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Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Chapter Eight: Circles

 

"Hey, Will, you still going to Keane's for a drink with your friend?"

"I am. You want to join?"

"Yeah, I'd love to. If that's cool".

Chris had been looking for a chance to hang out with Will ever since he was reassigned to his team a few weeks ago. He was impressed by Will's intelligence and insight, surprised he was so young, and slightly attracted to him. Chris knew nothing could come of it since Will was his quasi-boss, but still for months previous he wanted to meet Will. At work they had seen each other daily, but the more time passed the more awkward he thought it would be to go say hello. Seemed so middle school transfer student. "Hey I don't know you. I'm Chris. Want to be my friend?" So Chris never worked up the nerve to say hello. And now he reported to Will. He felt even stupider since a pre-existing relationship might have made the last month easier. Jimmy seemed so much more comfortable with Will, shooting the breeze, casual and cool. Chris always seemed to stumble and get nervous.

So when Will told them he had a buddy in town and asked if they wanted to grab a drink after work, he thought it a great opportunity to get to know him.

"Is your friend from back home in Iowa?" he asked

"Yeah we grew up together. Both farm boys".

"That's cool. Boy, New York must be so different for him. Has he been out here before?"

"Yeah, he has".

"Cool". Chris wondered if it was the same friend. Tonight he'd find out.

Trevor had been in town for several days, and spent most of the time on the couch staring at the TV. Will had told him he was currently "seeing someone", and that their habit of casual sex probably wouldn't happen. Besides, he insisted, Trevor didn't need sex. He needed time to heal. Trevor understood, but after a few hours of talking and tears that first night, he asked if he could sleep with Will in his bed that first night. Will thought that was OK, and they both kept their boxers on. Trevor nudged himself close to Will, lying on his side, grabbing Will's arm and wrapping it around his body to spoon him. Will stroked his buddy's shoulder, arm and chest, rubbing him, comforting him, and helping him to relax. He was also fighting an erection. He may be with Brian, but Will wasn't dead on the inside. Trevor was hot, and full time farm work agreed with him. He was tight, muscled, rough, a little dirty even, without all the NYC primp, process and polish that turned hot men into pretty boys. No products. No waxing. No manscaping. Just a man... strong, rugged, farm bred man. Will was at heart still a country boy, and though life's current menu offered foie gras and sea urchin, Will would always prefer beef.

First loves die very hard.

Still, he did believe what he had said earlier: Trevor didn't need sex. He needed time to heal, and it would have been cruel of Will to offer him a physical band aid for his emotional wounds.

By day six Trevor wanted to go out. It was Friday, a night to party, and he was ready to see people and drink and laugh. Will encouraged him to shower first... and then gave him the address where to meet for a drink at 7pm. Keane's would be a good place for the first round of drinks. It's an historic, slightly alpha male boys-club type restaurant with good, stiff drinks and a power-broker vibe. The bartender was also really good looking.

Chris was glad to join the long-time friends and engaged them with questions about farm life and rural America. He was from Manhattan, a local, son of a broker, and went to NYU. He really only knew Manhattan, and despite that sounding so sophisticated, it's quite narrow a world view. Over several old fashioneds they told him of tractor pulls and county fairs and corn festivals, and he loved to see the banter and natural click between them, finishing each other's sentences and knowing each other's thoughts. The drinks kept coming. At one point Will worried about the tab, but then remembered his salary and 2.5% of the copper profits. He ordered another round.

"I'm serous man, I'm serious. You are a great boss. And like...", he burped, "I've had other bosses and you, you're like... you're like a great one. I mean it man. I fucking mean it", Chris slurred, patting Will on the back, keeping his hand on his shoulder. "I fucking mean it".

Several hours of Bourbon had made them brothers. They were on Second Avenue, and Will wasn't entirely sure how they got there. Or what time it was.

"No, you are great. Like really good at what you do", Will responded, staggering slightly.

