By J.D. Davis January 2005
To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven
- Jewish spiritual cycle
It was a cold, crisp winter morning; the sun was shining brightly but without warmth, the sky was a clear ice blue and there were traces of frost on the ground. Breath fogged around the crowd gathered by the graveside as they exchanged somber greetings, the occasion not warranting any type of joviality or pleasure in seeing familiar faces. Inevitably, there were representatives from the media, but they had been kept at a discreet distance.
Daniel stood a little apart from the others, alone with his thoughts. Some of the mourners allowed him his space out of respect, others avoiding contact as if he were infectious. Not that Daniel cared. His thoughts were with his lover, dwelling not on the remains enclosed in the coffin before him but on the far distant past . . .
He could hear the noise and laughter echoing through the school halls, the memory poignant as he recalled the first time he had met Johnny. Brian Taylor had been bullying him yet again and Johnny had become his white knight, rescuing him and acting as his protector all year. He and Johnny had become lovers by the end of the school year, although, looking back, it had all been very innocent. Johnny had been instrumental in launching Daniel’s voyage of self-discovery and, even when they went their separate ways, they had stayed friends. Johnny had gone on to the Air Force Academy, just as he had planned, and Daniel had drifted into teaching for a while before he found his true niche in life.
Life had been very hard for John Patterson; the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy of the Clinton era had made being in the military complicated. He had been forced to hide his true self, only relaxing when he was on leave and away from prying eyes, and even then he denied himself any close relationship. Fifteen years he had served, rising through the ranks, able to indulge his passion for flying but only by sacrificing his other inclinations. He had seen action in some of the hottest war zones, been wounded twice, and had received accelerated promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. He had more medals and commendations than Daniel had thought humanly possible: he had become a bona fide American hero.
He was a hero in Daniel’s eyes, too, but for other reasons. Not that Daniel didn’t acknowledge his military record but, for him, Johnny’s true heroism had manifested itself in a different way. Although he had compromised in order to serve his country, forced to hide his sexual preference to avoid the possibility of a dishonorable discharge, he had remained true to himself. Soon after he had finished his term of service, Johnny had performed his bravest act in Daniel’s eyes. He had come out publicly, becoming a gay activist, campaigning for a change in the law. The scandal had been shocking at the time and most of Johnny’s military friends had beaten a hasty retreat, scared that they would become guilty by association. That had been very hard for Johnny, even though he understood their reasoning.
By the time Johnny hit the headlines, Daniel had been a celebrity for some years and could empathize with his old friend. Continuously under media scrutiny, Daniel understood the pressures of living in the public eye. His manager had insisted that no publicity was bad publicity, but Daniel had tired of it, wanting nothing more than to lead a quiet life. He had been unable to maintain any kind of relationship and, although his homosexuality was a known fact in certain circles, he had had to be very discreet. When avoiding the media and the hustlers had become too much for him, Daniel had opted finally for celibacy. Only recently had things changed.
The service was drawing to a close and one of Daniel’s minders touched him gently on the arm, bringing him back to the present. The minister was announcing the request made in the will and Daniel moved to stand beside him. As the cold breeze ruffled his hair, he drew a deep breath and began to sing. No rock band, no orchestra, no choir, just his surprisingly pure voice. Most of the mourners and the ever-present media circus were astonished. Used to the glittering performances, the strutting and posturing of a major rock star, many of them had failed to realize just how talented Daniel truly was.
As his voice soared into the cold air, the crowd stilled into complete silence.
“What have I got to do to make you love me
What have I got to do to make you care . . .”
The Elton John song was difficult to sing unaccompanied and Daniel felt awkward with the sentiment expressed. It would not have been his choice: indeed, nor would singing at the funeral, but it was a last request and he had felt obliged to honor it. So he did his best even though he was aware of the glances being exchanged among the mourners, the speculation rife among the press. They would come to the wrong conclusions, he knew, but that was not his responsibility.
