We didn’t say anything for a while, both of us just mulling the situation over from our own respective points of view. I was starting to understand him, and the picture I was getting was scaring me even more. He’d gotten so competitive lately. I searched through my memories, trying to figure out when it had started, but in the end, it seemed like one of those things that built up gradually until suddenly it became a problem. Regardless, at this point in time, winning to him was everything. Then it dawned on me: when he’d taken over as captain of the team, his need for victory had totally surged. That made even more sense, especially to me. I took my responsibilities seriously, and became even more compulsive when I was in charge. Matt was doing the same thing with the hockey team.
Carl Haupt was playing him perfectly. He must be used to this kind of guy, and he fueled the fire. His uber-macho attitude, his locker room banter, and the way he pulled Matt along, giving him just enough play to keep him interested: it was classic. And Matt was rolling along on the adrenaline wave, where craving the next victory was almost as sweet as getting it. There was only one cure for this, as I saw it. He was going to have to land on his ass really, really hard. I glanced over at him. God, he was handsome. It killed me to think of what that would be like, and what that might do to him.
He caught me looking at him and gave me a dirty glance. He’d totally misinterpreted my expression. “Just because you decided to be ‘Dad of the Year’, I don’t see why we have to change the way things are. Dude, I’m not ready to be married and live in a house with two point five kids.”
“I don’t think I ever asked you to do that, now did I?” I asked coolly. “All I really asked you to do was not be a fucking pain in the ass. If you don’t want to be an active part of Riley’s life, that’s your call. I’ll still love you.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t want to be part of Riley’s life!” he snapped.
“What did you say, then?”
He shook his head in frustration. “Look Wade, I’ve got two years left, and then it’s over. I’m not going to be able to play hockey on a team like this again, I’m not going to be able to party like this, and I’m not going to be able to get laid like this. I love my life. I’m really happy. You want to fuck that all up, and you wonder why I’m not OK with it.”
“I’m not trying to fuck anything up. I totally get where you’re coming from.”
“I just don’t get why you’re so jealous of Carl.”
My hands gripped the steering wheel as rage, sheer rage, flowed through my body. The only real sign was my white knuckles, because I was squeezing the wheel tightly. “Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not jealous of him. Not in the least.”
“You’re sure as fuck acting like it.”
“Do you really think it’s all that unreasonable for me to ask you to not sleep with this one guy? How many people have you been with over the past few years?” He didn’t answer. He didn’t know. Thank God for condoms. “And this one guy bothers me, so now I’m a dominating, jealous bitch?”
He wanted to win this argument, and he couldn’t, so he did the next best thing, and changed the subject. “What about Gathan?”
“I already said I’d promise to leave him alone as a trade-off,” I said. It’s not like Gathan and I had anything going. I blew him once. Still, if Gathan found out that I’d agreed not to have a more intimate relationship with him, I knew that would bother him, but he’d get it. Carl wouldn’t. He’d see it as a challenge.
“Did you hook up with him?” he demanded. I paused to admire his strategy. That was probably the only tack in this argument that would let him dig out of this hole.
“I blew him.”
“You blew Gathan?” he demanded. When he gets mad, the veins in his neck bulge out. They were bulging now.
“Real nice, Wade. Nice. Now who’s playing games and trying to control me. You’re just doing this to make me jealous, and to piss me off.” If I was, it was certainly working. I thought about his words, so deeply that I zoned out on him, pissing him off even more. “You’re not going to talk to me now?”
“I was thinking about what you said. I didn’t blow him to piss you off, but I did do it because I was pissed at you.”
“What?” I’d confused him.
“I had just gone to bed and you called me. It was the call where you were blowing Carl. It made me feel really lonely, and I knew Gathan was lonely too, so I went to his room to hang out with him.”
“To blow him.”
“That wasn’t my plan, but I think he was jacking off and I interrupted him.”
“So how come it’s alright for you to do that, but it’s not alright for me to mess around with Carl?”
