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    Jason MH
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Between the Shadow and the Soul - 35. Epilogue - Make Me a Beaumont

February 5, 2019

For fuck's sake! I felt so nervous I thought I might fly apart at any minute. To make matters worse, Greg could tell. I could see it in his expressions and in his eyes. But I kept trying to chill, really I did. I kept trying to calm the fuck down before I preemptively ruined a good plan.

That's the curse of being as close as the two of us: secrets were laughable myths because we were always in each other's head. It was nearly impossible to hide anything. And even if we successfully hid something, the fact that we were hiding something was so obvious that it created a tense worry that tainted everything else.

What he picked up from me was a fluttery, queasy unease that threated to undo everything I had planned. I intended to throw out sixteen years of Richard's legacy and start—restart, maybe—a tradition of making Greg's birthday at least a little about him and not always about others. It was fucking time for his birthday to be about him, damn it, even if he couldn't see it yet.

Well, hopefully his attitude would change after this evening. If so, good plan; if not, not so good plan.

Of course his birthday fell on a fucking Wednesday. How convenient, right? Yeah, not so much. Still, I made him come home early, shower, and dress for a nice romantic dinner.

I had to remind myself to breathe when he came downstairs. Brown slim-fit cords, brown leather work boots, a tight glacial-blue button-down shirt that made his eyes absolutely pop, and a brown-and-black scuba jacket. After reminding myself to breathe, I had to remind myself that I had dinner plans and other plans because what I really wanted to do was drag him right back upstairs, undress him, then spend all night exploring and being explored.

Fuck! He was my undoing! Every time I looked at him I thought he was more beautiful than the time before. Every time he kissed me it was better than the time before. Every time we touched the heat was hotter than the time before.

You know, it's weird, me being straight yet in love with a guy, especially a guy as hot as Greg. Everybody—and I do mean everybody—envies me when they see us holding hands, kissing, staring into each other's eyes like lovestruck idiots mooning over each other. But that wasn't the point.

I was saying it's weird being in love with a guy. From time to time I see a hot woman and the thought shoots through my head that she'd probably be a good lay, maybe she'd make a nice girlfriend, possibly she'd be a good wife. You know the thoughts, the same kinds of thoughts everyone has, the fleeting ideas that race around in our gray matter when somebody attractive crosses our path. I mean, come on already, being in love doesn't mean I'm dead or blind.

But just as quickly those thoughts would vanish. Not because I felt guilty, but instead because I felt more than satisfied. In a way, sometimes anyhow, I felt unworthy. Seriously, Greg's like the smartest, hottest, most caring guy on the planet.

Maybe I'm biased, but I've thought of him that way since I met him at the impressionable age of ten. There I sat, my first day in a new school after moving halfway across the country, and I couldn't get more than a few words out of anybody. I was a skinny drink of water back then, not terribly tall for my age, kinda puny and uninteresting really, a nobody in a new school without a friend to talk to. Then he walked into the classroom, looked around, and headed straight for me.

Oh but hell was he a good looking kid. Taller, better defined, absolutely looking like a child model at least a few years older than he was, his gaze locked on me, this breathtaking smile spread across his face, his eyes absolutely twinkled, and then he was standing right in front of me.

With a flick of his hand toward the empty seat beside me, he quietly—shyly, I'd say, though for fuck's sake I couldn't understand why that guy needed to be shy around me or anybody else—he shyly asked if he could sit with me.

Hell yes! But instead of saying it, I just kind of nodded, feeling my cheeks burn. Okay, I was thoroughly intimidated, like big time scared of this guy. He practically had an entourage. What ten-year-old kid has an entourage? Anyway, nearly every other kid came by to say hello and ask him about his summer and talk about all the stuff he might or might not be up to and what the fuck ever else they could think of.

Obviously they just wanted to talk to him, be seen with him, and I could see why. He was so nice, so good looking, so frighteningly smart and absolutely kind. He remembered everybody's name, remembered all the personal details that let him ask questions about pets, brothers and sisters, family members, intended vacation destinations. Holy hell the kid was amazing.

