As far as I was concerned, talking to Austin could wait; however, I was fortunate at least that I was forced to wait until I'd found out where he lived before I could even think about going to see him. There was only intermittent talk that night between Jason and I. Most of the talk concerned how after Sunday Jason wouldn't see me again until I'd had my talk with Austin.
I was emotionally crushed and my mouth was dry... How could Jason do this? I knew he didn't want to, I could see it in his eyes how much he wanted me to stay with him. But I also knew he wouldn't budge on this. God I hated to be confused almost as much as I hated stubborn men.
There was no more sex that night, how does one have sex after a message like that one? But the next morning I awoke when I felt Jason moving around as he got up. So I got up as well, and we showered together, mostly in silence. I made two passive attempts to wash him and initiate something but he withdrew, and it hurt as though he'd slapped me. After a quiet breakfast filled with stolen glances and orange juice, Jason finally said:
"Look Alex, I only meant that now that I came out, you know, admitted everything to you, that we couldn't go forward until you figured things out... I'm sorry if it came out wrong..." he said grabbing my hand on the table.
I looked up with a tear in my eye, "I know Jason, but all I want to do is hug you and make this weird mood end."
"It will Alex, you just have to have your talk with Austin first. There's so much still going on between you two... Sometimes I don't know who I'm kissing. And sometimes I'm not sure who you think you're kissing." Jason said with a squeeze to my hand.
I nodded and turned my hand over in his as I looked up in his eyes. "I'm sorry baby. It's always been me and you," I said with a weak smile.
But I lied; Austin had been there often, not so much that I ever slipped and called out his name... but he was there none-the-less. It hurt me that I had allowed Jason to see this; I had been caught so squarely I couldn't even deny it effectively.
After breakfast, we cleaned up and we went clothes shopping. It was apparent that Jason was trying to cheer me up. Afterwards as we said goodbye, I gave him a huge hug and kiss right in the middle of the Altamonte mall. A few people made comments so I walked him to his car then walked to my Jeep and drove home lost in my thoughts.
Somehow, I missed everyone after I got home; they all assumed I'd still be at Jason's... Hell, so did I.
At work the next day Mr. Riley came over with a rose and a grin. "That performance was wonderful Alex, just wonderful! I had such a good time! Ohh, this is for you, I gave Marika the other 11." He grinned sheepishly.
"So...uhhh... Francine, is she... ummmmmm" He stumbled along until I got a smile on my face and said,
"Yes sir, she's available, single, and lives next door to me" He caught my grin and blushed a little.
"I would really like to invite her out for a dinner, do you think...?" He asked pausing.
"That she would go with you?" I asked, and he shook his head like a kid.
"Yeah, I really would like to take her out to dinner." He volunteered.
I thought for a moment.
"Ok, but if it works out between you two, you have to make me Vice President of this branch!" I teased
"No." He said seriously,
"You have a bigger path Alex, and it's with a guitar and Marika, not here at the bank." He finally grinned as he let me in on his approval.
"Ohhh Yes and here's a new guy named James, he's from Canada originally and we just hired him. You, Marika and Chris will be in charge of training him." Mr. Riley said, as he escorted a nervous, young, cute, partially Asian guy over to the windows. We put James in-between Marika and me, and talked while we counted our money. He caught on quickly and seemed to be a natural at customer service.
By Tuesday afternoon, I was making obvious mistakes, so Mr. Riley took me into his office and closed the door. "Ok, what gives Alex?"
I himmed and hawed and finally told him the basics. I told him that Austin had tried to talk to me at Michaels party and that we had fought., Well... "I" had fought... and Jason told me we needed to talk before he and I could resolve anything.
"Alex, How about going to see Austin this weekend?" He asked me.
"Marika and I have to perform Friday night and Saturday Sir" I said back without emotion.
"How good are you going to be, if you're like this all week?" He sighed,
I just looked up at him with dead eyes.
"Fine, Cut out early on Thursday and go up there, then call me and let me know what's going on Friday. I'll add this to your sick days." Mr. Riley offered.
"James should be mostly trained by then, and if you keep up like this you'll drive us all crazy. Or I'll be forced to let you go." He said with a grin.
Then he gave me a card and said, "This is my home number, call me at home if you're gunna be late or absent on Friday."
I took it and put it in my wallet. I looked up and thanked him. Then, I went back and tried to concentrate on my work.