“I didn’t say you did anything wrong, I said it upset me. And I told you why it upset me. It upset me not because you’re with another guy, but because you were with him. He’s toxic. He’s a threat.” He said nothing, because he was trapped again. “You’ve made it clear where I stand with you.”
“And you’ve made it clear where I stand with you,” he said, trying to sound all self-righteous.
We drove up to the gates of Escorial and they opened magically, thanks to the transponder in the Audi. I cruised up the drive slowly, because I liked this house and I enjoyed this part of the drive. Matt tended to tear up the drive at almost freeway speeds. I parked the car and we went to our room, avoiding contact with anyone.
“So what are you doing tonight?” he asked me.
“I was planning to hang out with you.”
“Keeping an eye on me so I don’t go see Carl?” he asked, being a smart-ass. He regretted it as soon as he said it.
“You can do whatever you want with Carl. If you want to hang with him, go.” I really surprised him with that one, because he thought his last statement would really piss me off. It did, I just didn’t let him see it. “I’m going to get some food.” I walked out of the room and up to the kitchen. One of the cooks made me a couple of cheeseburgers.
“There is a package for you, Mr. Wade,” one of the maids said, handing me a Fed-Ex envelope. It was from my mother.
“Thank you,” I said automatically. I finished eating and wiped off my hands before I tore open the envelope. There was no note, no explanation, but there were new contracts. I took them and went back down to our room to put them in my bag. I’d check them against the old ones on my trip to LA tomorrow. Matt was getting ready to go out.
“Hey,” he said unenthusiastically.
“Hey. Ate some cheeseburgers. There are more up there,” I told him in a friendly tone.
“I, uh, you want to go down to the dorms with me?” He didn’t really want me to, but he felt like he should ask.
“Sure. Give me a few minutes to clean up.”
“Cool.” I couldn’t tell if he was glad that I was going or not. I went through my ‘getting ready’ process. I did everything in order, just like I always did. I found that it made things so much easier, since that meant all the stuff I needed was put into the perfect sequence, and I never forgot anything because it was rote.
I found Matt in the kitchen, just finishing up his last cheeseburger. “You ready?”
“I am,” I said, and smiled at him. I was done arguing about this shit. Let him do what he wanted. I had bigger things to worry about. “I think I look hot,” I said playfully.
“As hot as me?” he asked, flirting, and catching my mood.
“Dude, no one is as hot as you.” That was a true statement. He really was a sexy beast.
“You’re the closest one, so you can hang out with me,” he said, putting his arm around me and leading me out of the kitchen. When we were in the dismal Great Hall, he stopped and pivoted so he was in front of me. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I said sincerely, and kissed him. It was a nice kiss, a really nice kiss, and it helped to heal some of the damage we’d done to ‘us’. We walked out to the car and I headed down to the dorms. Parking was a bitch, as usual.
Gathan and Carl were both in Lag West, the same dorm Matt and I had been in. “Carl and Klip are in our old room,” Matt said as we walked up to the building. Somehow, that seemed sacrilegious, but I said nothing. “Gathan’s down the hall.”
“Whose room does he have?” I asked curiously, referring to the dorm assignments from when we were freshmen.
“Amber’s old room,” he said meaningfully, as if living in her old room somehow linked Gathan to that miserable skank.
“Wow. Bad vibes in that one,” I said gamely, refusing to get in a fight when we were walking into the dorm.
The dorms were just as they were when we lived in them. There were people all over the place, running around and talking to each other. A number of them were already drunk. Stupid-ass freshmen, mostly, who didn’t realize that if you were hammered at seven, you’d be passed out by ten, and then you wouldn’t get laid. We automatically walked to our old room, knocked, and then walked in.
It was still red, the same paint color that Cole had applied some two years ago. Carl and Klip were sitting there with another one of the guys on our team, a forward named Ganteaux. Matt walked in first. “Hey!” Carl said enthusiastically when he saw Matt. His expression faded visibly when he saw me. “Oh, hey Wade.”
