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Fooled Around (and Fell)

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Waylon didn’t like the idea Miles gave him. Not in the beginning. He had his phone in his hand, and he was poised to press ‘call’ for a while. Numbers were dialed in, set in their perfect order. It was a sex line. Miles gave him the idea to call a sex line.


At first, Waylon disregarded it as a joke. He went around and around with Miles, grilled him a few times, even. It was ridiculous, wasn’t it?


“I thought those things went away in 2010.” He’d joked.


“Come on, Way. Sexual misery existed then, and it exists now. Why should you – or anyone – have to suffer?”


Waylon rolled his eyes at that. And Miles smiled, started rattling off statistics about the benefits of endorphins and reminding Waylon he had too much money on his hands, anyway, after the work he’d done for Murkoff. His cases, as they’d been since the two first became friends, were very convincing.


But Miles was gone, now. And in his place was the bright screen of Waylon’s phone app. It dared him silently to press the green button. Be connected to a stranger. Give them a fake name, ask them who they were and hear a fake name in return. He wondered… he wondered a lot of things. For the most part, though, Waylon wondered what would be so bad about doing it.


He’d been single for going on a year. Lisa loved him, but ultimately they both knew their relationship was going nowhere. They wanted to save the fractured remains of what they once were, but neither knew how. And as time wore them down, they stopped trying to figure it out. Waylon felt sorry. He knew Lisa was sorry, too. A week after he’d seen her on a date with a woman he’d been introduced to at one of her work functions.


It was fine. In fact, if they were still talking, Waylon was sure they both would have laughed about how – well. Maybe they wouldn’t laugh. Waylon hadn’t been private about his bisexuality.


Either way, he was alone. He felt it deeply at night, and as he looked outside the window of his place, he saw the moon above him in the sky. It looked close enough; like it wanted Waylon to be comforted by a conceivable reach.


He pressed ‘call’.


His phone rang twice before someone with a smooth and sultry voice answered. She sounded insanely confident. Waylon envied it.


“Hi,” he said, his voice catching.


He was poised to monologue; he didn’t know what the hell was expected of him.


“Hey, you’ve reached Late Connections. Name?” She asked.


“Uh, Way… Way.” He said, and automatically felt himself run hot with embarrassment.


Fake name. There were two rules to this kind of thing, and one of them was fake name.


“Way? Alright, honey. I’m Jessica. You know what number you dialed?”


Waylon felt himself smile uncomfortably.


“I do. Uh, if you don’t mind my asking– “


“Which I really don’t,” she interrupted, almost purring.


“How does this work?” he asked.


Waylon thought about the shit-eating grin Miles wore as he dialed the number for him, and the equally smug tone in his voice as he told Waylon he could hang up the phone at any time. They both knew it was true, but it wasn’t. Waylon couldn’t hang up on someone; he was too anxious.


“Aw, Way,” Jessica crooned. “You tell me what you like, what you want. Your card details. Then I patch you through.”


“Oh,” Waylon said, sounding as if he hadn’t read up on it for thirty minutes straight beforehand. “Okay. Um, men. I like men.”


There was a pause before he heard Jessica laugh. “Ouch.”


Waylon’s eyes bulged, and immediately he started searching for words of casual apology. Something funny and engaging, yet impersonal. Flirty, even. But those words didn’t exist, not for him, so instead he stammered.


“Way,” she said, quelling with a simple syllable. “It’s okay. I actually get that a lot.”


Waylon smiled, and huffed out a relieved laugh. “Okay. Uh, is that all?”


“If you want it to be. Have a voice preference? Any kinks?”


There was a noise in Jessica’s background like pages turning idly. Waylon wondered where she was, and what she was doing. He almost wanted to ask, but thought better of it. Task at hand. Kinks?


Waylon laughed again, but it was nervous this time. He did have kinks. And he wanted this to go well, despite how ridiculous it felt. He needed to give the phone sex a chance. For his own sanity.


“Deep voice. Um, a nice guy, maybe. Dominant.” He felt himself blush. “The rest doesn’t matter.”


Jessica was silent, hm-ing at specific points, but otherwise, doing what Waylon figured was her job. Matchmaking. Or, maybe more appropriately, matchmaking for a moment.


After what felt like a long time and an impossibly short time all at once, she said, “Alright, I think you’ll be happy. Punch your card details in at the sound of the tone, and then you two will be connected. Way?”


