Join the yahoo group!!! http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/futurecanadiansgroup. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the chapter...usual disclaimer applies.
"L-O-V-E (Nat King Cole)"
"Hey," Ian said as Joey met him at the office of Maria Torres, a real estate agent in central Alabama.
"Hey," Joey said as they kissed gently on the lips. "How is my favorite man?"
"He is wonderful!" Ian said as he looked into Joey eyes. It was nearing the end of November. It had been three months since they'd first met. It had been two months since they'd had the `defining the relationship' talk, which led to both of them ultimately agreeing that exclusivity was their only option, given how much they'd grown to care for one another. It had been a month and a half since Ian closed on his house and Nashville and was able to spend that money on a new house.
"Good," Joey said as he smiled at Ian. It was the smile that he'd grown to care for, to long for, with almost every fiber of his being.
"How was the drive over?"
Joey sighed. "Traffic in Tuscaloosa was HORRENDOUS! I've never seen it that bad, not even on game day weekends."
"I'm sorry, Joeyzinho."
"Nah. It's alright. I was coming to see you, so it's cool," Joey said as he kissed Ian's lips again, gently.
"Aww. That is so sweet!" Maria said as she came from her office into the lobby, where there was no one else waiting.
"It really is. I'm a very, very lucky guy," Ian said as Maria walked up. He looked up at Joey, who was smiling.
"He has a very nice ass, too," she said in her thick, Spanish accent.
"Yes," Ian said as he nodded. "Yes ma'am, he does!" Joey giggled as his naturally brown face blushed a little bit.
With a smile on her face, Maria looked at both of them and moved them back to the reason they were there in the first place. "So let's go look at your new house."
"OK," Ian said as he and Joey followed her out of the building. They all climbed into Joey's SUV, since her two-seater Mercedes wouldn't have accommodated all three of them.
She gave Ian directions from her office in Alabaster to a piece of property that sat between Helena and Montevallo, on highway 17. Ian pulled off the two-lane country road onto an even narrower paved drive. It was almost a mile before they arrived at the home, much smaller than Ian's house in Nashville nestled at the base of a tree-covered hill. It had a vaulted roof in the front and was covered by red bricks. Ian pulled up to the garage and stopped the car. The three of them walked up to the front door of the house. Maria undid the box attached to the front door while Ian stood on the front porch and looked out over the area. It was calm, peaceful, relaxing. Ian could hear the wind gently flowing through the trees.
"Finalmente!" Maria shouted in Spanish as she opened the box. "Jodida caja," she said as Joey laughed. "You speak Spanish?"
"Sí. Mi familia es puertorra."
"Ah! Tierra de las pollas grandísimas!" she joked, getting a smile from Joey.
"What are pollas?" Ian asked.
"It's how the Spanish say dick," Joey answered.
"OH!" Ian responded. "So I would say `me gusto pollas'?" Ian clarified in his broken, bad Spanish, tinged with the accent of his native Portuguese.
"Close," Joey said.
"You would say `Me gustan pollas'," Maria answered as they walked into the house.
"OK!" Ian said. "See, Portuguese is so much easier. We'd say `Gosto as porras'," he went on.
"Oh! I forgot you are from Brazil," Maria said, having gotten to know him a bit in the couple of weeks they'd been working together to find Ian a house.
"Sim," Ian answered with a smile.
"Oh wow," Ian and Joey commented as they realized just what they were looking at. The first floor was comprised of the living room, dining room, kitchen, an office, and a half bathroom. Most of the rooms had a standard, 10' ceiling, but the living room had a massive, two-story tall ceiling with windows on one end that would easily let the sunlight in most hours of the day. All of the floors on that level were made of hardwood, though the owners had put a rug in the office beneath the desk that they'd left there for staging purposes. Their perusal of the house took them to the second floor. There were four bedrooms on this floor. The master suite was a nice size, with a large closet and a bathroom that was immaculately decorated. There was an opening to a large private deck attached onto this room. As promised, there would be a room specifically for Danny and Pete, both of which, along with the guest room, shared a bathroom. After inspecting the house's main levels, Maria took them into the basement. There were two more rooms, along with a bathroom. One of them, Joey noted, would make a good studio. Ian looked at him and grinned. The rest of the basement could easily be could easily hold two cars.
As they stepped back outside, Maria got a phone call and walked off from the two of them.
"So what do you think?" Ian asked.
"Why do you care what I think? It's your house, babe. You've got to like it."
"I know, but I value your opinion," Ian answered honestly.
"Well. Being that I have never bought a house before, I don't really know what the process is. The house seems nice, though. It's very calm and tranquil. It's got enough room for you to do a lot of stuff."
"Would you come and visit me still?"
"What do YOU think?" Joey said with a smile on his face. Joey turned after a second and realized the magnitude of the separation of this house from the world. There was a field just down the hill from where they stood, but, beyond that, there was nothing but trees for, seemingly, as far as the eye could see.
"I think I should see how much they're asking and work out a price."
"How much do you think it will cost?" Joey said.
"I'm not sure. I have no clue what property costs down here," Ian said.
Maria walked back up to them, having finished their conversation. "That was my husband, Alvaro, telling me to bring home milk and eggs for dinner. It wasn't as important as I thought."
