A dysfunctional family. Isn't that what they called it when you had a family that just didn't or couldn't get along? His father and mother estranged, his sister sent to a behavioral institution... and he was a recovering alcoholic.
David had started down that slippery slope at the age of thirteen when he and a friend had broken into his Dad's liquor cupboard and downed a whole bottle of bourbon between them. It had been just a childish escapade but it had turned into a nightmare after his mother caught them.
Bill Turner had been sent home to his irate but loving parents, and David had lain on his bed, barely able to focus with his head spinning, waiting for his own punishment to be meted out. Every time he closed his eyes he felt like he was falling down a deep dark hole, having to snap open his eyes to stop the terrible sensation. He had been so scared, and not just of the horrible feeling of being drunk, but of what his mother would do to him once she had finished dealing with Bill Turner.
Would he be grounded for the next decade of his life? Or lose all his pocket money for a year?
The actual punishment had been far worse than anything he could ever have imagined at that time. His thoughts returned to the moment when his mother had come to the threshold of his room and stared in at him with eyes as hard and cold as ice.
"David. I always knew you were going to be the loser in this family."
Didn't some kid sue his parents for mental cruelty just a year or so back? Perhaps he ought to have paved the way for that kid for it had been the beginning of the end for him. It all went downhill after that as his mother took every available opportunity to remind him of how worthless and inconsequential he had become in her eyes. He started to get into more trouble at school, started to drink heavily and, even more stupidly, he had started to take drugs too.
It had been a cry for help but, unfortunately, no one had been listening. He had wanted to shock his parents into taking notice of him because they never paid him any attention except for when they had to bail him out of the local jail or go in to see the school principal.
Eventually he got expelled from school.
Of course, his father would say nothing in his defense, just sitting there with a saddened, disappointed look on his face, and then he would go and find solace in the arms his latest secret girlfriend. His Mom would merely remind him again of his eternal loser status, and tell him that she wanted nothing more to do with him -- and then she would find solace in her oh-so-important job.
The day she caught him stealing money from them to pay for his drug habit was the day she threw him out on the streets to fend for himself. He was eighteen years old and he could still recall her cold words with such clarity.
"You're no longer welcome here."
In the years that followed she made that perfectly clear on every occasion they met, not that he saw her too often. He was refused admittance to the family house though he went back just one time to grab all his meager possessions -- including the old television set that they had given him for his sixteenth birthday.
She accused him of stealing it from them. It was so typical of her to even take back his birthday presents from bygone years. In her eyes he was the eternal loser who could do nothing right... and he spent the next few months proving her assessment of him was right.
It was only after he had spent those months sliding further down into the gutter that he found the strength -- through another -- to break the vicious circle of self-destruction, and got with the program. He joined a local AA meeting, figuring that if Captain Furillo of Hill St. Blues could overcome a drinking problem and become a winner... then so could he. It didn't matter that Furillo was a fictional character that he'd seen on his 'stolen' TV set.
Alcoholism is a disease.
That was the first thing they taught him, but unlike many diseases, there was no cure, only preventative action. The only way he could keep the disease from ruining his life was to halt its insidious path of destruction -- to stop drinking.
Preventative action meant total abstinence.
That thought brought him back to the present, to where he was sitting in this late night bar sipping a soda while his father downed a beer in front of him. It was surreal. After all these years his father had finally woken up to the knowledge that he hadn't been there for his son when he needed him the most.
"It's a little too late for you to try and be my Dad, don't you think? It's not like we're gonna go in the yard and chuck the old football around."
David tried not to sound too bitter but even the sweet soda took on a sharp tang in his mouth as he took another sip.
"Yeah. You're right... but I'm still your father.... And I love you."
Damn him, David thought viciously. What did he want from him? Forgiveness for never being there when his life was so thoroughly screwed? Or maybe he wanted David to admit that it hadn't been his father's fault... that he'd been a bad kid and deserved everything he got. Or maybe he just wanted David to be the one begging for forgiveness of him, for not being the son he 'deserved'.
Pride is a sin.
Yes, but lack of pride was what had set him on that road to destruction, that had sent him falling from grace. In that first year he had slept in back alleys, in doorways, and on park benches, though mostly in the garden sheds and garages of those few friends who had tried to stand by him. Eventually even their number dwindled away to just Stewart, though even Stewart might not have stuck around if David hadn't met Mark.
