by Tim Mead
From Chapter 11:
Speaking softly, Bailey said, "Please sit down."
When Justin did, Bailey sat opposite him.
"You got a phone call this afternoon."
"Uh huh. It was the University Health Service. They said the results of your tests were back, and if you'd call they'd tell you about them."
"Okay, thanks." Justin turned to his computer and switched it on.
Bailey crab walked his chair over to Justin's and turned Justin to face him. Then, leaning forward, he said, "Jus, what kind of tests? Why won't you tell me what's wrong?"
Justin tensed. The prospect of talking with Bailey about that night actually made him dizzy. He couldn't do it. So he took a deep breath, looked at his roommate and faked a grin.
"Dude, you're sexually active. I'm sure you use protection, but don't you also get tested for STD's regularly?"
"Well, that's all this was."
"Oh, okay." Bailey studied Justin's face. "You're sure there's nothing wrong?"
Immensely relieved that Bailey had bought his answer, he said, "Yes, fuckwad, I'm sure. Now find something else to worry about. I'm gonna take a shower and then we'll get something to eat, okay?"
"Didn't you take a shower this morning?"
"Yeah. So?" He scowled at Bailey.
"Okay, okay, sorry. If you've developed a cleanliness fetish, far be it from me to complain."
Grabbing his towel, Justin said, "Back in a few."
* * *
The next day he stopped in at the University Health Service and asked for the results of his blood tests. He was told that he was clear for all STD's, but that he needed to come back regularly to check for HIV.
That was a huge relief, but it didn't clear up the main question: what had gone on the night of the party?
* * *
Having been dropped by Hal, Justin was in no hurry to look for another boyfriend. He found he wasn't particularly interested in having sex. He masturbated to relieve his need, but he was more repelled than stimulated by the thought of sexual contact with another guy. There were plenty of good-looking men on campus, and he was quite able to appreciate their sexual appeal. But that was all intellectual or aesthetic. Personally, he wanted nothing to do with sexual contact. With anyone. And that in itself was worrisome.
The nightmares continued, almost always featuring Justin as the center of a group of naked men who were plugging one of his holes or else waiting their turn to do so. In some of them he was writhing in anger and pain because he was being raped; at other times he was doing so because he was enjoying being the bottom boy. In either case he usually awoke in a sweat, heart pounding. Sometimes this woke Bailey, sometimes not.
One morning at breakfast Bailey asked, "Jus, have you always had these nightmares or are they recent?"
"Only since I, uh, well, since I came to campus."
"Do you think maybe you should see a counselor about them? I mean there are people at the Health Service who might be able to help you."
Justin glared at Bailey. "I don't need a fuckin' shrink, Stone, so back off, okay?"
Bailey shrugged. "You damn well need something. But there's no need to get pissy with me."
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry."
* * *
A few days later he was jogging through a cold rain on his way back to the dorm. The tall old trees that made the campus blaze only recently had now lost their leaves. They were a somber black against the gray skies. Only the grass and the clothing of scurrying students had color.
His phone rang. Tempted to ignore it, he thought it might be his mother, so he slowed to a walk and fished the cell out of his jacket. It was Brody.
"Hi, Sarge. What's up?"
"Quinn, what do you have on right now?"
Justin chuckled. "Windbreaker, sweat top, jeans, Nikes. All mostly wet and getting wetter because I'm here in the rain talking to you."
"Don't fuck with me, Twerp! I want your ass over here. You're finished with classes for the day, aren't you?"
"Geez, it sounds like I'm in deep shit. But Brode, it's a long walk to the freshman parking lot where my car is, and my balls are freezing `cause I'm standing here in the rain yakking with you. What's the problem?"
"Okay, here's what you do. Go to your room. Dry off. Change clothes if you need to, and I'll be in front of your dorm at 1700 hours."
"Seventeen minus twelve means you'll be here at five, I suppose."
"Affirmative. Be there." He thought he heard Brody chuckle just as he hung up.
The room was empty when Justin got there. He changed jeans, socks, and shoes. He left a note on Bailey's desk saying he was at Brody's and didn't know when he'd be back. Then he put his jacket on, went downstairs, and waited inside the front door of the dorm for Brody's old Grand Cherokee to come into view, wondering what could have caused Brody to show so much attitude on the phone.
