"Tag, You're It, Part 14"
By: Melissa and Cathy
Roland stood outside the door of Taglieri's house; he refused to think of it as being Johnny's house too, steeling himself to knock. He hadn't spoken to his son since Paris, but the news that Taglieri had been arrested in a domestic dispute had spurred him to action. His source at the station affirmed that Taglieri was released on his own recognizance. After all, he was a respected doctor, had no criminal record, etc. Not even a parking ticket. Roland wished he'd known of the arrest before they'd released Taglieri, wished he'd pressed charges for assault in France, wished he'd done something to keep this monster away from his son.
Even though it was almost ten at night, he was going to do something now -- talk some sense into Johnny, expose Taglieri for the domineering violent man he undoubtedly was, something. He wasn't going to stand by, not anymore. Randall had told him there might be some redeeming qualities to Taglieri, but Roland refused to believe him. He knocked, and when Taglieri answered the door -- with a bandage on his hand -- Roland kept his composure with difficulty. That composure vanished when he saw Johnny in the background, his face cut in several places, his eye blackened, bandages on both of his hands, unsteady on his feet.
Roland pushed into the house, determined to get a closer look at his son. He felt conflicting emotions -- incandescent rage, disgust that his son tolerated this treatment, and despair. He couldn't lose another son. Bobby had died from a terrible illness, unpreventable and finally untreatable. He couldn't help thinking that maybe Johnny had some sort of death wish if he tolerated being beaten to a bloody pulp.
Roland didn't trust himself to speak to Taglieri. In fact, he wished he had a gun with him. He'd take pleasure in shooting the man's eyes out. Instead, he forced the anger down, tried to suppress his tears, and addressed his son directly.
"Have you taken a good look in the mirror, Johnny? Is this what you call love?"
John looked away from his father and locked eyes with Tag. He had just awakened from his nap and had come downstairs to see if Tag wanted him to pack his bags and get out. Tag was just about to answer him when the doorbell rang. Had he taken a good look at himself in the mirror? Hell yes he had. He had looked into his own eyes and wondered how he could have been so cruel and stupid as to fool around on Tag. He had told Tag that he had never slept with someone he didn't care about. So, what was this afternoon all about then? He knew he had no feelings for Doug Ross. It had been nothing but lust on his part. And he had let that lust get in the way of his love for the man who stood in the doorway.
Roland followed his son's gaze to Taglieri. He would never stand a chance of getting through to him as long as Taglieri was in the same room. Reaching out to grasp John's arm, Roland intended to take him into the kitchen or outside to talk. Instead, he was shocked as John wrenched his arm out of his grasp.
"Why did you come over here?" John asked.
"I came because I'm worried about you. Look at you, Johnny. You have a black eye and cuts on your face and hands. You can't live like this, son. Please come back home with me." Roland reached out to touch his son's cheek, but John flinched away from his touch. God, the monster now had Johnny scared of even his own father. It sickened him to think that his son would now be afraid of his own shadow thanks to men like Daniel Abbott and John Taglieri.
John looked back to Tag. "This is my home," he softly said.
Tag nodded and John took heart at that. It meant that Tag didn't want him out of his life just yet. Probably wanted his own private time to yell at him and tell him how horrible he was for what he did. Well, if that's what Tag in mind, then John would stand there and listen to it. It wouldn't be a lie.
"I can't just walk out that door and leave you here with that man," Roland firmly stated. "Can't you see how much it hurts me to see you like this, son?"
John looked back at his father, remembering all the times he had wanted to go with his parents when they went away. But, it never happened. Instead, he, Bobby and Barbara would have to stay at home or get sent to stay with their grandparents. No matter how hard they begged, the answer was always the same - we can't let you come with us, you'd just be in the way. And now, all of a sudden, he wasn't in the way any more?
"I've never been good enough for you, Dad. Never. And now you want me to come home with you? That's a good laugh. I told you that this is my home now and I'm not leaving." Even though John felt shaky all over, he had managed to keep his voice firm as he addressed his father. God, but it felt good to take a firm stance with that man. "You know what? You never wanted me, and now I don't want you. Get out."
