Here Without You: Chapter Three: Old Scars

by Uriel

 

Here we are.” Andy said as he lifted the bottom of the chain link fence for me to crawl under. “Go ahead, I got it.” He said in answer to my questioning glance.

I did as I was told and crawled beneath the fence into what appeared to be an abandoned house lot. After looking around I could tell that the house must have burned down years before, leaving one single car garage standing on it’s own in the darkness. “You come here often?” I asked as he began to walk toward the lonely structure.

“This is my home.” He replied as he reached in his pocket and fished out the rabbit’s foot key chain with the one single key on it. Kicking at the tall grass on his way to the door, he turned and smiled at me. “Looks like crap out here, but it’s kinda nice inside, really.”

I nodded and slowly followed him to the side door. All the openings appeared to have been boarded up many years ago. The grass in some areas of the property seemed to be at least waist deep and almost appeared to swallow up the old driveway as well as the house foundation. After watching him fumble with the lock, he grinned and swung the door open. He silently waved for me to go inside and followed me into the darkness of the room as he closed the door with a fairly loud creak before I could make out the sound of a sliding steel bolt securing it. “You have any candles or something?” I asked as I stood almost completely still, trying to get my eyes to adjust to the pitch blackness.

“One sec.” He replied as he seemed to rummage around and suddenly shed some light into the room with an old oil storm lantern. “There.” He said with a satisfied smile as he set the lamp on the table in the middle of the room and smiled at me. “You can look around if you want, I just wanna grab a couple of things.”

“How long have you lived here?” I asked as I looked around at a very comfortable looking layout.

“A few years I guess. A few friends of mine found this place and we kinda decided to crash here for a while.” He replied as he slid a box out from beneath what appeared to once be someones work shop bench. “When they left, I didn’t want to move again. I had friends here that I didn’t want to lose so, I stayed.”

“Alone?” I asked as I watched him drag the box over to an old couch right next to the table and plop down onto it. “Kinda dangerous for a halflife to be totally alone, isn’t it?”

“Well…” He replied as he dug what looked like an old book out of the box and set it down on the table. “It can be, but this place is watched over.” He said as he opened the book and pulled out a few folded up bills and a handful of pictures. “The family that owns the lot are kinda keeping it available.” He said with a grin as he stuffed the money in his pocket and looked at the pictures.

“Watcha got?” I asked as I sat down next to him and smiled.

He smiled back and leaned toward me, turning the pictures so I could see them. “A few of my friends.” He said as he handed me one. “This one you know.”

“It’s Spencer.” I said with a smile looking at the background and opening my eyes wide. “Um, how old is this shot? I asked after noticing all the cars on the road in the background were all late 70′s models or older.

“Um…” Andy said with a grin. “That was the year he was turned, 78 I think.”

“Cool.” I said as he handed me the next one. “Place look familiar?”

“Yeah.” I smiled. “It’s the club we were at last night. Who are the people you’re with?”

“Lemme see.” He said as he shuffled himself closer. “Ok, the teenage guy on the left with the goatee is Bryson. He actually looks after a halflife pack in the area. Really nice guy too, he’s a good friend but…” He said with a sigh; “I haven’t seen him in a long time.” He seemed lost in thought for a second before pressing on. “That’s me in the stupid looking hat. I was soooo drunk, you woulda laughed.” He giggled. “The other halflife next to me, well actually we were holding each other up.” He said with a giggle. “His name is Gyro and next to him looking like they would rather be out doing ANYTHING else but having fun is his sister Rain and her friend Taryn. They all kinda live together in an old car lot not far from here.”

“Looks like you were having fun.” I said with a smile seeing the goofy grin on his face beneath the brim of one of those multi colored novelty hats with a propeller on it. “You still friends with them?”

“Yeah, but it’s been about a year or so since I’ve seen any of them.” He said as he sat up. “One of these days we gotta find Gyro, you haven’t partied until you’ve partied with him.” He said with a grin. “Wicked bad influence.”

“Gotta love that.” I said as I watched him flip to the next shot. “This is the pack I used to live with, maybe two years ago.” He said as I looked at the 5 faces. “Ok, that’s you.” I said pointing. “Spence and Gyro again.” I added squinting my eyes to see them clearly in the dimly lit photo. “Who are the other two?”

“Ok, the one holding the Jack Daniels bottle is Alan. Actually I think this is the last picture ever taken of him.” He said as his voice started to get a little hoarse. “We lost him one night out by the Pier.” He said taking a deep breath. “Spence thinks he hooked up with another pack, I think he got too drunk and, well…” He said looking me in the eyes. “…didn’t make it home in time.”

“Oh man, I’m sorry.” I said wrapping my arm around his shoulder and giving a squeeze.

