Saturday, July 31, 2010

Part 3 - "What if I'm never normal again?"

“Is the taxi here yet?” Nick called.

I pressed my forehead to the window and shrugged. It didn’t occur to me that shrugs were difficult to hear from the next room.

“Dover.” He leaned against the door frame and put his hands in his pockets.

“Mmm?” I didn’t turn around.

“Is the taxi here?”

“No, sir.” It was November and my breath was making foggy patches of condensation on the glass. I pressed and repressed my nose to them, sitting back each time to look.


“Don’t talk to me, please. I don’t like you right now.” I pulled my knees up and wrapped my arms around them.

“I understand that,” he started, “And believe me, if that could change the dynamic of what we’ve got here, you and me-- Dover Allen, look at me.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes, but I did turn to look. There are certain tones of voice that are unwise to disobey.

“Just because you’re angry doesn’t make it okay to ignore me.”

“I wasn’t.”

“Do you need a spanking this morning? Is that all that’s going to fix this? Because if it is, tell me right now. Dealing with it in a busy airport will be hell.”

I shook my head and dropped it to my knees. Deep breaths, I reminded myself. Deep breaths. That’s what Dr. Spiro said I should do when I thought I was going crazy. Just take some deep breaths and focus on the sound, the feel. I took one and tried hard to pay attention, but the second time, it broke up and scattered into quiet sobbing.

“Oh, monkey,” Nick sighed. I heard his footsteps cross the wood toward me and he pulled me up into his arms. “It’s a hard time, isn’t it?”

I nodded into his neck and kept on crying.

With nothing left in the apartment to rock me in, Nick settled for the radiator I’d been sitting on and plunked there with me on his lap. “It will get better,” he whispered.

I sucked snot back into my nose and coughed. “But I miss Manhattan already.”

“I know you do,” he said. “This isn’t forever. Just long enough to settle down for a while.”

“But I like it here...”

“How many times are we going to have to have this conversation?” he asked, gently. “I want you to be happy, sweetheart. But more than anything, I want you to be safe. And right now, for you, Portland is safer than Manhattan. I have family there who will take care of us and--”

“Babysit me. That’s what you mean. They‘ll babysit me.”

“Is that what I said?”

“Not in so many words...”

“Don't put words in my mouth.”

“I don't want to move...” I kicked the radiator and he smacked my thigh.

“Stop that.”

“Sorry..“ I mumbled.

“Honey,” He sighed and shifted me on his lap. He kissed my cheek and wiped away tears with his hands. “I've stopped considering what you want. It’s too often on the opposite end of the spectrum from what’s best for you. And it’s just not realistic. Right now, we are doing what you need. Going away until you can get your bearings again.”

“But all I did was lose them,” I whispered, squenching my eyes shut. “And I lost them here. You can‘t look for what you lost in a place you know you didn‘t lose it.”

He put his nose to my temple and I felt his warm breath against my ear. “It won't be as bad as you think it will. True, Portland isn‘t New York City, but it's not the backwoods of Arkansas either. There's plenty of culture, art, trees, the ocean's within a few hour's drive.”

“Connecticut is within a few hours drive and Manhattan is IN the ocean...” I was dangerously close to raising my voice.

“Dover, I hear you. And I've listened and considered and deliberated. This is what we're doing now. It's not up for debate. We're going to Portland and that will not kill anyone. Now stand up because the taxi’s here.” He patted my back. “No more about this today.”

My lip quivered, but I nodded and sat up, running the back of my hand across tears in hopes of keeping the rest at bay.

“All right, sweetheart,” he said, lifting me to my feet. He stood up behind me and brushed the last of the tears off my eyelashes, kissing my lips and giving me a sympathetic look. “You take your laptop and go hold the taxi. I'll get the rest of our stuff and be down in a minute.”

I stood there, looking at him. God, I love him and dear GOD, he pisses me off.

“Go,” he smiled. He ran a hand over my head and slid it down my back into my jeans.

I squirmed and leaned against him for a moment until the taxi driver honked again.

“Shh, enough for one day, Dover. Go,” he lifted my head and kissed my lips. “Now.”


“Do you resent me?” I asked.

The airport was crowded and loud. Nick turned his head to me. “Hmm?”

“Do you resent me?” I leaned my head against his shoulder and looked up at him.

“Speak up, honey.”

“Do. You. Resent me?”

“No.” He shook his head.

“Not ever?”

“Not even once. Ever.”

I nodded. It was a good, strong answer with no room for questioning and so I didn’t.

“Are you sure?” Well, not that much.

“For leaving school? Do I resent you because I decided to leave school to take care of you? Is that what you’re asking me?” He slipped his hand into mine and laced his fingers through, squeezing tightly. “All that I can say is no, Dov. That’s the most absolute answer I’ve got for you. No. No, never.”

A few more minutes passed and they called for all preboarding passengers on our flight to please report to Gate 7G now. A couple of mothers with small children stood up and started gathering strollers, blankets and bottles of milk.

“What if I’m never normal again?”

“This is an emotional day. Things are being magnified by the fact that you’re so upset, honey.” He stroked my face for a moment with his hand and held our locked fingers to his lips, kissing mine. “Here’s the official mandate of the day--”

“Niiick,” I groaned.

He laughed. “I’m not traveling all day with you in this mood and I haven’t issued any official mandates in a while, have I? So, I’m entitled.”

“You’re annoying, that’s what you are,” I sighed.

“I try. Now, listen. You can be upset about moving and you can feel insecure and mad and thoroughly devastated, but the official mandate is this: You will trust me. No, no, no. Hush and listen until I’m finished. You will trust me. We aren’t going to have lots of time to sit around and be unhappy today. We’re just going to have to get through this. And we can. We will. So, whenever you start getting upset or angry or anything, you remember that you trust me. And that I love you. This is scary and this is hard, but we are doing the best that we can and it will be okay.”

I chewed my lip as hard as I could without making the burn at the back of my eyes worse.

“Don’t do that,” he whispered, freeing the poor thing with his thumb. “Bleeding won’t help. Besides which, it’s against the rules.”

A tear slid down my cheek and I closed my eyes.

“You can do this, Dover,” he spoke into my ear. “You can do this.”


Nick’s parents met us at the airport and fawned over both of us, swearing we were malnourished, under slept and wrought with all sorts of terrifying plagues and disease. They insisted we go to dinner with them and we did, at some little corner cafĂ© downtown.

I picked until I had the whole table bugging me to eat, so I did. Well, half. But that was the rule. Whatever was there, I was supposed to eat at least half. Nick’s mother still wasn’t happy, but it was the best I could muster.

They dropped us off with kisses, hugs and swears that we would call them soon. And then, there we were. At the foot of our apartment building.

“You will trust me.”

“Come on,” he smiled, turning to reach a hand out for me.

It was kind of a ramshackle little one roomer, Nick had told me, on the top floor of the building. Which, in terms of Portland, meant the third story. But Nick had had most of our things already delivered so that all we had to do was arrange and put everything away.

There was no elevator and if the halls were any indication, this place was either a crack house or a squatter’s lodge. After four thousand flights of stairs, we stood in front of 302 and Nick fished the keys from his pocket.

“Do you trust me?” he looked back at me and the security of him just being there was enough. I decided that it would be enough.

I nodded and took a deep breath.

He swung the door back and tramped inside, dragging the larger of our two suitcases behind him. It was dark inside and freezing cold. Boxes were stacked upon boxes and I recognized a few familiar outlines of furniture against the light from the streetlamp through the windows. But we couldn‘t make anything out for sure.

Then Nick flipped the light on. The fixtures were old and they flickered, flickered… and held.

The floors were old wood, the tiny kitchen had that retro checkered tile. Being on the corner of the building, there was a little turret and window that I hadn’t noticed from the outside. We were standing in an entryway with a little door-less closet to one side and oh, there, so appropriately in the corner of the living room, was my chair.

I looked at Nick whose eyes were full of anticipation for my response and tears spilled over my cheeks.

“Well, are those good or bad tears?” he chuckled, stepping over luggage to gather me into his arms. “What do you think, monkey?”

“It’s-- it’s just like the other one. It’s old a-and it smells right and it’s even fucking freezing, too.” I gulped for air and buried my face in the warmth of the sweater Nicky had on beneath his coat. “How’d you do this? It’s so… perfect.”

He shrugged and kissed the top of my head. “I love you.”

I laughed and stood up, sniffling and wiping tears out of my eyes. “Can we unpack?”



“It’s late. Too late tonight. We’ll start on the kitchen and the bedroom tomorrow. Come here for a minute.” He pulled me to him again by my belt loops and kissed me hard, then divested us both of our jackets, scarves and shoes before dragging me into the big ugly green rocker that was set apart from the rest of the chaos.

“We’re going to be okay?” I asked as he wrapped us both into a blanket and held me.

“We’re going to be happy.”

“Because we like our apartment and because you like me even though I hate you right now?” I yawned and leaned into him.

“Because we love each other and because I said so.”

I listened through the quiet to the cars outside. It was dark on the streets below but for a few street lamps. It sounded like a couple of men were arguing across the street.

“I don’t really hate you,” I whispered, wrapping his arms tighter around me. “I’m just sad. You know that, don’t you?”

“Hard to miss,” he smiled.

I laughed a little.

“Do you know that you’re my sweet boy?” he whispered into my ear.

The sensation gave me goosebumps and I nodded. “Do you know that you’re my favorite?” I asked, looking up to see him grin and nod.

“Hard to miss.”


Nick grew up fast on account of me. I don't think he expected to have to, at least not so quickly. But he did it without complaint.

When I got back from the hospital, anything remotely sharp had been either thrown out or locked into the cabinet above the refrigerator and everything that was left was immaculate. He must have spent hours cleaning up all the shit in there. Also, he was suddenly a veritable wellspring of information on manic depression.

It wasn‘t until mid-September, when I started asking questions about him going back to school that he told me everything was fine, he’d taken a year off school and we could live for a while on the remainder of the college fund. I didn’t even have sense enough to be outraged then, I just cried.

When I started getting up and going into the kitchen to eat, laying on the couch sometimes instead of always on the bed, that was when he started laying down the law.

He followed me religiously for months. I couldn’t lay on the couch and read a book alone, go downstairs to get the mail or even take a shower without him in the room. He bathed me with his own two hands, refusing to let me help.

I felt like a dog on a leash and I hated it. I yanked and pulled and when that didn't work, I pushed. But Nick stood strong. Through all of it.

I did more corner time than I had hospital time, wrote more lines than words for publication. He soaped my mouth for arguing, immediately grounded me for repeat offenses, and ultimately, spanked me to within inches of my life on more than one occasion for physically endangering myself.

The first time I really got it -- It-It, I mean -- was the first time he caught me scratching my arms in the middle of the night.

My fingernails were the last sharp thing I had and so, when I woke up one night from a particularly bad dream, I just… used them. Thank God I hadn’t gotten very deep before he woke up or who knows what would’ve happened.

“Dover Emery Allen.” That was all he said and then I was face down over his knees. It wasn’t a brutal spanking, or even an angry one. I think it had shocked him and he was more scared than anything. When he finished, I saw him swipe at a couple tears of his own before he sat me, wailing, onto his lap. He hugged me so hard I could barely breathe. “If you ever do that again,” he whispered into my ear. “I mean ever -- as long as you live -- I will take off my belt and you’ll be the sorriest little boy you’ve ever known.”

After that, he’d pretty much created a monster. I didn't leave anything alone until I'd been spanked for it. Maybe it was that I had to try as many ways as I could to get rid of him. Like I felt I had to test him for everything he was worth. Maybe I needed to know he would love me, no matter what, but I didn’t believe there was any way that he would. Or maybe it was because, even though I never did anything consciously to get spanked, it offered a kind of release. Maybe it was a form of masochism I was allowed. Like, if I wasn’t allowed to cut or scratch myself, I would get myself spanked. Things were very primal then and I remember feeling like pain was the only thing to remind me I was alive. I think on some occasions, it was just that simple. And so I pushed and when that didn’t work, I yanked and I pulled.

And when it came, I fought it with little to no conviction. I went easily, gratefully almost. It was just relieving to me, and after it was over, I felt better. Calmer.

