Warning: Rated PG 13 for a semi-graphic picture. Nothing shows, but you get the point…
Anthony rolled over in bed and glanced at the clock, 3am. He got up as quietly as he could – Franco was not a morning person. Heading down towards the kitchen, Tony thought of the horrible fight he’d had with Riley at Eva’s art opening last week. It was the first time they’d ever fought about anything, and they’d argued about Franco. Riley thought he was a bad influence. Which was ridiculous because Franco had taught him more in the last six months about being true to himself then he could ever have learned without him. He felt like he fit better in his own skin now.
What does he want from me? Tony thought as he moved towards the kitchen. There was nothing he could do about Franco’s jealous tendencies, and for Riley to take it so personally was just puerile. Franco had a fragile ego and Tony understood that but it was not something he could share with anyone else. He couldn’t tell Riley that Franco felt threatened by their friendship, no matter how many times he reassured Franco that he had absolutely no romantic feelings for his best friend, nor Riley for him. His biggest regret of that night was leaving Eva’s event so abruptly. Dre had seemed in such a rush and he’d been so upset that he hadn’t questioned them leaving. He’d make it up to her; perhaps he’d make something for Alistair.
Now, it was a week later, and he still couldn’t sleep. Riley and he never fought and he was finding it difficult to not pick up the phone and call his best friend. Why couldn’t Riley understand how important Franco was to him?
He made himself a cup of coffee and sat down in front of his computer. He wasn’t getting any more sleep tonight, so he might as well work on some of his designs. Franco’s birthday was in a month and Tony wanted to surprise him with a holographic television. As an artist, Franco had an amazing imagination and Tony found great pleasure in making his partner happy. It didn’t hurt that all his ideas brought in a large steady income either. Tony frowned at that thought. Actually, it did hurt. Franco was not good with money and he spent it very unwisely. But he was a grown man and could do whatever he wanted, so Tony kept his opinions to himself.
Turning on the computer, he opened his design software and worked on his gift to Franco. Before he knew it, it was morning and Franco was moving around the house they shared. Even though they’d only known each other for six months, it was nice to have someone to share his space with again. The one downside was living off the uGenex campus. Franco was an actor, so living in town was a deal breaker for him. When Tony graduated three months ago, he’d had to make a decision. He couldn’t work at uGenex if he lived off campus, so he’d found work at an electronics company working in their R&D department. Telling his family had been the hardest part, and not working with Dr. Gates was a disappointment but he didn’t mind. He realized how lonely he’d been now that someone else was living with him. He’d go wherever Franco needed to be.
The subject of his thoughts came into the room and gave him a kiss, picked up the coffee mug and walked out the room. Franco was definitely not a morning person, but he still managed to be sweet. Tony smiled to himself and went back to work.
“Okay. What is it, what’s wrong?” Franco demanded.
“Nothing, why?” Anthony was startled out of his thoughts. He’d been thinking about his fight with Riley. He sucked on his lip ring and frowned. Maybe he should call him…
“I’ve had to deal with you moping around for a month now. Today is my birthday and you don’t get to be sad today.”
Tony turned to Franco and smiled. “No, I don’t. You’re right, I have been moping about. I can make it up to you though.”
“Oh yeah?” Franco leaned over, ready for a kiss but Tony stood up.
“Yup. I have a surprise for you.” He laughed when he saw the frown on Franco’s face, leaned down quickly, and kissed him. “There will be time for kisses later. Promise!”
“Well, okay then. Gimme my presents.” Still laughing, Tony stepped aside and presented his gift to Franco, who stared at it before asking, “What is it?”
“Oh, almost forgot. Here you go.” He handed Franco a remote and sat back down next to him. “The on/off button is that little red one on the top.”
Rolling his eyes, Franco said, “I know how a remote works Anthony.”
Franco was the only person who called him by his full name. It made Tony feel older than he was – a good thing, since Franco was several years older.
“I just point it at this stand?” Franco asked skeptically.
“Yes, Franco. Just point and click.” Laughing, he ducked a swinging arm. It was fun teasing Franco. It was even better making him smile. Tony had never been so happy.
