With her shift ended and the night dark, but the parking lot full, Dionne wasn’t afraid to walk home. Not really. She saw Crag standing outside peering at all the different aspects of the world he just didn’t understand. She pulled her jacket on tight around her shoulders and approached him. He wore a tank top which showed off his huge muscles and his face was out in the open for people to see. It made him more intimidating. Word was, Louie’s Booty Palace made their bouncers wear masks, made them look like they belonged on a heavy metal stage singing about the decapitation of world leaders. Now that Dionne’s eyes were open to the truth of orcs, she thought it was silly, but could still empathize with the sentiment.
Her stomach twisted in knots as she approached him. She’d been distracted and the tips had been lousy because of it, but she was strongly considering something she thought was crazy.
“Hey,” Dionne said.
Crag turned to her. “Yes. May I help you?”
“Teej teach you that?”
Crag grunted. “Yes. He said most of the time I need to be polite to the people of this realm. You do not stand for orcish interaction, even when we do not intend offense it can be seen as aggressive. We do not need the kind of attention that can bring.”
“What would you have said if I’d been an orc?”
“Orcish females are less physical than males, but still more physical than human females. A familiar orcish female would put her hand on my chest,” Crag took Dionne’s hand and put it on the middle of his chest, “and say something like, Luvar Gud Fehlin? In common, that means ‘My Lover are you feeling well?’”
“Oh,” Dionne said. “So you mean familiar, like someone you’ve had sex with.”
“Yes. Orcs do not tend to mate with many others in succession, but we are not exactly against mating with someone we find appealing if we are not loyal to someone.”
Dionne felt Crag’s heart beating slowly, powerfully in his chest. She closed her eyes and felt the beating through her own palm. “Do orcs marry?”
Crag said, “No. If an orc commits to a mate, there is no one else for them. They mate, they have pups, bring them into the world and work together until such a time as they no longer want to be together. The pups know both of their parents and separations are rarely ever harmful to the clan. In those rare cases, the clan decides who should leave.”
“Look,” Dionne said. “I think it would be safest if you came home with me.”
“Do you feel unsafe?”
“No, I mean, not generally, but with the cops around so much looking for you, I’d rather have you somewhere I can keep an eye on you.”
“That was not your sentiment earlier. You wanted me as far away as you could get.”
“It’s different now.”
Dionne paused. “I don’t know. It just... could you just come home with me?”
Crag tilted his head and sniffed at the air. “You feel some responsibility. I can smell it.”
“Jeez,” Dionne said. “Could you stop smelling me?”
Crag chuckled. “Okay. I will come with you.”
Morning broke and Crag laid slumbering in the guest room. Andre came downstairs for breakfast and heard the orc’s snores. He walked carefully into the room and saw the giant creature sprawled out, legs and arms overwhelming the double bed. A blanket barely covered his otherwise clothes free body. It was Dionne’s suggestion that he at least cover his small axe.
“Oh, HELL NO!” Andre said, loud enough to wake Crag.
Crag grunted and looked up, catching a glimpse of Andre over his massive chest.
Andre ducked out of sight. Crag heard Andre’s yell of: “MOM! What the hell is going on? Why is that ugly dude in our house again!”
Crag understood the word ‘dude’ now, but was he really so ugly? He was considered attractive in Torxania. His tusks were well respected.
Niya, the human female smaller than Dionne poked her head into the guest room. “Who are you?” she asked.
“My name is Crag of the... Crag Rockshadow,” he said.
“That’s a funny name. What are you doing in my house?” Her tone wasn’t accusatory, but curious.
“I am a friend of your mother’s. We work together.”
“Over at the Palace?”
“Yes. I am a ‘bouncer,’” a word Teej had taught him that did not make sense.
“I remember your mother calling you that before. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“You should put some clothes on. Your dick is showing.”
“Dick?” Crag did not know this word.
She motioned between his legs where the blanket was revealing his small axe.
Normally, he was not embarrassed, orcs walked around without clothes frequently, but Dionne explained he needed to keep that part of himself covered around people.
Crag grunted as he pulled the blanket over himself.
“Do you want breakfast?”
“Are there bacon, eggs and pancakes with tree blood... I mean syrup?”
Niya smiled. “Tree blood? You’re funny. I think we are just having cereal.”
“I do not know if I have had cereal before.”
“Wow!” Niya said. “Well, get some clothes on and come get some.”
Crag nodded and stood. His blanket dropped off of his small axe. Niya gasped and covered her mouth before ducking out of the door way.
Crag saw Andre standing at the weird table in the middle of the kitchen. “Dude!” Andre said. “Close the door! Have some decency!”
Crag wondered if decency was related to being polite. He figured it must be. He reached for the door and closed it. He was not used to needing privacy. Doors were only closed to keep out the cold, generally every hut was open and no one stole because one could smell if someone had been in your hut and if something was missing, you could easily find them.
Crag grunted. He supposed humans on this plane lost a lot of their senses over the generations. It was sad.
Crag slipped on his white bottom coverings, then a pair of black sleek pants. He followed that with a shimmery black button up shirt. These garments clung to him easily. He looked in the reflecting glass at himself. It was different than his normal look, but he liked it.
Andre’s voice grew louder from the kitchen. Dionne’s voice rose to match. Crag didn’t hear Niya.
Crag opened the door, ducked to go through the door way and closed it behind him.
Andre said, “I don’t want this guy here.”
“Good thing you don’t make the decisions for this house,” Dionne said.
“Dammit,” Andre said. “Just look at him! He’s so weird looking.”
“Crag is staying with us for a while, and that’s final. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to be here.”
“You’d kick your own son out the house for your boyfriend?”
“He’s not my boyfriend. He is someone who needs help and I’m helping him. And no, I’m not kicking you out of the house for anyone, but this is still my house so it is under my rules. You can make the choice to leave, but I won’t deal with no ultimatums.”
Niya edged toward Crag and nudged him. “I sorta like him.”
Andre looked aghast at Niya. “You gotta be kidding me. Just look at him.”
Niya said, “If looks are your only way of judging someone, you got a long way to go boy. He seems nice enough, even if he does look a bit strange. Mama taught us not to judge someone on their appearance.”
Andre grunted. He looked Crag in the eye. “Don’t get no ideas about putting hands on my mama.”
Crag looked confused. This was a phrase he did not understand. He had already put a hand on Dionne, but it did not feel like a bad thing.
Andre sighed. “Niya, we gotta get you to school.”
Andre walked out. Niya touched Crag’s shoulder softly on her way out. “Things will cool down by the afternoon.”
Dionne looked at Crag. “Sorry, he gets the temper from his dad.”
Crag nodded. “I received many things from my father. But never cereal. I would like to try it.”