Still Life

Mikas is a bit frustrated with his art professor.  This scene appears in my NaNo and was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

b1dab9d59c0b1a900542e682476e0522Mikas couldn’t help but grumble softly to himself as he piled the books and then set out the bottles near the window.  It was maddening to him that the professor insisted that he learn the basics when he already knew how to do so much more.  It would have been one thing if he’d been utterly self-taught and was making mistakes as a result.  Then, he would understand the need to draw objects and focus on shapes and shading and highlights and all the other innate lessons that he was being forced to go through.

However, Mikas knew how to draw, at least on some level.  His alter, Lukas, had taken art classes.  The memories were there and the knowledge was there.  Once he relaxed, the skill was even there.  The only reason that he was taking the classes at all was to bring the knowledge to the front of his mind, so that it wasn’t buried somewhere in his subconscious.  There was also the fact that he couldn’t take more advanced classes until he pushed through these basic ones.  They wouldn’t believe him when he said that, in a way, he was Lukas Grigoravicius.

So, here he was, being forced to gather whatever objects he could to form a scene to draw.  He already knew what would happen.  He would bring the completed piece back to his professor who would say the same thing he had about everything else Mikas had drawn for class.  He had the mechanics – the techniques – now, but there was no feeling – no excitement – in the piece.

“How does he expect me to get excited about drawing bowls of fruit or bottles and books?” he grumbled.  That argument had fallen on deaf ears from the beginning.  He gave up.  If the man wanted feeling and excitement, Mikas would give him what he wanted.  He put every ounce of anger and frustration he felt into drawing the little scene that he’d created.

When he finished, he stepped back to frown at the drawing.  He sighed when Vin stepped up beside him and drew him into an embrace.  “What do you think?” he murmured.  “Will it be ‘dynamic’ enough for the ever-so-perfect art professor?”

“Can’t speak for him,” Vin murmured.  Then, he shook as a silent chuckle swept through him.  “I will say, this, though: this drawing says one thing to me.”

“What’s that?” Mikas asked, glancing over his shoulder.

Vin smiled.  “You’d cheerfully bash him over the head with one of them bottles,” he said, nodding towards the scene.

“Then, you’re feeling the anger,” Mikas said, smirking.  “Good.”  Hopefully, his professor would feel it too.  “I can’t wait until we move on to some real artwork.  I hate drawing these… still lifes.  I’m just glad we’ve graduated beyond, ‘Draw your hand’ or ‘Draw that chair’.”

“Some people draw still lifes their whole career, you know?” Vin said, nodding.

Mikas shrugged.  “Some people paint landscapes for their whole careers too,” he added.  “Others focus on portraits.  That’s fine – because that’s their choice.  That’s not some professor telling them that they have ‘walk before they run.’”  He shook his head.  “I’ve been running for far too long to go back to walking and be content at that pace.”

“Sometimes,” Vin said, “it’s nice to slow down a bit and enjoy a leisurely walk.”  Then, Vin kissed him on the brow and headed into the other room, mumbling something about coffee.

Mikas sighed when he couldn’t find an argument against Vin’s statement.  Perhaps he had been running for too long.  Wasn’t that why he’d begun taking art classes in the first place?  After a moment, he said, “But I don’t want to walk!”  He rolled his eyes when laughter echoed from the next room.

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Coming Home

Two little scenes that fit the word prompt: Snuggle from WriYe DreamWidth.  My agents have returned home from a case that took them to Veligrad.  For Mikas and Ilya it was difficult because they’d once lived in Veligrad, so that was “home” – not it isn’t, which they realize as they’re leaving and Mikas says that he can’t wait to get home.

**

Ilya had never felt better about walking through the door of the little cottage he shared with Felicja than he did that day.  It hadn’t even been a difficult case.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  He’d barely been gone for a day.  However, somehow having been in Veligrad again had been more draining than the visit to Frankonia had been.

He set his bag down just inside the entryway and glanced around.  “I’m home,” he called, his voice soft.  He smiled when he heard Felicja call to him from somewhere else in the house.  The children, of course, would be at school during the day.

