by Nix Winter
Copyright 2013, all rights reserved
Note: This is part of my August and Anderson series and it takes place after the stories in Redeem Me. I have a feeling there will be another series of stories for them. They're such powerful characters.
“Shitty. So okay. Can we hold hands?”
August’s shadow stretched out into his closet, dark cool against pale hardwood floor. Clothes hung perfectly, neat, each hanger two fingers from the one before and the one after. Expensive cloth, professionally laundered by the household staff, each one was an artifact from a previous life. Standing there, he felt like he could see his former self choosing and debating, a wealthy privileged boy who thought he would never be touched by death. He’d been the hero. His will drove the world. Thinner now, chestnut hair longer, face unshaven, he wasn’t sure if he longed to be the shadow of himself deciding which five hundred dollar shirt to wear or if he hated that smiling idiot for the violence he hadn’t been able to protect against.
Muscles cramping in his legs, leaned him against the door frame. Hands tucked up under his arms which were hidden by Corey’s larger shirt, simple and black, fabric made soft by wear, August just wanted to not hurt any more. He wanted to to not make any more stupid choices.
He wanted a switch in his head that some medication would flick and make everything fine and good again. The broken parts had come so quickly, shattering so deeply that no matter how much he willed the sorrow and pain not to to hold him, it held.
He’d married Corey with full will, with all his soul and being. He’d in his lover’s arms on the cell floor. Right there, with Corey holding him, he hadn’t felt the break in his mind.
The rescue that had come afterwards had felt like the right way for the story to go. Rescued, protected, body healed, he’d gone back to his life. Corey stayed with him. He’d gone back to his office. He’d driven his cars. He’d made love to his husband. He’d argued with his little brother. He’d listened to lectures by his mother. He’d held Corey as he cried because his church cut ties with him.
Slowly though, the surface okayness ground away and the break showed more and more.
The hurt wasn’t logical.
There was no reason to feel unsafe all the time.
There was no reason to cringe when the man he loved touched him.
There shouldn’t have been a need to reread a brief three times and still not understand it.
The diagnosis came down as traumatic brain injury aggravated depression, post traumatic stress.
He knew there was nothing on the MRI. Science didn’t have any more meaning for him than Corey’s Christ could explain this agony to him. Both of them had their answers to why the air was heavier than water and black as bad blood, hard to breathe.
He’d moved out of the room he shared with Corey. Affection felt like need and it wasn’t something he could carry right then.
That Corey didn’t carry the same agony ground down into his skin tenderizing his being until it felt like his soul was bleeding.
The last thing in the world he wanted was for Corey to be in pain. Corey was all he’d ever wanted, but Corey’s smiles had turned to acid.
His head hurt and if he’d had the energy, he’d have thrown out all the unworn white shirts, all the Italian wool slacks, polished shoes, exquisite fedoras, the glittering artifacts of a life that hadn’t been swallowed by pain.
Standing there, it occurred to him that he was hurting Corey, that he had nothing to offer ,and just like he hadn’t saved anyone, he was never going to be able to be sure that he was safe. The world had felt safe, his playground, now even the secure estate didn’t feel secure. The thought that being with Corey made the ex-priest a target to be abducted again, this thought terrified him. If he were dead, maybe Corey could go back to being a priest, being happy with his life of service.
Minutes turned to hours and August slipped down the door frame to curl up on the heated wood floor. Just like he’d been on the cell floor, but now there was no one to open the door for him, to take him out. He tried to think about what he could have done differently, about when here he’d made a wrong choice that lead to him being taken, to Corey being willing to be taken just to be with him.
There were no more tears. His soul had become a desert.
Day turned to night and sleep settled over him, wrapping him in a warm surrender.
Chocolate. There is a definite scent to chocolate. Hot chocolate has a sweet warmth to it. It made him think of the kids that Corey took care of, of the stupid second hand store mug, thick and white, that Corey drank his chocolate from. Still curled on the floor, August felt the smile, felt it send cracks rippling back through his being, cracking sorrow like brittle volcanic glass.
“Hey,” he said, voice rough and barely a whisper.
“Hey.” Corey’s voice was soft, deep, gentle.
