Everybody’s Wounded


Chapter 10




By noon on Sunday, Josh’s body had re-established his outward unwavering calm.  His mind, however, was a mess.  He couldn’t eat, he hadn’t slept, and he couldn’t concentrate.  Thesis, books, music, video—nothing could hold his attention or calm his agitation. 


No regrets.


Who the fuck was he kidding?  He had nothing but regrets.  He’d broken every rule he’d set for himself since Graham had taken off two years before, every rule that let him maintain his self respect and his sanity. 


He’d given in to desire.


He’d let another man into his body. 


Worse, he’d let another man into his heart


He’d been there once before, and had vowed never to go there again.  But somehow, without even realizing it, Scott had crept by all his defenses.


No regrets.


He’d only said it for Scott, offered it as a kind of apology, maybe a kind of absolution.  There was a sweetness, an innocence, to the younger man that he knew he had damaged.  He hadn’t meant to.  Waking up, his sated body stretched on top of Scott’s, had been so incredibly beautiful— until he’d looked into the heat and the confusion of Scott’s grey eyes and remembered exactly what it was he had done. 


Then he’d been full of regret—and had been able to think of no other gesture to protect the young man’s innocence.


He knew the gesture had failed.  Scott wore his heart on his sleeve.  When they’d kissed goodbye in the car the next morning, the kiss had tasted of confusion and guilt.  Another reason for Josh to hate himself.  And he’d had so much of hating himself.  


There was something so pure about Scott.  The big guy actually believed in fucking where his heart was—and only where his heart was. 


“And his heart is not with me,” Josh told himself bitterly. 


What the fuck had he done?


No regrets.


He regretted everything.  Mostly, he regretted falling in love with the big, gentle guy.  It scared the hell out of him. 


He wandered restlessly around the condo, finding himself finally in the living room, staring at the painting Graham had left behind.  He studied his own face as it stared up into the storm-filled sky.  As always, he took enormous comfort in it.  The agony so clearly playing across his face.  The agony, and the utter joy.  The bastard was phenomenally talented—and had known how to bare Josh’s soul so degradingly well.


But in this painting, and in this painting alone, the artist had allowed the model to shine through—pure and unadulterated by any external artistic purpose.


“Fuck you, Graham,” Josh whispered as he stared at it.  “Just fuck you.”


He’d told Scott that the painting was still there because he hadn’t yet been able to bring himself to have the gallery come and take it down.  The impression he’d given, he supposed, was that somehow he wasn’t quite over Graham.  That’s what most people who had known them as a couple thought.  It was true in a way.  But not the way they thought.


The truth was, Josh needed this painting.  He needed it to confirm his strength, the freedom he’d finally achieved from the bastard who’d dominated his life for almost five years.  Outside this room, it had been seen only once, in a small photograph in the official catalogue of Graham’s work, identified only as “private collection.”  Its official name was “Emancipation.”  


“But we know what it’s really called, don’t we, baby boy,” Graham had said to him, just before it was finished.  “We know it’s really called “Graham, get the fuck out of my life.”




It was Christmas 2001, and Josh was in Edinburgh for a few weeks holidays with his parents.  It was his freshman year; he’d been only 18.  Graham was almost 40.  There were things Josh had never told, and would never tell, about what happened between them, though there were those who suspected it.  Graham’s agent, for one, who’d tried to warn the boy Josh had been. 


“He’s a great artist,” Nicolas had said, “But a complete and total bastard.  Take care of yourself.”


But at 18, Josh had had no idea of how to take care of himself.  Especially against Graham.


They met in the Oxford Bar late one afternoon.  Josh had wandered in there as a kind of tribute to Rebus, his favourite fictional detective.  He’d been a very young 18, Josh knew now, the precious, pampered only child of elderly parents.  He was a private school day boy, accomplished and disciplined, but with no experience of anything at all.  Graham had pounced upon him like a lion on a lamb.


They’d talked for hours, first standing in a corner in the crowded front room of the small bar, and later, after gliding through the streets of the ancient city in a cold, misty night.  Josh had been fascinated by the artist, a fascination that would prove almost impossible to shake.


That first night, Graham had been charming and seductive.  He’d taken Josh to dinner, and then home with him, pushing him through the studio – “You can see the work later,” he’d said, “in natural light,” – to the sparse living space beyond. 


Josh still cringed when he thought of it.  He’d been a late bloomer, and up to that point hadn’t really given much thought to his sexuality.  Graham recognized it instantly.  In the space of a couple of hours, he’d kissed him, stripped him, jacked him, and taken him in his mouth to some other universe before Josh had even known what hit him.


And that pretty much defined the first week of their relationship.  By the time it got dangerous, Josh was already in love, and it was much too late.   


