By P.A. Lovas
The car engine died slowly as Aaron turned the key, pulling it from the ignition. He stretched as he stepped out, feeling the stress of his workday slowly diminish while he picked up his briefcase, walking toward his house.
What is it about the prospect of 'home' that makes everything seem a bit better? Why does the weight of the world seem less heavy as soon as you walk through that door?
Aaron shook his head and ran a hand through his dark hair, pushing the thoughts aside. Right now, he didn't are about the reasons why it happened, he was just content that it did.
Placing the cold ring in his mouth, he began shifting through the assorted keys, his hands folding around a plain gold one. He slipped it from his mouth as he shoved the piece of metal into the lock, and after hearing the small click, pushed the door open. His eyebrows furrowed at the sound of music emanating from the kitchen, and he moved toward it, slipping the key into his pocket, dropping his briefcase along the way.
Aaron couldn't fight the smile that slipped onto his face as he leaned against the wall, watching as his wife danced around the room. Her voice ran out as she sang along, and she bent over to pick up a bowl from the dishwasher, and did a small twirl. She stopped abruptly when her eyes fell on her husband, and she offered him a bright smile, reaching her hands out.
"Dance with me." Aaron grinned, shaking his head in refusal. "Come on, don't be shy," she cooed, wriggling her fingers. "Dance with me."
Aaron laughed, batting the hand away lightly. "Real men don't dance."
She pouted at the response, walking over to flip off the radio. "Fine. Be that way," she whined before whipped around, wagging a finger at him. "But I won't give up. I'll have you dance with me at least once in my lifetime."
"I have danced with you before."
"And our wedding doesn't count."
He chuckled, taking a few quick strides over, wrapping his arms around her waist. "I'd like to see how you plan to do that, Amy."
Amy smirked as she wriggled from his grasp, flipping her blond hair over her shoulder. "Watch me."
He grinned as she returned to her task of doing the dishes, still humming lightly. "What's for dinner?"
"Whatever you plan to cook."
He rolled his eyes in amusement as he made his way over to the refrigerator, yanking the door open. "What a woman I married."
It was a running joke in their relationship, and even with their relatives, about Amy's lack of culinary skills. She wasn't the ideal homemaking wife, but that never fazed Aaron. She was spunky and fun, and always a bit unpredictable with some of her radical ideas. They'd been married for only 6 months now, but he found himself thanking the Lord for each and every day that passed. He often wondered how one man could be so completely happy, but one glance at Amy always answered the question with a million feelings.
The night went the same as always. Amy asked him about his day over the dinner he prepared, and he gave a brief explanation about his work. He never talked too much about himself, feeling his own office stories were far less interesting than anything Amy could tell him. She would jabber on about her day, and the customers that had come to the shop that morning, and all the interesting conversational pieces they shared.
After dinner, they would drop their dishes into the sink, and flop onto the couch. There was usually an argument about what programs to watch, Aaron flipping to the news as Amy tried to tackle the controller from him, eventually switching it to a light-hearted comedy. They would sit there, just wrapped around each other, enjoying the serenity of their small lives. During the night, whether Aaron was simply holding his wife while she drifted to sleep, or as they made love till the early hours, he always felt so extremely blessed to have her in his life. He never dreamed he could love anybody as deeply or as completely as he loved her. She was the other half of his soul, and she completed him like nobody else could.
Aaron sat staring at the pie-faced clock on the wall, waiting for it to signify the end of the workday. He drummed his fingers on his desk, haphazardly toying with a pencil as he urged the hands to move faster, swearing lightly as it seemed to tick slower, just to spite him. "Come on!" He grumbled, throwing his pencil at the confounded thing. He jumped slightly when the phone rang in it's shrilly voice, and he heaved a sigh as he placed the receiver to his ear.
"Aaron? Aaron, is that you?" the frantic voice on the other end of the phone asked, the person's breath coming in quick gasps. It took him a moment to recognize it as Amy's mother.
"Is something the matter?" There was a small clenching in his chest, and a foreboding feeling seemed to send shivers through out his entire body.
"Aaron, it's horrible! It's awful! I…"
"Calm down and just tell me what happened," he said, feeling anything but calm himself at the moment.
The woman's voice cracked as she uttered the two words he was praying she wouldn't. "It's Amy."
His chest burned as he ran through the pasty white hallways, the smell of alcohol and bleach filling his nose. There wasn't a coherent thought in his head, and he did the only thing he could. He ran, ignoring the yells of protests from the staff. He didn't care what they had to say. He just wanted to make sure Amy was alright.
It happened so suddenly. One minute has was on his feet running, the next, he was on the floor, a screaming pain in his head. He raised a hand to his forehead, his fingers sliding over something slick.
"Oh my God! I'm so sorry!" Aaron looked up, trying to blink the haze that appeared in front of him. When it cleared, he found himself staring into a concerned pair of eyes. "Are you alright?" Those eyes. "Hey, mister." Deep blue. "Can you hear me?" Just like Amy's.
As soon as the name crossed his mind, he jumped to his feet, wobbling a bit.
"Sir, I think you might have a concussion."
Aaron brushed the person's hand from his arm, and he began walking unsteadily down the hall, his hands moving along the wall for support.
"Sir, please." The voice was once again along side of him, trying to help. He reached out his other hand, knocking the person back. He didn't have time for this. He had to get to Amy.
His head was pounding so badly by the time he reached the ICU waiting room. Amy's mother jumped to her feet when he walked in, running to him.
"My God, Aaron, what happened? You're bleeding!"
"Never mind that. How's Amy?"
He watched as the woman's red puffy eyes looked off to the side, and she began wringing her hands nervously. "We don't know yet."
"What exactly happened?" he asked slowly, not exactly sure he truly wanted to find out the answer.
"It was a car accident. They say somebody ran a red light." She began to whimper, putting her face in her hands, her back heaving with large sobs. "My poor baby. She must have been so scared."
Aaron slipped her arm around the woman's shoulders, pulling her against him as she wept, his heart flipping between his throat and his stomach, and he had to concentrate on not throwing up.
The long moments turned to minutes, the minutes to hours, the insistent ticking wringing in his pounding head, and Aaron wondered if maybe he did have a concussion. He brought a hand to his head, trying to rub away the pain, just as there was a small click of a door. The doctor stepped through, a clipboard in his hands, and there was a small spot of red dotted by the man's collar. Blood. It was Amy's blood, Aaron realized, and he had to fight the wave of nausea that threatened to topple him over.
"How is she?" Amy's mother asked, her voice quivering in fear. "How's my baby? Can I go see her now?"
Aaron froze at the look in the doctor's eyes, and he could swear his heart stopped beating. There was pity in those depths. No. He wouldn't except that. Pity could only mean that Amy was…
"I'm sorry. We did everything we could." The rest faded in and out of his mind like a bad dream. He heard the woman's frantic screams, her sobs etching itself into his mind as he stared blankly ahead. He saw the doctor's lips move, but he heard nothing.
"Can I see her?" It was only after he saw the doctor turn to him that he realized he spoke. "I…I want to see her. Please. I'm her husband," he begged, choking on the final words.
The doctor nodded slightly, before walking to the door, and held out a hand to stop the Aaron from following. "Wait here. I'll come back for you in a few minutes."