In the evenings, "The Tellers" practiced some new songs and refined the old ones. Marika did a cover of 'Easy to be Hard' form HAIR, and I was working on a cover of the Dyvinals "I'm on your side". Phil did a solo Spanish guitar piece.
On Wednesday, I had dinner in DeLand at a great little Italian restaurant on the corner of Woodland and Indiana that made homemade pasta and sauces. Ryan and his Michael sat with me. Vinnie, the owner knew me well and we got excellent service; sitting outside and watching the light fade from the sky and the trees along the brick lined street, lighting up with strings of fairy lights. As we sipped coffee after dinner, Ryan spoke up.
"I think I owe you an apology Alex, and maybe Jason too." He said with a strong face.
"Why's that Ryan? I mean, I know you don't like him, but you haven't done anything to apologize for." I said.
"I didn't give you credit for being old enough or smart enough to make your choices, and you owe Michael here some credit, for making me see that. Also, Austin actually made me promise to give Jason a chance as long as he treated you right." Ryan said holding my gaze a second too long.
I turned to Michael, who'd been quite during this, "I have you to thank huh?" I smiled at the big dark haired athlete.
"Maybe a little" He grinned at me before adding, "I saw you and Jason and watched the way he treated you, and looked at you, and whatever else he was doing, he's obviously in love with you now."
Then Ryan added, "And Michael pointed all of this out, and Austin told me to give him a chance. So..."
I smiled, got up and hugged both of them before sighing and sitting down.
"Well, I'm glad that's done with, but now it's my turn to apologize and ask you if you know how to get in touch with Austin." I said to Ryan. As he wrote the address down for me on a business card, I explained what Jason had done and what Mrs. Tremere had said to me. I decided not to say that Austin had been in my thoughts a lot too.
The three of us talked for several hours, then I bussed our table for Vinnie and we went back to my place for a short visit before the two of them headed back to O-town. I went to bed, had a strange sleep, and tossed and turned until morning.
The next day I was so stressed out, and no matter what anyone did to try to calm me, I was still a wreck. Finally, at 2:00 I took the address Ryan had given me and after grabbing a small bag I'd packed, took off from work. James, being really cute as I was leaving,
"Good luck Mr. Johnston Sir." I scuffed his black hair and thanked him. Calling "me" a Sir. How adorable was that?
It's a damn long drive between DeLand and Gainesville, but the ride up through the Ocala National Forrest is gorgeous. However, all the demons and monsters of uncertainty were out to try to turn me back. How would I talk to him? Could I talk to him with out hurting him? What if he wanted me back????????
But Jason, ohhhh god, poor Jason... Could I hurt him? Was it in me to hurt him? Every bit of logic I had was telling me to grab onto Jason... So why did it seem so wrong?
All I had to do was talk to Austin; it's all I had to do. No matter how often I repeated this mantra, it didn't make it any easier.
It was 6:12 when I finally pulled into the parking lot that Ryan had told me to. I sat there trying to summon the strength for a confrontation. It never came but I somehow got the nerve to get out of my Jeep, and march towards the building.
Apartment 215, second floor in the back... I marched up the stairs, past the cream coloured doors and stood before 215 hoping it would cease to be... I closed my eyes and willed myself to have strength... It didn't work, but I tried it none-the-less. And then, like a ghost I watched my arm rise to knock on the door.
After a few minutes, a tall blond girl opened the door and stood there.
"Hi, Can I hel..." Her pleasant smile turned to an icy stare.
"Alex!" Her Mississippi accent accused with a mixture of lace and pig iron.
"Hi, You...must be Phoebe then." I said not even bothering to smile.
"Your too late Alex, He left me, He left me for you two weeks ago. If you're here to rub it in, go ahead, I'll have the last laugh."
I raised a hand as she was confusing me.
"Phoebe, He isn't with me, He tried a few weeks ago and I-I..." It hit me what I had done, "I threw him out." I blurted.
She stood gaping her mouth like an idiot.
"Then where is he?" She asked forgetting her anger.
"That's why I'm here, I need to have a talk with him and find out what happened."
Her eyes narrowed, as she looked me over. "He was dating me and then met he you, fell in love, and... neither of you thought of me for one blessed second." She said with the voice of a Chinese empress.
I hung my head a bit. "I'm sorry Phoebe, I really am, the day I met him I didn't know there was a girlfriend, I guess I didn't wanna know to be honest."
She opened her door and invited me inside so no one could hear us.
"Listen Alex," She said with a sigh of confession.
