Franco glanced over at Tony and smiled. “Hey Anthony. Is the party over?”
Franco moaned and closed his eyes; and Tony’s heart felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it. Franco hated bottoming. He always had to be on top, always the aggressor. But this…
The man on top of him looked back and smiled too. “Hey Tony. Give us a minute, will ya?” Then he turned around and continued to have sex with Franco.
Tony glanced at the woman lying on the bed next to them. It was Lynda. Several thoughts ran through his head at that moment. He could pull Lynda’s husband off Franco. He could wait for them to finish and then let Franco explain. Or he could leave. Just walk out the door and never look back.
He stood there thinking for a minute. It was Lynda reaching over and kissing Franco that really made the decision for him. Silly really that such a small action could impact him so strongly. He turned around and headed towards the door.
He heard rustling behind him and then a hand grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop. Franco turned him back around and stood there, eyes glazed and confused. He was high. Again.
“Tony? Where are you going?” He looked genuinely puzzled and Tony had the urge to start laughing. Franco would wake up tomorrow and not remember most of this night. He wondered just how many times this had happened. Maybe he shouldn’t have worked so late into the night. He could have caught him sooner rather than wasting so much time on this relationship.
Tony didn’t say anything. What did you do in a situation like this?
“You’re not going to leave me are you Tony?”
“You do realize that I just caught you cheating on me, right?” Tony was pleasantly surprised that his voice only sounded mildly shaky.
“I know and I am so sorry. I came upstairs and they followed me and I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ll make them go away. Just, don’t leave. At least not until we talk. Please?”
Tony raised an eyebrow and glanced over at the couple lounging on his bed. His bed. Franco and his bed. His lover was fucking both of the neighbors on his bed their bed oh my god oh my god ohmygod…he was going to be sick.
“No Franco, it’s okay. I’m sorry I interrupted you.” Franco smiled and leaned in and kissed him. And Tony let him. A part of him, the part that was now slowly dying, wanted that kiss, needed this last kiss from him. Then he thought about where Franco’s mouth had probably been and his stomach roiled.
He turned and walked out the bedroom, down the stairs, grabbed his keys and walked out the front door. The moment he was out the door, he was violently ill. He threw up all the food he’d eaten and when that was gone, he dry heaved. It was like his body was trying to purge itself of his feelings of hurt and anger and love and shame.
Once he could stand for more than five minutes with doubling over again, he made his way down the front steps of his home – their home – and walked to his bike. He had no idea where he was headed; he just knew he had to leave.
Anthony woke up in a cold sweat. Tomorrow was his birthday and his two-year anniversary with Franco. Or it would have been. 134 days – he looked at the clock – 10 hours and 34 minutes. That’s how long it had been since he’d seen Franco. Since –
His door opened and Dre poked his head in. “Stop thinking about him. Come on, I made you breakfast.”
He watched as his twin walked in and opened a drawer, throwing a shirt and a pair of shorts on the bed. Tony had made a beeline for his twin the night – that night. Dre hadn’t been home, but luckily he was in port. Tony had let himself in and crashed on Dre’s bed. Sometime in the night, he half heard low voices arguing, but he was too tired to even lift his head. Dre lived on the coast and Tony had driven for three days, stopping at cheap motels the first two nights. The closer he got to his twin though, the less he felt like sleeping. He’d been exhausted by the time he reached Roaring Heights.
When he’d finally woken up, he’d found his twin sleeping next to him, their backs touching, just like they used to do when they were children and one of them needed comfort in the middle of the night. That had been five months ago.
Tony got up, dressed in the clothes Dre gave him and followed his brother downstairs to the kitchen. He sat at the kitchen table and waited while his twin fixed his plate and placed it in front of him. This was their morning routine. Wake up from dream, dress, eat, and make small talk. It was a nice routine, a simple routine. No cigarette butts in the flour; no ashtrays hidden in the breadbox; no weed or cocaine mixed in with the spices on the rack. No surprises. He liked it.
“So tomorrow’s my birthday and I want to celebrate,” Dre said, taking a bite of his meal.
Frowning, Tony glanced at him. “It’s my birthday too.”
Dre laughed. “I’m glad you remembered. I was starting to think you didn’t even know what day it was. So we should plan something. Nothing fancy, turning 23 isn’t a big deal. I’m thinking we could go home to see mom and dad or go to Eva’s and finally meet this new guy of hers. Maybe we can even get Riley to pop up from wherever he’s been hiding. He graduates in two months.”
Tony watched his brother eat his food, all thoughts of eating gone. “Tomorrow is our anniversary. Do you think he’ll call?”
He didn’t have to clarify who he was talking about. He noticed his brother’s hand tightening around his fork. “Do you want him to?”
“I don’t know. Maybe?”
Sighing, Dre stopped eating. “Tony, it’s been six months – ”
“It’s been five months, not six. Not for another two weeks.”
“Okay, it’s been five and a half months.” Dre glanced at him, when Tony nodded, he continued. “He’s not going to call. And even if he did, you can’t speak to him. You can’t go back. Ever. I won’t let you.”
Tony didn’t respond to that. His brother might be sure, but he wasn’t. If Franco – god, it hurt to even think the name. If he called and asked Tony to come home, he would seriously consider it.
“What are you thinking Tony?”
Instead of answering, he said, “It was lonely. I was lonely. I was also disgusted and sad and scared for him. Which is silly because he didn’t give a damn about me. I don’t want to feel that way again. But I still love him. How do I stop?”