“Hey,” Matt said, and fist bumped him. I just nodded at him.
“What up, Klip?” I asked of the tall, blond forward. This guy had the looks of a fucking model. He was dating a rich sorority girl. I wondered if that explained the new, huge TV they were watching.
“Same thing. Wanna see?” he asked, flirting with me.
“No. You have that ‘look but don’t touch’ thing going on,” I joked with him. I really liked Klip; he was one of my best friends on the team. I didn’t get with other guys very often, and when I did, I usually ended up just blowing them. Every once in a while, if we were in the right situation, meaning we were alone and he was drunk, Klip would let me blow him. I smiled when I thought about it, because he was really fun. He was one of those guys who really got into it, and he was smoking hot, so it was fun just to appreciate his body, and to make it respond to my moves. That, and because I liked him so much, it was nice to be able to do that for him, and to have that additional intimacy with him. Right now, the coolest thing of all, though, was that Klip would let me blow him, but he never did anything with Matt. I don’t even think Matt knew that he played around, although there were some suspicions last year. That’s how I’d gotten in his pants the first time, when I’d figured out that he’d let Brad suck his dick. Matt either didn’t connect those dots, or didn’t push him on it. There were very few guys that I actually let fuck me. Besides Matt, Cody was about the only other guy I did that with. I’d consider it with Klip.
“Yeah. But I know that you queers can get off just by lusting at my body,” he joked.
“Probably works for Haupt,” I joked good-naturedly, and in such a way that the other guys thought I was just playing around. Matt and Carl both gave me really dirty looks, which if the other guys had been more perceptive, might just have given them away.
“Dude, no shit. I’d put a curtain up if I was staying in this room.”
“Yeah. I’m swapping with Chitworth.” So Klip didn’t like Carl either.
“Dude, go look in the bathroom. He’s a fucking slob,” Klip said, gesturing at Carl.
“Fuck you,” Carl said in a friendly way. I glanced at the bathroom and it was trashed. That would drive me crazy. Even though I detested Carl, I was tempted to clean it up.
“So what are you guys going to do when Klip takes his TV?” I asked Carl.
“TV stays. It’s mine.” He turned to Matt. “Thanks for that. Hockey games are so much better. You can actually see the puck.”
So Matt had bought him a big television? That had to cost at least a couple of grand. Matt avoided looking at me, even as he responded. “No problem. Can’t come over here and get eye strain.” So evidently he was planning to spend a lot of time here.
“Yeah, and it makes sure that people will come hang out with you,” Ganteaux said to Carl, giving him shit.
“I’m not sure a television is a big enough incentive for me,” I said to Ganteaux in French, as he was a French-Canadian. He laughed, and Matt gave me a dirty look. Evidently, Carl and Klip didn’t speak French.
“What did you say?” Carl asked.
“I told him that I have a really big dick,” I said in a condescending way. Ganteaux laughed harder still. “I’m going to go check out your new room,” I said to Klip. “When are you moving?”
“When Chitworth is done beating off.”
“That could be a while,” Ganteaux joked.
“Maybe I’ll buy you guys a new TV so you don’t have to go through DTs,” I joked. Matt seethed at that one.
“That would be the bomb,” Klip said.
“I’ll be back,” I told Matt, then went across the hall and a few doors down with Klip right behind me. I knocked on the door and walked in. Chitworth was packing shit up, getting ready to move, while Gathan was helping him.
“Hey!” Gathan said enthusiastically when he saw me. “You like my new digs?”
“Dude, the walls are pink,” I observed.
“Yeah. Chicks lived here last year. We’re gonna paint it tomorrow, right Klip?”
“Right,” he said.
“We were supposed to do it yesterday, but someone got pussy-whipped into going out.”
“This is the kind of shit you hear from someone who isn’t getting any,” Klip said with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh really? Not getting any? If you’d have been at the party last night, you’d have seen me score big time.”
