Kaje Harper: Dance on the Edge

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.”

Kaje Harper: Visions of Spring

The weather is sorta-kinda trying to be more spring-like, now that it’s technically the vernal equinox. By which I mean that here in the Far North of England it’s struggled up to 11c (about 52F, I think) and is only raining some of the time… But there are daffodils out and the first few lambs bouncing around in the fields so it seemed like the perfect time to post this fun little poem from Kaje, which really made me grin.


Some folks wax poetic about daffodils

And going outside without getting the chills.


Some mention the sun coming up before eight,

Or the end of the tough winter driving they hate.


Of course I agree that the blossom smells sweet

And I like getting rid of the slush in the street.


I’ve nothing against a red robin or two

And the kids out on bikes doing stuff that they do.


There’ll be baseball and golf, with the grass turning green

And I see the appeal of a pastoral scene.


But for me, there’s just one thing I wait for each year

And I watch Michael closely to see it draw near.


That first weekend day, when the sunshine is warm

And the dirt’s been splashed up by a passing rainstorm.


You can keep all those flowers and children and sports

Give me one hot guy washing his car, in his shorts.

Kaje Harper: The Right Thing

I make no apologies for putting the zine into full-on mushiness mode this week, with this adorably sweet yet “make you think” story from Kaje, which involves, er, two men and a baby… Don’t forget to check out Kaje’s other books and stories at her website here.


“She has your nose,” David said, his voice soft and low.

I rubbed his back and held in my laughter. “I’d look pretty silly with that tiny nose.” Not to mention, we’d met our daughter’s mother when the teen was five months pregnant. There was nothing of me in that minute perfect body, except love.

The love, though― I’d thought with adoption, feeling connected would take time. Like when you get a new puppy, and at first it’s just generically cute and helpless and in need of care, but after a little while it becomes your puppy-baby-precious. But Lylla had blinked her unfocused blue eyes at me, eyelids still puffy, skin blotchy, tiny hands curled in fists, and I fell. So fast, so hard.

I reached past David’s arm to run a fingertip over Lylla’s tiny satin cheek, and then brushed the back of David’s thumb. My family.

“I don’t want to love her yet,” David murmured.

“Why not, hon?”

“Thirty days.”

“Ah.” His words made my stomach clench, though I tried not to show it, stroking his thumb again, inches from our precious child. Thirty days. Lylla’s mother had that long to think about the adoption before we could finalize it in front of a judge. I didn’t think she’d change her mind. But Amanda had already pulled back once and then reaffirmed her choice, in the four months we’d supported her pregnancy. She was a great girl, trying to do the best thing after her parents kicked her out, but desperately lonely. What if Lylla looks like the answer to never being alone?

“I want to grab Lylla and run,” David sounded fierce. “Take her to, like, Hawaii or somewhere perfect and keep her safe forever.”

I returned my hand to David’s back, rubbing firmly. “Amanda’s smart and she’s realistic. She knows she can’t take care of a baby right now.”

“I don’t trust her.” David turned wide dark eyes up at me, even as his hands cradled our daughter so gently. “What if― What if she decides she can? What if someone convinces her she’s going to hell for giving her baby to a gay couple?”

That wasn’t a shot in the dark, because Amanda had started out at one of the so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which had convinced the runaway fifteen-year-old that keeping her pregnancy was God’s will. She’d run away from the God-fearing foster home they’d sent her to, back on the streets, much too late to change her mind. Although my heart clenched at the thought of Lylla gone from the world as if she’d never been, Amanda had gone through a lot of hell that abortion might’ve spared her.

Our gift came at her sacrifice. And at her stubbornness and independence, because that original group would never have let a gay couple darken their doors.

“She’s not going to care about what someone like that says. You know that.” Her best friend on the streets had been a gay teen. She’d been cool about us from the start.

David bit his lip. “I know. I just…”

“You just worry.” He took things deeper to heart than I did, and agonized over every choice. All the more so after our overseas adoption had fallen apart at the last moment, and the organizer couldn’t look us in the eyes as she claimed not to know why.

