Death brings people together, if only for a short time. I remember when my mom and sister died, there were people all around that I hadn’t seen in years; aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends that we didn’t see anymore. Strange, when you wanted to be alone and grieve, you had people all around you. They say that’s for the living, the reason you show up I mean, the reason you go to wakes and funerals, it’s for the people still left behind.
Hospitals were different, though. Yeah, I guess the underlying reason was to see the person and let them know you cared, but I always felt uncomfortable, like what do you say to someone who keeps nodding off and can’t really carry on a conversation? They always apologize for drifting off, for asking you to repeat things, or for them repeating things that they have forgotten they said three or four times, depending on the drugs they are getting.
Personally, waking up to my dad, and later to Nick, had been just fine with me. More than fine actually, I felt like I needed my father in a way that I hadn’t in a long time, a clinging to his scent and face, to his voice and his touch, to realize that he was there, and that he loved me. I know right now that his safety net was very, very necessary.
Then there was Nick, and the kiss. I knew he was attracted to me, and I won’t say I wasn’t attracted to him, only a fool would say that! The kiss rated pretty high on the scale too, which was nice. Better than nice. I was reminded pleasantly of the sleepover so long ago, and the overheard conversation where Trevor made his feelings about Nick known, and Nick made his feelings for me known. It would be a lie to say that I felt nothing for Nick. He had been my rock through the hard times after Greg left, and now the stupidity with Ron. He could even grow to love me, I guess, but could I ever return it properly? The way he deserved to be loved? That weighed heavily on me, as Greg’s shadow weighed heavily on my heart.
But if Greg was coming back, what would I do then? Could I just drop Nick and whatever feelings he had for me? What if I allowed my own spark of feeling for him to be fanned into a real blaze, as Greg had done to me himself? Did I even have that choice?
“So, Mister Tull, are you ready to go home or would you like another day of hospital food?” Dr. Briscoe asked as I sat on the edge of the bed, IV’s removed and street clothes back on. I was still sore in the ribs, but they were healing just fine, and the wrist was taped up to keep it pretty stable.
“Homeward bound,” I replied.
“It was a lucky thing you were in that hallway when he attacked you. He couldn’t really get a full swing, no arm extension, or this would have been a lot worse,” Dr. Briscoe commented, as he signed off on my chart.
I sat silently, not feeling all that lucky, and waited for the orderly who would wheel me out to my father’s waiting vehicle. I noted the newspaper from yesterday, which Nick had brought almost daily to read sports scores and stuff. I flipped to the business section to see what news there might be of the Caspian deal.
SAN DIEGO- This seaside city, the 6th largest city in the United States, has been buoyed for years by the Micro Secure Corporation, manufacturers of digital encoding and desktop software that is in hot competition with other Operating Systems worldwide. Last year the purchase of Caspian Software systems seemed to seal the fate of many companies as the gains in encryption and stability seemed to be ensured, but today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has declared that the deal is invalid as it creates an unfair market advantage, thus creating a monopoly. Micro Secure’s legal team has stood staunchly by the FCC’s approval of the merger last year, to the tune of several million dollars in cash and stock, and insists that all options were discussed at that time and laid to rest. Micro Secure claims that its competitors, suffering from a slow down in the technology purchasing portion of the economy, are simply trying to take a cheap shot at Micro Secure and steal sales by scaring customers away from their products. Appeal briefs have been filed, and the first hearings are expected to begin in early next year. Micro Secure accounts for...
I stopped reading at that point, as it seemed more uncertain that Greg might ever come back. What would I do then? Do I carry my torch for Greg and hope he returns to me, or do I try and move on? I am so unsure. I don’t know what to do!
“Mr. Tull? I have your wheelchair, if you’re ready,” the orderly said, and I climbed off the bed and sat in the wheelchair, allowing the orderly to set the foot rests in place. I was wheeled to the elevator and then down the hall. A few twists and turns and I was in the sunlight again.
Dad’s minivan was parked in the semi-circle in front of the hospital and I was helped into it, even though I think I was quite capable of getting in myself, thank you very much!
“Okay, let’s get you home! Maybe we could cook a little something when we get back to the house? I’ll bet I can whip something up that’ll tickle your fancy!” dad enthused. I just groaned internally at the thought of him cooking. As we drove, we passed the old offices of Caspian Software. The lettering had been removed, and nothing more than the dirty shadows remained on the cinder block beneath.
