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    C James
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

In Memory of Ed Wooton

For the Love - 1. Falling to Pieces

I'd had to hand over most of my bank account to the bastard, and then pay him every week, more than I could afford. For a while, I was able to use the last of my savings to cover the shortfall, but now my savings were gone. I didn't even have enough money for the month's rent, let alone my weekly blackmail payment.

A blaring horn startled me and bought be back to the present. I guess I was too distracted to drive, because I was weaving a little. I pulled over, splashed some bottled water on my face, and pulled back out onto the main street. Somehow, I managed to avoid running into any parked cars.

Main Street ran through downtown, all three blocks of it. Lonesome Valley was a typical Arizona small town; a few strip malls, two grocery stores, plus an older downtown that was mainly a split between business offices and antique stores, centered on the County Courthouse. Heading north for a mile took me out of town and a quick glance at my dashboard clock told me that it was after 3pm.

As I drove, I felt my sense of dread grow. I realized that I had no clue what I was actually going to do. I'd been so deep in denial about the fact that this day would come, all during my dealings with the blackmailer, that I'd never been able to figure a way out once this day came. Heck, I'd never even really accepted that it would come to this. Now that it was staring me in the face, I was at a total loss about what to do.

I felt so confused. So hopeless. I had no answers, no plans, and no hope, just fear and dread. I don't think I could hate life any more than I did right at that moment.
I'd tried to think of some way, any way, out of my dilemma, but there didn't seem to be any. Cruel circumstance had left me with no more options, no more time. I loved Steve and I knew that he considered me his best friend, so I couldn't just disappear without telling him why. I owed him the truth, no matter the consequences. I still held on to a shred of hope that he wouldn't hate me, but I knew in my heart that he probably would.

I turned off the main street, and looked around as I drove, seeing the Palo Verde trees, and the Ocotillo cactus, typical Arizona scenery. The sky was hot, blue, and clear, typical weather for a typical day. Everything looked so normal, just things I'd seen a thousand times before, but today everything seemed to look sinister, a perfect match for the dark foreboding in my soul.

All too soon, the drive was over and I was pulling up next to Steve's house. Fearing what was to come, I chose not to park in the driveway as I wanted to have a clear way out if need be. I wanted more than anything to avoid what I had to do, but I knew that I couldn't. I climbed out of my Jeep and walked across the desert landscaping to the front door, hearing the gravel crunch with every step. I slipped my keys into my T-shirt pocket, and climbed the three steps up to the door.
Steve's family never locked the doors in the daytime, so I walked in the front door as usual, and headed back towards Steve's room. As I walked down the hall, the family cat, Beelzebub, stared haughtily at me. I reached down to scratch his ears and was rewarded with a purr.

Beelzebub rolled over, batting my hand to tell me that he wanted his belly scratched. I obliged, and as I did so wondered what would become of me. I'd never really realized, until now, just how much my life had become centered on Steve. Sure, I had friends, but they were Steve's friends too, and had known him far longer. There was Devin, the computer wizard and bookworm, who Steve had known since kindergarten. He could fix nearly anything, and had lived around the corner from Steve for most of his life. He was shy, until you got to know him, but Steve said he was someone who was loyal to a fault.

Rob and Joe were two more of Steve's close friends, who had recently graduated from high school and lived in an apartment above their custom auto business. We had partied there many times and they were great to hang out with. They had made me a little nervous at first, as both were bodybuilders who often dressing like bikers, with attitudes to match. Once I had gotten to know them though, they had become good friends. During the previous few weeks, they had seemed a little different, even hostile at times. I'd grown nervous that they suspected I was gay, so I'd been steering clear of them when I could. I'd found that I missed them a lot.
There was also Veronica, the tomboy of our group, and her boyfriend Chad, one of Steve's swimming buddies. I'd found out that they had been, before me, the most recent to join our group. Veronica had moved here two years ago, and had started dating Chad around the time Chad had become friends with Steve via their swim team.

