Marty looked up from his meatloaf. “What?”
“Rust,” Maggie said. “How’s he?”
“What do you mean, how’s he?”
“I mean,” Maggie said and poured more milk in the glass, “how’s he doing? It’s been a while since I’ve seen him.”
“Yeah?” Marty bit his lip. “And how exactly would you have seen him?”
Maggie just looked at him from across the table. The girls were talking about a kid at school who’d fallen with his bike and broke his nose, something like that. “You should ask him to come for a dinner, that’s what I’m saying,” Maggie said. “I think he’s lonely.”
Marty blinked. “Rust’s not lonely.”
“And why’s that?”
“Rust,” Marty said, “isn’t lonely. It’s just… honey, you don’t know what he’s like. I know you think he’s smart and mysterious and handsome and he is, but he doesn’t really like people. The man’s a loner.”
“I don’t think he’s mysterious,” Maggie said. “I think he’s sad.”
“Rust’s not –“ Marty paused and took a deep breath. Well, of course Rust was sad. Anyone would have been, after losing their child. And a happy person didn’t live in a house with barely any furniture. But lonely?
“You should talk to him,” Maggie said. “Ask him to come over. Ask him if he’s alright. He likes you.”
Marty laughed and then said something about the weather.
But he started watching Rust after that. Maybe Maggie was right. Rust hadn’t been talking much about existentialism lately, which seemed like a bad sign now that Marty was thinking about it. Or a good sign. It was sometimes difficult to tell with Rust. But surely Rust had been less of an asshole lately. A few days ago, Marty had asked him what he thought about the weather and he had answered. Without any sarcasm. Maybe he was sick.
But Marty hadn’t had much time to think about Rust. He was living back in his own house again, with his family, like he was supposed to, even though he had a feeling that Maggie hadn’t forgiven him yet. They didn’t talk much about what had happened, and that was probably good, because what had happened was that Marty had slept with another woman. So, he tried to concentrate on coming home in the evenings, playing with the girls and telling Maggie how pretty she was and how much he appreciated her.
And what had been going on in Rust’s life since they had solved the Dora Lange case… Well, Marty didn’t know. He had supposed nothing was going on. Rust certainly wasn’t making an attempt to get into social circles or anything, and Marty was happy enough to let him be. They were partners. Rust was damn great at his job. Marty wouldn’t have brought Rust to a dinner party but would’ve trusted him with his life. They were good, he and Rust. Sure, they weren’t talking a lot, but knowing Rust, that was probably for the best.
It was very unfortunate that now he couldn’t stop wondering if Rust was lonely.
“Hi,” he said the next morning, when he was fixing his tie in the locker room and Rust walked in.
“Hi,” Rust said and walked to his locker. He didn’t look exactly perky. His shoulders were slouched and there were dark rings under his eyes and the look on his face was like he was waiting for his own execution. But all that was perfectly normal for him. “What’re you staring at?”
Marty shook his head. “Nothing, man. Nothing at all.”
“You got a problem with me?” Rust asked, but he didn’t sound angry, only a little curious. Well, that was nice.
“I didn’t think you cared.”
Rust glanced at him. “I don’t.” But it sounded like an automatic reply. He turned his back to Marty and buttoned his shirt. “I made a few phone-calls last night after you left. The old lady to whom we talked last Tuesday, you know, the one who lives next to the gas station where we found the –“
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
Rust turned to him slowly. “What?”
“A girlfriend,” Marty said, “you know, a nice woman who you think is pretty and who thinks you’re tolerable for some goddamn reason. That kind of stuff. Dates, kissing, you know.”
“It might be good for you,” Marty said and raised his hands. “Just a thought. I wouldn’t know. Anyway, Maggie wants you to come for a dinner.”
“It’s perfectly alright if you’re busy –“
“I’m not busy,” Rust said. “When?”
Marty shrugged. “Friday night?”
“Yeah,” Rust said, “alright. I can do that.”
“You don’t have anything else planned?”
“No,” Rust said in a firm voice. “What’s this, anyway, you trying to improve your interrogating technique or what?”
“I’m just curious,” Marty said, “you know, because we’re friends.”
“Bloody hell,” Rust said.
The dinner went well. Rust was sober and Marty was a bit angry at himself for not expecting that, and Maggie asked Rust twice if he was lonely, but otherwise, everything was great. Rust even stayed for a little bit afterwards, sat on the couch and watched a cartoon on the television with the girls. He looked very serious about that. When he told Maggie he wasn’t lonely, he didn’t sound like he meant it at all. Marty was surprised Maggie didn’t notice.
The following weeks, Marty tried to talk to Rust a bit more. Nothing special, just casual small talk he normally talked with everyone else. Rust responded pretty well and only called him idiot once a day. He liked to think that it was said with certain warmth, like he was Rust’s personal idiot or something. And he kept telling Rust to smile a little, a smile would look good on him, he had such a pretty face. So, they were kind of even.
It took him almost a month to start seeing patterns. Rust didn’t talk to him about other people or the future. It was almost like everything that existed for Rust was the past with all its ghosts, and the present, but there was nothing going on in Rust’s life in the present except for the work and Marty. Sometimes Marty found himself wondering if Rust ever talked to other people. He was relieved when he overheard a conversation Rust had with Bill Andrews about the coffee machine. But that evening, he stayed late at the station to keep company for Rust and asked the man if he had any friends, and for a second Rust looked like Marty had slapped him on the face.
Yeah, so maybe something was wrong. He mentioned it to Maggie in the evening when they were in bed, and she told him just to talk to Rust. But he didn’t know how to talk about it. He didn’t want to hurt Rust by saying the wrong thing, and he didn’t have a goddamn clue what the right thing was. But Rust had a notebook he kept with him all the time but didn’t use for the cases. It was dark green and small enough that Rust could keep it in his pocket, and sometimes, when the criminals in the area had been lazy at murdering and Rust and Marty didn’t have much to do and Rust was feeling bored or something, he took his little green notebook and scribbled something in it.
Marty wanted to know what that was.
He kind of realized that he was thinking about poking his nose at Rust’s personal business. But Rust was lonely and possibly miserable and it seemed Marty was his only friend. Surely Marty had almost an obligation to try to find answers. He couldn’t figure out how to talk about it, but he could get a glimpse of what was in Rust’s little green notebook. So, one morning when Rust had gone to get coffee and left his coat hanging over the chair, Marty took the notebook from the pocket and opened it.
It was filled with drawings, and they were all of him.
He didn’t know what to do. He tried to talk to Maggie about it, but he had barely got started when he realized there was no way to put it that would make any sense. Honey, remember when you said you think Rust’s lonely? He’s got a notebook full of drawings of me. Or honey, remember when you asked what’s going on in Rust’s life? Apparently he’s drawing my face in his notebook.
Only it wasn’t just Marty’s face. He had put the notebook away pretty quickly and hadn’t had much time to really look at the drawings, but from what he had seen, he supposed Rust was drawing him in all kind of positions. There had been one about him leaning against the bonnet and looking at….probably looking at Rust, actually, since Rust was the one who had drawn it. And there had been one about him in the evidence room. And one about him… well, there had been a lot of drawings.
The good thing was that he had looked good. He hadn’t thought Rust appreciated his looks, but if Rust saw him the way he drew him, he could be pretty happy with himself. He didn’t think anyone had ever drawn him, except for his girls, and that was a completely different thing, looking at those drawings with full of pride and love and saying thank you, dear while silently thinking what’s going on with my hair. Rust, however, had drawn his hair perfectly.
