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reclaiming austin

Reclaiming Austin 15

By BillyTK March 16 2005

I was running late for the coffee house and I didn't have time to take Austin back to my apartment, so I had him along.  We talked on the way down and he agreed to come in as long as it was somewhere he didn't have to see anyone.  He said he wasn't ready for that yet and besides, he had a headache. 

I knocked on the back door when we got there till Jorge opened the door with a confused look.  He was excited to see me, as he said they all figured I wasn't showing, and a little confused to see Austin whom he'd never met.  I asked if Austin could stay in the back while I performed and he was fine with it.  Austin gave me a small kiss before I went out to face the crowd.  Actually, it wasn't the crowd so much that I was scared of.  It was the temper of the Diva singing that made me queasy.

Marika was singing an old Diana Krall song and had the crowd mesmerized; she did however notice me sneaking in and shot me an icy stare.  When the song was over she called for a few minutes' break and walked over silently.

 "This better be damned good gayboy!" she said evenly.

I met her eyes and said softly, "Austin's in the back room. Jason left me and I found Austin being held by a sociopath who'd drugged him and tied him up. Then I had to get him today, cause he tried running away so I was late. Sorry."

Marika just stared a moment then blinked and said, "Say what?"

I repeated it and assured her I'd tell her everything later.  She just shook her head and said,
 "Lord AL-Mighty! You boys and your Drama!" Then told me what songs she'd done and we agreed to do our original first set as a finale.

When the break was over I got up and apologized to the audience for being so late.

 "This is a song by the Eurythmics, I'd like to dedicate it to a lost soul named Austin."

Love is a stranger
In an open car
to tempt you in
And drive you far away

And I want you
And I want you
And I want you so
It's an obsession

Love is a danger
Of a different kind
To take you away
And leave you far behind
And love, love, love,
Is a dangerous drug
You have to receive it
And you still can't
Get enough of the stuff

It's savage and it's cruel
And it shines like destruction
Comes in like the flood
And it seems like religion
It's noble and it's brutal
It distorts and deranges
And it wrenches you up
And you're left like a zombie

And I want you
And I want you
And I want you so
It's an obsession

It's guilt edged
Glamorous and sleek by design
You know it's jealous by nature
False and unkind
It's hard and restrained
And it's totally cool
It touches and it teases
As you stumble in the debris

And I want you
And I want you
And I want you so
It's an obsession

Ryan was beaming with a cute toothy grin from the front of the audience, I winked at him to affirm his suspicions that Austin and I had... well, whatever we'd done.

Marika and I did a few more songs, Beatles, Gladys Night, Diana Washington, and a great adaptation of Great Gig In The Sky, by Pink Floyd. Her gospel overtones really added a great depth and soul to the song, which was already a powerful song with Marika doing the vocals.   If  I'd ever heard an orgasm without sex, that was it.

When it was over, I signed a few autographs, then grabbed a few drinks and slipped back to find Austin sitting with Jorge, getting stoned and talking.  I handed Austin an iced Latte' and sat down to see what was going on.

 "I'm ok Alex," he blushed. "Just tired," he added, then said with a smile, "Thank you for that song, I haven't heard it in years... I feel all that stuff about you too," he added clumsily.  But I smiled, cause I knew he meant it.

Ryan and Michael came bursting into the room with big grins.
 "AUSTIN!!!!!" Ryan yelled as he rushed to hug him.  Michael just laughed at his boyfriend and waved to me.  Austin must have flinched or jumped when Ryan hugged him cause Ryan stepped back and asked seriously,

"What's wrong?" He wasn't going to back down and Austin looked at me then down to the ground and shook his head saying,
  "Nothing, just not feeling great."

Ryan didn't believe him apparently,
  "Dude, I haven't seen you or heard from you in weeks. What's wrong?" Ryan looked at me. "Will somebody please tell me what's going on?"

 "He was hurt when I found him Ryan, but it's taken care of." I said.
I thought of my last sight of Dennis and Gene as I left the apartment and got goose bumps.
 "He'll be ok," I added, looking at Austin and smiling to give him some strength.

Austin seemed to be slapped by Ryan's words, though I know Ryan didn't mean them to sound like an accusation, in Austin's state of mind, that's how he perceived it.

 "Ryan, you've been a fuck'n awesome friend, I'm just not ready to talk right now... I will and I promise, I'll tell you everything. Please don't be mad."

Ryan softened a bit at Austin's plea, how could you stay mad at a guy so obviously beat down and not himself?
 "So, you staying at home?" Ryan asked, deciding to drop the subject as he realized we weren't going to talk yet.
 "Um, No; staying with Alex," Austin said, slipping his hand in my back pocket and pulling me closer. Since I hadn't talked to Jorge yet, I was a little wary of getting too comfy with Austin in front of him.
 "I told mom and pop about Alex, and my dad freaked out and told me never to come over again." Austin said with an obvious bravado that everyone saw through.

 "What about school Austin? And Baseball?" Michael asked in his mellow baritone, his concern evident.

 "Don't know right now; I'm not in school at the moment.  I'll figure all that shit out, I guess. Right now I just... I need to be here," Austin said softly.  I took his hand in mine and squeezed it reassuringly.

Marika popped in and said the audience wanted another set and that we could do last weeks'.  So I left Ryan, Michael and Jorge after a quick hug and kissed Austin on the lips before I went out to face the very hyped-up crowd.

When I was done Henna came up to me with a sad face.  I knew as a friend of Jason's that I was going to have to explain what was going on to her.  So we went outside for a while.

 "Jason called me last night and told me what happened and that he was going to New York for a job." Henna said lighting a cigarette.

I hung my head; this wasn't going to be easy. I hated even saying it.
"Henna, Jas saw me with Austin and a few bags of Austin's stuff but didn't allow me to respond or explain.  I would have stepped in front of a train before hurting him, Henna, or Austin.  Austin had to come home with me... I found him..."
I paused and swallowed.

 "I found him drugged and tied to a bed... being..." I trailed weakly, not wanting or needing to finish the sentence. Her mouth hung open and her head dropped in disbelief.
 "He dropped out of school and... And his dad threw him out and told him not to come home." I paused for a few moments before adding, "but I love them both.  I would give my life for either of them Henna, I don't want to hurt either one of them... I can't stand the idea that I hurt Jason. He's never done anything but be good to me and love me," I said in misery.

