|by Rolf and Gayspankee|
Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original authors only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 26 Feb 2002
"Hello?" He answered, still in a sleepy fog.
"Rolf, it's Sven, have you heard from Matthew this morning?"
"No, his flight isn't for another four hours, I am sure he is still deep in slumber. Why?" Rolf asked completely puzzled.
"Rolf, turn on the television," Sven paused. "There was a large earth quake in California. In San Francisco, California."
Rolf snatched up the remote and immediately tuned into CNN, heart thumping. They were on a brief break.
"They aren't saying."
"I have to try calling the hotel, maybe it was far enough away from the epicenter."
"Please, keep me posted."
Rolf hung up the phone, and held it close to his chest. So many things were running thru his head, and none of them were positive. He closed his eyes tightly, unable to bear any of those thoughts. He stumbled over to the dresser, his legs like jelly from the adrenaline. He found the number for the hotel, and dialed, he quickly hung up and dialed again, and then a third time, before tossing the cordless phone on the bed.
"damnit, all the circuits are busy."
Rolf only waited a second before he remembered the cell phones. He quickly picked up the phone and dialed Matthew's. It went directly to voice mail. Rolf's heart sank and it took him a moment to speak, but he couldn't bear to think of Matthew frightened or maybe worse and not even knowing if he knew.
"Matthew, call me as soon as you get this. I need to hear you're allright. I love you, and it'll be okay."
He then hung up and dialed Marc's, which rang and rang and rang.
"damnit! Answer the phone!" He started pacing, then noticed the news was back on. His mouth opened in shock as they had some of the traffic cameras in San Francisco showing that several roads had collapsed. "Oh my God."
Rolf stepped forward to turn up the volume, and tripped over Marty, who was begging to eat. He was then startled by the howl Misty let out as he gently stepped on her tail. Rolf could only growl as he made his way closer to the television to hear more details.
"The early data shows the quake to be a 6.6 on the scale, with the epicenter somewhere near downtown San Francisco. The cameras we're looking at are the various traffic cameras we have in place, and they're showing some major road damage down I 485. One thing we can be thankful for is that it wasn't rush hour."
Rolf jumped nearly to the ceiling when the phone rang. He stumbled back over to the bed and picked it up. "Matthew?" he said, breathlessly.
"It's Eric. You haven't heard from him yet?"
Rolf sat down on the bed, the emotional rush crashing again. "No, I haven't. Do you know anything more than the television news?"
"No, nothing's come across here yet. I'm sure Matthew is fine and will call you as soon as he can. Just let me know, and if I hear anything, I'll call you. You've got my number if you need anything."
"Thanks, Eric." Rolf hung up the phone and redialed all the numbers again.
"damnit!" Rolf exclaimed throwing the phone on the bed in frustration.
By this time, all four cats had found their way into the bedroom. Their sole concern was getting their breakfast. They all but cornered Rolf, leaving him no choice but to exit through the doorway and down the hall.
Marc stumbled out of bed in the direction of Matthew's scream. He found Matthew's hand and tugged blindly in the direction of the bathroom. He'd watched enough television to know if you're stuck in a building in an earthquake, you should be in the doorway. The only one besides the outdoor ones was the one leading to the bathroom. He found the wall with his big toe, cursing as the pain shot up his leg.
Matthew ran into the back of Marc, and they both fell into the doorway, holding each other tightly. The rumbling stopped within a minute of starting, but for Matthew and Marc it was the longest minute in either of their lives.
Muted shouts and screams could be heard in the eerie silence that followed. Footsteps ran past their door, a child in hysterics wasn't too far away.
After a few seconds of silence Marc spoke. "Are you allright? Didn't get hit by the glass did you?"
Matthew was still in a bit of shock, but stammered out a response. "N-no. Y-you?"
"Physically I am fine."
Just then a picture fell off the wall, shattering loudly in the dark room. Both young men jumped, then scrambled quickly to their feet.
Matthew tried the light switch on the wall but found that it wasn't working.
"Matthew we need to get out into the hall see what kind of damage the hotel has sustained."
"I want to stay here." Matthew said quietly.
"Two words, after shocks!"
"That's one word."
"Potato, pototo! Regardless of how it is spelled, they can be just as strong if not worse than the original. I for one would rather be on the first floor."
"Come on, see if you can find your shoes. Your shoes, where did you put your shoes?" Marc asked, grabbing and keeping a firm hold on Matthew's hand.
Matthew was about to answer when the building rumbled again.
"Oh my God....Marc," Matthew said, very near tears, beginning to panic.
