The limo pulled up to Dior Homme and stopped. “This isn’t Fifth Avenue,” I said, stating the obvious.
“Very good, Einstein,” JJ said, being a dick. “It’s SoHo.”
“Why are we here?” I asked him, barely controlling my temper. He’d been a total fucking bitch for the past few days, and I’d been pretty fucking nice, but he was starting to really test my patience.
“Dior Homme is one of my favorite stores, and I need more clothes,” he said simply. Why he couldn’t shop at Saks or Nordstrom’s like normal people was beyond me.
“Whatever,” I said, and modified my tone to really annoy him. Pissing him off temporarily helped my mood out. We walked into the store and JJ was mobbed. He lived in Boston, but they still knew him personally here in the New York Dior Homme store. Did he come down here and shop all the fucking time, or did he just spend so much money when he did, they remembered him?
I remained sort of involved with their conversation, uttering a few responses to questions directed my way, until JJ was totally absorbed, then I walked over to the corner, found a chair, and pulled out my phone. I looked at it and once again noticed that I had no messages. I’d started off this deal with Zach, coping with our breakup, thinking that by ignoring him, I’d bug the shit out of him, but it didn’t seem to be working. And worse than that, my whole strategy to save my psyche revolved around my theory that he didn’t really want to break up with me. If that was the case, he should have called me by now, but he hadn’t.
I wasn’t really into talking on the phone, at least not for a long time, unless the conversation really piqued my interest. With Zach, it was different. We talked to each other a lot or at least we used to. And we usually had at least one pretty long conversation, and usually worked in some phone sex. When Zach wasn’t around in person, the phone was like a lifeline, like an umbilical cord, keeping our connection. I was pretty amazed that it worked as well as it did, and to be honest, if we wouldn’t have had all this other bullshit in our lives, I think he and I could have handled a long distance relationship. We connected so well, we could even bond over the phone. I looked at my call log and saw Zach’s name. That was our call on the 17th, the last time he’d talked to me. When I realized that was likely the last time he’d ever talk to me, I felt overwhelmed by sadness.
I walked over to where JJ was looking at some new shirts. Thank God he was thin; otherwise none of this shit would look good on him. “Hey,” I said, trying to get his attention. He ignored me, and continued to ramble on about the seams, and how they were too wide. “Hey!” I insisted more loudly, only I was a little too loud, and everyone shut up and looked at me.
“What?” JJ asked, all pissed off.
“I’m going to go walk around,” I said.
“You’re leaving me here?” he asked, like I was completely deserting him in some foreign country.
“This seems like your second home,” I said with a smile, one the employees returned even if JJ didn’t. “You can have the car. I’m just walking around. I’ll see you at the condo.”
“Fine,” he said, and had the balls to roll his eyes at me. Sometimes, it was so tempting to just jack him in the stomach, especially now, when he was totally self-absorbed and unaware of anything beyond the bullshit he was dealing with.
I walked out of the store and exhaled loudly, a sigh of relief at escaping; only now I was alone in this city of millions. I stood against the wall of Dior Homme, watching the people go by, staying out of everyone’s way. There was so much to do in this city, yet I was paralyzed, unwilling or unable to do anything but stand there and watch the crowd. I was pulled out of my daze when I saw a familiar face, and that was pretty rare in this massive metropolis. “Carullo!” I shouted. “John!”
John Carullo was originally a friend of Matt and Wade’s, but was my friend too, especially after we hooked up a few times after 9-11. He had been a linebacker on the Stanford football team, and used to have a massive body, only now that he was out of school, he looked a little thinner but possibly more muscular. After the funeral for his boyfriend, who had been killed in the Twin Towers, he’d come back to my hotel room and we’d fucked all night long. I still remembered lying in his arms, feeling his meaty body enveloping me and making me feel so safe. I wondered if he’d shed so much of his weight that he’d lost that meaty feeling. He turned around and looked at me, and I’d been expecting a smile, but that’s not what I got. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he asked me belligerently, even as he walked up to me.
