Subject: Makarovia! Sure, I Know Where That Is! Chapter 24 Homeward Bound Story: Makarovia! Sure, I Know Where That Is Chapter 24 Homeward Bound Author: Eric McQueen ail) Adult Readers, Sexual Situations, Sex Freedom of expression is precious. To do that, Nifty needs help. Your donation is greatly desired. Give to fty/ or this story ends and all the others! That would be a crime! Our honeymooners wait for word as to how Cosmo is doing before beginning the journey back to Venice and then to Makarovia. Homeward Bound Rolph did gather himself enough to tell us what happened. It isn’t a cure, but it did settle his nerves, a shot of whiskey. Yuri was beside Rolph and finally asked him, “Can you tell us what happened? It might be important. They left the club just minutes before the shooting.” Rolph nodded, “They had just come out. Then all three of them began threatening the few men outside,” he said. “There were just two of us out there at the time. The three of them pushed a man against the wall and demanded to know if you were here and where you were.” He had stopped the shudder he had before. Had he killed someone before? Not just wounded the person he shot but killed him. I’d have been more worried if he didn’t have some reaction. “They were all shouting at the man…Cosmo and I were just coming around the corner and we saw the bald one pulled out this long knife and had against his victim’s throat and threatened him saying he would cut him, starting with his dick if he didn’t tell him who was here.” Rolph laughed a laugh that was not because anything was funny, but because the whole thing was absurd. I had to agree with him. Things like this never happen in Makarovia and blood-thirsty pirates couldn’t be in the modern world. Yet here they were. They didn’t say “Arg” or “shiver me timbers.” They didn’t have a parrot on their shoulder, but they were pirates. I kept thinking of Capt. Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean. You know. Johnny Depp? I liked the movie, but I felt nothing for him. He was a very good actor that changed for his character. In all of his movies he looked and acted differently. That was talent. None of those characters attracted me to him. I hate long hair on a guy. Again, that’s my opinion. Mine. Sue me if you do like it or have it or were offended. “We saw what was happening and we both hurried over to stop them,” Rolph said, “Cosmo pulled the guy with the knife away and he was stabbed. It was hard and deep.” Rolph said still a little shaken, “I pulled my gun out and fired twice. The second bullet got him in the head.” He looked at me and Peter. “I didn’t want to shoot Cosmo! My aim was high.” He explained unnecessarily and more desperately for us to understand. “He was killing Cosmo!” Yuri beside him put his arm around Rolph’s shoulder, “You had no choice.” He assured him we knew. “He could have killed that man and Cosmo.” “It’s what we do,” Alec added quietly. “We protect. That’s our job.” Mercea was listening, but couldn’t add much, “I hope I can do it if the time comes.” “You can be proud of what you did,” Peter said. “You didn’t just save me or Eric. You saved the Greek man who was at first threatened and Cosmo.” I nodded and added, “The criminals that threatened that man wouldn’t have stopped with him, but the other man as well. They probably would have in the bar, but Pano scared then off with his size.” I smiled. “It makes me feel like we can trust him even more.” I got up on the other side of Rolph. “I can’t know what you’re going through, but you are a good man, Rolph.” Boris, who didn’t comment much during security things, “You are all forgetting.” Then spoke a tone that we were missing the obvious. “That man was a bad guy.” He said ending it more as a question. I waved my hand toward Boris, “See? You had to do it as one of the good guys.” “I just keep seeing his face after I shot him the first time,” He said to everybody, “The first bullet hit him in the right chest near his shoulder so he had to drop the knife, but I saw this wild look in his eye that said he wouldn’t stop. They wouldn’t stop. I had to shoot again. That one went in his right forehead.” He pointed to his forehead over his right eye. “The other two ran off.” Yuri nodded, “Even without the political stuff, you were authorized to carry a gun for protection. That means they knew you might use it to protect…and you did. The shooting was justified. You were in the right.” “Do you still have your phone?” I asked knowing it was a stupid question. Of course, he did. They all did. “Yes,” He said simply. “I think you need to see why you’re here again.” I smiled. “I know you have pictures of Andreea, Alina, and Daria on your phone.” I grinned. “I know you are devoted to them and you should be. You have a job you do very well. There is an alliance with Peter and me; I believe the job was your choice.” Rolph nodded, “It was. I feel it is an honor to serve Makarovia. By protecting members of the Royal Family, which is the greatest honor.” I smiled again nodding, “As I said, you do a damned fine job.” I looked over at Alec and Mercea. “All of you do.” I looked at Rolph. “You provide a comfortable home and food for your family. Every time you see the bad guy’s face, look at those happy faces.” I sat back a little. “You know I can read expressions. Those two little faces had the look of joy on their faces. That joy was put there by you and Andreea. This marriage and divorce game you and your wife play keep the love alive.” I gave a shrugging nod. “I don’t think I go to that extreme, but I see the positive parts of it. I hope Peter and I can do that. Andreea and you keep the love fresh.” I looked at Peter. “Have we done that?” “Sure,” Peter said without needing to think about it. “We do it all the time. The really big one as two weeks ago when we said, I do.” I nodded pointing at him, “Yes we did; good answer.” Rolph nodded, “I just hope Cosmo pulls through.” “He’s one of us,” I said. “We all hope he will.” Rolph got his phone out and began to laugh, “They sent me another video clip. I have several.” “You are their Daddy,” I said, “They love you. Don’t make me make a royal demand that you view it right now.” Rolph nodded smiling, “Yes, Your Highness.” I got up and went back to sit with Peter. “I see you’ve come to appreciate your title,” Peter smiled as I sat with him. “You wear it well.” Rolph didn’t have his earbud to plugin and soon at a low volume, I heard the high pitched voices. I was too far away to understand it, but I saw a relaxed smile on Rolph’s face and the louder laughter and giggles came clearly. It had been a chaotic night and we had been through some tough moments. Cosmo had been through; so had Rolph. That and the coffee I wasn’t sleepy. I got the computer in the living area and searched for what I hoped I’d find. The browser I used translated what sought to allow me to find what I was looking for. I called the store and with a little verification using that debit card from Makarovia, that and the papers from the government given to us, I bought two. Mikell could use one too. I had the vendor to activate both of them. I verified the amount exactly. No one could use the number to get more. The store was downtown Athens. I didn’t know where Pano and Barry lived…or Edger. Pano did call me back and I told him what I was doing. I asked him if he could pick them up and deliver them personally to Mikell. That was better than having it delivered by strangers. Pano, Barry, and Edger knew Mikell, and he knew them. I would have wanted to do this myself, but I couldn’t. Being a prince wasn’t always doing whatever you want or even positive. I didn’t drive anywhere. I could in Makarovia, but only in the summer. I did it