Lovers with Open Minds, Friends with Benefits

Posts tagged ‘DJ’

Chapter 298 – New Place

Chapter 278 – The Game

Chapter 251 – Let’s Talk About…

Chapter 245 – Dinner and a Show

Chapter 244 – DJ

Chapter 243 – His Idiot

Dave had turned down the answering machine’s volume. There was only one voice he wanted to hear and no calls had come in from Vic’s house or from Xav’s cell. He’d called the cell five, no, six times already but Xav must have turned off his phone. The messages he left were disjointed and jumbled, he knew that but couldn’t help it. The anguish left no room for coherent thought.

He was a coward and a moron and a jackass besides. If only he’d just come out and told Xav, no matter what. If only he’d never done it. If only he’d stayed at the fucking morgue where everything was safe and quiet. Then his Xav would be here beside him instead of gone forever.

He tried the cell one more time. “Please…Xav…” he choked out after the message beep sounded and hung up as he burst into tears again. One more time…no, no Xav didn’t need him blubbering into his phone. He’d hurt him enough and he’d been real clear on where Dave stood with him now. Nowhere. He deserved it and he would stop tormenting Xav with his whining.

The fact that he was really gone, that was the part he just couldn’t face. He sat on the couch and turned the TV on, blindly letting the images wash over him. Time passed in a meaningless, empty way, one hour much the same as the next.

The phone had been ringing off and on. When he got up, stiff muscles protesting after hours of inactivity, he checked the numbers, bereft of hope. Vincent’s, his father’s house, Vincent again…no Xavier.

He scrubbed his hands over his face, went to the kitchen, closed the door and sat down with the pad of paper he kept by the fridge. When he finished writing, he folded the note in thirds, put Xav’s name on the outside, and then got up to go to the stove.

The gas stove.

With these older models, one could turn on the gas just enough so it hissed out into the air but no spark lit the burners. He turned them on, one by one, opened the oven and turned that on, too. He sat back down, put his head on the table and went to sleep, fully expecting never to wake up again.

“Dammit,” Sebastian muttered as he put the phone down again. He’d talked to Cody and knew Dave was probably not in a good way. Usually, though, no matter how depressed, Dave still answered the phone. He hadn’t last night and he wasn’t this morning.

“Dad?” he called down the hall. “I’m going over Dave’s…”

He got some angry, muttered response but nothing that sounded like a no, so he hurried out of the house and drove to Dave’s apartment. He told himself Dave probably just wasn’t home. He’d found someplace to go to ground, have a drinking binge and sleep it off. But he wasn’t with Ms Kat. He wasn’t with Vince. And he sure as hell wasn’t with Vic and Cody.

He pounded on the door. “Dave? C’mon, man, answer the door!” Nothing but silence greeted him. Dread lodged in his stomach; he used his key. The smell that hit him when he opened the door sent panic zipping through him. Gas…dammit, dammit, Dave….

He took a deep breath and barreled into the kitchen, turned off the burners and the oven, took Dave under the arms and dragged him out to the living room. He flung open all the windows, turned on the overhead fan and the air conditioning, anything to get the air circulating and the poison out. With a few heaves, he tugged Dave onto the window seat and stuck his head out into the clean air. He still breathed, his heart still beat.

“Christ…you shithead,” Sebastian muttered through his tears. He thought about calling 911. No, they’d lock Dave up in some psych ward like they’d done with Xav. Shuttle him off to some VA institution for broken-down, addict soldiers. God.

“Dave…c’mon dude, wake up.” He patted Dave’s face and got a moan. Good. All right. At least he wasn’t comatose. Dammit he couldn’t do this alone. He put in a call to Vincent.

Vincent hung up the phone, gray and shaking. “My loves,” he told Drew and Jonathan. “We need to go to David’s. He’s tried to kill himself.”

“Dave?” Drew said in disbelief. “What happened? I mean, what… what’d he do?” Drew was having a hard time believing Dave would try and kill himself. Even hurting like he was, Dave seemed like such a survivor.

Vince told them what Sebastian had said while they got into the van.

“Maybe it was an accident,” Drew couldn’t help saying, though he knew better.

Jonathan snorted. “One burner left on is an accident. Four? And the oven? Don’t think so, sweetie.”

They helped Sebastian get Dave comfortably settled in bed and then stayed to help as he woke and was ill and groggy. Though mostly unresponsive, he did call out for Xavier from time to time.

“Christ,” Jonathan muttered as he tried to soothe him. “Enough to break a granite heart.”

They stayed that night so Sebastian wouldn’t be alone and then into the next day when Dave developed a spiking fever and a hoarse cough. Three days and nights they took it in shifts, sitting with Dave, trying to ease the physical suffering.

Finally on the fourth morning, he was well enough for Jonathan to coax him into the shower and then out to the sofa.

“You hungry, handsome? I’ll make you whatever you want,” Jonathan said cheerfully as he tucked a blanket around Dave’s lap. He anticipated a request of toast, perhaps.

Dave stared up at him with weary, red-rimmed eyes and said in a hoarse murmur, “Orange juice.”

“Oh.” Jonathan scratched his head. “You don’t have any of that right now, hon. Can I get you something else?”

Dave curled into a ball and shook his head before he started coughing.

Jonathan patted the air with both hands in a placating gesture. “OK, OK, I’ll get you the damn juice. I’m not supposed to leave you alone but I’ll just be a couple, all right? Can I get your promise you’ll be a good boy and sit right there?”

“Promise,” Dave whispered and Jonathan hurried out to the grocery down the street.

~*~

DJ was worried. Beyond worried actually. He’d gotten used to seeing Dave at least a couple times a week, and he talked to him almost every day. But he hadn’t heard anything from him in four days now, his calls went unanswered, and his cell went right to voice mail.

He’d been to Dave’s apartment once, when Xavier was gone, working on the video. Funny, Dave talked about Xavier enough he felt like he almost knew him. Which put even more guilt on him. He didn’t know Xavier, but he hadn’t wanted to hurt him, and he certainly didn’t want to hurt Dave.