"I have been in your place, It's how he and I met. It's how he always goes to another girl fr... someone else." She said in a low soft voice.
I looked at her not comprehending her admission.
"Before me was Danielle, I began to date him while they were still dating. He had painted her as cold and unfeeling, but she isn't. I don't know what all he told you, but I really loved him with all my heart. I wanted to be his wife." she looked out her window as a tear trickled down her cheek.
"If I hadn't been so shocked, if I hadn't found out what he was doing, if my sorority sister hadn't called and told on you guys... Maybe I would have reacted better... I don't know." She said wistfully..
"If I wasn't gay?" I offered quietly. That snapped her out of it.
"I-I- Alex, My best friend is a lesbian and has been for years. I was as shocked by my feelings as much as everyone else. Austin hardly ever spoke to Audra out of fear... His sexual choice shocked me more then the cheating... My mama always said 'watch out for a cheater, they don't change'. She was right. Maybe you're what he wanted all along."
I sat down on a kitchen chair and sighed. I felt awful for all the hateful things I'd said about her.
"Phoebe, You're nothing like I expected."
She smiled and gave me a nod. "Alex, I wanted to scratch your lungs and kick you to death a few months ago... I wanted Austin back so badly. The past few weeks I've just... (sigh) It's not "our" fault Alex... Neither of us made that stubborn ass do anything he didn't want to. I just hope he takes you back when you find him... It had to be damned hard for you coming to our apartment." She said looking me in the eyes suddenly.
""Here, this might help," She said standing and going to the kitchen counter to write something down on green and pink paper with Lambda Epsilon Sigma on it. She handed me a page with two numbers and addresses on it.
"These are his two best friends; they should know where he is." Then she escorted me to the door.
We parted and I found all my feelings towards her had changed... and I hoped hers towards me had too. I hugged her tightly before I left and thanked her as deeply as I could.
So, after leaving her apartment I drove to the first place on the paper and found it was a make shift Frat house..."GREAT' I thought with a groan.
I walked up and knocked and this tall thin guy with dread locks wearing a red Hawaiian shirt and flip flops with a puka shell necklace and matching ankle band answered the door.
"I'm looking for a Brian Casem." I said glancing at the dried up garden.
"Shyea, Speaking." He said in stereotypical surfer speak while trying to figure out who I was.
"Hi, My name is Alex Johns..." Before I could finish his eyes lit up.
"ALEX, You're that gay dude!!!" Brian said too loud for my comfort but more happy with himself for figuring it out than freaked at me.
"Ummm, Yeah, Guilty, Is he here man?" I asked hoping he was sleeping or something.
"Naaaaaa Dude, I wish. I invited him in to live hear when he told the frat about you two and that Phoebe had kicked him out." I could have been knocked over by a fly; he TOLD his frat???
"He WHAT???" I guess my eyes told him everything I was thinking.
"Yeah, 'bout three weeks ago he came out and told us why he was so upset, why he wasn't seeing Phoebe any more...and that he was Bi"
My head was swimming. Christ, when Mrs. Tremere said I didn't know what was going on she didn't prepare me for this.
"Sooo, Ummm, do you know where he is Brian?" I asked politely.
"Ummmm, Oh yeah, come on in and ignore the dog." The dog turned out to be this funny looking gargoyle called an Affenpincher this strange charcoal dog that looked like a mix of guinea pig and carved castle guardian
"Here, it's a guy with a spare room down that way he's staying with." he said handing me a piece of paper with an address on it and then pointing east.
"Not a nice place and between you and me...the guy gives me the total creeps dude." Brian said as he started to close the door as I left, then he opened it and asked,
"You going to take him back?" Brian asked flatly, I stopped and turned to look at him.
"I-I'm here to talk, and listen. Everything is different from what I thought." I said contemplatively. Brian laughed,
"Yeah Dude, tell me about it." He chuckled as he closed the door.
So I went down to the next address and, god, the change in community was blatant. I'd been in a nice suburban area, this place screamed old and falling apart.
I knocked on the dark brown hollow door and had to wait almost two minutes before the light came on and the door cracked a little.
"Hi, I'm here to see Austin Camble" I stated simply. The guy looked me up and down and then he got this sneer.
"You must be Alex!" The guy said in a halting voice like Christian Slater. He didn't look like Slater though, his pale tobacco stained skin looked oily and his hair was a reddiush brown thinning matt of unkempt oily fur.
