Saturday, July 28, 2012

Arlo Ch.06

Final chapter, Enjoy. Next week will either be OMAM, or our new story Angel Hunter.

it was time for Arlo to go back to work and he couldn’t say he was happy about it. Since he was now spending most of his day at the hospital, and not at home, Mama returned to her own house. He couldn’t say he was glad to see her go. Mama had made him feel warm and loved, in a different way than Jake did. Jake loved him like a boyfriend. Mama loved him like family. It was something Arlo hadn’t felt in a long time. The staff welcomed him back with open arms, and no one ask any questions. Arlo felt like his life was finally being pulled back together, there was only one thing left that he felt guilty about.

He had been so proud of his AA chips. He had never really liked the AA meetings, and had only gone to a few. The meetings, the sponsors, the threat of losing his job and his education, none of it really broke through.  What really got through to him, were the chips. They were something hard and physical. Something he could hold on to. But now that he had relapsed, he felt like he didn’t deserve them.

“What are you doin’?” Jake asked, as he walked into the house. Arlo sat on the couch, looking at his box of chips. The many colors were still clean and bright, like the day he had gotten them.

“Nothing, just moping,” Arlo mumbled.

“Over what?” Jake sat down on the couch with him, still in uniform. He leaned over and looked inside the old wooden box that Arlo had kept his chips in. “Poker chips?” Jake picked on up and bit it, frowning at the piece of plastic.

“Hey!” Arlo scowled and took the chip back. “They’re my sobriety chips,” he sighed.

“Ah, I see. That’s a lot of chips,” he said.

“You get one on your first day, your three week, and then three, six, and nine months,” Arlo explained, “Your one year is the big one, and then after that it’s every year,” Arlo said. Jake did a quick count of the chips.

“You were doing good,” he said.

“Yeah,” Arlo murmured. The truth was he hated being sober. Almost any alcoholic did. At least for a little while. He was miserable. He had to face reality and think about his problems, not just drink them away. He knew he would get over it. Jake had been sure to keep all alcohol from his reach and Arlo quickly fell back into his normal, non-alcoholic routine.

“It wasn’t a bad relapse you know,” Jake said.

“Like there’s a good kind?” Arlo frowned.

“Well, no. I just mean, you knew you were being stupid and it just took a kick to the head to get you to snap out of it,” Jake said. “You shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. You’ve been doing good,” Jake said.

“I just feel like I don’t deserve them. I messed up,” Arlo said.

“Everyone messes up, Doc. I’m not going to lie and say that it wasn’t your fault, because it was-”

“Gee, thanks,” Arlo rolled his eyes and shut the box.

“BUT,” Jake continued, “I will say that you’ve made an honest effort to not slip up again. I know you think about it. But all you’ve done is think about it,” Jake repeated. When Arlo was still silent he added, “would it make you feel better to go to an AA meeting again? I’m sure there’s a group in town,” Jake said.

“No. They never really made me want to get sober anyways. All those religious Nazis do is make me want to drink more,” Arlo laughed.

“You know, they have non-religion based AA groups,” Jake chuckled.

“They always get in. They’re everywhere!” Arlo said, in an ominous voice. Jake rolled his eyes. When Arlo went back to being quiet and thoughtful, Jake stood up. “Where are you going?” Arlo asked.

“Just hold on,” Jake said over his shoulder. He dug around in a drawer for a minute, before pulling something out and keeping it hidden from Arlo. Arlo tried to peek, but Jake made sure to keep it close against his chest, covered by his hand. He rummaged through a few more drawers before sighing, obviously not finding what he needed.

“What--?” Arlo asked.

“I said hold your horses, cowboy,” Jake said, his southern accent really coming out. Arlo smiled and watched as he headed towards the fridge. He pulled something out from the door, and then reached for a tooth pick. He worked over the counter for a minute, before blowing on whatever he had been working on for a minute or two. When he came back, Arlo raised his eyebrow at a poker chip covered in mustard.

“What the hell is this?” he asked, taking it from Jake.

“It’s your relapse chip,” Jake explained. Arlo noticed that he had copied the symbol that was engraved on his sobriety chips in gold. Of course this chip had it done in mustard. “I’ll take these,” Jake grabbed the box from Arlo’s lap. Arlo pouted and reached for them, but Jake pulled them away. “You can have them back as you reach the milestones. Okay? And when you have them all back, you can throw away the relapse chip,” Jake said. Arlo looked down at the mustard covered poker chip.

“Okay,” Arlo nodded. Jake dug through the box for a minute, and pulled out a white chip.

“I saw on a movie once that white was the first day chip?” he asked. Arlo nodded and took the chip. He held the two pieces of plastic next to each other, one a pearly white with gold engraved into it, and the other a sickly green with dried mustard scribbled into a clumsy symbol. Somehow, the relapse chip meant more to him than the others.

Arlo sighed as he got off work. It had been a long day. He had spent most of it treating a child who had fallen into a bed of cacti. The poor boy was covered from head to toe in spines from the plants, and it took several nurses and himself to remove them all. His feet hurt, and he couldn’t help but admit that the only thing he wanted right now was to sit in a nice dark bar with a drink in his hand. He dug the chip out of his pocket quickly, and glanced at the mustard covered item. He smiled and shoved it back into his pocket. Jake was getting off work around the same time as Arlo, and they had decided that they would treat themselves and go out to dinner together.

Jake had let Arlo pick the place, and he chose his favorite Italian restaurant. It was a bit expensive, but they agreed to split the cost so it wouldn’t hurt them too bad. Soft music played in the background, and the place was nearly empty. They ordered and their food was brought out to them quickly. Conversation was slow, but finally Arlo brought up the subject that he had been thinking about for awhile now.

“Jake, you’ve been so nice to me. There’s... there aren’t words to say how thankful I am for everything you’ve done. You’ve given me a place to stay, and helped me stay sober, and your mom just welcomed me into the family like it was nothing.” Arlo took a deep breath. “And I appreciate it, all of it. It means more to me than you could ever guess,” Arlo said. “But I think it’s time I moved out and found my own place again. Donovan can keep the house, I don’t want it anymore.” Arlo shook his head. “But I’m sure you want your own place back. It’s not exactly big enough for all of us,” Arlo said, counting the dogs Jake lived with. When he finally stopped rambling, Jake only stared at him.

“Doc...” Jake’s skin took on a bright red blush. “Do you really think that I want you to move out?”

“You mean you don’t?” Arlo asked, stopping his fork just a few inches from his mouth.

“No, I want you to stay with me,” Jake said. “I know I said I didn’t think you were ready to be in a relationship, but I also said that that didn’t mean I didn’t want one with you.” Jake reached a hand across the table and placed it on Arlo’s. “I love having you in my house. Before, that’s all it was. A house. With you there, it feels like so much more. It’s a home with you there, Arlo. I understand if you want to leave, I just want you to know that I want you there because...” Jake’s skin turned an ever brighter red. “I love you, Arlo,” he admitted. Arlo nearly swooned at his thick country drawal. He smiled, and opened his mouth, but no words came out. “You don’t have to say it back, not yet. You still have a long ways to go before I think you’re better,” he said. “But you're well on your way, Doc.”  Arlo giggled. “What?” Jake frowned.

