Author's Notes: This was written for for the
on IJ specially for
Justin stood and looked around the large room. He was not
scared, he told himself firmly. He wasn’t even nervous. Just because he was all
alone at night in this huge house miles from anyone he knew and Brian was away
for a few days (on a business trip to Seattle) and it was cold and dark outside
and building up to a major storm, did not mean that he was nervous.
He jumped as a log shifted in the fireplace with a soft crack.
This was ridiculous. There had to be some simple, logical explanation.
He’d put the cashmere sweater that he’d brought for Brian down near the tree so that he could wrap it with the other presents - the locket he’d bought for Debbie with the tiny portrait of Mikey and JR, the new train carriages and buildings for Gus’ ever-growing train set, the cups and saucers he’d decorated for Linds and Mel, the book he’d got for Ben and the (very different) cd’s he’d bought for Ted and Emmett, as well as the princess outfit for JR and the portrait he’d done for Michael (a larger version of Deb’s). His mother’s gift and Molly’s were already wrapped, as was Daphne’s. All of those things were sitting pretty much where he’d left them, but somehow the sweater had disappeared.
Where the Hell could it be?
He thought back over what he’d done. He’d gone upstairs to fetch it from the spare room closet, and had carried it down here. Then he’d gone to get a cup of coffee and when he’d got back, it had … vanished.
He re-traced his footsteps - it wasn’t in the kitchen, it wasn’t in the spare room and he hadn’t dropped it on the stairs or in the hall.
So where the fuck could it have gone?
He felt a ridiculous prickle of fear down his spine.
First there had been the cookie, now this.
The cookie had disappeared from the small table in the hall where he’d put it down as he’d hustled to answer Brian’s last call a couple of hours ago. Not all his searching had revealed where it had gone. He’d told himself at the time that he must have eaten it without remembering, but he hadn’t fucking eaten a cashmere sweater!
He took a deep breath and sat down to sip at his half-cold cup of coffee.
I’ve just put it down somewhere and forgotten, he told himself. But in his artist’s eye he could see the image of the soft cream sweater against the deep crimson of the wrapping paper he’d chosen, and knew that the last time he’d seen the sweater it had been laying there, on top of the paper, just near the tree.
Now it wasn’t.
A loud crash of thunder directly overhead almost sent Justin into orbit, he jumped so high.
“Fuck!” he swore softly. “This is just ridiculous.”
He tried to think through the possibilities. The cookie could have been taken by a mouse. Maybe. Although surely a mouse would have left crumbs, something. But anyway, there was no way a mouse could have taken the sweater. That was just a ridiculous idea. Justin didn’t think even a rat could do that. It wasn’t as if it was exactly small. Brian was tall, and the sweater had the long sleeves it needed to fit him properly. The size alone would have defeated any fucking rat.
Just then, the lights flickered.
Justin took a deep breath.
He was not going to panic. Okay. It was an old house. But that didn’t mean …
There’s no such thing as fucking ghosts, he told himself.
That’s when he heard the faint noise coming from the next room. He raced in, but there was nothing to be seen. Nothing except Brian’s cowrie shell bracelet sitting in the middle of the floor.
Justin felt prickles run up and down his spine.
All these strange things … they were all tied somehow to Brian.
The cookie had disappeared when Brian had called this morning.
Brian’s sweater had disappeared.
And now Brian’s cowrie shell bracelet that he hadn’t even seen for months suddenly appeared in an empty room.
This was just too freaky.
Quietly, calmly, Justin went and got his cell phone. He forced himself to walk around the house turning out all the lights, banking down the fire and putting up the fire guards. Then he put on his jacket, collected the keys to the new jeep Brian had bought when they’d moved all the way out here to Britin, and went out to the car.
He didn’t care if it did make him a total pussy. He was not spending the night by himself in this house. This house where some freaky thing was obsessed with Brian.
There was another crack of thunder as he drove away from the house.
Justin tried not to feel like he’d somehow been defeated. Then he drove to the loft.
Next morning he was back.
He searched the house from top to bottom. No sign at all of Brian’s sweater, but nothing else seemed to be missing or out of place.
He checked the cellar, and climbed up to the attic. Nothing.
He finished wrapping the gifts, and placed them under the tree. He called the store where he’d bought the sweater. They had another, and reluctantly Justin asked them to hold it for him. He hated just giving up, but it was clear that he wasn’t going to find the first one, so unless it somehow magically re-appeared, he still needed a Christmas present for Brian.
