Discovering Love

Written by Rick Beck

Chapter 41

Coming Alive!

I took my time getting to the hospital and then sat in the cafeteria drinking coffee. I was in no hurry to see what they'd done to Greg. They'd said he would be all right and I accept that. They said there was no damage done, and I guess I accepted that. What I couldn't accept was the image of him lingering between life and death and my feeling helpless.

I suppose our entire relationship at hinged on living and dying since the day we met. It had always found a way to survive, or at least something kept surviving. The odds seemed against me. You never came up a winner every time even when there had never been a prize. I was more worried about him than my investment in him.

I glided past Nurse Attila about nine-thirty and pushed my way into his room. There he was, strung up just like he was the day before, back in the same position in the bed.

"Where you been?" He asked, putting down the magazine.

"Where have I been? What are you doing?"

"I've got a magazine and I'm staring in it. I guess I'm either reading or looking at the pictures."

His head was cocked toward me. The bed was hiked up at a forty-five degree angle. He had on a dark blue hospital issue pajama top with the air force logo emblazed in white over one pocket. It was unbuttoned and met the sheet that was still thrust up in his crotch between his two broken legs.

There was a tray, several glasses, and a plate on his bedstand. It was pushed to one side as it always was. He looked relatively good, especially when considering the way he looked the last time I saw him.

"How are you?" I asked, standing a bit dumbstruck in the middle of the room.

"Fine. You?"

"I'm fine. You were... you are...."

"Yes, I am. Are you going to sit down or what?'

"How are you like this."

"I don't know. Careful breeding I guess. What's your excuse?"

"Biological freak of nature."

"Martin, are you going to sit down. I can't keep staring up at you."

"Oh, you want to look down on me."

"You're hopeless. I'm fine. The fever broke last night. The infection is all but gone. That shouldn't happen again," he said, sounding like one of the doctors.

"You're so... so...."

"Beautiful? I have my moments."

"You looked so bad yesterday."

"I have been in the hospital you know."

"I figured you'd be out of it for another week."

"They've cut back on the pills. I should be okay. You going to be all right? I want you to come earlier."

"Why?"

"Boringggggggggggggggg! There's this one nurse. I'm sure she wants to kick my ass. I need some protection, dude."

"Nurse Attila," I said.

He started laughing.

"That's the one."

"Your father defanged her," I said, take ID from my shirt pocket and tossing it onto his stomach as I moved to the far side of the bed and opened the blinds just enough to that the sun wasn't shinning on us through the slats.

"You join up or what?"

"They hassled me about coming to see you. Next thing I know their giving me this. She just gets out of my way now."

"The old man has some pull. Rarely uses it," Greg said.

"He does when it comes to his son. He's been jumping on doctors and nurses ever since you got here. He doesn't take no for an answer when it comes to you."

"Really!"

"Really. We've all been worried," I said, sitting on the chair already positioned close to midway down the side of his bed.

"I'll be okay," he said.

"I was here yesterday. I saw what you call okay."

"Yeah, well, that's past as you can see. I'm back on my feet again, well, as close as I can get under these conditions."

"Pain?" I asked.

"A twinge now and then. Nothing I can't handle."

His hand eased off the magazine and came to rest on top of mine. I looked at it for a minute, admiring the thick well shaped fingers. His skin was shades darker than mine and he'd been indoors for weeks.

"I ain't been jerking off with it if that's what you're worried about," he said.

"I wish," I said, kissing the hand.

"Not that I haven't tried. Damn things on strike."

"That'll be the day," I said.

"Go ahead. You can try it. I bet it don't work."

"I can't forget yesterday."

"Yesterday's gone, Martin. All we got is right now because one day tomorrow will never come. I don't mind if you touch me."

"Right."

I leaned my chin on top of his hand and looked up at his eyes. They were on me. Not quite sparkling the way they could but as vivid a blue as it was possible to be. His hair seemed unusually dark. His chest was light and one nipple half peaked beyond the edge of the pajama top. The bruises were all gone from his face but marks marked where the deepest scrapes had been. I tried not to see this beautiful boy being bashed by a car but it was all screeching tires and breaking glass in my brain.

"I'm all right. Quit looking so sad, will you. Say something sarcastic or something so I know you're okay."

"I'm fine. You look good. Not as good as you can but better than you did."