Leaving his bag, he headed through to the sitting room and then into the kitchen.  Felicja was standing at the stove, stirring a pot.  Sighing, Ilya stepped up to wrap his arms around her.  He smiled when he felt their child stir inside her under his hand.  “I missed you,” he breathed.

“You weren’t gone for very long,” Felicja said.  She chuckled as he nuzzled against her cheek.  In a softer voice, she added, “I missed you too, though.  Maybe it’s because you’d gone to Veligrad.”

“Maybe,” Ilya said.  He looked over her shoulder into the pot and smiled.  He could tell immediately what she was cooking, by the aroma and the sight of the cabbage and other vegetables in the broth.  “Cabbage soup?”

Felicja nodded.  “There’s a chill in the air,” she said.  She glanced outside through the window and shrugged.  “I think we might get snow tonight.  Anyway, it seemed to be a good night for soup and this is what the kids wanted.”

Ilya kissed her cheek once before stepping back to give her space.  It was nice to be home.

**

Mikas felt a little odd as he returned to his apartment in Andrien’s home.  Somehow, it felt wrong to be going home to an empty apartment when what he really wanted to do was to go home to Vin.  He hesitated as he reached his door.  Then, he looked at his watch.  It wasn’t so late yet.  Would he be intruding if he went to see Vin right then?

He shook his head and then headed into his apartment.  He paused long enough to drop off his bag.  Then, he was heading out once again.  In less than half an hour, he was making his way down the corridor of the agency dormitory where Vin lived.  When he reached the door, he closed his eyes and rapped on the smooth wood with his knuckles.

“Hey, Darling,” Vin said, as soon as he opened the door.

Mikas opened his eyes and gave Vin a weak smile.  “Hey,” he said, his voice soft.  He followed Vin into the room and then turned to face him as Vin closed the door.  He shrugged.  “I didn’t want to be alone.”

“Was it tough… being back in Veligrad again?” Vin asked, catching his hand.  He drew Mikas over to the couch and settled down.

Mikas sat down close beside him and then leaned his head on Vin’s shoulder.  “It was… strange,” he said, his voice soft.  “That’s not home anymore.  Obria is… with you.”  He sighed as Vin pressed a kiss to his forehead.

Tokens

This little scene from my current NaNo was inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth: book

**

Mikas settled in a corner of the cabin with his knees drawn up to his chest.  Most of the others were relaxing as well.  Jefferson and Samantha were playing chest.  Cedar was playing cards with Andrien and Lark, while Brook watched over his charge.  Ilya was busily crocheting.  He’d finished the head of his little cat and had moved on to the body.  To Mikas, it looked more like a fox than a cat, but he wasn’t going to say that to his cousin.  Ilya was too pleased with his work for Mikas to say anything that might upset him.

Mikas was holding a battered old book in his lap.  It had been a gift from Sergei near the end of their relationship.  It was a piece of historical fiction set hundreds of years ago, when his homeland had been strong and independent.  Although Sergei had always called him by the name the Veligradians had given him, he’d also always acknowledged that Mikas wasn’t truly Veligradian.  He’d been one of the few who did.

He wondered if Sergei realized he’d kept that book – that final gift.  One part of him doubted it.  After all, Mikas had ended the relationship only a few weeks later.  More than likely, Sergei thought it was something he’d done or said – that Mikas had left in anger.  However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“Why’d you break it off with him?” Ilya asked, breaking into Mikas’s thoughts.  His brows furrowed.  “That book… it’s one of the few things that you brought with you when you left and… he gave it to you.  Right?”

Mikas nodded.  He flipped open the cover.  It had an inscription written in Veligradian.  It was just two words.  “Love, always,” he read.  Then, he shook his head.  He looked up at Ilya and shrugged.  “It scared me.  I was… twenty-two years old and he was thirty-four and he gave me this book and said that he would always love me and… that terrified me.”

Ilya’s brows furrowed.  “I was married when I was just nineteen, Mikas,” he said.  He shrugged.  “Sometimes, the heart just knows.”

