tagGay MaleMore Than You Know Ch. 06

More Than You Know Ch. 06

bytml_writer©

Steven

I had been having a good day at work until the phone call came.

"Steven Abernathy?"

"Yes, that's me."

"My name is Dr. Reilly. I'm calling from Northside Hospital and also on behalf of the Northside Police Department. Are you the son of Walter and Ida Abernathy?"

"Yes." I felt my stomach drop.

"Sir, I'm sorry to inform you that both of your parents were admitted to the hospital a few minutes ago." A million thoughts dashed through my head but I took a breath and kept listening. "A semi blew a tire out on the highway, but one of the cars avoiding shrapnel caused a collision, and then the cars around them collided. Your parents were in one of the cars."

"What? Are they okay? How are they?" This can't be happening. This can't be happening. This can't be happening. This can't be happening.

"Your father is in stable condition. We are working on scheduling him for surgery: his hip was broken. Your mother is in surgery right now. Her left tibia was shattered. They both have minor lacerations and bruising and will be sore, but they listed you as both their POA and their closest living relative." There was a pause. I couldn't talk. "I don't know your family situation, sir, or where you live if it is outside of Northside, but your parents will need your care and help. They both have long journeys of rehabilitation ahead of them, but because they are in such good shape and only in their 60s, I believe they will make splendid recoveries."

"Thank you, Dr. Reilly. I will be there in about six hours."

I canceled the rest of my appointments for that day and the next and hurried home.

"Ana," I called when I got there. "Get your suitcase. We have to go."

"Um, where?"

"Grandma and Grandpa were in a bad accident, honey." Her eyes widened and the look of panic and sadness overtook her face.

"Ohmigawd. Are they okay?"

"They're doing alright right now but we have to go."

Twenty minutes later, we were on the road.

When we got to the hospital, both of my parents were out of surgery, but so hopped up on painkillers that they slept the entire time. I filled out a ton of paperwork, talked to their doctor, surgeon, and got recommendations for physical therapy. Unfortunately, all of the facilities that offered the best care were near Northside, and none near my home. I also talked to the lawyer and insurance people about the semantics of the seven-car accident.

Mostly, though, I thought about where this left me, and what I needed to do, and the answer was clear.

Luke

I was so in love with Steven.

I had become a regular fixture at the Abernathy household, so much so that I even had a toothbrush, a drawer of clothes and one of my coveralls for work, and even my own scrubby-puff-thing in the shower. I loved being around. I loved seeing Steven and Ana. I loved the feel of family around. I loved everything about it.

We had been dating for almost six months, and even though it was a short amount of time, I knew that Steven was it for me. He was who I loved waking up next to in the morning, who I couldn't wait to go to bed with at night, and who I couldn't imagine not being in my life after having made him a part of it.

Unfortunately, though, sometimes life has other plans.

He walked in that night, after having spent three days in Northside with his parents. His eyes were tired, and seemed like he may have cried. He was rumpled, for lack of a better word. And he just looked at me. I knew immediately that something was very wrong, and that he hadn't been just visiting his parents like he had dismissively told me on the phone a couple of days earlier.

"Luke," was all he said before he stopped, taking a deep breath, clearly willing himself not to cry. Goddamn, but I hated that look. I would do anything to make him smile, but this sadness just made me want to crawl out of my skin. I walked over and put my arms around him. He did likewise, and buried one side of his face into my chest.

"Baby, what happened?"

"My parents were in a bad accident. They're both okay, but they have lots of rehab and PT ahead of them."

"Oh, Steven, I'm sorry."

"No, I'm sorry," he said.

"Sorry for what?" I looked at him incredulously. What could he possibly be apologizing for?

He backed up, looked me in the eye, and shook his head.

"I'm moving."

"Well, okay, I can help with that. How long will you be there?"

"A long time, Luke. It might have to be permanent. I'm not sure yet."

