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[personal profile] theirgoldenboy
On his nineteenth birthday, all four of them had driven back for the weekend. They hadn't discussed it or questioned it. Or even packed. They finished up classes on Friday, dropped off their books at the dorm. Then went back down, and after a coordinating look, all clambered in the Hummer. Not like any of the garages were short on vehicles, if they wanted independence when they got to Ipswich.

The Sunday was spent at the Danvers residence, all four families gathered with an uneasy undertone to the accustomed togetherness.

Caleb hid in his room, distinctly cowardly until Pogue knocked on his door to take him down. It was his birthday, after all, and he should be there with the rest of them; Caleb was grateful, because his friend first sat with him for a few minutes, talking him down from the edge of Using; he'd seen it twice already and it still scared him; Caleb had been through it almost three times as many, and it terrified him.

But it would just be so much easier to deal with this if he would give in, let it in. Let the Power sing in his blood, make him one with the world again, elegant and absolute. Today, the draw was worse than ever. Although he wouldn't call it seductive, not any longer. Not after having seen his father's milky-white eyes, a year ago.

After all of the day was over and everyone had gone home, he and his mother found their way to the grave separately. She wasn't as drunk as he had expected her to be; then again, she hadn't been alone. Tomorrow, when they were back at school, would be another matter.

"I'm sorry I can't stay."

"I was right, you see. He did love you."

Evelyn's words were like a slap on his face. A punch in his stomach, stealing his breath out and replacing it with a leaden weight. He swallowed through burning throat, tried not to heave behind the grave stone. Eventually, he found words again, even if they sounded shallow in his own ears. "He loved you, too."

"Oh, I know. I know."

"Mother..."

"Go back inside, Caleb. Go to bed." She even smiled. He barely was finding air to breathe. "Happy birthday, son."

She patted his cheek and he obeyed, incapable, physically, emotionally, or out of habit - or all three - to resist.


The next year he promised himself he wouldn't go back. It was his birthday, he threw a party. It seemed like a good idea until classes were over for the day and they crashed in their rooms before people started coming.

Somehow, he ended up curled up in an impossibly tight ball, his head in Pogue's lap - he wasn't sure if that hadn't happened just so that it won't clatter on the floor - and the blond's fingers stroking his hair. The same onslaught of needing to Use as last year, too familiar by now; paired up with guilt that he'd left his mother alone, with necessity to be home. To be there, where it all began; where some of it ended.

Neither Pogue nor himself found out who showed up to the party; half an hour later, they were already a long way towards Ipswich, just the two of them and the new Ducati.

He walked towards the grave, hoping that, if his mother had gone to bed, he wouldn't wake her up. In vain; she reached it almost the same time as him; started, then recognized him.

To his surprise, she was sober.

"I'm glad that you survived that day." Her voice was quiet, and tired, and her gloved fingers were resting on the gravestone.

Even worse - or better? - for the first time in longer than he cared to remember, there was actual hope in her eyes when she looked at him. Faint, and hesitant, but unmistakable.

Again, he was shaking when he followed her steps inside.

He and Pogue made love in his bed for hours, that night, low and barely this side of harsh and as though an inch of distance between them would bring the sky down on their heads. In the end, the sound of his name said in tenderness to put to lie the bruises on both of them broke him, and he was, once again, curled in against his boyfriend, except this time, he was crying, too, great sobs shaking him way too quietly.


The next year he didn't pretend either way. He just finished classes and went for the Mustang, books and all.

It was halfway back that he realized there were lights following him. To make sure he was all right, he guessed. He didn't care.

The cake that waited for him at home startled him.

But it wasn't a bad thing.


The first year with Chase, it passed almost without remark between them. He said he was going home and would be back tomorrow; the... what all of them were still accustoming themselves to referring to as his boyfriend shrugged and didn't say good-bye.

The year after that, though, Chase dared call him birthday boy again. He was almost surprised at the storm that unleashed; he was definitely surprised at Caleb not talking to him for days, after that, drifting around the space they shared like an overgrown, negatory sun-bunny. Caleb didn't know why he stayed, as so many times before and after; he didn't know why he forgave him enough to talk to him again, either.

Maybe because he thought it ridiculous, to be unable to forgive both his father and Chase.

But he couldn't.

Even attempting to consider it was harder than ... anything. Including the topic of conversation when his steps crossed his mother's over the soft soil, that night - the topic being, naturally, his dating life.


He wouldn't have taken Mary with him that year if the girl hadn't asked him. Both Chase and Evelyn stared at him as though he was insane; he carried his daughter and set her down on a fallen tree trunk that he made sure was dry. And no, the darkness of past 11 p.m. made no difference, with the manner he used to make sure of it.

His mother almost shut him up, when Mary asked the first question, waving her walking stick vaguely threateningly in the way aging women could. The damp hadn't had a good effect on her bones, apparently; whether the weather or the decanter variety wasn't certain, but the fact remained.

Yet soon the words were pouring out of the both of them and the frail girl just had to listen, her large eyes turned now to one, then to the other, as memories came on and on, until Chase called to remind they were up way past her bedtime to begin with and it was only getting later.

It was a different set of gentle fingers that stroked through his hair, in the early hours of that morning, other kisses that dried his tears. It seemed bad, and wrong, and not what any of them ever meant to happen, but he needed it, just as it was. He didn't understand anything anymore.


The first time there was only him to walk to the grave, he wasn't alone.

The day was no longer morbid, there were too many children who were excited at any chance to celebrate a birthday, for too long, for him to be able to retain just the grief and not recover some of the joy. It wasn't the same as it had been back all those many years ago; but it was real nonetheless.

Chase didn't try to come with him; nobody tried to stop their children.

Well, he did attempt to keep them from playing tag between the two gravestones.
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Caleb Danvers

July 2011

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