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Angels of Mercy Title Card
Angels of Mercy - The Complete Works
Fall - Title Card
Chapter One - Patience and Timing
Chapter Two - The Long and Winding Road
Chapter Three - The Fall
Chapter Four - Guilt and Deception
Chapter Five - The Shedding of Emotive Skins
Chapter Six - There's Got to be a Morning After
Chapter Seven - It's Darkest Before the Light
Chapter Eight - The Flicker Before Dawn
Chapter Nine - New Beginnings - Part 1
Chapter Ten - The Warmth of the Sun
Chapter Eleven - Forging Ahead
Chapter Twelve - New Beginnings - Part 2
Chapter Thirteen - The Trouble With Holidays - Part 1
Chapter Fourteen - The Boy In The Bubble
Chapter Fifteen - Cast Aways
Chapter Sixteen - The Trouble With Holidays Part 2
Chapter Seventeen - Going Home
Chapter Eighteen - Epilogue
About the Author
Italian translations provided by: Marco Guzmán, J. Scott Coatsworth, Fabrizio Montanari, and Marco Munda
Their assistance with the tone and Italian vernacular of the Sforzas in my works is immeasurable and I am humbled by their generosity.
Angels of Mercy and its derivatives are a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Akwekon Media, Novato, California
Angels of Mercy - Volume Two: Marco
Date of Original Publication: 30 November 2015
Date of Print Edition: 01 January 2016
© 2015-16 SA Collins and Akwekon Media -
sacollins.com / akwekon.com
Graphic Cover Design Composition/Typography -
SA Collins and Akwekon Media
Graphic Elements (in part):
CanStockPhoto.com - Beto Chagas Fotografia –
Angels of Mercy - The Complete Works
Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot
(His Summer of Love)
Angels of Mercy – Volume Two: Marco*
(The Fall of the Sforzas)
Angels of Mercy – Volume Three: Pietro
(The Sins of the Solstice)
Marco Sforza’s Series [Prequel Boxed Set] -
Angels of Mercy – Diary of a Quarterback I: King of Imperfections
Angels of Mercy – Diary of a Quarterback II: Prince of Mistakes
Elliot Donahey’s Companion Novel -
Angels of Mercy – Phoenix In The Fire
(* Companion to Angels of Mercy – Volume 2: Marco)
Early Spring 2016
On the Tropics of Angels
As Above, So Below…
“I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong. Than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but the devil.”
- Malcolm X
“The wings of Angels are often found on the backs of the least likely people.”
- Eric Honeycutt
“A pillow for thee will I bring, Stuffed with the down of angel’s wing.”
- Richard Crenshaw
For the Nick Donahey of my life, my father, William, who taught me more about being a man than any other simply by the act of being. I miss him every day. There is precious little I wouldn’t give in exchange to have five more minutes with him again. For my father, and the supportive fathers of gay children who stand by them steadfastly, defiantly, and whole-heartedly, never wavering in their support – this one is for you.
The Fall of the Sforzas
- Marco -
Patience and Timing
Patience and timing.
It was a principle that guided my life, instilled in me by my grandparents in Torino, Italy. They taught me that the rewards were greatest when you had patience – to wait for the absolutely right moment for everything to fall into place made achieving it all the sweeter for your efforts. Not that it always worked out that way. I also had my fair share of ill-timed moments when what I anticipated as impending euphoria completely fell apart.
Look, I’m just saying that my life isn’t so golden all the time – despite other’s estimations of me. Shit’s happened when I least expected it and I’ve not been too happy about it.
And to crack that theory that all you need is money and looks to get ahead in life, let me be honest, they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I should know. I am constantly reminded of one by others, while with the other, I rest comfortably enough to know that money won’t be an issue in my life; it hasn’t made navigating school life with my friends all that easy. People won’t let you forget that you’re the rich kid, even if, like me, you tend to be low-key about it. I know I got swag; I know I got money. I just don’t bash people over the head with it. I like to look good, especially for my guy, Elliot, but yeah, both can be curses, too.
So, I learned to cultivate patience within myself, to govern the often rabid impulse to act before the right moment presented itself. I learned to do it now with little effort, but that didn’t mean that at times it wasn’t hard or that I didn’t have a burning desire for it all to happen right fucking now. I’m a guy, just like any other in that regard.
Satisfaction is key, though.
Take my boyfriend, for example. I was in love with him from the first time I spied him yanking on his padlock in our sophomore year. But I somehow knew, with his slight geeky boy frame, coupled with ice blue eyes that could shred me with just one look, that he wouldn’t be receptive to a jock professing his undying love at first sight, no matter how much it was true.
God, it had been a long haul until I had him in my arms where I knew he always belonged. But Gods of Olympus – as my guy liked to say – was it ever an adventure for us to get there.
So I had to work for it, to prove my worth.
Elliot made this abundantly clear to me.
Laughter broke out among the guys at the table of the restaurant, snapping me out of my roaming thoughts about Els and me as Stanford’s current quarterback, Ryan Findlay, recounted the end-of-season party last year that had one of the guys on the team in a rather awkward predicament involving his being nude, in public, and running into his parents. While I found the humor in it just as infectious had I been there and had known the guys involved, what I did see was that they were all a very close group of men who not only shared a common interest in football, but also found time to really get to know one another – they were family. Well, at least those guys who had accompanied the coaching staff and me when we made our way over a few blocks from Stanford to Joya, the Spanish restaurant that was a favorite among the football team.
I guess it would probably become my new haunt as well, seeing how it was so close to the university.
The decor was modern, yet very warm and inviting in dark manly toned woods. It had simple but effective lighting, earth-toned, floor-to-ceiling semi-transparent curtains providing several nooks that allowed a private party-like atmosphere without feeling cut off from the rest of the restaurant. I could definitely see Elliot and me hanging out here between classes or on a romantic night out.
The food was excellent. I had a particular fondness for Spanish paella dishes not to mention Sangria, when I could get it. In Europe, or at my parents’ house, it was easy – here in the States, eh, not so much.
I was feeling particularly comforted knowing that when I told the team about Elliot and me, my make-or-break moment where everything was in the balance, they just seemed to nod a couple of times – with maybe an arched brow on one of them, but it was cool; we were good.
More importantly, I was in.
