No Remedy for Love Ch. 08bypodga©
I'd just about made up my mind to open the door, when it opened for me.
"Oh, hey," Thomas exclaimed, obviously not expecting me to be lurking on the other side.
"Uh, I was just about to knock," I lied.
"I called the airline. No seats available until tomorrow afternoon. They said we could try going to the airport in case there are any no-shows, but I don't like our chances on a Friday afternoon."
"No," I agreed, still trying to regain my mental balance. Thomas had obviously got himself back in control and was acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary. The new ordinary, that is, the one where we were polite acquaintances.
"Unless you want to try?" he raised his eyebrows at me, sensing my hesitation but attributing the wrong reason. "This can't be fun for you. I shouldn't have dragged you here."
"You didn't exactly drag me. I wanted to help. Not that I did."
He opened his mouth to say something, probably some polite protest and reassurance, but I held up my hand.
"Thomas, listen, I... I've got to tell you something, and now probably isn't the time, but I don't know when might be better," I babbled.
"Okay," he said cautiously.
I went and sat down at the foot of the bed. Thomas walked to his favorite spot in front of the desk, but instead of fooling around with the brochures, this time he pulled out the chair, turned it around and sat so that he was facing me. He seemed relaxed, but his hands were clasped tightly together in his lap, his knuckles and the tips of his fingernails white.
I looked down at my own hands and realized I was mirroring his position.
"I was wrong. To blame you for everything."
He shifted in his chair.
"I'm not interested in post-mortems."
"I need to apologize, Tommy," I bulldozed on. "I lied to you, and let you carry the weight for both your and my failures, and that just wasn't right. Not after all these years. Not ever, really."
"Lied to me? About what? Having an affair with Luke?"
"No. But about the fact that it made a difference that I hadn't."
He shifted again, restless. I could tell he really didn't want to be here and that I didn't have much longer to make my case. I wanted to rush ahead and tell him that I'd made an enormous mistake and to beg him to take me back, but I thought that was premature. I needed to apologize first, tell him how deeply sorry I was and somehow convince him of my sincerity. This wasn't something we could gloss over and pretend never happened, not if we were ever to have a real chance at being together again. Assuming he wanted that.
"I went... crazy for a while, I guess. I don't have any real excuse for it, either, just... I don't know, getting older and panicking about it."
I chanced a quick look at him; he'd leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and was carefully observing me.
"Is that what it was?" he asked sceptically.
"You haven't felt it? The sense that you're running out of time to get things done, that even if you had the time, you no longer have the drive? The need to prove to yourself that you've still got it?"
He shook his head. "I think my expectations out of my life have always been a lot more realistic than yours, Scott. This trip being the obvious exception," he added ruefully.
"That's not true. You wouldn't be doing what you do if you expected as little as I do. You're an idealist."
"No. I do what I do because I know exactly what kind of limited difference I can make. I don't expect to change the world, so I don't get discouraged when I don't. You, on the other hand, think that everything has to be and is within your control, that if you only try hard enough, you'll achieve every single stupid unrealistic goal you've ever set up for yourself."
"I don't think that at all!" I retorted, stung at his assessment of me. This wasn't going the way I'd anticipated. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I wanted to apologize, not start another fight. And I couldn't convince him of my sincerity if I didn't at least pretend to listen to him with an open mind.
"No? I know that you know they're unrealistic, but at the end of the day, you can't help yourself. You know you'll never own that penthouse on Fifth Avenue, you probably even know that it makes no real difference whether you will or not, but it still bothers you that you won't, because that was the goal. You knock yourself out at the gym, and even though you know you look damned good for your age -- you look damned good for a guy ten years younger, for that matter -- you still beat yourself up because deep down you think that you should look like the athlete you once were."
"You make me sound pathetic." It was a real effort not to squirm. Pathetically.
He sighed. "No. Not pathetic. You just need to adjust your dreams once in a while. I'm not necessarily saying settle for less than you really want, just try and figure out if it's still the same stuff you wanted when you were fresh out of school."
