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We Are Free

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The second morning dawned on an especially grumpy Miles and Waylon. They woke up and prepared for another grueling day serving entitled tourists. Neither was very enthusiastic.

“I don’t know if I can handle this job, it’s too irritating,” said Miles. “What’s stopping us from telling Linguini to forget it?”

“It’s part of the cover,” said Waylon, yawning. “Gotta work. Keeps me busy—out of trouble. Helps me blend into the surroundings.”

“Because you’re doing such a great job of that,” said Miles, scoffing as he poured himself a cup of steaming hot coffee. “Going to lose your shit every single day? You’ll draw attention. Trouble. Murkoff has eyes everywhere, especially Europe. This is a great place to set a trap, they can get here-quick. But, it’s also dangerous to fuck up…”

“If I knew a way to stop these episodes, I would have fucking stopped them,” said Waylon, standing up from the tiny kitchen table, and glaring.

“Would you? Really? You seem kinda comfortable in your whole ‘I’m a victim’ routine you’ve built around yourself. I don’t even know if you actually want to get better, and see your family, again, you never even talk about them, and…”

“Fuck you,” shouted Waylon. “My family is the most important thing in my life, just because I don’t talk about them with you doesn’t mean I don’t think about them!”

The two were locked in a vicious staring contest when they were interrupted by a loud knock at the door. Waylon shut his mouth, and glared, as he walked to open the door. He expected to see Angelo, or some other employee, wondering why they were not down helping set up. Instead, Waylon saw two agents in black suits, holding up shiny badges.

“Mr. Morris,” said the man, holding out his badge. He was extremely tan, and extremely blond. The other man was black with a shaved head. “Is everything alright? We heard shouting.”

“It’s fine,” said Waylon, forcing himself to smile—though it looked more like a tortured snarl. “Every thing’s great.”

“Are you alright, sir?” the black agent asked, addressing the question to Miles.

“Uh, sure,” said Miles, taking a long sip of his coffee.

“Mr. Morris, we were sent by Agent Perry to check on the situation here. This is your first time relocating with a partner. Are you certain everything is alright? We heard shouting.”

“Oh, everything's fine,” said Miles, smirking at Waylon’s flustered expression. “Me and sugardick were just having a little lover’s quarrel. Nothing to worry about. I honestly think he instigates these fights, on purpose, just for the make up sex.”

The agents exchanged a long glance before turning to address an even angrier Waylon. “Is that true, Mr. Morris?” asked the black agent.

“Are…are you asking me whether I have sex with this man?” asked Waylon, his voice cracking like a pubescent boy. He could feel his fight or flight mechanism close to triggering. How would it look if he suddenly ran away in a delusional fit in front of two agents?

“No,” said the blond agent. “We are asking whether, or not, you agree that everything is fine?”

“Of course,” said Miles, setting his coffee on the counter before taking three quick steps to close the distance between him and Waylon. He grabbed Waylon’s waist with two hands and pulled him close, forcing their lips together.

Waylon stared at Miles’ eyelids in shock. The agents were watching. Waylon slid his arms around Miles’ shoulders, though he felt like a wooden doll imitating human movement. Too awkward. He held his mouth so tightly shut--it was bound to look odd to observers. Waylon closed his eyes, and forced his lips to work.

How long had it been since he had kissed someone? Waylon tried to think how to make the kiss more believable. He did not have to think long as Miles tilted his head and moved his lips, mouth opening slightly. Waylon opened his own mouth, possibly wider than necessary. Miles easily adapted, and Waylon felt an experimental prodding from a warm tongue.

Coffee. It was a nice brand he had picked up in town, despite his inability to read the label’s description. It was good. Miles tasted good.

Waylon’s mouth remained open as he stared. Miles pulled back, and winked, before stalking back into the kitchen. Waylon watched him go, bringing his fingers up to his lips to touch the lingering warmth. He was ready to strangle the guy two minutes before, and now he was having thoughts about the way he tasted?

One of the agents cleared their throat.

The agents quickly discussed Waylon’s new financial details, and dropped off some new checks, a prepaid check card, and some cash. There was also a discussion about his new prescriptions being filled at the local pharmacy. Waylon had trouble concentrating on anything they said. He was much more shocked about something he had felt—something he had not felt in a long time.