Graham was working on a series of faces that were to be his contribution to an exhibit called “9/12…13…14….”   The show consisted of portraits of pain and grief, the aftermath of the tragedy of the World Trade Centre.  Graham was committed to five canvases, each with two or three of his highly realistic faces, all ages, sexes, races.  He had them sketched in, but he was increasingly frustrated at his inability to capture the expressions he wanted.


“Pain and betrayal,” he kept muttering.  “Pain and betrayal.”


Graham was a highly disciplined artist; he painted every day from 9 until 4, in the best of the pale northern light.  Josh had arrived one afternoon at 4:00, and found Graham in a frenzy, ranting and raving about the studio.  Josh had watched him quietly, until he’d wound down, slumped in a chair in the corner with a tumbler of Laphroaig.  Josh had stood bedside him, leaned over, and said, “I love you.”  Very calmly. 


It was the first time he could remember ever saying it to anyone.


Graham had frozen. “Really, baby boy?” 


Graham had looked into his face, studying it intently.  It would be years before Josh understood what that look had meant; at the time, he thought it meant love. 


Graham had stood up slowly, grabbed Josh by the front of his shirt, and kissed him.  Hard.  And then he stepped back, and slapped him brutally across the face, so hard that Josh was knocked backwards, and hit his head against the floor.  Graham grabbed the front of his shirt again and pulled him to his feet, throwing him up against the wall.  Then he grabbed his jaw in a paint-smeared hand.


“Look at me, baby boy,” he’d ordered, staring into Josh’s face.  “Look at me.”


The thought of it still made Josh sick with shame.


Then Graham had stripped him.  Josh had tried to stop him, but the frenzy was on Graham again, and his long, wiry body had a vicious and unstoppable strength.  Josh was terrified.  Only that. Terrified. 


Graham forced him onto his back on the floor, which was cold, bare concrete. Then he pushed Josh’s legs up and over Graham’s shoulders.  Josh was completely and utterly exposed, completely and utterly helpless.  There was no tenderness, no foreplay, and the only preparation was an unlubed condom, and that only because Graham always took good care of himself. 


Josh had screamed and begged.  He’d never done this before, never.  He had been so terrified.  But Graham had just ignored him, studying his face as he rolled the condom over his dick.  Then… then he’d just plunged in, and fucked him, brutally and agonizingly, pounding him into the concrete. 


And the whole time, Graham had watched his face.  Every time Josh looked away, Graham would slap him again, his viciousness increasing with each stroke.


“Look at me, for fuck sake.”


It seemed to go on forever, and Josh had truly wanted to die.  He remembered only shame, and horror, and the pain of Graham brutalizing his ass and slapping his face, over and over. 


And then, finally, Graham's upper body had frozen, and he thrust his dick even deeper into Josh’s battered ass.  Even as he exploded inside him, Graham’s eyes never left Josh’s face.    


“You’re so fucking beautiful, baby boy,” he’d said, and pulled Josh into his arms.  “Even your pain is beautiful.”  And then he’d rocked him against his chest as Josh had wept and wept.  Before he let him go, he’d fucked him one more time, slowly and carefully, crooning to him of beauty and pain.


Josh had thought it was an apology.


A declaration of love.


And forgiven him.


For the entire week after that, Graham had painted in a frenzy, and though Josh had gone to him every day, Graham had turned him away at the door.  On the eighth day, he let him in, and showed him the paintings.  Josh looked at the pain in those faces and his heart broke.    


Graham had eyed him thoughtfully.  “You know, you’re my muse, baby boy.  I don’t fucking like it, but there it is.  Just look at those faces.  Look at them.  All that pain is yours.  All of it.”


Now, Josh stood in front of the painting in his living room, and tried to push away the memories. Why did they have to come tumbling back now? He’d dealt with all this shit.  He’d put it behind him.


Besides, that was the first time Graham had hit him.  The last time, Josh had hit him back.  He’d finally redeemed himself.


So why was he crying now? 


Finally, he pulled on his jacket, wrapped his scarf around his neck, and headed out onto the deserted beach. 


No one walked a Nova Scotia beach in late November; it stretched out, stony and forbidding, with the waves pounding in a bitter, grey wind.  It was freezing cold and he found no comfort it, but there was power and a kind of elemental strength that he needed. 


He walked for miles, until dusk was falling and the fog was rolling in.  Then, frigid with cold, he headed back to his condo.





I don’t know what I expected from Luc when I agreed to have dinner with him that day.  That he would be nervous, I suppose, as he always seemed to be with me.  Wary.  Maybe even a little frightened.  But I was determined to get us past that.  I’d resolved to take Brandon’s advice and pull back a bit, focus on being friends before exploring anything else that might be between us.  I wasn’t going to mention Josh—I didn’t know what to say about Josh; but I was going to tell him that we needed to put a little space between us—a space where maybe our friendship could grow. 