Waylon scrunched his brow up and said, “Yeah?”


“Good luck.”


Then silence. Then, a tone.


Waylon wanted this to work. He dialed each number slowly, with a purpose he was hesitant to claim, but belonged to him nonetheless. He wanted this to work. He wanted this to work. The blond ran a hand through his hair, parting his bangs for the barest of minutes.


He pressed pound, heard a triumphant ding sound as everything went through. The web moved beneath his fingers. If he listened closely enough, he could hear the synthetic and liquid money being drawn from his bank account through plastic. It was surreal. Or, maybe that was his heart instead, and it just sounded like shit.


Ring, ring, ring. Even if this guy wasn’t what Waylon was looking for, maybe the deep voice he’d asked after would do him in. Maybe the experience itself would be so novel he’d find himself thinking about it when he went to bed. He’d rewrite the lines he and this stranger would get wrong, and bend them so they sounded as good as Waylon needed.


He’d – he’d – “Darling.”


A voice that sounded like pure gravel underfoot sparked straight through all of Waylon’s thoughts.


He hadn’t realized he’d run out of time to freak out.


Experimentally, Waylon squeaked back, “Hi.”


It sounded small and impossibly tinny to his own ears. There was no telling how, or even if, the man on the other end of the line heard him.


No telling until he spoke again, anyway.


“Hi.” He returned.


It kind of hurt hearing the same word in such a full voice. Waylon could feel the swell of notes coming together, deepening and softening. All in the span of a second. He sighed; couldn’t help it.


“So, you’re my guy.”


The stranger paused. “That depends on you. But… I hope so.”


Waylon got up from his seat on the couch. He shut the living room light off, and when he got to the end of his hall, that light was killed as well. He tripped into his bedroom and sat quietly on the mattress. It was done up in a fluffy comforter with pillows to match. There was even a throw, if Waylon reached far enough for it.


All comforting, but not… not what he wanted. He wanted to be wherever this guy was. Or somewhere in between. A seedy bar could do the trick. Lights low, music strobing around them. In and out like waves.


Waylon scrunched his face up. He was terrible in places like that.


“I’m really new to this,” he said, before anything else. “And I don’t… don’t know what to do. Considered hanging up, honestly. Um, sorry. Not on you, but because this isn’t me. I want it to work. I just….” He trailed.


“You’re afraid.” The stranger said knowingly.


Waylon shrugged, rubbed at the back of his neck. “Yeah.”


“Where are you, right now?” Sex guy asked.




Waylon heard a low and satisfied hum over the line.


“Good. You’re not lying down, are you? You don’t sound relaxed, darling. I don’t want you tense.”


“I… no, I wasn’t,” Waylon leaned back a little, and then sat straight again. “I’m not.”


“What’s your name?”


“It’s,” Fuck it. “Waylon.”


“Lie back, Waylon.”


Waylon knew now was the time to start getting into the play, whatever it might have been. So, he did what he might have done if he wasn’t trapped inside his own mind all the time.


“Push me.” He said, surprised it didn’t come out as a question, or a plea. 


Waylon heard sudden and deep laughter. He wanted to know this guy’s name, but he wouldn’t ask. Maybe he’d make something up. Yeah, that was good. Miles? Ha. Jesus. Frank? Chris? Rick? Jeremy? Jeremy, maybe.


“I won’t push you, because you’re going to lie back for me. Unless you want to be punished.”


Oh. Shit. Waylon tried to think of something to say, but there was nothing. He felt himself respond in other ways. Felt his heart skip, his hands rove behind him. Felt himself lie back. As he was told.


“Okay, I’m down.” He breathed.


“Mm, I see that. I’ve always loved you on your back. Open and honest, nothing between us. But you’ve been staying away from me, haven’t you?” Jeremy asked.


“I,” Waylon began.


How the hell did he answer that? He wanted more. He wanted more from this man, more from the voice who was already stealing his patience, his independent thought.


“I don’t mean to.”


Interestingly, the guy on the line sounded displeased when he said, “Don’t lie to me.”


Waylon wanted to make something else up. He liked it. It was something he’d never done before; pretend. But Jeremy started talking, again. He sounded better than a Jeremy. Waylon clenched his jaw. He wanted a name.


