by TA (Terry)
Monty slowly lit his cigar and then carefully laid the lighter back on the table. He sat back on the sofa and crossed one arm over his chest while holding the cigar in his other hand.
"Mark, imagine a world without our troops in Europe or anywhere in Asia. A state of affairs where we respond directly from the US or Carrier Groups, no matter what the threat. Also, imagine a world where the EU is not 'necessarily' an ally." Monty smiled. "I'm not talking enemy here, just not necessarily an ally. Of course I'm speaking more as a representative, although unofficial, of the party rather than any individual; and a great deal of this is speculation."
"In such a world, should we decide to become involved in a conflict, a fast resolution is everything. That means, not one step but ten steps ahead of the nearest competition when it comes to technology. Our bombs will have to be more than just smart, they'll have to be brilliant. Your company needs to be thinking of bombs that are part rocket and very maneuverable while dropping - able even to change targets; and in some cases select their own targets."
I sat forward with my elbows on my knees. "Sounds like you're talking about a dangerous world, Monty, a world of failed alliances."
Monty smiled faintly at me. "Perhaps, Mark, perhaps. I guess I tend to think of it as a period of transition, but in the beginning, yes, there will be failures. Change is always painful, at least to some."
"What about politics, Monty? Will Congress go along?"
Monty didn't answer at once, but puffed for a bit on his cigar. "Eventually, Mark, eventually they'll come to see it."
Normally, the restaurant has a beautiful view of Lake Michigan, but today was cloudy and overcast. And the thing that normally made the place special was almost a liability today.
I slid into the chair opposite Frank, who mysteriously had only a glass of water in his hand, staring at a salad. I nodded toward the salad. "You do know what that is, Frank?"
Frank shoved a forkful of lettuce in his mouth, but answered anyway. "Nobody likes a smartass, Marky. Marcy wants me to lose weight. You probably haven't noticed, but I've put on a few pounds." He reached across the table and tapped my menu with the tines of his fork. "FYI, if you order a cheeseburger, I'll cut your fucking throat with this butter knife."
I looked up at the waiter who had just arrived at our table. "Gimme whatever he's having." I could see the waiter starting to smile as he turned to leave.
Frank looked up from his food. "Didn't you used to have a big box of candy in your office. From that chemical company guy, didn't he send us candy? They always send us candy."
"That was at Christmas, Frank! That shits long gone." I smiled at him. "What were you doing, foraging? Besides, I put it in the break room for the secretaries. I was lucky to get outta there with my arm. I swear you could throw a whole cow in that room and by evening there'd only be bones."
"I gotta lose this weight. Marcy is really serious about this."
"Did ya go to the nutritionist at the hospital? That's where I'd start, then exercise. Come on, Frank. You were in the Marines, you know what it takes. You just don't wanna do it. I still do the same workout that I did when I was in the service." I smiled. "But now Alex rides on my back. It's really cool."
In an abrupt change of topic, Frank said. "You got Monty's view of Utopia?"
"Yeah, I did. I've already talked to our engineers. They've got a lot of ideas, but I'm thinking we could use more talent."
Frank glanced up from his salad. "I told David to keep an eye out for the right acquisition. You're thinking controls, right?
I stared out the window at the gray. "Yeah, that's where we're light, but maybe more. I gotta think about it. When did you talk to David?"
"Relax. I just talked to him an hour ago. He's not holding out on you."
"Frank, I don't care. There's lots of stuff David can't talk about. I got used to it a long time ago."
Frank looked like he was suppressing a gag reflex as he took another bite of salad. "Well, in this case it would probably be a help if you guys did talk. You know what we need, probably better than I do, and let's face it, David's gonna work harder to make you happy than me." Frank was munching on a cracker. "Marky, why don't you discuss what Monty told you with David?"
I was flabbergasted! "Frank, isn't that classified?"
Frank smiled. "Fuck no. Monty's a politician, just an unofficial one. Now if Shetland had told you it'd be different, but Monty doesn't officially have the rank. Mind you, he could get Shetland canned in a second, but he still doesn't have an official position."
I can't get over how much David and Frank are alike. They both constantly play three dimensional chess, everything is wheels within wheels. "Frank, wouldn't it be easier if you just called David and told him what you really want rather than having me getting him to guess. You know and I know that you've got some deep dark plan floating in the back of your mind. Why not just tell him."
Frank took a sip of his coffee. "He likes the challenge, Marky, he likes the challenge."
I'm walking past Alex playing with Joe in the living room when I reach down quickly and scoop him up in my arms. He's screaming, squealing, and laughing all at the same time while he twists and wiggles in my arms.
"Daaaaaaddddd!" I've tilted him forward until he's pretty much upside down, he's scared and thrilled, and his hair is all blond static electricity. Joe comes over and licks his head. I guess just because he figures he can. "Daadd, what are you doin?"
"I just spotted a little boy and I thought that I might like to capture him."
Alex giggles. "What are ya gonna do with me now that you've captured me?"
