The Island: Fairy Tales

by:  Dash & AJ

 

Thanks to Melanie for her, as usual, quick and wonderful job of beta-ing this for us.
 
Love and kisses, as always, to the L&Ms.

 

 

 

"Dylan, you aren't taking all those books, are you?" Jamie struggled to keep the whine out of his voice. "This is supposed to be a fun trip and I want you to go snorkeling with me!"

 

"But I was going to-" Dylan wavered and then, looking at his brother's face, began dumping the books out on the bed.

 

"Jamie," Scott said warningly from the doorway. "What does Dylan want to do?"

 

"But I just…" He ducked his head as he encountered the TT's Look. "Sorry," he muttered as he pushed past Scott into the hall.

 

Scott watched him disappear down the hall before turning back to the Brat in front of him. "One book, Dylan," he said with a grin. "You're supposed to be having fun with the rest of us, not hiding away on your own."

 

"But curling up with a book is fun," Dylan began to protest, then laughed as he encountered the Look. "Yes, sir. One book."

 

"You're doing great, Dylan," Scott said softly, crossing to him and giving him a quick hug. "I'm proud of you."

 

Dylan flushed at the praise. "You really think so?" he asked, resting his head on Scott's shoulder for a moment. "I've been trying."

 

"And it shows," Scott reassured him, patting his butt before the younger man pulled away. "You can't expect everything to be perfect in the first month."

 

"Scott--" Dylan went over to the window, looking out as he spoke. "Do you think I'm being fair to Jamie?"

 

"About what?" the TT asked in surprise.

 

"I don't know. I just feel like I'm taking up too much of Garth's time, like I'm not sharing very well."

 

"How are you not being fair? He's only had one weekend here since you came back and you had private time with him, but so did Jamie. You both chat with him on IM almost every evening. How are you not sharing very well?"

 

"Well..." Dylan continued in a low voice, keeping his gaze firmly fixed outside. "Jamie always chats with him first and he talks for maybe 20 minutes. Then I take over and I talk to him for so much longer, almost an hour some nights. And sometimes I really resent Jamie always getting to go first. Am I trying to push him out of the way so I can have Garth's attention? And if I'm doing it now, what's it going to be like when we're living together?"

 

"Dylan," Scott said, walking over and putting his arms around the younger man again. "I think you're making too much of this. Has Garth said anything to you about it?"

 

"No. But-"

 

"But, nothing," the TT said firmly. "What is the first rule that you have to obey right now?"

 

"Focus on what Dylan needs and let other people take care of what Jamie needs," Dylan parroted back with a small smile. "I only need to worry about what you want and what Garth wants, and not try to handle anything, or anyone, else."

 

"Right," Scott said with a returning smile. "I really think you're worrying too much, Dylan. Jamie hasn't said anything to me about it, and I'm sure Garth will tell you if he thinks something is wrong. Now," he swatted the Brat's butt lightly, "get your stuff together so we can go. Don't forget your sunglasses."

 

"Hey, come on, you two." Andre stuck his head in the door. "Let's get going before one of the others explodes from excitement and we have to cancel the trip."

 

"Why don't you and the other Brats go ahead to the Kitchen and pick up the boxes with our provisions?" Scott suggested to Dylan. "We'll be right behind you."

 

"Problems?" Andre said as the Brat hurriedly zipped and shouldered his day pack and ran outside to join the others.

 

"Dylan thinks he's being inconsiderate of Jamie," Scott said dryly.

 

"What, he's only checking to see if he's happy every 4 hours instead of every 2?" Andre asked with a laugh.

 

"Getting him to stop putting Jamie first is going to be a long, slow process," Scott replied with a sigh.

 

"So it doesn't need to be taken care of today," Andre replied lightly. "Relax and enjoy yourself. Two weeks with no major discipline is a new record; we all deserve a treat."

 

"I think I'm looking forward to this trip as much as they are," Scott confessed. "I'm tired." Picking up the beach towel Dylan had accidentally left behind, he continued, "Did you check the weather report?"

 

"About 10 minutes ago," the other TT replied. "It's supposed to be a beautiful day. Mid 80s, light winds, light chop and clear skies."

 

They gathered up the belongings the Brats had forgotten and followed at a more leisurely pace, arriving at the Minnow only a few minutes after their charges. "Everybody on board," Scott ordered. "I want everyone to have sunscreen on, deck shoes on and everything stowed in its proper place before we pull away from the dock."

 

"Does anyone need sunblock or lipbalm? If you do, let us know now," Andre called as Scott cast off and jumped aboard.

 

"Yes, Andre," the Brats chorused, shedding their shirts, rapidly applying the lotion, then gathering along the rail as the TT guided the Minnow out of the harbor a few minutes later. "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip..." they all began singing in unison, as the TTs shook their heads, groaning laughingly.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

"Set up the shelter and spread out the blankets first," Andre called as everyone hit the beach. "You aren't going to want to do it when you're tired later on."

 

"We'll never be tired," Carlos said with an impish smile, swinging the cooler full of drinks onto the sand.

 

"Well, humor the old TTs who do get tired, and get the stuff set up first," Andre ordered with a smile.

 

Working together, some of the Brats found and set up the bamboo framework kept on the island and covered it with palm fronds, while the others set up the volleyball net and gathered enough driftwood to build a fire later on. They spread the beach blankets under the shelter, set out low chairs for Scott and Andre, and placed the coolers with lunch and cold drinks nearby.

