Author: Blue GhostGhost PM
*SKoW Judges pick for best slash* Everyone has a price. I didn't want any part of Johnny Hollywood's world, but in the end I didn't really have a choice. Slash mxm NC17 n/c angst This one is not all happy folks.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Chapters: 33 - Words: 102,220 - Reviews: 574 - Favs: 385 - Follows: 282 - Updated: 04-06-12 - Published: 10-09-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2854256
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him: a new friend is as new wine; when it is old, thou shalt drink it with pleasure. Ecclesiasticus 9:10
The breeze outside the airport has that familiar cool bay scent, the one that no matter where I go or what I do, will always mean home. I squint into the afternoon sunlight, my hand shielding my eyes as I wait. I smile when I see him pull up, top down, expensive shades, and still those wolfish movie star good looks.
"Hey, you brought the Mustang. Nice." I grin and toss my duffle bag and suitcase onto the back seat.
"Yeah, well anytime you want to take it off my hands, it's still yours." Johnny gets out, pushing his shades messily up into his honey colored hair. He looks good. Maybe a few pounds heavier than the last time we saw each other, but it suits him and any extra wrinkles are the kind a person tends to get from laughing. He looks healthy—a light tan contrasting against a crisp, white shirt—kinda the California opposite of the New Yorkers I see everyday now.
There is a pause, a moment of us just looking at each other, because it actually has been a few years and it's a lot to take in. He was supposed to come to New York with Nevada last summer, but then something came up with work and the time before that I skipped out on the chance for a San Francisco trip in favor of some beach vacation with some at-the-time boyfriend. Maybe we do it on purpose. I mean, I rarely go a week without hearing the man's voice on the phone, but we're not so talented with the face-to-face thing.
"You look really good," he says, fingers running hesitantly up the tattoo of the flower haired deity on my left arm. "This is new."
"Yeah, I have almost as many as you do now. You like that one? He's the Aztec god of artists and homosexuals."
His brow knits. "Seriously? That's a real thing?"
"Yeah, seriously. Come 'ere already and hug me, for God's sake. Stop being so awkward." I open my arms and then Johnny is reaching out pulling me into a good, tight embrace. He smells like hair product and aftershave mixed with his own personal scent and I let my cheek rest on his shoulder for a moment.
"Thanks for coming," he says into my hair, ticklish.
"Like I'd miss Nevada's graduation!" I pull back and look up at Johnny. "He told me he's decided to go to Berkeley in the fall. That's got to be nice having him so close to home."
"If we don't kill each other before the end of summer. You want to drive?"
"No, you do it. Filming ran late last night. I just want to zone out."
"Yeah? How's Jeremy?" Johnny asks. Jeremy Steiner is a film director and my boss, a rising star in the indie queer cinema movement. He picked me up a few years ago as a personal assistant after someone slipped him a VHS of my senior year film project.
"Fine. Works me like a dog, but I'm young. Did you watch the last film I sent you?"
"Yes, of course. The one with that glitter orgy thing in the supermarket right?"
I try not to laugh at his expression. "It was supposed to represent the depiction of Sodom and Gomorrah in classic bible epics."
"Ah." He shrugs. "Yeah, I didn't get it, but I always like to see your name in the credits."
"I may have heard a little bit about this Worlds War III from my other sources," I admit as we climb into the convertible.
"Well then, you have already been informed of what a tragically out of touch guy I am," he drawls as he pulls the car into SF traffic. He doesn't wear the rings anymore, his hands bare as they grip the wheel.
"Well, that's what he thinks."
"You're over protective is what you are," I say. "You fuss, Johnny. Give him some space. The kid is eighteen. Remember you and I were eighteen once and…"
Johnny cuts me of. "Uh, yeeaaah. Boy do I remember when you were eighteen, all right. I was there, if you recall, and the memory makes me want to lock my child in his room until he's thirty."
I laugh. "I was going to point out that I turned out fine, but whatever."
"Well, in any case, I think society frowns on that kind of thing, no?"
"Yeah, I think they do." I glance at him, can't help but stare. "It's weird being back," I say.
He looks over at me briefly and then goes back to watching the road. "Good weird or bad weird?"
"Weird, weird. Like the world turned inside out for me in '89 and then I fucking left and now here we are."
"You've been back since."
"Not under such nostalgic circumstances," I point out. "And I don't think I've been to your place since Nevada started high school."
