by Susan Owa (多情多恨)
“Your family hates me.” Johnny is sitting on the edge of the hotel bed, head hanging, shoulders slumped.
“And your family really rolled out the red carpet for me,” Wex deflects, fiddling with his bow tie. He knows damn well how to tie a bow tie — he wears one in his shows. He just doesn’t want to have this conversation.
“Yeah, but… my family doesn’t like you because they’re dumb bigots. Your family pretty obviously doesn’t have a problem with the same sex thing, or even the WASP thing, so it… feels personal.”
“You’re just being paranoid, baby,” Wex lies, going to stand between his legs. “You know who does like you?”
Johnny glances up through his lashes, a reluctant smile playing at one corner of his mouth, bringing out a lone dimple. Wex kisses it, barely even having to bend down — Johnny’s such a tall bastard — then closes his eyes, breathing in deeply. Then he makes a split-second decision and shoves his hand down Johnny’s pants.
“Whoa! Are you crazy? Do, do you know how much this suit cost? If you ruin this suit –”
“Mm, yeah, you’d have to buy a new one, you’d hate that,” Wex says, dripping sympathy.
“If you ruin this suit, what am I gonna wear to the wedding?”
“Look at Mr Responsible all of a sudden. You want me to stop?”
Johnny laughs breathlessly. “Of course not.”
Wex pulls away to look at him, and just like he thought, Johnny’s eyes are huge and awed. Wex loves standing over him — the only time he gets to look at him from above is when Johnny’s sitting down, and he always looks just like this, a little stunned and a lot happy. But it can’t last forever.
“We’d better be careful not to make too much of a mess, then,” he says, kisses him, and carefully gets down onto his knees. He undoes the fly, pushes his underwear aside. Johnny makes a soft sound before Wex’s mouth even touches him — he’s so responsive, always has been.
Johnny’s hand steals into his hair, another thing that never changes, he’s obsessed with it — Wex should grow it a little for him. He never tugs, though Wex wouldn’t actually mind that much if he did, he just winds his fingers through the strands, sometimes scrunches them a little. One time he did make a fist, but slowly, painfully slow and gentle. When Wex tried to pull against it a little, to see what would happen, Johnny let go straight away, and Wex had to reach up and put his hand back in there himself. Maybe they should talk about it, but Wex just has this huge, tender place in his heart for the way Johnny touches him like that, the way it stretches all the way back through the years and past all of their mistakes to that first, perfect time, when everything was simple and pure — well, talking about it might change it. The observer effect, right? Why poke it with a stick.
Johnny keeps making those quiet noises as Wex sucks him, one hand in his hair, the other in the bedspread. He never talks, just makes sounds like he almost can’t bear it. Wex’s fingers dig into Johnny’s thighs through his suit — he catches himself and smooths them down. If he actually does end up messing up the suit, Johnny will be pissed.
It’s not exactly the easiest position, either on Wex’s knees or in terms of access, and between Johnny’s mood stabilisers and the fact that neither of them is getting any younger, it takes a while for him to come. When he does, Wex pulls off as much as he can before swallowing so he can look up at him, head back, face relaxed. He looks good — always, but especially like this, the way only Wex can make him look.
Wex tucks him back into his pants and gets up gingerly. Johnny hooks a finger in his collar and pulls to bring him in for a kiss. He’s going to have to retie his bowtie, but fuck it.
Weddings are like a family reunion and a temple service rolled into one, i.e. the least fun thing Wex can imagine. Johnny isn’t exactly rapt either, but at least a Jewish wedding is a novelty for him, and it’s not his family.
Wex is one of the pole-holders for the chuppah, but thankfully he doesn’t have to actually stand there for the whole ceremony, because it goes into stands once it’s carried in and after that it’s free-standing, so he can go back and stand with Johnny once his part is done. It’s actually really beautiful, adorned with driftwood and fall leaves. They have a lady rabbi, too. Rachel and Yvonne are both wearing dresses, but not matching ones — he’d been wondering if Yvonne might wear a tux, since he’d already seen Rachel’s dress.
