Chapter 23

 

Michael opened his eyes slowly. The sunlight warmed his face and the sounds of traffic echoed from the street, the noise seeming to grow louder with each minute. He felt exhausted, there had been another fight and the bedside next to him was empty. Jean was sleeping on the couch, probably suffering from a hangover.

Michael had barely slept, his head ached and he didn't even have the strength to cry. "Get up," he whispered to himself and thought about the dinner with Sam to gather some strength to get up.

Jean hadn't hit him this time, but it had been close. Michael had told him about Samuel, told about his new friend and for a small moment he had felt the deceiving hope that Jean could be happy for him. No, Jean wasn't happy, he had been furious. Sam couldn't be good because he had made Michael late from what he had promised. Michael knew that Jean indented to forbid him from seeing Sam again; Jean would forbid life from him.

Michael sat up on the edge of the bed and gazed out from the window. He didn't want to let go. "Don't settle for what is, fight and decide that you'll succeed." He remembered Sam telling him and knew that it was something that the Michael he had before would have believed in. He shouldn't give up – Jack would have told him the same thing. Ricky had already stolen so many years from his youth and Michael didn't want to give up on those he could still have. He wanted to keep his newfound friendship; Jean couldn't take that from him. With this thought firmly on his mind Michael rose to his feet, got dressed and slowly walked towards the kitchen. On his way he glanced at his partner who lay on the couch, almost empty bottle of whiskey on the table next to him, an empty glass next to it. Michael shook his head in contempt and continued his way

"Chéri," the hoarse voice called from the couch. Michael poured water into the heather. He gritted his teeth but didn't reply and so the man called a second time.

"What?" His tone was tired and fed up. He heard a knock from the living room, Jean cursed and Michael felt himself tensing up.

"Can you make me a cup of coffee?" Jean asked. Michael pressed the water heater on and looked for the coffee grounds from the closet. He didn't even have the strength to answer, he could feel his anxiety growing, tears rose to his eyes. This was one of those mornings when everything felt so incredibly hard. Last night when he had been dining out with Sam, it had felt like he had been given a taste of something he could never fully have anymore and it only left him thirsty for another bite of it. He yearned to be normal, yearned to be like most people.

Michael heard the steps approaching the kitchen and quickly wiped his eyes trying to pull himself together. He took two mugs from the closet above the sink and placed them on the table. Then he walked to the fridge and started taking out ingredients to make breakfast. He could feel Jean staring at him from the doorway.

"Chéri," Jean whispered, his voice filled with worry and regret. "Please talk to me." He asked sounding almost like a regretful child.

"I shouldn't have shouted at you." Michael stopped for a second and drew a deep breath, his shoulders felt heavy. He heard as Jean drew closer to him and turned his head to he side taking a sideway glance at his lover.

"No, you shouldn't have." He whispered. "I did nothing to deserve it," he added with sudden boldness. Jean stood behind him, hesitated and Michael could feel how badly Jean wanted to touch him. "You need to give me space to live my own life too, you need to allow me to have friends of my own. You promised me, you promised that I could be free with you. Did that promise already escape your mind?" He asked quietly. Jean sighed, stepped closer and lowered his hand on his shoulder.

"Chéri… I love you, I'm concerned and that's why I yell sometimes." Jean replied. Only it wasn't just sometimes it was too often, Michael thought. Jean kissed his neck and brought his hands on Michael's stomach.

"I'm going out with them on Friday. With Samuel, Kitty and their friends…" Michael said quietly while Jean snuggled against him. The smell of alcohol on Jean's breath made him feel nauseated and uncomfortable.

"I don't like the idea…" Jean whispered while continuing to caress him. "Who is this Samuel? What does he want from you?"

"To be my friend." Michael replied and his answer made Jean snort.

"Friend." He whispered and brought his hand underneath Michael's shirt. "Do you love me?" Jean asked and kissed his earlobe. The water was boiling and the heather gave a small click when it turned itself off.

"Of course…" Michael replied, turned his head and attempted to smile.

"Say it." Jean insisted.

"I love you…" Michael whispered. Jean grasped his chin and brought his lips on his to kiss him hungrily. Michael did his best to respond and not allow the feeling of utter disgust to take over.

