You can catch up with the first installment of this piece here. It started as somewhat of an experiment. It seems to be taking the form of a supernatural thriller, set above and below the streets of Los Angeles.
It was light out when Joshua woke up, although he had no idea what time it was. Simon was wrapped around him and still quite warm and tangible, and the sex the night before had been beyond amazing. There was something else going on beyond the physical.
More than a few times to Joshua it felt like his own soul and consciousness had suddenly left this head, bubbled up under his taint, shot up his asshole, and then ridden his spine into his skull before exploding out into the universe, leaving him a quivering pile of ecstasy.
When it felt like his mind and soul came back, it also felt like he and Simon were the same person before he would slowly feel his limbs and body unfold back into place and his eyes would open to see that everything had a deep violet glow.
Preston had been right about the difficulty of keeping silent, too, although when Joshua and Simon were at the peak and the Danny and Preston started to audibly moan and wail as well, it just intensified everything.
Joshua turned to stare at a sleeping Simon, content that they had gotten to be back together — sort of — and reconciling himself to both how they did it and to the fact that Preston and Danny had now also sort of fucked him, or something.
“Band of Thebes,” he thought as he remembered that they were about to march into war and, with any luck, win the only battle and save the Rêves. And, honestly, the humans, because Joshua had a feeling that if Ausmann did manage to do what he wanted to, it would not affect Pearl or the Hadas, and they would take their revenge by scrubbing the planet of humanity.
Although this morning, it wasn’t so much a feeling as it was just something he believed.
Simon stirred and his eyes opened and they smiled at each other, and then followed their first of the month tradition.
“White rabbit!” they said in unison, and they smiled harder and hugged.
“How the hell is it September already?” Joshua asked.
“Wake me when September ends,” Simon replied.
“Oh, don’t even, you putz!” Joshua warned him, playfully slapping his shoulder.
“What?” Simon asked, sincerely.
“You’re quoting elevator music, okay?” Joshua shot back.
“I like Green Day,” Simon said.
“I know,” Joshua said. “But I don’t want this September to end. I don’t want this day to end, or this… this whatever it is.”
“See? We fucked that tune right out of you?” Simon said, with a smile.
“Your whole resistance to, um… guests? Observers? Um — ”
“We can hear you,” Preston’s voice suddenly called out.
“Them,” Simon added.
“And we can feel you,” Danny said.
“And we are totally fucked out, thank you!” Preston continued.
“My god,” Joshua whispered to Simon. “We out-fucked porn stars?”
Simon kissed Joshua on the forehead, then hugged him tight. “This wasn’t mere ‘fucking,’ honey,” he explained. “It was… well, in video game terms, leveling up before the boss battle. You’ve got a little bit of Rêve in you now — ”
“Little?” Joshua scoffed.
“Stop!” Simon ordered him. “You know what I mean. We’ve kind of tagged you as one of us, meaning one of the Rêves, and that is your armor in case they ever go after the humans.”
“Why would they do that?” Joshua asked.
“They wouldn’t,” Simon said, “Unless we fail.”
“So we can’t fail, dude,” Preston and Simon both whispered.
“Okay, so how do we win?” Joshua asked.
“Simple,” Simon said. “Make sure all the pieces favor us calling checkmate. And in order to do that, you need to power up as many Pawns as you can to be Queens.”
“I hope that’s a chess reference and not — ”
“Yes, and no,” Simon said. “I’ve already been given the ultimate power-up, but you need a bit more of a boost.”
“Wait,” Joshua called out. “You don’t mean you’re going to kill me and turn me into a Rêve. Right?”
“Of course I don’t mean that,” Simon explained. “You just need one more trip up the magic mountain in order to see what we see. So, ready?”
“I… don’t know,” Joshua replied. “How do I get up there?”
“Simple,” Simon explained. “I get behind you and push.”
Joshua just laughed at the absurdity of it all. Did it really come down to his husband fucking super powers into him, was this all just bullshit, or what?
He kind of didn’t care, so he rolled onto his left side and called back. “Okay. Do your worst. But you’re the one who gets to wash the sheets.”
This one immediately felt different and far more intense, plus it felt like Joshua’s body was being stroked by more than just two hands — at least six, but probably more than that. And then he started to hear voices — not just Simon, Danny, and Preston, but dozens, and then hundreds, and then thousands of others.
The words were not distinct, and he had the impression that they were speaking many languages, and the speakers were all possible ages and genders.
And then, he began to see… things. There were swirling lights in green and blue that he thought at first were those typical images he saw before falling asleep, but then everything became symmetrical, as if it turned into a kaleidoscope of lace or stained glass, and the green and blue melted into an electric shade of cyan that was quickly joined by neon violet, with red creeping in from the center and the edges.
