At mom's funeral in the previous timeline, I sat between Nanny and Jenny and all of us were overwhelmed by tears of grief as we stared at mom's pale pink casket.
At the funeral in this timeline, I sat with Brian on my right, Mrs. Reagan on my left, and President Reagan on Brian's other side.
Before, Mom's funeral had been a chance for what remained of our family to come together and grieve as one. It hadn't been big, but over a hundred people had come to pay their respects, old high school friends of hers, members of churches where dad had been the pastor, and others who had once worked with her. It had been a calm, elegant funeral full of love and grief.
Now, the funeral of Mom and Jenny was a three-ring circus, full of family squabbles, bitter glares, frosty silence, the chants of protestors from the street challenging the somber mood set by the music that was being played by a military band from a nearby base. The largest funeral home in Modesto was packed with people, and it was an Air Force chaplain giving the eulogy, not an old friend of hers whose son had been a student in her Sunday School class.
Two nights ago, Dyadya had come downstairs at one in the morning to find me drowning myself in a bottle of vodka I'd taken from the kitchen. He knew I rarely drank for a reason, and he saw it that night as I'd downed almost the entire bottle and wasn't nearly numb enough. When he'd smashed the bottle that still had alcohol in it I'd glared at him angrily, and tried to stumble towards the door before he stopped me. When I tried to swing at him for stopping me, he'd given me a strong blow to the stomach that doubled me over and left me vomiting on the tile floor.
Without saying a word he'd brought out a mop and bucket before going back upstairs. The mop and bucket were still there, right next to where I'd passed out in my own vodka vomit. Tyatya had come downstairs, sniffed loudly and moved on ignoring me. Brian had come down next, his eyes wet with tears after having slept alone. His hurt look when he saw me, the vomit, and the shattered vodka bottle only made me feel worse, and I tried to ignore him even after cleaning things up.
The President had been vacationing with his family over the Christmas holidays at their southern California ranch. I wasn't watching the news so it was Castillo who told me that mom's death was national news, because of the 'gay' protests a few weeks earlier at our school. All he told me was that the preachers were having a field day and that others were remarking how horrible it all was to lose a parent and sister on Christmas day.
They had no idea how horrible it was losing them twice; Christmas day wasn't what had me in so much pain.
When word reached the media that the President was to attend the funeral of his family friend, the sharks had begun circling like mad. The tense family situation was made even worse, not better by his plans to be there. I might have said something to him, but it didn't really seem to matter.
They were dead, not alive for another fifteen or twenty years like they should be.
No matter what was said at the funeral, no matter what Brian had tried to whisper to me, or anyone else for that matter, no one could change the fact that my coming back in time had changed things, and now my sister and mother were dead far sooner than they should ever be. All I'd wanted at first was to make my family situation better, but I'd torn them apart and now the two most important of them were dead, dead, dead.
Brian, the lover I'd never had in my first life was suddenly a cheap consolation prize to having my mother and sister. Sure, it was great how he loved me and I loved him. Yeah, he'd made me so happy in our relationship that I'd never believed such love and commitment were possible, but I'd still trade him in a heartbeat to have Mom and Jenny back.
Or would I?
That was maybe the most painful part, the part that always shrieked even harder when I thought about trading him for either or both of them. When I thought of losing him like they were now lost, I wept even harder, and I realized that I didn't know if I really would give him up if God appeared before me and said 'choose'. That only made me feel guiltier, because the first time I couldn't think of anyone I wouldn't have given up for just one more day with Mom or with Jenny and her kids.
Now, I couldn't think of anyone I'd really give up for them, and it felt like I was betraying their memory.
The section of the funeral home reserved for family had five long pews that could each fit twenty people. They were all full, and the four hundred seats in the main part of the chapel were full as well. In the back of the room, cameras stood, catching everything. I hadn't wanted them there, but it was Nanny calling the shots and she wouldn't say no to anything that had to do with honoring her favorite daughter. She'd spoken kindly to Mr. and Mrs. Reagan when they arrived, but still had yet to say a word to me, her gaze going stony every time she saw me.