"Good." Jean whispered while observing him. "You would never betray my trust, would you, chéri?" He asked with a smile though his voice had a threating ring to it.

"Of course not. I just want to have friends… You have yours and I…."

"You want to be with people your own age…. Of course I want you to be happy." Another kiss. "Go then, on Friday… As long as you're home before midnight, is that clear?" Jean asked and Michael nodded. He supposed that this was the best concession that Jean would be ready to give him.

Jean smiled. "Lets go to the bedroom before breakfast…" He whispered and took Michael's hand and Michael knew he couldn't afford to refuse. This was something he'd have to consent to if he wanted to spend time with Sam without having to lie to Jean.

Chapter 24

September 11th 2001

Michael smiled while working, his thoughts continuously escaping to Sam. They had only met a couple of timed but already those moments with the blond had brought him more happiness than what he had experienced in years. He was careful not to stay too long, not to take time away from Jean and him. And Jean hadn't really complained, perhaps he was careful not to anger his friend Eric who had started to observe their relationship closer with some concern.

Around four in the afternoon the fuss began. "World Trade center was hit by a plane!" Someone suddenly shouted and Michael turned to look towards the man who looked quite frantic holding his phone with a shaky hand. "Open the television!" The people looked at each other with confusion. Someone opened the television where a newscast was currently playing.

Michael set drinks from his hands in front of a couple sitting in front of the bar. He then walked closer to the screen with disbelieve on his features. The whole restaurant had suddenly drawn silent except for the newscast that now seemed to have every ones attention. Michael felt his heart beat increase, he found himself trembling. Both towers had been hit, there was smoke and confused and terrified people on the steers of New York. Michael felt dizzy; he tried his best to understand what they were telling.

"Do you have friends there?" Olivia asked but for a moment Michael couldn't bring himself to answer. He looked towards the nightmare like picture and couldn't help but to think if Ricky might be in one of the towers in one of his meetings. "Michael?" Olivia repeated.

Michael couldn't draw his gaze from the TV; he brought his hand to his mouth in shock as he witnessed the tiny dark shapes of people jumping from the windows to their death. People were dying; hundreds of people, innocent people with family and loved ones… And Michael couldn't help but to wonder if Ricky and Joe were among them, could those men he had been forced to lay with be among them. Michael hoped for it, hoped so intensely that the regret and quilt for those countless innocent hit him hard after and made him feel sick.

"You've gone pale… Come…" Olivia led him to the staff's quarters and urged him to take a seat down. "Wait here," she asked and
Michael could only nod.

It didn't take long for Olivia to return with Mrs. Gladstone. "Oh my dear boy," she walked closer and gave him a hug. "You're concerned for your loved ones? Why don't you take the rest of the day off?" She suggested and touched his cheek in a motherly like gesture and Michael felt incredibly guilty when he nodded.

"I'm sorry…" He muttered with shame.

"Don't be silly. Go now, go to your man, try to calm down and call me if you need to take some days off."
Michael nodded little stiffly and got up. "Thank you," he said. Olivia hugged him and it only made him feel worse. They thought he was mourning, that he was concerned for his friends, but it wasn't true. Of course he was sad for the innocent people, but most of all he felt disturbing and almost fearful hope that Ricky might be among those who had died. If Ricky had died, he would be free, he could search for Jack, he could… return home?

When Michael got home he opened the TV and read all the news he could find from the Internet. Just before six pm Jean got home. Michael still sat in the living room watching the News with heartbreaking scenery. The towers had collapsed, hundreds had died or gone missing. He cried silently, felt the unpleasant touch of the past, and remembered things he would have rather forgotten.
Jean stepped into the living room, glanced at the screen and then at Michael's tears filled face. "Chéri," he spoke softly and approached, he pulled him to his embrace.

"I can't stop praying for his death…" Michael cried squeezing Jeans shirt inside his fists, searching comfort from him. Jean stroked his hair and planted a small kiss on his forehead, while glancing at the screen. "I'm horrible… I shouldn't be thinking about it at a moment like this."