There was even a very sexy ginger guy, named Angus who suddenly showed up part way through the whole thing, and I discovered he was out – publicly so, and he turned out to be quite relieved that he wasn’t the only gay on the team any longer.
After brief introductions, and some idle chat, I knew we’d become fast friends. I didn’t even know I had a thing for gingers. I mean, there was no way that I’d ever step out on Elliot. My man was golden. He was everything to me. I made one disastrous mistake in my life with that cheerleading bitch, Cindy Markham, and Elliot loved me enough to forgive me. There was no way I was ever going to mess with that again. Game over, lesson learned.
So Angus and I would become brothers. Not that I was in short supply for one. My own brother, Pietro, went to Stanford already, had been for the past two years now. So it wasn’t like I didn’t have someone to lean on to get a feel for the school. Plus, it was Dad’s alma mater, so yeah – there was a family history in going here. Like Petey, I was a legacy according to the school.
A tiny thought coursed across my mind, as I watched the guys converse among themselves, about Elliot and my future: perhaps even our son or daughter would end up going here as well. That thought kind of warmed my heart. I think it would please Elliot, too.
Now if only he’d get his damned acceptance letter.
We were both on pins and needles about it and so far – nothing. He was so fucking smart; he was going to graduate summa cum laude from Mercy. His grades were that good. Why wouldn’t Stanford snatch him up? It was maddening, this prolonged waiting until the admissions office got their shit together and made him an offer of acceptance to the school.
In the middle of the laughter over some new story one of the guys was retelling, my phone buzzed against my chest. Not wanting to appear rude, I discreetly pulled it out, and saw that Elliot’d sent me a text:
>>ELLIOT>> Stanford – I’m in!
I couldn’t help it as the biggest grin moved across my face as those words sunk in. Everything was just clicking into place: the team, the school and now this. It was almost effortless now.
“Good news, I take it?” Angus leaned in with his hand covering the side of his mouth so the guys couldn’t hear what he said to me. I nodded with that big and dopey grin I knew I was wearing. I didn’t care. My guy just confirmed one of our biggest dreams was about to come true. I was so going to propose to this guy. I’d already bought the ring. I’d had it made by the designers at Bulgari’s in San Francisco from a sketch I’d drawn. It had cost me a small fortune but nothing was too good for Elliot.
I turned to Angus and smiled warmly.
“Yeah, the other half just gave me the best news I could get today.”
I showed him the text. He pushed out his lower lip and nodded – acknowledging that he could see why I was elated with those three simple words.
“You got a picture of the lucky guy?”
“Hey now, I’m the lucky one.”
I flipped through to the photo roll on my phone and pulled up my favorite image of him. It was after we’d made love and he was lying on his stomach with his face against the pillow, turned my direction, his pupils wide and his skin just flushed from the hard core boning we’d had for most of that morning. The morning light kissed his skin, giving him an ethereal glow. I cherished that loving look when it gazed lazily back at me – fulfilled and so full of love.
Angus whistled, catching some of the other guys’ attention, to which he waved a hand at them that they didn’t need to stop whatever they were doing on our account.
“He’s sure a pretty one.”
“Yeah, you’d never believe it but he thinks he’s nothing special. Very low key. It’s part of his charm that he can’t see it. But God is he ever beautiful to watch. I was caught the moment I saw him.”
“Wow, sounds like it’s pretty heavy there.”
“Yeah,” I smiled as I ran a thumb along the image of him on the screen. “Already bought the ring. He just doesn’t know when I’ll do it. Like to keep him on his toes.”
“So he knows?”
“About me popping the question? Oh yeah. I told that to him within the first week we were dating.”
“Wow, talk about fast moving. That would’ve freaked me out.”
“Yeah, believe me, I was so worried when it came out during a conversation. But I played it cool, like it was just in the cards for us. A given. To him I may have looked cool, but inside I was anything but. I knew that I could’ve blown it, big time. But he just seemed to believe in it too. It’s been good ever since.”
“Well, he’s definitely a keeper. He got a brother who might be …”
I chuckled, though a part of me tucked that away that Elliot was this guy’s type. I’d have to watch him around my guy. I didn’t get the feeling that Angus would be disrespectful or anything, but I also had only met him today. The jury was still out.
“Not that I’ve ever seen. Though he has a buddy who is a ballet dancer and almost as pretty. And don’t let the ballet thing fool you. Dan’s a guy’s guy. He even fucks girls when he can’t get any dick.”
Angus quirked an eyebrow at that.
“You got a pic?”
I did happen to have one of Dan and Elliot. It was a very good picture of them both where Dan was reclining back on the hood of my car against the windshield and Elliot had curled up next to him with his head on Dan’s chest. They were sort of angelic-looking when they were together like that. It was one of my favorite pictures, too. I could already see the love between them. Elliot had taken to Dan like a fish to water. They were rather inseparable, really. Part of me had been worried when Dan had confessed to a having a crush on Elliot. But he said he wouldn’t ever cross that line. I believed him. In a way, it kind of gave me an insurance policy that if something happened to me, then there would be someone who would make sure Elliot survived it all. But I didn’t really want to think about that. So instead, I just pulled up the photo of Dan and Elliot and passed the phone to Angus.
“Fuck, he’s pretty, too.”
“You got a thing for the pretty ones, huh?”
“Well, after staring at you rough and tumble guys, I sorta want a visual break. Not that you’re not pretty yourself,” he winked. I nodded once to gracefully thank him.
“Yeah, well, right back attcha,” I winked back. Our bromance was secure. He blushed and it looked good on him.
“Ah, look, the gay guys are already becoming GBFs,” Ryan called out and threw a cloth napkin at us. I dodged it as Angus batted it away, flipping him the bird as he did so. The rest of the guys laughed. It was all in good fun.
“I better go give Elliot a call back. I won’t be long.”
“Sure. Though I think we’re wrapping it up here anyway.”
I snuck out through the lobby of the restaurant and onto the corner of the street, while I navigated to Elliot’s cell number and auto-dialed.
The phone rang once. “C’mon, baby. Pick up … I know you’re there.”
My emotions were riding high; I could literally feel my blood pressure rise as I waited to hear his voice. Everything was happening according to plan now.
“Heya, babe,” he said softly.
Okay, sometimes I can’t hold things in – I’m human. I can forgive myself on a few occasions.
“Ah, yeah, baby – whoo-hoo!” I hollered into the phone.