As he reached the last stanza, there was a slight commotion at the rear of the crowd. A tall man in the dress blue uniform of the Air Force made his way to the graveside. Better late than never, Daniel thought; at least he had arrived to show support for his friend. A murmur ran through the journalists, some recognizing the stranger, others attempting to take photographs.
Daniel finished singing and stepped aside to allow the minister to conclude the service. Within a few minutes the crowd was moving away and Daniel stood alone at the graveside. His minders kept everyone away, not allowing the press or fans near him. The Air Force officer approached him, standing in silence beside him. After a few moments, he cleared his throat and said,
“So he’s finally gone.”
“Yes.” Daniel found it hard to speak after the emotional strain of the morning.
“Not my favorite person, I admit,” the officer continued, “but he had a hard death and he should be mourned. Never thought he would die of AIDS, though. It was very surprising that he asked for you to sing.”
“I was surprised, too.”
“Strange choice of song; I think maybe he was trying to tell you something.” Daniel just shook his head, his eyes unaccountably filling with tears. The officer looked around the cemetery.
“We should go,” he said. “Can I give you a ride or do you have to go with your entourage?”
“In a moment,” Daniel agreed. The officer put his hand gently on Daniel’s arm.
“It’s cold, Danny, let’s go home.” Daniel sighed and turned away from the grave, smiling at his companion.
“Yes, Johnny,” he said. “Let’s go home.” They turned together and walked slowly to the waiting car while the cemetery workers moved in to complete their task.
As they drove away, Johnny placed a hand on Daniel’s knee.
“You sang well,” he said simply. Daniel nodded in acknowledgement.
“Perhaps you’ll sing for me some day?”
“Anytime, just not at your graveside.” Daniel’s voice shook with emotion. “I wouldn’t want to outlive you. I’d rather you sang at mine!” Johnny smiled wickedly.
“Elton certainly could write . . .” he said. “I know just the song.”
“Don’t you dare!” Daniel exclaimed then laughed out loud, taken completely off guard as Johnny sang sotto voce, “I believe in miracles, where’re you from, you sexy thing.”
Johnny grinned, knowing Daniel had expected the song named for him.
“Everyone’s a comedian,” Daniel retorted, looking back over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of the workmen. Soon the grave would be filled and the headstone erected, marking the final resting place of Brian Taylor. Johnny and Daniel would be left to wonder just why Daniel’s bête noir from school had asked for him to sing that particular song. Had he secretly loved Daniel? Had the bullying been to disguise other feelings? Had he truly meant to declare his love and say sorry? Or had it all been a massive joke at Daniel’s expense, as Daniel suspected? They would never know the answer.
Brian had fallen victim to HIV like so many others. Daniel had been shocked at the news but Johnny hadn’t been surprised. Nor was he surprised by the idea that Brian might have loved Daniel: after all, he had loved Daniel since the day he’d met him. He could only be thankful that they had found each other again and rekindled a relationship that had survived the many vicissitudes of their separate careers. The future stretched before them and Johnny anticipated many happy years with his lover. There would be no graveside scene for them, not for a very long time.
* * * * * * * *
The next morning Johnny was up later than usual, Daniel still sound asleep in their bed. They had made love until the early hours, Daniel seeking oblivion in Johnny’s arms. Johnny made coffee and retrieved the morning paper, wondering briefly if he should hide the obituary section. Inevitably, there was a photograph of Daniel at the funeral and, reading the article, Johnny sighed. As he and Daniel had suspected, it was full of speculation about Daniel’s ‘relationship’ with former Congressman Taylor. No doubt the tabloids would be even more scurrilous.
Johnny shrugged and laid the paper aside before taking a cup of coffee to his lover. The rumpled bed was empty and Johnny heard the shower running. For a moment he considered joining Daniel but he chose to ignore the twitch of his cock as his imagination flashed him a picture of a wet and naked Daniel. There was no time for dalliance. They were leaving soon and Johnny did not want to start something they would have to rush. Instead, he changed the bed, his military training refusing to allow him to leave the room anything other than immaculate. By the time he had finished, Daniel was out of the shower and wandered in wearing nothing but a towel.