I was going to explain that, if we did decide we wanted to move in the direction of building a relationship, I needed him to trust me.  I needed to understand the pain that was eating at him.  I needed to be with him, helping him to work past it, whatever it was.


Those were my good intentions.  They say the road to hell is paved with them.


Sometimes they know what they’re talking about.




There was something different about Luc that night.  He was calmer somehow.  Relaxed, in a way he’d never seemed with me before.  And… newly confident.  As he drove from my place to his, he kept glancing over at me, and this sweet little smile would play across his lips.  In the elevator on the way up to his condo, he stroked my hand with the tips of his fingers.  For once I could sense no confusion, no underlying anxiety.  If anything, I was the one feeling anxious and confused. 


Once we got inside his place, he rested his hands on my shoulders, tilted his head up and kissed me, in the French fashion, on both cheeks.  I shivered, as if there were little charges of electricity where his lips touched my skin, where his fingers rested on my jacket.  I tried to smile, to say something cool, nonchalant.  Then he kissed my mouth with startling tenderness, and whatever it was I was about to say just flew out of my head and I couldn’t say anything at all.


His mouth curved into that soft, sweet smile, and it lent a kind radiance to the fine bones of his face.  The black curls fell wildly over his forehead, into his eyes.  Wordlessly, I reached up and brushed them back.  He took my hand in his and pressed his mouth to my palm.


Somehow, suddenly, it was that first night again, but we had traded places.  Now he seemed so calm, so sure, and I was the uncertain one.  I closed my eyes and thought, “There should be fog.  There should be that golden, hazy light.  He should be touching his mouth to mine, softly, softly…”   


But he released my hand, and after a few seconds, I opened my eyes.  There was no fog.  No golden, hazy light.  Just Luc’s thoughtful face, which was so beautiful to me, and his mouth that was curved into this soft, soft smile.


“Thank you for coming,” he said, quite formally.  And he undid my coat and slipped it off my shoulders.


All I could think of as he hung our jackets in the cupboard was the feel of his mouth—on my cheek, my mouth, the palm of my hand.  It was all I could do not to run my tongue over my lips, seeking out the taste of him.


“I put one of those frozen lasagnes in the oven,” he said as he led me into to the living room.  “It will be ready in about half an hour.”   


He left me to go check something in the kitchen, and I went and stood at the window, looking out at the wide expanse of deserted beach and at the ocean, barely visible beyond.  Dusk was already heavy, and there was my fog, rolling in off the ocean. 


Behind me, I heard Luc come back into the room, and the sound of a cabinet opening.  I kept my eyes on the water.  Then I heard a few quiet guitar chords and a guy singing in French, something soft and melodic, but unfamiliar.  As the words and music filled the room, I raised and pressed my right forearm to the glass, and rested my forehead against the back of my wrist.  


Luc came up behind me, placed his hands lightly on my hips and rested his chin on my right shoulder. 


“So dark and gloomy,” he said, and laughed softly.  “Funny.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I’ve spent every summer here since I was a boy, but I’ve never been here in winter before.  I didn’t realize how the fog would get to me.  I’ve always thought of this as a sun-filled place.”


I said nothing.  I’m a big city boy; the wide expanse of sand and rock and water is exotic to me.  And I liked the fog, the way it rolled in at dusk, blotting out the ocean.  It soothed me, somehow.


Luc reached his arms around my waist and pressed against my back, hugging me tightly from behind.  He is almost as tall as I am, but very slender, with narrow shoulders and long, long legs.  The difference in our height is in our torsos; our legs are the same length, and while his chin just rested on my shoulder, the front of his thighs lay against the back of mine, and his cock was at just the height for him to press against my ass.  He pressed it, hard and certain, and I wondered where this new confidence had come from.  I closed my eyes, and moved my forehead from my arm to the cold window glass.


“Thank you for coming,” he said again, his mouth just below my ear.  “I am so, so sorry about… about what happened.  Forgive me?”


I turned my head slightly, and he rubbed his cheek against my jaw.  Luc is dark haired, pale skinned, and his beard is fairly heavy; its shadow made a faint rasp against my skin that was almost unbearably erotic. 


Forgive him?  There was nothing to forgive.  “Luc—”


“Oui?”  He ran his thumb along my mouth and sighed.  “I did much thinking this weekend in Halifax,” he said softly.  “Mostly, I thought about you.  About this.”  He slid his thumb into my mouth and out again.