"Mmm. Has it been that long? Hey do you want to stop off for something to eat or wait until we get up into the valley?"
"God, Eddie—it's just, I would do anything for him, he's more important than anything else in my life, but it's like living with a goddamn alien. He wears headphones at the dinner table and quotes fucking Nietzsche. And then there's the music—this Nirvana band. Have you heard of them?"
"Yes," I bite my bottom lip to keep from smiling as I flag down the waitress to bring the check. Johnny is getting out his wallet and gestures for me to forget it when I try to do the same. I let him with a shrug.
"It's horrible. And the clothes! I don't get it. It's like he and his friends are intentionally trying to look like they got dressed out of a used clothing bag in the dark. And these girls he brings around. Is he dating them? I can't even tell."
"Jesus, Johnny," I snort. "Oh yeah, he's dating them. You know that his breakup with Melissa was a really big deal right?"
Johnny makes a low growl in the back of his throat as we stand up. "It was a couple of months ago, right?"
"Yes," I intone and roll my eyes.
"Well, I know he was moping around the house and being weird enough that I ended up pulling him out of school for a week and taking him with me on that business trip to Spain. I was going to leave him on his own but it seemed like a bad idea."
"It was the right thing to do. It helped a lot." I squint against the late afternoon sun, stare out past the parking lot at the coastline.
"Yeah, it was a good trip and he seemed to snap out of it a little bit after that." Johnny smiles. "I bitch, but he's a really good kid in all honesty. Lord knows karmically I do not deserve him."
"Here's the thing," I say carefully as we get back on the road. Seriously, I've just gotten here and really who am I to run my mouth about Johnny's parenting anyway? So what if I consider these people my family, I'm still the outsider by all intents and purposes. But I take a deep breath and I say it anyway. "Nevada still needs you and everything. Dude, he's always going to need his dad, but you know, he just really can't be the most important thing in your world anymore. You need your own life and he needs his."
Johnny lets the air out of his lungs in a slow pained hiss. "Oh hell, chamaco, why don't you just kick me in the balls or something? Jesus, it's nice to see you too."
"Sorry," I say, fidgeting with my fingers. "I get it from both sides you know? And it's just well, I heard about your antique dealer friend," I say. "I'm sorry. It's really too bad. I was happy for you."
Johnny shrugs nonchalantly. "I told you Esteban wasn't an antique dealer. He imports rare religious artifacts. You know, Tibetan Thangkas and Portuguese crucifixes shit like that. It's all this silicone valley dot com craziness—that's my personal theory anyway. People are trying to buy some sense of culture by putting that stuff in their offices or homes or whatever—goddamn ten-thousand dollar meditation rooms to fill the void. Sonoma's changing too. It's not half as chill as it used to be."
I roll my eyes. "Oh God, Johnny, you mean time doesn't just stand still? The next generation wants an empire too? You know, you weren't without ambition to make a name for yourself once."
"What? Was that in the past tense? Oh ho ho, you little fucker," he points an accusing finger in my direction and gives a grim smile. "I have ambitions now, thank you very much. I've turned a mediocre patch of grapes into a reputable little Winery. You start suggesting I've gone soft…"
"Whatever," I interject. This is starting feel normal—like every conversation we've had until 2AM over the last eight years, a collective phone bill that could probably have bought a small island somewhere. "That is not the point. The point is Nevada thought he was good for you. What happened?"
"Oh, we're still talking about Esteban? Jesus fuck, Eddie. First off, Nevada may present himself as an expert on most things, but he is not, in fact, a good source of accurate information on my love life—thank Christ—and second, I don't know. It wasn't meant to be, I guess." Johnny is quiet a moment, just watching the road. I wait. I've learned through the years that the silence usually gets him.
As if to prove my point he starts up again a moment later. "It appears that I am…mmm." Johnny waves his hand in a vague circle. "You know, I have my kid and my sister's kids and then all the winery stuff and I'm told that it doesn't leave a lot more room in my life for something else—or someone else, I suppose is more to the point. The actual conversation was pretty boring as far as breakups go. I think he wanted me to cave and ask him to move in and that kind of backfired. It's better this way though. I don't want to waste anybody's time."
"Well, shit, dude." I grin. "That sure paints a sorry picture: a stupidly attractive, successful businessman shipping the kid off to school in the fall. Who ever will wanna keep you company in that big Sonoma Valley mansion of yours?"
