only looked once at Malcolm, checking for damage, and refused to look again. She'd wanted him from that stage, wanted him over Carl, and she was sure as hell getting him now. Carl would never look at him again. He could only thank God that Malcolm wasn't one of his clones so he walk out of Tigh Ard in a few more weeks and not even have to live with him ever again. In the meantime, he'd start camping out on the property. It was summer, so at least he had an excuse. "Take him," the doctor grunted as he released Malcolm from the exam. "He's ready to go, and Janine wouldn't have let you back here if she wasn't allowing it." “Clothes.” He couldn‟t very well walk out of here nude. Well, he could, but he‟d already spent enough time in this undignified place She was trusting that things would work as they should, that everyone would be where they belonged. Perhaps it was foolish of her to expect the best of the situation, to trust fate. "Just take one hanging by the door." The wave was dismissive by the doctor as he moved onto Vitaly to finish that exam and hair cutting now. Carl didn't move, still holding that hand and worried that if he did, something much worse could happen to the unconscious man. "I'll stay here, wait for Cassidy," he mumbled, though his eyes didn't fall on either Malcolm or Tamara then. "Sidney can fly you all back to Tigh Ard ... or wherever you wanna go. I'm not leaving this man like this. I can't." “We aren‟t leaving either until they‟re all safe,” she said. Mal and Curt wouldn‟t have it, and neither would she. Malcolm dressed quickly and followed her out of the room, looking back over his shoulder the whole way, grateful that they wer willing to remain until he knew his friends were safe. Even if he could feel hostility in Carl. "Cass'll come," Carl said to Kai with another smile. "He's a good man. He'll be here as fast as he can and I'll stay as long as it takes." “I know he will. That is why I asked for him. He is a good man. I have seen that for myself. Taly needs someone like him or you.” "Vitaly needs to be taken out of here immediately. In my opinion, very wrong to wait, to take chances when he's ill. What if a human comes in and wants him right now? One that takes him away, then uses that illness and does things to him I'd rather not even think about that we can't stop? All because he was left here, ill, and I can't adopt him." He kept glancing worriedly to the door, praying to God that no other human walked in before Cassidy. How in the hell this had happened, letting a sick clone stay behind to take the one wanted for sex, he'd never understand. Never. Who the hell cared who "owned" what clone? They were free to live where they wanted, sleep with who they wanted .. at least in the Havensport Community. Leaving Vitaly behind just so a person could have "ownership" papers on another clone made no sense to the man. None. And he continued to pray, fervently, that Cassidy wasn't going to get held up in some way and not make it in time. “I trust the fates,” she murmured. “I have to. We have been through a lot together. I know you don‟t think this is right…but I do.” "Thumbing your nose at fate?" he snorted. "That's what it is. Doesn't matter if it works out or not, you're still playing with someone's life, and that's just .... sick." Outside, a large man headed for the entrance of the building, a smaller and almost nude except for the smallest of swimsuit-like coverings male clone on a leash following right behind him. The clone was pierced, tattooed and branded in many places and had a miserable expression on his face. "Move faster," the man growled, snapping the leash that was attached to a choke collar like a dog would wear. "Getting here early today for a new prey-boy to play with. Be thankful it's not you I'm giving to the club hunt this time." “He‟s alive. He will stay that way…if he can be made clean. The only one sick here is the one who made him to suffer this way…and the one who made me…and abandoned me…left me thinking I was…something I‟m not. Those are the sick ones. Anyone getting helping any of us…and respecting our choices, respecting us as people…they aren‟t sick at all.” "No .. just their choices are." Sidney stared at the two men about to enter the building. This was not good. Curt threw down the cigarette. “I‟m goin‟ in there. Mal…you and Tam stay here.” He didn‟t know what he was going to do, but he was going to do something. "No. Fate." Sidney giggled, holding Curt back. The SID was definitely a sick person. He wanted to see how it played out. Then, maybe he'd act if he thought it was necessary. The owner and his ... pet.... were brought back to the doctor's office, and the moment Carl saw them, he paled even more, body tensing and ready for a fight. No way was this man going to adopt either Vitaly or Kai. Not by the looks of that poor kid he was dragging behind him. "I need a boy," he grunted at the doctor. "Got one right here." "What's wrong with him?" "Drug OD. He should come around, be fine in a while. Then you can put him through detox or .. whatever." "He healthy enough to run, ya think?" "Seems to be. Just needs to wake up." "He'll do then." “Let. Me. Go.” Curt snarled at Sidney. “Ya don‟t have any right to stop me.” "Fate." Sidney giggled again, wondering how Carl and Kai were feeling right now. “Just because ya don‟t stand by yare fuckin‟ friends, doesn‟t mean I don‟t!” Curt cried, yanking his arm away, not caring if it broke or not. Inside, Kai was trying to will Vitaly not to wake up. She believed in fate, yes…but she also believed in acting for herself. “Take me.” "Oh I do," Sidney laughed. "When it's necessary." He easily kept Curt contained. "You chose to come out here, where it's safe, and you will stay here now, where it's safe, and we shall see what tempting fate does. If fate decides to piss on people for an illogical choice that was made, then I will interfere. If fate decides to let it go this time, the risk that was thrown in its face in challenge, then there is no reason to worry. We shall see." "Too thin, and I want a boy." He moved over to look closely at Vitaly's groin, leaving Carl to start narrowing his vision on that man and only that man. If he tried to take Vitaly, or Kai, blood was going to run. Curt had never been in the building, so he had no idea what Sidney meant by „chose to come out here where it was safe‟. But right now he was feeling enough anger at Sidney that if the man didn‟t release him there would be blood outside as well as inside. Kai wiggled around inside the kennel and unzipped the jumpsuit all the way down the front. “I am a boy,” she murmured, not immediately considering what Carl would now think of her. Probably think her just as sick as he seemed to think of others. Carl blinked, but he didn't say a word at her appearance. He thought choices were sick, extremely sick, not the people who wrongly made them in what he felt was selfish motivation brought on mainly by lust. "Too small," the man laughed at Kai. "But interesting, very interesting. I want this one," he added with a look at the doctor. "He's the size I like. And when he wakes, he'll be a good runner in the games." "Can't have him," Carl said. "And why's that?" "Because he's mine, and she is too. Both of them are mine, and I'll kill anyone who tries to take what's mine." Where the fuck was Cassidy? Traffic, construction, the Admiral? Kai blinked up at him with surprise. Hadn‟t he just said he couldn‟t…what was going on? But she wasn‟t about to contradict him or speak out in a way that might be to her detriment. In Sidney‟s arms, Curt was still hissing and spitting like the wildcat Sid had once named him to be. He even tried to bite the Crowe as he snarled in fury. Mal had, by then, abandoned the safety of the van and was heading back towards the building. He still believed this was the right thing, because he believed Cassidy would come in time, but that didn‟t mean he wasn‟t worried. "Wonderful," Sidney sighed, "now I must restrain both of you." He climbed out of the van, still holding to Curt as he headed for Malcolm. The sound of squealing tires made him look away to smile then. Cassidy's truck was coming to a halt, the man jumping from it with Draven and Father Andrew. "What's going on?" he cried, rushing right into Malcolm to hug him with relief. "You're out? Were you hurt? Did those fuckers hurt you? I'll Goddamn tear their throats out!" He didn't care that the man's hair was gone. It would grow back if Malcolm wanted it to. "Where have you been?" Sidney asked calmly. "Fucking morning traffic and then construction held us up. Couldn't get through any faster. I see you brought the chopper. Good idea. Maybe I should get one too." “Kai and Taly…they‟re still in there…with Carl,” Curt said, wondering why he felt such mixed emotions at seeing Mal hug Cassidy back. “Please,” Mal whispered. “No arguing…no questions…just get them out of there…” Inside the van still, Tamara wasn‟t quite sure what to do, except stay away from Cassidy. "I will. Of course. I can get two and Draven can get two if there's more. We do it every month together and set them free wherever they wanna go." But his thoughts had many questions that would be aired later. Why wasn't the sick clone out of there? As much as he was relieved to see Malcolm safe, the Leto obviously should have been adopted first. He didn't know whether to smile at Tamara through that van door for saving Malcolm or stare at her like Carl had been tempted to do ... understanding, deep down, the reason for her choice. "So glad you're okay," he murmured and them moved off with Draven. "Father, can you come with me, please? In case Vitaly ......" “Of course.” Rather than pass judgment in a situation that he only knew a little about, and not wanting to pass judgment anyhow, the priest nodded at the rest and followed Cassidy inside. "Strange," Sidney smirked as they disappeared inside. "Cassidy was called first, two humans for three clones to let them go anywhere they want after freedom, yet we were called too. Not just strange ... fascinating. ... how fates appears to work sometimes. I so love this life I lead now .. to see these things." Cassidy barreled right by Janine, following the shouting of a man he didn't recognize but sensing it had to have something to do with Carl if he were protecting the two other clones. The Sentinel was in the process of lifting the larger man off the floor when the Irishman caught up to them. "It's about fucking time," Carl snapped, dropping the other man. "You know I adopted last week, that I'd be stuck now." "I know, thank God I haven't. Got here as fast as I could." He glanced at Vitaly's still form, shaking his head, then over to Kai. "Don't worry, honey. I'll get ya out." The other man, sputtering, stood up fully again. "I don't know what's going on, but I was here first. He can have the .... thing .. in there. I just want the boy." “He‟s my brother,” Kai said, which was only sort of true. Curt stared at Sidney as he pulled Malcolm to him. Then he shrugged. “How the fuck was I to know he‟d bring Draven…or that Draven was part of the adoption thing? I just called Cassidy and Tam…I didn‟t bargain for an entire posse.” He lowered his mouth to Mal‟s ear and said, “If ya wanna be part of them…Tam can take care of it later.” It didn‟t occur to him that she might overhear, or take it as a lack of support. Mal shook his head, still relying on his gut instinct that things would work out okay. He had trusted Curt, now he trusted Cassidy. "I would," Sidney spoke by Malcolm's other ear, "seriously consider any option you MAY be given later if I were you." Sidney could see it now. Carl's foolish human pride was going to make him move out, and God help the poor Molko for living as part of that family if Sid ever came back from wherever he was. As another family, fine. But as THAT family? Sid, like Carl, was bound to have fits about it and make life miserable for the innocent young man. But then he turned and kissed Curt on the ear with a, "Love you, Curt. I am going to comfort Boldlady now while we wait for the outcome of this fascinating life experience." They all hated her, at least she believed it right now. All against her. Not feeling that any comfort was sincere, not when she accepted it, but it didn‟t fully reach into her. Nothing ever would again. Not so long as she felt rejected by many of those she cared about most. Maybe it wasn‟t real, maybe they did care…she wanted them too…but she was having a hard time seeing it in any of them. Too busy for her…with their loyalties all lying elsewhere. Curt glanced inside the van with a sick feeling inside. So many things fucked up because of him, and no way to ever fix any of it. If the outcome didn‟t go as expected, he was going to take matters into his own hands. “Can we…go now…?” Kai was asking of the three men squaring off in the room. "Not without Vitaly," Cassidy growled with a look at the third "owner." "I'm taking him." He pulled out his checkbook. "I'm taking her too," Cassidy said to the doctor. "Wouldn't that be better? Selling both of them to me rather than one to him?" "Fine, I'll take her too!" "I'll pay double!" "Triple!" "QUADRUPLE!" "Too rich for me." He put the checkbook away with a scowl as Cassidy quickly wrote out a check for four times the amount a person would normally pay for two clones. "But I'm going to take this up with Davies," the man warned the doctor as Cassidy's check was taken. "He won't like this. I was here first. Those are the rules." He left, but now it left the doctor to wonder what to do. Davies would definitely be angry, regardless of the extra money. Something would have to be done to appease the man. "You owe us a favor," he decided to say to the Irishman who was in the throes of a victory smile and moving over to let Kai out of the cage. "A big favor for this." Carl was lifting Vitaly in his arms, carefully cradling the man as gently as he could. “Thank you,” Kai said quietly, trying not to let her relief show too much on her face while they were still in the building. She stumbled a little on cramped legs and Father Andrew moved to support her. After a smile at him, she looked at Draven, wondering what he was thinking of all of this. She hadn‟t met him yet, or even seen him, but guessed that this had to be Cassidy‟s spouse. Did the young man know what a good thing he had? With Cassidy on her other side, holding her arm to help her walk, the five left the building, though Cassidy continued to murmur to Carl, "How is he? Is he gonna be okay? What can I do?" "He's in deep shit," Carl muttered. "We'll get him set up at the Victorian, unless there's a better place, get his system cleaned out ... then hope he sticks to it. All assuming he even wakes up." "I don't want him to die," Draven said worriedly. "He won't," Cassidy smiled down at the man as he kissed the side of Kai's head. "Carl knows what to do, and he'll tell us what to do to help Vitaly." "What about helping you?" Carl sighed as he looked up from Vitaly at those waiting for them. "You owe them now, Cassidy .... and any favor they want from you is ... not going to be good." "I'll survive." "Yeah ...." But Carl still worried. Fate had allowed Cassidy to win the money matter and play upon the doctor's greed ... but some day it would want a price, and it was a price that was going to hurt his cousin. “If there‟s a price for our freedom,” Kai said, “I‟ll pay it. Only fair.” Mal pulled out of Curt‟s arms and ran forward to first be sure Taly was okay, and then hug Kai with a whispered, “You okay?” “I‟ll live. I believed in you…and them…” She might not, however, get over the fact that she was a clone and not a „normal‟ human as she‟d always believed. Mal then offered his hand to Cassidy. “Thank you.” “Yeah,” Curt said from where he leaned against the van. “Thank you. All of you.” "You're welcome," they both said as Cassidy shook hands with the Molko and then pushed Carl towards the truck. "Draven or the Father can drive. I'll sit with him and Kai." "It's okay," Carl mumbled, having looked only over at Curt and Sidney with a small smile. "I can hold him back there. Help you get him set up at your place and wait til he's conscious." "Kai," Cassidy added as he motioned for her to get in too, "it was my decision to come for you and your friends. Those assholes want a pound of flesh for what we had to do to get you away from that sick fucker, I'll pay it .... gladly." He and Carl exchanged another look. That sick fucker didn't have long to live. “Still you didn‟t have to…I owe you my life now.” She believed that fully and would do whatever she could to repay him. “Mind if we hang with him too…til he wakes up?” Curt asked, glad when Malcolm reached for his hand Tamara had gotten out of the van but stayed out of sight of the others. She just wanted to go home now. She started walking for the road. While Sidney followed Tamara, realizing he was going to have to fly the helicopter now to bring at least two of them back to Tigh Ard, Carl climbed into the backseat of the truck, keeping Vitaly on him and leaving room for two others to fit in too. Cassidy would drive, Draven would take the middle of the front, leaving one more space. The left over person would have to go in the van or chopper. Carl fervently hoped it would be Malcolm. "Sure, of course," Cassidy smiled at Curt, ignoring any hand holding between the men. "Anyone's welcome at my place." “Cool…thanks. We‟ll follow in the van.” Curt made the decision to drive the van, assuming Mal would come with him but knowing Mal was free to do as he wished. Malcolm looked from Taly, to Cassidy, then at Carl and shook his head. “See you at the house, Kai,” he said quietly before turning to follow Curt. Carl's hopes took a dive again. The boy was going to the Victorian, but in the van. Well, it was a big place. He'd stick around to be sure Vitaly was coming out of his drug-coma, get medical things set up for Cassidy in caring for Vitaly, then he'd get the hell out as fast as he could. Cassidy wasn't sure how to feel at the moment. The hand holding he'd ignored had still hurt, and Malcolm choosing to go with Curt hurt. But he was a strong-willed man, and no matter what his heart was beginning to say, he'd never listen to it, never, not so long as he was with Draven. That vow would be honored, and it wouldn't have mattered one bit if Malcolm had ended up as a clone of his House instead. Not one bit. Both hurt and glad to see them all go without another look at her, beyond the wave from both Curt and Mal, Tamara kept walking, not aware that Sidney was following her. Malcolm stayed near Curt when the reached Cassidy‟s place, both as a way to avoid Carl and in an effort to prove to Draven that he wasn‟t a threat. They got Vitaly settled in one of the rooms and Kai volunteered to help Draven prepare them all something to eat, since none had eaten since the night before. She needed to do something, and there was too much commotion in that bedroom right now to get comfortable anyhow. And in the middle of it, as they waited for Taly to wake up, which he eventually did, Curt shared a few words with Father Andrew, seeing the man in a whole different light. With the things on his mind now, he had a feeling he was going to need that man‟s help…if the priest were willing to give it. Carl and Cassidy never left Vitaly's side until he woke, then the two went into action. Cassidy found clothes for "his" new clones, Carl explained what had happened to Vitaly about the pound and drugs and pleaded with him to get help now while he had a second chance, and Draven worked easily with Kai, not at all threatened by her. He wasn't, if he were being completely honest now, not even feeling threatened by Malcolm anymore. His heart was moving elsewhere, just like Cassidy's, and that elsewhere wasn't at the Victorian. He smiled often at Malcolm and spoke quietly to him along with Curt and the others, showing his comfort with having the Molko in that home. There was no true animosity at all from the young man. If there was any in the room, it was from Carl in keeping his eyes averted at all times and from Cassidy working hard not to show any to Curt. Their guts said something very different than Malcolm's had said, very different, but they weren't about to do anything about it. "Are we walking all the way or would you like to fly?" Sidney asked Tamara. “You can fly. I think I‟d only be in the way…and I‟m sure you‟ve got other things to do then play taxi for me,” she replied. "It is impossible for you to be in the way in the helicopter ... Nor are you anywhere else. Please choose, beloved." She stopped and closed her eyes, trying to fend off tears that continued to remain too close to the surface because she wouldn‟t let them go. “I would be…if you don‟t want me there.” She didn‟t feel wanted anywhere any more. "Why would I not want you in the helicopter?" “Why should you want me anywhere? You‟ve got your two families. You don‟t need me.” Self pity? Perhaps. “They need you.” "I have three families, and I most definitely need you." He scooped her up with a grin. "I've been wondering, with how you've been acting lately, just how much you need ...or should I say ... want ... anyone around you. Shall we return home now, my love? It would be pleasing if you sit on my lap as I fly." “I haven‟t felt very…needed…or wanted…so I‟ve felt I‟m better off by myself…out of everyone‟s way.” She didn‟t resist him holding her; instead she wrapped her arms around him, pressed her face into his neck and breathed, wishing she could talk about so many things but not feeling, yet, like she could do so. "You're always needed and wanted by many. You should know that by now." He giggled lightly at the feel of her lips against his neck, cuddling her closely, even during the actual flight home. And at the Victorian, Draven did his best to urge Carl, Malcolm and Curt to spend the day and night there. He loved big family environments, and he was actually hoping that if they did, if Cassidy was busy with all that company, maybe, at some point later in the day, he could sneak out and see Attila for a few minutes. That would really make him happy. ** He saw it when, in a flurry of cleaning in his office to quell the darkest of his emotions, he emptied the trash can and it came fluttering out from the bottom to fall into the plastic trash bag. "What in the hell?" The can was put down and he fished the paper bag out of the plastic one to examine it. No doubt about it. It was a clonemix bag for a ... talking gecco? Carl paid little attention to what clonemixes he was in agreement to buy from Davies each month that he actually purchased. He simply went down lines of them on the company order form, putting a check mark next to wherever he happened to, knowing that the likelihood of them being actually used was very low so seeing little need to really care of what ones he actually checked. But he did keep a record of the transaction on his end, as proof that he was doing it, and so the perplexed man went into his file cabinet, pulled it out, and examined that too. Sure enough, he'd checked off the gecco from those insurance commercials, but that wasn't truly proof, yet, that the gecco he'd checked off was now the empty bag in his trash bag. Determined to find that truth, he took it with him, balled up in his fist and opened the closet in his office where he was stacking mixes. The man, in his thoroughness, pulled each one out under the bright lights, read it carefully, and then put it back. No gecco. And upon further inspection of the cloning oven, he could see now that it had been used. God damnit! That was proof enough now. So who was fucking around with his shit in his office? He stormed out, seeking Max in immediately suspecting her. "Have you been in my office?" "No," she lied. "You couldn't pay me to go in there." Max skipped every family meeting, the only clone of Carl's that he let get away with it. But that didn't mean she hadn't gone through everything of his once, even in his bedroom, seeking something incriminating that she could use against him but unfortunately not finding anything besides several guns of different types, knives, and other standard military items that a man would have had in the service. Anything incriminating like bombmaking supplies and classified maps were always kept on base. "Can you explain this?" he snapped back, very much suspecting that she wasn't telling him the truth. "Looks like a clonemix bag. Empty." She kept a bored expression on her face. "I KNOW it's empty." Exasperated, he waved it around like a flag. "See? Empty! What I wanna know is how it ended up empty .. and in my trash?" "No idea. Maybe a ghost did it. I hear there's a few of them around here." And this, at least in this writer's vision of stormy fictional relationships, is why so many men tend to die before women of heart failure from stress. Because they spend their lives having to restrain themselves from slapping those button-pushing stress-causing "cunts" silly at times like this. It's a wonder even more of them don't keel over before they're forty. "You know what?" he snorted, disgusted, "forget I even asked. I'll check with Tamara. Maybe she knows something." "You do that," Max sneered, heading away. "And while you're at it, pull the wool over her eyes some more, eh?" "Bitch." "Bastard." He turned down the hall to Tamara's room, knocking loudly on it, face already red and his other hand clenched tightly into a fist. In one of her rare moments of clear-headedness, Tamara had been tidying her room when that knock came. She knew who it was at once, without him saying a word. It was as if she could feel him there, and knew he was angry before she even saw him. Fear tightened her throat as she opened the door enough to look out into the hall. Yep. Definitely angry…and she hadn‟t done anything or said anything of late to make him that way. Didn‟t matter. He probably hated her merely for being alive. “What?” she asked quietly. The moment she opened the door, a part of him could smell all his Sentinel-seals he'd left around that room, even on the clothing she was wearing. Eyes immediately started to calm. How could he be upset when Guide was wearing his Seal? "How are you?" he asked. Her brow twitched. He‟d been so angry…and now he wasn‟t? What? Did he think she was hiding someone in here that he didn‟t approve of? She shrugged. “Okay…I guess.” She knew she‟d missed a lot of hours in her memory lately, but she chose not to think about that. She was still home, her family hadn‟t committed her, so it couldn‟t be that bad, could it. “You?” "Okay." God that scent, the rational part of his mind thought in having picked up on it too. It was ... what? "New perfume?" It was just right for her, whatever it was she was wearing. “Don‟t normally wear perfume…so, no. Could be the shampoo…?” What else could it be? Something, yes…but what? “Car? Are you sure you‟re okay?” "Yeaaaahhhhhh." The Sentinel knew exactly what it was. It was only his less primal side that didn't know, wouldn't know, not until it accepted the whole of his being which was unlikely to ever happen unless, if, the two ever Bonded. "I like it on you. It's ... niiiiiiiiccccce." He leaned forward, eyes falling on the neck of that shirt. Her head tipped up to look at him more closely, which also subconsciously exposed her neck further to him. “Thank you,” she murmured, feeling her heart pound a little harder at his tone of voice. The fear she‟d first felt had eased away now. He must have come here for a reason, but as long as she didn‟t push it, didn‟t ask, just stayed quiet, they could share a nice moment together. "Tamssss ......" He couldn't take his eyes off her neck. His tongue even snaked out, wanting to cover it, bite it, suck on it all night long. Without thinking about it, she inched closer. If she‟d been thinking, she wouldn‟t have. Getting close to him always ended in pain of some sort or other. She didn‟t touch him, but she wanted to. Needed to. But he would definitely react violently if she did, so the best she could do was make it known it was what she wanted and leave the rest to Carl. "The ...ummm....." Why had he knocked on her door? There was a reason, wasn't there? Oh yes. The gecko. He could still feel the bag in his other hand. "Oven, my oven in my office." He lifted the bag between them. "Someone made a clone. Went in my office and used my things to make a clone." She broke her gaze from his long enough to look at the bag. “I haven‟t seen any new faces around.” To her knowledge only a few individuals knew how to make clones. Max. Sidney. And possibly Curt. It also wouldn‟t be difficult, most likely, for most of the vampires, though why any of them would want to was beyond me. “And I don‟t know how to do it.” As long as she didn‟t know how, she wouldn‟t be tempted, that was how she looked at it. "Well I do," he sighed, "and not only is the bag empty, but I can tell the oven's been used. I wanna know who did it. I'm going to bring it up at dinner, and I'm going to have Sidney put some kind of special lock on it so no one can get into it without his help. That oven and those mixes are trouble we don't need; only reason I'm keeping it is that it helped with Robbie so it might come in useful again some day. ... and that my sister paid a heavy price for us to have it." “There might be a room in the basement you could put it in?” She‟d never been down there but knew there was more than room beneath the main level of the house. It ruffled her a little that he would be accusing one of hers of this crime; the only two who definitely knew how to use it were his…and if Sidney had been the one to use it, what good would having him put a lock on it do? “I can‟t imagine why anyone would want to make such a clone, except maybe as a prank…” "I can't either .... but the fact is, someone went into my office without my permission and used things of mine without my permission. I'm going to find out who and make damn sure it doesn't happen again." He looked at the bag again and rolled his eyes. "A gecko of all things. Couldn't make something useful like another warrior or ... or a nurse or a maid." “If you need one of those things…make one…or adopt one. New month coming up…” He could certainly use a maid, rather than having Jessie clean up after him like his mother. And personally, Tamara thought she‟d worked rather well as his nurse during Faith‟s labor, but she admitted she didn‟t have the real knowledge necessary for such a job and with the way things stood between them, they probably couldn‟t work together without killing one another. "Got enough problems as it is." He started to turn away when the question that had been on his mind ever since that concert came bubbling up, and he couldn't stop it. "What happened to us?" “I don‟t know.” She looked at the floor. “I don‟t think „us‟ ever had the chance to even start…” "Yeah." He looked down too. "I don't wear all black, pierce my body, and strut on stage." “That has nothing to do with it. Never wanted that from you.” "Right. You just wanted sex ... but not enough to work at it when some little .... " He snorted, not quite able to say the word when he knew he shouldn't be angry with Malcolm. ".... makes it clear he wants you too .. and he's what you prefer over vanilla-men like me." “Just wanted…? That‟s bullshit and you know it, Mister-I-only-want-you because-you‟re-a redhead.” She crossed her arms. “I‟d like to see you call Lachlan or Marty or Lincoln…or others…vanilla.” "I called MYSELF vanilla," he growled. "I know what I am .. especially compared to what YOU like. And the fucking color of your hair isn't enough to make me want you. At this point, you could paint your entire body in red and it wouldn't matter." “You don‟t know a thing about what I like…and I know what I‟ve seen, and what your precious cousin said…so don‟t think you can lie to me now.” "Lie to you? Does Livetta have red hair? Kate? Faith? Are you blind just as much as you're disloyal, woman?" “Disloyal? Who‟s the one who runs off to fuck someone else the moment we have a misunderstanding or disagreement? How many, Carl? Since you‟ve moved in here I can count the number I‟ve been with on one hand…on two fingers…and its not like you own me…or is this a case of you‟re supposed to be free to ball whomever you want and I‟m only suppose to have eyes for you?” He had a lot of nerve to speak of disloyalty. She had never once gone to someone else when it was him she was longing for. "What the fuck does sex have to do with it?" he snarled, not at all seeing it that way until the night of the concert, when things had finally started to look good for them and she'd been disloyal. "I'm talking about a commitment we made that night, to TALK, to air things out between us, a COMMITMENT, and you get all hot and bothered by that Molko clone right on the heels of it, leaving me high and dry!" “I didn‟t leave you! YOU left! I was flirting yes…I won‟t deny it. I had the chance to dance on stage. Big deal. I never changed my mind about what I wanted, what my plans were…to straighten things out with YOU…but you took it upon yourself to pass judgment on my actions…make assumptions…and you left without giving me a chance. It wasn‟t like I was planning to do anything more than flirt…and if that offended you, then I‟m sorry.” She certainly hadn‟t seen any harm in a little playful fun, hadn‟t intended it to go beyond that, and had had her heart set on working things out with Carl. But he left and took that option away from them both. Of course, he wouldn‟t shoulder any blame for misjudging her, walking out…or anything else. Men didn‟t. It was always the woman‟s fault. Men like him never did anything wrong. "Flirt?" His face started to turn purple. "Woman, you were so fucking hot for him ya woulda spread your legs right on that stage! I became INVISIBLE! NOTHING! SO I LEFT!" He turned again, bumping right into Cassidy who was followed by Max. "Told ya not to come in here," he growled at his cousin. "Scared her once already." Cassidy didn't back down. His love for his spouse was probably the only thing that would make him stand up to an extremely angry Carl. "Looking for Draven. He's not answering his phone. Have a feeling he's here. You see'm around?" "No, but I'll help ya look. I'm sure as hell not getting anywhere here." Just like he hadn't, in his mind, ever been able to explain their first fight so that she'd understood ... Respect for her men in her home upon meeting them.. Carl had never been invisible to her. The pull to him was too strong to allow that. “Yeah…run away again…just like you always do! You never listen…your way or no way. You make all the rules but you never give a damn about listening to me.” Then she glared at Cassidy, who unfortunately happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was now going to get caught in the crossfire. “Maybe you need to explain to him his pattern of involvement with redheads…since he seems to be blind and oblivious to it…unless, of course…” her eyes narrowed, “you were lying too.” "I lie all the time... to women." Not quite the full truth anymore, but close enough in Cassidy's eyes. "And I didn't run away!" Carl bellowed back over his shoulder at Tamara. "You PUSHED me with that God damn Molko clone I had better never come across again or I'll fucking kill him for winning you that night over me when I WANTED TO LISTEN!" "I'm not surprised," Max growled from behind the Irishman. "About either of you being lying, killing bastards. Anyone who'd do what you do for a living would have to be quite used to it, mixing business and pleasure, huh?" "I work at the hospital ...." "Oh give it up, BROTHER," she snorted. "You're an assassin, both of you! I've got all the proof I need now, just not who's paying you yet." "Stop.Right.Now," Carl tried to warn her. "You don't have any idea what you're messing with, Max. It's dangerous." Tamara stared at Max for a few moments then spat, “Oh, can it, Carl. Cassidy already told me everything I need to know. Not to mention what you‟ve hinted at yourself. Killer for hire who uses women, especially reds…drops one for the next…and can‟t afford ones that might get too close. No one won me that night…I‟m not some fucking prize! You WOULD have „won‟ as you call it…except you ran!” "BECAUSE YOU WERE SLEAZING YOURSELF ON STAGE WITH HIM!" Carl was so angry, if Malcolm showed up right then, he'd probably break his face before he could stop himself. “I was DANCING!” she shot back. “You LEFT before I even started…so how do YOU know what I was doing? You made an assumption! If anyone sleazed themselves it was YOU by doing what you did AFTER you left there!” "What I did was honest." His voice lowered icily. "I needed to fuck so I fucked. I don't hide my needs, and I didn't make a commitment, then turn around and get all worked up by someone else and jump on stage like a bitch in heat in front of someone who loves you. You're no better than Sharon, but at least she had the decency to not do it in front of my face when she went out whoring." Cassidy was white-faced by then, and it was because Tamara had mentioned their discussion. He started backing up, but Carl followed him. "Get out," the Scot hissed. "We're not going to talk business in front of them. Obviously, they already know too much." Nodding, the Omega headed for the door. Talk business? Or was he about to get his ass kicked? “I‟ve never hidden my needs from you…but you ignore them. Too busy playing fuck any female that moves and playing killing games with him.” Furious, she put her fist through the door. She‟d even apologized…but did he? No. He was too intent on laying all of the blame on her. Any man who couldn‟t accept his share of responsibility didn‟t deserve her respect. She was better off without him. So why in hell did it hurt so much? ?......."Better see a doctor for that," Carl spat as he stubbornly resisted every urge in his body to go to her aid. "Or maybe your new plaything clone you just HAD to have over the defenseless sick one. I'm sure he'd just love to help you .. and we both know how much you'd love to be helped by him." He went out the door with Cassidy, leaving an even stunned Max behind. "Jesus Tammy, are you okay?" “No, I‟m not,” she growled, trying hard not to cry. Splinters of wood struck from her knuckles but she wasn‟t doing anything to remove them. She wanted him out of this house, out of her life. Her thoughts were filled with uncustomary dark thoughts and images worthy of any SID, though they were ones she knew she‟d never act on…or ever really want to carry out. "Kitchen .. or your bathroom. Gotta clean that out, Tammy, get it bandaged. You might have broken bone." “Bathroom stinks of HIM! And the kitchen is too far…” Lindsey had a bathroom though. She could use that one. “I don‟t care if it‟s broken…although it would have felt better if I‟d broken his head instead of the door.” She didn‟t really mean it, but it was how she was feeling nonetheless. "I know that feeling," Max sighed sympathetically and followed the woman to another bathroom. "And I've gotta tell Rachel about this. The man she loves like a brother is just a lowlife gangster." She could just imagine how Rachel would take that. “So now…Sidney knows? What does he think about this?” "Sidney." Max gulped hard at the lump in her throat. "He wouldn't help me against Carl. I found it another way ..... with .. with that other SID in the area. He was willing to help... for a price." She shrugged as if it were no big deal. “I hope you know what you‟re doing,” Tamara murmured. She knew that Max knew how to handle SIDs. It only worried her because this new one was an unknown, and not affiliated to any House as far as she knew. “Sidney should know. The Seconds should know too…” "Absolutely. We've gotta warn them. Even if, and this is stretching it because I do WANT to believe they'd never actually hurt any of us, that they wouldn't, we need to be sure those four, plus Rach, know the truth." “I don‟t believe any of us are safe.” She‟d been willing to believe it before, but she didn‟t now, not with hurt and anger coloring her vision. “The vamps maybe…Sidney maybe…but not the rest. I don‟t trust either of them any more.” The Guide in her wanted to, but there was no reason she could see to trust or believe in him. She needed him, wanted him…but right now she just wanted him gone. "I'm not sure what to believe, only what I want to believe, but common sense tells me not to listen to it." Max was no doctor, but cleaning out splinters and covering a hand with a spray-on antiseptic before covering it was easy. "I'd check with Gil later on that, just to be sure," she murmured. “Maybe…yeah. Thanks, Max. Just…be careful…” She might have been referring to Carl. She might have been referring to Sidi. She left it up to Max to decide. "You too, Tammy." Arms went around her friend with a sigh. "I talked to him .. the night of the concert. We actually had a beer together at a pub after he almost broke every bone in my arm and leg." “Fucker,” she muttered. She was going to get even with him, somehow. Even if just in petty ways by messing with his stuff in the bathroom or putting itching powder in his shorts. Such things were the only recourse she had against a man who was much bigger, much stronger, than her and who scared her to death. Things were