"Yeah, I need to speak to Austin Please?" I said pressing forward already not liking this guy.
He was a 30ish guy with a tight leather face, dull blue bloodshot eyes and reeking of smoke, when he stepped aside revealing his pale naked body with a cock a toddler would be embarrassed to show.
Ignoring his lecherous grin I boldly asked again where Austin was.
"In bed." He said with this strange grin. My spider senses were going into high gear, something wasn't right.
"Where?" I asked lowering my voice.
The guy pointed to a yellowish door that was barely open. As I started over this oily voice behind me said,
"Not sure he wants you to see him like this." He chuckled as I opened the door
When my eyes adjusted to the light I saw Austin, chained spread eagle to a bed with a gag in his mouth, his glazed eyes barely showed any recognition. His back showed recent wet bloody whip marks. I felt a switch go off in my head and the next thing I knew I had slammed the scrawny naked man in the face with my palm and grabbed him by his throat and bent him backwards over his kitchen counter squeezing the life out of him as he thrashed. In a tight, pinched voice I hissed,
"Before I kill you you son of a bitch, where are the keys?" He couldn't talk but threw the keys on the floor. I used my palm to drive his head against the counter hard enough to drop him to the floor. I bent down and retrieved the keys, as I turned to get Austin,
"Stay where you are asshole," I warned with another smash of his head on the counter. "I'm not nearly done with you and if you make me catch you, I swear to god, you won't EVER walk again."
I went and unlocked Austin's cuffs, he just lay there so I took the gag from his mouth and ever so gently helped him sit up. I noticed a collection of large dirty dildos on the nightstand with a tub of generic lube. I cringed thinking of what that bastard had done to my baby. Austin was drugged obviously; he wasn't talking, just trying to sit up.
"Alex?" He asked weakly, trying to focus on me.
"Yeah baby, are your clothes in here somewhere, baby?" I asked. Austin shook his head and shrugged.
"Stay here a moment Austin, I'll be right back," I said as I marched back to get the bastard that had... had raped... that fuckwad had raped Austin. It hit me like a 2x4 to the head.
I grabbed fuckwad and hauled his wiry frame up by his neck and pushed him against a wall. I leaned in close to him and said softly, with all the restraint I could harness,
"You are alive now fuckwad, only because I need answers, understand me?" I hissed in his ear. He nodded his head, yes.
"Where are Austin's clothes?" I asked. He didn't answer at first so I shoved my thumb into the soft part of his throat and asked again. He squeaked out an answer finally.
"Under the bed and in the hall closet." He said, I dragged him with me to look. Austin was in the bathroom. Fuckwad pulled a garbage bag from under the bed that had some old unwashed clothing and then got a sports bag out of the closet.
"Where's the rest of his stuff?" I asked.
"That's all I have now." The guy said weakly while rubbing his throat.
"Is that all he came here with?' I asked. My nerves were about ready to snap. The guy didn't answer so I backhanded him hard enough to knock a tooth loose and cut my finger on his mouth. He hit the floor and I asked, "You have any idea how many bones I can break on you without even hitting you?"
The poor guy went white and said in a dry voice, "He had more stuff but I sold the rest of it." He paled and hung his head. I was beyond rage, beyond revenge, I was so angry, so god damned angry, I became toxically still as this strange otherworldly calm overtook me.
"You sold his stuff? While you had him drugged and tied to your bed, while you raped and beat him?" I asked as I grabbed his left pointer finger.
"Yes" he said weakly. Before I could react, I heard the toilet flush and the door open.
"Alex?" Austin called weakly.
"Yeah baby? What can I get you?" I offered, standing up and dropping fuckwad to the floor.
"Clothes?" He asked weakly leaning against the doorframe. I handed Austin the duffle bag and turned back and said:
"You have two choices, I can kill you now and we can go to the police and tell them what I did and what you did, or you can go over there and sit by the bed and put the cuffs on." I said softly but with seething anger.
So he went over quickly and sat by the bed and whimpered as I put him in the cuffs that were at the foot of the bed so he was sitting on the floor with his arms spread.
"How long has Austin been here, and how did he land up here?" I asked.
"He, he's been here almost a week, I met him in a bar and we started talking. He told me...about you mostly, about his girlfriend, and that he was bi now. So I invited him back."
"And the drugs? And the marks all over his back? The dildos? What kind of damage do you have, that you could do this to another person?" I hissed at him. He turned his face to avoid my teeth and I grabbed it and yanked it back to face me.