“You’re out late, up early. You avoid me. I watch those beautiful legs walk past me every day. I’ve wanted to grab them, hoist you into my arms. Take you back here and hold you down until you tell me. What have I done? But we’re here now. It’s just us.”


Waylon nodded eagerly. He thought of being held down. He thought of the endless pressure it would take to keep him from springing up and back into tension. Waylon needed it. He needed something.


“I don’t tell you, but I want this.” He whispered.


“Louder.” Jeremy commanded.


“I want you like this. Baring down. I’m disappointed when you let up. Stay here. Bind me. Keep me. Do – do what you want to me.”


Waylon was breathing erratically.


“Whatever I want?”


The man’s voice had grown dark so fast. He sounded like he’d been waiting for a confession; like he was tired of Waylon steering their conversations around it for weeks on end. Waylon felt himself give into his own imagination. He imagined someone tall, severe. Intense, with eyes to match. Dark hair. Hair Waylon wanted to fuck up.


He was fucked up for getting into this so fast. He knew.


“Anything.” Waylon whimpered. “Please.”


“I want you on all fours, Waylon. Face down. Do it, now. Fast.”


“I’m doing it,”


“Faster than that. You little slut.”


Waylon blinked and shuddered. It had been a long time since anyone demeaned him. He wanted it from Lisa, but he would never ask.


“I’m ready,” Waylon said when he was in position.


He felt his dick straining against the pair of sweats he wore from his college days. BERKLEY was printed on the ass and down the leg. He wanted this stranger to rip them right off. Tear them beyond repair. As it stood, all he could do was fit his hand beneath them, begin to stroke himself. Slowly.


“I want you like this all the time. I love your little ass. Fuck, it’s as tight as the day we met. And I know I haven’t gone easy. I’m grabbing it, now. Dammit, Waylon. Stick that ass up for me.”


Waylon arched his back in effort, waxing toward a ghost. He felt phantom hands tug his ass further into the air, their fingertips digging like shovels into his hipbones. He felt the want, the desperation. It was his own. But when he heard this man’s voice, he felt as though it could almost be another’s instead.


“Fuck me. Fuck me, please,” Waylon gasped.


The stranger waited for a moment. Waylon heard background noise, like before. But this time it sounded like ripping.


“You don’t like bareback. You like being clean,” The man said to him.


He sounded different, but Waylon didn’t know how.


“But I love it. I love claiming you, filling you with my cum like the whore you are. You don’t deserve to want, only to get. Do you understand?”


Waylon moaned. He more than understood.


“I don’t deserve anything. Hardly deserve you. Put it in, I – I can’t do anything about it. Do it. Fuck me. Now. The way you want.”


Waylon heard more sounds, but he didn’t dare ask after them. He was sure his own noises were loud enough. It didn’t matter. This man could be filing paperwork. Waylon didn’t give a shit. He sounded close; he sounded here. Right behind him. If Waylon just imagined….


“I’m pushing inside. My spit is good enough for you. I know you like the burn.”


In his mind, Waylon felt this man trying to go slowly. He cared, somewhere deep in his heart. But the primal parts of him just wanted. And Waylon wasn’t moving. He was still, waiting. Wishing for more. So, the stranger sped up. Waylon felt that burn.


He didn’t like it, but he did. He didn’t want it, but he did. He’d thought about it for months on end.


“You feel – fuck. Better than you ever did. Maybe it’s that I’m jealous. Maybe it’s just better when I know you want it this badly.”


Waylon tried to breathe through the wave of want that rocketed through him. He imagined his arms held behind his back. He imagined himself trapped, kept, wanted. Finally having an answer to the eagerness that kept him so miserable.


“I’m fully inside. I don’t want to move, because you’re breathing so fast. Relax, darling,” He said, kindly.

“I’m trying.” Waylon said, his voice a whine.


“I love that you’re trying. I’m pressing – hm – pressing in. Farther than I should. I just want – you.”


Waylon heard what must have been a flurry of kissing noises. He knew it was odd, that it was different than anything he’d been exposed to. But he liked it. He wanted it, needed it. Asked for it.


“Do you feel me?” The stranger asked.


“Go,” Waylon said.


He’d been squeezing the base of himself for the past five minutes, giving it all he could not to cum before he was supposed to. He wanted to last. He wanted them to go off together, if what he thought he heard in the other’s background was – was Jeremy, was Chris, was Rick. As into it as he was.