Trevor came out of the bodega, fumbling the foil on his Camel lights. "I gave the guy a twenty and only got like three dollars back. Did I get screwed?" Will assured him it was right, just not fair, taking the matches from Trevor's unsteady hands. He offered them all a light from his match, proud he could do three cigarettes without burning his fingers.

"You guys, c'mon... one more drink. My place. I don't live far. C'mon", Chris offered. Will didn't want to. He was eager to get some sleep, but he knew Trevor needed a night out, and he seemed to be having a lot of fun. One more drink at Chris' place. They finished their cigarettes and hailed a cab.

Chris handed out beers to his drunken guests. Will was sitting in a chair, Trevor next to him slumped down deeply in a couch. "I'm... I'm gonna ask you something now", he mumbled.

"Ugh" Trevor groaned, too tired to say the challenging "OK".

"You guys been to a club called Jo-Jo's?"

Will and Trevor were caught, and it made Will burst into laughter.

"HAHAHAH! You saw, didn't you? You dirty fucker", Will laughed.

"Whudidisee?" Trevor mumbled, breathing deeply, now convinced that last shot of Jger was a bad idea.

Chris was in hysterics, pointing at Will like an accuser identifying his attacker in a courtroom. "I knew it was you! I knew it was you". Laughing so hard his voice hit a falsetto "I knew it was you!"

Trevor started snoring, so Will asked if they could crash with Chris that night. He was not going to lug all 200lbs of Trevor in a cab back to Astoria; it would be easier to just stay put. Trevor had the work stamina of an ox, but the drinking stamina of a high school junior. Farm boys may be tough, but no one can outdrink a 20-something New Yorker on Wall Street. Rio's Carnival and Bavaria's Oktoberfest are considered huge parties events; young Wall Street executives call them happy hour.

Chris and Will moved to the bedroom to let Trevor sleep. They reclined on his bed, sitting up, resting against the headboard. Chris wanted to go back to what he saw that night in the club.

"You guys were hot that night. I was watching you. Everyone was watching you".

"HA! That's funny you were there that night. That was Trevor's first time. He caught on like a champ. I didn't know you were gay".

"I didn't know YOU were gay. Or I didn't know that gay dude... in the bar was gay. No. I didn't know..." Alcohol makes logic so hard. "I didn't know you were the gay dude in the bar was you", he said triumphantly. "You guys still dating?"

"No, we never did, we just like always hooked up and spent all our time together".

Chris looked puzzled. He was drunk, but even he knew that made no sense. "That sounds like dating".

Brian laughed. Maybe it was dating, though he never thought of Trevor like that. "You dating anyone?"

"No man. I wish. I can't find anyone good. I go to the gym and get offers for sex. But never a date".

"Isn't that the worst?"

"Look at you! Look at that bod- hot tattoos running up and down your arm. You know what I mean".

"Oh I know what you mean".

"Damn straight. I mean look at me" Chris got to his knees and tried to pull his button-down shirt up over his head, but it got caught at the wrists, and he tangled himself up. When he finished his less than dramatic, dramatic unveiling he showed himself to Will in a tight fitting deep-V tee shirt emphasizing his incredibly muscular chest, shoulders and pecs. His body was sick. "I look good" he said, as if asking for a confirmation.

"You look good".

He threw his hands up and whispered "No dates".

"Unbelievable".

"NO. FUCKING. DATES".

"Dude that's bullshit".

"I like sex".

"We all do".

"I want a date".

"It's tough to find good guys".

"I can always jerk off."

Will didn't understand his segue to physiology. "OK?"

"No, I mean like I don't need a guy for just sex. I can jerk myself off".

"Oh". Will finally understood. "Yeah you want a date".

"I want to kiss you". Will laughed. "No man, I'm going to kiss you. Lemme kiss you just a little?"

"Stop, you're not gonna kiss me".

"Just one little kiss", he said moving closer.