Johnny handed him the steaming cup of coffee and Daniel smiled beatifically at him.
“Thanks.” He acknowledged both the coffee and the tidy room with a tilt of his head. “Paper here yet?”
“Well, fuck ‘em! What time is it?” Daniel peered at the bedside clock but was too short-sighted without his contacts to make out the display.
“Time for you to get ready and on the road.” Daniel sighed.
“I don’t want to go,” he said miserably. “I want to stay here.”
“I know you do, babe, but your adoring public awaits.”
“Fuck ‘em, too!”
“Tsk, tsk! You know you don’t really mean that.” Johnny was handing Daniel his clothes as they conversed and he obediently dressed in jeans, T shirt and a heavy sweatshirt.
“Sometimes I do. I’d like nothing better than to just quit!”
“You’d miss it after a few days, you know that.” Daniel sighed again, unwilling to admit the obvious truth.
“This is going to be hell,” he commented, waving his hand vaguely at the world in general.
“I’ll be right there with you, babe.”
“Not for the interview. We both know what’s going to happen. ‘What was your relationship with Brian Taylor? Were you close friends?’” he mimicked. “You know the kind of shit they’ll ask.”
“Yes, I know. But you agreed to sing at the funeral despite knowing the consequences. Don’t sweat it; Sarah will coach you through your responses. Just try not to lose that famous temper of yours!” That made Daniel smile.
“I’ll be good, Dad!” he mocked. Johnny pulled a face at him then wrapped him in his arms.
“You are good, Danny. What’s that Latin tag you like so much? Non illegitimae carborundum!” Johnny dropped a quick kiss on Danny’s pouting mouth, then hustled him through to the kitchen to force feed him some breakfast. The car was due in half an hour.
There was a sizeable crowd waiting at the television studios and Daniel paused briefly to speak to some of his fans, Johnny hovering in the background, ever watchful. Daniel ignored the shouted questions of the press and ducked into the building, heading for his dressing room to change. His PRO, Sarah, was waiting and they talked over what he would say about the previous day’s events as he had makeup applied and changed into a dark suit and an open-necked dark blue shirt. Johnny sat quietly, occasionally interjecting a comment or suggestion, before following Danny to the sound stage where he would wait in the wings. He gave his lover a quick squeeze on his shoulder, a whispered, “Good luck”, and then settled down to listen to the interview.
The talk show host couldn’t believe his luck. The interview with Daniel had been arranged weeks ago and now there was a juicy potential scandal to discuss. The ratings would be huge. He could only hope that his victim wouldn’t lose his temper and walk off the set, as he had done on previous occasions, but even that would make headlines. He launched into his introductory spiel and Daniel made his entrance to the accompanying applause and shouts of the audience.
The questions were standard to begin with, recapping Daniel’s academic background, his developing career as a singer at college and his stardom, but mainly geared to promoting his upcoming tour and new CD. A video clip was shown and Daniel glanced towards Johnny as he braced himself for the next question. Johnny grinned and mouthed ‘Incoming’ and ducked like he was under fire. This made Danny laugh and the cameras caught him. Johnny saw the shot on the monitors and felt his heart lurch. God, Danny was gorgeous! The skinny little geek had turned into a stunningly handsome man. Even after all this time, Johnny could not believe how lucky he was that Danny loved him.
Pulling his attention back to the present, Johnny listened to the next question. Daniel’s face went blank, only the white knuckles revealing his tension.
“No, I don’t know why Congressman Taylor requested that I should sing at his funeral. His attorney contacted me and I felt I should honor the man’s request.”
“So you weren’t particularly close?” Johnny winced as he listened.
“No, I hadn’t seen or spoken to Congressman Taylor for years.” Good, Johnny thought, Danny was keeping to the script. He was avoiding calling Brian by his Christian name, keeping everything formal.