When Franco finally managed to turn it on, Tony was rewarded by a huge grin from him. “It’s a holographic television! Did you make this?”
“Yes. You mentioned you wanted one, so I thought…” Tony blushed a little, hoping he didn’t sound too dumb. “Happy birthday.”
“I love it. Come here, I want my kisses now.” Franco wrapped his arms around Tony and leaned in for a kiss. When he started to nibble on his lip ring, Tony practically melted. Kissing Franco never got old and he hoped it never would. Stopping abruptly, Franco stood up and reached for Tony’s hand. “Come on. I have a surprise for you.”
“For me? But it’s your birthday!”
“Okay, so it’s really gift to myself, but I need you…” Franco didn’t finish his sentence and Tony knew what the surprise was. Rolling his eyes, he stood up and let Franco pull him upstairs. Birthday sex. Give the guy a custom made TV and he gets more excited about birthday sex.
Tony found himself laughing again and as they walked down the hallway to their bedroom, he blurted out, “I love you.”
Both men froze. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!
Franco let go of his hand and turned to face him. “What did you just say?”
Studying him, afraid to speak because clearly his brain wasn’t functioning today, Tony said, “Ummm.”
“Oh no. No take-backs, no backtracking. Tell me again Anthony. Now.” Franco reached out and touched his lip ring – the thing fascinated him for some reason. As did all of Tony’s piercings.
A shiver ran up Tony’s spine and he licked his lower lip. “I love you?”
Smiling, Franco backed him up until Tony was against a wall. He leaned in and nibbled on the ring and Tony’s entire body relaxed. “You don’t sound very sure.”
And just like that, they were both laughing. “I am sure. I love you Franco.”
“That’s better.” They never made it to the bedroom.
The moment he walked into the house, he knew today was a bad day for Franco. There were beer bottles, drugs and cigarettes everywhere. He didn’t get the part. Tony walked through the house, picking up empty bottles and generally cleaning up. At least there weren’t weird people sleeping on his couch this time. He needed to go upstairs and check on Franco, but knew the sight of the house in such a mess would only make him feel worse once he sobered up. Franco took rejection badly, something Tony had learned a year into their relationship.
He’d come home that day to find Franco passed out on the couch, surrounded by empty bottles and people Tony didn’t know. The table had been strewn with all kinds of drugs. Horrified, he’d tried to call his brother, but Dre was out to sea and couldn’t be reached. He’d started to call Riley, but hung up before he could punch in the numbers. He hadn’t spoken to his friend in over a year, he was sure Riley wouldn’t care about his problems.
That night had been their first fight, but not the last. After a while, Tony just stopped fighting it. This was who Franco was and how he coped.
Tony heard thumping upstairs and ran to see what was going on, taking the stairs two at a time. Please don’t be hurt. The last time this had happened, he’d had to stitch Franco up himself. There could be no hospitals or doctors; it would ruin his public image. Tony desperately wanted him to stop, but he wouldn’t tell Franco what to do. That only pushed him away and caused more fighting.
Upstairs in the bedroom, Franco lay on the floor, naked and sweaty. At the sound of Tony walking in, he looked up and smiled. “Hey, you’re home. Give me a minute and I’ll come give you a kiss, like a proper housewife.”
Tony sighed. Franco was still high. This was another major point of conflict for them. Tony had a job, a good paying one. Franco, when he was working, was happy about this. But when he didn’t have a project, he resented Tony’s career. “Let me help you up.”
“Don’t touch me. I can manage.”
He couldn’t and eventually he let Tony help. After cleaning him up and putting some pants on him, Tony brought him downstairs. He wanted to make him something to eat, but didn’t want to leave him alone.
“I don’t know why you stay with me,” Franco whispered. He was slumped against the wall, eyes heavy-lidded and words slightly slurred.
“I love you. No one’s perfect, Franco. We all have our issues.” He continued to cook an omelet. Franco didn’t realize it yet, but he would be starving in a few minutes.
