Creative Employment


Creative Employment
Part 7


Reed, as always, Patient and fabulous!

All input welcome, - stories often show up first in my yahoo group, and at some point or other on my website,

And thus ends the mini-saga of Will and Tom...


His large hand reached out and grabbed me by the front of my jacket for a second time, and in a second I was flying against the closed front door.

"Ow!" My sight went blurry, and the back of my head hurt like a bitch. I tried to avoid falling on my ass and also avoid his reach, since he obviously wanted to have another go at me. so he couldn't have a second go. I was fast, and wiry. But it was a very small room, and there was nowhere to escape to. And the red-haired man in front of me was enraged, face almost purple, large fists clenched.

Well, you idiot, I thought through a rising terror, you really didn't think this through enough. How idiotic was I to not really consider the very real physical danger I was putting myself in by coming to a house where I knew a man who had just threatened my life was? Stupid, stupid... I moved away from him as much as I could, trying to get around the coffee table but instead tripping over it and flailing foolishly for balance.

I came rushing in blindly because I thought Tom would protect me. But Tom wasn't protecting me, he couldn't. Tom wasn't here.

A fist connected with my gut, and I cursed my wandering mind as I doubled over and slid to the floor. I was in good shape, but I was no fighter.

In contrast Connor Naughton was obviously a very accomplished wielder of violence, and he was also very angry at me. That was clear shortly after he opened the door, looked at me and then the cab silently, and stepped back to let me into the house.

As soon as the door was closed he began to lay into me, physically and verbally.

"How fucking dare you?" He spit at me now. "I told your fucking fag ass not to come here, and to leave him alone! How goddamn stupid are you? He says you're so smart, so cool, and yet you come here... " Connor was actually surprised, I noted, his brow furrowed with perplexity over how I could be such a masochist.

I didn't know what to say.

"Sorry," I whispered. He looked confused. I would have laughed if I wasn't sure he would have thought I was laughing at him. But, no, I was laughing at me. Will Merrin was very goddamn stupid, sir, what can I say. In a bizzaro way it was like I was being given my just desserts; pain at the hands of an older, stockier, less attractive version of Tom. He had a wide nose, the eyes drooped more at the corners, the hair more brown than Tom's. And there was none of the wonderful kindness that I adored so in my Naughton, no softness.

"My" Naughton? What the hell, when was he ever that? My god, I was going crazy, aside from being a dumb fuck. We're sorry to tell you, Mr. and Mrs. Merrin, but your son actually died from an attack of insanity-related fucktardness, with the violence afflicted against him being a natural side effect of being so devoid of forethought. I'd consider flushing his ashes, honestly. He's just that deserving of a Darwin Award.

I inadvertently chuckled, and Connor's eyes widened in renewed raged, and as expected he retaliated. He gave me a swift kick to my side; pain exploded on contact, perhaps more than I had ever felt in my sheltered life. I groaned and tried to move away, propping myself up against the blue couch. Like his brother he was overwhelmingly strong. I wondered how far this would go. Why wasn't Tom here? Why hadn't I considered this possibility when Tom hadn't been the one to pick up his phone?

I couldn't stop laughing. If I was going to get beaten within an inch of my life - or perhaps to the end of it - at least I could go down in a cloud of delusional mirth.

But I also knew I was laughing because I was perhaps just as pissed off with Tom's brother as he was with me, and was thus provoking him. Tom was so confused, so unhappy because of this man. Tom was a bundle of hurt and guilt and sexual pain because of HIM. Fuck him. If he fucked me up, well, the reprecussions would be considerable. I hope those reprecussions destroyed his life.

Connor's face became a new shade of scarlet at my increased laughter, and my terror whimpered below the thin sheen of amusement. I braced myself as he came forward, trembling despite myself....

And he stopped. Looming over me, his face twisted, contorted, facial expressions that had within them echos that I was painfully familiar with. I could hear my heart pounding against my ribs, the pain in my legs and abdomon calling attention to muscles and bodyparts I wasn't used to feeling so acutely. And I was angry. Fuck him.

"Fucking..." He breathed hard, closing his eyes briefly. "God, I want to rip that smug, pretty little face apart. Fuck up everything you used to fuck with my brother." My heart beat faster. His fists clenched. "How fucking DARE you?"

Before I knew it I was talking. The words came out of their own volition, and I couldn't stop them. "How fucking dare I? How fucking dare I?" I chuckled, and it ended in a snarl. "You think I'm fucking with him, and you're doing this? You treat your brother like a child, you feel you have to beat me up for him, you're a homophobic dick, and you ask how I dare?" I forced myself to stand up and face him, wincing in pain.

