“Did Mr. Collins say anything about my speech?” I ask.
“He’s busy dealing with the blowback from it,” Seth responds.
The conference room chair is stiff and uncomfortable. Sweat is rolling down my forehead. I’ve never been so relieved and yet so worried. I feel like I expressed an anger that I had deep inside but for some reason, I find myself disappointed. I should have restrained myself. I should have stopped when I could in the speech. I had gone too far. I had crossed a line that no other presidential candidate in the history of this country had ever crossed. But how was I the bad one? Wasn’t it Storm who did a military coo? Was it Storm who killed his competition?
“You should have followed the script,” Seth is saying.
“Storm wouldn’t have followed the script.”
“You are better than Storm!”
“Caden…be reasonable. What were you thinking? Do you know how much energy we wrote writing that for you?”
“It didn’t feel right,” I tell Seth.
Seth doesn’t get it. He never did. I remember how afraid he was when I wrote the City in The Sky. Seth was cautious. He was so cautious and afraid that he ended up falling out of love with me and getting with someone safer in my brother. Someone who wasn’t going to push the envelope. He wanted someone who was so deep in the closet that he came off as homophobic. Funny thing is at the end of the day my brother was the one who didn’t survive this and I was the one who was running for president.
Seth is heated. I can see it in his eyes. I watch how upset he looks at that moment. He is pacing back and forth.
Luckily Laura is in the room as well.
“It was bold.”
“He threatened to fuck the president of the United States…in the ASS!” Seth freaks out.
For a moment I swear I see Laura break her coolness and almost smile. I might have just imagined it though because her face continues to be completely void of expression when she answers.
“Seth, you need to relax,” she explains.
I don’t know how I get stuck in a room with Laura and Seth going back and forth with one another. It’s been a long day. I just want to relax but I can’t. There is this feeling in my gut that tells me I made the worst decision.
“Did I fuck up?” I ask.
I keep thinking of all the people in the crowd. All the gay people who were sitting there wondering what I was going to say. What if I had let them down? What if I had fucked up everything before I got started.
I know that Laura wants to cheer me up. It’s not that I can see it in her face or hear it in her tone. She doesn’t have either of those. Still I just feel Laura. I know she wants to tell me that things are going to be OK. It doesn’t quite come out like that though when she responds to me.
“It may be the end of the campaign before it started,” Laura tells me bluntly, “But it was bold.”
I’m surprised when Seth walks over to me.
He puts his hand on my back. Usually I would push him off but right now I’m feeling so insecure about my own performance. I need to be comforted and Laura isn’t exactly the person to do it. Seth looks at me and I can see a sense of sympathy in his eyes.
“Listen. We’ll find a way to fix your mistake,” Seth explains, “We’ll come back out. We’ll do a formal apology to the nation and to President Storm.”
“Seth I can’t do that…”
Storm was the reason that so many gay people were dead. Seth had victimized us. He had destroyed us from within. There was no way in hell I was going to turn around and apologize to him for being angry.
Seth gives me a hard stare, “Baby…”
“Don’t call me that.”
“I’m sorry,” he explains, “Old habit. Caden. You’re proud. I get it. But there are people counting on you. Don’t let your pride get in the way. I’ll set up an emergency interview with one of the top reporters in the country. During that interview all you have to do is show humility. You are a politician now. You have to play politics. Apologize to President Storm. Apologize to the nation. You can still be in this race.”
My heart sinks. I don’t know if I can do this. I just don’t know if I can do this. Still. I saw all those faces in the crowd. There was so much hope. People wanted relief from President Storm and the A&E Caucus. There were LGBTQ people all over the country depending on me.
Seth may have been a stickler for the rules but he was right.
This wasn’t about me. This was about that hope that these people saw in me. I had to stop being selfish. I had to stop showing my own anger and I had to really be a politician.
“Schedule the interview, Seth.”
He nods at me and taps my knee a little bit, “I know it hurts to put your pride aside, but this is what’s best. This is what’s best for your campaign.”
With that Seth gets up and walks out of the conference room leaving Laura and me together. I look over at Laura. I don’t know what she’s thinking. I never really do. She stares blankly at the door, gets up slowly, turns to me quickly and gives me an emotion-less glazed over look.