"No worries," Ian said.
"So what do you think?"
"I really, really like the place. I mean, over the last couple of weeks, I've seen thirteen houses, and this one is the only one of them that I could see myself living in for any length of time."
"OK," Maria noted, paying close attention to Ian.
"So how much are they asking for it?"
"For it, and the land, the price they are asking is $259,000," Maria said.
"You're shitting me? That's it?"
"They were actually worried that it was too steep of a price to be so far out."
"This is really no further out than my last house, which I just sold for MUCH more than that!" Ian said.
"This one's also not as big," Joey pointed out.
"True," Ian agreed.
"So would you like to make an offer on it?" she asked.
Ian looked at Joey. "Yeah. I think so," Ian answered confidently.
"Great. We'll go back to the office then and get the paperwork done," Maria said, giving them a smile. Of course she would smile, though, as she'd just made her commission.
Driving back to her office, she and Ian worked out a final offer number, just a couple of thousand dollars below what the sellers were asking. Shortly after all the papers were signed, Ian and Joey went back to Ian's parents' house and waited for a response. Jen joined them as Danny's guest, and the seven of them sat down at around 7:30 to eat dinner together. Pete had grown to become the dinner entertainment, sharing stories of what his friends in kindergarten had taught him over the course of that day. At the end of dinner, Ian and Joey cleared the table. The way Olga saw it, Joey might as well be family since it seemed that, since making their relationship somewhat official, Joey was either over there or Ian was in Tuscaloosa. At nine, Pete went upstairs to bed, refusing to go to sleep until Ian, Joey, Danny, and Jen had all told him a bedtime story. And it's not like he wanted them to read him a story or rehash one that he'd heard a million times, he wanted `original material'.
Shortly after he was well in the land of slumber, Ian's phone rang. He looked at the number to find that it was Maria.
"And?" Ian said as he answered the phone.
"I just got a call from them. They have accepted your offer on the home," Maria said.
"Great!" Ian said as the rest of the family looked at him, wanting to know what was going on. "So when can I move in?"
"They can have everything out by this weekend. You can move in at the first next week."
"Great. I'm sure my parents are ready to see me go," Ian joked as he looked at Dan and Olga.
"If we could just get rid of your brothers," Olga joked.
"At least the horny one," Dan responded as Olga giggled.
"Hey!" Joey interjected, forcing them to laugh, as they initially were referring to Danny.
When Ian hung up the phone with a smile, everyone around seemed so happy for him. It wasn't that they minded him staying there, it was just that this moment was symbolic of passing another barrier on the road to complete recovery.
"So when can Aaron and I have the party?" Danny asked.
"I never said you could," Ian answered.
"Come on, Een!" Danny whined for a second.
"Don't whine, Danny. Your girlfriend is sitting right there."
"It's OK. I like it when he whines. It means that I've got him just the way I want him," she said. Danny smiled and winked in Ian's direction.
"Olga," Dan said as he sat, very seriously in a chair in the living room.
"Yes, my love?" she responded.
"Isn't it so weird that they get grossed out when we talk about sex, whether explicitly or implicitly, but they talk about it so openly with us?"
"Very. At least we're not telling them about last night," Olga said.
"OH NO!" Danny said as he stood. "Parent sex! Eww!!!"
"Right there with ya, DanDan," Ian said with a smile on his face.
Olga and Dan started laughing as Danny blushed and shook his head. "So on that note, we're going to bed," Dan said.
"And if Pete wakes up, y'all take care of it," Olga commented.
"Yeah. Cause we'll be busy!" Dan continued.
"EWWW!!!" Danny said again.
A while later, Jen went to her mother's house as Danny went upstairs. Ian and Joey stayed up for a while longer, watching TV as they often did. At around 2, Joey mentioned that he should probably get back to Tuscaloosa. He didn't want to leave, or, at least, that's what his voice told him. When Ian offered to let him stay, though, he quickly accepted, and the two went up to make preparations for a peaceful evening together.
A week and a half later, after Ian had finished all the paperwork to transfer the house into his name, the moving began. On Monday of the next week, Ian, along with the help of a professional decorator he'd hired, went shopping for furniture for the new home. On Wednesday, after getting the keys from the owners, the delivery trucks began showing up. Within a span of two days, the house was filled with furniture, including a cabinet in which Ian planned to keep the china his grandparents had given him.
That weekend, Danny, along with Aaron and JJ, came over to help Ian and Joey arrange everything. Before beginning work, though, Danny and Aaron said that, in exchange for them helping, they got to throw a party at Ian's house. Ian agreed, but on the condition that it stayed outside, in the field adjacent to Ian's house, and that there were no drugs or alcohol. A particular emphasis was placed on the latter of the two conditions. They agreed and started making arrangements for the fiesta.
A week later, as Ian was getting settled in the house, making sure that everything was clean. At around 11:00, a group of men arrived at the house to begin setting up a tent and tables for the party. The DJ that Danny and Aaron had hired arrived shortly thereafter to begin setting up his things. At around 1:30, Joey pulled into the drive and parked next to Ian's SUV on the drive. Carrying a couple of bags from the grocery store, he walked up the back steps to the kitchen.
