Friday Flash Fics — Tiwaz

I almost managed to keep my Friday Flash Fics piece to the 500 word count limit this week. It likely won’t happen again. The fellow with the blond highlights made me think of Justin, who’ll be appearing in “A Little Village Magic” (a novelette in Of Echoes Born), which makes the fellow on the bench Gabe.

Flash Friday


Gabe watched the water in the fountain, content in the sunlight. It was a cool day, but with the sunlight, his thick cardigan, and a particular black scarf, he was warm enough.

He pulled out a small notepad, and the fountain pen he carried pretty much everywhere, and let his mind wander. The water in the fountain splashed evenly, though now and then a breeze would sent a shiver through the spray. It almost looked like Tiwaz.

He smiled. And there it was.

It only took three strokes of his pen on the paper—Tiwaz was more or less an arrow pointing upwards—but the Futhark rune symbolized order, law, and justice. It referenced Tyr, a god.

Each stroke of the pen on the page felt heavy to Gabe. He fought against the pressure with something almost like habit now, knowing it was possible, knowing he’d be able to take a breath once he was done, and knowing the fatigue that followed would be momentary.

At the release, he inhaled, closing his eyes for a second, then looked at the Tiwaz.

To his gaze, it shimmered as though the air above the three dark lines were hot.

He carefully tore the page free along the perforations. The notepad bound together a heavier weight of paper than usual, and the perforations made it possible to pull a page free without tearing it. The little square of white with the Tiwaz came free, and Gabe looked around the park, considering.

He had the place more or less to himself, but he followed his gut and got up long enough to cross to the other side of the fountain and left the little piece of paper on an opposing bench before he returned to where he came from to sit and wait.

A little while later, the handsome blond figure of Justin approached. He passed the other bench without seeing the little note, too busy smiling at Gabe to notice a piece of litter.

“Hello, mister,” Justin said. They didn’t have the park to themselves any more. A mother with a stroller was near the fountain, the baby cooing at the splashing water, but after a quick glance around, there didn’t seem to be any reason to worry, so when Justin sat on the bench and leaned in for a kiss, Gabe let it linger.

“Hello yourself,” Gabe said. “How’d it go?”

“The Pride Committee hired us. JMC will be handling the outreach and social media and marketing.” He grinned. “Sorry if I’m a bit late.”

Gabe shook his head. “It’s a nice day. Congratulations, you guys are gonna smash it.”

“Thank you.”

Near the fountain, the woman’s phone rang. She answered it, and after a few long seconds, she said, “You know I can’t afford that. You know that’s not an option. Why are you being so unfair?”

They both watched her aim the stroller away and started crossing the park, only to stop at the bench as though something caught her attention.

“No, I’m not being unreasonable,” she said. “This isn’t what we agreed to.”

Gabe watched her pick up the small piece of paper. Even across the park, he could feel it release.

“You okay?” Justin said.

Gabe smiled. “Just fine. Wanna get lunch?”



“You think she’ll be okay?” Justin said. He was just as much a people watcher as Gabe was.

Order. Law. Justice.

“I think so,” Gabe said, and kept his eyes open for any runes on the way back to the Village.


Friday Flash Fics — Body Positive

This week’s shot made me think of the gym/spa in my fictional version of the Village. Fiona from Handmade Holidays works there, as does Aiden from “Heart” (which will be one of the reprints in Of Echoes Born). Today we meet a co-worker of theirs, Rodrigo, and a new client, Morgan, who will make his appearance in Saving the Date, coming soon.

Oh, and here’s the image which is definitely inspiring. Thank you, Friday Flash Fics.

Flash Friday

Body Positive

“Hey, since you’re not really doing anything, could I take this machine?”

“Oh. Uh. I guess? Sorry.”

Rodrigo frowned, and glanced over to where he’d overheard the conversation. Normally, he had earbuds in and couldn’t hear anything else going on at Body Positive—it was the only way he got his workout in without distraction before a shift—but yesterday Cinza had noticed one of the earbuds hanging out of his bag, and after a successful and no doubt thrilling hunt, had delivered the chewed-up piece of plastic to the bottom of his bed, where he’d found it this morning.

