Each year since 2004 I've had a story to share for Halloween, because it's a significant date for me. This year's a taste of Tawnholme sweetness, although as it turned out, my weather forecast was completely wrong! Many many thanks to A, for helping me get this ready to share - all mistakes and misunderstandings that remain are my own sweet fault, especially as I have changed things since she saw it.
Happy Halloween, and happy reading!Unexpected callers, by Alex Draven
Halloween itself was turning out to be something of a let down. The weather didn't help. The rain had been hammering at the windows all day, and had soaked through the shoulders of Sam's jacket and sent cold wet drips down the back of his neck from the rats-tails it had made of his pony tail while he was walking home, but the storm had been strong enough to take tiles off the roof at The Blackbird, so tonight's party had been called off. It wasn't as though Sam didn't still have a good weekend planned. His band had a gig on tomorrow, so he'd still have a chance to get dressed up, but somehow, Halloween falling on a Friday made the fact that he was sitting home alone – again – just that much more depressing.
His boots had held up to the rain, but the thighs of his jeans were soaked, so stripping down and warming up with a hot shower didn't take as lot of decision making, but once he was in sweats with his hair toweled dry, the rain coming down outside the curtains and The Mission playing in the background, the idea of deciding what to do next just seemed overwhelming. Which was stupid. It wasn't like it mattered all that much, but he couldn't just sit on the couch staring into space all evening. ‘Make some dinner’ wouldn't be a bad place to start, but the prospect of deciding what and then actually doing something about it... He'd been planning on pasta, which was his go-to for evenings when he was going out again after work, but that seemed sort of pointless without an evening on the dance-floor needing fuel.
He was contemplating the relative merits of nuking a tin of soup versus just opening the family pack of tortilla chips he'd got for the party and munching his way through that when the doorbell rang. The sound was so unexpected, it made him jump. Sam's flat was two flights of stairs away from the street, with no intercom, so his friends mostly rang when they were getting close, so he could come down and be waiting for them. Not that he had people over all that often, but those that did – and the pizza delivery guys. Half a second later, his phone started ringing.
Sam picked up his phone from the arm of the couch as he stood up, and saw Piotr's number. He answered the call with one hand, grabbing his keys with the other, as he headed for the door.
“Hey,” Sam answered.
“It's pouring out here – let me in!” came the response. So the doorbell was Piotr... Piotr had never been to Sam's place, and Sam was entirely sure he’d remember having inviting Piotr over. He had to psych himself up to even talk to the guy sometimes, after all. Nothing like an unrequited crush to make things complicated.
“I'm on my way'” Sam answered, on autopilot, as he hammered down the stairs in his bare feet, trying not to give himself time to panic over the fact that Piotr was apparently standing at his front door, and Sam was going to answer it in worn sweatpants and a faded New Model Army hoody.
As soon as Sam had the door open, Piotr blew in, along with a blast of cold air and more rain. Water dripped from the rim of Piotr's broad-brimmed hat, and ran off his leather coat. Beneath the hat, Piotr’s eyeliner was crisp and unsmudged.
“Hi,” Piotr said brightly. “I figured I could swing by here, and then maybe we can share a cab over to The Blackbird, seeing as the weather is just foul tonight. You upstairs?” Piotr asked, looking around the small hallway and the closed door to Mike's ground floor flat, and making the logical guess.
Sam nodded, mutely.
“So, Beth told me where you live, and I hadn't realised you were so close to me!” Piotr chattered on as he started climbing the stairs. Sam checked the front door had latched, and started following. “All those nights I've slogged back up this hill on my own, and we could have been sharing cabs, or at least keeping each other company.”
“Um,” said Sam, as he trailed behind Piotr, and tried not to notice his feet getting wet as Piotr's coat dripped onto the stairs. He felt as though he had opened the door onto an alternate reality, and the abrupt gear change from moping home alone to unexpectedly hosting someone he’d been fantasizing over for weeks had left him somewhat discombobulated.
“This must be you!” Piotr announced, as he arrived on the second-floor landing. The skull wreath and welcome bat hanging on the door was a bit of a clue, given that the rest of the stairwell was relentlessly beige. Piotr stepped back, to let Sam reach his own doorway to let them in “So I guess I'm kind of early, right? You don't mind me just inviting myself over?”
