Copyright 2010 by Ernesto66. All persons, places, things and events mentioned within this file are fictional, and no inferences should be made regarding their relationship to reality by readers, regardless of how they are represented. The author is responsible for, but not liable for, errors in regard to continuity, geography, weather, the public record, contemporary events, hairstyles, language and his own bad judgment. This story includes descriptions of adult homosexual men in sexual situations. If you are not of legal age to read this, then don't. If you are of age but somehow offended by such material, what the fuck are you doing here?
This file is freely shared, and the author encourages its distribution, dependent on proper attribution to him and only him. The file remains his intellectual (!) property and its unattributed use anywhere outside its orginal forum will result in harsh words to the offending site's host, as if there's anything they'll do about it.
I gratefully thank, and dedicate this story to, authors around the world who inspired me by posting their work online, most especially the two known as Ardveche and Ricardo Cabeza. It was in trying to emulate their beautiful stories that I first sat down to start my own, and writing "Homecoming" went a long way toward helping me through the hardest period of my life.
Thanks as well to my husband David. I started "Homecoming" before I even knew him, and although he had no idea I was writing it (at work), with his love and support he greatly influenced its direction.
R.I.P. Music for a Song.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter Twelve: While You Were Sleeping
The man standing in the living room doorway sighed and reread the card in his hand for the millionth time.
Just "Happy Birthday" in fancy gold script, embossed, nothing else.
Look at the cover, flip it open to look at its blank inside, flip it shut again. And again and again. Shit.
He was desperate to think of something- anything - to write inside, but nothing was coming to him. It might help if he went up to the office, out of the way of all this down here. The music playing over the stereo was too loud, not what he would have picked anyway, too distracting to think through. Not really what he'd always thought of as classical music; it wasn't soothing or rhythmic at all.
Not something I could sleep through, that's for sure. How does the hell does he do that?
It's him laying on the couch right there that's stopping me, that's it. What if he wakes up and sees the card? It'll spoil the whole surprise. He has no idea what's planned for tomorrow night, and the card could give the whole thing away.
In another minute he decided to go up where it was quiet, and so backed slowly out of the living room and started up to the office. He'd kicked his shoes off when he got home, so his sock feet didn't make any noise on the uncarpeted stairs. He paused on the landing, by the open door of the bedroom, and looked in.
Hard to believe it had only been three months, he thought, the start of that crazy weekend.
The midnight call. Then the trip, that heroic rescue, their meeting, the chase, Kevin's house, touring Louisville, the funeral, the scene on Third Street, finally the return...
The crumpled sheets and Andrew's quilt tossed on the bed reminded him it was time to do the laundry. Not right now though. Restless, his mind kept going back to what he'd started to think of as The Rescue.
In so many senses of the word. I've never been so grateful for anything in my life, not ever. Now I know why little girls (and boys, be fair) the world over swoon when the prince comes along and takes the princess away in all those Disney movies. Sweeps her off her feet.
That's literally what I feel like at times, like I'm not on my feet any more. Flying, falling, same thing. Rescued.
He moved on to the office and sat down, heavily, at the desk.
The card was still blank. Distracted, his eye wandered to the window, to the treetops and roofs of their neighborhood. Rain dripped from the icicles hanging from branches and gutters, and pooled in the streets. It would all probably freeze tonight. Spaghetti Factory was right downtown, though, and the road crews were very good at their jobs, so tomorrow night shouldn't be too big a problem.
What a time for a storm, he reflected. I'm happier than ever, it's the weekend, tomorrow's the party, I'm in love.
He shivered. Had he ever thought that would happen to him?
His eye wandered around all the new photographs, hanging where the walls had been so blank and impersonal. They'd gone nuts in here, like that one HGTV show on making over a boring space. Now the walls were covered floor-to-ceiling with brightly-colored framed photographs. The room was like a four-sided mosaic, leaving hardly any room for their diplomas and movie posters.
Pictures of family from Louisville crowded next to others of old friends, and more of landmarks from around the city to the south. The ones they took when they went back after New Year's were all touched by the cold weather they'd survived (again) on that trip, but many of the others were sunny and warm. Babies he couldn't remember the names of, more or less familiar faces of adults and kids... Pets, houses, cars, vacations, gardens, parties.
The biggest was of a group of smiling people in a park, under a long banner reading "Shelton Family Reunion 2006." If there was another one any time soon, he'd make sure the two of them were front and center in the next version.
He hoped there was room in the office for at least one more poster. He'd invented a weak excuse for leaving one corner free, just big enough for the framed original "The Empire Strikes Back" lobby poster sitting down in the basement, hidden behind the furnace. He found it on eBay and it cost him dear but it was worth every penny he'd paid for it.
He smiled, turned back to the card, and frowned.
"How do you say what you just can't say?" Out loud that sounded even stupider than it had inside his head. God. Was it a birthday card, or a philosophy test? Try again.
Okay, but. What hadn't he said yet? Maybe that was the key. He pulled a legal pad toward him, took a pen and started scratching the first things to come to his mind on the paper.
I want to tell you
You're the best
How do you say what you just can't say?
He furiously scribbled each of them out. Shit shit shit. Okay, he thought, take a pill, you have a whole day to do this. It had felt right to ask, What haven't you said yet?
Problem was, they had already said it all. They'd been talking the whole three months, all winter really. Working things out, going over finances, legal details. So what could possibly be left-?
Oh crap, of course. Stupid.
