'Mike, you're alive,' Damon greeted cheekily.
'Yeah. Look, sorry about this. Brett or Terry should have woken me.'
Damon snickered and held the door open. 'Come in. It's your house, not mine.'
Inside the house, several of Damon's family members were sorting out my belongings. The sight made me appreciate my efforts earlier that week, when I'd packed most of my belongings into boxes and had taken care to mark one or two as 'private'. The last thing I wanted was a relative stranger sifting through the box of Victor's possessions. I had photos and clothing and a miscellany of my deceased lover's belongings that I knew I'd never be able to throw away, and I didn't need anyone making assumptions as to why I'd retained the items.
Lee was sitting at the kitchen table, with his daughter on his lap, talking to Brian about the latest developments in all the major soapies. Their conversation, which was making everyone smile, focused on the never-ending drama of blended families, illegitimate children and crime.
'Where's Brett?' I asked.
'Outside,' Damon replied. 'With Jamie and Kevin. I think they're talking. Maybe you should give them some privacy.'
His words were kind, but his tone was firm. Damon wasn't so much giving me advice, but ordering me to stay away from my lover.
'Right,' I agreed hesitantly. 'Um…'
'Actually, why did I tell you to come inside?' Damon asked. 'Let's go outside, out the front. We can have a cigarette together.'
Damon led me out onto the front step, where we both sat down. He smiled kindly at me as he settled himself down, his back against the palings. He lit a cigarette and stared thoughtfully in my direction.
'Are you glad you've decided to move in with Brett?' he inquired.
I fiddled with the hem of my printed shirt. It was definitely a clubbing shirt; not at all suitable for daytime and I was suddenly acutely self-conscious. Damon was dressed in jeans, a white shirt and a brown over-shirt and his outfit was immaculate.
'Yeah. Yeah, I am.'
'That's good. It's like you're finalizing your relationship with him. It's permanent now.'
'I suppose it is.' I lit a cigarette of my own, and left it dangling from my mouth as I scratched at an itchy spot on my arm. 'Lucky Brett.'
'Oh, Brett's happy,' Damon reassured me. He grinned wickedly. 'He said you two had a good time last night, after you arrived home.'
'You could say that,' I winced.
I'd met Damon on a couple of occasions previously, back in the days when he and Brett were a couple. I couldn't remember much of the man, other than he was fairly outgoing, and had no issues discussing the nitty gritty of his sex life with just about anyone. I'd once listened to he and Terry chat, and had been embarrassed by their frankness. Despite my promiscuity, I'd never have dared be – or wanted to be - so forthright. 'But I'm going to have a stab in the dark, and say you already knew what was going to happen before it did.'
Damon burst into laughter. 'You think he outlined his plans of seduction?'
'He outlined them to Jamie and Terry, obviously, so why not you?' I inquired huffily. I couldn't help but be somewhat snide; I didn't want what happened last night to be glorified, I wanted to tell Brett that although I appreciated the thought, I was quite happy with him. I didn't need Damon poking his nose into this area of my life, especially if he was of the opinion that Brett had done me a favour.
Quizzical ocean-blue eyes met mine. 'Are you sure about that? Maybe you misinterpreted something Terry said. I really doubt Brett would tell Terry anything personal, unless there was a good reason.'
I was confused, and growing more than a little frustrated. 'Well what did Brett tell you?'
'Brett said he had a good night with you,' Damon reiterated patiently. 'That's all, Mike. He intimated the sex was shit hot and that's it. Nothing more. Seriously, I wouldn't lie to you about something like that. Even if it was kink, who cares? What are you so worried about?'
'Nothing,' I replied. 'Nothing, nothing at all.'
'Mike, even if it's really kinky stuff, there's no need to get embarrassed,' he grinned comfortingly. 'I've been there. I've been there with guys that…well, you get the idea.'
