So I tried to defy my own commandments and quote a song extensively, but you know what? I was right the first time, it's a dumb thing to do. But you should go listen to "The Mountaineer's Courtship" as sung by the Stoneman Family. You can hear it here: .com/watch?v=9C7KcBRHctE

Also, it's really short. But frogs of war said they had begun to come to terms with their deficiencies by the end of "No for an answer," and it came to me that no, not really. Manny will always take it as guaranteed that Brewer knows what's going on, and Brewer will never know what's going on.

Mr. Sly

(sequel to No for an Answer)

"Soooo . . ." Brewer drew out the word as he idly slid the backs of his fingers down Manny's broad back, as if holding on to the word would make it unnecessary to continue with this awkward sentence he'd been polishing for days.

"Mmmm . . . what?" Manny mumbled against Brewer's neck.

He could pretend he wasn't going to say anything. Hiss, okay, let him know that the feel of Manny's lips buzzing against his jugular was arousing in a really wholesome way.

"What?" Manny repeated, pulling back and scrutinizing Brewer from the great vantage point of six inches above.

Caught. Had to persevere. Had to be asked, eventually, anyway. "Um. So, like, how long you think we should wait before going public or something?" Brewer asked.

Manny laughed. "You think this thing has ever been under wraps? Nobody ever even thought it was supposed to be anything but common knowledge all around the office from the get-go. We weren't exactly subtle. I didn't know you were trying."

"What? When are you talking about?" As far as Brewer was concerned, this "thing" had been going on what, a week?

"Let's see. Starting last January? Joan knew before I did, anyway. Asked me when I was going to put you out of your misery and just ask you the hell out. Which I did the next day, though you don't seem to have realized it."

"I realized that you asked me out. You asked me out for coffee, like people do when they need company at lunchtime. As far as I knew, you were straight. For a while after that."

Manny chuckled. "Whereas I caught those doe eyes the first time you looked at me like that. I couldn't believe my good fortune though. Nobody ever fell for me like that before. I also couldn't believe it when you started to dance away. Anyway. What did you have in mind as to going public?"

"I promised my family I'd tell them if I ever did start dating anybody. So they'd stop asking me and speculating all the time."

"You want to take me home to meet the family?" Manny's smile threatened the integrity of his ears, it was so wide. "Sure thing," he said. "I'll take you next weekend, yeah?"

"So the next question," Manny said out of the blue, ready to pounce on the toaster when it popped, "is should I bring my kids down for the weekend with us, or wait until they've spent a little time with just you before they meet the in-laws?"

"Your kids?" Brewer asked, dumbly. "You've got kids?" Too late, he thought, "In-laws?" but there was that court case looming, he really could mean it.

"Come on, you can't say you didn't know about the kids," Manny said. "I talk about them all the time. You fucking ask about them. Their pictures are on my desk. We went together to get books for them at the book fair last night."

"Yeah, by name,. I know their names. I thought they were nieces and nephews. You never called them your kids before."

"Well, they're mine. Does that bother you?"

"Nope," Brewer said. "Why do they live with your sister?"

"Because I do."

"You do? Whose apartment is this, then?"

Manny shook his head. "Mine. Tell you what, explanations never make sense to you. Let's just go downstairs and give them the books, okay?"