Everybody’s Wounded


Chapter 20


We took the stairs from Luc’s floor to Josh’s, and when Josh closed and locked the door behind us, he stopped me from turning on the main lights and instead turned on only a small table lamp.  He then slipped an arm around me and led me across to the window where he stood, behind me and to my left, with his chin on my shoulder and his head leaning against my cheekbone.  Everything about standing there with him like that was right, his warmth, his touch, the scent of skin, the soft and steady in-and-out of his breathing. 


For a long time we stayed there, staring down, saying nothing, connected by the warmth of his hand on my hip, the weight of his head on my shoulder.  It had become our place to talk somehow, standing in front of this window perched over the North Atlantic. Our place for the hard stuff.  There was nothing to see in the darkness below. The night was black and heavy, and the raspy pings against the window told of snow and hail and wind raging beyond the glass.  Below, we could just make out the distant orange globe of the security lights, dimmed and blurred by the snow and the fog.


Part of me felt an enormous sense of relief that Luc wanted to see me.  It had hurt that he had turned me away, refused to see me.  It reinforced both my sense of responsibility and my sense of helplessness. But my feelings were really so much more complex than mere relief.  I also felt enormously confused, and maybe even a little fightened. 


I didn’t know what he wanted from me, what he needed. 


And I no longer knew what I was able to give.


And as I stared out into the blackness and considered this, Josh turned his head into the curve of my neck and kissed me, just there.


“You have to let him go, you know,’ he said softly, raising one hand to caress the line of my jaw. “As much as you want to, you can’t save us all.”


And I didn’t know what to say. 


I guess he was right.   I did want to save Luc.  He was hurting so much it broke my heart. All I had to do was close my eyes and I could picture him, the soft black curls, the fine boned face, the haunted Siberian eyes. 


He had said he loved me.  


But even as I thought of Luc, I suddenly felt that same helplessness wash over me as I had felt that day in my room when he’d wept in my arms.  I remembered it so clearly. He had been curled into a foetal ball, his back to me, weeping uncontrollably.  When the hard, harsh sobs had finally eased, I had turned him gently, wrapped him in my arms and pressed him against me.  He had permitted me, though I think only through sheer exhaustion.  He had allowed it, but that was all.  He had not turned to me.  And though I’d held him close, tried to will him to understand my caring, my compassion, I knew that he had found no comfort there.


My breath caught in my throat like a sob, and Josh kissed my neck again, then pressed his forehead into the curve there, between neck and shoulder. I stayed still a moment, apart, breathing, before I allowed myself to lean back against him and let go of some of the stiffness.  He wrapped his arms tightly around me.  I could see his reflection in the window, and I tilted my head and leaned it against his. 


“They are there for him, you know,” he said.  “He needs them, and they are there. His parents.  His brothers.”


I closed my eyes, breathing in the man who held me, so wounded himself and yet so very strong.  I breathed in his calm, quiet words.  The pain beneath.


“And Scott,” he said, and there was a catch in his voice that made me open my eyes again, and meet his in the reflection of the window glass.  “Scott.  I need you to let him go.  I’ll help you help him, but in here --” he raised a hand from my hip to the centre of my chest – “I need you to let him go.” 


My breath caught in my throat and I turned in his arms.  He looked up at me, and in the dim light I sensed rather than saw the beginnings of tears glittering on the blackness of his lashes.   I touched, and my fingers were damp.


“I need you to let him go,” he said again, and this time there was an urgency in his voice. I knew what he meant, and I knew what it cost him to admit it. And despite the pain there was something in me that opened wider, that reached out, that sensed and knew and welcomed joy.


I held his gaze, and as I watched, his careful, customary calm and reserve crumbled, and his face was as open to me as it had been that first night we’d made love. 


That time, he’d asked me for one night, just one night. 


Now he asked more, so much more, and we both knew it.  The fear and the bravery in the asking meant everything to me. 


“I love you,” he said, and the tears spilled softly, staining the line of his face, roughening his voice.


