Rory and Sebastian Ch. 18bysebastiando©
-- Thank you to everyone for your feedback and encouragement. Everyone in this story is over the age of 18. The first part of the story is told from Rory's POV --
I turned at the sound of voices outside. Lights, oddly chequered and orange-tinged, were now flickering through the blinds, as well. I was confused and rolled over in my bed. From what I could tell, it was still pitch-black outside and the train wasn't due to reach London until nearly eight o'clock in the morning. Still, I reasoned, it is December -- it could still be dark at eight. Had we reached London already? I flicked the reading light on above my head and glanced at my watch. It was only just after half-past four. Hours before we were due to reach the capital. I got up and immediately felt a tidal-wave of nausea crash over me. I paced over to my cabin window to lift the blue blinds up so that I could see what was going on outside. Through the dim lights of the platform, I could make out a red-and-white signboard with the word "Preston" written on it. We were in the north of England -- half-way between where we'd boarded and where we were going to. A few people were getting on; one or two were getting off. I pulled the blind down and swayed for a few seconds, wondering whether to go back to bed or if I'd need to go into my bathroom to be sick again.
The stomach bug I'd developed in the last two weeks of my first term at university had not gone away. In fact, it had gotten worse. I was vomiting regularly, sweating and shivering simultaneously, and I was permanently exhausted. Realising that there was absolutely no way that I would make it through a flight back home for Christmas, much less a long drive, my parents had booked me a cabin on the Caledonian over-night sleeper train that ran between Aberdeen and London. My mother had come up to Scotland to help me and we'd boarded together at Leuchars, shortly before midnight. We'd booked two first class cabins, because they were single berth rooms and each had their own bathroom. An unfortunate necessity for me, given the current state of my vomit-prone biology. Any illusion that first class meant that I'd be travelling on something akin to the Orient Express, however, was blown out of the water by seeing the cool white-and-blue modernity of the train. It looked like the interior of a very small business hotel. Still, it was room and I could sleep -- or shiver -- until we reached London, where a prayer card and a sick bag would hopefully enable me to survive the one hour journey drive back to Kent.
I hadn't realised the train stopped so many times. It seemed to defeat the purpose of getting a good night's sleep, I thought irritably. (Maybe that was just my drained body talking through its almighty humanity-hating, sleep-addled strop.) A whistle blew outside and the train gave a lurch as it began its journey southward again. I felt my skin begin to break out in a cold sweat again and I slid open the door to the bathroom. The whole cabin already smelt like the room of a sick person. I repulsed myself as I wretched into the toilet. I didn't know how my body kept producing so much sick. Surely, it was all gone? Surely, there was nothing left to vomit? I hadn't eaten properly in days. I couldn't keep anything down.
When I was done, I got shakily too my feet and looked in the bathroom mirror. Even allowing for the unforgiving harshness of a sink light, I looked awful. My eyes were black beneath them and my skin looked like paper. I was disgusting and I needed to sleep. As I moved back into bed, pulling the covers up around me and wondering how long it would be before I found them too hot, I checked my phone through instinct, rather than anything else. There was nothing there; I switched it off. For a second, I had contemplated phoning someone or texting someone. Texting a someone was an honest declaration, but to phone a 'someone' at this time of the night or about something this trivial would not have entailed a 'someone.' It would have meant -- could only have meant, even after six months -- Sebastian.
I slipped my phone underneath my pillow. A little loneliness when I was feeling sick was no reason to wake Sebastian Carson, or anyone, out of their slumber. During my time with Sebastian, I had become entirely dependent on his unerring, unwavering support and companionship. I could see that now. He was always pleased to hear from me - and vice-versa, of course. But we were not together now and I was no longer in the full flush of first love. As I grew up, I was going to have to become responsible for dealing with the less pleasant parts of my life on my own. I could not always expect constant company and validation from those around me; it was not their job to act as a permanent hug to my ego or self-esteem. By being so dependent on people like Sebastian for validation, I'd also opened myself up to being too susceptible to people like Joshua Peterly for criticism. I guess, in that sense, speaking to a councillor for a few months had been a good idea. And having a brain of my own, too -- that helped. There was no need to call or text anyone just now. I wasn't feeling well; that was unfortunate. But I was a big boy and I could sleep it off on my own.
