I pulled into the parking lot of Marcus's building just before eight o'clock. The sky had a red-purple glow to it, reflecting the last light of the sun. The stars were just starting to be visible in the eastern sky, the familiar constellations slowly showing themselves. I suppose it would have been a beautiful night if my thoughts weren't so jumbled up.
"Marcus has been in love with you, maybe even since that first weekend." Scott's words echoing in my brain. How could I have been so blind? All the memories since the day we met, had I been so wrapped up in myself I never read the signs? Now I needed to fix the pain I'd caused. But how?
I could see Marcus's living room window from my car, his shadow visible through the drawn curtains. He was pacing quickly back and forth. I still couldn't think about what to do next.
"Don't think. Feel." Again Scott's words pounding my consciousness. I slowly got out of the car and walked towards the stairs.
Get out of your head, Tony. What's in your heart? I still didn't know. This was where I call Marcus and he helps me figure out what to do. But now it was all about Marcus, and still I couldn't get out of my head.
Reaching the door, I hesitated before knocking. How many times had I unloaded all my feelings, hurt, joy, tears, and even my dreams in this place? Why was this moment the most difficult I ever faced here?
I could hear music coming from inside the condo. Mozart. "I play this CD when I get down; it usually helps me get back to myself. Although sometimes it makes me sink right down to the depths, then I know it's time to move forward, somehow." Marcus once played this CD for me, after the Jared implosion. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. The noise echoed in my ears.
"Oh God, Tony, I told you I couldn't do this tonight. Please I just need some time." Marcus had tears running down his cheeks when he answered the door. I took one look at him and I knew…
He turned and tried to close the door on me. I pushed in and past him. "Suck it up, buttercup."
He just looked at me, with his mouth hanging open. The twinkle was missing in those cobalt blue eyes, replaced by a little anger. His whole demeanor signaled defeat. My heart was absolutely breaking knowing I had caused this pain. I walked over to the stereo system and killed that Mozart disc. I switched to the CD of dance remixes I made for him. He just stared at me, standing at the edge of the hallway and living room. Slowly he walked towards me; I quickly turned and walked right into him. I stumbled back. Even in his pain, he tried to save me from falling.
"I'm sorry I wasn't looking where I was going. I'm Tony, by the way. Dance with me. I usually don't take no for an answer." I grabbed his hand and pulled him into me. I wrapped my arms around him and just started to sway. He resisted my efforts completely.
I placed my finger on his lips. "You need to listen and not say anything until I'm done," tears flowing freely from both of us, now.
"I'm sorry. I've been a fool. I've been looking everywhere for something, and the whole time it was right in front of me. Marcus you are the most amazing person I know. You are incredibly selfless and loving. You are my best friend. The best friend anyone could ever dream of having. I don't deserve you. I've been selfish and blind. I just hope it's not too late.
"When you hung up on me tonight, I couldn't understand what was going on. I thought back to that weekend we met; and then all the times you were there for me, every single time you listened, saved my ass, or helped me get over something. I remembered all the huge and all the tiny problems you helped me solve. I didn't understand why this time was different. I was beside myself, memories causing even more stress. So, I called Scott to try and get some answers. I got more than I bargained for. Scott forced me to recall my worst nightmare, and showed me how blind I've been. He told me I needed to stop thinking and start feeling.
"So, now I want to show you what I'm feeling." I placed my hand on the side of his face, turning him towards me. I needed to see those eyes…
I started kissing his lips. He reacted by tensing up and trying to pull away. I held him tightly but gently and continued to kiss him, both hands holding his face. He slowly started to respond to my efforts. In the moment I felt him returning the kiss, my heart exploded with joy. The kiss began to build into a breathtaking passion. I could barely keep my balance.
Slowly I started to move my hands lower. I unzipped the gray hoodie he was wearing, pulling it off his shoulders and letting it fall to the floor. His chest felt like steel covered by silk. My hands moved lower…
"Stop, Tony." Marcus was breathless.
"We need to talk before we lose control."