It was kind of a shame that he couldn’t ask Rust to give him one of the drawings. And he wished he would have had a bit more time to look at the little green notebook. He wondered if he could do it again, but he felt a little guilty already and was afraid that Rust would see that on his face. Rust was a brilliant detective, after all. Sometimes he thought Rust was the best goddamn man in the job that he had ever met. Rust was just so clever, and so good with people in one way if not in another. Rust always knew what to say to a suspect and which question to ask. The man was a miracle, alright, and it was kind of unfair that on top of everything he could also draw.
November ended, the girls started talking about Christmas. Maggie was busy at work and preparing for the holidays and stopped asking about Rust. When Marty mentioned Rust, she brushed it off quickly. He wondered what she would have thought about the drawings. He was thinking about them all the time, which was kind of stupid, but he couldn’t help it. He tried to seem normal, though, so Rust probably didn’t notice.
But once in a while when the things were slow, Rust took his little green notebook and started sketching in it, and Marty felt like someone had punched him on a face. He couldn’t sit still. He couldn’t look at Rust and he couldn’t look away. He couldn’t fucking breathe. Maybe Rust was drawing him again, but how was that possible when Rust didn’t even glance at him? How could Rust remember so well what he looked like? He didn’t even remember what color Rust’s eyes were. Maybe that was why the drawings were in black and white. And how could Rust look so calm about it? Was he drawing someone else? But that wasn’t possible, because the only person he was around was Marty. Why would he have been drawing someone else? Had he met someone?
“Marty,” Rust said once when they were the only two people left at the station in the evening. Rust was going over his notes from when they had talked to a witness earlier today, and Marty was… He didn’t know what he was doing. Apparently, he was staring at Rust. He knew that the little green notebook was in Rust’s pocket, because he had seen Rust put it in there earlier.
“Yeah?” he said. He should leave. Maggie and the girls would be having dinner any moment now.
“What the hell’s going on with you?” Rust asked in a tone that suggested he was completely uninterested.
“Nothing,” Marty said, “nothing at all. Why?”
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
He bit his lip. “Not really.”
Rust looked like he thought Marty was talking bullshit but didn’t know if it was worth the trouble to mention it. Marty knew that look very well. Goddamn, they had been partners for more than a year now. He liked to think he knew Rust pretty well, considering that Rust was a man who couldn’t be known.
“Listen,” he said, “what’re you doing tonight?”
“Why?” Rust asked, frowning.
“No reason,” Marty said. “We should do something.”
“I don’t know. Go for a beer.”
Shit. “You don’t drink beer. I remember that. So, not beer then. We could…”
“I can’t believe I’m actually going to ask,” Rust said, “but are you fighting with Maggie or something?”
“What? No. Of course not. We’re alright. I mean, we’re much better than we used to be. Everything’s great. The marriage is… great.”
“Okay,” Rust said and looked down at his papers.
“But,” Marty said, “anyway, we should do something tonight. I don’t know what you’re doing in your spare time, man, but it can’t be much because you never talk about it. And we’re friends. Friends hang out sometimes.”
“Marty,” Rust said slowly but at least he wasn’t looking at his papers, “this is completely unnecessary.”
“No, it’s not. It’s absolutely necessary. We can go for a coffee or something.”
“In the evening.”
“Yeah. You don’t sleep anyway.”
Rust was staring at him like none of it made sense. Maybe Rust had a point in there. Marty tried to remember what he did with his friends, but the only thing he could remember was going for a beer, and they couldn’t do that. They could go fishing, but that would take some preparation and it was already past seven on a Thursday evening.
“I know you’re drawing me,” he said finally, because the silence was getting uncomfortable and he couldn’t figure out what he and Rust could do on a Thursday evening.
Rust blinked and leaned back in his chair, and that was when Marty realized that he had probably said the wrong thing. “What?”
So, alright, he had already started this. “In your green notebook. I know you’re drawing me.”
“You’ve been going through my things,” Rust said, but he sounded more surprised than angry. And maybe a little nervous, but that just wasn’t possible.
“Yeah. Sorry about that. It’s just, I’ve been a little worried, man.”
“Because you don’t seem to have anyone in your life. Except for me, of course.”
Rust stared at him. “Marty, what the fuck –“
“I know it was a bad thing to do,” he cut in, “but I was trying to figure you out, and I didn’t know how to ask you, and –”
“Ask me what?”
“What’s wrong with you,” he said. Well, it sounded worse than he had expected. “Or if you’re lonely. Or whatever else is bugging you.”
“Nothing’s bugging me,” Rust said, “except my partner who’s apparently going through my things because he thinks I’m lonely.”
“Sorry,” Marty said, “but aren’t you?”
Rust crossed his arms over his chest. He had loosened his tie at some point, and the top button of his shirt was undone. Once or twice Marty had wondered who ironed his shirts.
“We can go to a bar,” Rust said. “You can have a beer and I’ll take soda or something.”
Marty opened his mouth and then closed it. “What? Really?”
“Yeah,” Rust said, stood up and took his coat. Marty stared. “I’m well aware that there’s no talking sense to you when you’re like that. So, we’re going to go for a drink and you can feel good about it later and quit with this bullshit.”
“No,” Marty said but stood up as well, because it seemed that Rust was moving towards the door now, “no, it’s not like that, it’s not bullshit. We’re friends. Friends do things together. And it’s alright if you’re lonely, I am too, sometimes, even though I’m very good with people, and you aren’t. It’s alright, Rust. But you’ve got to tell me about these things. I can’t guess what’s going on inside your head. That’s a fucking labyrinth, your head, I mean.”
“Come on,” Rust said from the door.
“I’m trying to take my things.”
“I don’t have the whole day. I’ve got a book about early versions of nihilism waiting for me at home.”
“Goddamn, Rust, you’re proving me right.”
He was almost surprised that Rust didn’t escape on the way to the bar. There, Rust had a soda and he had a beer and felt guilty about it, because what if he was making Rust feel uncomfortable? But Rust didn’t look like he minded. He wasn’t wearing a tie anymore and Marty didn’t know where he had left it, maybe in his truck. There was a curl of hair on his forehead and he looked a lot less tired and grumpy in this dim lighting.
“They were nice, you know,” Marty said when he was halfway through his beer.
Rust glanced at him.
“Alright,” Rust said. “Thank you.”
“The way you’ve been drawing me is so… I like it. The way you do it, it’s good.”
“Yeah,” Rust said slowly. “You don’t need to do that, Marty.”
“It’s not like I was asking for compliments,” Rust said, rubbing the side of his nose. “And you weren’t supposed to see them.”
“Yeah, alright, I get that,” Marty said and nodded, “and yeah, I’m sorry. For going through your things. Obviously I shouldn’t have done that. But the drawings…”
“No, let me say this. I’m trying to tell you that they were really nice, Rust. Really nice. No one’s drawn me before. And it was like… it was so obviously me but, like, a good version of me. I don’t look that good in the mirror. I don’t know how you do it.”
“Marty,” Rust said in a tone that said shut up. But in a nice way.
“I’m just saying,” Marty said, “I’m just saying that it’s nice.”
