This is a really sweet little story which, in Jeff’s own words, is “simply a Gay version of something that happens in one of Marilyn Ross’s romance novels based on the old “Dark Shadows” soap opera that appeared during the run of the series in the 60s and early 70s. (“Marilyn Ross” was a pen name of Dan Ross, a prolific Canadian author.)” I hadn’t come across the author, or the novels, or the soap opera, so this was new to me. Hopefully it will be to all of you as well, and you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Daniel stood so close to Gabe in the bedroom of the ancient house he could feel his breathing.
“You really want to do this?” Gabe asked.
“Yeah,” Daniel said, still not sure of himself. “You can’t go outside. Too many people out tonight with the Festival and all, and you’re running low on, well, food…”
“Look, it’s a nice offer, but…” Gabe said.
“It’s not like you can call up somewhere and order a six-pack of plasma or something,” Daniel said.
“No, that wouldn’t work.” Gabe said with a half smile. “You’re sure?”
“You keep asking,” Daniel said. “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it.”
Still, Daniel took a deep breath and let it out.
“All right,” Gabe said. He somehow seemed to draw closer, even though they were already standing so close their shoes almost touched.
“Um, look” Daniel said. “This isn’t going to drain me, is it?”
“No. No, I just need a little bit to get by tonight.” Gabe said. “Gorging is for monsters in movies.”
“And, It’s not going to make me, well, a…a..you know? I mean…” Daniel started to say.
“I don’t even think I can do that,” Gabe said with a genuine smile.
“And, you won’t like, be able to control me afterwards, will you?” Daniel asked, thinking to himself that wouldn’t be too bad of an option.
Gabe actually laughed. “None of this works that way,” he said.
“Okay, well…” Daniel breathed, getting more relaxed. “When does this start?”
“It already has,” Gabe said.
Daniel thought about looking over and making sure he’d locked the bedroom door but he couldn’t take his eyes of Gabe’s face or his eyes. His eyes which seemed to fill Daniel’s vision. Daniel felt a little like he had when he’d been given a shot at the dentist. Numb and woozy. He didn’t remember when he lost sight of Gabe’s face and eyes, but he felt a nuzzling on his shoulder and a sting on his neck like a mosquito and he let out a little breath.
He remembered later Gabe walking him over to his bed and having him take off his shoes and crawl under the covers while Gabe spoke in a soft voice. But it was only years later, sometimes when Daniel would be drifting off to sleep that he would hear the words that he never remembered in the morning:
“Sleep…lay your head down on the soft pillow…let the fear and worry flow out of you…dream of love and peace…remember the bright stars, the quiet Moon…and remember the dawn…always remember the dawn…and remember me…”
Daniel didn’t remember those words, but he felt them.
Oh my. This lovely story featuring dragons really caught me by surprise – both the twist in the, um, tail, and how emotional it was. Definitely joy! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you fancy finding Jackie’s other books then don’t forget to check out her website.
Ducas left the village before daybreak, quietly, and without the cheers that had marked his arrival. The forest-clad mountains grew ever closer until he found himself under a canopy of trees. He chose a path and followed it uphill, dismounting when the trail became too treacherous for riding. Leading Harun, he picked his way over tumbled rocks and fallen trees, stopping to catch his breath in the small pockets of lush grass and sunshine that broke the gloom of the forest here and there.
No birdsong disturbed the silence under the trees. No breeze rustled the leaves. And for all the hours he walked, Ducas saw not a single animal.
Halfway up the mountain Ducas smelled smoke, not the hot, choking breath of a hurried blaze, but the woodsy aroma of a fire that had been kindled to warm and extinguished when its comfort was no longer needed.
His heart hammered, not with exertion but with a mix of fear and excitement.
After years of searching, he’d reached a place of fire and smoke. Of fire that roused and died at will. Of fragrant smoke and comforting warmth.
A place of… dragons.
They were there, right in front of him, in one of these queer, oddly lush clearings. Four great, towering beasts surrounded a fifth in a semicircle, all multi-hued scales, long necks and eyes that tracked his every move.
Ducas dropped Harun’s bridle, and the gelding stood as entranced by the sight as Ducas himself. This wasn’t a dream, wouldn’t end with Ducas waking cold, alone, and bruised from head to foot. This time, he could step forward and touch the dragons if he dared.
He burned the sight into his memory until the dragon in the centre—the smallest of the five—raised his head.
“What brings the dragon slayer into our woods?” he asked in a voice that was entirely human, though lower and somehow warmer. “You are Ducas, the dragon slayer, are you not?”
Ducas gestured to himself and Harun. “And yet, I bear no weapons.”
One of the larger dragons rumbled – a warning? A threat? – and the small dragon shot him a look. “We noticed you leaving your weapons before you started the climb. It does not explain your presence or your reputation.”
For six long years, Ducas had imagined this meeting. He had planned what to say many times and had discarded the words just as often. Faced with five dragons, all his reasons for seeking them out seemed spurious, futile, insignificant.
He sank to his knees, kept his back straight and settled his hands on his thighs, never taking his eyes off the dragons. “My reputation as a slayer of dragons is undeserved,” he began. “Nor did I earn the title. I was fourteen and not yet a man, when dragons killed my father and older brother. I’ve been seeking those dragons ever since, and knowing my past, people believed I sought revenge.”
“And you do not?” A note of curiosity had entered the dragon’s warm, soothing voice.
“I do not. My father and brother were evil bastards. When they destroyed the one bright light in my life, I wanted to die myself. Instead, the dragons came and killed my tormentors. I’ve been seeking those dragons ever since, not to kill, but to thank them. And to beg them to show me my love’s resting place.”
None of the dragons moved or spoke, but the forest, which had lain silent since Ducas had set foot under the canopy, suddenly rang with the rustle of leaves and sounds of bird calls. Before Ducas’s eyes, the air shimmered. Colours ran together like a spill of milk and water, and re-formed into a white-robed shape and a face Ducas hadn’t seen since the night his father and brother had surprised him and his lover.
“You, Ducas, are a better friend than I,” Xia said. “I should have come to find you long ago, only I was badly wounded and dragons heal but slowly.”
Ducas stretched out a hand and found it shaking with shock and wonder at seeing Xia alive, and with the memories of what he himself had endured to reach the dragons. Unfamiliar emotions burned his chest and clogged his throat, and it needed Harun, who’d been a colt when Xia and Ducas had become lovers to break the stillness that held them all.
Harun snorted and tossed his head, and then he pranced forward and bumped his nose into Xia’s neck.