"How much did you get from selling his stuff?" I asked, as Austin got dressed.
"Almost $340.00" he said softly.
"Why don't I believe you?" I answered as I swiped his wallet off the nightstand.
I found several hundred in his wallet, his ID, and a credit card.
"I'll take these for now, if you behave, you might see daylight a few more times. I'm not making any decisions till I have a chance to think," I growled in his ear.
I left Gene, the name on his Id, on the floor cuffed to his bed, and took all the keys, his money, his ID and his cell phone.
"We'll be back, don't get up on our account you waste of sperm." I helped Austin get ready and helped him to my Jeep. We drove till I saw a 24 hour Walgreens drug store, and I bought gauze and antibiotic salve, and some Gatorade and vitamins.
So next I found a hotel 6 and checked us in so we could go to the room and I could look at his wounds, he refused to see a Doctor or visit a hospital. So I cleaned his sores and bandaged them and shock with fear and rage as I got him dressed again.
"Come on baby, you need some food." I said, he followed weakly in his drugged state.
We went to a Denny's and I had coffee and pie while I watched the stoned and messed up boy I still loved trying to eat and wishing he could talk to me. I got yes and no answers to all of the questions I asked him. This guy Gene had really damaged him badly... When Austin went to the bathroom, I made a call.
"Dennis? Yeah man, sorry for calling so late, I have a real problem, I wanted to call you first, before calling the police." Dennis talked a bit then I responded,
"Yeah, I found Austin but it's a long story. He was being held and drugged and... and..." I could barely get the word out, I finally whispered it,
"raped..." My throat started to close; my fury was being replaced by passion for Austin, and disbelief that I had seen what I did. It came out as an explosive sob and I just cried and cried into the receiver, I didn't care who saw or heard.
"I left him cuffed to the foot of his bed. Yeah, Sure... Ok, I'll call you from there tomorrow. Thanks Dennis, I knew I could count on you." 'Click'
Dennis was my 6'2" bodybuilder friend who'd been a bouncer and done work for drug traffickers enforcing their will before moving to central Florida to begin as a personal trainer. If I was the wrong one to pick a fight with, Dennis was the wrong one to make angry.
Austin walked slowly to the table with the horrible pallor clouding his skin and his eyes glazed over.. So I went and joined him and tried to get him to eat some more. I paid with Gene's credit card and then loaded Austin in my Jeep room and took him to our room for the night. I took Austin and gently helped him undress; the wounds on his back had begun to stick to the dark shirt he'd chosen. Somehow, I knew he needed me to be strong, but I would fall apart when he couldn't see me.
As I laid him gently on his belly I began to dress his wounds and gently clean his back again and apply salve; tears streamed down my face as I tried to put my Austin together.
"I-I I told him to beat me Alex, I told him to punish me." Austin finally said in a soft determined voice.
"Why Austin? Why would you ask for this?" I asked incredulously.
"For what I did... to you." He said in a far away voice. He may as well have swung a 50 pound sack of potatoes into my gut. I was shocked and tears clouded my eyes.
"Nooooooo Austin, No, Ohhhh god no!" I pleaded with him and cried as I put the last of the gauze on his back. My fingers trying not to hurt the skin it longed to feel.
"Alex, I hurt you so bad... I-I-I wanted to be forgiven... I figured I had to feel what I did to you... I dropped out of school... you weren't supposed to find me." Austin said softly in a distant voice.
I ran my fingers gently through his hair trying to calm him and... and find an appeasement for my own gaping guilt. None came as I sat there on the bed and Austin fell asleep in my lap. I looked down and cried, my tears flowed till they ran dry so I turned the lights out and curled up with Austin holding him, and protecting him from the monsters I now knew were waiting in the dark even for someone as big and strong as Austin.
What kind of monster did it make me though that I wouldn't even give the boy I loved time to talk to me, time to tell me that he'd been blackmailed, and that he discovered all on his own, the strength to face his fears all to try to get back to me... to be rejected and replaced? What did that make me? And what about my poor Jason? Would I have to destroy him now? I didn't taste the lips of sleep that night.
The next day I found a Target and told Austin to wait in the diner and eat while I picked up a few things. I had to buy him everything, from underwear and socks to shirts, shorts and jeans. He lost his bedding, toiletries, everything, all he had were some old ratty clothing. I got more gauze and ointment and a big bottle of extra strength Tylenol. I grabbed some protein drinks cause Austin looked like he'd been starved. Finally, I bought a cap and sunglasses so he could hide if he wanted to. I bought all this with Gene's credit card.