I put my hands back on the sides of his face, our foreheads touching. I never felt like this before. I pulled him into another kiss. I wanted to stay like this forever.
Marcus took hold of my hand and led me to the couch. I snuggled up against him. My back against his bare chest, he pulled me close and wrapped me up in his arms. I sighed.
"Tony, don't get me wrong, I'm over the moon. You in my arms is a dream I never want to awake from. But, how did we get here. I never expected this."
"Marcus, I was so confused when you hung up on me. Finally I called Scott. The last person I wanted to talk to, but the only one I thought might give me answers. He started out as the asshole he normally is to me. Then, he forced me to remember the one night I have tried my hardest to forget: Derek Kingston, my worst nightmare.
"Marcus, when I tried to black that out of my mind. I also forgot what you did for me that weekend."
Tears again, I tried to continue. "I really have been the selfish prick Scott has always claimed I was. I have hurt you, in so many ways. I don't know how I will ever be able to make it up to you. How do you not hate me?"
"Tony, I could never hate you. I love you with all my heart. But you need to stop beating yourself up. I'm more to blame for what's gone on between us than you. I could have told you any number of times how I felt, but I never did. I was afraid of losing you, so I did the one thing I kept telling you not to do. I gave up a part of myself so I was sure you would stay in my life. I was great at giving advice, really bad at following it.
"But I need to know what you think this is. Tony, what you want from us."
"Until I walked through the door tonight, I never considered an' us'. I never knew it was possible. I knew I had the most amazing friend, but until I really looked into my heart I didn't know. Right now, I know when you started to kiss me back, my heart exploded. I have never felt such joy. I know I never want this feeling to end.
"Marcus, I know you want a better answer, but what I need right now is just to be held by you. I want to spend the night wrapped in your arms; to wake up with you and spend the day just being together. We can spend the whole day tomorrow talking. Do you have plans for tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow is Taylor family Sunday dinner at my place. I need to go shopping in the morning and cook for the whole family, including my father and his new girlfriend. I guess that isn't what you had in mind."
"Not exactly," I chuckled. "But does your family know about your feelings for me?"
"Jamie and Sarah know, but not the rest of the family. Why?"
"Are you ready to go public with us?"
"I would scream it from the rooftop, if I was sure we both knew what 'us' meant. Maybe if I tell you what I think, what I want…"
He turned me around so we were facing each other. He put his right hand on my cheek and grabbed my hand with his left. I saw the sparkle in his eyes again, but a little trepidation too.
"Tony, now you know I have been in love with you for a very long time. But right away I realized I needed to let you grow as a gay man before I could even hope you could share my feelings. I watched you, giving advice when you asked, and letting you find yourself. I was proud of how you handled yourself.
"The weekend you call your worst nightmare, was my worst too. I felt so helpless, so guilty. I let you get hurt in the worst way. If I had just gone with you… I clung to you trying to take the pain away, knowing I couldn't. I couldn't let you go. Even the slightest movement, I held you as tight as I could. It took Danni and Scott hours of arguments to convince me to leave you with Danni. In my head I knew it was the best thing, but in my heart I didn't want to let go. In the end, Danni gave you what you needed to start moving past the nightmare. I was so grateful for that.
"You recovered for the most part. And then Jared. I felt like I almost lost you forever then; but, I don't want to talk about Jared tonight. Someday maybe, but not tonight.
"So here it is… I want to show you how I feel, now that I can. I want to hold you knowing you want to be held by me. I want tomorrow to be the day I tell someone that you are my boyfriend. I want us to learn more about each other. I want to take each day and enjoy every second with you. But, I also want 'us' to take our time with the physical part. You are my best friend, too. I don't want to rush this and screw it up. But, I want 'us' more than I've ever wanted anything.
"What do you think?"
"I feel like I keep hitting the jackpot. Marcus, it sounds perfect. The only thing I'm less than enthusiastic about is going slow with the physical part. I want to show you how I feel about you in every way, but if you think we should go slow... I do have one fear. I'm going to want to run when I should walk. You know me well enough to see how easy that would be for me to do. Already, I want to make plans with you that start to mean forever."
