Title: Gut Instincts
Series: Navigating Relationships and the World
Jason knew to always trust his gut. He knew his brain could be fooled. And his heart could be an idiot. Especially when it came to matters of Chase. But his gut never lied. For the past few weeks his gut had been telling him that something was wrong with his Brat. Really wrong. But Jason had put it down to the holidays. His Brat had struggled with holidays for as long as they’d been together.
But Jason had thought those struggling times were over. He and Chase had spent the last several Christmases with Amanda and Lloyd, William’s parents. Once Amanda had learned fo Chase’s past, of growing up in foster care, she’d taken him under his wing. It was a win-win situation for everyone. Amanda got someone other than her son, William to take care of. William didn’t feel smothered by his mother, and Chase got to experience a parent’s love that he’d never had before.
Last year, the holiday season had been the calmest Chase had been in the years that Jason had known him. But this year, he’d been...well, off. He’d been more secretive, but Jason had put that down to wanting presents to be secret. Chase had been more jittery. Not able to sit still for any length of time. Jason knew that Chase had ADD but it seemed more than that this year.
With Christmas now over, Jason was going to get them both back on a schedule. Although the university was still on winter break for two more weeks, the animal shelter that Chase worked at was still open. So, Jason had risen early and was cooking breakfast for Chase. Something that would hit his Brat’s tastebuds-pancakes.
Just as he was flipping the last one, Chase wandered out from the bedroom. “No breakfast for me. I’m not really hungry. I’ll eat a big lunch.”
Grabbing a plate, and putting a pancake on it, Jason calmly stated, “Yeah. That’s not going to happen. We don’t leave the house without eating breakfast. Now. Sit. Down.”
When he heard the screech of a chair on the floor, Jason brought the plate to the table. “Eat at least one.”
Chase huffed in annoyance, but Jason heard the fork clink against the plate. He pulled his own pancake off the electric grill and sat down too. “Do you think the shelter will be busy today?”
“No,” Chase said around a mouthful of his breakfast. “It’ll be next week when their Christmas puppies and kittens poop on the floor that they’ll bring them in.”
“I know that hurts your heart,” Jason said. He wondered if that was the reason for Chase’s aggravated mood.
“It does. But this year we started talking to a few people to see if they’d take in some of the ones brought back. You know, like people looking to train therapy dogs and stuff.”
That sounded like a great idea to Jason. He knew that he gained independence with his own guide dog, Icon. Who Chase was feeding under the table. Jason could hear Icon’s tongue lapping at Chase’s syrupy fingers, but didn’t say anything.
“I’m done. And I’ve got to head out,” Chase said. He walked around the table.
Jason lifted his face and kissed his love goodbye for the day. As soon as the door slammed shut, he cleaned up the kitchen and then went to work on the computer. The university was closed, but Jason always had things to do to prepare for the next semester. By the time he felt he’d gotten a jump start on the class coming up, Jason’s stomach started growling. Letting his right hand drift to the braille watch on his left wrist, he was surprised to find it well into the afternoon.
“Come on, Icon, let’s go for a walk and then I’ll feed you.” Jason pulled on his coat and put the leash on Icon. He was taking the dog out for a bathroom break, not as a guide dog, so the harness stayed hanging by the door.
Once Icon had done his business and they’d walked around the block, Jason was ready to get inside. The cold was sharp and biting. Inside, he took of the dog’s leash and went to feed him. Reaching into the cabinet, Jason felt only two cans of dog food.
“Here you go, Icon. You eat up and I’ll call Chase to stop and get you some more food. Siri, call Chase,” Jason ordered the phone and was soon talking to Chase.
“With all that was going on, I haven’t had a chance to get dog food. Would you stop off at the store and pick some up?” He asked Chase. “No. It can’t wait, Chase. Hon, by the time I got to the bus stop, rode to the store, got the food, and rode the bus back home, you’d have already been here at least an hour.”
Jason listened to one excuse after another of why Chase couldn’t stop and pick up the food. Finally, exasperated he asked, “Chase, why don’t you want to go to the store for me?”
He was shocked when Chase confessed to not having enough money in his account. He told Chase that he’d go in the morning, that the one can would do for the night. After they’d hung up, Jason thought back to the gifts Chase had bought him and their friends. Nothing that would have been very expensive. He should have some money in his account. At the very least enough to buy a few cans of dog food. Something was definitely going on, and Jason was determined to find out what.
Chase would be home in a half hour, so Jason set about making chili for dinner. Something that could simmer while they talked.
When Chase walked in, the chili was on the stove and the kitchen was clean. Jason was sitting couch but stood up when Chase came in.
“Smells good in here,” Chase said. “Chili is perfect today. It’s freezing out.”
Jason could hear the nervousness in his Brat’s voice. Chase knew that he’d want to talk about what was going on, and was trying...badly...to avoid it. Jason loved all the nuances of his love. Even his Brat tells.