“You said my name,” Arlo smiled.

“Whad’re ya talkin’ about, Doc?” Jake asked.

“You called me Arlo. You never call me Arlo,” he smiled. Without warning, he leaned over the table and kissed Jake passionately. When Arlo pulled away, Jake whistled.

“If that’s what I get everytime I call you Arlo, you can expect it more often,” Jake winked.

“Sounds good to me.” Arlo smiled.

Arlo was smiling to himself all day at work. The dinner last night had been followed by lots and lots of snuggling. Arlo was pretty sure that was his favorite thing about Jake, he loved to cuddle even more than Arlo did. Since that night when Arlo had slept with him on the floor, he hadn’t slept alone. Jake always made sure he invited Arlo to sleep with him, so he wouldn’t ever feel awkward about having to ask.

“Arlo, we have a car accident coming in,” Ronda said, as she listened to the radio that the medics always called in on.

“I’ll get room 1 prepped,” Arlo stated, and got to work. He was getting a small group of people ready to treat the incoming patients when his cell phone chirped. He usually didn’t carry it with him, but because of the recent Donovan situation, he decided it was for the best. He picked it up and, expecting to see a text, realized it was actually ringing. He answered it.

“Hello?” He frowned, realizing he forgot to check the number.

“Doc? Look, don’t treat the patient coming in right now,” Jake said.

“The car crash guy? Why not?” Arlo frowned.

“Because he’s-”

“Here!” Ronda called out. Arlo turned and shoved the phone in his pocket, saying a quick goodbye to Jake. He jogged to meet the paramedics at the door, as they wheeled in the unlucky guy. Arlo began working on him quickly. He attempted to talk to him, but soon realized he wasn’t responding.

“Who is this guy? Do we have any records on him?” Arlo asked the nurses around him. Someone tugged the wallet out of his pants, and read through the information quickly.

“Donovan Cohen, I’ll go check,” she said, and ran off. Arlo stared down at the bloodied man. Through the matted hair, wounded face, and bloody clothing, he knew it was true. This man was Donovan.


“Doc?” Jake called out, as he ran into the hospital. “Doc!” he called out again. The young doctor was sitting in the hallway on a bench, with his head between his legs.

“Jake?” Arlo looked up and when he saw it was who he thought it was, he stood up and fell into Jake’s arms.

“I’m sorry, Doc. I tried to warn you I just- I’m sorry. Are you okay?” Jake asked, pulling Arlo away so he could look at him.

“Yeah... I didn’t know it was him until one of the nurses....” Arlo trailed off and looked lost. Jake pulled him back into a hug. He wasn’t crying, but he was obviously stressed by the whole situation.

“What happened?” Jake asked.

“I was going to work on him, cuz I didn’t know what you were talking about on the phone.” Arlo sat down on the bench, and Jake followed. “We were just getting started when I found out. When I heard his name I had a panic attack. I’ve never freaked out around a patient before,” Arlo whined. “They pulled me from him and sat me here. It’s kind of a rule that you don’t work on people you know,” Arlo said.

“I know. Here,” Jake said, and handed Arlo a bottle of semi cold water. He accepted it thankfully and took a long sip, before screwing the cap back on. “Are you sure you’re alright? You’re really pale,” Jake said, and felt his head for a temperature.

“Yeah. I’m okay,” Arlo said, and took a deep breath. He stood up and Jake saw he was visibly shaking.

“No you’re not, come on. You’re taking the day off,” Jake said.

“Jake, I’ll be fine. Really,” Arlo said. “I don’t want to just sit at home. I want to keep busy... and be near him,” Arlo admitted. Jake paused.

“Do you still have feelings for him, Doc? After all he’s done to you?” Jake was beginning to get angry.

“It’s not like that. I mean, I’ll always have feelings for him, but not in that way. We were together for a long time and even if he was a jerk, you can’t do anything to get rid of all that time,” Arlo tried to explain. Jake sighed.

“I don’t understand,” he admitted.

“I know. But I’m not asking you to understand, I’m asking you to deal with it. Okay? For me?” Arlo asked. Jake nodded.

“Okay. Do you need me to stay here with you?” Jake asked.

“No, I’m already feeling better. I think I was just in shock,” Arlo said.

“Okay... I’ll see you at home. Call me if you need anything,” Jake said. Arlo nodded. He turned and left, leaving Arlo in the hallway alone.

Arlo spent the rest of his day milling about, trying to keep busy. He did little tasks and worked in the clinic for most of the day, dealing with colds and broken bones. But every time he had a free moment, he went and checked on Donovan. The man was obviously hurt badly, and they had struggled to keep him stable, but now that they had Arlo was beginning to calm down. He looked so much smaller and weaker in the hospital bed than when he had towered over Arlo with his fists raised. Arlo didn’t know what he felt for Donovan anymore, but it wasn’t love. He was beginning to think that it was never love. If it was, it was never returned.

Arlo dreamed of Donovan. Sometimes they were good dreams. Other times they were bad. He woke up three times in the night, and each time Jake had been there to comfort him. After the third time, Arlo got up and went to sit at the bar in the kitchen. Jake followed him quickly and sat with him.

“Want a drink?” Jake asked. Arlo looked at him like he was crazy, and Jake held up the little container he had grabbed before sitting down. “Hot chocolate. Mama used to make it for me when I had nightmares. That and...” he stretched and reached into the light fixture above the table, pulling out a package of Oreos.

“Why are you stashing Oreos?” Arlo rolled his eyes.

“Because, if you have them all the time, it ruins the magic.” Jake smiled and set the bag down on the counter. He made them a cup of hot chocolate and sat down with Arlo. He took one, twisted it in half, and then let both halves float in the large coffee cup.

“You’re such a weirdo.” Arlo laughed, and just bit his cookie.

“What are you doing? You can’t eat an Oreo like that! You’re mad. I’m going to have to leave you for this. Get out of my house,” Jake said, shaking his head sadly.

“It’s just a cookie,” Arlo laughed. Jake scoffed.

“It is not just a cookie! These,” he held up the bag, “are Oreos. Milk’s FAVORITE cookie. On top of their fluffy, creamy insides, they have the chocolate on the outside. Which means they go perfect with hot chocolate.” Jake dipped a full cookie inside his hot chocolate and let it sit there for a moment, letting it get mushy.

“Then what’s with that?” Arlo pointed at the gooey mess that had become of the cookie Jake had tossed in the hot chocolate.

“Simple,” Jake finished a third cookie, and then drank the majority of his hot chocolate in a very precise manner, so that at the end he had a tiny bit of hot chocolate, with swirls of chocolate powder and warm cookie to drink.

“You make things way too complicated.” Arlo laughed and downed his hot chocolate, before eating another cookie.

“An abomination is what you are!” Jake pretended to tear up and run away, arms flailing. Arlo laughed and followed him, leaving the cups and cookies behind. He found Jake in bed, pretend crying.