I reached up and took his jaw into my hand, staring down into those green, green eyes.  Part of me thought again of Luc – but then the pain and sorrow, the love and need that I saw in Josh’s eyes seemed to ease my sense of helplessness somehow, soften its urgency.  


I ran my thumb over the fine line of his mouth. God but he was beautiful to me.  His heart shone, and that meant everything. 




The connection of our gaze was as tangible to me as my hand against his mouth.  His breath caught, and his lips parted, and I touched – touched the soft, moist swell of them, easing in with the edge of my thumb. His eyes widened slightly, never leaving mine.


I lowered my head, withdrew my hand, offered my kiss.  He trembled and silent tears slid down his face. I tasted them, the heat and the wet, and then I no longer knew whether the salt in my mouth was the salt of his tears or of my tears, or if it was the salt of the memory of tears.  All I knew was that the giving and getting of this kiss moved me and soothed me and anchored me, and that the man I held in my arms was my man, and that I was his.


“I love you,” I said, and I was also whispering, my mouth against his mouth, my breath mingled with his breath.  “Only you.  Always and only you.”


And he sobbed, and trembled, and there were so many more kisses, salty and sweet and lovely beyond words.




Maybe you think it was anticlimactic that after a while we kind of separated, and settled in for a few hours of work before bed.  But it wasn’t, somehow.  It was just…comfortable, and easy, and somehow very real.  I mean, it was the end of term after all, and we were both busy, especially me, with less than a week of classes left, papers due, exams coming up, and I’d pretty much lost the last three days.  And the truth is that you can’t spend every waking hour in intense emotional turmoil.  Sometimes you hafta just relax into yourself and get stuff done.


Josh had his own way of doing that, and now, without even discussing it much, I was part of it.  And it seemed so…right, so natural  He poured us each a little cognac, put on some music, and we settled down with our laptops and respective little piles of books and notes, he stretched out on his recliner and I in one corner of the leather sofa. 


That lasted maybe fifteen minutes.  Then he got up and, book in one hand, snifter in the other, came over to me.  He put his glass beside mine on the low steel and glass table, and smiled a small and endearingly uncertain smile.


. “Stretch ‘em out,” he said, running the back of his hand along my thigh.


I grinned up at him, turned slightly so that I was settled kind of sideways in the corner of the sofa, and obediently stretched my legs out diagonally across the table, carefully avoiding the glasses.   As I did, he settled in beside me, his back against my side and his legs stretched out along the length of the sofa.  I wrapped my arm around him and pulled him close, kissing the back of his head. 


Then we both went back to it, he to his book, me to my notes. Once he stopped, reached an arm up around my neck and pulled me down into a kiss that was quiet and safe and sweet and very, very hot. Mostly though we read, in a way that was at once wonderfully new and yet achingly familiar.  And around 11 we put down our books and went to bed.


As usual, I finished in the bathroom first, and when I settled in to wait for him, I noticed what he had left out on the bedside table.  Lube.  Condoms.  And opened carefully beneath them, a lab report dated the week before, with his name and negative results for pretty much every sexually transmitted disease you could think of. 


And that night, when he turned out the lights and came to me, he seemed to know, as he always seemed know, exactly what I needed from him.  There was a new kind of magic to our lovemaking, a magic that grew from peace, and wonder, and a profound level of trust that I truly understood for the very first time.  There were just us, alone, together, with nothing at all between, no barriers and no protection, emotional or physical.  I went to him like a sailor to the sea, and he took me in, and like the sea his body yielded up only the answers to the questions my body knew how to ask.  And like the sea, the rest of him remained deeply, wonderfully mysterious, an exploration for other days.


I went into him beyond anything I ever dared to hope for or to understood, again and again and again, until he fell asleep in my arms.  And the next morning, as the grey dawn broke into the room, he took me in once more, until there wasn’t a part of him that wasn’t fully awake to me.




Luc had a private room in the surgical ward.  When I got there, there was a young guy in with him, a little shorter than me and built like a half ton truck.  According to the identity card around his neck, his name was Michael and he was a physiotherapist.  Weights now, I figured, and before that probably football.  All those guys seemed to be in kinesiology, and a lot of the smart ones went into physio. 


