From time to time I’ll be posting free stories on this page. First up is a story I wrote for Torquere Books’ Charity Sip Blitz in 2008. The theme that year was weddings. The story I wrote was Wiseguys: To Have and To Hold. While former wiseguys Tony and Carter weren’t the type to walk down the aisle, that didn’t mean they couldn’t have a wedding of their own. After a fashion.
The story went out of print in 2009, but the Wiseguys series is continuing with two new releases this September: the short story Wiseguys: A New Kind of Family and a brand new short novel Wiseguys: A Blast From The Past. While you don’t need to read To Have and To Hold before you read the new ones, I thought I’d post it here just in case.
Wiseguys: To Have and To Hold
Copyright 2008 Aaron Michaels
The day gay marriage became legal in California, someone threw a rock through the front window of Tony and Carter’s delicatessen.
The rock shattered the plate glass window, spraying glass over the floor and the few tables in the front. No one was sitting at the tables – it was too early for the first of the day’s lunch crowd and too late for the two old guys who showed up every morning for a cup of coffee and a toasted bagel – and the only casualty besides the window was a beer bottle flower vase, complete with a red plastic geranium, that the rock knocked from a table to the floor.
Tony looked up from the register in time to see the tail end of a pickup as the truck took off down the street, tires squealing.
If he’d been back in Jersey, if this had been his uncle’s place instead of his and Carter’s, the rock would have been the opening salvo in a war for territory, power, and respect. His uncle would have sent his enforcers, Carter included, to firebomb one of his rival’s properties. The violence would have escalated from there until people were dead and his uncle’s rival was forced to back down.
At least that’s how it had been up until the last time. When the last war ended, Uncle Sid was the one laying dead on the floor, and Tony and Carter had been the ones backing down.
Here, though – the rock signaled a whole different kind of disrespect.
Carter came barreling in through the door to the back storeroom. “Thought I heard something out here,” he said. “You okay?”
Tony finished with the register and nodded his head toward the broken window. “Someone didn’t like the pastrami.”
Carter took in the broken glass. His mouth tightened in a hard, straight line. Muscles bunched under the skin of his jaw, and he fisted his hands.
“See who did it?” he asked, his voice low and dangerous.
“Saw a truck, didn’t catch the plate.”
That wasn’t exactly true. Tony had caught at least half the plate numbers, enough to recognize the truck if he saw it again, for all the good it would do.
If he gave Carter the partial plate, Carter would go bust heads, and Tony didn’t want that to happen. Not that he thought Carter couldn’t take care of himself against a guy who only had balls enough to break glass – Carter could take out the guy and his buddies without breaking a sweat – but then they’d have to leave.
His uncle’d had a whole network on people on the payroll, including a few cops. No one ever arrested his uncle’s enforcers when they went out to teach the opposition a little respect. Tony didn’t have that kind of influence here. If Carter went out and busted people up, he’d end up in the system. Tony didn’t want that, not over a fucking broken window.
Tony and Carter had built up a nice life here. Tony never would have thought two wiseguys from Jersey would end up running a deli in a little town in northern Idaho fifty miles south of the Canadian border. As a legitimate business yet. Uncle Sid would be rolling in his grave.
Of course, the fact that Tony and Carter were living as an openly gay couple in the little town in Idaho just south of the Canadian border would have killed his uncle on the spot if the hit back in Jersey hadn’t already done such a bang up job.
Carter looked at Tony long and hard. He understood, but he didn’t like it. Carter didn’t like to back down from any fight.
“Guess I need the broom,” Carter finally said.
They had a part-time kid who came in at eleven and worked until three, but it was too early for the kid, so cleaning up the mess fell to Carter. The business was doing well enough they could have afforded full time help, but Tony’d discovered he liked working at the deli. He was a fucking cliche – a Jersey Italian running a deli – but he didn’t care. The wiseguy in him enjoyed driving hard bargains with their suppliers, and the orphan kid he’d been, the kid who’d grown up in his uncle’s mob family but never quite felt like one of them, enjoyed the extended family of their customers.
So six days a week they both worked at the deli, Tony behind the counter and Carter doing the baking and heavy lifting. They’d sunk a good portion of the cash they’d taken from Jersey to get the business up and going, but they hadn’t needed to touch a cent of that money in the last four months. If it wasn’t for the homophobic racists who lived in an even smaller town thirty miles to the east, life would almost be perfect.
Carter cleaned up, found a piece of plywood somewhere in the back to cover the broken window, and the day went on as it usually did. Only today their customers’ lunchtime conversations weren’t about whose ex-wife was dating whose ex-husband, whose kid was being shipped off to the Middle East for a second tour, or whose neighbor had just become a grandma for the fifth time.
