Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Fear - 53

"You've never been inside his house?" Max didn't seem too surprised when Shawn told him that.

"No. I think…" Shawn shrugged. "I think maybe it's his private place if that makes sense—where he can go to be alone and feel safe."

"That's very observant of you."

"Well, in a way, I know why." Shawn frowned, unsure if Max knew Gene's history well enough to get what he was saying—or not saying.

"He's afraid," Max replied. "Having been through the same things you have, he's got the same fears you have. The problem is he's been carrying them for so long, they're deeply ingrained into his psyche, even though he might not realize it. I'm fairly certain he didn't have someone to help him get past them the way you do."

"The way he's helping me." Shawn nodded. "But he can't be afraid of me. I mean damn, look at me. I couldn't knock out a fly, to say the least of a larger man, even if I wanted to which I don't and I never would."

"Of course you wouldn't, but you know there's more to being abused than just the physical part."

"Yeah, I do. From what happened to me—and to him. He told me about it—how he stayed with the dude even after he quit beating on him. About the mental and emotional stuff the guy put him through. But damn it, Max, I'm not going to pull something like that." Shawn smiled wryly. "I'm not a control freak. If I was, I wouldn't have stayed with Jared for more than a day or three."

"You know that; I know that, and so does Gene. But there's knowing and there's believing. I'd be willing to bet even though you're sure Gene would never hurt you, you still react sometimes as if you thought he might. It's instinctive right now. Duck or cower when you say something that would have had Jared coming after you verbally or physically. Right?"

"Right." Shawn nodded slowly. "I try not to but sometimes I can't help it."

"Exactly. Gene's well past that at this point, but like you said, his house is his safe haven. He's built walls, physically with the house, as well as emotionally. You're breaking through the emotional ones from what I've seen, and now he's giving you permission to get inside the physical ones."

"If I screw up…"

"That will only happen if you're not honest with him. If he does something that upsets you, tell him. The same goes when he does something you like."

"Oh, I do that all the time, the liking part."

"And if he upsets you?"

Shawn chewed his lip. "Not so much so. Maybe never?"

"Understandable, but you can't build any kind of relationship without honesty." Max chuckled. "Maybe I should get him in here and have this same talk with him."

"Oh boy. Still, you do a good job of it so—"

"I had two very good teachers, my father and Linda. But that's neither here nor there. Just remember what we've been talking about, if and when he tries to put the walls up again. He's in the same boat you are, so trust comes hard. You're learning to trust him, with good reason. Just don't give him any reason not to trust you."

"I won't, I promise."

Monday, August 19, 2019

Fear - 52


Gene wrapped Shawn in a tight embrace, wiping away the tears. "You don't have to tell me. I understand," he said softly. "But never again. No one is ever going to do that to you again."

"You don't know that."

"I do, because I'll never do that, and I'll be here to protect you from anyone else who tries. Well"—he pressed a kiss to his forehead—"at least for as long as you want me to be."

"Forever?" Shawn's voice was both wistful and hopeful as he gazed up at Gene.

"Until I'm in a walker. Then you're on your own in the protection department, I'm afraid."

Shawn's laugh was watery, but it was a laugh. "I can deal with that."

"I know you can. Now, do you feel well enough to go back inside? I don't think it's a good idea for the guest of honor, meaning me, to just vanish without saying goodbye to everyone."

Shawn nodded, wiping away the last of his tears. "But first…" Putting his arms around Gene's neck, he kissed him, whispering 'thank you' against his lips.

* * * *

"Wait a minute, please," Shawn said, in what Gene thought of as his 'cautious' mode. The one he still manifested too frequently, as if afraid he might upset him.

Gene had brought him back to Max's after the party and walked him to the door where they'd shared a few kisses. Shawn seemed up and excited, not only from kissing but for some other reason as well. Gene had the idea he was about to find out what.

"I'll be right back. Honest." With that said Shawn vanished inside.

Gene leaned against the porch railing, staring up at the starlit sky. The moon was just peeking over the mountains on the east side of town. It's going to be too cold to do this soon. Fireplace weather in a month. He smiled to himself, envisioning sitting with Shawn in front of a blazing fire, the snow coming down outside. And I'm getting ahead of myself here.