He grinned at me and waved me into the room.  I was surprised physio was starting so early; Luc’s surgery had been barely 48 hours before. 


“Five more minutes,”  Michael said with a grin, tilting his head at the visitors chair on the other side of Luc’s bed.  “I think our boy here is good for it.  Take a seat.”


Luc was sitting up, his left hand and forearm heavily bandaged and propped palm up on a pillow. He looked exhausted, a little grey, but very determined. I watched his eyes follow me into the room, around his bed, but they could not actually meet mine.  


“Hey,” I said, as I sat obediently.


He smiled a little and then grimaced and glanced down at his injured hand. “Thank you for coming,” he said, sweetly formal, and for an instant his beautiful Siberian eyes met mine. 


Then he turned back to Michael’s voice, and they continued with the instructions for his poor, poor hand.  They seemed to focus on opening and closing only the uninjured thumb, fore and middle fingers, and keeping the two damaged ones immobile.  It doesn’t sound like much, but I knew from the lines of pain in Luc’s face that even that was excruciating.


As I watched him focus on the painful movement of his fingers, I took in his beauty and his fragility.  They moved me deeply.  And I can’t lie about it – my first instinct was to want to take him in my arms and comfort him, to use my body to try to ease his pain and his sorrow.  But I realized how much my feelings for him had changed.  Or maybe it wasn’t so much that they’d changed, as that I was coming to understand them better.  I felt sadness, and compassion, and caring, and yes, a soft, warm kind of love. But though part of me wanted to hold him, it was purely for comfort.       


A couple of times he looked away from Michael and over at me, quick, shy glances, and I saw that his pale eyes burned, and when they did I felt his yearning and his confusion and his fear. 


But while my heart contracted with the intensity of all those feelings, I was suddenly able to understand them, to sort them out.  He moved me deeply, but I did not quicken or thrill to his little glances.  The instinct to take him in my arms had no sexual overtone. For the first time, I truly understood that I had confused those feelings, and that there had to be other ways to offer him my comfort and my support.   


What can I say?  I was only 19.  Love was new to me. You know what you know, learn what you learn. I had learned, and now I knew.


I found myself suddenly remembering what Bran had said to me that day at Lucky’s:

“I know you really like him, and you really want to help him deal with whatever it is that’s got his head screwed up.  But the question is – do you need to be in a relationship with him to do that?  I mean – can’t you just be his friend?”

I realized that I could.   


Did I love him?   


Maybe.  But not the way I loved the man who waited for me downstairs.  


Maybe I could have loved him that way, if things had been different.  If he had been able to trust me, to open to me.  If I had been more clear-sighted, less confused and hurt myself. If I had not met Josh.


I found myself smiling softly at him, waiting for the physio session to end.


“Thank you for coming,” he said again after Michael had left.  I realized that he was having a hard time looking at me.  He was watching a spot over my shoulder, still stealing little glances. 


“I wanted to come,” I said.  “I needed to see how you were.”


He took a deep breath, as if bracing for something, and finally looked into my face, and did not look away.  There were dark circles under those beautiful Siberian eyes, and lines of pain around his mouth. But there was a determined set to his jaw that was new, and I realized he didn’t look quite so fragile.


“I’m going home with my parents,” he said.


“That’s a good thing to do.”


He nodded, swallowed hard.  “I’ll be back after Christmas.”


“If you think --.”


“I know,” he said, and he sounded certain.  “I don’t want to do this again, Scott.  I need to get by this somehow. Somehow…”


I reached out and covered his right hand with mine.  It had only a bandage at the wrist now, and his skin was warm and dry.


“You know I’m here,” I said.  “I’ll do whatever I can.  Josh and I both.  Whatever we can.”


He smiled at me then.  It was sad, but it was a smile.   “I do know,” he said.


I’d brought back his Ipod, and I gave it him then, and that made him smile too. 


“But you will keep the poems,” he said.


And I agreed that I would keep the poems.




