Everybody's Wounded - 19. Chapter 19
For a breath, a century, Josh stood silent, motionless in my arms, and those three syllables vibrated in the air between us. I held on and waited. I felt surprisingly sure, now that I was with him. The moment of doubt I’d experienced in the taxi had vanished. I could not believe that I might somehow have missed the moment, waited too long. Somehow, something in me knew, that despite the way I’d brushed him off that afternoon, beneath it all he understood how I felt. Somehow, he would find it in himself to forgive me.
It’s not that I didn’t know that I had hurt him. I did know it. It tore at me.
But I also knew that his withdrawal was not an attempt to punish me, but rather to protect himself. The space between us was not a rejection, but a retreat, a gathering in of himself. Yes, I had created this space. But he was still there, calm and still at the centre of it.
Crossing it, going to him, was up to me.
And that’s what he was waiting for. Me. To find him, there at the centre. And to do that, I had to trust him, and I had to trust myself. For once, I had to be the one to take the risks.
For Josh had taken all the risks. He had trusted me so very far. And I realized as I stood there, holding him close, that his trust had cost him heavily. Graham had wounded him so deeply that everything that had happened between us had taken enormous bravery. And while it was true that I had held him in those hours during which he’d wrestled with Graham’s canvases, I knew in my heart that I had not shown any such courage.
For while he had been brave, I had merely been strong. A rock. I had risked nothing, really. I had just taken it all in: his declaration of love, the gift of his body, the reality of his pain. I had been strong, but I realized now that I had been selfish, too. In my confusion and in my uncertainty about Luc, I had held myself back from him. I’d held myself back from both of them. They both deserved better.
And now, as I struggled with what Luc had done and why he had done it, and what that meant to me and what it meant about me, I knew I had to trust Josh. Now that he was revealing his strength, it was time for me to be brave, to be prepared to open myself to him as he had done to me.
And I was prepared. To love him. To lay my heart before him. To risk what he had risked.
I didn’t even try to control the tears that ran down my face. I just held onto him, pressing my forehead against that perfect curve where his neck met his shoulder. I held on and breathed in his stillness and his strength. And slowly, slowly, I felt the warmth grow and my heart calm.
I raised my head and looked into his eyes. Green. The most beautiful, beautiful green.
My heart pounded, and I curved one hand around the back of his head, and with the other, raised his chin so he was looking up at me.
“I love you,” I said again.
To my enormous joy, those green, green eyes widened. Slowly, looking down into them, I lowered my mouth to his.
He trembled against me. The space between us shattered until there was no space left at all.
I felt his lips move against mine.
“You know I love you,” he said.
And I did know it.
He opened to me, and my tears ran down my face and into our mouths, flavouring the taste of him, the wine and the sorrow and the enormous fatigue that we shared.
And the joy.
Though I was exhausted and sleep called, the need for connection called more loudly still. As he was finishing in the bathroom, I stripped, flung back the covers, stretched out on my back and waited. When he finally made his way to me, naked and so very beautiful, I reached a hand out to him, closed it around his wrist, and tugged him to me.
For an instant he resisted, kneeling beside me on the bed and bending to kiss my mouth. Only then did he let me pull him down, press him full length against my side. He laid his head on my chest and leaned into me, the length of him pressed warm and close. With one arm he reached across my chest and both my arms wrapped around him. For a few moments we lay just like that, his head heavy against my heart, his breath warm against my neck.
I was drifting towards sleep when I felt him begin to move, slowly and languidly against me, his skin soft, his cock hard against my hip. Slowly, he drew his leg up so that his thigh caressed mine, slowly, up its length to my hipbone, and then pressing across my hardness.
Any thought of sleep was gone, and I was suddenly breathing hard as he began to move his hips against me, just barely at first, and still so deliciously slowly.
Soon, I was screaming silently with every sweet, slow movement of his thigh against my cock. It was crazy. I needed more of him. More movement. More weight. More everything.
I turned towards him a little, still holding him within my arms, until I was braced half underneath him, in control of his weight. Then I rolled onto my back, taking him with me. He was stretched full length on top of me and lifted his head. Then his mouth came down on mine, and he started kissing me, deeply, and crazy slow.