He loved his cat. She’d stared at him, so very proud of her accomplishment, that he couldn’t even get angry.

He needed to buy new earbuds.

But right now, his attention was drawn by the powerlifter, a regular, who’d just rudely dismissed someone else. That was an atmosphere the gym tried to avoid, and it wasn’t that particular man’s first infraction. Body Positive was born to be a force for health and empowerment.

Rodrigo checked around, but both Fiona and Aiden were with other clients. Technically, Rodrigo didn’t start his shift for another hour, but…

The powerlifter was exactly the kind of gym member Rodrigo liked the least: huge, loud, and—given his chicken legs—obsessed with his upper body and pretty much nothing else. As the big man started to grunt loudly, the pin in the machine set to some large amount of weight, Rodrigo paid him no more attention beyond irritation, then noticed the other man had already taken a few steps away. A ginger, freckled and lean, he carried a few pieces of paper, and his face was burning red. He looked like a complete newbie, and he was wearing track pants and a light—but long-sleeved—cotton shirt.

The redhead sighed, then turned away from the machines.

Before Rodrigo knew what he was doing, he got up and walked over.

“You okay?” he said.

The guy with the papers jumped at his voice, turning. He eyed him, and Rodrigo tried not to be too offended when the look wasn’t particularly friendly. After all, the last guy who’d spoken had pretty much insulted him, right?

“I’m fine.” The flush on the guy’s face made that a lie. He looked somewhere between pissed off and embarrassed.

“That guy was an ass. I’m sorry. That’s not what this place is about. Did you need a hand with any of the machines?”

Now the newbie frowned at him.

“I work here,” Rodrigo said. “Though I’m not working yet. I was just getting in some exercise before I started. I’m Rodrigo. One of the trainers.” He offered his hand.

The guy shook Rodrigo’s hand quickly, and physically took a step back. Huh. That was…something. Not that he expected everyone to swoon at him, but Rodrigo was used to at least a little positive attention when he was shirtless. Maybe the redhead didn’t like beards?

Finally, the guy spoke. “I’m Morgan. I’m thinking maybe I should come back when it’s not so busy.”

“If you want, I can have him give you back the spot.”

“No.” Morgan held up both hands. “I don’t want…that.”

Rodrigo frowned. Morgan suddenly seemed familiar. “Is this your first time at this gym?”

“Yes.” He didn’t elaborate.

Rodrigo took a breath. “I’m sorry. If I’m bothering you—”

“No,” Morgan said. “No, it’s me. I’m…” He blew out a breath. “It’s possible this isn’t the right place for me. There’s some stuff I’m supposed to do. Exercises. I thought I could do it on my lunch break, and…” He sighed. “But I guess a lot of people come to the gym on their lunch breaks. To do, y’know, actual workouts.”

That got Rodrigo’s attention again. He glanced at the sheets Morgan carried. “May I see?”

Morgan hesitated, but eventually he handed them over.

At a glance, it was obvious the exercises had nothing to do with building muscle, but were instead about recovering range of motion and joint strength. The notes in the margins, the diagrams, and the repeated reminder beside many of the exercises not to add any weights to the machines in question were perfectly clear to Rodrigo’s eyes.

“Physiotherapy?” he said.

Morgan nodded. “My arm, shoulder, and wrist. Among other stuff.”

Rodrigo looked at him again and the familiarity clicked. He had seen Morgan before. He’d had longer hair, though. And a much more carefree smile.

Morgan flinched, obviously catching the moment Rodrigo realized who he was. He was probably used to being recognized in the Village. After all, there’d been a lot of coverage.

At least the guy who’d bashed him had gone to jail.

“Let me get Fiona for you,” Rodrigo said, careful to keep his voice even and polite. “She’s our physiotherapist.”

Morgan waited a beat. “Okay.”

