Jump to content
  • Join Gay Authors

    Join us for free and follow your favorite authors and stories.

    Celian
  • Author
  • 2,916 Words
  • 417 Views
  • 3 Comments
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Ink and Flowers - 6. Finley

Again, I could taste Emmett's slight anxiety as I sat down. The Tempest was packed with people, but I couldn't help but think that it was because of me. He was fully aware that I was dangerous, and now we would be sitting across from each other for hours.

I averted my eyes and instead briefly eyed the others. Jake was as dark-skinned as Mike was pale and blond, Ben seemed to have a Latino influence, and Mo was probably short for Mohammed, because his face clearly had Arab features.

But then my gaze twitched back to Emmett, for he had by now peeled out of his red-and-white college jacket and was presenting not only an eggplant-colored T-shirt that highlighted the violet aspect of his eyes, which were unadorned today, but also the tattoo sleeve of his right arm.

"Wow.", I made quietly.

He grinned wryly and brushed his fingertips over his skin. At first glance, it seemed to be mostly flowers and animals.

"Did Tony do all this?", I wanted to know, deeply impressed, and he shook his head.

"No. This one," he twisted his arm and pointed to what looked like a Pegasus in a lotus flower, "his aunt made. My great aunt. This one, too." Now he pushed up the sleeve on his left arm a little. There on the upper arm was emblazoned what looked like Native American decoration. A leather cord, wrapped several times around the arm and adorned with small bones, teeth, feathers and claws.

Lifting my eyes to his, I nodded. I understood what he was trying to say. This tattoo was to protect him from predators, probably to suppress his fear, which came from his sensitive side, as Tony had called it. But that kind of magic, as we had seen, was not almighty.

"You have tattoos, too, right?" Ben asked, leaning over to look past Mike, who was sitting between us.

"Yeah..." I nodded. "Tony's doing the seventh one right now."

"Magical?"

I nodded again.

"And the runes look pretty damn cool." Emmett's impressed words and his little, sort of conspiratorial smile made my cheeks warm, but before I could say anything, a waitress approached the table.

"So, guys, two fries plates as usual?" Her name tag read Susy, and she grinned happily at the table.

"Make it three," Mike said casually.

"New faces are always welcome here." Susy's grin turned into a warm smile as she looked at me, which I tried to return- it didn't really work. "Three plates of fries and six cocktails of the day?"

"And what's the cocktail of the day?" Emmett asked back.

"September Sun."

He shook his head. "Long Island Iced Tea for me."

"Is there a non-alcoholic version?", I wanted to know, feeling strangely silly.

"Sure." Susy nodded at me, then nodded again more generally and slipped away.

One of the others grunted, and I turned my head. It seemed to have been Mo, because he looked at me with a mocking smile. Was there some stupid line coming now?

"How can you tell a vegan?"

Puzzled, I looked at him, while the others at the table either groaned in annoyance or laughed. Finally, I shrugged.

"They rub it in your face every chance they get." Maybe I was wrong, but I thought Mo's mockery was almost spiteful.

Still, I looked at Emmett, because he was the only one who could have been meant - he returned my glance half resignedly, half amused, and gave a shrug. I, on the other hand, frowned. "I don't understand the problem," I turned back to Mo, "I mean, are you aware that his uncle is a witch?"

"Sure, we all know that." Judging by his face, Mo didn't understand how I couldn't understand the problem, but Jake, sitting between the two of them, was now frowning slightly as well.

"Witches live in harmony with nature. Except for a few ritual occasions, they are vegetarian, often vegan. Emmett may not be a witch himself, but he grew up with them and lives with one even now, it's his culture. And you make fun of that?" I rarely said that much at a stretch, but this smug expression of Mo's annoyed me. In general, this kind of mockery annoyed me.

Susy stepped up beside me at the table. "Well guys, here comes the first round, fries are almost ready." At first the timing annoyed me, but then I saw that not only was she handing me a cocktail with a different colored straw, but she was handing one to Mo, too. The timing was perfect and my annoyance grew.

"Allah is watching, huh?"

At least Mo had the decency to blush.

Mike and Ben burst out laughing, Jake looked a little miserable, and though Emmett was smiling, he shook his head.

