Standard warnings apply. Actually, the site already has warnings. Just to make sure, here're more. ^_^ Most of this is actually fiction but some situations have been taken from real life. The names of the characters are made up/fictional - if there are people with the same names somewhere out there, that is purely coincidental.

As with most stories, the author retains all rights to this story. Without the permission of the author, no reproductions or links to other sites are allowed.

This deals with male homosexual love. If you are not of legal age (18 or 21, it depends actually where), or if you live/are in a place where material such as this is illegal, or if you are simply offended by homosexuality and/or homosexual themes, please leave.

This story has no sex scenes in it. ^_^

Chapter 11: Home

It was one of those November nights when you'd be acutely aware that it is actually getting colder already. Usually people start getting colds at this time of the year because of the changing weather. And that's exactly what was happening to me.

Luckily, November is a down month for people in the academe. The second semester would just get off to a start after All Souls' Day which is on the 2nd. Things would roll along because everyone would already be too preoccupied with the coming Christmas season. Lights would be everywhere, traffic would be horrible, star laterns would be lit on the streets. They'd even play carols on the radio.

The first semester ended pretty uneventfully. Dr. Vergara didn't actually fail any student - then again she never does - and I was prepping myself up for my stint as an instructor - all on my own - for the next term.

That phrase excited me: "All on my own."

Being my own boss (at least in the classroom) brought me an uneasy queasy feeling, like maybe my new students would eat me alive. Then again, it also made me feel electrified - like I'd finally be able to make a stand for myself.

"All on my own." I never really realized how ironic those words were. At least how ironic their effect was on me.

And this phrase didn't only apply to my job.

I hadn't spoken, let alone seen Kyle since that day he stormed into my house and stormed right out of it. But I had to pick up the pieces of my own life.

I had to start somewhere.

But isn't it funny how, sometimes, you think you've DEFINITELY made a decision about something then something else happens and so the decision you've made just falls flat on the ground?

Or how, sometimes, history repeats itself?

This time, the incidence of repeated history just ran over my decision to try to be the "independent-happy-on-my-own" person I wanted to be.

That night was a blend of two bits of the past: Kyle appearing, rapping on my door. And Kyle drunk.

I was preparing to actually turn in owing to my impending ailment when the knocks came. They seemed frantic - as if whoever were behind them were being chased by wolves. It was only before I turned the knob that I realized that we didn't have wolves in the Philippines. Silly me.

When I opened the door, there he was.

Kyle was at my doorstep, looking like a refugee. His hair was a mess, his jacket askew, his face all puffy and red. Then he plunged, head first, straight at me. Catching him, I detected the smell of alcohol in his breath. It mixed in with the smell of cigarette smoke. But there too were traces of his smell when he rested his chin on my shoulder. At least there was a hint of something sweet in the air.

"Os." He managed to groan.

After getting over the initial shock, I tried to carry - but ended up dragging - him to the couch and set him down. I noticed he wasn't wearing any ring.

"I hate you, Os."

That was fair. He makes himself drunk, shows up at my doorstep, and tells me that he hates me. I just stared at him, before realizing that maybe he needed water. Or coffee. Flustered, I ran to the kitchen, tried to brew some coffee but realized that I had run out of supplies and ended up returning with just a glass of water. When I got back, he was still babbling.

"Kyle," I started, "Kyle you need to drink this to flush out the alcohol."

He smiled, "Always the smart one, eh?" Oddly enough, I thought everyone knew that water trick. But I didn't say anything. When I tried to help him up to a seating position, he pushed me away. "Don't touch me," he whispered softly.

I thought he had settled down but then he started babbling again, "Do you know what I had to go through when you left? I tried it with everyone... girls, boys... people I knew... people I didn't know. It didn't matter..."

He went on talking as if he were in a trance - the words were pouring out of his mouth as if he were possessed. He seemed to be caught up in it, catching his breath the way he was doing.

"I didn't know who I was anymore Os." At this, he stopped, almost crying, "I wanted to be the me I was with you but you weren't there anymore."

I was all too choked up to say anything. "Kyle..." I started. Or tried to start.

He finally did drink up after I tried coaxing him again.

"Thanks... but I still hate you."