 

"Your throne room, sirs," Carlos said with a low bow and sweep of his arm. "Sit, and rest your weary bones."

 

"Smart ass," Andre told him with a smile. "Go play in the water or something."

 

The Brats eagerly did as they were ordered, Carlos and Dylan heading for the water while Tracy and Jamie dug out the Frisbee.

 

"Don't go too far up the beach," Scott called to Patrick, who was looking for shells to add to his collection. "Stay in sight."

 

Patrick waved back absently to show that he'd heard, his eyes on the sand in front of him.

   

"Dylan seems to be ok now," Andre commented, looking at the young man cavorting in the surf with Carlos.

 

"Carlos is good for him," Scott replied. "Do you want to go in the water?"

 

"Heck no." Andre sat down in his chair. "I need to rest my weary bones, remember? I'll keep an eye on things if you want to, though."

 

The morning passed quickly and soon they were all flopping down in the shade and digging hungrily into the lunch provided by the kitchen staff.

 

"Let's play volleyball next," Carlos suggested as they finished eating and started cleaning up their papers and plastic bags.

 

"Ok, our side of the cottage against yours," Patrick said eagerly.

 

"That's not fair!" Tracy whined. "You have one more person than we do!"

 

"Nope," Scott intervened before an argument could get started. "It'll be 3 to 3. It's my turn to sit in a chair and rest my weary bones."

 

After an hour of play they were all hot, tired and sweaty.

 

"What's next?" Jamie asked, bending over with his hands resting on his knees, breathing heavily.

 

"Quiet time," Scott announced. "Everybody into the water to cool off and wash the sand off," he raised his voice over the cries of protest. "Reapply your sunblock, then find a place to lie down."

 

Soon the Brats were all lying on their towels or blankets, still sleepily voicing their protests.

 

Scott and Andre sat in their chairs close together, talking quietly for a few minutes, then glanced around at their Brats.

 

"That didn't take long," Andre said with a smile. "They're all asleep except Dylan."

 

"Look again," Scott laughed as Dylan's book slid slowly out of his hand. He got up and marked the Brat's place before placing the book to one side.

 

The two Tops stretched out as well, and soon there was nothing to be heard but quiet breathing and the sound of the surf against the beach.

 

"Uh oh," Andre said softly as he opened his eyes sometime later. A strong breeze had kicked up and the horizon was ominously black. "Scott, wake up. Looks like we might have trouble."

 

"I thought you checked the weather report," the other TT complained as he sat up and looked where Andre was pointing.

 

"I did! It's not my fault the weatherman didn't know what he was talking about! You think we can make it back to The Island if we leave right now?"

 

Scott hesitated, then shook his head. "No, I don't think we should risk it. Let's wake them up and get the supplies off the boat. There's a cave up the beach a little ways that we can take refuge in."

 

A few minutes later, they had the Brats awake and moving, part going out to the Minnow to bring back food, water, blankets and the emergency kits, while others took the driftwood they had gathered earlier and stacked it in the cave. Even with all of them moving as quickly as they could, heavy fat raindrops were plopping around them as they carried the last of the supplies into the cave.

 

"Look at that wind," Patrick commented, standing near the cave entrance. "Look how far the palms are bending and how high the waves are."

 

"Is the Minnow going to be all right?" Tracy asked nervously.

 

"Won't they be worried if we don't get back on time?" Jamie asked at the same time.

 

"Patrick, come away from the opening. The Minnow will be fine, and we've already radioed and told them that we're safe and taking shelter in the cave." Scott dealt with all three problems at once.

 

"Hey, this cave goes farther back," Carlos called, looking back into the darkness. "I think we should explore it!"

 

"I think we shouldn't," Andre told him firmly. "Come help me get the fire started. It's damp and chilly in here."

 

"But we should check it out," Carlos insisted. "What if there are wild animals sleeping back there and they come out after dark? We're between them and the door. What if they attack us on their way by?"

 

"Wild animals?" Tracy asked, inching closer to Andre. "Are there wild animals on this island?"

 

"No, there aren't. There's nothing here bigger than a monkey or a sea turtle," Andre reassured him. "Knock it off, Carlos."

 

"Snakes are smaller than monkeys," Patrick said contemplatively. "And so are bats."

 

"Snakes?? *Poisonous* snakes?" Jamie asked in alarm, going over to stand next to Dylan.

 

"There are no snakes on the island and no bats in this cave," Scott soothed him, glaring at Patrick.

 

"You never can tell," Carlos said hopefully. "Maybe we should go check out the rest of the cave, just in case."

 

"Maybe you should go check out that wall over there," Andre told him, pointing to the far side of the cave. "I'm sure you'll find it very interesting."

 

"Not as interesting as the rest of the cave," Carlos muttered rebelliously. "All right, I'm going, I'm going!" he added as Andre started toward him.

 

While Carlos contemplated a small section of wall, the others set to work building a fire and laying out their supplies.

 

"There are a couple of battery-powered lanterns in that box, Tracy. Why don't you get them out and turn one of them on?" Andre requested as the Brat kept glancing nervously at the back of the cave. "Carlos, you can come out now, if you've finished thinking about why we're not going to explore the cave."

 

"Why don't you get out the hot dogs, Dylan?" Scott suggested. "We'll cook them over the fire and then roast marshmallows."