"Hey babe!" he called through the house.
"Hey!" Ian called from upstairs. "Be down in a second."
"OK," Joey responded as he began to put things away.
A moment later, Ian came down, with shorts, a t-shirt, and wet hair. "Hey gorgeous," Ian said as he kissed Joey's cheek.
"Hey, sexy," Joey responded as he continued to put things away. "So how many people are they expecting?"
"Danny told me around 50," Ian said. "That number is up from the 40 he told me last night."
"Oh fun," Joey commented.
"Yeah. So I don't know how many people are actually going to show up," Ian continued.
A bit later, Aaron and Danny showed up at the house to get ready for the party. Their significant others were off doing something else, according to them, and they would be there shortly. Danny, almost as soon as he got there, went down to the field to make sure that everything was perfect. By the time he got back up, he was sweaty from helping the people working down there finish setting up. Aaron couldn't help but make some joke about how there was a sweaty straight man in a house full of queers. Danny, as usual, took it all in stride and joked back to Aaron about how his girlfriend might get jealous if she'd heard that. At around five, Aaron and Danny went upstairs to get ready for the party. A bit later, they came down the stairs, clad in costumes that made Joey and Ian not only look at each other in disbelief, but also laugh resoundingly.
"What you think?" Danny asked as he did a little twirl.
"What the fuck are you wearing?" Ian asked as he inspected the blond wig that Danny was wearing.
"It's a `fags and dykes' party," Aaron chimed in as he came down in a curly black wig, a miniskirt, fishnets, and stiletto hooker boots that were about to cause him to fall over.
"Holy shit!" Ian commented.
"Yeah. It took us forever to find a caterer that would bring cakes shaped like dicks and pussies, too," Danny said.
"Oh my God," Ian commented. "If I had known..."
"What?" Danny asked with a smile as Ian was trying to stifle laughter.
"Danny," Joey chimed in, "you know that the hottest guys make the ugliest girls."
"So I must be uglier than Barbara and Jenna Bush combined," Danny said.
"Damn right," the three gay men in the room said, simultaneously.
After a while, Jen and JJ showed up as well. Just as Aaron and Danny had been friends for a long time, JJ and Jen were becoming quick friends as well, despite the fact that they hadn't known each other that long. JJ climbed out of the car wearing a leather dominatrix suit, while Jen was wearing a modified version of one of Danny's old football uniforms, complete with pads on her shoulders and black makeup beneath her eyes. She pulled on a helmet that was just the right size and the two of them walked up the stairs, with Jen holding onto JJ so that he didn't fall.
"HELLO!" Jen said as they entered the front door, without knocking.
"Hello!" Danny and Aaron said as they walked into the living room from the kitchen, where they had been with Joey and Ian.
"I've got to see this," Joey commented as he and Ian followed Danny and Aaron into the living room.
"You look hot, babe," Danny commented as he hugged Jen.
"Thank you!" Jen said with a smile.
"Oww!" JJ said as Aaron popped his bottom on time. "That hurts like hell!"
"So this is the future of society," Ian commented.
"Damn right! A girl playing football and a muscular man in a dress!" Joey said. "It's like the Clinton White House all over again!"
Until the first of the guests started to arrive, dressed as oddly as the four others, the crew stayed in the house, giving Ian and Joey enough time to make fun of them without hindrance. As the sun started to go down, other guests began arriving. After a few minutes, the driveway was packed with cars and SUVs of the guests and the music had started to play. Joey and Ian tried to sit calmly in the house and watch a movie, but they could still hear the sound of the music playing outside. Thankfully, Ian lived far enough away from anyone else for the music to be a public nuisance.
Later on in the evening, at around 9:30, Olga came walking in the back door, with Pete. "Hello?!" she called from the kitchen entrance.
"Hey," Ian said as he stood from the couch and walked into the kitchen.
"EEN!" Pete exclaimed, running up to Ian and wrapping his arms around Ian's waist.
"What's up, Petey-Pete?" Ian commented. "Everything OK?" he asked Olga.
"Yeah. Pete has something he wants to ask you, though, and he wouldn't do it on the phone," Olga said.
"What you got, Petey?"
"I know that Danny is having his party tonight, and I promise that I won't bother him, but would it be cool if I spent the night tonight in my room over here?" Pete asked, sweetly, as only a child could.
"That should be fine. You'll have to hang out with me and Joey, though."
"That's fine with me," Pete said, excitedly.
"Alright. Run put your stuff up in your room," Ian said as Pete ran out of the kitchen and up the stairs to the room on whose door he'd put a sign that said "Pete's Room" in English and Portuguese.
"So he's been driving you nuts?"
"Yes. It happens most every time your brother goes away. That's why I brought him over here. I'm sorry..." Olga started.
"It's fine, Mom. No worries," Ian said. "Would you like something to eat or drink?"
"No thanks. Your father said that he would cook dinner for me."
"Cool..." Ian said as Danny walked in.
"Well. This is interesting," Olga said.
"Hi, Mom," Danny said, looking at Ian.
"It's a `fags and dykes' party, Mom," Ian explained.
