The letter in his hand is moving him back fifteen, twenty, twentyfive years. He would like to say his childhood was pretty normal. Two parents, four siblings, going to school, doing sports and so on. And in a way that’s true. But so was being denied his roots, having constant anxiety attacks, physical and psychological abuse, loneliness and alienation. It was not having friends, not having birthday gifts or christmas presents when his siblings got them, being grounded and told he was abnormal. It was slowly being more and more excluded. More and more scared.
He’s read the letter and tries to remember. But what? Billy does remember a time when he felt safe. Even loved. When he would be kissed and hugged by his parents, tucked to bed and treated the same way as his siblings. When he would play with his sister Janice and his brother Patrick, who were about his age. They played football, rode bikes and climbed trees. The difference in hair and eye colour didn’t matter until adults started talking about it. Teachers, neighbours, friends to their parents or the parents of Billy’s and his siblings’ friends. And then Billy asked himself.
He remembers the day very clear. It was early spring and he was eight. He’d been with his mom and dad in the grocery store and they’d met a woman who’d been to school with Billy’s mom. They stood and talked, Billy was staying by the trolly and then suddenly, the woman said that he didn’t reminded of his siblings or parents at all. One could almost think he’s adopted. Later, Billy’d tried to ask what adopted meant, and wasn’t given any answer. Now, when thinking about it, it was a more than little fucked up way to handle it. And if his parents had thought he’d forget it, they were wrong. He was a bookworm and he knew what a dictionary was. Soon he also knew what the word ”adopted” meant. But by then he’d already come to the conclusion that if his parents didn’t have to talk, then he didn’t have to either. At least not so much.
It was, of course, the wrong conclusion according to his parents. Or adoptive parents. They got irritated. Disappointed. Angry. Were they not good enough for him? Did he not want to be a part of this family? Why did he care so much about looks? It was the inside that mattered and now Billy suddenly didn’t want to share his inner thoughts anymore.
Even his siblings tried to defend him for a long time. When it happened almost every day, they protested. Why did dad have to spank Billy so often? What had he done? The oldest brother, Evan, once practically begged their dad not to punish Billy again. Please, dad, he’s not done anything! It’s not fair! When he was too old for ”old fashioned” spankings, it got worse. Mom never did anything to interfere. Said he had to behave, because he ruined for everyone else. Soon that’s what his siblings thought too.
The last five years at home was a nightmare and the only way for him to handle it, was to increase the distance. Not letting anyone near, pretending he wasn’t hurt, that he didn’t need his parents or siblings.The last weapon to protect himself was the silence and the distance. They would not have his tears or his voice. If he’d been good at not crying as a small child, he was an expert in his teens. The sound of his own voice was more terrifying than the pain from his dads belt.
Most of the time he didn’t even know what he felt. The constant questions from people made him doubt his own feelings, made it too difficult to read them and shutting down soon seemed to be the best way to deal with them. It took too much energy and required space he didn’t have, so why bother? Yes, he would like to say his childhood was pretty normal. He would so much like to, but some lies are just too stupid to entertain. And here he sits with the letter from Jocelyn Philips’ executor, telling him his non-biological grandmother who Billy’s not seen in fifteen years, has died at an age of eightynine years and made him her sole heir of anything that the state doesn’t force her to give to her children. And Billy’s siblings get nothing.
”I’m still here.”
Billy looks up from the paper in his hand. Charles doesn’t sound accusing, he’s just reminding Billy he’s not alone. Not with the letter, not with his thoughts. Not if he doesn’t want to. He’s having longer leaves now and decreased the intense therapy down to twice a week. He can sleep alone, the medicines work and he’s back at the gym. He’s off the studies for the rest of the semester, but things have definately started to get better. And now this comes crashing down on him. It’s not fair.
”I don’t understand…”
”Who’s it from, babe?”
He hands it over to Charles and his boyfriend reads it with an increasing scowl on his face.
”Adoptive grandmother, yeah. Havent seen her in fifteen years.”
”And now she’s left you her stuff? Just like that?”
”Seeems so, yeah. This is… fucked.”
”Were you close?”