"That's okay," I said, trying to sound optimistic. "I'll come visit, and when you come home I'll see you, and—"

"No, Luke," he pushed back a bit more. "I'm so sorry." Tears filled his eyes and I could feel my stomach drop and my world crumble before he even said the words that followed. "I can't. I just can't. I have so much to deal with there. I'll still be working, and the rest of my time has to be devoted to my parents. And Ana. And figuring out all the semantics, like how Ana's going to school next year because I'm not going to transfer her for a year or two if it's not permanent.

"I just . . . I can't do it all, Luke, and you're the only part in this that . . . well . . . they are my parents, and I have to work in order to support me and Ana, and them too, probably, and Ana is my daughter—" I decided to cut him off. I knew what he was saying, and it hurt, but it made sense: I was the only part of the equation that could be dropped.

"I understand," I tried, but my voice betrayed me a bit, wavering.

"Please don't hate me," he said, the tears finally brimming over his eyes and down to his cheek before I wiped them off with my thumbs.

"Steven, I will never hate you," I said, enfolding him once again in my arms. "I love you so much."

"Please don't. It's already so hard leaving you and my home."

"I don't understand why you're doing this," I blurted out, unable to stop it.

"I just can't do this, Luke. I can't spend emotional energy just pining after someone a few hundred miles away who I will see maybe once a month and still devote my life to my family. Not to mention not knowing if I will ever come back or if there will be anything here if I do for us. It's just logical."

And that was Steven. He was logical. He was caring, he was selfless, he was an amazing man, but he was so damn logical and analytical all the time. And as much as I felt my heart shatter, and as all of my angry and sad and conflicted emotions welled up within me, over everything else, I knew I'd let him go, because it was what he needed to give the best to his family.

"Thank you," was all I could say before my voice gave out completely. I hugged him one more time and kissed his head, inhaling the smell of his shampoo and that addictive scent that was so distinctly, comfortingly him. "I love you," I whispered as I turned around.

"Luke," he said as I approached the door. I turned around and tried not to break down at the sight I saw—him grappling to keep his emotions in check while holding the weight of the world on his shoulders.

"Steven?"

"I love you, too."

And just like that, with those words, the tears that had been absent from my eyes blurred my vision as I turned back around and shut the door behind me.

Steven

I missed Luke every day. Every morning I woke up, he wasn't there to give me his warm smile, and at night, I was cold without his presence in the bed, despite the heat of the summer raging outside. I know Ana and my parents saw that something was different, and I'm sure Ana realized what it was, but I soon learned that my parents didn't quite realize the gravity of the situation.

Two weeks after moving quite a bit of stuff from my house to Northside, I sat with my parents at the dinner table after Ana had gone to bed and enjoyed their liveliness despite their current state of being. The doctors and therapists were very impressed with the motivation both of my parents had, and though their bodies weren't healing as quickly as someone half their age, their bones were healing at a nice pace. Most of their bruising was gone, and what wasn't, was no longer sore, but just yellow and green and unsightly. They had smiles on their faces through it all, though, and that meant the world to me. They had both tearfully expressed their gratitude in me "sacrificing my life" to relocate for several months.

That particular evening two weeks in, however, I did not see the question that came out of nowhere from my mother.

"So, Steven, when do we get to meet Luke?"

I felt my face flush and I felt the tingling that happens in my eyes just before they fill with tears, but I willed it away. It didn't matter, though: the look on my face gave it away.

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry."

"Don't be sorry. I did what was best for me." My parents looked at each other quickly before a pregnant pause. My dad spoke soon enough, though.

"Don't take this the wrong way, Stevie, but did you really do what was best for you, or did you do what was best for us and what worked the best with the situation?"

"It was the best for me and us, Dad. I can't handle the extra emotional energy."

"Like the heartbreak you're feeling but channeling into every other aspect of our lives right now?" My mother raised her eyebrows as she pointedly asked this.

"Listen, guys, just don't, okay? Just. Don't. This is hard enough for me as it is, and if I had to do it over again, I would do exactly what I did. You're my family and I will always be there, especially after how you were there for me after Adam."

"We know that," my dad said.

"I know. You're my family," I repeated. "And Luke was, well . . . he was . . ."

"And he was, too," Mom finished for me.