I leaned over his shoulder, putting a little weight on him, and wrapped my arm around his to brush the baby’s wispy dark hair. “Look at her.” I kissed his temple, there beside my mouth. “So precious and perfect. Our baby. Whatever happens, even if we can’t keep her, even if she has health issues, whatever― you’re going to love her with all your heart. No matter what comes afterward. That’s also who you are.”

The baby waved a little hand and her eyes screwed tighter like she might wake and cry. David leaned his weight up and down on his elbows so the pillow supporting her rocked gently. He sang, “Hush little baby,” almost under his breath, his voice warm and rich, and she quieted.

The wave of love that went through me stopped my breath. I’d battle the world for these two, now and forever. “She’s going to know she’s always loved,” I said. “Unconditionally. That there’s nothing she can do or be that takes our love away from her. She’ll have what Amanda never had, what you didn’t― parents who are there for her in the hard times and the easy, gay, straight, trans, pregnant, porn star, whatever.”

David made a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. “Did you just encourage our daughter to become a porn star?”

“Her body, her choice―”

A laugh behind us made us both turn our heads. Amanda stood in the doorway, a robe we’d bought her wrapped around the hospital gown she wore.

I straightened quickly. “Should you be out of bed? Can I get you anything?”

“I’m fine. Third-world women have a baby and go right back to work.” She shuffled toward us, arms wrapped across her stomach.

I grabbed the nearest chair and pulled it to the bedside but she just put a hand on the back. “I’m not staying. I just― I know I said I didn’t want to see her again after she was born, but I needed to see you with her. To know you’ll love her.”

“Absolutely,” David said. “Always.”

Amanda looked down at the baby. “Is that pillow one of yours?”

“Yes,” I said. I’d knit a few things— well, maybe a lot of things— waiting for our daughter. Little blankets and caps, sweaters and pillow cases, and even stuffed animals.

“Pretty.” She stared at Lylla, not reaching to touch her.

David kept his big hands around the baby and his eyes were wide, but he said nothing.

Eventually, Amanda pushed up from the chair back and nodded to us. “You swear that was true? All that part about her body, her choice? That you’ll never give her up?”

“Never,” I promised.

“Okay.” Amanda looked at David, then met my gaze. “If I want you to send me pictures now and then, will you? I think maybe I do want to see her grow.”

“Anytime. Keep your contacts updated and we will.” I chuckled, though my throat was hoarse. “David will fill your inbox, if you want.”

“Just a few. Now and then.” Her chin came up, and she pushed a strand of mussed dark hair off her forehead. “I’m going to graduate and go to college and become a vet, and then I’m going to have my own kids and they won’t ever have to wonder if I love them either.”

“I’m sure you will,” David told her.

“Doing the right thing is hard sometimes.”

“It sure is,” I agreed.

“You’re the right thing for her. For Lylla.” She raised a hand in a tiny wave, a twitch of slender fingers. “Bye, baby, have a perfect life. With your two daddies.” Turning, she shuffled back out of the room.

On the bed, the baby stirred, turned her head, and began sucking on David’s broad fingertip. I reached for the bottle, ready in the warmer, knowing our daughter’s powerful-lunged cries were only moments away.

“That was your mommy,” David told Lylla. “She’s strong and she’s brave and she loves you so so much. I don’t know if you’ll see her again, but Matt and I will make sure your whole life, you’ll have parents who put you first. And if you grow up to be like her, we’ll be proud.”

Lylla blinked her eyes open, and for a second she stared up at David as if meeting his eyes. Then her rosebud mouth opened and her appallingly strong wails began.

“Quick,” David said, lifting her into his arms and sitting on the edge of the bed. “We just told her we’d take care of her and now we’re starving the poor thing. Bottle, Matt. Hop to it.”

I lifted the bottle, wiped the outside dry, and set it in David’s hand. Lylla stopped crying to fumble at the nipple, then settled in to suck vigorously.

