Dark Riders of Marblecliff
11. Lions, Tigers and Goats, Oh my
▂▃▅▇█▓▒░۩۞۩ September 30, 2013 ۩۞۩░▒▓█▇▅▃▂
▂▃▅▇█▓▒░۩۞۩ Procrastination ۩۞۩░▒▓█▇▅▃▂
Cecily sat in the camaro as she waited for Lilliana. She couldn’t help but look over at the empty space next to her that would have been occupied by Mister Burke’s car if he had not been in the accident. But that was only part of what was on her mind. The accident only made her procrastinate even more. She needed to ask her mother a question, more of a favor. But she didn't know how Lilliana would react to what she was going to ask.
-- 2 days ago --
The small mouse hid away in her dollhouse. The only place in the mansion that was really her own. The small, half sized, two floor construction that occupied the sitting area of the room she shared with Daisy, was her sanctuary when she needed time alone. She couldn’t understand why, but she felt anxiety growing over the outing with Lilliana and Colin even though it was still a full day away.
She surfed through the almost infinite playlist on the computer as the music stopped. Instead of the silence that she expected she heard Daisy talking quietly in the outer room. “Okay seems to be just us, what the fuck is going on horn head. And don't blow smoke up my ass and tell me things are fine.”
She instantly slipped her headphones off. The tone in the moose’s voice told her that it was something important. But she could also tell that Daisy didn’t want anyone to know what was going on. She sat back in her chair motionless as the conversation continued.
“Daisy sweetheart, you know I wouldn't insult you by lying to you,”A boy’s voice replied. It took Cecily a moment to recognize the voice she had heard only one time before. It was the bison, Brad from Wintercreek. What ever he was telling her, it had to have something to do with her family. “Talked to your mom lately?”
“A few days ago,” she replied, “but you know she doesn't tell me shit. I love her dearly, but she thinks she's protecting me from something by not keeping me up on what's really going on back there.”
“Don't know about that, she just worries about you Daisy, tries to not add any more to what you're already dealing with is all,” Brad said.
“Yea, I know. But I'd really rather hear this shit from her. You have no idea how much I hate having to go behind her back to find shit out then pretend I don't know shit when she calls to talk,” the moose herm replied. “And the tone of your voice tells me something is going on I need to know about.”
“Several things actually...” the bison boy said less muffled than before. “God damn it Daisy, you know you're like a sister to me. Why the hell did you have to drag me into the middle of this shit with your family?”
“Because of the people I count as true friends back there,” the moose girl said flatly, ”you're the one person I can really trust to give it to me straight and not sugar coat shit.
“That may just prove to be my downfall one of these days,” the boy said with a chuckle. “So... where do you want me to start this time? Not sure all of it's good news, or that some of it is as bad as it seems.”
“Start with mom and dad, how are things between them? Last I heard from mom it looks like they're splitting up. Is she okay Brad?” Daisy asked, the concern for her mother evident in her voice as much as it was on her face.
“She seems to be, a little frazzled but okay. And that's the same line she's telling your brothers,” the bison said with a heavy sigh.
“Same line? You know something different don't you?” the herm girl asked point blank.
“Not for absolutely sure yet,” Brad answered softly. “But from what I can find out your dad hasn't been seen in the last few days. Not been home, or at his office. No one seems to know where the fuck he is.”
“So the fucker pulled a vanishing act after all? Figures, stick around to fuck up his family then run from the aftermath...” Daisy said, her anger clear in her tone.
“Like I said, not for sure on that one, do know that things have been leaking out about the stuff that happened on the cruise. I mean yea, the thing with your brother Ralph knocking up his girlfriend was out there before they even got back. But the other stuff with Paul has hit the rumor mill and you know how that shit goes,” Brad responded, an odd tone in his voice.
“So, what's the word on the street about dad?” Daisy asked.
“You name it and it's out there. The tale runs from he ran off to he was abducted to your mom has killed him and buried his body in the back yard. With the other stuff running through the mill most furs say if she did it was justified and she should get away with it. Seriously Daisy, furs around here really don't like him with what they're hearing about that vacation of yours. From what I hear his practice was going to shit and he was losing patients like water through a broken dam.”
“So how is mom really holding up? How is she handling this shit?”
“She seems to be okay hun, frazzled as all hell with your dad missing and this shit with Paul...” Brad said trailing off, not looking forward at all to having to tell the moose herm about what he knew of her youngest brother's situation.
“What shit with Paul? Is there something no one is telling me about my little brother?” Daisy asked, her voice growing suddenly louder and a bit angry.
“Probably, your mom is trying to not add to the shit you're dealing with already like I said. But getting any information out of that place is like pulling teeth from a pissed off Rhino. They won't tell me shit because I'm not family, and I know they're not telling your mom a straight story about Paul. I told you she got me on his visitors list and he was doing okay. He told me they kept changing their minds about what was really wrong with him and that they kept changing his treatment and shit. But lately... he's different Daisy.”
“Different? What do you mean different?” Daisy asked, the concern growing and very evident in her tone.
