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Upstairs, Jake sat on a stool across the kitchen island from Griff. From what Jake could see, Griff was definitely not a talker. Since coming upstairs he had remained mostly silent. Jake was intrigued. He lifted his soda can up to his lips and looked at Griff covertly as he drank. He swallowed the cool liquid, letting the effervescent sweetness wash down his throat. The minute that he had laid eyes on Griff in class he had been instantly interested. Griff just had this look about him; it made a person want to know more about him.
Jake put down his coke and reached for another slice of pizza. They had been eating in silence for almost fifteen minutes now. At first he had tried to make conversation, but Griff had only participated when Jake asked him a question, and even then he had kept it down to two words or less. After five minutes of this, Jake had given up his attempts at small talk and settled on just looking at Griff instead. Griff didn't seem to mind and just kept his gaze downwards. He knew that Jake was watching him, but he studiously ignored the inspection.
Griff didn't seem interested in him in the least, certainly not the same way he was interested in Griff. But Jake refused to let that matter because he liked him. He had to admit that he was a little pissed off about the situation. Griff was the first guy that he had found himself even remotely interested in or attracted to in a while. It was just his luck that Griff seemed totally oblivious him. He had a knack for choosing the wrong guys. If he had any sense at all, he would forget about Griff right now. Too bad he'd never had much sense.
Downstairs, Paul, the savage and I sat squished together on the couch with Paul in the middle. At the sound of Paul's voice, the savage and I had frantically pulled apart. We had managed to dislodge ourselves from each other's grasp just in time to see him coming down the stairs. We had both been breathing hard and I had kept my eyes downcast as I had fought to get myself under control. As a last resort, I had grabbed a throw pillow and had placed it over the front of my pants.
Paul had appeared at the bottom of the steps, taken one look at the savage and I, and had squeezed himself between the two of us on the couch. I, for one, had been happy for the interruption, but the savage looked less than pleased. Well, that was his fucking problem. I had enough issues. What the fuck was wrong with me? Why couldn't I just say no? Why did I always let him do this shit to me? I felt like I was a glutton for punishment or something.
Just then my thoughts turned to Paul. What the fuck was he doing here anyway? I had done my best to avoid him at school for the last two weeks. The savage had promised that this weekend would be just the two of us. Granted, I had invited Griff, but he hadn't mentioned anything about Paul. I looked over at where Paul had his arm placed behind the savage on the couch and I just wanted to smash his smarmy face in. Tough words from a wuss. Well, that's why I had been hitting the gym so hard - not just to buff up my body, but to build up my strength.
To his credit, the savage didn't look too pleased at Paul's arrival. He cast me a look so hot, so full of barely repressed lust that he had my toes curling in my shoes.
"So, what have you boys been up to?" Paul asked, placing his hand on the savage's thigh.
"Umm," I said rising off the couch, "I forgot something back at my place. I'm gonna run and go get it."
I headed for the stairs before the savage had a chance to object. I wasn't going to sit there and watch Paul Hennessey paw him. When I got upstairs I went the kitchen and paused at the doorway. Griff was sitting on a kitchen stool and staring at the wall while Jake was staring at Griff.
"I'm going to head back to my place for a while," I said, drawing both of their attention.
"I'll come with you," Griff said, getting up and immediately drawing a sigh from Jake.
"Will you be coming back?" Jake asked, but I knew what he was really asking was whether or not Griff would return.
I smiled at him and said, "We'll be back."
I strode through the kitchen and out the back door with Griff trailing behind me. When we got outside and I heard the door shut after us, I stopped and stood in their yard. Griff remained behind me, waiting. Just once, I fucking wished that he would say something. I knew that he was curious.
But, that wasn't Griff's way. He never asked. He figured if you wanted to tell him, you would, and he wouldn't push you. He'd just wait until you were ready. But still, I wanted him to ask me what had happened while the savage and I were downstairs. That way I wouldn't feel like I was randomly volunteering personal information for no reason.
I waited only a few moments before I cracked.
"He kissed me. Again," I said.
Griff made no response, but I heard a spark and turned around just in time to see him light a cigarette. I subconsciously scrunched my nose up at the distasteful thought of cigarette smoke. He took a long drag of the cigarette and exhaled slowly before pocketing the lighter and still he offered no comment. I could feel my frustration turning into anger and I directed it at him.
"Did you hear what I said?" I asked irritably.
Instead of being annoyed, Griff just smiled at me and took another drag of the cigarette.
"So?" he finally asked.
"So?" I repeated dumbly.