Today all his customers asked about was the broken window. When Tony told them what happened, the talking stopped.
Everyone knew why it had happened. They just didn’t know how to react. Or maybe they just didn’t know how Tony would react.
Except, of course, for Norman.
Norman was sixty if he was a day. He ran a sporting goods store four blocks over from the deli. On their first full day in town, right before Christmas, Tony and Carter had stopped a robbery in Norman’s store. Stopped it cold before it turned into something nasty and Norman got hurt.
Norman never forgot it.
He’d been first in line on the day they opened the deli’s doors. Norman and his good friend, Bess, who ran a local bed and breakfast, were the deli’s best customers. They brought their friends with them, talked up the deli everywhere they went, and generally gave Tony and Carter’s place the best good will any new business ever got. Leave it to Norman to bring up the eight hundred pound gorilla lurking behind the broken glass.
“It ain’t you two,” Norman said as he paid for his meatball sub. “It’s what’s happening down in California got them assholes all riled up.” He snorted. “Protecting the sanctity of marriage. What a load of crap. You two aren’t threatening anyone’s marriage, and anyone says that you are gets an earful from me.”
Carter had come through the back door with a fresh tray of baked ziti just in time to hear Norman’s rant.
“You give ’em hell,” Carter said to Norman. “Just watch your back. Anything happens to you, Bess’ll have our hides, making you think you’re a tough guy ‘n all.”
Carter said it with a grin, and Norman laughed.
“I’m no tough guy, but I’m not stupid either,” Norman said. “Usually nobody here cares what goes on down in California. Don’t affect us. Now the economy’s in the toilet, people gotta have something to hate. Makes no sense to me, but then again Bess says I never had much sense to begin with.”
Tony thought Norman had a hell of a lot of common sense, but he just smiled and handed his friend a bag with his sandwich. Norman had said he’d eat back at his store even though he usually ate in the deli. Tony didn’t blame him. With the window boarded up, the place was pretty dim.
The rest of the day went the same way. People asked about the window but they didn’t ask why or even if Tony knew who threw the rock.
They closed the deli at seven like they usually did and rode home in Carter’s van. They talked about small stuff or enjoyed companionable silences. It wasn’t until Tony started running water for a bath that Carter brought up the window.
“How come you don’t want me to go bust a few thick heads?” Carter asked.
He stood leaning against the doorway to the bathroom, arms folded across his chest.
“It’s nothing.” Tony turned the taps off and stripped off his shirt. “Just a fucking window.”
“I got my skull busted for less lots of times.”
They both had. Life with Tony’s uncle had been heavy on the spare the rod, spoil the child way of thinking.
Carter hadn’t started undressing yet. Tony was starting to wonder if the window was going to become an issue between them.
“Remember when little Mikey started dating that Puerto Rican girl?” Tony asked. “What happened then?”
Carter shifted his weight, but his arms stayed folded across his chest. “Yeah,” he said. “Fuckin’ disaster.”
That was putting it mildly. The clash between cultures had turned into an all out war with Mikey and his girlfriend caught in the middle. The family’s very own Romeo and Juliet.
“No one backed down,” Tony said. “It wasn’t about business anymore. It was personal. With business, there’s a winner. The guy that stays in business, keeps respect, keeps his power – he’s the winner. When the fight turns personal, everybody loses.” He unzipped his pants and stepped out of them. “I don’t want to be a fucking loser over a stupid window.”
“What makes you think you’d be the loser?”
Carter’s voice was deep. Rumbly. Dangerous.
“Because this fight’s personal. It’s about a belief. It’s because of who we are together. What those people think we are when they see us living the way we do.”
Now Carter did look pissed off.
“So you think because we’re together, that makes us losers?”
Tony didn’t say it loud. Didn’t shout that single word. He said it with quiet passion. With conviction, and he could see in Carter’s deep, brown, angry eyes that it got to him.
“I’m not changing who I am for anybody,” Tony said. “I’m not hiding who we are together. I’m used to people hating me because I was part of the family, but they respected me – they respected both of us – for that same reason. People hate us for a different reason now.”
“Those guys with the rock – they don’t respect us.”
Tony had nothing to say to that. You couldn’t make someone respect you if they had an irrational prejudice against you. The most you could do was make them fear you, and Tony’d had his fill of living life like that.
“You taking a bath with me tonight?” Tony asked instead. “Fuckin’ water’s getting cold.”
The over-sized tub was the major selling point when they’d decided to rent this house. Evening baths had become a ritual, one they’d started in Bess’s bed and breakfast more than six months ago.
“Yeah,” Carter said.
“Good. Thought you were too pissed at me or something.”
Carter grinned. It wasn’t much of a grin, just a small lift at the corners of his mouth, but it was still a grin.
