Episode Six: David
This page was last updated: December 8, 2007
Episode Six of 'Steven's Story' an original story
Melissa J. Vivigatz

~ * ~

  January second and it was back to work at the law firm. Took a cab in, but a rental would be delivered later. A four wheel drive thing, because one accident like we’d survived the day before was enough for one winter.
  Talk about weird, still, felt better when David lit a candle in his cauldron for the Beamer; luck that it was not totaled. (Wasn’t all the different from what you did at church when you thought about it. Sure, I knew magic was bullshit, but the gesture was typical David and it did help, if only for that.) Fifty-fifty at this point according to the guy who’d come to tow it away. I’d have to call them later for the word.
  Betty was not in today, the old girl as head of secretarial and greeting returning on the third, but at least there was someone competent there, and handed over a couple wrapped presents that been left for us. Fun-ny. I got a classy, standing china coffee cup (I say funny because she must have remembered the mug I had received for my birthday, a ‘gift’ from another, far-less likeable secretary which had taken four determined, consecutive ‘knocks’ off of my desk to finally break. ‘Lawyers brief for hugs’. Christ, give me a break.
  Well, at least Betty had liked the candy hearts that had filled it. Dish on her desk to ‘share the love’. Ha! Knowing the source of them it was a good thing they had been cellophaned or else who knew what type of ‘love bug’ that might have gotten passed around?) and the kid got himself his first Official Bear. (Betty made them, did a bunch of craft things with her grandkids.) Not a lawyer’s suit, this one was seasonal, I guess. Pointed green felt hat and shoes, yellow stitched coat; an elf for an elf. What a gal.
  Two weeks away, needless to say even if it had been for the holidays there was a ton of stuff in wait, so Mr. Bear got a seat at David’s station and I had my new cup christened with black lightning and we set to. Did not take more then ten minutes before my teeth clenched, David coming in and telling me someone had been in his computer, a thing which was not supposed to happen, everything, including start-up, being password protected.
  Only one person it could have been.
  “Anything been deleted?”
  He snorted softly, “I don’t think so, but the recent viewed documents were not what I was working on.”
  “Christ, she is an idiot.” No need to guess where the bimbo had gotten the password either. David was only an intern after all. Those were not of the highest security work stations so anyone on the upstairs board could get them—not supposed to—yet they could.
  Mine was a bio as well as password. You dealt with global corporate finances and all the jolly fuck-ups such people got into, you did not leave such things to chance.
  “So far mine looks untouched, then again, was not giving everything my full attention here. What was she looking for?” As if I had to ask.
  “She was searching through back-up files. Notes and things that I had put aside to keep the current work uncluttered.” Nod. Of course. Baxter’s desk muffin wanted those lost emails bad. If asked, I do not think it was to recover them for the sick fuck. No, knowing ‘Miss’ Sally Anne Simon, the girl had something like blackmail on her determined, greedy little, mind.
  Good thing she can’t get into my safety deposit box at the bank.
  “Some other things as well,” he added with a side-look at me which I didn’t like one bit.
  “Your schedule. When you go to the racquetball court and the rest.”
  I swore, “That little, gold-digging whore.”
  “Yeah,” he nodded in agreement.
  “No way to prove anything either, even if the moron did leave her signature by deleting anything.” No, no proof beyond David’s word, and though there were some who’d accept it as fact, the little bitch was too well protected for avoiding backlash and more trouble if reported.
  “I know.” Disgust and touch of smoldering anger in back of his blue-with-green flecks eyes at the intrusion; emotions which banked quickly as he made a jest about having to disinfect his chair now on top of all the rest in a peeved voice. Small chuckle from me, though I was really boiling inside. Just more shit we hadn’t needed. “Good thing I never have any other passwords saved on automatic, either. Learned my lesson about that.”
  “Mm-hmm.” A real hard lesson. Yes, everything David had shared with his ex had been joint accounts, but the kid had been taken fully to the cleaners when everything had been emptied. “Well, forewarned and all that. Think I’ll take some time over lunch and re-schedule my weekly games at the club. Not that she is a member, but you’d be amazed what some guys would do when you flash them some tit, even plastic ones.”
  “I’ll take your word for it.”
  “Ha-ha.” He wrinkled his nose at me. Oof. Ahem. “Now beat it, kid, before someone out there asks if you think you’re still on vacation. Keep me posted if you notice anything else out of place. Morning is going to be surfing backlog messages and notes from the others. Figure on a late lunch, but we’ll take our time over it. Afterwards is soon enough to deal with the heavy.”
  “Yes, sir, Mr. Dude,” he saluted like Sarge Brick the Army Street Gorilla, and left me laughing.

  Well talk about a nice surprise, turned out his friend Kimberly was back from her vacation with her folks as well, and the little button with spiked blond hair and tanned like a native showed up around one-thirty with a huge bag of Thai food in her arms for the three of us. Hated the lounge, so it was a desk picnic in my office, the only thing big enough to hold the stacks of steaming tin containers and boxes of noodles as well as David’s laptop and her photos. Stills of vacation exchanged as well as stuff from our plates. She did not like cashews, so I got a nice little mound of sauced nuts and she in returned got pineapple chunks. David had a thing for bamboo shoots, but then who didn’t? Still, he was happy with the assorted varieties, some sweet and others spiced enough where the third Thai tea did not go to waste between the two kids.
  Damn, these things always ended too soon, no matter they had come to the point where the girl was having some fine giggles at my expense. Apparently it was video time, and no matter the rest, I must have really been showing my age by the time the tree had been hauled back to the house on its sled, all ‘jokes’ about having a heart attack aside.
  Speaking of candidates for heart attack, Quince Parker, pal and drinking buddy must have just finished his ‘lunch’ at the local pub, because that glowing red nose had nothing at all to do with the winter cold as he rapped a knuckle on the frame of my open door.
  “Hey, Quince,” I greeted. Sequestered in here all day, first time I’d seen him since getting back.
  “Nah, we were just wrapping up here.” Rose and started grabbing up crumpled napkins till the kids shooed me away from the mess. “So anyway, what’s up? How you doing?”
  “The same.”
  Oh boy. “David, I’ll be back in a minute. Going to stretch the legs before they are shoved under the desk again.” He just nodded so I joined Quince at the door and we started down the hallway to the restroom so I could wash off.
  Check; coast was clear, “All right, what’s the latest?” I asked as I ran my hands under the tap and looked at him in the mirror. “Someone been pulling some shit?”
  “No, not a peep—an’ that’s what scares me.”
  “Jesus, Quince, relax, will you? Told you I would handle it,” I assured as I turned off the water. Now was not the time to mention the security breach to him, if I did at all.
  “It’s my computer’s signature on those damn things. Who are the Feds going to believe, me or the rest of the whole, god damn firm?”
  “Still think Levin won’t back you?”
  “Lets see,” he huffed cynically, “One old buddy of his who is into baby porn or the whole firm flushed down the crapper? Which way would you go?”
  “I’d surf the whirlpool.”
  “Yeah, I know.” His sigh was shaky as the rest of him, “Ah, Steven, forgive me, I should never have tossed that crap onto you.”
  “You’re not getting it back, Quince. Way you’re looking you’d burn it, right? No, I’m not saying anything against you,” I said calmly as he flushed deeply. “Just that you need to have a little faith that things will all work out.”
  “Funny thing coming from you.”
  I snorted because he was right, “Yeah, well, guess I just needed to get away for a while to get my head straight.”
  “Well, you sure look the better for it. You and the kid both.”
  “Uh-huh. Shame you missed it, Quince. No smog or horns blasting, just trees and lots of clean snow, mulled cider over the fire every night. Kid even made some friends up there, least enough to invite him to their annual party if he’s in the area next year. Man, it was really great. Will show you the photos some time.
  “Hey, that’s what you need,” I said, suddenly inspired. “A little relaxing fun. How about you and Linda come over for dinner sometime soon? Not one of those catered things, but home cooked. Believe it or not, but David is a chef like you wouldn’t imagine.”
  “Him?” he scoffed.
  “Bet your ass. Lived with a couple who owed a restaurant for some years. Worked there too, and brother, you have not lived till you taste his roasted lamb.”
  “Got yourself a real Felix there, Oscar.”
  “No shit. Worth his weight in gold. And if the girl is over, do not mention weight. As is, she starts a diet a week in advance whenever they have a date for such.”
  “So she’s the one who’s crazy,” he said and it was my turn to snort wryly. I’d asked David the same thing back before I had known he was gay. And even then I had had hopes for the two. Least till I found out that Kimberly was as well.
  Still, it all worked out.
  “What are you grinning at?”
  “Oh, some of this and some of that,” I said easily through the smile. “Possibly an inkling of a plan to get you out of your fix as well. Kill two birds with one stone, though it will take some thinking on first.”
  “Steven, anything you can do to bring that asshole down, that’s all that matters.”
  “Down to justice, Quince, yup. Till then, you relax and go on with your business. How’s Friday night sound for that dinner?”
  “Sounds great. Hell of a place you have there, only with the company you’re keeping these days...”
  “Ha, your two ‘friends’ live far away I take it, Mr. Photoshop?”
  “Give me a break,” he flushed redder in embarrassment.
  “From the look of those two it is you who are going to break something. Seriously though, you better be careful, Quince. Linda is a great lady.”
  “Third time’s the charm, and I know it. Hell, she knows I like to look, and I’ll put my hand on your bible and swear to it, that’s about all I can do these days. Huh, that didn’t come out right.”
  “Stop carrying the load of worry and shorter lunches at the pub and you’ll be fine. Take my word for it, old son, that path solves nothing.”
  “I know,” his shoulders drooped further. “Started it after I screwed up with Annie. Then it lost me Liz. Linda is wonderful no matter there’s ten years difference between us. Understanding as an angel of everything, still, this past month...guess I been pushing it.”
  “I’d say the fact that you are even talking about it is a good sign, Quince. All the years we’ve worked together, you’ve never mentioned any of this before.”
  “Yeah. Don’t know, Steven, understand all too well what this past year was like for you, only you’ve come out the other side better than any I’ve ever seen. Something has changed, like I can talk to you. I don’t know, maybe I’m just too fucking drunk,” he scoffed as he rubbed his mouth.
  “No. Maybe you are seeing that you are going to lose something important and it has you caught in a cycle of bad.
  “Quince, I promise you,” I assured again as I put a hand on his shoulder for full attention. “I shall take care of Beast Baxter and you will not be touched by it at all. All you have to be concerned about now is taking care of your own business. Do not let the fear of loosing Linda make matters worse, either. Talk to her, Quince. Tell that woman exactly how you feel about her.” Slight squeeze and then I released him, “As for the rest, not really certain how these things go, but you need a hand and you’ve got it here. The lounge is full of all those posters on health and crap. Twelve-step thing if you want to go that route, or just get a hold of yourself and dig your ass out of the hole you’ve dug over past mistakes that have you drink instead of think. I didn’t give anything up myself, only I’m not using it just to block shit out anymore.”
  “Geesh, Steven, you sure do hit things straight. Tell you truth, I don’t even like it much. I’ll be sitting at my desk for hours when it’s busy without giving it a thought. It’s only when I start thinking that the urge comes.”
  “Like I said, been there and done that.”
  “All right then, I’ll give it a shot. Give you my promise on that.”
  “Not to me, Quince. To Linda and yourself. Just remember what it is worth to you, weigh the options and make your choice.”
  “Alright already. Christ, feel like I should pay you a couple hundred.”
  “You don’t pay your friends for listening, Quince.”
  “Guess I’ve just had the wrong sort of friends.”
  “Ditto on that. So, we all set? Don’t want anyone to think we’re playing patty-cake in here or anything.”
  He snorted, “Would probably help if they were. Man, that Sally is a bitch.”
  “You too?” I laughed.
  “Yeah. Talk about a sniffer, only in my case I’m older, uglier, and still married.” Not to mention smart. Yes, Quince like to look, and from his emails I had accidentally received, someone like her should of had a cake walk. Lucky for everyone he wasn’t a dumb drunk.
  “None of that keeps her from waxing Baxter.”
  “Christ, the thought of it,” he grimaced. “Talk about two peas in a pod. Those two deserve the other.”
