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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    Headstall
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Exes and Ohs - 10. Chapter 10 It Is What It Is

Karma's a bitch.

                                                                                                                                                                  ***

 

 

Drake paced around his condo, phone in hand; the conversation with Callie had ended more than an hour before. She’d caught him up on what was going on with their parents, but he’d found it a struggle to concentrate on her words after having his personal epiphany. Still, he’d absorbed the gist of it.

He found his way to the balcony, and forced himself to stand still as he looked out over the lights of the city. According to his sister, their father had stayed for dinner when he finally brought their mother home, and they’d even spent time outside afterward, sitting by the pool and talking in hushed tones. Callie hadn’t been able to hear the conversation from her bedroom window, but apparently it had appeared both serious, and friendly.

Drake remembered her saying their mother had giggled a few times, and that their dad had done his deep, rumbling belly laugh in response. For a second, a picture formed which took him back in time… to when his parents had been happy. It was a lot to take in, but one thing for sure—his sister was beyond excited—and if Jimmy wasn’t so much on his mind, he probably would have been too.

Sighing, he went back inside and sat down. Admitting to himself he’d fallen in love with his friend—his best friend—was only a first step. He didn’t know exactly when it had happened, but there was no longer any denying it. He didn’t want to… he wanted… Jimmy.

He’d fought it, or maybe ignored it was more accurate—but it hadn’t worked. Going out with Dean had found him comparing the two—always in Jimmy’s favor—and that had been unsettling, yet still he'd been incapable of letting his feelings fully surface.

But things had come to a head over the course of the weekend, when he was given no choice but to face what was in his heart, and he was glad for it. Jimmy had forced him out of his safe little cocoon just by being himself, and while he still had some of those same fears percolating, they no longer seemed daunting. Instead, there was a bigger fear firmly planted in his gut… and the thought of Jimmy turning away from him for good was the reason for it.

Drake looked at his phone for the umpteenth time, trying to formulate what he wanted to say to the man. He’d thought he had it when he finished his shower, but faltered as he began to make the call. Yeah, he was scared.

He kept seeing his demeanor from that morning, and the same reticence when he’d dropped him off. It worried him. Maybe it was too late to talk about giving a new relationship a chance. Finally, he tossed the phone on his dining table, concluding it could wait until tomorrow, if not before work, maybe during lunch. Jimmy had been very clear he wanted distance from him. He really had to stop throwing his phone like that.

He should have been hungry, but he wasn’t. A handful of soda crackers and a few sips of ginger ale were all his stomach could handle before he turned out the lights and headed back to bed.

Hours later he was still awake. He kept walking the knife edge of uncertainty. What he really needed was to see Jimmy, and for him to work his magic, convincing him he still wanted Drake, and that his heart would be safe… that loving the man wouldn’t hurt him. He was ready to take the leap, because Jimmy was worth it. At the core of his being, he knew that… and he knew he’d been a colossal fool.

 

Arriving at work earlier than usual, Drake picked up two coffees and a couple of cheese tea biscuits from the café on the ground floor, something he’d done many times before. Mondays were his days. On the elevator ride up, he was filled with anticipation, hoping the Jimmy of yesterday had disappeared. Sleep had been elusive as he chased his thoughts in circles, but he did manage a couple of hours before rising at six, and when he opened his eyes, everything came into focus. He had to trust the man he loved… he did trust him… and he had to tell him that.

Turning the corner, he was able to see into part of Jimmy’s cubicle. He was already there. Drake could see one foot sticking out, and his heart moved into his throat. Sandra’s shift didn’t start until nine, an hour later than theirs, so there was only the two of them in this section of the floor.

“Hey,” he called out as he neared.

“Hey,” was returned, but it wasn’t Jimmy’s voice he heard.

“Len?” Drake’s heart sunk when the wrong face came into view. “What are you doing here?”

“What do you think?” he asked with a grin. “The iron man finally called in sick.”

“He did? Did he say what was wrong?”