"Matthew stay calm, we need to remain calm."
Marc decided they didn't have time to worry about the shoes. He could barely make out the door to the hallway, but headed straight for it. The door opened and with some emergency lighting, they could make out the interior hallways. The two young men walked out into the hallway, amongst the other guests on the floor. Just as they completely exited their room, an aftershock hit. It slammed the door closed behind them, and they heard something crash up against the door.
Tom woke up, the first to feel the rumblings. He shook Dean. "Earthquake! Get up!"
Dean woke up quickly and they both headed for the hallway door, standing still until the shaking stopped.
"Why don't you get back in bed, I'll go see what the house looks like," Dean said.
"No, and you'd better put some shoes on in case any glass broke," Tom replied, sliding his sandals easily onto his feet.
Dean did the same and they headed out of the room. "I'll check upstairs, you take down," Tom said, heading into the back bedroom.
Dean went downstairs, finding only a plant pot having been overturned and broken during the initial quake. He turned on the television and began picking up the pieces of the pot and putting them into the trashcan.
Tom came downstairs a minute later. "Nothing looks broken upstairs, how is it down here?"
"Just this, as far as I can tell. They don't know much yet," he said, indicating the news.
Tom started to bend down when the aftershock started. Both men stayed put and within a moment the rumbling had stopped. Tom helped Dean pick up the dirt, then left the mopping to Dean. He sat down to watch the news closer as they started to pan some of the city street cameras. The cameras switched to the bridge and that reminded Tom of their new friends.
"Dean! Do you think Matthew and Marc are okay?"
"I don't know. We could try -"
Tom was already in the phone book looking up the number of the hotel. After finding it, Tom picked up the phone and quickly dialed. He soon discovered that the lines were down in town. He hung up and turned to Dean.
"Lines must be down in town. I think we should go check on them."
"Tom we are not leaving this house until things are more stable. You know what these quakes do to the people. It just shakes up all the crazies."
"Thomas Allen we will continue to check on them via the phone, but NEITHER one of us is leaving this house until we know what is waiting for us on the other side of that door. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes sir," Tom replied, knowing there was no point in debating.
Rolf managed to get downstairs without falling, an amazing feat considering he had four cats winding their way around his feet all the way into the pantry. He got the canned food and opened it, pouring it into the bowl and putting the bowl onto the floor. He then headed into the kitchen to make himself some coffee.
With trembling hands he started the coffeepot. When he saw how badly he was shaking, he roughly laid his hands flat on the counter. "They're fine. Bad news travels faster than good, they're fine. I'm sure they're fine."
Rolf kept himself busy while the coffee brewed, but as soon as it was done he couldn't help himself and turned on the television in the living room, sitting down to watch the latest news. He nearly went thru the roof when the doorbell rang. He sprinted to the door, hoping against hope, that maybe the two young men caught a different flight and were nowhere near the damage. Rolf flung open the door to find Sven. Rolf tried to hide his disappoint, as he knew it was a stretch.
"Expecting someone little brother?" Sven asked entering the foyer.
"No, I just had hoped..."
Sven rubbed Rolf's shoulders as they went into the living room.
"I assume you took the day off from work?"
"Why not, wouldn't get anything accomplished anyway."
"Rolf, Matthew will be fine. He is a strong guy. And it's not like he is lost in the wilderness."
Except he could be hurt, trapped, terrified- Rolf resolutely pushed the thoughts away, knowing there was no useful purpose in indulging them.
"I know, I just will feel better when I hear from him."
"I can't believe we are locked out!" Matthew snarled, as he made one last attempt to push open the blocked door.
"Just be thankful that we still have a room to be locked out of."
"I guess. What are we going to do?"
Marc looked around, the guests still a little panicked but much quieter now. "Let's go downstairs, see if we can find out what's going on. Should be able to get security to help open the door or something."
Matthew nodded and they headed down the hallway.
"Watch your feet, there may be glass around."
"I'm watching," Matthew replied.
"We have been watching this for over two hours and they still don't know squat," Tom vented, as he turned off the television.
"You know how the media is, they are the first to respond, and do have great information, but they beat a dead horse when there is nothing to report."
"Ain't that the truth. I just want to know how bad things are in town."
"Marc and Matthew were staying in a very nice hotel. Now I know that means relatively little, but I am willing to bet that it was constructed fairly well. Besides this wasn't a large quake. Just enough to do some minor damage and cause a disturbance to the daily grind. You know that as well as I do."
"I guess you're right."