“I’m sorry, Jake,” Arlo said, with fake sincerity. “I promise next time I’ll eat Oreos your way.” He smiled. Jake looked up, forcing his lip to quiver.

“Promise?” he asked, like a small child.

“Promise.” Arlo burst into laughter. Jake smiled and pulled Arlo into a big hug

“Feeling better?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Arlo smiled, not letting go of Jake. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” Jake shrugged, and smiled down at Arlo with care.


Donovan woke up the next day. Arlo was already at the hospital, working, and so he only had to walk down the hall to see him. All he had to do was walk, but that wasn’t what he did. His shoes squeaked on the floor as he slid around a corner and took off again to reach Donovan’s room. As soon as he arrived at the doorway, he stopped. His heart pounded in his chest and he was out of breath. But that wasn’t what made him freeze in place, it was Donovan’s eyes that met with his. Arlo hadn’t seen him since the day he put him in the hospital.

“Hi,” Donovan said.

“Hi.” Arlo couldn’t help it when his voice cracked. He didn’t know if it was from relief, fear, freedom, or any of the other 300 emotions he was feeling. “Are you okay?” he asked, without even thinking about what he was saying.

“Yeah. I guess I am,” Donovan said.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Arlo mumbled.

“Maybe it is,” Donovan replied, voice filled with sorrow.

“Don’t say things like that, Donovan,” Arlo said. Donovan stared at him for a long moment.

“I’m sorry, Arlo. It’s just... since you left... I don’t know.” Donovan shook his head.

“Since I left? Like you gave me a choice?” Arlo felt his anger flare.

“I didn’t make you leave,” Donovan frowned.

“You didn’t? Really?” Arlo crossed his arms, and Donovan sighed.

“You’re right. I did,” Donovan nodded. “I’ve missed you.” Arlo remained silent. “Did you miss me?” Donovan asked.

“Honestly?” Arlo asked, Donovan nodded. “No, I didn’t. It’s been nice being able to get a full nights sleep and not waking up sore, or with bruises everywhere,” Arlo said seriously.

“Look, I said I’m sorry, okay?” Donovan asked.

“No you didn’t. You’ve never said you’re sorry, and meant it.” Arlo added the last part to be clear.

“Well I mean it this time. I’m sorry I hurt you, Arlo. Forgive me?” Donovan asked. Arlo stared at him for a long time before nodding.

“Yeah, I forgive you.” Donovan beamed. His eyes lit up and his smile was wider than Arlo had ever seen it.

“Thank you so much, Arlo! You won't regret this, I’ve changed I promise! I’ll get sober again, I’ll go to AA meetings! Everything! We can get a new house, leave all those bad vibes behind. We can-”

“Donovan,” Arlo interrupted him. “I said I forgave you, not that I would go back to you,” Arlo clarified. Donovan frowned.

“But... Arlo...”

“No, Donovan. I have to do what’s best for me now. I can’t let you ruin my life anymore,” Arlo said. When he had come in, he had told himself that he wouldn’t cry, but that obviously wasn’t happening. He felt hot tears stream down his face as he continued. “I’m happy, Donovan. I’m happy, and I’m in love, for the first time in a long time.” Donovan stared at him blankly. “I’m sorry. I really am. But I can’t hurt myself again by going back to you.”

“Just give me one more chance, Arlo, please,” Donovan begged.

“I’ve given you too many chances already. You blew it, Donovan. I’m sorry.” Arlo turned and walked out of the room. He only made it around the corner before he began sobbing. He held onto the wall for support, and cried. When he felt large hands wrap around his shoulders and slowly massage them, he looked up. Jake stood behind him, his gentle face smiling softly.

“Jake? What are you doing here?” Arlo asked.

“I told the nurses to call me when he woke up, I wanted to be here for you,” Jake said.

“How long have you ‘been here for me’?” Arlo asked.

“I may have eavesdropped a little...”Jake admitted. Arlo scowled.

“That was a private conversation,” Arlo said.

“I know, but I worry. I’m sorry,” Jake apologized, and hugged Arlo.

“It’s okay,” Arlo said. “Can we go? I really just want to be with you right now,” Arlo said, hugging Jake possessively.

“Yeah, I can get the rest of the day off. How about we make a thing of it and go to the movies or something? Maybe go hang out at the park?” Jake asked, as they left the hospital. It was still pretty early in the morning, and they had time. Lots of time.


Arlo smiled quietly to himself as they walked home. He loved to walk. It was just enough exercise to take things off his mind, but also allow him to think. Walking with Jake was even better. He was silent, but made it obvious he was there. The cool night air played through Arlo’s hair, making the hair on his arms stand on end. It was cold out, but he liked it. He never was one for the heat. Jake had taken off his jacket and was enjoying the crisp air as well.

“Jake?” Arlo finally picked up the conversation they had dropped.

“Yeah?” Jake wrapped his fingers around Arlo’s, in a tight hold.

“I want to have sex,” Arlo said, looking up at his boyfriend. The word felt foreign, even in his mind. Jake seemed like so much more.

“Are you sure? A lot has happened the past few days, Doc,” Jake said.

“I know. But I think I’m ready. I feel like this is the last step. I’m finally free of Donovan. It’s time to move on, and this is the last thing I need, and want, to do,” Arlo said, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to kiss Jake.

“If you’re sure about this, you know I’m all for it. But I want you to be sure,” Jake said. Arlo could tell he was obviously trying hard to be the good guy in all of this.

“I’m sure,” Arlo smiled.

“Then fuck this walking shit,” Jake smiled, and grabbed Arlo’s hand as he took off in a run. Arlo laughed as he caught up to Jake, sprinting towards home.

They hit the bed hard, and Arlo’s clothes were already half way off. Jake was trying to be slow and tender, but was failing miserably.

“Jake, I’m not made of glass,” Arlo smiled. Jake blushed. “I like it rough,” Arlo whispered. Jake let out a low growl, before diving down and biting the tender skin around Arlo’s neck and shoulders. Arlo groaned as Jake played with his nipples, tweaking and pulling the cinnamon colored peaks. He slid his hands under the waistband of Arlo’s briefs, jerking him off slowly. Arlo whimpered with pleasure as Jake pulled down the briefs, and threw them to the side.

“I want to see you, too,” Arlo said, after Jake took a moment to drink in the sight of Arlo’s hardening cock. He smiled and pulled back just far enough so that Arlo could slowly unbutton his shirt. Once his top half was stripped, Arlo took the chance to thread his fingers through the ample amount of chest hair that covered Jake’s upper torso.

“Does it bother you?” Jake asked.