I let out a small laugh, despite my fears. 'I'm not that into kink, Damon. I, uh…Well, you see, he, um…oh hell, I hate having to say this…he didn't have sex with me last night. He had sex with Jamie.'
Damon's jaw dropped. 'Are you serious?'
'Are you sure?'
'I witnessed it.'
'Oh…wow,' Damon breathed. He grimaced. 'Fuck. That's definitely not what I expected. But don't worry Mike,' he replied, suddenly confident. 'It probably has nothing to do with how good Jamie was. Brett didn't sound as though he'd had a good fuck; it was really more about boasting that you'd had a good time.'
'Of course,' I agreed sarcastically.
'You know I'm right,' he chastised.
I slumped against the stair railing. 'You know what? I do know you're right. And that's even worse than knowing you're wrong, because I haven't a clue how to tell Brett it wasn't necessary.'
'Yech,' Damon agreed. He exhaled loudly, before drawing on his cigarette. 'This is my fault. Shit. Shit, fuck, shit, fuck, shit. Fuck, he's an idiot. Why is he such a fuckwit? Goddamn, he is such a fucking moron. Can you do me a favour? When you talk to him next, don't even try and be sympathetic with him. Kick his ass. Tell him…I don't know, tell him whatever you want, but be firm.'
His vehemence made me laugh. 'Yeah, I know. But I don't want to embarrass him, either.'
Damon pulled a face. 'You're right.'
I was about to ask Damon for advice when Trent wandered out and took a seat on the step above Damon's. He rested his legs alongside Damon, and wrapped his arms around his lover's neck. Damon tilted his head back so he was facing his boyfriend, and smiled up at him.
'I'm not interrupting anything, am I?' Trent inquired, his gaze traveling from Damon to me.
'No,' Damon replied on my behalf. 'We were only talking about Brett.'
'Ahh,' Trent smirked. 'Speaking of Brett, I heard you had a good time with him last night.'
I wanted to go around the house, grab Brett, and make him explain. Why had he gone and told everyone we'd brilliant sex when we hadn't even had sex with each other? Besides, we'd had better times in bed than last night. Sure, Terry had been good, but truthfully, I'd choose Brett over him any day. Terry was clean and smooth and had 'textbook' sex; Brett was imperfect, and caring. My lover was the one who knew to cover my mouth with his hand when I came, so nobody could hear me calling his name, and who snuggled with me afterwards. Brett made me feel comfortable, desirable, and loved. Terry had made me feel like a commodity, someone to fuck and then leave, and I was at a stage in my life where I didn't want that kind of sex.
Thankfully, Damon explained the situation on my behalf. Trent nodded thoughtfully and gave me a sympathetic look.
'So, any suggestions?' I asked lightly.
'Threaten to kick him out if he does it again?' Trent laughed awkwardly. 'Man, I don't know, Mike. That's a tough question.'
'What's a tough question? And who's kicking who out?' Lee inquired, taking poll position in between me, and Trent and Damon. He had Ella on his lap and she followed her father's gaze, from Damon and his boyfriend, then to me, and back to Damon again.
'You and your daughter are too nosey for your own good,' Damon grinned, leaning over and gently squeezing Ella's nose between his two forefingers. 'Right, Little Miss Trouble?'
Ella squealed happily and clapped her hands. She looked for all the world as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Her father just smiled, making it blatantly he actually hadn't had any real interest in our conversation.
'So,' he asked. 'Are you going to make me go back inside?'
'Nope,' Damon shook his head. 'In a week's time I'll be back in America, and then I won't see you again for over a year.'
'Oh,' Lee bit his lip. 'Can I be a cunt, then, and say I really only wanted to speak to Mike about something?'
'Sure,' Damon agreed. 'Hurt feelings? Psht. I can live with those.'
Lee grinned, picked up his daughter, and headed inside. I shrugged apologetically at Damon and Trent, who waved me inside, before following after Lee. Once we were in the house, Claire took her daughter from Lee's arms. Lee thanked her, gestured for me to follow, and made his way to Brett's room.
