299. Stripped

What should I have done? Should I have whipped around and slapped him? Stepped away and laughed? Shrugged him off with a growl? He had one hand snaked into my front pocket and the other on my other shoulder and I did none of those things. None of those things even entered my mind.

What I did was stick my hand in after his and push it slightly to the left… so that his fingertips bumped my cock through the cloth.

That was it. I didn’t make any big speech about giving in or changing my mind. He didn’t make any big confession or gloat. We just went back to the hotel, silent as thieves.

We went to my room and started stripping each other’s shirts off, then separated by unspoken agreement to each finish stripping ourselves. The hotel was fancy and had “turn down” service, meaning the lights were already turned down and the bed had been one corner of it turned down, too. Ziggy tossed the chocolate mint on the pillow onto the side table and then pulled me down after him.

What can I say? Touching him was like going home again. Heartbreakingly familiar territory. I wasn’t rough, but I was somewhat quick, as if it were dangerous to linger. I used a condom. Then I put one on him and invited him to reciprocate.

He did. I didn’t even mind that he went for a long time. I didn’t even mind when he bit me on the shoulder. When he did, I thought it was over, and he pulled away quickly.

Too quickly. He was full of tension, full of fight. I sat up, rubbing the spot where he’d bit me hard. “Zig. Are you all right?”

“I will be,” he said, his voice hoarse. His chest heaved like he was trying not to cry. Or hyperventilating.

“Are you mad at me?” I shifted on the bed, trying to get a look at his face.

He shook his head hard. “That’s not it.” He was hunched over, his lap hidden by a corner of the sheet.


“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.” His voice went up in pitch on each one and then he looked at me. “I’m having a panic attack.”

“Shit. What do I do?”

He pressed his hand against his chest, trying to get his breathing to slow enough to answer. When he could talk, he said, “I don’t know.”

“Lie down,” I said. When he didn’t do it immediately, I said, “It helps me to be lying down when I’m having one.”

He lay down then, on his side, facing away from me. I settled myself behind him and put my arm over his chest. I put my hand on top of his where it felt like he was trying to keep his heart from busting out like an Alien.

“Breathe,” I said.


“Shh, don’t talk. Just breathe as slowly as you can, okay?”


We lay there quietly for a while, until I could feel his heart starting to slow down. I murmured something encouraging, just kind of blathering, encouraging him to let it go, and kind of keeping myself calm at the same time. The last thing we needed was me to have a panic attack, too.

I had one, that time, one time when he snuck into my room in Allston. That felt like a really long time ago. I decided against bringing it up.

He let out a breath that felt more normal then.

“Better?” I asked.

He sounded really pathetic when he said, “If I say yes, will you keep holding onto me anyway?”

I thought: Oh fucking hell, Ziggy, just make me break both our hearts while you’re at it, will you? But I said: “Yes.” And I did.

Then I said, “How many panic attacks have you had since we left home?’

He was silent.

“How many, Zig.”

“A bunch. I haven’t counted.”

“That can’t be good.”

“I know. But I’m afraid to get off the drugs.”

That made me sit up partway, and try to look at his face. He had done his makeup carefully for dinner, but now he looked, well, like we’d had sex. “Prozac, you mean?”

He turned and looked at me. “Yeah. I’m afraid… I’m afraid…” He reached up and touched my face then, as if he were too distracted by my cheekbones to finish his sentence.

“Can you call your doctor at least?” I asked.

“I’ll see her when we get home.”

“Ziggy, that’s a month from now.”

“Shit, is it that long?”

“Yes. A month from yesterday we’ll be playing Great Woods.” I sat all the way up then and ran my fingertips into his hair and rubbed his scalp the way he liked.

He closed his eyes for a little while, letting me do it, then opened them again. “I’ve been writing like crazy,” he said. “I mean like, a song a day minimum. Sometimes two or three.”

“You think that’s the meds, too?”

“I don’t know.” His eyes slid aside and I realized I associated that look on his face with him confessing something.

I tried to be gentle but insistent. “What are you trying to tell me, Zig?”

“It might be the meds. It might just be I’m…” He sighed. “They’re all about you. Every single one.”

I made little circles at his temples. “Yeah, well, I’ve written my share of songs about you, too.”

“Yeah, okay.” He put his hands on mine. “This was a mistake.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“No, I mean, I don’t regret having sex with you, Daron. This is… this is better than you tricking with some random local. And you really, really needed it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I saw you in that bar, you know. What were you going to do when you got back here?”

“Masturbate until I passed out, probably.” I wasn’t joking. I also wasn’t surprised that he’d seen me. After all, it was Ziggy’s night off, too. “What about you? If you didn’t run into me, that is.”

“No idea,” he said. “I’m… I’ve been having other problems lately, too.”

I shook him a little by the shoulders. “Zig.”

“Probably also side effects.”

“What kind of side effects?”

“It’s okay, it’s gone now, finally.”

“What’s gone?” I shook him again. “What?”