“It happens.” He said looking back at the picture. “The older guy standing next to him is Bruce. Big Bad Bruce.” He said with a laugh. “If you ever got into a fight in the street, you could count on him to run faster than anyone, in the other direction.” Andy smiled as he tapped on the picture and continued; “There was this one night we had all gone to a rave, Gyro was soooo hammered and hit on some guy’s girlfriend. I swear, that kid had a knack for picking out the girls with the biggest toughest boyfriends.” He said laughing out loud. “Well that night, this guy was just about to flatten him when we all rushed outside to help. We all jumped the guy and one of his buddies, we were doing good too. Anyway, in the time it took us to finally take the two down and limp home, I swear Bruce had already run all the way here, barricaded the door and was hiding under this couch.” He got out with a laugh as he patted the couch we were sitting on. “Body of a human pit bull and the soul of a battered chihuahua. He was a really close friend but absolutely horrified of confrontation of any kind.”

“Is he still in the area?” I asked looking at the big guy’s grin.

“Nah, when our group broke up he hooked up with some drifters and I think they headed west.” Andy said with a grin. “It was his dream to hit California some day. I hope he did.”

I just smiled and flipped through a couple more taken right here in the garage before I hit an unfamiliar face. “Who’s this?” I asked pointing to a dark haired kid just out of the camera’s focus.

“That’s Ben.” He said with a scowl. “He took most of these pictures.”

“What happened to him?” I asked as I watched Andy’s scowl get colder.

“Hooked up with a group of Raiders.” He said clearing his throat. “Well, that was just after he ran out of here with half our stuff one night right after sunset, including the camera most of these were taken with. Fuckin’ looser.”

“Oh.” I replied letting it go as I flipped through a few more pictures of the same group. “If some of these guys are still around, why are you alone?”

Andy smiled and laid his head back on the arm rest before answering. “Well, Gyro has like three different groups he hangs out with. He just can’t stay in one place for too long. Spencer had his boyfriend and eventually left us to live with him and his crew.” Andy said as he looked around the now dark lifeless area. “He’s probably the only other person left with a key to this place, unless Gyro kept his. I know I never asked him for it.”

I nodded as I looked at a couple more before hitting a really old worn black and white picture of a little blond boy in a baseball cap and denim coveralls, wearing a pair of Converse AllStars. “Who’s this?” I asked with a grin.

“Oh my god, gimme that!” He almost shouted jumping up to snatch the photo.

“Is this you?” I asked teasing him and holding out the picture so he couldn’t reach it easily. “Oh my god, how cute!”

“Shaddap!” Andy shouted finally snatching the picture out of my hand. “Yes, that was me.” He said tucking the picture in his pocket and showing me one of a man and woman, looked like newlyweds that was really old and faded. “My Mom and Dad.” He said looking at the photo. “That was taken when they bought their first house, before I was born.”

I watched him look at the picture before quietly putting it in his pocket, along with all the others. “Can I ask a personal question?” I softly asked turning to sit facing him.

“Maybe? What is it?” He asked with a sideways stare.

“How were you turned?” I asked, half feeling like it was really none of my business. “You don’t have to answer, I was just wondering.”

“That’s ok.” He said as he slumped back and took a deep breath. “It wasn’t my choice.” Andy almost whispered. “My dad was in the Navy and was away most of the time. My mom used to work days to try to keep food in the house. Well, anytime she had to work late I used to stay with the family that lived next door to us.” He said as he took another deep breath. “One night when I had to go to their house Kelly, their youngest son and I decided to camp out in the back yard. We pitched a tent and everything.” He said sitting up. “Well, we sat up until way after midnight telling scary stories and stuff until Kelly had to go to the bathroom. He just unzipped the tent and ran off into the trees out in the field just outside of his yard. I sat there for like 10 minutes before I thought I heard him shout something so, I went out looking for him.”

I sat back and watched him close his eyes as he continued.

“It was so quiet that night. I remember yelling his name a few times before I heard something move not too far from where I was.” He opened his eyes and looked at me. “I thought he was fooling around and hiding from me so I yelled out for him to cut it out.” He said seriously before he looked toward the floor and went on… “I ran to where I heard the noise and froze when I saw two guys trying to cover something up with leaves and stuff. Before I had a chance to say anything, one of them turned and stared at me. I’ll never forget his eyes. I mean I’ve seen vampires feed, I’ve seen the horrifying crimson glow thousands of times since, but his stare was aimed at me.” He said with a visible shiver running up his spine raising goosebumps on his arms. “The guy rushed me so fast, I didn’t have time to think. I punched and kicked at him while he threw me on the ground and raised his head, long enough for the moonlight to let me see the fangs, drool was pouring off of them as he took a deep breath and threw his head forward, driving them into me. I kicked and screamed until I had no energy left. Just as I was feeling myself go cold, I turned my head and for a split second, I saw Kelly’s face in the pile of leaves. Just before blacking out, I realized he was dead and that I was about to join him.”

