In the section of the Underworld carved out for sexist assholes – where there is a constant stream of Liz Phair, Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge blaring from the proverbial intercom, defying the laws of time and space and canon continuity – is the Underworld's only coffee maker.
Yes, a coffee maker. The modern kind, but only with a few bells and whistles like a digital clock. It is very impressive to the folks who drop into the Underworld from the Midlands. If they had had coffee at all in life, the coffee beans had to be ground up and then the coffee had to be boiled the old fashioned way in a kettle. It was easy to burn and if it did it stuck to the sides of the kettle which was awful to scrub, and messy, nd the whole ordeal simply took ages and was such a bother. Even Underworld coffee, which can take a literal eternity to get a mug of, is better than mortal coffee was.
The Underworld coffee maker has a line extending all the way back to the area for people who talked during plays, winds around the ordinary murderers, the den of thieves and gamblers, the adulterers and sodomites and sodomites who adultered and moseys past the boring university wizards who lectured until one's ears fell off. Usually the line ends somewhere around the drag queens who were prettier than most women, making them categorically unfair. It is a long line, but people have time in abundance and most figure it's better to wait for something than nothing.
And Peter tends the coffee maker. Peter tends the coffee maker because the last coffee tender finally went mad and imploded. He has not been seen since. Tending the pot is tedious because Peter has to ensure an endless supply of coffee, not only for the writhing underpants-less masses, but also just in case the Keeper or one of his favorites has a hankering for coffee and wanders in. Every day (day being relative) Peter washes the pot and the coffee maker, changes the filter, puts in fresh grinds, pushes the button and holds back the masses while the coffee maker bubbles and boils, filling the dank, rotten air with an aroma that almost makes things tolerable. To those at the end of the line, it is unbearable, especially when it is fresh. They smell it from so far off, so out of reach they feel they might die again before they ever taste it. It's a cruel trick of the Keeper's and one of his favorites, to watch people at the end of the coffee line writhe and foam in yearning and agony.
Just as one gets to the front of the line, it is very likely that you'll only get a half cup of dregs while Peter cleans and changes out the filter. A mug of cold, clotty filth, like snot going down. And then people wail because they spent all that time in line, unnumbered tedious time, for something that made them feel worse. Other times they get the coffee too hot and it scours their ghostly lips, mouths and windpipes with burns that smolder and smoke for weeks after. They cannot wail, only moan and whimper quietly.
The only people usually who get coffee "just right" are the Keeper and his busybody favorites, who also get perks like clothes and cable TV (though only the Keeper gets HBO and Showtime and Pay Per View).
This is how Peter meets Darken Rahl again, exactly eight years and twenty nine days and five hours and twenty-six minutes and seventeen seconds after the poison Rahl had put in Peter's wine finally killed him. It had been pretty fast, for poison, only a few moments of convulsing in agony before Peter passed out from pain and woke up naked, grimy and sweaty in the Underworld.
That morning (or evening, or whatever) Rahl cuts to the front of the line and towers clothedly over naked Peter. Rahl's eyes are sharp and demanding as they had been in life. Peter blinks up at him.
"I came for coffee, obviously," Rahl says, all impatience.
"You bastard." Peter doesn't mean to say it, but it pops out. "What are you doing here?"
"What are you doing here?" Peter flaps his arms.
Rahl looks around, then looks at Peter. Something registers.
"Oh – Peter – was it? Yes. I'm dead, obviously."
"But – you have clothes." Peter gestures.
"Well, one of the perks of being one of the Keeper's favorites."
"Yes, yes, you've said that."
"I've waited eight years and twenty nine days and five hours and twenty-six – twenty-eight minutes and ten seconds – for you."
"For me? How sweet of you. Pathetic, but – "
"I wasn't pining for you! You killed me! I've waited to tell you what a bastard you were for killing me!"
"Well. You know how things were." Rahl rubs his hands, the same way he did in life when he was thinking over-much, or nervous. He nods to the people behind him in line who are casting the evil eye of impatience.
"You said you loved me, you cunt," Peter went on. "Don't you think it's a bit jacked up to tell someone you love them and then poison them?"
"Well, Peter, sweetheart, you were spying on me and selling state secrets. I couldn't exactly spare your life just because you gave good head." He shrugs.
"You said I gave extraordinary mind blowing head."
Rahl fidgets. "I also said I loved you," he deadpans.
"You so did. Asshole. I believed you too."
"You always were idealistic. I think I found that . . . amusing. Coffee?"
Peter sighs. He turns his back to Rahl, but then realizes he's also presented his bare, dirt-encrusted ass to Rahl too. The ass Rahl used to spend hours admiring, in that cool way of his. He might have been an entirely selfish and self-centered lover, but he was beautiful in life, with that dark silky hair, voice like smoke and velvet, the lightly browned skin and eyes like iced window glass. And the hands. And lips. And shoulders. And thighs. Even that stupid nose.
Peter feels those eyes on him and they'd be boring holes like they used to, if he isn't the naked spirit of a dude stuck in the Underworld.
Peter turns around. With one hand he shields his privates with his coffeepot and with the other, he presents Rahl with a mug of fresh, warm coffee. Peruvian roast, spicy and cunning on the tongue. It is delicious, divine even, when just right.
Rahl smirks at Peter shielding his privates and reaches for the mug. Peter jerks his wrist. Coffee drizzles down the front of Rahl's red velvet man-dress. Rahl stares at the spreading coffee stains, then stares at Peter. Peter shrugs.