 

"S'mores?" Patrick asked hopefully.

 

"It depends. Did someone remember to get the graham crackers off the boat?"

 

There was a hasty search through the supplies and Jamie held up a box triumphantly, and then started rummaging for chocolate bars.

 

"Are you sure it's a good idea to fill them with sugar and caffeine?" Andre asked quietly. "They're already nervous and edgy."

 

"I know," Scott replied with a shrug, "but they need some comfort food and I think it will help."

 

Later, stomachs full and sticky fingers washed, they sat around the fire playing word games

 

"It's not fair," Jamie complained. "Dylan always wins. Let's do something else."

 

Scott looked sharply at him, but the other Brats were already suggesting alternatives and he let it pass.


"Let's tell stories around the campfire until it's time to go," Tracy suggested.

 

"Ghost stories!" Carlos approved the idea whole-heartedly.

 

"NOT ghost stories," Andre frowned at him. "What's the weather look like, Scott?" he asked the TT, who had gone to the entrance of the cave and was looking out into the night.

 

"The rain's tapering off, but I still don't see any stars. I think we're stuck here for the night."

 

"Then why don't we all take our blankets and settle down around the fire?" Andre suggested. "Once you're all in bed we can tell stories for a while if you want to."

 

 Soon they had their blankets spread out and were lying by the fire, Andre on one side between Carlos and Tracy, and Scott on the other side between Patrick and Jamie. Dylan lay on the other side of Jamie, spooning up behind him protectively.

 

"Ok, who's going to start?" Scott asked.

 

"I will," Carlos volunteered.

 

"Nothing scary, young man," Andre warned.

 

"It's not. Trust me," the Brat replied with a sweet smile.

 

Everyone laughed for a minute while Carlos got settled. Opening his mouth, he looked around to make sure he had everyone's attention, and then began, "Once upon a time…."

 

Patrick groaned, "You couldn't come up with a more original opening?"

 

"Shut up, Patrick!" Carlos snapped, glaring at his cottagemate. "It's my story!"

 

"Shh," Andre calmed him gently, as Scott hushed Patrick.

 

"Go ahead, Carlos. We're all listening now," Scott assured him.

 

Once upon a time there lived a little boy called Bart Ulenspighel. His father was a good blacksmith and his mother a kindly woman, but they never imagined that they had brought into the world naughtiest rascal ever heard of! Bart had such a lively personality, bright and naughty, that people couldn't help smiling when they saw him. And he got up to such mischief and all sorts of tricks that we can't help smiling to ourselves . . . But as you'll soon see, the ones who didn't see the funny side of things were his fellow citizens. The minute he learned to speak, Bart pulled people's legs. If a man, for instance, had big feet, Bart would greet him by saying,  "Good day, Bozo!" And if a lady had a red nose, he would say, "Good evening, Rudolf!" He enjoyed playing tricks and teasing everyone.

 

 Of course, the neighbors complained to his father, saying, "Mr. Ulenspighel, what a rude son you have! You need to beat him or lock him in a closet or something! He's a terror!"

 

Of course the father knew that the neighbors were just jealous of his son's energy and vitality and youthful good looks. But, because he was a fair man and even though he knew his son was wonderful, Bart's father said to him, "Listen, son, why don't people like you? Do you annoy them?"

 

"Who, me?" said Bart with an innocent air. "I never bother anyone. It's other people that shake their fists at me whenever they see me and say nasty things."

 

"Hmm!" said his father. "I wonder... I'm going to market with the donkey. Come with me."

 

Bart didn't need to be told twice and he clambered behind his father.

 

But the second he was on the donkey's back, he hung a notice his shoulders on which he had written: 'Whoever reads this is an ass.'

 

People did read it and they were offended, so they shook their fists and shouted, "Oh, you horrid boy, Bart! What a little horror you are!"

 

On hearing these shouts, Bart's father, who knew nothing about the notice, muttered, "You're right, Bart. People are angry with you, though goodness knows why! Don't worry," he added, "come and sit in front and we'll see if they still call you names."

 

Bart did as he was told and slung the notice over his chest, smiling and laughing at his funny prank.

 

Though his father couldn't see it, he could see other people as they shook their fists, scowled, shouted and yelled insults, and he said, "Folk don't like you, Bart. But pay no attention to them and go your own way!"

 

Sobbing, Bart cried, "See! I told you! They hate me for no good reason!"

 

"There, there," his father said kindly, "I'll buy you a new ball when we get to the store if you stop crying."

 

Sniffling, Bart nodded, and silently laughed to himself that his harmless trick had gotten him the new ball he had been after.

 

Time went by and Bart began to weary of long faces every time people saw him. He joked and teased folk now and again, but what harm was there in that? All he wanted to do was amuse himself and others as well. They were all so serious and couldn't take a joke, he decided. Not to mention being jealous of his great sense of humor and energy.

 

One day, a company of wandering entertainers came to the town: actors, sword swallowers and acrobats. They made a great impression on the lad, who stared at them open-mouthed. While holding a pole in their hands, they kept their balance as they walked the tightrope across the road. How he would love to do the same. The people who now shook their fists at him would clap their hands. If his funny trick and jokes didn't make them happy, maybe this would. No sooner thought than done, the boy picked up a pole, stretched a rope between two trees in the wood and started to practice. Of course, it wasn't easy and he fell more than once. But he refused to give up for he was a dedicated boy, always ready to do his best. But at the end of a day of hard practice, he felt pretty secure and decided to hold a show. He went through the streets crying, "Tomorrow, Bart Ulenspighel, the acrobat, will walk the tightrope!"

