Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"The Cost of Living" - Act III Part II

The bus pulled up to the park and ride and the convoy were the first to step off the bus. Once grouped together and having said their goodbyes to the other dancers, they talked about what the next course of action would be for Muscleman, Scorpio, Hi-NRG, Jamie and Alejandro. Muscleman had Ranger to check up on the statuses of the clubs in San Antonio. “See how Fuego, Uppercut, Charlie’s Horse and the rest are doing.” Checking his phone for news about the San Antonio nightlife, Ranger relayed to him, “Word around the town is Fuego and Uppercut are doing fine again and are back in business tomorrow. Charlie’s Horse needs another day but should be good to go shortly thereafter. Other clubs that weren’t affected stayed that way, mostly.” Scorpio had Ranger check on the status of Core. “Any updates about our home club?” Searching for updates resulted in more bad news. “Well, Core’s now facing being shut down for good.” “Fuck, really?” Hi-NRG queried. “How fucking shady was Type A, anyway?”

Ranger pulled up a clip from the same news station that reported on Core being raided. The newscaster began, “Our top story tonight is an update to the raid of popular gay hotspot Core. Authorities confirmed that former owner Rigoberto Menendez was involved in a large money laundering syndicate that is reported to have swindled some close to $69,000 a week for the past five and a half years. As for Core itself, authorities have determined that the club will be shut down but have assured that gay patrons of San Antonio will have a new option once better investors in the gay nightlife industry come along and repurpose the club.” After the clip, no one was able to react to the fact that Core was essentially shut down for good. Ranger ended up breaking the silence by offering them a chance to work at Uppercut. “I have the information that Sky ended up getting and I can give the guy who runs Uppercut your name the minute you want to apply there.” Seeing no choice but to accept his offer, Muscleman spoke for the convoy by thanking Ranger for his kindness and outreach. “We’ll text you sooner than you think. Thanks.”

As for the rest of the night, all but Blondie and Ranger had to arrange how they would return to San Antonio. Ranger left the group first and reminded them, “I got you for Uppercut jobs. Text me again, whenever.” Waving goodbye to Ranger, the convoy was thankful and relieved that something better came their way. Scorpio turned the conversation back to how they would get home. “It’s a bitch to get back but we can do it if we leave now.” Muscleman offered to lead the pack back into town. “I’ll lead everyone back home if that’s cool.” They agreed and decided that Jamie and Alejandro would ride with Scorpio again. Hi-NRG meanwhile had a different M.O. than the group. “I’ll be back tomorrow.” He began as he eyed Blondie up and down. “There’s some business I want to take care of.” Blondie playfully added, “I’ll make sure he gets home safely.” Blondie and Hi-NRG then got into their cars and drove out of the parking lot, tailing each other before they would turn that into a sexual connotation.

The others split up into their groups and began the drive home. Along the way, Muscleman had only just processed what had happened tonight. “Nothing to remind you what a difference a day makes like being behind a curtain letting guys get loose on you, to working a different club in another city letting a first…boyfriend…fall asleep in your arms, to watching some smug fuck get punched out by someone you didn’t think had upper body strength.” Meanwhile, Jamie and Alejandro were cuddling in the back seat of Scorpio’s car as Scorpio was realizing what had happened with him tonight. “I go from damn near having an emotional affair to making it physical to being the jilted lover to being cradled by some of the warmest biceps I’ve ever had wrapped around me.”

All the while, Hi-NRG charged at Blondie with sexual fervor. Once inside Blondie’s house, he carried him to the bed. Blondie advised his electric lover, “Slow your roll, baby. I’m not kicking you out of here yet.” That fell on deaf ears as he raced to the bed with Blondie in his arms. Once in the bedroom, their tongues and lips met and savored each bit of the saliva exchanged. The mood had nowhere to go but up with Hi-NRG tearing all of Blondie’s clothes save his shoes and jockstrap. Blondie was enamored with the speed and voracity in which this was happening. “This son of a bitch doesn’t waste time in letting me know I’m his tonight.” He was lovingly pushed onto the bed by his energetic lover who stripped naked and hopped on him in utter sexual frenzy. Grabbing onto his hair and then his ass, Hi-NRG satiated his craving for tanned, sandy blonde men with every kiss, suck and spank he gave to Blondie. He pretended to question his attraction to him based on decking Travis in the face. “Seeing him punch someone shouldn’t have me on his fine ass like this. I like it, so why should I give a figurative fuck?” Blondie eventually became vocal to his carnally frenetic partner that night and calmly purred, “Let me have my kicks too, babe. It’ll be worth it.”