”She was always nice to me, but we never had like a relation. Not for real.”
”And your siblings get nothing?”
”You could say that again. The fuck am I gonna do, Charles? I’ve not seen any of them in fourteen years. And this… I mean, they must be fucking furious. I really don’t understand and if I don’t, they most certainly wont.”
”But you have to go?”
”Yeah, I guess so, but… They hate me, Charles. And Evan, Janice and Pat… the last time I saw Evan was when he came home from university for the holidays when I was seventeen. Janice had left for a summer trip when I moved and Pat was at camp. I don’t even think we said goodbye.”
”Sorry to say this, but your parents are fucking assholes, Billy.”
”Still better than yours.”
”Yeah? At least my foster parents had the decensy to not hide fucking truth from me. And I was in the care system, but you were fucking adopted, Billy. They should’ve treated you as their own.”
”They did until I started nagging about it.”
”You had the fucking right to know the truth and you know that too. When’s that damn executor meeting?”
”In two weeks. In Durham, about thirty miles from Middlesbrough.”
”Where Gates lives?”
”I’m coming with you.”
”What? I’m not sure if I’m going. Fucks sake, Charles… I don’t even know what I’d call my parents.”
Billy just snorts and Charles moves closer, stroking his knuckles over Billy’s chest.
”Whatever you decide, just remember I’m here.”
And I love you. So very much. He doesn’t say it, but he knows Billy can feel it. That Charles belongs to him in a way he’s never belonged to anyone before. That he wants to belong.
They have the night together for the first time in many weeks. For the second time ever. Billy doesn’t have to be back at the ward until tomorrow lunch. He’s spent every third night alone at home for two weeks now, to see how it feels to sleep on his own again. It’s gone better than he expected. The biggest problem has been missing Charles. The structure, the care plan, the meds and the safety he’s feeling more and more now, have all made it easier to sleep alone than it’s been in a long time. But he’s longed for Charles the whole time.
”I don’t want to stay here tonight, Charles.”
”No? Wanna go back to the ward? Are you feeling worse again?”
”No, I want to… Go home with you.”
”Are you sure?”
”Yeah. I mean, if it’s alright with you …”
”Of course it is, babe.”
Alright? Charles wants to jump and scream. He’s not even aware of that not very long ago, he’d consider spending the night with a partner to be something natural, something to count on that didn’t mean much. He’d even see a longing for this as a sign of being clingy. And now he’s excited, happy like… well, like someone who’s madly in love. But he’s never been that, not like this, so how would he know?
He doesn’t want to think and for once it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to avoid it. He’s not tried to hide anything from Charles and he doesn’t need to take more meds to calm down. All he wants is a normal evening, a normal night with his boyfriend. But he’s never really had that kind of date before and he almost laughs when he reminds Charles about that. Charles just smiles and kisses him.
”Does a vodka drinking battle counts as a dinner date?”
”Only in Russia and maybe Finland.”
”You have such silly prejudices.”
”Says the American… Hey!”
Charles tickles him and recieves a tight hug to keep his hands off Billy’s very sensitive waistline. They’re walking to the car, Billy having his repacked bag over his shoulder and carries Charles over the parking lot under threats of having his drinks spiked with moonshine if he doesn’t put his boyfriend down. And the silliness works so well, allowing him not to think without feeling he’s avoiding it. Charles is a heavy man, but light in his arms and Billy loves the feeling. Being the one carrying, not only being carried.
”You forget I can’t drink now, honey.”
”Dammit. No beers tonight then.”
”You don’t have to stay sober just because I’m on meds.”
”Maybe not, but I like soda just fine, babe.”
Charles keeps saying his flat isn’t cozy, but right now Billy loves it. It’s true it’s lacking in colours and books and it’s a little messy, but it feels so nice to be there. They’re making dinner in the small kitchen, just pasta bolognese and a simple salad and while cutting tomatos, frying minced meat and boiling water for the spaghetti, they’re listening to a mixed metal list with Behemoth, Gehenna and Hypocrisy. They don’t talk, don’t feel the need to. Billy’s stirring in the stew, Charles holds his hands around his waiste, kissing the neck.
