|ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US
I never thought my heart could belong to another.
I’m open-minded, of course, but I’ve always considered three a crowd.
I don’t think Avery was particularly happy with the situation, either. Not considering the way he was glaring at me now as I lay in bed, sleepy and contented, stroking the beautiful sleekness of my newest love.
“Fifteen inches,” I said dreamily. It was certainly the biggest one I’d ever seen.
“I’m switching the lights off now,” Avery warned.
“Just look for a sec,” I coaxed. “It’s so big and beautiful.”
Avery sighed, deeply, that Con You’re Not Listening to Me sigh, and glanced over quickly. “Yes, Con. It’s very big and beautiful. Ready to turn out the lights?”
I wrapped my arms possessively around my sweet baby. “Not yet! Darius doesn’t want you to!”
“Stop calling that thing Darius, and you’re going to break it if you keep hugging it like that.”
I scowled. “What’s wrong with Darius? I ASKED you to help me pick a name but you wouldn’t…”
“It’s a computer, darling. It’s not a person.”
“Shh! You’ll hurt his feelings,” I warned, patting the aforementioned 15-inch screen lovingly.
“Con. Turn the computer off. It’s time to sleep.”
“Darius thinks you’re mean,” I informed him.
Avery raised an eyebrow. “Oh, Darius does, does he?”
“He says I’m still doing important work on him and I’m not ready for sleep yet and…hey!”
Avery lifted Darius off my lap and onto his. “Computer poker, Con?” He sounded less than happy.
“Darius likes it!”
Avery shook his head briefly. “Where’s the important work you’re doing darling?”
“I…we were winning!”
“It’s almost eleven,” Avery enunciated clearly. “At ten thirty, when you told me you had important work to finish…”
“It was a VERY close game,” I said quickly.
“Darius wanted to finish the game!”
“But you can’t spank him. He’s got a Pentium IV processor and he’s very delicate and – AVERY! Ow!”
“Now may I turn the light out?”
I made a face into my pillow, soreness and sulkiness battling for first place.
Avery gave my butt a gentle pat. “Good night, Con.”
I sniffled, still feeling sorry for myself, waiting.
I heard another deep sigh before Avery leaned over and kissed the top of my head, ruffling my hair before he flipped the bedroom light off.
“Good night, Darius,” he said in a very put upon voice.
Thank you! Was that so hard?
Avery wasn’t being very fair.
Darius was really a VERY good member of the family. He was quiet, except for a little humming noise when his fans went on. He never made a mess. He was loyal and cautious, always wanting a password but remembering mine.
He was fast, fun, and I loved him.
And it wasn’t MY fault that my old dinosaur desktop finally got TOO slow and I bullied – er, convinced – the department to finance a new one. It was for WORK. I needed it for research.
And, um. Games.
Lots of games.
But my heart only belonged to poker.
Poker on a computer is the greatest thing ever.
I know, because I tried all the others too.
Avery’s just mean about Darius. He said that our bed was only big enough for two people.
Clearly he doesn’t read enough porn.
“You didn’t spend nearly this much time on the old computer,” he pointed out over dinner.
I dug my fork into my roast chicken and twirled off a piece of skin. “The new one is much faster.”
“Then the same work should take you a shorter amount of time…?” He asked it in that Avery way, where it’s somewhere between a question and a COMMAND and I’m supposed to say Yes, Avery, but honestly, I gotta be me.
“You can work anywhere on a laptop,” I told him happily, flattening a zucchini disc with the flat of my knife.
I picked up my fork, trailed four parallel buttered lines into my baked potato. “Darius has two DIMMs,” I told Avery proudly.
“What are DIMMs?” Avery asked.
Um. I shrugged. “Not sure,” I admitted. “But it’s supposed to be GREAT.”
Avery was giving me a rather odd look. “Stop playing with your food and eat please Con.”
I tore a small piece of chicken off the breast and dragged it through a pool of zucchini juice. When you squash a zucchini, the little seeds kind of ooze out.
Avery reached over and gently removed the fork and knife from my hands. “Eat.”
“How am I supposed to…?”
“You’ll manage and the silverware wasn’t helping anyway. Eat,” he said firmly, lining my fork and knife neatly across his plate.
“With my HANDS?” I asked incredulously. It hardly seemed sanitary.
“They’re clean,” Avery said patiently. “You washed them with soap before dinner.”
Of course I did.
I did my best impression of Avery’s put-upon sigh, tore a hunk of potato from its shell and popped it into my mouth.
