Don't Tell Me
Author: Everly Dawn
Status: First part of a four part series.
Category: Rlationship, Romance, Slash
Rating: NC-17 (maybe…not really graphic at all)
Summary: Byers is acting strangely.
Archive: No- Ask Me
Disclaimers: These characters are not mine, (yada yada yada) I’m just playing with them a little; until Chris Carter and whoever else who dictates their lives gives them the “recreation” time they deserve. You know the drill… borrowing them for a while, well I promise I’ll dust them off and return them to their rightful owners when I’m done…no harm done. The song Lyrics are from Madonna’s song “Don’t Tell Me” (which incidentally is where the title came from too)…I don’t intend any copyright infringement on that either.
Notes: This is a first time LGM Fanfic post, I thought of it while working on my website. I happened to be looking at a particular picture of Byers while listening to Madonna’s Song “Don’t Tell Me”…it just sparked a thought and blossomed from there. Many thanks go to J. D. Rush for a lot of helpful comments, encouragement, and for putting up with my horrible grammar and punctuation! And I also wouldn't feel right if I didn't mention Surreal for letting me use her as a test subject and Yankeestarbuck for her encouragement and brainstorming with me when I was stuck. I hope you all like it… please E-Mail any Comments Questions or General Feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m sitting in the dark in John’s room, arms crossed, alone, tear streaks down my face, and I’ve never felt this horrible and wonderful at the same time in my whole entire life.
*How did I get here?*
The last few days have been so crazy; I don’t even remember all of the details. I guess it started a long time ago for Byers, but for me, it was only a few days ago that I started to notice…stuff… I guess that is what you’d call it. He started to act so totally weird, and it blew me away. I’ve known John for years, or at least I thought I did. Sometimes (over the years) I wondered why he was with us, which just goes to show how stupid I can be. How ironic is that? I can hack into anything on God’s green earth, steal classified government information, and get back out without being noticed, but I can’t get into my friend’s head to see what’s going on in there…it was right in front of my nose and I didn’t see it coming. Shit, I really blew it this time.
I know now Byers couldn’t possibly belong anywhere else. He’s a part of me whether I like it or not, part of what brought me from the “hippie freak” with basically no future, to Langly…one of the Lone Gunmen, on a mission of Truth and Justice! He’s given me so much, selflessly and with all his heart. After years of feeling lost, and out of control, I have an anchor now, something to hold me in this world instead of spiraling out into my self-induced insanity. I’ll never be able to repay him.
Oh God, I can’t believe this is happening. I screwed up so bad… again…Why do I always hurt the people I love? Humph…that word sounds so...formal…But it’s the only word I can use. It’s the only one that can even start to show what I saw last night in my friend’s eyes. Ohhhh…. Those eyes, I can’t think about them anymore, I almost didn’t get out of the ocean of blue the first time, and the memory is just as deadly.
Ha ha. Love--the silent killer! Only, I must admit it wasn’t too silent this morning. No there was a lot of yelling, and for once it wasn’t me yelling. Byers gave it to me good, I deserved it, I was an asshole if there ever was one… and I’m shaking now just thinking about…
He…hit…me… Where the hell did all this come from?
I’m remembering details now. A few days ago I was just surfing the net, relaxing for a while after a long day of work when I glanced over at the security camera monitor. I don’t know what made me look, I usually don’t pay any attention to the inside cameras we use to watch out for each other, there isn’t really any need most of the time. Our security is so tight, there was only once someone actually had the balls to infiltrate us…and that was Yves. (The bitch!)
But anyway where was I? Geez, I’m so easy to distract! I hate that about myself, oh yeah I remember…I noticed on the screen. There was something covering Byers’ camera. That was strange for him as he usually doesn’t care. It’s just us three, after all. I wouldn’t have worried much--actually at the time I snickered… thinking maybe the narc had gotten a streak of shyness or something while he was changing to go to bed. It’s when I heard the moan from his room that I worried. It wasn’t the kind of moan you ignore, not the kind you look the other way because of privacy. No, it was a painful moan, one that struck fear in my limbs. I got up and practically ran to his room, not pausing to knock even though I should have. I was so worried that all common sense flew out the window.
As soon as I entered I knew I should have knocked. There he was, on his bed, curled up in the fetal position facing away from me. Well, I must have gasped or something--I really wasn’t expecting anything like this--‘cause he jumped about a foot off his bed and frantically tried to cover himself. It was pointless though; he was shaking so much he couldn’t make his hands work. I rushed over to him, picking up his robe on the way and draped it over him. Then I walked around the other side of the bed to face my friend.
He looked at me, and I think my heart stopped. I don’t know what happened but for a second I could have sworn I died or I entered a different plane of existence. The pain in his eyes was clearly evident but it wasn’t physical pain. I didn’t know what was going on, but I had to find out. However, just as quickly as he glanced at me he immediately looked away with an almost embarrassed quality.
“What’s wrong, Byers?” I asked. I didn’t get a reply…he just groaned like it was all he could do not to lose it and break down into a sob right there. I tried to calm him down by rubbing my hand on his arm, but it seemed the more I tried the worse he got. A shudder ripped through his body then and finally, he did start to sob.
“Just stop Langly, stop touching me damnit!” he growled out. So I stopped, and he went totally blank faced.
“Please just tell me what’s wrong. I really wanna help. What’s up with you?” I was hoping that I didn’t sound as exasperated as I felt, but I’m sure I did.
“It’s ok, I’m just not feeling well.” He said it with an exaggerated calm that made my skin crawl. I hate this Byers, the calm collected Byers, the people that really know him know that when he emerges the real Byers is screaming at the top of his lungs to get out from deep down inside. But there is really nothing you can do with the stone faced Byers, the fortress is damned near impenetrable, even to Frohike who is the best talker I’ve ever seen. He could talk a French hooker into…no I’m not going there, not now, when my friend is so obviously in pain. But what could I do? I tried the manly pat on the arm and the “hey were both guys here...” approach to see if he was just embarrassed about being sick but it didn’t work. He just looked at me, and his eyes pleaded with me to get out. So I did.
“If you need anything please say something,” I said as I left, and I closed the door.
I didn’t hear a peep from his room the rest of the night, and I lay in my bed trying to decide if that was a good thing or not. Just before I fell asleep I decided it wasn’t a good thing…not a good thing at all…
In the morning everything seemed pretty normal. I got up and lumbered into the kitchen for my customary cup of coffee. Then I headed out to the workstation. I saw Frohike and he looked worried. Oh shit, that’s not good. Then that’s when I noticed Byers wasn’t up yet. It was almost 11am—it wasn’t like him to sleep in that late, even if he was sick!
“Hey,” Frohike said with warning in his voice, “What the hell is going on with Byers? He wouldn’t talk to me this morning, he came out of his room almost naked, grabbed a cup of coffee and when I tried to ask him what was wrong he slammed the door in my face.”
I raised my eyebrow at the almost naked part--John is the most modest person I know. Hell, he probably wore a suit in the shower of the boy’s locker room in high school! He does not walk around half dressed.
“ I don’t know Frohike. While you were out last night he had the security camera covered and…” I then related the whole story to him about the night before.
“Shit,” was his only reply.
“Shit,” I agreed.
Not long after we were done talking about him Byers appeared from the bedroom more thoroughly dressed, yet still a bit more casual that usual, in his robe and slippers. Frohike and I looked at him and then at each other, not really sure what to do. The look on Byers’ face was nothing of the man we had come to know and I didn’t have a clue as to what to say. It was like looking at a stranger.
He passed me as he walked up to his workstation, cup in hand. I had a startled expression on my face that I think Frohike noticed because he looked at me questioningly. How was I supposed to tell him that I smelled alcohol in the air that traveled between me and Byers’ coffee mug?
He checked his E-Mail in silence and then looked up at me, his expression still stoic and unreadable. He then stood abruptly and, totally ignoring Frohike, walked over to where I was sitting, turned my chair forcibly and kissed me. Not just a little peck either. It was a heart-stopping kiss, forceful and needy--it quite literally took my breath away.
His mouth was pressed up to mine, slightly at an angle. His tongue was licking at my lips and didn’t wait for invitation to slip past them. The hand that wasn’t holding the coffee mug slipped behind my head to grasp my neck none to gently. It was all too fast for me to react, just wet heat, and pressure, and… scotch. I gripped the arms of my chair and held on for the brief but wild ride.
I’m not sure what was going through my head at the time but I think it was probably something along the lines of “OMIGOD! OMIGOD! OMIGOD!” Then, just as quickly as it began it was over. He straightened up, adjusted his robe that had slipped open a little, took a swig of what was in his mug and walked calmly as ever into the other room.
I was left totally astonished, in a little puddle in my chair. And Frohike…well, he was… uh…indisposed. When both of us had recovered from the simultaneous heart attacks we stared at each other for a while, trying to telepathically figure out what pod person had come and taken our friend from us. I mean, Frohike and I are not innocents. We’ve both been around the block a few times and have also seen some weird unexplainable things, but this was too weird for words!
We got up together, acting on some kind of internal prompt that we all seem to carry in common with each other. When I rounded the corner I stood and watched Byers. He was sitting on the couch, my Discman in his lap--headphones on, listening to some music. His eyes were closed, feet propped up on the coffee table, and his head was bobbing slightly to the beat. It was a strange sight really--even without being able to hear the music I could tell the beat was so totally unlike Byers, kind of fast and heavy, a far cry from the Bach or Phillip Glass stuff he usually listened to. It made me want to find out exactly what it was that he listened to when he was distressed... or drunk…or whatever it was that prompted that little display a minute ago.
Then Byers glanced up to see me standing there, a startled look in his eyes. It was as if he was hurt that he was being watched, or maybe... guilt? Before I could think about it too much, in a flurry of movement he took the headphones off, dropped the player on the couch and retreated to his room with a loud whack! of the door as it slammed shut.
I immediately picked up the headphones and listened to what he had been into. I was surprised to find my Madonna Cd playing “Don’t Tell Me”. I don’t usually listen to stuff like that but it was a present… damn…who had given it to me? Oh yeah it was John…wait…okay. All the pieces started to fall into place as I listened to the lines of the song he had been listening to:
*Don’t tell me to stop, tell the rain not to drop,
tell the wind not to blow…*
That’s one thing he and I have in common--music means something to us. It supplements our moods and expresses feelings we would never be able to express otherwise.