“Okay,” Rust said, and then he asked something about how Marty’s kids were doing at school. Marty didn’t actually know much about that, but he talked about it anyway. After some time, he realized he was thinking about Rust’s drawings again. But Rust was talking about Alaska now and Marty was talking about that one time when he and Maggie had visited the Rocky Mountains, and they were sitting close enough that their knees were touching, and everything felt nice and almost normal and so maybe it was for the best not to mention the drawings. It wasn’t that big of a deal anyway.
But later, when they left the bar and walked through the parking lot to their cars, Marty wondered if Rust had his notebook with him now. He probably did. Or maybe he had left it in the truck with his tie. Maybe he would drive home and draw Marty.
“You never look at me when you’re drawing,” Marty said.
Rust stopped and turned to him. They were standing in the middle of the parking lot.
“Because I would’ve seen you do it,” Marty said. “I would’ve noticed it if you were doing something with your notebook and watching me.”
Rust took a deep breath, staring at Marty. It was a bit unfair that since he was the taller one, he could do that thing where he kind of lifted his chin up and looked down at Marty. Not in a bad way but like he was trying to put some distance in between them.
“How can you remember what I look like?”
“I just do,” Rust said.
“But they were so… you were doing my hair exactly right. I can’t understand how –“
“I’ve been looking at you a lot,” Rust said, “this past year.”
“Yeah, I’ve been looking at you a lot, too,” Marty said, “and I couldn’t describe how you look if I closed my eyes right now. Except, of course, that you’re tall and dark and handsome and judgemental.”
Rust bit his lip.
“That was a joke. You aren’t judgemental. Or maybe you are, but, like, you’ve got a good reason to be. That’s why it’s so goddamn annoying sometimes. What’re you thinking about?”
“I’m thinking that we should probably get home,” Rust said.
“Yeah, alright.” That was true. Marty hadn’t even remembered to let Maggie know he was going to the bar with Rust. She would understand, of course. She would probably be happy that Marty was spending more time with Rust. But he should get home now. It was getting late. “I’m glad we did this, Rust. We should go out together more often. We should do stuff. Like, maybe we could go fishing.”
“I don’t like fishing.”
“I do. And you can come to our place for a dinner again. Anytime you like.”
“Yeah, I know,” Marty said quickly, “you like to be alone. I know that, man. So, I’ll see you tomorrow at the station, right?”
When he was driving home, he wondered if he ought to have shaken Rust’s hand or something. Maybe he should have done more than said good night. But Rust had been so quiet. And braver men than Marty had collapsed under Rust’s stare. He was pretty sure Rust’s eyes were blue. Or green. Or grey. He just wished Rust had had good time with him.
He went to bed at the same time with Maggie that night, held her in his arms and thought about Rust drawing him. There were so many things Rust could’ve been drawing, and he was drawing Marty. Probably it meant that Rust genuinely liked him.
“Honey,” he said and kissed Maggie’s neck, but she was already asleep.
Rust stopped drawing him.
He didn’t notice at first. Then he thought that maybe Rust had a cramp in his hand or something, but Rust was making notes in his ledger like always and his fingers seemed to work perfectly. Then Marty thought that Rust had probably lost his notebook, but that was just impossible. Rust didn’t lose things. Surely he wouldn’t lose a notebook full of drawings of Marty. That had to mean something for him.
Christmas was only two weeks away. Marty bought Rust a present, a watch he kind of wished Maggie would get for him but didn’t want to ask. Then he began to think that maybe it was stupid to get Rust something for Christmas. Maybe he should keep the watch himself. But what if Rust had gotten something for him? And the watch would look better on Rust’s wrist anyway. Rust had pretty hands.
One evening, when they were alone at the station, he was watching Rust’s hands and then he realized he didn’t know where Rust was going to spend Christmas.
“Listen,” he said, and Rust glanced up from his papers. “You should spend Christmas with us.”
Rust stared at him maybe two seconds. “Hell, no.”
“Rust,” he said in his most reasonable voice, “you can’t be alone at Christmas. That’s just not acceptable. If you have someone else you’d rather be with than me, I’m perfectly alright with that, but if you’re going to sit alone in your house, reading your depressing books and staring at those walls… Did I mention that I could help you paint them? Maybe it’d improve your personality if we picked a happy color for your walls, like, maybe yellow?”
“Marty,” Rust said. He sounded perfectly serious. Maybe he hadn’t realized that Marty had been joking about the yellow paint. He was pretty sure green would suit Rust better. Or blue. But not sad kind of blue. “I’m going to ignore Christmas. It’s better that way. Don’t ask me about it again.”
Marty opened his mouth and then closed it.
“Thank you,” Rust said, looking like he meant it. That threw Marty off badly enough that he didn’t mention Christmas again.
But when he left the station at Christmas Eve, he left the watch on Rust’s desk. And when he came back four days later, Rust didn’t say anything about Christmas or the watch, but he had it on his wrist.
Marty spent the New Year at home. They had fireworks, the girls were laughing, Maggie smiled and rolled her eyes, everything was as good as it was going to get. Later, when the girls were asleep, he kissed Maggie in the bed and went down on her and felt quite happy about himself afterwards. He still knew how to make his wife come apart like that.
But when they had taken a shower and were in the kitchen, eating ice cream and watching through the window at fireworks over the rooftops across the street, and the pleasant haze of sex was wearing off, he told Maggie that he was thinking about Rust. Maggie nodded and told him he should have asked Rust to spend the New Year with them, and he said that he had tried that about Christmas and Rust had told him not to.
“What do you think,” he said, “if I went over there? Just for half an hour? I know it’s late, but I can’t stop thinking… what if he… I mean, I’m not worried or anything, but what if he’s just alone there, reading about the end of the world or something?”
“That’s a good idea,” Maggie said. “You should go.”
So, Marty drove to Rust’s house, parked the car outside, and knocked on the door. He could still hear fireworks in the distance but didn’t see any. The night wasn’t exactly cold but he wasn’t wearing a coat, so when Rust finally opened the door, he walked past him to the house where it was at least warm. Rust had books all over the floor and a half-eaten pizza on the kitchen counter and clothes lying in a pile next to the mattress, but otherwise everything seemed to be alright.
“Sorry about this,” Marty said and walked to the kitchen. The pizza had ham and pineapple. “I just wanted to see how you were doing.”
“You wanted to see how I was doing,” Rust said in a voice that was probably meant to make Marty feel stupid. It worked only a little.
“Yeah. Since it’s the New Year and everything. Did you like the watch?”
Rust blinked. “Yeah. Thanks.”
“It’s perfectly alright that you didn’t get me anything,” Marty said. “I know you don’t like Christmas. And I only bought you the watch because I wanted to give you something. And I liked the watch. Can I ask you something?”
Rust placed his hands on his hips and stared at Marty. He was only wearing one of his white tank tops, boxers, and socks, and still he managed to look perfectly composed. “If you have to.”
“It’s nothing bad,” Marty said. “Would you give me one of your drawings?”
Rust looked genuinely surprised. “What?”
“One of those drawings you made of me, do you think I could get one of them?”
“What do you mean, why? I like them.”
“Because you like them –“
“I’ve been drawing you without you knowing it,” Rust said slowly, “and you want one.”
“Yeah. They’re very good, Rust. What’re you, blind?”
“Don’t you think it’s weird?”
