(So it turns out that the bonus sex scene I wrote that comes before this chapter ended up with a lot of important talk about relationship issues in it. So I recommend reading it first if you have it. If you don’t have it and you want it, drop at least a dollar in the tip jar and I’ll send you the scene! For those skipping the smexy scene, I’ve tried to recap the gist of the conclusions Daron and Ziggy come to within today’s chapter! -ctan)
I woke up with a beam of afternoon light coming through the bedroom window. I did not feel the slightest bit guilty about sleeping late. I’d been explicitly told by my doctors that long, deep sleeps (drug-free) were good for me, both my brain and my body.
Ziggy was awake. He was in bed next to me, reading one of the professor’s books. This one was some kind of philosophy. He had a bemused frown on his face as he read.
“Good book?” I rolled over toward him.
“Eh.” He shrugged and set it down on the side table without putting a bookmark in it. I’d learned that was usually a sign he wasn’t planning to go back to it. “How are you feeling?”
“I was going to ask you that.”
“I asked you first.” He smirked. This was beginning to be a common sort of exchange between us.
“I feel okay,” I said, holding up my hand and flexing my fingers. “By which I mean, nothing hurts terribly right now.” Mind, body, or soul. Then my memory started to catch up with things we’d said to each other while we were having sex the night before, and my heart did one of those squeeze-flip movements that hurts, but you don’t mind because it’s a happy one of those. “Did you… did we… promise each other some things yesterday?”
I remembered it perfectly well, even if a naked Ziggy could be tremendously distracting. I hadn’t been drinking either. Drunk on lust or love, maybe. Which was the only reason I doubted what we’d said. Because I’d learned by then that we were both prone to saying things in the name of lust that maybe we didn’t mean, but I was hoping things said in the name of love were the opposite.
He had been in my arms for make-up sex after the fight we’d had. He had said something about being committed. I had said, “you can use the m-word.”
“Married?” he’d asked.
“Monogamous,” I’d answered.
Thinking back on it sent a shiver of panic through me, the usual one when I ask for something that I want and my nerve endings get ready to be slapped down when I’m told no.
But he hadn’t said no. He’d said yes. Well, within certain boundaries, anyway.
Ziggy snuggled close, nosing at the tattoo on my upper arm. “We did make some promises. I promised you my everything, which you graciously took.”
A different kind of shiver–a deep thrum of lust I still had for him when I remembered being joined physically–ran through me.
“Though you said I could still let people suck my dick.”
“The dancers,” I said. “I didn’t say people in general.”
He nodded. “I didn’t mean people in general. I just meant that the dancers are people other than you.”
I believed him, but I felt good that I’d specified it. “I didn’t realize having detailed exclusivity was going to be such a… thrill.”
He purred happily. “Me either. Although, as you know, our negotiation is not quite finished.”
“I know.” I’d promised him exclusivity, too, but with one loophole at his insistence. But it was a loophole that would take a third party’s agreement to be ratified. “Let’s invite him over for dinner.”
“Yes, let’s, because he’s delicious.”
“Zig!” I mock scolded him. “Don’t make assumptions.”
“It’s going to happen eventually.”
“Probably, but how about let’s prove to ourselves we can keep our hands to ourselves by not going there tonight.”
That was how I ended up calling up Colin and inviting him over to have dinner.
It was an awkward conversation on my end.
Me: Hey, what are you doing tonight?
Colin: Why? You want to go see a band or something?
Me: God, yes, that would be awesome. But no, that’s not what I’m calling about.
Colin: Oh. So…?
Me: Will you come over for dinner? With me and Ziggy I mean. At our place.
Colin: Your place?
Colin: Yeah, you already said that. Sure. What are we having? Should I bring anything?
Me: Oh, um, you know, I haven’t gotten that far in planning it. Um.
Colin: So it’s not about the food. Dinner is just an excuse to get me to come over.
Me: Uh, yeah. True.
Colin: Okay. Are we breaking up or having a threesome?
Me: Neither, I hope?
Colin showed up with a bottle of wine, a box of condoms, a yellow legal pad, and a VHS tape of a Sting concert just to cover all eventualities, I guess. Ziggy took care of dinner by ordering Chinese food delivery. The three of us sat around a large, low coffee table that looked like it was hewn from railroad ties. From my spot on the rug, I cracked open waxy white delivery boxes one at a time.
“Whoa, where’s this from?” I asked as I dished wide white noodles and fatty beef brisket onto a cobalt blue plate for myself. “I haven’t eaten this in ages. Chau Chow doesn’t deliver here, do they?”
“No, it’s from the place up by the Paradise, across the street from there.” Ziggy took a container of hot and sour soup for himself and sat back on the large couch, his legs folded under him. “I’m sure you guys have ordered from there in Allston before.”
“I guess I just didn’t realize they had this dish.” I pushed the noodles around in the sauce with chopsticks to make sure they were well-coated. If I’d thought I was going to be too nervous to eat, that went out the window with a plate of brisket chow fun.