"You're not horrible… It's natural that you wish for it," Jean whispered and felt sudden wave of warmth that Michael was close to him like this, searching comfort from him. The past months had been difficult for them and Jean had often felt Michael slipping farther away from him. Moments like these, Michael in his arms, hugging him tightly, closeness without sex had been rare, too rare.
Jean saw the opportunity to get that closeness and trust back between them. He had already tried his best, he had cut down his drinking, tried to be a better partner. He didn't want to lose Michael. He couldn't handle losing him. Michael had come to mean everything to him. Still, looking at the news now, while holding his lover close he couldn't help but to wonder; If Ricky and Joe would be dead then Michael would be free to leave. The fear of Ricky wouldn't hold him still any longer.

Jean remained silent and stroked Michael's back. He had to be supportive, had to regain Michael's trust. "Are you hungry?" He asked. Michael sat up, wiped his eyes and then shook his head.

"I don't really have any appetite. There's some leftovers from yesterday in the fridge if you are hungry."

"What if I prepare you a cup of tea?" Jean suggested. "Tomorrow I will try to find out if Ricky was in one of the buildings, okay?" Michael nodded.

"Thank you Jean," he whispered. Jean smiled, stroked his hair tenderly and got up. He glanced back and saw Michael staring at the screen intensively. Jean sighed; if Ricky would be dead would Michael still stay with him?

"I'm sorry chéri," Jean said the next evening when he got home. "I made a couple of inquiries today, Ricky wasn't even in New York yesterday, I found that he's in Los Angeles on a business trip." Michael sat on the couch, a book on his lap, his lower lip quivered and he nodded slowly looking away from Jean.

"I guess it was too much to ask…" He whispered hoarsely and felt a stab of bitterness. "Why is it that the bad people survive, Jean? It's not fair." Michael looked back at his lover who smiled with sadness and got closer.

"No, but few things in life are fair." He replied and sat next to Michael. "Come here," Jean opened up his arms and Michael crawled close to him, settling his head on Jean's chest, listening to his heartbeat. They were quiet, Michael thought about his past, about Ricky and felt the familiar pinch of fear slowly taking over.

"He'll look for me… He'll search until he finds me… He won't give up." Michael whispered. "What if he finds me?"

"I'll protect you, don't worry. I've covered your tracks well."

"But he's been in Paris before, he could return."

"I'm following his movements, I will know if he intends to come here and if he will, then I'll travel with you to some place else." Jean assured. Michael felt himself calming down slightly and he drew a deep breath. Jean brought his hand on his chin and leaned forward to kiss him softly. The kiss turned more intense and finally Michael backed away knowing what Jean was after.

"I'm sorry, I'm not in the mood." He whispered and glanced at Jean seeing his expression darkening. Jean got up.

"Is there something to eat?" Jean asked with a bored sigh.

"I'll go and prepare something for you." Michael said and got up. He looked at Jean with hesitation before coming closer and kissing his cheek. "Thank you Jean." He said before walking into the kitchen.
________________________________________

"Did you have friends there?" Sam asked while they were walking slowly along the Seine a week after the terrorist act. Michael wrapped his arms around his chest looking down at the pavement.

"Acquaintances, but…" He shrugged and glanced at Sam. "No one that I would mourn, who I'd be in contact with or who I would know to have deceased." He replied.

"It was terrible in any case." Sam sighed. "At times one has to wonder where this world and the humankind is going to."

Michael was quiet and went over his thoughts before he spoke. "In truth there have been similar terrorist acts in different parts of the world before too, the news are often filled with terrible things that people pass by quickly because it doesn't really have a direct affect on them. It easy to grow numb on such news when they keep repeating…I guess we need to pass some of it, or one would go insane thinking about all the weight and sorrow in the world." Michael pondered quietly, and frowned.

"But now it happened close, I mean it happened in our western society where average people didn't perhaps expect it to happen. It's easier to identify with people who have similar lifestyle and culture. We can more easily picture ourselves in those people's places who died or those who lost someone in New York that day. That's why this feel so shocking and huge to us, so unheard of. We know bad things happen, but until it happens to us we…" Again Michael frowned, feeling uneasy. He had never thought before that something like Ricky could happen to him. "We don't really believe it could happen to us… It seems absurd." He shook his head, his mind was crowded with different thoughts but Sam was there and he listened keenly.