Not that it matters, but Wex’s wedding was a piece of garbage compared to this. And he knows not all the money came from Yvonne’s side, either. Still, his wedding was, like, twenty years ago. His mother is a lot more comfortably-off now. And she probably doesn’t figure she’s going to have to throw any more weddings, which, whatever. Three weddings between your two surviving kids is probably enough for anyone.
Wex glances at Johnny in his periphery, who’s watching the proceedings politely, and takes his hand. Johnny’s eyes sweep to him like a searchlight beam, and his smile is so dazzling Wex can’t look at it.
Wex is queuing for the bar when little Zak, Rachel’s youngest, tugs on his pant leg. He’s dressed in a tiny tux, which is pretty adorable. Wex would really like to be the kind of guy who’s effortlessly good with kids — he ruffles Zak’s hair and pulls a dime out from behind his ear. He then pockets it, because he’s not totally sure that Zak is past the swallowing-small-items stage. He should probably know that, but whatever. It’s then he notices that Johnny is halfway across the room, talking to Marcia, Yvonne’s sister. Wex pats Zak’s head again distractedly and walks over to them, wrapping a proprietorial arm around Johnny’s waist. Even as he’s doing it, he reproaches himself — it’s not as though Johnny is going to hit on his sister-in-law at his sister’s wedding, for God’s sake. It’s not as though he doesn’t trust Johnny, either. It’s just Wex. He’s always been the jealous type.
Johnny turns his big, luminous eyes on him, looking at him like he’s the center of the universe — usually Wex gets a slightly guilty kick out of that, but right now it’s mostly guilt.
“I thought you were getting a drink?” Johnny asks.
“I got sick of waiting around. I’ll get one in a while.” He watches Marcia’s eyes flick to the bar, which really isn’t that busy. Mercifully, she doesn’t say anything, just smiles at him. He barely knows her, but she seems nice, and she was one of the other pole-holders, so they bonded over that awkwardness. “Hey,” he says.
“Hi, Aaron. Beautiful wedding. Have you had a chance to talk to Rachel since the ceremony?”
“Only for like, five seconds. I think she’s doing bride things.”
“Like drinking a lot of champagne?”
“Yeah, I’ve barely spoken to Yvonne, either. I think she’s fending off a lot of aunts and uncles. Anyway, how’s California treating you?”
“Really good, actually,” he says, and looks up at Johnny, who gives his shoulder a little squeeze. “What’s up with you?”
“Oh, I was just telling Jad, I just came back from this ranch in Montana — I was doing an Equine-Assisted Therapy course? It was so interesting. There’s actually this prison in Wyoming where they rehabilitate the inmates by teaching them how to gentle captured mustangs to get them ready for adoption. Isn’t that amazing?”
“I thought mustangs were protected?” says Wex.
“Well, some of them have to be captured every year to keep the population down.”
“Huh,” he says, scrambling for something else to say about horses. He’s kind of at a loss here.
“Working with animals can be so therapeutic,” Johnny puts in. “There’s this program in Canada called Hives for Humanity, it sounds so cool.”
“Oh, is that urban beekeeping?”
“God,” she says, “that’s so important. I’m mostly a vegan, but I still eat honey, because you’ve got to support the beekeepers, you know?”
“Yes! I actually keep bees!”
Wex just stands there and lets them chatter about fucking bees like he hasn’t heard some variation on this conversation a million times by now. He’s pretty sure that nobody is flirting with anybody here — Johnny just loves talking about bees, and Marcia seems to like animals and environmental stuff or whatever. He still feels like a third wheel, though, because while, sure, he likes animals, and no, doesn’t want bees to go extinct, he can’t really work up a sweat about either of those issues. He’s wondering whether he should excuse himself and go back to the bar when Marcia exclaims.