I was sure that turned a few heads on this busy intersection of University Avenue. I didn’t care. Whenever I talked to my guy, the world just melted away and it was just him and me. Nothing was going to deter us now.
“I knew you’d get in! We’re so totally set! This day just gets better and better!”
I was pacing around on the corner, suddenly flush with pent-up energy.
“Yeah, I guess. So, everything’s going well?”
There was so much to tell him. Football was going to happen. I was already making friends with some of my teammates. The campus was a known entity thanks to my brother and Dad, so I just could feel it all coming together.
“Better than well, actually. They had a quarterback a few of seasons ago who was openly gay with the team but they didn’t make any big deal of it in the press. Took a DL approach just to minimize the drama and let the sportscasters concentrate on how the team was playing rather than any personal dirt they could dig up. He didn’t go pro so there was no scuttlebutt about his sexuality. Never was part of the NFL Scouting Combine. So, there’s a total precedent – I’m not the first. I told them about you and the guys seem supportive. Angus, the ginger guy I told you about, said he was glad there was going to be someone else besides him on the team. So yeah, gaydar was totally working on that score. They all chimed in that now he’d have competition. It was all in good fun. Guess that’s why Stanford has such a gay-friendly rep.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
He seemed a bit down. I made a note to check in with Dan after I hung up with Elliot.
“So what’re you doing now?”
“Just filling in the acceptance form online.”
“Cool. I’m gonna make a couple of stops before I head out. We’re sorta wrapping it all up here. Since I’m attached there’s no need for the lap dancer thing they planned – not like I’m of age, so I think they were going to do some sort of private party thing. I dunno. I guess they all thought I’d be up for it though ‘cause the other guys looked sorta hopeful. I told them to go on without me; I’d be there in spirit or whatever.”
“Okay. You gonna stop by here on your way home? Do I get to see you first, I mean?”
That must be it. He wanted to see me. I loved that about him. My guy needed me. There was no way I was going to disappoint him.
“Of course! I think there’s a little celebratory lovemaking on our horizon.”
“Mmmm. I’m looking forward to it.”
I could hear the anticipation in his voice. There he is, the man who warmed my heart, the man I’m going to marry. Had to, there were no two ways about it.
“’Kay, well, I better get running so I can take care of things and get back to you.”
“Yeah, okay. Be careful driving back, okay? I worry when you’re away from me. I don’t like it very much.”
Damn, he is so sweet. I wanted him in my arms so badly right now. I felt my skin flush just thinking about that.
“I hear you. But this should be a one-time thing. After I get back, I’ll never leave your side, babe. Fuck, we may not even wait for us to graduate. I think I may pop the question soon. So, yeah, be prepared.”
I hadn’t planned on saying that. There were times when my emotions got the better of me. Patience and timing, yeah sometimes, not so much where he was concerned. Elliot was most definitely my Waterloo. The pull from him was so strong, sometimes things just slipped through my fingers whenever he was around.
“You aren’t supposed to tell me that!”
Like now. I knew I sort of ruined the surprise.
“Oh, yeah, like we haven’t been discussing marriage at all. So totally Elliot random there. My bad.”
I could hear him make one of those cat-like stretches that had my body reacting to the way his muscles moved. I visualized it in my mind’s eye. I could watch him all day long and never tire of it. I still can’t believe how he was mine, something a year ago I almost thought would never happen.
“I’ll take care of all that energy you’ve got going on. I can hear it. You got an itch and I’ll do the scratching. ‘K, babe?”
He was so cute when he tried to control his impulses. I heard him yawn.
“Wow, you better not crash on me.”
After all, I had needs too, ya know.
“Well, it’ll take you a couple of hours to get back so maybe just a little nap to keep my reserves up. Something tells me that I’m gonna be worn out tonight.”
“Uh-huh,” I knew that would drive him bat-shit crazy. He loved it when I did this to him. A smile broke across my face knowing just how he was feeling.
“’K. Well, I gotta get so I can wrap shit up and head home. See you soon?”
“Yeah, you know where I live.”
“Brother, do I ever.”
“Love you …”
“Love you too, babe.”
God, I melted every time he said that to me. Any term of endearment, ‘cause I knew it was from his heart. If there were any better things in life, I couldn’t think of any.
“Be careful … okay?”
I ended the call just as the guys were starting to file out of the restaurant. I walked over to them. Angus had a small smirk on his face. No doubt he could see how elated I was just talking to my man.
“Man, you’ve got it bad.”
“And it’s never been so good,” I said with a big ol’ Cheshire Cat smile lighting up my face.
Mitch Fornsbury turned to me.
“Sure you don’t wanna tag along – it was all set up for you, ya know. All the guys chipped in. Who knows? You might discover somethin’ you like.”
He wiggled his eyebrows. Mitch was a stud of a guy, and a solid lady’s man from what I’d been hearing. I smiled and fist bumped his shoulder.
“Thanks but what I got back home is the answer to all my dreams. ‘Sides, I’ve already sampled the other side a couple of times. Just not my thing. But don’t let me hold y’all up.”
The guys looked at each other, then back at me, a beat, then they all broke out laughing.
“Yeah, like that was gonna stop us. Are you fucking nuts?” D’Shawn replied. He was a beautiful caramel-colored man who reminded me of Beau back home. Solid male supermodel material.
I laughed with them too. It was good that we could be open about sex and not have any weirdness about it. I was good and they were good.
“Yeah, all right. Well, I gotta big drive home so I’ll catch up with you guys soon.”
Ryan came up and shook my hand. “Too bad I won’t get to play with you.”
“Yeah, from what I hear it would have been great – even if I had to play second string to you. But good luck with everything. Maybe you can come back and watch us play sometime?”
“Count on it,” he beamed at me. He was a really great guy and I knew if he wasn’t about to graduate this year, we would have become great friends.
I shook hands with the others, spending time with the coaches for a few about some next steps that I had to plan. I assured them that I would keep in touch and keep them informed if I ran into any roadblocks as I got to making the move to school next fall. I noticed that Angus had hung back after most of the guys had moved off. I supposed he was really looking forward to making a connection with me. That was cool. Having friends on the team was always a plus. It helped promote teamwork, and it made the tougher times a bit easier to bear.