Len peered at him curiously. “I didn’t talk to him, Drake. Human Resources called me last night to tell me I was subbing for Jimmy today, so here I am.”

“Last night? Oh, right. Of course. Anything you need?”

“Nah, just like riding a bike, and I already checked… nothing’s pending, so no headaches to deal with yet.”

“Yeah, Jimmy doesn’t leave loose ends. Well, welcome back to our little corner of the world. Here’s a coffee for you, black no sugar.”

“Hey, thanks, Drake! That’s how I like it, and perfect timing… I was just going to run down to get one. There was too big a lineup when I came in.”

“Well, now you don’t have to.” The smile Drake had pasted on was beginning to slip. Jimmy hadn’t called in sick in the year he’d worked with him… not in the entire year and a half he’d worked for the big communications company. Was it because of him?

The phone rang, and Len said, “I got this.” It was perfect timing too, for Drake to escape to his desk.

Maybe Jimmy really was sick. Swallowing down a spike of fear as he sat down, he began typing a text to the man.

“Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Let me know if you need anything. Len is filling in… even drinking your coffee… he’s a nice guy, but he’s not you. Feel better. D”

Thirty seconds later, he pushed send, sipping his coffee while he stared at the phone. But there was no response, not that he should have expected there would be. Ten minutes later, sighing, he turned on his computer to see what was waiting for him.

Fortunately, Len, while friendly, wasn’t the garrulous type, and Drake was able to bury himself in his tasks. Before he knew it, the man was at his side asking if he wanted to go get some lunch. Startled, Drake considered it, and then realized there was something he needed to do.

“Sounds good, Len, but I’ve already eaten two tea biscuits. I have an errand to run. Raincheck?” Raincheck? He already had one of those from Jimmy.

“Sure. Maybe tomorrow if I’m still here.”

“Tomorrow for sure, and if you’re not, we’ll sync our lunch hours and get together next week. I didn’t realize the time. I should get going.” Drake stood up, grabbed his phone, and slid into his jacket. “See you in an hour.”

Drake made it back with a few minutes to spare, walking to his desk with another coffee and a plastic-wrapped egg salad sandwich. Sandra and Len were both on the phone so he just waved as he walked past.

Still no response from Jimmy. It was disappointing, but if the man was really sick, understandable. He decided to send another text.

“I hope you’re getting lots of rest. Do you want me to bring you anything when I’m done here?”

Maybe being ill was the reason Jimmy had been so withdrawn the day before? Drake wanted to believe that, but it wasn’t an easy leap. It could have been a combination of Drake’s out-of-line remark and coming down with something, though. At any rate, he couldn’t shake the bad feeling in his gut.

 

He arrived home feeling lost… stuck in limbo until he and Jimmy talked. The idea of eating held no appeal. Sitting on his couch, shoes and suit jacket still on, he stared at his phone after tossing it on his coffee table. Fighting the urge to pick it back up, he rolled his head back and stared at the plaster ceiling. He’d expected a response by now, but it hadn’t happened, and sending another text would likely elicit the same silence.

Jimmy was avoiding contact. He was avoiding him. Frustrated as he was, he refused to give in to the despair that threatened. He could be wrong, in which case Jimmy was seriously ill, and there was only one way to find out. With determination, he stood and retrieved his phone, dialing as he left his condo.

Drake was nervous as hell as he parked his SUV in visitor parking. Was he doing the right thing? Maybe not, but he had to know Jimmy was all right, and more selfishly, he had to know they were all right. Everything had changed since he’d admitted to himself he loved the man… his walls were down, and he was feeling extremely vulnerable. Jimmy’s forgiveness was something he desperately needed.

A long time had passed since the last time he’d been there, but he found ‘J Calloway’ right away… it took him thirty seconds before he was ready to push the buzzer. Half a minute later, he pushed it again. Nothing. Was the man too sick to get up and answer? Maybe he was at the doctor, or even worse, the hospital.