Xia wrapped both arms around the gelding and swung himself onto his back, so very different from the boy Ducas had known, who’d shied from horses. Then Xia held out his hand and beckoned Ducas to join him.
“You can thank me later,” he said. “Once I’ve granted your other wish and have shown you where I live. You have earned the right to visit with the dragons.”
Ducas stared into the face that was familiar and not, listened to the voice that had deepened since he’d last heard it, and saw the thin white lines of scars that he remembered as bloody slashes. Overcome, he crumpled forward and let great, racking sobs tear up his throat. He hadn’t allowed himself to cry when his father and brother had killed Xia, had shown no emotion when the dragons had taken their revenge and left him behind.
He’d buried the rage and grief, regret and guilt deep inside himself, but he knew that if he ever wanted to look at Xia with equanimity, he needed to purge himself of all this poison.
He didn’t feel Xia settling beside him, didn’t notice when his head landed on Xia’s thigh and his tears soaked the dragon’s white robe. Curled into a ball, he cried as if the world was ending, and when his tears finally dried, he had just enough breath to whisper, “I loved you so much. I didn’t want to go on alone. But neither did I want to leave you to sleep unmourned.”
“And now you’ve learned that you don’t need to mourn him any longer,” an older, rougher voice spoke from behind him. “You’ve seen that he lives and that he is healing. Will you leave him now?”
Ducas pushed himself upright with the careful slowness of one carrying the weight of the world with nothing inside him to balance the load. “I came here to find Xia’s grave and mourn him until my time was done. I had the strength for that.”
Xia cupped his cheek and brushed a kiss across his lips, a barely-there touch that tasted like starlight. “You’ve had the strength and courage to find us,” he whispered. “Can you find the strength and courage to stay?”
Xia didn’t add with me, but Ducas saw the words hang in the air as if they’d been sewn onto a banner and thrust into the space between them.
The emptiness inside him filled with light and colour, and an unfamiliar emotion. He drew a deep breath, and when he leaned forward and covered Xia’s lips with his to accept, he knew that what he felt right then was… joy.
Here’s a smashing, atmospheric tale from Anne (subtitled “From the files of Sullivan Investigations”) which plays on the title in an unexpected way that sent shivers up my spine! Don’t forget you can find all her books, including the Shades of Sepia series, at her website.
My arm caught the pile of papers on the end of my desk. White sheets scattered to the floor, red scribbles outweighing the black, a reminder of accounts I had no chance of paying now.
I held my head in my hands, memories playing out like a black and white film reel about the Great War with no colour or sound.
The staccato of bullets tore me back to reality. I dived under the desk, cautiously peering out once the gunfire stopped. After few more minutes, I crawled over to the window, wishing I could afford curtains. They’d at least give me some cover.
Pull yourself together, Kieran, my boy.
I heard the words in my father’s voice, stern yet well meaning, his Irish accent a reminder of everything I’d left behind and everyone I’d lost. Of the man I loved who promised to return to me but ended up dead because of his part in the Rising. I still heard him in my memories, and remembered his touch—
No sign of anyone in the building across the street, not that I could see much in the darkness. It grew suddenly quiet, eerily so. A shadow under the lone streetlight only served to remind me I was alone. The rest of the building stood empty, the tea room below having closed its doors hours before.
I climbed to my feet, avoiding the shattered glass. Two bullets on the floor, another lodged in the wood of my desk.
Another few inches and….
I shuddered, poured myself a drink, and took a swig of whiskey, then another. Who the hell had I annoyed this time?
Given the minute number of cases I’d solved since I set up shop in London, the list wouldn’t be that long. I glanced at the half a dozen or so folders stacked in a haphazard pile on the filing cabinet I hadn’t got around to using yet.
Going through them sounded preferable to heading back to my one room flat and trying to sleep. I could contact the police, but doubted they’d take much notice of me. I wasn’t in the Inspector’s good books, not since that case six months ago. You’d think he’d be grateful for my help, but instead I’d received a figurative sharp rap on my knuckles and a reminder to keep my nose out of police business.
Another sharp sound interrupted my thoughts. I looked up, annoyed, as I nearly knocked my glass to the floor. I grabbed it just in time, and swirled the liquid before downing what was left of it in one gulp. Smooth, and sweet. It helps me forget, yet forces me to remember.
“Go away,” I muttered at the door. The person making the racket didn’t get the hint.
The door swung open, the lock meant to keep the outside world away from me, useless.
A slender gentleman, well-dressed and obviously from money, strode into my office. He helped himself to the chair in front of my desk without waiting for an invitation to sit.
I frowned. Time to get a new lock. And a new desk. And get my window fixed.
I sighed. I was barely making my rent.
Some detective I was. Sure, I’d known this would be dangerous—and the pay would be shite—but I had planned to play it safe. I’d had my fill of dodging bullets. The war I’d fought in was over, and I’d barely escaped being killed in the events leading up to the partition. I was well out of it.
Or so I told myself whenever I was tempted to go home to Ireland.
“Yes?” I attempted to sound nonchalant although it was already too late for that. He’d seen me sizing him up and seemed almost resigned. “You’d be better coming back in the morning.” I waved my hand towards the window. He followed my gaze, yet didn’t seem surprised at what was obviously the aftermath of a shooting.
“They won’t be bothering you again.” He sounded very sure of himself, and then abruptly changed the subject, dismissing the incident as nothing important. “You’re working on a case.” His accent sounded upper class, his words clipped, and if I wasn’t mistaken, more than a little strained.
“That’s what I do.” I pointed to the door. “I presume you read the sign?” I didn’t apologise for sounding rude. After the evening I’d had, I wasn’t in the mood for some posh Sassenach pushing his way into the only case I had.
“Sullivan Investigations.” His mouth twitched into a smile, more amused than offended by my question.
“That’s me. Kieran Sullivan at your service.” I paused for moment. Shite, what if he was a potential client? “Sir.”
I stood, and leaned over the desk to shake his hand. He met me half way, yet I sensed the gesture was a habit, more than an overwhelming need to be polite. His grip was firm, his build belied his strength, and his flesh felt cold to the touch. I pulled away quickly, careful to remain calm.
Outwardly at least.
“These rooms have been leased to you by the owner of the tea rooms downstairs.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, but I’m not sure—”
“Miss Emily Riley has asked you to trace the transaction that allowed her uncle, Mr. Vaughan, to purchase the Lily Tea Room. To locate his …” The gentleman hesitated before continuing. “… benefactor.”
“My client’s wishes are confidential.” I didn’t argue, merely stated a fact.
He met my eyes, his gaze unflinching. “You’ve been asking questions.”
