I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. He was still standing in my doorway, looking lost.
"Tom. What the hell are you doing here?"
He looked down at his shoes for a moment, and, as if that pause gave him strength, looked back up at me.
"Look, I really want to talk, and…" Suddenly his features contracted and his lips became drawn and tight. "Rich? Was the guy you were talking to on the phone that productivity asshole? Is he the one you got your 'frustrations' out with?"
"I'm closing the door," I said curtly, and was doing so when he leaned forward and stopped it with one arm. His face was now very close to mine and my heartbeat caught on a scratch in my grooves, skipping something fierce.
"Please. Let me in." A lost look overtook the sudden intensity. "I didn't come to fight."
I threw up my hands and walked away without a word, leaving him to close the door and follow me in. My body was rigid with anger; it was an emotion I was tiring of. Why the hell was he here?
Maybe it was because he wanted to finalize the breakup that our earlier fight had all but made inevitable. Staying cool, collected and silent was not an option, no matter how hard I struggled.
"You have no right to get jealous, you know." I threw myself on my couch, and glared at him, arms crossed. "I can fuck whomever I want, and you, honestly, can't. If what you are here for is to end this bullshit, just do it and get out."
I had no dignity, no need to be in control. Now I just wanted this farce over with.
"Fuck you." My head snapped up in surprise. "Goddamnit, FUCK YOU, Will." In contrast to his words his expression was more upset than angry, his features contorted, almost as if he was going to cry. I was trying to focus on his words and not his body.
He was wearing jeans, a baseball-style cotton shirt with blue arms and piping that hugged his chest and his black leather jacket, open. A pair of white ipod headphones hung out of his pocket. He looked like a college student.
"Earlier today you wouldn't listen to me, and you won't listen to me now. Can't we just fucking talk?"
So maybe he wasn't breaking up with me. I hated how excited the thought made me, especially since there wasn't, technically, anything to break. We weren't really in a relationship, were we?
But now that I had my eyes on him, I couldn't take them off. As always, he fascinated me.
"Fine, we can talk. Take a seat."
He took off his jacket, setting it on my unused leather loveseat.
I'd meant for him to sit on that very same loveseat, thinking it kept a natural distance between us for whatever talk we were going to have.
Instead Tom sat right on my couch, albeit on the other end from me. It was impossible not to note the stretch of his jeans over his muscular thighs. I inched closer to the sofa arm.
Silence. I could feel his eyes on me.
I could also faintly smell beer, and I figured he'd been drinking. Well, good, that made two of us.
Tom looked away from me, studying my condo, and his brow furrowed.
"This place is incredible. I love the brick walls." A pause. "But it's really empty, Will."
I was oddly hurt, as if the observation highlighted what a loser I was. "There hasn't been time to decorate. I guess decorating this place means I think of it as home."
"Weren't we talking?" I gave this a very sharp edge of impatience. "It's sorta weird having you here, at my place."
"I'm sorry." He looked at the floor, still lost. "I'm just upset right now that you were going to have that asshole over. I can't seem to get over that."
"Once again, Tom, why would you have a right to get jealous?" I asked quietly, holding in the angrier voices. Now I didn’t want to spook him. "Who I screw is who I screw. Especially since you have a woman, something that I've never, ever questioned."
There was a pause. Unexpectedly his blue eyes trapped mine, searching. "Will. I didn't call Lori today. She came by herself. We've been having some problems." Of course you're having problems, I thought, you're not exactly faithful to her. “But I know how that must have looked, right after our fight, when she showed up. You must have thought that I was flaunting her in front of you, or - yeah. But I wasn’t.”
The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind that he’d do that – it wasn’t him. He wasn’t that sort of guy. It was one of the reasons I - I stopped that line of thought.
"And - my brother heard about what happened last night, just, that I was with some guy, and I got into a fight. He was being a dick." Clearing his throat, he turned so red he looked like a very attractive tomato. "Since, I, um, I've messed around with guys before you, and he knew, and." He stopped.
"Um." I considered my reply, which he seemed to be waiting for. Was this the reason he'd come here? To confess his past? "Honestly, I'd sort of figured that."
His face crumbled. "Why?"
"You took the first time we messed around really well, all things considering, and," I thought about how to word my next statement. "When you'd say you 'didn't do this', it seemed like it was a conversation you'd been having with yourself for a while.
"And you were too good right out of the box at going down on me." I gave him a small smile. "That takes at least a little bit of practice, no matter how much of a natural you are."
"Oh." He looked down at his knees, processing. I admired the stretch of the cotton of his shirt over his wide shoulders. No no no. I told myself. We're having a serious conversation here.
"Fuck. I didn't know it was so obvious." Tom leaned against the couch, letting himself slide down, his head on the cushions. He laughed miserably. "Goddamn, I suck."
"It's only obvious to a flaming queer like me, sweetheart," I said archly, and he laughed again, more heartily this time.
"That doesn't really fit you, you know. The flaming queer bit. Especially right now, with all that 5 o'clock shadow and the football shirt. Very un-girl."
I snorted. "You say the sweetest things."
"You look hot!" he said indignantly. "Just not hot in a… flaming way? Crap... that doesn't help, does it?"
I shook my head. "About as much as saying "oh, Shit" did when you saw me earlier." I tried to ignore him calling me 'hot' while in my skuzziest state.
Feeling the relaxed atmosphere and seeing his small, sheepish grin, I finally asked the question I'd been meaning to for quite a while now.
First I waited a beat, giving the conversational shift space to breath.
"Tom… how much of a flaming queer do you think you are?"
He breathed in and then out again with a great motion, and leaned forward on his knees so his head hung low, wrinkling his brow in thought. "Shit, Will… I don't know. I DON'T KNOW. It was in high school, and I didn't have any real girlfriends, basically forced into a few relationships, ran away from them. And I started fooling around with this other football player, Corey - I don't remember how it happened. It just did."
He closed his eyes. "We kept telling each other we were just fooling around, you know, just 'practicing for chicks', but it went pretty far. We even tried to have sex once. It was a disaster. He freaked out. But we still did stuff.