  “Yup,” I said and we left the restroom, parting ways.
  Ethical? No, couldn’t say that at all. Still, it was a dog eat dog world of crap out there. Placed your money and reaped what you sewed. The girl wanted those files and maybe she would get a copy before the Feds did. Again, I would have to do some serious thinking about that, but Baxter was in the red for a lot of people out there. Too good at what he did keeping the wrong people out of jail or more often, suing the ones who were in the right. Destroyed a lot of lives in his time, caused a lot of suffering both in and outside of court. Not that I was a saint by any means, yet Quince was right and something was going to break soon. I had told Baxter I had his misplaced emails and files before I knew who had or even what they might have contained. My mistake, only he had pissed me off at a bad moment.
  That Sally as well, bad as they came no matter her age. Stupid, yet even she knew there would be nothing on David’s computer. Just looking for ways to get at me then, try the backdoor since walking into my office with her shirt unbuttoned to the waist and offers of hand-jobs wasn’t working. Nope, sorry, I’m not buying, bitch. Already went that route once, but never again.
  And as soon as thinking about her, the other thoughts started to rise.
  What if I am wrong about Shell? What if she really is sorry? Seventeen years of marriage, both of us getting older...her growing boredom with me. Anyone in her situation could make a mistake.
  What if my mistake was deleting all her messages unopened?
  No, not going to think about it. Those thoughts were all crap, because I knew the real woman I had married now. The greedy, the manipulative, the cruel and the spoiled.
  Further and far more importantly, I had David in my life now, and that was not anything I was going to risk loosing.
  Going to lose it anyway though, aren’t you, Steven? After all, you loved Sheila and you still failed there. Could not keep her happy, could not give her the thing which would have made her happy because you missed something, never knew what that was. It’s your fault she turned into who she was, Steven. You and no one else’s.
  Owe, my head...
  Clear sign to drop this train of thought as I rubbed my left temple, mumbling to David (only half noting that another intern, Stanley, was there holding a pair of folders, the two talking,) as I passed that everything was fine with Parker and went on into my office, plopped down in my chair and rummaged around in the desk till I found the near empty bottle of aspirin. Talk about getting old and forgetful, used to be I never went anywhere without a couple plastic bottles of something kept in my pockets. Then again, vacation was over.
  Door opening and closing and I looked up, “Forget something? Sorry I missed saying goodbye to Kimberly.”
  “She’s cool. Said to tell you that you are really cute when you get angry.”
  “Swell,” I snorted ruefully. Man, talk about small favors. Never really had much of a temper in the past. Guess after last year I was making up for lost time.
  “Small one only, thank god. Need to go out and get a refill of the prescription later.”
  “Not while I am here,” David said and came to stand behind my chair. (I just leaned back and smiled when the massage started. Man, he was good.) “Besides, that stuff doesn’t work. I did bring some of the willow tea if you want any?”
  “Nah, this is great. Mm, am better already.”
  “Good.” Kept it up though, and with eyes closed, relaxed, asked if the proposed gathering Friday would be all right with him? Should have asked first, apologized, but he said he was looking forward to it and we talked a few more details till he finished.
  “Is that all you need, Steven?”
  “Yup, I’m all set.” Chuckle, “Christ, kid, you trying to kill the old man or what?”
  “Nothing old about you, Steven,” he said and kissed the top of my head. “In fact, after last night I am going to have to start taking extra vitamins or something. Good thing you know how to make omelets now. I think I am going to need a lot of eggs in my diet.”
  “Mm-hmm. Oh, Steven, you are just so good,” he husked and kissed my head again, harder.
  “Hoohh, come on, kid, settle down.”
  “I don’t know. Did I ever tell you how much I like your desk? It looks real sturdy.”
  “Oh, son of a bitch, give me a break.” He laughed and nodded while I caught my breath.
  “Yes, we are at work after all. No need to rush when we are at home. Besides, I like the look of your desk there as well.”
  “You’re killing me here.”
  “Looks more like I am livening you up. For tonight.”
  “It’s a date,” I said. Tilted my head and we kissed briefly. (Insane as it was considering all the rest, I still had a little problem with that, so it was simple touch of lips, yet look in his blue eyes as he pulled away said I had made his whole year, so it was more than satisfying just for that.) Told me I had better brush my hair, then left.

  Friday night went without a hitch. Actually could not believe how much I had found myself looking forwards to it. A small dinner party where I had been the one initializing it with people I knew, and better, actually liked, instead of coming in through the door after work to step into some crowded, catered affair hosted by Sheila.
  Stranger in my own home; feeling more like a prop at times as after a long day I was forced to stand there with her manicured, perfect hand on my suit arm, nodding at inanities.
  (Only, god help me, as much as I’d disliked the rest, I still missed that part. The having Her so close, watching the way her auburn curls slid around her shoulders when she laughed...)
  Kimberly had been invited, not for any sense of ‘show’ or anything, only I knew David would have a better time with a friend of his own age around. Besides, I owed the girl a couple of meals by now, was amazed she even thought of me when she picked up some boxed lunches for David. Then again, in a sense I was ‘one of the gang’ and it was hardly the first time she had spent an evening hanging around the apartment. Even her ‘friend’ Casey had stopped by twice to hang out, (Literally. Oh, mama, that woman was built!) the most memorable our Lord of the Rings marathon.
  I tell you though, sometimes there were things I just did not understand about David, like when he suggested easily that I invite the girl from the gourmet shop down the street to come as well. Yes, she was nice, and I might have had an idea or two once, but not now. Most likely it had something to do with his own insecurities. Horrible break-up of his own last year, had sworn he was never going to be in a relationship again despite what we were exploring the merits of now.
  Then again, if I thought about it I did know his reasoning behind it. Told me he was happy, oh yes, yet he knew there were some things ‘lacking’ because he was not a woman, not my ‘one’ and to not deny myself the looking for that special person. Said have casual or permanent, he did not care, just as long as we remained friends, was all that he needed.
  Christ, talk about a giving person, only there was no one else I could want out there. I was happy as well, oh hell, a lot more than happy; I was in love even if I could not say those words aloud yet. Showed it in every way possible, yet each time I tried to speak something just choked me...
  Well, it would take time, that was all. Just a little more. His insecurities again, his own trauma and self dislike had not even let him imagine that I cared for him, no matter that I, a straight man (which I was through and through and we both knew it) was having sex with him.
  Oh yes, straight, because I all but fell over a gorgeous pair of long legs or breasts. Not even bi, because there was nothing that raised even a flickering thought when I saw another man, beefy or pansy. No, just David, who I thought of in my mind as a Human Being, not really male or even female. Just David, the one I loved and who completed so much of me and my life.
  (Except...sometime there were dreams. Not exactly David’s face, yet his hair. Young woman with long locks of it, sandy blond. Someone who just felt so familiar. So god damn missed.
  Never spoke of them with him though. Did not know myself if it was some trick my head was playing, trying to reconcile things with my upbringing and conscious. Beyond fact it would bring up his own insecurities stronger, the dreams did not end well. Strong feeling of Sheila mixed in them. Being left if not betrayed. Sense of being lost and alone...so chalked them up to nothing more than fear dreams and my own head’s simple fucked-upedness. ‘Sides, no real sense to them. Hated the beach, yet often ended walking along one. Some real nasty place, sharp wind cutting, no sound except for waves crashing, wind through the ugly, dead grasses. Smoke on the wind, black and foul stenching; gray sky and sand to match.
  Yeah, real head-game going on. Even saw sheep sometimes, woolly shapes huddled shivering in the distance as I walked, trying with head bowed to get away from the smoking thing on the hill behind. Crazy, anything lamb was turning into my favorite dish. Again, sense of familiarity and comfort. Chalked that aspect up to fact that was the first thing David had ever cooked for me, first time he had come over to hang out as a friend. First time I had anything of companionship since my wife had left me...
  God damn beach. Stupid, f’ing, broken shells.
  Awe, Shell...)
  So no, no token date for me, perfectly fine to be the ‘odd man out’ at the table as conversation passed about along with savory bowls of this and that; forks moving fast.
  The Parker’s were floored by David’s cooking, though the kid was quick to point out that I had made the salad, the smug little shit.
  “He didn’t even have to boil any water!”
  “Kimberly, do you mind?”
  “No problem, Mr. Hanscom,” she chipped and then “Owe!” from David when she kicked him a good one in the shins.
  “The little lady is armed and dangerous,” I said and the girl beamed proudly.
  “Owe,” David pouted again as he rubbed his leg. “I think she gave me cooties.”
  “That’s not how you get cooties, you idiot,” Kimberly huffed. “This is how you get cooties!” and she smacked him a good one on the cheek.
  “I could use a good dose of cooties,” Quince muttered and his wife leaned over and gave him a sweet one.
  “Geesh, someone pull out the disinfectant already,” I chuckled and picked up my glass of shiraz.
  “Sorry,” David ducked his head.
  “Shut up, kid.”
  “Yeah, shut up, buster.”
  “Man, I am never going to cook again. All I ever get is abuse from you guys.”
  “Suit yourself. There’s always more salad.”
  Expression which always sent the girl into giggling peals whether it was uttered by David or me, as well as a clap of hands and “Cute!”
  “Well, who’s for dessert? I bought some chocolate mousse since David had his hands full. Kimberly, there’s a tub of vanilla ice cream in the freezer. And chocolate syrup.” One quirk, that was the only item the girl considered as dessert. Sometimes breakfast and dinner as well.
  Glance from her at David who was rolling his eyes, “Got something to say, buster?”
  “Thanks, Mr. Hanscom. He’s gotten a lot smarter since he met you.”
  “No, I just don’t want to have to use a cane again. Geesh, Kimber, what’s with the army boots? I don’t think jogging in those will keep you from looking like a stuffed turkey—OWE!”
  I just covered my face and shook my head. When the hell was he going to learn?
  Only Kimberly and David were ready for dessert, and since the girl well knew her way to the freezer went ahead, leaving David to limp a little behind, plans to put on water for tea and coffee in the process.
  “They are just wonderful,” Linda said and I nodded.
  “Really brighten up the place. Glad you two did not mind.”
  “Mind hell. Going to have a fight on your hands, Hanscom. Intend to steal the kid away. Got a guest room of our own.”
  “Hands off my cook, Parker. Last year was take-out and spaghetti till I realized one day I was eating a box that had some sauce spilled on it and didn’t notice the difference!”
  “You could have come over to our place, Steven.”
  “Thank you, Linda, yet everything has worked out fine. Do not let the kid fool you, I now have a repertoire of omelets that you would not believe.”
  “The extra calcium was great for broken bones,” David said as he and Kimberly returned.
  “Oh, you are so looking for an ass kicking, kid, I swear to god.”
  “Did he tell you about the time he made one with coffee beans?”
  “Hey!” I flushed. “That was an accident.” I explained about the bag having a hole and one falling into the bowl of chopped chicken.
  “Yeah, just one, but guess who got it? I really do not like coffee.”
  “Which is a good thing for me because he makes a pot as well as he does roasted lamb.”
  “Hey, Taylor, did you know that Linda and I have a house?”
  “What? Just talking to the kid here. Three stories with lots of room.”
  “Hey, Kimberly, you want a job?”
  “Doing what, Mr. Hanscom?”
  “Guard duty.”
  Linda smiled while her husband grunted in defeat,
  “Man, Hanscom, good thing we’re at the same firm. Would hate to go against you.”
  “Case dismissed,” I grinned.

  Dessert finished by all now, some jazz playing in the background, and a couple more ‘casual’ mentions of houses and David went to get his laptop, opened it up and pulled up a bunch of vacation photos for the couple sitting on the couch and showed them my aunt’s place where we had stayed. Built in the eighteen-hundreds with some fine architectural work added over time, even covered in snow and icicles it was a real showpiece. And that was just the outside.
  “Wow,” Quince grunted and his wife had similar reaction, though more wistful. “That is some house you have there, Steven. How come you never talked about it before?”
  “Because it has mostly been a place to store things since my aunt passed away. Some of the furniture around here came from it. Mostly the stuff in David’s room and my den, the dinning room table and some of the rugs, but am thinking of bringing some more things out soon for the rest of the place. There are rooms there we never even opened packed full. Aunt Lillian was a real collector with an crafty eye to match.”