Dave kept saying he was going to tell Xavier, come clean about everything. DJ wanted him to, and was afraid at the same time. He didn’t think Xav was going to take it as well as Dave thought he would. He knew their relationship was sort of open, but he couldn’t imagine anyone just shrugging off hearing their boyfriend had another lover.

Maybe Dave had finally told him. It was the only explanation he could think of for Dave dropping off the face of the earth like this. He wasn’t sure what he might do if he was wrong, and Dave had just decided to ignore him, or if Xavier was home, or if he knew and confronted DJ… so many ‘what ifs’, but one thing was sure, he had to at least find out if Dave was all right.

He parked the car and walked up to the apartment. He knocked and got no answer. Knocked again and waited. He thought about trying the door handle, was actually staring at it in indecision when it turned and the door opened. He looked up. “Dave, I’m sorry to just drop in, but… Oh, damn,” he said softly. “You look like hell.” He looked over Dave’s shoulder, trying to see if there was anyone else in the apartment. “Can I come in…or, you want me to go?” He wanted to ask what happened but he thought he knew, and he wanted to take Dave in his arms and hold him tight. He didn’t know if that would make it worse, but it was killing him to stand there and see Dave in such obvious pain.

Dave wandered back to his nest on the couch, letting DJ decide whether to follow or not. Why couldn’t they all just leave him alone? He wasn’t worth anyone’s time and effort and if they went away he could get on with the business of dying instead of lingering like this.

“He left me,” Dave managed in a hoarse whisper when DJ sat next to him. Poor Deej looked so worried, like such a nervous wreck, he had to explain a little. “He saw your text on my cell. Put it together himself. Told me what a shit I am, true enough, and left me.” He shrugged. “Had every right to.”

“Babe, I’m so sorry,” DJ said softly. He still didn’t know if he should touch him, but he couldn’t stand it any longer. He took Dave’s hand and when he didn’t shrug him off or push him away he put an arm around him. “God, I’m sorry.” The guilt was crushing. He’d made Dave go through the exact same pain he had. He should have left him alone, should have backed off… should’ve, could’ve, would’ve and it all was useless now. He stroked his back and eventually Dave bent enough to put his head on his shoulder and DJ wrapped his arms around him.

He knew exactly the place Dave was at, where he didn’t want to be comforted and yet needed it so desperately. He said none of the stupid drivel people normally said at such times. No one wanted to hear how it was not the end and things would look better soon when their heart was broken. He swallowed hard around the knot in his throat. “I know it will never be enough to say I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I am. I’m here for you…”

“Not your fault. Don’t even try it. Told you from go it was my problem.” Dave’s tone remained flat and even. Nothing really mattered anyway. Not anymore. Nothing for DJ to be sorry about.

DJ picked his head up when he heard the door close, and a second later a very hot guy with the prettiest green eyes he’d ever seen walked into the living room.

“OK, so this isn‘t awkward or anything. I go out to get you groceries and you invite boys over.” Jonathan looked from Dave to the gorgeous hunk wrapped around him. “So, lemme guess. This must be whatshisname…DJ?”

DJ had the grace to look slightly embarrassed, but he did manage a smile. “Yes, I’m whatshisname DJ. And you’re not blond, or trying to kill me, so you’re not Xavier…”

Jonathan had wanted to dislike DJ, intensely. He knew Dave felt otherwise but it sounded to him like the other man had walked in with open eyes and had willfully pursued when he could’ve bowed out. Problem was, the soft-spoken, somewhat wounded reality was much different than the hussy he’d built in his imagination.

“Right on all three counts. Such a smart man,” he said and put a palm to his chest. “Jonathan. Friend of the family. ‘Scuse me a moment.” He disappeared into the kitchen to put things away, then returned with half a glass of juice. “Here you are, hon, as ordered and don’t you think for a minute I’m not gonna stand here and watch you drink it all.”

~*~

“Xavier, get up!”

Cody was badgering him again. Xavier pulled the blanket tighter around his head.

“I mean it, get your butt out of that bed. You haven’t left this room in four days.”

Xav didn’t answer, didn’t even open his eyes.

“Cripes, Xav! Vic says I’m not allowed to bring you any more food. You have to come down to eat.” Not that Xav had eaten much anyway. “And you smell like crud. Have pity on us and take a freaking shower.”

Still no response. Cody grabbed the blanket and yanked at it. He pulled it off but Xavier curled into a ball. Cody sat down on the edge of the bed and rubbed his back.

“C’mon, Xav. If you don’t get up Vic said he’ll come up and throw your little butt in the shower himself.”

Xavier rolled over and put his head in Cody’s lap. “I can’t, Cody.”

Cody relented and gathered Xavier up. “Oh, sweetie…I hate to see you like this.” He rocked Xav in his arms since the tears had started again. “I’ll help you if you want. Wash your hair. Scrub your back. Maybe a bath instead? That might be nice…”

Xavier sobbed harder and Cody fought not to roll his eyes. Everything, but everything reminded him of Dave and the most innocent reference could cause these crying jags.

He pulled Xav up to take his head in his hands. “Don’t you think it might be worth it to just try and talk to him? At least get some of this out of your system?”

“He’s probably already making plans with DJ,” Xavier said miserably.

“Xav, you’re putting stuff in your way for no good reason. Why? You don’t hate him, I know you don’t. Do you really never want to see him again?”

“No.”

“Do you want him to just get over you and move on?”

“If that’s what he wants.”

“I didn’t ask what he wants, I asked what you want. You either figure out how to forgive him or get over him. Which do you want?”

“I can forgive him, Cody, I already have. I just don’t know if I can trust him again. I never thought he’d lie to me, not like this.”

Cody didn’t have anything to say to that. He knew trust didn’t come easy for Xav, and this breach would take more than an apology and promises to fix. “Do you want to talk to him, or not?”

Xavier lowered his head to Cody’s shoulder again and wrapped his arms around him. “Yeah. I do.”

Xavier got up and took a shower and shaved. He put on the scent Dave liked best (next to just plain skin), and blow-dried his hair. He went through his clothes and put on a thin skintight t-shirt and jeans low enough they clung to his hipbones within an inch of their life.