David gave a wry smile as he wondered if his father would be so eager to make his peace with him if he knew about Mark Johnson.
Mark had found him when he hit rock bottom but rather than wanting nothing to do with him, he had pushed aside all David's feelings of unworthiness and had become his friend and confidante. He would sit with him in Stewart's dingy garage as they watched Hill St. Blues, discussing the relevance of his newfound hero -- Captain Frank Furillo, a recovering alcoholic who'd done good. Mark had been the one who kept telling him that everything was going to be all right as he purged the terrible craving for alcohol and drugs from his system, often accompanying him to the AA meetings to provide moral support. It was Mark who had found him the job washing dishes so he could claw back a little of his self-esteem, finally able to afford to feed and clothe himself once more.
With Mark's help, Stewart's father had been persuaded to let him make a home in the barely used room at the back of his electric store which provided far more warmth that the garage. Then he had been persuaded to take him on as an apprentice, giving him the chance to learn a trade rather than spend the rest of his life washing dishes.
And it was Mark who had shown him the true meaning of caring, waiting until his 21st birthday before taking their relationship that final, welcome step into something infinitely more precious.
What had his father done for him in comparison? Or for Laura, his sister, who was the real focus of this sudden desire by his father to bridge the gap between them.
"You can quit worrying about me. I'm not holding any grudges." He pushed up from his seat. "Thanks for the soda." And then he walked away.
It was a lie. He did hold a grudge. He couldn't forgive his father for not being there when he was sleeping rough during that first cold winter, wrapped up in newspaper or an old torn blanket, and huddled in the doorway of a closed store. He hadn't been there when he woke up choking on his own vomit after yet another night of bad booze and drugs. And his father hadn't been there when the pimps tried to seduce him into the life of a rent boy -- nor when three vagrants had ganged up on him and taken everything he possessed, violently, including his virginity.
That was the night he met Mark Johnson.
Mark was a Marine Biologist but he assisted his adopted father in the search for runaways during what little spare time he had away from his research. The Police tended to call Dr. McKay whenever they brought a juvenile into hospital that could not give a home address and, looking young for his age, they had assumed he was lying when he said he was nineteen. However, McKay had been out of town that evening so Mark had come in his father's place, quickly realising that David was no minor... and yet he had stuck around nonetheless.
David had turned nineteen only two months earlier, and he had reached the bottom of that slippery slope, unable to find a way to scrabble out of the gutter that his life had become... until Mark leaned down and held out his hand.
"No such thing as an eternal loser. You're only a loser for as long as you want to be," Mark had said.
Well, David had stopped being a loser that day, deciding that it made for far greater revenge on his mother to prove that she was wrong about him. Now, with the new job working for Stewart's father, he would even be able to afford his own place.
Mark *had* asked him if he wanted to move in with him, but David still relished his newfound independence, wanting to stand on his own two feet for the first time in his life. Mark had merely grinned in acceptance and then helped him search for the perfect apartment.
David let himself back into the electric store and locked the door securely behind him. His room out back was an old storeroom that still had boxes piled up high in one corner but he'd made use of one of those boxes as a coffee table and another to stand that 'stolen' TV set upon. There wasn't a bathroom as such. Instead there was the obligatory washroom containing a hand-sink and a toilet. Twice a week he took a shower at the local pool, quickly learning which time of the day was best to avoid those men who frequented the place just to admire the naked flesh on display. He wanted only one man to see him naked... and that was Mark.
Most other evenings he spent at Mark's home, making love in the large, comfortable bed, or cuddling up on the worn couch together as they watched TV... then making use of his shower or even the bath. Sometimes Mark would come to this place and they'd sprawl together on the mattress lying against the far wall, kissing tenderly as they watched a favorite program.
Tonight he was alone, though, as Mark was at sea completing some more research, and he wouldn't be back for another three or four days. He missed him. He missed his easy-going nature, his bright smile and his soft green eyes. He missed the feel of Mark's hands on his body, and missed touching Mark in return. If ever there was a reason for staying sober then it was for Mark's sake... not that Mark would walk away from him should he ever have a relapse. However, David never wanted to risk that for Mark was the best thing that had ever happened to him in his young life.
Tonight was his last night sleeping at the store and David wished he and Mark could have spent it together. He sighed deeply, wondering when he had fallen in love with Mark Johnson, but knowing that it was a *good* thing rather than anything to be ashamed of. There were very few people that truly mattered in his life now, and most of them knew about Mark, the only exception being Laura.
