Meeting: Part III

Characters and Text © 2002, C Sandwalker
Marcus © D Boccabella

Serath awoke the next morning feeling much refreshed. He remarked on this when Lukim came into the lounge to see if he was awake.

"That's good to hear," he said with a grin. "Come on; get up and have some breakfast. I've got some bacon and eggs for you, and toast if you want."

It was only now that Serath realised that he hadn't eaten anything since lunchtime the day before. "Thanks, Lukim; I'm starving!" He yawned and dumped the blanket onto the floor before getting up and following his flatmate out to the kitchen; the smells wafting through the doorway elicited a rumble from his empty stomach.

"So, what did he do, exactly?" Lukim glanced at the bandage on Serath's head before he served breakfast up. "And you, for that matter. What happened? Marcus wasn't too specific with details."

"I swerved off the road to avoid being run down by a car. Ended up in a ditch unconscious." Serath shrugged, and pulled the bandage off to show the faint line where he had been cut. He looked at the slightly bloody gauze, then got up to put it in the rubbish bin. "He did a very neat healing job. See?" Serath pulled up his right trouser leg to show Lukim the faint scar on his leg. "He has some sort of natural ability to heal people."

His flatmate nodded, chewing on a piece of toast with Marmite thickly slathered over it. "Interesting. What's he like? Personality and such, I mean. He's quite attractive. Mated?"

Serath shook his head. "He hasn't got a partner, no. I saw a couple of pictures of him with another guy, but I got the impression that they were taken a while ago. He seems to be a kind, loving person who aids people when they need it. From his living arrangements, I'd say that he prefers an austere way of life. He has a few necessities, like a washing machine, oven and phone, but he's not into fancy trappings and such. I mean, the bedroom I was in was just plain, with a single bed and a nightstand.

"He's sincere, and kind. I can't really say anything else about his personality, as I barely know him. I'll agree that he's attractive." Serath blushed slightly in his ears.

Lukim smiled, finishing off his toast. "He seems like a nice enough guy. You and he would make a good couple, perhaps."

The kitchen was quiet for a few minutes as the two wolves consumed their meal. When they had finished they got up and put their dishes into the dishwasher. "Did you have any plans for today?" Lukim asked Serath.

"Well, I was going to turn my sketches into more substantial pieces of art, but I guess I could do something else if you want. What did you have in mind?"

"A friend of mine gave me two admission tickets for the Egyptian History exhibit in the Museum. I don't really like history that much, so I figured that you might be able to use them. The exhibition's closing in a couple of days, so if you want to go...."

Serath blinked. "Uh, sure, I guess. Who would I invite to take the second ticket though? I don't really talk to any of my peers in class enough for me to invite one of them." He rested his elbow on the bench as he thought. Unbidden the image of the handsome-looking Marcus came to mind. "Never mind. I've thought of someone."

"I'll get those tickets then," Lukim said as he padded off to his bedroom. He returned a minute later holding two slips of yellow paper. "Here you go. Enjoy. I, on the other hand, have some work to catch up on. Being a part-time student is great, but you still have homework to do." He poked his tongue out with mock distaste and disappeared to his room again. "Have fun," he called before closing his door.

"Hmm." Serath looked at the tickets in his hand, then at the phone on the wall. Gathering some courage, he went over to the phone and picked up the handset. Hearing the dial tone, he pressed in the number, and waited nervously for the other end to be answered. There was suddenly a click and voice saying "Marcus speaking."

"Uh...hi," Serath replied. "It's Serath. Um...would you be interested in going to the museum with me today? I was given two tickets to the Egyptian exhibition, and I don't really know anyone else that I'd like to invite...." The wolf trailed off uncertainly.

There were a few seconds of silence before Marcus answered. "I'd like that. Thank you, Serath. In return, I will pay for lunch for us. What think you of transport arrangements?"

"Ah...well, I can't drive, so you'd either have to pick me up, or go on ahead while I take a bus."

"I'll pick you up in about half an hour then, if that's okay with you?"

Serath nodded, though the gesture couldn't be seen by Marcus. "That's fine. I'll see you when you get here then. Bye now." He waited until the other wolf had hung up before replacing the handset in its cradle, then looked down at the tickets. "Well. That was easy." Then he looked at what he was wearing. "Hmm. I'd better change." With that he went to slip into something more suitable.

