These are the dreaded words from the mouths of strangers and admissions officers and church officials and therapists and counselors. Dreaded because I haven't lived the sort of life that any of you normies can relate to. For all but the last two, I've spun a web of necessary lies. The things I tell you so that you smile and nod and go on with polite conversation. Because there are two things I don't want from you: I don't want your disgust, your disdain, your revilement...but moreso, your pity. You can keep that for yourself.
In this journal, you'll find the hard and ugly truths. If you want to be my friend, I won't hide you from the darkness of my life. And if you're just here for the show, you can tell yourself this:
I am the adopted son of a Yale English professor. I was homeschooled and had the finest tutors. At his untimely death, I was able to track down my maternal grandparents, with whom I now reside. I am an intelligent, very well adjusted young man and I am oh-so-pleased to make your acquaintance.
Friday nights at the club were always busy and tonight was no different. Damon squeezed past the crowd at the bar and made his way toward the slightly less crowded showroom where a scene was already in progress.
A tall, slender woman in a purple and black pvc catsuit was flogging a shorter, sandy haired man in tight leather pants and blackout goggles. Damon recognized the domina, an acquaintance of his that ran in the same social circle and used the stage name, Jasmine. The young man was presumably the pay-for-play client, Elliot, that so she’d invited him to meet tonight.
Aside from the occasional whimper, Elliot was stoically silent through his lashing, although he twisted in the fetters that kept his hands secured to the wall.
When Elliot’s shoulders and back were a warm red, Lady Jasmine switched to a short, thick crop and cracked it right at the junction of Elliot's ass and thighs, eliciting a wordless cry. It only took seven more strokes for Elliot to break before he wilted like a flower and his breath began to hitch as if he were weeping.
Damon held his own breath as Jasmine paused to check on the young man, touching his shoulder as she leaned in close. There was an exchange too quiet for most to hear and Elliot nodded, took a deep breath, and widened his stance. Jasmine offered him some water from a bottle she had nearby and when he was done slugging the contents, she polished off the rest.
Then Jasmine resumed her place, gripping the cane tighter before she swung. Damon couldn't hear the thwacks over the beat of the music but he could imagine them. Elliot's body tensed and he cried out after each impact but Jasmine didn't swing again until he'd forced himself to relax. After the eighth one, his knees gave way and he screeched one word:
Immediately, Jasmine put down the cane and went to him, hugging him briefly before releasing the restraints. Elliot went down in a heap and hid his face as she curled over him, rubbing and consoling him. A few minutes later, she had him on his feet his arm slung over her shoulders for support as he limped away from the stage.
The crowd parted around them on the way to the recovery area, a den of chairs and cushions. A few spoke to Jasmine as they passed and Damon pushed through to follow them, waiting until after they'd settled to approach.
“Hey Jazzy,” he said softly. “Is this okay or should I come back later?”
She smiled up at him then returned to petting Elliot, who was curled at her feet and rubbing his cheek against the shin of her boot. He was still wearing the goggles. “Elliot. Elliot, my friend Damon is here. The one I told you about. Do you mind if he joins us?”
Elliot lifted his head slightly and paused before shaking it. Then he resumed his attentions to the leather.
“Good boy,” Jasmine praised and gestured toward the seat beside her.
Tentatively, Damon sat down. He didn't want to disturb their aftercare. Quietly, he watched the young man who seemed to settle after a while.
“Did you catch anything or were you running late, as usual? “ Jasmine smirked knowingly at Damon. “I didn't see you in the crowd.”
“I came in while you were flogging,” Damon said, eyes still on Elliot. He wanted to smooth back the bag of hair that had fallen over his eye but didn't dare to touch him.
“So you didn't miss much then.” Jasmine seemed to follow his gaze and smoothed a hand down over the errant lock before tucking it back into place. “He really is a sweet guy,” she murmured.
“He looks it,” Damon quipped. “What's his story?”