“God, no, that's...” Sam jiggled the key, and got the angle just right to let it turn. “But – didn't you hear? The Blackbird got flooded, so the party's off.”
The news didn't seem to break Piotr's momentum at all, as he stepped past Sam into the flat at the same time he said, “No way! Seriously? But they're on a hill!”
“The storm took a chunk of the roof off – Kit posted to Facebook about it this morning. The electrics are blown, and there’s water everywhere. They put up a couple of photos this afternoon, and it looks a right mess.”
“Well, fuck!” was Piotr's response, standing in the middle of Sam's living room. “That sucks.”
“Yeah, it does,” Sam agreed. “You didn't know?”
Piotr shrugged. “My phone keeps crashing every time I fire up the Facebook app, and I haven't turned on my computer today. I didn't have time between getting in from work and wanting to be heading back to the Blackbird. That's my plans buggered, then.”
“Mine too.” Sam shrugged. “Unless...” he trailed off.
“Well, you're here now, and there's no point going back out in the rain, or in us both sitting home alone on a miserable evening – you want to stay for dinner? Maybe watch a couple of films, or – oh! I know! Did you ever play Silent Hill? That's kind of appropriate for Halloween?”
“If I'm honest, Mario Cart is more my speed.” Piotr's goofy grin set Sam's nerves at peace. “But if you're up for company, I'd like to stay.”
“I wouldn't have offered if I didn't mean it. Have a seat.” Sam gestured towards the couch. “And I'll go find us some beers.”
“Sounds good,” Piotr said, and Sam stepped past him into the kitchen. His flat wasn't all that big - a smallish living room, with just the one sofa and a cluttered galley kitchen, a bathroom with a shower but no bath, and a room only just big enough for Sam's king-size bed. Piotr was built on a large scale – tall and broad and confidently physical – and his unexpected presence was making Sam particularly aware of the space they were sharing, and his own scrawny build. He'd had fantasies that involved Piotr being here, albeit under rather different circumstances, and remembering that
made Sam feel even more as though Piotr was taking up all the oxygen in his flat.
Sam shook his head, and crouched down to poke through cupboard under the counter where he stored his beers. It was kind of an embarrassingly large collection for a guy who lived alone and didn't have people over all that often, but he liked his micro-breweries, and had signed up to two different monthly delivery subscription things, which guaranteed at least a couple of nice surprises in the post. The last box had even had some … yes. There it was.
“So, how are you with dark stouts?” Sam called through the open kitchen door. “Or do you prefer something lighter?” He hooked his fingers around two pairs of bottles and stood up, standing in the doorway to demonstrate the options. “I have 'Dark as Knight' or 'Will-o'-the-wisp IPA'”
The bottle for the latter was decorated with translucent white ghosts and a desolate marsh scene – Dark as Knight's label was a mat black with silvery grey spidery fonts and a sketch of a knight’s helmet. Seasonally appropriate beers.
“You have Halloween beer? Cool!” Piotr grinned up at Sam from the couch. His wet coat and hat were now hanging alongside Sam's on the back of the door, which had revealed his sleeveless button-down and arms covered in tattoos. Sam had spent a lot of time admiring those tattoos across dance-floors and bars. “You have a favourite?”
Sam shrugged. “I haven't tried either of them yet, but -”
“So, clearly we need to try both,” Piotr interrupted.
“That makes sense,” Sam said, and took the couple of steps necessary to deposit all four bottles amongst the clutter of remotes and game controllers on the set of DVD drawers that served as his side table, and then back into the kitchen to grab a bottle opener.
He popped the tops on the Dark as Knights, and settled himself cautiously on the edge of the couch seat next to Piotr. Piotr took the offered bottle, and clinked the glass against Sam's before taking a long pull.
“Nice,” was Piotr's judgement. “Really smooth. I'm never one to turn down a drink, but I must admit that I'm not really a connoisseur. Where do you even find
Sam explained about the subscription boxes, and how he'd got into them, and how Tawnholme didn't have its own micro-brewery yet, but some friends-of-a-friend of his was thinking about setting one up, and since Max was someone Sam knew through work, and not the music scene, that led to what they each did for work, and who they both knew.