"Then my brother caught us at it once in our basement, we were pretty dumb and indiscreet. I still don't know what he said to Corey, but suddenly it was like I had the plague. Corey even quit the team." His body tensed up as he spoke.
"Connor didn't say much to me, Just that I had to avoid being weird, you know, abnormal. I had to be normal. That I'd hurt our parents if I wasn't." He snorted. "Maybe that's why I've pulled away from them, mom and dad, so consistently for the last 10 years. Who knows." He opened his hands, looking at his palms.
"But Connor was my best friend, not just my brother. I couldn't not listen to him."
I was personally thinking his brother sounded like a mind-fucking dick, but I didn't say anything. The minefield there was obvious.
"So I did what he said. I only dated girls. It wasn't that hard. I spent most of my time studying anyways. I like sleeping with women, it's not bad." He tilted his head, and unbeknownst to me I must have been giving him some sort of subconscious 'look', because he winced and looked away. "So… I dated, screwed around some, had lots of female friends. Met Lori my last year of college, and I liked her, a lot. She became my best friend. She's sweet, fun, and… sweet. Fun."
"But not as much fun as me, right?"
It was meant more as a statement of gender, less of my own personal fabulousness. He groaned and let his head fall between his knees. I put my hand on his arm. Honestly, I'd had little struggle coming out, aside from an initial but ultimately short-term knee jerk disgust from the traditional Korean part of my mom's personality, but that wasn't true for most of my gay friends. Many had had people in their life like Tom's brother, people they loved deeply whose lack of comprehension and disgust made it so very hard for them to come to terms with who they are.
However, something in me was also very pissed off that I was playing therapist to this confused bullshit.
Where the hell was this going? Conversations like this upped intimacy, it didn’t kill it. But there were no solid statements in his story and nothing for me to get a handle on.
Emotionally, I felt screwed, basking in the glow of his closeness and yet trying desperately to remember how I had felt when he first came to my apartment; it was me using anger as a control mechanism. We both needed a beer. We needed to stop this.
He lifted his head and stared at my hand, blankly. I wasn't man enough to do the stopping, but the beer I could do.
"Hey." I gave his forearm a squeeze. I liked squeezing his forearms. "Would you like-"
"What am I doing?" He whispered, as if he had read my mind. I removed my hand with an inner sigh. "Why am I telling you all this? Just babbling, fuck, I'm so self-involved. You don't want to hear this. This is probably just annoying to you."
I stood up with an audible noise of frustration this time. For a brief second I considered telling him that no, quite the opposite, I loved it when he told me this stuff. I wanted these kinds of conversations.
"I'm getting a beer. When you stop talking to yourself, you can tell me if you want me to get you one. Until then, I'm ignoring you."
There was silence as I stalked into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle and the opener, and headed towards the living room again. I found him starring at me. The floor lamp was illuminating his face, and I noticed he looked haggard. His eyes were rimmed in red.
"I’m sorry, Will." His voice was pitched very low.
The bottle hit the table with an angry 'Thunk', and I practically threw the opener down. Something in me snapped.
"Sorry?" I sat down and glared at him. He looked surprised at my new tone. "Sorry? You're always fucking sorry. Sorry sorry sorry and then something happens that makes you seem less than. You wait for me after work. You show up at my apartment, full of tales of your life from the closet, your nazi brother," He made a noise at that one, I think it was a strangled "fuck", which I ignored. Tales of your poor fiancée, but you're still IN MY APARTMENT. Why are you here, Tom? Why are you telling me all this? Are you telling me as a friend? Or as a fuck buddy?"
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to talk. I think. I didn’t mean to confuse you. I know we’re just fuck buddies, I know." He sounded so sad.
I considered a soul-clearing bellow of pent-up frustrations. I considered throwing my beer bottle across the room. Instead I picked it up and took a long swig. What I wanted was him wanting me. What I wanted was to stop these ellipses, these conversations that seemed so open but dead-ended in apologies and confusion.
I opened my mouth to finally tell him that, when he cut me off.
"Just fuck me."
I stared at him. My beer bottle started slipping through my fingers and I had to clutch at the neck to avoid it heading towards the floor. I very carefully put it on the coffee table.
He was looking at me with frightening intensity. His right hand was folded into a tight fist on his knee.
"What the hell?" I checked his red-rimmed eyes again. "Are you drunk?"
"No!" He blinked. "I mean… I had a little bit to drink before coming here. But… I mean it. Fuck me." His voice trembled a bit.
My head seemed to fall onto my knees of it's own accord. My skull felt heavy as lead and ready to burst.
"Get out, Tom." I brought my elbows up to my ears, bracing them against my temples. "I don't know what you're playing at, but get the fuck out."
"I mean it-"
"GET THE FUCK OUT."
"I'm. Not. Kidding." He cleared his throat. "This… this is why I came here."
I lifted my head to stare at him incredulously. "I thought you came to talk! This is your idea of a come on? It's the unsexiest thing I've ever experienced!"
This wasn't strictly true, or even necessarily true at all. Looking at him, his blue eyes, the shape of his body, his tense intensity combined with the visualization and sinking in of his request... it was actually frighteningly sexy. My body, bastard thing, started to respond. I shifted my legs involuntarily.
Tom saw the movement, and I cursed these damn, very thin pants.
He stood up, and moved to stand over me. I could see that surprising, slightly dominant sexual playfulness in the slight quirk in his mouth, and I knew my resistance was screwed. I tried to fight it, sinking back into the couch cushions as much as possible.
Tom's legs were brushing against mine, and I couldn't seem to stop him from moving forward or my knees moving apart to let him get closer. "You're lying." He said, giving my crotch a significant look. And a hungry one.
"And you're a closet-case asshole trying to gain control of the situation after talking so much emotional crap," I countered weakly. I tried to look stern and self-controlled. "We start fooling around, I'm going to do something that's going to freak you out, and you're going to leave me cold. Fuck off."
