I let myself into the townhouse with that feeling you have at the end of a long trip, and had to glance at my watch to convince myself that it was still Friday. It really felt like one of those days that just went on forever and I didn’t even have jet lag to blame it on. Just a fucking long day in Pittsburgh, which I swore lasted longer than boring days in other places, especially in winter. I couldn’t wait until Brian and I took our trip to Scotland. That trip promised to be many things, but boring was not among them, I thought, grinning to myself.
“Em! You home?” I flopped down on the sofa.
Damn I was exhausted. I lifted my head though, as I thought I heard a strange
noise coming from... my bedroom. Curious, I got up and walked cautiously to the
door. Thinking...somewhat belatedly for someone who had my ability to attract
trouble...that the front door hadn’t been locked. Worried now, I pressed my head
against the door. Muffled sounds, like a voice that was....
Throwing caution to the wind, I pulled open the door and was appalled to find Emmett on my bed, naked, tied up and gagged. I rushed to release him, looking around for any sign of who did this to him since it was pretty clear it wasn’t consensual, not from the look in his tear-filled eyes.
“Baby, what happened, show me where you’re hurt?” I held him tight to my chest to calm his shaking. “Let me call the police and then...”
I held his face in my hands. “Em, look at me. I know you’re upset. Believe me, if anyone knows, I do. But you have to press charges. Someone did this to you, they deserve to...”
“No.” Emmett started crying again. I pulled him against my chest and started rubbing circles on his back. “It was all a big joke. A joke on me. Only I was the joke.” I made a noise of protest but I didn’t stop him. I needed to hear what happened. The whole story. If he’d been raped, I was going to kill somebody. “You know Brick, that new stud in town? ‘The’ new stud in town?” He paused and I nodded. I’d heard that Brandon was getting competition in the backrooms from some new hotshot. Since Brandon was the latest Peter Pan to realize the real world held attractions not found in Neverland, I wasn’t surprised to hear he’d been supplanted by someone willing to devote more time to the lost boys.
“So this Brick, what did he do?” I gently asked, shifting so that I was sitting against the headboard and Em was cradled between my legs, able to rest up back to chest as we often did, although frequently our positions were reversed. He was still shaking so I pulled off my shirt and tucked him into it. So what if the sleeves were a little short, it was warm from my body and I was focused on keeping him comfortable with me. So far, he hadn’t thought to be self-conscious about how I’d found him, but I thought that might come. I wanted us to have our usual comfort with each other firmly in place if and when it did. I thought back to those times when I’d been assaulted, and how hard it had been to let someone close. I tightened my arms even more and brushed a kiss on my friend’s head.
“I’m glad it was you who came home first, Danny,” he whispered. “If it had been Brian....”
“If it had been Brian, he would have untied you and wrapped you in blankets and held you until I got here,” I said firmly. “He may not have ungagged you – this is my Brian we’re talking about, right?”
That got a giggle out of him. Mission accomplished. “But, you’ll notice that I did right away because I want to hear what happened, so talk, girlfriend. What did you have to do with this dick Brick and how did it lead to my bedroom? You do have a perfectly nice bedroom of your own last time I checked,” I maintained my teasing tone, hoping that acting like it was no big deal would calm him down. Meanwhile, I was boiling on the inside. I’d seen this Brick. He was John’s size, but with some bulk to him. More like Joey. Emmett could have been hurt by a gorilla like that. Not that being humiliated was any better. I found my fists clenching and once again had to force myself to calm down.
“He and I were flirting, no big deal. I’d met him a couple years ago when I was with Drew, Drew Boyd. Anyway, we got to talking, and I admit, I was a little flattered that he kept asking me to dance. Wanted to buy little old me drinks. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m a couple years older than him and he’s a bit out of my league.”
“No one is out of your league, sweetie,” I told him. I meant it. I really wished our world weren’t so fucking hung up on looks and age – but then, as Hunter tells me, easy for me to say. He says it’s like Bill Gates saying, ain’t it a fucking shame the chicks are so hung up on money and brains. Hunter always makes a lot of sense.
“Anyway, he wanted to hook up, but said his place was being painted. That was such a cute excuse for a stud, and he was talking about paint colors and textures, like a real person. I never thought to question him. I believed him, Danny.” Em turned and looked at me so wide-eyed, I just had to hug him again.