We arrived at home a few minutes later, the house looking as small and quiet as ever. I ascended the stairs and walked into my room, which was just as I’d left it. I ran my hand over the CD’s, and remembered Greg saying something about me having Liberace or Barry Manilow, and kicking my ass if he saw it there. I smiled at the memory.
I grabbed a pair of boxer briefs from the drawer and got ready to shower. Sponge baths don’t cut it, especially when it’s some ancient female nurse doing it. It’s almost like they want to be sure you get absolutely no enjoyment out of it. I tugged off my shirt and heard the phone ringing downstairs as I did. I paused and heard my father talking and resumed my actions. The phone was never for me anyway. Why would anyone call me? The idea was silly. If I couldn’t think of a lyric, I would just sit there in silence.
I kicked off my shoes and sat down to remove my socks, then undid my belt, allowing my khakis to fall to the carpet. I alternately liked and loathed my carpet. It was low pile, which made it easy to maintain, but it was also kind of hard and rough, like walking on millions of tiny pebbles. I pulled my socks off like you aren’t supposed to, by grabbing the toe and yanking the anklets off. I stood and saw myself in the mirror over my bureau, clad in just my boxers. I came closer to the glass, my features and form slowly gaining in clarity. My chest was not the stuff of fantasy, it merely existed. Small hairs dusted my barely discernable pecs, and made a clear opening around my nipples, hard with being exposed to the air. My stomach was pretty flat, but not washboard or six pack type material. Again, it just was.
My legs were not the sculpted pillars that Greg had, and my knees looked positively knobby in my opinion, which they say is the only one that matters. My face, well, it wasn’t unpleasant to look at, not a clock-stopper either, though. I couldn’t understand the attraction Greg, then Nick had to me, for I certainly wasn’t my own type, that’s sure enough.
I headed away from the mirror, boxers in hand, when a knock came on my door. I looked up as my father entered the room with the cordless phone, and a grin that could only be characterized as ear to ear.
“It’s for you,” he said handing the phone out to me. I looked at him in confusion. Who would try to talk to me on the phone? I took the headset and placed it to my ear.
“Hello, baby hello,” I said, feeling like a fool as I always do when I have to speak.
“Hi babe,” answered Greg, “How are you feeling?” My emotions suddenly shot in every direction at once. It was Greg! He and I hadn’t spoken since he had left, and that was months ago now. The absence of even his voice was a hurt to my heart, and now the sweet sound was painful in its distance. I sat heavily, thankful in some dim way for the bed being behind me.
“Too low for zero,” I answered in a daze.
“I’m sorry I can’t be there to make you feel better, I…I miss you,” he sighed.
“I love you,” I replied.
“I love you too, Jake, I just wish I could be there right now,”
“I don’t care how you get here, just get here if you can,” I replied as I sat on the bed.
“So,” he said with an audible sniff, “besides Ron, how is everything?”
“Trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart,” I replied.
“Yeah,” he sighed, “So, Nick hasn’t gotten you to date him yet?” he asked with a sad laugh.
“I want love, but it’s impossible, a man like me, so irresponsible,” I replied.
“Jake, don’t say that. You have to try and move on, it’s not healthy,” He said.
“How do I live without you?” I asked in a near whisper, as the first tear rolled down my cheek.
“Jake,” he sighed softly, “please baby, don’t cry.”
“Latitude, between me and you you’re a straight line of distance, a cold stretch of black across blue,” I replied.
“Jake, I’m so sorry,” he said, and I could hear him trying to hold himself together.
“There’s something about distance, that gets to us all,” I said softly, “Window frames capture moments in time, but latitude captures the heart and the mind.”
“Jake, baby, you have to move on. I can’t stand to see you hurt!” he cried out.
“How long before the pain ends, tell me where living starts,” I replied softly.
“Jake, you…Jake I dated someone else,” he blurted out, and I sat in shock. He dated some one else? When? Who? How could he? I was still in turmoil, still missing him. How could he date some one else? Did he not need me anymore? Was I playing the fool, keeping alive a memory?
“Don’t go breaking my heart,” I whispered in disbelief.