Silently, he wished Mark was here right now so he could hold him tight and ask him why this meeting with his father had disturbed him so much. He sighed deeply, knowing the answer.
Despite holding a grudge against his father for not being there to protect him -- even from himself -- he could admit that he still loved him. He still valued his father's opinion of him and he wanted his Dad to feel proud of his accomplishments, and accepting of his chosen lifestyle -- and his male partner.
But what if his father was horrified that he was gay? What if he couldn't accept his relationship with Mark? What if he told his mother and she saw it as just one more blot against his character and refused to allow his sister to visit him any longer?
In truth he couldn't understand why his parents had sent Laura back to that behavioral institution after she had told them how horrific it was inside. Had they disbelieved her? Or had they not cared what those people were doing to her?
Mark would have known what to do... but Mark was a long way from here, and Mark's adopted father, despite retiring last year, was away on a conference.
He sighed again. There was nothing more he could do this evening and he had a hard day ahead of him tomorrow. Stewart had promised to help him move, and even to help him make a start on painting his new apartment.
He stripped off to his T-shirt and shorts and climbed beneath the warm quilt -- a present from Mark to ward off the chills of the night in the unheated storeroom. He breathed in deeply, scenting his lover on the pillow beneath his head and recalling the last night they had slept here together.
Mark was beautiful, the nine year gap in their ages meaningless as his mind dwelt on the warm, soft skin and those laughing green eyes. Sun-kissed blond hair would fan across the pillow beneath his head, golden against the dark blue sheets, and then Mark would grin -- openly, boyishly -- in delight as David moved into his open arms.
Often their lovemaking was little more than rocking slowly together, with hard sensitive shafts bumping and sliding; slowly drawing them spiraling upwards to the dizzying heights of ecstasy; then holding them aloft for that indescribable moment in time before they fell into the security of each other's embrace.
Sometimes they would gasp their pleasure into the other's mouth as they kissed long and hard, and at other times David would bite down hard on his lover's neck, almost drawing blood as the power of his release swept over him.
By this time tomorrow he would have a decent bed to offer when his lover came to stay with him, and that thought pushed away all the old resentments that had filled him on meeting with his father. He snuggled down beneath the quilt, breathing in the scent of his lover that still lingered in the soft material, knowing that his dreams would be good tonight despite the family problems that had found him once again.
Eventually, he slept.
The strident ring of the telephone drew him from a pleasant dream and he reached out, snagging the handset and pulling it to him.
He came fully awake as he heard Laura on the other end of the line, knowing he would get no more sleep that night.
At ten-thirty the following morning, David pulled up into a parking space just outside the main entrance to Meadowbrook Achievement Center. He pulled on his cap, picked up his equipment bag and worksheet, then strode into the reception area.
It never ceased to amaze him how trusting people were when you donned the uniform of an electrical engineer and looked like you knew exactly what you were doing. Within minutes, they were escorting him beyond the public access areas and deep inside the building.
Laura had given him all the information he needed to create a realistic scenario to explain his presence in a particular area, and that is where they took him.
Once in the main dining room, he made it look as if he was busy trying to trace a fault with the electrical system. As soon as his escort was distracted, he reached inside the nearby cupboard and extracted a thick pile of papers Laura had told him about, carefully concealing them inside one of his work folders. He packed up his fault detection equipment and called over to his escort, saying that he had fixed the 'phantom' fault.
As he walked back through the complex, David heard the sound of raised voices and was stunned when he recognized his father and mother. He felt the worry lift from his shoulders when he heard them demanding Laura's release from Meadowbrook, wanting her placed back into their care. He pulled his cap low so they wouldn't recognize him and stepped aside as Police Officers entered the reception area with a very determined woman by their side. He overheard her name -- Nora Field -- and knew that this was the woman Laura wanted him to take the papers to, but now was not the right time so he left. He smiled broadly as he saw his parents and Laura getting into their car, then climbed into his work van and drove away, knowing that Laura was safe at last.
He drove straight to the office where Nora Field was based and waited for her there. Two hours passed before she returned and David could see the lines of strain on her face, yet she tried to find a smile for him.
"How can I help you?"