Cecily listened more closely. She remembered the boy. She felt somewhat responsible for where he was, and the condition he was in. She knew well how what she had done to him could affect someone, especially when they had never been in a position of absolute lack of control.
“He doesn't talk about what they have him doing as far as his treatment any more. But what worries me about him is that he seems off. Kind of dull and lifeless, like he's there but not really there.”
What the bison said sounded like some of the kids she knew back in the foster system. Often when the workers and doctors found it easier to medicate them than deal with the real issues. Just the sound of what was described made Cecily regret what she had done.
“Alright Brad... I know you,” Daisy said with a hint of suspicion in her voice. “I know you've been digging around into it, you're not the big dumb jock everyone thinks you are and we both know it. Give it up and just tell me what you know about it, because I can tell you know more than they think you do.”
“Damn,” the bison boy muttered. “You know me to damn well moose. Yea after he started seeming weird I started digging into that place and what's going on with him. Kind of had to keep a herm from ripping my muzzle off. Seems they can't make up their minds what's really wrong with him. One of the doctors even thinks he's intentionally doing everything he can to play the system. Their answer to that was to start drugging him up. I had to look the shit up Daisy, they have him on some pretty weird shit for a kid, or even for an adult for that matter.”
“What? They thinks he's faking it or some shit? Wait, drugging him up? What the fuck for?” Daisy asked, the anger in her voice thick.
“The official version is to keep his potentially violent nature in check. From what I can dig up on the shit they have him on it looks more like they're trying to break him down, make him little more than an obedient zombie and get him to spill his guts,”
The bison’s remarks lit a fire in the small mouse. She felt an anger in her that was something new, unexpected. She needed to do something about what was going on.
“You've known my family, and my brothers and I in particular, for a while Brad. Do you think he's faking it or playing them?” Daisy asked, the anger in her voice growing by the moment.
“No,” the Bison said flatly. “Don’t know how or why, 'aint no shrink, but I believe him that he has no idea why he's done the things he has. The whole thing with him is weird as fuck Daisy, but I don't think those quacks at Tennyson are doing him a bit of good. And this latest brain fart of theirs seems stupid even to me.”
“This is what I mean, none of the others back there I've talked to lately have said shit about any of this,” the moose herm said narrowing her eyes at the bison boy. “This is why you got pulled into this shit. You I can trust to tell me things the others won't. Any other shit I need to know about or is that about it?”
“Not much other than what I've already told ya hun,” Brad replied.
“Not much other than.... what are you not telling me fur face?” Daisy asked with a stern tone to her voice.
“Nothin that your threats will get outta me sweetie. It's nothin bad, pretty good in a way but I got sworn to keep my muzzle shut by both of 'em or else. Sorry babe but they're both a lot closer than you are,” the brown furred boy said with a chuckle.
“Bradley... do I have to come back to Colorado and slap your muzzle off?” Daisy asked.
“Sorry sweet cheeks, not gonna work this time. I'd really rather keep my fur right where it is, and.... they made it clear that they would shave me in my sleep. Wouldn't put it past either of them to do it either. You're just gonna have to wait until they tell you themselves.”
“I'll get you for this one horn head,” Daisy said. “Fine keep your secrets Brad, I gotta get my rump up and get ready for work anyway. Talk to ya soon beefcake, but if you find out anything else about what the fuck is going on with my parents you better call and let me know you got that?”
“Count on it Daisy, last thing I want to deal with is a pissed off moose herm. Same goes for your brothers too, anything else comes up you need to know about I'll give you a call.”
Cecily had been obsessing over the conversation for two days now. She was going to talk to Lilliana about what they could do, but the accident with Collin put a hold on that.
She wanted to find out what was really going on. And she knew that the Dark Riders could do more digging, and get more answers than Brad could. They might even be able to get Paul into a better place. They had done so much for her. Susan had even left her career for the small mouse. She was sure they would do what they could to help anyone in need. All she needed to do was ask.
Her concentration was interrupted as she felt the car move and the passenger door close. “What’s on your mind Squeaker? Has to be important, the radio is off.”
She looked over at the liger. “I… I need to ask you something.”
“Well, spit it out.”
“You…. you remember Daisy’s brother?”
“Yeah, the idiot that nearly got killed by his dad after knocking up his girlfriend. They’re a cute couple. We’ve been looking into some of the things that he talked about back on the island.”
“No… not him. The… the other one.” she paused for a moment as she looked down at the floor. “The one that I…”
Before Cecily could finish what she was saying Lilliana stopped her. “What do you want with him?”
“Daisy… Daisy got a call from her friend. He… he said things seemed strange for him. Like he was a different person.”
“Well, after what happened, I can see that.”
“It… it’s like he’s a zombie. Like they are drugging him. Brad said it was to suppress his violent nature, but…”
“That boy is as violent as a wet sponge. So… you want…”
“I want… I don’t know. He doesn’t deserve… no one deserves to be treated like that. Can… can we… can you do something?”
Lilliana crossed her arms as she said, “I’ll talk to the others. We’ll look into it. Susan has already made some connections out there.”