"How long have you been here?" August asked. A longing to hear Corey's voice filled him with a hunger, a want that felt...good. It was such a small thing, such a little firefly of light and hope. "Talk to me."
"About three hours." Corey said. "I brought you some sandwiches, but I made them so they're like what we had at the rectory, be warned."
"God." August said, rolling onto his back, voice deep and hungry.
"Yes," Corey asked playfully.
"Asshole," August teased back, stockinged foot nudging Corey's thigh. "You're too sweet to be God. Give me sandwiches."
Corey reached for the plate of sandwiches, held it out to his husband. “Let there be sandwiches. Were you stoned yesterday?”
“Valid question,” August said, scooting a little closer to the solid ground of his love. “I know I’ve done some stupid shit.
Both of them were thinking about the morning when August woke up in his parent’s bed with a very well build Danish man and a cross dressing Roman. Corey perched on the end the footboard with a golf club balanced across his knees was an experience neither of them wanted again. August had insisted on a rape kit on all three of them to prove, as well as they could, that there had been no sex. Roman hadn’t talked to him for a week. The Dane hadn’t actually seemed all that displeased. Corey had just stressed that that was beside the point.
August swore the drugs were accidental.
Corey insisted that negligence does not negate responsibility.
Corey sounding like a lawyer had given August this look in his eyes that completely changed the conversation, but neither of them really minded that either. Corey had worked with many people who struggled with substance abuse issues. He’d seen the demons destroy people and a love that possessed him with that same intensity, a passion that pulled more sure than gravity, did not stop him from fearing for August.
August finished the half a sandwich and then laid his hand over Corey’s hand, stilling his typing, until he could slip his fingers through the rougher and more calloused fingers. “I didn’t take that ecstasy on purpose. I drink. That you can worry about. I don’t do drugs. Your smiles usually do more to me than that shit did and I can remember what I’ve done afterwards.” Somehow some great smile found it’s way into his chest, lifting his heart and he shifted, turning around to face Corey, while keeping hold of his hand. “God, you really worry about me, don’t you? You just go the fuck on with your life, but you hurt for me, don’t you?”
Corey turned his hand around, slipped his fingers through August’s hand and held him tightly, a grip that matched how tight his heart felt, matched the wall of tears he wasn’t going to cry anymore. “I watched my mother die of a heroin overdose, August Richards the fifth. I’m afraid I’m watching you die slower and if there was any fucking shit I could do to save you, I would do it. I’d give you my kidneys, my blood, my eyes. I’d take your place completely from what happened to you. I’d go kill someone for you, if that would make it better. I’d stop believing in god, if that would make feel better.”
“Liar,” August teased awkwardly, his free hand reaching to brush through Corey’s brilliant red hair. “You can’t stop believing in what you can see and hear.”
“I could put my eyes out,” Corey offered, a deep sorrow tainting his words.
“I’m sorry,” August said and he meant the words for the first time like they were the first real words he’d said since their rescue. “I’m so fucking sorry, Corey. I just.. everything hurt so damn badly. I couldn’t see past what I was feeling and I ... I’m really sorry. You give me more than I can understand, a fuck ton more than I’ve ever deserved, and god.. I have an idea. Wanna wreck the world with me, baby?”
Corey set his computer down, pushing it to the side, as he turned to face August. He reached out and caught August’s other hand. He held to him with innocence and trust.
“Okay, Auggie. Let’s wreck the world.” Corey’s eyes lit up. The faint blush showed easily on Irish pale cheeks.
There was a restarting to them, as if they were boys sitting on the closet floor. Red headed, green-eyed innocence falling into the brunet whirlwind of a demon with world change on his mind, and there they sat, holding each other.
“So first we’re gonna need matching tattoos,” August said, chocolate eyes full of mission planning in an old and familiar way, where all trouble started.
“Tattoos?” Corey sat up a little straighter, green eyes wide.
“Well, I need a couple of tattoos. You don’t have to, if you don’t want to. Fuck, how can we get one to come here this late at night?”
“We could go to them,” Corey offered.