Mikas nodded.  “For years, I wondered if I’d made a mistake in breaking up with him,” he said.  Then, he smiled and looked over at Ilya.  “Then, I met Vin and… the idea of loving this person for always wasn’t scary.”

“Then, I’d say, you didn’t make a mistake,” Ilya said.  He patted Mikas on the hand and then turned his attention back to his crochet.  “What will you do with the book?”

“It’s past time that I gave it back,” Mikas said.  Then, he snapped the cover closed and tucked it back into his bag.  The question was: would there be a good moment to make it clear to Sergei that he’d truly moved on?  Perhaps he’d be lucky and Sergei would laugh to think he still had the battered old book.  Somehow, though, he doubted that he could be so fortunate.

Oh, what fun!

My except from the Week of November 9-15. This was written during the all-night write-in on Saturday.

**

Mikas shook his head and then looked at Cedar. “In all seriousness, though, he’s not the sort of man it would be wise to cross.” His brows furrowed. “He pretends to be easy-going, even a bit flaky. You know, not the brightest crayon in the box, that sort?”

“Just the opposite?” Cedar said, nodding.

“Exactly.” He was shaking his head. “It was actually kind of annoying, sometimes. He’d decide that someone was dispensable because they had made him angry and he’d have me take them out.”

“Sounds like a real charmer,” River said, his voice soft. He was looking over the printed sheet of information that they had on the case. “According to what they’ve told us, the explosives may have come from the construction site. However, their findings, thus far, have been inconclusive.”

“Not surprising,” Jefferson said, rolling his eyes. “I mean, Veligrad is a dusty little backwater. Isn’t it?”

“That dusty little backwater was my home for over thirty years,” Ilya reminded him, archly. He glanced over at Mikas and then shrugged. “I suppose that calling such a place home is better than not having a place to call home.”

“I’d rather be homeless than be called a Veligradian,” Mikas said, shaking his head. “They invaded my home, you’ll recall.”

“Do you need a hug?” Jefferson asked. Mikas rolled his eyes and blew a raspberry, which earned gales of laughter from the Anglian.

“Can we please be just a little bit serious?” Cedar asked. He frowned and shook his head. “I know that is difficult for thee, but this is not thy playtime, Hatter.”

“Oh, no,” Jefferson said, pretending fear. “He’s brought out his moorish parlance. Now, I’m in trouble. Aren’t I?”

Cedar’s eyes went flinty and he looked over at Lark. “The old Hatter grates on the nerves, Lark. I don’t know which is worse.” Her laughter was evanescent and he shook his head in despair. “You’ve created a monster, Lark. This isn’t cause for laughter.”

“Relax, Cedar,” Ilya said, shaking his head. “We’ll become more serious when we get to Veligrad – when we’re at the scene.”

“He’s right,” Samantha said, nodding. “Right now, there’s nothing else we can do, except loaf around and watch the aquatic animals through the portholes.”

Let Him Eat Cake

Here is a little scene that I wrote in response to a prompt (word: Cake) from the WriYe DreamWidth – it precedes “A Snap Decision” in my November NaNovel.

**

Mikas trailed along behind Andrien as they moved through the room.  It was like a repeat of their practice case.  Was it really only a week ago that they’d failed so miserably to work as a cohesive unit?  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  In spite of their performance in Frankonia, they had to do another practice mission.  He didn’t know who’d made the decision, but when he found out, there would be words.

“This is so foolish,” he murmured, as he scanned the room for their target.  “Haven’t we already proved ourselves?  We caught a killer, for Heaven’s sake.”

“Chief Rail didn’t feel that was sufficient,” Andrien said.  Then, he nodded towards Angie Hogancamp.  The woman still had her bag tucked under one arm.  Ilya had an identical bag, just as he had on that night one week before.

“Cake?” a familiar voice said.

Mikas looked up and hid a smile as he saw Jefferson stooping to offer a slice of cake to Andrien.  As the nobleman took the cake, with words of delight, Mikas snatched it away from him.  “You’re on a diet,” he said, his tone firm.

