This story contains FICTION of a male-male nature. Do not read this if you are:
- too young, or
- too narrow-minded, or
- living in a city/state/country where it is illegal.
Again, this is FICTION. While I have bumped into the BSB here and there in Orlando, I do not make any claims about any of their sexualities.
NOTE: If you have not read 'Forever', I suggest you do so before reading this story.
I sighed and threw the blanket off of me in frustration. It was going on 4:00am, and I'd been trying to sleep for almost an hour. Even though Jeremy and Kris' couch wasn't extremely comfortable, I should've been tired enough to get some sleep. I guess the stress of the last few days was taking its toll on more than my relationship with Nick.
I looked over at Lindsay where she slept on the loveseat. She was dead to the world, or at least making a very convincing show of it. Given the fact that she was a terrible actress and the fact that she was currently snoring loud enough to rattle the windows, I guessed that she was, in fact asleep.
The men from the funeral home had arrived shortly after I'd stepped outside. They were two pretty nice young guys, brothers if I remembered correctly. They expressed their condolences, both seeming heartfelt in that. I appreciated their genuine sympathy, as I know everyone else did. They made short, efficient work of preparing Mom's body for the trip to the mortuary.
Once they'd left, everyone had just drifted off to bed. As I'd surreptitiously given up my bed to Kevin before, I was relegated to the living room. Given my height, Lindsay was kind enough to volunteer to take the loveseat and give me the couch. Obviously, neither of us was anxious to sleep in the now-vacated spare room.
I'd expected to fall into a quick sleep. The last days had been exhausting, and I hadn't really had a decent night's sleep since my last business trip. It had been non-stop bouts with guilt, anger, stress, and a host of other thoughts and feelings ever since I'd walked back into my home in San Diego and heard Nick's familiar voice on my voice mail.
Unfortunately, sleep was again proving elusive. I wasn't really sure why this time, though, as my mind really wasn't focusing on anything. I wasn't dwelling on the myriad of problems I'd created for myself, or even Mom's passing. If anything, her peaceful transition had been a thing of beauty, something that I could wish for in my own farewell to the world.
I decided to stop trying to sleep for a bit, so I quietly stood from the couch. I walked softly to the kitchen, wanting to avoid waking Lindsay. She didn't even stir as I passed by, so I knew she was deep in sleep. She used to always sleep pretty lightly.
`I guess the stress of dealing with me at my pig-headed best can wear even Lindsay down,' I thought to myself. I nearly chuckled at the thought, but caught myself and managed just a small smile.
I pulled out a cup from the cupboard and stepped over to the fridge. Jeremy had installed an ice and water dispenser in the door, so I set my glass under the water and held the button until it was full. I stepped back, leaning against the cupboard and staring out the kitchen window.
It was a beautiful night, crisp and clear. The moon was still up, although it was beginning to fade towards the horizon. It was much too early for dawn to be lighting the sky, though, so the stars were undimmed by the pollution of the sun's tentative light. The reflection on the ground's snowcover was quite breathtaking.
`It's been too long since I've been back,' I thought, recalling that I hadn't seen snow in nearly two years. The realization brought a cascade of memories back to me.
The last time I'd seen snow had been Christmas nearly two years before. Kevin and I had taken Preston and Kari up to Bismarck to spend the holiday with Mom. Jeremy and Kris had brought little Jana over, so it had been a sort of family reunion. It had also been Preston's first white Christmas.
`And his last,' I thought sadly.
Surprisingly, the memory didn't hold a lot of pain for me. It was the first time since he'd died that I hadn't experienced agony and guilt at remembering my son. The memory was so happy, from a time in all our lives that was just full of joy and love, that it was impossible to feel pain over it.
There was, of course, regret. Sadness that Preston would not get to see another white Christmas, would not get to experience the biting cold as he built a snowman on the hill at Mom's house. And, all the other myriad things that are pure joy to a child who's experiencing them for the first time.
But, something in the way that Mom had seemed right at the end, that almost-glowing expression on her face as she'd `seen' Dad, somehow it had given me something positive to hold on to. It had given me a perspective I needed and was missing before. I guess it provided me with the ability to see beyond life here to something else.
It wasn't really a religious experience for me. I'd grown too jaded over the years at the concept of religion to attach any type of God-like significance to it. Perhaps it was just the body's energy returning to the universe that had originally loaned it. Perhaps it was truly her soul, leaving her body to find a new home somewhere else. Perhaps, although I immediately shrugged the thought aside, Mom had just been hallucinating, the brain's final spark of electricity before succumbing to darkness.