Aaron nodded, slipping back into one of the chairs, his mind feeling as if he was in a fog. This couldn't be real. This couldn't be happening.
Just as promised, the doctor returned, ushering Aaron through the thick metal door. He felt strange walking through that hallway, as if he was just watching himself go through the motions. It wasn't really him. It couldn't be him.
Aaron looked up blankly as the doctor stopped in front of a small room, his hazy mind taking a minute to comprehend.
"I'll leave you alone for a few moments," the doctor said, and Aaron simply nodded, stepping through the door.
The room was murky as the florescent light flickered sickeningly and Aaron pushed aside the queasiness, moving toward the only occupied bed that was there. His heart squeezed in his chest painfully as he raised a hand to run gently along the serene face of his wife, her skin slightly cold to the touch. He let out a strangled cry as he fell to his knees, his hands gripping the edge of the bed as he hung his head, weeping bitterly.
"I'm sorry," he choked out between sobs, fumbling a hand around till it grasped one of her lifeless ones. "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. I'm sorry we never got to have that dance. I'm so sorry." Aaron was over come by emotion as he knelt by her side, his mind wracked with sadness, love, anger and guilt. He would give anything to change this. He would give anything for just one more day. He would give anything to just have gotten to say goodbye.
"The usual?" Aaron nodded his head quickly, sending the man ducking behind the counter. He rose to his feet, and grabbing a glass, poured the contents over a few large cubes of ice, before handing it to Aaron.
Aaron mumbled a quick thanks as he wrapped his hand around the glass, taking a slow sip, and set it back down.
In the two years since he'd been coming here, he'd become very familiar with the regular faces around the bar, though he's never actually struck up a conversation with any of them. Everybody had there own reasons for being there, and he simply didn't care for any company as he tried to drown out his own.
"Excuse me." Aaron turned, his eyes narrowing. The voice belonged to a young male, looking no older then nineteen, in an oversized T-shirt, ripped jeans, and a ratty old hat that covered his short hair. Aaron snorted, swiveling back to the counter, taking another swig of his scotch.
"I'm not buying you alcohol, kid, so get out of here."
"Um…no. That's not why I'm here. Besides, I'm old enough to buy my own," the boy said, shrugging his shoulders a bit.
"Then why are you here?"
He looked down at his feet, shuffling lightly. "Well, I was wondering if we've met somewhere before."
Aaron rolled his eyes, scoffing a bit. "Sorry, kid, I'm not interested."
"Oh!" The boy picked up his head, shaking it quickly. "No! I didn't mean it like that."
"What exactly are you trying to get at?" Aaron asked, turning around to look at the other male, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
"It's just that, you look so familiar. And I'm getting this feeling that we've met before."
"I don't think so."
The boy cupped his chin, pursing his lips in thought. "I just can't shake this feeling that I know you from somewhere."
Aaron shrugged his shoulders and put his back to the boy, returning to his drink. He sat there for a moment, sliding his fingers over the light mist that had gathered along the sides of his glass, before turning to glance over his shoulder. He sighed, staring at the empty space behind him, relieved the boy hadn't persisted.
"Have you ever been to the Brick House Diner?"
Aaron jumped, whipping to glare over his other shoulder. "What the…No!"
"Hmm. Probably shouldn't. The food there's terrible anyway."
"Thanks for the advise," he grumbled angrily, wishing the tenacious male would simply go away.
"Do you work at a bank?"
"No!" Aaron groaned as he felt a faint throbbing begin to form, and he raised a hand to his forehead, rubbing lightly.
"That's it," the boy cried out, slamming a fist into his open palm. "I've got it!"
"Good for you. Now that you've appeased your curiosity, could you please leave me alone?"
"Huh?" Large eyes blinked at him, before looking off to the side, almost embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you. I'll just go now." He offered Aaron a small smile in apology as he turned slowly on his heels.
Aaron heaved a sigh of relief, and raised his glass to his lips briefly, before dropping it back down to the smooth oak surface. The alcohol no longer seemed all that appealing to him. He swiveled around, his eyes searching the crowds, unable to push aside the nagging feeling that was drumming in the back of his mind.
Shoving the key into the lock, Aaron grumbled angrily before stumbling slightly into the house. He wasn't nearly as drunk as he had wanted to be, and he fully blamed that annoying boy. He wasn't exactly sure what it was about the other male that bothered him so damn much, but there was no denying that it was there, tweaking his curiosity just a bit. He hadn't had an interest in another human being for almost two years now, and he had no intentions of starting now, especially not with some punk kid.
He snarled, slamming the refrigerator door shut. Fuck. He had completely forgotten to go shopping that week, and there was absolutely nothing in the house. Guess he'd have to forego the bar tomorrow to go to the market after work. Not that it was a problem for him. He didn't want to bump into that boy again anyway.
Aaron trudged to his bedroom, his hands sliding along the wall for support. He shrugged the blazer from his shoulders, and twisted a finger around the knot of his tie, yanking the confining fabric from around his neck. He didn't bother to remove the rest of his clothing as he climbed into the bed, facing the wall. He curled around himself, dark eyes squinting shut as he tried to forget about the unoccupied space next to him, his thumb lightly stroking the gold band on his finger. A few stray tears fell, dropping to soak into his pillow as he fell into the welcome arms of sleep, content to forget about the past and the present.
The wheels squeaked as the cart chugging pathetically through the aisles, the clattering only stopping briefly when Aaron slowed to throw something into the basket. It was a menial chore, and he hated doing it. It was time consuming and annoying, and that wasn't even counting the large sea at the checkout that never seemed to ebb. He sighed as he pulled up to the end of the line, counting the people ahead of him with a small whimper. He was never getting out of there.
It seemed like an eternity before Aaron was making his way out through the automatic doors, his bags clenched firmly in his hands. He shifted, trying to reach into his pocket, fumbling around sloppily for his keys.
"Hey!" Aaron picked up his head, looking around briefly and shrugged his shoulders when he found that nobody was there. Probably wasn't talking to him anyway. It's a big city. "Hey! Wait up!" Realizing the voice came from behind him, he turned around curiously, taking a few steps backwards as he scanned the crowd. His search was interrupted by a loud clanging sound, and before he had a chance to wonder what caused it, there was a splitting pain in the back of his head. Aaron reached a hand back, rubbing at the injury as he glanced over his shoulder, only to find himself staring at the red face of a stop sign.
"Oh geeze, are you ok?" He blinked, realizing that the voice was now right along side him, placing a cool hand to his head. "I'm not sure if you're just clumsy, or I'm cursed."
"Huh?" Aaron shook his head, the slight haze that danced in front of his eyes clearing to reveal a young male, and he swore under his breath. It was that same kid from the bar. "What the hell are you doing here?" He asked gruffly, shaking off the helping hand.
The boy seemed slightly taken aback, his eyes widening a bit. Those eyes… They seem so familiar somehow. "I…I just saw you, and before I knew it…" His voice trailed off, and he heaved a sigh, as if he, himself, didn't know the reason.
"What do you want from me now?"
The boy cocked his head, a few light strands falling from under his cap. "You still don't remember me, huh? I thought for sure that you would've recalled by now."
"What are you talking about?" Aaron groaned as he rubbed at his sore head, a faint pounding forming behind his eyes.
