Early to Rise

The first time Clayton "Bear" Piatt noticed his boyfriend's habit of waking up before the sunrise, they had been living together for three months. He had been drifting in and out of sleep for a couple hours, his mind refusing to shut down.

Just as Bear was ready to roll over and close his eyes once more, he realized that Daniel wasn't in the bed they shared, though his side was still warm, so he couldn't have been awake for too long.

Bear looked around the room, but the five AM darkness didn't allow for much visibility, so, with a sigh, he pulled the blankets from his body and stood up, walking into the living room in his boxers, finding his way around by memory, rather than sight.

Dan was sitting on the leather couch, blades of the ceiling fan above him spinning, the air in the room pleasantly cool. He was already dressed in a tee-shirt, black jeans, and a beanie (the one he wore when he wasn't in the mood to bother doing his hair). The black-framed glasses he used only sparingly (which Bear found unbelievably sexy on him) rested on the end of his nose, and he had a cup of coffee on the table in front of him, steam curling off the top.

He was reading a book, but Bear couldn't see what the words on the cover read, since the only real illumination came from the little light Dan had clipped onto it.

"What are you doing up?" Bear asked, crossing the living room to sit down next to Daniel on the couch. He reached over Dan's knees and grabbed his coffee cup, taking a sip. It tasted dark and watery, with the vaguest hint of sweetness - Dan took his coffee black, adding nothing but a little sugar.

Dan didn't look up from his book as he replied, the slight lisp with which he spoke making Bear smile, as it often did,

"I get up early almost every morning."

"Why?"

Dan shrugged, turning a page.

"No idea. I just wake up and then can't fall back asleep."

"How have I not noticed that before?" Bear's question was meant more for himself than for Dan, but he responded, anyway, a bright, wickedly attractive grin gracing his features,

"Because you sleep like a log."

Dan's smile was usually small and shy, as though he were embarrassed by it, but this smile - the big one - was what Bear knew to be his real one. It was the one he only really let out when he was with his close friends, or alone with his boyfriend, and Bear loved it.

The next time Bear woke up in bed alone, several weeks later, it was four-thirty, and the house was quiet. He walked into the living room, but Dan was nowhere to be found. He looked throughout their home, turning on lights as he did, but still couldn't find him. He chose not to worry, instead getting himself a glass of water from the filtered pitcher in the fridge.

When he finished his water and turned to wash the glass out in the sink, he noticed that there was an unusual draft coming from underneath the door that led to the garage. That only happened when someone had entered the place through the kitchen.

But how could somebody have done such a thing?

Bear's mind immediately switched over to fight mode, assuming they were being robbed. He left his water glass on the counter and walked quickly and quietly into the bedroom, punching in the code for the keypad that opened his gun safe.

Bear's father hadn't panicked, per say, when he found out his son was bisexual, years ago, but, being something of a "man's man", there were certain values he insisted on instilling, no matter what. This included a general belief in Christianity, the ability to drive a stick shift in a pickup truck, and enough knowledge about firearms to be able to handle them competently.

The young man took all three of these things and ran with them - he had gone to a Christian school for every one of his grade school years, and still read his Bible daily, he continued to drive the pickup his father had handed down to him, and he could handle a gun better than a man who would likely never participate in a war had any right to. And he was about to get the opportunity to prove that.

He got his handgun, checked to make sure it was loaded, then tip-toed back into the kitchen. Holding the gun up in front of his face like a shield, he turned the knob of the door that led to the garage and pushed it open, heart beating so loudly, he could hear it in his ears. It was dark, so he took a few cautious steps forward, trying to remain sure of just where it was he was stepping. He knew of every single object in this garage, and he assumed that gave him an advantage over any potential robbers.

Despite the darkness, he kept his eyes and ears peeled, feeling a little bit like a secret agent on a dangerous mission. Then the thought of the actual danger he could be getting himself into came back to him, and his thoughts turned somber and serious once more.

"It's either you or the other guy," Bear's father told him the first time he had put a gun into his hands, at fourteen. "Remember that, son." The man's voice had been grave and a little sad, something that Bear hadn't understood, at first. If you had the gun, you had the power, right? What was there to feel sad about?