"Sven it's after 11, why haven't I heard anything?" Rolf asked, checking the dial tone on his own phone.
"They probably can't get through with you picking up that blasted phone every five minutes."
Rolf shot a look at Sven that could have frozen a chicken.
"Rolf, the lines are down. I am sure the phone company is working on it, but if they are like the company here, it is going to take a while to get those lines up and running."
"What about their cell phones?"
"Cell phones aren't guaranteed either. With the electromagnetic field raging out of control out there, who knows what sort of signal they are picking up. You need to calm down, and stop watching this." Sven turned off the television, which was showing some of the city's more devastating damage. "Now go take a shower, and I will make an early lunch."
"I can't, I need to-" Rolf began to combat.
"You need to take a shower and clear your mind of those images." Sven replied, gently turning his little brother towards the stairs.
Matthew and Marc walked down the steps with most of the other guests, getting down to the main floor in just a few minutes. Most everyone was in their pyjamas, some still looking wild-eyed, the rest just sort of dazed and confused. The security of the hotel was trying to get everyone gathered into the ballroom and eating areas while they assessed any potential damage in the hotel. Emergency personnel were wandering around as well, looking for anyone that needed treatment while the fire department was combing the building with scanners to detect any possible gas leaks.
Someone shoved bottled water into their hands, which they drank quickly. They found seats against the wall on the floor, both of them in some shock, the hubub going on around them.
Dean had called into his office as soon as it was to open and the phone was picked up by his boss.
"Hey George, how's everyone?"
"I've gotten calls from everyone but Trish and Michael. They both live farther away and I doubt have even thought to call yet if they didn't have the news on already. Sounds like everyone is allright, with no major damage. You and Tom doing alright?"
"Just a flower pot broken on this end. I've been around the house and don't see any cracks in the foundation, nor anything on the walls."
"Good deal. I'm telling everyone to just stay at home today. There are quite a few emergency vehicles up and down the streets, we might as well not get in the middle of all this today. I'd expect we'll be back to work tomorrow but I'll call if that changes. Take care."
"Thanks, you too," Dean said, hanging up the phone.
"Going to work?" Tom asked, trying not to sound hopeful.
"No. George understands that the emergency vehicles and clean up crews need to do their job without the rest of us clogging up the city. We've got a quiet day off, what would you like to do?"
"I'd like to head over to the hotel, I'm SURE that Marc and Matthew are scared to death. They don't live out here."
Dean took Tom's shoulders and looked into his eyes. "I know you're worried about them, but we are NOT going down there. As I just finished saying, we'd just be in the way. They're with the hotel personnel who are doing everything they can to ensure their guests safety."
"It's just ONE car!" Tom said quickly.
"And I said no. There IS no more discussion needed, clear?"
Tom turned and bounded up the stairs without an answer. Dean let him go.
Rolf finished with his shower, feeling marginally better when he emerged. He got dressed and headed downstairs, straight into the kitchen.
"No, no one called. Don't you think I'd interrupt your shower if it were that important?" Sven asked, setting two plates down on the kitchen table.
Rolf couldn't argue with that and sat down to eat, even though his appetite wasn't there.
An hour later Rolf again had the television on and was watching the news. Sven didn't have a prayer getting his brother not to watch.
"Rolf, please. This isn't doing you any good whatsoever," Sven pleaded.
Rolf looked up at his brother. "You know, you're right." He stood up and strode into the hallway. "I need to fly out there and find out for myself." He grabbed the keys from the basket and was headed towards the door.
"Rolf. Rolf, wait!" Sven replied, grabbing his brother's arm. "It's barely after 9 out there. I understand that it is hard, but you have to just sit and wait. Please?" Sven asked, his eyes pleading.
Rolf didn't want to wait, but knew his brother's words rang true. He handed his brother the keys to the truck, and returned to the living room to wait. Sven accompanied him, and watched his brother stare at the television, as if Matthew would appear on the screen. He needed to find something to shift Rolf's attention and he grabbed for the one thing that always worked.
"Hey now that you got me here, didn't you need my help with the motorcycle?"
It proved to be a temporary fix, as Rolf nodded and led his brother into the garage.
"I can't believe with all that shaking, this place is in almost perfect condition." Matthew said as he rose to his feet.
"I guess places in these cities are prepared for those kind of events. An earthquake was totally in the back of my mind, but I didn't really think we would encounter one."
"Me either. I still can't believe for as scary as it was, there is virtually no damage."
"They didn't say there was virtually no damage. Just no damage to the hotel."
"What do you think it's like out there?"
