Let's just say... the goat deserves what it's about to get. Making me research mini golf like that. *tsks*
Sometimes you just have to shake things up a little -- throw in a bit of what-the-fuckery. After all, what's a romance without a little visit from the dark side of one's subconscious? Nothing says love like a moment of madness. If it is, in fact, just that... and not the Universe trying to warn one to step away...
And now (to quote a suddenly famous phase) the weather. *grins*
To all those reading along, my thanks. I hope you're loving it so far.
Kelly? I'll let you take it from here. <.<
"Welcome," Blaze said. "To Mini-Golf Insanity Land."
Arik was only granted a moment to stare before a car, with a far more impatient guest, offered his vehicle an obnoxious honk. He lurched forward, grinning when Blaze slammed a palm against the dash to counter the movement. "Whoops. Sorry."
He rolled through the entrance, past the sign, past the columns, and selected a parking spot away from the other vehicles that seemed to huddle around the medieval arch that had to be the admission gate. "Rental," Arik reminded when Blaze looked over. "This place is probably crawling with vermin of the two-legged, too-young-to-give-a-shit variety. As much as I like kids..."
Blaze shrugged. "I don't mind walking."
The pavement was already leaching heat as they stood atop it, and Arik worked his jacket off and tossed it over the seat of the car. The tie followed, cuffs were released, and the linen rolled in precise three-inch folds until it sat at his elbows. While Autumn was doing her best to nudge leaves from their holds with a light breeze, Summer still tended to cameo once the sun was high. Arik could only hope that he didn't end up with sweat circles the size of full moons under his arms — hardly sexy. But there were trees and odd structures, wee buildings with a definitive carnival-esque feel to their design, and hell, worse come to worse, he could always buy a T-shirt. Nothing screamed chic like a cheap poly-cotton blend that read, "I survived Mini-Golf Insanity Land."
Arik groaned out loud at the mental image, shook his head, and slammed the car door shut. Blaze, in turn, reached for his bag, settled the strap over his chest, pushed his own door closed, and smiled over at Arik. "All set?"
"You sure you want to take that?" Arik asked. "The car has an alarm?"
Blaze merely smiled. "I'm fine."
They walked in time with one another, their steps seeming to synchronize without forethought, and Arik found himself grinning at the suddenness of it all. Yesterday at this time, he'd been boarding a plane and mentally reciting soothing speeches about mutual benefits and long-term growth versus short-term gains. He'd just finished yet another take-out breakfast, in the midst of yet another sixty-hour work-week, without a single thing to look forward to but for, perhaps, the kind of luck that alcohol helped with in a crowded bar. Arik could, quite literally, say without doubt, that the last time he'd been out on a date—a real date, a date-date—was almost a decade prior. Caution strove forward in his brain to remind him that's not exactly what this moment was; no, this was a twist of fate, a surprise circumstance. But it felt like a date, if one disregarded the lack of planning and the knowledge that they were both thousands of miles away from their individual home-bases, and likely to never see each other again once the trip was over.
Still. It was cool. It was neat. And Arik was going to enjoy it.
They were just approaching the metal bars that partitioned off the area between those who had not paid from those who had when, for the second time that day, the two of them were ensconced by bodies. Instead of polished businessmen however, children by the dozens rushed the gate and split around them in their attempts to make it to the entrance first. Arik lifted his attentions away from the kids, and got a glimpse of a harried, yet surprisingly stoic young woman.
They exchanged a smile, and as she began to round up the hoard, she waved the two of them forward. "You guys go first. You do not want to get stuck behind this."
Arik glanced at Blaze and couldn't hold back the chuckle at the expression he found on Blaze's face: mild contempt, annoyed reproach, barely contained revulsion. He looked like he was contemplating lining each one of the hooting, chattering, cell-phone waving, picture-taking, bumping, milling, disturbing little freaks into military order and giving them all lectures on appropriate public behaviour. That was, actually, surprisingly refreshing. Arik reached over the browns, the blacks, the blonds and the reds that made up the various tops of heads and held out his hand. "After you?"
Blaze nod-bowed. "Why, thank you, sir." He cracked a grin of his own. "But surely, we can go together."
Instead of following the lead of Arik's hand, Blaze caught it and held it. "Now," he tugged Arik forward, "let's get in there so I can kick your ass."
"Are you good?" Arik asked, laughing out loud at Blaze's gasp-reply of mock offense.
"How can you even ask that?" Blaze shoulder-checked him lightly. "You should already know I'm fantastic."
Arik pulled out his wallet, waving Blaze away with a frown when Blaze tried to step forward. For all Arik knew, Blaze was a multi-millionaire with more disposable income than Bill Gates, but he doubted it. Arik, on the other hand, could merely write the event off as meeting with a potential client. It was a win-win, for lack of a less cliche term.
"I'll have you know," Arik said, feigning smug as he paid the bored woman, "that I am a golf extraordinaire. I rarely shoot worse than two or three over par. Not bad for a kid that was raised in the city, I'd say."
"Cheating doesn't count," Blaze deadpanned.
Arik's mouth fell open in a comical exaggeration of shocked horror. "That's just rude!"
"Mm hmm." Blaze grabbed the putter he was offered and handed one to Arik. "It's honest. You're in business. All businessmen cheat on the golf course. Besides, this is completely different."
While Blaze explained the concepts of the game, complete with the intricacies of trying to get the ball into what seemed to be impossible-to-manage holes and crevices in order to "activate" the various cool little triggers of each obstacle, Arik did his best to offer clever banter.