 

Filled with curiosity, everyone came to watch.

 

Bart had stretched the rope between his balcony and a tree in the nearby wood: the rope lay above the river and the young lad climbed on.

 

The crowd that, at first had laughed and made a noise, grew quiet after a while, and was impressed.

 

"He's clever all right," someone said. "He's a real acrobat," said someone else. "We were wrong about him!"

 

At that moment, Bart's mother, who knew nothing about her son's gymnastics, hearing the murmur of the crowd, went onto the balcony . . . and saw her son walking the rope suspended over empty space. Frightened, she shouted,  "Bart, come down at once!" And seeing that the boy was not doing as he was told, she picked up the scissors and cut the rope.

 

Bart fell with a splash into the river. You can imagine the people! First they started to laugh, snigger and make fun of the poor lad as he struggled soaking from the water.

 

"Hey, acrobat! If that had been the ground instead of water, you'd have had a cracked head, wouldn't you?" they called, chuckling,

 

Running off into the woods, humiliated and upset that his clever plan to please the townspeople had failed, Bart grew annoyed and said to himself, "Laugh if you want to, he who laughs last laughs longest!"

 

Some days later, Bart announced he was going to repeat the show, this time not over the river but above the main road.

 

Everyone, being mean and wanting to see the young man who they hated fail, rushed to watch, hoping to see him fall off and hurt himself.

 

Before he ventured on to the rope, Bart called out, "To make it more difficult for me, I'm going to carry a sack on my back. Every spectator will give me his left shoe. I'll put it in the sack and hand it back at the end of the show."

 

Everyone did this. Bart walked the tightrope until he reached the middle of the road, and from the heights he said with a smile, "Now I'm going to give you back your shoes. There they are!" and opening the sack, he emptied out the shoes.

 

You can picture the confusion that reigned then. Not only did the onlookers get hit on the head by shoes, but everyone hunted for his own shoe without managing to find it; he'd pick one up, but it belonged to somebody else, and he'd throw it down again, and start to look for another, argue, exchange insults . . .

 

And Bart, from a window on high looked down on the pandemonium and chuckling said, "Ha! He who laughs last laughs longest!"

 

The Brats all laughed and applauded Carlos as the Tops laughed and shook their heads.

 

"Thank you for that …" Andre paused looking for the right word, "entertaining story."

 

Scott chuckled and ruffled Patrick’s and Jamie's hair as they laughed uproariously. "All right, I think it's my turn to tell a story."

 

Everyone agreed and settled down again as they listened to the Temp Top.

 

"Once upon a time…"

 

Jamie and Tracy burst out laughing.

 

Glaring at them, Scott swatted Jamie lightly on the leg. "Hush." Then looking around and winking at Andre, he started again.

 

"ONCE upon a time there was a Prince Top who wanted to marry a Brat; but he was insistent that it would have to be a real Brat. The Top traveled all over the world to find one, but nowhere could he get what he wanted. There were plenty of young men who said they were Brats, but it was difficult to tell whether they were real ones. There was always something about them that was not as it should be. In truth, they wanted him to be a daddy to them and call them 'little boy' and humiliate them in public.

 

Or they enjoyed pain and didn't look upon the spankings and discipline he wanted in his relationship as a deterrent to misbehavior, in fact, it was more of a reward. The Prince Top got no pleasure out of the thought of hurting his partner and could never see it as a reward.

 

Or the young men said they were Brats, but were unwilling to actually give up the control of their own lives and trust him with it. They mistook being lazy or careless or messy for being bratty and that wasn't right either.

 

So he came home again and he was sad, for he would have liked very much to have a real Brat to love and nurture and cherish and make a part of his life.

 

One evening, a terrible storm came on; there was thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down in torrents. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the front door, and the Prince Top went to open it, as it was late and the servants were in bed already. There was a young man standing outside. Without a coat or umbrella, he was sight to behold.

 

Shivering and with his teeth chattering, he said pitifully, "My car ran out of gas down the

road, and I was hoping to come in and use your phone."

 

The Prince Top looked him up and down and frowned. This was a handsome young man, but also a stranger and he was not use to letting strangers into his house at night. Just as he was about to send the young man back to his car and call AAA himself, he looked again at the handsome young man and his heart melted a little. He smiled as he took off the security chain and held the door open. "Come in and get out of the rain and the cold. You look half-frozen."

 

Smiling back shyly, the young man stepped into the warm hallway. "Thank you so much. I was afraid I was going to have to hitchhike back to town with one of the truckers that go by every so often."

 

The Prince Top frowned at this bit of news, but held his tongue. This was not his partner, to remind about the perils of hitchhiking at night. "Come this way, you can use the phone in the kitchen." As they walked down the hall, the young man's chattering teeth still audible above the squishing of his wet shoes, the Prince Top could no longer contain his curiosity.

"How did your car run out of gas?"

 

The young man glanced down at the floor before mumbling something.

 

"Look at me when I'm talking to you, please, and don't mumble," the Prince Top said firmly, unable to resist.

 

Blushing slightly, the young man answered, "I wasn't paying attention to the gauge and the Gas Low button hasn't been working, but I haven't had a chance to take it into the shop and have it fixed."

