While Bernardo lifted bottles out to examine their labels, José-María took three glasses and walked towards the kitchen. "I'll get ice and a bottle of coke. Make me the same thing CJ wants. What about you?"
"Yeah, that's good. But what I really want is your friend. You were right about him. He's a cute one. Nice culo on him. It's gonna be fun when you and I fuck him tonight."
"I don't think so, primo. CJ's told me before he's not interested in anything else but being friends."
Bernardo put down the bottle in his hands, reached inside his sport coat, retrieved a small plastic bag with a couple of white pills. Looking around furtively, he shook it in front of his cousin. "Trust me. When we return from dinner, I'll get him to relax. By the time I'm done with him, he'll be open to party. Hell, he'll be open all night."
• • •
"How can you not care what happens in your country? You're Cuban!" Bernardo's vehemence surprised CJ.
The three men had enjoyed their drinks at the apartment, with Bernardo and CJ monopolizing the conversation, and José-María even quieter than usual. His contribution was minimal during dinner also and CJ wondered if there was anything wrong with his friend. They had walked a few blocks to Bella Blue, an Italian eatery Ajax the doorman had recommended as being popular with neighborhood residents.
"But I'm not Cuban. I'm American. One hundred percent. I was born in the United States, and so were my mother and father. My grandparents were born on the island, but they're all American citizens also."
"So you don't care about the embargo by the US against Cuba?"
"Not really. I mean, I think it's stupid. Why should we be so up in arms about a tiny island? We do business with China and they're just as bad on democracy and human rights. The same with Saudi Arabia and a lot of other countries by the way. But going back to Cuba, it doesn't much matter what I think. If their system's so great, why do they need the United States so badly? Why are so many people still trying to escape the dictatorship and trying to come to the US?"
"I knew it! You're against the oppression of the embargo. You're not as big an imperialist as you want us to believe. I bet you're not even a capitalist. You have to agree socialism is a much better system."
"Hang on." CJ placed a hand on top of the leather folder their waiter had placed on the table, reached into his pocket, and retrieved his wallet. "Dinner's on me, guys," he said, sliding his credit card inside and handing the bill back to their server. "My thanks for inviting me to the breakfast tomorrow."
"Thank you, CJ," said José-María. "And Bernardo, I think you got it wrong about CJ and capitalism. You haven't met his dads."
"Why?" asked the older guy, shifting his gaze between the two younger ones. "What do your fathers do?"
"One's an accountant," replied CJ. "The other one's a captain in the Marine Corps."
"What's the problem with that, primo? They sound like honorable professions. Even if the US military is just a government tool for advancing the imperialistic efforts of the people in power."
CJ lowered his eyes, staring at the remains of his Tiramisu, and allowed a small smile to form on his lips. He'd already decided the man was an ideologue. A product of the communist leaning machine created by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, still clinging to power a year after the strongman's death. Venezuela and their use of oil money to fund populist programs was a subject his teacher had covered in his social studies class.
"Mr. Abelló's a partner in one of the four giant international accounting companies," explained José-María. "I have no idea how much money his dads have, but I know they aren't poor. I've been to their house, I've seen the cars they drive, and I went to an event with them which was not for poor people."
"It doesn't matter how much money my parents have. They work for a living. They may be better off than some others, but I know how hard they work." CJ accepted the bill folder from their server, added a generous tip, and signed the receipt.
"And did you see this?" asked José-María, placing a hand on CJ's arm before the boy could return the credit card to his pocket. "It takes real capitalists to give their son a black American Express."
"Guys, I don't like talking about my parents' money. But you're wrong about me, Bernardo. I'm as big a capitalist as they come. If there's no incentive to work, if the government provides for everything, the system will sooner or later collapse. It's human nature. Profits and wealth are a great motivator. What's going to happen in your country when the price of oil drops and your steady source of income is suddenly not there? I can tell we won't agree on the subject. Come on. Let's go back to the apartment. We can have one more drink before you guys go to your hotel."
It had been a long day, and although it was still early, CJ was tired. He wanted to take a shower, jump in bed, and stick a movie in the DVD player. He was hoping to go for a jog in Central Park early in the morning, before catching a cab down to the United Nations building to meet up with the two guys again. He figured by the time he came back to the apartment, Doc and Chipper would be in New York. Otherwise, he'd put a good dent on the Sunday Times.
• • •
"Hey," said CJ as soon as he'd opened the door for his guests. "You know where the stuff is. One of you fix us a drink. I need to use the bathroom and I'll be back in a few minutes. Go ahead and open the door to the balcony. It's a nice night."