Promptly at 5:00 the Jeep pulled up. When Justin got into the SUV, Brody extended his right hand, which Justin took in his left and squeezed.
"How are you, Brode?"
"I'm good, Jus." He looked Justin up and down, his gaze lingering on the younger man's face. "How are you?"
"I'm okay, thanks. Now, you wanna tell me what the fuck's going on?"
"Dave's having dinner at Adrian's with some clients. I've got chili simmering, and I thought you could fix a salad while I make cornbread. We can catch up while we're doing it."
"Sounds good, but why all the macho Marine stuff on the phone?"
Brody looked embarrassed. "You're always calling me Sarge, so I thought I'd live up to that name for a change."
"It sounded to me like you thought I wouldn't want to come and see you."
"Is there any reason why you wouldn't?"
Justin raised an eyebrow as he looked over at Brody, who was apparently concentrating on his driving. "No, Brode, it's always good to get some time with you. How are your classes going? Geez, we haven't had a chance to catch up in a while, have we?"
"No we haven't. And, to answer your question, now that I've picked my major, I'm enjoying my classes. I'm taking courses in landscape design and advanced botany. That'll be useful in our business."
"Our business, huh?" Justin said with a grin. "So you really are goin' to work with hunky Dave?"
"Yeah. Can't think of anything I'd rather do."
"Awesome!" Justin said. If he couldn't have Brody himself, he was glad his friend had found a guy that made him happy.
Tom greeted them when they arrived, so Justin sank to his knees to give the dog some lovin'. That ritual taken care of, they hung up their coats and Brody took him to the kitchen.
"You can make a salad, can't you?"
Trying to do a French accent, Justin twirled a non-existent moustache and said, "But of course, monsieur."
"There's bagged salad in the crisper drawer of the fridge. You'll also find cukes, tomatoes, bell pepper, cauliflower and some other stuff. Here's a chopping board and a knife. You go to it while I'm working on the cornbread. Be careful not to cut yourself."
"Shit! You and Bailey! You both want to treat me like a kid sometimes. You're not my mother, Brode. I'm not gonna fuckin' cut myself." Justin realized he'd sounded whiney and regretted saying anything.
"Tell me about Bailey. He seems like a nice guy. I assume he's straight. Is that frustrating for you? Living in the same room with a stud like that."
"Christ, Cox. Are you perving on my roommate? You've already got Dave, what more do you want?" Justin was grinning, but he felt troubled by what Brody had said, and he wasn't sure why.
Brody poured the batter into a pan and put it in the oven. He took a deep breath and spoke as if he were trying to control himself. "No, Jus, of course I'm not perving on your roomie. But although I'm in a committed relationship, although I love Dave more than I know how to say, I'm not dead. I can see what a hunk Bailey is. And he seems like a really great guy. But I can imagine it would be tough for a gay man living with somebody like that. So I was asking how you feel about him. That's all."
"You're right. Bailey's got a great bod, and I admit I like the scenery. But you know my gaydar's perfect. Like with Dave." He grinned as they both remembered their bet over Dave's sexual orientation. "But he's a great friend, Brode. Sometimes he tends to smother me, and I have to make him back off, but I've never had a straight guy that I liked as much or trusted as much. In fact, I've never had any other guy I've felt as close to. Always excepting you, of course."
"Thanks. You know I love you, don't you Twerp?"
"Yeah." Justin smiled.
"Hey, you wanna beer? I won't tell the cops."
"No, thanks, I'm good. I'm not much of a drinker."
"No problem. Let's go sit until the cornbread's ready." He adjusted a timer on the kitchen range and they went to the family room. He picked up a remote, pressed a button, and a fire sprang up in the fireplace.
Tom came up and stuck his nose in Justin's crotch. Justin twitched, then chuckled. He was scratching behind the big dog's ears when Brody said, "Tom, go lie down!" His body language showing his feelings about that command, Tom padded over and lay down on some bare wood floor at the edge of the room
"Getting back to Bailey for a minute," Brody said.
"I don't know him well, but from what you've told me he's a great guy. Don't give him grief because he cares about you. We're all lucky to have people who care about us."
"Yeah, but it's just that . . . ." He sighed. "Okay, you're right. I see what you mean."
