After six weeks of domestic bliss in a house punctured by bullet holes March still thinks he is heterosexual. It’s embarrassing, really, but because it’s March, and March has been endearingly clueless about things of bigger importance, Healy lets it slide and chalks it down as part of March’s charm.
It doesn’t make any difference, really.
The paparazzi herding like a swarm of flies outside the police lines spanning the front yard disperse over the course of a week. It gets quieter after that, the tenseness dissipates, and there is no longer a reason for Healy to stay. There really wasn’t a reason for him to stay in the first place, except the vague idea of decency attached to the thought of cleaning up the mess he helped cause.
So Healy exchanges the plastic sheets duct-taped to the frames for real glass windows. March’s cast comes off and Healy collects every last cigarette butt from the bottom of the pool, and fills each of the bullet holes with a dab of mortar. They stand out white on red, just the opposite of gunshot wounds on a dress shirt. And Healy stays.
Nuance isn’t Healy’s strongest suit. March rests his broken bones and bruised limbs, nurses his addictions, falls asleep on every horizontal surface in the house, and Healy is head over heels in love. Heart things have this way of haunting him, even after he developed a way of rolling with them, because rolling with them has never meant anything less than delivering himself to them completely, and sometimes, worst cast, losing himself in the process.
But this time things are definitely, absolutely okay, compared to the steaming heap of shit Healy’s life was before. Any man trying to reason around that would be a fool. March still tries to act cocksure around women, with the result landing somewhere between endearing and pitiful. It makes Healy feel all warm and fuzzy to watch. It’s just that March is a brick-hard mixture of one part blind and two parts stubborn; he determinedly fails to see what’s right in front of his nose. Then again, they share a bed at night, and it’s soft and warm and does more for Healy in the way of reassurance than any declaration of love has done for him in a long time.
(At first it’s just out of necessity because March’s rental is not set up for a third inhabitant, and there is absolutely no way Healy would force Holly to give up her room, and the sofa is hell on Healy’s back. And it’s not like they’re squeamish, they’re men, for Christ’s sake. Men sometimes, when necessity calls for it, sleep in the same bed. And sometimes, when necessity stops calling, they just keep it that way, because comfort and routine are not easily traded away when you’ve made a name catching killers, and a heavy arm around your waist does wonders against nightmares.)
Healy doesn’t push it. These things take time, and March is not going anywhere.
March kisses him for the first time on one of those idle afternoons, with the sun hanging low over the palm trees, throwing lazy orange strips through the immaculate new front windows of their living room. They’re on the sofa watching TV, March’s side pressed up against Healy’s. Healy has started to drink moderately on a regular basis, and after a while March has fallen in with him. It’s no perfect victory, sure, but in March’s case anything that qualifies as less is good. When Healy looks over, March is smiling at him wide, his eyes swimming, tell-tale drunk.
“This is good,” March says, grinning, and when Healy nods, March nuzzles his mustache against the juncture of Healy’s jaw and neck, and leaves a wet kiss there that Healy is sure was supposed to hit his cheek.
“Okay,” Healy says, while March twists his drunk limbs in a position that allows him to see Healy’s face fully.
March’s expression settles somewhere between whimsical and apologetic when he leans over to kiss Healy again, still clumsy, but full on the mouth this time.
“Whoa there,” Healy says, catching March’s neck instinctively, mainly to keep March from slipping off the sofa and break more of his tangled limbs. March drunk is a health and safety hazard if Healy has ever seen one, if only to himself. Healy props March back up on the sofa, and they return their attention towards the TV screen. When Healy glances over, March is smiling, and Healy is hit with a fit of that warm feeling all over, which between his platinum ex-wife and affairs of all sorts is something very new: it’s tamer and quieter but heavier, it sinks deeper and Healy has a sneaky feeling it will stay longer, too. Healy fits his arm over March’s shoulder, and another drink has March nestling his head comfortably against Healy’s chest, asleep, and this is not perfect, but it is definitely going on good.
“You know he’s clueless, right,” Holly remarks that night. March is passed out on the sofa, one bare foot dangling over the edge, one arm slung over his face, as if to protect his face from the low light coming from the kitchen.