As soon as the boy walked down the corridor towards his dads' room where he was sleeping this trip, José-María headed to the kitchen to add ice to the same glasses they'd used earlier and left in the sink after rinsing them. When he returned, Bernardo was pressing the bottom of the rum bottle on the plastic baggie he'd shown his cousin before. He placed the ice filled glasses on the shelf in front of the older man, watched him use the bottle of alcohol to crush the pills inside the bag, and start to sprinkle the white dust over the cubes in one of the glasses.
The sound of the front door opening made him stop and look up in time to see a stranger walk into the apartment. "Who are you?" asked Bernardo. "What are you doing here? How did you get in?"
José-María looked startled; he suspected who this was based on CJ's earlier comments about his friend in New York. Aware of the newcomer's eyes widening, fixed on the white powder being poured into the glass, his surprise turned to fear. This wasn't going to be good. The front door slammed shut and the guy took a step towards them.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" His face turned crimson, a shade darker than the red scruff on his face. "Where's CJ? CJ! GET OUT HERE!"
• • •
CJ thought he recognized the voice calling for him from the front of the apartment. He'd decided to change clothes and was only wearing a pair of black boxer briefs; the urgency in the shouting made him forget about covering himself any further. He flung the bedroom door open and stepped into the hallway.
"Sean?" The boy was definitely surprised to see the New Yorker. "Why are you here? What's going on?"
"Do you know this guy, CJ?" asked Bernardo, pulling his hand away from the redhead's grip and shoving it into the back pocket of his jeans. "He walked in here―"
"Shut up!" Sean gave the guy a shove, forcing him to back up towards the open balcony doors.
"What's going on?" asked CJ, his eyes looking from one man to the other. "How come you're here?"
"Your dads called me a few days ago. They mentioned you were gonna be alone in the apartment tonight. So I decided to stop by and check on you. I walked in and saw this guy pouring white powder into one of the drinks he was mixing."
"He's lying. I don't know what he's talking about," said Bernardo. He glanced at his cousin who stood stock still, fixed to the spot, a petrified look on his face.
"I said shut up!" Sean moved towards the man, intimidating him into taking another step back. "He stuck the bag in his back pocket when you came in. What's in it?" he asked, staring first at Bernardo and then at José-María.
"What was in the bag, José-María?" asked CJ in a sharp, icy tone.
"I... I don't know. All he told me was it would relax you."
"And you went along with this?" There was sadness and fury in CJ's voice. It was hard for him to believe this guy he thought was his friend could be involved in trying to drug him. "What were you expecting?"
"He... he told me it would relax you and you would agree to fool around with us."
"You were going to rape CJ?" asked Sean. Staring at the cousins, he took another step towards Bernardo, forcing the man to back up once again.
"You, motherfucker!" shouted CJ, lunging at Bernardo. "I'm going to kill you!" The collision made both fall across the threshold of the terrace. CJ grabbed the struggling man by the neck and began smashing his head against the concrete floor.
"CJ! No! Stop!" Sean rushed forward, wrapped his arms around the boy's torso, and pulled hard. "We'll call the cops. They'll take care of him."
CJ was huffing, taking big gulps of air, while Sean held him tight against his chest. Bernardo sat up and rubbed a hand across his throat and the spot on his face where he'd been struck with CJ's opening move. "Go ahead," he said. "Call the police. It'll be your word against mine. And I have diplomatic immunity. Nothing will happen to me anyway."
An hour or so later, CJ sat on a chair wearing sweatpants he'd found in his fathers' dresser and his own WALLS hoodie. He occasionally sipped from a snifter half full of brandy held in his hand. The night had cooled off but he'd insisted on keeping the sliding glass doors open. He needed the fresh air and the sound of traffic provided him a soundtrack for his thoughts. To him, it was a beautiful noise coming up from the streets. A beautiful sound, with a beautiful beat. Something to help him relax. When his phone chirped, snapping him out of his contemplations, he reached for it. It was a message from César.
―― Call us now――
"It's my dad. He wants me to call him," he said to Sean who sat across from him on the couch, a bottle of water in his hands.
After the confrontation with the Venezuelan guys, the redhead had thrown José-María and Bernardo out of the apartment and instructed CJ to go put clothes on. He'd taken the opportunity to call Doc and explained to him what had transpired. When CJ returned from the bedroom, he'd poured the boy a drink, suggested he sit down, and told him Doc was going to contact his dads.