His eyes were still hollow and red-rimmed, but otherwise he looked pretty damn good. Cody agreed and kissed his cheek before he left.

On the ride over he chewed his thumbnail and fidgeted. A tight knot formed in his stomach. He didn’t know what he would do if Dave wasn’t glad to see him. If he told him to leave. If he didn’t want him anymore.

Dave lied to him, had been lying to him, and broke his heart, but even broken he still loved him with everything he had. If he wanted a relationship with this DJ guy it was going to be a bitter pill to swallow… but, he supposed he could accept it, if that’s what Dave needed.

He parked and noticed Jonathan’s car. Ah well, it was good someone was looking after him. Xav went up the stairs and unlocked the door.

Jonathan head snapped around when he heard the key turn. Sebastian wasn’t due back until after dinner and the only other person with a key was…

“Oh. Holy. Shit.” The urge to retreat to the kitchen and hide under the table was nearly overwhelming. But he stood his ground, unwilling to desert Dave.

DJ would have hidden under the table with him, but only to spare Dave having to explain. It was already too late though; the few seconds warning was all they got. Xavier came around the corner of the living room and under any other circumstance DJ would’ve melted into the carpet. Fuckin’ gorgeous. What a beautiful little angel. An angel who took one look at him and looked like he’d been kicked in the stomach. Fuck.

Xav had thought he’d been prepared. Thought he’d geared himself up enough to be able to handle it if DJ was there. But he’d clung to the hope he wouldn’t be there. To know Dave had replaced him so quickly… he felt it like physical blow. The pain and humiliation was enough to scorch him where he stood and he wanted to turn right back around and walk out… but… he couldn’t live without Dave. Didn’t want to live without him.

He took a deep breath and lifted his head again to look at DJ. “Get out.”

Dave had no thought for anyone else in the room. It didn’t even register what Xavier said. He only heard that beloved voice he thought he’d never hear again. He’d twisted around on the couch, one hand reaching out hesitantly. “Xav?”

DJ picked himself up. As much as he wanted neither of them to be hurt, as much as he wanted them to work things out because it was so obvious how much they loved each other, it still cut him to know Dave probably wasn’t aware he was still in the room. With as much dignity as he could he headed toward the door and stopped himself from even saying good-bye.

Xavier ignored him and moved to Dave. He slid down into his lap, wrapped his arms around him, and put his head on his shoulder. It was just about the most wonderful feeling he could think of when Dave’s arms wrapped around him tight. “You stupid fucking jerk,” Xavier said on the heels of a strangled sob.

Hard not to have some of the darkness lift when he held his angel in his arms. Dave nodded against his hair, unable to refute it. He was a stupid fucking jerk.

“Are you–” He turned his head for a short fit of wracking coughs. “Visiting or staying?”

“Do you want me to stay?” Xav asked.

“Oh, hell, yes.”

“Then, I’m staying.” He stroked a gentle hand over Dave’s hair, trying to get a hold of his hitching breath as a little worried frown formed on his face. “You sick babe? You sound awful…”

Jonathan chewed on the side of his thumbnail. Now would probably be the time to retreat to the kitchen. Certain things nagged at him, though, things he knew Dave wouldn’t bother to mention in his current state.

“Xav, hon?” he interrupted softly when both sobs and coughs quieted. “Could I see you for just a sec?” He nodded towards the kitchen. “There’s some stuff…well, just come on. I won’t take long.”

Xavier sighed and reluctantly stood. He didn’t want to get up, but he followed Jonathan into the kitchen. “I’m sorry about your dinner, Jon, don’t yell at me, ok? I haven’t had the best week.”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that.” Jonathan waved one hand over the other in negation. “Real quick, two things. No three. First, I’m so fucking glad you’re here. You just don’t know. Second, just want you to know, that other guy? The one that just left? He wasn’t here but a few minutes before you came. It’s not like he’s been hanging out here and I’d know because I have.”

He ran his hands back through his curls in a fretful gesture. “The third thing’s kinda harder. Dave…was in a bad place after Saturday. He tried to snuff himself. Closed that door, turned on the gas and sat down to wait. Sebastian found him before it got to the point of no return. He’s been sick ever since.”

Xavier stared at him hard for a minute. “He did what?” He didn’t really need it repeated but he was having a hard time processing this. He turned around and walked back out into the living room. “God, Brooks, you really are an idiot sometimes,” he grumbled. Dave had lain down on the couch so Xav sat on the floor in front of him and took his hand, kissed the palm. “What if Sebastian hadn’t come over? Then where would I be? What would I do without you? Don’t you ever do anything like that again.”

“Xav…I’m…” Dave’s throat closed over and he squeezed his eyes shut against the sting of tears. It took three deep breaths before he could go on. “I can’t ever tell you how sorry I am. I’m supposed to be the one to protect you, to be your shelter. And instead I can’t tell you something’s going on, never mind the excuses and the reasons. I didn’t. And I hurt you. And you’ll never trust me again.”

He was too exhausted to sob but the tears leaked out anyway. “I thought I’d lost you. For good. And dammit if I don’t deserve to…”

Xavier sighed and shifted around so his back leaned against the couch. He pulled his knees up and rested his chin on them. “Yeah, you hurt me. Hurt me bad…I can’t just stop loving you though, Dave.” He turned his head to look back at him. “I’m sorry I’m not…everything you need. Why didn’t you just tell me?”

A strangled sound escaped Dave’s chest, half sob, half hysterical laugh. “What do you think I’ve been asking myself all this time? Why, why, why didn’t I just tell you?” His fist beat against the sofa frame with every word until Xav took his hand again to stop him.

“I…didn’t go out looking,” he began again on a long, uneven breath. “He was hurting and he ended up sobbing in my arms one day and things…got away from me. I tried to call you, right then and there, but you were at rehearsal. I guess you can check your phone logs if you need to.” He stopped to cough for a while and Xav’s hand ended up stroking his chest to soothe him. It felt like bands of bright sunlight stroked up and down his sternum.