 

Frowning again and shaking his head, the Prince Top led the young man into the warm kitchen. He pointed to a chair and handed him the phone. "Sit down while I get you a towel. You'll get sick from being cold and wet like this."

 

Ten minutes later, sitting in the kitchen, holding a damp towel, the young man looked up at the Prince Top in dismay. "They can't come until the morning. They said the storm's too bad and they don't have anyone available." He stood up with a tired sigh and put the towel on the table, "Thank you for letting me use the phone." With that, the young man started out of the room.

 

"Wait!" the Prince Top said, blocking the doorway. "Where do you think you're going?"

 

"I'm going to go back to my car. I can sleep there," the young man said simply.

 

"Don't be ridiculous. You're not going back out into the cold and the rain. And it's not safe to sleep in your car on the side of a dark road. Now, go upstairs. Second door on the right is a guest bedroom. Go take a warm shower and put on the robe behind the door. Then, come down here and I'll give you some soup. I bet you haven't had dinner yet."  The Prince Top looked firmly at his guest and wasn't the least surprised when the younger man shook his head. "What a Brat," he murmured to himself as the smaller figure disappeared up the stairs. "But is he a true Brat or another impostor? He certainly acts like a true Brat, but we'll have to see."

 

After a hot meal of vegetable soup and bread, eaten with only mild complaints and two half-hearted pleas for pizza instead, the Prince Top was becoming more and more convinced that he was dealing with a true Brat. None of the imposter Brats he had met were as picky about their food. This young man had not asked to sit on his lap and be fed or to have the bowl put

on the floor so he could eat out of the bowl without using his hands, or had even asked for permission to eat. He had simply made a face and played with it for a bit, before slowly and half-heartedly eating.

 

"Well, we'll soon find out," thought the Prince Top to himself, "the true test will come tonight."

 

Telling his visitor to finish up and then wash out his bowl and place it in the dishwasher, the Prince Top excused himself and went into the spartan guest bedroom. He took all the bedding off the bed, and laid a small marble (peas, being food, were inappropriate in the bedroom, not to mention messy when smashed between mattresses) on the box spring. Then he took the

mattress and laid it on the marble. After that, he made the bed with the softest flannel sheets he owned, and the coziest comforter and the softest pillows of down.

 

"Is that for me?" the young man asked, coming upstairs and looking at the bed.

 

"Yes, it's getting late and you're tired. You've had a long day, I'm sure, not to mention your walk in the rain and cold."

 

"But," the young man started, a big yawn interrupting his protest, "it's still early and I'm not tired."

 

Without saying anything, simply smiling gently at him, the Prince Top nodded and said "okay." Then, pulling back the comforter and sheet added, "Just get into bed and you can read for while if you're not tired."

 

Eyes heavy, the young man nodded and climbed into bed. Lying down, immediately curling up around the soft pillows and snuggling deeply into the warm sheets, he smiled and said between yawns, "I'm not tired and I don't want to sleep."

 

The Prince Top pulled the comforter up and tucked it in around him, looked down and brushed back a lock of hair that had fallen into his guest's eyes. "Okay, just close your eyes and lay here then."

 

The young man nodded once more and fell promptly asleep.

 

In the morning the Prince Top asked his young guest how he had slept.

 

"Oh, not bad," said he. "I wasn't tired and got up around 2 and I was bored. There was nothing in my room to read and no TV or magazine. But," he said with a proud grin, uncurling his hand and displaying the small marble, "I found this and I played with it for a while, until I fell asleep again."

 

Now the Prince Top knew that he was a real Brat because he had found the marble right through the mattress. Nobody but a real Brat could be as sensitive to boredom as that. Or as determined to find something to amuse himself with.

 

So the Prince Top took the Brat for his partner, for now he knew that he had a true Brat. And the marble was put in a locked case, where it may still be seen but not touched, because the Brat was playing with it in the middle of the night and driving the Prince Top crazy."

 

"That was good, Scott," Tracy praised sleepily, his eyes heavy.

 

"Yeah," Patrick said, yawning.

 

"Mr. Carlos is asleep," Andre said quietly, pulling the blanket up over the younger man's shoulders.

 

"Tell another one, Scott," Jamie requested.

 

"All right, but only if everyone closes their eyes," Scott agreed softly, turning off the light near him, while Andre shut the one off next to him.

 

Only the glow from the fire lit the cave as Scott spoke again, "In olden times when wishing still helped one - unlike now, when you can wish all you want but it's not going to help - there lived a king whose sons were all handsome. But the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in his face.

 

Close by the king's castle lay a great dark forest, and under an old lime-tree in the forest was a well. When the day was very warm, the king's youngest child went out into the forest and sat down by the side of the cool fountain. And when he was bored, which was often, he took a golden baseball, and threw it up on high and caught it, and this ball and glove were his favorite playthings.

 

Now it so happened that on one occasion the prince's golden baseball did not fall into the glove, which he was holding up for it, but on to the ground beyond, and rolled straight into the water. The king's son followed it with his eyes, but it vanished, and the well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen. At this he began to cry, and cried louder and louder, and could not be comforted.

 

And as he pitched this fit, someone said to him, "What ails you, king's son? This tantrum is so annoying even a stone would get a headache."

 

He looked round to the side from whence the voice came, and saw a frog stretching forth its big, ugly head from the water. "Ah, frog, it's you," he said, "I am weeping for my golden baseball, which has fallen into the well."