Marty opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again and took a deep breath. Bloody hell. Of course it was weird, but everything about Rust was weird. And it wasn’t like Rust was drawing him naked or anything. Not that he wouldn’t have been fine with that, because he knew he looked pretty good when he was naked. Not as good as Rust, probably, but for some reason he doubted that Rust spent much time inspecting his naked bits through the mirror. Maybe Rust wasn’t aware what he looked like. And -
“What’re you thinking?” Rust asked. He didn’t sound exactly calm.
“Nothing,” Marty said too quickly. “Can I take a slice of this pizza?”
“I don’t mind.”
Marty took a bite of the slice. It had probably been better when it had been hot. “If you really must know, it’s a bit weird. But I kind of thought we were beyond that.”
“And how’s that?”
“The things we’ve been through, man,” Marty said, eating the pizza. “With that case last spring, and when I stayed here at your place for a while, and this whole fall. I know you’re weird, Rust. You’re the weirdest man I know. This is nothing compared to your usual stuff.”
“My usual stuff –“
“The shit you talk about,” Marty said, “about the smell of the universe and all that. Drawing is… almost normal.”
Rust took a few steps towards him, sat down in a chair and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked like he was expecting something of Marty, and Marty didn’t have a clue what that was. But there was something else in his mind.
“You haven’t been drawing me lately,” he said.
Rust shifted in the chair.
“Or you’ve been doing it when I can’t see,” Marty said, “I don’t know. But I haven’t seen your little green notebook in a month.”
“I didn’t think you’d notice,” Rust said. His voice was perfectly steady now.
“What’s that about, anyway? Are you tired of my face or something?”
“Yeah. It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Come on,” Marty said and licked the grease from his fingers. He didn’t much care about pineapple on pizza. “Surely you have a guess. I thought you were clever or something.”
“I guess,” Rust said slowly, “it felt weird. After we talked about it.”
Marty bit his lip. “Did I make it weird? Was it something I said? Because I didn’t mean –“
“No,” Rust said, “it was weird even before that. But I just… I didn’t think I’d have to talk about it.”
“I thought maybe you’re still drawing me, just not when I can see you do it. Like, when you’re alone at home.”
Rust just stared at him.
“I don’t mind you drawing me, Rust. Hell, I’ll even pose for you if you want.”
“Without a shirt, if that makes it better.”
Now he was almost sure he could see Rust smile for a second. “I don’t see how that’d make it better.”
“Isn’t that what they do when they’re trying to teach you how to draw? Make you draw naked people?”
“You said you’d take your shirt off,” Rust said, but his voice was a bit thin, “not that you’d be naked.”
“I can get naked for you,” Marty said and then bit his lip. Yeah, alright, there was something weird about saying all that stuff, while they were alone at Rust’s place and Rust wasn’t exactly wearing trousers and Marty had come to him unasked in the middle of the night and had eaten his pizza. “Sorry. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“You aren’t making me uncomfortable,” Rust said immediately. “What the hell are you doing here, Marty? It’s the New Year. You should be at home. With your wife and kids.”
“Yeah, I know,” Marty said. “She knows I’m here.”
“Then you’re both idiots.”
“Don’t talk about my wife like that,” Marty said, but he had a feeling that what was going on in here was that Rust wanted him to stay for a while and couldn’t ask for it. That certainly made sense. Anyone would’ve appreciated some company on a day like this. Or night. “What about the drawings?”
“What?” Rust asked, like he really didn’t remember.
“Can I have one? And are you still making them?”
Rust stared at him for a long time before answering. “You can have one. And I’m still making them.”
He realized vaguely that he was smiling. “Really?”
“But your notebook –“
“I’ve kept it here,” Rust said, “since seeing it was so distracting for you.”
“You asshole,” Marty said, but he was still smiling. “Can I pick?”
“The drawing. Can I pick the one that you’re going to give me?”
“You want to see them all?”
Oh, goddamn. “Yeah. Yeah, I absolutely want to see them all. Unless you’ve drawn me ugly sometimes, because I don’t want to see that.”
“No, I don’t draw you ugly,” Rust said slowly. “You want to see them now?”
“Yeah. Of course.”
Rust nodded and stood up. Marty took a deep breath. He was going to see the rest of Rust’s notebook. He was going to look at the drawings and Rust was going to be right there, looking at him. It was great. He took a glass of water and emptied it, while Rust came with the notebook and passed it to him.
“I’m going to take my time,” he said, “this is a hard choice.”
Rust didn’t answer, only sat down in the chair again. He was staring at Marty. Marty opened the notebook and started going through the pages. He couldn’t believe that Rust saw him like this. He couldn’t believe that Rust had been watching him so carefully. And the way Rust was watching him now, well, it made his hands sweat a little and he just wished he wouldn’t leave spots on the pages. In some of the drawings, the Marty on the page was looking straight at him, and there was something in his black-and-white eyes that made him stop. He didn’t look at Rust like that. Not in real life. Maybe.
“I thought you were trying to pick one,” Rust said, when Marty had been staring at himself in the eyes for a while.
“I can’t decide,” he said. His voice came out a bit hoarse. “Do you have a favorite?”
“Can you tell me which one it is?”
“No,” Rust said, but his voice was quiet. “You’re going to want it.”
Marty glanced at him and then turned the page. There he was, sitting behind his desk at the station, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his hair a bit messy like he had had a long day, and his eyes on Rust. “This one.” He held the notebook up so that Rust could see the page. “Is this your favorite?”
“Damn,” he said and smiled. “Can you rip it off for me?”
“What’re you going to do with it?” Rust said but walked to him and took the notebook from his hands. He watched as Rust ripped the page of, folded it and gave to him. Then Rust put the notebook away again.
“I don’t know,” Marty said.
Rust walked back to him but didn’t sit down anymore, only looked at him with his hands on his hips again. “Maybe you should go home now.”
“I can stay,” Marty said. “We can drink… water. Or anything you have. You don’t have to be alone.”
“It’s late,” Rust said. “You should go.”
He walked Marty to the front door and then just stood there, on the doorway, when Marty walked to his car. He still wasn’t wearing trousers, but he didn’t look like he was cold. He nodded when Marty got into the car, and then he stayed in the doorway until Marty had driven away.
Marty didn’t show the drawing to Maggie or to anyone else. He kept the drawing folded in his wallet, in between his old student card from the college and the condom he had bought before he had met Maggie. No one would find the drawing. Sometimes when he was alone, he took it out from the wallet and thought about how great it was that Rust liked to draw him.
Once, they stopped at McDonald’s along the road when they were driving back to the town late in the afternoon. Marty was still eating when Rust took the little green notebook from his pocket. Marty took a sip of his milkshake and Rust placed the notebook on the table.
“Need me to stay still or something?” Marty asked.
“No,” Rust said. “Just pretend I’m not here.”
“I’m not going to do that,” Marty said and smiled a little. Surely Rust realized that he liked this. He finished eating his meal even though it was a bit tricky now that Rust was watching him. His heart was beating a little harder. “Are you going to show it to me when you’re finished?” he asked, when Rust had been drawing for a while and he had run out of milkshake.
“Do you want me to?” Rust asked.
“Yeah. Of course.”
Rust glanced at him, then put the notebook onto the table and pushed it to Marty. “We should be going anyway.”
Marty stared at himself in the eyes for a few seconds. “Rust –“
“Don’t say anything,” Rust said.
“Can I have it?”
Rust took the notebook, ripped the page off and handed it over to Marty. Marty kept it in his hand until they got to the car, and there he put it in his wallet, in between the student card and the condom, where the other one already was. Rust was watching him, but he ignored that.