Connor was suprised, momentarily speechless, giving me the opportunity to finish talking. "How dare you make his choices for him? How dare you confuse him, how DARE you try to make him be what he isn't, you sorry fuck!" My buried rage came bursting forth. "You are so scared of the fact that your brother just might be a goddamn fag, you're trying to ruin his life, keep him from making his own decisions... you're that damn scared of him fucking another man?"

I got right in his face. I'd never been so angry before in my life.

"Your fears and bullshit have fucked him up. He hasn't been able to be him, and it's your damn fault!"

I'd dodged out of his way as much as possible but he still got a glancing blow to the side of my face, and I fell back on the couch, head throbbing.

He stood over me, huge and almost shaking with rage. "You think I just fucking did this, you self-righteous shit?" His eyes were huge. "He asked me to, fucker!" I snorted. I didn't believe him. "You know the first time he did this shit, way back in high school, he begged me, fucking begged me to help him." His expression shifted to a sort of pain. "He was so goddamn embarrassed, so fucking confused... He wanted me to take care of it for him."

I tried to compute this response, but it moved thrugh a fog. That could have been from being smacked around, I wasn't quite sure.

Seizing the opportunity he found in my silence, he leaned forward. I could smell stale cigarettes on his breath. "And he wants me to take care of YOU. You and your crazy mind-fucking. You're the one who's fucked him up, fucked his life. Destroyed his relationship." His face became pained, and I couldn't deny the love there, and the concern. "He was happy, he was normal. And he's become a real prick lately, because of you. Thank god Lori doesn't know why..." He trailed off.

I'm sure that didn't make it any easier for her. We were both silent for a moment, both our breathing labored. My anger was slipping away. Now I just felt pitiful, and guilty.

"Get out," He said, quietly now. "Just get out, and leave my brother alone. Don't come near him."

I stood up, slowly, and bit down a groan for no better reason than pride. There wasn't anything more to say. I wanted to beat my fists against him, make him prove Tom had asked him to turn me away. Tell him I loved Tom, underline the fact I was no saint but he sure as hell wasn't helping. But what good would that do?

Tom obviously leaned against Connor emotionally, and maybe neither I nor the brother had the whole picture. I know I didn't. Maybe Tom had changed his mind, and asked Connor. I didn't know. Connor didn't either. Only Tom did.

I hobbled towards the door, and reached it just as it pulled open.

Tom stared at me. I stared at Tom. 'Oh, god,' was my first thought. 'I look so completely horrible right now, I don't want him to see me like this.' It was a pretty ridiculous moment to be vain.

And something about this and the stupified look on his face had me chuckling, which turned into a cough very quickly.

"Are you okay?" He asked and grabbed my arm. His brow furrowed, and he dropped whatever was in his arms. "The cab - I wondered if it -" He stopped, his blue eyes searching my face. Something shifted in his facial expression. It scared me, because I had just been beat up by someone with a frighteningly similar gleam.

"I'm fine, really," I rushed to comfort him, somehow sensing the coming storm, "It's just -"

It was too late. Before I could grab him he was surging forward.

"Tom, I... Fuck!" Connor hadn't expected his brother to move so quickly, obviously, as he stumbled backwards. Hell, he wasn't the only one; I'd seen signs that Tom could move damn fast, but this was impressive.

He got a couple of square punches on the older man before Connor started to fight back. Truthfully, I couldn't blame him. Seeing Tom's fury, I now understood how comparatively controlled the beating I just received was. Connor hadn't been raging, he'd been making a point.

Tom, on the other hand, was a blur, and before I knew it he'd thrown his brother against the wall next to the stairs, causing a painting to fall down and shatter. "Tom! Fuck, what the hell -" Connor got his brother in the stomach, and Tom flinched, but didn't stop. He was the smaller of the two of them, but he was faster, and in far better shape.

I had to stop him or he was going to pound his own flesh and blood into a bloody pulp. WIth little thought I jumped forward and wrapped my arms around him, attempting to pull him backwards.

"TOM! STOP IT!" Unfortunately, this gave Connor a chance to pop Tom one in the mouth, and we both went flying backwards into the doorframe leading to the kitchen. My head went "thunk" right on the point in my skull I had landed when I'd been thrown. I let out a yell and my senses exploded in pain and light. I automatically let go of Tom and slid down, clutching my skull.