All of them had become my friends, better friends than I had ever had before, but they were all Steve's friends too. I had no doubt that they would side with Steve when the news broke, even if by some chance they were okaywith me being gay, which I very much doubted, especially given the recent hostility from Rob and Joe.
Beelzebub grew tired of the affection and suddenly struck at my hand with his claws before stalking off, reminding me the hard way of how he had acquired his name. I yanked my hand back, sucking at the punctures, and stared down the hall, knowing that I could delay no longer.

Everything seemed so normal, just like any other day, but I knew this was it, no more delays, no more stalling, time to get it over with. I reached Steve's door at the end of the hall. It was partially open as usual. I walked in and found Steve laying on his bed reading and listening to his stereo on his headphones, his head nodding to the beat, the volume turned up so high that even I could hear it.
Steve was wearing just a pair of yellow running shorts, and I admired his shirtless body for what I knew would probably be the last time. Steve was incredibly attractive; a perfect "10" to my personal tastes, but this wasn't about his looks. Steve had been my friend, my best friend, the first best friend I had ever had in my life. Steve had been the first to welcome me into his life, he was like family to me and I loved him more than I could admit, even to myself.

I savored the fleeting moment, glancing around Steve's room, at his trophies, at the mementoes of his life. I felt my heart break, from knowing that I would be a part of that life no more.

I felt the butterflies in my stomach as Steve looked up at me, catching my eyes with his own. What I saw there was care and affection, along with concern. I dreaded the fact that I would soon see those beautiful blue eyes filled with hate.
Why did fate have to be so damn cruel? Why did Steve have to be destined to hate me for something I had no control over? I hated myself, I hated fate, and I hated life itself for bringing me to this.

Steve's eyes bored in on my own, searching for a clue to what was wrong. I broke his gaze and turned, so I could brush away the silent tear that was about to fall. I glanced back at Steve, watching as he pushed himself up, his muscles flexing, as he swung his legs over the side of his bed and turned to face me. I felt my pulse racing, my heart pounding in my chest, and a distant part of me wondered how a broken heart like mine could beat at all?

Steve looked up, "Hey, Chris. I got your text message that you needed to talk to me. What's up? You said this is about whatever has been bugging you the last few weeks?" He asked, a look of deep concern on his face.

I'd sent him a message that I needed to talk, mainly so I'd have no choice but to tell him. He'd picked up that something was bothering me these past few weeks, and had tried repeatedly to get me to let it out, but of course, I couldn't.
Steve sat on his bed, facing me, and I settled into my favorite spot on his floor. It was just inside his door and I could lean against the only piece of bare wall in his room. I sat down, pulled my knees up and hugged them, my eyes fixed on the floor because I couldn't bear to meet Steve's eyes.

I dreaded this more than anything, but I had to tell him myself before he found out. I kept my head down, my eyes unable to meet his, and said, "Steve, I'm in trouble and I don't know how to fix it. I'm gonna be short on rent for your folks tomorrow and..."

"Chris, is that what's been bugging you?" Steve asked. "Shit, they like you, they will work something out! How much you short? What happened anyway, I thought you were doing okayfor money?"

I felt my guts churn, and forced myself to get it over with. "Steve, it's a lot worse than that," I said, shuddering. "I, I'm short on money because I'm being blackmailed. Oh, god, I, I, gotta go!" I got up and turned for the door but Steve got there first, shoving it closed and blocking it. He shoved me back down on the floor, locked his door, and then sat down in front of it, next to me.

Steve crossed his arms, then glared at me, "Chris, you are not leaving this room until you tell me what the hell is going on! You have been acting freaky for weeks, and now you tell me that you are being blackmailed, and then you try and run from me? Dude, talk to me! Please, you have got to let me help you!" he said, exasperated.

I hugged my knees to my chest, and felt the tears start to flow again. I had to tell him, all of it. I knew I had no choice now. Hesitantly, I began, "I'm being blackmailed. First, I had to hand over most of the money in my bank account, then two hundred a week. I could cover it for a while, but my account is now tapped out and I can't anymore. I knew time was running out, and that's why I've been acting so weird. I only have enough for my next blackmail payment, which leaves nothing for the rent. I'm screwed... I just wanted to tell you first, before all hell breaks loose..." I said.

