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First off I sincerely apologize for the delay in submitting Chapter 3. But don’t worry, I’m still here, and I will finish the story. Thank you to everyone who decides to stick with me, I hope it was worth the wait. As always feedback is appreciated.
It was Sunday, two days after I ran out on Vince. I was at home cooking, fixing up some bean soup to get me through the week and trying not to dwell on what a complete and total bastard I was. I hadn’t been out of the apartment since Friday night when I had come straight home from Vince’s apartment and jerked off the second I was inside, coming so hard I had slid to the ground, pinpoints of light flashing in my eyes. Then the shame set in, and I couldn’t bring myself to face him.
I had realized almost immediately how badly I had reacted. Of course Vince hadn’t meant it the way that it seemed. He was just horny and too inexperienced to know that you just don’t kiss someone like that unless you meant it. At first I had tried to convince myself that it had been a stupid, meaningless mistake and that all I had screwed up was potentially really hot fuck. We would laugh it off and things would go back to normal. But I had never been good at self-delusion. After all, I had screwed around with friends no-strings-attached before. This was definitely not the same.
I had Die Hard playing on my laptop as a distraction. In spite of myself I couldn’t help but replay the last time Vince and I had watched it together. When I laughed out loud at the memory of some stupid joke he had made about Alan Rickman’s German accent the sound came out hollow. I suddenly felt very lonely.
So I got out my phone. What I really wanted to do was call Vince to apologize. From the look on his face when I bolted I might as well have punched him, and I hated myself for hurting him. I was supposed to be someone he could rely on, not someone who fucked with his head. Again. But just like the hundred times before I couldn’t bring myself to go through with it.
So instead I called the same person I always did when I needed to talk, my brother Alan. It rang a couple times before he picked up.
“Hey Jack.” My brother’s voice had that redneck twang that I had mostly lost since entering civilization. In the background I could hear metallic grinding and the burst of an air compressor.
“You’re still at work.” I commented.
“Yeah, so? What’s up?”
“Nah, forget about it. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Alan made a dismissive noise. “I own the place, I can take a break whenever I want.”
I snorted a laugh. “You own twenty-five percent Mr. Big Shot.”
“Thirty five in another couple weeks.”
“Uh-huh. Baker lost his shirt in the divorce, so he’s selling me his share.”
“Not a surprise. You’re the one who saved that dump after all. Why’re you working this late anyway?”
Alan started laughing. “Oh, you’ll love this. This morning that jackass Frank O’Hara tried to take a loaded logging truck over the Allagash River bridge.”
“Ha!” I barked. Well, that cheered me right up. “How many bones did he break?”
“None, unfortunately. But we found a dozen empty beer cans in his cab, so the Sheriff’s got him locked up for DWI. It took us half the day to haul his rig out of the river. Broken axel, shocks, some front end and water damage. The Company’s giving us a twenty percent bonus if we get it up and running by day after tomorrow.”
“No shit. They really want to take advantage while the weather holds. Too bad you’re not here, we could’ve used the extra set of hands.”
“You know,” I contemplated, “I don’t know why I ever left in the first place.”
Alan laughed. “Yeah right. So, what’s up?”
“I don’t know, just a little lonely I guess.”
“Well, of course you are, little country mouse in the big city.”
“Shut up. I’ll call back later. You get back to work.”
“Nuh-uh. Hold on a minute.” There was a long pause and the sound of a door closing, and the shop noises disappeared.
“So,” Alan continued, “you gonna tell me what this is about?”
I didn’t bother to dress up this train wreck. Not from him.
“I fucked up something pretty important, with someone who should have been able to trust me. Who did trust me.”
“Uh oh.” His voice was serious. “Not one of those kids from your group?”
“God no. Give me some credit. A friend.” I paced up and down my tiny apartment. “I was the only person he had he could really talk to, and I may have completely messed it up.”
I had always been careful to avoid talking about Vince to Alan. Not that I didn’t trust him, but, just like with the underclassmen I counseled, they weren’t my secrets to tell. Now I was especially glad I hadn’t because if I had he would have figured out what this was all about (and more importantly who it was about) in two seconds flat.