“Of course you believed him! Anyone would. You’d have to be a suspicious, trust nobody type like John or Brian not to!”
“What is wrong with John’s type?” Of course, my brother would be standing in the doorway of my bedroom as I said that.
“You’re suspicious, like me, but if I were, I would be wondering why my lover is half-naked, in bed with an even more naked Honeycutt. But instead, I ask, what’s for dinner?” Brian brushed past John and that’s when he saw the evidence of the bondage on the floor, along with Emmett’s clothes. He walked closer to the bed and picked up Em’s hand. That’s when I saw the raw marks on Em’s wrist. He must have tried freeing himself for awhile before I came along. I felt my anger returning but I managed to keep my voice calm.
“Em, do you mind if they listen to this? I think it might be a good idea for John to give his input but I know it’s hard to have other people hear.”
My quiet tone and words tipped the other two off that this was a serious situation. Once Em agreed, in a small voice, John excused himself for a minute, saying he wanted to check the front door, but I suspect he was also telling Micky he might be awhile. After the rough Christmas we’d had, we all tended to be careful about alerting each other to our whereabouts. Which really made me kick myself for not noticing that unlocked front door. What if I hadn’t heard Em for awhile or had fallen asleep on the sofa, not realizing anything was wrong? Or what if one of the kids had come upon him first? I tightened my hold on him.
Emmett’s story was short and to the point. After agreeing to come back to this place, Brick teased Em until he was allowed to see the bedroom shared by the infamous Brian Kinney and Dark Angel. And then it got ugly.
“So, you’ve had your sight-seeing tour, sugar, don’t you think it’s about time we either move this action to my room, or you move along home?” Emmett was beginning to think that all Brick had been interested in was seeing Brian and Danny’s bedroom.
Brick bounced on the bed a few times. “Oh, don’t be like that. Come on, come give us a kiss. Look, they even have silk ropes for tying each other up! And loops built into the walls, just like rumor says! But no mirror on the ceiling. I’m disappointed in that.”
Emmett didn’t let his eyes drift over toward the wall, where he knew the mirrors were hidden. But he must have given something away because the next thing he knew, Brick was on him, pushing him down and straddling him.
“So, you know more than you’re telling me, don’t you? Come on, ‘fess up! Do you share this nice big bed with Kinney and his Angel? What role do you play? Fluffer? Tell me where the mirrors are!”
“Get off, you’re hurting me.” Emmett tried to use some of the moves Danny had taught him but he felt embarrassed; surely this was all just a joke and if he threw Brick off the bed, he’d be the laughingstock of Babylon. Pausing, afraid of causing a fuss, the moment when he could have done anything was lost. He felt his pants being pulled down and he started to struggle harder. His face was slapped – hard.
“Stop it, you faggot. This is what you want, don’t pretend You want a good hard fucking in your buddies’ bed. I bet you don’t get fucked in here but you wish you did, is that it? What? Are you fucking crying? I barely touched you! Are you crying because I’m not your Angel, like in your dreams? Maybe I should leave you here for him, see how he likes a weepy, old, over the hill faggot?”
Emmett pleaded for him to let him up, not to do what he was doing, but Brick was tickled pink with his idea. After tying up Emmett’s arms and legs, he cut off the rest of his clothes and then gagged him. The whole time, Emmett was afraid to yell and scream loudly for help, or really fight – afraid to make too big a fuss, thinking that somehow, if he carried on, he’d make matters worse.
(End of flashback)
“So, he finished by taking a picture with his cell phone – I’ll never be able to hold my head up again,” Emmett said bitterly.
“Em, you did nothing wrong. He’s the fuckwad here,” Brian announced. “And I need a drink. You do too, Em. John, a beer?” He didn’t bother asking me; he knew I’d want a diet coke. Receiving assent from John, he walked out to get the drinks. I suspected he was probably doing a few of Ben’s deep breathing exercises too. Or punching the wall. For all his bluster, Brian cared a lot for Em and seeing him hurt like this – it pissed him off. It was just wrong. The rest of us, we were tougher, but Em was one of God’s innocents, in a way. Not that he was mentally challenged or anything, it was just that he was so good. He always saw the best in people, so it was unthinkable for him to be victimized in this cruel way. I felt like hitting something too. Someone, actually.
“John, what are his options?” I thought it was a good time to ask. Em’s shaking had stopped.