Holly and Healy share a can of ravioli, cold, a fork each, leaned on the counter. It’s a habit.
“It occurred to me,” Healy says.
“You know Dan on the Force asked him out five times and he still thinks they’re buddies,” Holly adds, fishing for a chunk of tomato in the can. Healy has heard all the tales of Dan-on-the-Force. Apparently it’s a good thing he’s staying away these days.
“That’s sad, actually,” Healy says, with a trace of real pity for the man sleeping off his hangover in the other room, gently wheezing with each rising and falling breath.
“He’s a sad man,” Holly says, with all the graveness only a thirteen-year-old can carry with dignity. “Just, you know,” she adds. “You gotta be straight with him.”
“Straight,” Healy deadpans, and Holly rolls her eyes at him.
“Just don’t wanna spook him,” Healy says after a pause, his head sinking between his shoulders, and spinning the can of ravioli in his hands like it’s an expensive glass of whiskey and he’s the lead in a smoky movie joint’s 50 pence noir re-run.
“It’ll spook him more the longer you keep him guessing,” Holly replies matter-of-factly, and of course she’s right. She always is.
“March, there’s really no manly way for a man to kiss another man,” Healy says, endlessly patient. “There’s really only the gay way.”
March is spooked. He’s been squirming in his seat ever since Healy brought up the topic, enough for Healy to give him credit for not running.
“Is this a date?” March asks, louder than entirely necessary.
They’re in a diner, and not one of the shabby ones either, and Healy has paid for their milkshakes, and March left his flask at home, and Healy went a bit heavy on the cologne, feeling slightly self-conscious about the cloud of musk following him around until he remembered March can’t smell it, so technically, as far as dates go, it could even be considered a good one.
The lady behind the counter, seasoned and weathered and looking like she was born in a pastel apron, glances over, but doesn’t bother. This is the 70ies, and if you serve milkshakes off an L.A. highway you see all sorts.
“It’s not if you’re uncomfortable with it,” Healy says.
“I’m not a fucking homophobe, for Christ’s sake,” March responds, looking almost offended by the idea.
“Right,” Healy says. “That’s nice, March.”
“Yes,” March says, his voice jumping an octave. “I’m nice.” He fiddles with the straw sticking from his milkshake, until it slips from his fingers and almost capsizes the glass. “Jesus Christ, I’m freaking out,” he says.
“Hey,” Healy says, reaching out across the table, grabbing March’s wrists before something spills or breaks. March relaxes into the touch instantly, his shoulders dropping. “Nothing’s changing, okay?” Healy says. “I just gotta make sure we’re on the same page here.”
“The page being…?” March asks weakly.
“I’m gay, I like you, I think we’re good together. I think you want this, too.”
“Okay,” March says, sounding as if he mainly just wants Healy to stop talking. His ears are glowing.
Healy prides himself on being pretty perceptive, it goes with the job and all, but he’s at loose ends here. He reads rejection from March, and something that verges on panic, and he can’t quite pinpoint if he overstretched his imagination thinking March was in fact gay, or if March is just the toughest case of commitment phobia under the sun and can’t bear to have anyone talk about their feelings around him. Just to be safe, Healy lets go of March’s wrist.
“Keep your hands there,” March says instantly, and pushes his hands across the table, palms turned up, for Healy to hold. Cautiously, Healy puts his hands back, and they end up with their hands locked in a double gymnasts’ grip, holding on to each other’s wrists, with the milkshakes between them.
“Isn’t this a bit gay,” Healy deadpans against the fuzzy feeling rising again, and the urge to smile that comes with it.
“Shut up,” March says.
“This is new to me, okay,” March says, later, when they’re in the car. “You gotta cut me some slack, I’m still catching up.”
Which, going by the fact that March has aptly pulled Healy’s driver’s seat into a slightly more laid-back position and is currently kneeling over him, his ass against the steering wheel and his crotch a considerably short beeline from Healy’s very dry mouth, is going okay.
“How long have you been thinking about this?” Healy asks. March’s white pants are very tight.
