“It is very late,” Jacinta said in her stunted English.We were standing by the door, waiting for our group to arrive, and her comment made me glance at the clock on the wall, noting it was approaching midnight.
“It is,” I said.I rambled on to hide how nervous I was.I had no idea what kind of attitude I’d get from these people, who had all but scorched me last weekend.I hadn’t talked to my brothers, I’d only talked to my father and Stef, and both of them were circumspect at best.“They couldn’t leave until around 3pm, and then they had a five hour flight, plus the three hour time change.”
“That is a long day,” she said thoughtfully, which didn’t surprise me.She seemed like a nice person.
“It has been for us as well,” I said.“Thank you so much for helping me get everything together.”She’d worked like a demon, and so had I, which was pretty unusual for me, but I’d used the activity to avoid thinking about Carullo.He’d come back late last night and left early this morning, and I only knew that because Jacinta told me.
“You are welcome,” she said, smiling and showing off her horribly crooked teeth.I had to fight to keep my emotions in check, since I’d made the mistake of thinking about Carullo.I’d felt so lonely last night without him there, and I was consumed with jealousy at the thought of him out there, fucking Luka, while I was here, all by myself.And that was the other big motive behind my attempt to throw out the red carpet for my relatives.With Carullo gone, I really was alone.I had no one, no one except my family.I’d pushed them a little too far, and now they were ready to disown me.What if they did that?What if they wrote me completely off?I’d be alone, completely alone.The only good news was that I had enough money in trusts that I wouldn’t be poor, or did I?Could they mess with that?Could I end up alone and poor?That was horrifying.I glanced around the room, as if to find something out of place that would upset the probing eyes of my relatives, and would cause them to damn me to a life of penury, where I’d have to get up every day and go to work.I’d probably have a little desk in some hideous cubicle, with loud and odorous people all around me.I cringed, and would have fled to the restroom to compose myself, but I heard noises outside the door, and braced myself for everyone’s arrival.
The door opened and Stef came in first, of course, followed by Grand, my father, and my brothers.“Welcome to New York!” I said enthusiastically, even as I gave him a warm hug. “This is Jacinta.”
“Nice to meet you,” Stef said to her, then focused on me.“It is so good to see you.And how have you been?” I’d been worried about being poor and alone, but Stef came in with his typical supportive and loving attitude, and that helped calm me down.
“Doing well,” I lied.I greeted Grand and my father, exchanging pleasantries, while I watched Will and Darius from the corner of my eye.Will greeted Jacinta in Spanish and they chattered away happily.It was annoying that he was so much better at languages than me, and that he seemed to be able to genuinely charm and engage people whereas I had to work hard to be even remotely likeable.Darius stood in the background with his severe look, and only after everyone else had filed through did he bother to talk to me.
“Hey,” he said casually.Will broke away from his evidently riveting conversation with Jacinta and nodded at me, and then I led them all into the great room.
“We’ve managed to set up beds for everyone,” I said proudly.“You guys are in your normal rooms,” I said to Grand, Stef, and Dad.They tended to occupy the same bedroom when they were here.“Carullo is out of town for the weekend, so I put you guys in his room,” I said to Will and Darius.
“Where’s Carullo?” Will asked suspiciously, as if I’d driven him away.
“He went camping and fishing in Vermont for the weekend,” I said, and through some miracle I’d managed to keep my voice even and hide how much that bothered me.“I put an extra bed in there so you guys didn’t have to sleep together.”
“Keeps me from getting perved on,” Darius said, giving Will a fake dirty look.
“You so don’t meet my standards,” Will shot back.
“I’ve got a place to stay, anyway,” Darius said.“I’ll meet you guys back here in the morning.”
“And where are you staying?” Grand asked.It was a good thing he posed the question, since Darius probably would have told the rest of us to fuck off if we’d pried.
“Made a call after our conversation on the plane,” he said.He grabbed his backpack.“See you.”We all watched, amazed, as he strolled out of the condo.