“He could press charges, but...it would be difficult.”
“Why the fuck would it be difficult?” Brian came back in time to hear that, so he did the yelling for me. Em just kind of sagged.
“Two gay men, an event that starts out as consensual. And Emmett, please don’t misunderstand me that saying this in any way makes this your fault. But it is the same problem we ran into with Danny and Simon. The courts have trouble seeing men as in need of protection from other men. Also, if I understand you…and this is important...you were not...” John paused, then plowed on, “penetrated by him in any way?”
I hid a grin. It wasn’t funny but it was. This poor brother of mine had come such a long way in a couple of years. When I was attacked, he never could get the term out. He came up with every euphemism under the sun. Though even now, he looked damn uncomfortable talking about anal sex. But then, thinking of how badly he’d been tortured before Christmas, I paled. Could they have done that to John? I’d never thought, but maybe his torture had not stopped at blows to his face and chest. I looked at him with fresh eyes, seeing anew the gaunt look he still hadn’t lost, the shadows under his eyes.
“John?” The word was just a whisper and I was ashamed to hear my voice break on the syllable.
“Not now, Danny. This is about Emmett,” was the only answer I got. That and a cool stare. Fuck. I looked at Brian and he shrugged his shoulders. Later, he mouthed.
“No, he didn’t fuck me,” Emmett said bitterly. “His attitude was that someone as pathetic as me wasn’t worth his time. So, he humiliated me, he tricked me, and he’ll make me the laughingstock of Liberty Avenue, but I guess he didn’t break the law.”
John shook his head. “No, Em, he did break the law. He assaulted you, aggravated assault, sexual assault, and he also committed a battery....”
“But you said...” I interrupted.
“I said,” John glared to shut me up, “that it would be difficult to prove. He’ll say it was consensual and while there are the marks on Em’s wrists to counter that...and I can see some other marks...he will testify that they were part of consensual sex play. It would be an embarrassing case for Em to prosecute, as he would doubtless bring in witnesses to say that you have a taste for such action.”
None of us could say anything there. Hell, with the right person, anyone has a taste for a little bondage. I whispered as much in Em’s ear and got him giggling again. John looked at us sharply and I looked up innocently.
“What can Em do then?” Brian asked. “You’re not telling us we let this dick get away with this.”
“Don’t worry, Kinney, we’re going to do what we O’Keefes do best,” he said, watching Em with those hard to read eyes of his.
I looked at Brian, whose face brightened with evil glee. I laughed, a low, evil villain laugh. I wondered how I would look in a mustache? Better that Brian and John grow them, I decided. It wouldn’t look as good with my long hair but I could so see the two of them twirling them.
“And what is it that O’Keefes do best?” Emmett asked, lost.
“They get even,” Brian informed him.
Brandon, Hunter, Ben, Brian, Emmett and I sat around the living room, eating pizza and plotting. Jamie, Joey and John had been invited to show up after the first hour, giving John time to prep my other two brothers, and me time to ready the guys for that much O’Keefeness. Daphne had been grudgingly allowed as our “token” but we insisted that she had to sit on her own chair, none of that lap, kissy, huggy stuff, I told her.
“Does that mean you and Brian can’t do it either?” She smirked at me.
“Such a fresh child you’ve grown into,” I told her. “And of course it does. I’m sitting with Em tonight. It’s male bonding night. Go sit with Hunter and bond.”
So of course she did exactly that.
“Well,” she asked, holding a pen and notebook – very efficient is our Dr. Daffy – knew there was a reason for inviting a girl, “what ideas did you come up with in the first hour?”
Brandon rattled off the list of revenge ideas:
“Hunter said he’d give him HIV, but Ben rejected that. Brian said to beat the shit out of him, but I rejected that as leading to legal ramifications. Emmett said to lead him on then reject him but Brian pointed out that he’d have to be really stupid to fall for that.”
Joey and Jamie looked at me. “You haven’t come up with anything good in an hour?”
“I’ve been off my game lately,” I admitted.
“This has to be Kinney’s fault,” Jamie told Joey. “He’s softening the kid up.”
“Means we can do anything we want to him then?”
“Focus, you two!” John barked at them and they looked back at him.
“Okay, we have this guy who used his position as a so-called King Stud to lure Em and humiliate him, so, we need to do what?”