“Ooh! I just saw Yvonne waving me over, I should go.”
“All right, well it was nice to meet you!” says Johnny.
“You too! And it was good to see you again, Wex,” she says over her shoulder.
“So,” Johnny says, turning to him, “how long have you been listening to ‘The Entertainer’ on a loop in your head?”
“Pretty much since ‘bees’, but I was actually watching All That Jazz in my head.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of leotards. I’m hungry, you hungry?”
“No, I’m thirsty.”
“All right,” Johnny says, “get me an OJ spritzer, would you? I’ll see you in five.” He kisses Wex’s cheek and walks away.
While Wex finally avails himself of the bar, Johnny hovers around the cake like one of his bees.
“This cake is amazing,” he tells Wex earnestly when he joins him.
Wex grimaces. “I really wish you would’ve waited until my mother was in earshot before you said that.”
“She made this?”
“Well, sure. They weren’t gonna get it from a rival bakery.”
“I didn’t know she did wedding cakes. I guess I thought people went to specialist shops for that.”
Wex shrugs. “She doesn’t, usually. There are probably a bunch of practice ones in the freezer.”
“Do you think she’d give us one?”
“You know,” Johnny muses, “I can just hang out here eating cake and wait for her to come over, and then I can say it again. Make it sound spontaneous.”
“Okay, give me your best spontaneous ‘this cake is amazing’.”
Johnny takes another bite and then does a double take. “Wow! This cake is amazing!”
“That was good, I liked how your mouth was full. Made it feel authentic. Just try it again and make sure you really hit the word ‘cake’.”
“Wow, this CAKE is –”
“No, that was too much. I said hit it, not beat it to death.”
“You’re a stickler, huh?”
“What can I say? I take pride in my work.”
“Same. I’m actually a method actor, so I might have to eat more of this cake, just to get really into character.”
Wex happens to know the cake is passion fruit, although he hasn’t had any yet. It’s just sitting there, mocking him. “I’d ask you to feed me some, but it would probably be considered rude to feed each other cake at someone else’s wedding.” Of course, he’s also supposed to be on a diet, but the less said about that the better — like, seriously, because if he talks about his diet around Johnny then Johnny will want to go on one too, and the last thing Johnny needs is something to get obsessive about.
“Come on,” Johnny says, dipping his fingers in the buttercream and holding them out, “live a little.” There’s some coulis in there as well — it would take a saint to resist that, come on. So Wex sucks on his fingers. Of course, that’s when his mother comes over.
“Hi, Mrs Wechsler,” Johnny says, sounding fucking terrified as he removes his fingers from Wex’s mouth, which makes a really obscene noise. It’s almost funny that anyone (especially Johnny, who has about a foot and a half on her) could be intimidated by Wex’s tiny mother — but Wex is too busy being mortified to appreciate it.
“Hello, Jad,” she says. Wex is the only person who calls Johnny ‘Johnny’ — even his brother Matthew hasn’t for years. The reminder makes that possessive feeling flare up again, but there are more pressing matters, like his half-cut mother looking at them as if she caught them smoking pot in the bathroom. “Ronnie, it’s nice to see you eating something. You’re a skeleton! Are they not feeding you in California?” Her eyes flick to Johnny – it’s just for a second, but the implication is there: Johnny’s not looking after him the way Michelle did, or something to that effect. It’s a cheap shot, and he can’t call her on it because she didn’t actually say anything. Well, fine.
“I don’t need so much insulation, with all that nice weather,” Wex says, smiling pleasantly. They’re just a happy family having a friendly conversation. That’s his story and he’s sticking with it.
“Nice weather, he calls it! No seasons. Me, I like to know what time of year it is, but I’m old-fashioned that way.”
“Mom, Johnny — Jad — was just saying how much he enjoyed the cake.”