All of the speaking tongues suddenly melded together into one human voice singing a soaring chorus not made up of words but of sounds — Joshua thought that maybe they were the primal noises humans made that eventually became language — and then he realized that the music beneath it consisted of chords clearly played on a piano.
He fell out of his visions and landed clearly in a past memory. He and Simon were sitting in a micro-brewery in San Francisco’s North Beach. Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky was playing over the speakers, and Joshua realized that there was a spinet piano right behind his bench, so he turned around, opened the cover, and started playing along to the song.
Here was the weird part: While Joshua had musical training, he could never play by ear, but his mind just told him that the song was in D minor — well, technically, in F Major, but the relative minor took precedence, and away he went, picking out the cords and blending right in.
Weirdly, it was a talent he’d sort of retained, but then present Joshua realized that he was peeking in on past Joshua, at least fifteen years earlier, and then realized two things more.
The Simon who had come back looked exactly as old as he had during their brief six months in San Francisco. And, second, that particular night in that particular North Beach microbrewery, Joshua had been tripping balls on shrooms.
That realization was the instant that he was yanked back into current reality, probably by Simon’s death grip on his nipples and his persistent pounding, but then he remembered Simon’s comments about giving him another power-up, and he once again felt that weird build-up between his legs and just behind his balls.
But then time seemed to fracture and crystalize, and suddenly Joshua was simultaneously reliving every single time in his life he’d ever cum, and it wasn’t just with Simon. From around the time he turned 12 until he graduated high school, that was well over 6,500 times — and those were just guitar solos.
And so on and so forth. But every single one of those orgasms started playing on repeat in his brain and body at once, and he lost his fucking mind in the white noise of ecstasy.
What could have been seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years later, Joshua woke up in the bedroom, alone, naked, and feeling like a glazed donut.
“Simon?” he called out, but there was no response. “Danny? Preston?” He tried again, but nothing.
And then he stopped thinking about them and suddenly saw in his mind where they were, so he headed right out the doors, onto the balcony, and up to the roof via the ladder on the balcony, where the three were hanging out.
When he appeared, they applauded.
“You just passed your final, dear,” Simon said, and this was when Joshua realized that he and the boys were quite separate.
“What?” he asked. “I don’t get to fuck y’all again?”
“Didn’t we it do enough already?” Preston asked.
“Probably,” Joshua said. “I still feel like I’m not quite on the planet.”
“Like how you figured out we were up here when we weren’t moving or talking?” Simon asked him.
“Oh, yeah. Right. How did I know that?”
“I told you, dude. You’ve leveled up. Now are you ready for that boss fight?”
“I guess it’s now or never,” Joshua replied. “Let’s go get ready.” They headed downstairs.
In San Bernardino, Captain Shrantz had just been informed that the FBI had taken an interest in the case of the exploding cabin not because the alleged perpetrator worked for the federal government, but because the cabin was located on federal land, in the middle of a National Forest.
Her supervisor hinted at the fact that if her division managed to trap the perpetrator first, it would look really good not only for her division, but would help the Sheriff-Coroner’s next election bid, even though it wasn’t for another three years. And if Shrantz wanted to be promoted to Deputy Sheriff and move onto the executive staff…?
He left it hanging, but she got the message. She had a gut instinct that despite all of the LEO’s looking for him, he would ultimately run to ground at his basecamp at JPL. So this would require some coordination with L.A. County, the City of Pasadena, and either the FBI or Federal Marshals.
Of course, her division probably wouldn’t get the bust even if they made it, but their presence would be mentioned in the media.
She discussed her thoughts with her Lieutenants, and Ramirez was, as usual, playing Devil’s advocate — a big part of the reason that Shrantz just admired the fuck out of him.
“Why the hell would he go back there?” Ramirez exclaimed. “That’s like painting a giant target on your ass, bending over, and screaming, ‘Well hellooooo, boys!’”
“I think it all depends upon who you think is coming to put some fire in the hole.”
“Oh, nice call-back,” Ramirez said, sincerely.
“Thank you,” Shrantz continued. “If he doesn’t think it’s the feds, then he might be lulled into a false sense of security that no agency on a lower level can penetrate his fortress.”
“Still a big risk.”
“Is it, though?” Shrantz replied. “He already had a team of campus police and Simi Valley amateurs out there…” she squinted at the report. “Sorry, Federal Marshals, but they didn’t get…” she looked at the paper again. “Sorry, again. No, Simi Valley cops, with some LAPD, and campus cops, and none of them could get in.”
“But does he know that?” Ramirez asked.
“Well, apparently, he was there at the time,” Shrantz told him. “So if we want to find our killer, that’s where we need to go.”