“When is Jake getting here?” Will asked Dad. “He can have the spare bed in my room.”
“He should be here shortly,” Dad said frostily.Will just snickered at him.“He can take my room, and I’ll sleep in Carullo’s with you.”
“That is right,” Stef said in his mischievous tone.“You have spent the night there before, as I recall.”
“I have,” Dad said, now irritated.Fortunately his irritation was more pronounced than mine, so I got off the hook of getting grilled as to why that would bother me. “I think I’ll go unpack.”
“That is a good idea, and I will follow your lead,” Grand said.“Only when I am done with that, I am going to bed.”
“We will see you all in the morning,” Stef said.They left, leaving Will and me standing there just looking at each other.
I swallowed hard, knowing I’d have to take the plunge and apologize.God, I hated that.“I’m sorry I’ve been such a dick lately.”
“You know, I’ve been willing to be your whipping boy up to a point, but I’m done with that shit now,” he said in a very nasty way.“And don’t you ever, ever think, for one minute, I’m going to put up with you giving Maddy shit.”
“I said I was sorry,” I snapped. I mean, I’d all but groveled.This was where he was supposed to let up on me.
“I appreciate that, but I want to know that you got what I said,” he demanded.
“I’ll try to do better, and if I fuck up, I’ll make sure that it’s you I treat like shit,” I said with a smile.
He laughed.“I can work with that.I’m sorry we were such assholes last weekend.”
Somehow, having him apologize too made everything better.“It’s whatever.Let’s put all this shit behind us.”
“I can do that,” Will said.“So what’s with you and Carullo?”I forgot how annoying he could be, forcing his nose into my business, but at the same time, he was probably one of the few people I could talk to about this.
“We hooked up,” I said casually, like it was no big deal.
“How was it?”
“Amazing,” I said, and couldn’t help smiling.“He’s a fucking animal.”
“I told you he would rock your world,” Will said with a knowing grin.
“You were right,” I said.I told him all about my week, and how we’d spent every night together.
“So things are good?” he asked suspiciously.It was like he smelled blood.
“So who’d he go to Vermont with?”It was annoying that he seemed to know all the wrong questions to ask.
“He took me around the city on Sunday, and we met this dude named Luka.He seemed like a nice enough guy.Worked as a waiter at this pretty nice Italian restaurant.Carullo went to Vermont with him this weekend.”
“Why does that bother you?” he asked, which was irritating, since I’d tried really hard to lay things out there in a factual and casual way, but he’d seen through that and got that this was bugging me.
“Because we were doing great together, and suddenly this other dude is in the picture,” I said.
“Did he tell you he’d be exclusive, just with you?” Will asked pointedly.
“No,” I said, knowing that I was going to end up looking like an ass.“He told me he couldn’t be in a relationship.”
“Did he say why?”
“No,” I said.“I never asked him about that.”
“It’s kind of raw to be pissed at him for going out with someone else when he told you that he couldn’t be in a relationship with you,” he said, pronouncing judgment in Carullo’s favor, just like I was afraid he’d do.
“Yeah, but it seemed like we were doing so well,” I said, almost a whine.
“Alright, I can see why that would freak you out, but you have to talk to him about it.”I wondered if Darius were here if he’d give me the same advice.He wasn’t nearly as big on talking as Will was.
“I don’t want to give him the third degree,” I objected, which wasn’t true at all.I just didn’t want to risk be rejected again.
“It is not giving him the third degree to ask a guy who’s fucking you why he can’t date you,” he said.“If it’s because he’s not into you, there’s not much you can do about that.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I said, accidentally letting that slip out.Instead of giving me shit, he gave me a genuinely sympathetic look.
“I could be wrong, but I’m betting it’s something else,” he said.
“What?” I demanded.
“Dude, he lost his boyfriend two years ago.He was all in on that relationship,” Will reminded me.“Maybe he doesn’t want to risk it again.”