Drake’s stomach clenched as he tried one more time. In frustration he yanked on one of the double doors, catching himself off guard when it flew open, the edge smacking his forehead. Rubbing the spot of impact, he cursed as he looked up to see the automatic closer had been disengaged. Was this an omen? Should he go home and wait for Jimmy to contact him?

On the ride up, he took deep breaths, trying to convince himself he was doing the right thing. When the elevator door opened, the hallway of the fifth floor brought back memories, and he headed right without needing to look at the numbers. Jimmy’s place was at the end, on the left.

Swallowing, he knocked softly. There was a muffled sound before the door opened. An absolutely stunning girl… woman… stood in front of him.

“Yes?”

“Ah, hi. I’m not sure if I have the right apartment?”

“Depends on who you’re looking for. Are you a delivery man?”

“Delivery man? Oh, no, this is chicken soup for my friend.”

“Oh. Do you mean Jimmy by any chance?” she asked, her smile warm and friendly.

“Yes.” He looked back the way he came before he met her eyes again. “I’m Drake. We work together, and I thought he might need—”

“Drake? Hi, I’m Victoria. It’s so nice to finally meet you. Come on in… he’s in the den working away on his computer.”

“That’s okay. I ah… I just wanted to make sure he was okay, and bring him this”—he held out the soup he’d ordered and picked up from his favorite restaurant—“so could you give this to him please, and tell him I’ll see him at work?”

“Why don’t you just give it to me yourself, Drake?” Jimmy appeared behind Victoria, dressed in a robe, his expression unreadable.

“Oh, hey. You’re looking not too bad. I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to intrude… ah, I pushed the buzzer but there was no answer. Um… it’s soup from Warrington’s… it’s really good.”

“Sorry, that damn buzzer system’s been down since yesterday. Thanks for the soup, but Vic and I just ate. I’ll put it in the fridge for later.” He tilted his head and pinned Drake with a questioning look. “So, why would you think you’re intruding?”

Drake had already taken one step back, anxious to leave, but that look held him in place. “Ah… because I just showed up at your door without any warning, and you have company… we… we can catch up at work when you get back.”

“Hey, I’m not company, and besides, I was just about to go myself, so we’ll have to get acquainted another time,” Victoria said before turning and giving Jimmy a peck on the mouth. “Good luck tomorrow, cubbie.”

Cubbie? Not company? Did she live here? Drake reeled for a few seconds before he realized Jimmy would never have kept that from him. But he couldn’t ignore the fact she was here, nor could he ignore the obvious closeness between them. This was the girl he’d been sleeping with right before their first date.

“Thanks, Vic… I still haven’t decided yet.” His eyes were focused on Drake as she moved aside to leave. “It’s not much notice.”

Those eyes didn’t leave him as the beautiful blonde spoke.

“You know you have to jump at these things when you get the chance.”

“I know, I know. I’ll call you.”

“You better.” Finally, Jimmy shifted his attention to Victoria, and they shared a look that wasn’t missed by Drake.

“Bye, Drake. It was sweet of you to bring soup.” She touched his arm as she moved past him and walked away. He watched, still struck by how gorgeous she was.

“Are you coming in?”

“Oh, if you’re… yeah… sure. Are you feeling better?”

Jimmy closed the door and for a few seconds they were chest to chest in the tight space. Drake could smell his familiar scent, and it reminded him of their night sharing the same bed.

“I’m not sick.”

“You’re not?”

Jimmy didn’t explain further. “I’ll just put this in the fridge. It smells good, but I’m stuffed with Thai food.”

Drake waited uncertainly as the man walked into the galley kitchen to the right. So his gut feeling hadn’t been wrong. Jimmy wanted distance from him. “I love Thai food,” he said, just for something to say.

“I know. There’s leftovers if you want some.”

“Oh, no, I’m full too.”

Jimmy closed the fridge door and stared at him. “You are? You couldn’t have had much time to eat?”

Damn. “I had a late lunch.”

“I see. Let’s sit in the living room… here, give me your jacket and I’ll hang it up.”

“Okay, thanks. I should have changed after work.” He handed Jimmy his suit jacket before remembering. “Can I have that back for a second?”