Then he called Daphne and tried to sell her on the idea of a sleepover. When he promised her pizza, beer, some of Brian’s best weed and that he’d come and collect her and drive her home tomorrow, so she didn’t have to try to navigate the crazily confusing network of seemingly identical winding roads that lay splattered through the hills surrounding Britin, she agreed.
He baked cookies and made sure that there was plenty of ice cream, in preparation for the munchies that would certainly strike later, and when Brian called he did his best to sound upbeat and happy. Brian laughed when he told him Daphne was coming, and recommended against introducing her to hot man on man porn when there was so little opportunity for satisfaction afterwards. Justin giggled (which gave Brian an instant hard on) and agreed that the idea of some sort of mutual jerk off session with a girl was just perverse. He said they’d probably watch some old Christmas movie. Brian advised him not to overdose on sugar and then after a (way-better-than-porn-induced-hand-job) phone sex session, they hung up.
Justin showered quickly and went to pick up Daphne.
Hours later, well past midnight, stuffed with pizza (after the movie, they’d finished the second one cold), relaxed from the beer and now muzzily befuddled from the joint they were passing back and forth (their third), Justin asked suddenly, “Do you believe in ghosts?”
Daphne gave the question the deep consideration so often induced by a little weed. After a while she nodded slowly, “I think that under the right … you know, conditions, that there could be certain mani .. manifestuns that might loosely be … you know like … grouped … under the term … um sp’ri’ual whatsnames.”
Justin nodded back. Then found that he had to concentrate hard to stop. Once he’d got control of his neck, he said, “I think we’ve got one here.”
Daphne’s eyes widened. “Really?” she said, excitement cutting through the haze of the drug. “No shit!”
“No shit!” Justin agreed and filled her in on the details of all the weird things that had happened yesterday. For some reason he rambled a little, and was maybe a bit repetitive, but he got the main points across - eventually.
Daphne agreed that the fact that all three incidents were somehow linked to Brian was deeply ominous.
“What if the ghost is like obsessed with him or something?” she asked, her voice squeaking a little. “I mean it might be trying to drive you crazy or … or get rid of you or something.”
Justin tried to laugh. “Don’t be silly!” he protested. “This isn’t some lame movie.”
“But you said yourself that there’s something really strange going on. I mean … what else could it be? We should go online, look and see if anything weird has happened in this house, or anything.”
Justin sat up. That actually wasn’t a bad idea. At least it might give him an idea of what he was dealing with. It took a while to log on, because he kept mis-typing his password, but eventually they were set to go.
They tried googling the whole address. Nothing. But when they tried just the street name they found an obscure reference to some “incident” that had happened in the eighties. There was one name mentioned, a deputy sheriff. When they tried that name, it came up with a whole lot of references that said that the guy had been called to a house somewhere on the street and had collapsed. After that there were a series of references to a legal battle he’d had with the county to claim his medical expenses, although none of the articles said exactly what his ailment was. Finally, it seemed that the county had been forced to acknowledge that whatever happened it had happened on duty, so he’d got his medical expenses and even a pension. But he’d never gone back to work.
There was no mention of exactly why he’d been called out, or the exact address where it had happened, but Justin and Daphne agreed that it had to have been to this house.
“It was probably some sort of nervous breakdown,” Daphne said, excitedly. “He probably got called out because there was some sort of … you know … manifestation. And then something else happened. Something that scared him so much that he totally freaked out and collapsed. That’s why they didn’t say what the problem was, because it would all have been hushed up when no one could explain what had happened.”
They stared at each other.
“Fuck!” Justin breathed, trying to take in the implications of all this.
“What are you going to do?” Daphne asked, wide eyed with excitement as well as a delicious little tremor of fear. “I mean, you can’t live here if some … thing … is after Brian. Or trying to get rid of you.”
For a moment Justin tried to imagine telling Brian that they had to move out because of a jealous ghost and gave up on that idea immediately.
What the fuck was he going to do?
Brian had bought him his dream home. “A palace for my prince,” he’d said. Justin couldn’t just say that he didn’t want to live here any more. That wasn’t an option.
So there was only one thing for it.
The ghost was going to have to go.
Where the fuck were Ghostbusters when you needed them?
They tried looking up “exorcists” and got only a whole bunch of references to the movie, or else to people who sounded like raving loonies.
They tried looking up “exorcism” thinking maybe they could do it themselves if they had the right information. But either the details were too sketchy or they included ingredients which were going to be impossible to get unless you strayed into Buffy-ville.