August swallowed, the tightness in his throat giving omen to a coming headache and sudden desire for a shot of whiskey. It had been six weeks since he’d left his parent’s house. Granted, it was a very large house with a pond and a small private forest on the estate, but he was used to flying to Paris for the weekends.
Solemnly, August nodded. The headache crept up the back of his neck a little and the whiskey promised, PROMISED, that just one shot would make it go away. “In the morning, I’m booking into rehab,” he said firmly. “Tonight, you’re going to drive me around. I want a tattoo and I want to have breakfast at Nigel’s, like we used to.”
“Yeah.” August pushed up to his feet, body shaking from hunger and emotion and want of alcohol. “I’m going to stop human trafficking and I’m not going to do it with a whiskey bottle in my fucking mouth.” Standing in the doorway of his closet, he started at a few hundred thousand dollars of clothes and couldn’t find the will to wear any of them. “I wanna wear some of your clothes, please, Corey? Jeans and a tee-shirt? Something I can have, that you don’t want back, baby, please?”
“It’s going to be too big,” Corey said with worry. August had always been bigger than he was, but that wasn’t true anymore. August always wore tailored clothes.
“So is everything else.”
“Come to my room with me,” Corey pleaded, with as soft of a sell as he could.
August turned to him, leaning to reach out and caress Corey’s face, the softest and gentlest touch in months. “I’ll be here. I promise. I think I see the light.”
Pale, Corey’s eyes were wide, with just a hint of too wet, he said, “That’s kind of what I’m afraid of.”
August leaned, an old August smile lifting thin lips. “I’ve been so damn blind. Give me what you’re wearing. You wear something of mine, and we can take a shower together,” August wiggled scruffy brown eyebrows.
Corey pointed an accusing finger. “You can not buy me with sex, August Richards.” The pointing finger softened into a caress, to his fingers sliding through August’s hair.
“I can’t buy what I’m already owned by,” August said, inelegant and uncaring about perfect form. He dropped down to one knee again, both hands sliding into Corey’s hair. “Beauty.. you know.. they say it’s like.. some physical thing.. like marble or roses or some shit, but it’s not... it’s the light in your eyes, the strength, the will, the fear, the fucking determination to love me inspite of my stupid fucking self and god, I’ll believe in your god when I look at you.”
Corey’s laughter was deep, relaxed, filling his chest and he went to his knees. One hand caught August’s hand and drew it to his lips, warm lips against chill palm, kissing up towards the pulse in August’s wrist. “You don’t have to believe in Him. He believes in you, but I can hear your confession, my Auggie.”
“Hear my confession,” August said solemn and serious. He didn’t confess with words though, because words are always subject to law and in Corey there was no law, only love. The kiss pushed Corey over onto his back, on the heated floor, onto the tangled blanket he’d had over his shoulders, shoved his laptop and work out of the way, sprawled them on the floor with intent that boys would not have.
Men have a stronger hunger. Corey wrapped a leg around August, holding him close, as if he could protect him, sustain him, cherish him, and lifted his head into the kiss. Shaking tongue, August strained to give the power he’d had before, to push back harder, to match his lover.
Corey melted into August’s heat. August could be the volcano, but Corey was the molten rock, channeled, but the reason for being.
It took moments to wiggle Corey’s jeans and boxers down. Neither of them expressed on the shakiness in August’s hands, how thin his fingers were, the moments when Corey held him, stronger arms around him, letting his breath come back. August’s clothes were easier, slipping off without being unbuttoned even.
Pants off, erections as hard as the floor, lips wet with kiss, tangled together, their eyes met. Green and brown, and like lovers who’d been wrapped up in each other long enough to have written chapters in each other’s brains, they both knew they weren’t going any farther without lube.
A drawing down of red eyebrows, gold catching in lashes - dark eyes shifted to the side, then upwards towards the bed - which brought an upturning of smile to the corner of Corey’s eyes and without words they were scrambling towards the bed.
Laughter came from nowhere, from wherever Corey’s angels came from and August found himself bouncing on his very big and expensive bed, kicking covers off towards the floor. He bounced as he peeled his tee-shirt off over his head. “Give me your shirt,” he said, the edge of command coming back into his voice.