“Thank… thank you, Lilly.”
▂▃▅▇█▓▒░۩۞۩ October 5, 2013 ۩۞۩░▒▓█▇▅▃▂
▂▃▅▇█▓▒░۩۞۩ Invasion ۩۞۩░▒▓█▇▅▃▂
Colin lay in his bed for the first time in days as he stared at the ceiling fan that moved the warm air from the vent into the room. Nearly a week since the accident and his body still felt like it had been hit by a freight train. The silence was a welcome change from the active nurse station outside his door and the beeping of the machines in his room. He was glad his sister had stuck around to help out the Colonel while he was incapacitated. He had worried about his father during his stay in the hospital, even though the older mouflon spent much of the time by his bed.
His eyes moved to see the bedside clock as he wondered just what Lilliana might be doing. She had come to visit in the hospital a few times, but she was often busy with everything their group had going on coupled with her responsibilities as a teacher. He was still surprised that the liger had gone through the effort of making sure he had a private room and had everything he could possibly need while still admitted. He had heard stories from his father and the General about what the small group was capable of accomplishing when they got their minds set on what needed to happen. The thought was slightly frightening as he wondered just what Lilliana might do when she found out he was out of the hospital.
As if to answer his drug induced fantasy, he heard the unmistakable sound of the monster Camaro outside his window. Pain shot through his ribs as he sighed with the sound of the other vehicles pulling up after the Camaro engine fell silent. It wasn’t just her, she brought the whole group.
Lilliana knocked at the door while the rest of the group dismounted their cars. The only ones that had not come with her were Daisy, who had to work, and Cecily, who had gone out on one of her photoshoots. She was proud of the fact that the small mouse was going out on her own, and not cooped up in the house all the time. Even if it was slowing down progress on the remodeling. At the moment she had no room to criticize since she had dragged the entire group out to check on Colin, even though she knew he would be well cared for by his family.
The fact was, she had her own reasons for getting the group out of the house to a neutral zone. She needed them all in a place where she could talk to them about plans and getting the real information they needed about Daisy’s brothers. There was also the fact she wanted them around just incase she started to make an ass of herself by being herself in front of Colin’s family.
The liger turned to look as the door was opened by Colin’s younger sister. “Miss Fargo,” the ewe exclaimed, “what a pleasant surprise. I suppose you are here to visit my brother?”
Lilliana nearly pushed past her as she walked into the house.“Yeah, good morning,” she muttered before she began barking orders. “Wiggles, Check the pantry and supplies. Fluffy, secure the perimeter. Boomer… don’t break anything.”
“Wha-?” Crystal asked as the liger woman entered, followed by an otter, chinchilla, and eagle. “What are you doing?”
“The next person to call me Fluffy is going to get a face full of fist,” the Chinchilla shouted as she followed Lilliana into the house. She looked over at the mouflon with a smile, “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Susan.”
As Susan extended her paw she was shoved out of the way by Alex, dressed in her usual weekend wear of daisy dukes and a flannel shirt, barely covered by a thick winter coat. “Out da way, Fluffy Muffins, chees adorable.” She wrapped her wings around Crystal and hugged her for a moment. “Oh, warm too, I’m keepin’ dis one.”
“Lilly, This isn’t a military mission,” the otter said as he stopped at the door and looked around. “I’m not even sure why you brought us along.” Almost as if doing what the liger had said anyway he continued while he grabbed the eagle by the neck and pulled her away from the other girl. “There are only three formal exits, front, back and garage. The neighborhood is one of the better one for crime. And shouldn’t Susan be more worried about making sure they have the medical supplies needed? I’m more of a… handyman in that area.”
“Can it, Hank,” the liger said as she turned around in the now crowded entry was. “This is one of his sisters, ‘Cryssy’, or something. Left to right, Susan, Hank, and Alex. We left the colonel at the VFW, poker night in the middle of the day or some shit. So where’s the cripple?”
“Colin? He’s up in his room,” the woman answered. “Probably watching college football highlights or something. But what are you guys doing?”
“Safe meeting location,” Lilliana quickly as she glanced at the others. “Less ears to hear things.”
“More like smaller ears that can’t hear things,” Susan said a little annoyed. “Is that really why you dragged us along? Hank and I are almost done with the upstairs rooms.”
“This is something she asked us to look into. I just don’t want her to worry about it more than she has to if anything is going on.”
The Chinchilla rolled her eyes, “Fine. The methods they are using on Paul are questionable. My connection on the inside says they are using the more keep him docile approach than trying to fix or find anything unusual. Not good for a thirteen year old.”
The eagle cleared her throat and said, “It looks like someone is trying to keep him in there. We might be able to get him out for a… Family Holiday… but we can’t let any of the Daniel's know, I think is it connected to their father some how. By the way, He has fallen off the face of the planet. Some P.I. is on the case.”
“Thanksgiving’s out of the question,” Hank chimed in, “We won’t have most of the place fully livable until closer to Christmas at this rate. New years if someone keeps interrupting progress.”