Maybe the best way to describe it is like cutting. Pain as a means to an end.

Curbing behavior was a side effect, if you ask me.


The first few weeks in Portland were gory. And, yeah, I guess that is kind of putting it lightly.

I was much angrier than I'd realized about being forced to Portland and I was determined to hate it.

My therapist back in New York, Dr. Spiro, who knew about the more eccentric aspects of mine and Nick's relationship and sympathized to a degree, told me it was misplaced anger. He said that, really, I was angry about something else. But that the Nick thing was easier to pin it on. Or something like that. I got spanked sometimes for forgetting what Dr. Spiro said. I didn't always pay as close attention as I could have -- should have? And Nick said that since he couldn't be there with me all the time, I had to pay attention myself. So, when I didn't, well...

Spiro must've been right though, I guess, because I didn't hate Portland nearly as much as I wished I did.  Especially not once Nick started taking me around.

On weekends, when he wasn't so enveloped in the couple of summer courses he was taking locally at Reed, we would spend whole days at Powell's. It was one of the only times he’d leave me alone – without him right there, I mean – for longer than a period of 15 or 20 minutes. Those days were heaven.

I'd sit in the Religion section, on the concrete floor and read, never looking up long enough to see anything more than feet as I moved myself away from them to let people pass.

Nick tended toward the poetry and fiction sections. And sometimes I hung out in the kid's books for Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. But even in spite of the massive expanse of literature, we never really lost each other. Predictable, both of us, I guess.

Outside of Powell's however, and the few other places where I could be trusted to stay calm and be at least somewhat happy, I was an unholy terror.

It's.. it’s a little embarrassing to say now.

I dragged my feet and kicked and screamed at the top of my lungs all the way through our first two or three months there. And… yeah, I only mean that sort of figuratively.

Those first two, three months or so, I got spanked at least three times a week and sent to corners on a pretty daily basis. I, in turn, developed more covert means of being defiant and showing my distaste for his decisions.

I think it started to scare Nicky half to death pretty quickly.


It was about a month and a half after we‘d moved in that he found the glass I'd broken in my computer desk drawer. Suffice it to say, he flipped his lid.

We both knew that it was a possibility, breaking glass for me to cut with. But I'd never done it and I don't think he ever thought I would. I don’t think I ever thought I would.

It's not that I'd even planned to really use it for anything. I'd just been furious at him for one reason or another and so when he went down to get the mail one morning, I broke it. In the desk drawer. With a big rock I got from the Grand Canyon when I was like 12. I did it on purpose. But it was just.. in case. It felt safer knowing I had a 'just in a case'. I felt calmer knowing that, if I needed to, I could split my arm or my leg open again.

But I didn't do it!

That should have counted for something.

And... it didn't.

I was in the shower when he found it and I heard him coming down the hall, his footsteps hard and determined. It had been a week or two since I'd actually done the breaking, so that incident in particular didn't spring to mind when I started to wonder what I'd done now.

“Dover Emery Allen,” he said, coming in through the bathroom door that was “always to remain open“. His voice was low and it positively shook with fury. Though, it was the use of my entire name that gave me my first clue as to how irate he was.

I heard him take a deep breath and he pulled back the curtain, all but climbing into the shower with me to get me properly rinsed off before turning off the water, dragging me out of the tub and pointing to a shard of glass on the counter that had obviously come from my collection.

“What is the meaning of this?” he asked me, his voice still ominously low. He sounded twice his age when he said things like that and I hated it when he took on that persona.

“I.. I—”

“Did you do this?” he asked me point blank.

And at least I could have had the good sense enough not to lie. Because who else would've done it? Satan? An angry mouse? I was the only other person in the house.

But no, no somehow I manage to dig myself deeper every time. I can't settle for just a grade one fuck up. It has to be phenomenal. If I'm going to do it, I may as well go all the way.

“N-no,” I stammered. “Where'd it come from?”

“Your desk drawer, my friend, and what do you mean 'no'?”

“No!” I said, defensively, trying to shake his hand off my upper arm. His grip was tight – on purpose, I'm sure, as I was still wet and slippery – and it hurt. “You asked if it was mine. I said no.”

“Don't you get cheeky with me,” he said, the tone of his voice starting to rise.

“I'm not, Nicky! It's not mine! What were you doing in my desk anyway?”

“I was looking for a letter, which is irrelevant. What I want to know, right now, is how the fuck this glass got into your desk. We may have the occasional mouse in here, Dover, but no glass-breaking mice. And definitely no mice who have any reason to be in or around your desk, much less carrying glasses from the kitchen TO your desk and I KNOW you weren't drinking anything next to your computer because I would have SEEN you.”

“Maybe the moving men broke it on accident..” I suggested timidly. “Maybe we accidentally left it in there when they took the stuff and it-- it got broken on the way..”

“And maybe Jesus will come back right now and save you before I spank you into next week.” He grabbed my chin hard and gave me a Look the likes of which I had never seen. “Don’t you lie to me. We do not lie to each other, is that clear? You tell me the truth, Dover. And I mean right this minute, or I am not going to hesitate to spank you until you do talk.”

I chewed my lip anxiously and stared at my wet toes. I was starting to shiver. And did he care?

“NOW!” He spanked my bottom twice and between the water and his perfect aim, it brought tears to my eyes immediately and I gave up lying.

“I was mad at you! You wouldn't let me go out by myself. You said I had to wait for you to finish your paper. You told me that you didn't trust me to be alone for that long. I was MAD. And you went down to get the mail and... and--”

“Is BREAKING a glass and keeping it around without telling me supposed to make me trust you MORE?!” he shouted.

I shrunk back and my lip started to quiver. I hate it when he yells. More than almost anything, because it means he's really, really mad.

Seeing my reaction, he closed his eyes and took another deep breath. “Did you use that glass to cut yourself, young man?” he asked deliberately, starting to look me over, lifting my arms and turning me around.

“No…” I whispered. “No, sir. No, I promise.”

He nodded. “Dry yourself off. I can't talk to you about this right now.”

He waited while I dried off, took me by the arm and led me into the kitchen where he pulled my chair away from the wall and sat me down into it, hard. He was silent as he started dinner and I watched, still naked and not just a little cold. Once he had both grilled cheese sandwiches on the stove, he beckoned me up again and took me into our bedroom where he put me in pajamas.

“But, Nicky...” I started softly, a little afraid to speak to him just yet. “It's only 6:00...”

“Ohh..” he chuckled in that very angry, very grim way he has. “If you‘d like to dictate things to me, I can play that game and you‘ll get me the belt. But otherwise, you‘ll hush your mouth and obey me because I am severely unhappy with you right now and you both deserve an early bedtime and will be safer in bed than out.”

Safer from myself or him, I wondered.

“Nick, I--”

“I don't care tonight, Dover. I honestly just don't. I am terrified and horrified and so angry with you right now that I don't trust myself to spank you. So, you will eat half of your sandwich, you will go to bed and you will not complain about it, do I make myself clear?”

“Um, yes,” I stammered, a little frightened. “Yes- yes, sir.”

I ate my sandwich and then Nick rushed me through brushing my teeth and combing my hair and put me to bed. He brought in his homework and sat on the floor to do it so as not to leave me alone with myself at all.

I cried myself to sleep and he did nothing to console me, which hurt far more than any spanking I'd ever received. He never ignored me. And when he'd said he didn't care, I believed him. Every other time he'd said it, it had been kind of off-hand, regarding something like my complaining that I was thirsty after a tenth glass of water at bedtime. Those were times when he was supposed to say he didn't care. And those times, I understood. But this... this time he hadn't let me say anything. He'd said he didn't care before he even knew what I was going to say.

I cried hard in a very heartbroken sort of way.

Hours later when I felt the bed sink and his warm body easing up behind mine to cradle me the way he always does, I heard him sniffling and gulping, sounds that I recognize pretty easily.

Sleepy but still upset, I turned over and buried my face in his shirt. I started to cry again too, wailing that I was sorry and that I hadn't meant it and that I just wasn't thinking and would he please, please, please not leave me because I could do better, I would do better, I promised-- and then he started to laugh.

Not mean, not evilly, nothing like that. Just tired and sympathetically and he patted my back and rubbed circles into it.

“I'm not going anywhere, you silly boy...” he sighed. “Stop that now. We're both exhausted.”

But I kept on sobbing. It seemed like something I should cry over, for once. Not just one of those things that broke me for no apparent reason, but something real and traumatizing.

“I'm not leaving,” he said, soothingly. “I'm not going anywhere. I'm right here. You should know that by now. I'm right here. It's not the end of the world, you just scared me. That's all. It was scary, honey. Did I scare you, too?”

I wailed something in the form of a muffled yes and he picked both of us up out of bed and carried me to the big green rocker in the living room.

“All right, all right,” he cooed gently. “I'm here, honey. I scared you, I know. I didn't mean to. Poor baby, I’m sorry. I should have been more careful. I'm sorry, sweet boy. Sweet, sweet little boy...” he rocked back and forth, back and forth.

That's the way my Nick is. I fuck up and scare him shitless so that he cries – something Nicky never does – and by the time he's done being terrified, he's already forgiven me and is sitting there, comforting me for having scared him, actually apologizing to me. 1

Part 2 - "...and I'm beginning to think I hate you."

Jesi called me on Friday, as I was coming home from dropping Fenton at the bus station. His parents live upstate and yes, I bought the ticket for him.

First, though, I vowed to quit saving him because I was quickly running out of the last check I'd gotten from selling a piece and at the rate I was going, who knew when the next one would be in.

“Hey,” Jesi said, cheerfully, a lot of noise behind her. “I'm having a party tomorrow night.”

“God wouldn't like it if he caught you drinking.”

“Who said anything about drinking?” She laughed. “And what the fuck would you know about it anyway?”

I laughed, too. “Are you inviting me then?” I asked. “Or just calling to gloat?”

“Depends. Will you come?”

“Depends. Are you asking?”

“Conditions, conditions,” she sighed. “I'm asking if you'll say yes if I do ask. That's what I'm asking.”

“And I'm asking if you're asking so that I'll know whether to answer truthfully. Because if you're only asking about asking--”

“Are you gonna come to the damned party or not?” she interrupted me.

I grinned into the phone. “What's it for?”

“I dunno. It's small, just a few people. I guess, technically, it's an Alan Cumming marathon.”

“How can you have a marathon for a guy who's only starred in like, two things?”

“You just can. Then it's even more fun because you're stuck watching really shitty movies just for his little corner bits.”

“Watching really shitty movies for five minutes of value is fun?”

“Yes. And you're coming. So, be here at nine.”

“What movies am I stuck watching?” I asked, sighing dramatically.

“Titus – Andronicus, that is--”

“I know what movies he's in, Jes. I want to know which ones I'm stuck having to watch again.”

“Well, then let me tell you!”

“Just spare me the details, huh?”

“Titus,” she said again. “Josie and the Pussycats, Anniversary Party, Spy Kids, Eyes Wide Shut and Spice World.”

“Eww.. pick ALL the shitty ones, why don't you?”

“You're still coming. Bring a bottle of something vicious.”

“Who said anything about drinking?“ I grinned.

“Dover,“ she said sternly. I could just see her free hand on her hip.

I laughed. “Well, why? Are we taking shots every time he appears on screen? Because, if that's the case, nobody will even get a buzz.”

“Hahaha... ha. Ha. Ha,” she said, sarcastically. “Dover, you are, like, the funniest person I know!”

Silence as I smirked and she probably glared into the phone.

“Tell Fenton he’s coming too,” she said.

“He's gone to his parents. But I'll be there,” I paused as a thought hit me. “Uh, Jes?” I said, tentatively.


“This isn't one of those parties you set up in order to set me up, is it?”

“Set you up?” she asked. “Of course not! You know me better than that.” There was a very sloppy grin on her face and I heard it. Loud and clear.


I went back to Club 11 that night, trying to forget that Fenno hadn't called me as promised.

All fucked up emotionally, I drank copious amounts of alcohol and procured some coke from the guy Fenno says he gets his best stuff from to compensate for my terrible mood. Combined, I was quickly a disaster, more than ready when that blonde kid from Tuesday night reappeared out of no where.