After the coaches had started to move down the street, I walked over to Angus. I took him in, and yeah, for a big guy – he was nearly 6’4” – at least a good inch or so above me – he was one hell of a head turner. His dark auburn hair was shorn close to the head on the sides and back but not quite a military cut as the top was longish and floppy. This was a guy who knew about style. I could get into that.
His green eyes were very nearly the same shade as mine. His oblong face was definitively masculine – nothing feminine at all in his features. He had strong features, not blockish or brutish, but more chiseled – defined, not too unlike the carved statues of antiquity. No doubt, he looked like his father. He was a strapping he-man of a guy. A man’s man, who just happened to like other men.
“You checking me out, Sforza?”
I frowned a bit; there wasn’t any reason to lie.
“Hell yeah, you’re a good looking guy. It never occurred to me that I liked ginger or auburn-haired guys before.”
“Yeah, it’s an impediment to meeting guys more than you know.”
I frowned even more at his admission.
“Wow, really? I just can’t see anyone turning you down,” I said evenly.
I hoped he detected no hinting on my part with what I was saying. I was just letting him know I appreciated his look, the manly nature of him. Elliot had warned that I’d find other men attractive. In the heat of our relationship I just didn’t see that there would be any way possible that I could even look at another man with any degree of interest. Well, he’d been right about my finding other guys attractive. Angus was definitely one of those guys. It was a surprise to me that I reacted to him like I did. But he wasn’t Elliot; not even close. That was the defining factor. I simply liked Angus. I knew we’d be close.
His smile illuminated his face, though there was a streak of pain there. I found that there was some small part of me that felt for him. It was easy. His whole persona made him vastly approachable. The guys on the team said that was part of why they accepted who he was. He was quiet, unassuming though at times appeared stoic. Then he’d smile and the room would just become brighter. They all had the same comment about Angus. I saw it, too, as he smiled at me. Yet, I also could see pain.
I knew of pain. Pain and I were old friends. Smiles could hide, could set aside the pain, but for those of us who were used to hiding it, it couldn’t be plainer if he had bright lights shimmering around it.
I gave him a hug.
“Wow!” he huffed, patting me heavily on the back. “What was that for?”
“’Cause you looked like you could use it. You can thank my boyfriend for that. He’s the one who gets me to see things I used to ignore before. Now I act on them. Life’s too short and too fucked up to let things slip by – especially when you can do something about it. That’s Elliot. He just brings out what’s good in me. That’s why I know he’s the man for me. I’m better because of him. ‘Sides, I can see that you’ve been hurt recently.”
I slipped an arm across his shoulder, thankful that there wasn’t more than an inch or so between us or it could’ve been a much more awkward thing to pull off. We started to walk down the street back to the school.
“Yeah, I had a bad breakup with a guy. An actor, if you can imagine. Very artistic type. I thought it was love; turns out he thought it was a series of fuck-buddy hookups. Kind of became embarrassing when I took him out to suggest we move in together. My parents have a successful business here in Palo Alto so I don’t live on campus. I got my own townhouse. So I booked us a table here at Joya.”
His tossed his head back toward the restaurant, the pain intensifying in a flash across his face. My heart lurched. I knew of that particular pain. Not because I lived it, well, not really, but I’d come so close to having my dreams with Elliot dashed even before they could fully begin. So I knew what revisiting that sort of pain could do to a guy.
As men, we’re taught to hide our feelings, to curb the desire to express ourselves, especially if you’re in a team sport. Though my Italian upbringing had tempered that in me, I knew that guys typically kept their cards fairly close to their chests.
I always went to Tom Hank’s line from A League of Their Own: “There’s no crying in baseball.” Yeah, that pretty much was true for any sport men played. We carried that mantra even off the field. We were conditioned not only by our often well-intended, if domineering, fathers who had not only been equally schooled by their fathers, but also by our coaches, our mothers and other family members to hide whatever was bubbling inside. If you were gay, it only added a whole other level of cray-cray to the mix.
That’s why my heart went out to Angus. I could so easily be him. If I didn’t have Elliot, my light, my perfect angel, I’d be so lost now. The whole world would be opening up to me and I’d be terrified beyond belief. Elliot made it bearable; he made it safe.
I know he saw me as the one in control in our relationship, that I was the one to carry the day for us, and I tried to be that for him. I knew he required it of me. But it was only because of his love for me that I was able to accomplish anything. He was my goto, the whole reason I had any confidence that I could truly fly. With him as my wingman, my lover, the man who warmed my soul – I could do anything. And I believed in it. With Elliot by me, nothing was impossible. His love for me was that strong, and extremely palpable.
Angus, it appeared, wanted nothing less. But I knew I had to hear his pain before I could figure out what I could do to help. I don’t know why I felt so driven to help him all of a sudden, but I did.
“Yeah, well, you can imagine how much it hurt when I suggested that we become more permanent. He fucking laughed.”
I could feel his body tense under my hand on his shoulder. Angus shook his head and ran a quick hand along his eyes.
“Fuck, you’d think I’d be over it. It was a month ago. I thought I could handle it when the guys said where we were going for lunch. But I debated it inside, ya know? It was one of the reasons why I hadn’t opted in meeting you from the start. It had nothing to do with you, just how it all went down here with that guy. Left me feeling a bit raw. Guess going back there today just brought it back for me.”
“Well, I got your back on this. If I didn’t have Elliot, I’d be so fucking scared now.”
“You’re kidding, you? You seem like such a mature, together kind of guy.”
“That’s my guy. Plain and simple. Without him …” I looked away for a moment and huffed – trying to bite back that all-consuming fright, overwhelmed that every time I even allowed my mind to wander over that abhorrent possibility, I found I couldn’t deal with it. I whistled, trying like hell to collect myself. I coughed and got myself together.
“Without him, I just wouldn’t be able to accomplish half of what I do.”
“He sounds amazing,” Angus said. “That’s what I want. Just someone who’ll do that for me so I can be so much more for him, ya know?”
I did, all too well. I brought my hand from his shoulder and fished out my phone from my inner jacket pocket.
“Yeah, well, we’re gonna fix that. Now, I can’t make any promises, ‘cause, well, there’s so much that could really go off the rails here, but nothing ventured, right?”
“What are you going on about?” he asked, raising a quizzical brow.
“Just stand there,” I stepped back. “There now, look sexy.”