I made Austin stay at the hotel and get ready while I went out to take care of stuff.
'Stuff' turned out to be what I called going back to see Gene. I called Dennis, and it turned out that he had driven to Gainesville and was waiting for my call. Dennis was over within 15 minutes.
I walked in to Gene's place and the smell was horrid. It smelled of stale cigarettes and old beer mixed with lube and fried food. I needed a bath after just walking in. Gene was calling out so I went into the bedroom and he got quiet. I could see the dark stain in his pants and knew what had happened.
"I can't be partial Gene, I want to hurt you in ways that make the Ton ton Macute look civil. So I invited a friend who's... better at these things and I have no clue what he has planned for you."
I searched through Gene's stuff until till Dennis got there. If I didn't know Dennis, he would've scared the hell out of me. He was the size of a refrigerator crossed with a Mac truck, wife beater, slicked back hair in a pony tail, mirrored sunglasses, a duffle bag and black sweat pants. He came in and gagged at the smell, and asked me what happened. I told him everything as we went to the bedroom. Gene and he got a good look at each other. He dropped the duffle, squatted in front of Gene and took his glasses off.
"Austin has been a friend of mine for over a decade Gene, and Alex is a great friend who's never bothered anybody. You fucked up bad!" It wasn't said with malice or any hint of threat, but it made my blood run cold. I almost felt sorry for that poor schmuck.
Dennis went and opened his duffle bag. He took out a large satchel that had what looked like dental tools in it, and then he took out a Dremmel and a few large pliers. I almost fainted and Gene was screaming into his gag.
"Alex, for both of our sakes, you need to leave now while Gene and I... talk. He's gunna help me get more money back to Austin and hopefully retrieve a few of his items. Go take care of Austin, Alex and I'll see you back home this week." Dennis said standing up and giving me a big gumba hug.
So I left and went back to find Austin crashed out in a fetal position. I let him sleep while I packed. I loaded the jeep, then got Austin up, and loaded, then I paid for the hotel and we went to breakfast at a waffle house.
"What's gunna happen to Gene?" Austin asked quietly as we ate.
"Don't know, we couldn't call the cops without saying what happened, so I called Dennis, he's over there now." I said flatly not looking at Austin.
"He's fucked." It was all Austin said before drinking some Coffee.
I looked up and caught Austin's eye, "He's lucky it's Dennis, I woulda killed him and left him to rot." I stated simply.
Austin looked at me a moment before hanging his head, "But it's as much my fault as his Alex. I knew it was a bad scene, and I knew he was a creep, I... I... I even knew he put something in my drink at the bar." Austin said slowly without looking at me.
I looked in his eyes with a look of pain, "Why Austin? Why would you put yourself through that?" I asked bluntly. He was quiet for a while, almost said a few things then got quiet again thinking. Finally he said,
"That last weekend I saw you, at Michael's party... I was coming to tell you I had left Phoebe and that we could be together... But you got SO mad... and I couldn't blame you, you were right, I had fucked up, but it hurt... Alex, you have no idea what that night did to me. This is nothing, these scars are nothing." He trailed off lost in thought. Guilt was punching its way out of my soul.
"So I stayed with Ryan at Michael's apartment and the next day we figured you'd calmed down... And...I...I saw Jason, and he was where I knew I should have been and it hit me that you moved on...you didn't need me any more... and I didn't have a clue what to do." He trailed off in silence.
Tears fell from my face as guilt and confusion and emotions with out names rushed out of me like a pyroclastic flow.
"Austin... please... no. No, Austin," I cried and pleaded and my broken hero held me as I cried. Finally I stopped.
"Alex, Alex, we need to go, it's check out time I think" Austin said rubbing my back.
We got ready, I paid, and we left.
Austin and I drove miles in silence, neither of us knowing what to say when he finally spoke.
"I knew he was trouble when I let him start to buy me drinks, I told him I was new to this and that... I had hurt you badly and needed to be punished. He said he would if that's what I wanted..."
"Why didn't you just stay with Brian? He cares about you Austin, he wanted you to stay with him." I said keeping my eyes on the Ocala National Forest.
"I thought maybe if I got experience, that... that... that you might..." Austin said slowly not bothering to finish what didn't need to be said.
"Austin, if I hadn't come up there, I don't think any of us would have ever seen you again." I said slowly not wanting to over-emphasize the state he was in. That thought ran through me like a winter's night.