The salad, Brody's chili, and the cornbread were simple fare, but to Justin it was far better than the food at the University Commons where, for the sake of convenience, he and Bailey ate most of the time.
During the meal Justin asked about Brody's brother Bob and his family, and about Sheila, with whom they had both worked at the Cox family flower shop in Higgins.
"I haven't seen Sheila since I quit working in the shop. I'm glad you mentioned her. I should stop by and find out what's going on in her life. Bob and Sam and the kids are the same as ever. Those little ones are beautiful. I don't go there every Sunday like I used to, but Dave and I go there or have them here at least once a month."
"How about your mother? How's she doing?"
"She's amazing! Her business is doing great. She's excited about the project she and Dave are working on together, and she's getting enough other jobs to keep her busy. I feel a little guilty because I don't go home every weekend, but I get there probably every other weekend. For a meal if not to stay overnight. And I call her a lot so she won't think I've forgotten her. I know she must be lonely without Dad."
"Then it's good she's got her work to keep her busy. So, changing the subject, how are you liking your classes?"
Justin grinned. "Oh, they're good. And thanks, man, for recommending Bruce Evans. He's so cool! I really like him – and his class."
"Down, boy. Bruce is straight."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. But he's a great prof."
After they'd finished their chili, they took bowls of apple cobbler with ice cream back to the sofa in front of the fire. Brody toed off his shoes and propped his feet on the coffee table, inviting Justin to do the same.
When he'd finished, Justin set his bowl on a magazine so as not to make a ring on the table. He clasped his hands behind his head and sighed. "Mmmm. That was nice, Sarge." They were both quiet for a moment. Then Justin put his feet on the floor, took his hands from behind his head, and turned toward his host. "But we haven't gotten to the real purpose of this get-together, have we?"
"Come on, man! I'm not here just because Dave's out for dinner. I don't think the Marine stuff on the phone earlier was totally an act. You seemed pissed off. So, you wanna tell me what's really up?"
"Well, Jus, it's been a while since we've been able to have some time together, you know, the two of us. I've wondered how things are going on campus. Even though we're both there every day, we never cross paths."
"Hey, this is me, Justin, you're talking to. What you say is true, and I wish we could see more of each other. But that's not really what tonight's about, is it?"
"Justin, I want us to keep in better contact. Is there anything wrong with that?"
"No, but. . ."
"When Bailey called me, I realized how out of touch we'd become."
"Bailey called you? Son of a bitch! Why can't you guys just mind your own business?
"Whoa, Jus! Bailey's really worried about you. He told me about the nightmares and that you and your boyfriend had broken up, and that you weren't seeing guys and that you had periods when you were really bitchy. I can see what he means about that."
"Is it true that you're taking two or three showers a day? He's convinced something's wrong that you won't talk about. And it sounds to me as if he's right."
Justin's jaw clenched as he stared at the fire. Couldn't they just leave him alone?
"If there's something wrong, and I'm not saying there is, shouldn't you and Stone let me decide who to talk to about it? If I needed to talk to somebody, that is."
"You're being stubborn. Why are you shutting your friends out?"
"Why can't my friends mind their own fuckin' business? Look, Brode, you know I love you. In fact, you probably know that for a long time I was in love with you, or thought I was. I see now that's never going to work. You're with Dave, and I'm happy for you, honestly. But I'm eighteen now. I'm in college. I don't live at home. And I fuckin' well don't need someone to wipe my nose for me. I can deal with it."
"It! I thought you said there wasn't a problem."
Justin stood. "Thanks for supper. I'm sorry to bother you, but could you take me back to the dorm? It's twenty miles to Colby, and I'd rather not walk that far in this weather."
"Aw, come on, Jus! Don't be that way."
Justin shut his eyes and took a deep breath. "Sorry. Could you just take me back to campus?"
They rode in silence. When Brody pulled up in front of the dormitory, he said, "Go easy on Bailey. He called me because he's concerned about you and he's worried about the way you're acting. He seems like a good man, and you'd be foolish to discard a friend like that."
"Thanks for dinner, Brody," Justin said as he got out of the vehicle.
Bailey wasn't in their room. Ruthie had given way to Judi, the girlfriend of the week, and Bailey left a note saying he was going to have supper with her someplace and then they'd study at the library.
