Let's just pretend I have skills and there's a crude image of a penis here to convey the word giant dick, okay?
I'm off to write smut while standing in lines at Walt Disney World again. This year, I think I'll take Tori's Happy World along with me to make it even more subversively fun.
While I'm there, I'll be working on Bad Boyfriend, which is a spin off from Bad Company. I've written characters who are antagonists before but this time I've created a monster. Based on word from beta readers and critique partners alike Peter is a major dick. In fact, I can't decide what his worst behavior is yet. He has his reasons—narcissistic, selfish, dickish reasons—but I don't think I've ever written anyone like him before. I suppose I'll have to engineer some comeuppance for him by the end, but when I started the story, I actually thought he might be redeemable. Redeemable enough for his own HEA in another book. Let me make it clear. That is off the table, Peter. After the crap you've pulled, you'll be lucky if people don't start hoping you die in a grisly industrial accident.
So you can have a little idea of what I'm talking about, here's a bit of Peter in action.
When Quinn straightened from brushing his teeth, the face in the mirror scared the shit out of him. Christ. I'm my grandfather.
It had been cold in the kitchen while he sat at the table, surfed the internet, and pretended not to listen for Peter's car in the driveway—or for any breaking news involving fires—so he'd thrown on a sweater Peter's mom had given him for Christmas. And now with the off-brand matching luggage set under his eyes, the gray at his temples and the old man brown wool, he looked like his grandfather. After his heart-attack.
No wonder he and Peter hadn't had sex in….
Hell, Peter it's been three and a half months.
Did you fill out some kind of survey? I've worked eight days straight and I'm thirty-six fucking years old. Do you mind if I pass out now?
Yeah, I remember how fucking old you are. Especially since your birthday was the last time I got laid.
So watch porn. You're always on the damned computer anyway.
…add two more weeks to that conversation and it added up to four months. Quinn was starting to wonder if he'd forget how to do it. Maybe he couldn't blame Peter just dropping off to sleep when he came home and found dead grandpa in their bed. Ten years as a fireman's partner could leave anyone with gray hair and worry lines.
He'd thought about an affair—about Peter having an affair—but the checks Peter was bringing home meant he was telling the truth about working all the overtime. And Peter was in such a panic that anyone would find out he was gay that he'd be afraid to go near another man.
Peter's truck growled into the driveway and Quinn dropped his toothbrush in the holder. He was too short on time for a dye job, but at least he could ditch the grandpa sweater.
He traded his sweats and saggy boxers for a close-fitting pair of black briefs and shivered his way under the covers.
He thought about trying to pose, but Peter had always been able to see through Quinn, so he just propped himself up against the pillows and hoped it didn't look like he was in a coffin. Hubert's tags chimed in warning, giving Quinn time for the futile hope that the big St. Bernard mix wouldn't shake his shaggy head and send drool around the room.
Hubert yawned and then Quinn was wiping his cheek from the spray as Hubert shook off sleep and climbed out of his bed, stalking stiff-legged out to meet Peter in the hall.
Peter's keys hit the kitchen table and Hubert's tags jangled as Peter rubbed his head and neck. "How's my old man?"
Hubert whined and after a satisfied sounding yawn, made his slow way back to bed.
Peter slammed around in the kitchen for a few more minutes, leaving Quinn to wonder if this was a beer or orange juice before bed kind of night. Beer meant on the couch for TV, ignoring the bedroom, orange juice meant he might come to bed in a few minutes. Quinn heard him in the hall.
"Hey. You're still up."
Something was different about the man Quinn had lived with for ten years, like he'd shrugged off something that had been hanging on him for weeks—months—maybe this whole past year. It was in the broad shoulders, the steady hazel eyes, the way he stood straight in the door of the bedroom and offered Quinn the first smile he'd seen in who knew how long.
"You're home early."
"Lupi's back from his suspension. We can finally stop covering for his ass."
"Shit. I was counting on those big paychecks so I could run off to Vegas."
"Yeah. Right. Like I can see you dropping something bigger than a nickel in a slot machine." Peter pulled off his shirt, reaching over his head, arms crossed dragging the material up from behind. Something about the familiarity of that quirk eased the ache Quinn had been wearing under his scalp for so long he didn't notice it until it was gone.
Peter was back. And they were going to be okay. The weirdness was gone, just one of those bumps in the long, long road.
"Hey, I can spend someone else's money no problem. And it's not like you'd even notice I was gone." He said it lightly, but Peter looked up from where he was folding his pants across a chair, lips twisted in a grimace.
"Sorry." Quinn said quickly.
Peter stared at him until Quinn wondered if they were back to the land of weird. Then Peter's face relaxed, like he'd made up his mind not to get all pissed off again. "Not tonight, okay?"
Quinn's throat went dry. "Got something else in mind?"
For a big guy, Peter could move fast and quietly—maybe he snuck up on fires. He had a hand on Quinn's ankle, yanking him toward the edge of the bed. "Yeah. Get your slut panties off so I can suck your cock."
(Ahem. Sex ensues.)
Quinn was on his second cup of coffee, Hubert keeping his feet warm under the kitchen table when Peter came in with a cardboard box in his hands, wearing sweats and a purposeful expression.
"Jesus." Peter jumped. "I thought you'd be at work."
"It's winter break. We have the week off."
"Right. I forgot." Peter slid the box onto a counter.
Quinn gestured at the box with his coffee cup. "Early spring cleaning?"
"Not really. Shit. I can't believe I forgot about winter break."
"It's okay. I figured you'd be working. I didn't have plans." The last time they'd had vacation time together had been…three years ago.
"Quinn." Peter sat down clutching at the table like it was the only thing keeping him upright.