Andrien, very much on cue, tried to snatch it back.  In the process, he knocked into Jefferson, who fell back and dumped the entire tray of cake slices onto Miss Angie Hogancamp.  “Oh, my,” Andrien said.  He swept in, ever the gentleman and began trying to help the woman clean herself up.  The first thing he did was take her bag, of course.

While he handed her napkins and kept her thoroughly distracted, he slipped the bag to Mikas, who slipped it to Ilya.  Taking the other bag, he waited patiently while Andrien drove Hogancamp into a tizzy with his insistence on “helping” her.

“That will do,” she said, finally.  She glared at Mikas, as if to say that the entire thing was his fault, before she snatched the bag from his hands.  “You’ll hear from my drycleaner, Lord Andrien,” she added.  Then, she turned and swept out of the room.

Mikas hid a smile and then looked at Andrien.  “Cake,” he said.  “It’s so much more… distracting than champagne.”

“Indeed,” Andrien said, as he munch happily on the only slice that had survived the incident.

They didn’t get to hear how things had turned out until they could leave without raising any kind of alarm.  However, their first stop was the office.  Mikas only had to see the pleased smile on Cedar’s face and hear Ilya’s laughter to know that everything had turned out as planned.

“That was a good lark,” Jefferson said, shaking his head.  “I didn’t even mind having to play a waiter.”

“You should have seen the look on her face,” Cedar said, as he turned to Andrien.  He chuckled and shook his head.  “She was like, ‘Your team still has so much to learn’ and showed Engus the bag.”

“Open it,” Ilya said, smirking.  He nodded and added, “That’s what Cedar said and… when she opened it and here’s this note from Lark, ‘Thank you for the bag’.”  He broke off with a chuckle and shook his head.

“Then, Ilya held up her bag and smiled at Rail,” Torin said, nodding.  He looked at Cedar and said, “I thought that the chief might kiss you then.”

“He leaves that for his niece to do,” Cedar said.  He chuckled and waved them off.  “Go home.  I’ll see you all tomorrow.  Great work, people.”  It was, over all, a great way to end a case.

A Thing with Feathers

This story was inspired by a word prompt (wing) over at the WriYe DreamWidth.  It’s a really great resource for prompts, if you are looking to write and not sure where to start.

**

Mikas stood on the front porch and closed his eyes.  He could hear the wind rustling the leaves in the trees.  He could hear birds singing in the trees.  It was a quiet, peaceful morning.  Then, he heard something that seemed out of place.

He opened his eyes and frowned.  There was an insistent peeping, like a baby bird calling for its mother.  He glanced around for a moment before he found it.  There was a small bird, fledged, by the looks of it, but young.  He stepped down from the porch and slowly made his way over to the young bird.

Evan as he moved ever closer to the little bird, Mikas kept expecting it to fly.  However, it stayed where it was, chirping loudly to call its mother.  He stopped when he was only a foot away and crouched in the grass.  Now that he was close to it, he could see that the little bird had hurt its wing.  He hesitated for a moment.  Then, he hurried back into the house.

When he returned, he sighed in relief.  The little bird was still where he’d seen it.  It was still chirping and it still apparently injured.  He spoke gently to the bird as he gently lifted it out of the grass.  He settled it into the box he’d found and covered the box with a towel.  After a few moments, it quieted.  Now, the question was: what to do with it?

Many things went through his mind.  Babies needed to be kept warm and he knew that its parents might still be nearby somewhere.  He set the box down on the warm paving stones and eased the towel back just enough for there to be light.  Then he stepped back, out of sight of the bird.  Several moments of silence passed before the little bird began chirping again.

Mikas smiled faintly as another bird flew over to the box.  He watched as the bird flew back and forth, bringing food to its fledgling chick.  As the sun was setting, the young bird hopped to the lip of the box beside its parent.  Its wing was held correctly now.  Mikas sighed in relief.  It must have just been sore and needed some time to recover.

As the pair of birds flew to the nearby tree, he stood and retrieved the box.  “Be well, little birds,” he called.  Then, he headed inside.

