GONE TO EARTH
Alex looked at the plain brown envelope with trepidation. He had both longed for and dreaded this day, and he hesitated to open the letter and discover his fate. He set it on his desk and stared at it, not really seeing it, lost in thought. He needed Mike there to help him through this: either to commiserate or celebrate. But Mike was several hundred miles away – with Rick.
He thought about his first visit with them when he had been at a convention. There had been serious fireworks, but, fortunately, everything had worked out in the end. He had been the unwitting cause, not knowing about Mike’s new relationship with Rick, and it soon became evident that Rick was jealous of his past relationship with Mike. He had tried to be just a friend, but they all knew he was more than that. Alex had heard some of the ensuing row after they had all retired for the night and, although the rest of his visit passed uneventfully, there was still an underlying tension between the three of them.
His second visit, the previous month, had been worse, causing a huge row. Rick was very possessive and protective of Mike and his jealousy was still very evident. Up to a point, he could understand why Rick felt insecure when he was around, but that last visit . . . Rick had stormed out and Mike had fallen apart. He’d tried his damnedest to put things right by telling Mike what he needed to hear, even if he hadn’t wanted his advice. Mike had finally tracked down Rick and they had kissed and made up. Fucked and made up, more like!
He remembered how they had looked when they had returned to the house, so relaxed and happy Alex had deduced that they’d taken the time for make-up sex before returning home. They had been unable to keep their hands off each other all that evening, even though he had been there. They had discussed his situation, Rick surprising him with his quick sympathy when he discovered why Alex was there. The threat of HIV was very sobering, and both Rick and Mike had been very supportive.
In fact, it was Rick who had suggested he returned when he knew what was happening, dragging a reluctant reassurance from him that he would, indeed, call. So all he had to do was open the envelope, pick up the phone and go and see Mike and Rick. Sounded easy, but reading the contents of that ordinary envelope was not going to be easy at all.
Sighing at his prevarication, he clumsily tore the end of the envelope and extracted the single white sheet inside. A quick glance and he started to shake. He stood up abruptly, went to the side table where he kept his liquor and poured a stiff measure of Jack Daniels. He gulped down half of it, then returned to his desk and re-read the letter. He was free and clear. The waiting had been torture – he had lost weight, but that was because he hardly ate, couldn’t sleep – and he had begun to think that he was infected.
The relief was enormous. He finished his drink then reached for the phone. Rick answered.
“Hi Rick, it’s Alex.” His voice trembled and Rick immediately picked up on it.
“You okay? Hang on, I’ll get Mike, he’s out back.”
“No,” Alex said quickly, surprising himself as much as Rick. “May I speak to you first, Rick – please?”
“Sure,” Rick said warily, expecting Alex to ask him to break bad news to Mike. He dreaded the thought, but he would do as Alex asked. “I guess you’ve heard, hm?”
“Yes, I have. I – I’m okay, Rick, I’m clear!” The relief was evident in his voice, and Rick wondered why he hadn’t wanted to tell Mike first.
“That’s good to hear. I know Mike will be very happy that it’s good news. Are you sure you don’t want me to get him on the phone?”
“In a minute,” Alex said quickly. “Look, Rick, when I left the last time you and Mike both said I should come back to stay whatever the results but, since it’s good news, I can handle it and I don’t want to intrude again. I seem to cause problems between you two just by being there.”
“I think that’s a thing of the past,” Rick said easily. “You know Mike will be very upset if you don’t come. It’s been over a month, I’m sure he’d like to see you.”
“Yes, I know, but what about you, Rick? How are you going to feel? I think we need to clear the air once and for all, don’t you?” Rick sighed, but Alex was right.
“Alex, we both know what the main problem is and I’m trying to deal with it. Come visit as planned and we’ll talk more when you get here, okay? Now, let me call Mike.” Alex heard him lay down the receiver and then his voice faintly calling Mike’s name. There was a muffled conversation, then Mike’s voice sounded in his ear.
“Alex, Alex! You’re okay! Thank God! Oh, thank God! I’m so relieved! How are you? Are you coming to visit? When are you arriving?” The torrent of words made Alex laugh, even as he inwardly sighed at Mike’s innocent enthusiasm.
“Just a minute!” he laughed down the line. “Catch your breath and let me answer. I’m fine, everything is clear, and Rick has already said I should visit, so I’ll come at the weekend if that’s okay?”