They tried everything they could think of and wound up falling asleep in the media room, Daphne curled up on the couch, Justin with his head pillowed on his arms at the desk.
He screamed when Brian touched his shoulder.
“What the fuck!” yelped his incensed partner, who’d not been convinced by Justin’s ‘everything’s fine’ routine yesterday and as a result had bailed on a meeting (totally unnecessary anyway, just the client fucking fussing, Ted could handle it) and had had a sleepless night trying to get home from Seattle through a maze of delays, canceled flights and re-routings.
Justin stared at him as if in horror and Brian stared back, trying to work out what the fuck Sunshine and his little girlfriend were doing camped out in the media room, not watching the giant HD TV but huddled over the computer. He glanced down at the screen.
What he saw there made him stare even harder at Justin. Looking round he saw the remains of a roach. All suddenly seemed clear to him.
“You were watching one of those fucking “ghost of Christmas” things, weren’t you?” he asked with a smirk.
Justin shook his head, trying to work out what the Hell Brian was talking about and how he could get him out of here. If the ghost was really after Brian, then that had to be done straightaway. At all costs he had to keep Brian safe.
“What? No! No .. um … Brian, we need to go to the loft.”
“What? Don’t be fucking stupid. I’ve just paid cab fare all the way out here after a red-eye from the west coast. I want a shower, and a fuck - not necessarily in that order. Then I want coffee. Then I need to get online and make sure that nothing has fucked up in the office while I’ve been gone. Then …”
“We can do all that at the loft,” Justin said desperately, catching his hand and trying to drag him towards the stairs.
Brian caught his hands in his. “Justin, what the fuck is the matter with you? Are you seriously telling me you think there’s some sort of fucking “ghost” here?”
Just the way he said the word told Justin he was never going to believe him. No matter how much evidence there was. He was tired and scared, not for himself, but for Brian. He wrapped his arms around his lover. “Please, Brian,” he begged. “Just come with me to the loft. Just for a few days. I can explain …”
“Brian!” Daphne’s voice cut in sleepily. “You really shouldn’t be here,” she said, ignoring Justin’s head shake. “It’s you it’s after.”
Brian sighed. Looked like the shower and the sex were going to have to wait.
“Can I at least have a cup of coffee?” he said plaintively. “Then you can tell me all about it.”
Daphne jumped up, shrugging aside Justin’s frantic hand-waving, eager to share with Brian all the details of what they’d found out.
Justin sighed and led the way to the kitchen, turning on the coffee-maker and putting some bread in to toast.
Before Brian had taken more than a couple of cautious sips of the reviving fluid, he’d heard all about the disappearing cookie, the vanishing sweater (ignoring Justin’s anguished “Daphne!” as she revealed what Brian’s Christmas present was) and the mysterious appearance of his old bracelet in an empty room.
By the time he’d finished the cup, and stolen one of Justin’s slices of toast, he’d heard all about the sheriff’s deputy and the “nervous breakdown” he’d had after visiting the house.
“Well, they didn’t give this address of course, but it was in this street so it totally fits that it was this house,” Daphne had assured him breathlessly.
He sat for a moment thinking. Then he said, “Where did you say you had the sweater stashed?” Before Justin could answer, he said, “It wasn’t in the closet in that fucking blue room, was it?”
Staring at him, Justin nodded. “Yes, but …" Suddenly his voice changed. “Did you go looking?” he asked accusingly.
Brian grinned at him. “No, Sunshine, but I do have a couple of boxes of odds and ends stuffed on the top shelf of that closet. Maybe the bracelet fell out and got caught up on the sweater.”
“I would have seen it,” Justin protested.
“Not if it had fallen onto the floor of the closet and got caught on the underneath part,” Brian said.
“Anyway,” Justin said a little sulkily, unwilling to have his ghost story ruined by such a mundane explanation. “I didn’t go near the other room with the sweater. I didn’t go into it at all. So how did the bracelet get in there?”
Brian nodded. “Let’s go see,” he said.
He led the way back to the main room. “Exactly where was the sweater?” he asked.
“There,” Justin indicated a spot near the other presents.
Brian nodded. Then he walked through the doorway into the room where Justin had found the bracelet. “And where was the bracelet?”
Justin pointed to a spot near the opposite doorway.