Even though Tag was as shocked as Roland looked by what John had said, he inwardly applauded. It was about time that John began to stand up to his father. Maybe now there was some chance of getting John to file charges against the man.
Roland was struck speechless. Johnny had never in his life taken that tone with him nor talked back to him. This had to be Taglieri's doing. He had managed to turn Johnny against his family, which was something that Abbott had never achieved. Well, Roland would be damned if he was going to stand there and let him get away with it. One way or another, he would make Johnny see the truth about Taglieri, even if he had to endure bruises or risk a broken bone to make him see that truth.
Roland turned to Taglieri, noting the small smile on his face. "You think you've won now, don't you? You've twisted his mind to the point where he's rejecting his family, and to what end? So you can do what you want to him and get away with it? Well, you've picked the wrong family this time, Taglieri. I will not sit by while you do things like this to my son."
"I would never harm John. I told you that in Paris, but you refuse to believe me. Probably because violence and intimidation are all that you know," Tag replied.
"You would never harm Johnny? Then why does he have a black eye? Why are there cuts on his face and hands? It certainly looks to me like he's hurt."
"I was hit in the face with a baseball bat at work. Tag never hit me. He never has and he never will," John paused as he reflected that Tag would have had every right to strike him when he found him with Doug Ross. "Not even if it's justified," he softly added.
Tag sighed, still upset that John could ever think he deserved abuse, but tried to salvage something from what he'd said. Whatever problems they were currently having, at least John could be confident of knowing that Tag wouldn't physically harm him.. Now if they could just get rid of Roland, they could talk their problems out, and possibly get back to normal. Whatever normal was. He also felt a lot of guilt because he had been tempted to strike John, just as he had hit Doug Ross. He was glad that he had resisted that impulse. God only knew what kind of damage that would have done to John, and Tag wasn't thinking only of physical damage. In his opinion, the emotional damage alone would most likely have been irreparable. It cut him to the quick to have John talk as if he believed that violence was justifiable. His hatred for Roland Carter grew larger by the moment.
"A baseball bat at work?" Roland sneered, looking at both men. "And I suppose you cut your face while shaving? Please spare me the lame excuses, Johnny. I know abuse when I see it."
"I suppose you do; you've had the experience with it," Tag spat out.
Roland looked at Tag coldly, but wilted inside. He remembered the time when he'd been so under stress during Bobby's last illness, when he'd lashed out at the children. Johnny and Barbara had been fighting over something trivial, and the noise had sent him to his wit's end. When Johnny had run in Roland's office to whine and ask him to intervene, Roland had slapped him. Hard. In the ensuing moments, he took out all his pent-up frustration on the boy, chastising him for being so selfish, so childish, for getting in the way. Johnny had stood rooted to the spot, and Roland had seen the fright in his eyes grow even as the mark on his cheek reddened. Roland had never forgiven himself for that. He'd never laid a finger on Johnny since then, but there were times he couldn't help wondering if that single outburst had irreparably damaged him in some way.
John sat on the edge of the bed, wondering if things could possibly get any worse. It pained him to know that neither Tag nor his father would believe him when he said that neither man abused him. He supposed that his father had some justification for not believing him, after all, he had continually denied the abuse he had endured at Daniel's hands. But, Tag had no reason to doubt him. And now he had no reason to ever trust him again, John knew he had blown that by what he had done with Doug Ross. He needed someone to talk to, someone who would listen and not judge him. He considered calling Randall, after all, Randall had always been there for him in the past. But, Randall, as far as he knew, wasn't that open minded where Tag was concerned either.
John jumped as the phone rang and he quickly answered it. Maybe if there were no further distractions, Tag could get his father out of the house. Then they could talk.
"Johnny? Hi, it's Randall."
John grinned. "I was just thinking about you."
"Maybe I'm becoming psychic because I felt as if I should call you tonight. I just got back from Hawaii."
"Hawaii? What were you doing there?"