“Great, that’ll be fine. Oh Alex, I am so happy you’re okay! We’ll celebrate when you get here! Rick – “ Alex heard Mike tell Rick he would be visiting at the weekend but could not decipher the reply. They chatted for a few more minutes then Alex hung up.
Next, he called the travel agent and booked his flight for the following Friday afternoon, returning late Sunday evening. This would give him a couple of days in which to see Tony in the hospital, to tell him his good news and basically say goodbye. He had been furious with Tony, but had, in the end, forgiven him for lying to him and for putting him at risk. He had no feelings other than pity for the young man he had connected with after his first visit to Mike and Rick. It had been a rebound reaction after he discovered Mike had someone new in his life. And not just anyone - Rick was the most devastatingly gorgeous man Alex had met in a long time!
He would have two nights with Mike and Rick, which would be a nice break after all the worry of the past few weeks, but he also had the prospect of talking to Rick. He had asked to talk, but what was he going to say? When had he fallen for Rick? The question popped into his mind with a suddenness that caught him completely unawares. Where did that come from? he thought, then smiled slightly. He had been attracted to Rick when they first met, had even teased Mike about passing him on should he ever grow tired of him. And he had been envious of their relationship, although he was happy for Mike.
Alex knew he was drawn to Rick; the man was gorgeous, sexy and had a latent strength, both physically and emotionally, which was devastatingly attractive. He also knew he would never do anything about it. Rick was Mike’s lover, just as he had once been, and he wouldn’t come between them. Mike desperately wanted them to be friends, and they were drawing a little closer, but he doubted they could ever be true friends. They only had Mike in common, and that was the source of the friction between them. And now Alex felt this growing attraction to Rick. He would have to step very carefully this coming weekend.
* * * * * * * *
Mike had gone to a great deal of trouble to celebrate Alex’s news. He had cooked a magnificent and elaborate dinner, served elegantly in the formal dining room and Rick had unexpectedly produced an expensive bottle of champagne. Mike was as surprised as Alex, and they had toasted his news and each other with evident satisfaction. Now they were relaxing over coffee and after dinner drinks, Rick with a single malt, Mike a cognac and Alex with JD on the rocks.
Rick was lounging in his seat watching Mike and Alex. He had been aware of Alex glancing at him occasionally during the meal and put it down to their agreement to have a talk while he was visiting. But, as shrewd as ever, he began to suspect there was something else going on. It wasn’t that Alex was flirting with him, but there was something in his expression, behind his eyes, that under other circumstances, Rick would have taken as interest.
Alex was an incredibly attractive young man, he thought idly and not for the first time. When he had first met him his reaction had been one of almost panic. How could Mike possibly prefer him to this Adonis? Mike had assured him passionately that this was indeed the case, but Rick had taken a great deal of convincing. Over time he had understood that part of the problem was his own attraction to Mike’s friend. Alex had a brilliant mind behind the glamorous exterior and an abundance of charm. Rick’s only reservations about him were that he had once been Mike’s lover and that he felt threatened by him because of that. Under other circumstances . . .
Mike was naively hoping they could all be friends together, but Rick was not convinced that this would be a good idea. Alex was still in love with Mike; he had admitted as much to Rick when they first met. And now he was giving off signals that Rick was sure he wasn’t misinterpreting. Furthermore, he was reacting to those signals in a very disturbing manner. It would seem that their talk was going to be more complicated than he had anticipated. He sighed audibly.
“What’s the matter, Rick?” Mike immediately queried. “Are you tired?”
“Hmm – no, just thinking.”
“And . . .?”
“Nothing, Mike, really, I’m fine. “ Rick paused, glanced at Alex, and then added, “I guess maybe I am a little tired. Would you guys mind if I left you to clear up? Give you a chance to talk alone.”
The two younger men willingly agreed to attend to the dishes and Rick wished them goodnight. Still worried, Mike followed him to the bedroom and hovered in the doorway.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked.
“Mike, I’m fine – just tired.” Mike closed the door and came over to him, slipping his arms around his waist.
”You don’t mind Alex being here?” he asked tentatively.
“No, Mike, honestly, I don’t mind. We’ve talked about this a hundred times and I don’t have a problem with him. It was my idea for him to come, remember? Go on and keep him company. I’m just tired.” Mike pulled him closer and brushed his lips lightly over Rick’s.