never going to be the same between them. She was too afraid of him now, to mistrusting. Even if she did still love him. "Sure is. I tried to convince him to talk to you .. about Malcolm, but all he did was throw Rachel in my face .. so we called a truce on it, had a beer, and then went our separate ways. If there's anyone I'm worried about now .. it's that young boy. Men can be really ... mean ... over women when they've got an idea in their head." “Boy? Who…Malcolm?” She wondered why they considered him a boy. “He tries anything…I‟ll castrate him in his sleep.” Maybe Carl didn‟t know it, but she had the tools to do it…and the know-how. “No one hurts one of mine and gets away with it.” "Sid used to do it all the time." The hug she'd been trying to give was released, and Max sat down, trying to think. "Carl knows that too. I trust him more with you than with the boy. But maybe it's a moot point now. Maybe he'll move out." “Sid was special,” Tamara murmured. “He couldn‟t help what he did…he was made that way.” There was no way she was going to equate Carl with a SID. Not right now at any rate. “I don‟t trust him with Malcolm…or with me. I don‟t trust him at all. With Sid…I saw the good in him. Carl…I thought I did…thought he had it too. I don‟t think he does now. If it was ever there…I‟ve lost sight of it.” Max shrugged. "I never saw it, so I can't say I'm disappointed ... only that I'm sorry for you ... and especially for Malcolm now." She rubbed her eyes and shook her head, then standing to head for the door. "Keep a close eye on him, just in case Carl comes back, but let's hope he doesn't. That we've seen the last of him and his bully cousin." Tamara nodded, agreeing…but also finding the thought to be an extremely painful one. Now what did she do, she wondered, staring at herself in the mirror. “Maybe we can tell the others…later…I just want to…sleep for like a hundred years.” Avoid the world and maybe it would go away. "I'd be happy to get fifty years." She touched the woman's shoulder and left, heading straight for a spot in the attic under a large window to think some more. * Once Taly was awake and Carl had left, Curt spent only a few minutes with the Leto alone before leaving that house himself. That place held memories for him, memories he didn‟t want to deal with just then, in front of everyone else. Besides, that look between the two men had said it all without words passing. He and Taly were killing each other, and as it was something neither wanted, and since they still wanted to remain friends and business partners, they had to put distance between them…at least until they were clean. So Curt left, hitched a ride into downtown, and spent hours just walking the streets…and smoking to take the edge off of the cravings he was beginning to feel. Over and over again in his minds eye he saw Tamara…and Sidney…and Carl…and just how bad they all looked. He caught his own reflection in a store window and knew that the apparition staring back at him had to be what CJ and Curtis looked like by now. Not only had he been killing Taly with their co-dependency…and Taly killing him…he was killing at least six others as well…himself included. His weakness was also destroying his family. He could feel it without seeing any of them. Did he really want to be remembered as a murderer? As the destroyer of one, possibly two, Houses? Was that the sort of legacy he wanted to leave the world…and his boys? The boys were another festering thorn that he needed to lance and heal. He hadn‟t seen them in several days because of his physical condition and he was beginning to feel as if they hated him…or at least feel that they were living on another planet or something. So much distance between them. He deserved their hatred, as he‟d been a lousy parent since Sid‟s death, but he didn‟t want it. He wanted, and needed, their love. But he may have lost that chance. At least he had kept one promise to Sid. He hadn‟t followed the Crowe into death, no matter how much he‟d longed to. Did that count for anything? He didn‟t know. Strong enough to live…but not strong enough to stay clean. Yes, part of him still blamed Sid for that failing, but the real fault was Curt‟s. He had relied too much on the man‟s strength, when he should have been relying on his own. There were some things that Sid could do as Dom…but the real battle against chemical dependency had to be Curt‟s. Because he was the addict. And he had failed. He didn‟t want to be a failure. He was so tired of failing at everything he tried. He was tired of the times it seemed that the entire world conspired against him to make him fail, just as much as he was tired of his own shortcomings causing those failures. He was tired of so many things…and he was just plain tired. And then there was Mal…lively, intelligent, funny, sweet, beautiful Mal…whom Curt didn‟t want to hurt either. He heard the man‟s voice again…‟Please don‟t die‟…and then Sid‟s words, „not follow‟ and he sighed in defeat. He knew what he had to do. He just didn‟t think he could do it. Yeah, he‟d cleaned up before, but in canon it had largely been under pressure of this, that, or the other manager or producer. In this life, both times he‟d fallen into using, it had been Sid there to help him through the worst of the detox, Sid there to give him motivation. Now he didn‟t have that. He had to do it on his own. It should be a chance to show that he was stronger then he thought…that he could succeed at something, but to be perfectly honest the notion of standing on his own scared him to death. It was why, in spite of his need to have some control in his life, he had also, mostly, needed the Dom in Sid…so that he wasn‟t so scared of those times when he did take control. Without that main control, that cushion of comfort and stability, he knew he wouldn‟t have the strength to control anything. It took Power to be Sub…Power given him by Sid…Power that had enabled him to gain First in the family. When that Power had been lost, he‟d lost himself, lost his ability, confidence, and will to be First. And in the end he‟d lost Sid too. He was forced to start all over…without that safety net of Sid. And unlike his efforts as a boy, he had to do it without the cushion of drugs or the split personalities that had once protected him. He had to grow up. His weary feet eventually took him back to the hotel, but he didn‟t go back to the room they‟d been sharing. Taly had very likely left some drugs behind, if the cops or paramedics hadn‟t confiscated them, and Curt knew he couldn‟t risk going anywhere near those things. If he did, he‟d consume them. Withdrawals were already creeping up over his body, the early stages at least, held off only by the chain smoking he‟d been doing most of the afternoon, evening, and now into the night. He called Mal‟s phone and left a message, telling him where he was, just before propping himself up against the headboard of the bed with a bottle of beer. What he had to do could, hopefully, wait until morning. Right then he wanted Mal‟s company. But he dozed off while waiting for him…without any sign of the man. Alone with the need to be strong. * The two men had it out inside Cassidy's truck. The only reason it didn't become physical was because neither had the will to take it that way. Carl was reeling from his blowup with Tamara, Cassidy was still worried about Draven and wanted to get back to the Victorian and check on Vitaly again, so they talked for a few minutes, in angry tones, then went separate ways when Draven appeared around the corner ... coming from the horse pasture. It left Carl to his own devices, and that night was not a good night for him to be alone. First it was a visit to the Tea Room, but he didn't stay in the suite for long, giving it up after just one climax to go down to the bar and drink instead. He'd even made sure the lady of the suite had been brunette .... to prove something even if that damn Mistress of Brigham House never knew of it. "Had enough, had enough, had enough," a very drunk Carl said later that night at Tigh Ard as he shuffled past Lindsey's office on the way to his room. "I'm outta here, outta this pit sucking me down, outta everything, outta fucking life! For good!" He stepped through his door and pulled a suitcase out, throwing clothes haphazardly into it, mostly missing, some falling inside, the man hardly noticing in his severe state of inebriation. Hearing the commotion, Lindsey stepped out of his office and followed Carl across the entrance hall and into the corridor where the bedrooms were. He stopped in Carl‟s bedroom doorway, however, not about to enter without an invitation, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Never figured you for a quitter…” he said quietly. “That‟s a shame.” He didn‟t intend it as an accusation but rather as a possible motivator to get the man to look at things differently. "I know when I don't wanna play no more," he sulked, finding his guns in a drawer and tossing each one into that suitcase too. "Ya coming in? Help me, Linds? Sooner I'm outta here, the better. Ya think Livvy would come with me? I'll miss ya, mate, but as much as I hate her fuckin' guts right now, I can't ask ya to go with me." Lindsey stayed silent in the doorway, watching, but unable to bring himself to move. If he helped the man leave, he‟d be aiding in destroying the family and he couldn‟t do that. Instead he just listened and bit his tongue to keep from saying words Carl didn‟t care to hear. “Gonna try to say goodbye to everyone tonight, but if I miss anyone, and I'm so fucking wasted right now I forget I missed'em, could ya tell'em for me tomorrow, mate?" He had to make one stop on the way out for sure; he wasn't leaving until he spoke to his daughter. “Sure.” He sighed. This was all wrong in more ways than he could say. “Would be better if you waited til you were sober and told them yourself. Hearing it second hand from me just wouldn‟t be the same.” "I .... " He paused, pulling out drawers full of guns, cases of bullets, knives, combat belts and other survival gear to dump them into the suitcase. "I honestly dunno ... " Eyes started to tear up. "I dunno if I'm brave enough to wait til I'm sober. Oh God I hate her, but I'm gonna miss her so much. So much.... " The drawer fell from slack arms with a crash to the floor as legs wobbled, weakening. “You‟re one of the bravest men I know,” Lindsey said, coming closer to steady him. “You have to be…to love her. She doesn‟t let anyone in easily…and you‟ve stuck it out this long. Takes a lot of strength and bravery…” "Or stubborn idiocy not to know when you're beaten," he sighed, draping arms around the man. "I love her, I hate her, I love her, I hate her. She's driving me bonkers .... Dunno whether I'm coming or going. Had a big fight today. Real big ... and the cat's outta the bag.... " He started giggling then as he hung onto Lindsey in that drunken dance of trying to remain on his feet. "Just what I've been worried all along anyone finding out, what she'd think of me now that she knows .... how I make the big money, the real stuff putting bullets in heads and steel in throats." “So she says…but somehow I get the feeling she doesn‟t know the full truth. And from what she‟s said to me…its not the matter of killing people that has her ticked off at you, not what‟s hurting her most. Maybe you just need an honest talk…with a mediator even like Curt and Sid did…to keep you from ripping each others heads off.” He moved so that they could sit on the edge of the bed. “You‟re only beaten if you give up.” "I'm beaten.... " Carl slurred, his head hanging floppily, "I'm so beaten my balls are scrambled. She took'em from me once, thought I got'em back, but I was wrong. She kept'em, hid'em, and then she stomped on'em for good measure .. with that new little clone boy she likes more'n me. Ya like me, right Linds? We're friends, right?" He was getting that sappy-drunk expression on his face. Lindsey patted the man‟s hand with a smile. “Yes, I like you. And she does too.” He knew it, even if Carl would never see it. If she didn‟t, this wouldn‟t be hurting her so much. “We‟re friends, Carl. Always.” "Thanks... I like to think so too. I'm sorry again about the bathroom that day. Just another reason I've gotta get outta here. Still can't believe I attacked ya ....Something to do with her ...... Scares me... I'm not brave." His head shook in denial as eyes started to glisten again. "Not brave....." Lindsey got up to the edge of the bed, then propped himself up on an elbow down beside the man. “Admitting your scared is brave…I wish I could make you see you the way I do…” the way she does. “But look…you can‟t drive like this…and you shouldn‟t be walking like this either. Get some rest for a few hours…then I can wake you up…then you can say your goodbyes if you really gotta…leave us all…” "Uhhhh.... " He looked down at the soft bed, his soft pillow, and nodded obediently at being tempted to sleep off some of his buzz, especially because his stomach was hurting really badly and he had a feeling he was going to start throwing up again .... and that it wasn't the least bit alcohol related. "Yeah, just a little rest ... then wake me up? Say three hours?" “Three hours.” Lindsey nodded and moved to help Carl back to a more comfortable position. That sudden greenness around Carl‟s face didn‟t look good. “Would you drink a glass of water for me? Will dilute the alcohol down a bit I think…and water will help ward off the hangover later.” “Sure thing.” He hurried off and returned with a large glass of water, the cleaning bucket, a towel, and a damp cloth. “Can you sit up a little to drink?” he asked. “What exactly have you been drinking?” Maybe there was something in there more than just alcohol, or something he was allergic to. "Just beer, nothing but beer." Pained eyes looked up at Lindsey as he tried to drink some of the water. "Been sick for weeks. Comes and goes but mostly comes. Bond," he groaned, "fucking Bond to Curt ... Curtis, Sidney and Tams are sick too ..... and it could be from Sid too. I dunno. I just want it to stop. I didn't ask for this shit. I just came to Havensport to help my dead sister's family and meet Rachel, I didn't ask to be Bonded like this, I'm not a Bonding kinda guy, I'm just Carl Bruce ..... murderer for hire ....." he whined pitifully as his stomach lurched and he opened his mouth, hurling into the bucket. “Shit,” Lindsey muttered. “I know what you mean…” But he would give just about anything, if given the chance, to trade places with Carl. “I don‟t know how to make it go away…I know Curt broke one once, with he and CJ…but it came back. But maybe…there‟s a way to help take some of this sickness away…” He wasn‟t sure Carl would agree with his right to interfere, but he WAS House Second, and if the others weren‟t going to take initiative, maybe it was time for a little intervention. "They almost always come back, her notes said. Rarely ever stay broken unless there was something dysfunctional about it to begin with." He moaned louder, shivering, and hurled a second time, heaving in exhaustion after it to gulp down water and lay back in the bed, closing his eyes. Tears slipped out from behind those closed lids. "Curt's using again. He's got all the signs of it. Siddy's still gone. Tams hates me. My sister hates me. Mistresses hate me..... I hate me. And sometimes I just wanna die....." It was just normal self-pity speaking, though. Carl wasn't the sort to resort to active suicide. Maybe unconsciously as inactive, letting himself waste away when he'd finally had enough, but not consciously in taking a knife to a vein or jump off a bridge kind. “You don‟t want to die, Carl. And not everyone hates you…even if it feels like it.” He wiped the man‟s face with the damp cloth. "Deserve it," he muttered. "I'm going to hell ... and the only reason it doesn't scare me anymore is cuz Siddy is probably there. My poor Siddy." A cry erupted and the man turned back on his side, hugging himself not in physical pain this time but emotional. "I'm okay now, Linds. It's passed. Gonna get some sleep ... sleeeeeep." Lindsey brushed back the man‟s blonde hair and sighed. “I‟ll stay right here until you‟re sleeping…and be back as you asked. Things will seem better when you‟ve had some sleep.” "You're a good friend," Carl whispered, "a good friend and a good Second. I really will miss youuuuu....." Then he dropped, fully clothed on top of those blankets, into an exhausted sleep, much faster than he'd done since that fateful night at the luau. Once Lindsey was sure Carl slept, he cleaned the bucket and moved the suitcase off of the bed. He left the bedside light on and went to his office to wait the three hours before waking him. This was such a mess, and he didn‟t know how to fix it. Or if it was his duty to do so. Three hours later, Carl was no longer sleeping, he was dying. The man's body had sunk faster into sleep than normal because it wanted to die, to follow Sid, to go to the only place there was a consummated Bond for it, if even in the afterlife. Sidney and Curt had been together, had each been with Tamara, and each been with Sid. Those existing House-Bonds kept them going now. Carl didn't have that with the other three. He'd resisted all attempts by his body to House-Bond with any of them, leaving him in the most vulnerable position now. There were no anchors keepings him on earth like they had with each other. He was sinking because he'd been stubborn too long. “Carl?” Lindsey said as he poked his head in the door. There was a heaviness in he air that frightened him. When the man didn‟t move, Lindsey came to the bedside and shook his shoulder gently. “Carl? Worse than wrong. He knew what he‟d felt when he entered the room. He reached for the phone at the bedside and dialed up to Sidney‟s room. Sidney, "sleeping" in that android-mode he tried to do each day, didn't answer. The very standard for canon SID Sleep Program he'd placed himself in was taking him further away than normal in that circuitry, much further away. He thought he heard the phone ring, but he couldn't quite move his hand yet to reach it. Growling, Lindsey didn‟t want to leave Carl‟s side so he called Curt. It seemed to take hours for the man to answer the phone. It took so long because, in his sleep, Curt hurt. Everywhere. He didn‟t think anyone had this phone number except a few in the family, so anyone calling at this hour had to be important. “Curt…get home. Now. Carl needs you…and I can‟t reach Sidney.” “Linds?” He was barely functioning. Stress, fatigue, and the need for drugs in his body on top of whatever he was feeling, was nearly incapacitating. He hadn‟t had anything but cigarettes and beer since last night, and even the nicotine was wearing off now so his body was screaming for it. Mal hadn‟t joined him yet, making him scowl. Maybe he‟d decided to stay with Taly. If so, he wished the man would just call him. “I‟ll get a cab. Not…well enough to drive…but I‟ll get there. Somehow. Keep trying Sidney.” He stumbled around the room, getting pants and a shirt on just barely with trembling hands, then staggered out to the street to get a taxi. He wasn‟t going to be any help to anyone, not without drugs in his body, but he didn‟t have the chance to get them. He just had to hope he could function well enough to be of help to those who needed him. Meanwhile, Lindsey kept trying to call Sidney. John had been out of bed with Robbie when the phone rang before. He didn‟t know why Sidney hadn‟t answered it, but this time, since he was closer, he did. “Sidney?” “John.” “Get Sidney down here. To Carl‟s room. Now. I don‟t care if you have to drag him. Just do it.” The phone went dead and John stared at it for a moment then tried to shake Sidney awake. Sidney woke fully immediately at that shaking, the deeper than normal Sleep Program coming to a halt. "You got the phone? I was just about to answer it." John nodded. “It rang before when I was with Robbie. You didn‟t answer it. So I did. Lindsey wants you in Carl‟s room. Sounds important.” "Thank you. My Sleep Program was ... strange this time. I heard it ring. It was just taking me longer to reach it ... I don't know why .. unless...." He closed his eyes and reached out. "Yes. Very important. I will return when I can." The man kissed John, a deep kiss reaffirming life after just touching almost death. “Do you need anything? What can I do?” John murmured, feeling something out of place now. "Go to BoldLady, hold her, kiss her, love her. She is in danger. Bring the Jedi and Elf. They have ... skills... that may be useful." John nodded again. “I will do my best. Be…careful.” It wasn‟t something he normally told Sidney, but right now it felt like the right thing to say.” "I love you." He hugged John to him as he moved to the door. “Love you too, Sidney.” He was right behind him, following him only to the bottom of the stairs before heading off to where he knew Gil-galad usually spent his nights. About the time Sidney passed through the entrance hall, Curt stumbled through the front door. He looked at the Crowe and grunted, not having the energy to waste on words. There were dark circles under his eyes and his face was pale. In his hands were a cigarette and cup of coffee…not the drugs he needed, but maybe they‟d get him through whatever lay ahead of him. "I seriously hope, if we survive this," Sidney said as he lifted Curt into his arms to carry him the rest of the way, "that you are ready to receive the help you need, my love." “If I live through this…I‟ll die anyways,” he muttered. He wasn‟t thinking very clearly so even he wasn‟t sure what he meant by that. "We all die ... someday ... except maybe for canon SID ... and the vampires." Opening the door to Carl's room sent a blast of psychic despair into the SID, making him actually recoil from it, wondering it if was too late to save Carl after all. Curt braced himself against it, recognizing it as a place where his soul lived now, even on his very best days. “I can…stop him…we can change this…if he‟ll let us. That‟s the biggest obstacle. He hasn‟t wanted our help before…and I know he doesn‟t want hers…so if we can‟t convince him to want to live…then there‟s not a fuckin‟ thing we can do.” "He smells of vomit," Sidney said to Lindsey as he carefully set Curt down on the bed near Carl. "Was he sick ... again?" “He was before he slept…but he‟d been drinking pretty heavy too,” the lawyer said. “I tried to clean him up as best I could.” He knew, however, that nothing short of a full shower would have covered up the smell from a SID. Curt lay his hands on Carl‟s arms and immediately opened himself up to the man. “Linds…I‟m gonna need more coffee. Lot‟s of it…strong…maybe Gil has something that‟ll clear my head?” The Elf had medicinals for just about everything else. Maybe he‟d have something for this too. “I‟ll see what I can scare up. Sidney? Anything else I can bring?” "Nothing, thank you. I'm not sure what to do about this .... illness he suffers like Curtis, myself, Tamara and likely CJ too. It does not make me vomit every day like Carl and Curtis, but it is not ... pleasant ... and I'm afraid of what is going on inside of him ... beyond the Bond issue with Sid." “Leave that for me to deal with,” Curt murmured. “It‟s keeping him alive through this Bond issue that we have to worry about first…cause it‟s the one most likely to kill him at this moment.” "Agreed. I see he was moving out. Not surprised, I'm sorry to say," he sighed as he looked at the haphazard suitcase full of clothes and weaponry and began to undress Carl. "His pride is almost ... SID-like .. foolish." “S‟why I don‟t think he‟ll let me help him either. Might be best if ya do this…help him alone.” He hadn‟t missed the animosity towards Malcolm, and as long as Malcolm was around him, Carl was going to avoid Curt too. There wasn‟t any way around that. "As much as it pains me to admit this .... alone will not be enough. He needs both of us. He needs her, but we shall have to hope that the two of us will be enough." He continued to strip Carl. "Are you going to undress too? I'm sure you know what this will entail, my love. It is time, past time, that the two of us helped anchor him as we have kept her, you, and myself anchored from having Bonded in the past." “I ain‟t fuckin‟ anyone against their will. That‟d be rape…and if he hates me now, he‟ll really hate me then.” He swallowed as he pulled off his rumpled shirt. “He only barely let Sid…so I don‟t see him agreein‟…and I dunno if I can…let anyone who isn‟t…take me that way…but I‟ll try…if he will.” He knew he had to, knew there was no choice. He just wasn‟t confident that he could. He held little confidence in anything these days, most especially not himself. "We won't know .... until we find him .. wherever he is in there." Nude too, Sidney placed Carl and himself under the blankets, then held it open for Curt to join them. “Other side, I presume?” It was where he went, an effort to surround Carl with their body warmth if nothing else. Lindsey returned then with a covered cup of the strongest coffee he could find, which Curt drank as quickly as he could, ignoring the heat of it in his mouth. “Really should do this with her too…cause I don‟t think she‟s very grounded any more. I don‟t think any of us are.” "Agreed. I worry for her especially right now, but Carl is in the more dire position, with no anchors at all to help him. We should go to her next ... strengthen her anchors that have been loosening lately." “Not sure she‟ll welcome me either…” Curt whispered, nosing into Carl‟s hair, “but I think it‟s about time I started to make things right again…at least for every body else.” Things weren‟t ever going to be right for him, but his mistakes had killed Sid and he‟d be damned if he was going to let any other mistakes kill anyone else. "Maybe, once you do, or have at least finally decided to do so," Sidney murmured, reaching over to tousle Curt hair as his own nose scented through Carl's, "things will get better for you ... Karma, I believe they call it. You'll see." The man between them moaned, body twitching as if he were doing something very active in his mind. "Ready Curt? On the count of three ... we dive." “Can ya lead this time? I dunno that I…can…” Partially insecurities, and partially knowing that physically he was a mess. Just how badly that might be affecting Sidney, and what it would do to their chances of success, he was afraid to find out. His eyes were already closed, his thoughts already skimming over the surface of Carl‟s aura and bouncing off of Sidney as he readied himself for the count. "Wait." Sidney groaned as a thought came to him, an important thought based on what he knew of Sentinel instincts and House Bondings. "I have to run back to the Victorian. This should be done on his mattress, his REAL mattress, the one he Bonded with Sid on. Wait here, hold him. I'll be back very quickly." Sidney would take his truck, toss it in the back, and be back in that room, with how fast he could move as SID, in less than five minutes. “Should call ya Superman…faster than a speedin‟ bullet,” Curt smirked. "Very funny." The SID winked and disappeared. Getting the mattress, with Cassidy busy with Vitaly, was much easier than it could have been. Sidney walked in, went up those stairs, took it, and walked out, with no one paying any attention to him. He made it back to Tigh Ard in four point three minutes. "Here we go," he said, stepping into the room with it. Carl was moved just long enough, then placed on HIS bed with Sidney and Curt beside him again. "Count of three, Curt. Three ... two.. one." They fell. Where they landed was hot jungle, steaming hot all around them, bright sky, and a man above them in a tree, grungy and sweaty in worn cammies with only one working gun and a knife left after having been separated from his team in an ambush and on his own for too long now in trying to elude capture as he made his way back to civilization on foot. "Not going back," he growled down at them. “Then can we come up there?” Curt asked. “If we stay down here…lookin‟ at ya up in the tree…it‟s gonna give away yare position…and I don‟t think that‟s very smart.” He might not have Carl‟s training, but if hiding was the order of the day, then it made more sense that they all do it. "They're everywhere. Most of the patrols are at night looking for me. Try to sleep a little in a tree during the day. Hurry up before they get you like they got me already once. You don't want them to get you. They have .... pits." "I'd love to see firsthand what's in them," Sidney giggled as he jumped, bringing Curt with him. "No, you wouldn't. No one survives the pit. No one." "You did, Carl. Though it has obviously affected your psyche to a greater extent than you show people." "I did? Impossible." His filthy, bearded face stared at both of the men, knowing them but not knowing them. "Yes, you did. This is a dream, a memory. Cassidy saved you, remember?" "Cass? Or .... " He shifted on the limb, scratching between his legs where the itch of vermin was worse. "Her?” "Indeed." Sidney smiled at the man. "Her. She saved you... the second time... The luau, remember?" "Siddy's dead." Curt closed his eyes. God it hurt to say that. “Yeah…he is…but yare not. Not yet. Though ya will be…and maybe all of us too…if ya don‟t let us help ya.” "You came to bring me back?" “We came because we love ya…and want to help ya.” Bringing him back was part of that, yes, but helping him was the main concern. “We don‟t want ya to leave us.” "We came to bring you back." Carl looked at both men again .. and then shot them both. "I'M NOT GOING BACK TO THAT HELL!" He jumped out of the tree and ran, leaving a laughing Sidney behind. The bullets, of course, hadn't done any damage, had just gone straight through them, and Carl, of course, had known he wasn't really killing them. The man was just trying to get away ... running scared in fear of being brought back to reality where he faced so much hatred and pain. Reeling, Curt fell backwards out of the tree. That didn‟t hurt him either, but it did shake his already tenuous confidence about what they were doing here. “He isn‟t gonna come back,” he muttered…while still picking himself up to start off after Carl. "He'll come back if I have to drag him by his lice infected balls." Carl was screaming as he ran, no longer frightened about the old real life enemy as he saw Curt and Sidney as the enemy now. He fired shots behind him, bellowing, "Stay away from me! This is where I belong! I'm a murderer! I belong here! I don't belong with her! And she doesn't want me! She has that fucking prettyboy now she wanted so badly!" "Carl!" Sidney called out in enticement as they moved after the man. "If you come back, I'll help you torture the boy! Teach them both a lesson when he's not so pretty anymore!" He wouldn't really, at least not badly, but he'd use the encouragement in trying to get the pissed off male running from them to agree. "If I go back, I might kill'm myself! Safer here!" Carl didn't feel, rationally, that he would ever hurt Malcolm physically, but he did know there was something "odd" about him lately, something wild and uncontrollable that made him act strangely in blackouts, and it made him fear for the Molko's safety, that whatever was "wrong" with him would go after that young man despite his rational mind. The man never should have been taken into House of Brigham. It terrified Carl. “If I haven‟t killed myself yet,” Curt said, “ya sure as hell won‟t.” And if either of them tried to harm Malcolm, they‟d have to do it over Curt‟s dead body as far as he was concerned. It was no use telling him she wanted him…Carl wouldn‟t listen. Everything Curt could think of to say, Carl was just going to ignore. He wasn‟t sure what the hell good he was doing here but he wasn‟t giving up the pursuit. “I‟m the expert on suicide around here, ya know…” "Really?" Carl laughed, a manic laugh and shot out into a field, waving his arms around wildly to those old real life enemies. "Take me! I'm here! Put me in the pit! I'm ready! I'm ready for it again!" Sidney sighed as they stepped out into the field. "He thinks of the pit as penance for what he sees as crimes of murder. And now that his crimes have been exposed to the woman he loves and he feels unwanted in comparison to her sudden need for Malcolm and taking him into the House, his soul, already damaged badly by the loss of Bond with Sid, not anchored with you, me or Tamara, and his body weakened by weeks of illness in sympathy with yours, is ready to move on .... to die now. We cannot let him get away with it." “And just how do ya propose to stop him? So she likes Mal…she likes me and you and Bauer and Hector…doesn‟t mean there ain‟t room in her heart for him. A lot of room. And fuck…no offense Sidney…but she loves you…and Sid…no matter what he thinks he‟s done…I know that has nothin‟ to do with any anger she feels at him. Wouldn‟t stop „er from lovin‟ him. He‟s doin‟ a good enough job of that all on his own.” "I propose we stop him... though I do not yet know how. Thankfully, the demons of his past cannot harm you. As for Malcolm, I believe Carl might have gotten over his disappointment at the concert eventually .... if she had sensibly adopted the ill clone instead and allowed Cassidy to adopt the two healthy ones, Malcolm and Kai. Having Malcolm close in a House-way is much more than an outside relationship with Jack Bauer and King Hector." Spectres of the past moved right through them, not even seeing Sidney and Curt as they captured the surrendering and hysterically giggling Scot and dragged him away “She did it for me…and because he asked her to. If Carl‟s gotta be pissed at someone, let him be pissed at me….after we get his ass outta here. She suffers a helluva lot because of me…but she doesn‟t deserve his hatred for that too.” "She is the House Mistress and she did it because she wants him too. That was easy to see." But Sidney shrugged. He really didn't care. It wasn't his problem so long as the House stayed intact and no one else died. "And Carl does not truly hate her. He loves her too much for that. It is deep hurting disappointment of a betrayal kind, plain and simple. She had a chance to make things better .... and she didn't take it. She didn't even see the more sensible humanitarian choice, the logical one with Vitaly, past problems between her and Carl nonwithstanding. Carl will not be pissed at Malcolm for asking her to adopt him, I can almost guarantee that." He looked down in the pit and waved to Carl. "Having fun yet, Carl?" In other words, Curt thought bitterly, Carl was going to learn to hate every man in the family because he saw them as competition. Malcolm wasn‟t competition, not by a long shot. If anyone was, it was Curt…or maybe Lindsey. If Carl hated an innocent outsider because he thought he was competition, he was most certainly going to learn to hate family…and any future involvements Tamara might cultivate. He was going to try to control her…and that doomed the relationship to failure. He stood beside Sidney, looking down, feeling as trapped up there as Carl must feel down below. “Think I need to join him,” he muttered helplessly. "That would be foolish to even attempt. The pit will not kill you as it will kill him." Sidney had explained it as best he could, whether Curt was capable of comprehending it or not yet. It was Carl's original bitterly hurtful disappointment, the concert, then added onto it by her adopting Malcolm into the family instead of the ill clone, what had been seen as the humanitarian and sensible thing to do. It had nothing to do with any of the other men in the family, nothing to do with controlling Tamara. It had to do with compounding disappointments, both pointing at the same unfortunate and innocent young man. And Carl had never said he hated Malcolm ... because he didn't. Otherwise he wouldn't be doing his best to protect the man now. “Only way I can see to get him up here…is for one of us to go down there. I can‟t channel him up here if I can‟t reach him. I have to connect before I can do that…and long as he‟s got himself out of our reach, I can‟t do a thing.” "Then connect." Sidney shoved the McGregor into the pit and jumped in after him. "Are you insane?" Carl shouted as they landed next to him. "Haven't you heard a word I said? If I go back, that kid is in danger! He won't be safe! I don't wanna hurt him by accident!" He couldn't be anymore clear than that, that obviously he didn't hate Malcolm. That obviously he wasn't trying to control Tamara. “I‟ll protect him…and he ain‟t gonna be stayin‟ there for awhile anyhow.” She might want Mal too, but as Curt understood it, she wasn‟t involving herself with anyone since Sid‟s death…because of grief and because of Carl. Mal wasn‟t likely to be any different as far as Curt could see. “I‟ll keep „im outta yare face as best I can.” And hopefully he and Tamara would work things out so that Curt‟s efforts didn‟t have to last forever. “And yes…I think insane is a very good word for me.” "Bloody lunatic!" He shoved Curt away from him and then shoved Sidney too for good measure. "You can't protect him from me! You don't know what I am! What I can do! And you know damn well he's part of the family now! He'll be living there someday ....and I'm sure as hell going to do everything I can to be as far away as I can be!" The man fell against the opposite wall and beat his fists against it. "So that means you'll come back?" Sidney took those words optimistically. "I've killed enough people in my life," Carl sighed, sliding down the wall to sit in that filth. "I can't risk it. Maybe I can just stay here for the summer in my private little hell, then I'll come back in the fall, move the family back to the Victorian, and I won't have to watch him dancing around Tigh Ard. Won't have to ever see his pretty little face again showing up for House-family occasions, holidays, whatever ......" “He is NOT a threat,” Curt said, tears in his eyes. “Want me to make „im stay away? Make „im live with me, somewhere…and never come to Tigh Ard?” "I appreciate the offer, Curt," Carl murmured, "I do. Means a lot to me that you'd make it, but that you'd keep him outta my face. I'm sorry. She made her choice, her choice, her right to make it, of course .... but hey, I'm glad for you. Looks like you found someone as another lover with Sidney, that's great. I'm sure Siddy would be glad for you too." Carl just didn't understand why that second male lover had to be a brother, but there was nothing he could do about it. What was done was done. He looked away, scratching under his arms to stare up at the top of the pit. "We could, I suppose," Sidney sighed. "Keep your body alive through the summer if you're sure you want to remain here in seclusion .. if you promise not to die while you're here." "I don't really wanna die," he admitted. "I don't. I have a beautiful daughter, at least one sister who loves me, four grandsons, friends, lovers, family. This wasn't what I wanted, but I don't know what else to do now." The other lover didn‟t have to be a brother…but Curt, afraid of losing him, had selfishly wanted him close. And had gotten what he asked for. Once again he‟d fucked everything up. He gave Sidney a look that said he couldn‟t do this. He couldn‟t help, when all he ever did was make things worse. “Ya can trust what Sidney says…what he offers,” he mumbled as he turned away. “He‟s yare First. He isn‟t gonna screw ya over.” "You're my First too, and yeah, I know, ya don't believe it, don't want it, but it's there. I'm not so far gone I can't feel it." "I'm hungry," Sidney complained and concentrated for a moment, putting a Big Mac into his hand to eat. "Nice," Carl snorted. "How about sharing?" "Get your own." Carl started to shake with laughter. “I know it‟s there too,” Curt murmured without looking back. “I may not want it…any more than ya want the Bonds ya‟ve been stuck with…but I know it‟s there. Otherwise I wouldn‟t be here…tryin‟ to help. There‟s things we gotta accept…or it hurts everyone else…and I‟m tired of hurtin‟…and killin‟…everyone around me.” He looked back at Carl with tears on his cheeks. "I'm tired of killing, but I have to ... It's me, the real me. I know you think you killed Sid, but you're who brought him life ... love .... What happened was .... fate ... not you killing him." "Agreed," Sidney mumbled around the Big Mac. "By the way, how much longer must I keep my Smell Program turned off? The stench in here is enough to kill even me." "Funny. I don't even notice it anymore." "Maybe you could stop noticing Malcolm and come home?" "It's not my home. It's his home. His. Not mine. Never mine. Never ... not now." Rolling his eyes, Sidney took another bite of hamburger and then spat it out at Carl. "If you're going to speak garbage, there's more garbage." "Thanks." He grinned and picked a pickle off his nose, eating it with relish. "How about thinking in some fries and spitting them at me too?" "How about getting off your selfish ass and Bonding with us?" "ME? Selfish? About THIS?" Carl laughed so hard he fell over into the muck. While down there, he stripped off his shirt. "Wanna Bond? Sure. What the hell. Let's fuck, then you can leave me to enjoy my little mini-vacation and wake me up in a couple months when it's time to go home .. to