“Christmas it is then,” Lilliana said with a smile. “Anything else on the other brother?”
“Still getting stonewalled on there,” Susan replied. “There is something not right connected to the company. But the Business itself is clean.”
“Okay, Good work, Dismissed,” Lillian said with a some cold look of deep thought on her face. The group turned and started to leave as the each gave Crystal a quick smile and nod.
“Sorry about the intrusion,” Susan said as she finally offer her paw for a handshake. “She’s… Well, you’ll find out.”
“I think I just did,” the female mouflon said with a bewildered look on her face. “No wonder Colin just smiles and shakes his head whenever I ask what’s going on between them.”
“I’m sure he’ll tell you when he figures it out,” the chinchilla said with a smile as she followed the others out of the house.
“So,” Lilliana said looking around the house, “Not really what you expect for a bachelor pad.”
“Dad’s hardly a bachelor,” Crystal replied. “Widower, sure. Even though she’s gone, Mom’s personal touch is all over this house. Colin and I just stay here to make sure he’s okay.”
“Yeah, that’s what he told me. Still kind of expected something different. It feels… homey, I guess your mom did a good job training them. So how is he doing? Still look like he is held together with bubblegum and duct tape?”
“He’s looking and feeling a lot better,” the woman said as she turned her gaze upstairs. “Still kind of tender, but it’s not the constant throbbing like it was before. He’s starting to lose his mind, though, being so limited in what he’s cleared to do.”
“Good, he should be losing something cooped up like that,” She said as she adjusted the backpack on her shoulder. “So which room does he call his?”
“Up the stairs, first door on the left. It should be open,” Crystal answered. “Can I get you anything?”
“Nah, I think I got it all for now,” she said as she headed for the staircase, “Thanks anyway.” She then trotted up the stairs with a bit of a bounce in her step.
“What is this, Operation Suburban Storm?” Colin asked with a playful grin as Lillian appeared in his doorway. “Did you bring the entire team with you?”
The liger snorted a little as she said, “nah, just needed to get them out of the house for a bit, But they all seem set on getting back to work on the renovations, or whatever else they are working on. So how’s the body holding up?”
“Better than the doctor would have you think,” the ram said as he stretched and flexed the muscles in his body. Only a slight grimace of pain appeared on his face as he leaned in a direction that his injuries didn’t agree with. “But I have to follow the doc’s orders or risk damaging the case with the insurance company.”
“Gotta love those insurance companies.” She placed her backpack my on the floor by the dresser as she walked in. “What are you plans for the weekend, considering you’re not in the condition to go out and do anything?”
The mouflon glanced at the dar flat panel TV that sat on the short dresser on the wall opposite the foot of his bed. “Just watching the highlights on ESPN.”
“Fast cars, football, and beer. Typical male. Even has a woman downstairs in the kitchen making him sandwiches. And to think I had such high hopes.” The liger shook her head as she knelt down by her bag and started digging through it.
“Trust me, I’d love to do something for myself, but Crystal is just like our mother in that regard,” Colin sighed. “I don’t suppose you’ve got some elaborate plan to rescue me from monotony?”
She glanced over her shoulder at him. “Rescue you? Not really. Add to the torment, now that's more my style.” She turned and started toward the TV set on the stand at the foot of his bed, in her paws a game console and bundle of cable. “I figured you were still to broken to do much, so I picked up the latest crappy sports games. I think you have a chance at beating me once or twice before I figure them out.”
“I’m not as fragile as everyone’s treating me, you know,” he argued. “It’s bad enough that my family and the docs are trying to coddle me. I’ve come to expect you to push my limits, but instead you’re actually showing restraint. For once.” He walked over to where she was knelt down in front of the television and held out his paw. “Why?”
“I’ve seen my share of bed rest, and bruised ribs,” she replied as she powered up the systems and sat on the floor. “You have no idea how hard they had to work to keep me from hurting myself during recovery, until I actually did. No fun setting yourself back weeks on rehab, and I’m not going to be the one responsible for that. Now, are you going to play,” she asked as she tosses a controller his way, “or just watch me make a fool of myself on games I can't stand playing?”
“Fine, I’ll play a few rounds against you.” He used the paw he had been holding out to the liger woman to grip her shoulder to steady himself as he took a seat next to her on the carpet. “But let’s make things interesting. Best two out of three. If I win, you and I do something a little more physical. Don’t worry, it will still be within doctor’s orders.”
“Fine, best two out of three, It’s not like I planned on sitting here all day. The question is, can you beat me two times? Sure, I’ve never played these games before, But they mostly play themselves with the plays from the playbook if I remember right.” She glanced over at him as she used her teeth to rip the cellophane off the game case. “Though I hear they have gotten more intricate lately, but we'll see.”
“In that case, I pick the game,” Colin countered. “But what happens if you win?”
“Well, that depends. How long do you think it will be before your sister checks on her ailing brother who has been left alone with a crazy liger?” She let a mischievous grin creep across her muzzle as she finished.