I fought the urge to look away so took a deep breath instead, using it to steady my racing heart. “That’s what I’m employed to do.”
He smiled. “You have nothing to fear from me, Mr Sullivan.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Your current case.” His voice flattened, and lost inflection. My heart steadied, although I could hear the steady thump of it loud in the growing chill of the room.
“Yes.” This time I answered a statement with a statement.
“You haven’t found anything. The money left to the family was from an anonymous source.”
“But….” I had found something. The name Hawthorne, connected somehow to Miss Emily’s cousin. Many would have missed it, but given my own predilections, I’d recognised their relationship for what it was—hints of a friendship that had been something more, yet could not be named for fear of recrimination. I lowered my voice, going out on a limb. “I assure you, I can be discreet. I have no intention of ruining the reputation of a dead—”
He drew in a sharp breath. “I am well aware of what you have found, and how important one’s reputation is, Mr Sullivan.” He sighed and massaged his temples. “I—he does not wish to be found.” He continued in a firm tone. “It is best for everyone concerned if he is not.”
“Mr Hawthorne,” I murmured, convinced he was the one I was conversing with. The name sounded familiar, yet not.
His smile thinned, and his eyes darkened. I blinked. The light played tricks as his face slipped into shadow, and his eyes….
I glanced at the almost empty whiskey bottle, and wished I could blame it. Unfortunately, I was still more sober I’d like to be.
“Anonymous gifts are anonymous for a reason. Drop your case. Tell your client you were unsuccessful. Your fee will still be paid, although you will not question the source of that payment.” He added as though an afterthought. “We didn’t have this conversation.”
I found myself nodding. “Unsuccessful,” I echoed. “I won’t question.” I blinked again, and rubbed my eyes. It had been a long day. I looked up at the gentleman opposite me. Odd. I didn’t remember him being there before.
Given his appearance, he was obviously from money. He pushed my empty glass towards me, then stood and poured me another drink. “It’s difficult when the war follows you home, isn’t it?” he said, not unkindly, in a clipped upper-class accent. He poured one for himself, draining the last of the bottle, and downed it quickly. “At least you can drink to forget. Some of us don’t have that luxury.”
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” The whiskey left a warm burn in my throat as I swallowed. How many glasses had I drunk?
“No.” He started to turn then grabbed my wrist, forcing me to look at him. “You’ve been drinking alone tonight, Mr Sullivan.” He glanced at his glass, wiped it clean with a cloth he pulled from his pocket, and returned it to the top of the filing cabinet. “I was never here. Go home and get some sleep. Your window will be fixed in the morning. It’s the least I can do.” A smile tugged at his lips. “Thank you for looking after Stephen’s family. It’s good to know someone is.”
The door closed behind him.
I rubbed at my wrist, then picked up my glass, and walked over to the window. I’d have to get someone in to fix the bullet hole in the morning. I frowned, tracing the hole with one finger. I could have sworn it hadn’t been there earlier in the evening, so where had it come from? Surely, I’d remember being shot at?
A shadowy figure walked the street below. The man turned, fixing his gaze on me. I stared back, unflinchingly, although I couldn’t see his face. He nodded, pulled up the collar of his coat, and tilted his hat.
The window will be fixed in the morning.
I glanced at my watch, despite not needing to as I could see the beginnings of dawn lighting the street below.
I shrugged, the question of missing time I slipping away as it failed to gain traction. I picked up the bottle to pour myself another drink but it was empty, although I couldn’t remember finishing it. I opened my drawer, and reached for a spare. It was the last one I had left with the old Cork Distillery Label, so could be worth something in a few years.
I could be dead by then too. I opened it anyway, and this time took a long drink from the bottle. My one true friend. The only thing constant in my life right now, yet unable to rid me of the ghosts of my past. I returned the bottle to my drawer, grabbed my coat, and headed for the door with only a glance behind me before I turned out the light.
Lucky for me that whoever took that pot shot had given up so quickly. Luck of the Irish, some might say. I snorted. Wherever the wee folk were hiding they’d given me a wide berth. Part of me preferred it that way. Those bullets weren’t the first I’d dodged, and given my line of work, I doubted they’d be the last.
‘Rough Flight’ is a fun, fantasy flash fiction with a massive twist in the tail (which I honestly didn’t see coming when I read it) that Rebecca wrote for a Queer Sci Fi anthology a few years ago. Like this? Then why not check out her other books and writing at her website?
Flashes of light blazed across Kalt’s retinas. Already disorientated, his mind spiraled out of control, and an urge to move towards the brightness churned deep inside his third stomach. He should’ve heeded the advice of his third wife, or it was his second husband?
“Nothing is ever free, and the cheaper it seems the higher the price.”
His heart hammered and his throat constricted as he was engulfed in the torrent of white. After everything he had seen, the worlds he’d saved, and destroyed, it would end here. Alone, the buzzing in his ears the only requiem of his death as he left his mortal body and flew higher. The taste in his mouth reminiscent of lost good times, a tang of blood with a side of bitter tears. He swallowed past the lump of the untasted poison that had signed the final death warrant that no interstellar warden had been able to complete.
Kalt was ready. Bring on the afterworld. He would face it with the same relentlessness he’d enjoyed in life – once he could stand up without falling to his knees. His final journey in this realm would not be his last. He would spread his wings further in the next cycle, burn even brighter.
He held out his arms and waited for the collection. Something grabbed his wrist, he tried to scream and the next thing he knew he was face down, cheek against cold metal and a pair of boots at eye level. “For fuck’s sake, Kalt. I told you not to eat those gigaberries. You were tripping through hyperspace. You dick.”
Kalt rolled onto his back to see the unamused face of his current lover, Diflin, a rugged man with a sense of humor that needed work. “I’m fine. Just a rough flight.”
A blast of a story from K. L., who describes it thus:
“This short story was written very quickly, pretty much on the spot, as a get-well fic for a friend, some time ago! Mostly I was trying to make them smile. I’ve sometimes thought about doing something else with it—Alex and Blake are such fun, and this is clearly just their first encounter—but it’s a little out of my usual genres, and I haven’t had the time to give it more attention. Still, I like it, and I hope you do too!“
Alex Lyster was lying in a hospital bed, alternating between trying to sleep and not wanting to sleep and worrying about deadlines and wondering whether giving a main character appendicitis would be a good plot twist, given recent real-life experience, when his door slammed open and the werewolf burst in.
The werewolf had impressive shoulders and shaggy brown hair and angry eyebrows over ink-pool eyes; he was wearing a nicely fitted suit in a way that suggested he didn’t enjoy it, and he snapped, “Blake Forrest, FBI. What do you know about the cancelation of MysteriCon 2023, and why do you smell guilty?”