In the beginning of February, they solved a tricky case and the boys at the station wanted to take them out for a drink. Marty tried to get away from it, mainly because he supposed no one else knew why Rust didn’t drink and he didn’t want to put Rust into that position. But they ended up in a bar anyway. Marty was right in the middle of telling his usual story about a one-night-stand and a roommate that had stuck her finger up his ass, when he saw the look on Rust’s face. He stopped the story, patted Bill on the shoulder and walked to Rust. The story wasn’t exactly true and everyone had already heard it anyway.
“You alright?” he asked. From what he could tell, Rust hadn’t been drinking anything the whole night. He looked tired and lonely and like he was having difficulties hiding it.
“Fuck off,” Rust said in a friendly tone. Everyone else laughed and then started talking about something else, and Marty took the closest chair and sat down next to Rust. Personally, he was a little drunk, and it was nice to have his thigh brush against Rust’s, and he had been thinking about those drawings a lot lately. He appreciated it, of course. It was great that Rust was drawing him. But he didn’t know why.
“You aren’t having fun,” Marty asked, leaning closer to Rust’s left shoulder. Rust even smelled good tonight, was probably wearing a cologne or something.
“Surprise,” Rust said.
“Don’t be like that,” Marty said, which kind of didn’t make sense, because he wanted Rust to be like that. He liked Rust. Yeah, alright, maybe Rust was an anti-social asshole but Marty liked him anyway. “Let’s go to your place.”
Rust glanced at him. “Why?”
“We don’t need these bastards. It was our case, we should celebrate. You and me. At your place.”
“You were telling a story to the gentlemen,” Rust said.
“Yeah,” Marty said, “about the finger in my arse. You know that didn’t really happen, don’t you?”
“I supposed you were blurring the details a little.”
“Yeah. But everyone loves that story. It’s just, sometimes you’ve got to entertain people. That’s how you get them to like you. And you need people to like you, because then you can ask more of them. Everything goes more smoothly. I know you don’t appreciate that, but –“
“I can see the value,” Rust cut in. “It’s just that I don’t have it in me. Marty, you don’t need to hold back to keep me company.”
“I’m not holding back.”
“You love telling your stories to these idiots.”
“Yeah, well, I love telling my stories to you even more.”
Rust breathed out.
“What? What was that? Are you disapproving? Don’t you like my stories?”
“I like you,” Rust said and patted Marty’s hand that was resting on the counter. “You’re drunk. Go bother other people.”
“I want to bother you.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Rust,” Marty said and tried to shift closer, “you smell good. Everyone else smells of tobacco and beer but you just smell nice. What’ve you been doing this whole time?”
Rust rubbed the side of his nose and then took the little green notebook from his pocket and put it onto the counter.
“Can I see?”
“Rust,” Marty said and bit his lip. “Can we get a pizza and go to your place? I’m not as drunk as I sound. I promise.”
“I know,” Rust said and took the notebook. “Alright.”
But at Rust’s place, Marty wondered if he was drunker than he had realized, after all. He couldn’t stop thinking that Rust smelled good. They ate pizza in the kitchen and he dragged his chair as close to Rust as he could without it being weird, and then a little bit closer still, because Rust didn’t seem offended. When he put his hand on Rust’s knee, Rust told him he didn’t know what he was doing.
“Why do you draw me?” he asked. “Why me?”
“Marty,” Rust said and leaned back in his chair but didn’t do anything about Marty’s hand on his knee.
“Why? It’s not like there aren’t prettier things in the world.”
Rust tilted his head to the side and just stared at him.
“I can’t stand that you’re lonely,” he said and squeezed Rust’s knee lightly. “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s just not fair. You shouldn’t be. You should be… you should have… you should have everything. Anything. Anyone.”
“Are you drunk or are you nervous?”
He bit his lip. His heart was suddenly stuck in his throat. “I’m not sure. Why would I be nervous?”
“Yeah,” Rust said, “you tell me that.”
“You just smell good.”
“Marty,” Rust said, took Marty’s hand and pushed it away from his knee. For a second it was like Rust was holding his hand. “If you’re trying to make me admit something –“
“I’m not,” he said quickly, “I think. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Because if you were,” Rust said, “if you were trying to get me to admit something, then I would say that you’ve got a wife. You’re married. And you’re straight. And there’s nothing else to that.”
“Yeah, there is.”
“What? What else is there?”
“Straight,” Marty said and bit his lip, “what does that even mean? I can see that you look good. I have eyes.”
“I have eyes, Rust,” he said and took a deep breath. He wanted to touch Rust’s knee, Rust’s anything, but it seemed a bit early when Rust had just a moment ago pushed his hand away. “What if I wasn’t? All that, what if it wasn’t true?”
“I don’t do that,” Rust said in a steady voice. “We can only live one version of our lives and this is it. I don’t make decisions based on something that could’ve been but isn’t.”
“I love her, you know,” Marty said, “but this has got nothing to do with it. You and me, we’re a different thing.”
“I don’t want to be your different thing, Marty.”
“Do you want to fuck?” Marty asked.
The next morning, he couldn’t look Rust in the eyes, until a little before midday Rust cornered him in the men’s bathroom, locked the door and then just stood there, his hands on his hips. Marty washed his hands but couldn’t make himself turn to Rust, so he stared at his own face in the mirror. He had slept for perhaps two hours.
“It’s alright,” Rust said.
Marty swallowed. “Listen, man, I’m –“
“Let me fucking apologize –“
“What the fuck are you apologizing for?” Rust asked.
Marty took a deep breath, pushed his hands into his pockets and turned to look at Rust. Rust looked like he had slept, which was just goddamn unfair. It had been two in the morning, when Rust had driven him home. He hadn’t been able to fall asleep for hours, but maybe Rust had. Maybe Rust hadn’t been surprised at all for what Marty had asked. Maybe Rust had been waiting for it. Maybe Rust was -
“Stop that,” Rust said in a sharp tone. “You’re overthinking it. Just stop. You did nothing wrong.”
“Fucking hell –“
“And you know I wanted to,” Rust said, “you know I did. But you were drunk and you didn’t mean what you were saying. I don’t want it so badly that I’d take it like that. I told you to get home because I thought it’d be better that in the morning, you’d be feeling miserable because you had made a pass at me, not because we fucked.”
“I’m saying that you were right,” Rust said. “You were right about my feelings. I’m almost impressed.”
“Good work with those clues, detective.”
“Fuck you,” Marty said and smiled a little. That didn’t feel bad. He made himself look Rust in the eyes, and Rust was staring back at him like he always did. Like nothing had happened. Or like nothing had been ruined. “I’d apologize –“
“I don’t fucking want you to apologize.”
“Alright. But –“
“And you can do with it what you want. I won’t bring it up again. We can forget about the whole thing.”
Marty nodded slowly. That was sensible. He was a married man, and he was kind of straight, wasn’t he, he had a beautiful wife and two kids. He would never again do anything to mess up what he had with Maggie. He just… “We’re alright? You and me?”
“Yeah,” Rust said.
“I just like you, man.”
“Well, no one’s perfect,” Rust said, but he was almost smiling now. If Marty was right, Rust looked a little relieved. “We’ve got to talk to the woman who saw the barn burn, remember? It’s a long drive.”