*Tell me Love isn’t true, it’s just something that
we do…don’t ever tell me to stop*
It was John that helped me realize that about myself. I haven’t always been all that great with thinking about myself and analyzing my feelings or why I do things. I used to just run away from what I was feeling ‘cause I didn’t understand it. I still don’t understand it most of the time but I’m not so afraid any more. Still, as I stood there listening to those lyrics, that is exactly what I wanted to do at that particular moment—RUN! But then…the next verse caught my attention.
*Tell the leaves not to turn, but don’t ever tell me I’ll learn… Take the black off a crow…but don’t tell me I have to go…Please, don’t, please don’t…please don’t tell me to stop…*
I couldn’t take it anymore… I simply slumped to my knees at Frohike’s feet and gave in to the overwhelming emotions. And for the second time that day Frohike had a heart attack as he silently crouched beside me, put a hand on my shoulder and watched me cry…
I tried my best to explain it to Frohike. He’s a great listener, and he usually understands…the problem was that I didn’t understand. Byers and I had known each other for how long now? When did he fall in love with me? Even more importantly on my mind at the time was why did he fall in love with me? I didn’t even realize Byers went that way! But me? I’m not even good looking…I’m just…I’m just me. That’s cause enough for me to run away screaming at the top of my lungs.
I was silent for hours, just sitting on the floor thinking… and I think Frohike figured out what was going on in my head cause he put a hand back on my shoulder after bringing me a glass of water. “It’s not impossible you know?” he said.
“What’s not impossible?”
“For someone to love you,” he said as he smiled down at me.
I looked at him in amazement; he must have some kind of mind reading abilities he’s never told us about.
“Yeah well, I…I don’t know what to think right now…I can’t think…it’s just a mess in there. Why didn’t he just tell me?” I gazed at Frohike with what I think was a desperate look, ‘cause that is what I was feeling--as desperate as someone gasping for air after being held under water for too long.
He sighed softly as he crouched down beside me. “You know Byers well enough to explain his behavior today. Think about it… He’s a total control freak. He probably didn’t realize he could fall in love again, and with a man to boot, and when he did come to grips with the reality that he had in fact done just that, it was that very knowledge--that he wasn’t totally in control anymore--that sent him over the edge.”
Frohike was right. His explanation made a lot of sense. Byers probably needed to control what he was feeling just as much as he needed to control what he does, and what he thinks, and what he wears. And when his normal everyday routine was interrupted by this kind of a doosie it probably sent him over the edge. The reality he was forced to deal with sent him back into his cocoon to rethink a new game plan, with a totally new situation.
Which is what had probably prompted the stranger we had seen this morning…it’s a fundamental theory: if you are at a stand still and you can’t deal with it, do something, anything, and see how the situation changes. Then maybe you’ll be able to deal with the new situation. I shivered just thinking about it. Frohike felt it too, and tightened his grip on my shoulder misinterpreting it as fear and confusion…but I knew…it was more than that. For once, I actually liked the thought of being loved.
Love was something I always distanced myself from. It was always too messy and a whole lot of trouble. Besides, I was never any good at all that romantic stuff. Most people don’t understand that underneath my piss-ant, tough but whiny computer geek exterior I hid an easily hurt, compassionate man. I needed to be loved but I hated more than anything to hurt someone I loved, which is what I always seemed to do, no matter how hard I tried not to. That part of me, the part that told me I wasn’t good enough--a fuck up-- was screaming for me to get up, pack my bags and leave, NOW! But the other part of me was babbling something about how perfect it could be, and this is just what I need, someone I already trust… someone I already know… but… I just wasn’t sure if I was ready to face the fact that it was one of my best friends that was the only one willing to love me like that. If anything went wrong it was a lose/lose situation--I’d lose love and I’d lose my friend at the same time, neither of which I had a lot of.
“Guess I’d better go talk to him huh?” I said with very little enthusiasm.
“Probably, but be careful. You’re both very vulnerable right now.”
As I stood up, brushing myself off both mentally and physically, he reached up and grabbed my hand--squeezing slightly. I smiled down at him, while trying to absorb what I felt through his touch--the bond of friendship and the hope of acceptance that all three of us yearn for. Feeling a bit more confident, I wandered off to John’s room, trying not to look like I was being sent off to the executioner. I knocked once on the closed door and, without waiting for an invitation, entered--hoping against hope that I wasn’t the executioner.
The room was totally black when I walked in. The little light that poured into the room when I opened the door left promptly after I closed it behind me. I just stood there for a few minutes listening for any kind of clue to what was going on. Then I heard Byers sniff--it sounded like he had been crying ever since he locked himself in here. I walked blindly towards the noise and stumbled a little when my knees hit the bed. I tried not to tumble over it but I wasn’t totally successful in my disoriented state. I managed to half-fall/half-sit on the edge of the bed.
After a few minutes my impatient nature won over and I had to say something. “So I take it, you’re trying to tell me something?” *Oh good going shit head…understatement of the year!* He didn’t say anything so I continued, “I think I have it figured out, but, ummm…would you like to explain it to me so that I can make sure I’m not misinterpreting you?” I was trying to be as articulate as I could possibly be. Definitely using all of my lessons from Byers in expressing myself with words, but somehow I didn’t feel like I was getting across to him what I needed to.
It was incredibly quiet in that room. I wasn’t even sure he was going to acknowledge my presence. I think it would have been easier to ignore I was even there. I was contemplating my next sentence to use in an attempt to get him talking when he finally broke the silence, “I’m so sorry.” It was only a whisper, and if I hadn’t actually been listening I don’t think I would have heard it. “I’ve screwed up,” he said. “I never meant to do this to you, ohhh Langly I’m so sorry.”
I felt sick to my stomach. The pain in his voice was so horrible and I couldn’t think of anything to say as he started rocking and muttering, “Sorry, so sorry” over and over again. Finally after a few seconds of this, I did the only thing I could think of. I took a deep breath and slid across the bed. Slowly and carefully I found his body in the tight position I had seen him in the other day, so I lay down behind him and put my arms around him.
At first I felt him tighten up even more, if that was even possible. “Is this ok?” I said, but he didn’t answer. “If it isn’t please tell me or do something to let me know.” A few moments passed. He stopped murmuring under his breath so I took that as a good sign. “Alright, I’ll take that as an ‘a-okay’. I just need to tell you a few things John, and I need you to listen. Then when I’m done I want you to spill it too, okay?”
He still just laid there tight and tense so I kept going, adrenaline and a slight touch of fear over what I was about to say, urging me on further than I normally would have gone into explaining my feelings to another person. “The last few days I have been a total jerk. I knew something was bothering you but I was afraid of what it might be so I took the easy way out and ignored it, hoped it would go away on its own …oh dammit John, you know how bad I am at this! I don’t express how I feel very well. And that’s the thing--the only reason I can, even a little bit, is because of you. God John, you have become so much a part of my life that I didn’t even realize it was happening. Sometimes I think I’m going crazy and you come into the room and prove to me that I’m not the only one! Oh wait, that’s not what I meant…what did I mean? Argh! I’m so horrible at this. I guess what I’m saying is…that it’s….” I just couldn’t go on with all this calm cool and collected stuff he had tried to teach me, so I said what came naturally and truthfully, hoping that he would get the point. “I want to know where you learned to kiss like that! Shit! That really got my attention.”
As soon as it was out of my mouth I felt him loosen a little… good I thought… finally the old Byers is coming back. And yet, I was a little sad since I didn’t want the new Byers--the Byers that loved me--to go away.
“You finished?” he said with only a slight chuckle in his voice. And with that simple action it was my friend Byers again, but this time he was leaning back a bit. It felt comfortable and strangely familiar, even though I couldn’t ever remember being in, anything even somewhat similar to this situation with him in my entire life.
“Well,” he started, and I could almost see him doing that thing with his eyebrows that he does when he is upset about something or thinking really hard about what the best way to say something would be. “I want to apologize first…and don’t say I don’t have to because I do. I should have talked to you about this when it first started, but I was terrified.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” I said quietly, as much to assure myself as to assure him.
“No, I wasn’t afraid of you. I wasn’t even afraid of your reaction--I basically knew you wouldn’t have a problem with it. I was afraid of myself, of needing, of wanting something so much…is this making any sense to you at all?”
“Yes.” And it was, it was all too clear for me. I’d felt that way all my life but I had dealt with it in an entirely different way than he had. I had myself convinced that everything I put my hand to would fail. Naturally, I felt the same way about my love life. After I failed a few times I ran away from it. I convinced myself it was to stop the way I was hurting other people, but really it was to control how awful I felt when I screwed things up. I built a wall that was easily torn down, and that’s why I always felt the need to run. John was truly amazing though. He had submersed himself in an environment where all the things he longed for were right in front of him. He developed discipline to limit himself--he developed a defense against what he couldn’t have, and what he couldn’t finish, by living with it every day and slowly building a wall that was sure to hold for all time. I can’t even imagine what that must be like.
“I just couldn’t control what I was feeling for you, Ringo. I need that control, if I lose that everything goes to hell… just like today” I felt him shiver a bit and get uncomfortable. “I don’t know what was going through my head,” he continued, “ but I basically jumped in feet first hoping that something I did would change circumstances somehow, and all I did was make things even more complicated. I’m so sorry I took advantage of you like that Langly. It was wrong, and I would understand if you never forgave me.”
I didn’t know exactly how I felt about the entire situation, but I knew I wanted back the feeling I had experienced for that split second earlier today. So I leaned up on one arm, said his name, and when he rolled over to look at me I took a chance.
This kiss wasn’t a passionate one, it was just a gentle lip lock that I hoped would express what all the words and all the music I’ve ever known couldn’t express. In the dark I could just make out a small smile curve from his lips and I mirrored his face with mine. Then I reached up and brushed the back of my knuckles over his chin.
The next thing I knew I was on my back being kissed gingerly on the cheek, along my jaw, and my neck. It was heaven. My hands seemed to move on their own volition--I had no control over what they were doing, rubbing and caressing his entire body. We were a mass of pent up energy and I could easily imagine us turning into a bright light and floating away like some celestial being at any moment, but we didn’t. Instead we continued the slow agonizing exploration of each other’s bodies.
I gasped in pleasure as our hips came in contact and I felt how aroused he was…and how aroused I was. Wow, this man made me so hot, it was totally mind boggling to think he had literally been right under my nose and I had never realized this side of him existed! Our pace started to quicken, and I knew it was now or never. I didn’t know how long he could hold out but I wasn’t going to last much longer.
I reached down to his stomach and stopped. Looking at him, I silently asked permission to go through with this next step of intimacy. With a groan he answered me by taking the initiative and reaching for my waistband. Quicker than I thought was humanly possible we both had our pants down and erections in hand, pumping franticly with an overwhelming need to please the other. It was simply glorious.