We ate for a while and chatted about miscellaneous stuff. Colin sat on the couch a few feet over from Ziggy. I wasn’t sure which one of us was supposed to start the important conversation.
Eventually we weren’t eating anymore and the food was getting cold and we were clearly talking just to talk without really saying anything.
Colin was the one who eventually took charge. “Look, am I opening this wine or did you guys have something to tell me that would be better off without it?”
Ziggy curled up against a pillow and said, “Daron, why don’t you start.”
“Me?” I let out a breath. “Colin was your idea, though.”
“But you insisted on talking to him about it.”
“Like you wouldn’t’ve?”
He answered with an eyebrow.
Fine. “Ziggy and I want to be monogamous but he wants me to keep you as a fuckbuddy.” There, that didn’t sound too awful did it?
Well, the reason it didn’t is because Colin didn’t seem to think it was an awful idea. “Okay.”
Was that one of those “okay”s that meant, okay, tell me more? Or was that okay, I agree? “He seems to think that’s… kind of how it is anyway…” My cheeks got red all of a sudden and I had to swallow. “And it was mostly that we, you know, ought to make it official.”
“Make it official?” Now he sounded either skeptical or…or… something. “You mean like giving me your sorority pin or something?”
“What? No!” And now I sounded upset. I wasn’t, not really, but I was… something. “I meant… I meant… saying it out loud. Making sure we were all on the same page that it was okay for you and me to… to… I mean.” I had to clamp down hard on sudden tears.
They were both looking at each other in alarm.
A moment later I had my face hidden in my knees and the moment after that I had both of them on the rug hugging me.
“It’s all right, dear one.”
“It’s okay. It”s okay, Daron.”
I forced myself to swallow. “I know. I know it’s okay. I’m okay. It just kind of… let go.”
“What just let go, dear one?”
“I dunno. Something.” I took a long deep breath and rubbed my chest. I felt better already. “Maybe that was fear exiting at a high velocity?”
Ziggy kissed me on the temple. “Could be?” He said to Colin: “That was the gist, anyway. We’ve decided to be exclusive with each other except when it comes to certain exceptions, you being the main one. I predicted you’d be okay with that.”
“Like you said, that’s kind of how it is already,” Colin said. He brushed my hair back from my face. “You sure you’re okay with it?”
“I’m sure. I… I wanted something like that before, remember? But I wasn’t sure if it was really… allowed, you know? Like, is it fair? And will it work?” My throat was feeling looser. “Ziggy convinced me it’s okay and that it’ll work. As long as you’re okay with it.”
Colin hugged me and kissed me on the head. “I’m fine with it, dude. But seriously, I should ask, does that mean yes to a threesome?”
“Yes, but not tonight,” Ziggy said, somewhat wishfully. “Okay?”
We ended up watching the Sting concert after that. I really hadn’t had a chance to catch up to his third album, which was all about him working out his issues with his dead father. I’d bought it at some point but I’d only listened to it a handful of times. I just hadn’t connected with it at all, unlike his earlier music. But a live concert video was a different thing. The songs were interspersed with jazzy re-arrangements of Police songs and of course I wanted to know who his new guitarist was. The guy was good, but his rhythmic style was so different from Andy Summers that on some of the old songs (like “Roxanne”) the parts just sounded plain wrong. I had to assume that was deliberate rather than a mistake.
I suddenly didn’t want to think about what Ziggy’s concerts would sound like after he hired someone to replace me.
Colin left when the video was done, and Ziggy and I got ready to go to bed. While I was brushing my teeth, Ziggy said, “See? And we kept our promise not to get him in bed tonight.”
“Uh huh.” I nodded and then rinsed my mouth. “I feel really good about that.”
“About not doing a thing? So Catholic.”
I laughed. “It is, isn’t it.”
“Very. Not a kind of pleasure I get to indulge in very often: feeling virtuous.” He picked up his own toothbrush. “It just leads to another pleasure this time, though. Delayed gratification. I’m sure we’ll have him eventually.” He put the paste on the brush and then regarded me in the mirror. “You’re sure you’re feeling all right and not just clamming up for the sake of making it seem like everything is all right?”
“I’m sure. That…that thing earlier?” What he’d just said about feeling virtuous for not doing a thing made something click. “That wasn’t just fear jetting out of me at high speed. It was guilt.”
“Guilt?” It came out “Guuugh?” because he had his toothbrush in his mouth by then. “Fo’ whuh?”
“For sex we had on the tour. Well, and for feeling guilty about feeling guilty about it, if that makes sense? I didn’t even realize I was still wound up about that. But I guess I was. And it had kind of put up a wall between Colin and me.” Which was one of the reasons I let myself get so isolated and paranoid in South America. “And then to suddenly realize it was all okay… it was like something was set free.”
“My heart, cliched as that sounds,” I said. “Which is kind of funny when you consider what we’re doing is making rules, but I guess there’s a kind of freedom in knowing the rules.”
“There’s a freedom in knowing yourself,” he said, and gave me a minty kiss.
This’ll probably get taken down at some point, but for now, here’s the entire Soul Cages concert video: