Everybody’s Wounded


Chapter 5



I’m not a guy who spends a lot of time thinking about my face.  I mean, I look ok, you know?  Light brown hair, grey eyes, regular features – well, except for the nose, which is a little crooked from multiple breaks.  Overall though, ok.  Whatever. 


But when I looked into the mirror the next morning, even I had to admit that I looked like a horror show.  Two black eyes.  Swollen nose.  Cheek bone starting to scab.  It meant a lot of stares everywhere I went.  I was just glad my Mom couldn’t see me.


My first lecture was Poli Sci, and all the way across campus I was aware of this little surge of anticipation.  Luc wasn’t there yet, but I settled over by the window where we usually sat, and put my backpack on the seat next to me to save it for him.  He didn’t come in until the prof was about to start speaking, took a seat at the back, and was gone before I could make it to the door. 


The same thing happened that afternoon in our Economics lecture, and again in International Relations.  I couldn’t even get him to look at me.  I tried to stay focused on the lectures, but I couldn’t.  I had to keep watching him, seeking out the intensity of those Siberian eyes.  But as soon as I’d catch his glance, he’d look away immediately. 


He had also disconnected from class.  He never said a word in any of the discussion periods. 


He didn’t answer his cell, didn’t return any of my messages.


I tried not to take it personally but it was almost impossible.  Hadn’t we just shared the sweetest kisses in the universe?  How could he be acting like I didn’t exist?  He offered me nothing: not a smile, not even an acknowledgment of friendship.  Just a bowed head when I managed to catch him watching me from across a crowded lecture hall.  Josh had said he was scared; I knew he was scared.  I did not know why.  All I did know was that if I wanted to know him better – and I did, very much – then I would have to be prepared to be patient. 


He was worth the care, I told myself. 


I reminded myself of how I had felt, sitting on the floor beside the piano, listening to his heart pour out through the keyboard, connected to him by sound and his fingertips on the keyboard and the warm touch of my elbow against his thigh. 


I thought of sweet kisses in the fog, his hands on my wrists, the fire of that connection. 


So how was I supposed to pretend that the way he was acting now was anything but regret and rejection?  How was it supposed to not hurt?


To make matters worse, I couldn’t even take out my frustrations seeking revenge of Jase Petrov’s sorry ass.  The trainer had mentioned my nose to the team doc, who had insisted on checking it out.  He’d sidelined me for 72 hours.  Not only was I not permitted to practice with the team, I wasn’t allowed to run or hit the weight room until the worst of the swelling was down.


I felt like a fucking fuse, lit and about to explode.




Josh met with his thesis supervisor every Wednesday afternoon.  We’d fallen into the habit of grabbing a quick coffee together between my last lecture and rugby practice, but that day I was cut off from getting muddy and sweaty on the rugby field, and had the rest of the afternoon to kill.  I told him that when we arranged to meet at the Timmy’s just off campus. (For those of you who aren’t Canucks, that’s Tim Horton’s, Canada’s ubiquitous coffee and donut chain, named for a dead hockey player and more common than Starbucks in Seattle. Timmy’s is the quintessentially Canadian version of the café, totally mediocre, elevating unpretentious to a form of high art.)  


I hadn’t seen him since the last Rainbow pub on the previous Friday night.  The night he’d told me Luc was gay…


The night he’d kissed me. 


What a strange, strange night that had been.  My brain had kept turning over the information about Luc, while my body had been totally attuned to Josh.


It was just a kiss, I told myself.  That’s all.  Just one.  Quick.  Soft.  Fleeting.  It didn’t mean anything.  It couldn’t mean anything.  It was just a kiss between friends. 


So why couldn’t I forget it?


Could there ever be 'just a kiss' between Josh and me?




As I headed across campus, I didn’t want to think about that.  What I really needed was to talk.  About Luc.  I was hurt and angry and frustrated, and Josh was someone I trusted, someone I could talk to.  At least, that’s what I thought when I headed over to meet him.  But when I saw him, I wasn’t so sure.


I got there first, and had taken my coffee to a table in the corner where I could watch for him.  As he got in line, he flashed me that familiar smile, and I felt a little thrill.


“That smile’s for me,” I thought, and when I smiled back, Josh held my eyes.  It was one of those perfect little moments in time where everything is… balanced.  My heart leapt,  and suddenly I just wanted to let it all go.  The confusion.  The hurt.  The rejection. 


Especially the rejection.