And so the term wound down.  Classes ended, papers got done, exams were endured.  Josh had already booked his flight back to Toronto and left at the beginning of the exam period; I stayed in my residence room until the end, studying with my group, working out and letting off steam with the rugby boys, taking my meals with Bran and Laura.  Bran had taken her to her first appointment with a counsellor, waited for her, brought her back.  He was hopeful.  They were both hopeful.  Sweet and cute and good and hopeful.  His brother Matt was on the wait list for a room in res; someone was bound to move out over the holidays.  So he too would be arriving in January. 


When I flew back to Toronto a few days before Christmas, it was to a city white with snow and red and green with commercial excess.  I didn’t care.  I had my own quiet joy, a loving family waiting for me, and a strong, beautiful, wounded lover who trusted me beyond all things and defined my world. 


I brought them together and that was good. 


I met his parents, and that was good too.


But the best part of the holidays was a four day period between Boxing Day and New Years when Josh and I went alone to his family’s cottage in Muskoka.  To call it a cottage was a bit of a joke; it was one of those gorgeous rambling old summer houses on Lake Joe’s that had been totally updated and winterized into a stunning year-round second home.  They hardly used it now, but kept it up because it had been in the family for generations and would be Josh’s one day.  It sat on a private road, secluded in the trees looking out over the water.  His parents had arranged to have the road in ploughed, the house opened for our comfort. 


That first day alone there, Josh was in a funny mood, happy and relaxed in an almost childlike way.  Pleasure, delight, all the happy feelings, played over that normally calm, unreadable face, and sometimes I would just look at him and we’d start laughing. I had never seen him like that.  It was wonderful.  I didn’t find out until afterwards that the cottage was his safe place, full of only happy memories.  He’d spent the sweet, indulged summers of his childhood here, learned to swim and sail, read his parents” books unsupervised, been alone and free.


And Graham had never been there, so there were no ghosts anywhere.


So, as I say, he was playful and free and that first day especially, he was all over me and it was wonderful.  We made love everywhere, on the single bed of his childhood, on a rug in front of the fireplace, in the shower, on the kitchen floor.  We almost drowned doing each other outside in the hot tub.


But it was that night, in the four poster bed in what had been his grandparents’ room that I will always remember.  Because that night he came to me wild and fey, in a way he never had before, and every kiss and every touch was fire hot and beyond explaining.


On me, he wanted on me, constantly, insistently.  Yet he would not let me touch the heat of his sex. “Not yet, not yet,” he’d say every time I tried to get between his legs with my hand or my mouth or my cock. “It’s too much; it’ll be over to soon.”


But he was all over me.  Over and over again, his hand or his mouth would be there, down between my legs, beneath my balls, playing at the entrance.  How could I not know what he wanted, where he wanted to be?  Every move, every caress screamed out how much he needed to be in me.  It thrilled me – and scared me a little. 


When it comes to sex, I’m a simple guy.  Whatever feels good.  That was pretty much how David and I had been.  We’d played with each other.  We’d had fun. But I knew I’d fallen into patterns of action and reaction, patterns that had never been challenged.  I mean, I’m big and strong and aggressive, and I take what is offered, what I want.


But the truth was that my actual experience was pretty limited.  I mean, David and I had only been together for eight months, and we’d had no idea what we were doing and had been slow and cautious and pretty much made it up as we went along.  We’d really only started playing with me doing him over the summer.  That’s what he’d wanted, so that’s what we did – and once we started doing it, well, we did it a lot, and never really had much of a chance to get past it.  I mean, I’d gone off to university and then, well, then we were over.  


So it wasn’t that I was…inflexible in principle.  Or political about it either, you know?  It was just that I didn’t have a lot of experience.


And that night, with every move, Josh telling me what he wanted, where he wanted to be, that the rules had changed, that there were no rules.  And as far as I was concerned, if he wanted to be in me, then I was ok with that. No.  I wanted that.  I wanted what he wanted.  And he wanted it so bad it was killing me.


He was on top of me again, his tongue bruising into my mouth, his hand reaching down between my legs.  Finally, I took his face in my hands and eased him gently away, looking up into those green eyes.