"No, stop", Will said laughing.

"I'm either gonna kiss you or I'm gonna fuck Trevor outside so which one will it be", Chris said laughing.

"Ok! OK! OK! OK! OK!" Will laughed. "You can go fuck Trevor outside". Chris darted off the bed like he was going to the living room and Will tackled him. They drunk wrestled on the bed for a few seconds, and despite Chris' size and weight advantage, Will had him pinned in three moves. Iowa State Champ in wrestling... and he still had it. Chris was stunned. That was not expected. A lot about Will was unexpected.

"Say uncle! Say uncle, bitch!" Will screamed laughing hysterically.

"MU-MUMM!" a stifled cry, smothered by pillows and sheets, Chris' head pressed deep into the mattress unable to move. Will thought it sounded close enough, and he released him.

"Dude you are fucking STRONG!" Chris said, still surprised and slightly ashamed he got beat so badly.

"You messed with the wrong Hawkeye!"

"Shhheshh. I'll say". They grabbed their beers, both smiling and resumed the previous positions on the bed.

"So wanna jerking off together instead?"

"Damn dude you've got a one track mind!"

"Now I'm gonna kiss you!" Chris said leaning over, spilling Will's beer. They wrestled again, laughing like teenage girls at a slumber party. What the neighbors must have thought... but once again Will put him down effortlessly. Chris did have a great body and Will thought it mildly arousing to have his hands full of it tossing it around like a dog's toy.

No more wrestling, no more talking. It was late, Will insisted, and he was the boss. Chris was still laughing in bed, a little embarrassed that he told his boss he wanted to kiss him, but he was pretty sure Will knew it was in good fun.

Will set up a makeshift bed out of pillows and blankets on the floor in the living room. It had been a fun night, and he knew Trevor got his mind off his sorrows. Besides, it had been a long time, weeks really, since he had gone out like that: drinking, late-night pizza, a few cigarettes, stupid stories and crude jokes with your buddies. It was fun.

Before lying down he checked on Trevor, still sitting on the couch, slumped over. Will laid him out flat and gently laid his head on a pillow. He removed his shoes, unfastened his belt, trying to make him more comfortable.

Trevor mumbled. "Stop trying to get in my pants". It made Will chuckle.

"Shhh. Go to bed dumbass". He covered Trevor with a blanket, tucking him in on the sides.

"I love you Will".

"I know. Go to sleep".

Trevor continued to talk, breathing hard, eyes still closed, concentrating on not vomiting. "No, I needed you and you were there for me. That's love".

"You're worth it man".

"I love you" he moaned.

Will knelt beside him, gently stroked his hair, and kissed him on the head. "I love you, man. Go to bed".

Trevor, his brokenhearted, best friend, childhood companion, first crush, big, playful puppy of a man, just looking to be loved. So strong, and right now so fragile. So macho, and so, so vulnerable. How could his wife not love him? How could she every hurt him? How could Trevor not be enough?

Will did love Trevor, and he went to bed thinking Trevor was enough.

First loves die very hard.

----------------------------------------

That next day Trevor stayed at Will's place with a massive hang over. The type only an I-V of Gatorade, Advil, darkness and time would cure. Once he had Trevor set up, Will headed to Brian's. They hadn't been together since returning from Asia- more than a week ago- and they both set this Saturday aside. He told Trevor he may not come home, leaving him take out menus and some frozen pizza. He was pretty sure Trevor would not eat until Sunday.

Brian was at home having breakfast, glad that Will was coming over in the early afternoon. He asked his butler Charlie to have dinner ready to heat, and knowing he only worked half day on Saturday, said nothing more.

"So who's the lucky lady this time, Mr. Atwater?" Charlie asked while prepping dinner. Brian sat at his stool eating a grapefruit reading the op-ed section of the Wall Street Journal. He was in a good mood.

"What makes you think I'm having a guest over tonight, Jeeves?"