"So he kissed you. So what? He's downstairs with his boyfriend and they're probably kissing right now as we speak."
Griff looked me right in the eyes as he said the words. I felt my nostrils twitch as I caught a whiff of burning nicotine in the soft breeze. Almost all at once I felt the anger drain out of me. There was no sense at getting upset at Griff. I was the one behaving like I was developmentally delayed.
I brought my hands up and ran them through my hair in a frustrated gesture. I was frustrated and confused and tired. Why couldn't I just stay away from the savage? Why did it have to feel so fucking good whenever he put his hands on my body? This was driving me insane. What had I hoped to accomplish by coming here tonight?
I looked over my shoulder at where Griff stood. He had returned to silently smoking his cigarette. He looked so laid back, like he didn't have a care in the world. But, it was all false. I could see the barely controlled fire in his eyes, but I still couldn't read his thoughts. It was times like this that I wished I was more like Griff. One could never tell what he had going on in his head. I turned around and started walking towards my house. I heard the crunch of grass behind me and knew that Griff was following.
I reached the house and went inside. Ordinarily, Griff wouldn't be allowed to smoke inside, but since my folks were gone for the weekend he could pretty much do whatever he wanted. I headed straight for my room upstairs where I immediately threw myself onto my bed. I lay on my stomach and pulled a pillow over the back of my head. Griff entered and I felt the side of the bed dip as he sat down next to me.
"I could tell you how much he doesn't deserve you, that you're too good for him and that you're better off without him," he paused, "but we both know that's not true."
I lifted the pillow just enough to twist my neck and glare at him, making him laugh.
"You're not helping," I said in a disgruntled voice.
"I wasn't aware I was trying to," Griff replied with another laugh.
"Go ahead and laugh. I guess thinking I could get the savage was a joke anyway," I said pitifully. Okay, so it was a shameless ploy of guilt on my part, but I didn't care.
Instead of supplying me with the contrition I was expecting, Griff just said, "boo-fucking-hoo." The next thing I felt was the pillow being ripped off from my head.
"Dude, stop being such a fucking fag," Griff commanded. "You're never going to get him if you come hiding up here, crying like a little bitch."
To say that I was shocked by Griff's words was an understatement. I rolled over onto my back so that I could look at him. I was ready to argue that I wasn't hiding, but I knew that he was right. In fact, it seemed that Griff was always right.
"Who was he?" I asked quietly.
Just like that I watched Griff's face close up. I wondered if he was going to answer my question, because he just kept quiet and continued smoking his cigarette. I didn't say anything, deciding to try things his way for a change and just wait.
After a few minutes he said, "His name was Michael." He lifted up his shoe and put out the diminished cigarette on his sole. Then he aimed and tossed the butt into the trashcan across the room.
I knew that this was a big concession for him, to reveal the guy's name. Over the last two weeks I'd come to form my own theory as to what had happened between Griff and his ex, who I now knew was called `Michael'. But, I was still trying to figure out the dynamics of their relationship. I saw the turmoil in his deep brown eyes for only a second and then it was gone, once again replaced by the mask of cool indifference.
I let out a deep sigh and looked up, staring at my ceiling. I felt the mattress shift and the next thing I knew I was making room for Griff to lie down next to me on my bed. We lay side by side, silently gazing up at my plain white ceiling, both lost in depressing thought. At that moment, I wished that it was Griff who I wanted, Griff that I had feelings for. Things would be so much easier, but try as I might, my body only got hard for the savage. It was a fucked up situation.
"So when are we going to go back?" Griff asked. I knew he wanted to know how long we were going to sit around my bedroom.
"As soon as Paul Hennessey leaves," I answered.
"I fucking hate that guy," Griff said. I looked over at him, surprised. He knew that I had an immense dislike for Paul because I had told him why, but I wasn't aware that he felt the same way.
I turned my head to look at Griff's face, asking, "did something happen?" He didn't answer me immediately, which caused me to get suspicious and upset.
"What did that fucker do?" I asked, my voice rising as I propped myself up on my elbow.
"It's nothing," Griff mumbled unconvincingly. Just then, we heard a car door slam, right before an engine started up. I jumped out of bed and made my way over to the bedroom window just in time to see Paul's camaro pulling out of the savage's driveway. It was a little odd that he was leaving so soon after having just arrived.
I turned back to Griff who was still lying prone on my bed and said, "let's go."
The first the thing to hit us when we re-entered the basement was the strong, pungent smell of something distinct. When we reached the bottom step, I saw the savage still sitting on the couch where I had left him, inhaling from a fat joint. Jake had come down from upstairs and was now lying on his back on the floor with his cheeks puffed out. Paul is nowhere to be found.