“Maybe you could drive,” Marty said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“I thought so,” Rust said. “Yeah, alright.”
“Great,” Marty said.
“Great,” Rust said, opened the door and walked away.
Marty decided he wasn’t going to mention it again. Yeah, alright, he had been drunk and asked if Rust wanted to fuck, and Rust had just stared at him silently for what had felt like minutes before saying that it was time for him to get home. It was a little embarrassing. And it was crazy. He hadn’t really wanted to fuck Rust, had he? And even if he had, he wasn’t going to. He was going to forget that anything had happened at all.
But there was something Rust had said, something about how Marty had been right about his feelings, which stuck with him. It was bullshit. He hadn’t known what Rust was feeling. He still didn’t know. He watched Rust sketching in his little green notebook and he wanted to walk to Rust, grab the man by the shoulders and shake him hard, so that all the answers would just fall off. It surely seemed that Rust liked him, and maybe Rust hadn’t been opposed to the idea of fucking him, not exactly, in the right circumstances, but what else? What else?
He almost drove their car into a ditch once, because he was watching Rust from the corner of his eye.
Of course, it would be better never to mention it again. He thought about it when they were at the station. He thought about it when he was driving home. He thought about it when he was watching television with Maggie and the kids. He thought about in bed. Nothing could happen. He didn’t know what he wanted to happen. He wasn’t going to do anything about it.
It took almost a week before one evening, he brushed his teeth and started unbuttoning his shirt and then told Maggie he was going to go check on Rust. She looked at him for a moment and then said okay. He left.
All the lights were on in Rust’s house. Marty knocked on the door. Then he tried it, but it was locked. He bit his lip and told himself that he had come this far, there was no point in turning back now. When he was about to turn back, Rust opened the door. He was wearing nothing but boxers, had a fag hanging from his mouth, and he looked kind of sad.
“I’m not drunk now,” Marty said and walked past Rust to the house. He walked to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of water and drank it. By the time he was finished, Rust had come to him and was standing a foot away from him, his arms crossed over his chest. Sex was sex but Marty had never supposed a man could look so goddamn pretty. Rust did. He shifted his feet from one foot to another, and Marty stepped over to him, pushed his hand down inside his boxers and took his cock in his hand.
Rust said his name.
He told Rust to shut up. It was alright now. He got Rust. It was alright. Rust could say what he wanted, anything, well, almost anything, because there were things that Marty just didn’t… But he liked Rust. Surely Rust knew that. He said it twice and Rust looked at him with wild eyes and open mouth, his cock quickly getting hard in Marty’s grip. He was just a man after all. And maybe he had a thing for Marty. Maybe he was in love with Marty or something. Shit, that’d be bad, wouldn’t it, that’d be just awful, Rust couldn’t be in love with him because he was… He didn’t want to think about that. He didn’t want to think about anything else.
He cornered Rust in between his body and the counter, and Rust went easily, as if Marty could make him do anything now that he was holding Rust’s dick. Maybe he could. But he wasn’t going to find out, not today at least. He put his free hand on the back of Rust’s neck, leaned forward and kissed the man on the mouth, and Rust kissed back with his eyes open. He looked like he couldn’t believe it was happening. He looked perfect. And the tiny sounds he was making turned into groans and moans and sharp breaths, and Marty kissed him again and again and sped up his hand. Later, he would do this better. He would take this time. He would make Rust fucking beg for it, say that he wanted Marty, say everything Marty wanted to hear. Not now.
Now, Rust opened Marty’s zipper with shaking hands and closed his fingers around Marty’s dick. Marty’s knees almost gave out. He groaned and the way Rust looked at him was just smug, only it was easy to fix that. He only had to squeeze a little tighter around the tip of Rust’s cock. But there was no hiding that he was pretty close to coming already, he wasn’t going to last long even though Rust had only started, and the sheer thought that Rust was touching his dick was almost enough to finish him. He tried to breathe. He tried to think. He tried to kiss Rust, but his coordination was a mess.
And then he came in Rust’s hand and everything faded into a pleasant blur for a moment.
“Marty,” Rust said probably a little later. Marty didn’t know at which point Rust had finished, but he had, and now he was leaning against the counter his boxers stuck on his thighs and his lips red like he had been biting them.
“Sorry,” Marty said and made a vague gesture towards Rust’s crotch, “sorry about that, I should’ve… I shouldn’t have left you hanging –“
“Shut up,” Rust said, but he didn’t sound certain. He was looking at Marty like he wasn’t sure who Marty was or what was going on. And, yeah, Marty wasn’t sure about that either, but he would worry about that later. He shoved his dick back in his boxers – which surely was a mistake with all the mess but he’d deal with it later – and closed the zipper, and then he stepped over Rust.
“It’s alright,” he said. “Come on, man.”
Rust was glaring at him.
“I’m going to hug you,” he said and wrapped his arms around Rust. Rust was warm like any other human being, and still breathing hard, and didn’t complain when Marty kissed him on the neck and then stayed there. Maybe Rust was leaning onto him just a little. That was nice. That made him almost feel like he knew what he was doing.
Then the phone started ringing.
“You going to answer that?” Marty said when Rust didn’t react.
“No,” Rust said and took a deep breath. “Yes. Fuck.”
“Do you want me to –“
“Stay there,” Rust said, let go of him and walked to the phone. He hadn’t realized Rust had been hugging him back. “Yeah,” Rust said to the phone and then slowly turned to look at Marty. “Yeah, he’s here. Do you want to talk… Alright. Good night.”
The fridge was humming. Rust put the phone down and straightened his back slowly like it took strength.
“You told her you’d be here,” Rust said.
“But this isn’t… this isn’t some kind of a private joke to you, she doesn’t -”
“No,” Marty said, “of course not, no. She doesn’t know. And I wasn’t planning to –“
Rust glanced at him.
“Yeah, alright, I was planning to. But she’s got nothing to do with it. She’s…”
“Marty,” Rust said and pointed at the phone, “that woman has been kind to me since the first time she met me. This can’t happen.”
“I know,” Marty said, walked to him and pulled him close. Rust came easily enough. He didn’t look like he was going to kiss Marty, though. He looked like he was thinking about existence and death and universe and all that stuff. “I know. Can we just… can we watch television for a moment?”
“I don’t have a TV.”
“Shit. Yeah, you don’t, you goddamn –“
Rust pushed his fingers through Marty’s hair and tugged a little a little so that Marty had to tilt his head back. “You think you’re staying?”
“Just for half an hour,” Marty said. “We can talk. I can tell you about what’s been going on on television lately.”
“Bloody hell,” Rust said, but he sounded happier now.
“But do you think I could…” Marty cleared his throat. “Can you lend me clean boxers or something?”
“Yeah,” Rust said. He was stroking Marty’s chin with his thumb now. It felt almost gentle. “Are you hungry? Because I think I have something in the fridge.”
“Yeah,” Marty said, “yeah, you bet that I’m hungry.”
Rust got him boxers and he locked himself in the bathroom for a few minutes. The easy part was to get rid of the stuff dried onto his crotch, the tricky one was to figure out how to look himself in the eyes through the mirror. But this was Rust. And it was barely even sex. They had just jerked each other off. Nothing special about that. Only of course it was special, because everything about Rust was so fucking special it didn’t even make sense most of the time. But anyway, there was no reason to think about it too much. This was just Rust and him.