Gripping it with a tremble he hoped wasn’t noticeable, he removed the long thin box from the lower inside pocket. “Here, this is for you.”

Jimmy stared at the offered box, as he hung the jacket in the closet. “What’s this?”

“Nothing much. Open it.”

After taking it, he did, and regarded the dark blue tie thoughtfully. “Alexander MacQueen?”

“Yes. I thought it would go well with your navy suit, or the charcoal one.”

“Or my lighter gray one. I almost bought this a week ago, but I decided it was too extravagant. Why did you do this?’

“To thank you.”

“For?”

“This weekend. What you did really helped me out, and I… I wanted to show my appreciation.”

“Drake, I told you—”

“I know, but just accept it, okay?”

Jimmy returned his gaze to the box, the slight shimmer of the subtle dark blue swirls in the fabric on display. “It’s beautiful. When did you get this?”

“Today, during lunch hour.”

“Nomads, on Queen?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. You’ve been busy. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. So, you’re not really sick?”

“No.”

“Is it because of me?”

“Drake….”

“It’s okay, Jimmy. You don’t have to say it… I screwed up.”

“No, you didn’t. It is what it is, and I accept that. I needed space today to make some decisions about my life. Sorry I didn’t respond to your texts, but—”

“What does that mean? What decisions?” Fear gripped Drake by the throat.

“I wasn’t going to get into this yet… sit.”

Drake perched on the edge of the leather couch, anxiety preventing him from making himself comfortable. “Get into what?”

“The fact I need to make some changes.”

Drake swallowed a couple of times, not trusting his voice as he searched Jimmy’s gaze.

“I mean it when I say I accept how things are… I really do, but I need to put some distance between us for a while.”

“I… I don’t want that,” he stammered out, pretty sure he knew what was coming next.

“We’ll still be friends, Drake, but I need to move on. It’ll be better for you too if I don’t work there anymore. All I do is complicate your life.”

“No, that’s not—”

Jimmy held up his hand to stop him. “It is what it is,” he repeated.

“So, you’re quitting?”

“I’ve sent out my resume to a few places today. Vic helped me update it, and I’ve already gotten a response, believe it or not. Rogers Communications has a position that could suit me.”

“And there’s an interview tomorrow? That’s why Victoria wished you luck?”

“Yes. I have to confirm it by eight in the morning which means they’re likely conducting a bunch of interviews.”

“Don’t do this… please.”

“I have to.”

“No, no you don’t. We’ve always said our company is so great because it promotes from within. You’ll be moving up any day now.”

“You’re not hearing me.” Jimmy hung his head for a few seconds.

“I am. I know I didn’t want to listen to you in the past, but things have changed… it won’t take much to convince me we can have that chance you wanted.”

“Drake, come on. I’m not going to try to convince you of anything. It would be a mistake. Just the fact you have to be convinced proves that.”

Mistake? Okay, I said that wrong. I shouldn’t have said convinced. I’m willing to… I’d like to… to start over again. I know what I feel, and I know it’s what I want. We want the same thing, Jimmy.”

“Do we?”

“Don’t we?”

Jimmy sighed, rubbing his hands together before entwining his fingers so tightly that Drake saw his fingers whiten. “If you'd asked that Saturday, at the pool, I would have said yes. Hell, I would have yelled it at the top of my lungs.”

“And now?”

“I don’t see it working.”

“Why not? Is what I said so terrible?”

“No. you were only telling me how you felt, and I finally listened.”

“Jimmy, please—”

“Okay, Listen. You’ve been really hurt in the past—and I know how damaging that can be—Travis made me question everything about myself, and then Lucas, who was almost as bad in a different way, did the same. My point is, you’re never going to trust me because of what happened with Richard, and you’re never going to believe I don’t want to, or won’t, sleep with a woman again. It would always be in your head.”

“That’s… that’s not true. I trust you. I trust you more than anyone else I know… I told you that already, and I meant it. I trust you as much as I do Callie.”