“That also depends.” Looking toward the hallway he said, “If we keep the door open, I’d say an hour, tops. If we close it, she won’t bother us unless she thinks I’m dying.”
The liger sighed as she said, “Better get started then. Can’t waste the day tormenting just one goat. What shade do you think she would turn is she thought she walked in on you and I doing things… a little more physical… than gaming?”
Colin smirked and answered, “It wouldn’t happen if we closed the door. That’s one thing this house respects; a shut door means privacy, and privacy is granted. But you still didn’t answer my question; what if you win? If it helps you decide, I pick this one.” He reached out and held up NHL 2014.
Lilliana rolled her eyes as she replied, “Fine, if I win, you actually take it easy until you stop groaning just to sit down. There really is no need to try and be macho here horn head, it's not really one of my turn ons.” She slipped the game into the console and picked up the manual while it loaded. “Okay, how the fuck does this game work? I hope it has flying teeth and blood effects or it’s going back after this.”
“Not being macho,” Colin assured her. “I’m just getting stir crazy is all. I know what the docs said, and I know my limits. Not going to overdo it, I swear. I just don’t need everyone going all mother hen on me.” Picking up his controller, he explained, “The point of the game is to get the puck - that’s the little black disk - into the other team’s net. There are three twenty-minute periods. The team with the most points at the end of sixty minutes wins. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, there’s a five minute overtime, followed by a shootout, if necessary.”
“Yeah, yeah. The real question is how do I slam you into the wall? If I’m going to lose I want to have fun doing it.” She smiled as she continued, “They improved the collision engine and used a different enforcer engine for more realistic fights. It should be interesting.”
The mouflon arched an eyebrow at her and grinned. “Stupid sports games, huh?”
“I’m not walking into a game completely blind. I did a little research before I picked up the titles. Doesn’t mean I’m any good at them, it’s not pinball. Now there is a game I know I can make almost anyone look like an idiot at.” She smiled at him as she added, “It’s all in the hips,” with a little twitch in his direction.
“Didn’t take you to be the sort,” he remarked, leaning slightly to bump her with his good shoulder. “That’s why I made the wager I did. Even if I lost, I didn’t figure you to go and make things any worse for me.”
“Oh, don’t be so certain of that,” she said as the game started and she selected a random team, “I still have a rather large house that needs a lot of work done to it.”
“Ah, but that wasn’t part of our current wager,” Colin chuckled. “Maybe you can bring that up during the rematch.”
The games started innocent enough, both going through the first round getting used to the controls and learning how the worked, victory going to Colin in the end. The second round was a bit more competitive as Lilliana perfected the game of knocking players out, claiming victory even with a majority of the players spending time out for penalties. In the third and final round Colin figured out a way around her and her more combative tactics. The game played through with neither coring until the final moments when Colin managed to get an open shot. Almost as if she had forgotten his condition, Lilliana gave him a quick elbow to the ribs as she saw his player mover for the shot on the screen. As he let out a pain filled grunt and hiss, she dropped her her controller and turned to him.
“Fuck, I’m sorry, I wasn’t…” Cut off by the sound of the buzzer and the ram pain filled chuckle she stopped and looked back at the screen.
“I guess I win,” he said through his gritted teeth.
She looked back at him with a smirk. “Okay stud Mouflon, I’ll give you that one. Now let's he how badly I damaged the goods before you come up with some stupid plan to get out of the house.”
Colin leaned back unsure of what was about to happen as the liger gracefully swung her body around to straddle his legs without sitting on them. He gasped slightly as he saw a paw come from behind her with a knife he had not noticed before, and swiftly slice from the hem to the collar of his shirt with practiced precision.
As the shirt fell away and she started examining his side with her free paw he said, “I could have taken the shirt off, you know.”
“Sure you could have, but I would have had to listen to you wince and groan as you tried to move. Beside, this was faster,” she replied was her paws moved over his bandaged ribs. “Everything looks okay. I’d say you were ready to return to duty if i didn’t know better.” She fell silent as her eyes followed her paws movement across more of his well toned chest.
“I told you,” he grinned. “Now about my prize. We’re going outside and laying on the hammock. I want to get to know more about you, and the weather’s too nice to be locked up in my room.”
She stook up and put her paws on her hips. “Sure, now that I have you half dressed you’re going to try and put the moves on me in the hammock out back. What would your mother think?”
“One,” the mouflon said as he removed the tatters of his shirt, “Putting the moves on you was the plan all along. I had no idea you’d be in such a hurry to see my chest. Two, my mom would probably say something like, ‘it’s about time those two stopped pussyfootin’ around.’”
She turned and started for the door, her tail gliding just under his chin as she did. “Well, there better be alcohol involved so I have a good excuse. Not many people get anything other than ‘No shit there I was’ stories when I’m sober.”
“I’m pretty sure we’ve got some Captain in the kitchen,” Colin suggested as he pulled a flannel shirt from his dresser and gingerly re-dressed himself. “Dad’s got some scotch in the den, but I think he’s napping in there. You know, if you let me get you drunk, I just might take advantage...”