"I'm Laura's brother. She asked me to smuggle out these files from Meadowbrook." He placed the thick pile of paper onto the desk in front of the woman and saw her eyes widen.
"Oh my God!" She started leafing through the documents, then her eyes flicked back to his face. "Winslow destroyed all the files... burned them. We had no evidence of the Insurance fraud, only *possible* claims of child cruelty. This..." she indicated towards the papers "...will ensure he is never put into a position of power working with minors ever again." She shook her head, tears glistening in her eyes. "I don't know what to say?"
"Don't need to say anything. Just nail that bastard."
David stood up and she came to her feet too, stretching out a hand across the desk to him. "Thank you. With this evidence... we can do that."
David nodded and bounced away, knowing he had done something very important with his life this day, something to be proud of. He climbed back into the van and headed to his parents' home, his sixth sense telling him that his sister would need him. He shrugged out of his work clothes before bounding up to the house and rapping on the door. For once, he was allowed over the threshold and he went straight up the stairs to Laura's room. He was not surprised to find her busily packing, having already sensed that she would not consider staying under the same roof as their parents after what they had put her through.
Had it only been a few weeks ago that he told her she would always be welcome to stay with him if things got too rough at home? He thought about the small three-roomed apartment he'd just taken on, suddenly grateful for the timing as it would have been hard sharing that back room at the store with another -- even if she was his sister.
He laughed softly, raising his eyebrows as she tried to cram everything she owned into the bags, and wondering how she was going to fit it all into the small second bedroom at his new apartment. He helped her carry her bags down the stairs but his smile dropped away as his mother and father approached them at the bottom.
"I don't wanna fight anymore."
His father nodded softly before looking from him to Laura. "We love you. Maybe you can come by for dinner this weekend."
"Both of you."
David raised his eyebrows in surprise when he realised his mother wanted him to be there too, having assumed that the invitation would only be extended to Laura.
"Mom's cooking," his father said, smiling, and David understood. It had been a long time since his mother had made any 'family' effort, spending all her time and energy on her work.
He nodded, unable to find the words at first as he accepted his mother's offer, and then he helped Laura out of the house. As he drove away, his thoughts went to his lover, wishing Mark was there to share in his joy.
Two Days Later:
Mark sighed as the last mooring was put in place. He gathered up his papers and strode down the gangplank onto the dock, grinning broadly when he spotted his lover waiting up ahead. David called out to him as he drew close.
"Hey... good trip?"
"Yeah... tagged a few shark, followed their movements for several days and got a real feel for their feeding patterns."
"How about their mating habits?"
"How about ours?"
David laughed in response, enjoying the private joke they'd started between from the early days when Mark had first tried to explain what he did as a marine biologist. They carried on walking side-by-side towards the van David used for work.
"Oh, I reckon our mating habits will be some what less inhibited than usual," David replied, tongue-in-cheek.
"Only some what?"
"Well, there is a slight... erhm... not really a problem but--"
"Did you get the apartment?"
"Oh yeah, but I always got a house guest... a semi-permanent house guest."
Mark stopped dead in his tracks. "Anyone I should be jealous of?"
"Maybe," David laughed at the small frown that had creased his lover's face. "It's my sister... Laura."
"Only some what inhibiting?" He said, referring back to the earlier part of the conversation, and grinned on hearing David's laughter.
"I persuaded her to go out tonight and see some friends, maybe take in a movie, so we'll have a few hours alone."
By this time they had reached the van and Mark pressed David up against the side-wall, nudging one leg between David's as he took his lover's mouth with his. They kissed slowly, enjoying the well-remembered taste and feel as their tongues collided and curled around each other. Mark moaned in appreciation as David's arms wrapped around him, holding him tight. He could feel the hardened mass at David's groin, not needing to feel the tightness of his own pants to know he was equally aroused. He drew away from the kiss, smiling warmly.
"I missed you."
"Me too, but I don't intend to waste another minute here on the dock so stow your bags and let's go home."
Mark grinned at the flushed face and, moments later, they were driving away from the dock. He spent the journey listening as David related the events of the past two weeks culminating in Laura's release from Meadowbrook. He gave a small frown as he recognized the name Nora Field; she was a woman who had worked with his father once or twice before he retired last year.
The one-sided conversation ended as they drew up outside the apartment block.
