And Now I Know

byTransverse©

He should leave the house. It was bad here.

He wanted to talk to someone; he wanted to talk to someone bad. Tag. He could talk to Tag. Burger King was open, and Tag probably had this shift, and best of all, Tag could keep him safe, Tag wouldn't bring up

(the Wonderland Spread)

anything he didn't want to talk about.

He showered and put on clothes and got into the car. He drove to the Burger King on West Main and parked in front. Nobody else was there; the weather had kept them inside. He was glad.

He went in. Tag was sitting on top of the counter, eating ice cream. He turned toward the door when he heard it open, then smiled.

"Shuuurn," he said through a mouthful of ice cream. He swallowed. "What brings you here so fucking early?"

Sen shrugged. He beamed. He was so happy to see Tag, he wanted to hug him. He settled for ordering a number one, and some Cini-Minis.

"Are you okay?" Tag asked, staring into his eyes. He handed him the receipt.

Sen felt his smile slip, and forced it back into place. "I'm great."

"You're a horrible fucking actor," Tag said, climbing over the counter. He bounded across the dining room, and collapsed into one of the booths. Someone began frying something in the kitchen. Sen sat down across from him, putting his elbows on the table and his hands under his chin.

"So what's wrong?" Tag asked, swallowing another spoonful of ice cream.

"I dunno," Sen said after a moment, looking away. "Something."

Tag was quiet for a moment, then nodded. "I know the feeling."

Someone called Sen's number, and he got up to get the food. He came back to the table and sat down heavily. He sighed, and pulled out the box of cinnamon rolls. He ate silently, staring out the window at the snow that had started to fall again. Tag studied him, his head tilted to the left.

"Let's go," he said, standing.

Sen looked startled. "Aren't you at work?"

"Yeah, but Eric owes me like fifteen shifts," he said, tossing the ice cream cup into the trash. "He'll hold down the fort just fine; there'll only be one or two customers for the rest of the day."

"Okay," Sen said.

Tag headed back to get his jacket. He shouted something to the guy behind the counter, then came back to Sen.

"Lead the way," he said.

They drove around in silence for a few minutes, headed in the general direction of Tag's house.

"What the hell are you beating around the bush for?" Tag asked after he took a third turn in the wrong direction. "I live on Whipple!"

Sen laughed, then turned back onto the highway, going back in the firection they'd just come from. He pulled into the driveway a few minutes later.

They got out. Tag unlocked his front door and closed it behind them.

The living room was small, but very cozy - there was a couch, a love seat, an armchair, and a coffee table all crammed into the tiny space. They looked well worn, but comfortable. The front window had a sheet covering it, and there was a stick with a charred end standing against the fireplace. There was a tiny, thirteen inch television sitting on an end table in the right corner of the room. It had an antenna on top.

"Home sweet home," Tag said, tossing his jacket onto the armchair and kicking off his shoes. "Sit down."

Sen sat beside him on the couch, taking off his own jacket. Tag took it, throwing it on the chair. He picked up a small back rectangular thing, and held down a red button for about thirty seconds. Finally, the television in the corner came on. The news was on.

Tag looked over at him and smiled big, his eyes twinkling. Sen blinked, surprised to find that he felt like crying. Tag's smile faded.

"Ange is at work," Sen said.

"Ange?"

"My wife."

"Oh," he said, looking confused. "Does she work often?"

"I guess."

"You guess?"

Sen said nothing. He looked down at his hands.

Tag looked intently at him. "What's she like?"

"What do you mean?" Sen kept his eyes on his lap.

"Tell me about her." He scooted closer, muting the television.

It was a few mintues before Sen spoke.

"It was summer when we got married. I was only a year old her than her." he said. He was quiet for a while longer, looking up every now and again at Tag. He didn't repsond, just looked at him, so Sen continued.

"She has pretty hair," he said quietly, his eyes darting as if he feared being caught. "It was brown when we met, but she colors it this nice auburn color. Sometimes it comes off really orange, and she has to buy brown to cover it up. She thinks its funny when that happens. We laugh."

Tag smiled. "Go on," he said.

"She started going to church a few years ago. After we lost a baby to a miscarriage. Now she never wants to have sex anymore, or go dancing with me or play bingo. She says we lost Celia because she was sinning, and that she had to pay for her transgressions. That's what she called them, 'transgressions.' Sounds like some sort of scan you might get at the doctor's, huh?"