“I get so I can’t come,” he finally said, looking me straight in the eye. “I thought maybe it was the bus, having to be quiet, everyone around… But I tried in the shower, I tried…” He trailed off and closed his eyes. “It was happening again tonight. I hope I wasn’t too rough.”

I snorted. “You’ve been a lot rougher. And no wonder you’re having panic attacks if you can’t blow off steam.” I wasn’t really sure physically that those two things could be related, but for Ziggy, it seemed like it would make sense. “Can we please call your doctor in the morning?”

“Ugh. and then she and Carynne can play dueling pagers.”

“We should at least try.”

“All right.” He looked up at me with a wounded expression, though. “But yeah. I… I probably shouldn’t have even tried this.”

“Okay, you know what? Better with me than you having a panic attack with some random guy you picked up, as well.”

“True.” He moved to sit up, too, and I could see each of his ribs.

Now we were looking at each other, sober and exhausted.

“Are you mad at me?” he finally said.

“For what?” I asked, though I knew I had a list of things I could call him on.

“For breaking my promise to keep my hands off you,” he said softly. “And for violating your ‘no sex in the entourage’ decree.”

“I probably should be,” I said. “But you’re right. I really needed that. And I broke the rule just as much as you.”

“We’ve got a whole month to go,” Ziggy pointed out.

“I know.” We stared at each other, neither of us willing to make the next move. I finally had to. “Look, you probably shouldn’t be having sex at all until you get your side effects ironed out. I mean, that can’t be fun.”

“True. It’s not.” He chewed his lip. I could almost see him thinking, But what happens when the side effects are gone? Then what?

Then we go back to the status quo, I thought. Which was not having sex. Which was not him jerking me off in alleyways or sticking his hands into my pockets in public places. But I wasn’t even angry at him. I wasn’t even particularly angry at myself, miraculously.

Eventually he got up and went to the bathroom. I thought he was just going to take a piss, but a minute later I heard the shower start.

Was I supposed to go get in with him? Or not? If I did or not, was that some kind of a test? Did it determine what happened next between us? Would I regret it if I did?

I don’t know. It was all moot. I fell asleep before he came out, and when I woke up in the morning he wasn’t there.

(OK, cannot resist sharing two more versions of “Stripped” with you, though. First, the way Depeche Mode did it live in 1988:

(And then how Rammstein covers it live:


  • Cynthia says:

    Holy crap.

  • Emma says:

    Ziggy, you need to stop leaving.
    I need some cuddles between the two of you 😐

  • sanders says:

    Oh, boys.

    Daron, you know what he’s really not saying is that he’s stupidly in love with you, and that’s fueling the panic attacks in part, right?

    • daron says:

      I don’t know that at all. After some of the things he’s said, sometimes I don’t even know if I can believe my eyes.

      • Lenalena says:

        He’s written 30 odd songs about you, but you don’t know that? Seriously, dude. *shakes head and rolls eyes*

      • Lenalena says:

        Everyone changes. Are you the same person you were a year ago? As far as I can see you’re less closed off. I think you’ve learned that closing yourself off from everybody prevents you from feeling connected and happy. Why wouldn’t Zig be able to learn that lying stops him from feeling connected to people, that he’s shooting himself in the foot if he does it. After all, lying to the people you love and not sharing your fears and thoughts are just two different ways of trying to protect our vulnerable hearts from being hurt (neither of which works very well). If you can learn, so can he. Whether he has or not is a different question, of course, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

        Trust? Overhyped concept if you ask me. Trust is much more fluid than the absolute that people demand. You can’t trust anyone 100% of the time, not even yourself. Love and the ability to be hurt are a package deal, you can’t have one without the other and that is how it should be. Loving someone just increases their capacity to hurt you and whether they mean to or not, they inevitably will, you can’t ‘trust’ that they never will. Trust yourself that you’ll (eventually) know the difference between someone lashing out at you because they are themselves hurting and someone being an self-centered scumbag and don’t worry so much about trusting others.

        • daron says:

          I don’t doubt that people can change. The question is… has he?

          I know one thing. I’m less afraid than I used to be. And he’s learning to be less reckless/fearless. That at least puts us near each others’ ballparks.

        • Lenalena says:

          Your question was ‘Can a liar change?’, to which my long winded answer was ‘yes’. Whether he has changed or not: I think so, but you’re in a better position to judge than me.

          Go for it.

          • daron says:

            So, here’s a question. If Ziggy can change, do you think my dad can, too?

            And if I give Ziggy another chance, should I give Digger one, too?

            • Bill Heath says:

              The enormous difference between Digger and Ziggy is that Ziggy can love someone else (Daron) and Digger cannot. I’m on a re-read of the whole series but I read everything up to somewhere in the mid-600s on e-books, which have no comments. Reading it on-line is far richer.

              Ziggy loves you. Like all manipulative personalities, he believes you also manipulate. He’s kind of stuck. The crisis of trust to be overcome isn’t your trust of Ziggy, but his trust of you. And there is nothing Daron can do about that, only Ziggy can learn and evolve to the point where he can trust you.