But through all that, he kept turning back to me, engaging me, and he made a point of introducing me to everybody he talked to. And in every moment of peace he got, he talked to me. I mean really talked to me, asking about me, learning about me, engaging me in conversation and drawing me out of my new-kid-scared-to-death shell.

By the end of that first day it felt like we'd known each other forever. We laughed, joked, talked, learned about each other, and despite how obviously popular he was and how much the other kids spent most of their time vying for his time, the majority of his focus had been on me. All day long. I'd never felt so special and appreciated in my life. And to my amazement, he never stopped making me feel that way.

I'd also never felt so connected to someone. Even on that first day, there was something about Greg that felt necessary to me. It was like he was a fucking piece of me that I'd unknowingly lost and suddenly rediscovered. By the time I went home that afternoon, I couldn't stop the thought running through my head telling me I couldn't wait to see him again the next day and I sure as hell hoped it hadn't all been a dream.

Which, even if it's not clear, brings me back to his birthday.

I took him to dinner at a nice restaurant, a romantic dinner at a little Italian bistro, practically a hole in the wall we'd stumbled upon years before. Like everybody he came in contact with, Greg became friends with the owners, an elderly couple. And any friend of Greg's...

Of course they jumped at the chance to have us there for Greg's birthday, though I made them promise they wouldn't make a big deal out of it. "Don't even mention it," I'd told them. Yeah, the way Greg dealt with his birthday was yet another sign of Richard's longstanding impact on our lives.

If my plan for the evening was good, he'd never see his birthday the same again; we'd reclaim it from Richard, make it Greg's again. And if my plan was bad... Well, best not to think negatively. Think happy thoughts, as Mom always said.

After a beautiful candlelit dinner with wine and conversation and those fucking mind-boggling looks that made me weak in the knees, not to mention a healthy number of touches, we thanked the owners for a delicious meal and a wonderful time.

I held his hand on the way out to the car. I couldn't help it. There I was, a womanizer who could have any woman I wanted—I'm not so stupid as to deny that my work in the gym gave me a pretty hot bod that brought me all sorts of attention, and not just from women. Anyway, there I was, a man who could probably get just about any woman I wanted, and yet the only thing I wanted was him, Greg, my G-Man.

Strange that it was Richard's meddling in my head that made me realize what I was feeling. I knew from the day we met that Greg was important to me, special to me. He'd insinuated himself into my life and heart in ways I didn't fully understand. At least until Richard started poking at those feelings, trying to figure them out, trying to manipulate them so I'd never be comfortable with what I felt.

In that sense I had to thank Richard. He made me look at what I was feeling, made me evaluate the emotions Greg elicited from me. Taking a close look made me realize I was in love with him. Which scared the hell out of me. Richard's brainwashing made me think those feelings would be nothing short of detrimental, the ruination of what was most important to me—my relationship with Greg.

Not only that, but I was a straight kid, totally heterosexual, always fantasizing about soft curves and ample bosoms and painted lips and all that stuff. Despite all that, I discovered I was completely in love with my best friend. A guy! Fuck! So it took a while for me to get over that shit, the whole time finding my feelings for him kept growing and strengthening.

G-Man was right when he wondered how many years we wasted in Richard's shadow. With his denial and my fear, we spent most of our lives madly in love with each other yet doing everything in our power to keep it secret, to keep it out of the light. We spent too long avoiding the most important thing in our lives.

Then along came Kyle, upending the apple cart. I've thanked that kid time and again. He probably thinks I'm obsessive about gratitude, which I'm not. He just needs to understand he put us on the right path, helped us see we were broken yet capable of healing, helped us see what we'd always wanted was already right there in hour hands, just waiting to be noticed and nurtured, given a chance to grow.

Fuck! Boy howdy did it grow. And I'm grateful for it.