The coffee was barely warm, but the sip Quinn had just taken burned all the way down his throat. Tension strung rusty wire through his neck, under his scalp, warning prickles erupting on the skin.
Peter's face got still and calm. Did he use that face when he was keeping people from running back into a burning building after someone they loved? Quinn had a sudden premonition that he was about to know what that desperation felt like.
"I've been dealing with some stuff."
"I noticed." A preliminary skirmish, no casualties.
"I've been with other people. Not a lot. Just sometimes."
"Okay." Quinn managed to keep that word even, despite the flare of panic. Christ, how many? Were you safe? When the hell did you manage that in your double shifts?
"Do you remember the Christmas party? When I asked you to come get me?"
Cops and firemen and paramedics drinking. Together. God help the innocent bystanders. "Yeah, some guy met me in the bar and told me they were going to get you home later."
"Yeah. That was one of those times. And..."
So it was possible for one breath to last a lifetime.
Peter couldn't even look at him. "She's pregnant," he finished.
Quinn knew there weren't too many different ways to interpret that, but he heard himself stupidly ask, "What do you mean?"
"I mean, I had sex with a woman eight weeks ago and she's pregnant. And before you ask, yes it's mine and no I wasn't too drunk to know what I was doing. She's going to keep it and—that's what I want. We're going to get married."
Married. Quinn heard himself repeat the word but it sounded far away.
"This—" Peter made a vague gesture that was supposed to cover ten years of sharing an apartment, a home, a dog, a life together. "It's never been all I wanted."
"We could—" But Quinn stopped himself before he finished it. We could do it together? The three of them? Did he even want to suggest it?
Peter shook his head. "I'm going to marry her. She's—it wasn't something she was expecting either, but I need to do this."
"And the fact that you also need a dick up your ass or down your throat when you want to really get off? Is that something she can expect?"
"I don't—I'm not gay, Quinn."
"You've been faking it pretty good for ten years. And it's not like I made a pass at you at your brother's birthday party all those years ago."
"You're the only guy I've ever fucked. And I was married before."
"Yeah, to Stacy, I remember. All two months of your marriage. After you jerked me off at your brother's party."
"You knew what you were getting into."
"And I'm to blame for not saying to hell with your closeted ass?"
"No one's to blame." Peter looked down.
"Yes, someone is: you."
Peter pushed away from the table. "I never made you any promises."
"Living together for ten years is a fucking promise, Peter."
"You were still on active duty for four of it." Face implacable, Peter leaned back against the counter with his arms across his chest.
Quinn itched to get that look off his lover's face. "I'm confused. That wasn't you begging me to come in your ass last night?"
Peter's gaze was steady, like Quinn was the irrational one in this conversation. Not irrational, just clueless. Months of Peter pushing him away, spending all his time at work, coming home last night acting like he'd finally figured something out. Leave out the sex and it almost made sense.
When Quinn didn't get an answer, he said, "Then what was last night about?"
"I wanted to give you a nice good-bye." Peter turned away and opened a cabinet. "I'm just going to take the stuff my mom gave me."
Gave us, Quinn wanted to point out, but he stared at the box on the counter as another horrible realization pierced his brain. "So when I came home from work, you were going to be packed and gone?" Did his voice break? Did he care?
"Yeah, but I was going to talk to you."
"Why bother? I'm sure a note would have covered it."
Quinn shoved the table away and stalked over to box Peter against the counter. "Dear Quinn, The last ten years were a mistake. I'm straight. Except when we fuck. Later, Peter."
Peter shoved Quinn away.
"You don't have to marry her to be the kid's dad." Quinn wanted to pin the son of a bitch against the counter again, but he was afraid that would lead to one of them taking a swing.
"Yes, I do. He deserves better than that."
"Than what? A father who's so ashamed of himself he wraps himself in a lie?"
"It's not a lie." Peter's face flushed. "My dick got hard. I came. You're the one who's having trouble with the facts."
"And what facts are you going to share with her? Are you going to tell her who's been getting your dick hard for the past ten years?"
"No. She doesn't have anything to do with that. I'm not asking her what she's been doing either."
"Maybe I owe her a warning. I hate to think of her waking up to this same shit ten years from now—with a kid to think about too. Don't worry. I'll be sure to explain how not gay our relationship was."
There it was. An honest emotion on Peter's face. But it wasn't love or sorrow. It was fear. "Don't. Please, Quinn, don't. I know—I know I'm hurting you but don't do that to me. You can't tell anyone."
"You know how I love it when you beg." The words felt like he was swallowing dirt, clumps falling cold and dry into his stomach.
"I'm not going to say anything. Ten years is a hard habit to break."
"Thank you." Peter went back to taking dishes out of the cabinet.
"But I gotta say, if you're trying to pass, you might want to try harder. I don't think many straight guys pack their stoneware before they walk out."
"I moved some clothes last week."
"I know we've got another month on the lease, but I found a place that will take dogs."
Quinn couldn't even make his mouth form a word. His body snapped at attention, braced for whatever abuse was coming his way as the commandant looked for some kind of weakness in his eyes. He must have made some kind of sound, because Peter turned around.
"He's my dog."
Quinn knew that. And he could remember dress whites covered in dog hair, chewed shoes and endless drool. But he was the one who fed him and took him to the vet when Peter was working.
Quinn started for Peter. Maybe to punch him, maybe to kiss him, one argument no better than the other, but after the first step the floor turned to quicksand. What had ever happened in his life to make Quinn think that this was safe, that this would last? He fucking knew better than that.
His hands closed on the box instead of Peter. The box made a satisfying crunch as it hit the wall, and Quinn stepped over the pieces as he left.
(And that may be the least of Peter's sins so far.)