“How well did you know him?”
“As I said, I hadn’t seen him for years. We went to the same high school, that’s all!”
“And he asked you to sing at his funeral based on a boyhood friendship?” The interviewer sounded incredulous.
“I wouldn’t exactly call our relationship a friendship,” Daniel snapped.
“But you did have a relationship?”
“If you call being the victim of bullying a relationship,” Daniel said, knowing he was straying from the agreed responses and feeling his temper begin to rise. Johnny heard the strain in his voice and got to his feet, trying to catch his attention. The interviewer was smiling, closing in for the kill.
“So you were bullied by Brian Taylor at school but still felt enough for him to agree to his last request?” Daniel ground his teeth in frustration. The man wasn’t going to let up until he got what he wanted. Daniel felt his control slipping but, instead of walking off the set, he made a sudden decision. Studiously ignoring Johnny’s attempts to catch his eye, he suddenly smiled at his tormentor and said,
“The only feelings I have for Brian Taylor are scorn that he was such a hypocritical bigot, pity for his poor family and a certain amount of gratitude!” The interviewer blinked and the audience gasped at Daniel’s words. Recovering quickly, the interviewer responded to the line fed to him by Daniel.
“Why do you feel grateful to him if you despised the man so much?” Daniel looked to the wings and Johnny groaned and shook his head, his hands upturned pleadingly.
“Because he did me a great favor.” Before the interviewer could ask another question, Daniel rose to his feet. The host was stunned, thinking Daniel was walking out, but instead, he headed towards Johnny. He grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into the limelight. As Daniel was still wearing his lapel mike, the audience could hear the low-voiced conversation and laughed delightedly.
“What the hell are you doing, Danny?”
“Just giving them what they want!”
“Let go, don’t be an idiot! I’m not going out there! Fuck!”
Johnny blinked under the bright lights, still pulling against Danny’s grip, trying to back away. Unrelenting, Danny dragged him over and pushed him into the seat next to him as the audience clapped and cheered.
“I’m sure many of you will recognize my security manager, John Patterson,” Daniel said calmly. “It was thanks to Brian Taylor that I met him and for that I will always be grateful.” He grinned wickedly at Johnny but then avoided answering any leading questions thus leaving the host and the audience wondering just what he meant.
After the show, Daniel returned to his dressing room to remove the TV makeup and change back into his jeans. Johnny’s absence was ominous and Daniel knew he was in for a tongue lashing. He had been on the verge of publicly acknowledging Johnny as his partner but had backed off at the last second. He had wanted to do it but Johnny’s forbidding expression and the panicked flapping of Sarah off camera had made him think twice. Nothing he had said could provide definite evidence of their relationship and Johnny had handled himself well as always, calmly deflecting the interviewer’s prurient interest, merely reiterating what Daniel said and confirming that he had met Daniel at school and had also known Brian Taylor from those days. Unprepared for Johnny’s appearance, the host failed to mention Johnny’s own notoriety or to draw any obvious conclusions from Daniel’s actions or words.
* * * * * * * *
Johnny was outside the dressing room door, standing guard, threat assessing as always. As Daniel walked out, he fell into step beside him and muttered in his left ear.
“I should beat the crap out of you for that!”
“Yes, you should,” Danny agreed, taking the wind out of Johnny’s sails. He made a rude noise before heading through the doors ahead of Daniel, clearing his path to the waiting limo. Once inside and with the privacy of darkened windows, Danny launched himself at Johnny, sprawling half on his lap as he kissed him as if his life depended on it. He finally pulled away, leaving them both gasping, and said,
“I love you, John Patterson! Don’t you ever forget that!” Johnny licked at his bottom lip where Daniel had sunk his teeth into it.
“You’re in a strange mood,” he commented but he enfolded the younger man protectively in his arms.
“I’m so sick of all this shit!” Danny burst out. “I wanted to tell them, Johnny, all of them! Why can’t we just admit the way we feel about each other?”