“Best not to wake a sleeping officer,” she replied. “But the real question is, ‘who is getting who drunk?’ And it might not be a good idea to to do something that can get you hurt when you’re already wounded, anyway. I would say ask the last guy that got frisky, but I haven't heard from him since.”
“As tempting as what you thought I meant sounds, I’d rather be alert for that,” he chuckled. “Especially with how unpredictable I’m sure you can be. I was just talking about getting you to spill your guts, Sargeant. I’m curious to know what makes Lilliana Fargo tick.”
Lilliana followed Colin out the patio door, a bottle of Captain Morgan buried in a bucket of ice under one arm, as they made their way out to the hammock that was stretched between two trees.
“So were you just lucky that those trees were in the perfect spot for a hammock, or were they intentionally placed?” She asked as she sat the bucket on a nearby table.
“Maybe a little of both?” He asked, more than answered, as he sat down on the piece of canvas that was stretched between two elms. “The trees were here when we bought the house, but who’s to say that the previous owners didn’t have the same thing in mind? Either way, I’m not complaining. This is my sanctuary.”
“I don’t know why,” she said putting her paws on her hips and looking up into the trees, “But I pictured your sanctuary being something more like an old tree house you built as a kid or some shit. Seems a little disappointing that it’s a piece of cloth stretched between two trees.”
Colin shrugged. “It’s not that I didn’t want one, but with dad away so much when we were growing up, I was the man of the house. By the time I was old enough to be able to build one on my own, I’d pretty much outgrown that phase.” He reclined back, resting the back of his neck on his forearms. “I’m not complaining, mind you. I like the man I became, which is more than a lot of other people can say. Besides, it helped me to appreciate the simple things in life, like a piece of cloth. And someone to share it with.” He pulled his arm out from behind his head and patted the space next to him. “It can hold us both, no problem.”
Lilliana grabbed the bottle of rum out of the bucket of ice as she walked over to the hammock. “And the boy starts out the gate with the corny lines. And somehow you think this is going to work on me or or something?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged, his cares seeming to melt away as he took in the cool autumn breeze mixed with the warm glow of the sun. “But if it doesn’t, I can try something else. I can be as stubborn as a goat sometimes.” He was obviously making a playful reference to Lilliana’s old nickname for him, ‘goat-boy.’
“You’re more like a horny ass if you ask me,” she quipped back as she rolled into the hammock next to him. The sudden impact of her body against his caused him to groan slightly. “And a tender one to boot,” she chuckled.
“Pass the bottle,” he said, ignoring the ache that had flared up in his ribs. The fact that he hadn’t remarked about being a horny ass hadn’t gone unnoticed.
She handed him the bottle, almost as if to get it out of her own paws as swung one leg over his him and pulled herself up to sit in his lap as he laid there. “It’s not going to work well if you get drunk first you know,” she said as she looked down at him between her legs. “And there are a few things that might help a little with the pain,” she added as she started to unbutton the flannel without really waiting for any kind of okay. She started gently rubbing his sides and chest and continued, “A good rubdown over wounds releases endorphins, second best thing to actual pain meds.”
“I don’t plan on getting drunk, Sergeant,” he grinned before taking a swig and holding the bottle out for her to take at her leisure. “Just enough to dull the soreness, and maybe get up a little liquid courage.”
She took the bottle with one paw, the other still resting on his chest as she tossed back a decent gulp. She hissed as the sent of the rum burned through her nose and down her throat. She shook her head before she said, “I always liked bourbon better.” She looked down at him with a smile, her free paws glided down his torso. “So now that you’re getting the hot school teacher drunk in a hammock, what sort of things did the schoolboy want to learn again?”
“May as well start with common interests,” he shrugged as he took the bottle back for another pull. “So, how’d you end up becoming such a car buff?”
She sat back, putting more of her weight on his hips as she looked up into the sky. Her tone was more serious and contemplative than he had ever heard as she said, “I guess it’s one of the few things that I did get from my dad. When I was younger we were always working on some car project. It was like that until I hit my teens. Every Saturday we would go out and climb into the engine compartment of some car, get all greasy and covered in oil. Fix something, tear it apart, put it back together. He would talk about the plan, and what everything did and why it needed to be there. Really, it’s the only time I remember getting along with him. That’s probably why I still do most of the work on my beast myself.” As if pulling herself out of a daydream she looked back down at him, continued to rub his bruised and battered ribs as she asked, “And what about you? Driving instructor, gearhead, that’s not stuff that pops up overnight.”
“I guess, like you and pretty much anyone else into cars, I get it from my dad, but not quite the same.” As he spoke, Colin placed his paws on the outsides of Lilliana’s calves and started softly brushing his thumbs back and forth over her jeans. “I mean, I grew up with Veronica right there in the garage, staring at me every day as I left for school and came back home. So my interest really started there. Again, I was the man of the house, so when mom’s car had troubles I would try and take a crack at fixing it. Little stuff at first: oil changes, spark plugs, things like that, but by the time I was seventeen I was doing pretty much anything and everything needed to keep that ‘94 Caprice running. There was this one time, though, while dad was still away… I snuck out into the garage while mom was asleep and took Veronica for a joy ride. I think that was when I really got hooked.”