"Don't worry about it. We should get you someplace to lie down. You look a little pale."
Aaron simply nodded his consent, his stomach spinning along with the rest of the world. He bent down slowly, picking up a few bags, noticing that the boy was doing the same thing. He led them into the parking lot and Aaron raised a hand to point to his vehicle, before fishing into his pockets for the keys, searching clumsily for the correct one. The boy pulled the ring from his hands, and Aaron raised an eyebrow at him in confusion. He had a headache. He wasn't an invalid.
"You're about to capsize your fruit," he explained with a grin, pushing the bag he carried up to his elbow as he began flipping through the various keys. "This should be it." He shoved one of them into the door, smiling as the locks popped up in response. He pulled open the door, shoving his bag into the car, and reached his hand out toward Aaron who obliged by dropping the bag handles into the boy's open palms.
Once everything was put away, Aaron found the himself being pushed around to the driver's side door, and he slid in, holding his hand out. "Keys."
The boy shook his head, his fist closing around the desired object. "Nope. You're not driving in that condition."
"I'm not kidding. Give me the keys."
"And I'm not kidding either." Aaron's eyes narrowed at the stubborn boy, who glared back with equal intensity, his hands perched on his hips defiantly.
"I'm perfectly fine. Now give me the God damn keys!"
"Oh really?" The boy raised an eyebrow, smirking lightly as he leaned over, placing his hand along Aaron's face. Dark eyes widened as his fingers crept up, dancing along the skin before he slid them around to rest lightly in Aaron's hair.
Aaron's mouth went dry and his mind raced in a million directions. He couldn't even find the strength to push the boy away, or the words to ask what he was doing. That answer came quickly, along with a flash of pain that caused a string of swears to fall from his mouth as those teasing fingers roughly flicked the back of his head. "What the hell did you do that for?" Aaron growled, as his hands moved to hold his aching head.
"Just proving a point."
"And what point is that? That you know how to inflict pain?"
The boy grinned, shaking his head in amusement. "No. That you're not well enough to drive."
"Well, I'm not anymore," Aaron mumbled as he pushed himself lightly against the headrest and let his eyes slip closed, glad to find that the pain seemed less intense that way. He wasn't sure when sleep had overtaken him, but the last thing he recalled was a faint tingling sensation on his skin where the boy's hands had been.
The first thing that hit him when he opened his eyes, was darkness. His chest clenched in momentary panic, until his vision cleared, and he realized where he was. But why was he sleeping in his car? He jumped as there was a small whimper next to him, and he turned to glance at the passenger's seat, everything that had happened coming back to him.
Aaron leaned over, inspecting the boy for a moment, before gently shaking him. "Hey." He rolled his eyes as the other male groaned and flopped over onto his side, curling back into the seat. Aaron ran a hand through his hair, trying to figure out what do now. He was seriously contemplating simply throwing the boy out of the car, but he knew he couldn't just leave him there. He heaved a sigh as he turned the key in the ignition, the car rumbling noisily to a start. He shook his head as the boy shifted lightly, mumbling in his sleep, as Aaron backed out of the parking spot, and pulled into the road, heading for home.
"Shit!" Aaron grumbled to himself as he tried to shove get his key in the door while juggling the small male in his arms. He pushed his weight against the unlocked door, forcing it to swing open, allowing the agitated man to enter, before he slammed it closed with the heel of his foot. He quickly made his way into the bedroom, depositing the boy onto the bed, wondering how anybody could sleep so soundly. He allowed himself to stare for a moment, thinking how perfectly innocent he looked in his sleep, and Aaron scoffed. You'd never guess what a pain in the ass he was.
He slipped quietly from the bedroom, shutting the door behind him, and made his way back outside. He shivered a little at the cold as he unloaded his groceries, dragging them into the kitchen, and began the process of unloading them.
Aaron pulled open the freezer, dropping the half-melted TV dinners onto one of the shelves, before narrowing his eyes at a lone bag of frozen potatoes. He sighed, looking from the bag to the closed bedroom door, unsure as to what to do. Maybe it was because the boy looked almost unhealthy in his skinniness, but Aaron soon found himself shifting through the freezer for a package of chop-meat he knew was back there.
It had been forever since Aaron had actually cooked something for somebody, himself quite content with frozen dinners or canned imitation foods. He popped the frozen meat into the microwave, having no choice but to defrost it this way. Once the light kicked on and the timer began to tick, he moved over to the pantry, and pulled out a large cookie sheet, dumping the contents of the bag onto it. He threw open the door to the oven, and slipped the tray in, turning to knob to the correct temperature. He always forgot to preheat the damn thing.
Aaron looked at the clock, calculating the amount of time needed before the potatoes would be cooked, his eyes slipping over the numbers 7:18. "Probably should wake the kid up," he mumbled to himself, moving to the bedroom.
He dropped himself onto the edge of the bed, and reached out a hand, shaking the boy a bit. Aaron rolled his eyes as the boy made a few incoherent noises and snuggled back into the pillow. It was only after the second time he had shaken him that the boy finally woke up, his blue eyes pulling open slowly, blinking sleepily as he gazed around in confusion.
"Wake up," Aaron said blandly, flicking the other male in the head. He jumped as the boy gasped, his eyes going wide.
"Wh-what happened?" The normally smooth voice was shaky and uncertain, it's usual calmness lost, and Aaron raised an eyebrow at him in confusion. "What happened?" the boy tried again, seeming as if he was on the verge of tears.
"Hey, kid, are you ok? Are you sick or something?" Aaron reached a hand toward the boy's forehead, but it was slapped away violently as he scurried across the mattress, huddling against the wall.
"Don't touch me!"
"What the-" To say he was confused would be an understatement. All he did was try and wake the kid up…while he was in a strange place…in a stranger's bed. Aaron swore under his breath, realizing why the boy was frightened. "Look, believe me, kid. I certainly didn't take advantage of you, if that's what you're thinking."
"Oh…I…I'm sorry," the boy said, his relief visible as he placed a hand to his chest, drawing in a long shuddering breath. "I didn't mean to accuse you of anything." He tried offering a small smile in apology, as Aaron shook his head.
"Whatever. Not a big deal."
The boy opened his mouth to interject but stopped, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. "Something smells good."
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to interrupt your meal."
Aaron rose to his feet, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "Come on." He rolled his eyes as the other male blinked up at him, his head cocked to the side gently. "Do you want to eat something, or not?"
"Really?" The boy asked, his eyes sparkling lightly as a small grin crept across his face. He pushed himself off the bed, following Aaron into the kitchen, his eyes taking in everything around him. "Wow, I figured you were comfortable, but I didn't know you were this well off."
Aaron snorted, pointing to a chair he had pulled from under the table, before he moved back over to the counter, pulling the plastic from around the meat. He glanced over, seeing that the boy was comfortably seated, his eyes raking over the skinny body, wondering why he looked almost as if he suffered from malnutrition.
"Hey, you're not a vegetarian or anything, are you, kid?"
Aaron turned, an eyebrow raised in confusion. "Huh?"
"My name's Donovan, and I'm not a kid," The boy explained, smiling up at him as he tucked a few escaped strands of flaxen hair back under his cap. "And yes, I do eat meat."