  “It’s huge,” David agreed. “Would you like to see the tree video?”
  “Oh come on,” I laughed, “Not again.”
  “It’s the best thing ever,” Kimberly said. “I want to even if no one else does.”
  “Look, all we did was get a tree and put it up.”
  “Uh-uh,” the girl shook her head. “They went into the woods and cut it down and everything! It was like some movie or something.”
  “I would love to see it,” Linda said, most likely being polite.
  “Fine, fine, show them the damn tree,” I snorted as I sat back in my chair with fresh cup of coffee... Then got up and walked behind the couch to join the crowd, anticipatory smile on my face.
  He had done a great job with the editing. It started with some stills because he had not figured out the new digital camera yet. Pictures of the old shed, the hanging sled and me testing the saw’s edge.
  Some of the things we passed as we had hiked out like the deer with the slightly blurred head before it had bounded off. Laughter as we got to the part where a stump of a blow-down had been used and camera set up to get a few shots of the both of us doing silly poses with smoking pipes in our mouths as we froze our asses off.
  “You should have got some of Mr. Hanscom blowing smoke rings.”
  “There was some wind. And before you ask, no, I still can’t make them.”
  Then the real ‘video’ part started. Me pulling the sled while David’s voice was heard speaking in the background.
  “This is what the sled looks like before we found our tree.” Shift of the way ahead, “And those are the trees right there. Wow, Steven, they are huge!” Searching for the right tree; my telling him to haul after the deer if it headed for him during the cutting. The proud capture of a “Groovy,” his laughter and my laughing: “Jesus Christ!”
  The cutting with his call of his “Timber!” Some of us both working to cut off the part we needed.
  “Oh, man, my back remembers that all too well,” I snorted as we watched me loosing steam from dragging the son of a bitch all that way back to the house through the crunching snow.
  Everyone smiling as “The First Fire,” was lit in the fireplace, then David pouring a bunch of stuff into the kettle hung there.
  “Mulled cider over a fire,” Linda said. “It is just like a movie.”
  “I told you,” Kimber grinned. “And it just gets better!”
  “Tree dance!” David and I said together and there was a lot of laughing from everyone as the two of us struggled with it, not just getting it into the room, but in the stand; branches whapping; the moment where legs tangled and my ass almost landed in the kettle and Kimberly huffed in disgust when I covered her ears. Some language was not very ‘cute’. Thing should be rated NR-17. Man, I had really developed a mouth on me.
  “I still can’t believe the lamps survived.” Not to mention the windows.
  David sitting cross-legged on the rug stringing popcorn and cranberries in full concentration not to break any. The decorating of the dark tree; his setting the antique, glass star up on top with help of a stool, then the grand finale as I plugged in the white lights before the both of us came together side-by-side to appreciate our achievement.
  Ended there and everyone applauded with real feeling.
  “Now that is how you do a tree,” Quince grunted.
  “There is a lot more, of course,” David told them. “We went on a ton of hikes; it is all woods out there. A pond and some streams. More deer that were grazing by the road. Steven stopped so I could film them. This was before we bought a real video camera. Still, if you would like to see one more? Something we did on Christmas?”
  “Of course, dear,” Linda said.
  He beamed and it was the horse-drawn sleigh ride at the farm. Back in the day it had been an apple orchard, but the people who owned it now had expanded, built a health food store and adjoining small restaurant where they served a lot of things grown on the premises. There had been plenty of fresh snow in the days before, but this one was sunny while we were there, passed the festively decorated barn and the row of trees they had done up for the visitors. Some close-ups of the horses later and a little story telling by the driver and that was it beyond someone holding the camera as we waved together into it.
  “And that is where we cut it,” I said. “Because if you show off the goose dinner and pies you cooked Parker here is going to just grab you and run. When he is able to move again that is.”
  “The marshmallow roast gets me hungry,” Kimberly sighed.
  “Lets just say it is a good thing we went hiking almost every day and leave it at that.”
  “Not to mention that we met this great old man named Mr. Gratleman who tells all of the most wonderful stories about all the people he knew, including Steven’s aunt—and him! That is like a night of movies in itself. I think he should be in a book. Filled up a bunch of discs when we visited the second time of him talking in the room his grandson made for him in back of the museum and pipe shop. Then there was the best antique store ever. That is where we found the stand for your plant, Kimber.” Nod at the leafy green monster before the window. “The clawed feet on it are so cool. I’ll show you the stuff I found there in my room later. Candle holder and things. For meditation.”
  “Go on, David,” I said. “I know you are dying to show her your stuff. Time for us old folks to sit and digest.”
  “Okay. Come on, Kimber, you are not going to believe it all.” Meaning the Pan candle holder that I, a devout Christian, had given a Pagan for Solstice. It would come back out again later, after company had left.
  Watched them take off and Quince spoke, “He’s not like that around the office. Like he drops five years or something.”
  “I know. The kid’s got a lot of layers to him. Really kicks back when the girl is around.” Wry chuckle, “I’m getting used to people thinking he is my nephew. Good thing he’s blond, because so far he’s only been mistaken for my son once.” Talk about a ego smack.
  “They ever catch that hit an run driver?”
  “No.” We did though and that was all that mattered. (Had plans Sunday to look up Sarge Brick in his alley. Had a whole case of ketchup for the brute and some other usable items David had suggested. If nothing else, the local stray dogs [and rats] would be safe from ‘bar-b-que’ for a week.) “Tell you truth, I’d rather find out who called it in and thank them...or better, ask them why the hell they left him in the dumpster for three god damn hours and did nothing.”
  “What?” Linda gasped in shock. Quince had kept that information to himself apparently.
  I nodded, teeth gritting as the anger arose, “Yes. The cops say it was the rats that kept him from freezing to death, but I still get pissed every time I see the scars on his hands...sorry,” I shook myself. “Doesn’t happen as often now, yet he had a nightmare the other night. I think it was because of the car accident on the way home.”
  “It must have been a very traumatic experience for him. You did a very good thing to take him in, Steven.”
  “Only thing I could have done. Kid doesn’t have any family to speak of. The girl is going to turn twenty this month, yet she lives with her folks. Pretty strict from what I gather, and more than once he’s been banned from coming over. Thank god he had his work cell on him and my name was on the top for the cops to try. Between the concussion and the drugs, he was too out of it to do anything for himself.”
  “On that day of all days,” Quince huffed in remembrance. “Saw you heading out the door as if the building was on fire. Feel like crap that I couldn’t cover for you longer.”
  “Relax, Quince, like I said, things just work out.”
  “I’ll say. Skipped the cat phase and went straight to adoption.”
  “Ha-ha, very funny.” Did not add “you old lush”, though it was a close catch.
  “I simply think it is wonderful,” his wife said again. “All that you have done for that the young man, taking him along on your vacation and sharing moments such as that with him.”
  Shrug, “Like I said, only thing I could have done. Even Kimberly was off on some island with her folks. The house is huge and I saw no reason for a kid with a cracked head to be wandering here alone even if it wasn’t the holidays. Talk about a bummer ending a trip, imagine coming home to find he’d fallen over his cane or something?”
  “Maybe you’re right about things working out, Hanscom. Both of you there at the right time needing a hand. Clearly have a bond there.”
  Are you fishing, Parker? Possibly, yet not for a bad reason. He had opened up to me that other day. Sense I was getting was he was feeling that as well as guilty for the other crap he had unloaded on me, might be looking to repay the favor in kind by offering an ear.
  “I know. Like I said, it really pissed me off when I saw him at the hospital. Guess it was just what I needed to get myself out of the self-focused rut I was stuck in. Oh yes, between the office disaster and that, really needed some time off. Thank god my car can be fixed as well as it happened on the way home. Man, that was one hell of a vacation.”
  “Car accident or no, I’m still jealous, Hanscom. A real sleigh ride. Had no idea people did that anymore.”
  “That and a lot more. Man, you should taste their cocoa. We were too busy drinking it hot for any pictures. Nor was that the best ride that the kid showed you. Went for one in the evening. Not for the public, there is this old guy we met, one of the drivers. Man smokes a pipe, noticed ours and invited us to tag along for what he calls a ‘proper’ ride after hours. Talk about quiet, was just us three puffers, a couple of horses with their bells jangling as the snow slid by and the stars started to come out. Right then and there decided we’re going back in the fall. They have hay rides around the pumpkin patches and through the woods so folks can catch the leaves changing.”
  “It sounds like it will be lovely.”
  “Relaxing at least. Yes, winter is my favorite time, yet fall has its own memories for me. Then again, so does spring and summer.
  “Sorry,” I said with a small laugh, “Did not mean to ramble on there. Anyone up for a refill?” All were, but I had them stay seated. Much easier to bring out a tray of fresh cups and the fixing since Linda was another tea drinker as opposed to us who enjoyed coffee.
  Sounds of laughter from the ‘kids’’ room leaving everyone out here with smiles.
  “No offense, Steven, yet this is the nicest time Linda and myself have had here.
  “Not offended in the least. Amazing what a couple of plants can do to a place, isn’t it?”
  “I’ll say.”
  “Well, just wait until next time then. Ideas for the kitchen on the agenda. Hasn’t been much time since we got back, yet next day off it is a grow light and some herb plants. Already have some rocks, and a couple mini statues picked up at an Indian restaurant. Even if I never learn to cook, they will still smell great.”
  “I was mentioning that to Quincy a few moments ago.”
  “Oops. That bad?”
  “On the contrary,” Linda smiled easily. “My father smoked a pipe and my brother enjoys a cigar now and then. It instills some fine memories.”
  “Had an uncle who enjoyed both, here. Never took to it myself, but the smell is good. Surprised me a bit there. Thought you gave it up five years or so back?”
  “More like eight,” I chuckled ruefully.
  “That long? What made you start again?”
  “Someone brought it to my attention that the one who hated it did not live here anymore. Good thing he did, too, because I was getting ready to sell my collection off. Man, a whole year and I never gave it a thought. Guess sometimes we need a person on the outside to point out the obvious.”
  “Come on, Hanscom, at least rent the kid out on weekends!”
  I laughed and shook my head, “No way and no how.” Sudden inspiration, “However, if you two are ever interested in getting away for a while, my house is open to you.”
  “Oh, we could not do that.”
  “Why not? A little drive, yet it is easy enough to take a train and rent a car for a long weekend now and then. Kicking myself there again, because that was the first time in fifteen years that I had been there myself.”
  “Now that is a shame.”
  “Don’t I know it, and a mistake I’ll never make again. Meant exactly what I said though, and even with the holidays past, it is still nice out there right now. A little ways out on a back road, but easy enough to find. If you decide to, just let me know and I’ll have the plow guys start watching it again. Timing is real good as well since the main part of the house is all dusted. Four guest rooms beyond mine and Aunt Lillian’s. Recommend you get the cider at the farm though—as well as their cocoa for after walks. Not that powdered crap, they use chocolate shavings.”
  “Damn, Hanscom, you trying to tempt us or what?”
  “Hell of a lot easier that smacking you over the head and popping you in the mailbox, Parker. Come on, I know you. How many vacation days you got backed up?”
  “Too many,” his wife said as she took his hand. “Steven, do you really mean it?”
  “Really truly. Be doing me a favor as well. Forgot a bag of popcorn in the cabinet. I’d rather the deer get it then the mice. Little bastards ate the tree light wire. Never saw a one downstairs, yet I’d hate for them to get the idea to leave the attic—a place you stay out of. Sure, the rest of the house is big, but that area is only safe if you are under three feet tall. Kid only went up the ladder to pass the boxes, yet I am still amazed he didn’t need stitches, or myself wind up in traction. Talk about a back-breaker, whew. He’s dubbed it the Amityville Floor with good reason.”
  “Then I’ll be sure to keep my feet on the ground when we go.”
  “Oh, Quincy,” his wife said, “You mean it?”
  “You bet I do, hon—before Hanscom changes him mind.”
  “I won’t.” And I sat there smiling inside at the both of them, feeling good despite the small headache.
  If only Shell had not hated the place...

  Our guests were getting ready to leave, the Parkers putting their coats on when they exchanged a look. A type which you got to recognize when you were divorced.