“Hey,” he said, slithering up to me at the bar with cool hands and a very bare chest. He was grinning all over the place.

I must have been pretty pathetic at that point, because he had me at “hey”. I went with him, danced until I thought I would pass out, throw up or both and before long found myself groping, slurping and generally making a horny male out of myself in the back room.

His pants were at his ankles, I was up and ready to go, when the phone in my right pocket began to ring.

Damn Fenno for his impeccably BAD timing. Unholy distraction, I'm telling you.

I reached into my pocket and shut the whole thing off, first making sure that it was, indeed, him, then leaned back against the wall and groaned miserably. Which blended perfectly with all the sheer ecstasy around us.

“What?” Blondie asked, looking back at me. He must have seen my face through the black lights and smoke, because he automatically went into distress mode. “Come on. Please? I need you SO bad.” He was wrapping himself around me and licking at all exposed skin, breathing heavily.

“I-I can't..” I mumbled, incoherent both from the constancy of Fenton in my head and from trying to drown him out. I pushed Blondie off and shoved rudely past he and everyone else in my way. He followed me all the way to the door as I redressed and stomped, rather sloppily, around people on the dance floor.

“Just one fuck?” he begged. “I won't tell anybody. If you have a boyfriend--”

“No,“ I said, shaking his hands off. I kept walking.

“Please?” This time, he grabbed my shirt and pulled desperately.

I whirled around (well, as good as a thickly inebriated person can whirl around) and looked at him. “How old're you, kid?” I slurred.

“Eighteeen,” he whined. “What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” He glowered and for a split second-- he was all Fenno. His hair a mess, face twisted into a scowl, his eyes bright with fury. Beautiful and slight and... Shit.

I shook my head purposefully. “Go home. You're little. You don't need all this shit.”

His glare turned darker and he shoved me a little, sheer petulance in his voice as he said, “What the fuck do you know about anything anyway?”

I turned on my heel and started back out, wondering basically the same thing,


I wandered around for a while, being careful not to attract any undue attention that might garner a friendly arrest for public drunkenness. Really, I should have gone home, especially considering the coke in my system – I tended to get pretty paranoid about things like that – but I needed to think. And right then, that overrode everything else.

It was late. If I hadn't been so fucked up, I probably would have called Jesi or rung Fen back, but I knew that if I did either in such a state, I'd only make a complete ass of myself. And I didn't feel like having pieces to pick up in the morning as well as a completely confused love life.

I wandered until I ended up in Central Park and sat down on a bench just inside. Well, more like fell.

After that, I don't know what happened, but I woke up some hours later, still on the bench, covered in puke, severely hung over, to the sound of my phone in my pocket.

I somehow dug it out, but it cracked against the pavement below me and I had to fumble for a few more seconds before I got a good grip on it.

“Uhhnn?” I groaned into the general area of the mouthpiece.


I cracked my eyes open against the day and saw a very pale light – dawn, already? – before shutting them tightly again.


“Dover?” It was Fenno. “Are you all right, baby?”

“Umm.. I don't know...”

“I tried calling last night, but--”

“Yeah...” I interrupted, drunkenly. “I shut off my phone when you did.”

“What? Why? Are you all right? Did you go out last night? You sound terrible.”

“Leave me alone, Fen...”

“Are you upset with me, Dov?” I HATED his barrages of questions. They pissed me off. He knew I hated it, too, but it was so firmly ingrained in his personality that there was no arguing about it.

“I can't remember. I'll, um... call you back.. when I do.”

“Any idea when that might be?”

“No.” I flipped the phone shut and tried to focus only on breathing.

What seemed like two seconds later, but must've been 5 or 10 minutes, the phone rang again.

“Whaa-aat?” I whined into it.

“Hey.” Jesi.

“Whaat?” I asked again.

“Well, fine, if you're going to be that way. Get your ass to my apartment. Right now. Come on. My aunt is gone to The Hamptons for the weekend so she can’t complain and Fenno's worried sick.”

“Then he can call me back and talk to me.”

“Don't make me come find you,” she said, firmly. “Come here right now. I'm exhausted and it's too early to play games.

“I'm fine! Leave me be.”

“Dover.” Her simple use of my name was enough.

I sighed in defeat.

“I think...” I sat up and forced myself to open my eyes and look around. “I'm in Central Park... I'll.. I'll be there in fifteen.”

From where I was, Jesi's aunt's apartment was only about six blocks, ten at most. I stood up, looked down at myself and took off my shirt, abandoning it on the bench. Then set off to get my bearings. At worst, I'd have to cross to the other side of the park, but a quick assessment told me I was well into the eighties and on the East side, like I was supposed to be.

I was still too out of it to be very embarrassed by my state of undress and the disgusting stench of puke and alcohol emanating from my clothes, hair and breath. I stumbled all the way and somehow found Jesi's apartment building without getting lost.

She was standing in the doorway in her pajamas when I came out of the elevator. She smiled at the guy manning the elevator and waved. Leave it to Jes to break all social rules of etiquette and get to know The Help.

“Get inside here right now,” she said to me as soon as the elevator doors closed again. Like I was a little kid in trouble. “You are a wreck. Look at yourself.” She tugged me into the front room and shook her head at me, shutting the door behind us. “You don't do these things, Dover Allen. You do not go out and get this fucking pissed with strangers. You just don't. If you’re going to do it, you do it with friends. Always. It’s a wonder you didn’t get arrested for public drunkenness being out there all night like this. What the fuck were you doing in Central Park anyway—wait, don't tell me. You passed out there? Come with me.” She led me into the kitchen. “Take off those pants. They're awful. Where did your shirt go?”

I shrugged. She was making me feel genuinely ashamed and I didn't like it.

She rummaged through cupboards for a while until I saw her come up with a bottle of whiskey and a can of coffee. She started the coffee perking and then looked across the bar at me, my head on my arms.

“Take those pants off, Dover. In a minute, you can shower, and then we're both going to bed.”

“Can I have some Tylenol?”

She nodded. “Stay here. I'll see what I can find. And get your jeans off.”

I heard more rummaging and bumping around as I closed my eyes and blindly stumbled out of my pants.

“This will have to work,” she said, footsteps coming back toward me. I opened one eye and saw a bottle of Nyquil.

I shook my head miserably. “I'll throw it back up.”

“It's all Aunt Beverley will take. She says pills make her choke. Besides, it wouldn’t do you any harm to throw up some more, I’m sure. And this stuff is absorbed more quickly. Take some and I'm going to give you some food to go with it.”

“What's going on in here?” I heard a sleepy male voice and my head popped up. Here I was,thoroughly hung over, with a girl, in only my underwear, and now there was a strange male in the room. Could the morning get any more ridiculous?

“Nicky, you remember Dover, don't you?”

Nick rubbed his eyes and yawned, nodding in recognition. “The one who showed up last time I was here, looking for inspiration on some piece he was writing about the similarities between sex and religion?”
Oh, God... A flash of recognition hit me, too and I turned red from ear to ear.

He just looked at me and chuckled.

“Dover, I know you remember my brother Nick,” Jesi said, turning to me.

I groaned and plopped my head back onto my arms.

“How did that piece go anyhow?” Nick asked, a smirk still audible.

“Leave him alone,” Jesi shoved him out of the way of the fridge and stuck her head in. “He's a little fucked up right now and doesn't need your tormenting.”

“I can see that. Are you getting him some coffee?”

“I know what I'm doing. Shut up and fix yourself breakfast or something.”

Nick lifted my head out of my arms and looked at my face for a moment. “He may need to throw up again worse than he needs coffee,” he observed, his voice gentle. “You aren't looking too good there.” He pulled my left eyelid down and I jerked away in protest. “Hey. Hold still. Fourth year med student. I have a vague idea of what I'm doing.”

“Vague?” I moaned.

He pulled my eyelids down again and nodded.

“When was the last time you threw up? You reek of it.”

“Sometime before I passed out?”

“Do you feel like you should again?”

I shrugged.

He hmmed and gave me an appraising look, raising his eyebrows.

I sighed in defeat and nodded. “It hurts.”

He nodded back and came around the bar, leading me off the stool and down the hall. “We'll be back in a minute,” he said to Jes.

I couldn't quite remember – my brain was still sloshing in alcohol – but I thought I remembered Nick being, well... registering on the gaydar somewhere ambiguously between Kevin Spacey and Ross the Intern the last time I'd met him. Rolling that thought around, I let him lead me by the wrist to the bathroom.

“Come on, you're going to throw up. Get it out of your system. You'll feel ten times better.” He pushed me carefully down to my knees on the floor and knelt behind me.

I wanted to ask him where he got off, who he thought he was, what exactly he thought he was doing. But it didn't matter, because two seconds later, he was jamming fingers down my throat and I was gagging furiously. He jammed them again and I felt a burn rising in my chest. Once more with a hard squeeze to my stomach and I was spewing frothy slime into the toilet.

And once I started, there was no stopping it. I puked until I was dry heaving and he lifted me back to my feet, smacking my back hard. “Breathe,” he told me. “Take a deep breath.”

It took effort, but I caught my breath and leaned back against him, exhausted, but feeling better. Ten times better.

“There you go,” he said, patting my back now instead of bruising it. “Not exactly orthodox, but it's what my father did when I came home drunk in high school. Any better?”

I nodded mutely and he smiled.

“Take a shower then and you can have coffee when you smell more approachable. I‘ll bring you something to sleep in.”

As he left and I turned on the shower, I began to wonder if it was possible to be madly, furiously in love with a person you’d barely just met.


I drank the whiskey and coffee and ate the cereal Jesi gave me then took two tablespoons of Nyquil, after Nick approved it and thoroughly insisted.

Then Jesi whisked me off to her bed, my hair still wet, and lay down with me for a while, her arm over me. The way I held Fen when he was upset.

Jesi was good to me.

“Thanks,” I whispered.

“Hush. Sleep the rest of it off. I'll wake you up in time to go get dressed for the simply fabulous party I‘ve planned. At which you are strictly forbidden any alcoholic substances.”

I huffed a laugh and felt her squeeze me tightly before the Nyquil pulled me under.


The combination of whiskey and coffee, Nyquil, puking furiously and ultimately, sleep, left me feeling a little more alive when I woke up around 3:00pm to Jesi's cool hand against my face.

“Rise and shine,” she said in a sing-song voice, brushing hair out of my eyes.

“Wha'time'sit?” I mumbled. I propped myself up on one elbow and rubbed at my eyes.

“Time to get up. Come on. Nick said he'd drive you to your place to pick up some clothes.”

Aww, shit... Nick.

“No, no.. I'll just take the subway. I'm okay.”

“Let him drive you. He volunteered of his own free will.”

A light bulb flashed and I fell back on the bed, groaning. “Who else is coming to this party?” I whined.

“Why?” She asked. “Just people. Who cares? It'll be fun.”

“Who else is coming?” I asked again.

She sighed. “Peter and Brien, Oliver and Julia, Giovanni and Fiona, Theo, of course. I'll need someone to make out with.”

I nodded, concisely and rolled over, groaning into the pillow.

“What? What's the matter with you?”

“Nick and I,” I said, matter-of-factly. “This is a Nick and I thing, isn't it?”

She gasped. It was wholly unbelievable. “I would never--”

I rolled my eyes and laughed. “You filthy liar,” I shook my head and playfully kicked a leg at her from underneath the covers. “It's incredibly You to get together with your boyfriend and a bunch of other couples, leaving two single people to stare awkwardly at the floor during the mushy parts of the movies, wondering if they actually might have had a chance at something had they been left alone about it.”

“It's not a set up!”

“Well, now that I've figured you out, the least you can do is quit lying.”

She glared at me like I was supposed to believe she hated my guts. Have I mentioned that, despite working in the theatre district, she's the worst actress I know? Good thing that's not what she's going for or I might be the one stuck breaking the news.

“You don't get a whole bunch of couples together and throw in two single people who just so happen to share the same sexual leanings. Not without specific intent. Sorry. Doesn't happen.” I sat up and yawned.

“I invited Fenno and NOT his sleazy boyfriend man! That blows your theory out of the water. See?“

“You want me to believe you didn’t know he was going to see his parents when you asked me? You want me to believe you didn’t use him for this very reason?“ I laughed. “The two of you talk constantly. Don’t tell me you didn’t concoct the whole thing without his help.”