“It’s delicious, Mrs Wechsler,” Johnny says seriously. He looks like he’s about to start wringing his hands, not that Wex blames him. He needs to get Johnny away from his mother. If he could just take him back to the hotel room and kiss him and stroke his forehead until he falls asleep, that would be ideal, but skipping out early on his sister’s wedding reception probably won’t win them any brownie points.
“Thank you, Jad,” says his mom, with that tone of over-the-top politeness you use when you hate someone but you don’t have a good excuse for it. She doesn’t add ‘call me Judy’.
“Hey,” Wex says, “I love this song.” It’s ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, which he can honestly take or leave. “You wanna dance, babe?”
Johnny puts his plate down on the table. “Uh, sure — if you don’t mind, Mrs Wechsler?”
“Of course not,” she says, “you boys have fun.” She doesn’t sound remotely like she means it.
The dance floor is a little cramped, and they’ve barely started when Rachel crashes into them, totally blotto.
“Oh my God,” she says, throwing her arms around Wex. “I love you guys so much!”
He decides not to point out that she’s spoken, like, seven words to Johnny ever. “Love you too,” he says instead. “Congratulations.”
“Isn’t my wife hot?” she asks, grinning manically.
“She sure is,” says Wex.
“Jad! Don’t you think my wife is hot?”
Johnny looks at Wex, slightly panicked. Wex nods at him. “I think you both look very beautiful,” he says.
“Super hot,” Rachel corrects him.
“Um. And your dresses are very…”
Wex decides to cut him off before this gets any worse. “I love you, baby sister,” he says, “but we’re gonna slow-dance now, okay? Go find your wife.”
“My WIFE!” she squeals. “That is so crazy.”
“Super crazy,” Wex agrees, taking hold of her shoulders and pointing her towards Yvonne. Then he turns and face-plants into Johnny’s chest.
“You doing okay there?” Johnny asks him.
“Ugh. I’m so sorry about my crazy family.”
“Are you kidding? You should meet my parents. Although not literally, of course.”
“Yeah, but,” Wex starts, and then can’t find any good way of ending that sentence.
“Let’s just dance, okay?” says Johnny.
The song’s nearly over, but they sway to the next one, which Wex isn’t even sure he recognises. It’s nice, though, some torch song with some female vocalist he can’t place. And then ‘As Time Goes By’ comes on, and he needs a drink.
On his way back from the bar, he sees his mother standing idle, and on a whim he grabs her arm and drags her out into the hallway. Okay, that’s probably putting it a little strongly; it’s not like he’s gonna dislocate his aging mother’s shoulder or anything here. He takes her arm and firmly escorts her into the hallway.
“Why are you acting like this to Jad?” he asks her. “Rachel and Yvonne get married and you throw out all the stops, but you won’t even look my boyfriend in the eye. Do you know how embarrassed I am? Johnny’s parents cut him off when he told them about me. I wanted so badly for you guys to be a family to him, and you just — what is it? Was one queer child enough for you, you can’t handle two?”
“It’s nothing like that! It’s just, you only just met this man. All of a sudden your marriage is over, you’re moving to Los Angeles, you have this tan, you’re skinny — you’re a walking mid-life crisis. I’m sorry, Ronnie, I don’t see this lasting.”
“I didn’t just meet him,” Wex hisses, though he’s not sure why that’s the part he’s reacting to. “We’ve known each other thirty years.”
“You — what?”
“Are you kidding me? You don’t remember him?”
His mother frowns. “I remember a Jad you went to high school with — wasn’t he Lebanese?”
“No, that was someone else. You knew Jad as Johnny back then. He used to call me every week, half the time you were the one to pick up.”
“Wait — your friend from camp?”
“We were more than friends, mom. He even stayed with us one weekend. I was sure you suspected something.”
His mother is squinting, as though searching her memory. “I’m sorry, Ronnie. At my age, I guess…”
“I know, mom,” Wex says, his righteous anger leaving him. He’s just tired, now, and a little more drunk than he ought to be. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it matters. I’m sorry, sweetie. I didn’t know there was so much history between you two.”