He just shook his head. I remembered, long ago, he was at a party. And he was drunk. Then he called me just because he wanted to hear my voice.

He started sinking back down onto the couch. Sometime ago someone told me to prop drunk people up alcohol-filled blood wouldn't go to their heads. At least, not much of it. Maybe I just thought that up, but it somehow made sense. So before he could completely slip down, I grabbed him, and tried making him sit up again. It was like I had a living crash test dummy on the couch. He was almost just dead weight, and I had to try and haul him up.

His arms got in my way for a bit then I realized he was trying to do something. He reached out and touched my face.

"Ossie, why are you so damn hard to forget?"

I found myself staring down at him. Him in my arms, tracing light patterns on my cheek with his fingertips.

Then he started to cry. "Ossie." He just whispered my name. I pulled him close, letting him rest on me and started trying to rock him to sleep.

"She called off our wedding Ossie," he mumbled to my chest, in between sobs.

So she did.

"Kyle...," I said, rubbing my palm on his back.

'You got yourself drunk because Sara broke the engagement off,' I wanted to continue but I didn't. 'But why did you come to me?' I wanted to continue more but stopped myself again.

I honestly didn't know how to handle the situation. But Kyle needed me then. And as much as I knew I could make it on my own, I knew I needed him too.

After a few minutes, he tried to pull away. "I'm going home."

"Not in that condition Kyle. I can't let you drive."

"I must send a file." A file? What file?

"What file?," I whispered hoarsely, "Why didn't you send it earlier?"

"I was busy. She was breaking up with me."

He said it blankly - as if the alcohol drowned all his feelings out. Still, it stung me.

"Can't it wait 'til tomorrow?"

"No... my deadline is today... 12 midnight." With that, he plopped off to sleep. Still the procrastinator, I see. Our position was quite awkward, with our arms still somewhat tangled up.

So he had to send a file. I wonder what file that was. If it was so important that he was trying to drive home drunk for it - if it was so important that he even remembered it in his drunken stupor, it must mean something.

As much as I wanted to help though, I didn't know what to do.

Carefully, I lay him down, covering him with a light blanket and setting his head on a pillow.

Then it occurred to me: exactly how did he park?

Peeking out the doorway, I found the familiar BMW strewn across our little street. It was still in one piece - thank goodness - but no other car would be able to pass through. I somehow had to do something. Besides, it shouldn't be so difficult: I was driving this very same car sometime ago.

Feeling a little self-conscious, I tried fishing for the key in his pocket. I found a whole bunch of them on a keychain. Running out, I tried one, two, three, and found that four was the lucky number.

After I finally got the car in a rather neatly tucked away, I found a folder on the passenger seat. It was a business deal of sorts all right. And the deadline was indeed that night - it involved foreign dealings so the time difference effected the "12 midnight" deadline. The address where it had to be sent was there. So was the filename.

The only thing that had to be done was run the search utility on virutally any system. Anyone could do that.

And his house keys were most probably part of the keychain collection, all dangling and making sounds as if they were coins in a pouch.

So, after running back into the house, stealing a glance at Kyle to make sure he'd be okay, locking up... I can't believe I did this. Off I went to Weeping Willow Drive.

I realized, as I drove, that I might've been dreaming. It was strange. Almost surreal. And probably stupid of me too. Then again, if I hadn't seen that folder, I wouldn't have done this at all. Since I was in his car, it wasn't that difficult to get into the village... and through the house gates.

Soon I found myself at Kyle's computer. While it was booting up, I managed to look around. The "helpers' quarters" turned out to be a pretty cozy place. Just messy. But cozy.

Finding the file wasn't as difficult at all. And it was only 10:30. I debated for a while whether I should use my own email address to make things much simpler. Then I thought about the reaction at the other end of the cyber line.

That would be weird.

So I decided to try to access his email address. At least until time was really running out. Of course I had memorized his email address. But his password was another story.

I tried his birthday, his mother's maiden name, his last name, the school we went to, everything. I even tried the obvious ones: his name and Sara's name. After 45 minutes of random guessing, I felt almost helpless.

Until I thought, maybe...

I typed in O-S-S-I-E.

