Hayes liked a sliver of peace and quiet as much as the next man, but not when he
was around his lover. A quiet Van
was an especially unhappy Van and that was never good. The young detective
spared a moment from the road to look at his companion.
Yup, the jaw was tight. Deaq
had two choices, confront the problem head-on or wait until it’d festered
enough and Van finally erupted.
up with you?” Deaq asked, choosing the head-on option.
Van didn’t do well with holding things in, probably due to lack of
experience, and Deaq didn’t like to see him suffer.
glanced over in time to see Van shrug.
up, just getting’ into the right head space for our meeting tonight.”
Van turned to look out the window.
Not a good reaction. Deaq
winced. He should have known when
Van had let him drive that the other man was brooding.
After Ray Ray had met with his parole officer, they’d dropped him off
at the Candy Store. There, the elder
Ray could cool his heels while Deaq and Van got ready for the meet that would
hopefully result in buying back the counterfeiter’s life from the Nigerian
mafia. With any luck, Ray Ray would
also find a way to irritate Billie but that would be just gravy.
came down to it, Van and Deaq could have gotten ready for the meet at the Candy
Store too – they both kept several changes of clothing there.
That Van had wanted to bug out to their place, without his dad in tow,
should have been Deaq’s first sign of trouble.
baby, I know bein’ around Ray Ray makes you crazy, but give it a chance.”
Deaq addressed what he was sure was the problem.
“I know he’s not ‘Father Knows Best’ material… hell, when it
comes to parenting, he’s not even Homer Simpson material, but he’s tryin’.”
got Van’s attention. “You are
such an asshole.”
blinked. He’d expected a tirade
about Ray Ray, not an attack on himself. “Me?
What did I do?”
always defending him,” Van explained. Incapable
of staying still when he was upset, his fingers tapped out an agitated tattoo
against his knee.
didn’t let Deaq get a word in edgewise. “And
at Gretchen’s earlier… what was all that crap about, in your next life,
wanting to come back as Ray Ray?”
there, dawg,” Deaq interjected. “I
said if I HAD to come back as a white man, I’d want to come back as Ray Ray.
Given a choice, I’d still want to come back as a brother, know what I
you think my pop’s got all ‘the smarts, style, and charm,’” Van
retorted, quoting Deaq from earlier, “then maybe you’re sleeping with the
looked over at his lover, certain that Van was joking.
A steady green-eyed gaze met his eyes with complete and utter
maneuver worthy of Van, Deaq took a quick glance in the rearview mirror and then
made his move. With a sharp jerk of
the wheel and loud screaming of tires, he made their ride do an abrupt turn.
The smell of hot rubber trailed in their wake as he directed their car
into an empty lot, bringing it to rest with a final gravel-slinging skid.
his hands off of the wheel in a deliberate motion, Deaq turned to his lover.
“You wanna run that by me again, dawg?
‘Cause I am just sure I did not hear you say that I should be sleeping
with your dad instead of you.”
looked straight ahead. “You’re
always pumping him up and sayin’ what a great guy he is.”
Van crossed his arms over his chest. “Just thought maybe you’d
realized you were doin’ the wrong Ray.”
flexed his fingers, suddenly angry. Strangling
himself for his earlier stupidity, however, would be counterproductive.
Instead, he reached across with one hand and wrapped it around the back
of Van’s neck. His grip was firm
but gentle as his thumb stroked a soothing pattern against the short, soft hairs
hidden at Van’s nape.
there’s so much wrong with that statement, I don’t hardly know where to
start.” Van didn’t answer but
Deaq felt encouraged by the way his lover was relaxing under his touch.
“First, I didn’t know I was ‘doing’ you.
I thought me and you were more than just a little bangin’.”
uncrossed his arms. “Yeah, we
though his partner wasn’t looking directly at him, Deaq knew how good Van was
at observing someone without seeming to. He
nodded his head to let the other man know his soft words had been heard.
glad we agree on that,” the detective said.
“Second, I may think Ray Ray’s a cool piece of work but the most
important thing about him is that he’s your dad.
Weren’t for that, he’d just be an old dude in a good suit.”
likes Ray Ray, that’s the problem. Even
Billie – if any other man called her ‘honey,’ she’d hand him his balls
on a platter, but not my dad….”
think that’s because he *is* your dad?” Deaq interjected.
Van sighed explosively and then finally looked at him. “It’s like this. You know when you get a birthday present from your grandma and it’s wrapped in that fancy paper? The stuff that’s too expensive and your mom won’t ever buy?
Deaq had no idea where his lover was headed but trusted Van enough to know he
had a point.
look at this gift and the wrapping and the bow and you think, ‘Wow, this is
gonna be the best birthday present ever.’”
Van’s hands gestured wildly as he warmed up to his subject.
“Then, you open it up and, instead of something cool, the only thing
inside is socks and underwear. Plain
white socks and underwear.”
young man sighed more softly than before and turned in his seat so that he was
facing Deaq. “Don’t get fooled
by the package, Deaq. Ray Ray’s
all flash and no substance. Trust
me, open the man up and you’re likely to find nothing.”