“You gentlemen have a nice day,” said the black agent, as the meeting came to an end.

“You too,” said Miles, wiggling his fingers in a cheeky wave.

The door closed, and Waylon stood in the doorway, thinking. When Miles had kissed him, Waylon had felt felt his blood pressure increase, and a tingling in his groin, like the beginning of arousal. Something he had not felt since he was strapped down to a table, and sent toward a buzz saw.

His impotence had made his last months living with Lisa frustrating. Even medical intervention had not been able to help the problem. It warned about erections lasting over four hours. Waylon could not last four seconds. Lisa said it didn’t matter.

But when Miles kissed him, he felt the ghost of a reaction. Was it a sign he was finally recovering from the ordeal? A sign he liked kissing Miles? Waylon shook his head to clear the thoughts.

It was not worth worrying about any pleasant feelings he experienced. He was still impotent.


Days passed, quickly, working with the vineyard staff, catering wine tasting meals for tourist groups. The nights were spent too exhausted to even argue over the television channel. They attempted to discuss some of their planning, but they were both too drained to nail down any good plans. They decided to wait until they had a day off of work.

It was almost a week in Italy before a free day arrived. The tours were on odd schedules, and there were frequently stretches of no tours, followed by stretches of non-stop events. Miles and Waylon decided to take advantage of the break to catch a ride into Como for shopping and lunch.

The city of Como was captivating, situated on a lake that reflected the majestic Alps. It was not the scene Waylon would normally associate with Italy. There were no canals, ancient ruins, or volcanoes—but it was beautiful, nonetheless. They sat outside of a small cafe, where Waylon ate cheese ravioli in white sauce, and Miles shoveled mouthfuls of chicken piccata.

“I never trust the white sauce,” said Miles, his mouth full of food.

“Yeah, well the red sauce…stains,” said Waylon. Because it sounded better than comparing it to blood dripping from vents, and smeared across walls.

“Yeah, but you don’t ever worry someone jizzed in there?” asked Miles.

“No, but I will now, thanks,” said Waylon, pushing his dish away. He had only eaten two ravioli, but his stomach was suddenly uneasy.

“Oh, come on, I’m joking with you,” said Miles, reaching across the circular table to fork a ravioli and shove it into his maw. “Mmm, delicious. Definitely jizz free.”

“You would know,” said Waylon, rolling his eyes. Miles’ only answer was an exaggerated wink. “So what’s the plan?”

“Well,” said Miles, wiping his mouth with his napkin before taking a long drink of water, “I got that information from the goons in Kyoto. Now, chances are that Murkoff knows that we know that information. They won’t deactivate those accounts, but they will monitor them, and make it impossible for us to use them to learn anything useful. As soon as things are in order here, we can use them to gain access, which will alert them to our location.”

Waylon frowned, wondering how Miles had gotten the information. He had never detailed out, exactly. Paranoia sprang into his mind, worrying if Miles really was as he appeared.

“Once they confirm it’s you, probably through some private investigators, they’ll send the entire force down on you. Then, we snap the trap on their asses.”

“But, when you say they have to just see me? I mean, well, what do you mean?” asked Waylon.

Miles shrugged. “They need to know it’s you. It’s tough. You’re kind of a nondescript guy. I mean, you look like every white boy with a choppy haircut and stubble, you’re not very tall, you don’t stand out, you’re very average, ya know? There’s nothing outstanding about your appearance, you’re not very muscular, and…”

“Are you fucking kidding me right now? I get the picture,” said Waylon, the rise in his tone drawing stares from fellow diners. “So how can we prove it’s me?”

“Slip up in front of them. Call you by the wrong name. You know what I mean, Waylon, uhh, I mean, Buck,” said Miles, smirking at Waylon’s panicked reaction upon hearing his name spoken out loud in public.

“Okay, shit, you don’t have to actually do it to illustrate a point. You’re fucking obnoxious,” said Waylon.

“Yeah, I get that a lot. Or used to, in another life,” said Miles.

“Have you ever done anything like this before?” asked Waylon.