“I love you,” he said softly.
“Love you, too – now git!” Mike laughed and left Rick to undress.
Rick lay in bed thinking about Alex. When he and Mike had fought about him, he had made a decision to accept Alex as part of Mike’s life. He had got over his jealousy, finally realising that Alex was not a threat although he was obviously going to be a part of their relationship in some way. He and Mike had talked about him on many occasions and Mike admitted freely that he still had feelings for him. He had been hurt by the break up, took most of the blame upon himself and was very concerned about how unhappy Alex appeared to be.
Rick did not like to see Mike disturbed in any way, so he was obviously going to have to do something about Alex. And now Alex was giving off signals that he was interested in him! He freely admitted to himself that he found Alex attractive. He had a great deal of admiration for him; he had handled himself well when confronted by Rick. Not only had he graciously accepted Mike’s transference of affections and genuinely wished him happy, he had done his best to smooth over the row he had unwittingly caused, giving Mike some unpalatable but sound advice in the process. Rick’s relationship with Mike had improved dramatically as a result.
Rick realised he had pretended to himself that he thought of Alex only as Mike’s friend - his very handsome, sophisticated, sexy, jealousy-inducing friend - until he had spoken to him and promised to talk about the situation. That promise given, he realised he had certain feelings for Alex, which he had been ruthlessly suppressing. He mulled over the problem for a while and finally came to a decision. He had an idea and, depending on Alex’s reaction, there was a solution to the whole problem.
* * * * * * * *
Alex was busy in the kitchen and Mike joined him in cleaning up. It did not take them long and soon they were seated in the living room with another drink to hand.
“Michael,” Alex said carefully, “is Rick unhappy that I’m here?”
“He says not,” Mike answered, “and I believe him, but something’s up. Whenever he says he’s ‘just thinking’ something is definitely going on.”
“Well, does he have anything else on his mind? Has he said anything to you?”
“No, not recently. Business is good and he’s been very relaxed lately.”
“So it must have something to do with my being here.”
“Well, if it has, I guess we’ll find out when he’s ready to tell us,” Mike said and grinned at his friend. “He won’t say anything until he’s good and ready to let us in on the secret, if there is one. He could just be tired.”
“You need to quit wearing him out,” Alex said teasingly and laughed as Mike blushed. “Aha, so that’s it! You should have more consideration, Michael, Rick’s not used to having to keep up with someone as - um – energetic as you! He’s a fair bit older than you, remember, and he needs his rest!”
Alex was teasing, but his idle comment hit a nerve.
“He’s NOT old!” Mike said fiercely. “He’s twelve years older than I am but that doesn’t make him old!”
“I didn’t say he was old,” Alex protested, “just that he’s older.”
“Well, I hate it when he goes on about his age and I really didn’t expect that kind of comment from you!”
“Hey, I’m sorry, Mike. I was only teasing. Didn’t mean to hit a sore spot! Does Rick have a problem with this?”
“Not really, no,” Mike said slowly, formulating his thoughts. “He doesn’t usually mention it, but the twice you’ve been here it’s come up. He thinks I should be back with you, someone younger, and not waste myself on an ‘old man’ as he puts it. He drives me crazy when he starts that shit! I think that was part of the problem when he first met you. He admitted he thought you were gorgeous and said we should be together as we were more suited to each other. Can you believe it?”
Alex had frozen at Mike’s innocent words. Rick thought he was ‘gorgeous’? His thoughts went spinning off in various directions as Mike continued to chatter, then he consciously pulled himself together.
“Rick’s not the only one who’s tired,” Mike said gently. “You’ve had a tough time recently and been travelling all day. Why don’t you get some sleep and I’ll lock up?”
“No, I’m alright,” Alex said automatically.
“You are not,” Mike said, “you just zoned out on me. You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, now have you?”
Alex grinned self-consciously, although he could not blame his obvious preoccupation on being tired. Still, it was a good excuse and he and Mike said their goodnights. Alex retired to the guestroom and got ready for bed mechanically, his mind on what Mike had said. He felt a pang of jealousy as he thought of Mike going to bed with Rick – then his mind screeched to a halt. Was he actually jealous of Mike being with Rick? Wasn’t he supposed to be jealous of Rick being with Mike, with his ex-lover? What the hell was going on with him?