"You know, in my day, we used to just go out, get drunk, and have a good time," Olga said as she looked at Danny, trying to hold back laughter.
"Well. Your oldest said no liquor," Danny said.
"Very good," Olga said.
"So I told everyone to pre-drink before they came!" Danny instructed.
"DANNY!" Olga said, laughing her ass off.
"So is everything OK?" Danny asked.
"Yeah. Pete just wanted to come over," Olga explained.
"Oh...OK," Danny said.
"DAN DAN!" they heard Pete saying as he came down the stairs. He ran into the kitchen, but was taken aback by Danny, in drag. "What the fuck?" he said as he looked at Danny. Olga didn't bother correcting him, as it was hilarious the way his eyes lit up in disbelief and shock. Danny turned a bright shade of red.
"It's for the party, Kid," Danny explained. "A-ron is down there, too."
"Is he as pretty as you," Pete taunted.
"MORE!" Danny said, pointing a finger.
"Oh! I gotta see that!" Pete said.
"NO!" Olga said. "This is Danny's party. You stay up here with Ian and Joey!" she commanded.
He let out a sigh. "OK..."
"Why isn't it this easy when we're at home!?"
"I dunno," Pete said with a wicked child's smile.
"Hey, Olga," Joey said as he finally came into the kitchen.
"Hi, baby," Olga said as they hugged. "OK, guys. I should be going. Pete, be good. Ian and Joey, have fun. Danny...make sure that you don't get a run in your stockings. If you do, though, put some clear finger nail polish on it!" she advised.
"Yes ma'am," Danny said as Olga made the hugging rounds. After a second, she left. "I thought I was about to be in trouble or something," Danny said.
"So what did you come up here for?" Ian asked.
"To make sure everything was OK. I saw Mom's car here."
"DanDan," Pete started.
"Can I please come down to the party for a second? I just want to make fun of A-ron and JJ."
"Well. They were going to stay here tonight in the extra bedroom. Do you want to just wait until after the party's over?"
"That's OK," Pete said, disappointed.
"Petey. Don't be upset. There's just a lot of grown-ups down there. I don't want anything to happen to my favorite little brother," Danny said, lowering himself down to look Pete in the eye. Pete looked down. He knew, better than anyone else, how to work Danny. "Maybe in a little while, then. OK?"
"OK," Pete said, a smile coming to his face.
"Alright. I'm gonna go back down there, then and get my groove on. I'll come back up in a little bit and bring you down, OK?"
"OK," Pete said, hugging Danny.
Danny ran back out the backdoor to the field below after a few minutes. Ian and Joey tried their best to entertain Pete, but it seemed as though all he wanted to do was go to the party with Danny. He seemed to be a bundle of nervous energy. Among some of the things that Ian had brought from Nashville were some games from Pete's room. Quickly, he went upstairs and got one of them, setting it up on the table. That seemed to calm Pete down, especially since Joey and Ian were letting him win. At around 11, Pete was still awake, but Ian and Joey were starting to get tired. It'd been a long day for them both, what with the running around Joey had done and the fact that Ian had been up until five the previous morning only to wake again at 10. Danny seemed to come back in at the right time.
"Hey guys?" Danny said as he came in. Nancy, Pete, and Justin are challenging all the guys to a drag competition. Y'all want to come down and see me and Aaron make asses of ourselves?"
"YES!" Pete answered, Ian and Joey laughing.
"Come on, then," Danny said. Pete practically leapt from his seat, grabbing Danny's hand and holding on. Ian and Joey followed closely behind them. When they got down to the field, everyone was quick to greet Pete as he came down with Danny. Many a time, Danny had taken Pete out with him on a Saturday night to see a movie and then hang out with friends. Ian and Joey said hi to the people that they knew, but, for the most part, they just stood off to the side and let things get underway. Several people got up onto the stage as the DJ played a couple of songs that they'd requested for the `drag competition.' It was especially funny when Jen got on the small stage and sang `Gin and Juice'. Another girl, that Ian didn't know, got on stage and sang one of his songs. The crowd looked at Ian as the girl tried her best to dance. Danny and Aaron sang did their thing to `Same Script, Different Cast' with Aaron doing the Whitney Houston part and Danny acting like he was Deborah Cox. There was laughter as Danny's friend Justin did Aretha and one of Jen's friend, Pete, performed `Like a Virgin'.
As everything was going on, Ian caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye. To his left, at the edge of the field, slightly but not wholly obscured from view, were two of Danny's friends that Ian remembered from when he was little. They didn't seem to be hiding the fact that they were snorting something.
"Joey," Ian said, getting his boyfriend's attention. Joey looked at Ian and then followed the finger that he was pointing, noticing the two guys in the woods.
"Yeah," Ian said. He tried to let it go, turning his gaze back to the stage, but then all of the bad things, all those memories of being high, with their good experiences and their bad, came flooding back into Ian's mind. He got angry, but not as angry as he'd gotten in the past when such a thing happened. In his mind, he decided that something had to be done. Ian made his way past the thirty or so people and walked up to Danny.
"What's up?" Danny asked, sweat coming from his forehead from the dancing that he and Aaron had been doing on stage.