I chuckled. This was totally whacked. I knew I was probably doing something totally not my place. But I sort of knew that it was twisted enough that it was definitely something Dan would appreciate. And Danny was a lonely guy, too. Maybe I could mend two hearts over this.
“Just stand there; you’re already sexy. You know that. Just stand there, stud.”
That got the warmest smile out of him. His eyes lit up the way only green eyes could. I know because Elliot made mine so bright they practically glowed.
I snapped a few pictures of him. In one of them, he had a sexy as hell smirk that if it didn’t go to Dan’s cock, then the boy simply wasn’t alive. I selected a couple of them and texted them to Dan’s phone with the caption: “Just met your future husband. Do the right thing.”
Within seconds of the send, my phone rang – Dan.
“What the fuck, Marco?”
“Yeah, I thought that’d get your attention.”
Angus just shook his head.
“You’re too much, man,” was all Angus said holding up his hands in surrender or he was just telling me he wanted no part of it. I wasn’t sure yet. I was hoping for the former.
Stubborn. Just like Danny. I could tell that if these two got together it would be volatile, but in a hot and sexy kind of way. They would fuck so hard it might cause a tremor in the ground.
“Seriously, the dude is hotter than fuck, but really? You just thought you’d snap your fingers and I’d melt for him?” Dan bit out.
“Yeah, I did. I know I just met him, but he’s so amazing.” I practically cooed at him.
Angus kept shaking his head at how fucking out of the box I was being – right in front of him, no less.
“Yeah, okay. And he’s hella hot as fuck, too. I didn’t think I could find a ginger I’d like. But he’s a drop-dead stud, that’s for sure. But don’t you dare say I said that!” Danny practically shouted that last bit. Like that was gonna stop me.
“He thinks you’re a drop-dead stud. His words,” I said to Angus who blushed even further, which was saying something because of his flawless porcelain complexion.
He had the lightest dusting of freckles that were so soft that it just made his face so welcoming to watch. If Dan didn’t see any of that I’d take him to the damned eye doctor. They were both hurting and lonely. What could go wrong? Okay, only everything. I guess I shouldn’t put that out there. The universe tended to listen to me at all the wrong times.
“Marco! I am so going to kick your ass when you get home!” Danny growled.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m quaking from a ballet dancer getting all thug on my ass. You know you’re interested. You two would fuck so hard.”
“Dude!” Angus smacked his forehead with his hand. I’d just pushed him over the edge of where he was comfortable. Good, they both needed something to shake them up. Maybe that was me. Maybe, this could work.
“Easy, big guy. I got this,” I whispered to him, before taking my hand away from the microphone of the phone.
Dan was practically screaming into the phone.
“Marco, goddammit, this is so whacked! He’s got to be so embarrassed that you did this! Jesus, give the poor guy a break, will ya?”
“Only if you do something for me,” I said very casually – as if we were talking about what fruit to buy at the market.
He sighed, “What?”
I turned to Angus, lifting an eyebrow and smirking with as evil a look as I could muster.
“No!” Angus said holding his hand up to stop me from what he knew I was going to do.
Dan caught on at about the same time.
“Marco, don’t embarrass him further! Goddammit!”
“Yeah, yeah. Here he is. His name is Angus.” I grabbed Angus’ upheld hand and slapped my phone into it. “Talk!”
I walked away from him to give them some space knowing that they’d both be pissed as hell at me. Good, it’ll give them an ice breaker – something in common that they could bitch about.
I watched Angus, trying to read what Dan was saying to him by observing it play out on Angus’ face. His body language and facial expression was one of shock once I handed the phone to him, but after a few seconds I knew Dan was working his magic. That boy was enchanting when he wanted to be. I don’t know why I did what I did. It was so out of character for me. Even Elliot would probably be shocked and would’ve smacked me upside the head for doing it. But dammit, it just felt right.
My eyes wandered off from Angus as I thought about seeing my guy in a couple of hours. I felt my body flush with love for him. Maybe Dan could do that for Angus or vice versa.
Angus let out a belly laugh that brought me back to the two of them. I smiled. Maybe it would work out after all. He started to walk back toward me, a big shit-eating grin across his face. He put his hand to the phone.
“I’m so going to kick your ass.”
He said it with a bit more angst than I’d like, but there was that twinkle in his eye that told me he was good with my little ploy. He might kick my ass about it later, but I knew there was a great deal of him that liked that I’d put them together – unannounced.
“… 7379… yeah, you got it. Okay. You sure now? I don’t want you to feel oblig …” Angus smiled broadly and gave me a thumbs-up. I gave him a knowing smirk.
“Okay, yeah. No, I swear. I happen to like pretty boys. It’s just my thing.”
He winked at me. I chuckled. It was good.
Then Angus got soft, the humor sort of drained from his expression.
“Hey, I’d never. Just not who I am.”
More from Dan – which I knew he could prattle on just like Elliot. They were two peas in a pod if there ever were any two people who could be so alike.
“Yeah, okay. I’ll talk to you in a few. That would be great! Yeah, totally. No, I’ll come get you. Just text me your address or whatever. But hey, I’m taking up Marco’s phone here and it’s sorta rude. So yeah. Cool.”
A beat. Danny was no doubt saying something to Angus about my putting them on the spot. Angus smiled, winked at me before saying, “Yeah, I guess we’ll keep him around. This whole thing may have turned out to be the best thing to happen to two guys since … well, since Marco and Elliot. Yeah, okay. Talk to you then, too. Bye.” He handed me the phone. “He wants to talk to you. Be nice to him. Looks like I’m dating him now.”
“Wow, possessive much? And you two thought I was nuts.”
“You are nuts, totally. But, I guess you got my back, just like you said.”
I smiled and then put the phone to my ear.
“Dude, I’m still gonna kick your ass. But yeah, uh, thanks. He sounds hella hot. And fuck me, he’s big too. Everywhere.”
“Did you ask him?”
“Hell yeah. A guy likes to know what he’s gonna have to accommodate sometime down the road. Sounds like he’d give Paolo a run for the money. Just my kinda guy.”
“Totally. I’ve never said I was ashamed of it either. Fuck me, I work hard for that title. I really should get it tattooed above my ass, but somehow I think those ballet prisses wouldn’t find it as humorous as I do.”
“Yeah, I guess not.”