Alex was definitely no longer trying to sleep. And probably shouldn’t be enjoying the shoulders and the angry competence and the undeniable presence, at least not quite so much. It was an annoyed kind of enjoyment, because the sexy werewolf FBI agent had shoved his door open and was yelling at him, but his day had inarguably become a lot more interesting.
He sat up more. And folded the blanket over his lap. “Nothing, because I’ve been in the hospital. Busy, you know, getting my appendix out. I canceled as their Guest of Honor yesterday.”
This earned him a noise in response. It was almost a growl. Alex’s spine did a little shiver, thrilled by danger or want or both.
The werewolf FBI agent said, “If you were ill, why do you feel guilty?” and began glaring around Alex’s hospital room, presumably looking for clues, or simply very irritated with nondescript chairs and beeping monitors.
Alex crossed his arms. “Because I had to cancel, and I feel terrible about that? Also, I think interrogating a suspect using meta-human senses, without disclosing your meta status beforehand, is illegal under the Extra-Sensory Perceptions Enforcement Act of nineteen-eighty-eight, thanks.”
The werewolf—Agent Forrest—stopped in the act of glowering at the underside of Alex’s bed to turn the glower on Alex himself. His eyes smoldered, which was not a phrase Alex would normally have written into action-packed thriller crime novels. But they did. “How did you know—”
“About the Enforcement Act? Public knowledge.” He threw the werewolf a smile just to be annoying right back: every drop of golden youthful brazen charm he could muster. “Plus, mystery writer. How did I know you’re a werewolf? Apart from the whole announcing you could smell me line, you mean?”
Agent Forrest had enough self-awareness to look mildly embarrassed about that. “If you haven’t done anything wrong—”
“I don’t have anything to worry about?”
“You canceled less than twenty-four hours before the entire convention apparently ceased to exist, and attendees lost their entire—”
“What division do you actually work for? How to make friends and cross-examine people just out of surgery?”
Agent Forrest paused again. His nostrils flared. “You do smell…”
“I told you, they took my appendix out. You want to see the incision, too?”
“No. I…” Those intense inkwell eyes hesitated, skimming Alex’s face. “You almost died, didn’t you?”
“Yes, because, according to my agent, I’m an idiot who ignores massive painful warning signs and then gets on a plane to Seattle. Does that exonerate me from whatever nefarious plot you think I’ve come up with?”
Agent Forrest stared at him for another second or two. Then muttered, “Maybe,” and turned about and stomped out of Alex’s hospital room. And slammed the door behind him. Hard.
“Okay,” Alex said to the suddenly much less occupied space. “Okay.” And then he looked around for his bag, and a notebook, and his phone.
He had an idea or two. He had the contact information for the convention’s organizer, or the woman who’d claimed to be, who’d invited bestselling author Alex Lyster to speak; he also knew some of the volunteers, who’d helped out with previous convention years. He was thinking about the brand-new organizing committee, and the new tech team they’d brought in. About people no one had known, not even by reputation.
He also wanted to make some notes. He did not normally write much paranormal crime, but he’d done one or two; sometimes that was what a story wanted to be. A new hero, maybe. Tall and dark and grumpy. Dangerous, but sensitive. With broad shoulders and extremely intense eyes.
About an hour later, Agent Forrest reappeared. Once again, he did not knock, though he’d lost his suit jacket someplace and rolled up both sleeves, white fabric against tanned skin, delicious. He opened the door and said, “I talked to your surgeon.”
Alex surfaced from scribbling notes about a werewolf private investigator firm. “I’m glad for you. Did you get his number? Are you going on a date?”
Pink flickered behind dark stubble—artistic stubble, too, which Alex considered unfair—and faded. “I do have his number. Work. Personal. Home. In case you need it.”
“Why would I need it?”
“If you’re in pain. If your stitches open. If you require more attention. If he’s an idiot and left a scalpel inside you—”
Agent Forrest crossed his arms. Muscles rippled. “It happens.”
“I could tell you the statistics about—”
“I also ought,” Agent Forrest said, with the caution of a man unused to the words, “to apologize? For earlier.”
“Oh, ought you.”
Alex waved a hand. “Don’t worry. Mystery writer, remember? I like puzzles.” And attractive FBI agents, he nearly said. But didn’t. Self-control. Practicing it. “I have a present for you.”
Agent Forrest now appeared profoundly baffled, as if this were not the script he’d had in his head. Up close, and somewhat perplexed, he became younger: Alex’s age, or a couple of years older, maybe late thirties or barely forty, and confronted by new information. “When did you…why…you shouldn’t even…you almost died, yesterday…”
“I didn’t get out of bed. Is that concern? You look concerned. Sit down for this, it’s fun. Would you like the names of all the new organizing committee members, and their official convention-related emails, and, this is the big one, the email one of them sent to an external address, containing financial account information? With some interesting transfers?”
Agent Forrest stared at him more. And then, slowly, sat down. The chair creaked in protest.
“See,” Alex said. “A present.”
“I know a lot of the volunteers from previous years, and most of them weren’t happy with this weird takeover by a whole new group of organizers, claiming to have new ideas and all. And one of the previous committee members, someone who worked with the convention finances, still has account access.”
Agent Forrest leaned forward. Intense, alert, poised, and—protective? “You investigated. On your own.”
“I made a call or two. Not dramatic. I thought it might help. Does it?”
“Yes. You should be recovering.” He actually moved as if planning to take Alex’s hand, and then visibly seemed to think better of it. “I don’t want you hurt.”
“Neither do I, so we’re in agreement.”
“But you were investigating.”
Alex raised both eyebrows at him: yes, obviously.
“You…” Agent Forrest exhaled. Ran a hand through his hair. Muttered something under his breath that sounded like, “Humans.”
“My great-great-grandmother was a siren, I’ll have you know.”
This time the grumble sounded like, “Of course she was.”
“What was that?”
“I said,” Agent Forrest snapped, “of course she was. Luring people into trouble.”
Alex grinned. “You think I’m trouble?”
“I think—” Agent Forrest stopped, exhaled, scrubbed the hand through his hair again. In golden afternoon light, small lines lingered around his eyes. “I also brought you something. Here.”
It was a book. A paperback. Clearly used. “Unsolved Mysteries of Victorian London.”
“I thought you might be bored. And writers like…books. I didn’t realize you’d be attempting to give me a heart attack.”
“Because you care so much?” Alex looked back at the book. At ruffled pages, and warmth, as if it’d been left lying someplace in the sun, on a table or in a car, just this afternoon— “Is this yours?”