“I like it.” Arlo smiled, and continued to curl his fingers around the sprinkling of hair. “But there’s more I want to see,” Arlo tugged at his belt. Jake helped him strip off the jeans he wore, and soon his cock bobbed free of the confining clothing. Arlo wrapped his thin delicate hand around Jake’s thick cock, and began stroking it lovingly. Jake returned the favor by gently stroking Arlo. They kissed and stroked each other to the brink of release, before Arlo stopped. “I want you inside me,” he whispered. Jake nodded silently, and reached for his fallen jeans, pulling out a condom and a small tube of lube. He poured a large glob onto his fingers and, without looking away from Arlo’s gaze, slowly began opening up his lover. He pushed in a few fingers and slowed down when Arlo hissed.  “I’m okay. It’s just cold,” he giggled a little. Jake nibbled his bottom lip, before pushing in a third finger. He pumped the digits in and out, until he was sure Arlo was prepared. He grabbed the small package and tore it open with his teeth, and was about to roll it on when Arlo took it from his hands.

“Let me?” he asked, and took the rubber from Jake. He rolled it on gently, stroking his cock as he went, until it was on. He leaned back and raised his knees a little, until Jake grabbed them and pushed them back against his chest. He wrapped Arlo’s knees around his elbows, and lined up his cock. He freed one leg, just long enough to push the large head of his dick into Arlo’s tight hole. Arlo moaned as Jake pushed in another inch.

“Are you okay?” Jake asked.

“I’m more than okay. This is what I want, what I’ve wanted for so long,” Arlo whimpered. He leaned up and kissed Jake again, before letting him build the steady fucking motion. He let his hands snake upwards into Jake’s hair, and he held onto handfuls of the smooth hair that was normally hidden by his hat. Jake grunted as he fucked Arlo harder, making him moan each time he withdrew his cock from the tight heat that was Arlo’s ass. Soon Arlo couldn’t take it anymore. “Jake... I can’t... oh God. I’m going to cum,” he gasped, as Jake continued to pound into him.

“Cum for me, Doc,” Jake whispered, and bit down on a peaked nipple. Arlo arched his back and cried out as he came. Jake held onto him tightly, as the waves of pleasure passed through his thin, but toned body. As he watched the feeling of ecstasy on Arlo’s face, he lost control and filled the condom with his seed. Now a heap of exhausted bodies, Jake pulled out, and tied the condom off before throwing it away. He lazily crawled out of bed and walked into the bathroom, retrieving a warm wet washcloth. Jake wiped Arlo down quickly, removing all traces of his cum, and all of the sticky sweat he had been covered with during their lovemaking. After wiping himself down, he crawled back into bed and spooned his lover gently.

“I love you, Jake,” Arlo whispered.

“I love you too, Doc.”


“Ready?” Ronda asked, as Arlo straightened his tie, and looked at the beautiful white rose on his coat.

“Definitely,” he smiled in the mirror, before heading towards his destiny. The standard music played as he walked down the aisle. He hated that he was the one to walk, and that Jake had begged him into letting the classic song play. He didn’t want such a ‘straight’ wedding. But if it was what Jake wanted, Jake would get it. Mama cried in the front row, tears of joy luckily. She wiped at them as Arlo walked by and winked at her. She smiled and burst into tears again. The rows were filled with friends and family. Some of which Arlo had never even met. Doctors and nurses from the hospital filled other rows, Rhonda was his ‘best man’ and he was glad for that. Donovan sat in one of the aisles, smiling at the couple happily.

After that day in the hospital, five years ago, Arlo had agreed with Donovan that they would remain friends. No matter what Donovan had done, they couldn’t erase the time they had together, and Jake respected that. But, by no means did he like the other man. They didn’t talk much, but Arlo had insisted that he wanted Donovan at the wedding. Donovan had been eager to accept, but only if it was okay with Jake. The threat of a month without sex was enough to make it okay.

Jake waited for him up ahead. Another thing he had insisted on was having the wedding in a church. Arlo had agreed to all of these things for one reason and one reason only, the wedding was for Jake. He loved the other man dearly, but didn’t feel the need for a wedding. He had saw the hurt in Jake’s eyes when he denied his proposal at first. When he spoke about how he didn’t need a wedding to show the world they were in love, he knew that Jake didn’t want it for that reason either but for himself. So Arlo had agreed, and he realized it was very much worth it to see the absolute joy on Jake’s face. Arlo smiled as he reached the end of the aisle.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” Jake smiled. “You’re gorgeous,” Jake said. The one thing Arlo had put his foot down on was not wearing a white tux. But Jake had talked him into the white rose after a week or two. The matching tuxedos they wore were perfect, and Arlo had to admit that it made him want Jake more than usual. The man did look good in a tux.

“Dearly beloved...” the priest began. Arlo couldn’t focus on the words he was saying, and it felt like Jake couldn’t either. Both of them simply stared at each other, having a silent conversation just to themselves. Neither of them could believe this was it. That they were getting married. They had known that they were committed to each other and no one else, for years now. But this seemed so final. To them and to everyone else.

“Do you, Jacob Ivory Hudson, take A-” The priest cleared his throat. “‘Doc’ to be your husband, your partner in life and your one true love? Will you cherish his friendship and love him today, tomorrow, and forever?” the priest asked.

“And yesterday, too,” Jake smiled. Arlo couldn’t help but laugh, when his southern accent came out.

‘Will you trust and honor him, laugh and cry with him? Will you be faithful through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?”

“I will,” Jake said, his eyes glossing over with unshed tears.

“Do you Ar-” Jake gave him a look. “ ‘Doc’ take-”

“I will,” Arlo interrupted. Jake smiled and laughed.

“Well, my job is easy, isn’t it,” he mumbled and threw his hands up. “Do we have the rings?” he asked. A cute little girl who Arlo knew to be Jake’s niece came running up, two boxes in hand. Arlo frowned and took the one handed to him, while Jake took his. “Go on! You don’t need me for this part,” the priest said said. Jake smiled and opened his box.

“Five years ago today, you were sitting on my couch, sad and lost because you had made a mistake. Five years ago today, I made you a promise that I intend to keep.” Jake pulled out the gold five year sobriety chip from the box. “I hope you remembered to keep yours,” Jake said. He handed Arlo the chip. Arlo smiled down at the shining metal in his palm, and with a little confusion, opened his own box. In the box was the ugly, mustard stained poker chip that Jake had drawn the logo that all sobriety chips had onto. He smiled, and handed Jake the chip back, who took it willingly. “Now you have all of your pieces back,” Jake said. “And can start getting new ones,” he added.

“I intend too,” Arlo smiled, his eyes welling up.

“You may now kiss,” the priest smiled. Jake dropped the box to the floor of the church, and pulled Arlo into a rough hug. Arlo giggled and smiled as Jake hugged him, before pulling him into a passionate kiss. His heart raced as the crowd before them cheered and clapped. After a long moment, Jake finally pulled away and smiled out at everyone.

“I love you, Doc,” he said, just quiet enough so that Arlo would be the only one who could hear it.

“I love you, too, Jake. More than anything.” He couldn’t help the tears that fell from his face. Jake wiped them away, and kissed him once more, just a peck on the lips.

“Now lets party!” he cheered, and so did the crowd.

Arlo was almost dizzy from the music and the food and the cake that they fed each other. He had never been big on parties, but this was one he would remember for awhile. Of course there was no alcohol, and he felt a little bad that everyone was sober. They didn’t have to ruin the party on his account. He was about to say so to Jake when the loud sound of someone clearing their throat on the microphone cut through the crowd.