Mark whistled in appreciation as they entered David's new apartment; the coat of paint had added freshness to the sparsely furnished place and he wished he had been the one to help David settle in. Within seconds of dropping his bags by the front entrance, David grabbed his hand and urged him into the larger of the two bedrooms. David turned quickly and kicked the door shut before reaching out to tug the T-shirt from Mark's pants.
"Eager, aren't we?" He laughed at his lover's antics.
"You bet... now get 'em off."
They stripped quickly, as if in a race, their clothes flung aside without care of how or where they landed. Finally naked, they fell onto the bed, wrapped in each other's arms, lips already sealed in another long, deep kiss; bodies sliding and thrusting hard, fast and furious.
Mark moaned as David's sharp teeth sunk into his neck, marking him possessively as he sucked on the sensitive flesh, enhancing the pleasure that coursed through him as he found welcome release after two weeks apart. He felt the renewed flood of warmth that told him David had found his satisfaction too; their furious thrusting slowing to gentle rocking as the last of the wondrous sensations ebbed away.
A handful of Kleenex served to clean the spent semen from their sweat-slicked bellies and then they snuggled down into each other's arms, content to just hold and caress as the warmth of their reunion sent them slowly drifting into sleep.
The distant sound of a radio playing brought David's eyes fighting to open, and then he heard a short rapping before the bedroom door opened and Laura came in. David froze, coming awake instantly in the realization that Mark still shared the bed with him, that the sheets were rumpled from their lovemaking, and that the room probably reeked of sex.
Sunlight streamed through the cracks at the edge of the curtains. They'd only meant to spend the evening together, with Mark leaving before Laura came home. Instead they had fallen asleep, so safe and secure in each other's arms that they had not even heard her come back last night.
She pursed her lips into a shushing shape and indicated to the bed where Mark still slept soundly, and then he realised that she had a tray with two mugs of coffee upon it. She smiled as she placed it on the bedside cabinet and he saw that she'd left one black but had added the cream and sugar bowl to the tray. The meaning was clear. She'd known there was someone in his bed with him... but had she realised it would be another man?
Her eyes kept darting towards Mark and David could read the shock in her appraisal. Mark shifted on the bed beside him, and David turned in time to see the green eyes open wide.
"I'm... I'm Laura... and you must be Mark." Her eyes flicked to David's, and he could read sudden fear that she'd had mistaken her brother's bedmate for someone else.
"Yeah... I'm Mark." Her eyes filled with relief and then she smiled, smugly.
"David talks about you all the time... just never really thought... but it's cool." She looked a little embarrassed, as if realizing she was babbling. "I left my coffee outside--"
She turned on the threshold. "It's good to meet you at last."
The door closed behind her and David let out the breath he had not been aware of holding. He looked across at Mark and saw similar relief mingled with shock mirrored in his lover's soft green and gold eyes.
"I should have told her about us. Just never seemed to be the right time... and then when all this happened with Meadowbrook--" He stopped as Mark placed two fingers across his lips.
"It's all right. I know you're not ashamed of me... of us."
He leaned in and David moaned in relief as he felt the soft, kiss-swollen lips press against his own. A knock on the door drew them apart and David sat up.
"We're decent." I think, he added silently.
Laura poked her head around the door. "You two planning on staying in bed all day? If not, breakfast will be on the table in fifteen minutes." She pulled back but then her head whipped round again. "You never told me he was so cute."
She closed the door behind her and David laughed, all of his remaining fear fading away. He felt a pair of arms snake around his waist, and chuckled as wet kisses were trailed along his spine.
"She said fifteen minutes... and I know just the right way to use that time."
David grinned as Mark pulled him back down, accepting Mark's weight as his lover rolled on top. His hands were caught above his head and Mark dipped lower to nip at his lips with sharp teeth.
"Did I mention how much I love this apartment?"
"However, I think your apartment is missing..." He nibbled along David's jaw, "...something... very... important."
Mark leaned down and nuzzled at David's ear, his tongue dipping into the shell and sending shivers of anticipation racing through David.
"A lock on the bedroom door," he whispered.
"Her door or mine?"
He heard Mark chuckle at the thought of them locking Laura inside her room while *they* made out, then heard a satisfying yelp as he turned the tables on Mark, flipping him onto his back and covering him with his body. The short struggle ended abruptly as Mark relaxed into the passionate kiss, and as the pleasure slowly built between them, David knew that, no matter what happened with his parents, while he had Mark and Laura he would never be a loser again.