“Was he dead? I mean they obviously didn’t finish you.” I asked as I watched him shrug his shoulders.

“I never saw him again.” Andy said as he took a deep breath and pulled an old worn out baseball and glove out of the box. “I never asked them either.” He added putting the glove on and playing around with the ball. “I ended out staying with the two guys. Seth and Chad.” He said almost spitting out their names. “They were a really weird couple. I guessed that they had been watching us since we loved to camp out in the back yard and for some reason, wanted me.” He said obviously getting angry. “They taught me how to hunt and how to use my extra when it came time, I guess they wanted a kid, and chose me.”

“Jesus, how long were you stuck with them?” I asked as he tossed me the ball and we started to toss it back and forth.

“3 years.” He said flatly. “We lived in the basement of an old building toward the end, the day they demolished it, both of them were killed. I had been thrown out like they always did when they wanted time alone, so I guess I got lucky.” He said with a weak laugh. “Any time they threw me out, an older human would take me in. He was a nice guy, name was Chuck. I guess he had lost his son to darkness from what he used to tell me. He kept his door open to us if we ever needed help, probably hoping his son would eventually find his way home someday. Just a handful of halflives ever took him up on his generosity, older vampires usually wouldn’t be bothered with humans, even if they could use the help.”

I really didn’t want to keep digging, knowing reliving these memories couldn’t be easy on him so, I tried to change the subject. “Now you’re staying with another human. Guess it’s become a trend, huh?”

Andy looked back at me, almost as if I had snapped him back to reality. “Yeah, no kidding.” He said as I tossed him the baseball and stood up to look around. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble like that.”

“God no.” I answered quickly. “I asked. Honestly, I feel bad about digging this all up on you.”

“Eh, ancient history.” He replied as he tossed the ball and glove back in the box. “I relive it every time I walk in that door. This past year, I would spend whole months here, just going out to feed and nothing more.” He said with a grin. “Well, until I found you out by the lake I mean.”

“I’m hungry.” I said with a grin, throwing the topic for a loop.

“Didn’t you eat an entire pizza tonight?” He asked with a snicker. “Are you really that much of a pig?”

“Oh please, I had 1 slice and a couple of bites from the second. What’s good around here?” I asked with a grin.

“You’re asking me?” He shrugged as he pulled a couple more items from the box and slid them back under the work bench.

“Don’t you ever hit anyplace around here, I mean just for a taste.” I asked as a grin crept into his smile.

“Wanna take a walk out to the Pier? I know where we can get some killer fried dough.” He said with a giggle.

“Not what I was thinking, but I can live with that.” I said with a grin. “You all set here?”

“Yup, just let me lock up and we’re outa here.” He said walking around the room and then blowing out the lamp. “You’re in the dark with a vampire, are you frightened?” Andy said, once again demonstrating how bad his Transylvanian impersonation was.

“You fed two days ago.” I said with a laugh as I felt my way to the door. “Besides, this time you invited a human into your home, it is you who should be scared, not I.” I said busting out laughing when his giggle broke the silence and my concentration.

“Get out! Omigod. You are such a dork.” He said pushing me through the doorway.

Once we reached the Pier, Andy literally dragged me to a small stand not too far from the ferris wheel. “Told you this stuff was the best.” Andy said as we leaned up against the railing near a trash can so Andy would have a spot to spit the food back out. Saving himself from an awful stomach ache later on.

“Mmmm… It really is.” I replied as we stood there in silence and watched the bustle of people in front of us. “You know, I’ve looked at this place from a distance quite a few times but never bothered to come out and see it close up.”

“It’s cool out here. Gotta be careful though.” He said with a grin that was covered in powdered sugar. “Less people than you think.” He added pointing to a small group of teens on roller blades. “You’ll never see them during the day.” He added as he spit out his last bite.

“Gotcha.” I said as I watched the boys skate off, one of them turning back and looking directly at me. With a nod of our heads and a smirk on his face he continued on.

“I probably shouldn’t have said anything to you while we were out here, huh?” He said as he stopped chewing after watching the little display.

“Nah.” I said reaching over and ruffling his hair. “If that was a warning, he would have turned around I think. I’m just a human who noticed, I’m no threat and he knows that.”

“True.” He said as he waved to me and began to walk further out toward the end of the Pier. “One thing we got that’s awesome.” He said as we neared the end. “Check out the view.”