“Dude, just visiting,” I said, stunned at his attitude. “What’s your deal?”
“What’s my deal? What’s my deal?” The second question was louder. “I fucked you when you were 15 fucking years old. You didn’t say shit about that.”
“You didn’t ask,” I said softly, even though I was freaking out inside. “It didn’t matter to me.”
“It mattered to me,” he said, shaking his head at me. “I could have fucking gone to jail for that!” He pushed me backward so I bumped up against the wall, then he turned and walked away from me. I’d last hooked up with him at a gay bar here in New York, and when he’d walked away from me, he had reminded me of Zach. Maybe it was because they were both football players, or maybe it was something else, but just like it had happened then, when he walked away from me, he reminded me of Zach. And his rejection was just like Zach’s, only it was here, it was physical, and it was much more tangible.
The pain surged through my body, as the reality broke through that I’d really lost Zach. I felt my legs giving way and I slid down the wall, scraping my back, until I landed on my ass. I willed Carullo to turn around and come back, even as my eyes watched him vanish into the crowd. I buried my face in my knees, wishing I’d worn long pants so they could absorb the tears. I remembered when I’d run away from home and ended up in Hawaii. I’d truly been alone then, completely cut off from all my friends and family. Losing Zach was just as bad as that. I felt completely isolated. The only person around was JJ, and he didn’t give a shit about my problems. I wasn’t sure how long I sat there, because time seemed to stand still. I just sat with my lower back against the wall and my head buried in my knees, blocking out the world around me.
“Hey,” I heard a voice say, and then someone nudged me gently with a foot. “Hey!” I glanced up and saw that it was Carullo, but I just ignored him and re-buried my face back into my knees. He looked pretty shocked at how fucked up I was. “Will!” I said nothing, then I heard him say, “God damn it!” and he walked away, or at least that’s how it sounded. I was alone again, only this time, I was relieved.
I heard footsteps, and felt someone sit down next to me. “You can’t just sit here all day,” Carullo said.
“Why not?” I asked him.
“People will step on you,” he said, trying to joke. “I’m sorry I pushed you.”
“That didn’t hurt as bad as your words,” I said bitterly.
“I’m sorry about that too,” he said, in a kind of grudging way that was cute. “It just freaked me out.”
The door opened to Dior Homme and a store security guy came out, with JJ and the clerk who was helping him in tow. “What the fuck did you do to him?” JJ asked Carullo. He was really pissed off, and it was cute, because he was funny when he was pissed off, and because he was actually showing me that he gave a shit about me.
“We’re just working things out,” Carullo said nervously.
“I’m fine,” I said to JJ. Carullo stood up, and held out his hand to help hoist me up too. “You remember John Carullo?”
“I met you up at Escorial once,” Carullo said, even as he shook JJ’s hand. “But I’ve watched you skate so many times, I feel like I know you.”
“It’s nice to see you again,” JJ said, being less bitchy as Carullo fed his ego. He turned back to talk to me. “Are you done creating scenes in front of the store?”
“I am,” I said. “I’m going to go out to dinner with John. I’ll see you back at the condo later.”
“What am I supposed to do?” he demanded.
“Join us,” Carullo said, inviting him along. It was pretty funny that Carullo had called JJ’s bluff, and now JJ found himself in an uncomfortable situation where he’d either have to back down and admit to being a drama queen, or he’d have to join us for dinner. I was hoping he’d back down, since I was pretty fucking tired of his company.
“Where are we going?” JJ asked.
“I’ll take you out,” Carullo said, with the kind of cheerful cockiness New Yorkers get when they want to show you their favorite restaurant. That was pretty generous. He worked for a financial firm in the city doing administrative work, and spent most of his time there in a cubicle. It probably didn’t pay all that much and it was expensive to live and work in this city, so it was unlikely that he had much money. He’d had a shitty car the last time I saw him, and from the crappy clothes he was wearing, he didn’t look like he was rolling in cash.