“Remove his status, humiliate him beyond all recovery, and metaphorically cut off his balls, sir!” Joey answered, as though to a Marine Sergeant.
“Make him a laughingstock to all, and dependent upon Emmett for the smallest crumb of attention, sir!” Jamie added.
John turned to the others, who were looking impressed. “They’ve been trained since pups by the best. Now, Brick is a gay man. What do gay men fear most?”
“Straight men?” Hunter.
Brian’s hand was wavering over a piece of pizza but then he pulled it back and took a celery stick instead. John’s eyes caught mine and I burst out laughing.
“I know, I know,” I crowed. “Gaining weight!”
The light of understanding hit all our eyes...all our gay eyes...as Jamie leaned forward and took the rejected piece of pizza and Joey nodded ruefully. “I know what you mean. Nothing worse than turning around one day, and finding yourself twenty pounds heavier and you don’t know how it happened.”
I started bouncing on the sofa. “That’s it! What if, suddenly, Brick starts getting all this feedback that he’s fat?”
“You mean you’re going to get people to start telling Brick he’s gaining weight?” Brandon looked unimpressed.
Brian said, “You’ve been pranked by Danny, Brandon, you should know that O’Keefe does nothing so half-hearted.”
My brothers started tossing the ideas out.
“Like if his clothes come back from the cleaners and they’re a size smaller?”
“How about the springs in his car go?”
“Fix it so the chair he sits in at Babylon cracks under the strain!”
“And at the Diner, have him get stuck on the toilet because his ass is too big. Deb would love that!”
“I got it, I got it! Rig his bed to collapse when he gets into it!”
“Even better, for the next several tricks he goes home with? Plan it so their beds collapse when he gets in with them!”
“And have pictures taken of each one!”
“Oh, he has to be naked. Like a beached whale.”
I let my brothers put their heads together on the where and when of what they needed. I assured them that I could get cooperation from at least three hot guys who would let us sabotage their beds, and, just as importantly, keep it quiet, why they were doing it. Brian and Brandon were going to do the same, while the others worked on the rest of the undercover work. Ben’s job was to get Debbie’s help while Hunter hunted down where Brick worked, got his dry-cleaning, and other personal details.
John slipped outside to the deck while everyone was busy locking down the details. I waited a couple minutes, then followed him outside.
“Hey, you okay?” I saw the small flicker of light before he snuffed it out. It startled me – John smoking?
“That’s bad for you, you know,” I said lightly, crossing over to the corner of the deck where he was leaning against the wall.
“Yeah, I know. I quit...twenty years ago. I’ll quit again, just...not this week.” He sighed. “Sorry for smoking on your deck, I know you hate it but I didn’t want Micky to know and freak out on me.”
“She’ll smell it on you,” I pointed out gently.
“Not if I say it was Brian’s,” he laughed lightly. He looked at me from the corner of his eyes. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t do that...but...”
“I’m sure Brian wouldn’t mind. I’ll warn him just in case though. If he starts getting Time to quit smoking pamphlets, he should probably know why. Otherwise, he might blame your eldest. I know I would.”
I punched him lightly. “Thanks for helping Em.” He nodded. I hesitated, not sure of what to say. He spoke first.
“I sometimes use visualization techniques to help me get ready for something. If it’s a tough argument in court, I imagine myself nailing it, like scoring a soccer goal – sending the ball right through the only opening. For two years, I’ve relived that moment when I came into that room and saw you on a bed, Simon holding a gun, ready to shoot, and George sneaking up on him. And I messed it up, almost causing you to be killed. The only reason you’re alive is because Brian and George had such quick reflexes. I thought it was my fault that George died later. Finding out he lived, that was such a relief. But I still see that bed. I saw Em today, and the ties and it brought it back to me. They shackled me to a bed when they held me in that room – not a very comfortable bed, but a bed nonetheless. And I just...I just try visualizing breaking those beds, Danny. This over the top, O’Keefe style prank is really some type of therapy for me, much more than it is for Em – isn’t that fucked up?”
I’d wrapped my arms around him half-way through this recital and by the time he reached the end, he was shaking. “I would really like to see those beds smashed too, Jackie. Neither of us got any closure, the bad guy got away without us getting to say anything to him, and with the memories fuzzy, which makes it worse, don’t you think?” He nodded, and I continued, “So, with nothing else to fight against, I think it makes perfect sense for us to break some beds. And helping Em as we do it is the perfect win/win situation.”