She was sitting on the first pew as I was, with Dad and Grandma in between us. Nanny had Papa with her, as well as all her surviving children. Uncle Billy was there in his Air Force Dress Uniform. He was an E-8, and had been in Turkey when Mom died. There had been no delay in his notification by the Red Cross, and somehow a direct flight from Ankarra to Washington had appeared to take him back to the States. He'd arrived an hour before the funeral started, tired, but present. Uncle Junior had driven up as well, along with Aunt Christine, her husband Phil (another preacher who was shooting death glares at Brian and me), Aunt Fern, Aunt Fran, and Aunt Priscilla all surrounded Nanny like a ring of steel. Dad had his older sister Carol next to him and Grandma, and Aunt Bev was at the end of the first row, but she actually sat next to President Reagan. She had ran over dad's foot as they arrived at the funeral home and were let into the family area by the Secret Service and placed herself right next to us after demanding I come and give her a hug.
She had vitality about her that nothing could ever suppress, and had regaled the President with stories about the trouble she and mom had gotten into during High School, and in the years since then. When he asked about how she'd ended up in the wheel chair I'd almost winced, because I knew that she'd begin her push for seat belt laws. She hadn't been wearing one that foggy morning in 1974, and a cement truck hitting her while she was at a stop sign had thrown her through the windshield, breaking her neck as she hit the sidewalk. A seatbelt would have kept her from serious injury, and she never hesitated to let anyone know it.
And hey, why not mention it while you're at your sister-in-law's funeral, who died despite wearing a seat belt when a drunk driver smashed into her RX-7?
The rest of the family section was rounded out with the twenty-four cousins from both sides of the family, sixteen great-aunts or uncles, and second or third cousins filled the remaining spots. Out in the main chapel, most of my friends, their families, mom's boss and her co-workers, and other friends like Dr. Grayson had shown up sitting in the front rows. Most of the other people I recognized as members of various churches my father had once been a preacher for, or others who could claim some type of connection to mother.
All of them had been searched for signs, noisemakers, or other type of disturbance-creating devices as well as weapons.
Still, the noise from outside the funeral home occasionally threatened to intrude on the service that was underway inside. On one side was the Reverend Fred Phelps, with his group of ultra-fanatical churchgoers. These were the folks who had protested such funerals as Ryan White, Mathew Shepherd, and even President Reagan himself in my original timeline. They had the most tasteless and evil signs I could ever remember seeing and I could only guess what theirs said now because the Secret Service had not driven the limousine anywhere near where they were protesting.
They were joined by more church groups forming a cordon of more people outside than were inside. I didn't need to see their signs to know what they said though, my cousins had whispered about them enough until stern looks from the President of the United States had made them shut the fuck up. I could feel Brian sitting stiffly by me, not reaching out to hold my hand or otherwise comfort me, unsure if I'd reject the offer again. Nancy Reagan was made of sterner stuff, though, and her hand rested on mine in a grip that defied me to try to escape from it. Instead, I just reflected on what the cousins had said the signs were saying.
"God's Judgment On Homosexuals: Christmas Day Death"
"See What Happens To Those Who Support Homosexuals?"
"Gays: See what God Demands of Your Family?"
"Death for Homosexuals and Their Family: God's Plan at Work."
"Christmas Day Miracle: Homosexual Supporters Die."
There were probably dozens more like those, but they had been enough. I seethed inside at the thought of that. It had been a stupid accident! A stupid drunk driving accident like hundreds of others on the same day, but it had been MY mom and MY sister, and they weren't supposed to die. They were supposed to live, but I'd changed time, I'd changed history, and now they were dead.
"Dearly beloved, family and friends, we are here today to pay our final respects..." I barely noticed as the Chaplain began speaking, only the change from music drawing my attention before it faded again into introspection. Here I was, a man given a chance only two others had ever been given, and what had I done with it besides get my mother and sister dead earlier than they should have been?
Sure, there was all the national security stuff, the AIDS crap, and all that, but my mother and sister were now dead. I hadn't even been as close to them in this life as I had been in my other life. I spent more time with my friends, especially Brian, than I had with them, and I'd fooled myself into believing I really was doing the best thing? How could I have been so wrong? A nagging bit of doubt made me wonder about those signs outside and how much truth they might hold. Was this a message from God that I was using my knowledge for the wrong things? Was I corrupting Brian, changing the path of history to suit my opinion of what gay rights should have been and was I wrong to do that? Why were they gone when they should be here?