Johnny shakes his head. "Seriously though, Eddie. Nevada's going to college; I've never felt more old in all my life."
"You're not old!" I say. "I hope you don't think I'm going to pander to that pathetic self-indulgent line of thinking all weekend. Man-up there, buddy."
"Mmm. How long are you staying anyway?"
"Two weeks. I'm going to go down and see my sister and aunt too, of course. Bea's pregnant by the way."
"I know. I know. The boyfriend is okay, but they haven't said anything about getting married, which, forgive me, I'm a little thrilled about. And saint Angela has said she'll pitch in so Beatriz can keep doing the nursing school thing. I'm actually optimistic. Bea's a smart, practical girl and besides I'm going to love the hell out of that kid."
"Well, let me know," he says, "if there's anything I can do to help. Are you going to visit Julio? Nicky said he's up for parole next year, but he didn't think there was much hope. I told my old lawyer to look into it anyway."
"Yeah, I'm going to try," I say. "Thanks, you know, for doing that."
"No te preocupes. I admit I worry about tu familia a little extra for your sake, but I have my own history with them as well. I may have left the life, but I keep my debts—all of them. Sometimes I wonder if that's all that kept me going in the beginning, knowing I had so much to make up for. Guilt is a powerful emotion. I guess you Catholics have always known that though."
Cross the bridge over the Petaluma River and you are in the Sonoma Valley, just north of San Francisco. It is the less pretentious sister to the better-known Napa Valley. Often called Valley of the moon, Sonoma Valley is lush and semi-isolated and one hell of a place to grow wine.
Johnny found himself here by chance shortly after rehab—homeless and jobless and heartbroken, he took up a friend's offer to use a small near abandoned family vacation house for a while—a place to get out of the city and pull it together. He found himself charmed by the locals, a strange mix of descendants of working class Italian and Spanish immigrants that blended exotically with an artistic bohemian constituency—the folks that babbled on about things like slow food and organic farming.He liked the city center, a grand plaza with its Mission Solono, the last and most northern of the California Missions. He liked even more to sit with a strong dark roast and a pastry from Basque Boulangerie Café and watch the wild chickens dart across the city center. He liked the idea of Nevada growing up in a town where he could ride his bike to school, play outside until dark, where every time Johnny turned around he wasn't reminded of the past. So in early 1991 he took his share from the business with Big Nick and purchased a little vineyard that was once the estate of a 19th century Spanish colonist. It wasn't much to start with, but under Johnny's eye for business it flourished. ###
We stop off in the parking lot of a small adobe building, the rolling hills of neatly arranged grapevines creating the backdrop to the tasting room set along the dusty road.
"We pull in about three tons of fruit per acre," Johnny tells me, gesturing to the land before us. "It's brutal work, picking the grapes—it's done mostly by Hispanics, actually. After first crush every year we have a big party on the lawn outside the winery—for the whole crew with food and a band. I think there's more Spanish being spoken than English and we go through more tequila and dark beer than wine. It's my favorite time of year—the symbolic death of all those grapes before they are resurrected as a libation. It's a ritual if I've ever seen one. No one says a word at the crush but then we party like madmen after."
"It all sounds very pagan," I laugh. "Do you wear a grape wreath crown and dance naked in the moonlight?"
"Only on very special occasions. You know, I used to peddle death—yeyo is for the dying, a death of the spirit, the body. Wine is for the living."
"It is an admirable transition," I say looking out over the hills.
"Would you like to do a tasting? I was going to pick up a couple of bottles for the house."
Johnny's lives in a modest one story craftsman bungalow on the east side of town, the front yard exploding with bougainvillea, roses and a truly impressive variety of cacti and succulents crowding into every corner.
We sit out on the stone patio and Johnny opens a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon as dark as blood. "I'm pouring this wine a little before its time but I'm really proud of this one," he tells me as he fills our glasses. "The tannins will soften up a bit as it ages." Johnny's backyard has fig trees and a big patch of nasturtiums near the fence. An old tire swing he says he can't bring himself to take down blows in the evening breeze.
"It's good," I say. "Bold. With what? Kind of a raspberry-current thing going on? Very juicy and a little bit earthy."
I reach across the little table, put my hand on top of Johnny's. He freezes and looks down.
"You know," I say thoughtfully, flipping his hand palm up and tracing the lines there. "I'm not the same lost kid you knew back when lookin' for your approval." I don't know why I feel the need to point that out but I do.