“He came to me a couple of years ago, started off as an occasional pay for play, but he's up to a couple of times a week. I think he'd be happier with someone more...” She pursed her lips as she waffled with words.
“Generous with their time?” Damon offered. “You're not cheap, Jaz.”
“Well, yes.” She chuckled. “But that's not what I was going to say. “I was trying to be diplomatic. “When we first started, he was explicit in his choice of me, a woman, because he didn't want to focus on the... sexual aspect of play. He wanted his beating and he wanted to be left alone. But now...” She trailed off to watch Elliot who had begun to run his face and lips on her boot again.
Damon's lips parted and his breath hitched slightly. “He wants a solid fuck after his spank and you think I'm the man for the job.”
Damon made a face. “I don't do pay for play.”
“No, but you're the only person I know who does 24/7 and isn't a complete dickwad.”
A surprised laugh bubbled out of Damon. “So you're playing matchmaker?”
She shrugged. “There are worse things.”
“So you asked me here, for what? To check out the wares before I commit? Don't you think this would have been better done at a munch, or, I dunno. A casual dinner party?” Damon folded his arms across his chest.
“I know you, Damon. You're dismissive. Arrogant. Selective. I wanted to catch your attention in a memorable way. Show you his potential before you write him off in a social regard. He's private. Quiet.”
“You're saying I wouldn't like him,” Damon prompted.
“No, I'm saying you're too alike to get on without someone showing you exactly what you have in common.
Damon huffed softly.
“He's smart. Independent. Very sweet. I wish I could do more for him.”
“Now you sound like you're trying to sell me the stray at the pound that no one wants to take home.”
Jasmine made a face. “That's not at all what I'm trying to accomplish. If you're not interested, that's fine. Just say so. There's no need to be insulting.”
“I just find this angle you're working to be rather bizarre, that's all. 24/7 requires an immense amount of trust between both parties. Usually after a lengthy relationship. It's not something I'd consider lightly.” Damon sat back in his chair and put his arms on the rests.
“I wouldn't expect you to. And that's why I thought of you. I just wanted to introduce you and give you something to think about. Maybe you could ask him out. Get to know each other outside the club. This isn't really his scene, anyway.”
“You want me to ask out a guy who's got one foot in subspace aamd the other out the door?” Damon laughed and shook his head. “What is his scene, then?”
“Your old haunt,” Jasmine said. She raised her chin and there was a glint in her eye. “The Shibari club on South Side.”
Damon blinked slowly and then looked back down at Elliot. Slender and lithe with a pretty face. What he could see if it, anyway. Nice pink lips and a defined jaw. Silently, he considered his options.
“Damon meet Elliot. Elliot - Damon.” There was amusement in Jasmine's voice that Damon made himself dismiss.
Damon reached down his fingertips as though he were meeting a dog for the first time. “Hello, Elliot,” he said softly.
Elliot lifted his head and turned it toward Damon, his cheek colliding with Damon's hand in the process. With a sigh, Elliot shifted and began to nuzzle him. “Mmm, you smell good,” he murmured.
Damon chuckled as he reached down to stroke him with both hands. “I take it back. Both feet firmly planted in subspace.”
The break from school has been nice. I've caught up on sleep (hence why I'm awake at 6am on an off day) and got a lot of reading done. I'm starting to feel like myself again. Of course, the holidays are in full swing at my grandparents house. Honestly, I've avoided a lot of it and that should be no surprise to anyone.
But Olivia called me and asked me to come by this afternoon and bake cookies with her at Shari's house. I think I'll go, in part because I haven't got any other plans and because I'm not going to midnight mass on Christmas eve and that is going to be a bone of contention with everyone.
So in the interest of keeping the peace for a little longer, I'll head over this afternoon and bring some of the presents to put under the tree.
Is it too much to hope for some spiked eggnog or hot chocolate?
"Hi, Elliot Whitley?"
"My name is Lana and I'm representing MTV--"
"Piss off," Elliot growled into the phone and jerked it away from his ear.
"I'm calling on behalf of Matt Malone--"
At the same time that Elliot said, "Tell him to piss off, too..."
