Flash Fiction: Booty Call

This week’s #FlashFictionFriday prompts come from EspineuxAlpha, who wanted a story in the Ravenfall universe, Atlin Merrick who prompted with the booty-shorted cowhop image and KIzzia30 with the ruined cottage and ‘incandescent’.

Follow me on Twitter if you want to join in with prompts for next Friday’s story!

Booty Call

Gabriel’s easel was out in the light which meant Gabriel had to wear a hat to protect his light skin from the sun. James, his boyfriend, sat in the shade on a fold-down chair, peering at the ruins of the farmhouse which Gabriel had decided to paint.

The main house was crumbling but roughly intact, possibly thanks to the ivy that both cracked the bricks and held the wall together. The annex beside it was in much worse shape, only a steel frame left of a roof that had burned decades ago. A tree grew out of what used to be a wooden floor, branches extending past the fire-damaged frame.

The old house and the regrowth that claimed it were not Gabriel’s usual subject matter.

‘Why’re we here again?’ James asked.

‘Michael,’ said Gabriel shortly. He had already sketched the building several times and was now making rough lines to capture shape and perspective.

‘Yer brother has a burning need for a tumbledown rustic cottage on his office wall?’

Gabriel shrugged. ‘He asked, I said yes.’ After a long estrangement, Gabriel and Michael were friends again.

‘He couldnae just take a photograph?’

‘He was a bit cagey,’ Gabriel admitted. ‘He said I should see the place for myself. I thought I’d come and see why.’

James sat suddenly more upright in his uncomfortable chair. ‘Is he perhaps still trying to persuade us to join the Bureau by stealth? Because that thing comin’ out the shrub’s not natural.’

Gabriel squinted at the sudden incandescent light that rendered house, ivy, ruined roof and all nothing but black lines against the white light.

In the centre of the light, a shape appeared. Moved. Coalesced from grey blob to dark solidity, the outline of a human form.

It stepped out of the radiance towards them.

Faster than an ordinary man, James was on his feet, in the sun, standing between this sudden shape and the man he loved.

‘Halt, ye wee bastard,’ he snapped.

The dark shape halted and changed again. Ink shadow became pale skin. A handsome white man with slicked back, golden blond hair. Long shirt. Cowboy boots. Very tight , very short shorts.

James blinked hard. He was used to the uncanny coming at them in unpredictable ways, but a sexy twink in booty shorts was new.

Something had changed during that blink. The sexy twink in booty shorts now looked like…

James’ brow furrowed and he peered more closely. Still not believing what he saw he started again at the feet.

Hot cowboy boots. Check. Well-shaped calves and thighs and close-fitting shorts. Check. Trim torso, clad in pale blue, long-sleeved linen button-up. Check. Square jaw. Tanned skin. Very blue eyes. Check, check, check.

James was now looking at a mirror image of himself.

‘Fuck off wi’ ye,’ he muttered, and before his eyes the twink morphed again. This time he was tall, lean, graceful with tousled dark hair and green, green eyes.

‘Dinnae go lookin’ like mae boyfriend, either, ye scabby mongrel. Ghosts dinnae fright me. I’m a feckin’ vampire.’

The apparition which looked like Gabriel gave him a look eloquent of dismay, though it appeared no more frightened of James’ suddenly descended fangs that James seemed of it.

‘That’s no ghost,’ Gabriel said quietly from behind his easel.

Gabriel had a long history of seeing – and sometimes conversing with – ghosts.

‘What is it, then?’

‘I’m a he,’ said the sexy cowboy in a deep American drawl, losing form again. Now he was a generic grey shape, though the tiny shorts and the cowboy boots remained.

‘What are ye?’ James demanded.

‘You could ask my name,’ the creature complained, still with that twang.

‘What’s your name, then?’ Gabriel asked, always more patient with this sort of thing.

The cowboy suddenly had a hat which he removed to hold over his heart. ‘You can call me John, handsome. I’m what y’all call an incubus.’ And John’s shape began to solidify again, back to the James-like height and build, but this time shirtless. ‘Like what you see, beautiful?’

James tilted his head to inspect this peculiar mirror image. He’d dressed similarly to that just recently. Just last night, in fact.

Gabriel sort of choked. He gave James a panicked glance. James’ eyebrows rose. Waggled.

‘He’s gussied up like that photograph we re-enacted last night. The Dallas waiters…’

‘Carhops,’ said Gabriel faintly.

They’d had an excellent evening inspired by those photographs, James in his army boots and nothing else.

James turned to John, who seemed vastly annoyed that he was getting nowhere with these two.

‘Which one of us are ye trying to seduce? Because I have to tell ye, John, I’m not narcissist enough to want to shag anyone looking so like myself, and you’re not hot enough, even when ye try t’ look vaguely like him, to sub fer mae braw lad here.’