“I came home and that was the night you told me about the video. And I was so excited for you…I didn’t want to ruin your moment. And then it was this or that and it just got harder and harder. I wanted to tell you, love. And you are everything I could ever want. Or need.” His fingers closed around Xav’s, though he stared at the ceiling. “I’m just an idiot.”

“Yeah, you’re an idiot…but you’re my idiot.” That got the little smile from Dave he was hoping for. He wished he could leave it at that, but he didn’t want any shit between them that would come up later, better to get it all out now. “So… the first time was just… one of those things. But, it wasn’t just once… you went back to him, so, he must’ve done something for you.” He was trying hard not to sound angry and bitter, it came through a little anyway and he took a deep breath and blew it out before he went on. “What now? You gonna keep seeing him?”

“What? No…Christ…” The shocked denial started him coughing again and Xav had to sit him up so he could catch his breath. Dave wheezed out, “After what seeing him did to you? How could I do that?” Now he buried his head in his hands and started to sob on the realization that Xavier was back beside him but might never believe in him again.

Xavier moved up onto the couch and took Dave in his arms. He held him and looked helplessly over his heaving shoulders at Jonathan, who was trying to stay as unobtrusive and silent as possible. He had the feeling Jonathan didn’t leave only because he was afraid they would screw this up again if he did.

When Dave quieted, Xavier took his face in his hands and made him look at him. “You know, I’m not going to push you toward someone else, sweetheart… but I wasn’t pissed because I was jealous. Well, that wasn’t the main thing anyway. I was pissed because you hid it from me. Just don’t do that again, and the rest we can work out, ok?”

“’K,” Dave managed on a shaky breath and a sniff. He looked into those summer sky eyes, shadowed, yes, but the love in them pierced his heart. He curled up with his head in Xavier’s lap. “I’ve missed you, sweets…” Another thought hit him as he snuggled closer. “There’s, um, a whole bunch of messages from me on your cell. You might wanna delete those. And there’s a letter in the kitchen. Might wanna put that in the disposal.”

Xavier stroked his fingers over Dave’s face tenderly. He looked up at Jonathan, who went into the kitchen without being asked. A second later the disposal ran, and then he came back. Dave had fallen asleep.

“Well, maybe I should–” Jonathan said.

Xavier interrupted him. “Do you have to go? Or can you stay for a while?”

“I can stay, hon,” Jonathan answered softly. “You want me to make you breakfast? You’re looking a little waif-y.”

“Waif-y?” Xavier said with an arched brow. “Is that even a word?” He smiled. “How about steak and eggs?” As soon as he said it he was hungry, he hadn’t been eating much, hadn’t felt like it. “And I should call Cody…” Before he got a chance to though, Jonathan had wandered off to the kitchen and Xavier slid down on the couch beside Dave. He only meant to lie down for a second, but he hadn’t been sleeping either and he was out almost as soon as he closed his eyes.

“Did you–?” Jonathan stuck his head back out of the kitchen and stopped at the sight on the sofa. “Poor babes,” he murmured and decided to wait on cooking. Let them nap first, they sure as hell needed it.

He’d wanted like hell to be angry with them both. They’d upset Vincent so badly. Though Dave would never believe it, he was sort of a hero to Vince…maybe that wasn’t the right way to put it but Vince looked up to him. Time enough to put all that right later. Dammit but they looked so freaking adorable curled up together. How could he be mad?

He went back into the kitchen to make some soft phone calls, Cody, Sebastian and then home, just to let everyone know things would be all right now.

Chapter 241 – Dave Goes to School

Dave sat on the couch, arms crossed over his chest, staring at the coffee table. Or through the table, Xav thought. He’d been that way for half an hour straight.

“Babe?” he finally said when he couldn’t stand the silence anymore. “You, ah, trying out for one of those living mannequins or something?”

“Hm?” Dave looked up and blinked. “Oh, sorry. Just thinking.”

“Well, duh. What about?”

Dave chewed on his bottom lip a moment before he leaned forward with his hands clasped between his knees. “Sweets…I’m not sure how to bring this up without it coming out wrong.”

“Then say it wrong.”

“When you’ve said we don’t need the money, that we could live off your salary, do you really meant that? I mean, if I wasn’t working for a bit…” Dave trailed off. He didn’t want Xavier to think less of him, to resent him if he wasn’t working for a while.

“Um, yeah. I meant it. I’m done with school, I make more than enough to take care of this place… did something happen at work?”

Dave ran his hands over his face. “No, no, it’s not that. I mean, what could happen at work? It’s a freaking morgue.” He reached over to take Xavier’s hand. “It didn’t matter before, though, that I’d settled for such a, um, dead end job. Now it does. I want you to be proud of me.” He took a deep breath and hurried on. “I’m thinking about going back to school. Get my LPN. It wouldn’t take long. I could test out of most of the classes, though I’d have to do the practical rotations.”

He pressed Xav’s fingers to his cheek. “I’d be home nights. Get a good job after I take the boards, at a clinic or a doc’s office or something. Would…would you like that?”

 

Xavier took his hand back, but gently, although he didn’t exactly look happy. Not upset either, just… thoughtful. “Dave, if that’s what you want to do, that’s great, but don’t do this for me. If you’re happy where you are, stay there. If something else will make you happy, go for it. I’ll back you either way. What you do for a living makes no difference to me how I feel about you.”

Dave flopped back against the sofa to stare at the ceiling. “Sweets, I haven’t been happy at a job…well, ever. The one I have now was the first one that would take me when I came home all wall-eyed and crazy. And it was quiet and nobody talked to me so it worked.” He swallowed hard. “I think I just want to work with living people, yeah? Maybe help a kid who’s still breathing instead of just holding babies who’re already dead.”

Xavier suppressed a shudder. He pulled Dave into his arms and kissed his forehead.. “Okay, just one thing. Don’t think about it and think about it, just do it. Turn your notice in Monday, and don’t worry about it.”

“Yessir,” Dave said with a crooked smile. He stroked a finger along Xav’s cheek. “You know your butt looks amazing in those jeans?”

“My butt looks amazing in anything.” Xavier grinned.

“True, but you know where it looks most amazing?” Dave’s voice had dropped to a husky murmur. “Staring up at me naked with my hands on either side.”