 "Baby, I don't know if there is any good advice here; it's a horrible place you're in.  I'm Jason's friend and have to pull for him, but I'm your friend too, and I want you to make the right choice.  You owe it to both of them as well as yourself. But as the owner of this place I can say I want you to keep coming back. Business is booming and the crowd loves you," she said firmly holding my hand.  She put out her cigarette and stepped to the door then turned and offered,  "I'll try and explain what you told me to Jason... But I'm going to gently recommend that he forget about you Alex and move on with his life... for his sake."  I nodded slowly, wishing I would be swallowed by the earth and permitted to sleep till the world sorted itself out.

Suddenly a group of people came out and, oblivious to my pain or Henna's worry, they all smiled and grinned and wanted to have pictures taken with me.  Henna went inside as I made the fans happy.  When all that was left was a skinny effeminate 18 year old with spiked blue hair, and myself, he offered to go home with me and do anything I liked.  I gave him a wry smile and shook my head.
 "Thanks hon, but I have more men now than I know what to do with... but thanks." 

He seemed a little disappointed but smiled and said the offer was always good.

I went around to sneak in the backdoor when I ran into Jorge with a sad look on his face.

 "Hey Alex, can we talk a minute dude?" He asked, leaning against the building.

 "Sure, What's up, Jorge?"

 "Well, might be none of my goddamned business, but... that boy Austin, he needs some help.  Not sure what he's working through, but dude, he needs you.   Don't worry about Jase right now... That boy in there needs some help"

Jorge let me in the back door to find Michael looking over Austin's bruised back while Ryan held him with an angry calm.

 "Alex, will you please tell me who the fuck did this?" Ryan growled. "Austin won't say anything. Christ! Whoever fucking did this is gunna fucking
wish they were never fucking born!" Ryan growled angrily.

"I can't tell you everything Ryan, not yet... but the guy who did that won't ever do anything like it ever, ever again."  I caught Ryan's eyes and dropped my voice to a growl, "I promise you that." I offered solemnly.

Michael walked up and gently pulled Austin's shirt down over his back to cover him back up. Austin seemed so weak and ashamed just then, his eyes were glazed and he seemed to shrink against the wall.

Michael gave me a worried look, which I met. He took my hand and squeezed it in his in silence.  I knew he was offering his strength and sympathy.
 "If you need a place to stay, Austin you can stay with Michael and I." Ryan offered.

Austin reached for me suddenly, pulling me close.  I knew it was a plea to stay with me; I closed my eyes grateful that he wanted to stay with me as much as I wanted him to.

 "Thank you Ryan, but... we need to be together right now, we still have a lot to talk about and... I really need him now," Austin said softly.

Ryan nodded and Michael silently slipped his arm around Ryan's shoulder. 
 "Can we come up and take you both out this week?" He asked after a moment of silence.

 "Of course... I think we just can't stand the idea of not being together... I kinda hate the idea of not being there to protect him even though I know he'd be totally safe with you."  I said with a smile.

 "Ummm," Austin interrupted. "Can we get back home soon, Alex? I'm really tired and my head really hurts.  No offense, guys," he offered to Ryan and Michael.

So after a few goodbyes, and a few words to Marika and Phil, I gathered my massive treasure and loaded him into my jeep and drove him home in silence.

Austin slept most of the way home and his light snoring could just be heard over the wind and engine.  The love I had for Austin was so different from what I shared with Jason.  With Jason it was a calm, grown up, warm and filling feeling.  With Austin it was like a race, like my heart was running 100 miles an hour, it had elements of danger and out-of-control feelings. My love for him was like an addiction, every second I was near him I wanted him more.

Once we got home, I took him upstairs and helped him get undressed and after I got ready, I cradled his head on my chest as he slept and I ran my fingers through his soft dark hair till I too drifted off to sleep. 

The next morning I got up first and made some eggs and bacon along with some brioche from Mrs. Tremere.  As I was getting the coffee made I heard Austin in the bathroom and saw him come out as I sat the plates on the table, he wore an oversized Jaguars t-shirt over some boxers.

 "I had to wear a shirt. Don't want you to see my scars." He said with a weak smile.  I held his gaze a moment then sat the plates down and walked over to him. I held his gaze till I was past him then took his shirt gently, lifted it slowly, and kissed him on the shoulder blades between two of his scabs.

 "You don't have to, Austin, but you're damned hot this way so I'll let it go this time." And I kissed between his shoulder blades once more before gently covering his back again.  He reached around and held my hand before turning to kiss me.
 "I don't know how to thank you, Alex... for everything you've done."  Austin said, holding my hands in his. I looked from my hands, which seemed so small in his, up to his eyes.  There was a storm raging behind those sapphires and I wanted so badly to just hold him till it quieted.

 "Don't worry about that now baby; just sit down and eat and get better... ok?"  Austin sat and nodded.

 "Got any aspirin, Alex? My headache is still bothering me."  I got him the pills and some juice and ate with him. After breakfast he laid back down while I made a few phone calls.

I called Mr. Riley later and apologized and explained a little of what had happened.  After a drama queen remark, he paused and said he'd assumed something traumatic had occurred, then asked if Austin and I would join Mrs. Tremere and him for dinner before my show later.  I agreed and suggested Little Saigon, in Orlando.  Austin got a grin when he heard this and I winked at him.

So we washed Austin's new clothes and made space for his stuff in my closet, and then ran out to pick up a few more things he needed.  By 4:30 we began getting ready to head to Orlando and meet up with my boss and next-door neighbor.

Once we got to Little Saigon, we found them eating appetizers and waiting for us.  Mrs. Tremere almost fell over rushing to Austin and smothering him with kisses and hugs as Mr. Riley and I stood shaking hands and laughing. 

 "Ohhh, my boys, once more a couple, yes?" She asked with sparkling eyes.   I looked at Austin, who just smiled and nodded at me.

 "Yeah, we have a lot to work out, but, we'll do it as a couple I think." I said holding Austin's hand under the table.

