Run and Hide Pt. 04


"More stout, boys? Yes, that's just what's needed here," he said, sweeping away the empty glasses. "And I think I'll be sending out some of the shepherd's pie. The lamb's quite the stuff today."

Steven nodded. "Thanks, John. You really are the best."

"Not at all, lad, not at all. And just so you know, laddie," he said to Paul, "one of our waiters is your way. He's going to be so chuffed when I tell him!" He pounded Paul heartily on the back and left for the kitchen.

Holly sighed happily. "Love John."

Steven leaned over to Holly. "Chuffed is a good thing, right?"

Paul hung his head, unable to process any more today. This much turmoil in his life in the past seven days was starting to get to him.

"Cheer up, bro," Steven said. "Dad just needs a little time. You know how the McDonnell men are. Some of us are just slow."

Slow to change, that was their dad's motto. Paul knew Steven was right. Patience and time were the only way out of this. He learned that -- painfully -- with Steven.

"Your mom was surprisingly cool about it all," Holly said. Paul could tell her estimation of the woman improved because of how she took the news.

Paul shrugged. "Not that much of a surprise, actually. This increases the odds that I'll be dating someone. She'll be planning a New York wedding for me before they leave the state this week. Boyfriend or no boyfriend."

"Anything to take her mind off my damn centerpieces," Holly muttered under her breath.

"Speaking of boyfriend or no boyfriend," Steven said, "any word from Ace?"

"A few," Paul mumbled.

Steven nodded like a bobblehead doll, waiting for further clarification. "Have you said any words back?"

Paul shrugged by way of response.

"Hey," Holly punched him lightly in the arm. "Do not lose him. I mean it. Want me to get into this?" She mimed rolling up her sleeves. "I fixed you and Steven. I can fix you and Ace."

Steven made a scoffing noise. "Yeah, you did all the heavy lifting there."

Holly waved a solemn finger in his face. "Do not mock."

Paul took a deep breath to try to clear the thoughts threatening to choke his brain. "I know I need to talk to Ace. But what if --" he stopped himself. "What if he and that guy -- I mean, this whole time -"

Holly cut him off. "Do. Not. Lose. Him. Fight for him, if you have to. After all it took to get him in the first place, you're just going to give up now?"

"I don't like to share," Paul muttered.

"That's a fact," Steven said under his breath.

"I'm serious, Paul," Holly said. "Talk to him. Don't make me sic your mom on you."

Oh good Christ. Holly was playing dirty.

"I'll think about it," he said. Holly gave him A Look. "I promise," he assured her.

And it was true. He doubted he'd think of much else but Ace.

"Listen," he said to Steven. "I'm going to bow out of the Royals game tonight. Take Mom and Dad," he said over their objections. "You can sell my ticket if you want. I don't want to ruin a good night for them any more than I already have."

Steven grudgingly gave in. "It won't be the same," he said. "I don't think I've ever been to the K without you."

"I guess change is the theme today, huh?" Paul said. And not just of the day. He wanted to pound his better angel for talking him into all this.

"Want some company?" Holly asked. "I could skip the game, too."

"And deprive you of more wedding planning with Helen?"

She stuck her tongue out.

John brought out their meals, and they dug in to their decidedly non-Fourth of July feast.

As Holly insisted that she wasn't going to cave on her flower choices, no matter what Helen had to say, Paul was surprised to find that he could breathe a little easier. On the whole, it felt like a burden had been lifted. But, man, did it threaten to crush him at times.

Still, for the first time, Paul felt free. The most important people in his life knew his biggest secret, and even though he came close to losing them, a weight was lifted from his chest. He grinned at the thought of what he could do with this freedom. Now he could go to Sparks with Ace and --

But there was no Ace and him. Not exactly.

That night, instead of watching the fireworks flash above Kauffman Stadium, Paul sat on his back patio and listened to the scattered pops and booms of the neighborhood kids' illegal celebrations. He couldn't see the explosions, but he felt each one rumble up through the earth.

Chapter 15

This is such a bad romantic comedy move.

Ace sat in his truck in a nondescript little strip mall, waiting for a reasonable time to arrive for his fake appointment with a real chiropractor. He had been in the parking lot for nearly an hour, having grown too antsy to stay home any longer.

The weekend had been agonizing, three days of limbo knowing that Paul was just a couple miles away -- close enough to potentially see and touch, but so far away in every other respect.