Xavier smiled. “Talk like that will get you everywhere.” He caught Dave’s lips in a kiss that swiftly turned white hot. Within minutes clothes were shed and tossed aside, the small spark fanned into a blaze of need.

Dave got the view he wanted with Xavier bent naked over the arm of the sofa and though the session wasn’t a long one, the sex was uninhibited and heated. “God, I love you,” he murmured into Xav’s hair when he held him afterwards. Xav could say what he wanted, but it was hard to be proud of a morgue tech and he really did want Xav to be proud of him.

True to his word, he turned his resignation in Monday morning and spent all of his free time in phone calls to the nursing school in town and the Veteran’s Affairs office. He might as well get something out of the damn GI bill.

Xavier was glad Dave was doing something, and that he seemed happy about it. There was one thing that nagged him, though he tried not to let it. Dave kept say things like he wanted Xav to be proud of him, that he didn’t want to be stuck in job going nowhere… and he said it often enough Xav was beginning to wonder if he was trying to give him a hint.

If Dave didn’t think Xavier could be proud of him for working in a morgue, how could Dave be proud of Xav being a stripper? Yeah, Switchbacks was more than just a strip club. The cabaret was done artfully and drew more than the sleaze balls who wanted to see some naked flesh to jack off to under the table, but anyway you sliced it he was still taking his clothes off for a living.

He thought about bringing it up with Dave, but didn’t for two reasons. One, he didn’t want to turn this into something about him. Two, Dave was happy. He didn’t want to do anything to change that. But it bugged him. So, he did the next best thing.

“What do you think, Cody?”

“About the pants? Or about Dave?” Cody asked, watching Xavier as he checked out the fit of the excruciatingly tight shiny black PVC pants in the dressing room mirror.

“About Dave.” Xavier said, turning his head to grin over his shoulder at Cody. “I already know you like the pants.”

“They’re nice, hon, but I’d think about a different color for you,” Cody said with his head tipped to one side. “Dave, though…sweetie, he’d be proud of his gorgeous, wonderful Xav if you were a street sweeper. I don’t think that’s the issue. I think he’s a very proud man, he can’t help it, and he wants to feel like a man, you know? Cripes, I think if I told Vic he could stop working, we’d be completely comfortable on my money, which is true, he’d die of shame.”

He ran a finger over Xav’s shiny-clad hip. “Our boys are just old-fashioned. They don’t want to feel like kept men, they want to feel like they’re doing something important.”

Xavier put his hands on his hips and looked at Cody in the reflection of the mirror. “I don’t know Cody, if it matters so much to him that he has a ‘decent’ job… I think it would matter to him what I do, too. And if it doesn’t, I’m not sure that isn’t worse.” He sighed and peeled out of the PVC.

“Mmm…I think you’re looking at it the wrong way, hon,” Cody said, his forehead creased with concern. “I think he’s been kinda, what’s that damn word…emasculated, yeah, that’s it, that you make more than him. That you’ve said, more than once, mind you, that you don’t need his money.”

Xavier snorted. “That’s just stupid. What difference does it make who makes more money. That’s not what makes you a man.” Which, considering he was standing there mostly naked holding a pair of PVC pants in one hand and a thong in the other, was kind of funny.

“A lot of things people feel are stupid. Doesn’t make them feel them less.” Cody sighed. “And I don’t think he’s trying to compete with you, salary-wise. Anyway, how he feels is how he feels and when you love somebody, you kinda have to accept those things. Stop fussing and tell him you’re proud of him. I mean, think about it, hon. He’s never really had anybody to cheer for him.”

“I have told him I’m proud of him, Cody. I’ve told him it doesn’t matter to me what he does for a living, I’d still be proud to be his. I don’t think if I told him a hundred times it would make any difference. Maybe once he starts classes he’ll feel better,” Xavier said as he finished sliding back into his jeans. “Let’s go eat. I’m starving.”

“When are you not starving?” Cody rolled his eyes. He declined to tell Xav it did no good to say it didn’t matter what Dave did. It obviously did matter to Dave and he wanted someone to tell him he was doing a good thing. Not someone. Xavier. “C’mon hot stuff. There’s this new Lebanese place I’ve been dying to try.”

Two weeks later Dave started classes, Disease Management and Nutrition during the day, a four hour hands-on at the VA on Tuesdays and Thursdays and only one evening class, Pharmacy, on Wednesdays. Funny, he’d always hated schoolwork but now he found the classes interesting and he actually enjoyed doing his readings.

Xavier did everything he could to help. He made sure Dave had quiet time to study and picked up some of the more mundane chores like grocery shopping so Dave didn’t have to worry about it. He left Dave the job of cooking, though.

About three weeks later, Xavier was getting ready to leave for work; Dave was sitting on the couch. With a smile Xav straddled his lap and then wrapped his legs around him. He slid his fingers into Dave’s hair and kissed him hot enough to melt the furniture. When he had Dave’s hair completely messed up and he was moaning into his mouth Xav let him come up for air. “I’m glad you went back to school. You know how proud I am of you, right?”

Dave smiled up at him, the heartbreakingly sweet, guileless smile which transformed his face when he was truly happy. “I sure do now, sweetheart.” His hands stroked Xav’s back as he whispered, “Thank you.”

#

DJ looked around the class. For a change he was not the only male student, there was one other guy. Despite an increase of men in the field, nursing was still a predominantly female industry. So, he’d gotten used to being the odd guy out so to speak in his classes. Being the only guy in a class full of women might sound great to some people he knew, but it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. For one thing, he was gay, so that sort of put a nix on the whole harem/orgy fantasy some other guys might have had.

Speaking of which… His only male counterpart in the room was smokin’ hot. He was probably about six foot, nice build, thick dark hair… DJ shifted in his seat as he thought about how soft his hair looked. Usually dark hair didn’t look soft, but this guy had hair that begged to have his fingers sink into it. He got a look at his face before he found a seat, no disappointment there either. Strong jaw, even features, really nice gray eyes. Damn. Lust at first sight.