  Oh, hell, here we go.
  “Steven, have you given any though to the Stonewell gathering yet?” It was a large affair coming up in a few days. One of those damn political dubbed social things where people went more to be ‘seen’ than have any real fun. Lots of business as well, though much of that would occur behind closed doors with the Big Boys. Still, a lot of firm members would be there—with their wives. Like I said, it was a place to be ‘seen’, and in a lot of minds, a couple meant stability. (Did not even have to be married, yet a single sort of ‘stuck out’ with these hoity-toity morons.) All in all it was just a bunch of bullshit, yet this was one of those times when looks really counted.
  “Some,” I said shrugged absently.
  “Well, it is not like we are prying or anything, however, Linda has this friend...?”
  “Who I am certain is very nice. And my thanks to you both, yet I have it covered.”
  “All right, just saying.”
  “Thank you.”
  A little more ‘blah-blah’ and ‘see you at the office tomorrow’ then all were out the door.
  “Ugh,” I sighed and shoulders drooped. “Like I needed that.”
  “Have you thought about it?” David asked me seriously.
  “Not without getting a headache. No, I just plan to hover behind the palms like I did last year. Not to worry, no one is going to notice me. Not with you and Kimberly there.” Wry tousle of his blond hair meaningfully, thing which made him duck.
  “It’s just so silly,” he huffed in annoyance as he brushed things back in place.
  “No shit. Still, if you ever want a corner office it will be something you need to think about eventually. Though again, a rising star like yourself will have nothing to worry about, single or not.”
  “Hardly. After all, I’m going to go into defense.”
  “Like I’ve said before, kid, it is going to be great working for you one day.”
  “You are not a defense lawyer.”
  “Nope. Still, if you’d remember a spot for the old man once you have your own practice I’d appreciate it.” Sighs. Yes, I was good, but not that good. One real bitch about our current firm, it was very ‘old fashioned’. Families were some unwritten rule.
  What a bitch. Thinking of bitches, or in this instant, whores, it was on a level where giving Sheila a call was not out of the question. And she’s pregnant too. Talk about a career boosting image. Shit.
  Time for the hand to go to the temple, no help for it.
  “Come on, time for your massage then bed.”
  “Nah, I’m fine. Besides, I need to go start on the dishes.”
  “We can put them in the machine tomorrow. Anyways, I have a plan.”
  “About what?” I asked as he led me to the couch to sit down.
  “The stupid party, of course. It’s going to be a surprise though.”
  “Sorry, kid, I don’t think a wig is going to do the trick...mm.”
  He snorted even as he worked my temples, “Give me a break.”
  “Yeah, a Tootsie gimmick would crack me up, that’s for sure...oh, man, right there. That’s great,” I breathed as he tilted my head and moved down the neck. Shoulders next and it was another “Mm...”
  “Tonight was a lot of fun. I did not know Mr. Parker was so nice. Steven, were there any problems?”
  Nope, everything was perfect.”
  “Oh, good.”
  “He was fishing.” The hands stopped. “No, it’s fine. Linda helped put another swing on things. ‘Sides, he already asked me once flat out. Before we left. Not about you because of Kimberly, only me.”
  “He did?”
  “Mm-hmm. Was in a panic about those files. Had the idea that Baxter was going to send him out a window when he discovered he had them. Like I say, he was about to lose it and had no place else to go, needed to know how I stood on some issues because they do contain boys as well as girls. Totally freaking out, most of it shock learning that about someone he thought he knew. Actually said it wouldn’t matter to him if I was or wasn’t...
  “Anyhow, got him to chill, said I’d take care of everything and that is how I got charge of the behemoth.”
  “So he just dumped the load on you and ran. Some friend he is.”
  “Nah, it’s all right, already had my window picked out.”
  “That’s not funny...Steven, put your hand down.”
  “Sorry,” I mumbled as he went back to work on my head; knew by now to start on the left side.
  “I think tonight was harder on you than you want to admit. You did really well.”
  “Steven, I am sorry. I wish I could rub that bitch right out of your head, but I can’t,” he said tightly, regret so sharp it was telling in his voice.
  “Hey, kid. David, enough, come here.” I took his hand till he came around and sat next to me, put my arm around his shoulders, “You know I wouldn’t even be here now if it was not for you. On top of that, I have not had a single migraine since Christmas, again, because of you.”
  “No, but I still give you some bad ones,” he muttered softly.
  “David, never. Yes, I get mad, yet never at you, kid. No, any problems here are of my own making and not yours. Except when you keep apologizing for shit. That does piss me off.”
  Gave him a squeeze, his head tucked to my chest and my face lowered. Took a breath and smelled his hair. Man, I do not know what it was, only something about it, the color, the scent, and my free hand came up to play in it while I held my face close and took another deep breath to fill my lungs.
  His turn to go “Mm...” as I played and rubbed...then one-upped me as he dropped a hand to my lap and did his own rubbing and playing.
  “Time for bed.”
  “Not yet.”
  “What do you mean, not yet?” Glance up, stray lock of hair over one eye, leaving the remaining blue with green flecked one looking mischievous. “Oh,” I said in understanding.
  “Mm-hmm. I don’t think I got enough protein from the lamb. For my new diet and everything.”
  “Oh, David,” I breathed and raised both of my hands to his head before I kissed top of it and he lowered himself. Kept up the touching (he really seemed to like it when I did, was moaning already,) as I relaxed back and he undid my belt. This was thing Sheila had never done, did not believe in it, yet even if she had, I could not conceive it possible for her to be as good as this.
  Chalk one thing up for the guys, guess you had to have one to know one...and exactly what to do.
  “David...ohh, David...huuhh.” Sucked in a breath through wide open mouth as he did something different. Taking his time, this was going to be one of the long ones.
  Oh, Christ, he’s so good. So, sooo good...
  Too bad it is all one way, isn’t it, Steven?
  Shut up, Shelia.
  Yes, that is you, Steve. Never do anything for anybody.
  I know. I am a failure with nothing to give anyone... Oh, Shell, please just leave me alone—Oh!
  My eyes came open and I jerked, went with the sudden strong pulling as if David was trying to swallow me whole. Laughs from us both and those eyes looking up at me. Nothing but satisfaction there, no need beyond enjoying things exactly as they were right here and now for as long as we both were able.
  All doubts and voices stilled once more later when we were in bed. Proof again that forty-one was not old at all, not when, as usual, I was the one able to catch my breath first.
  “So good, Steven,” he heaved again as he brushed sweated hair off of his forehead, smiling that smile up at me with mouth and glowing eyes. “Just...oh, gods, you are just so good.”
  It is because I love you, David. It means everything to me...is all that exists when you look at me like that, like this.
  Oh yes, no back of the mind beratements, self-loathing or doubts at moments like this as I simply held him. What do you think of that, Sheila? Yup, no matter what you think of it, there were some things that a male could not fake. That, a heart rate that you could feel thumping beneath the heated skin, the sounds made...and then watching over him as he fell asleep, that Smile still on David’s face even then for long time afterwards. He had told me a few times before he moved in that he rarely slept, though if that was true I did not see it. Some bad dreams, yes, he had had a terrible, often brutal life, (other scars; reason he had kept his shirt on our first few times,) but I had the signs now, believed I woke every time one of them started and all it took was a word or two, sometimes a touch and they were gone.
  I’m here, kid. David, I have you. Nothing bad is ever going to happen to you again. Not while I am here.
  That was why he could sleep through the nights now, no need for the boy who had lived on the dangerous streets to constantly come awake at hint of sound. Reason he seemed to slip back and almost become a child at times (at least when he was relaxed and in private) catching up on things missed. Knew he was not alone, that someone watched over him, protected him now.
  No, I had never had children and never would now. Never thought of him that way, just as my friend: David, the Human Being whom I loved.
  Thank you, God. I know this is not a last chance to actually do something decent in my life for someone else or otherwise. I do not know why You allowed someone like this to come into my life, yet I am grateful for it. Grateful to have someone to care for and protect as long as he needs me too. Grateful to have a purpose, a reason to live again. Something and someone to do things for once more.
  So thank You, and I swear I will do my best, as well as my worst, whatever it takes, does not matter. Destined for hell anyways, right? Nope, not afraid of that, not one little bit, because even There I will have the memory that there was someone in my life that looked at me the way he did. Someone that I could make Smile.
  Thank you, David. I love you. Good night.

  Usually Saturdays were half days, yet there was still plenty to catch up on so the plan was a full one. Starting to think about lunch when Quince came in my door, looking like he was going to bust a seem.
  “Hanscom, get your ass out here now!”
  I rose from my chair in a hurry, “What’s up?”
  “My god, is that the understatement of the year! I was coming up and you will not believe what was walking into the lobby, and from the looks of things is heading our way.”
  “Only for my heart. No, there is a really classy broad with a pair of the hugest gazambas you’ve ever wished to lay eyes upon. Swear to god, all I am going to do is look, but if she is in need of a divorce lawyer I might take the case for free!”
  “Must be some real looker.”
  “Looks, hell, those melons are going to knock your eyes out from ten feet away. Talk about some hot chocolate!”
  “Black?” I asked as we walked past David’s desk. He had a sort of smile on his ducked face and...no. Oh, David, you didn’t.
  No, not possible. The boobs and color, yes, and all things aside like being a great person, Kimberly’s friend Casey was not one you could describe as real classy. Yes, her Southern, or sometimes the Motown black-stick was an act, (the woman liked to call herself a ‘free performance entertainer’) I knew that, still, Miss Casey with her small afro and liking for ‘artistic’ garment which she probably painted on...well, there simply could be no way this was going to be her.
  Except that, ahem, ‘profile’ was not a thing to be mistaken, no matter the young woman was in a quite stylish and currently fashionable dress of ‘really classy’ and there was no mistake about it. Hair covered in a hat to match of her tan and black suit, half-circle of lace and down-swept black feathers, well...yowza, mama.
  Word had clearly been spread, because there were far too many trying to look busy in the main reception area then should be. In fact, if this had been a real client she would be out the door because it looked like the entire firm had nothing to do.
  Trying not to laugh out loud, because this was a person even Betty would recognize at distance without use of her coke-bottle lenses.
  What had me stop in surprise was her voice. Christ, David said she could do voices like I wouldn’t believe, but fuck me.
  No drawling here, this woman spoke in a contralto of the highly educated, touch of clipped British accent, one which even had me do a double take and caused doubts as to who she actually was.
  Speaking to Betty, “No, I do not have an appointment. Still, if you would please tell Mr. Hanscom that I am here?”
  “Casey?” I asked aloud and she turned, smiling.
  “Steven, there you are. I am sorry to come by unannounced like this, however, I was in the area, and you still have not shown me where you spend your days.”
  Felt an elbow in my ribs and remembered Parker even as she came over and extended her hand politely to him. Not exactly the proper way of doing things, yet again, it spoke of a confident woman whom was well accustomed and had changed appropriately to the way others reacted to her, uhm, presents.
  “I am Ms. Cassandra Chesterfield. How do you do?”
  Chesterfield?! Oh my god, I am going to burst a gut!
  “Well, are you going to introduce your friend to me or not, Steven?”
  Since Quince was clearly beyond it, “Of course, Casey. This is Mr. Quincy Parker.”
  “Oh, of course. Steve has told me so much about you, Mr. Parker. It is a pleasure to meet you at last.”
  “You can let go now, Parker.”
  “Uh. Yeah.” Did so with a little tugging on Casey’s part, and I hope he was not having an aneurism or anything.
  Soon as freed, she placed her lace-gloved hand on my arm, “Well, Steven? Unless this is a bad time? I know you are busy, still?”
  “Certainly, Cassandra.”
  “Steve,” she tilted her head and smiled up at me, “Please, you know I prefer Casey from you.”
  “Mm-hmm. Well, come right this way, Casey, and I will show you my office.” Another smile (and man, were her eyes twinkling) and we started off, and ha! but some were following us!
  Passed by David’s station, “Hello, David, it is nice to see you again.”
  “Hello, Ms. Chesterfield, thank you. Mr. Hanscom, should I hold your calls?”