“Jake, please, you have to understand, I am hurting as much as you are, I needed someone!” Greg wept into the phone.
“Love lies bleeding in my hands,” I said softly, in shock.
“Jake, Jake, please! Please try and understand!”
“NO”, I screamed into the phone, “I can’t steer my heart clear of you, it’s the way it’s been ever since you sailed out of a storm and into view.” I sighed deeply and felt the rivulets of my tears as they tracked down my face, “and should I drift away, the compass holds the clue, you control the weather.” I sighed again before finishing in a near whisper, “I can’t steer my heart clear of you.”
“Jake,” he sobbed, “Jake I still love you, it’s not that I ever stopped, I just…I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again and…and he said he understood what I was going through…Jake.” He inhaled deeply as if to steady himself, “Jake, I couldn’t even call you before. It hurt too much to think that I could hear you and not touch you, not ever be able to kiss you or hold you again…it kills my heart, Jake. I was weak, I guess. I’m sorry,” he said between sobs.
“Promise it will always be, more than just a memory of love,” I moaned.
“Jake, it’s not like that, I told you so you could move on. You have to!”
“Your sperms in the gutter, your love’s in the sink,” I muttered softly, “Your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.”
“No, that’s not it! You’re not stupid Jake. God, please! I’m not trying to hurt you!”
“I will always love you,” I sighed as I swallowed my tears, “and if you’re weak, yeah we’re all weak sometimes, best things can wait, best times they come,” I said softly. “Still I hunger for you, that face, those eyes, all the sinful pleasures deep inside,” I sighed deeply.
“Jake, one day we’ll be together again. But until then, please baby, be happy. Be happy.”
“Don’t go sleeping with the past,” I said, as I thought on his words, trying to fight through the shock that he had moved on while I had languished.
“Jake, don’t say that please, I love …”
I cut him off. “Don’t go praying he’ll come back, take a deep breath and deny you could love a man like that,” I said forcefully.
“Jake…” he sobbed.
“But he takes love and turns it cold, he’s just an iceman honey, ain’t got no heart of gold,” I stumbled, as tears blurred my eyes, “and he’ll hurt you and he’ll run from you.” I stood, then sat heavily on the bed, lapsing into silence.
“Jake, baby. It wasn’t like that. Please, please, please don’t say those things. I’d do anything for you,” he said miserably.
“Love’s like a junkie, addictions a fact,” I said in a monotone.
“Jake, I never stopped loving you. That’s why it ended. I couldn’t do anything with him, I swear to you. I love you,” he said with conviction.
“I’m a stone’s throw from hurting, everything we’ve put together. Knee deep in learning about burning this bridge forever,” I sighed. “This war that’s raging in my heart’s getting harder all the time. Our painted smiles are cracking, and worried friends just frown.”
“I’ll come back to you Jake, I swear it,” Greg said, calm once more, and my heart took flight at the confidence and love that he was sending me, “Will you wait for me?” he asked.
“I am no superman, I have no answers for you,” I replied honestly.
“Okay, that’s fair I guess, but I promise you Jake, I never stopped loving you.”
“Love don’t live here anymore,” I replied.
“Jake, are you saying…are you saying you don’t love me anymore?”
“You think that’s love? Baby that ain’t love to me,” I replied quietly, deliberately.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, “I guess this was a mistake.”
I hung up the phone and sat on my bed for a moment, wondering how a sixteen year old could promise to return to me from just about across the country. I picked up my fresh pair of boxers from the spot I dropped them on the bed and headed for the door. As I reached it, it swung open while being knocked on by Nick.
“Oh, jeez! Sorry Jake. You…oh…kay?” he asked as he stole glances at me. I felt a wee bit conspicuous under his gaze, and shouldered by him to the bathroom, my face burning red I’m sure. I even blushed when Greg did that to me, the appraising glance you might call it. Not that Greg didn’t blush if I did it to him, that was for sure. His chest was so defined without being over-stated, and his legs were perfectly proportionate to the rest of his body. I needed to stop this, it was insane! There was a perfectly beautiful guy sitting in my bedroom, probably on my bed for crying out loud!