"You didn't have to do that, Finley, really."

"But he deserved it," Mike chuckled, and Emmett tipped his head in agreement. Then Mike punched me in the arm. "I like you, buddy."

I gave him a wry smile and managed a friendly nod in Mo's direction, which he accepted with a tiny nod of his own. Given the location, I had dulled my senses a bit, but I still imagined I could taste gratitude from Emmett, like freshly baked warm bread.

"Here's to new friendships," Mike said cheerfully, raising his glass.

I joined the others, glasses clinking, then took a careful sip. A sweet fruit and cream cocktail.

"Why aren't you drinking? Are you here with the car?", Ben then wanted to know and I nodded.

"Yes. That too. I generally don't drink." Dragons couldn't tolerate alcohol. That sounded silly, but it was the truth. The fairies are known for their alcoholic beverages, the dwarves for their beer, but we stayed away from it. I wasn't quite sure what alcohol did to us, but I didn't want to try it either. Stronger dragons who could spit fire in human form, like me, often stayed away even from bars, because one spark in a burp and the alcohol-laced air plays fireworks.

"Smart move," Jake said approvingly, and Emmett laughed softly.

"He has other vices."

"Don't we all?" Mike winked at the others and I smiled involuntarily.


 

It was a very pleasant evening, I thought, even though I didn't say much myself. After the fries were eaten and a second, then a third round was drunk, however, I excused myself outside. I needed fresh air. Two minutes of silence. And a cigarette.

I had just lit one when Jake stepped up next to me. Out of politeness I held the pack out to him, but he shook his head.

Just as politely, he seemed to wait until I had taken a first deep drag before he spoke. "Emmett said not to ask you about your past." He burst right in, confirming my suspicions- no one ever asked a stranger not even a single question on an occasion like this. "May I anyway?"

I raised a brow questioningly. "Go ahead. I won't promise you any answers, though," I said slowly.

Licking his lips, Jake nodded, then looked away. "How are you coping with civilian life? How... are you dealing with all of this?" Again, straight to the point.

"Hmm.", I went at first. Then: "I never wanted to be a soldier, but I don't know anything else."

"Military academy?"

I nodded, sucked the nicotine deep into my lungs. "Living as a civilian is weird," I admitted then, exhaling the smoke as I spoke.

"My brother lost an arm in the field," Jake said quietly. "He's not handling it well." Sadness colored his words, perhaps a little helplessness.

"You're worried."

"Of course."

"Some can never handle it."

"What about you?"

I blew smoke into the night over Jake's head, then shook my head. "My body may be intact, but I lost my unit. It's almost the same for me." And it would haunt me for the rest of my life.

Jake nodded hastily, his eyes gleaming with moisture. Only now, under all the artificial stuff, could I taste his emotions, sadness and fear and maybe even anger. "How long have you been out?"

"Two years." And yet it felt like I was merely on vacation for a few days. Sometimes I'd wake up expecting to find a message on my phone telling me to return to base immediately.

Jake nodded again, thoughtful this time.

"Where was he at?", I now wanted to know, and Jake winced.

"SEALs."

"Good guys.", I said, putting as much genuine admiration into my voice and nod as I could- it seemed to work, because a smile flitted across Jake's face.

"Would you... really, Finley, I don't want to overstep, but... would you mind..." He hesitated, chewing on his lip.

Again I raised a brow, regretting that the cigarette was already finished. I flipped the rest into the ashtray next to the front door, then looked back at Jake. First so straightforward, now hesitant.

"Would you come over if we meet at my place next Saturday? For pizza and stuff?"

"You want to invite your brother," I read between the lines, and Jake nodded a little uneasily.

"I... I honestly don't know if that's a good idea. He's been sitting in the veterans center for months brooding and sulking and... Maybe it would do him some good to get some encouragement from another ex-soldier. From someone who appreciates the SEALs."

No one could know if that was a good idea, except maybe his therapist. I myself, by necessity, still had contacts, but under different circumstances I would have left it all behind completely, of that I was sure.

"Would you be okay with that?" Fear and hope surrounded Jake, lending an unpleasant taste to the air.