“I’ll be right back.” Rodrigo paused. “Just so you know? This is the place for you. This is entirely why we’re here. Whatever we can do to make this easier, and you more comfortable? We’ll do.”

Morgan smiled. “Thanks.”

Rodrigo went to find Fiona.


Monday Flash Fics — Surviving, Thriving

The image for this week’s Monday Flash Fics made me think of a character in the upcoming Of Echoes Born, André. André is a graphic designer, a talented artist, and in his story, “Negative Space,” he makes a conscious choice to face down the worst thing that ever happened to him, a bashing that left him dead for a little over two minutes. This tale takes place later, but doesn’t spoil the tale.

Monday Flash Fic

Surviving, Thriving

André had no idea what to do with his hands, and his eye kept going back to the stylized blending of the two words on the placard by the door: “Surviving/Thriving.” Beneath it was a description of the night, the charity in question, and a picture of André himself, and his bio, which Michel had crafted to include both the words in question.

I am a complete fraud.

“Here,” a voice said from over his shoulder. He turned, and Justin passed him a glass. It was water.

André smiled in thanks and took a sip.

“It gives you something to hold,” Justin said.

“You read my mind.” André’s voice sounded wobbly, even to his own ears.

“You okay?”

“Feeling exposed.”

“Your welcome speech was perfect.” Justin patted his shoulder, one of the few people who touched him. “Everyone here adores you. It’s a brilliant theme, and an fantastic cause. Though Michel and I still think you priced your pieces too low.”

“It’s for charity,” André said.

“You’ve already sold three pieces.”

André blinked. “Really?”

“Really.” Justin nodded to the glass desk where the gallery owner, Michel, was talking to a pair of older men. “Those two just bought the large piece.”

“Oh wow,” André said. “I didn’t think I’d sell anything to people I didn’t already know.”

Justin smiled. “It’s a nice feeling, no?”

“Mostly I want to barf.”

Justin laughed, and patted his shoulder again. A second later, he was gone, and André once again felt like he was somehow completely alone in the unusually crowded FunkArt gallery. He had no idea if he could get through the next—he checked his phone—hour and a half that remained in the evening.

The irony of  wondering if he could escape his own “Surviving/Thriving” event wasn’t lost on him.

“I’m impressed.”

The new voice brought a measure of calm to André’s nerves. Bao Nguyen raised a glass, and they clinked.

“Thanks,” André said. “If it weren’t for you, none of this would be happening.”

“That sounded like an accusation.”

“It was. I’m barely holding it together.” The admission didn’t sting. His relationship with Bao was like that. They’d forged an odd, fragile friendship over the months since André had first faced down his own demons in the parking lot of the gay bar where he’d nearly died.

Well, technically he had died. But he’d been resuscitated.

“I like this one,” Bao said, nodding to the piece in front of them. The change of topic didn’t mean he hadn’t heard what André had said. Far from it. It meant Bao understood what he needed. Distraction. A new focus. “Tell me about it?”

“This is Jaylen.” André said. “He needed two surgeries to fix the damage done to his throat and his collar bone. He was one of the first people to agree to pose for me.”

“And if I’d known I’d end up looking that hot, I’d have volunteered faster.”

They both turned. The living, breathing version of the man in the piece offered them a smile. The collar of his black shirt was undone, leaving the trail of the scar beneath his Adam’s apple visible.

“Bao Nguyen, Jaylen Williams,” André said. “Bao’s one of my good friends, and one of the officers with the Hate & Bias Crime Unit here in Ottawa. Jaylen is one of the models, like I said, and he’s also volunteering to do some of the renovations at the shelter.”

“You can call me J.J.” Jaylen said.

They shook hands, exchanging pleasant “nice to meet you”s. Bao looked at the piece again. It was monochromatic, and anywhere Jaylen’s scars would have shown, André had used encaustic to build physical volume into the image, and then overlaid impressions of organics: branches, threads, fern leaves. It was a motif repeated throughout the gallery: survivors of violence thriving and growing.