“It was bold,” Laura tells me, “You sent a message.”
Maybe that is her way of comforting me.
“Have you seen Rhett?” I ask.
“He’s in this dormitory down the hall to the left,” she tells me, “Go talk to him for a while but get some rest. I’ll have wardrobe ready for you and this interview first thing tomorrow morning.”
I’m shocked everyone is still trying to save my campaign after I told the current president what I told him. I walk over to a mirror. Anger. That’s all I saw. Angry Caden. Caden who had been through hell and back and now that I was back I didn’t remember what it was to be human anymore. I had to get over this anger somehow.
I had to feel alive again.
And I remember the last time I felt alive. It was during that kiss that I shared with Rhett on stage. Sparks flew all over that kiss.
Maybe that’s why I head over to his dormitory. My heart is racing wanting to know what was being that kiss and if it actually meant something. I get to the end of the dormitory and I see that Rhett isn’t actually in his room. He’s around the corner. He’s talking to someone. I am about to interrupt when I see that he’s talking to Michael. Then I hear him mentioning my name.
“So you are really into Caden?” Michael is asking him.
I can hear the pain in Michael’s voice. I knew they used to date. I knew Michael cared for him. I didn’t mean to be spying on them but when I hear my name I can’t help myself. Why were Michael and Rhett having a discussion about me?
“It’s complicated,” Rhett responds.
“Uncomplicate it. Tell me the truth. You kissed him in front of the entire country. How do you think I feel about that? We have history. I know we aren’t together right now…”
“Whose fault is that?” Rhett asks.
“Breaking up with you was the biggest mistake I ever made,” Michael responds to Rhett, “I can admit that. We both made mistakes though. But seeing you kiss another man the way you did in front of the entire country is wrong. Do you even have feelings for me anymore Rhett?”
“Of course I do.”
Rhett doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t skip a beat. I have to admit my heart drops. I don’t know why I just assumed that Rhett was the one who had broken up with Michael and that Rhett no longer had an emotional connection to him. Why did I assume there was nothing there? Seeing this interaction now was different though. It seemed like there was emotion there.
“Then why kiss him?” Michael asks Rhett.
It’s the question I want to know as well. I felt the sparks between Rhett and me.
“He needs it,” Rhett explains, “You know that Caden is special.”
“Special to you?”
“Special to the cause,” Rhett explains, “And he needs someone in his corner if he’s going to succeed, Michael. He needs an anchor.”
“Why does it have to be you?”
“I see how he looks at me,” Rhett explains, “He chose me.”
There is a silence.
I can’t stand it. I can’t stand the fact that I’m like some sort of charity case for Rhett. What is even worse is how Michael responds.
“Fine,” Michael states, “I understand what you’re saying. He can have you for now. Because we need him. We need him to win, but at the end of the day, you know where your heart belongs to. You know that you and I are forever.”
My heart is racing knowing that I’m being played.
I can’t listen to this anymore. It isn’t even that Rhett is using me. It’s the fact that his ex-boyfriend is on the exact same page as he is. They clearly had feelings for each other but felt like because I was some victim that I needed someone to love me.
I can’t sleep that night. Whether it is knowing what happened with my announcement that I was running for president or the fact that Rhett wasn’t the person who I thought he was I just felt completely shaded. I felt just completely used. So when Rhett is the one who comes to my room in the morning after I am ready for the day I feel like I’m on the wrong side of the bed.
“There goes my morning star,” he tells me.
He has a smile. I have to admit. Rhett may have been doing this because he felt like I was so important and that he needed me in the right mind frame, but he was good at it. From the way, he smiles at me when he opens the door to the fact that he already has coffee and breakfast in his hand for me. He is charming. He’s way too charming. If I hadn’t heard what I heard yesterday I probably would have felt swept off my feet by how charming he was.
Instead, now I just give him a nasty look.
“Is there something you wanted?” I ask.
“Laura sent me to bring you to wardrobe,” he explains, “Came a little early though. Kind wanted to see if you wanted to talk about the fireworks from yesterday with me.”