So much for that idea.

Then I tried another one, not caring if I'd embarrass myself more. O-S-M-O-N-D.

"Kyle, how will you forget me if I'm your password?"

I managed to send the message with time to spare.

I know I shouldn't have been nosey - but curiosity got the better of me. One of his folders had "357 unread messages." And I clicked.

And there were all the email messages I had sent him. All unread. Sitting in one virtual folder.

Driving back, I realized that it wasn't such a bright idea to up and leave a drunk person on a couch in a deserted house. What if something happened? Luckily, nothing did. Kyle slept as if he could sleep through a nuclear war.

Still I didn't want to leave him alone for the rest of the night. After getting a blanket from my room, I curled up in a chair nearby.

I happened to be watching him when he gave a blink, then two, then three. At first he was staring at the ceiling, then, sitting up, still not realizing that he was on my couch, he began scratching his head.

"You feeling better?" I asked, armed with some aspirin and a glass of water.

At first he seemed shocked to see me, opening his mouth, then closing it. After a while, it dawned on him: he was drunk last night.

Carefully, he took the medicine and gulped it down. He looked scared - like a furry little animal trapped by a monster in a jungle. Then I thought that it was awful to compare oneself to a monster and one's house to a jungle.

On a sudden impulse, he jumped, "The file!," his eyes round as saucers.

As calmly as I could, I said, "Relax. I sent it."

"Oh." was all he managed to reply. As if suddenly remembering, "How did you send it?"

"I saw the folder in your car."

"No. I mean, from where did you send it?"

"Your email address?"

He let his lower lip jut out a bit while his eyebrows got closer to each other. In my mind, the phrase 'Thinking mode: ON' flashed again and again.

Finally, he sighed, "It doesn't mean anything you know."

"What?" His answer just confused me.

"My password." He finished. Heaving himself up, he got ready to leave, "thanks. Sorry for the trouble. I have to go."

I don't know why. But somehow I knew that if I'd let him get out of my door, everything would just slip away.

"Hey," in my desperation, I managed to blurt, "don't you want to stay for breakfast or something?"

He turned back to face me, looking a bit upset. "I told you. Things aren't the same anymore, right?"

"I just offered you breakfast - nothing else," I sounded defensive, even to myself. Defensive and struggling.

"Just let me go before I embarrass myself even more!" He shouted.

I must've looked scared at his reaction because his expression softened.

"I'm sorry." He just stood there, between me and the doorway. Half of me was expecting him to walk off, the other prayed that he'd come walking back. But he just stood there for a while, looking down then to the side. But not at me. Even when he started talking again.

"I'm sorry. It's just that... I missed you Os."

I was stumped. I didn't know what was going on in his head. And I wanted to. Throwing all caution to the wind, remembering how Sara said he didn't know how to do things for himself - I tried prodding.

"Kyle, if you missed me so much, why did you stop writing back?"

Still standing where he was, he knotted his brow again and stuffed his hands into his pockets. He looked at the floor intently.

"I don't know. I guess... I somehow knew that you weren't coming back," He answered as if he were having a conversation with some dust particles stuck to our living room carpet. "I guess... I guess it's hard knowing that's all I can do. That all I can do is type stuff up and click 'send.' That I can't hold you. Or even touch you." He said each word with measured clarity - as if each were meant to sail through the air and cut right through me. Because they did.

"I thought that," he continued, "maybe if I didn't read your stuff, I'd forget you." He tried to look up - at least I think he did - but he failed in trying. "But I couldn't get myself to delete any of them."

Once again, I found myself dumbstruck. It's as if everything I learned went down the drain. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know how to act (or react as the case may be). Even my instincts went blank.

So I did what I could to diffuse the situation. "Umm..." I changed the subject. "How have you been?"

When I asked, he looked up at me with an expression was halfway between 'upset' and 'forlorn.'

"Well," he coughed out, "when you left, I didn't know what was happening to me. So I tried going out with different people. I tried it with many people. I just wanted to make sure of what I was. Sorry if it sounds cheap but anyway." He stopped. "When dad had a heart attack, I had no one. You weren't there. Only Sara was. And," thoughtfully, he finished, "I didn't want to lose her too. So I proposed to her. But that's over now, I guess."

