Friday, September 28, 2007

Captive Audience

Stay waited for the imagined murmurs and comments to die down among her stuffed animals.

"Thank you all for coming."

It had taken more than an hour to find boxes, pots, junk mail and anything else not nailed down in the house to serve as chairs for her plushies. Every other night or so, Matt would come home with a new one and leave it beside her in bed. It was cute, she guessed, but there were an awful lot of them now. Besides, she was running out of names for them all.

"Mister Flailie, can you get the lights?"

She was addressing the day-glo green octopus next to the attic loft light switch. Then she pretended he'd reached up with a fuzzy tentacle and turned them off. Taking a second to go do that herself, she returned to her place in front of the assembly.

"Thank you. Now, as you all know, I have been working for some time on this composition and now, finally, I am ready to unveil the first part. I call this work in progress..."

She picked up the little key chain remote used to operate he home studio projector from the living room downstairs. She'd managed to get it all the way up the stairs all by herself and only dropped it twice! A few of the silly bits here were supposed to be carrying it for her but the Teddy Brigade had been no help at all.

With the projector attached to Archie's laptop, which she was absolutely sure he wouldn't mind her borrowing, and Powerpoint running, she pushed the forward button and projected the first "slide" onto the wall. It almost fit in the blue sorta-square she'd drawn there. Oh well. Close enough!

The image was just letters but they were big and in a great font. Bally-Hoo. They looked like circus letters and that made them funny. Like elephants. But not like clowns. Real Clowns were creepy. Reading along with the screen, she said:

"A Studee in Sharpies."

She paused, imagining lots of applause. "Thank you, thank you. Too kind."

Once the non-existent uproar died down, she pushed the button again and revealed a picture of herself holding her prized possession - the 61 pack of permanent markers Matt got her from the Office Depot. It had been a 64 park but all her blacks were gone. Those had been some pretty amazing zebras though.

"Here we see the artist and her tools. You will note the markers arranged by color group. Warm colors on the left, cool colors on the right and really awesome colors in my pockets."

Button press. The wall was painted suddenly with an image of Stay hiding behind the couch. The angle made it clear she was taking the picture herself at arms' length.

"Art requires timing and patience."

The next button press was the same scene but with a black granular mess all over Stay's face.

"And Oreos!"

Button press. This picture of Stay had her holding the camera in one hand and an uncapped bright orange Sharpie in the other, all while standing over a deeply unconscious Archie.

"This is one of my favorite canvases. Notice the tosselded hair and the drooliness. I use that for blending effects, like so..."

Button press.

"And so..."

Button press.

"And so. Notice how the red transitionates right into the lime green near his ear. That's the merging power of spit."

Button presses came pretty quickly after that, showing scene after scene of people with all manner of things written and drawn on their bodies. The first ten were all Archie, the poor Council mage whose poor choice in love interests had landed him in a house owned by Mercy with a little girl devoid of any.

Each image of Archie was progressively messier, with the 'masterpiece' being his hair dyed by orange and blue markers, a completely red nose, a big fake smilie face and flowers on his cheeks in a tasteful mix of lavender, brown and aqua.

Real clowns were creepy. But Archie Clowns were awesome!

"I seem to have mislaid my Mercy flashdrive but when I find it, I'll host another party. Thank you all for being here but before you go, I have a pest da resistance. A real magnet opiss if you will." She let the silence, which in her mind was the buzz of sudden interest, fade before she reached for the button to reveal the last slide.

"Ladies, gentlemen and whatever you teletubbies are, I give you..."

Button press.

"Kitty Matt!"

The response to her art was so loud, she could almost have sworn she even heard Matt's voice among her throng of stuffed fans. It honestly looked like he was even at the top of the stairs, face covered in lots of jungle colors, a cute little triangle making his nose look like a kitten nuzzle.


That was so lifelike. It was almost like he was really... ummm... here... Oh. Poop.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Guest Services

"Have you seen my kitchen!?!"

Matt cringed, dropping a bag containing Stay's disastrous breakfast attempt into the can outside. He'd seen Mercy head inside a few minutes ago but had hoped she would just go upstairs to Archie and avoid the rest of the house. That was her usual habit after work, mostly because Arch loved to be woken up by the lovely redhead in her Hooter's outfit.

Tonight, of all nights, she just had to go into the kitchen, didn't she? Matt sighed, resisting the urge to look up into the sky and asking God if the Almighty really hated him this much. It was a pointless question; the last year had pretty much answered that one.

"Yes, I have. I'm sorry, Mercy..." There wasn't anything else to say. The little blond moppet was a one-girl war zone in pigtails. He'd pretty much given up on staying in hotels after the "Zebra Incident" and he was running out of excuses for her. When Stay got bored, the world suffered for it. And sadly? She got bored way a lot.