"Thank you. I think," he said softly.

"What are you reading?'

"Ray Bradbury."

"You like sci-fi?"

"It's okay," he said.

"I write sci-fi," I said.

"You do? I mean you write?"

"Yeah."

"You ever write about me?" He asked more seriously, setting the magazine aside.

"I wouldn't know what to say."

"Good! I wouldn't want to read about myself in some cheap novel. I'd hate to read what you would say about me."

"You couldn't be cheap no matter how I wrote it. I could describe how we met," I offered, smiling at the thought.

"Alfie and me was walking down Shultz. That gravel road behind your house. You were coming up as we were walking down. You kept staring at us, me. We stopped and your eyes were all over me. I knew what you wanted right off. Alfie said no. You were just one of the townies. He was the first one of you types I met."

"You mean pool-players," I said.

"I wouldn't call you guys pool-players. That was the attraction."

"You turned around once you started to walk away," I reminded him.

"I knew you'd be looking at my ass. I knew you were a dreamer right-off. I just wanted you to know I knew what you wanted."

"I've been looking for a long time."

"I liked you, Martin. I liked you right away. My dick was stiff all the way home."

"Nice for Alfred," I said sternly.

"Will you cut it out. I was sixteen and more horny than the law allows. Anything was better than nothing."

"Alfred wasn't that bad," I protested.

"That's not what I said. You were always a pain in the ass."

"And Alfie's?"

"He yelled a little. Tight fucking butthole but we're talking about you. I might have been a pain in his ass but you're the pain in mine."

"I have that affect on people."

"You were always in my face, you know. I'd think that maybe we could get something done and the next thing I knew you were giving me shit about something that didn't mean anything. I could never figure out where we stood. You're a tough little fucker when you want to be. And then there's Douglas."

"You leave Doug out of this. There's nothing wrong with Doug. He's probably the best son your parents have. Might be a closer call than I thought."

"Jesus, there you go again. Doug's better than the lot of us, Martin. You don't think I know that? He's my brother! He'd do anything for anyone. I feel like an animal when I see how kind and gentle my brother is. And it's no act. I could never be like him. I don't feel like that about anybody. Don't ever expect that. I want what I want and I aim to get it pretty damn quick."

"What do you want?"

"To get out of here."

"I mean really. What do you want that's within the realm of the possible?"

"Money! Girls! Lots of girls, and some respect from you."

"Respect. I've told you how I feel."

"No, I don't mean that. I see how you look at me. It's the same look you gave me that first time you came up to a party. You look down your nose at me every time my dick gets hard. You're so in control all the time, and I hate that."

"I don't know what you mean."

"That's 'cause you never listen. You've got this long, hard way of looking at me. It says it all. It always pisses me off because you see through me. You know exactly what I am and you never give a fucking inch on anything. I hate that."

"I'm a kid. What do I know?"

"Martin, you were what, fifteen, when I first saw you?"

"Fourteen. Almost fifteen."

"You were no kid. You had me pegged. That pissed me off too. You might have been a kid but you knew as much as I did about what was going on between us. I'd have bet a dollar to a donut you would be looking at me when I looked back over my shoulder that day. Most guys never let you catch them looking at what they want."

"I had never done anything. I never knew anything before I met you. You pushed the on-button."

"You knew plenty. You just didn't do anything about what you knew before you met me."

"I respect you. I wish I had the affect on people that you do."

"No you don't. You might love me but you have no respect for me."

"If I love you, and I'm not saying I do, how could I not respect you? That makes no sense, Greg."

"You already told me you did, so just get over yourself on that one."

"Oh, you do remember that?"

"I remember what I need to remember."

"I lie some times," I said, as he fumbled with the ice container on his sterile night table.

I got up and walked around the bed remembering the last time he needed ice. I wanted to calm him down without pissing him off even more. Sitting on the edge of the bed I removed the spoon half full of ice and slipped it in-between his lovely lips while making no eye contact.

His eyes were glued to me as he watched every move I made. I finally gave in to his smiling eyes that penetrating deep into me. I smiled a little smile, a respectful smile. I repeated the deal with the ice several times, and on the last shovel full he held my wrist after he spit out the spoon.

"There are some things you can't lie about," Greg said, holding onto my wrist gently but firmly.