Marcus arrived right on time, pulling up just as Serath was closing the front door behind him. "Hi, Marcus," he called, padding down the front path towards the gate.

"Good morning, Serath." Marcus unlocked the passenger door, and watched as Serath shut the gate and moved around to get into the car. "How are you feeling?"

"Not too bad, actually." The younger wolf fastened his seatbelt and slammed the door shut. "I'm feeling quite well, thanks to you."

A smile curved Marcus' lips. "You're welcome. And now, let us be off, to beat the lunchtime rush of traffic." He started the car and moved out into the street. "You live in a nice neighbourhood," he commented as he drove; he swivelled his gaze around to take in the surroundings.

Serath shrugged. "It's okay, I suppose. We have our share of troubles like any other suburb, but we get by. Most of the time it's pretty quiet, except when some of the students decide to have a party in the next street - everyone can hear them, but no-one ever calls noise control."

"Ah," Marcus said simply. "The actions of youth."

"Hardly. Some of the rowdiest are guys in their forties." Serath poked his tongue out. "They seem to think that they're still in the disco era, dancing around to Stayin' Alive."

Marcus turned and looked at Serath, his face sporting an amused smile. "I didn't care much for socialising in the Seventies, so I really wouldn't know. Sounds like fun, though."

Serath waved a hand dismissively. "Bah. Not my scene at all. I'm for staying at home having a quiet night by myself sometimes, or with Lukim. I paint now and then."

"Oh, do you? I'd like to see some of your artwork. What do you paint?" Marcus slowed for a pedestrian crossing, then sped up again.

"Uh...portraits," Serath said evasively. "Personal ones. You know...nude ones."

"Ah." Marcus smiled widely at the other wolf. "An expression of the body in the medium of paint and canvas. A worthy hobby."

The insides of Serath's ears went slightly red in response to the praise. "Thanks, Marcus. I liked art when I was at high school, so I sort of picked up some tips from others, and started painting in my own style. It took me a few tries; I still have the first ones I did, but I keep those locked away where no-one can see them."

Marcus nodded. "Fair enough. Many people would prefer to not let others see how bad their first attempts were. Others show them off as a comparison to how much they've improved."

The two wolves chatted quietly until they reached the museum, situated in the centre of the city. Marcus pulled into a parking space very recently vacated, and turned the engine off. "Well, here we are." He opened his door and stepped out, waiting until Serath had got out before locking the doors.

They both paid their donation of five dollars, and headed up to the second floor, where the exhibition was being held. Serath had his head turned towards Marcus as he reached the top of the steps, so he didn't see the massive representation of the Sphinx that 'guarded' the exhbition's entrance. "Jeez! What the...!" he yelped as he scrambled backwards in momentary fright upon turning his head around to face forward.

"It's just the Sphinx welcoming us," Marcus said, smiling at Serath's bewildered reaction. "I admit that it looks somewhat intimidating at that size, but I don't think it's going to be asking us any riddles."

"Yes, well," Serath murmured, regaining some of his composure. "I suppose not." He passed by the Sphinx with a wary look and continued through the entrance.

Inside the, room was massive, taking up most of the second floor. The walls were decorated like the inside of a pyramid's treasure chambers, painted in desert yellow, with trimmings of turquoise, gold, silver, and other brilliant colours, with long rows and columns of hieroglyphics. Glass display cases were scattered around the room, containing ancient artefacts from various periods in Egyptian history; several statues stood on pedestals; partitioning walls held informational plaques about Egyptian royalty, how the common people lived, their trade and interaction with other ancient countries. In the middle of the room was a mummy, still in its elaborately decorated sarcophagus, protected by an alarmed glass case. Wandering around were about forty people, five of which were standing around the mummy talking about it.

"Busy place," Serath commented, unsure of what to examine first. Marcus took the initiative and led him towards a statue featuring the head of a jackal, and an odd hairless body, standing at about shoulder height. "My favourite figure in Egyptian mythology," Marcus murmured reverently.

Serath peered over the information that accompanied the statue. "Anubis," he read, "was an important god of the underworld among the ancient Egyptians. His main center of worship was at Kynopolis, which means Dog City in Greek. Because the dog, or jackal, was his sacred animal, Anubis is often represented in the form of a crouching dog or jackal. His functions were associated with those of Osiris, the chief god of the underworld, and with those of Thoth, another of Osiris' assistants. It was Anubis' duty to attend to the ritual preparation of bodies, to weigh the heart of every person on the scale of justice, and to judge a person's good and bad deeds on earth." Serath looked at Marcus with an amused grin. "That would look good on his résumé, don't you think?"