“Sure, I’m an investigative journalist, remember? Trust me, I’ve baited a trap before. I’m a master baiter.” Silence stretched between the two men. “Get it?”

“Yes-I-get-it,” hissed Waylon. “When are we doing this?”

“There’s no rush, there’s probably some delay from the original feed to the scouts, but after they’re gone, it’s just a matter of hours. Days at most. Murkoff will show up, and we need to have the FBI on speed dial, to come and save you.”

“Save us,” said Waylon. “This isn’t some kind of suicide mission, for either of us.”

“There’s no need for anyone to save me,” said Miles, his tone matter-of-fact.

“That cocky attitude of yours is going to get you killed,” said Waylon.

“Too late,” said Miles, taking another long sip of water.

“You know, that’s getting old, you’re not some fourteen year old going through an emo phase, you don’t have to keep up the death jokes to seem edgy,” said Waylon. “Let’s give it another week before we go snooping through Murkoff’s systems. Angelo and his family are pretty nice people, we owe them a couple weeks of work. You don’t think anything bad will happen to them, or the apartment, do you?”

Miles gave a long ‘hmm’ before shrugging.

“Well, in that case, make it two weeks…”

Miles pushed away his empty plate. “We’ll revisit the plan in a week, talk about it some more, see how we feel. Right now, I’m going back to the apartment. Maybe figure out how to get some computer access, and other things we might need for the house, to make sure we don’t get caught unprepared. You coming?”

“I’m going to walk around, do some shopping, maybe look for some… I mean, it’s none of your business what I do, really,” said Waylon.

“You’re right, it’s not,” said Miles, grinning. “You’re not hurting my feelings by wanting to spend some time alone. I could stand some time without you constantly frowning at me.”

“I wouldn’t have to frown, if you weren’t so damn obnoxious.”

Miles shrugged as he stood up. He dug into his pocket for some euros, which he dropped on the table. “See you back at the apartment. Whatever. Do your thing.”

Waylon breathed easier after Miles left. He finished his lunch and went for a walk around the lake. It was peaceful. He barely needed to use his cane, though he had brought it. He was reminded of a trip he and Lisa took to the Teton Mountains in Wyoming as newlyweds. The view of the mountains reflected in the clear waters had been enchanting.

Lisa had dared him to jump into the frigid waters, promising she would follow. She had lied. But Waylon got his revenge when he carried her in with him. The beach of river-smooth pebbles under their bodies was extremely uncomfortable—especially once they were rolling around together.

Waylon would trade anything to go back to that day back.

There were several, small grocers on the walk back to the apartment. Waylon stopped to purchase some staples for the apartment. He also stopped at a tiny vendor that sold kitschy souvenirs for tourists. Tiny, porcelain thimbles sat in a row, showing different Italian landmarks, from the Tower of Pisa, to the Isle of Capri. It was the same dilemma at every location.

Lisa collected thimbles on her travels. But she insisted that she pick them out, herself. It was not the same if someone else made the choice for her. Waylon eventually walked away, thinking about Lisa’s thimble collection. The way she could captivate an audience, using the thimbles to spin tales of her travels. Her favorite was the one with Stonehenge engraved around the perimeter of the pewter keepsake. Waylon wondered if any of them might have survived the fire. Probably not.

Eventually, sunlight was fading, and Waylon caught a cab back to the apartment. He carried up his couple bags with his cane over his shoulder, and ankle sore from walking so much. He was greeted with a loud buzzing in the apartment. At first, he suspected a hornet’s nest and glanced around for any sign of wasps on the eaves above the red door.

The air-conditioner, most likely. He cursed his bad luck with appliances and looked around for Miles. Maybe he was not home. Waylon decided to check the utility closet near the bedroom. The door to the room was cracked, and Waylon stopped short.

Miles was in the bedroom, lying on his back, on the bed. Waylon was about to call out to him, when he noticed Miles’ state of dress. He was not wearing pants, and his t-shirt was pulled up, revealing a toned stomach. Shit.

He was momentarily outraged that Miles would not use his own bed, then decided he would rather Miles did not jerk off on the couch, either. Still, there was a bathroom. Waylon peeked through the crack again.