He checked out how close my leg was to his shoulder. He knew where my crotch was in relationship to his mouth but he ignored that, looking straight back up at my face, by- passing my best part. I still felt the heat coming off of my desire. I thought of letting my hand rest on his belly before I let it slip down under that knotted bit of sheet that didn't even cover all of his pubic hair most of the time.

I knew I could just let my hand slip down on it and I'd prove to him that he was every bit the man he always was. He might have doubts but I had none. I could smell his manliness. I knew he hadn't completely awakened quite yet but there would be time enough for that.

Of course we both knew I loved him. I wasn't sure he hadn't known even before I had told him at the picnic table near the mountain house. I remembered the way he had looked at me after he walked away from that particular confession. There was contempt on his face for me but it was wrapped up in something I hadn't been able to identify back then. I thought maybe Greg loved me deep down inside but it was a love he didn't understand and could never acknowledge beyond the confines of a bed or some other place where we might end up having sex one day.

Greg would find it next to impossible to admit to himself that he actually loved another man. That was against his rules. After all, he was a man, and real men can't love other men, at least not in that way. Not in the way I loved him. I inexplicably knew of the contradiction inside him. I had known about it for a long time but I had refused to admit it. Perhaps that was the source of the conflict between us. Perhaps I wasn't the only one on the road that day that felt something stirring inside that was born out of another boy's stare. Had he known as long as I had known? Did he know anything except....Greg?

Even though he was taking Alfie home to fuck him and even though any number of boys satisfied his hunger for sex, he couldn't accept that receiving was little different from giving in that arena. The rupture between him and Kent became clear right then. It had come from the carnal knowledge that had passed between them because Kent would dare to think it was okay for him to do to the King what the King so eagerly did to him on numerous occasions under identical circumstances. The fact that other boys had bore witness to the transgression made it necessary for Greg to deny that it ever happened.

Even though all of it made perfect sense to me before, there was also the thought that even getting fucked could be easily enough dismissed by the oft used phrase, "I was so drunk last night, I don't remember a thing."

Of course few boys were going to admit what they had done to you while you were too drunk to resist them. None of the guys I had met were that bold and then it became the secret they kept and the recipient of their lustful advances was suddenly without sin in the matter.

Greg was the King and he, above all others, could have easily invoked the magic words. Who would dare question the King? So, there had to be another reason why Greg found it necessary to break off all contact with Kent. What had he felt that all the other boys hadn't felt when he was top dog to their eager bottoms?

What was really inside of him?

What did he know and when did he know it?

Why was it so easy for him to draw me back into his life?

How could he so easily cut someone out?

"Where'd you go?" He asked, shaking me back to the hospital room.

"Oh, just thinking," I said, as I put away the spoon and covered the ice bucket with care, avoiding his eyes for fear of giving away my questioning heart.

"You do that a lot."

"Yeah," I said. "I like knowing what I know. Some times it requires some thought to sort it all out."

"What do you know about me?"

"I know I don't know you very well. I know I want to know you real well. I'm just not sure I ever will," I said, returning to the chair while trying not to deal with his question.

"Why not?" He said, trying to see inside my head. "I'm not that bad when you get to know me."

"I don't know you'll really let me know you. I don't actually know that you know yourself."

"What kind of crack is that? What do you want to know?" It was a rhetorical question offered up as a peace treaty so we didn't need to dwell on the details.

I knew there were no answers I was entitled to just then. He certainly wasn't going to tell me what I really wanted to know about him. Even so, it was different between us now. We were bonded in a way we hadn't been bonded before. What that would ultimately mean I didn't know. Yes, I waited on him hand and foot. His every wish was my command. I loved waiting on him, making sure he had what he wanted. I was comfortable with that as long as he was. I was the only one that sat close to his bed and held his hand.

I watched him eat at lunch but I didn't leave to eat. I had come late and I calculated I owed him the entire day. He left the lime jello for me. It was the only solid food he got. I didn't eat it either. I wondered what color it might turn if it rotted.

There was small talk and no talk and then the television mumbled on in the background. He put on Days Of Our Lives and was actually looking at it a couple of times when I looked at him. I liked looking out the window at the traffic and the cars and the world that moved on beyond our little corner of it.