  The lady answered for herself, “Unfortunately, much as I would wish to, I can not stay long. As usual I have a client to meet at the gallery within the next hour, otherwise I would stay for lunch. One of the reasons for the visit beyond seeing this establishment is I had something to tell you, Steve. I was able to delay my flight till tomorrow, so if the offer of dinner still stands...?”
  “Casey, always.”
  “That is what I love about you, Steve, you never disappoint a woman. Is that your office?”
  She laughed, “That country charm again!” Slight glance over her shoulder then back up at me.
  “After you,” I gestured her to proceed me through the door. Following closely with a wave behind my back, I ‘shooed’ our entourage away before anyone lost an, ahem ‘nose’ or anything when the door shut.
  “Miss Casey,” I said with a grin, “You deserve an Oscar.”
  “Bet yo ass, Mr. Man,” she drawled and gave me a foxy wink.
  “Damn, girl, you day-lighting as an assassin or something? Need a license for those puppies; I think I hear sirens to take away the heart attack victims!”
  “You mean these little ol’ things, Mr. Man?” she said as she used both hands to heft them up a bit. Even with the covering suit it was magic in motion.
  “Ugh.” Sat on the corner of my desk and crossed her legs. “Ouch, I am going to die.”
  “Need some mouth-to-mouth, sugar? Your choice which one a’ course,” she drawled again as legs came well uncrossed. “Sure ‘nough I know your favorite drink is black coffee. Hot as sin, at that.”
  “More like a cold shower. Please, Miss Casey, show some mercy.”
  “Fine, be like that,” she huffed and crossed her legs closed again.
  Whew. “All right, to what do I own the pleasure of your uplifting visit, Miss Casey?” Man, if only she was not a lesbian. Then again, I was no cheater. Never had been and never will. Still, like Parker, even I could fantasize a little.
  “Little canary told me you had a problem? Some tight-ass, honkey meet?”
  “That about describes it.”
  “Well? What’s the matter, Mr. Man, don’t think I can ‘pass’ when I needs ta?”
  “No, I think if there is any passing it will be me: right out. Or maybe knocked out during a dance.”
  “Yeah, tried that there ‘twist’ once, damn near knocked m’ own head off with the whiplash.”
  “Oh, god, the image.” Tore my eyes away and cleared my throat, “Seriously though, Casey, you would do that for me?”
  “Are you kidding?” she said in a normal voice. “Man, have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror? Tell you, Steven, if I ever felt the itch, I know who to see. They’re always talking about shoe size, but I am wondering about thickness of hair relating? Lordy, no wonder you rock that boy’s world.”
  My guts clenched, “Yeah, well, uh...”
  She sighed, a thing which possible had the desk shift, though my face was red from other things, “All right, I do understand.”
  “I wish I did. No, I mean I do, yet...”
  She raised her hand, “Say no more. At least now because it isn’t the place for such. Am sorry to say I do need to blow this joint soon, yet you ever find yourself needing to talk, know this gal has a set of willing ears along with the rest, got it?”
  “Thank you,” I said with sincerity. “I might...just take you up on that. At some point. Maybe.” Probably only one I could. Only, damn it, why was I having such a problem even admitting it—with David’s friend? Christ, if there was anyone I should feel comfortable with the matter around...
  She just nodded, “When you’re ready, sugar. Just be thankful your other doesn’t have a racist bitch for a mother,” she gave a small huff.
  “That must be hard.”
  “Not so much on me, I can handle my own load. Then again, I do feel for her mother as well. Been one heck of a year for her.” She checked her watch, “Ah well, work calls. But to answer you, yes, I have no problem playing that gig. Who knows, maybe I might ask a favor of you one day?”
  “Anything, Casey—as long as it is nothing that would hurt David.” I had said it while looking directly into her eyes, the rest of her no longer of interest. Banter was fine, only I was off the ‘itch scratching’ list no matter the package.
  “You’re good people, Steven. Borrow a pen?” I handed her one and she wrote her phone number down so I could call her with details. Finished, she cocked her head at me questioningly.
  “Please do...oh, mama,” I sagged as she slowly slid the pen into her ‘safe’.
  Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch...
  “Just borrowing it mind you, Mr. Man. Feel free ta fetch it back any old time.”
  “No way am I committing a crime like that. Girl, that is the happiest god damn pen on the planet. Besides, I might need scuba gear or something.”
  “Now that might be interesting. Always wondered what you’d look like in a rubber suit.”
  Resumption of her role, and a woman of such high standard did not go giving any shows, so it was while the door was still shut that she pulled my head down and gave me a kiss on the lips. Winked up as she wiped some of the lipstick off with a gloved finger and I opened the door for her, brushing my hair back into place with mine.
  What a scamp, because as we walked by (people still hovering,) David made a hurried gesture so I lifted a hand and wiped the rest of it off myself. What had they done, had a dress rehearsal or something?
  Saw ‘Ms. Chesterfield’ to the elevator and that aspect of the show was over.
  Almost offered Quince a drink when he followed me demandingly back to my office and plopped down on the couch.
  “You holding back, son of a bitch, Hanscom!”
  “What?” I asked innocently as I got out my hairbrush and set things to rights. “It’s only Casey.”
  “Only? Only?”
  “Jesus, calm down, Quince.”
  “No fuckin’ way. How long has it been going on?”
  “Met her back in November at a jazz club. A busy lady, she’s only been over to my place twice.”
  “Tell me you’ve seen more?”
  “I have seen a lot more,” I told him truthfully.
  “And you never mentioned a god damn thing! Man, what sort of a friend are you?”
  “The sort that didn’t want to risk you having a heart attack.”
  “Okay, you got me there.”
  He looked sufficiently recovered so I said slyly, “By the way, she likes the thickness of my hair...as well as fact that I am a man who loves to drink coffee.”
  “You! You...oh, god, I’m going to the rest room!” he snarled and left stiffly.
  You’re not the only one. Jesus, that lucky pen!
  Then it was lucky me, and bless him for it, David was grinning when he came into my office.
  “Sorry, David, I can’t help it,” I said in embarrassment of my state.
  “Told you she liked to tease.”
  “Because it gets her higher tips while waitressing, I know. Still, she can practice on someone else. Just give me a second here to settle,” I chuckled as I fell back into my chair.
  “I brought our lunches in.” He held up the sack.
  “Lamb sandwiches. Yum.”
  “Yeah, except I am still worried about the lack of protein.”
  “David, look, I am sorry, okay? I know you’ve got to be pissed, but please, jokes like that only make it worse.”
  “Who’s joking?”
  “Come on, kid, we’re at work here.” Glance at the door, I hadn’t heard him turn the latch. Talk about being distracted.
  “That was never a problem before.”
  “Yeah, but, well, it is not fair to you.”
  “Oh, Steven,” he smiled as he came over. “When are you going to learn? I like it, okay? More than that, I love doing that for you. Love the way you look down at me. Love you,” he finished huskily.
  “Uh-uh, no stills. Besides, it makes it even better. The waiting, I mean. Steven, that makes it really, really good for me later. To get excited like this and then to have to wait.”
  “David, you should never have to wait for anything.”
  “And that makes it better,” he breathed, eyes shinning as he knelt down. “Knowing you are concerned for me like that. He moaned, “Steven, please.”
  “Hoohh, David, if you don’t it is going to happen anyways,” I gasped as I started working my own belt. My god, just look at his face!
  He went at me fast...then slowed. No, we did not have a lot of time, yet the couple minutes we did have were going to be had to the fullest. Braced my hands on the armrests of the chair and arched when his hands came around my lower back and lifted so he could take everything fully. Then it was back down so he could pleasure the head, side of my chin pressed against my shoulder as I sucked in air between my clenched teeth.
  Long moan from him and my hands came down, one behind neck and other in his hair and it was lips pressed tightly shut to hold back the sound as orgasm came.
  My turn to sit there limp with chest heaving, small gasps and hisses because he stayed there another full minute.
  Finally lifted his head and I half-grinned wryly down at him, “It’s a good thing you like to wait. My god, David, that was incredible.”
  “Good. Ready for lunch?”
  “No, a nap.”
  “No you’re not. You can’t fool me.”
  “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
  “It means that if I were to reach and start rubbing like this, then—”
  “Holy shit, you are trying to kill me!” I pushed my chair back and he just grinned at me.
  “I was just joking,” he wrinkled his nose up further impishly.
  “Sure you were. Sorry, kid,” I snorted as I tucked everything back in. “Playtime is over.”
  “Not from what I saw.”
  “Yeah, well, you just forget what you saw.”
  “Uh-uh.” he shook his head. “I am going to think about it all day long. As I sit at my desk.”
  “It is a conspiracy to get your inheritance. First Casey and now you. Man, if this keeps up I am going to back on the incense powder in self preservation.”
  “Steven, no! I am sorry, I was just joking!” David said in rush. “I didn’t mean it and I really do not need anything, but that stuff gave you the bad headaches and—”
  “Whoa, David, relax! I was just making a joke.”
  “You wouldn’t have made it if I wasn’t being so selfish. I am so sorry, it has only been a few days, only it is so special with you, and now that you are better I know it is only a matter of time till...I mean, I am just sorry,” he finished, biting his lower lip and looking away.
  “God damn it, David, I swear to god I do not know whether I should hug you or kick you in the shins. For the last god damn time I am not going to find anyone else. David, you are the only one I want in my life.”
  “Okay,” spoken in a small voice.
  Oh, David, why can you not believe me? How can you think so little of yourself?
  Tried to say It, the words that I felt so deeply, but they just wouldn’t come!
  “David, tell me what I have to do? I don’t care about this shitty job. I don’t care if I am caught—” That’s right, Steven: ‘caught’, meaning you are doing something wrong and you know it! “—I mean if people know about us,” I finished, sounding lame even in my own reddened ears.
  “I would. Told you, Steven, I am never going to bring trouble and get anyone else hurt ever again. Not ever.”
  He was not going to get up so I did and went down to hold him, both of us kneeling on the floor, “Not going to happen, kid. Told you there is not a hell of a lot in this life that scares me.”
  “And the people at your church? What would they do?”
  “Doesn’t matter. I was going to stop going anyways.”
  “Not because of me. That is who you are, Steven. I will leave before that happen. Look, I’ll get rid of my stuff and start going with you.”
  “Uh-uh, no more sacrifices, kid. I know that bigot factory gives you the creeps.”
  “It is not a bigot factory. I told you, you just have to look for the real truth there and not the things people changed.”
  A Pagan and a Christian. “Man, what a pair we are.”
  “We all end up in the same place together, Steven. Does not matter how we get there. You have your way and I have mine.”
  “Okay, I’ll give it a little longer.” Though there is no way I am going to end up where you are, David. No way in literal hell.
  “Yeah well, I suppose it doesn’t matter anyways. Swear, despite the creeps I get, you guys still say things that make more sense to me. So no, no getting rid of any of your stuff. Only...”
  “Only put a hanky on Pan while we eat.” I chuckled ruefully. “We should get some larger Hindi statues for you. I have no problem looking at boobs.”
  “Rub it in, why don’t you?”
  “How about we go shopping after you go to church tomorrow? Not just for plants?”
  “Because I promised I wouldn’t.” Habit I was trying to break; the one where I only felt good about myself when I was giving him something...for staying with me.
  It was my fault. I’m the one turned Sheila into a whore...and no matter his past, David is not like that. Nor did I ever want him to have those thoughts again, the idea that he was being ‘kept’.
  God, it was so hard though...
  Sardonic chuckle as I pushed the painful thoughts aside, “Well, that’s it, kid.”
  “What is it?”
  “When a guy has to pay for seeing some boob.” Only ones I was ever going to see again, brass ones. Ah well, I didn’t care.
  “I will tell you if I like something.”
  Hitch in my chest, “David...you would?”
  “Yes. Just don’t go crazy and do it every day. Steven, everything you ever gave me had so much thought behind it. I should have seen that and never said the things I did.”
  “Had your reasons, kid.”
  “Same as you. Only do it for the right reasons from now on, okay?”
  “Cool beans.”
  “Groovy,” I answered back and we burst out laughing together.

  Half hour after lunch and wondered why the hell we hadn’t left, (and all thanks to David aside, it was top of my list of things to do to get that prescription refilled) because even though she did not work on Saturdays (unless called in special by her ‘boss’) that twit Sally came into my office. Had some actually folders to deliver, so so much for giving her a boot to the ass to keep her out.