Julie was elated to find Austin and me together and impressed Mrs. Tremere by speaking French to her.   I helped all of them order and sat back as we listened to Mrs. Tremere tell us stories about France and what it was like when she arrived here.  I could tell both Mr. Riley and she had questions about Austin, but good sense told them to hold them for now.  Austin knew it too and squeezed my hand tightly.   Later, my boss and my boyfriend began to discuss sports and Mrs. Tremere and I discussed food and how nice it was for her to be going out again.  It's amazing how easily two conversations can take place at one table with no overlap.

 "Well Alex, Austin, this lovely lady and I have a gallery opening to attend, so I think we'll take our leave. Alex, I'll see you Monday morning," Mr. Riley said.
We said our goodbyes and sat down to have a Vietnamese coffee and then head over to the coffee house.  Austin mentioned that I might be developing a caffeine addiction with a grin.

Julie kept us a while and sent a Tupperware container of summer rolls home with us. 

We got to the Seattle Scene early and visited with Henna, Jorge, Phil, and Korma while the crowed started to file in and we waited for the others.  Phil and Korma were acting odd-but then, so were Austin and I.  Finally Korma jumped up, grabbed my hand and said,
 "Come on Alex, I need to go to the bathroom." I was dragged off as the table began laughing at my rapid departure.

 "Ok, what's up Korma?" I asked outside the woman's restroom.

She beamed and kept looking through the crowd to our table. "Can you keep a secret Alex?  A BIG secret?" She asked all bubbly.  I just snapped my head up and squealed, "OH MY GOD! YOU'RE GETTING MARRIED!"  Rather then being shocked that I got it, Korma screamed, "YES!" and hugged me excitedly.  Austin was hugging Phil and Henna was ordering one of the girls to bring a round of drinks to the table when we got back.  Korma showed us her ring and Phil beamed at us and she glowed and for a while Austin and I for a change, were witnesses and not the main attraction.  Thank god!

Marika and I dedicated a whole bunch of love songs that night to Korma and Phil and brought her up to congratulate them that night.  Rather than go right home that night after the show, Austin, Korma, Phil and I walked around Lake Eola and looked at the city lights and the beautiful park around us as we walked hand in hand.   Phil and Korma knew something was up with Austin, Hell, his quiet withdrawn nature was so antithical to his normal demeanor.  But my cavalier attitude told them to leave it be.  Austin was soo... Clingy, not his normal bubbly and sarcastic self.  I knew why, but to the world he was just unusually quiet and taciturn.

They set the date for the wedding in January and wanted to know if we'd help arrange things.  Well, they wanted to know if "I'd" help arrange things and Austin would help me. 

Sunday we spent shopping and just lying around the house.  We ordered a pizza for dinner and I sat watching my man, seeing him as both the source of strength, and a weak little boy broken by an inexpressible evil.  And I decided I had to do something I hadn't done in years.  I had a secret I hadn't told anyone in many years, since my junior year of college.  I knew some of what he was going through, and I knew both how alienating it could be, and how emasculating it was.

After dinner while we watched TV, I finally got up the nerve and muted the TV and sat between Austin's legs on the couch with my back to his chest.  Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around me.

 "Honey?" I asked softly.

 "Yeah Alex, what's up?"

 "I... Ummm... I need you to listen to me, ok?"

 "Sure baby." He held me a little tighter; confusion was making his voice higher.  I swallowed and sank into the contact and just breathed a few moments.
 "You ever wonder why I got into martial arts?" I asked, not looking at him.

 "You said it was cause all those bastards in high school teased you so bad," Austin said concerned.

 "Yeah, that was part of it, but... ummm... not so much the main reason.  I've only ever told two people about this." I said in a voice that sounded hollow even to me.  I felt as though I were watching myself on TV... Like I wasn't in control anymore.

 "Alex, what's up?" Austin asked worried.

 "Ummmm, see, there was a short time in high school I was out... my senior year.   I was with this twenty two year old guy I wanted to date. And, well, he didn't want to... So we stopped going out and I went back to this gay bar in Daytona that he'd taken me to. The doorman remembered me and let me in.  I was 17.  And... well, looked 12, I guess, so I have no idea how I got in, but my first was very well known and very influential in that bar. So this bar is full of all these old men, and leather types, and drag queens... and I'm almost ready to run when this big, younger, red haired guy comes over and buys me a drink.  He was real muscular and butch... you know?" I asked rhetorically.

 "So... Rusty, that's what he called himself. Rusty starts asking me questions and flirting and this is all so new to me.  There was no flirting with the other guy, just sex.  And he keeps buying me drinks. And he says he's in construction and we laugh at some Village people joke I made.  He was big Austin, taller and stronger than you... and maybe 30 or so.  So he asks if I want to get stoned and like the stupid seventeen year old I was, I went, not thinking or telling anyone or anything, like it's this big adventure."

 "Oh baby..." Austin whispered in my ear, seeing what was coming in my story.

 "So we get in his truck and he produces this joint of the most kick-ass pot I'd ever had. I was seeing things and tracers and stuff, it had to be laced with something. And I remember him asking if I wanted to go to his place.  So we did.  And the next thing I know I'm naked and he's fondling me, and I don't really mind; I'm attracted to this guy... but..." I swallowed and turned my face to look away from Austin's direction.

 "He undressed and... god, he was tremendous, not so long, but thick, like a beer can or an arm... I told him I'd try to give him head but I couldn't take that... He never got aggressive or hit me, but no matter how much I begged him to stop, he climbed on me and bent my legs so they were over my head..." I shuddered as I spoke, feeling smaller and tinyer than I had in years. 

 "He was so big, he just... pounded me, like a jack hammer... I remember hearing the slamming of the headboard against the wall, he totally ignored my pleas and my crying.  There was this awful oldies station on.  I still hate Chuck Mangioni. I remember thinking he was going to break the bed he was hammering me so hard, and the headboard was slamming the wall... and it hurt, it burned... it felt like some yard tool being shoved in and out of me." Austin held, saying "Baby, no, no, no, no, no..." over and over in my ear.