I was going to ask my parents for a car, I thought. I never asked for anything. I had done well in school the last few years. Why not ask? All they could say was no? Yeah, I was going to ask. They'd said no before. They'd hardly need to think about it, but it was good thinking about making them think about me.

"You're doing it again," he said as the news came on at five.

I was doing it again. An hour had passed and I didn't have a clue where the hell I had been or where it went. It was then, I remembered Ted, and George, and the matchmaking mission I was on with them. I needed to prepare Greg so he wouldn't go off on me again. My mind was still working on what I was going say when it took care of itself as complications often do.

"What?" I answered.

"Your impression of a space cadet. You do that so well. You might want to work that into your job description. Star Voyager!" He quipped in a harmless enough way.

"Oh, I was somewhere else."

"Thanks. That makes me feel a lot better. And you had me thinking I was irresistible."

"You are. I've got to go back to school next week," I said for no reason while I was still trying to work in Ted and George.

"Don't go," he said in a sudden protest.

"Yeah, right, I'll bring my parent over and you can tell them that I need to be by my boyfriends bed all day every day."

I said it on purpose and I wasn't sorry. He didn't say anything, but he gave me that long hard stare that told me I was treading on thin ice. There wasn't a clue what went on behind those eyes. I wanted to jump up and throw a lip lock on him. He certainly couldn't fight me off.

I wanted to cover his face with passionate kisses. I wanted to make love to him right there while he was helpless and couldn't slip my advances. I wanted him to like me for a change, but what I got was that stare and that cooled off the kissing idea. I could have taken him and there wasn't much he could do about it. I had the upper hand now. We were on my dime and he knew it too, but then I had to live with the fallout from whatever I did or said. I still wasn't quite ready to risk the rejection that might come my way.

"Hey! That nurse didn't seem too friendly," Ted said, sticking his head in the room. "You ready? I'm starved. I didn't eat lunch thinking about taking you out. I thought I'd take you across the street to the restaurant at the American Motel. They tell me the food is great. Hi, I'm Ted. Is this your friend. Man, what the hell happened to you?"

"Yes," I said, as Ted stuck out his hand while looking at the sheet that was stuffed into Greg's crotch.

I could see his mind working on it, wanting it to slip away to reveal Greg's secrets. Just what I needed, reinforcements to hold him down for me.

"Take a picture. It'll last longer," Greg growled, ignoring the hand, but not me.

The how dare you look came to him all at once. The cold stare turned to a stony gaze of anger. If looks could kill, just then I would have been dead meat. I had forgotten to remember to tell Greg about Ted and George. Well, he was bound to find out sooner or later. I guess it was sooner.

"I can see why you spend all your time here," Ted said, looking at Greg's stomach and chest. "He's like a captive audience. You could do anything you want to him and he couldn't stop you."

It's not so much what he said but the evil intent he said it with. I think Ted would have been more than happy to hold him down for me, or have me hold him down for him. You learn more about people every day. The All-American boy had a streak of lechery running through him but didn't we all.

"What's he doing here?" Greg demanded, ignoring him and wanting an answer. "You're going to bring your boyfriends up here to parade in front of my bed to remind me I can't get it up? You can go now, Martin. Don't bother coming back. You're a real piece of work, you know. You really piss me off. You really do you know. You've pulled a lot of shit but this is the worst."

The anger and hostility was back in a flash. There was no time for explanations. Between Greg and Ted, there wasn't much time for me to get a word in edge ways. Ted seemed unmoved by the turmoil and quite attracted to Greg's sheet. .

"I'll leave, Greg. Give me a couple of minutes and I'll be out of your hair," I said.

Just then I knew it was never going to change between us. I was going to love him and he was going to find a reason to hate me. He spent a lot of time hating me over the time I had known him. I guess I knew all along that the inevitable was inevitable. I had never hung my heart on hoping he'd finally see the error of his ways. Maybe it was better I hadn't explained. Maybe we were both better off just getting out of each other's life.

"Martin! Having a party or what?" George said, sticking his head in the door in-between rounds. "What's happening Greg? You look good for a sick man. Sorry I'm late. No place to park. I'll probably get a ticket. Why the long faces? Whose he?"

"What's he doing here?" Greg exclaimed in disbelief.

I searched for the gadget with the emergency button on it so I knew where it was in case he blew another gasket. It was time to cut my loses.