Slowly, I nodded. Refusing felt wrong, even though I couldn't say what it would be like for me to talk about it with a wounded soldier and true civilians either. "Don't throw him in at the deep end," I asked then. "That wouldn't be fair."

For a moment Jake looked like he was going to protest, but then nodded. "Okay. Cool. Thanks." His smile was tinged with relief, and I nodded back before opening the door to the Tempest.

 

~

 

Emmett almost sighed with relief as the cab pulled away. "Sometimes they're like a bunch of toddlers."

"Be glad they don't shift uncontrollably or make other similar mischief," I grumbled around my cigarette. Anyone who's ever had to watch little dragons might understand what I mean. When a three-year-old shifts semi-controllably, thinking he can already fly, and then gets stuck on a 5-meter-high library shelf, it's not funny. Or pubescents who, in their frustration, simply spit fire in your face.

A grin settled on Emmett's face. "I know what you mean, believe me. Still- humans are exhausting, too." Was he implying that he wasn't human and that we shared a secret in that regard? Even though he couldn't know what I was?

"Of course they are," I muttered, getting elbowed in the ribs.

"Hey."

"Present company excluded." Was he human after all, or at least considered himself one? I smiled wryly and felt my cheeks grow warm. Now that we were alone, embarrassment crept up inside me again. Since we had already discussed inside who was getting home how, I nodded down the street and started moving.

For a moment we walked side by side in silence, then Emmett sighed. "Jake talked to you, didn't he?"

"He invited me to pizza next week," I replied, giving Emmett a look. "But yeah, he told me about his brother."

Emmett screwed up his face.

"You shouldn't have-" I started, but he shook his head.

"You don't discuss something like that in a crowded bar."

"If you say so." Something in his gaze worried me, as if he knew a lot more than he should.

"Why did you come at Mo like that?"

"Well, you can make fun of all kinds of things, but you can't make fun of other cultures," I grumbled, again annoyed. "And if he hears stupid sayings because he's Muslim, he shouldn't take it out on you." It wasn't until I said it that I realized how much that actually bothered me. Like, the fact that he had been taunting Emmett with it. It merely reinforced my embarrassment, but that got a second helping right away, because Emmett was smiling strangely.

"Mo always finds something, get used to it. He's just not used to being countered so openly." He paused and a strange expression flitted across his face.

"Why not?", I wanted to know seriously. Actually, it wasn't my place to ask that question. I had surprised myself earlier by commenting on his statement, because normally I was one of those who just swallowed such things. Emmett, however, looked tough enough to me to offer some rebuttal.

"Ignoring him takes less energy than having a stupid and pointless discussion," was Emmett's terse reply. "And Dom... Eh, for your information, Dom is a deer shifter."

"And thus vegan."

"Right. But Mo would never make jokes like that about him. Dom's just...", Emmett grinned wryly, "too dominant for that. A lead stag. But Dom doesn't meddle in other people's business, either."

"You're just other people to him and not a friend?", I wanted to know skeptically, turning a corner.

"Mo is Mo, he just does his stupid talk, but Dom... Dom and I don't get along that well, if I'm being honest." Emmett shrugged, but looked a little embarrassed. "Then again, Dom actually always stays out of disputes as long as it doesn't involve him or his herd."

Well, that was a point I could kind of relate to, so I nodded. Deer were said to have pride and a certain general condescension, but I had admittedly never met one before.

Finally we had reached my car, and as the door lock clicked and the lights flashed briefly, Emmett laughed softly.

"A Range Rover. Suits you."

"Yeah? Why?" Astonished, I looked at him.

"Tall and massive."

Massive. Now that was a new term.

"Powerful." he followed up and I nodded, but now he was blushing. "I didn't mean... well, I didn't mean your build or anything."

The hand on the door handle, I paused and looked at him across the roof.

"But rather just... you have a strong charisma, you know. Like your car. You look at it and you just know there's real strength in it."

"Oh.", I made, puzzled. I certainly wouldn't have interpreted his words that way without an explanation. But he was right. Kind of.

We got in and then he cleared his throat again as I clicked the seat belt into place. "Sorry, really."

"No problem." I turned the ignition key, then poked myself in the too-well-padded ribs. "I know I should do something about that."