Anyway, we made it back to the car, hand in hand, and after we settled inside and buckled in, I took his hand again and kissed his palm before weaving our fingers together. Then I kissed the back of his hand.

He could feel me shaking. If I could feel it, I sure as hell knew he could feel it. Again he gave me a look, inquisitive and concerned.

Greg pulled our joined hands to his face so he could kiss my knuckles, one at a time, sweetly, his eyes never leaving mine. The sense of calm that overwhelmed me settled my nerves. For just a moment.

"This is nice," he told me. "Dinner was yummy. Thank you, Nate."

"Just want you to have a good evening, dude," I said. Then I pulled him to me and kissed him. It was a nice kiss, slow and passionate but not fiery and erotic.

"Mmmm..." he groaned into my mouth as he wrapped a hand around the back of my neck and held me to him so our tongues could explore, a lazy wandering in known lands that always felt like a new discovery.

When I broke the kiss to keep from suffocating, we leaned our foreheads together and shared our breath, noses touching.

"I want to take you dancing," I said.

"Where next?" he asked.

"Home."

He could tell by my tone I wasn't making a joke about the horizontal mambo. Though I admit the thought sent a bit too much blood to my groin.

"Really?" Greg asked, suspicious.

He was picking up on my nervousness again. Still. Whatever. Damn it! It was making the evening less enjoyable because it was making him worry. I could see it in his head, his expression and eyes and body language saying he felt uncertain because I was giving off this twitchy, secretive, anxious vibe foreshadowing something coming later in the evening.

The fucking truth was that I did have something planned for later in the evening and it was making me twitchy, secretive and anxious. Hell, I was sweating like a nervous farm animal and having a hard time meeting his gaze because he read me too well when he looked in my eyes. Not that he wasn't reading me fine in every other way, but if I let him look in my eyes for too long, he'd know what was coming. And that I couldn't allow.

I leaned back in the seat and started the car. Then I pulled our joined hands to my face and kissed his wrist, the back of his hand, his knuckles.

"Come on, G-Man," I said, my voice regrettably tremulous and breathy, "let's go home."

We tossed our jackets on the bar, along with keys, wallets, phones, whatever. Not once since I'd grabbed his hand and dragged him to the car had I allowed us to go even a second without being in contact with each other.

He was still picking up my nervousness, that feeling that I was hiding something and was going to drop it on him later and was disquieted by all of it. Which made him feel about the same. It was a perfect example of why being so close to someone made it fucking hard as hell to pull off a surprise. I had to keep him out of my head to make it successful, which just made me look suspicious as hell, like I was trying to hide something. Which I was, goddammit!

Still, he never doubted me. Worried, sure, but never doubted me. He knew I loved him more than life itself. He knew making him happy was the best way to make me happy. But since I was nervous and wouldn't tell him why or what caused it, he was nervous. So despite our best efforts to have a good evening, we'd arrived home with nerves pulled tight.

Thank fuck I'd never have to pull off a secret like this ever again. I didn't think either of us would survive it.

I dragged him to the living room. Keeping a grip on his hand, I used my foot to push the coffee table up against the sofa, giving us more room. I grabbed the remote and turned on the sound system. It was already set to do what I wanted, so I dropped the remote and turned back to Greg.

The stereo kicked on and soft slow music filled the house. My music tastes were eclectic. Everybody expected the big muscular black man to listen to hip hop or rap. I liked neither. What I enjoyed was classical to country to pop to rock and alt and a lot of other stuff. What I liked most of all was stuff from the last forty years or so, mostly the mushy, kissy-kissy songs that were slow and meaningful. Nope, I'm definitely not a stereotype.

Wrapping my arms around him, I pulled him to me and sighed as he embraced me, his arms sliding around my torso and squeezing me to him. As though we'd telepathically discussed it, we started to dance.

"As much as we danced together all those years," I said, "we never did slow dances until two years ago at your birthday bash."