“Dude, you fucked that skanky whore in the bathroom,” Chitworth said.
“Dude, what did you get?” Gathan demanded.
“Everyone fucking heard her moaning,” Chitworth said, shaking his head.
“Yep. Now I’ve got a reputation.” He mimicked his bedroom voice. “Hey baby, I’m Gathan. I’m the guy that makes women moan.” We all busted up laughing. It was good to see him happy and enjoying himself. I would have almost believed that he’d gotten over Kristin if I hadn’t looked deeper into his eyes and seen the pain that was still there.
“Well we’re here. Why don’t we help you move?” I grabbed a box and walked down the hall and pushed right in. Matt and Carl must have been making out, because they pushed apart really fast when I walked in.
“Don’t you knock?” Carl asked rudely.
“We’re moving your new roommate in,” I said coldly.
“Sorry,” he said insincerely. Matt looked at me nervously. I ignored him.
“You guys might want to find a safer place to do that, unless you plan to be outed to the whole team,” I said to Carl. I dropped the box on the floor, and walked up to Matt. I leaned in so only he could hear me. “You mess around with him in our room, and I’ll cut your dick off.”
He stared at me in horror, because I never got mad like that, and I never threatened him like that. I picked up one of Klip’s boxes, and took it over to his new room. The actual physical act of moving all of Chitworth’s shit out and all of Klip’s shit in didn’t take much time. The organization of it took a lot longer. Matt and Carl sat in Carl’s room, playing video games on the new television. I chuckled to myself when I thought about how Chitworth was cock-blocking Matt. Klip was a pretty organized person, so he was pretty deliberate about where he put things. Chitworth was a lot like Carl. Their room was going to be a pigsty.
“Let’s go run an errand,” I said to Gathan. He shrugged and followed me out, leaving Klip to unpack. I didn’t bother to tell Matt that I was leaving.
“Where are we going?”
“Best Buy. I need a new television.”
“Better let me drive then. You’ll want a big one.”
I laughed. “I always want a big one.” I sounded like Matt when I said that.
“Anytime, big guy,” he said to me with a leer.
“So you got laid?”
“Yeah. It was pretty sleazy,” he said, and sounded guilty. “Chitworth was right. She was pretty skanky.”
“Yeah, but you got laid,” I said, smiling at him.
“I had more fun with you,” he said.
“Dude, save your game. It’s not working on me,” I joked.
“I had fun too,” I relented. We got to Best Buy and I picked out a big plasma television, one that cost at least twice as much as the one Matt bought Carl.
“Dude, that TV is the bomb. Where’s it going?” Gathan asked as we left the store.
“Yeah. I bought it for you for two reasons. The most important one is that I wanted to get you something.”
“And the second is to really piss Matt off, since he bought a TV for Carl?” he asked. He raised his left eyebrow playfully. I was so glad that didn’t bother him.
“That might be the other reason,” I allowed, cracking him up.
“I’ll make sure Carl knows how much it costs.” We laughed even harder after that.
Gathan and I lugged the TV up the stairs and found Klip just putting away the last of his shit. “What’s this?” he asked.
“A new TV, for the two hottest underclassmen on the hockey team,” I said, leering at him.
“Dude, what do we have to do for this?” Klip asked Gathan, pretending to be all nervous.
“Dude, anything he wants,” Gathan said. “This TV rocks!”
I left them to set it up and I wandered back over to Carl’s room. I knocked loudly, waited, then knocked loudly again. I heard Carl’s voice yell “Come in.”
“I wanted to make sure you heard me,” I joked. He and Matt looked annoyed, and Chitworth just looked confused. They were playing video games. Chitworth had shit spread out all over the place. There was no way I’d be able to spend time in this room, even if I wanted to.
“Beer?” Chitworth asked. He tossed me a beer, and that was our cue to start drinking. I must have downed four beers in quick succession, until I was feeling no pain.