He heard Matt's agitated voice in the background. "God damn it, I told you not to say that. Tell him it's Eddie and Marshall!"
"I'm calling on behalf of Elizabeth Dalton and Marshall Whitley..." her correction was accompanied by Matt's audible sigh of annoyance.
Elliot barely stopped himself from punching the end call button in time and put the phone back to his ear. "I don't want to be recorded, filmed, or otherwise traced. I'm not authorizing any of this interaction for use on any of your shows, cameos, specials, or whatever other thing you might call it in order to try and get around legally..."
"Jesus Christ," Matt swore as Lana tried to make a noncommittal response.
As much as he should have been listening to her, Elliot was utterly distracted by Matt in the background. "Am I on speakerphone?" Elliot demanded. "What do you want, Malone?"
"Fucking interns," Matt muttered and there was a shuffle and a scrape before his voice came through more crisply. "No, I'm fine, now that you've bollixed it up any how, I've got it...listen, Elliot. I need a favor--"
Elliot snorted and rolled his eyes. "That's rich, isn't it?"
"Shut up, you--" Matt cut himself off and took a deep breath. I'm not going to let you bait me right now. Just listen. Eddie...Eddie has not been handling things well this tour. She needs a few days to sober up and get her head on straight. In the meanwhile, someone has to be there for Marshall. You're his father, you need to be there for him."
"I am working Matt, I'm not sure what you expect me to do here--"
"You go find your boss and you tell them you have a family emergency, that you need the rest of today and three more days..."
"I can't do that!" Elliot interjected.
"I just cancelled the end of our European tour, Elliot. France, Spain and Portugal. Thousands of fans have paid to see us play. My band is going to be fined and the label is already on my ass, and the guys are already pissed off, yeah? So I think you're perfectly capable of taking a few days off for your son, here."
"Why don't you call your babysitter?"
"God damn it!" There was a loud band and muttered cursing and Elliot was fairly certain that Matt had just slammed his fist down on the table. "Let me explain something to you, you little weasel. Child protective services is there with Eddie right now and if you don't get over there in the next forty five minutes, they're going to place Marshall in foster care. Foster care. Strangers. You know what happened to Eddie in foster care?"
Elliot swallowed and looked down, rubbing his foot against the tile on the bathroom floor. Then he cleared his throat. "Yeah. Yeah, I know."
"Do you want that for your son?"
Elliot sighed. "No."
"Alright then." Matt sounded vaguely relieved. "So can you please go over there and stay with him until I can get there? I'm trying my best to get home as soon as possible but I'm on the other side of the planet and the airlines aren't working with me right now."
"I don't have rights to custody, Matt..." Elliot felt it prudent to remind him.
"You still have legal custody, Elliot. That's enough in an emergency situation. I've already been on the phone with them. Stop wasting time."
The cab pulled up and Elliot paid the fare as he climbed out, stomach already in a knot. He'd come straight from the studio and didn't have so much as a change of underwear but he'd already talked things through with Matt and they'd decided it was best for Elliot to stay with Marshall at the house rather than bring him back to the tiny apartment Elliot rented with three other guys.
A woman Elliot didn't know opened the door. "Elliot Whitley?"
He nodded and as he was ushered inside, she introduced herself as Stephanie-with-child-services. Eddie was banging things around in the kitchen, reorganizing cabinets. "Eddie?"
She lifted her head and looked straight into his soul but didn't say a word.
"It's best if you didn't," Stephanie steered him into the living room where Marshall was quietly playing with a handful of toys. Marshall looked up when he came in and Elliot felt Stephanie's expectant eyes on him.
"Elliot!" Marshall exclaimed and clambered to his feet with the exuberance that only small children managed.