He turned around when he heard the door open and saw Shawn standing there, one hand behind his back. Shyly, Shawn brought it forward, giving Gene a thin, brightly wrapped package.

"It's nothing special. Just, well… I wanted to give it to you in private."

Intrigued, Gene carefully unwrapped it. "Okay," he said softly, "this is very special."

"You like it? I…it took time to get it so it really looked like you. I think I filled the wastebasket twice over with ones that didn't work."

"I couldn't have asked for a better gift." Gene looked again at the drawing Shawn had done of him, smiling with pleasure. "Thank you." Holding it carefully, he used his free hand to cup the back of Shawn's head and kissed him deeply. When they broke apart finally, he said, "This is going to hang in my living room. Maybe, yes definitely, over the fireplace."

Shawn turned pick with pleasure even as he protested, "It's not that good."

"Actually, it is, so that's where it's going."

Shawn grinned. "You're going to have to prove it."

"Oh?"

"Uh-huh. And that means I'll finally get to see the inside of your place."

Gene chuckled. He could almost hear the unspoken 'So there'. "It's a deal. As a matter of fact, maybe next Sunday. I'll even cook supper."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. But for now, you'd better get to bed. We'd both better. As it is, we're only going to get a few hours of sleep before we have to be at work."

"All right." Shawn stepped closer, close enough to kiss Gene again. "I'm glad you like it," he whispered a moment later.

"The picture or the kiss?"

"Both?" Shawn ginned, spun around and headed inside.

Definitely both, but more than anything I like the artist who gave them to me.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Fear - 51


"And now, ladies and gentlemen," Max said much later, as he stood, putting his hand on Gene's shoulders, "shall we sing 'Happy Birthday' and then let him open his presents?"

"What presents?" Gene whispered to Shawn as everyone else stood and began to sing.

"No clue," Shawn replied with a sly grin before he joined in on the song.

When they had finished, Gene thanked them profusely, still wondering what Max had been talking about. He found out moments later when two busboys wheeled out a dessert cart. In the center was a large birthday cake. If it hadn't been on a stand, it would have been hidden by all the gift-wrapped packages surrounding it.

"I don't believer this," Gene said, looking at all his friends.

"Believe," Max told him, handing him a knife. "Blow out the candles, make a wish, then make the first cut. The waitresses will take care of the rest."

Gene did, turning to look at Shawn as he blew the candles out. I wish, I hope, that we're still together as friends and more when I'm twice this old. He smiled at Shawn then cut the cake to the cheers of everyone there.

* * * *

The party lasted into the wee small hours of the morning. At first Shawn hung back, watching Gene having a great time with everyone as people danced and talked after the tables had been moved to the sides of the room. Then one of the women came over to stand beside him.

"You're too shy," she said with a smile. "Come dance with me."

Shawn instantly flashed back to the last time a woman had asked him to do that. He froze before scooting away from her, much to her obvious surprise. Gene was beside him seconds later.

"What's wrong," he asked in concern.

"It's…it's…" Shawn took a deep breath, looking down at the floor.

Gene put an arm around his shoulders. "Come on, let's go outside and you can tell me, because it's very apparent something's upset you badly."

It took a bit of prodding on Gene's part once they were out in front of the restaurant but finally the words came tumbling out.

"There was a party, a birthday party actually for some guy Jared worked with and we went and I didn't know anyone, so I stayed at the bar and a lady asked me to dance and her boyfriend made a scene and when we got back to the trailer, Jared was drunk and angry and…" He felt the tears start. "And he… he…"

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Fear - 50


Gene's birthday arrived and with it Shawn's nervousness—which was beyond his control at the moment as they parked along the main street and walked to the restaurant.

"You look just fine," Gene said, amusement lighting his face when Shawn took a glance in yet another darkened shop window along the way.

"I want to be more than fine," Shawn muttered, brushing a stand of hair back off his face. "I want to be perfect so you'll be proud of me."

"You could be wearing your greasy coveralls from work, with a smudge of oil on your cheek, and your hair tied back with a bandana and I'd still be proud of you." When Shawn looked at him skeptically, Gene hugged him, thereby unintentionally messing up his hair again.