It was only the President and Mrs. Reagan standing, pulling me gently along with them and Brian that told me it was time to view my sister and mother's cold dead bodies one last time. I had a pale pink carnation for mother, and a deep red, barely blooming rose for my sister's casket, but I barely looked inside as I placed them in each, following Nanny and Papa as they led the way. The brief glimpse of each of their faces I got was nothing but a cold recrimination for my failure to keep them alive longer.
"Ma'am, would you do me the honor of riding with us to the cemetery?"
I heard President Reagan say to Nanny as we returned to the family section and
watched the people file by. Bev stopped as she used her electric wheelchair
to resume her place, her arm shooting out to brush my cheek in support, but
it barely made any impact, the same as Nanny's silent nod of acceptance for
the President's offer. I wanted nothing but to be somewhere other than where
I was, in some other world, or wonderfully, numbly drunk.
"You daughter was a very beautiful young woman." President Reagan said to Nanny as the limousine waited for the caskets to be brought to the pair of hearses. From here we could see some of the counter-protesters who had formed up opposite those claiming my mother's and sister's deaths were God's judgment on any who would support homosexuals.
"Yes she was." Nanny said resolutely and then stared at him for a moment. "I didn't vote for you the first time, I didn't vote for you this last time either. My family has been Democrats for a long, long time. I still appreciate you being here."
"It was the least I could." Reagan said with a slight laugh while Nancy smiled.
"I see where both Davey and his mother got their outspokenness from." Nancy said as she smiled. "Davey's told us you're a very... strong-willed person and that he credits you with developing his own stubbornness."
"He's a lot like his mother, in some ways." Nanny said, finally looking at me with something other than anger or resentment. "I still think if he'd behaved differently my daughter would be alive, though, and my granddaughter."
"We seldom know what is around the corner." Nancy said as I winced from the mental pain Nanny's words caused.
I didn't pay any more attention to whatever they were talking about; instead I stared at the protestors I could see from the window. Brian's hand found mine, but mine was limp in his grasp, not returning the small show of support he gave. He gave up after a minute and put his hand back in his lap after giving me a short, hurtful look. I didn't really care, though, because I was too busy thinking about how right Nanny was in her comment.
"...what happens with Davey now?" My attention did return with the sound of Nanny's voice dropping to almost a whisper as she spoke that sentence. While the President answered her, my attention drifted off. I already knew the answer.
"Davey has been preliminarily adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Rush." The
President said. "His mother's will stipulated that she wanted them to have
"Is he going to change his name?" Nanny asked and I couldn't tell if she wanted me to or not.
"Is that what you want, Nanny?" I asked her sharply and she looked at me sternly for a moment.
"Manners, Davey." President Reagan chided me gently and I blushed.
"Sorry, Mr. President." I said softly. "Nanny, do you want me to change my name?"
"It doesn't matter what I want, does it?" Nanny said a little sharply. "You'll do whatever it is you decide to do. You've shown that over the last few years. I was just wondering if you were going to cut off the rest of your family forever."
"Do you even want me around?" I asked with some bitterness and was surprised to see tears in her eyes.
"Davey, I would like to see you once in a while." She said softly, a single tear running down her cheek while Papa just grunted. For him that was a long statement.
"I...I'll be sure to come by once in a while, and for the holidays." I said softly and she held her arms out to me. I collapsed into the hug gratefully and we cried together for what must have been several minutes.
"Davey, I don't like the choices you have made, but it's your life." Nanny said, looking over my shoulder at Brian. "I...I guess they could have been worse. When you come visit, bring your friend. I'd like to get to know him."
"We can talk football." Papa muttered grudgingly and I gave him a nod. For him that was like a long hug. I got myself back together, tugged the dark suit jacket back into place and returned to my seat between the Reagans. Brian had tears in his eyes and this time when he gripped my hand I squeezed it once before letting my grip grow slack.
The coffins were being brought out.
Jenny's was a darker shade of pink than Mom's and was about the same size. In my mind's eye, I saw the memory of a cheaper coffin followed by two smaller coffins of her children and tears started streaming down my cheeks again. It was all too much and I felt completely overloaded. I didn't want to continue, could see no reason why I was still here when they were gone, and I slipped further into despair despite the words Nanny had spoken a few minutes ago.
They were probably just her grief talking and she didn't mean them.
As the convoy pulled out, I was slightly surprised to see the number of people lining the streets as we passed by. The President didn't often come here, okay, he'd never been here before, so despite the fact it was a funeral, they still came out to see him. It reminded me of just how much in the public eye we were, and there were a few of the signs that had been in front of the funeral home lining the streets.