“You’re right,” David murmured. “Can’t do anything but love her with all our hearts, come what may.”

My knees went weak and I dropped to the bed beside him, wrapping my arm around the two of them. Ten years ago, I bumped into a bespectacled nerd in a coffee shop doorway, and his sweet, hesitant smile of apology went through my heart like an arrow. Today our daughter’s soft sounds in his arms stole my breath from my chest, and it was the most welcome pain I’d ever known. “Don’t forget to burp her,” I muttered, desperate to cut through the sentiment. “And it’s your turn to change her diaper. And there’s already spit-up on your shoulder.”

David turned the exact same smile on me, despite the decade between. “I love you too,” he said.

Kaje Harper: Redefined

Hello again, and happy New Year! Let’s hope 2023 is full of m/m romance and everything else that’s nice. I’m starting the new year as I started off the zine last year, with a story by Kaje Harper. This one’s both sweet and amusing, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You can find all Kaje’s books on her website, if you’d like to read more.


Pic credit: Matheus Farias on Unsplash.com

I’d had a crush on Bishop Stoneleigh since the day he walked in to take over our department, looking like Clark Kent and talking like a college professor. I mean, the guy was everything I drooled over on the fandoms I followed. Probably only a few years older than me, but had a vibe that made most of us want to sit up and salute. Perhaps not everyone with the same body part.

Bishop Stoneleigh. Black hair and high cheekbones and sharp wit and no tolerance for sloppy work. He could rip you up one side and down the other so incisively it didn’t all sink in till hours later.

No, I never deliberately screwed up to get called into his office for a one-on-one reprimand. That’d be stupid, right? I’m not stupid. A little impulsive, maybe…

I was used to him coming in earlier and working even later than I did, and I was the night-owl of our group. Our last boss left without warning and apparently with a hunk of cash, leaving the department books in a mess. Bishop― Mr. Stoneleigh to me, no matter how many fantasies I had of him running his hands through my hair while I called him “Bish”― had a hell of a job cut out to turn things around.

I stuck my head around the door like usual to say “Good night, sir,” and cut the words off short.

He lay sleeping, pillowed on a binder, glasses askew, suit rumpled enough to show his bare wrists below the cuffs of his pristine white shirt. He wasn’t snoring, but there was the tiniest hint of a rasp as he breathed through parted, full lips. In sleep, he suddenly looked his real age, and something like tenderness caught my breath. Poor guy’s been burning the candle at both ends.

What now? Logic said I should leave and pretend I never saw him there. Sleep is a vulnerable thing, and I’d bet he wouldn’t like just anyone watching him that way. Then again, I wasn’t just anyone.

This is my chance, right? I could make a mark, stand out from the crowd of techie underlings he commanded.

Of course, it’d have to be the right kind of mark.

Rocket fuel, maybe. Most of the department lived on Mountain Dew, and the breakroom fridge was well-stocked, but Bishop was a coffee man. Extra large, black, one sugar. Not that I’d paid attention deliberately. One just notices these things.

One also notices the excellent vocabulary with which Bishop described the breakroom coffee. Swill, dregs, and sewage were the ones I hadn’t had to look up. He always brought a thermos, but by this time of night it’d be empty. The coffee shop on the ground floor was open till two AM, though.

I bribed the barista with twenty bucks to make a new pot of coffee and ordered an extra large, carefully stirred in the sugar, and took it back up the elevator.

Bishop still slept where I’d left him. His glasses had slipped a little more. I went over to his side, and set the coffee down on his laminated coaster. Winter Soldier. Nice one. I’d thought he might wake up with having someone that close, but he snoozed on, the limp sleep of exhaustion.

If he didn’t wake up, the coffee would get cold. I wasn’t a fan, myself, but it seemed like hot was an important part of the package. I cleared my throat.

Bishop jolted up and flailed his hands. One elbow knocked over the cup and the tide of hot coffee that spilled across his desk hit my crotch square on.

