Collateral Ch. 21

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“There is someone here to see you, sir,” the butler announced him. “He doesn’t want to say his name, but he has been here before. A certain Mr. Lopez.”

Klaus quirked an eyebrow. Not the Lopez brother he wanted to see, that was certain. It was late, Hans was already asleep, and he was just burning the midnight oil, for no apparent reason.

“May I suggest something, sir?” the butler spoke again. “This visitor looks rather strange. Maybe I should send him on his way?”

“No, it is all right. I will see him. Just check him, would you, please?”

The butler nodded and disappeared as silently as he had entered.

Klaus rested his chin on his linked fingers, pondering. Why was Diaz paying a courtesy visit at such a strange hour? He had to give it to the man. Diaz was not scared to face the man who had put him in the hospital, with a broken leg.

He looked straight at his visitor the moment Diaz walked through the door. Yes, that must have been painful. Yet, the man still tried to keep his head high.

“Where is Jake?” Diaz asked directly.

Klaus pointed towards the chair across from him.

“Come in Mr. Lopez, and take a seat. You look like you could use a bit of rest.”

The man looked haggard, more so than usual. There was an unhealthy pallor stretching on his face, lost in the stubble. But what was very noticeable was the limp he had, even with the short walk across the room.

“Where is Jake, you motherfucker?”

Despite the insult, the words had been spoken softly. Diaz seemed tired.

“Just have him come down here. I want to take him home with me.”

Klaus frowned. That was an unexpected development.

“He is not here. And may I suggest refraining from insulting your host? It is bad taste.”

Diaz snorted and shook his head, ignoring the correction.

“Don’t make me search this big ass house. Just make him come here.”

Klaus sighed.

“I told you. He is not here.”

Diaz searched his face and finally seemed convinced.

“Are you fucking my little brother?”

Ah, that explained some things.

“As you can see, currently no,” Klaus joked, his eyes narrowing, as he measured his adversary.

“What a fucked up asshole you are,” Diaz said with bitterness. “Don’t you have plenty of fags to fuck up the chute? Why did you have to turn Jake into your little bitch? He didn’t deserve this.”

“Deserve?” Klaus murmured. “I think he deserves to be whoever he wants to be. And I did not ‘turn’ him, as you said. He is gay. I did not make him change his sexuality, as you imply.”

Diaz shook his head, with a pained expression on his face.

“That’s not … that can’t be. I know Jake. You did something to him.”

Klaus shrugged.

“I will not waste my breath trying to convince you otherwise. You are definitely not worth the effort. But now I should ask you. Where is Jake? And how did you come to the conclusion that he was involved with me?”

“I know how to put two and two together. I don’t need to see you fucking him to know stuff like that.”

Klaus could feel a migraine starting to take root deep into his temples.

“How come you cannot keep tabs on your brother? It is not like you have much to do these days, anyway.”

“I have plenty to do, asshole. He ran away. I thought he came here.”

Klaus could feel tension rising in his muscles. He gripped the edge of the desk, in an effort to control his emotional reaction. That should have not affected him so much. He needed to learn where the boy was.

“I’ll find him and I’ll take him home. Then I’m going to get this … thing out of his head. Couldn’t you settle for ruining the entire town? You had to go after my little brother, too?” Diaz spat in disgust.

“You clearly understand nothing,” Klaus said slowly, careful not to let his true feelings known. He was not one to beat up a broken man like Diaz, no matter how much the guy wanted to provoke him.

“What’s to understand?” Diaz raised his voice. “What did you promise him? Jake never wants anything. He’s a good boy. How could you convince him to do something so dirty?”

“Trust me, Diaz, your brother needed little convincing to end up between the sheets with me.”

It was not like him to be crass, but Diaz, apparently, needed to hear the whole truth. Most probably, Jake had not said everything. Maybe he had not been given the chance.

“He was like a low hanging fruit. Ripe for the taking,” he continued, feeling a surge of bloodlust rising.

“Bullshit!” Diaz paled even more.

“He is an exquisite lover. I must say that I have met few who can compete with him on this level. He really does bend over nicely.”

“Stop it with the fag talk. My brother is not like that!”

Klaus exhaled slowly.

“What your brother does and what your brother is, these are things that are completely up to him. Not you.”