"I don't know," Marc said quietly, half curious, half scared to see what could have happened to them.
"Let's go see," Matthew said, standing up. "I'm tired of just sitting, this is driving me insane."
Marc got up as well. "Look at yourself, peanut. You're in your bedclothes. You have no shoes. You -"
"I can go back upstairs and work on getting the door open. All our stuff is in there."
"No. I know it's rather boring here, but we need to stay put until we're told otherwise. I think they're serving sandwiches, want to go see what they have?"
Matthew agreed unwillingly and followed Marc through the groups of people still packed into the ballroom.
Dean hadn't heard Tom moving upstairs, and assumed he had fallen asleep on the bed. He decided that wasn't such a bad idea since his day began so early. He decided to curl up on the couch for a few minutes of shut eye. His head barely hit the couch pillow, and he was instantly out.
Tom was upstairs, but he was anything but asleep. He wanted to check on his new friends, and he needed to get out and explore. He sat on the bed trying to think of how he could sneak out. He was considering a trip down the flower trellis, but knew he wasn't agile enough for that. Instead he decided to take his chances with Dean, and would walk right out the front door...when Dean's back was completely turned in the opposite direction that is. Tom got dressed, and put on his watch, noting that it was already noon. He slipped on his sneakers, and quietly headed downstairs. Once down the stairs, he sensed something was amiss, and soon heard the unmistakable sound of Dean snoring. He grinned and quietly slipped out the door, car keys in hand.
Rolf wasn't entertained for long with the motorcycle, even with Sven making it harder than it needed to be, surreptitiously, of course. Rolf had taken his cell phone out to the garage, along with the cordless one and couldn't stop looking over at them every few minutes, willing them to ring.
"A watched pot never boils." Sven said looking at Rolf.
"I can't take much more of this silence."
"That sandwich was crap!" Matthew said quietly.
"What do you want for nothing?"
"Something with flavor. I told you we should have gone out."
"We can't leave the hotel. Especially with you wearing those pink little bunnies."
"You are SO not funny."
"Besides they said they would make an announcement before 2."
"It's been over 8 hours since the original quake, don't you think things should be moving at a faster pace?"
"I don't know Matthew, this is my first earthquake...and I hope my last."
"I agree with that."
Tom drove from the safety of his home in the hills to the crazy hustle and bustle of downtown. He couldn't believe the things that he saw. It took him nearly an hour to circumvent the older area of downtown where several buildings were down. Most of the main roads were already cleared, and a lot of people were driving around, trying to see the damages. Tom was surprised when he drove by one business and saw several people walking out with vcrs and stereos.
Finally he spotted the hotel they had dropped their new found friends at and turned down that street. His progress was impeded with emergency vehicles so he found a parking space in an untended lot and got out to walk the short distance to the building.
He was amazed when he walked into the hotel, seeing a lot of people still in pajamas and barefoot. Things seemed to be basically calm and he was unmolested as he wandered around the large atrium, looking for any signs of Marc and Matthew.
Thirty minutes later he was about to give up hope when he spotted the two guys sitting with the backs against the wall on the floor. He worked his way through the throngs of people towards them.
"How long are we going to pretend to tinker with this bike Sven?" Rolf asked, seeing thru his brother's hidden efforts.
"Until that phone rings."
"I don't think I will be able to keep my sanity that long. I have to do something, and do it soon!"
Dean jolted from his slumber as the phone rang. Wondering faintly mad, why Tom didn't get it, he walked into the kitchen to answer. "Hello?"
"Dean, how are things there?"
Dean took a moment to recognize a classmate of Tom's on the phone. "Hey Lucas. We made out okay, with one flower pot as the sole victim. How are things in your neighborhood?"
"We were basically untouched, thank God. Is Tom around?"
"Yes, just a moment." Dean put the phone down and looked around downstairs, calling Tom's name. When he didn't get an answer, he headed upstairs thinking maybe that Tom had fallen asleep up there. He headed back downstairs in full stride, spotting the keys missing. He threw open the door and saw the car wasn't in the garage. "You'd better be going out for milk," he ground out, shutting the door and returning to the phone.
"Sorry, Lucas for the length of time. Seems that Tom ran out for a few minutes, can I have him call you back?"
"Sure, thanks." Lucas hung up the phone.
Dean immediately hung up and dialed Tom's cell phone. He wasn't surprised when the phone chirped from upstairs.
"Tom?! What are you doing here?" Marc and Matthew asked, almost in unison.
"I was worried about you two. This being your first shaker, I assume anyway."