“I’m going. You’re tight, it’s almost too much. And we’ve been apart for so long. I may not last as long as I want. I’ve missed you.” The last words sound guttural, spoken so roughly Waylon’s afraid he’d made a mistake somehow.


“I’ve been ready since you got home,” Waylon panted.


He started to jack himself, again. Fast, now. No longer to get himself into it; no longer to find his way into the present. He was in it. Waylon was here, and the man he couldn’t name was working feverishly in and out of him, pushing Waylon closer and closer to the headboard each time.


Waylon thought of what his neighbors might think, were they hearing what he wanted them to hear. He thought of the glances he would have to avoid. He wanted that, too.


“I’m – ah!” The stranger gasped. “I’m so close, Waylon. I can feel you. Can you feel me? Can you feel this? I’m going harder, now. Faster. I can’t let up. Not when you’re this good. Just like this. You whore. My darling. Can you f-feel this?”


Waylon was moaning openly, caught between the world where he was being fucked and the quiet bedroom where he was so desperate for release that he was starting to feel his muscles tense; starting to feel his head swim.


“I can feel you. I’ve wanted you so badly. I can feel you I can feel you I can feel – “ Waylon couldn’t speak, anymore.


He cried out, surprised and elated by the force of his orgasm. He panted and panted, fell to the bed beneath him. Lost track of his phone, for a moment.


There was heavy breathing on the other end of the line, and then a sudden silence followed by – a beautifully long groan. Waylon was right. He wasn’t alone, after all. He felt himself smile lazily.


When he could gather the sense of self to form words, he whispered a wrung-out thank you. There was no reply for seconds, and then a minute. Waylon’s brow creased, but he wasn’t particularly concerned. Wouldn’t even check to see if the line was live.


He hadn’t been alone. For the first time in a long time, he hadn’t been alone.


“You’re welcome, Waylon.” He heard. After another whole minute slipped by.


Waylon knew it was time to hang up, but he couldn’t do it. Not just yet. He needed – he needed something. What he’d been wanting the entire conversation through.


“Your name. What’s your name?” He asked, his voice still soft and slow.


Again, that laughter played over him. It sounded close and rich. If the man were truly there, Waylon was sure he’d feel the rumble of it go through them both.


“Eddie, darling. My name is Eddie.”


Waylon nodded to no one. He felt his hair stick to his forehead, gather to frame his face. He needed to shower, maybe. To change.


Eddie. It wasn’t what he even got close to guessing at, but Waylon felt himself accept it almost immediately. He felt like a fool for overlooking it. Of course his name was Eddie. Edward, probably. Waylon sighed.


“Thank you Eddie.”


“Call me again, Waylon. I mean it. I’ll be waiting for you.”


Then, silence. It was over.


Waylon felt his mouth, his hand still covered in cum. He’d clean up soon.


For right now, he was thinking of it; of Eddie.


Call me again. Call me again. 


Maybe he would.

Chapter Text

Daylight streamed in energetically the morning after. It coated Waylon’s face and chest, blurring the lines of sleep and safety that the moon had freely given. Waylon felt okay for all of ten seconds before checking his phone and coming face-to-face with an email from his bank telling him there were signs that someone hacked his account, stole his credit card. The fucking – fucking –


“Miles, it’s Waylon. Call me back. My life is in ruin and you’re to blame.” He snapped into his phone.


After that, there was a shower steeped in self-loathing and ginger body wash, coffee that was too sweet and simultaneously not sweet enough, and then a thorough refusal to contemplate life after sex work. Or, having given into sex work. God, Waylon didn’t even know how to label the calamity of his thoughts.


What the hell was he thinking? Why did he think it was a good idea to go along with what Miles suggested? Where had Miles’ ideas ever gotten him in the past, besides wringing his clammy hands in the principal’s office and breaking his ankle in the middle of a mock-investigation-turned-car-chase? Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. And now Waylon had to consider the idea that he was kind of a sleaze-ball. Waiting until the dark of night when his friend left him alone to dial a hotline for lonely weirdos and fuck into his hand faster and more eager than he had in well over – god. No, no. No contemplation.