“Ouch! Shit!” I jumped back, hands cupped protectively over my nads as I tried to tent the scalding fabric away from tender skin.

Bishop leaped to his feet and grabbed my arms, bleary dark eyes staring right into mine. “Charlie!”


He blinked and his gaze sharpened. “What did you call me?”

My brain caught up with my mouth a moment too late. Steaming your balls is a recipe for not paying attention to your words. “Nothing. I mean, I said I wish I hadn’t done that.”

“Hah.” He glared at me but his lush mouth turned up at the corners. “You called me Bish.”

“You called me Charlie,” I countered inanely, because he was the boss and he’d called me Charlie the last four weeks.

“I haven’t been Bish since my little sister outgrew her teens.”

“Sorry, sir.”

He let go of my arms, and a snicker escaped his lips. “Seriously? All that work to maintain the correct gravitas and that’s how my subordinates think of me?”

“No, no, I’m pretty sure it’s just me,” I hurried to say, then felt the heat rise in my neck and face. No doubt red and splotchy, because that was what my skin liked to do. “Sorry, Mr. Stoneleigh.”

“What are you doing here at this hour, Charlie? Didn’t you get last week’s memo about a healthy work-life balance?”

“Yeah, but I figured you didn’t mean it.”

He sighed and ran a hand over his face. “He figured I didn’t mean it.”

“Well, you’re still here.”

“True.” He blinked, then pulled open a desk drawer and found a handful of napkins. With his first swipe at the liquid on his desk, he paused. “Hey, that’s hot.” He lifted the cup, eyed the logo, then tipped the last drops into his mouth. “You brought me hot coffee.”


“That’s not your job.” He pushed his glasses more firmly up his nose and went back to wiping up. “You’re my best programmer. The one guy with priorities and a work ethic, and a sense of humor. You don’t need to fetch coffee.”

“I thought it’d be a nice gesture.” I was still standing there holding my slacks tented out over my dick.

“Top grades for initiative. Perhaps not for execution.”

“Story of my life,” I muttered.

“Are you okay? Did you burn yourself?”

“I’ll live.” The impulse to ask if he wanted to check and make sure was completely resistible. Completely.

“At least you didn’t soak your slacks at the beginning of the day. I did, once.”

“At least coffee isn’t yellow, like Dew. Slightly less like I pissed myself.”

I got that quirk of a smile again. “Charles, can you keep a secret?”

“Not my strongest suit,” I admitted.

He actually laughed. “Well, it’s not much of a secret. I’m leaving this job in two weeks. The boss found a new hire with the actual skills to do the work, instead of faking it like I am.”

“You were doing fine!” I got mad on his behalf. “He could’ve given you more than a month.”

“No, no, you don’t get it. This was always temporary. I only took the job on the grounds that he would hire someone suitable as expeditiously as he could.”

“Oh. Well, we’ll miss you.” No more Clark Kent glasses and raised eyebrow?

“Will you?” He checked his chair for drips and then sat, looking up at me. “You, specifically?”

“Um, yeah. Sir.”

“That right there.” He pointed finger-guns at me. “When I leave, I will no longer be your boss and you won’t be my employee.”

“That’s what leaving generally implies, yeah.”

“So in two weeks―” He snagged the corner of my pocket and tugged me a step closer. “―when it’s not unethical anymore, do you think you might want to go for coffee with me?”

“Ugh. Coffee.” I bit my lip as the startling implications caught up with my sleep-deprived brain. “I mean, yes, yeah, I’d like that.”

“Donuts if you prefer, maybe. Doritos. Or we could go wild and go out for real food.”

I needed clarity here. “Are you asking me on a date?”

“Not now. That would be against company policy. I’m asking what will happen in two weeks, if I ask you.”

A slow smile tugged at my mouth and a much more pleasant heat warmed me from the inside. “Well, then, you’ll have to try it and find out,” I said. “Anticipation is the spice of life, Bish.”


