“Yeah, the kids get the bed and we sleep on the floor too.” I sat up. Harry was talking to me from the doorway. A soldier was standing ready to attack if he tried to come into the room. Harry was ignoring him. “You have a king sized bed and only one kid, though, you would fit.”
“Ah- um… that is…. The orc in charge of us sleeps in the bed.”
Harry’s lip curled at that. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” I sat up and gently touched my foot. They were hurting a bit more just now.
“Something is wrong.”
I looked around nervously.
Harry shook his head, “something is wrong with you and you are hiding it.”
“It’s nothing. I got a few blisters on the walk over here. My feet hurt a bit.”
“Can I see?” Harry asked stepping forward. The soldier pushed him back hard enough to throw him to the ground.
I hurried over but Henry’s orc made it there first and shoved the soldier back. They stood toe to toe growling and snarling at each other. Then the soldier backed down. The winner glared at Harry then me then snarled, “eat!” and pointed down the stairs.
“Can we wait until the kids wake up?” I asked.
He frowned at me.
Harry got up. “If you want to wake them, come give it a try and see how well that works.”
I covered my mouth and fought not to snicker. Henry was the soundest sleeper I have ever seen. He didn’t want to go to sleep and there was basically nothing you could do to make him wake up once he was. That kid slept through thunderstorms. Other kids screaming. Martin or Harry trying to get him up to eat. He was just a floppy, unconscious boy with a slight tendency to snore the only indication that he wasn’t dead.
I was pretty sure this guy wouldn’t actually hurt Henry, but I could just imagine him trying to wake the kid up.
Everyone else would be up and screaming though, so I suggested, “another twenty minutes?”
“What’s your name?” Harry asked.
“What, really?” I asked in disbelief.
Andrew shrugged then nodded.
“Thanks, Andrew,” I said and I meant it.
He frowned at me. Then went back to wait at the doorway of the Kings’ room.
When we went down for lunch Asshole was waiting with two plates ready for Max and me. There was another mug of the hot drink steaming next to my plate. The orc that had stormed off after breakfast was back with a teddy bear for William. Both Martin and Harry looked nervous at that, but neither of them said anything as their one son was suddenly immeasurably richer than his siblings.
I was concentrating on getting Max to eat when Harry said, “Your name is Gor-ash, right?”
Asshole frowned as he shook his head slowly indicating no.
Harry shrugged, “Did you know Kari has sores on her feet?”
“You can hardly walk anymore. I want to know if he was too oblivious to notice or if he just doesn’t care.”
Asshole was suddenly up out of his chair, he slammed his fists on the table and absolutely roared at Harry. Every kid in the place started to cry. Every male who had claimed a son glared at Asshole. He hesitated, looked at me, then left.
It took awhile to get Max to settle down and even longer to get him to eat. By then the orcs were starting to usher us out. Harry and Martin resolutely refused to get out of their chairs. Even when Andrew came over and made a point pulling out Harry’s chair and gesturing to the door.
It was Martin who said, “Kari didn’t get a chance to eat. Mr Grumpy Bear scared Max and she spent all her time taking care of him.”
Harry shook his head, “You need to take care of yourself, otherwise you won’t be able to take care of Max.”
The other parents sat back down and looked at me.
Great. I started trying to eat quickly. Martin reached across the table and put his hand on my arm. “It’s ok, you don’t have to rush. We will wait. Don’t make yourself sick.”
Someone whose name I didn’t know grabbed Martin’s chair and pulled it away from the table so he couldn’t reach me anymore.
I sighed, “They really don’t understand how we work.” Then I carefully ate my lunch.
We were back in the library after lunch. This time Harry and Martin took turns reading. That let me sit with Max and three extra fathers take turns sitting with the boys. William did a surprisingly good job of sharing his bear. That made his orcfather frown but he didn’t say anything.
I leaned over to the one holding James and asked, “What’s your name?”
He scrambled out of my way like I had threatened him. The other orcs in the room were looking at me funny. “Right. No asking for names.”
Martin cleared his throat. “We raise our children together. Kari, us, and the others. If you are going to be spending time around Max it would be good to know everyone’s names.”
Andrew looked at him and shook his head no.
The three of us shared a nervous look. Martin went back to reading Peter Rabbit. For a home library, they had quite good selection of books. There was a whole book case of children’s books then a random assortment of books ranging up in age to about ten. No young adult level books but a good selection of history books, bird watching books, political thrillers and books about gardening. The sort of things you would find in a house of readers rather than the sort of people that bought books to display.
At the end of Peter Rabbit, we moved on to Benjamin Bunny. That’s when Asshole got back. He had Dr Brown and Christopher with him. Dr Brown was carrying Patrick and looking smug. Patrick did not look happy to be there.
“Where’s Rita?” It was out before I could stop myself.
Dr Brown’s smile went from smug to fake. “Um. She … didn’t pass her physical.”
I felt sick at that. A quick look at the guys showed the same concern on their faces. Cynthia noticed.
“I hear you are having some problems with your feet,” she deflected. “Let’s have a look.” She set Patrick down to get her bag. The boy ran over to me.
Juggling the two of them in my lap, I asked, “What happens if I don’t pass my physical?”
She blinked, “You already did.”
“Yeah, but now you want to see my feet. I want to know what happens to me if you don’t like what you find.”
“Oh! You will be fine.” The slight stress on the word ‘you’ did not ease my fears.