His breath catches. "I know that. Fuck, what you give off these days—there's nothing kid-like about it. You even smell different." His face turns red as he realized what he's just said.
"And," I add with a pleased smirk. "You haven't paid my rent since I got my first PA job after NYU. You're not my white hat anymore Johnny Hollywood. We're just friends."
How strange that this is the person that has taken every midnight call, every whispered confession I could ever muster up the courage to say aloud. At first I'd talk just because I was miserable and hated New York and I wanted him to give in and let me come home. At some point, I'm not sure just when, our talks started giving me the strength to make it out on my own. To believe in what I am capable of.
He knows me best in that respect—my insecurities amongst my more sophisticated classmates in my early days of college, my triumphs and failures in launching a carrier in the film industry, my most personal heartaches and revelations. And yet he is also always careful to keep me at a distance, never too close, always a time zone apart.
"We're not just friends. There's more to it than that," he says, voice rough. "God, Eddie, you're the only one I took with me, the only one that can even remember Johnny Hollywood and what that name used to mean. I can't even talk to Nicky most of the time. I just can't. There's Nevada—but with you…a kid is a different thing. It just makes everything so fucking complicated between us."
"You think that I judge you for the past?"
"No." He sighs, "But maybe you should. Maybe I shouldn't get to have you in my life. I do it for Nevada. I've always thought he was better off with you around —but did you know Jaime made me swear to let you go? On his death bed he made me promise and I don't know." He shakes his head and takes a generous gulp of wine. "Maybe it's stupid magical thinking or something but I've always told myself that if I did that, if I could give up something that big—repent and sacrifice my own selfish wants for once—that then maybe me and the kid could be okay. Even if it should be Jaime sitting here instead of me."
"Bullshit," I snap, making him start a bit. "Don't feed me that sob wankfest, Johnny. I'm not your surrogate Jaime. Don't you dare try to put that on me. Yeah, you fucked that kid sideways and he died a horrible death when he was just a baby—fucking twenty four—younger than I am now. I get it. You never got to make it up to him, but I can't be the one to forgive you for that. It isn't my place."
"I know, I know. I'm sorry I didn't mean it like that. Jesus, I know you can't." He pinches the bridge of his nose.
"And furthermore I like to think we have a little more between us than just the kid…"
I stop as we both hear the sliding glass door open. "Eddie! You're here!" Nevada smiles and I stand up and grin, throwing my arms wide.
"Don't you dare call me that," he says hugging me tight.
"Well how else am I gonna make myself feel important now that you're on your way to becoming an astrophysicist or whatever?" I pull back and look him over. He's grown at least another inch since I saw him last summer, taller than Johnny now—broad shouldered with an athletic build.
Nevada pulls up a chair and slouches into it, looking a mix of embarrassed and smug. "Well I'm just going to start with plain old physics and astronomy, in any case. Como estas, Eddie?"
I smile. "Good, really good. We were getting overly nostalgic up in here. I'm glad you showed up."
"You guys? Oh surely not." He picks up Johnny's cup and sniffs the contents. "Is this the new Cab?" He sips and nods approvingly. "Have you met dad's vintner, Tony, yet? The science behind this stuff is pretty wicked. He's, like, a genius."
"Go easy on that," Johnny says sternly.
"Oh because you two clearly have been?"
"I said go easy." He fingers a hole in the elbow of Nevada's button up. "God almighty. I will buy you shirts you know."
"I like this one," he says making a face at Johnny. "I saw the mustang in the driveway, did you guys take it out?"
"Just to the airport and back," Johnny says.
"Can I borrow it this weekend?"
"Well it isn't technically your car," he points out looking in my direction. "Eddie, can I? Please? It's graduation weekend, man."
"Oh, Johnny, what's the harm?" I ask. "I had that thing at his age and I wasn't half as good a kid."
He sighs, defeated. "Be so goddamn careful, understand? No drinking. No drugs. I am so serious, Nevada."
"I know dad. I just want to take my friends to the beach with the top down. They're all a bunch of nerds anyway. They don't party. No te preocupes."
Johnny looks at him a moment and then shrugs. "Well, on that disconcerting note, I think I will go start dinner and let you boys get caught up."
"Do you need help?" I ask.
"Nah. I'm just going to throw together something easy—pasta and salad. Sit. Relax. Drink my merchandise. It's good to have you here, Eddie." He stands and pats Nevada's shoulder affectionately, kissing the top of his head before going inside.
