Gael was never short on things to say, usually. His Uncle Darragh, who hadn’t crossed to America, had often claimed he’d been born screaming out Yeats, with a tongue stolen from the fair folk. Now that may well be, but he couldn’t find three words together to say to the red headed man sitting next to him. Jack was such an English name, but that hair and those vibrant green eyes, said Irish, and it was like he didn’t know who he’d lured into his car.
Navigating the roads, nice and safe and nothing at all too shocking for his new companion, it being his first time in a car and all. The naughtier part of Gael’s mind was very happy to suggest some other firsts for the boy from Kansas. Those thoughts were quite persistent too, loud little sinners that they were.
Just as they were about to cross into Brooklyn, a wagon full of vegetables got stuck in a pot hole and held up everything that couldn’t go around. It let the car be a bit quieter too and Gael was arguing with himself about the merits of reciting poetry or not sounding like a love struck school boy. There was a kindness and kind of magic to Dr. Walker and Gael very much wanted to drink him down. What was the polite way to say to a pretty guy that breaking the law could be fun and did he want his maypole wrapped?
“I’m a doctor,” Jack said, out of nowhere, before clearing his throat and pressing his palms together like he was about to pray.
“Ta,” Gael asked, caught off guard and forgetting to speak English, “Yeah? I’ve,” and he almost said done, but caught himself, “met a couple doctors.”
“And as a doctor,” Jack continued, a bit of sweat breaking out at his temple, “I must say that some rules and customs in our society are not fully valid.”
Gael’s eyebrow twitched. Listening to Jack talk made him realize he was better at Latin than he was at English. “Sure.”
“I mean,” Jack said, more sweat breaking out on his nose, like a cop was trying to get confession out of him, “Certain things were utterly taboo in Kansas, but they might be more common here.”
“You mean like crab? Lobster?”
“No, no,” Jack said, turning red. “I just meant that the, well, customs about who one might call upon might be a touch different in New York, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m sure you’re going to have lots of patients,” Gael said, one eye kind of watching the vegetable wagon, the other watching his passenger, wondering if the guy was getting at what he thought he might. There were a lot of men who liked men in THAT way in Gael’s circle, but he was getting the idea that might not be true in Kansas.
“No, no, I mean,” Jack said, turning to face him just slightly, one knee bent a bit, “I mean, and I mean no offense whatsoever, you understand, I just rather that you I might be friends,” he said, with a particular emphasis on ‘friends’.
Gael grinned, a slow rising grin that put his whole world right side back again.
Jack blushed about as bright as his hair.
Gael beckoned him closer, one finger up as if he could just reel him in. He also leaned and whispered in that innocent pretty ear, “I rather thought I might just offer to suck your dick, you know, just because I want to.”
“Oh my,” Jack gasped, redder than the devil on Saturday night. “I’ve never.”
“I hadn’t thought so,” Gael said, feeling very cheerful as if he’d accomplished the best thievery of his whole life. “That’s okay. I’ll show you everything.”
“Oh goodness,” Jack said, his handkerchief out and working at the sweat on his face, “I haven’t offended you, I hope. I made no presumptions at all, it was just that when our hands touched, it just felt as if, well, as if there was a connection.”
“I felt it,” Gael agreed, putting the car back in gear and moving forward. “Even here in New York, you want to be very, very careful. If you let on to the wrong people, you’re in for a beat down. I can take you some places, though, if you like.”
“I would like,” Jack said enthusiastically. “And you’ll go with me, to, to these places?”
“Yeah,” Gael said, giving him a wink and telling himself there was no cause for jealousy. Doctor boys from Kansas didn’t take up permanently with Irish whores. That was just how the world worked.
They didn’t have any more words as they zipped along the more suburban streets. Jack was more relaxed and Gael was lucky that there wasn’t much traffic because he was much more interested in watching Jack than in watching the road.
The boarding house turned out to be a tidy affair with blue shutters and roses in the yard. Maybe they’d both run out of words, but they sat there saying nothing for a good five minutes, before Gael gave in. “I’ll help you with your bags.”
“Well, alright then,” Jack agreed, getting out of the car almost reluctantly. “You never did tell me how fast the car goes.”
“I don’t remember you asking,” Gael said, irritated that he was going to drop Jack off and drive away.
“Oh well, that does make sense then,” Jack muttered as he followed across the street and into the garden of roses.
A grandmotherly woman with white hair and a smile that gave her the temperament of a goose, opened the door and tapped her foot. “Dr. Walker?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said, removing his hat. “Mrs. Yancey?”
“None other, Come in,” she said, stepping out of the way. “If you’ll step into my office to sign the paperwork, I’ll be happy to accept the agreed upon deposit. Your man can take your belongings up. The whole second floor is yours.”
Gael stood there with the luggage for a moment more, waiting on what Jack had to say.
Jack was nodding and paying attention to his new landlady, another first for him. “Of course, I thought I was to be sharing the space with another gentleman.”
“Well, things change, now don’t they? It's only a little extra to keep the entire space, but you will not be having any lady friends over.”
“No, no, not at all. I would never impose in such a manner.” Now that was a fact.
“Good then, right this way,” then she paused and looked over at Gael, “Well, get the gentleman’s luggage up to his room, you Irish dog.”