Now Ace was even closer to his goal, and he still had no idea what he was going to say once he saw Paul again. That was assuming, of course, that Paul would listen to him.

He braced himself for the possibility that Paul might not, in fact, want anything to do with him anymore. And even though Ace knew it was all based on a stupid misunderstanding, if Paul wasn't willing to listen to him when he was standing right in front of him, he was probably going to give up. Masochism was never his thing. But pride certainly was.

Could it really all end this way, after all it took to get here? Derailed because of that damn Tanner?

Not just Tanner, you dumbass. Ace could have dealt with him earlier. Could have pushed him back that night in his foyer. Could have done something except just stand there with his fly down.

Ace squared his shoulders at the office door, ready to do what it took. Before he opened the outer door, he remembered to plaster on a grimace of pain to support his claims of back pain.

The chirpy woman who answered the phone in the morning gave him the day's last appointment after he had filled his voice with imaginary and debilitating pain.

She was on the phone when he entered the empty waiting area.

"Uh huh. Uh huh." She rolled her eyes at Ace and made jabbery motions with her hands. "Hon, let me put you on hold a sec, 'kay?"

"Sorry about that," she said. "You're Mr. Gillen, right?"

"Yep, Lucas Gillen," he said, giving his brother-in-law's name.

"Well, you're nice and early!" she smiled. "Plenty of time to fill out our form for first-timers." She handed him a clipboard and a pen. "And I can take your insurance card now to get that out of the way!"

"Uh, I don't actually have insurance," he lied, taking the clipboard from her. "But I can pay for this without insurance, right?"

"Sure thing. Less work for me, actually!"

This woman seemed to speak in constant exclamation marks. It was going to give Ace a headache. He retreated to a lime green office chair to invent some fiction about Lucas Gillen for the forms.

The secretary, meanwhile, had resumed her phone conversation. Ace busied himself with a month-old Newsweek magazine.

"Yeah, Dr. Z has been kind of a bear this last week, but I think it's a good sign, actually," she said.

That caught Ace's attention. He didn't really mean to eavesdrop, but in a tiny waiting room like that, with a receptionist who lacked volume control, it was hard not to.

"Well, you know how I get when I break up with somebody. I think Dr. Z has called it quits with his mystery woman."

Ace fought the dual pain of that statement. Obviously, Paul hadn't told his receptionist the big truth yet.

"Oh, I totally know he's been seeing someone. He's been this sickening fool for weeks. Sooo frustrating."

That helped ease the pain a little. Nice to know Paul was feeling it, too.

"Yeah, I think I'll just have to offer the good doctor some of my special comfort. Every man can use a little pick-me-up after a breakup." The receptionist looked over to Ace, who couldn't hide that he had been listening. "Am I right?" she asked him. "Every man could use a good rebound girl, right? Like that Beach Boys song, what's it called," she trailed off.

"Rhonda," Ace croaked. "Help Me Rhonda."

"Yeah!" she smiled, then spoke into the phone again. "Like 'Help Me Rhonda' or something. I'll totally be Rhonda for Dr. Z. Mmmmm."

Jealousy attacked Ace's better sense and filled his ears with screaming insecurities. Every fear he'd ever had about closeted gay men -- every convoluted scenario he had been torturing himself with for the last week -- everything came rushing back at him.

What if Paul decided that ultimately it wasn't worth it to be out of the closet? What if he's decided to dig way the hell back into that closet? Hell, he might even start fucking women just so he could find some release! And God knows they'd be lining up for him, starting with that vapid blonde at the front desk. Who cares that Paul would be fantasizing about dick when his eyes were closed?

His grand scheme -- his dramatic gesture -- was instantly abandoned in the face of these horrifying possibilities. Ace had to get out of there.

"Listen, uh, miss?" he said, approaching the front desk, ready to bolt. "I need to reschedule, I think. I need to, uh, be somewhere. I totally forgot about it." He put his hand on the door handle and kept inching his way out.

"Well, but I'm pretty sure you'll have to pay a cancellation fee or something," the woman said. "It's policy for any missed appointments."

"No problem, whatever you need to bill me is fine," he said in a rush. "I just need to --"

His words stopped at the back of his throat the moment Paul's office door opened. The chiropractor was leading an older gentleman to the waiting area.

"Nicole, will you get Mr. Reynolds set up for his next appointment," Paul said to his secretary. "Thank y-"

Both men locked eyes and froze. Ace caught a flash of something in Paul's eyes -- joy, maybe, or hope? -- before it disappeared and anger took its place.