"You're right. It was unexpected although I guess we should have seen it coming, perhaps not quite like this but… Still, I don't know, it just seems like there is a lot more cruelty lately…"

"Or perhaps we are just more aware of things… There's always been cruelty and wars and insanity of humankind… Now we are just more informed of it because of the Internet and media. And still there happen lots of bad things that stay hidden… So is the world really more cruel and insane than lets say sixty or fifty years ago, or two hundred years ago? There have always been wars and people killing each other for religion or politics, or just hatred; I doubt it will ever change as much as one would wish it to change." Michael sighed.

"So no hope for the humankind, we are slowly but surely destroying ourselves and the world we live in… That is a depressing thought."

"Well, you never know… Perhaps the world will find a cure to get rid of us and save itself." Michael grinned. "But yes there is little hope for us I think, in the long run."

"Our conversation turned quite grim." Sam took note and chucked. "There is lots of good too, in us humans as well. We should focus on that."

"I suppose your right." Michael smiled.

"I am right." Sam assured. They were both quiet for a little while until Sam spoke out again. "But a following thought… I often find myself wondering how much the world has changed over the past hundred years for example. How odd it must have been for someone born in early 1900's and still be alive today and having witness all these changes, radio, TV, telephones turning into mobile phones and internet and all of it. Even I found small resistance when the mobile phones first arrived. I thought I wouldn't need one and here I am, almost not imagining my life without one."

Michael smiled and nodded. "I know what you mean. Although I am still not sure if I like having a mobile phone, I sometimes just get annoyed when it rings and I'd want to be in peace." He chuckled.

"You can turn it off too, you know." Sam winked with a soft chuckle and Michael held his urge to snort at this. Instead he smiled, thought to himself him shutting his phone for a whole day would drive Jean insane and the decided to change the subject.

"I wonder will the world continue to change a lot? One would think that at some point the constant progress has to regress. Can everything keep moving forward or can we grow weary of the changes and updates? Maybe at some point we will want to turn back and live like our grandparents or something?" Michael shrugged and gazed towards the sky a dreamy look in his eyes that made Sam curious.

"Oh but we have yet to witness the flying cars and realistic human like androids!" Sam pointed out amusedly. "Can't go back before we see that…. After that I'd happily ditch my flying car and demand that the whole society must do so as well. Everyone would have to abandon cars and only ride horses or bicycles." He nodded and Michael chuckled at that.

"Sign me in." He smiled and again he had that far away dreamy look in his eyes.

"If you could choose one place, go anywhere at all, where would it be?" Sam changed the subject.

"At the moment?" Michael asked and Sam nodded. "I would love if I could go back to Ireland, ride a horse on the moors and then later spend a day by the ocean. Just walk with my feet's in the water, along the shore. Listen how the waves hit the rocks…
When I was young we spend many summers in Ireland, often my best friend was with us… I just long the sense of freedom that I had when I could just go riding, everyday if I chose so. All my worries would disappear. The most happiest memories I have are those summers there."

"Ah yes, childhood summers, nothing beats them! If only one could go back and say; enjoy your childhood better, adulthood sucks!" Sam joked, before getting serious again. "Anyway, what really stops you from going?"
Michael hesitated, what could he say? "You don't really travel with these wages." He finally chuckled. "Perhaps one day."

"And than man of yours?"

"Ireland isn't a place he'd wish to visit. We're different in that sense, Jean doesn't see the point in walking around on the moors or the shores with no specific direction. And he's not keen on riding. He has tried to please me a couple of times, taking me to the countryside, but… Well, Jean was more interested of the wine than horses and in the end it didn't really bring either of us joy…."

"That's a shame," Sam smiled looking at Michael, feeling hope waking up inside. "I would like that." He decided to add.

"Have you ridden a horse before?"

"Sure, I've been riding since I was a boy! My sister owns a horse farm. Perhaps one day you can come with me to meet her?" Sam suggested. Michael looked at him quietly, with curiosity and smiled. He stopped when he spotted a flat stone on the ground, lifted it up and twirled in his hands wondering how it would feel like to able to return to England.