We took a seat at one of the tables near the anchor mounted in the center and just looked out over the water. The moon was high in the sky and it’s reflection almost gave the appearance of a stormy day instead of a late night. I turned around and just looked at the size of the area in awe as Andy tugged on my shirt and grabbed my attention.

“We should come out here earlier some night so we have more time for me to show you around.” He said as I watched the flags flutter in the night wind and simply smiled.

“It’s a date.” I said with a smile. “Does Chicago know you are heading up the welcome committee?”

“Oh sure.” He said with a giggle. “They always have us welcome the new people. This way when the bad ones turn up, we can take good care of them.” He said as he leaned up against my side and sighed.

“Am I a good one or a bad one?” I asked with a smirk.

“Yur one of the bad ones, I’m just waiting for the right time to jump you.” He got out before busting out in laughter.

“Oh, like you haven’t had any opportunities.” I replied with a grin.

“I said the right time, there’s a difference ya know.” He said as we both stood up and began to walk back toward land.

“Jesus, two nights in a row?” A familiar voice shouted out from behind us. “This can’t mean you’ve actually decided to rejoin the world of the living, can it?”

Both of us turned and smiled as we saw Spencer rushing to catch up to us. “Bite me.” Andy said with a grin as the two slammed into a playful hug.

“Tried that before, you aren’t much more than a SMALL snack.” Spence shot back with a grin. “Not really worth the effort.” He said as they broke the hug and he turned toward me with his hand out. “Dude, I have no idea how you got the little twerp out of hiding, but I owe ya one.”

I smiled and shook his hand. “I’m not really sure who pulled who out of hiding honestly.” I replied while smiling at Andy. “Blind leading the blind here I guess.”

“Whatever works I suppose.” Spencer said as he pulled me into a hug, stopping to eye a couple who were watching our display. The woman looked angry to be interrupted and the guys stared us down with disgust in his expression. “What? If you wanted a cute guy you shouldn’t be with her.” He said with a grin as he broke our hug.

“Fuck off, Homo!” The guy shouted. You know, in a tone that simply screamed; “I obviously don’t have anything intelligent to fight back with” paired with the “You want some of this” stance. It made us all laugh out loud.

Spencer grinned and stepped right up in the guys face, as his facial expression became stone cold. He even made me nervous as he stepped passed me. “Homo Huh?” He said as he stopped moving, close enough for his breath to hit the other guy in the face as he spoke. “Here’s your chance to put a HOMO in his place, right here and now tough guy. I’ll even give you the first shot.” He said, as he tantalized the guy, obviously hoping the guy would swing.

“Back off Faggot!” The man shouted as he attempted to shove Spencer back, and hard, but never even got him to budge.

“You turn and you walk away now…” Spence said with a cold smile as the guy simply froze in shock. “…or you swing and leave in a body bag.”

“Fuck this, come on Angie. This little fag isn’t worth our time.” He said clearly trying to contain the fact that he was scared shitless as he side stepped his way out from between Spencer and the railing he had been backed up against.

We watched as the guy grabbed his girlfriends arm and nearly dragged her off and out of sight. Mumbling angrily, probably trying to cover up his obvious embarrassment.

“Jesus Christ Spectacle!” Andy said once Spence turned back towards us and grinned. “When the hell did you get so tough?”

“Eh, I dunno.” Spencer replied as he stepped back to our little gathering. “Why? Were you impressed?” He asked with a childish grin.

“Dude.” Andy said looking up to me. “There was a time when the Terminator over here wouldn’t say boo unless he had a fist in his face.” He said looking back at Spence. “Impressed? No! Fucking amazed is more like it.” He said with a smile.

Spencer began to blush as we started to walk our way through the crowd, heading off of the pier. “You guys walk here?” He asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah, just came out to grab something sweet.” Andy replied with a grin.

“Lucky you.” Spence almost sang. “Here I am! Wanna lick?” He said dodging a playful punch from Andy.

“Oh god, bad mental image dude.” Andy choked out before busting out in laughter. “Where have you been staying lately anyway man?”

“Here and there.” Spencer replied as we reached the end of the pier, the noise around us beginning to get lost in the background. “I’ve stayed close to home.”

“You never came by at all dude.” Andy said as I silently listened. “You know you could have come home anytime.”

“I know, but you weren’t exactly friendly after that episode with Ben.” He said softly, almost carefully.

“Ben? You guys avoided me for a whole year because of that back stabbing sonofabitch!?!” Andy almost shouted. “There’s one more reason to hunt the bastard down and rip his heart out.” He said as he wandered off into the nearby park, almost growling and kicking anything that got in his path before he turned back towards us and yelled. “I was alone for a whole… You guys should have… Aw Fuck It!” He said as he turned and started to walk even faster away from us.