I tried to massage the aching tension out of my hands.
"Why did you never tell me all this before?" When it might have made some difference.
"You wouldn't have listened. I doubt you'll actually listen now. You're a bonehead." He smiled as he said it, not as if he was joking, but almost as if my boneheadedness were something he liked about me.
"Yeah, well that's just part of my charm," I joked weakly and was gratified to hear his soft laugh. "I'm so sorry, Tommy," I added seriously. "I just want you to know that after I met you, I never really looked at anybody else, not seriously. Luke was just a stupid crush, a symptom of other stuff."
"Scott, I wasn't the one, who moved out, remember?" His eyes belied his casual tone.
"What do I have to apologize for then? Moving out?"
He shrugged. "Nothing. We just ran our course, I guess."
"We just ran our course?" I repeated incredulously. "You're not that cynical. We were together for over a quarter of a century."
"Long course," he deadpanned.
"That's all it was to you?" I asked painfully.
It hadn't seemed that way. On the other hand, he did leave his phone, where I could get to it. The only thing he couldn't have known was whether I'd actually see the messages, but maybe that was his version of flipping a coin, leaving it to luck, because he didn't really care enough one way or another.
"You know it wasn't," he conceded quietly.
"How?" I challenged. "How do I know that? You never even once told me—" and then I shut up, but I'd already said too much.
"Told you what?" he asked. He sounded genuinely puzzled.
"Forget it." I didn't know anything about French literature, but surely it included the concept of telling someone you love them, even assuming that Thomas had never come across it anywhere else in his life. Even assuming I hadn't told him every single day of our lives together, until those last months.
"That you're my life? Something like that?" Was he telling me or just looking for an example of what I meant, trying to understand the crazy man sitting across from him?
"Scott." He had to repeat my name twice more before I'd look at him again. "You are my life." His voice was devoid of any drama or emotion; he was simply stating a fact, and I stared raptly at him. He smiled crookedly. "You really mean I have to say it? You don't know it?"
"I... Well, yeah, it would have been nice." He was speaking in the presence tense, though. Why was he speaking in the present tense? "Am I?"
He closed his eyes, shook his head and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "You idiot" and then looked at me again. "Things weren't good before, but it tore me apart when you left. For a while, I felt like somebody had literally beaten me up. Every bone in my body hurt. My skin hurt."
"But I... You... I mean..."
He ignored my stuttering.
"I've always wondered, you know. Whether, along with all those other dreams of yours, you also dreamed about marriage and children, and for the life of me I can't remember if we ever discussed it in college, and I was always too much of a coward to ask you later. Because I didn't want to risk reminding you."
"I was hardly likely to suddenly turn straight," I protested.
"No, I know that. But maybe you'd blame me for, ah, making the obstacles to that dream obvious." He swallowed. "And this past year... well, it was obvious you weren't happy being with me. You kept on saying that you weren't having an affair, but you were. At least that's what it felt like to me." He looked down at his hands, then up at me again. "Are you really saying a few words to you about my feelings would have made any difference?"
I wanted to tell him they would have, but I was no longer certain. And after all, what kind of difference had my casual daily avowals of love made, coinciding as they did towards the end with my crush on Luke? I knew Thomas had loved me. Deep down, I knew it, just as I loved him, but for a while there I just didn't care.
"Back in high school, I dreamed of marrying Mary Ann Schroeder. She was a couple of years ahead of me, a cheerleader and Prom Queen and she looked like Jane Seymour. Her father bought a new Cadillac Eldorado every three years," I said instead.
"I'm guessing she was a bit out of your league. I'll bet a girl like her probably went for bad boys rather than boy scouts."
"Didn't even know I was alive. You're probably right that some things sort of nag at me, even though I know they shouldn't. But Thomas, you were never second best, not to Mary Ann, not to anybody. I never just settled for you. On occasion I might have been stupid, and bone-headed and a fucking idiot, and you can feel free to stop me anytime by the way—"
"There's no 'might have been' about it," he offered helpfully. "You were."