A knock at the door heralded the arrival of Klip. “TV’s set up. Come see.”
“What TV?” Matt asked.
“Wade said a hot guy like me deserved a hot TV,” Klip said. “He’s right.”
We walked over to their room and damn, did that TV have a nice picture. “Matt,” Gathan said coldly to acknowledge him. He hadn’t seen Matt since we’d arrived. Matt just nodded at him.
“That’s a nice TV,” Matt said. I could tell he was freaking out inside, as anger and jealousy flowed through his body. That was a dangerous cocktail. I pulled out a joint and lit it, and we all got really stoned. That helped take the edge off.
We all hung out in Gathan and Klip’s room, having a good time. I found the dynamics to be really interesting. Chitworth was pretty oblivious. When he talked about stuff, it was the kind of stuff you’d hear high school guys talk about. He was seriously lacking maturity. Matt and Gathan didn’t like each other, Klip liked everyone, and I was civil to everyone, while Klip and Gathan were clearly not all that friendly with Carl.
“Where’s Cole?” I asked.
“With Allison,” everyone said, almost in unison. We cracked up and smoked another J.
After a while, Carl and Chitworth went back to their room, and Matt, of course, went with them. I hung out with Gathan and Klip, and then decided to head back to Escorial. I had a flight to LAX the next morning, and I wanted to get ready for that. I knocked, and then walked into the room, which revolted me because it was so disorganized, to find Matt and Carl alone, but separated. Clearly, they’d learned their lesson.
“Hey Wade,” Carl said cheerfully. He was trying something new, a different strategy, and I was sober enough to catch that. I wondered if it was because Matt had chewed him out, or if he thought he could manipulate me too.
“Hey there,” I said, just as cheerfully. The only way to find out was to respond positively, and see what his game was. We sat around and bullshitted about nothing in particular until I noticed a picture on his desk. It hadn’t been there before. “Who are those people?” I asked curiously.
“That’s my family,” he said. Matt got nervous. “My father’s an asshole. Abusive motherfucker. Matt says that’s something we have in common.”
There are times when a situation can overwhelm me, and it takes all of my self-control to remain calm and not freak out. I’d watched my father do that all my life, particularly when he was being chastised or browbeaten by a constituent or some self-righteous moron. How ironic that at this point in time, when I was grappling with something that he was partially responsible for, I would get my strength and grounding from him. I methodically began to shut down the emotional parts of my brain, and responded as matter-of-factly as I could. “Dude, the worst thing about my father is that he’s a Republican,” I joked. “We’re fine.”
Carl looked confused, Matt looked horrified, and I just needed to get the fuck out of there. “That’s cool,” Carl said.
“I’m going home,” I said to Matt. I’d driven, so that was an interesting announcement on my part. “You can stay here. I’m sure you can get a ride.”
“I can take you back later,” Carl offered. Matt knew that he was in some serious shit with me, and that comment had just made it worse.
“No, that’s OK. I’ll go with you,” he said. We walked out of Lag and said nothing. He tried to make idle conversation on the drive home, but I ignored him as I just seethed inside. It wasn’t until we got back to Escorial that I finally lost it. We were walking through the Great Hall, with its medieval décor, and something about that just tripped all of my switches. He was in front of me, so I grabbed his arm forcefully and spun him around.
“What the fuck did you tell him about me and my father?” I demanded.
“He said that his father used to beat the shit out of him. I told him that you didn’t always get along with your father either.”
“That’s bullshit. You said more than that. What did you tell him?” I was yelling now.
“I might have said that your father was abusive.”
“You might have said that? You might have said that?” I was so furious; all of my normal shields were down. All that raw emotion that was normally contained, it was gone. I was yelling, yelling at him at the top of my lungs. “You told him that!”
“I told him that,” he admitted quietly.
“Did you tell him how my father was abusive?” I screamed. “Did you tell him the whole story?”
