Milhouse turned over and fell on the floor with a heavy thump.
“Fuck,” he swore, rubbing fingers on his temples to banish the heavy thumping in his head. He looked down at what he landed on – a rug that he certainly knew was not in his apartment – and gingerly looked around to see where he was.
The room was painted in stripes of white and peacock blue, a combination that clashed with the tufted green rug. A pair of gazebo windows let in the early morning light. On the walls, photos and art prints vied for his attention. A door frame of the same blue led the way to another room.
He rose a bit unsteadily and went to one of the bigger framed photos. It was a family photo: a nicely dressed moose couple stood next to another moose in a crimson graduation gown. He did not recognize the couple, but he did with the other. He took a step back in shock and stumbled, falling on his back. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to will the dizziness away.
“What the hell am I doing here?” he wondered aloud.
“That’s what I want to know, kid.”
Milhouse turned his head to face someone who was leaning on the door jamb. It was a moose, but he was bigger than the person who talked to him in prison, with a thick swath of pale speckles across his arms and shoulders. He wore only a simple pair of Bermuda shorts. He held a black mug of steaming liquid.
“Brian’s the name, kicking ass is my game,” the moose said in thick Brooklyn tones, taking a sip from the cup. “Or would be if I wasn’t drinking coffee.” He walked up to Milhouse and crouched down, pinning the feline with a gimlet gaze. “Who are you, and what were you doing at my nephew’s step last night?”
“I-I didn’t know,” Milhouse stammered, trying to hold down a sudden urge to vomit. “I just had a few drinks and ended up here. I swear!” He snapped his mouth shut and pinched his eyes in an attempt to control the nausea.
“Looks like you’re gonna toss a few cookies,” Brian muttered, standing up and placing the mug on a side table. He grabbed Milhouse by the collar, picked him up, and led him to through the doorframe to a small guest restroom. “Here ya go,” he said, placing the leopard in front of the sink. “Just make sure you- oh, nevermind,” he finished when he heard the retching sounds. He waited until the leopard finished, and then he reached over to turn on the faucet.
Milhouse cupped his hands under the stream and took a few sips of the water before spitting them out, rinsing the bilious taste from his mouth. He splashed the rest of the water against his face in a futile effort to invigorate himself. He felt something soft at his side and grabbed at the towel Brian was holding. He rubbed his face dry, hearing the water turn off, then took a look in the mirror.
His eyes were bleary and bloodshot, and it looked like a bruise was forming where he was punched the night before last. His clothes, a Cowboy Bebop tee and camouflage pants, were dusty and winkled. His head felt like a marimba drum. “What happened?”
“I’d like to know that as well,” Brian said. He firmly escorted Milhouse to the breakfast room and sat him down. “Coffee? Or juice?”
“Coffee is fine by me,” Milhouse said weakly, somewhat lost at sea. He expected to be kicked out when he woke up, not this outstandingly fine moose pouring him out a mug. His gaze lingered at his thick arms and his heavy chest.
“There you go,” Brian said, thumping the cup at the leopard’s elbow, breaking him out of his revelry. “Gimmie a moment.” He left to get his own cup, giving Milhouse a chance to glance at two firm rump cheeks encased in fabric.
He turned away in shock, wincing as the motion caused the drums to intensify. What’s going on with him, he asked to himself as he massaged his temples.
“Now,” Brian said as he sat down, coffee cup in hand, “let’s start at the beginning. Who are you?”
Milhouse grabbed at the mug and took a sip, feeling the bitter brew somewhat dull the ache and sharpen his mind. He inhaled the aroma and almost purred in delight.
“Take all the time you want,” Brian said, engrossed at seeing the guy enjoy his coffee. He glanced at the wide shoulders that the leopard had and imagined him with his shirt removed. The moose smiled slightly at the thought and sipped his drink.
Milhouse put the cup down and looked at the other guy. “I am Milhouse Buchanan,” he said, ducking his head down in an embarrassed cringe.
“Name doesn’t ring a bell,” Brian said. “But then, I’ve only been in the city for a year or so.”
“I used to work at Bar Jocks.”
The leopard raised his head. “Didn’t your son tell you what he’s doing?”
“It’s nephew, not son,” Brian said in between sips, “and, no, he didn’t.”
In fact, Brian mused, Joe didn’t say anything about how this guy came appeared. He just said the leopard was a minor acquaintance, and he did not want the police involved in this. He didn’t give any information when asked, which was odd because Joe usually explains things. In scholarly fashion in most parts.
“Well, Bar Jocks is a restaurant and bar. I was pretty good, y’know? I thought I was going to do fine there. Maybe become a regular. Make my family proud that I was actually doing something.”