"He's gone," the savage said, correctly guessing what I was searching for. Even though I had seen his car leave the driveway, I wanted to be sure. That guy had a knack for popping up unexpectedly. I almost asked why he had left so soon, but I didn't. Maybe the savage had asked him to leave. That thought made me smile.
Jake coughed and a cloud of smoke escaped from his lips. He sent Griff a crooked grin, which Griff tried pointedly to ignore.
"Here pee-wee," the savage said, holding out his hand and offering me the blunt.
I didn't hesitate as I reached out and plucked it from his pliant fingers. I sat down on the floor and crossed my legs before taking a long hit. I looked over my shoulder and saw Griff still standing at the base of the stairs looking unimpressed. I held my breath and held out my hand to offer him the joint.
"And here I thought you were a good boy," Griff commented as he moved forward and took my offering. I felt my face flush at his words and ducked my head, but not before I caught a glimpse of the flash in the savage's eyes.
"He's not as innocent as he looks," the savage said, causing me to look up at him sharply while Griff just arched his eyebrows. It wasn't what he said, but the way he said it - full of innuendo. Jake started giggling uncontrollably on the floor. I looked at him clutching his stomach and rolling from side to side. I couldn't help it; I let out a chuckle too. It wasn't long before we were all laughing for no good reason.
The laughter died down slowly, and we all sat there passing the blunt back and forth until it was all gone. When we were finished, I was hungry and the savage and I went upstairs to get some snacks. We picked up a couple bags of potato chips and a six-pack of soda and headed back down. When we got back, Jake had pulled out a DVD and was putting it in the DVD player.
"What are we watching?" I asked, laughing when Griff lunged for a pack of chips.
"Constantine," Griff replied, ripping open the bag.
"Huh?" I asked, confused, "how did you get that on DVD? I thought it just came out."
"I have my ways," Jake replied cryptically while waggling his eyebrows. He grabbed the remote off of the TV and resettled himself back on the floor after taking a coke. I decided not to ask any more questions about where the movie had come from and sat on the couch to watch.
The savage hit the lights before coming to sit down next to me. He sat, what I thought, was a little too close and reached into the bag of Doritos I was holding. My brain was sluggish so I didn't mind him pressed up next to me. After that, everything was kinda messed up. Take it from me, NEVER watch a movie about demons in the dark while you're high. No, not a good idea.
By the time the film was over, all of us were totally paranoid. Nobody wanted to get up to switch on the lights so we all stayed where we were until we fell asleep.
I came awake slowly the next morning. The first thing I was aware of was that I wasn't in bed - mine or anyone else's. I had a huge crick in my neck after having spent all night using the hard arm of the couch as my pillow. Lying behind me with his morning wood pressed into my back was the savage.
I was a little startled until I remembered last night's events. After that I had to resist the urge to push my butt back on the savage's hardness. I did, however, allow myself to enjoy being held in his arms while he slept. It looked like I was the first to wake up since Jake and Griff were still sprawled on the floor with Jake snoring. Jake's head was resting on Griff's stomach, and I couldn't wait to see how Griff would react when he woke up.
My amusement was short-lived because I soon heard a car pull up to the driveway. My first thought was that the savage and Jake's parents were home. I felt a moments panic before realizing that there was nothing incriminating in sight. From the light flowing in through the window, I guessed it to be late morning.
I was just about to roll over and shake the savage awake when I heard the kitchen door slam, followed by the basement door opening and footsteps bounding down the stairs along with a loud voice saying, "Dude, are you down here? I had a chance to think about it and you were right. I'm sorry, okay? Let me ..."
The voice trailed off as Paul reached the bottom of the stairs. I watched his face go from surprise, to confusion, to anger as he took in the situation. Why the fuck was Paul always showing up? Griff, Jake and the savage were all just coming awake and the savage looked shocked to see Paul standing there. Time froze for a minute, and then the shit hit the fan.
"Dude, what the fuck is going on here?" Paul spat.
I pulled out of the savage's hold and stood up, suddenly feeling like I had just been caught doing something bad.
"Paul, what are you doing here?" the savage asked, still a little groggy from having just woke up.
"I felt bad after last night," he said, "but I show up to apologize and I find you spooning that little fag??"
The `little fag' being me of course. I saw the savage frown as he made to get up, but before he could say anything, Griff stood and said, "shut the fuck up, Hennessey." I was surprised at Griff's defense of me, but only mildly so after having learnt of his dislike for Paul the night before.