Aaron nodded slightly as he continued to prepare the meal, grabbing a mound of the beef, packing it firmly between his hands. There was a small snort from the table, and Aaron turned to find Donovan staring intently at his hands, his nose scrunched. "What the problem now?"
"Nothing. It just looks kinda gross in this stage."
"What do you want? It's raw meat." He rolled his eyes as he dropped one of the patties into the frying pan he had placed on the stove, before dipping his hands back into the beef.
"I know," Donovan said slowly, bringing his knees up, and dropped his chin down to them as he continued to watch. "Doesn't that feel weird?"
Aaron shook his head, sighing. Maybe he should have left the kid asleep.
The rest of the meal was prepared in silence, although Aaron could feel Donovan's gaze on him in everything he did. By the time he dropped the plate in front of his guest, he was feeling a bit unnerved, though he couldn't quite figure out the reason why. He slid into his chair, shaking his head a bit. He probably still wasn't used to people.
"Wow! You're amazing!"
Aaron's lips twitched lightly at Donovan's outburst, and he rolled his eyes, popping a french-fry into his mouth. He chewed on it thoughtfully for a moment, before rising to his feet, moving over to the refrigerator. He yanked open the door, shuffling through the various bottles, before pulling one out, and dropped it onto the table as he sat back down.
"Ketchup," he said blandly, pushing the bottle at Donovan, who blinked at him, his fingers inching toward the offering.
Aaron snorted, pushing another fry into his mouth. "That's why I offered."
"I know." Donovan grinned at him, as he picked up the bottle, turning it over his plate. "But I was trying to be polite."
Aaron watched as Donovan's face contorted in thought when nothing came out, and he began slamming the palm of his hand onto the bottom of the container. He shook his head, reaching over to take the bottle away from the abuse, before tilting it at an angle. He gave the bottom one firm slap with the heel of his hand, forcing some of the contents to fall from it's mouth. "You can't hold it that rigid," he explained, passing the bottle back to Donovan, who chuckled lightly.
"I could never master the art of ketchup pouring." He smiled as he dipped a finger down, placing it into his mouth as he sucked the red from the tip.
"Are you going to eat the rest of the food, or should I just pour you a bowl of ketchup?" Aaron shook his head as Donovan laughed, picking up his hamburger.
"No. I'll eat."
What an understatement that turned out to be. Donovan didn't just eat, he inhaled the food, and Aaron was almost shocked at the frenzied way he cleaned his entire plate in just a few minutes.
"Guess I was hungry," Donovan said sheepishly, shrugging a bit when he noticed the strange stare he was receiving.
They sat in silence for a few moments longer, Aaron noticing as Donovan began pulling awkwardly at his sweatshirt, twisting the sleeves around his hands.
"Hey," Aaron piped up, no longer able to take the hanging silence any longer, surprising himself in the process. He ran a hand through his hair, fishing for something to say, as Donovan focused intently on him, waiting. He looked around nervously for a moment, his gaze falling onto Donovan's empty dish. "I, uh, I've got some ice-cream in the freezer, if you want some."
The blue eyes widened happily, his smile slipping back into place, and Aaron wondered why he felt more relieved like this. "Go see if there's anything you like," he said, thrusting his thumb at the fridge, and Donovan nodded his head. Aaron sighed as he stood, moving toward the cabinet and grabbing a bowl.
"Wow! You must really like ice-cream!" Donovan squealed, from inside the freezer. "You must have at least 10 containers in here."
Aaron grunted a little, shaking his head. "Not really. I don't eat ice-cream."
"Huh?" Donovan pulled his head out, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"I buy it. I don't eat it."
"Uh huh. I see." Aaron let his gaze shift over to Donovan, who stood there for a minute, eyeing him curiously before breaking out into his familiar grin. "Well then, it's a good thing I'm here to help you polish some of this off. It'd be a shame to have it all go to waste."
He snorted, as Donovan ducked back into the fridge, shifting through the different cartons, before pulling out the flavor of his choice. He had to fight the wave of nostalgia that hit him as he took the carton from the grinning boy, and began scooping its contents onto a bowl.
"Make sure you give me a lot of peanuts. That's what Rocky Road is all about."
"What?" Aaron turned toward Donovan, his eyes wide. "What did you say?"
"I didn't say anything." Donovan shook his head, his eyes narrowing slightly in concern. "Are you alright? You look pale."
"I'm fine," Aaron replied abruptly, thrusting the bowl at him before dropping back into his chair, his hands raised to rub at his head. He glanced up after a moment, realizing that Donovan hadn't sat down at the table. "What are you doing?"
Donovan smiled around his finger, pulling it noisily from between his lips. "I didn't want to bug you for a spoon."
Aaron shook his head in exasperation. "How can you be so hyper at eight-thirty at night?"
"What time is it?"
"Eight-thirty," he repeated, confused by the twinge of panic laced in the words.
"Oh shit!" Donovan's eyes widened as he dropped the bowl to the counter, wincing at the loud clang it made. "I'm sorry. I have to go."
"Alright." Aaron raised an eyebrow as he watched Donovan run hastily from the room, completely baffled by the sudden change.
"Oh, and by the way." He looked up to see Donovan in front of him again, his cap clasped in his hands. "Thank you for everything." Any words he might have uttered were frozen in Aaron's throat as he saw Donovan's silver-gold hair catch some of the light as he turned on his heels, disappearing around the corner. Aaron jumped to his feet as he heard the door slam, and he did the only thing that came into his mind. He ran out side, frantically searching for the direction Donovan might have gone, but he was nowhere in sight.
Aaron sighed as he ducked back into the house, pressing his back against the door as he pushed it shut. He squinted his eyes closed, confused by the sudden rush of emotions that ran through him, a million questions racing through his mind. Why was the boy in such a frenzy? Why had he run after him? Why did he seem so familiar somehow? And, why did he want to see him again?
The minutes ticked by, seeming to go even slower than normal as Aaron glares at the clock perched on the wall. Damn it. The stupid thing always seemed to sit there and mock him. He wouldn't put it past the dumb thing to start going backwards just to spite him. He growled, as he wadded up a piece of paper, chucking it at its face.
"Woah, easy there, tiger. Didn't anybody tell you aggression is going to get you nowhere?"
Aaron rolled his eyes, swiveling on his chair to face the intruder. "What do you want, Garry?"
"Nothing much. Just heard you scream and-"
"And you wanted to pry?" Aaron finished for the other man, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
Garry laughed, tapping a finger on the side of his head. "Bingo. And might that mean I have something to pry into?"
"Has there ever been anything as far as I'm concerned?"
The grin left Garry's face as he shook his head sadly. "Not in the last two years. I'm worried about you, man. It's not good to be alone like that."
Aaron sighed, as he pulled his briefcase open on his desk, shoving some folders into it. "I'm fine. You don't have to worry about me."
"Yeah, probably not," Garry said, his smile returning as he raised an eyebrow. "So, who is she?"
"The dame that's got you jumping out of your desk."
Aaron stopped briefly for a moment, his eyes scanning the document in his hands. "I honestly have no idea what you're talking about."
"And I honestly think you're lying. You only do that whole…" Garry wagged his finger at the clock as he searched for the appropriate term. "That whole, pissed at Father-Time thing when you've got someplace to be."