“You have a great eye for representation,” Bao said, after a moment of comparing the two.

“In other words,” Jaylen said, “my ears really do stick out that much.”

André laughed, shaking his head. “You’re gorgeous and you know it.”

“If I were gorgeous, you’d have said yes by now.”

“Yes to what?” Bao said.

Oh no. “It’s nothing,” André said.

“Ouch,” Jaylen said, putting a hand to his heart. “I ask you out, and it’s nothing?”

André could feel his face burning. “I’ve just been busy.”

Bao turned to Jaylen. “Do you need embarrassing stories for blackmail purposes?”

“Yes,” Jaylen said. “Yes, I do.”

“You stay out of it,” André said, but Bao ignored him.

“Do not. Do not stay out of it, Bao,” Jaylen said. He looped one arm around Bao’s neck. It was a casual, easy touch, and André had to fight a wave of longing. He still struggled with that. Being touched.

Surviving. Thriving. They’re not the same thing.

He realized they were both grinning at him. André shook his head.

“How about this?” Jaylen said. “If you sell me,” he nodded toward the piece in question, “we get that coffee you keep delaying.”

“Sounds fair to me,” Bao said. André shot him a glance, but Bao just smiled. Oh, it was gonna be like that, was it?

“Fine.” André knew when he was beat.

“Excuse me,” Justin said, returning. He stepped through their small group, then reached forward and put a little red dot on the piece.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” André said. Had these two arranged this somehow?

Justin shook his head. “Nope. You’re having a great night. I’d be jealous, if I wasn’t so proud.” He gave André another shoulder-squeeze in passing, and was gone again a second later.

“I think I see Ian.” Bao didn’t even try to hide his delight. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

André looked at Jaylen again once they were alone. He was so handsome. The man had high cheekbones, and gold undertones in the deep brown of his skin, and the bow of his lips…

“So,” Jaylen said. “How do you like your coffee? And how’s Saturday for you?”

I have filled this gallery with stories of people who haven’t just survived, but thrived. Time to try joining them.

André swallowed. “Saturday’s fine. And just a little bit of cream.”






Friday Flash Fiction – Mr. August

The wonderful Friday Flash Fics challenge continues. Today’s characters aren’t from one of my published pieces, but instead from my Village project, a series of Novellas set in a fictional version of the Ottawa gay village where a bit of magic happens to come through. There’s no actual magic happening here, but as you can see from the picture that inspired it, there’s all kinds of magic.

Flash Friday 4

“I look ridiculous.”

Caleb lowered his camera and waited. Beside him, Jian tapped a thumb against his bottom lip, a line appearing between his eyebrows.


“You’re right,” Jian said.

That was a surprise.

Jian stepped forward and picked up the drafting pencil. “Put this in your mouth.”

The shirtless, muscular man in front of them both stared at Jian.

“Are you kidding?”

“It’ll add sizzle, Angelo.” Jian waved the pencil like a wand.

“No one does woodwork half-naked with their jeans hanging off their ass.” Angelo raised the saw in his right hand. “This isn’t even the right saw.”

“No one will be looking at your saw.”

Caleb couldn’t hold it back any more. He snorted.

Both Jian and Angelo turned to him with twin looks of annoyance.

“Sorry.” Caleb tried not to draw attention, usually. Not on purpose. Odd things tended to happen when he paid too much attention to people.

“Pencil,” Jian turned back, holding out the pencil again.

Angelo crossed his arms and raised his chin.

Enough. At this rate, they’d never get a good shot. Caleb put his camera down. “Angelo? Jian?”

Both men aimed their angry glares at him. He flinched, but he cleared his throat. He liked things better when he had his camera between him and the world. Especially when the world was made up of a shirtless hunk and an annoyed drama bear.

Caleb cleared his throat. It took him a second to find his voice. “This is for charity. This is our first shoot. There are eleven more months after this, and it would be fantastic if we could have the calendar actually ready to sell before, y’know, next January.”

Jian opened his mouth.