"I think that Chris and Nathan might be in the edge of the woods doing something."
"Something as in gay something or something as in...other things?" Danny asked.
"Something else..." Ian said, giving Danny a look that seemed to explain it all.
"OK. I'll take care of it," Danny said, walking with Ian toward the back of the crowd.
"OK," Ian said, walking back to Joey. Pete was sitting up on Aaron's shoulders, watching whoever was performing at that moment. Danny was walking down the woods, having been able to get away from the crowd without anyone noticing. Ian watched as Danny talked to them for a second. He imagined that Danny was trying to be reasonable, but then he remembered that you can't reason with a coke-head. Then he saw Danny yelling at the guys and pointing back toward the crowd, in Ian's direction.
"Everything OK, I wonder?" Joey asked, having been paying attention the conversation. After a second, he saw one of the guys try to punch Danny. Joey ran off in that direction as Ian went to Aaron and told him to take Pete inside. Ian followed quickly, but this time, the crowd's attention turned to where Ian was going off to. By the time he got down there, the guy that had punched Danny was on the ground, reeling in pain. The other guy was yelling at Joey, but Joey wasn't having any of it, either.
"Come on, motherfucker. Get back up and try that again!" Danny was yelling as Ian came up. "What the matter?" Danny started. "Did I punch you too hard? You were all about kicking my ass a minute ago. Come on and try!" Danny yelled, having taken off the wig and flexing his muscles.
"Get him away from me before I call the cops," Nathan, the kid lying on the ground, demanded as he saw Ian walk up.
"GET UP, MOTHERFUCKER!" Danny yelled, bending over to yell in his face.
"Danny," Chris, the other guy, said in an attempt to get Danny's attention. "Man. I'll take him home, just leave him alone."
"Chris. We've been friends since Kindergarten. You do not come to one of my parties and disrespect me AND my brother by doing that shit," Danny said, standing back up. "And then this pussy boy tries to start something he KNOWS he can't finish. I've kicked his ass before, and I'll do it again."
"DANNY!" Ian stated after a second. "House! Now!"
"No, Ian. This fucker started something. He's gonna fucking finish it," Danny said with pure anger in his voice.
"Danny. I'll take care of it. You just go up to the house and calm yourself down," Ian said.
"You fuckers better be gone when I get back down here," Danny said, giving them both an angry looks before walking off.
"Joey. Go with Danny," Ian said.
"Yeah," Ian said, keeping an eye on Chris and Nathan, who was still lying on the ground. Reluctantly, Joey ran and caught up with Danny, who had taken off the heels he was wearing and was practically jogging up to the house.
Ian reached down and offered Nathan a hand up. "It would be best if you're not here when Danny calms down enough. Who's to say what he'll do if he gets riled up again."
"Ian. We didn't mean to cause any problems," Chris stated.
"I know," Ian said. "But I also know what this shit can do to you." Ian looked at both of them. "How long have y'all been on it?"
"I just used for the first time a few weeks ago."
"And you're already hooked?" Ian asked.
"No. I can quit."
"OK. You try to go a week without it and then call me," Ian told Chris, the calmer of Danny's two friends. "And you, Nathan?"
"A while..." was all he could say.
"How long is a while?"
"I don't know..."
"A month? A year? Since you were three? What?"
"A few months, I guess," Nathan said, trying not to act like he was in pain. Trying to act like a man `should' act, or at least how he thought it should appear.
"OK. I was on it for years. It is by the Grace of a higher power that I am still here. Despite what you might think, this shit is not cool. It will not be fun soon enough. Trust me!" Ian said, looking between them. "I have known you guys for as long as I can remember, and I have personally seen y'all do some stupid shit. This, though, takes the fucking cake." Ian looked between them again. "Did y'all come with somebody or drive yourselves?"
"My girlfriend drove us," Chris said.
"Good. Then y'all need to find her and go home. Sleep this off, and then completely evaluate the situation when you're not high. OK?"
"Alright," Chris said. "Come on, Nathan," he said.
"Yeah," Nate said as they walked past Ian and toward the crowd of people that had finally turned back to the party at hand. Ian was a little ways behind them, watching as they walked up to a girl he didn't recognize and start talking to her. Jen was still out there, talking to JJ, who'd also taken off his wig at some point in the evening. Ian waited with them until the girl, Chris, and Nathan walked toward where her car was parked along the edge of Ian's driveway. She didn't look very happy, but it wasn't because of the guys. As they were climbing into the car, she looked over at Ian and glared at him as if she were a cartoon villain who'd just been taken away by police, promising to get him. She turned around and quickly sped down the drive.
"Yeah," Ian commented. "I'm gonna need to get a gate installed this week."
"Fun times!" Jen said. "Can we go check on Danny?"
"Give me five minutes and then come on up," Ian said, patting Jennifer's shoulder and walking toward the house. As he entered through the back gate, Danny was in the kitchen, drinking one of Ian's expensive, imported Brazilian beers. Joey had gone upstairs with Pete while Aaron was nowhere to be found. "You OK?" Ian asked.
"No. Not really," Danny answered without looking at Ian. "They gone?"