"Brains. You want everything ready to stick in du oven no tin foil no different temp-a-churs. You got a date".

"Maybe I do".

"Yeah, you do. So who is she?"

Brian smiled. "Does it matter?"

"Nah it just if I'm gonna read about it in the pay-puh, you know a little heads-up is all".

"Oh I'm working hard to keep this one out of the papers, Jeeves". Brian hesitated. Should he? Charlie would be a good sounding board. He would be discreet, and telling him could be like a practice run. Caution to the wind? "Let me ask you something?"

"Eh", he said peeling asparagus.

"No, let me ask you something". The tone in his voice was serious, so Charlie dropped his work and walked to the island, stand across from him. He nodded, ready to be asked what he gathered to be an important question. "What if it wasn't a `she'?"

Charlie blinked twice. He was thinking... after a few seconds, he asked "you pulling my leg?"

"No."

"You mean all these years I know you, and you're a... you know?"

"I'm not sure how to categorize it, but yes, what if I am? What do you think about that?"

"Eh, personally it's not my ting, ya know".

"I know".

"That's a surprise to me, Mr. A, cause you ain't one of dem frilly la-la types". Brian laughed. Clearly the words "gay" and "homosexual" were not coming out of Charlie's mouth. "But, you know, you like who you like. Simple enough".

Charlie the guido butler had more common sense than the rest of Manhattan combined. It really was simple enough: you like who you like.

"So you don't mind?"

"Mind? Mr. A, it's not fuh me tuh mind or not mind. It's no one's bizniz but yours. And if someone makes it his bizniz you tell him to go fuck himself".

"Huh". There was a lengthy, slightly awkward pause. "I didn't think you'd take it so well".

"What's fuh me to take? You're a good person, you're a good boss, you still treat me good. You... you're a good guy. What else is dair?" he said returning to the asparagus.

"I'm glad you see it so clearly. That means a lot. You're a good person".

"I try".

"No I mean it. You know if I decide to share this with people, I can't expect everyone to be as accepting as you, and I'm grateful to you for that. So thank you, Charlie, honestly. Thank you".

"Shit now you gonna start calling me Charlie. Fifteen years I'm Jeeves and now I'm all of a sudden Charlie. Mr. Sensitive over here".

Brian threw the paper at him laughing hard.

A few hours later Brian was glad to introduce Charlie to Will, his good friend meeting his special friend, both his employees. When Will excused himself to the restroom to "wash the subway off my hands", Charlie whispered approval to Brian. "You like the young ones, eh? You a coug-ah? Do youse say that too when it's all guys? Coug-ah?" Brian wasn't really sure of the proper terminology.

On returning Charlie admired Will's tattoo sleeve on display due to a short sleeved, tight fitting polo. They compared notes, Charlie himself having a few tattoos (more expected on a guido than a Wall Street exec) and having several family members in the business (also not much of a surprise).

"You ever been to Sonny down on Delancey Street? He's really good".

"I have, yeah, that's where I got this one", Will said pointing his elbow up, showing Charlie the underside of his tricep. Charlie grabbed his arm, looking closely at the tattoo, poking it with his thumb like it was three dimensional.

"That's real good. Yeah he does good work."

"I need to get this one touched up", Will said twisting his arm out, showing the inside of his tight bicep. "The towers are decent but it needs some better details".

Again Charlie grabbed his arm and poked Will like was a piece of meat at the butcher. "You should go to my second cousin Sal in Staten Island. He did one like this for his mutha and it came out real good".

"For his mother?" Brian asked incredulously.

"Yeah her husband died in the towers, rest in peace". Charlie made the sign of the cross, and Will and Brian made the polite nod of the head which, in these conversations, means "sorry for your loss". It's a decade later, but New Yorkers still learn of people who died. It will take another generation before it stops bringing conversations to a halt.