my REAL home." "You are so stubborn." "Pot calling the kettle black." He was working on his pants. “Then we‟re all equally black…” He‟d hoped that Carl would see in Curt‟s confessions that he was hurting people too…and that if Curt could see beyond a Bond he didn‟t want and work with it, Carl could too. Too much to ask. None of his gambles were worth anything. His being here wasn‟t helping at all, just as he‟d told Sidney. He considered requesting that any fucking that went on should occur somewhere „cleaner‟…like back in the real world…where they would hopefully be able to keep Carl once they had him there and had him Bonded. But Carl would see through that, so Curt didn‟t even bother to suggest it. "I suppose we are ... women included, eh?" "Yes," Sidney agreed, "her included." "So how ya wanna do this? I'll bend first if you promise me you'll leave. Sound fair?" "Sure. I agree to those terms. You spread for us, your Firsts, then we will for you, and then we'll leave you here." "And wake me up in a couple months, right? So I can go back to the Victorian with everyone?" "Sure. If that's what you want." "Yeah." He swallowed hard but nodded as he pulled the cammies and briefs off. "It's gotta be that way now ..... A choice was made ... so this is my choice now." "Two wrongs, Carl, do not make a right." "Oh shut up and get down here." He moved onto his hands and knees in the filth and waited. "Do you agree with the terms too, Curt?" Sidney asked as he knelt behind Carl. He didn‟t really…but he didn‟t have a choice. He was just here to do whatever Sidney asked of him. “Yeah,” he nodded, drying his face of those stupid, meaningless tears. Whatever it takes. Having asked Sidney to take the lead in this, Sidney was doing exactly what the McGregor wanted. He winked up at the man, confident that everything would work out exactly as planned and Carl would be none the wiser until it was too late. Then he was in him, taking him, and Carl grunted, gritting his teeth but accepting the intrusion as agreed and even hissing a little when Sidney's hand skillfully manipulated the man to hardness and then orgasm. It was worth it to much more heterosexual Carl ... if the two would leave him alone for a couple of months in that pit and go on with their Tigh Ard lives .... living with the Molko that had come into it so completely now and ruined everything in Carl's mind. "Your turn Curt. And he's nice and lubed for you with Perfect SID seed." "Aren't I just grateful?" Carl snorted, waiting for deposit number two in that sexual Bonding. "Be grateful for this ... or at least Curt and I will be." Sidney concentrated again, taking away the stench. Seeing Carl‟s attitude, he hesitated. “If ya don‟t want this…I ain‟t gonna make ya. I know how much ya hate it…and I…can‟t…if yare just gonna resent me later…” He did have one hand working the man‟s shaft and balls in ways that had, in the past, proven favorable with Carl. “If ya just want me to…then I‟ll let ya…and won‟t…” He couldn‟t even say the words. "I offered," Carl mumbled, "wouldn't offer if I didn't want to .. or would resent you later for it." Another hiss of small pleasure came. "Ready when you are, Curt." Curt wasn‟t so sure he believed those words, though he wanted to. He felt genuine affection for the man he had once hated and been so jealous of but with the way things stood right now between all of them, he wasn‟t sure that was returned. Trembling, feeling another push of tears trying to break free, he eased himself inside, feeling a tiny rush of sparks as the Bond started to tighten around him. Rather than make it a fucking, which Curt didn‟t want, he did his best to make it smooth, easy, and pleasurable for both of them. He wouldn‟t draw it out, knew Carl didn‟t want that, but since he didn‟t know if Carl had ever experienced that sort of joining, he figured it couldn‟t hurt to introduce him to it. All of his skill from years of experience went in to making this more about pleasuring Carl then it was about himself or any Bonding. Maybe it would help make up for some of the pain he had caused the man. There was another grunt and hiss when the second orgasm hit the bottom man. "Thanks Curt. My turn, eh?" He looked over at Sidney. There was more than genuine affection on Carl's part. He honestly loved the two men, but he had no illusions that they loved him back. And he had no desire, at this time, to make more of this than it was to him in their various emotional states of pain. Three men fucking. Sensing that he‟d failed in his intent, Curt nodded and dropped to his hands and knees. This was going to be much harder for him than the other part had been, emotionally speaking, but he would get through it. It was only love that would let him do this at all…even if Carl never believed that. He doubted very much that either man in the room would have a clue how he felt about anything. Which was exactly how Carl felt; cut off, alone, misunderstood and useless. He climbed onto Sidney, not questioning how easy it was to orgasm a third time so soon. Twice in succession? Not unusual for a healthy man. Three times so quickly? That was unusual. Then, as Sidney climbed to his feet when it was over, Carl climbed aboard Curt and placed his wet, hardening already again manhood into the man. "Number four and then you two go back, leave me be for a while. Appreciate your worry, coming looking and all. Really do. But I'm fine here. Vacation, think of it as. Just keep my body alive up there and I'll be back later." Curt tensed a bit at that penetration by a non-SID shaft, something he‟d sworn to Sid he wouldn‟t do. It didn‟t surprise him that Carl hadn‟t considered that. He forced himself to immediately relax, however, with the hopes that Carl would think it was merely an initial physical discomfort factor that made him tense up and nothing more. There was no need to tell anyone what he felt. “Helluva vacation spot. Remind me not to use yare travel agent.” "You wouldn't like the rate of exchange anyways. Sucks. You'll do great up top with Malcolm. I think it's great you two found each other. Sorry if I'm the first to take you not being a SID, though. Hopefully it'll make it easier for him now if you two go that way too." “I wasn‟t plannin‟ on it,” he whispered, shuddering a little at the hand closing around him. He looked back over his shoulder and paused his movement long enough to say, “No matter what ya think of me…no matter what‟s gone between us in the past…I love ya.” Carl smiled, for real, the first time since he'd fallen into that memory-hell in his head while sleeping. "Oh man ... Curt, I love ya too. Both of ya." "Ditto." Sidney winked at them. "And about Malcolm. He is not planning it because he is using him as a sub, something I will not do for Curt as Sid would do occasionally for him.... therefore, he needs the Molko for that ...and it is why I am sure Sid would understand .. at least the sexual lovers part." Sidney had reservations about Sid ever understanding the now brothers too part, but as Sid was dead, he wasn't overly worried about it. "Oh.. Well, ya know what?" Carl laughed lightly. "That was TMI." "Excuse me?" "Too much information. Next time, Sidney, don't feel ya gotta explain." "But SIDs need to explain." "And Curt and I need to cum, so let's quit talking now, eh?" At least Carl was still smiling as he felt his fourth climax approaching. Curt wondered if Carl could feel it too, the Bonds between them all tightening more and more with each thrust. In this place of Power, Curt felt that a joining with Sidney would help too, as would a reclaiming with Tamara. It would then leave only three unclosed threads…and two of them could never be properly tied off because Sid was gone. He might not have actually reclaimed the title or position of First…but in this, at least, Curt had taken up his responsibility and his duty to the others, and to the Families. His jaw clenched, and just before orgasm came, he gathered up all of the threads he could feel around him and pulled them altogether as tightly as he could, hoping that their mutual releases would Bind the threads and free them from this place. Save Carl‟s life. Through his own clenching teeth, Carl came following Curt's. "Thanks guys. See you both later. Tell everyone I love them." He touched each shoulder with a genuine smile and sank down against a wall, sure that it was over now. He could be alone and Malcolm would stay safe. They were leaving, floating away, and the nude man waved to them from the bottom of the pit. But Sidney wasn't waving back. He was waiting as he and Curt moved slowly upward. One arm went out to hold the McGregor in a warm embrace, whispering in his ear, "Thank you. You did Perfect." Carl just kept waving. Seeing that Carl was beneath them, Curt wasn‟t so sure about that. Carl still didn‟t want to leave here, still didn‟t want to be saved, so all of their effort seemed to have been for nothing. He‟d done it again. Failed. One big difference was that Carl did want to leave .. just not yet. Before Sidney and Curt had visited him, he'd wanted to stay, be lost, forever. Now he only wanted to stay for the summer, then get the hell out of Tigh Ard come fall and move back home to the Victorian so he never had to run into Malcolm in those halls. That was a big improvement, and Sidney and Curt had done it together. The other thing they'd done was create the Bond energy that came swirling up around Carl, trapping him, creating two distinct anchors that continued upward, connecting into the energies around Sidney and Curt, and then pouring out into the real world. "What the hell did you two do?" Carl shouted up at them as he felt the energies lift his feet off the ground. "You did it too, Carl," Sidney giggled. "You agreed to Bond..... so we did. You are now, officially, Bonded to us like you are to Sid, and our Bonds are bringing you back with us, outweighing now the one that was pulling you into the afterlife because you weren't anchored by others yet." "You tricked me! Stop it right now! I'm not going back! I'm not! It's not safe for him now that he's House of Brigham if I do yet!" "Sorry. We can't control it. And it's safer this way for US, for the two Houses, if you do now. There is no guarantee we could keep your body alive all summer. Fate has decided you will come now .... because you chose to Bond now." "YOU BASTARD! YOU KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!" "I suspected," Sidney agreed with another giggle. And no matter what Carl did, he couldn't escape. He was being pulled up too. “Besides,” Curt offered with a bit of a smirk, “Ya moved in with us because of the bonds…to help „em. I came here to do my bit…and now ya‟ve done yares too.” Or most of it. “Helpin‟ to ensure the survival of our families. Thanks.” "How about cutting out the drug use?" he snapped. "Do your part there, would ya?" Curt flinched but said, in all honesty, “I‟m workin‟ on it.” He didn‟t really want to discuss it, didn‟t want to jinx his efforts before he got started, or bring any more pressure on himself then there already was to succeed. Carl, in his profession, should know that, but Curt wasn‟t counting on it. As Carl had never brought it up to Curt before, he saw no reason he couldn't mention it this one time, at least show where he stood on it, was aware of it, and pray to God that Curt saw sense after everything that had happened that day. It was very professional .. with personal emotion attached .. and he was sure Curt knew that. "Good." Curt knew where Carl stood on the matter. No words were necessary. He was stubborn, yes. He was a failure, true. He was weak and selfish, certainly. He was a lot of things, but he didn‟t think he was inherently stupid…which he would have to be not to know how others felt. Knowing and accepting, however, knowing and taking to heart, really believing others cared, were different things…things which he was ready to face and act upon. He smirked again, the closest he felt he could get to a smile right now, and caught Carl with his free hand to pull them all three together. “Come „ere, ya big oaf,” he teased as he hugged him and watched Sidney‟s free arm do likewise. “Accept the gift ya agreed to…accept that we love ya.” Though Sidney had made it clear, several times now, that he knew of Curt's drug problem, this was the very first time Carl had made it clear. Until just then, there had been no way for Curt to know that Carl knew about it too, truly knew about it and why he and others were sick so often. Now Curt did. Carl had just told him just as Sidney had done previously. That's why those words WERE necessary. Without them, Curt couldn't have known for sure that Carl knew. Therefore, Carl thinking that Curt might be stupid had nothing to do with it ... except for the fact that he had started using again. Carl definitely thought that was stupid. "Said I did," he grumbled, though he accepted the hug, returning it with his own. “And stop grumblin‟…” he teased with a kiss into the man‟s hair. The lips in Carl's hair were taken by Carl's mouth, a natural response between men who had just joined in body, in spirit, in Bond ... no matter how crude it may have appeared on the outside. Appearances were often deceiving. Carl enjoyed kissing, and though Sid was the only man he had ever kissed in such a way, wanted to kiss, he found, now that they were Bonded, that he was much more comfortable with Curt in this way than he ever would have been before. He wanted to kiss him. It felt right. And no matter how Curt‟s heart still felt for Sid, in his soul this was right too. He could only hope that, wherever Sid was, if he was watching, he would forgive Curt for this too. Especially for the fact that it brought a response from his body, made him kiss back. It was th First Bond, working to bring them closer, working to encourage joining between Laird and First…accepted position or not. Sidney, of course, wanted in on it too, prompting a giggle from Carl when he felt a second pair of lips on his face. "Not forgetting ya," he assured the Crowe, joining mouths in the same way he had just done with Curt. "Never forget ya, either of ya .... never. My Firsts ..... in all ways now..... and my friends....." And as he moved between the two mens bodies, kissing one, then the other, then back to the other, and back again, they broke out of that jungle scene completely and woke ... kissing and hugging in bed with sticky semen-stained bodies that had joined in the real world just as they'd joined in that place of Power. They were fully consummated. Lindsey, having been there the whole time, had felt a little awkward watching all of that, but with the three men unconscious to the real world, he had felt it important to stay in case something went wrong. Now he looked back from the window with a smile. “Welcome back. Everything okay?” "No, but I guess I'm back for good now. Thanks, all of you. And .. uhhh," he smiled a bit as he climbed out of bed, "sorry for you shooting you both in there." Curt stretched, wondering if his eyes were as bloodshot as they felt, and said with a grin, “Just try not to let it happen in real life and we‟ll all be good.” That grin, the first real one he‟d seen on the McGregor‟s face since Sid‟s death, made Lindsey smile with relief. "Precisely," Sidney agreed as he reached over and touched that grin on the McGregor with his fingers. "Like I said, you did Perfect." "Both of ya did," Carl was forced to agree too as he threw on his pants and grabbed his truck keys, even skipping a pair of briefs in his hurry. "Tricked me with that Bonding, but I'm not pissed about it anymore. Felt too damn good. And Linds, I'm guessing you called them .. so thank you for that." “Didn‟t think I‟d just let you die, did you? What kind of friend would I be if I did that?” He kept any disappointment from his face at the sight of the man leaving, but its not like he was a prisoner here. "Not the kind of friend I'd want as a Second, that's for sure," Carl smiled over at him. "By the way, Curt. Not sure if you heard ... She and I are sharing all three Seconds now. Blindsided me at first when she took Hephaistion, but now I've got Lindsey and Alexander too .. so .. " He shrugged with a roll of his eyes. "I suppose it works out... And efficient for the two Houses since they're so closely connected, to share the three Seconds like we share Firsts. Or First .... you know what I mean. It's there for you ... whenever you're ready, mate." Curt lowered his gaze. “Yeah…I know.” At least he wasn‟t denying it any more. Maybe that was a good sign. “Glad that…” He bit his lip, not sure how to say it in a way that wouldn‟t offend Carl at the mention of the woman in the next bedroom over. He settled for, “Linds can use the help, I‟m sure…and it might be the motivation Alex needs to modernize…and decide to stay.” "True." He grabbed his suitcase, prompting Sidney to speak up again. "You're still moving out?" "Yeah. Can't go to the Victorian yet. Not for a few more weeks, I figure, so I'm just going to grab my camping gear over there, bring it back and set it up out back. No reason to come back in here for anything, even for meals. Anyone needs me, I'll be in the northwest woods of the property. I'll make it easy to find for folks ... so we can all stay connected if I'm technically still .... here...." He had his cellphone in the suitcase. He could personally call a few people that night or next morning; Chris, Rachel, his grandsons, girlfriends, and the other Seconds. Curt rolled on to his side, feeling both ill and defeated. None of this was right. Saved Carl‟s life…but otherwise just a huge waste of time it felt. “Do what ya gotta do,” he murmured, knowing it was exactly what he had done. Running away. Lindsey sighed with a hand through his hair but just nodded. “Sure.” "Check on her, please?" Then he was gone from the room. The man would never again step foot in what had been, until that day, a place beginning to feel like home. Real home to him. Never again. "I'm going to her right now," Sidney mumbled, feeling ill and defeated too, though he understood Carl's reaction to the adoption of Malcolm ... and he agreed with it, just not the actual leaving the home part of it. That part personally sucked to the SID. "Ready for more lovemaking, Curt? Strengthening our Bonds with her through it?" Curt didn‟t agree with it at all, but he knew from experience that he was always wrong…and by extension so was anyone he agreed with…especially her. The SIDs especially had proven that to him time and time again. “Don‟t think it would be fair to go in there smellin‟ like him. Not, of course, unless hurtin‟ her is what we have in mind,” he muttered. "Or perhaps it would help reach her, help her, if she is unwell? To scent her Sentinel on us and respond in need of it?" He looked over at Lindsey and giggled. "I read in his mind what he did to your cock in that bathroom after you joined with her, sucking it like a lollypop in trying to get all his Guide's juices off it ... and he didn't even realize he was doing it until you shot down his throat. You're actually quite lucky he responded that way and didn't kill you. I suspect the Sentinel in him doesn't truly want to harm anyone he loves, but it does, being a much more primal part of his genetic makeup, become confused at times and reacts only with base male instincts .. attacking ... and why it may seriously harm Malcolm someday since that boy has become an even larger focus of negative energy now that he's a part of this House. Perhaps Carl moving into the forest is a good idea after all," he sighed and climbed out of bed. "He's certainly not showing any selfishness with that sacrifice ... as annoying as it will be to have to go out there to see him now." Curt shrugged. Why the scent of the man who exhibited such hatred towards her would bring comfort he couldn‟t imagine. But what did he know. He wasn‟t even her First any more, and Sidney lived here now. SIDs always knew best. Wilds…at least this one…didn‟t know shit. “I suppose no one will be happy unless she kicks him out of the house and out of the family…so I‟ll talk to him…and her…” Each family member had been chosen for a reason. A balance, a spot of power, a focus that she felt was needed. She wouldn‟t have chosen Mal without a very good reason…but no one else would see that reason, and no one else cared what it was. They were only going to be happy if she was not. Maybe, somehow, Curt could find a way to make it a little better for her. He slid off the bed and went to the door of the bathroom the two shared and opened it for Sidney. “After you?” "No one? Or do you mean Carl because she chose him because you wanted him as a brother ALSO and she lusts after him too? I, of course, could care less." “Mostly him, yeah. He doesn‟t know…he doesn‟t understands…and even if it was explained…he wouldn‟t care. Always just one sided.” If Sidney wasn‟t going to go through the door, Curt would go without him. He stopped in the bathroom only long enough to get a drink. There was no point discussing something about which everyone else made up their minds. Sidney might say he cared less…but he sure went out of his way to repeat over and over again how wrong he thought she was. "ONLY him. I, PERSONALLY, could care less. Why should I care? I don't. I only worry about others. Or is that wrong to worry about them and their reactions? And it was seen quite clearly that you wanted him as a brother, not just as a lover, and she did what you wanted of her because she loves you and because she lusts for him too. I see no way he cannot be part of the now without suffering the pound again. What's done is done. Choices and consquences as they say. We shall have to see how it plays out." “There‟s more to it then that…but Carl….won‟t ever know. Maybe no one will. So I‟ll explain to her as best I can…and see what we can do.” He looked back to see if Sidney was coming or not. "More to it? What more? How COULD there be more unless you both knew he was going to be at the pound in order to add to this House?" “There have been others here…others she‟s adopted but who aren‟t part of the House. And those who have come to be so…it‟s a Power thing, Sidney. I dunno how it works…except that each of us has a specific place in the hierarchy. She chooses the ones she thinks fit best. There‟s also the fact that…Kai wanted Cassidy…and that at least for now Taly and I are toxic to each other. Plus Mal has personal reasons that he didn‟t feel right about bein‟ part of Cassidy‟s family. She wants him too…she wouldn‟t deny that, but wantin‟ someone isn‟t the same as havin‟ „em. And yeah…she did it cause I care about him and she…maybe foolishly…wants to make me happy. Add that all together…and she made the choice that seemed right to her.” He paused and pushed back his hair with a trembling hand. “Fuck…I need coffee or somethin‟…” Then he continued, “I agree…Taly was in need…and choosin‟ Mal over him could look both irresponsible and as a slam to Carl. But I know it wasn‟t intended that way. Yes, I worry about what the choice has done…what it‟s costin‟ her…will continue to cost her. But I can‟t see her as guilty for following the Power structure…for wantin‟ to respect Kai and Mal‟s wishes as to where they ended up. If she‟s guilty of anythin‟…it‟s lovin‟ me too much…overindulgin‟ me…which she always has. So if anyone should be blamed…it should be me…for gettin‟ involved in the choice to begin with. Maybe even for callin‟ her to come.” "Interesting ... So she walked in that pound, took one look at the three of them and saw only power with one of them? And it is also interesting that Malcolm had those personal reasons ... for in the end, they would not have mattered from what I can see in Cassidy's heart ... and Draven's. Unfortunately, despite any possible power she seems to feel she's gaining by having chosen Malcolm instead of the ill clone that could have easily been kept secluded from you until you have both detoxed, the better choice, in my SID opinion, was still clear, Curt. But we shall see, as they say, and it will be a very fascinating journey to watch. Do you want me to bring you coffee? I do not mind." He tugged at his hair with both hands. “I didn‟t say only power in one…only that she believed it was the best fit. Maybe it seemed to be the best fit…because of my feelings, and hers. I dunno. I‟m not an expert at this stuff…and neither is she. She‟s human. Humans have faults…make mistakes. But maybe it can be undone…to make him happy since he‟ll never forgive her.” His head was starting to thunder. “And if ya think Mal can somehow read Cassidy‟s mind like you can…to know things he couldn‟t know otherwise…yare wrong…and in moments of distress, one doesn‟t always think to ask questions.” Unless, of course, you were a Perfect SID who never made mistakes. With his head resting on the sink counter, he groaned. “Coffee…cigarettes…whatever‟s in the medicine chest…anythin‟ ya can get me would be great…” "Asking questions is important to make the correct decisions in life, especially important decisions like this that cannot be unmade without going back to the pound, which will not happen because that would be cruel to him, very cruel and even more wrong of a choice. And I do not believe I said he could read Cassidy's mind ... but I do believe in having .... trust ..... in your instincts .. unless you are of the sort who misreads their instincts ... then," he couldn't help but giggle as he turned out of the bathroom, "you are fucked. I'll get the coffee and cigarettes." If Curt had been in Mal‟s place, finding himself potentially in the position of possibly wrecking a marriage, he would have done the same thing. Not taken any chances…especially if you didn‟t really know the individuals who you seemed to be stuck between. Mal had chosen the safe road, the honorable road, and if he was going to be condemned for doing so, for caring enough not to wish to take any chances, then as far as Curt was concerned, there was no justice in the world. “I think just the coffee…if I smoke in there, she‟ll kill me…and what we just did will be a huge waste of time.” Of course, no one had condemned Malcolm at all, not even Carl. Sidney was just sure, being SID, that the man had misread his own instincts .. and then someone else had trusted those mis- read instincts, compounding an error with another. And since he had not said anything otherwise to Curt, only spoke about misreading instincts, he knew Curt had no reason to think that Malcolm was being condemned for anything. Even Carl had been clear on that. The coffee was brought back and handed to Curt. "I am ready." “Give me a second to drink this…or ya can go on in without me if ya want…” Hopefully Sidney wasn‟t seeing his need for caffeine and nicotine for what it really was. Curt didn‟t want any problems later. "Drink it now, if you must. Obviously, you have not injected poison in your system in a while or swallowed poison. That is good. You will get through it .... again ... just as you have before." “Some would consider caffeine and nicotine poison,” he responded flippantly, while cursing himself silently. He‟d never get to leave here now. There was no way Sidney would let him leave if he was going through withdrawals…as that always meant sickness. Sidney‟s compulsion to take care of him wouldn‟t let a sick Curt wander off in to the night… "I don't." “Cause nicotine can‟t kill ya,” Curt chuckled over the rim of the mug, “and caffeine wouldn‟t affect ya.” He drank as much of it as he could as quickly as he could and put the cup on the counter. His gaze flickered to the toilet, then back to Sidney. “Can I…while we‟re here…? That is…would ya…?” "Certainly." He stopped looking at the empty spot on the counter where Carl's toiletry bag had been kept and walked to the toilet. "Are you going to teach Malcolm to do this for you?" “No.” Mal wasn‟t his Dom. Wasn‟t even a substitute Dom. If it wasn‟t Sid…or SID…or maybe Tamara, it wasn‟t going to be anyone. "It would simply be the opposite play if you do. Like you and Sid together when you chose to switch for occasionally. Malcolm can be taught ... but if you do not wish to." He shrugged while he waited for Curt to do his business. "Your choice." “What I wish for…” He shrugged to and emptied his bladder. It didn‟t really matter what he wished for. His own wishes didn‟t come true…at least never for very long. “He‟s not the one who should be doin‟ it…that‟s all.” When he finished he murmured, “Thank you.” "You're welcome, my love." Then Sidney picked him up for a hug as he walked to the door to Tamara's room, kissing that coffee-mouth the entire way. Tamara‟s room was mostly dark except for a single candle burning at the bedside. John was curled up around her while Gil-galad and Obi-wan sat on the edge of the bed. The Elf had heard everything that had gone on in the next room and was looking at them expectantly, having no intention of remaining if the two nude men were going to join her in that bed. To Curt she looked lost and afraid as she slept there. “This isn‟t…” he started, feeling again that a shower would be in her best interest. "Isn't what?" “I dunno. I‟m just scared that I‟m about to really fuck things up more than I already have.” All of this was his fault; he still felt that to be true. "How?" He shrugged and stared at her. “Sayin‟ the wrong thing, doin‟ the wrong thing…maybe just bein‟ here is wrong…what if I only make things worse?” "How about," Sidney suggested, "you stop talking and just DO? We climb in the bed and love her. If she does not listen to her Guide instincts, ignores them, then we'll take a shower. If she does listen, craves his scent as he has shown he craves hers, then we simply make love, show her through our touch ... our souls." It sounded simple enough, but there was still an alarm going off in the back of Curt‟s head. He nodded, hoping Sidney was right, at which point Obi-wan stood up. “We‟ll leave her in your hands now.” "Thank you." He set Curt down on the bed. She was Guide. Carl as Sentinel had once blown a man for that scent. Sidney would be surprised if she didn't, in her genes, want Carl's just as badly as Carl, instinctively, wanted hers. She did want it, and rolled towards Curt as John let go of her and perched upon the end of the bed. She also wanted Curt, whom she hadn‟t been with in far too long, and Sidney, as well. The three combined scents overpowered her but she didn‟t open her eyes yet. Curt kissed her shoulder, whimpering softly under his own assault of memories and emotions came over him. And Sidney move to her other side, spooning up behind her to lift hair from the back of her neck and kiss along that soft flesh of female .. of Mistress. Hands automatically groped along flesh as she began to turn her head first one way, then another, trying to get the full affect of the scent the Guide craved. It seemed that, no matter where she turned, it wasn‟t enough and she began to growl in frustration. "Right here," Sidney soothed, moving up in the bed to give her his manhood to nuzzle. Nuzzling wasn‟t enough. Her mouth was all over him, seeking more of what was hidden there. Soon she had his shaft in her throat while her hands gripped and kneaded his ass. Behind her, Curt had reached between her thighs to stroke the soft dampness there. She continued to whine as her legs spread wide to give him access. "Yessss that's it, beloved. Enjoy what you need. Take what belongs to you." He could have been speaking about himself, being her First, or speaking about Carl's scent. He probably meant a little of both. Showing that some part of her still knew it was Sidney, she scraped her teeth over his shaft just as she knew he liked. She squealed with delight as Curt‟s body covered hers and penetrated where he hadn‟t been in too long. Only then did he realize how much he missed her, missed this…and how much he needed her as well. "Here." Dipping a finger behind him, Sidney brought out something he wasn't sure she'd ever had. Bruce seed. Sentinel seed. Hers. "Drink this." She released his shaft for the offered finger, biting it in her eagerness. Curt reached his hand around and gripped Sidney‟s shaft for her, grinning at the Crowe. “Don‟t think yare gonna get out of this that easy…” "Mmmmm, you keep doing that while I feed her then," he grinned back, bringing more fingers to an eager female mouth. "Then we switch, give her yours while I do my Bonding." He thought she‟d prefer to be the one responsible for Sidney‟s release but it wasn‟t his call. He nodded to Sidney and continued with pleasuring both of them, watching her drink greedily of what the Crowe offered. When her body was primed, quivering and ready for its own orgasm, Curt gave up his with a bite into her shoulder, enough of a bite to mark her as his in a way he hadn‟t marked her in a long time. Sidney had no desire to bite, not after the matching scars he and Sid had left in her breasts that she could see each day she looked at them ... and any man would see. The right breast was Sid's, the left Sidney's, and when he took his position behind her after his own climax, his hand automatically strayed to that left breast, fondling it lovingly. Not sure what compelled him, Curt leaned over her body as he fed her Carl‟s taste, and kissed the Crowe‟s mouth, watching his eyes to see if he was out of line or not. Kissing Curt was very nice to Sidney. Not as nice as Mate, of course, but still very nice. His right hand went up, tangling in long hair as his body moved gently behind Tamara's. "Two are missing," he sighed into the McGregor's mouth, "but there is always the chance, always, that one will come." Curt doubted that very much, but he didn‟t speak it out loud. There was no point in upsetting her. Sid was dead, and Carl…Carl wasn‟t ever coming home that Curt could see. He could feel, from the movement of her mouth on his fingers, when she was drawing close again. Power was filling him again as the Bonds that made their families continued to strengthen, making him hard again. He listened to their breathing, tasted the kisses, and waited for Sidney to complete his Bond too. Given to her with murmurs of love in her ear, the SID completed with a groan and carefully withdrew to hold her against him. The hand that had been in Curt's ear reached out for Mate with a plea. With John still in the room, Sidney wanted him too. As John crawled up behind Sidney and held him tightly. Curt met the Crowe‟s gaze as he held her on the other side, wishing someone was there to hold him too. Should they? They were the only two pieces left to reconnect who could. Tamara sighed and moaned, still licking sweat from the bodies of the two men that had held Carl as she would never do. "As long as you need," Sidney promised her in that holding as his head turned back to kiss John's lips with a smile. "Mate and I will stay as long as you need." Curt was going to need too. He didn‟t show it, did his best to hide it, but it was going to overtake him sooner or later. He would do his best to stay, however, and put aside the thoughts he‟d had about connecting bonds with Sidney. The Crowe didn‟t seem to want that, didn‟t seem to feel the same need. He held her, comforted her, and set aside any of his own needs for theirs. It was what Firsts did…whether he believed he was one or not. “I am here too,” he murmured. He would stay until she slept. After that, if he could, he would make it back to the hotel…and the hell that awaited him there. * With those horns, Sid reveled in Power. He could visit earth at any time, so long as God allowed it. He was no longer beholden to Lucifer for gaining visits, and though it irked the head demon, missing that sense of control he'd had over the Crowe, so long as Sid wasn't given MORE power than Lucifer, he was willing to sit back and watch the show. More visits to loved ones, friends, even animals, and though he'd forgiven Curt for Malcolm, he didn't go near his Mate. Understanding the McGregor's Dom need for someone non-SID and non-Mistress was one thing, watching it was another. Sid was quite sure he'd never have to lay eyes on that Molko clone again. It kept the peace in his heart he'd finally learned with God. .... until ..... Why was he hearing that? He didn't WANT to hear any of that. "LUCIFER!" "I'm busy, Sid, go find someone to torture or I'll put you up for another round of it instead." "Are you behind me being able to hear Mate speak about his new lover?" "I said I'm busy." He leaned down and flicked Sid away from him with finger and thumb like an ant. Of course, Sid came right back, that time poking his horns into Lucifer's ankle, bringing a yelp, because those were Power horns, from the surprised demon. "You little pain in my ass!" "If I could reach it, I would!" Sid hollered up at the towering form. A cloven hoof started to come down, and Sid had seen what happened to other demons that were squashed beneath it. He ran, moving as fast as he could as he aimed the horns at another window, opening it and falling through just in time before Lucifer could catch him. But now he was stuck. Windows were always temporary, even if he was able to open them on his own now. Eventually it would drag him back to either heaven or hell, and depending on who was doing the dragging would depend on what fate awaited him when he fell back through. Sid was not looking forward to that. If only there was a way to remain on earth, even as a ghostly spectre to the very few who could sense him. He took in his surroundings, having no idea what window it was in his hurry to have flown through it in escape. He didn't know that God had engineered the entire thing as a way to get Sid closer to Curt for a third time. "No," he moaned, backing away from the sleeping form. For the first time in a visit to earth, he wished he could leave immediately and even turned, trying to reopen a window, any window, to get him away from the man he loved but couldn't bear to be near. Curt had been more than a little relieved to find Mal curled up in his bed when he arrived at the hotel from Tigh Ard. He showered out of respect and then had climbed in beside him, not really thinking he‟d get any sleep. The coffee and cigarettes he‟d consumed upon leaving Tamara‟s bed had only barely taken the edge off now. Without something stronger, by the time the sun came up in a few hours, Curt knew he was going to be suffering horribly. Weakened by the approaching physical storm and the night‟s outlay of energy and Power, Curt‟s body had begun to slip into a restless sleep when he first felt it. Eyes closed, shivering, he turned in his sleep and reached towards the presence he sensed in the room. The one man he needed more than anyone else. “Baby…” he whispered, his fingers closing as if around an unseen hand. “Don‟t go.” It burned Sid's heart to see Curt in that bed with Malcolm, but he felt no true rage about it as he had before. God still spoke in his SID heart, at least for now. "Hurts," he groaned, very slowly moving closer to the bed, his form automatically, from those horns of Power, becoming more and more visible until he would feel fully solid but would be almost see-through, the walls behind him still seen as much as his new body could be seen now .... by anyone. “Hurts so much…” Curt agreed, his eyes opening to darkness…and the image of a man he‟d never hold again. “Nothing takes the hurt away…no matter how I try…” Try. Could he…? His other hand reached out…and closed over the ghost‟s crotch. “Oh…gawd…” It felt so real. “Ssssssiiiiiidddd…” "Mate!" Sid yelped, pulling away. "Not allowed." His spiked tail thrashed in frustration, huge wings beating the air around them. Even that golden halo over those shiny red ivory horns sparked brighter for a moment. “Why?” he moaned. “Yare here…I‟m here…Why would you be solid if I can‟t…touch…give ya…” He wasn‟t even seeking to take, only to give to Mate…because he‟d taken away his life. "I don't know why I'm solid this time ... unless it's the horns Lucifer gave me like his own. No one else has horns. Those two competitive fuckers won't leave me alone." God may have been in his heart, but Sid could still be annoyed with all the changes his body had been put through. "I'd almost rather go back to the 24/7 torturing for the first years again than be forced to make visits to heaven once a month for rest. It almost makes it worse." He moved to sit on the edge of the bed, curling the wings into the back of his body more to calm them and setting his lizard-like red tail to curl forward between he and Curt. "They think it's funny, I think." “I think yare beautiful…” Tears spilled down his face for the first time, this time largely due to the frustration of not being allowed to touch what was so close. "Ugly." The SID plucked at the colorless suit. "Why, I ask, would God wear boring white like this when he could wear any color he wanted? And the Devil in black? How typical! You'd think, if he could put red in my wings to give THEM some color, he could at least put some in the damn bland suit." A finger reached out to take a tear from Curt's cheek and examine it. "Years .... So many years now since I've touched you. You didn't seem to want it the first time I tried through Sidney, then I went back a second time years later and you were ..... busy.. beach busy banging a beautiful bouncy boy." He motioned ruefully at Malcolm. "You're