once. I determined to do it again when we got back. I could understand better Peter’s desire to just be Peter when he got to Northeastern. There were times I just wanted to be unknown where we were. I understood better, but I had been free for all of my life. I could walk into any Walmart or mall; any night club or bar and not be recognized unless it was a friend I already knew. Olek and Mom had it worse but had more of it now since there had been so much international television exposure. I had some after Peter became known, but now that we had married; even before we were married they hounded us mercilessly. Peter hadn’t been out in the world because of the acne that long and it bothered him. The citizens of Makarovia knew who Peter was, but hardly anybody else in the world. We were not leaving for a while. We all, including the crew of the Duchess, would wait until Cosmo stabilized or… No one wanted “the or” to happen. I knew Pano and Barry opened the Bar about six in the evening. After checking with Henri, I invited the three of them for a late lunch or early dinner at two o’clock. Lunch or dinner, who cared what it was called, it was a meal with some friends. Yes, that made us late for the departure from Athens and arrival in Venice. That might be a problem if this was a commercial thing. No one was going to be late reporting for work. Our agents were at work, even Cosmo and Mikell and so was the crew. The only job Peter and I had was to return to Makarovia. There would be no repercussions to anyone. Well, Makarovia would have some repercussions financially. I said it in the beginning, this boat was very expensive. Makarovia was making money now, but I thought of the budget. That was just me before all this. It was just a habit, but I thought of the people. Using the treasury to pay for this will take away something for them. Didn’t it? We didn’t have a disposable income. The new tunnels in the underground were coming along, new schools were opening underground! Snow and ice would not be a big problem or excuse now. The remote areas would take a while more. Peter told me Olek had told him it was covered. I was reminded again of the house in Tel Aviv was as expensive and any resort would be costly because our agents needed to stay with us. This was less expensive. I wasn’t sure about that, but I wasn’t going to object or ask. We did nap, but we didn’t sleep. It was daytime and my body kept reminding me of that. My biological clock hadn’t been prepared or reset. I just felt uncomfortable. Henri said he would have lunch ready at two-fifteen, in case they were late. I had a feeling Edger was never late. That was passed down to Pano. Peter and I were on the Duchess but didn’t go out on the open deck. We risked being spotted if we did. Gretchen was who that greeted them as they boarded the Duchess. Boarding could be done in several ways, but this one was to the front for better coverage. At one-fifty Gretchen came in the living area with our three friends. “…and Peter and Eric traveled on her how long?” Edger asked as he walked almost doing a pirouette as he spun and tried to see everything. Gretchen chuckled. “You can ask them.” She stopped but waved them on toward us. Peter and I both laughed at him. Pano’s immense size was more obvious on the Duchess. I had noticed the convenient use of space, but the feel of elbow room. With Pano that should up more. He didn’t have to stoop over, but the ceiling looked closer to his head. Oh, yeah! It was! “I told them there had to be a mistake,” Barry said smiling at me and Peter. “But that man in the booth in front confirmed this boat was in berth nine and we were expected. The name it was under is Yuri’s name.” Barry thumbed behind himself and the direction they’d come. Peter smiled at him. “For security reasons it needed to be that way.” Pano was doing it too as he looked around, “Yeah, sure.” “Is this a Makarovian Royal Family Yacht?” Barry asked. “Sort of,” I chuckled. “It belongs to our future step-aunt.” “Oh, stop that,” Peter gave me a slight shove. “Well, it is,” I said back. “It belongs to the Count and Countess von Bar,” Peter said to them. “The Countess is the sister of the man who is involved with my mother, Queen Alla of Makarovia. We know they will marry.” Pano nodded with a grin, “Oh, I see.” “I glad you aren’t suffering,” Barry said sardonically. I smiled but wanted them to know. “I am sorry to inconvenience you as I did…” “Oh, stop that,” Pano growled with a grin. “It wasn’t a problem. We picked up the iPads and took it to the hospital.” “iPads!?” Peter asked, “I thought you were getting them each a Kindle.” “Well, it was just a little problem proving who I was over the phone, but once their government office confirmed me it was Yes, Your Highness every few seconds.” I shrugged, “They offered a deal on those iPads, and they had a Kindle app on them.” I smiled. “Now they can read anything or play a game on the Web or even watch a movie or any television show. I didn’t want them unnecessarily bored.” I leaned in to give confidential information. “Hospitals are boring. You get better just get out.” Edger gave an annoyed grunt, “Don’t remind me.” He nearly died so of course; he knew of boredom during a hospital stay. “Mikell was surprised but took them to him,” Pano said, “but pleased with what it was.” “Peter and I wanted so much to do that, but…” I began softly. “I’m pretty sure they both know why you can’t,” Barry assured us. “We’ll give you a tour of the Duchess after lunch,” I smiled. “You need to know one rule.” Peter looked at his watch and he grinned, “Oh, yes.” He leaned in a little. “Never be late for a meal. When he says a time, you are there on time.” I nodded, “We were late once. It wasn’t pleasant.” We led them into the dining area on the main deck. It was a little ostentatious, but we thought our friends deserved special treatment. Yuri and Boris rushed in as Yuri said, “We’re not late. We’re not late.” I chuckled and said, “You’re on time, you’re fine.” Edger sat at the table as did his looking around again. “I dressed to come here. Now I feel under dressed.” Peter laughed lightly, “You dressed fine.” He waved his t-shirt. “We certainly aren’t dressed up.” The galley door opened and again Henri came out pushing his cart. “Bonj…” He looked at Pano at the table and froze, “Bon dieu everseetout-puissant!” I guess I got more from my French Class. I knew he said Good God Almighty. I chuckled and asked sounding innocent as I didn’t know what he was shocked about. “Is there a problem?” “I don’t know,” he looked at his cart. “I was worried I may have made too much, but now I wonder if I made enough!” Introductions were given for all. “Eric said he asked you about food allergies when he called you,” Henri said. “Is there anything else I should know about?” “We’re hungry,” Barry said. “Fine,” Henri said placing individual plates with four cups made from Phyllo dough baked to a golden-brown perfection with steaming continents of crab and finely chopped shrimp. There were flecks of green I knew were onions and who knows what else? Oh, yeah. Henri did. He would tell us what else perhaps later but he had a schedule to follow, so he couldn’t spare the time now. Each cup was the size of hockey pucks. “Do you eat this well every day?” Edger asked looking at his plate. “I’m sure they do now,” Pano said. “This is their honeymoon.” “And the seafood is for me,” Peter smirked. “Makarovia is landlocked. There’s only one lake big enough fish from and the rivers.” I nodded. “Lake Rsys has fish in it, I’m sure, but I’ve haven’t seen anyone serve any of those fish from that lake.” Peter nodded, “Which you know is inaccessible much of the year.” “Which explains the seafood diet these