I came first, spilling into his hand, and he soon followed with a low guttural moan that I’m pretty positive Frohike couldn’t have ignored if he had tried. But I didn’t care about that. I couldn’t have cared if Frohike and the whole freakin’ world were in the room watching this right now… I was in the arms of a truly passionate man who loved me, and I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
The next morning I woke up with a distinct weight on my chest, I couldn’t breath, and there was a strategically placed wet spot on my stomach that made me grin. It wasn’t a dream… John was lying on top of me. Didn’t look like he moved at all after we collapsed last night. They never talk about this part in the movies, or in romance novels. They never talk about the damp spot that you’ve been sleeping in all night, or the fact that your one arm is asleep because your partner had slept on it all night and now it hurts like hell as it comes back to life, and they never talk about waking up feeling like you are suffocating because the weight of your lover is totally on top of you.
And yes there is also the puddle of drool on my chest. Heck, lots of people drool a little in their sleep, it’s no big deal. It’s even kind of comforting in its own way. I’ve never known anyone, especially not Byers, to be so comfortable with someone that they could drool on them and not care! And at that moment I find myself thinking of when it will be my turn to drool on him. The thought makes me chuckle and Byers wakes to find me laughing. Probably not the greatest thing to wake up to on the morning after.
“What, you think this is funny?” he said with a hurt look on his face. “You bastard! You honestly think this is funny? I can’t believe you!” I can see that he is really angry, but the misunderstanding is just all the more funny to me and I continue to laugh harder and harder until he’s getting out of bed furiously. I try to get up to tell him I’m not laughing at the situation or him but it’s so hard to not laugh as I look at his state of dress. It’s so unlike him…his hair is all ruffled, his robe is hanging almost completely open, and his underwear is down around his knees. I just can’t stop myself from laughing….until…he hits me…..
I tumbled to the floor, totally dazed and more than a little off balance. I immediately stop laughing and put a hand up to my face. Wow, he doesn’t look like he could, but man does he pack a punch!
“OW! What did you do that for?” I ask, but he ignores me and by the time I get to my feet he is already dressed and out the door of the bedroom. “Byers,” I whine, “Where are you going…it was only a misunder…” and he turns around abruptly… pointing a finger in my face.
“Listen,” he said, “if you think this is so damned hilarious maybe you should find someone else to play with.” And with that he walked out the door of HQ.
I was totally in shock. I just wandered around for a while, finally ended up back in his bedroom, the blinds drawn, the lights off, and with everything in my head screaming, ‘You did it again you asshole! You did it this time. How can you be so stupid to think something like this could last? You always screw it up sooner or later.’ The tears started rolling down my cheeks and I couldn’t stop them. I hate crying, but it was a small price to pay for the hell I had just put my friend though.
Oh God, What am I going to do?
I’m the dark one the other two know very little about. They think they know who I am and what I want--God bless them, but how could they know? I’ve spent my entire life hiding this part of myself. It wasn’t easy being the smallest kid in grade school, with no real social life to speak of. It was a given that I kept my softer side hidden, no one would have understood--especially not my parents. I grew up during that time when guys didn’t cry and they absolutely did NOT admit they had feelings--it was the ultimate ‘secret’.
I don’t know how the guys would react if they knew my occasional rendezvous was to a poetry reading at some ‘open all night’, prominently gay, coffee shop. Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit. They are younger and grew up in a more forgiving age, but I haven’t had the urge to tell them the truth, and they haven’t ever asked. I don’t feel like I’m betraying them with misinformation or anything…at least not a whole lot. Let them think whatever the hell they want. When I say I’m going out, it’s not a lie. In the meantime I try to enjoy myself even if I do feel like a sneak a lot of the time.
I’ve made lots of friends at The Café. Yeah, that’s the name of the place. Not very original, but the owner told me once what he was going to name it, and I’m very glad he didn’t! I don’t think I would have set foot in a place called ‘Prrrr-fectly Caffeinated!’ Actually, I KNOW I wouldn’t have come in here, if it hadn’t been for my temper. I had been walking around aimlessly at to blow off some steam. Can’t seem to remember why I was so angry, but I decided I needed some coffee and I was tired of walking. Then, voila, there it was, with the pink neon sign and everything. I’ve been a regular ever since.
It feels great to sit at ‘my’ table sipping some damned good coffee and listening to truly inspired poetry. I am almost completely at ease, and that doesn’t happen very often anywhere outside these walls.
Anyone can go up and read; it’s always open mic. Some of the poetry is original, others are just favorites of the people who attend. I’ve even thought about going up to read a few times--never have though. Guess even through all of this I’m still too paranoid to risk attracting attention to myself. Sure, like a man my age, decked out in black and a leather jacket, doesn’t stick out in a group of college students and businessmen anyway.
That’s something else I like about the place. The clientele don’t really care who you are or if you have a past--everyone is basically comfortable with shooting the breeze. It’s a very friendly and sedated atmosphere. I’ve made a lot of friends here. The kind of friends you don’t feel obligated to, though. We each have our own lives and don’t really think of each other as close enough to invite over to our house to watch the game or anything so chummy--just acquaintances.
Believe it or not, I met most of those friends because I’m one of the few guys who come here that isn’t gay. Yeah, at least four of the guys in my immediate circle are there now because of a failed attempt to pick me up. We get a kick out of the occasional newcomer who asks to buy me a cup of coffee. I usually smile and thank them after explaining I’m kind of the representative of the heterosexual community. ‘I’m only here for the coffee and poetry’ is usually all it takes to get the message across politely.
The younger, more inexperienced kids get all red in the face and stammer. It’s quite amusing, and I have to stifle a giggle or two, as do my friends sitting with me. The older gentlemen usually apologize and calmly move on. I’m not really certain why they feel they have to apologize though--it’s not as if I’m not flattered. The way I look at it, I should be thanking them. They’re giving me a compliment, why would I be upset or angry?
These days I don’t get many of those kinds of compliments. Especially not the kind that says ‘Hey, you look like a guy I’d like to get to know better’. Let’s just say looks have never been my strong suit. And even though I don’t have all that much experience within this area, I think I can appreciate from both sides, how extremely difficult it is to muster up the nerve to talk to someone you are interested in--male or female--definitely something I admire.
Yeah, you heard right, male. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve dabbled a little. Hell, if I’d have realized I would be as popular as I am with the men here I might have tried a little harder to live the lifestyle. I always say, 'don’t knock it till you’ve tried it' and I make a point to practice what I preach. That isn’t saying anything was particularly bad during the experimentation time of my youth--it just wasn’t for me.
I think part of the reason I didn’t go for it so much was that I knew it would turn into just one more thing I had to hide and I had enough things lurking in my closet. If I had let on I was having sexual relationships with men, on top of liking poetry and getting emotional over things like when Bambi’s mother died, all hell would have broken lose. I didn’t need the threats and glares I undoubtedly would have received from the community I lived in.
Eventually, through all the deception and self-exploration, I came to a conclusion. At this point in my life I could take or leave a relationship of any kind. Over the years, I’ve become pretty open to all walks of life and comfortable with the choices I’ve made--good and bad. I don’t want to say I’m past all that when I talk about my sexual experiences, because that makes it sound like it was a mistake of some sort, but I think I’ve found things in my lifetime that make me happier, and things that make me proud of who I am.
I don’t understand my appeal, at least on the outside. I’m not very good looking--not the way Byers or Mulder are, and I’m okay with that. Even Langly is attractive in his own skinny-assed way. They all have that sort of youthful fervor that I lost long before they met me. Byers has intelligence, impeccable manners, and he practically oozes chivalry--not to mention a slight feeling of mystery about what is under that straight-laced bodice of his. And let me tell you, there’s more under there than most people would think, including a never ending source of sarcasm and a truly evil practical joker.
As for Langly, it makes me sick how easily he can pick up a girl. Not saying any of these girls would have the intelligence to figure out how to use an electric pencil sharpener--don’t get me started on the Freudian implications of that one--but the point still remains, his success rate is sickening. Along with the characters of these girls, I have major reservations as to if the boy has an inkling of what to do with them after he’s trapped ‘em. Somehow, I doubt he’s ever actually been laid, even with all other evidence. From the accounts he’s given me about his past, it’s highly probable he was laid once, and just doesn’t remember because he was drunk--kinda makes me feel sorry for the punk.
At any rate, ‘bout the only thing I have over the guys is a way with words. Langly seems to limit himself to grunts and curses most of the time, save the occasional, ten-minute spiel about something technology or conspiracy related. And Byers has the brain, but he doesn’t have the brawn behind his words to carry it out. He knows what he wants to say but somewhere in the path from his heart to his head, and out his mouth, it gets jumbled.
I, on the other hand, have a lot of practice at this sort of thing. I had to defend myself lots of times, especially in high school when the big jocks thought it was cool to pick on people smaller then them. And since I’m not exactly a mountain, I learned real quick the power of words.
And speaking of words, the poetry that night was pretty boring and uneventful. After about four cups of coffee and numerous readings, which didn’t enthrall me in the least, I decided I had better get home. We had a deadline soon, after all, and I needed my rest. So I said goodbye to my friends and we made a date for the next night. Apparently there was a spectacular reader expected and they want to make sure I’d be there. Waving my goodbyes to a few people in the back I stepped out the door and started my walk back to the HQ. It’s a pretty long walk, but the night was warm and I need the exercise, not to mention the caffeine buzz I was experiencing. I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep for a week--guess that wasn’t exactly a new feeling, actually comes in handy when deadlines are fast approaching.
When I arrived at our door, I turned the locks as quietly as I could. Subconsciously I thought, Byers is probably asleep in his room already or sacked out on the couch with a book. When I opened the door, though, I was surprised to find Byers at his workstation typing something into a message box. That in itself was strange, let alone the vampire-ish hour. Byers isn’t usually a ‘late to bed late to rise’ kind of person. Plus, he doesn’t use the instant messaging program much. Every now and then he’ll use it to talk to a contact, but only if he absolutely has to, and never at this time of night! I guess it’s a hatred of pop culture or something, damned if I know. He gravitates toward books and classical music for entertainment more than anything else.
“What are you up to?” I said, patting him on the shoulder as I walked over to stand behind him. I listened for a response but all I got back was a grunt and the sound of keys tapping again.
“Where is Langly?” I tried again.
“Don’t know,” he replied flatly without turning from the screen.