"Yeah," he breathed against my ear as he leaned down enough to press his cheek against mine. "I wish we'd done it sooner."

"Feels nice," I mumbled, my voice husky. What that man did to me with just a look amplified a thousandfold with a touch.

With the music low and the tempo relaxed, an intimate sense of romance settled over us.

Romance. I'd never experienced it with anyone other than Greg. The funny thing about that was the romance between us had always been there, even if we didn't know it. It was in the touches, the looks, the kisses, the hugs, the words. It was always there, right there all along. Stupid us, though, and stupid Richard.

Despite the number of woman I'd been with over the years, not one had made me feel the way Greg made me feel. That sense of intimacy and romance was singular to the man I held in my arms.

"I'm so glad Uncle Farid helped us move on from Richard's bullshit," I told him.

He squeezed me, kissed my cheek, then his voice breathed into my ear as he whispered, "I can't imagine not having this, this right here, this thing with you that's got me all wrapped up and tied in knots and feeling like nothing can hurt me so long as we're together."

I shivered, moaned even, but I couldn't let him sidetrack me. I had a plan.

"This is everything I've ever wanted, G-Man. I wish I could explain what you do for me, how you make me feel, what kind of hope and light you bring to my world."

"We're beyond Richard now, Little Big Man. We prevailed. We finally have what he tried to destroy."

"Happiness. Love. Belonging."

"All of it. I have all of it with you, Nate."

He kissed my ear then my cheek before nuzzling against me again.

We moved slowly as the song changed, still holding each other, no sexual tension involved, just love and romance and comfort.

And nervousness.

"I think..."

"What, Nate?"

Oh, he could tell my nerves just fired. But I had a plan, damn it, and I was going to fucking follow through with it.

"I think," I began again, putting more strength in my soft tone so I didn't sound strangled and unsure, "there are a few more things we need to overcome."

He leaned back a bit. I tightened my grip, not wanting him to slip away from me, not wanting to separate from him.

Despite being a gym rat, I was smaller and weaker than Greg. He came by it naturally. If he wanted to push me away, if he wanted to break our embrace, he could do it. I knew he could and he knew he could. I hoped he'd feel my resolve to keep him close and acquiesce to my wishes.

Aah... He did.

Pulling us tight against each other, he nested his lips near my ear and whispered in a less sure voice, "What, Nate? What else do we need to overcome?"

"I want to give you something for your birthday, G-Man."

He flinched. That caused me to grip him tighter. I kept us moving, but his body became rigid, his movements stiff.

"Dance with me, G-Man."

"I am." Suddenly his voice sounded pained, uncomfortable.

"Relax, Greg. Just relax. Hold me, let me lead, dance with me."

Aside from the soft music, silence blanketed us, a shadowy cloak that enveloped us.

"Richard took that away from you, G-Man."

"He said he came to give me a birthday gift." He practically snarled. Or growled. Or something equally throaty and anguished.

Yeah, Uncle Farid told me about this. We'd dealt with it in therapy, but he still pulled me aside and explained that what Richard did to Greg on his birthday had forever tainted his view of self-worth on the day that celebrated his coming into the world, a day that should celebrate his life but instead languished in the dark recesses of despair that Greg still carried with him.

Just this one thing remained. We weren't done with therapy. No, not even close. But we'd accomplished so much, faced so many terrors and tribulations and torments from the past. We'd exorcised Richard from so many aspects of our lives.

But there was this one thing Greg needed to face, to overcome. His birthday. Of all the rash and troubling decisions Richard ever made, permanently damaging someone's birthday, making it a horror rather than a holiday, was as vile an act as anyone could commit.

And if I could get Greg to accept my birthday gift to him, it would take care of the second thing Richard left behind.

I'd discussed my plan with Uncle Farid and Mom and Dad. Especially Dad. No matter how close Greg was to Mom, he and Dad had something else, some other level of relationship, some understanding of each other that made Gavin a better sounding board for my idea.

