Chad and I just laid there for a while, holding each other and exchanging pillow talk. It almost felt like a dream. I’d imagined that night so many times that it hardly seemed real. My ass was sore from the pounding it had gotten, and I’m guessing Chad’s was too. But neither of us was complaining.
After about an hour, we opened the wine Chad had brought. True to form, he’d gone for the good stuff, with a nice Merlot out of Napa. He poured me a glass like we were on a date, after which he poured a glass for himself.
It seemed weirdly romantic to be sitting there naked with just a single light shining through the window. A bunch of now-rumpled sheets lay tangled beneath us. I leaned against Chad’s body and took a deep breath. Some of his scent was totally familiar, but some of it wasn’t. It still turned me on either way.
“So,” I eventually said, “tell me about that cologne you’ve got on.”
Chad sipped his wine. “You like it?”
“Yeah I do. It’s just… I don’t remember you ever wearing anything like that. Deodorant sure, but not cologne.”
“Well… I tried to pick it out based on flavors you like. Are you saying I picked right?”
I shrugged. “Apparently so.”
“Do you want me to wear it more often?”
“I mean… as long as you promise not to wear anything else…”
“Baby, I’ll wear whatever you want me to.”
“Ha!” I said, and I ran my hand across his bare thighs. “I like this outfit just fine.”
“So this is how you want me to look when we’re out and about?”
“Don’t tempt me.”
“You know you love it,” he said. “Speaking of which… what do you want to do while you’re in town?”
I set my glass down. “I dunno,” I said, “I-I mean I came here for you.”
“Do you want to see Dad?”
I had to admit I had mixed feelings about Chad’s father. Part of me did want to meet him, but another part thought back to the stories I’d heard. “Is he in any shape to meet me?”
“Well, I try not to overstimulate him,” he said. “You’ve gotta remember, it’s a long road back. He’s talking now, but not in full sentences. And he doesn’t have any filters, so he’ll say crazy shit and you have to let it slide. But as long as you keep that stuff in mind… I mean, he’s been my life for the last two months. So if that’s what you really want to see, you might as well…”
I stared at Chad’s face. He seemed so much more mature than before. Part of it was his beard, but even his eyes looked a little more grizzled, a little older, a little wiser. He definitely wasn’t the devil-may-care frat boy I’d first met. “So,” I said, “what about down the road?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… how long is he going to need you?”
“I dunno,” he said. “My family’s been trying to figure that out. My mom keeps volunteering for stuff, and she’s made a couple trips out here, but I know her heart isn’t in it. Which I guess makes sense… I mean, if she didn’t want to be with him to begin with, why would she want to be with him now?”
“Wait,” I said. “Isn’t that between her and your dad?”
“Probably… but that’s the kind of shit I’ve been dealing with.”
“Don’t be sorry,” he said. “It’s not your fault.”
“But if you’re putting your life on hold for your parents… where does that leave you?”
Chad gave off a faint chuckle. “You sound like my aunt.”
“I-I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you’re doing this. I’m just saying you can’t lose sight of your own life.”
“Which is practically word-for-word what Pam would’ve said.”
I clutched Chad’s body. “In that case… I’m glad I’m not the only one watching out for you.”
“Yeah.” Chad put his hand on my chest. “I’m hoping we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I was trying to get them to move him to San Diego, to the Naval Hospital there… but apparently his next step is a rehab facility. Pam lives in L.A., and there’s a place there that’s supposed to be good. So that’s probably our best bet.”
“So your aunt would take care of him?”
“Basically,” he said. “I mean, he’ll need professional care for a while, maybe indefinitely. But yeah, Pam wants to take a more active role. She and Dad were always close.”
I looked Chad in the eyes. “I hope they all appreciate what you’ve done,” I said. “It’s a helluva lot for you to take on.”
“Yeah well…” He took a gulp of wine. “Maybe someday Dad will appreciate it too. At least that’s my hope.”
I didn’t say a word. I knew how long Chad had yearned for his dad’s approval. I suspected that was the real reason he was taking care of him, though he’d never outright admitted it. “I just want you back with me,” I said without thinking.
“You’ve got me now.”
“You know what I mean. Back at school… so we could just hang out and chill like we used to.”