“Guy’s gotta get clean somehow,” Carter said.
He stripped off and got in the tub, and Tony climbed in after him. Carter pulled him back against his broad, muscular chest, his strong arms around Tony’s slender waist.
Tony let himself relax as he leaned back against Carter. The broken window bothered him more than he let on. He hoped it was just because gays were in the news. He didn’t want this to be the start of something really nasty.
It had taken Tony a long time to come around to the fact that he was gay. He didn’t lust after anyone else — he’d only ever wanted Carter — but he wasn’t comfortable calling himself gay either. That didn’t mean he wasn’t aware of the possibilities the Court decision in California opened up for people like the two of them. He’d seen pictures of the elderly lesbian couple who’d finally be able to marry after decades together. He and Carter had lived briefly in Los Angeles, but it had never felt like home. If they were still there now, they could be married too.
“You ever think about it?” Tony asked. “Us getting married?”
Carter took the soap and a cloth from the side of the tub and started washing Tony’s shoulders.
“Nah,” Carter said.
Tony turned around enough to look at Carter’s face. “How come?”
Not that he’d thought that much about it either before today. If he’d still been with the family in Jersey, sooner or later he’d be expected to marry some nice neighborhood girl and give her kids. Once he’d started fucking Carter, marriage had been the last thing on Tony’s mind. But Carter had said no pretty quickly, and Tony found himself irrationally disappointed.
Carter rinsed off Tony’s shoulders and started soaping up his chest. “The way I see it, I got your back and you got mine. We’re in this for the long haul, always have been, always will be. I don’t need to stand up before some preacher to make it official.”
“So we’re already married.”
Carter’s big hands were doing wonderful things to Tony’s chest. Toying with his nipples, swirling the soap in lazy circles over his skin. Carter dipped his head enough to place a soft kiss on the back of Tony’s neck.
“Why? You want a ring or something?” Carter asked. “‘Cause I can probably do that. I’m sure Norman knows a guy who could fix me up with something nice.”
Tony laughed. God, that sounded like the old days.
“I don’t want a ring,” Tony said.
What did he want? Something. The idea that they could move to California and get married if they wanted appealed to some part of him, he just didn’t know why.
He’d never been a player. Never fucked around like his cousins. Sure, part of it was he didn’t care for any of the few girls he’d slept with back then, but he’d always known he was a one person guy. He was pretty sure it was the same for Carter. So what the fuck was he missing?
Carter’s hands stopped moving on his chest. Instead, Carter hugged Tony tight against him.
“See these arms?” Carter asked.
Carter was a solid wall of muscle at Tony’s back. His meaty arms made two of Tony’s. Tony never felt as safe as he did when Carter’s arms were wrapped around him.
“What’s that part of the vows?” Carter said. “To have and to hold? Well, I have you and I’m holding you, and I promise you I’m never gonna let you go. We’re gonna grow old together. You and me. That sound good?”
Something broke loose deep inside Tony’s chest. A cold part of himself that had gotten a little colder when the rock flew through the window. The cold went away, and in its place a warmth spread out that had little to do with the hot water in the tub and everything to do with the promise Carter had just made.
Tony had known, all along, that Carter was in it with him for the long haul. But to hear Carter promise – make a god damn vow – it shattered that cold part of him. The spoken promise was what he’d needed.
“We’ll grow old together,” Tony said, his own voice rough. “You and me. I won’t ever leave you or let you go. I promise.”
“And we don’t need no rings.”
“No,” Tony said. “No rings and no preacher. We’ve got all that matters right here.”
Tony placed his own hands on top of Carter’s. His hands looked like a little kid’s in comparison.
“Yeah,” Carter said, then a deep chuckle rumbled up from his belly. “Never thought I’d get married in a fucking tub.”
Tony grinned. “Guess that means we honeymoon in the van.”
They’d fucked in the van when they’d been on the road, but sex in a bed beat the back of Carter’s van hands down.
“I think it means I’m definitely gonna get lucky tonight,” Carter said.
“You and me both.”
Tony turned around until he was half on his knees, half laying on Carter. He pushed Carter’s shoulders back and lowered himself down, chest to chest.
Their kiss started tender, but it didn’t take long to turn passionate, all tongues and deep, hungry need. Water slopped over the side of the tub as Tony started rocking his hips, rubbing his aching cock against Carter’s.
“Think it’s about time we start that honeymoon?” Tony asked, his mouth next to Carter’s ear.
Carter clutched Tony’s ass and squeezed, thick fingers coming close but not nearly close enough to the part of Tony that wanted desperately to be filled.
“I don’t think we ever stopped,” Carter said.
No, they hadn’t.