Nevada rolls his eyes when Johnny is gone and pours a little more wine.
"You're a spoiled little niño, you know that?"
Nevada grins and sips his wine. "Que? I thought I was charming. How's Izzy, man?"
"She's good. Very sorry she couldn't take the time off to come for your graduation, but she's doing the costumes for two huge productions right now. She sent along some amusing presents though."
"Heh. I'm sure. How's things with you?"
"Oh, you know, working up to the day of my vacation. The usual."
"Hey I saw that last thing you worked on. What was it called? The Psalms of a Drugstore Cowboy? I think dad tried to hide it from me but he isn't as sneaky as he thinks."
"Oh yeah?" I laugh. "What'd you think of it?"
Nevada shrugs. "You know, it was kinda skin flick light—all those long edits of naked dudes doesn't really hold my interest. I thought the dialogue was pretty good though, and that Mary Magdalene at the gas station scene was hilarious."
"I wrote that," I say, pleased. "They ended up shooting it last minute."
"Yeah, Jeremy is really championing one of my screen plays right now. If we can get the funding he might direct it."
"That's pretty sweet, Eddie. I hope it works out."
"If not this one, something," I say. "I've got time."
We have fresh pasta stuffed with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese, sourdough bread and a pear salad with pine nuts and fennel. Johnny opens another bottle of wine from a French label he's rather fond of. I say I think his wines are better making him smile with pleasure.
It's late—Nevada has reminded us he still has two more days of school and has gone to find his bed. I'm stretched out on the living room floor, one of the couch cushions tucked under my head. "Geez," I say happily. "I've been talking to you for hours. I always end up talking to you for hours. What do we even have to talk about anymore?"
"Well, chamaco." Johnny leans over me to refill my wine glass. "We've covered the fascinating world of grape varietals, the mystery of teenagers, the pros and cons of working in television vs film, and whether it's sexy or disconcerting when men wax their chests."
I laugh. "Ah. Right. Speaking of body hair I sure am glad you never had a mustache. You just look at all those Freddy Mercury mustaches in the 80s and think oh man, that sure looks seedy. I'm glad I don't have to confront that level of what was I thinking, ya know?"
Johnny pauses, hovering above me looking amused. "I did have a mustache."
"What?" I shake my head. "Oh well then, that's on Jaime not me," I say dismissively.
"He did eventually talk me into shaving it off." Johnny shrugs. "It wasn't that bad though."
I snort. "Yeah? Prove it. Do you have any pictures?"
"Probably somewhere. I don't know."
"Oh come on. Please. At least try to look. I need this image burned into my corneas as a source of amusement for all times of hardship."
"Well, when you put it that way, how can I say no?"
I sit on the edge of the bed and sip from my wine glass while Johnny rummages through the top drawer of his dresser. I haven't been in here before and I absently let myself wonder how many other people have. Not that it's any of my business.
"Ah! Here we go." He comes over and hands me a Polaroid. Johnny looks ridiculously young and cocky, wearing a leisure suit and leaning against a green MG. "That's like two cars before the Jag."
"It's pretty terrifying," I say after a thorough review of the image.
"Aw. Now you're just being mean."
"No. That people let you walk around looking like that is what's mean."
"Your dad dressed the same way. It was what the cool guys looked like."
"Ay Dios mio, he did not. He had one of those little pencil mustaches and I never saw him in anything but that old, beat up leather jacket."
"Well, when he used to come to party at the Cherry…"
"Ahh! No! Stop right there. Ew ew ew." I flail and Johnny has to catches my wrist to keep me from spilling my drink. Some sloshes over the rim anyway. "Aw, mierda I'm sorry."
Johnny smiles and I try not to notice the way his leg has pressed up against mine as he leans over me. "It has, believe it or not, happened before in this house." He takes the glass from my hand and sets it on the dresser. "Here give me that shirt and I'll soak it before it stains."
"Yeah, okay." I pull it up over my head and hand it over. Johnny stares at me a moment, opens his mouth as if he's about to say something but just shakes his head and turns on his heel to go into the master bathroom. He doesn't shut the door or anything so I get up and follow.
"The trick is white vinegar," Johnny says without looking up. He pulls out a bottle from under the sink and pours it over the stain. "I'll just let this soak here for a bit and, um, then we can wash it later."