two weeks,” I explained. mezitli escort “But, to answer your question, Edger; we don’t always eat like this.” I saw Boris fidget a little but said nothing. “Boris can cook lavishly, too. Peter and I prefer meals more basic, but they are very good. As he did with my last birthday, that was lavish…” “Until the Consortium stormed in and shot the place up,” Peter reminded me. “We knew they planned to and we were prepared,” I touched Peter’s hand. I waved at Yuri, “He was prepared. Not one of us was hurt.” Boris grunted, “The mess they left took a few days to clean up. There are still bullet holes in some of the furniture that needs to be repaired.” Peter smiled, “Do we have to?” Boris’s eyes grew, “That’s the house King Olek wants as his Embassy. You want other powers to see that?” Peter smiled and shrugged, “It would tell people we don’t back down. If you do try something to us, we still will stand firm.” Boris wasn’t happy to hear that, but Yuri was nodding with a smile. I raised a fist and held it out over the table, “Makarovia forever!” Yuri stood instantly, “Hear, hear!” He put his fist next to mine. “Yeah!” Peter stood putting his fist in. Boris sighed and said with less enthusiasm, “Hear, hear.” He put his fist next to ours. “Why is our show of power messy?” We all sat again, our Greek guests smiling at us. “It was cleaned up,” Peter said not understanding. Boris nodded, “Yes I did.” “Boris,” Peter said alarmed. “I know Olek authorized you to hire any outside help to clean it up.” “We were in class and didn’t see that,” I said. “I just saw it was cleaner each day.” Boris alarmed this time, “I wasn’t going to trust some strangers to come in know what to clean what to clean with!” He thought of how to explain. “Remember that person took my special nonstick pan and cleaned it with a scouring pad?” I nodded, “I do.” “We saw you throw it away,” Peter smiled. Boris nodded, “It was ruined! There is no way I’d trust any but the staff I watched and trained to clean it up.” I leaned closer to Boris but was too far away to touch him unless we stood up. Obviously. “I’m genuinely sorry we didn’t know that.” Boris smiled and shrugged, “I have a way I do things.” He waved at Henri. “He does it, too.” Henri was nodding now with some measure of urgency. “And we’ve wasted enough time talking cutting in the second course.” He said throwing his hands up, again and again, to urge us to eat. “Less time talking, more eating. Mange, mange!” He said and went back to the galley. Pano looked at Peter and me, “Is he always like this?” Peter thought a few seconds and nodded, “Pretty much.” “And we wouldn’t have it any other way,” I said knowing he was listening. “It’s what makes us love him even more,” Peter said. “We love you, Henri,” I said and our guests looked at perplexed as to why we said that when Henri wasn’t here to hear it. The galley door opened, and Henri said, “I love you, too. Now, eat!” He commanded. He always served things at the right time. It was delicious. Henri seemed as if he couldn’t make anything that tasted unpleasant. The second course came; bowls of something steaming. Boris looked at it, smiling more, “You made Ukha?” Again, Henri did this sort of nod and let out a long, “Weeeell…” “That’s Henri-speak telling us it is Russian Fish Soup,” Peter said to everyone, “Brought by way of France.” “And presented A la Henri,” I added. “It’s always done with freshwater fish like perch, pike or salmon.” Henri looked indignant, “And what law says I have to do that?” He got serious a moment. “Many of the fish now are suffering because of overfishing. Fisheries are where these fish and many other meals I served came from.” He sighed. “There are families have been fishing waters of the Mediterranean for so many generations they can’t remember doing anything else. When I see them, I will buy from them, but really…” he huffed, “All those chefs and customers who say one tastes better than the other are doing it wrong.” He stated annoyed. “If it doesn’t taste the same, fine, try changing the spices or something to bring it back, OR,” He said loud raising a finger as if pointing something out, “Create something even better! I said again and again the same dish doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be the same damn it!!” He stated emphatically and snorted. I raised my hands and shouted like something was inside me. “Preach on bruther, but yer a’preachin to the choir.” They got it. Edger was chuckling. Peter, Boris, and Yuri were going over my Southerner spoken words to get what I’d said. I’d had Ukha and it did taste a lot like the Ukha I’d had, but not quite. Henri made it taste better. There were the usual potatoes. It had chopped onions and bagged yellow onion dropped in while it cooked and a touch of lemon. It sounds like a basic soup. It wasn’t really Russian Fish Soup. It was Fish Soup cooked with the same ingredients, but cod. It was very good! “This Consortium you mentioned,” Pano said seriously. “You think they are responsible for these brazen attempts by pirates.” “We don’t know,” Yuri explained. He looked at Peter and me. “You two theorized that pirate wanted to be a part of the Consortium. Maybe they offered her a place in their ranks if she helped them get you.” He shrugged. “Either way, the danger is escalating. These coming months and days are going to get more difficult. You two can’t be freely walking as you have.” He looked at Peter. “Twice they tried to get you. Twice, they were defeated,” Yuri said sadly, “Very badly. They’ve been embarrassed. The Beauty/Beast pirate has also failed twice.” “But there is almost no way she knew where we were,” Peter stated. “If she did,” I added, “she would have sent more than three men.” Yuri nodded, “I think you’re right. She knew where you were as you came around Sicily and tried to get you to have compassion for a lady in distress. We found the tracker put on the Duchess that was almost out of power. I made it so we looked like another vessel until we got to Greece. Now, we aren’t sending anything at all. I think she was following where you previously to see if you’d come back.” “They know now,” I said. “Her men would have told her.” “They know you’re in Greece,” Yuri nodded. “Even if they limit their search to marinas, they will have to do so visually. There are several within walking distance of Big’s. The two survivors would also report the Greek Authorities knew they were there, and security would be watching more vigilantly.” “We could just ask the Makarovian plane to come to Athens and fly home,” I suggested. “We could even hire a private jet until commercial planes can make more scheduled landings.” Yuri nodded with a hand to have me slow down. “I think the best way is to do what we planned. We will return to Venice and stay in territorial waters of Greece, Albanian, Montenegro, Croatia to Venice.” Then he grinned at us. “Unless you want to leave the Duchess.” “What!?” Peter blurted. Just as I said, “Hell no!” Yuri chuckled, “That’s what I thought.” “Okay,” Henri said his hands waving in a hurry-up motion, “Less talking and more eating. Your soup is getting cold!” He said and went back to the galley. “I am going to miss him!” I said as we started to eat again. Whatever name you give this meal, it was still a pleasant time. I was afraid our speaking so openly about the danger we faced would scare Pano, Barry, and Edger away. Nothing I saw with them told me they were. Henri brought out the main course, he uncovered steaming plates. Each plate had two tails of lobster that appeared to have exploded from within with crabmeat. I understood Henri’s comment that he was worried he made too much. But Henri wasn’t finished! It was all very French. The salad was next. Not