And there we were, mouth to mouth, chest to chest, cock to cock, and I was half out of my mind from the slow penetration of his tongue, the insistent movement of his hips.
I wrapped my arms more tightly around him, pulling him down hard and pressing up harder. He groaned a little, inhaled sharply, but he didn’t speed up. Our cocks were urgent together, both of us screamingly hard, but unlike me, he was not tempted to wildness. If anything, he slowed down even more, both his tongue taking my mouth and his hardness against mine, and every controlled movement was a wild little seduction from there to crazy.
My breathing grew harsher until it was screaming in my ears, and it was all I could do not to cry out with the urgency of it. I dropped my hands to his waist, trying to push myself up harder into him, trying to pull him down faster onto me.
But he wouldn’t let me go there. He just stopped moving his hips altogether, lifted his mouth from mine, and ran his tongue from my lips up my jaw to my ear.
“Patience, Big Guy,” he whispered, taking my earlobe between his teeth and biting down until I gasped out loud. “Wait for it.”
And I tried. Oh, God, I tried.
He lowered his mouth once more to mine, and started those exquisitely controlled movements once again, so deliberately, agonizingly slowly, until my whole body shook with wanting him.
Again I tried to push up against him, and again he lifted his mouth from mine.
“Easy,” he whispered. “Easy.”
Then his tongue was in my ear and I actually cried out, but I did manage to force myself to go still.
Again he began to move, and again I tried to force myself to wait. My fingers bruised into his hips, into the top of his ass. I tried to focus on breathing, deep and slow. I tried, I tried –
And when I exploded between us with all the force of the last two days’ fear and heartache, he kept his mouth on mine, and swallowed my cries of release. I came and came and came, and despite that, didn’t soften. I still wanted him, just not quite so desperately.
Only when I finally went still did he take his mouth off mine. Then, still moving against me with that exquisitely maddening slowness, he laughed softly into my ear.
“You’re such a teenager,” he said.
I waited until he lowered his mouth back to mine. Then I grabbed his ass in both my hands and in one fierce, sudden move, flipped him over. We were still mouth to mouth, chest to chest, cock to cock, but now my larger, more powerful body was on top of his.
I thrust against him hard, making him cry out.
Now I laughed. “Damn right,” I said.
I slipped one hand through the wetness between us and then down, and when I felt his balls tighten, I thrust a finger deep into him, swiftly and completely.
Then it was my turn to swallow his screams, which were enough to take me there with him once again.
When I awoke it was mid morning, already too late to make my morning classes. Leaving Josh asleep, I dragged myself into his kitchen, put on coffee, and headed into the shower. A few minutes later, I felt him slip in behind me.
He wrapped his arms around my waist and pressed himself close.
“Morning,” he said, kissing my shoulder.
He was hard, and within a few heart beats, so was I. His right hand reached around my hips to my belly and down, teasing the length of my cock. Then he reached lower to cup my balls. His left hand –
His left hand, to my total surprise, ventured down my ass. Before I could really register it, I had stiffened and drawn in a hard breath. Josh withdrew his hand, rested it on my hip.
“Totally virgin territory, Big Guy?” he whispered against my ear.
I groaned softly. As close as I could get to ‘yes.’
“Good,” he said.
He pressed against me, his chest against my back, leaning hard and pushing me forward so that I had to extend my arms and brace myself against the wall. He rubbed his unshaven chin along the curve of my neck, and the roughness of it made me shiver. He’s shorter than me, and his chin rests perfectly on my shoulder. He started to kiss my neck, my shoulder, long wet kisses with much sucking and scraping of teeth.
His right hand released my balls and journeyed back up my body, caressing my chest.
His left hand was still resting on my hip bone.
“God, I love to touch you,” he whispered against my ear as he ran his hand over my pecs. “Love your skin. Love the muscle.”
Then I felt his left hand begin to move once again, slipping around my hip to my ass. I tried hard not to tense again.
And then his right hand was wandering back down the front of my body, brushing my stomach, distracting me totally as he moved it lower.