Hi-NRG obliged and was rewarded with Blondie’s oral skills. “Oh my God you’re really good at that!” he exclaimed. Blondie more curtly told him, “Shut up. Moans from you will do just fine.” He would later contemplate regret prompting him to be non-verbal as he then introduced Hi-NRG to the foot trick he had performed on Muscleman. Hi-NRG rightfully broke his silence out of pleasure. “You are one freaky fuck! Anything else you can do?” The response was Hi-NRG’s legs being flung in the air and Blondie proceeding to place his tongue in between Hi-NRG’s glutes. “Yeah!” the receiver exclaimed. “Eat my ass like you’re getting executed!” That was enough to usher Blondie’s reward for his efforts, as Hi-NRG grabbed the nearby lubricant and condom, apply both and used his speeding thrusts on an ever gracious Blondie. Exaltations of the other’s part in their sexual tryst resulted in euphoric orgasms for them both.
“I’m about to cum! Uh oh my God!” grunted Hi-NRG.
“I’m about to…unh-hhh!” Blondie shouted.
“That was awesome…”
“…for you too?”
The two of them ended up showering, drying each other off before Hi-NRG wrapped his arms around Blondie. The little spoon asked his Latino big spoon, “You’re secretly thinking of moving to Austin aren’t you?” He didn’t know how to reply but sensed a much needed change was coming.
“I could if I had two reasons.” He started.
“What are they?” Blondie slyly pressed.
“One, if I manage to get a job here with some graphic design firm.”
“You could also try to start one for yourself. Investors don’t sneer at graphic design.”
“Two, I’d want to move here if I…”
“Found love?”
“If I ended up in bed with a sandy blonde guy who knows the art of ‘purring’.”
They smiled at each other confirming that impulse had worked in their favor.

All the while, Muscleman had long since led the convoy back to San Antonio in one piece. He got out of his car, opened the door, immediately went to his bedroom, stripped naked and went to sleep with his covers providing much relief for his nearly overdramatic night. He was half expecting Scorpio to maintain enough energy to make up leaving him alone with morning sex as a reward. Scorpio meanwhile, dropped Jamie and Alejandro off at Jamie’s house. “You two be safe.” He teased. The two of them playfully sneered at Scorpio with Alejandro prodding, “Go be his little spoon, bitch.” The two of them ended up kissing in the early hours of that half night, half day wondering where the other had been all this time. “Let’s take this slow.” Jamie said. “Of course.” Alejandro obliged. “We’ll always fuck another day or something.” Scorpio drove off with Muscleman in his sights. “I might not be up for sex, but goddamnit if I’m not after his musk all over me.” Pulling up to his mailbox, he called Muscleman in the hopes of getting at least a groggy sweet nothing. On the first ring, Muscleman answered, “I’ll be at the door.” A touched Scorpio replied, “I didn’t think you’d pick up.” Hanging up the phone, he left his car and raced to the front door. Right when he got to the door, Muscleman opened it and ushered in his love and told him, “We cuddle naked, no fucking. I’m beat.” “Sure thing.” Scorpio obliged. He stripped his clothes off and walked with Muscleman back to bed.

They let the covers drape them and even managed a conversation out of their near lagging selves. “I owe you a talk about what we are now.” Muscleman started. “Let’s talk.” Scorpio replied.
“After all we’ve been through, especially tonight…”
“…reading that punk bitch his verbal Miranda Rights.”
“I want to ask you first…are we a couple?”
“Yes. We’re boyfriends, a couple, an item…all of that.”
“Now ask me the same question.”
“Are we a couple?”
“No shit, Sherlock. Get some rest. I love you.”
“Jackass. I love you too.”
The two of them slept the rest of the night away, knowing sleep was secondary to the fact that they confirmed their status as a couple. Neither of them expected anything to top that moment for the both of them. Not even the musk Muscleman emitted being the perfect mix of body chemistry and hygiene hitting Scorpio’s nostrils topped his saying yes to couple status to him. In turn, Scorpio’s lithe body providing warmth didn’t top the fact Muscleman found love.