“Well, you're still coming. After I nursed you back to health this morning, it's the very least you can do.”

“I never said I wasn't coming.”

“Anyway,” she went on. “Nick's the one who put me up to it.”

“Nick?” My eyes went wide. “Nick put you up to it? Why?”

“Because he likes you, moron. Why else? What? Did you think maybe he asked me to throw together some party with a bunch of couples and invite you out of the blue so he could make it a point to ignore you?”

“Who knows? I don't know him. Maybe he's sadistic. He did gag me this morning, I should point out. A rather uncivilized thing for a gentleman to do.”

She laughed. “You're right, whereas passing out in Central Park is very civilized. Not to mention classy and sophisticated.”

I grinned and stood up.

“Wear those over there.” Jesi pointed to a pile of clothes on a chair in the corner. “Nicky said they'd hold you until he took you home. He's making lunchish dinnerish.. something.”

I nodded and she left while I dressed.

He'd left me a button up shirt, jeans and a pair of flip flops, all of which were a size or two too big. But they were nice clothes and I was grateful for them. Bending over to stare at myself in her mirror, I studied my complexion. Still a little greenish, my eyes a bit sunken in and dark circled, but overall, after a night like the one I'd had, I looked pretty damn good.

I left the flip flops until it was time to go, and padded barefoot into the kitchen.

“Sleep well?” Nick smiled at me over what looked to be pretty simple spaghetti.

The smell made my stomach growl, a reminder of the fact that I hadn't eaten since the afternoon before.

“Mmn,” I shrugged, leaning down to smell the meat frying. “Looks good.”

“Spaghetti is good comfort food,” he said, nodding.

“How is lunchish dinnerish coming along?” Jesi asked as she came through, pinning her hair up with a pencil and stopping to kiss both our cheeks.

“Linner,” Nick corrected.

Jesi rolled her eyes, turning to me slightly. “We used to make up words when we were kids. The thing is, though, I stopped using them once I got to middle school. Nicky here, he still uses all of them.”

“Hey, if you say them the right way, people figure you know what you're talking about and they don't ask any questions. It makes me laugh.”

“You make me laugh,” I said.

He turned and flipped me off, smirking.

Turns out that Nick is an incredible cook. I mean, I like spaghetti. It's good most of the time. But this spaghetti was magical.

And, come to think of it, so were his eyes. He kept looking at me all through linner.

We sat on the floor to eat and talked about books and when Nick was graduating and what I was writing about. Toward the end, the conversation made a quick swerve toward Fenton.

I'd been saying how he was driving me insane and I couldn't get any writing done as long as he kept being so stupid that I had to worry about him constantly.

“Is he doing any better?” Jesi asked me, once my spiel ran out.

“Not really. He's begging money off his parents and I'm sure they'll give it to him just so he goes away. They always do.”

“They always do?” Jesi raised her eyebrows. “What about the bus fare you funded--”

“Have I told you yet today about how you give out way too much useless, irrelevant information?” I asked her, sticking out my tongue.

She stuck her tongue out at me and then grinned.

Nick looked between both of us with a smirk. “Sounds like what he needs is a kick in the butt,” he nodded, decisively. “Not to be spoiled rotten.”

“He is spoiled rotten,” I said.

“And you're both angels,” Jesi grinned between us.


Sam was at the apartment when we swung by for my clothes. It was a disaster, as usual, and Nick noticed. But I blew it off, figuring he'd never have to come back or put up with it again anyway.

“Where've you been?” Sam asked me as I walked past him to mine and Fenno's bedroom.

“I don't know. Around. Haven't seen you in a while either.” I dug through the closet, Nick behind me, picking things up as I threw them and folding them neatly over the foot of my bed.

“I was in Connecticut with Nora. I thought I told you? Yeah, I took her up there to propose and everything and then, like... she totally flipped out when she found out I was arrested three months ago for all.. like, selling drugs and stuff. And she dumped me. She won't even pick up her phone or anything.” He leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms over his chest.

I threw a shirt at Nick for him to hold, and caught his eyes widening. Not with fear or anything approaching it, but more just surprise. Like maybe he'd judged me differently than I was. Like maybe he didn't expect me to be living in this super shitty apartment with this ex-drug dealer and Fenno, who had been officially termed a “spoiled brat” not an hour earlier.

“You'd only been with her, what? A month? You were already going to propose?” I cocked an eyebrow at Sam and continued to dig in the closet for shoes and jeans.

“Man, she was It though! She was so awesome. I don't think I'll ever fall in love again after this.”

“Yeah,” I said, throwing pants at Nick and grabbing some leather shoes. “You probably won't. Tell Fenno I have my phone on if he calls you.”

And I brushed past Sam, Nick still behind me.

“Hey! Aren't you gonna stay any longer? Who's this guy anyway?” Never one inclined toward manners, Sam pointed at Nick, who smiled and freed a hand to shake. Sam just looked at the hand like he had no idea what it was out for and knowing him, he probably didn’t.

“No,” I said shortly. “And this is Nick. Jesi's brother. Later.”

I stalked out the door so quickly that I lost Nick along the way and had to pause in the elevator, my hand against the door, waiting.

“What was that all about?” He asked when he appeared a few seconds later. “Is that your room mate?”

“That's the one I try to avoid,” I said, nodding, pushing the buttons for the ground floor.

“You were both so... polite to each other.”

“You know how roommates are,” I sighed.

“Makes me wonder why he'd want to live with you.”

“Why he'd want to live with me?! He's the drug dealer!”

“And that doesn't ever work to your advantage?” Nick smiled at me. A very irresistible smile.

I stepped out of the elevator ahead of him, to avoid having to make any eye contact, and to hide the flush rising to my cheeks. “So?” I said, a little petulantly.

“Just don't try passing yourself off as some clean cut little Christian missionary kid, huh?” Nick said. He handed me my clothes and opened the car. “'Cause I'm not buying it. Not for a second.”

“Are you a Christian?” I asked, suddenly. Both trying to change the subject, and genuinely wondering. He'd said the “Christian” word with a twinge of scorn that had me curious. “Did you and Jes grow up that way?”

“We did grow up that way, yeah. But our parents are a little more... should I say... orthodox? than Jes or I could ever hope to be. I'm...” he paused for thought before continuing. “I'm a... Christian in the loosest sense of the modern word. Christ just had a lot to say that I agree with is all. So... whatever that means.” He shrugged and we pulled away from the curb.

“Hmm,” I said.

My phone rang and I didn't even wait to check who it was, just lifted it to my ear and said, “Fenno?”

“Are you all right?” the quiet voice on the other end asked, softly. “I was so worried, Dover...”

“Why?” I asked. “About what?”

“I called this morning and you practically hung up on me. It wasn’t even nice, Dover.”

Damnit. I‘d totally forgotten he‘d called. “Did I make you cry?” I asked gently.

He giggled a little at that and I heard him sniffle. He cries at the drop of a hat, that one. “No,” he lied. “I was just worried. I called Jesi. She said she'd take care of you.”

“She did. I miss you. What's up? Are you coming home tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I'll be home tomorrow around three or four.” He sounded sad. He sounded scared. He sounded... numb?

“What happened, Fenno?” I asked, my eyebrows furrowing.

Nick glanced over from the steering wheel to look at me, also seemingly concerned.

“Nothing.” I heard a forced smile. “Nothing, baby. Really.”


I sighed, deciding I'd just wait until he got home to talk it out of him. Poor little thing. His parents had probably laid into him again. “All right, kiddo,” I said. “Well, I love you, okay? Be safe coming home. How are your parents?”

“Um.. shitty, I guess. As usual. I'll be safe. And, Dover?” his voice cracked.

“Fenno...” I said, gently. “Fenno, honey, what's the matter?”

“Nothing. Really, nothing. It's just my parents, you know. I just wanted to call and say I love you, too. And, um.. I'll see you. When I get home. Okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, good. I’ll see you soon, Fen.”

He clicked off first and I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath before closing my phone.

“What was that about?” Nick asked.

“He sounded upset about something,” I shrugged. “But he wasn't talking. S'got me all worried again.” I shook my head as if he were more trouble than he was worth. Which he wasn't, of course. But I think Nick knew that.

“He was probably just in a place where he couldn't talk,” Nick said. “I'm sure he'll be okay. And you'll see him tomorrow? You'll have lots of time to talk then.” Nick seemed sure. He seemed convinced enough for me, too.

I nodded.

“Jesi says no alcohol for you tonight, huh?” he smiled at me.

“I don't know. She told me to bring a bottle of something vicious, but...”

“You probably had enough viciousness last night to last you for a few weeks. I don’t think she expects any bottles from you now. Anyhow, this party sounds horrible. I say we ditch it.”

I looked over at him to see if he was serious.

He grinned, definitely looking it.

“Jesi'll murder us.” I laughed, looking out the window.

“What? Me? The care taking older brother? She can’t do anything to me, I saved her from too many bullies in grade school.”

“Aww. Don't tell me, she was the sweet little chubby one in glasses who was always annoyingly right about everything?”

Nick threw his head back and laughed at that. “Yeah, it's near impossible defending someone who's constantly their own worst enemy.”

I smirked, nodding. “Yeah.” I could relate more than I wanted to.


“Do you dye your hair?” Nick asked me as I took the gel he offered.

“This? Not so much. Sometimes I highlight.”

“This shade of brown comes naturally?”

“Oh, don't flatter me,” I chuckled. “It makes you sound all silly and smitten.”

He grinned and shrugged. Like maybe he didn't care. Like maybe he was doing it on purpose.

“One hour,” he said. “I think that's all I can stand.”

“But then what will we do? It'll be 10:00. What happens at 10:00? Nothing good really starts until at least midnight. Not on a Saturday night.”

“Who knows? But we’ll have the city of Manhattan to ourselves on a Saturday night, Dover! How can you even question whether or not we'll be able to entertain ourselves? It's boring people that can't entertain themselves. And you would have to be incredibly, ridiculously boring not to be able to entertain yourself in Manhattan. Boring people just can't take New York. There's too much to do. It's too hard to be boring here.”
I eyed him up and down and gave him a look that said something along the lines of, “I didn't ask for a recitation of The United States Constitution.”

He grinned at me unapologetically and took his gel back to fix his own hair.


Couples are dull if you're not a couple. At least, in groups they are. Jesi and Theo were about as exciting as it got and all they did was drink too much and say sarcastic things to each other.

Granted, they could have taken their act to, I don't know... maybe somewhere like Branson, Missouri. But everyone knows that Branson is only for the remaining family members of Lawrence Welk, ancient country western singers, and all of the old people who used to like both of the above. I told them so and they laughed. I kept a straight face and drank my coke in silence until they stopped.

More interesting, however, is that no matter where Nick was, he didn't stop looking at me. He looked at me over the top of his wine glass. He looked at me at intervals while he was having some lively conversation with Peter and Brien. He looked at me the whole time during Jesi and Giovanni's argument about theology and when Julia and Fiona brought out their knitting and everyone else was complaining that they might as well just leave if they weren't going to participate in conversation, Nick was still looking at me.

Of course, I knew this because, well, I was looking back. It would’ve been pretty hard not to. His eyes just pulled me in with this expression of sheer interest. Like maybe he was trying to figure me out. Like maybe he seriously thought that eventually, if he looked hard enough, he'd be able to.


About ten thirty, we’d both had enough. It’s not that I don’t love the crowd Jes had invited, they’re my friends too, it’s just that in big coupled off groups like that, everything is geared toward a couple-ish crowd and… Nick and I were bored senseless.

Nick stood up and shoved his hands decisively into his pockets, strolling toward his jacket. “Jesi?”

Jesi stopped laughing at Oliver’s imitation of the photographer he’d worked with all week and turned, eyebrows raised.

“Dover and I are going to go have sex in the back room of a sleazy club now,” he said. He shrugged into his jacket casually, as though announcing something like that to a room full of people were the most natural thing in the world.

“Umm… you boys have fun,” Jesi said.

Everyone else just looked at us. From Nick to me and back, wondering if I was going to stand up and follow him, or…

“It was nice.” I stood up and went for my jacket as well. “Thanks, Jes.”