"Shit! Will!" His voice was near my ear; he was obviously crouching next to me. I peeled open an eye.

"Ow." I said, bemusedly.

"What the FUCK, Tom?" Connor came towards us, face red and full of anger and concern. "What the hell was that?"

Tom's face twisted and he stood up. I expected him to start yelling, but instead he was silent for a moment, and when he did speak, it was shockingly low, and controlled. "What do you think you're doing?"

Connor was obviously also taken aback by the sudden calm. "I - this creep was stupid enough to come here, I told him not to!" He stammered, face even redder. "What the hell else was I supposed to do?"

"You called?" Tom turned to me, and I couldn't read his expression. All I did was nod. He turned back to his brother. "When did you answer my phone? I was only gone for 15 minutes." Now he sounded angry.

I'd never heard him like this, a tightly controlled anger. Another of his many aspects.

"When you... you were in the shower. What the fuck is your problem!" He waved a hand in my direction. "You told me this fag was messing with your head!!! Lori left you! You wanted me to help you get the fuck over it!" I looked at Tom.

He was silent. I sighed, and pushed myself up.

"I was leaving," I said quietly. "Tom."

"Will..." He said, eyes red. "That's not..."

"Tom," I repeated as firmly as I was capable of. "You work this out with your brother. Call me. If you want. I hope you do...want. Ow..." I touched my head again. "I think I'm going to go to a doctor." I gave him a weak smile. "See you."

And with that I limped to the front door, opened it, and stepped out. Was leaving the best thing to do? I wasn't sure, but I didn't have any fight left in me, emotionally. That I was now useless physically was obvious. What had been gained by any of that? Nothing, I thought sadly. I'd taken a risk, and gained nothing, not even closure. But at least I'd tried. Maybe he'd call me. Maybe he wouldn't. Who knew?

The cabbie looked up from his newspaper as I made my way towards him, and took in my roughed-up state calmly.

"Looks like you had fun." He observed as I reached to open the door.

"Oh, tons," I said dryly. "Hospital."

Before I could get in, however, the front door opened, and both the brothers stepped out.

Connor was leading, and he gave his brother a confused, angry look, but then turned away and walked the opposite direction down the street, not looking back at me.

I watched Tom, not sure what to say. His mouth opened, and worked a bit, but no words came out. Even the cab driver was watching him in anticipation. I wonder what he thought, with all these bruised men. He'd probably seen worse.

"I... Will. Will you come back in for a second? Please?" Oh, no, he had that about-to-cry look on his face, the one that made me want to hug him.

I didn't want to go back. There was a looming sense of doom throbbing, although that could have been the bruises forming all over.

But closure? I could probably use that. I nodded. "Let me pay this guy. I'll be right in."

I pulled out the money owed and a huge tip out of my wallet with shaking hands to hand them to the man, and he took them with a grunt, and looked at me squarely. "You sure you don't want me to wait some more, buddy?" He made a head motion at my face. "You're not looking so hot."

"Got a card?" I took the proffered piece of cardboard. "No, I should be fine now. More or less."

"If you say so," He grimaced doubtfully, but drove off.

I went back in the house, and closed the door behind me.

Tom was standing near the window, obviously watching, maybe to see if I was just going to leave. He turned to me as I walked in, but his head was down, not meeting my eyes.

"You okay?" He asked quietly. "I'll take you to the hospital in a little bit. "

"Yeah, I think I'll live." I touched the back of my head again, closing my eyes briefly with the pain that blossomed underneath my fingers. "I just want to have this looked at, it can't be good to land on the same spot twice, really."

He was silent. I wasn't enjoying standing, so I moved over to the couch, and sat, closing my eyes again.

"Don't fall asleep," He suddenly turned and came towards me, concern in his eyes, "If you do have a concussion, that's the worst thing you can do."

The pillows of the couch pulled me down, and I sunk, although I resisted closing my eyes again per instructions. "Is this advice from a former football player?"

He didn't laugh with me. "Yeah, it is." We'd returned to the lack of eye contact.

Not being allowed to close my eyes, I let them wander around the house. It was simple, warm, and definitely had several feminine touches. Also, a large picture of Tom and Lori right next to the lamp on the end table. They looked happy. Currently, half of that picture did not look quite so happy.

Fuck, this was uncomfortable. His mouth was swelling, his beautiful, kissable lips. They'd been very kissable yesterday. He was very dressed down, old jeans, beatup hoodie over a grey T-shirt. Needed a shave. My hands wanted to rub his stubble. Now I was being silly.