Daylight shined on the two of them and they knew that at least for now, they would have to answer to some questions from life they were only half-prepared for. Scorpio woke up refreshed to his amazement. “I was out until the ass-crack of dawn. How am I so energized?” he pondered. Muscleman woke up and kissed Scorpio before realizing he was refreshed as well. “This is kind of weird. It’s like we were on a bender all last night.” He said. “That’s the damndest thing isn’t it?” Scorpio replied. A knock on the door had the two of them thinking Jamie, Alejandro or Hi-NRG were still charging their phones too much to text or call either one beforehand. Muscleman and Scorpio decided to answer the door naked. “Neither of us really have anything to hide.” Muscleman pointed out. They answered the door to find a courier trying to get a hold of Muscleman.

Bashfully, the courier pressed, “Excuse me sir, sorry to catch you at an indecent moment. Are you Derrick…that’s odd…your last name seems to be partially blurred out. Ink must’ve ran out on some labels. Would you look at this and confirm if your name?” Muscleman looked to see his legal name was indeed on the envelope. “Yes, this is me.” He told the courier. “Please sign here.” The courier began. After collecting the signature, he continued, “Your item was bundled with another that happens to be from the same sender.” Muscleman had Scorpio come closer to the door. “What’s the first name on the envelope?” The courier answered, “Damndest thing here. The first name Dylan is legible but the last name was blurred out.” Scorpio replied, “That’s my first name.” The courier handed him the envelope to confirm if he was meant to receive the envelope. He answered, “Yeah that’s me.” The courier had him sign for his envelope and thanked them for his help. Though before leaving he did point out, “This is the weirdest thing. I delivered three other envelopes like that this morning alone. Oh well, have a nice day, gentlemen.”

After the courier was well and gone, Scorpio called Jamie in the hopes of solving this mystery. On the second ring, Jamie answered, “Hey, what’s up dude? So are me Alejandro and our dear friend back from Austin the only ones who got envelopes with our last names smudged out?” Scorpio answered half-snidely, “Well I doubt you answered the door butt naked in front of the dude that dropped it off.” Lightly chuckling, Jamie replied, “That aside, we need to meet up at the restaurant to figure out just what the hell we got. Can you and your man meet us in 10?” Scorpio affirmed, “Yeah, we’ll be there.” Confirming the oddly timed envelopes that got to the others as well, Muscleman reluctantly accepted that morning sex wouldn’t happen. “Want to fuck later if things don’t get too weird or real at the restaurant?” “Sure thing.” Scorpio replied. They changed into fresh clothes and decided to take Muscleman’s car only.

Once at the restaurant, they stepped inside to find Jamie, Alejandro and a barely moving Hi-NRG. Seated, Scorpio asked him as quietly as he could, “How the hell did you manage to get back in one piece?” Groggily, Hi-NRG replied, “Well that comes from the fact that after fucking you know who in Austin, I managed to cuddle before realizing I had to come back to officially start planning to move to Austin to be with him.” Muscleman teased, “That thing he does with his feet was that good, you’re uprooting your life to another city? Damn, dude.” Scorpio queried, “What pray tell does he do with his feet?” Muscleman whispered in his ear what he should have known it meant and was surprised by his reaction. “Shit, no wonder you ended up pounding him like a butcher tenderizing meat.” With Hi-NRG’s plan to move to Austin established, Jamie reminded them that there were five unopen envelopes they needed to examine. “On the count of three, we open it at the same time.” They complied and Jamie counted, “1…2…3.”

The five of them opened the envelopes to find letters and a check attached from the Texas Workforce Commission. Muscleman was surprised to say the least. “The fuck is this?” Scorpio
read his letter and asked the others to follow along to see if they had gotten the same verbiage. “This letter has been sent to you under special circumstances concerning the police raid on your former place of employment, Core, in the city of San Antonio, TX. The circumstances in which your employment was terminated fit a very specified clause regarding severance packages in the state of Texas. Attached below is a check from the state with the estimated value that you are owed from your former employer, Rigoberto Menendez. It is of rather stern urgency that the check attached is to be endorsed with your signature on the back and be deposited into any active or new checking or savings account of your preferred bank. If the termination of your employment at Core has turned you into ‘unemployed’ please follow the instructions mailed with the attached check. If not, please disregard the instructions mailed with the attached check.” All five of them were sure they read the same letter and even more sure they had all received the same amount of $4,579 on the check.