  Worse, she had a present for me, a ‘Christmas one’ she had wanted to deliver herself.
  No cutting the shit, “Look, Miss Simon, enough already. I do not like you, got it?”
  Argh, her squeaky voice! “Yes you do, Mr. Hanscom, I know you do.”
  “How in God’s name can you think that?” I mean Christ, I was dead serious about breaking her fingers off that time and she had known it! Not to mention all the other things I had said to her face.
  She just flounced her eye-blinding, bottle-blond hair, “Because I know men.”
  “No shit.”
  “Uh-huh,” she nodded, as usual, missing the point. “I know all about men. Like you had a really bad time when your wife left you for that guy she was screwing at your place. (Plea insanity. Everyone would believe it who did not know her, allow me that excuse when I haul back and knock her god damn head off.) “She is real pretty, and any guy would have problems after that.”
  “The only problem I have is you,” I managed through gritted teeth.
  “I know. You should be like, all over me. An’ I know it was a bad day when we had that virus—”
  “You mean when you fucked up and caused the entire firm’s systems to crash.”
  “It was a virus. Everyone knows that.”
  “Just get the hell out of my office, because there is no way you are going to give me one, you little bitch.”
  “See? You get mad real easy, Mr. Hanscom. Say all sorts of mean things instead of what you really want to.”
  “Do you bleach your brains along with your hair or what?”
  “My hair is real pretty and you know it.”
  “Fuck me.”
  “I really want to,” she ‘agreed’. “An’ like I was saying, it was a really bad day, but I still can’t believe you didn’t grab my boob.”
  “I’m allergic to silicone.”
  “That’s not what everyone out there is saying.”
  “Ms. Chesterfield is one hundred percent natural born.”
  “Maybe, but she is like thirty or something.”
  “Like I said, she is really old.”
  “I am allergic to chicken as well.”
  “No, you are just hung up. An’ I know nothing is going on between you two, because I am here every day.”
  “That is why the janitor has extra disinfectant on his cart.”
  “You are just being mean again.”
  “That’s right. I am old and mean and I can not stand looking at you, so take yourself and your present out of here now before I kick you in the ass.”
  “Not until you take my present because it will really help you out.”
  “I most sincerely doubt that.”
  “But it really will! Just take it and think about it.” She held it forth again.
  Shook my head, “No deal, sister. Just pop it in the trash and scram.”
  “You take it or I will tell everyone out there that you did something.”
  I knew it. Bitch had a vindictive streak a mile wide. Did not matter that everyone well knew her reputation by now, only if there were problems, they would all shut up like clams in self preservation.
  I have to take that son of a bitch Baxter down—oh shit, I suddenly thought as I closed my face down to neutrality, that sense of calmness descending. Not to the extend as during the accident where we should have by all rights died when I made the choice not to plow into the other car and send that lady and her two kids off of the overpass into the river, but something. (David was still in awe that no matter he had yelled for me to do the same at same instant, send our car out onto the ice with gas floored instead of taking the easy out that no one else would have been able to avoid. Later he said it must have been my Irish showing, the same thing that would rise, enabling me to talk a fast reel of blarney and get my ass out of other messes. Talked his own yahoo crap about past lives and a warrior aspect that had me remain cool and focused instead of screaming like he had done. Well, whatever, I felt something now as the anger went down and left cool clarity in its wake.)
  Just a blink as I studied the thing standing before me in the shape of a young woman and got the whole, dark picture.
  That was it, wasn’t it? Reason she had gone screwing with the company’s message system in the first place. She was Baxter’s doxie, hired and kept on only because of her looks and what she was willing to do. So yes, by now she had to know how sick the equally evil fucker was.
  You were looking to access his files that day, weren’t you, bitch? Except you are so stupid at the keyboard you blew it. Blew it real bad, and probably know that it is only a matter of time before your mummy meal ticket is taken out of the picture, blackmailed by someone else.
  Talk about stupid, she was going to try to get my fired, possible sent to jail because I hadn’t screwed her?
  “Miss Simon, you really know how to turn a guy on, don’t you?”
  “I know a lot more than just that, Mr. Hanscom.”
  Okay, to laugh or to scream?
  My voice was quite calm. Not seductive or passive, only calm as my face when I nodded down at her, “Mm-hmm, I can tell you do. However, I still do not understand what you are going on about, Miss Simon?”
  “It’s like I said, Mr. Hanscom, you are just messed up right now. I know you went to the doctors a lot last month.”
  You little, spying bitch. All right, I got the full picture now. The bimbo had used her miniscule, pea-sized brain to do some thinking. Clearly she believed she was something that no man could pass by, and the fact that I had turned down offers of hand-jobs and other like services meant the ‘problem’ was with me. Because my wife had left me for another man. Admittedly, I felt like shit about that, yet lack of ability to perform was not a result. Quite the opposite, which was the original reason for me going to the doctors till the migraine episodes began.
  My head was starting to hurt. Thankfully, not the one the gold-digger was interested in. Nope, no way and literally, no fucking how.
  Let her read what she wanted as I spoke calmly as I could through angered, clenched jaws, “That is not something I am going to talk to you about, Miss Simon.”
  “And you won’t have to. Just take it home and think. Then when you’re ready I will be here and show you that there is no problem. You can thank me then.”
  “Uh-huh. Before you go, Miss Simon, what sort of thank you were you looking for exactly?”
  Smiling like she had won, the little whore raised her left hand and wiggled her fingers, “I would make a really good wife, Mr. Hanscom. One you would never need to worry about.”
  Not till you knifed me in the back, you bitch.
  She left and I just stood there shaking my head, “Whew, I need a vacation.”
  “Hey, David. You said you brought some of that tea?”
  “Yes, I’ll be right back.”
  Less than a minute and I was staring at the thing while it steeped, “Ewe.”
  “Drink it all. Sit down while you wait.”
  “No, I am fine for now, thank you though. How is your stuff coming along? Anything you can’t put off till Monday?”
  “We are not working tomorrow?”
  “No fucking way.”
  “Are you okay, Steven?”
  “Nope. I am pretty angry right now, kid. I have a feeling though when this state passes I may not be able to drive. Going to have to stop at a drug store on the way home. Think I’m going to need all the help I can get before the showdown and I get this mess taken care of.”
  “You should not take all those drugs. Even the way you eat aspirin is—”
  “David,” I cut him off as I rubbed my temple, left eye starting to tighten shut, “Please, not now.”
  “What did she do?”
  Snorting at the surreallity of it, “I have just been reversed blackmailed; forced to take something. Do not ask me what it is, only I have feeling it is something I do not want to touch.”
  He saw the package, “Want me to throw it out?”
  “Nope. Bitch will just ask me about it. Bought some time though, and that is all that matters.” Didn’t really care anyways, the office whore pretty far from my thoughts at the moment.
  “David.” I looked over at him,Was it my fault? Seventeen...well, more like nineteen years, people just get bored of the other, right?”
  Didn’t need to ask what I was wondering about, “Were you bored?”
  “No. Never once.” Huffed softly, “Guess that’s the problem then, wasn’t it? Answered my own question...”
  “Steven, stop it.”
  “Yeah.” Went a lot deeper than Shell just being bored though, unsatisfied. Something just wrong with me, a lack.
  He has brown hair. I imagine the baby will have chestnut or something. Fifty-fifty on green eyes though. God that hurt. I had always wanted them, Shell had said no, annoyed at me for creating a trust fund just in case she ever changed her mind...
  “Owe...no, kid, I’m fine. I’ll just drink this crap.” Deserve the pain after all. Not that bad anyways. Not yet.
  “All right. I will close everything down.” Nod then grimace as I sipped.
  Wonder if a shot of whisky would make it taste better? So much for my pep-talk with Quince. Shit, I am going to have to go shopping myself. He will notice if the flask leaves the cabinet, and I’ve only got the one... Yes, I know I had said I wouldn’t. Did not exactly promise, but... Sorry, David, you can not be around all the time. Besides, it is my turn to take care of you, not back to the other way around.
  Oh, yes indeed, vacation was well over and done with. No more escaping from reality or things which reminded.
  Doesn’t matter because I am going to get over this. Have to do it for his sake. Find some way, bury this crap deep. Past is over and done with, have new responsibilities now. A purpose and a reason.
  Only, how was I not going to screw these ones up as well?
  Managed a smile when he got back, the tea finished, “Feeling better already. Just going to grab the Ford files, do some work at home tonight.”
  “Want me to take The Monster?”
  “No way in hell. Office hours only for that bastard. Though speaking of risking jail time, guess what that twist was looking for on your machine?” Told him about the doctor visits. “Bitch thinks I’m impotent.”
  That made him grin, “Boy, is she in for a surprise.”
  “Not from me. Christ, kid, trying to keep that bark water down as it is. Images like that I do not need.”
  “You and me both,” he shuddered.
  “Come on, kid, time to blow this pop stand.”
  “Cool beans.”
  Mm-hmm. Very. Kept my hands in my lap as we pulled out. No jazz in the player though, some of the new agey guitar and piano pieces. Relaxing and conversation light as the music while the kid drove. Drug store first and he said there was no need for us both to go in, needed a couple of things himself so he made the run.
  Sagged forwards and placed my head on the dash soon as he was out of sight through the door. Oh, god, my head... Still nowhere near a migraine though it was bad enough. Really needed to stop letting things get to me like this. Time to start whittling down the backlog of problems. My mistake letting them build like that, had had no intention of ever coming back after all. Had had a letter, now destroyed, to be posted to the Feds about the contents of the security box...
  All right then, a copy to the gold-digger, only how to keep it from back-lashing back this way? Baxter knew I had them...then again, he’d probably lose all interest in me.
  What an asshole.
  Oh yes, those two deserved the other. She had more interest in doing for herself then the authorities track down the senders of those pictures—
  Sat back up just in time...false alarm; it wasn’t David returning, just some stranger walking passed the front of the truck, or car, or whatever it was you called these hybrid things.
  He should have a car of his own. Seems to like this thing and even though he is a fine driver, I would feel better if he had something safe like this. Kid would never want anything fancy like a beamer. (Or the jag I had kicked the idea of buying last year. Midlife crisis deal I had decided to pass by.) Doesn’t even like driving my car, still, have the empty, extra parking space and there is no reason he should have to use a bus or get driven around in Kimberly’s car for anything anymore if I am out or at work.
  Yes, made sense to me, the reasons logical. How to swing it by the kid, though? Ah, I wouldn’t have to. Nope, tell him it is for our trips to the house. Dumb miracle the accident on the way home was the only one, my car is made for the city after all. And with a spare car available, there would be no reason for him not to use it, right?
  Right. So there, had my plan. Groovy.
  More relaxed and even smiling when David returned though I was still wishing I hadn’t left my sunglasses in the car at the garage.
  “Here you go,” he said when he handed me the white paper bag. Make them last.”
  “What is that...awe crap. Forgot to give you my card.”
  “Not that I could have used in anyway. Put your wallet away.”
  “No deal, kid.”
  “Yes deal,” he said as he ignored me and started the engine. “Because this will make you think before you go eating them like candy. Especially because the do not work.”
  “Just for emergencies, scout’s honor.”
  “Good. Otherwise I was going to call Doctor Samlin and let him know the ones he prescribed when I had my accident are gone. And I didn’t take them.”
  “I am not addicted,” I said tightly.
  “I know. You are just too stubborn to let them work. Only drugs are still drugs and they aren’t good for you, Steven.”
  “This is not helping,” I said as I rubbed my head...as well as ignored the paper bag. “What put the bug up your ass?”
  “Okay. Only I guess I am sorta mad. What is wrong with her? She is with Baxter, so why come after you so hard?”
  “David, are you...jealous?”
  “My god, David, I can not stand her!”
  “I know. And that isn’t really it either. Maybe it’s just that people like her really bother me. They just can’t be happy with who they are and the things they have even when they have so much. And then they go around giving you headaches. And then you have too... I...I mean it’s just not right.”