 

"Be quiet, and do not weep. How many times have you been warned about not throwing the ball around the well because you could lose it?" asked the frog with a frown and a sigh, if frogs can be said to frown and sigh. "All right, I’ll help you, but what will you give me if I bring your plaything up again?"

 

“My sincere promise to be more careful in the future and not throw my ball around the well,” the prince said, brightening immediately.

 

The Frog snorted, if frogs can be said to snort. “Try again. I’ve heard that promise from your lips many times before.”

 

"Whatever you will have, dear frog," said he. "My clothes, my CDs and DVDs, and even the golden crown, which I am wearing."

 

The frog answered, "I do not care for your T-shirts or too tight jeans, your CDs that sound like animals in pain, nor the low-class humor of your DVDs, nor for your golden crown that’s not really yours to give away, I need to remind you. But if you will love me and let me be your

companion and play-fellow, and sit by you at your table, and eat off your golden plate, and drink out of your cup, and sleep in your bed - if you will promise me this, I will go down below, and bring you your golden baseball up again."

 

"Oh yeah, sure," said he quickly. "I promise whatever you want, if you will but bring me my baseball back again." But he thought, "How silly this frog talks. All he does is to sit in the water with the other frogs, croaking and complaining. He can be no companion to me, plus, he’s too bossy. I wouldn’t have a moment’s peace with him around."

 

But the frog, laughing to himself at the eager promise of the young prince, and knowing that he had him now, executed a perfect dive into the water. In a short time, he came swimming up

again with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the grass.

 

The king's son was delighted to see his pretty plaything once more, and picked it up, and ran away with it.

 

"Wait, wait," said the frog. "Take me with you. I can't run as you can." But what did it avail him to yell his croak, croak, after him, as loudly as he could. The prince did not listen to

it, but ran home and soon forgot the poor frog, who frowned, if frogs can be said to frown, dived under the water and began to prepare his plan.

 

The next day, when the Prince had seated himself at table with the king and all the courtiers, and was eating from his golden plate, something came creeping splish splash, splish splash, up the marble staircase. When it had got to the top, it knocked at the door and cried, "Prince,

youngest prince, open the door for me."

 

Jumping up, not excusing himself from the table as was proper, he ran to see who was outside. But when he opened the door there sat the frog in front of it. Then he slammed the door in great haste, sat down to dinner again, and was quite frightened.

 

The king saw plainly that he was upset and flustered. "My child, what are you so afraid of? Is there, perchance, a giant outside who wants to carry you away?"

 

Ah, no," he stammered. "It is nothing but a giant, disgusting bossy frog. Yesterday as I was in the forest sitting by the well, playing, my golden baseball fell into the water. And because I was so upset, the frog brought it out again for me, and because he so insisted, I promised him

he should be my companion, but I never thought he would be able to come out of his water. And now he is outside there, and wants to come in to me." The Prince finished his story with a wail, trusting that his tears would once again move his father who had always given in, and cause him to send the horrible, bossy frog away.

 

In the meantime the frog knocked a second time, and cried, "Prince, youngest prince, open the door for me. Do you not remember what you said to me yesterday by the cool waters of the well? Prince, youngest prince, open the door for me,” the frog repeated, his voice getting sterner by the second, if frogs can be said to have stern voices.

 

Then the king sat and thought. He thought of the other careless promises his youngest son had made and the other times he had given in just so he would not have to hear the dreadful tantrums the boy could throw. Making up his mind he said, "That which you have promised must you perform. Go and let him in."

 

Making a face and opening his mouth to protest, the prince caught his father’s expression. It was a new one, and one he was unsure of how to handle. So he went and opened the door, and the frog hopped in and followed him, step by step, to his chair. There he sat expectantly. When the young prince made no move, he frowned, if frogs can be said to frown, and ordered gently but firmly, "Lift me up beside you."

 

The prince delayed, until at last the king commanded him to do it. Once the frog was on the chair he wanted to be on the table, and when he was on the table he said firmly, "Now, push your golden plate nearer to me that we may eat together."

 

The prince did this, but it was easy to see that he did not do it willingly. The frog enjoyed what he ate, but almost every mouthful he took choked the Prince. At length the frog said, "From now on, I want you to eat more. You’re too thin as is it and you need to eat. But, I know it’s been a difficult day so you did fine and I’m proud of the effort you’re making. Now I am tired, carry me into your little room and make your little silken bed ready, and we will both lie down.” Seeing the Prince’s horrified look, the frog frowned, if frogs can be said to frown and quickly added, “And go to sleep."

 

The king's son began to cry, for he was afraid of the cold frog, which he did not like to touch and did not like to take orders from, and which was now to sleep, and who knows what else, in his clean bed. He was a virgin and the thought of sleeping with such a forceful and strong

creature both filled him with dread and excitement.

 

But the king grew angry and said, "He who helped you when you were in trouble ought not afterwards to be despised by you."

 

So the prince took hold of the frog with two fingers, carried him upstairs, and put him in a corner of the bed.

 

The frog watched the young prince get undressed, careful not to show any more skin then was necessary and then redress in a long-sleeved turtleneck and sweatpants before lying down. As soon as the young prince was in bed, the frog crept to him and said, "I am tired, I want to sleep as well as you. Lift me up or I will tell your father."