Now, to really underline this point, I should have stood up and gotten away from him, despite the undignified scrambling this would have required.
But I didn't.
Tom winced a little at my mini-tirade but then got on his haunches, putting his hands on my knees. The planes of his face were stark and masculine, his lips goddamn kissable.
Those strong, large hands were moving up my thigh slowly.
"What if I promised you I wouldn't leave you cold?" His flush cheeks and a slight tremor belied the confident promise of his words. My favorite male paradox, the Tom swagger versus and the Tom boyish innocence. My brain screamed "Resist! Aren't you bloody SICK of this all ending in tears again and again? It'll do so again! It's all fun and games until someone's weak little heart gets broken!"
My body countered: "I really, really want to kiss him. Fuck it, if he comes within range, I'm going to kiss him."
He moved closer.
"Why are you doing this?" I asked weakly. "I thought you felt guilty, what with Lori, and…. Ugggh." One of his hands moved to my inner thigh, and my erection became fully-fledged.
"I don't know," He answered, quietly, has hand stilling. His lids fell, and I admired his pale eyelashes. They needed to be kissed, also. "I. Last night you said you missed me. And when I started to think about that today, and then I thought about last night, and you, you fucking someone else, and at first I just wanted to talk to you, finish the conversation from today. And then, on the way here, I remembered you telling me you didn't think I would fuck you. I wanted to talk, and, yeah."
He kissed my knee, and my hand, moving autonomously from the rest of my body, reached out to bury itself in his soft ginger hair. When he looked up, he looked lost, and unbelievably sexy. "So sleep with me."
The whole thing, I thought, is very wrong. He's entreating me to fuck him out of some sort of confused sexual jealousy and sense of emotional lack of control. I want to fuck him, make him breakfast, and then fuck him again. What he was offering and what I wanted from it were inevitably different.
I knew this was going to solve none of our problems, and probably exacerbate them to destructive proportions.
My other hand reached out for the back of his head.
"This," I said softly. "Is such a horribly bad idea." An unreadable expression passed over Tom's face, but before he could say anything in I leaned forward and pulled him in to kiss him, hard.
My legs wrapped themselves around his ass, hands roaming everywhere, while he braced himself with one arm and pulled me closer to him with the other. He was lifting my shirt up from the back, his fingers clutching at my skin. I did the same, and reveled in the feeling of our bare chests, loving his rounded pectorals and wonderful, muscled stomach. He wasn't gym perfect, just naturally, solidly fit. To me, that was true perfection.
Suddenly his whole weight was upon me, and the feeling of where his body was touching mine was electric. I pulled myself up so my whole body was on the couch and he followed.
Bucking my groin into his I broke the kiss to nip at his ear.
"Oh, fuck..." He moaned, and buried his face into my neck as one of my hands found itself down into the top of his jeans.
Turning his face he gave my lips a sideway kiss, and chuckled suddenly, although his touches didn't stop, roughly dragging down my abs.
"What's so amusing?" I demanded, giving a cheek a serious squeeze.
"Ow! Just," His blue eyes sparkled when they met mine, "You've never had stubble when I've kissed you before. It's pretty funny."
"That a problem?" I used my fingers to dig into his tight gluts, and he flexed them instinctively in response.
"Mmmm, no, I told you it's hot..." He kissed me full on the lips this time, and I responded by letting my hand teasingly play over his crack. His eyelids fluttered and he swore again.
"You know what else is hot?" I breathed. "Being able to touch you, here, where no one will see us." I licked his clavicle lightly. "Where no one can interrupt us."
Tom's eyes widened. "I didn't think of that. We really haven't had a chance to be alone, have we?"
I hadn't stopped thinking that, not since the point where he offered himself to me. It might have been what pushed me over the edge.
"Can we, um, move?" He grinned, cocky and sheepish all in one.
"Nnn. " I didn't seem to be able to verbalize the answer, but instead let him go in order to lead the way to my bedroom as quickly as I could.
We fell onto my navy sheets in a tangle of body parts, and I pushed down his jeans as his hands found their way into my pants.
I reached out and Tom's head rolled back slightly in pleasure as I wrapped my hand around his cock, feeling it's thickness and reveling in it. I explored the slight difference in texture between his head and the shaft and he squirmed, lifting into my touch.
Propping myself up I jacked him, changing from intense to teasing and back again, and he grabbed roughly at my skin and nipped at the upper arm close to his lips.
It was so damn wonderful to have space to touch Tom, to see him completely naked and feel all of his body, that I felt like I was high on something. The whole of the soft bed and him on it.
"Oh, fuck...." I had increased the strength of my grip, causing him to squirm. He was straining, rock hard, and I was half-tempted to keep at it and release him, forestall the complications of his request.
But as if he could read my mind he extracted himself and pulled me so I was on my back, slipping downwards to take me in his mouth. I closed my eyes and moaned, and put my hands in my favorite head of hair.
After a bit there was no way I was just going to just let him get away with him coming, and maybe that was exactly what he was trying to ensure.
We were touching and a jumble of sensation and his pale skin, mouth and strong hands, and I found myself kneeling over him, kissing his knees and the inside of his thighs before meeting his eyes.
"You... sure?" I asked, not feeling very articulate but wanting to make damn sure. "I can bottom, I'd enjoy-"
"No," Tom practically snarled, impatient and red-faced, reaching up and pulling some of my hair and eliciting a yelp. "Fuck me. I know you've wanted to since we first started all this."
Probably from the moment I first saw him, actually, but, yes, true. The man was observant. "And I think I've wanted you to fuck me since we started all this. Just do it."
I kissed the top of his cock tenderly, causing whatever hardness he had lost to return. "You say that one more time," My voice was hoarse, even to me, "I'm going to come right now." It twitched underneath my lips.
"So you like the idea?" He teased, and I rolled my eyes at him while I reached for the lube and condoms I had in my bedside table, unopened and unused.
"I don't need to answer that," I growled, running a finger from underneath his glands to right before his asshole, putting slight pressure into my touch.