They all watched us in a sort of stunned silence as Nick held the door for me and we waved, smiling.
Outside the building, he started to laugh and then I started to laugh and when we finally caught our breath, I looked up at him, both of us panting and smirking. He was handsome. He was very, very handsome.

“Where to?” he asked as we started walking further uptown.

“Unless you’re looking for rich, fat old men and their houseboys, I’d suggest we head this way,” I spun on my heel.

“Lead the way.”


Over coffee, we discussed home. We talked about our parents and about Jesi. I tried to stay off the topic of Fenton, but Nick brought him up and I couldn't help it. I told him how we'd met at a club and tried to do the dating thing, but I just couldn't hold him down. And then – God KNOWS why – I launched into how I felt about him and how angry it made me that he didn't realize it, and that he didn't seem to care how much it scared me when he put his life in jeopardy.

“He doesn't know how you feel,” Nick said, simply. “He just doesn't know.”

“Of course he knows!”

“Have you told him?”

“Well, no...”

“Then, assume he doesn't know. He's not a mind reader, you know.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, thanks for notifying me. Really useful piece of information there.” I glared at my feet and nursed my coffee in annoyed silence for a few minutes.

We were at the apartment, on the living room floor, backs against the wall, his arm around me.

Breathing deeply and feeling a shiver go up my spine from the hurried intake of caffeine, I leaned against him and he squeezed my shoulder.

“How do you feel?” I asked him, as quietly as I could.

“About what?”

I rolled my eyes. “Take a wild guess.”

He smiled and smacked my arm gently. “Lose the grouchiness, huh?”

“Try not being so ridiculously condescending next time then.”

“Hey, I wasn't going for condescending. It just doesn't seem healthy for you to pine away after this kid who's obviously not interested and even if he were, how are you going to tie him down?”

“He needs me!” I protested. “Even if he doesn't know it...”

“I don't doubt that,” Nick went on, treading this ground very carefully. “But he may never realize how much he needs you. And if he doesn't, what does that mean for you? Life long loneliness? Besides that, is it more healthy to be a relationship you need to be in? Or one you want to be in?”

“What are you getting at?” I asked irritably. I was tired and he was bugging me.

He squeezed my shoulders and kissed my cheek. “How I feel about you.”

I was still leaned against him, but ONLY because it felt good. At that point, I was pretty annoyed.

“Well...?” I demanded.

“Well, right now, I'm edging toward feeling that you're being pretty irritable,” he commented, his voice calm and maybe a little amused.

“And I'm beginning to think I hate your guts.” I pulled away from him and stood up, stomping to the kitchen.

“Come back in here, Dover,” he called, sounding completely unaffected by my tantrum.

“Why? All you're going to do is lecture me.”

He came through the kitchen door and put his cup on top of a massive pile of plates next to the sink. “How often do you get away with pitching fits like this?” he asked.

“I'm not pitching a fit! I'm keeping you--”

“What?” he cut me off. “Out? Away? At a comfortable distance?” He took the coffee cup out of my hand and pulled me into his chest to hug me. “Is that really what you want? For me to stay far enough away that you’ll be comfortable?” He paused. “And alone?”

I swallowed hard and shut my eyes. “I don't know what I want,” I said petulantly.

“I think we could still stand to lose the tone,” Nick reminded me.

“I'm going to go to bed.” I stood up and made move to stalk to my bedroom and let him figure himself out, but he grabbed me.

“Stop,” he said, firmly.

“Stop what?! Stop being confused?! Stop being utterly incapable of making any of my own decisions without ruining everything?! Stop--”

In one smooth motion, he jerked me forward, putting a hand at my neck and the small of my back and kissed me. Hard.

After that, it was hopeless. Emotions soaring, caffeine in full swing. We barely made it to the bedroom.


I'd had a lot of casual sex up until that point. Fenton and I would even fuck each other if we were horny enough and it had been long enough since we'd had anything good and proper.

Nick told me he'd done it. Had casual, meaningless sex. Maybe twice, he said. But I looked him up and down and, frankly, started to laugh. He was definitely saying that for my benefit.

Right before we did it – The Big It – I considered whether or not this was like cheating on Fenton. But really, it was too late by then. The door was shut and our shirts were off and well, Fenno was out of town.
Besides, we had no claims on each other, Fenno and I. Nothing even remotely resembling claims.

Nick slept that night in my bed, me in Fenno's usual place against the wall and Nick in mine. It felt good to be the one being held for once. To feel enveloped in someone else's strength. I'm not sure I realized before then how difficult it was to always be the strong one, to always be around to pick up the pieces and hold them together.

“What does this mean?” I asked before we drifted off. “What are we now?”

Nick chuffed a laugh in my ear and squeezed me tightly. “Something,” he said. “We'll figure out what in the morning.”

“What if I die in my sleep?” I nudged back against his thighs and worked my way as deeply as I could into his arms.

“Lie still,” he said. He seemed like the sort who expected to be listened to.

I did, but I persisted in questioning. “What if I die in my sleep?”

“Then I'll plan your funeral. Anyway, at that point it won't have mattered what we were. You'll be dead. What would you like to be buried in?”

I laughed then, sleepily, and let myself drift off, trusting his hold on me.


My cell phone rang somewhere around nine AM and Nick nudged at me, mumbling to go and answer it so it would shut up. I told him to shut up and plastered myself against his bare chest, both of us immediately falling back asleep.

It rang again around ten and then eleven and finally, at eleven thirty Nick got up to answer it despite my sleepy protests that he stay in bed and keep me warm.

I admired his ass while he bent to pick the phone up off the floor and came back to bed.

“Hello?” he yawned.

I cuddled up to his side as soon as he got back underneath the covers, knowing I'd have to take the phone from him in a second.

But he didn't hand me the phone, he just listened and his body went rigid under mine as he tightened his grip around my shoulders.

“Hold on, hold on,” he said, soothingly. “Slow down, Jes. Yes, this is Nicky. Kiddo, slow down, you're not making any sense.”

I sat up immediately and grabbed at the phone against his ear, to which he simply jerked his head away, putting a hand to my chest and giving me a look that told me this was serious and he was dealing with it, thank you. I stopped and watched for a while longer until the creases in his forehead deepened even further.

“What's the matter?” I demanded. All he was doing was listening and with no one-sided conversation where was I supposed to get clues as to what the fuck was going on? “What happened?” I asked.

“All right, Jesi. All right,” he said. He put a finger to my lips and glared at me, meaningfully. “We'll be in there two seconds. No, don't you go anywhere... No, I said.” A pause. “I'll skin you alive if I get there and find you gone, do you hear me? You'll wish you'd never seen me this weekend. Yes, I know, darlin'. All right, promise me you'll be there when we get there. Promise me. Yes, I know. Give us fifteen minutes. I love you, Jesi. Yes. Stay where you are and I'll see you in a minute.” He had his eyes closed and was holding the bridge of his nose like this was more than just some typical, drunken call of distress. Like this was something big. Something huge. Something... He flipped the phone shut and looked down at me.

“Where are we going?” I asked. “What's going on?”

“Up,” he said, simply. “Put some clothes on, Dov. Don't ask questions right now, I'll tell you on the way.”

“Tell me now! I'm not just going to traipse off with you to who knows where at the drop of a hat. I need some information.”

“I'll transfer some information to you via physical pain if you don't get out of that bed and put clothes on. And that's not a threat either, Dover. I'm saying that this is important and I need you to come with me. Do you hear that?” He was already up and in jeans, lacing his shoes on his feet without socks. He looked up and made eye contact with me.

“You'll beat me up if I don't go?” I gasped. I mean, I'd known the guy, what? A day and a half? Well, technically longer, I guess. But only technically. “Yeah, that really makes me want to follow you around the world and back. Thanks. I think I'll stay in bed.”

He stood up and threw his shirt over his head. “What I am saying is that you'll be sorry if you don't listen to me. Now, get. Up.” He threw my jeans at me and then a T-shirt and flip flops. “I'm going to go get a taxi. You have about thirty seconds to get dressed and get downstairs.”

I opened my mouth to protest and he literally dragged me from the bed and smacked my bare bottom several times.

I looked at him in horror, shocked that he would ever, ever do such a thing. THINK such a thing.

“How DARE you--” I gasped.

“I'll dare to do you a lot worse if you don't get your act together. I wouldn't be flipping out myself if it weren't important. Now, stop the fucking around and get. Fucking. Dressed.” He landed one more swat, gave me a Look, and walked quickly out the door and downstairs.

“What the fuck is the matter with you?” I demanded, angrily as soon as we were in the taxi.

“I should ask the same thing of you,” he said, solemnly. “Don't pull anything like that again, do you hear me?”

“TELL me what is going on!” I nearly shouted.

“Lower your voice, Dover.” His was soft and very stern.

I really couldn't much help but obey it.

“Tell mee..” I whined quietly, edging toward his side of the back seat. I was mad at him, but I didn't want him mad at me. Well, I sort of did. But only sort of.

“Look at me.” He lifted my chin with his index finger and searched my eyes for a few seconds before moving forward. “This is going to be hard, Dover.” Hard? How hard? All my attentions focused on him. Everything was just moving so fast. “Are you listening to me?”

I nodded.

“Fenton ODed last night and he's at Johns Hopkins.”

My heart seized up, I couldn't breathe or move or think. Everything he said after that was a fuzzy blur of words completely incoherent to me. Something about picking Jesi up at home and going to the hospital and..

“They don't think he'll make it any further than tonight.”

I gave up the strong bit and collapsed on top of him, in tears.


Fenno never made it to intensive care. He died in the ER, alone. They pulled back the sheet to let us see him once they'd called his parents.

Nick didn’t want either Jesi or I to see him dead, but they needed someone to identify the body and Nick had never met him.

He was badly beaten, almost unrecognizable. His eyes were black, his shirtless chest covered in lacerations and bruises. Ribs broken, they thought. One lung puncture definitely contributed to his death, they said, but ultimately, it was the drugs that did it.

I looked at him for all of about five seconds (it felt like an eternity and I still can’t get the image of his face out of my head) before I stumbled out of the room and threw up in the hallway.

After that, I was a disaster. Completely and utterly fucked up. Fenton was my family. I mean, I had family. In Utah. But if you know anything about the Salt Lake area, you’ve heard the word “Mormon” and if you know anything about the Mormon church, you’d have a general idea of what I’m up against. First of all, as a homosexual. Secondly, as an artist who left the church in favor of New York and “The World”.

I tried to lean on Jesi, but of course she wasn't doing very well either. And I know I pushed her away, but they hadn't been as close. They hadn't shared the same bed for the past three years. They hadn't fucked and held and kissed each other.

Three days later, in a haze of emotion, I slashed my wrists in the bathtub and woke up a week after that in the hospital.

Jesi didn't come to see me much, but I know that Fenno's death was still weighing heavily on her mind. I think she was more angry with me than anything. That I would add to the trauma. That I would be so selfish. But, I guess, you come to a point where you just don't see those things anymore. Where the only way to go is out. Permanently.

The autopsy showed that Fen had been raped – most probably after he'd been drugged – then beaten. He was found a block away from Tem's apartment in Queens, bleeding to death on the sidewalk. Coincidence? I think not.

Nick stayed by my bed all day, every day, until they released me. By then, summer break had started and he kicked Sam out of the apartment, had the whole place cleaned spotless, and moved us in there. Jesi came too, but she was sad. And perfectly quiet when I was around.

Nobody really knew what to say to me. Even my own family barely called anymore.

Nick held me at night while I cried. He kept Jesi and I from each others' throats, made sure I ate on a painfully regular basis and forced my pills into me when I refused them. He had to grow up fast for me. And he did it well, without too many extra grey hairs or wrinkles. Just a major power trip and a fairly serious control complex.

In short, our relationship, incredibly new as it was, had taken a very sharp turn toward “unconventional”. And, quite frankly, that was the only reason that I survived those first two or three months. 1

Part 1 - "Who I let fuck me is my own prerogative."

I leaned against the bar anxiously. He was supposed to meet me at eleven and it was already eleven fifteen. Nowhere to be seen and so like him to stand me up. Damnit, too, because he had the E and I needed it more than anything after the day I'd had. The Sam Adams wasn't really cutting it anymore.

