It's Only Love
Steve saw Christopher ten more times in a four week period. Seven of those times involved damp, sticky skin and pleasured, secret smiles. Steve's mood improved with each visit. Monica's mood became fouler as the weeks passed. Although Steve had no desire to lose Monica, or to see her so unhappy, he began asking Chris to join him whenever she refused to keep her dates. Ten times out of ten, she'd flaked. Ten times out of ten, Chris had appeared, never more than fifteen minutes after Steve's call. Before long, Steve stopped inviting Monica out altogether.
Steve was cleaning out the attic, searching for his leather jacket, when the phone rang. He slid down the ladder and jogged to the nearest phone. "Hello?" he said breathlessly.
"Who are you fucking?"
Steve laughed, mostly out of shock. "Excuse me?"
Monica didn't laugh with him. "You're out of breath. The phone rang six times, Stephen. Who's over there?"
Steve sighed. Another fight. "I was in the attic. I ran to the phone. Did you want something?"
"Say my name."
Steve's brow furrowed in confusion. "Huh?"
"I said, say my name! I want to know what the girl you're fucking has to say when you say my name, Steve."
"I'm alone, my dear. I was clean-"
"Say it!" Then, more calmly, "You can't, can you?"
"Yes, I can, Mon-i-ca." Steve stressed each syllable. "If you called me trying to catch me doing something wrong, forget it. Do you think I'd be stupid enough to bring somebody here, take them to bed, and then answer the phone while they're still here? C'mon, Monica. Give me a little credit."
He could hear her heavy breathing. Then, "She knows about me, doesn't she?"
Steve growled and slammed the phone down. He didn't care what Monica thought anymore. No, that's not true. He sighed and dialed her home number. The phone rang four times, then an answering machine picked up. A man's voice on the machine. Steve hung up without leaving a message. He sighed and dialed her work number. He had to be put on hold a couple times before he was finally put through to Monica.
"This is Monica." She was so professional, so polite. Steve snorted.
"So who's the fucker on your answering machine?"
"Who is the fucker on your goddamned answering machine?!"
Monica sputtered for a moment. "He's- you- that's none of your business!"
"Oh-ho, yes it is, baby. You called me, all fire and brimstone, accusing me of fucking somebody, and you've got some strange man on your answering machine, and you can't tell me WHO THE FUCK HE IS!! ANSWER ME!! WHO IS THAT MAN!?!?"
Monica began to cry. "You're doing it again! You always accuse me! I haven't done anything! He's... he's a... a coworker! That's all, Steve! You don't have to be so mean to me!" She burst into tears.
Steve forced himself to calm down. She was right. She hadn't seen him properly in weeks. Of course she would think he was seeing someone else. What else was she supposed to think? He certainly hadn't given her the benefit of the doubt when her answering machine had picked up. Besides, he was seeing somebody...
No. Not true. For one, Chris was just a friend. They... engaged in sport. A... private sport, yes, but it was a sport nonetheless. No different from meeting somebody for tennis.
But then, those had been her words...
"Stephen? Are... are you still there?" Monica was still sniffling.
"Yes, Monica, I'm still here. I'm sorry. Look. Can we just forget-"
"No! Why is it that every time you do or say something wrong, we always have to forget about it?!" Monica started to cry again.
"Baby, please, listen to me. I just meant forgive and forget. We both got a little upset, and I know that you called because you wanted to say something... important. Let's just call it a draw, okay?"
"No, Stephen! You screamed at me! I only wanted you to say my name! That was all, and you wouldn't even do that! What you did to me isn't even comparable!"
Steve sighed, defeated. "I'm sorry, Monica. I lashed out at you because I was upset, and I realize that that's no excuse. I'm sorry, baby. C'mon, tell me why you really called. Please."
Monica seemed mollified by the apology. "I... wanted to get together tonight."
"Are you actually going to show up?" Steve regretted his words the instant they were out of his mouth.
"How- how dare you! You call me, accuse me of cheating because I had a friend tape an outgoing message for me, and then you say something like that? I haven't seen you since the last time you stood me up at your own house, and you didn't even have the decency to call, even though I'm supposed to have a telephone surgically attached to my mouth! Why is it that the rules only apply to me?" She went on for several minutes, hollering and screaming as if she weren't in an office building.