Alex settled in bed and thought seriously about this unexpected turn of events. He still loved Mike, that had never changed and he bitterly regretted that they had split up. If Rick and Mike were to split, he would welcome Mike back with open arms but – if Rick and Mike were to split and Rick came to him . . . Again, his mind stopped at the errant thought. Would he really want Rick? His body reacted at the thought even as his mind struggled. Unasked, an image came to him of the night Mike and Rick came home after their last row.
They had been touching each other all evening, nothing flagrant, just constant fleeting touches as if to reassure each other that they were, in fact, back together. He had been happy and relieved that they had settled their differences and that they even took time to discuss his situation. Mike had explained to Rick why he had turned up out of the blue and Rick had been incredibly sympathetic and understanding. Alex had been surprised and touched at his concern and grateful for his kindness.
They had retired early that evening, Alex exhausted from his late night with Mike on top of his deep worry about Tony, and the other men from their emotional upheaval. Alex had lain in bed listening to their murmuring voices, trying to block out what he could hear was happening a few yards away. Unable to sleep, he had decided to find a book to read and padded quietly through the hallway towards the den. Their bedroom door was ajar and he heard a muffled groan as he crept by. He had stopped and glanced through the small gap, unable to tear his eyes away from what he saw.
He could not see the two men as such, but his eyes caught the long mirror and he saw them reflected there. They were kneeling on the bed, Rick behind Mike, his arms wrapped around his chest. Mike’s head was resting back on Rick’s shoulder and Alex could see him in all his naked beauty, the smooth line of his throat, the curve of his shoulder caught in a shaft of moonlight. Rick was nuzzling at his neck below his ear, whispering softly, his fingers gliding over Mike’s chest, finding his nipples. Mike moaned throatily and started to move rhythmically as Rick’s hand travelled slowly down to wrap itself around his rearing cock.
Transfixed, Alex had watched them make love, listening as they gasped and sighed, recognizing the sounds of Mike’s approaching orgasm. He had grown hard as he watched and his hand had wrapped itself around his erection, stroking smoothly in rhythm with the two men in front of him. As Mike emitted a muffled yell, biting his knuckles to subdue the sound, Alex had backed away. He had gone back to his bed and resumed the stroking, jerking himself off as he pictured the two men together.
He felt himself harden again at the memory. He could picture the scene vividly playing out behind his closed eyelids. With a groan he grasped his stiffening member, preparing to repeat his actions while replaying the scene. His ears strained to hear any sounds from the other bedroom, but all seemed quiet. Rick was probably asleep by the time Mike had joined him. Alex envisioned Mike slipping into bed, spooning up to that strong back, wrapping his arms around the older man, and he wanted to be there. He could slip right in behind Mike, he thought, as his hand moved lazily, sandwich him between them, reach out and touch Rick . . .
* * * * * * * *
Saturday morning they had a lazy breakfast, then Mike announced he was going into town to pick up some items from the grocery store that he’d forgotten the previous day. Rick and Alex both realised this was the ideal time for them to talk, so neither volunteered to accompany him and Mike smiled as he grabbed his jacket.
“I trust you’re not going to need a referee,” he said jokingly and was assured by each of them that they would be fine without him. He had smiled and given them both a quick peck on the cheek, adding, “Behave yourself!” in a stern tone to Rick. They had all laughed, and Mike had gone. Rick and Alex regarded each other uneasily.
“More coffee?” Rick asked, lifting the pot in Alex’s direction.
“No, thanks,” he replied, “the only person I know who can handle more than three cups of coffee in the morning is Mike!” Rick laughed.
“Yep, that’s our boy! A SERIOUS caffeine addict.” He looked speculatively at Alex, his eyes cautious but a small smile on his lips.
“We need to talk about our boy, don’t we?” he queried softly. Alex was taken by surprise, both by the tone and the phrasing of the question. However, he met Rick’s gaze steadily and said,
“Is it Mike we need to talk about?”
“Oh yeah, I think he’s the crux of the matter. I know you still love him Alex, and you know I love him, too. The problem is –“ Rick hesitated and Alex finished the sentence for him.