"Mmmm..." His head fell back on to the pillows, and that cocky grin came back. "You're just nervous," Figuring he was talking so much because he was the nervous one I just smiled slightly and let the lube drip over my fingers, enjoying the sliding, greasy feeling and the sense of anticipation.
"I hope this is the best sex this bed sees this week, not the second best." This was said in a light macho tone, and being distracted with it took me a moment.
I smiled wistfully and waited until he would look at me, since he was initially avoiding my eyes. "Tom, this is the first action this bed has seen besides me and my hand. Ever." I leaned forward to kiss him, pulling at his lips. "And it'll be the best sex anyways. Idiot." I slipped a finger into him as I did so and he made a muffled noise in my mouth, wrestling my tongue wildly in response.
I figured that meant it was a good thing.
I was gentle with him, trying very had not to get excited, my mind numb from the fact that this was actually, truly happening. Nor was I relaxed, fearful at any moment he would bolt.
But that heightened the eroticism, the strangeness of this moment. I distracted him, continuing to touch him with my hand, keeping him hard, kissing him, telling him how sexy he was, asking him how it felt... he joked breathlessly, trying to stay tough. So I watched his eyes, when he tensed his body or grimaced.
I got myself hard again, which wasn't difficult at all, and, on my knees, lifted his legs, running my hands up his beautiful thighs. After both of us were exceedingly slicked, I position myself and pressed gently against his ring. He shut his eyes with a small noise.
He pressed his head into the pillows, his red hair askew around him. He was like a beautiful erotic picture; I tried to make my mind like a camera, taking a mental image to keep with me forever.
"Tom..." I said gently, and reached out and put a hand on his chest, "Relax... breath."
He took a couple of deep, ragged breaths. A nervous smile danced on his lips. "You've done this a few times before, haven't you? It's funny... being fucked by someone smaller than me..."
"Relax," I soothed, and he took another breath, and I felt him unclench, forcing himself to lose all the tension he was carrying. I kissed his knee as I pushed forward, and moaned lowly as I entered.
Oh, fuck, it was hard to concentrate on him... I slowly stretched my neck and unclenched my jaw methodically to keep from going too fast. He twitched, tensed, I stopped. He felt incredible. "You okay?" I asked.
"Yeah.... Yes Fuck, you're hot. Yes. Just... fuck me..." His pupils were huge. I leaned forward, kissing him lightly, and then deeper as I went further.
He pushed forward, and his eyes widened. "Just FUCK me, Will. DO IT." I blinked, very concerned about that command, since it was his first time, but when he pushed his hips forward again with a snarl my self-control dropped considerably.
I was smart enough to not pound into him, but I fucked him firmly, rhythmically, growling in response to his guttural, almost chanting, repeating of my name, combined with "oh, fuck..." He was so incredibly tight, and it took some serious concentration to keep inside.
I kept a firm hand on his cock, keeping him hard, especially as I felt my balls tighten in anticipation, slowing down to concentrate on him.
The veins on Tom's neck stood out and his skin was completely flush as his words stopped making much sense and he threw his head back and I watched him draw blood on his own lip. He bucked into my hand, I somehow kept inside him, and he came all over his stomach
"Holy SHIT..." He yelled. His shoulders pressed into the mattress, and he twitched, and shuddered, his boyish face wild.
I came a second later, clutching both of his legs and then, at some point feeling his hand and crushing it in my own, forcing myself to stare at him as I came, memorizing every expression, every noise.
Everything around the edges of my sight exploded in pleasure and lightening.
He tried to move quickly off the bed, but winced. "Ow...."
I grimaced, empathetic. "You should have told me it hurt," since I felt guilty the words came out angry. "I would have slowed down..."
"No." He shook his head, and gave me a lop-sided smile. "I was an athlete once, I can handle pain. And, anyways, I didn't want you to slow down."
I wanted you to enjoy it completely, I thought. But I didn't say it. After I had pulled out and leaned forward, kissing his lips where he had bit them, and his response was ... muted at best. I had no idea what was going on in his head, since he was now not speaking much. Nor meeting my eyes.
"Masochistic fuck..." I muttered. "It's not supposed to be like that." He chuckled, weakly, and then there was silence. I sighed.
"Stay," I said, not looking at Tom, standing there. It took all my self-control not to plead. Something about all this, the absolution of his stunned silence, felt like an ending. The way he had clutched at me, there at the end.
He hadn't necessarily enjoyed the sex itself in its entirety - I could tell he was in a lot of pain now. And despite the fact he had demanded it I felt very guilty - but he HAD pushed himself, as if he wanted something out of it, and as he said, he didn't want me to slow down. It felt like this had been our last hurrah. His parting gift to both of us.
Or maybe he also liked the rough, violating pain of it all. I didn't know, although I worried about what that said about him and how his mind worked.
I wanted to hold on to what I could.
"It's late, you're probably uncomfortable - it'll fade with rest." I opened my drawers and pulled out two pairs of boxers, handing him one I thought would fit over his more muscular thighs. "You can go clean up in the bathroom if you want. I'm going to sleep." I then very deliberately went under the covers on the far side of the bed, and turned away from the bathroom door.
I could feel him standing there in the doorway, hearing the stillness of his body and breathing, and finally he turned and closed the door.
And I slept. Somehow, miraculously, I slept like the dead.
I looked down at Tom's ear - not the smallest ear, a beautiful pink thing - at his strong jaw, his soft red hair. Warmth suffused throughout my body. His relaxed face, not something I saw very often when he was around me. Sure as hell not last night. My face fell forward.
"I love you," I breathed into his neck.
And then my whole body stiffened. Oh, shit. I had no idea what caused me to say it, or why I had said it. Shit shit shit shit.
I very quickly but with minimum movement got off the bed and stood there for a second, watching him for any sign of wakefulness or comprehension. Thank god, nothing. He didn't move.
My condo had two full baths, and so I quietly took a few things from mine, grabbed my jeans and a sweater, and decamped to the other shower.