 "I don't recall going to sleep; I must have passed out.  The next morning he woke me up like nothing had happened... the place where I'd slept was bloody and... I left... 'Stuff' in a pile." I was still embarrassed to admit this. Poor Austin was resting his forehead on my shoulder.   "He drove me to the bar and I drove home... it was over a week till I could go to the bathroom again, and I bled for several days... I told one girl so she'd get me some ex-lax.... But... it's not something a guy talks about, you know? Not even a little fag like me."  His arms almost cut off my breathing he hugged me so hard against his chest.

 "I wanted to tell you Austin, so... so you'd know I understood and you weren't alone.  It was a long time ago. I still feel like a third person when I talk about it.  But, I'm here Austin, for whatever you need. You can talk if you need to or whatever."

Suddenly Austin began standing up taking me with him. A moment later I was held like a bride on a honeymoon by two big arms. I looked up to his face and saw two sad loving eyes looking back at me.
 "We're one fucked up couple, you know that?" Austin said tenderly.

He carried me to bed and lay next to me and we kissed and nuzzled and protected each other from the monsters that haunted the night.. 

Sunday and Monday were low key. We stayed home, talked and did silly chores.  Austin's Mom called and said she'd meet him later in the week to give him all the stuff he'd left at home.  Tuesday night, I asked if Austin wanted to go to Robert's house to listen to us practice, but he opted to stay home as he still had that headache.  Besides, I knew he wasn't ready for big crowds yet.

So I went over and Marika and I did a great rendition of Sonny and Cher's version of "I got you Babe".  It was made all the more funny due to my size and Marika's Diva attitude.

Then we started practicing a great bit Phil had dreamed up, it was half drama and half musical.  We practiced until eleven-thirty and then went home. 

At home I found the place dark and went around looking for Austin. I panicked when I couldn't find him.  I knew there were no busses this late and had no clue where he'd go.  But I grabbed my keys and started running down the stairs, when I heard loud laughing coming from Mrs. Tremere's apartment. This was pretty late for her to be up. 

I stopped on a hunch and went to knock on her door.
 "Come in Alex!" she shouted without even looking to see who it was.  When I walked in I felt like I'd entered a very posh bakery. The smell was amazing and there were several loaves of bread and muffins, two pies and Austin with flour all over his face, grinning at me sheepishly.

 "Mon cheri, since getting you to commit to learning to cook is like asking you to date a cheerleader, I think I will steal your boyfriend while you sing."   Austin came over carrying a loaf of bread he'd made. It was... interestingly shaped, looking more like a bear poop than a food item.   But he had a big smile on his face and... how could anyone take away that addictive smile?

 "Well thank you, Austin. What are you having for breakfast?" I teased. So he showed me his pie and rolls, which were also somewhat... less artistically put together than Mrs. Tremere's.   I could think of no other person that would be better for Austin to spend time with than my proxy grandmother and friend.

 "He shows much promise, Alex, and we had a wonderful time tonight.  I'm so glad you left him for me." Mrs. Tremere said as I grinned while she put her kettle on. 

As she made tea, I took Austin to the bathroom and showed him his flour coated face in the mirror which made him laugh. So I kissed him and left him to wash off.

 "You left him like that on purpose Mon cher." I laughed as I entered the dining room.

 "Oui, it made me laugh all night, and I thought that you would appreciate it too," she said as she brought the teapot to the table. 

We sat and cut into a lemon custard pie as we sat and drank tea.  Austin came in with a wet face and sat down and joined joining us for tea but said he'd skip the pie as his stomach was bothering him.  Mrs. Tremere invited us over for a thanksgiving dinner even though it was still early October.  She wanted to be first, as the previous year I'd had almost six dinners to attend and missed hers. 

I finally dragged Austin out of there after helping to clean up her kitchen. Austin proudly carried his bread and muffins home as I held his pie.   I felt so close at that moment to that boy.

We cleaned up and went to bed.

Much later that night I heard my name and felt my self shaken awake, I turned over sleepily and asked,
 "What's up?"

 "My stomach, is... " He groaned in such a way that I was wide awake and had the lights on in seconds.  Austin was curled up holding his stomach.  I couldn't lift him and there was no way he could walk down the stairs, so I called 911 and got dressed, and tried to figure out how to dress him. I kept asking what was wrong, but all he did was groan.

The paramedics got there and asked a lot of questions about fights and food and drugs, all of which I said weren't likely, then they began asking about our sexual practice, as it was obvious to them that we were a couple.  I told them we hadn't done anything since he'd come home... then it hit me.  I know I paled and said in a soft voice,
 "I-I went to Gainesville to get him, to talk with him... and found him..." I couldn't look the guy in the face.
 "He was tied up and drugged with ruffies or something like that... and, he'd been beat... and I saw these giant dildos.   But he's not into that; he's never done that..."

 "You're saying he was raped?" The young black guy asked sounding impatient and medical.
I nodded my head ashamed for Austin.

"It's peritonitis, or perhaps an impaction. Meet us at the hospital, the doctor will have questions. Is there a police report?"  I shook my head no.

It turns out that when fuckwad Gene was... molesting him, he'd gotten too rough and torn the lining of Austin's anus and it had gotten infected.  So they put him on an antibiotic IV and used a probe to determine how bad the tearing was. Thankfully it wasn't too bad, according to them.  But he was infected seriously.

I wanted Gene's head on a pole for all rapists to see-- after I'd beaten him till his body was pulp.   I'm embarrassed to say I preyed that Dennis had killed Gene, and my wrath drove me to some very dark thoughts.

 Austin was still unconscious at 6am and I knew I had to get work, though I couldn't stand to be away from Austin's side. 

Work was awful and I spent a lot of the day calling the hospital to check up on him. About noon I looked up his parent's number and called his Mom. She was panicked and asked a lot of questions I could barely answer.  Marika gave me a lot of support, as did James and Mr. Riley.

When I got there at 4:30 I know I looked like hell, but I was shocked when the nurse wouldn't let me into his room.
 "Sorry, you aren't family and you aren't on the list," was all I was told.  She wouldn't even tell me how he was doing.  Finally I went to the main floor and called up to the room.  I got his Mother.
 "It's your fault my boy's like this; woulda neva happened if he'da dated that girl he seen up ta Gainesville," she said bitterly.  Then she hung up.  I panicked.  She was right, how could I deny that fact?  But I also knew she wouldn't let me see him and this terrified me. 