"Thanks." I lean in the doorway and watch him rinse the vinegar from his hands. I'm making him nervous—I'm not that naive after all and God help me but it is a potent feeling—the stuff of my own darkest, erotic geography: Johnny Hollywood left trembling at my touch and begging for mercy. I've played enough games in the bedroom by now to know the pleasure of both ends of that stick...
But this is a fantasy that is much safer when it is being indulged in New York—not drunk and shirtless in Johnny's bathroom. No wonder I never visit anymore. I am such an idiot when it comes to this man.
"I should get some sleep," I say.
"Yes, of course." Johnny nods. "Buenos noches, chamaco. It's late." He steps towards me—maybe intending to give a goodnight hug—who knows—but as he reaches out something entirely different happens. The moment his hands on my bare skin, I am leaning up and against him and giving in to the overwhelming urge to take a kiss, long and deep and hard. I put teeth into it until he pulls back.
"Fuck, Eddie," he says against my neck. "I'm only human. How am I supposed to walk away from that?" His fingers are in my belt loops; my hands are in his hair. Maybe Johnny is like a lot of addictions: once it's gotten into your system, it's always going to be a problem.
"God, tu eres muy caliente," I say, licking at my slightly puffy bottom lip. "And as I recall, Johnny, you used to be a lot of fun. Wanna make a huge mistake with me?"
The clothes come off like this is a hook up—like we intended for this to happen all along. I'm happy with what I have to offer—I put enough hours in at the gym to be eager to show it off and see the hunger flash in Johnny's eyes.
Johnny is nervous though, hands hovering hesitantly at his belt buckle. "Come on," I urge, kicking off my boxers and sitting naked on the bed. I pump my rapidly hardening cock, putting on a little show for his benefit. "You know, I can still get myself off thinking about the way you used to fuck me," I tell him, enjoying the how his face flushes and eyes darken. "Look at you. Es muy bueno, jefe. Like good wine: better with age." That fetches him. I smile, pleased when he strips off and straddles my hips. Our mouths meet—sweetly sloppy. I pull back and laugh against Johnny's chin, lean down to nibble at his throat until he gasps.
I'm loose and careless from the wine, happy to keep it simple—skin on skin, exploring with hands, finding a rhythm to grind against each other.
"Lie back," he says, pushing at my shoulders. "I want to do the work."
"Yeah, alright." I stretch out, cradling my head in my arms. I gaze at him with half-lidded eyes as he takes the lube and a condom from nightstand. I tense a little, surprised, when he rolls the rubber onto me and slicks it up. Oh fuck yes. I practically lose my cool just at the idea of where this is going. "You want it like that then hmm?" I ask, grinning wide, doing my best to leer.
"Yeah. That okay with you?"
"Oh God…yesss." It comes out between clinched teeth because he's wasting no time climbing onto my lap and getting started and goddamn if that tight heat isn't good enough, the feel of Johnny's hands pressed against my chest as he rides, the way his eyes screw shut and his breath catches in sharp little hisses, is damn near perfect.
I dig my fingers into his hips, groan as my head rolls on the pillow. Johnny says my name like a mantra, half sobbed, over and over again as I thrust up hard to meet his rhythm. So many years of wanting this, thinking about it, and now it's here— clumsy and slutty and so terribly romantic all at the same time. And God, it's good. Did I say how good it is?
Later I fall asleep with my knees half bent, Johnny curled at my back, the pleasant feeling of fingers running through my hair and lips on my neck. I feel boneless and drained, happy and secure with my place in the world. The last thing I remember is the words, "te amo," soft and low, whispered in my ear as I drift away.
I shuffle into the kitchen with my head pounding and my mouth feeling like I spent the night with it stuffed full of old gym socks. Goddamn red wine. Nevada is fussing with the coffee pot, sweaty from a morning run and still dressed in sneakers and sweats. He glances up and registers my presence. There is a little of Jaime in there, something around the nose and eyes. I wonder if Johnny ever notices and if he does if he says anything about it.
"You fucked him didn't you?" His tone is flat, almost observational, but there is no missing the confrontation in his expression.
"Hey, man," I press fingertips to my eyelids. "Don't talk to me like that, especially when I'm this pinche hung over. Jesus. What's going on with you?" I find the cups and pour a glass of orange juice, sipping slowly. "And make enough coffee for me too, dude."
"You totally did though, Eddie," he says as he adds more coffee to the filter. "You fucked my dad."