"Good. That means I can go back to the party and try to enjoy myself for the rest of the evening," Danny said as he put the bottle down onto the counter and began walking outside. Ian stood in between him and the door.
"Stay up here for a few more minutes. You need to calm down a bit before you go back down there," Ian said, looking Danny directly in the eyes. Danny stepped back for a second and turned around, taking a deep breath in the process.
"These clothes are getting on my nerves. I'm gonna go change," Danny said without saying anything else to Ian.
Ian was left alone in the kitchen to wallow in his own thoughts. Oddly, Ian wasn't upset. He wasn't contemplating what it would have been like to do a line with them. He wasn't worried about the substance. He was, truly, more worried about what the drug would do to the two kids he'd known through his brother for quite a long time. He remembered what it had done to him and wondered if they would take care of themselves well before that happened. He wondered about the effects their drug use would have on Danny. He imagined that his whole situation had been rough for Danny as well, given the relationship they'd had while Danny was growing up. He wondered if Danny would be OK now that he knew that two of his friends were doing cocaine. Standing there, he tried to actively wrap his mind around a memory of when the drug had been good. In retrospect, he realized that there had never been good times on the drugs. Sure, the highs could be fun, but there was never a single good memory to come out of it.
"You OK?" Danny asked as he came back into the kitchen after having changed.
"Huh? Wha..." Ian said as he took himself from his thoughts. "Oh...yeah. I'm fine. How about you?"
"I'll be fine," Danny said, wearing his `relaxing sweats' and a pair of Adidas sandals that just wrapped over the top of his feet. "Can I ask you a question?"
"What drives people to become addicted to that shit?"
"The high," Ian answered.
"What does it feel like to be high?"
"I don't know that I can explain it, really. It's euphoria. It's pure and unadulterated euphoria. You don't care about anything or anybody. You just exist."
"I don't mean to sound mean or rude or stupid or anything, but that sounds kinda boring."
Ian smiled. "DanDan. Looking back on things, I agree with you. I mean. The only thing I ever did while I was high is just lay there and get head...or ass...whatever I could find. I mean, sex is good, but I really do wish that I remembered some of it."
"Yeah. I love sex too much to fuck it up by getting high," Danny said.
"Yeah..." Ian said as Joey came into the kitchen.
"What y'all talkin' about?" Joey said in a fake Southern accent.
"We're talking about how if I'm ever going to be addicted to anything again, it's going to be you," Ian said as Joey walked up to him.
"Well. I'm already addicted to you. In fact, I could use a fix right now," Joey said, walking up to Ian and wrapping his arms around Ian's waist. The motions were followed by a quick peck on the lips.
"Y'all are so fucking sweet," Danny said.
"Don't act like you don't get this way around Jen," Joey commented, still looking at Ian.
"You know. You're right. Can I be honest with y'all about something?" Danny asked.
"Of course," Ian answered.
"It goes the same for me," Joey answered, turning to look at Danny.
"Jen makes me feel like nobody else ever has. I love being around her, just hanging out, sitting on the couch, watching TV. I just look at her and see this purity in her eyes. And then I just feel lucky to have her in my life, and that the world would just stop if she wasn't there anymore. Does that sound weird?"
"Nope," Joey answered. "That's how I feel about your brother," he said, looking at Danny. "And I bet if you asked him, he'd say the same thing. Right?" he closed the statement, looking at Ian.
"Right," Ian answered with a big smile on his face, looking directly into Joey's eyes.
"See," Joey said, "it's completely natural to feel that way about somebody else."
"Yeah," Danny said. "So I should probably leave you two alone and go see what's going on at the party," he said, feeling that he could make a very graceful exit at that point.
He was gone in a flash, and Joey turned back to Ian. "You are amazing," Ian said. "You always seem to know just what to say to me at precisely the moment that I need to hear it."
"What can I say? You inspire greatness," Joey said as they gave each other another peck on the cheek.
"You are so full of shit! But I love you anyway," Ian said, looking into his eyes. Joey's eyes brightened and his smile widened. "What?"
"That was the first time you said `I love you' to me," Joey commented.
"Really?" Ian said.
"Yeah," Joey said. "And I hope you know that I am madly, head-over-heels in love with you, too."
"Yeah. I kinda gathered that," Ian said as Joey kissed him again with more energy and passion. "That NEVER gets old!" Ian said.
"I'm glad you enjoy it," Joey said as he pulled back.
"When you came in, Danny and I were talking about what it felt like to get high," Ian started, "and I explained to him that the only thing I normally did when I was high was try my best to get laid."
"Uh huh..." Joey said, looking at Ian with the same sweetness, despite the conversation.
"And I've had a lot of sex...probably more than all the people that will be staying in this house...and my brother is a manwhore."
"Yeah..." Joey said with a slight chuckle.
"But I have to say that there is no high greater than the one that I get when I'm with you."
"Now who's the one with all the perfect words?" Joey said as they continued to stand there.
After talking for a while longer, the four teenagers came back into the house. Danny and Aaron were carrying trays of things the caterers were just going to throw away, including a pile of the little cakes that were made in the shape of penises. The four of them were loud coming into the kitchen, giving Ian and Joey time to separate a little bit in order to avoid the rush of teenaged hormones that was coming into the room.