“I’ll think about it,” JJ said.
“John can pick the restaurant and I can pay for it,” I said to JJ. “And you can just relax and be a drama queen.”
“I am not being a drama queen,” he spat. “I’m not the one sobbing on the streets of New York.”
“I’m really glad you’re not,” I said sincerely, which really bugged him, since it made him seem insensitive again.
“I’ll meet you back at the condo at 6.” He turned and walked back into the store, followed by the clerk and the security guard.
“That’s in an hour and a half,” I said to Carullo. “Let’s go back and just hang out and wait for him.”
“I gotta make a call first,” he said.
“Did you have plans?” I felt bad, because I suddenly realized I’d totally taken over and monopolized his time.
“I met some dude a couple of nights ago, and we were supposed to meet for drinks,” he said.
“I didn’t mean to fuck that up,” I said. “Go ahead. You can do dinner with us some other time.”
He smiled at me. “Nah. He’s kind of a douche anyway.” I laughed at that, and we started walking through the streets, going with the flow of people who were already in the midst of rush hour. He pulled out his phone and called the guy, made some lame excuse, and then he was free for the evening.
“You doing OK?” I asked him.
“I’m doing OK,” he said insincerely. “I work, I go to the gym, and I go to the bars.”
“The gym is paying off big time,” I said, winking at him.
“Thanks,” he said, and actually blushed a bit. “So how old are you?”
“I turn 17 in September,” I told him. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’ve always been mature for my age, at least physically. When I was thirteen, it was like I was already 17.”
“You hit puberty that early?” he asked, surprised.
“Yeah, and not only did I hit it early, but it went really freaking fast.” I said. “So it just doesn’t matter to me, because I’m more than just some number on a birth certificate.”
“That’s pretty high risk for an older dude you hook up with,” he said.
“Do you honestly think that you’d get in trouble for having sex with me?” I asked him. “Who was going to bust us?”
“Probably not,” he said, after thinking about it.
I stopped and made him look at me, only that doesn’t work in New York in the middle of a crowd, so after getting bitched at, we kept on walking, but I still made him focus on me. “I needed you, and you needed me. And what we had was awesome, and it was beautiful.”
“True,” he said, and smiled again. “I feel bad that I upset you so bad.”
“It wasn’t just you,” I said. He looked annoyed. “Dude, do not get all pissy just because you didn’t have the power to totally fry my emotions all by yourself.”
“I like to be powerful,” he said in his huskiest voice, and then snickered when I blushed. “So what has you pissed off?”
“I just got dumped,” I said.
“That guy you were with, the one that you were so in love with I barely could pin you down long enough to fuck you?”
“Yeah, that one,” I said, chuckling. I’d told him a little bit about Zach, but not his name or any specifics, just that he was going to play football at a Division I university. “Things were amazing until he went to school.”
“He went early for the camps,” he said, nodding his head, remembering his own experiences with college football.
“Yeah,” I said. “We were doing really well with it, and we were supposed to spend yesterday together, then he sent me an e-mail and dumped me.”
“Dude, what did he say when you called him?”
“He told me not to call him. I did anyway, but he didn’t answer, and he hasn’t called me back.”
“You probably blasted him out of the water with a fuckin’ e-mail,” he said with a rueful grin, since he knew my temper.
“Nope, all I did was send him an e-mail that said ‘OK’,” I said.
He thought about that for a little bit. “You thought he would come to his senses, and come chasing after you to get you back.”
That got him a dirty look, but only because he was right. “Duh. Why wouldn’t he?” He laughed at my fake arrogance.
“Man, I never heard of anyone acting like that,” he said, “but it could happen.”
“You think I’m doing the right thing, not calling him?”
He shrugged. “Don’t know. I think if I was you, if he doesn’t call you back, you got two choices…”
“What are my choices?” I asked with dread.
“You can forget about him and write him off, or you can track him down and talk to him in person.”