"Will-" He started at the same time, and this time I did get a small smile from him. "Will," He continued, "What happened?"

"I called, and your brother, mmm, told me not to come over. So...I, uh, did, since I figured out you were here." I then gave a quick rundown of my arrival, and his brother's reaction. It was hard to deny I really did sound like an idiot.

"Fuck. FUCK!" Tom suddenly punched the wall, and I winced at the sound. The drywall crumbled a bit, and it must have hurt his hand. He whirled on me. Everything about him was angry, and tense. "Why did you come here? What the fuck were you thinking?"

"I wasn't." That should have been obvious by now, really. I was exhausted. God, he was beautiful. My answer caused him to spit out another obscenity. "Okay, look, I wanted to talk to you. Your messages - they confused me. They seemed... completely different from one another, like you had wanted to say one thing to me, and then by the second one said something else." Something was gnawing at me. "So, wait, Lori left you?" Wow, I couldn't tell this story to Holly. She'd dig out my liver with a spoon.

WHo was I kidding? Of course I'd tell Holly. And after handing my liver to me she'd sooth me and my broken heart. That line of thinking is dangerous, yup. Must remember Rich, William. Can't be defensive here; got to let this play out.

"Yes, no, Fuck." He shook his head, as if to clear it. "I told her it wasn't working. I said I'd leave, find somewhere else to go but she wanted to leave instead since it's my house."

"Earlier today?"

"No." He hesitated. "Yesterday. After work. It kinda started... at work."

"Oh." I didn't know how to process that. "Why didn't you tell me yesterday?" Hell, hadn't he even told me how much FUN Lori was, how much he loved her?

Tom looked distracted. "I don't know, didn't seem right -" He whirled, visibly angry. "But what the hell do you mean I confused the fuck out of you? Confusing? You want fucking confusing? You tell me you love me, and then fucking LEAVE with nothing more than a damn useless note! What the fuck?"

My mind took a second to switch gears from reeling over the fact Tom had already been single - what the hell, why DIDN'T he tell me they were over last night? - to him underlying how confusing I'd been. And, of course, he was right. I'd been really goddamn confusing.

"Look, I know, Tom..." I winced, both from the headache and the glaring evidence of what a total and complete prick I was. "I know that must have really, really fucked with your head this morning. I didn't mean to. I was really screwed up. I got so confused, and..." And? Maybe I should have thought about more what I wanted to say to him, I thought wryly. Now it was all just muddled. Rich had made such an impression on me, had made it so clear to me what I should say - and yet I hadn't scripted it, just figured it would flow. It wasn't flowing. I loved him, right? Right. We'd established that much. I opened my mouth to try again.

Tom cut me off. Shit, he looked really angry. My head hurt even more. "Look, I get it, alright? You were just confused. You didn't mean to fuck with me, this morning was just a mistake. I get it."

What? Did I say that? I didn't remember saying that. "Tom, Wait a -"

His volume went up a notch. "Why didn't you listen?" He backpunched the wood underneath the stairs, and the noise made me wince. The house was not going to survive all this. "I told you to stay away. I told you we were over. Connor was helping me get my shit togather, sort through it, and you show the hell up anyways." There was a note to his voice, like he was going to cry. "Why did you come over?!?! I didn't want you to!"

Every word hurt like a bitch. Stung.

Connor hadn't made any decisions for him, nor had he been lying. Tom had asked him to help deal with me, even if not physically. Well, fuck, then.

"So you'd rather I never talked to you again?" I asked. My voice was icy, but I couldn't help it. Not spazzing out at him was taking every bit of my willpower.

"No! Yes... Fuck, that's not what I meant, I... Fuck. Arrgh!" He turned to glare at me.

"It was fucking hard!" His voice was so loud, he was out and out yelling, "It was hard shit, I couldn't stop thinking about you, all I wanted was to be with you, and you just... didn't... give a shit!"

"Huh?" I was truly perplexed with where he was going with this. "When the hell didn't I give a shit?" The last few months had been nothing but one big obsession, truthfully, one big fixation, one big 'giving a shit'. Of all my many personality flaws, that wasn't one of them.

How could the hell could he think that?

"You - fuck, look at you," He waved his hand at me. "Sucessful, single, could have anyone he wanted, fucking around with his damn employee. You're so damn confident. Fucking your productivity consultant. It was always so damn easy. It wasn't easy for me! Do you know how I felt yesterday when you said you fucked that guy? And you ask why I didn't tell you about Lori!" He laughed bitterly. "Why the fuck would it matter, isn't that what you asked yesterday, in your office?