He looked down at his book before he got caught looking. It was going to be damn hard to concentrate when all he could think about was getting that guy’s number.

Dave grinned when he saw the guy sit down. He wouldn’t be stuck in the henhouse after all. The dude looked a little shy but that’d never stopped him. He moved his books over to the desk beside him, sat down and stuck out his hand. “Hey, bro, Dave Brooks. Nice to see I’m not alone.”

DJ shook the offered hand. “DJ Connor. Nice to meet you.” He smiled his best smile, he’d been told often enough he had a really great melt-your-knees smile. He got a friendly one in return, but no vibe one way or another.

They were getting looks from the girls around them and Dave fought down a laugh. Like high school all over again. Most of these girls probably were just out of high school. DJ, though, was about his own age. Could have been a model with that long, lean body and those perfect white teeth, those big dark eyes and thick waves of chestnut hair. Not that he was flirting-looking but it was hard not to notice.

“So, what brings you in here?” Dave indicated the room full of young women. “EMT looking to get off the night shift? Accountant who wants a less soulless career?”

DJ chuckled. “How’d you guess? The first, I’m not a soulless account.” Actually, he didn’t mind the nightshift so much. It was the daily trauma of the job he needed to get away from. He’d seen way too much in the last three years. Humanity’s capacity to do violence to one another was something most people thought about when they watched the news or had something bad happen to them or a family member or neighbor. Outside of that they could escape from it, they didn’t have it put in front of them on daily basis, up close and personal.

He had seen six people shot dead and four victims of domestic altercations that hadn’t survived in the last four months. Those were just the DOA’s. Yeah, he was a little burnt out.

“What about you? Is taking care of people your true calling, or are you here for the co-eds?”

“‘Co-eds’?” Dave almost choked on a snicker. “Christ, does anyone still say that? Anyway, no, the girls are safe with me. I was a medic with the Marines. Probably should’ve done this a long time ago but I was kinda…decompressing for a bit there first.”

DJ wasn’t sure which part of that was the most interesting. He settled on ‘the girls are safe with me’. Did that mean he already had a girlfriend? Or that he wasn’t interested in the girls? Before he got a chance to ask, the class got underway and they had to stop talking for a while and pay attention.

He paid as much attention as he could while agonizing over whether he should ask Dave Brooks if he wanted to go get a cup of coffee after class, or go out for a beer later. He ended up not asking. He didn’t want to come on too strong right away and scare him off. He waited three more weeks, chatting Dave up before each class. The more he learned, the more he liked, and he was hoping he could get to know him a lot better by the time he worked up the courage to ask.

They were gathering their books to leave. “Hey, Dave, you want to go get something to eat, or go get a drink later?”

Dave looked at his watch, a reflex since he knew what time it was. “I’d go for the first one, bro. I’ve got a few hours before I need to get home and get dinner started.”

“Great, let’s go.” DJ smiled.

They went to a little sandwich and sub shop not too far from campus. A quick bite turned into two hours. It just seemed like they clicked. They had things in common, both having a medical background and previous occupations involving high stress situations. They both had little brothers and asshole fathers, and had grown up in the area.

By the time they parted ways DJ was more than just interested, he had a full blown crush on Dave. The only problem was, he still didn’t know his orientation or if he was attached. For some reason they hadn’t gotten around to discussing it. No, that wasn’t true. DJ had avoided asking because he wanted to hold onto the hopeful feeling for a bit longer and was too afraid to ask.

The mid-term announcement came at the end of the next class and Dave’s stomach rolled over in a queasy lurch. Tests…he’d forgotten how much he hated tests. Not that he’d been shirking his studies but the simple word ‘test’ gave him the shudders.

“You OK, Dave?” DJ asked as they got up to leave.

“Oh…yeah.” Dave shook his head on a grin. “Just examaphobic.”

To his relief, DJ offered to help him study. That way, he said, if he felt like everything was hammered into his brain he’d be less anxious. Such a good guy.

As he so often did with other men, Dave missed all the signals and went to DJ’s apartment the next morning in blissful ignorance.

DJ’s intentions really were to study. Oh, sure, he had ulterior motives, but if Dave wasn’t interested he could handle that. After being crushingly disappointed he could handle it. Dave was more than just some hot guy he wanted, he really was a good person, someone DJ would be happy to keep as a friend even if he turned him down.

Three hours after Dave arrived they were still hitting the books hard. DJ stood and stretched, his back and neck popping. He’d been drilling Dave on the material and he’d yet to stump him. “C’mon Dave, you know this front and back. Take a break.” He put his hands on Dave’s shoulders and dug his thumbs into knotted muscles.

The groan he got sent a lightning bolt of desire through him. God, what he wouldn’t give to have him groan like that for other reasons.

“Mmm, that feels good,” Dave murmured as his eyes slid shut.

Well, that was encouraging, DJ thought with a little grin. He kneaded Dave’s shoulders and when he just couldn’t resist any longer he bent and placed a soft kiss at the base of Dave’s jaw.

“Um, Deej?” Dave’s face flushed hot. “Maybe I should’ve told you I have a boyfriend…”

DJ tried hard not to sigh, but the disappointment still showed. Damn. “You have a boyfriend? Like a relationship, or your just seeing someone?”

“Not like a relationship. A relationship. He lives with me and everything.”

“Oh.” DJ let his hands fall away reluctantly. “I’m sorry Dave, I hope this doesn’t change things too much.” Depressed now, and sure that this would indeed change things DJ went and flopped down on the couch, pretty sure Dave would hurriedly collect his stuff and leave.

He was surprised how much it hurt. It wasn’t like he was a kid with his first crush, he had hoped for something more but… ah well, he supposed he was just lonely. He hadn’t seen anyone since Jamie, hadn’t had any desire to either, until Dave.

Dave scrubbed his hands over his face. Christ, he was a first-class idiot sometimes and now he’d hurt DJ which had been the last thing he’d wanted. He liked the guy, dammit.

He settled in the chair next to the sofa and put a hand on DJ’s arm. “I’m sorry, man. I’m one of those guys you have to club over the head instead of send signals to. Being dense is one of the things I do best.”

