Author: Justin Armstrong PM
SLASH. When James receives an unexpected visit from someone he thought he'd left behind years ago, he finds his life suddenly taking an unexpected turn. As if life hadn't been hard enough beforehand….Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 4,892 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 11-25-09 - Published: 08-02-09 - id: 2704595
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
First story. Feedback and reviews are a plus. Let me know if you're interested in proofreading future chapters; I need an editor. Thanks, and have fun reading.
James was never a morning person, see.
He always hated mornings. They were really never to his taste, the blinding lashes of light always chasing away his dreams of the night before. It was too bright, it was too early—there was simply nothing favorable about it. And so, as James always saw it, why bother investing in something he wanted nothing to do with?
Yet that morning had been different, for unexpectedly there had been a knocking upon his front door. James had initially grumbled and complained, yet in due time he pulled himself out of the sheets; while he could easily ignore or silence clock alarms, such was not the case with unexpected visitors. He was not at all pleased with the bright lights blinding his eyes, nor was he in favor of the fatigue that resulted in a lack of sleep. Of all nights to have gone to bed so late….
"Quit the knocking, I'm coming!" James barked, pulling a shirt over his head as he took a look at himself in the full length mirror by his bedroom door. He was clearly still tired, his hazelnut eyes barely visible under his heavy and persistent eyelids. His curly, dark red hair was in a mess, disheveled and untidy in many directions. He made one attempt to flatten the loose hairs, but when they resisted his attempts he shrugged and gave up. After making sure his appearance was relatively presentable, he exited his room and made way to greet his visitor.
It wasn't that far of a walk from his bedroom to the front door, but his fatigue and the time of day both hindered his speed. He hobbled over to the door, still rubbing his eyes as they attempted to adjust to the light in his apartment; and as he unlocked the door with one hand he swung it open and peered outside.
"James!" James took a step backward, clearly taken off-guard by the friendly greeting of the stranger before him. He blinked once to make sure the man before him was indeed a stranger, and he even blinked a second time to make sure his eyes weren't simply deceiving him; he seemed vaguely familiar, but he was sure this stranger wasn't the one person he thought it could be.
When he was forced to come to the conclusion that he just did not know this man standing at his door, James had no friendly words to offer the stranger.
"I'm sorry. I don't think I know you."
"That's a terrible joke to play on an old friend!" the man persisted, running a gloved hand through his short black hair in an attempt to rid his head of the falling snowflakes. "It's quite cold outside and I don't want to have to stay out here for much longer."
"But I don't know who you are," James said as politely as he could, "and I'm too tired to entertain guests I hardly know."
"Don't be like that, James!" the stranger said, outstretching his arms. "Come on, you don't remember me?"
"Not quite," replied James, shaking his head. "Haven't a clue. Where've we met?"
"You really don't remember?" the man asked in disbelief. "Man, we went to school together, remember? We were best buds!"
"A name would probably ring more of a bell," said James, stifling a yawn as he continued to squint at his visitor. It was much brighter outside than it was within his apartment, and he was beginning to have enough of this surprise guest. "And by school you mean university or high school?"
"High school," said the man. "I can't believe you really don't remember me, James!"
"I'm sorry," James found himself saying once more, though he was hardly listening at this point. "Look, I'm sorry I don't recognize your appearance. Just give me your name already, and if I really don't remember you then please leave me alone and let me go back to sleep."
"You were never much of a morning person, I know." The man smiled, shaking his head as he gave a laugh. "Connor Fielding. Does the name ring a bell?"
"Connor… Fielding…?" James's eyes grew wide; the one person he thought it couldn't be, the one person he wished it hadn't been….
"James?" Connor asked, tilting his head in confusion. "Man, you seem like you've seen a ghost!"
"I'm sorry," James muttered quickly, and before Connor had a chance to question him James slammed the door shut. But though Connor's presence was no longer there his eyes remained open, his breathing quickened in pace, and he began to feel beads of sweat forming upon his forehead….
"Why?" he asked no one in particular, pounding a closed fist upon his kitchen table. Connor Fielding, his best friend from the time they could both walk until their last year in high school…. They'd been inseparable when they'd first met, even in the last days they were in talking terms—but almost one month before their high school graduation they had had a falling out, having never talked to each other since… but he wasn't supposed to have come back!
Grumbling under his breath, James proceeded in making himself a cup of coffee. He was already awake and there would be no returning to sleep with the intrusion of these new thoughts, so he figured he might as well stay awake. But as he busied himself while his coffee brewed, he couldn't help but to see the face of the man at his door, as if it were imprinted upon the back of his mind….
James had to admit, Connor had really done a lot of growing since they departed. For instance, James distinctly remembered Connor's hair being a light brown and slightly longer in length—though it was quite easy to dye and cut hair. But his face also seemed bonier, longer, less boyish than the one he'd known from his younger days….
"You seriously won't open up for me?" asked Connor's muffled voice through the closed door. "Come on James, it took me forever to figure out what you were doing these days, let alone where you lived! You're not really going to let my efforts go to waste, are you?"
James said nothing, choosing not to make a reply. Later he'd have to figure out how Connor had gotten hold of his living quarters, but right now was not the time. Images of Connor's face fleeted through his mind once more, his voice now echoing in the silence of his apartment. It was noticeably deeper now, as much as he refused to accept it himself….
"What do you want?" James yelled from the kitchen, hoping Connor could hear him.
"I just wanted to catch up with an old friend," Connor replied honestly. "That couldn't possibly be a crime, could it?"