Corey, who’d watched his lover bounce while he got the lube, smiled contentedly and peeled his own shirt off. Facing each other, on their knees, Corey pulled his gray tee-shirt over August’s head, painting his privileged lawyer boy with gray cotton and hand painted rainbow peace sign. Eyes still locked together, Corey ran his hand down August’s belly, fingers through tight brown curls, to side out over his cock, caressing, holding, stroking slowly, lovingly, acknowledging and honoring all things carnal an intimate. “You can have all my clothes, Auggie. I’ll dress up in button up white and ties.”
“Will you wear a tie for me tonight?”
“You gonna tie me up with it later?”
There was a slight hitch in August’s breath, the hiss of a dark oozing demon, because something they’d loved so much bore taint, darkness that August didn’t know how to push away. “I ... I don’t think I can right now.”
Corey’s arms went around him, holding close, so tight, so fast that he knocked the breath out of his more fragile love. “Forgive me?”
Anger snapped up its head then... to push back ... to destroy, defend, to own.. to be the man, the need to control, to control himself, and the softness in Corey stank of weakness, of pain, of being hurt again, and god he wanted it all to go away, wanted a really big whiskey.. but... the scent of happiness was still so close and he wanted it back.. wanted his happiness back again! He pushed away a little though, sat down on the bed, feet tucked under his tighs, and pulled Corey down with him.
Tears glittered in Corey’s eyes and that just made August want to be angrier, as if anger and rage were the answers to everything. “Okay, Baby, teach me about this forgiveness shit again? Please, please, Corey. I just want to feel happy again and the rage fit... it’s just not getting me there.”
Corey sat down, matching August’s pose, except he pressed his palms together, as if he were praying, or meditating.
August wasn’t sure if Corey looked like a Buddha or a saint, but either way, he expected his redheaded boy was more saintly than he wanted to be himself. Corey could be Saint Francis and August would take his place as the angry dog that only the saint could love.
“Okay,” Corey said, closing his eyes to find a bit of inner peace first, that did not a thing to calm his erection. He licked his lips, then opened his eyes. There was an air to him like he was channeling some saint or maybe just the part of his mind that was deeper than raging of everyday hungers. “So can you find the edges of your own being... imagine like there’s a circle around you and me.. it’s okay if the circles intersect, but let’s try to imagine them whole and round.. like rings of light.”
“Sure,” August said, trying real hard to imagine this thing that he was sure looked as real as real to Corey. “But mine gets to be green like your eyes and yours is brown like mine, okay?”
“Yup, works for me. so imagine it glowing really good okay?”
“Now.. this part’s harder.”
“Not like that part isn’t hard for me, idiot.”
“Sure,” Corey said, smirking a half smile, eyes glittering with more joy than sorrow now.
That’s what pushed August on. Corey could return to joy so fucking fast. “Yeah, yeah, great big flaming green circle.”
“No, no.. not great big flames... just a little neon glow... like a big glow stick, at a night club.”
“Okay. Glow stick at a night club, good music?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes the music is shit, but you don’t get to talk to the DJ.”
“Shitty. So okay. Can we hold hands?”
“Yup, because we both want our circles to overlap,” Corey said, holding out his hands.
August’s hands were still trembling when he took Corey’s hands, but there they sat. “So now what?”
“So imagine Someone stepping on your circle, breaking the ring of light.”
“Fucker,” August growled, rage flaring like a nuclear neon explosion.
Corey held onto his hands. “When you rage fit, the circle gets more damaged. The point of anger is to make you know that the circle has been damaged. Now imagine the green circle rising up, pushing the foot back, filling back in, being whole and the threat is on the outside and the inside is safe again.”
“I can’t fucking imagine that! I want to kill him!”
Corey kept hold of August’s hands, even as they started to sweat and shake harder.
August took a deep cleansing breath, then another. If his circle had been brown and filled with his own energy, it would have just boiled into red and tried to chase down the imaginary attacker, but it was green, Corey colored, and it rose up gentle like, pushed back the incursion, filled back in, and a sense of safety and well being filtered back in. Not as strong as they’d once been, but stronger than he’d been afraid of ever feeling again. His eyes snapped open and he stared at his gently smiling lover. His body calmed, the trembling softened, and he just felt tired, but a soft and warm tried, safe, and whole tired. “Well, fuck me.”