"God, stop saying that. But yeah, you know I have. How old were you when I explained it? Fifteen?" I raise an eyebrow and lean against the counter. He'd asked me point blank if Johnny and I'd ever been together and I'd told the truth. It'd kind of damn near killed Johnny but I didn't think lying was the fair thing to do.
"No, stupid. I don't mean then." He crosses his arms over his chest and glares at me. "I mean now. I mean last night. I saw how you guys were looking at each other and I saw the guest bed when I got up. I was going to ask if you wanted to go for a jog with me, but you weren't in there."
"Oh." Well Berkeley wasn't getting their hands on an idiot in any case. "Don't you think that really isn't any of your business?"
"Eddie! He's my dad."
"And a grown man who can take care of himself."
"You might be one of the coolest people I know, but God you can be such an asshole sometimes."
My eyebrows shoot up. "You think I'm an asshole? Porque?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because dad is all psycho in love with you; I can't believe you'd be all like what's the big deal dude," he intones and rolls his eyes. "He keeps a picture of you in his wallet! I can tell when you guys are on the phone because his voice changes."
"Um…" Oh God, what do I even say to that? "Look, you were really young when I was seeing Johnny but it's super complicated. We went through some things together—it felt like the world was ending—and there's comfort in knowing that the other person understands, but it doesn't mean…"
"You can't just come here and start shit and rip his heart out and then run back to New York like nothing happened. That is so unforgivably dickish. It's going to be another fucking ten years before he'll even try with another guy like Esteban." His face flushes as he moves to pull out two coffee cups, putting them on the counter with a hard clank.
"Did you like Esteban then?" I drum my fingers on the counter, surprised by the twinge of jealousy that twists in my chest.
"I don't know. I hardly talked to him—you know Johnny, he thinks he's protecting me from the whole gay dad thing or whatever. As if I care. It's retarded. I've known my whole life. I wish he'd stop thinking it embarrasses me."
I am always in wonder of Nevada—the way his awkward adolescent moments blend with the man I can see him becoming, the age gap between us less and less relevant each year. It's different for Johnny, but this was never my kid and I never much minded playing the go-between.
"Well growing up in the Mission isn't the same as up here," I explain. "It means something different, especially twenty years ago. You gotta understand we come with some baggage from that."
"At least you did something about it. You made those movies and protested in the street. You fought. He just hides and hides and hides. I…it's always been me and dad. I mean, you know after what happened with Jaime and… I don't know. I hate leaving. Don't get me wrong. I can't wait to get the hell out of Sonoma and start school. I just hate leaving him here."
"Oh, Nevada, sweetheart, he is so excited for you. And so am I. This is how it's supposed to happen. You're going to make your own way in this world and it's going to be awesome." I wrap my arms around his shoulders from behind and give him a brief squeeze. "I love you guys and nothing is ever going to change that. No matter what."
"Mmm." He sounds so much like Johnny when he makes that non-committal noise I have to bite my bottom lip not to laugh.
"And don't be so hard on tu padre. He's fought plenty—especially for you." I pull back and fetch the cream for the coffee from the fridge. "I believe in you to make grown-up life decisions, man, and you're going to have to give that back a little and have faith in us to sort out our own shit, okay?"
"Okay, I guess," he says and hands me my mug. "I'm still not entirely cool with what you're doing though."
"Fine." I give a slow smile. "Noted. But now we move on, mi amigo. Please do tell, how was prom?"
"I know you haven't smoked for years, but for some reason I still expect to see a cigarette in your hand when you have that look on your face."
I glance up at Johnny and smile. "What? My sulky-thinky face you mean?"
"Is that what it's called?" He drops down next to me under the fig tree.
"I'm still on New York time," I blurt out.
"Huh?" Johnny frowns, confused.
Fuck. Could I be more high school about this? "I just mean…this morning. I wasn't there when you woke up, but it wasn't because I was being weird about it or something. I just couldn't sleep and you looked pretty tired."
"Um… look, Johnny…"
He puts a hand on my cheek, fingers warm against my skin. "Eddie, it's okay. I don't expect anything. I know your life isn't here and you're going back to New York. What you've given me already—it's a lot. It feeds me in ways you can't possibly imagine, so don't worry about it."
I blink—the hesitation, the anxiety in Johnny's eyes making my head swim. This handsome man, this good father and successful entrepreneur, reduced to something so small by the sins of his past. I've been in enough relationships by now to know the difference between lust and love. You're not getting off the hook that easily, pendejo.