I lift him back up and then flop down on my back on the sofa holding Alex safely to my chest. "Well… I was thinking that maybe I could take a nap with this little boy."
"Noooooo, Dad! I don't wanna take a nap. Naps are dumb!" I kiss the top of his head, but he really doesn't notice. At four you're not capable of understanding how important these moments are to your dad.
I loosen my grip on Alex and he turns over and looks at me. "We could play Army. Would you wanna do that, Dad?" His eyes are glittering.
I touch his nose lightly with my fingertip. "I got a better idea, sweetheart! Why don't we take a nap?"
Mimicking me, Alex reaches forward and touches my nose. "Dad, you could take a nap with David. He likes to take naps. And I could watch television."
Alex is straddling my stomach and bouncing up and down, his energy is boundless and he vibrates with little boy life. "Okay, well how about this? You lay down on my chest and close your eyes for just a few minutes, you absolutely don't have to go to sleep, then we'll play Army."
"You sure, Dad?" He's totally suspicious. "I don't have to sleep? And then for suuuuuure we'll play Army?"
"Yep, but you actually gotta close your eyes and rest, otherwise it doesn't count." Alex smiled at me, made a weird, scary, little boy face, folded his arms on my chest and laid his head on top of them.
"I'm only gonna close my eyes for a few minutes, Dad. Then we're gonna" he yawns, "play Army, right?" God, if he only knew how important he was to me, how much holding him, being sure that he's okay means to me. I dread the moment that I know will come when he'll expect to be treated as an adult because he'll be one. He won't want to be held then, at least not by his dad.
"That's right, sweetheart, just a few minutes." I rest my hand ever so lightly on the back of his neck - he's already asleep.
"Pull!" Two clay pigeons come flying out and Mike swings toward one, shoots, then the other and fires again. The shotgun is a beautiful Italian over and under 12 gauge and Mike looks like he should be pictured in an advertisement for them. Damn, the man is good looking! Both clay pigeons explode over the embankment that runs down and touches Lake Michigan. We've been shooting for an hour.
I yell, "Pull!" Then swing my Winchester 12 gauge semiautomatic around and pick off both of them. "I got a feeling that we're never gonna screw up bad enough for one of us to win."
Mike cracks open his shotgun and pulls out the expended shells. He smiles. "You're probably right. Whadya say we call it a day and walk over to the clubhouse and get a beer?"
I'm already sliding my shotgun into its case. "You gotta deal!"
Mike breaks his gun down and arranges it in the case that was obviously made for it. "I've been trying to teach Ted to shoot, but it's a lost cause. He's afraid of the shotgun."
We turn and start walking to the clubhouse. "It's not for everyone, David hates guns too." Then changing the subject. "When are you guys finally gonna get to move into that house?"
Mike groans. "Fucking soon I hope! Damn, this is the most frustrating experience of my life. Why the hell did we ever decide to build? Everything in our lives is in an uproar - boxes everywhere. Good thing that Ted and I are both pretty easy going, cause this would be the perfect time to go ballistic." He laughed. "Actually, the shooting helps. I feel better."
"Come on." I wave him forward. "The beer will help too."
Minutes later, we're sitting at a table in the clubhouse bar and Mike and I both stretch our legs out. I look at him and shake my head. "How the fuck do you always look this good? We're both about the same size and age, but you always look like you were dressed by somebody at GQ and I look like a bag of bolts."
Mike makes a face at me and then laughs. "Actually, I've always wondered if maybe you were straight." He smiles and then frowns. "First of all, you look fine. You're a great looking guy and you dress well and comfortably."
"Yeah, well I know that I don't look like dog shit, but I never look as put together, as right as you do."
Mike looks uncomfortable with this turn in the conversation, then finally leans forward and puts his elbows on the table. "I was trained for it."
I lift an eyebrow. "Whatdya mean?"
He's pointing his finger at me. "If you ever repeat this, I'm gonna be totally pissed at you! But… I used to model… clothes… when I was in high school and then some in college." Mike tilts his head to the side and says. "Don't give me that fucking look! I needed the money!" He lifts his hand and then drops it. "Anyway, they taught me about clothes." He laughs. "Then the Marine corps taught me to forget everything about it… but it never really leaves you."
An actual thought finally penetrates my thick skull. "Being good looking has been a pain in the ass, hasn't it?"
Mike looks up at me and his eyes widen a bit. "Fucking right! Wait, that sounds wrong! I mean… it's a gift… a freebie, and I don't have any right to complain." He shifts in his chair. "And I wouldn't…well, I never have before, but you're a friend." He looks slightly surprised and gives me a crooked smile. "Actually, not counting Ted, you're my best friend. So, let's just say that it has it's down side. Patients don't think that I can be a good doc because of the way I look… all kinds of shit. Even with guys… well, before I met Ted, I never knew if they really liked me for who I am or for my looks." He smiles at me and then takes a gulp of his beer. "You prick! You know this makes me uncomfortable."