Before leaving I paused over the note I was writing to leave on the black kitchen table, written on a letter size piece of crisp white printer paper, so he couldn't miss it.
While writing I wondered if I was a coward for not waking him up, not checking to see if he heard my declaration of.. of love.
Because that's what I'd just done, isn't it? Declare my love to a sexually confused man whose relationship with me seemed to have more to do with his various issues than with me. And I was too much of a goddamn pussy to throw myself under the bus of knowing he had heard me and knowing I'd already been given my goodbye fuck. Let this be over.
That made me a pretty pitiful bastard.
"Thanks for last night. I hope you feel better today. I went in to work... the door will lock instantly, so don't worry about leaving."
My hand hovered. To ask him to call me, leave my cell phone number, which I had never given him before? No. That'd seem desperate, and it'd expose the lie concerning "going to work", since I intended no such thing. Maybe I should say "See you later...." No. Desperate again. I put down my pen, and resisted the urge to look in on Tom one more - one last? - time.
I had no idea what to do with myself. It was a cold November day, and all I knew was I needed movement. I needed distraction from the voice in my head going: Holy shit! You said you loved him! Does that mean you love him? You've never said you loved anyone before. Well, and meant it. You are so damn screwed. You LOVE him??!?! Idiot Idiot Idiot!
My father's words came back to me, the ones about putting yourself into your job so much you make mistakes in your personal life. Maybe I wasn't in love, I was just stressed. However, I wasn't quite dumb enough to think they were that easily confused.
I now suddenly regretted not writing "see you later".
Restless, lonely, and unhappy, I decided that the best thing I could do with myself was try to get to know this city.
I found a coffee shop on Broad Street that had always been recommended to me, Flat Black, and after fetching something with ungodly amounts of caffeine I ventured out into the street. The sky was gray but the air was crisp.
I walked to Post Office Square, a place I had passed and seen but never truly stopped at. There were quite a few people there despite the time of day, people taking small walks, and people like me with coffee and sometimes newspapers. I was impressed with how lovely a space it was right in the middle of such a packed, east-coast city... it reminded me a bit of a space you might find in San Francisco. Except colder, of course.
Sitting there, I took a deep breath, looking at the looming building of the financial district, the Boston combo of old architecture with new.
An attractive blond 20ish year-old man walking a pug who was strolling in front of where I sat gave me a blinding smile, and I instinctively returned it. There was an opportunity there for me to ask him an opening, gateway question. The pause in his step was crafted for me to notice.
I let the moment pass. His smile was nothing compared to Tom's.
My phone buzzed, and I looked down at it, seeing a text message from my sister. 'Mom told me you're really down. call me or else - I know Ur up, you don't sleep!'
Holly was the last person I wanted to bounce this off of. If her initial reaction was going to be something along the lines of 'you reap what you sow...' I'd end up snapping at her, which would delight her and cause her to push the matter even further. She'd always had an unwittingly malicious desire to break my calm, a strange yet oddly evitable side effect of being siblings and as different yet close as we were.
So, nope, no talking to her. I didn't put my phone away, however, using my map program to lead me to the Boston Commons.
During all this wandering my sense of isolation deepened, a pit in my stomach asking why I was doing this alone. Why I was a tourist after many months here. I stopped at a coffee shop, needing more clarity.
Was it because of Tom? Had I put all my emotional effort into a doomed situation and thus put no effort into my life? My phone rang again, my sister. I ignored it.
With a fresh cup of coffee in hand I stared out at the commons, vaster than I had thought, and recognized the truth. It hit me so hard I sat down on a bench and stared out at nothing.
I really did love him. Holy crap, I adored the red-haired pain in the ass. I’d let him into me at a deeper level than I ever had anyone else before him.
Just thinking about him made my chest hurt and a pressure to exert itself right behind the eyes. But that pressure had really been there, building, for months. As he would say, Fuck.
And now I was lost.
One part of me wanted to sink deep, deep into self-pitying wankerism, an unhappy pit for those who’d fallen for the sexually confused that I’d watched other friends enter with less sympathy than I now understood they deserved. I could take the hand of self-pity, my constant companion these last few months, and continue to skip merrily down the path of lonely self-involvement. What else did I have to do? I was alone in Boston, I was in love with someone I was going to lose, and life just seemed to suck.
On cue, my phone rang. I hesitated, because it was Rich.
And then I picked it up, because, Rich? He didn't seem like such a bad guy anymore. Maybe this was a place to start. I mean, maybe I should give him a go. Maybe he’d be distracting.
"Good morning. How you feeling today?"
I felt a tangible twinge of guilt. "Better. And, in some ways, worse." I admitted.
"Um...I'm... glad?" He was understandably confused, as I put an emphasis on the words that suggested a dichotomy beyond that caused simply by illness.
"Hey..." I paused. "Want to do lunch in a little bit? If you're free."
"Of course, I was thinking along the same lines. Are you at home?"
"Um, no." I looked around. "Actually, I'm in Boston Commons."
"Alone?" He sounded surprised. "In November?"
"I went for a walk!" I said defensively. I looked down at my stiff free hand. "Although, I have to admit, I'm pretty cold. My upper-Midwestern cold-resisting superpowers have faded out here."
He laughed. "Let's get you inside, then. You're close to a restaurant that's at least worth it for you to check out, Club Cafe. I believe they start serving lunch at 11:30?" It was 11... he gave me directions, and, hell, it was less than a 20 minute walk.
I walked very slowly, taking in the bow-fronted brick houses, impressed at the amount of playgrounds.
Nothing in Wisconsin looked anything like this. While I walked my phone rang, and I saw once again it was my sister. Swearing, I turned it off completely and threw it in my pocket. She needed to leave me alone.
The restaurant itself was obviously just opening, having that laconic, sleepy-eyed feeling of not quite being ready to be of service.
I unsurprisingly got there before Rich, and was seated at the windows, overlooking the street. It was a lovely place, larger than I thought it would be and very high ceilings. The waiter who showed me to my seat was very young and attractive. I went for broke, and ordered myself a white Russian. I needed anything that would possibly relax me, and it seemed like a good day for one.