But, whatever it was, whether it was in fact God, or some other equally ephemeral phenomenon, it had given me a gift; one that I now realized would help me to come to grips with Preston's loss.
`Yet another thing I failed to do.'
I sighed and shook my head, adding a mental note to my ever- increasing list of things I'd ignored or run away from in the last 18 months. I glanced over at the clock and realized I'd been standing at the window for nearly 20 minutes. I knew the next few days would be long, so I decided it was time to try to sleep again.
I padded out towards the living room, but I found myself hesitating at the entrance. I stared over at the couch and knew that I wouldn't be getting any sleep on that. I made a decision and turned to head to the stairs.
I made my way to the basement as quietly as I could. The stairs shifted and creaked a little, but I hoped that everyone else was so deeply asleep that I wouldn't wake them. I paused when I reached the bottom, unsure if I had the strength to go through with what I was planning. I also questioned whether or not it was even wise to try.
I gave myself a mental shake and gathered up what fragments of courage I possessed. From somewhere, the slightest hint of a breeze suddenly drifted across the back of my neck. I wasn't sure why, but I suddenly felt stronger, more sure of myself. I walked over to the door and eased it open.
The futon was spread out into a bed once again. The dim light from a window high up on the far wall provided a slight backlight to the form sleeping there. I stopped, staring at the man I'd o nce called husband.
Kevin seemed to be sleeping. He was laid out on his back, the covers gathered around him. I smiled slightly, remembering how he'd always insisted on extra blankets when we would come up north to visit. Even when we took trips to visit Ann in Kentucky, he always claimed that it was too cold. Knowing that he'd grown up there, I'd always figured he was probably exaggerating.
Of course, I hadn't really argued, although I'd often conspired to remove a blanket or two to ensure that he would have no problems snuggling all night. Surprisingly, he'd never raised an objection when he'd discover several of the covers kicked to the floor and me wrapped all around him the next morning.
"Dylan?" Kevin's soft voice startled me from my memories. "What's wrong?" He shifted slightly, moving so he was near-sitting as he leaned towards me.
"N…Nothing," I stammered. "I was just…that is, I couldn't sleep, and."
My courage fled at that point. I'd intended on sharing his bed with him. It was at that moment that I realized that I must've been truly exhausted to believe that an idea like that would work, to believe that Kevin would just willingly let me crawl in bed with him.
"I'm sorry, Kev," I whispered, unconsciously using his nickname. I dropped my eyes and turned, starting back out into the hallway.
"Dylan." Kevin's voice stopped me.
I turned back to face him. He didn't say anything else, only stared at me. In the dim light, I couldn't decipher what he was thinking. His eyes were hidden in shadow. After studying me for a moment, he apparently came to a decision. He sighed and glanced away.
Then reached down and turned back the covers, inviting me in.
"Are you sure?" I questioned, giving him the opportunity to change his mind. He looked up at me and just nodded.
I stepped back inside the room, closing the door behind me. I walked over to the bed and eased in next to him. Once I was under the covers, I gathered them around me. I could feel the heat from him next to me, although we weren't touching. I found myself wishing that Kristin hadn't been so generous when she'd bought the futon.
Neither of us moved. We both lay on our backs, side by side, facing up to the ceiling. I was breathing shallow, listening to him. His breathing was even, regular, but I knew that he wasn't sleeping. I could feel the tension in him, as I was sure he could feel in me. Whatever had happened between us, we both seemed to still be in tune with one another, at least to some extent. At the moment, it was difficult to take comfort in that fact.
"This doesn't change anything," he suddenly whispered.
"I know," I replied; and I did know.
Silence once again.
"Would it be better if I left?" I wondered. He paused, considering.
"No, it's alright," he said, his voice still soft.
"I can go back to the couch if," I began.
"Dylan," was all he said, cutting me off.
It was difficult to know exactly what happened next. Neither of us seemed to move from one moment to the next. And yet, suddenly, I was curled up against his side with his arms wrapped around me. Our legs had become tangled together somehow. My arm was draped across his chest, my hand holding his side. My forehead was resting against his neck, and my chin was on his shoulder.
"This doesn't change anything," he whispered again, although I thought I heard a catch in his voice.
"I know," I repeated my reassurance.
This time, though, it was a comfortable silence. For now, and possibly only for now, we were again two halves of the same whole. I could feel his warmth spread through me. And, it wasn't just the physical warmth, for I could feel the heat from his inner light seeping into my cold heart. And, for at least those few moments in time, I knew I was home.
Morning came far too early for my taste. This wasn't really unusual, given that I despised waking up before the crack of noon. However, it was an extra sour occasion this morning since I'd had little or no sleep the night before.