When she finally finished, Steve was contrite, nearly cowed into his usual obedience. Nearly. "I'm gonna be here all day, Monica. If you want to come by, you know I'd love to see you, but I'm trying to finish up in the attic, so you might want to plan to just hang out here. I don't think I'm gonna be any good for restaurants and the like. We can order pizza, and watch a movie or something."
Monica's reply was sullen. "Well... I guess I can stop and rent a couple of movies... and I want Chinese. You pay."
Steve chuckled. "Tell you what, baby. You bring everything you can afford to. What you bring, I'll pay you back for, and what you can't we try to have delivered on me. Okay?"
"Fine," she pouted. "I'm leaving early. I'll see you around five."
"Uh-huh." Steve hung up and went back to his project, certain that Monica wasn't going to show.
Steve had just finished his fruitless search when he heard Monica's voice. He climbed down the ladder to find her poking her head in every room in the hall. He figured she was probably searching for a non-existent girlfriend. "You aren't looking for me, are you? Didn't you see the giant ladder in the middle of the floor?"
She blushed, then put on a sour face. "I- well, you didn't answer when I called."
"Riiiiiiight." Steve went to the kitchen. "Did you bring the food and the movies?"
"Mmm-hmmm..." Steve looked back to see Monica following him, a sly smile on her face. "I think you might like the films..."
Steve raised his eyebrows, but didn't comment. They went to the kitchen and grabbed the bag of Chinese take-out. Steve started to get plates, but Monica stopped him. "Uh-huh. We're getting dirty tonight, babe."
Steve's eyebrows went even higher. She only called him 'babe' when she was in the 'mood'... "What are you planning?"
She batted her lashes coyly. "C'mon. First tape's already cued up."
They went into the living room and settled down on the floor, spreading the little boxes of Chinese around them. Steve started to grab the remote control, but Monica snatched it away. "Hang on a sec." She hopped up and turned all the lights off, then settled back down next to him, snuggling up under his chin. "Okay. Now we can start."
A blank screen, and dinky sounding music began to play. Oh no... this better not be what I think this is... The credits began to roll. The Luckiest Housewife in the World? What the hell?
A young, barely twenty something girl with teased blond hair and over-inflated boobs stood by the stove, cooking breakfast. Her... 'husband' came in the room, whirled the girl around, and started sucking face. She rubbed herself against him, pawing at his thick, muscled arms. "Good morning, lover," she whispered heavily. "How did you sleep?"
"Sleep? You didn't let me sleep, tigress," came the sensuous rumbling reply.
Steve glanced down at Monica, who was smiling lasciviously at the television. She's gotta be pulling my leg. She cannot be enjoying this. He looked up at the television again, and tried to get into the mood... whatever that mood could possibly be...
The young, horny wife was now spread-eagled on the kitchen table, her sheer pink coverlet wide open, revealing her large, firm breasts, while her robust, super-hero bodied husband stood over her, lifting her moist, pink delights to his mouth.
Steve's face contorted in disgust. Why in the hell would any self-respecting man put his face in there! He glanced down at Monica, who was practically vibrating with pleasure. And she thinks this is a good thing. He thought about her statements about 'getting dirty', and cringed. If she thinks I'm putting my face in her... business... she's got another thing coming!
When they finished, the husband pushed himself off the table, while his wife daintily dabbed at the corners of her mouth with her fingers, sucking them slowly. She sat up and addressed her husband. "Do you have to leave? I was just getting warmed up..." She wriggled her hips to accentuate her point.
Her husband sighed, clearly unhappy at the prospect of having to go to work. "I know, honey, but I've got a deadline to meet today, and the boss is a real stickler." He turned to grab his coat and suitcase. "Now don't forget, the pool cleaner is coming over today."
She smiled slyly. "How could I forget something like that?" She eased herself off of the table and - still completely starkers - opened the front door for her husband. "Have a good day. Call me if you need anything..." She wiggled again.
Her husband pulled her close for another lip-locking session, which degenerated into a rather exhibitionist fuckfest in the doorway. They finally pulled apart, and the husband left for work. The wife turned to her now-burnt breakfast, and dumped it in the sink. She turned the water on, and - lo, and behold - the sink was clogged. Time to call a plumber.