Rich was a fashionable 10 minutes late and walked in, giving the waiter a smile of recognition. He was wearing a red sweater and the same style jeans and jacket from a couple nights ago; he was obviously aware they looked good on him.
"Warmed up yet, Mr. Merrin?" He asked by way of greeting.
I smiled. "A bit, yes, thank you." I held up my drink. "Somehow, this helps."
"Starting early?" He gave me an eyebrow.
"Somewhere in the world..." I didn't finish, and he chuckled. "This place is nice; I think I've heard of it before, from friends who've been to Boston?"
"That's not surprising. It's very popular, sometimes frustratingly so." He handed me one of the menus that had just been brought with his charming and strangely predatory smile. "This can be Gay Boston Central, 7 days a week. We're here at a good time to eat in peace."
He ordered a beer, we chatted amicably about work, an attractive mixed crowd drifting in, and I didn't move my knee when he pressed his against mine. Nor did I press back.
"So do you buy all of the productivity recommendations you push?" I said cocking an eyebrow at him. "Don't take this personally, because you sell the hell out of them, but some of them are a bit, mmm... clichéd?"
He laughed, and then leaned forward conspiratorially, dark eyes alight. I often got a sense that he'd perfected the delivery of much of his material, but I was getting used to his smooth, slick ways. It'd started to seem natural to him, in all it's unnaturalness.
"No, not at all. I'm perfectly aware that at least 60 percent of what I tell companies to do is bullshit. Probably 70, actually. but the other 30...." He leaned back with a quirk of his lips. "Might actually help companies get their act together."
"So what..." It was my turn to lean forward, "about the bullshit that conflicts with the effectiveness of the stuff that's actually useful?"
"That..." he came forward again, smile rakish, "is the stuff that keeps grounded in the fact that what I'm really doing is collecting a paycheck to repackage and sell someone else's bullshit convincingly."
"You are convincing," I conceded. "I'll give you that."
"Aren't I, though?"
We were very close to each other at this point, a hairbreadth away from a kiss. It hadn't been at all on my mind until how close Rich's face was to my own hit me.
Tom, two nights ago, last night, and all the accompanying emotions came rushing at me like a bat out of hell. When him and I were in a very similar position…, although here the kiss wouldn't cause a single eyelash to flutter. I pulled back and Rich did the same. He appeared, as always, unperturbed, but his eyes had narrowed. He took a drink from his beer with a slightly studied casualness.
"So... You weren't sick yesterday, hmmm?"
"No, not really. At least not physically." It was a stupid, whiny addendum, and I smacked myself for it mentally. There was a pause, and I tried to calm my thoughts. Here I was, with a very attractive man, and I couldn't concentrate on him for the life of me. I was an idiot.
"I don't really have much of a chance, do I?" The tone was light, even if the question wasn't. I was going to apologize, but he didn't let me. "I could tell a frustration fuck, you know, Will. I did figure you were avoiding me."
I looked out the window, those dark, bright eyes a bit too intense. "Sorry, that was pretty tacky of me." I sighed, but smiled. "You surprised me, actually. I figured I wouldn't hear from you again after that, outside of work."
He chuckled. "I told you were a good fuck. So. What's his name?"
I didn't turn my head, only shifting my eyes to him, and gave him a small smile. "Tom."
He looked upwards momentarily, as if accessing information. "Tom... that's that red-headed employee of yours, right? The one with the great ass? Came in during our last meeting a couple of weeks ago? Hm. I thought you two had a strange vibe. I was wondering if it was jealousy." His eyes were sharp. "But judging by Thursday... you're not getting any?"
I must have blushed, or some tell-tale expression crossed my face, because he laughed. "WASN'T getting any."
"Can we change the subject?" I asked, feeling testy and cornered. Today was supposed to be a distraction from Tom and my drama, not a confrontation.
"No. Tell me about him."
I narrowed my eyes at him, considering. The smile had faded, but he seemed truly, genuinely interested. And, my god, I needed to talk to someone, and I was too proud to tell it to those I was closest to.
So I spilled everything to my one-night-stand new friend. Our food came, and I barely seemed to taste it, although I could tell it was good.
First I gave him a sketchy review, and then, with prodding, more detail.
"Are you interested in the story, or more interested in the sexual ?" I asked suspiciously at one point, after prompting to describe more about our encounter in the bathroom stall.
"Both." Rich gave me the most genuine smile I'd ever seen on him. "Continue."
"...So I left. I have no idea if he heard me." I looked down at my empty glass, having refused another, and considered my fingers around the glass, thinking of the moment when they had itched to touch Tom. The rush of affection. That smile. Again and again....
"Oh, god, I'm so fucked." I groaned.
Rich was silent. Oh, no, I thought, I'd just totally made a whiny ass out of myself to a work colleague.
"Hey," I started, trying to call up some false cheer, giving our passing waiter a 'come hither and get me something' smile, and he started to approach, "Maybe I do need another drink."
"I seriously doubt that, Will. It's not even 1 yet." he shook his head pointedly at the poor guy, and the waiter muttered something under his breath before reversing direction. "Do you know why I surprised you? When I actually called you the next day?"
Oh, good, I thought with palpable relief, subtle subject change, no, but we can talk about him now.
"I thought you said it was because I was a good lay?" I said with bemusement.
"Because you're very attractive, you're enjoyable to talk to, you possess a level of professionalism and savvy unusual for your age, and, yes, because you're a good lay," He gave it a slickly dirty spin that had me laughing, "I went after you. I wanted to see you again. I've been at this too long to play games."
My first reaction was to smile at this, but, he was right. He was smooth, charming, faintly ingratiating, full of clichés... but I'd never seen anything manipulative. I wondered where this was going.
He leaned forward. "I want something, Will, I go after it. I want you. You're in love with someone else, but, as we've cleared that, you don't have to avoid my calls anymore."
I felt shame at that one. I could now sense I was about to be microscoped, and I instinctively shifted uncomfortably in my chair.