I slouch a little lower in my chair and look at Mike over the rim of my beer glass and smile. My voice is low. "So, this modeling, was this like on a runway with flashbulbs popping?"
Mike grits his teeth and then drops his head and shakes it slowly. "God, I'm a fucking idiot! Why do I even talk to you?"
David was washing a couple of dishes when I walked up behind him, wrapped my arms around his waist, and buried my nose in his hair. He kept washing the dishes, but asks me, "How many stories did it take?"
I laughed. "He fell asleep during the second one, but it took three for Joe."
This time David laughed. "Joe really gets into the plot."
I bent my head and kissed the side of David's neck and felt him shiver. "Wanna watch a little television?"
David was drying his hands. "What's on?"
I laughed. "Beats the shit outta me. I just wanna neck."
David turned and leaned against the counter, never letting go of my hands. "No sex?"
"Nope, not intimate enough." I reached forward and put my hand behind his neck and draw him gently to me. "Sometimes sex isn't enough, or maybe rather it's kinda a substitute. Sometimes I just really need to hold you, but we always end up fucking, which I love. But it's like, sometimes it's not really what I need, but it's what we do instead. That make any sense?"
David's face was pressed to my chest. He spoke softly. "Yeah… it does." He wrapped his arms tightly around my waist. "Sometimes when you're outta town… it's like I think that I'll go nuts just from not having you holding me."
I pulled David with me into the family room, where we lay down on the sofa; his head lying on my right upper arm and my left hand resting on his stomach. I was speaking softly, just a fraction of an inch from the side of his face. "Alex says that he's ready for preschool."
"Yeah, he told me too. Good thing. I just mailed the check."
David turned his head slightly to the left and we kiss. It isn't a hard kiss or a deep French kiss with dueling tongues, but rather a light dry kiss that somehow seems so much more important. David swallowed and flashed those eyes at me, now a deep, deep emerald green. He started to speak, stopped and then started again. "He's… he's a good boy."
The fingers of my left hand are buried in his hair, I turn his face toward me and kiss him lightly again. "Yeah… we're lucky." Then moments later. "You've done a great job with him." David made a quiet little sound in the back of his throat.
I laid my cheek next to his and then moved my mouth, slowly kissing the side of his face and then his eyes. My cock was so hard it ached, but it really wasn't important, not now anyway, maybe later, but not now. Right now I was overwhelmed by David, by the connection with him that I was feeling. A connection that was more intimate, more complex than sex. In a way, moments like this were the only times that I really felt like a total complete human being not missing some nebulous other half of me.
"Me? He worships you." He said quietly. David twisted his head further and buries his face in my neck.
I put my hand lightly on the back of his head. "No, baby, you're the one who's always here for him. I just seem to fly in from time to time, tuck him in, and read him a story while he's falling asleep."
David reached up and ran his fingers lightly over my face, our lips were still only a fraction of an inch apart. He looks in his eyes like he wants to speak, but I know what he wants to say and he knows what I'll say back, so I just kiss him, slowly, gently, then harder and more deeply.
The thump, thump, thump of the rotor blades is like pounding into my body, that and the smell of exhaust from the turbines. It's forty feet or so to the ground and I swing out into space and start lowering myself hand over hand to the street below and that's when I see them. Hundreds, no thousand of people pouring out of every side street and alley moving towards me like a river, then they're right under the helicopter pointing up at me and screaming, some have guns and some have knives, but the scariest part is their teeth. They all have long sharp animal teeth that protrude out over their lips.
Now they're beginning to climb up the rope that I'm trying to climb down. I've never been so scared - I pull out my Beretta 92 and begin firing down into the crowd below the copter. I can see the bullets hit and the blood splatter, but it doesn't stop them from climbing the rope even while the blood is spurting from their bodies, then I look above and still more of them are beginning to pile outtta the copter and they're starting to climb down the rope. Pretty soon I'm outta bullets, so I pull out my knife and start slashing at them, but nothing stops them.
"Mark! Mark!" David is shaking me and I wake up in full panic from the dream.
I can feel the sweat on my face and pretty soon David reaches over and grabs a handful of tissues from the nightstand and starts wiping my face. I know that I'm shaking inside, but have no idea how I look on the outside.
"Oh fuck, man! Oh fuck, that was bad."
David is sitting up against the headboard and pulls my head over onto his lap. I shove my left hand behind his back and wrap my right arm around him from the other side and hang on for dear life.
"Battle?" David asks.
"Yeah, kinda... horrible, horrible." David is gently stroking my hair and as usual when this happens he's saying as little as possible.
Then David says. "Mark. Mark you still awake?"
And I kinda still am. "Mmmm, yeah." My tongue feels thick.
"Mark, when you had lunch with Frank? Mark, you awake?"
"Yeah… yeah, babe."
"Frank actually used the word Utopia? That wasn't a word you came up with? He actually said that word?"
He felt so good. My anchor. "Yeah, babe, Utopia."
He started to stroke my hair again. "Go back to sleep, baby; go back to sleep."