Fortunately, the one thing a small town offers is a LOT of people who know you.  So I called two of my friends who worked there and got updates on how he was doing. 

The next day I went over after work and sat in the waiting room and got a few calls to the nurses station to get updates from my friends.  About 6:30, this haggard woman who looked almost like a character off of He-Haw came down the hall from Austin's room.  She was wearing an ancient blue gray housedress with a faded yellow floral design and tight little slipper-like shoes on her feet. Her skin was ancient looking and no sign of my Austin could be seen in her face no matter how hard I searched. It was hard to accept that my all American poster boy had come from this walking southern cliché.
 "Mrs. Camble?" I asked calmly.  She had ratty grey hair pulled back in a bun and her skin was leather-like and wrinkled.  I didn't look like a supermodel just then either, I guess.

 "How long you been out here?" she asked with a sharp gaze on me.

 "Since 4:30, and lunch time."

 "He's awake now," she offered reluctantly.  My heart leapt at this.

 "All he asks about is where you are..." She accused me like it was a curse.
"Doesn't say nothing bout his daddy or nobody else."

 "Mrs. Camble, I-I-I didn't do this to him. I'm the one who saved him... I'm the one who stopped the bastard." I pleaded as though this would change her mind. 

 "He's awake, ya can take yourself on home now." She dismissed me as she clutched her Marlboros.

I hung my head in defeat, I didn't want to fight this woman or cause her any pain... I wanted my Austin and I was going crazy.   Mrs. Tremere, Glenn and Jennifer came by later but they weren't allowed in either.

The next morning as I spilled my woes to Marika she asked what floor Austin was on.  I told her and she grinned.
 "Can you cover me for a few minutes since it's not too busy?" She asked suddenly. I nodded and she disappeared. I thought it odd to do this in the middle of my whining spree but she'd been comparing me to Tolstoy by that point anyways.

A few minutes later she came back in walking with a swish that told everyone she was a Diva to be reckoned with. Her metallic blue skirt shimmering and her smile beaming.

 "Can you be at the hospital at 9:30 tonight?" She asked.

 "Yeah, but that's after hours." I said.

 "Which means my sister can get you in and Austin's mama won't be there," she said with a certain amount of triumph.  "My sister Tamara is the RN on duty tonight on that Floor."  She grinned at me, my heart leapt and I gave her a world-class hug.

 "I love you, Marika"

She patted my back and grinned,
 "Of course you do, sugar"

So that night, after visiting hours were over, I went up in the back elevators and went to the nurses station. This pretty young red haired nurse smiled up at me,
 "You must be Alex. Austin's been talking about all day."

I didn't need to answer as my blush and smile said it all.  "Ms. Jones said to let you go right in, honey."  She smiled at me.

I was so grateful at that moment for small town mentality, small town nepotism, and southern gentility.  At least this time they were working in my favor instead of against me. 

So I walked down the hall quickly and pushed the large door open and heard a rerun of "Friends" playing on the TV.  Austin didn't even look at me, assuming I was a nurse.  His skin was pale and his eyes were sunken. 

 "Hey, I paid for a queen sized bed! What the hell is this twin thing doing in here?" I said with a grin.

Austin almost leapt out of bed when he looked up and saw me. His grin was narcotic.

 "Alex!!!!" He barked, trying to stand.  I stepped over to him and held him down with a hand to his chest.  Then I leaned down and kissed him with a small passionate kiss.

 "Hi, how you feeling drama boy?" I asked sitting down next to him and holding his hand.

 "A lot better than the other night. Fuck'n, felt like lava snakes crawling around in my fucking belly."  He grinned then got a sad face.

 "Sorry about my mama. She told me you were here the whole time... she..." He trailed off with an unnecessary explanation.

 "Baby, she was scared and being protective...  Can't say I'd have shared you either if I were in her shoes." Austin gave me a funny grin,
 "She shops Payless shoes, I can't see you in them baby." He smirked,
 "Anyways, this nurse today named Dorra told me I could put you on my visitors list tomorrow. "

 "What about your mom?" I asked concerned.

 "She'll have to get fucking used to it I guess." He said squeezing my hand.
"'Sides she said three or four times what a nice young man you were, with good manners."  He grinned up at me.  "How come I never seen none of them good manners?"

 "Cause I'm too fucking busy fighting off bad guys and saving your life you freaking drama queen!" I said with a grin.

His eyes met with mine and I swear he melted me in ways and places I never knew existed.

 "Manners go a long way with my mama, that and you being local." Austin said with a shrug.

 "Can we try something new, Alex?" He asked softly.

 "Sure hon, what?"

 "Lets not have any fucking drama in our lives for like twenty fucking years, ok?"

 "Yeah baby, I think we way surpassed our quota." I said kissing his hand.  So we sat and talked and he told me what the Doctors said, about how he got a lesion in his small intestine from the forced action.  The wanted him to press charges but he refused, both out of fear of it getting out, and also fear of what would happen to Dennis and I if Gene were found. 

This reminded me I had to see Dennis to find out what happened after we left.

About 1am, an older heavy-set black woman with a big smile and graying temples poked her head in the room.
 "Ok now love birds, its 1am and my baby here needs his rest," she said indicating Austin.  "Y'all can come back tomorrow and see him," She said smiling.  I kissed Austin and held his hand a moment as I said goodnight, tucked him in and thanked Tamara on the way out.

The next day, I ran into Austin's mother on the way in, we both stopped, not knowing what to say.  Finally I said, "Hi, Mrs. Camble, how're you feeling today?"

She stared with barely disguised contempt.
 "Why don't you leave my boy alone? He don't need none of your sinful ways."

 "Ma'am, I don't want to come between you and Austin,  I love him, he loves me. I hope you'll get used to it in time, but I'm not backing away," I said softly.

Her need for nicotine overcame her frustration at my not being scared away so she just glared a moment then brushed past me with a grumble, her house coat showing the many years she'd owned it.

 "Hey baby!" I said going into Austin's room.

 "Will you stop hitting on me in front of your boyfriend!" Glen said with mock annoyance as Austin laughed and Jennifer rolled her eyes.  I hadn't seen Glen in a few weeks so I gave him a big hug before hugging Jennifer then Kissing Austin.