“Believe me, you don’t think I want that too? You know how nice it would be to have my biggest worry be a paper or something? Shit.” He put his arm around me. “I mean, this semester is pretty istanbul escort much shot, at least for me. Even so, you bet my ass will get over there as soon as I can.”
I put my hand against his cheek. “I can’t wait,” was all I could say.
By the time we finished our wine bottle, we were both pretty tipsy. Part of me wanted to have more sex, but we were both tired, so we did the next-best thing. We spooned with my bare chest against his back, my hands clenching his, and my cock against his butt. It felt so comfortable. So relaxing. So right.
I’d forgotten how warm our bodies got under the sheets— or maybe it was just that particular sheet. I draped my arm across Chad’s chest, and I felt it rise and fall. He was pretty still at first, but then he started to fall asleep, and his body twitched a few times. I wasn’t far behind him: I don’t remember much before I dozed off.
I just remember pieces of my dream that night. As usual, it was a mishmash of images and feelings, some more vivid than others. At first Chad and I seemed inseparable: we were apparently living together, taking the same classes, seeing mutual friends, and generally sharing our lives. But then I dreamt Chad was the one in the hospital, seriously injured, hooked up to tubes and monitors and whatnot. I wasn’t really clear on what had happened: he could’ve been attacked like his dad, or it might’ve been an accident or something. Either way, he just laid there unconscious while equipment whirred and beeped around him. The sight of it felt like a punch to the gut, and I wanted to scream, but somehow I couldn’t move, and no words came out—
Then of course I woke up. Once I got my bearings, I felt incredibly relieved to find Chad lying with me in one piece. He was still fast asleep, letting out a loud snore. For once, my reality seemed more enjoyable than any possible dream.
I snuggled up to Chad and held his body tight. I couldn’t help thinking how crazy I was about this man, and I didn’t want anything to happen to him. But I also knew how fragile our lives were. No matter how badly I wanted him, and no matter how badly he might want me, there was just no telling what our futures might hold.
That morning we ran into Seth when he was leaving for work. It turned out Chad’s description had been spot-on. Seth was wearing a suit and tie, ready to go, at an hour when we’d barely rolled out of bed. He was apparently an aide to Chad’s congressman, and he’d known the Collinses since his time in the Navy. He seemed like a nice enough guy: he said to say hi to Chad’s father, and he invited us to come by his office later. But to be honest, I hardly listened to what he was saying. My mind was somewhere else.
When we got dressed, Chad picked out a dress shirt and slacks. He carefully combed his hair, and he even put on his glasses. I hadn’t brought any nice clothes— I’d mostly just packed sweatshirts and jeans— so Chad let me wear some of his.
“Remember where you’re going,” he said. “The place isn’t exactly laid-back.” He checked the mirror one last time, making sure his shit was together. Then he grabbed a laptop bag as we headed for the door.
We walked to the station together, then rode the train to Bethesda. It was kind of a surreal experience. Even after we’d reached our stop, we went up an eerily long set of escalators. The hospital complex was huge, so I depended on Chad to navigate it all.
We kept seeing what looked like military brass in fancy dress uniforms. I forced myself to act as formal as I could, to the point that I was practically marching down the halls. To anyone watching, Chad and I must’ve looked like Army buddies or something. At least I hoped we did; I didn’t want these people to know we were gay.
Chad paused outside his father’s room. He looked at me, then knocked on the door. “Dad?” he asked. “It’s me. It’s Chad.” Finally he opened the door, stepped inside, and signaled for me to follow.
Chad’s father was lying in bed. At first he looked like any other patient. He was still the strong strapping man I’d seen in pictures, except his head was shaved and he’d put on some weight. A bunch of family pictures and other keepsakes were set up around him. “H-hi,” he finally said.
Chad motioned for me to come forward. “I want you to meet Scott.”
I swallowed hard. I wasn’t sure how to respond; I didn’t want to seem flippant, but I also didn’t want to be awkward. “Nice to meet you,” I said as casually as I could, and I held out my hand.
Chad’s father just stared. He didn’t seem to know what to make of me.
“Dad, do you remember what I told you?”
“Be polite.” I couldn’t help noticing Chad’s tone; he came across as affectionate without seeming condescending. “I was saying I think you’ll like him—”
“—and he’s in town all this week. So you’ll get plenty of chances to know each other.”
Chad didn’t miss a beat. He’d clearly been through this drill before. “So how are you feeling?”