"So you're in love with this guy."
"I think so. I don't know. Yes. No. Maybe. He's unattainable and thinks he's straight."
He snorted. "I doubt he's as confident in his sexuality as all that, since not only did he pour his heart out to you last night, he also let you fuck him. He seems to be clearing that hurdle. Ever told him you liked him?"
"No. Seemed a bit dangerous."
"It sounds like, most of the time, he came after you?"
"And then LEFT me once he was done with me," I retorted, defensively. "I didn't exactly feel very good then."
"Ever talked about his sexuality? You're the comfortably gay one, and his work superior, no less. Ever try to gently discuss what was going on? Ask why he couldn't stop coming after you? How he felt about his woman?" I was silent. Rich was merciless. His voice was casual, smooth, we could be discussing last week's stock prices. His words, however, were razor sharp. "Obviously not, since he had to come and throw them at you of his own accord."
"It wasn't my PLACE." I was angry, whiny. I was very, very ashamed. "He's fucking engaged! He's got a life! How the hell would I know how he'd react? I was just his damn fuck buddy! I didn't -" I stopped.
"...didn't what? Want to get dumped? Admit you cared about him? Was that because of him, or because you were just protecting yourself? Do 'just' fuck buddies bare their souls - and, honestly their asses - quite like he did?"
"Fuck off. I barely know you." My hand was trembling, and I took it off the table. I couldn't look at him anymore.
"Mmm." He took a bite of his steak and paused, as if considering his food. "No, but maybe that's good. And I forget how young you really are. You also play things underneath your skin. And if he heard you this morning," He chuckled. "that poor man is probably very, very fucked up right now."
"Shit. SHIT." I put my face in my hands. "Fuck you, Rich."
"You did, it's true."
"You make me out to be such a goddamn thoughtless PRICK." I looked up at him with a glare. "Don't confirm that, I get it, for fuck's sake."
His smile was amused. "Wouldn't dare. But my point is..."
"You had one?" I was having trouble holding on to my rancor in the face of his smooth amusement; it made me feel even more of a fool to piss and moan.
"...I wanted you, I pursued you. If you hadn't been caught up in something else, I'd probably have gotten you. When you really want something, Mr. Merrin, you often have to work for it, and stop being -"
"Such a Princess." I finished for him. "I'm a goddamn princess."
He blinked. "Um. Sure? I was going to say "Mr. Hard-to-Get", since there can't be two of you in one relationship. But. Princess. Whatever works." He furrowed his strong eyebrows at me.
A part of me was fighting my pride to take over my brain, the part of me that agreed with Rich. I saw Tom, looking at me, freaked out and confused. But always coming back.... Last night I'd fucked up, I saw that now. He'd been trying to open up, trying to talk, and I'd been defensive, I'd cut him off, I'd been a dick. And then I said I loved him, and then...
Then I'd left him.
"Call him." Rich suggested, finishing his meal. I'd barely touched mine. "Talk to him. Maybe tell him how you feel when he's awake. Might have a novel effect."
"You always like this?" I said dryly, while pulling my phone out of my coat. My hands were trembling a little bit, my head was spinning.
"Usually." Rich smiled. I now saw more behind it than I had before, and it was a bit scary.
“Oh Shit,” I groaned, as my Blackberry loaded, angrily. “I have no idea what his phone number is. I’ve never gotten it.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“No… I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable by asking. FUCK.” I had 3 voice messages, which I figured I should listen to, at least, even if they were all my sister screaming at me. “Is it okay if…?”
Rich waved graciously, and pointed at his beer bottle when as the waiter flashed by.
The first one was exactly what I had suspected it was. My sister, unhappy, although more hurt than anything else. I'd call her, I vowed.
The second message started, and my heart constricted.
"Hey, Will... it's Tom....." Pause. "Uh. Thanks for the note. I really want to talk. Please. I think I sent the wrong message last night. And, this morning... I heard you. It - I wish I had shown you I was awake. I really want to see you again." Pause, and then his voice dropped. "Shit, I have to go, I'll call you later." 'Later' wasn't even a complete word, he'd hung up so quickly.
His voice was warm, nervous, yes, but friendly. I felt like I couldn't breath. But on my final message, which was also him, he sounded very different. He sounded like a robot.
"Hey, Will." Silence. "Sorry. Um. Ignore that last message, I don't mean to send mixed signals. I think... I should probably quit, we probably shouldn't see each other again. Sorry. I'm sorry." Click.
My hand dropped from my ear, blackberry like a lead weight.
Rich looked at me with a bit of concern and massive amounts of curiosity. "What did he…”
“What the FUCK?” I didn’t even know I was going to say it until it burst out of my mouth, and much louder than I ever would have intended. But I couldn’t seem to stop. ‘What the hell was THAT?”
Looking around and waving at the approaching waiter not to worry, Rich put a steadying hand on one of my wrists. “Will… you’re getting really loud. What’d he say?”
I gave him a scattered overview. There was silence as he seemed to consider this information, a void I barely noticed, my mind surrounded by cotton wool.
Blood was rushing to my head, and there was a feeling from my stomach upwards through my chest like I had just been infected by a parasitic vacuum. Dumped. Finally, after all the waffling on his part, the confusion, the come-hither and then get-away, he’d finally done it.
Dumped. Broken up with. He was going to quit. He never wanted to see me again.
But why the hell NOW? Had Tom disliked sex with me that much? Why after all his bearing of the soul, after… That first message! It sounded hopeful, tentatively, but still warm… what had caused the change? Obviously he’d re-thought it, and…. Shit.
“Go find him.”
I focused on Rich again, not quite registering his words. “Huh?”
“You need to talk to him. Why would he change his mind? And you said he sounded confused. Something happened.” He leaned forward with a gleam in his eyes. “You want him? Go try and fucking get him.
“If you’re not willing to do that much, you must not really want him. There's something wrong, and you need to do something about it.”
Just the thought that I had hope with Tom gave me an embarrassing rush, like I was 16 again, and I had to smile at Rich. “God, you’re a pain in the ass.”