"Who knows, maybe one day?" he replied before throwing the stone towards the water, he looked how it slid and jumped on the surface a couple of times before sinking. Michael bit his lip and grinned at the blond who smiled back. "I couldn't resist, it's rare to find a suitable stone here…" He said and Sam chuckled finding the gesture somewhat endearing.
They continued walking slowly. "Where would you travel if you could choose any place at all?" Michael asked and Sam was quiet for a moment. The truth was that he could afford to travel anywhere he liked and despite his young age he had already travel a lot, but…

"Have you read the Lord of the rings trilogy?" Sam asked.

"No." Michael replied and gave him a curious look.

"Really? You must definitely read them! Or… I could take you to watch the first movie on the cinema this December. Although, often a movie can be disappointment to a great book, so…" Sam shrugged and looked at him. "You must have heard of them at least, of hobbits and the rest?"

"Heard but… I don't know about them all that much…"

Sam shook his head. "Oh then you really don't know what you've missed!" He sighed and grinned after. "Well, in the books there's a place called Shire, where the hobbits live and they way it's described I imagine it being this beautiful, peaceful place, green all over, breath taking. Perhaps kind of like your Ireland" Sam thought. "If it was a real place, I'd go there in a second.

"Well you managed to woke my curiosity. I think I need to get those books somewhere."

"I can borrow mine," Sam smiled. "If you promise to treat them well, they are my preciouses." Sam grinned.

"If those books are meaningful to you, then I don't know if I dare to bring them home… Not that I wouldn't trust myself with handling them, but because Jean… Hm.. let's just say that there has been accidents… He doesn't always appreciate the books I read with such value that they deserve."

"So, he's a twerp?" Sam teased and Michael chuckled.

"He's just not a book person."

"And I rest my case; he's a twerp!" Sam grinned and Michael couldn't but to smile.

October 2001

"Look Sam, now you can try as well." Michael grinned and took a couple of small, flat stones from his pocket. They stood next to the Seine and the blond chuckled when he saw the stones on Michael's hand.

"Where did you found those?"

"We were on a trip to the coast this weekend I made a small exploration by foot…" Michael explained with a smile. "Aren't they perfect? I only selected the best."
Sam took one small, smooth stone from the younger man and observed him with curiosity, smile on his lips.

"So you're collecting rocks?" He asked and Michael laughed softly shaking his head.

"No, not really. As a child I found it fun. We collected stones like these with my best friend so that we could chuck them in the water. Water breads, you know?" Sam kept his eyes on the dark haired man and shook his head with a smile. "You've never thrown water breads?" Michael asked in surprise and Sam tried not to grin when he again shook his head. He saw the almost child like enthusiasm lit up his face and found it both endearing and fascinating.

"The idea is to get the bread… the stone bread, to jump on the surface as many times as possible." Michael continued and threw the first one on the water after making sure that there were no boats coming.

"Alright, your turn. Michael urged him and Sam shrugged before giving his rather clumsy try. The younger man laughed gently as his attempt failed and gave him a new stone while trying his best to guide him. Sam didn't really succeed any better than the first time. "This would be a lot more fun if we were somewhere where people didn't give us odd looks for doing this." Michael sighed, smiled and threw the last stone before gesturing the other to follow him. They walked towards the near by café.

"Do you miss your friend? The one who threw those water breads with you." Sam asked after they had gotten takeaway coffees. They usually got on these long walks around the city, which Sam found pleasing. It felt easier to talk when there weren't people around that could listen to their every word.

"Of course," Michael answered with a sad smile. "I miss a lot of things," he admitted, took a small pause and studied Sam's face with thoughtful expression. They had only known each other for a short while, but already Michael felt that he could trust the other and it was a rare feeling after everything.

"Your family?" Sam asked and Michael nodded.

"I haven't been completely honest with you." He started and took a sib from the carbon mug before continuing. "I'm not really from London." Michael confessed.

"No? Then where?"

"Plymouth… Devonport to be exact."

"May I ask why you didn't tell me the truth from the start?" Sam asked and Michael shrugged.

"Home seems such a far away place… I was a different person then and… I don't know, I don't think I can explain. I guess it felt easier to say that I'm from someplace else. I've tried to forget the things that I miss, but they are not so easy to forget."

"I think you should contact your family." Sam said and pondered if he should tell his own secret. On the other hand it felt too early and he rather liked that he could be just an average man. "How long have you been away?"