So much pain lurked in those dark eyes, it sliced through Dave’s heart. “Have I done a really stupid thing, Deej? Leading you on and shit when I didn’t realize it?”

“Oh yeah. Flirted like a shameless hussy you did.” He winked and dialed up a smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Naw, man. Not your fault,” he said softly. “I was the one being stupid.”

“Stupid ‘cause you wanted some company?”

“Listen, I don’t want you to think I just invited you over here to hit on you. It’s not like that. I mean, it’s sort of like that, but that wasn’t the only reason. I like you. As a friend. Shit, this is sounding lamer and lamer.” He gave a mirthless chuckle.

“No, bro, it doesn’t.” Dave gripped his arm tighter. “Everybody gets lonely.”

“I haven’t dated anyone in a long time.” Actually it hadn’t seemed like a long time until now. Now it felt like it had been ages since he’d had someone touch him, someone to hold.

Dave wanted so bad to erase the anguish in those eyes. “What happened, Deej?”

“Oh, it’s the same old story, you know. Boy meets boy, falls in love, gets his heart ripped out and handed to him.” He gave another dry chuckle. Why on earth was he talking about this? He had to look away; he couldn’t look Dave in the eye and talk about Jamie. It was over and done with. History. But damn that boy had hurt him like he’d never been hurt. “He was fucking at least four of my so-called friends. Always the last to know, right?” Why the hell was he telling Dave any of this?

“Not exactly open and honest about it, I take it.” Dave sighed. “Guess it ended pretty bad, huh?”

DJ snorted. “Yeah. You could say that. After everything, he dumped me.” He could feel his throat tightening and cleared it quickly. This was ridiculous. He was not going to sit here and bawl about Jamie in front of Dave like an idiot.

Dave moved next to him and put an arm around his shoulders. DJ wished he hadn’t. He knew Dave was just trying to comfort him, but it was more like he loosened his control. He felt the hot scald of tears in his eyes and couldn’t stop them. Wonderful. He was going to cry like a baby about another guy in the arms of the one he wanted and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

Dave’s arms felt so good around him. The way he pulled him closer and made little soothing sounds just about melted his heart. He hadn’t let himself cry since the night Jamie left him. He’d just sucked it up and got on with life because there was nothing else he could do. It was easier to go through the motions switched off.

Now here was Dave, who he couldn’t have, and he had definitely flipped his switch back to on, in more ways than one. Even crying his eyes out he couldn’t help notice he had good shoulders, his scent at the crook of his neck was clean and warm, the hands that stroked his back and his arm were both strong and soothing. God, it was completely insane but he thought he was in love with Dave.

Not good. This was so not good. DJ picked his head up and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” He was trying to get his hitching breath under control. “I’m sorry…” He looked at Dave, the compassion and concern he saw in his face twisted his insides. Cupping Dave’s face in his hands he groaned softly and kissed him. “So sorry, Dave…please.” He kissed him again and felt a dizzy rush. “Please Dave, I need you…” God, oh god, why was he doing this? It was so unfair.

The ‘please’ went right to Dave’s core, the desperate longing in that one word. “Sh, Deej, it’s all right.” He leaned back and pulled DJ onto his chest while he fumbled in his pocket for his phone. “Gimme a sec, bro, attaboy, it’s OK.” He stroked DJ’s back trying to calm him while he waited for Xav to answer. Oh, right. Rehearsal. He always switched his phone off during rehearsals or Zeph got pissed.

So he’d deal with telling Xav later. Right now he had to deal with the friend sobbing in his arms. He took DJ under the chin and kissed him again, sweet and tender. “It’s OK,” he whispered against soft lips while he let his hands wander to the small of DJ’s back in slow circles.

DJ knew this wasn’t right, knew he had no right to even ask… and yet when Dave kissed him he couldn’t make himself pull back. His will just wasn’t that strong. One arm slid around Dave’s waist and the other went around his shoulders, his hand coming up so he could slide his fingers along the back of his head and tangle in his hair. Soft tender kisses gave way to heat and fire. He poured weeks of pent up longing into his kiss.

He told himself he should take it easy, slow down. Instead he ground his hips into Dave and his fingers tightened hard in his hair, pulling back. His lips slashed across his, hard and fierce. He came up minutes later, looking down at Dave with hungry eyes. He reached back and yanked his tee shirt off.

Dave lay back, panting, his gaze devouring the lean-muscled torso DJ revealed so suddenly. Part of him still said, we should stop, Christ, we really should, but the unexpected ferocity made his nerves sing, the strength of that hard grip on his hair. He wondered if it was all just desperation or if DJ had certain needs.

He ran a hand down DJ’s chest, then back up to cup his jaw. “Deej,” he murmured, even while doubts nagged at him. “I like things spiked with pain. Don’t be afraid. Don’t hold back.”

DJ felt his few remaining functioning brain cells melt with fission heat. Dave couldn’t possibly have said anything that would make him hotter. DJ wasn’t exactly into the whole whips and chains thing, but he liked it a little rough. Without a word he grabbed the edge of Dave’s tee shirt and pulled it off him. He bent his head to Dave’s chest, pulling a nipple into his mouth in a hard suck while he made quick work of the button and zipper of his jeans. His fingers curled over the top and yanked them down as his teeth nipped at the tender bud.

With a soft moan he looked down at the beautiful shaft he’d just revealed and brushed his fingers down his length and back up, then down again to cup his balls. “God, you are so damn sexy…” he murmured as he nibbled his way down his nicely defined torso. “I wanna taste you so bad.” His hand wrapped around the base of Dave’s cock as his mouth closed over the head

“Ohgod,” Dave moaned as his hips lifted in little rolls. The passion rolling off DJ in heavy waves had short circuited his brain and his sense. The heated lips caressing him felt so damn good sliding down his cock.

He tangled his fingers in DJ’s hair and shoved inside his mouth, his body collapsing into nothing but a bundle of over-stimulated nerve endings.