“Why in person?” It made sense, I was just curious why he was had such a strong opinion about it.
“Because it’s easy to forget the people you left behind, and it doesn’t seem as real when they’re on the phone, but when you’re in front of them, it forces all the feelings up again.”
“That ever happen to you?”
He nodded. “Joey came to see me play my sophomore year. I’d totally blown him off, but when he showed up, that was it. I was toast.”
“You blew him off?”
“I know, it’s awful,” he said, and started crying.
“No, dude, I’m not saying that,” I said, even as I squeezed his shoulder. “Don’t go back and regret shit. You made him really happy.”
“How do you know?” he challenged.
“Was he happy?” I asked him, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” he said with a grin. “Fuck you.”
“As soon as we get back to the condo,” I joked, only I wasn’t joking, and he knew it. I forced myself back on topic. “I’m just trying to figure out what was going on in your mind. I’m trying to understand what the fuck Zach’s problem is.”
“Zach?” he asked curiously, and I felt my world falling out from under me. I’d just outed Zach to a dude who was involved in college football. What the fuck had I done?! While I was freaking out, Carullo got all pissed off again. “You know me, and you know I won’t say nothing. You don’t trust me?”
“I trust you,” I said quickly. “It’s just that I’ve never done that before, and it scares me.” He nodded, while I got my shit together, more or less. “You know, if I let my guard down around a friend as good as you, I think I’ll be just fine,” I said cheerfully, hoping to reassure him, and hoping to convince myself I was right.
“Zach,” he said again, but this time he was thinking. “Holy shit! Zach Hayes? You were doing Zach Hayes?”
“Yes,” I hissed, to make sure he kept his voice down.
“I’d grab my ankles for him any day,” he said, his eyes wide in admiration. “He’s got fucking talent.”
“You’re right about that! Dude, he’s as good at fucking as he is at football,” I said with a chuckle, “but he’d rather catch than pitch.” Holy shit; I’d just revealed even more about Zach. What the fuck was wrong with me?
“I can do that too,” he said, winking at me. We got back to the condo, and I led him up to my room.
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
“Oh yeah?” he challenged. “Strip!”
We both started pulling our clothes off, but since he was dressed like he’d been for work, he took longer. “Dude, you have gotten even sexier,” I said. He still had a decent amount of that cushy fat on him, but not as much, and it gave him a more chiseled look. This guy was even more masculine than he’d been before, and I didn’t think that was possible.
He almost lunged at me and pushed me back firmly onto the bed then fell on top of me, catching most of his weight with his legs. It was a pretty choreographed move, one he’d obviously used quite a bit. “You’re gonna fuck me.”
“You think you can handle me?” I challenged.
“I’m gonna fucking suck your dick up my ass so easy, and it’s gonna feel so good,” he cooed. I’d been pretty much with Zach exclusively since January, so it was a little strange to fuck someone else, but Carullo was totally in charge. He slid the condom on me and lubed it up, turning sideways so I could use my fingers to get him ready. He didn’t let me take nearly as much time as I wanted to, and then he turned around and sat on my dick. I could tell it hurt him, but I also knew that part of the deal, him handling the pain of taking me without enough prep, and proving to both of us what a total stud he was. Only when he did that, he did it the same way Zach sometimes did it.
I felt my brain spinning off, thinking about Zach yet again, only this time, it was going to ruin not only my mood, it was going to ruin this fuck. Carullo was a nice guy. I liked him, but I could almost feel the blood flowing out of my dick. Fuck! And then I looked up at him, saw his strong muscles as he squatted over me, saw his massive body pinning me down, telling me that even though it was my big dick being jammed into his ass, he was in charge, and he had everything under control. And then an even weirder thing happened, in that when I looked up at Carullo, I didn’t see him, I saw Zach. I could have told myself how stupid that was, and how wrong that was. I could have pulled myself back from the hypocrisy of fantasizing about someone else while I fucked Carullo, but just the thought that it was Zach got me hard as a rock. I let myself go, let myself believe the lie, rationalizing it by telling myself that I was doing it for Carullo, so it was really good. And it was. When we were done, he collapsed on top of me, smashing his cum all over us, not that it mattered. It just mixed in with the pools of sweat. That had to be one of the most animalistic and energetic fucks I’d ever had.
