They had no business being together, Tank knew that, mulled it over, came to the conclusion it was wrong. Wrong like his life, like the hole in the ground and how he’d been powerless to change fate. Tank knew wrong like an intimate sigh. The boy, Alex, he wore it like second skin, so natural you’d never know… But Tank did.
Tank busied himself unpacking the bags of groceries, mostly canned goods, some meats for the fridge. They wouldn’t starve but they wouldn’t eat nutritious either.
Alex asked, “Is there a certain way you’d like this stuff stored?”
Tank folded the last of the bags and set them aside in a drawer for recycling. He took the two bottles of vodka and placed them in the freezer, ignoring for the moment the fact his gut was already in knots with the need to place the cans and cooking supplies in the cabinet in precise order on the shelves.
But that was about him. He needed to make this place, this thing he had with the kid … it had to be them, not him, not always his way, just because it was his affliction, his curse, and the way he coped was taking control and just doing it.
He moved toward the living room, stared at the chair, the television set in the corner, willed himself to walk through the doorway and leave Alex alone. He couldn’t do it.
“You cook, Alex?”
“Um, I guess.” He held up a can of beans, grinned. “Yeah, yeah I can handle this.”
“Good. Then you put that shit away to suit yourself.” He stepped backward, halted. “I’ll be, um… I’ll be in the … uh…” Fuckitfucketyfuck… He sat on the kitchen chair. “I’ll wait here until you’re done.”
And chew my fucking tongue to a bloody pulp while I’m at it.
Alex considered the arrangement on the counter, made a few adjustments, then transferred the cans to the cabinet by the sink, aligning them carefully, almost as well as he might have done it himself.
There was no explanation on god’s green earth for Alex wanting to please him this way. Hell, the fact the kid recognized the kind of crazy he brought to the table day in and day out was reason enough to do what he could to secure a future for the boy, even if that future was one that Jason McQuire would never be in.
The problem was … and knowing it was a constant sucker punch to the heart … was that anything he’d do, however he tried to mask the gesture, Alex was going to know it for what it was.
A payoff, a parting gift from a client, a grateful one, but still just a client who fucked him right … after everyone else had fucked him wrong.
Tank’s chest constricted, going tight with grief, the kind of grief that went past what he’d felt staring down in the hole in the ground, the kind of grief that comes when you make deliberate choices that hurt the one you love. And no excuses, no justifications, were going to exempt him from the responsibility he carried…
…for the heart he held in his hands, the heart he was going to break, had to break, had to shatter into a million pieces because if he didn’t that kind soul, that beautiful spirit would die a slow, agonizing death.
And if he stayed, what if Alex stayed, what then? What kind of man put an innocent at risk just because he wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t man enough to recognize that letting go was the right thing, the kind thing, the only thing?
What if it wasn’t him, what if it was Alex, Alex in the ground instead of him? How would he survive that, live with that? He was having enough trouble living with him now, putting him at risk. But living without?
I’m strong, but not strong enough for that…
Good Boy Bad