A Different Kind of Dance

Here’s another little piece for my upcoming NaNo.  I like how these are turning out and I can hardly wait for NaNo!  It was inspired by a word prompt over at the WriYe DreamWidth: dance.

**

Mikas sat back to watch the other agents examine the crime scene.  He was there for one reason.  His gaze went to Andrien, who was frowning down at the place where the body had lain until only a few moments before.  Ilya was already looking for witnesses.  River was making sketches of things, while Carpenter took pictures.  Each person knew their role and they performed their given tasks without interfering with each other.

He glanced over at Cedar.  He could tell that the agent was deep in thought.  One arm was held close over his chest, his hand resting in the crook of the other arm while he rubbed at his nose.  Mikas frowned.  “Does any of this make sense to you?” he asked, his voice soft.

“Any of what?” Cedar asked.  He blinked and turned to Mikas.  “What they’re doing or what the killer is doing?”

“The killer,” Mikas said.  He grimaced and shook his head.  It wasn’t that he was squeamish about death.  He had been an assassin.  He knew how it felt to take a life.  As far as the others knew, he’d only ever killed indirectly.  He had no intention of changing that any time soon.  However, there was a difference in what he’d done and this.

He shook his head, his gaze going back to Andrien.  “Causing such… pain and fear in a person,” he said, his voice strained.  He took a shaky breath and moved to his feet.  He realized that he’d begun trembling and wrapped his arms around himself to still the movement.  “And the killer… he enjoyed that in the victim.”

“Very likely,” Cedar murmured.  He stepped closer to Mikas and, speaking in a soft voice, he said, “For some people – the people we’re tasked with finding and stopping, particularly – it’s all a game: stalking their prey, toying with them, until they finally finish with them.”

“It’s… like a dance,” Mikas said, frowning.  He glanced over at Cedar.  “Only… they’re the ones that know the steps and their victim is just stuck following them.”

“Then, we come in after the dance is over and see if we can figure out the steps,” Cedar said.  He nodded.  “Intrigue could be compared to dancing too, but this… this is manipulation: forcing someone else to dance to your own tune.”

“How are we going to stop them, if we don’t know why they do it?” Mikas asked.  He wasn’t sure why he’d included himself in the mix.  He was there only to protect Andrien.  He was no investigator.

“They always make mistakes, Mikas,” Cedar said.  He patted Mikas on the shoulder and added, “That’s how we’ll find them.  We look for the imperfections in their dance.”

Cedar felt certain that they would succeed.  Mikas nodded slightly and looked out at the crashing waves beyond the crime scene.  He felt small and helpless compared to the ocean.  Perhaps, that was why the killer had chosen the beach as the place where he would commit his horrible crime.  Perhaps he felt that way too and, by killing people, he could prove – if only to himself – that he wasn’t small or helpless.  He had the power to take the life of an innocent person.

“I think I prefer my dances in crowded clubs with pounding music,” he murmured.  A tight smile touched his lips when Cedar agreed.

Childhood Dreams

This story was inspired by a picture prompt over at WriYe DreamWidth.

APTOPIX WEATHER NYC

Mikas sighed softly as he listened to the hum of the cicadas. It was so hot and sticky that it was hard to want to do anything. It was the sleepy sort of weather that would have been worse in the city. He pulled his dark hair back from his face and tied it with a piece of string. At least that would get it off his neck.

“What do you do in this heat?” he asked, glancing over at Wolfgang.

Shrugging, Wolfgang said, “Find a river to jump into?” He adjusted his glasses and sighed. “Not much else you can do, unless it rains and the heat breaks.”

Shaking his head, Mikas dropped into a chair on the porch. “When Ilya and I were boys,” he said, “I visited him one summer and it was oppressive.” He glanced over at Wolfgang. “There was no river to jump into, not in Stralsund.”

“What did you do, then?” Wolfgang asked, shaking his head. He laughed and looked off towards the horizon. “I can’t see a couple young boys sitting down with a refreshing glass of lemonade.”