"Hey....hey, M-Marshall," Elliot did his best not to recoil and reached down for a high five. Matt had told him a hundred times how stupid it was that he shied away from the affection of small children. That he was afraid of his own son. But Elliot had read the articles. The ones that said adults who had been abused as children had a high percentage of becoming sexual offenders as adults. And it wasn't that he didn't trust himself not to molest a child, it was that he was terrified that somehow, something innocuous would arouse him and he'd have to live with that knowledge. That he was a pervert. That he was no better than Daniel.
Not long after, Eddie's ride arrived and she came to hug Marshall. On the way past, she touched Elliot's arm but that was the only acknowledgment she gave to him. It was only minutes later that Lana gave Elliot her card with instructions to call if anything came up, and then she was gone too.
Anxiety was a blunted flutter in the background of Elliot's medication-induced calm and he let himself be tugged down onto the floor where Marshall handed him toy after toy, waiting for Elliot to play with him. "Um...what does this one do? Why don't you show me?" Time and again, Elliot tried to hand whatever object it was back for a lesson on the best way to play, only to have Marshall tear it away from him and cast it aside, then pick up something anew.
Elliot was being driven mad by a combination of frustration and boredom when the doorbell rang and he got up to answer it. Through the peephole, he could see a young man with a Bluetooth headset, very similar to the one he wore at work.
"Who is it?"
"Jared, from the studio..."
"Eddie and Matt aren't here," he said, tensing. "There's no filming for a couple of days."
"Nah, dude. I have like, Panera and stuff? Mr. Malone wanted to make sure Marshall ate something decent for dinner. And I have some instructions for you too?"
"Oh, thank God..." Elliot wrenched the door open and let the young man inside, then helped him unpack the paper bag. There was a salad, a pressed sandwich, two bags of chips, two apples, a crock of macaroni and cheese, a crustless peanut butter sandwich, a bottle of water, and a chocolate milk.
An envelope was marked, Elliot in the center and on the back flap, TELL MARSHALL TO WASH HIS HANDS. Appropriate, because Marshall was already standing at the table, grabbing for things. "Hey," Elliot said, putting his arm out. "Stop. Go wash up."
"Okay!" Marshall disappeared into the bathroom and Elliot went to the kitchen sink to clean his own hands. On the way, he read the letter, which appeared to be the printed copy of an email that Elliot was cc'd on. He hadn't even checked his phone.
Contrary to popular opinion, I am not a completely</i> unsympathetic bastard. I realize the position you're in is uncomfortable at best. Try not to panic, for Marshall's sake. The liquor is in the cabinet above the dish drain, next to the cups. Refrain, if you can, until Marshall is in bed, sometime around 8pm preferably, though have no doubt he will let you know if he's not ready. Having a bath helps. Make sure he's got his stuffed guitar. There's books on the shelf beside the bed. Sometimes he refuses. Best to let him call the shots. Within reason, mind. He's usually up by 6:30. Cereal in the cupboard by the refrigerator, bread in the breadboard for toast. Whichever fruit he's agreeable to. Lunch around 11:30, nap at 1pm. Don't let him sleep past 4 or you'll regret it later. I'll face time if I can. Text with questions. You can do this.
"Elliot!" Marshall called him from much farther away than the kitchen. "I need help! I spilled..."
Elliot dashed into the living room where Marshall was vigorously rubbing lukewarm macaroni and cheese into the sectional. "What--?! How did you? I thought you were..."
"I wanted to watch tv," Marshall explained. "The lid was stuck. Then it came off and I spilled."
Elliot stared at the mess helplessly. In the back of his mind, he could hear Daniel screaming over minor in fractions, but Marshall was looking up at him with an angelic, innocent face and pasta-covered hands. "Elliot?"
That was the first lesson.
"Elliot! I pooped!"
"Um," Elliot's back was to the bathroom as he leaned against the door jamb. "That's good. Just...finish up, flush the toilet, and wash your hands."
"But I need help!"
"What do you mean, you need help?"
"You have to wipe my butt!"
Elliot flushed. He'd made Marshall wear underwear in the bathtub the night before. There was no way he could do this. "You're a big boy," he reasoned. "You can do this."
"But Mommy always helps!"