"First, and last I hope." Matthew replied.
"How are things on the outside?" Marc asked.
"Things are quite a mess around the hotel. Seeing how some of the buildings just tumbled, is rather disturbing."
"What about your place? Everything in good condition there?" Marc asked.
"We are quite fine. Only suffered a broken flowerpot. Which was surprising given all the shaking. But I guess Dean and I are far enough from the epicenter, so we were lucky."
"Where is Dean? You didn't drive thru all that mess by yourself did you?" Marc inquired, concerned for Tom's safety.
Tom didn't respond with an answer, but gave a look that only a brat would know.
"What did you do shimmy down the water drain?" Matthew asked.
"Nooooo! I walked right out the front door."
"Just like that?" Marc asked.
"Yes, while Dean was fast asleep on the couch."
"So how dead are you?" Matthew asked.
"I am guessing pretty dead, but I think I can sweet talk my way out of this. After all, I had someone else's interest in mind."
"Oh no, you aren't dragging us down with you." Marc said laughing.
"Speaking of dragging you places, why are you guys in the lobby, in your jammys?"
"Originally they wanted to make sure the structure was safe. But as it turns out we are locked out of our room. Something is blocking the door." Matthew replied.
"If you would like, you can come back home with me, freshen up. We could offer a change of clothes I am sure."
"As tempting as that is, I am not sure..." Marc began, before looking around, and realizing that it had been hours and would continue to be hours. Turning to Matthew, "What do you think?"
"I think it beats this shit."
"Then it's settled." Tom said, leading the two young men out of the hotel.
"Sven I need to get some air. I am going to take my cell with me, forwarding any calls to it. I HAVE to get out of this house and walk."
"Let me come with you," Sven replied.
"NO. No thank you. I need to be by myself," Rolf replied, grabbing his cell phone.
Sven wanted to be there for his brother. He agreed to let him have his air as that was basically the only choice he was given.
"I feel so weird in my shorts out here," Matthew said, gingerly placing his feet on the sidewalk as they went towards Tom's car.
"Thank God you're not wearing your bunny one-piece suit with the little floppy feet and the trap door," Marc said, laughing loudly.
Matthew punched Marc in the arm. "I couldn't because you borrowed it asshole!"
Tom turned around and eyed the two young men carefully.
"What?" Matthew said with indignation.
"Oh, nothing. I just think Marc would look the cutest in the bunny suit. I can see why he'd want to borrow it."
Marc looked like he was going to punch Tom, so Tom danced out of the way, laughing.
Matthew couldn't help it and had tears streaming down his face. The stress of the quake and the few hours sleep combined to send Matthew over the edge, laughing hard enough to crack a rib. The other two were having problems keeping a straight face because of the scene Matthew was making and before long, they too dissolved into gales of almost hysterical laughter.
Once everyone had settled down, they finished the short walk to the car and Tom pulled out of the lot.
"It wasn't so damaged around here. It's the older section of town that got hit the hardest," Tom said, driving slowly down the street.
Matthew and Marc were both busy looking out the windows, gauging the extent of the damage they could see. They both sucked in their breath as they passed one small building that had crumbled to the ground, bricks strewn across the side street.
The traffic was picking up as people were coming out to see for themselves the damage the quake caused, but going away from the downtown area wasn't too bad. Twenty minutes later Tom pulled into his driveway. He had managed to not think too hard about Dean most of the morning as he was more interested in helping Matthew and Marc, but when he saw Dean standing at the front door, arms crossed, he knew he was going to have a lot of explaining to do.
Rolf walked a steady pace down the street, going to no particular destination. He would stop every few minutes and check the battery on his phone.
"This is absurd!" he said quietly to himself. "I have spent half the day staring at the phone, and I have heard nothing. Not a single peep."
Rolf turned and headed back towards his house.
"I can't stay hear and do nothing. I HAVE to know you are allright. And since you aren't calling, I am going to have to come find you myself." Rolf said aloud, looking at his watch. "It's just after three, I can be on a plane by four, four fifteen at the latest."
Rolf picked up the pace certain this was the answer. He abruptly made his way thru his house and into the bedroom.
"What is it? What did you hear?" Sven asked, certain that Rolf had news by his actions.
"Same as before, not a damn thing!" He snarled as he rifled thru his dresser drawer for the emergency credit card.
"So what are you doing then?"
"I am going to see what has happened."
"Finally!" he replied grabbing the card. "I am hopping the next flight to San Francisco."
"WHAT?! Rolf that is insane."