Steve looked at me in shock and horror. "Dude, why the hell didn't you tell me?" Steve asked, as I felt my breath catch and the first sobs wrack my chest. Damn it, I hated myself for this: I hadn't cried in front of anyone since I was a kid. Now here I was, starting to blubber like a baby. I tried to stop it, but I was wracked by sobs, and curled up tightly. "I couldn't, Steve... I couldn't," I gasped, as Steve put his arm across my shoulders, hugging me. The feel of his bare skin was electric, but painful because I knew that this would be the last time he would touch me, and probably the last time he would speak to me.

"How much are they into you for, Chris?" Steve gently asked.
I hated myself, for what I was about to lose, and for crying like a pathetic little baby. "Close to five grand," I heard myself say, my voice strangely flat.
Steve whistled softly and hugged me tight, and asked, "Who is doing this to you? Let me help you. You know my Dad's a cop, and he likes you a lot, too. I know he'll do whatever he can to get the DA to go easy on you for whatever you did."
I sobbed, and shook my head, wishing it were that easy. "It's not like that. He's not threatening to tell the police. He can't. I haven't done anything illegal," I said, my voice breaking again.

I glanced at Steve, and saw both concern and puzzlement on his face. "Chris, I don't get it. If it's not something illegal, how can he be blackmailing you? I've heard of blackmail for cheating on a wife or girlfriend, but you aren't even dating anybody. What is it, and who are they threatening to tell?" He asked.
I took a deep breath. "Y-Y-Y-ou..." I gasped.

I felt Steve pull away from me, and then I felt his hand on my chin, gently lifting my head to face him, a look of total bewilderment on his face. "ME? Chris, this isn't making any sense. Are you saying that somebody is blackmailing you by threatening to tell me something you did, and it ain't even something illegal? Dude, this isn't making any sense!"

I shuddered, hugged my knees tight, and buried my head against them, crying even harder than before. I cringed as the memory came up of me sitting in this same spot, weeks before, as my ordeal had begun.

Steve had been getting ready to get showered and changed so that we could hit the mall. As usual, he'd had no qualms about changing in front of me, and had stripped naked before rummaging around in his closet for clothes. He'd had his back to me, and I had been staring at his naked body. Staring hard, and licking my lips, in fact. Steve had found his clothes, and gone into his bathroom to shower. I'd watched him leave the room, checking him out every step of the way. My eyes were still on his bathroom door when I'd heard a soft cough to my right.
My head had spun around, and to my horror, Steve's little brother, Eric, was sitting on the floor in the hall, watching me. I'd felt my heart jump, knowing he must have seen me staring at his brother.

Eric was fifteen, and Steve was very fond of him, always doing things for the kid. I trembled, trying to think of what to say, but Eric beat me to it. "This is interesting. So you're a queer, huh? Steve would be really freaked if he found out you were perving on him like that," Eric had said, smirking.

I remembered the sudden feeling of terror, as I'd started to try and deny it. Eric had given me a sarcastic snort. "Don't bother denying it. I know what I saw and I know what it means. You wanna get in his pants," Eric had said, with a cold tone of voice that I'd never heard him use before.

Eric had seemed unsurprised by all this, and I mistook his attitude for at least partial acceptance. "Are you cool with this? You won't tell him, will you?" I'd asked.

Eric had snorted again, then fixed me with a cold glare "Do you have any idea what he and his friends will do to you if they find out? What kind of a fucking moron are you, that you would get the hots for my fag-hating brother? And don't forget my 'rents, who will toss you out of your apartment like yesterday's garbage, if Steve and his friends haven't actually killed you by then! Maybe I'll tell and maybe I won't. That depends on you," he had said, his words sending shivers down my spine.

I'd trembled. My fear returning, as the emotional roller coaster ride took its toll on my judgment. "What do you mean, it depends on me?" I had asked.