“Be honest, Drake.”

“I am.”

“No, you’re not. Tell me… what was your first reaction when you saw Victoria?” His stare was challenging.

“Ah, I was surprised to see her, and I thought she was very beautiful….”

“And?”

“And she was nice, and I could see how much you care about each other… cubby,” he said with a nervous smile, trying to lighten what had become an awful conversation.

Jimmy didn’t return it. “And you wondered, didn’t you?”

“Wondered what?” Drake asked, but he already knew what he was getting at.

“Why she was here, and if there was something going on. Tell me it didn’t cross your mind, and be honest for both our sakes.”

“I don’t know, Jimmy. I was nervous when I arrived, and she answered the door and seemed so at home here, and I didn’t know how gorgeous she was, and you were in your robe, and she kissed you on the lips, so, yeah, maybe the thought occurred to me… but just for a few seconds. Isn’t that understandable?”

“Yes it is… I finally get it, Drake. We are products of our past.”

“But I’ve changed.”

“Changed? You said to me once I was gay for now. But, just like Richard, I could revert. How long before any trust dissipates and fear takes over? You were ready to bolt today, Drake. I saw it as plain as day. I could practically read your mind. You wanted to run the second you saw Victoria. I heard it in your voice before I even saw your face, and I won’t put myself through that.”

“Okay, I admit, I was rattled, but I knew I had to trust in what you’ve told me.”

“Until you don’t,” he said with clear resignation.

“Are you saying you don’t want that chance anymore?”

“It’s not about what I want. It’s about not getting hurt again… you're not the only one who’s afraid of that happening.”

“I know you aren’t Richard, and I know how I feel—”

“I like women, Drake. I think the world of Victoria, and I won’t throw her friendship away for anyone.”

“I would never ask you to.”

“I know you wouldn’t, but if I went to dinner with her, or a movie, or I fell asleep on her couch, wouldn’t that affect you? I know it would be innocent, but would you?”

“Yes.”

Jimmy raised his eyebrows, indicating his doubts. “And I love to dance, and women are great to dance with—”

“I’m sorry I said that about you and Bindy. It was wrong, and I have no excuse.”

“Don’t… don’t apologize. You were just being honest about what you felt. You’d just dealt with your ex, who kissed you, and I get that, but it made some stuff very clear. I needed that clarity once and for all.”

“Once and for all? That sounds pretty final.”

“I know you don’t like to hear the word, but I need closure too.”

Drake didn’t know what to say. He really didn’t. Was Jimmy right about him? Would his fears creep back in? His first instinct was to think that would depend on Jimmy, but instantly knew that wasn’t fair or true. It would be on him.

“Are you okay?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Karma’s a bitch, isn’t she?”

“Drake—”

“Don’t, please. I get it. I’m damaged goods—I already knew that.”

“No, you’re not… not any more than I am, or anyone is. You were the smart one here. You were right all along. You knew where you were at, and now I do too.”

Drake scoffed. “Yeah, that’s me—smart as a whip. So, I guess you won’t be at work tomorrow. Good luck at your interview. Maybe you can wear your new tie… it should make a good impression.” It was difficult to keep bitterness from his voice, but he tried. He stood up, anxious to do what Jimmy had accused him of earlier. Bolt.

“Thanks, but I haven’t responded yet.”

Jimmy followed him to the door, not trying to convince him to stay and talk some more. Yup, this was final, and Drake knew he damn well deserved it.

“Let me get your coat,” he said as he reached into the closet, brushing against Drake. Sadness emanated from the man.

As much as it hurt, Drake didn’t want Jimmy to feel any worse than he so obviously did. “You have to do what you have to do… I understand.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, I’ve been an idiot, but I’m not stupid. I knew it might well go this way when I came here, but I had to try.”

Jimmy frowned at his words, and his mouth opened as if he was going to say something, but nothing came out. Silently, he handed Drake his jacket.

“Thanks,” he said awkwardly. Instead of donning it, he draped it over his arm.

“Drake?”