"It doesn't matter at all." As if suddenly exhausted he sat down in the blue easy chair behind him with a thud, slamming his elbows on his knees and running his hands through his hair. "When you said you loved me this morning, I thought I was going to, I... it... made me so damn..." He couldn't say it, face twisting up, but the next part made me think it must have been positive. "Last night was just supposed to be, I don't know, I wasn't thinking, I just wanted to at least feel what it felt like, sleeping with you. Getting what you gave that prick. And then to hear you leave, and to read that note... God, it was fucked up. I felt so small, like you didn't say it, like I was crazy."

I winced, and leaned against the couch, having trouble processing all this as he continued talking. "At first... at first I still felt so.... good, I was hoping it was everything it seemed to be. I left you that first message, and then Lori came, to pick some stuff up, and I felt so horrible... And your phone was off. I figured you were avoiding me. I called my brother, and he - then I saw you probably didn't want to hear from me again.

"I saw you never gave a shit about me. I thought I'd hurt you on Thursday night, but talking to him, I saw you were just insulted. The fact that you could just go off and fuck someone else so quickly...I'm so goddamn dumb. You'll fuck anything, obviously."

That was so not true. Any other time even the suggestion of that would have me deeply angry, but I was too stunned. So he had been happy I'd told him I'd loved him. He'd... My mind needed to get some words to my mouth, but so far it wasn't working. But Rich had been right.

Now he hated me. I'd fucked things up so royally, so completely, he'd... It hurt so much that he was so hurt.

I'd handled things so badly up to this point, I was trying to figure out what I could do that could possibly save this.

He misconstrued my silence, my lack of response, and looked to the side with a frustrated noise. "Shit. Look at you. You obviously don't care." He took a deep breath.

"I'm really sorry." I re-focused on his face when he continued, pulling myself out of my own head. His tonal change startled me. "I'm really sorry Connor beat you up. Shit, we need to get you to a hospital. I don't know why I called you back. I don't know." His head fell into his hands, muffling his voice. "Why'd you come? Fuck, Will, why the hell did you come here, why couldn't you just let it go? What the fuck! Why!?!?"

"Well, you're a great lay." I choked out, echoing Rich's word earlier in a knee-jerk humorous response.

He stood up in a flash, face red, looking like he was going to cry and break my face all in one. "Well, fuck you, then, you..."

"...and I'm in love with you." I couldn't even look at him when I said it, but I could see out of the corner of my eye as he stopped dead. What was wrong with me?

Forcing myself to stand up I moved closer, making myself sit on the coffee table in front of him. I pushed the words out again, louder this time, holding his gaze for as long as I could. His eyes were unfocused and huge.

"I do love you. You DID goddamn hurt me on Thursday night, and I should have agreed with you when you said you noticed. Fucking Rich was a bad idea, and the whole time, I thought about you as he fucked me." Tom made a noise between a groan and a snarl. "Pretending it was you. Thinking I'd never fuck you, which by that point meant a lot more than exchange of body fluids. You'd kept me so distant before then, talk, talk, talk about Lori's mother visiting. You were so obviously going to finish this. I was so prepared for you to finish it when you went out with me for drinks, fucked around with me in that stall. And then you pushing me away, calling it fucked up..." I was making excuses, my eyes were studying my palms now.

Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to look at him again. "I was an asshole, completely. Showing you nothing. You had a fiance. You were happy. Sexually confused, but all I could think about was me, and how you were going to hurt me. I've been..." I laughed as the truth hit, and I spoke it outloud before something in me made it stop, "damn near your slave since the first time I saw you. I don't do this. I might have an occasional one night stand, but, you - you've messed with me. So I protected myself again and again and again, and..." I looked to the ceiling, and smiled ironically. "You have no damn idea how much it mattered, Tom. Nothing has ever mattered so very much." Against Tom's wisdom, I closed my eyes. Damn, my head hurt.

And there it was.


The way the words came out were so Tom, and so hilariously unforced, I just started laughing. "Yeah. And fucked up, right?"

"It's all fucked up." He leaned back, staring into nothingness. "You actually love me. What does that mean?"

I shrugged, spent, trying not to close up again. "I don't know. It doesn't make me less of an asshole."

"I was a major asshole too." His voice was so soft. I didn't want to look at him, I felt so small and vulnerable.