              When that happens, the fireworks will be awesome. They’ll include the usual fireworks of flaming fights, but also the fireworks of love. Those are far more intense.

      • sanders says:

        Ziggy and Digger are two completely different categories of people. Ziggy, at least, seems to be acting out of a fear of getting hurt and an inability to be honest about what he wants. Digger is lying in order to steal your money because he feels like the world owes him something, and because you’re his kid, *you* owe him something.

        • daron says:

          Huh, I’ve always felt Ziggy is very honest about what he *wants* just not about how he does about getting it. But maybe that’s because he picks and chooses when to be honest to make it seem like that. I don’t know. And maybe that’s why I feel I can sort of rely on Digger’s form of dishonesty, can’t trust him but can rely on him to act certain ways, because at least I feel I understand it, and it happens that his best interests and mine coincide. The second they don’t? I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

          OK. Comparing what I said above about the two of them, I’ll confess. I fear the only reason Ziggy even bothers to look at me is because its in his best interest to keep me wrapped around his finger. I’ve started to think, lately, that maybe there’s more to it than that, but it’s hard to forget what our early experience taught me.

        • Lenalena says:

          You feel you can rely on Digger because he is NOT likely to change. Because he’s been this way all your life. People in their 20s are much more prone to change than people in their 50s.

          I’m not so sure that Ziggy wanted you wrapped around his finger as much as he wanted to be let in behind your armor. I’m not saying he went about it in the smartest way, but I think it drove him nuts that you weren’t letting him in. You were fucking him, but you weren’t talking to him. I think he felt just as used as you did.

          • daron says:

            The real problem is that no one knows what the truth is with Ziggy, not even Ziggy. So it’s really hard to know where I stand and I have to kind of go moment to moment. I’ve been wrong enough times I don’t trust myself about him either.

  • cayra says:

    Ah shit. Ziggy, consult your doctor. Seriously.

    • ziggy says:

      Yeah. Panic is not really a good trade-off for anything. And it’s annoying because it’s not ME. It happens when I’m not even upset. It’s like… being possessed.

  • Eric says:

    Daron’s mellowing, and that’s what they both need. Just hope it’s not too late for Zig.

  • Lizzy says:

    Oh yeah. Daron, sometimes you just need to stop thinking. 😉

  • Lizzy says:

    LOVE that song. Seen it live. It’s so them too.

    • daron says:

      I somehow managed to underappreciate Depeche Mode at the time, but going back and listening to it now? They were so underrated musically. And jeez, their entire song catalog is like a description of all Ziggy and my fucked-up relations.

  • Krista-without a h says:

    I read the 1st book- ebook style from one of those free ebook sites… then this weekend I bought 2&3…. read those… and finished the rest of the chapters now. Which means I have done nothing with my life (other than work)for the past 4 days while Moondog Three has invaded my life. Oh- I did write a song-that was pretty fucking awesome. Im now officially obsessed…. and I need help. How do I find out when/how often this is updated? How do i get reminders so that I dont have to check my email, where everything goes to spam? Oh, and Im totally in love with Daron- which Im sure Daron is used to- since Im a straight girl- but damn boy…. you can rock– stop being an ass to Ziggy, he means well-and find your sister.

    • daron says:

      Fortunately, there are people better at keeping track of my sister than me keeping track of her at the moment. Welcome to the roller coaster ride of my life!

    • ctan says:

      Woo, you read fast! So glad you’re caught up to the fun, though.

      There are always new posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10am Eastern US time (except sometimes when the computers get confused on what time it is or what time zone we’re in, in which case it’s been known to magically appear an hour early or late…). This month there are posts every Saturday, too, for Web Serial Writing Month. Once August ends, the way to get a Saturday post is the amount of donations in the tip jar has to top $50 for the week.

      To see when new posts go live, you can follow Daron on Twitter (@daronmoondog) where it autotweets when a post goes live.

      You can also follow him on Facebook (daronmoondog) but he has to remember to post there and sometimes forgets.

      The posts are also mirrored at my Livejournal (ceciliatan) if you’re on there.

      The site also has an RSS feed but maybe that would go into your email and turn into spam. Not sure. Might depend what RSS reader one uses?

      Anyway, welcome!

  • deb h says:

    loved it .broke your own rules….and with Ziggy ,what are you thinking…..

  • terri h. says:

    Finally! I love it when D and Z get together. I want them to be a happy and *fairly* well-adjusted couple. It hurts my heart when they’re at odds.

  • s says:

    Oh, Ziggy. I wish you’d just tell him how you feel. He needs to hear it and you need to say it. Of course, he also needs to quit second-guessing every-fucking-thing that happens.

    Seriously, Daron, what more can he do? He’s done EVERYTHING you asked him to do. He backed off, he gave you space. He’s not trying to make you jealous by flaunting whoever he sleeps with in front of you.

    He’s changed. You’ve changed. It’s confession time, guys.

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