lucky I wasn't solid then. I almost killed you that night, wanted your heart squashed in my fist .... until God saved me." He was speaking in a normal tone of voice, almost casual-like in conversation. He started to press his face into that finger when it touched him, but then it was gone and the tears came faster. “Feels like years to me too…with Sidney…I was so confused…felt ya…as much as I wanted to believe…it shocked me…and then…ya were gone…and he said…ya‟d understand…about Mal…but if ya don‟t…and I don‟t care…what ya wear…yare always beautiful to me…always. Mate and…love…and I‟d give ya…purple…if ya could take it with ya…I‟d give ya…so much…for what I took away…” "Didn't take anything away," Sid sighed. "It was my .... destiny. Love hard and die .... young. At least I have my head back." He giggled and turned it back and forth to show it worked right. "And yes, I understand about Malcolm as your sub. Enjoy him. I believe you said I'd even like him. I doubt that, but if you do, that's fine." He shoved the other form on the bed. "Congratulations, boy. You've found yourself a wonderful lover in my Mate." Mal hadn‟t opened his eyes, had been pretending to still sleep so as not to intrude on this bizarre conversations. It was his first encounter with a ghost, and now being shoved by one made his blue eyes pop open and express fear. Curt hung his head. He couldn‟t enjoy him now. Not knowing that Sid did not like him. Mal apparently wasn‟t welcome anywhere. Maybe Sidney had lied. And Curt couldn‟t be with someone Sid didn‟t approve of. “Only if…he lets me…” Mal whispered. "Of course he will," Sid smiled at the man. "You're what part of him needs. Enjoy each other in those ways. When Mate has need of the other ways, the way he needed most with me, he has two SIDs to choose from who will help him. And, of course, there's his beautiful Mistress .. my own beloved female too." Sidney hadn't lied. He knew, somehow, that Sid would accept Malcolm, and Sid did. But that didn't mean he had to like it. “Only want to help him…” Now Curt wasn‟t sure if he‟d ever get the chance. He touched himself, so hard from the Crowe‟s presence, his scent, those few touches they‟d shared and groaned. It wasn‟t fair that the man could be here but Curt couldn‟t touch him. It just wasn‟t fair at all. "I'm sure you do." The Crowe reached up, touching just two fingerpads to Malcolm's cheek in wanting to familiarize himself with the man who shared Mate's bed, but then frowned, the smile he'd given him vanishing. Carl. And not just that shock he could feel now .... Mate had wanted this man as more than just a lover? Confused eyes turned to Curt, those fingers dropping away as if burned. The memory of that day he'd been Mate's brother, one single day ... and Mate had not asked him to Co-Share in Firsthood, came to the Crowe in a gulp of pain. Sidney, Sidi ... they weren't brothers for Mate either. Only Malcolm was. He swallowed bitter tears back and nausea rising in his throat. He was dead? How could he feel nausea at this unexpected and shocking development? Whatever. It was there, and it made the SID start to pant, bringing air, scent of Mate, into his lungs to try to quell it. The last thing he wanted to do was vomit on their bed. Curt had never rejected Sid as brother. Nor Sidney. They had been brothers, wanted…and they‟d both left the family, gave up that position, by their own choices. If he‟d had more time, he would have brought up the matter of Firsts with Sid, but there hadn‟t been time and now he wasn‟t First…at least not fully. He reached for Sid, not sure if he could touch him to give comfort or not. "I love you," Sid whimpered and moved to the window he could already see forming, his tail thrashing again and wings quivering in confusion and a new kind of frustration now. "I'll always love you no matter what." He could no longer look at Malcolm. “Don‟t…go…” "Visits are brief. One of them is calling me. If I don't go willingly." He shrugged. "The dragging is not nice. NOT. I have more power now than anyone in heaven or hell .... but those two who run them. Continue with your efforts to come clean, Mate. Stop killing yourself and remember that Promise. Use the strength of a SID if necessary to finish what you started. Sidney would die for you ... but Sidi is the one who needs his own help that matches in what you need. And for your sub needs, you have Malcolm for that role. You will survive if you want to." It was saying quite clearly that he accepted Malcolm as a lover for Mate, though why that lover needed to be a brother too, Sid found very disturbing. "Goodbye, my love." Curt didn‟t understand his being disturbed. He didn‟t understand his coming here and not being allowed to touch. He couldn‟t understand him leaving now. “Sid…I need ya…what I need most…is you…” Shaking his head, afraid to say anything more and bring more pain, or bring anger, he slipped through the window and fell, landing right in Lucifer's waiting palm that time. God had hoped for something different with that meeting, but leaving things to fate, as he usually did after a nudging, had given Lucifer the chance to interfere and keep Sid from knowing something that time. He could have made love in that bed to Mate. His advanced half-demon half-angel body would have finally worked in that way, allowed. Curt had failed again. He could see it in that shaking head. Feel it in the way Sid left him. Now he‟d lost everything. Again. God was trying to kill him, surely. And as he turned his face into Mal‟s shoulder with a scream of anguished frustration, he knew it was going to die this time for sure. * For the first time since Sid‟s death, Curt truly wept, into Mal‟s lap, because he didn‟t have the strength to hold them in. Everything in the world was ruined because of him, and he couldn‟t stand it any more. Daylight colored the horizon by the time he managed to form words, but it really wasn‟t all the much time passed at all. It just felt that way. “I wanna die,” he choked, feeling his body going cold. “No…you don‟t,” Mal whispered, petting through the still damp hair. “You feel like it…but you don‟t. Not really. And we don‟t want you to, either.” “Ya‟d be better off without me…then they wouldn‟t hate ya…” “Curt,” Mal laughed, his voice a little nervous, “People either love me or hate me. Been that way my whole life…” “But this time…my fault…” Mal rolled his eyes. “Bloody hell, Curt. Not everything in life is your fault…” “Wanted him to…like ya…” Still not sure that he‟d seen and heard what he thought he‟d seen and heard, Mal let that go. Competing with a dead man was impossible…especially with the guilt associated with the dead. He was going to have to let Curt go and he knew it. The night on the beach had been sublime, but it was going to be a one time thing. He could see that in Curt‟s eyes. “You can‟t die, Curt.” He kissed the man‟s damp forehead with worry and concern. “It isn‟t right. You just…can‟t. I almost lost you once…almost lost Taly…I can‟t go through that again. Too many people need you.” “What about what I need?” Curt looked at him forlornly. “What about the things I need? Don‟t they count for anything?” Mal‟s kiss moved down to Curt‟s nose. “They do to me…and I‟ll do whatever I can for you…but only if you live. I know that‟s not much of a reason…but it‟s the only one I have. Well…that and you know it is the right thing to do. You know it is what he wants. And if you don‟t…there will be even more unhappiness then there is now.” For many long minutes, Curt stared into those bright blue eyes, wondering again how someone like Mal could have made so many enemies in so little time. “If I do this…will ya stand by me? Don‟t…leave me? Everyone I love…everyone I need…leaves me. Please…don‟t. Please…be here…when I get back.” This time when Malcolm kissed him, it was deep and full. “I‟ll be here, Curt,” he whispered. “Get me the phone…please.” Mal handed him the phone and waited while Curt dialed. He was feeling colder and knew that before long the symptoms would grow worse. He had to act now…while he was still capable of making his own choices. “Sidney? Help me.” "Of course. What do you need?" He was spooned behind Tamara, comforting her, with John still in his position behind him. “Dunno how long I got…pretty soon I‟m gonna be in hell…but I can‟t do it at Tigh Ard. I need someone…somewhere…I can do this on my own. Please…” "Ahhhh you are ready to Clean. Hold on one moment." He turned his mouth from the phone to whisper in Tamara's ear. "Our wayward First is ready for help. I have an idea that will help him Perfect so that I may remain here. It will only mean my leaving this room for an hour or two. Will you stay and wait for me, beloved?" “Help him…” she murmured. “He needs…so much…” So much more than almost anyone could give him. "If what he is about to go through is what I think, he needs SID help ... and so will you. I will fix this so SID can do both." Her lips were taken in a tender kiss, hands moving one more time into her hair and around her face, then he climbed from the bed and leaned down to John. "Keep an eye on her. I'll be back as soon as I can." “I trust you…” she said, “and he does too” She wasn‟t thinking fully clear yet, not fully awake, so she wasn‟t sure what Curt was facing but trusting Curt was in good hands. John kissed Sidney too and said, “Help him…and her.” "If they let me." Those lips of Mate were kissed hard, bruising with need, then the SID was out the door, dressing in his green suit as he moved. The final touches on his hair were made with his comb as he knocked on the hotel room door. He pretended to himself that he didn't notice the slight shaking in his hands. Inside the room, Curt was propped up against the headboard as Mal came to answer the door. “Hello,” he said with a nod of his head as he let the Crowe into the room. "Hello." But as he moved by him, his nose caught it, a whiff of Sid. "He touched you?" Sidney had his nose right into Malcolm's face, pressing to his cheek. "He touched you nice. Nice Touch. Approving Touch." Certainly no hatred from either of the SIDs for Malcolm. “Shoved…then touch…but yeah…I guess nice.” He glanced back at Curt and murmured, “I think it hurt him though.” "No shove," Sidney murmured. "Simply jostling you to see if you were aware. I can smell it on you." Mal had no idea how smell could distinguish one sort of contact from another. “Still hurt him…in the end. Curt…I‟ll go upstairs and get that stuff for you now…give you two time to talk.” "Stay ...." He continued to lick at that cheek, nosing around it, touching, kissing, licking hungrily. "Hurt Sid, yes ... but not for the reason you may think .. otherwise he never would have touched you Nice. Approving Nice." “Not just hurt Sid…hurt Curt too.” He was torn between doing as Curt asked of him and now doing what Sidney wanted. "Ahhhhh ...happens often between them. Mistakes made. Shame. Cannot be helped now. It is the way thing are." He lifted Malcolm with a smile and carried him over to the bed, his nose then moving to Curt's cheek where Sid had touched a tear. "He was here too." A hand continued to stroke Malcolm's. "I can smell him everywhere in this room. Much stronger scent than usual since he's been gone. Something has changed. Big change." Malcolm was confused, and a little uncomfortable, about what Sidney was doing with him. Not knowing the man all that well, having been casually threatened by him before, he was afraid to resist. “He was…I could touch him…but when I did…he shouted…said no…and wouldn‟t let me,” Curt whispered. "Shouted?" Sidney turned to look at Malcolm. "No. Yelped, startled, worried, surprised. Not shouted." Curt shrugged. “My bad choice of words…either way…he didn‟t seem like he wanted me to at all…not that I blame him.” "What kind of touch was it? He tried to touch you with a light kiss through me once. Was it that kind of touch you were trying to give?" Sidney could sense things in the room around him, but he didn't know Sid's reasons for not wanting a highly sexual touch from Mate. He continued to lick his tongue around Curt's face as each hand went lower on the men, stroking over nipples, playing around necks with teasing touches. “I touched him…where I shouldn‟t have I guess…wantin‟ to be sure he was…real…and not my imagination…” Those touches on him were calming him a little, but he was still hurting inside, stung by apparent rejection. Malcolm, more unsure about what was happening, was responding to the touches too, in spite of not being sure he should. "I see. You touched him in a place of true sex. Perhaps, my love, he simply could not respond as you wished because of the type of touch you wanted with him. It follows logic. If before he wanted light touch of kiss .. but now he does not want touch of sex .. then I would presume it to mean that it is not .... allowed .... with those of the living? Without speaking to him, I cannot be sure, but it is my best .... guess." “I…dunno. I dunno anything any more. I just wanted to know he was real…and as usual…I fucked it up…just like I fuck up everything else.” Of course he was at fault. It couldn‟t be otherwise. "You do not fuck up everything .. it just feels that way sometimes." Lips moved back to Malcolm's face, that time kissing the man fully as he murmured, "Curt, undress me ..... NOW." To Curt it felt that way all the time. Not a day went by when something was destroyed because of him. The part of him that needed the Dom in Sid responded to Sidney‟s orders, starting first with the man‟s shoes, his jacket, and his tie. He thought that Mal had a slight deer-in-the-headlights look so he reached over and rubbed the man‟s head affectionately. Whatever was going on, he wasn‟t planning to abandon Malcolm. Continuing to kiss Malcolm, hoping for an equal reaction from the man he was giving most of his attention to, Sidney waited for Curt to finish undressing him. Malcolm was returning the kiss, he was just a little shy and hesitant about doing so. Yes, he‟d kissed him before, had enjoyed it then, and was enjoying it now. It was only the confusion he felt now that made him shy. He thought Curt had called this man for help…not sex. Just what was going on here. As quickly as he could manage it, Curt had the rest of Sidney‟s clothes off and folded neatly over a nearby chair. Then he sat back on his haunches and waited, doing his best to ignore the little warning signs in his body that were becoming gradually more noticeable. This was help. This was Bond help. Though, until Malcolm sensed it, if he were able to sense it, he wouldn't know what Sidney was doing. Sidney knew that Curt would, though. They needed to reconnect in Bond, and what better way to do it than the way Curt liked and needed best? "Now undress each other. Show me." He moved off of Malcolm and sat back against the headboard, a grin on his face and eyes fully showing Curt his intentions. Curt had pulled on a robe from the closet, since his other clothes had been dirty, as soon he‟d gotten off the phone with Sidney. Malcolm, on the other hand, had pulled on the jeans he‟d put on in the van after leaving the Pound for his dash up to the suite for Curt‟s things. Thus they each only wore pants, but it at least provided something for the show for Sidney. And that‟s what Curt planned to make it. A show. He held his hand out to Mal as he backed off the bed with a come hither leer, one that snagged Malcolm‟s attention almost at once. That was the look Mal remembered from canon, although he‟d never had it directed at him. Curt looked at Sidney as he took Mal‟s hand. “Any special requests?” "Surprise me, boys. Make it good." Sidney moved a hand down between his legs, fondling his length with a leer too. If this had been Sid, Curt would have had some idea of his limits, what was allowed and what wasn‟t. He wasn‟t sure with Sidney, not his true Dom, he didn‟t know, so he had to play it conservative. Of course, conservative wasn‟t exactly in a Wild‟s nature. He pulled Mal to him, front to back again as they had been at the beach, and began to dance, grinding his hips against the other man‟s ass. His hands meanwhile felt up and down Mal‟s torso, frequently rubbing over his groin, with his eyes watching Sidney‟s for approval. Actively doing something, especially something sexual, helped with the tremors. Mal‟s head dropped back onto Curt‟s shoulder, his eyes closing as he let Curt manipulate him, direct him. As Curt unsnapped, then slowly unzipped Mal‟s pants, he turned that come hither look onto Sidney to see if he could tempt him into joining. "Soon," Sidney promised. "Enjoy each other. Be his Dom as I am for you ... as Sid approves of." That made Curt hesitate as a storm blew across his eyes. He didn‟t think Sid approved. Well, Sid might approve of the Dom/sub relationship, but he didn‟t seem to approve of Mal himself. It made it difficult for Curt to proceed. His body didn‟t stop moving completely, and gradually continued as he had been, but his eyes spoke the questions to Sidney…or more precisely to Sid, who wasn‟t even there to answer him. "Very nice," Sidney murmured. "Very, very nice." His hands worked beneath the denim, opening the fly enough to free what lay beneath. Mal whimpered and almost lost his footing. Curt chuckled and squeezed, shooting Sidney another look before turning them both so that Curt‟s back was to the Crowe. In that position, still moving to the unheard rhythm, Mal‟s hands worked Curt‟s robe free so that it fell to the floor and exposed Curt‟s bare backside, clenching and shaking, right in Sidney‟s line of sight. "Take him, Curt. Be his Dom." Sidney was almost salivating. Had Sidney ever seen Curt in the capacity of Dom? Curt couldn‟t recall. He made a show of shimmying Mal‟s jeans down to his ankles, thinking it made for a better effect when he bent Mal at the waist, pushed him up against the wall and spread his legs as far as the jeans would allow. Malcolm was nearly salivating too, his cock dripping a thick white trail. Curt used that moisture, as well his some of his own, to lube himself enough for entry. One finger was in…and then his shaft, and Mal bucked at the unexpected, but not unwelcome penetration. “Curt!” he gasped. Cassidy, you little fool, you should be saying, Sidney almost said aloud but managed to control himself as he stood and moved up behind Curt, slapping his hand over two cheeks. It was then Curt‟s turn to gasp and immediately spread himself as well, even bending over Mal‟s back, an invitation to the Dom behind him, if it was desired, for either more of that slapping, or fucking, if that was wished for. The intensity of the feeling inside Curt‟s soul reverberated into Malcolm‟s as well. His hands splayed across the wall in an effort to support more weight, Sidney decide to participate. More slaps with one hand, and Sidney moved the other to the front of Malcolm, stroking the man to the same timing of Curt's strokes in back. He kissed both of them, deep kisses, tender, loving for Curt and accepting for Malcolm, but he didn't enter Curt with his body. When he Bonded with him, it would not be while Curt was fucking his little fool sub. It would be between Sidney and Curt and no other. “Don‟t,” Curt growled into Mal‟s ear. As long as Sidney was running the show, Sidney would determine when release was permitted. Curt held back much easier; beneath him Mal was whining desperately almost in tears with the effort not to cum. Curt was pushing his endurance, and Mal felt sure it would either kill him or be the most incredible orgasm he could remember. Sidney, feeling that he too was part of that pushing of endurance, part of the incredible orgasm that Malcolm would soon have in Sidney's Perfectly fisting hand, moved his other hand off Curt's backside and used it to torment the darker man's nipples and then down to squeeze and caress that soft hanging sack. "Not yet," he said to the man. "Not yet." “Bloody hell…” he squeaked. This just wasn‟t fair…but damn it felt good. Was Sid like this? Was this a small taste of why Curt was lost without that man? It was more than just physical, Mal knew that, but fuck…this all on it‟s own would be a tempting incentive. “Please!” "Say it to the cock," Sidney giggled and moved around more in front of Malcolm to wiggle it in his face. Then he leaned his upper body over to Curt to kiss him again. Two hands never stopped what they were doing under that smaller body. “Please,” he repeated, to anyone and anything that would listen. “I…can‟t…” Then he obeyed what seemed the obvious instruction and took the unfamiliar shaft into his throat. “You WILL,” he managed to say around the kiss with Sidney, trying, as he did so, to avoid touching the Crowe‟s hair as his hand seemed determined to do. The other wasn‟t quite sure what to do with itself either. It was taken by the SID and brought all the way up, placed, with a smirk, into his own head of hair as his tongue moved with Curt's and his hips rolled across Malcolm's face. The Crowe was smirking for another reason too. Even if Curt and Malcolm never joined again, if Sid continued to return and Curt no longer wanted Malcolm in that way anymore, at least Sidney had been kind, generous, and unselfish in giving them this time together, in orchestrating it so the two could remember physical pleasure together with SID and Malcolm would understand, truly understand now, the kind of pleasure that Curt had often enjoyed with his Mate. The kind Curt needed more than anything. With that hand in the man‟s hair, Curt couldn‟t help but give a small delighted giggle and kiss Sidney with even more fervor as his movements within Malcolm became more jerky, orgasm impending at any moment. Mal whimpered and tried to spread himself more. "Here we go, boys," the Crowe murmured, readying his own climax to fill a man's belly. "Give... NOW." Hips jerked, and the hands around Malcolm's organs tightened even more in that stroking, ready to squeeze and pump the man onto the floor. Having less control then Curt, Mal came almost before the words were finished, especially with those hands working him so skillfully. Fortunately he was ready for the Crowe‟s release and didn‟t even choke or splutter when it came. Curt‟s hand in Sidney‟s hair tightened as his body froze, except for the pulse of his hips and cock that filled Mal‟s backside just as Sidney was filling him in front. His cry was lost into Sidney‟s hot mouth. He locked his knees to avoid crumbling to the floor…right on top of Mal. Sidney's was a nice long hiss of satisfaction around that McGregor's mouth ... and another smirk. Hands petted through Malcolm's hair with murmurs of, "you did well, boy, very well." Then he pulled away and stood to watch the two for a few moments catch their breaths. Curt pulled Mal to standing and turned him around to kiss him, seeking the taste of SID in the man‟s mouth, the scent on his breath. Mal was shaking, barely able to stand, held only by Curt‟s arms at that point. They made eye contact, saying things that didn‟t have words, before Curt helped him lean against the wall and stepped back. “Thanks,” he said to Mal, and then looked at Sidney and said it again. “Thanks to you too.” "No problem." He could be kind to the man as one of Curt's lovers, but he had no reason to really like him or want to be around him for any other reason. His hand went out to the McGregor with a loving smile. "Our turn, beloved." In spite of the question in the back of his mind about why they hadn‟t done this earlier, Curt put his hand in Sidney‟s hoping eagerly for what might come next. “Should I go get Curt‟s things?” Mal asked, asking more of Sidney then Curt at that moment since Sidney was the one in control now and Mal understood that. "If you wish. Or you may stay, whichever you are comfortable with, Malcolm. My Twin's Mate and I are not just going to have sex, we're going to strengthen our own Bonds as the only two living Firsts to the House of Brigham and House of Max. It will help him immensely to do this just before we leave here and he starts on a very difficult journey." Mal had no experience with matters of Firsts or Bonds. He hadn‟t known his original Master long enough for that…and as it turned out, Kai wasn‟t human either. “It shouldn‟t take me long…then I‟ll be back…” It just seemed to him that Curt was going to hit rock bottom before too much longer, and the sooner Mal acted, the more prepared Curt could be. “Thanks, Mal…hurry back, „kay?” Curt murmured roughly. “I will.” He nodded, finished adjusting his jeans, and slid out the door, making sure to have the room key with him. Sidney was thinking the same thing. The closer they Bonded to that rock-bottoming that was coming, the better, and it was the reason he had delayed it to the end. Curt was going to need all the inner strength he could get when it happened. "On the bed, my love. On your back would be nice so we can Bond through eye contact too this time." He couldn‟t specifically remember a joining with Sidney that had been face to face. Those in his memory consisted of only doggy style sex. Not that he‟d stake anything on his memory right now. Altered by drugs and now fuzzy due to lack of them, he couldn‟t say for sure what memories were real and which ones were not. He lay upon the bed as requested and looked up into the Crowe‟s face, his legs spread but not yet lifted. "You have beautiful eyes, Curt," he murmured as he moved between thighs and settled upon the man to kiss his nose. "Once we strengthen our Bond as Firsts, I'll take you out of here and get you the help you need, that you're ready to accept now." “I honestly dunno if I can do it…or if askin‟ for help is the right thing to do…” he murmured. “Oh…and thanks. So do you…but ya know that don‟t ya.” He grinned and tousled the man‟s hair. "I most certainly do," he giggled and kissed that nose again. "But it is still nice to hear." A fingernail sliced his own flesh, bringing out canon blood to lubricate his manhood. Using that blood on fingers, he opened the man, prodding around that ring in stretching him as he watched Curt's face for signs of pain. The man was SID. They needed some pain. So Curt made sure to grimace at the times of discomfort, but it wasn‟t anything he couldn‟t bear. “No need to be too gentle, ya know,” he rumbled. “Unless ya wanna be.” "How about .... somewhat?" He slid in gently, immediately feeling more than just physical pleasure. "Imagine," he sighed, "how, if we feel this as Firsts and also with the Heads of the two Houses when we join, how they, as the Heads, would feel if they ever do so too?" Raking his nails lightly down the man‟s sides, Curt hissed then said, “Somehow, I really don‟t believe it‟s gonna happen. Imagine it‟d be…like you and John or me and…” He shook his head rather than continue that thought. That was lost. He was never going to get it back. "Agreed, and I am sorry for reminding you of that loss .. but you are right. It will be as Mates .... if they ever do so." Sidney had a feeling, though, that they wouldn't be, if they ever joined, monogamous Mates ... even if they also wanted a nice traditional wedding to top it off. Many couples in the Community were lifemates of some kind, were even married, but very few were in monogamous relationships. The Community just wasn't really made that way. “I don‟t feel very…positive…about many things,” he sighed. “Or secure. No faith, ya might say…but maybe…somethin‟…will change.” "I have faith." Then he proceeded to love Curt in long firm strokes of his shaft in that lubricated channel, but to add intensity to it of a different sort, fingers came up and twisted, very harshly, small nipples in just the way Sid would do. One of those nipples still contained the ring that he refused to take off. It might not be his wedding ring, but Sid had put it there, and he had sworn he wouldn‟t take them off again. Now that Sid was gone, Curt found he couldn‟t even consider removing it. He groaned at the twisting and arched his body up into Sidney‟s. “Shit…” But it was a good groaning, and definitely a good feeling. "Say it to the mouth," Sidney growled, leaning down more to bite at McGregor lips in heated passion. "Kiss me as I fill you and you fill my hand when you're ready." Fingers from one wrapped around the trapped manhood between them and pulled almost savagely. “Jeezus!” he squealed. He tried to wiggle into a position that afforded him the most pleasure as he kissed the man fervently. It was Power and it was SID and it was all good. In spite of having just recently orgasmed, and having done it four times earlier in the evening, he knew he‟d come again in very short order. Only six more tugs like that one, and he filled Sidney‟s hand just as the man asked. And with a Bond-burst of Power between them, Sidney came too, his gnashing teeth turning into a thrusting tongue, dancing along Curt's with a long moan of pleasure. "Gooooooood...." Curt pulled Sidney down into an embrace and held him tight. “Yeah…good…” he moaned when he could breath again. He pressed his nose to the man‟s flesh and sighed, “John‟s lucky…” “No," Sidney chuckled in a rare moment of modesty during that embrace. "I'm the lucky one. Me." He moved so that Curt could hold him from the top and look down at the Crowe. "And I'm also lucky to be able to Share this with you ... to give you ... me." “Don‟t think I‟m any great prize,” Curt chuckled with embarrassment. “Not with all the trouble I cause.” John was lucky, in Curt‟s eyes, because he didn‟t have to worry about Sidney really dying. Sidney might be lucky to have John too…but to know Curt? The McGregor didn‟t think anyone was lucky in that regards. Guessing what the Crowe was offering, he murmured, “Are ya sure?” "Absolutely. It is time. Past time." “Lube or no?” he asked, rubbing his partially limp shaft between the man‟s cheeks, encouraging it to full hardness again. "Lube will make it better for you. An easier ride. Please, allow me." Another slice into his leg that would heal in seconds, and he brought out warm blue fluid, rubbing it over that hardening shaft. Curt had to laugh. “I‟m turning blue!” he giggled. “I hope its not toxic.” He knew it wasn‟t, but he couldn‟t resist teasing the man. It was an indicator of how relaxed he was…and that he wasn‟t for the moment, either suffering terribly as he would soon, or thinking directly about Sid. "Mmmmm....." Sidney brought the fingers up to his lips, covering them in the blue and then pulled Curt down to kiss him. "Toxic with love." “Will John be jealous?” he continued to tease as he thrust in easily and then froze, long enough to push down memories he didn‟t need right then. This was not about Mate. This was about Sidney…and their Bond…and the relationship it had taken Curt awhile to cultivate. Then he began to move again with a small smile on his face. "Of what? Our Co-First-Bond? I don't believe so," he murmured into the kiss and that Sharing of blue. "He accepts his rightful place in the hierarchy of the family ... my Mate, Johnma of our son, and beloved brother of yours." Sidney's legs wrapped firmly around Curt's back, his hands massaging over shoulder muscles and twirling fingers in long hair. “I meant of me bein‟ in his territory.” Curt continued to grin as he moved slowly, not in any particular hurry this time. He was getting physically tired from lack of sleep, lack of nourishment, and definitely lack of drugs, but the need for the Bond kept him focused and moving. When he finished he was going to collapse…and lord knew when he‟d come back up. "Mmmm..... " Sidney moaned, moving his face that time into Curt's neck. The Bond was readying to burst between them a second time, and he couldn't wait to feel it again. Power. Several more thrusts later, then Curt was whispering, “May I…? Please?” They might be joining as equal Firsts in a Bonding, but as he still needed the Dom he had lost, he felt compelled to seek permission. "Yessssss....." Sidney's body arched, bowing at the back as hands tugged in Curt's hair, almost ripping during his own pleasure. With one hand still lightly stroking the Crowe‟s shaft, Curt groaned long and loud and emptied into the man‟s body with a flash of Power behind his eyes that took away his sight, and then his breath, and then his ability to move. He collapsed upon Sidney‟s body, trembling as he gasped for air. Behind them, near the door, Mal had come back into the room while Curt had bottomed. They didn‟t seem to have noticed him, so he remained there, closing the door quietly, watching with wide eyes. When Curt collapsed, he jumped, growing worried now at the sounds of gasping. What had just happened here? Not simple sex, that was for certain. Far more than sex, and if Malcolm ever got an eyeful of the Bonding-sex that Sid and Curt shared together, it would completely blow him away. This was minor compared to that. "We should go now," Sidney sighed when both men had caught their breaths. "Your sub brought your things." He motioned to the door where he finally noticed Malcolm. “Go…where?” Curt coughed. “Not to Tigh Ard. I…can‟t do this…there…” "Not there. Now get dressed." Sidney kissed those puffy lips he'd bitten in passion one more time and climbed out of bed to put his suit back on. “I…can‟t…” His mind might still be forming coherent thoughts, but his body hadn‟t caught up from all of the exertion, and from the abuses he‟d been holding at bay for too many hours. “Will the robe do?” Mal asked, automatically moving closer to assist Curt since he seemed to need it. “I have him other clothes here…” "The robe will do." Allowing Malcolm to help Curt, because it saved time as Sidney dressed, the Crowe was soon ready and lifting the McGregor into his arms. "Say goodbye to each other." As Mal helped him, he had kissed around his face lightly. Then he stepped back a little. “Call me? Let me know you‟re okay…if you need anything?” Curt caught his arm and pulled him back to kiss him once and whispered, “If I can. Might not be for a few days…but ya know how it is…” “Yeah…I do. I‟ll be thinkin‟ about ya…worryin‟…and prayin‟” “Thank you, Mal. For everything.” As soon as Mal had nodded with a melancholy smile, but with hope in his eyes, Curt looked at Sidney. “I hope I can do this…” "I know you can." He turned away with the McGregor for the door, but at the last moment, just before leaving, he looked deep into Malcolm's eyes and spoke directly into his mind. "You belong with Cassidy." Smiling, he left the room with Curt. ** This was worse! Suddenly, on top of the occasional illness he was almost used to, Carl began to wonder if he were dying. If he did, he was going to come back somehow and strangle that drug- using McGregor. Even Sidney couldn't help the man alone in those woods. He remained with Tamara in her bed, the sickest, as canon SID, that he had ever been in his life. But at least they had each other. And at least Curt had Sidi and Malcolm, both with Sid's blessings. Sid, visiting Carl in hopes of soothing both their mental states over the shock of Malcolm joining the family, discovered a naked sweating man, moaning and groaning on his bedroom and almost delirious with psychic pain. "Siddy?" Carl reached out to the man, not sure if what he was seeing was real or not. Horns? Wings? TAIL? "You should go to a hospital," Sid sighed, sitting on the bedroll but not actually touching the man. "It's not me that's sick." "Agreed, but maybe they could help alleviate the symptons." "And think I'm a druggie?" "You worry for your job?" "And my family. I'm not going to a hospital. I can ride it out here." "My love ... you should not be alone during this. Go to Tamara." "Never." "The boy isn't even in the building." "Doesn't matter, Sid. I'm not going back." "Do you hate him that much?" "Don't hate'm at all. Just not safe. Not safe to ever look at him again." "I know .... they made a mistake," Sid moaned, bringing his tail around to stroke the end of it nervously. "But you can't stay out here forever, Carl." "Not gonna. Just for a few weeks." "Promise?" "Promise. Has Curt seen you like this? It's quite .... different." "Yes. God and Lucifer think it's funny ... Mate thinks I'm still beautiful, but I'm ugly, very ugly." The Scotsman blinked, trying to decipher that, what could be a test to his own faith? GOD? LUCIFER? And did Carl really want to know more about that? He decided no. He decided he would rather find out when it happened to him. "Curt's right, you are beautiful .... no matter what." "Stop saying that," Sid insisted. "Everything's all messed up, I'm all messed up. There is no more beauty." "What about Curt?" Sid rolled his eyes. "He is beyond beauty. Far beyond." "Go to him." "He has help. You, in your stubbornness, have none." "Then go to Tamara." "Sidney is with her." "Then who the hell is with ....?" he sputtered angrily in worry for Curt and tried to get up until Sid pushed him back down with one hand. "He is being Take Care of. Trust me. I will see him soon." "Siddy?" Deciding to trust, the hand on his chest was taken and kissed, but the Crowe shook his head, pulling it away. "Do not tempt me for what is not allowed. Mate tried the same thing ... and in a much less subtle way." "Not allowed? But I can feel you. Really feel you this time. And you can feel me?" "Yes. But not allowed." "Who says?" Even deathly ill, the low growl entered the man's voice. "God, Lucifer. I hold much power, but not as much as them." "I wanna speak to them," he demanded after another groan of pain. Laughing, Sid brushed a strand a hair out of the man's face. "Impossible. They do not come because mortals want them to." "Fine, I'll go to them!" He was being completely irrational, but he was at the zenith of that psychic pain, and inside Carl, under it, the Bond between he and Sid ached to be reconnected in the human Laird. It made him foolishly desperate to find out why two bureaucrats in Sid's particular afterlife, in Carl's eyes, would make such a stupid rule. He was far from ready to believe they were truly the God and Lucifer of his own personal faith. Before Sid could stop him, Carl swallowed in one huge gulp enough of Hando's pills to send himself into a rapid coma-state, and there was nothing Sid could do as his hands had suddenly lost feeling in them, turning ghostlike again, thanks to Lucifer. "NOOOOOO!" Sid turned at sensing the presence of the head demon behind him. "Give me back my hands! I can pump his stomach and save him!" "Fat chance," Lucifer laughed. "If it turns out his body isn't strong enough to combat all that at once, then he's a suicide. That means he's coming to ME ... and I've been waiting for this one for many years." "He's not a suicide even in effort," another voice said, entering the tent too in a shape the size of the three others. "Read his heart. Even in his anger, he has faith ... in me. He's not trying to die, not really." Carl didn't see anything or hear anything around him anymore. Only blackness as he fell, though he was readying himself during it, no matter where he landed, for the biggest fight of his life against some ridiculous pencil pusher keeping him and his Siddy from joining as they should. While he fell, Sid screamed at the two others. "ONE OF YOU DO SOMETHING!" "Bond with him," God smiled at the Crowe. "I can't! I can't even touch him anymore!" "You can now." Feeling came back in those hands gripping to Carl's arms, and it brought tears, huge bubbles of tears, to Sid's eyes. "Please, please don't let him die." He stripped off his clothing and looked down at his swelling manhood. Swelling? He was capable of sex now? Really? Allowed? "Allowed," God smiled again. "Just for you." Then he let Carl open his eyes as those pills in his system were swept away as if they'd never been there. Sid didn't stop to thank God for this gift. He lifted the bedroll around them and laughed with joy. Though still sick from his Bond-issues with Curt's detox, Carl started to laugh too. Sid, being dead, was unaffected by it, but at least he had the capability of sex again, and the two soon Bonded fully, happily, until Carl eventually fell into a fitful ill sleep in Crowe arms and Sid started wondering when he could go to Mate ..... and try it with him too. ~~~~ Below..... "I almost had that Sentinel!" Lucifer whined. "He'd have to screw up much more than taking a few pills in anger at us before I'd let you have him." "He wanted to yell at you .. at me! As if he could demand us, US, to change the rules!" "Yes. That is what HE is .... and WHY he is." God turned away from Lucifer, but before he moved off, he said in warning over his shoulder, "Next time Sid decides to visit his Mate, don't interfere until the window-time is over. I know what you did." "I didn't break any rules," the demon pouted. "True, but don't do it again. Allow them a bit of happiness too .. as I tried to give them before until you chose to intervene." "Very well," he sighed and moved away too. "But with how things keep going up there, I'm beginning to doubt happiness can exist for them .. all because of one innocent clone in the wrong place at the wrong time." "We'll see. Choices and consequences ... and fate." ** As Sidney drove him to the wherever they were going, Curt‟s sight came and went and he gave in to the tremors and chills that had been seeking to claw into his body. They weren‟t that bad yet, but they would be soon enough. “Just…no hospitals…please.” If Sidney dropped him off at a hospital, Curt