“Excuse me,” Donovan said. “Uh, hi. First of all,” he spoke when the crowd died down and everyone was looking at him. “I want to thank Ronda, for allowing me to steal her ‘best man’ speech,” he said. Arlo looked at Jake, who shrugged. Ronda waved from where she sat, a drink of water in her hands. “For those of you who don’t know me, which is almost everyone here,” he laughed nervously, “my name’s Donovan, and I’m the ex of the groom.” When he looked towards the happy couple, Arlo waved, still wondering what was going on. “One of them anyways, I’m not that kinky,” Donovan said, stirring forth a laugh from the crowd. “Arlo is my ex, and a few people who know that here have asked me, ‘well, doesn’t this make you mad? Don’t you miss him?’ and I just want to say...” he looked at Arlo. “I do miss him, every day. He’s a wonderful person and way more than I deserve. But the only thing I want is for him to be happy. And that man standing right there is what makes him happy.” He pointed at Jake who smiled, thankfully, and kissed Arlo’s temple. “I’ll always love Arlo, and he’ll probably always love me in some way. But this is what was meant to be. I’m sure I’ll find someone someday and he can be the one standing up here like an idiot being jealous,” Donovan joked, making the crowd laugh again.

“I just wanted to come up here and say that I wish the groom and... groom-two all the luck in the world. Even though I don’t think they’re going to need it, they have love on their side after all. I love you guys,” Donovan said, and shut off the mic. The crowd cheered and clapped as Donovan made his way through the crowd to hug the two men.

“Thank you, Donovan,” Jake said, as the crowd went back to the partying.

“It’s nothing man, you guys deserved every word. I owe you a hell of a lot more than some dumb speech,” Donovan laughed.

“It wasn’t dumb. It meant a lot to me, Donovan. Thank you.” Arlo pulled away from Jake just long enough to hug Donovan and give him a kiss on the cheek.

“You’re welcome,” Donovan nodded. Since he had nearly died in that car accident five years before, he had given up drinking for good. Seeing Arlo happy had finally made Donovan realize that maybe he could be too. With the help of Jake and Arlo, he recovered. He got anger management help, and had been going to every AA meeting he could find. After five years, he didn’t feel guilty every time he looked at Arlo’s face. “I’d love to hang out and chat, but you guys have a dance to do.” He pushed the couple out onto the floor, as they began swaying to the slow music together.

Not long after, everyone sat down at the tables to eat dinner. Arlo sat next to Jake, constantly touching him for comfort. He loved the feel of Jake’s hot skin under his hand. Even through the tuxedo could feel the natural heat that poured off his body. Jake dug into his pocket suddenly, and pulled out a box. He opened it, and two rings sat inside.

“I knew you would like the poker chip thing. But I always wanted wedding rings,” Jake said, and slipped one of the rings over Arlo’s finger. Arlo stared down at the glistening band and smiled.

“Thank you,” Arlo said, and kissed Jake’s lips passionately.

“That’s what husbands are for.” He smiled.

“Husband... I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to that.”

“Oh you will, I’ll make you moan it a whole bunch on the honeymoon,” Jake smiled. Arlo groaned.

“My ass is already sore,” he laughed.

“Oh, I almost forgot. There’s an engraving in it”, he said. Arlo pulled off the ring, and look on the inside of the gorgeous band. He frowned.

“Mine just says ‘Gummy’...” he said, confused. Jake showed him his. “‘Worms’... out of all the things you could have had engraved on our wedding rings, you picked Gummy Worms.” Arlo couldn’t help but burst out laughing at the stupidity of it all.

“I love you, Doc. I don’t think any words could ever describe it. But I love Gummy Worms almost as much,” Jake nodded.

“Oh shut up, you big dumb cop,” Arlo shoved him playfully.

“Okay, my sexy doctor,” Jake winked. Arlo stared into his eyes and couldn’t help the satisfied look that crossed his face. “What?” Jake asked.

“I finally got my happy ending,” Arlo smiled.

“I got mine, too,” Jake said, and wrapped his fingers into Arlo’s hand.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Arlo whispered.

“I love you,” Arlo said, kissing Jake’s ear.

“I love you, too, Arlo.”


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Of Mice and Men Ch.04

Ethan smiled at Trish as he jogged to the elevator.

“Where are you headed?” She sat up in her seat, looking confused and a little pleased.

“I’m taking Carey to a support group for people who deal with phobias,” Ethan smiled.

“What? You convinced him to leave?” Trisha stood up, shocked.

“Yeah, why?” Ethan stopped as she ran up to him, her heels tapping on the tile floor.

“You don’t understand. He hasn’t left this place since he was released from the labs he was kept in,” she said, jaw nearly touching the floor. “All the doctor visits, groceries, everything is delivered to him,” she said.

“So he really hasn’t been outside in-”

“2 years!” Trish giggled and jumped up and down. “This is a huge breakthrough! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!” She giggled as her blonde hair bounced around her shoulders.

“Wow... well, wish me luck!” Ethan smiled, and pushed the button to call the elevator. He jogged down the hall and nearly laughed at how happy he was to spend the day with Carey, outside. He knocked quickly and waited, when he heard no reply, he frowned for the first time that day. “Carey? You there?” Of course he was there, Carey was always there. He poked his head inside and saw that the apartment was dark, as usual. “Carey?” he called out in a sing song voice, searching the dark living room with his eyes. When there was still no response,  Ethan stepped inside.

Everything was silent and empty as Ethan searched through the apartment. After searching every room and finding them all empty, he was beginning to get worried. He was about to head back downstairs when he heard a faint sound from somewhere within the apartment. He paused and listened. The sound floated to his ears, a sob. He looked around again, stopping in each room until he finally reached the bedroom where the sound was loudest.

“Carey?” he whispered. There was another sob, a little louder this time. He rolled his eyes and leaned against the wall next to the closet door. He stood there for a second before knocking softly. “Carey... come on out,” he said. There was no response other than another sob. Finally Ethan opened the door. Carey looked up, his wide black eyes reflecting the bedside light Ethan had turned on. Shirts and pants dangled above his head, brushing his large round white ears. His knees were tucked up against his chest, with his arms wrapped around them defensively. He sniffed again, his small nose twitching as he wiped away the tears that had matted the fur under his eyes. “Carey, come on, you can’t be that scared,” Ethan said, in a soft voice.

“I’m sorry,” Carey whispered.

“Don’t be sorry.” Ethan sat down in the closet with him. “You just need to face your fears. If you don’t, then you’ll never be in control of your own life. Out of all the people I know, I would think you would want that control more than anyone else,” Ethan said.

“I do,” Carey whispered. “But it’s not that easy.” He let out a big sigh as he cleaned up the rest of his tears.

“Yes, it is,” Ethan stated. “If you want something, you have to reach out and take it. If you feel something, act on it,” Ethan urged, and was surprised when Carey let out a laugh. “What?” he frowned.

“I think we could both use a lesson from each other. I need to do more taking and acting, and you should probably do a little less,” he blushed and smiled a small smile. Ethan laughed.