He'd agreed, as had the others, that what I intended to give Greg on his birthday was the one thing he most wanted but would never ask for, mainly because he'd realized I was the stumbling stone to making it happen. My fear of loving him had created the biggest problem for us. He'd never push me before I was ready. He just didn't know I'd been ready for a while, biding my time until I could do what was necessary, wanted, and ultimately helpful.

At least I hoped it would be helpful. It might be harmful if Greg can't get beyond his fear of receiving anything on his birthday.

"I know, G-Man. I know what he said. And I know what it's done to you."

"But I've—"

"Accomplished a lot because of it. Nobody doubts that. Creating Silver Rain and having the annual birthday bash fundraiser has helped countless kids who would've been left without assistance otherwise. But that's not really the point."

"Isn't it?" he asked in a perfunctory tone.

"Don't be agitated, G-Man. Please just listen to me." I kissed his cheek and held him tighter, letting my strength and resolve and love flow into him.

When I felt him relax against me, I pulled back enough to put us face to face, breathing in and out of each other. Then I kissed him, a soft kiss without heat but full of affection, a promissory note of things to come.

"I want to give you something for your birthday," I repeated against his lips. "It's something you want. It's something I want. It's something we both want."

"I... I'm not sure..."

"Shhh... Just listen, G-Man. Hear my voice and my words, feel me hold you."

He nodded, so slight that it would have passed unnoticed had our lips not been touching.

"You've always been my strength, G-Man. You've always been the one I look up to, the man who always has the answers, the part of me I rely on when the rest of me stumbles and falls.

"You're the light that lights my way when it's dark. You're my soft, warm overcoat when it's cold. You're the fire that heats my heart. You're the strength that holds back the world when it presses in on me. You're the balm that soothes and the voice that calms and the gentle touch that takes away the pain."

I kissed him again, letting everything I felt flow through that kiss. He'd taught me that trick over the past few years, taught me better how to communicate through touch and, more importantly, how to let a kiss be more than a kiss, how to let a kiss be a communion of souls.

When I pulled back, I saw the tear that streaked down his cheek, a single tear. Neither of us moved to wipe it away.

"You're the first breath of spring that helps me bloom after winter's thaw. You're the sunshine breaking through the storm. You're the safe harbor I return to time and time and time again, always keeping me secure.

"You're home to me, G-Man, the place I long for and the place I seek and the place I belong."

I reached up and cupped his cheek, leaning back enough so we could see one another.

"You're the answer to the questions I didn't understand before. Where am I going? Who am I? Where can I find happiness? Who completes me?"

I kissed him. His glacial blue eyes remained locked on my gaze.

"You're the life I've always wanted but feared to have. You're the love I've sought but couldn't find. You're the part of my soul born in another body."

I disentangled our arms and took a tiny step back, just enough so I could kneel with his hands gripped in my own. His eyes widened.

"G-Man... Greg... You're the family I've always wanted. You took me in and sheltered me, protected me, taught me, loved me, helped me. You came to me that first day of school and made me feel important and special, and you've made me feel that way every day since then."

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the black velvet box. If he was aware of the movement, he didn't indicate it, his eyes never moving from mine.

"The gift I want to give you is forever. The birthday gift I want to give you is my life for yours, all of me for all of you. I want to give you everything I have and everything I am."

I flipped open the box and held it up so he could see it, still holding his hand. The ring was a lustrous platinum band, wide and heavy, with two dark lines separating the polished outer bands from the brushed, darker inner band. Three black diamonds punctuated the thick inner band.

"You're my everything, G-Man, the love of my life and the fire in my soul and the only future I want. You've been my friend, my brother, my lover, my peace and my comfort and my hope. You made me a member of your family long ago in every way possible save one. For your birthday, I want to give you the last part of me.

"Greg Beaumont, help me get rid of the last trace of Richard. Give me your name and let me be your husband for the rest of our lives, so we can build a family and a future together."

