A Little Drama

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned..."

Sinking slowly to his knees, the lone man bowed his head.

The stage went dark, except for the last bank of lights on the left hand side.

"Oh for chrissakes, what is wrong with these people?" Casey Wilson waved his copy of the script at the lighting booth. "What does a total blackout mean to you?" he moaned. "Marie, please!"

"Casey, chill out!" The harried director shook her head. "Can't you get your boyfriend to write you a prescription for something?"

Casey slumped in his seat. He knew Marie was kidding, but the reproof stung. Tonight was important to him; couldn't the others see that?

Surreptitiously he beeped Jerome. Their standing signal: Meet me at Starbucks.

"Don't they even care?" Casey asked Jerome indignantly

Jerome swatted at him with his rolled up copy of the paper and, as Casey removed his rear from range by planting it in the nearest chair, tousled his hair affectionately.

"They do care, Casey. They're not making mistakes on purpose any more than you are. Try to see that, Casey."

"I need it to be perfect!" To his embarrassment, Casey felt his eyes sting with tears.

Jerome stroked the back of Casey's hand discreetly.

"You are not going to work yourself into a state," Jerome decreed. "Not here and not right before opening night. Let's talk about something practical, Casey. What are we doing for dinner?"

"I'm not going to be hungry," Casey said, blowing his nose.. "I don't want to eat till after."

Jerome thought a minute.

"All right, but in that case, let me see you eat something now that'll hold you till then."

"I hate Starbucks food." Casey scowled.

"I'll find something you can eat," Jerome said. "Stay put."

"I don't want this." Casey looked unhappily at the saran-wrapped sandwich layered with turkey and cheese that Jerome placed in front of him.

"Too bad," Jerome said unsympathetically. "Eat Case, you'll be a basket case otherwise."

"I can't eat."

"It's simple. You just open your mouth like this--" Jerome started to demonstrate.

"Spare me!" Casey said hastily. "I'll eat. Jeez, Jerome, you fight dirty."

"Do I?" Jerome grinned. "I have to get back. Stay out of trouble, hear me?"

"Don't I always?"

"No," said Jerome shortly.

"You're mad at me?" Casey's face fell.

"No, babe," Jerome said. "I'm sorry, Casey, I just worry about you when you're this stressed, that's all. I wish I could stay longer, but I can't. You be good, please."

"I'm sorry, Jer," Casey said softly. "I won't push anymore, okay? You take it easy, too. I'll be good. See you later?"

"Later," Jerome agreed. "Love you, Case."

Casey watched as Jerome crossed against traffic, in the middle of the block, and disappeared into the hospital across the way. Finished his coffee, dumped his garbage, and walked the short distance back to the theater.

"Oh Casey, this is so fabulous." The theater's irrepressible college intern waggled her blue fingernails in his direction as he slipped back into the lobby.

"Yeah," Casey said.

"It's going to be out of this world!" She didn't notice Casey's expression.

I think I'm going to be sick.

"What, Casey?" Jerome tried not to sigh into the phone. It was at least the fifth time Casey had called in the last three hours.

Thank God there's only one opening night, Jerome thought to himself.

"Casey, you'll be fine, I'm positive."

"I need some Valium."

"No, you do not."

"I do too. I'll get some off someone if you won't give me any–"

"No! Casey, I'm serious, don't you dare. Casey–"

Casey threw his phone against the wall. What was the good of a doctor boyfriend if he wouldn't even give you drugs when you needed something to settle you down because if you didn't get something you were going to run screaming through the streets because it was so fucking scary to have your fucking stuff out there on a fucking stage where every fucking person you ever met in your fucking life could fucking see–

"You're lucky I'm a forgiving man," Jerome said softly in Casey's ear.

Casey jumped a foot.

"Where did you–"

"Come from? Case, I work practically across the street, remember?" Jerome sighed. "Come here, babe."

"Jer, I'm so scared," Casey cried into Jerome's shoulder. "What if it sucks? What if everyone hates it?"

"It doesn't. They won't. Shh, shh, shh, it's all right. It's a good play, Casey." Jerome rubbed Casey's back soothingly. Over Casey's head, he caught a glimpse of someone he recognized. Marie, the play's director. She raised her eyebrows quizzically.

"Can I help?" she mouthed, well used to the foibles of high strung playwrights.

Jerome made the universal signal for drinking, hoping she would have the good sense to understand he meant water. She reappeared with a bottle in hand and then vanished again, this time tactfully locking the door from the stairwell behind her. Casey looked up, puzzled, at the faint click of the lock.