"No I am GOING insane. This is the best idea I have come up with. I need to go, and I need to go NOW!"
"No, Rolf you need to stay here, by the phone. What are you going to do out there? The airports are probably closed. And if they are up and running, you are just going to pass them in the air."
Rolf grabbed his wallet and secured the credit card in there. He contemplated packing a suitcase, but knew that would only waste time. Sven's words made sense, but Rolf couldn't deal with staying still for another minute. He quickly passed his brother and made his way down the hall. Sven stayed close on his heels, trying to talk sense into him along the way.
"Rolf? Rolf do you hear me? Don't ignore me."
But Rolf did just that. Horrible images of Matthew and Marc pinned beneath rubble filled his head. He needed to go, and that was what he would do. Rolf grabbed the keys to his motorcycle and walked towards the garage.
Matthew and Marc's stomachs sunk as they saw Dean's demeanor at the front door. They had seen that expression before, and knew what awaited Tom. They only hoped that they would not bare witness.
Dean saw that Tom was not alone, and quickly recognized the passengers. He made his way to the car, and greeted them. He looked them over, and was pleased to see no visible damage.
"Well hello Marc, Matthew." Dean said as the two young men got out of the car. "Are you enjoying our fine city?"
"Um, yeah, those are some wake up calls I can do with out." Marc replied.
"That is for sure. I don't like wake up calls to begin with." Matthew added.
"You two appear to have escaped unharmed." Tom said.
"I think we were rather lucky."
"I heard some things breaking around us, so we must have been in a safe spot." Marc replied.
Dean looked over at Tom, who was oblivious to Dean's anger. He walked over and grabbed a hold on Tom's hand, and held it tightly.
"Come on inside, it looks like you two have been locked out of your room." He guided Tom along with him, as he walked towards the house.
"Yeah, something wedged our door, so we have been in the lobby since the initial quake."
They walked inside Dean and Tom's house. The place was immaculate and spacious.
"I bet you both would love a shower and a change of clothes."
"Actually it was rather stuffy in the lobby." Matthew replied.
"There are two showers upstairs, the guest and our master bath. Let me take you up, and I can set you both up with a change of clothes. Tom, have a seat on the couch, I will be down in a moment."
Matthew and Marc both realized why Dean was eager to get the showered. It was the best way to get him alone with Tom. They guys wished thy could help bail Tom out, but knew there was nothing they could do. Besides a hot shower sounded divine. They followed Dean upstairs.
Tom walked slowly over to the couch. He knew Dean was pissed now, and wanted to slink under the couch, rather than on it. As he knew both Marc and Matthew had to know what was next.
Dean showed Matthew and Marc to the bathrooms, giving them each a change of clothes. After the bathroom doors had closed, Dean walked downstairs to the kitchen. He pulled down Tom's paddle, which hang decoratively above the sink, and returned to the living room.
The moment that Tom saw the paddle, he immediately began his explanations. "I was ONLY --"
"BE QUIET," Dean thundered, stopping in front of Tom.
Tom gulped audibly, shocked at Dean's tone.
"There is not a single, solitary excuse that would make me any less angry with you than I am right now. Not one, I don't want to hear it."
Hot tears sprang to Tom's eyes as his face flushed with shame.
Dean took no notice. "This is a simple, cut and dried case of you choosing to outright disobey me, something that I'm going to make perfectly clear to you is completely and totally unacceptable behavior, no matter what the reason. You asked about going earlier today, and you were there when I said no. Not only did I say no, I gave you my reasons for saying it. I DO NOT EXPECT TO SAY NO JUST TO HAVE YOU GO BEHIND MY BACK AND DO AS YOU damnED WELL PLEASE!"
At those words, the tears that were clouding Tom's eyes rolled down his cheeks and a heart wrenching sob soon followed.
Rolf turned around in the garage, angrily zipping up his jacket. "Look, damnit. I'm going. I can't do anything here and I CAN do something if I go there. If you're coming, get the helmet on, and Matthew's jacket over there. Otherwise, shut up and get out of my way."
Sven grabbed Matthew's jacket, finding the sleeves just a little too short, but it was more protection than his shirt. He put the helmet on and his arms around his brother as they roared out of the garage and to the airport. Sven hoped he could talk sense into Rolf before he tried to take off.
They pulled up near the entrance, Rolf parking the bike and leaving his helmet locked onto it. He strode quickly to the entrance.
Sven pulled his helmet off and dropped it over the back seat, barely keeping up with his brother.
Rolf walked up to the first counter that was open and asked for the next flight to San Francisco.