"I can't do this right now, okay? I made my decision, and I know that this is what is best for all of us right now." I knew that I hadn't allowed myself enough time for grief, or to get the emotions out of my system, but there hadn't been time for that.

"Steven, it's what's best for us, not you."

"What's best for you is what's best for me, Ma."

I think they saw that there wasn't a way they could win the battle, so they backed down. The rest of the evening was spent in relative silence, the discomfort of it masked by the TV.

<><>

A week later, I was maintaining my mom's flower beds in the front yard and taking a break from work. The numbers filled my head, but my thoughts were scattered. Being outside in the flowers and the sandy soil quieted the conflicting voices and the emotions that threatened to bubble up at any moment. My parents were in town for their rehab, and the physical therapist had reassured me, after a week of me watching everything that happened there scrupulously, that I was fine to go home during the few hours they were there most days. At first, this seemed like too much training for them, but I realized that they had time for long breaks and stretching, as well as getting to know other people there in fun group activities, like card games to the ever-stereotypical bingo day, to just talking and sharing which trails were best to walk or hike and which pools had the most senior-friendly environment.

I was also relieved that I had worked out Ana's living situation for when the school year began in a few weeks. Ariel's parents had welcomed her any time she wanted to be there, and I graciously thanked them, but made for her semi-permanent residence with Pete and Erin. It was far from ideal, but she would visit on the weekends. There was a very convenient bus route between Northside and home, and the fare was something I wasn't worried about. The bus ride would also give Ana time for homework and a bit of unwinding. She was being a trooper about the whole situation, and for that, I was grateful. She actually almost seemed excited about it. I had definitely been giving her a bit more freedom because of it. Northside was a very safe place, and the near-beach community gave her a wealth of activities to choose from—shops, small strip malls, and her favorite: ice cream parlors. She had gone just down the street to our neighborhood's shopping block about a half-hour before I heard a car come up the driveway.

I got up and headed around the side to see who it was, then stopped in my tracks as Luke's solid frame turned around to face me. To say I was shocked would do the feeling no justice. However, I vaguely noticed the tingling in my stomach as a small smile curled his lips.

"Steven."

"Luke, what are you doing here? We talked about this when I left—"

"No, you talked and I listened."

"I—"

"Well, now it's your turn to listen to me. I've been a mess. I sobbed myself to sleep for a week after you left, and Steven, I do not cry—it's just not how I'm wired. I tried to give you space and to leave you alone, which is the only reason it took this long for me to come. I went through the motions and I focused on just getting my life as I knew it back together, but I realized yesterday that you and Ana are my life, and I'm not just going to let you run away from it."

"Luke, we're 300 miles away," I offered, feeling my resistance melting as tears filled my eyes.

"Not anymore," he said, opening his car door and letting me see the bag in the back seat. "The rest of my stuff is in the trunk. I didn't know if you'd want me here or have room for me, but I sure as hell thought I'd try. I haven't taken time off from the shop in years, so I'm taking a few months now. I left my next-in-command in charge of the place, and he'll be fine. I love you, Steven, and damn it all to hell in a little red wagon if I let you get away just because you think you have to do this alone. You're always there for your family, but who's there for you?

"You became my family somewhere along the way, and I want to be the one who supports you, who you can turn to when you need anything. You need someone like that, someone who can throw your damned logic out the fuckin' window every now and then and just be there so you don't have to always think and tear things apart to itty-bitty tiny pieces to examine and analyze and over-think. And I know I can do that job."

I just stood there, looking at him, not bothering with the tears that I'm sure were leaving streaks on my sunblocked, sandy, dirty face.

"You left your job, and your house—everything—just to come be with me here?"

"My everything is right here, not there."

Well, shit. I couldn't help it when I started to cry. It had been the first time since the night I last saw him. It just came, minute upon minute of wracking sobs and tears galore. He came over and embraced me, and it felt so good to just be able to let everything out in the arms of someone who loved me, and to know that he'd be right there for that any time I needed him.

Fuck me, this was intense.

"Thank you," I managed, sniffling into his chest. His white button-up now had streaks from dirt, sweat, tears, and—oh, geez—snot.