“The people who count know and that’s all that matters. Your manager thinks it would harm your career if it was public knowledge you’re gay, you know that.”
“That’s just bullshit! Lot’s of famous people are gay and the public know about it.”
“But you’ve always had the clean cut image of the All-American boy. No drugs, no sex, no scandal except for the occasional loss of temper. Why damage that?”
“Because it’s a fucking lie!”
“Yes, and for years you’ve lived that lie without protest. What’s different now?” Johnny hadn’t meant his comment to sound sarcastic or be hurtful in any way, but Daniel’s eyes filled with tears and he turned away.
“What?” Johnny asked. “Shit, Danny, what did I say?”
“You just don’t get it, do you?” Daniel said. “You’re what’s different, you stupid moron!”
“Sorry, but sometimes you really are stupid!”
“What is it with you? Talk to me, Danny, what’s going on in that head of yours?” Daniel took a deep breath.
“Brian’s funeral,” he said by way of explanation.
“What about it?”
“It made me think, that’s all.” Johnny looked at his lover who was struggling with some powerful emotion.
“Let’s talk about this later,” he said softly, and took hold of Daniel’s hand. He held it all the way back to their apartment, as they walked into the building, into the elevator, along the hallway. Daniel tugged at him once, when he saw some people walking towards them, but Johnny held on. Once inside, he pulled Daniel into a full body hug before releasing him.
“We have two free days,” he commented and headed for the kitchen. “You want coffee?”
“Yeah, that’s me, stupid.” Daniel realized Johnny had been hurt by his insult in the car and followed his lover to the kitchen.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he apologized.
“I know you didn’t, Danny. And I’m not stupid. You didn’t want anyone seeing me holding your hand. You’re not really ready to come out publicly, are you?”
Daniel realized what he had done in the hallway and recognized that was the real reason Johnny was upset.
“I’m just conditioned to be discreet,” he said in his defense. “We’ve been living together for over a year, Johnny, been seeing each other for as long as I can remember. Isn’t it time to be open about our relationship?”
“You may think you want to come out but you’re not ready. Besides, I think people will figure it out for themselves after your little display this morning.” As Daniel opened his mouth to continue the argument, Johnny held up a hand to silence him.
“We can talk to Palmer about it later. If there are repercussions from this morning, we’ll have to decide what we’re going to say anyway. It may go unnoticed but I doubt it, especially hot on the heels of the funeral. Considering the scandal when I came out, someone will probably put two and two together.”
Daniel suddenly deflated and gave in. He took the cup of coffee Johnny handed him and wandered back into the living room. He was upset and edgy, knowing he was inflicting his mood on the one person who didn’t deserve it. When Johnny finally sat down near him, Daniel moved closer and set both cups down on the coffee table. Taking hold of Johnny’s hands, he urged him to turn towards him.
“I’m really sorry, babe,” he said softly. “None of this is your fault and I just want you to know how much I love you.”
“Ah, Danny love, don’t beat yourself up about it. Brian’s funeral really messed you up, didn’t it? I shouldn’t have let you do it!”
“It was my decision, Johnny. I knew what would happen; I just didn’t think it was going to be so hard!”
“Brought back a lot of bad memories, eh?”
“Some – but lots of good ones, too! I think that’s the problem. We were so innocent then, so free! Why can’t we be like that now?” Johnny hugged him, knowing there was no answer.
“I know what you need,” he said finally, rising to his feet. “Give me a couple of minutes.” He disappeared into the bedroom and Daniel sipped his coffee, his mind dwelling on the events of the last two days. Johnny had to call him a couple of times before he snapped out of his reverie. He wandered along the hallway towards the bedroom and smiled as he heard the smoky tones of a jazz sax playing gently in the background.