“Andy!” I shouted before Spencer put his hand on my chest to keep me from chasing after him.

“Let him go dude, he’ll catch back up eventually.” Spencer said as I looked him in the eye. “C’mon, I’ll walk you home.”

“I can’t leave him out here.” I said looking back in the direction Andy stormed off in.

“He’s a big boy. Let him get it out of his system.” He said draping his arm across my shoulders and urging me to start walking. “One thing about him you’ll learn. If he gets pissed, stand clear.” He said as I reluctantly took his lead and began to walk.

“I take it he really hated this Ben guy, huh?” I asked trying to make sense out of Andy’s sudden tantrum.

“No actually. They were a couple.” He replied, making me think back to how angry Andy got when I spotted him in that picture. “Ah, so he told you a little about it I see.”

“No trespassing.” I said with a grin while pointing at my head.

“Stop thinking so clearly then.” Spencer almost giggled as he gave me a playful punch in the arm. “Look, long story short. Ben was a part of our small group for about 4 years. Andy and he got really close and before we knew it, you couldn’t separate them.” He continued. “The rest of us were happy for them, mostly because Andy was a good friend, even if he was moody and angry most of the time. What you saw tonight was kinda what he was always like before Ben came around.”

“Wow.” I replied with a sigh. “I can’t even imagine that, Andy seems like such a sweet guy.”

Spencer smiled before looking straight forward and replying; “He is a sweet guy. It’s just sometimes you need to look through that little wall of anger he builds around himself to see the sweet, easy to hurt guy hiding inside.” He said as his steps slowed. “He hasn’t explained his extra to you yet, has he?”

“Nope, he welched on that bet.” I said with a half grin. “Honestly, it hasn’t come up at all since last night.”

“He can disrupt the air around him with anger.” He said crossing his arms. “It’s a really good defensive extra really.” He said as I simply looked at him in question. “What happens is he lets his anger build up, almost until it’s boiling inside of him, then he lets it blast out of him. Anger, fear, fright… any bad feeling inside works. When he lets that happen, it like super heats the air around him.” He continued as I quietly walked and listened. “A few years ago, he learned that he can move the air once it gets hot. He actually puts his hands out and spins, starting it in an accelerated, searing cyclone around himself that just keeps going until he either stops it’s motion with a spin in the other direction or, he runs out of energy to feed it.”

“Keeps others away from him?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, check this out.” He said as he grabbed my hand and held it to his chest. “He had started to teach me how to do it, although I could never get it to project any where near as wide or hot as he can.” He said as he closed his eyes and I could feel the air around my hand and forearm getting hot enough to make me uncomfortable. “That’s all I got.” He said as the heat seemed to simply vanish into the night air. “Picture that at least a hundred times hotter at least five feet around me and spinning fast, burning anything that gets in it’s way or tries to get through it.”

“Oh my god.” I said with my eyes opening wide. “He could cook someone.”

“Yeah.” He said as we began to walk again. “He has real good control of it now, when I first met him he sometimes would flare up without warning. That was some frightening shit.”

“I bet.” I said redirecting my gaze toward the ground and becoming really silent.

“He’s not a danger to you. You have to know that.” Spencer said warmly. “I’ve pissed him off before, I mean seriously and he’s never turned it on me. If he cares about you, it’s almost like he can’t I guess. He has to really hate for it to become lethal.”

“Do you think he hates that Ben guy?” I asked putting my hands in my pocket as we turned a corner, my house coming into view.

“I know he does.” Spence said as I slowed my pace a bit, not wanting to get to the house too soon. “It’s not my place to give you all the details on that situation. All I can say is that Andy was really in love with the fucker, he knew it and used it to get in tight with the rest of us. He had us all fooled.” Spence said as we reached my door and I pulled my keys out.

“Wanna come in?” I asked after opening the door.

“Thanks, but I probably should get going.” He said as he pulled me into a friendly hug.

“If you see him again tonight, could you tell him I left the door open so he can get in?” I asked as Spence put his hands on my shoulders and straightened his arms out, adding some distance for us to get a good look at each others faces.

“No problem. Look, if he doesn’t come right back tonight, don’t worry ok? Sometimes he really just needs his space.” Spencer said as I nodded my head. “You’ll learn that the best way to handle him is give him his space and he’ll eventually come around.”

“Spence, how long ago did all that go down between Andy and Ben?” I asked just as he was about to turn and start walking.

“Just over a year ago.” He said shrugging his shoulders. “Him just taking an interest in something outside of the walls of that old garage means he ready to move on. He’s still healing, but he’s made that step now.” Spence said as he began to walk. “Talk to you later Jon.”

“You too, Thanks Spence.” I shouted back, getting a wave as he disappeared down the street.