Wex wants to say that it shouldn’t matter, that she should be welcoming to his partners no matter what, but — he’s learned to take the small victories. And the longer this argument gets dragged out, the longer Johnny will be on his own at a near-stranger’s wedding, sober and surrounded by drunk people, which has got to be one of the circles of hell or something.
“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “I’m going back inside.”
He finds Johnny on his phone, leaning against the wall.
“Who are you texting?”
“It’s a younger man. Very handsome. I just told him I loved him.”
Tyler. “Say hi from me.”
“Get in here, I’ll send him a selfie of us.”
“Gross,” says Wex, purely for appearances, even as he moves into frame. Tyler is a great kid (not a kid, really, he’s twenty-seven, but it’s crazy to think Johnny has a son that age, even if it was in high school) and Johnny tries so hard to make Wex feel like part of the family. Or, actually, the amazing thing is that he doesn’t have to try, it just seems to come naturally to him. And Tyler is so supportive of them, even though he’s super-Christian, which Wex was nervous about at first. It’s Johnny’s parents who have made their lives difficult, and they’re not religious at all.
He looks a little bleary in the resulting pic. “Sorry I got so drunk,” he mutters.
“It’s a wedding! I don’t mind.”
Wex shrugs. Johnny isn’t drunk, but then, there’s a reason for that. “And I’m sorry I get so jealous. I know it’s not cool.”
“Is it really bad that I’m into it?”
“I guess we’re both just terrible people.”
“Well, then, I’ll see you in hell, huh?”
That’ll be nice, he vaguely thinks, and then he remembers. “Jews don’t go to hell,” he says regretfully.
“Well that hardly seems fair. I’m definitely going to hell.”
“Don’t say that,” says Wex, leaning up to kiss him on the corner of his mouth, then burrowing back into his side.
“I was only kidding.”
“Still.” He strokes Johnny’s flank like he’s a horse, and Johnny puts a hand in his hair.
“Hey,” Wex says after a couple of minutes, “how about we have one more dance, then go back to our room?”
“Sure,” Johnny says quietly, with a small smile.
The song is ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ this time, which Wex actually does quite like, and everything is finally winding down. There’s room on the floor to dance properly, and Johnny even spins him, which is a little embarrassing, but it makes them both laugh like idiots. Then it’s ‘Cheek to Cheek’, and they dance close, Johnny singing along softly in his ear, voice warm, one hand cupping the back of his head, in his hair.
“Did I make a fool of myself?” Johnny asks quietly when they get back to the room.
“Are you kidding me? You were perfect.” Wex tosses his jacket on the chair in the corner, followed by his bow tie, then walks over to Johnny, kisses him softly. When Johnny makes to undress too, Wex catches his hand. “Nuh-uh,” he says. “Get on the bed.”
“I’m gonna ruin your suit.”
Johnny laughs disbelievingly, even as he does take a step backwards, towards the bed.
“Oh, I’m deadly serious. Then I’m gonna take you shopping for a new one.”
“You can’t buy me off that easy.”
“Come on. I didn’t even get to come earlier.”
“I offered! You said we didn’t have time!”
It’s 100% true, and actually, he wasn’t in the mood earlier anyway — he was too stressed, and he had really only wanted to distract Johnny. But now he’s got a pleasant buzz, and he wasn’t lying, Johnny was perfect, he is. “I love you so much,” he says, out of nowhere, and Johnny makes a face. Okay, it might have sounded like a line.
“I love you too,” Johnny says anyway. He’s obediently settled himself back on the bed, propped up against two pillows. When Wex is naked, he climbs over him and settles on his clothed stomach, letting the jacket fall open between his knees but leaving the vest. He reaches up to touch the light blue silk of Johnny’s tie.