The dance floor was fairly empty for one o’clock on a Tuesday. Twinks For Free Night usually meant the floor was crawling with bleached blonde brats ripping off their clothes at the slightest provocation.

Needless to say, I tended to avoid Tuesday nights with a vengeance.

But he'd said he would meet me here. And I'm a man of my word even if he isn‘t.

“Dooverr.” Cool arms slid around my chest from behind and that soft purr right against my ear gave me goose bumps. I turned around to glare at him.

“Where the fuck've you been?” I asked, sulkily.

“Well, I'm sorry, your majesty. I'm a busy man,” he grinned. He plopped down next to me and took the bottle from my hand, completely invading my personal space and downing my beer.

“Something to ease the horror of having to breathe,” I said as I held out my hand in expectance.

“So demanding,” he sighed, then shook his head thoughtfully before grinning again. “I like that in a man.”

He laughed as he dug around in the pockets of his incredibly-too-tight jeans. “Even if you do only want me for one thing.”

I rolled my eyes, pulled my wallet out and watched anxiously, waiting to have my sorrows drowned, my senses heightened, some peace restored.

He smacked one pill onto the bar in front of me and shrugged. “That's it.”

I looked at him like he was joking -- a very sick joke to play on a desperate man -- but he just shrugged again.

“That's all you've got?” I asked.

“Twenty-five, please,” he held out his hand.

“Come on, Fenton, you have got to have more in your possession for your favorite gay man on the verge of crisis. This is important!”

“I have more in my possession for the rest of the gay city, greedy boy. But this is your ration.” He paused and gave me a very pointed look, before adding, “I will not contribute any more to your delinquency than absolutely necessary, Dover Allen.” Then he stood, planted a firm kiss on my cheek and handed me back my empty bottle. “You know where I'll be if you need me.”

“No, I don’t,” I glared at him. When your best friend is a part time dealer, you‘re supposed to get great rates and lots of good shit. Not have things doled out to you in rations, carefully moderated and controlled. “You always mysteriously disappear,” I said, sulkily.

“Well, it sounded good anyway, didn’t it?” He grinned. I thought about smacking it off his face, but that could only get uglier and could really hamper the drug flow for quite a while. I didn’t feel like risking it.
“Your twenty,” I called after him as he trotted off toward the back of the club.

“Twenty-five!” he called back. “And I'll get it from you at home. Business awaits.” He laughed that sweet, innocent laugh of his as he took off into the masses of bobbing blonde heads and I saw him make a sharp turn left just before the entrance to the back room.

“Fenton Avery!” I yelled as he headed for the back staircase. For fuck’s sake, we'd talked about this...
He turned again, grinned and waved, but damn him because he kept walking.

I popped the pill and swallowed it dry, abandoning my empty beer bottle for the cat walk above the floor. There, looking down on sweating, pumping skin and muscle, I scanned the back walls and corners for Fenton and his scary sugar daddy wannabe, Tem.

Now, here’s the story on Tem. Or should I say -- as Fen and I both had just found out the week before --- Templeton. And oh, yes, you would be right in immediately thinking of that slimy shyster rat from Charlotte’s Web, because that’s exactly what he was. Especially now, but even before.. my belief has been that anyone with the name Templeton who also wears sparkling pants and midriff shirts... at thirty NINE, is not someone I want MY Fenton hanging around with. But I'd have to ream Fenton for it later because this time he was no where to be found.

I leaned back over the railing, surveying the sweat-dripping dance floor. It took a few minutes, but eventually I caught the eye of a half naked twinkie toddler. He winked at me a couple of times before dropping the guy he was with and coming up to drag me back down to the floor with him.

I'd seen him before, though he was usually in the shadow of a rather prestigious looking guy about twice his age. The guy somehow managed to seem both constantly bored and ridiculously possessive all the time. Also, and most notable, the guy looked capable of easily benching at least 600 pounds. Really, because of that alone, I'd never considered the kid an option. In general, I liked to leave Club 11 with as many limbs still intact as possible.

Though, I thought, if I did have to have a toddler so uniformly devoid of color, this one would be pretty near the top of the list.

As he gyrated against me, his pale, hairless body pressing close to mine, I began to glimpse the reason behind the old man's possessive glaring. If he were mine, I could see myself acting pretty similarly. Minus the perpetual air of boredom. Many things this kid was – like not a day over 19, if even that – but tedious, dull and monotonous didn't seem to be any of them. How anyone could even manage a few stray vibes of boredom with this kid all over them was beyond me.

And maybe that's the E talking, but I've taken a shitload of E over my lifetime and I like to think, that for the most part, I've gained the ability to tell the difference between drug induced stupor and sexually charged reality.

I like to think so. For the most part.

I spent about forty five minutes dancing with him, making out and generally, imitating all the guys I'd ever seen with twinks and whole-heartedly despised.

But I was suddenly beginning to understand. Like all I'd needed was this one hit of ecstasy, this one dance. I'm not sure what brings it out, whether it's the overall paleness, the small frame... those charming, sweet features... but something in the makeup of a natural born twinkie boy just stirs the gut of what seems to be almost every gay man in America.

Our lips were a bit locked when I opened my eyes and saw Fenton coming toward us. I thought about pulling away to tell Fen to fuck off. Um, fuck off....... please, that is. But right at that moment, Twinkie unzipped my jeans and plunged his hand in, my gasp getting caught between our mouths. Which was, needless to say, a bit of a distraction.

“Dover!” Fenton shouted over the music. And when I didn't respond, “DOVER!” He pulled Twinkie off me without any thought and shoved him aside.

I swear, sometimes I could just smack him.

“Fenton!” I shouted back. “What the fuck do you think you're doing?!” I pulled Twinkie back to me and damnitall if I didn't throw an unmistakably possessive arm over his chest. “I'll give you your fucking twenty later. Go find your own fuck. It's not like boys are in short supply around here.”

“If they’re not in short supply, why are you so stingy with yours? And it’s twenty-five!” he yelled, angrily at me. Then he grabbed my arm in spite of my protests and jerked me from the kid, pulling me all the way outside the club doors without even allowing me to get my hand stamped. Fuck him for it, too.

“Tem just dumped me!” he wailed once we'd reached fresh air. He burst into tears right there in front of the club.

I HATE it when he does that. It is the absolute WORST. He flips out, pisses me off royally, and then turns into a little kid, all needy and pathetic, usually completely dissolving into tears. He knew by then though that I only really fell for it in private.

For right then, I sighed and rolled my eyes. “You piss me off,” I said, quietly, gathering him into my chest where he started to sob in earnest. “Calm down until we get home, would you? You're causing a scene.”

“Like you NEVER cause a scene,” he spat at me and I held him still, keeping him from snapping up all angrily and shouting at me again. I shouldn’t have worried so much. It was a gay club after all, entitling it’s members to stray queen-outs every once in a while. The problem was that Fenton had reached his quota somewhere mid-last year. His struggling subsided after a few moments and he heaved a sigh. “So, it's okay for you to fuck men in public but it’s not okay for me to cry in front of a rancid gay club.” He sulked, standing up straighter and wiping at his face. “If you really feel that way, why don't you just go back inside? Your majesty,” he added angrily.

“First of all, do not call me that. And second, we'd have to pay again to get back in,” I pointed out, irritably. “Because someone neglected to stop long enough to think about getting our hands stamped. Third, would you quit being a drama queen and come on?” I pulled him back to me and hugged him, briefly.

“You are the meanest man I know,” he gulped and continued rubbing at his wet face, sullenly. “You hate me.”

I pulled his face toward mine and grinned at him, shaking my head. “Yeah. You're right. I do. Now come on.”

We walked slowly across town, toward the subway.

“Are we going home?” Fen asked after a couple of blocks. I swear he asks stupid questions sometimes just to get me to talk to him.

“Anywhere else you had in mind at two thirty AM on a Wednesday morning?” I took his hand and pulled him away from the curb. “Quit walking on the edge like that. You know you only do it to piss me off.”

“I like to balance. It feels... good.”

“You're drunk off your ass. You have enough feel-good in you to last without having to endanger your life any more. I don't care how much you want to.”

He shook my hands off and glared. “I don't care about you.”

“Don't make me fight with you out here in the middle of the street, Fenno.” I said, mildly. “It won't be pretty.” He knew they were all empty threats.

“You hate me.”

“We already established that.”

“You wish I was dead.”

“Which is why I want you away from the curb where you could be hit by oncoming traffic. Exactly. That's because I want to see you shot in a downtown Manhattan drive-by instead. Which is so likely. You're very perceptive tonight, Fenno.”

“Well,” he sniffled again and took the hand I held out to him, leaning into my side as we walked. “I hate you then.”

“And you wish I was dead?” I smirked, wrapping my arm back around him.

“Probably,” he yawned.

“Well, let's wait to wish me all the way dead until you're home safe, in bed, huh?”


He started to cry again almost as soon as we got inside the door of our apartment building. It had been in the works since we were six subway stops from home and he'd started retelling the story of Templeton’s “dumping” him.

I unlocked our door and led him in ahead of me by the wrist, closing and re-locking it behind us. At that point, he was sobbing again – mostly from all the cheap booze and X he'd no doubt taken – and I started to undress him while tugging him along to our bedroom.

We shared the apartment with Sam (Sam, Sam the theater man) because it was ridiculous to even consider paying village rent alone, or even doubled up. The problem was with the fact that it was only a two bedroom apartment. So, Fenton and I also shared a room.

Sam, to my relief, wasn't home. He was one in a string of psychotic roommates we'd had over the past six months and didn't seem to be turning out much better than the rest. Every night, he came home – clarification: when he came home -- it was with a different man. And never were they out of theatre costume.

I sat Fenton down on the edge of my bed and told him to lift his arms, which he did.

“I just don't understaaand, Doveerr,” he was sobbing as I pulled his shirt over his head. “Whyy would he dooo this to meee?” He broke off into coughing and I had to shake my head at him. Poor thing works himself into fits.

“Why do you do this to yourself, Fenno?” I asked, softly. “You do it all the time, you silly little monkey.” I unbuttoned his jeans and had him lay down so I could shimmy them off him, a difficult task as their tightness tends to make them suction to his thighs.

“I didn't do anything! He dumped me, Dov!” he whined through his tears.

I sighed and looked at him, lying there on his back, crying. Drunk and high. Ridiculously emotional. I tossed his pants to the chair in the corner and pulled back the covers on my bed. “Get in.”

“Do you think he'll want me back tomorrow?” Fenton sniffled as he crawled across and slid underneath the blankets.

“Judging from his record, I'd say no later than 10:00am,” I leaned over and kissed his forehead while I unbuttoned my shirt.

Fenton yawned widely. He looks small and helpless when he yawns like that. Especially buried in a bed full of blankets wearing only underwear. It made me feel all fiercely over-protective of him.

“He does this to you almost monthly now, Fenno,” I said as I turned off the light. “It actually seems to be in direct relation to your cash flow.”

“You just hate him 'cause you hate everybody I date,” he yawned. He cuddled up to me as soon as I got into bed and plastered himself tightly on top of my body.

“Yeah, I try my best to make your life as miserable as possible,” I smiled. His weight on top of my chest made it a little difficult to breathe, but it was nice to have skin to touch sometimes. And when it's Fenno, I don't always care that much about not being able to breathe. I stroked his back with my fingers and kissed his hair again.

“I know you hate me,” he whispered.

“Go to sleep, you little sea urchin.”

“If I'm a sea urchin then you're a.. you're..” Another yawn overtook him and he paused to give into it. “You're a mean man.”

I chuckled beneath him and covered his mouth when he tried to speak again. He's a pest, that one.


“Tem called.”

I jumped, covering my heart with my hand and taking a sharp breath. “You scared the fucking daylights out of me, Fenton. Would you knock or wear shoes or something?”

“It's 5:00am,” he grinned, sleepily. “Nobody does either of those things at such ungodly hours. You just need to get with it and buy me that cow bell you keep talking about, your majesty.”

“Probably,” I said, turning back to my work. “And if you call me that again...”