"Alright. I'm outta here, Mr. A have a good weekend. Will, good meetin you. You take ca-ah".

When they were alone, Brian spoke first, taking Will's hand and leading him to the library. "I hope you don't mind".

"About what?"

"That I told him".

"No".

"I felt like I wanted to be honest with someone".

"What did you say that I am?"

"What do you mean?"

"Did you say I was your friend? Your boyfriend? Your employee?"

"I didn't. I just said what I was".

"And what's that".

"Interested in you". He kissed Will, glad to have him alone, glad to have him in his arms again.

"I want to tell you something about me and Trevor", Will said after a few minutes of kissing.

"Let me guess. You used to date?"

"Yeah, sort of".

"I could tell".

"Nothing has happened between us this week. I wouldn't do that to you, but I wanted you to know".

Brian stroked his hair. "You're sweet, but I'm not worried about you and Trevor. I figured you had been with people before me".

"Have you been with people before me?"

"You know I have".

"Guys?"

Brian hesitated. "What do you think?"

"Yeah, I think you have. Not that I mind, don't get me wrong. But I don't think I'm your first guy".

Brian smiled. "No, you're not".

Will could tell he was slightly uncomfortable, and so he didn't push the issue. "You were a little too comfortable doing a couple things with me for a total novice. But I'm glad to benefit from your practice sessions", he smiled.

"What, you don't think the elevator was my first time?"

Will looked at him with a sexy glance. "It's not going to be your last".

Brian started to slide his hand under Will's pants. "What else do you think I'm comfortable doing?"

They kissed for several minutes, with articles of clothing gradually coming off. When they were down to underwear and socks, Brian suggested a change in location.

"Upstairs in the master bathroom, there's a really big tub", he whispered nibbling Will's ear.

"Oh yeah?"

"Mmmm".

"Big enough for me and my boss?"

"Want to go see?"

Brian wasn't lying. The tub was plenty big. An oval tub sitting in an alcove surrounded on three sides with deep marble ledges adorned with plants, candles and stacks of bright white towels slowly filled with water, painfully hot, ready for two bodies. The steam rising off the surface provided a mysterious, almost theatrical ambience to their kissing, Brian resting against the tub with Will lying on him, chest on chest, Brian's hands running his hands up and down his back. Their kissing was intense, and Will had dropped his hand under the water and was massaging Brian's cock and balls, working his fingers down lower and deeper. Will was eager to see Brian's limits, to see what he'd be open to. He could tell in Brian's groans he was more than comfortable; he dug deeper working his fingers between his thighs, in the tightest opening. Brian gripped the back of his head, moaning in his kisses, eager in his spirit. He was ready.

Will lifted him out of the water and bent him over the ledge, resting his face on the towels with his ass barely in the water. He knelt behind him, kissing his lower back, running his hands up and down the backs of Brian's thighs. He could sense Brian's trepidation; his body was tense, but he was in an unmistakable position; he knew what this posture meant. Will was going to make him feel very good.

His kisses fell lower onto Brian's ass as he pried his ass apart getting access to the best space, further inside, getting closer and closer. He could hear Brian panting, anxious, like child before getting a shot, watching the doctor tap the syringe in a tortuous wait. A little closer, with just a breath, the tiniest of breaths blown against the hole. The burst of cold air tickled and stung, and Brian saw the muscle tighten with fear. Slowly, softly, the tip, the very, very tip of his tongue rested on that muscle, tender, massaging, caressing with gentle strokes, and Brian couldn't contain his reaction.

"OH! GOD!" he burst out. It made Will proud; giving lovers visions of heaven was his talent.

He would go slow, and he let his lips and the side of his mouth rub the interiors of his ass, the rough stubble from his unshaven face abrasive against the baby soft, sensitive skin that has never been so exposed, Brian in a position beyond vulnerable, trusting with complete confidence his lover behind him would only do him good. Another breath, his tongue pushing a little harder against the gate, barely able to enter. He could feel Brian trembling, his ass shaking uncontrollably, and Will holding it firmly in place, hanging with his weight to keep his mount steady, his thumbs prying open the cheeks to give his tongue clear passage to the prize.