a big one but there was tiny baby shrimp in it with the greens and a light dressing. Then Crepes Suzette. These thin pancakes folded sweet orange slices made with a sweet orange taste. It was delicious. Again. I told you before French meals didn’t end with a sweet taste in the mouth. He served some pieces of hot buttered toasted bread with anchovies. Pano pushed his plate back and sighed, “This isn’t said by me very often. I’m stuffed.” He covered his stomach with his hands. “Good!” Peter grin. “I’m sorry you have to work in a few hours.” Barry shook it off smiling, “No, we will be able to work it off.” “You’re leaving today?” Edger asked. “When we hear Cosmo is on the road to recovery a bit more,” Peter said. I put my napkin on the table, “I’ll feel a lot better speaking with him.” Henri came out of the galley with a knowing sense of accomplishment. “I hope you enjoyed this quick and simple meal.” “Simple!?” Barry blurted and pointed at his plate. “This was quick and simple?” Henri nodded, “Oui. A complicated meal will last for hours and have as many as seventeen courses.” Edger snorted, “A meal in Greece could last for days.” “That hasn’t been done that here in centuries, Dad,” Pano said with a chuckle. “You think so, Mr. Smartypants?” Edger said to Pano. Then he turned to Peter, Boris, Yuri, and me. “The Holy Days have banquets that last all weekend.” “To which Barry and I aren’t welcome,” Pano stated. “And those banquets end for the day and they go home and come back later.” Peter and I were amused by them. “I invite you all to Makarovia the weekend near August the nineteenth?” Peter asked. “I will be twenty-seven that day.” “You will stay with us in the palace; meet King Olek and Queen Alla, and our favorite sister-in-law.” I smiled. Pano looked confused. “Dr. Helga Schneider? I didn’t think she married King Olek, yet. There was nothing in the news about that.” “By the time you get there,” Peter said smiling. “She will be.” “Just don’t tell anyone yet,” I said in another stage-whisper. Yuri frowned, “With you two incapable of keeping a secret, it will be widely known before that.” “I can keep a secret!” I protested to Yuri. “I was sleeping a real prince for months before anyone found out. These three have proven can be trusted. I haven’t sensed I can’t with any of them.” Peter nodded smiling smugly at Yuri, “He had you figured out long ago.” “Don’t worry,” Pano assured. “We’re not telling anyone.” Barry nodded. “Right, Dad?” Edger should win awards for his acting abilities, “Tell who about what?” “I guess,” Pano spoke with Barry. “We could shut down a week.” “Why?” Barry asked. “The only reason we closed before was when Edger scared us.” He touched his father-in-law’s hand. “And that wasn’t your fault.” Stated in a way that said they’d had to reassure him frequently over the years. Edger nodded and shaking a finger at them, “Yes, it was, but I told you two I’ll watch how I eat, I’ll exercise daily, but don’t force me into a life of denial just to add a few years.” Barry smiled, “We aren’t doing that.” Edger nodded, “You aren’t, but he does.” He pointed at Pano. Pano closed his eyes and gave a wobbly nod, “Take me to court for wanting to keep you around.” Yeah, I knew there was only just a little difference between Greeks and Italians than they’d be willing to admit. The volume was increasing, “Guys!” I said quickly and loud stopping them both. “Love, family and all that at play here…I’d like to say something.” I saw raised eyebrows on both the Greeks and Makarovians. I touched Peter’s arm and clasped his hand. “Peter can understand this, too. We both lost our fathers when we at a young age. I was a bit older than Peter when my father died. I have more memories of my Dad than he does of his.” With more emotion than I had wanted to use, I said, “I still miss him. I know Peter misses his father. I’ve seen it on his face.” I pointed at Pano but spoke to Edger. “I think you know how fortunate you are to have a son that loves you as much as he does.” I looked at Pano. “You have a father that understands that. He isn’t a feeble-minded man that needs taken care of.” I looked at Barry. “You haven’t mentioned to me about your parents or siblings. There could be nothing to comment on.” I shrugged. “I wouldn’t know, but this man accepts you as his son because of Pano.” I smiled at Peter. “I know how that feels as I have been accepted by King Olek and Queen Alla.” Peter chuckled, “And Grandma.” He looked at them, “His Grandma who loved me almost from the first meeting.” “No one has a monopoly on loss,” I said. “However, I’ve lost my father, my Grandpa, and my mother.” To my surprise, Peter added, “And he lost the young man he first loved when they were just sixteen.” I heard statements spoken in four languages, Greek, English, Makarovian, and Russian, but I had a feeling it was the same word. I bowed in my head a little, “As much as a teenager understands love, yes.” I grinned, “Though he wasn’t raised over here, he was my first exposure to a culture that was Italian. The only difference I see between you and him is his family yelled louder.” I laughed, “I still say one stole from the other. Zeus, Jupiter, Hera, Saturn, Aries, Mars…it’s the same. Even some culinary things are similar, but not the same.” I pointed at Edger. “He loves you.” I pointed to Pano and Barry. “They adore you. I’m no counselor and I’m no guide.” I looked around and didn’t see Mercea. Mercea began quietly. “I’m the youngest one at this table! You work your relationship as you want. I just want to tell you what I see. Be glad the world can freely see that. The time we have is finite. Keep that in mind.” Pano nodded sitting back, “You’re a grown man, Mpampa. If I treat you like a child at…” Pano used the Greek word for Dad. “No, Son,” Edger interrupted, “I need to remember where it comes from. I forget and…” “Dad,” Pano interrupted waving at me, “I do sometimes…” “We’d better leave,” Barry leaned forward stage-whispering, “They can go that this for hours.” He smiled. “You can start by showing me around this marvelous ship!” We did escort them to the exit from the Duchess. Yuri didn’t like the idea we could be seen. He was right, but they’d have to point the binoculars in the right direction. (Yes, that was sarcastic.) Could it happen? Who knows? It was later in the evening when my phone rang, but it was a special ring tone for Mikell. I snatched it up answering quickly but dreading the possible reason. Peter rushed over and sat by me. “Mikell?” “Hello!” Mikell said. “Listen to this.” Then we heard a weak, but a distinctive voice, “Sorry, I’ll be a little late.” “Cosmo!” Both Peter and I blurted out together. There was an attempt to laugh, but ended in a groan, “Please don’t make me laugh.” I was very happy to hear him, “We’ll try not to, but no promises.” “How is our favorite agent?” Peter asked. “Excuse me!” Mikell’s amused voice could be heard at more of a distance, but he wasn’t offended. “You know you’re a favorite, Mikell,” Peter said. “Seriously,” I said, “Are you doing alright?” “I’m getting there,” Cosmo said almost out of breath. Mikell’s voice came again but told Cosmo to take it easy and rest. “He’s still very weak,” Mikell’s voice came stronger as he began speaking more directly into the phone. “He will be,” I stated. “He was moments from death!” “Is he still?” Peter asked. “I was told the longer he continues to have moments like this one,” Mikell said, “his chances get better.” “Then we won’t tire him,” I said. “Well,” Mikell said with the sound of walking, “I knew you would have wanted to speak with him, so I held my phone so he could talk with you.” There now was the sound of pozcu escort a hospital hallway. It seems some noises were universal; a