I looked up at Asshole who was watching Patrick with interest. “I know this isn’t going to matter, but I don’t want Dr Brown looking at my feet.”
Asshole looked at Christopher. The ensuing discussion was not in English. Suddenly any orc with a stake in the game picked up their son and left. Andrew nodded to Harry and Martin to follow.
Once they were gone, Dr Brown turned to me and said, “Someone will take the boys, then we’ll get started.”
She was clearly not expecting a soldier grab her from behind and physically carry her out of the room. That left the two boys, Christopher, Asshole and me.
Mr Grumpy Bear, as Harry had named him, sat down next to, but not touching me. He pantomimed taking off his socks. Christopher was opening the old fashioned looking doctor’s bag. He put on some gloves and sat on the floor near my feet. Then they both waited.
“It’s not that bad,” I insisted.
Christopher was mostly understandable, “then show.”
I sighed. When I went to pull off the trouser socks they were stuck to my feet in a couple of places. Christopher pulled out a bottle of something and dabbed at the sticking places with a piece of gauze that had been soaked in whatever that was. Once my first sock was off, he put a drug patch on the top of my foot. Max was watching intently.
Asshole lured the boys away with the Pigeon book. His pronunciation was still terrible, but they joined in shouting “no!” at the appropriate parts.
When I looked back, Christopher had a tight looking grip on my ankle that I couldn’t actually feel and was cutting into the sole of my foot with a scalpel. I tried to pull my foot away. It barely twitched in his grasp. Completely ignoring me, Christopher set down the scalpel and put another drug patch on my foot.
After that, the world was reduced to a series of moments.
Asshole picking me up off the floor.
Asshole laying me on the island in the kitchen.
Christopher using the island sink to wash my feet.
Asshole slathering them with something that burned.
Waking up on bed upstairs, with Asshole wrapping a piece of fabric around my left foot . The right one was already done. One of the drug patches were sitting on the blanket next to my foot. I guessed the other was under the bandages.
It took me a couple of tries to be able to speak. “Do I still have all my toes?”
He just snorted.
“Oh. How many do I have left?”
He finished wrapping my foot then held up both hands, “ ‘en o’s.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, “See? Not so bad.”
Now he narrowed his eyes at me, “ba ah duh.” he said slowly and carefully.
“Oh.” I paused before adding “Where’s Max?”
That got me sitting bolt upright, “You gave him to Cynthia Brown?”
Asshole curled a lip in disgust and snarled as he shook his head no.
“Good! Rita was older, but not old. She was healthier than I am. There is no way I would believe I passed my physical and she didn’t.” I thought for a moment. “Is there a way for me to see her? Could she come here like Harry and Martin did?”
Asshole let go of my foot and took a step back. He watched me for a moment, then shook his head.
“Is she OK?”
Again, he shook his head, no.
“Oh. But how did Patrick end up with Cynthia?”
“Something isn’t right here. I mean I can understand someone doing something to Rita if it meant they would get out of the camp where we were staying. Hell, the improvement in the quality of the food alone is very nearly enough to make someone do something drastic. But Cynthia was already living in a house.”
Asshole frowned. This was the first time I noticed that his ears also pinned back against his head.
I made an undignified squeak and pulled my feet back. “Sorry! I’ll leave it alone. Can I go get Max now?”
Nodding, Asshole picked me up and fireman carried me out to the back lawn. There were all five boys, three teddy bears, and two gay men, but no sign of a partridge in a pear tree. No Cynthia, but Christopher was watching from the fence with the other orcs.
After setting me on the ground with about as much grace as if I were a sack of potatoes, Asshole went over and had a quiet word with the other orcs. They kept peeking at me over his shoulder.
Harry came over and sat a good six feet away from me. “Oooh, I don’t like the looks of that.”
I looked at him, “Why are you sitting all the way over there?”
“I found out why you didn’t get Carl’s name earlier,” he smirked.
“Oh, this is going to be good.”
“Yeah. They’re all afraid that if any of us big strong males get too close to you, we will be overcome with lust and accidentally have sex with you.”
“Oh, be serious!”
“I am.” He positively cackled the last sentence. “Apparently Tattoos over there beat the shit out of a number of people yesterday to get me and Martin transferred here. No one wants to piss him off.”
“Which one is Carl?”
“The one responsible for James. Tyler is William’s godfather.”
I shook my head, “I still can’t believe their names are Carl and Tyler.”
Harry shrugged, “They aren’t. But apparently they know we won’t be able to pronounce their names so they are going with human ones.”
“But still… Carl?”
“Could be worse. Could be Dick.”
“Jesus!” I laughed, “Maybe I should christen Asshole Richard.”
Harry laughed, “Is that what you call him?”
“Only in the privacy of my own head.”
“I don’t know. While you were gone, they brought Janice for a visit. She was also having a hard time walking, but there is nothing wrong with her feet.”
“I think Rita is dead,” I whispered.
Harry didn’t say anything for a long moment. “Is he hurting you?”
“He is scaring me.”
“Yeah. But they are all like that. Is he hurting you? He yelled at me. Is he trying to scare you or is he just big and scary?”
I thought about that. “I could do with less nudity. He ran off with Max when I could hardly follow, that made my feet worse. He hasn’t hit me, yet. He hasn’t raped me, yet. But those are pretty low standards to hold someone to.”
Harry nodded. “Yeah. Welcome to hell.”