Miles had said he needed alone time, but Waylon had not considered what that could mean.

Waylon felt ashamed of his own sexual dysfunction. Since the asylum, Waylon was unable to achieve any type of erection—excluding when he was asleep. And even then, it was usually only when he dreamed about his abusers. Eddie Gluskin tying him down, and consummating their wedding. Frank Manera devouring him, dick first. It led to Waylon feeling ashamed and disgusted with his sexual urges.

Waylon had practiced complete abstinence for the past three years, not even touching himself. Miles, obviously, experienced nothing like that. Add it to the list of ailments the other Murkoff survivor did not experience.

Miles lay on his back, hands moving between his legs with slow, even strokes. Even without a direct line of sight, it was definitely something Waylon should not watch. He began to creep away from the door, until his interest was piqued. Miles reached for something from a plastic bag, near his hand, and then resumed his movements. A satisfied sigh floated from the room.

Lube? It had to be lube. Well, Waylon knew some men preferred to use something other than their bare hand. He was not prepared when Miles spread his legs, and moved a slick hand lower than his balls.

There was no excuse to continue watching. Miles’ raised leg obscured Waylon’s ultimate view, but it was still horribly invasive. Waylon was shocked at the expression on Miles’ face. The usual angry glare, or smirk, were replaced with a look of relaxation. He looked years younger with his lips parted and eyes closed. Waylon slowly realized he was hard—straining in his jeans.

It had been a really long time, his brain rationalized. He missed Lisa, that was true. It was natural to feel a physiological response when watching a sex act, even after so many years of impotency. The fact that it was a guy did not matter. He had never considered any non-famous males sexy, before.

Wait, did he think Miles was sexy?

Fuck. What was happening? A huge breach of privacy, Waylon answered himself. He prepared to sneak away from the door when he noticed something new that froze the very blood in his veins. The air around Miles looked cloudy—thick, like a flock of moths, threatening to block his line of sight. The apparition took shape, and Waylon recognized it, immediately. The Walrider.

Error.

Waylon could not have moved if he wanted to. He was paralyzed with fear. His common sense told him he was having another hallucination. But it looked so real. Miles even seemed to react to the touch of the Walrider’s alien hands, spreading his legs wider as the strange vision settled between his thighs.

Waylon fought his primal urge to call out to Miles—to warn him. No, it was just a vision. He was watching his roommate jerk off, and it triggered a terrifying vision of the Walrider. There was no way the actual Walrider had found him in Kyoto, and again in Italy.

The Walrider killed people, it did not tease them with feather light caresses. It did not fuck them with strange, smoky appendages. But if the Walrider was not really there, why was Miles bucking his hips like that?

Miles’ face was flushed. He looked…good. The vision hovered, hands roaming over Miles’ bare legs and underneath his shirt. Something was pumping into Miles, but he did not seem to be in any pain. He looked euphoric. And then, the noise.

Miles had been quiet, maybe panting, but whatever sounds he made were drowned out by the humming of the malfunctioning air-conditioner. As Miles approached his climax, he began moaning, and the sound made Waylon’s cock twitch and leak.

A picture. He needed a picture. A picture would prove to him that the Walrider was not really there. But it would also be photographic evidence that he had spied on Miles in such a compromising position. It would be a photograph of a half naked Miles, stored on his phone. How could he explain that?

Waylon finally regained enough of his senses to back away from the door. He quickly rushed onto the tiny balcony off the living room. He practically fell into one of the tiny, metal lawn chairs situated on the balcony, and stared away, lost in thought.

Oh, God. He had invaded Miles’ personal space in the worst way imaginable. And to make matters worse, he had gotten sexually aroused, for the first time in years. Aroused from looking at Miles. And worst of all, he was suffering from his delusions again.

“Dr. Evelyn Mason.”

“Evie, I saw it again, the Walrider,,” said Waylon into the phone, using two hands to hold it to his face as he spoke in conspiratorial whispers, “...and I got a boner.”

“I have to put you on hold, just one minute, is that alright?”