“The problem is, Mike loves us both. But differently, Rick, I understand that. He loves you truly, as his lover, his partner. He loves me as a friend – an intimate friend, if you like, but not in the same way as he loves you.” Rick listened carefully, hearing the sincerity in Alex’s voice, not missing the wistfulness. He looked calmly at Alex and then said,
“What is it that you want, Alex?” His voice was gentle, his expression kindly and he looked at the younger man with deep compassion.
“What I want has nothing to do with this,” Alex said quickly, taken by surprise. Rick shook his head.
“Wrong answer,” he said. “Or maybe I should phrase the question differently. What would you wish to happen? This is your chance, Alex, maybe the only one you’ll ever get, so don’t waste it in polite denial. If you could have your heart’s desire, what would it be? Would you like Mike back with you? Would you like me out of the picture? Or is there something else on your mind?”
Alex felt his cheeks warm with a slight blush. How could Rick know what he’d been thinking? The man had an uncanny knack of getting to the centre of things and yet he did not sound offended, merely interested. And he seemed to be waiting expectantly for Alex’s answer. Alex stared at him, the flush deepening and he felt a stirring in his groin. God, but he wanted this man! He swallowed and looked away, unable to continue meeting Rick’s eyes. There was a long silence, then Rick got up from the table and indicated that Alex should follow him into the living room. He motioned Alex to the couch and, to his surprise, sat down beside him. Not too close, but close enough to reach out and touch him easily.
“I’ll ask you again,” Rick said quietly, “what is it that you really want, Alex?”
Okay, he was going to have to tell Rick, there was no other way. He was guessing Rick had an inkling of how he felt, that was why he was pushing him to answer. He just couldn’t read him, couldn’t gauge his reaction. But the worst of it was he felt like he was betraying Mike.
“I think you have a fair idea of what I want,” Alex said carefully, his eyes never leaving Rick’s face. “I want Mike just as much as you do but, more than that, I want what he has. I want a stable, loving relationship with a long-term partner who loves me and cares about me as much as you love and care for him. I wanted to be that person for Mike but I blew it over three years ago. I want to see him happy, which he is with you. I want to be happy exactly the way that he is. I guess I want someone like you since I can’t have Mike.” His voice finally faltered and he looked away.
Rick reached out and cupped his chin with a firm hand, turning his head so that he had to look at him.
“I could almost believe you Alex,” he said. “You’ve been pretty honest about your feelings, and I respect you for that. I know you love Mike and he still loves you, of course. I’ve had problems with that in the past but not anymore, and you’ve played a large part in my accepting the situation, more than you realise. I know Mike has never spoken to you about this because he loves me and doesn’t want to upset me. I’m not upset, Alex, believe me. But you haven’t been completely honest with me, have you? You said you wanted to be happy exactly the way he is – that’s honest. But then you said you wanted someone like me since you couldn’t have Mike. That wasn’t precisely true, was it?”
Startled as much by Rick’s touch as his words, Alex dropped his gaze from those probing amber eyes. He was embarrassed and humiliated that Rick had seen through him and was now trying to force him to admit what he had only just realised himself. He guessed it was payback, a subtle return for causing the jealousy Rick felt; a jealousy he had unwittingly caused and could do nothing about. He closed his eyes and decided he might as well allow Rick his moment of triumph.
“You’re right,” he said with difficulty. “I’ve learned to live without Mike, although I still love him desperately. And I’m envious of him. He has you and you have him, and I – I have no-one. When I found out about you, I stumbled into that disastrous relationship with Tony because I realised I would never get Mike back. I didn’t deserve to,” he added hastily as Rick’s grip tightened momentarily, “but when I saw you and him together, it felt like my life was over. That first visit, I’d planned to try and win Mike back. I hadn’t known about you and, when I found out, my instinct was to leave the two of you alone. I could see how happy Mike was with you; I could see you were perfect for him.” Rick’s hold on him relaxed slightly, but he didn’t release his chin. Alex’s eyes slid away from Rick’s face as he continued.
“But Mike is Mike. It’s why we love him but he doesn’t make things easy for us, does he? No, we had to be friends and spend time together; hell, he wants us to love each other, knowing him! So, having lost him – to a better man – I then had to deal with the fact that I found you attractive. You noticed, so I’m going to admit it to you while Mike’s not here, but I feel like a piece of shit. How could I explain to Mike that not only did I want him back, but that I wanted his new found lover as well? Hell, I don’t even understand it! I think maybe it’s because you love Mike so much and take so much care of him. Even if I didn’t find you attractive on a sexual level, I would still love you for that. In fact, I think I loved you for that even before I realised just how attractive I found you.” Alex scrubbed his face with his hands.