If I could change one thing about Brett's parenting, it would probably be his laissez faire view of our privacy. He has no issues with the kids walking through our bedroom whilst we're not around, and he allows all three to take money from his wallet to buy bread or milk without asking, on those occasions when we run out mid-week. It drives me absolutely crazy, but fortunately they do have some limits, and it was in fact in relation to private material that Lee wanted to speak to me about.
He shuffled around uneasily for a bit, before sitting on the edge of the bed. I sat on the other edge, across from him, and wondered what to say. It was hard to treat him as a child, when he was physically almost an adult, and had produced a daughter, but it was also impossible to bestow the full privileges of adulthood upon someone whose attitude and actions were often far than appropriate.
He sighed and flopped onto his back, with his arms stretched above his head. The position exposed a section of his stomach, in between his dark blue jeans and shirt. I turned my head away almost immediately. I still had so many hang-ups about my relationship with Victor, and Lee – I'm assuming because of the fact he's Victor's half-brother – seemed to be a catalyst for my paranoia. Every now and then, I'd find myself looking at him, and I'd wonder whether or not I was attracted to him. It was sick, but it was the way things were.
'Do you miss Victor?' he asked suddenly.
'I, uh, I…' I fumbled anxiously. 'Yeah, I do. But not…well, it's hard to explain to you. You're his brother. There's no way I can win if I try and explain it to you. I'm either betraying your brother, or betraying Brett.'
He sighed. 'Whatever. But that wasn't what I was asking.'
'What were you asking?' I asked gently. I knew I had to be careful here. This was the closest Lee had come to talking about his dead brother, and I couldn't afford to blow it. He needed to do this. Hell, I needed to do this.
'You know,' he shrugged, slowly sitting up. 'Do you still think about him? Do you wish you could go back and stop him from doing it?'
'Yes, I still think about him, and yes, I wish I could go back in time,' I replied cautiously. 'What about you?'
'Me? I miss him. But I'm glad he's dead. I know that sounds harsh, but seriously, it's the truth. Even when he was taking his medication, he'd get depressed. Then one of Mum's boyfriends, or one of the fathers, would start paying out on him and he'd totally lose it.' Lee gestured furiously as he spoke. 'What could anyone do to help him? Shitty things kept happening to him, and he couldn't ever be happy. He couldn't keep living like that.'
'Maybe,' I agreed hesitantly. 'But maybe one day, somebody could have helped him. Maybe a new medication would have helped.'
Lee snorted. 'Unlikely. Who the hell ever wanted to help him? You and I both know it would have ended badly. At least this way, he went quickly, and the rest of us got a chance at a normal life. Fuck, you know, if there was only one thing I could say to him, I'd say thanks for giving me a way out. That's what I'd say, 'thanks'. Because I don't even want to know what I hadn't ended up in foster care, and then with Brett and Damon.'
I didn't want to argue too much. I was saddened by Lee's thoughts on his brother's suicide, but he was obviously in more of a position than I was to make an informed opinion. He'd lived with Victor, and had been around to witness the abuse they'd both suffered.
'I suppose,' I offered insipidly.
Lee rolled his eyes. 'You don't agree. It doesn't matter because you weren't there to see what he went through. He only wanted you to see his good side, so that's all he showed you.'
'I saw the other side,' I replied, somewhat annoyed by the jibe. 'I just didn't realise how serious it was.'
He sighed tiredly. 'Shit, you know, I'm not going to argue with you. Think whatever you want to think. All I really want is to know if you still have some of his stuff.'
That was what this was about? He wanted to know if I'd kept any of Vic's possessions? Well, of course I had, and I knew there was no way I could deny him that fact, or refuse to let him look over his brother's possessions. Even if Lee's accusations just seconds earlier had annoyed me, I sympathized too greatly with him to lie. He missed his brother. Hell, I still missed his brother. During his good periods, Victor had been a great person to be around. Brett was a better partner for me, but Victor had still been someone who'd had a lot to offer.