“Alright, what’d you do?”
I rubbed my head. “I had sex with him – my brilliant idea by the way – and then freaked casino oyna out and ran off. After I essentially told him he was a pity fuck.”
“Wow.” Alan made a falling bomb whistle. “And I take it that this isn’t the same guy you’ve had your eye on?”
“Julian Monaco? God, I wish.”
“Is this other guy the reason you’ve been in such a good mood lately?”
“I’m always in a good mood.”
“He is, isn’t he? So, how’d he take it? He pissed?”
“Probably.” I considered. “He should be. But I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him yet.”
“Haven’t talked to him? How long’s it been?”
There was an even longer pause. “So,” Alan cleared his throat, “you…um…really like this guy, huh?”
“I don’t need to be in…I don’t have to like someone to do dumbass things. You know that.”
Alan ignored my pointless rationalizations. “Does he know how you feel?”
I groaned. “He’s got to, doesn’t he? I mean, why else would I have freaked out like that?”
“Maybe he feels the same way.”
I rolled my eyes, even though he couldn’t see it. “Yeah, somehow I doubt that, after the number of times I’ve screwed with his head. But it’s a moot point anyway.”
“In the closet, huh?”
“Ouch. Want to talk about it?”
“Yeah, but I can’t.”
I gave a weak laugh. “Something like that. I don’t even know why I called.”
“Because you’re a soft touch whether you like it or not. Right now you’re thinking maybe you can still be friends with this guy. You want to help him, and now you feel like you owe him. But you’re too smart to think that is actually a good idea, so you need someone to tell you what you already know, which is that you need to stay the fuck away from him.”
I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew it was true. “Yeah, I know.”
“You know, you know that there is no way this can end good. His life is going to suck no matter what you do. You can’t let yourself get caught up in it.”
“You’re right,” I sighed.
“You also need someone to tell you you’re not a complete bastard, and…” Alan was cut off by the door opening and someone called him back to the floor. “Can’t you deal with it for five fucking minutes?” he barked at the intruder.
“Go on,” I cut in. “I’ll call you back tomorrow and tell you how it goes.”
He gave an incredulous noise. “Jack?”
“You’re not a complete bastard. Do what you gotta to do for this guy, then let it go. You know how ugly this can get.”
“Thanks. Get back to work.”
“I’m not kidding. Bye.”
Talking to Alan had helped. It always did. He had always known how to tell me what I needed to hear. God help me, I was this close to feeling homesick. But tomorrow was the real test. I was going to have to face Vince.
It was Sunday night and I was staring at the same page in my Evidence text that I had failed to absorb the first five times I read it. I was in a rotten mood because I hadn’t gotten a single thing accomplished all weekend. No reading. No outlining. Even the little ABC Hornbooks I had bought as study aids flew right over my head. I had even called my father’s chief of staff to bitch at him over some essentially irrelevant talking points he had botched. Not surprisingly all that accomplished was to piss him off and make him hang up on me.
I had tried giving myself the usual pep talk. Remember, you’re here to do a job. You have an opportunity that you don’t deserve and you’d damned well better earn it. But for the first time in my life it didn’t help. The only thing I had managed to do with any success was to run myself to exhaustion doing laps around the park. But no amount of exercise seemed able to ease my restlessness.
I had done my best to put it out of my mind, but of course I knew the reason.
I had sat on my couch for an hour after Jack had run out my door, a deep sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had screwed up, I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I had. That’s why I had no right to see it as a betrayal, but for all the world that’s what it felt like. I didn’t know what it meant, except that the only real friend I ever had, would likely ever have, had just run out on me and I didn’t understand why.
I had waited up until midnight in case he came back or called, but he did neither. I lay awake in bed, unable to quiet the confusion and arousal racing through my mind.
I might be inexperienced, but I knew the difference between fucking and intimacy. I had definitely crossed that line, though I had no idea how far. Thinking back on it rationally it shouldn’t have been anything. So, I wanted more than a one-sided blow job, so the fuck what? At least that’s what I convinced myself had happened. The truth was that I had been so caught up in the heat of the moment I had no idea what I was doing. But obviously it meant something to Jack. I couldn’t decide if what had happened had been nothing canlı casino at all or potentially catastrophic.