“No. It’s yours.”
“You gave me your book. That you were reading. While you were waiting to talk to someone?”
“I thought,” Agent Forrest said, stiffly, “that I owed you an apology. For suspecting you.” His shirt was just on the right side of too tight, Alex decided. The tempting side. And his tie was loose. Drawing attention.
And the room felt warmer. Because an irritable werewolf agent had glared at Alex and accused him of some sort of crime, and then had fretted over him and worried for him and given him something personal, something real.
He said, “Thank you.” He meant it.
Agent Forrest sighed. “Again, I’m sorry. Long day. Not much sleep.”
“I get it. And, hey, I must’ve looked suspicious. Siren blood, crime novelist, canceling the day before a big—what, money laundering? Embezzling? Fraud-related crime?”
“We didn’t know you were a siren. But…yes.”
“I’m flattered, Agent Forrest.”
Agent Forrest hesitated again, and then said, “Can I introduce myself properly? Blake Forrest, Financial Crimes Unit, meta-human, werewolf.”
“Very formal of you.” Alex saluted him from the bed. “Thank you.”
“Do you take anything seriously?”
“Yes. My friends, my career, the fans who’ve lost a lot of money and who’ve been hurt by this. They’re who I write for.” He touched the book cover; he thought, this is serious. You giving me something of yours. A scent of yours, a belonging. “And I’m not much of a siren. It’s diluted enough to not even show up on the registry. Which is why you didn’t know.”
“I should’ve known,” Agent Forrest said. “You’re—never mind.” He also bit his lip, and shifted in the chair. “I’ll let you rest.”
“Get some sleep. Are you in pain? Thirsty? Can I get you anything?”
“I’m good, thanks. I’m what?”
“I didn’t say anything. I’m leaving now.”
“They’re letting me out of here tomorrow morning,” Alex informed his retreating back. It was also a very nice back. Extremely so. “If you want to know. If you want more help with your financial fraud case and the mystery of the vanishing convention. If you want your book back.”
Agent Forrest paused halfway to the door.
“So I’ll see you in the morning,” Alex said.
“I…maybe. If I have the time.” He put his head on one side, studied Alex. “You’re smiling.”
“Excellent deductive skills.”
“I mean you smell like you’re smiling. Like…sunshine.” Agent Forrest did the hand-through-hair gesture again. Dark strands slid through his fingers, touched with one or two stray streaks of silver. “But you are tired. Get some sleep.”
“It isn’t. I’ve disclosed it. Rest, Mr Lyster.”
“It’s just Alex,” Alex told him. “Please. We’re sharing books and all, now.”
That earned a tiny evanescent grin, there and gone, tempted out for a second, and oh Blake Forrest was even more glorious when grinning. “I’ll see you in the morning. To ensure your safety. Since you’re recovering. And apparently asking questions. Without oversight or any consultation with the agent in charge.”
“Which is you. And you want me to be safe.”
Blake managed to both blush and glare at him again, which made Alex’s heart do an excited small flip, because yes, yes to the hotness and the hint of power and the protectiveness, please. “I take my responsibilities seriously.”
“I’m your responsibility now?”
Blake did the almost-a-growl noise again, and flung open the door, and vanished with surprisingly little noise, given annoyed werewolf size.
Alex looked back down at the book in his lap. His stitches ached a little, but not badly. His body felt tender, bruised, aware of recent last-minute surgery. But also alive, alert, awake. Intrigued, because he had a mystery and a tantalizing crime-solving werewolf, and he wanted both of those. He wanted them in a way that felt like possibilities, like questions that might have answers, a story unfolding, taking shape before his eyes.
The bank holiday weekend ran away with me and I didn’t get a chance to post the usual story. Hopefully I’m making up for that now, with a slightly longer-than-usual offering. ‘Bowled Over’ is a tongue-in-cheek story I wrote a very long time ago, set at an annual charity cricket match. Who knew there was so much potential for m/m romance among the wickets, balls and bats? Well, balls maybe, but… 😉
And there’s plenty more where this came from. Just check out all my books and stories on my website.
The red leather ball sailed high into the puffily-clouded blue sky, shot over the pavilion roof and came down—hard—on the windscreen of a Bentley parked neatly on the village green. There was the resounding tinkle of breaking glass, followed by commotion as an elderly spectator was fetched to retrieve the ball from the depths of luxurious tan upholstery.
‛Six,’ called the umpire drily, holding both hands over his head.
‛Oops.’ Brandon swished his bat at a dandelion, decapitating it. ‛Which one is it this time?’
His colleague Mikey made use of the delay to amble up the pitch. ‛Not sure. Bit hard to see from here. Might be the Colonel.’
Mikey grinned. ‛That’s the third one today. You’re a menace.’
Brandon pursed his lips in an aggrieved pout. ‛Hardly my fault if I’m big and strong. They should use smaller bats.’
‛Or park the cars further away.’
‛Mmm.’ A horrible thought struck him. ‛Hope they don’t dock it off my wages. I’ll be paying it off for years.’
‛The boss isn’t that mean.’
‛Don’t be so–’ He tailed off as, thanks to an erratic over-arm heave from one of the stewards, the ball made a sudden and alarming reappearance on the pitch, missing him by an inch. He picked it up and examined it, but it seemed to be none the worse for its glassy escapade so he chucked it back in the general direction of the umpire. That gentleman coughed to get everyone’s attention; Mikey wandered back to his own end of the pitch; and Brandon, resplendent in white flannels and twirling his bat, took guard for the next delivery.
Although he’d rather walk barefoot across hot coals than admit it, he rather enjoyed the annual cricket match between the sports college where he and Mikey worked and the local police training centre down the road. Billed as an afternoon of gentle parochial fun with the proceeds going to charity, it was usually more of a grudge match. Staff from the two establishments liked nothing better than getting one over on each other and the only surprise was that nobody had ever actually been killed. Brandon revelled in the covert animosity and the opportunity to show off his athletic prowess. The long-sleeved white shirt and long white pants suited his muscular frame, and he rarely made less than 50. Today, cheered on raucously by his colleagues and with rather more restraint by the local villagers, he was on 99 and eager to reach his century.
The two openers, young lads who’d only been with Fellowes for a matter of months, had put on a good show, making 40-odd between them before departing in consecutive balls to the meanest of the police team’s bowlers. When Brandon and Mikey came in they quickly advanced the score to 200, setting about the bowling with a gusto that brought roars of delight from their mates and shouts of dismay from several car owners in the crowd. Mikey’s approach was unorthodox—chucking his bat at anything within reach in a flurry of arms and legs—but surprisingly effective. Brandon himself was more of a classicist, having been taught at a slightly more up-itself school. He’d clonked the ball out of the middle of the bat all afternoon and was looking forward to his moment of glory. The opposition, however, had other ideas.