“Okay, well, I’ll let you go for now ‘cause I know you gotta get going and you’re being rude just standing there talking to me. Is he still there?”
“Uh-huh …” I pressed the mute button and the speaker button so Angus could hear. Man, was I ever being devilish right now. Dan’s next words were loud enough that Angus heard every one of them.
“Yeah, well, if he becomes the future Mr. Jericho or I’m whatever his last name is, then I’ll owe you like forever. He is definitely husband material. Fuck me, even I can see that. And I’m not just talking about looks either. He sounds like he has a good heart. I don’t know why I feel that already but I can just hear it in his voice. He’s golden. Maybe he can be my Marco, huh? And … Marco? Do you have me on speaker phone? Did he just hear that? Oh. My. God! I am so going to kill you …”
I took him off of both speaker and mute.
“Yeah, okay, okay! It was dirty. But he knows now. So what’s the harm? I’ve just saved you both a hell of a lot of will-this-work or won’t-it. He now knows. So if he responds to you ...”
“Oh, I will!” Angus wiggled his eyebrows and blushed a radiant shade of red.
“And he said he will, then you’re good. I don’t see why you’re freaking out on it.”
“I’m freaking the fuck out because you need to get out of the fucking driver’s seat of my love life and let me take the fuck over! Okay, so you did your good deed. Now, let me take it forward. Don’t fuck this up for me, Sforza!”
“Okay. I’ll shut the fuck up now. I promise.”
They both chimed in unison, one to each ear. It was angst in stereo, “Thank God!”
I pointed at the phone and said to Angus, “You two are so made for each other – you both said the same words at the same time. Man, I’m good at this!”
“Say good-bye, Marco,” Dan said drolly.
“Goodbye, Marc-“ Dan hung up. I stared at the phone and it had already flipped to my home screen.
“God he can be such a pissy queen sometimes,” I whined to Angus.
“Hey, that’s the future Mr. Carr, you’re talking about there. So watch it, Sforza,” he said playfully. I could see him beaming at the prospect. I’d done my good deed.
“Shall we?” I indicated the walk back to the school.
“Yeah, before you start picking out our china patterns.”
He shook his head and put his arm around my shoulders, but I could tell he was good with it all. I’d turned what was a painful reminiscence into a new beginning. I knew while he had been shocked, he was very pleased with what I’d done.
The next ten minutes or so he walked me back to school telling me about his studies. Though he was a freshman, he said his pursuing sports medicine was probably going to take him several years to complete his doctorate. He was going all the way if Stanford medical would have him. That thought actually appealed to me. I hadn’t even thought about that as a possibility. I asked him who I should talk to if the idea appealed to me. He gave me a guidance counselor who he had spoken to when he got there and he really liked the guy. Said he was a big flirt for the jock types, so obviously gay. He nodded that I had it right. I punched in the guy’s name into my phone and thanked him for the tip. He walked me to my car, which it turned out that he’d parked only four spaces over from my brother’s Tesla. He whistled at the car which I had to admit had that sort of futuristic swagger to it. I could definitely see that. But I told him it wasn’t mine, that I was borrowing from my brother, Pietro. I told him that he was pre-med here at Stanford.
Angus said he knew who he was, that he had one class with him this semester – and my brother had been a TA for the professor. I told him he should introduce himself and let him know that we’d met. Told him that my brother was a good guy and we were very close. Of course, it helped that we were identical twins so the immediate rapport was sort of a given.
“So how is it he’s already going here and you’re still in high school?” Angus asked as he leaned against the side of my brother’s car. I was cool with it, and I had to admit, the longer I spent with Angus I could definitely see us becoming very close friends. We already had an ease between us. I turned and leaned my backside against the car to chat for a bit.
“He’s the brainiac of the pair. I’ve got the brawn. Well, that’s not a hundred percent true, I guess. I just wanted to play football and I’d’ve been physically too small to compete here. So, high school it was. Pietro, on the other hand, is nothing if not brilliant. I admire how quick he is. He’s fairly athletic too, and can definitely keep up with me on the field, but the academics just come to him very easily. Plus he’s got a genuine heart. It’s been hard being apart from him.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet. I have a younger brother who still sorta looks up to me. He’s in high school too, so you’d think that he’d be well over that by now. But, we’ve always been close. So yeah, I get that it can be hard. Can’t imagine if we were twins and separated – for how long, now?”
“Two years. He came to Stanford when I started in my sophomore year at Mercy High.”
“Wait, that’s you?”
“That’s me, what?”
“Dude, I kept hearing about you from Ryan this year. He’s exiting so he’s been watching the newbie’s stats and he kept talking about Marco this and Marco that. I guess he found your last name too hard to remember or pronounce or I wasn’t paying attention, which is more likely. It just hit me that he was going on about you. Wow, okay. I guess I was a little slow on the uptake. And you’re the guy who did that whole gay boy rant at the top of … shit, that was Elliot in the video, wasn’t it?”
I blushed. I couldn’t help it. It was one of my more spectacular moments.
“I just sort of got ahead of myself and it went viral.”
“Dude, it made the student paper here. Ryan’s so gonna give me shit when I tell him I figured it out now.”
He shook his head how in this modern age of immediate exposure and viral videos you could still be totally in the dark about something.
“Dude, if it’s any consolation, I still feel so lost when Danny and Elliot get going. I just shake my head and nod a lot. It seems to fool them that I know what the hell they’re going on about.”
“Yeah, well, if it works out between Dan and me, then I guess I’ll be your wingman on that. I never can follow all of that shit. A moving truck went by one day, you know, those big freight ones?”
I nodded that I understood.
“Yeah, well, it had this big-breasted and overly made up chick on a moon or some sorta thing plastered on the side. I figured she had to be big or something with a figure and tits like that, not that I was interested, mind you, but fuck me if I could figure out who she was. I saw her name and ended up Googling it when I got home. It was Kim Kardashian. Now, I really wish I’d’ve stayed in the dark. I can’t escape that fucking name no matter how I try. She’s like some sort of infectious disease that’s riddled all media outlets. And she does NOTHING! What the fuck, right?”
“I mean, I know who she was, but only because the cheerleaders kept yapping about her and Kanye or was it Jay-Z?”
His brows furrowed.
“No, that’s Beyoncé you’re thinking of there, I think. See? Now you’ve got me corn-fused.” He laughed and I shook my head and rolled my eyes. I could tell he was where I was with that celebrity stuff.