Christmas fun with the team

Just for a laugh, I asked all of the contributors the same three silly questions – and these are some of the answers they came up with.

Have fun reading them, check out the ‘Meet the Team’ tab (above) to find out more about all of us, and Happy Christmas!


Pic credit: Pablo Garcia Saldana on Unsplash.com

What’s the one thing you’d take to a desert island?

Jeff Baker: Assuming I wanted to be there and already had food, water and shelter I’d say a Kindle loaded with all the books I want to read. If I didn’t want to be there, I’d take a fully-staffed luxury yacht or a very long bridge!

Jay Mountney: A boat. With an engine. And that’s one thing, not two!

Kaje Harper: A dowsing rod to find fresh water?

Fiona Glass: My first thought was a boat too but as that’s already been taken, a comfortable bed. None of this sleeping on gritty sand!

Ellie Thomas: I’d love to wax lyrical about a favourite tome to take with me, but let’s face facts here. I’m a pale-skinned Celt, so it had better be a vat of Factor 50 sunscreen.

What’s your favourite (or least favourite) Christmas song?

Jeff Baker: I’ve loved “Do You Hear What I Hear?” since Grade School when our teacher told us the song was written “just a few years ago.” Plus, it’s a wonderful song. There are days (usually days spelled with a “y”) where I get absolutely sick of “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime!” With all due respect to Sir Paul.

Jay Mountney: Don’t Stop the Cavalry

Kaje Harper: My anti-favourite is I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (especially the little kid voice version that has the kid threatening to tattle in between the verses.)

Fiona Glass: My favourite is Fairytale of New York, with Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas a close second.

Ellie Thomas: Honestly, by this stage of December I’m sick of the whole boiling lot of them, so I’ll plump for none. Bah humbug!

If you could shape-shift, what creature would you change into:

Jeff Baker: When I was younger (yes, I think about this stuff and have for a long time!) I thought maybe turning into a crow when I wanted would be handy. They can fly and are pretty inconspicuous since they are all over. Of course, I might go with the traditional wolf, as long as I wasn’t vicious (and didn’t leave a mess on the carpet!)

Jay Mountney: I would rather not have to change into a shifter but if I had to I like hedgehogs.

Kaje Harper: By nature, probably a sloth, but by preference, a peregrine falcon – I’d love to fly.

Fiona Glass: No real preference, but it would be nice to be tall enough and/or have long enough arms to reach supermarket shelves, so perhaps a gibbon. Or a giraffe.

Ellie Thomas: Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I’m undecided between something slightly scary like a leopard that would keep people on their toes or something small, nippy and easily hidden like a mouse. Plus with the second option I might get access to cheese. Win/win!

Kaje Harper: Lessons in a Monastery

Just because Halloween is over doesn’t mean we can’t run another ghost story, right? And this is a super one – really chilling, but with a nice sweet ending too. Many thanks to Kaje for submitting it; if you liked it you can find all her other books and stories here.


Pic credit: Kyle Bushnell on Unsplash.com

A whisper of air brushes across my ear. “That’s the place.”

I whirl around, but there’s no one there. Dust motes dance in a beam of sunshine, the pattern lazy, ordinary, mundane. I must’ve been imagining things. I read a couple of monks’ diaries before coming on this job. I have a big imagination.

But as I check each tiny pane of glass in the damaged window and inspect the leading around them, the voice comes again, low and rough. “He had big hands. I’d watch when he prayed.”

This time I swing my fist as I turn, unnerved, angry. No one reels back from my punch but… Was there something there? Some resistance my hand passed through? My breath comes tight in my chest, and I put my back to the cool stone. The air hangs heavy, warmed by the sun. Nothing’s moving. But I have the impression of storm-clouds gathering, of a pressure that builds behind my eyes, in my ears. I try to call out to Jack, working a few rooms away, but the words catch in my dry throat and fall unheard in a scant whisper of sound.