“Seth is my campaign manager right?” I ask.
“Exactly what role do you play Rhett?”
I’m being rude. I’m cutting him off. I’m mean mugging him. I knew the answer to this question but I wanted to hear what he was going to say. He was there to be my man candy. That’s how I heard it from his discussion with Michael. Rhett was there in case I needed to ease the tension off the campaign. Just how far was he willing to go to ease my tension?
“I’m your confidant,” Rhett explains to me, “I’m your friend. Maybe…maybe one day I can be even more than that.”
“Oh is that right?”
“You seem tense. Let me give you a massage?”
“I don’t want a massage.”
“Is everything OK?”
“Suck my dick.”
I wanted to know. I wanted to know if Rhett was really going to do anything to make this process easier for me like he said with Michael. They all agreed that I was “so important”. I wasn’t sure what that meant but I was going to figure out just how important I was. If Rhett wanted to use me for the presidency then I was going to use him right back.
“Suck my dick.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“That’s not really my thing.”
“Oh well. Nevermind then,” I respond.
I start walking away but he grabs my hand at that moment and stops me in the doorway. I watch as Rhett hesitates. Then slowly I watch as he drops to his knees. His braid is so long that it touches the ground when he drops to his knees.
Slowly Rhett begins to unbuckle my pants.
“You’re lucky I care so much about you,” Rhett explains.
He says it with a smile as though everything is cool between us. He’s none the wiser. When he unbuckles my pants I look down. I watch as he takes my dick out of my fly. I watch as he slowly stares at it watching it get hard in his palms.
He works my shaft for a few seconds with his fingers then puts it in his mouth. He’s slow at first. His warm mouth straddles my dick until he goes deeper and deeper eager to please me. My dick gets to the back of his throat. He struggles a little big and even gags some but keeps going deeper. Yes. It was clear now. Rhett would do anything to keep me in the Gay Agenda. I was so “Special” to him.
My dick is at the back of this throat. He’s sucking it slowly and I have to admit it feels so good. My wet dick slides through his lips and sits on the tip of his tongue. He pulls out and a long stream of saliva follows him. He licks the head. He sucks the shaft. He fondles the balls. His finger goes to my taint and slowly starts working into my ass.
He’s fingering me and sucking my dick at the same time before I know it. I can feel him getting into it and all the while he is looking up at me clearly trying to make sure that I am enjoying it. I don’t give him any expression. Hell, I might as well be Laura right now. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had an effect on me.
“Faster,” I demand.
“Yes…” he answers.
I swear it’s like he’d do anything to make me happy. He keeps going deeper and deeper. He goes faster and faster. He’s furiously sucking my dick while jerking the base of my dick with his right hand and fingering me deep into my asshole with his left. I feel tingles all over my body. It feels so fucking good having him do this.
I can’t take it much longer. I almost break and start moaning loudly but my pride would let me fold. So instead I just make a real angry looking face down at him.
“I’m going to nut. I want you to swallow it,” I tell him.
He seems like he’s going to resist at first but I don’t give him the chance. Streams of nut start entering his mouth and I look down at him with this knowing look. I give him this look that tells him he better not spit it out if he wants to please me.
I nut so much that at first it starts to overflow out of the sides of his mouth and down his cheek but he desperately starts swallowing.
“All of it,” I instruct him.
He desperately gathers the nut on the side of my mouth and scoops it in his mouth. By the way, he eats up my semen you would think that it was ice cream. He stands up and looks so fucking sexy when he sucks on his finger letting me know that every bit of me is in his stomach now.
“I’ll do anything to make you happy,” Rhett lets me know.
“Well, then I think you should stay away from me,” I tell him.
I look deep in his eyes when I say it and I can see that he’s not expecting it. The guy just basically swallowed my kids for godsakes. I had made sure that I emptied myself into him and now I was being a dickhead. He deserved every bit of it.
“What the fuck is your problem?” he asks, “What are you not into me anymore?”
“Oh, you think?” I ask.
“That kiss on the stage meant something,” he tells me, “You know it and I know it. We shared that moment on stage. There is no way in hell that you don’t think there is something going on between you and me.”