I held my breath.
“Love the secret, golden hair…” he said, pulling gently.
I groaned, his words magic to me.
Then suddenly, he bit my shoulder really hard.
I cried out in pain and shock, and while that cry was still caught in my throat, it was over and he was sucking hard where he’d bitten me –
And his finger was deep, deep inside me.
I came so hard I thought I was gonna die.
I didn’t make it to any classes that day. By the time we were awake and truly showered, it was already mid afternoon and there didn’t seem much point. I arranged to get notes from my missed lectures from Laura, then settled in to work on the final draft of my last paper, which was due on Friday, the last day of classes. When I told him I was writing on the history of the EU, Josh had pulled a couple of books from the shelves in his office. They were new publications, and I hadn’t seen them in the library.
“These might give you a broader perspective,” he suggested. And so I was the one settled in the living room in his leather recliner, my nose buried in his books, while he graded papers in his office.
It was about five when my cell rang. I glanced at the number before answering; it was Luc’s. I felt my heart speed up.
But it wasn’t Luc. It was Robert.
“How is he doing?” I asked.
“Ok,” he answered, sounding a little surprised. “Really, ok. He seems to be focusing on his hand, and what it will take to rehab it.”
Neither of us said anything for a few seconds, and then Robert said, “My parents are here.”
“How is he with that?”
“Ok, now. It was pretty emotional at first.” And he proceeded to tell me how difficult it was for his parents. Their mother, in particular. But Luc had agreed to go back to Montreal as soon as he was released from the hospital.
As I listened, I pulled myself to my feet, and headed into Josh’s office. He looked up at me thoughtfully.
“When is that likely to be?” I asked finally.
“It’s looking like by the end of the week. And he’s determined to come back next semester, which is another good sign.”
“Will he be able to do that?” I asked. “I mean -- what about this semester? Exams start next week.”
“My parents will talk to the Dean,” said Rob. “My Mom’s a prof. She said it can be worked out.”
“Um… I can maybe help,” I ventured. “I mean, with notes and things. We’re in the same classes.”
“I can help if you want,” Josh mouthed to me.
The offer made me smile. “Josh can help with the administrative stuff,” I said to Robert, my eyes lost in Josh’s. “He’s a TA.”
“That would be great,” Rob said. “Scott, there’s another reason I called. My parents want to meet you. We’re at the hospital right now. They’re in with Luc, in fact. But they asked me to ask you if they could see you later this evening. We could stop by the university.”
The prospect chilled me, and I wondered what in the name of God I was supposed to say to them, but all I said was, “I’d be pleased to meet them. But I’m not at the university. I’m at Josh’s.”
“That makes it easier then.”
For an instant, I wondered what he meant, but then I realized that of course, they were all staying downstairs. I thought of it as Luc’s place, but it was really the Bedard family condo. Where else would they be staying?
“Sure,” I said. “What time would you like me to come down?”
“And would you ask Josh? My parents want to meet him as well, to thank both of you.”
“We’ll be there,” I said.
I didn’t ask if I would be able to see Luc, if he wanted to see me at all. I was afraid of what the answer would be.
“We’ll be where?” asked Josh when I flipped my phone closed.
“Downstairs,” I said. “This evening. To meet Luc’s parents. They want to meet us both. To thank us.”
Josh nodded slowly. “Are you ok with that?”
I just looked at him. “I don’t think I deserve any thanks,” I said finally. “I still feel…” I shrugged.
He got up from his chair, put an arm around me, and led me out of the office, through the living room and over to the window. Dusk was falling, and snow threatened. He stayed pressed close against my side as we stared down at the deserted beach.
“You know it’s not your fault,” he said finally. “Others affect you, do things to you, but what Luc did – it doesn’t come from outside. It comes from in here.” He thumped my chest gently.
I stared out at the grey ocean. It had started to snow, and everything - earth, air, water - was some variation of grey. It was like looking into a black and white painting.
“I thought about it,” he said finally. “I thought about it lot.”
I turned to him. “When Graham left?”