It was then that Paul, who had previously been ignoring Jake and Griff's presence, turned and said, "you better sit your ass down, bitch."
I couldn't stop myself and I reflexively swallowed. Paul was a big kid. Not that Griff wasn't also big, but Paul was bigger. I didn't know what was going on here, but I had a feeling it was more than about me. Something had happened between Griff and Paul, but I would have to wait to find out.
"Fuck you," Griff said.
"I told you to sit your ass down." Paul enunciated each word while giving Griff an increasingly irritated look.
"And I told you to shut the fuck up," Griff responded with a false smile.
I knew his insolence was getting on Paul's nerves. Paul wasn't used to being defied, especially not by the new kid in school. I guess I wasn't the only person too caught up in Griff's audacity to notice Paul's intentions. With the blink of an eye, Paul had lunged over and hit Griff, knocking him to the basement floor. We all heard an ominous crack, and I watched in horror as Griff spit out a mouthful of blood.
In a split second the savage was restraining Paul in what looked like a rather painful hold.
"What the fuck are you doing, man?" he yelled.
Paul just laughed and said, "I warned that little shit to stay out of my way. Fucker doesn't learn."
Apparently - unbeknownst to me - Paul had been hassling Griff. I wasn't really surprised because a bully never changed, but I was pissed. I stood there not knowing what to do. I was glad the savage had intervened, even though I knew he didn't particularly like Griff.
"You touch him again and I'll kill you." Jake said menacingly.
Now that definitely caught me off guard. And judging by the three pairs of eyes that looked in Jake's direction, I wasn't the only one. That comment surprised Griff when he looked at Jake and saw that he meant it. I was more than a little surprised by the vehemence in Jake's voice; I'd never known him to be violent.
Thank God for the savage's reflexes, because he was able to release Paul and grab a hold of Jake in time to stop him from getting to Paul. The whole time I just stood there, mutely, while the savage struggled to hold Jake back. I had never seen him this way; Jake was scary when he was mad.
"I think you should leave," the savage said to Paul, "NOW!"
Paul looked back and forth from where Griff lay on the floor, blood dripping from his lips and where Jake was fighting against the savage's hold. He must have decided that it was in his best interest to leave because he spun on his heel and stalked out without another word. Once he left, I came out of my trance and rushed over to where Griff lay.
Behind me, I could hear the savage telling Jake to "let him go" while Jake only responded by saying, "sonofabitch."
I helped Griff up to his knees and looked at the cut on his lip. It was large and left his bottom lip split open like a banana.
"I think you might need stitches," I said. Just then Jake was right beside us, looking at the cut with an expression filled with rage.
"Come on," he said. Nobody argued with him and we all made our way upstairs. Jake insisted on driving to the ER and we all let him because he looked ready to kill anyone who got in his way. Unfortunately, he kept glancing at the back seat to check if Griff was okay and almost got into an accident by the time we reached the hospital.
We all had to wait restlessly in the waiting room while the hospital staff took care of Griff's injury. About and hour and forty-five minutes after we got there, a doctor finally emerged to tell us how he was doing.
"Hello, boys," a tall man with thinning gray hair and a kindly smile said. "Your friend is going to be all right. We ordered up an x-ray and found out that his mandible is displaced from the temporomandibular joint."
When we all just looked at him blankly, he chuckled and said, "That means that his jaw is cracked and has moved out of position."
We were all pretty shocked. We had thought that he had just busted his lip or maybe even knocked out a tooth - we had no idea the damage had been so severe.
"We rushed him to emergency surgery and put his jaw back in place, but we had to put in wires to hold it in position and he's going to have to keep them in for the next six weeks," the doctor continued. "He's in recovery right now and is just being woken from sedation. He'll be groggy, but he should be ready to go home in the next half hour."
He continued giving us instructions about Griff's prescription pain medication, post surgical regimen and dietary needs. When he was done we had a stack of instructions and a list of drugs.
We had told the hospital staff that Griff's parents were out of town and that the injury had occurred during hockey when he had been hit in the face with a hockey stick. Considering that most facial injuries result from sports, they didn't give us too much of a hard time and we were relieved they didn't. Except Jake, that is. He wanted to call the cops on Paul, but the savage wouldn't let him.
We waited just a little under thirty minutes before they wheeled Griff out in a wheelchair. We went out to the car and Jake insisted on being the one to help him in, much to the amusement of the nurse. We made a quick stop at the pharmacy to fill out Griff's prescription, before heading home. When we got there, Jake volunteered to put Griff to bed upstairs while I went to make him some warm milk with his pain meds crushed inside.