Josh just looked so good standing there, waiting for his coffee.  So calm, so self contained.  He was older than the other students I knew.  He didn’t even look like a student.  He was more polished, more… I don’t know.  He actually had a style, …reflective of who he was.  Like he’d actually figured out who that was.  He had this great profile, long and lean -- narrow black jeans, black leather jacket open over a fine black wool sweater, black boots, and a red cashmere scarf wrapped a few times around his neck.  When he walked towards me, every movement smooth and elegant, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.


 “You really need to get another hobby, Big Guy,” he said, dropping neatly into the chair opposite me and studying my battered face with those unreadable green eyes that took in everything and gave nothing away.  “That is definitely not a good look for you.”


He reached out and touched my arm.  “Christ, Scott, that’s got to hurt.” 


For the first time, I felt the full force of my attraction to this man, and it was almost overwhelming.  The effect of even his most casual touch – his hand lightly on my arm – was powerful and immediate.  It was like his fingers had some sort of direct circuit to my dick.  It made my breathing quicken, my butt clench nervously, my cock harden.  I knew I was flushing slightly.


I shifted in my chair, trying to ease the constriction of my jeans which were suddenly way too tight.  Josh just continued to study my battered face.


He had this capacity for stillness that sometimes made me nervous.  Did he know what he was doing to me?  Did he know about that little jolt of electricity that seemed to connect his fingers to my cock?  Did he know why I was shifting so uncomfortably?    


His face remained calm, controlled, impassive even.  But he left his hand on my arm for what seemed like a million heartbeats.  When he withdrew it, he moved it slowly, down the length of my jacket.  His fingers lingered across my hand for just a second and his green eyes stared steadily into mine.


And that’s how I knew he was aware of everything I was feeling, that he was as acutely aware of me as I was of him.


Someone watching us would have seen nothing but two guys engaged in earnest conversation.  But somehow I had the feeling that there were two completely different conversations going on, one in words, the other in a touch that only looked casual.  The touch seemed to me to be like a promise that he could take me places I had never been, learn things about myself that no one else could ever teach me.  The thought of it made me a little crazy – and scared the hell out of me.


I was so confused.  How could I feel like this about Josh when I wanted so badly to connect to Luc?  And were my perceptions about Josh even real, or was I reading meaning into his actions that wasn’t really there?


Even if Josh knew the effect he had on me – did he want to?  Did he mean to?


I thought of that night I’d spent in his arms, how he’d comforted me through the pain of David’s betrayal, offering the comfort of his warmth, his touch, until finally, after all those sleepless nights, I had been able to sleep.  His calmness, his control, had been so soothing.  He’d just held me, refusing to make any demands, to take advantage.  Apart from a light kiss to my shoulder and what I knew was just the pure physical reaction of his cock against my ass, he’d made no overtures to me at all. 


And if I was honest with myself I had to admit that even the kiss that had fucked up my mind so much a few nights before had really been nothing but that.  A kiss.  Quick and fleeting.


Now he was talking to me about something, but I couldn’t concentrate.  I closed my eyes.  I could still feel it, that quick touch of his lips on mine.  It had been so fast.  There had been no time to react.  No time to open my mouth to him, to taste him, even to just stop, stand still, savour the moment.  A fast little kiss that had ended as soon as it began, too fast to make a promise, or even a suggestion.  A fast little kiss that had wreaked havoc with me, and left me totally confused.




I felt his fingers on my hand, a quick tap, skin on skin, demanding attention.  I opened my eyes, met that cool green gaze.


“What’s up, Big Guy?  You’re in another world.”


I just shook my head. 


I couldn’t talk to him about Luc.  Not now.  Not when I was in this strange cloud of physical awareness.  He’s warned me about Luc and I had listened.  I’d thought I could handle it.  I was wrong.  I’d kissed Luc as gently, as non-threateningly, as I knew how.  He moved me so deeply.  His cool Siberian eyes haunted me.  But despite my very best efforts, he was running from me.  Running from something that hadn’t even begun yet.  Just like Josh had said he would.


It hurt.  I hurt.  I mean – what the fuck was wrong with me?  I’m a good

guy.  I’d loved David, and he’d thrown it back in my face.  I’d been as tender with Luc as I knew how to be, and that didn’t seem to be good enough either.


All I wanted….all I wanted…hell, all I wanted was someone to love, someone to love me.  I know how corny that sounds, but was it really too fucking much to ask?  It’s what Ben and Ry had always told me to wait for.  They’d warned me that I’d meet a lot of guys who were hugely promiscuous, just because they could be.  They warned me to stay away from that.  They said it would change me in ways that could never be healed.  I could honestly say it had no attraction for me.