They’re cooking a simple dish together, drinking soda instead of beer and can’t stop touching each other. Literally. Arms around shoulders, hands stroking chests, fingers hooking into clothes. They’re alone, they have time and Billy’s pulse is normal. His breaths not faster or more erratic than usual. They’re steady, almost like Charles’. And suddenly, the words are leaving Billy again.
He’s not sure why, it’s not happened in weeks now and he’s not feeling bad at all. Quite the opposite. But he can’t talk and first Charles seems worried, but Billy’s smile and eyes calms him.
”Are you overwhelmed, babe?”
”So how about we eat by the TV?”
Billy’s eyes are saying all the things his lips can’t speak right now. Charles has learned quite well when the silence isn’t uncomfortable or the beginning of a panic attack. And if Billy tries to talk when he is or is about to get overwhelmed, the panic attack will come as if ordered.
Charles’ couch is big and comfortable. He has few furniture and almost no garnments apart from a couple of movie posters, but he has lots of candles. With slightly coloured cheeks, he admits he bought them to make it more cozy tonight. And Billy’s falling in love again. He doesn’t know why it takes so little to make his heart flutter, just like he doesn’t understand why Charles eyes become darker, heavier and warmer everytime Billy smiles. Yes, they are in love, but the way Charles’ eyes shimmer is making Billy a bit confused sometimes. There’s a reverence in the dark gaze Billy’s never seen from another person before. It’s far less scary now but he still needs to rest from it after a while and Charles knows that.
The simple meal in the couch, Billy’s sitting crosslegged, while watching Penny Dreadful is the closest to a normal date they’ve had together and Charles can’t focus on the series. His eyes are constantly wandering off to the man who’s balancing his plate in his lap. Charles thinks it’s silly to be so taken by the view, but he can’t help it. Billy is here now. Here, in Charles’ home, and they’re eating together, they’ve cooked together, they’re touching each other… Charles had no idea how much he longed for something like this and he wants to beg Billy never to leave, to move in together with him and share life with him, to be Charles’ and only Charles’ Billy forever. His heart is fluttering and his hands are shaking.
Billy’s taking their empty plates and puts them on the floor. Then he lays down in the sofa, nudging Charles to follow and soon he’s laying on Billy’s arm, his body flushed against Billy’s and Billy’s nose in his neck. The embrace is comforting, the cradle of his boyfriend’s arms is rocking his troubled mind to rest. He’s nuzzling the long hair no one’s allowed to touch but Billy and it makes Charles feel safe. As if he too needs to be protected from the world. No one has made him feel safe before. He’s always assumed it was because he already felt safe by himself. That his own strenght was enough. He thought so until Billy showed him how to be weak.
Billy’s body is warm and kind. His hand is stroking loosely over Charles’ stomach, caressing him softly while kissing his hair. No one’s ever touched Charles’ body like this. Careful, loving and patient. No rush to get forward, no bodypart being deprived of loving touches and it consumes him. They lay like that for long hours, just shallow touches, feeling each others warmth while the candles burn down and the series keeps running without any of them really watching. Charles is lost to the way Billy’s touching him and they’ve already been hard a very long time, when Billy moves to stroke lightly over the bulge in Charles’ jeans.
He’s trying not to push against the hand, but it’s been over a week since they had sex. Charles may be a patient man, but Billy’s fingers are fireflies on his skin and he’s addicted to the heat. When Billy’s lips are travelling across his neck an chin, Charles catches them like he’s nibbling for a treat.
Just kissing him is making Charles mind reeling and suddenly there are tears prickling his eyes, a pain building up in his chest he’s never felt before and Billy somehow sees it, feels it like there are invisible nerve endings connecting them together and a strong hand is pressing Charles’ head close to Billy’s chest, the other one holding around his shoulders, shushing him.
”It’s alright, Charles… We’re fixing this. I want you, you know that right? More than I’ve ever wanted anyone and I’m done running.”