"No thanks needed," he said, looking down and kissing me gently. "Because I know you'd do it for me, too, if our roles had been switched."

I don't know how long we stood in the driveway just with our arms wrapped around each other, gently swaying in the warm summer breeze. It must've been a while, because when I moved, my legs were just a bit stiff.

"Let's get your stuff inside," I told him. He took a small step back, moved his hands to my shoulders, then brushed some dirt and tears from my cheek with his thumb.

"I love you, Steven," he said before kissing me gently.

My phone chirped in my pocket, and I took it out to see a text message from Ana, saying that she had run into a friend at a shop, and that they were going to sit by the beach and catch up. I replied quickly, then kissed Luke again and grabbed his toiletry and garment bags while he hoisted out his large duffle.

"That Ana?"

"Yup. She's at the beach with a friend."

"And your parents?"

"They're at therapy for a while longer. Hey, Luke?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you, too, you know."

"I know."

He dropped his duffel by the bed, wrapped his arms around me, and kissed me for all I was worth. I started unbuttoning his shirt.

"What about Ana?"

"I told her to text whenever she finished up so I would know that she was headed home. And my parents won't be done for another hour-and-a-half."

"Thank god."

He kissed me again, practically tearing my sleeveless shirt off and whisked my shorts off, until we were both naked and making out on my bed.

"You are so sexy, Luke," I told him, taking in his mussed hair and his muscular golden figure underneath me.

"Steven, I need you in me," he said, handing me a condom and a bottle of lube that he had brought with him.

"Someone came rather prepared. Knew that I couldn't resist, did you?" I smiled between kisses.

"No, I just always try to stay optimistic, Mr. Realist," he said, pausing every couple of words to gasp and grunt as I worked lube into his ass with a couple of fingers. He quickly rolled the condom down my length and said, "I'm ready, just go."

I obliged, and sank into his tight warmth as he arched up beneath me. For such a "manly" man, Luke was surprisingly vocal as we made love, which was a turn-on for me that I didn't know about before. He moaned his release below me just before I emptied myself into the condom up his ass. He pulled me down to him, spreading his cum between us, and kissed me before I just rested my head in the crook of his neck.

"I love you," I said quietly, kissing his collarbone.

"I love you," he said, kissing the top of my head in response.

I glanced at the clock, and after noticing me, he did, too.

"Well, we only took about 20 minutes. I suppose we have time for another round before we shower and unpack my stuff, huh?"

I slapped his chest lightly. "You horndog."

"Only for you," he said, looking down at me and giving me a peck on my nose. "Come on, let's go get a quick shower and see if you can resist me."

I laughed as we got up. He grabbed my hand and pulled me behind him to the bathroom, smiling all the way. And everything felt right, complete, like I had a support system even while I was trying to support everyone else.

<><>

I took a sip of my beer as my mom showed Luke all of the pictures she had in albums. They laughed and talked, with Ana looking over their shoulders and adding her two cents whenever she felt the compulsion. My dad looked from me to them and smiled.

"He seems like a good guy," he said. I could see from his eyes that this statement was something of an approval.

"He's the best, Dad."

Ana had been completely surprised to come back to find Luke in the house, as were my parents. When I picked them up from physical therapy, I told them he would be there, and my mom got very excited, and my dad just smiled knowingly. When they met him, they took to him instantly. We all had a great dinner together, and then my mom pulled out the photo albums as we relaxed.

Luke looked over at me, first smiling widely, then the smile fading to a very whimsical look, tinged with sympathy. Then I heard my mom speak simply, no extra words necessary.

"That's Adam."

I walked over, and saw that they had my favorite picture of myself and Adam: it was after our small "wedding" get-together, during our housewarming party in our first apartment. Adam was touching my arm, and we were almost facing each other, angled out just a bit, but both of us had our heads turned to the camera. I was smiling somewhat normally, but Adam had a shit-eating grin on his face. There was just something about the picture that made it special to all who knew him.

I looked to Luke. There was a touch of uncertainty in his face, and I knew that he didn't really know what to say. As he got up, I thought I saw guilt, but I didn't understand why. He excused himself to get another drink and I followed him to my parents' kitchen.

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