“I think we have some things to talk about first,” Jason said. And before his Brat could talk circles around him, came right out and asked, “Why are you so broke? You are working full time.”
“Um. Well. You know. Christmas and all,” Chase stumbled out.
“Chase. You didn’t spend that much. Where is all your money going?” Jason didn’t consciously make his voice more stern, it just happened at certain times. And those times were usually when Chase was in trouble. Standing up, he heard Chase sigh deeply and knew he was about to find out what was going on.
“Remember I told you I was helping a friend?” Chase asked. “It’s someone I knew when I was a kid. In a foster home. She was just a kid and kind of screwed up by it all. Know what I mean?”
Jason knew what he meant. The foster care system had wonderful families but also had foster parents who weren’t any better than the parents the kids were taken from. But instead of agreeing, Jason said, “No. I don’t know what you mean. Screwed up how?”
“Well, you know, on drugs and stuff. Jason, she came to me. She was in a bad way. You don’t know what it’s like. She needed a fix. So I gave her some money to get her something to last the holidays.”
“Oh, Chase.” Jason’s heart almost broke. He knew that Chase would do anything to help anyone. Especially someone that had gone through similar experiences as he had.
“But it got worse. She came back the next week. And then every couple days, she was stopping by. I didn’t want to get fired, so I just gave her money so she’d go away.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Jason couldn’t believe that Chase would be afraid to confide in him. Not after all these years together.
“I did! I told you I was helping a friend!”
Jason could hear the defensiveness in Chase’s voice. His words were rushed and the pitch at least an octave higher. “That’s crap, Chase. And you know it.”
“Seriously?” Chase scoffed. “You would have been fine helping out a crack-head?”
“Yes, I would hav-“
“Bullshit! The fuck you would!”
Jason had had enough. Arguing was fine. Until disrespect entered. Chase was breathing hard enough, that Jason knew exactly where he was at. He reached out his hand and grasped Chase’s bicep. With a twist of his arm, Jason knew that Chase’s butt was in the line of fire. Jason brought his hand down sharply on his Brat’s behind.
“We can discuss this without the use of vulgar language. I can help by washing the filth out of your mouth,” Jason said. “Is that what you need?”
Chase sniffled. “No. But you wouldn’t have helped her.”
“I would have. No. Don’t interrupt. Just listen to me. I would have helped. Just not in the same way.”
“You would have called the cops or try to get her into rehab,” Chase accused accurately.
“You’re right I would have. She needs help that neither you or I can give her. Addiction is beyond what we can do,” Jason said. “But that still doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me. I thought we were past that.”
“We are! I promise we are!” Chase cried.
“Then why?” Jason waited patiently after he asked the question. He could hear Chase shuffling his feet, clearing his throat, breathing hard. He knew Chase was gathering his courage.
“I...I was ashamed
“Did you think I would judge you? For what you did before we met?
“I panicked. So, yeah. When she first said she’d tell you that I’d been messed up in that shit before, I thought you might think the worst. I tried some of that stuff back then too. I hated the way it made me feel. I didn’t want you to think that I was a crack head back then. My brain cells started to work a day or so after she showed up, and I knew you wouldn’t be mad at what I did.”
“Why didn’t you tell me then?” Jason asked.
“It was too late!”
Jason heard the desperation in Chase’s voice. He’d heard that before and knew that it was time to help him find a solution or they’d just go around in circles. “It’s not too late now, Chase. We’ll get through this.”
“No cops! Please. I promised her,” Chase begged.
Jason agreed, no police. The only crime committed was that she was doing drugs. She hadn’t robbed Chase. He’d given the money freely. He’d just allowed himself to be taken advantage of. “No, no police. I’m not sure what the best course would be. Let’s sit down and talk it out. Maybe we can Google how to help an addict.”
Jason started toward the couch, then hesitated. Chase was shuffling his feet, but not walking with him. “Chase?”
“Are you going to spank me?”
In truth, Jason hadn’t thought this was a spanking offensive. Chase might not have told him everything, but he hadn’t lied to him. “No. Not unless you need it to be one.”
Chase huffed out a laugh. “When have I ever thought I needed a spanking? But seriously, no. Not this time. I probably should have listened to my gut. But I didn’t really break any of our rules.”
Jason couldn’t help it. He started roaring with laughter. Once he finally got himself under control, he gasped out an explanation. “Oh, Chase. You and me both! I think our guts have really good instincts. When my own guts start churning, I should think of it as my own personal Brat-dar. That my Brat is in trouble”
“And when MINE start, I should think of it as my Top-dar,” Chase giggled. “And I need to turn to my Top.”
Giving Chase a kiss on the forehead, Jason agreed and said, “Come on. Get out your iPad, let’s see how we can help your friend, together.”