I knew I didn’t want an empty, heartless fuck.  I knew I needed more than that.  And I was afraid that was what Josh had to offer.  He talked a lot about picking up guys; at least, he had when I’d first met him, though now that I thought about it, I realized that he hadn’t talked about cruising since Thanksgiving.  And I’d never actually met anyone he’d been with, at least not at Rainbow. 


Fuck, this was confusing.


“Scott?  Is everything alright?


I shook my head.  I wanted to tell him about Luc, but someone how I couldn’t.  I hurt, but I couldn’t express it.  I didn’t know what I wanted to tell him any more.


“I don’t do broken hearts,” he’d told me that night. 


Sitting there that afternoon, the bright lights of Timmy’s holding back the bleak November afternoon as it slid into dusk, I couldn’t help but wonder what he did do.




The next day, Luc and I had two lectures together: Poli Sci in the morning and Economics in the afternoon.  When he pulled his late arrival / early disappearing thing again in Poli Sci, I knew that he was perfectly prepared and perfectly capable of shutting down and locking me out permanently.  I also realized that I was not prepared to let that happen.  Not yet.  Not without exploring what could be between us.  The connection I felt to him was too strong.  The need I felt in him was one I wanted to explore. 


Besides, I liked him.  If nothing else, I wanted to be friends with him.    


That afternoon I put a stop to it.  I didn’t go in to the economics lecture.  I waited for him in the hall.


“Sit with me,” I said when he tried to walk past me, eyes firmly focused on the floor.


He shook his head, and my heart sank.


“Luc,” I said, resting my hand on his shoulder.  I could hear the hurt in my own voice.  “Please.  Just sit with me.  It’s ok.  I promise.”


He bit his lip for a second, then sighed and nodded.  I gave his shoulder a bit of a squeeze.  I felt him shiver, and I wanted to… 


I smiled and he tried to smile back.  He didn’t quite make it.


He didn’t say anything to me after we sat down.  Didn’t even look at me.  But the lecture was good, and in the twenty minute class discussion that followed, he allowed himself to participate, and so did I, and the familiarity of our classroom debate slowly reasserted itself.  That, at least, was re-established between us. 


A small group of us – mostly our study group – stayed on after class for over an hour, talking to the prof.  She was great, a recent PhD who was as high on teaching as she was on research.  When we told her we’d started a study group, she asked if she could stop by some time. 


Yes!  I thought.  That’s why I’d chosen this school!  It was about debate, about engagement, about the interaction of ideas and intellectual discipline.  I’d been promised real dialogue between professors and students, and this was it, this was real.  I was so excited at the prospect that I found myself grinning widely at Luc – who was grinning widely back.  It had nothing to do with the two of us.  It just had to do with whole idea of being here, learning what there was to learn.


I belonged here.  So did Luc.  It was the right place for us in so many ways.


As people started walking off, Luc tried to slip away, but again I wouldn’t let him.


“No,” I said, and I put my hand on his shoulder again.  “We’re gonna talk.”


Those beautiful eyes closed for a second, the lashes impossibly long, impossibly dark against pale skin.


“There’s nothing—“


“Yeah, babe,” I said softly.  “There is.”


The endearment made him wince as if I’d hit him.  Fuck.  Josh was right.  Did I really want to get myself into this?  Was he really prepared to reject me after those kisses in the fog?  Could they really have meant nothing to him?  Was I really just a romantic idiot, reading everything into – nothing?


But then his eyes opened, and met mine, and dropped to my mouth, just staring.  He ran his tongue over his lower lip. My heart felt it – and so did my cock.  I knew I had to take the chance.


“Come on,” I said, and I led him out into the cold afternoon.


“Where are we going?” he asked from behind me.


I glanced back.  “To my room.  It’s all right.”  Fuck, I seemed to say that to him constantly.  ‘It’s all right.’  “I’ve got a private room.  No roommate.  We can talk.”


He stopped dead, and a strange look, half terror, half prayer, played over his face.  I took a step back and reached for his arm. 


“That’s all we’re gonna do,” I assured him.  “Just talk.”


My room was, as I told Luc, a single, which means it was a 10 foot square concrete cube.  It had come with a built-in desk, dresser and bookcase, a desk chair, and a single bed that was much too short for me.  Laura lived on one side of me; on the other was a computer engineering dude with whom I shared the small bathroom that sat between our two rooms, with access from both.  I’d hardly ever seen the guy – the computer geeks live in a whole other universe.  I think personal contact is against their religion or something; those guys only seem to talk to one another, and only via computer interface.  But he kept the bathroom tidy, and never messed with my stuff, which is about all you can ask for in a bathroom mate.


