It was astounding how beautiful he was. Kendall shifted in his seat, trying not to stare at the best friend he had in the whole world. Swallowing down the lump in his throat, he felt the dread crawl over him, and he steeled himself for what he was about to do. He'd entered Sticks and Suds by the side door, slipping into the booth unnoticed. The waitress, having seen his arrival, approached him with a welcoming smile. He waved her away with a, "Thanks, Cora, I'm good."
As she nodded, turned, and retreated, Michael caught his eye, giving him one of those heart-stopping smiles he seemed to reserve just for Kendall. Gesturing, he indicated he was almost finished his pool game.
Candy, the flavor of the last couple of months, chose that moment to plant a big kiss on Michael, reaching up and wrapping her arms around his muscular neck. Kendall smirked to himself at her obvious act of possession, knowing how Michael felt about his women when they got that way. That smirk turned to a frown as he wondered if Candy might be different. She'd already lasted a few weeks longer than most of them did. The feeling such a thought gave him was exactly the reason he had to follow through on why he asked Michael to meet him here.
He watched Michael disengage himself from Candy's grip, powerful arms gently setting her aside as he turned away to prepare to take his next shot. Leaning over the table, the view he provided was impossible to look away from. His flaring back was on perfect display as his arm drew the cue back in preparation, and his was an ass Kendall had stared at and fantasized about for the entire six years he'd known him.
From roommates the first year of Police College, to sitting in this booth today, Michael was never far from Kendall's thoughts... and that had to change. His resolve wasn't wavering, but his body was showing signs of the great stress he was under. Nausea threatened to overtake him and there was a noticeable tremble to his hands. He found himself wishing Michael would hurry up.
As if he heard Kendall's thoughts, Michael replaced his cue in the rack and turned to look his way with a smile he recognized as victorious. Chalk up another win for the big Irish/Italian cop no one seemed to mind losing to. Careful not to drown in those intense blue eyes, Kendall glanced away as Michael started his short trek towards him. True to form, Michael stopped to say a few words to a couple sitting at the booth closest to the group of pool tables. His deep, rumbling laugh brought Kendall's eyes back to him.
That natural charm and friendliness gave Kendall a chance to take in his incredible appeal for a few more seconds. Those muscular, jean-clad legs with that bulge that couldn't be hidden in any pants, up his amazing set of abdominal muscles, to the power packed chest stretching the navy blue t-shirt that had POLICE printed across it, Kendall got lost in the masculine perfection that was Michael. His gaze continued up to see a frown flicker across the face that haunted his days, and his nights, as Michael stared back at him.
Quickly looking down, Kendall wondered what his face had shown. Normally he was careful about hiding how he felt, but knowing there was an expiration date on the option of admiring the person he loved most in this world, had, for a split second, caused those cautious walls to drop. A rueful smile appeared on his face at the mental acknowledgement he wasn't going to hide anymore, and it hit him again, the enormity of what his intention was going to cost him.
Looking back up, he was startled to see Michael slide into the seat facing him, running a hand through that glossy black hair of his. There was a look of genuine worry on his face, and that caused a deep searing pain to run through what was either Kendall's heart or his soul.
"Hey, buddy. What's going on? Are you okay?"
His concern was so evident, Kendall's conviction wavered, and he found himself floundering in a pool of emotion, robbing him of his ability to speak.
"Hey? Did something happen? Do you need something to drink? You don't look very good."
His determination slowly exerted itself, and Kendall was soon able to give him a weak smile. "I'm okay...I just need to talk to you about something... something important." A couple of deep breaths calmed him slightly, and he continued to convince his friend he was all right. "I am not sick or anything, but what I have to talk about is really hard for me, so I need you to listen and let me get things out, okay?"
Michael, looking perplexed, nodded.
"Okay, so first you need to know something, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. You've been my best friend for so long and I was being totally unfair to you... I was being unfair to both of us." He looked away as his heart started to race, and he could feel a horrible kind of sweat breaking out on his entire upper body. God, this was so hard.
"Just tell me, Deuce," Michael said softly. "Whatever it is, it can't be that bad. Best friends forever, right?"
Hearing Michael's nickname for him got him back on track, barely, and he tried to give him a reassuring smile... one he didn't feel. "I hope so, Ace, I really do."
Michael started to react, but Kendall's agonized plea to "Wait," stopped him cold. It was clear he didn't know what was going on here, but Kendall saw the realization dawn on his friend's face just how serious this was.