"...but I love you. I really do. And I am so, so sorry I fucked up and let you think otherwise." I spread my hands in a helpless gesture.
"It wasn't only your fault. I know I tend to be insensitive about certain things. That thing with Ivor -- and I broke it off the day you found out -- it was mostly revenge and what part wasn't revenge was trying to prove to myself that I didn't care what you did, thought or felt. If you were going to do your thing, I was going to do mine." He gave a jerky little laugh. "Not very mature of me, I know."
"We were both dicks. College kids would have handled matters better than we did," I observed.
"Not if those college kids were us," he said ruefully.
"I don't know. I think we did okay back then," I said softly, and his smile grew tender. "I was trying to figure out a way to approach you again, when you called me about this trip. I didn't think I stood much of a chance after you told me to move my stuff out."
He went red. "You called me from that club at one in the morning and I thought you were pretending to be drunk. You know, just to get me there without losing face. So I got out of bed, dressed, got a speeding ticket driving to Manhattan, and then it took me fucking forever to find a place to park, and when I finally found you, you were so drunk I was worried I might have to take you to the emergency room. And the next day, you just kept on asking me what I was doing there. I felt... I don't know, stupid, self-deluded." He shrugged, his mouth quirking a little. "I believe the word for my behavior at certain times is passive-aggressive."
I can't remember who'd started it, or when, but we had this thing where, out of the blue, one of us pretended to be a guest and/or contestant or judge in shows ranging from Survivor to Jerry Springer to American Idol (the last being the worst because neither of us could carry a tune to save our lives) and the other had to follow along. It didn't mean we were less sincere; in fact, sometimes it was the only way we could say certain things. I could recognize a Dr. Phil guest when I heard one.
"We have to start communicating better," I intoned, then caught his eye, and we both grinned.
And then we started laughing, crazy with relief that this dark thing, whatever had caused it, was moving behind us, that we still loved each other, that we knew we'd have at least another twenty-five years together ahead of us even if sometimes we couldn't communicate worth a damn, because that's simply who Thomas and I are.
"I should send Robert a thank-you note," I said thoughtlessly, and his face changed, but just as I was about to apologize for, once again, being a dick, he burst out laughing again, a loud, joyful sound, and it felt like my heart would burst with happiness.
I woke up slowly, Thomas' familiar snuffling snore in my ears. I poked his shoulder, and, responding to the training of many years, he mumbled a protest, rolled onto his stomach and buried his head in the pillow, never really waking up. I gently ran my fingers through his hair, trying to comb it into some semblance of order, but I already knew it was a lost cause. There was the tiniest thinning spot right at his crown (though from the fuss he made about it every morning you'd think he had a bald spot the size of Central Park) and I kissed him there.
"Stop kissing my bald spot," he grumbled into his pillow.
I moved to his nape and inhaled against his smooth skin there. I'd never tire of his smell and I'd always recognize it, no matter how many times he changed his brand of shampoo and shower gel. He hummed happily and turned more fully onto his belly, spreading his arms and legs.
"Do we have time?" he asked.
"Couple of hours."
He stretched and flexed his arms and legs in an enormous yawn, shuddering from its force, and then relaxed again. "It sounds like you'd better hurry then." I could hear the smile in his voice.
I pushed the covers back so that I see all of him, his broad shoulders, narrow waist, taut buns and long lean legs. I skimmed my fingertips over his back from his nape to the small of his back, barely touching him, and he broke out in goosebumps. I waited for them to subside, then did the same thing again, and he breathed out a curse.
"Maybe you'd better give me directions, so that I don't waste time fumbling around," I suggested. I let my fingers drift further down, tickling along his crack down to between his spread thighs, softly stroking his bunched up balls and the tip of his dick that was peeking out from beneath them. He arched his back and stuck his ass in the air, making himself available to me.