But, even if I had screwed up I should have heard from him. I mean, we were friends after all. Right?
But when I really thought about it, I had probably said twenty words to Jack for every one he spoke to me. I had spent countless hours pouring my soul out to him – my family, my upcoming marriage, my constant, oppressive fear of disappointing my father. But I knew next to nothing about him. On the few occasions I had tried to ask him about himself he had always turned the conversation back to me. I knew he felt bad about fucking with me back at the beginning of the semester, maybe this was just his way of making us even. Maybe Jack hadn’t been my friend at all.
He was my goddamned therapist.
That possibility scared me more than anything else. Friends didn’t grow on trees. Not for me. Over the last few weeks I had grown to rely on Jack more than I could have imagined, not just as someone I could vent to but as someone who cared about and accepted me for who I really was. Probably the only person who would ever even know who I really was.
Or so I thought. It hadn’t occurred to me how precarious our relationship was. I wouldn’t say that I was a pity case exactly, but it was obvious now that I needed him a hell of a lot more than he needed me. God knows what nerve I hit to make him freak out like that, but the reason he didn’t come back with a smile and an apology might simply be because he had no reason to. He could blow me off if I pushed too far because the friendship I thought we shared was largely in my head.
Tomorrow was Monday, and I was going to get some answers.
I expected Jack to continue avoiding me, so I was surprised when after our first class he walked straight up to me and asked if we could talk.
We found an empty conference room and closed the door. Now that we were alone I didn’t know how to start. My initial plan had been to try to laugh the whole thing off, like it was just some silly misunderstanding. It was worth a shot anyway. But now I couldn’t seem to find the words.
Jack was the first to break the silence, though he still didn’t make eye contact. “Look Vince, I’m really, really fucking sorry for running out on you. That was a real dick thing to do.”
I felt an immediate rush of relief. So, he didn’t blame me for what had happened. That was good sign. But then, what was the problem? I wanted to ask him but figured it would be best not to launch into an interrogation just yet. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. But it’s not just your fault. I knew the ground rules. I just got…a little…” I shrugged, “carried away, I guess.” Boy was that an understatement.
Jack must have been thinking the same thing. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “A little? You could knock someone right off their feet with that shit.”
I couldn’t help but crack a smile. “I don’t know whether to say thanks or sorry to that.”
“Why would you be sorry?”
I shrugged. “I obviously crossed some sort of line.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong.” Jack shook his head. “You only kissed me. It was a hell of a kiss, I’ll give you that. But it’s not like you bent me over the couch and fucked me.”
“If you hadn’t left I might have.” I chuckled, but I was only half kidding. If that.
Jack didn’t smile. If anything he looked even more uncomfortable. What the hell? The whole fuck buddy thing was his idea after all, now he was the squeamish one? “It was a bad idea,” he repeated. “I should never have brought it up. It’s just, I worry about you, you know? It’s more dangerous out there than you seem to think. I know you’re a good judge of character, but you can’t always see them. Especially the real monsters. I really don’t want to see you get hurt.”
For the time being his concern for my welfare flew right over my head. So, I thought, I was a pity case after all. Without thinking I put up a hand to stop him. “Okay,” I retorted, “one, you didn’t make me do anything. I’m an adult, I’m capable of making my own fucking decisions. Two, you’re my friend, no my goddamned therapist, you don’t have some responsibility to protect me from myself.”
Jack gave me a wide eyed look and put his hands up. “Oooo…kay.”
I stopped myself. Remember, you’re here to make friends. I knew he was only trying to help. The fact that he worried so much about me should make me happy, not defensive.
I guess he recognized the blow to my ego, because after an introspective pause he added, “I didn’t do it out of charity Vince. I’ll admit I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it would help you. But I also wouldn’t have done it unless…I wanted to.” He looked at the ground, and I swear to God that he blushed. “Don’t you remember how it affected me?”