He'd never seen Kendall like this before because he had never allowed him to. As hard as he tried to stay calm, a nervous hand was gripping and releasing the blond hair on the top of his head while he fought the terror of what he was doing and how it would all turn out. The uneasy expression on Michael's face as he watched him struggle not to lose it was making things worse, but he knew he had to do this.
"I'm sorry, Ace... just bear with me please." Another plea to hold a now anxious Michael in check. "I should have told you this a long time ago. No excuses... I told myself I couldn't figure out how, but the fact is, I just didn't have the guts. I'm gay." Those two words came out softly, but the sob that followed had him swallowing fiercely. He watched as Michael's face went totally blank. Forcing himself to really look at the man, he found he couldn't read him. He could always tell what that familiar face was thinking, but this time, as he searched it, he couldn't decipher anything. When a sick fear started to overwhelm him, he saw Michael's eyes come back into focus.
"How is that possible? You're kidding right? I know you've slept with a lot of women." He rubbed his face with large hands as if to wake himself up. "We've had sex with women in the same room. Remember Kelly? You had her climbing the walls. I know because I was there." The confused expression matched his words.
"Yes, you were there. There haven't been a lot of women, though. As a matter of fact, I haven't had sex with a woman in a couple of years... not since Amanda. I just let you think I did because it was easier than this." Kendall stopped to take a few deep breaths, trying to regain some control. He was right on the edge of breaking down completely, but he knew he was only halfway done. "I realized what I was doing wasn't right, and I stopped. Dragging other people's feelings into my messed up life was wrong. All it did was make me feel worse. I'm gay. I'm not here to convince you of that. This isn't a joke. I wish it was, but it isn't."
The sadness coming from Kendall hit Michael full force. He had a strong urge to take the big man in his arms and hold him. It hurt so bad to see him like this. "It's okay," he said softly. "I had no idea, none at all, but it's okay. I don't care. You are still my best friend and always will be. You didn't think that would change, did you?" He waited for his friend to finally meet his eyes. The look he saw there was one of utter despair.
"The thing is, we can't be best friends, not for now, not like we have been...."
That was Candy's cue to slide into the booth beside Michael. He hadn't seen or heard her approach. "Baby, you're ignoring me and I don't like it. You told me you were going to teach me to play pool."
Michael shifted his stunned gaze over to Candy. "What the hell are you talking about? Not now, Candy. I told you Kendall needed to talk to me, so could you just piss off." It wasn't a question, and it came out as a hiss as he glared at her for a second before looking back at the man across from him. The tension was excruciating, and he wanted Candy gone. He turned and glared at her again, watching her pout go from hurt to indignant. He couldn't have cared less in that moment. Finally, she slid out of the booth and stalked away, throwing a comment over her shoulder as she left.
"Fine. Stay here with your boyfriend then. I'll find someone else to teach me."
"Bitch," Michael uttered as he focused on Kendall. "What the hell do you mean? I told you I was fine with it and you say we can't be best friends anymore?" He couldn't help it. His words were spit out with anger and hurt. This part was something Michael couldn't accept. He had never been closer to any other person, outside of his parents, in his whole life. He relied on Kendall and his almost daily presence. They did everything together. They had coffee every morning, they ate together most evenings, they went to the gym, movies, hockey games, camping, fishing... fuck, even shopping. They hardly ever went a day without seeing one another, and told each other everything.
Okay, so apparently not everything, but that didn't matter right now. How could Kendall even think of ending their friendship? "You can't be serious? You've got to be fucking kidding me. Why in hell would you think we couldn't be best friends? Haven't I always been supportive of you? Fuck man... don't even go there. Seriously, you're freaking me out here. I don't give a rat's ass if you're gay."
A long silence followed those words, and Kendall looked like he was dying inside. What the fuck?
"Say something. Tell me you don't mean this. Please, Deuce, " Michael pleaded. Desperation combined with disbelief, but those feelings were giving way to a fear stronger than any Michael could remember experiencing. This could not be happening.
Now they were at the part that had Kendall twisted up in knots. This was what'd prevented him from telling his best friend sooner... the reason why his life has been on hold for so long. "Ace... you need to understand everything. I need to have my own life. The last thing I want is to end our friendship, but I don't see any other way." He couldn't stop the tears from welling up... he didn't even try. He felt so fucking raw, and imagined cutting off a hand couldn't hurt any worse. "I need to find someone for me, and I can't do that when I see you every day. I'm sorry. I couldn't ask for a better friend. I lose here too." This time the tears spilled over with a vengeance and he could no longer meet the pained look in those dark blue eyes.