"I know, buttercup, and by the way don't ever call me that again."
We laughed. I pulled Marcus in for a kiss. It started simple. Then, it felt like we were trying to make up for three missed years with one kiss. Finally, we broke apart. Marcus smiled.
"Do you think you would be up for Sunday dinner with your boyfriend's family? I would love it if you felt you could. But, I totally understand if it's too much. At least we can listen to music tonight. Hold each other and then sleep together. I mean sleep, too." His eyes were full of that mischievous twinkle.
"I would love to have Sunday dinner with my boyfriend's family, but I guess your family will have to do…"
"You think you're funny." He started tickling me, we were laughing and squirming, and then he was lying on top of me kissing me with mind blowing passion. I could '''feel''' his excitement too. I was lost in the feeling. Finally, he took a breath. "See I told you I wasn't very good at taking my own advice."
"Marcus, I'll be good. Let's go into your room and cuddle. I just want to hold you and be held. Then tomorrow we can make a plan." He pulled me into his bedroom.
We lay there in bed, my head on his chest and his arms around my shoulders, we fell asleep quickly.
I woke in the middle of the night. Marcus was spooned up against my back, his arms circling me. I suddenly was overcome with emotion. I began to sob.
"Tony, what's wrong? It wasn't a nightmare was it?"
"I can't help it. I never felt like this before. I'm so incredibly happy right now. Please tell me it's not a dream. Why did it take me so long to figure this out?"
"Buttercup, you had me worried. It is a dream, but we are having the same one. Go back to sleep and I promise when you wake up, it will still be real." He pulled me closer, if that was possible.
When I woke in the morning, I was alone in bed. I heard Marcus humming. He walked into the bedroom carrying a tray and set it down in front of me. I couldn't help but smile, him and his breakfast. It smelled wonderful.
"Time to get moving, I need to hit the grocery store and get started with the meal. But first breakfast in bed together." He leaned down and kissed me.
"Marcus, are you sure you want me to be here for 'Taylor family Sunday dinner'? I don't want to intrude. I can always come back later tonight to talk."
"Eat, and quit worrying so much. I want you to do whatever is comfortable for you. I want you here. I know I can't wait to tell Jamie and Sarah our news. They are going to be thrilled. But I know my whole family might be overwhelming."
"Ok, I need to go to my apartment. I can go when you get groceries. I need to shower and get dressed in clean clothes. I'll come back to help you cook, or at least keep you company."
"I like the plan except for one thing. You didn't say you would pack some clothes. I hope you are going to spend the night again. I'm going to play hooky from work tomorrow. I want to spend the day with my boyfriend. If he's free." God, I loved that smile.
"Awesome. I think he might be free, but if he's not I am!" I tried keeping a straight face while chewing.
"That's going to come to an end real soon, funny guy. Now we need to finish breakfast, I'm already behind."
I gave Marcus a kiss before I went home to clean up. After finishing my shower, I heard my phone ringing. It was Dad. I held my breath when I answered it.
"What's up Dad?"
"Nothing, just wanted to let you know there will be an exhibit of my photos in an art gallery. Is there any chance you could come home next weekend? It's actually in a gallery in Hampton Beach. It would mean a lot if you could be here, Son. I'm a little nervous about the whole thing."
"Dad, that's so exciting. I'm sure I'll be there. I'm just getting out of the shower. Can I call you back in about an hour? I'll let you know for sure then. Dad, I'm so proud of you."
"Sure, Tony. Your Mom and I are going to brunch in town and then we will be home. You can talk to both of us then. Don't forget to call now."
"Don't worry, Dad. I'll talk to you in a little while."
I got back to Marcus's condo as he was pulling into the parking lot. I helped him get groceries put away, and sat down while he got to work.
"My dad called a while ago. I need to call him back, but first I have a question for you. What are your plans for next weekend?"