The air was thick with a tension I had never before felt around Byers. I quickly assessed the situation and I could tell, by the agitated way he was rubbing his right palm across the fabric covering his thigh, I wasn’t getting any more information out of him.
“Well, I’m going to bed,” I announced and turned on my heel toward my room… nothing, not even a simple ‘okay’ came from his mouth… strange for the man who could recite the book, word for word, on proper conversational etiquette.
On the way to my room I stopped in the kitchen to deposit a few bottles of J&B in one of the top cabinets. I picked them up on the way home, it never hurts to have some on hand, plus I’ve been meaning to have Mulder over--haven’t seen him for a while. It didn’t take me long to grab the kitchen chair and hide them--behind the food. No one else cooks around here but me so I figured it was a pretty good hiding place. After putting the chair back I continued on my original path to my bedroom. I stopped in front of Langly’s door. It was cracked slightly and I could hear soft snoring if I held my breath to listen intently. For some reason that sound comforts me.
Continuing to my room I thought, somewhat sadly, how strange that feeling of comfort felt. Since I joined up, or shall I say, was thrown in, with the group now known as ‘The Lone Gunmen’, I’ve been pole-vaulted into the ‘father’ role. I don’t think Byers and Langly realize I look after them. Well, we all look after one another in regards to safety--what kind of friends would we be if we didn’t? What I’m talking about is above friendship. I have had to force myself not to treat them like my own sons sometimes. Our ages aren’t so far apart that I could blame it on social cues. It’s just an instinct I guess. More than once I’ve had to fight the urge to suggest they eat more vegetables, or to put on a jacket and hat on a chilly evening. It’s kind of absurd how I cluck over them sometimes, and the feeling of responsibility I carry around with me is slightly embarrassing for my whole “manly” image. I don’t think any of us would change this part of our relationship though, whether we consciously acknowledged it or not.
All three of us have been so incredibly in tune with each other since the day we met, I don’t think any of us knows anymore where one ends and the other begins. Don’t get me wrong; we’re far from a well-oiled machine. Our relationship and working procedures are more comparable to an old favorite sweater. There may be newer, more acceptable models out there but I’m sure as hell not ready to trade this one in just yet. I like the holes and the worn spots, where it’s stretched out in all the right places. Those characteristics make it inviting and familiar…comfortable.
Realizing I had been starting off into space the entire time I was daydreaming, I sat down on the edge of my bed feeling a little embarrassed and chuckling a bit. “Crazy old fart,” I muttered to myself.
I continued to get ready for bed starting with my shoes and socks. Unfortunately, when I leaned down to untie and remove my boots I dared a glance at the clock. Bad idea. I’m getting too old to keep hours like this, and if my body hadn’t noticed the harsh reality before, then it noticed with a vengeance now. The psychological effects of realizing it was nearly made me ache and long for my pillow twofold.
After successfully removing boots and socks I levered myself off the bed and shuffled the three or four feet over to my dresser. (*Good Lord this room is small!*) I changed into my customary bedclothes--my favorite plain colored pajama pants and a T-shirt--and then sleepily sunk into my bed. Once I got comfortable I lay there restlessly. I couldn’t sleep; all I could do was think about John.
I really think something’s wrong with him. Maybe he’s getting sick or something, but that doesn’t seem likely. He’s just been in a snit lately. Granted, we all have our days. I remember Langly throwing a full-blown hissy fit not too long ago, for no apparent reason. Byers and I found out later a key on his keyboard, which had a tendency to stick, triggered the whole thing. I guess he was going crazy from being inside too long, working long hours, and being virtually cut off from the world. It happens to all of us at some point and time.
But I’m getting a feeling it’s more than that with John. Call it intuition, or whatever, all I know is he’s been acting weird for a little over a week. Nothing extremely drastic, just little things, but I’ve come to realize that any change in our friend is a scary one. He’s been sleeping in, longer and more often, in the mornings. His appetite has dwindled down to almost nothing, and he hasn’t said much about the paper. He’s usually the one who harps on us about deadlines--always reminding us that we need to get to work. It’s down right annoying sometimes. It’s only a few days till our publishing deadline and I haven’t heard one word about it. And tonight! He doesn’t stay up this late…EVER!
That’s another thing that’s bothering me--who the hell was on the computer, and why was John so taken with them? He was practically glued to the screen, intently watching for, whoever it was, to type back, and when they finally did, his fingers were a flurry of movement almost immediately. It couldn’t be a woman, could it? Ha, surely not…
It’s the subtle things that worry me the most about John, though. I know from experience with him the more he hides, the more it means he is holding in whatever it is that’s bothering him, and eventually he won’t have anywhere to put it all. I’m afraid the dam is going to burst soon, and it’s not going to be pretty.
My thoughts were stopped short by footsteps in the hall and three short taps on my door. “Come in,” I said.
Byers peeked around the door. I almost didn’t recognize him. His hair was all messed up, his eyes looked glazed and sad. There was a look of complete loneliness mingled with guilt on his face that made me want to walk over to him and give him a big bear hug right there. And I would have…but something stopped me. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I caught a glimpse of something unapproachable in his posture as he stood in my doorway. “I just wanted to say goodnight,” he said sheepishly.
And with that he slipped back from whence he came and padded silently away--to his room I figured--didn’t even wait for me to reply.
Definitely strange I thought, and made a mental note to ask him if he was okay in the morning.
The next morning wasn’t much different from what I had experienced the night before. I didn’t get a chance to ask him if he was alright because he was very grumpy and distant. Both Langly and I avoided him as much as possible, which wasn’t hard at all because Byers was avoiding us, too. As a matter of fact, we barely saw him at all. He kept himself locked up in his room all day with his laptop. He only came out to quickly shuffle into the kitchen, get something to drink and then he immediately retreated back to his room.
After a hard days work and more than enough weirdness from the environment around HQ, I started closing up and getting ready to go out. I was glad I had made a date with the guys at The Café--really couldn’t stand any more of this tension from Byers. Langly seemed like he could care less, even though I knew it was getting on his nerves too. I was impressed with how well he was handling it. All the talks in the past with Byers about dealing with his feelings and staying calm must be working. THANK GOD! It would be great to have a little less sniveling around here for a change.
I went to get dressed and emerged from my room 20 minutes later clad in a pair of black jeans, a dark colored T-shirt, leather vest, boots, and my trademark fingerless gloves… the guys at The Café have a fascination with those. I sometimes think they would refuse to let me in if I ever forgot them.
Langly was still plugging away at his computer, when I walked past--big surprise. “I’m going over to Mulder’s place,” I lied, “don’t know when I’ll be back.”
“All right, have fun,” he said cheerfully, but showing with body language that he couldn’t care less where I was going as long as I didn’t die or something.
Knowing Langly, he was probably under the impression I was going over to Mulder’s to watch some skin flick--to get off on my voyeuristic tendencies. I would even go as far as to say he probably imagined me getting some kind of thrill out of watching Mulder jack off beside me on the couch. But really, who wouldn’t? I doubt any man, even Langly, hetero-boy himself, would be anything but hard as a rock after witnessing another man, especially a man that looks like Mulder, with his hand in his pants.
In a way Langly is right. I’ve never hidden my predisposition when it comes to watching anything remotely sexual in nature. He’s not totally out of line thinking those things about me. I like to watch--it’s one of my kinks. Chalk it up to the fact that I didn’t get enough in high school I guess. (Hell, I still don’t get enough, but that’s a totally different story.)
But my boy Langly is wrong as well. Firstly, I’m not going to Mulder’s place. And secondly, even though I will probably see a little action tonight, the action I’m going to watch when I get to The Café is definitely not badly scripted erotic images which have been etched onto a VHS tape for all time. The things I see there, the things I ‘get off’ on, are people who aren’t so fucking paranoid that they have to look over their shoulders all the time. They are people who come to this place because it feels comfortable and familiar. They come to have coffee, make new friends, talk with old ones, and listen to poetry. Call me a hopeless romantic if you wish, but I’ll never tire of watching people arrive melancholy, and leave knowing, if nowhere else, they are welcome here any time--no question. And it doesn’t hurt either that some of those people leave at the end of the night with someone they know they can trust.
I got back late that night too, after everyone had already gone to bed. I was restless and in the mood for something a little stronger than coffee. I took one of the chairs from the kitchen table and set it next to the cabinets. “Damn my genes. I’m a grown man standing on a chair to get something out of my own kitchen cabinet! How pathetic.” I scoffed at myself. “I feel like I’m eight years old and sneaking a snack in the middle of the night or something!”
After moving assorted boxes of ramen noodles, mac and cheese, and a package of crackers that were probably eligible for an antique show, I found my secret stash of J&B. Eyeing the almost empty bottle I thought, Hmmm… someone sure put a considerable dent in this…and it wasn’t me. As I looked closer though, the considerable dent turned into almost two whole bottles of the original four I had hidden. “Well, so much for the secret hiding place.” I said to myself. Wonder who was sampling it? Langly isn’t really a big drinker, well not anymore anyway. He used to drink a lot, a big party guy. He’s been trying to stay away from it for the most part. I really admire that. He recognized the potential problem he was developing and dealt with it before it happened. If nothing else, you’ve got to admire his sheer will. There are many people who never would have been able to control themselves so thoroughly. I hope he hasn’t given up on that particular endeavor.
It couldn’t be Byers…could it? He doesn’t drink unless he really needs to loosen up. Well, on second thought, maybe it is him. But considering the amount that was gone, and the fact that he doesn’t drink that often, he would have been a little more than tipsy at times. I think I would have noticed something like that, even if he has been scarce around here lately.
I decided to do a little detective work. I walked over to the sink and inspected the two cups in it. One was a glass. Holding it up to my nose I smelled Tang--disgusting--definitely Langly’s. He’s the only one that could drink that putrid sugary stuff. The other vessel was Byers’ favorite mug. I didn’t have to get it very close to my nose to gain the proof I needed. After setting the mug back in its place in the sink, I poured myself a drink, returned the bottles to their place as well as the chair and headed to my bed thinking all the while…How am I going to broach the subject of problem drinking with Byers in the morning?
I woke up pretty early in the morning. When I looked at the clock it was around --five hours of sleep isn’t bad. It’s more than I’ve been getting lately, I thought. No one else is going to be up, and I’m going to get first shower--yeah, lots of hot water for me! I don’t mind being the only one up. It’s kind of peaceful working without distraction for a couple of hours.
