Yeller stood out in the dim hallway. It was all he could do to bring his raging body back under control. He cursed out Cashia, swearing he’d get vengeance. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could handle. Trembling, he leaned his head against a door jam and listened to the light chatter from the living room, knowing that he had to go back and act like a normal person again.
You going to survive there, human? Cashia asked.
Damn you, beast!
Sorry. Been a while?
Like fucking hell, it has! Do something like that again, fix it.
I would have, but you told me not to.
I told you I couldn’t take anymore.
I thought you didn’t want to.
Dude? God. I can feel him under my fingertips even now.
I can take you back in there?
No. Just. Let me catch my breath, and turn the heat down for the love of all that is holy. Not facing that group with a hard-on. Don’t even dare make me do that.
“You okay?” Benj came around the corner.
“Yeah.” Yeller flinched, making himself walk quickly back to the group and sink into the cushions of the broken love seat. He pulled a moth-eaten sofa pillow onto his lap to hold onto. Resting his head against the dusty fabric, he closed his eyes.
“So? You and Nat?” Sun Hee stuttered.
“Hmm?” Yeller breathed out.
Deck and Sun Hee shifted. The shag carpet swished against jeans and waterproof coats. Yeller peered at them over the cream and red striped ruffle. Deck wasn’t able to look at him, but he had Sun Hee’s rather undivided attention. With exaggerated effort, he raised his head to level his unwavering gaze at her. “What?”
“So, you are? Like we thought?” Sun Hee squished her shoulders up and wiggled her eyebrows.
Yeller shifted his feet on the worn wood floor. “Um, yeah, I guess so.”
“And Nat is what, bi, pan, something? Really?” Zola squeaked. Yeller nodded, not wanting to elaborate.
“So, you and he aren’t together, I guess? I mean, you’re out here, and Hana and him are in there?” Benj turned to the woodstove in the room to tap the chimney. No rattle. The inside heat bricks looked brand new.
“Hana is having fun whether they are or aren’t,” Zola mumbled to Sun Hee who failed at hiding a snicker, tugging at her ear.
“Do what?” Deck whispered to Sun Hee.
“She set a power mark on us earlier.” Sun Hee showed him the little feather on her left ear, describing it in rather vivid detail.
“All right, I don’t need to know anymore.” Deck waved the two women off. He knew what she was doing by the rising level of pain he could feel deep in his gut. Sadistic. Masochistic. Pleasure and pain. Not a ready fetish he understood.
“Hana? You? Tereza and Cashia?” Benj pressed again.
“We have our arrangement.” He ran his hand over his face to pull his hair back and twist it into a knot.
“Yeah, and we’re on a cross-country trip to Florgia on foot and would like to know what kind of accommodations we’re probably going to be dealing with,” Deck folded his arms across his chest.
“Oh,” Yeller squirmed. “Well…um, we’re sort of on friendly terms?”
“Friendly? Oh, come on, juicy details.” Zola pressed into Yeller’s personal bubble.
“I think you need to come down off those endorphins Hana is feeding you,” Yeller avoided, watching Benj fiddle with the wood stove.
“Whatever, spill the beans, bud,” Sun Hee demanded with a conniving smile.
“You two are quite the gossips.” Yeller regarding them under half-lidded lashes. They sat there staring at him expectantly. “What is so fascinating about this?” Yeller quipped, shoving his hands under his arms to keep from fidgeting.
“It’s nice to see you happy?” Zola suggested.
“We aren’t dating,” he tried to make them see reason.
“Sorry,” Benj said noncommittally.
“But? Tereza and Cashia?” Sun Hee bemoaned the confession.
“Sadist.” Yeller balled himself smaller on the couch. Sun Hee perked up, cocking her head. Yeller glared at her undivided attention. “They are…mhh dating? I think? And we have an arrangement set for them to see each other, if everything works right. Other than that, Nat and I are? How about friends with benefits?”
The hell is with your woman, Cashia? Yeller demanded.
She’ll play both sides if given the chance. She doesn’t like waiting around to get things done. Cashia replied nonchalantly.
You don’t drop that on people!