Waylon grumbled, but he held the phone to his ear, and stared out across the Italian countryside. The poplar trees grew straight up along the long driveway to the vineyard. Vines and farming equipment dotting the green fields. A small glimpse of the lake was even visible if Waylon craned his neck.

“Waylon, are you there?”

“I saw the Walrider—I saw it again, and I am half a world away from where I saw it last.”

“Waylon, please tell me you are sitting down, you sound distressed,” said Dr. Mason.

“Oh, sorry, I’m…not really distressed. I just…the Walrider. It was…well…”

“What were you doing when you experienced the hallucination?”

“Um, I walked in on my roommate. Well, I didn’t walk in, I just saw him there, having alone time…with himself, to relieve stress, you know…”

“He was masturbating? You walked in on a sexual situation, and you saw the Walrider? Is that when the erection occurred?”

“After I saw it, touching my roommate,” said Waylon exhaling loudly into the phone. “Well, more like, fucking him.”

“Okay, just to reiterate, Project Walrider has been disbanded, Murkoff is defunct, and no one has seen the Walrider since Mount Massive. You do understand that this vision is not real? It is no more real than when you hear and see Frank Manera of Eddie Gluskin. Have you started the new dosage of the medication, yet?”

“Not yet, and I know you’re right,” said Waylon. “I know it. But, it just, feels, and looks, so real…”

“You sexualized many of the things that cause you distress, such as your sexual dreams about Eddie and Frank. It’s possible the Walrider is the newest addition to these fantasies that act as a type of coping mechanism.”

“Fuck,” said Waylon, giving a long exhale. “I suppose you could be right?”

“You’ve not had any sexual activity since you went into witness protection, correct?”

“None,” said Waylon, sighing. “I can’t do that to Lisa.”

“Waylon, I think Lisa would understand,” said Dr. Mason. “I’m not encouraging you to do anything you’re not ready for, but it’s not unhealthy to have fantasies. As long as you understand the difference, and are able to function without them. Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” muttered Waylon.

“Now, I apologize, but I was in the middle of an important phone call, and I need to call them back. Have you put any thought into accepting a recommendation for a different therapist? I care about you, and I’m glad you’re seeking help, but I’m just not sure I am still up to the task. I’m interviewing for a new job where I won’t be speaking directly with clients anymore. I’ll be teaching. So please…please, Waylon, let me recommend someone else?”

“Call ya later,” said Waylon, ending the call.

The afternoon was hot, but there was a cool breeze as the sun began to set. Another tour group was expected in the morning. Waylon wanted to make some tortellini for dinner, but there was no rush. He lost track of how long he sat on the balcony. He jumped when the glass sliding door opened, and Miles walked out on the balcony, hair wet.

“Hey, you get home while I was in the shower?” asked Miles.

“Uh, yeah, probably,” said Waylon, staring hard into the distance to avoid looking at Miles. Shit. He looked good with his brown hair wet, and a thin t-shirt clinging to him.

“Everything okay?” asked Miles, raising an eyebrow at Waylon’s behavior, which was probably stranger than usual.

“Fine, that’s fine, everything's fine. This is…this is all fine…”

“Great, I’m going to take a power nap before dinner. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, I pulled a blank page out of your journal, from the back. I needed something to write on, for the planning,” said Miles.

“Faaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic,” said Waylon with fake enthusiasm. Miles backed away from the balcony, leaving Waylon to his contemplation.

He was lonely. Really fucking lonely. He had been so nervous, and paranoid, and panicked, that he had not stopped to consider how lonesome he was in actuality. He was a stranger, in a strange land, with no friends, and no way to contact his family.

Dr. Mason did not want to talk to him any more. The FBI did not count as a friend in any capacity. And then Miles came into his life, and he was suddenly sexually attracted to the guy. It was pathetic. Sad. He was so lonely that anything looked good to him.

Maybe Evie was right. Maybe Waylon did need to consider relieving some pent up energy. Having wet dreams about Eddie Gluskin did not count as a healthy sex life. If his ability to become aroused had returned, there was nothing stopping him from finding some release. The chance of picking up a person using his charm was 0.000001%. No, it was Rosy Palms, or nothing.