There were also signs sending some message of support as well. If I'd bothered to count, I'd have probably realized there were more showing support than derision, but I wasn't in the frame of mind to accept that despite the little nagging voice in the back of my head. I don't think Nanny really noticed them either. Every time she looked out the window and saw one of the negative signs she'd frown in my direction.
The graveside service was smaller, limited only to family and the closest of friends. The single row of seats waiting by the gravesides was so few that they severely limited who could sit down. Grandma and dad had said without reservation they wouldn't be here, so it was just Mr. and Mrs. Reagan, Nanny, Papa, myself and Brian who sat down. Aunt Bev was there as well, and had her wheelchair next to me while Brian sat on my right, with the Reagans on his other side and Nanny with Papa bringing up the far side.
The pallbearers brought the two caskets under the canopy and I held back tears. Here, cameras were close enough to do close-up shots of our faces, and reminded of the demeanor of Nancy at her husband's funeral, I struggled to keep myself under control. Aunt Bev moved her arm over so that it rested on mine, and I drew strength from that touch. Perhaps more than any other in my family, I knew she loved me as unconditionally as my mom and sister had, and that was a comfort.
My uncles from Mom's side of the family, both her brothers and brothers-in-law, carried Mom's casket. Our male cousins carried Jenny's casket and both sat down perfectly on the waiting bower. As the pallbearers stepped back to line the edge of the canopy, the Chaplain began the typical graveside service with words I didn't need to hear to know. Then, Aunt Christine began to sing Amazing Grace again and I was taken back to that other funeral and had to fight back even more tears.
When it was time to say goodbye, I rose first and went to Jenny's coffin, running my hand over it slowly as I placed another rose there. "I'm so sorry, sis." I whispered softly, knowing the cameras wouldn't catch the words but they'd catch the lip movement. Then I bent to kiss the casket in one last farewell and moved to Mom's.
This was so much harder for me and I nearly lost control of my tears. They still trickled down my cheeks, but at least I wasn't sobbing or wailing like I wanted to do. Instead, I just stared at her coffin and touched it several times as I fought for the words to say goodbye. They wouldn't come out, I realized, because they were things that needed to be said to others, not to her. I bent to kiss the coffin and before anyone else could move, I strode over to the podium where the chaplain had been speaking. I could see the cameras pointing at me and I hesitated, taking a deep breath as everyone stared, waiting for the 'unplanned' speech I was about to give.
"I..." My throat clogged up and I had to clear it before speaking. "I would like to thank all of you who came out to join the family in paying our last respects to my mother and my sister. Losing loved ones is difficult at any time of the year, at any age, and I appreciate all those who have joined us in our grief, offered their support, and who have prayed for us in the last few days. Your thoughts, your best wishes, and your condolences are all appreciated.
"I never wanted, or expected, some of the things that have happened over the last few days as we've made the arrangements for this funeral. I never expected President Reagan to honor my family with his and his wife's presence. It truly is an honor that he would count us as his friends and I will be eternally grateful for the compassion and love they have shown over the last few days. I wish all that we had heard and seen would have been so friendly or supportive, but this is America and as much as my family or I might have wished otherwise, there is no denying that this has become a public event.
"As such, some of the... cruel statements I've seen displayed on signs are not unexpected. They may be cruel, they may be factually incorrect, and even downright disrespectful, but as my Civics teacher would point out, they are a part of the American tradition. When I thank everyone who came out today for these services, my thanks includes the people who made and carried such signs as well.
"There was one lesson my mother taught me over the last few years, and it is a lesson that I believe far too few of us learn. We had our arguments; we had our disagreements. I'm sure many of you can guess a few of the topics they were about. She wasn't happy with some things in my life, she didn't understand them, but as she told me several times she didn't need to understand them. All she needed to do was to love me, without condition, to love me and to support me in my life.
"She loved me unconditionally, and she let me know that. She didn't tell me I had to change for her to accept me. She didn't tell me she wouldn't talk to me unless I did exactly what she wanted. Neither did she just let me run loose and wild. She challenged me on why I made my decisions, she challenged me to prove I wasn't harming my friends and loved ones, and she challenged me on if I was being true to myself and what I believe God may want for my life.