Aaron furrowed his eyebrows. "And what makes you think this has anything to do with another woman?"
"Well, I doubt you're in a rush to get to the bar." Garry turned on his heels, heading for the door, stopping briefly to call over his shoulder. "Oh, and let me offer you a small piece of advise. If I were you, I'd drop the "other woman" thing. Between that and the ring, you'll never get anybody."
Aaron wanted to throw something at the back of Garry's head as he left, but instead opted to slide into his chair. He heaved a sigh, running his fingers over the gold band that adorned his left hand, the words Garry said ringing in his head, and he began to wonder where it was he had wanted to be.
He wasn't sure what lead him to the ratty old building, but somehow he found himself there, staring up at the flickering neon sign. The Brick House Diner. He shook his head and pushed his way through the doors, his eyes burning as a cloud of smoke overcame him. Forcing aside the urge to cough, Aaron scanned the room, knowing what he was looking for, but unsure as to why. It was only after he was shoved twice and cursed at, that he let his rationality take charge, and he turned for the exit.
He stopped, catching the glimpse of a small blond, waiting on a table in the far corner. Aaron didn't realize he was staring until the person looked up, a grin splitting the elfin face. Donovan turned to the customers, finishing his brief conversation before walking up to Aaron, unable to hide his smile.
"Hey! Wow, what brings you to the neighborhood? Deciding to live a little dangerously?"
Aaron shook his head, scoffing sarcastically. "Yeah. I plan to start the night with bad food, and end it by bringing a stranger to bed."
Donovan's eyes danced as he clicked his tongue, placing his hands on his hips. "And here I thought I was special."
Aaron rolled his eyes at the joke, his lips twitching slightly before he pushed his amusement aside, eyeing Donovan's outfit curiously. "I didn't know you worked here."
"You never asked." The smile slipped from Donovan's face, his arms moving to cross in front of his chest. "But seriously, why are you here? I doubt you came to see me."
Aaron shrugged, turning his head to the side, not really sure he wanted to explain anything. His gaze snapped forward as he heard a loud crash, and something smacked against his chest. His mouth ran dry, his mind filling with a slight haze as he found himself staring into a pair of crystal blue eyes that blinked up innocently. Somehow this all seemed familiar.
"Oh no! I'm so sorry," a small voice said, and Donovan shook his head lightly, pushing back.
"Don't be." He smiled at the young waitress, bending down to help her pick up the slabs of broken glass. "God knows I've done this more times then I can count." He grinned widely as the girl laughed lightly through her nervousness, the smile slipping as he winced. "Damn it."
"What happened?" Aaron peered down to find Donovan staring at a small gash on his finger, almost mesmerized by the blood that oozed from it. He reached into his pocket, pulling out a handkerchief, and extended his hand. "Here you go."
"Huh?" Donovan blinked a few times, and Aaron couldn't help but notice how pale he suddenly became. "Oh. Thank you," he said slowly as he took the cloth and proceeded to wind it around the wound, his fingers moving to wrap tightly around it.
"What happened here?" Aaron looked up to find a rather large man stalk toward them, smearing his hands on the apron around his neck. He opened his mouth to speak, but clamped it shut when Donovan rose to his feet, smiling sheepishly.
"It's alright. There was a small accident, no biggy." The man eyed him warily, shaking his head as his gaze fell on Donovan's hand, and he extended a finger to an empty booth in the corner, nodding to the two men.
"You two, go sit over there for a little while. And you," he barked at the small girl who jumped nervously, her watery eyes going wide. "Go get a broom and finish cleaning this mess up." The waitress nodded, scurrying through the swinging doors behind the counter, and the large man sighed in exasperation. "The new ones are always so jittery."
"Give her some time. She just has to get used to it, that's all."
"Didn't I tell you to go sit down? Your friend comes all this way, and you want to talk to me." He shook his head, raising a hand to his forehead, rubbing lightly. "You kids these days. I don't think I'll ever figure you out. Now go sit down."
"Yes sir!" Donovan grinned as he saluted him, and he reached out with his good hand, his fingers brushing against Aaron's arm. "Come on."
He nodded, following Donovan to the table, all the while wondering why he could still feel that brief touch lingering on his skin. He pushed the thought away as he slid into the booth, pulling the jacket from around his shoulders, and set it next to him.
"Who was that guy?" Aaron asked, as Donovan slid into the seat across from him.
"If that's his name."
Donovan smiled lightly, his gaze falling on his injured finger. "He's the owner of this diner. He's a wonderful man, really."
"Hmm." Aaron pursed his lips in thought, as he ran his hands over the table, grimacing, while he let his gaze wander around the area. The floors were covered in a think layer of mud and dust as people clomped around noisily, and the walls held the same grayish color, every now and then, featuring a blotchy yellow stain. The booths were destroyed to the point that most of the seats contained only a few tuffs of cushioning, and the tables themselves were chipped and gourd under the sticky film that adorned the surfaces.
"Bet you don't often visit places this nice, huh?" Aaron turned slowly as Donovan spoke, not really sure what to say. It was almost as if he had a relavation while looking around the dingy room. The boy in front of him wasn't there to simply pop in and out of his life. He had his own existence he was living, as dismal as it appeared to be.
"I've been to worse," he said slowly, surprised as Donovan broke out into a small fit laughter.
"You have not."
Aaron simply shrugged his shoulders sheepishly, leaning back against his seat.
Donovan sighed, propping his elbows on the table, as he dropped his chin onto his clasped hands. He cocked his head gently to the side, and Aaron shifted under the scrutiny of the gaze. "You know something?"
"You haven't told me your name."
"You didn't ask," Aaron replied, his lips twitching slightly.
Donovan chuckled, shaking his head in amusement. "Well, I'm asking now."
"Is there a last name that goes with that?"
Donovan smiled brilliantly, holding out his good hand toward him. "Well, Aaron Richards, I'm Donovan Haies."
Aaron took the hand hesitantly, realizing how small it was in comparison to his own. They sat there like that for a moment, his fingers curled around Donovan's, as his mind drummed at the familiarity of it all. Why was it that there was always a sense of déjà vu surrounding the wispy blond before him? Why did he see the past in his eyes?
"Um…" He was pulled out of his musings as Donovan spoke, his gaze dropping to their still joined hands. Aaron yanked his away quickly, as if the contact had begun to burn him, and the small tingling sensation left behind made him wonder if, in fact, it had. He turned his head to the side, coughing once in an attempt to uncloud his mind.
"Excuse me." The two men looked up as the waitress from earlier placed two cups of coffee in front of them.
"What's all this?" Aaron asked, raising an eyebrow in confusion.
"On the house."
He opened his mouth to say something to the girl when Donovan interjected with one of his smiles. "Thank you, Janette."
The girl returned the smile, nodding lightly. "Oh, I almost forgot!" She reached into the pocket of her apron, dropping a few small packages on the table before making her way back to work.
Donovan grinned at the girl's back for a moment, before he began unwrapping the handkerchief from around his finger.
"Your girlfriend?" Aaron mentally kicked himself as the words tumbled from his mouth. He was already pretty sure of the answer, but for some reason, he couldn't help but ask him. He eyed Donovan curiously, waiting for his response as he dumped a bit of creamer into his cup.