"No." I shook my head. "You're confused, you thought you were straight, you had rights to assholeness I didn't have."

"I'm an adult, Will. And I'm not as confused as I wanted myself to be. I.... Lori's mom was here trying to fix us, we'd postponed the wedding, again. She's... a lovely woman. Lori's a lovely woman. I thought I could give this up. But straight? Something in me's always known. But I was building a pretty good facade. Until you. But these lovely women who love me, they wanted so much from me, and I wanted to give it to them, and all I had to do was stop hooking up with you, stop feeling..... You." His voice was very hoarse. "You love me?"

I put my palms to my eye sockets. His eyes were blinding, like lasers. "So much it hurts, Irish. So much I don't even know myself anymore."

These were probably the truest words I'd ever spoken. Cathartic. The truth. Although the truth also seemed to be taking several organs with it, if the ache within was any indication. But that could have been the beating from Connor really settling into my bones. Hard to tell at this point.

I felt something fall onto my knee and I dropped my hands, startled. It was Tom's head, his lovely red hair right underneath my fingers. I couldn't stop from burying them in it's soft thickness, the shock of color. Damn red hair.

"What the fuck." The words were barely audible. Suddenly I felt the trembling, and, my heart breaking for him but singing to have him touching me, I put my other hand on his back, and leaned forward, drowning in his warmth.

Falling forward on his knees he locked his strong arms around my legs. Breathing in his scent, I tightened my grip. Please don't make me let you go, Please, I thought. Maybe I should have said it out loud, maybe. So many maybes.

"Why me?" He lifted his head, forcing me to do the same and stare at him.

"What?" It was actually a serious question, and I was stunned. "What's not to...why not you?" saying it all outloud wasn't as easy as it should be. Wow, I'd never wanted to say this sort of thing to anyone before. It seemed like I didn't know how. "I - you're, Tom. I..."

"You don't know why?" He gave me a crooked smile.

The words might not come, my damn tongue, but in my head it was clear as day. The warmth, the sweetness, the brilliance and loyalty, the boyish near-innocence combined with the maturity of a man. The mercurial moods that were never ugly, the openness that I needed to work on. And how damn sexy in so many endless little ways, nooks and crannies he was. "I know exactly why." I said firmly, and changed to teasing. "But why me?" My hands moved downwards as I spoke, trailing in his hair and neck, feeling the muscles of his beautiful back through the hoodie.

That blush of his came back, and he dropped his head, hiding his expression. "I never said I loved you, did I?"

My whole body tensed up and my hands stopped dead, despite hearing the teasing tone intellectually. My question was actually facetious; in the end, I hadn't thought very different from Tom, really. He'd thought I was using him as a sexual relief of one sort or another, I'd thought he was using me as a confused sexual release. Maybe he really had been?

His strong arms instantly squeezed my legs and snapped his head up again. "That was a joke."

"I see." I said carefully, trying to unwind. "So... what ARE you saying?"

"You really are just as fucked up about this as I am, aren't you?" He was surprised, which surprised me. "Damn. Will.... I don't know what I am."


"Well, that's pretty sexy, the way you can get all intense and your facial muscles get all tight, it's both scary and beautiful." I snorted, thinking that must be another joke, and he put a large hand on my outer thigh. "Will... Lori and I were constantly exchanging 'I love yous', and I thought I did, at least in some sense. This... it doesn't feel anything like that. It feels like a lot more."

"Feels like lust?" The possibility that I was just a gateway to his new, gay life worried me. It wasn't that I needed him to reciprocate right off the bat, but I was still pretty scared I was just a symptom of confusion.

"No, I know lust. I've fought a lot of lust. Lust, I could resist, got pretty damn good at it. Although... I thought I was good at it, until you. I was in trouble the moment I saw you, in your office... You're both... pretty and really masculine. You're... lean, but yet your hands... your long neck, you're... " He was lost.

"It's an Asian thing, isn't it? I get that a lot." I sighed dramatically, and he swatted me, causing me to yelp.

"I've never had a thing for Asians before you, asshole. You make me comfortable. I love how you talk about things, how you open up, how you see things, your humor. I enjoy time with you. I admire you. You're fascinating, you're smart, you're actually an incredibly nice guy, you're....No matter how much I tried to stay away from you, I couldn't. As last night shows." His head fell, giving me full access to his hair again. "You're Will."

"And Will is a prickly bastard who has trouble expressing himself." I noted. And then leaned down to lightly kiss his ear, because it needed to be done, and I should have done it that morning.