But he came to understand it as he got older - handling a weapon was a huge responsibility, and things could go wrong in a millisecond. One misstep, and your entire life could change forever. He had no intention of letting something like that happen, especially when he had no idea where Dan was. The mere thought of something happening to him was more than the man could stomach.

He saw something move in front of his eyes, but wasn't sure of what it could be. Figuring the element of surprise was the way to go, he kept walking quietly, inching closer and closer to whatever was moving.

He now knew, based on the shape in the darkness, that it absolutely had to be a person. He threw out a quick, silent prayer to God, steadied his gun in one hand, then used the other one to reach upwards and pull the chain that would manually turn on the light that would have automatically done so, had the garage door been opened.

After having been in the dark for so long, the brightness was nearly blinding, but he fought against it. A single second could mean the difference between life and death.

At the same time that the light came on, the person whirled around from where they had been sitting on the bench of a piano keyboard, headphones covering their ears, so as not to disturb anyone else with the noise, the bright green tips of their spiked black hair making them look, for just a second, like some sort of ethereal creature.

"Oh, damn it, Daniel!" Bear swore, lowering his gun. If he wasn't so hopped up on adrenaline, he would have cracked up at the petrified look in Dan's wide brown eyes, which shot from the gun, to Bear's face, and then to the gun once more.

"Were you going to shoot me?" Dan's voice was high, hitting a pitch far more elevated than he would ever care to admit when he spoke the word "shoot". He ripped his headphones off while Bear replied, fighting the sudden burst of laughter he felt bubbling up in his throat,

"I thought you were a robber! I think I need to start locking you in at night, man. These "early bird" habits of yours are going to get you killed."

"I'm sorry, I didn't think I had to worry about being shot by my boyfriend in our own home!" Dan's cheeks were bright red, his tone of voice making his indignation clear. He was acting so serious that the laughter Bear had been forcing down finally came to the surface, spilling from his mouth in loud, hardy chuckles. He flicked the safety on the gun, carefully put it on the ground, then sat down on the piano bench, still laughing.

Bear turned slightly to give Dan a kiss on the top of his head, but he chose to ignore him, feigning anger as he unplugged his headphones, wrapped them up, put them in his lap, then started playing the beginning of a song that Bear didn't recognize. It didn't matter, though - knowing him, he would pick up on it soon enough.

On a night in early December - two days before Dan's birthday - Bear awoke to the chill of the air, reflexively feeling for his boyfriend beside him, as they had a tendency to curl up close together in their sleep on cold nights such as these. But he wasn't there.

Bear got out of bed, pulled on a pair of sweats and a hoodie, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, then went about the familiar task of figuring out just where Dan had gone.

He eventually found him lying in the bed of the truck, which Bear had chosen to park in the driveway that night, rather than in the garage. He wore the pajama pants he had gone to bed in, and a sweatshirt of Bear's. His toes were turning purple from the cold, but he kept moving his feet from side to side, hoping it would help with the circulation of his blood.

Bear unwrapped the blanket from his shoulders, jumped up into the truck bed, and lay down beside Dan, covering the both of them up, a little worried about the color of Dan's feet. He was pretty sure it wasn't healthy for them to be looking like that.

"What are you doing out here?" He asked, voice quiet. "It's freezing."

"Couldn't sleep," was Dan's response, his eyes turned upwards, towards the sky. "Thought I'd come out here to look at the stars." His voice sounded more tired than usual, but Bear chose to ignore it, saying instead,

"It is pretty out tonight." He smiled when Dan hummed in agreement, feeling every movement as he inched closer to the man's body, resting his head on his chest. "Are you sure you don't want me to-"

He stopped in mid-sentence when he turned his head and saw that, for once, Dan had fallen back asleep after rising early. He would have to wake him up soon, to keep his body temperature from dropping too low, but for now, he would just let him sleep.

Bear gave Dan a soft kiss on the lips, then pulled the blanket up to his chin, hoping it would help to warm him.

"I love you," he whispered in Dan's ear, moving the blanket a little closer to his own body, fighting the chill. He pushed his fingers into Dan's hair, playing with the strands, and tilted his neck, getting a better angle from which to watch the stars.