Justin caught up on his email and tried to study. But he found he couldn't concentrate, so he turned out the lights, put on his headset, and listened to music. At 11:00 there was no light in the room except for the computer screen, which had gone to his screensaver, when Bailey came in. Justin swiveled toward the door, then stood up.
"Why can't you just butt out of my life, asshole?"
"What . . . ?"
"You had to go and call Brody."
"Yeah, and according to your note, he invited you to supper. What's so bad about that?"
"Supper was fine. But then he wanted to know why I've been acting so strange. It seems you told him about my nightmares and a lot of other stuff about me."
"Yeah, Jus, I did. I'm worried about you. You've changed so much. And since you won't talk to me, I thought maybe you'd open up to Brody, seeing how much he means to you."
"I couldn't ever talk to him about it, don't you understand?" Then he realized what he'd said and squeezed his eyes shut.
"See! There is something!"
"Look, Stone, I know I've been difficult lately. I'm sorry about that. Sorry about waking you up with my nightmares. And you're right. Obviously I've got a problem. But it isn't something I could talk to Brody about. I don't ever want him to know about it. Which is why I wish you hadn't called him. It isn't something I can talk to you about, either. You wouldn't understand. So please just back off."
Looking a bit stunned, Bailey dropped his bag and sat in his computer chair. He watched as Justin stripped, wrapped a towel around his waist, slipped into his flipflops and headed for the door.
"I'm gonna get a shower. When I get back, I'm going to bed. And I don't want to talk about anything deeper than the weather, okay?"
"You are a touchy son of a bitch, you know that?"
"Fuck you, dickwad," Justin said, almost grinning.
Bailey shot back the standard, "In your dreams, asshole."
As Justin closed the door behind him, he heard Bailey say, "Oh, by the way . . ." He kept on going.
His mood wasn't improved when he got to the end of the hall and found a note signed by Sean, their RA, saying that the shower room was closed because of a leak. The choice was to go to the opposite end of the hall or up one flight or down one flight to find a shower room on that end of the building. Without giving the matter much thought, he went down to the second floor.
There was one person in the room when Justin entered. He took his shower, letting the hot water ease the built-up tension of the evening. When he shut the water off and stepped out to dry himself, he saw that the other person was Cliff Thornton.
"Well, well. What brings you down here, Quinn? Slumming? Or were you hoping to get a look at your ex boyfriend?"
Stifling his inclination to tell Thornton to shove it, he asked instead, "How's Hal doing?"
"He doesn't want to be called Hal. Nobody ever did that but you. Harry's fine, so far as I can tell. We don't talk much. Between you and me, though, I have the impression he's looking for a boyfriend who's not so, let's see, I think I heard him use the word, sleazy."
Justin wrapped the towel around his waist, slipped on his thongs, and said "Fuck you and fuck your roommate." He flapped angrily back up the stairs and down the hall to his room.
* * *
A few days later, he ran into Kevin Peavy between classes.
"Hey, Peavy, could we have coffee later?"
Raising both eyebrows, Kevin replied, "I didn't think you liked me any more. You've sure been keeping your distance. But, yeah, how about Starbucks at 3:00?"
"Sounds like a plan."
Kevin was already sitting at a table with something dark and steaming in front of him when Justin got there. He put his bag down on a chair, said "Hi" to Kevin, and then went to the counter to get his drink, which he carried back to the table.
"What's that you've got?" Kevin asked.
Kevin grinned. "Man, you're in Starbucks. I'm surprised they didn't throw you out, askin' for nothin' but black coffee."
"They took my money."
After taking a sip of his concoction, Kevin asked, "So, what's on your mind, Quinn?"
"Um, look, it's about that party at Alexander's place."
Kevin's face went blank. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. I need to know what came down, man. I must have been like totally blitzed. I can't remember anything after we sat down to play cards."
"Truth, I swear!"
"Maybe you don't want to know."
"I gotta know. I've been having nightmares. Harry Jackson broke up with me because of what he thinks happened that night." Justin's eyes narrowed. "You didn't tell him anything, did you?"
"No, dude. I haven't talked with him since that night. I see him at GSA meetings, but we haven't discussed the party. You should start coming to the meetings again. And bring your hunky roommate."
"Getting back to the party. What happened?
