~ Boots in a Flowerbed ~ by Quatorze ~

25 - Surprise

Muffled voices are carried inside from the corridor. Visitors at Fern Valley Estate, no matter if they are distinguished members of ancient and affluent families or a group of excited gardening students, can be sure of their privacy once they retire to their bedrooms. The solid walls and doors of the mansion don't know the difference, they surround everyone with equal comfort.

It's getting late. The students and their teacher have taken full advantage of the shorter way to drive that Friday night, and explored the Shyonorr gardens well into the afternoon before finally climbing into their two coaches. Everyone has been bouncy, nervous, curious, maybe a little intimidated by what is awaiting them. They've been cautious with Kim, not knowing what they could and could not ask about him and Chaim. But Kim hasn't detected any resentment.

They've driven to the estate in the evening dusk, Kim sitting in the coach leading the way. The others have been looking around round-eyed, asking him if they're on the estate grounds yet. Kim hasn't been sure, he's never come here from this direction, and then they've already seen the mansion. Torches lit on the yard. Servants welcoming them, showing them to their rooms, informing them that dinner will be ready in about an hour. Like any group of expected guests. That has awed everyone, including the teacher, including Kim's most self-assured fellow students, into silence.

Nobody minds that they're accommodated in two-person rooms - in truth they would feel rather too small and out of place if they each had a room for themselves. Only the teacher has an own room - and Kim. No one has been able to miss the fond bows of the servants, or the way they've told "Master Kim" that his room is waiting. He's at home here, and yet not. He's now spent two full days and one night without Chaim for the first time in two months, and he can't wait to get back. This is home only if Chaim is here.

He pushes the French window of his room open, leans against the railing to smell the night air. He can see bats darting back and forth between old trees, chasing moths. A blackbird is singing furiously in the bushes, and somewhere further away another one is challenging it with equal determination. Kim smiles wistfully. The air is almost still, it smells of pines, blossoms, wet soil. A heavenly scent, mixed with... cigarette smoke?

Kim perks up. The breeze comes from his right. That's where the master bedrooms are. His classmates are staying in the numerous guestrooms. Besides, Kim recognizes well this particular brand, its overtone of something spicy and sweet. But he can't believe it.

He closes his eyes and breathes in. Yes, it is smoke. Someone is smoking a very familiar brand of cigarettes to his right. Kim sighs incredulously, pushes himself away from the window and almost tiptoes into the corridor.

The room he's looking for is right next door. He cautiously pushes the handle down, pads inside and smiles. There's a coat hanging on a chair. The door to the balcony is open. Outside, he can see a tall, blonde shadow, the tip of a cigarette glowing faintly between the fingers of one hand.

Chaim purrs that quiet, rolling laughter when Kim's arms slip around his waist from behind and squeeze. His arms come to rest over them, warm fingers entwining with Kim's.

"Chaim..." Kim nuzzles his face into the silken back of the man's vest. "How are you here? They didn't breathe a word!"

"I told them not to." Kim hears Chaim's smile. "I didn't want to spend another night without you. But don't worry, I'll stay out of sight. The others won't even know I'm here."

"Chaim!" Kim steps around him, never letting go. "That's rubbish. Of course you'll come down to dine with us."

"Are you sure nobody would mind?"

Kim stares at him. The man is absolutely serious about this. "Mind? You own this place, in case you've forgotten! Why should anybody mind that you, the host, are dining with us?"

"I just mean that I don't want to make anybody feel uncomfortable," Chaim explains. "After all, I am the crazy millionaire. They might not like my being here."

"They'll see that you're no crazy millionaire." Kim decides to be stubborn about this. "Millionaire, all right, but not crazy. I want them to meet you."

"You really think I should come?" Chaim still looks uncertain and Kim can't help laughing.

"Yes! How can you be so shy all of a sudden?"

"Because," Chaim mumbles into Kim's dark curls. "Because these are people with whom you deal with daily. I - I would like them to find me - well, at least tolerable."

"Chaim, they'll love you. Just be your own adorable self." Kim hugs him still a little bit tighter. "You know, they were asking me about this place when we were driving here, things that I couldn't properly remember. Things that you do know about. The history, and such."


"Yes." Kim grins to himself. "They'll want to hear loads about it. Besides, a few of my classmates go to play pool every week. You could show them the billiards room after dinner."

"Hmmm!" Chaim is beginning to waver. "You really, really think it's a good idea? That I come to dine with you all?"

"Yes, silly!" Kim pulls the man inside the room, pushes him towards the bed. "Now, come here. Lie down."

Chaim laughs but does meekly as he's told. Kim crawls into his arms and sighs.

"I've missed you," he says softly. "But we still have about half an hour before dinner. Just let's not fall asleep here."

Kim buries his nose against Chaim's collarbone and feels a kiss on his hair. Slowly their breathing falls into the same rhythm, and there isn't a sound in the room until the dinner gong sounds from downstairs.

~ FIN ~

Author's note: And this is where this particular story ends... I've fulfilled my challenge: tell a story in 25 chapters in as many days! Big thanks to everyone who's been following practically on-line and sending me feedback! I may come back to the same characters at some point, but right now it's time for a little break. In the meantime, if you're interested, you could take a look at other stories I've written or maybe some poetry by my partner Aigha (all to be found here in FictionPress, or at our site)!