“Not done,” Caleb said. “Jian? We all know you know your stuff. No one sets a stage like you. We’ve seen your plays, you’ve worked magic and it totally looks like a woodshop in here. But if Angelo says it’s the wrong saw? It’s the wrong saw.”

Angelo grinned and opened his mouth.

“Still not done,” Caleb said. “Angelo, we are so, so appreciative you’re doing this. And while I get you’d like things to look professional, here’s the thing: this isn’t a woodworking manual. The VBA is counting on this calendar. You’re our August. Decks, deck-building, deck-weather. And you look…” He swallowed. “Well…trust me. Jian’s lighting, the make-up? You’re many things Angelo, but none of them are ridiculous.”

Caleb waited. Both men were staring. They looked a little shell-shocked.

“Oh,” he said. “I’m done.”

“Sorry,” Jian said, at exactly the same moment Angelo said “My bad.”

They grinned at each other.

Caleb raised his camera. “Shall we?”

Jian stepped back. But Angelo raised his hand. “Wait.”

Caleb sighed. So much for speaking up. He wasn’t sure what else he could say, but—

“Pencil,” Angelo said.

Jian handed it to him, and Angelo put it in his mouth, picked up the saw, and stood over the piece of wood.

Caleb raised the camera and started shooting.


Monday Flash Fic – Glimpse

It’s possible I found another flash fiction group, Monday Flash Fics. I don’t imagine I’ll often manage both Mondays and Fridays, but the Monday pic just posted was so perfect for two of the characters in my Village novella project that I couldn’t help myself.

Monday Flash Fic

Caleb yawned. After a long day photographing animals for Furever’s rescue program, he’d finished cropping and retouching any obvious problems. The photos finished uploading to the shared folder. Justin and Mat would put them together for the new website, and then the rescue program would be ready to go.

Caleb yawned again, and eyed his bed.

How many people had he made eye contact with today? Too many. But he couldn’t stay awake forever. He brushed his teeth and stripped down to his boxers. Crawling into bed, he set his alarm and exhaled.

Just like every night, Caleb looked up at the ceiling and asked the usual.

Nothing awful, please.

Caleb closed his eyes.


Justin and Gabe were married. It was a gorgeous day, they looked amazing, and the light was perfect. Caleb couldn’t help it, he always thought with a photographer’s eye.

Even when the eyes he was using weren’t his.

He half-heartedly hunted for clues, but didn’t find any. Sometimes he’d glimpse a newspaper, or whoever he was checked their phone, but not right now. Someone was giving a speech—Marion, he thought, just a second before his head turned and she came into view, proving him right. The older woman looked much the same as when he’d seen her in the park that afternoon, only now she wore a gorgeous peach suit and held up a glass of champagne.

“I’m going to let you in on a secret,” Marion said, with a tiny smile. “These two? Only got together because of me.”

Whoever’s point of view it was that Caleb was enjoying stole a glance at the grooms. Justin leaned in and whispered something in Gabe’s ear, and Gabe laughed. Just for a second, Justin leaned his forehead against Gabe’s, and they both closed their eyes as Marion described how a flustered Gabe had needed a push to even introduce himself to Justin—a push she’d been happy to provide. Both men laughed.


The alarm woke him. Caleb stretched.

Thank you, he thought, eyeing the ceiling. As futures went, that had been a lovely one to glimpse.

He was the last one to their small office. Justin leaned over Mat’s shoulder, pointing at something on the screen.

“Good morning,” Justin said, when Caleb came in. “You were up late.”

“These are great.” Mat nodded to his computer. “Furever is going to run out of animals.”

“We can hope.” Caleb lifted a paper bag. “I stopped at Sweet Temptations.”

“I love you,” Justin said.

“Don’t let Gabe hear you say that,” Mat said.

Caleb glanced down. “How are you guys doing?”

“Great.” Justin grinned. Then it faltered. “Too great?”

“Oh my God,” Mat said. “Why can’t you enjoy a good thing?”