Charles is the one loosing his words now and the soft, almost plainitive sounds leaving his throat are filled with a longing, a lifelong, unspoken loneliness that’s been a natural part of him for as long as he can remember. He’s never belonged. Not anywhere, not to anyone and if this doesn’t work out, Charles knows he’ll end up too hurt ever to try again. He’s whispering words he didn’t knew he could speak. Breathing out his longing into the clothed chest where Billy’s heart is pounding just as fast as his own.
”I love you so fucking much, Billy… It’s just…I don’t know how we’re gonna…”
”Don’t want anyone but you. Want to get well again, to be, you know… not so fucking fragile all the time.”
”You’re not fragile. You’re the strongest person I know.”
And Charles wants to have him in his life. He wants Billy in terms that lies dangerously close to everyday life, waking up together, take turns making coffee and arguing about who’s time it is to take out the garbage. It scares the living shit out of him.
”You know I’m really bad at relationships…”
Billy just laughs. A small, very friendly and relieved laughter that makes Charles’ heart flutter even more.
”Charles, you’re priceless… If you’re really bad at relationships, what does that make me? You’re my first relationship and I’m constantly worried about scaring you off because I’m such a fucking mess.”
”I don’t care if you think you’re a mess, babe. You’re an amazing mess.”
Charles presses a thigh between Billy’s legs, moving closer, grinding and kissing. Billy’s worries are melting away as they get rid of unnecessairy fabrics and move to Charles’ bedroom. It’s very impersonal but who cares as long as the bed is big enough for two. The intensity in Charles’ eyes that used to make him feel like he was being picked apart, has changed so much. Or maybe it’s Billy’s way of interpreting it that has changed. Without really understanding how or when, Charles’ eyes has changed the way Billy sees himself. He still doesn’t quite understand what Charles sees in him, why he wants him out of all people, but on the other hand, Billy can’t really explain why Charles was the one that he could allow this close.
Charles has never talked so little to anyone he’s spent so much time alone with and yet it feels like he’s never had so many things said. Or been heard this much. He’s not used the same kind of silence as Billy to shut people out, but it’s not been any less effective. For every word Charles has said about himself, he’s kept a hundred things locked in. Sure, some things he’d been able to share with Anne and Jack, but mostly he’s been alone with his thoughts. For a long time he thought it was only Billy opening up locked rooms and hidden wounds, but for every new part of him that falls into place and allows Charles closer, he’s given away pieces of himself.
It’s more than being in love. Time and words have lost their meaning, there are no frames or even time-stamps that can tell when Billy went from a curiosity and challenge, to a need, then a vital part of his life and a necessity. Now he’s the air that makes Charles keep going. He’s so far gone, so lost to this man who’s making him shiver from his touches. His body flutters under Billy, shivers in the very core of his bones. There’s care in the hands wandering across his skin, there’s a lust for his person in the breaths against his neck. The man who’s sliding deep inside him and makes him cry out in pleasure again and again, has left his safe solitude partly because he thought Charles was worth it.
Charles’ body and mind are pierced. Literally and figuratively. He’s the one being overwhelmed now, but he cant stop it and more so he doesn’t want to. He wants to know what it’s like to come undone, to stay in the feeling despite the fear of being left alone with pieces of a shattered heart. He’s yielding to Billy’s body, utterly and completely, allowing the man to pick him apart without swallowing a single sigh, moan, cry or syllable his touches are eliciting from him. His mind is wrapped in pleasure and a single thought: Please, please, don’t let me scare you off.
Hands and mouth on him, his own tongue slipping words his not aware of and his breath is pausing as he comes hot and hard over the warm hand, the pulse beating heavy and deep when the man he wants more than he’s ever wanted anyone or anything finds his release inside him. He’s holding Charles close to him, their fingers are twined together, not letting them part from each other once the orgasm is over and he’s sliding out.
”You’re not getting rid of me now, Charles.”
”Don’t ever want to…”
”I love you. You know that, don’t you?”
Charles knows that, but to hear it, to know it’s not only words, from the only one who’s ever said those words to him… that’s something not even he can make himself hide. But for the first time, he’s not trying to stop the tears. And the man he loves, the man who loves him, embraces them with his soothing, accepting silence.