Glancing up from the dusty grass he found that a small speck on the horizon was Fanshawe, the meanest of the police team’s bowlers who’d already done for Murray and Briggs. Having his previous delivery dispatched for six had clearly done nothing for his temper. Now, with the last ball of the over, he steamed in from the furthest boundary with arms whirling like a windmill and unleashed an express train of a ball straight at Brandon’s midriff.
Unfazed, Brandon watched, waited, and walloped, and the ball sped across the outfield to clatter against the boundary hoarding once more. A four. That should do it! Turning with a triumphant grin to acknowledge the expected acclaim, he was met with the sight of the umpire, one uncompromising finger raised in the direction of the pavilion.
‛You what?’ He felt his expression change, comically, like that of a small puppy forcibly removed from its food dish.
‛Out,’ repeated the umpire, with slightly more emphasis this time.
‛No I’m not. Can’t be. I hit the ruddy thing didn’t I? No one caught it, unless you’re trying to count the ants.’
‛Leg before wicket.’
‛Nowhere near my perishing leg. You can’t prove anything.’
The umpire’s pudgy face took on a ‛why me’ expression. ‛Mr Thorpe, please. This is a gentleman’s game.’
‛Oh, well, that lets me out, then. Common as muck, I am.’
At the other end of the pitch Mikey cracked up. The umpire, refusing to be steamrollered, continued as though he hadn’t been interrupted. ‛And when I say out, I mean out.’
Brandon, though, hadn’t given up yet. There was more at stake here than the century, or putting one over on the police. ‛So that’s it, then? That’s your final word on the subject?’
‛Can’t get you to change your mind? Maybe if I buy you a drink later…?’
‛Mr Thorpe, please leave the field. You. Are. Out.’
‛All right, all right, keep your hair on.’ Considering the umpire was as bald as a hard-boiled egg, this caused Mikey to collapse again. Brandon felt his own lips twitch in sympathy, but kept up the act. Dragging his bat disconsolately behind him he trailed off the pitch, treating the spluttering Mikey to a special glare. ‛Don’t know what you’re laughing at, mate. It’ll be your turn next. Bloody silly game if you ask me…’ And he mooched off the field towards the pavilion to be replaced by Anson from admin, chewing an unlit cigar.
Back in his crease Mikey realised it was his turn to face the bowling, and tried desperately to compose himself. Fanshawe might have retired to the boundary to get his breath back but his replacement was a stocky young spin bowler whose deliveries were tricky to say the least and he needed to concentrate. Blast Brandon and his warped sense of humour. He breathed deeply, held it for ten, let it go, but the giggles still threatened to break free. And the bowler was spitting on his fingers and juggling the ball malevolently from hand to hand, all set to unleash some looping delivery that was virtually unplayable. ‛Get a grip,’ he muttered, banging the end of his bat on the ground for emphasis. At the last second he looked up again, to find the bowler had already hopped in, flung one arm over and released the ball. It spiralled weirdly down the pitch, bounced once, twitched over his outstretched bat and hit the middle stump with a resounding thud.
The umpire raised his finger again. ‛Out.’
Mikey lost his temper. ‛You must be joking, mate. I wasn’t ready.’
‛Lord give me strength.’ The umpire was beginning to lose his cool. ‛Are all you Fellowes men like this?’
‛It’s a sports college. They train us well.’
‛Well training or not, you’re out. Good God, man, you were clean bowled.’
‛Yeah, but he put me off. Brandon, I mean. It’s not fair. Don’t I get a second chance?’
‛Oh, well, sod you then.’ And wrenching off his helmet and gloves he stumped away to join his colleague in the pavilion.
Brandon sat on a narrow wooden bench in a deserted corner of the dressing room and quietly thanked every deity he could think of. The bench was uncomfortable but everyone was outside watching the match. He was newly showered; there was a half empty pint glass at his feet. Best of all, Mikey was in his arms. And not just in his arms, but kissing him. He forgot about the ridges on his arse from the wooden slats and kissed back desperately, making the most of this borrowed and unexpected time.
Eventually Mikey broke away from his mouth and glared at him. Outside in the real world that glare was bad enough; here, a few inches away, the result was devastating. He wanted nothing more than to grab the man and kiss the scowl off his face. But Mikey had other ideas. ‛You did that on purpose,’ he said, using a long finger to prod Brandon in the chest.
‛Put me off. Distracted me. I was so busy laughing at you I missed the sodding ball.’
‛Oh, yeah, that.’ He tried not to grin. Trust Mikey to see straight through him as usual. Not that it mattered, anyway. The ruse had worked. The match wasn’t over yet. With luck they’d be undisturbed for at least another hour. The grin won. ‛Who wants to get sunstroke charging up and down out there when we can be tucked away in here instead?’
It was a shame about the missed century, he thought, leaning back against the wall while Mikey unzipped his pants. But this was more than enough compensation. The annual cricket match had scored.
Here are three delightful poems from Jeff, all sf, all fun, and all really clever. I love the nod to Ogden Nash in the style. None of the poems are openly LGBT but it wouldn’t take much to create a m/m story out of any of them (shoo, plot bunny, shoo). And I’m dedicating this week’s post to Jeff’s late husband Darryl, as I’m sure he loved the poems so it feels very appropriate.
This week’s story is a lush, beautiful yet bittersweet fantasy tale set in a royal court. It reminded me of the early part of Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy, which is quite a compliment as that’s one of my favourite books. And I’m sure I’m not the only one willing Quicksilver and Jorin to their escape.
Don’t forget you can find all Kaje’s books and writings at her website – it’s well worth checking them out.
Jorin strokes gilded paint across my chest, and my skin wrinkles—an inch of loose flesh folding, then smoothing out. I swear I don’t flinch, but as always, he knows my thoughts.
“You’re still beautiful.” A breath across my ear.
“I’m already five years older than the last King’s Dancer.” No one can overhear, in the brief privacy of the antechamber.
“You work harder; you’re in great condition.”
“He worked.” The threat of death will do that to you.
Jorin hums quietly, calmly, as he runs a comb through my hair, coaxing it to curl.
I glance in the mirror. Is my hair thinning? It went silver in my twenties, and I’d turned that to a virtue. Quicksilver, the nobles call me. I stretch out a leg, flexing and curling my toes. The lamplight catches the honed shape of my muscles. Are my toes knobbier than a year ago? Surely more than five years ago…
Jorin touches my shoulder. “I hear your music.”