They asked their server for a pen that worked. Once they had a pen, they endorsed the check; each of them viewing this as their freedom papers. “No more slinging drinks for cheap bastards.” Jamie thought. “No more having to sit on my ass, checking IDs of schmucks in a sleazy half assed strip club.” Alejandro thought. Hi-NRG endorsed his check and was thinking about the potential good life with Blondie. “Sean and I can have something of a future. I move with almost $5,000 to my name and I can get him out of dancing too.” Scorpio signed his financial freedom papers and thought, “Combine this with Derrick’s money and we can do whatever the fuck we want. Maybe put a down payment for a nicer place…oh my God.” Muscleman was the last to endorse the check he got and thought, “I didn’t think I’d see this much in one check and now with Dylan, I can have sex with someone I love and have a shit-ton of money to my name…for now.”

They each left the restaurant to head to their banks to deposit the money. Incidentally, they all converged at the same bank some twenty minutes away from the restaurant. They stepped inside of the bank, waited for available tellers and one by one from 11:46 AM to 12:15 PM that day, any emotional or mental chain on them had been obliterated with a stroke of good luck. “Thank you for banking with us, have a good day.” Were the last words uttered to the five of them right when Muscleman was the last to deposit his money. Once back in their cars, each of them celebrated the fact they were seeing something come out of a trying situation for once in their lives. For Muscleman and Scorpio, the deposit brought about a last minute discussion on the drive back to Muscleman’s place. “So, what do we do with this much money to our name?” he asked him. “There’s already ‘we’ and ‘us’ talk?” he facetiously replied. “Jackass, I’m being serious.” Scorpio chided. Muscleman assured him, “I know, but I mean we can talk after we have sex.” Though one form of business did have to be addressed. Ranger’s connection to Uppercut wouldn’t have to be used after all. “I’ll call him up as soon as we get home so there’s more sex to be had.” Muscleman eloquently phrased.

Incidentally, sex was the avenue in which Jamie and Alejandro celebrated their good fortune. The slender, Hispanic skin of Jamie made quick but intimate contact with Alejandro’s short but relatively muscly build. Their tongues tasted each other’s throats while Jamie’s fitted clothes and Alejandro’s baggy clothes were thrown to a pile at the side of the living room. Continuing to take the reins, Alejandro then sat on the couch and had Jamie by the back of his head, putting his throat to good use on him. “Yeah, you keep doing that until I’m ready to fuck you.” Minutes later, he grabbed Jamie’s head from his loins, got a condom and lube and told him sternly and in a dulcet tone, “Now you’re mine.” Applying the lube on him and on Jamie, he spread his glutes and thrusted with sturdy and deliberate strokes.
“Oh God keep going!” Jamie exclaimed.
“You like me inside you?”
“Tell me you like it…”
“I like it!”
Thrusts and profanities later, the two of them climaxed simultaneously. Alejandro advised, “We shower right after we open our eyes. I’m exhausted at the moment.” Jamie only obliged by smacking Alejandro’s ass.

As for Muscleman and Scorpio, the former followed through on his pre-coital promise by calling Ranger to let him know about the money that came their way. On the third ring, Ranger surprised them both by pressing them, “So word on Facebook is that you Core boys got nearly $5,000 in some type of severance package?” Muscleman confirmed what he had gathered from Facebook. “Yup. We got a lucky break.” Ranger was happy for the Core boys but he suspected his connection to Uppercut was going to remain unused. “So I can guess you don’t absolutely need Uppercut, right?” To Scorpio’s amazement, Muscleman actually mulled it over. He ended up prompting Ranger, “You can tell the dude you work for here to look into hiring me.” Scorpio was floored by his decision but knew better than to involve outside persons in their affairs. Ranger ended the call by promising, “I’ll call the others to see if they want a fallback with Uppercut before I call my employer down there. Take it easy you two.”