“This is nice,” he says casually. He sees Johnny’s throat working, inches from his fingers, and leans to kiss him there. Then he starts to undo the knot. “Can I have it?”
Johnny stares at him blankly. “What?”
“I’ll replace it,” he says. “Take you to that place where the sales guy flirts with you.” He winds the tie around his fingers. Smooth, and still a little warm from Johnny’s body. “He wants you, you know that?”
“He’s just trying to sell clothes,” Johnny says automatically. It’s an old argument, more a running joke than anything, but Wex is still right.
“No, I can tell. I’m gonna take you there and buy you stuff,” he makes a loop with the tie, wrong side out, and puts it around his cock, “show him who you belong to.”
“Uhuh,” Johnny says tolerantly. His hand goes down to the tie, starts moving it a little. Wex shuffles forward to help, bracing himself on Johnny’s beautiful chest, letting him take over. It’s not the first time he’s had silk next to his cock, but this is different from lingerie, thicker, and — he likes that it’s Johnny’s.
“Yeah, he’s gonna know,” Wex mutters, only half-remembering what he’s talking about. Johnny’s hand is tighter around his cock now, but the sensation is muffled by the fabric, except, no, not muffled — transformed. It feels teasing, almost tickling, like it’s not enough, and then it rubs over his ridge and he jerks at the sudden shock of pleasure. It’s starting to get sticky already, ruined…
“Maybe I should wear this suit, when we go,” Johnny says conversationally. “He’ll be able to tell exactly what we’ve been doing. He’ll be able to imagine it.” His hand keeps moving, steady. “But he’ll never be able to experience it. You’re the only one who gets to mess me up.”
Wex sucks in a breath, nods. “Yeah. Yeah. They all want you, but they don’t get to have you.”
“That’s right. Just you. I’m all yours.”
Wex can hear himself making sharp, desperate sounds — he knows he’s close. Fuck the suit, he thinks, pulling at the waistcoat, getting the buttons undone, and then just ripping the shirt open until he can see Johnny’s smooth skin, his defined muscles, the dusting of chest hair. Johnny’s hand moves faster, the silk bunching and stretching, strange and good.
“Yeah, come on me,” Johnny mutters, and Wex does, all over the tie, on Johnny’s chest, a little landing on his chin.
He laughs breathlessly, getting his bearings back. “You?” he says, and Johnny shakes his head. That’s the way it is these days. They’re not kids anymore, sometimes it ends up being a case of trading off, playing orgasm tag with each other until they get a stroke of good fortune and manage to co-ordinate. Neither of them minds, although it’s always nice when those moments do come along.
Johnny is watching him with soft, affectionate eyes. “You still gonna buy me a new suit?” he says.
Once they’re both stripped off and cleaned up, they lie in bed, Wex’s head pillowed on Johnny’s chest, pressed perfectly together. Sometimes it feels like there’s a lot between them — Tyler, Michelle, Wex’s possessive streak, Johnny’s mental health issues, their families — not to mention more than twenty years of being apart. And then they come back to this, and there’s nothing between them at all, and the years are lifted away like a veil.
He hesitates. It can’t last forever. “I talked to my mom.”
“She said she was worried we rushed into this.”
He feels, and hears, Johnny’s laugh. “That’s one way of looking at it.”
“It’s probably bullshit anyway. I think a lot of it is about me not taking over the bakery, honestly.” Johnny hums and puts a hand into his hair. Wex swallows. “I missed being with you.”
“I know,” says Johnny, absently massaging his scalp. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s not anybody’s fault. You were probably right, it wasn’t going to work, the way things were. Neither of us was willing to move or ready to come out. It was a mess.”
“But it’s working now, right?” Johnny says cautiously, his fingers still in Wex’s hair.
“Yeah. And I want this to be it, now. I don’t want to stop being together again.”
“Are you proposing to me?” Johnny says, a laugh in his voice, but half-serious underneath that.
“No,” Wex sighs. “But only because I hate weddings.”