page called, in Greek, the ding of some machine that monitored something on someone. My guess was someone’s IV needed replacing. I’d heard it with my mother. “I’m not going anywhere, buddy,” Mikell said to Cosmo. “It’s not even been twenty-four hours since the stabbing. The doctor said he was improving well.” “Good,” Peter said with a sigh of relief. “Sudden moves and things like that could reopen his sutures,” I nodded, but Mikell didn’t see that. “Exactly,” I could hear him look back and then in an even lower voice added, “that pirate, or whatever, turned and stabbed Cosmo straight out. Not a down-thrust or an up-thrust just straight out and very deep. The cut goes eight to ten inches in and then,” his voice dropped to almost a whisper, “and then that horrible man twisted the knife. It was one of those serrated ones.” “Jesus Christ!!” Peter didn’t say that as a swear, but a prayer of supplication. “Yes,” Mikell agreed louder but still quietly. “You know,” I began, “I got you those iPads for another reason.” “Oh?” Mikell asked. “Yes,” I said, “I’ll give you the address, but it has a camera to shoot video. You can make a video call. Meaning we can see you.” Mikell laughed, “Which I think you’re not missing anything. I haven’t shaved…” “As interesting as that sounds,” I said, “I’d like to see both of you.” “I’ll see if it can be done tomorrow,” Mikell said. “He’s pretty well done for today.” Then he changed the subject. “You should be almost to Venice.” “No,” Peter said quickly. “We’re still in port in Athens.” I added, “We couldn’t leave you and Cosmo here without knowing things were going alright.” “Don’t you have to return the Duchess on time?” Mikell asked a little worried. “I think the Count and Countess will understand,” Peter said. “Oh,” Mikell said. “You’re not staying for the whole recovery.” “No,” I answered, “We wanted him to recover enough to be his old charming self.” I heard Mikell chuckle. “Then you can fly back to Makarovia.” “What airline does that now?” Mikell asked. “I don’t know,” Peter replied. “We can send the jet to you.” “For just me,” Mikell stated thinking that wouldn’t happen. “Why not?” I asked, “You’re important.” “While I won’t necessarily agree or disagree with you,” Mikell said. “Then you come back and get Cosmo?” “If necessary,” Peter responded. I held a hand up for Peter, “Let’s wait until we find out more about Cosmo. We’ll find out what needs to happen and the figure out how when we need to.” A grunt of acceptance sounded on the phone, but Peter nodded, “Yes, you’re right.” He looked at my phone, “You take good care of you as well.” “Yes, Your Highness,” Mikell chuckled back. “He’ll be sedated soon. I can get some sleep myself.” I heard the weariness in his voice. “Us, too,” I said suddenly very tired. It was a busy night and day that seemed like a much longer period of time. “Call tomorrow.” “I will,” Then in a breach of protocol, Mikell yawned, “Excuse me!” “Mikell, there’s hope for you yet,” I said. “We’ll talk later.” Ending the call, we were aware that we weren’t alone. Yuri had stepped into the living area while we were on the call. “Hello, Yuri,” Peter greeted, “You heard about Cosmo?” Yuri nodded, “I did. It’s good.” “It’s getting there,” I admitted. “Hearing how the attack happened and how the wound was inflicted, I understand the hospital’s caution. The wrong move by Cosmo can undo all those hours of surgery. The sutures can easily break.” “Do we wait a while more?” Peter asked. “I guess we should go back,” I said reluctantly. “This portion of the two weeks needs to end.” Yuri nodded, “I’ll let Captain Agius know.” No special dinner that night; just some Chamomile Tea. I’d never really tried it. I didn’t know many guys that did. Right or wrong; I considered it a tea for women. To my knowledge, they were the only ones to drink it. I had stayed up for this long before, but the previous day just seemed endless, and the tea may help us get to sleep. I don’t do those all-night cram sessions, remember? Henri did present us with an odd snack before sleeping. It looked like a kind of pudding. We had consumed some of the tea and I only felt the edging tendrils of the tea in my head. “This is something I haven’t made in a while,” Henri smiled, “It’s a sort of fruit salad. A lullaby salad. It has tart cherries, pomegranates, and peanuts. There are also bananas as you can see. It’s not very sweet, but I think tastes fine. All of that will help by adding melatonin…” He waved at the small dishes. “Well, the banana converts serotonin into melatonin…” “Meaning it won’t keep us awake,” Peter chuckled, “and help us to go to sleep.” “Precisely,” Henri nodded. “Thank you, Henri,” I said. Whether it was the tea and fruit salad, or the power of suggestion, we both began to feel the heavyweight of the need to sleep. Peter and I made it back to our quarters and collapsed. I slept very hard at first and then woke up a few hours later. Too hard and too fast. We hadn’t even undressed. Groggily, I got up and did that. I was also aware that we were still in port. Day or night didn’t matter, but the Captain had thought the middle of the night wasn’t the best plan. Frankly, I didn’t care what time it was. It was late? It may be early. I crawled back in bed and let sleep come again. When I woke again, I could tell we were moving. After this amount of time; as good as the Duchess was about disguising the subtle rocking motion, you could tell. It was a very gentle motion. I looked over at Peter and was a shock to see Peter had done what I had done. He’d gotten up, undressed and come back to bed. It was no surprise he’d done that. The shock was he’d done it and I didn’t know it. We each normally woke a little when the other got out of bed. The edges of the pulled curtains I could see the sun was up. I was still groggy, but I thought maybe I would until I got on my schedule again. “How are you feeling?” Peter asked me thickly. I was surprised because he hadn’t moved. “I am alive and breathing,” I said. “How are you?” “The same as you,” Peter replied. He rolled over and pulled me closer, “You may not believe me, but I’m glad this is almost over.” I chuckled, “I can understand why you’d doubt I’d believe you after all these months, soon to be years of lies. It’s catching up with you.” “You’d know if I tried to lie!” Peter grinned back. “That’s a good attribute you have,” I said. “I’ll be glad to be home, too.” Peter smiled bigger, “To Makarovia.” “Of course,” I looked at him surprised, “Do you want to see my passport?” “Maybe later,” Peter grinned. “When’s the last time we said I love you?” I was shocked when I realized; I didn’t know! That showed on my face which Peter picked up on immediately. He nodded, “I believe we did, but I can’t remember either. We do it all the time now.” “Believing we have and knowing we did are separate things,” I said irritated. “We usually do at the end of the day…” “Which took a while in coming yesterday,” Peter said. “Do you have any suggestions about what we can do?” “We’ll think of something,” I said confidently. “Except for the last few days, this has been the best honeymoon,” Peter said. I know it was silly, but the old me surfaced again. “As opposed to the other honeymoons you’ve been on?” He didn’t even react to that one, “We’ve been to some great places and made some great friends.” “On and off the Duchess,” I agreed, “I will miss the ones we made until we see them again.” “And you know we will,” Peter stated firmly. “I love you. More than anyone or anything.” “I know,” I smiled, “I love you more than anyone or anything,” Peter nodded, “I know.” Was it just in my head? Maybe, but it felt like two loose pieces clicking together again securely. The emotion was sincere and laid