“Right. But if all those others couldn’t get in, how the hell could we?”
“Simple,” Shrantz explained. “Once we’re in place, then we call in the Feds, because I’m sure they would have the keys and passcodes and whatever to get down into that place in two minutes.”
“They make the bust, we get the tip-off credit?” Ramirez wondered.
“Exactly,” Shrantz exclaimed.
“Okay. I like it,” Ramirez replied. “So when do we go?”
“Crap. It’s Labor Day weekend, isn’t it?” Shrantz realized. “They’re not going to want to invest in a helicopter for this trip and traffic both ways is going to be shit, so… tomorrow morning?”
“Sounds good to me,” Ramirez agreed.
“Exellent,” Shrantz replied. “Make it so.”
Ramirez nodded and headed off to coordinate plans.
Davis and Lewis had just finished a late lunch and he was doing the dishes when she told him, “You know, I have gut-feeling.”
“Again?” he replied.
“You know they’re always right,” she said.
“I know,” he shot back, “But they tend to get us in trouble.”
“Except when they solve cases,” she insisted. “Anyway, I know where we can find him.”
“And where’s that, Sherlock Holmes?” Lewis teased her.
“Simple,” Davis replied. “Where’s the last place you’d look?”
“The ruins of his house in Simi,” Lewis said.
“Okay, technically true, but they’re way too exposed. Where can he hide underground, with multiple layers of protection?”
“A nuclear missile silo?”
“Okay, honey, now you’re just being silly.”
“I know,” Lewis grinned at her.
“JPL. Well, at his facility beneath it. From all the reports I’ve seen, it’s been closed down since the storm, but if he can get in there…”
“Perfect hidey-hole,” Lewis added.
“But isn’t absolutely everyone watching it?”
“Maybe,” Davis said. “But he was the boss. He had the keys to everything, and here’s a thought. A facility like that might have one obvious entrance, but what about emergencies?”
“Oh my god,” Lewis suddenly realized. “You’re right. They must have Swiss-cheesed multiple escape routes out of there. But wouldn’t those just be one way exits?”
“Maybe,” Davis explained. “But if you’re the boss, and you’re as paranoid as we think he is —”
“Didn’t you read the psych reports on the server? Anyway, he had complete control of the place, so I’m sure that for every secret exit, he’s found a way to make it his secret entrance.”
“So what are we waiting for?” Lewis demanded.
“Back-up, I suppose,” she replied. “And it’s probably better not to hit at night — ”
“It’s only three o’clock.”
“You know full well that multi-agency shit takes time. Doing it within twenty-four hours would surprise the hell out of me.”
“But making the bust and turning it over…?” he suggested. “How good would that make the SVPD look?
“Are you going all politician on me?” she asked.
“Since when have I ever run for anything?” he replied.
“Kiwanis Club president, 1998,” she snapped back.
“And I lost!” he retorted. “I’m a bad politician. But a good chess player. And it seems like if we take your hunch, get there first, and make the arrest, well… good things for you?”
“I’m just not like that,” she finally said, crossing into the living room and grabbing her laptop off of the coffee table to bring it back into the kitchen. “It takes a village,” she said. “Or… whatever. But, all right, let’s roll the dice. You said they can’t pull multi-agency together in 24 hours? Time to test that theory.”
She had been typing and tapping the entire time she’d been speaking, but paused both at the same time. Lewis turned from the sink and looked at her, suddenly panicking.
“Oh god,” he said. “What did you do?”
“Nothing yet,” she smiled back, index finger hovering over the enter key.
“What the hell are you about to do?” he demanded.
“Bringing someone who is probably a serial killer to justice, no matter who gets credit?” she replied. “Duh?”
And then her finger dropped onto the enter button and the image of the message on her screen vanished.
“Duh and done,” she added.
Lewis just stared at her for a long moment, then realized that she was right. It didn’t matter who stopped this asshole, as long as someone did.
“So do we really need to schlep out there tomorrow morning?” he asked.
“What?” she replied. “You think I want to piss away the chance to be the one to arrest him? Oh, hell noes. But I want to keep it a fair chase, and minimize his opportunities of escaping. Capisce?
Lewis sighed and smiled. “I knew there was a reason that I loved you,” he said.
“Liar,” she replied. “There are at least twenty-three.”
“True,” he shrugged.
Brenda was back at work, anticipating an early shut down for the holiday weekend, when Joshua called her.
“Guess who’s back!” he said.
“You’re kidding!” Brenda replied.
“Nope. Not in the flesh, but definitely in the spirit.”
She could hear him turn the phone and then heard Simon say, “Hi, Brenda. Happy September 1st.”