"You want me to rim you?" I breathed into his ear, then licked it wetly. "You want me to suck your balls and rim you while I jerk you off?"
"Yes," he groaned. "Yes, yes."
I sat on my heels between his legs and pulled his hips further up, so that he was propped on his knees, his chest still flat on the bed, his arms still spread out. His cock hung heavy and already full, and I wrapped my fingers around it.
"God, Tommy, you're so hot," I told him, my thumb gently rubbing against his small pink hole, making it flex open and close. "How can you still be so hot?"
"Good clean living," he gasped, lying shamelessly. "Now shut up and eat me."
I buried my face in his crack. After all our years together I knew how he liked it best, how wet, how deep, at what point he wanted my fingers in him, the exact amount of pressure he craved on his prostate. I sometimes missed the fumbling love-making of our first times, when we'd accidentally stumble onto some new delight, but I loved the certainty we had now, the way we could just place ourselves in the hands of one another and let ourselves fly. Thomas spread his legs as wide as he could, rocking back into me. We never did get comfortable with having noisy sex, and he smothered his sounds in his pillow. I'd been alternating stroking him and my own dick, but finally I had to concentrate on him, because otherwise I was afraid I'd shoot.
"Don't let me come," he gasped. "Keep doing that, but don't let me come. I want to fuck you."
The only way to stop him from coming was to jerk down on his balls, and I had to do it a couple of times when I knew he was close, wincing at his grunts. It was a technique I hated myself, but Thomas liked that flash of pain.
Finally, I wrapped my arm around his chest and raised him upright to lean back against my chest, both of us still kneeling, my hard-on rubbing into his cleft. I kissed the side of his neck and he reached up to cup the back of my head. I continued stroking his dick, but more softly now.
"I want you" I whispered into his ear, and he twisted around to face me and push me onto my back. He lay on top of me and I hugged his hips with my thighs.
"Lube?" he asked, because sometimes I didn't want it. I shook my head and sucked on my fingers, staring into his blazing eyes as he watched me. His face, throat and chest were flushed with arousal, his nipples small stiff peaks. I nuzzled and bit them as I stretched myself. I doubted I could last much longer.
He pushed into me, bumping against my prostate with the first stroke. He withdrew and did it again, a fast shallow stroke that quickly pushed me over the edge.
"Fuck, you're beautiful," he muttered as I jerked and moaned helplessly beneath him. He kissed me hungrily as he continued to thrust, slower and deeper now, in the rhythm he preferred. I linked my hands behind his neck and remained pliant until he came with a deep sigh. He pulled out of me, then laid his full weight on top of me, resting his head next to mine on the pillow.
"Still good with the time?" he asked after an indeterminate while.
I'd been drifting contently, and jerked back to awareness, looking at the clock.
"Yeah. We'd better start moving though."
He peeled himself off of me, got up and laughed. "My legs are still shaky."
"That's because I'm very, very, very good and I rock your world," I modestly informed him.
He dropped to his knees, rested his elbows on the side of the bed and bent over me, his face suddenly serious.
"You are. And you do. Are you sure about this?"
I smiled. "Positive. You?"
He nodded, then smirked. "As long as you say it."
"I don't think it applies. There won't be an afterward."
"You can modify it. Maybe 'And I'll never be a dick.'"
"I'll try to never be a dick," I suggested, and got the standard Yoda response about there being no try, only do.
I narrowed my eyes in thought. "Fine. 'And I'll never be a dick.' I guess that will work."
And so, a little later, here we are, standing in our garden in front of our friends and a minister on a beautiful late July afternoon. I face him, clasping both his hands against my chest, and promise to love him for the rest of our lives and to never again be a dick. There's a shocked gasp and chuckle from the audience at the profanity, and Thomas' eyebrows climb up to his hairline, because he wasn't really expecting me to say it, but then he smiles his beautiful smile, his whiskey-colored eyes dancing, and he promises me the exact same things.