"So that's it?" I ask, tilting my head to meet his eyes.
"What do you mean?"
"You are in love with me and you're not even going to make a play? You're not even going to ask me to stay? That's just plain cowardice on your part, in my opinion."
And so for the second time in my life I sit and listen to Johnny tell me all the reasons we shouldn't be together—how I have a great big world and my whole life ahead of me; how he is old, old enough to be my father in fact and damaged and I would only grow to resent him for his limitations. He says that he had told himself he'd kept in touch to make sure I was okay, to make sure I didn't need anything, but now he admits the selfishness of keeping me tethered to the past—to him. That it wasn't fair of him to do that.
I wait until he's finished, until he is silently fingering the blades of grass by his hand, looking miserable, but resigned.
"You done?" I ask.
"Mmm. Yeah I'm finished."
"Well you can't move your winery to New York and I'm obsessed with my Job, but I happen to love you too," I tell him point blank. "And I don't take something like that lightly. It's rare, especially for independent type people like us, and I've been thinking."
"No." I put up a hand to silence him. "I let you say your piece and now I get to say mine. Since I started with the studio I've had as much work outside of New York as in the city. I'm going to Paris next month, then LA and then back to SF for a film festival in July. And I've been thinking about moving back to the Bay to be near my sister and the baby anyway."
"What? I thought you loved New York."
"I do, but it doesn't mean I have to live there forever. Look, you travel almost as much as I do for promotion. We already know we're good on the phone. I spend a few months in a row doing some heavy lifting for Jeremy and then there's a couple of months of downtime for me to work on my own screenplays and shit. I could do that anywhere. I'm just saying, that's what I have to offer right now and I know—lord do I know—that's not enough for everyone, but still, if you wanted to be mi novio—well there's currently an open casting call for the part." I shake my head. "Don't answer now, just think about it okay?"
"Yeah, okay," he nods, traces of bewilderment in his expression. I smile, lean forward and kiss his cheek.
"You're still a lot of fun, by the way. No matter what happens, I hope I'm welcome in your bed again. There are a few old hot memories I wouldn't mind refreshing." I smile and stand up, brush myself off and go back into the house to make some work calls.
I'm just hanging up from a conversation with the editor for the other nights' shoot when Johnny comes inside. "Jesus Christ, Eddie. Do you talk to all your men that way?"
I laugh at myself and lean against the wall, arms folded across my chest. I can feel my face heat at the admonishment. God, Eddie, way to make this cheap. "Uh sorry. Was that too much? I wasn't trying to be crass—I just didn't want there to be any ambiguity on my side. No head games, ya know?"
"Ah. I see." Johnny crosses the room, and looks me over real slow. "You've grown up, I guess. It takes some getting used to. Just, uh, let me earn this a little bit okay?"
"Earn?" I frown. "What exactly are you hoping to earn?"
Johnny brushes a strand of hair behind my ear. "You are so very, very special, do you know that? You are one of my favorite people in the whole world." A slow, hot smile slides across his face, warming my insides in that old familiar way. He reaches out and pulls the back of my hand to his lips. "Forgive me," he says. "I'm still a little on the old fashioned side, Cariño—even our old arrangement, so many years ago, had its traditions. Just…let me woo you for a bit hmm? Let me prove to you how much I really want this. I have to go to work for a few hours, but maybe after that can I take you to lunch? I know a little bistro downtown that is very nice for a late afternoon drop in."
"Oh." Something unexpectedly sweet and effervescent seems to be blossoming in my chest. I cannot remember the last time I had such a fine offer from a more handsome gentleman. "Yeah, I'd really like that," I tell him.
"Bueno," Johnny says, leaning forward and kissing the corner of my mouth. "Then it's a date."The End
Thank you for reading everyone! I am humbled by all of you and could not have finished this without your encouragement. If you haven't reviewed yet, I would really love to hear from you! Writing can be a lonely process and it means a lot knowing people are out there somewhere reading.
As a sign of my affection I made you guys this mix tape: blueghostghost (dot) tumblr (dot) com(slash)post(slash)20631445435
Author notes, fan art and the ability to buy me a drink here:
Rate this story on Goodreads here: goodreads(dot)com/book/show/ 11383724-juicy-fruitAnd also many thank yous to WriteAddict and FastBlood for all of the editing I put them through in the process of writing this story.