It had been slow enough, and Will's experienced tongue pushed hard, muscle fighting muscle, oral against anal, a battle of strengths, and Will would not lose. Brian was pounding at the wall, his feet were twitching under the water, the splashing causing water to pour out onto the floor. Will let his tongue off its leash, twisting and curling and turning its way inside where a warm reward awaited. He could taste Brian, taste the desire from the inside. He couldn't wait to take him fully, to be inside him with his member, to unite their bodies and pour out his passion.

Will scrambled to stand, clutching his cock, aiming it right at the bull's-eye. He put his penis on the rim and leaned over Brian's back ready to apply pressure and enter. He kissed Brian's neck, kissed his face. Brian turned his head kissing Will full on the mouth, tasting all the flavor on his tongue and lips, his flavor, his juice given back in an intimacy with which it was taken. He could feel the penis on his rim, it had been so long but he never forgot the sensation, the slickness and the dripping, the throbbing ready to enter.

He whispered "I want you inside me".

Will pushed a little, his arms wrapped around Brian's neck, truly mounting him from behind. His head had entered the tight hole, and Brian moaned beneath him. Will licked at his neck and face, eager to be completely inside his boss, so raw, so natural, so fully.

"Does that feel good?"

"Oh, God, yes!" Brian panted.

"You ready for this, baby?"

"Yes, do it! Make love to me, Harry!"

-------------------------------------------------

`He didn't come home'.

It was Brian's first thought when he woke up. He could feel the absence. Their bed was...unbalanced. And Harry would have definitely woken him up- either accidentally being drunk and tripping over the floor, or deliberately being drunk and trying to have "late night sex". But neither happened. Harry didn't come home at all.

Brian wasn't surprised.

Last night was the Chase Academy reunion, and Harry and his U.E.S. childhood friends would be reliving their glorious teenage years doing what they do best: using daddy's limo and running up a tab for bottle service on daddy's credit card. Sure, Harry had been cut off. But his friends weren't. It's easy to be generous when it's not your money, and Harry's friends would just pick up the tab.

Brian had no interest in participating, and no, not because of shame or embarrassment at being Harry's boyfriend, but because no one should have to sit through another person's reunion. It's a night of "do you remember that time when..." and "what ever happened to" this person or that person. No thank you. "You go", Brian said. "You go and have fun and then I get you Saturday". Brian went to drinks with colleagues after work, picked up dinner on the way home and went to bed after Johnny Carson's monologue. Today being Saturday he was glad to sleep in. It just would have been nicer with Harry by his side.

Around 10am he decided to go for a run hoping that if he timed it right Harry would be home when he got back and they could shower together, assuming his hang over wasn't intolerable. Brian gave it a 1 in 3 chance. Past experience had taught Brian that Harry out all night usually meant bad hang-overs the next day. Brian knew the Korean guy on the corner deli had good chicken soup and would put in extra packets of saltines for a quarter. He'd probably be stopping by there in a few hours.

It was a beautiful, crisp fall morning, a perfect day to run when all the leaves in the park are still turning their vibrant colors and the towers of the East Side pop up over the tree line soaring into the blue skies. Brian felt like he could run forever, warm from the run and chilly from the weather, a perfect temperature. He headed north up towards the reservoir, down past the Great Lawn and The Dakota and then home hoping Harry would be there.

In a time before cell phones and emails, before checking your voicemails and answering machines, it was common, standard really, to miss messages. People Will's generation can't imagine that. Brian's generation, well it was normal. The phone would ring, and if no one was there to answer, the message went undelivered. That happened from 10:05 until after 11am, and no machine told him he had 4 missed calls. The phone rang again while Brian was getting out of the shower, and he caught it this time, clutching a towel around his waist, dripping all over the floor. He recognized the name. Harry had mentioned him before, Arthur Walsh from Harry's high school.