“Yeah, I suppose I should. Come on.” He stood up, and pulled Carey up by his hands. Carey brushed himself off and played with his tail nervously. “Uh, you should probably put a shirt on,” Ethan said. “And shoes,” he added.

“I don’t like shirts... they feel weird on my fur.” He brushed a small delicate hand across his lightly furred chest. Ethan felt his cock jump in his pants as Carey absentmindedly brushed his nipple.

“Alright, I’m sure they’ll be understanding about that,” Ethan mumbled, looking Carey up and down again. “But what about shoes?” he asked.

“I don’t own any,” Carey replied.

“What? No shoes at all?” he asked. Carey shook his head.

“They hurt my feet,” he whined. “Plus I never leave the house, so...” he shrugged.  Ethan sighed.

“Okay, well I don’t want you to hurt your feet, here.” Ethan sat down on Carey’s bed and tugged off the brown work boots he had on. He tossed them at Carey who slipped them on. They were way too big and he looked like a child playing in his father's shoes

“Thanks,” Carey muttered.  Ethan smiled as he watched Carey clomp around in his shoes.

“No problem,” he held back the laugh. “We can go buy you some on the way,” he suggested.

“I don’t have any money,” Carey whispered. “The program pays for just enough food for me to get by and not much else,” he clarified.

“That’s okay, I have some cash. If you don’t mind wearing something from a thrift store,” Ethan shrugged. Carey smiled.

“No, that’s okay... thank you,” he whispered shyly. Ethan nodded and took his hand, leading him to the living room. He was already out the door and into the hallway and when he looked back. He saw a very pale Carey standing in the doorway, staring at the green carpeted floor of the apartment hallway.

“Come on, Carey. I’m right here, you’ll be fine,” Ethan smiled. Carey bit his lip, and stepped out into the hallway. He kept his head down and walked with Ethan in silence as they headed for the elevator. By the time the large metal doors closed, Carey was an inch away from hyperventilating. “Carey, you gotta calm down. I know it’s been a long time since you’ve been out of your apartment, but things have changed. Infected don’t have to hide as much as they used to. People have gotten used to seeing them around, most don’t even care about it anymore,” Ethan said.

“You care,” Carey whispered.

“Yeah, well... I’m a jerk. We’re working on that tomorrow, right?” Ethan asked. They had agreed that Carey would go to his support group, and if he did as he was told, Ethan would see someone too.

“If I survive the day,” Carey mumbled.

“You’ll be okay.” Ethan smiled, as the doors opened and they stepped out. Carey slid his hand into Ethan's for comfort as they walked across the tiled floor of the front room. Ethan’s boots dangled from Carey’s feet, making his steps echo loudly.

“Oh my gosh! Carey, I’m so happy for you!” Trish greeted him and gave him a kiss on each cheek. Carey smiled queasily and refused to release Ethan’s hand. The grip and the soft fur on his hand made Ethan’s heart pound. He couldn’t understand why he was feeling this way with Carey. He had loved Chris, he really had. But this was different. This was something else. Not lust and not love. He didn’t know.

“Ethan?” Carey tugged at his hand. Ethan blinked out of his thoughts, and smiled.

“Come on, lets go.”  Ethan smiled wider and pulled Carey to the door. Carey took a deep breath, as if he was getting ready to dive into the ocean, and stepped outside. The bustling city around them made him dizzy at first, but he got his bearings quickly. In a few minutes, he was clinging to Ethan’s side as they headed into an empty thrift store. Ethan helped him find a pair of shoes that fit, and that were relatively comfortable.  Once he paid for the four dollar shoes, they headed to the community center where the support group was being held.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” Carey hugged his tail tightly in his arms. Ethan smiled and Turned Carey to face him. He pushed his arms away so that his tail fell behind him, curving around his left side onto the ground. He forced Carey’s arms to rest at his side, and before he could do anything about it, mused his hair so that it fell in a lazy fashion around his head. His ears were hidden in the unevenly cut mop of white hair on his head, but they still poked out. The round pink ears, covered in white fur, moved uneasily as Ethan bent to tie Carey’s shoe as if he was a helpless child.

“There, you look fine. You’ll be fine. Just remember that no one is here to judge you,” Ethan smiled.

“Okay,” Carey murmured. Ethan smiled, and pushed him ahead into the clean and newer looking building.


The room was easy enough to find. A printed sign on the door read ‘Phobia Support Meeting’. Carey fiddled with his tail, before Ethan slapped the appendage from his hands. Carey pouted and then turned to the closed door. He took a deep breath before turning the knob.

A few people mingled around the medium sized room. There was a fold out table against one wall with some coffee, water, and a pitcher of orange juice. Next to the drinks were trays of cookies and other snacks. No one had sat down in the large circle of chairs yet, but it looked like they were getting ready to. Everyone was grabbing their drinks and snacks, and heading to the seats.

“Go ahead and sit anywhere you like,” a tall man said, as he took a seat.

“Come on,” Ethan urged, and grabbed his hand. He pulled Carey over to the seat next to his.

“Okay,” he whispered, though he was already sitting down. In a minute or two, every seat was filled, and someone was looking for a few more for people who were standing around. Once they had accommodated everybody, the meeting began.

“I’d just like to welcome everyone. I guess I’ll start by introducing myself. My name’s Paul. Why don’t you go around introducing yourselves?” Paul said, gesturing to the man at his right.

“Uh... Hi. I’m Steve.” The man gave a weak wave, and then looked to the man to his right.






“Tom.” Finally all the eyes landed on Carey. Ethan watched as his ears fell back against his skull and he reached for his tail. Ethan gently slapped his hand away, making Carey look up at him with fear in his eyes. He nodded, as everyone was waiting.

“Uh... Carey,” he whispered.

“Ethan.” Ethan nodded and waved.

“Good, it’s nice to meet you all. Now, just so I can get a feel for the room, who here is a supporter, and who here actually has a phobia?” Paul asked. Everyone was silent for a moment, so Ethan spoke up.

“I’m a supporter,” he said, nodding at Carey, who still looked petrified.

“Me too,” Sue said, and took Pam’s hand. Everyone else remained silent.

“Okay, well both of you are welcome, of course. And I’m to assume that everyone else here suffers from a phobia?” Paul asked, A few people nodded but most were silent. It was then that Ethan noticed Carey was the only infected in the group. It was obvious Carey noticed this as well, as his anxiety began to build.

“I’m Achluophobic,” Gordon said. “Fear of the dark,” he added. Paul gave a small smile.

“Thank you, Gordon, for getting the ball rolling. Anyone else?” Paul asked.

“I have Eisoptrophobia. Fear of mirrors,” Pam said. Ethan thought it was weird. She was very pretty with long blonde hair that fell in thick curls around her perfectly sculpted face. Her blue eyes sparkled happily, and her well manicured nails were wrapped in Sue’s hand.

“Uh, Gelotophobia... is uh... what I have...” Ali mumbled. Everyone seemed to be waiting for an explanation. “Fear of... uh... being laughed at.” She ducked her head.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that here,” Paul smiled.