John sagged and returned to cowboy-booted grey blobbiness. ‘Y’all both as bad as that stiff-necked asshole who was here last week.’

Well, that explained part of why Michael had sent them here. Not nearly all, though.

Gabriel was already on the phone to his older brother. James’ supernatural hearing took in the conversation with very little effort.

‘Hello, Michael Dare sp-‘

‘What the hell, Michael? An incubus? What are we supposed to do with an incubus? And if you say “the usual”, James will come to your office and smack you while I disarrange your stationery cupboard with malicious intent.’

‘Ah. So that’s definitely what it is.’

‘You didn’t know? And you sent me and James to find out?’

‘I suspected, but it’s clearly a shapechanger. I can’t make anything of it but mist and the voice.’

‘Does it sound like your girlfriend, by any chance?’

‘Almost exactly like her.’

The incubus’s amorphous shape seemed to be curling in on itself in some embarrassment, apparently also able to clearly hear both sides of the conversation.  ‘I tried to make myself look like her. He kept thinking of her voice, her scent, the feel of her breath on his skin. I can’t make shapes to that.’

‘What are we supposed to do now?’ Gabriel demanded.

‘Did it seduce either of you?’

Gabriel’s derisive laugh was enough on its own, but he elaborated anyway. ‘John the Incubus does a passable superficial imitation, but that’s all it is. He’s about as tempting as a chalk drawing on concrete when compared with the Mona Lisa.’

James preened and gave the incubus a look of insufferable smugness. ‘Mae lad thinks I’m the Mona Lisa,’ he said. ‘Mister Drawn-in-chalk.’

‘Wait, did you say its name was John?’ Michael Dare covered the mouthpiece at his end to ask someone – probably his girlfriend, Anthea – ‘What was the name of that shapeshifting incubus you found in the archives? Jhoron. Ah. Looks like we’ve found it.’

‘Him,’ said John with deep irritation.

‘Respect the pronouns, Michael,’ James shouted so he’d be heard.

‘Yes, quite,’ he heard Michael’s reply. ‘Please let Jhoron know that we are aware of the trouble that has caused i- ah, him, to be anchored to that location. We’ve been looking for him for some time and are glad to have found him at last. Now that we know he’s not a haunting but trapped, a curse-breaker will set him free. Once we’ve settled a few things on how and why Aleister Crowley tied him there.’

Jhoron fell to muttering about losing a game of chess to ‘that flighty, drug-addled, faithless bastard’ and then he started crying. ‘He fell in love with Rose and decided to just bury me here. Like I was a dirty secret to hide from her. And then he died and he left me here…

James’ fangs had slid out of sight again. Gabriel sighed. ‘Do you actually want this painting or was the idea just for us to flush out the incubus for you?’

‘I don’t  have one of your paintings,’ said Michael diffidently.

‘How about I do a portrait of you and Anthea, hmm? You don’t want this rubbish little cottage on your wall, and landscapes really aren’t my thing.’

‘Would you?’

‘Of course I would. Michael. Big brother. You have got to learn to ask me things.’

‘Sorry.’

‘No biggie. James and I’ll keep John here company, while you send someone.’

‘I’m not sure today is…’

‘From what I understand, this poor sodding incubus has been tied by magic to this shabby cottage since at least the 1940s…’

‘1903,’ said the poor sodding incubus. He had regained shape, but now he appeared more like a romantically disappointed Victorian-era muscle man. The leopard skin loincloth and many-laced boots provided a peculiar insight, perhaps, into what Aleister Crowley had liked in an incubus.

‘God. Right. So, not another minute, hmm? We both know what it’s like to be trapped.’

James could hear Michael’s rueful laugh. ‘Quite right, Gabe. Not another minute. And I apologise for the subterfuge. I wanted to see if you encountered anything, without having preconceived notions.’

‘And what if he’d seduced me?’

‘I have seen you and James together, as you recall. I didn’t think it likely. Of everyone I might have sent, I was certain you and James would be safest from its influence.’

Gabriel preened then, and grinned at James. James wasn’t sure why Gabriel found his brother’s faith in them so gratifying, but that was fine.

In the end, Gabriel dragged his easel closer to the cottage – Jhoron wasn’t able to move further than twenty feet from the spot – and spent the time waiting for the curse breaker in painting his portrait.

‘You’re lucky,’ said Jhoron to James. ‘Both of you. I’m thousands of years old. I hardly ever meet people who can resist me.’

But James’ wasn’t listening. He was watching Gabriel paint, and thinking, how could I ever want anything more than him: my heart, my soul.

And Gabriel looked at him, as though he’d heard, and smiled back, eyes shining with total agreement.