I reached an arm across the bed, although I had a pretty good idea what I'd find. And, my assumption was proven correct as my hand came in contact with only empty air. Kevin wasn't in bed with me anymore. I sighed, then snuggled further into the covers.
For a brief moment, I wondered if I hadn't dreamed the entire experience, that Kevin hadn't really been here last night. Fortunately, my hand encountered the warmth of his presence still suffusing the covers next to me. I knew that it hadn't been a dream, then. I paused a second before grabbing the pillow he'd used and pulling it in next to me.
I squeezed the pillow tight, taking a moment to inhale his scent. Even without his presence, it felt so right to me to be in the bed he'd slept in the night before. I belonged here. Now, if only I could convince Kevin that HE belonged here, too.
I turned on my back, still clutching Kevin's pillow. I looked up at the ceiling, staring at nothing in particular. In a way, I think I was looking for Mom, because I had the answer to the question she'd asked me.
"What do you want?"
She'd asked me the question when I'd arrived two nights before, although it now seemed so much longer. I'd known the answer at the time, but refused to give word to it. Nick had figured that out pretty fast. During our talk that same night, Nick had pointed out that he felt I knew the answer but was just afraid to say it. Now, though, I knew the answer and was willing to admit it, at least to myself.
`I want Kevin,' I thought.
Nothing else mattered anymore. Not my job, or my house, or my safe little, shrink-wrapped life back in San Diego. Kevin was what mattered. Kevin was what would make my life whole again.
Unfortunately, there were more than a few obstacles to overcome. I told myself that I was simply being realistic, not pessimistic, in admitting that. I knew I needed to maintain a positive outlook if at all possible. But, I didn't think it hurt to acknowledge what problems I would face and begin trying to figure out some way of working through them.
`Time enough for that later,' I thought as I gave in to the inevitable and threw the covers off of me.
I shivered slightly in the cool air. I was still dressed in only my boxers and a t-shirt, which wasn't exactly the warmest clothing for a winter's morning. But, I'd moved my suitcase upstairs yesterday when I'd told Kris to offer Kevin the futon.
I made my way upstairs. The house was fairly quiet, although I knew people were up and about. I could hear their movement on the floor. I gathered that everyone was still dealing with the events of the last 24 hours.
"Morning, Dylan," Lindsay greeted me as I walked into the living room. She and Nick were there, talking together on the sofa. No one else was in the room.
"Hi, Lindsay," I returned the greeting, then turned to Nick. "Hey, Nicky," I said softly.
"Hey, Dylan," he replied, almost as softly. His eyes met mine. I could see he was still a little upset about last night. I sighed a little, then turned and entered the kitchen.
Jeremy was on the phone when I walked past the table. Kevin was sitting beside him, and Kris was standing in the kitchen, facing them both. I walked in, gave Kris a little hug, and grabbed a cup for some coffee. I normally wasn't a big coffee drinker, but I felt like I needed it this morning.
"So, Dylan," Kris spoke up when I came to stand next to her. "How'd you sleep last night?"
I could hear a teasing tone in her voice. I looked over at her, giving her a little warning look before answering.
"Good," was all I replied.
I turned and looked at Kevin. He glanced at me at the same time, and our eyes met. I studied him for a sign that he was upset, but I couldn't see any. I mouthed `Thank you' to him. He didn't respond right away, but then he nodded and gave me a little smile. Even that small gesture brightened my day considerably.
"I'm happy to hear it," Kris continued, no trace of humor in her tone.
Jeremy hung up the phone, then, sparing me from having to talk about last night any further. He sighed as he put the phone on the table, obviously frustrated with something.
"What's up?" I wondered.
"Nothing, Dylan," he replied. "Just having to deal with the family, is all."
"I could take some of them for you, if you want," I volunteered. He looked up at me in surprise.
"Are you sure?" he wondered. "They don't exactly like you all that much anymore."
"Jeremy," I reassured him, "it'll be fine. It's not as if their dislike is a new thing. I've been dealing with it for years. Besides," and I hesitated, looking over at Kevin, "it's time I faced up to them again." Jeremy seemed to consider my words for a few moments before slowly nodding.
"Sure," he agreed. "That'd be nice."
I moved over to the table to look at the list he'd made. From the looks of things, he'd already covered about half of them, anyway. The only ones left hadn't really had much to do with me for years. I figured it would be a shock for them to hear my voice again.
Jeremy stood and stretched while I looked over the list. He seemed tired this morning, worn down. I could tell that he hadn't slept well last night. I wasn't really that surprised. Last night had been difficult for everyone, and he hadn't had the chance that I'd had to say goodbye.