Sure, what can I do for you.

He's what...

Oh my God.

Which Hospital...

Lenox Hill Hospital was on the other side of town. On the East Side. Not far on a map but interminably distant in a taxi. Especially when Harry is there. It was hours, hours and months, and Brian had grown old by the time the taxi arrived 15 minutes later. And running through halls, up stair wells, frantically asking nurses where room W1305 is. When he found it, there were so many faces, so many familiar faces where, if he saw them in a party he'd say "hey don't I know you through Harry?" and they were all in shock, all in embraces, all in tears. And at the door to his room, more people, so many people he couldn't see even though he tried to push through the crowd.

If I call his name he'll know I'm here, he thought. And he called. "Harry! HARRY!" A glimpse of the hospital bed- and that was Harry's hand with the plastic bracelet around the wrist- he knew that pale skin and the dusting of freckles on the knuckles, how many times had he held it in his own hand, kissed it, felt it warm against his own face- and he moved into the room to see his Harry.

"Get him out of here! Get him out of here!" Mrs. Kraft shrieked.

Get who out of here? Get who out of here? Brian wondered why the commotion- what was wrong would no one tell him?

They closed ranks, they blocked his view, the people, the well-dressed party goers, the billionaire elite, the sons and daughters of privilege and excess were now a hoard, Harry's friends like a defensive line and Brian couldn't find a gap.

"C'mon, Brian".

"Let's go, Brian".

"Come with us, Brian".

And Brian thought I'm not with you, you don't know me, you don't even like me and get out of my way. Harry, make them stop

"Harry!"

Orderlies grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him- yanked him- from the room, and the more they tried, the stronger Brian became until two and three were fighting to keep him from Harry's side.

"Harry! HARRY" he had to keep screaming so Harry could know he was there because he couldn't be dead, because people like Harry don't die they live forever and ever and they always come home in the end.

"Please let me see him!"

"Please let me see him!"

"PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE! HAAARRRRYYYY!!!" he shrilled.

"OUT OF HERE! AWAY FROM HIM!" the refined, elegant woman of old money and perfect pedigree shrieked louder, her scarf coming undone and tangling in her pearls.

Brian stumbled, he fell backwards and still they grabbed at him dragging him out of the room, restraining him, fighting him like he had done something wrong, like he was guilty of some crime, like his father, the bus driver, like his father had given them all the money to buy it last night, like he didn't care how much they did or watch Harry when it was too much and tell him to stop because he loved him and would never live if he hurt himself and he should not go to the after party but should go home where Brian was waiting for him... why were they attacking him? Why was Brian now the bad guy when the real culprits, when the real criminals in their bowties and Chanel stood around freely.

A little old nurse, a tiny five foot nothing nurse in bleached white, raced at them, smacking the orderlies hands, beating their fingers to release him.

"You let him go! You let him go", she screamed, and Brian, still on the floor, babbled

pleaded in sobs so innocent and pure

kneeling before her

"Oh please let me see him, oh please let me see him, oh please, oh please"

if I am calm, if I whisper it and ask nicely, she will let me, they will let me, he thought, look I'm calm, I'm quiet, please

"Please let me see him"

The kindly old nurse took Brian firmly by the shoulders, looked straight into his eyes

"He's gone, lad. He's gone".

Nurses and doctors, they see death. They become immune to death. No nurse, no doctor, no soul did not mourn that sight of Brian Atwater, on his knees, with his arms wrapped around the nurse's waist, his head buried into her mid-section, begging the nurse to see his friend, his husband, his hero, who was gone forever.