“You’re telling me he may be more fucked up than I am?” I asked, sort of joking.
“I’m not sure that’s possible,” he joked back, then got serious again.“He seems tough on the outside, but he’s not so tough inside.”
“I was kind of a dick to him when I found out about the weekend thing,” I admitted, then told him about our dinner.
“You fucked that up,” he said, getting a dirty look from me in return.
“So how do I fix it?” I asked.
He thought about it for a few seconds.“Call him.He probably won’t answer, but that’s fine.Leave him a message telling him that you’re sorry about what happened, and that you hope he really enjoys his weekend.Tell him you’re looking forward to seeing him when he gets back.And keep it very cheerful and upbeat.”
“Won’t me calling him fuck up his romantic weekend?” I asked acidly.
“No, it will let him know that he can come home on Sunday night to a pleasant place without a lot of bullshit,” he said, just as coldly.“Then when you guys are cool again, ask him why he can’t be in a relationship.”I thought about what he said, and it made sense.
“Thanks,” I said, and I was sincere enough that he actually smiled at me.
“Glad I could help,” he said.We were interrupted by a knock on the door.Will and I both got up and went to answer it, and found this amazingly handsome guy there.“Hey!” Will said, and gave him a welcoming hug.“This is my brother, JJ.JJ, this is Jake Pike.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, and I was proud of myself for not stuttering in front of this guy who was damn near a god he looked so good.
“Nice to meet you too,” he said, and shook my hand.
“JJ made sure you had your own room, but if you want to share with me, you can,” Will said, flirting with him in his whorish way.
“I’m not seeing that,” Jake said flatly.It was stunning that his blatant rejection didn’t bother Will at all.
“I’m starting to not believe you’re gay,” Will said.
“Believe it,” Jake said, and winked at Will.
“Everyone went to bed not too long ago,” I told Jake, trying to keep Will from throwing himself at this guy.
“That’s fine,” he said.“I’ll just talk to them in the morning.”
“I’ll tell my dad you’re here,” Will said.
“He’s welcome to come say hello if he’s still up,” Jake said.Will smirked at him, which actually made Jake look slightly embarrassed.
“Your room is this way,” I said, and led him down the hall. He walked in and smiled.
“This is a lot nicer than the places I’ve been staying,” he told me.“Thanks.”
“My pleasure,” I said, and felt myself blushing.I took that opportunity to leave, and to escape back to my room and make the phone call Will told me to make.Just like he’d predicted, Carullo didn’t answer his phone.He was probably in the middle of fucking that Luka dude.I fought down my jealous demons enough to leave a relatively chipper message, at least for me, then went to bed where I tossed and turned for a long time while I tortured myself by thinking about Carullo and Luka.
September 11, 2003
I’d heard the clock donging out twelve times almost as soon as I’d walked into this room, reminding me that it was midnight, and it was now September 11.I suddenly felt dirty, and attributed that to a long day of traveling, so I’d decided to take a shower.That had been refreshing, so much so that it had woken me up.I was lying on Carullo’s bed wearing my boxers, trying to decide what to do to make myself tired enough to go to sleep.Will would probably be here soon enough, and he’d want to go to bed.I sighed and put on a T-shirt and some sweat pants, and started going through my briefcase to find things I could take out into the family room to work on.I knew that I had to have something to occupy my mind, otherwise I’d let myself go back in time to two years ago, and I’d end up staying up all night torturing myself.I’d come so far, and I really did think I’d recovered from losing Robbie, but being here during 9-11 could probably fuck me up.
The door opened abruptly, and I was about to get annoyed until I remembered I was sharing the room.“I see you took the big bed,” Will said.Carullo’s bed was queen sized, while the extra bed JJ had put in here was only a twin.
“I got here first,” I said, smiling.
“I’ll suffer through,” he grumbled, even though I could tell from his tone he really didn’t care.“Jake just got here.”