"Nope," Donovan said, inspecting the wound on his finger with a satisfied nod, before ripping open an alcohol swab.
"How come? She seems like a nice girl." He winced as the blue eyes turned to him in scrutiny, and he could swear they could see right through him. He was relieved when Donovan shrugged, turning back to his task.
"I guess you could just say she's not my type."
Donovan pursed his lips, sighing as he wrapped a bandage around his finger before tearing into another one. "What is it that you really want to know, Aaron?"
Aaron froze at the words, his gaze dropping to rest on a small stain on the table. There was a small pounding in the back of his head, and he raised a hand, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. What did he want to know? "Forget it," he grumbled, as he picked up his coffee, sipping at the bitter liquid.
Aaron nodded, looking over his cup at Donovan. He found himself unable to tear his gaze away as a few silver-gold strands slipped into deep blue eyes.
Donovan shifted uncomfortably, raising his cup to his lips and took a tentative sip, wrinkling his nose in response.
"Do they usually treat all their employees this nicely?" Aaron asked, pointing to the coffee clasped between his hands.
"Nope. I guess I'm just special." Aaron snorted as Donovan laughed lightly, pushing his cup away. "Well, I guess I better get back to work." Donovan rose from his seat, stopping in front of him, grinning broadly. "Thank you for visiting me. You really made my night."
"You're welcome." Aaron simply watched over the rim of his cup as Donovan left, allowing himself to stare for a moment. He slid out of the booth, and leaned over to grab his jacket, shrugging it over his shoulders as he made his way toward the exit. Reaching the door, he gripped the handle, stopping briefly to glance around. He shook his head, as he pushed his way outside, unable to shake the feeling that somebody was watching him.
The darkness clung to every area of the room, hanging cold and heavy as it battled with the hazy glow of the moon. It seemed to laugh as it watched as the dusty light crept through a small crack in the curtains, crawling lazily across the floor. The darkness jumped, retreating to the far corners as a bright glowing light illuminated the room, chasing it back for the time being.
Aaron sighed, running a hand through his hair. No matter how hard he tried, he simply couldn't sleep. His mind raced in a million directions, but for some reason, they all lead back to the blue eyed boy in the filthy diner. He had just met Donovan a few days ago, and up until now, Aaron found him completely irrepressible and nerve-wracking. So, why suddenly did he find himself caring? He wanted to pull him from that dump. Donovan didn't belong there. He was innocence and light, containing a purity that was stifled by such a place.
Aaron shook his head, throwing himself back against his pillow. What was he thinking about? He just met Donovan, and yet he's acting as if he's known him for years. He shouldn't be so hung up over some kid that he'd miss sleep over it. Yet why did he find himself in that very position right now?
He rose a hand to his forehead, rubbing lightly, his gaze falling upon the gold ring that hovered before his eyes. He lowered his hand, simply staring at his finger, watching as the band caught the light, tossing it across it's smooth surface, playfully, and he smiled wistfully. Even the ring itself held Amy's child-like presence, and somehow, that thought soothed him.
He rolled over, clasping his left hand to his chest. He had been told a long time ago that people never die until they're completely forgotten. As his eyes slipped closed, Aaron vowed to never forget, to never let her die, and the small boy was forgotten as sleep stole over him.
A loud knock forced Aaron to glance up from his newspaper. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he folded the paper in half, depositing it onto the table.
"Who the hell can that be?" Aaron shifted through his mind as he made his way over to the door, but came up blank. Nobody's tried to visit him in almost two years.
He yanked open the door, freezing as he found himself staring directly into clear blue eyes.
"Hey," Donovan said softly, reaching up a hand to tuck some of his flaxen strands behind his ear.
"Hey yourself." Aaron pushed his back against the doorframe, his arms moving to cross in front of his chest.
"I…uh…I mean…" He raised an eyebrow as Donovan began shifting from one foot to the other, his discomfort evident. Donovan reached into his pocket, tugging out a small white cloth, and held it out to him, nervously. "The one you lent me was ruined, so I bought you a new one."
Aaron's hands slipped over the handkerchief, his eyes narrowing as they fell along the edge of the cloth. He squinted, trying to make out the reason for the sloppy yellow pattern that was sewn there.
"I noticed that the other one had your initials on it," Donovan began slowly, lowering his gaze as he continued to fidget. "I couldn't afford to get it embroidered or anything, so I tried to do it myself."
Aaron looked up, eyeing Donovan curiously. Why would he go to so much trouble for something as menial as that?
Reaching a hand up, Donovan scratched lightly at his head, offering a sheepish grin. "Yeah, I know. It sucks."
Aaron shook his head lightly, and took a small step back into the house. "Do you want to come in?"
Donovan's face broke out into a large grin, and he nodded quickly, stepping through the entrance. He stood there as Aaron shut the door, turning to him, and they simply stared at each other for a moment, unsure of what to say.
"Um." Aaron cleared his throat, holding up the handkerchief clasped in his fist. "Thanks for this."
"Oh, you're welcome. But I really should be the one thanking you."
"For everything." Donovan smiled up at him, and Aaron found himself at a loss for words. How could this boy be so grateful when he's done nothing for him? Have they really known each other long enough to even make a difference?
An awkward silence filled the room, neither one speaking as they watched each other, just waiting. Aaron let his eyes fall to Donovan, who began shifting his gaze around the room as he twisted his sleeves around his hands.
"Well, I guess I should be-"
"Do you have any plans for today?" The words tumbled from his mouth before he had time to think, and he knew by the wide eyes blinking at him, that he surprised Donovan as much as himself. He wasn't exactly sure why he asked, he just knew he didn't want Donovan to leave.
"Well, no, not really. Do you?" Aaron shook his head in response, only to find Donovan grinning up at him. "Problem solved then."
"And what problem is that?"
"The one with me having nothing to do and being bored all day," Donovan explained as he threw out his hands melodramatically, and Aaron couldn't help but chuckle slightly.
"So I'm told." He dropped him a wink, and reached out, grabbing one of Aaron's hands. "Come on." Aaron raised an eyebrow in confusion, and Donovan gave a small sigh. "Just come with me."
His lips curled into an unnoticeable smile as he watched Donovan huff exasperatedly. Perhaps today wouldn't be so bad.
"This is where you wanted to take me?" Aaron looked around the small park, unable to hide his confusion.
"Yep. Isn't it beautiful here?" He let his gaze wander and had to admit, Donovan had a point. Even in the slight chill, the grass still held it's emerald hues, and the small thicket of trees out on the horizon were just starting to tint in shades of red, yellow, and orange. They walked along a small, paved track that circled the area, the edges adorned with small benches or clean, untouched sections to lay a blanket down. It was a beautiful day, with the sun shining brightly, and the air just crisp enough to see a slight hanging of breath in the air, and as Aaron looked down at the small man next to him, he couldn't agree with the statement more.
"It really is," he agreed and Donovan smiled up at him, his blue eyes sparkling brilliantly as he turned his gaze to wash over the park.
"I come here all the time when I'm alone. I find that just being here like this makes everything seem a little less dark."
"Is it alright?"
"Is what alright?" Donovan turned to look up at him, and Aaron found he couldn't tear himself away from those eyes.
"That you're sharing this with me."