I reached over and turned on the lights before slowly closing the door. “2:30am…” I mumbled as I dropped my jacket into a chair and started a pot of coffee brewing. I stopped and looked at Andy’s open bedroom door and sighed as I grabbed a slice of the now extremely cold pizza from earlier and took a bite while listening to the dead silence in the apartment. I finished my slice and poured myself a cup of coffee before reaching for another slice, seeing an open notebook. “I’ll leave him a note, just in case he comes home and I’ve passed out.” I mumbled as I grabbed a pen and started to write;

*
Andy,

I’m really sorry for the way things worked out tonight. I hope you’re ok. If you’re reading this then you obviously got in. I really hope you come home soon, I can’t believe how quiet it is in here. I mean you are my first and only friend out here…. Argh… I’m just worried about you and rambling.

If you get home and I’ve fallen asleep, wake me up ok? I just really want to know you are ok.

I’m always here to talk if you need me, I promise, ok?

Talk to you soon…
Jon

*

I put the note on the table and grabbed one more slice of pizza before grabbing my coffee and slowly wandering into the living room. As I plopped down on the couch and flipped the television on, I went to kick my feet up before realizing Andy’s old clothes were still sitting on the couch where I was going to lay my head. It’s weird, I mean it was only a couple of days ago when he first came into my home. I should be used to the silence, I should be used to being alone. It was at that moment I realized I was desperately hoping to hear another voice. My sight began to get blurred as tears forced their way to the surface. That little guy worked his way into my heart and without him here, it left a painful emptiness. How did I let myself get so attached in such a short time?

I finished my pizza and took a sip from my coffee before grabbing his small pile of extremely worn out clothing and curled up with them in my arms, letting the emptiness inside me take over. The loneliness seemed to just scream at me in the silence as the sounds from the television got drowned out. My coffee went forgotten as I hugged the small stack of Andy’s clothes and drifted off to sleep.

Sounds of the afternoon news coming from the television woke me with a start. The sunlight coming in through the closed curtains almost confused me as I could have sworn I had just closed my eyes for a second. I sat up quickly and turned to look at Andy’s bedroom door, still wide open. “He never came home…” I mumbled, as I looked at the ball of clothes that were still clenched tightly in my arms. I sighed and stood up, deciding I should at least try to get something accomplished today. As I was walking to the kitchen to pour out my cold coffee and grab some hot, probably badly burned coffee from last night to replace it, my cell phone rang, making me jump and spill some on myself.

“Ahem… Hello?” I said, still trying to brush the searing liquid off of my shirt.

“Jon dude, don’t hang up. Please.” Oh great, just what I need right now.

“What is it Jeremy?” I asked as I let out a loud sigh and sat down.

“Look, I spent all day yesterday thinking about everything you said.” He got out sounding as if he had been rehearsing for this call.

“Okay…” I replied, making sure my frustration with his persistence was made clear.

“Look, you probably won’t care about this or… Well I wanted you to… I miss you dude.” He seemed to stumble as he tried to get the words out.

I sat in silence half expecting him to continue speaking, but after an extended silence I finally broke my silence and started; “You called to say that? I’m pretty sure we got that out in the open yesterday.”

“I know.” He said softly. “That question you asked me, it kinda stayed with me all day.”

“What question?” I asked trying to think back to the conversation.

“You know, if I was gay and wanted you back and stuff.” He replied.

“Look,” I started. “I said that just for you to prove me right. I know what your response would be if anyone accused you…” I said when he cut me off.

“What if I was?” He asked, stopping me dead.

After an uncomfortable moment of silence, I finally cleared my throat, took a sip from my mug and took a deep breath. “I would call you a hypocrite.”

“I suppose I can’t blame you.” He said with a sniffle.

“Honestly, what would you expect me to say? Do you think after the way you pretty much threw me under the bus I would just forgive all? Even if you are gay, you never had the right to turn on me. Actually, It would make me angrier since now I know there is a chance you really knew what I’ve been going through. You kicked me in the mud for being in the same hell as you, like you had some sort of special right or you were somehow above me for keeping up the straight act longer than I could.” I blurted out, getting angrier with each word. “Besides, I trusted you. I opened a part of my life to you and let my guard down. Not like I would have expected you to out yourself, but a little bit of understanding would have been nice. Instead you decided to stab me in the back? It was your choice to make and even if it was a mistake, you made that choice.”

Jeremy was dead silent, if it weren’t for his labored breathing on the other end, I would have assumed he had hung up. I listened and drank more of my coffee before he finally cleared his throat. “I know.”

“Then unless you just want to clear the air, there’s nothing left to accomplish here.” I said as I sat back in my chair. I’d be lying if all this hadn’t reopened the wound a bit as tears welled up in my eyes but my anger never left me.