He wondered what Paul saw in his own face. Probably shock, fear, guilt. Would Paul see this flare of desire that shot through him? Would he pick up on a quickening heartbeat, shallow breath, dilated pupils? He's a doctor, it wouldn't be unheard of. Ace could feel every emotion being tattooed on his face, and he couldn't find the will to move or hide.

If he ran out the door right now, would Paul follow? Would they have it out in the parking lot, or would Paul just let him go?

It was too late to make a graceful exit, too late to escape. It was time to stay put and make himself heard.

Paul recovered first and said goodbye to his other patient. Ace was finally startled out of his deer-in-the-headlights stance when Mr. Reynolds needed to exit through the door he was blocking.

"Mr. Gillen, so, did you want a new appointment or something? Or do you have time to stay?" The receptionist looked like she wanted him gone, probably so she could give Paul a help-me-Rhonda blowjob. Ace clenched his jaw and stepped closer to Paul.

"No, I probably have time after all, thanks."

"Okay then," she said. "Dr. McDonnell, this is Lucas Gillen, your 4:15 appointment."

"Mr. Gillen," Paul said blandly. "Follow me, please."

The receptionist stood and leaned over her high desk. "He's your last patient for the day, Dr. Z," she said sweetly. "I'll stick around afterward just in case you need me or something."

Paul smiled back at her. "Thanks, Nicole."

Ace's atoms and molecules were screaming at him to flee, to sprint away like a spooked bunny, but he girded himself and followed after Paul.

This was a bad idea. Never take dating advice from Matthew McConaughey, you moron!

He knew better than this. Once in the closet, always in the closet. Or at least, never farther than a few steps away from the closet.

Ace's fears started to morph into anger -- anger at always having to be the patient one, anger at being fooled by yet another closeted guy. Most of all, anger at letting himself fall in love with Paul, who was so quick to run out on him without letting him explain.

By the time Paul had closed his office door, Ace was ready to explode.

"Mr. Gillen, please take off your shirt," Paul said disinterestedly.

Fine. He wants to play pretend? Let's play.

Ace whipped his T-shirt over his head. "So, your secretary's name is Nicole, huh?" he said tightly. "She's cute. Nice set of tits she was pushing out there. Said some interesting things about you when she was on the phone."

Paul, who had been avoiding eye contact and scribbling something on a clipboard, paused briefly and looked up, but not at Ace. "Oh?"

"Not very professional of both of you, Dr. Z."

This time Paul did look at him. "Excuse me?"

"Well, if you're going to fuck your secretary, you both should have the decency to be a little more discreet. In front of patients, I mean."

"You think I'm fucking Nicole?" Paul barked. "That's what you think of me?"

"Well, what the hell am I supposed to think?" Ace spat. "Like it's unheard of for a deeply closeted fag to try to convert himself."

That broke the dam. They both started shouting at each other, right in each other's face.

"You hypocritical asshole!"

"I'm hypocritical? You ran out without a backward glance! Had your fill of my ass, is that it?"

"Oh, that's just rich coming from you! How often have you fucked that little beefcake Tanner?

"Christ! Why do I even bother?"

"Are you ever not fucking somebody?"

"We both know you were always going to be the one who did the leaving here. Same old fucking story!"

They both stopped abruptly, panting for breath from their release of anger. Their faces were inches apart, sharing their hot breath, not breaking eye contact.

Paul broke first, lunging at Ace's mouth with his own. They both moaned at the first touch of skin on skin, of teeth clacking together.

Ace met him in passion, tongues clashing battling for dominance. One strong man facing another, until one submitted to the claiming.

He knew his lips were going to be puffy and even bruised when this was all over, but he didn't care. Part of him was so grateful to be touching Paul again, but he still needed to explain himself. He wrenched his mouth away from Paul.

"Wait, wait," Ace said breathlessly. "I need to tell you things. I want to -- need to explain what you saw."

Paul's roaming, hungry hands reached for Ace's face again. "I don't care," he growled. "I need you so fucking much."

Ace moaned into Paul's open mouth, briefly losing himself in another kiss.

With herculean effort, Ace tore himself away. He didn't want this to be about just sex anymore. Maybe it started that way, as a way for a mutual itch to be scratched, but it hasn't been that way for some time now. For either of them. He needed Paul to know how he felt -- before anything more happened.