“Damn,” he said, leaning up and grinning at me. “That was almost worth jail.”
“Almost?” I challenged. I glanced sideways and saw the clock on the dresser. “We’d better take a quick shower. JJ gets home in half an hour.”
“Good idea,” he said. I admired his amazing form as he got up, then I followed him into the shower. He had an ass sort of like Zach’s, in that even though it was big and muscular, compared to the rest of him, it looked small. “After what I did to you, your brother is going to hate me.”
“No he’s not,” I said, as I got the water to the right temperature. “He’s just pissed off at the world right now.” I told him about JJ’s ACL tear, and about the article in the Daily Mail. I figured that was public info, so I could talk about it.
“So his career is over?”
“Not sure,” I shrugged. “He’s working on it.”
“Dude, no wonder he’s so pissed off,” he said.
“He’s always like that,” I said. “He’s perpetually bitchy.”
“It’s a big word, muscle-head. It means…”
“I know what it means,” he said. “I did go to Stanford.”
“Did they teach you that in your jock English class?”
“You think I’m stupid?” he asked, getting pissed.
“Whatever,” I said, rolling my eyes at him. “God, you’re sensitive.”
“You probably tell people I’m bitchy too.”
“I probably will,” I told him, then really laughed.
“JJ’s a New Yorker,” I said, like it was an epiphany, which it kind of was.
I was really laughing now. “He fits right in here, with all you other bitchy people.”
“Yeah, well fuck you and your ‘have-a-nice-day’ California ass,” he said, cracking me up even more.
“JJ didn’t like Zach when we first got together, so I’ll give you the same advice I gave him. He’s a little shy, so don’t flirt with him too much. He’s also a primadonna, so feed his ego. He wears nice clothes, has excellent taste, and skates like a fucking fiend.”
“I’m not trying to fuck him,” he objected. “Not that I’d kick him out of bed…”
“If he was at the bar, you’d so work him,” I accused.
“Maybe,” he admitted. “But he’s your brother, so he’s safe.”
“Dude, you and I are good friends, and I love being with you, but that’s it.” He looked really offended. “If I were here, maybe it would be different.”
“And if you were legal,” he grimaced.
“That helps,” I said with a smile.
“So I can fuck him?”
“Good luck with that,” I said, chuckling. He gave me a strange look. “You guys are like oil and water.”
“You go the gym, he goes to Dior Homme. You go to gay bars, he goes to the symphony,” I said. “You’re more fun.”
“I feel like a fucking peasant,” he grumbled, even as we got out of the shower.
“You’re doing it again,” I said. He looked at me quizzically. “You’re being a bitchy diva.”
“I think JJ and I are gonna get along just fine,” he said, cracking me up.
“So what’s going on with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Where do you live? You get a new car yet?” I asked playfully. Only he looked really sad.
“No, I don’t have a car no more.”
He shrugged. “I couldn’t afford our apartment, but I couldn’t leave.” He and his boyfriend had moved into an apartment not too long before Joey died on 9-11. “So I stayed anyway, ran up a bunch of debts, and basically ended up selling my car and moving back home.”
“How do you get to work?”
“Take the bus to the subway,” he said. That would suck. “Tougher at night, when busses aren’t running.”
“So then what do you do?”
“If I have cash, I take a cab. Otherwise, I walk.” He smiled. “Good exercise.”
“Why the fuck didn’t you call me when this shit happened?” I asked him.
“I learned a long time ago not to mooch off of friends.”
“You are a fucking idiot,” I said to him, and not in a nice way. “You know, putting up with rich people, especially for a peasant like you, kind of sucks.”