“And the teen boy stupidity is revealed. I knew you weren’t as good-good as you tried to make out,” she said with a bit of a triumphant smile. “Now the real question is, when did you get into the stunt driving, the stupid shit you were doing at the track with those schoolhouse toys wasn’t your everyday joy riding.”
“You know those commercials?” He removed his paws from her legs to make a set of air quotes with his fingers. “‘Professional Driver. Closed Course.’ I saw one where this badass pickup was tearing up the dirt and mud, and thought to myself, ‘I could do that. Hell, I’d love to do that.’ It took several months of persevering and dozens of leads, but I eventually landed my first job: driving a Viper in a tire commercial.”
She sighed and shook her head a little. “Back to the goody-two-shoes, angle. So you’re telling me you never got busted for street racing, drifting, or just doing donuts in the mall parking lot?”
He grinned wider. “Define ‘busted.’ Ticketed? Cited? No. Received warnings? A few times, but having military plates can get you out of some sticky situations. Plus, a few of the cops actually enjoyed the show. I never street raced, though. Just at the track. I’m curious to know how many times you’ve been stopped in that monster you drive, though.”
“For noise ordinance violation, or actually flipping all the switches and letting him loose?” She questioned with a mischievous grin. “I haven't opened it up on the streets here. But on those long deserted stretches of road between civilization…” She rolled her head back as a purr rumbled through her body. “Haven’t been cited for anything since high school. Have to learn from your mistakes you know.” She rolled off his lap, dropped back into the hammock next to him and stretched. “Cars and raw horsepower are all good fun, but they are like sports, I’d rather be doing it than watching it on TV or just gabbing about it. It’s actually a little annoying when to wannabes are comparing their rice burners and NOS systems when neither of them really have the skill, knowledge, or nerve to put their money where their mouth is and show it off on the track.”
Without warning, Colin turned his head towards her and gave her a firm kiss on her lips. It only lasted for a second, but when he pulled back he smirked. “Sorry. You were just talking about learning from mistakes, doing rather than watching, and putting your money where your mouth is, and I decided I wanted to go for it.”
Caught a little off guard she locked her eyes on his as she said, “You know, I know nine ways to kill you without leaving a mark, right Loverboy? And the condition you’re in, they might not notice them if I did.”
“I’m sure there’s more than nine,” he replied. “Sorry if I misread any signals, but I got the impression you might be interested. I know I like you, Lilliana, as crazy as you might think I am for it. I just decided that even if you knew a thousand ways to kill me, it would be worth at least trying.”
She put her paws behind her head and arched her back slightly as she stretched out again, almost as if putting herself on display. “You’re still alive, aren't you? I’d take that as a good sign.”
“I figure a lot of guys are too intimidated to try that sort of thing with you,” he said as he relaxed once again. He offered the bottle of Captain back to Lilliana as he continued. “I never understood that - why people allow themselves to want people or things that intimidate them so badly they never pursue them. Either grow a pair or lower your standards.”
She took a swig off the bottle before she asked, “Am I really that intimidating? I always thought I was approachable by my troops, but then again, that's a bit of a different world that.”
“How many of your troops tried to get into your pants?” He asked, serious. “You’re tough, headstrong, and beautiful. That’s quite the combination, especially your strength. Most guys like to think of themselves as their girl’s protector and lose their purpose when she’s tough enough to protect herself.”
“Yeah? I gave up on guys standing up for me a long time ago. If they didn’t have the balls to stand up to my dad, they're not worth my time. And that standard has sailed, so I guess I just filled in that gap while I was in the service, and never let it go.”
The mouflon reached over and took another gulp of the rum before setting the bottle between his knees. “In that case,” he grinned, propping himself up on one elbow, careful not to put too much pressure on his torso, “Miss Fargo, I’d like to ask permission to date your self.”
She let out a single chuckle as she said, “I’ve read notes passed in class that were less corny than that. Besides, I haven't really dated since high school. You really want to go out with a socially awkward liger that solves half her problems with sarcasm, and the other half with brute force? And you really don’t know much about me besides rumors and the few times I’ve chosen to call you random names. What makes you think I’m interested in you?”
“I don’t,” he shrugged casually. “But based on what I’ve seen, which is a whole lot more than rumors and name calling, I know you’re an amazing woman and that I’d be an idiot to not to be interested in you.” Before she could comment, he continued, “I know you served our country loyally and went through Hell to defend it. I know you’re loyal based on the friends you surround yourself with. I know you’re compassionate because of that little mouse you rescued off the streets. I know you’re supportive based on all the work you and the others have put into making Cecily’s dream come true. And I know that while I was laid up in the hospital, you came by multiple times to check in on me. I’m secure enough in my own fur to not be intimidated by a woman like you; it’s comforting to know that you can take care of yourself when I’m not around, and it was nice having you there to support me when I couldn’t support myself.”