"Hey, am I missing something here, because I don't get it? If I take up too much of your time then I'll just back off. I really am okay with... with the gay thing. Hell... I'll even help you if you want. I'll help you find someone, whatever it takes, man. Just please don't end our friendship. It doesn't make sense and there's no reason for it. And please don't cry. We can get through this. I just can't imagine us not being friends. Fuck, Deuce, I need you."
"I love you, Ace," Kendall whispered. It came out so low he wondered if Michael heard him.
Obviously, he had. "Hey, I love you too. You mean more to me than a brother ever could... you have to know that."
"No." The word came out wreathed in the pain he felt. This was it... what he'd dreaded and avoided for so damn long. "You don't understand. Shit. I know you love me, but what I am talking about is something different. I am in love with you. I am in love with you and I have been since our first year of college. I don't have a life because I can't think of any other guy but you. I crave being around you and I'm lost when I'm not. I think about you all day and I dream about you at night. That's why I can't be around you anymore. It's not what I want... it's what I need. Do you get it now? I am in love with someone who can't return it. I look at you, and I feel all this love I have to hold back and try to bury, and it's fucking killing me." Kendall would not have thought it possible to feel so exposed, so brutally vulnerable, but he had done it and there was no going back.
Michael was reeling. The anguish in Kendall's confession ripped him to the core, and the shock of his words hit him like bullets. He knew what he was hearing, but he couldn't react. One thing that got through loud and clear was that Kendall was in love with him and it was preventing him from moving forward. 'Someone who can't return it' was rebounding in his head. What should he say to that?
He did love Kendall, and seeing him so unhappy, hearing such suffering in his voice... knowing he was the reason this six foot, three inch man was reduced to this painful mess, robbed him of the ability to fathom a solution or produce a reaction... so he just sat there feeling like the world had dropped away beneath him. He felt defeated. He hadn't expected this, nor was he prepared, and he felt embarrassed that he had been so dense, so oblivious, to his best friend's pain.
Kendall waited for Michael to respond but nothing came. He understood. He was feeling shell-shocked, and he was the one who dropped the bomb. The time had come. "I'm going to go now. I am really, really sorry I dumped this on you. I hope you're going to be okay. You're probably pissed at me right now, and I don't blame you. Maybe someday we can be friends again... as hard as this is, I need you to respect what I have to do. I have to get over you... I've tried for years, but it hasn't worked. You know what they say about out of sight, out of mind." He tried a little smile, but it wasn't returned, not that he expected it to be. "Take care of yourself, Ace." There was nothing more to say, so he got up and slipped out the door behind him, taking one last glance at a man who looked like he had just lost his best friend. Pain punched him in the gut as he watched a tear drop from that chiseled jaw and land on the table top.
Michael couldn't, for the life of him, figure out what he could have done or should have done. He had never felt so lost in his life. He'd tried to speak... to say something... anything... but nothing came out. And now it was too late. His best friend was gone.
Kendall stumbled to his truck with that last image in his head. Seeing Michael's tears was something he hadn't been prepared for. He'd never seen his friend cry before and it devastated him that the first time it happened, he was the cause. He'd convinced himself he would feel better once he came clean... free, and ready to move on with his life. Maybe that would come someday, but for now, he had never felt lower.
The door had just closed completely on the man he loved with his entire being. The last thing he wanted was to replace him with someone else. Kendall's mind rebelled at the thought, and reality hit him as he pulled out of the parking lot. Sobs that came from the depth of his soul began to make their way up and out. He knew nothing would ever be the same again, and he had only himself to blame. The very real thought occurred to him that Michael would probably never forgive him for walking away from their friendship. The sobs became hoarse, screeching howls that threatened to stop his heart with their intensity. Driving was no longer an option as he pulled over onto a weedy shoulder and tried to get himself back under control. Flinging open his door just in time, he spewed the contents of his stomach onto the pavement. Again and again, his body convulsed.
So this was the start of his new life? All he could think of was that handsome face with the tears running down its cheeks...a testament to the pain he had caused. Over and over in his head, one question repeated itself, so he let it escape his lips and said to no one, "What have I done?"
Writing a story for the first time is a terrifying thing for me to do. Let me know what you think if you are so inclined...Cheers...Gary