Milhouse looked into his coffee. “My boyfriend broke up with me.”
Brian raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, I didn’t think too much of it, y’know?” The admission caused something to burst out of the leopard. “It was done all smoothly. ‘We should see other people’ and all that shit. I was thinking that he’d be back. I honestly didn’t think it would break me again.” He looked up at Brian, who gestured him to continue.
“I am a recovering drunk,” he continued. “I got the job to help me take my mind off of the stuff. When he left, I couldn’t help myself.”
“I can see where this is going,” Brian said. “One drink won’t hurt. Something for the courage. But one is too many.”
The leopard nodded. “I was getting back to my old habits. I was becoming the arrogant bastard that I swore I didn’t want to be. Got in trouble at work. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t.”
“And that is where Joe came in?”
“Yeah,” he said sullenly. “I don’t blame the bison, I don’t. I just wish I didn’t act like an idiot and instead asked for help.” He rubbed the bruise Joe gave him.
“The same thing, I guess. I thought I was to come over, sober as a priest on Sunday, and talk to him. Thank him for helping me, y’know?”
“Instead, you drank.”
He nodded. “And I came up to his door all pissed and wanting to beat him up. Instead, I’m here, with you, and drinking coffee.”
“Yeah,” Brian said, draining his cup. “Funny how things turn out. Mind me asking how you knew the address?”
“Well, we got into a fight two nights ago while he was at work,” Milhouse said. “He visited me while I was at the jail. The guy even paid my bail!” He slammed his fist on the table. “Can you believe it?”
Brian grinned. “That’s my nephew alright. He’s compassionate to a fault. Always forgiving.” The grin shifted to a frown. “It’s gonna get him in trouble one day,” he muttered.
“He left a note with the cops, asking me to visit so we can hash things over. I thought it was a trick; that he was going to beat me up or shit.”
“Argh!” The moose clapped a hand to his forhead. “That stupid moose!”
“Yeah, I didn’t know what was happening, I swear.”
“Not your fault,” Brian said. “Just his optimism at work.” He shook his head. “Stupidity is what I call it.” He stood up and went to the leopard.
“Now you listen, kid,” he said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I have some advice for you. If you get to talkin’ with my nephew, turn down anything he offers. Knowing him, he’ll be probably asking for you to stay here for a while. Or will probably ask the bear to give you a job. Or worse.”
Milhouse nodded and took a deep breath to steady his nerves. “Yeah, I should get going.” He took another deep breath, noticing a spicy scent around him. “That smells nice.”
“Oh, that’s just me,” Brian said. He smirked a bit as the leopard leaned forward a bit and breathed deeply. “Now now, don’t you get any ideas.”
Milhouse nodded and stood, facing Brian. “Yeah, I really need to get going. Thanks for the coffee and –” The rest was cut off when Brian placed his mouth over his.
The two embraced, Milhouse feeling overwhelmed by this gigantic creature, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying it. Hands rubbed and groped as they went deeper into the kiss.
Suddenly, Milhouse separated, feeling severely out of sorts and rock hard. He blinked in stunned surprise at Brian’s smirk. “What happened?”
“Oh nothing,” Brian said. “Just the ol’ moose charm working on ya.” The smirk turned into a toothy grin. “Say, mind me asking if you are free for the morning?” A hand moved down to squeeze a rumpcheek.
Milhouse’s eyes went wide at the blatant gesture, but he didn’t want to leave this guy’s embrace. Anything to keep smelling that spice. “Y-yeah, I’m free.”
Joe blearily woke to the sound of heavy thumping.
He looked at the clock. Eight forty-five. Why so early, he asked himself as he tried to get back to sleep, but the thumping wouldn’t let him. After a few minutes of wasted effort, he slumped out of bed and instead went into the hall.
There, he heard the thumping get louder, along with growls and groans. Joe went to his uncle’s door and gave it a few heavy thumps of his own. “Will you knock it off, dude?”
The noise stopped, and the door opened to reveal Brian, exceptionally naked and glistening with sweat. “What’s up?”
“It’s too early for me to be up this early,” Joe said groggily, trying to look past into the room. He thought he caught a flash of silver fur, but couldn’t be sure. “Where’s Milhouse?”
“Oh, he’s around, somewhere,” Brian said, smirking.
“Uh huh,” Joe said, still too fluff-headed to connect things. “When you get to talk to him, tell him I’ll be at the coffee shop if he wants to talk. I’m gonna practice there.”
“Gotcha,” Brian said. He shut the door, and a few moments later, the thumping came back, much quieter, but still there.
“Ugh,” Joe said as he went back to his room for some shower time. “It’s too early to be up this early.”