I reached up above my head and flicked-off the compartment's light. The darkness swept over my like a soothing blanket. From outside, a few bursts of half-dimmed orange light swirled and distorted behind the blinds. After a few moments, the train must have left behind all signs of urban life as it sped through the night of the English countryside towards London. The darkness was complete and the gentle rocking of the train, which my mother despised, was, to me, like a calming rocking of the cradle. Rain began to fall -- hard and heavy. Or perhaps it just sounded heavier because it was falling on the roof of the train? I didn't mind. I liked it, actually. It felt cosy, somehow. In this kind of dark and this kind of mood, you could almost believe it was the Orient Express. Or something like it. The nausea and head pain remained, but the insomnia did not. In a few moments, I drifted gratefully off into my sleep.
-- The rest of this installment is from Sebastian's POV --
I rolled over in my bed at the sound of the rain -- hard, thick and heavy -- lashing against my windows. It was my last night of semester in London and tomorrow I was due to go home. I'd chosen to spend it alone. There were lots of last-minute parties going on and both Will and Lewis had indicated that they'd like to spend the night with me. But I wanted to be alone. The last week of semester had been manic. I'd had a paper due in on regalism in 18th century Spain and I'd never done Spanish history before, which meant I'd spent weeks researching it and by the time I finished it, I was beat. I'd handed the finished paper in that morning and my room still had a trash can full of disposable coffee cups; a well-thumbed copy of a weather-beaten book called "King Charles III of Spain: An Enlightened Despot," still sat, spine practically broken, on my bedside table. I was exhausted and Evan was coming to pick me up at noon the next day. I needed to be up early to pack. But, annoyingly, I couldn't get into a proper sleep and kept waking.
I was nervous about going home. I was excited to see my family again, since I'd only been able to have a few lunches and dinners with them when they were in London individually and never all together, since I'd left. But it did occur to me that now was probably the time to try and properly mend bridges with Robbie. He had been one of the people whose friendship I valued the most in the whole school, but after Rory and I broke-up, it was hard for Robbie and I to remain as close as we had been. I didn't blame him for that. He was one of Rory's best friends and he had been for years. I also knew, though, that although he didn't approve of what had happened, he'd been forgiving, in his own way. He was a good guy; he understood. I hoped that him and I could go grab a drink together and maybe just ease back into how easy conversation between us had once been. I had faith Robbie and I were both decent enough guys and good enough friends for that to be possible. The only thing I worried about was that I didn't want it to look like I was being disregarding of Rory's feelings in re-initiating contact with his best friend. And not him.
Although it had been Rory who instigated our break-up, and it was him who stuck to it, despite my initial pleas, I also knew that I'd given him cause. I did not want to be cruel to him or for him to think that I was some douchebag who thought I could carry on with my life back home without any regard for my ex. But maybe I was exaggerating Rory's wrath in my head? Maybe, actually, going to see him would be the best thing, before seeing Robbie. I mean, did I actually think I'd go my whole life without ever seeing Rory Masterton again? But what would happen when we saw each other again? Would it kick up all the old feelings? It would be so complicated if it did, but even worse, somehow, if it did not. What if it was awkward or weird or just plain comfortable? Comfortable would be the worst, I decided. It would mean we could act as if we'd never been anything to each other. I'd rather have it be hideous than be nothing. I sighed in the darkness and tried to put Rory from my mind. But for the first time in a few weeks, he wouldn't go and the memories, drip, drip, dripping, of how happy we'd been, fell on my brain and kept me awake far longer than if I'd yielded to my teammates' suggestion and gone out partying instead.
The drive home to Kent with my big brother, Evan, was nice and it passed quickly. Evan and I had a similar sense of humor and a similar outlook on life. He drove and helped me down with my bags. As the less-attractive of the London suburbs gave way to the green countryside I knew so well, Evan began teasing me about my love life. He'd broken up with his high school girlfriend, Sarah, just before college and by his own admission, he'd lived wildly afterwards. They were back together now, though, something that could not be said for me and Rory.