“Anyway, that’s my problem, and I’m not going to be the cause of any more rows or a rift between the two of you. I’ll always love Mike, but I can be just a friend now that he has you. As for what I feel for you, I suppose I’ll get my hormones back under control pretty soon and as long as you take care of Mike the way you’ve been doing, I can handle the rest. I just wish I didn’t feel like I was betraying Mike in some way . . . ”
There was a long silence. Alex shifted uncomfortably, unwilling to meet Rick’s gaze again, wishing he would release him. He was humiliated and wanted to get away from Rick, whose touch was disturbing him more and more. He swallowed and finally flicked a quick glance at the older man’s face. As soon as they made eye contact, Rick tightened his grip and pulled Alex inexorably towards him. With a softly murmured, “Oh, Alex, what am I going to do with you?” he bent his head and kissed him.
Alex froze as he felt Rick’s lips brush lightly over his. He did not want to respond, but as that clever mouth moved subtly over his, he finally groaned and relaxed beneath the probing tip of his tongue. Rick tasted him, his tongue moving carefully over his lips, slipping slowly inside as if trying not to startle him. Driven beyond reason, Alex opened to him and Rick’s tongue plundered his moist heat, tasting coffee and the indefinable but distinctive taste, which was Alex. Alex leant into him, his arms reaching up to steady himself against his shoulders, his tongue tangling with Rick’s, his senses swimming. He felt the stirring in his groin and knew he wanted more.
He pulled back suddenly, horrified at his reaction, stunned by Rick’s actions. His mind in turmoil, he waited for Rick to laugh at him, to gloat over his weakness. His response to that kiss had told Rick all he needed to know. He could not deny to himself or to Mike what had happened. Rick had incontro-vertible evidence to use against him, to turn Mike away from him. He felt his eyes fill with tears of shame and he hung his head, waiting for sentence to be passed.
As the silence lengthened and Rick continued to say nothing, Alex became even more confused and then a small flame of anger began to burn within him. He leapt to his feet and glared down at the man who was sitting so relaxed, smiling at him.
“Damn you, Rick,” he shouted, “what was that all about? Okay, you’ve proved your point and now you can tell Mike all about how I betrayed him. You win, you bastard, you clever, clever bastard!” Rick’s expression changed at Alex’s words and he swiftly got to his feet, reaching for Alex who darted out of the way.
“Alex, no, you’ve got this all wrong,” he said softly. “And Mike, in his inimitable fashion, got it all right, although I wasn’t sure until just now. He knew how you were feeling . . . come here, Alex!” Rick moved quickly and grabbed the young man, pulling him to his chest in a hard embrace. Alex struggled but could not free himself from that powerful grip. He finally gave up the unequal battle and stood rigid within Rick’s encircling arms. Rick’s hands moved in slow circles over his back.
“Relax, Alex, nothing bad’s gonna happen, trust me. Look at me, Alex!” The soft, hypnotic voice and the soothing feel of his hands helped calm him and he finally met those dark chocolate eyes, which were smiling down at him. Alex was more than confused now.
“I – I don’t understand,” he said in a small voice. “What’s going on? What do you mean, Mike was right? What has he got to do with this?”
“Absolutely everything,” Rick said. “But I think we should wait until he gets back before I explain.”
* * * * * * * * *
Mike returned within the hour and found Alex sitting in the living room reading the morning paper; there was no sign of Rick. He greeted Alex and received a distracted ‘Hi!’ in reply, then went into the kitchen to unpack his purchases. Rick was there making a fresh pot of coffee. Mike dropped the bags on the table and went over to his lover, wrapping his arms around his waist and nuzzling his neck.
“Hey!” Rick greeted him, turning to kiss him.
“What’s up with Alex?” Mike said. “He seems rather subdued.”
“He’s probably still in a state of shock,” Rick said, grinning wickedly at the younger man.
“Rick, what did you do?” Mike answered his lover’s smile with one of his own, knowing from the look on his face that something had happened and it was nothing bad.
“I kissed him,” Rick said quietly, not wanting Alex to overhear.
“You did what?”
“But why?” Mike was puzzled but not upset.