I crawled out of bed somewhat slowly, after laying there for a while enjoying the silence, and made my way to the bathroom. An invigorating shower and a slightly off key rendition of ‘Dancing Queen’ started my day of well. I immediately went to the kitchen to make coffee afterward. I walked into the other room with my cup of ‘joe’, and slipped into my chair around
I love mornings alone in HQ. The hum of the machines are a familiar sound, buzzing with energy and calming all at the same time. I need this peace and quiet to write, but this morning I’m finding it hard to think about anything but John. I think I’ll ask Langly if he knows anything, when he decides to rise from the dead that is--probably not for another couple of hours.
While working on my latest column I heard someone get up. It was Byers. Seeing a chance to talk to him alone I got up and walked towards him in full intercept mode. I found him in the kitchen, pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“Mornin’,” I said cheerfully. I was hoping to get a ‘good morning’ back in response to that, but all I got was silence. I walked around the kitchen table to the counter where Byers had positioned himself over the sink with the water running. While I was standing there I did a cursory check of his appearance, more out of habit than anything. To tell the truth, he looked like shit, all hunched over the basin like he was. His skin was pale, and he looked like he hadn’t bothered to do any kind of grooming in almost a week. His choice of attire also startled me a bit. He had on a pair of light green silk boxer shorts and a white t-shirt that looked like it was a little too small for him. Our normally clean cut Byers was starting to take on a new look--kind of scruffy and very exhausted.
“You feeling alright?” I asked, as I put a hand on the back of his neck, half to see if he had a temperature, and half as an attempt to offer some comfort. He didn’t answer me.
Stiffening slightly, he turned off the water in the sink and grabbed his coffee mug off the counter. As he turned to leave I followed him towards his room. I would have followed him INTO his room if I hadn’t made a jolting acquaintance with his door by way of my nose. It gave me a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘knock on wood’.
Slightly miffed, I went back to my computer and waited for something to happen. Langly woke not long after John had slammed the door in my face, and we exchanged strange stories of last night and this morning.
The words ‘speak of the devil’ almost slipped out of my mouth when Byers entered the room mere seconds after Langly and I had finished talking about him, but I held my tongue. At least he was dressed more Byers-like now in his robe and slippers. He went to his computer to check his E-Mail and I started concentrating on my own work again. It was only when I heard a whimper come from Langly’s direction that I looked up.
The first thing that came to my mind was ‘What the Hell!’ I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was that really Byers in a lip lock with Langly? Holy Shit! I was totally flabbergasted. I’ve been surprised by these two before, but this was too much.
I sat helplessly for a few seconds, which seemed like hours, watching my straight-laced partner ruthlessly plunder the mouth of my other younger counterpart. Okay Frohike, get a hold of yourself, I chided. This isn’t a floorshow, this is a real situation, and guess what, you are going to be in charge of damage control, as usual.
While I was recovering from my heart attack and thinking I should really do something--anything--Byers straightened up abruptly, tied his robe a little tighter and casually strolled out of the room into the living room, like nothing had happened.
Langly just looked at me with blue puppy eyes that showed so much emotion they were literally clouded. Even in that few seconds when our eyes met, I was able to make out fear, confusion, and yes, a bit of excitement. Maybe ‘hetero-boy’ isn’t as innocent as I thought! That’d be something.
After a few moments of Langly and I just staring at each other, not knowing what to make of any of this, we both got up at the same time, and practically ran to the living room. When we got to the doorway though I’m stopped by the amazingly solid mass of Langly’s body. I peeked around his arm to see Byers on the couch with his feet on the coffee table, headphones on, and he looked like he was enjoying the music. He even had a faint smile on his face. This just kept getting more and more strange, I thought to myself.
Then he looked up with a startled ‘oh shit, I’m being watched’ expression and exited the room hurriedly--pushing past Langly and me. Langly immediately ran to the CD player Byers was listening to, and so unceremoniously dropped on the couch in his haste to leave. As I watched Langly with the headphones on, I felt my heart sink. With every passing minute his head dropped lower. His shoulders were next, and on through his body until I was afraid he was going to collapse. He started pacing the floor, and ended up near me when he finally did descend to his knees. He took the headphones off carefully and I could see his hands shaking; I didn’t need to see his face to tell he was crying. I quickly slipped away to get a glass of water for my distressed friend.
When I returned he looked as if he’d retreated into himself as far as he could go--arms crossed defensively around his chest, head bowed. The fact that my normally animated and boisterous friend was completely motionless and quiet made me worry.
I gave him a few minutes to collect himself before I even considered trying to talk to him. With Langly, emotions can be hard to deal with. Sometimes, he may seem like an idiot that doesn’t care about other people, but the truth is, he has a heart bigger than anyone I’ve ever known, with the exception of Byers. And knowing Langly as well as I did, I was pretty sure I had a grasp of what was going on his head. He has this idea in his head that he’s a screw up, and doesn’t deserve to be loved. He’s tried for years to brainwash himself into thinking he doesn’t need it either. Poor boy probably doesn’t have a clue how to deal with any of this. And while I was talking to him I got the impression I was right. Nothing that was coming out of his mouth made a damn bit of sense to me, but that’s nothing new. I just continued to sit with him and tried to comfort him. I figured I was still getting through to him on some level at least--even if it was only that I was still sitting there and I hadn’t abandoned him.
After a little heart-to-heart, he got the courage to go talk to John about what happened. I took his hand to help him up, but I held on to it a little longer and tighter than was strictly necessary, trying to tell him through my touch how much I cared about his happiness and that no matter what happened I’d be there for him.
He walked up to Byers’ door, and after taking a visible breath, he stepped inside. I wished him all the luck in the world, and secretly wished I could take his place, if for just a little while. I’m so much better at talking things out than he is. At least if I was the one talking to John I would be sure everything would work out--with Langly in there, anything could happen. His verbal skills have improved but he’s definitely still a beginner, and he’s absolutely no Casanova.
I settled down on the couch to watch some muted TV. If I couldn’t be in that room with them I was going to listen for any kind of clues as to what was going on. After about a half an hour I got my answer in the form of something that I can only categorize as an incoherent howl. I smiled to myself. Satisfied, that everything was going to work out I turned the volume up on the television and decided they weren’t going to be joining me for supper. I started whistling happily as I went to the kitchen and made myself something to eat. Then I decided an evening in front of the TV, and an early bedtime sounded pretty good.
In the morning I wake to a lot of yelling and the front door being slammed--hard. I debate on whether I should make an appearance or not, as I don’t want to walk into the middle of an all out war, but eventually my curiosity gets the better of me. I take my time getting dressed, and when I walk out into the living room, neither of them is around--not in the kitchen or at the workstations either. I look in Langly’s room, but he’s not there. That leaves only one other place…
I hover outside of Byers’s door, not knowing if I should go in or not. I know they aren’t in there together since one of them went storming out the front door. I’m just not sure which of them left in a tizzy. I gather myself--ready for either of two possible situations--and open the door a crack. When I peer in I see Langly sitting in the chair in the far corner of the room. It is totally dark except for the stream of light from the door, which falls directly on him. Even in the dim light I could see the anger and tear streaks that seemed to corrupt his young features.
He raises his head a few seconds later and looks at me. He doesn’t speak--he doesn’t have to. I can read in his eyes what he needs. I walk over to him and take him in my arms, holding his head against my chest. He reaches up for my arms but only makes it as far as my waist--he badly needs something to ground him and I am his designated anchor. Nuzzling a little closer he began to sob. I knew then, finding out what had happened between last night and this morning was going to be a long and difficult process. I offered up a prayer to God, right then, that I wasn’t in over my head and that I was capable of what was being asked of me. I swear these two are going to be the death of me, but I can’t think of a better way to go than while helping out a friend.
It’s been an hour since I got Langly to stop crying and settle down enough to fall asleep, and nearly two hours since Byers went storming out. I couldn’t get much out of Langly, but what I’ve gathered is that there was a misunderstanding of some sort and Byers is mad…really mad, if that bruise on Langly’s face is anything to go by. I’m not entirely sure what to do. I need to know what happened if I’m going to be able to do anything to help, but Langly is in no condition to talk at the moment. Damn, I hate feeling like I’m the only one who’s sane around here.
I’ll give Byers, and myself, another hour or so to calm down. If he doesn’t come back I’ll go looking for him--I have a pretty good idea where he’ll be.
I never saw this coming. Never in a million years would I have believed I could fall in love with one of my best friends--my colleague. It’s not as though I’ve never encountered love. Romance and lust are certainly not out of the running either. I’ve had all three in my life at one point or another, so much so at times I’ve questioned my existence and thought maybe my life was just a script written by some love sick Hollywood writer. Or maybe, just maybe there is a God and he has a truly sadistic sense of humor.
Richard R. Langly. Call me crazy but his name sits rich and seductive on my lips like the red lipstick on the painted face of a whore. And yet, even thought I know love’s got me down for the count, I can’t deny the damage I’ve done. I don’t think my friendship with either one of them will be the same again.
So, here I am. Alone again and trying to sift through all the hurt I’ve caused. What is it with me? I start out with good intentions but all I ever seem to end up with is grief. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the last straw--if they asked me to leave. It would probably be for the best. Lord knows I’ve left them in the lurch before, led them into traps and practically left them to die. They try and tell me that’s not true but I know they’re just trying to make me feel better. They know I don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. I can almost hear Langly screaming, ‘Fuck you, Byers! I’m not following you into this one, not this time.’ Just like he should have so many times before.
I keep running the last month through my head. Yes, it’s really been a month since I started going out of my mind. I’ve traced the start of all this back to one night. The three of us were going through some old equipment--trying to decide what was usable for parts and what was scrap, or able to be sold. I was in a particularly punchy mood that night--we all were. I was laying on the jokes just as much as Frohike or Langly. We were having a good time when Langly had to make a crack about me that implied I was weak. I don’t usually mind pot shots like that when we’re joking around. We all pick on each other. It’s a strange roundabout way of showing we care. But that night I wasn’t in the mood I guess. I found myself thinking over hateful ways in which to show I was not week, or even “straight laced” or a “Narc” as were other popular things they liked to tease me about.
Those thoughts took me by surprise. Did I really mean them, and what did I mean by them? I’m not a violent person, neither am I a very demonstrative person. They were right, I’m not all that strong (of mind, heart, or body these days) and I am not spontaneous, and I do have control issues. As you could have guessed, I obsessed over it for about a week. At the end of that week I was no further along at coming up with an answer than I had been when I started. I just couldn’t decide where the thought had come from, but I had meant it. There was true anger behind it. I couldn’t believe that I hated him, but I chose to ignore the most probable reason for such an outburst. The incident didn’t stop there though, if it had I think I would have been able to avoid the rest of my story.