“Okay, I think between the alcohol and drugs, you’re toasted, “ she said as she took another swig of the rum herself. “That was the most sappy come on I have ever heard. I’ll tell you what, if you can repeat that again when you’re not three sheets to the wind on painkillers and cheap booze maybe we can go out and violate some noise ordinances. I’m almost certain I can introduce you to a few of the officers you haven’t meet yet.”
“Somehow I get the impression you aren’t talking exclusively about cars…” he mused. “You want me to recite that whole thing back word-for-word, or would some paraphrasing be okay?”
“If you’re as cracked as I think you are, a little paraphrasing will be fine.” She looked over at him and asked, “now they did do a brain scan on you after the accident, right? Between that in Hank’s heavy paw on the .50 cal rounds, I think you might have a bit of brain damage.”
“Yep,” he smirked. “Everything came back negative. No brain anywhere.”
She sighed and said, “I guess there is no hope for you.” Then she rolled over, propping herself above him again as she planted a passionate kiss on his lips. Her eyes closed as she pushed in hungrily before pulling away and gasping for air. “Consider that a consolation prize for being an injured idiot.”
“I’ll take it,” Colin replied as he scooted in closer and rested his head on Lilliana’s arm. Shaking the empty bottle, he said, “I wonder if Dad’s awake yet? Some scotch sounds great.”
“If I didn’t know better I would think you were hoping a little more liquor and I might be more… willing… if you know what I mean.”
“That wasn’t my original thought process,” the mouflon chuckled. “But it’s part of it now, thanks. The alcohol just works better to numb the pain than the pills do. Remind me to try again once I’ve been cleared by the doc for strenuous activity.”
“It’s only strenuous if you make it,” she said as she leaned to one side, causing the hammock to swing until her hand paws touched the ground. She then roll out into a handstand, took a few paces away, as she left Colin swinging, before she cartwheeled to her foot paws. “So what’s the plan with Operation Den Storm if the old man is still practicing his lumberjack imitation?” She weaved a little as if she was slightly dizzy for the acrobatics of alcohol.
▂▃▅▇█▓▒░۩۞۩ Winners and losers ۩۞۩░▒▓█▇▅▃▂
Cecily looked over at her phone as it dinged with the new text message. Her ears perked up a little as she saw it was from Colin’s sister. She swiped the phone open to be greeted by a picture of Lilliana cuddled up to Colin asleep, an empty bottle of scotch barely visible, nestled between them. It looked like they had fallen asleep watching a movie.
She smiled as the sprang out of her desk chair, one of the first pieces of furniture that hank had finished making for her ‘Dollhouse’, and trotted to the door. She would have shown Daisy, but the moose was working late, closing at the bakery. But her ultimate goal was down stairs anyway. With a bit of pride and zeal in her step she bounded out of the room on over the railing of the back stairs to find the rest of the Dark Riders right where she expected to.
The evening had drawn on and Hank, Susan and Alex had sat down to relax for the evening in the great room. Detlev had dozed off in a chair in front of the fireplace.
As she bounced into the room, Susan asked, “What’s up Squeaker? Want to take one of the cars out for the night or something? I think my jeep is filled up, just top it off when you get back.”
“Nope!” The small mouse said as she stopped at the coffee table they could all see. She dropped the phone down with the image in fullscreen, and a huge grin on her face. She put her paws on her hips and announced, “I win, she she’s staying the night… in the same bed... “
“Wait, I’m not sure that counts,” Hank interjected, “It looks like they just passed out drunk or something.”
“Doesn’t matter,” she replied confidently, “She’s in his bed, and they are... “ she throw some air quotes as she added , “SLEEPING TOGETHER.”
“She gacha der, Wiggle,” Alex cuckold. “Che ditn’ say nuthin’ ‘bout gettin’ busy.”
Susan pulled out a small wad of cash as she added, “I’ll have to agree with Boomer on this one. She did say he’d get her in his bed, but that’s not too far fetched if you look at it like this.”
Cecily took the cash and thumbed through it as she hopped up into a chair. “Do you think Lilly and Colin will…” she trailed off not sure how to phrase her thoughts.
“Doesn’t really matter, does it?” Hank said. “Looks to me like she’s happy for now. I just feel sorry for him if anything does go wrong.”
“Either way, it gets her something to think about besides what we’re doing and gets her out of our hair for now.”
“Until she drags ‘im inta da fold,” Alex said as a grin turned up at the corner of her beak. “Den we geta ‘ave a little fun wit’ ‘im ourselves.”
“Better get to planning,” Hank said as he stood up from his chair. “Gotta be sure its stuff the Sarge can claim ignorance on. Better if she has no clue to start with, she might get caught in a few.”
“Now that sounds like fun,” the chinchilla said as she followed him out of the room. “She might be a bit more distracted with him around and we won't have another one turned on us like the camping trip.”
Cecily smiled to herself as the group moved off to some secret spot to start plotting the torment of the mouflon. She know the group was like no other family, but they were more stable and secure than anything she had ever had before. With them there to help, she was sure even she could do anything.