thought he‟d probably lose what remained of his sanity. "No hospital." Sidney took him right to the plane where he loaded Curt into it, made him as comfortable as he could, and then flew them as fast as he could .... right to the Sharehome. Sidi came out onto the terrace by the kitchen and waved. He'd been informed they were coming. He'd been living there. “What the…?” He didn‟t want to be here. Why? Why? Now on top of physically sick, he felt emotionally sick too. But what point was there saying anything? Obviously his wishes for his own home hadn‟t mattered…and now they were going to torture him to death no doubt. Fitting actually. Might as well die here, at the hands of those who were twins to the one he killed. Of course, maybe this was all a hallucination. With the way he was feeling physically, it wouldn‟t surprise him if none of this was real. Maybe he was already dead. "Enjoy," Sidney soothed. "Just ... enjoy the presence of Mate all around us here .... and Trust." He carried him up the stairs and set him on the sofa in the main room. "Coffee anyone?" Sidi asked, being a good host. Miserable, especially physically so, Curt shot both men a pained look and shook his head. If he put anything into his body now, it was only going to come right back up. Enjoy? How was he suppose to enjoy the fact that someone else had moved into his home? Their home? "I'll take mine with four spoonfulls of sugar, please." "Precisely how I like it too." The red-suited SID moved off into the kitchen as Sidney sat down on the sofa by Curt and looked around. Nothing appeared to be changed, everything the same. He could even tell, by scent, that Sidi wasn't using the Couple bed for rest periods .... assuming he even took rest periods. “Why…here…?” He shouldn‟t be here. They shouldn‟t be here. How was this place going to help him? "Because he wishes you to get better here ... surrounded by loving memories. He asked me to help you here, to stay here and use everything but the bed, and I agreed ... I owe him for taking his head." “So…this is yare home now?” Part of him was glad the Crowe had a home…but having that home in the ShareHome unnerved him. "No. He asked me to help you here, to be ready for when you came. It is not my home." Forcing his drooping lids open, he asked, “How did ya know I‟d come?” Even he hadn‟t known that. "He said he knew .... that a .... friend told him that your heart was in the right place ... and it was highly unlikely that you would not choose to follow your correct destiny in this way." Curt grunted and curled up more. “My destiny‟s dead.” He could go on, live…but he no longer had a destiny. “So…what am I suppose to do?” He paused for a moment then reached out one hand for Sidi. “S‟good to see ya…even if I don‟t sound like it right now.” "According to his ... friend.. your destiny is still very much alive, and coming here to me is the correct path to it." The hand was taken, long fingers running over it for a moment, and then he gave a bottle of water to the man as Sidney pulled Curt up onto his lap with a blanket to rub his back and hold him warmly against SID chest. "Don't worry," Sidi continued as he sipped his coffee and held the other mug under Sidney's mouth so he could have some too. "The SIDlets of this Community have worked this all out. You will remain under my care while you detox, thereby eliminating my debt to your Mate, and Sidney will return to Tigh Ard to continue to care for your Mistress." "I will be checking in often by webcam ... and perhaps in person by using the jet," Sidney added. "I'll even bring your sub for visits, Curt." "Anyone can visit." Sidi shrugged. "So long as I feel he is up to a visit." "Agreed. You will decide on those matters." "And on other matters too," he giggled that time with a petting to the top of Curt's head. “Don‟t I have any say in anything?” Curt muttered wearily. For the most part it would be good to have that firm hand upon his life…but he still needed some freedoms…if only to be able to prove to himself at times that he could stand on his own, act on his own…not cave in to the drugs again. "You're not a prisoner. That's say enough for now." Actually, it was the ultimate in "say," as it meant Curt had all the freedom he wanted. He only had to walk away. It was what Curt needed to hear. He breathed a sigh of relief in spite of the pain in his body. “Thanks,” he murmured and closed his eyes. He still didn‟t believe he had a future without Sid, didn‟t feel any confidence in himself or any faith in anything, but maybe that would come when he was well again. “Can I…request…visitors too?” "Yes, but I hold say on when they're allowed to come. I have no care who you invite, only that they come when I allow it." "I'll bring people, like your sub, if you want, in the jet," Sidney offered, "to make travel faster for whomever you may wish to see you here." “Until I‟m…clean…next few days…can‟t see anyone…except…unless…Tam…or Carl…wanna come…” Mal would understand, and his Mistress and Laird had full rights to come, if they wished to. He didn‟t want to deny them access, although he didn‟t think she would be in any condition to come until Curt was better. "As you wish," they said in stereo. "Now, unless there is anything else," Sidney added on his own, "I should be leaving now." “I…” Curt opened his eyes and looked up into Sidney‟s face. Did he trust his care to Sidi? Sidney apparently did, so hopefully that counted for something. “Yeah.” He touched the man‟s mouth. “Take care of „er…and Carl…and…thanks…” "We will. Be good. Get better. Do what he says." He touched Curt's mouth with his own. "Trust Sid." "Maybe if you're good he'll come back even sooner for another visit," Sidi smiled with a shrug. "Those Horns of Power he has now are simply divine." "I bet he doesn't think so," Sidney snorted with a laugh. “I told him…he was still beautiful…didn‟t believe me…” His speech was starting to slur, but he was doing his best to focus. "I have a feeling, little one, that he's been through so many changes with his .... friends .... that he doesn't know what to think anymore. Now he is simply doing the best he can to keep contact with us. Being of solid shape now from those horns, it will be even better for him." Curt nodded and dropped his head down on to Sidney‟s chest again. “Want…best…for him…always…have…” Even if no one else believed that. “So…beautiful…” "Indeed." He stood, lifting the man, and gave him to Sidi. "Keep in close contact with me, Twin." "For my offense against the other, I will." "Farewell Curt." Sidney kissed him one last time and moved to the balcony. "My love with you, always." “Yeah…me too…with…you…” He watched Sidney go, then looked up into Sidi‟s face. He didn‟t know if the words would mean anything to this SID, but he wanted to say them any how, at least to hear them from his own mouth. “I…trust…ya…” Very few trusted SIDs, especially upon initial meetings. Curt was choosing to give the man his trust now, because for the next few days, he would be completely at Sidi‟s mercy. If the Crowe wanted to kill him, he easily could. Curt would be unable to fight back or seek help. "Don't trust me," Sidi smiled and set the man down into a chair in order to open the sofa bed fully. "Trust your Mate. Now, in order to avoid extra washings, I would like you nude of body. The room is warm enough, and when you are chilled from your illness, you may use a blanket." He placed a large bucket by the bed. "For when you feel the need to vomit and can't make it to the bathroom." He also turned down the lighting around the room, leaving them dimmed so Curt could see but so nothing was harsh on the human eyes any longer. “I…trust…you.” He had to give his trust to Sidi…or else these days of illness were going to be even more nightmarish for him. He couldn‟t live through detox and be terrified for his life too. He wouldn‟t live at all. “Ya won‟t leave me…will ya?” His fingers fumbled with the tie of the bathrobe but he couldn‟t manage it. Turning a pitiful expression to the Crowe he said, “I…need…help.” "I won't leave you." Gentle fingers untied the knot and slipped it off the man. "I'll wash this so that when the worse of the illness is over, you may wear it again." He motioned to the bottle of water. "When you need more, I'll bring it. If your stomach pangs you for food, I'll heat you broth I made. You should be well enough in three days in order to eat a little." He searched the man‟s face with his eyes, and then his fingers. He wondered what Sidi had experienced of kindness, what good things he‟d learned. Mostly he wondered what he could possibly teach the man. How could he, Curt Wild, help the man who knew everything? How could he, a man who had killed his Mate, help this SID in any good way? He didn‟t have any great wisdom to pass on. Being deathly sick wasn‟t going to teach him anything. But by focusing on his wonderings, it gave Curt a few more minutes, he hoped, of clear-headedness. “Stay…” he murmured as he tried to push to his feet to get to the sofa bed…and crumpled down into a heap. "I have ..." Sidi sighed as he carried the man to the bed and put a light blanket over him, "no where else to go." Because he had held it off for so long, the worst of the withdrawals hit Curt all at once. For two full days he felt nothing but misery. Chills, sweats, vomiting. Slipping in and out of consciousness. Always reaching out for someone who wasn‟t there, whom he couldn‟t feel even if he was, always seeking the comfort of someone who had promised to be strong for him…and wasn‟t even there. Of course, he wasn‟t truly aware of Sidi either; even in his lucid moments he couldn‟t focus on anyone or anything long enough to be sure of what was reality and what wasn‟t. He couldn‟t hydrate himself, couldn‟t get up to make it into the bathroom, and wasn‟t even aware if he was managing to eliminate into the bucket or if all of his body‟s wastes were passing directly into the bed. He could have been lying in a ditch for all he knew, although in his best moments he was aware of blankets and of gentle hands. Hands that soothed in their familiarity. Hands that could kill him…if they wished. Some time on the third day, the fever broke and his stomach calmed, allowing him to pass into a restful sleep for the first time in weeks. It was early in the morning of the fourth day when his eyes fluttered open and he recognized home…and a broken hearted sigh escaped him to be here, without Sid…and to believe the man who was supposedly so keen on visiting others hadn‟t come to see him in his suffering. He was alone…and without yet having the strength to move he couldn‟t even see Sidi. On his side, he drew his bare knees up to his chest, wrapped his arms around himself, and moaned. Other than that first day, a day Sid had spent with Carl in the woods, Sid came as often as he could to the Sharehome, helping Sidi in caring for Curt, watching over him, even singing to him, though he knew Curt wasn't even aware of it, would have no idea of how much his Mate truly supported him. "Are you up for your second visitor now?" Sidi asked as he clicked off the television news and looked over at the bed. “Second?” He rolled towards the sound of the voice, body still aching from the fever, convulsions, and vomiting. “Think I probably need cleanin‟ up…and food…I must look like shit…smell like it too, I imagine…” "Indeed, you do. I can help you in the bathroom with cleaning, then you may have some broth. Who do you want for your second visitor? The first just left a few minutes ago, but I'm sure he'll be back when he can. He has rarely left your side." He didn‟t think it would have been Sid. He hadn‟t felt him there…and if he had been, why would he leave just as Curt was coming around? But he didn‟t verbally argue either. He had no proof either way. “I…dunno…” He wanted to see Mal, wanted to see Tamara and Carl, Lindsey, his twins, Sidney…and Father Andrew. “Too many…choices.” He rubbed his temples with one hand and asked, “Maybe…ya could talk to me. Just…tell me…I dunno…how ya are…stuff like that…?” "How I am? I suppose. Sid certainly didn't want to talk about me all the time he was here. He was only interested in you. All you. It's a shame the windows force him to leave when he doesn't wish to go." He helped the man into the bathroom. "What do you want to know about me?" “Everythin‟…everythin‟ yare comfortable talkin‟ about.” The man had made it clear previously that he would not discuss what made him different from 6.7. Curt had asked him, and Sidi had turned the discussion around to talking about Curt. Maybe if he left it up to Sidi to talk, the Crowe wouldn‟t feel so uncomfortable, or threatened. “Can‟t get to know someone without talkin‟ to them…unless ya can read their minds…and I won‟t even try that with you.” "There is nothing to know." He turned on water to flow into the bathtub, warm water, and set the man into it. "Sid found me in the sewer system, asked me to help you, and I agreed. I've decided that he didn't keep showing up here these last few days to help me with you because he doesn't trust me but because he can't stand not to be around you. If I thought he didn't trust me, after making that Deal, I would not be doing this now. I'd walk away. Probably kill you first." Curt didn‟t fully believe him. He thought he sensed loneliness in this SID, and thus he chose to believe, perhaps falsely, that the man might actually welcome this chance to reach out…and have someone reach back. “Have ya ever…had a bath?” he asked. There had to be a way to get Sidi to open to him, just as he‟d gotten Sid to. So far, Sidi didn‟t seem as…anal…as Sid could be some times, so maybe he would be easier to reach. Or maybe not. "No. I like showers." “He did too,” Curt managed to chuckle. “Must be a SID thing. And I like the shower too…but baths are nice…especially if yare sharin‟ it with someone…and there‟s bubbles…Would ya…be willin‟…to experiment? Sit in here with me…let me…clean ya as much as I can…? Not that yare dirty…just…for the sake of a new experience?” He didn‟t actually expect Sidi to give in this time, but he was, at least, presenting the option to him. Besides, leaning back against Sidi would be much better then leaning against the cold side of the tub. "Very well. Your Mate told me just before he was forced to leave this last time a few minutes ago that I should do whatever you need to help you recover mentally, not just physically. Bathing with SID helps you mentally. I understand that." His red suit came off and he slid into the water behind Curt. "Now what?" “Ya must know how to wash…? Can wash me first…if ya want…or I can do you first…” He lowered his gaze as he fingered the cloth he‟d grabbed from the shelf and the soap. “Or if yare just doin‟ this cause ya feel ya have to…I won‟t ask ya to stay. I…wanna be friends…but I ain‟t gonna try to force ya to do stuff…” He‟d done that with Sid…pushed too hard, to fast…and killed him. "I know how to wash in a shower. This is different. Please proceed. Even my hair, if you wish." Curt smiled at him and impulsively kissed his nose in a friendly gesture. “Not all that different really…washin‟ this way…hope yare not ticklish…” "If I am, I have yet to discover it." Though tempted to start at his feet, just to address that issue of ticklish, Curt started with the man‟s hands instead. It didn‟t seem he was making much progress really. The Crowe hadn‟t even reacted to that innocent kiss. Well, he‟d probably had dozens of not so innocent ones by now. The likelihood of teaching him much of anything at all was slim. Why, he wondered, did Sid and Sidney seem to think Sidi needed him? As far as he could see, that was about as far from the truth as the sun was from Jupiter…and probably further. Up the man‟s arms. Down his back and over his torso. Neck and face. Then legs down to his feet. Not only washing, but kneading muscles as he went, humming now and then, trying to think of things to talk about with a man who didn‟t seem to want to talk at all. When he reached the Crowe‟s first foot, he looked at him with a shy grin, remembering the first time he‟d been with Sid this way, and then ran one nail up the arch of Sidi‟s foot to see if he got any sort of reaction at all. No different than his Twins, Sidi roared at his first tickling, shoving Curt away as he jumped from the tub to hop on one foot and carefully examine his other one. "What the hell did you do to it? I've touched my body all over and never felt THAT before." Gone from his thoughts was his wondering of why his Twin's Mate didn't seem to care at all that Sid had been there helping him too. His foot was on the strangest kind of fire to think about it anymore. Curt most certainly cared…but it hurt to think that Sid might have been there…and Curt would never really know. Couldn‟t feel him, hear him, taste him, remember him. The most vivid memory Curt had of a visit from Sid, was the Crowe pulling away from his touch. And though he didn‟t speak of it, didn‟t show it on his face, he was pondering Sidi‟s words, wondering at their validity, wishing he knew, for certain, if Sid had been there. And wondering in his usual self-deprecating way, why Sid would want to be around his murderer at all. “Most people can‟t tickle themselves…dunno why. And not everyone‟s ticklish in the same places. With SIDs…and I think Crowe‟s…it‟s a feet thing,” he said quietly with a hint of a grin. "Well don't do it again. Once is enough for my databanks need of filing information." Cautiously, he climbed back into the tub, that time in front of the man so that he could keep a better eye on his feet. "Finish the Bath Program on me now." “Yes, sir,” Curt nodded. He was as careful as he could be with the Crowe‟s feet, and then he scooped water into his hands to pour over the man‟s hair. Yes, he knew there were other areas he had not bathed, but he couldn‟t quite get up the nerve to do so. When Sidi‟s hair was wet enough, the shampoo was applied and Curt began to work it into his hair. “Red‟s yare favorite color, huh?” "Yes. Strange, isn't it? I did not choose it because I knew Sid prefers purple and Sidney prefers green. I prefered it before them .... though." His head cocked as he thought about it more. "Perhaps, having seen them on my day of birth wearing those colors, ... it colored my choice." He grinned. "I believe I made a pun." “Ya did! Congratulations.” He smiled sincerely as he then began to wash the shampoo away. “And we know ya love chocolate…that seems to be a very SID thing. Any other preferences for tastes or clothes ya‟ve discovered? Cars?” "No taste preferences other than chocolate yet. Clothes are the same as theirs but mostly red. As for cars, I have found I enjoy my Porsche best. The others I dumped after trying them." While Curt washed his hair, he washed the man's body with the soapy cloth. “Good taste, that‟s for sure…not that I‟m surprised. Ya all have good taste.” He watched Sidi‟s hands then closed his eyes to enjoy the sensations. “Good…very good…” "It is? Explain." Head cocked again, he continued washing the man, though he paid closer attention now to Curt's reactions, curious about them and making sure to file them all away for further reflection later. “Meant what yare doin‟ is good…soothing…relaxing. Takes away some of the aches…” he murmured softly. “But ya do all have good taste…in cars…in food…in clothes…” The only questionable part was why Sid could possibly love him when he was nothing but trouble. "Comes with being SID, part of Basic." He urged the man up and over the tubside. "He told me where everything was located. Open wide." With a smirk, he inserted that special tubing. Curt shivered and closed his eyes. This hadn‟t been done since Sid‟s death, and whether he wanted it or not, it produced a reaction in his body he hadn‟t expected. “Ya ever done this before?” he whispered, hoping the edge to his voice wasn‟t interpreted as fear. Of course, it would only take one glance between his legs to know it wasn‟t fear. "Not with this body." Warm water was turned on again to enter the other end of the tube. "Fascinating how much subs enjoy this. It was one of his favorite things to do for you each day. The shaving too." “I miss it…” His voice was barely audible. “I miss him.” He hadn‟t actually said those words to anyone since Sid‟s death, and his voice cracked as he spoke them now. “I won‟t fight ya if ya wanna do the shavin‟ too…” "The shaving has nothing to do with bathing. You are clean now of body." He pulled the man back down and worked on washing his hair. "He misses you too. I could tell as he watched you, held your hand, brushed hair from your face over and over and over again during your sickness." “Know it has nothin‟ to do with bathin‟…as for…if he was…wish I coulda…felt it…could know…” He stopped speaking as he relived memories and tried to think of a new one to share with Sidi. "You didn't even know I was here," Sidi chuckled. "Bozo the clown could have been taking care of you and you wouldn't have known the difference." Hair was rinsed and he smiled. "Bath Program over with Sidi6.8? You are pleased now?" “Yeah. And Sidi…it just shows how good ya took care of me…that I was that comfortable.” He smiled sincerely. “Feel better after that bath. Maybe I‟ll use the hot tub later…but not yet. Think I might fall asleep, or pass out in it…and then drowned. Would be a waste of yare time then.” "When you're ready for the hot tub, I'll stand guard," he assured the man and climbed out. "Will you be safe for a moment alone while I shower to wash where you did not want to wash?" Curt flushed and looked down. “Yeah…I‟ll be okay. Wasn‟t that I…I just…did not feel it was allowed…or appropriate…to infringe on somewhere private…without permission.” "So my allowing you to bathe my body, joining you nude in the tub, was not allowance enough? My apologies for not being more clear." He smiled as he handed the man a towel and helped him out. "I'll only be eight point two seconds once the water starts." The shower curtain was pulled that time, not for privacy but in order to keep spraying water from drenching the bathroom floor. It certainly wouldn‟t have been permission enough with Sid…at least not in those first moments of sharing Cleaning. For Sid, touching him there had presented a problem of running two programs at once, cleaning and sex…though maybe that had been because of the unique Bond they shared…a fact of life because it only took the touch of each other‟s hands to ignite something intense…and not a matter of Curt doing anything wrong at all. He supposed he‟d never really know. “Take yare time,” Curt murmured, leaning back to soak the last bit of heat from the water. “I ain‟t goin‟ anywhere.” "Eight point two seconds!" He opened the curtain and took another towel for himself. "Now, would you like to try a bit of food for dinner? If you can keep it down through the night, tomorrow you may wear clothing." Curt contemplated his physical state for a moment then nodded. His stomach did not feel to be in danger of exploding again any time soon and he knew he needed nourishment. “Yeah…food would be good I think. Broth…like ya said…and maybe some bread and butter if we‟ve got it…cravin‟ bread…” Which, he decided, was better then other things he could be craving. "Not a problem." Dry, he dressed back into his suit and helped the man from the bathroom. "Kitchen table or bed?" The broth would get powered vitamins in it, everything Sidi knew a human in Curt's condition needed. “I‟ll try the table…then guess I should change the sheets…” However many days he‟d been out of it, that was a lot of sweat and worse to accumulate in those sheets, though they hadn‟t looked that bad. Sidi could have changed them…but where had Curt been when that had happened? His brow arched a little as he puzzled over that. “Don‟t wanna be a burden…” "You haven't been a burden at all. Sit and eat." Broth was warmed along with bread and butter and set before the man. "The sheets were changed only hours ago, but if you wish to help me, we can do it after the meal. Then, if I were you, I'd try to sleep ... a real sleep this time that your body needs." He nodded. “Can ya…while I sleep…let everyone know…I‟m okay? That this part‟s over…?” He couldn‟t say the worst of it was over. The worst of it would come every time something hurt too much inside, every time he passed the pharmacy counter, every time he looked in the mirror and saw himself alone now. Without Sid, those moments were going to be almost every one, of every day. And those would be much more difficult to face than the days of detox. "I will send the message," Sidi agreed. "Now eat ...slowly." Half of the bowl was eaten, as well as half of the bread and a full glass of water. By then Curt‟s shrunken stomach felt just shy of too full, but mainly he stopped because he was in danger of falling asleep again. “Better call it quits now. That was good. Thanks.” Try to remember please and thank yous. SIDs appreciated those. At least…the other two did. "You're welcome, little one. I think it's bedtime for you." The Crowe lifted the man and carried him to the sofa. "We'll change the sheets tomorrow. They're clean enough. Sleep now." Curt snuggled in to the blankets, his eyes watching Sidi. “I…know ya don‟t sleep…but if ya wanna…share the bed here with me…I‟m okay with that…” What he really wanted was Sid in that bed with him, but having Sidi there meant he wouldn‟t be alone…and maybe he could give Sidi something in return, even if it was only the experience of sharing body warmth in a bed. "Correct. Sidi6.8 does not sleep, but I do enjoy resting in a bed. I was using this one before you came. After you came, I used a chair so that Sid could rest beside you." He climbed in next to the man, fully dressed. "How is your stomach feeling?" “Fine…for the moment…full…though the muscles hurt.” Then the words clicked and he croaked, “He was…here?” Fuck…if that was true…would he be furious at Curt for offering to share the bed with Sidi? Okay, the man was still dressed…but still…and he couldn‟t very well retract the offer. "Yes, he was here as often as it was allowed by whomever was controlling those windows. I'm sure he'll be back as soon as he can. He'll be disappointed he missed your waking ... but I'm sure he'll be quite pleased at your progress." “Please…will ya wake me…if he comes…?” He had to see Sid with his own eyes, but he‟d learned his lesson before. No touching. Sid might touch him, but for Curt to touch was not allowed. "I will. Toodles." Sidi closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he would send those messages. “Thanks…” The hope that Sid would come kept Curt awake longer than he would have been otherwise, but the demands of his body were too great and his eyes eventually closed of their own accord. Some part of him remained restless now, seeking a sign of what he both didn‟t dare believe and yet had to hope for. He‟d be lucky to be very rested at all come morning. Messages were left as promised, and on the third day after the worse of the detox, still no sign of Sid, Sidney arrived with a surprise. Malcolm had come for a visit, though if Curt didn't want to see him, the Crowe would simply bring him back. Curt had given up hope that Sid would come, and no longer fully believed that he had ever been there as Sidi had said. Just words meant to give him hope, meant to give him something to live for…something now taken away again. When Mal stepped into the room, Curt was lying upon the sofa bed, dressed only in shorts, trying to read a book and failing miserably. He scrambled to his knees and caught Mal in an embrace when the smaller man rushed forward. “Fuck…it‟s so good to see ya…” “Curt…yare okay…bloody hell…had us all scared to death…” Little kisses were peppered around Mal‟s face, relief evident in the touches and in his sighs. “Taly? How is he?” “Good. Over being sick now. He‟s considering going into rehab…but he‟s afraid to mention it to Cassidy. Like it‟ll offend him or something. He really sounds like he wants to get himself cleaned up…we just hope he can do it.” Curt nodded and pulled Mal down onto the sofa beside him, just holding him, touching him, kissing him. It wasn‟t sexual, only taken for comfort and reassurance that the man hadn‟t abandoned him as Sid had apparently done. “Me too. Tell him hi for me…and Kai. How‟s she doin‟?” Malcolm chuckled. “Making herself right at home…taking over the kitchen as if she owns it. Fortunately, so far, Cassidy and Draven don‟t seem to object. There are times when she…when I can see it in her face…what she lost that day, learning she‟s not…what she thought she was, but she won‟t talk to me about it.” He shrugged. “And you? Sidney said you‟re doing better?” That was when Curt reached up for Sidney‟s hand with a smile to the Crowe of affection and appreciation. “Thanks, Sidney…yeah…I‟m doin‟ better…physically. Still ache in places…and my head hurts a lot…but that‟ll all pass. Not use to goin‟ off without the methadone…gonna be harder…cause the cravin‟s still come on pretty strong sometimes. Maybe I can do it…” "We all knew you could." He handed Curt messages from friends and family, loved ones who were worried about him and had written their encouragement in letters. Carl's said only, "Get well and get back here. She needs you." He scowled. She needed Carl too…but Curt didn‟t see him taking any such orders to „get back here‟ from anyone else. “She‟s better, isn‟t she? I mean…she shouldn‟t be sick now…hope it wasn‟t too bad for her. How‟s she been?” "I stayed with her during the worse of it," Sidney explained. "She is better .... physically now." Sidi didn't say anything, but after a moment he moved off onto the balcony, pressed one hand to his crotch, and then watched the water, listening to it as Sid and Sidney often did too. It had been far too long since he'd felt pleasure of orgasm. He'd have to take care of it soon. Curt watched Sidi go, aching a little that the SID felt he had to leave them. “But we…Bonded with her. She should be…that is…I dunno what else we can do…” "There is nothing we can do but support her .... and hope that Carl moves back in from where he's living in the woods. He won't listen to reason." Sidney was careful not to look at Malcolm when he said that. Just because he didn't like the man didn't mean he wanted to unduly hurt him. Malcolm didn‟t look up from where Curt had his head pressed into the McGregor‟s neck and shoulder. He was content with what Curt was giving him and thus not paying particular attention to a dialog that no longer included him. “Sounds like some others I know…” Himself included. “Ya‟d think losin‟ one person he loved would be enough to make „im want to hold on to those he still has…but guess I‟m not really one to talk.” He looked out onto the balcony. “Sidi? Ya don‟t have to be out there alone. I wouldn‟t be alive without ya…ya deserve to be in here too.” If Sidi heard, he didn't respond. Using the railing, both hands on top of it, he pressed himself against the wood, almost dully, with little feeling, and continued to stare at the water. "I think he's busy," Sidney snickered. "So, how much more time do you think you'll remain here, Curt? Or, should I say, how much more time before you kick him out and choose to live here again?" “Dunno about livin‟ here yet…cause I think I‟m needed in Havensport…Tigh Ard…and I can‟t fly like some people. As for kickin‟ „im out…” he continued to watch the other Crowe, “I never said anything about that. He needs…” Well, Curt wasn‟t entirely sure what Sidi needed, since the Crowe wouldn‟t speak to him about anything that seemed at all personal. Right now, what he needed, what Curt believed he sensed, was something Curt could give him. He owed him…and the set of Sidi‟s shoulders bothered him. “Scuse me…I‟ll be right back.” He slid off the bed, came up behind Sidi, and wrapped one arm around the man‟s waist. The other hand slid lower over the man‟s groin. With his mouth pressed against Sidi‟s ear, he whispered, “Let me…” "You can try, but I don't think it'll work." The hard shaft was already losing arousal at the touch of the McGregor. "I'm not gay, Curt. I think, as a whole, I'm straight." That was a surprise, which made Curt‟s hand fall away. He stepped back quickly “I…I‟m sorry…not about that…but that I can‟t…” Now he felt like a fool. “I…I‟m…” Not knowing what to say, he clamped his jaw shut and prayed that the ground would open up and swallow him. "Not everything in life is solved by a handjob or can be paid with a handjob," Sidi chuckled and touched the man's chin fondly with a smile. "If you want to do something for me, write me a song when you're feeling artistic again some day. I would love to hear my name immortalized in lyrics by someone I'm not breaking bones to make them do it." “It wasn‟t just…I mean…not just because…I only wanted to…” He put his arms on the railing and dropped his head upon them with a groan. “I will,” he muttered. “Shit.” "Are you feeling ill again?" Concerned, Sidi drew the man closer, sniffing around his face. "There is no reason to be upset that you cannot pleasure me sexually as you do with other males. I can appreciate that you're a fine specimen of human male. But as human male, you simply do not ... float my boat. There is nothing to be sorry for." “Just for makin‟ myself look like a dickhead…for just assumin‟ that ya were like them…that ya‟d even…” Now he really didn‟t know what the other two meant when they said they thought Curt could help Sidi. From what he‟d seen, there was absolutely nothing he had to offer the man. Nothing Sidi wanted from him at all. "You don't look anything like the head of a penis, Curt. As for assuming .... much of my Basic is the same as theirs, much .... but not all." He kissed the man's forehead and then turned him to the door. "Go visit with your sub and your Mate's Twin. I'm quite sure they would love to feel your hands on them." He made it as far as the door before looking back. “Are ya gonna…stay?” Why was it the SIDs sexual orientation threw him so much? He wished he knew. "For now." The smile turned away as Sidi went back to face the river, though this time his groin was still with no thoughts of self-pleasuring to the images of vague female bodies beneath his own. Curt went back inside and flopped himself into a chair, feeling like it was best if he didn‟t touch anyone now. “Gawd…I‟m such a fuck up,” he muttered with disgust. "Go to your Dom," Sidney encouraged Malcolm in a whisper. "He needs you." Mal crawled across the bed, not really sure that he was what Curt wanted or needed right now. He slid of the end of the bed and across the floor to press his face to Curt‟s knee. “Wouldn‟t touch me, if I were you. Whatever I have that fucks everything up might be contagious.” “I doubt that…” “I don‟t,” Curt spat, angry only at himself. It was only because he recognized that, that Mal felt safe to remain where he was, though his eyes kept flashing to Sidney. "I do." Sidney got up to get himself a glass of chocolate milk. "Either of you two want something? It's getting late. I can make you dinner before bed?" Mal lifted his head then, seeking permission. It was Curt‟s house after all. He wasn‟t just going to make himself at home without Curt‟s say so. “Curt?” “Have whatever ya want…whatever there is. I don‟t want anything.” Except maybe a bullet to the head, he thought with a grunt. He wondered if Sidney knew…and just hadn‟t bothered to tell Curt…to see if he could embarrass himself completely. Sidney wouldn‟t do that to him…right now…would he? “Any beer in there?” Mal asked. The SID peeked over the top of the open fridge door and shook his head. "No alcohol. Sidi probably moved it all out the first night Curt was here. I'll make grilled cheese sandwiches. They're light." "I'll help," Sidi offered, coming in off the balcolny. "Allow the two lovers a chance to reunite in private, eh?" "Agreed." They went to work, conversing softly between themselves in that kitchen. Not in the mood to be anyone‟s lover now, Curt contented himself with toying with Mal‟s short hair. Fortunately they hadn‟t shaved it completely. Malcolm stayed where he was, quiet, letting Curt do as he wished. “Kinda miss the long hair…but ya look good…” “You think so?” Mal asked, looking up again with a smile. “Kinda messes up the stage show…but could use a revamping anyhow I suppose. That is…if there ever is a stage show again…” Curt kissed the top of his head. “There will be. Taly will get back on his feet…and I‟ll give ya all any help I can…though I understand if ya don‟t want it now.” “I do. This mess aside…you‟re the best thing to happen to Delilah. We‟d be crazy to walk away from that.” “We‟ll see,” Curt murmured, pulling Mal onto his lap where he could hold him. That‟s all he wanted right now. All he needed. "Dinner time." The two SIDs brought in a sandwich for each man and a bottle of water, setting them on a tray on the bed. "Enjoy." Then they went out on the balcony and continued their conversation, closing the door behind them. “What‟s with them?” Mal asked, breaking a bit of sandwich off and holding it to Curt‟s mouth. Curt shrugged. “How the fuck should I know. Probably out there having a good laugh at my expense…or expectin‟ me to fuck yare brains out…” “Do you want to?” One eyebrow shot up. “Is that an invitation?” Malcolm‟s expression became coy and evasive. “It was a question.” “Before that…fuck up…I‟d have said yes. Right now…I feel pretty disgusting and stupid.” “You‟re neither of those things,” Mal said, feeding Curt a second bite. “But just know…I‟m here for you. Missed you…and want you to be better…happy…” He was never going to be happy, but he appreciated what Mal was saying. So many wanted him to live because others needed him. But it often felt to Curt like his happiness wasn‟t of any consequence as long as he survived for others. Inside, he knew that might not be true…but it was what he felt. Since his appetite was still small he only ate part of the offered sandwich; Mal ate the rest. Feeling the unreleased tension in Curt, Mal kept trying to reach him, teasing him with bits of food, with the way he drank, with small wiggles on the man‟s lap. When Curt eventually excused himself to the bathroom, a place where he now wouldn‟t feel comfortable seeking help from a man probably repulsed by the physical contact with Curt‟s nudity, Mal shed his clothing and lay beneath the blankets on the sofa bed. He didn‟t think he‟d have the chance to remain here overnight, but maybe just a few minutes wrapped round Curt would give him…something…he needed to carry on for a few more days. When Curt saw him there, he smirked. “Thought ya said it wasn‟t an invitation…” “If you don‟t want me in your bed, just say so. I just thought you could use a little friendly warmth and affection…nothing more has to happen.” Curt dropped his shorts with a chuckle. “Yare full of shit, ya know that?” he asked as he wiggled under the blankets behind him. “Not all I‟m full of,” he grinned, grabbing the man‟s hand and wrapping it around his shaft. “So I see. Suppose you want me to take care of that.” “S‟up to you.” Mal‟s words were cut off in a kiss as their bodies were pressed close together. It was a long, hungry kiss, as their bodies rolled and writhed on the bed, manhoods grinding and thrusting together harder, faster…until both men gained the physical release they sought in the other‟s arms. Then Curt fell asleep, holding Mal still, feeling grateful that there was at least one person in the world who didn‟t make him feel like a failure, an idiot, and a loser. "Look what you did," Sidney growled at Sidi from below the two men on the second level. "You heard him. Before what he thinks is fuckup he would have fucked Malcolm's brains out ... and instead they do what? Roll around in bed and cum. Big deal." "It wasn't a fuckup," Sidi protested. "How the hell was I supposed to know he'd use my sexual orientation and twist it around against me and then not fuck his own sub because of it." "You have to fix it." "Fine. I will." Sidi took a moment of inner collapse, eyes deadening, then he came back, alive again but with a scowl. "Fixed. I'll go upstairs and let him jerk me off, make him happy again, and then maybe he'll do what he'd wanted to do, what he'd said he would have done, before he thought he'd fucked up. No wonder Sid's dead. The McGregor probably made him run Do Overs all the time." He left Sidney, took a deep breath, stepped into the living room again, and pulled Curt out of the bed, carrying him to the balcony. “What the fuck?” Curt muttered, half awake, not sure what was happening. "I changed my mind," Sidi grunted, setting the man down on a table on that balcony. "Help me." He turned his back to the man and wiggled until he was between Curt's legs. "Like you were going to do before." Curt stared at him, then slowly shook his head. “No. I dunno what this is about…but ya made yare preference clear before. Ya can make me…if ya want…but the honorable thing to do is to respect yare preferences.” It was hard to say, to turn down the opportunity to pleasure a SID…but Curt honestly felt it was the right thing to do. "I believe," Sidi sighed, "that I told you ... I THINK ... not that I am sure. Now I have thought some more. Please help me." “So ya want me to be some sort of guinea pig…a test?” Something still didn‟t feel right to Curt. “And what did