After the call, Scorpio wanted answers as to why Muscleman took the offer after having insinuated that he would do no such thing.
“What the hell made you want anything to do with Uppercut?”
“Let’s face facts…”
“No Derrick. We can leave dancing behind with this money.”
“You can leave dancing behind and focus on school.”
“I want us to stick together. We don’t have to do this anymore!”
“I’ve balanced my job at the gym and dancing longer than you’ve been dancing.”
“Derrick! What the fuck are you saying?”
“Dylan…I’m saying I can dance now without having to whore myself out.”
What Muscleman had mulled over in a fraction of a second was that despite him not having to offer himself for clients anymore, he still wanted dancing as an option. “Call it a nagging guilt thing, but I’m sensing the gym is about to go under too.” He said. Scorpio countered, “That’s one of the few gyms in the city that can actually survive and do quite well.” Muscleman in turn retorted, “If that’s the case, how come I haven’t had to choose between dancing and my job at the gym? How come I have yet to be reprimanded for missing what could’ve been days at work?” Scorpio was devastated to see Muscleman act defeatist.

“All this time, he didn’t believe anything good could come from this.” He thought. “He honest to God thinks something is still about to happen for the worst.” Muscleman displayed a rare, blatant emotional facet of himself to Scorpio. “Listen, I know this seems like I’m giving myself a guilt trip but I’m not ignoring the killer instinct thing I have in me. I have to go with it or else I’m no on my guard. I have you to be on guard for against the world and I’m not screwing this up.” Scorpio was touched by his emotional side seeming healthier since the day the first consummated their relationship. “I’m someone worth protecting now?” “Of course you are.” Muscleman gently told him. “That’s why I have to have this backup turned maybe primary source of income again.” Reluctantly, Scorpio accepted Muscleman’s inadvertent ultimatum. “All I want is for us to stick through this. Whatever it is.” Muscleman simply smiled.

Three days later, long after Muscleman and Scorpio had that morning sex they owed each other, Jamie and Alejandro began a slow and steady relationship and Hi-NRG began searching for a graphic design job in Austin, they received their checks from Sky. Good fortune brought easiness to everyone but Muscleman, who was whispered sweet nothings by Scorpio. “We’ll stick through this, babe.” He assured him as he hoped his words were reverberating in his head. The check that came from Sky was in the amount of $500 even. As with the Texas Workforce Commission, Sky had “strongly encouraged” immediate endorsement and depositing of the check. Each of them endorsed their check and deposited them at the bank within 30 minutes of each other. Scorpio looked into Muscleman’s eyes in the car on their way back to his house and asked him, “When do you feel like the rug’s being pulled from under you?” Muscleman choked back miniscule but meaningful tears when he said, “Sooner than we think.”

Almost three months to the day had gone by after depositing the checks from the Texas Workforce Commission and Sky and sadly, Muscleman’s eerie sense of uneasiness had manifested itself. Slowly, the world around him began to collapse into nothingness. Having secured a job at Fuego as a bartender and paying off his personal debt, Jamie would be left alone in a devastating turn of events. The night Muscleman’s eerie uneasiness had come to fruition, Alejandro would work his last night with his boyfriend guarding the door, when a routine rowdy upheaval went horribly wrong. Having apprehended the rowdy drunk, Alejandro was about to release them to the streets to become someone else’s problem. Sadly, the drunk he had dealt with the fewest times of his career was called “The Widow maker”; a drunk whose strength actually went up after reaching inebriation. The drunk grabbed Alejandro from behind and instead of pushing him to the sidewalk as a means of revenge, threw him into traffic where a speeding car hit him and he died on impact. The money saved up after debt payment was used for the funeral arrangements and had left Jamie a broken man.

During the three months of peace, Hi-NRG managed to find a decent job at an upstart graphic design firm in Austin and had started a relationship with Blondie. The two of them were even looking at the possibility of moving in with each other. He would promise him every day of their relationship that he would get him out of dancing for good. “You and I are about to live the good life every day I work to make it happen for us.” Blondie never knew how to respond but was always grateful for Hi-NRG being as sweet as he was. “I don’t know if you’ll pull it off but I’m really happy you’re trying your best.” The day and night Muscleman’s eerie uneasiness had come to fruition, Hi-NRG’s world was destroyed by monotony and a heartbreaking revelation. Despite having secured the job at the upstart, his creative input was met with the worst form or reaction to a creative like him; indifference, which to Hi-NRG was worse than hatred. His paycheck that day was another reminder that it was merely his name and hours clocked in that earned him the money. Creative gold wouldn’t be struck any time soon.