Below me, on the deserted beach, a solitary figure came into view, shoulders hunched against the wind.  I watched for a moment as Luc nuzzled against my neck, then leaned in and kissed me, just below my ear.  My warm breath came harder, faster, fogging the glass, turning the figure’s progress hazy and slow.


Then, to my surprise, Luc moved his hands down, slowly, firmly, until they were pressed against my cock, and his fingers closed around it through my jeans.  It felt so incredibly good.  I sucked in a hard breath.


I closed my eyes again, forcing myself to stay perfectly still, concentrating hard to keep my breathing calm, in and out.  It was the first time he’d touched me so intimately, and I had been so very careful not to touch him.  Now here he was, reaching for me, holding me…


I trembled with suppressed desire.  My body wanted this, wanted to thrust into his hand, wanted to turn to him, press against him; fuck—wanted to strip him, take him, take him…


But I was not so sure of my heart.  The physical wanting was so intense it hurt, but I was afraid.  Afraid to reach for him, afraid to touch him.


I wasn’t afraid of him.  I was afraid for him. 


Because something in me could not trust his touch.  It seemed like every tiny step in whatever this craziness was between us led him only to fear and pain, and then to regret and to rejection.  I wasn’t sure how much more of it I could take.  If I gave in to this, could I bear it if he rejected me again?


I wanted… to be wanted.  The way Josh had wanted me.  Josh.  Fuck—


 “Are you sure about this?” I asked him finally, still staring out the window into the gathering gloom.  “I mean—I don’t understand what’s been happening until now.  I think maybe you need some time.”


“I’ve taken time,” he said.


I swallowed hard, trying to gather together what was left of my good intentions.  “Maybe I need some time, too.”


“Do you?”


“Maybe.  Luc—you’ve been tearing me apart, man.  I don’t know—”


“I know,” he said, and he kissed my neck again.  “And I’m so very sorry.   But it doesn’t matter now.”


But it did matter.  It mattered to me.  I didn’t think I could take another encounter like our last, the pleasure and then the pain.  Holding him while he wept.  His helplessness.  I couldn’t do that to him again.


“But Luc, I don’t understand.  And I—I think I need to.  Understand.  I know you’re hurting, but I don’t know why.  And,” I took a deep breath, and just said it.  “And I don’t know if I can do this again.  I don’t know if I can have you in my arms, then have you run from me.  I just don’t think I can do it.  Whatever it is—you need to get past it, and I don’t know how to help you do that if you don’t let me understand.”


He was silent for a moment.  His chin was resting on my shoulder, his chest was pressed warm and firm against my back, and his cock hard against my ass.  And his hands were still pressed against the front of my jeans, holding me, hard and trembling, through the denim.  Then he sighed, and began to speak softly.  “It’s not a good story, Scott.  But it happened a long time ago.  It’s over now.”


He didn’t say anything for awhile, and I continued to watch the ocean disappear into the fog.  The guy on the beach—he was close enough now that even in the gathering gloom I could tell it was a guy—had moved much closer.  There was something about his progress that fascinated me, a familiarity in the stride, in the line of the shoulder.  I pressed my forehead harder against the coldness of the glass.


“There was a boy,” Luc said finally, his voice hardly more than a whisper.  “I thought he loved me.  He hurt me very badly.  Then he was hurt very badly.  It was, as I said, a long time ago.”


I watched the guy on the beach, very aware of Luc’s breath warm and damp on my neck, his body warm and hard against my back.  There had to be more to it than that.  There had to be.


“How did he hurt you?  What did he do?  I don’t want to do anything—”


“Shhh,” he said.  “It was the remembering that hurt.  I fought it for a long, long time.  Now it’s time to be free of it.  I do know you could never hurt me that way.  Not you.”  He kissed my neck again.


“Can’t you tell me?”


“No,” he said, and there was calmness and real strength in his voice.  “I’ve already told you the important part.  The rest is just details, and they don’t matter.”


He gave my cock a little squeeze, and then he pulled his hands away, rested them on my thighs.  He licked my ear lobe, drew it into his mouth, chewed gently.  I actually whimpered.  


The heat of his breath made me tremble, and I leaned back until I felt the length of him along my spine, my ass.  My good intentions began to fade into a different kind of hazy fog.


Down on the beach, the guy had reached the private, gated expanse in front of the condo.  While Luc breathed into my ear, ran his tongue along my neck, made me shiver and shake, I watched him turn away from the water and head towards it, pausing to unlock the gate to the private grounds.  As he drew nearer, he stepped into the security lights that led up the pathway.  His head was bowed against the wind, his shoulders slumped, and his gloveless hand clutched at the red scarf wound around his neck.


Suddenly there were tears at the back of my throat, and with a sob I turned towards Luc and pulled him into me, burying my tongue in his mouth.  He held me close and took me in.



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