"Go ahead and call them. Tell them I'm spending the night in Doc's room. I'll go change and give you some privacy."
"No! Stay, please. I'll put them on speaker."
"Are you sure?"
"Sean, what the fuck do I have to hide from you?" He tapped the screen a couple of times and placed the phone on the coffee table between them.
"Are you okay?" César sounded anxious.
"Hi, Dad. I'm fine. I have you on speaker and Sean's here with me."
"Hey, Sean. Thank you! Hang on, Brett's going to kill me unless I put this call on speaker myself."
"Dude, what happened?" asked Brett a fraction of a second later.
"What happened is I had a great day and then it all went to shit. José-María and I went to the Guggenheim, then we walked through Central Park all the way to The Plaza and hung out. His cousin came here, we had a drink before I bought them dinner and came back for another drink. I went to the bathroom and next thing I know Sean's screaming out my name. The fuckers were trying to get me high so I'd put out."
"Sean?" asked one of the men in Washington, CJ wasn't certain which. The boy's anger, which had being somewhat subdued, began to rise in him again.
"Hi guys. I wanted to surprise CJ so I asked the doorman not to call up to the apartment. Since I'm on the list and have my own key, he didn't object, telling me your son had two friends upstairs already. I walked in and saw this guy sprinkling a white powder in a drink. I took the baggie from him before we threw them out. He admitted it was Quaaludes."
"How old is this guy?" asked Brett. "That sounds so disco-era, I'm expecting ABBA to start playing in the background."
"You certainly have a way with words, Captain," replied Sean, laughing. "You made your son smile and that's the first time since I got here. Anyway, I yelled out to CJ and when he found out what was going on, the little fucker tried to kill the guy. If I hadn't pulled him off, there would have been a Venezuelan diplomat with his head cracked open on the terrace's concrete floor. Or maybe he would have just pushed him over the railing."
"You should've just let me kill him," added CJ.
"Down, tiger. I suggested we call the cops, but the guy let us know he had diplomatic immunity. I decided to let the two of them go and called Doc. I'm hoping that was the right thing to do."
"I think it was," said César. "Once again, thank you. CJ, do you want to come home? Or do you want one of us to come up to New York?"
"Ummm, neither. Why?"
"We don't think it's a good idea for you to be alone."
"Bullshit, Dad. I'm definitely not alone." CJ had been puzzled by his dad's offer and when he looked at Sean, noticed a slight grin on the redhead. "I'm figuring out Sean didn't just show up here by accident. You guys put him up to it, didn't you? You asked him to check up on me."
"I guess you could say that. Well, yeah. I did," cut in Brett. "Don't be upset, but I figured you wouldn't mind him. It made me feel safer knowing you wouldn't spend the night alone."
"That's fine, Papa. I'm not upset. I do like him even if he stopped me from killing that fucker. Anyway, this is my vacation. I plan on having a good time."
"So what do you plan to do tomorrow morning?" asked César. "Are you going to hang out in the apartment until Doc and Chipper get in?"
"Hell no! I'm going to try and convince my babysitter to go workout with me after breakfast. I'm sure we can find a gym around here I can get us a temporary membership to. If I can't kill a guy trying to rape me, maybe I can kill some dumbbells."
CJ woke up to a feeling he'd never experienced before: a hard, hairy chest snuggled against his back and strong furry arms wrapped around his chest. The hard lump pressed against his rear end wasn't something new; he'd woken up in the same position when he and Owen had slept together. Only then they'd both been naked, whereas now two layers of underwear separated his ass from Sean's groin.
Once he'd convinced his dads he was okay, and talked César out of taking time off from work to come to New York, he and Sean had sat chatting about what had happened and a million other things. They'd each taken a sip from the drink Bernardo had been doctoring before dumping the remains in the sink. CJ realized he would have never noticed the dissolved pills based on taste. The small plastic bag, still half full of white powder, they saved for Doc. They weren't necessarily curious about whether the pills were what the Venezuelan guy claimed they were, but decided to leave any sort of decision about it to the physician.
After talking to his dads the previous night, CJ and Sean polished off the remainder of the bottle of brandy while watching Saturday Night Live―there hadn't been much left to begin with. CJ planned on giving Ajax money and asking him to buy him a fresh one at some point over the next day or so. Since there was only a single bed in the room he thought of as his, CJ had already decided to sleep in his dads' room, leaving the other one available for Chipper when he arrived. Even after the adrenaline rush had passed, and after drinking more alcohol than he usually did, CJ knew he would have trouble falling asleep the moment he tried. He was completely awake, reliving the events of the day, trying to figure out if he could have somehow prevented them. Tossing and turning for a while, he eventually decided to make a change. Pulling on his boxer briefs once again, he padded across the hallway, and slipped into bed next to Sean. He was asleep within minutes. Daylight streamed in through the open curtains of the balcony when he came awake the following morning.