"Yeah," Tag said, chuckling. It was a dark sound. "I know all about the transgressions, believe me."

Sen looked up at him. Tag sighed.

"My parents," he said, as if that explained everything. "They used to say the word a lot, especially after they found out about me."

"Found out about you what?" Sen asked, confused.

"That I'm gay."

"Oh," he said.

"Anyway, they all got killed in a plane crash. Them and all my 'friends' from church. They were all on their way to meet some man who they said could teach me not to be gay. They were planning some kind of intervention."

Sen was silent for a moment. "If they all died before they got there, how did you find out?"

"The guy called me after they didn't show. He told me everything when I told him what happened." Tag looked away. "He still calls sometimes, offering to help me overcome my transgressions." He chuckled again.

Sen's eyes darted to the corners again. "Aren't you sad?"

"No," Tag said rolling his eyes. "Why should I be? They were the ones who tried to trick me into some torture chamber. They got exactly what they deserved."

"How come you work at Burger King? You went to college. You said so."

"I studied theology. It was the only thing they would pay for. The only way I could take a step down from cashier is to fake my way into the clergy."

"Was this your house? I mean, did your parents live here, too?"

"Yeah."

"Why don't you sell it? You could move to a nice apartment in Hanoverstown, Wataka even. You could go back to school."

Tag said nothing.

"I should get home. Ange will be home from work soon. I don't want to miss her."

"Okay," Tag said, standing. He walked him to the door, holding it open as Sen stepped out onto the porch. "Hey," he said. Sen turned around.

"Why did you come to the restaurant today?"

"My house was too scary," Sen said, then turned and walked down the short path. Tag looked after him, his brow creased.

"Maybe Ange can make it a little less frightening, huh?" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, smiling.

"She's at work," Sen said.

*****

Time passed.

Sen couldn't be sure how much - he was afraid of calendars now, terrified even - but the scary went away for a while.

He would go and see Tag every day. Sometimes they would watch soaps and make fun of them, and other times, they would make food in Tag's tiny kitchen. The one time they tried to make spaghetti, sauuce ended up all over the kitchen, and they had laughed until they had almost peed. Then they cleaned. That was nice, too.

Sometimes there was enough dry wood outside of Tag's house to make a fire. On those days, they would build one and sit in front of it, watching. Sometimes they held hands.

Those were Sen's favorite days, because those were the days that the scary was furthest away and he felt the happiest. Happier, even, than he said since Celia had died. The last few years hadn't been so great with Ange - she'd floated away from him, like a helium balloon he's lost hold of.

But even with the spaghetti and the fires and the soap operas, Sen couldn't get away from it. Especially when he was at home, and it was dark and cold in their bed. He'd thought he could just get more blankets from the hall closet and put them on the bed to keep warm, but it hadn't worked. Then he'd thought things would be better if he left the television on at night. They weren't, and the scary hid in the shadowy corners of his life, held at bay only by the knowledge that he'd see Tag again soon. Sometimes, when it crept close to him in the night, he wished he wasn't alone in bed. Usually he wished for Ange, but sometimes it was Tag.

And still, she didn't come from work.

Sometimes, he looked under his bed. There was a box, and when eight o'clock came time and time again and Ange didn't show, he wanted to take it out. He felt the scary come on during those times, felt it come on strong, but he still wanted to. Needed to.

He didn't.

December came. He went to Tag's house for Christmas, and they decorated and made a ham. It came out really, really dry on the outside and really, really frozen on the inside, but they ate it anyway, watching recorded soaps and laughing. December went.

Then, Tag asked to come to his house.

*****

"Don't get me wrong," he said, taking a bite of a pretzel. "I love my house. We have a lot of fun here. But when are you going to show me your digs? They can't be any crappier than this, so you're not ashamed. Are you afraid you're wife'll see me?"

"She's-"

"-at work. I know," Tag said, carefully.

"Okay," Sen said reluctantly, pouting. "Let's go now, then."

Tag looked surprised, then stood up, going to his bedroom for his jacket. He came back, did a spin, and then he pretended to pull off a top hat. He bowed.

Sen laughed, and they went out to the car.

*****

"Holy. Shit."

"Classy," Sen said, but he was smiling. They were standing in the living room, and Tag was still turning in circles, looking at everything. His blue eyes caught the sun from the skylight, and Sen gasped. They sparkled like diamonds.