As I was in the kitchen, the savage came up to me. He didn't speak so I kept quiet too. Eventually he said, "I'm sorry."
I didn't look at him as I replied, "its not you that needs to be apologizing and I'm not the one that deserves an apology."
He sighed, but didn't say anything more. I finished warming Griff's milk and carried it upstairs to him. I found him lying on Jake's bed wearing a pair of Jake's pajama bottoms. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who had undressed him. As I approached the bed, I noticed how the entire lower portion of Griff's face was now swollen and turning purple. I placed the glass on the nightstand where the rest of his medical supplies were and went to help him sit up when Jake suddenly appeared and said, "I'll do it."
I knew that he was still feeling volatile, so I didn't argue with him.
"Shit, you're bleeding," Jake said after propping Griff up. I looked over Jake's shoulder and sure enough there was a miniscule drop of blood leaking out from the stitches on his lip.
"Don't move," he said to Griff and then got up to go to in the adjoining bathroom. When he re-emerged he had a cotton ball with methylated spirit on it, and he proceeded to gently disinfect and dry Griff's lip. Standing there, I began feeling like an intruder so I turned around and left, closing the bedroom door behind me.
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Griff's voice came out garbled and his words were slow, but it was painful and difficult to speak around the wires.
"Because that soon-to-be-paralyzed son of a bitch hit you in the face and broke your jaw," Jake responded. He knew he was avoiding answering the question, but he didn't want to tell Griff that the reason he was doing this was because he cared about him so much.
Griff didn't say anything else, but instead lay still while Jake continued cleaning his lip.
While cleaning the cut, Jake said, " I should still break in his fucking knee caps for making you bleed." Every time he looked at Griff he got pissed all over again. When he was done, he rose and went back to the bathroom to dispose of the cotton ball.
Coming back into the bedroom, he was shocked to discover Griff sitting up, trying to get out of bed. What the hell was he trying to do? He was going to fall and break his damn neck. Jake immediately got angry and said, "get your ass back in bed where I put it or I'll fuck you until you're too tired to argue with me." Griff was stunned.
"It's not a good idea to push me right now," Jake said, then he turned on his heel and stalked out of the room leaving Griff to stare after him in wonder.
The savage and I went over to Griff's place to pick up some things for him in the afternoon. Griff slept for the remainder of the morning and we let him rest. Jake behaved like a caged tiger the entire time. He kept going up and down the stairs, to and fro to his room to check that Griff was okay. Eventually he ended up falling asleep on the couch in his bedroom as he was watching Griff.
As the shock of the morning's events began to wear off I was filled with an intense rage directed at Paul. I couldn't believe what he had done. I was also mad at the savage. Despite everything that had happened, the savage hadn't made any mention of breaking up with Paul. In fact, he hadn't made any mention of Paul at all.
Griff's parents weren't coming back till tomorrow, but Griff had already expressed his wish to keep them out of it. We were all going to stick to our story that he had been hurt playing hockey. I decided to go upstairs and check on Griff since I hadn't looked in on him in a few hours. I entered the bedroom and found him sitting up in bed watching Jake's shirtless form sleeping on the couch. I hadn't knocked because I hadn't wanted to wake him in case he was sleeping. He looked startled to see me.
Despite the grim circumstances - and seeing the painful steel wires weaving in and out Griff's jaw - I smiled.
"Enjoying the view?" I asked in a low voice. Griff grimaced, or at least I think it was a grimace, but I couldn't be sure with all the swelling.
"I told you," Griff said, "I've been hurt before. I'm not ready to get into another relationship." He sent Jake's half naked body a longing glance before tearing his eyes away and refocusing on his toes.
I decided to let it slide and said, "How are you feeling?"
"Like a piece of shit," Griff replied slowly and without humor.
"Do you want me to get you anything?" I offered.
"Paul Hennessey, hogtied, and an AK-47," he said.
"I'll get right on it," I replied, which brought a small smile to his lips.
I made myself comfortable on the bed because I was going to keep Griff company. The savage had gone somewhere earlier, but he hadn't told me where. I did most of talking, because speaking for Griff was really difficult, but I did manage to make him laugh a few times. When it was time, I gave him his anti-inflammatory and pain medication. I was just getting ready to leave and back downstairs and let him rest when I heard a car pull into the driveway. One glance out the window told me that it wasn't the savage.
I watched in fear as a the car doors opened and a middle aged man and woman stepped out and began making their way up the front steps.