"We played a card game that doesn't have anything to do with poker. Its purpose is just to get people nekkid in a hurry. The dealer gives everybody a card. Low card takes off something. You keep that up until somebody's totally bareass. That guy's the loser. The game keeps going until everybody's in the skinny except for one guy. He's the winner. Then the loser, the first guy nekkid, has to do what the winner tells him to. It usually turns into a free for all, though, and everybody has a good time."
Not sure he wanted to hear the answer, Justin said, "And the loser that night was . . . ?"
Kevin made his hand look like a revolver. He pointed it at Justin and said, "You."
"Peavy, I'm not much of a drinker. In fact, since that party, I've been a non-drinker. I know I had too much of the gin and whatever it was that night, but I should have been able to remember something. Instead it's all a blank. Do you think anybody could have put something in my drink?"
Kevin looked nervous. "I don't know, man. Nobody put anything in mine and I didn't see anything goin' down like that."
"How did I act?"
"You seemed to be having a good time."
"Somebody told me Harry and I were invited as the `entertainment.'"
Kevin continued to look nervous. "I wouldn't know anything about that."
Looking the other man straight in the eye, Justin said, "I'm thinking gang rape here, Peavy, with me as the victim."
Kevin stood up abruptly. "No, man, it was nothin' like that. Like I said, you seemed to be having a good time." He grabbed his bag. "A real good time." And he left.
* * *
At about 4:00 the next morning Justin's nightmare woke up Bailey.
"Jus, calm down, man. It's only another nightmare. It's okay." Bailey was sitting on the edge of Justin's bed, his hand on Justin's shoulder.
Pushing him out of the way, Justin ran for the bathroom, where he threw up into the toilet. When he was sure no more was coming, he rinsed his mouth and came back into the room.
"I don't know what to say, Jus. I won't ask about anything. I won't give advice. But you know I'm here."
"I'm sorry about this shit, roomie, really I am. Try to get back to sleep."
"Look, it's Saturday. We don't have any classes. If you can get back to sleep, you can stay in bed all morning if you want. I'll go bring us some cinnamon rolls or something and we can have breakfast here."
"You deserve a better roommate than you've got, man. Let's both try to get some sleep and see what happens. I've never had the dream twice in the same night, and I feel so wiped I think I'll probably get back to sleep."
"Okay." They both got back into their beds, and Justin dropped off to sleep quickly.
Though he slept until 10:15, he didn't feel rested. Instead he felt as if he'd been wrestling alligators all night. Bailey wasn't there. His bed was made. Justin grabbed his towel and went to the shower. This time he went to the facility at the other end of the floor he lived on rather than going downstairs and risking running into Thornton again.
When he got back to the room, Bailey was there. He had brought orange juice and a bag of assorted donuts, which he'd put on a paper towel on his desk.
"Hey, look, roomie, I brought us breakfast!" he said as Justin let himself back into the room.
"Oh, god, Bailey, I don't think I can eat any of that. You're great to do it, but I couldn't . . ." He sat on his bed trying to quell the rebellion he felt in his stomach. And though he tried desperately to suppress them, tears began to flow down his cheeks.
"Oh, fuck!" He shut his eyes in an effort to stop the tears. He knew he must look like such a wimp to his big, straight roommate.
Bailey crossed the small distance between them, sat beside him on the bed, and put his arms around Justin.
"It's okay, Jus. It'll be all right. Let it out if you can."
He tensed when he felt Bailey's arms around him, but he made an effort to relax. "I hate to dump all this on you, but I guess I've got to tell somebody, and it looks like you're the unlucky one."
"Don't be silly. You're my bud. You can tell me anything."
Justin put his head on Bailey's shoulder and sobbed. Bailey was bigger and stronger, and it felt good, comforting, to be there. For a moment he thought he felt the lightest of kisses on the top of his head. But that couldn't be. Justin didn't want him to get the wrong idea, so he sat up.
He brushed the tears from his face with the back of his hand. "Uh, thanks, man. Sorry I lost it there for a minute. I'm acting like a real queer, huh?
"Come on, Jus! You've obviously been upset about something for weeks. You'll feel better if you talk about it."
"I guess I'd better tell you what this is all about. You've put up with so much from me that you're entitled to know."
To Be Continued
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