“Not you, either,” Diaz replied. “You had no right, asshole! No right to mess with his head, and make him think he’s a freak, like you!”

“I should warn casino şirketleri you, Diaz that my patience is running thin. I have already indulged you too much at this late hour and now with you insulting me under my roof, on top of all things. See yourself to the door.”

Diaz got up and stumbled backwards.

“You better leave this town, motherfucker,” he threatened on his way out, pointing a finger at Klaus. “You cannot watch your back forever. For what you did to Jake, you’ll fucking pay!”

“Spare me the big talk. Out,” he ordered. At that moment, the butler appeared, and ushered him to the outside door.

At least, Diaz knew not to overstay his welcome. And he was probably way too pissed with the idea that he could not, indeed, do anything. A fangless dog, that was what he was now. Since the butler had checked the guy for concealed weapons and come out empty, that only strengthened that belief. Diaz had been obliterated, and Klaus could at least say that was according to plan.

There were other things not working as he wanted, though. Klaus took out his phone. Maybe Jake was going to finally pick up. Maybe he was somewhere, alone and scared, right now. If he had come out to his brother, maybe he was even hurt.

The faint sound took him by surprise. Intrigued, he began searching for the source. The small package, wrapped in brown paper on his desk, lay there, cold and uncaring. Klaus put his phone down and proceeded to unwrap the package.

He took out Jake’s phone and looked at it. That was unexpected. So Jake had run away, indeed. He had run away, from them both, without a look back.

His entire body went rigid as he grabbed the offending object and threw it in the trashcan. It was clear as day what he needed to do.

***

“Are you coming back with me?” Hans seemed shocked by his decision. “What about the business you run here? And what about Jake?”

“What good would it do to have as much power and money as I do, if I am still going to behave like I’m a slave to someone else? I want a change of scenery. I can conduct business from the headquarters location, just as fine.”

“Earth to Klaus,” Hans frowned. “What about Jake?”

“Jake,” Klaus said, pursing his lips. “Jake, well, he made a decision, after all. I have no intention of getting in his way.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Hans asked.

“That lowlife of a brother he has was here last night and informed me that Jake ran away from home.”

“All the more reason to go after him.”

“Please, do not interrupt me. Jake sent me back the phone I gave him. That is a clear sign he does not want to be found.”

“For a man like you, it’s easy to find him.”

“Yes, it is,” Klaus admitted, and his eyes became a tad unfocused. “Point taken. I do not wish to do so. Let me explain it better: there is no reason for me to do so.”

“Wow,” Hans shook his head. “I thought you were in love with him.”

“Really? What gave you that idea?” Klaus began arranging the things on his desk, nothing but busywork, to avoid looking at his best friend.

“Geez, I don’t know,” Hans chose to be sarcastic. “Your own words. Jake is the most beautiful man I have ever met. Do you know what Jake did today? And how smart he is? You would not believe it. I must be with Jake. I cannot stand leaving his side again.”

“Stop it already,” Klaus snapped and Hans finally shut up. “Nothing of the kind matters anymore. My … interest was misplaced. I am not going to chase him. He does not want me. And that leaves me no choice.”

“And I thought you were the master of control,” Hans shook his head. “As a friend, I will only tell you this. You are making a huge mistake. The biggest in your life. You will not meet another like him.”

“Really? Boys like him are everywhere you look,” Klaus said with a small shrug.

He could not believe his own ears. He had never told a bigger lie in his entire life.

“Keep telling that to yourself, buddy,” Hans patted his shoulder, a bit too forcefully. “One day, you might just believe it.”

“I am in no mood to argue, Hans. I have to pack.”

“Gosh, and I never thought to ever see the day,” Hans sighed.

“I should not, but I will ask anyway. What day?”

“The day I’d see you acting like a coward.”

Klaus shot a dark look at Hans. But then his shoulders slumped.

“Maybe,” he admitted. “I have already dealt with his rejection for much too long. As a friend, you should understand. I will not take this anymore. If I go after him, he will just tell me the same thing over and over again. And a masochist … that I am not. Plus, by now, he should have known better.”

Hans seemed on the point to say something, but then he smiled.

“Thanks for being honest for a change,” he spoke. “You’re my friend and I support you. Even when you do stupid things.”

“Thank you, I suppose,” Klaus replied.