“Yes.” I stand, straightening the loincloth that hides just enough for decency and support. The door’s still shut, so I dare whisper, “A kiss for luck?”
“You don’t need luck. You’ll stun them.” Still, his lips brush mine, a soft glide, gone too fast.
The dance floor’s ringed with torches, their uneven light flickering off my skin. I wait for my cue, then glide across the smooth marble and kneel gracefully before the throne. The king lounges at his ease, eating a pastry. Flecks of cream dot his fleshy chin, but none would dare point them out to him. His personal slave-boy, a dead-eyed child, waves a long-handled fan in a rhythm he’ll maintain till he’s told to stop, or collapses.
The musicians play through my introductory measures, around and around, until finally the king glances my way and raises his hand. Into the silence, he says, “Oh, yes. The dancer. Entertain Us, Quicksilver. We’re bored.”
Bored is dangerous. Bored may need to be washed away with blood. I lower my forehead to the ground, without smearing my paint. “As Your Majesty commands.”
Control breath. Control movement. Control thought. I rise, smooth as water flowing, pose as the music begins. And dance.
I don’t remember the dance. I never do anymore. I go to a place outside myself and only return as the song dies, my arm reaching for the heavens, my foot an arrow’s point, breath wanting to heave my chest but held, disciplined, so the shine of light off my painted ribs is still and doesn’t betray the effort it takes. Hold. Hold.
This time, the silence at the end of the dance feels dangerous. There’s a hum of anticipation in the crowd, a rustle of people shifting, turning my way, that sends shivers across my skin. I play statue, and wait for the next words of my bored king.
I’m black-visioned from holding my breath, when he finally says, “How many years have you danced for Us, Quicksilver?”
I dare a breath, but stay silent. That was not an invitation to speak.
He chuckles. “We recall more than five. More than ten?”
Fourteen. I hold the pose. The room echoes with a gasp of drawn breaths, and I flinch. Has his hand has gone to his sword? He likes to kill things himself, when it’s safe. Can I attack him if he comes for me? Hurt him, at least, before I die? Or must I stay still and let the blow land, for fear that someone will tell him his anger should fall on Jorin after I’m gone? Ah, Jorin, love, I’m sorry. I pray to the fates he’s not watching. I know in my soul he is.
My heart’s racing, pulse thudding loud in my ears. Can the king hear it? Acid burns the back of my throat. My thigh muscles quiver and bunch against a lifetime of control.
I hold my pose.
“Amazing, to still please Us after all this time.” I manage not to sway in relief. The dark satisfaction in the king’s voice tells me he enjoyed the suspense and the taste of my fear. The sigh of released breaths in the crowd is no doubt music to him. “We’ll look forward to your next dance.”
A metallic rattle on the floor around me marks the nobles tossing me small coins. The floor slave will gather them, minus his cut. Perhaps it’ll be a good haul, making escape safer—bribes for guards, money for food and shelter and clothes, to hide us on our journey. Perhaps today’s bounty will tip failure into success.
Or perhaps we’ll die on some guard’s sword. No bribe can guarantee against betrayal. But I’ve stayed too long, cut it too close. I was set to go four years ago, and then Jorin appeared and I knew it had to be both of us, or neither. Four more years of dancing on the edge of a blade, seeming to spend tips on dainties and mead and trinkets, while hoarding every copper. I never told Jorin the risk I took was for him. He knew, though. He told me to go alone, once. I shut the words in his mouth with a kiss.
When I finally stand, the king’s gone. I was the last of the evening’s entertainment, and now he’s off to his women and his bed. A few nobles still wander out, heading to their own debauchery. The floor slave presses a small bag in my hand. It’s not very heavy. Perhaps they weren’t wasting much coin on an aging favorite fated to die soon. It’ll have to do.
As I reach the hallway, Jorin’s there, standing just inside the arch. The slave can see us, so I don’t look at him, don’t touch. But as I pass, on my way to the baths to transform Quicksilver into a common, frightened man, I whisper, “Tonight.”
Just for Easter, with all those buns and chocolate eggs, here’s a lovely and strangely appropriate bonus scene from Jackie’s Power of Zero series, featuring her much-loved characters Jack and Gareth. As Jackie herself explains:
Jack Horwood and Gareth Flynn, the MCs of my Power of Zero series, have been with me for many, many years. I might take a break now and then, but I always seem to return to explore more of their story, their relationship, and the people they’ve surrounded themselves with. Over the years, Jack has gone from being self-contained and armoured to building himself a family with the man he’s loved since he was seventeen. Not that their road is an entirely smooth one. Or that Gareth is always the man who has all the answers…If you’d like to find out more about Jack & Gareth’s story, check out my website: https://www.jackiekeswick.co.uk/jackie-keswick-books/, for free reads and snippets.
Nico stretched out his legs, mindful of the sleeping cat on the other end of the sofa, and resettled the laptop on his knees. “Jack?”
“What’s Gareth mad about?”
“Mad?” Jack turned away from his own work and found Nico watching him. “Nothing I know of. Why?”
“He’s been extra fierce for a couple of weeks now. Haven’t you noticed? He runs every morning, drags me to the gym each afternoon. And he almost took the heavy bag off its mounting yesterday.”
Jack considered that. He hadn’t noticed anything that hinted at trouble, but Nico saw more of Gareth’s workout time than Jack, who preferred martial arts to boxing. And now he thought about it… “I’ve not seen all that much of him.”
“That’s what I figured, seeing you’ve been on different schedules all this month.”
“Good call.” Jack found a smile and answered the question Nico wasn’t asking. “Three, maybe four more days and we should be done building. Plus a day or two of testing.”
“Yes.” He suddenly wanted an evening at home, just talking, finding out what he’d missed. Meanwhile, though… “Multi-tasking is a thing. Let me see what I can figure out.”
For the next three days, tackling Gareth took a backseat while Jack, Frazer, and Janet waded in computer guts. It was work they did at night when most of Nancarrow Mining lay silent. While being able to work uninterrupted made the work go faster, the string of familiar, unchallenging tasks also left room for Jack’s mind to wheel and worry.
Because Nico had been right.
Now that he was watching for it, even the few short moments he spent with Gareth between one of them coming home and the other leaving for work were enough for Jack to see that his lover was preoccupied.
They hadn’t touched beyond a peck on the cheek, and Gareth barely looked at him while they updated each other about completed and outstanding chores, appointments, shopping lists, and any of the minutiae that came with running their lives.
