WOW! Sorry, this took me so long. I had a baby -- a horse baby that's ten years old. I got a new horse and I've been getting up at the crack of dawn to take care of him. So now that I'm back in the groove should be keeping up with my story posts now.
Chapter 15 - Start Again
I doubt everyone reading this agrees with my relationship with Dane, or hell even my relationship with Seth. Narrow minded bigots are pretty common occurrence so I tend not to dwell on them too much, and I guess I can understand the people who worry that Dane took advantage of me. Dane says bigots are often the ones who are the most unhappy people, and I tend to agree with that, but then there are some of the other ones that are privilege fucks who think they know everything — those are the ones that I usually have the urge to punch. Like Staff Sergeant McLain. I hadn’t realized at the time how much such a small man was disrupting Dane’s life. Dane has always been notorious for holding all his burdens on his own shoulders.
October 1st, 2017
Seth’s grave was no different than the last time I’d visited it almost six months ago. There were more flowers but otherwise it remained the same marble slab that I remembered. I should visit more, I know that as I stare down at his name engraved into the stone, but I can’t find any reason to come here. This isn’t Seth. Nothing about this grave holds any memory of him, all it had was a finality to his life with the date October 1st, 2016 scribed into it. That’s all he was here, a date and a name, not his beautiful smile or his soulful eyes.
“Hey, baby,” I said as I trailed my hand over his tombstone. It was cold against my fingertips the morning air cold, the dew still lingering on the stone. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come.” My voice wavered as my throat constricted tight around the words. I was a piece of shit for taking so long, I should have come here everyday since the accident, brought flowers. I shouldn’t have buried his memory to save myself, I should have— “I should have kept you safe,” I gasped, the pain of that admission tearing open the hole in my heart.
Wiping my cheeks roughly I took a deep breath of cold morning air and sat down leaning against his headstone as I did. I closed my eyes, pretending for just a moment that everything in my life since Seth’s dead was a dream and that any minute now I’d wake up to his brown eyes. Would that be so bad? I’d spent the entire year since the accident trying to adhere myself to Dane, but was that really what he wanted? Would it ever really work? Hadn’t I been willing to give up on my love for Dane to be with Seth?
“Love is multidimensional, remember.”
I opened my eyes slowly, the brilliant glow of the morning sun illuminated him at first but I knew it was him. Seth stood in front of me in the same jeans and t-shirt I’d last saw him in. He was gorgeous smiling down at me life an angel from heaven. There was no surprise seeing me, somehow I felt a warm glow instead of the sharp agony his face caused me. “What?”
Seth smiled, brown eyes shining, “Love is multidimensional, that’s what I told you.”
“I don’t understand,” I frowned trying to figure out what he meant. After all this time that was all he had to say to me?
“You love me, and you love him, but you love us differently. There is no guilt in loving us both.” Seth’s smile softened as he leaned down kneeling in front of me over his grave his blonde hair shining like a halo. “Don’t close yourself off because of fear,” he said while gently running his hand over my cheek.
Gasping I covered his hand with my own, the warmth of his hand on my face a surge of life I hadn’t known I’d needed. It was a connection to him I’d been missing since that night. “God, but I fucking miss you so much,” I said, my pain leaking into my words as I clutched onto his hand afraid he’d disappear the moment I let him go. I didn’t want him to go, not again. I didn’t want to have to remember that he was buried six feet below instead of right here in front of me.
“I’ve missed you too, but we can wait. Right now you need to focus on life, don’t be afraid. Love unconditionally and deeply. Find people who make you happy. Don’t listen to other people's opinions.” Seth said softly as he leaned in a brushed his lips over my damp cheeks. “You are amazing Ty Huntsman.” He pulled back, his hand moving away from my cheek even as I tried to hold onto him.
“No, Seth.” It came out as a desperate plea, as I tried to clutch onto him. Why did I have to lose him? It had been a year and still I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong to lose him too.