He did not like Hans’s smile at all. Not one bit. He could almost hear the gears in the guy’s head turning. For what purpose? At that moment, he casino firmaları was too tired to care.

***

Jake blew hot air into his cupped hands, as he waited for his coffee. The last two months had been tough, but he had managed to rent his own place, and find work. He was working two jobs, and he felt worn to the bone, but it still felt like the right thing.

“Thanks, man,” he smiled at the guy behind the counter.

He was rewarded with a big flashy smile back.

“Hey, Jake, I was wondering if you ever want to, you know, go out and have some fun,” the young man spoke.

Was he being hit on? It was funny how he could still not tell. The city was much bigger than his home town, and he had even identified a few places where gay people liked hanging out. Well, those places were advertised in the local magazines and there were flyers everywhere, it was not like his gaydar was functioning or something.

“I still work two jobs,” he said. “I use Sundays just to sleep.”

“Only for a few hours,” the guy smiled at him again. “We can just go grab a bite and talk. Brunch next Sunday?”

Brunch. Stuff people from small towns like Jake’s had never heard of.

“Yeah. That would be good,” he said and exchanged phone numbers with the guy.

Well, that had to be a first. He had been busy finding work and saving up some money. He needed to repay Hans and also to start planning for the future. Getting a lover had not been one of his priorities. But maybe going out with a nice guy was a good start.

And a way out from using all his free time only to mope over that asshole. Time heals all wounds, my ass, he thought. Memories of Klaus were fresh in his mind, like he had never left. Each morning, he still woke up to find the place next to him empty. From all the things, that was, strangely, the sorest point. That he could not wake up wrapped around that sexy jerk.

Maybe it was his fault. He was the one still thinking of the guy. He was the one incapable of letting go. And it was time he did something about that.

***

“Klaus Metzger, just the man I wanted to see.”

Klaus turned and watched the young man in the black suit who had given him the eye for the entire evening walking towards him. He seemed the preppy kind of guy who was looking to get ahead in the world.

By all means, he was passably cute. And his self-imposed celibacy should have come to an end by now, Klaus thought idly.

He offered the young man his most charming smile.

“And you are …” he offered.

“Very much enthralled with you,” the young man said smoothly, while taking a seat next to him.

“Flattering. What I meant is: I want to learn your name.”

“Not a lot of fun, are you?” the young man patted his arm and smiled at him. “Not a problem. I can compensate.”

Klaus’s lips twitched in displeasure. The man’s touch was irking him, for no reason. Maybe he could just fuck the guy and be done with him. And with his celibacy.

It was unnerving how much he still thought about Jake. He had been approached countless times since he had gotten back to his home country. But somehow, he had felt that not one of the prospects could come close to what he needed.

The only few times when he had felt a smidge of interest had been when the men had a dark complexion and dark hair. But each time, as he had looked at them, something had not seemed quite right. Like he suddenly had the eyes of a trained artist looking at a painting reconditioned by an unskilled hand; too many flaws.

He tried to focus his attention on the young man next to him. The guy was just chirping away happily, full of himself, and sure that he was going to end up in bed with this prominent businessman with a reputation to be extremely generous with his lovers.

“What do you want most? In the entire world?” he asked suddenly.

“I am terribly sorry. I don’t understand …”

“What would you like? The latest Mercedes? A house?”

The guy seemed taken aback and his resolve faltered a little. Eventually he chose to laugh.

“It is true, indeed, that I have expensive tastes,” he said, with a small flutter of his eyelashes, he must have thought seductive.

His gesture was as fake as the décor of a theater from the 19th century. The paint was new, but there was nothing but mold growing underneath.

“So say it. Consider that you have carte blanche. Complete access to all the money you could have. Just name one thing.”

The young man shifted in his chair. He could sense something was wrong, but he could not tell what it was. Or how to act.

“Well, I have always wanted to travel to Paris and shop on the Champs-Élysées. So maybe a platinum card, and a ticket to get there,” he said with a short, nervous smile.

“Good,” Klaus said shortly. “If I were to give you these things you want, would you stop with these pathetic attempts to get me in bed? Skip all the tedious parts?”

The guy gaped like a fish. Maybe he was a bit too harsh. Before, he would not have minded at all to güvenilir casino be approached like that.

“Uhm, okay,” the guy said slowly, like he was measuring his every word.