"She didn't expect me to answer those questions, but she asked them anyway, and she loved me no matter if she disagreed or agreed with my answers. My sister's love was much the same, not conditioned on some preconceived ideas or anything else. Their love was there, unasked for, but never unwanted, and without condition. When I look at the bible and I read of the sacrifice Jesus made for everyone, I see that same love as mom had for me. It was without condition, ever present and never disappearing. All we have to do to claim it is to accept it. My mother and sister may be gone from this earth, but their love remains forever, and I thank them both for that."
I stepped away after that and headed off to the limousine that was waiting, not wanting to hear anything anyone might say. I could feel Brian walking quickly behind me, and mindful of the cameras I slowed down until he reached my side. We walked that way to the vehicle where an agent opened the door and we climbed inside. Brian sat across from me, not next to me, and he frowned.
"Are you mad at me?" He asked softly. "Do you think it's because of me that they died?"
"Don't be silly." I snorted and he looked hurt. "It's my fault they died, not yours. Let's not get into that, okay?"
"Well then what will we get into?" Brian's voice held a note of anger. "I try to comfort you but you push me away. You let your Aunt comfort you more than you'll let me. What the hell's wrong with me that I can't be here for you when you need me?"
"It's nothing to do with..." I started to snap angrily, but the door opened and Mrs. Reagan began climbing inside. I got up and moved to the back-facing seat and sat next to Brian, taking his hand angrily. He pulled it back quickly as the President got in. Nancy saw the interaction though.
"I think a few days away from here are going to do you both some good." Mrs. Reagan observed softly and I could only nod. This had been something they'd cooked up with the Rush family and with Brian's. We were to go back with them to their ranch until New Year's Day when they would return to Washington. I didn't want to go, but was told in no uncertain terms I'd be going. Then I'd suggested Brian didn't need to go and Tyatya had slapped me. Not a hard slap, but a clear stinging rebuke that no words could have matched.
I'd seen them slap Trevor on the cheek once since I'd been with them, and that had been when we were all scared he'd got a girl pregnant two months ago. It had been a false scare, but the two of them had been so pissed at him that Tyatya has slapped him just hard enough to sting. They didn't ground him, forbid him from the barn, or from going out with anyone; just one slap to speak volumes of what they thought, and that had been enough. Since then, Trevor hadn't resumed his bed hopping, and showed no signs of being anywhere near as promiscuous as he had been in the past.
Needless to say that after she slapped me, I no longer even thought about Brian not going. Truth to tell, I don't know why I didn't want him with me, all I knew was that I was uncomfortable with him around lately, and I knew it was partly because of my thinking about my mom's death. My emotions were so dead right now, I didn't know if I still loved him. The grief was just so strong they blanked everything out and I didn't want to find out if I still loved him because it would take away the grief.
Yeah, I knew that all intellectually, but from inside the grief it was just instinct acting, not clear, rational thought. If I'd been thinking, I'd not have said what I did at the podium just a few minutes ago. That had been totally stupid, likely pissing off the rest of my family forever, thinking I'd been talking about them.
"Well, we're here." The President's voice broke my train of thought and I realized we were at the small local airport. A Marine helicopter waited near the runway since the town was too small for an airport that could land Air Force One. Instead, we'd fly in a helicopter to San Francisco where we'd board Air Force One and fly back to Southern California. The limousine would be loaded onto a cargo plane that could land at this airport and flown back ahead of us so it would be available for the President's use in southern California as well.
There were several Presidential aides on the flight and they swarmed the President with business while I sat with Brian in the rear of the aircraft. Brian hated helicopters, especially helicopters over mountains, I soon learned because he was digging fiercely into my arm as he looked out the small, round window. I let him, not really paying any attention except to notice the pain did feel somewhat good.
It was stupid really, the Air Force One flight. It was thirty minutes long, snarled air traffic for hours all over the California coast, and I'd barely sat down before we were following the Reagans down the stairs, the ever-present media snapping pictures as we climbed into the same limousine as had taken us to the graveyard. Now it took us to the famous Reagan ranch, and I wondered what we'd be doing there.
We were shown inside and when we got to our room, we began to unpack the waiting bags in near silence. Brian was walking on eggshells, I could tell, but I couldn't bring myself to let myself care. No sooner had we started to unpack when the President poked his head in the door and nodded in greeting.