"Who?" he asked Jerome, bewildered, his cheeks wet with tears.

"No one," Jerome lied, easing Casey closer. "Come on, babe, drink a little water for me. You're going to be fine, you always are."

"Okay," Casey said, calmer after the crying jag than he had been all day. "Jerome, you're not mad?"

"Of course not, Casey." Jerome kissed Casey gently. "In another few hours you'll be normal again. I know it's stressful. Come on, babe, let's get you cleaned up. It's almost time to go downstairs."

From the moment the curtain rose on the stark set, to the moment the lights went dark on the final, crucial scene, the audience sat riveted. As the curtain closed, the small theater rang with applause. Cast, director, and playwright alike were acclaimed as the best and the most brilliant.

"Thank you, thank you very much, thank you, couldn't have done it without you, thank you..."

Jerome watched admiringly as Casey fended off his admirers with easy, modest charm. He marveled, as always, at how quickly Casey rebounded once the pressure was off.

"Come on, let's go over to the party, I'm starving," Casey said, taking Jerome's arm and tugging impatiently. "God, I love this so much!"

"It was wonderful," Jerome smiled at his proud and happy lover. "You're a genius, Casey."

Casey preened at Jerome's praise.

"You can have two drinks, Casey, and that's it," Jerome whispered in his partner's ear as they entered the crowded, happily noisy restaurant. "If you have more than that and end up being sick, I'll have zero sympathy for you and I'll spank you when you're done throwing up."

"Mean, Jer!" Casey sulked for a minute. "Would I do that? Never mind, don't answer, I know. I'll be good this time." He kissed Jerome lightly, sealing the promise.

A promise that Casey remembered about as long as he had remembered his opening night jitters.

By the end of the evening, Casey was plastered. Jerome managed, by dint of much coaxing and many threats, to get his three sheets to the wind lover out of the restaurant, into a cab, up the stairs of their walk-up and into bed.

Morning came too soon for both men.

"Why is it light, Jer?" Casey moaned. "Oh god, I feel so sick. Oh god..."

Jerome clenched his teeth, not looking forward to what lay ahead.

"Jerome, why are you looking at me that way?" Casey asked, tilting his head. Bad idea; the room tilted along with it. "Ugh."

"Casey, what did I say last night?"

"That I was brilliant and you were proud of me and you loved me," Casey said rapturously and with a little too much enthusiasm for his present state. "Ow, god, my head."

Casey remembered what he wanted to.

"What did I say after that, at the restaurant?" Jerome asked.

"I don't know," Casey said sulkily.

"I said, two drinks, no more, or I'd spank you. Didn't I?"

"Yes," Casey agreed in a small voice. "I'm sorry. I already feel awful, Jerome. Please don't spank me." Casey looked piteously at Jerome.

Jerome felt like a heel. He wished he didn't have to spank Casey. But he knew to threaten consequences and not follow through would only confuse Casey. Casey wants boundaries, Jerome reminded himself. He needs boundaries and he needs consequences when he ignores them.

"Come here, Casey."

"Please don't spank me." Casey began to cry. "Jerome, please, I know I was dumb, I'll never do it again."

 "You need to listen to me, babe. I can't help you out if you won't listen." Steeling himself against Casey's tears, Jerome drew Casey face-down over his lap.

Casey was crying even harder by the time the spanking ended. Jerome eased Casey back into bed and petted his lover until he drifted back to sleep.

Jerome let Casey sleep until mid-afternoon.

"Come on, babe, sit up for me." Jerome jostled Casey gently until Casey roused.

"Oh, ow," Casey complained. Sitting was most uncomfortable.

"Drink this." Jerome nudged the glass of water into Casey's hand. "All of it now, there's a good boy."

"How come you're being so nice now when you were so mean before?" Casey groused.

"Was I mean?" Jerome's tone was serious. "Is that really what you think, Case?"

"No, you were fair," Casey admitted sheepishly. "I'm sorry I said that, Jerome. I had that coming." He tilted his head to the side. "Forgive me, Jerome?" he asked hopefully.

Jerome shook his head ruefully at his lover's unfailing ability to charm his way out of trouble, then smiled.

"Don't I always, Case?" He rolled Casey onto his back and leaning into him, kissed him thoroughly.

"Yeah," said Casey. "You're just that kind of a guy, I guess. I love you, Jer."

"I love you too, Casey."