"That's the sort of thing mommies do," Elliot said. "But I'm not a mommy. I'm an Elliot. And you're a big boy. Here." He ducked into the bathroom, avoiding looking at the child and carefully folded some toilet paper into a small, neat square, passing it behind him. "Now you do it."
"Yes you can. Just try." The irony of those words was not lost on him. But it was much easier convincing a three year old than it was a twenty-three year old.
"Okay...I did it!"
"Good job. I knew you could do it." Relief flooded Elliot and he helped Marshall adjust his waistband as he stood at the sink, splashing in the water.
Less than an hour later however, Marshall was squirming at the bus stop. "My bottom is itchy," he complained. By the time they'd arrived at the mall, he was whining and begging to be carried. "I hurt!"
Elliot had to take him into one of the stalls, kneel down on the grimy floor and clean him up with toilet paper while he whimpered and danced in place.
That was the second lesson.
"Elliot, Is everything okay? I've rung three times..."
"I know, Matt, I know. We're at this ridiculous place called Chuck E. Cheese's. I can't hear my phone over the sound of the mechanical rat and his back up band."
"Chuck E. Cheese? Marshall wanted to go. We took a cab from the mall."
Matt snorted. "He's got you eating out of his palm, doesn't he?"
"You said let him call the shots, within reason. I didn't think it would hurt. Better than letting him destroy any more of your place."
"Uh....figure of speech."
"Right. Look, they cancelled my flight to Frankfurt. I'm trying to get one direct to to NY but I want to say good night to Meatball first. Is he within reach?"
"Uh...." Elliot scanned the floor in front of the robotic band where Marshall had been dancing.
"Elliot, tell me you can at least see him."
"Uh...." Damn it, he'd been right there! "Call you right back."
Ten minutes and two security guards later, Marshall was found in the ball pit. Elliot dialed Matt and handed the phone directly to Marshall.
"Daddy!" Marshall squealed and Elliot leaned back against the wall. Lesson one needed a refresher. He was beginning to understand why he'd been kept in a closet.
"Elliot? I don't feel good..." Marshall reached over and took his hand.
"What do you mean?" Elliot asked, distracted with concern as Marshall turned over his hand and promptly vomited into it. It was all he could do to contain himself from reconciling and flinging the half digested pizza, ice cream, and candy everywhere and he choked down his own bile. The cab driver pulled over and promptly put them both out, then sped off without a look back.
Elliot had to carry Marshall three blocks to a convenience store and cleaned them both up in the bathroom. A quick Google search told him that the closest bus stop on the line they needed was four blocks away. Matt and Eddie's place was six, so he decided to hoof it. By the time they made it back, Marshall was asleep in his arms and Elliot's back was killing him.
Lesson three. Or was it four? He was beginning to lose track.
Taking care of Marshall was a life-changing experience and nobody was there to walk him through it. Not his grandmother, who was unable to fly out to help and grew exasperated with him in a very short time on the phone; not the family babysitter who was out of town at a wedding, and certainly not Matt, who was spending a lot of man hours being jettisoned all over Europe and north America, trying to get home but being stalemated by the jet streams that seemed to have it out for them both.
By the third day, the terrifying moments were fewer and far between. Elliot was woken from a dead sleep on the couch by a wriggling Marshall who was making his way up, beneath the blankets, from the bottom of the couch.
"What are you doing?" Elliot asked in alarm, but much too exhausted to open his eyes. He tried anyway. Everything was a blur.
"I just need a hug," Marshall said, snuggling into Elliot's arms.
Elliot had felt that way for the last couple days himself and he found himself nodding. "Okay, alright. I've got you." Two hours later, Elliot woke for the second time that morning, and this time there was a warm, pliant little body tucked against his chest. He stroked the hair out of Marshall's eyes and looked at him. This was the closest they'd ever been. Elliot could see the fine, translucent hairs on Marshall's face. The part of his full, pink lips, the delicate curve of his jaw.