Sara was all he had left.

I remembered Sara's face when she said that she wasn't sure about getting married, "Why did she call it off?"

Kyle just shrugged. "She said it's better this way. She said she wasn't sure herself." He paused, thoughtfully. "And she said that I shouldn't just be clinging to her even if I know I wouldn't be happy with her."

For a few moments, we were just standing. It was as if were were floating in space.

For a split second I thought of how things in space are supposed to be attracted to each other and how they are pulled together through the force called 'gravity.' Realizing that that didn't make much sense, I reprimanded myself for quietly hoping that gravity would start its work in the living room.

But then I would've been stuck to the couch...

"Ossie, why did you leave?"

I hadn't realized it but Kyle was staring at me.

"Kyle," I tried to choose the safest answer I could give. "You know that I had a scholarship."

"Was that all?" He replied, sounding desolate. "I'm sorry if I'm being unfair."

Again, I was at a loss as to how to answer. I thought of the time before I met Kyle. How much I wanted to leave. To fly somewhere else. Maybe make it there. Then I thought of the time when I was with him. About how much he made me want to stay.

Then I thought of how I couldn't compete with a girl like Sara.

"I thought that there was nothing left for me. Again."

He just looked at me and nodded. He understood. Carefully, he asked, "Why'd you come back?"

"Various reasons. I guess I didn't really feel like I belonged there. That I could be more myself here." Though the question was easier to answer, it took a lot to look him in the eye and add, "And I hoped that there was still something here for me."

Breaking eye contact, he asked, "What if there isn't any?"

Everything seemed to hang on an invisible thread high above our heads. It seemed as if, any moment, it would break and things would come crashing down. If only I could keep it together longer, maybe...

Still at the back of my mind, I knew that, with or without him, I'd have to live.

"I'll find something worth staying for." I began, gathering as much of myself as I could, "It might not be you. But I don't know. I'll have to start somewhere, right? This is my home. And this is where I belong. I feel more at peace here than I ever did over there."

Again he was looking down at the carpet. I made a mental note to have it dry cleaned sometime soon.

"Belong." He finally said. "I don't know where I belong." Finally, he looked right up at me again. "All I know is that, I felt most at peace with you. And I'd like to feel that way again."

Swallowing a lump in my throat, I just watched as he walked over to me, slowly, reaching out and putting his hand on my shoulder.

"Kyle, I..."

"don’t know what to say?" Looking tired, he smiled a half smile. A small one. But for the first time in so long, he was smiling at me.

"You don’t have to say anything," he looked right at me this time - I felt myself being swallowed up by his gaze, "but, if it’s okay, Ossie, can we start over?"

I just managed to smile back at that. Start over. Seeing how some part of each of us had changed, it would mean getting to know him again. And him getting to know me.

But I didn't mind... that was the fun part.

I wanted to ask him if we could stop hurting each other the way we were doing. But then I thought that I'd rather get hurt with him.

It just tells me that I do love him.

Kyle pulled me in and kissed me. Softly. Tenderly. I felt like I was kissing him for the first time.

When he pulled away, he whispered, "Welcome home, Os."

As he held me, memories of how we were came rushing back. Both of us in his car - driving through the fire trees, their bright oranges mixing in with the gentle greens. At the end of the second term, I'd be with him - seeing the fire trees in full bloom at the height of summer again.

It was a strangely comforting feeling, to be back in his arms. It felt warm. Not because I felt his arms encircling me. It was a warmth that I felt was coming from inside me. A warmth that emanated from my core.

That instant, I knew it.

I was home.

- The End -

After so long, I guess this is it. ^_^ Thanks to everyone who's written - for sticking with the story even after such a long time. Your messages mean a lot to me. And I do listen, don't I? hehe. ^_^ Thank you. I hope to hear (or rather, read) from you still -

Hopefully I could get back to writing on a more regular basis. At any rate, I shall do a shameless plug: I have another story up under the college section entitled, "Alone." Or the "Alone Series" at nifty. Hopefully you'll like that too.

I hope to be back soon with other characters and other stories that would unfold. For now, I'd just like to thank you guys again for reading. ^_^