“No. In the, the, well, the way we were talking about it, he would think that your dad hit you.” That was actually almost ridiculous. My father wouldn’t have dared to hit me, at least not from the age of about 13 onward. Probably not before then either. The only way he’d been able to abuse me sexually was to use my little brother as a pawn.
“What gives you the right to tell him about me, about my personal life?”
“I don’t know. I thought you could help him.”
“I don’t even like the guy. I sure as fuck don’t want to help him!”
“I’m sorry Wade. It just slipped out.”
“While you were blowing him, right after you were done? Is that when it happened?” He said nothing. “You violated my trust. You violated it at the deepest level.”
“Do you understand what I mean now, asshole? When I told you this guy was toxic, and you didn’t get it, do you get it now? God, sometimes you are the stupidest fucking being on the planet.”
“Wade….” He tried to interrupt me again.
“I never thought you’d betray me like this. Never! I always thought I could trust you, that you’d at least be there for me where this stuff was concerned. Never. Never.” A tear fell down my face and he made to wipe it away, but I smacked his hand away.
“I fucked up. Fucked up big time. I’m sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?”
“Well, I already asked you not to mess around with him, and you were unable to do that,” I said, pausing to watch him digest that. He’d make the deal now, I could read him, but he’d break it in the end. I was so disgusted with him; it took all of my energy just to talk to him. “So now, I only want one thing from you.”
“What? Anything. Name it.” He was relieved that I wasn’t demanding that he give Carl up, the stupid asshole.
“The tapes that you have of my father and me. The videos. I want all the copies you kept. The original too.”
“OK.” He was dejected, because I was telling him that I didn’t trust him anymore.
“All of them.”
“I got it!” he said loudly, more out of frustration than anything. I walked past him, bumping him so hard on the shoulder that he fell to the floor, and headed to the kitchen. No one was up, so I focused all of my energy and thoughts on making food. I made two monster sandwiches and sat at the table to eat them. Matt came in, but I glared at him, and he got the hint and left me alone.
I walked out to the patio, and let the cool air envelop me. The lights in the distance twinkled, as if they were taunting me. Was Matt really the guy for me? I’d thought I’d met my ‘Mr. Right’, but shit, how could that be when I couldn’t trust him. Was there a guy out there that I could trust?
The door opened and I turned, expecting to find Matt, and ready to tear into him again. Instead, I saw JP strolling out. He handed me a cup of something warm. “Thanks,” I said, and tasted it. It was tea, something we both enjoyed. “You’re up late.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” he lied.
“You mean we woke you, so you got up and came out here to talk to me.”
“Perhaps,” he said with a sly grin. “Although technically what I said was true. It is difficult to sleep when someone is yelling in the Great Hall. It tends to echo.”
“I’m sorry about that,” I said sincerely.
“I do not remember ever hearing you raise your voice like that before,” JP said. “It must have been important.”
“I thought I could trust him,” I said despondently.
“That can be devastating. I have dealt with this several times in my life.”
“How did you handle it?”
“The worst was Jeff. He knew that my father wasn’t my real father, a fact that very few people knew at that time. He threatened to reveal that if I didn’t give him money.” I stared at him, really amazed. Matt’s error had been stupid. What Jeff had done had been malicious.
“That’s hard to forgive.”
“At the time, I felt very self-righteous about how he had betrayed me. Over time, I have come to realize that there were more things involved than that one incident.”
“I don’t see how that justifies it.”
“I’m not sure that it does. It was after he’d kept me isolated in Paris. I think that he was devastated that he’d lost me, and he was trying to get a piece of me in any way that he could.”
“I don’t see how that applies here, though.” I didn’t see the link.
“I’m just saying that there are more things involved here than what you’re seeing. You have a son, you both have new responsibilities, and you’re going to have to deal with that. You’re moving in different directions.”
“So that gives him the right to betray my trust?” I demanded.
“No, it does not. And I suspect that this one incident will end up being relatively harmless, but will ingrain itself on Matt’s psyche forever.”