Miles was snoring on the couch when Waylon finally walked inside. He used the coffee pot to make hot water and poured cheese tortellini into the pot. He ate them plain, alone in the kitchen at the small table. At least the room had a small window. He imagined how cute it would look with some checkered curtains framing it. Buying some colorful ceramic pots to hold their flour and sugar. Coming home from a long day of work to someone who wanted to spend time with him.

Fantasies about paying house with Miles Upshur, of all people. Waylon really was desperately lonely.

Waylon was finished eating when Miles wandered into the kitchen, yawning. He made a plate of the remaining tortellini, without asking permission, He took a few bites before grumbling. “Just cheese? I like the ones with meat.”

“I don’t eat meat, and you know it,” said Waylon. Miles chewed, leaning against the kitchen counter, plate in hand. His face was so different. So serious. Slightly annoyed. All the earlier bliss erased, as though it had never been there. An illusion. Just like the Walrider.

“At least you’re not vegan,” said Miles, taking another bite. “I’d die without cheese and eggs.” He paused to chew. “You should really work on getting past the whole ‘meat’ thing.”

“The cannibal pushed me into an incinerator,” said Waylon, quietly. “In the morgue, he shoved me in and locked it. He told me to cook.”

“Damn, how’d you escape?” asked Miles, chewing away, unaffected.

“Kicked out the back, it was crumbling apart, like everything else in that shit hole…”

“You know, there was a pair of dudes, big ugly fuckers,” said Miles, chuckling. “They stared at me and talked to each other about eating me, as though I were a pig with an apple in my mouth. They wanted to kill me—eat me. They were discussing who got what organs. They chased me, with machetes. I had to evade them, a couple of times. Oh, and the best part? These two, they looked like twins, and they were…”

“Naked,” said Waylon. Miles’ eyes went wide, and he set down his plate. “Were they buck-ass naked?”

“You saw them? The twins? I don’t remember them in your footage,” said Miles.

“I told you, not everything made the video,” said Waylon. “That’s how I knew you were telling the truth, you know about things no one could know. Things that weren’t shown. I ran into those two in the yard. They were naked…and ugly.”

“So ugly, right?” said Miles, laughing. “But it’s like, their faces are second in my mind, I can’t get those dicks out of my nightmares. I was like, don’t look at it, don’t look at it, which just made me look more, and…”

Waylon laughed, interrupting Miles, and causing him to join in the laughter. “I wonder what happened to their clothes?”

“I like to believe they never had any,” said Miles, grinning. “A couple of nudists, just trying to live their lives.” He chuckled as he shook his head. “They worked for Father Martin. Remember that guy?” Waylon nodded, silently. “It’s strange, talking to someone who knows.”

“Agreed,” said Waylon. “You were there. I wonder how it could have been different, if I had known you were there. Maybe we could have helped each other.”

Miles set his empty plate in the sink. He rinsed it before finally turning and giving Waylon a strange look. “I saw you.”

“What?” asked Waylon, pushing back his chair. He stood up, using the table for support. “You saw me? In the asylum? Where? When?”

“I was there, when you walked out,” said Miles.

Waylon frowned, memory churning quickly. “Jeremy Blaire stabbed me. The Walrider killed him. I ran out and got in…your Jeep. You saw me?”

“Yes,” said Miles.

“Why didn’t you say something?” asked Waylon.

“That’s complicated,” said Miles. He walked past Waylon and back into the living area. He clicked on the television, and some Italian sitcom appeared on the screen. Waylon studied Miles’ face as he sat, the strange television lighting illuminating his face in different ways, like shifting shadows across his strange, smoky eyes.

If Miles had seen him walk out of the asylum, then there must be a really good reason he did not escape alongside Waylon. But what?

A flickering memory supplied a picture of a human figure, barely discernable through the swarm.

Memory corrupt.

Waylon finished cleaning the kitchen, and walked into the bedroom. He prepared to write a letter to Lisa, but he was overcome with a wave of guilt.

Would Lisa really understand that loneliness had driven him into someone else’s arms? Would she mind if it was a man? Waylon could not bring himself to write any of his thoughts down. He put the journal away. At least the rest of the week was full of work. The last thing he needed was more time to think.