Seth smiled gently as he leaned forward again his warmth melting the cold dread taking over my heart. Slowly he leaned in till his forehead pressed against my own, his breath ghosting over my lips as we stared into each other's eyes for a long second. It was a moment of pure peace, almost timeless, so different from the nightmares that had plagued me for the past year. I took a deep breath trying to keep his scent with me for as long as I could. The smell of clean linen and pine surrounded me soothing me even as it confused me. I frowned as I placed my hands on Seth’s warm cheeks. What was going on?
“It’s time to wake up, big man,” Seth said while gently pressing his lips to mine. “Wake up, Ty.”
No, this wasn’t supposed to be a dream. I brushed my lips across his trying to keep him with me as I kissed him back. “Don’t leave,” I whispered against his mouth.
“I’ll never leave you, baby,” He said his voice deeper even as are lips hovered over each other. “Wake up, Ty.” Seth said his voice even deeper now as he started to fade. I didn’t want him to go, but I knew that voice. Seth was right, I loved them both, but Seth was gone, I had to remember that as I felt the sleep wane and he faded as the dream turned into nothing but the back of my eyelids.
“Wake up, Ty. It’s getting cold.” Dane said as he brushed his hand over my cheek, the warm caress of his hand slowly bringing me out of the sleep I’d unknowingly fallen into.
“Dane?” What the hell was he doing here? Slowly I opened my eyes and instead of Seth’s sweet smiling face Dane’s concerned handsome face hovered close, his breath ghosting over my nose. “What are you doing here?”
“You didn’t answer your phone,” he said as his eyes shifted away guiltily.
That he worried about me wasn’t something I would ever be angry about, but I had to admit I didn’t want him to see me fall apart anymore than I wanted him to see me as unequal to him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” because I hadn’t been sleeping well, not leading up to this day. Maybe Dane knew that and that’s why he was here, because he knew I needed him even if I would say it outright. I’d tell him that I wanted to be with him, love him, but I’d hold in my pain without telling him.
“It’s alright,” he said as he pulled me close wrapping me in a tight hug that I returned with all my strength. He grunted, but didn’t ask me to loosen my hold. “You don’t have to hide it, Ty. Not from me.”
“I don’t want you to worry about me,” or think I’m weak, but I kept those words in knowing he wouldn’t understand.
“Ty,” Dane pulled back so we could look each other in the eyes, his face tense as he cradled my face between his hands forcing me to look at him. “I will always worry about you, nothing will ever change that. You’re my entire world, the only person that I love, my only family, and the reason I didn’t fall apart when mom and dad died.”
Chest tight I leaned into his warm touch staring unwaveringly into his steel eyes as I did. There was so much love there, and not sexual, but a pure emotion that had no strings attached to it. He loved me just as much as I loved him, and I always knew that. No matter what happened, no matter what happened between us he would always love me. “I love you.” My voice was thick but I swallowed back the emotions clogging my throat.
Dane smiled before leaning forward to press our foreheads together like he done so many times before. “I love you too, Ty.”
Thank god I had him, that was all I could think as I sat by Seth’s grave wishing that I had him too.
November 13th, 2017
“Is that you!” I pointed to the photo of the naked baby in the bath laid out on the dining room table. There were piles of family photos spread out on the table as we sorted through the many memories of Mark and Jane. Today marked the fourth year of their death, and like every year me and Dane did something to remember them. This year we decided to sort through the boxes of family photos that were packed away in the closet.
Dane laughed, “Yeah that was me as a one year old. Mom was determined to show that picture to my future wife when I brought her over for the first time.”
I laughed as I picked up the adorable photo of baby Dane laughing as he splashed around naked in the shallow water. It was adorable and beyond precious, and I wish I had baby photos of my own to add into the mess of photos. “No way! Mom would never do that,” at least I didn’t see the mild mannered polite Jane doing something so embarrassing.
“No probably not, but she loved to tease me about it.” He pulled out another photo from the pile, one of him and Mark smiling as they looked at the camera. Dane was only about sixteen in the photo, his body slimmer and his face smooth. God he was a heartbreaker even when he was younger. “This one was when me and dad found out mom was pregnant,”
“Pregnant?” I frowned completely confused. When has Jane been pregnant? Dane didn’t have any siblings. “What do you mean?”