DJ took in his scent and his taste, sliding his mouth up and down as he stroked him firmly. For some reason people tended to think of giving head as a bottom position, but along with the sexual rush DJ always felt a rush of power, too. Knowing he could make his partner writhe and moan in ecstasy from the caress of his mouth was as much a part of the pleasure as the feel and taste of them. He held and kneaded Dave’s heavy balls, pressing two fingers into the taut stretch of skin between them and his anus.

Dave’s reactions were incredible, the way he moved, the sounds he made, his fingers gripping his hair got him so hot he felt like he might come in his jeans from just giving him a blow job. He wanted more than that though. With some reluctance he came up off of Dave. Kissing his way back up Dave’s chest, he reached down to open his pants and free his own rock hard erection.

They pressed together as DJ caught Dave’s lips in another searing kiss, hard chests, hard cocks, and heated skin grinding together. When DJ just couldn’t wait any longer he broke off the kiss and urged Dave to turn over with his hands. “Turn around,” he said in a husky murmur.

Without hesitation, Dave flipped over before a belated thought hit him. “Deej, you got protection?”

DJ kissed and nipped along Dave’s shoulders, hands caressing his body as he pressed up against the most perfect ass he’d seen in forever. He swallowed hard before he could speak. “I don’t have any condoms, but I know I’m clean. I haven’t been with anyone in six months and I’ve been tested twice for everything since the last person I slept with. If its no… its no, I’ll understand.” And probably die of frustration. Please, please don’t say no…

“’K. I trust you,” Dave whispered and lifted his butt in invitation.

Relief washed over DJ and a renewed sense of urgency. He wet two fingers in his mouth and slid them inside Dave, working him open quickly while he rubbed some more spit lube over his aching cock. He probably should have taken a little more time with prep but he could hardly think of anything else but getting inside Dave’s tight warm body. He nudged his cock head between his cheeks, gave one tentative push and sank inside in a hard thrust. Gripping Dave’s hips he stopped completely, holding in place, knowing he’d definitely given him a spike of pain

Dave lay panting, both hands gripped in the sofa cushions. He’d managed not to cry out but the pain sent a lightning jolt through his body, his erection expanding with it. Still he waited, not stupid enough to want damage done, until his body relaxed. When the sharpness receded, he pushed back against DJ’s hard intrusion.

“That’s it,” he whispered, arching his back and lifting his ass. “Give it to me, babe.”

DJ slid his hands slowly up Dave’s ribs, caressing him up to his shoulders where he gripped him. He nudged his knees between Dave’s, spreading him wider. He rocked his hips with Dave’s gentle rhythm for a few long minutes, enjoying the slow sensuality as much as his tight grip on his cock. “God, you feel fucking fantastic…” His pace picked up and he pulled back on his shoulders as he drove into him harder and faster. When he let go of his shoulders it was to bring his hand back to Dave’s hips and land a few hard swats on the beautiful mounds of his cheeks.

Bending to curl over him and wrap his arms around Dave’s chest he kept up the driving rhythm, his teeth grazing his skin in sharp nips as his hot breath huffed out. “Oh yeah, baby, that is so damn good… gonna fuck you so hard, sweetheart…” He murmured as he pinched and teased Dave’s nipples.

“Christ…yes…” Dave moaned and whimpered in pleasure when DJ’s teeth closed on his skin. The tendrils of pain intertwined with the pleasure in such breathtaking ways. The crack of DJ’s hand on his backside had made his head spin.

“Harder…oh, Deej….please…harder…”

DJ was more than happy to oblige, giving him exactly how hard and how fast he needed… they both needed. Panting and riding the edge after an exhilarating climb he sank his fingers into Dave’s hair and pulled him up sharply until he was up on his knees. One hand fisted in his hair, the other snaked around his hip to stroke his cock in long firm strokes while he hammered into him from behind. His teeth fastened onto the muscle running from neck to shoulder and he groaned low in his throat as he looked down at his hand around Dave’s hard cock. He wanted to watch when he came.

Like being mounted by a lion, held fast between the fist in his hair and the teeth gripping his shoulder, the feast of sensations rocketed Dave towards the summit. He didn’t need to move much, DJ did everything for him, and his moans slid into soft cries of delight.

“Ohgodohgod…I’m gonna come…” he gasped and bucked back hard against DJ. The fist around him and the cock inside him thumped down together and he bellowed as the pressure built to agonizing and burst, his seed shooting from him in near painful bursts.

“Ohhh…you are one fuckin hot boy…” DJ growled into the side of his throat as he stroked every last bit from him. He slid his hand up Dave’s belly, his own orgasm slamming into him as he buried himself deep. The sweet hot rush roared over him with Dave’s bellows and DJ joined him in a few throaty ecstatic cries.

As the pulses began to fade he rolled Dave back down prone and lay across him regaining his breath. “Oh… my god, that was so damn hot…” he murmured. “Thank you,” He kissed the corner of Dave’s mouth. “Thank you, you wonderful sexy thing.” He smiled and kissed him again.

Dave stroked his arm and let out a soft chuckle. “You’re welcome. No problem at all.” Then he rolled so he could wrap his arms around DJ, fingers combing through his hair. “Good to see you smile. You’ve got such a killer smile.”

“Mm.” DJ smiled at him sleepily. “My study methods are sure to get you a perfect score on that test, Mr. Brooks.” He chuckled.

“Might’ve done better in high school if I’d had this kind of tutor,” Dave said with a straight face. He grinned when DJ gave his a playful swat on the hip. He stroked the side of DJ’s face. “I’ve gotta get home, handsome.”

DJ’s smile faded a little, or rather got a little more serious. “Dave, I’m so sorry if I’ve… made a problem for you.”

“Those would be my problems, yeah? Don’t you worry about all that.” He gave DJ a last, tender kiss. “Not gonna say anything lame like I’ll call you. I’ll see you in class.” With that he gathered his things and went home, rehearsing the explanation. Xav would understand, a friend in such terrible pain, what was he supposed to have done?

He stopped worrying at it while he cooked dinner. A little homemade barbecue sauce, some nice thick pork chops, snow peas and red baby potatoes, all things Xav loved. Not a lot of food Xav didn’t love. He’d started to enjoy cooking again when he stopped working. It was fun again and he had the most appreciative audience one could want.