"Yeah. You are." I tugged at a strand of hair. "Ow! But I think I can figure you out." I could hear the smile in his voice. "My sister Marie always said I liked complicated things, liked figuring them out, although I'm not that complicated myself. Maybe because I'm not that complicated I like complicated things."

"Wait." I blinked. "You have a sister?"

"Two, actually."

"Oh." That was a conversation we hadn't had yet, about his family. Aside from the sexuality issues, which, after the whole interaction with Connor and all was said and done, seemed pretty complex, not what I had read at first glance. No wonder Connor had hated me, he saw me as a mind-fucking gay lothario. How important was the 'gay' part of that? Tom had said his brother was obsessed with him being 'normal'. So much to learn... "We don't really know all that much about each other." I pointed out.

"No, we really don't." He sounded thoughtful, and then he started to kiss up my legs, slowly. It felt so good. Lifting his head, and meeting his eyes, I ran a hand around his chin, finally getting tou touch his red stubble. His lips curved, and he leaned in, and kissed me.

We kissed slowly, his lips swollen and obviously a bit painful from being punched; just lightly, my hands around his neck, his on my thighs. They trailed up my chest gently. When he found a spot by accident that was bruised on my side that caused me to flinch, he pulled away slightly. "I'm so sorry, Will." He buried his face in my shoulder. "Connor's such a violent idiot."

I chuckled. "I'm the idiot who came here AFTER he threatened to beat the crap out of me, so, hell, I probably deserved it." He pulled down the collar of my jacket and buried his face in my neck, and I made a pleased noise.

"So you really care enough about me to risk your pretty face, huh?" A hand gave one of my thighs a gentle squeeze, and it hit me I was getting turned on, despite the pain.

"Haven't we established that?" I asked archly.

"Yeah, but it's hard for you to say. Although you seem to accept the fact you have a pretty face readily enough." He crossed his arms on my legs, put his chin on them and gave me an faux-evil, boyish grin. "Thus it's fun to make you admit it."

"And you didn't hate having sex with me last night?" It really was worrying me.

Tom looked shocked. "What? It was, fuck, it -"

"Hurt, obviously," I pointed out. "And you shut down last night."

"Because I'd just had sex with a man. And I'd really liked it. Pain and all." Hmmm, I thought bemusedly, interesting, that. "It... fucked with my head. And, I liked it so much with you, and I thought you were just screwing with me, and... Yeah. It was pretty overwhelming. This is overwhelming, kinda."

Suddenly his face screwed up, and he fell silent. I gave it a second.

Oh, shit, analyzing, thinking, whatever he was doing, I knew that facial expression. "Tom...."

His brow furrowed. "This is some serious shit to work out with my brother... he's so mad, he might go straight to my family. All of it. Do you know how much family I have, Will? And my father.... fuck." He rocked back on his heels. "I should have - "

"Thomas Fucking Naughton." I stopped him dead, leaning forward angrily. He looked startled. I had my mother's tone turned on, and it was an impressive thing. "If you freak out at me, right here, right now, and leave me after this conversation and everything ridiculous that happened before it, and go running away telling me you're not sure and you're so, so sorry while interlacing fifty million fucks therein, I will committ hari kiri here in your damn living room. And..." I pulled him towards me again by the shoulders, and kissed the top of his head. "It'll be okay. It might take a bit to be completely okay, but it will be. Really." I leaned my cheek on his hair and closed my eyes. "I promise."

"Hara kiri? I thought you were Korean. And 'Fucking' isn't my actual middle name. Ryan is." His voice was muffled, and I smiled when he stiffled a sniffle.

"I'm actually a mutt. I can borrow from many cultural traditions without guilt."

"You do the voice of comforting authority very well, Will. I almost believe you."

"They didn't give me a job above my abilities for nothin', my friend. It's all about the faking it." I joked.

"It's not above your abilities," He said with surprising ferocity, and he was so damn cute I wanted to squeeze him to death and make incoherent noises, possibly suggest tattoos. But he was already overwhelmed, so maybe not good at the moment. "But, thank you, and," he sighed, and closed his eyes. "This might take me a while, this not freaking out stuff. I mean, I'm choosing to date a man, here, right?"

"I really hope that's what you're doing, yeah."