He took a deep breath and blew it out. I let him go and he turned to head back in. I leaned up and gave him a kiss on the cheek, then told him. “To make it a really perfect win/win, I stole the rest of your cancer sticks.”
I spun around and got back inside before he could catch me.
I watched from the catwalk as Brick Williams swaggered into Babylon. The text message I’d gotten from Hunter had told me that all was going exactly to plan in Operation Broken Beds. So far, our boy Brick had been involved in a testy encounter with his dry cleaner, and, in a stroke of genius, all of his clothes had been replaced with the identical clothes but a size smaller. So, his strut was a bit off tonight.
Brian nudged me. “Now, as old Jack used to say, there’s someone trying to put ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack.”
I batted my lashes at him. “Why Mr. Kinney, I thought that’s what you used to say about my thongs!”
Brian laughed. “There’s good tight and there’s bad tight. That, young grasshopper, is bad tight. How the fuck did he get himself into those pants? And is that a Lycra shirt?”
“I do believe it is, proving as my Mama used to say, Lycra is a privilege, not a right.”
“I can just hear Mama Rose saying such a thing,” Brian grinned down at the pretender to his old throne. The thing about Lycra, it showed every bump and ripple, and just as there was good tight and bad tight, the same could be said about bumps and ripples. I wondered if Brick thought he looked good in that shirt, or chose it because it stretched?
“Someone’s been hitting the Krispy Kremes a little too often!” a voice behind me commented.
“Did you hear what happened to him today?”
“I heard he was at the Liberty Diner, and he got stuck in the stall! You know how narrow some of them are, that’s why Deb got them marked, twinks, studs and bears? Well, someone was in a twink stall when anyone can see, he’s well past twink. And if you ask me, honey, he’s well on his way to bear!”
I grinned at Brian. Mission accomplished on the renaming of the stalls at the diner.
“Serves him right, what he did to....” The two talkers hushed up. They must have noticed who was nearby. Brian’s face was impassive but I frowned.
“Seems like we should be able to do something in his face,” I grumbled in a low voice.
“Well, it was our bed he used. Go ask him to dance, tell him to his face how you feel.” Brian drank from his glass of scotch. I thought for a second, then nodded. I saw Mysterious Marilyn by the bar. Out of her beaded corner at Woody’s? Maybe I should get a quick reading.
Feeling slightly nervous, I walked past Marilyn, and leaned behind her to get Tony’s attention. “Tony, a drink for the lady, please.”
She looked at me, surprised.
“Surprise is not a good look for you, is it? You should affect a knowing smile, instead, and say something like, I knew you’d be buying me this, so I didn’t order a second drink yet.” I teased, pretending a lightness I never felt in her presence.
“How are you, Daniel?”
I sighed. “Well, considering. How are you?” Those kohl lined eyes looked deeply into mine and I managed to not look away.
“You’ll be going on a trip soon. It will go well.”
I breathed easier.
“John will find a daughter.”
That was good news too, although the wording was a bit tricky. I waited; she had the air of something more to come. She reached out and touched my cheek.
“You are stronger than you think. Never forget that. And in forgiveness will you find your greatest strength.”
Okay, I could deal with that. I started to place some money on the bar, but she stilled my hand. “No, keep your money, seventh son. This is for Emmett. Send that prick to me after a dance and I’ll give him his fortune too.”
I grinned, then leaned forward and kissed her rouged cheek. “Ah, you’re like that older sister I wish I’d had...come to think of it, you’re more like the ones I do have. Look like them too.”
“Flatterer, now go get ‘em.”
I strolled down to the dance floor level, heading into the mass of dancing bodies. I could feel Brian’s eyes on me, so I put more of an effort into my walk – my knee was far from recovered from my surgery in December, but I could sustain a Dark Angel prowl for a limited period. Which was good since I had Fashion Week coming up again. Still, first things first, and at the moment, knowing my lover was watching, I made a point of exuding a certain level of sexual energy. I found a suitable partner in the man currently dancing with my target and started dancing.
“Hey, can’t you see we’re dancing?” Brick stood next to his former dance partner and me. I raised an eyebrow. People were already backing away, eager, as always, for a fight, a real one, or a good, old-fashioned cat-fight or bitch-slap. I’d take any of the three. As Brian made me realize, my little altercation now would make Brick less suspicious that he was being punk’d on a grander scale.