"I didn't know you rolled like this," he said, grinning. "Can I see the rest?"

Sen gave him the guided tour, feeling awkward. Tag was especially enchanted with the bathroom; it was bigger than his entire living room. Which wasn't really saying much, was it?

"That's it," he said, sitting on the closed cover of the toilet. He picked up a towel from the rack and hugged it. "I'm moving in."

He saved the bedroom for last, figuring it would get the biggest reaction. It was bigger than Tag's entire house, and it was done up in different shades of green. Tag looked like he was about to cry.

"It's so amazing," he said dramatically, pretending to wipe a tear from his eye. He got a running start, then launched himself onto the bed. It squeaked. Sen laughed, then walked over and sat down next to him.

"I take it you like it, then?"

Tag looked up at him, smiling, then rolled off to the right side. He fell to the floor, crying out as his shoulder struck something, presumably the floor.

"That's what you get for being so hyper," Sen said, leaning over when Tag didn't rise for a minute. When he caught sight of Tag, his stomach seemed to freeze and grow heavy, and something large sat on his chest.

Tag was holding a piece of paper that had been folded in half. It was yellow, and it had an angel on the cover. Above the angel:

Angela McConnell

Sunrise: April 27, 1983 Sunset: March 12, 2009



Tag set the paper down, sitting up. Beside him, there was an entire box of yellow sheets. There were tears in his eyes.

"She's at work," Sen said tonelessly, standing up and backing away.

Tag stood, and the tears in his eyes rolled down his cheeks. "Andersen…"

"NO!" Sen screamed, turning and running. He reached the closet door and wrenched it open, slamming it behind him. He leaned into he clothes, inhaling deeply, but she was gone; now the clothes just smelled stale. He collapsed to the floor, scooting into the back corner. The scary was coming for him, he could feel it, and he wouldn't be able to get away this time. Still, he huddled.

Tag opened the door softly, looking down at him. He pulled the light-chain in the ceiling, then crouched down beside him.

"Sen?" he said tentative. He reached out and Sen jumped when his hand touched his knee. He was crying now.

"She's at work," he whined. "She wants me to pick her up cause she doesn't like to drive in the rain, but I don't wanna. If I do, she's gonna make me go to bible study with her and I don't wanna go, I don't wanna…"

He began to sob, and Tag crawled into the back with him. He put his arms around Sen and pulled him down across his lap, burying Sen's face in his midsection. They stayed like that for a long, long time.

*****

Eventually, hunger forced them out.

Tag's stomach growled, loudly, and Sen finally raised his head. He sat up, leaning against the back wall of the closet.

"God," he said, his voice raw, "where have I been all this time?"

"Staying safe," Tag said, looking into his eyes. Sen was struck again by their clarity.

"Yeah," Sen said. He started crying again.

"C'mon," Tag said, standing up. He opened the door, then pulled Sen to his feet. "Let's get food."

Sen didn't let go of his hand as they trudged to the kitchen. Sen pulled out a frozen pizza, moving slowly as he put it in the oven. "Fifteen minutes," he choked.

He walked to the living room, his bare feet dragging on the carpet, and collapsed onto the sofe. He pulled a pillow to his chest. The sobbing started again. Not as hard as before, but almost.

Suddenly Tag's arms were around him, and he leaned into his shoulder, more grateful than he could say that he wasn't alone. Tag got up a few minutes later to get the pizza out, and he brought it back to the living room. He cut it with a plastic knife, and fed pieces of it to Sen. After they were done eating, Tag wiped Sen's mouth with the sleeve of his shirt, then kissed him on top of his head. He started to cry again.

Tag let him.

*****

The next few weeks were like that - and Sen knew they were weeks, since he could look at calendars again. Everything would be fine, and he'd burst into tears, feeling foolish and irrational. He'd told Tag this, and asked him how to make it stop, but Tag said it wouldn't, not until it was good and ready.

"It's like potty training a kid," he'd said. "You think you've got it done, and then bam, shitty undies." And Sen had laughed, laughed hard, because that was exactly how it was.

And it was scary, the facing it; it was fucking horrifying, but Sen had come to find that he preferred it to living in fear of the scary. Preferred it by leaps and bounds.

*****

It was mid-January, and Sen found himself inviting Tag to move in. For real.