Dre stood up and came around the table, dragging Tony up and into a hug. They stood like that for a while, just holding each other, listening to each other breathing. They didn’t spend much time with one another anymore, not since Dre had gone to college and Tony had gone to Oasis Landing. But during moments like this, it was like they’d never been apart. And he needed that right now. He needed to feel that bond, that closeness with someone. Otherwise, he would slowly fade away. He would let the grief and anger and hurt just tear him apart until he was nothing. An empty void waiting for something or someone to come and fill it up.
So while his twin held him, he began to build a wall inside. He would never let another person into his heart like he had with Franco. He didn’t need anyone else, he had his brother. Dre would never hurt him. I swear no one else will ever get this close to me again. He held on and waited for the tears to dry one last time.
Something was ringing. Tony stopped inputting the latest batch of numbers into the system and looked up. His phone. Where had he put his phone? He looked around his work table, in his bag, checked his pockets – no phone. Finally the ringing stopped and he waited. If it were important, they would call back. When the ringing didn’t start up again, he shrugged and turned back to the screen and the egg-shaped chamber he was trying to configure. Whoever had built this thing was an idiot.
When the door to his laboratory opened, he didn’t bother looking up. Few people had access to it and he knew it was Dr. Gates without him having to announce himself. No one else would bother him while he was working.
“Hello Anthony. What are we working on today?” Dr. Brian Gates asked. He smiled pleasantly at his employee and waited to be acknowledged.
Tony turned around and looked at the man. He’d started to notice that Brian Gates never aged. He looked the same as when they’d first met, almost ten years ago. Why was that? “Hello Dr. Gates. Just configuring this robotics chamber. The person who built it did it wrong and I’m finding it difficult to change it without having to do a manual override and sending it back to the manufacture settings.”
Brian looked over at the computer screen and nodded. “I see. Did you try pulling up the control panel and looking at its device controls? Perhaps it’s a simple recalculation of the coding.”
“Yes, I tried that, but it still won’t let me reverse engineer the nanites. It’s pretty much useless if I can’t do that.” Tony looked over at the screen in frustration. He’d spent too much time already on this fix. He was not a builder! “Perhaps if the original engineer could come and look it over…”
Brian grinned. “We can do that. In fact, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind that at all. I’ll send him by when he’s finished with his current project.”
Tony sighed in relief. Perfect, now he could focus on something else, instead of wasting his time on repairs.
“What else are you working on?” Brian looked around the room again but didn’t touch anything. He’d learned early on that although it may look like chaos, everything was organized very specifically around the lab.
Tony had come to work for him three months ago and in that time, he’d developed sixteen new technologies. All of which were by-products of his main project. Creating a sentient robot. When he’d approached Brian with his idea, he’d been sure he’d be turned away. After all, he had declined to come and work for the man two years ago. But Brian had been thrilled and had asked him to start immediately. He’d been at it ever since. He had his own lab in the science building, access to any- and everything he could need, discretionary funds to use and when he wasn’t at work, his old home on campus. This meant, of course, that he had to move out of his brother’s houseboat and back to Oasis Landing, but they still talked and he saw his mother pretty often. Things were perfect.
A few hours later, after admitting to himself that he was too tired to be of any use, he swiped out of the building and made his way to his bike. He was shocked to find that it was very late in the day. He made his way home, barely able to keep his eyes open. He really had to do something about this sleeping issue. Perhaps he could find some way to reduce his body’s dependency. With that thought, he walked into his house and went to bed.
Once there, though, he couldn’t fall asleep! Typical. His brain always took forever to shut down. Franco used to tease him about it. Damn it!
Tony turned over and punched his pillow. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something else, anything else. Anything but Franco and his teasing, Franco’s laughter, the way he had a habit of playing with Tony’s lip ring. The way he would kiss Tony, tugging on the ring. The way his fingers would comb through Tony’s hair and how relaxing that felt. Whenever he couldn’t sleep, Franco would soothe him that way. That usually led to them doing other things besides sleeping.
A sudden image of Franco, lying underneath Tom Craft, laughing, popped up in his head. Followed by another image of Lynda reaching over and kissing him. Oh God…Tony got out of bed and just made it to the bathroom before he started to throw up.
Sitting on the bathroom floor a few minutes later, he stared at the far wall. He’d failed. Closing his eyes, he thought about his mom. She looked so happy whenever he saw her. He wanted to ask her how she did it, how she managed to go on with her life, like nothing was wrong. At least her husband never cheated. At least his father was loyal and faithful. Maybe it was a gay thing. Maybe Franco couldn’t feel that level of commitment to another man.
The moment he thought it, he rejected that possibility. He’d felt it, he’d been committed. If he could do it, Franco could have done it too. Maybe it was just him that Franco couldn’t be committed to. Maybe working those long hours and staying away all day when Franco had needed him was the reason. If he had been home more, perhaps…
Scrubbing his face, Tony got off the floor and walked to the sink to brush his teeth and get rid of the sour taste of vomit from his mouth. As he stood there staring at himself, he made another promise. Never again. This would be the last time he made himself sick over that man.
He rinsed his mouth and walked out the bathroom. If he couldn’t sleep, he’d just work some more on his project. One of the robotic chips he’d been working on had given him an idea. The summer was coming up and Alistair was old enough to learn how to ride a scooter. Tony pulled up the design he’d drawn for a hover board. His nephew would get a kick out of that.