“Because he needed me to,” Rick replied enigmatically. “C’mon, Mike, I’ll help you put this stuff away, then we need to talk – all of us.”
Mike returned to the living room a few minutes later, carrying two mugs of coffee. He handed one to Alex and sat down beside him. Alex avoided looking at him, merely murmured a thank you and kept his eyes on the paper. Mike bent the paper down to peer over it and said,
“Rick told me, Alex.” That got his undivided attention. Alex looked at his friend, expecting him to be angry but found him smiling at him.
“You’re not upset?” he asked.
“Nope. I’m waiting to hear what Rick has to say. He said he would join us in a minute, but he wanted me to speak to you first. Do you want to talk about it before he gets here?”
“I don’t know what to say,” Alex replied truthfully. “Rick asked me what I wanted and I told him I wanted to be happy, the way you and he are, and the next minute he was kissing me!” Mike laughed, cutting it short as he saw the expression on Alex’s face.
“What’s so funny?” he asked indignantly.
“I guess Rick took you literally,” Mike replied, trying not to laugh again.
“Almost,” Rick’s gruff tones interrupted them as he wandered in and took a seat opposite them. He placed his coffee on the table and said,
“I suppose I should explain to you both, and then maybe we can all relax.” He took a deep breath and smiled reassuringly at the two younger men. “Mike, you know that I love you, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And you know that Alex still loves you, too?”
“So how would you feel about sharing?”
“Sharing? You mean -?” Mike could not quite grasp the concept. He glanced at Alex who was looking just as bewildered. They both looked questioningly at Rick. Rick raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“What?” he said. “It never occurred to either of you? I’m not just talking about you two, you know. Correct me if I’m wrong, Mike, but you wanted Alex and I to be friends, right?” Mike nodded.
“And it turns out that Alex and I are not averse to this, right Alex?” Alex also nodded, unable to string together a coherent reply.
“In fact,” Rick said slowly, “it appears that Alex would like to be more than just friends. Aht!” He raised a finger to silence Alex’s startled rejoinder. “Let me finish, Alex,” he said firmly. “I’m highly flattered that you find me attractive and the feeling is mutual,” he continued with an encouraging smile to Alex. “Now, this may be a little unorthodox and it may not work out, but I was just thinking – “
“I told you!” Mike interrupted, addressing Alex. “Whenever he says he’s ‘just thinking’ something is definitely going on!”
“Michael!” Rick warned. “Let me finish. It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, we could work something out. Mike and I are going to stay together, Alex,” Rick continued, mainly to reassure Mike that nothing had changed in that regard, “but you can visit as often as you like for as long as you like and we’ll see what develops. I wasn’t going to say anything if your results had been positive, but you’re clear and there’s no point in pretending that we can go on as before. Mike wants you in his life, you seem to want me in yours and I could probably just about handle the two of you on occasion. “ He grinned at both of them, amused by their stunned expressions. “This is a big house,” he said musingly, apparently wandering off the subject, “lots of room.” He got to his feet and said,
“I think you boys should be alone to work this out. I’ll be in the den when you need me.”
He got to his feet and strolled off without a backward glance, leaving the two men sitting with their mouths open in shock.
“Does he mean what I think he means?” Alex said eventually.
“What do you think he means?” Mike replied annoyingly.
“I hate it when you do that,” Alex sighed, “answering a question with a question. You’ve got to help me here, Mike, you know him a helluva lot better than I do. Is he actually proposing a threesome?” Mike smiled and nodded.
“I guess so. He’s amazing, isn’t he?”
“You don’t like the idea?” Mike sounded concerned. “Alex, I thought you liked Rick?”
“You have absolutely no problem with this, do you?” Alex said unbelievingly, avoiding the question.
“Of course not,” Mike said simply. “I love you and I love Rick. I wanted you and Rick to like each other – it would be even better if you loved each other!”
“Have you and Rick discussed this?” Alex asked suspiciously.
“No, not exactly. I’m just as surprised as you are at what he’s proposed. But we have talked about you, a lot. We had to,” he added as Alex flushed. “We both had to deal with how we felt about you, you know that. I told Rick exactly how I feel about you and about him. Rick has discussed with me why he felt so jealous of you; it was just his insecurity clouding the issue before and he knows now he has no reason to be jealous. And he’s admitted how much he likes you.” Mike paused.