Kakorrhaphiophobia and Kainolophobia and Catagelophobia,” Angelo muttered, with a thick accent. “I don’t like new things. I’m afraid of doing something wrong or failing,” he explained. Once again, all eyes turned to Carey.

“Oh... uh...” he was beginning to hyperventilate.  Ethan took his hand and gave him a reassuring look. Carey took a deep breath. “Uh, Latrophobia, Aichmophobia, Nosocomephobia,” Carey said. “Doctors, needles, and hospitals,” he whispered.

“And some Agoraphobia,” Ethan pointed out.

“Oh, yeah.”  Carey blushed and reached for his tail, again. Ethan slapped his hand away for the millionth time that night. Carey shot him an angry look and Ethan silently mouthed the words, ‘stop that’. He gave Carey and equally mean glare. Carey pouted and looked back at the ground.

“Alright, that’s okay,” Paul smiled. “Everyone needs to understand that this is a safe space for all of us, no one is going to judge you here. You’re going to be okay.” Paul gave a reassuring smile. Ethan noticed Carey visibly relax a little bit. Just a little.

The group talked for a long time. The meeting was supposed to be an hour long, but it ended up stretching to almost two hours. When they hit the hour mark, Paul quickly asked if anyone needed to go or if they wanted to continue since they were on such a roll. When everyone remained silent, the conversation Paul had interrupted picked up again. After almost two hours of everyone talking about everything under the sun, the group finally split.

It was during the slow walk back to Carey’s apartment that Ethan really saw the change in him. Instead of holding his tail, his hands were at his side and his tail brushed the ground gently behind him. He was smiling, and only glanced around nervously every few minutes instead of every four seconds like he had on the way there.

“You seem to be a bit more comfortable out here,” Ethan pointed out.

“I am,” Carey nodded. “I mean, I would still rather be inside my apartment. Nice... and safe...” he whispered, looking around. He snapped out of it and continued speaking. “But I’m with you and talking to those people really helped. I feel a lot better,” Carey admitted.

“Good. Do you want to go back again next week?” Ethan asked. Carey nodded.

“This is the first time in a long time where I’ve felt like my fears don’t control me. I feel so free!” Carey giggled, before covering his mouth with a clawed hand, and laughing more quietly this time. Ethan laughed.

“See, I knew you could do it. You survived the night,” Ethan winked.

“Yup, and you know what that means,” Carey said, in a sing song voice. Ethan groaned.

“Ugh, I was hoping you forgot about my side of the deal,” he mumbled.

“It won’t be so bad, Ethan. It really helped me, I’m sure it will help you too,” Carey smiled. Ethan stared into his shining eyes and frowned for a second.

“How old are you?” he asked out of nowhere. Carey looked taken aback, but recovered quickly.

“Thirty. Why?”

“Really? You don’t look it,” Ethan smiled. Carey smiled with him.

“Really? Thank you.” His blush showed through his white fur. “Well... to be honest...” he looked around as if someone was listening in. “I’ve been thirty for two years now,” he giggled.

“32 huh? You definitely don’t seem like it.” Ethan smiled to himself.

“How old are you?” Carey asked.

“Turn your age around,” Ethan said.

“What!?” Carey stopped walking. “No way in hell you’re 23,” he said. Ethan pouted.

“How old do I look?” he frowned.

“Well, it’s not how you look. It’s just... I don’t know,” Carey pouted. “God, you’re so young.” Carey put his head in his hands.

“I am not,” Ethan laughed.

“Oh yes you are. Because if you’re not young than that makes me old-.” Ethan opened his mouth. “And you better not say a word about that or our friendship is over,” Carey pointed at him. Ethan shut his mouth and smiled. “Now enough changing the subject. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Carey smiled, as they stopped in front of the building that housed hundreds of troubled infected.

“Tomorrow... right. Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you up?” Ethan asked. Carey looked up at the building, and sighed.

“No, I want to try this for myself,” he said. Ethan smiled.

“Okay. Good luck,” he said, as he began walking away.

“Thanks,” Carey smiled. Ethan turned and walked backwards, watching as Carey reached for the door handle. He stopped walking and paused. For a moment, his mind flashed to one of those cheesy movie scenes where the guy runs and gives his date a goodnight kiss, leaving her blushing and giggling. But only for a moment. He quickly snapped out of his trance, and left.


“This isn’t a good idea, Carey,” Ethan stated, as the bus hummed beneath them. Carey placed a clawed hand on Ethan’s shoulder, making him twitch slightly, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“I didn’t think yesterday was a good idea, either. But just trust me, okay? It helps,” Carey said. He hadn’t been quite as confident being outside as he had the night before, but it was still a small difference from the first time they had ventured into the outside world. He seemed to calm down a little when they got into the bus and sat down. Ethan supposed that it was just his mouse instincts kicking in, small spaces meant you were safer from predators.

Carey could tell that Ethan was nervous. He could clearly see the fake ‘macho guy’ attitude just under the surface. Talking to somebody meant you were weak. At least that’s how Ethan saw it. They finally arrived downtown. Carey didn’t like the crowds that pushed and shoved down the street, but if it was for Ethan, it was worth it.

Ethan got more and more nervous as the visit with the therapist came closer. He was happy when he met Carey at his apartment. He was annoyed and slightly worried when they were on the bus. As they walked down the street he became more and more agitated. Now, sitting in the waiting room of the therapists office, he was down right pissed.

“Come on, Carey. Lets just leave. This place looks like a dump anyways,” he stood. Carey reached for his hand and pulled him back down into his seat.

“Dr. Nelson is a good friend of mine. I spent my internship with her.” When he saw Ethan was giving him a hard glare, he stopped. “Uh... never mind. Point is, you can trust her, she’s a really good doctor,” Carey said.

“Right,” Ethan mumbled.

“Come on, at least do this for me. I agreed to the terms, now you have to hold up your end,” Carey said.

“Alright, alright,” he snapped. Carey stared at him for a moment before lowering his head. He still felt uncomfortable making eye contact with people. He was beginning to wonder if he would ever get over his anxiety.


“No, this is bullshit!” Ethan said, as he slammed the door open to the therapy room.

“Ethan!” Carey called after him, and then let his ears shrink back as the entire waiting room turned to stare at him. Of course the ‘entire waiting room’ consisted of no more than three people, including the secretary.

“No, I’m not doing this!” he shouted, storming out the front door of the office. Dr. Nelson stood behind Carey as Ethan stomped out onto the sidewalk. Carey sighed and chased after him, apologizing to his friend as he left.

“Ethan, what’s wrong? You were just starting to open up!” Carey said, running to keep up with Ethan. He bumped people as he went, making him nervous and twitchy.

“I don’t want to open up. It’s none of her business what’s happened in my past,” Ethan said, weaving through the crowds of people.

“What’s happened in your past that you don’t want to talk about? Ethan, just talk to me!” Carey pleaded, as a tall man bumped into him, sending him towards the curb.