The drapes were drawn and candles were scattered around the room casting a soft glow. The bed was turned back invitingly but there was no sign of Johnny. Daniel paused and eyed the scene appreciatively, then made his way into the bathroom. This was also lit with candles and Johnny was already waiting for him, chest deep in warm, scented water. Daniel smiled at the sight of his lover almost submerged in bubbles. He stripped off quickly and slipped into the water, settling into his favorite position between Johnny’s opened thighs, his back leaning against the muscular chest. Resting his head on Johnny’s shoulder, he felt himself finally relaxing.
“I don’t deserve you,” he said softly as Johnny gently sponged water over his arms and chest. Johnny pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
“Sssh! Just let me love you.”
Johnny carefully washed the body of his lover, keeping his movements slow. Abandoning the sponge, he rubbed the tenseness out of Daniel’s shoulders, massaging firmly as he knew Danny liked. As Daniel relaxed more into his touch, the massage became gentle caresses, and Johnny finally slid his hands down over Danny’s chest and abdomen, seeking the silky hardness of Daniel’s erect cock. Daniel moved between the encircling fingers, thrusting more and more through Johnny’s fist until he came with a soft moan.
“Let’s finish this in bed,” Johnny whispered and helped Danny out, wrapping him in a huge bath sheet and carefully drying him before toweling himself dry. Taking Daniel’s hand, he led him into the bedroom and eased him down in the centre of the bed.
“I want to be inside you,” he murmured as he scattered kisses over the body lying pliant before him. He prepared Danny with infinite care, warming the lube between his fingers before massaging it gently around and into his opening. He inserted one finger, his eyes never leaving Danny’s face. Daniel moaned and pushed down, relaxing himself to receive two and then three fingers twisting and scissoring inside him.
When Johnny decided he had prepared Danny enough, he spread lube onto his leaking cock, fighting for control as he pushed inside his willing lover. Slowly he eased in, waiting for Danny to relax before the gentle invasion, until finally he was fully sheathed. He lifted Daniel’s legs onto his shoulders and settled further, both of them moaning with the overwhelming pleasure of total connection. Daniel’s eyes were almost black with lust, the pupils dilated until only an edge of blue was visible. He had never looked more desirable and Johnny leaned forward to capture his mouth.
Daniel sucked on his tongue, urging Johnny to move and he matched the rhythm, pulling almost completely out before sliding slowly in again. Sweat beaded on Johnny’s brow as he fought to keep their lovemaking slow, and it was Danny who finally broke the kiss and tilted his hips upwards.
“Now,” he gasped, “now, now!” He writhed beneath Johnny, thrusting upwards, demanding. Johnny gripped his hips to hold him steady and started to move faster, gasping for breath as he finally let go control and pounded into his lover. He knew Danny was close when he made little gasping sounds in the back of his throat; Johnny changed position slightly, his cock seeking the sweet spot. Daniel drew in a shuddering breath and opened his mouth in a soundless scream as his semen spurted over Johnny’s stomach and he came a second time. The rippling muscles took Johnny over the edge and he spilled himself inside his lover, crying his name as his orgasm overwhelmed him.
Daniel opened his arms and welcomed Johnny as he collapsed against him, pulling him close. He held him through the aftershocks, pressing light kisses to his face and neck, then releasing him when he eased away. After he had recovered sufficiently, Johnny padded into the bathroom and returned with a warm washcloth and a towel. Tenderly he cleaned his lover and pulled the covers over him before climbing back into bed.
Spooning in behind Danny, Johnny wrapped his lover close to him. He pressed a kiss to his head and whispered softly.
“I love you, Danny. I’ll always love you. And as long as you love me, nothing else matters. One day people will know how much we love each other and we won’t have to hide. Until then, we have each other.”
“You’re right, as usual. Nothing else matters. I love you, too. Thank you – for everything.”
“Don’t thank me, Danny. I’m grateful for every moment I have with you. Let’s just take each day as it comes and the future will take care of itself. Sleep now; it’s been a long day.”
“Yeah, it has. And I’m absolutely fucked!” Daniel giggled. “Guess that was the idea!” Johnny laughed and hugged Danny closer to him.
“You got it! Are you okay now?”
© j.d. davis 2004
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