“We’d break into a fire hydrant,” Mikas said, chuckling. He looked up at the cloudless sky and said, “We’d make it rain in a different way.” While he smiled at the memory, Wolfgang laughed. Whatever he said was lost to Mikas as he remembered that summer with his cousin. They’d both been young – innocent. Neither of them could have imagined what their future would hold.

“I wish I could be that young again, sometimes,” Wolfgang said, still sounding amused.

Mikas nodded. “Me too,” he said, his voice faint.

In Order to Live

The Genre Stretch challenge for this month was “Occupational Fiction”.  There’s no romance in this story, but it’s definitely about someone’s job.

**

Mikas could hear his blood pounding in his ears as he made his way through the streets of Stralsund.  This would probably be the last time he would take an assignment like this one.  A part of him was terrified at the prospect of what he was about to do.  Another, larger, part of him knew that this was the only way he could be assured that it was done.

He found the building where he had arranged the meeting and glanced back across the square.  Already, a crowd was gathering to hear the speech the president of Veligrad would give.  Some people were saying that he would finally grant Leituva their independence.  Others said that, if he did that, there would be one of two things that would follow: his deposition by Veligradian Intelligence or the secession of many of the Veligradian states.

He knew the truth of the matter.  Petrov would never allow the president to give Leituva their independence.  He would see to it that the president wasn’t simply taken out of office.  The man wouldn’t survive to the end of the week.  Speaking those words would be like signing his own death warrant.  That was why he was in Veligrad.

He took a steadying breath and then headed inside.  He made his way to the room, where he would wait for Petrov.  How many times had he done this in the past?  He couldn’t even remember the answer to that question.  Yet, somehow, this time was different.

By the time that Mikas had reached the roof, the crowd in the square had swollen to amazing size.  He couldn’t think of the last time that such a crowd had gathered in a public place.  Under the government, such gatherings had been forbidden.  The current president had reversed that policy.

He stepped across the roof, towards the ledge.  He glanced downward.  There was no one on the sidewalk below.  The president would make his speech on the other side of the square.  Everyone was there, crowded as close as possible, to hear his every word.  He heard the roof access door open and turned around.

“Director Petrov,” he said, his voice soft.

The taller man stepped away from the access door with a cold smile on his lips.  “Good day to you, little one,” he said, as he moved slowly towards Mikas.  “I could hardly believe your note.  Would you truly turn yourself in?”

Mikas shrugged.  “I can’t keep running away,” he said, frowning slightly.  He glanced out towards the square.  “This place… it was my home.  I miss it terribly.”  When he turned back to Petrov, the man was only a few feet from him.  “You didn’t bring any guards to make the arrest of a traitor like me, sir?”

“I’m not going to arrest you, Mikas,” Petrov said, his voice soft.  His eyes sparkled with something that Mikas didn’t dare name.  “No, you will return to my house and no one will ever see you again.”

Field of Dreams

I wrote this late yesterday, but I wasn’t able to post it until now.  It’s based on a photo prompt from WriYe DreamWidth.

**

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Wolfgang sat in the middle of the field, has gaze on the swaying lavender. He’d never seen – or smelled – anything like it. When he’d first arrived, he wondered about it. Why would anyone plant so much lavender? It wasn’t as though it was a grain that you could make bread out of. He wasn’t sure you could really eat it at all. He knew you could make tea out of it.

Then, he’d set the chair out in the field and it didn’t matter anymore why they grew so much lavender. He inhaled the sweet fragrance and closed his eyes. For the first time in what seemed like years, his head didn’t hurt – not even a bit.

“Wolfie,” a voice called.

Sighing, Wolfgang opened his eyes and gave Mikas a crooked smile. “Hey,” he said, standing. He hurried through the swaying lavender until he was beside the smaller man. “What’s up?”

“Your brother was looking for you,” Mikas said, rolling his eyes. He shook his head. “Something about missing ducks.”

Wolfgang grimaced and then started inside.

Mikas fell into step beside him, easily keeping pace in spite of his smaller stature. “Aren’t you going to put the chair back where you found it?” he asked.

“I’m probably going to need it again,” Wolfgang said, shrugging. Depending on how things went with Gilbert, he might need to sleep out in the field of lavender.

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