“I made the wrong decision. I know I did. I knew it when it happened. You hid all this from us all and sprung it on us all without warning.” He began. “Just cause you were ready to let everyone know doesn’t mean everyone else was ready to hear it, or deal with it or even to make the same choice and be comfortable with it.”

“I’m sorry my timing wasn’t to your convenience.” I shot back at him.

“It’s more than just that.” He replied, his voice beginning to crack. “I am gay Jon. I was just so scared when you came out that I got defensive. Maybe someone who was straight and hanging out with someone who just came out it wouldn’t be an issue. I tried to avoid any accusations, like I’ve instinctively done for years.”

“I think you accomplished that then.” I stabbed at him.

“You don’t get it.” He said, beginning to display a little frustration.

“I do. I stepped out of the closet and into the sunlight. When I opened that door, you retreated deeper into the closet to avoid the light. No, I get it.” I replied. “If you ever really gave a damn though, you could have accomplished that without taking any kind of a stand.”

“I know that now.” He said with a sniffle. “I did something stupid though.”

“Oh really?” I asked, still not dropping the sarcasm.

“Of all the people to turn on, you were the last person I ever wanted to do that to. I… um… Oh damn it!” He almost growled. “I love you Jon. I always have and I hate myself for doing what I did to you. I don’t ever expect you to forgive me, I’ll never forgive myself and now it’s too late to even try.”

“You love me?” I questioned. “Well there’s a twist I would have never seen coming.”

“I know.” He replied. “Look, I’m not saying this hoping to ever get any kind of forgiveness or as any kind of a plea for your trust. I just wanted you to know before we never speak again. I fucked up and you can hate me for it. I never planned to hurt you so badly, honestly. Just after you told us all, I wanted so bad to tell you how I felt. I even tried a couple of times. The last time I tried, the guys saw how I was staring at you and gave me that stare. You know what I mean. That was the day I called you… that name. Once I made that mistake, I couldn’t stop it, not if I wanted to keep myself a secret.”

“Well, your secret is pretty safe I think. You didn’t just come off as straight. Now you are ranked right up there with the best of the fag bashers.” I said, almost wanting to take it back the second the words left my lips.

“I’m sorry.” Jeremy forced out between sniffles. “I’m so sorry.” He said beginning to openly cry. “I love you Jon, I never meant to hurt you. Please believe me. Even if you hate me, please just believe that I do and I’m so sorry.”

“I do believe you, and I don’t hate you.” I said while wiping a stray tear off my cheek. “But I’m gone. You chased me away, you and everyone else who decided to rally against me. I love you too, but I can’t trust you. I don’t expect you to make any kind of public announcements or even stand at my side as I face prejudice and hate.” I said, having to swallow hard before continuing. “When everyone started throwing stones at me, all you had to do was get out of the line of fire, not join in and start throwing them too.”

“I know.” Jeremy weakly said through his sobs. “Just know that I love you. I have since we first met and I hate myself for never saying it now. I’ll love you til the day I die.” He said as he cleared his throat. “Goodbye Jon, I’m so sorry.” He got out just as I heard a click.

“Jeremy?” I asked into the phone, realizing he just ended the call. “Fine.” I said as I closed my phone and set it on the table and took a deep breath. This is just what I needed today, you know? It’s not bad enough that I had to take all that abuse back home, now I have to deal with Jeremy losing it on me long distance. Maybe next time I’ll just be nicer. Yeah, next time I’ll let him off the hook and just pray that he gets it together. Maybe he’ll find someone, maybe he’ll have to put up with some of what I got when I came out. Either way, I’m still out of the picture.

The whole day was nothing but a blur. I ended out curled up on the couch for most of it, depressed and lonely. Nothing but this little pile of Andy’s clothes to keep me company. “Got I’m fucking pathetic.” I mumbled as I turned the television off and rolled over, once again dozing off.

“Jon?” A small voice seemed to echo in my thoughts actually startling me. It had gotten dark out and was pitch black in the room.

“Hello?” I called out into the blackness as I felt around for the lamp. “Who’s there?” I got out as I flipped the light on and tried to focus on the small form sitting on the floor in the middle of the room.

“It’s just me.” Andy’s voice replied as my eyes finally began to regain focus and I could make out his angelic face.

“Oh thank god!” I almost shouted as I rolled off the couch and pulled him into a hug. “I was so worried about you.”

“I can tell.” He replied with a weak giggle as he leaned back and looked me over. “That’s not all because of me, is it?”

“Huh?” I asked realizing I had done nothing but slept most of the day away. I hadn’t showered, brushed my teeth, shaved or even got dressed. “Oh, no. Sorry. It’s just been a bad day.”