“You'll what?”  He grinned and came in, setting his coffee cup directly on top of a stack of papers I needed. Preferably without coffee rings. He leaned against my desk and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I'll throw you out onto the street,” I said. “That's what.”

“Really?” He stopped for a second to think, before saying, “Well, then how much money would you give me so I could eat?”

“None, Fenton! That's the point. Dear fuck, you're annoying this morning. Don't you have anything better to do?” I tried to keep from laughing. Somehow, in spite of being The Absolute MOST Annoying Person I Know, he was also my absolute favorite.

“You say that every morning. Drink that,” He nodded at the coffee on my stack of papers.

“I gave up caffeine yesterday,” I said, blithely. It wasn't too much of a lie. His coffee is always shit.

“You say that every morning, too. Drink it. Last night, you were all begging me for anything I had and now you refuse a very viable narcotics replacement in favor of work?”

“Yes.” I couldn't keep the exasperated laughter from my voice. “Now, go away, would you?”

He stood, watching me silently for a few moments before twirling my chair around to face him, interrupting a sentence I was typing. “What's bugging you so much?”

“God, Fenton. Nothing's bugging me. I'm working. I do this a lot, you know? Work. It provides income. Income keeps this apartment around for us to sleep and eat in occasionally. It's a pretty nice exchange if you ask me--”

“Last night you said you were a gay man in crisis. And I was a bit preoccupied. Which, by the way, I am sorry for. It was a bad time to get fucked up--”

“Is there ever a good time?”

“I don't know. You're the one who was begging me for more than just that one pill. I'd say you know quite a bit about good times to get fucked up.”

“Go. Away, Fenton. I'm working.” I turned back to my laptop and flashed him a glare.

“Tell me what's wrong and I will. I'll go off myself on the roof. You'll never have to deal with me again. As long as I know what's bothering you.”

“You're bothering me. Go do something constructive. Wash the dishes.”

“It's Sam's turn. And anyhow do you know what time it is?”

“Do you know time it is?” I interrupted. “What are you even doing out of bed? And Sam never washes the dishes. On his turn or otherwise. Anyway, I don't care what you do, just go away. I have a deadline right now and you're fucking it all up. If I lose my train of thought—”

“Oh. My. God. It's September again, isn't it?! Oh, Dover...”

I sighed, heavily and quit staring at the computer screen to lean back in my chair and cover my eyes.

“Baby, are you okay?” He asked, worriedly. He pushed my chair away from the desk and straddled my lap. “I'm so sorry, I should've known. I totally forgot.” He was looking into my face, trying to appraise my tired appearance. I'd been up since 3:00am.

“It's fine, Fenno,” I said, wearily. “I'm fine. Your E last night was, ah.. helpful.”

“It was good stuff. Are you sure you're okay?” He took my face in both his hands and stroked my cheeks with his thumbs like he expected me to dissolve into tears at any moment.

“I'm really fine, Fen,” I repeated and kissed him firmly, making a face at the fuzzy film on his teeth. “I swear. It was three years ago. Three years is a long time, you know? 36 months, approximately 144 weeks, 1,095 days, um.. a lot of hours and minutes.”

“Anyone who comes up with all those statistics and then memorizes them, is so not okay, Dover, and you know it. Three years is not that long. In the grand scheme of things, it's like what? Three percent of your whole life? Three percent. That's it.”

“Three percent is a lot.”

“Not when it comes to lives.”

“Especially when it comes to lives.”

“Life is short!”

“Exactly. Now listen,” I spared him a half smile and took him by the arms. “I want you to go brush your teeth, they're furry. And put on some clothes. Try clean ones this morning, huh?”

He gave me one last appraising look and nodded. “Should I take a shower too, your majesty?”

I rolled my eyes and pushed him off my lap. “Yes. Go bathe in the river Jordan. Thus saith the Lord.”

He thought for a second. “I think the Hudson'll have to do. Will that work? Your Majesty?” He started for the door.

“Dip seven times.”

“Seven? It's cold outside this early, Dov, I don't know about tha—”

“Fenton Avery, if you do not GO put clean clothes on and brush your teeth, there will be hell to pay in about five seconds,” I said, only HALF joking.

He turned around, we looked at each other for a moment, and then he bent, quick as a flash, and twisted my bare nipple. Hard, too.

I hissed and reached for his hand to pull him toward me where I could exact some revenge, but he was gone within seconds and I heard laughter and water running down the hall.

“I hate you!” I called after him.

“I know! Your majesty.”

He came back in about ten minutes later in the jeans I'd taken off him the day before and one of my sweaters. It was noticeably too big.

“What did Pimply Templey have to say when he called?” I asked, continuing to type.

“Would you not call him that?“ he sighed. “I should never have told you his real name.“

I laughed. “Templeton is not a real name. It’s a rat name. And you tell me everything. Now tell me what he said.“

Fenton sighed, heavily. “Just how sorry he was, how he didn't mean it, how he was fucked up like I was and people say dumb things when they’re on crack so would I please, please, please have him back? The usual.”

“Crack?!” I blinked. “Uh, first of all, what the hell are you doing--“

“I don’t want to hear it, Dover,” he shook his head at me. “I just don’t want to hear it.“

I sighed. “Fine. What did you say then?” I held out a hand for him, which he took and came to sit on my lap.

“I told him, um...”

“That you hated his guts? You wish he was dead? And, in fact, that he could off himself on the roof so you'd never have to deal with him again?”

Fenton smirked. “No. I told him he should walk too closely to the curb all the way here.” Then he buried his face in my neck, to hide from my coming wrath, I assume.

“You did not tell him he could come here.”

“I kind of did...? But we're leaving as soon as he gets here. For breakfast.”

“At 5:30 in the morning?”

“Morning is usual breakfast time, isn’t it? He has to go to work.”

“Pimply Templey has a job?” I asked, incredulously.

“He doesn’t have pimples! And he has two jobs, actually. For your information.”

“Two jobs? Yet he still needs you for money? Doesn't that tell you something about him...?”

Fenton sat up, lips pursed, eyes narrowed. “Who I let fuck me is my prerogative. If you wish it were you doing the fucking, maybe you should do something about that. Otherwise, cope, Dover. Because regardless of what you think about Tem, I like him.”

“He's using you!” I deliberately ignored the comment made about me.

He glared at me for a moment longer before sighing and subsiding against my chest.

I went back to typing.

“I think I'll write a book and dedicate it to you,” he said a few minutes later, the playful smile returning.

“Entitled, 'Who I Fuck Is Up To Me'?” I chuckled.

“Mmm, I was thinking something more along the lines of, 'The Top Ten Ways to Keep From Becoming Too Deeply Involved In the Sex Lives of Even Your Favoritest Friends.”

“We've had the 'favoritest' discussion, Fenton,” I said, feigning seriousness. “Haven't we?”

He laughed and snuggled up closer to me. “I don't care if it's a word or not.”

“Well, that's a bit long for a book title anyway, don't you think?”

“Probably,” he shrugged.

He laid there against me, half falling asleep until the sound of the buzzer.

I nudged at him gently with my shoulder. “Your playboy is here.”

“Don't call 'im that...” he mumbled, sleepily and sat up to rub his eyes. “Hey, I need that twenty-five.”

“I thought it was twenty. When did you start raising the prices on your favorite friend?”

“Yesterday. When they started raising prices on me. I neeed it, Dover. Are you telling me that wasn't exceptionally good shit?”

I sighed and reached into my back pocket for my wallet. “You're such a beggar.”

The buzzer sounded again and he bolted up to answer it. I heard a quick exchange over the intercom system as I pulled out thirty and got up to give it to him quickly, before Templey got to the door.

“Thanks, Dover,” he grinned at me and stood on tiptoe to kiss my cheek. I kissed his forehead and shook my head at him.

I was hopeless. I'd do anything for that grin. Those eyes.

“Don't you take anything this early in the day,” I called to him over my shoulder on the way back to my computer. “No alcohol either. You've not even come down from last night.”

“Yeah, bye, Dover.” I heard a very distinct eye roll in that tone.

“Yeah, bye...” I mumbled as the door slammed shut. I looked back at the computer screen and tried to remember where I'd been. But my train of thought was completely gone. I couldn't even remember what point I'd been trying to make with the past 3,000 words.

'Damnit, Fenton,’ I thought, irritably. 'No wonder you can't hold a job. It's virtually impossible to get anything done with you around. You're an unholy distraction.'

Unable to regather my thoughts, I called Jesi, a friend of ours who works in the theatre district and lives with her filthy rich great aunt uptown. We met at a coffee shop somewhere in the east village and wandered to Washington Square to sit for a while.

Jesi is fun because she's nothing like you'd think she is. She has short cropped black hair and she always rolls the bottoms of her pant legs up just once. The most surprising bit about her though, is that she's a Christian. But, surprisingly enough (to me, at least) she’s not one of those crazy, “GOD HATES FAGS“ type people. She's just quirky and funny and ridiculously intelligent. In short, she's totally the anti-Christian Christian.
Besides Fenton, Jesi is my favorite person to just talk to. We can ramble together about anything from politics to religion, weather to our personal lives. It’s always comforting and nice to be with her. She makes me feel like a more exciting person just for knowing her.

So, that morning, before her early class and while I should have been finishing up a deadline, I started to tell her about Fenno and Tem. Partially so that I would feel like I wasn't alone worrying about him and partially in hopes that she would volunteer to talk some sense into him.

The problem, however, was that in the retelling, I found myself offering slightly off-topic details. Like how I hated it when Fen wasn't careful with himself, how worried I was about him being with such a shady character as Wimbledon, and how – it was really weird, but – I kept wanting him all to myself.

I regaled poor Jes for at least 45 minutes, barely allowing her a word in edgewise. Breathlessly, hoping against hope, that she would be able to offer some helpful insight.

“FIX IT,” I wanted to tell her.

But I didn't.

Instead, I toed my shoes off and tucked my feet underneath me on the bench, taking a deep breath and a long draw off my coffee.

She was silent for a moment, rolling her cup thoughtfully between her hands. When she began, it was slow and very careful.

“You know, Dover...” She liked to draw my name out. “Doverr,” kind of. “Umm... has it... ever occurred to you...” Her words were choppy and halting. I think she was trying to make sure she was giving me exactly the right ones.

“Has what ever occurred to me?” I asked.

“Has it... ever occurred to you...” she began again, slowly. “That maybe you and Fenton are, um... Maybe the two of you...”

“Say it!” I said, impatiently.

She took a deep breath and then spilled it quickly, “Maybe you're in love with him.” She paused, looking at me tentatively, trying to gauge my reaction. Then, maybe she was trying to soften it, she said, “Just a little?” Again, a pause. “Or.. well, probably a lot. Actually.”

It took me a moment to even gather breath enough to gasp. “N-no!” I stammered. “No! No, no, NO. Fenton and I have been room mates since time immemorial. We're friends! So I love him and sometimes we sleep in the same bed and we kiss each other's lips... that does not mean anything!”

“Did I say anything about the two of you sleeping together and kissing each other?” She sighed. “No, I did not. All that I'm saying is that I see some little... sparks flying around when you talk about him and the Tinsel Town guy together.” She put two fingers to my lips when I tried to protest. “Fenton has always had shady, unsavory, downright greasy and cum stained--”

“Jesica!” I reprimanded her, stunned by her vulgarity. Although, it was a pretty accurate description.

“My point,” she grinned. “Is that he's always had these jerky guys around. You've always known he was a bad boy magnet. He is a bad boy. But... it never bothered you before.

“I mean, we've had the brief, comments-made-in-passing conversations about Fenton's awful taste in men lots of times, but never like this. This, Dover my friend, is an entirely different creature. And you,” she paused and gentled her voice very purposefully. “You are falling for him.” Again with the finger against my lips. “Don't argue with me. I've seen this coming, but I thought that maybe I was crazy. You of all people know how well Fenton can care for himself. He doesn't need anyone looking after him. Period. The fact that you are so worried speaks volumes in and of itself. Do you understand what I'm saying, Dover?”

I looked at her a little peevishly. Of COURSE Fenton needed looking after. And yes, unfortunately, I did understand what she was saying to me.