They talked for a while as Danny had another of Ian's beers. Jen complained about the fact that he was going to have beer breath, at which point Danny promised to brush his teeth twice to get rid of the smell. Joey looked at Danny with the `overprotective-big-brother' glare that Danny had come to know was, when directed to him, more of a joke than anything else.
"So you're sure you don't mind us staying over here tonight?" JJ asked Ian.
"I don't care," Ian answered. "Just don't wake me up before three."
"What if I wake you up before three?" Joey asked.
"That's different," Ian said with a wink.
"Damn!" Jen started, "y'all are hornier than Danny is!" There was a round of laughter, even from Danny who was blushing a little bit.
"You know you're the only girl that's ever been able to make him do that, right?" Aaron said, looking at Jen.
"I know. It's cute, just like the dimples on his ass," Jen said.
"How can you see the dimples from all the hair?" Aaron asked. There was another round of laughter.
"How do you know my man's ass is hairy?"
"So we were drunk at Ian's house in Nashville one time," Aaron said.
"Oh God! Was this the night that Liam just popped over for a visit?" Ian asked.
"Yeah. You know...I don't know what you ever saw in him. He was skinny and not that attractive. I wouldn't have fucked that with Hillary Clinton's dick," Aaron said.
"The coke made him sexy!" Ian said.
"Oh! That explains it, then," Aaron said before continuing with the story. "So we decided that we wanted a pizza. Well, Danny called to order it and we waited and waited. Finally, I dared Danny to take off all his clothes before the pizza person got there and just go to the door naked. And y'all all know that Danny can't pass up a good dare, so he proceeded, right in Ian's living room, to take off all his clothes and just sit there naked until the pizza finally came."
"You did that for real?" Jen asked with a smile on her face.
"Yeah," Danny answered. "I was drunk!"
"Tell them what else happened that night," Aaron said to Danny.
"Yeah. The pizza delivery person was this really, really hot girl," Danny went on. "She was about a 7 or so."
"What am I?" Jen asked. Danny whispered something in her ear that made her smile as if she'd seen Nirvana. "Good answer!" she said as she stood on the tips of her toes to kiss his cheek.
"So I was 16, and couldn't really control little Danny, and seeing this girl he just leapt up to action."
"So what happened?" Jen asked.
"When she got off, she came back to Ian's and...um...she left with a very good tip!"
"I would think so!" Aaron said. "Just you hearing her moaning kept me up half the night!"
"The funny part of that was...she thought I was in my mid-20s."
"How old was she?"
"24," Danny answered. "Yeah, she was surprised when she found out I was only 16. She told me that she'd had men twice my age that couldn't do what I did," Danny said with pride.
At around 2, Ian and Joey were both about to fall over. As much as they wanted to stick around and talk to the kids, they found themselves unable to do anything but wonder about sleep. They excused themselves from the living room and walked up to Ian's bedroom, a bedroom that had been outfitted with a plush, California King-sized mattress. Pete was in the middle of the bed, though, having moved from his room into Ian's at some point in the night. They scooted Pete over to one side and Ian held onto him as Joey climbed into the bed, after both of them had put on their bed-time attire.
Shortly after that, the lights went off downstairs and the others began finding their ways into whichever bedroom was being occupied that evening. As Ian slipped off into the world of his dreams, he almost felt haunted by something, a force that seemed beyond his control and influence. At first, it stirred him, but he went back to sleep realizing that he was in the middle of Pete and Joey. As he went back to sleep, he began to very vividly dream. It started off in the woods next to his house, where he'd been talking with Nathan and Chris earlier. Rather than listening to him, though, they continued to snort coke, before offering him some. In the dream, Ian couldn't resist the urges anymore. He took the brown vial from one of them and took a solitary hit. It was at that moment that Ian felt his nose tingling from what he thought were the dream-induced sensations. He felt a shortness of breath similar to the night he collapsed in São Paulo, only this time, it seemed stronger.
"Ian," Joey said as he'd been woken by the movements Ian was making. Pete didn't know the world was going around, though. "Ian, babe, wake up," Joey said, trying to bring Ian around. He stood from the bed and pulled Ian off Pete. The motion was enough to stir Ian. His breath began to regulate a little bit as he looked up at Joey and realized that it had all just been a dream.
"Shit," Ian said, without saying anything else. He stood up from the bed and walked toward the door.
"You OK, babe?" he asked, very sweetly.
"Yeah. I just need a drink of water. You go back to sleep. I'll be back up in a little bit," Ian said as he momentarily turned to Joey.
"OK," Joey said, not completely convinced that Ian was, in fact, as well as he stated.
Carefully and quietly, Ian walked down the stairs to the first level of the house. When the teenagers went to bed, they turned off all the lights but a small one above the kitchen sink. With as little noise as he could muster, Ian pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water directly from the tap. He chugged the first glass and filled it a second time, taking a moment as he leaned against the counter to sip the water rather than chug it.