"Davey, why don't you put some work clothes on and meet me out back." He said to me in a neutral voice. "We need some more firewood so you and I will get to work."
"Yes, sir." I responded, shrugging out of my jacket immediately. Ten minutes later I was downstairs and followed a Secret Service agent out back where the President was waiting in jeans, western shirt, and an extra set of work gloves for me. Four hours later, covered with sweat in the typically warm southern California evening, we finished and I headed upstairs for a shower before dinner. Brian was nowhere to be seen until I went into the dining room for dinner. The President's children were there, along with Michael's wife.
They talked about the funeral, and about other things that I paid no attention to at all. I didn't eat much. I just moved the food around on the plate until everyone was done. Then I changed into work clothes again and the President had me move firewood into the different rooms before letting me go back up to the room. I took off my clothes, wearing just boxers, and crawled into the bed. Brian came in a few hours later and crawled silently into bed, curling up on the far side, not coming near me.
I sighed with relief and turned over to try to get some sleep.
At breakfast the President asked if I'd ever ridden a horse before. I had, in my previous lifetime and just nodded. He smiled that crooked smile of his and told me to meet him at the stable wearing work clothes. We spent all day riding the fence lines making repairs to them. Except for giving me instructions on how to do something, we didn't speak of much, and the silence seemed to help as I gave up introspection and hard thinking, instead just concentrating on keeping control of the horse and doing the work.
Yeah, I'd ridden before, but this horse was near the edge of my ability to control, and the President called her a 'well-behaved' girl.
That night I again went to bed shortly after dinner and again when Brian came in we didn't speak as he climbed into bed on the far side. I slept very little and wondered a few times if I could sneak down to get into the liquor cabinet. It was silly, really, I couldn't open the bedroom door without the Secret Service noticing.
The next morning, I spent time in the stable with one of the ranch hands taking care of the horses while the President did some meeting or another. I had no idea what Brian was doing, and hadn't bothered to ask. Every time I thought of him, the grief would get pushed aside a little and I didn't want that to happen.
It was in the late afternoon that the President showed up and told us to saddle two horses. When I'd finished helping get them saddled, he told me to mount up. He led me down a long path, and we rode for nearly an hour in silence. We reached a ridge that looked oddly familiar to me, and sat on the restive horses, watching the sun edge lower and lower towards the mountains in the distance. It was New Year's Eve, and a brand new year would begin tomorrow.
"I think this is where I want to build my Presidential Library." He said softly after the sun had inched lower towards the horizon. His words made a click in my brain and I realized why this vista looked so familiar.
"You will, and this is where your final funeral service will be held." I said softly, not really thinking it might offend him to hear of his funeral. "It was in 2004, and this whole area was covered with seats and a stage. Your state funeral had been in Washington earlier in the day, and this was the end of the week-long state funeral. Your kids stood up on that stage, with the sun setting behind them and they talked about you as a man, a father, and friend. After that was over, they set up your coffin where it'd be entombed near the entrance, I think, and Nancy said her final goodbye. She'd been so beautiful, so strong and graceful and I think that was the closest she came to breaking down, when she kissed the coffin and whispered something like 'I can't believe it's over'. Your kids were at her side. I don't think since Jackie Kennedy had we really seen a woman with her strength and dignity in those moments. A lot of the people who made fun of her now had to be feeling shame for the way they spoke about her after that. I think that was when I realized just how much your relationship with her was one of love, not politics or anything else. Anyone who saw her there couldn't help but believe she loved you with all her heart. They showed specials she'd done while in the White House and when the library was built. I remembered thinking she'd just been the 'good wife' at the time, but after seeing the funeral and then watching those things again, it was obvious she was being genuine in her love for you."
"Like the unconditional love you spoke about with your mother." The President pointed out and I had to nod in agreement. "What did Nancy do after my death?"
"After a few months she started making some public appearances, speaking on a few issues including research into Alzheimer's." I answered softly.
"So she moved on with her life, past the grief?" He asked and I nodded. "I have to wonder how she did that if she loves me so much. I'd think the grief would be almost overpowering."
"I get the point." I said sourly and he looked at me long and hard.
"Young Brian is thinking maybe you don't love him as he loves you, unconditionally." The President pointed out as he turned his horse back towards the ranch. I followed slowly, hoping he'd just drop the point when I didn't respond. "He's been talking with Nancy, and with Ron a lot, trying to understand why you won't let him near you."