"Alex, without you..." Austin trailed off with out answering.
"Without me what, Austin?" I demanded softly, fearing the answer.
"I didn't care, I didn't expect to see the weekend." He said softly. Even as tears fell to his lap silently, My brain vacillated between a kind of rage, shock, and fear. If that had happened, I would have blamed myself forever.
"No! Don't you put this on me, Austin!" I demanded, a moment later my voice echoed in my ears and I softened as I saw him shrink. "Austin, please, please don't think like that...ever, ever, ever again... you understand me? No one is worth that... no one." I pleaded softly.
We drove much of the rest of the way in silence.
As we neared my place I realized I hadn't called Jason to let him know where I'd been all night or what had happened, I hadn't called Mr. Riley either... well, I'd deal with them after I'd gotten Austin settled in. Mrs. Tremere was shopping and I got to my door with all of Austin's new stuff relatively easy. When I opened the door I was surprised by a sleepy looking Jason, my mind fell, my heart flipped, And Jason saw it and stopped short of hugging me.
"Hey baby, I-I-I was just... getting ready to leave. I came over last night expecting to see..." At that moment Austin came slowly around the doorway behind me, and Jason saw him and his face went white.
"Oh," was all Jason said before turning quickly to go to the bedroom. I raced after him pleading with him to stop and listen. Finally he turned to face me,
"Alex, Austin is moving in with a pile of clothing and personal crap... What are you going to try and tell me???" Jason demanded sharply. I could see the pain in his eyes and the shaking of his hands as he grabbed his bag. He reached over and handed me a notebook that looked like mine. " I found this last night, guess we know the answer now. I'm going out of town Alex, I have a job in new York... Don't bother trying to reach me... At least do that for me." And then he grabbed his stuff and was gone. I looked at the notebook and realized it was my song writing book. A page had been paper-clipped with an envelope, but first I saw the page and my blood ran cold, it was a poem I'd written a week earlier.
Two Perfect guys And no perfect way To choose between sorrows Or walking away.
How do I hurt one Deliver that blade Kill joy, peace, and hope And the love that we made
Torn between angels Claiming mortal coils of men I'm told I must choose But not Who, how, or when.
Fair is older darks a boy God's a bastard, I'm his toy. Fair is wiser, Darks a knight, How does one choose, when both answers are right?
Dark stole my heart, While fair has my soul Whom do I hurt And who gets the goal?
I'd like to deny the gods All their pleasure, And bury my heart with Captain Kid's treasure.
My heart fell even deeper as I read the words I'd written absent mindedly a week earlier. I hadn't had any particular thought in mind as I jotted the words down like I did every time a song idea hit me.
I fell to my knees pleading with god to reverse time, to take away all the pain I had rained on Jason. Would I ever deserve to be with a guy like Jason again? A guy who adored me in everyway. Would I find a guy who ignited a room every time I smiled at him? What would I do if Jason were really gone? Did I deserve him? What about that broken boy in the next room?
I sat the notebook on my dresser and went into the living room where a despondent Austin was curled up watching TV... I told him I'd be back in a few minutes and to get whatever he needed. I went next door and before I even touched the door it opened for me.
"Mon Cher, you look awful, Austin looks awful, did you fight?" Mrs. Tremere asked while getting the tea ready and gathering a few crumpets.
"Yeah, but not with each other Mrs. Tremere... GOD! I've ruined all our lives Mrs. Tremere... I hurt Jason and he's done everything possible to make me happy. And Austin, Ohhhhhhhh Mrs Tremere... " I broke down crying and sobbing then... I wasn't protecting Austin or having to be strong so I just fell apart, I heard words like 'rape' and torture, and escape... After I calmed down I told her about the song Jason had read, and caught her up to date.
"Mon Cher, what does one say to this? How is Austin? You should bring him some food for me honey.... The poor boy" Mrs. Tremere said rubbing my back and holding my hand as I sobbed.
"Alex, Jason knew the risks my love. It is truly awful that someone has to hurt like he does, and I know you would gladly take on all the pain to spare those boys. But this is not an option."
"It isn't fair to Jason, he's been soo good to me, he's done nothing but love me." I said to the insides of my hands as I cried.
"Mon Cher, rarely does "fair" have any say in matters of the heart. He gambled, and he was hurt. He will live dear boy. He is hurt, but he will live my dear." She patted my hand and then added in a deeper voice.