Dane smiled but there was melancholy to it. “She miscarried before the second trimester, after the doctors said it was unlikely she’d ever be able to carry to term do to complications. It was devastating to her. Mom always wanted a big family and she’d been trying with dad for years to have another baby. It broke her heart that she couldn’t”
“Was that why they adopted me?” These were all things I’d never heard before and I’d never asked Dane about Jane and Marks motives to adopt me even though it was strange that they had. I had been one of the worst cases in the foster system, but they’d met me only a few times before going through the adoption procedures.
“Maybe part of it. When I left for the college and then the military mom was upset. She’d wanted a big family and suddenly it was just her and dad. It took them a few years to agree on adoption since they were already in their fifties. That’s why they decided to adopt an older child who needed a chance. Mom wanted to give someone a good home and love.”
Love — I looked down at the pictures spread out on the table, years of images filled with love and happiness. “I didn’t trust them at first. I thought for they’d regret taking me in after only a few days. Hell, I barely spoke to them the first month I lived here. I was such an ass to them, but they… loved me anyways.” I’d been such an asshole to them, not speaking, ignoring them. I’d closed myself off for so long to people that I’d been shielding myself from any type of emotion, even the good.
“They did. I never told you, but mom told me the day they met you that you were different. She said she could see how scared you were by the world, but your drawings were what made her realize how amazing you are.” Dane nudged me with his shoulder. “Speaking of your drawings, have you submitted your portfolio to RISD and CALARTS?”
I shrugged, uncomfortable with the sudden shift in topic. I didn’t want to talk about college — I didn’t want to talk about going away to some place where Dane couldn’t go. The idea made my stomach churn painfully while my mind burned with endless white noise. I had no intention of leaving Dane no matter what college accepted me, but I also knew if I told Dane that he’d force me to go. “Yeah, I submitted them won’t hear back for awhile though,” I muttered while busying myself by sorting through more of the photos.
“Ty, what aren’t you saying?”
I didn’t want to talk about this. I still had till the end of next year to fight with him about college. Why did he have to bring it up now? Something niggled at the back of my mind, something from weeks earlier that I hadn’t talked about but still needed answers. “That asshole, McLain, he said that you don’t get deployed because of me, is that true?”
He didn’t answer right away leaving a heavy silence in the room that I hadn’t expected. I waited, looking at the pictures with my eyes as he sorted whatever response he was going to use. “I don’t get deployed because I am your only guardian,” Dane sighed leaning back in the chair as his body became tense, the muscles in his arms jumping as he ran his hand through his short hair. “After mom and dad died I knew I had to do something to keep you, but I was still listed for active duty,” he trailed off leaving the room silent again.
“But you haven’t been deployed because of me? When does that—” Blood running cold I stared at Dane’s tense body as everything started to click into place like a morbid puzzle. “Tell me the truth,” I growled while my body shook with adrenaline. It wasn’t what I thought it was, I had to keep telling myself that.
“Ty,” Dane reached out to touch me only for me to jerk away.
“Tell me the fucking truth, was every promise a damn lie? When I turn eighteen, what you’ll just leave me, because you don’t want to be with me anyways?” I snapped anger and pain rolling into a tight ball in my gut.
“Ty calm down,” Dane said firmly, but he didn’t reach out to touch me again.
“Tell me the truth, I want you to fucking tell me right now,” My voice was deep and guttural as all the implications started to really skin in.
Dane nodded, “Ok,” he said, grey eyes hard as he looked down at the table covered in family photos. I waited mostly silent as Dane contemplated what he was going to say. “When mom and dad died I was deployed in afghanistan and I was given emergency leave of duties to come home. I didn’t remember about you at first, the flight home was spent convincing myself that they were really gone. When I got home I saw your photo with them on the living room wall, the one with mom and dad when they celebrated your birthday that they’d missed that year. They loved you, and somehow I knew I couldn’t let you go back into the foster system. Then I met you and…” Dane’s grey eyes lifted to look straight at me. So many emotions swirled in them that I couldn’t find the one he was trying to convey to me. He sighed and said, “I knew you loved them too.”