At that very moment, the radio (which had been providing the couple with the necessary boink music) began playing a commercial for Jake's Plumbing Services. "There's no snake like Jake's Snake!"
"Perfect!" The wife picked up the phone, and (without dialing) asked, "Is this Jake's Plumbing? Oh, good! Is this Jake? Even better! Jake, my sink is all clogged up, and I need a man to come over here and take care of it for me... do you think you can do that? You can! Oh, that's the best!" She hung up, pleased as punch.
Steve was nearly beside himself. He was about to turn the television off and ask Monica when she became so interested in comedies when he got the shock of his life.
A few seconds later, the doorbell rang. The wife quickly donned her see-thru robe and went to the door. "Who is it?" she sing-songed.
"Jake's Plumbing," a man's smooth tenor called. The wife opened the door to reveal a lean young man with deep crimson colored hair, and pale green eyes, carrying a toolbox.
"Oh my GOD!" Monica jumped at Steve's outburst. Steve grabbed the remote and paused the tape, then scrambled over to the television to get a better look. Sure enough, it was Christopher.
"What's wrong, Steve?" Monica went over to the television and peered at the screen with him. "Is everything alright?"
Steve closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. "It's not that big a deal, it's not that big a deal," he chanted to himself.
"What? What's not a big deal?" Monica pulled Steve back to look at her. "What's wrong?"
Steve looked at Monica for a long moment, trying to decide what to tell her. "He's... a friend of mine."
She looked at the television, then back at Steve. "So what?"
"Er... I... nevermind," he mumbled, looking at the floor. He noticed a box of chow mein on the floor and nudged it towards Monica. "Hey... you hungry?"
Monica narrowed her eyes at him, clearly suspicious. "No... don't change the subject on me. Why is it not a big deal that some guy in a pornographic film is a friend of yours?"
Steve licked his lips, and fished around for an answer. "We... I just didn't know. I thought he did... something else..."
Monica folded her arms. "Stephen. You are deliberately dodging me. What are you hiding?"
Steve blinked. What am I hiding? He looked at Monica, remembering clearly what she'd said about her affair. It had been, somehow, his fault. This was no different. And Chris didn't mean anything, anyway. They were just friends. Friends that had an... agreement. He looked at Monica, and took the plunge.
"Monica... I... think I'm...." Well, not the plunge, so much as the toe-dip.
"What, Steve? What is it?" She stomped her foot, obviously out of patience. "What the hell is going on?"
"Huh?" She scratched her head. "Slow down, Steve!"
He closed his eyes and slowly repeated himself. "I said I slept with him a couple of times."
Monica slapped her knee, laughing uproariously. "Steve! I thought you were serious! C'mon, I wanna watch the movie." She sat back down and patted the floor next to her. "C'mon!"
Steve ran his hand through his hair and went over to turn on the lamp. "I am serious, Monica."
The smile froze on her face. "So you cheated on me."
Steve frowned. "I wouldn't call it that."
"Well then what the fuck would you call it?!?" Monica grabbed a box of sweet and sour chicken and hurled it at Steve.
"You're the one that never can show up whenever I ask you out!" Steve grabbed the chow mein and threw it at Monica, hitting her squarely in the forehead with the noodles.
"I TOLD YOU I HAVE DEADLINES TO MEET!!!" She grabbed a nearby vase and threw it towards him, narrowly missing his head.
"FUCK YOU, MONICA! I'M A GODDAMN ROCK STAR, AND YOU CAN'T BE FUCKING BOTHERED TO CALL ME WHEN YOU'RE GONNA BE LATE!???!!?! I'VE GOT A FUCKING LINE OF GIRLS WAITING TO TAKE YOUR PLACE, AND I'M STILL WITH YOU!!! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU UPSET ABOUT?!?!?!?"
Monica clenched and unclenched her fists, clearly ready to fight. Steve pushed his sleeves up to his elbows, also ready to duke it out. She glanced at his arms, apparently noticing the action. "What, are you gonna hit me now?"
"In self defense," he said coldly.
"You are unbelievable, Steve. After what we've been through, you would have the gall to screw somebody else. And a man?? Guess that line ain't so long, eh big shot?"