'Um, sure,' I replied. 'Is now a good time?'
'It's as good a time as any.'
The box with Victor's possessions in it had been placed against the wall. I pushed it over to the bed, and ripped off the masking tape. I'd previously given Lee some of Victor's possessions, but I'd kept ninety percent of my dead lover's belongings for myself. Now, though, it was time to move on. There was clothing, photos and knick knacks that needed to be passed on.
'It's about time I gave you some of this stuff,' I remarked.
Lee didn't comment. He just watched me carefully, and accepted the pile of clothing I handed him.
He handled the shirts carefully, holding them up and staring at them. I figured he was trying to imagine his brother wearing them, and wondered if Lee himself would fit into them. Probably, I told myself. Victor had been seventeen when he'd died, and although Lee was a little shorter then Victor had been, he was broader than his brother. If they weren't the same size, they would be fairly close to it.
I'd compiled a photo album that contained all of my pictures of Victor, but I set this aside. It contained private photos, and was something that I wanted to keep. Lee could have everything else, but this album would always be mine.
Lee reached for the album.
'Don't,' I requested, taking it out of his hands. 'That's mine. I have doubles of all of those photos, anyway. They're in the box. I'll just browse through first to make sure you don't see anything…ahhh…you know.'
'You do that,' he smiled wryly. 'Vic already told me far more than I needed to know. I don't need to see the evidence.'
'I don't need you seeing the evidence,' I agreed.
The doubles of the photo album pictures were in an assortment of packs. I sifted through them one by one, retrieving the inappropriate photos, and laying them face down on the pack. One by one, I handed the packets of 'safe' photos over to Lee.
'You know, sometimes I look at him and I swear he looks different to how I remembered,' he commented. 'Look at this. He looks normal. You'd never know how messed up he really was.'
'I don't think he was too bad when this was taken,' I countered. I took the photo from his hands and stared down at it. It was Victor, in the kitchen, leaning against the sink. He wasn't even beautiful – Dane was never alone in calling him an 'ugly motherfucker' – but he had a unique look about him. He was tall and slender and in the photo he was wearing nothing but eyeliner, lipstick and a pair of jeans. In one hand was a cigarette, and in the other, an apple. I'd taken the photo because I'd been amused that that he was smoking and eating fruit at the same time.
Lee shook his head. 'He was fucked up even then. Wait, I'll get you his diary.'
His what? I hadn't known Victor had maintained a diary; much less that Lee was now the possessor of the item. What had Victor written about? And worse, what had Lee read? Hell, this was the last thing I wanted to hear.
My hands were actually shaking when Lee returned with his brother's journal and handed it over. I was that nervous.
'Here,' he said. 'You can read it, if you want. There's stuff about you in it.'
I nodded slowly. 'Lee?'
Before I had a chance to pose my question, there was a knock on the bedroom door. It was Brett, coming to say that everyone was leaving, and now was the time to say good-bye.
'I'm gonna go out and say good-bye,' Lee informed me. 'Can I take these photos?'
'Uh, sure,' I replied. 'Take the shirts and the rest of the stuff, too. It belongs with you.'
We dumped everything but the photo album into the box, and dragged it out the door, past Brett, and into Lee's room. Brett gave us a querulous look, which we both ignored. It wasn't something that needed an explanation, least of all now, when the visitors were leaving.
We went out the front and waved good-bye to our guests. They were tired, Brett was tired, Jamie was tired. Everyone wanted to sleep. I apologized profusely – admitting that I was actually feeling quite refreshed – and everyone laughed, but their amusement did little to appease my guilt. I'm not usually the sort of person who tries to avoid hard work, and I was embarrassed that I'd left them to move my belongings.
Brett yawned as they drove off. 'I'm going to sleep. Does anyone mind?'