I pulled my willing partner closer, caressing his chest as we continued to move together.
“Looks to me like we’re dancing, you’re standing,” I pointed out in a friendly voice. “Though maybe you could use a little exercise...feel free to dance along, just don’t touch.”
That garnered some laughs. Brick flushed. He really was a beefy sort, hard to believe he was gay. Maybe he was a closet straight, just pretending to be gay because it was fashionable? I’d have to ask Brian what he thought of that theory.
Then Brickface grabbed my shoulder and tried to spin me around.
“Hey,” he once again said, clearly a man of few words, and possibly even fewer syllables. “I don’t appreciate someone taking my dance partners.”
“And I don’t appreciate someone taking...” I picked him up and dropped him – totally no challenge at all, “liberties with my person, my friends or my house. So, you want to make something of it, fucker, you get up right now, and we’ll settle things.”
He started looking around panicked, no doubt wondering where the bouncers were who were supposed to stop fights. I knelt down and grinned at him, before telling him in a low voice,
“You’re in Brian Kinney’s Babylon, Brick. Our rules apply here. You think you’re the hot new stud, fine, show us how hot you are. From where I’m sitting, you look like a fat chump, trying to make it in the big boys’ league, but you’re big in all the wrong ways.”
That got a bigger laugh as the red-faced Brick struggled to get up, the buttons on his tight shirt popping open. Derisive catcalls were being made at this point. He got an ugly look on his face – uglier, I should say.
“I have pictures, you know. I can make things even worse for your house pet.”
I dragged him to his feet by the neck of his shirt. “You’re messing with the wrong guy, Williams. Ask Mysterious Marilyn what happens when you fuck with the Seventh Son of the Seventh Son. You’d better be working on how you’re going to make it up to Emmett, or you’ll never have a good night’s rest again.” I wondered if saying “Mark my words” would be over the top, and thought it probably would, so left it with a flip of my hair. Brian told me that the effect was much more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than I’d probably been aiming for, but he assured me that the twinks had all swooned. If he hadn’t kissed me right after that remark he would have found himself rejected for some twinks. Smart ass. The important thing was, Brickass was nervous enough that as soon as we left, Tony the bartender said he scuttled right up to Mysterious Marilyn, who gave him enough scary stories to give him nightmares for a year.
The pump was well and truly primed.
The first bed was at a young law student’s apartment. A law student who happened to be a friend of Brandon’s. Garth had coyly played hard to get for a good week before suggesting Brick come back to his place, his roommate would be away. They had the whole weekend to themselves.
To themselves and Joey, who’d taken all the support slats out from under the Queen size mattress, and was in the closet, ready to take pictures. Only a prior life of pranking could prepare someone for sitting in a closet for ninety minutes without giving himself away – especially when faced with the spectacle of one man trying his damnedest to get another into bed, while not getting into it himself! Joey confessed that he almost peed himself; it was so funny to hear the lines that Garth had come up with to convince Brick that he really liked seeing him naked. And how about if he got comfortable under the covers while Garth fixed them a drink? No? A sandwich? Dieting? A perfect specimen of manhood like you?
Joey was hilarious repeating it. Garth wasn’t as amused. “Sure it’s funny now, but I had to offer to rim him finally to get him to lie down – he’s like afraid of beds or something. And then, when it collapsed! You should have seen his face. I thought he was going to cry.”
“Good.” I was sitting with Em, who was brushing my hair. His hands stilled. “What is it, Em?” I asked him quietly while the others continued to talk around us.
“Is it really so good?” I turned around to look at him. “Why wouldn’t it be good, Em?”
He looked around the room. “I don’t know. I guess it is. I know that Brick is a nasty man and he deserves some punishment. But...is this going too far?”
I thought about seeing Em in that position and then my own feelings of being tied down like that, tied when I hadn’t agreed to it. And I thought about what John had said, about the visualizing of the broken beds. Maybe we were going about this all wrong?
“You know, Em, I think you might be onto something.”
I took the first chance I had to call a friend. A friend who could make things happen, and who would do pretty much anything for me, though I hadn’t always realized that was true.
“Etienne...I need a favor....”
“Danny, where are we going?”
“This is the warehouse district, what the fuck are we doing out here?”