  I think I get it now, what is really bothering him. Of course I did. Though it was not the same thing or situation at all, yet the one who had stolen David’s ex had first gotten Dellan hooked on something. Nothing legal like the contents of my bag, something ‘street’. Something that had altered one described as incapable of hurting a fly and never known to raise his voice in anger to a person who hit. Further, into a laughing psychotic who helped shove the bleeding and unconscious body of the person who really loved him into an icy dumpster to die...
  Forget my head, my chest was hurting. That place in the center, a feeling which spread outwards each time I breathed in, making my throat tight.
  “David...can you just give me some time?”
  “Time for what?”
  “To...change.” Because I ached to reach out and brush his hair, to show some affection because I knew he needed it despite the front...except we were at a stoplight, people all around, no matter they were strangers and never to be seen again.
  “I do not want you to change. Steven, you are perfect just as you are. I told you that and I meant it. I am very happy with things just like they are, I promise.”
  “That is what matters to me, David—you being happy.”
  He turned to smile that Smile at me before pulling us out, “I really, really am, Steven.”
  “Good. And I am feeling a lot better now. So, what do you want to do, head back to the apartment or do some shopping? Get those plants and stuff?”
  “Are you sure? You still look a little, well...”
  “I’m cool,” I assured him with grin of my own, “Just talking about that twit almost had me throw up though. Not the sort of thing the rental agency would appreciate...” Blah, blah, yak, yak, did a fine job of keeping the front up, being a pretty good actor myself. Real asset to being a lawyer, that.
  Did relax for true when we found a couple shops and got into it; old comfort patterns reestablished for me through that form of ‘giving’.
  The past repeating itself. The same old story, the same old me.
  The same one who fucked up and ruined everything.
  God help me, what am I going to do?

  “Ready, kid?” I asked as the four of us stood on outside of the dance floor. He gave me a thumbs-up and we entered the mix of old posh and young up-and-comings.
  Not too bad, I thought as I watched him and Kimberly. Moving stiffly at first, moved his lips as he counted, yet after a bit things loosened up.
  “That smile isn’t for me, sugar.”
  “Sorry,” I said as I returned attention to things closer.
  “Don’t be. World is a crazy place, isn’t it?”
  “No need to tighten up.”
  Sigh. “Casey, what am I going to do?”
  “’Bout what, sugar?”
  “About not screwing up. Not hurting...him.”
  “Boy looks fine to me.”
  “So far.”
  “Feel like talking?”
  “Here?” I glanced around fast like a guilty idiot.
  “Why not? None are going to hear. Believe it or not, I really do understand what you are going through. Been there myself.”
  “You have? I mean, you weren’t always, a well...”
  She smiled wickedly at me, “With a bod like this? Are you kidding? Might have been what did it. Had so many moves, so much shit told me when I was growing up. Amazing what a man will tell you just to get a piece.
  “Shit,” she huffed, “Can’t believe how many times I fell for it too. Was this close away from marrying once.”
  “What happened?”
  “Nothing. As in he wasn’t really interested in a relationship, just a permanent piece of ass to have around. Something to show off to the rest, as if having my tits around made him a bigger man in eyes of others. Swear, kicked around reduction surgery more than a few times.”
  “Take it from a pig, Miss Casey, that would be a tragedy.”
  “So why didn’t you?” Horrible as the thought was, I really was interested in knowing why. This woman had wanted to be a real actress once, only shaped as she was, the only ‘film rolls’ offered were parts played horizontal. A disgusting thought even to me. No, Casey as a person was far too intelligent, too talented—too good—for a wasted career like that.
  A shrug timed to the music, “Lose ‘em or use ‘em. Decided if that’s what people were going to see then fine. I’d just learn to see—and act—clearer.”
  A nod and we turned with the music, reached a place clearer then before and I opened my mouth, the words tumbling out in a sudden rush, “Cassandra, I am not gay.” She cocked her head at my flushing face. “It is just...him.” Oh, yes, just him. Just David.
  Hurting like hell right now, oh yes, but a part of me was still smiling inside, simply because I was so screwed up. Simply because, a man or not, the sex aspect of it was incredible.
  More than just that, my god, I still can’t get over last night! So intense, so much shared.
  One of those moments when we had paused, David, breathing heavy, so close to things yet wanting to make it last as well, so we had paused. My reaction, knowing what and how strongly he was feeling, the things he was, right then and there because of me had my own body brought to brink. Thing he could feel, and it was truly something, both of us sensing, knowing, feeling, trying to hold back, to breath through as joined bodies trembled together at the crest, brought there simple by the reaction, reacting, to the other...
  —Then is was with an abrupt groaning cry he had pressed back sharply, the constriction and gripping around me and me body drove forwards, violent in the sudden intensity of it and the way he had cried out—my name—cried like that...
  Collapsing afterwards, both of us left shaking and sweated, overwhelmed for a long time...then sharing laughter suddenly, again, timed perfectly.
  Hugs for me, then my own inner smile as I stayed awake, waited and yes, after he had fallen asleep he had returned; relaxed, snuggled close with his arm around me and asleep, (I did know it when he was) way he murmured my name again with face tucked up close.
  Oh, it was wonderful those times! Far, far better then the others, the ones where in his sleep he would come close, arm placed around me and spoke another name as he cried softly, tears soaking my chest...
  Oh, David...
  Cleared my tight throat, “And...and because of that I... He just deserves more. Someone...better.” Truth. The plain and simple truth spoken aloud, but Christ, it was a couple of rapid blinks to keep my eyes from tearing up.
  “Going to let him go?”
  “Oh God, that’s the trouble, I can’t. I should, but...”
  “Why should you?”
  “I already told you,” I said, teeth gritting.
  “Deserves someone better? Someone who’ll give him more?”
  “Yes!” Not just crap, but give him the real things a person like him deserved. Things that I could not.
  “Love him total, don’t you?”
  Flush and it all seized up, “I...”
  “And that’s the reason right there,” I husked. “Jesus, I can’t even say it! God forgive me, I want to so damn badly, Cassandra, yet I can’t! I try and I try, but I just...”
  “Words don’t mean shit, sugar.”
  “These ones do.”
  “Un-ah. Showin’ does. Like what were you smiling about before?”
  Rueful chuckle, “He didn’t know how to dance.”
  Glance in that direction, the golden-haired, young couple easy to spot. “Looks to be doing fine to me.”
  “Now. Good thing there was time to buff my shoes.”
  “Oh, Lordy, that must have been a sight.”
  “Yeah...” More than that. It had been...special. “He says he doesn’t hide who he is, only his private life is his own.”
  “So what’s the problem then?”
  “Because he did have...someone once. Someone who really was like him. Could really be themselves, right? All the time?” Someone I know he still loves, longs to be with no matter it all went to hell. Loves, no matter what he says to me now...
  Oh, David, too much alike, you and I. Too god damn haunted. Shell for me and Elly for you. Yes, I know how much you said he changed, but...
  “See me dancing with the girl now?”
  “Only because you are doing me a favor. You would though, wouldn’t you?”
  “Time and a place for such,” she shrugged.
  “Yeah, for him.”
  Pause as everyone thanked the musician before the next piece started.
  “Know some stuff, Steven. Like what happened with that other of his.”
  “Yeah, the son of a bitch.” Deep breath to push the anger aside, “Shows a strong front, yet he will get over it one day.” Because he is stronger than me, better than me.
  “Ah, think I get it now. Afraid he is going to find someone else?”
  “I’m terrified of it,” I admitted. “I couldn’t live without him, Casey. Swear to God I can’t—which proves again how low a piece of shit I am. Oh, Jesus, if I could just say the words...just be stronger...”
  “Beating yourself up over nothing, sugar. David’s a smart young man. He knows.”
  “But he doesn’t, Casey, that’s the hell of it. He is so messed up inside he thinks...hell, I do not know what he thinks at times, only he can say those god damn words to me...and then he says it is only a matter of time before I find someone. Some woman, and he will be out.”
  “Hush,” she chided me. “Only been a couple weeks for you both, right? Hell, sugar, you’re both just taking your first baby steps. Both been through the ringer harsh. Give it some time.”
  “I asked him for it, and all he says is I am ‘perfect’ and he is happy. What a crock of shit.”
  “Oh yeah? Well if he is missing out on so much, how come you pulled the lucky number to teach him to dance, eh?”
  “I...don’t know.”
  “Exactly. Going around making assumptions on what he’s missing out on, sugar, and that’s about as far as it goes: assumptions.”
  “Maybe. All I know is that I wish I could do more.”
  “Start by enjoying what you got, give things their due. And yourself more credit.” End of our dance right there though she still had her arms about me and looking up, “You are a fine man, Steven Hanscom. A good one.”
  “No I’m not.”
  “Then that place right there is where I recommend you start, sugar. How you going to show that boy he’s worth something if you can’t feel such for yourself?”
  She was right. I was right.
  And it was still all wrong.
  “Shit. Want a drink?”
  “Sure.” And we left the floor to the bar. Something light for her and an untasted double for me. Why not? Was a god damn, fucking party, right? After all, David could drive just fine...

  Had to admit, Cassandra blended in perfectly that night. Had told me she always researched her rolls thoroughly before every performance, and it was a private smile as I watched her ‘dance’ a different sort; talk of fine art, travel and clients to other party goers...without once ever actually giving specific details, such as location of her ‘gallery’ and the rest.
  “A social occasion, not business.” Which explanation gained her a lot, because it ‘said’ she was well enough where she did not have to work a crowd or required more business.
  Talk about an artists.

  Alright, back of my mind knew I was reaching my limit with the booze, but again, why the hell not? The environment was all the excuse I needed, and since the ladies were off on a collective powder, it was with Quince in tow that another bar expedition was made. Inner snort because for him it was just social and for once, I was ahead.
  Pleasant buzz going, and as we stood there it was easy enough to nod at the right places while he talked, related a bit of word back from a meeting of the Big Boys which had gone down earlier. That had been a bit of a jolt, seeing Baxter a while back. He’d looked really relaxed, more, had grinned at me across the crowd and nodded. Whatever the hell that Cheshire look and gesture was supposed to convey I had no idea. Nothing good in my book, and no reason I could conceive of for those in our positions to have him looking so smug. Possibly just good news for him during the private meeting. Hell, maybe he’d been drinking blood for all I knew, the evil son of a bitch.
  Thankfully that had been our only contact and I’d not seen him since. Possibly it was paranoia brought on by the whisky, but thought that the Beast could be lurking around I searched the crowd worriedly for David...
  Relief when he was spotted easily. Shorter than some, but that blond hair was easy to spot in the dark tuxed crowd. Wasn’t even that far away and it was small smile of satisfaction because he was in conversation with Stanly. Good. About time the kid made some inroads and friends in the firm. Being the star intern was rough, reason for too much jealousy, but it was a dog eat dog industry we were in. Then again, from what I’d been able to tell, Stanly had come alone, poor bastard.
  Well, he’s young and there is always next year and...
  I saw David blush and duck his head smiling in a way I knew and the bottom dropped out of my stomach.
  They’re flirting! Oh my god, David...
  No. Oh please, no.
  “And why not, Steven?” Sheila’s voice asked with taunting chuckle. “He’s much younger than you are. Both of them probably have a lot in common.”
  But he wouldn’t do that! He said he...
  Says the things that I could not.
  Anger and I couldn’t help it. Not at David, no. (Who was sort of looking up sideways now, shook his head at the other. Face not so open and easy expressing as Stanly leaned close, looking insistent as he spoke or repeated something again.) No, just at myself. My lacks, my faults.
  My gods damn age and things that I can’t—
  “—Jesus, Steven!”
  I blinked and tore my fixed gaze away, startled as the words at my elbow had me glance at Quince...who was staring at me oddly.
  “What?” I snapped.
  “I was right.”
  Different sort of lurch in my guts. Quiver, and for a moment things hazed, but it wasn’t the booze bringing on that touch of faint. It was fear. Total, soup to nuts terror.
  “About what?”
  Incredible, he just snorted and lowered his voice as glass came up to say at me sideways, “Because if you try to bullshit this old divorce lawyer that that isn’t jealousy turning your face black and scowling I’m drunker than you. Which ain’t never going to be possible. Not with my decades of experience.”
  “Just shut the fuck up and close it down before someone else puts the puzzle together. Christ,” he chuckled again, “Had me fooled, Steven. Damn, all these years and I never knew...”