They'd been seeing each other around at clubs and gigs for months now – and Sam had been noticing
Piotr for months as well – but he didn't actually know all that much about him, except how well he filled out a pair of tight jeans, and that he was always at the heart of the action, even as a relative newcomer, and always willing to lend a hand. He'd helped Becks and Cal move house, a weekend when Sam had had a gig three towns over and hadn't been able to, and lent Berwick cab fare when he got a panicked phone call that his housemate had locked himself out whist taking out the bins, and was standing on their front step in his boxers and dressing gown.
Sam had had no idea, though, that Piotr worked at a large animal rescue on the edge of town. He hadn't even know there was a large animal rescue, let alone that anyone in the area might have a pet llama to abandon, or that donkeys could get waterlogged.
They talked about Piotr's work, a bit, and then it turned out that they both knew people in Jed's gaming group, even though neither of them had done role-playing in a decade or more, and definitely not since moving to Tawnholme.
When Piotr mentioned that it was an ex-boyfriend who had got him into the hobby – his first boyfriend, in fact – Sam's stomach clenched: the 'he's probably straight' excuse being his go-to against getting his hopes up about most of the guys he crushed on.
“So that was when you were in Uni, right?” Sam asked, with a smile. “I bet that’s right around the same time Ian was getting all het up about me spending too much time with my gaming group and not enough time with him, but the other side of the country. It used to drive him absolutely bug-nuts that I had this standing date with this whole gang of friends that I’d known before the two of us got together.”
It wasn't like he was secretive about his sexuality, but it also wasn't like he was regularly getting hold of people in clubs where Piotr might have seen him macking on a guy either. Hopefully the information, so even if it came as no surprise, it was probably good to get the ‘I have ex boyfriends too’ information out there.
“That’s kind of – controlling?”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah. It should not
have taken me nearly two years to figure that out, but it did. I guess we were both pretty new to the whole relationships-rather-than-shags thing, but I should definitely have picked up a clue faster. I mean, Ian could go on for hours about how gaming group drama was taking up all this time and energy – and I know gaming groups can do drama turned up to eleven in a way that makes the alt scene seem tame – but compared with Ian? They were a pretty sorted group of guys, really.
‘Stop talking about your ex!’ screamed the part of Sam’s mind that was still circling the concept that this was his number one real life crush sitting here. Fortunately, Piotr took up the conversational baton, and regaled Sam with the epic gaming group drama that had seen Piotr's exit from that social circle, back in Leeds, spinning the tale with such verve that, even though Sam had no idea who any of the participants were, he still found himself grinning at the rendition.
From there the conversation drifted through favourite games to favourite genres and back around to Halloween and favourite monster types. They were onto the Will-o'-the-wisp ale by now, and Sam had relaxed into the conversation, sitting turned inwards on the couch. He had one leg folded up underneath him, and one arm draped along the back of the couch, tapping out near-silent rhythms on the cushion with his fingers as he considered his answer.
“OK,” he admitted, “I guess I’d say werewolves. Not, like, cheesy special affects Werewolf-in-Paris werewolves, but … yeah. Werewolves.”
Piotr gave him a questioning look, as he finished taking a drink. "So, how come?" he asked, and then, when Sam gave him a 'huh' look, continued. "Okay, so I have this theory - bear with me. So, my favourite Halloween monster? Totally vampires. Yeah, yeah, teenage girl," he carried on before Sam could even think of reacting. "Whatever, but it is what it is, and that's at least fifty percent a sex thing for me. Like the whole biting thing? Necks, especially …"
Piotr gave an exaggerated full body shiver, and Sam's mind flashed to the mental image of himself standing behind Piotr, pulling back his hair, and mouthing his neck… Sam's fingers froze, and he almost forgot to breathe.
"Anyway - so, vampires and sex. Kell, my last ex? Mummies, and she was also into bondage and getting tied up and shit. I think there's a connection there, so - how come werewolves? Is it a domination thing, or...?"
Piotr trailed off, and Sam struggled to get his mind back on track.