“What did you do, Dane?” Even I could hear the fear in my voice.
“I made an agreement, a contract for five years with no deployment in exchange I’d get my PHD in engineering and—” Dane stopped his face pulling into a tense frown as his jaw clenched and unclenched. “And after I would serve an extended deployment of five years.”
My world tilted and the static noise in my head grew to an untamed level. Five years, five years without Dane. Dane somewhere dangerous, without me. A pained sound escaped me, like a wounded animal hit by the hunters arrow I stumbled to my feet. He’d told me after I was eighteen, but he’d known all along he’d have to leave. Anger and pain rolled into a painful knot inside of me, pulling me apart in two separate emotions. “Why? Why did you fucking promise me when I was eighteen if you were just going to have to leave? Was it because you wanted me to lay off?” I growled, letting the anger override the pain.
“Ty,” Dane stood almost knocking his chair as he tried to approach me, but I stepped back out of reach.
“Tell me the goddamn truth, Dane.” I shouted, slamming my hand down on the precious wood table before I could stop myself. I jerked back, pulling my hand away, hoping I hadn’t damaged the family heirloom.
“I love you, more than I should, but I do not want you to fall apart when I leave, because I have to leave, Ty. I thought if I could keep distance between us until then it wouldn’t be as hard on you. Fuck, Ty, you think that I want to be with anyone else? I am so emotionally entangled with you to the point I don’t know how I’ll live without you,” Dane took an unsteady deep breath, “but I have to. We both have to.”
This couldn’t be happening. Fuck why did this always happen. Why did I lose everyone in my life. Dane was supposed to be my constant, the one person who would never go away, but he was because nothing was constant. Not even when you loved someone with every part of your soul. “When will you deploy?” My voice was void of the emotions from before as numbness started to spread like a cancer.
“Not until September 2019. I’ll be able to see you off to college,” He said as he took another tentative step towards me. “Please, Ty, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”
“Sorry? What did you think was going to happen? You were just going to send me to college and leave without telling me?” I hissed some of the anger burning through the numbness.
A guilty look passed over his face before he hardened his expression. “I wanted to protect you.”
“You wanted to protect me? Or did you want to protect you?”
“Both, Ty. I’m just as dependant on you as you are on me. That’s not healthy for either of us,” he said as he took another step towards me.
I took another step back, “Fuck you Dane, if you had no intention of ever being with me then you should have said so, but if this was just some sad attempt to get me to back off it didn’t fucking work.” Fuck, I shook my head growling as I closed the distance between us. There was no finesse in my movements as I shoved my body in front of his pushing him back into the dining room table.
“Ty,” Dane grabbed the front of my shirt to anchor himself even as his voice edged with a warning.
“I’m seventeen, that is the age of consent in Colorado.” I grabbed his ass and dug my fingers into the hard flesh, palming him. “I’m not fucking waiting anymore.”
“Let go, Ty,” Dane hissed but he didn’t push me away, his silver eyes sparked with the same need that I felt everyday but couldn't act on. The same need that I would carry with me when he was gone for five fucking years.
My grip tightened on his as the pain inside me unfolded into a bloom of realization— I wouldn’t have Dane for five years. My knees felt weak as I leaned into him all the anger evaporating under the heat of sorrow. A devastated breathless sound escaped me as I buried my face in his chest. “Don’t leave me, please.” I begged him, just like I’d begged some unseeable god to keep Seth with me.
Dane’s hands slid over my head till his arms wrapped around me as he held me close. “I’m sorry, baby.”
As I stood there, I realized death was much easier than letting someone go willingly. You could not worry if the dead were uncomfortable, or if they would ever come home, or if they were eating ok or if they still loved you. For the people that died, in my mind, everything they were was frozen in time from that point on, like Seth and his beautiful smile, and Mark and Jane with their kind soft ways. Dane was going to leave me, go to a dangerous place, live a life without me in it. Just like the photos scattered on the dining room table, our life together would just be a bunch of memories we couldn’t have anymore. The idea was just as painful as losing someone all over again.