Michael was silent, would he reveal too much if he'd tell? "I was seventeen when I left. It feels a lifetime ago to be honest and… It's
too complicated. I can't return."

"Why?"

"I just can't!" Michael snapped and made Samuel surprised of his strong reaction. "I'm sorry," the young man said then. "Can we talk about something else?"

Sam sighed and nodded. Apparently it would take time until Michael was ready to share all his secrets. On the other hand, he couldn't really blame him when he was hiding a part of his true self as well.
________________________________________

Their meetings continued regularly, the fall changed to winter and Michael felt new kind of confidence when he was with his new friends. He almost felt normal; like he had obtained a feeling that he had sought after and thought he had already lost forever. It was almost too easy to convince himself that he could blend in with the normal people.
Michael had learned to say no to Jean. Learned that he didn't have to agree to have sex every time Jean wanted it, not if he himself didn't feel like it and lately those times that he wanted it were few.

Michael knew he was in trouble because he was helplessly attracted to his blond friend. Samuel was everything he could dream of; handsome, kind, funny, good with conversation and so… normal. How could someone so normal ever understand what he had experienced or even accept it?

Michael did sense Sam's equal interest in him. The man didn't even try to hide it anymore when they were alone or lately… their eyes often met in crowded rooms, among other people. That certain look, that small smile, longing that passed between them… The longing to touch… As innocent as it was, almost a feather like touch of a hand that often happened almost accidentally. Even that small touch made Michael flush and his heart flutter, tingling of excitement in his stomach. Feelings he had thought to lose forever. Thought that it would be impossible to experience feelings like this after everything that had been done to him.
Michael was afraid of his feelings. He was afraid because he knew the risk and knew that he couldn't have what his heart desired. Love… He had loved a couple of times before and experienced the feeling of loss. If Sam knew what he had been, he wouldn't look at him the same way that he did now. The admiration would disappear and be replaced by contempt and it would crush him.

Michael hoped he could feel to Jean what he felt for Sam, it would be so much simpler. Sam was a dream, that couldn't really be part of his reality. And Michael felt ashamed of his dreams because it wasn't fair to Jean. He had to stay silent, try to get past his feelings, stop dreaming the impossible.

Sam had met Jean a couple of times and he didn't like the man, Jean seemed too arrogant, possessive and demanding. The relationship didn't seem equal and when Jean was around Michael behaved differently. He became more silent and careful with his words; there was always that certain sadness that Sam could detect from his eyes.

The relationship wasn't happy, Sam was certain, but getting Michael to admit it proved difficult. Whenever he asked, Michael smiled and replied that the man had done so much for him to be grateful about. But what about love? Michael had never mentioned the word love when they talked about Jean.

Sam felt confused. He had never felt so strongly towards anyone. If Michael could just give him a chance, open his eyes and… Sam started to feel quite certain that something big could happen between them.

It was mid January. They sat in an Irish pub that had become somewhat regular place for them to spend a Friday evening. Kitty and their mutual friends were with them and like so often before Sam and Michael kept stealing glances of each other barely able to concentrate on anyone else. Michael felt his heart rate speeding up, the feelings he had for Sam felt overwhelming. Finally he had to excuse himself, regretting that he had to leave early and Sam could see through his sudden departure.
Sam took his jacket and followed. It was snowing; Sam lifted his collars, saw Michael walking a few meters before him and hurried to catch him.

"What is it?" Sam asked. "Why did you leave so suddenly?" Michael glanced at him and swallowed.

"I promised Jean to be home early."

"He is your partner, not your father! Why do you allow him to set you curfews?" Sam asked with agitated voice.

"You wouldn't understand!" Michael snapped and continued to walk. Sam took his arm and made him stop.

"Try me?" He asked, looking at him in a searching way. "Michael, you must have noticed how I-" he started.

"No, please don't say it." Michael's voice quivered full of anguish. The snow flakes melted on his face, his heart was still racing.

"You wouldn't understand, it's too complicated to understand…"
What is?" Sam frowned, but Michael shook his head stubbornly.

"I have to go now…" He said and pulled his arm free before rushing forward on the snowy street. Sam looked helplessly after the younger man. There were times that he was really difficult to understand, the mystery that both fascinated him and was driving him insane at the same time. He had never felt this way to anyone.