“You have such a potty mouth, Brian, anyone ever tell you that?” I picked up Brian’s hand and kissed it. He caressed my lip with his thumb and if I weren’t driving, and if we didn’t have Em and John in the car, this would have gotten more interesting, but...we did and I was and, well, there would always be another time. I put his hand down, after nipping at his fingers. He smirked, then answered my question.
“So, I have a potty mouth. That doesn’t answer my question. Where are we...?”
I pulled smartly into a lot on the right, and parked next to a long black limousine. Good, Etienne was already here. He must have heard me – not that I squealed the brakes, much – because he came outside before we were even out of the car.
“Bonjour! Emmett! It is always a pleasure to see you! And of course, John, Brian. My Daniel!” He greeted everyone with his usual kiss to both cheeks. I got a hug as well, as did Emmett. I was glad to see Etienne say a few words of support to him. I’d encouraged Em to talk to Eli, he was always very good at helping someone cope with a trauma – his pragmatism, he always called it. But, he had a way of putting life in perspective. Hunter shares that trait, I think. When you start at a pretty low spot in this world, as they did, you view bumps in the road much differently than those of us who come from a more privileged place. Emmett is different – he came from that same rough world but it never made him rough. It made him all the more sensitive.
“Did you tell everyone what this is about?” Etienne looked at me. I blushed and bit my lip. He shook his head, but at least his exasperated look was filled with fondness.
“You left it to me to explain your brilliant idea? You are lucky I added wine and food to the list of supplies then. Gentlemen, come inside to my sets.”
Really bewildered now, the others followed Etienne in, and for a moment, it was creepy, even to me, who’d ordered it, as he’d really outdone himself. Etienne had created three “sets,” each one containing a bed for us to destroy.
For Emmett, there was a copy of my bedroom, with a bed made up just like mine, same color covers, same fourposter, same links in the wall. I was pretty sure there would be a mirror behind the wall to the left, Etienne was good about details.
For John, there was a small cell, just as we’d had described to us by Hunter and Thyme, in their debriefing. There was the chair where he’d been beaten, the table, the cot where he’d been chained.
For me. I swallowed. For me, and also for John and Brian, there was Edward’s “playroom.” In it was the large bed, and Etienne must have questioned someone to get the exact colors and setup because I never would have been able to describe it, but seeing it now, I knew it was accurate.
By each set, there were large axes and mallets, more than enough to destroy the beds. Eli Blackson, Eti’s bodyguard and physical therapist stood nearby.
“Which one of you is going to take the first whack?” He asked the question in his deep, basso-profundo voice.
I didn’t realize I was shaking until I felt Brian’s arms come around me. “Well, this is a fantastic idea, kiddo. You want to get started with me, because I’m game to trash that bed, and not in the usual way I trash a bed.”
“I can’t,” Emmett said. “I mean, it’s a good idea and all, but I don’t think I can.” He looked down at a mallet.
“Well, I sure as fuck can,” John announced. “And Emmett, if you want to give me a hand with mine, then I’ll help break that bed of yours, but none of us are leaving until all of these suckers are kindling. Eli, give me the biggest axe you’ve got there.”
“Sure thing, John.”
John took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves and with a mighty swing, cleaved the baseboard in half. The others cheered as they saw the bed start to sag. With a few more strategic blows, it caved in. Laughing, Emmett helped him hack at the mattress. They then chopped up the chair and tables too.
I looked at Brian. “If he can do that, and he’s only a couple months past it...I can attack my demon bed too...right?”
“It’s our demon bed...and yeah, I think that’s right. Shall we let the big guys help us? For all that he’s a Frenchman, he comes in handy once in a while.”
I smiled at Etienne. “Yeah, he really does. Do you want to grab an axe also, Etienne? For the symbolic end of Edward Simon’s bed?”
Etienne’s face was somber. “This is actually a very good idea. I think we should burn the pieces after we break the bed. We can’t be too careful.” Then he smiled, that crooked smile of his that first charmed me years ago. “I will help you and your Brian, gladly, Danny. Then we all of us will help Emmett find the strength to break his bed.”
And that’s how we got through it. With wine, laughter, a few tears, and the help of friends.
Before we drove away, Etienne handed each of us a jagged piece of wood.
“It is a memento,” he said
“To remind us of broken beds?” Brian asked, an eyebrow raised.
“No,” Etienne replied. “To remind each of you, that it is the bed that broke...not you.”
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