“That’s forgiveness. You don’t need to let bad things happen. You don’t have to forget. It’s just not holding onto it, because as long as you’re holding onto it, you can’t repair yourself.”
“Well, fuck me twice.”
“If you want me to,” Corey said very softly.
August had gone soft, but he snuggled closer. “I don’t know, Corey. I do and I don’t. I want.. but... I’m.. sex isn’t .. it isn’t forgiven yet and I want to.. but it’s like I want to do it like.. as a way of asking you to forgive me.. to make you still want me.”
Corey wrapped his arms tightly around him, holding him close, kissing the top of his hair, tugging at long heavy strands with his lips. “When you’re ready, Auggie.”
“Want a hand job?”
“Not right now. You still want to go out?”
“Yeah,” August said, energy coming back up. He bounced on the bed for a moment more, then realized Corey’s shirt was on inside out, peeled it off, then back on. “Get dressed.”
Corey pulled him into one more tight hug, then exaggerated how stoic he was being in wearing August’s clothes.
When he came back out of the huge closet, wearing a white shirt and black slacks, a very nice black silk tie, and a pair of Prada sunglasses, he came up short, starring. “You put a hole in my pants!” The sunglasses slid down his nose, and there was August in jeans that weren’t all that big, a hole cut in the tigh, skin showing, the soft gray tee-shirt laying over hard lean shoulders.
“They’re my pants now, Baby.” August said, smiling over his shoulder, a huge playful grin.
Words caught in Corey’s throat, fluttering like butterflies. “Uhhh.”
“Oh come on, they look good.”
“Yeah,” Corey agreed.
“You can drive tonight?”
“Sure,” Corey said, eyeing August’s feet, which were tucked up in Corey’s blue Tevas.
That left the shoes that he’d worn to their wedding, which he had to go back into the closet and hunt for a moment.
As it turned out, August’s entry code into the garage had been forgotten or rescinded, or both, and Corey had to get them in. August wanted to take a Maserati. Corey had the keys for his Volvo, so Volvo it was, but at the last minute, a member of the house security caught them and decided to come along.
And so the little Volvo took off with August’s arms up out the moonroof, Corey’s jazz music almost loud enough to cause a sound disturbance, and a 6 foot ex navy seal glaring in the back seat.
Sometime after burgers and lattes, the guard, whose name was Lauren, said, “For an ex-priest, you drive surprisingly well and with too little regard for the law. How do you have a clean driving record?”
Corey smiled into the rearview, wiggled red eyebrows. August grabbed the mirror, turned it to face him, gave the man a completely wicked August smile. “He’s my husband.”
“Exactly, my point,” Lauren said.
Corey snickered. August poked his shoulder.
“I’m just careful.”
August’s phone rang and he answered. “August and Anderson Pizza Lovers.”
After a second he sat up straighter and typed an address into the navigation system. “Yeah, about twenty minutes. You want us to bring anything?”
“Where are we going now,” Lauren asked suspiciously.
“Cash, yeah, got that. There’s three of us. Yeah, I’m sure.” He ended the call. “I need 1000.”
“What for,” Lauren said sternly, as if being an authority figure would control his charge, in the slightest.
“You got money on you,” August said, looking into the backseat, eyes narrowing predatorily. “Give it over.”
“It’s for emergencies only,” Lauren said firmly.
“This is an emergency. Give, give.” August said, using as much charm as he could muster.
“I can not give you money for drugs or illegal activities, Mr. Richards.”
Corey readjusted the mirror, staying out of the negotiations.
“I’m buying a tattoo done by Katie Hayes, one of the most respected artists in the world, at 2AM on a Tuesday morning. It’s going to cost me a thousand dollars cash and five more by visa. It’s not dangerous, unless you count what my mom’s gonna say.”
“What’s the address where we’re going?”
August gave him the address for one of the better parts of downtown, a high rise building with very decent security. “She was on that TV show recently, you know? Brings out the crazies.”