So what would be the harm? I turned on the water and ran it to the desired temperature. What would be the harm in getting to know Nick better? He obviously wanted to, so who was I to deny it? As I soaped myself up I thought on the idea. After all, I did find Nick attractive, and Nick obviously thought the same way about me. So why was this so hard? Was I forever ruined by having loved Greg as hard as I had? I know I loved him with all my heart. Was the secret to keep back some of yourself so as not to be hurt? I didn’t have the answer to that, but Nick was in my bedroom, and maybe it was as good a time as any to come up with an answer.
I rinsed off and shut off the water, then grabbed a towel to dry off with. I put on my boxer briefs when I was finished, and headed back to my room, towel slung over my shoulder to finish drying my hair with. As I entered the room, Nick was lounging on my bed reading a book from my shelf, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, it appeared. I let the towel hang off the back of my computer chair and waited for him to notice me.
“The movie was great, but jeez this is a wordy book! I’m having trouble sticking with it,” he said, not looking up from the book. I stood, one hip pushed, out in just my underwear, and watched Nick. He really was extraordinary to look at, and I wasn’t sure he knew how attractive he was. His hair was blond and a little long, hiding green eyes which, though they didn’t sparkle, had a mellow glow to them. His long legs were stretched out in his basketball shorts, tanned and smooth for the most part, only a few stray hairs here and there, and they stood out from the bed spread. He still hadn’t noticed me, and I suddenly had to ask myself what I was doing.
I turned towards my dresser and walked towards it before I heard a long, low whistle.
“Damn, Tull. I’ll see that in my dreams tonight!” he sighed.
If you need to be told, yes, I was blushing. “In sweet dreams you softly sigh,” I replied as I looked for a pair of pants, not intending to say anything, but my mouth was galloping unbidden once more.
“Yeah, I might just do that. But I’m asleep, so who knows, right? Strange you should say that though. why did you say that?”
“Wond’ring aloud,” I replied, again unthinking.
“Well, you should know I sigh whenever I see you, mister Tull,” Nick laughed as he spoke.
“Woke up this morning and saw things in their funny way, why can’t they be like they were only yesterday?” I sighed deeply as I gave up my search for clean pants. Warm hands on my sides made me jump, and then tremble. Arms encircled me and I pulled away slightly.
“What’s wrong?” Nick asked softly, “I’m here for you.”
“Afraid to chance the gentle touch, afraid to make the clasp,” I murmured to the drawers in front of me, as Greg’s face floated in front of my eyes, which were now safely sheathed behind their lids. His voice spoke, telling me to move on, reminding me of his…lover.
“I won’t hurt you, Jake, I just want to love you the best way I can.”
“Talk in confidential terms, share a dark unspoken fear,” I said, though my nerves were like live wires.
“Of course, anything you want can be just between us,” Nick replied.
“Fallen on hard times,” I stated as I tried to hold myself together, “there’s a beast upon my shoulder, and a fiend upon my back.”
“You mean Greg,” Nick stated flatly. “I know you still love him, and you might love him forever, Jake. He’s your first love, the beginning of it all, that’s natural. I’m not him, but I do love you. Strange, I know. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s true. I love you, Jake Tull.”
“Doesn’t everyone have their own Rock Island?” I asked.
“Sure, we all have our broken hearts to mend. Look, Jake. I know you don’t feel the same way for me as you do Greg, maybe you never will. I just want you to know that I care. You know, like if you need me I’m here. Or, I can go if you want.” His arms released me, leaving me cold where the skin was now uncovered.
I turned and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Hey boy with the personal stereo, nothing through the ears but that hard rock sound,” I said.
“You calling me dumb?” Nick asked as he turned to face me, “You talkin’ to me? Are you talking to me?” he asked, and I laughed and nodded at him.
“I wish I could figure you out,” he sighed, as he wrapped his arms around my neck.
“It’s no use you playing doctor to my disease,” I replied.
“Doctor, doctor give me the news I got a bad case of loving you!” Nick said as he wiggled in front of me. I felt a wee bit conspicuous dancing with him in my underwear, so as soon as he spun with his back to me I tugged on his shorts. They dropped and wrapped about his ankles as he turned to face me with a mock stern expression.
“If you wanted to see, all you had to do was ask!” he said while watching me.
Oh shit. I had pushed the envelope and now I had to do something. This was not a game at all. I looked at him, tank top on and his boxers covering his upper half, shorts puddled around his sneakers, and a hopeful look on his face.