“Well, that works.” Zola leaned over to pat his shoulder.
“How are you guys happy about this?” Yeller asked his cousin, still confused.
“Hell, what you do with your life and your body is your business. When we find someone they like, our friends all giggle and congratulate them for finding some level of happiness. Member of the group, Yeller!” beamed Sun Hee.
“Uh…’k. Deck? You getting any of this?” Yeller turned to their leader.
“You like guys, they like guys, they think you’re one of them now,” huffed Deck.
“Right. No, yes, wait, what?” Yeller stuttered.
“Just ‘cause he likes a guy doesn’t mean he’s going to fall into the whole shrilling gossipy thing. He’s still a guy, and not all guys like sharing, what did you call it? Juicy details? If they get time, we’ll give them space; otherwise, I think we should probably leave them alone.” Deck provided his friend with an escape route. Yeller let out a sigh of relief.
“But Deck?” begged Sun Hee.
He crooked an eyebrow at her. “What if Yeller asked you about our relationship?” he turned the question on her.
“I wouldn’t care,” she said automatically.
“I wouldn’t want to discuss it,” he said.
“What’s wrong with us?” Sun Hee bit back.
“I think you put your foot in your mouth, bro,” Benj pointed out to Deck.
“I didn’t mean it like that, Sun Hee. I don’t think what we do in private is other people’s business,” he put his hands up to plead for understanding.
“What, are you ashamed of us?” Her pitch went up.
“No, I …” he was at a loss for words, realizing he was failing this new deluge of questions quickly.
“It’s just, Nat and I haven’t done anything yet, and I want for him and Hana and Sven and Sylvi to get situated first before I go messing with this odd love triangle thing. I swear, I’m not trying to evade you,” Yeller supplied, realising that his friend was boiling in hot water.
“I guess you aren’t the jealous type?” Sun Hee turned to Yeller.
“Of course not,” Zola defended before Yeller was able to reply. “He’s always been the good guy!”
“Well, I don’t know about that,” he tried to escape his mental portrayal.
“Oh, come on, don’t be so modest. You’re always trying to please everyone else. Even now, you’re trying to make Nat happy by giving him time with Hana,” she pushed. The comment went in one ear and out the other. He wasn’t doing it to be nice, he told himself. He wanted to make Hana better because it meant that Nat’s wolf was less likely to rip everyone’s head off. Self-preservation, that was it. As long as Nat got a grip, then they’d make it to Florida faster and the sooner he would be able to get the beast out of him.
Who are you kidding, dječak? Cashia laughed.
Not you too. Can I be at peace with my arrangement and not have everyone’s opinion right now? Especially not yours. Your woman is a sadist, and you aren’t any better. He bemoaned the creature.
Be at peace with your arrangement, Ruben, but you have to get a better understanding of yourself. You keep trying to make too many people happy, and you’re gonna lose yourself. The wolf told him.
And what do you know of it? Yeller riled defensively against the creature.
Why do you think I chose you, kid? You and I are much more alike than you think. Our group matched up to each of your kind as much as possible by temperament. Deck and Dietrich are our leaders, respectively. Benj and Heinrich are the intelligent strategists. Nat and Sven are the best friends and therefore second in command to the leaders. Then there’s us. We’re the heavy hitters, the big backup, but never there in the forefront. We’re always last to get noticed if we’re missing, always the last one called when everyone else has been recognised. And yet, because we are always there, never asking for anything, we gain the most loyalty, the most sympathy. When we hurt or are happy, all the others cry for us or laugh with us more than any of the others. We are the rare breed, to the rule. That is why I chose you to join with, even though I knew in coming to possess you of your feelings. That’s why I’m okay with you, because you and I, we want to make people happy and keep them safe. We aren’t in it to save or change the world. We want our friends, which makes us happy. Cashia told him.
You’ve thought a lot about this. Yeller pointed out, finding himself weary of the day, ready to sleep once more.
I accepted it as fact so long ago that I no longer remember why I realised it. For now, though, Yeller, you should get some sleep. You’ll need it in the coming days. Cashia lulled him to the land of dreams.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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