As he flipped the eggs, he thought about the question. Why did he stay? His answer was partly true, he did love Franco and you were supposed to stay with the person you loved, no matter how difficult that might be. He noticed the trash bag with all the crap he’d cleaned up an hour ago. No matter how much it hurts. His parents were still together. He could understand why his mom was always gone now. He did the same thing, worked long hours, avoided coming home. The fighting was constant and he was tired of it. But the fear of finding Franco unconscious in the house kept him coming back every night.
They sat and ate at the kitchen counter, neither speaking. When Franco pushed his plate away and reached for him, Tony sighed. This was another hang up he had to deal with; Franco’s need to feel like a man. “You ready to go to bed?”
For an answer, Franco kissed him, hard, tugging on his lip ring and reaching up to grip his hair. He didn’t understand this need of his to dominate. He’d spoken to Eva about it once, after the first time. She’d confessed that Glasgow was the same way. Sometimes, he’d get rough and she’d have one or two bruises to show for it, but as long as he didn’t intentionally hurt her, she let him work that out of his system. Some men were just insecure and needed to prove their superiority; it had nothing to do with the people they loved.
So Tony let Franco use his body to battle his demons. It was sometimes inconvenient; sometimes he wasn’t in the mood, but even during those moments, Franco always made sure he was satisfied and he never walked away hurt. He couldn’t really complain, could he.
Tony was fixing the bed the next morning, moving a little slower than usual, when he felt Franco’s arms around him. His body tingled where Franco’s body touched his. The man never failed to get a reaction from him.
“Morning.” Franco kissed the side of his neck, pulling Tony closer.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you last night.”
Tony closed his eyes. He knew that apology was about much more than just the sex and he appreciated it. He would never admit it to anyone, but Franco scared him sometimes. He was just so self-destructive, Tony was worried that he’d go too far one day and he’d come home and find his lover dead of an overdose. He wanted to say or do something to help, but he didn’t have the magic words that would penetrate through Franco’s self-hate. All he could do was be there for him and love the man.
Turning around to face him, Tony said, “I’m okay. How are you feeling?”
“I’m good. I’m good.” Franco unwrapped his arms around Tony and grabbed his hand. “Thank you for always looking out for me. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
He reached out and gave Tony a light kiss.
“I love you.”
“Happy birthday Eva!”
His sister’s laughter on the other end of the line made him smile. “Are you having fun for me all the way over there in no man’s land?”
His smile evaporated. He knew she was upset, even though she tried to hide it. He was missing her 25th birthday party and didn’t really have an excuse. Franco hadn’t felt up to it, so they’d stayed home and decided to throw a Halloween party in Eva’s honor. It hadn’t gone over well. “Louey…”
She cut him off before he could start apologizing again. “Let’s not fight tonight okay? I love you very much Tony and want you to be happy. I’m your older sister, it’s my job to worry about you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support you in everything you do. You are happy, right?”
“Yes, Eva. I am.” Tony looked over at Franco flirting with one of their neighbors. Franco, his little flirt. He smiled and said goodbye to Eva. Walking over to his partner and the woman, he wrapped an arm around Franco.
“Sorry Lyn, I’m going to have to steal him away for a second.”
Lynda Craft tittered and blushed. “Of course Tony. I’m going to find my husband and make him jealous of all the naughty things Franco just told me. Don’t let this one get away!”
Once Lynda was out of earshot, Franco sighed. “Thanks for saving me. That woman is awful. Dance with me, lover-boy.”
After three songs, four beers and a shot of tequila, Franco was starting to look exhausted and a bit tipsy. “I’m heading upstairs for a second. I need to take a time out.”
Tony nodded and watched him leave, a bit concerned. Franco had been doing so well these last few months. He was working again and had another film lined up. Tony just hoped this lasted.
The party was starting to wind down before Tony noticed that Franco had never come back. Probably fell asleep, he thought. Tony said goodbye to the last guest and made his way upstairs. He was exhausted. Having to mix and mingle with people he barely knew – and some that he didn’t know at all – was not an experience he wanted to repeat any time soon.
He heard Franco’s laughter coming from the bedroom and smiled. Maybe they could end the night on a high note.