"There's been an earthquake there and they've currently got the airport closed as they check the runways for damage. The best I can do is get you to Sacramento for now, on the redeye."
"You've got nothing sooner?"
"No, sir. If --"
Rolf was already marching down to the next counter.
"I want to get to San Francisco. When's your next flight?"
"Sir, there's been --"
"Yes, I know there's been a damn earthquake. WHEN is your next flight?"
Sven put a hand on Rolf's shoulder. "Calm down there big guy."
Rolf shrugged off the hand, eyes staring intently at the clerk.
"I can get you on an 11pm flight to Los Angeles, and a jumper from there to San Francisco, if the airport is open by then."
"No, thanks." Rolf headed to the next counter, his patience at the breaking point.
"Stand up and drop your pants," Dean said sternly.
Tom had put his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands, sobbing without caring who heard.
Dean pulled Tom to his feet. "Get your pants down, NOW."
Tom fumbled with his buttons, finally managing to get it undone and zipper pulled down.
Dean sat down on the couch and pulled Tom over his knees, removing the rest of Tom's pants and underwear quickly. He wrapped his arm around Tom's waist and brought the paddle down with a resounding crack.
Tom howled immediately, jumping from both the sting and the sound. He tried to push himself up off of Dean's lap but Dean's iron grip held him motionless, except for his legs which kicked ineffectually. Tom didn't even bother trying to hang onto a shred of dignity as he felt so awful for what he'd done. He hadn't thought about how it looked to Dean, just thought he was doing the right thing for Matthew and Marc.
Both Matthew and Marc were taking their time in the shower. It felt so good to be under the hot spray after their day, but more than that, they didn't want to hear anything if they could help it. Matthew turned his shower off first and he heard the last few ringing swats of the paddle in between the howls that Tom was doing. He cringed in sympathy, hating the entire spanking process at least 100 times more when it involved wood.
Dean rested the paddle on the floor and let Tom stop his more hysterical crying before he pulled him up and balanced him on his lap.
Tom buried his head in Dean's neck, arms wrapped around in a near stranglehold.
After a few moments of comfort, Dean set Tom on his feet, picked up the clothes from the floor and walked him to the guestroom. He shut the door, then pulled the bedspread down and then the blanket and sheets. "Lie down and try to calm down. I need to get Marc and Matthew settled downstairs."
Tom practically fell down face first, curling up into a tight ball, the tears and sobbing picking up again.
Dean pulled the covers back over Tom's body, brushed his hair with a light kiss, then turned and shut the door behind him, heading downstairs to put the paddle away and straighten up the couch before Matthew or Marc came down.
Sven hurried to keep up with Rolf, not even trying to talk to him.
Rolf reached the next counter and curtly asked, "When is the next flight leaving that will get me to San Francisco?"
The gentleman behind the counter said in a bored voice, "There's been "
Rolf leaned over the counter, grabbing the guy by collar and pulling him close. "I know there's been an earthquake and I know the airport may not be open and I know things are a little crazy right now --"
Rolf felt a hand on his shoulder.
"You need to come with me, now," Sven said in a tightly clipped voice.
Rolf let the clerk go and turned to shrug off Sven's hand. "I told you "
"And I said come with me," Sven replied, pushing Rolf towards the bathroom right across the hall from the counter.
Rolf tried to stop and talk to Sven, but his progress wasn't slowed by it, Sven pushing Rolf at a good clip, ignoring his demands. As soon as they got into the bathroom, Sven swatted Rolf swiftly, four times. He then let go of Rolf's arm and stood back.
Rolf stood in complete shock, his mouth remaining open. After a short, stunned silence he reached back to rub the sting out. "I can't believe you just did that,"
"It worked, didn't it?" Sven asked, propping up the wall.
"I can't believe you just did that," Rolf repeated.
"Rolf, listen. You're acting like an idiot. That desk clerk was about to wet himself when you were in his face. He didn't do anything to deserve that and you weren't raised to act that way."
Rolf could only shake his head.
"I think a certain partner of yours would seriously regret acting in that fashion, and I'd think he'd be seriously embarrassed if he saw you acting that way, don't you?"
Sven was watching his brother's face carefully and he saw that shaft go home. The last of the fire died out of Rolf's face, leaving tired and wrenching anxiety in its place. Mixed with the realisation that in all honesty, he had no way to fix this situation.
"Yeah. Yeah, you're right."