March checks his watch. “About ten minutes?” he says, which marks the exact duration of their short drive from the diner to the first abandoned parking space Healy could think of. “But you know me, I think fast.”
Healy raises his eyebrows. “Have you actually dated since High School?” It might just be the gloomy parking space, but the setup is starting to evoke memories from way back: long-legged pretty girls, impossibly young and impossibly eager in the front seat of his first drive. For Healy it was the beginning of a long road to self-discovery, at the end of which, as it turns out, is this: it puts an ironic spin on his first sexual experiences, with him caught underneath the grown-up equivalent of a horny teenager, and he suddenly finds it harder to judge the cheerleaders of his past for their enthusiasm.
“I have a child, I’m experienced,” March says, failing entirely to spin the two facts into a compelling argument, and adjusts his body towards Healy’s, which includes resting his elbows on Healy’s shoulders, and shifting his weight, and especially the stretch of his crotch, against Healy’s lower body. That at least he does convincingly.
“Right,” Healy says, and if his breath catches just the tiniest bit, March, who has to duck his head under the car’s low roof, takes it as his cue to crash into him.
Holland March is a man unafraid to sing The Steve Miller Band’s greatest hits in the shower even though he doesn’t know the lyrics and doesn’t catch the highs, which is to say: while he isn’t naturally talented, his enthusiasm makes up for a lot. Healy wasn’t quite prepared for that to extend on sex as well, but here they are.
The cast has left March’s left arm skinnier and whiter than the other, which is why he uses it to hold on to Healy’s shoulder, steadying both of them, while his right fiddles with Healy’s fly first and then with his own. Healy does whatever he can to help him, which with the lack of space and freedom of movement between them amounts to canting his hips up, keeping his hands out of the way, and going easy on the complaining.
“Jesus, you’re not wasting time,” Healy says when March finally has their cocks out. March is fully hard already, Healy’s needs a number of firm upward strokes from March’s free hand that leave a breath stuck in Healy’s throat and red marks on March’s bony hips where Healy is holding on to them.
“I had the whole drive here to think about it,” March says by means of an explanation. “I wanna know what you’ve been thinking all that time.”
Healy lets go of the breath stuck in his throat, and against his best intentions it comes out low and growling, positively feral, and March has no way of hiding that he’s into it, really into it.
Healy is grateful it’s dark and their spot is deserted, because the car shaking on its springs, with its headlights dancing on the wall of the opposed building, is too stereotypical an image for him to ever come out of with dignity. But then, he thinks, maybe his dignity is just one of the things he’s left with his ex-wife, and when he pushes March’s hips down, grinding their crotches together, and tears a whine from March’s throat in response, he begins to suspect that maybe he’s better off without it anyways.
And how right he is, because there’s nothing dignified about how March coming way too soon with a high, throaty noise and a last, desperate downward grind sends Healy over the edge in what is the best fucking orgasm he’s had in years, and this is from a handjob in a car for Christ’s sakes. It’s a fucking miracle, that’s what it is, and in that instant it pays for every pain Healy has had to endure in his life leading up to this very moment.
March, whose forehead has fallen against Healy’s shoulder with the aftershock, comes up with his face all blotchy red, his hair sweaty and his smile delirious, and for the first time in a long time Healy starts to cautiously believe in perfect moments again. The tacky setup and the creaking front seat, the new kink in his back that’s going to haunt him, his ruined shirt and pants, and March of all things, March tired but sober and grinning, it all feels perfectly, impossibly right.
Healy pulls the car into the driveway and the porch light flicks on, lighting remnants of police lines and bullet holes, a scarred tree trunk, and parts of the roof still broken, even though the palm tree itself has long been cut down and carried away. They sit for a moment in silence, taking in the scene.
“The roof’s next,” Healy says eventually.
March looks at him, wide-eyed, as if he only just realized how Healy has picked up this demolished house of theirs, and their demolished lives with it, and has shaken it up gently enough for things to fall into place. Somewhere along the line it grew into a home, and they became a family.
“Jesus Christ, I love you,” March says, and the miraculous thing is that Healy doesn’t even need to hear it. He knows. He really, really knows.