Technophobes! What can you do?
Mean Avery wouldn’t let me back on the computer until I’d finger-fooded my way through the rest of my dinner, AND helped him with the dishes, AND swept the floor. I’d done everything but bring a bucket of water in from the well before he finally turned to me and said, “Much work tonight?”
“Not much,” I said automatically, then cursed my automaticness. “I mean, some. Enough. A lot. I should get started.”
We settled in the den, me on my stomach on the rug with Darius in front of me, Avery in The Chair with a stack of quizzes to grade.
I signed on, checked my mail. Opened up my Buddy List. Marveled at how fast the connection was.
I looked up guiltily just as Darius drew an inside flush.
Avery’s hands were on his hips and he didn’t look very happy.
I flipped the computer shut defensively. “What?”
“What are you doing?”
“Working?” I tried.
“Con. Do you think you’re going to play for hours now, and then stay up late working? And be exhausted tomorrow?”
I considered it. Well, yes, that had been more or less my plan.
“No?” I chanced.
Avery gave me a stern look. “Last warning, Con.”
I felt it was rather impolitic to point out that last night’s response had been somewhat more than a warning.
“Last night was for blatantly lying to me,” he distinguished, as if reading my mind. “Now we’ve moved on to the sin of omission, more specifically the sin of Internet omission.”
“Lights are going out at ten thirty tonight, Con. What you’ve accomplished before then is up to you.”
“But it’s already eight forty-five!” I squawked.
Avery lifted an eyebrow. “Whose fault is it that you haven’t gotten any work done yet?”
I scowled hard.
He hunkered down next to me. “Con. If you want my help regulating your computer time, you just have to ask…”
I shook my head. “I can do it. I’ll start working now.”
“All right.” He kissed me. “But one more time, Con…and it’s no longer an offer, it’s an order. Got it?”
I nodded distractedly as I worked on getting Darius out of Suspend Mode.
I got home the next night cranky and frustrated. I wasn’t as far along on my project as I’d MEANT to be and the department was confused that the new technology wasn’t helping.
And I had Internet Poker Night in less than an hour and Avery was watching me like a hawk.
I’d spent the last hour trying to get work done, jumping slightly whenever he approached me, nervous about the impending game.
Finally I headed for the kitchen. Poker nights need beer, you know.
I yanked open the fridge.
“Avery!” I howled. “We’re out of Sam Adams!”
Avery materialized in the doorway, arms folded over his chest. “There’s a grocery list on the refrigerator darling.”
I nobly refrained from hurling two-day-old Gouda at him.
“And you were supposed to shop this week,” he reminded me.
Well, no man is perfect.
“Do we throw cheese?” he asked me several LONG minutes later, maneuvering me into the far corner of the kitchen.
“You provoked me!” I wailed.
“Conrad, your behavior has taken a turn for the worst ever since that…yes, Con, it IS a computer…entered this house.”
“You never liked him,” I sniffled.
“Conrad…no, you stay there.” He turned me around gently, then I heard the familiar scrape as he pulled out a kitchen chair and sat.
I glanced at my watch as discreetly as I could, under the guise of scrubbing a forearm across my dribbling eyes.
Nine minutes to showtime.
“Avery? Can I come out now?”
I heard the scratch of pen on paper as he corrected homework handouts.
“I’ll be good.”
“I certainly hope so. Be quiet please.”
“Con, did I not make an impression before?”
“You made an impression, all right,” I muttered into the wall.
A gentle swat startled me what seemed like an awfully long time afterwards. When I checked my watch it was only six minutes though.
Avery gave me a hug. I tried not to enjoy it so much. How can someone who smells SO good be SO mean?
“I’ll buy groceries tomorrow,” I promised.
“Thank you. But I’m more concerned about you than a couple of six-packs…”
“I know.” I sighed. “Darius isn’t making me be bad, really…”
He kissed me. “You’re not being bad, and please let’s remember that…Darius…is a computer, all right darling? He’s a tool to be used for work and the occasional friendly chatter. That’s all.”
That’s how much he knew!
I had money banking on tonight.
Darius and I were going to WIN.
“I’m going to go work upstairs, okay?” I ventured. “I feel like sitting somewhere soft,” I said pointedly.
Avery ruffled my hair. “Want company?”
“You’re all set up down here…” I said innocently. “You can just come up after.”
He kissed me again. “Don’t stress sweetheart.”
If only it were that easy!