“How do you feel about Rick?” he asked eventually. “Honestly, Alex, tell me the truth.”
“I find him very attractive,” Alex replied eventually. “I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to come between you, but there’s just something about him . . .” He darted an embarrassed look at Mike, who smiled in reply.
“Good!” he said emphatically, to Alex’s complete stupefaction. “Ah, c’mon Alex, what should I say? You’d have to be dead not to find him attractive! Why do you think I love him so much?”
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Alex said. “But aren’t you angry? Don’t you feel upset or jealous?”
“No. You’re not going to take him away from me, Alex, I know that. And now, you can be part of this relationship and that makes me very happy.”
“That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?” Alex said, not sure if he was angry or hurt. “Rick’s just doing this to make you happy!”
“No, I don’t believe that for a moment! I’m perfectly happy as things are, but you’re not, are you?” Alex winced and looked away. Mike watched him for a moment and then said,
“Alex, will you answer a personal question?” Alex bit off a laugh.
“Well, this whole conversation is deeply personal, so go ahead.”
“How did you feel when Rick kissed you? Be absolutely honest, Alex, this is very important.” Alex looked at his friend, at the open, loving expression on his face. There was no sign of anger or jealousy there, just deep concern for him.
“I felt . . .” Alex coughed and cleared his throat, but he owed this to Mike. “I felt incredible,” he finally said. “I felt desired and desiring; I wanted so much more. And I felt – safe.” He cleared his throat again. “I wanted Rick so much,” he admitted, “ and thought you the luckiest so-and-so alive! But at the same time I felt like shit because of what it seemed I was doing to you.”
“So, if you could feel all of those things without feeling like shit, that would be good, wouldn’t it?” Alex nodded. There was a long silence.
“So that’s what he meant by sharing,” Alex finally said.
“I think so – not just you and I, but all three of us.”
“You mean not just you and me, you and him, but . . . me and him?” Alex was stunned.
“Yes – and probably you, me and him!”
“Why not? He knows how we felt about each other, how we still feel about each other. And now he knows how you feel about him. And I guess he must have feelings for you or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“But he was so jealous, I can’t envision him handling us being together. And what about you? How would you handle Rick and I . . .? It’s impossible!”
“No it’s not. I think it’s a brilliant idea and you will, too, once you get used to it. Let’s go see Rick!”
Mike got to his feet and waited for Alex. When he finally rose, Mike swept him into his arms and gave him a deep, passionate kiss. It was so much like old times that Alex responded without a second thought. Then Alex lost it completely. All the strain and anxiety over Tony coupled with his feelings for Rick, Rick’s proposal and Mike’s kiss were just too much for him. He tore himself out of Mike’s arms and collapsed on the couch, sobbing uncontrollably. Mike made a startled noise and ran off to get Rick; he hadn’t expected this reaction from Alex.
Rick did not hesitate. He sat down beside Alex, pulling the younger man into his arms and comforting him, Mike sitting on his other side. When he finally calmed down, Rick drew his head to his shoulder, as he had done so many times with Mike. He tipped his head up with one finger and said,
“Better now?” At the silent nod, Rick kissed him lightly then moved away, pushing Alex towards Mike, who pulled him close just as Rick had done. He kissed him deeply, stroking his hair, smiling reassuringly.
“It’s going to be okay, Alex, you’ll see.” Alex could not help but glance at Rick, expecting to see anger at Mike’s kiss. Instead, Rick smiled.
“Alex, there’s no pressure. I thought you might like the idea. You’ve had a hard time, you’re unhappy and you miss Mike. I just confuse you at the moment, I understand that, but please think about what I’ve said. Mike seems to like the idea and I didn’t suggest any of this lightly, but you have an equal say in all of this. Do you understand that?”
Those warm brown eyes held Alex’s green ones until he nodded.
“Okay. Now, don’t get upset by any of this. Nobody’s suggesting that we all start leaping into bed together – at least not immediately!” That brought a smile from Alex and a huff of a laugh from Mike. “Mike and I want you to feel welcome here. No more jealous fits from me,” he grinned slightly, “and no more guilty feelings from you, got it? We’ll figure it out as we go along, okay?”
Alex managed a tremulous smile and received a hug from Mike, which threatened to cut off his ability to breathe.
“Welcome back,” Mike whispered in his ear.
To be continued . . .
© j.d.davis 2003