“It’s just…” Justin blew out a breath. “It’s new. I shouldn’t jinx it.”

Caleb smiled.

“What?” Justin said.

“Nothing. But, I think you two are good for the long run. Didn’t Marion introduce you?”

Justin blinked. “Sort of. How’d you know?”

“I heard it somewhere.”


Friday Flash Fiction — Morning After, After Mourning

The wonderful Elizabeth Lister‘s Friday Flash Fiction challenges continue. I missed last week, but I’m back for the third, with this lovely piece of inspiration, below. These involve characters you’ll meet in my upcoming collection of short fiction, Of Echoes Born, from Bold Strokes Books. I went a bit over word count this week, but come on. Look at that guy.

Flash Friday 3

“I have tea.” Michel held up two cups.

Clive barely moved his head, cracking a small embarrassed smile. “You’re a saint.”

Michel put one on the bedside table, turning to go.

“Wait,” Clive said.

Michel stopped.

“Thank you.”

“It’s just tea,” Michel said.

Clive shook his head. He stretched in the bed, and Michel worked hard to keep his eyes on Clive’s face. Shirtless, with the covers so low Michel was afraid to find out what else Clive shucked overnight, the bartender had an actual six-pack. The tattoo Michel had only glipsed fully revealed itself, crossing Clive’s left arm and shoulder, and some of his chest.

Michel felt tiny.

“Not for the tea.” Clive’s grin was somewhere between sleepy and amused. “For stuff I’m only vaguely remembering from last night.”

“Ah.” Michel’s face burned.

Clive shifted—eye contact, eye contact! He picked up the paper cup, taking a generous swallow.

“From NiceTeas?”

“One of Ivan’s ‘recovery’ blends.” Michel nodded.

“I’m okay,” Clive said. “No hangover.”

“That’s so unfair,” Clive said. “I had a headache like you wouldn’t believe, and I only had three drinks.”

“Did I throw my shirt at you?”

“Uh. Not… I mean, yeah, but…” The question tripped up Michel’s tongue. “Yes. It was raining after the wake…” He sipped. Maybe ‘recovery’ worked on brains.

“So you took me home to have your way with me?” With Clive’s hair tousled like that, the smile, and his beard, he was pretty much the sexiest guy ever, and…

Wait. What?

“No!” Michel said. “Of course not. You were a bit…”

“I was a lot.”

“Okay, yes. A lot drunk. My place was close. I couldn’t use my umbrella and help you walk—you’re heavy—and…”

“Breathe, Michel.”

Michel breathed. “Sorry.”

Clive looked around. “I don’t remember you joining me.”

“I slept on the couch.”

Clive’s eyebrow rose. “I fell all over you, you carried me home, I threw my clothes at you—”

“Because they were wet and I have a dryer.”

“—and you gave me your bed?”

Michel nodded.

“And now you get me tea. How’d you know I liked tea?”

“You said you only drank tea when Danya offered coffee after the wake.”

Clive lifted himself into a seated position. Muscles played along his chest and stomach. Michel stared into Clive’s eyes with nothing but prayer and willpower.

“I don’t normally get drunk.”

“You said that, too.” Michel couldn’t help but smile.

“Are you teasing? Is this you teasing?”

“Little bit.” Michel blushed. “It’s okay. You and Hans were close.”

“Like a second father. Or first, honestly, given what mine was like.” Clive took a deep breath. Michel tried not to watch what that did to his chest, and failed.

“Hans was an amazing man. If not for him, I’d never have opened the gallery.”

“Really?” Clive said. “Wait. We talked about that last night.”

Michel nodded, sipping.

“And you called me a hottie?”

Michel choked. He recovered after a moment, and put his cup down. “So, I don’t normally drink, either…”

Clive patted the empty space beside him. “C’mere. It’s Sunday; it’s raining. Relax. Drink tea. Tell me your Hans stories. And maybe a few more confessions. Sober ones.”

Michel stared for two long seconds before he stripped off his shirt, and threw it.

Clive caught it with a grin.