Waylon grabbed his bag on his way out the door. He took the stairs down to the ground floor, walked and walked until he was in the city and searching for the diner he knew Miles would be plastered to. And hey, sure enough, there his best friend was.


Drinking a tall glass of water like he was a dying man and typing furiously at his laptop’s keyboard. Waylon set his bag down first before shoving himself into the booth bench opposite Miles. He raised his eyebrows, but Miles was hard-stuck on whatever he was working through.


“Hey, buddy.” Miles greeted after a few slow minutes.


“Hey buddy? You’re a con man.” Waylon accused, his tone dropping off into groaning territory.


“Am I?” Miles asked.


He was startled enough to look up from whatever he was typing, but that point of attention was brief. His hazel eyes were ringed in red, entire face a shade too pale. Waylon squinted his eyes, wondering how much Miles’d had to drink when he got back home the night before.


“That’s a new one.” He continued. “Why am I a con man?”


Waylon scoffed, still incredulous. With himself, with Miles. With the entire situation, really. To think he’d passed out after calling that – Waylon couldn’t even think of his name – that guy, and had the audacity to dream about it? Twisted little dreams, too. Ones where Waylon was tied down to his bed, a broad, amused figure looming over him. Big hands and a warm, wet mouth and so much dirty talk that Waylon had woken up so hard he had to jack himself off twice before falling back to sleep. Dreaming again. Waking up again. Hating himself even more.


“You stole my sanity.” Waylon shot out.


Miles paused for a moment before he outright smiled.


“You called!” He crowed. “Amazing! I didn’t think you would. How’d it go?”


“How do you think it went!”


“I think… judging by how much of a tomato you look like right now? Mission accomplished.”


Waylon squawked and threw a hand up to gage the temperature of his cheek. Sure enough, he was burning up. God, what a mess. What a mess! He had to get himself under control, but Waylon felt like he’d lost all of that when Ed – the sex guy got him off to the point of temporary astral projection.


“I hate you.” Waylon said, deflating a little.


Miles bit his lip and shrugged. His hands were on the keyboard again, but after a few likely meaningful taps, he closed the screen over and shoved it to the other side of the table. There was now nothing between the two of them but a stack of napkins and salt and pepper shakers.


“My lonely, lonely friend. You want to give me details?”


“Never in my life.”


“But you liked it?” Miles hedged.


“I… really hate you.”


“So you said. I hope that positively correlates to how much ass you got.”


Waylon narrowed his eyes, working hard not to swallow his tongue. He would have said something about Miles’ own sex life, but it was as much a mystery as the inside of his head. Waylon was vulnerable, here. In more ways than one, but that was a big one. He and Miles ragged on each other all the time. But this was different. This was… and the fact that Waylon still had problems coming into his own where his bisexuality was concerned? It left him feeling even dirtier.


Like a phone sex hotline was maybe the only place where he could be alright with talking to men. Even if Miles went to insane lengths to play wing man when Waylon decided to come out to some party or business event. Even if he sat Waylon down after he came out and told him he’d had his fair share of soul-searching. Even if – even if everyone in Waylon’s life told him it was okay, it was just… inherent, maybe. That brand of self-loathing hesitation that built him up and knocked him down like bricks.


He didn’t know. Waylon didn’t think about it, normally. He was trying not to think of anything at all, but everything came crashing down on him in the morning. The morning he was still living through. With Miles.


When Waylon didn’t say anything for at least two minutes, Miles tilted his head and frowned.


“It was good, right?” He pressed, worry lining his face delicately.


Waylon shook his head, squeezed his eyes shut. Dammit.


“Really good.” He admitted weakly.


“That’s fucking great then! That’s great!” Miles boomed, almost as if he was forcing Waylon to stop himself from over-thinking.


“It’s not!” Waylon hurled back, his eyes flashing.


While Miles was shrugging his shoulders in an obvious ‘I don’t get it’ motion, Waylon stole his water and drained it, then went for the biscuit still sitting on his friend’s plate. Miles kept the fond smile off his face, but just barely.


“Why not?” He asked.


His hands were folded in front of him, now, and his face was carefully curious. He looked like he did when he was interrogating witnesses at a crime scene. Controlled and thoughtful, mind working double-time to understand the context and subtext of the situation laid out before him.


Waylon would have called him out on it if he wasn’t busy wondering exactly why not.