Van smiled sadly. “Not even
socks and underwear.”
didn’t smile back, knowing the conversation was much too serious for that
despite the crazy example Van had just used.
“But… you’ve worked so hard to get Ray Ray a straight job, even
talkin’ Billie into taking down the Nigerian so Ray Ray’d be safe.
If you feel that way about your dad… why?”
shrugged and looked away. “He’s
my dad and I guess I always hope he’s gonna change.”
Those green eyes came back to rest on Deaq.
“Like I said, everybody likes Ray Ray.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen somebody get sucked in by the
Ray Ray mystique, and then get burned when he’s through with them.”
Van leaned back into the warm hand that was still resting on his neck.
“I just don’t want that to happen to you.”
brushed his thumb along Van’s jaw. “Let
me guess, when Ray Ray burned somebody, he’d conveniently not be around to
take the heat.” When Van shrugged
and suddenly became fascinated with a piece of lint stuck to his pants, Deaq had
his answer. “That’s what I thought. You
and your mom got stuck with cleanin’ up his messes, huh?”
leaned into Deaq’s touch. “Yeah.
Turns out, it was good on-the-job training, but at the time, it totally
sucked.” His voice got softer.
“Especially since everybody liked Ray Ray more than me in the first
scooted forward and kissed Van thoroughly. “Well,
this is one dawg who prefers the real thing.” He stole another kiss.
“Baby, your pops don’t hold a candle to you.
He’s over twice your age but less than half the man you are.”
lover thoughtfully trailed his tongue past the territory that Deaq’s kiss had
just covered, no doubt tasting the other man on his lips.
His gaze slid sideways at his lover and Deaq could see the glint of
mischief in his eyes. “You know,
Deaq, there is one thing my dad and I have in common.”
that, babe?” The detective was
used to his partner’s mercurial mood shifts.
He knew they weren’t through talking about Ray Ray, not by a long shot.
They’d simply reached Van’s limit for the night.
Deaq was willing to give his lover space, especially when his partner had
that particular look in his eye.
trailed his fingers along Deaq’s thigh. Bending
close, he said hoarsely, “One thing Ray Ray and I have in common is that we
both get cravings for a spicy Polish sausage.”
His fingers made their way to Deaq’s crotch and his last words were
delivered in conjunction with a slight squeeze.
“A spicy Polish sausage with everything.”
shifted in his seat, pants suddenly too tight.
“Do I look Polish to you, dawg?” He gasped as Van moved closer and
started nibbling on his ear. “This
is 100% African-American meat, baby. More
like a foot-long hot dawg, know what I’m sayin’?”
partner snorted with laughter, his moist breath tickling Deaq’s neck.
“Foot long?” Van ran his
other hand underneath Deaq’s shirt. “The
Deaq-inator is impressive, but I think you’re an inch or two short of a foot.
Not that I’m complaining or anything.”
his lip, Deaq captured his lover’s hand, preventing it from sneaking into his
pants. “Much as I’d like to take
you into the backseat and defend my reputation, now is not the time.”
meet,” Van sighed, deflated.
meet,” Deaq agreed, kissing Van’s hand before letting it go.
Putting the car in drive, he reluctantly headed them back onto the road.
sighed and flopped back into his seat. “You
got screwed, you know.”
way, dawg,” Deaq retorted, with a waggle of his eyebrows.
“But I’ll get screwed later, after we set up the Nigerian.”
got a one track mind, anybody ever tell you that?”
Deaq’s cheeky comment had made Van grin but the younger man quickly
sobered. “I’m talking about in
the family department. Dre was a
great guy, a relative you wouldn’t be ashamed to introduce to anybody.
But you, you hook up with a lover who’s got family like Ray Ray.
Don’t seem fair.”
don’t know ‘bout that,” Deaq countered.
“One good thing about your dad spendin’ time in jail; the idea of a
man lovin’ a man ought to be familiar to him.”
When he felt Van relax, Deaq bit his lip to keep from smiling.
His next point was bound to perk the boy up a bit.
“And if his goin’ straight don’t work an’ Ray Ray ends up back in
the joint, for us, that’ll just mean he’s not around to put his nose in our
business – not the worst trait to have in a father-in-law.”
stillness and silence emanating from the passenger seat was profound.
Van finally asked in a strangled voice.
Deaq answered easily. “You got a
problem with that?” He shifted his
eyes off the road long enough to see a big grin break out over Van’s face.
no problem,” his lover responded.
was a happy silence for a few minutes and then a question.
one thing,” Van asked. “Tonight,
after the meet and we get to do that Polish sausage vs. foot-long
shot his partner a suspicious look. There
was waaaaay too much innocence radiating from Van’s voice for Deaq’s peace
of mind. “Yeah?”
know our conversation from before about you wanting to be reincarnated as Ray
hadn’t been driving, he would have closed his eyes while waiting for the other
shoe to drop. “Yeah?”
for tonight, could you avoid any mention of the phrase, ‘Who’s your
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