For the first time, he let himself acknowledge that Marshall was a beautiful child. That he'd had a hand in that, and yes, that was narcissism speaking. He'd managed to keep this beautiful child alive for the last two and a half days. Alive, and dare he go so far as to speculate, happy?
After he carefully extricated himself from the embrace, he went to relieve himself and make a cup of tea. When he returned, Marshall was standing on the ottoman, pointing the remote at the television.
"Whoa, hey, no..." Elliot moved to set his cup on the entertainment center but Marshall was already plopping down.
"I want to watch Curious George," he said, offering up the remote.
"Okay," Elliot tried to find the right channel but there were hundreds. He ended up giving the remote back to Marshall and easing down beside him. "What do you say we stay in today? Have a lazy day? And then we go out to dinner tonight?"
"To McDonald's?" Marshall proposed.
Elliot pulled a face. He couldn't help it. "No, better than McDonald's."
"No, better than that, he laughed."
"Better than Taco Bell?" Marshall sounded amazed but then quickly shifted gears. "Will you make me pancakes for breakfast?"
And only after Elliot had googled a recipe, hunted down and combined the ingredients in the cabinet, and made hot, fresh, pancakes, did Marshall tell him that they were in a bag in the freezer.
It was a nice day, although they ended up being not so lazy after all. Marshall refused a nap, and at Sharon's suggestion, he strapped the boy into a stroller and went out for a walk. Marshall fell asleep on the way to the library, and Elliot perused the aisles for awhile, then took the elevator up to the top floor so he could get a comfy chair. Later, they stopped at the playground, which was a mistake because it brought all of Elliot's anxiety out again. Was he supposed to hover nearby or sit back on the benches? And what would Matt do to him when he returned if Marshall had...broken his face or a limb?
He lured Marshall home with the promise of early dinner, but that meant a bath first, and Elliot came out of that excursion looking like he'd wrestled an octopus. So he said forget it to taking Marshall out to the French restaurant with the pomme frites and ordered Mexican takeout instead and they watched cartoons until Elliot was sure the cartoons had subtle messages about parenting rather than pandering to the idiotic whims of children. Of course, it could have been the anxiety and the sleep deprivation talking. Elliot had never felt so exhausted in his life. Which is probably why he fell asleep the same way he woke up-- with Marshall snuggled tightly against him.
He woke when the boy shifted and his arm tightened to keep him from falling off the couch.
"I've got him," And Elliot startled awake to the sound of that soft but gruff voice. Matt cradled Marshall against him and kissed him as he carried him into the other room. By the time Matt returned, Elliot had set himself to rights and was putting his shoes on.
"Did you call a cab already?" Matt asked, pausing on his way to the kitchen.
"Not yet. I will now."
"Why don't you stay awhile, have a drink, fill me in?" Matt looked tired. Weary. But he beckoned Elliot after him. Elliot stood and followed Matt to the liquor cabinet, and he wondered if Matt just wanted to see how much advantage he'd taken of the congenial offer to help himself. In truth, he'd been much too afraid to imbibe while he was on watch. What if something happened? But now Matt was back, and the onus was on him. Elliot was just a guest here, no longer a live-in babysitter.
Matt had taken two tumblers down and had a bottle of Jameson in hand. "This alright?"
Elliot nodded and Matt poured one glass neat.
"Ice? Ginger ale?"
"Blasphemy," Elliot murmured.
Matt breathed out a chuckle and poured a second glass, then handed it to him. "I'll let Bess know we agree on something. She'll be thrilled."
Elliot passed Matt a small smile and looked down. "How...how is she?"
"She's...," Matt took a large swallow and immediately topped off his glass. "She's angry with herself for letting it happen. Embarrassed that someone called her in. Determined to get back to us as soon as possible... She'll be... alright." Matt sounded like he was trying to convince himself.
"She's strong." Elliot looked everywhere but at Matt. The situation called for something more than awkwardly standing there, avoiding eye contact. But it was Matt and Elliot could no more reach out to hug him than he could Marshall that first day. For entirely different reasons.