"I don't know. It's not that." Sam looked away for a moment, because the way Piotr was watching him was making it hard to concentrate. "I guess maybe the whole uncontrolled thing, maybe? There's something kind of really physical about them, and - yeah. Maybe that whole visceral, uncontrolled power being unleashed by the full moon. I mean, I get that it's a curse and all, but at the same time… that and the whole being a part of a pack thing. Not domination and alphas and all that shit," Sam hurried to clarify, realising where his rambling reply had landed him. "Just the being part of something bigger - the not being alone. Of course, that depends on the show, right? But - yeah."
Sam made himself shut up. When he looked up, Piotr was smiling at him.
"So, you want something to push you to let go of your control, huh?"
Sam was pretty sure he was starting to blush, as Piotr didn't look away, and this time Sam didn't duck the eye contact.
"Someone to make you feel connected and less alone in your own skin?"
Piotr's finger brushed the back of Sam's hand. Sam startled at the touch, but didn't move away from it. He felt frozen to the spot, stuck like a rabbit in the headlamps.
"Or more than one person, is that it?" Piotr continued, and Sam's stomach lurched with a sudden wave of want.
"One doesn't want to be greedy," Sam said, and his voice sounded brittle in his own ears as he tried to make light of the moment. Piotr must have noticed something, because the slow stroking along Sam's hand continued, and Sam couldn't seem to pull away. He didn't want to pull away, more like it.
"I don't know," Piotr said easily. "Is it being greedy to ask for what you want?"
Sam found he had no answer for that, and Piotr's fingers worked their way up to brush against the sensitive inside of Sam's wrist. Sam found himself forgetting to breathe. It had been a long time since he'd been the subject of this kind of attention, and apparently all the times he'd told himself that he was fine with being single, that he had his band and good friends, and that he didn't need the drama anymore, he'd been lying to himself, because he absolutely wanted whatever Piotr had to offer.
"What do you want, Sam?" Piotr spoke with a low, calm voice, but didn't break contact, his thumb drawing circles over the back of Sam's hand, and his fingers circling over the tendons in Sam's wrist.
Sam swallowed. He'd meant to say 'a pack of hunky werewolves, apparently' or something equally glib, something that might not give away how much Piotr was affecting him, but what he actually said was, "Don't stop."
Piotr squeezed Sam's hand gently. "I'll stop if you tell me to."
Sam smiled, and took a breath. "That was don't
stop," he repeated, and his voice felt firmer this time.
"Not stopping," Piotr assured him, and hitched further round on the couch, resting his other hand on Sam's thigh. "If this is what you want?"
Sam nodded solemnly, and then broke the tension with a fervent "Oh hell, yes!" that rang out so loud and clear that it made both of them grin.
Piotr's chuckle was warm and welcome, and Sam grinned back at him.
"If you weren't sure," Sam said. "I'm a complete dork, and if someone had asked me about my ideal Halloween, I'd have said making out with you on my couch, except I didn't dare to think about it too much, so -"
"Come here," Piotr interrupted, tugging at Sam's wrist. "and kiss me."
Sam went, leaning in, almost crawling in to Piotr’s lap, until their mouths touched, and he had to close his eyes to avoid overloading on the sensations as Piotr’s tongue teased at his lips, and Piotr’s hand buried itself in his still-damp hair. When Piotr eventually pulled back a fraction, Sam leaned closer still, to nip at Piotr’s lower lip, earning a shiver. Piotr shifted his hand, slipping it down to cup Sam’s neck and pull him closer, pulling Sam down on top of him. Sam nuzzled closer, Piotr’s hand sliding lower still, over his shoulder and back, and then Piotr turned his head, and growled into Sam’s ear, before trapping Sam’s earlobe between his teeth, shaking his head slightly.
Sam found himself chuckling, and there was Piotr, grinning back at him. Halloween was turning out to be pretty awesome this year.
If you're interested in reading the previous stories I've posted as Halloween gifts they are:Dream Come True
($0.99) & two free snippets Soar and Raining Cats
(2009)It’s not the dead that haunt graveyards
(2010)Here Comes The Rain
(2012) Sunset Starts
You'll find these and other seasonally appropriate snippets under 'seasonal : autumn'
in the tags list
(If I was doing this as a promotional thing, I would have picked a less popular date, because there's an awful lot of fabulous fiction being released for Halloween - more of it every year - but I'm doing this because it's a significant date for me, so, thank you, everyone who reads this, and twice thanks to those of you who let me know that you did.)