After some meaningless prattle I sat back and listened to Austin and Glen talk about all the trouble they used to get in.  Although it was very easy to see Austin sitting across the desk from a principal, it was hard reconciling that with Glen-- Jennifer assured me it was true though.

Before I left, I went and found his mother and assured it was ok to go back since I was leaving.  She was staring out a window and slowly turned to face me as I was leaving.

 "You saved my boy," she said, neither a comment nor a question.

 "Yes, ma'am." I said turning to face her.

 "He says I oughta thank you n give you a chance." She said flatly.

 "No ma'am, it was my fault that he was there." I said meeting her eyes.

 "You're making him a pervert; that's what happens to perverts." She spat out.

 "No, ma'am, My mistake, My part in this was not believing in him, not giving him a chance to speak when he came back to me. If I had, none of this woulda happened.  But I didn't make him gay, he pursued me, he kissed me, I think he had it planned out..." I said it without emotion or malice; I just wanted her to know.  She turned away, not wanting to face any of what I just said.

As I was leaving I stopped and looked back at her, "And Ma'am, I don't know how much Austin remembers about his ordeal, he was drugged and in bad shape when I found him, but trust me, I made that bastard pay, I beat him senseless and..." I hesitated before implicating Dennis, "And I made sure he'll never do it again.  You may think I'm a pervert, but I promise you, nothing like that will happen to Austin or me ever again. Ever!"  With that statement I was gone.

That evening after work I drove to Dennis's house.

 "Hey Alex, I've been meaning to catch up with you guys, How's Austin?"  I caught him up, telling him about Austin's mom and the infection.  Dennis just shook his head. 
 "I let him off way too easy." He said grimly.  Turns out he hadn't... 'disposed' of Glen, as I'd feared, instead he'd worked him over a bit and took him around collecting Austin's stuff.  They couldn't get his car back, but Dennis had several boxes of books, clothing, and 'stuff."  Dennis then handed me a large envelope.  I looked at it funny till he explained,

 "I took photos of his room, all his stuff, the blood on his bed, and then set up a video recorder and recorded his confession.  I also took all his tapes of Austin as evidence.  I told him if I ever so much as heard of a kid getting home late from school the police were getting all of it. I made you a copy just in case.  But Alex, I wouldn't ever watch those tapes if I were you. Or Austin neither" 

Dennis wasn't telling me everything, and I knew better than to push him. 

 "Oh, and here, this is for Austin," Dennis said handing me a smaller envelope. It had several thousand dollars in it. I looked up bewildered at Dennis.

 "We sold his stuff to help pay for what he stole and did to Austin. And we got a cash advance on his cards.   Oh, and I promised we'd send his wallet back."
Dennis and I both went to visit Austin afterwards.

When we got there Phil, Korma, Dan, Glen, and Jennifer were leaving and Ryan and Michael were inside. 

 "You guys coulda just cancelled if you didn't want to do dinner" Michael teased after I hugged him.

While Dennis was talking with Michael, Ryan, and Austin, a hospital official came by to speak with me. She was a bleached blond with pulled back hair, a white lab coat, and thick black glasses.

 "Mr. Johnson?"

 "Just  Alex." I said to her

 "Thank you, I'm Mrs. Tonges, you can call me Stacy.  I need to talk to you about care for Austin as he'll be staying with you, and I understand that you're involved." I nodded my head.

 "Alex, because of the nature of his assault, and the... trauma, and the fact that Austin was drugged and couldn't recall exactly what happened, we've conducted a few tests on his blood, and..."

She didn't need to say more, it hadn't even occurred to me to worry about STDs or HIV or Hepatitis.

 "And nothing showed up at this time, but we'll be doing a series of tests over the next few months and highly recommend that you only engage in safe sex practices."

 "We always do... did..." I was suddenly hit with what she meant.  My palpable fear must have filled the room.

 "Alex, nothing conclusive has shown up, it's possible this gentleman didn't even have actual penetrative sex. Often rapists use objects, as it gives them a greater sense of humiliation and control over their victims.  But since he can't recall, we need to be prepared for any eventuality."  I hung my head and put my hand over my mouth. 

Stacy handed me some pamphlets on rape and being the care provider for someone who's been raped.  I  looked at them then up at her,
 "Is he ever going to be ok again, Stacy?  How do you get past something like this?"

 "I've told him about counseling courses and set up a few weeks of counseling for him; you can go too." She looked at me for a second before adding;  "Austin said it happened to you when you were younger as well, so you might want to sit in on these sessions as well."
I nodded, wondering if there was any need for me to go, as my... 'rape' had been far less violent and so long ago. I kinda felt like I had adjusted since it had been a while since I realized it even was a rape... a lot of date rape victims feel that way.

 "But to answer your question Alex, yes, he'll get better.  People get past this the same way they do the loss of a loved one or a serious break up... time and support."

I nodded while my eyes got glassy.  She softened a bit and hugged me.
 "You two seem to care a great deal for other, Alex. That will help both of you with this awful thing... And if there's anything I can do, my card is in that pamphlet."

Dennis was leaving when I got back to the room, so we hugged and I thanked him for all his help, then invited him down to my show that weekend. Michael and Ryan stayed a little longer before leaving and promised we'd go to dinner next week. 

Finally I had him alone. After kissing Austin, sitting with him, talking and watching a little TV, I got a smirk and said,
 "Hey, you allowed to go to the bathroom or are you bedridden?"

 "Naaa, I can get outta bed, why?"

 "I-uhhh- wondered if you needed to go to the bathroom."
Austin had no idea what I was really up to, but he damned well knew that I wouldn't ask such a thing normally.

 "Ok Alex, spill it. What are you up to?"

I got a big grin and chuckled,
 "I just wanted to see you walking away..." I said lifting the side of his gown to reveal his naked ass."  He laughed too while slapping my hand.

 "You're such a horndog dork!" he accused with a chuckle as he lay back down. I could see how exhausted he still was.

 "Ok love, I'm gunna go and let you get some sleep" I said standing up.  Suddenly his hand gripped my arm and he said, "Don't go Alex, please?"

How could I refuse my wounded hero anything? I stayed with him, holding his hand till he fell asleep.  I left about 9:30 as he started his soft rhythmic snores.