Greg was turning six shades of red as he stared at gorgeous George, who was decked out in dress blues, wearing his white gloves with that white hat shoved up under his armpit as he walked at attention on to center stage. Life is totally fucked some times. Timing is everything and mine wasn't improving with age.

Ted stared at George, George stared at Greg, and Greg stared at me and turned even redder. I got up and hugged George, holding it for long enough to feel him embracing me fondly. I didn't have it easy and I wasn't going to make it easy on Greg. I knew what he thought and he'd just have to let it unfold because I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Getting out of there as quick as I could seemed best but first I had to finish what I started.

"I'm going to stay with Greg. I think," I said, glancing back at Greg as I backed up from George. "I was late this morning and I'm not ready to leave just yet, but this is my friend Ted, and I knew you guys would hit it off. He's looking for a good friend, George. He's anxious to make a good friend. I thought of you. He's from Ohio."

Ted was now staring at George's exquisite face. His green fatigues were no match for George's dress uniform but they sure did make a handsome couple. I wanted to see their first child. He'd be a twelve for sure.

"I'm Ted," Ted said, handing George his hand as he stared.

"Yeah, that's what he said. I'm George. I was taking Martin to dinner. How about we go? I think that's what he has in mind. He's loved this one as far back as I can remember. We don't have a chance as long as he's still alive and I'm afraid he looks pretty good in spite of the wear and tear."

George ignored everyone but Ted and had his hand in the middle of his back, trying to encourage him toward the door before the next round broke out, I'm sure.

"He's not half bad looking," Ted said, letting his eyes go back to the sheet between Greg's legs.

"Come on," George said. "I'm hungry. You look good enough to eat yourself. You ever been to Cleveland, Teddy Bear?"

"I'm from Ohio," Ted said with a childish innocence as if that said it all.

"I've never been to Cleveland. Why don't you tell me all about it."

Ted smiled and in no time they were gone and the room got very quiet. I moved back to the window and looked out.

"I guess it's always going to be like this," I said. "I can't deal with it, Greg. I want to be here for you but you're going to make it impossible, and I'm tired of pissing you off all the time. I'm really tired. I'll go because you asked me to go. You just remember it wasn't my idea. I want you to remember there is no next time. This was it. I wanted to make sure you were okay. You're okay. You don't need me any more."

I didn't want him to see the tears. I would turn away from the bed to leave so he couldn't see the tears. I didn't want to look at him because that might slow me down long enough to change my mind. He couldn't keep pushing me away and expecting that I'd come back every time. He had to know that sooner or later would come the last insult and the final argument.

I headed for the door.

"Don't leave me, please!" he said with a hitch in his voice. "I thought they were...."

"I know what you thought. How could I explain it to you? I knew what I was doing. They both want to get serious and I've got my hands full with you for the time being," I said. "This was the easiest way to get them together."

I stood with my hand on the door, hanging on his words.

"Time being? What about after the time being?" He asked, and I looked at him as I opened the door.

"I can't keep doing this, Greg. I love you enough......to walk away. There's no point in me aggravating you all the time."

"I'll be good. I promise. I just thought...."

"I don't know, Greg. You'll just find something else to be pissed-off about."

"I won't. If I don't will you stay? Just give me a few more minutes. Don't leave right now. That nurse is going to come in with my dinner. You can protect me," he said with a coy smile and a luster in his eyes as if he knew he had me back on the hook and there was really no escaping him once he turned on the charm.

"That's up to you. I'm here. I could be anywhere I want to be. I'm here. You tell me when to go but the next time you tell me like that... I'm gone for good."

"I don't know why I do that," he was suddenly explaining. "I just go off when you... when I.... I don't know what I mean. When I wake up and you aren't there, I'm scared. I feel so alone. Just don't leave me, okay? Not right now."

"I'm here," I said, sitting back in the chair and curling my fingers into his.

I kissed the back of his hand and each finger before pulling it over to rub it on my cheek. He was all smiles as he watched me love him.

Then I noticed something that I'd never seen - there were tears in his eyes. I'm sure there were still tears in mine, but seeing them in his just did a job on me.

He had been to hell and back and for the time being he was mine. There was no telling how long that would last or if, as he grew stronger, he'd no longer need me as much or at all.

Right now I was all he had and that suited me fine. Tomorrow would take care of itself.

It always did.

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