Of course that's what it would be.
He confidently laid the card open, carefully wrote out the three words and signed his name, making kind of a heart with the loop in the last letter. Too gay.
In a second he went back and added about fifty X's and O's beside that and then closed the card. Slid it into the envelope, licked and sealed it, wrote on that too. God, why had it been so hard to think of something so simple? Well. He knew.
He went down the hall to the bedroom and slid the card under his side of the mattress, where it wouldn't be found in the next twenty-four hours. Then he ripped the sheets and pillowcases off, made a bundle and carried them all downstairs.
He stopped under the arch at the end of the living room and looked in again. The movie was just coming to its end.
It was the candlelight procession over the water to... Where? Some ethereal forest, the soaring music and images obviously meant to evoke a cathedral, nuns, the ultimate triumph of worship. Schubert's "Ave Maria." Now this was classical music like he'd grown up with.
He mentally shrugged. He'd grown up a lot in the past few months. Who was to say he wouldn't one day come to like the previous number, "Night on Bald Mountain," as well?
Moussorgsky wasn't his taste, but whatever made Michael happy made him happy too.
The young man looked down at the figure on the couch. Michael's mouth was a little pout, his left arm over his head, his right folded over his chest like he was holding something close to him in his dream. He looked defenseless.
Jeremy sighed and shifted the weight of the bundle onto his opposite hip. Michael's job was so hard on him. Jeremy tried to do his best to help out around the house and he hoped it was enough to offset at least some of the crap Michael had to choke down at work. Between the younger man's job at the bookstore and his classes he never felt like he was doing enough.
He was the one with the energy to do the majority of the housework, though, so he did the laundry as often as he could, prepared dinner for them three or four nights a week. When spring came he'd knock himself out working in the yard too.
Their arrangement still felt a little temporary to Jeremy, sometimes. No fault of Michael's, of course, he'd been great. They just hadn't been living together long enough yet. So if housework made things feel more permanent, that's what he'd do. He thought Sheila had once told him something about building good habits...
Which reminded him. He sniffed the air for any possibility of the roast cooking too long. Probably not but he'd check it in a minute.
Before he left, Jeremy looked back at Michael, his supine form taking up the length of the couch, and thought of what he'd written in the birthday card. His heart skipped at the idea. No, they hadn't said it to each other yet, definitely not by his choice; they'd agreed to put it off until they were sure. Well, Michael agreed, anyway.
Sure of what?, Jeremy had prodded him. Sure of everything, Michael replied. He was getting better, but he could still be so anal about things.
Jeremy wasn't sure of anything.
November had proven that to him, once and for all. And he'd had night after night, once they returned to Indianapolis and settled down, to think about that and so much else. He was pretty sure he'd gotten some stuff worked out.
That month he'd finally been ready to leave, put himself in danger, for the sake of getting away from that life and starting fresh. He took the risk, made the leap, and look what had happened. He'd landed on his feet, here.
He might have frozen at the side of the road, or been raped in Edinburgh, or died in an icy accident on 65. He could have ended up safely at Aunt Betty's. She could have let him stay - oh yeah - or sent him packing back home. Anything might've happened, besides what actually had. The possibilities were endless.
His point was (he backed up a little in his head), none of it was planned; it had all just happened. By fate, or whatever you called it, very simply. It was so easy to overthink things like...
Well, like being sure.
Something they'd both been too guilty of back in the day. Now, together, they made the effort not to plan or overthink, just push ahead step by step and maybe play the odds a little.
They'd enrolled Jeremy at IUPUI, gotten him the job downtown, tentatively opened things back up with his parents via email (not much progress there though). Started talking to Mrs. Shelton every week or so; she was doing better since the accident the Sheltons were in the day before the funeral. He knew Michael had been more bothered by them not showing up that Sunday than he'd let on.
So, things were back to normal, or as normal as their routines were likely to get. Now they were concentrating on finding Michael another job - if possible stealing a briefcase full of Pioneer's clients away with him.
Jeremy laughed once, knowing how they'd celebrate when that day came, and then stifled himself when Michael stirred on the couch. Crap. But the older man just turned onto his side, his rolling breaths unbroken.
And he said he didn't snore. Jeremy shook his head and went on through the dining room and kitchen, to the basement door. Mighty deep thoughts to be having on the way to the laundry room.
The word came to him again: Sure.
Funny, on that day Michael had shouted out that everything was so permanent to Jeremy... Not only unfair but completely missing the point, that all he was doing was grasping at one thing that could be. That he'd have given anything, just to be.
I'm not sure of anything, but what I wrote on his card is as close to a hundred percent as I'm likely to get. He said "Life goes on." I know things change, of course they do.
Then if I get a wish too, tomorrow night when he blows out the candles, I wish that that one single thing doesn't ever change.
To love him, always.
What would Michael say when he opened the card and read those words? Jeremy couldn't guess. There were days he wondered if he'd ever know the older man well enough to predict him.
For instance. He still couldn't say exactly what the heck Michael got out of watching "Fantasia." What the music made him think of as he fell asleep, like he had the two times they'd watched it now. The pictures that made his eyes dance behind his eyelids, the childhood memories Jeremy knew, from their talks, that it stirred in him. That might take forever to learn.
If you couldn't be sure of so many things, if so much on the road ahead of you was unknown - and always would be - then what was the sense in waiting to make the most of your life? Or waiting to say the words "I love you." Waiting to hand someone your soul.