Rhett was so convincing. He has this burst of passion at this moment as though he cared about me personally. I knew better. He was only interested in making me happy so that I could complete his agenda. He was only interested in the Agenda. That was all that meant anything to Rhett.
“I thought so…that was until I overheard you and Michael talking,” I tell Rhett.
He stands there.
He’s shocked. Rhett looks dumbfounded at that moment.
“You heard that?”
“Pretty much,” I explain to him, “And thanks for swallowing Rhett. You’ve officially done your duty. Now you and Michael are free to get together and do whatever the fuck you like. I don’t even care at this point.”
I walk away. I can see his eyes watching me. I’m angry and I’m rude and I know that the anger is getting the best of me again but I don’t care. Rhett wasn’t the person who I thought he was and he was showing it more and more all the time.
I end up in wardrobe getting ready for this interview. Laura and her team are getting me ready. There is no soul is the room. This is just business. Seth is going over my talking points. I’m nervous honestly. The truth is the speech was different from an interview. There wasn’t someone talking back to me. Still, Seth let me know that this was part of the campaign. He let me know that this was something that was normal.
I look over at Michael. He has my security with him. There are a bunch of armed military men but the only one that sticks out is 3818. He’s standing there like a statue with almost nothing going on behind his glazed over eyes. The truth is though I felt more comfortable around him still than the rest of them.
That’s when Rhett storms in.
“What’s going on? Why is there all of this security?” Rhett asks.
His face is red. He’s upset.
It’s Seth who walks forward to answer him, “Caden is traveling above ground.”
“Why didn’t anyone let me know about this?” Rhett asks.
“Why would I let you know about anything?” I ask Rhett.
Rhett gives me a hard stare, “Caden, I know you’re mad at me but it’s too dangerous to go above ground right now.”
“I have 3818,” I tell him.
“What’s the reason for going to the surface?” Rhett demands.
Seth seems annoyed when he answers Rhett, “For your information, I set up an emergency interview…”
“Dianne Lawson from the news,” Seth explains, “Caden is going to apologize to President Storm…”
Rhett looks at me hard, “Fuck no.”
The way he says it seems so forceful. It reminds me of him ripping of Seth’s speech. It reminds me of him kissing me on stage. I thought it was so real. I thought it was so raw. It was so powerful. I thought it was just what I needed at the time but it was all fake.
Seth shakes his head, “We need to fix the mistake that he made. The mistake you helped him make when he winged it in his announcement yesterday. We have to play politics. We have to make sure everyone knows Caden Crosby is a viable candidate.”
Rhett gives me a look.
Rhett seems so passionate at that moment, “Listen. Caden you sounded powerful yesterday. You owned what you said.”
“There is an outcry in the street,” Seth argues.
“And the outcry is needed!” Rhett argues back screaming in Seth’s face at this point, “People are angry. Caden, you captured that. You were able to bottle all that emotion and show it to the world. Don’t back down now. Don’t ever back down. People look at you as strong now. People are looking at you as real. Give people time. Mr. Collins is polling people on their reaction to the speech. At least let him come back with the results before you go out there apologizing.”
I think about it. Maybe Rhett was right. I wasn’t sure. Rhett was so passionate about what he was saying that he commanded the attention of everyone in the room. Even Laura’s team had stopped working and turned to listen to the point he was making.
What if this interview was a mistake?
“Rhett has a point,” Michael agrees.
It’s random when he says it and immediately I am taken back to the place of really knowing Rhett’s motivation in caring so much.
“You would agree with him? Huh?” I ask Michael.
“You know he sucked my dick earlier?” I ask Michael.
Michael gets red with embarrassment. He cares. It’s clear he cares but it’s also clear he doesn’t want to piss me off. It’s so fucking fake between them.
“Listen, we have an understanding,” Michael explains.
“Understanding?” I ask, getting more mad at the moment, “What’s the understanding? You’ll borrow out the love of your life to make me happy so I can complete this stupid fucking campaign.”
Rhett stares at me. Clearly still passionate, “Listen. I know you overheard Michael and I. I’m sorry if it came off that I’m using you or that my feelings were legitimate. That’s not the truth. I do care about you. I care about you as a person. Outside of the campaign. I really see myself with you…”
“What matters more to you?”