"I DO think the best place for you to be is at home. If you did find a flight out there, it looks like it's going to take hours upon hours to get there, not to mention side trips and all that. During that time you'd be out of reach --"
"I'd have my cell. Or the phones on the airlines," Rolf interrupted.
"And rack up a couple of hundred dollars in charges? And still probably miss Matthew in the process? I don't think so. Matthew and Marc are probably both scared to death and wanting to talk to you. Just wait for their call. You know that bad news always travels faster than good."
Rolf could only shake his head. "You're right. He will call, and I want to hear him. And find the quickest way back here for him. Let's go, I'll work on the computer to find the quickest route back home while we wait."
"Great idea. Shall we go?" Sven asked as he opened the door.
"Home James. We're going home."
Matthew had his hand on the doorknob when he heard the unmistakable sounds of footsteps on the stairs and the occasional sob and sniffling that Tom was doing. He leaned against the counter until he heard the door close and footsteps going back downstairs. When it was all clear, he opened the door and headed out, noticing that the guest bedroom door was closed. He could hear Tom in there and wanted to open the door to comfort him.
"No. Leave him be," Marc said, startling Matthew. He took Matthew by the hand and walked away from the door to the top of the stairs. "He'll be allright. Let him rest."
"How was the shower Matthew?" Dean asked as Matthew and Marc crept down the stairs, hoping not to interrupt anything.
"Just what the doctor ordered."
"Great. Want some juice?"
"A cola would be nice."
"Juice is better."
"Is that in the Top's Guide to Topping?"
Dean laughed, and poured Matthew a glass of orange juice.
"Speaking of Tops, have you talked to Rolf?"
"OH MY GOD! Nooooooooooo." Matthew was on his feet, white and abruptly very upset. "It's been a crazy day, I didn't even think about calling him."
"Calm down. I am sure he realized that a lot of phone lines were down. Here give him a call." Dean replied handing Matthew the cordless.
Matthew cracked a half smile, and grabbed the phone.
Rolf pulled carefully into the driveway, parking the bike by the side door. He got off as soon as Sven had dismounted and removed his helmet. "If there's a message waiting....."
Sven smiled and said "You'll be relieved. Come on."
They headed towards the door. As soon as Rolf's key hit the lock, he could hear the phone ringing. "Shit!" he said as he worked furiously to open the door, breathless by the time he got to the phone and picked it up. He said hello, and when it rang again he had to quickly push the connect button. "Hello?!?"
"Did you order the earthquake? Trying to get it to swallow me whole?" Matthew replied.
"MATTHEW!!!!!!!! Definitely NOT! How are you? Are you in one piece? Both of you in one piece?"
Sven smiled as his brother beamed from ear to ear.
"We are both doing well. We are at a new friend's house right now."
"What happened at the hotel?"
"We got locked out of the room. Our cell phones were in there, everything. We spent most of the day in the lobby. I don't want to tie up Dean's phone. I just wanted to tell you that I was, that we were fine and well. I don't know when the airport is going to reopen, but I will call you when I get all the details."
"I'm going to work on getting you the quickest flight home. What number are you at?"
"Dean? What's your number?" Matthew repeated it to Rolf as Dean gave it to him. "Thanks, I'm ready to come home," Matthew said.
"It's going to be allright. You listen to Marc, and tell him I love him. I'll see you soon."
"I love you, sleep well." Matthew said.
"And I love you!" Rolf replied with a kiss, before Matthew hung up.
Rolf had gotten online and between that and the phone calls to the airlines, he had two seats out on the first plane that was leaving San Francisco. Matthew and Marc had stayed the night with Tom and Dean, pretty much just going straight to bed and getting up early the next morning. Dean was nice enough to drop them off at the airport after collecting what they could from their hotel room.
Matthew and Marc were both exhausted by their ordeal, and slept through the entire flight, choosing not to deplane for the short layover on the way home. Their flight landed at two in the afternoon.
Rolf had taken the afternoon off, standing at the gate and waiting anxiously for them to arrive. When the passengers started coming through the doors, Rolf stopped his pacing and stood near the front, watching as families were reunited with loved ones.
Matthew had managed to bottle up all the emotions of the past two days, but when he walked through the door to the lobby and spotted Rolf, the floodgates opened. He ran the last few steps, jumping up and wrapping his arms around Rolf's neck and burying his face. He didn't care who saw or what they thought, he was safe, back in the arms of the man he loved.
Rolf hugged Matthew tightly, nearly squeezing all the breath out, but Matthew didn't complain. When Rolf saw Marc, he opened one arm and pulled him close as well, still holding Matthew off the ground. "Thank God."