I was sitting on the couch reading a book when Langly and Frohike came back from their shopping spree. We had gotten a good bit of money from the equipment we sold, so we decided to replace some old gear and things that were outdated. Langly came into the room practically jumping up and down. He was acting like a little kid. I couldn’t help but laugh as an image came to mind of a lanky blonde haired boy standing in a candy store--hands clutching as much candy as they could hold, his face beaming with joy.
Langly was holding a new rappelling harness, the kind we use to scale down the sides of buildings. I couldn’t help but feel relieved at this purchase. The old ones were so worn out I was positive I’d fall to my death every time we used them. “Look at this,” he said holding it out to me, “here help my try it on. This is SO cool!” I stood up and helped him adjust the straps, sniggering a bit as I did. It really was a nice one, good quality stitching and much more sturdy than our old ones. “Hey man, can you tighten the one in the back I can’t reach back there,” he asked.
I thought about teasing him about having such a ‘skinny ass’, as Frohike likes to say, but I held my tongue, walked around him and knelt to adjust the tie. “Hold still Langly,” I chuckled as I put my hands on his hips to stop his bouncing.
I was face to black-jean clad posterior when all of a sudden I felt my stomach tighten, and I started to waver. My face was inexplicably hot--I felt like I was going to be sick. I needed something to hold onto to steady myself but there was nothing within reach, except for the obvious, and that just wouldn’t do. I forced my body to stand and excused myself to the bathroom.
As I stood looking in the mirror, wiping my face with a cool cloth, I tried to decide what had just happened. I was trembling, lightheaded, and there was a lump in my throat that felt like it was approximately the size of a grapefruit. At that moment I knew I was in trouble, I knew my reactions too well to deny it any longer. This had happened to me once before. Granted, it was a woman before, but fundamentally, I guess it didn’t make any difference. I was, most definitely, attracted to one of my best friends.
It was a terrible and wonderful discovery all at the same time. I’ve been alone for so long I almost forgot what it was like to be interested in someone. The only problem was I’ve never been attracted to a man before. I felt torn between what my head was telling me was wrong, and what my heart was insisting was right.
After I was finished in the bathroom, I wandered to my room in a daze--never even told the guys I was going to bed. Doesn’t matter…I don’t know what I would have told them even if I had remembered.
I became more and more agitated as the days passed. I couldn’t think of anything other than Langly. I began to space out during the day and strange dreams plagued me at night. They were bizarre, full of trees and fields that swirled like oil paints. Eventually, everything around me started to fade into a smudge of gray-blue color. Nothing seemed real--like it was all a terrible nightmare. I kept waiting to wake up, but it seemed as if that small bit of consciousness was always just out of my reach. I was never sure when I was awake and when I was asleep. I desperately wanted to talk to Frohike. He’d always been like a father to me. If anyone could make heads-or-tails of my feelings and help me work through them, it was Mel. But I couldn’t bring myself to open up to him--I was too afraid.
Finally, at the height of my desperation I remembered someone that might be able to talk me through this, and would be able to be unbiased at the same time.
I had a friend, Julie, who was a psychiatrist. I hadn’t seen her in years and I wondered if I could still contact her at the same number. She knew the kind of work I was involved in and understood why I could never make real appointments. It was just too dangerous to leave my name and files on me, anywhere. So, quite a few years back, when I had met with her a couple of times, we set up a contacting system. Anytime, day or night, I could call her beeper. She suggested I leave the name of the Greek god that best describes my situation. At the time I though it was strange but I said it was all right--she always was a bit eccentric. This time I sent ‘Eros’--the god of love. After that, all I could do was wait until she logged on to the instant messaging program we both used.
It was almost when she connected. I talked to her about what had been going on for the past several days. She tried her best to evaluate the situation. After extensive conversations she suggested I do something simple, yet slightly out of the ordinary, to break the continuity of the problem.
From here on is where everything went haywire.
I’ll give you the shortened version because, to tell the truth, I don’t remember anything very vividly.
I heard a song in the music store one day that seemed to be my feelings for Langly translated into music. I bought it, made up some, totally contrived, story about getting it for free and gave it to him, making sure I made a reference to the specific song I wanted him to hear. I continued my correspondence with Julie, and she continued to encourage me. Eventually, I began to go crazy just waiting for something to happen. I even started to drink Frohike’s “secret” stash of scotch in an attempt to sedate myself enough to get some sleep. I hadn’t slept well (or at all) since all this started.
Frohike and Langly started worrying about me a lot and I wasn’t helping either of them ease their minds. Every attempt Frohike made to talk to me was met with cold stares and simply unacceptable manners on my part. But you’ve got to remember I was really not myself. I was busy reassessing my entire life! Everything I had believed during my whole existence was turned around in a matter of a few minutes!
As was to be expected, the day came when my mind and body couldn’t take any more. I was exhausted and sickly because I didn’t sleep and most times I forgot to eat. I was disgusted with my inability to cope and my failure to do anything constructive. I remember feeling like I was looking at myself from really far away and I was powerless to do anything but watch as I let my world fall down around me.
Langly must have gotten suspicious one night; he was the only one around other than myself. Neither he nor Frohike had seen me for more than a few minutes at a time for I don’t know how long. I was startled when he came storming into my room without knocking, something he never does. I was mortified! There I was, curled up in a ball, almost naked and almost in tears. I tried to cover myself, but I was so weak I just couldn’t manage.
He was thoughtful enough to grab my robe off the hook and lay it over me when he came over to the bed, but I just wanted him to leave. He tried to talk to me but I wasn’t really hearing him. It just sounded like noise. My mind was going in so many directions I could focus on any one particular thought. Then he put his hand on my arm and started rubbing back and forth. I felt the goose bumps rise on my skin, the lump in my throat was back, and finally my brain zeroed in on a thought.
No, you can’t.
I realized the tears were escaping from the corners of my eyes--I was powerless to stop them. I wanted, more than anything in the whole world to accept his touch but when I opened my mouth I was screaming at him to stop. There was so much anger in my voice but it wasn’t for him, it was really directed at myself. I just couldn’t deal with my inability to control myself. I remember thinking I couldn’t do that to him I just…I couldn’t.
He tried again to ask me what was going on. I could tell by the tone of his voice and the expression on his face that he was frustrated. Using the last reserves of strength I had left to gather myself into something resembling a sane person I told him I wasn’t feeling well. I looked away from his face immediately. I couldn’t stand the look of fear and worry that crept across those beautiful features, but I didn’t know what else to say
He muttered something to me as he left--I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t have the strength to ask. I lay there for a while trying to figure out what had just happened. I don’t know if I passed out from the physical taxation of the event or if the need for sleep just became too great, but everything went black.
The next morning I woke up with an enormous headache. I rolled out of bed and grabbed the first thing I found in my drawer and put it on. I hadn’t done laundry for weeks so it ended up being a pair of green boxer shorts that I never wear and a T-Shirt that was too small for me. I dared a look at myself in the mirror as I left my room. I felt a wave of disgust come over me--my appearance was awful but I didn’t have the gumption to do much about it right then. I headed to the kitchen, made myself a mix of scotch and coffee, and stared blankly into the refrigerator. As I thought of what I should eat I was suddenly overcome with nausea. I turned the water on in the sink and stood over it trying to settle my stomach.
Just then Frohike came in and looked at me suspiciously. He put his hand on my neck, probably trying to see if I had a fever. He has a tendency to do things like that, getting all protective and fraternal at the strangest times. Usually I don’t mind his over-protective fatherly routine, but I really wasn’t in the mood for it that morning. I just couldn’t deal with ‘clucking’ right then. I turned off the water and took my mug from the counter. Without saying a word I stepped past him and walked to my room. I knew he was following me. I just didn’t know how close until I slammed the door behind me and heard a solid thump and some grumbling. I felt kind of bad about that but I wasn’t going to give him a chance to hassle me.
I sat in my room, sipping my concoction and thought for a while. My thoughts were clearer than they had been for quite some time, probably due to the amount of sleep I managed to acquire the night before. I gave a lot of thought to what I believed Langly would do if I told him what was going on. He wasn’t a prude, I decided. And even though I didn’t know much about his personal life, I didn’t think he would be repulsed at the thought of a guy having a crush on him. I wasn’t so sure, however, how he would react to the fact that it was me.
So what was I afraid of? I guess my biggest fear was of losing my friend. And if truth be told, I was afraid of him beating me to a pulp or never speaking to me again or both…there were any number of things to be afraid of! But suddenly those consequences seemed like a small price to pay for something that could be so perfect. I really did love him. I couldn’t imagine my life without him. It was easier to come to that conclusion than I thought it would be, and once I admitted it to myself I couldn’t deny it. Now, the only question was what I was going to do about it.
The solution, once it formed in my head, was perfect in it’s simplicity. I heard Langly stirring in his room. I waited, giving him more than enough time to go through his morning routine. When I was sure he was at least in the vicinity of his computer I put on my robe, picked up my mug and walked calmly to my workstation. They looked a bit worried when I entered the room, especially Langly. He gave me a strange look of surprise when I walked around behind him towards my computer. I tried to look calm, even though my heart was in my throat at the thought of what I was planning. I couldn’t believe I was really going to do this! I gave a couple of glances over at him, but he didn’t notice--he was too engrossed in whatever was on his screen. After I checked my E-Mail I looked one last time at my objective. Then, before I could change my mind I walked over to him, turned his chair around to face me and kissed him.
My lips were on his. After so long, after so many endless days and sleepless nights, I had finally found the backbone to act and made it happen. And it was marvelous. I was quickly loosing coherent thought. All I could think about was how soft his lips were, how perfect this felt. I took a chance and slipped my tongue between his parted lips. He didn’t move, barely even made a noise under the onslaught. I could have gone on doing that forever but the need for air eventually overcame me. I broke from him and straightened my robe. My mouth felt suddenly dry. I took a swig of my (now cold) drink then walked into the living room to watch some TV and wait for a reaction.
When I sat down on the couch I noticed Langly’s Discman was laying on the coffee table. Just on a whim I decided to listen to the song I had bought him. It only seemed appropriate to listen to the song that was my first attempt at making this moment happen--A kind of a celebration just for me. I popped the disk in and leaned back on the couch with my feet up.
I was really getting into the music when Langly and Frohike stopped dead in their tracks in the doorway. Panic swept over me when I saw their faces. I don’t know what I was expecting but the looks of concern were not it. I rushed past them, dropping the CD player on the couch. I went to my room on autopilot, closed the door and started to cry.