“If you had to decide between the campaign and me? What would you choose.”
Rhett gets silent.
It was clear by his silence. I wasn’t even in the running.
“Please don’t do the interview,” he tells me.
I give him a hard look. He had it wrong. This was very personal for me.
“Michael, please escort Rhett out of the room. I have to get ready for my interview.”
The lights are flashing. My heart is racing. I’ve been brought above ground to a news studio. It’s different from the raucous crowd underground. This was last minute and I was clearly not around supporters. I watch in the news room how people look at me.
Something is off. I don’t know what it is.
The way the camera men give me a lingering stare. Maybe it’s even the fact that no one offers me water and that the only people that seem to be around me are Michael and his security people.
I look over at Laura.
“Am I making the right decision?” I ask her.
Laura doesn’t even return my stare. She is too busy brushing my hair, “This is a decision that you have to make for yourself, Caden. You’re the one running for president.”
She isn’t much help. I look over at the reporter who is walking over to me. She has this fake smile on. It’s the fakest smile that I’ve seen. Her name was Dianne Lawson. She was a blonde straight female reporter who had several kids, a strict religious background and was known in the business as being a tough conservative reporter. It was Seth’s idea to interview with her. He said something about the fact that I needed crossover appeal. Whatever the fuck that meant.
“We’re ready for you,” she states.
She doesn’t even reach out and shake my hand. She acts like I’m infected or something. I would think it would be normal to shake a guests’ hand when they walk in. She doesn’t even give me that pleasure. Maybe she thought I had SHIV. That’s how she’s looking at me at least.
I sit on the couch at that moment. The lights are beaming down on me. I look over at Seth. He has a huge smile on his face.
“We’ll be starting shortly. I understand you wanted to make your apology to the president and then shortly after we’ll go over the scripted questions your campaign manager sent over, followed by your short appeal to the conservative movement.”
“Appeal?” I ask.
“Absolutely. You’re on a conservative network. So I’m sure people would want to know why they should vote for…someone like you.”
I don’t remember this part from Seth’s preparation.
“I’m not appealing to anyone.”
“With all due respect, Mr. Crosby. You’re running for president. Isn’t it all about appealing for votes?”
It was but the conservative movement wasn’t my base. This is not who I wanted my support from. All of a sudden I’m panicking. This isn’t right. I shouldn’t be here. I should be gathering support from my base underground.
Rhett was right.
“Seth…Seth…get me out of here,” I state.
I get up of the chair leaving Dianne Lawson completely shocked. I storm off the set and I meet Seth halfway.
Something wasn’t right. Something definitely wasn’t right.
“Do you know the strings I had to pull to get this interview?” Seth asks, “You don’t get to just walk off. What the hell are you doing?”
I ignore him.
Luckily Michael seems to clearly not want me to do this interview either.
“Mr. Crosby,” he says, “I’ll escort you off.”
I follow Michael and his guards at this moment, leaving Seth and Dianne Lawson on set with the other confused news crew. The truth is I didn’t want to apologize. Even if it meant losing the campaign. Even if it meant blowing my shot to the presidency I wasn’t going to apologize to a fucking monster. There was no way in hell that was happening.
We are walking down a hall when all of a sudden I realize something isn’t right.
I’m not the only one who notices it. The sound of boots all around. The clearing of the news staff from the floor. It was almost like something was planned. It was almost like someone had set us up. I wonder if it was Lawson.
It’s clear we are in enemy territory.
“3818, stay by Caden,” Michael orders, “Don’t let him out of your sight.”
3818 literally walks up to me and grabs me by my shoulder clearly protecting me. He does it just in time.
Immediately we are swarmed. We are swarmed by what looks like A&E soldiers. There are dozens of them. They come from all over.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Michael asks.
The soldiers separate and someone walks through. A familiar face. The face of a nightmare. I stare at the face and I stop breathing. I was finally meeting the face of the devil himself in person after all this time.
The person walks forward and stares dead at me, “Hello,” he says, “My name is Alexandros Storm…”