"Yeah.... I am." He looked shocked, and awed. "Yeah. Wow. Wow." As it didn't seem like he was processing this particularly easily, I decided to help and kiss him again, this time very passionately, and urgently, and it was only a split second before he was kissing me back, us battling until it was almost violent, beautifully so. His lip must have hurt, but I could have sworn he was courting it. Pain. Alright. I laughed inwardly. Noted. We'll have to play with this. When he finally pulled his head back he let his forehead bump mine, eyes closed, and smiled. "Wow."

"Indeed. Oh, Fuck, ...Ow...." I moaned, pulling away. One of his hands had gone to run itself through my hair, and he'd gotten that tender spot, causing a sensation only a hardcore masochist could enjoy.

"Fuck, Will... we do have to get you to hospital. Fucking Connor!" He stood up, looking concerned. "Fuck!"

"An urgent care facility should be fine, really. But, yeah, maybe a good idea, just in case. The headache sucks."

"Come on, I'll get a taxi, find out where the closest one is."

He ran and got me some ice, called a taxi, and found the closest clinic, which wasn't far. After some questions, prodding, and dealing with the inevitable disapproval from the nurse practitioner and doctor both due to their assumption Tom and I had given our injuries to each other, it was determined I probably didn't have a concussion but that someone should keep an eye on me for the night.

I almost broke out laughing after Tom's blurted, overly-emphatic "I will," the doctor's answering eyebrow, and Tom's counter tomato-red blush.

Everything that had happened in the last 24 hours, how I went from a doomed-fuck-buddy to a hopelessly besotted boyfriend, didn't hit me until I was back in my apartment, propped up on my bed, drinking a beer that was slightly funky after just brushing my teeth.

It was a beer that I'd had to fight him over, since he didn't want to give me one due to the head issues, and I told him if he didn't give me one I'd kick him out, causing much swearing but also getting me the much needed alcohol. Little did he know there was no way I was going to kick him out. Holy shit, I'm so screwed, I thought, staring at him in shock, not believing he was here. Taking care of me, stripped down to a too-tight T-shirt of mine and just his boxers. Those thighs. If the man attached to those thighss asked me to stop drinking forever and ever, I'd probably do it.

I was completely out of control here. Oh, god, for the first time in my long relationship history, I was absolutely and completely off the bend.

"Will?" Tom looked at me, puzzled, standing next to the bed and concern in his voice. "You okay? You look really blank, you just keep staring at me."

Because you're beautiful, boy, and for at least a little bit, you're mine. I'm not sure I believe it yet, so when you disappear, I'll want to remember you, standing there. "I'm fine, just tired." I raised my bottle to him and moved over to give him room. After a pregnant pause Tom climbed next to me, leaning against the pillows.

"So you're gonna watch over me tonight, huh? Lots of fussing, feeding me grapes, foot massages, etc?" I joked, sensing that this wasn't easy yet for him.

"You wish," He retorted. He let a hand lazily explore my thigh. "But if you're good..."

"Mmmm, fuck that, good is boring. But I think tonight, what I need is sleep." I burrowed closer to him, letting my head fall on his chest. "We can barter tomorrow."

His body momentarily tensed in response to my sudden closeness, but then he let it go, exhaling audibly. An arm snaked around me, and pulled me closer. I didn't even care about the momentary pain, I was caught up in the smell of him, the wonderful feeling of his muscles, the solidness of Tom.

"You okay?" I asked sleepily. A little voice in my head was screaming that this may be a temporary idyll, a weird, strange dream. It felt like one. I ignored it.

"Yes." He laughed, and I could hear how tired he was also. "I think so. I don't know. Yeah. Um, Wow."

"Well," I shifted slightly, making myself even more comfortable, "If you freak out, could you wait until tomorrow? This is really comfortable."

"It is, yeah."

There was a pause, and I floated away even further, until he spoke again.

"I'm not going anywhere." I couldn't see him, but I swear I could HEAR the blush. "I, uh, mean, tonight, or, yes. This is so weird." He said it at a whisper, but his voice was awed, not freaked, and I chuckled, so tired I was a bit unhinged. A hand was resting on my shoulder, and it was lazily making circles, almost unconsciously. It felt very good.

"Well, this could be a disaster, really." I couldn't help but point out. "But... disaster, it can wait for tomorrow. Now, sleep." I yawned. "Good night, Tom."

"Good night, Will." A hand gently ran itself down my face, and he moved down so he was more horizontal and pulled me with him so I was still against his chest.

While I wasn't sure, being I was so close to oblivion, I could have sworn he whispered, "Fuck, I think I love you too," at some point.

I might have laughed. If he was still there in the morning, things were going to be very interesting, at least for a while.

Hopefully for a long while.