Marcus chuckled. "He'd fit well into our judicial system." He patted the statue affectionately on the head, then moved on to the next exhibit, another statue.

For the next hour or so the two wolves circulated around the room, involving themselves in discussions with other people about this king or that queen, the methods used in constructing their pyramids, their tombs, treasures, and other aspects of Egyptian culture.

Their tour of the exhibition was cut short by Serath's stomach rumbling. "I guess that means that it's time for lunch," he noted. He looked at his watch, which showed 12:22. "Bingo. You said you'd buy lunch, right?"

"I did, yes. Do you fancy anything in particular?" Marcus looked up from the jewellery he was perusing. "I know a place that makes wonderful chicken pies; big as dinner plates, they are."

"Sounds good to me," Serath replied. "We can share one between us, then." He grinned at Marcus. "I also know a place that does some pretty good savoury bread. We can have that as well. Maybe something to drink as well?"

Marcus nodded, taking Serath's hand to guide him out of the exhibition room. "Grape juice, I think. The taste of wine, without the alcohol content."

Together they went down the stairs again, passing the ever-watchful Sphinx on the way out. "That thing still gives me the creeps," Serath muttered. He shivered in a dramatic fashion and chuckled. "She'd make a good watchSphinx though."

A few minutes later, after Serath had bought a large loaf of cheese bread and a focaccia loaf, the two wolves were sitting down to eat in 'The Chook's Nest'. Serath ogled the massive pie as Marcus cut into it with the provided knife. "How much did that cost you? Must have been a small fortune!"

"Twenty-seven seventy," Marcus replied nonchalantly. He carefully lifted the wedge of pie he had cut and placed it on Serath's plate. "Most of it pays for the labour; the rest pays for the ingredients." He put a slice on his own plate, then reached for the bottle of grape juice he had also purchased. He popped the top with little effort, and poured some of the contents into their glasses.

"Thanks," Serath murmured, picking his up and gazing at the rich maroon colour. "Perhaps we should drink to something," he said thoughtfully. "I know this isn't wine, but it's close to it." He raised his glass. "To...I don't friendship."

Marcus smiled and raised his own to clink it against Serath's. "To friendship, and the continuation of it." They then lifted their glasses to their lips and took a sip, before starting in on the pies.

When they finished, they left the small restaurant and headed back to Serath's flat, making small talk as Marcus drove sedately through the suburbs again.

"Well, we're back," Marcus said, stopping the car outside his gate. He got out, and went around to the passenger side to open Serath's door. "I'll walk you to the door, if you don't mind."

Serath smiled, easing himself out of the car. "Not at all." He unlatched the gate and swung it open, before taking Marcus' offered arm and walking slowly up the path. On the front doorstep they stopped and looked at each other. "Thank you for coming out with me. I really enjoyed our time together." Serath blushed a little inside his ears. Then, before he could have second thoughts about it, he kissed Marcus very quickly on the lips, before fumbling for the door handle.

Marcus blinked, surprised at the action. "Serath, wait," he said, snagging the other wolf's arm as he managed to get the door open. "Why did you do that?" he asked quietly, looking directly into Serath's eyes.

"Uh, well, I...." Serath trailed off, blushing furiously and looking down at the ground. "I still like you...a lot," he murmured.

"Ah, I see." Marcus was silent for a few seconds before he spoke again. "Serath...I know that you have feelings for me. I'm starting to think they're genuine, and not just that side effect I mentioned to you. I like you too, but if you're looking for a relationship...I think it's too soon." His face took on a slightly pained expression.

Serath nodded. "That's okay." He looked up and smiled weakly. "Thanks for understanding...I'm kind of new to this kind of thing."

There was an awkward silence for a minute or so until Serath broke it. "I'd better go inside, and see if Lukim is, in fact, doing his homework. He has a tendency to get distracted sometimes."

"I'll see you soon then, most likely," Marcus replied with a slight smile. He turned and padded slowly down the path. From the doorway Serath watched, noticing the subtle movements in the way he walked. "Nice butt," he murmured, turning and closing the door behind him.

On to Part 4