“I don’t know just... just be quiet!” Ethan covered his ears, as if trying to block Carey out.

“Ethan, please. Just talk to me!” Carey begged.

“Just shut up, Carey! Just shut the fuck up!” Ethan turned and shouted at him. He left Carey stunned, in the middle of the street. He turned, and walked in the opposite direction. Carey stood there for a second, wondering what had triggered the sudden anger in Ethan. But when he finally snapped out of his trance, he realized he was alone in the middle of a bustling downtown district. He froze, and felt as if every person was staring at him. In truth, no one even noticed the small mousy man in the middle of the sidewalk. But to him, the whole world had a spotlight focusing directly on him. He felt his chest draw in tight and he began to get dizzy as he started hyperventilating. He gasped for air and looked at the swarm of people around him. He whimpered and hugged the brick wall of a building. His heart pounded in his chest, echoing in his ears as he tried to block out the packs of people around him. He screamed bloody murder when he felt a firm hand grip his elbow.

“Carey, Carey!” Ethan shouted in his face. Carey opened his large eyes and stared up with fear. When he realized it was Ethan, he began sobbing. He buried his head in Ethan’s chest and wrapped his arms around his wide shoulders. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry,” Ethan apologized. Carey sniffed as Ethan pet his ears down against his head gently, trying to soothe the poor man.

“I want to go home,” Carey sobbed.

“Okay, come on. I’ll take you home,” Ethan soothed. He felt terrible. Carey had started making progress for the first time in a long time and he had ruined it. Now the man was a wreck and was clinging to Ethan like a child who had gotten lost in the store. Ethan led him through the streets, keeping his head pressed into his chest. Carey refused to look up, no matter what. Ethan hailed a cab, even though he knew he couldn’t really afford one. Carey was done, he wanted to be home now. As they shut the door to the cab, Carey finally began to calm down. His loud, rough sobs slowed to a constant sniffling and gasping.

When the cab stopped, Ethan quickly grabbed his wallet and dug out enough cash to pay the driver. He grabbed Carey around the waist and pulled him into the building. Carey clung to him, burying his head in his shoulder. Ethan ignored the mildly angry and confused look from Trish, nearly carrying Carey to the elevator. The elevator ride was awkward. As the only sound in the machine was Carey’s soft sobbing. Ethan rubbed his back, trying to comfort him to no avail. The elevator doors opened and Ethan pulled Carey to his door, and fished the keys out of his pocket. He unlocked the door for him and locked it, making sure he did every lock to make Carey more comfortable. Ethan turned to face Carey in the darkness of the apartment, and was surprised that he wasn’t there. He searched through the black room quickly, and found no sign of the man.

“Carey? Carey, where did you go?” He jogged towards the bedroom and found the door closed. He reached for the door knob and realized it was locked. He remembered the dozens of locks across the door and sighed, putting his head against the door. “Carey?” he sighed again. “Carey, I’m sorry.” When there was no reply, not even a sob, he gave up. He set Carey’s keys down on the coffee table, and took a seat on the couch. He stretched his legs out and fell asleep.


Ethan was a heavy sleeper. A tornado could have hit and he still would have been snoring loud enough to wake the dead. But for some reason, the soft sound of a lock clicking woke him up. He looked over to the bedroom door and saw it hadn’t opened, but it had been unlocked. He tossed his legs over the couch and let his eyes blink the sleep away. He stood up, and stretched. He walked quietly over to the door and paused, before giving it a soft knock.

“Carey?” he called out softly, there was still no response. He opened the door and saw that the room was even darker than the rest of the apartment. He stepped inside and shut the door, heading for the closet first. He opened the closet door and found the small space empty. He checked the bathroom, shower, and even the cupboard under the sink. Maybe he had dreamt it all. He was about to leave, when he heard a soft sound. He didn’t really know what it was, and it probably wouldn’t have caught his attention if the entire apartment hadn’t been absolutely silent. He got down on his knees, and looked under the bed. Two shining black eyes peered at him from underneath the bed. He thought for a moment how most people would be scared or unnerved by the beady black eyes, but he wasn’t. Ethan found that they showed more emotion than plain ol’ human eyes. “I’m sorry I left you alone, Carey. I was just freaked out, okay?” Ethan said. Carey remained silent, only staring at Ethan. Ethan frowned. It was as if Carey had actually turned into a full mouse. His eyes showed nothing but fear. Ethan sighed, before lying down, and rolling under the bed. He stayed there for a moment, lying with Carey in silence. Carey lay there, staring at the room out from under the bed. His head sat at an uncomfortable angle on the hard floor.

“How about we get on top of the bed, you’ll be more comfortable there,” Ethan said gently. Carey didn’t look at him, but stared down at the floor.

“Okay,” he responded, his voice a bit stronger than what Ethan expected. He crawled out from under the bed easily, leaving Ethan with a bit more trouble. Once Ethan finally wiggled out from under the bed, he saw Carey was already curled up and was watching him with his black eyes. He smiled and crawled into bed with Carey, who rested his head on Ethan’s chest. Ethan stroked his ears lovingly as they laid in the dark.

“Are you okay?” Ethan asked.

“I thought I was getting better,” Carey said, sadly.

“You are, but you can’t expect to be magically cured after one group session,” Ethan said. “Things like this take time, Carey. You just have to give yourself a chance.” Carey scoffed.

“What, like how you gave yourself a chance today?” he snapped. Ethan was surprised at the hostility in the man’s voice.

“I-I’m sorry about that. You’re right, I was being stupid and childish,” Ethan admitted. “I just... I’m so sorry,” Ethan apologized again. “I don’t like talking to people about personal stuff,” he mumbled. Carey stared at him for a long time. “What?” Ethan asked, after Carey had remained silent for nearly a minute.

“Nothing. I’m tired. Will you stay with me tonight?” Carey asked.

“Of course. Whatever you want,” Ethan said. Carey had already crawled under the covers, but Ethan took the chance to kick his shoes off before he joined him. Carey ignored any personal bubbles Ethan might have had, and snuggled close to him. He was pressed tight up against Ethan’s body, and listened closely to the sound of his heart beat.

“Ethan?” Carey asked quietly.

“Yeah?” he answered, already falling asleep. He knew it was very early. Their appointment had been at five and the drive back was only a half hour. But they were both so tired.

“If you won't talk to a shrink, will you talk to me?” Carey said.

“You’re a shrink too, Carey,” Ethan pointed out.

“I’m different,” Carey whispered. Ethan opened his eyes and stared at the man falling asleep in his arms. Carey hadn’t opened his eyes while they spoke, but now he did, sensing Ethan watching him. His whiskers twitched on his face, Ethan thought they were cute.

“Oh yeah?” he asked. Carey nodded.

“You don’t have to be scared of me,” Carey promised. The words seemed funny, coming from the delicate man’s mouth.

“Yeah. I’ll talk to you,” Ethan caved in. “But not now, okay? I’m tired.”

“Okay,” Carey whispered, and shut his eyes again. Ethan smiled as he pulled Carey closer. He knew they weren’t together, but holding Carey, he couldn’t help but want to be.