The first hole was a simple one — a carnival clown at the end of the fairway with an open mouth that would swallow the ball and spit it back onto the green if one was foolish enough to miss the hole. And Blaze made good on his promise to kick Arik's ass, landing a hole-in-one without batting an eye.
The second, third, and fourth were no better.
The fifth, sixth, and seventh were battled over valiantly. And lost just as brutally.
Arik should not have been as thrilled as he was to beat Blaze's count on the eighth hole. Nor should he have been having as much fun as he was, considering that Blaze was, obviously, impossibly accurate with his stroke. But the carnival atmosphere was bright and relaxing. The breeze and the shade provided by swaying trees was fresh, and just cool enough to keep the overhead sky at bay. The company was brilliant and amusing.
At the ninth hole the two of them stood, side by side, and stared down the painted goat that bore a remarkable resemblance to the one that had posed on the sign at the entrance. It was propped, forelegs posing as arms, its "elbows" on a fence, its back to the player. It appeared to grin over its shoulder, large, square teeth clenching a sprig of wheat, massive cowboy hat seemingly tossed over a post of the fence to its right. The gist of the shot was to get the ball in the small triangular space between the goat's crossed hooves whereby a mechanical (but most likely magical) process would deliver it to either the left, or right, of the display, and spit it back onto the green, where design would ensure it flowed directly into the necessary hole. Apparently, according to the sign, this could be accomplished in one stroke.
Arik eyed the setup. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear that bastard is jeering at me."
Blaze tilted his head and stared at the goat. "I don't know. He seems to be flirting with me." He walked past Arik and up to the board. He tapped the goat's bottom. "Nice ass."
"Oh, great," Arik snorted. "Now he's going to like you best!"
Blaze laughed. Arik responded in kind. And the sun slipped behind a cloud.
"It's okay," Blaze nodded. "Now that we're close personals, I'm sure he'll be kind. You are, after all, a friend of mine."
"It's good to have friends in high places," Arik agreed.
A child ran past with an ice cream. They turned to watch him. A buzz started in Arik's head.
"Tell you what," Blaze stepped forward. "I'll pass on some of the goat-ass-grabbing luck if you want."
"Oh?" Arik huffed. "What do I have to do? Stroke its balls?"
A current of unseen electricity lifted the hair on the back of Arik's neck. The buzz in his brain began to murmur. He shook his head to dispel it. Not now. No, you don't.
"That would work, I'm sure." Blaze grinned. "This might be better though."
Blaze closed the space between them, reached up and behind Arik's head, and pulled him forward. "The best way to transfer luck is with your lips."
Arik mentally lurched away from the number. Fuck that. No way was he missing this...
Blaze's breath was warm. An almost imperceptible scent of dark spice and rich wood drifted off Blaze's skin. It was cologne that had been laid with what Arik referred to as an intimate quantity. In other words, one had to get very close and very personal to experience it.
Arik yanked Blaze toward him so hard that Blaze's eyes widened. For all of a single second. The moment their lips touched, Blaze's eyes narrowed. His forehead creased. And the shove on Arik's subconscious doubled.
Are you watching?
Rather than respond, even mentally, Arik tried to drown his itch in Blaze's mouth. When the four threatened to bubble through, when the insistence to watch, review, record became more of a demand than a suggestion, Arik pushed his tongue between Blaze's lips. A salacious kiss, for such a public venue; far too close of a hold for such a diverse assembly of potential onlookers. But Arik tried to force away thought through sensation; tried to fend off approaching demons by shielding with an angel.
Except it didn't work. It didn't even help. On the contrary, every sip and slide and touch, every extra muscle that Arik pressed against Blaze seemed to compound the advancing crescendo. It wasn't a spiral Arik was falling into, but a lift up and over the barriers of reality, the sensation spreading out and through his entire body... and it felt like it opened everything.
Blaze coughed a sound that could have been a gasp, could have been a rebuke, and Arik wrenched himself away for a purpose that was totally lost of reason. The only thing he knew was that he had to break the contact—sever the connection—before it consumed both of them.
Arik opened his eyes, stared directly into the painted set that shone from the goat's face, and he drew an anxious breath. With cartoon movement, the goat's head lifted from the board and turned to eye Arik directly. The grass fell from lips that appeared to tremble. Or bubble. Or God ... what the fuck? It opened its mouth, as if to bray its hilarity, but in a total paradox of Arik's thought, its jaw split at the fulcrum, paint cracking and leeching an oily, thick material. Arik stumbled backwards, everything else forgotten, and as if his body had been tethered to the painting, the movement seemed to pull a disastrous reaction along with it. The eyes of the creature exploded, painted skin pulled and peeled away from the board, and it wasn't the expected splinter of wood fragments that followed, but the wet, nauseating sound of bloated bodies letting loose on heated shorelines.
Decay did not advance so quickly. Blood did not spread so insistently. Skin did not tear so completely, nor did beasts undergoing such a transformation laugh so maniacally. Arik clutched at air to find impossible holds, and would have fallen ass-heavy on to the ground had Blaze not clutched at his shirt to keep him upright.
"What the fuck?" Arik shouted, both hands finding and gripping Blaze's wrists hard enough to hurt his own fingertips. He noted the swivel of half a dozen adult heads towards his outburst and he didn't care in the least. He knew there was panic on his face, he could feel the tentacles of it everywhere—clenching his balls, squeezing his chest, digging through his brain and bowels. He sought out Blaze's eyes, questioning, confirming, begging in silence... and didn't see the confusion or the horror that he was expecting.
Arik's hands dropped down to his sides. He shot a cautious glance at the image of the goat. Nothing but wheat-chewing, grin-spewing, y'all-have-a-good-day cheer shone back at him.
Until next time!
Tune in next week for more.
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