ya think? Why did ya really change yare mind? Honestly?” "I have need. Please help me." He wiggled back further, turned his head a bit, and kissed Curt softly under the chin, adding a touch of tongue to that flesh too. “Sidi…please…” Curt pressed his hands to both sides of the man‟s face. “I‟ve been fucked by, blown, given hand jobs…to a lot of men in my life. I can‟t ever recall one of them sayin‟ he was straight…with the conviction I saw and felt in ya…and then had him change his mind. I accept that I made a mistake before…yeah, it made me feel like an idiot…but that doesn‟t mean ya have to somehow change yareself to make me feel differently. All responsible for ourselves…our own feelin‟s. Ya were honest with me…and that‟s cool.” "I said," Sidi repeated and dropped his pants to show an erection. "That I THINK .... That is not conviction. Will you PLEASE help me?" No matter what the Crowe thought, it wasn‟t going to change anything between Curt and Mal…and Curt still believed that this was not right. He sighed and nodded, giving in before he made the SID angry. “What sorta help do ya want?” he murmured, head bowed in submission. "Whatever you were going to do before ... it would have been nice." Would have been nice? When the man had instantly lost arousal at Curt‟s touch? His head shook a little and his eyes closed. But if Sidi wanted what Curt had been going to do before, that was what Curt would do. He moved to stand behind the SID, arm around him as it had been, his hand upon the man‟s shaft. “If ya want somethin‟ specific…let me know…” "Mmmmm..... do what feels good," he groaned at the touch this time, shivering against the man as his own eyes closed with a smile. “Want what feels good for you…s‟the whole point of this.” Pleasuring another. It was the whole point. Curt had offered before, as a concerned friend, not because he stood to gain anything out of it personally. He still wasn‟t seeking personal gain or pleasure…beyond that of helping someone he considered a friend. "Sidi6.8 wants to orgasm with Curt Wild." He turned to face the man and kissed him for the first time in a real kiss, a deep kiss, that may not have held love, but it at least held warmth. When he could breathe again, Curt murmured, “Why?” Not that he was really expecting an answer. People who got involved with Curt tended to end up very badly. He didn‟t want that for Sidi too. “Ya don‟t want me…ya don‟t…” Neither, he mused, did Sidney. Sidney had John, had many others. Sidi wasn‟t even bi-sexual it seemed. To them, Curt was a charity case. It brought tears to his eyes, but he didn‟t stop moving his hand, or the kissing. Not their fault. Push the feelings away. Concentrate. "Of course I do. You're a very attractive male," he murmured in that kiss as hands went through that hair. "Sex with you is very, very, very nice." He groaned again, feeling his scrotum tighten in that familiar way under the McGregor's hands. “Yave never had sex with me,” Curt chuckled. “At least…not before now.” He didn‟t ask if there had been others to compare it with. He didn‟t really want to know. He took a gamble and moved his mouth down to the man‟s throat. Sidi wouldn‟t react like Sid, but as Sidney‟s neck was a weak spot too, at least with John, maybe there was a similar erogenous zone on Sidi‟s neck too. Meanwhile he moved his hand to include nails lightly in his stroking to add a tiny bit of pain…to see if that was acceptable as well. It was acceptable enough that Sidi hissed loudly in pleasure, stiffened, hands gripping in that blonde hair, then released as his body relaxed, covering Curt's hand in seed. Automatically, running most programs like a human, like SID usually did, he gasped, taking in air with a smile. "Like I said. Very nice. Thank you, little one, for your help." “Yare welcome,” he murmured, staring at his hand. There were mixed feelings about this, but if Sidi was happy…or happier…wasn‟t that all that mattered? “Where ya stayin‟ tonight?” "Below with Sidney to give you and your sub all the privacy you need." His lips took Curt's again in another deep kiss, just as warm as the first one. After the kiss broke, Curt whispered, “Good…cause…there‟s extra rooms down there…and even if…when…me and the boys move back here…I want ya to know yare welcome to stay here…use one of „em as yares…if ya want. For as long as ya need a home.” Sid had, supposedly, given Sidi permission to stay here. Surely he wouldn‟t object to a similar offer from Curt to Sidi. “We all need homes…I don‟t want ya havin‟ to live in a sewer anymore…okay?” "We'll see. Thank you for the offer." He stepped back, ruffled the man's hair with a wink, and fixed his pants. "If you can see your way back to your sub ... Toodles." “Yeah…I‟ll manage. Goodnight, Sidi.” He stumbled back into the dark house by the light of the numbers on the microwave and those that blinked on the front of the computers that were always on, and dropped into bed beside Mal, making sure to ingest every bit of seed upon his hand first. “Everything okay?” Mal murmured sleepily, turning in to Curt‟s body. The McGregor embraced him wearily. “I dunno. I honestly dunno.” “Sleep. Thing‟s‟ll seem better in the morning. And maybe, if you‟re lucky, you‟ll have that chance to fuck me…” Curt chuckled and hugged him tight. “Yeah…maybe I will.” Sidney took one look at Sidi when the Crowe re-entered the lower level, smiled sympathetically, nodded gratefully, and closed his eyes again for his Sleep Program. Sidi closed his own eyes too, not saying a word about it again. Curt awoke again before dawn, the pressure in his groin that had begun when he‟d pleasured Sidi, but that he had ignored then as unimportant, finally coming to a head and demanding release. He hadn‟t slept well because of it, nor had Mal, since the McGregor spent a great deal of the night thrusting his swollen shaft against whatever part of Malcolm‟s body he could come in contact with. Finally it found a home, nestled into the smaller man‟s body, with the two men side by side. After a long while of gentle thrusts in that position, Curt had Mal stomach down into the mattress, thrusting in a frustrated rhythm, until both men released, on into the sheets, the other into the tight passage that welcomed him. Afterwards, Curt rolled back onto his side, pulling Malcolm with him, their bodies still joined…and held him tighter then he ever had before. What was going on in his heart and head, he would never talk about to anyone. And Malcolm was wise enough not to ask, just to accept what Curt gave him…and give what Curt needed. At the scent of intercourse sex, both SIDs "woke" and smiled with relief at each other. The guilt of Sidi's "fuckup" of honesty was gone now. He could go back to being straight like he wanted, knowing that he hadn't inadvertently kept Curt Wild from relaxing and finding ultimate pleasure of joining with his sub. While Sidney continued to half-listen, Sidi took a shower, a longer shower than normal this time to scrub his groin over and over, and then brushed his teeth, rinsing and gargling many times with mouthwash until he was finally satisfied. Sidney took his shower after Sidi was finished, then the two sat by a window and watched the sun rise together, smiling at the new day coming and each hoping that it would be the day that Sid was able to return. "Mate." The halfling appeared by the bed, looking down at the joined men as rays of dawning sunlight sparkled behind him. The presence and sound of that voice made Curt turn to him instantly towards it and open his eyes. “Sid? Is it really…you?” If he ever learned of Sidi‟s reaction to his touch, he‟d probably go right back on the drugs, feeling dirtier then he‟d ever felt. "Yes." In the staircase behind them, two other SIDs showed up at sensing his presence too. His hand reached for the Crowe but stopped short of touching him. “Ya really…came…” Now that the other SIDs had arrived, Curt wasn‟t even sure Sid had come to see him. They had said he‟d been to see them several times, but supposedly only to see Curt when he was sleeping. “It‟s…great…to see ya…” he said with a smile. "Indeed." He took the hand in his, pressing it gently between his palm. A single look had been given to Malcolm, noting how the two men were connected in the bed, but after that he didn't look again at the man, only at Curt, and he also ignored his Twins ... though that had nothing to do with dislike. As soon Sid had come, and Mal had noticed his presence, he‟d moved to the edge of the bed. He understood his place in Curt‟s life, even if he didn‟t understand the relationship between Curt and the Crowe yet. “How…are ya? Sidi said…ya‟ve been here to see me before? I‟m sorry…I missed ya…” It was probably his fault that Sid hadn‟t come when he‟d been conscious. He probably wasn‟t worth seeing before. “Ya still look great…missed ya so much.” "Not your fault. You were very ill. I was pleased to help my Twin in your recovery. I am only sorry I had to be away when you woke, that I missed it and could only come back now." He squeezed that hand again. “Gonna go outside for a cigarette,” Mal murmured, more to Curt than to anyone else. “Will be back in awhile.” Curt looked up from the hand in his after squeezing it back. “Kay, Mal…” He smiled but his attention went right back to Sid. He wasn‟t attempting to be rude and Malcolm understood that. It wasn‟t every day a man came back from the dead to visit you after all. Mal reached for the closest thing he could find to wear, Curt‟s shorts, took his cigarette‟s out of his shirt pocket, and started for the balcony door. If Sid had any feelings about that, Malcolm wearing Curt's clothing, sleeping with Curt in the Sharehome, he didn't let it show on his face. It was as if the Molko clone didn't exist to him, and other than seeing him as Curt's necessary sub, he didn't exist to Sidney either. Sidi, however, had less reason to dislike the man. He chose to follow him outside. "Show me how to smoke." “Curt said once it won‟t kill you,” Mal said with a grin, “so here…I‟ll show you.” That coldness in Sid hurt Curt, but he tried to cover it up. He wanted to talk to Mate, share everything with him, but he didn‟t believe Sid cared to hear any of it. Why would he, when so much of Curt‟s life of late had been Delilah…and thus connected to Malcolm. And he was afraid to touch him any further, for fear of driving him away. If Sid touched him, it was allowed. Curt touching in return was not. “Sorry if I‟m starin‟…” he murmured. “It‟s just…seems like forever…I just can‟t get enough. Expect any moment now I‟ll open my eyes and find this is all a dream.” "Does it feel like a dream? I'm very solid now because of these horns. You can touch me and see as much as you want." Curt‟s surprise was obvious. “Yeah…it feels like a dream…cause the de…they don‟t just…much as I want? Like…back for good?” He already knew the answer to that. "Unfortunately, no. Each window-time is limited, controlled by one of the two. And my judgment for eternity is to spend time being tortured in hell with one weekend off a month in heaven. Why the two insist on giving me special dispensation for these visits, I do not know. I am only grateful to have them." He sat on the edge of the bed, carefully keeping his body from going anywhere Malcolm had been. "I am only grateful to see you getting well again. I helped as much as I could, I'm sorry it couldn't be more." So it wasn‟t as much as he wanted. No surprise. “S‟okay…I understand.” He did…but he didn‟t like it. “Still dunno…sometimes…why I‟m doin‟ it…and I don‟t think…sometimes…that it‟s gonna work. But I‟m tryin‟. Sure it‟ll be great for everyone else. Not so sure it‟ll be good for me.” He glanced towards the bathroom. “I‟d shower for ya…but I suspect ya‟d be gone by the time I came back.” "Perhaps. I never know until I feel the .. the ... pull. As for why you are doing it, you are keeping your Promise to me to live. By no longer using drugs, you will live .. and in living, perhaps you will find love again. I do not want you to be alone, Mate." Curt shook his head. He wasn‟t going to find it again because he wasn‟t going to look. He didn‟t want that, and since no one could ever replace Sid in his heart, he would be content with what he had now. He had to be. There was never going to be anything else. “Not alone,” he whispered. And yeah, he made that promise…but it was to make Sid happy. He‟d live to make others happy…Tam, his family, Sidney, his twins, the boys, even Mal and Sidi. But Curt was never going to live for himself now. His entire life was going to be simply so that others could be happy. His happiness was gone…and like the others was more concerned about him living then him being happy. Or so it felt. "Indeed." He looked at the other side of the bed with a twist of his lips. "So long as he treats you well." Since he hadn‟t meant just Mal, Curt said, “They all do…even Carl, amazingly enough.” He shook his head, saddened by that situation, and glanced up at Sidney who was still there but hadn‟t said a word. “We did our best to keep him from dyin‟…though like me…I think he wonders why we bothered.” "Yes. He is quite stubborn. He will not listen even to me. I'm not sure ..... what we saw .... will ever come to pass now. But we shall see." “It can‟t…and ya know it.” What they‟d seen had been a five point power star…and one point was forever out of their reach. That spot would always be empty. Fearfully, worried that Sid would scold him again, would pull away, Curt brought the man‟s hands to his lips and kissed them both with a small sob. “S‟all hopeless.” "I'm beginning to think so too," he sighed, leaning forward to press his forehead to Curt's. "And the vision... it seemed so right, so Perfect .... and still possible even after my death. I'm sorry there's nothing I can do to change his mind. I cannot even control my own life anymore. I am ... their puppet." That forehead pressed to his made Curt shift to press his face to the Crowe‟s, where he breathed deeply. “All puppets…” Of course, that‟s how he‟d felt his whole life, unable to control anything until Sid had come into his life. Then he‟d lost that feeling again later. He wanted it back so badly it hurt. “Ya smell…so real…so…good…” he purred roughly. Sid couldn't say it back and be honest, not with the scent of the Molko all over the man. "He gave me a gift. I am capable of Mount now. It was not possible when you tried before. It is now." “I didn‟t try before. I just needed to touch ya…feel ya…to be sure ya were real. Was all I was tryin‟ to do.” He blinked away tears. There was one barrier to anything right now, and Curt knew it, but how to overcome it. “Ya could…bathe me…if ya want…” "You felt me in a place not allowed then. You didn't know it. Not your fault. Wilds always go for the extreme. It would have been humorous if it hadn't made me so sad." He moved his other hand through Curt's hair. "Why would I spend time bathing you when I could be called away at any moment?" He wasn't about to say anything about the scent on the man. It was part of Curt's life now, and Sid accepted it .. by ignoring it as much as he could. He almost opened his mouth to make a joke about how bathing would be better than fighting or worse…but he doubted Sid would see it as a joke and would instead assume Curt thought they were fighting now. Sid didn‟t have to say anything about scents. Curt knew it would bother the Crowe‟s senses. And hence it bothered Curt too. He lowered his gaze coyly and asked, “Then what do ya wanna spend time doing…?” As much as he wanted something sexual, he would be just as happy to just touch and be touched, hold and be held, even without talking "Loving you....." He lowered his head more, deliberately rubbing warm horns against Curt's cheek with a moan. “May I…touch them?” Curt whispered. Judging by the way Sid was rubbing them upon him, they were sensitive, and it made Curt curious about what would happen if he touched there…maybe even sucked upon them. "Yesssssss......" The Crowe concentrated for a moment and that white suit disappeared, leaving him nude on the edge of the bed, his tail thrashing with rising arousal, horns warming with it, and his wings trembling, shifting open and closed behind him. "Ugly," he sighed, "but feels sooooo gooooood....." Anyone else who happened to be in the room was forgotten. First his fingers traced up to the tip of one horn, and then his hand closed around it as if around the man‟s shaft, moving up and down the length of it. Rather than drive the man into sensory overload as he seemed prone to doing, Curt waited to analyze those reactions before he did anything more, although his other hand was petting through feathered wings. “Beautiful. Never ugly. Ya could never be ugly. Ever.” The hand on his wings made them billow out far, fanning wide from his body as they shivered in delight. The one on his horn brought a spark of static heat between mortal and dead flesh and a loud moan from the SID. His tail began to whip frantically, then pulsing with sudden heat of its own it dove between Curt's legs, impaling the man as it wormed its way up bowels, expanding until he was filled as much as if it were Sid's arm in there, the man fisting him as they'd done in the past. “Oh…gawd!” he gasped, frozen for a moment at the unexpected sensations engulfing his body. The decision to go slow, to bypass sensory overload was tossed right out the window as his mouth closed around the second horn and sucked just as he would have on the Crowe‟s shaft. The hand not on the other horn alternated between feathers, tale, and the Crowe‟s cock and balls while all the while Curt trembled almost violently with pleasure. And Sid fucked him with that tail, a desperate fucking over the man's prostate and deep in that stretched passage as horns grew warmer and warmer and wings lifted them both into the air. The horns weren't just warming, they were almost melting though not actually losing form. The essense within them eased down Curt's throat, and feeling it happening, Sid growled with those moans, speeding the thrusts of his tail to bring Mate to climax with him. At the balcony door, Malcolm watched with amazement, knowing he had never seen, and would never see, anything like this in his life. Whatever was between those two, whatever Bond had united them, was enough to bring Sid back, at least for this joining. It filled the room, filled the early morning around them, with something that Mal could feel on his skin. Something that made him ache with jealousy because he would likely never know that deep attachment to another person. In that silent voice that only Sid…and possibly the other two Crowes, would hear, Curt screamed, “BABY!” just seconds before his climax burst from his soul and out of his body, bringing with it a sound that no other person was able to pull from him. It was all Sid‟s. Just as Curt was. Unlike with Carl, Sid's orgasm was four-fold with Mate. He knew the horns were sensitive, but he hadn't realized his tail was too, and his wings .. but apparently only when touched or touching Mate's body. Horns orgasmed in a bright sparking of Power that filled the room, his thrusting tail pulsed out the same horn-essence from it into Curt's body, his wings went rigid in the air and more than a few now wet feathers fell to the floor and bed, and his shaft burst in seed ... which was actually the same as the other three fluids. Sid6.7 had three new erogenous zones that climaxed with SID-semen, and two of them were only for Mate. Clinging to Sid, Curt couldn‟t help but mutter, “Holy shit,” into the man‟s hair. He was completely dumbfounded by that experience, as well as exhausted. But he was also something else. Alive inside, in a way he hadn‟t been in weeks. Halo so bright with a golden glow then it filled the room with light in every corner, a heaving halfling lowered them to the side of the bed to continue lying upon the man's body but now on a mattress of foam and not air. His tail pulled out with an audible pop, and it made Sid giggle as he brought it up near their faces to examine the red and very wet flesh. "Strange. I had no desire to fuck Carl with it, but the moment I wanted to fuck my Mate, I couldn't keep it from going between your legs .. and the feathers too. My wings. They only appear to react to Mate." “Yave already…with…first…?” Curt didn‟t try to hide what he couldn‟t, but he dropped the subject abruptly. Why had Sid felt the need to ruin a perfectly good moment by mentioning fucking someone else? Didn‟t he know that was rude and hurtful? Curt didn‟t withdraw from him, however, his need for closeness overriding his pain. "It was not planned ... and this was SO much better." He was complimenting Mate, proud that his new body only reacted in certain ways with Curt and wanting Curt to know that joy too. Sid thought it was wonderful and definitely worth Sharing. He moved the end of the tail to his mouth and tentatively touched his tongue to it. "Affirmative as I suspected. Semen just as if it came from my manhood and horns." It did help Curt‟s ego…after the sting wore off. Rubbing his face in the Crowe‟s hair, he rumbled, “I‟m glad it‟s with me…that yare with me…that we could…share this. Thank you…I love you…” "Clean it." That tail smacked over Curt's mouth. The smack caught Curt off guard and his eyes went wide. Then he did more than just clean it. He made love to that interesting organ with his mouth, his eyes never leaving Sid‟s face. Licking, sucking, kissing, raking with teeth, using both hands to stroke up and down the length of it that he could not take into his throat. Wings started to fan out again, horns started to warm again, then Curt's legs went high in the air, spread wide at the ankles by two tightly gripping hands, and Sid's shaft was in him, doubling the man almost in half as he plundered that wet hole with one protrusion from his body and the other plundered Curt's mouth. It didn‟t matter that he‟d just cum. It didn‟t matter that there wasn‟t any direct stimulation to his own manhood. This was Mate, and the fire on his belly was glowing hot, spreading into his groin, pushing him towards a second release as soon as Sid gave the signal. Folding down, caressing, wings enveloped Curt on both sides, stroking his heating body with their own wet warmth, almost cocooning him during that lovemaking. A bellow hit the air of Sid's scream, "MINE," then one hand reached down, tugged hard on Curt's shaft, and his own shot again along with horns, tail and more seed-soaked feathers falling away. He started to cry. Taking that hand upon him as his signal, Curt‟s release joined Sid‟s, and when he‟d swallowed everything he could get from that unusual appendage in his mouth, he released it and pulled the Crowe into his arms. “Love you…always. My Mate. Mine. Only.” And he was. In Curt‟s heart there would never be anyone else in the way Sid was there. Sidney, Mal…even Tamara and Carl. None of them could come close to touching the part of his heart that Sid owned fully. “Yares.” A window opened behind him, and Sid looked up with a new desperation in his damp eyes. "I love you, Mate. Please don't die. You won't like it, and there's no guarantee we'd get to be together. No guarantee we'd ever have this again." No guarantee they would anyhow, and Curt knew that. Maybe he was still dreaming. But he didn‟t think so. Not any more. “Think of me,” he murmured, “and know I‟m always thinkin‟ of ya…even when it may not appear that way. Yare always in my heart…on my mind. Always…love you…” "JUST DON'T DO DRUGS AGAIN, YOU LITTLE SHIT!" Sid roared as the force pulled him away into eternity and the window closed. It was what he'd wanted to yell at the man the moment he'd seen it first hand weeks ago, the reason he'd avoided visiting him again for so long, a SID consumed with insane rage that Mate was using again and risking death and breaking of Promise. As Curt had told Sidney the first time they‟d met again, when Sidney had seen evidence of his drug use, Curt had known it wasn‟t going to kill him. He‟d had to hit bottom before he could drag himself up again and start over. He‟d believed he would live. And he had. If he could manage it, he wasn‟t going to fall this time. Even if it meant living a joyless, sterile, existence. “I…love…you…” he whimpered, before sinking down onto the bed, shell-shocked. The cigarette in Sidi's hand was squashed between his fingers as both SIDs moved as one to that bed. They weren't shell-shocked, but they were very surprised. For the time being, Malcolm came inside but hung back. This was something he couldn‟t help with, he sensed. This was Curt and SID and thus only SIDs seemed likely to be able to help him. If he saw even the slightest need for him, however, Mal would be right there. Curt wrapped his arms around himself, touching spots damp with seed. No dream. He glanced around the room, red feathers everywhere, and his eyes met Mal‟s. The Molko nodded. That was something he could do. "Don't touch them," Sidney snarled, hackles truly rising for the first time at Malcolm. "I'll do it." Sidi pulled a light blanket up over Curt as Sidney grabbed every feather he could find on that bed and then moved to the floor to get those too. "Drink something," the red-suited Crowe ordered, holding water under Curt's mouth. "You don't want to get dehydrated from those intense Mountings with Mate." Curt almost snapped at Sidney. It had been Curt‟s unspoken suggestion to Mal that hand made the man act. If anyone deserved to be snarled at, it was Curt, not Mal. He took the water bottle out of Sidi‟s hand, and said, “If he‟s not good enough to gather those for me…then no one should but me,” he said in a low voice. “Ya think he‟s gonna defile „em somehow…then no one should touch „em but ME.” “S‟okay, Curt,” Malcolm murmured, backing up into the kitchen. “No. It‟s not. You are not a leper. The error here was mine…not yares…and I don‟t like having my friends snarled at for my mistakes.” He looked at Sidney, doing his best to keep his emotion out of his voice. It was hard, as close to the surface as so many emotions were right then, but he managed. “Ya wanna snarl? Snarl at me for not thinkin‟…in my daze. He only wanted to help. He couldn‟t know.” "You are not supposed to be thinking," Sidney smiled back at the man as he placed all the feathers in a pillow case and handed them to Curt. "You're supposed to be recovering ... and now bathing in the love of your Mate who honored you today. You have thirty minutes more with your sub, then I am flying back to Havensport with him." Which was exactly what he had been doing…until Sidney went ballistic. Next they were going to be telling him how to dress, what to eat, how to think, when to piss. “I‟ll rent a car and drive myself back,” Malcolm said. Any friendship he‟d felt towards Sidney had dimmed. It was as Curt said. And after that snarl, Mal wasn‟t sure he trusted Sidney to get him back to Havensport alive and in one piece. Curt started to say something, to beg him not to go, but Mal‟s eyes were set. Sidney had chased Mal away. Curt had lost him. He lowered his gaze and curled up into a ball. As Sidney had never felt friendship towards the Molko, only acceptance of him as a sub for Curt, he shrugged. No hatred, not from Sid, Sidney or Carl ... just acceptance from two out of three. It wasn't at all as Curt had said. Sidi shrugged too, though he'd wanted to speak longer with Sidney about the fact that they knew Curt Wild wanted to be told how to dress, what to eat and when to piss again by a SID.... and when to begin it with the man now that his recovery was progressing. Perhaps later they would work out those details. Sidi felt he knew Curt as well as Sid had, from that mind-reading, but it was Sidney who had true friendship with Curt, not Sidi, so it was he would make those decisions most about Curt's further emotional needs. One Crowe moved into the kitchen to make breakfast as the other turned on the television, though low in case Curt wanted to sleep. As far as Curt was concerned, Sidney had ruined everything. He watched Mal dress and knew he‟d lost him. Not a sub any longer, and maybe not even a friend…or musical partner. In his anger, Curt felt that Sidney had just ruined Curt‟s life, taken away what little bit of good he‟d found in the world. Right then and there, Curt felt as if he‟d be damned if he was going to listen to anything that Crowe had to say ever again. Of course, he knew once the anger had passed, that would change. Dressed now, Malcolm leaned down and kissed Curt‟s head. “I just…can‟t do this…” he whispered, and then left the Loft, not intending to ever look back. He knew what he should do next. The only thing he could do. But first he had to go to Havensport one more time. As Sidney would have reacted that way if anyone else had tried to touch those feathers, anyone, even Sidi, he saw nothing wrong, and neither did Sidi. They continued with breakfast and watching the news in quiet, each smiling at Curt and feeling good about everything. Curt rolled away and closed his eyes. He wasn‟t going to eat again. Ever. At least not anything cooked by Sidney. He was furious, and the fact that Sidney didn‟t seem to care only made him more so. He was more than a little tempted to scream at the man to get out of his house and never come back. But he didn‟t. He didn‟t really want the Crowe out of his life. He needed him. Loved him. Depended on him But at the moment he felt that there was no way in hell he was going to share First with that Crowe. Sidney had it. Sidney could keep it. At least until Curt decided to come home and pick up his family position as he knew he should. Oblivious, because he'd done nothing he wouldn't have done with anyone else, a simple SID snarl of, "don't touch them", Sidney sat back on the bed and smiled at the man. He and Sidi knew that everything was good, though why Malcolm would want to drive when Sidney had said he would fly him made no sense to them. Curt didn‟t move. He was shaking with rage, and with emotion from seeing Sid, and losing Mal on top of it. He was ready to snap. It would be better if he were just left alone…to find some way out of this hell he suddenly felt he was in. "Breakfast's ready!" Sidi chirped from the kitchen. "Don't forget the chocolate milk," Sidney giggled. “Not hungry,” he muttered. "Not surprised," Sidney giggled again as Sidi brought in the tray and the two Crowes started to eat. Curt did his best to ignore them, as they were seemed to be ignoring him. He was beginning to feel more than anger, eating him from the inside out. If he couldn‟t contain it, something very bad was going to happen. Most likely to him. He wondered if getting himself murdered by a SID would count as killing himself. "Looks like you missed one." Automatically, Sidi started to reach to the feather that had landed on a chair when Sidney's hackles instinctively went right back up again, the same exact snarl coming of, "Don't touch it." "Right." Sidi's hand fell back to his side. "Sorry. I knew that, no one but Bonded-Twin and Mate. Wasn't thinking." He watched calmly, going back to his eating as Sidney got off the bed and picked up the feather, handing it to Curt with a smile. "He will be pleased you and I are collecting them. Just be sure the next time, if I'm not there to protect for him, to not let anyone else touch but you. No one." There had been nothing ballistic about Sidney's reactions either time. It had been simple 6.7 instincts in knowing what his Twin wanted. He'd had no reason to have expected his beloved close friend and fellow First to so mistrust him, then start immediately despising and blaming him just because the Molko chose to drive instead of taking his offer for flight travel. Sidney had faith in his relationship and friendship with Curt. He knew the man trusted and loved him dearly. That nothing could possibly change that after everything they'd been through together. “Won‟t be anyone else,” Curt grunted. “He‟s gone.” "Okay. Shame. He made a nice sub for you." “Yeah…he did…until ya scared the shit out of him. Now he‟s afraid to come anywhere near me…and I don‟t blame him.” "I didn't touch him," Sidney giggled and went back to eating. That giggle made Curt swing out of bed abruptly, before he swung and hit the man. “Ya didn‟t have to! Ya snarled at him like he was some sorta…criminal or somethin‟. Now he sees what I see…that ya don‟t like him and don‟t want him around me. Not good enough for ya…so ya had to scare „im away.” “I did nothing of the sort. Call him on his cell phone and tell him if you want." An emotional mess now, Curt sank down to the floor and choked, “He‟ll think I‟m just desperate. No reason to believe me…doesn‟t know SIDs…scared now…” In his state, he couldn‟t even remember Mal‟s phone number. “Gone…Just like…always leavin‟…always alone…” "Then he didn't truly care about you, did he?" Sidney moved to the floor to wrap arms around the man and kiss his hair. "A man that could leave that easily may not be the kind of man you want, but if you want him, just tell him the truth as you most certainly know it. There is no not wanting him around, there is no not good enough, and there is no trying to scare him away. You know this ... so tell him. If he does not believe you, but has believed you about other things, then that tells you something about his character that you may want to reconsider on your own end." “He‟s not like that! He‟s just…he‟s…scared.” Curt couldn‟t blame him for that. One who didn‟t know SIDs could be scared easily. SIDs lived for that. “Can‟t…tell him. Can‟t…call him…yave won.” "Won what? I was not trying to win anything? Was there a contest I was unaware of going on?" Curt nodded forlornly. “Contest of who gets to have say in my life and who doesn‟t…who gets to influence me and who doesn‟t. Who gets to affect me bein‟ happy or not…and who doesn‟t.” He snorted and impulsively began scratching his nails over the veins on his wrist hard enough to cause welts but not hard enough, yet, to break the skin. “Ya won. Yare all that‟s left…just like ya wanted.” Always seeking to put down any non-submissive tendencies in him, that‟s what it was. Break him, make him a mindless slave with no strength or will at all. That‟s what they wanted. Maybe it wasn‟t true…but it was how it felt, what it looked like to him right then. "Is he always like that?" Sidi asked. "Unfortunately ... quite often," Sidney sighed. "He does not listen to words and prefers to spiral into martyrdom. Quite exhausting, isn't it? It is almost as if his ears are malfunctioning. I can repeat the same thing over and over and over again ... and he still doesn't hear it." "Fascinating ..... and it certainly shows something, doesn't it?" "Yes ... unfortunately ... it does." Sid's death. "Call him." He plopped a cell phone into Curt's lap. "You say you can't, but there is nothing wrong with your fingers and your mouth, only with your ears. Hit number 4. I have him on speed dial." Curt shot them both a cold glare. He heard just fine. It was his seeming inability to shed dark emotions without letting them escape him that kept the words from taking root. Seeds couldn‟t grow on rocky soil full of thorns. They needed fertile ground to grow. To Curt, his whole life was nothing but rocks and thorns. Afraid of the results, Curt hit four, brought the phone to his ear, and listened to it ring. It could also be heard ringing at the top of the stairwell, though it wasn‟t answered. The man sitting at the bottom of the stairs with his knees pulled up and his head down upon them also heard it. Mal hadn‟t wanted to leave, and was actually hoping that Sidney would leave so that he could go back upstairs to be with Curt. He looked up towards the ringing sound, wondered if he should get it, then concluded that if it was important, the caller would leave a message. It certainly wouldn‟t be Curt calling him, not when he was under the thumb of the snarling Crowe. Was he a coward? Probably. But he knew his strengths and weakness…and fighting someone like Sidney wasn‟t one of them. Curt looked at the closed door to the stairs and murmured, “Mal?” "You must speak louder than that if you want your sub to hear you." “He doesn‟t answer. Ya can hear it ringin‟ yareself.” Why was the man so seemingly dense sometimes? "Speak louder." There was no denseness. All Curt had to do was call so the nearby Malcolm could hear him. “Mal?” Nothing. At first. Then sounds of footfalls on the metal stairs which stopped before they reached the top. “Curt?” The McGregor scrambled to the door but before he could open it, Malcolm said, “Don‟t.” As long as the door was closed, he felt a little safer. “Come back…please…” That voice sounded so desperate and pitiful that Mal took another step up the stairs. Then he stopped again. “I…can‟t…while he‟s there. I have no desire to have my head ripped off…” “He…won‟t…” “So you say…but I‟m not stupid. You don‟t control him. No one does. When he decides to do it, you won‟t be able to stop him. He won‟t listen to you…or anyone else. I‟m not ashamed to admit he scares the piss out of me…and you can‟t guarantee my safety.” Curt‟s eyes flicked back at Sidney and he sighed. Mal had a point. Sidney would do whatever Sidney wanted because he was SID. Given the man‟s attitude towards Mal, there was no way to convince Mal that he would be safe around Sidney. As Sidney had always had fine attitude around Malcolm, accepting him, sharing pleasure with him, he saw nothing wrong, and neither did Sidi, who was just as SID as Sidney. Seeing that Sidney wasn‟t about to help him only suggested to Curt that the Crowe really didn‟t support him, really didn‟t care at all. “I‟m comin‟ out there, Mal. We need ta talk…and not through a door…” “Don‟t bring him with you…” Curt looked back at the SIDs with a question in his eyes, seeking permission without even realizing he was doing so. It showed that, in spite of his anger, he didn‟t actually hate the man. "Do what you feel you must do for your sub." That was Sidney's support, giving Curt all the freedom he wanted and never, not once, showing his personal dislike for Malcolm outwardly. And that was along with having held Curt on the floor, hugging him while trying to explain to him, again, about things, and actually giving him the phone so that Curt could fix his and his sub's mistakes. All support to indicate he cared .. unless, of course, the person receiving the support didn't want to see it and continued to think the worse of a friend who loved him. A bowed head and small smile thanked him before he slipped out the door and joined Malcolm on the stairs. He pulled the man against him with a desperation he couldn‟t hide or disguise. “Thought ya‟d left me for good…” “Was going to. But I couldn‟t. I mean…bloody hell Curt…I know you need me…but I can‟t compete with them…living or dead…” “Not a competition,” Curt whispered. “What I need…is Sid…but he‟s gone…at least…mostly…I fuckin‟ don‟t know what to make of what happened in there…and can‟t expect it to happen again. Without him…there‟s things I need that Sidney can‟t give me…” “He‟s going to kill you…” Curt sighed and shook his head, even though part of him actually wished that were true. “I doubt that. And no matter what he thinks of ya…he ain‟t gonna kill you either.” “How can you be sure? It‟s what he is…isn‟t it? And after that…snarl…” “He did the same to Sidi…somethin‟ about only me or him touchin‟ the feathers. I shouldn‟t have asked for yare help…it wasn‟t yare fault…” Malcolm scowled. “He could have at least been polite about it.” “They usually are very polite…but sometimes they react emotionally…or primally…or coldly…and not necessarily with thinkin‟ about how anyone else is gonna think or feel. As for…I don‟t think he‟s gonna kill ya, cause he knows I need ya.” “Do you?” He‟d said it himself, but he wanted Curt to say it again. After a gentle kiss to the man‟s mouth, Curt whispered, “Ya keep me balanced, Mal…just like he does…and right now, with the world so out of balance…I need that. I need ya. Both. More importantly…I want ya around. Please? Drive back if ya want…take one of my cars…but don‟t walk out of my life now.” “What‟s he going to do if I don‟t fly back with him?” “Probably nothing,” Curt shrugged. “But goin‟ with him may help gain a few points with him. Yare a charmer…” Mal snorted. “I think he‟s immune to charm.” “Maybe. But yave got a better chance of gainin‟ ground with him if ya don‟t shut him out.” Of course, that worked both ways, and he honestly didn‟t believe Sidney would ever give Malcolm a fair chance. He‟d already made up his mind not to like Mal. “I‟ll…try.” He agreed with Curt‟s unspoken thoughts. He wasn‟t going to be given a fair shot…but he was use to that. He was use to being judged by his appearance and treated coldly, or with hostility. It did not mean, however, that he had to like being treated that way. “Thank you.” Curt stood up, pulling Mal up with him, and went back into the Loft, stopping long enough to pick up the dropped cell phone. They both paused when the entered the room, Mal staying behind Curt with his gaze down on the floor. Curt looked at the two, trying to decide what he should do next. The SIDs knew what to do. Give the two some time alone. They nodded at both, smiled at both, and went out the balcony to walk along the riverside and talk some more. As neither had ever treated Malcolm coldly