"I just…I can't do this without you," he said, the color rising in his cheeks. "I know you've missed all this work and you have your own life, and I'm sorry, but…" he choked up again, and he turned away.

Tag was on him in an instant, holding him round the shoulders. "I hate that job," Tag said. "And I would rather be here with you than anywhere else."

"I know I'm being selfish," Sen whispered, "And I appreciate you being so nice to me. I know you don't have to, and I want you to know how much it means to me…"

When Tag didn't reply, Sen looked up at him.

He had a peculiar expression on his face, one Sen couldn't read, and his eyes were sparkling again. Sen stared into them, unable to look away.

Tag placed a hand on each on Sen's cheeks, and leaned forward. He kissed one eyelid and then the other. The, he pulled Sen into his arms until his head rested in the gap between his shoulder and his neck. "I do have to," he said.

They stood there like that for a while, then Tag pulled away. "Let's go get my stuff," he said.

*****

It took five separate trips, and Sen had to get his SUV to move the furniture, but they managed to get it all. They packed Tag's clothes in the guest room closet and chest of drawers, and they stored the furniture in a spare room.

"Your couch is way better," Tag insisted.

It was night now. Sen laid in his bed, staring up at the ceiling and crying. It still got bad sometimes during the day, but it was always worse at night, when he lay in his bed alone. All he could think about was Ange being gone, and most nights he cried until morning, even after he fell asleep.

He remembered the first night they had slept in this house. They had driven all the way up from Lewiston in the U-Haul, laughing and kissing the whole way. They'd made love that night, several times in fact, but he remembered the sleep most clearly. It was the first time he'd been sure it was forever.

The thing sat on his chest again, and ge started to sob. He climbed out of bed, and tiptoed down the hall to the guest room. He turned the doorknob as quietly as he could, not wanting to disturb Tag, and stepped inside.

Tag was laying shirtless, with the covers twisted around his midsection. His hair's blue highlights were even clearer in the moonlight, and Sen sat down in the armchair in the corner, crying and watching Tag sleep. He was starting to feel better, though. He leaned his head back against the seat, wanting to rest his neck.

*****

"Sen," Tag whispered, and Sen jerked awake, looking disoriented. It was the middle of the night, and Tag was on his way back from the bathroom. Sen had scared the hell out of him.

"Wha…" Sen asked, blinking slowly.

"What are you doing? It's freezing in here!"

"I…I needed to see you," he said, looking down. "I was sad."

Tag sighed, then took his hand. "C'mon," he said.

He led Sen to the bed, tossing the covers out of the way. "In," he said. Sen complied, looking confused.

Tag climbed in beside him, pulling the covers up over them. He pushed Sen onto his side, then snuggled up behind him. "Better?" Tag asked, wrapping an arm around his waist and squeezing.

"Yeah…" Sen said. His body started to shake, and Tag squeezed him harder.

He kept going, and Tag rocked him fack and forth, making soft noises in his ear and kissing him on the head. And hour passed, then two, and Sen didn't stop. Couldn't.

Eventually, Tag climbed over him, laying on his other side so that they faced each other. He Tangled his hand in Sen's hair - it grew very slowly, but still, it had gotten ling since March - and pulled their faces together.

Their lips met, and Sen stopped crying.

It was gentle at first, tentative. When Sen didn't pull away, Tag got more aggressive, and slipped his tongue between Sen's lips. Sen gasped when he felt it enter his mouth, then relaxed, leaning further into it. His knee moved unconsciously, and it sild between Tag's legs. He felt the hardness resting against his thigh, and suddenly, Sen began to kiss him back. Hard.

He had forgotten how it could feel - it had been so long, so very, very long - but he remembered now. His hands wrapped themselves around Tag's head, and he began to whimper, pressing his leg into Tag's crotch. The feeling was entirely foreign, but it was far from bad. He realized that he was kissing a man, a man, but it wasn't how he thought it would be - it was just kissing. And he liked Tag. Liked him a lot.

Tag began to grind into his thigh, groaning periodically. He pulled back, looking at Sen. He breathed hard.

"I…" he began, but Sen moved his leg a little, and Tag gasped, moving his hips. He growled, then reached down between them. His hand settled on Sen's hip, the trailed down into his pants, taking hold of him.

Sen inhaled sharply, bucking at the touch. Tag looked at him, directly, and began moving his palm in slow circles. Sen closed his eyes.

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