“Fine.” halkalı escort
“Did you tell Dr. Kornberg about your leg cramps?”
“Dr. Kornberg.” Chad pointed to a dry-erase board. “It looks like he was here last night?”
His father looked up and shrugged, but he didn’t say a word.
I kept watching Chad as he talked to his old man. I couldn’t help admiring Chad’s patience. There was so much history between those two, and it wasn’t exactly rosy, yet Chad seemed to put that aside. I’d seen his tender side before, but never quite like this.
At one point his dad asked for a Scotch. Chad told him no, but he did offer to get him a Coke. We were just going to get it when we heard a woman’s voice. “Mister Collins?”
I assumed she was talking to Chad’s dad, but Chad himself turned around. “Dr. Batra,” he said.
The doctor was all business. “I want to talk to you about the PNS.”
“Of course,” Chad replied. He pulled some papers from his bag, which I saw were all carefully organized. He and the doctor launched into a jargon-filled talk about PRC’s, Rancho Levels, hemiparesis, perservation, and what the SLP had to say. Most of that stuff was Greek to me, but Chad didn’t bat an eye. He scribbled notes as they spoke.
“Now,” she asked, “is your aunt up to speed on all this?”
“Mostly,” he said. “I gave her a crash course last week. I’m going to share all this with her too.” He patted his bag.
“All right,” she said. “I’ll let you know what happens. Any issues on your end, let me know right away.” Then she shook his hand and strode off down the hall.
I must’ve made a face because Chad looked at me, then frowned. “What?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“No, what is it?”
“I dunno, it’s just… ‘Mister Collins?'”
“Yeah,” he said as he fiddled with his glasses. “Around here I’m Mister Collins. My dad is Captain Collins. It’s important to get it right.”
“So is that what I’m supposed to call you too?”
“Well… no, of course not.” He leaned in and whispered under his breath. “You’ve got special privileges.”
“I know, I mean it’s just… you know this world better than I do.”
Chad gave me a wistful look. “Maybe,” he said. He seemed to want to say something more, but he bit his lip.
We got his dad’s Coke, then went back to his bedside. Captain Collins kept wanting to watch T.V., but he fumbled with the remote. Chad tried to teach him how to use it. The old man’s progress came in fits and spurts, and he did get frustrated at times. Chad seemed to take it all in stride.
I kept looking in Chad’s eyes. He was so focused on his dad that he didn’t look back at me. I could still see the care and concern in his expressions. He seemed to move in slow motion, so I could follow every flutter of his eyes, every twitch of his lips. It made me feel really warm inside, watching my man be so selfless.
By lunchtime, his dad was pretty tired, so Chad and I let him be. We wanted to grab a bite anyway, so we took the train to a restaurant Chad had recommended. As we left the station, I saw a poem carved into stone, which struck me as apropos:
Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night – some are so young;
Some suffer so much – I recall the experience sweet and sad,
… Walt Whitman
I looked out at the neighborhood around us. It kind of looked like Boystown, with lots of brownstone buildings, a few rainbow flags in the windows, and a slightly hipsterish vibe. D.C. being D.C., there were also a few embassies scattered around.
Chad led me to his restaurant, strode through the door, and plopped down at the bar. He immediately let out a deep sigh and ran his hands through his hair.
“Been one of those days?” the bartender asked.
“It always is,” he said, then motioned to me. “Jennifer, this is Scott. Scott, Jennifer.”
“So you’re the famous Scott?”
I wasn’t sure how to take that at first. “Um… I mean…”
“It’s okay, he’s only ever said good things about you.” She slid a coaster to Chad. “You want a Face Plant?”
Chad stretched his shoulders. “Yeah.”
“You should get the Loose Cannon,” Chad said. “It’s your kind of beer.”
“O-okay,” I said, “I guess I’ll get that.”
Jennifer nodded and headed down the bar. “I take it you were just with your dad?”
“Yeah,” Chad replied. “It was Scott’s first time.”
“You mean since he’s been in the hospital?”
“No, his first time ever. Which is a helluva way to meet someone…”
I just shrugged. “It was important,” I said. “I’m glad I went.”
“You don’t have to whitewash this shit.”
“I’m not.” I waited till Jennifer was out of earshot, then leaned in to Chad. “I’m just saying… your family’s a big part of who you are.”