That very night as he walked into his apartment, his phone rang and it was Blondie. “Finally, maybe I can have something to smile about.” He thought. When he picked up on the second ring, he was hoping Blondie would maintain his constant support. “Hey baby. Just got home from work.” He said with hope in his voice. “Hey.” Blondie began. “I need to come clean.” Hi-NRG simply wanted to know, “About what?” and it was a decision that would haunt him the rest of his life.
“I’ve been thinking about ‘us’ and the truth is…there’s no ‘us’.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve felt like I’ve been leading you on and…I’m sorry but I’m breaking up with you.”
“Sean, we can talk about this. I love you.”
“There’s nothing to talk about Vicente. I feel guilty for leading you on.”
“Baby, you didn’t lead me on to anything.”
“Yes I did. I had you uproot your life from San Antonio to here…”
“Which I did myself because what we had was special.”
“…when I barely had any feelings for you. Goodbye and I’m sorry.”
The phone hung up and Hi-NRG was utterly gutted. His reason for finding excitement in his life had never really loved him and he didn’t know how to cope with that fact. It was for that reason that authorities and coroners both agreed that despite his lifeless corpse was found in the street after jumping off a bridge, he had died of a broken heart. The coroner saw the picture of him and Blondie in his wallet along with the tattoo on his arm that read “Blondie” that confirmed his reason for committing suicide. “Poor son of a bitch never stood a chance being heartbroken by a man so pretty.” He said.

Muscleman’s eerie uneasiness first took personal hits outside of him and Scorpio, that day when it affected him. He was devastated to learn through Facebook, that on top of Catherine’s mother having died in a car accident with a drunk driver, Catherine’s grandmother died of a fatal stroke hours before. “This can’t get any worse.” He thought with rhetorical but hopeful sentiments. Later, Ranger called him and asked, “Do any of the daughters you raised attend a magnate school in the North side of San Antonio?” Muscleman replied truthfully, “I wouldn’t know but why am I suspecting this involves Emma or Catherine?” Ranger replied, “It’s Emma. I’m about to post a link to the story with my condolences. I’m sorry for your loss, dude.” Ranger’s post nearly destroyed Muscleman that instant. He played the clip that read that the magnate school debate team Emma was part of was involved in a fatal pileup along a major highway and that there were no survivors from the school. “Fuck no! Not like this!” he
thought. Scorpio pulled up in front of the mailbox having just read Ranger’s post as well. Muscleman opened the door to find an inconsolable Scorpio embrace him out of seeking solace for the both of them. “I doubted that killer instinct you had and I was stupid for it. I’m so sorry.” He tearfully said to him. Muscleman assured him, “You’re not being stupid. I should be in more tears than you because I was right.” The terrible day would be capped off until nightfall that he would be terminated from the gym due to budget cuts. Miguel reluctantly let him know the decision, emphasizing, “The timing of this is bad considering what I read on Facebook. I hate having to do this, but it’s something that couldn’t be avoided. Your severance check is coming in about 2-3 business days.”

After letting Scorpio in on what happened with the gym, Scorpio realized there was a very finite but silver lining. “You did after all have Shane put a word in at Uppercut to have you dance there. Once the worst of it is over, you can worry about money again.” Muscleman responded with a kiss and a word of advice. “If shit goes left for you, try to let me know so I can adjust accordingly. I’ll do the same for you.” Scorpio took his advice and was on his way to classes for the day at community college. Lucky for him, the worst came with only scraping by exams with passing grades to have him in good academic standing. “At least I’m not causing any headaches for him with school.” He thought with a much needed sigh of relief. When his phone rang, he braced himself for what was coming. “Shit, of all the times to exhale it’s right when he needs me.”

He picked up the phone to an emotionally aching Muscleman. He said to him, “Baby, tell me very slowly what just happened.” “Are you done with school today?” Muscleman tearfully queried. “Yes I am.” Scorpio assured him. “I need you home as soon but safely as possible.” Muscleman began as he choked on tears. “Catherine’s in the hospital and she wants to see me.”
“I’ll be by the mailbox ASAP.” Scorpio promised him. Rushing to his car, he managed to keep the promise with only minimal fear of attracting attention from the police. Once at the mailbox, he called Muscleman and told him in some shortness of breath, “I’m here…door’s unlocked.” Muscleman was out of the house while still being able to lock the door and getting in the passenger seat in one fluid motion. The pair raced to the hospital where Catherine was, hoping they weren’t too late for what they knew was coming Muscleman’s way. Scorpio had to realistically frame their estimated time of arrival. It was the last thing he wanted to tell him, but heartbreakingly he said to him, “We’re 15 minutes away if I don’t give a shit about safety and 18 to 20 minutes if I want us to be OK and if traffic stops being terrible.”