"We sleep in the same bed." I said sourly.
"Do you?" He asked me. "You can sleep in the same bed with a total stranger if it's necessary. It doesn't mean you're actually with them, emotionally or spiritually. You're closing him out of your life right now, and it's hurting him. I believe it's hurting you too, isn't it?"
"That's the problem." I said softly. "It doesn't hurt as much when he's there."
"That's what's called being 'comforted', Davey." The President said with a chuckle and we rode for a few minutes in silence. "I still remember the grief I felt when I lost my own parents. It was all consuming, and when I was being comforted, it hurt less. I resented that for little bit, that someone could take away the grief. It was almost as if they were taking away part of my parents. They weren't though, they were sharing with me something my parents themselves did: love."
"I know." I said miserably, hanging my head.
"Then why don't you let him share his love with you?" The President asked me sharply and I looked at him hard. I realized he was...angry. "That young man loves you as much as Nancy loves me. I can see it every time he looks at you, and I can't believe the hell you're putting him through if you already know what I'm trying to tell you. Are you that self-centered of a man?"
"I was, once." I admitted with some shame and saw him nod in understanding. He was right, I was being so self-centered about this. It was my grief and it was supposed to be all-consuming, so that it ate me up, or so I had been thinking. I also remembered the destructive road that had led me down the first time, and inside I felt some things shift, change subtly. The grief was still there, but for the first time I felt my love for Brian shining through like a gentle rain in the middle of summer, falling into parched land that needed it badly. I gently urged my horse on faster, suddenly wanting to see him again.
Mr. Reagan didn't say anything, just kept pace and we managed to get back just as the last light from sunset was fading from the sky. I had to resist the urge to just run off and leave the horse untended, but the President's firm gaze told me I wasn't going to get away with that anytime soon. So I unsaddled the horse, gave her a quick rub down and put her into her stall before taking off towards the house. It only took one question of a Secret Service agent to find out where Brian was and I hurried to the television room where he was watching some movie. He looked up when he saw me and I saw the sad resignation in his eyes that followed his seeing me and my heart broke. I ran across the room and fell to my knees, wrapping my arms around his waist and burying my head against his chest in a fierce hug. His surprised arms wrapped around my shoulders and I sensed Ron Reagan, the son, stand up and leave the room quietly while Brian hugged me back fiercely.
"I'm so sorry, Bri." I said softly, trying not to cry.
"Why'd you push me away?" Brian asked. No recriminations, no real anger, just a hurt tone and request for an explanation.
"I was being selfish." I said, trying to explain it right. "I wanted to hurt because Mom and Jenny were dead, and you made me feel better. I didn't want to feel better, I wanted to be angry and sad and all depressed, but whenever you were there I couldn't be that way. You kept on making me want to smile, to sigh with relief and to thank God you're here for me. I didn't want that, I wanted to be miserable because despite everything else I've done, I couldn't keep them alive. It's not my fault some damn drunk killed them, but I wanted to feel bad and you wouldn't let me do that just by being there."
"That has got to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard you say." Brian muttered with a laugh, hugging me tighter. "You had to be thinking all fucked up if you wanted to hurt when you didn't have to feel that way."
"If I'm all crushed by pain I can't be expected to do anything." I muttered softly.
"Ah, and now?" Brian asked quietly.
"Brian, will you love me now and forever, please?" I asked him softly. "Will you make me feel better when I hurt, and let me do the same?"
"Yes, always." He whispered and I smiled as I stood. There were tears on my cheek, but my chest wasn't heavy with grief. Instead, something was stirring and I didn't care if we would be late for dinner.
"Hey, there's something I need to show you upstairs." I said to him softly, hoping my eyes were twinkling like I wanted them to do right now. They must have because he smiled seductively.
"I have something to show you too." He said as he stood up, taking my hand. "Maybe we can play show and tell?"
"How about tell and show?" I countered, whispering into his ear as we hurried upstairs with our arms wrapped around each other. "I'll start, I want to kiss the head of your cock, will you show it to me?"
"Race you there." Brian said loudly as he took off towards the room. I was right behind him and we made a lot of noise when we slammed the bedroom door and began to undress each other while our lips got reacquainted.
As with all my stories, E provides immeasurable input, grammar checking, and all those other lovely editing thingies that make the story so much better!
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