 

The young prince resisted, but the firm look in the frog’s eyes made him comply. Gingerly picking him up, he laid the frog on his chest and closed his eyes.

 

“Soon my little one,” the frog said gently, rubbing his head on the chest he rested on, “you will be the one curled up on me and as naked as I am.”

 

At this the Prince was terribly excited, but to cover up his excitement, he became angry, and took up the frog and threw him with all his might against the wall. "Now, will you be quiet, odious frog?" he said.

 

But when he fell down he was no frog but a young king with kind and beautiful eyes. Standing up and rubbing his shoulder where it hit the wall, he smiled at the frightened prince in the bed.

 

The King - ex-frog - told the prince how he had been bewitched by a wicked witch, and how he could only be returned to his human form when he found his soulmate and someone that would accept his orders, regardless of his physical form or looks. Sitting on the bed, he pulled the calmer prince onto his lap and said, “But we still have the matter of you knowing better than to throw things to deal with.” Ignoring the cries and pleas, the King turned the prince over his lap, pulled down the sweatpants and proceeded to spank the white skin until it was red and hot.

 

Sobbing out the years of frustration over being allowed to run free with no one to care for him, the Prince finally calmed down and cuddled against his new partner, fully accepting their relationship and embracing the balance and calm he sensed there.

 

Then they went to sleep, curled up together, and the young prince, as the frog predicted, was naked.

 

The next morning when the sun awoke them, a carriage came driving up with eight white horses, which had white ostrich feathers on their heads, and were harnessed with golden chains. Behind stood the young king's servant, smiling broadly at his master returned to human form and at the young prince who would make his master very happy.

 

The old king gave his blessing and watched the happy couple ride off, silently wondering to himself why his son was sitting on a pillow in the carriage.

 

"Tracy's down," Andre said quietly, indicating the young man snuggled against him.

 

"Patrick is, too," Scott replied. He reached out and tossed another piece of driftwood on the fire.

 

"I'm still awake," Jamie said, his voice rough and low.

 

"You were snoring just a minute ago," Dylan laughed, kissing Jamie's ear.

 

"I want both of you to close your eyes, while Andre," Scott said, smiling at his co-Temp Top, "tells us a story."

 

Andre laughed. "Okay, I guess it is my turn.”

 

"There was once upon a time a poor miller who had a very handsome son.

 

Now it happened one day that he had an audience with the King, but broke his leg and was unable to attend, so he sent his son in his place. The son was very nervous and when he saw how handsome and good the King was, became desperate to draw attention to himself among the more brightly dressed and handsome courtiers that surrounded the king. In order to appear to be a person of some importance, the son told the King that he could spin straw into gold.

 

"Now that's a talent worth having," said the King to the son, barely hiding his smile. "If you're as clever as you say, come to my palace tomorrow, and I'll put you to the test." The King did not believe the son at all, but was drawn to his wit, chutzpa and imagination, and, as said, the young man was handsome.

 

When the son showed up at the caste the next day, he was full of self-confidence, and the two men sat and talked over breakfast. Again, the King smiled at him and gave him several opportunities to fess up to the lie and admit that he didn’t know how to spin straw into gold. But, the son was stubborn and, also, by this time, a bit worried about confessing the lie, and thus stuck to his story.

 

Seeing that the son was not going to confess on his own, the King led him into a room full of straw, with a spinning-wheel and spindle. Determined to play his role to the maximum, the King said with a barely hidden smile and slight laugh, "Now set to work and spin all day till early evening, and if by that time you haven't spun the straw into gold you shall have some serious explaining to do." Then he closed the door behind him and left the son alone inside, certain that a few hours alone would convince him of the error of lying.

 

So the poor miller's son sat down, and didn't know what in the world he was to do. He hadn't the least idea of how to spin straw into gold, didn’t even know how to spin, period! Sitting there for several long minutes, he attempted to spin but all he got was shredded straw and a cut on his finger where he jabbed it on the spindle. Finally losing his temper, he kicked the spinning wheel over and stalked over to the window, where he amused himself by throwing bits of straw at the birds perched on the ledge. Just as he was about to get up his courage and find the King to confess his lie, the door opened.

 

Stepping into the room was a tiny little man who said, "Good-day, Mr. Miller-son; why are you even thinking about confessing your lie to the King? You can pull this off,” he paused and smiled widely, “with my help of course.”

 

"Oh!" answered the son. “I know you! You’re the Gold Shark from the village. You’re also on my forbidden list and I’m not allowed to talk to you.”

 

“I prefer the title of “Gold Seller to the Cash Poor”. Suit yourself, but I hope you’re prepared to be thrown in the dungeon or be put on the rack for telling the King a lie.” The tiny man met the son’s eyes for another long moment and then smiled again. “Enjoy!” He then turned around and started back for the door.

 

“No! Wait!” the son cried. “You really know how to spin straw into gold? And,” he asked, “you can spin all of this into gold by this evening?”

 

“Of course, not a problem at all, my good boy.” The tiny man shut the room’s door and then righted the spinning wheel with a questioning look at the son. Sitting down, he picked up some straw from the pile on the floor, but then stopped. Putting his hand down again, he looked at the son with a surprised look. “Oh, silly me,” he said in a surprised voice that the son did not believe for a minute. “We never discussed payment of my services. How shall you be paying me today, my boy?”

 

The son made a face and shrugged. “I’m sorry, but I really don’t have anything to pay you with. I can give you my necklace,” he offered, showing the tiny man the leather cord with a simple pendant on it.