"You know, I really poisoned you because you were such a pain in the ass," Rahl says icily. "Always whining and moaning about how I didn't spend enough time with you or value your feelings enough."
"Well you didn't."
"Feelings are for weak milksop, you twit."
"That's not what you said all those times you bawled in my arms about the things your daddy did to you."
"Shut up! My father was a monster! And I did not bawl!"
Peter laughs and Rahl continues to tell him to shut up, face getting redder and redder by the moment.
"Boo hoo, big bad Darken Rahl cried like a baby over his daaaadd-yyyyy. And it's so pathetic how you tried to get his approval too, even though he was dead."
"Torturing and tormenting people to make them looove you when really you just wanted daddy to come and give you a hug. Oh, poor poor widdle Darken."
"Go to hell!"
There is an awkward pause while those words echo around the chambers of the Underworld.
"Fine," Rahl says.
"Fine," Peter says.
Rahl goes one way, Peter tries to go another. Peter remembers he has coffee to attend to and Rahl remembers he has a prostitute to pick up and has to go the other way. They collide, of course, tumbling into a ball of screaming, kicking, punching, tearing, gnashing. And then to the horror of people standing in line and watching, kissing. Sloppy kisses with lots of tongue and biting in between. People in line shuffle nervously as the kissing escalates into a full make-out session, hands roaming over asses and between thighs. Peter doesn't hear the polite coughing and then the groans of objection as he starts to tear at Rahl's garments. Nor does he or Rahl notice the line slowly dissipating and fading until only a few voyeurs and perverts sit and watch the two men plunder each other greedily.
"I give the bloke on the right an '8' for oral technique," one perv, with missing teeth, says.
"Oiy, I'd only give 'em a 6 or 7. The other one, though, I'd give 'em a ten for that arse alone," the woman licks her chapped lips.
"Yes, 'tis a fine arse," the perve with missing teeth agrees. The woman starts humming a song in time to Rahl's rhythm and Peter's moans.
After both parties finish (Rahl and then Peter after some more coaxing), the two men vaguely hear the sounds of their peanut gallery of pervs and voyeurs whistling and applauding. Peter gives a thumbs up and Rahl says: "Thank you, I'll be here all night."
"All night?" Peter snorts. "Uh, overestimating yourself a little much?"
Rahl bites him but it's not entirely unwelcome.
A little later a re-clothed Rahl waltzes back into his bedchamber. He's in a cheerful mood, daydreaming about pulling Peter back for fourths or fifths and doesn't notice the Keeper sitting, lotus style, in the middle of his bed.
"Hello, Rahl," the Keeper says. Rahl shrieks and drops his mug of coffee.
"Keeper," he fumbles and then kneels, presenting his bottom as is customary.
"Rahl," the Keeper says, arching an eyebrow. "You've been a bad boy."
"Of course I have, Master."
"I mean today. At the coffee maker. With Peter."
"Oh, yes. That. Master. I'm terribly sorry Master. I'll make it up to you. I'll do whatever you ask. Just name it."
The Keeper waves a hand. "That's not necessary Darken. But do keep in mind that such . . . shenanigans . . . well. Any pleasure here is really not a pleasure at all, yes?"
"Yes, absolutely Master." Rahl says to the floor.
"Good. I have bought you some access to Pay Per View, by the way."
Rahl's face is still in a furrow of puzzlement long after the Keeper had swept out. He gets up, slowly and looks around. Then he goes to his bed and turns on his TV. He flips through to Pay Per View, but the movies are locked. He flips a little higher and the gay porn station works. There is a picture of him and of Peter, both naked, entwining in a manner which leaves nothing to the imagination. The neon text splashed over the picture reads:
HOT EXXX-BANG 1: THE REUNION.
Rahl colors pink and the movie starts playing and though it is pleasurable, it is also mortifying because the Keeper ends up giving all of his favorite minions free access to Hot EXXX-Bang for nearly six months. A free viewing of the full film, unedited, quickly becomes part of the full baneling package. And the Keeper releases it on the internet, of course, in the Underworld and in the world of the living. Every time Rahl browses the web, pop ups of him and Peter appear because the Keeper installed a pop up virus Rahl can never get rid of.* Sometimes the Keeper does movie nights and shows it to the denizens of the Underworld, coupled with badly remixed pop music and stale popcorn.
The worst of it is dealing with the jeers and sneers of the other residents of the Underworld. At the coffee maker, Peter is subjected to people opening their mouths and making gestures of insertion with their hands, people moaning lines from the film, or just sniggering at him and eyeballing his crotch. A favorite is pantomiming the spanking sequence, of course.
Rahl is heckled as well, mostly by the other favorites of the Keeper, who make snide jokes about how useless Rahl's robes are and how he shouldn't bother with them anymore. They are painful jokes because they are so bland and unimaginative. Rahl usually can think of a dozen better ones and it annoys him to no ends. The Keeper only watches and smiles knowingly, which adds to the irritation.
All and all, though, both Peter and Rahl think it could be worse. Having spent all their residual animosity, they copulate no more and hardly speak, even when Rahl comes for coffee. But they will stand together, silent and content; Peter serves the coffee and Rahl drinks it, both of them thinking of how it was totally worth it.
* If you've ever had one of these, you know what nasty little fuckers they can be.
Not that I speak from experience or anything. *whistles*