"Are you gonna keep rubbing your ass against my morning wood?" Sean unwrapped his arms from around CJ's body and rolled away from him. "Or are you going to be a good host, get up, and make us some coffee?"
"You wish! I wasn't rubbing anything," exclaimed CJ, faking outrage. "I was trying to disentangle myself from you so I could go pee. But thanks for not kicking me out of bed last night. Felt like I was cuddling with a life-sized teddy bear. It was comfy and helped me fall asleep."
"No problem, buddy."
• • •
"Hey, no manspreading," said Sean, nudging CJ's knee with his own.
"What are you talking about?"
"Your legs, close them. Manspreading's frowned upon. When you sit with your legs so far apart like that, you end up taking more room and making other people uncomfortable."
"Oh!" replied the boy, bringing his legs together and straightening up.
"Plus, there's flies coming out..."
"Asshole!" whispered CJ, leaning close to the man's ear. He chuckled as he had already done a couple of times this morning. Sean was a funny guy.
"We're getting off at the next station anyway. Come on." Sean stood, extended his hand, and helped pull him out of his seat.
"You know, we didn't have to come all the way down here to go to the gym. The doorman said there's a couple near our building. I would have paid for the day passes for you and me." He was standing next to the redhead, holding his backpack, when the train lurched to a stop and the doors opened. CJ followed Sean onto the platform and up the stairs to the street.
"I think you'll like this place better. We're in Chelsea and there's a lot of eye candy at WOOF. And most of the boys will be gay."
"Big fucking deal." CJ let out a breath of air through his pursed lips sounding exasperated. "Who cares? I'm giving up sex."
Sean snaked an arm around the boy's shoulders and laughed all the way to the gym's entrance. "Tell me that again when you're spanking the monkey late tonight. You're sixteen. You may think you want to give up sex, but your body knows better."
"Sean!" called out a muscular, dirty-blond, blue-eyed man with a few days growth on his face from behind the counter a few feet inside the place. "What the hell are you doing here so early? I always thought you were a vampire. I've never seen you at the gym in the daytime."
"Had a quiet night last night. And since I was up fairly early this morning..."
"Quiet, my ass," mumbled CJ.
"It seems your young friend has a different opinion. And I do mean young, Sean. Hey, I'm Colton," said the man, sticking his hand out to CJ.
"Hi. CJ." The boy shook the man's hand, studying him closely for the first time. The guy was a couple of inches taller than CJ―about the same height as César―and probably a few pounds lighter than his dad. But it was definitely all lean muscle. The corded forearms were dusted with hair, and his pecs stretched the material of his shirt which clung to him like a second skin. This guy definitely spent some serious time lifting weights, thought the boy. His dad calling someone a gym bunny came to mind. Colton fit the description without a doubt.
"Welcome to WOOF, CJ. I haven't seen you here before."
"Get your mind out of the gutter, pervert." Sean put his hand on the boy's shoulder, a move CJ felt was protective. "He's a friend. And so are his fathers. He's visiting from Washington for a few days. He wanted to work out this morning and I told him he could get a day pass here."
"Certainly!" replied Colt, reaching underneath the counter and retrieving a clipboard with a stack of forms on it. "I'll need to see your driver's license, CJ. And if you would, read over the release form and sign at the bottom. Just today or will you be coming back later this week?"
"Ummm, just today. We have two other friends coming from Washington this afternoon and I'm not sure I'll be able to make it back here. Can I pay with a credit card?"
"Since you're a friend of Sean's, no charge for today. Sorry for thinking―"
"No problem, don't worry about it," said CJ. "And thanks."
Sean nudged CJ towards a swinging door labeled MEN, following him into a small foyer which opened up to a room full of lockers. CJ followed his friend inside and stopped next to him. "You can put your backpack and hoodie in my locker. I don't have an extra lock for you."
"That works," replied CJ, leaning against the wall and pulling off his sweatpants to reveal he was wearing silkies underneath. The drab olive Marine Corps PT shorts belonged to his marine father. When he unzipped his hoodie and slid it off his shoulders, he had on a black sleeveless DC Shoes t-shirt with the sides split almost to the hem.