"Babe, I don't have any yet why?"
"Good, you do now. You'll understand after this call." I punched up my parent's home number. Mom answered right away.
"Hi, baby. It's good to hear your voice."
"Mom, I have great news. I will be able to make it out to Dad's gallery show next weekend." She squealed. Marcus smiled, and shook his head vigorously. "I am so proud of him. I'll try to get in Friday evening. Do I need my best suit for the show?"
"Oh, Tony he will be thrilled. Hold on and talk to him."
"I take it from the squeal on this end; you will be able to come here next weekend." Dad sounded very happy,
"Yes sir, Mister 'My photos are going to be in an art gallery' I'm looking forward to it. How fancy is this show? You are going to get Mom a new dress, right? And I'll bring my best suit. Dad, I'm so proud and happy for you. Summer season at Hampton Beach, the place should be packed."
"Now Tony, don't go blowing this out of proportion. It's just a few photos. However, I need to pick out a few more today, so I need to let you go. I'm really excited you can make it here next weekend. If I get more information I'll call you. Talk to you later" I hung up and grinned at Marcus.
"So, you'll come with me to New Hampshire next weekend? Dad sounds so pumped. I can't wait. You will come with me right?"
"You should call your boyfriend and see if he has plans..." Marcus went back to slicing mushrooms.
"I thought you said that needed to end…" I grabbed him and kissed his neck. He turned and smiled.
"I owed you one. Tony, I'm so happy for your Dad. This is amazing. I need to find out what gallery so I can tell my Boston friends. They can miss P'Town one weekend, and we need to send congratulation flowers to your house. And I want to book them a room. The show will be both days I assume, so they could spend the night in a fancy hotel. "
"Whoa there, slow down. You're talking too fast. I only caught half of it, but it sounds wonderful. Let's talk more about this later."
"Actually, if the show is next weekend, I need to make one call. Do you remember my friend, Richard? He will take care of the whole thing for me. Babe, finish pounding out the chicken breasts while I make this call."
He walked into his office. About twenty minutes later, he walked up to me and reached his arms around me. I turned and was greeted with a kiss. (I still become breathless when he kisses me like that…)
"It's all set. The Boston crew was getting a little bored with the Cape, so they will be there on Saturday. I have a room reserved for your parents and for us. Flowers are being delivered this afternoon in your name, and I have set up a limo for your parents. Unless you think it's too much, I can always cancel the car."
"Marcus, you are unbelievable. I love you so much. You don't need to do all this."
"Nothing is too good for my boyfriend's parents. We can talk about the specifics later. Right now I need to concentrate on dinner or I will have a Taylor family revolt on my hands. But I do need one more kiss."
Just over an hour later, the family started to descend upon us. Fortunately, Jamie, Sarah, and the twins were first. I just happened to be in the bedroom when they showed. On the spur of the moment, I decided to have a little fun. As the three adults were talking, I slipped out of the condo. I rang the doorbell. Jamie answered the door expecting another family member. I got a flustered look on my face, and burst into the condo. Marcus saw my wink and was ready to play along.
"Tony, what the heck is your problem?" Marcus yelled.
"I needed to see you right away to give this to you…" I planted the most mind-numbing kiss I could muster.
We looked over at Jamie and Sarah, they were stunned. Finally, Sarah smiled, jumped up, and hugged us both. She playfully punched me. Jamie took a moment longer. When he finally was on board with the joke, he whooped.
"This is fantastic. How long? When? How? Why didn't you tell us?" He babbled.
"You are the first to know. This all happened last night, long story short you are looking at the two happiest people on the planet."
Suddenly Stephen burst out, "Uncle Marcus, how come you kissed Tony?"
"Well Stephen, Uncle Marcus and Tony are in love just like Mommy and Daddy." Sarah said. "Do you understand?"
As he walked up and punched me, "You took forever Tony…"
Marcus got an odd look on his face, and then the brightest smile. "You're right Stephen; Tony is just a little slow sometimes."