“Yeah?”

“I just need a little distance, and then we can go back to being friends if you want. We can still go to lunch while I work out my notice.”

“So you have decided?”

Jimmy shrugged, still frowning. “Not about the interview tomorrow, but about finding another place to work, yeah.”

Drake nodded, indicating an acceptance he wasn’t feeling. He opened the door and walked out. “See you, Jimmy.”

“Bye, Drake.”

He was halfway to the elevators when he heard his name called out. He stopped walking and half-turned to face the man. That frown was still in place, and his head was slightly tilted to one side. Drake waited for him to speak as the next few seconds slowed to a crawl.

“Ah… sorry, but I can’t help feeling I’m missing something. Is that all you… why did you come by today? You never have before, not since….”

Drake bit back the truthful answer. What was the point? “To bring you soup. I thought you were sick.”

“Oh… okay then. Thanks.”

Continuing on, Drake got a few steps further before he came to another halt. Slowly he turned. Jimmy was still there, still watching him. Fuck it.

“But mostly I came to tell you I love you. It is what it is, like you said, but I figure you should know that. Good night, Jimmy.”

His heart was pounding, but he didn’t turn around again. One of the elevators opened up as soon as he pushed the button, and he sighed with relief as he got in. He didn’t need to look to know Jimmy was still standing in the same spot. It seemed an eternity before the door slid closed, and his descent began.

 

 

*

As always, a huge thank you to my editor, Timothy M., and another one to all the readers who keep me motivated each week. Please leave a comment, good or bad, if you can. It will be appreciated. Cheers... Gary....

Copyright © 2018 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Wow. They're both right and their both wrong. Jimmys completely right that Drake will have a hard time with jealousy, but he's got to get credit for not allowing his initial thoughts to blow up and for trusting Jimmy. 

 

I'm glad Drake was honest at the end. Hopefully it will be enough. 

 

Good chapter! 

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So... this is infuriating.  They would be great together.  Amazing.  They were already on their way until this stupid bullshit from Drake's past came between them, and now it's like they can never get it back.  I'm actually a little sick to my stomach after reading that.   I don't even know what to say.  They both are right here.  Jimmy wasn't catching on though with what Drake was actually saying.  Maybe him finally putting his feelings out there in plain words actually helped?  I just don't want them to be Drake's parents and let some stupid bullshit destroy what could be the best thing that ever happened to them.  They need someone like Jimmy was for the parents, to say the right thing and push them toward each other.  

 

Edited by spikey582
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I can’t say I was surprised by what happened. Their story arcs were very clear. The trajectories couldn’t be shifted in time. Fate (aka Gary) is a fickle mistress!  ;-)

 

But everything hasn’t been finalized yet. Even if Jimmy gets a new job, that doesn’t preclude them dating. In fact, it might be better if they weren’t spending all their time together!  ;-)

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19 minutes ago, spikey582 said:

They need someone like Jimmy was for the parents, to say the right thing and push them toward each other.  

Where's Callie when you need her?  ;-)

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This chapter broke my heart, but as others pointed out, it was the right thing. Drake, despite realizing his feelings for Jimmy, is still not over his trust issues. It’s going to take more than a weekend and a few heart-to-hearts to fix that. And, Jimmy needs space to figure out what he needs and deserves. 

 

I hope these guys find their way to each other in the end. 

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23 minutes ago, CscottyCA said:

I hope these guys find their way to each other in the end. 

I’m thinking that this story will conclude with Drake and Jimmy going their separate ways.

 

Then in a sequel to this story, after a suitable amount of time, Drake and Jimmy will run into each other by accident…  ;-)

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I agree with some of the others that Drake needs a therapist, but I also think him and Jimmy would be good together with a bit of work. No one ever said relationships were easy. We all bring our own insecurities, and baggage to them, and we have to work with our partner to live with them or overcome them. 

 

Another great chapter Gary :hug: 

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I still feel that fear is the main motivator ........FEAR, party of 2?  This way please........Love it, Gary...............:)Mike

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