Klaus laughed. The young man just confirmed he was a gold digger of the worst sort. He gestured for one of the waiters to come closer.

“Everything the young man here present wants and is on the menu, put it on my tab.”

He turned towards his companion.

“Have a good night. Just be careful not to get smashed too hard on the champagne, it leaves you with a bad hangover. Rejection is just part of life.”

He was pretty certain the guy said a few unflattering things at his retreating back.

***

Jake tried hard to focus his attention on the boy sitting across from him.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

The boy smiled, but he seemed disappointed.

“Are you in love, Jake?” he asked, genuinely interested.

“Why would you say that?” Jake looked away, like he had been caught with one hand in the cookie jar.

“You’re spacing out a lot. And, I don’t know, you have a look on your face. Like you’re remembering something. Something you truly like thinking about.”

Jake sighed. He was just wasting this guy’s time. And his own.

“I went through a nasty break up, actually,” he spoke.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the guy patted his arm.

“You’re nice,” Jake said. “But I think it’s just too early for me to move on.”

“That must be true. Were you in love with the guy?”

“Yeah,” Jake admitted.

Still was.

“Well, how about a round of pool? We can still be friends, I hope,” the boy smiled. “And, if you ever need to just trash talk the jerk, I’d like to hear that.”

Jake laughed.

“Nah, I won’t speak bad of him.”

“Was he that much of a jerk?” his new found friend joked.

“Sometimes. Not always. He was … too damn perfect.”

“Wow. Now you make me want to hear the entire story.”

“Maybe someday. I really need to get my mind off of him, though. Let’s just have some fun.”

***

“Hey, buddy, how’s life treating you?”

Hans’s voice sounded happy through the phone speakers. Ever since they got together playing games online again, they had been exchanging phone calls every now and then. It had felt quite nice to just log in to the server and have Hans and Stephen all over the chat, wanting to know about him. And gaming was the only pastime he was indulging in these days with the infernal working schedule he had.

“Pretty well. Hey, listen, you should give me your details, so I can send the money to you,” Jake smiled while he arranged his groceries around the kitchen. “I finally managed to save up enough.”

“Don’t bother about that.”

“Hans, you promised,” Jake complained.

“Yes, I know. But I also know that you will need the money for something else.”

“Ah, don’t worry. I’m working two jobs, so I have all the bases covered.”

“I’m thinking about some extra expenses.”

“What do you mean?” Jake asked, squinting as he tried to check the expiration date on a carton of milk.

“Well, something like a nice suit.”

“What for?” Jake wondered out loud, and then it hit him as his eyes landed on the calendar hanging on the wall. “Ah, damn. I know you invited me, but, Hans …”

“I won’t take no for an answer. You must have a few days off on Christmas.”

“I do, but, come on, it’s like on the other side of the planet,” Jake tried to explain.

“Don’t worry, Klaus will fly you in. And it’s still one month away. You have enough time to get your passport, right?”

Jake sighed.

“Hans,” he said softly. “I … I don’t want to see him.”

“Why?”

“Isn’t it obvious or something? I’m not over him. If I were to see him …”

“You two need closure,” Hans cut his words short.

“What’s that?”

“You didn’t break up properly. Give the guy a chance. Give yourself a chance. I’m not asking you to get back together with him. I just want to see two guys I know and consider my friends having at least the chance to end up things the right way. Plus, I told you I want you at my wedding.”

Jake pressed his head against the refrigerator’s door. The cool metal was supposed to help him think.

“It’s kind of hard. I can’t seem to be able to just stop thinking about him,” he spoke.

“Which I think is the same thing that’s been happening to him, too,” Hans replied. “I’ve never seen a colder fish in my entire life. I’m starting to think he’s going into a cryogenic state, or something,” Hans joked. “Look, just come to the wedding. You don’t have to speak to him, if you don’t want to. It’s not like I can force you to do that, and I don’t want to do that. But I think seeing him, talking and setting things straight will set both of you free. Don’t you want that?”

“I think I do,” Jake mumbled.

“Then it’s settled. Just bring yourself and don’t forget about the suit. If it were up to me, dress code would be casual, but my parents say they want a full-fledge wedding party. I cannot argue with them when they’re like that.”

“All right,” Jake said.

“Awesome!” Hans said happily. “Don’t worry about a thing. I will have all the arrangements made, even for your return back home. How does that sound?”

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