Donovan laughed nervously, his gaze falling to rest on his feet as he stopped walking. "I have a confession to make, Aaron. I brought you here rather selfishly for two reasons." He picked up his head, anxiously looking at the older male to see his reaction.
"Alright," Aaron said slowly, confused by Donovan's sudden change of emotions. "What is it you want from me?"
Donovan's face sparked with hope, and he grabbed Aaron's hand, pulling him over to a bench. "Sit," he instructed, and Aaron couldn't stop the small smirk that curled on his lips.
"That's why you brought me here?"
"Nope, that's only phase one."
He chuckled lightly as he dropped himself onto the bench, crossing a leg over his knee. "And who am I to argue with phase one?"
Donovan laughed as he plopped down next to him and hoisted his leg onto the bench. He pulled his ankle toward him, his knee brushing lightly against the Aaron's thigh as he turned to face him. "Alright, you go first."
Aaron raised an eyebrow in confusion. "First for what?"
"Ask me anything you want to know."
He thought for a moment, considering the offer. He had a million questions for him, and the answers would probably help to curb some of his curiosity. But on the other hand, this whole thing just might strengthen his interest, putting him in a position he wasn't sure he wanted to be in just yet. Aaron blinked as the words crossed his mind. 'Just yet'? Did that mean he'd eventually desire to find himself there?
He shook his head, pushing the idea aside. He wasn't thinking clearly. "Must be all this fresh air," he mumbled to himself, before taking a deep breath. "Alright. How old are you?"
Donovan's eyebrows furrowed lightly. "That's what you want to know about me? My age?"
"Curiosity. Now answer the question."
"Alright, geeze. I'm twenty-three."
Dark eyes widened slightly at the number. "You're twenty-three?"
"Yeah. Well, actually, I'm going to be twenty-four at the end of the month."
Aaron leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest as he quickly counted. There was only a four-year difference between them, he concluded, and he wondered why he suddenly felt a small twinge of relief.
"My turn." Donovan stuck his finger in his mouth, biting innocently on the tip as his face contorted in concentration.
"Any day now," Aaron teased, poking Donovan in the forehead lightly. "Wasn't this your idea?"
"I know. There's just so much I want to ask you." He shifted his eyes to the side as he thought, before giving a swift nod. "I got one. What is it you do for a living?"
"I'm an investment broker."
Aaron laughed, shaking his head lightly. "It's hard to explain, not to mention rather dull."
"Just tell me in layman's terms."
He cupped in chin in thought as he shuffled through his mind for an easy way to describe his line of work. 'Well, to put it in simply, I guess you can say I assist people in financing their money." Donovan stared at him blankly, and he heaved a sigh, trying to find a more simplistic explanation. "People come to me so I can help them save or make money for the future."
"Oh, I think I get it. But, it sounds pretty boring."
"It is." Aaron nodded, chuckling softly. "You have no idea how boring it really is."
"Then why did you choose that profession if you don't like it?"
He leaned his head back as he moved his arms to drape over the bench. "It pays the bills."
"Yeah, but how come-"
"Hey," Aaron interjected, picking up his head to raise an eyebrow. "Weren't you only supposed to ask one question?"
Donovan grinned, shrugging his shoulders lightly. "Oops. Sorry."
"You are not."
"Not really," he said with a small laugh. "Ok, it's your turn."
"You said you're going to be twenty-four this month, right?" He smirked as Donovan nodded, a confused look on his face. "Alright, so when exactly is your birthday?"
"November 30th." Donovan smiled, leaning over as he reached out a hand to tug playfully on Aaron's jacket. "Does that mean you're going to buy me a present?"
"You're awfully hopeful."
"A guy can dream."
Aaron shook his head a bit, biting back a small laugh. "Alright, I get another question."
"No you don't."
"Yes I do. You asked two."
"Yeah, and then you asked two," Donovan pointed out, wagging a finger at him.
Aaron tilted his head to the side, a smirk playing on his lips. "And then you just asked one."
"I-" Donovan stopped as he shifted mentally through the conversation, his mouth dropping open in shock. "Damn it!" He extended a finger, poking Aaron in the chest. "You tricked me."
"That was your own fault, not mine."
Donovan folded his arms against his chest, as he jutted his chin defiantly. "Fine, just ask your question, you cheater."
Aaron chuckled as he searched for something to ask him. He really wanted to inquire if Donovan had anybody special in his life, but he thought the question was too forward, and probably would leave too much room for interpretation. He recalled Donovan's reaction in the diner when he hinted at just that, and he didn't want to find himself in that same situation a second time. Let it not be said that he doesn't learn from his mistakes.
"Don't rush me, I'm thinking."
"Well, that's what you get for cheating."
He shook his head, choosing to ignore Donovan's grumbling. "Why is it that you work at the diner?"
"It pays the bills."
"Are you going to pout the entire time?"
"Yes, until you admit you cheated."
"Fine," Aaron said, heaving a small, exasperated sigh. "I'm sorry I cheated."
Donovan smiled as he reached up, patting the Aaron's head. "There, that wasn't so hard. And now, I get another question, cause you asked two."
"What? You haven't even answered the other one yet." Aaron's eyes narrowed as he ducked from under Donovan's hand.
"Sucks for you."
"Now who's cheating?"
"Don't pout," Donovan teased, his blue eyes sparkling mischievously. "And now I get three questions."
"You're a con artist." Aaron moved his arms to cross in front of his chest, grumbling.
"I'm a what?"
"You heard me. A con artist."
"How am I a con artist?"
"You reel 'em in with that sweet innocent boy act, and then you pounce, taking whatever it is you want."
Donovan laughed, shaking his head gently. "And what exactly is it that I want from you?"
"I'm not exactly sure," Aaron began, smirking at the other male. "But all I know is that you just used up all three of your questions."
Donovan's eyes widened, as his mouth fell open. "That's so unfair!"
"Sucks for you."
"Aaron…" Donovan whined out, tugging on the sleeve of his jacket.
"That's not going to work."
He turned his head, only to find Donovan blinking his large eyes innocently up at him, his lower lip quivered slightly, and Aaron felt his resolve weaken. He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Like I said, you're a con-artist."
"Does that mean I get my question back?"
"Yeah. Fine, take your question."
"Thank you," Donovan cheered, leaning over to place a quick peck on Aaron's cheek, before concentrating on his question.
Aaron sat there in shock, his eyes widening. He had no idea why Donovan just did that, and what confused him even more was that he found himself searching for a hidden meaning behind it. What was it about this boy that warped his mind, turning all his thoughts into something cryptic and obscure?
"There is something I want to ask you, but I'm afraid you're going to hate me for it."
"Just ask it," he said, turning slowly from his daze. He watched as Donovan considered it for a moment before giving a small nod. Aaron felt his heart drum wildly in his chest as Donovan reached over, placing a hand tentatively over his left one.
"That day…was it her that you were going to see?"
Aaron's gaze shot up, eyes narrowing. "What?"
"At the hospital that day. You were going to see about your wife, weren't you?"
"How did you-" His mind reeled, as he stared at Donovan in shock, wondering how he knew what he was never told. Donovan looked at him, his face filled with concern, and it was as if a dam burst inside his mind, reveling images that were long since repressed. That splitting pain in his head…the blood on his hands…those deep blue eyes laced with worry…the soothing touches…the small blond sprawled out across the floor…the rush…the panic…the fear…the sadness…the truth…the guilt… It was all there in his mind, playing over inside of his head. The day Amy died.