“Maybe,” she said, carefully. “You're upset about this, not because Fenton tends toward trouble with boys, but because you wish you were the boy he's eating breakfast with right now instead of his drugged out super pimp.”

“Doubtful,” I huffed, nursing my coffee with rapt attention. “You're such a girl, Jes,” I said. “Always wanting to see people in love.” I made an affectionate face in her general direction that she didn't seem to appreciate and added, “Fag hag.”

“Right,” she said, crisply and stood, dusting off her pants. “I'm leaving now. Thank you for the coffee, Dover Allen.”

She started to walk off and I rolled my eyes and snagged her arm. “Jesi,” I sighed. “I was kidding.”

“I figured that. It was still crappy of you.”

“Either way, you forgot this,” I held her bag out to her and she took it, patting my head and smiling.

“Thank you. Now, apologize to me before I'm late for class.

I smirked and stood. “Sorry,” I said with a shrug and bent to kiss her cheek. “I like you. Have fun at class. Thanks for.. sitting with me?”

“Right,” she rolled her eyes and half smiled. “But not for the advice, huh? I love you, Dover. I'm going to be late.” She kissed my cheek back and we waved to each other as she swung her bag over her shoulder and ran off.


Four or five hours later, Fenno called from seventy-seventh, an emotional wreck.

“He wanted more money and I don't haaave any. All I had was that thirty you gave me, but now even that's gone because he leeeft me with the check. And I got to seventy-seventh but the train stopped and you knooow I can't stand being in a subway car for too long because it's all claustrophobicish and so I had to get out but now I don't have any money to get home because I spent the last of it on my subway ride and Dooover...” he broke off in tears.

“Fenton, stay on the phone. Are you listening, Fenno?” I said, gently

“Should I really have given him that money? Should I have? Was it mean of me not to? Doooveerr...”

“Fenton,” I said again. “Listen to me. Are you listening?”


“Where are you, baby?”

“S-seventy-seventh. Dover, why did he do this to me?”

“What line?”

He coughed and choked a little. “I don't know. Green.”

“Fenno, of course you know. Look at the sign over the stop and tell me numbers, not colors.”

“Six. Six train.”

“The six train, seventy-seventh?”

“Are you gonna come get mee?”

“Yes, I am. Now, you stay right there. I'll be there as quick as I can.”

“Take a taxi, Dov...?”

“Promise me you'll stay right where you are. Right. Where. You. Are.” Fenton wasn’t exactly notorious for his ability to properly follow instructions.

“Yes. I promise. Okay? Just cooome.”

“I love you, Fenno,” I said, hurriedly, listening for returned sentiments before I hung up the phone.

Grabbing jacket and house keys, I ran out of the building and straight into the middle of the street to grab the next empty taxi. I got one about thirty seconds later, something of a feat in New York City, and got in, breathlessly ordering the driver to the east side Seventy-seventh St. stop.

He took off and I watched out the window as other taxis and cars flashed around us, cutting us off, honking horns. I imagined Fenno, sitting all alone on the sidewalk, midday on a Thursday afternoon, his back against the wall, his face buried in his arms, sobbing. Poor, sweet little thing.

Jesi would have said that he wasn't innocent by any means. She would have said he brought it on himself. Of course, she would have loved him anyway; if he'd called her she'd be the one spending three thousand bazillion dollars on a cab, but she still wouldn't have recognized what I did.

That he's a baby.

And half the time, he doesn't know what he's doing. He can't always tell ahead of time when nothing good will come from his stupid actions. He isn't always aware of all the consequences.

I watched him crying in my mind and sighed heavily. What had happened recently that made me feel so protective of him? Why was I wanting, all the time, to save him from himself?

But by the time I got to that line of thinking, the driver was on the curb and leaning back over the seat to look at me.

“Are you going to get out or not?”

“Oh, sorry, yes. How much?”

“Fourteen sixty-three.”

I put twenty into his hand and got out, jogging across the street, past the few other people also crossing, and searched for Fenton. I was next to the Subway stop, reached out to touch the sign announcing streets and destinations and train numbers to reassure myself, yet he was nowhere to be found.

'I am going to kill you,' I thought to myself, gritting my teeth. 'I just spent twenty dollars to come find you and now you've taken off to who the fuck knows...' I dug my cell out of the pocket of my jeans and dialed his number.

“Dover?” came the steady, calm answer.

“I'm going to throw you in front of a bus if karma doesn't get to you first,” I said to him, in a very deadly quiet voice.

“What? Why?” He sounded shocked that I would be so angry with him. Like I said, he's like a baby and sometimes, he just doesn't get it.

“WHAT did I tell you?!” I demanded. “WHAT did I just say to you fifteen minutes ago when we hung up?”

“Um.. you said you were coming and...? I don't know. I'm not in the mood for games, Dov.”

“I said, 'stay put', didn't I? Didn't I, Fenton?” By that time, I was marching angrily down the street, shouting into the phone, going no where in particular, just keeping myself from killing passersby.

“I just went down to get a hot dog.”

“Oh? You abandoned post to get a hot dog? You JUST had breakfast!”

“I had breakfast hours ago, NOW I'm--”

“Where the fuck are you?”

Silence on the other end of the phone.

“Fenton Avery, tell me where the fuck you are. Right. Now.”

“The Met?”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “You went to The Metropolitan to get a hot dog?” I asked, calmly.

“They're the only place around here that have good venders!”

“They have the worst hot dogs in town.  You walked ALL that way for a fucking hot dog when I TOLD you to stay put?!”

“I also came to, uh... see the art? When was the last time you walked through the Egyptian exhibit, Dover? It really IS something....”

“Oooh... so, you're calling me from INSIDE The Metropolitan Museum of Art?!?!”

“Well, technically, you called me. And I'm looking at the sarcophaguses,” he said, like there was absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that he'd just run off and left me with cab fare.

“Sarcophagi,” I corrected him. “And you didn't even have enough money to get home on the subway, how did you manage to buy a hot dog, much less come up with the money to get into the museum?”

“I have a pass for the museum. Maybe it's yours? I don't know, it has your name on it. And I had $1.50, which is enough for a hot dog.. but not enough for subway fare.”

“Wait, wait. You STOLE my museum pass? When?”

“How do you know it's yours?”

I was now marching in the opposite direction I had been before, a few blocks from Central Park and about ten blocks from The Met.

“You just said it had my name on it.”

“Oh, well, it does. But... that could mean anything.”

“Fenton Marcus Avery,” I said in the most severe tone I could manage without it sounding too deadly. “You had BETTER stay RIGHT where you are and let me come get you.”

“Oh, I will. I'll just be up on the second floor, you know that part where they have all the passion pictures? And, like, the early American stuff?”

“Oh, I know. I’ve been there a bunch of times. BEFORE I so mysteriously 'lost' my pass. But now I don't care. I want you out front or I'll positively murder you. Right there on the front steps. Psycho Wimbledon--

“WHATEVER the fuck! Your sugar daddy -- how’s that? -- how broke you are, and the general shitty state of your existence right now will be the least of your worries if I don't see you when I get there.”

“Dover, that's MEAN!” he whined.

“Get your ass on the front steps. You don't want me going all the way through security and paying to get inside only to have to come drag you out again.” I snapped the phone closed and stalked all the rest of the way to the museum.

Ten minutes later, there he was, sitting at the very bottom of the steps, sulking. He'd gotten mustard on my sweater, I noticed.

Silently, I held out my hand, which he glared at, but stood and took.

“If I didn't love you, I would--” Nothing came to mind, so I faltered, eventually saying, “Hate you.”

He giggled a little at that and moved into my side, where I wrapped an arm around him and squeezed. “You're a pain in the ass. It only took me fifteen minutes to get to the stop you were at. You could have waited, you know. Without a fucking hot dog. Or a tour of The Met.”

He shrugged.

I could swear, some days, he does this shit just to get at me.


“I don't want you going back there again,” I said, firmly, as Fenton stepped into the shower behind me.
“You are not going. It's against all the rules.”

“What rules?” he asked, yawning. He'd probably slept only four hours the night before, the little sea urchin.

“The ones I'm going to make up off the top of my head pretty soon if you don't start using common sense.”

“If you haven't made them up yet, how can I follow them?” He backed up against me and handed me the shampoo over his shoulder. “Mmn,” he whined. Which, translated, meant, “Wash my hair, Doooverr..?”

I lathered the shampoo between my hands and began to rub it through his hair. “He's an asshole, Fen. This morning is just the tip of the iceberg. You go back with him and he's only going to use you for money and an occasional fuck. Is that seriously what you're looking for? Is it?”

“Is it any of YOUR concern?” he asked.

“Yes. I'm the one sitting here at my computer, writing and getting distressed phone calls from you at all hours. How many times have we talked about this?”

“Recently?” he asked. “Or over the past decade?”

“Either,” I said, mildly, stepping back to duck his head under the water. I covered his eyes with my hand and rinsed the soap out, listening to him talk in between spitting water.

“Over the past decade as a whole, probably 53,000 times. Recently, 52,995 times.”

“Maybe you've been worse recently,” I reasoned, soaping his back.

“I haven't been.”

“Either way, this guy is worse than any of the others combined. You cannot see him anymore. It's not allowed.”

“Oh, Dover...” he laughed.

“You may THINK I'm joking...” I muttered as I handed the soap to him and turned my back.

“You'd better be joking.”

I was definitely not joking.


“Well, where are you going to get money from if your psychotic boyfriend keeps taking it from you?” I asked Fenno a little while later as I lay with him in bed, combing fingers through his wet hair.

It was only late afternoon now, but he was exhausted from the night before and fading quickly. I kept my voice and touch soft and soothing, hoping to lull him to sleep without too much trouble.

“I think I'll go visit my parents tomorrow... Maybe stay the weekend?”

“Visit as in actually go to see them and hang out? Or visit as in... 'visit'?” I asked.

“Who cares? I hate them, they hate me. But I need money. And certain sacrifices must be made for things like rent and food. And proper illegal narcotics.” He looked up and grinned at me.

“All that ever happens when you go there is fighting. It'd probably be easier to just get a job somewhere. Jesi was telling me about--”

“I have a job.”

“Yeah, selling yourself and minor amounts of drugs. It's a real vocation, Fen, illegal activity. You could probably start a college fund on that.”

He rolled his eyes and turned over, nudging his back up against me and pulling my arm over his stomach to hold him. “While you debate the finer points of my chosen profession, I think I'll go to sleep. The stuff I had this morning is wearing off and I'd like to sleep through the worst of the hangover. I don't think I've come down very well all week.” He yawned.

Annoyed that he'd taken anything that morning, I leaned back and swatted him. Hard, eliciting a whine and a glare.

“Oww, Dov.. Quit it. I'm trying to sleep. Your beating me really isn't helping.”

“I ought to beat you,” I said. “You haven't come down all week? And you took shit this morning when I told you not to?”

“It's not like you're my keeper. Of course I took shit this morning. I take shit every morning. Shut up now, please. I'm sleeping.”

“While you sleep, I'm going to debate the finer points of your life, and when you wake up, we're going to talk about it.”

“Whatever. You can talk while I pack to visit mom and dad.”

“Good. Then shut up and sleep.”

I laid with him until he fell asleep about five minutes later. Then, easing myself from behind him and dropping a kiss next to his ear, I got up and returned to my computer in the living room.

I hadn't been able to get myself back on track after he'd interrupted me that morning. I'd come home from coffee with Jes and slept a while longer, then gotten up and wandered around, sitting down at the computer intermittently, but never typing anything that I didn't immediately backspace over five words in.

I stared at my words in frustration, annoyed enough with myself that I considered deleting the entire thing out of sheer spite. But seeking revenge on yourself is kind of tricky that way, because in the end, you're the only one who gets hurt.

I stared and thought. And then thought some more, but always found my mind back with Fenno. Worrying about him, wishing he'd just listen to me for once. I didn't care very much whether or not I was being overprotective or bossy. I just wanted him safe.

I wanted him-- I wanted him with me.

I wanted him.

I shook my head in a feeble attempt at clearing it and dropped it into my hands with a groan.

Three hours later, I found myself knee deep in a monologue about a guy who falls madly for his best friend and everyone but him sees it. The guy he falls for's name is Finn. 1