“Charging 6k for a tattoo, she can probably afford a place like that.”
“Come on. It’s just a a tattoo. It’ll cost less than this if I ever want to get it removed.”
They were about to be let through security when Lauren finally gave up the money.
Katie was wearing sweats and irritation when she let them in, hand out for the cash. Her eyes roamed over them all settled on August, even though it was Corey who handed over the money. “You take a shower before we start.”
“Burn,” Lauren said, straight face, even if he was a bit less formal than he had been when they left. the estate.
“Yeah, okay,” August said, going where she pointed.
“You gentlemen want something to drink? Eat?”
“Diet coke?” Corey asked?
“In the bar,” she asked, looking at Lauren, looking at him longer and softer than she’d looked at the other two. “You want something too?”
“I haven’t got that kind of money,” he said, neutral, but Corey was watching him watch the petite Asian artist it ways he hadn’t looked at anything else all night.
“I’ll include it in the price,” she said, face smiling, attraction and challenge like a night club beat in the air. “We want everyone to have their fun.”
“I’ve never had a tattoo.”
“First time for everything,” she said, pointing to dentist style chair, with a nifty chrome plated tattoo gun and a broad selection of inks. “Anything appeal to you?”
“Maybe the number 42 on my arm?”
“What’s your name?” she asked, holding out her hand to shake.
“I’m Lauren. You’re Katie, right?”
“Yup. 42, like Jackie Robinson?”
“Yeah,” he said, his smile a little shyer.
Corey stopped watching at that point. It was private in a way, more real, less professional, the way the world always was around August.
The 42 was almost done, small and perfectly neat, when August came out, looking much better than Corey’d seen him in months, longer hair now pulled into a ponytail, an aura of peace and confidence seeming stable around him.
August eyed the last bit of coloring on the 42. “Nice.”
Laruen looked slightly abashed, as if he’d just now realized he wasn’t being much of a bodyguard while getting in his skin. “Sorry, Mr. Richards.”
“Not at all,” August said, smiling, body tall, comfortable with himself. “You were just testing her for me, doing your job. Right?” He asked Katie.
“Best bodyguard ever,” she said, some deep seductive rhythm in her smile. “Okay, Mr. Richards. What are we doing this fine morning?”
August took Lauren’s place in the chair. “Call me Auggie, okay? I want a black line,” he traced a finger over his left eye from a couple inches above his eyebrow to about three inches below, “And then a bright green circle here,” he said, drawing about a fingertip sized circle under the line.”
Her lips went tight and she scooted back just a little, an eyebrow arching. “You want an ... exclamation point... on face?”
August titled his head, eyes shifting to the side. “It’s not an exclamation point, but yeah, that’s what I want.”
“Are you high?”
Katie looked to Lauren, then to Corey, to get support for why this was a bad idea.
Lauren shrugged. “He’s got the money to get it removed, if he wants.”
She drew a deep breath, then eyed his face, as if it had become her canvas. “Square ends on the line? Eyelid too?”
“Yeah, and can you do the eyelid too?”
“I’m the best fucking tattoo artist in the world. I can do the inside of your cock, if you really wanted.”
Corey groaned, grimacing, legs crossing a little. “I’d rather we didn’t. I like his cock as it is.”
August snickered. “And whatever Corey wants.”
“You getting your face marked up too, Red?”
“Corey,” he said, “And I think, if it’s not too much trouble, I’d like a brown circle in the inside of my arm, about where Lauren got his.”
Katie broke out new needles, fired her gun back on and did what she was good at.
They didn’t make it to Nigels, for the dawn. Corey stood with him on Katie’s balcony, as the sun came up. Hands held, a grip growing tighter as the phone connected. “Mom.”
There was a pause and August held even tighter. “Yeah, Mommy, I know what time it is. I, uh, Mom. Listen. I,” he paused, leaned his head against Corey’s head, rubbed his cheek against Corey’s sun gilt hair. “Mom, can you get me a spot in a good rehab? Something really good. Yeah, I’m serious.”
Corey held back just as tight, eyes watching the sun lightened the Pacific Ocean.
“This morning. I want to start right now.”(This is the story set that preceded this story.