"Does it bother you?"

I shrugged and jammed my phone into its holder, pulled up the GPS app and activated the route home, only then- partly because Emmett didn't say anything else about it- I said: "I don't really care." His embarrassment burned on my tongue with every breath, even if I meant it.

The silence that developed was uncomfortable.

Finally, I stopped in front of the tattoo parlor, but Emmett remained seated, the tension in the air noticeably subsiding. "What did you think of the evening?" he wanted to know with honest curiosity.

"Was good." I nodded affirmatively.

"So... next week pizza is on?" He smiled wryly. His eyes sparkled in the light streaming in from a streetlight.

I nodded simply. Even without Jake's brother, I would have joined them. It was nice and pleasant to be in company. Company that wasn't my family or from the military, to whom I wasn't just the weird silent dragon. The guys had welcomed me just like that, seemed to accept me as a new addition- at least according to their reactions when we said goodbye- and by all appearances it didn't even have anything to do with Emmett.

Somehow that surprised me, all of it. I had always been a loner, but at that moment the question rose in me why I had actually shied away from company so far.

"Cool." Emmett's smile widened, was so full of honest joy, which I could taste as well, that it started to tingle in my stomach. "Thanks for bringing me home."

"Sure." I returned the smile, hoping it didn't look stupid. He was happy that I'd been there today, that I'd be coming next week. And that was about me, not the battle-ready dragon, but me.

"Night, Finley. Sleep well."

"You too."

He grinned and got out, headed for the house.

Hearing my name was still strange after so many years of being addressed almost exclusively by my call sign. It reinforced the feeling that it was about me for him. Me, Finley. And thanks to the new tattoo, I'd sleep better than I had in a good fifteen years, too.

When the lights came on upstairs, I shifted gears again and headed out. Something was different, my subconscious informed me, but without the sense of danger, I didn't pursue it for the moment.

Maybe, it went through my mind a few minutes later, while I was squeezing the Rover into a parking spot, St Beatrice was after all the place where I could pause and take a deep breath without immediately running off again.

Copyright © 2024 Celian; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 12
  • Love 4
  • Fingers Crossed 1
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
You are not currently following this story. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new chapters.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

I feel that this chapter was full of information; maybe more than we could even realize.  I am glad that Finley came to the club.  And I like the fact that he stood up to Mo, I don't like bullies, even those that are subtle about it.  

Jake is just trying to help his brother, but everyone's experience is different and just because Finley served doesn't mean that they will suddenly bond and understand what the other is going through.  Finley has survivor's guilt, and that can in some ways be harder to deal with than losing a limb.  

Emmet is overcoming his fear a little.  What are all of his tattoos for?  

Glad that Finley is sleeping better.  

Well done.

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment

Finley enjoyed himself and most of the company at the bar. He agreed to meet Jake and them again in a week for pizza and would meet Jake's brother who lost an arm in combat.We will see if they are able to relate and if Finley might be a therapeutic balm or an irritant. Both Finley and Emment got along after Emment first felt danger. They did not explore who they were  but at least grew in the knowledge they both had magical tattoos and did not drink alcohol. I hope Finley sleps well. Maybe, they will open up more to each other. It seems to be a slow process.

  • Like 1
  • Love 1
Link to comment
3 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Jake is just trying to help his brother, but everyone's experience is different and just because Finley served doesn't mean that they will suddenly bond and understand what the other is going through.  Finley has survivor's guilt, and that can in some ways be harder to deal with than losing a limb.  

Emmet is overcoming his fear a little.  What are all of his tattoos for? 

Well done.

You are absolutely right and their meeting will not go as Jake hopes, or at least not in the way we interprete his hopes.

Emmett's tattoos are for a lot of things, surpressing his instinctal fears, supporting his magical abilities etc...

Thank you!

1 hour ago, akascrubber said:

Maybe, they will open up more to each other. It seems to be a slow process.

It is and next chapter we will see another reason for that ;)

Thank you!

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Newsletter

    Sign Up and get an occasional Newsletter.  Fill out your profile with favorite genres and say yes to genre news to get the monthly update for your favorite genres.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..