Brian walked across. The doorway led into the passage that went in one direction to the kitchen and in another to the back entrance. He moved that way, looking around as he went. Just inside the back door there was a small room for coats and boots. Brian called it the cloakroom, refusing to allow a room in any house of his to be called a “mud room”. He went in there, and poked around for a moment, then came out with a grin. He handed Justin his coat, and helped Daphne into hers, then he led them out and round the side of the house.
Sure enough, as he’d suspected, there was a gap in the wall which led under the house. There were no cellars on this side of the house, and he guessed that with the central heating pipes and the like, it was probably nice and cozy down there. There was even a small hole in the floor that led directly into the mu... cloakroom.
“We need a flashlight,” he said. He disappeared and came back a few moments later carrying the large flashlight he always kept handy in case of power outages.
He shone it through the hole and through the gloom it picked out two points of light reflecting back at them, and a soft sheen of mellow cream.
“What the fuck is it?” Justin asked.
“Possum, I’d guess,” said Brian nonchalantly. “Probably wandered in and found the cookie, so it hung around for a while. Obviously thought that my new sweater would make a nice cozy addition to the nest.”
“But why should it just have taken those things? I mean, I was gone for a whole night and nothing else was touched.”
“I’m guessing you’d shut the door to the cloakroom and it couldn’t get through again. There's a hole in the floor there, which is how it got into the house.”
“What are we going to do?” Justin demanded.
Brian shrugged. “Get in pest control,” he said.
“Brian, you can’t do that!” Daphne protested. “It just needed somewhere warm to go for the winter. Look, it’s going to start snowing soon.”
Justin looked up and realized she was right. The stormy weather of two days ago had gotten suddenly much colder and clouds that had loomed black with rain were now lower, grey and full of snow. It looked like they would have a white Christmas after all.
Brian sighed. “Daph, it can’t stay there,” he said simply. “They destroy things - wall linings, insulation, wiring, all sorts of shit.”
Justin nodded, agreeing with both of them. “We’ll find someone who’ll do a 'trap and release',” he said confidently, suddenly feeling in control of his world again. “It’ll be fine, Daph.”
Brian snorted. “What the fuck do you know about ‘trap and release’, city boy?” he asked. “You thought it was a fucking ghost.”
“I saw a show about it on the Nature channel,” Justin responded, relieved that at least he could handle this part, and hopefully come out of the whole thing not looking like a complete moron.
Brian shrugged. “Fine. You find someone then. But it has to be gone by tomorrow.”
Justin smiled at him.
“Why don’t you go and have a shower and do what you need to do for work. I promised to drive Daphne home, so I’ll go do that.”
Brian tried to protest, but as he knew damned well that there was no way Justin was going to want to fuck until his little playmate was safely home, and as it would take almost as long to get a cab out here as it would to drive her home, he gave in with at least a semblance of good grace. He just grabbed Justin for a kiss before he left, making sure that Justin had a suitable incentive to hurry. Justin, flushed and slightly breathless swore he’d be back in no time at all.
Daphne giggled all the way home.
Justin tried not to think about how Brian was simply never, ever going to let him live this down.
Brian wondered if he should share with Justin what the realtor had felt it necessary to tell him about the house. He figured Sunshine deserved to know that he’d been right about the whole deputy sheriff thing. Or at least, he was right that the guy had got called to this place. But what had happened to him here was nothing like Justin had imagined.
Apparently the neighbors had complained several times about people coming and going from the house at all odd hours. But that final time they’d said that they’d heard muffled screams which sounded as if someone was being tortured.
So this poor dumb-as-fuck suburban cop had come out here only to find a whole gay S&M orgy going on. Chains, whips, slings, the whole box and dice. What had really freaked him out though was that when he turned up in uniform, they’d thought he was part of the whole scene and before he knew what was happening, some guy was deep-throating his dick while others were begging to be handcuffed and beaten with his nightstick.
By the time he got away, he was a complete fall-down mess, mainly, Brian suspected, because he’d fucking loved it.
That’s why he’d collapsed, and why the county had been so reluctant to pay for his years of therapy. And, of course, given that the mayor had been one of the ones begging for the cop to use his nightstick on him, the whole thing had to be completely hushed up. The guy who owned the house back then had taken the hint and moved on, but even today, judging by the realtor’s hushed tones when he’d passed on all this information, the place still had something of a reputation.
Yep, Brian decided, Sunshine definitely needed to know that if he heard any chains rattling or ghostly screams in the night, it was just the house’s memories of a bunch of horny fags enjoying themselves.
Brian had known from the start that he and Justin would be right at home here.
December 26, 2008
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