out bare. Peter grinned a bit maliciously, “Now, about that comment you made.” He growled pulling the sheet over us. “I was thinking you were letting it go,” I said. “Not a chance,” Peter growled. You don’t even need to guess what happened next. We got up a few hours later. I senses were just drifting. Looking out the window I saw the high cliffs that I recognized no were the cliffs before entering the Corinth Canal. We were waiting for our turn. I wondered if they gave anything to the frequent passers. Ten passes and we got…say a free meal in Corinth? The bigger ships didn’t use it. It had become a tourist attraction, remember? The big ships including the big cruise ships couldn’t fit. We just barely fit. When we passed each time, I had the feeling I could touch either wall of the canal as we went. We were many feet away, it’s just the false impression I had. I didn’t need to see t again. We entered the galley and saw Henri again. So much time we spent with him, he wasn’t just a chef on the Duchess anymore. He was our friend. It wasn’t pleasant, but I felt the pain again. Grandpa told me to cherish the pain as proof he meant something to us. Henri looked up and smiled, “I hope you slept well.” He wasn’t as flippant as he usually was. I suspected he was feeling what we were. Peter stretched an arm to ease some soreness, “Perhaps too well.” I bumped him lightly. “We just need to get back on a schedule.” Henri smiled, “You two are in college. You don’t have those all-night study sessions?” Peter smirked, “Never him.” “Not even before a big exam?” Henri asked surprised. “No!” I said immediately. “Those things are counterproductive!” “See?” Peter pointed at me. “They cause you to doubt what you know,” I insisted. “If you paid attention in class and took good notes, a simple review is all that’s needed. That and a good night’s rest is all that’s required.” Peter grinned, “And there you go. His grades are good, so who am I to argue?” “Well,” Henri confessed. “Any meal will have to wait until we exit the other side of the canal. Any assistance will be difficult to come and help. No fires in the galley.” “They regulate that?” Peter asked. I wondered how they enforced that. Henri shook his head and pointed up. For a second, I wondered if he pointed to God. “Captain Agius won’t allow it.” I nodded, “Oh.” There was some logic to that…if we were on a wooden ship. The regulation was regulation. “Sooo?” Peter let out trying not to sound sad or disappointed, “no coffee?” Henri nodded, “I can make your coffees.” He waved at his refrigeration unit. “Even a pastry or croissants.” I chuckled, “Just the coffee for me.” “Same here for me,” Peter nodded. Coffees were gotten and sought out others onboard. That was tougher than you think. We didn’t dare to knock on Yuri’s and Boris’s door. They were still on leave; we didn’t want to interrupt anything. We should have known better. I know, there are times I talk about how small the Duchess is and then comment about how big it is. It was small compared to other vessels. When looking for anyone, it became much bigger. When I heard there was a reduced crew I wondered if there would be enough. The Duchess was self-sufficient and extra crew were unnecessary. We had more security agents than the crew. They were asleep. It is fine to be lazy when you weren’t needed. Empty corridors and rooms were making the Duchess seem bigger. In the library we found Boris. Alone. He was looking over a desktop monitor. “Boris!” Peter said happily. “I was beginning to think there was an abandon ship!” Boris looked up and smiled at us, “Nothing like that. You should have tried the Bridge.” “We started at the bottom and were working our way up. That was next,” I looked at Peter, “We should have known that. The Captain would be the one to pilot the Duchess through the canal.” “Yuri’s,” He paused as he considered his words, “infatuated with the Automatic Identification System. He wants to give people a more,” he paused again, “concrete…image.” I nodded with a light laugh, “Yuri is a perfectionist.” “If you don’t mind letting us know,” Peter began as we sat on a sofa. “What are you looking at?” He grinned, “Your webpage.” “Why?” I asked not understanding. “Do you know how many millions have signed up to have you represent them?” Boris asked and then answered his question. “Over ten million now!” He waved at the monitor, “It’s risen since I sat down and first looked.” He shrugged. “It’s a shame Yuri and I can’t sign up. We’re Makarovian.” He pointed again at the monitor, “And not all of them are homosexual!” He pointed specifically at some names. They were the crew of the Duchess. “And,” he pointed again to the names of David Burke, Edmond Hammond, and their wives. There were many of the military assigned to Makarovian that had signed up. I nodded, “I’m not sure that assigning a label to people works anymore,” I said. “You’re kidding,” Peter said in disbelief. I shook my head, “No,” I held my hand up. “Yes, there are preferences…” I waved at the three of us, “obviously. I have never considered having sex with a girl or woman,” I shrugged. “There are those that claim to be straight that will willingly cross and have sex with men.” I shook my head again. “Not because, such as in prisons, the choice is limited. Taking the pressures of religion away or the approval of others those inhibitions sort of just disappear. There are college fraternities that claim to be straight but do it with each other to make money. Many of those guys we lust after in magazines and in porn make more money for doing gay things and are gay for pay.” “Then they aren’t straight!” Peter stated. “Who knows?” I shrugged, “and who cares? I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who have no opinion about it. It’s just sex.” I gave a grudging nod. “Granted we did primarily go to some very liberal countries except Montenegro. Friends I have in the United States couldn’t believe they could ever marry in the United States. We had preachers and a lot of pressures from the churches to keep it taboo.” “Not in Massachusetts!” Peter stated. I held my finger at that, “Which was the first to legalize it statewide. I believe two states voted to grant it statewide and then took it back due to pressures. Hawai’i and California I believe. Slowly, state by state legalized it. South Carolina was surprising but had several large cities that thought it was okay.” “Why did those people against it have so much power?” Peter asked. “Here another proverb,” I smiled, “I don’t believe it is strictly Southern, but…the squeaky wheel gets the grease. They were the most vocal and aggressive.” “I read where that woman claimed the Pope gave his blessing to her,” Boris said.law “Davis? In Kentucky?” I asked to which Boris nodded. “Who is that?” Peter asked. I smiled at him, “She was an authority who refused to give a marriage license to a gay couple even after the law was changed.” “She couldn’t refuse them!” Peter objected. “But she did,” I said smiling. “She claimed it was against God’s Law.” “It is not,” Peter stated back and practically accused me. “You don’t think so either. You were the one that told me of the bias of the times and how the Christian Church used it to manipulate lives to serve them.” I nodded again, “I did! And I still believe that.” “Did the Pope support her?” Peter asked. “According to her, yes,” I said, “according to the Vatican and the Pope himself, he only nodded to her as he passed her.” “She lied?” Peter grinned. I shrugged, “Only she and the Pope know escort bayan that.” I pointed out. “I’m all for forgiving things in the past, but do you see the Pope voicing support to a woman on her fourth marriage and children with some of them? She’s hardly the