My brother wandered out of the room. I sat, staring at the phone, trying to figure out what to say to my family. It'd been years since I'd talked to any of them. After my wedding to Kevin, most all of them had disowned me. The only time I'd heard from anyone was when they'd wanted money. I hadn't been willing to fork over cash, so they'd eventually given up on that idea.
"You sure you wanna do this, D?" Kevin's voice brought my attention back to the room. It occurred to me that he'd called me `D', again. I wondered if he realized it.
"Yeah, Kev," I replied. "Jeremy doesn't need to handle all the duty."
"Thanks for that, Dylan," Kris spoke up. "He's having a harder time with this than he lets on."
"I kinda figured he would, Kris," I said. "I also figured he wouldn't ask for help, either."
She just smiled a little, acknowledging my remark. Our eyes met across the room, and I could see gratitude reflected there. I smiled back, letting her know I was glad to help. She turned and stepped from the room, then, carrying her coffee with her as she wandered after her husband. I turned to face mine.
"Thanks for last night, Kev," I said, speaking softly.
"It's alright, D," he replied.
"I really appreciate it," I told him, glancing into his green eyes.
"I'm glad I was around to help out," he said.
"Really?" I asked, surprised. He seemed embarrassed.
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "I mean…well, your mom died, D. I'd hate for you to go through that alone."
"Thanks, Kev," I said. Impulsively, I reached a hand over to cover his. I didn't leave it there, simply squeezed his, then withdrew mine.
I grabbed the phone and turned to look at Jeremy's list. Kevin didn't leave, which I appreciated. I wasn't sure what'd happened to open him back up to me, but I wasn't willing to examine it in too much detail at the moment. I didn't want to end our tentative rapport by over-analyzing it.
I made short work of the phone calls. None of the family members I talked with seemed all that interested in making conversation. Given the fact that Mom's death wasn't really unexpected, it wasn't necessary to go into much detail about it. I let them know that we would be returning to Bismarck and would get in touch again when more was available on the funeral time.
I sighed as I put the phone down on the table. Dealing with my aunts and uncles was trying under the best of circumstances. My surviving grandparents, Mom's parents, actually, usually just prayed for my redemption, so dealing with them was easy. I just let them pray and went about my business.
"I feel like a walk," I said suddenly. I turned to Kevin. "You wanna join me?" He paused, considering.
"Sure," he eventually replied.
"Okay," I replied, smiling a little. "I'll be ready in five."
The snow crunched softly beneath our feet as we walked down the street. I didn't have any particular destination in mind. I'd just felt the need to get outside for a few minutes. I knew the next few days were going to be claustrophobic, surrounded by family and Mom's friends, all either smothering us with sympathy or, in my case, giving me hell for my many sins in life.
"I miss this," Kev spoke, his voice so quiet I barely knew he'd said anything.
"What?" I wondered, keeping my voice low to match his.
"This," he elaborated, waving a hand around us. "Just…quiet. Being out of the spotlight, away from the noise, the crowds."
"Hard to get back into the fame thing?" I asked, already knowing the answer. He shrugged.
"Sort of, I guess," he said. "I was used to being in control of my life again, of being able to go places and do things without 50 other people along to decide what I wear and who I'm…" His voice trailed off.
"Who you're with?" I finished his statement with a question. I felt his gaze shift to me, but I didn't look over at him. I didn't want him to see the hurt in my eyes, especially under the circumstances.
"Yeah," he agreed. We were silent for half a block, then I spoke again.
"Are you happy, Kevin?" I asked, knowing I should leave it alone, but unable and unwilling to do so.
He didn't respond right away. For some reason, I felt that he knew his answer. He just seemed to be stumbling over how to say it. I decided to help him along.
"It's okay to say `yes', Kev," I whispered. Again, I felt his eyes on me. I continued walking.
"I know, Dylan," he said. "And, if I were happy, I would say `yes'."
That surprised me. I'd assumed his pause a moment before had been because he didn't want to hurt my feelings by saying he was happy now. I found myself stopped on the sidewalk, staring at his back as he continued a few more steps before he, too, stopped. Slowly, he turned to face me.
"I'm sorry, Kev," I said for the first time.
"It's not your fault, Dylan," he replied. Amazingly, his eyes told me he wasn't lying. He really believed it wasn't my fault.
"You can't be serious, Kev." I used his nickname without even thinking about it.
"About what?" he asked, genuinely confused.
"That it's not my fault you're not happy," I elaborated. "I mean, after everything…" I trailed off, figuring I didn't need to elaborate.
"After everything you did to me?" he filled in for me. "Or maybe you meant after everything that's happened?" I shook my head slightly, still gazing into his green eyes.