or with hostility, they weren't about to begin now. “Ya don‟t need to go,” Curt murmured. “We‟re just…he‟s…” “Ready to go back to Havensport when you are,” Malcolm finished when it seemed Curt was at a loss for words. "Soon." Sidney didn't return to the loft. The riverside conversation with Sidi, discussing those strange events that had led to Curt's anger with Sidney had made one thing clear to the two men, Curt had chosen his new friendship with Malcolm over his long time one with Sidney, and Sidney was shocked, confused and feeling very betrayed by that conclusion. What kind of friendship had he and Curt had? Apparently, not much of one. "Yes, ready now," Sidi said as he stepped back inside. "Let's fly, all of us." “All of us?” Curt asked, confused. “We‟re not stay…where‟s Sidney?” "He said he had things to do and asked me to fly for him. Have you two had a chance to relax again after the excitement of this day?" There wasn‟t any reason to question that explanation, but it still seemed odd to Curt that Sidney was trusting the copter, or plane, to Sidi. “He ate…I dressed and changed the bed. Now…why are we all three goin‟?” Almost as soon as he asked it, he knew why. Because he wasn‟t trusted to be alone. His head hung in hurt and shame. "I can answer that if you want ... or pretend I didn't hear it." Sidi walked by the man and ran his fingers through his hair with a kiss to it. By not truly opening his heart to the McGregor, he couldn't be hurt too. Whatever happened with Sidney and Sid and Curt was not his problem so long as he kept up his end of the Deal. "Are you sure you wish to go now? Your sub can stay longer if you wish. I don't mind." “I‟ve got to get back…check on Taly…and take care of…a few things.” Important things, though how he was going to accomplish a few of them he wasn‟t certain yet. Curt nodded. “And I got some…thinkin‟…to do…maybe talk to…Father Andrew if he‟s available.” "We can visit the holy-man before we return to Fairview ... unless he wishes to return here with us. I can fly the jet into the field made for that by House of Cassidy so Malcolm can visit his friend, you can yours, and I can .... whatever." Sidi shrugged. He really didn't care. Malcolm swallowed down the trepidation he felt and asked, “Would you like to meet my friends, Sidi?” "Sure. Why not." That won him a smile, even though there didn‟t seem to be much enthusiasm in the response. In the meantime, Curt had been putting on his shoes and tying back his hair for a change…as well as stopping frequently to smell anything that Sid had touched. He took a few of the precious red feathers with him, intending to make a few special deliveries…if he had the time. “Ready,” he murmured. "He didn't like your hair like that," Sidi chuckled as they left the loft for the plane, "but since he's no longer in charge ...... " Curt paused. “He? Ya mean…Sid?” "Who else would I mean?" “I dunno. I‟m not a mind reader. Didn‟t wanna make an assumption.” He didn‟t normally tie his hand back anyhow, it was just something he‟d done on a whim. After a pause, he pulled the tie out of his hair and let it drop to the floor. “Can we go now?” "I thought that's what we were doing." Sidi's eye quirked at the hair coming down. Why would the human care about Sid's old desires. He was still dead. “So did I.” He started out the door, a little smile on his face. “Hope Father Andrew‟s available…” Thirty minutes later they found out when they arrived at the Victorian and Cassidy let them inside. He immediately put two hand-written messages in Malcolm's hands. One was from Sidney and the other was from Carl. Malcolm, I apologize for scaring you at the Sharehome. It was not personal. I believe you are a very fine sub and friend for Curt. I wish you only the best in your warm relationship with him and as the newest member of the House of Brigham. - Sidney6.7. Malcolm, just wanted to say from the horse's mouth, or maybe that's ass's mouth, take it from me, please, that I don't hate you no matter what anyone might say. I don't. Things are just a bit crazy for me right now. Sorry. Wish I could explain but I can't. Don't even understand it all myself. Anyways, welcome again to the Community and a new home at Tigh Ard. - Carl Bruce. The messages were read several times, Mal wondering why Sidney couldn‟t just tell him this in person. Not that it mattered. It was still an apology, which Mal took as it was. He was a little perplexed by Carl‟s message, wondering what was behind it, but he hoped he‟d get the chance to thank them both. Curt smiled when Mal showed him the messages and ruffled his hair. It even made him feel a bit better himself. “I won‟t be long…I don‟t even know if he‟s busy…or where he is…” "He's either upstairs in his bedroom or working at the church," Cassidy said from his place near Vitaly. "Feel free to look." Draven wasn't around, and Cassidy was going through his own heartbreak right then like Sidney. He barely looked at any of the three guests. Mal could sense that upset and sat on the floor by Vitaly…and also by Cassidy. He didn‟t speak, just leant his silent support to both of the men as Curt decided to first try the church…because it would be somewhere neutral, and somewhere private. There had to be someone who could help him, hear him out…someone neutral. “Sidi,” Mal murmured, “This is Cassidy…Kai…and Vitaly.” "Hello." Cassidy glanced up once with a nod, then went back to staring blankly at the music channel one of the others had put on the television. If he wasn't staring at the TV, he could be often found mowing the grass down to nothing or cleaning his guns. He didn't laugh anymore, and Cassidy had been a man of much laughter. If he hadn't been responsible for helping Vitaly regain his strength, keeping the man from using again, he probably would have left the home on an extended vacation. If he hadn't gained a clone family, he definitely would have left Havensport. “Want a drink, Sidi?” Kai asked with a smile as she hooked her arm through his in a friendly manner. With a look up at Cassidy, Mal asked, “You wanna go somewhere…get a drink?” "Do you have chocolate milk?" Sidi asked, smiling down at her arm touching him. "There's drinks here." He tossed a can of beer down at Malcolm. Kai directed Sidi to the kitchen. “I bet we do.” It wasn‟t what Mal had meant, but if Cassidy didn‟t want to talk to him, Mal couldn‟t make him. “Any time you want to talk…” Then he popped the can open and drank deeply. ** Why was he so nervous, he wondered. All he was doing was seeking help. It wasn‟t like he‟d never done this before. God…how many times had he been through detox in his life. Most had been with other chemical assistance…like methadone. This occasion, without any substance to stave off the cravings his body still experienced, was going to be much, much harder. It had certainly left him weaker of body and spirit then he was use to. “Anyone here?” he called when he stepped into the building. “Yes?” the voice came from one of the adjoining church offices. There was the sound of a chair scraping over the floor and then the priest stuck his head out. “Curt?” “Yeah. Ya got a few minutes…to talk?” Andrew waved him in. “Certainly. Please. Come in.” Dragging his feet, more out of awkwardness then actual reluctance, Curt crossed the nave and stepped into the small office, taking the offered seat. “How can I help you, Curt?” Curt cleared his throat. “I…ya might know I‟m cleanin‟ up again…got back into the shit after Sid. I‟ve done the detox bit…but will still have to deal with cravings and shit for awhile. After…well, been thinkin‟, part of the process to getting‟ cleaned is talkin‟. Dunno how much experience yave had with people like me…but I don‟t wanna go to some shrink…and would rather talk to someone who understands people like us…clones…and thus wouldn‟t immediately think I‟m nuts for talkin‟ about things we deal with that the outside world doesn‟t…” Andrew leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “You‟re right…I don‟t have experience with substance abusers…but I can listen, try to help…” “And whatever I say with ya…stays with ya, right?” “Of course. Consider any time with me as in confessional if it will make it easier for you. I won‟t share anything you say with anyone…unless you ask me to.” “May not always get to come here…so…maybe we can work out me comin‟ once a week…and ya comin‟ to Fairview once a week…plus as needed occasions…on the phone even?” “I am available whenever you need me, Curt. Day or night.” He pulled out a business card that he‟d had made up with the church‟s new phone number, his house line‟s number, and his cell phone number, as well as an email address and online chat ID. As he placed it into Curt‟s hand he said. “Any time, Curt. Use any one of those you need to. It‟s good that you‟re doing all of this, taking the big steps necessary to straighten out your life; I‟m happy to help you however I can. With a relieves sigh, Curt murmured, “Thanks.” He stared at the card for a few minutes then asked, “Can…God…is it…normal…ya think…for God and the Devil to share someone?” “Share? How?” “Sid…I‟ve seen him…and he‟s…horns and a tail…but also…red wings…a halo…all dressed in white. He said…he spends time in both places…I think it…confuses him. I know it confuses me…cause ain‟t nothin‟ I learned in church as a kid that says anythin‟ about such things. It‟s one or the other…or purgatory if ya believe in that.” He looked down at his hand, at the large envelope he was still holding containing several feathers, and took one out to show the priest. The priest had been about to speak of dreams and meanings, until he saw that red feather. He was an investigator, had seen more miracles in his time than many ever did, and had the fortune of being able to help prove or disprove them. He took the object from Curt‟s hand, feeling something when he touched it that he had never felt before. A sense of power. “His?” “Yes.” Well, he mused, it certainly wasn‟t a dream then. Dreams didn‟t leave that kind of physical evidence behind. He looked back up at Curt as he handed it back. “To be honest…I don‟t know what to make of that, Curt. It defies so much of what we know…or think we know…about what God is. It is possible, of course…with him anything is…it is just highly...” “Unlikely,” Curt muttered to finish the sentence. Andrew shook his head, “I would have used unusual. I will see what I can discover…any legends or historical data…” “I‟d give it to ya…but I‟ll have to ask „im first…if I ever see „im again.” He got up from the chair. “I got other stops to make today, and I don‟t wanna keep Sidi waitin‟. If ya could come to Fairview in a day or so…” “I‟ll be there. You can count on that.” Curt offered his hand, focusing power there just because he could. When the priest grasped it, he jumped back, making Curt smirk with satisfaction. “Thanks.” “You‟re welcome, Curt.” As Curt stepped out the door, Andrew said, “Perhaps next time you can explain that to me.” “Only if ya really want to know.” By the time he returned to the house, he discovered that Mal had gone out. Kai didn‟t know where. Curt scowled but said, “Got somethin‟ for Carl…and Tam and the boys. Ya wanna come with me, Sidi, or ya gonna stay here and keep Kai and the guys company?” Sidi looked right at Kai, something new about his smile showing then. "I'm staying here." "I can drive ya over there," Cassidy offered. Maybe he'd see Malcolm while he was out. It had been nice just having the man in the house with him, near him, even though Cassidy wasn't exactly in a chatty mood right now. “Alright then. I‟ll be back as quick as I can.” He grinned at Sidi, and at Kai, though he wondered what the Crowe was going to think if he discovered the truth about her. His gaze turned to Cassidy. “If it‟s not puttin‟ ya out, sure…ya can drive me. Otherwise I‟ll just run.” He suspected, to combat the cravings, he was going to be doing a lot of running in the upcoming weeks. "Not putting me out." He grabbed his keys and headed out to his truck. "I'll drop ya off at the door since I ca...." He'd started to say that he wasn't allowed in Tigh Ard, but it dropped away with a grunt instead. Curt followed and joined him, wondering if he should ask the man what was on his mind. But Cassidy didn‟t know Curt, and vice-versa, and Curt had a feeling he‟d probably be told to go to hell. Perhaps not an accurate feeling, but a feeling nonetheless. “Thanks for doin‟ this,” he said instead. "No problem." As stated, he soon brought him as close to the door as he could and waited. "Carl told me when he gave me the place to look after that all the House of Max clones and their spouses and children were allowed to come and go as they want, but I'm telling ya now ... you're welcome there anyways if you ever need a place to stay. And if you see Malcolm, you can tell him that too." “I‟ll tell him…and thanks. And if I can ever do anythin‟ for ya…give me a call.” He offered his hand. "Yeah." What could he do for Cassidy? Give Cassidy permission to shoot Attila? Give Cassidy permission to do what someone had done to him? Steal someone Curt cared about ... like Malcolm? If anything, Cassidy would do his best to keep that from happening, and since Malcolm was a House of Brigham clone and had no reason to be at the Victorian except to see his two Delilah friends he was now separated from, the Irishman felt confident nothing would ever happen. The most minimum of friendship only. He shook that offered hand then looked away. "Gotta go. Bye." “See ya.” He slid out of the truck, waved and went inside, wondering who he should look for first. As it turned out, River was the first person he encountered as she came leaping down the stairs and pulled him into a tight hug. There was a tiny squawk, one that Curt knew hadn‟t come from either of them, then River backed up, covered her pocket with one hand, and giggled. “What ya got there, River?” he asked. “Secret,” she whispered with another giggle. She started to dance away the looked back. “Timmy and Julian are by the pool.” One eyebrow cocked quizzically, Curt watched her go then went to the pool. It would be good to see Timmy and Julian again. After everything he‟d just been through, it felt like forever since he‟d seen them. Earlier at Tigh Ard, having hijacked a plane to get there sooner, Sidney gathered the three Seconds, grunted an announcement, then went and locked himself into his suite of rooms with his SID-family. He'd resigned as titled Co-First of both Houses with untitled Curt Wild. The three Seconds could all be promoted to First now for both Houses, he told them in his opinion, so long as Tamara and Carl agreed. When she woke, he'd tell her too, and he'd call Carl's cellphone and tell him when the man returned from work soon. At the pool, or rather IN the pool, Carl had a good game of volleyball going with a net set up across it, his two grandsons on one side and he on the other. The man loved being in the water, and as the woods were lonely, he often found reasons to be around the home, just always on the outside, never venturing within. Curt stopped in the doorway to watch them, not wanting to interrupt. They‟d notice him there soon enough. Titled or not, Carl sensed Curt before he actually saw him. He tried to smile as he waved to the man. "Hey, come here. Mind if I look you over?" "Hi Dad." Timmy did smile, but his enthusiasm, seeing Curt for short periods of time and never that much of him, was beginning to take its toll. He needed a full time father, not one who ran off with bands and left others to raise his sons. He loved him, but he was beginning to realize that when some people grieved, they did it just for themselves and others had to be .... shelved. Curt came close to the edge of the pool, not sure if he was being asked to get into the pool, or strip, or what. “Hey Timmy…Raz…Carl. How are ya all?” "Confused as hell, as usual," Carl sighed, thinking about that strange message from Sidney. He tilted Curt's head back and held his eyes open more into the light so he could look closely into each one with a doctor's eye. "Ya look better. Skin color's better already too. Good." “Still tired…can‟t eat much…and haven‟t found anythin‟ that kills cravin‟ except runnin‟…which I can‟t do all day and night…but I‟m feelin‟ physically better. Head‟s clearer at least.” Julian, hanging back a bit, wanting to let Timmy have first dibs at Curt, nodded. “Comin‟ down‟s a bitch.” "That's a bad word. You owe a quarter to the cussing-cup. Right Grandpa?" Laughing, Carl nodded and splashed Julian with a wink. “Wonder how much I owe,” Curt laughed, opening his arms to Timmy. Hopefully Timmy didn‟t know just how sick he‟d been. “What I do know, is that I owe you two a lot…and not just money. Missed ya so much…” "Missed ya too, Dad." He moved up to the side of the pool to hug his father, and like he did every time he saw him, he asked the same two questions. "When are ya coming home? And when are we going home?" “Dunno when we‟ll go back to livin‟ in Fairview…but…” he smiled with kisses into the boy‟s hair, “I‟m thinkin‟ I‟ll be comin‟ back here in a few days…a week at most.” He kicked off his shoes and sat on the edge of the pool, not caring that his jeans were getting wet with his feet in the water, or his shirt from hugging Timmy. It felt good, good enough that he wasn‟t in a hurry to let him go. “I‟ve been selfish…and I know it. It wasn‟t on purpose; I just couldn‟t see beyond my own hurtin‟. Wasn‟t fair to you two, or anyone else…and all I can say is I‟m sorry. I think the family…families…need to stick together right now, so I‟ll be comin‟ here…we‟ll be a family again, I swear.” It was something he felt when he walked into the house that had been the ultimate deciding factor, that and what he could feel in Timmy. He needed to heal…at least physically…and the Houses needed him there so that it could heal as well. Perhaps it was even what Carl and Tamara needed to begin their own healing. At least, he hoped so. If Carl needed to heal, his willpower in that way was so strong, so encompassing of his high alpha-type personality, that he rarely showed it. He smiled brightly at seeing Timmy smile with a gush of, "Oh Dad, that's great! A week is seven days! I know that! Julian taught me! God damn Dad is coming home!" "That's a quarter, Timmy," the Scot teased, splashing his back with a laugh. "And here's another," Timmy giggled, bouncing in his hug with Curt. "When Daddy comes back from hell to see us again, Dad will be here too!" Carl didn't laugh that time. “That‟s what I wanted to see ya about…well…on top of just seein‟ and huggin‟ ya.” He got up and went to the table where he‟d placed the large envelope he‟d been carrying. “Got somethin‟ for each of ya…but ya have to dry yare hands first, cause gettin‟ „em wet would be bad for „em I think. Come on, Carl…you too.” He smelled them before he even got out of the pool. Through the envelope, whether it was his own Bond with Sid or his Sentinel senses coming into play, Carl threw a hand over his mouth to stifle a moan and dropped onto the side of the pool, just sitting there. "And they're covered with ... with his ...?" Sid hadn't dropped any wet feathers in orgasm for Carl, but the human had gotten his satisfaction in examining them as they'd made love in that tent. He knew exactly what they smelled and felt like, even tasted. For a moment Curt almost yelled that Carl had had him first…but he didn‟t. That would be uncalled for, no matter how Curt felt about it. Carl didn‟t need it, and Curt didn‟t want an argument. “I thought…maybe…ya‟d like to have…” He took one out and gave it to Timmy, a second to Julian, but then hesitated with the third, not sure if Carl wanted it or not. Tears in his eyes, Carl took the feather and sniffed it. Oh yes. That was SID's essence alright. It was still sticky with it, something in the feather keeping it from drying and flaking off like it should have done by then. "Thank you." Timmy looked at his feather, but rather than cry, he just put it on the table and went back in the pool. It was overwhelming for the boy. He decided to hide in the water. Curt didn‟t understand Timmy‟s reaction, and he hadn‟t meant to hurt Carl. His discomfort and hurt showed in his face. Julian saw it and pulled Curt into a hug. “Thank you,” he murmured. “Means a lot to have somethin‟ of his. Thanks for thinkin‟ of us.” “Welcome,” Curt murmured. Maybe he shouldn‟t take the others to Kay and Harry. Maybe they‟d be upset too. Try to do somethin‟ nice and all that happened was he fucked up. Again. He knelt beside Carl with his head hanging. “I‟m…sorry,” he said quietly. "For what?" Carl wasn't hurt in the way Curt was thinking. It was just a very emotional thing, and his eyes showed that as strong as a man he was, sometimes things just couldn't be contained. “Didn‟t mean to hurt ya…with that. Just thought of it as…tangible proof…a way to touch him even when he isn‟t…” His own voice broke and he glanced away. "I know ... when he isn't here." His arm went around the man's back. "You didn't hurt me ... though you almost killed me during detox," he managed to laugh a bit hoarsely in teasing him. “Better detox then dead,” Curt said, wiping his eyes, “which really coulda killed ya. I‟m sorry „bout all that. Still dunno…why I‟m…what‟s the…” He stopped as Timmy moved by in the water. Right. Live for everyone else. For the boys. Because Sid told him to. “Before…ya said ya were confused…?” "Huh?" He looked over in the water too, a new smile forming on his face as he watched the young man toss the ball into the net and catch it. "Oh yeah, I don't know what it is with you and Sidney and the ... it can't be official anymore crap .... but fine with me, neither of ya are official Firsts anymore and if Tamara agrees, I'm fine with giving the titles to the Seconds .... but if either you or Sidney ever take it back officially, you'll be the ones breaking it to them or sharing it with them. Don't make us do it." There was definite confusion in Curt‟s eyes. “After Sid…left…Sidney snarled at Mal for wantin‟ to help gather theses. Scared the piss outta Mal. I was so…shaken up…about seein‟ Sid, his leavin‟…it all just threw me. My memories not so great yet…so I dunno…maybe I said somethin‟ that pissed „im off…or my getting‟ upset about Mal leavin‟…upset Sidney.” He pulled his hair back with both hands. “One of the worst things about cleanin‟ up…memory is shit. Ya know where he is? Gonna see Tam…and go by Kay‟s and Will‟s…but maybe I can talk to Sidney…or at least apologize…” He didn‟t say anything about First yet. It was a matter under consideration in the back of his mind now, had been since the night with Carl, but he hadn‟t made any decisions on that issue. There were other things he had to take care of first. Like getting his health back. Carl's arm dropped away from Curt's back at the mention of that clone. He turned back to the water and shrugged. "No idea where he is. Say hi to Kay and her family for me, eh? Good people, really good people." His body slipped back in the water, catching the ball off the net that time as a way to do something, anything, but think of that clone again. And Curt noticed the reaction. Words saying one thing, actions saying another. Seeing that his welcome was worn out, Curt stood up, looked at his wet pants, and sighed. “Gonna change and see Tammy before I go…maybe say hi to Lindsey if I see „im. Been good talkin‟ to ya and seein‟ ya all…” "Really good seeing you, Curt." Carl waved with a smile as he tossed the ball to Julian with his other hand. "See you next week, I hope." "Bye Dad! Seven days!" “Bye, Timmy…Carl!” Or sooner, Curt thought, accepting the high five Julian gave him as they passed each other. Julian hadn‟t said much, but he rarely did. He wasn‟t much of a talker. On his way to his room, he paused outside of Sidney and John‟s door, wondering if he should knock, not knowing if the Crowe was there or not. He‟d been furious with the man, that much he remembered clearly. And he remembered why. It was the words he‟d said, that others had said, that he didn‟t remember clearly. Undoubtedly, that anger was what Sidney was responding to The way Sidney felt now, he would be damned if he was going to listen to anything that McGregor had to say ever again. There was no way in hell he was going to share First with him. Curt had it. Curt could keep it. At least until Sidney cooled off and got a handle on his hurt. And it was the anger of SID that caused Curt, in the end, to chicken out. Four feathers were taken from the envelope, one for Tamara, one each for Kay, Harry, and Will, then the envelope with the last feather was slid beneath the door…a gift for Sidney, if he would take it. Then Curt went to quickly change his clothes. Sidney followed him, holding the feather out in his hand. "Yours?" He didn't understand why Curt was giving it to him if they were no longer friends. Curt shook his head. “Yares. I think he‟d want ya to have it…and I want ya to have it.” "Why do you want me to have it?" “Cause ya were special to him…and to me.” He looked down at his feet. “I know I was angry before…so much happened so fast…and I‟m not back up to a hundred percent…physically, mentally…and especially emotionally. I‟m sorry if I yelled…or said shit that hurt ya. Wasn‟t my intention.” "Malcolm Windsor is your brother, not Sidney6.7 Clayton. Your loyalty to him over me is .... understood." Logically, sensibly, by everything SID in him ... just not by his heart. Curt‟s mouth popped open, snapped shut, then he toyed with his hair with one hand. “I never chose anyone over anyone. I was angry with ya…unnecessarily…and I was tryin‟ to win him back…but didn‟t mean I chose him over you.” "Indeed, it was unnecessary ..... but." The SID grinned and lifted Curt in his arms with a hug. "No choosing? Still love Sidney6.7?" “Not choosing,” Curt murmured back, pressing his face into the man‟s neck for the smell of warm, living SID. “Still love ya…and still need ya. Feelin‟ anger doesn‟t change that.” "Not change!" he agreed as he kissed into that hair with relief. "Not change. But Sidney6.7 will still step down from official First. Not want to be First without Sid6.7 and Curt Wild. Will wait." “Why? Ya don‟t have to do this…cause of me…” "I want to. I am doing it." He kissed flesh that time with a smile and released the man to stand back on the floor. "It is done. The Seconds know, the Heads of House understand .. or at least accept .. and when we wish to be First again, together, we will be." “And if I don‟t?” He wasn‟t saying he wouldn‟t take the position back, some day, only contemplating „what if‟. "I will reconsider my own decision again at that point." Curt nodded and touched the man‟s face with his fingertips. “Fair enough. Gonna change out of these wet things and see Tam before I go…will ya give my love to everyone for me?” "Yes. To everyone who loves you too. Farewell, and give my love again to my Bold One." He headed back to his suite of room, clutching the feather all the way. After changing, and musing over Sidney‟s choice, he followed his senses, ones that always seemed able to bring him to her…just as they had once been able to lead him too Sid She was sitting in the corner in her bedroom, facing that corner, back to the world, with her arms wrapped around herself and rocking slowly. “Aw fuck,” he muttered sadly as he crossed the room and sat beside her, pulling her into his arms. “Did I do this to ya? Shit…I‟m sorry. Even if I just added to…what he‟s doin‟…what Sidney‟s done…what Sid did…I‟m sorry.” Stroking her hair, kissing around her head, he continued. “Dunno why ya love me…why I‟m yare…just a selfish fuck is all I am…or at least blind and stupid. Yare all hurtin‟ too…and I didn‟t help anyone…not even myself. But I‟m comin‟ home soon. I swear it. Just a little more time…few more things I gotta do to make sure I‟m on the right path to recovery. Ya gotta get clear headed…cause I gotta ask ya some things…” When she didn‟t react he choked back a sob and said, “But we don‟t gotta do it today. Just came by cause I got somethin‟ for ya…” One of the remaining feathers was held out to her. Something about it made her lift his head. She reached for the feather, uncoiling like a snake, and brought it to her nose. Tears trailed down her already wet cheeks as all of her focus went to that feather and stayed there. Curt remained with her for awhile, rocking her, singing, until she fell asleep in his arms. He lifted her into her bed, covered her with a light blanket, and set the precious feather upon the nightstand before leaving the room. On the way out of the house, his heart heavy, he ran into Kajan. “Go to her and stay with her until she wakes,” Curt said in a voice he hadn‟t used in awhile. His First voice. Kajan paused, blinked at the man, then nodded his head and went to her, silently summoning Curtis to come to him there. Content that she wasn‟t alone, that she was being cared for, Curt went to the garage in search of one of his cars. He had to have one here…didn‟t he? But one had been left at Elsinore on May Day…and as far as Curt knew it was probably still there…and another was at the hotel. It appeared that the rest were in Fairview, giving him no transportation of his own. So he began looking through the windows of each car there, hoping for one with the keys in the ignition. "Need a ride somewhere?" Carl asked as he came into the garage and noted what Curt was doing. "Just need to grab another volleyball for the boys. I hit it so hard it ....." He groaned, rubbing a hand over his face for a moment. "Weird. It shouldn't have popped like that." Thinking of Malcolm, his fist had connected with it so hard it actually scared the man. “Yeah, thought I‟d left a car here…but guess its still at Elsinore from May Day. Gonna get over to Will‟s and Kay‟s, before Sidi sends out a search party. He wouldn‟t leave me in Fairview by myself…so if I‟m sure he‟ll be ticked if I go driving around Havensport alone, but I gotta do this somehow.” As long he didn‟t make any other stops, he wouldn‟t run face to face with temptation. “Just tryin‟ to find a car with keys in it.” "Sidi dropped you off here?" He found the sports equipment in a locker and chose another ball, hopefully one his Sentinel rage wouldn't annihilate again. “Nah, he dropped me off at yare place…so I could have a few words with Andrew and see Vitaly. Cassidy brought me over here.” Different emotions crossed Carl's face at that. "He's not allowed in Tigh Ard after what he did to Tamara ... but ... was he okay?" He was very worried about his friend who had clammed up recently, wouldn't talk to anyone about Draven's betrayal, not even Carl. “Can‟t say I know him well…but he seemed pretty quiet…was just starin‟ at the TV when we arrived. Did seem like somethin‟ was eatin‟ at him, but he didn‟t say anythin‟ to any of us while I was there.” "Shit. He's gotta let it go. Thanks, I'll run over there later today and see if I can get him out into town or something." He took the volleyball to the door, adding, "I'll throw this to the boys and grab my keys. Can bring ya by Kay's and Diz's if ya want." “Long as it‟s not a problem…for ya or the boys. I really hate bein‟ a burden…and I think I‟ve been enough of one for a whole life time.” He forced a laugh, but he was also serious. "No problem. Gives me an excuse to drive my new car." He grinned with a nod of his head at the Interceptor .. the ultimate in "muscle-car" in Carl's opinion. Out the door, he dropped off the ball to the boys, told them he'd be back later, grabbed his keys and cellphone on the poolside table, along with a towel to run over his head and sit on in the car with his wet swimtrunks, and rejoined Curt in the garage. "Hop in. She's a beauty, huh?" Curt recognized the car at once and raised a brow. “Sure is. Mind if I ask how ya go her?” Carl had the oven. And enough money to have bought one anywhere. To Curt‟s knowledge, he wasn‟t implying anything. "Rachel gave'er to me. Felt she belongs back with the House of Max where she came from .. since... well since her Max and Goose are gone now too and the Max from the House of Max had left her to his Twin there in his will. She's canon. Don't know how the oven did it, but she came pristine right outta the first movie for a third movie Max. I'm fucking honored to take care of her now. Fucking honored." “Yeah…think ya should be…” though he knew how pissed off Max must be about it. “Didn‟t know the oven could make things like that…thought it was just for makin‟…organic…things…living things.” "If it comes from their movie, it can make shit like that too." He revved the engine with a grin and burned rubber down the driveway to the street. "Fucking beauty alright!" Curt nodded, trying to think of anything from his canon life he would have liked to have had with him. He had a dear friend in Malcolm now, but other than that, he couldn‟t think of a single thing. “Ya know why Cassidy was so upset? S‟none of my business…so just tell me to butt out if ya want…but he didn‟t wanna go inside…and ya said somethin‟ about somethin‟ he did to Tam…so I was just wonderin‟.” It was like a switch in Carl. Joy of driving the Interceptor evaporated at remembering Cassidy's mistake with Tamara. "He hurt her." The man's voice had gone very low, hands tightening on the steering wheel low as a muscle in his lower jaw jumped in thinking about it. "Not physically. Ever lays a hand on her, I'd kill him myself, cousin or not. But he scared her, told her some shit he shouldn't have said ..... stuff didn't need to be said .... because he was hoping to drive a wedge between us." He snorted loudly, putting the gas pedal all the way down in breakneck speed. "As if we need more help from others with the Grand Canyon already between us." “So now he‟s upset cause of pissin‟ ya off.” Curt nodded. “Might know some good bridge builders. Hell…if Sid and I could…then I don‟t think its impossible for anyone else to fix problems either. All a matter of wantin‟.” He didn‟t think anyone was more stubborn than a SID. Maybe he was wrong. "I'm sure he's not exactly thrilled that I'm pissed at'm for running his mouth off, but it's more'n that, a lot more. Looks like he and Draven are splitting up. Damn fool kid wants Attila over Cassidy ... and that's not meant as a slur against your brother, but I know what my cous did for Draven, turned his whole life around for that boy, .. and this is how he's getting repaid?" He was nearing the first house. As he had people he could visit in both Kay's and Diz's, Carl hoped that Curt wouldn't mind if he went inside with him. “Attila? And Drave?” Curt couldn‟t have seen that one coming, not in a million years. Given their early relationship, Curt wondered what on earth the Hun could want with Draven. And what would Draven want with Attila? “How the…when did this happen?” "Very recently. Busting Cassidy's heart .... and Draven's a good kid all in all...so I'm trying my damnest not to hold it against him." He motioned to the first house as he pulled up to it. "Ready?" In Curt‟s eyes, Draven was young…inside and out. He might have experienced a lot out on the streets, but in some ways he‟d grown up even less then Curt had in that life. He could understand Draven not really knowing what he wanted or what he was doing…but he still felt bad. “Yeah…I just hope…” He hadn‟t seen many in person since Sid‟s death. He didn‟t know if he could do this or not. ** Outside of Kay's door, Curt fidgetted. No matter what he tried to calm him himself, it wasn't working. It was a good thing, actually, that Carl was there, or else Curt likely would have made a side stop somewhere to take something to calm his nerves. "Maybe no ones home," he murmured under his breath, almost hopefully. "It'll be fine, son," Carl said, placing a strong hand low on Curt's back in hopes to help calm the man's nerves. "You'll see." He even turned his face, kissing once in that hair. Now that they were fully Bonded, it was easier for Carl to show affection in a way he'd used to do with Sid. If he ever were to have to describe it, he wouldn't be sure he could. A heterosexual man who now had need for two living men? If Carl hadn't been very opened-minded, it would have thoroughly disgusted him. "Most of the time when I speak to them, I fuck it up. Rather like I do everything else." He sighed and relaxed at least physically at the touch on his back. Kay ran out of her room to the front door. Throwing it opened she was surprised to see the two men waiting there. "Curt, Carl come inside." She waved a hand to the open door and then hugged each man. "It's good to see you." Carl hugged her longer than he would have planned if he had thought about it. He hadn't forgotten her help at the luau, how she'd made him feel, almost like a little brother, LITTLE, protected, in a way that Rachel and Max as HIS little sisters could never quite make him feel. Diz felt like a guy friend, someone he could sit back, fart, belch and get drunk with, but Kay, she felt almost motherly, or more like big-sisterly, someone who would make him cookies and fix his tie and comb his hair .. just like he sometimes really needed in his crazy life he was living now. "Missed you," he mumbled into her neck, holding her tightly. Kay held him tight and gently patted his back. "Missed you, too. You're going to have to visit more often." She kissed his cheek and whispered, "I'm here if you need to talk." Feeling like he was intruding, Curt hung back. He could always do what he‟d come for another time. If Carl needed to spend time with Kay, Curt could always come back later. “I…don‟t mean to bother ya. I can come back some other time…” he stammered, backing towards the door. "Never bother us." Kay slipped from Carl's arms and held out her hands to Curt. "You're family." She kissed him on the cheek and led him into the family room. “Yeah…I know…I just don‟t wanna…interfere…” He glanced at Carl to show what he thought he was interfering in. “If ya all wanna talk…I can go.” Maybe he was trying too hard to avoid what he had to do. Maybe he was a coward. Maybe he was afraid of inflicting pain and opening up his own all over again. He didn‟t really know. "Not going anywhere." Carl smiled over at Curt as he took a seat in a recliner, coming very close to putting his boots up on the coffee table in an unconscious show of how comfortable he was there. Maybe next time. Curt wasn‟t comfortable much of anywhere…at least not without Sid there beside him. He didn‟t know where to sit or what to do and so fidgeted with the feathers he had wrapped in a cloth in his hand. “Got somethin‟ for ya and Harry…somethin‟ I think ya should have.” Kay lead Curt to the couch and sat beside him. Her nose twitched and she looked around the room and then back at Curt. "Sid. You've seen Sid." “Yeah…I have.” He unwrapped the feathers and pulled out two. “One for ya, and one for Harry. I think he‟d like ya to have „em.” Not wearing a shirt because he'd been swimming when Curt had found him, Carl had his feather in his still damp swim trunks pocket. He probably shouldn't have been sitting in that recliner without a towel under him, but he was a guy-guy and just hadn't thought of it when he'd plopped down so easily. Of course, he had in the Interceptor, but that was different! "OH! Thank you, Curt." Kay eased her hand beneath one of the feathers. Tears gathered in the edge of her eyes. "At least he has red feathers instead of white . . . and I'm sure he hate's that white suit." She realized what she was saying and explained. "I have dreams about Sid. The other night he was in hell torturing Hitler. He put him in a cell with American Jewish gangsters and only fed him kosher food. The same night he put Stalin in a cell with wall to wall televisions . . . all tuned in to televangelists preaching. Somehow both seemed quite appropriate." "And very realistic to what he's doing .... assuming we're not under some kind of mass hallucination and he really is .... somewhere and able to come back," Carl murmured, bringing out his own feather then to look at it again. “Glad he‟s havin‟ some fun,” Curt murmured, wishing he could without feeling guilty. He‟d had fun when in the recording studio, but during those days he had done his best to block out the reality of the world he now lived in. After that, he‟d had fun with the boys, but he always felt guilty. He couldn‟t have fun when Sid was gone. When Sid was…in hell. It just wasn‟t right. “And I‟m glad ya like it. I think he‟d be glad too. How are ya?” "Pretty good." Kay took Curt's hand in hers. "But what about you? Are you better?" He glanced at Carl. Did everyone know how far he‟d fallen? HOW did everyone know. “I…feelin‟ a little better,” he murmured, staring at the floor with a red face. "It will take a long time to . . . you had something special with Sid." Kay leaned her head on his shoulder. "Even a little better is a start." Still staring at the floor he replied, “Dunno if I can make it for a long time…hard enough to just go day by day.” "Then aim for that . . . in the morning tell yourself that you can make it though that one day." She patted Curt's hand. "Always remember there are people that love you and care about you." Kay nudged his shoulder and teased, "And if worse comes to worse you can always come here eat lasagna every other day." “Think Sidi has other plans…but I‟ll keep that in mind,” Curt