example to follow morally. She sure as Hell didn’t lead a life to model after.” Boris chuckled, “Her claim to fame was short-lived. She was jailed and suffered lawsuits…” I nodded more in agreement, “And she deserved it. She says he did, he says he didn’t. Who are you going to believe?” Peter nodded relaxing, “I see.” “Now,” I grinned. “I have enjoyed all the people that have embraced us. The situation with the religions will be an ongoing struggle, but the silent majority is speaking up. Thinking is changing. The friends who were surprised finally married after thirty-six years together.” I smiled at the memory. “They were buried side by side as married. Something they only dreamed about.” We entered the canal again and I didn’t want to witness it again. The appeal was gone. It wasn’t a novelty anymore. Peter and I didn’t have to hide while we went through the canal, but the idea of seeing those rock walls of the canal changed my mind. I wasn’t a scaredy-cat…I think. I faced the President, didn’t I? And her homophobic Vice-President. We spent time in the secluded library. “There you are!” Mercea’s voice had the sound of relief as if he’d searched for a looong time and finally found us. Peter grinned at me, “I didn’t know we were lost. Did you?” I shook my head, “Not that I was aware of.” I waved to a nearby sofa. “You can rest easy knowing Peter and I are just fine,” Sitting down, Mercea wasn’t bothered at our slight condescension. “It’s a damned big and empty boat!” Peter nodded, “Sometimes.” He wanted to ask something but was keeping it to seem like a casual inquiry, “Yuri told me you spoke to Mikell yesterday.” I could see he wanted to ask more specifically about something. “How is he?” I was sometimes a little mean just to be funny, but not this time. “Which one?” I asked smiling at him, “Cosmo or Mikell?” Mercea laughed a little nervously and shrugged, “I worry for both of them.” Peter nodded looking up from what he was reading. “Of course, you are.” Cocking his head to the side he said, “Cosmo’s getting better. We hope to talk to him today.” “Mikell is fine, too,” I said calmly. “He’s doing his job, but he wanted to be there for a friend. He was very tired last night.” I smiled at Mercea. “You miss him.” Mercea tried to blow it off, “I miss both of them.” Peter shook his head, “It’s obvious how you feel about Mikell.” I looked over at Peter, “Peter,” I warned, “You shouldn’t force him to say what he hasn’t said.” Peter waved at Mercea, “He is a born and raised Makarovian! Not some closeted guy from the West!” He stated firmly. “It’s so evident with him and Mikell. With where we’ve been and his upbringing, he knows it’s not condemned.” I nodded, “Yes, but you’re dealing with someone very young.” “And?” Peter asked. “There’s more here than hero worship. You were talking just this morning about…” I looked at Mercea’s face, “Yes, but it may be too much for him yet.” Mercea looked very uncertain about what to say. “Mikell is a superior officer.” He admitted weakly. “Are there rules about that?” I asked because I didn’t know. There could be. Mercea shook his head, “No, I don’t worry about that. I just don’t want to ruin what we have, making it awkward.” I looked at Peter, “In other words, he’s not ready to let anyone know.” I turned to face him. “Would you appreciate that?” Peter got a look of indignation, “No one would have dared! I am royalty!” He grinned. I rolled my eyes, “You can a royal pain in the ass.” I looked again at Mercea. “I don’t know what experiences you’ve had.” Mercea blushed, “I’m not a virgin if that’s what you’re asking about.” “Only partially,” I admitted. “Sexual confidence comes at varying speeds.” I began and then laughed. “Some never get there.” I mockingly growled at Peter. “Did it never occur to you to proceed delicately?” Peter looked away, thought a second and then shook his head, “No.” The smile came back on his face. “That’s so…” Now, I thought for a word, “Neanderthalic,” I said in English, “of you.” Peter’s left eye squinted, “Is that a real word?” He asked doubtfully. “What did I make you think about?” I asked. “That I was primitive and extinct,” Peter said. I waved at him, “See? You knew what I said meant. Therefore, yes. I used it, you understood it; so of course, it’s a real word!” Peter gave me a shrugging nod, “Okay!” I spoke confidentially. “I couldn’t think of the word for Neandertal in Makarovian.” “Perhaps we say Neandertal?” Confronted with truths Mercea wasn’t certain what to do next. “I’ve had…five people in my life,” He confessed and grinned. “I’m not a slut, but…three were male and two female.” Nodding, I went on, “All were consensual.” That was needless to say. Nothing in his personality said he wasn’t anything about him was dishonest. “Those in you’re past are in the past?” Mercea chuckled, “It would have been unfair,” he shrugged. “When I was told this job would involve a lot of travel…it wouldn’t be fair to have them wait until I came back.” “That was a wise decision,” I nodded. “For them and you.” I pondered about his affection for Mikell. “Is there something different about Mikell?” Mercea blushed again, “Well, yeah.” He shrugged. “He would be the oldest person I became involved with.” I blurted out a loud chuckle, “Okay.” I scratched the back of my head, “When you speak to Mikell…you may want to leave that out on any list of his attributes.” Mercea didn’t seem to know the problem and looked at Peter and then me. “He’s fifteen to sixteen years older than me.” “So, what?” I asked. “You aren’t scared of Mikell, are you?” Mercea looked away, but he nodded, “What if doesn’t feel the same way?” “Here’s something else you might consider,” Peter said. “What if he does?” “He might not!” Mercea argued and got up, not to pace, but now was looking over a painting. “And there’s where it will remain until you speak to him,” I said. I turned to Peter, “It’s a problem for some Makarovians.” “I told you,” Peter insisted, “I was sending the signals!” “In Mandarin Chinese!?” I asked. “We’re married,” Peter shrugged. “It worked!” I rolled my eyes at that and turned back to Mercea, “Are there emotions involved?” Mercea looked back and touched his chest, “I have never felt it before, but yes. There are emotions involved. For me.” I nodded, “I fell in love with Makarovia.” I saw Mercea’s smile was warm at hearing that. “I’ll tell you why. I told this to Peter and don’t you become offended. The isolation from the world as created and has a sense of innocence with the people.” “Innocence?” Mercea asked. “That’s right,” I nodded, “And that’s a good thing.” I smiled. “You almost child-like innocence. I can honestly say I haven’t met a single Makarovian that wasn’t kind or just nasty.” “Tell him what you said to Boris,” Peter then did it for me. “He doesn’t believe in regular people and us.” I looked upward for patience, “But, you and Mikell are human. You both have feelings. I hope this isn’t just because he gives you an erection.” “No!” Mercea blurted quickly and then gave a shrugging nod. “Well, he does that often enough just standing there, but that’s not why.” I chuckled at that and looked over at Peter, “I know what you’re talking about.” I muttered and turned back to Mercea. “In the United States and many of the powers in the West, the close relationship with others in the work-force can jeopardize efficiency. Judgment will suffer as the focus is taken away from the job!” Mercea nodded, “As my attention would be taken away from you to Mikell.” I gave a wobbling nod, “Or; we draw strength from it! Like they did in Greece!” I stated happily. “And my love of Greece is only outshined by my love of Makarovia!” Peter chuckled and returned his attention to what he was reading. “And here he goes