“I’ll be damned. But isn’t that weird to you both?” she asked.
“Little bit,” Joshua replied. “But it has its benefits. Anyway, we just wanted to let you know that we’re both safe, we’ve gone over all of the information we have, have gathered all the protection and… weapons that we need, and tomorrow we are stopping Ausmann.”
“That sounds really stupid and dangerous,” she chided them, going into Mom mode. “Why not just turn him over the authorities or something? He did kill your husband.”
“But they don’t know that,” Joshua spurted, realizing his mistake almost immediately.
“And neither did I, until now,” Brenda said. “Look. I will keep my mouth shut about that, I never heard you say it, but on one condition. You let me help you two, so that you don’t get your ass killed, and Simon doesn’t get his killed a second time.”
Joshua wanted to tell her that his ass had already been absolutely murdered four or five times in the last twenty-four hours, but refrained. Instead he asked, sincerely, “Um… what can you do for us, Brenda?”
“Bitch, I’m with L.A. County Government, and where the hell do you think you are?”
“Last I looked, Pasadena was in L.A. County.”
“But JPL, and especially Ausmann’s project, is under Federal jurisdiction.”
“But a lot of the infrastructure around it is ours. Look, what would be the most useful thing I could do for you?”
Joshua and Simon thought about it a moment and discussed it quietly, then Joshua turned back to his phone. “I suppose,” he explained, “Keep out any unnecessary interference, at least until we can get him to where we need him.”
“’Interference’ as in the metric fuckton of law enforcement agencies that are no doubt looking for his ass, right?”
“Exactly!” Joshua and Simon exclaimed together.
“Yeah, I can pull some strings and get some emergency street and off-ramp closures set up tomorrow. And it’s in Pasadena, so it will inconvenience old white people, so yay!”12.
“Won’t it inconvenience us and Ausmann in getting there?” Simon asked, Joshua relaying the question.
“No, because I’m going to give you the magic words to get through. Well, the magic QR code you can flash on your phone. Although I’d really recommend that you arrange to drive Ausmann yourselves, to avoid him being seen.”
“I think we could do that,” Joshua said. “It’s a Tesla, plenty of storage space in the trunk and under the hood.”
Simon gestured for Joshua to hold the phone his way. “You only need to stall things until we confirm that we’re down there,” he told her, “And then let them loose.”
“Any particular reason for that?” Brenda asked.
“Sure,” Simon said. “The proper authorities have got to be there to arrest his ass once we’ve stopped his plot to kill all of the Rêves.”
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t,” Brenda said.
“OMG,” Joshua said. “You know your Shakespeare! No wonder we all get along so well.”
“I count myself in nothing else so happy, as in a soul remembering my good friends…” Simon added, somewhat wistfully.
“Tomorrow in battle, think of me,” Brenda said.
“That’s not the best advice, considering the source,” Joshua replied.
“Oh, shit, right. You better not put away your swords and despair!” she admonished him.
They all laughed, then fell into a moment of quiet.
“Tomorrow morning,” she finally told them. “It’s soon, but I think I can set this up.”
“Let us know whether you could or couldn’t,” Joshua told her. “Securing that will actually be the go signal for our whole mission.”
“Ooh. Now I feel so important,” Brenda said.
“That’s because you are and always have been,” Joshua told her.
“Thank you,” she replied simply. “So, is seven in the morning tomorrow too early for you to be up to call me?”
“It all depends on what we get up to tonight,” Joshua said coyly, giving Simon the eye, which made Simon slap him on the arm, but with none of the impact that came with having Danny and Preston inside him.
“Save it for tomorrow night,” Brenda said. “I know that Jonah ain’t gettin’ none until this is all over.”
“Thanks,” Joshua replied.
“Don’t mention it. But now I have to get my ass in gear, because half the idiots around here have already shifted into long weekend mindset, and I’ve only got a couple of hours before we shut down early to get shit sorted. Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Joshua said. Bye!”
The call ended, and Joshua and Simon looked at each other.
“Well, that left it unfortunately open-ended, didn’t it?” Simon asked.
“Probably for the best,” Joshua advised him. “No use going into the final battle without all of your chess pieces lined up for that move to checkmate, right?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“It makes total sense?”
“It makes absolute sense,” Simon agreed.
All that was left to do was wait until Saturday morning, although Joshua did manage to convince Simon and the boys that Brenda had said nothing about them not having some early afternoon into evening fun as long as they went to sleep early, and so they all went a few more rounds before a late dinner — well, for Joshua, at least — at 7:30, then some streaming entertainment until bedtime, which came at the ridiculously early (for them) hour of 10:30 p.m.
Warriors did not stay up late. Unfortunately, that was exactly what they had become.