murmured with an embarrassed grin. "Really wish you wouldn't rely on him," Carl sighed. "Kay, don't suppose there's any lasagna around right now in that fridge of yours?" As the man had gone days without eating on missions, been starved and tortured as a POW, forced to eat bugs and rats, he had no problem with homecooked food, especially Harry's infamous lasagna. “He made a deal with Sid…and I respect that,” Curt murmured. “I need „im…and he needs me…” At least, Curt hoped Sidi needed him…at least a little. “But yeah…Kay…can‟t eat much yet…but if Carl‟s up for somethin‟…I could try a little.” "Really wish you wouldn't rely on him," Carl sighed. "Kay, don't suppose there's any lasagna around right now in that fridge of yours?" As the man had gone days without eating on missions, been starved and tortured as a POW, forced to eat bugs and rats, he had no problem with home cooked food, especially Harry's infamous lasagna. "We had it last night for supper so I'm sure there's plenty in the fridge," Kay replied and stood up and held out a hand for Curt. "Why don't we go to the kitchen and I'll warm some up for both of you. Harry should be back from the grocery store in a few minutes." She smiled at both men and whispered, "I hate grocery shopping so I let Harry do as much as possible." "Jessie does it for me," Carl nodded in understanding and headed into the kitchen. He hadn't put his feet up on her coffee table, but he did open the fridge like he would have done in a relative's home and started foraging through it. “Stas doesn‟t any more?” Curt asked with surprise. He knew the man had acquired several chickens, and a couple of cows now, so that there was eggs and fresh milk, and he knew that Gil- galad grew many vegetables and herbs in his greenhouse and garden, but there were still many things they needed to shop for. He had just been assuming Stasio still helped with that. "Oh he does .... I just meant Jessie is MY cook .. ya know, she takes care of me real good. Stasio does too, but he's not my man, he's Tamara's. ... Found it!" A container of lasagna was triumphantly pulled from the fridge. “Oh.” Curt understood, or thought he did, more than he really wanted to. Heaven forbid Carl rely on anyone connected with her. Curt was more than a little surprised the man associated with him and Lindsey. As Carl had specifically said that Stasio also takes care of him real good, like Jessie, he was definitely relying on the man too and had made that clear. But as Kay had mentioned her man of Harry doing her shopping, it came much more natural to mention in reply his own woman, Jessie, doing his shopping and not making it sound like he thought of Stasio as HIS man in the reply .. because he didn't. He was Tamara's. Carl was willing to associate with everyone but Tamara ... and Malcolm. "Microwave or oven?" he asked Kay, holding out the lasagna with a hungry grin. "Microwave will do it faster." Kay laughed, placed the lasagna in the microwave and turned it on. She stepped around Carl and found some left over salad in the fridge and brought it out. "We have cold tea, drinks and some beer. What do y'all want to drink?" Beer was more than tempting, but Curt shook his head. He knew he shouldn't. Not yet anyhow. “Soda…or ice water‟s fine with me.” "Beer." He wouldn't have said a word if Curt had chosen beer too, but he was very glad he hadn't. Kay pulled a bottle of beer from the back of the fridge and handed it to Carl. She found a glass in the cabinet and filled it with ice and then added water and gave it to Curt. "The salad dressing is in the door, Carl. Would you get that out while I get the plates?" She quickly set plates and silverware on the table then checked the lasagna. "Go ahead and sit. I'm going to let it reheat another couple of minutes." “Can I help?” Curt asked. "Here." Not knowing which bottles of dressing were wanted most, Carl pulled them all out, every variety, handing one after the other to Curt so that Curt could put them on the table. That was the military in the main. A chain of dressing! All of the bottles were plopped down on the table in no particular order. “Wouldn‟t it have been easier to ask what people wanted?” he chuckled, “Instead of takin‟ „em all out?” Kay looked at Carl and laughed before dramatically grabbing her neck in a mock gag. "That's too disgusting to even think about." "Dare me?" Carl's eyes twinkled in fun as he started opening all the bottles. "Dare you." Kay laughed then quickly turned and placed her hand on his arm. "No. Don't. I really don't want you getting sick." “We might be the ones getting sick from that,” the McGregor chuckled. “Got any parmesan cheese around?” "Look in the fridge door. There should be some hiding there." Kay laughed and pulled the lasagna from the microwave. Curt found it and brought it to the table, careful to stay out of Kay‟s way as she carried the hot lasagna to the table. “Do we call everyone else…or wait for the smell of food to draw them?” Kay threw back her head and laughed. "The smell of lasagna doesn't draw them anymore. Harry makes good lasagna . . . he just makes it too often for them." She looked out the window and caught Hando running to the barn for his tractor, Maximus practically running to his garden and Spike running in circles trying desperately to think of something he HAD to do. “S‟food. They shouldn‟t complain.” He glanced around the table. “Anywhere in particular I should sit?” "Anyplace you like, Curt." Kay replied and started to sit when Harry came clomping through the back door. "Sons. I drive up and three of them run for the hills." Harry complained as he came through the door. He stopped short seeing Carl and Curt. His face beamed with pleasure. "What a nice surprise!" He quickly set down the two grocery bags he was carrying and held out a hand to Carl. "Carl, how are you doing?" "Mr. Mitchell. Good to see you again." He'd just plopped into a chair when he stood quickly, automatically for an elder like practically beaten into him by his stepfather, and shook the man's hand with a smile. "We're just about to dive into your lasagna. Best I've ever had." "Harry, call me Harry." He said. "Glad you like my lasagna. We seem to always have some extra so whenever you want some give a yell or just drop by." Harry then turned to Curt and without thinking wrapped him in a bear hug. "How you doing, son . . . um . . . Curt? Looks like you could use some more food. Do you want me to cook you something special?" “Heya. Nah, this is plenty. I ain‟t eatin‟ so much…but I at least try to eat somethin‟ when I should.” From next to his plate he unwrapped the red feather and held it out to Harry. “This is for you.” Sid's?" Harry sat in a chair and lovingly touched the feather. "I miss him . . . I'd even fry some more sheep's eyeballs if he were here." "Don't know if I could eat another one though." Kay laughed at the memory. "He .... " Carl started giggling as the memory came to him. "He never made Jessie fry anything, but he came to the dinner table once with his own meat. I don't know what the fu .. heck it was on his plate, but I made sure not to look too close." “Yeah…fortunately I didn‟t have to cook any of those things for him…” He appreciated that Sid respected him enough to not make him cook dishes that might have more than questionable…as Curt had little doubt that some of what the Crowe consumed was human. “I thought ya should have one of those,” he pointed at the feather. “Think he‟d want ya to have it.” Harry laughed. "I can see him doing that." He looked at the feather. "Thank you, Curt. It means a lot that you would share this with me." “Yare welcome,” Curt murmured. "Share." Carl's smile widened again. "I read from Max that as soon as Sid understood the concept of sharing ... he was really big on it. Besides love, she thought it was one of the biggest accomplishments he made." "I beg to differ." Sid in all physical form this time, materialized in a seat at that table. "A larger accomplishment was learning forgiveness. Hello Mother, Father, Mate. May I please have some lasagna too? We don't have this in hell, and the food in heaven completely sucks. Just because we're dead, does that mean we lost our taste buds?" "Of course you can." Harry grabbed a plate and silverware and placed it in front of Sid. Then lightly touched his shoulders before kissing his forehead. Kay immediately opened the fridge and pulled out a gallon of chocolate milk. Getting a glass, she sat the milk and glass beside his plate. "Sid." She brushed tears from her eyes then kissed his cheek. "It's so good to see you." “Sid…” He‟d only seen Sid that morning, had not expected to see him again in the same day, and the surprise of it took his breath away. It was almost impossible to resist throwing himself into the Crowe‟s arms, but this appearance, he felt was for Harry and Kay…and maybe Carl, more than it was for Curt. He smiled at the Crowe, his eyes seeking confirmation that giving the feathers to family had been acceptable. "Go on, Curt. Sit beside Sid . . . sit on his lap . . . where ever you're comfortable . . . we're family here." Kay smiled and placed a huge helping of lasagna on Sid's plate and then Carl's. She put a smaller one on Curt's, Harry's and hers. Meanwhile Harry was pulling more lasagna from the freezer and shoving it in the microwave to defrost. He want to be sure his son had enough to eat "Come to me, Mate." He moved back his chair enough to make room for Curt. "Chocolate milk!" The first glass went down fast. "I have missed this soooooo much. And Father's lasagna too!" He gobbled down a large fork full of it. "But what I miss most is you, all of you. Do you like my feathers?" Around a fork in his mouth, Carl nodded contently. The involuntary sound in Curt‟s throat as he scurried around the table and dropped into Sid‟s lap was perhaps inappropriate for the company they in, but he couldn‟t help it. It didn‟t matter how often the Crowe came back to him; it was never enough. It was a groan of desperation and near- worship. He almost forgot the food in his effort to lose himself in Sid‟s nearness. Sid continued to eat, holding one arm tightly around Curt as the other brought that fork to his mouth, to Curt's mouth, then to his mouth again. Sharing food with Mate was always a pleasure. Holding Mate on his lap was paradise. Kay sat beside Carl and started to eat while Harry slipped into the laundry room and brought back a huge chocolate cake he had hidden in there before he left. "I'm glad I listened to my little voice that said to bake a chocolate cake today." Curt almost fell off Sid's lap when the Crowe jumped in joy at seeing that cake. "FATHER! Chocolate cake for Sid! I NEVER get cake anymore!" "What do you get, Siddy?" Carl had finished his plate of lasagna and was eyeing the cake too, though he'd easily give it all to Sid if the Crowe wanted it. "Nothing most of the time. Always very hungry." Lips touched Curt's neck. "Hungry for many things." Curt shivered under the kiss but said nothing. His hands closed around the man‟s clothing like claws seeking flesh. "I'll pack you a picnic basket full of food." Harry said as he cut the cake to give everyone a piece but Sid. The rest of the entire cake was place in front of his son. "Not right starving a man in heaven or hell." He muttered as he made sandwiches for the basket. "Ooooo yes, good food so that all the angels will be jealous eating that bland junk Chef Jude makes for us. I can't wait to show them Father's cooking!" He started stuffing chocolate cake in his face, eager to eat as much as he could before he was called away. “Think they‟ll let ya sneak me in, in that basket?” Curt murmured. "Shhhhh....." Sid whispered with a furtive look around the room. "I am working on a plan. Not let THEM hear." Harry found a plastic container and filled it with left over lasagna. He figured that even cold it was better than nothing. After wrapping the sandwiches, he put in bags of potato chips, pickles, cheese, all the cookies and candy he could find as well as remainder of a batch of brownies he had baked the previous night. He found two thermos and filled them to the rim with chocolate milk. "What else can I put in , son?" “I think it's filled, Father." He looked in the basket and smiled, tears coming to his eyes. "It's filled with love." And it was just in time. Feeling that pull, he stood, leaving everyone at the table and barely having time to snag the basket in his hand. "Goodbyyyyye......." "Nooooo!" Kay screamed and leaped to grab Sid's arm. The abrupt departure dropped Curt to the floor but he was in no hurry to get up. Down there he could hide his face, at least long enough to bury the hurt in his heart. A huge serpent appeared, six-headed, and it wrapped around Sid's body, hissing in warning at everyone in that kitchen. "Don't touch it," Sid cried at seeing Carl pull a gun. "Blood of acid! It only wants me! It won't hurt anyone!" Kay stepped forward and handed the picnic basket to Sid who had one arm loose. She eyed one of the heads. "If you hurt him. I'll personally cut off each head . . . acid or no acid." She closed her eyes for a moment and gathered strength from all the members of her family. Holding up her hand a dancing blue ball of energy appeared. The blue lighting strained to reach out and destroy the serpent but she held it in check. "So you'll know that I can keep my word." Another flash of light heralded the most beautiful man of golden hair in the black Armani suit. "Mortals," he sniffed disdainfully with a look around the room. Then he turned to the serpent. "Duke, take him away." The serpent hissed again, that time directly at Kay and squeezed Sid so hard the basket dropped into Lucifer's hand. "Good boy," the head demon purred, patting one of the heads. "For that, you get a treat later. Hmmmm.... " His voice turned into that pet owner's tone. "Does my Dukey wukey want a nummy yummy after his din-din?" "Now THIS," Sid sighed with a roll of his eyes, still stuck in those coils, "is the true torture of hell. Listening to that ridiculous trite." Curt watched, but mostly kept his eyes on Sid. If he had tried something like threatening that demon, he would have been in deep trouble with Sid. Of course, Mother was not Mate, and Curt, being use to this routine, knew better than to make threats, especiallyu ones he couldn't carry through. Kay threw back her head and laughed. "You have to put up with this? This over coiffed poppingjay." She looked into Lucifer's eyes but the darkness there did not frighten her. "The basket and food is for Sid . . . not you or your beast." Lucifer sniffed again down his nose at her. "The basket will be inspected for contraband, and then, perhaps, he will be given it ... if he pleases me." "I'll bite it off!" Sid shouted just before he vanished with the serpent. "Such an interesting hybrid, isn't he?" Lucifer chuckled. "I'll be sorry when his destiny finally kicks in and I lose my plaything." Though Curt caught that last remark, he wasn‟t even going to begin to guess what it meant. The Devil was the Great Deceiver. Nothing he said could be believed. Curt stared at the place Sid had last been, then hung his head once more. "He's my son." Kay stepped closer and smelled the brimstone clinging to the Armani suit. "You're all dressed up and nowhere to go . . . You're invited to stay for dinner if you'll promise to give Sid his basket of food when you return to hell." "And you'd believe me if I said I did?" He smiled at her, finding that bit of Southern hospitality a nice change compared to how some people reacted to seeing him. "Tell me, mortal woman, what is for dinner?" Carl was shocked to his core. His hand clutched the cross around his neck, his mouth muttering a prayer. The man didn't look like any typical demon from literature except for that set of horns like Sid's, but he sure .... felt .... like one. "I'd think you would . . . if you knew you would be invited again." Kay replied as she reached into the fridge and pulled out part of a roast. "Would you prefer warmed over roast and mashed potatoes or some lasagna like Sid had?" She looked over the refrigerator door and explained. "We were going to have leftovers but I do have some chicken that I can fry if you prefer that." "I've heard a lot about this lasagna," the demon said after a moment of consideration. "Sid speaks so highly of it when he's crying for relief in the pit. I'd like to try it." He took a seat at the table and smiled at everyone with a bright clean smile you'd never expect on a creature of hell. Carl instinctively moved further away, still muttering to himself. "I'll get some more from the freezer and stick it in the microwave." Harry said hurried out of the room but quickly returned with another corning ware container full of lasagna which he put in the microwave. "What would you like to drink? We have tea, soft drinks and beer." Kay asked Lucifer as she bent down to help Curt stand. Curt got to his feet but he didn‟t speak. He wasn‟t at all sure what to say except, “Thanks,” to Kay. "Oh nothing alcoholic for me," he chuckled. "You know how it is .... drinking on the job. Big man watching when you least expect it. Not that I ever get a vacation to GET to drink," he muttered with a bit of bitter lacing it. "So please, iced tea would be delightful. With fresh lemon, perhaps?" "I .... " Carl was starting to really look sick. It was all due to his upbringing. "I need some air." He stumbled out of his chair and stuck his head out a window. They were serving food to the devil like a normal guest in their home? Dear God, what was next? Buddha coming down to join the party? "A man after my own . . . heart." Kay said as she filled a glass with ice and then tea. She found a lemon in the fridge, washed it, sliced it and put it on a saucer in front of Lucifer. "I'll let you decide how much lemon and sugar." She handed him the sugar bowl and then walked over to Carl. "Are you going to be all right?" She looked him straight in the eyes. "You can do this . . . for Sid." "For Sid?" he whispered. Is that why she was being nice, playing the good hostess, to the lord of the flies? His face turned back to the table, still astonished at how Lucifer daintily spooned sugar into his tea, squeezed lemon, and stirred it slowly as he waited patiently for the lasagna from Harry. "Okay ...." A hand lifted the cross around his neck so he could kiss it. "For Sid." And how the hell was he going to word this in his weekly confession to the priest? "Bless me Father for I have sinned. I broke bread and made nice with the Devil on Thursday. I really didn't want to, but I just felt I should. You see, he was being such a nice polite bloke, and he has a man I love down in the pit, so it just felt like the right thing to do, ya know? Is that really a sin, Father? Breaking bread with Satan? I hope not. I think he's coming to dinner next week too." Kay smiled and nodded her head then turned back to Lucifer. "Would you care for some salad with your lasagna?" "Ahhhh no thank you, my dear," he said with a shake of his head. From mortal woman to my dear now. The devil was tickled to be treated so kindly in someone's home that wasn't filled with silly satanist symbols and propoganda in trying to worship him when he had no desire to be worshipped. "This pasta dish is absolutely delightful. I must have the recipe for my chef." "I'll write it down for you," Harry said and proceeded to do just that. "Well, you've just made Harry happy." Kay said. "Would you like some more?" Kay was hoping her courage would last. She kept telling herself that maybe . . . just maybe this would help Sid. "As tempting as a second helping would be," Lucifer chuckled, patting his belly, "I better not. Must keep in shape to keep up the good work." He took the recipe from Harry and tucked it into a pocket of his black suit. "Wonderful, wonderful. It's been a pleasure meeting you three. As for that one," he said, motioning to Curt, "we've met once before. I have a feeling, knowing my Sid, we'll be meeting again." He leaned towards Curt, eyes glittering darkly. “I ain‟t afraid of ya.” For Sid, yes. For himself, no. Why should he be? "Then I commend you for such bravery," Lucifer smirked as he stood, bowing his head at Kay and Harry. "Now I really must return to work. Duke has a bad habit of chewing on my things when I'm not around, and I just don't feel like waiting for Sid to heal this time. I'm sure you understand if I must eat and run. Work, work, work. Never stops, does it?" Personally, Curt couldn‟t wait until this…thing…left them to their meal, but he didn‟t say anything and did his best to keep his face neutral. Kay shoved a whole pecan pie in his hands. "For your dessert . . . and perhaps you can help Sid heal." "Perhaps ...... I believe I'll consider it." He sniffed in the aroma of that pie with a smile. "Lovely. I'd so like to invite you to my home and return this generous hospitality... but then you'd have to die and likely go to ... Him instead. Shame." He grinned over at Carl, fully seeing the man's intense fear, waved at Curt, nodded with a softer smile to Kay and Harry, and then vanished. Carl immediately got up, lowered his head in the kitchen sink, and threw up. Kay sank onto a chair and wrapped her arms around herself. She panted for breath and started to shake. Harry opened a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He poured four drinks and with shaking hands gave three of them to the others in the room. Kay gulped hers down and started to cough. She looked at Curt and then the drink in front of him. "Sorry. Not meant as a temptation." “Thanks for the thought…but I can‟t.” From the looks of it, he was doing better than the rest of them. Kay picked up the glass and moved it away from Curt. "Wish I wasn't such a scardycat. I always seem to go to pieces." “Ya did good. Seemed pretty brave to me.” "Helluva lot braver than me," Carl sighed, drinking down that liquor as soon as he was done retching in the sink and washing it down the drain. "I'm sorry .... He .. it .. whatever it was .. it was like everything I've ever learned to fear since the day I was born .. right in my face. I couldn't take it." He could take an army coming at him, great whites in the deep chewing on his submersible he was testing for bugs, could even take being tortured over and over as a POW, but he couldn't take the devil ... or whatever it had been. It scared the living primal shit out of him thanks to his upbringing. "I understand . . . but I had to for Sid." Kay wiped sweat from her brow and her hands began tearing at a paper napkin. "It's not a feeling or smell that you get used to . . . no matter how many different places you encounter it." "I'm sorry," he said, very softly that time as his hand moved over hers and he kissed into her hair. "No one, none of us, should have to experience what we just did. Thanks to you and Harry with your food and good manners that I sure as hell didn't have, Sid'll be alright. We have to believe that. Have to." He kissed her cheek that time and then stood. "Mr. Mitchell, you're one brave bastard. Thank you." His hand went out to the man across the table. Harry nodded and shook Carl's hand. "He's my son . . . well . . . our son and we do what we have to protect him." Kay placed a hand over Curt's. "We're going to think positive. And Sid certainly enjoyed the chocolate cake." Curt smirked. “Yeah…he did. It was chocolate…of course he enjoyed it.” "It's good to know some things never change." Kay smiled and gingerly stood up then sat down again. "I know better than to drink. I'll probably start crying in a few minutes." She grinned at Curt and Carl and shrugged her shoulders. "I don't like the stuff but that's one of the two times I've felt like I needed it." Carl was close to crying too, and he definitely needed more to drink soon, a lot more ... then a good long talk with God in church. "Love ya, Kay." He hugged the woman's shoulders after that handshake with Harry and headed for the door. "Curt ..... if you're ready?" “Yeah…I‟m ready.” He nodded and smiled at Kay and Harry. “Thanks for the lasagna…and for seein‟ us.” "Thanks for giving us Sid's feathers. You're both welcome anytime." Kay kissed her fingers and waved to them. "Love you both." After she said it she knew it wasn't just a phrase mindlessly spoken. She cared for both men. * Hoping he could get away without seeing Diz, knowing she would likely see the signs in him of how he'd spent the weeks since Sid's death, Curt rang the bell and waited. If he was lucky, he'd be able to see Will and escape afterwards. He was out of luck. Diz opened the door. Her eyes widened at the sight of him but after a brief second he moved out to meet him "Curt? Hi...I guess you're looking for Will?" she resisted the urge to reach out and hug him remembering how uncomfortable he was with spotaneous contact Carl remained back a bit, giving the two time to say hello. Diz was his friend too, but he knew, from what he'd heard, that there was some sort of much older connection between her and the McGregor. After an initial flash of panic across his face he nodded. “Yeah…if he‟s around. How are ya?” There was no way he was going to be rude to her, even if he was now more nervous then he had been. "He's over at the forge with Kate I think," Diz said. "I'm doin' okay. All the better for seeing you. Will's going to be happy to see you," she smiled truthfully, Will could only benefit from seeing his Father's spouse. "Why don't yoiu head over there...Is that Carl with you?" she asked spotting her friend and waving him closer. "Heya Diz," he said with a smile as he moved up to them. "Did I hear you mention Kate?" He missed her already. Their date had gone much better than he'd ever imagined it would. A second date was definitely wanted. Curt didn‟t let his reaction to the request for another woman show on his face. “I…don‟t think I‟ve been to the forge. Can ya at least point me in the right direction?” "Sure Curt, no problem. If you go out of the back door and across the deck on the right end of the rugby pitch you'll see the gym and the forge is just beyond that." Diz explained. "If you'd tell Kate that Carl is here that'd be great," she smiled. He felt like an idiot that he didn‟t even know who Kate was, but hopefully there wouldn‟t be many women around so it might be easy to figure out. With the state of his memory, he wasn‟t even sure he‟d ever been here before, so he wandered off through the house, hoping to find the back door, and hoping to remember, by the time he did, how to find the forge. "Curt," Carl called out, "Let Will know I'm here too, eh?" He'd left messages for his "grandson" in this home after Sid's death, and he really wanted to see him now that he had a chance. “Sure…” It took him longer than he wanted to find his way to the back door, but he did finally succeed. Mentally repeating the directions again, he went off the right end of the deck, across the field, to the structures beyond. Before he stepped inside he called out, “Will?” Better to announce himself…and maybe give the man a chance to hide if he didn‟t want to talk to Curt. He had a feeling this encounter might be very painful for both of them. He wouldn‟t blame Will for wanting to avoid it. And him. "Curt?" Will called back and moved to open the door quickly. His relief at seeing the Macgregor had him swamping the smaller man in a hug. "It's good to see you," he said in a voice tight with emotion. “Didn‟t think ya‟d want to,” he admitted, choking on the words, not pulling away from the hug. “Before we get talkin‟…Carl‟s here…wants to know if Kate‟s around…and wants to see ya later to say hi…see how yare doin‟…” Will relaxed his hug but retained an arm around Curt's shoulders as if afraid the man would leave. He nodded at the small dark haired woman smiling from in front of her anvil. "Carl is here?" she said with a slight blush. "I will go and greet him. It is nice to meet you to Curt, Will has spoken of you often," Kate said in her softly accented voice moving to hold out a hand to the man her brother still held possessively. “Good to meet ya too.” He certainly didn‟t blame her for the mess in his family between Carl and Tamara. He shook her hand firmly. “He‟s in the house with Diz…probably talkin‟ about me,” he chuckled with a smirk. "Then I shall go and put a stop to that," the Faress said in a determined tone. "No one should be gossiped about," she nodded decisively and left the forge striding for the house. Will watched her go, "she has a very clear idea of right and wrong does my sister," he said then tightened his arm on Curt again. "It's good to see you well Curt. I was worried, but then.." his voice trailed off. If he was hurting from the loss of Sid how much worse for Curt? “But then?” Curt asked. “Please…feel free to say what ya gotta say. I won‟t bite.” Will turned to look Curt in the eye. "I...was lost for a while. I was worried but too wrapped in my grief to remember you in yours," he admitted dropping his eyes as he spoke. Curt smiled a little. “Ya weren‟t the only one. I wasn‟t much use to anyone…you and Timmy and Julian especially…not because of hurtin so much as tryin‟ my damnedest not to. Not to feel anythin‟. Fucked up pretty bad…but I‟m tryin‟ now. And I certainly don‟t blame ya. Ya‟ve been through a lot…first Benjamin and now Sid. Ya had a good reason to deal with yare own shit first.” "We're a fine pair are we not?" Will said with a rueful smile. "Julian and I have spent some time together, perhaps next time you might join us?" he asked, "he is a good lad my young brother and he cares about you a great deal, as do I." He rubbed his hand over Will‟s nearly bare head. “He‟s a good kid…even if he don‟t like to admit it. At least ya didn‟t drown yare troubles in drugs. At least…I hope ya didn‟t. Just decided on a new hair style, eh?” "We do what we have to to survive," Will said as he shifted his head under Curt's stroking hand, "I drank a great deal, fought a little, got hurt...a bit." “Looks like I‟m not the only self-destructive one around.” Curt shook his head. “Hurt how? Better now?” "I picked fights, wone them..mostly, but.." he eased back from Curt enough to lift one side of his t- shirt to show some old bruising on his ribs. Now almost healed it wasn't painful any longer but anyone who had known beatings would recognise the look of it. “Shit man…” He touched the bruising lightly. “Ya should be more careful. Does bein‟ shot count? Wasn‟t pickin‟ fights really…but it was close enough.” "You were shot?" Will's eyebrows shot up and his dark eyes gaze searched for obvious scars. "I think you win," he said with a mock bow..."a shooting outweighs a brawl." Curt chuckled. “It was nothin‟ really. Taly and I were comin‟ out after the show one night, and this guy tried to rob us. He had a gun aimed at Taly…I tried to get it away from him and it went off. Got me in the shoulder. Thankfully…I heal faster than most.” "So we have both emerged beyond what looked to tear at us," Will said, "I'm glad. I miss him, but I still have you," he said with simple honesty. “Have ya seen „im?” Maybe he hadn‟t. Maybe Will was going to think Curt was completely nuts. “Recently?” Will saw the wary look and smiled. "I have. The first time I thought I was imagining...that I was so drunk that I conjured him, but just recently...Julian and I saw him. He looks...different now," the Ledger's smile turned wry. “Yeah…he does.” From the bit of cloth he produced the last red feather and offered it to Will. “I thought ya might like to have this…” Will's eyes widened and he reached for the feather then curled his hand closed again. His eyes searched Curt's, "are you sure? You don't want it for yourself?" He nodded and managed a little smile. “I‟ve got some others. This one is for you.” "Then thank you Curt," Will said reached out and took the soft feather and smiled at the texture of it. "This is very kind of you," he said fighting the tears that clogged his throat. Clasping Will‟s shoulder with one hand, he replied, “S‟no big deal…I mean…I knew ya‟d appreciate it…that it would mean something…and that he‟d want ya to have it. He hates them…but I think he‟ll be happy to know we appreciate the little tokens.” Not trusting his voice Will nodded and dropped his head forward to stare at the floor. The hand not holding the feather lifted up to rest over Curt's on his shoulder his jaw grtted and his body quivered with the effort not to cry “Nothin‟ wrong with cryin‟…” he whispered, even though it was something he hadn‟t let himself do much of either. “At least…we‟ve been lucky enough to see „im…which is more than most people ever get.” Will let the tears fall then and lifted his eyes to look at Curt. "Yes...lucky..." he agreed in a rough tone and smiled sadly at the MacGregor. "Thank you," he said reaching out to hug Curt one armed. He would not cry. He refused. Be strong…for Will. The hug was returned, his own tears blinked away. It didn‟t mean he didn‟t feel them. “Yare welcome, Will. And I‟m glad ya can help out Raz. He hasn‟t made many friends yet. Makes me glad he found one in ya.” "He's a good lad...and he's more than a friend.I consider him my brother." Will said with an emphasis on the last two words. He eased his hug and looked at Curt. "Would you be part of the family we form Curt?" ._,_.___ Curt nodded. “He doesn‟t call me dad like he does Sid…but that‟s cool with me. He still sees me that way. I know ya don‟t…and to be honest…I don‟t see ya as my kid either…” He chuckled a little. “Not the right ages for that. But I do feel yare family…have for a long time now. And if that‟s what ya want of me…to be a father…I can try. If ya ask the two of „em…I suck at being a parent.” He sighed. "You don't have to try to be a father... you are a father," Will said gently, "just don't be a stranger to us, we need you and I think you need us...I hope you need us," he amended. That made Curt look at the ground. “I…think so. I know I haven‟t been around…and though I could try to explain it, I don‟t think I ever could. Don‟t think Timmy‟ll ever understand…or forgive me…but I hope you and Raz do…and can…in time…” "There is nothing to forgive," Will said. "Julian will see that to and between us Timmy will come understand. We are family and family forgive," he said firmly. He couldn‟t hold back the snort. “Clearly ya never met my family,” he said with a smirk. “And I don‟t mean the Tigh Ard ones either. Julian…yeah…I know he‟ll be okay with me eventually. I ain‟t so sure about Timmy. We were always friends before…we changed „im…and I‟ll never live up to what MadMax was to „im. Just a substitute.” "Whoever your family was before...or mine for that matter...before here...it's different now," Will said softly He shrugged. “Enough self-pity though. Carl wants to know how yare doin‟ too…so maybe we should head up to the house…make sure Kate hasn‟t shredded him or somethin‟.” "I think that may be wise," Will smiled broadly, "although I do know she has a certain 'fondness' for Carl so that may save him, but then again I'm her brother and it doesn't save me," he said reflexively rubbing a spot on his bicep where Kate had socked him earlier in the day. “If it‟s anythin‟ like Faith‟s fondness for her brothers…I know what ya mean.” He started back towards the house. “Not quite sure why some people express fondness at the end of a fist. Certainly a lot less painful ways to do it.” Unbidden Will's hand lifted to a simple metal cross made of two horshoe nails that Kate had made for him and smiled, "oh she does that to... ah women are fickle," he grinned leading the way back to the house. When they reached the door, just in case they were about to interrupt something Curt had no desire to see, he called out, “Little pigs, little pigs, let us come in!” Diz had left Carl and Kate alone and it was as well Curt called out. It allowed the blacksmith to wriggle off Carl's lap and straighten her shirt. "Uh...yeah....come in!" she called out unable to disguise the huskiness in her voice. Will grinned at Curt. "I don't think she's shredding him." There was definitely a very heated look on Carl's face, and in evidence of his pants where she'd been sitting, as he looked up and smiled at the two men. His hand went out to Kay's hip, not feeling she had to leave him just because they'd been interupted. He was a free man and she was a free woman. Besides, they'd only been kissing ... mostly..... The woman shifted her weight a little to lean against Carl enjoying the touch of his hand on her so casually, so intimately. "Hello Will, Curt. It's nice to see you," she smiled at the Macgregor. “Ya only just saw me a bit ago…of course,” he smirked, “I can understand why ya might forget somethin‟ like that…” Especially, a quiet voice said in his head, because compared to Carl he was pretty forgettable. “Brought Will to see ya, Carl.” Kate blushed and lifted a hand in apology to Curt. "Sorry...I uh...well I got sidetracked," she admitted. Will chuckled and winked at Carl, "you managed to 'sidetrack' Kate? I'm impressed." Carl chuckled too, the hand on Kate tightening a bit. "Thanks Curt. It's really good to see you, Will. Is there ... ya know ... anything? Anything at all I can do for you?" The urge to say.."Yes Mr Clonemaker...bring him back...bring them both back," surged in Will's chest but he sucked in a breath and waited for the feeling to pass. "No Carl, thank you. I think we're doing okay as a family," he dropped an arm over Curt's shoulders to add to the point. A bit red-faced, Curt smiled up at Will with a sense of relief. In canon, family had meant nothing. These days, family was so much more. Will smiled back a feeling of connection the other man pulling at his heart as he did. His eyes returned to Carl with a touch of protectiveness that was never far from him in realtion to those he loved. "So what are your intentions towards my sister?" he asked as humour bloomed in his eyes hearing Kate's sharp intake of breath. "So what are your intentions towards my sister?" he asked as humour bloomed in his eyes hearing Kate's sharp intake of breath.. "Ohhhhh I think Katey and I have that in hand, don't we?" he asked her, bringing her back down on his lap, though that time on the end of his knee so there was less sexual intent to it in front of her brother. "And I agree with you, Will. Family. Sticks together. We'll be okay." He looked both men straight in the eye with warmth, affection, even love. Kate sat a little primly on Carl's lap and felt a blush on her cheeks then she smiled from Will and his possessive hold to Curt's eyes. "It looks like that makes you my family to," she said and eased up from her perch to move to Curt. She was a good bit shorter than him but managed to stretch on her toes to kiss his cheek. “I had a sister named Katie…” he whispered, flustered. "You can call me whatever you wish Kate, Katie,...Smithy,"...she suggested in a self mocking tone. "I would be honoured if you would see me as a sister." _._,_.___ \ With Will being somewhere between friend and son, it would be strange to see his sister as Curt's sister, but maybe he could manage that. "I'll try," he grinned. "Kate." Kate smiled widely at him. "Good enough. Would you like a drink Curt?" she asked her eyes moving to take in Carl. She blushed realising that she hadn't offered him refreshment either. She'd been more interested in kissing him. “Nah, I‟m good, thanks. I got Sidi waitin‟ to take me back to Fairview…and while I‟m sure he‟s enjoying the company he‟s with, I don‟t wanna make him wait to long. He might get the wrong idea about what I‟m doin‟ and come huntin‟ for me. Thanks for the offer though.” Will tried not to tense at the mention of the other Sid but he couldn't seem to help himself. "Are you safe with him?" he asked looking from Curt to Carl and back. "I'm not saying a word," Carl snorted, settling back further in the seat then. "Curt and I talked about it. He knows how I feel." But Carl wasn't trying to stop Curt either, having only expressed his opinion once out of loving worry and then having dropped it. He knew the man was very much an adult and understood SIDs well. If anyone had a chance of surviving that much time spent with a new one, a rogue one, it was this McGregor. “He made a promise to Sid…and I trust that. He wants the same thing we all want…trust, respect, love. He could‟ve taken advantage of me when I was suffering the worst of the detox…but he didn‟t.” He looked Will in the eye. “They‟re SID. No one‟s ever truly 100% safe with „em…but the more we treat „em as we‟d like to be treated…the more likely they are to respond in kind.” "That I understand," Will smiled relieved at Curt's explanation having begun to worry when Carl spoke. Even with Sid he‟d known he wasn‟t completely safe, but being Mate had put him in a position as close to totally safe as he could be…just as John was with Sidney. "I am glad you came Curt," Will said and grinned at the Macgregor. “Me too. Just sorry I couldn‟t sooner,” he replied with his own grin. Kate's eyes tracked to Carl and she smiled at him with a promise in her eyes. That same promise shone back in his to hers as he stood, stepping over to Will to hug the man. "Like Curt said ... Sidi's waiting for him. You have my number, Will. Anytime, anything ... ok?" Will returned the hug and said, "ok," with a smile which warmed further as he looked at Curt.