again.” “Why shouldn’t I?” I asked loudly and returned the volume to normal. “I researched and I believe we’re born what we are. I don’t believe it’s genetic, but it’s a chemical reaction to enzymes and other chemicals that cause parts of the brain to develop when we’re carried by our mothers.” Mercea’s eyebrows wrinkled, “Sooo, we ‘re the product of what our mothers made us?” “Not exactly. That would be too simple and easy,” I answered. “Human sexuality is too complex for that explanation. I’ve seen studies done on gay rams. “Rams?” Mercea repeated, “As in sheep?” He sought confirmation that I had said what he thought I said. I grimaced, “I’m not talking about the pickup truck or team mascot, either.” I’d been to the various websites I knew where to go. “At first there were only a few University studies done.” I pointed one out at Cambridge University in England. They included scans of various sheep. Ewe’s and Ram’s both gay and straight brains. “The Hypothalamus of these two shows this one,” I pointed to the screen, “is twice the size of this Ewes.” I pointed to another scan. “This scan is of a gay ram.” “Those two…the ewe and gay ram,” Mercea pointed at the image. “things are the same size!” His finger wavered at the screen. “That’s right!” “Can adding the hormones or enzymes correct it?” Mercea asked. I shook my head, “No.” I quickly got to the Webpage for the University of Oregon. “This where Dr. Larkin of Oregon and Dr. LeVay collaborated with Dr. Baltazhart from Belgium. Studies let us see what had happened. Did it cause our sexuality? I have to say yes.” I leaned forward. “However!!” Mercea was now smiling. Not because of what I was saying, but how I said it. “We have moved far beyond instinct to mate to continue the species,” I said. “The time year doesn’t matter.” “Speak for yourself,” Peter muttered, still holding the tablet up. “My point is,” I sighed. “The instinctive drive to reproduce has been shifted from driver’s seat in front and put it in the trunk.” “Was that a Southern Proverb?” Peter asked. “If you want to claim it to be,” I said. “By the time we’re born we’re pretty hardwired.” Mercea nodded, waiting for me to say. “How do you explain me?” “I say,” I pointed in Mercea’s direction, “You are proof of the Kinsey Scale.” As it was never really offered in Makarovia: he wouldn’t know. “There is a test that, when completed, will put you on that scale from zero to six.” “Almost everyone falls somewhere in between,” Peter said lowering the tablet. “Very few make the very top or the bottom of the scale.” He laughed at his wit. I resolved to just keep going. He did have his moments. “Now, you,” I waved at Peter, are like him, “I think.” I looked at Mercea’s attempt not to smile more. “You didn’t get locked away from others for a decade, did you?” Peter attempted to clear needless phlegm from his throat, “Which you got me seen about and helped me get rid of.” I moved slightly back and thought out loud. “Was that a locative preposition?” I shook my head. “I hated this in Ukrainian. I’m not that happy about it being in Makarovian.” The rules for the parts of speech. Nouns, verbs and all that. Articles! The tree, a trip, and other things that described what has happened in the past, present or will happen. Don’t you get tired of all these sidebars? I get tired of doing them. So, pay attention so I don’t have to repeat myself! That means no scratching the head and no “huh” at the end. “You were raised where there was no stigma attached,” I shook a finger at him. “I am so jealous!” I waved with both hands off the Duchess. “It was a Rite of Passage here!” I did it again. Stopping and held my finger up. “My problem would have been at the end.” I touched my chest over my heart. “I am never giving Peter up.” Peter smiled compassionately at me, “I won’t either.” “So,” Mercea began, “How will we know?” He pounded his chest once. I got the impression of a gorilla. Be it gorilla or guerrilla as in warfare. They were pretty much the same. “Do you think it’s better in Makarovia than the West?” It pleased me that he didn’t give a short answer but thought about it. “I can’t say.” He shrugged. “I never have been there.” I chuckled, “This next year I might ask that question again. What Makarovia has more than anything else is plain Common Sense.” I shrugged. “My Grandfather said there needed to be another name for it because of it sure as Hell is not common!” Now, Mercea laughing even more, “We were warned about you.” I felt a single eyebrow raise on my left side. “Warned?” I had to out more this before getting offended. Mercea nodded, “Yuri said working from Boston he bit many times to keep from laughing.” The left eyebrow went to a normal position and then narrowed, “He did?” “Just two or three days ago,” Mercea stated matter-of-factly. I’d deal with him later. I paused to think a second, “Where were we?” The title and subject came rushing back, “Oh, that’s one elsewhere.” I looked at Mercea and shook my head. “I always wondered how a society like Makarovia could develop. No pressures socially for anyone to conform. I should say that on the whole. Makarovia is wwaaay ahead of everybody when it comes to Human Nature. We are born for certain tasks. We breathe in the air our noses and mouths. We will grow larger by consuming food, and we have organs to help with that so we can grow!” I laughed and pointed at Peter, “His family shocked the Hell of me!” I cocked my head at Mercea. Did you jerk off?” Okay, I still had a lot to learn in Makarovian. What I said was masturbatuysja. Mercea’s face looked confused, not even a second later and said, “Oh!!” He pointed at me, “You meant perekynuty!” My eyes widened and growled. Just a little one, “You’re asking me!?” I asked exasperated. “If I knew what the word was,I wouldn’t have to ask.” I looked at Peter. “Is it? We’ve both used it!” Peter nodded. “They mean the same thing.” “Why?” “Oh,” Peter began raising a finger, “There’s jerk off,” he raised another finger, “toss off,” he progressed to another, “wank,” he raised another, “another personal favorite is spank-the-monkey and has nothing to do with a primate other than oneself and no slapping involved…” he stopped and looked at me, “Is there?” I waved at him as if I could clear the air of his confusing ramble. “The first one seems to need a degree to even try,” Mercea chuckled. “I’ve done it since…” he thought and had to think. He grinned, “I was little then…” “That’s impossible to visualize,” Peter muttered, putting the tablet up again. I nodded quickly, “Originally, I was so embarrassed when I found out King Olek knew because Peter told him.” I reached over the small distance, “And, then!!” Mercea was now laughing even harder. “I find out King Olek never stopped…until recently.” Mercea was now confused, “Why? He’s male.” “Yes!” I nodded. “And there’s the common sense! In the West, in the United States, the idea of their baby is a sexual being many parents are too worried will happen too soon.” I held my fingers close to my head wiggled them around. “All arguments about nature versus nurture come to play with all your hard programming. You never had that!” Mercea looked even more confused, “Someone has to tell the next generation.” I nodded again, “That’s right.” I threw my hands out helplessly. “There are many who enter a marriage that had no clue as to what is supposed to happen.” I sat closer a little. “I know the night I kissed Peter the first time, I was scared I would lose him as a friend.” I waggled my left ring finger. “Just be patient.” “As we will,” Peter grinned. I shook my head. “Oh, no, I’m not dying. I plan to live forever.” I took his hand. “If you agree to do it with me.” Peter smiled leaning in, “Why not?” He kissed me.