To the basics, I’d added the obligatory brightly coloured Ikea bedding and Poang arm chair, a fridge that also served as a printer stand, and a selection of prints and photographs.  The prints were mostly Picasso, early political years.  The photographs were mostly family.


Pushed to the back of my desk, there was one picture of me with Ben and Ry the day I left for university.  It was my favourite picture of the three of us: Ben was in the middle, with his left arm around Ry and his right arm around me, and we were all grinning like idiots into the camera.  Actually, David was in the picture too, but I’d blocked him out with a small photo of my sister.   When I’d put away all my pictures of him, I couldn’t bring myself to include that one because it was such a great one of Ben, Ry and me.


And that, of course, was the picture that Luc picked up and examined.


“My uncles,” I said.  “And yes, they’re gay.  They’ve been together for over twenty years.”


“This one,” he said, pointing to Ben, “could be your father.”


I looked affectionately at the big bear of man, the brown hair, the familiar grey eyes.  “Yeah,” I admitted.  “We get that a lot.  He’s my Mom’s baby brother.”


He nodded.  “And this?”


“My sister Emily.”


He nodded again, and touched the photo I’d tucked into the frame lightly with his forefinger.  It fluttered to the ground.


And then I just felt like crying, because underneath was David, laughing into the camera, with my arm around his shoulder exactly as Ben’s arm was around Ry.


“Fuck,” I said. 


I couldn’t believe how much it still hurt, even now.  And how much it hurt to have Luc look at it.  I slumped down on my bed and buried my head in my hands.


“I’m sorry, Scott,” he said quietly, picking up Em’s picture and covering David’s image again.  He returned the picture carefully to my desk.


Neither of us said anything for while.


“Um, maybe I should go,” he said.




He was just standing there, watching me uncertainly.  I knew I owed him an explanation.  Why was this so hard?


“That’s David,” I said finally.


“You don’t have to tell me.”


“Yeah,” I said. “I do.  He’s my ex.  We were together for eight months, and he dumped me when I went home for Thanksgiving.”  


Luc didn’t say anything, so I took a deep breath and continued. 


“No, I wasn’t expecting it.  Yes, it broke my heart.  And I’ve no idea if I’m over him, probably not.  But it is completely over, he’s with someone else, and I know there is no going back.”


Luc sat down on my desk chair and rolled it over opposite me.  “I’m sorry,” he said.


I looked across at him.  “Really?”


“That he, um, broke your heart?  Yeah.”


Another long silence.


“But otherwise?” I asked finally.  “I mean, are you really sorry that I’m not with someone else?”


Fuck.  I had to push it.


He stared down at his knees.  His hands were resting on the tops of his thighs, clenching and unclenching.  I held my breath. 


“No,” he said finally.  “I’m not sorry about that.  Even though it would make things for me a lot – easier.”


“Easier how?”


“Easier altogether.  Then you and I could be great friends.”


“And now?”


He swivelled around in the chair and stared out the long, narrow window.  I waited.


Finally, he turned back, and met my gaze.  I just let the question hang between us.  He pulled himself to his feet.


“Scott – I’m not ready to talk about this yet, ok?”  He reached out his hand and pulled me to my feet.


“This is – new to me.  Hard for me.  It – it scares me.  I don’t know how to find words yet.  I don’t know what it means. I don’t know how I feel.  But–– " He reached out with both hands, and touched my upper arms lightly.  “Would you – would you kiss me again?  Like you did?  Just – just kiss me?”


Those pale Siberian eyes were wide with uncertainty, and they took my breath away.  I nodded slowly, not really trusting myself to speak, and reached up and ran my thumb over that beautiful, beautiful mouth.


And then I lowered my mouth to his, in a tender, closed mouth kiss.  His hands dropped from my arms to my wrists, and then to my hips where they fluttered uncertainly.  I kissed his mouth, his cheeks, his eyelids, until he was trembling in my arms.  Then, daringly, I tasted him, a quick flick of my tongue on his jaw.  He groaned and clung to me.  I kissed his mouth, gliding my tongue along it, nipping gently at his lower lip.


“Open your mouth, babe,” I whispered, teasing his lips with the tip of my tongue.  “Let me in.”


And slowly, cautiously, he did.