They ate something from the fridge that tasted a bit like the fridge. Rust was wearing a tank top now but he still didn’t have trousers and his legs were sprawled all over the floor. Marty tried not to stare. He wasn’t attracted to Rust’s legs. Rust’s face, yeah, Rust’s hands, of course, Rust’s arms and shoulders, absolutely fucking yes, and Rust’s brain – well, he felt a bit self-conscious about that, because everyone knew Rust’s brain was a graveyard.
But now he found himself staring at the old white scar that split the hair on Rust’s right leg and he wanted to press his thumb against it. Alright, he would have probably licked it, too. That was weird.
They kissed a few times, too. Marty didn’t know how that got started but it did, and then he had his hands on Rust’s both thighs as he was leaning forward to keep kissing Rust without falling off his chair. There was a mattress right there, but he had a feeling that if they went to Rust’s bed, kissing would turn into something else, and something else would turn into something else, and he didn’t know how to explain that to himself. Or Rust. Or God, even though this was probably the last fucking moment in his life he ought to be thinking about God. There was no way he was going to be able to explain this.
But once or twice Rust said his name like he was out of breath and out of his mind and maybe a little bit in love with Marty or something, and Marty forgot about the explaining. An hour later, he drove home.
Everything was a mess and it was his fault.
Two days after he had jerked Rust off in Rust’s kitchen, he woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall asleep again. Maggie was asleep, lying on her side, facing him. He climbed out of the bed, locked himself in the bathroom and took the two drawings from his wallet. He couldn’t believe Rust drew him like that.
He put the drawings in the box where he kept all his papers. Maggie hated that drawer. She wasn’t going to find the drawings from there. And Marty was going to stop thinking about them.
The next day, they drove an hour to speak to an old man who turned out to know nothing. On the way back, they pulled the car over to take a piss and Marty wondered what would happen if he kissed Rust now. Maybe Rust would push him away. They were at the side of the highway, anyone could drive past and see them. And even if they found a small side road or something, there was no reason to think that Rust would want anything like that from him. Rust wouldn’t want Marty to kiss him and tug his boxers to his knees and then turn him around, push him down against the bonnet and -
“What?” Rust asked.
Marty blinked. They were standing at the side of the highway. Rust had already closed his zipper and looked ready to go. “What?”
“You were staring at me,” Rust said. “Should I be worried?”
“No,” Marty said. Fuck. “Sorry, man. I was… I was thinking about something.”
“Sure,” Rust said and got into the car. Marty shook his head. This was bad. He was losing his mind or something.
He went to the car, sat in his seat, grabbed the wheel and squeezed it for a few seconds. He wasn’t going to do anything. And then he let go of the wheel, turned to Rust and kissed him on the mouth. Rust kissed him back and put a hand flat on his chest, not pushing, not grabbing his shirt either, barely touching him. He wanted to fuck Rust.
He pulled back, panting. “Bloody fucking –“
“Yeah,” Rust said and leaned back against his seat.
“Sorry. That was –“
“Completely welcome,” Rust said and lit a cigarette. “Start driving. Or else I’ll let you explain to everyone at the station why we were late.”
“They wouldn’t ask,” Marty said but started the car.
He put the drawings back in his wallet. One was a little wrinkled. One morning, he was trying to smooth it out against his locker door when Rust walked in. He covered the picture with his hands and Rust stared at him with a look on his face that seemed to say really?
“Really?” Rust asked.
That evening, Marty told Maggie he had agreed with Rust that they’d play cards in the evening. Rust didn’t have much of social life, so it was kind of Marty’s responsibility as the only friend to spend some time with him, right? Even if he beat Marty’s ass in card games every time. Maggie said alright and didn’t ask him not to be late, which seemed like a bad sign, so he definitely wasn’t going to start thinking about that now. He drove to Rust’s place and stood in the yard for almost a minute before Rust saw him through the window and came to the door.
“You lost your last brain cell or what?” Rust asked but underneath, he sounded almost confused.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Marty said and walked past him to the house. It wasn’t even eight in the evening. It was too early for anything that he had come here for. He pushed his hands into his pockets and turned to Rust. “I thought we might hang out.”
“You thought so.”
Rust shook his head. It didn’t look like a no. “It’s not like I’ve got many options.”
“No, you really don’t,” Marty said and sat down in the closest chair. His hands were trembling a little. His voice was too high. He needed to calm the fuck down or else Rust would notice and then he’d be screwed, Rust would fucking know that Marty was panicking about all this, and then there was no way he could look Rust in the eyes anymore. He bit his lip. “I thought we could play cards. Did you have –“
And there he stopped talking. Rust walked to him, looked at him from the heights for a few seconds and then sighed like he was already a little bored of what was going to happen, a little disappointed perhaps. Marty wanted to tell him to fuck off, what right did he have to look at Marty like he knew what was going on inside Marty’s head when Marty personally didn’t have a goddamn clue, right? But the words got stuck in his throat.
“Come on,” Rust said, grabbed Marty by his elbows and dragged him up. “Cards?”
“You want to play cards?”
Marty nodded. He couldn’t think, not with Rust standing so close to him. “Yeah. I thought it might be fun.”
“Alright,” Rust said, hovering at Marty’s face. He smelled so goddamn good. Marty closed his eyes. “Look at me. You want to play cards.”
Rust grabbed his chin and nudged it up a little. He opened his eyes. God, he wanted to kiss Rust. “I don’t have a deck,” Rust said. There was no way knowing what he was thinking. He looked worried and a little pissed at Marty and slightly bored and like he knew what exactly was going on and wanted to have a philosophical conversation about it. “You brought one?”
“No,” Marty said. He didn’t have a deck, either.
Marty shook his head. Or rather, he tried. Rust’s grip of his chin was surprisingly firm.
“You want to kiss?” Rust asked. He sounded genuinely curious.
“So, that’s what you came here for.”
“I don’t understand what the fuck you’re doing with those drawings,” Rust said and pushed his fingers through Marty’s hair almost as if he was petting him. But his fingers were shaking a little. Marty draped his arm around Rust’s waist and pulled him closer. If Rust was allowed to touch, then so was he. “I thought,” Rust said, his fingers slow and gentle in Marty’s hair, “maybe you’re jerking off to them or something. To your own face. That would make sense.”
Marty bit his lip. “You goddamn –“
“But you’ve got mirrors, so it can’t be that.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” Marty said, “because you’re the most obnoxious fucking asshole I’ve ever met. I don’t…” Then he thought about it. Rust’s hand had stopped. Rust was most definitely staring at his mouth now. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“Yeah, I know,” Rust said, all the bite gone from his voice.
“Can we not talk about it tonight?”
“Yeah,” Rust said, “alright.”
“It’s just,” Marty said and took a deep breath, “it’s just that I can’t figure this out. I like you. And I can’t stop thinking… I know this isn’t going anywhere, and I know I’m a fucking bad deal for you, I know I’m…”
“You aren’t a bad deal,” Rust said, stroking his hair. “And I like you too, you idiot.”
“Can you just kiss me?”
“Sure,” Rust said and did nothing.
“So,” Rust said, grabbed Marty’s arm and pulled him close, “so, you just come to my house and demand kisses, is that right? Is that how this is going to be from now on?”
Marty kind of tried to think about it, but his dick was squeezed against the crook of Rust’s thigh and he couldn’t breathe. “Yeah. I think.”