"She is." Matt cleared his throat and stepped away from the sink. "Come on. Tell me about Marshall. You managed and nobody burned the house down and everyone is alive, eh? I didn't hear from you as much as I thought I would."
Elliot hadn't dared to call Matt, though. He'd put Sharon on speed dial for the hundreds of minor questions that came up, and googled a lot of others. He shrugged. "We went out a lot."
"You went out?" Matt looked surprised. "Aside from the rat place?"
Elliot nodded and sipped his Jameson. "We went to the mall, the park, the playground, the library...I had to take him to my apartment to get clothes. We went out to eat, for a lot of walks, too. He wanted to be outside. He likes the bus."
"Well shit," Matt chuckled and took a drink. "Colour me fucking impressed."
"I know." Elliot looked into his glass and swirled it, then cleared his throat. "It wasn't easy, but not for any of the reasons I was expecting..."
"I...ah...I should...I want to..." Swallowing, Elliot glanced up. Matt's expression was intent although his eyes were weary. He ducked his head again, fiddled with the sleeve of the cardigan he'd fallen asleep in. "Caring for Marshall was difficult. More difficult than it should have been because I have gone to lengths to avoid the responsibility. It's a full time job, and frankly, I'm exhausted. It's only been three days and..."
Tears suddenly filled Elliot's eyes and he had to snuffle or risk snot dripping from his nose. "You've been doing it for three years and I...I'm sorry. I get it now. What you've...Why you've...I'm going to come more. I promise. I'll come."
Overhearing conversations was extremely disappointing. It's not the cultured place I expected, although even Daniel complained about the downfall of academia, so I guess I'm the one who is out of line. Out of touch. Big surprise there.
- Current Mood:amnesia verse
"There just one thing I wanna know before I drop you off at the train station, and that's, are you fucking crazy?" Jude took his eyes off the road to glance over at Elliot in the passenger seat.
Elliot's backpack was between them and it was overstuffed, his clothes wrapped around a liter of tequila that was his peace offering to the Roma boy. "Pretty much. But you knew that. Why this time?"
"Do you even know this guy you're dropping everything to run to?"
"About as well as I knew Jay."
"Is that what this is then?" Jude scoffed. "You think you're just going to go out there and make best friends with this guy, recreate whatever fucked up thing you had with Nori and Chris? And here I thought it was just a long distance booty call."
"Why does it have to be one of those things? It could be both. Or neither." Shrugging, Elliot looked out the window. "His name is Peter. He seems interesting. I just want to make new friends."
"And you can't do that around town?"
Elliot snorted softly. "Where, at the bar? It's too much pressure. This is better. Just two strangers hanging out with a bottle of tequila. What's the worst that can happen?"
Jude gasped at him. "Are you fucking kidding me? You asked that question? What is the worst that can happen?"
"Yeah. Because I haven't been held against my will before in a stranger's house."
"You're a fucking idiot." Jude stepped on the brake harder than necessary and Elliot jerked forward. "So you don't give a shit about being kidnapped and raped. Fine. How about being tortured, killed, and cut up into little pieces? Because that is probably the worst that could happen."
Elliot blinked and looked out the window, then shrugged. "How is it any different than you trying to hook up with girls on the internet, back before you got with Maddie?"
"Because it's me. And they were girls."
"Because they were guaranteed to be girls? Because girls can't hurt you? So...you think...what? Because I'm gay that makes me a girl? And that means I can't take care of myself?" Elliot snapped.
"It means I fucking care about you, dillhole. That's what it means. It means I don't want to bury another empty coffin with your name on it. Or a full one. It means I want you to be careful. And if shit looks shady, you call. And don't go home with him. And you don't take any drugs. And no matter what, you don't get your ass killed. Jesus. You fuckwad." Scowling, Jude reached over and punched his index finger into the radio knob.
Elliot looked over at him and sighed, then turned the volume down.
Smiling, Elliot gave Jude a sideways punch to the arm. "Love you too. Bruh."