They did stop long enough to dry off. Carter padded out to the kitchen to get a bottle of wine and two glasses while Tony lit a couple of candles from the supply he kept for occasional power outages. Technically they didn’t need candlelight — the sun wouldn’t dip below the mountains for a while yet — but Tony thought a wedding night should have candlelight just as much as Carter thought they should have wine.
“Nice touch,” Carter said when he got back to the bedroom.
He was still naked, his cock hanging full and heavy between his thighs. He’d uncorked the wine, and while Tony watched, poured two glasses.
Tony took one. “We gotta do this right,” he said.
He moved close to Carter and linked his arm through Carter’s. They both raised their glasses.
Tony tried to remember what he’d heard said at all the family weddings he’d been to. What the traditional toast should be. He decided simple was best.
“To us,” he said.
“To us,” Carter echoed.
They each drained their glasses in one go.
“We supposed to throw these things against the wall?” Carter asked.
Tony shook his head. “I’ve had enough broken glass for one day.”
What he hadn’t had enough of, what he could never get enough of, was Carter.
Carter took Tony’s glass and put both of them on the dresser next to the candles. “You worried married sex is gonna get boring?” he asked.
Tony smiled. “Guess we better find out.”
Carter growled low in his throat and lifted Tony off the ground, big hands beneath his ass.
“Hey!” Tony held on tight to Carter’s shoulders, laughing. Carter’d never picked him up like this before. To tell the truth, he liked it.
Carter walked them the few steps over to the bed. “You’re never gonna get boring sex with me,” he said. “I don’t do boring.”
Carter dropped Tony down on the bed, and before Tony could even catch his breath, Carter was on him.
What Carter did to him that night was the furthest thing from boring that sex could be. Carter didn’t use restraints or taunts, teases or toys. He simply brought Tony to the edge more times than Tony’d ever been in his life without letting him come. Carter used one big hand wrapped around Tony’s cock to control him, fingers and tongue and then his own cock to fill him, and took Tony on the most erotic ride of his life.
By the time Tony finally came, he came so hard and so long he thought he might black out. He shuddered for long minutes afterward, little shocks of pleasure ripping through him.
If this was married sex, they should have done their to have and holds months ago.
“Fuck me,” Tony murmured when he finally got his voice back.
Carter made a low, pleased noise. “Thought I just did that. But if you missed it, give me a few minutes and I can do it again.”
Tony had no doubt that he could.
“Gotta give me longer than a minute,” Tony said.
“Good. Give me some time to look at you.”
Carter rolled on one side and leaned his head on his hand. The room was dark except for the two candles which had burned down low. The candlelight made Carter’s features soft, his eyes dark, his full mouth expressive.
“I never thought I’d live long enough to get married,” Carter said. “Figured I’d come up against some badass one day who was bigger and badder than me, and that would be it.”
Carter’s other hand started playing with Tony’s chest again, just like he had in the bathtub, only without the soap.
“I know I said before I didn’t think about us getting married, but mostly it was because I didn’t think you’d want that,” Carter said. “I’m not such a great bet, you know? Life expectancy of a fucking mosquito.”
His hand traveled lower, teasing Tony’s bellybutton. Tony took a deep breath through his nose as one of Carter’s fingers dipped inside, a direct nervous system jolt to his cock.
“But you talked about it, and the more you did, the more I realized I wanted this.”
Carter’s hand reached the wiry hair around Tony’s cock. Fingers brushed at the hair, Carter’s fingertips barely grazing skin. Tony felt himself twitch. So did Carter, if the broad smile on his face was any indication.
“See? I knew you had more in you,” Carter said.
Tony’s cock was coming back to life.
One of their neighbor’s dogs barked, and Tony heard the sputtering start of a car engine badly in need of a tuneup. Somewhere out in the night the guy who’d broken their window that morning was probably getting laid or getting drunk, or maybe both. Tony didn’t think the sex that guy was having would be nearly as good as the sex he was gonna get for the rest of his life.
“Anybody ever die of too much sex on their wedding night?” Tony asked.
“Die of sex?” Carter asked. He rolled over on top of Tony, never taking his hand off Tony’s cock. “I say we find out.” He kissed Tony, long and deep.
If Tony ever saw the guys who threw the rock, he figured instead of belting them, he’d just hold Carter’s hand and smile. A happy life was the best way to beat hate. It’s what Mikey and his girlfriend had done. They’d left their families. The last Tony’d heard, they had two kids with a third on the way, and fuck anybody who said they didn’t belong together.
In fact, fuck anybody who said he and Carter didn’t belong together. Happy was happy, married was married. He and Carter were both. They’d be that way for a long time.
If Carter didn’t kill him with non-stop married sex first. But what a way to go.