The rest of us burst out laughing. I grabbed Stephen, "I will try not to be so slow from now on."
"Tony, play cars with us…" He was done with adult foolishness, time for more important things.
I was playing on the floor with the boys, when the rest of the family arrived. Nick and Jessica, along with their three-year-old daughter Mallory, showed just ahead of Marcus's Dad and his girlfriend. I had met everyone at some point, except his Dad's new girlfriend. I got up to say hello. Marcus came over to me, put his arm around me, and introduced us.
"Carolyn, this is my boyfriend Tony. I have been waiting all day to say that!" He gushed. "Tony, this is my father's friend, Carolyn. Dad, you remember Tony." Marcus kissed me. "Tony and I have been friends for three years, Carolyn. As of last night, we have taken our relationship to a new level. You'll have to pardon my excitement."
"I'm very happy for you both. My son and his husband live in Massachusetts. I look forward to family functions where you can meet each other. Marcus, you have a beautiful place. Thank you so much for inviting me." Marcus's Dad had a surprised look on his face, but recovered quickly.
"Everyone, Jamie will take care of your beverage needs. I need to work on dinner. Please make yourself at home, Carolyn. Tony, could you help me in the kitchen."
He was grinning. "That was my third favorite moment today."
"Third?" I wondered.
"Sure, second was the joke on Jamie and Sarah. And number one was your Dad's news. Right now I need some help finishing up this meal."
The rest of the afternoon was wonderful. Marcus's chicken cacciatore was incredible. Even the kids went back for seconds. I think our mood was infectious. Marcus and I spent time playing with the boys and his niece, Mallory. I'd never played a more cutthroat game of Candy Land before, but Mallory got so excited when she beat us all. The family started saying their goodbyes as darkness fell.
Carolyn gave us both kisses on the cheek, "Marcus and Tony, I had a wonderful time. I wish you all the happiness in the world. Thank you so much for inviting me."
Finally, the only members of the Taylor family left were Jamie and Sarah, and the sleeping boys.
"You guys are so cute," Sarah gushed. "But I want to hear the dirt."
Marcus told the story, leaving out some of the details, but staying true to the real story. He did not mention my attack, and played up my using the way we met to get his attention last night. At the end of the story, Sarah gave me a hug and Jamie shook my hand. "Welcome to the family Tony. We really are so happy for you both. I wish you weren't so slow though…" We all laughed.
Finally, Marcus and I were alone again. We cleaned up the remnants of the party and collapsed on the couch together. I kissed him and pulled him against me. I could have stayed like that for the rest of the night.
"Babe, you survived your first Taylor family get together. How are you feeling tonight?"
"Your family is great, especially your nephews and niece. Mallory is a pistol. She was so excited when she won. Jamie and Sarah are awesome and you know I love the boys, and I liked Carolyn. I think she surprised your Dad with sharing that tidbit about her son. I got the feeling your Dad was a little uncomfortable with us until then."
"I think you're right, and I liked her too. I think she will keep him on his toes. I'm tired, babe, let's call it a night. Are you playing hooky with me tomorrow?"
"Yes, my dissertation can survive a day without me. I think we need to talk a little about plans tomorrow, But I also want to do something fun. Right now I'm ready for bed. And sleep."
After we crawled into bed together, we fell into one of my favorite positions: my head on his chest and his arms around me. I couldn't hold back, "Hon, can we talk for a minute? I want to know what your thoughts are about the physical part, no damn it. When can we make love? I think I know why we are waiting… but I'm afraid the longer we wait the more nervous I'm going to be? I'm so good at over thinking things… I don't want this to become something for me to stew about."
"Babe, I think we will know when the time is right. I can't explain better than that. I just want the first time to be special in some way. Don't think about it. Please Babe, trust me on this."
"I love you. I just want you to know how much. I will try to be good, but when your boyfriend is the sexiest man around it's hard."
"I can tell it's hard, against my leg." He chuckled. "Let's go to sleep and spend the day together tomorrow. Good Night, Babe."
"Good night, Hon."