Torquere is doing a blitz of short stories especially for Halloween. Mine is called Chasing Fear.
Emilio loves Martin with everything he has, but he's still scared to go out and be openly gay, especially with the way his family reacted to the news. Martin just wants to go out and have a good time, so he pushes Emilio's limits to the breaking point. Emilio figures having a Greenman for a lover has its dangers, especially when it comes to going on a date in the great outdoors. Can he and Martin learn to see eye to eye?
It got dark early in late October, and more so in the thick, steep corners of Griffith Park where the trees fought for the sun, and clearing away undergrowth wasn't as high a priority as it was in the more popular, path-wound areas. Emilio Cardenas liked it up there for the quiet and empty space and the sense of being small and alone in the middle of Nature -- it was a tough feeling to find in the heart of metropolitan southern California, even for a ranger. He got twitchy when he spent too much time with people, though, and the heavy rain over the weekend had given him the perfect excuse to escape.
Sure enough, one of the tough old oaks that'd been loosening its grip on the soil sliding out from under it over the last few years had finally lost the battle and toppled. He didn't call for help with it; instead he spent the day taking it apart himself with the chainsaw and moving the wood downslope to where his little electric truck was parked on a narrow dirt trail.
Leaving the largest trunk sections round had meant he could just give them a shove and let them roll down to the flattish trail. Most of them had hung up on the viburnum shrubs at the downslope side of the path and the two that'd kept on going he'd just left; they'd make a great habitat for bugs and fungus as they rotted. The rest he'd finished cutting up and piled in the back of the truck.
It was twilight by the time he finished and the rougher trails were tricky to drive at the best of times, even in the narrow park vehicle. He should've hopped right up and headed back to the station and home to where Martín would be waiting, probably eyeing the clock and scowling, but instead he just stood for a while and felt the chill dark of early evening creeping across his skin.
A night sparrow called nearby and Emilio listened to its aggressive chirruping. When it had quieted, he pulled out a bottle of water and drank. It was another delaying tactic and he knew it, as was walking over to one of the healthy oaks a few paces off the path and leaning back against the trunk. It was dark enough that he could've seen a few stars if he'd been on open ground, even in the middle of LA County. All that was visible overhead from beneath the trees, though, were the dark, squirming branches, the ropes of climbing ivy and millions of shivering leaves.
A loop of ivy dropped out of the tree like a black snake and wound itself around his chest. Emilio gave a frightened shout and tried to move away, but the ivy tightened. One of his arms was caught and before he could get a good grip with the other, another vine bound it to the tree trunk, swooping up from below this time.
Emilio cursed again and a dark, masculine silhouette moved out of the shaded wood. The man strolled over to where Emilio was still struggling against the vines and cocked his head, looking him up and down. Emilio glared at him and jerked hard against the ropey vines, which had grown to the thick, tough wood of old, established ivy. He knew who it had to be, even before the man stepped out of shadow.