"So," he teased, as we drove down the motorway, "fucking all round you?"
"There've been four," I said, tapping my leg through my gray sweats.
"Sounds about right," Evan replied. "Anyone special?"
"No," I answered, with sledgehammer honesty. "A couple of regulars, though."
"That's a Carson for you! Any word from Rory?"
I fell silent and shrugged.
"Take it that's a no, then?"
"No," I agreed. "Nothing."
"How are you feeling about you two now?"
"I dunno. I thought I was over it, but last night, I couldn't stop thinking about him, Ev. Like, not even a little bit. Do you think I should see him?"
Evan bit his lip and thought. "I dunno, Seb. I really, really don't know. I mean, if you do go and it's weird, you'll be annoyed. If you don't go... Geez, I dunno! Are you over him?"
"That means you're not."
"I... he just... Fuck's sake! I'm not even home yet and he's already..." I lightly tapped the window with my clenched fist. "How am I not over this?" Evan gave me a mocking, pitying smile and I laughed: "Fuck off."
I was right about how nice it would be to be home with family again for Christmas. Even if the euphoric welcome home given by my mother lasted exactly fifteen minutes before she had me doing chores again and berating me for the deplorable state of my laundry. My kid sister Jenny was thrilled to have me back, even though we'd last seen each other two weeks earlier when she was up in London to visit; me, her and Evan went for a siblings-reunited walk around the country lanes near our house. The air was crisp and cool, and night was setting in. Yesterday's rain had vanished, to be replaced by an encroaching frost. I liked it. I liked being back and being out of London for a while. Jenny, too, brought up Rory to me, but she did it less seriously than Evan had -- she'd always liked Rory and known less of why he and I broke-up than Evan, who'd been the one to comfort me when I was most upset about it.
The next couple of days were taken-up by frantic last minute Christmas shopping. Evan and I, despite both having been in London with thousands of shops to do our shopping in, had, of course, both left it all to the last minute and were now in a fluster, racing from village to town to village trying to find appropriate presents for our parents and Jenny. It was when we were passing the Catholic church near us that I thought back to how I'd spent last Christmas Eve, when Rory had gone to Midnight Mass there with his family; with that I went with my gut and called him as soon as I got home -- silently hoping he hadn't changed his cell number since we were together.
A beat. A panic. A ring.
A few more rings.
A pause; he was gathering his thoughts and the realization hit me that he mustn't have had Caller ID for me. He'd deleted my number. "Hi," he said. He sounded weird.
"Are you... okay?"
"Well, specifically, actually? You sound weird."
"I'm in bed," he answered. Once that answer would have elicited a flurry of filthy comments from me and I heard a small laugh in his throat, faint but genuine, as he made the connection at the same time I did. "Sick," he clarified. "It's nothing serious, just a virus. I should be fine in a week or so, apparently. Dr Symonds said so today. How are you? Are you home?"
"Yes," I answered. "Just finished Christmas shopping with Evan."
"You left it late." He sounded absolutely awful.
"You know me." I found myself thinking 'don't you?' pathetically and I was annoyed at myself for it. I wanted him, just for a second to sound like the old Rory. Just give me one second. Please. "I got you a Christmas card."
"Does it have Jesus on it?"
"Yes. And Mary, Joseph, the three wise men and angels in the top corner. It looks like the Renaissance exploded on it."
"Good," he laughed. "You know Christmas cards with Santa and some fat elves on it make me sick."
"Maybe that's what has you flat on your back now? Secularism?" I laughed. "At least something's done it. Now that I'm not there."
I just made a sex joke. Fuck.
He laughed. Thank God.
I didn't speak. I wanted him to correct his 'nothing.'
"I should go. Mummy will be here with food soon. If I... If I feel any better, would you maybe like to meet up for coffee before new year's?"
"I'd like that, yes. A lot. I really would, Rory."
"Okay. Me too. I'll call you when I'm feeling better. Happy Christmas."
"You too. Bye, Rory."