---------------------------------------

Will sat silently fighting back tears, holding Brian's hand, unable to look him in the eye. He was sure the misery in Brian's face was a look he never wanted to witness. They sat in bathrobes on Brian's bed, having left the tub when it became apparent, more so to Brian than to Will, that something needed bearing. Will confessed he had heard Brian mumble Harry's name several times, and figured it was a topic that was worth sharing.

"They never let me see him. I waited in the hospital. I waited all day for everyone to leave, but then they took him away covered in a sheet, and they wouldn't let me. I remember pleading with some people at the morgue just to go in and say goodbye but I wasn't family and... well... I never saw him again. Couple of days later I managed to put on a black suit and tie for the funeral, but I was stopped at the door of the church. I think it was a 10 or 10:30 service. And they wouldn't let me in, not even in the back. So I stood on the opposite side of east 78th street and watched them bring the coffin in. And then 30 minutes or so later, they brought Harry out. The hearse drove off and he was really gone. I never even found out where they buried him".

"Can I ask... how did he die?"

"Overdose. Well, heart attack, really, but caused by cocaine".

"Wow".

"Yeah. About a week later I got a visit from the Kraft family lawyer informing me our condo was in Harry's name, and the family had put it on the market. I had to move out that weekend".

"Oh, Brian, they took your home?"

"It was the final kick in the teeth. I kept some of his clothes, some things that smelled like him, but after they took my Harry, really nothing else mattered". That line pushed Will over the emotional edge. "Oh, God, Will, I'm sorry Will, I've made you cry", he said brushing tears out of Will's eyes. "I gave you blue balls and now I've made you cry", he joked. "Do I know how to show you a good time or what?" Will smiled, swallowing some tears, and wiped his eyes on the robe sleeve.

"I don't know... I don't know how you survive something like that".

"I didn't. I threw myself into work, I made money, never once buying stock in Kraft, I might add, and I made myself emotionally unavailable. I just refused to risk feeling that hurt again so I never let anyone in. You know besides that group of friends from his High School who were there, maybe a couple of other people, no one knows that story. I've never really talked about it. And I cried for so many years, I just became a cold and somewhat hard person. It was a defense mechanism, I guess".

"And you never dated another guy?"

"No. And it's funny, the older I got, the more I thought it impossible. It just seemed easier to date women because I knew there would never be the emotional connection like I had with Harry. It was...safer, in a sense".

"You still miss him".

"Everyday".

"I can't imagine loving someone like that so much".

"If you knew Harry, you would. He was like a golden Lab puppy. Even the meanest person in the world cannot help but break into a smile and pet and love a golden Lab puppy. That was my Harry. He was impossible not to love. I was just lucky that he loved me, too. Now come on, no more sad stories. We have dinner ready downstairs and we will defy Kraft family rules, in honor of Harry, and eat in our bathrobes. No more tears, ok?" He gave Will a soft kiss.

"Thank you for telling me that story".

"No, thank you for letting me. After so many years it feels good to share it. You know Will, you look nothing like Harry; you don't sound like him; you don't act like him. Yet since he died I've never met anyone who reminds me quite so much of him as you do. He would have really liked you".

Will smiled and blushed slightly. They got off the bed and started to head downstairs, but Brian stopped at the door before turning off the lights. "One more thing about Harry, if I may?"

"Please".

"Remember you asked me some time ago why I don't sleep in the master bedroom down the hall? Remember you asked me that?"

"Yeah".

A single tear formed in the corner of Brian's deep black eyes, the first tear he had shed telling the story. "That's because this room here? This room was Harry's".

 

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Author's Note: Especially before the Patriot's continue their play-off bid, to not offend any of our New England fans out there. The Kraft family was chosen at random... and I mean no offense to them and apologize if I implicated them in this. Nabisco Family sounded too funny... and Acme Family was only in Bugs Bunny. I wanted an old line American family without the obvious Rockefeller or Vanderbilt... I guess I could have chosen the Macy's or Woolworth's or Pillsbury's, but I settled on Kraft. That said, I still hope the Patriots lose. -JJ