“Do you…like what you see?” he asked, unsure of himself. I did, I most surely did, and I opened my mouth, but nothing came forth. I took a tentative step towards him and he stood still, watching me intently. My senses were working overtime trying to figure out the stream of emotions; lust, fear, tension, desire and terror. Strangely enough, sadness as well, which was a bit unexpected.
Nick toed off his sneakers and stepped out of the shorts while I approached. I placed a hand out tentatively to his cheek, and he leaned into my hand tenderly, lovingly, and sighed in what could only be called contentment. He placed a hand on my shoulder and ran it lightly down my chest, giving me goose bumps as he teased the soft flesh on my sides, before drifting over my nipple. The slight touch had stirred my groin, and I could feel the growing reaction to his tender touch. I began to mimic his actions, first lifting the bottom of his shirt, which he willingly surrendered.
His chest was smooth and slightly defined, enough that you knew he was active. A few stray hairs grew near his nipples, small and almost invisible against his skin. I traced a finger from his jaw line to his right nipple, teasing it for a moment before moving to the left. He groaned slightly at my touch and he moved his fingertips across my stomach and up my left side.
I moved to the tender skin covering his ribs and watched him shudder in pleasure, as his skin stood out in goose bumps as well. His boxers did a poor job of concealing his arousal, and my lust began to crowd out my other emotions as I moved my hand slowly down, and teased the tender skin beneath the thin material. Nick leaned forward and kissed me, tongue moving into my mouth as he moaned with my hand on him. His hand moved around and took hold of me, and I jumped as he did, and he slowly moved his hand, rubbing on the cloth of my boxer briefs, stopping quickly to rub the tender skin under my length, touching that magical spot ever so lightly, and then increasing the pressure as he moved his palm over my hardness.
I reached into the slit in the front of his boxers and grasped the hot flesh within, which pulsed as if it had heart of its own, and a fire within it to boot.
Nick groaned loudly into my mouth as he reached behind me to cup my ass through the cloth, then pushed past the waistband to take a cheek in each hand. I squeezed him rhythmically, moving my hand down eventually to the package beneath, and massaging that magic spot under there, before the skin retreats to the backside. He spread his legs for my intruding fingers and increased his kneading of my own skin.
I knelt in front of him as I removed his boxers, his length standing out in front of me, standing at an angle away from his body. I could smell him, the smell of Nick, and hungered for that which made him who he was, and that which made him want me.
“Wait,” he breathed slowly and pulled away from me, locking the door, “I heard about your dad and his habit of not knocking.”
I stood suddenly, slapped with the image of Greg and I in bed and my father walking in to find us, lube on the bed, and Greg preparing to be a man of the world. That was just one of the times he had walked in, when passion and lust had been the sole motivation, no thought placed on the simple item of a door lock. Was it no more than passion and lust? Or was it making love? I was no longer sure.
“You okay?” Nick asked, penis deflating as he saw my change. He cared about me, and I for him. Would it be making love? I suppose it would, after a fashion, for I realized I did love him. But I was not in love with him.
“I didn’t mean to push so hard, I’m sorry,” he said, reaching for his boxers.
“You hear your voice croak on what you need to say,” I said suddenly, stepping up to him and taking him in my arms, pressing his naked form to mine.
“He wonders am I still a free bird, or just a part of the machine?” I said, looking at Nick, willing him to see my love and confusion.
“I don’t understand,” he replied softly. “If you don’t want me, I can go.”
I kissed him in response, dipping my tongue in to feel his own warm tongue, to push deep in his mouth and taste him. I then kissed the tender flesh of his neck, moving to his nipples, encasing them in my mouth and tweaking each with a small nibble before descending to my knees and being faced with a fully awake specimen where moments ago it had been flaccid and asleep.
Nick threw back his head and moaned in pleasure.
I felt tired and ached a bit after we were spent, Nick asleep, with one leg draped over mine and an arm on my chest, his smooth body running the length of my own. He was so attractive, but I realized then that my heart belonged to someone else, and I knew that more than ever. Nick was great, sexually, and he was sensual, gentle and loving in every way.
But my heart was ruled by another, and I couldn’t deny that to myself, and most of all I couldn’t lie to Nick. Just how the fuck I was supposed to get that point across and not lose Nick was something I couldn’t even begin to figure out.