"Retracing my footsteps from when Roland sent me looking for you. John, I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions about you and Tag. I was wrong. When the staff at the resort voiced their suspicions about Tag, I wasn't willing to consider any other explanations. I went looking for trouble and I found it. I never bothered to dig deeper. When we left Paris, I ended up talking with Tag on the plane and I discovered he wasn't a wild monster."
"I tried to tell you that."
"I know you did. I just didn't want to believe you. I decided to go back to Hawaii to see if Tag had told me the truth about how you were hurt."
"And you found that he did."
"Right. I wanted to call and apologize to both of you. I should have never jumped to conclusions about Tag and I should have believed you when you said that Tag had not harmed you."
"I wish Dad could be as insightful, Randall."
"Is Roland still giving you guys a hard time?"
"He's here now. At least I think he's still here. I left the room because I got tired of defending Dad to Tag and Tag to Dad. They each think that the other one is a reincarnation of Jack the Ripper."
"I'm sorry, Johnny. I think that you're just going to have to accept that two of them will never like each other."
"I'm not asking them to like each other, Randall. I'm just asking for them to both believe me."
"Well, maybe time will make that happen. I'll do my best to convince Roland that Tag did not beat you up in Hawaii. It was my phone call to him telling him you were hurt that put him in such a suspicious frame of mind when he got to Paris."
"Unless you have photographs, lie detector results and depositions from all those involved, he won't believe you either."
Randall laughed. "He can be stubborn at times. But, I'll do everything I can."
"I appreciate it."
"So, I'll let you get back to whatever it was you were doing. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Yeah. Randall, thanks for calling."
"No problem. I've never hesitated before to admit it when I was wrong and I'm not about to start now. Good night, Johnny."
John hung up, then looked up at the door as he heard footsteps coming down the hallway. Then Tag was there and he sat down on the bed beside John.
"Your father finally left, but he says he'll be back to talk some sense into you."
John sighed. "I wish he would just believe me."
"Me, too. So, who was on the telephone?"
"Randall. He wanted to apologize to us. He went to Hawaii and confirmed how I was injured. He sent an apology to you for jumping to conclusions and to me for not believing me."
"That was nice of him."
"Randall's not afraid to admit it when he's wrong."
John rubbed his temples. Now that the effects of the schnapps had worn off, his headache was returning. He didn't want to have to deal with that right now. Not when his future was at stake.
"Headache or hangover?" Tag asked.
"Headache. Not that it matters." John sat sideways so he could face Tag as he spoke. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I never meant to hurt you. For the life of me, I can't tell you why I did what I did. The entire time it was happening, it was like I was locked in the back of my mind while someone else was acting in my body. I love you. I don't love Doug Ross, never have and never will."
"What I've got to say is probably going to make you angry, but I'm going to say it anyway. From the very first time that I told you I loved you, you have had doubts about me and about us. I don't know if it's just that you have a low level of self-confidence or that you're insecure, but that doubt has been there. I believe you when you tell me that you love me. I can see the love in your eyes, John. I can't deny that finding you having sex with Doug Ross cut me to the bone. I hit him and I wanted to hit you. I wanted to hurt you. You have no idea what it was like for me. I can't say that I can easily forget what happened, but I can forgive it. I don't want to lose you, John. Not to Doug Ross or any other man. Not to your father. Not to anyone or anything."
"I don't want to lose you, either. I thought I had."
"Never." Tag reached out and gently cradled John's face in his hands. "Not as long as I have breath in my body."
Tag leaned toward John and gently kissed him on the mouth. "I want to make love to you, John. Love so intense that it will erase all memory of Doug Ross from your mind. May I do that? May I make love to you now?"
"Please," John softly said, closing his eyes and letting his desire for the man in front of him swirl around inside and begin to obliterate everything else. It was difficult to think of anything but Tag whenever Tag touched or kissed him. He felt himself slowly falling backward until his back was touching the mattress. Tag was removing his clothing and kissing him everywhere he could reach. Some were tender kisses. Kisses that showed just how much Tag loved him. Others were passionate kisses. Kisses that showed just how much Tag wanted him. These kisses felt right. The right lips, the right man. A sudden surge of remorse welled up inside of him and John began to cry, saddened by the thought that he had ever considered doing anything that would be painful for Tag.