The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat…no, I wasn’t doing any more American History research, sadly…but I was sure playing a lot of poker.
“How’s the work coming?”
Avery’s voice startled me so badly I jerked and pulled the connection out of the wall.
There goes my game, AND my money.
I gritted my teeth. “Why are you sneaking up on me?” I demanded.
Avery picked up the frayed cord and handed it to me. “I live here,” he said mildly. “What’s the matter?”
I sighed. “Nothing. I’m tired.”
And I hadn’t gotten done nearly what I wanted, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.
He nodded. “Go and get ready for bed.”
I shut down the computer without being reminded, the research I’d ignored a knot in my stomach.
It was another lousy day. It was getting harder to make my excuses to my elders and betters. I meant to do so much research, I really did! I loved my work!
It’s just computer game addiction was…
I got home later than I’d meant to. The catch-up work I needed to do was looming over me, and I didn’t even want to LOOK at my computer right now.
I could see Avery through the bay window as I pulled up to the house. He met me at the front door with a crushing hug and a frosty Sam Adams, top already popped.
“You shopped,” I said, guilt suddenly overwhelming.
“If Mohammed doesn’t come to the mountain…”
Then the mountain goes grocery shopping.
Except he could always be counted on for everything and I just sucked.
He kissed me. “Don’t look like that. You’re going to make up for it; wait until you see all the hard work you’re going to put into prettying up the house this weekend.”
I gave him a look of alarm.
“Why don’t you go upstairs where it’s quiet and get started on your work,” he suggested. “I’ll bring you up something to eat.”
He gave me an Interested look.
I didn’t want to say, but I CAN’T work on that computer!
It sounded dumb.
And he’d told me to tell him if I needed help.
So this was kind of like lying.
Kind of a lot.
“But what darling?”
I sighed. “Nothing.”
Upstairs I settled cross-legged onto our big bed and flipped open my computer.
Research. I was ready to work hard. Research…
Could wait until after the first game.
A few clicks and I was into the system.
I readied my fingers over the eraser-tip mouse, set to play, when I froze.
“FILE NOT FOUND.”
I entered it again.
Slapped a few keys, darted the mouse around, jiggled the connector plug.
“FILE NOT FOUND.”
I opened my mouth to yell to Avery when I realized that was signing my suicide note.
I couldn’t exactly tell him I couldn’t sign in to poker.
Or that it had worked fine yesterday, either.
Resigned, curious, I opened up a blank file to start some work.
I was so immersed in Chickamauga that I didn’t notice Avery come in until he laid a gentle hand on my shoulder. I turned and kissed his fingers.
He stroked my face. “Hey. You’ve been working a long time. How’s it going?”
I looked at the computer clock. Ten thirty. I couldn’t believe it.
“Making strides,” I told him, unable to keep from grinning.
He ruffled my hair. “How about calling it a night?”
It was sweet of him to phrase it as a request, really.
I shut the computer down, stood up and nearly fell over.
“Con!” He caught me.
Ow. Ow ow ow ow OW.
He deposited me back on the bed. “Con,” he asked. “How long were you sitting like that?”
I shrugged. “Couple of hours?”
Avery sighed. “You have to stand up and take breaks sweetheart. You’re stiff as anything.”
I was tired and uncomfortable enough to let that go without tripling the entendre. I changed uncomfortably into pajamas, sore and tired.
Avery was waiting for me in bed. He held out his arms.
I snuggled against him. “It hurts,” I whined.
He pushed my hair off my forehead. “Close your eyes, and I’ll rub your legs,” he said.
I nodded gratefully.
I can’t believe something that feels that good is legal.
He’d scooched down in bed and now his fingers were digging into the muscles of my thighs in the most unbelievable way.
I sighed happily. “More.”
“Yes Con.” I could hear the smile in his voice.
I stretched a little, so content. Yes, I was sore, but it was almost a good sore…the soreness of having accomplished a LOT. Not a marathon, but huge chunks of the work I’d been ignoring.
And no poker.
And Avery’s hands on my sore legs felt amazing.
I felt myself start to relax, drift away.
“Avery,” I said sleepily.
His hands were still working their magic. “Go to sleep darling.”
“Not for the massage,” I mumbled. “For…you know…”
I heard the smile in his voice.
I always can.
“You just have to ask me for anything you need darling, like I said,” he told me quietly.
I shifted a little in my pillows, snuggling.
“But you don’t always have to ask,” he finished.
His hands and voice soothed me until I fell asleep before he even reached my calves.