“See, I getcha. It’s too fucking confusing to keep up.”
I laughed that Angus and I were totally in the same boat and I’d just hooked him up with someone who was equally as dangerous with that useless information as my baby was. We were so going to need each other just to regroup and take a breather every now and then. I mean, I loved my man, but seriously he could go on about some things that were totally foreign to me.
The laughter in him started to die down and he looked at me intently.
“And Dan’s like that, too?”
“Dan’s a good guy, Angus. I mean that. But he’s been hurt. Badly. And he blurts out with some shit that might make you scratch your head. But, if you’re anything like me, and I think we’re of the same mind here, you’ll see right through it like I do. Dan just wants someone to love him for him. The ex was his first. And it was powerful from what I can tell. But something happened. He really hasn’t said what, entirely. Just that it was abrupt and nearly destroyed him. It tore away at his confidence. He even told me that he had a crush on my guy. But I think that’s just because Elliot’s just that kind of guy. For those who see it, like I see it, he’s mesmerizing. Dan’s just lonely. And I wouldn’t put too much into his fucking girls, either. He has absolutely no emotional attachment to them at all. Seems to be a purely physical thing that he could drop in a second if he had someone special. Well, someone who makes him feel special. Like my guy, Dan just wants someone to see him for him. You know what I mean?”
Angus turned so that he could rest his bent arm on the roof of the car with his head in his hand. I did the same, so we could face each other. The sun had dipped behind a billowing of clouds overhead and a cool breeze began to move about us. Angus didn’t seem to be affected by the stronger breeze that billowed against his long sleeved v-neck deep purple sweater that seemed to accentuate his muscled physique by clinging into every nook and cranny of his chest and abs. The guy was a stud. I hoped Dan could take care of that.
“He a senior?”
I winced, something I forgot to tell him.
“Ah, shit! He’s not legal, is he?”
“Oh no, he is! He’s just not a senior. He missed a year due to classes not being credited when he left ballet school or something like that so he’s repeating his junior year. But he’s eighteen like Elliot and me. Is that a problem?”
Angus chuckled, and rolled his eyes. “No, not really I guess, though it might be weird taking him home to meet my parents over the holidays. They’ll probably think I’m robbing the cradle.”
“Your parents know?”
“That I’m gay? Yeah. They’ve known since I was like six or something. Well before I knew. My dad was just happy that I was a rough and tumble sort of gay kid. So he still got all the sports stuff guys like to do. He actually had a fairly keen way of looking at it. He told me that while he didn’t get the whole liking boys thing, he said at least he didn’t have to worry that I’d get some girl pregnant while still in high school. I guess that’s how I came along. Senior year for them.”
“Wow. I still don’t know how I’ll tell mine about Elliot and me.”
“It’s not the same for any two guys who do. You just wait for whatever sign that tells you it’s the right time. If they love you enough, you’ll all get through it. If not, well, then there’s some repair work to be done, if it’s possible.”
“Yeah, I guess. But I gotta tell you. With parents like mine, I don’t know if the timing will ever be right. I think I’m just gonna have to take the plunge and do it and whatever happens, happens. Ya know?”
“You got a place to go if they throw you out?”
“I’m not worried about that. I’ve got my own source of money. I don’t really have to do any of this,” I indicated with my hand to the school on the other end of the parking lot.
“Then, why are you?” he snorted.
“Because Elliot wants to. And it’ll keep me playing a bit longer.”
“So let me see if I get this straight: you’ve got enough cash that if your parents throw you out of their house for being gay you aren’t worried but you’re going to go through all of the schooling thing just because Elliot wants to go to school and so you can continue to play football?”
“Doesn’t he realize that when you marry he won’t have to do any of that, too? I mean, you don’t have to tell me the figure, but I’m getting it’s substantial enough that you’re not going to be hurting for cash anytime soon, right?”
“It’s sizable enough that yeah, we won’t be hurting for cash and don’t even have to work a day in our lives if we don’t want to – as long as we mind our money. And Elliot doesn’t know. I mean, he knows the family has money; he’s just never asked about it. He gets upset when he can’t pay for things because I keep doing it. I’ve had to let him pay for stuff even though I know he doesn’t have much. It just makes him happy that he can. I get that. But I also replace every dime he’s ever spent when he isn’t looking. I will always take care of him. He knows it. We don’t talk about it. Hell, I’d give it all to him if he asked. But I know he never will, even if he did know. It’s just not who he is. I know how that sounds, like he’s some sort of perfect demigod of a guy. He isn’t. He’d be the first to say he makes mistakes. But, he’s just so incredibly gentle and kind. He inspires me to be better. That’s all I can say about him. He has me completely spellbound. I’ve been trapped since I saw him two years before. I followed him, never thinking he’d give me the time of day.”
His brows furrowed.
“Why’s that? I’d think a gay kid on campus would be over the moon about going out with a jock, especially one as recognizable as you.”
“You’d think that, right?” I chuckled at the absurdity of it all. “Hell, when I realized how badly I wanted him, I tried several times to get close. On one occasion I overheard him talking to one of his sort of friends on campus. The guy had said something to him about what jock he fancied. His words were so harsh that it cut me deeply. He didn’t have a very high opinion of the whole lot of us. And I was the lowest of the low. Dude, I ran – fucking tears streaming down my face. I skipped school for the rest of the day. I sat up on that fucking hillside above his house, just watching him, hurting so bad that I didn’t stand a chance, that he actually hated me, hated who I was, without even knowing me. God, that was a very low time in my life. But Elliot can do that to me. He can cut me deeper than anyone else I know.”
“Sounds like it all worked out though.”
I huffed out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding back through that whole speech. I was cool. Elliot loved me, I reminded myself. All of it came out okay.
Breathe Sforza, just breathe. You guys are solid.
“Yeah, it did. I persevered. I slowly rebuilt the plan to get closer to him. I spent every waking hour that wasn’t on school work or football in gaining knowledge about what drove his passions. I was determined to gain his trust, to let him see me. The following half of our school year he had the same PE period I did.”
I smirked at that salacious little memory.