He gave me a dirty look. “No shit.”
“One of the coolest things about having a bunch of money is using it to help out friends. It would have made things better for you, and it would have made me happy.”
“I was worried you’d think I was taking advantage of you,” he said. “Guess I could have called Matt or Wade, but it’s the same deal.”
“Dude, you think you’re smart enough to take advantage of me?” I asked him. I was joking, but I was also a little annoyed. “I take real math and real English classes.”
“Fine, Mr. AP,” he said, assuming I was in Advanced Placement classes. He was right, I was.
“So this is your lucky day.”
“It sure as fuck was,” he said, referring to our sexcapade.
“I’m spending the next few weeks spending as much money as I can to piss off my father. So I think I’ll spend some on you.”
“What are you gonna do? Buy me a new apartment?”
“No, that’s a waste of money when you can live here.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?!” he asked.
“There’s extra rooms here. You can have the room next to this one. Just don’t have parties and trash the place.”
“Are you serious?” he asked, amazed.
“Fuck yeah, I’m serious,” I said. Inside I was laughing my ass off. When my father and Marc came back here to visit, or for business, they’d have a new friend hanging around. “We’ll go get your stuff later.”
“Dude, this is way too nice,” he said. “I can’t do that. I can’t stay here. I have to at least pay rent…”
“Stop,” I commanded. “Look, here’s the deal. If you’re lucky, I’ll be able to talk JJ into taking you shopping. Don’t whine about the money; don’t argue about shit he buys you, just say thank you.”
“Doesn’t that make me an ingrate?”
“No, it makes you less annoying,” I joked.
“I don’t get it,” he said. “You want people to try and suck money out of you?”
“No, dumbass, I want to be able to spend money on my friends and enjoy it. If you were asking me for shit, calling me up and nagging me, it would bug me. But if I’m giving you something, don’t say ‘no’ unless you don’t want it.”
“Not like you listen to me anyway,” he grumbled.
“See, you are pretty smart,” I teased. I straightened his tie for him, noting that it was pretty shitty, so instead, I pulled it off. “If I’m casual, you have to be casual.”
“Fine,” he said. I led him into the room I’d given him. “This is fucking amazing. I never thought I’d ever even be in a place this nice, much less live in one.”
“I’m glad you like it,” I said. I took him downstairs and introduced him to the concierge so they knew he was moving in, and got a key for him. We went back upstairs and found JJ standing in the middle of the great room, his arms folded, pouting.
“It’s 6:15, not 6:00, and I’m fucking hungry,” he said.
“Deal with it,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We went downstairs and got into the car. Carullo told the driver where to go, and then joined us. “Where are we going?” JJ asked.
“Where else? Little Italy,” Carullo said with a smile.
“So where were you?” JJ demanded.
“Fucking,” I told him, to annoy him. I got dirty looks from both him and Carullo.
“So what’s new,” JJ said sarcastically.
“We both do what we’re good at. You’re a good shopper. I’m a great piece of ass,” I said, then leered at Carullo. “Aren’t I?”
“You’re almost as good at fucking as JJ is at skating,” he said. That was too funny.
“Almost,” JJ said, smirking at me. I could have made some snarky comment about his ACL, but that was too raw, even for JJ.
“We were actually downstairs talking to the concierge,” I told him. “John’s going to move in and stay in the green room.” That was the room I’d given him, the one we used mostly for guests, and had been painted a pretty shade of sage green.
That really pissed JJ off, but a strong look from me told him that if he made an issue out of this, there would be hell to pay. For a second, I thought he may just go ahead and risk a conflagration, but in the end, he mellowed, at least on the surface. “You’ll like the neighborhood,” he said to Carullo.
“It’s awesome,” he agreed. The car stopped and Carullo got out first, followed by JJ. Even as he did, he turned and gave me a death laser stare. I didn’t get what he was so pissed off about, but I wasn’t surprised that he was pissed at me.