He stared out at the ocean for a long time. “No,” he said finally. “When I let him stay.” He gave a hard little laugh. “I hated him as much as I loved him. Maybe more. The things he made me do, the things he did to me. The power he had over me…”
I turned him towards me, pulled him against me.
“He was a bastard,” he said against my chest. “But even then, if I’d done it, it wouldn’t have been his fault. It would have been mine. My action. My choice. It was when I realized that, that I was finally able to get free of him.”
He stepped out of my arms and turned around to stare at the huge painting on the far wall.
“You know what that’s called?” he asked me.
I shook my head.
“It’s never been shown, of course. It’s never been out of this room. But there’s a photograph of it in his catalogued work. A photograph and a title. For the world, he called it “Emancipation.”
I stared at the painted image on the wall, awed as always by its sheer beauty. I knew what I was looking at. I knew, whatever else he’d done, that in this painting Graham had captured and worshipped the lines of skin and muscle and bone that were Josh’s body. The body I wanted to spend my lifetime learning.
“For the world?” I asked.
“For the world.”
“But it has another title?”
Josh stared at it and nodded. “He wanted a particular expression on my face. He wanted me…broken, I think. Overwhelmed by the storm. It was intended to be the first painting in a mythic series; Odysseus lashed to the masts so he could hear the Sirens’ song.”
He looked over his shoulder for a second, glanced at me, and then turned back to the painting.
“He would… do things to me, and watch me as I reacted. This time… this time, to see if he could get the reaction he wanted, he hit me.”
I managed not to say anything, but I couldn’t suppress a gasp. I stepped forward, wrapped my arms around him from behind, pulling him close.
“It wasn’t the first time,” said Josh, his voice quiet, but hard and determined. “It was the last, though. The beginning of the end. I was standing just over there, where we just were, looking out the window. He grabbed me, and spun me around, and hit me, hard, on my left cheekbone. It took me completely by surprise, and I staggered back, hit my head on the glass.”
I turned him in my arms and buried my fingers in his hair, pressing his face gently into my neck.
“And I got up, and I hit him back.” He sighed deeply. “It was the first time in my life I ever hit anyone, and it felt so good. I thought I would hate myself, but I didn’t. For the first time, I didn’t.”
I just kept holding him, afraid to speak in case I broke the spell of his confiding.
“He just laughed. He came up spitting blood, and he laughed. Said he had a whole new idea for the painting, and kept at it like a mad fool. And he never touched me again.”
He wrapped his arms around my waist and hugged me hard.
“And when he left, he told me the real name of the painting. He said its real name was me saying to him, ’Get the fuck out of my life.’ And he did. As soon as it was finished.”
We stood there for awhile, just holding each other, before he spoke again.
“That’s the thing about Luc. Maybe you hurt him. I don’t know everything that was between you and I’m not asking. But I do know that you didn’t make him do what he did – any more than Graham would have been responsible if I’d made that decision. And you can’t free Luc from what’s inside him. He has to do that himself. You can help him -- we can help him -- but only up to a point. In the end, he’s got to want to live more than he wants it to stop hurting. He’s got to strike out at whatever it is that’s hurting him, and stop striking in and hating himself for hurting.”
Luc and Robert’s parents were clearly exhausted and desperate with worry, and our meeting with them that evening was brief and emotional. Monsieur Bedard was tall and grey eyed, with a stocky build much like Robert’s. He greeted us with flawless English and the handshake of a desperate man. Mme was petite and delicate, clearly the source of Luc’s fine bones. She took each of us in turn by the shoulders and though we ducked our heads, had to stand on tiptoe to kiss our cheeks. She hardly spoke, and her beautiful Siberian eyes were red rimmed and filled with tears.
Luc’s father told us that they had permission to take Luc home to Montreal the following night. He was being released the next day, following an afternoon appointment with a physiotherapist.
His mother laid her hand over mine. It trembled. “And we must ask you for one more thing,” she said to me, tears in her eyes and in her voice.
I smiled at her. “Of course.”
“He has asked for you. He would like to see you at the hospital, in the afternoon before we leave. Will you go to him?”
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