"I have to get over this," he said to himself, wondering for a moment if that were even possible. "I can't live like this any more," he said as he looked up, toward the ceiling. "I...just...can't...do...it," he said again, wondering if a higher power was even paying enough attention to listen to his words. Rather than going back upstairs, he went down a tiny staircase into his basement. He went into the makeshift office he'd set up and began searching the internet. As if by fate, he found an online support group for recovering addicts. He read through some of the posts on the site. Some of the situations weren't as bad as his, but there were some that were worse. He read about how one man's addiction led him to cause irreparable psychological harm to his daughter. He read of one lady who wasn't an addict herself but whose son had been killed by an addiction to Crystal Meth. After a few minutes, he saw a link in the top frame of the screen that seemed to be calling him. "SIGN IN or SIGN UP" the link said in small caps. He pointed the mighty mouse connected to his imac and clicked the link. It wasn't like registering for any other site. Sure, he was required to put in a name, but it didn't have to be his real one. It asked some demographic questions, like his race, height, and weight. Then it asked the question: "Are you sober? If so, for how long? If not, what do you hope to get from this site?" Ian answered honestly, putting down to the day how long he'd been without cocaine, up to that date. Then, as if the questionnaire couldn't get any weirder, Ian was asked to tell his story. Unlike the previous block, this was had no character limit.
Ian began to read aloud as he typed. "My name is Ian, and I am a recovering addict. I started doing coke at a party one night, and it eventually came to be my life. For years, I craved the high, the way it made me feel and the way it seemed to change my whole perception of the world. Then, one night, everything changed. I had a fight with my Mom on the phone. She was in Rio; I was in São Paulo, Brazil. She said that she would keep me from seeing my brothers if I didn't do something about my problem. I got angry. I got so very angry and I closed my cell phone and then slammed it so hard on the table in front of me that it broke into a couple of pieces. That night, I passed out. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I remember waking up a few days later in a sterile hospital room in Brazil. My mother said she'd been there with me the whole time, but she never relented on her promise to keep my brothers away from me if I didn't get help. At that moment, it became a no brainer for me. I had to do something to get help for myself. I couldn't continue life without Danny and Pete, who were, for the most part, my reason for living and doing what it is that I do. So when we got back to the states, I went into rehab. For three months I was there, completely and totally aware of my goal: to recover for my brothers' sake. Then, a few weeks ago, after I'd been out of rehab for a few weeks, I got some rather terrible news. I won't share with everyone the complete details of what happened, but, suffice it to say I wasn't happy. I caught myself going into one of those tantrums that I sometimes went through when I was high. My body began to tense; then, I tuned out the world. My mind became fixated on a fix. I remember that my step-dad was there; I begged him to find me one hit of cocaine. I swore to him that that would be it, but he knew better. He knew that I wouldn't be able to cope with going back to the drug that had taken over my very spirit. If it hadn't been for him, though, I probably would have gone back to the drug and let myself die while high. So I got over that, and ended up buying a new house close to where I'm from here in the States. As payment for helping me move into my house, my older brother and his best friend told me that they wanted to have a party here. I agreed, on the condition that there were no drugs or alcohol. (To be honest, I wouldn't have minded the people getting drunk, as long as they weren't stupid, but it has been my experience that the one leads to the other.) Well, Danny agreed, and everything seemed to be going on without a hitch. That is until I went down to the party along with my significant other to check things out. In the distance, at the edge of the woods, I saw two figures. I quickly recognized them as people that I knew, but then again, I've known most of Danny's friends as long as he has. Then I saw what it was that they were doing. I saw them snorting coke. I went into a rage at seeing that, and so I told my brother what was going on. After just a few minutes, I heard Danny yelling at the guys...just before punching one of them to the ground."
He stopped for a second and began collecting his thoughts again. He read back over what he'd written before continuing. "My significant other and I ran down to the scene of the action. I told my brother to come up to my house; he complied without thinking about it. I sent my partner away with him, though, so that I could talk to them. I realized how it easy it would have been to take a hit of coke, but I didn't. I thought that I had recovered completely, but my mind didn't stop. I couldn't even focus on anything other than the fact that I could have gotten high and there wouldn't have been another thought about it. Then, as I was sleeping in my bed, I had a horrible dream. It was a recreation of that moment, only they offered me the coke, and I took it. My breathing began to shorten. Apparently, while I was dreaming these things, I was actually doing them in real life. He woke me up, and I realized that I am not cured of this disease. Hell, right now it's keeping me awake. My only hope is that I can keep the courage to do things like I did tonight, to not think about wanting a hit, even though I know that there may be times when I freak out, at least while I'm still in this state that I'm in. Do I sound crazy?"
He hit the send button and read through the terms and conditions of the site. Clicking agree, his profile was uploaded onto the site. He sat back in the chair and looked at some more. He didn't feel like sleeping, not until after he walked from the window-less room and realized the sun had risen over the horizon. He went back upstairs to find Danny and Jen already awake, but barely. He waved them goodnight and climbed up the stairs to find his youngest brother and his boyfriend peacefully sleeping, cuddled next to one another. Ian smiled and climbed into the bed, behind Joey, wrapping his arms as the two lay there in a peaceful embrace.
For Ian, it was almost as if, once again, a weight were dissipating from his shoulders, shoulders not quite as massive as the ones on the man he was hugging against for more than just physical comfort.