"Hey, it's all right, John." Tag stretched out beside him and pulled him against his chest. Maybe trying to make love right now wasn't the best thing to do. It was obvious that John was still woozy from the meds and the schnapps. Damn schnapps anyway. First thing in the morning, it was getting poured down the drain. All of the alcohol in the house was going to get poured down the
"I'm so sorry, Tag."
"You said that already, baby. You apologized and I accepted that apology. Now, we have to try to forget that it ever happened."
John looked up at him, his eyes sad. "I don't deserve your love, Tag."
"Shh. I don't want to hear that from you again, John. I love you with all of my heart and there isn't anything you can do to change that. I guess that asking you to make love was just bad timing on my part. You should rest."
"I don't want to rest. I want you. Really I do. I'm just so afraid that I'll do something stupid again that will hurt you. I don't like seeing you hurt, Tag."
"You won't, John. And I'll do my best to make sure I never do anything to hurt you again."
"Why didn't you hit me out there by the pool? You didn't hesitate to hit Doug, and I could tell that you wanted to hit me. Why didn't you? I deserved that and so much more."
"I didn't hit you because I knew it was the wrong thing to do. Hell, I knew it was wrong to hit Doug Ross. I just can't seem to help myself whenever he's around. I can assure you that it wasn't the first time I've hit him. But, I hope it was the last. Yes, I was angry enough to hit you, John. But, what would I gain by hitting you? Can you answer me that?"
"It would have put me in my place. It would have punished me for doing something wrong."
"It would have hurt you. And by hurting you, I would have hurt myself. I can't stand to see you hurting, John. Not one little bit." Tag gently kissed his forehead. "I want to make you smile and keep you happy for the rest of our lives."
"I want the same for you, Tag."
John nodded. "I never want to see you sad again."
"Then I think we stand a pretty good chance of seeing to it that we each get what we want. Relationships just don't happen, John. They have to worked at on a daily basis. They have to be nurtured and taken care of, or they'll never grow."
"Just like a garden."
Tag chuckled. "Yeah, just like a garden. Now, quit talking and kiss me."
"Will that lead to something more?" John asked, his eyes twinkling.
Tag slowly grinned. "Yeah. That will lead to something more. A lot more."
John raised up on one elbow and leaned over to give Tag a smoldering kiss that left both of them breathless. Then he found himself on his back, Tag's weight pinning him to the bed as his neck and face were smothered with Tag's kisses. He could feel Tag's knee pressing down between his legs and he parted them to allow Tag to settle in between. He let out a low moan as Tag licked his way over his chest and to his belly, then followed each thigh down to the knees before zooming in on his intended target. In one swift motion, Tag took John's penis into his mouth, eagerly sucking on it, keeping the tension there until John was close to an orgasm and then slowly retreating, delaying the inevitable rush and release that John knew was going to happen eventually. But, as much as he wanted that sweet release, he wanted Tag inside of him even more and he urged Tag to take him.
As he felt Tag's hardness and warmth slip up inside his body, John sighed and he was ever so grateful that Tag had gotten home before Doug Ross had gotten that far with him. Determined to please Tag at all costs, John thrust backward, taking all of Tag inside at once, then milking his swollen organ from below, making the man emit the most sensuous moans.
"God, John," he panted.
"Do you want me to stop?"
"No. Never," Tag nuzzled the back of John's neck, knowing that right now couldn't get any better. Then he smiled because he realized that he thought that every time they made love. And each time it did get better.
Tag reached around John's waist and began to pump his penis. Soon, the two of them were in concert with each other and they reached their orgasms at the same time. Each man cried out the other's name at that moment, and afterward, they were able to finally fall into a peaceful sleep, tired and secure in each other's arms.