Then a shape appears, a waver of mist, a haze of smoke. The form is smaller than I am, but somehow it carries the weight of a mountain. The face that coalesces has craggy brows, a full beard, a hawk-like blade of a nose. “Forty-one years.” His mouth doesn’t move, but the words are clear, if low. “We danced the play of denial, of want and need unseemly, reviled in the eyes of God. But he kissed me once, in this place, with moonlight streaming in that window. I have not forgotten.”

“Who are you?” I manage.

He goes on as if I hadn’t spoken. “There is no Heaven, to reward that abstinence. No praise and Hosannas to fill the place so long empty. Just regret. Forty-one years. One kiss. Take warning.”

He rushes toward me and for a moment I’m filled with the smell of unwashed man and woodsmoke and a deep, painful regret that plunges my heart into ice. I think I scream, but I can’t hear anything but a man’s harsh, sobbing breaths. And then he’s gone. Sunlight streams in an innocent monastery window, on a warm, pleasant summer day.

Jack charges around the corner, gasping for breath, hands outstretched. “Daniel! What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

For the faction of an instant, a strange light limns his hands, outlining those rough workman’s fingers I’ve so often imagined on my skin. And in that odd frozen moment in time, I gather the courage I’ve lacked for two years now. And say, “I’m okay. A passing chill startled me. Jack, have I ever told you how much I like your hands?”


Kaje Harper: Halloween

And now, as the saying goes, for something completely different. Well, not completely, obviously – we’re still doing m/m romance, we’re still doing short fiction and poetry. But since we’e on the run up to Halloween at the end of the month, I thought it would be fun to post a whole load of spooky little stories, poems and bits and bobs to get us all in the mood. Look out for a range of naughty and/or spooky little numbers in the coming days, but first up is this absolute gem of a poem from Kaje Harper, which makes a serious point underneath the rhyming fun.



There can be isolation in a crowd.
And silence, though the music shakes your bones.
Slurs can be heard, though never said aloud,
And sneers can hit as hard as mobs fling stones.

I thought, this once, my choices were set free.
That anything I dared to wear would fly.
But from the sharp disdain they aim at me,
I see that I was wrong, the more fool I.

A masquerade means something to this group
That isn’t freedom just to be yourself.
They’re stilted, formal, kept within the loop
Of pretty, boring, het, and pure top-shelf.

My choice of lace and fishnet raises brows.
The corset gathers stares of pure disdain.
That pretty nun looks like she’s making vows
To cut me, if I speak to her again.

I’m far too proud to turn around and go,
Too stubborn to admit this is a fail.
I stalk up the grand staircase, give a show,
And put one high-heeled pump up on the rail.

Yeah, I’m in drag, so bite me if I care
For all your proper stuffy upper-class.
There’s not a single person here would dare
To wear the skirt that’s showing off my ass.

I toss my head, and blur my eyes to miss
The way they turn away and sip champagne,
And whisper to each other, mutter, hiss,
“We never should invite him here again.”

A warm hand on my shoulder makes me jump.
I turn, and see a tall guy standing there.
He says, “Hey, gorgeous, wanna blow this dump
“And go somewhere where we can breathe the air?

“This lot may have the money and blue blood
“But you can’t tell me they have any fun.
“I’d like to share some nachos and a Bud,
“And then maybe a dance. You up for one?”

I drop the pose, and take my first real breath
And tell this stunning guy, “Fuckin’ hell, yes.
“All I’ll get here is disapproved to death.
“But are you up for a man in a dress?”

He shares a grin and says, “I think I’m up,
“For anything you might want me to be.
“Let’s grab some beer served in a plastic cup
“And you can shake that skirt-clad ass at me.”

The vampire in the custom-tailored tux
Looks down his nose at us as we go by.
My man says, “Hey, you know that when he fucks,
“He’s just as dull in bed. I swear, no lie.”

I laugh, and feel his hand warm on my back
And all the rest of them just fade away
I start designing the delicious snack
I’ll feed this guy, ’round noon, on All Saints’ Day.