“Every damned day I made sure to shower right across from him. I’d take my time undressing as my locker was down the same row. As soon as he collected himself in his towel, I’d move off and take the same shower stall across from the one he favored, tucked away in the corner. He tried like hell to avoid looking at me. But after about the third or fourth day I could feel his gaze on me, watching my body. I had a chance. I worked out every fucking free moment I had just to ensure my body was in peak condition. And every day in those showers his eyes would drift over my body when I would slip my head under the shower and close my eyes. Only, they were never fully closed.” I tapped the side of my eyes and half-lidded them. “Benefits of having long eyelashes. In a steamy shower, they looked closed to him.”
“Fuck. That’s one hot seduction. How long did that go on?”
“The second semester of our junior year. I had to flirt hard with the grandma who worked the front desk in the administration building. She always gave me the classes in the order I wanted because I paid her a little attention. So I made sure that Elliot and I always had PE together. More classes if I could get them. Then this past summer I decided I was going to make my move. The scariest fucking three weeks in my life were the last week in June and the first two in July. I sat in the parking lot of the store his parents own where he worked over the summer vacation, waiting to figure out when would be the absolute best time to swoop in and make my play. It was the best acting job I’ve ever done. I came in with all the jock hotness I could project. Knowing he was totally into my body, I wore clothes that were two sizes too small, just so they’d hug me as tightly as your sweater is hugging you right now.”
He smiled, darkly, color coming to his cheeks.
“Yeah, well, when the assistant coach called saying that we had a member of my team being recruited I was to get spruced up and get the hell down to the training room to meet you, I didn’t know what I was walking into. I’m glad I did my best to impress. You were worth the effort,” he winked.
I smiled back at him. “Yeah, well. Thanks for that. I may be attached, but it helps to know I haven’t let myself go.”
“You haven’t. But you were saying. I gotta hear how this turns out.”
“Well, let’s just say that I walked into the Q.”
He pulled his head up from resting his chin on his folded arms, “The Q?”
“Oh, yeah, Dairy Queen. Els calls it the Q. Sorry.”
“Nah, it’s cool. Sorta cute, too.”
“Anyway, so I just sauntered up in there, knowing that the place was empty. And I put the make on him. Not mincing words either. We chatted for a couple of minutes before I just told him I wasn’t there to buy any food, what I wanted was him. And then I kissed him. Full-on toes curling hard kissed him.”
“And … You’re killing me, here.”
I laughed, “Dude, the sweetest fucking kiss I’ve ever experienced even up to and including the last time he and I made love, was never as sweet as that first one. My head and heart were exploding – full-on fucking fireworks. I always thought that was utter bullshit. Dude, it’s not. When it’s right, it’s fucking over-the-top-right-on-the-money, kind of moment. I’ve never recovered from that first kiss. I’ve been chasing that rabbit down the hole ever since. And it’s been an amazing trip. I am so lost in him. My world, that’s what he is. He’s my world. Nothing short of it. That’s all I can say.”
He frowned a bit. Not in a bad way, but more of a personal inventory sort of way. The kind of look a guy gives when he’s taking stock of where his life has gone. I think I understood that look quite well. Angus and I were very much alike.
“I could get used to a life like that.”
“Maybe today was the first step.”
He turned and nudged me with his shoulder. “Yeah, with you as my Yenta, what could go wrong, right?”
“What’s a Yenta?”
“You really need to improve your gay world knowledge. Fiddler on the Roof?”
“Never saw it.”
“Elliot must think you’re a lost cause.”
“Hey, he happens to like my cause being lost. Makes it that much more fun when he tries to find it.” I wiggled my eyebrows so the meaning wasn’t lost on either of us.
“Yeah, I’ll bet.”
“Speaking of which, I should get going. Gotta long drive back to my baby’s waiting arms.”
Angus sighed, “Yeah, and I got another awkward phone call to make.”
“You hate me for that?”
He looked at me with a sideward glance, no emotion playing across his face, just sort of pointed, as if he were judging where we’d be going as friends by what I’d done. For a moment I panicked a little that maybe I’d really fucked it up. Then that twinkle sparked in his eye and a smile snaked across his lips.
“Dude, first off, I don’t waste time hating. If it’s something that doesn’t appeal to me, I just don’t do it anymore. Second, I don’t think you and I are capable of being anything but GBFs …”
“Please don’t tell me that you’re planning on going to that Claire’s boutique and buying us one of those cheesy girly GBF charm necklaces and making me wear it. I like you and all, but I just would have to disappoint you there.”
He looked at me again with that stoic impassive stare. I’d already surmised that meant his wheels were turning. “You know, now that you say that …”
“Dude, no! Really, I’d love you more if you didn’t.”
“Well, when a hottie says that to you, what else you gonna do?”
I smiled and so did he. We made sure we had each other’s info punched into our phones before he pushed off the car and we did the big bromance hug that I knew would be commonplace between us.
“Later, bro,” he said as we parted.
“Yeah, you, too.”
He was nearly to his car before he turned around. “Drive safe, and uh, thanks. For Dan.”
I shrugged. “What’re brothers for?”
He shook his head, with the last of the sunlight breaking through the swiftly gathering clouds, it caught upon his head and it looked for a moment like his head had caught fire. Not in a weird creepy way, but in that Olympian god sort of way. He was one very cool guy.
“Keep in touch!” I hollered at him waving the phone in my hand. He nodded and with another wave he got into his car and departed.
I spared a moment looking around the place I would be calling home for the next several years, trying to imagine the life that lay before Elliot and me. I knew patience was called for, that the instant gratification for those moments needed to be controlled and put back into their place. The waiting would no doubt make it sweeter when we had that life. It just seemed so far away – even if logically I knew it was only a few months from now.
I knew right then, I was going to propose soon. I wanted Elliot to be mine, and I wanted everyone to know it. I knew there’d be heartache. My parents, for one. I didn’t know what Elliot’s mom’s reaction would be, but at least I knew she had accepted his being gay. His father, Nick, on the other hand, yeah, I so had his vote already in the bag, even if no one else knew it. I didn’t know how Elliot would feel if that ever came out about his father and me being so close already. It was sort of a cross to bear in our relationship, one that had yet to play out. But given that it was legal in California, they had to think that marriage would happen for Elliot, didn’t they? Maybe not. I really hadn’t spent too much time with his mom, but I didn’t see her as someone who wouldn’t want what was best for him.
Yeah, I was sure it would be cool. Well, I hoped it would.