"There's a burn mark through the stove top!" Mercy was closer, about halfway between the front door and the curb where he was standing. She was closer but her voice wasn't any quieter.

"Yeah. It looks better if you don't move the dish towel." That had been Stay's excuse to him. It hadn't worked when she said it and he doubted it would work now.

It didn't. "What was she doing? Smelting gold?!?"

"Worse." He sighed and hung his head. "She was watching the Food Network."

"Oh Gods." She was right behind him now. "It's a wonder I have a house left at all. Did you see what she did to Archie?"

Matt nodded. "I'm sorry, Mercy. I really am. I can't control her at all. I tell her to behave and every night I leave thinking she means it when she says she will. Some nights she's an angel and others..." He closed his eyes, not used to feeling so helpless.

Her tone softened as he felt her hand slip over his shoulder. "You know why she's doing this, don't you?"

He shook his head, feeling his loose, long hair flow across his shoulders. His shirt hadn't survived the evening and his jacket was draped across the seat of his bike. Mercy leaned in close, her chest pressing softly against his back.

"You know, sugar, I keep forgetting how young you really are. You don't know kids at all."

He shuddered as she kissed the back of his neck. It always hurt for him to admit a weakness, even a slight one like this. He hated not being an expert, not being able to handle something on his own. Still, lying to this woman had never been easy. She was so much like him, after all. "I really don't, Mercy. I'm not old enough to take care of a child."

She hugged him tight, pulling him against her ample chest and squeezing tight. She was being incredibly gentle, which meant she was watching her strength. Mercy had been possessed by a demon once. She was free of it... mostly... but it had left its mark. Some of the mark was good, some was bad. And some was what made her just like him in a way. Her demon was the same kind that he was still wrestling with inside. And it made her want the same thing.


Constant, unforgiving, raw sex.

Even now, worried about Stay and upset, the touch of a woman was making him hungry. He could feel she was thinking the same thing; her body was about as subtle as his when desire started overwhelming reason.

And like him, reason rarely put up much of a fight...

"Talk later?" His voice was a starving whisper.

"Shut up and kiss me."


Later, much later, they were laying beside each other against the side of a burbling hot tub. Mercy leaned across him delightfully, pouring them both another glass of wine. He just watched her peacefully, all his energy drained and quiet for a while.

"Think the neighbors saw?" he asked with a soft laugh.

She sat back up, handing him one of the goblets. "I hope so. It was quite a show, sugar."

He chuckled and sipped at the red. "That it was. Sorry about the mailbox."

She shrugged, a lovely gesture with her wet curls plastered to her shoulders and his naked form obscured by only the slightest of bubbling foam. "Bah. I was gonna replace it anyway, sweet. Besides, I'm more worried about that dog."

Matt laughed, nodding. "I think he's scarred for life."

"Well, if the neighborhood bitches start turning up with broken tails and no fur on their necks, we'll know he learned something." She giggled into her wine.

For a while, they just soaked and enjoyed the comfort of quiet contact. When the bottle of wine was gone and the last of the nibbles were history, Mercy leaned over and kissed him again. "Mmmm... thanks for the ride, sugar. I needed that."

"Me too." Truer words were never spoken. There was something about Mercy that kept him coming back and it wasn't just free room and board.

"Who'd have thunk you'd be staying here with me when we met, huh?" She was laughing again, running a finger down his chest with a calm yet playful look in her eyes. The woman was voracious and her recovery speed matched his own. Aside from him, only Archie could match her and with that poor fool being run ragged by the Mages Council these days, he wasn't always around to keep Mercy "fed".

Well, that was a chore Matt didn't mind helping the tired wizard out with. Not at all.

"Certainly not me," he answered honestly. They'd met a couple of months ago in a back alley near the waterfront. Mercy had thought he was a demon and, since she was a demon hunter, that hadn't gone well. They'd fought, beat the crud out of each other and spent the next five hours breaking almost every public decency law on the books.

This was Tennessee, though. There weren't many of those laws to start with. And the few they hadn't shattered into a million little obscene pieces, they'd managed to fracture tonight. That poor, sad little mailbox...

"About Stay," he started to say.

She shushed him with a kiss. "It's all right, sugar. She's a little girl and she doesn't have anyone but you to watch after her. She's gonna act up now and then, just 'til she finds the high water mark."

He tilted his head, nibbling the edge of her ear as Mercy's hands found something to hold other than stemware. "What... mmmm.... what do you mean?"

"She needs to know what's right and wrong. She's ten years old, Matt. You're her friend and her caretaker but she needs a father too. She needs to know the rules and you haven't set any, darlin'." Then Mercy got very, very distracted.

The tub was definitely getting hotter by the moment. Fighting to concentrate, Matt bumped her head with his to get her attention. "But what are the rules?" he managed to say.