After ninety minutes of strenuous exercise, both men were drenched and Sean called a halt to their workout. "How about a shower and a few minutes in the steam room?"
"Perfect." CJ stripped off his clothes, allowing the soggy items to puddle on the floor at his feet.
"Damn, CJ!" exclaimed Sean when the youngster stood in front of him naked with a towel thrown over his shoulder. "I don't want to say I'm impressed, but I'm impressed. No wonder all those guys were staring at you and drooling out there."
"Asshole! They were?" CJ followed Sean into the locker room's wet area. They both rinsed off their bodies before walking through the frosted glass door into the steam room. CJ promptly ran into Sean who had stopped just past the entrance, looking around the smallish space.
"Come on, CJ, you can't be surprised you were being checked-out," said Sean, taking CJ by the elbow and guiding him towards the right. They climbed the lower tiled bench and, placing their towels on the warm surface, sat down. "I know you're not stupid. Man, you look good in clothes, but naked... Fuck!"
The room was tiny and visibility was nil; one man sat in the corner so CJ lowered his voice to a whisper and leaned into Sean. "I know I'm not ugly, Sean. But I don't think I'm all that."
"Trust me, buddy. You had a few guys drooling. And I'm certain if you wanted to, you'd end up with quite a few phone numbers."
CJ sat quietly for a few minutes, thinking. He turned to Sean and leaned into his body once again. "Could that be why they tried to get me high last night? Do I give off some sort of `come fuck me' vibe? Maybe what happened was my fault—"
"Stop!" barked out the redhead in a soft growl. In the confined space, his admonition carried easily, making the guy sitting nearby look up. Sean reached over to the boy and pulled him closer to his body before continuing in a whisper. "There's no damned way you're at fault for those two fuckers trying to take advantage of you. Okay?"
"Yeah," mumbled CJ, resting his head on Sean's shoulder. "I guess. It's just that―HEY!"
"You guys interested in a three way?" asked the man sitting next to them. He'd scooted over and made the boy jump when he reached over and touched CJ midway up his thigh.
"Motherfucker!" shouted a scowling CJ, shoving the guy back so hard the sound of his head smashing against the tiled wall reverberated across the room. "Get your goddamned hands off me."
"Easy, CJ. Easy," cooed Sean, gently grasping the boy by the arm he had pushed against the stranger's throat. "It's okay. He's not going to do anything. Just let him go." As soon as the pressure against his windpipe was removed, the guy rubbed the area while first sliding to the floor and then standing.
"Sorry, man. Sorry," said the stranger. "I saw you two so close I figured you guys would be interested in playing. Sean's always been willing to share his playmates before."
"Well, I ain't nobody's goddamned playmate, as you put it. Got it?"
"Fine, I get it. I get it," he said opening the door. "Sorry again. Sorry, Sean. I'm outta here. Catch you some other time."
"CJ?" asked Sean, lifting the boy's chin with his fingers, forcing him to take his gaze off the floor. "You okay?"
"Yeah... Can we go?"
Sean shook his head and chuckled. "Give him about ten more seconds to run out of here and we can go shower. You scared the crap out of him."
"I'm gonna have to apologize to your friend at the front desk when we leave. He'll probably hear about what I just did. Fuck! I can't believe I freaked out. Hell, this wasn't the first time I've been hit on at the gym. It happened at home and I got a BJ out of it." CJ smirked, remembering how pissed off his dads had been and how cool César was about it anyway. "It may take me a little bit to calm down after last night. But there's no way I'm going to let those two fucktards screw me up. I'm going to learn how to keep myself safe. I can do it physically, but I'm going to stop being naïve. I can't trust people just because they seem friendly. I'm not going to hide and I'm not going to slow down. I wasn't born to sit around. I was born to run."
CJ Part II • Autumn • Chapter 17 • New York City Serenade • Saturday, 9 November 2013
"Oh, César, by the way. Here's a key to your apartment. Doc gave it to me to use the weekend he was here and I forgot to return it."
"Why don't you keep it?" César put his arm around Sean's shoulders as they followed the rest of the group into the restaurant. "We trust you, you're on the permanent guest list, and if you ever need the place in an emergency..."
CJ Part III • Winter • Chapter 11 • Growin' Up • Monday, 10 march 2014
"That's not it. Get your mind off sex for a minute. We already know that's not happening with José-María. CJ's made it clear he's not interested. This is New York, not Sydney."
"Okay, what if we make a phone call and take out an insurance policy?"
"What do you have in mind, Jarhead?"
CJ Abello 2016
Edited by Mann Ramblings
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