It went well. It did. Eddie – that was his name, Eddie – had shown Waylon a sort of attention and attraction that he hadn’t known for a while. For too long. Eddie had weaved a story that was simple, but so effective it still made Waylon ache in the starkly judgmental light of day. He had fun for the first time in months. Got off with someone else for the first time in months, or so Waylon thought.


There were no downsides. Except, maybe, that Waylon had fully expected downsides and was left reeling when he actually enjoyed himself. Go figure, right?


“Because I want to call again, Miles.” Waylon confessed.


His throat still felt dry. He flagged a waiter for another glass of water and shoved his hair back from his face. Sighed, because what else was he supposed to do? Waylon was, literally and figuratively, kind of fucked.


“You didn’t erase your call history, did you?” Miles asked when the silence between them stretched to the point of discomfort.


Waylon blinked up from the new glass of water and shook his head. No, of course he hadn’t deleted his call history. He should have, but he really, really hadn’t.


“Okay, so I don’t have to forward you the number. Call again.” He said.


Matter of fact. Like it was nothing.


“What do you mean?” Waylon asked suspiciously.


Miles smiled and shook his head.


“You’re an idiot.”


“I’m a dirt bag.”


“You’re not vanilla. That doesn’t mean you’re a dirt bag.” Miles replied easily.


Waylon raised his eyebrows and the argument seemed a lot less important, after that. They settled into an easier conversation, and Waylon ignored how frequently he thought of going right back home and calling the number, again.


That is, until, he got back home and dialed the number again.


Granted, Waylon tried to stay out for as long as possible. And to a degree, it worked. He still had a few commissions to work on, so while Miles was in the thick of this weird psychiatric facility story, Waylon cracked open a corrupted machine’s system and worked hard to repair the code. He got out of his head and let his hands work, instead. Got lost in the easy grind of it. It was almost half-past-nine when Waylon finally stood up from his perch on another seat at another place, this time an old bookstore that had late hours and no shortage of comfortable chairs.


Waylon was having a hard time not falling asleep in one of the chairs when he glanced at the time.


He’d meant to keep himself busy for the day, but he didn’t think he’d be able to accomplish it until the job was done.


His apartment looked the same. Waylon turned the on just to flick it back off. Restless, now. He’d been thinking of Eddie (Eddie, Eddie) all day, and now that he had the opportunity to call him again, Waylon felt a little awkward.


Would he be too eager? Calling right after the first night? Waylon knew he would, but then again, what were the chances that Eddie even remembered Waylon? He probably talked to hundreds of people during the week. All different, all looking for something new and specific. Eddie was probably too occupied by anticipating the needs of others to focus on some small-timer who called once and climaxed five minutes into the act.


Probably, yeah.


So then it wouldn’t really matter if Waylon was eager. And he was eager. So eager that he was already in his bedroom. Mapping out the way he’d talk to the receptionist, whoever it would be this time around.


Waylon worked through the opening conversation more easily, this time. Maybe it was the night before, maybe it was the morning after. Hell, maybe it was the sense of accomplishment he felt from almost finishing the work in his inbox. Whatever the reason, Waylon was more confident. Less prone to stutter.


“What’s your type, honey?” A different woman asked, smile in her voice.


“I have – I talked to someone before, actually. Can I give you his name?” Waylon asked.


There was a small pause before he heard an enthusiastic answer in the positive. Waylon breathed out, relieved.


“Okay. Eddie. I’m looking for Eddie.” He said into the phone, his voice a little broken.


Waylon thought of Miles’ reassuring face and tried to tell himself that this was okay. It was. He knew what he wanted, and he was going after it. There was a sense of drive humming through Waylon’s veins, and he wasn’t a bad person for admitting to and following through on that drive. If anything, it made him more in tune with himself and the world around him. All anyone ever tried to do was get from point A to point B and find what they were looking for.


Phone sex at almost thirty wasn’t quite what Waylon was looking for in life in general, but it could be his little hobby for a few days.


When it was Eddie on the line, why not?


“Way?” Sherry asked when she took him off hold.


Waylon felt his heart skip a beat just thinking of being transferred over to Eddie.


“Yeah?” He asked.


“Hey baby, Eddie’s busy, but if you want to stay on the line, he’ll be free really soon. Is that okay with you?”




Waylon opened his mouth to say something, but all he could think to do was scream.