"Now Alex, My love. That boy next door needs you, he wants you, he loves you. And as much as we joke about you being a daughter to me, it is you dear boy that must take charge now, he needs your strength, he needs your love... he needs you to be tough."
We chatted a while and I was told that I must be the man, I had to be what I always wanted Jason and Austin to be... not sexually, but I had to be in control for a while at least.
Finally I got up hugged Mrs. Tremere and took my teacup to her sink. Then I went back to a dark apartment. I wasn't sure where Austin was sleeping but I assumed it was the couch so I sneaked into my room. When I turned the lights on I half expected to see my Austin curled up there but all I saw in the middle of my bed was my songbook and a note. A panic came over me as I rushed to the note I knew I hadn't left.
The note was simple but said: Dear Alex, I was going to sleep in here and saw the note from Jason. I'm really sorry. I hope you can get him back Alex... I can't go home cause dad won't let a fag live in his house so I'm going back to Gainesville. I owe you 60 bucks cause I took a couple of twenties off your dresser... Don't follow me; I'm not going to do anything stupid. I love you, Austin
I just stared at it and my body and mind went numb... tears wouldn't even come. I was about to walk back over and fall apart on Mrs. Tremere when something snapped, Michael said it was the moment my balls dropped. I marched out and grabbed my keys and started down to my jeep. $60 wouldn't get him anything but a bus ticket. And there was only one bus terminal in town. So I called Henna and told her I would be late tonight, and went to pick up Austin again... I sped since I had not idea what time the bus was leaving for Gainesville.
I pulled into the dreary little blue building not much bigger then a trailer that served Greyhound in the area. The inside was small and I saw Austin sitting on a bench outside staring at the ground. He looked miserable. Guess I couldn't blame him there... god, I had no idea what to say. I was ready to knock him out and drag him home if he resisted though.
Without saying a word I parked and walked past a young black guy and his kid also waiting and went and sat next to Austin, he still didn't know who I was as he hadn't looked up.
"You ever watch Gilligan's Island?" I asked as I looked at a large flock of crows fighting over who got to sit where in a big old oak across the street.
"What?" Austin said suddenly dragged out of his self-absorbed funk. Then he looked up and saw it was me and he folded his arms and bent over so they were on his lap and said, "I told you not to follow me, I've already fucked up your life Alex, I ran off your boyfriend, I hurt you... I'm no fucking good."
I knew he was talking, I guess he had a few points, but I asked again, "Really, you ever watch Guilligan's Island?
He put his head in his hands and very loudly said, "NO!" (pause) "Yeah, I guess." (pause) "Why? What the fuck does that have to do with anything?"
I was quiet a moment as I watched the birds. "Remember when those headhunters came to the island and Guilligan saved one?"
At this point he turned to me totally bewildered. "Yeah, actually I do."
"Remember what the rule was when you saved a headhunter?" I asked.
Austin was quiet a while thinking and trying to figure out where I was going.
"Uhhh, no, is this going to make any fucking sense or are you just curious?" He asked staring at the birds finally.
I paused a few moments then sat back on the bench and said, "According to them, it was a tradition that if you saved a life, that life belonged to you. I think they did the same thing in Tarzan and some other old shows."
Austin got it now, hell, I'd delivered my message on a truck. He sat still for a while then said, "So, you own me now?" He asked incredulously.
"Yup, you're mine now." I said enjoying his confusion a little.
"All right, you made your point, whatever it was... why are you here Alex?"
"I'm here to collect you and bring you back with me, you're mine and I'm not letting you go again. Not like this, not till I know you're ok and have a place to go. And Christ!" I said looking at the trash bags and target bags all his stuff was in. "How can I let you travel like this??? No way are you going anywhere till we get you some luggage!"
Austin was quiet a bit; Southern boys have a talent for taking long times to respond. "Ya know, the way I see it, I won you as a prize, you saved my life... I think that cancels each other."
I turned and put my hand on Austin's, I turned to face him and look him in the eyes. "Or maybe it could mean that you own me AND I own you."
Austin's face got all screwed up and his chin started to quiver as tears suddenly streamed from his eyes. And he moved so that he fell against me with his head on my shoulder as he sobbed, "Take me back Alex, Please take me back." Over and over he begged me. I held him and rubbed his back soothingly, "Yeah baby, it's you and me again." I meant it, I wanted him to believe it, he needed to believe it. But my heart broke thinking about poor Jason.