Rory, of course, never did call. He sent me a message a few days later, explaining that he was still in bed, still sick and didn't feel up to seeing anybody. But he wished me a merry Christmas and a happy new year's. A few days after that, I flew over to America to visit my grandparents and by the time we came back to England, it was time for me to go back to college. It was a wonderful trip and while I was disappointed not to have seen Rory, his politeness gave me the courage to contact Robbie. We met, we laughed, and the subject of Rory was carefully avoided, without too much awkwardness being drawn to the absence of him. I deluded myself, I think, into believing that our short phone call had offered both Rory and I a kind of closure that we hadn't had before. That, by being able to speak to one another and to be able to pass by one another in such close proximity without being devastated by a failure to meet, we had somehow crossed the Rubicon of one another. I thought that, now, at last, I could put Rory in a box of memories -- perfect and preserved forever in my memory as we'd been when we were happy. I could trap him and I like a fly caught in amber. I had, so I thought, put to rest all hope of ever getting back together with him and I was still functioning. I was no longer heartbroken; we were finished and what we had left one another with, at least in my head, were happy memories of a first love. A glorious, foolish, hysterical, cloying, crippling, heart-crushing, soul-hugging summer love. The pain had gone and I could move on.
Initially, at least, that did not translate into any great desire to find another relationship. I was aware, on some level, that Rory would be a hard act to follow and that everything would suffer by virtue of comparison. I was also keenly conscious that I was young, single, in good health, good shape and a rugby player at college. For some reason, a rugby player, a jock, whatever, seems to be a staple of a lot of gay guys' fantasies and when there are only two of you in the whole university -- myself and Will -- (well, two openly), then you're in a good position to reap the advantages of that collective fantasy. To put it bluntly, I had a lot of sex over that next year and, like I promised, a short stroll down Memory Lane is in order -- the good, the bad and the ugly.
Sometimes, the wrong key goes in the right lock -- in this case, sometimes people just aren't sexually compatible. Without sounding too full of myself, I consider myself to be fairly good in bed. But that year saw three incidents of bad sex: Tyler, Philip and Grant. Tyler was a twinky medical student with overly-dyed hair, who I ended up inside after too many jaegerbombs at a flat party. Given how much I'd drunk, it's admittedly probable that the awkward friction and constant dick-falling-out-of-ass situation that occurred was more my fault than Tyler's. Philip was a handsome politics student in the year above me, with a well-kept dark beard and lovely blue eyes. By his own admission, Philip was "a bit of a slut," who had slept with most of the gay guys in all three academic undergraduate year groups. His head-giving abilities were incredible, but once the actual sex started, he kept trying to change positions as many times as possible. I felt like a gymnast and by the end of it, I definitely wanted to execute the dismount. Grant, the last of the bad sex triplets, was tall, with a retro Zac-Efron-style haircut. He was a nice guy, camp and really funny, but for all his bravado, once we actually made it into bed after going to a friend's flat for dinner, he lay there like a piece of lettuce. He tried to initiate sex again with me a few weeks later, but I'd learnt my lesson and politely declined, using the (actually quite valid) excuse of the paper I had due in the next day.
There four hook-ups that were neither bad, nor good. All of them forgettable one-night stands and par for the course for most people's college experience. Keith was a short guy, with short brown hair but beautiful big dark brown eyes, which I love, and naturally tanned skin. We'd flirted a bit before being left alone together at the end of a party he'd hosted in his room; I offered to help tidy up and one thing led to another. The sex was okay, but neither of us were tempted to let it lead onto anything else or to re-initiate it afterwards. A few of our friends knew and we were both good-naturedly teased about it on-and-off in drinking games and 'I have nevers' for months to come. Nathan was a music student -- tall, dark and handsome with a definite "edge" to him. He had a few tattoos, which I'm usually not too big a fan of, but they certainly worked on him. Unfortunately, after our one and only date, we ended up back at my room and he wanted to be the top. He jack-rabbited me and while I'm all for a bit of rough sex, there are limits. He irritated me even more the next day by Facebook messaging me to say that he hoped he hadn't led me on, but he really wasn't looking for anything too serious. Considering that we'd had one date and I had, at no point, indicated that I was looking for something serious, it seemed like an asshole thing to do to dump someone before you actually start dating them. I didn't write back; life is too short to indulge in somebody else's fantasies of importance.