17 minutes later, the two of them arrived at the hospital and raced towards the entrance having righteous but still utter disregard for the surrounding visitors and soon to be patients. In the lobby, Muscleman spotted Sarah waiting at the front desk. The receptionist asked him, “Derrick, is it?” “Yes, that’s me.” He replied. The receptionist continued, “Little Sarah here is to take you and your company to where Catherine currently is.” Thanking the receptionist, the three of them headed to the elevator and headed to the 5th floor of the hospital. Scorpio kept to himself knowing the worst possible outcome was imminent. Muscleman turned to Sarah and calmly asked her, “Who else is with Catherine in her room?” Sarah saw through the front and replied, “You can ask me how things were, you know. Things only suck now but at least happy times can help.” Refraining from another outburst, Sarah continued, “I’m sorry for being mean. It’s me and Jillian in the room with one of Mom’s friends from work named Jerry.” Muscleman thanked her as the elevator opened where Sarah led him and Scorpio to room 522 where Catherine was. Outside the room was an unusually reflective looking Jillian and a co-worker/friend of Catherine’s mother, Jerry.

Jerry looked up and realized Muscleman was who Catherine wanted to see. “I’m glad you’re here. Catherine was begging for you to show up.” Scorpio interjected when he was so caught up in getting Muscleman to the hospital, he had no idea what had happened to Catherine. “What happened with Catherine?” he asked. Jerry tearfully responded, “She was walking home from school when someone was texting on their phone and hit her. She tried to outrun and dodge the car but it was too late.” Jillian added, “I came home to the ambulance taking her on the stretcher and that’s when I called Jerry. The three of us got here and right when Catherine started speaking we thought…better…” Her inability to choke back tears from that point on was unmistakable. Sarah filled in the blanks saying, “When she started speaking, she asked somebody to pull a folded piece of paper out of her special pocket in her backpack and once she saw me pull what’s now by her bedside…that’s when she started to ask for you.”

Muscleman was gutted, knowing that the reason Catherine had not yet succumb to death’s grip was to hear him read “The Little Star” to her, one last time. In the name of formality, he asked if that was the reason she had them leave the room. “Just so I don’t get this wrong…you’re all out here because she wants me to be the last person she sees before she passes?” Jerry confirmed his suspicions and urged him, “Don’t blow this chance. She’s waiting.” Scorpio knew he had to be there only to comfort his boyfriend after his heart would be reduced to a smattering of emotional damage. He looked at Sarah, Jerry and Jillian and had them wait near a small waiting area. “He needs a lot of space.” He said. Immediate compliance was given knowing what was coming.

With his prattle no longer being his much needed security blanket, he stepped in the room inching to Catherine while trying to keep something close to composure together. He faced his informally adoptive daughter one last time and said to her, “Catherine…I’m here.” She could barely form the first words that would wreak havoc on his emotional state. “Hi Dad…dy. I knew you’d…b…be here.” With tears flowing from his eyes, he asked, “You want to hear the poem one last time, don’t you?” She faintly uttered, “Yup.” His hands trembled at unfolding the poem while Catherine barely interjected, “If it’s messy…it’s been in my backpack since I moved to Grandma’s.” “I think I know why you’re glad you didn’t take it out until now.” He said as his tears were cascading faster down his face. Catherine only replied, “Don’t worry…she never knew I brought it with me.” He had unfolded the poem completely and was ready to let the worst day of his life be over. “I’m ready…how about you?” Catherine smiled and tried to nod her head. His tears were flowing and his eyes were turning red from the emotional hell being formed internally, but he had no choice but to read the poem or forever be racked with guilt.

“There is nothing special about me, but I see A Little Star.
If I try to reach out and touch you, I know you’re really not that far.
Know that in my darkest night, you’re all I can see,
because you sure look like A Little Star to me.”