Michael got home, he still felt shaky and almost out of breathe when he closed the door after him. He heard Jean's and his friend's voices from the living room. Michael gritted his teeth, felt his eyes almost starting to water when he thought of Sam and how he felt about him. He wanted to assure himself that the only reason that he felt the way he did was because Sam was out of reach for him, from a world that was still good and were dreams could be reached.

"Michael?" Jean called him and he undressed his coat and left it on the hanger.

"Yes?" He replied with hoarse voice and quickly wiped his eyes before walking towards the living room. Jean, Patrick, Louise and Felipe sat there drinking wine. The conversation paused when he entered the room, all eyes fixing on him. Michael felt like making a nasty face to Patrick who as usual looked at him in a lewd manner.

"You were out quite late." Jean took notice and glanced at the clock than was past midnight. Michael gritted his teeth and gave him a tight smile. This was late only if it concerned him having a night out with his friends. Jean had a completely different schedule; he could come and go just as he wanted and Michael just had to accept that. To his horror Michael noticed feeling some sort of distaste and even loathing towards his partner and these were feelings that had lately started to grow.

"Your friends are here pretty late," Michael replied and forced a sweet smile on his face. Patrick snorted.

"The boy is getting quite sassy, Jean…" Patrick commented without taking his gaze away from Michael. "Perhaps you should remind him of his place."

Michael felt rage boiling inside of him. "And what place is that, Patrick?" He hissed. The man smiled in that arrogant way of his and was silent for a moment.

"On the bed, naked, your cute little butt up, waiting for your man." Patrick replied and laughed as though he had just made a good joke. Louis and Felipe looked uncomfortable. Jean tried to hide his smile.

"I've fucking had enough!" Michael cursed and went to the bedroom where he started packing his bag. "I'm going to spend the night at Eric and Paul!" He announced when Jean followed him into the room.

"It was only a joke, chéri." Jean chuckled.

"Do I look like I'm laughing?" Michael asked with cold tone stopping for a moment before heading to the front door. Jean glanced at his friends, couldn't handle the idea that he'd lose his face in front of them by not being able to control his young lover.

"You're not going anywhere!" Jean roared, took Michael's arm and dragged towards the bedroom. He banged the door shut after them and slapped Michael harshly across the face making him cry out from pain. "Dammit you will respect me, you ungrateful brat!"

Jean breathed tensely; his eyes were filled with rage. Michael held his sore cheek, looking at Jean quietly; he felt tears rolling silently down on his face. "Those new friends have clouded your judgment." Jean continued with calmer tone, though his expression was unchanged and cold. "Do you think for a moment that if they knew you were a whore that they'd want you in their company."

Michael was quiet and swallowed. "If I'd explain…" He started with his voice quivering and then shook his head without comfort. Jean stepped closer and touched his cheek.

"Chéri," the voice was gentle again. "No one else could do for you as much as I have. No other man would be ready to forget about your past. Your friends are your friends only because they don't know the truth. Mark my words."

"Why are you being so cruel?" Michael asked with quiet tone. "You know that I didn't choose it, they'd understand." He continued, wanting to convince himself of it.

"I'm not cruel, I'm just telling you how it is." Jean replied and wiped the tears from Michael's eyes with his thumb. "I'll go now to apologize my friends for your behavior. I do not want you to raise another scene like this ever again." Jean said and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Feeling numb Michael sat on the edge of the bed. He hated his life, hated his prison, and yearned to have back his freedom. He didn't love Jean, not the way that the man wanted, not the way one was suppose to love his partner, this had really started to dawn on him since he had met Sam. Lately it had even begun to feel more difficult to remember to be grateful. He thought of Sam, thought of how his life could be like if he had someone who saw him as an equal.

Could Sam accept the truth? Could he be told? Michael threaded the idea, threaded that the blond would never wish to see him again like Jean had said would happen. Couldn't he just forget the past? Couldn't it be erased? Michael looked out where it was still snowing and dreamt to be able to shake the weight from his shoulders. He dreamt of returning home and being free from fear… Normal, like anyone else, being worthy of love… Was it impossible? -Michael wasn't sure anymore.


(c) kolgrim

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