"Damn it," Shawn grumbled.

"Hold still." Gene took out his comb, ran it through Shawn's hair and proclaimed things were perfect now. "And no looking to check, Narcissus," he said with a grin. Putting one hand at the small of Shawn's back he steered him to the restaurant entrance. "Deep breath and smile," he whispered as he opened the door.

Smile? Yeah right. Shawn surveyed all the people there and the decorations Linda had asked to be put up to celebrate Gene's birthday, and—all the people—and almost turned tail and ran. Only Gene's firm grip on his shoulder kept him where he was.

"Happy birthday," several people shouted when they saw Gene. They immediately mobbed him, followed moments later by a second wave of his friends and acquaintances.

Much to Shawn's surprise, Gene slid an arm around his waist, introducing him to those people closest to them. Even more to his surprise, they all seemed to accept him as if he belonged there.

"See, Shawn. I told you it would be all right," Linda said from behind him, giving him as much of a hug as possible considering he was tucked close to Gene's side. Then she turned to Gene and with a grin, curtsied. "If you two gentlemen will follow me, I'll take you to your table."

Gene rolled his eyes, muttering to Shawn, "This is why I hate birthday parties. Well, for me anyway. People insist on treating me like I'm special just because I'm a year older."

"Positively ancient," Max said, coming up to greet them now that people had started to return to their tables. "You're what, now? Thirty-one?"

"And counting." By now they were at the rectangular table at the end of the room. After Gene sat, with Shawn beside him, Gene apparently realized they were facing everyone else. "This is beginning to feel like a roast," he said when Linda took the seat on his other side.

"Well now that you mention it…" She smiled broadly.

Gene looked at her in horror. "You'd better be kidding."

"I am. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the good food and the fact that so many people care about you."

(FYI - I'll be visiting family over the weekend so the next post may not go up until late Monday, or Tuesday morning.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Fear - 49


Shawn shuddered, sinking into Gene's embrace when he wrapped his arms around him. "So yeah, I'm not the biggest fan of parties because of that." He looked up at Gene. "But this would be different," he whispered, "because you're not Jared."

"No, I'm not," Gene agreed firmly, lightly kissing Shawn's temple before turning back to Linda and Max. "I guess it's three to one, so if you insist, I promise not to pout too much."

"We do," Max replied with a grin. "Let's see, we can rent the meeting room in the town hall. That should just about hold everyone."

"No way in hell!"

"Tony's Steakhouse then?" Linda suggested. "We'll keep it intimate, just hmm… a hundred of your closest friends."

Gene snorted. "My closest friends I can count on one hand."

"I don't believe that," Shawn said. "I've already met three of them when we've been out to eat, and there's Linda and Max and…"

"Like I said, five," Gene countered. "Six, if I count you, but I think we're more than friends now."

Max cocked an eyebrow. "Do tell."

"Not that way," Gene told him.

"Yet," Shawn added with a grin.

Linda glanced at her husband. "Told you."

Max hugged her. "And you're always right."

"I am. And on that note, I think it's time called it a night. It's getting late and I have a party to plan come morning, so I'll need all my wits about me."

After Max and Linda went inside, Gene stood, pulling Shawn up and into his arms again. "You know they're going to be insufferable now that they know."

"Know what?" Shawn asked innocently.

"That we might be, slowly but I think surely, inching beyond just friendship."

"And there's nothing wrong with that, I don't think."

"Not in the least." Gene cupped Shawn's jaw in his hands and kissed him, receiving one in return that might have progressed beyond just an exploration of each others lips if he'd allowed it to. Instead he pulled away, patting Shawn's ass. "Linda was right; it's getting late."

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Shawn planted another quick kiss on Gene's lips and smiled. "I'll go to bed like a good boy. And before you say it, I'm doing it because I'm tired, not because I think that's what you want."

Ruffling Shawn's hair, Gene replied, "I know. I'll see you tomorrow?"

"For sure. We may be taking things slowly, but we are taking them to where we both want them to end." With that said, he headed into the house, smiling to himself when he heard Gene murmur, "That we are, and I'm not complaining" as he walked down the steps.