“Mmmhmmm.” He replied with an unconvinced glare. “Sorry about last night. I guess I gotta stop letting that stuff get to me like that.”

“Me too.” I replied realizing part of my depression was due to almost the same thing. “Spence explained some of it to me, so don’t worry. I do understand.” I said as I stood up and stretched. “Look, I’m gonna jump in the shower and throw some clothes on. You wanna go do something tonight?”

“Eh, it’s up to you.” He replied as he walked over and wrapped his arms around me. “I read your note. I should have at least told you I wanted to be alone. I’m sorry I made you worry.”

I leaned over and kissed the top of his head and tightened the hug. “We all need our space. Don’t worry about it, ok?”

“Ok.” Andy weakly replied before scrunching up his nose and grinning. ‘Yep, you definitely need a shower.” Before bursting out in a fit of giggles.

“Gee thanks pal.” I retorted before a smile finally won out and crept into my expression. “I’ll just be a few minutes.”

“Ok, I’ll be in my room.” Andy said with a smile as he turned and padded off into his room. “God it’s nice to not be alone.” I mumbled as I disappeared into the bathroom. Not even 5 minutes later I could hear a light knocking on the bathroom door. “What’s up?” I shouted and listened, only being able to tell he was talking but not able to understand him over the running water. “Just open the door dude, I can’t hear you.”

“Your phone was ringing.” Andy said as I could see his shadow form on the shower curtain.

“Did you look at the caller ID?” I asked as I closed my eyes and let the warm water run down my back.

“Unavailable.” He replied.

“Don’t worry about it then. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message or call back.” I answered.

“Okay.” Andy said as I heard him set the phone on the sink. “Leave some hot water.” He said with a giggle. “It might be a good idea if I took one too.”

“Oh ok, I’ll hurry then.” I replied with a sigh wishing I had the balls enough to just have him jump in. Just then he began to giggle out loud. “What?” I asked, making him giggle harder.

“I like your idea better.” He said as he stepped closer to the shower. “Wanna share it?”

“Um… well… it’s big enough, I guess.” I almost stammered out as I saw his shadow begin to undress.

“Stop thinking like that.” He said as he pulled the curtain open and stepped in. “At least 32, remember?”

“Ok, you win.” I said as I stepped aside and soaped up a washcloth, instinctively beginning to soap up his back instead of myself.

“Wow, I get the treatment too? Nice.” He almost purred as any of the tension he had been carrying just seemed to melt away.

It was just as he began to rinse off, that I got a very clear look at his body. About 5′ 3”, maybe 90 to 100 pounds. He had a swimmers build, lean and muscular with very little baby fat at all. Whatever it was he did in life, it kept him in great shape.

“A lot of football and bike riding.” He said with a giggle, snapping me out of my daze.

“It shows.” I said with a blush as he turned toward me and smiled.

“That’s a first.” He said as a blush began to form on his face. “You should look in the mirror though.” He said as he raised an eyebrow and gave me a crooked smile.

“Damn my thoughts.” I just said in defeat as Andy laughed out loud and stole the washcloth.

“What? Thinking I’m… um, how did you think it? Oh yeah, Fucking Hot is a compliment, trust me.” He said as my face must have turned a deeper red since I could literally feel the heat build in my cheeks. “Get under the water, it’s your turn.” He said with a laugh as we switched places and he began soaping up my back.

“I guess I just… Um…” I started to say.

“A little kid?” He finished for me. “Dude, I was almost 13 when it happened. What do you remember about being 13?”

“Oh boy.” I replied, but continued to relax as he worked the washcloth from my shoulders in a relaxing path downward. “I was coming into my own. That’s when I realized I was gay and pretty much could have turned into the class slut if it weren’t for my being extremely shy.” I said with a giggle.

“Just think, this body is older than yours and will always be almost 13.” He said as he worked his way all the way down my legs, startling me a little when he didn’t skip anything on the way.

“But you aren’t exactly shy.” I said with a laugh. “Does that make you a vampire slut?”

Andy burst out laughing and tossed the washcloth over my shoulder before replying. “Yeah, sometimes. Maybe someday I’ll prove it to you.” He said before rolling his eyes, as I must have had a horrified look on my face. “One of these days I’m gonna get you to relax, even if I have to get you drunk again to make it happen.” He added with a giggle.

Just as I rolled my eyes Andy smiled warmly and wrapped his arms around me, resting his forehead into my shoulder. “Did you read that thought?” I asked getting him to look me in the eyes.

“Yeah.” He replied with a smile. “I like that idea better.” he answered as he tightened the hug and buried his face in my shoulder once again.

I smiled and kissed him on the top of his head. “I thought you might.” I whispered as I tenderly rubbed his back.

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