(This short story previously appeared on Stormy Glenn's ManLove Fantasies Blog for Fall 2018)
“Let’s start our own crime family.”
My friends look at me with shocked expressions.
Reese, the mother hen of our group says, “You can’t be serious.”
“I am. Face it, when done right, crime pays, and we need the money. We can’t stay holed up in this warehouse barely scraping by with what little money we earn from the jobs we manage to pick up. Living on the streets like we do means we know things others don’t. Sure, it’ll be hard, but if we make the right connections we can live the life we want. Earn what we want. We’re barely making minimum wage by working under the table and now that we know Eli is sick I’m not going to sit around and let him die because we can’t afford his medicine. So, are you with me or not? If not, I’ll fight my way into an existing family on my own, but I’d rather do it with you guys. We’re all we’ve got.”
Calvin says, “If we do this, you’re the boss. We’ll only take orders from you and no one else and we should probably start out with some ground rules. Drugs fucked up my real family and I refuse to deal with that shit.”
“I promise, we won’t deal with anything like that. No drugs, no people. Anything else is fair game.”
Leo says, “But those are the big money makers. Are you sure we can survive on guns and gambling alone?”
“We could probably make a nice living off contract killing too.”
All of us turn to Troy with a raised eyebrow. He shrugs and says, “If we’re going to be into organized crime we have to get used to killing since we might come under threat. Getting paid for it just seems practical.”
Nodding, I say, “If we’re going to be contract killers too then we only go after the bad guys. We have to draw the line somewhere so I’m drawing it at killing or harming innocents. I also don’t want to let vile people join us. Anyone with a criminal record involving rape or pedophilia is not someone I want around.”
Troy nods. “I agree.”
Reese sighs and says, “So, where do we start?”
“First, I think we should decide who will be what and once we’ve got that settled, we go downtown and see this guy I heard about who teaches martial arts to street kids like us for free. After that, we’ll have to put ears to the ground and find out who the gangs in the area have connections to. Once we’ve got the information we need, we’ll recruit the people we need to steal their connections and take out the rest. It’ll probably take a few years, but I have faith we can do it.”
Colby who has been silent until now, says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think the same can be said for a criminal enterprise. If we play our cards right though and learn everything we possibly can from the martial arts guy, I think we can take control of this city’s underground within the next three years.”
“Then we’d better get started.”
By the end of the night, everyone has a role to play.
Three years later…
The last three years have been an uphill battle, but we finally have complete control of New York City’s underground. Nothing happens here without our say so. We’re still dealing with stragglers from the dismantled gangs but it’s nothing we can’t handle now that our numbers have grown by taking in the members of the gangs we stole connections from. The battle we’ve been fighting all morning with a small group is nearly over. Most of them are dead or dying, and the remaining ones who are still trying to put up a fight are moments away from losing. Glancing around the room for any more threats, I catch sight of one of the downed men pointing a gun at Troy who is currently tangling with their boss. I move without thinking. For years, I’ve hid my feelings towards him in favor of protecting our friendship but, knowing he’s about to die has me running towards him before I can even blink. As Troy’s opponent hits the ground, it gives the other man a clear shot. Shouting, “Look out,” I shove Troy out of the way seconds before a shot reverberates through the warehouse.
Feeling warmth run down my cheek, I touch my face and find my fingers are stained with blood. Looking down at Troy, I see the stricken expression on his face. I manage to pull out my gun and shoot the idiot who dared to target Troy. Winking at Troy, I say, “I’m glad you’re okay.”
Troy jumps from the ground and shouts, “Why the hell would you do that? We’re supposed to protect you not the other way around! For fuck’s sake he shot you in the head!”
“It only grazed me, I’m fine. Head wounds bleed a lot.”
“You shouldn’t have done it.”
“I couldn’t just let you die.”
“It comes with the territory. Someday, one of us is going to die and you won’t be able to stop it. When it’s your time, it’s your time.”
“Won’t stop me from trying.”
He throws up his hands in exasperation and says, “Fine, you want to jump in front of bullets trying to save us all, I won’t stop you but don’t expect me to be there when your stupidity finally kills you.”
Troy turns and starts walking away while I stare after him wide-eyed. Stepping forward, I go to chase after him, but Reese’s scream stops me in my tracks. Turning towards the sound, I see Reese on the ground with a knife in his leg while the huge guy he was fighting comes charging at me with an aluminum bat. Pulling out my gun, I fire the last three bullets at him, but he keeps coming. Is this guy on steroids or what? He’s like the fucking Hulk. Grabbing the knife, I keep in my boot I only have a split second to use it. I block the first blow, but the second clocks me in the temple with the force of a battering ram and my vision swims. Gripping the knife tightly, I slam it forward into the guy’s neck, twist, and pull, severing his carotid artery. Blood sprays from the wound and I smile as he hits the ground. A wave of dizziness hits and the last thing I see is the ground coming up to meet my face.
Five years later…
“I think we should let him go.”
Turning toward Reese, I glare at him and growl. “No.”
“It’s been five years Troy. If he was going to wake up, I think he’d have done it by now. It’s time to let go.”
“No. He’s still in there. His brain scan shows activity. Unless that suddenly changes, we’ll continue to have the medical staff we hired take care of him. We’re alive right now because of him. It was his idea that brought us to where we are now. I won’t give up on him without a fight and you shouldn’t either.”
He sighs and says, “You’re right, I’m sorry. The meeting with all the underbosses starts in twenty minutes. I expect you to be there this time since you’re technically the boss while Nav is out of commission. I know you want to be here with him, but we can’t risk you missing another meeting. It’s sure to cause dissention in the ranks and the last thing we need is a mutiny especially on Halloween when we’ve got a big party going on this evening.”