Oh, yes I did remember – the feel of him hard as a stone grinding against my hip, his rough, calloused hands in my hair, his soft tongue, kaçak casino tasting myself on his mouth…I had to sit down to hide my instant hard on. We both laughed a little at my late-coming modesty, but the tension didn’t leave the air.
“So,” I drew a breath, “are we good?”
Jack frowned. “Um, define ‘good’.”
Uh oh. “I mean, can’t we just pretend Friday never happened?”
He shuffled his feet and my heart sank again. “Fuck Vince, I’m really sorry…” he drifted off. But then he seemed to struggle with something, and finally he shook his head and sighed. “Let’s just give it some time, okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” I found myself saying. So, what, he cared about me enough to worry about my safety and to feel like crap for hurting me, but not enough that he was willing to keep spending time with me? That was a hard blow. I wanted an explanation. But what I wanted more was to be friends again. So I took what he offered and didn’t push it.
He took that as his cue to exit, giving me an apologetic half-smile on his way out. If I hadn’t been so confused I might have found his uncharacteristic lack of confidence endearing.
Time. Yeah. I could handle that. If the last few weeks had taught me anything it was that I wasn’t sure I could do this alone. Not in the long run. I needed him. And damned if I was going to lose him over a kiss.
After that conversation Vince and I hardly said a word to each other for a month and a half. I knew I should have just followed my brother’s advice and cut my losses. I even called him several times a week just to remind me. Again, I knew in my head it was a bad idea. I kept telling myself that, as bad as I felt, it would be even worse if I was around him now that I understood my feelings toward him.
Though, increasingly, I wasn’t really sure how.
I had honestly had every intention of breaking it off with Vince when I talked to him, but in the end I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it. Aside from the fact that it would make me a titanic asshole, it felt too wrong to give him the brush off and mean it, and no amount of logic to the contrary could change that. Part of me hoped, even expected, that he would just forget the whole thing and decide he was better off without a flake for a friend. But it didn’t happen.
For several weeks we had been nearly inseparable. And sure, I lusted after him (though in retrospect there was definitely more to it even then), but he had also been the best friend I had made since leaving home.
So I thought if I could just get back to that place then we could be friends again and put this whole giant mess behind us.
By now cracks were starting to show in Vince’s patience. He did his best to respect my request for time, but whenever our paths crossed at school or in the study group he would give me this puppy dog look and I couldn’t help but feel guilty.
The only positive that had come out of all this was that Julian and I had become friends. I guess he realized I was feeling low so, being the ridiculously sweet guy he was, one day he invited me to stay after the study group. I didn’t have to think before accepting. Since leaving home I hadn’t managed to make any lasting friendships, but until Vince it hadn’t bothered me.
We didn’t do anything in particular, just read in companionable silence, watched T.V. I appreciated that he didn’t try to make small talk, or ask me how I was doing, just kept me company. I ended up leaving late, and he surprised me by asking me back the next day. From his casual tone I had expected there to be other people there, but it was just us again, which suited me fine. Soon I was over at his place a couple days a week. He definitely wasn’t a substitute for Vince, but it was nice.
But there was one thing that bothered me. For the first time, I felt no attraction to Julian. I would stare at him out of the corner of my eye for long minutes, trying to recall even the tiniest spark of what he once did to me. But I might as well have been looking at my brother from the complete lack of warm tingly feelings.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think he was good looking. I had always thought that. Not in an all-American Adonis way like Vince, but more in a sweet, approachable boy-next-door way. Okay, got to stop comparing him to Vince. But much more than that he was smart, down to earth, and almost as unaffected as Vince (Again?) despite the fact he had enough money in his trust fund to buy and sell the town I grew up in. Most importantly, he had a good heart. That was all I wanted, the rest was just gravy.
After a couple weeks of trying to conjure some interest from my heart (or even my dick) I decided that the only reasonable thing to do was put my romantic ambitions on hold and just enjoyed Julian’s friendship for what it was. I still had a year and a half before we graduated, and he didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
I was running late for the study group. I didn’t see Vince’s midnight blue BMW on the street and couldn’t decide if I was relieved or disappointed. Being in such close proximity was…uncomfortable…but he needed the group, and I had insinuated myself to the point I would be a real dick if I left.
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