His eyes were alight with a joy I'd never seen in him before, sparkling and twinkling despite the tears.

"Greg Beaumont, for your birthday I'm giving you this ring and I'm giving you me."

I took a deep breath, my nerves settling because I could already see the answer.

"Greg Beaumont, would you do me the honor of marrying me and making me Nate Beaumont?"

"Yes! Absolutely! Yes, Nate, yes yes yes!" He fell to his knees and pulled me to him, hugging me so tight I thought I'd suffocate. "Yes, Little Big Man. The answer is yes and I love you and I'll be the best husband the world's ever seen and we'll be the best parents for our kids and yes! Yes!"

Eventually we separated, hugs and kisses galore later, and I was able to slip the ring on his finger.

"Happy birthday, G-Man," I whispered into his ear as I held him. "You've made me the happiest man alive."

THE END

So there we have it. I hope you consider this a satisfactory ending to this tale. I wrote it this way because these two guys needed happiness, they needed each other, and they needed to set aside the last of Richard's dark influence.

Unless I kill a character, I'm never quite done with them. That's not a promise that any of these folks will turn up in another story; just don't be surprised if that ever happens.

An afterword will be added before I mark this story complete. I've always enjoyed reading whatever background a writer wants to share about a story; hopefully there are a few of you who like the same thing.

Please accept my sincere gratitude for all of you who have followed these characters from start to finish. The fact that others enjoyed this story and felt invested in these guys thrills me beyond words. I wish I'd found GA long ago. You folks are phenomenally awesome! Thank you so much for your readership and support!

Copyright © 2018 Jason MH; All Rights Reserved.
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I am sad that we have come to this point in Greg and Nate's story.  Like in all stories where I become invested in the characters, I want your story to continue for a long time.  Yet, you chose a meaningful point to find closure.  This story was challenging to me, parts were difficult to read, and the romantic in me kept saying, "No, no, no!"  Thank you for writing such a compelling story with such complex characters.  The poetry reference was exquisite, both in your choice and in your execution of its use in the title and across the story.  I will be watching for your next story!

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What an amazing ending to this story and a beautiful beginning for Greg and Nate!!  

There were times that I couldn’t read a chapter at once, due to the horrible things Richard did, but I also could not put this story down at times too. 

Thank you! 

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It was a great story, masterly crafted. I am sad it ended, but happy to see them moving with their live. In my imagination I hope they get kids, they would be great dads. Maybe adopting a gay youth, there seems to still be so many with problems.

I admit you are a mystery for me, loved this story, but tried to read your other current one and couldn't, keep getting lost (sorry😅). So I am super curious about your next works and can't wait to read them.

Congratulations

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Wonderful place to end the story.  Nate's description of, "You're the part of my soul born in another body" -- I've always kind of thought they were each other's split-apart.

Thank you for such a wonderful story.💖

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I honestly don't know how you could even match, let alone surpass, this story, it's an absolute masterpiece... in my eyes anyway :). Beautifully written, brilliantly conceived... thank you for sharing this wonderfully evocative, psychoanalytical tour-de-force! 

 

 

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Spectacular chapter! You’ve brought this difficult and horrible story to all of us in a realistic and dynamic way. The depth of emotions, the complexities of all of these characters, the truly horrific tale of the assault and the enormously traumatic road to recovery for each and every one of them. This was a very difficult story to read, but was told in a empathetic and supportive way. I’m proud of the way you handled this situation. I’ve fallen in love with all of the characters and wish them well going forward. Thank you for having the courage to tell us this story. 😢❤️

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It was nice to see things from Nate’s perspective;  This step needed to come from Nate’s eyes so it fits that this last part of their journey was initiated by him.

What Nate and Greg share is rare, in literature and in real life but you’ve so beautifully captured and shown what all of us can only aspire for, regardless of sexuality or race.  

This was an honor to read;  Painful sometimes but always compelling, always good.  You are an incomparable storyteller.  You should take a bow, lol.

 

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