"Do you love him, or just want to get in his pants?" asked Eric, as if he was casually asking the time of day.

The roller coaster took another turn as I mulled that over. Maybe he was just being protective of his brother? So, maybe the truth would be best. "Yeah, I do love him." I said, with as much conviction as I could.

Eric smiled coldly and nodded. "Cool. Then, this is real simple. It's all about the money. You pay me, and I keep my mouth shut," Eric said, while fixing me with a cold stare.

I felt a new emotion: rage. This little shit was trying to blackmail me! I glanced at him, remembering that I outweighed him by about forty pounds of muscle. "It's your word against mine, and right now I'm thinking of beating the crap out of you," I growled, in what I thought was a menacing voice.

Eric cocked his head, smirking. "Yeah, you could do that easy enough. But, you don't want to, 'cause I've got proof, and one move out of you and I yell for Steve," Eric snickered. Eric then pulled out what looked like a large, fat pen, and I realized it was a voice-dictation recorder. A tiny red light was glowing on it, and so I knew that he had the whole conversation recorded!

Eric nodded at the recorder, "So, now I can play this for Steve, including the bit where you threaten to beat up his little brother," Eric continued. "I got you and you know it. Now shut up and toss me your wallet, or I start yelling," Eric concluded, a satisfied look on his face.

Eric did have me, and I knew it. I couldn't see any way out. I'd just cashed my paycheck, but I knew that I could spare the money in my wallet.

I guess the flag of my surrender was the act of handing Eric my wallet. Eric had casually opened it, pulled out all the cash, and tossed the wallet back. I sat there glumly as he counted the two hundred and fifty dollars I had left after rent. Eric then dropped the real bomb, "OK, this is good to start with. Here's the deal: I heard you and Steve talking a while back, so I know you got four grand in the bank. You are going to give me that in cash on Friday, and then every Friday after that you are going to give me two hundred."

I sputtered in shock, and then heard Steve's shower turn off. I knew he would be coming out of the bathroom in moments. "Do it, or I tell him," Eric whispered, as he got up and walked off.

That Friday, I'd had no choice. I'd driven to the bank, pulled out the four thousand dollars, put it in an envelope, and slipped it under Eric's door on my way to Steve's room. It was one of the worst days of my life: my bank account was nearly empty, and it was galling beyond words to know I was being blackmailed by a fifteen-year-old kid, and living in fear of the knife that he held at my heart.
Worse, the math was easy: there was no way I could afford to keep paying him $200 a week for long. I'd tried to tell this to Eric, but he would not believe me and so would not change his demands.

Steve hugged me again as I cried, bringing my mind back to the present. I shuddered, my chest wracked by sobs. OK, no more stalling. I took a deep breath, my eyes fixed firmly on the floor, and just blurted it out. "Steve... What he knows is... What he threatened to tell you is... I'm, I'm, gay..." I sobbed harder yet, curling up as tight as I could, dreading Steve's inevitable nasty reaction.

I did not have long to wait. I heard Steve yell "You're WHAT?!?!?" as I felt him jerk back, just before I felt Steve's strong hands roughly seize me. I waited for his attack, not really caring, now, how much damage he did to me.

©Copyright 2007 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.  The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

Many thanks to Conner for editing, support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions on this chapter.
Many thanks also to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions (and for thinking up a title!).

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading and advice, and for putting up with me.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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What a nasty little brother...and for some reason I think he´s wrong and Steve won´t be angry with Chris :huh:

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I think I have read this before, but can't remember much, so just as well to read it again. I am reminded by this nasty piece of work called Eric who is blackmailing him. You are good, because I really got riled by Eric again and wanted to do him in big time. What a shit he is!

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That was well done.  I anticipated the moment when Chris revealed his sexuality to Steve with growing anxiety.  I was surprised that Eric was the blackmailer and wonder what will be the impact when Eric's blackmail is also revealed.  Steve acted surprised, but that is a common first reaction.  I hope Steve's initial reaction will moderate some as Steve has time to think about this. 

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