Austin came home with me the next day after work.  Mrs. Tremere brought over a huge tray of breads and pastries with a firm comment to me that these were for Austin. 

We slept that night entwined and resting against each other.   From that night on, it was both our jobs to protect the other against the monsters in the dark.

That week, Austin stayed with Mrs. Tremere while I worked or practiced with the band, but he came with me when I drove to Orlando to perform.

I started the show doing a variation of George Harrison's "Something".

 Something in the way (he) moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way (he) woos me
I don't want to leave (him) now
You know I believe and how

Somewhere in (his) smile (he) knows
That I don't need no other lover
Something in (his) style that shows me
I don't want to leave (him) now
You know I believe and how

You're asking me will my love grow
I don't know, I don't know
You stick around and it may show
I don't know, I don't know

Something in the way (he) knows
And all I have to do is think of (him)
Something in the things (he) shows me
I don't want to leave her (him) now
You know I believe and how

I held Austin's gaze the entire song and I landed up almost falling off my stool, I was so caught up in his eyes.   Then we did a number of the songs we'd done in previous shows, before I took a short break

When we got back up, I started the guitar into to Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.
 "Wait wait wait WAIT  one blessed minute!" Marika preached as she was coming to stand next to me.

 "Please don't tell me we are so desperate we're doing that ode to white Garage band legends." She said with a dismissive hand gesture.

 "I was act..." I began to plead before she said,
 "Look, let me show you how that song should've gone."

So I shrugged and began the guitar into it and then Robert added some drums and some nice piano work before her dark bluesy voice began :

There's a lady who's sure
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
When she gets there she knows
Ooh ooh and she's buying a stairway to heaven.

There's a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.

In a tree by the brook
There's a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There's a feeling I get
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.

In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it's whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.

And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, Don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.

And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won't go
In case you don't know,
The piper's calling you to join him,

Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow,
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How ev'rything still turns to gold.

And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

Marika did this in a bluesy gospel version that just sounded incredible.  Of course, this had all been planned but people were loving the bit.  So the audience gave her a standing ovation and after it quieted down a little I said,

 "Well that's all nice and all, but it ain't what I was gunna sing.  So I started the Guitar again and Phil got his electric out to join in later.

Stairway to Doug:

There's a bagboy who's knows
That the exec that he blows,
Wants to hear him singing  stairway to heaven.

When he gets on his knees
If the zippers are closed
With a grin he can get what he came for.

Ooh ooh and he air guitars stairway to heaven.

There's a future he sees
But he wants to be sure
'Cause execs like using words with two meanings.
 In an office he sings 
for the pleasure it brings
Cause he's doug and he's usually stoned.
 Ooh, it makes him wonder,
Ooh, it makes him wonder.
There's a feeling he gets
When he takes off his pants,
And his spirit is crying for leaving.

And he dreams of a stage,
and a crowd to be razed
And his voice conquers those who standing looking.

Ooh, he makes me wonder,
Ooh, he really makes me wonder.

And he's hoping that soon, If he carries the tune
Then the exec will lead him to fortune.

And a new day will dawn
and he'll only suck dong
with the groupies, the roadies, or fans,
If there's a hustle in his plans now, Don't be afraid now,
It's just a blow job for an old queen.
Yes, there are movies and photos
of him in action
But he still thinks he can change the road he's on.
Cause he's Doug.
He likes giving head,   but he won't swallow
In case you don't know,
The Exec's calling doug to join him,

Dear boy, do you really like to blow now,
And will you swallow?
Your stairway lies on your whispering tounge.
And as you wind on down his shaft
His body stands taller than normal.
He walks a story we all know now

He sings and dreams that when he's done
How everything still turns to gold.
And if he sucks you very hard
The fame will come to him at last.

When all his morals are gone now and he's walking
Down Santa Monica boulevard.
Air guitaring stairway to heaven.

Marika and I beamed at each other as the audience laughed and applauded.  We had conquered music and just kicked some serious comedy butt too. No one, including Austin, had seen us practicing this bit, so he was as impressed as everyone else.

For the last set of the evening, Marika and Robert did an entire set of Burt Bacharach and Dione Warwick numbers.  After work that night I took Austin to the Parliament House-- his first trip to a gay bar.

As  we were walking around checking out the various bars and clubs, Austin leaned over and said,
 "Ya know, if I were drunk, I'd a never guessed this was a gay bar." He said bemused.

 "Warning baby: if you pick up a girl here, she'll probably have a dick or a strap-on." I said glibly.

He reached down and bravely cupped me,
 "I sure hope so Tiger, cause the only girl I want is loaded for bear!"

Michael met us later and we did our latest rendition of the "Michael and Alex Show" outside the back bar.  The "Michael and Alex Show" was basically the two of us drinking and throwing quips back and forth until one of us got physical and I landed up being tickled into goo in some corner or on a pool table. 
 "So Bitch, why didn't you come over last weekend?" Michael asked as he sipped his long neck.

 "I thought you were being tented for fleas last week. OOOhhhhh did I get it wrong? Is it this week?" I retorted, leaning back against Austin.

 "No, this is the week I'm exterminating hobbits." He replied.

 "The last refuge of a sad gay mind, Short jokes." I quipped before sipping my Southern Comfort."

Suddenly Michael fixed Austin with a stare and asked, "So big guy, now that you've tried all the different varieties of women, when you gunna give men a try?"

 "Silly Michael, Men, women, doesn't matter, he's still not kissing a yeti," I grinned wickedly while wrapping Austin's arm around me.

 "Ummm, do I get any say in this, or this just a Michael Alex thing?" Austin asked with a smirk.

We both shushed him.

 "Michael, I hope you didn't tip the bartender, he didn't put that little pink umbrella and cherry in your Schlitz." (Which was even funnier if you knew he only drank Guinness.)

 "I hafta know Alex, when you lose all that pretty blond hair and go bald, are you still gunna be a ditsy, flaky bitch?"

 "Short jokes and now blond jokes... if you ask me to pull your finger I'm SO gone!"

 "So where the hell were you last week, Bitch?" Michael asked obviously ignoring me.

After nuzzling back against Austin I said,
 "I was busy collecting boyfriends."  I left it at that for now...