Catherine’s last words were verbal napalm on Muscleman’s soul. “Thank you Daddy. I love you.” The flat line immediately after her dying breath was emitted had broken Muscleman. He inched his way out of the room with emotional damage flowing from his tear ducts. Scorpio rushed to him to provide warmth that at the moment did nothing to alleviate his lover’s spirits. He was still able to have Muscleman hug and wave goodbye Sarah, Jerry and Jillian knowing it was most likely the last time he would see them for years to come. Before catching the elevator, Sarah said to Scorpio, “Take care of him. He needs to have someone love him like you do.” He assured her, “I won’t stop loving him. You be good like he’s actually your Dad watching over you.” She nodded her head in affirmation right as Scorpio and Muscleman caught the elevator.

Later that night as the two of them pulled up to the mailbox, Scorpio turned to his lover and calmly told him, “You can cry the loudest once we get inside. The worst day of your life just happened and you can take out any sadness and anger on anything in the house. Just try not to hurt me in the process.” He got out of his car and helped Muscleman from the passenger seat and into the house. Pouring him a glass of water, Scorpio had his inconsolable love sit on the couch and drink as much as he could. “I don’t know how much it’ll help, but it’s better than letting this drain the shit out of you.” He said. Wanting to call a nearly destroyed Jamie, Scorpio hoped to arrange for the three of them to meet for breakfast at the restaurant. Instead his phone rang with Ranger on the other line. “Hello?” he asked. Ranger answered, “Hey, I know the timing is suspicious but tell Derrick that Uppercut wants him, you and Jamie to show up there at 12:00 sharp. I know you didn’t totally say yes to my offer, but I put it in anyway. Jamie already knows so no need to call him right away. You need to be there for him and I know you’ll do what it takes.”

Scorpio thanked him for the better than nothing positive outlet. “It’ll be a bitch tomorrow but we’ll do it. Thanks for the reference to Uppercut. Take care.” The call ended as Muscleman drank all but a mere sliver of the water. Scorpio looked at him and said, “Let’s go to bed, honey. We have a 12:00 meeting at Uppercut. Me, you and Jamie got referenced by Shane.” Muscleman silently complied as Scorpio took the glass from him and placed it in the sink. The two disrobed in his room and nestled each other’s naked bodies in the hopes of providing temporary relief for that night. Scorpio continued to tread lightly when he said to Muscleman, “Say anything that comes to you before we go to sleep.” He thought for a few minutes as Scorpio’s patience proved to be resilient as ever. Finally, he kept it simple when he said, “I love you. Wake me up in case the alarm doesn’t.” Scorpio kissed him and replied, “I love you too. Good night.”

The 9:00 AM alarm for Muscleman and Scorpio signified the end of the worst day they had. They woke up at the same time and Scorpio was relieved Muscleman was up too. “Morning, babe.” Muscleman said to him. “Let’s shower so we can get ready for the meeting at Uppercut.” Scorpio replied. The two of them showered together so Scorpio could make sure Muscleman wouldn’t resort to sulking in there for hours. Once cleaned and toweled off, the two of them got dressed and headed out to Uppercut to get to the meeting early. Muscleman said to him, “We can see if Jamie needs a ride to Uppercut as well.” Once in Muscleman’s car, Scorpio called Jamie to see if he needed a ride to the meeting. On the second ring, Jamie was on the other line having already arrived at Uppercut. He told Scorpio, “Thanks for checking on me. We can catch up once we see each other.” After the conversation and having narrowly found parking at all, Muscleman and Scorpio left the car, went inside and found Jamie seated at the bar towards the middle. The three of them hugged knowing it was providing little comfort for the tumultuous day they were put through as they lost a friend with Hi-NRG’s death, a lover with Alejandro’s death and remnants of a false past with the death of all but two daughters Muscleman raised.

Jamie was only mildly envious that Muscleman and Scorpio had lasted as long as they had. “I don’t know how long it’ll be before I find someone else. Like I’d be dumb enough to try and find another Alejandro, but you know what I mean, right?” Muscleman assured him, “Better you have loss from the present than from the past rearing its ugly head at you. That shit wears on you even if you had nothing to do with them biologically.” Then, two fresh-faced young men walked in and on sight, the three of them knew they were prospective dancers. “Here we go again.” Scorpio stated. Muscleman pointed out, “We only worry about them if they can handle what’s coming to them.”


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