If Jack were paranoid, he might have concluded that Gareth was avoiding him. And that Gareth had started behaving that way the moment their schedules diverged.
Was he paranoid? Or had Gareth found himself a project to occupy his time while Jack built servers and strung cable?
The only way to find out was by getting home and being home. And he couldn’t do that until they’d finished their work. Worrying accomplished nothing. In fact, it slowed him down.
Jack took a deep breath. Then another. He found the quiet pool deep inside himself and drowned all his disturbing thoughts. When nothing but total focus remained, he bent his head to his task, determined to finish ahead of schedule.
Gareth was avoiding him.
Jack narrowed his eyes and watched as his lover moved around the kitchen, talking about things neither one had an interest in. He’d never known Gareth to babble when nervous, but he’d seen enough people do so to recognise the behaviour.
What did Gareth have to be nervous about?
And why had he avoided Jack’s hug when Jack had come home?
He’d worked like a demon on speed to finish the project a day ahead of time, knowing that the boys would be staying with Aidan and he and Gareth would have the house to themselves. Why was Gareth—
“Am I interrupting something you’d planned for tonight?” he interrupted.
Gareth stopped talking. Stopped moving. Looked at him properly for the first time. “No.”
“Sure? You didn’t seem to be particularly pleased to see me.”
“I may have… something on my mind.”
Jack’s stomach rumbled, loud and insistent. He could work with that. “Can fixing your problem wait until after dinner? I’ve skipped lunch to be here and my stomach’s gnawing on my spine.”
Jack admitting that he needed something catapulted Gareth into action. His shoulders dropped, the tension across his back eased a little, and Gareth even found a smile when Jack joined him in the middle of the kitchen to help.
They made dinner in companionable silence, enjoyed the food while catching each other up with news, and ended the evening—as often before—on the sofa with a bottle of wine.
Jack had reams of patience when he needed it. Gareth was much looser, and the bottle almost empty when he finally approached the elephant in the room. “So… will you tell me what bothers you?”
Gareth stared at the ceiling. “My weight,” he admitted, voice rough.
“You can laugh. I know it’s ridiculous. I work out. I eat sensibly. I drink… a lot less than I used to. But the scales don’t lie. I’m getting fat.”
Jack had to force himself to close his mouth as he tried to process Gareth’s words. Health scares, work troubles, money, an affair… his mind had suggested scenarios as fast as Jack dismissed them. And Gareth worried about—
It made no sense.
“You’re worried that you’re getting fat?” It sounded ridiculous to say it aloud, but he had to be sure.
Gareth didn’t answer. And he flinched visibly when Jack settled his palm on his stomach. Jack stroked the familiar ripple of muscle. “There’s no extra padding here.”
“The scales don’t lie, Jack. And I… I don’t want to let myself go. It’s not fair to you. There have to be standards and—”
“That’s why you’ve been avoiding me? Because of a number on the scales?” Jack used his free hand to cuff Gareth around the head. “Idiot. You know love doesn’t work that way, right?”
“If you don’t, you fucking should. You could pack on three stone, or lose all your hair, or get wrinkles or… whatever. You’d still be the hottest thing in my world.” Sometimes, Jack forgot that he wasn’t the only one with baggage, the only one still finding his way. But he wouldn’t ever let Gareth wonder if he was loved. And that his adoration had little to do with Gareth’s outside. He jumped up and held out a hand. “Come on. Time for bed. Seems there are a few things I need to remind you of.”
Another fascinating piece of TV history from Jeff about a show I’d never even heard of, but one that sounds absolutely ground-breaking for the portrayal of gay men on television… A quick author’s note from Jeff himself: “In the interest of full disclosure, I did an earlier column about “Brothers” for “Queer Sci Fi.” I tried not to repeat anything here but it would be a glaring omission if I did not do one of these posts about this series, a fine show which is nearly forgotten.”
I struggled to find a decent picture of the series because it pre-dates the internet, but here’s a reminder of the show’s cast…
Remember back when big cable T. V. networks were all new and fresh and were trying all kinds of original programming to attract viewers? Showtime, one of the movie channels (along with HBO and Cinemax) beat them to the punch in 1984 by airing “Brothers,” cable’s first original situation comedy, a sitcom with pioneering Gay content.
The first episode “Wedding Day” introduces Joe, Lou and Cliff Waters; three grown-up brothers who live in Philadelphia and are very close. Ex-football player Joe (Robert Walden) runs a restaurant while oldest brother Lou (Brandon Maggart) works construction and the two of them have raised their youngest brother, the twenty-something Cliff (the late Paul Regina) since the death of their parents. Cliff, who shares an apartment with Joe, is about to move out and get married when he abruptly calls off the wedding and shocks his siblings by explaining why: he’s Gay.
CLIFF: “…it’s been going on a long time now.”
JOE: “What’s been going on a long time? No, don’t answer that!”
The three brothers love each other and do their best to accept Cliff’s being Gay even as they struggle with it (“That don’t run in our family, we play sports!” Lou grumbles.)
Their initial reaction to Cliff’s flamboyant, out and proud best (platonic) friend Donald (Phillip Charles MacKenzie) is also a little shocked. But Donald usually gets the best lines. Commenting on Cliff’s coming out he quips “I mean, Hallmark doesn’t even make a card for this!”
They soon become a large extended family, along with Joe’s grown daughter and co workers. What results is often very funny and sometimes touching with the first two seasons dealing more with Gay issues and themes, as in as in “Fools Russian” where a closeted Gay Russian athlete Cliff is interested in falls for Lou (“He tried to go where no man has ever gone before.”) or in “Lizards Ain’t Snakes” where Joe and Lou try to get Cliff into an “Ex-Gay” group (this in the mid-1980s before the outrage about such groups hit the fan!)
One reviewer said at the time; “Brothers is not only different, it’s decidedly entertaining.” And it still holds up today even if it hasn’t been regularly shown in years. “Brothers” was a hit for the cable network and lasted five seasons during an era that also brought us the AIDS crisis as well as an increasing LGBT presence in media and civil rights. Times have changed in the intervening thirty plus years and more people are out and Gay culture has changed too: the episode “It Only Hurts When I’m Gay” has a scene in a park used as a “homosexual rendezvous.” The show was made long before dating apps.
“Brothers” was actually syndicated after its cable run but has not been shown lately (not even on the alleged Gay cable network “Logo.”) Fortunately, there are several episodes available on You Tube. No DVD release yet, but we can only hope!
These days it seems that almost every TV show has at least one out LGBT character. Following the trail that shows like “Brothers” blazed (and occasionally flamed) almost forty years ago.