“I didn’t think he’d make it in for another hour or so,” I said.“I think I’ll go check up on him.”
“It’s quite possible that while you’re gone, I’ll steal your bed,” he said.
“I probably won’t be back for a while anyway,” I said, even as I got up and started getting my things together.
“You’re that confident he’ll invite you to stay?” Will asked.
“No, but I took a shower, and that made me feel better, but it also woke me up, so I’ll probably work on some things until I get tired,” I said.
“I think you’d do better trying to sleep with Jake,” he teased.
“I thought about it, but he doesn’t want to,” I told Will.I figured that if I told him what was going on, maybe he would quit making annoying innuendos.
“He says that when he’s rushed into bed with someone before establishing a friendship, it hasn’t worked out for him,” I told him.“He told me he didn’t want to rush things.”
“He must be pretty into you if he’s that worried about going slow and not fucking things up,” Will noted.
“Or he’s just trying to politely keep me away from him because he doesn’t want to have sex with me,” I said morosely, letting me guard completely down.
Will shook his head emphatically.“That’s not it.I can tell by the way he looks at you.”
“Maybe he just needs to get his vision checked, and he’s squinting,” I joked.
“I’m serious,” Will said, in that tone, to let me know he wasn’t messing around. “He looks at you like he wants you.That’s not the issue.”
“I guess we’ll see,” I said, and headed for the door.
“Maybe this is a time when you can’t be the alpha male,” he said.I almost got annoyed all over again, thinking he was teasing me, referring to my ‘training’ on how to act at gay bars, but his expression told me he was still being serious.“Maybe he wants to set the pace.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I said pensively.“Regardless, it won’t hurt for me to be polite and stop in to welcome him to New York.”
“Just don’t pin him down and force him to have sex with you,” he teased.
“What if that’s what he’s into?” I asked, joking back.
“Then you should pin him down and fuck him,” Will said thoughtfully, cracking me up.
“Did you talk to JJ?”
He nodded.“He apologized, I drilled him on why it was important not to be a dick to Maddy and Carullo, among others, and then told him I was sorry we were such dicks last weekend.Now we’re good.”
“It almost seems too easy,” I said skeptically.
“The hard part is getting him to apologize in the first place,” Will said.“After that, it’s easy.”
“Makes sense,” I said.“I still have to have a talk with him about seeing a shrink.”
“If you want me to talk to him, let me know,” he said.I guess now that they’d had their meeting of the minds, dealing with JJ wasn’t such a nightmare for him.
“I’ll think about it,” I said, then left him alone.I headed down the hall to the room I usually slept in and knocked softly.
“Who is it?” I heard Jake ask.I thought that was funny, as if there was someone here he wouldn’t let come in.
“Brad,” I said.I expected him to tell me to come in, but I didn’t hear anything.That was a little freaky, enough to make me wonder if I should just leave, until the door opened.
“Sorry,” he said with a smile.“Just got out of the shower and wanted to toss some boxers on.”I couldn’t help looking at his amazing body.I ran my eyes up and down his torso, taking in his smooth chest with its accentuated pectoral muscles, at his six-pack abs that led to noticeable cum gutters, and then down to his legs, which were thinner and muscular.“Like what you see?” he asked, being cocky.
“So much that I risked a smart ass comment to stare at you,” I said.
He chuckled. “Come on in.”I followed him into the room and we both sat on the bed.“I had a pretty eventful trip.”
“Yeah, I heard,” I joked, referring to hearing him getting fucked.
“I’m sorry about that,” he said.
“Why would you be sorry about that?” I asked.“You can be with whoever you want.”
He shrugged.“I’d probably be a little jealous if I called you and ended up hearing you grunting and moaning while you were fucking someone.”That was really surprising, since he’d kept such a distance between us.
“You would?” I asked, and I truly didn’t believe him.