“You’re delusional, man,” Rust said in a quiet voice, let go of his arm and took his face in between his hands gently like it was something fragile. He grabbed the front of Rust’s shirt and yeah, maybe he was trying to rub his dick against Rust’s thigh.
Maybe Rust kissed him. Or maybe he kissed Rust. Or maybe he started tugging Rust’s shirt off, because he needed something to hold onto, something, and preferably everything. There was a clock ticking somewhere. The kissing felt like he meant it more than he wanted to and it was kind of pouring over, the thing he didn’t want to name. Rust let him manhandle the shirt off and then started undressing him, and he leaned his back against the wall and tried to breathe and tried to ignore his dick for fucking second as Rust got rid of his shirt, unzipped his trousers and tugged them down to his ankles, then knelt down for a moment to get rid of his socks, and it was just goddamn absurd, to have Rust kneeling down like that, right in front of him -
“Marty,” Rust said and stood up again, “what the hell are you thinking, you goddamn idiot, you’re going to come into your pants.”
“I want to fuck.”
Rust stared at him for a few seconds and then nodded.
He didn’t have condoms. Rust had, which seemed like it meant something. And there was a few seconds of silence with a packet of condoms on the table, when Marty wasn’t sure what was going to happen exactly, what the logistics were, did they have to negotiate about it, and it seemed like they should, he couldn’t just presume, but then Rust kissed him and stepped away.
“Yeah, so, I’m just going to go to the bathroom first,” Rust said, “and you should probably think about something unpleasant. It’s not like I’ve never got it up my arse before but it’s been a while so, you know, you’re going to be fucking slow about it, and right now you look like you’d come in a second. So, take a deep breath. Think about country music.”
“Doesn’t work for me,” Marty said, which was pretty much everything he was capable of now.
“Goddamn,” Rust said, glared at him like he was having second thoughts or something, and then went to the bathroom.
Marty walked around the room twice and then sat down on Rust’s bed. His heart was beating like crazy. He thought… he was pretty sure that he was going to fuck Rust. Probably that was what they had been talking about right now. And that made him feel both like the most powerful man in the fucking state, because Rust, Rust was the absolute fucking best that there was, and the thought of that Rust would let him… that he could… but also, his knees were kind of trembling. He dug his fingers into his thighs and tried to concentrate on bad things. Country music didn’t help, because he had had a major crush on Shania Twain for years. He just wished Rust didn’t expect him to know what he was doing, because he really hadn’t much experience on this kind of stuff, and he didn’t want Rust to be disappointed, and he didn’t want to mess it up.
“Marty,” Rust said a little later, “try to fucking breathe. You aren’t going to mess this up.”
“I wasn’t worried,” Marty said. He was very worried. He had two fingers in Rust’s ass and absolutely no idea how he could get his dick there, and also it was so fucking hot he was about to come right now.
“You’re doing alright,” Rust said. He was leaning against counter, facing away from Marty, his head hanging low in between his shoulders. His voice was very calm for a man who was tight as hell and also had his dick hard and dripping. Marty kind of wanted to get his fingers on it but couldn’t concentrate on two things at once. “Marty,” Rust said, “listen to me, you’re doing alright. I’ve got you. I know what I’m doing. I’ve got you, I’ve got this thing under control, it’s all –“
“Thank god,” Marty said and kissed the back of his neck. It was damp and warm and soft.
“Yeah,” Rust said and took a deep breath. “Another finger.”
A little later, Rust used the exact same tone to tell Marty that he could get his cock in there. It took Marty a few seconds to get the coordinates right, and he didn’t even have his eyes closed or something. But it all worked out when Rust bent down over the counter. Marty grabbed his hips and tried to breathe and tried to think about… about hunting ducks… walking in the swamp with mud up to his knees… washing his clothes after that… a very cold night when his toes were freezing… soured milk in the fridge…
The little green notebook.
“Marty?” Rust asked, and for fucking once he sounded disoriented. “Don’t you fucking stop. Don’t… why did you stop?”
“I’m going to come.”
“You aren’t even in there yet.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“No, you aren’t. It’s my ass. I can tell.”
“Rust,” he said and ran his fingers up and down Rust’s back, even though the loss of concentration almost made his cock slip out. “You know this isn’t just about fucking, right?”
“Now’s not the right time to discuss that, Marty, just –“
“The way you’ve been drawing me,” Marty said, “it’s like you actually care about me, and it’s just… it’s just goddamn sweet, man, I don’t know how to deal with it, and I… you know I care about you, too, I do, and I don’t want it to be like this, I don’t want to expect that you’re just going to do these things for me anytime I come over –“
“Well, I won’t, if you don’t get back to fucking me right now. Marty –“
“You and me, man,” Marty said, “we’ve got something special. I don’t know what the fuck that is but it’s something. You drive me insane but I love you for it.”
“Marty,” Rust said, but he sounded resigned now, “if you start crying now, I’ll jerk myself off and only after that I will hug you.”
“No,” Marty said, “no, that won’t be necessary.”
He fucked Rust against the kitchen counter for maybe fifteen seconds and came still buried deep in Rust, like his whole soul was lost or something. But he managed to stop Rust’s hand when the idiot was trying to take care of himself. Instead, Marty had him turn around and stay still. Kneeling down on the floor was a bit more uncomfortable than he had anticipated, but Rust had nice knees, and nice thighs, and a dick that certainly didn’t fit into Marty’s mouth, but he did his best anyway. He had absolutely no idea what he was doing and he managed to choke himself a little before he figured anything out, and Rust said his name like he was being stupid or something, but in a good way. He closed his eyes. Rust grabbed his chin and petted the side of his face with his thumb, and then pushed him back a little and curled his own fingers around his cock. At least Marty got to watch.
And yeah, alright, this had definitely got out of hands. He didn’t know what was happening. He took his wallet when they were lying in Rust’s bed without clothes, and then he placed the drawings carefully on the pillow and looked at them. The Marty Rust had drawn was looking back from the paper like he was in love or something.
A little past midnight, Rust kissed him on the ear and told him he should go home. He didn’t want to, but he put on his clothes and did nothing about the red patches around his mouth, because there was nothing to be done. He should ask Rust to shave better. They kissed a few times and then he went, and the road back home was quiet and full of things he tried not to think about.
He asked if he could see the notebook again. Rust let him have it for almost twenty minutes.
Sometimes he thought Maggie knew. He had a feeling. There was something about the way she was watching him. And sometimes he thought she knew and didn’t care, because it was Rust, and wasn’t that different, really? It wasn’t like Marty was going to marry Rust or something. But he felt immediately bad after he thought that and for multiple reasons. And then came March, and April, and May, and slowly he realized the best tactic was not to think at all.
He was still fucking Rust, of course. There was no way he could stop. And it didn’t look like Rust wanted him to. Every time he went to Rust’s house, Rust let him in. If they didn’t have sex, they did something else – talked about the cases, talked about everything else, anything Marty could make Rust talk about. Once Rust cooked him pasta and he sat at the table so confused he didn’t know what to say. And when he bought Rust a television, Rust only seemed averagely irritated and then blew him later. He fell asleep in Rust’s bed and went back home early in the morning.
He knew it couldn’t go on, but it did.
And there were perfect days, too. Or if not days, at least moments, like when he was sitting in Rust’s bed half-naked and lazy, and Rust took his little green notebook and started drawing. He told Rust to stop. Rust didn’t. The fridge was humming. He was almost sure there would be more days like this.