Nobody cared, except me. I wanted to speak to him about last night, damn it, I didn't need him going to bed early in the evening. This was important. This was something we desperately needed to discuss, because I couldn't have him thinking he was incapable of satisfying him.
Plus, I wanted to put my photo album and Victor's journal away, before he had a chance to see either item. Hell, I wanted to read the journal, and in privacy. I wouldn't have any privacy now, not with the kids in the living areas, and Brett in the bedroom.
'Are you tired, too?' Brett asked, as I followed him to his room.
'Uh, no, I needed to clean up some of my stuff.'
'I'll do it.'
'It's personal,' I replied uneasily.
Brett gave me another, puzzled, look. 'Does this have anything to do with what you were talking about?'
I could feel myself go red. I felt horrible, telling him to butt out of my life, when he'd just opened his home to me. 'Yeah.'
He nodded. 'That's cool. I didn't mean to pry.'
I shut his bedroom door behind us and walked over to the bed. I picked up the photo album and the journal and tucked them into the bedside drawer. 'You're not. It's your house.'
Brett picked something up off the bed glanced at it, and handed it over. 'You live here, too. You have a right to privacy.'
In my hands were the less tasteful photos of Victor and I. I glanced down at them and winced, as my face grew increasingly hotter. 'Sorry.'
He leant over and kissed me. 'Please don't tell me you let Lee see that.'
'No,' I replied quickly. 'Definitely not.'
My boyfriend grinned, and pulled of his jumper. He kicked off his shoes and jeans and climbed into bed, wearing boxers and a shirt. Physically, he was entirely different to Victor. Brett was broad and muscular, dark and masculine. You wouldn't catch him dead in make-up, and he had no piercings or tattoos, either. He was just regular, old Brett.
'Hey, don't I get a hug?' he asked, patting the bed.
I took off my shoes and lay beside him. I stared at his eyes; brown with red veins and with dark shadows underneath. I kissed him. 'I love you.'
'Love you too,' he whispered, wrapping an arm around me and moving closer. 'I'm happy you're here.'
I smiled. 'Me too. But, um, can I ask you something? Could we be monogamous now?'
He blushed a little. 'Sorry. About last night, I mean. I thought you'd want it.'
'No,' I snorted with laughter. I kissed his neck. 'It was fine, but I prefer you. You're my honey. I missed being hugged afterwards. Whoever knew I'd grow to love you touching me all the time after sex?'
'I don't touch you after sex,' he lied, smiling broadly. 'I roll over and go straight to sleep.'
The relief was instantaneous, and massive. I'd done it, I'd managed to tell him he was the only sexual partner I wanted, without offending him. What was more, he was responding to my gentle teasing.
'Liar,' I smirked.
'Ooh, liar am I?' he questioned. 'I'll show you, blondie.'
He pounced on me, holding my arms down and showering kisses on my face and neck. It was oddly arousing, and yet undeniably ticklish and I was soon gasping with pleasure in between hissing at him to get off me. It was unbearable, and yet it felt great.
'Agh, quit it,' Dane ordered, barging into the room. 'Mike, we're here, and although we know you love humping Brett, get out and try to prove to Mum that you're respectable.'
Brett and I stared at one another.
'You know,' I commented slowly. 'I'm really hard pressed to tell whether it's Dane or Lee that's the bigger shit.'
Brett laughed and kissed me once more. 'You're beautiful.'
Dane coughed loudly. 'He is not. He's my brother and you, for whatever reasons, actually want to have sex with him. Revolting.'
Brett smiled at me. 'Dane wins.'
'You know, you may be right,' I agreed.
I was happy. A lot of crap had been cleared up today, and I was ready to start my new life with my lover. For the first time, I was feeling confident about my ability to make a life with him and his family.
The diary…well, I still wanted to read that. But in giving Lee his brother's belongings, I realized I'd demonstrated I was ready to move on. Something fundamental inside me had changed.
And for that, I was incredibly thankful