"Aaron?" Donovan's voice was small, his worry evident in simply his tone, yet Aaron found himself unable to look at him.
"That was you." He hid his face in his hands, speaking slowly, as if trying to explain the situation to himself.
"Yeah, that was me," Donovan whispered back, hanging his head as he averted his gaze.
They sat there in tortured silence for what seemed like hours, until Aaron lost control of the small sobs that began to rise from his throat as the memory of that day hovered like a black cloud over him.
At the sound, Donovan jumped to his feet, moving over to kneel before him, placing his hands lightly on Aaron's knees. "Aaron, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked that, knowing full well what the answer was going to be. I'm so sorry." He sighed as Aaron shook his head, refusing to look up. "Aaron, please look at me."
"I'm fine," came his muffled reply, and Donovan leaned in, placing his hands right below the Aaron's wrists, gently pushing his arms down.
Aaron kept his head bowed as he tried to hide the tears that streaked his face. His gaze shot up as he felt Donovan place a small hand to his cheek, his thumb gently brushing away the moisture.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you like this. I just wanted to-" Donovan shook his head lightly, averting his eyes as he repeated the words again. "I'm so sorry."
"It was a car crash," Aaron stated slowly, and he saw Donovan's eyes snap forward in surprise as he spoke. "I don't remember all the details that well, all I know is that it was an accident." He scoffed, lowering his head further. "That's what they said. I loose the most important thing in my life, and they call it an 'accident'. Nobody to blame, no closure, nothing. I'm left with nothing, and all they can tell me is it was a fucking 'accident'."
"Aaron…" Donovan's small whimper pulled Aaron from his rant, and he felt a small pang of guilt when he saw a solitary tear fall from those blue eyes. "I-"
Aaron squeezed his eyes shut, yet the tears broke through, streaming steadily down his face. "I didn't even get to say goodbye," he choked, his shoulders heaving with each sob. He felt as Donovan lowered his forehead to rest against one of his knees, attempting to offer a bit of silent comfort.
Aaron allowed himself a moment longer, before pushing his grief aside, wiping the evidence from his cheeks. Throwing his head back against the bench, he drew in a shaky breath, soothing his frazzled mind. He looked down at Donovan, who was still kneeling at his feet, his small hands resting on his knees, and Aaron just let his gaze linger, not wanting to speak just yet.
After a minute, Donovan picked himself up, hiding his face as he wiped at his eyes with a sleeve. He sniffled lightly, and made a small hiccuping sound as he spoke, his voice barely above a whisper. "I'm really sorry."
Aaron simply shook his head, silently telling Donovan it was alright. He didn't want to admit it, but he actually felt quite a bit better, and he wondered how long it had been since the last time he allowed himself to grieve like that. How long since he allowed himself to remember. He pushed the thought aside as he heaved a deep sigh, running his hands through his hair. "It's my question now, right?"
"Huh?" Donovan turned to him, his slightly puffy eyes blinking in shock. "I guess," he said slowly, as if he was unsure of the correct answer.
Aaron rose to his feet. "You told me before that you brought me here selfishly for two reasons. One, I'm now aware of," he stated carefully. "What was the other reason?"
Donovan stared at him for a moment, before shifting his gaze to wash across the park, his eyes narrowing sadly. "I often come here by myself, and I was hoping that if I brought you with me, the next time I came here, it would seem a bit less lonely." He looked up, offering a tiny smile. "That's it, I suppose."
Aaron stood there in silence, before nodding slightly. He reached out, placing his hand on Donovan's back, giving him a small shove. "Come on."
Donovan stumbled a bit, turning to look at the Aaron over his shoulder. "Where are we going?"
"We'll do one more lap, and then I want to grab something to eat. I'm starving."
They began walking slowly around the track, and Aaron let himself get lost in his surroundings, understanding why Donovan came here. He looked down in shock as he felt Donovan's hands slip around his arm, dropping his head against it lightly. His first impulse was to pull away, but the content expression on Donovan's face made him reconsider, and he found himself relaxing into the touch. He was surprised to find that slight nagging feeling in the back of his head was still there, and he furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. He thought that now he realized where he knew Donovan from, that feeling of familiarity would have vanished along with the information. But here it was, strumming at his nerves once again, giving him an air of déjà vu.
"Huh?" Aaron blinked back into reality as Donovan halted in his tracks, and he turned to look down at him. "What is it?"
"Didn't you say you wanted to go?"
Aaron glanced around, realizing they were stopped in front of the exit. "Oh, yeah. I guess I did say that."
"Do you think we can do one more lap?"
Aaron shook his head, smiling lightly as Donovan peeked up at him, his expression hopeful. "Sure." Donovan grinned as Aaron offered him his arm, which he happily accepted, wrapping himself around it as they walked.
"Thank you," Donovan whispered, as he leaned against him, letting his eyes slip closed.
Aaron turned the key, pushing his way into the house. He entered, shutting the door behind him, and threw his keys onto the coffee table, and yanked at his collar, unbuttoning his shirt as he made his way to the bedroom. Flopping onto the bed, he slipped his hands behind his head, and gave a small sigh as he stared at the ceiling. It was only 8:45, but his body felt as if he had run a marathon. He allowed a small smile to play on his lips at the thought. Donovan was just full of energy, dragging him to this place and that, having to stop every five minutes to get lost in a crowd, forcing Aaron to search for him.
There weren't enough words to describe what Donovan was doing to him, and he couldn't say he quite understood it himself. He found himself craving Donovan's company, enjoying his attentions and even the small touches didn't seem to bother him as much as they should. Aaron shook his head, pushing the thought aside. Donovan was an affectionate person, he rationalized, one that seemed to desire some degree of physical interactions, and Aaron was starved from that very thing. It was only natural that after two years of avoidance, he would long for human contact, right?
He flopped over onto his side, pulling a pillow under his head. Two years. It's been two years since his life fell apart, leaving him desolate and alone. But in Donovan, he saw the same sadness, the same haunted look in those blue eyes that his smile would rarely reach, and perhaps that was where Aaron saw his connection to him, why he felt so comfortable with him.
He tossed and turned for a moment, as he thought on Donovan's expressions. Through out the entire afternoon, he had seemed happy and content, fairly glowing with his laughter. But right before they parted, he had paled several shades, becoming jumpy and anxious. The change occurred once again after he asked the time, followed by his insistence to be home. It was the same as that first night when Aaron had brought Donovan to his home and made them dinner, though the reaction this time seemed to be a bit more extreme.
He focused on a small blemish on the ceiling, replaying the days in his head, but he came up blank, not able to figure out a logical reason for Donovan's disappearances. The idea to ask Donovan, himself, ran through his mind briefly before he ruled it out. For whatever reason, he knew that wasn't something he could do so simply. If it were, Donovan would have offered some sort of explanation, and the last thing he wanted to do was jeopardize whatever they had going right now. Maybe it was selfish of him, but Aaron knew he needed this, probably more than he even realized, and he had a feeling that Donovan needed him just the same.
…..to be continued