  “It’s not...” Lick of dry lips, shaking so hard the ice in my glass rattled, “I’m not l-like...like that.”
  “Yeah right.”
  “Quince, really...I-I...”
  “Shut up, Steven. Look, told you I don’t give a rat damn and I don’t. Just you can shower by yourself at the club from now on, queer boy.”
  Shut my mouth before the “Up yours!” came out. Jesus!
  More inner swearing because one of those breaks in the crowd as David looked up, saw me, saw who the hell knew what type of expression on my face before he snapped eyes to Quincy and back to me, going pale.
  That’s right, kid. I’ve been made. Nailed but good.
  Only, the way Quince—my friend Quincy Parker—was taking it...it wasn’t the huge, life ending disaster that I’d imagined it would be.
  Now if only Quince would...
  I cleared my throat to speak (or beg) as David started making his way over, face blanked out. Blue eyes darker than normal with emotion: fear, guilt. Too much guilt and that self disliking that spoke volumes to me alone that said he believed he’d ‘done it again’. Caused harm to someone he loved.
  “Don’t even have to ask, Steven,” Quince said low and quickly. “Know how it is, and word back to that bastard and he’d nail your hide to the wall. Not even to Linda. Not a word, an’ on that, you’ve got mine.”
  “Thank you,” I managed to whisper.
  His answer spoken loud enough for only David, now in range to hear as well, “Owe you my life for what you’ve done, Steven. Not just with Baxter, but all the rest. Might stay an extra week at your house though,” he chuckled pushingly.
  “You got it.” Jesus Christ, if he’d asked right then I might have signed the whole fucking house over to him!
  Nod to David then back at me, “Well, been a long evening. I see the girls. Think I’ll grab a coffee before heading out. See you at the club tomorrow?”
  “Of course,” I was calmed enough now to shoot back, “Owe you a heart attack.”
  “Nah. After tonight I’m not worried about that anymore. Later, kid.”
  “Good night, Mr. Parker.” Another nod and Quince left for his coffee.
  “No worries, David.”
  “I didn’t mean...” I glanced down at him. “I mean I didn’t mean for things to go like that. Only he said he finally recognized me. Stanly I mean. From another club, place I used to go to.”
  “It’s alright, kid.” Yes, David, I do understand. Understand that you could—should—do better if you can...because even if I can’t say it, I feel it. And if that...if that means there is someone else out there who will really...that you really...
  Oh, David, I just want you to be happy.
  “Oh, is that it, Steve?” Sheila’s god damn voice whispering again. “Or is it more like you just had the crap scared out of you and want out? Want out before the staring and the laughter starts?”
  Fuck off, bitch. Just fuck right off with that garbage and your tearing at me bullshit and GET OUT OF MY HEAD!
  Owe, my head...
  “He just surprised me,” David was saying. (He meant it too. Thank God, he really did!) “And, well, I think he’s had too much to drink too. And...oh no.”
  More like “oh shit” because here came the little bastard himself.
  Free hand went into my pocket to hide the fist. Yes indeed, too drunk myself and too screwed up otherwise because fear of exposure or not, testosterone was on the rise, bringing on instincts to defend...or prove that old or not, no one was going to hit on my...
  My what? This was crazy, I wasn’t a violent man, had never been so in the past at least. Had even laughed off whenever someone had tried to make a move on Sheila.
  Because I trusted her. Had believed that strongly that we were meant for the other and that nothing could ever possibly come between to separate us.
  Well, guess we all knew who had the last laugh there.
  Not even a look at me before he was flush-talking, “David? Uh, look, I’m sorry about that.”
  “Just forget it.”
  “No, I mean really. You see I sort of had a fight with my friend earlier,” Stanly went on yakking, oblivious to the world around. “I was wrong, okay? I was wrong and you were right, only it’s just so frustrating at times... Oh, uhm, good evening, Mr. Hanscom.”
  Whew the kid was sauced but good alright. Thank god, I thought as I nodded back. Quince knowing was bad enough...though how long was it going to take to put two and two together for this one as well?
  Jesus, I wanted another drink... Wanted it real bad.
  Stanly was off again, “So about that dance. Would, uh, s-she mind?”
  A shrug from David, “Ask her yourself. It’s okay with me.”
  “Good,” Stanly smiled and with quick politeness left to meet up with Kimberly and Casey on their way to join us. Looked like the girl was game and gave a giggle as the two went to hit the dance floor for a spin.
  “Thank goddess,” David sighed in relief. A double one from me as Casey slipped her hand through my arm, roles retaken.
  No more drinking though, took up Quince’s idea and stuck to coffee for the rest of the short evening.
  Performance complete.

  All in all, Quince aside (which I was not going to think about) it was seeing the ladies to Casey’s car, relief the thing behind us paramount in what I was feeling, enough so there was even some shared little laughs about Stanley getting in his ‘dance’, shins intact.
  As for David and myself, fun as it had been before the night began, drinks and stress had been thick tonight, so it was just a bit of holding close as we stood in the living room; more wry laughter because we were both covered with the perfume left by our ‘dates’.
  “What?” he asked as I chuckled suddenly.
  “You’ll just laugh at me.”
  “So? What’s unusual about that?”
  “Jerk,” I snorted, thing that ended in a small sneeze. Perfume. Amazing how easily one got unused to such.
  “Come on, tell me,” he pushed expectantly.
  Flushed in embarrassment as I snorted again, “Just something silly, I don’t know why, only, well, I just had the strongest urge to wash your hair.” Man, talk about gay.
  Except he had sort of gone still, took a little breath, though he didn’t look up.
  “You did?”
  “Yeah. Go on, laugh.”
  “I’m not laughing. I think that would be... Well, I don’t know what it is either, only I’ve always liked it when you touched my hair. I don’t know, maybe it is because that was the first way you ever really touched me.”
  Ah. So that was it. Yes, I knew he seemed to like that, yet I had wondered why.
  No, it is something more than that. Clearly it is for both of us. Remembered that is what had really triggered things for us the first time. On our vacation, goofing around washing dishes and I had given him a swipe for being a scamp, then reaching for a towel to get the sudsy mess off, we had bumped together and it had all changed. His silence—both of us silent except for the heavy breathing—as I used the towel, moving slowly, taking my time, too much of it...his ‘forgetting’ of himself, being around someone who was not gay, the way he had pressed closer, started to move against me and moan in needing longing...
  Small sigh from him as he continued to hold me, “Well, it was a nice thing to hear you say, Steven, thank you.”
  I pulled away a little bit to look down at him, “David...would you, I mean, would you like that?”
  “One day,” he said quietly. “Yes, I would.”
  “One day...”
  “Mm-hmm,” he smiled and held me back close again.
  Yeah, one day, because I sucked when it came to showing the affection I felt for him. Beyond the odd, quick hugs like this or right after sex...or when he was asleep.
  Did not want to kiss him, wanted like hell to tell him I loved him, yet...
  Forced a little chuckle, “Understood, kid. Imagine I’d do a real botch job of it. Who wants soap in the eyes when they got perfume up the nose already, right?”
  “I didn’t mean it like that, Steven.”
  “Yeah, sure. Don’t worry, you’re safe from me, kid.” Gave the traditional ‘dry’ tousle of his hair and pulled away, managing to smile with half my face at least. “Alright then, catch you on the other side. Has been a long night, got to admit it.”
  And it would be easy enough to grab a quick ‘nightcap’ when he was busy. Just a sip to settle the stomach.
  “Steven, I... I mean, do you really want to?”
  “Nah, told you, I would just mess it up. Not like I would know what I was doing after all.”
  He looked at me oddly, “I figured you would.”
  “How’s that?”
  “Because.” He ducked his head away; my face or eyes probably telling as the old tensions arose whenever I thought of Her.
  “Ah. Well, no, I never did. Huh, seems sort of funny considering everything, still, never did. I mean, hard to really pick out one of her best features, because they were all...” Deep breath, ignoring the first budding ache in the temples, “Well, it was a favorite.” Yes, it truly was at that.
  Stretch and a little yawn, “Anyway, think I’ll just go hit my shower and crawl under the covers. Really was a long night. See you after?” Asking, that place in my chest hurting, wondering if my thinking—possibly his knowledge that a part of me despite everything still wanted, desired Sheila—would have him so creeped out he would not wish to still just sleep in the same bed.
  “I would rather you came and helped me wash my hair, only, I understand if you are too tired. I mean...”
  “What’s the matter, kid?”
  “I didn’t want to hurt you, only I did anyways. Steven, I’m—”
  “Oh, don’t you say it, David.” Stepped up and quickly wrapped my arms around him again, “No way. Never hurt me or ever have anything to say you are sorry for, not with me, David. Not ever.”
  “Then okay then. I would like that a lot.” And I think he really did. My joking (nervous) suggestion about hoping he wouldn’t need to wear goggles ignored.

  What can I say about it? Hard thing to describe. Part of me had figured we’d be talking or something as I, still fully dressed, sans coat, with shirt sleeves rolled up sat on the edge of the tub and managed it. We didn’t though, thing done in silence. Most likely a deep, thought-filled silence, a something akin to our first time heavy in the air.
  It was sort of strange being like this. Usually dressed or not, both would be the same. Did not really know what I felt seeing how clearly his body was ‘reacting’ to it.
  Can I? It really was a question. We were not in the midst of that passion that allowed whatever trick it was my mind used during those times to know as well as forget that it was another man there. Like we were now though, like this...?
  It’s no different, Steven, I told myself as David leaned forward, head down as I used the flexible shower extension to do the rinsing. Still, finished, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do anything once he lifted his head, so while it was still down, him wiping off a bit of water from face, I placed a hand on his shoulder briefly...before moving it downwards beneath the water.
  Clear surprise in his voice along with the little catch of breath, “Steven...?”
  Awe, the hell with it. “Move over.”
  “What?” Didn’t give him time to do so or myself to chicken out, but it was with further shocked laughter he choked out, “What are you doing?!” as I got into the tub, still fully dressed, shoes included.
  “Giving my drycleaner a fucking fit,” I grinned back as sudsy water sloshed and splashed. More laughter from us both as elbows and bodied bumped and I scouted semi-beneath, shirt and pants billowing. Strange sensation, that.
  Quiet as I reached around and placed my hand about him again.
  “No,” I said softly, seriously, against his ear as he started to reciprocate. “Just for you, David. Let me for once just do something for you.”
  “Oh, Steven.”
  No more words after that as he relaxed back against me, face turned enough to keep it out of the water, yet tucked up and back in the crook between my shoulder and neck.
  Relaxed now myself, no problem at all anymore with the act. Sounds he made; arm beneath and other hand clutching soaked shirtsleeve with the reactions. Good. So very good to do something for another, to just give such to my partner.
  My partner. Yes, that’s what they called such didn’t they? Called them their ‘companion’ or ‘partner’. The other half of two whom were a couple.
  That is what he is to me. He’s my partner. My friend, my lover and companion...as I am his.
  Big smile on my face, felt it there when the time came and he locked to me clutching. My other hand coming up from where it had naturally been embracing his side to hold side of his head, holding him to me when I turned enough to brush my lips across top of his head while he drifted in the afterglow.
  “Mm-hmm. Just relax, David. I’ve got you.”
  Long time later before I burst out laughing suddenly. Not just water and soap in the tub now. How the hell was I going to explain that to the drycleaner?
  Ah well, fuck it, because for damn sure, this was one suit I was not about to throw out ever, ruined or not...
  Later, and though I hadn’t planned on it, had not needed it, wanted nothing this night for myself, still...
  On our sides, me close behind; joined, just touching hip with my hand, feeling and listening to him.
  Point came and, “Now?” I whispered the question.
  “Yes,” he moaned. “Oh, Steven, yes, now...ohhh...” Now, for me to recommence the slow moving within him...the soft cries resulting, happy sounds, simple things.
  Feel of his hand in my hair when he reached back to take tight hold and I did kiss back of his neck along the hairline; enjoyed it; loved it...and him.


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Click to read from my book "Hunting Shadows"
Everything on this page is (C) Melissa Vivigatz 2007
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The following story contains adult language and situations.
Sexual content. For mature readers only.
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