Teeth grinding, Gael half dashed up the stairs. The space that was going to be Jack’s was double the size of the two rooms that his family had. There was a big bed, with four posters and curtains around it, a table, a cabinet for dishes, a washroom that had running water, a bathtub, and a toilet. The floor was polished oak, with several nice large rugs. By the largest window there was a comfortable looking chair with a table beside it and the day’s paper folded neatly.
Yeah. Doctors from Kansas did not take up with Irish boys. Nervous, he took a moment to try to straighten out his precious hat, to make sure the crushing of it hadn’t really damaged it. Hand shaking just a bit, he combed slightly too long blond curls back and pressed his hat back on. He’d never been one to give up before he’d actually lost, sometimes not even then, but he also didn’t want to exchange his memories of a flushed and smiling Jack for one whose eyes had gone cold, maybe with words to match. Slipping down those stairs and away was probably the wiser choice.
Stubborn, he reached into his pants pocket and counted to ten on his rosary. Just as he was reaching for eleven, the door opened and a still flushed and gleeful Jack let himself in. He put his hat on the hat rack, locked the door, then eyed Gael with a fierce determination.
Gael swallowed and actually took a step back. He was used to being the aggressor, the dominant one, because that’s what people pay for. Jack was just a little taller than he was, but it felt as if he were inches shorter than the doctor. When love must be secret, it sometimes flashes in the moment of connection and goes dark as a pauper’s purse.
“I was wondering, as I can’t seem to think of anything else, if it would be acceptable, if I kissed you,” Jack said, now so close that Gael had to look up a bit.
This wasn’t a kiss like Gael had ever had before. His parted lips trembled, felt like the slightest brush of Jack’s breath was a caress. His head started to feel light. “If you’d like,” he said, feeling unsure of anything happening now. It was all off script and out of his control.
He watched Jack close his eyes and lean forward, stared at Jack’s forehead, and as those innocent, pure, respectable lips kissed his, soft warmth on what he’d thought were almost calloused lips, he realized he’d never been kissed before. Little flicks of light danced around his vision and his heart couldn’t make up its mind to keep beating or just claim angel wings and fly t heaven. There was nothing after that moment, no more rules or plans or understanding. Absolutely everything had changed.
“Did I do it alright,” Jack asked, smiling, a gentle hand touching Gael’s face with a tenderness and welcome that Gael had never felt before, not once in his whole life.
“Sea, is fearr,” Gael whispered in Irish.
“What language is that,” Jack asked, fingers now touching Gael’s curls, tenderly pulling one free of the hat hiding it, “I’ve never heard it before.”
“Irish,” Gael said, afraid that that one word would take everything from him, take this tender touch that he now craved more than anything else in the world, “I’m Irish.”
“When do you go back to Ireland,” Jack asked, nervous, pulling back enough to look at Gael with concern. “I’ve just found you. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I live here in New York. I came over when I was eleven, with my family.”
“Then we’re both American, aren’t we?”
“You don’t care that I’m Irish?”
“Do you care that I’m a homosexual,” Jack asked, using a fancy word he’d learned from a book on the train to New York.
“What’s a homosexual,” Gael asked, still trembling under Jack’s hand.
“It means a person who is sexually attracted to members of their same sex, like I am to you.”
“I like that,” Gael said, finding a bit of his own drive back as he turned to kiss Jack’s palm. “I like when you touch me.”
Jack blushed again, pulling his hand back, as if he had to look at his palm to decide what it was he was feeling. “Do you have a telephone number that I can call you at?”
“No,” Gael said, not knowing about such things. “But you can come drive with me, for the rest of the afternoon, if you want.”
“If you give me your telephone number, I’ll call you. It’ll be a little while until mine is installed, but they’ll have them at work.”
“I don’t have such a thing,” Gael said, stepping away, ashamed to be poor, thinking about what it would be like if Jack ever saw where he lived.
Confused, Jack nodded, “Well, alright then. What about an address so I can send you a note, seeing when I can come call?”
“No,” Gael said firmly. “I should go.”
“Oh,” Jack said, hurt. “It was very nice to meet you, Gael.”
“Yeah, Dr. Walker,” Gael said, nearly running down the stairs and out the door. By the time he’d made it to the roses, he was feeling like the biggest idiot in the city. He’d left everything he wanted up in that room with no way to go back up and get it.
He huffed as he got ready to start the car. Every task was just as hard as he’d ever found anything. It had to be done, but every movement took him farther from Jack and he didn’t know how to go back. He wanted to punch the car, but Alfred would beat his ass for denting it.
So he just put everything he had into that crank, as if he could rip the engine out and beat himself with it. The engine roared to life and he laid his head on the bonnet. He’d ruined everything.
Then he looked up and Jack was sitting in the passenger seat. He looked up a little higher, turning his head, eyeing his passenger like he might not be real.
“You did say we could go driving,” Jack said cheerfully
“I did!” Gael said, hurrying to get behind the steering wheel. “I’ll show you how fast she goes, how’s that?”
“That would be splendid. Also, don’t call me Dr. Walker. I’m just Jack.”
He’d found an angel. “Jack,” he agreed, writing that name into his soul with the light of Jack’s smile. “Okay, Jack. Let’s go driving.”