“I mecidiyeköy escort guess.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve done more for your dad than anybody else I’ve seen. Definitely anybody our age. I mean come on: most of the Kap Eps are partying in Cancun right now.”
“Which is what normal college guys do.”
“Maybe so… but I’d rather be here.”
Chad looked into my eyes. He looked like he was about to say something, but he didn’t.
“So,” I finally said, “I take it this is where you’ve been coming to unwind?”
“I’ve pretty much had to… I mean I couldn’t exactly kick back in the hospital. And it’s not like this is a resort town or something.”
I nodded. I was glad to at least see Chad get comfortable in a gay neighborhood. I just wished he could be comfortable the rest of the time too. I got why he was putting up a facade, but the real guy on the inside was the one I’d fallen in love with. “Well,” I said, “I don’t think you need to worry. I mean it’s Washington… you wouldn’t be the first to create a little scandal.”
Chad snorted. “You want to see my name in a headline?”
“I didn’t say that. I just… I want you to be yourself.”
He chewed his lip for a moment, then forced a smile. “I wish it was that easy.”
I wanted to put my arms around him, give him a kiss, and hold him tight. But I knew Chad was still self-conscious about his sexuality. After all, it had taken him long enough to admit his gayness in private. I knew it would take him even longer to acknowledge it in public— at least in front of mixed company.
Jennifer brought us our drinks, took our food orders, and chatted with us. Slowly but surely, Chad started to loosen up. He’d evidently told this girl quite a bit: she knew a helluva lot about him, and about me for that matter. I tried to keep the conversation as neutral as I could.
Jennifer’s job seemed a lot like mine— and the restaurant seemed to harken back to Thaxter’s— so I started picking her brain. Jennifer had some good stories to tell, as most bartenders would. My favorites were about the people she’d caught fucking in the bathrooms.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Let me back up. You mean this happened more than once?”
“Oh yeah,” she replied. “I even caught some co-workers back there. It was when I was closing, so there weren’t any customers around. But I definitely got an eyeful. If you’ve never seen your co-workers getting it on… let’s just say it was weird having to work with them the next day.”
“Woah,” Chad said. “So you didn’t report them?”
“It’s hard to report them when one of them is your owner.” She clucked her tongue. “Not that I’m complaining though, at least not that much…”
“So,” Chad said, “were these guys or girls or a combination of both?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Chad and I exchanged glances. I saw a glint in his eyes, so I could tell we were both thinking the same thing. I had to admit I liked the idea of hooking up at work. I hadn’t forgotten some of the adventures Chad and I had had, and I figured a new adventure or two couldn’t hurt.
“Anyway,” she sighed, “those are the joys of my job.”
“I imagine,” was all I could say.
The three of us chatted for an hour or so. When Chad and I left, I was tempted to pull him into an alley and let our naughty sides take over. I had to admit I was dying for a good lay, especially after all the feelings he’d conjured up inside me. I could only imagine how how big of a rush we’d get from doing it in public, and how awesome his warm hard cock would feel against mine. But it was still broad daylight, and I wanted to be sensitive. So I forced myself to behave, at least for the moment.
I assumed Chad would show me the city, so I was surprised to hear he’d never really seen it. In all the time he’d been there, he’d apparently never ventured downtown. I couldn’t help feeling sad about that, considering he was a poli sci major, not to mention a history buff. I figured D.C. of all places would be catnip for him.
“Listen,” I said, “just tell me what you feel like doing.”
“For Christ’s sake, Scott—”
“I mean it. You should put yourself first for a change.”
“You make it sound so… I dunno…”
“Like I care about you?”
“I wouldn’t exactly put it that way.”
“Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: I do care about you. So if there’s some other way you want me to put it, just tell me.”
Chad rolled his eyes, and he put on his usual stoic mask. But he never actually pushed back, which I knew was a good sign.
We ended up strolling down the street, checking out the shops and other sights along the way. At first it looked like any other street, but it wasn’t long before we saw the White House in the distance. I kept a close eye on Chad as we got closer. He seemed to be taking it all in.
I waited for him to say something, but he didn’t. Eventually I broke the silence myself. “Huh,” I said. “This looks kind of small in real life.”
Chad shrugged. “You’ve got to remember, it was built right after the colonial era. I mean yeah, they’ve done some expansion, but not as much as you’d think. Today most of the so-called White House staff work over there.” He pointed to a much bigger building on the right.