 

“No, no, that simple necklace is not worth my service.”

 

“How about my earring?” the boy offered, pulling back his hair to show the small gold ball in one lobe.

 

“What good does one earring do me, boy?” the tiny man asked, his voice annoyed. Getting up from the stool, he continued, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you have anything of value to trade with. Guess you will just have to confess and deal with the consequences.”

 

“Oh, please! There must be something I can give you that’s valuable.”

 

“Well,” the tiny man said slowly as he eyed the youth up and down and then walked around him. “You do have something of value. I’ll make a deal with you. I have a friend who keeps a stable full of sweet young things such as yourself. I know he’d give me top dollar for you.”

 

“I’m not going to become a slave!” the son cried out, outraged at the suggestion.

 

“No, no, no, a year's contract is all my friend would be interested in. And the term he uses is ponyboy.”

 

“Ponyboy!” the son cried out. “I don’t want to be a ponyboy!”

 

“Your choice,” said the little man, looking at the door. “Sign this contract,” he whipped it out from his breast pocket, “or, you can tell the King you lied.”

 

The son read the contract slowly, looking ill at some of the “services” he would be performing, then looked up. “Is there anything else I can do? I really don’t want to be a ponyboy.”

 

“No, sorry. Contract or the King,” the little man said, and started to hum the Jeopardy theme. “Make a decision, time’s a wasting and I’m going to need as much as possible if I’m going to spin all this straw into gold.”

 

“Please, you have to give me something else. I can’t do this!”

 

In a rare moment of humanity, the little man gave in. “All right, because I'm such a nice guy,” he said, taking the contract back. “I’m going to add a clause. If you can guess my name before I’m done spinning the straw into gold, we’ll tear up the contract and call it even.”

 

Grasping at this thread of hope, the son initialed next to the changes and then signed his name. “Deal.”

 

For the next six hours, the Miller’s son sat on the floor of the room and rattled off names, “Kasper, Jasper, Melchior, Belchoir, Belshazzar? Telshazzar, Conrad, Fonrand, Harry, Berry?" And on and on the son went, naming everyone in the village where he lived, naming all the past Kings of the Kingdom, naming all the literary characters he could think of. Each guess grew more and more desperate as the sun sank lower in the sky. “Sheepshanks Cruickshanks, Spindleshanks?”

 

“Cruickshanks?” the little man asked, looking up from the spinning. “Really boy, I don’t think that’s a name.”

 

“Shut up!” the son snapped. “I’m trying here!”

 

"Okay," the little man said, kicking some of the gold out from under his feet and resuming his spinning.

 

"Abelard, Mortimer, Homer, Fred," the boy croaked out, his voice disappearing as quickly as the sun in the horizon.

 

Suddenly, the sound of the King approaching could be heard in the hall.

 

The son jumped up and pushed the little man away from the spinning wheel. Looking around, he was thrilled to see that all but a small pile of straw had been turned into glittering gold.

 

The tiny man grinned and danced a little jig. "Ha ha," he laughed. "You belong to me, ponyboy! You didn't guess my name!"

 

"No!" the son cried. "I still have time!"

 

"Time for what, young man?" the King asked, having entered the room unseen. He looked between the two men. "Rumpelstiltzkin, what are you doing here? You know I banned you from the castle after you felt up two of my pages last year."

 

"NO!!!" the tiny man yelled.

 

"YES!!" the son yelled at the same time, smirking. "Is your name, perhaps, Rumpelstiltzkin?"

 

"You cheated!"

 

"No!" the son yelled back, standing up and towering over the tiny man, "The contract says that I have to finish before you finish spinning all the straw into gold! And there's still straw!" he finished triumphantly, pointing at the small pile by the wheel.

 

"NOT FAIR NOT FAIR NOT FAIR!" screamed the little man.

 

"Oh, do be quiet, Rumpelstiltzkin. You weren't supposed to be here in the first place. Now, get out before I show you my trick of turning tiny, amoral men into permanent residents of my dungeon."

 

Smirking and laughing, admiring the gold, the son watched the tiny man disappear through the open door.

 

Glancing at the young man, the King smiled, walked to the door and shut it firmly. "Now young man, I think we have some issues of our own to discuss. Namely, lying and making stupid bargains with unsavory characters."

 

The son backed up, not liking the expression on the King's face. "But I just wanted your attention!"

 

Sitting down on the stool, the King pulled the son toward him and quickly over his lap. "Well, love, you've got my attention and I think you're going to need it often from now on."

 

So, the son and the King lived happily ever after and the son never lacked for attention from his king when he needed it."

 

"The last two are out," Scott said quietly. He eased out from between Patrick and Jamie and made his way to the cave opening. "And the stars are out, too."

 

Andre slipped out from between his Brats and went to take a look. "It's a beautiful night," he said, putting his arm around Scott.

 

"Yeah, it is," Scott agreed. He glanced back over his shoulder as Jamie stirred and whimpered, but Dylan sleepily patted him and they both settled back into a deeper sleep. "They have their moments, but they're a good bunch of Brats," he said softly.

 

"Yeah, they are," Andre agreed.

 

They slipped quietly back under the blankets between their Brats.

 

"Good night, Andre."

 

"Good night, Scott."

 

"Good night, John Boy."

 

"Go to sleep, Carlos."

 

The End.

1