What have I done? I thought.
I didn’t know if one of them would come in to yell at me, or if they would just leave me in there to die. I wasn’t sure which I wanted more. Nothing happened for so long I started to think they had chosen the latter of the two and were never going to talk to me again. But finally Langly appeared in the doorway. He came over and sat on the bed. My back was too him, but his agitated breathing gave away the fact that he was nervous. He was talking to me but I felt like I couldn’t hear him. Everything was swimming around in my head again and I couldn’t hold it in anymore.
As soon as I sensed a break in his words I started apologizing. I was so sorry I had caused him to worry. I didn’t mean to hurt him. If I had hurt him I would die. I started to rock a little, and kept repeating I was sorry--it was the only thing I could think of to say and it surely didn’t feel like it was enough. Then I felt the bed shift. He moved to lay behind me, almost spooning up against me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders tightly. I was slightly startled at this turn of events. It was almost the opposite reaction I was expecting. He asked me if it was ok, I tried to answer but nothing came out. I just lay there quietly and waited.
He started to explain to me what was going on in his head. He was talking very calmly and fluently. I was rather impressed with the way he was handling himself. The only thing that bothered me was that he kept blaming himself, as if it was his fault I lost my mind and kissed him! I couldn’t believe it--it wasn’t his fault it was mine! I grew angrier by the second until he started to stammer. In an instant the stumbling and cursing Langly I knew was back and he said something about how excellent the kiss was. I felt my body loosen immediately and I couldn’t help but push back a little into his embrace. I was hoping this wasn’t another delusion I had created in my mind.
I tried to explain to him that I was sorry, to tell him what had prompted me to do what I had done, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. The whole conversation was frustrating to me. I felt as if the words were in my head but they weren’t coming out in the proper order. Then there was silence aside from my insistent attempts at apologizing. I was really just trying to extend the amount of time he was holding me. This was the most at peace I had felt in weeks and I wasn’t about to let it end so quickly.
The mattress shifted again and I heard my name. As I turned I barely got a glimpse of his face in the dark as he leaned down and pressed his lips to mine. It was just as frightening this time, but for different reasons. The softness with which he kissed me made my head spin. I didn’t know he was capable of expressing such a simple need. Apparently there was a lot I didn’t know about my friend. We looked at each other tentatively and he smiled. I took this as an invitation and advanced honestly, leaving no room for my affections to be doubted as I pushed him onto his back and returned the favor.
The rest is not something a gentleman would discuss, and to tell the truth I don’t remember all of it. All I remember is how right it felt. My brain kicked into overdrive as all the emotions, worries, and doubts of the last few weeks melted away under the simple touch of his hands and lips. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so in sync with someone in my entire life. I fell asleep with one arm draped across his chest and my head resting there as well.
I didn’t dream that night. I didn’t have to--my dreams had already come true.
I woke in the morning to the most sickening sound a person can wake up to on the morning after…laughter. It was like a stab wound to the gut, and I was almost guaranteed a slow and painful death if I didn’t do something about it, and soon. I rose from the bed and screamed at him. I didn’t hold back, I couldn’t. This was the only thing I wasn’t prepared for. I never even considered Langly could be cold hearted enough to take advantage of me--to take my feelings so lightly! I was furious, as I should have been--being treated as a notch in his bedpost was not what I wanted. I changed into the first clothes I could find. It didn’t matter if they were clean or not, I just had to get out of there.
I tried to leave but he wouldn’t let me. He was standing in my way, still laughing at me and telling me not to be mad. Like hell I shouldn’t be! Still, no matter how angry I was, I shouldn’t have hit him, but his laughter and my rage was all that was able to permeate my mind. The dull thump of my fist connecting with his face finally got through to me.
So that’s what has brought me to where I am now. I’m sitting in a park a few blocks away. The trip is a blur, but it makes sense that I would wander to the only place I’ve ever felt comfortable. The park is beautiful and serene, something that I need now. I’m still furious at Langly for treating me that way, but I deserve it. I realize that now. It’s payback time for all the other times my introverted ways prevented me from explaining my actions and in turn endangering my friends--payback really is, as they say, a bitch.
So what do I do now? Do I go back and beg for forgiveness…again? Should I leave? It’s been over two hours since I ran out and no one has come looking for me. It shouldn’t be too hard to find me. This is always where I end up when I’m troubled--right next to the reflecting pool at the far end of the park. I’m not sure what it is that draws me here. I’m like a pigeon with a homing instinct, just not always as dependable as one.Well, it’s been long enough. I’m not going to screw up this decision as well--my belongings are replaceable. I’m going to walk away. I won’t look back. I’m doing the right thing by walking away. I’m doing the right thing.
“Doing the right thing my ass!” Frohike said from only a few feet behind Byers.
John whirled around, startled. He didn’t realize he’d said those things out loud, nor had he noticed Frohike approaching him.
“What? You didn’t seriously think I wouldn’t come looking for you, did ya?”
As Frohike stood there patiently waiting, the answer came in a small, almost inaudible voice saying, “I’m sorry. I can be pretty stupid sometimes.” And was accompanied by a shrug of John’s shoulders. With his head lowered, he then proceeded to place his hands in his pants pockets and stare at the ground. It was a rather pitiful sight--a grown man sulking like that.
“Come here,” Frohike said in a chastising tone. He then opened his arms to his friend.
Looking up to see such a welcoming sight John readily accepted the embrace but made no attempt to reciprocate--still unable to forgive himself but needing comfort all the same.
Frohike couldn’t resist the urge to gently stroke the back of his friend’s neck. It was instinct driving him and after a minute or two he continued speaking while still holding John in his arms. “Now tell me…how could you possibly think Langly and I would want you to leave?” He could feel the body in his arms tense at the mention of Langly’s name.
Byers again shot him a worried look. The panic streaked across his face and it hurt Frohike to watch. Almost forgetting his forced silence, John opened his mouth to protest but quickly dropped his head again to look at the ground.
“Yes, you were speaking out loud the whole time,” Frohike assured him. “So talk to me; the silent sulking isn’t going to work on me this time around.”
Frohike wasn’t sure John was going to give in, and he started preparing another statement just in case. But finally, after what seemed like an eternity, John’s muffled dialogue began.
“ I always feel like I’m leaving you guys with the consequences of my actions. I lead you and Langly into impossible situations because of my misplaced sense of duty and when I try and fix things it never seems to go right. And now this!” He gestured awkwardly with his hands, as he was still being held tightly about the elbows. The pitch of his voice began to rise as the emotions pounded within him and it seemed as if he was no longer in control. He couldn’t stop the words coming out if his mouth. “I thought I was acting with good intentions…I fell in love with him, Mel! But I screwed that up too. He thought he was doing a good thing…thought I just needed to be with someone, thought I was just lonely. And God bless him he went along with it even though he didn’t want to. He did it out of some kind of twisted loyalty to me. But that’s not what I wanted!” He said almost screaming now. “I didn’t want to be comforted! I wanted to be loved! Oh God, forgive me for bringing him into this!”
The younger man broke down at that point. He shook violently and leaned--heavy against his silent but supportive friend. Not knowing what else to say John filled the silence with tears--burying his face in his companion’s shoulder.
Meanwhile, unseen to Byers, Langly lurked nearby, watching helplessly.
I can’t watch this. He’s in pain and it’s entirely my fault. I don’t know how I did it this time but I screwed things up. Big Time. Fuck! All I want to do right now is go over there and take Frohike’s place. I want to be the one comforting him. I almost can’t believe this. In one night I’ve decided that’s my place, I wanna be with him forever. I want to share my love, my life, my everything with him. It’s just been so freaking fast. I’ve never made a decision this fast in my life and the fact that I’m totally sure, without even the slightest doubt…truthfully, it scares me to death.
I love him.
I guess I always knew I did, I just never knew it ran quite this deep. The crazy thing is, anyone in his right mind would be angry. I mean…he punched me in the face for crying out loud! I should be furious…but I’m not. I’m depressed. I didn’t realize I could mess things up so bad without even trying. Unfortunately, it took a pop in the chin to get through to me. I didn’t realize how uncertain of himself he was. I took for granted that he would be as comfortable as me. I realize now that was stupid. John has always needed verbal confirmation as well as the hard evidence of the facts. Just because I showed him I loved him doesn’t mean he’d believe it wasn’t all some kind of mistake. And knowing him he probably thinks it’s all his fault. God, I can’t do this! I can’t just stand here! I have to know what’s going on, if he’s worried he made a mistake or if he’s made a realization that I’m not what he thought I would be. Where’s the surveillance equipment when you really need it?
When I woke this morning I was the happiest I’ve been in…hell, who am I kidding? I can’t remember being that happy, ever! The warmth of his body curled up next to mine, the soft sound of his breathing, the feeling of complete and unconditional trust that surrounded us--it was mind-boggling. For a couple of guys whose life motto is “Trust no one”…Wow. I don’t know what else to say but wow.
But here I am standing behind a tree, sneaking around. And if I’m completely truthful, feeling a bit jealous that John is over there in Frohike’s arms and not mine. I know what yer thinking…eww Frohike!!?!! But really, it’s not like that, it’s just I feel like I should be over there. I should be taking care of my own problems, I mean I’m the one who screwed him over and has something to apologize for. I’m the one who’s made John a basket case. I’ve never seen him like this and it scares the shit outta me. It just goes to show, yet again, there are a lot of things I don’t know about that man.
If only I could hear what was going on over there. I know I’m obsessing, but wouldn’t anyone? I hate not knowing stuff. I’m so afraid I wasn’t what he was expecting. I’m not exactly a poster boy for anything but Mad Magazine. He’s probably over there telling Frohike about how wrong he was, about how he thought he knew what he wanted but now he realizes he was wrong and he doesn’t know how to break it to me.
I can’t say I’m surprised. Who in their right mind would believe someone like John would want someone like me? We’ve all gone “slumming” once in our lives. I knew it was too good to be true. But I know one thing right now, if he tries to give me the “let’s be friends” shit, I’m fighting. I’m fighting for him because I can’t give up the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And Lord knows I can’t make this situation any worse…at least I hope not.
I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. God, shed a little light down my way will ya? I’m stumblin’ around in the dark here!
Frohike dramatically looked up at the sky hoping for some insight into his situation. When none came he looked back down at his friend and pulled the trembling man closer.
Damn you Byers, why do you beat yourself up like this? Of all the people in the world, why you? You don’t deserve to be this unhappy. You deserve more than this life.