“I’ll be there.”
“You’d better, or I’ll drag you there by your ears and that’s not a sight you want the underbosses to see.”
“I get your point.”
Reese exits the room, and I sigh. Rubbing a hand over my face, I try not to let my thoughts wander back to that day. It’s something I’ve had to do often lately. I wasn’t meant to be boss. Navarro has always been the leader from the time we all found each other on the streets to when we gained control of New York’s underground. I’ve never been good at handling people and I’m thankful for Reese’s help, but I miss Navarro. Miss his laugh, his grin, those twinkling blue eyes of his. But most of all, I miss his fierce protectiveness and the longing looks he’s directed at me when he thought I wasn’t paying attention. The truth is, I always paid attention and I can’t shake the feeling that saying his stupidity will kill him is the last thing I’ll ever say to him. If that’s the case, I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself. That day still haunts me.
After hearing Reese’s scream, I turned around just in time to watch as Navarro grappled with the behemoth Reese had been fighting. Seeing him hit the ground after the blow to the head caught up with him was the scariest moment of my life. In that instant, I understood how he felt when he got shot to save me. If I could’ve gone back to before I lashed out at him for protecting me, I would’ve. Instead of saying he was stupid for doing it, I would’ve taken him into my arms and kissed him as a way of thanking him. Given half the chance to do it all over again, I’d tell him how I felt from the beginning. Feeling tears spring to my eyes, I quickly wipe them away. It wouldn’t do to go to a meeting of the underbosses all red-eyed and puffy.
I stand and lean over to press a kiss to his forehead only to find a pair of crystal blue eyes watching me. Staring at him wide-eyed, I watch as he mouths the words you’re beautiful when you cry but I think I like your smile a lot more.
Seeing his lips form a grin, I laugh. Leaning over him, I gently wrap my arms around him and say, “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
He makes a writing motion with his hand, and I grab the notepad and pen I keep by his bed for such an occasion. Handing it to him, I watch as he scrawls a message across it and turns it toward me.
“You suffered a major head injury. It caused you to slip into a coma.”
How is everyone?
“They’re fine. We all are.”
And the organization?
“Still going strong. We’re the largest criminal outfit in the states and even have branches overseas.”
You’re kidding right?
“Nope, not kidding. We’ve gone worldwide.”
Who is the boss?
“You are. I’ve just been keeping your seat warm until you decided you wanted to wake up and take it back.”
I love you.
Stroking his cheek, I try not to cry. Jesus, I’ve turned into an emotional wreck. I haven’t felt like this in a long time.
Pressing my face into his neck, I whisper, “I love you too.”
Checking my watch, I lean away from him and say, “I have a meeting with the underbosses in five minutes. Reese will have my hide if I’m late again. I promise I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, I’ll have the doctor come in and check you over.”
Giving into the urge I’ve suppressed for the longest time to protect our friendship, I press a soft kiss to his lips and say, “I’ll see you soon.”
Heading for the door, I stop and say over my shoulder, “I forgot to tell you, you’ve woken just in time for your favorite holiday. Happy Halloween.”
Almost Three months later…
After months of physical therapy to get my muscles back into shape after they atrophied, I’m nearly back to full strength. My therapist doesn’t recommend I fight anytime soon but I can do normal tasks. Waking up after a five-year coma to find that I’m the boss of a worldwide criminal enterprise was surprising to say the least. But, I wouldn’t change anything. We’ve invited all the underbosses to the main house in Philadelphia, NY, for a New Year’s Party and I’ve finally managed to greet them all. As the clock nears midnight, I set off to search for Troy. I want my midnight kiss. After I get it, I plan to drag him into my bedroom and have my wicked way with him. Two months of teasing touches and heated kisses have left me with a constant case of blue balls. Since I made sure to get the all clear from my doctor Troy won’t be able to say no. And if he tries? Well, let’s just say, ball gags were made for a reason.
Grinning to myself at the idea of gagging him to get my way, I head for the back patio. Shivering at the burst of cold air, I quickly close the door and hug myself to brace against the cold. Troy is leaning on the railing, gazing up at the stars. The moon is full and casts a glow across his face. Stepping up behind him, I wrap my arms around his waist and say, “What are you doing out here? It’s almost midnight.”
“I just wanted some fresh air.”
“Well, it’s freezing. Come back inside.”
He shakes his head and says, “I want to stay out here for a while.”
“Are you sure?”
“Then I’ll stay with you.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to. Besides, I can’t have my kiss at midnight without you unless I just kiss myself.”
Troy laughs and says, “How would you kiss yourself?”
“I’d stand in front of a mirror and kiss the reflection.”
“You know what they say, one person’s craziness is another person’s reality.”
He snorts, “Yeah, your craziness is my reality.”
“Admit it, you love my craziness.”
“I love all of you. I can deal with the crazy because it’s you.”
“Aw, I love you too.”
Hearing the crowd inside begin counting down, I move in front of Troy and pull his face towards mine. “Better make it good. It’s the first kiss of the New Year.”
He grins and says, “You know with us, it’s always better than good.”
“Yeah, it’s down right phenomenal.”
When the countdown reaches one, Troy presses his lips to mine in a teasing dance that speaks of more to come. Grinning, I feel excitement surge through me at the thought of what will happen later. I can’t wait. He’ll have no idea what hit him.
Troy looks at me with a raised eyebrow when we pull apart, and says, “What’s that grin for?”