She looked up at him before going underwater again. "That's for you to decide, sugar, but if you'd do me the kindness of taking away her cooking privileges, I'd be real grateful."

He grinned down at her, only barely thinking about... anything. "Oh? How grateful?"

She showed him.

By the time he got inside and found Stay asleep in the living room on top of every pillow and seat cushion in the entire house, Matt was too tired to care, too happy to be upset and too warm to do anything more than fall down on the pile and go to sleep with a silly, well-worn smile on his stubbly face.

Eventually, Stay woke up, looked over at Matt and cuddled up next to him. She was so glad he was home. Everything was boring without him here. She knew he was mad about the stove... and the wall... and the Archie but she was really sorry. She really meant it this time. She'd be good. Super good so he'd never get all growly again.

He just seemed so happy now.

And sound asleepy.




Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stay... Up All Night...

To understand why Matt was sitting at the front door, head covered in a bucket, wet, cold glop dripping down over his face into his lap, one has to look four hours into the past...


"Bored now."

Stay sighed deeply, her little face scrunched up as she sat on the couch, surfing through the channels on Mercy's widescreen plasma. It was a huge television but there wasn't anything on but an old Robin Hood movie and the Food network. There wasn't really much of a choice, so he punched in the channel button and leaned back to watch someone goofy-looking make an omelet.

That was a mistake. "Hungry now."

The show made it look easy so she hopped down off the couch and turned off the TV. "Mmmm... eggies." She padded into the kitchen, not wanting to disturb Archie if he was up making a late night snack. He wasn't, which meant he was still passed out on the couch. That was all right; she'd just double everything and make him something too...

Stupid smoke alarm.

Stay made sure there was no evidence of "Battle: Omelet." The stove was cleaned up, the pan was outside in the dumpster and the fire damage to the stove... well, as long as Mercy didn't move the dish towel, no one would ever have to know!

Still, the alarm had been really loud until she'd smashed it with a rolling pin. Archie should have woken up. She was grateful he hadn't, but still. Maybe he was hurt or something. She should go check up on him. Grabbing some cookies from the jar she could reach... now that it was in pieces on the floor... Stay stalked in to the living room.

The poor man was still in his suit and trench coat, passed out on the couch with one foot on the armrest and his hat perched on the end of the other one. He was fast asleep, pale in that way that meant he'd used way too much magic. Matt looked like that a lot; Stay knew the signs.

Archie was a nice man; Stay was really glad to see he'd be okay. He was just sleeping like the dead. That means he'd be out for hours still.

And that meant it was Marker Time!!!

Half an hour later, Stay stepped back away from Archie's stubbly face. It wasn't her best work but he did look a lot like a leopard now. Well, a leopard clown. She didn't have any black left after drawing zebras on the motel walls the other day, so she's had to use her other colors. There probably wasn't a orange and purple big kitty out there in the real world but Stay thought there should be. It was cute!

She was careful to put all the caps back on her markers. She liked Sharpies. She liked them a lot.

But now what to do? Stay had a feeling the Food Network was only going to get her in more trouble and black and white movies were boring. That meant nothing for at least another hour until someone got home. She knew better than to try vacuuming again.

Poor kitty.

So if she couldn't watch TV and she couldn't do chores, what was she going to do?

"Bored now."


Then she remembered the Big Book of Fun upstairs in the loft. That was the room she was supposed to be using as hers but she liked it better sleeping in random places so Matt and Mercy would have to hunt for her. That was a fun game. The dish cabinet hadn't been too comfy but it was a LOT better than the dryer. Ouch. She wouldn't do that one again.

Of course, it had been quieter than that time she'd tried to sleep under Mercy's bed. Such strange sounds... And all the bumping. So weird. She hadn't known Archie was so religious.

Oh well. The Big Book of Fun would help! It was an activity book with crafts and puzzles and games that Matt had bought her at Wal-Mart. Well, "buy" wasn't really true. Stay had gotten bored and pushed their cart out of the store while Matt was in the office with all three of the store's cashiers.

They'd been really religious too. Weirdos.

She wasn't going to complain though; she'd gotten a whole lot of Yu-gi-oh cards that night!

But now it was time for the Big Book. Like she always did when she was this strapped for something to do, she turned to a random page and found....

"Paper Mache."

What the heck was paper mache?

She read the whole page. Twice. It really just looked like a messy way to do something she could accomplish with a small ton of play dough. That wouldn't be any fun at all. Why would she do something like this for fun? A big bucket....

...of water....

...and sticky flour....

Stay started smiling. And giggling.

This was going to be GREAT!


Matt stood up slowly, pulling the bucket off his head, his face covered in clumps of grey and his left eye stuck together. Greeting him was a cherubic little blond girl with a digital camera and an innocent little grin.

"Hi hi! Welcome home!"

He glowered. His one open eye started to darken. "Stay?"

She took another picture. "Yes, sir?"