There was nothing more Frohike could do to comfort John so he continued to hold him firmly until the weeping and convulsing subsided. Finally, John’s legs didn’t seem so wobbly to him. He stood a little straighter but still could not let go of the solid body in front of him. He was quickly becoming more lucid as the pain pealed away from his delicate emotions. He began to take in his surroundings and think more clearly.
Thankful for the strong presence of his friend he hugged Frohike a little bit tighter before he took a deep breath and eventually let go. Only a minute or two later a sheepish smile from Byers coupled with a knowing grin and a quick glance behind them from Frohike, made John aware of Langly’s presence for the first time. There were no words between any of the three as John stood and contemplated what to do next.
The decision was totally his. He could walk away now, saving him the problems of a lengthy discussion about things he really didn’t want to talk about. Or he could stand and face the reality and pain of the morning’s events--of his love for, and consequent rejection from, Langly.
Oh God, he’s been standing there the whole time. I must have looked like a total idiot. My knees are starting to go again. Where is my strength? It all seems to escape me when I need it…when I’m looking at him. I don’t understand how I can be so angry with him and love him so much at the same time. I love him so much I want to slug him again for what he did. But I realize it wasn’t his fault, he didn’t realize I was serious…that must be what happened. In all my life I’ve never known him to be so ruthless with someone’s heart. Sure, he’s been prickly with people, and has let his mouth get ahead of his brain on occasion, but I’ve never seen him do something so obviously cruel as laugh…ugh, I think I’m going to be sick. I can’t do this! I need him too much. I’d rather leave now and keep some kind of good memories than risk the possibility of losing him completely. After what I did this morning I would doubt he’d even listen to me. He probably didn’t even want to come; no doubt Mel dragged him here under threat of annihilation. Mel has always tried so hard to make us happy. Maybe he sees this as a way to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. But who am I kidding? I can’t leave. There are too many people depending on me doing my job, and my job involves working closely with these two. By turning my back on my friends I’d be turning my back on the American people. I just can’t do that. I know I have to talk to Langly, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid it’s the beginning of the end, and I’ll never forgive myself for it if that’s what happens. I’m so sorry I did this to you Ringo.
Langly and Frohike watched as John tilted his head back and closed his eyes, seemingly looking for something deep within him self. The longest minute of their lives passed before he finally opened his eyes again. He took a long look at Langly and was spurred into action. John’s legs didn’t want to cooperate with him as he strode across the open space. And as he stood there in front of his friend, trying to think of what to say he looked around, anywhere but at the other man’s face. It was a cool day and Byers noticed the trees had been getting ready for fall a little too early this year. It reminded him of the people who decorate for Christmas, months ahead of time.
He lifted his eyes to look at Langly cautiously, not knowing if he could face him after what he had done, but understanding he had to try. Looking up he saw the darkening bruise beginning to form along Langly’s jaw.
“Oh Ree…I…,” he said haltingly while reaching up to lightly trace the offending mark with the back of his fingers. “I wish I could make it all go away for you. I never meant to hurt you…just don’t know what got into me…I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself.”
Langly looked at him incredulously.
“What if I don’t want it to go away, John? What if I want this, you, the pain, everything? I don’t care, whatever it takes to keep you.”
John stared at him. Not understanding because that was the last thing he expected the other man to say. Sure, he was ready for rejection, he was ready for some kind of excuse, he was even ready for a “let’s be friends” line. But this he wasn’t ready for at all! Wasn’t it just a few hours ago that Langly was laughing at him?
“I don’t know how you can say that after what happened this morning! I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough in my intentions last night, you might have thought it was just childs play, but I wasn’t just looking for a good lay! I was playing for keeps! After all this I don’t know how you can say that you want me and that you…I just don’t understand!” John’s hands were waving wildly in the air as he spoke.
“Whoa, wait a minute, wait one minute,” Langly interjected, “I have a few things to say too.”
John suddenly stopped flailing. Something in Langly’s tone of voice shot through him--straight to the core. He’d never heard Langly sound like that before and was interested in finding out what was going on in his head. He consciously tried to assume a non-threatening posture and waited for the other man to begin…stuck between hoping to be reamed out for being so irrational, and begin cuddled and kissed into a coma.
“Yes, I was laughing this morning when you woke up, you aren’t mistaken about that. But what you are mistaken about is why I was laughing.” He took a deep, calming breath before going on.
“John, all my life I’ve run away from situations like
this one. Caring about someone too
much always got overly messy for me. All
the times I’ve ever been with anybody, and granted there haven’t been a
whole lot, I’ve been the one to screw it up.
Clearly I’ve done it again, one more time for me to add to my list of
major fuck ups. I’ve done horrible
things, John--I’ve left in the middle of the night, I’ve said some appalling
things, and I’ve even gone as far as to claim it was their fault!
I was always trying to convince myself I wasn’t the problem.
But no more! I’ve finally
done the most awful of all the things I could do and I’m just sorry it had to
be you, John. I wasn’t there for
you, and that’s the worst thing I can think of.”
He paused for a moment to catch his breath. The words that he didn’t know even existed were coming out of him at an alarming rate and it was an almost liberating experience to be able to finally express himself eloquently and without confusion. He took another deep breath and continued. Once again the words that followed were not totally known to him until he had spoken them. “I messed everything up this morning…but truly it was a total misunderstanding,” he said while gesturing a slightly defensive motion with his hands in front of his chest.
“When I woke…” he stumbled--swallowing hard and trying desperately to hold the tears back, “when I woke up this morning I realized that for the first time ever, the thought of leaving, the idea that I wasn’t good enough, hadn’t even crossed my mind. The love and trust you showed me the night before was all the proof I needed. I started laughing to keep myself from crying, John. I wanted to cry like a freaking baby because I was finally happy! After so much bad shit I had finally found…you.”
And John knew what he was talking about. He had found it in the arms of the other man too. It was the feeling all three of them longed for but never talked about. But this time it encompassed so much more than acceptance and security; it surrounded them both with love and emotion, passion and life. Yes! That was it! Finally, John realized he could pinpoint what it was that he had found in his friends and in his, now, lover--a reason for living, their hopes, their dreams, their expectations. And for him, all wrapped up in a tight little package named Richard Langly. Ringo was his and he was Ringo’s. They had finally found their reasons and imaginings in each other.
Instinctively John reached up with both hands and placed them behind Ringo’s neck as if to kiss him. But he ended up pulling the other man closer to rest forehead to forehead. The older man had his eyes closed and they stood there like that for some time, just touching. It was so much more intimate than a kiss. It expressed need and love in the simplest possible way.
Finally John opened his eyes to be met with tear-filled crystal blue ones. He could no longer hold back the tears either. Everything had gone so wrong this morning but he was not about to let this moment be misunderstood. Still, something in the back of his mind something kept telling him it was too good to be true. With his hands still behind Langly’s head he delivered a short soft kiss to his lips. Langly brought his hands up--gently pulling the two of them closer and retuned the kiss with growing need--trying as well, to make sure it was all real.
When the kiss finally ended, they stood there under the fading leaves of the trees and held each other close. John unconsciously tucked his head under Langly’s chin and both of them took a deep breath together. Each knew there were many things that needed to be talked through--many hard conversations about the events of the past few days, and many confessions to be made about the events leading up to them. But for now they were content to hold each other and share heat.
After a few minutes John suddenly jerked his head up realizing the sun was almost down and they had totally forgotten about Frohike. “Oh no, Frohike!”
“I think he left when he decided we weren’t gonna to kill each other,” Langly said, trying to suppress a nervous giggle but failing. John laughed at that too. It felt good. He hadn’t laugh in a long time, nor had he ever had the chance to laugh with the love of his life.
They walked up over the small hill towards where Langly knew the van had been parked. As they approached they found Frohike half asleep in the drivers seat. They woke him gently and climbed in the back of the van for the short drive home.
Frohike couldn’t help but peek in the rearview mirror every few minutes or so. He was curious about what had happened but he was sure it had gone well, if the level of cuddling going on was any indication.
Frohike pulled into the alley beside the warehouse and was out and halfway to the door when he realized neither of his friends were following him. He walked back to the van and stuck his head in the driver’s side. Clearing his throat he said, “I uh hate to interrupt but are you two coming inside or what? It’s freezing out here and I don’t need two popsicles for friends…ok?”
“Yeah…sure” They each replied distractedly while keeping their eyes locked on one another.
Frohike turned with a snicker.
<It looks as if everything worked out well for them, > He thought.
<I feel kind of bad about stealing little peaks in the rear view
mirror. It’s just I’ve never
seen either of them so happy. They
look entirely at peace just holding each other and exchanging gentle kisses
every few minutes, it’s enough to make a man jealous.
But I’m content to be glad my boys are finally happy, and the fact that
they found it in each other is more than I could have hoped.
I’ll be lucky if I even get a goodnight grunt out of either of them
Frohike entered the building and went through the normal routine…check the computers for messages, check the answering machine, look around for anything that might seem out of place and indicate an unauthorized someone had been inside.
There were quite a few messages, including one from Mulder asking for yet another favor with absolutely no explanation as to why…they were used to it by now. As he was listening to the last of the messages he heard the door open and turned to see his friends walking in. They were very close to one another, probably for warmth as well as having just recently “made up”. They reminded Frohike of timid children as they turned to see Frohike watching them enter.
All three of them stood together in the room feeling a little bit awkward. Frohike met John’s gaze for a few seconds before the younger man looked away. Finally, Frohike decided to break the tension and hopefully show his acceptance of this new development in all of their lives.
“I don’t know about you guys but I’m bushed. I’m gonna head off for an early bed time.” He started to leave when he remembered the message Mulder had left. “Oh and by the way, Mulder left a message. Looks like we’ll be dipping in the paranormal tomorrow. Night guys.” He turned and slipped out of the room.
Frohike was in his bed, curled up on his side and thinking about all the things he’d need to do tomorrow when he heard Byers’ door slide closed. He smiled in the dark, as he thought of his partners together, in a relationship. It is, after all, a rare thing nowadays that we find someone we can be content to spend our entire lives with, he thought. And Frohike knew he had not one, but two men he would be happy spending the rest of his life with. And even more prominent in his mind was the fact that his friends were happier than he’d ever seen them, and he’d played a big part in that. It wasn’t until now that he realized how close to losing John he had been. John was close to giving up on everything. Frohike was relieved he had been able to talk him sense into him, not only because the paper would have gone under but also because Langly would have gone under. <I hope John realizes what a great boy he has there, > he thought. And thankful for the appearance of approximate normalcy in the near future, he fell asleep with a smile.