“A little bit, yeah,” he said. “You weren’t?”
“Not really,” I said, and it was funny that he seemed disappointed that I didn’t have that reaction.“I actually thought it was hot.”
“Maybe that means I’m more into you than you’re into me,” he said in his playful way.
“Duh,” I said, sounding like Will, and making both of us chuckle.Only then we stopped laughing, and the silence was kind of uncomfortable.“Look, you know I find you attractive, and not just for your amazing body and your stunning looks.”
“Thanks,” he said.“I find you attractive too.”
“It would suck if you didn’t,” I said with a smile.“Then I’d have to deal with all kinds of insecurity attacks.”
“That’s probably more my deal,” he said.
“I don’t get that.You have the personality, the charm, and the looks… they basically are like a magnet, drawing in anyone who’s attracted to a man.” We were having this conversation, and I was pretty focused on it, so I was really shocked when he moved his face forward quickly, and even more shocked when I felt his lips on mine.I put my arms around him, pulling him closer, even as our mouths began to move in sync.I’d been worried, almost paranoid, that I’d have an experience like I had with Ben the Carpenter, and that Jake would end up being a shitty kisser.It took all of ten seconds of making out with him to realize that wasn’t going to be a problem at all.I finally broke our lip lock and smiled at him.“You are good at that.”
“We are,” he agreed.I moved in and started kissing him again.I lay on my back and pulled him on top of me, while I let my hands move across his smooth skin, feeling his hard muscles pulsing underneath.My hands moved down his back and slid underneath the elastic in his boxers, grabbing his firm cheeks before running my fingers down his crack.I felt him moan in my mouth as my fingers slid across his hole, then he seemed to freak out a little bit.He gently pushed me away, and smiled at the confused look on my face.“We need to talk.”
“Now?” I asked, panting.
He laughed.“I promise I’ll take care of you.”
“So talk,” I said, not a little frustrated.He gave me a slightly annoyed look, and that served to calm me down.
He pulled off his boxers and exposed his groin, where he had a nice dick that was plump but not hard.“It doesn’t get much harder than this,” he said, and a tear actually fell out of his eye.
“Good thing I’m a top,” I teased, even as I stroked his face in a loving way, but that wasn’t good enough for him.“I’m fine with that.I’m more into you, the person, than your dick.”
“It’s a deal killer for most guys,” he said.I could feel the agony in him, the feelings of inadequacy he must experience on a constant basis.No wonder his relationships with Sean and Marc didn’t work.I got now why he wanted to wait for us to sleep together.This was a pretty hard conversation to have with someone you didn’t know very well, and that you didn’t completely trust.
“Not for me,” I said.
“You say that now…” he started, clueing me in to how his other relationships must have disintegrated.They’d probably said they were fine with it too, only to decide later it wouldn’t work unless his dick was hard.
“Not for me,” I reiterated firmly.“Why can’t you…” I began, and then stopped, because I couldn’t think of a good way to ask why he couldn’t get it up.
He chuckled a bit at my uncertainty, and then rolled over onto his stomach, showing me his beautiful ass.“See that scar near my tailbone?”
I ran my hand across the scar I thought he was referring to.“This one?”
“That one,” he confirmed.“I was shot, and suffered nerve damage.That’s why my dick doesn’t work.”It was hard to listen with his ass right in front of me.I let my fingers trail down again, and he turned around and slapped my hand away playfully.
“They couldn’t do anything for you?” I asked.
“They said I was lucky that I was walking, and that everything else worked,” he said bitterly.
“And I guess shit like Viagra won’t help this?” I asked.
“It doesn’t work,” he said morosely.“Before I got shot, I was versatile, but I tended to mostly top.”
“Now you can’t,” I said, completing his thought.“So is this why you’re too radical for Sean and Marc?”
“That’s part of it,” he said.“The other thing is that I bareback.I hate condoms, and have a latex allergy.”