“It’s been said.” His tone was lascivious, and I had to laugh. “GO.” I winced and started to reach for my wallet.
“Stop it, I’ve got it. Get that ass out of here.”
“Thank you,” I said honestly, and practically tripped standing up I moved so quickly. I was rushing by him when he grabbed my hand. I stopped, startled.
“Keep me updated. And if things don’t work out… Well, you’re going to owe me a meal in any case.” After seeing him in motion for a bit, I didn’t doubt he was dead serious. It was both slightly discomforting in its’ intensity – and strangely sexy. Weird man. I lifted my eyebrows and gave him a small smile in response before hitting the street.
I was going to see Tom, and goddamn it, even if we were over, I demanded an answer, I would demand a reason, I’d…
I stopped. I had neither his phone number – since mine was off when he called, and didn’t record it – or any damn idea where he lived, either.
“Shit shit shit SHIT,” I swore, ignoring the people I was pissing off by stopping dead in the middle of the sidewalk and by spitting profanities.
What was I going to do?! And then inspiration struck me.
I called a number I’d been granted early on in my time in Boston but never used before, and she picked up on the second ring. I felt endlessly guilty for disturbing her day off, but I promised myself to do something very nice next week.
“Will?” Allie sounded confused after I introduced myself. “Is everything okay? You’re the first boss I’ve ever had that never calls me on a Saturday!”
“Got you worried?” I said jokingly. Just hearing her voice calmed me down.
She chuckled. “A bit. But if you’re calling to tell me you’re leaving your job, please just wait until Monday. I’d like to get some sleep this weekend if I could.”
“No, actually,” I cleared my throat. “It’s personal, actually. Completely unprofessional.”
“Ah.” Her voice became serious. “Red hair, Great Ass?”
“Red hair, Great Ass,” I confirmed. “More exactly, how do I get his phone number and address?”
“Stalking doesn’t sound like you, honey.”
I had to laugh. “I promise I’m not about to do anything stupid.” Bratty, overly-proud Will pointed out actually, this was me cruising for a hardcore emotional bruising and being very stupid, but I ignored its’ nattering. If Tom and I were done, I'd have plenty of time to let that voice rule my brain. “Is there any way at all for you to get it for me ASAP? I know it’s somewhere on the intranet, but I don’t have my laptop with me.”
“Well, yeah… one second, nephew’s over, let me boot him off my computer.” I could hear her moving. “Derrick! ENOUGH WITH THE SOFTCORE PORN, MOVE IT! Okay…”
In about a minute she had it for me.
“Thanks, I owe you once again, you know.”
“Oh, just you wait until I cash them in…”
I called the number she gave me, and was relieved when it rang.... and someone picked up. "Hello?" A voice said gruffly, Tom's voice.
"Tom? It's Will. I got your messages, and, look, I want to tal-"
"Leave him the fuck alone, you cocksucker. Stop fucking with him, and don't you dare call again, or come here, or try to see him again. Do you understand me? If you do, I'll break every bone in your perverted body. Do you fucking hear me?"
Okay, not Tom. I could now tell the differences, it was scratchier, like Tom's voice would sound if he was a smoker.
The brother, I figured. My temper flared as I remembered Tom's story from the night before.
"What the hell does this have to do with yo-"
He cut me off again, his voice had risen in rage. "You think you're all high and mighty, don't you, and think you can fuck with his head, being his boss and all? Well, fuck you. Fuck you, and leave him the fuck alone. He's not going back to work. Fuck off or you're DEAD." The phone clicked off.
It took me a moment to process; I hadn't been even slightly prepared for such a vile outpouring.
"FUCK. You stupid ignorant homophobic FUCKING ASSHOLE." God, the Naughtons were having a bad effect on my vocabulary. My mother would tie me up in the basement for days if she heard me talk like this, in public, no less.
I'd never been so mad in my life. I stared at my phone, having to keep myself from inflicting the injuries on it that I wanted to on, what was it? Connor, that was it.
My head was pounding with the new information that I had - namely, Tom wasn't alone. Then maybe that meant that Tom hadn't come to any conclusions alone, right? Maybe Connor was what happened between Phone Call 1 and Phone Call 2. Connor was trying to 'save' his baby brother from himself again. That motherfucker.
Maybe there was hope. My mind raced. Connor had said "don't come here". Which suggested he, Tom's phone, and probably Tom were in a place he wasn't completely sure I'd never been to before or wouldn't show up at. Which would mean they were probably at Tom's.
I grabbed a cab by practically flinging myself under it's wheels, and gave the driver the address Allie had given me - something I didn't think I'd have to use, but was glad I had gotten - and he nodded. "South Boston, yeah?"
"Um, sure?" I said with a weak smile. As if I had any idea.
"You don't look Irish." He guffawed at his own joke, and luckily didn't seem to want a response, because I didn't really have one. He drove off, and I sat, tapping my phone impatiently, my leg bouncing up and down.
I was more than aware there was a good chance I was going to get the shit beat out of me. Somehow, that was less worrisome than the bruising that my heart was cruising for.
Tom's smell, Tom's hands, Tom's touch... that strange, tense yet engrossing way that he looked at me. My god, why hadn't I paid more attention to him, and less to me WITH him? Goddamn Rich and his bastard wisdom.
We passed through a multitude of old looking middle-class neighborhoods, and some very recently gentrified ones, including a shiny downtown area. Damn, I really knew nothing about this city. Maybe I should have asked Tom more about it, since there was a good chance I'd never have a chance to ask him again.
Rich's various admonishments weaved through my head and I groaned. All the missed chances. All the self-involvement, all the damn self-defensive maneuvers. Stupid Stupid Stupid. SO VERY STUPID.
Finally the car stopped in front of a small house, blue, well-maintained, sitting in the middle of one of the more middle-class neighborhoods.
I asked the cabbie to wait, knowing and hating the fact I may have to get out of there quickly. My mind was fuzzy, the sky gray, and I thought my stomach was going to eat itself. I walked up to the door and knocked.