“You really want in there, don’t you?” I asked.


“Oh, yeah,” he said, and continued to study me, his eyes a little wild.


I smiled.  “So go for it already.” 


His sensuous mouth curved wickedly. “You sure?”


“Oh yeah,” I grinned.


He dropped his head and began to suck on my throat, gnawing gently on my Adam’s apple. I focused on that, his mouth, his teeth, and tried not to hear the little click of plastic lids.


I gasped when his finger touched me, cool and wet against the heat.  When he eased it into me, I screamed. 


I closed my eyes and focused on every touch.  And as I did, I realized that it was not about whether or not I wanted this, or would allow this or accept this. It was more that I just wanted him, to know him, to love him, completely and without limits or reservations.  I just wanted to know what he knew, feel what he felt.  To understand. 


So for me it was about the freedom to do or to be, to give or to get, to take or to be taken. And I realized that roles are boundaries too, and I didn’t want boundaries. Not between Josh and me.  I wanted all the doors and windows open wide. I wanted there to be no fear between us, no limitations. 


So as he moved over my body, slowly and carefully, opening, readying, I was already there.  I knew that when the time came, I could let it all go. I knew that I would take him into me without fear. When finally he came into me beyond it all, I would breath and sigh and open to him --


And so it was.


He was behind me, his mouth on my ear, hot, wet, whispering secrets. Where he wanted to be. What he would find there. What I would find.  I trembled and groaned and pushed back against him. His mouth was on my neck, his teeth -- he has this way of distracting me, destroying me -- and there was a little pain, a stabbing, a burning – and then the sweet, slow growing fullness, until its enormity overwhelmed me. 


And then we were just there, in that other sacred place, where it was just us and there were no limits and no judgements and no secrets and no spaces and no barriers.  The place where pleasure hovers on the edge of pain, hovers and deepens and hardens and explodes – and there we were.


There we were. 


And I cried out and he cried out, and everything hung in the air.


Eventually he slid out of me, and I turned to face him, and we lay still, waiting for the return of breath. He raised himself up on one arm and with his free hand caressed my face.


“You ok?” he asked finally.


He was so, so serious, and I couldn’t help it, I just started to laugh.


“Yeah,” I said, pulling him down into a soft kiss.  “I am very, very ok.”


He smiled then, and settled beside me, his head on the pillow beside mine.  We drifted off for awhile, dozing, not really sleeping. I was watching the light and shadow cross the ceiling.


“So that’s what it’s like,” I said, not realizing I’d said it out loud until I felt Josh stir beside me.


“Um?”  he asked, nuzzling into my neck.”


I laughed softly. “I said, that’s what it’s like.”


He pulled away and propped himself up on his elbow again.


“Are you sure you’re ok?”  he asked, his voice very serious.


I laughed.  “Nah, I’m ripped in half,” I told him, making a face.  “I may never walk again.”


To my surprise, he pulled away from me.




“Hey,” I said, pulling him back.  “I was kidding.  I’m fine, I told you.  I’m very, very fine.  It was wonderful.  You were wonderful.” 


“That’s what it can be like,” he said into my chest, very slowly, very seriously.  “What it should be like. Especially the first time.”


I caught his chin in my hand and studied his face.  The sadness I saw there ripped at my heart.  He shook his head and turned away and there were tears in those beautiful green eyes.


He didn’t tell me. He didn’t need to. I knew that his first time had not been like this. Not wonderful and not sweet and not gentle and not full of love.


So I did the only thing that made sense for me to do. I took him in my arms and made love to him, as slowly and sweetly and carefully as he had just made love to me.  And I took great care that every thrust was sweet and slow, as I whispered again and again into his ear how much I loved him.  I promised, again and again, that I would always love him, just like this, just like this, that it would always be like this for us, just like this. 


He wept as he came and I swallowed his tears and his cries, and his strong shuddering body was mine as I was his, in both the giving and the getting.


And afterwards another wall was down, another space crossed.


“God, I love you,” I said, smiling into those sleepy green eyes. 


And I do.