 "Excuses are like bad hair days elfboy, everybody has them and everyone else thinks they're way too funny." Michael said before up-ending his beer.

Austin was excited because when Michael left to get more drinks, he got to make out with me in public. 
 "This is kinda cool Alex, not all faggy like I thought. Shit, some of these guys are bigger then me." He said indicating a group of muscle clones gathering by the pool.

 "Yeah, but if you took their roids away they'd turn into me." I said grinning.

Austin wrapped his arms completely around me,
 "Cool, but I'm keeping this original."

We left a while later, saying goodnight to Michael and jumping in my Jeep.  On the way home Austin told me about how Gene had had him sign over his car while he was drugged, then sold it, so he was now essentially at the mercy of others for rides and it was an awful feeling and really depressing him.  I told him we'd work on it; all he had to do was get stronger and be better.  Then I showed him the money Dennis had given me.  Not enough for a nice car, but it was plenty for a used one.

Although we kissed and made out that night and our hands roamed freely. He didn't instigate a sexual encounter, and I assumed that he wasn't ready yet... It was ok though. Opening my mouth to his while he lay on me fully was so electrifying; it was a window I could see my old Austin through.

Over the next few weeks we set up a pattern; it seemed as if Austin's wish had been answered.  There was no drama, not that I wanted any of the drama we'd had recently, but there also wasn't any sign of progress. Austin went to his meetings and counseling with Mrs. Tremere 3 times a week, and I'd come home and sometimes he'd have a dinner ready if Mrs. Tremere helped, but usually I found him either on the computer or on the couch watching TV.  His Perfect body was becoming softer looking and his stomach was beginning to show the effect of not exercising and eating carbs all day at Mrs. Tremere's. I felt guilty as sin for even having any concerns about his withdrawal, but my instincts told me he was rolling over and accepting the role of victim and not fighting like he should be now.  As I made us a quick stir-fry, I decided what to do.  So after dinner as he cleaned up the table I went and got our jogging suits out and put them in a sports bag with a few towels.

Austin had gone back to quietly sit on the couch and watch TV again after clearing the table.

 "Ok baby, get up, we're going for a ride." I said with a smile.
 "Go put some socks and shoes on too." I added.

An hour later I'd paid for memberships for both of us to go to the YMCA.  And then we worked out for an hour and a half.  Austin was shy and with drawn at first, but within half an hour, that competitive spirit of his had been lit.  He began competing with me over who could lift more; he won easily.  A little later, he was helping some girl with a machine as her poor boyfriend watched helplessly.  I felt bad for the guy, but the idea that Austin was moving in on a girl he didn't even want, and her boyfriend was powerless to stop him, it just revved his engines.

 The next time our eyes met, his were sparkling again. It seemed that this was the panacea he needed more than counseling or pampering. So by the end he was standing over me, urging me to lift more and not give up.  As exhausted as I was, this was what my baby needed, and my heart skipped beats when he'd catch my eyes and smile.

We showered there near closing time and went out for a light meal afterwards.  At home Austin stopped me inside and took the bag and dropped it to the floor then looked me in the eyes.

 "Alex? I have a question for you and... I'm not sure how to ask it." He said softly.

I cocked my head to the side expectantly and asked him what.

 "Does what happened to me change the way you think about me?" He asked softly, his eyes dropping to the floor.

 "I... Don't know how to answer that Austin. Ummmm, you know, it concerns me, I wish it hadn't happened of course, but I'm not certain what you mean." I said bending down to get in his line of sight.  He grinned a bit and looked at me as he righted me.

 "I mean... is that the reason you haven't made a move towards me?  Are you scared that I'm fuck'n damaged or somethin'?" His eyes bore into mine seeking an answer I didn't know if I had.

 "Baby, I was giving you time, I figured you'd let me know when you were ready. I didn't want you to think I was a dick by forcing sex on you after all that."

 "Alex," He put his hand on my face in a gentle caress  "You don't have to force me to want you.  I've been scared you were scared to touch me, afraid I might give you something."

 "Austin," I said soothingly, "You know we're only gunna have safe sex for a while, right?"  He looked sad and nodded. "I think all the bad from this is over, done!  But if something pops up, if you get sick with something, we'll deal. together, you and me.  I'm not letting a disease, a bad experience, an angry mom, or anything else keep you from me.  Got it? Nothing!"

Austin just beamed at me, lifted me up, kissed me, and carried me to the bed.  That night I showed him everything we were allowed to do within safe sex guidelines. He was a  very pleased boy the next day. 

I awoke late, the happiest I'd been in... well, ever.  My guy was spooned behind me and the sun was shining bright.  When He finally moved and raised his arm I slipped out of bed and made us both breakfast.  We spent a glorious Sunday lounging and cuddling and teasing each other.  I made a mental note to sing "I can see clearly now" on my next set.   About 4:00, I got a call from Marika telling me she found a drummer we should look at Monday. 

 "Excellent, I needed to get a drummer for the Halloween show anyways." I said.

 "The What?" Marika's voice dropped to a deadly low.

 "HALL-O-WEEN show, you know, ghosts, goblins and bats?" I said ignoring the objection I knew was coming.

 "You know I'm not one to preach at you, but Halloween is a devil holiday. You can't be thinking that Robert or I will put on a devil show!"

 "Jorge and Henna asked me if we're doing one already. I said yeah... Sorry, I didn't think anyone would have a problem. It isn't on Halloween, if that makes a difference."  I could hear her disapproval in the silence.

 "We'll put it to a vote on Monday, Alex." She agreed skeptically.

 "Hey, if we do this, we can also do a big Christmas show, and we can do it for your church too, if you want." I said hoping to win some points.

Marika laughed and said we'd talk about it Monday but she had to get ready for evening services. So we hung up.

 "Hey Austin, we've been invited to a bunch of Halloween parties, I had a great idea for a costume we can both do." I called into the bedroom.

 "You mean like boyfriends and girlfriends do?" He called out.

 "Naaaaa, just boyfriends." I called back smirking.  I heard him laugh.  A minute later he came out bare except for his boxers.

 "Ok, so what's your idea? I ain't doin' no drag."

 No drag, baby. How'd ya like to be a tiger?"


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