"No," I said. "I meant after everything I did."
"And what was that, D?" he asked. I stared at him, confused by the question.
"Everything," I replied. "The problems between us, Preston," my voice choked briefly on saying our son's name, "leaving you, our life. Everything."
"Jesus, you're amazing," he said. The tone in his voice told me he thought I was far from amazing. There was anger there, bitter sarcasm. I didn't say anything, letting him continue.
"Not everything is about you," he went on. "Not everything revolves around you. And you're not always the cause of everything that goes wrong." He turned, then, and began walking again. I stood there, staring after him a moment before deciding to follow.
"So," I said to his back, "if it's not my fault, then whose fault is it?"
"What?" He stopped again, almost causing me to run into him. When he turned, we were only inches apart. "Whose fault is what?"
"All of it!" I replied, exasperated with his questioning, his sudden attitude change.
"Why does it have to be one person's fault?!" he exclaimed.
"I don't know," I retorted, sarcasm dripping from my tone. "Just because it does!"
"Fine!" He threw his arms in the air for emphasis. "Everything's your fault, Dylan. All the bad things in this world are all your fault! I blame everything on you!" He grabbed my arms and shook me. "ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?"
"YES!" I yelled back, unable to stop a tear from sliding down my face. "NO!" I yelled again. "FUCK! I don't know!"
"What don't you know, Dylan?" he started the questions again. "You want to get blamed, don't you? Want me to hate you for ruining all our lives? Fine! I hate you! Is that what you want to hear? Does that make you happy?" He was yelling at me, shaking me with every word.
"NO!" I screamed back, struggling to pull free. Obviously, I wasn't struggling hard enough, because his hands maintained their grip on me.
"Then what do you want?!"
"I DON'T FUCKING KNOW!" I put everything I had into one final tug. I don't know whether I actually got free or if he just let me go. Either way, I found myself suddenly separated from him.
Silence descended over us. The only sound was our heavy breathing. In the distance, I could hear cars passing, although I knew it was doubtful they'd come this way. Jeremy and Kris lived in a fairly quiet neighborhood. That combined with the fact that it was a fairly cold day kept traffic to a minimum.
"Do you really hate me, Kevin?" I wondered, needing to know the answer, yet terrified to know it.
He didn't answer right away. The seconds ticked by, and time seemed again to stretch out. The longer he took to answer, the more difficult it became to even pull air into my lungs. I couldn't tell if it was truly taking him a long time or if my own perceptions were being skewed by my emotions. Finally, his head fell, and his eyes closed.
"No, Dylan," he whispered the words. "I don't hate you." He looked up at me a moment later.
"Honestly, there are days that I wish I did," he continued. I gasped, took an involuntary step back. He looked away again. "It would make things a whole lot easier if I could blame everything on you."
"Kev," I started, but he waved me to silence.
"Not right now, Dylan," he said, again whispering. "Just," his green eyes shifted to my blue ones, "just leave it alone for now."
With that, he started walking again. I realized a moment later that he was continuing to walk away from the house. I wasn't sure I should follow, so I just stood there, gazing at his back. He made it about 10 feet before he turned to look back at me.
He didn't say anything, at least not in words. But, I found myself slowly following after him. When I caught up to him, he simply turned and continued walking. No more words were exchanged. The tenuous rapport we'd established the previous night had been broken. I could only wonder what, if anything, would replace it.
Well, at least I hope you're all gentle, because I'd imagine that at least a few of you are more than a little peeved that I haven't posted before now. I wish I could say that I have a good excuse, but frankly I don't, so I won't offer one. Suffice it to say that life happens, and mine happened to get very busy lately.
Anyway, I hope this posting finds you all doing well. For those who have shared your thoughts with me via e-mail, thanks very much. All of your comments have been read and are appreciated, even if I haven't responded. I can't guarantee that I'll be able to respond in the future any better than I have the last month or two, but feel free to write a note expressing opinions whenever you feel like I need to hear it. I do read everything, and, while I may not incorporate your thoughts into the writing, I do consider the ideas and feelings that are sent.
The next posting will probably be another couple of weeks. I've (sort of) gotten past my writer's block, but my time is at a premium right now due to an impending job hunt and various large-scale landscape/remodel projects on my home. I'm sure y'all understand how the tedious things always interfere.
Take care, one and all, and I hope you keep reading. I've had a number of people ask about whether the boys will be reuniting/ reconciling on a permanent basis. All I can say is you're just gonna have to stick around and find out. Or, come back in 6 months and read the whole thing from start to finish ;-) (provided, of course, that I finish it by then!)