"Please stop," he panted. "I need to tell you this. Tanner was a one-time thing before I met you, nothing more at all. He kept trying to make it more. I should have done more to stop him, but --" Ace stopped himself. This wasn't a time for excuses. It was time for begging.

He searched Paul's eyes for understanding, willing him to believe in him. "I don't know how to prove that to you," he said, feeling helplessness creep into his voice.

For a terrible moment, Ace thought that Paul ultimately wouldn't believe him, that his mind was made up. After all, wouldn't a guilty man say the same things he had? How could he make him believe? He could drag Tanner over to Paul's house to make him confess, but he didn't trust that little fucker anywhere near his man.

Ace took Paul's face in his hands. "Please, please believe me," he begged. "There is nobody for me but you. Not since the moment I met you. I should have told you that weeks ago," he said, his voice rough with sadness.

Paul stared back at him with eyes still darkened by lust and a wild look, hungry and conflicted.

What if he couldn't accept this? Ace knew he could never walk away like he told himself earlier. He needed this man too much.

The seconds dragged on, and Ace's breath kept coming as harsh panting -- not from exertion this time, but from growing panic.

Maybe Paul needed more time -- to process, to miss him, anything. It would ache to be away from him again, but whatever it took, he was willing to do.

Ace gave up and started to pull away, his head bowed and tears pricking his eyes.

Paul caught him back in his arms and tugged him sharply to his chest.

"Where do you think you're going?" he said, low and rumbling. "You giving up on me so soon?"

Ace's heart leapt. Did that mean?

"I'm sorry," Paul said softly.

And Ace's heart took a nosedive, the abrupt u-turn making him dizzy. "Sorry for what?" he asked carefully.

"For wasting this whole week," Paul murmured, his mouth hovering over Ace's. "One whole week when I haven't been touching you, tasting you." He briefly licked his tongue into Ace's mouth, then pulled back. "Loving you," he whispered.

Tears swum in Ace's eyes. He could hardly believe what he was hearing, not after everything that had happened this awful week.

"Oh God, me too," he moaned. "Me too everything. Fuck, I've missed you."

Paul growled into a possessive kiss, and Ace felt himself harden swiftly, almost painfully. A week of frustrating dreams, of an empty bed and a heart squeezed to the breaking point -- he wasn't going to last very long. He needed Paul inside him, needed to feel turned inside out again, needed their sweat to mingle on each other's skin.

Paul's hands groped everywhere, like he was afraid Ace would disappear before he could have him. Ace knew the feeling.

Their bodies would be covered with little finger-shaped bruises come morning, and Ace welcomed them. Welcomed every bit of evidence that Paul was touching him.

"I should tell you," Ace said breathlessly, struggling with Paul's buttons, "there's nothing wrong with my back, Dr. Z."

"Better check your backside just in case, Mr. Gillen," Paul smirked.

He flipped Ace around to bend him over the desk, roughly pulling the jeans down his legs.

"As I suspected," he gasped. "Looks like your backside does need a doctor's attention."

Paul pressed his full body against Ace and bit into his neck, pulling a low moan from Ace.

"Can you be quiet during my examination?" Paul whispered, his voice filled with unspilled laughter. "Don't want Nicole to think there's something wrong."

"Please," Ace scoffed. "You're the one who likes to talk dirty and comes like a bear."

Paul growled as if to prove Ace right and dropped to his knees. He pressed hungry kisses along the smooth flesh of Ace's ass, and Ace melted further at the rasp and scratch of Paul's close-cropped beard. Paul teased his fingers against Ace's opening with one hand and reached around the take Ace's aching length with the other.

"God, I need you," Paul breathed. He stood abruptly and backed away. "Don't move."

Ace nearly cried out in frustration, but he stayed where he was, panting and dripping, bent over Paul's desk.

Paul returned with a bottle of KY jelly.

"You keep lube in your office?" Ace asked, incredulous. "Now who's the Boy Scout?"

Paul merely chuckled, then took Ace's head in his hands and wrenched his face around to claim another bruising kiss.

He coated his fingers with the lubricant and sank into Ace's hole. Paul was hot and forceful, wringing pleasure out of Ace like he knew all his secrets -- which, Ace, figured, wasn't half wrong. Paul knew all he had to do was curve his finger toward Ace's prostate and just tickle it while he sucked on the pulse point under Ace's ear and he'd-

"Wait, wait!" Ace gasped. "Not yet -- need you in me! Give me your cock."

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