Steve's face began to burn. He was so pissed he was literally seeing red. "Number one, yes, the line of girls reaches from here to New York, number two, judging by the way Chris took to me, the line of men can't be much shorter, and number three, you cheated on me first."
"That was you! You pushed me away- "
Steve cut her off. "When did I do that?"
She tried again. "You were keeping tabs- "
Steve interrupted again. "But I pushed you away. Which is it?"
Monica slapped her thighs in frustration. "You never loved me! You were just keep- "
Steve headed her off yet again. "Like you keep me, your pet rock singer?"
Monica's jaw worked, tears beginning to spill over. "You were so hurt when I... slept with Andreas. I was going to let it go, because I didn't feel loved by you, but you asked me to come back. And this is what you've done. You have no right."
Steve looked at the floor, feeling the same guilty twinge he always felt when she put on her displays. Then a memory struck him - a memory of her rather shallow self defense when he'd made her confess.
It's only sex, Steve. I don't love him.
He looked at Monica again, and wondered which 'him' she really meant. Then he smiled. It was only sex. That was all. Just what Christopher was about to do onscreen. If Chris could do that - fuck for a buck - then he wouldn't have any issues if Steve never saw him again. It was meaningless.
"It's only sex, Monica. We aren't in love."
She glared at him, a spark of memory behind her eyes. "You... have no excuse." Then she ejected her tape, grabbed the one box of food that hadn't gone flying, and left.
A week later, Steve received a letter from Monica. He couldn't believe his eyes. She was breaking up with him - and she wanted a hefty chunk of change to keep quiet about the details of his affair. He sputtered for a few minutes, uncertain of what to do.
He went over to the phone and dialed Christopher's number. "Hello?" Steve recognized the voice of the woman from the restaurant, and started to hang up. "Hey, if you're the bitch that left her leather jacket here, don't hang up, because I got a couple of things to say."
"So that's where I left it!" Then he realized that he'd just given himself away as the 'bitch'. "Er... is Christopher there?"
There was a moment of silence, then he could hear her angrily calling Chris to the phone. Chris answered sullenly. "Hello."
"Hey, it's Steve."
Steve didn't know what to say. "Uh... my girlfriend is extorting money from me because of us." He waited for a reaction. When none was forthcoming, he said meekly, "I guess I just... wanted to give you a heads-up. Sorry to bug you." He started to hang up.
Steve put the phone back to his ear. "I'm still here."
"My girlfriend is going to put me out if I can't prove to her that the jacket doesn't belong to someone I've... seen on the side. I don't really care what your girlfriend does, or if you let it get out, or anything else." Chris laughed bitterly. "I'm screwed anyway you look at it, unless you know where a guy can get a place without a credit check... "
"Why don't you want a credit check?"
Chris sighed. "Because my line of work might be lucrative, but most apartment managers would frown on someone with my... job description."
Steve snorted. "Because you work in porn movies? It's not like that's illegal, or anything. What's the problem?"
It took Chris a moment to respond. "How..."
"Because that's how I ended up confessing our... thing."
"Oh. Well. So, um, do you... know? Of a place?"
Steve smiled a secret smile. "Tell you what. You stand by me when I burst Monica's bubble, and you can have a room here."
"Sounds like a plan."
Taking the wind out of Monica's sails proved easier than Steve would have imagined. The most difficult part was disclosing the nature of his relationship to his parents, who shrugged and asked him what took so long to figure out the obvious. The bandmates were a little less understanding, at first, until Steve explained that if he'd had any interest in any of them as sexual creatures, he probably would have noticed being gay a whole lot sooner. He decided that neighbors and other acquaintances could wait for the announcement. Monica had to be completely eliminated, first.
At the very first opportunity, Steve took Chris to a very public function - the American Music Awards. He introduced Chris as his actor-boyfriend to anybody that asked, and a few people that didn't. Although Steve didn't win anything he was nominated for, he did managed to capture the attention of damn near every reporter in L.A. They were on the front cover of the entertainment section of every single legitimate paper in town, mentioned on every entertainment news show on television, and smiling brightly in grocery checkout lanes everywhere, the tabloids' latest darlings. There was no doubt about it. Two weeks after being threatened with blackmail, Steve Perry was out of the closet.