“That’s really dangerous,” I said, horrified.His limp dick wasn’t a deal killer, but barebacking was a whole different deal.I was guessing, based on the scene we’d heard in Mexico that he wasn’t just sleeping with guys he was committed to.“Especially if you’re barebacking in an uncommitted relationship.”
“And that’s what I do,” he said matter of factly.“I fucked five guys while I was in Mexico.”I got the feeling that he was baiting me, that he was seeing how I’d react, so that just made me more resolved to be calm.
“How do you avoid HIV?” I asked.
“What?” I asked, stunned.
“There are some people, not many, who seem to have a built in immunity to HIV,” he said.“I have all this other shit to deal with, but my body tossed me that as a twisted gift.”I’d vaguely remembered hearing something about that, so I knew it was possible, but it still seemed too good to be true.
“That’s cool, but a little trippy,” I admitted.He had a strange expression on his face, one that was a combination of sad yet defiant.“Don’t you think it’s reasonable that I may need a little time to ponder this?”
“Part of me just expects you to trust me,” he said, showing me the defiant part of his mood.
“I do trust you,” I said.“Besides, HIV isn’t the only thing you can catch.”
“The other things aren’t deadly, and I get tested monthly.I’ve only gotten something once, amazingly enough, and that was Chlamydia, a few years ago.”He sighed.“If I’m with someone, I’m more careful.”
“I get that,” I said.I could see how that would have totally been a deal-killer for either Sean or Marc.“For me, I want to be able to have sex with someone I’m dating and know that I’m not going to walk away with Gonorrhea.”
“There’s one more thing,” he said.I looked at him intently.“Sometimes it takes a little bit of work for me to get off.”
“You make is sound like it’s not a fun job,” I teased, getting a slight grin.
“No, it just means that if a dude is fucking me and his dick isn’t big enough to really pound my prostate, I’m going to have to do something else,” he said.I grinned, knowing that I wouldn’t have that problem, but I was curious about what that ‘something else’ was.
“What else do you have to do?”
“Usually toys,” he said.“Even tried a fist once, but I didn’t like that much.”That really freaked me out, so much that I couldn’t hide it.I hadn’t thought about that for a long time, and when I did, I always thought of Robbie.Having that raised in my mind on September 11 was too much even for my shields.“I grossed you out,” he said, and looked really sad.
“No, you didn’t,” I said, even as I wiped a tear out of my eye.“I told you about my former partner, about Robbie.”
“He was into fisting.You just sparked a memory, and this isn’t the best day for me to think about it,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” he said, with genuine sympathy.“So he liked it?”
“He liked to do it sometimes,” I said.“It was really intimate.It was something that almost completely tore us apart in college, but then became something that brought us even closer together.”
“It’s hard to see getting a fist slammed into your ass as being intimate,” he said.
“You were punch fucked?” I asked.He nodded.“There are other ways to do it.” He swallowed hard as he thought about it, making me grin.
“Did you like doing it?”
“At first, I didn’t.Part of that was because I wasn’t convinced it was a healthy activity for Robbie, since he’d let this one dude use it to all but control him.I was worried that it was like giving a drink to an alcoholic,” I said.“But in the end, I liked it a lot, because I could take him to another world, get him off in a way that no one else could.To do that for someone you love is a major gift.”
“It was that good?” he asked, stunned.
“It was that good,” I confirmed.He yawned, and then I did.The romantic mood had been broken by our conversation, and I decided it was best to beat a hasty retreat so I could get some time to think about his disclosures.“We’ve got a busy morning tomorrow.I’ll let you get some sleep.”
He smiled and nodded.“Sleep well.”I got up and went back to my room, and found that Will had left me the big bed.I thought about Jake, and was pretty excited, pretty confused, and pretty worried, all at the same time.I’d have to check out his immunity deal, but even if that was legit, which is probably was, I wasn’t willing to have unprotected sex with a dude who could give me some other nasty disease.