James sighed, shaking his head defiantly. Did Connor truly not remember their falling out in high school? They had left that place in bad terms; surely the man couldn't just skip back into his life as if nothing had happened?
Except… as far as Connor knew….
"I'm sorry for having come," James suddenly found Connor saying from his side of oak. "I should've remembered that you hated mornings. Should I try again another day, maybe not so early in the morning?—but I only came this early because it was the only time I could fit a visit into my schedule. But if you really won't let me in—"
"I'm coming already," James said with irritation, pushing himself from the kitchen counter to open the door once more. Honestly said, James would rather Connor not come back at all—but perhaps out of guilt or sheer kindness he'd changed his mind and decided to let him in, if anything just to hear him out. Besides, letting his old friend freeze to death outside his door was simply… well, inhumane to say the least.
"Thanks," Connor weakly as he stepped inside, quickly sighing in relief as the warmth of the indoors wrapped around him. James merely shrugged, walking away and more or less ignoring his guest's presence. Connor shook his head quickly to shake off stray snowflakes, like a dog having just taken a bath; and he quickly took off his boots before joining James in the kitchen.
"Sorry again for waking you up so early," said Connor when James had looked to his direction. "Especially on a Sunday morning too, that's quite the crime I think."
"You said it wasn't a crime, earlier."
"Catching up with an old friend wasn't a crime, is what I believe I said. Waking you up at an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning is nothing short of one." James merely shrugged, turning away as he checked upon the brewing coffee.
"That's really the only reason you're here?" asked James, his voice dripping with slight curiosity.
"Can't say I came with any other reason in mind. But I guess whatever happens, happens right?" Connor flashed James a friendly smile, to which James merely bit his lip and turned to the coffee once more.
"You look… different," James muttered into the cup. "Hardly recognized you when I opened the door." And if he had noticed him, James probably wouldn't have opened that door….
"I've grown some," Connor said, noticing James was still not talking to his face. "Oh come on James, you're acting no differently than when you broke up with me years ago."
"B-broke up w-with you?" James sputtered, eyes growing wide. "W-what?"
"Sure," said Connor nonchalantly, "that was basically how it happened, right? One day you suddenly PMS on me, and suddenly you're avoiding me and ignoring all my phone calls."
James shook his head, ridding himself of Connor's terminology. He had to remind himself, Connor knew nothing; he meant nothing by it. Nothing at all….
"So you do remember then," he said quietly. "Why'd you come here then, knowing that?"
Now it was Connor's turn to shrug. "Suppose I wanted an explanation," he said. "That's all. And to catch up of course."
"You couldn't just accept that some friends just drift away from each other?"
"Usually when that happens they don't part ways with one outright declaring the end of the friendship." James shrugged again, leaving the coffee pot to find a mug. It wasn't exactly how he'd planned on spending his Sunday morning, reasoning with a friend he'd left behind years ago. But maybe if Connor heard his explanation, maybe he'd—no. James couldn't do something like that.
"I'm sorry," Connor suddenly apologized, backing away from the other man. "It's not very polite of me, barging into your home and demanding explanations." Connor certainly apologized a lot, James happened to notice, but he dismissed it and reasoned that it was simply because he felt guilty or at fault for their falling out. Not that there was any other explanation to it, though.
"I'm just cranky," James said simply, pouring himself a cup of coffee. "Do you want some?" he added, tipping a second mug to Connor.
The black-haired man nodded, muttering his thanks as he took his cup gratefully. For a moment the two merely stood sipping their drinks, bathing in the silence that remained between them. The tension from years before was clearly still there, or so James believed, and it was almost as if the two had never split ways save the constant mentioning of their falling out. Yet something was different, if James could only figure out what it was.
Whether it was out of guilt or hospitality James wasn't sure, but what he had said next surprised even him upon reflection: "Do you wanna maybe… I dunno, get something to eat later in the day?—maybe closer to noon, when I've woken up a little bit? Then I wouldn't mind chatting—"
"I can't," interjected Connor dejectedly. "Really, like I said, this morning was the only time I could really fit a visit with you. I have to drive back to Fort Collins for a meeting at eleven, so I can't really stay long."
"Oh," said James quietly, his spirits falling. "Maybe another time?"
"Would tomorrow at noon work?" asked Connor, pulling out his phone. "Or maybe Tuesday evening? Otherwise… I don't really think I have anymore open times, maybe Friday afternoon…."
"I have work tomorrow," said James, shaking his head. "Tuesday evening I probably could do, though."
"Then it's settled," said Connor, nodding as he pocketed his phone once more. "Sorry I couldn't stay, and sorry again for waking you up so early."
"It's all right," said James, though inside he knew he detested already being up. "Sorry if I was being harsh earlier. Just cranky, that's all."
"Just don't leave me in the cold on Tuesday," Connor said jokingly, his eyes turning to the door. "Well," he said, nodding courteously, "I'll be seeing you then?"
"Yeah," said James, and out of politeness he saw him out the door. He'd waited for Connor to fully descend the stairs and to disappear from his sight before shutting his apartment door once more. He heaved a sigh, returned to the kitchen, picked up his mug, and retreated to his bedroom once more.
"What a morning," James said to himself, glancing at the alarm clock at the bedside: Seven thirty. It was still ridiculously early to be awake on a Sunday morning, yet he'd already gone on quite the emotional roller coaster.
Why had he come for him? Had he figured out anything new since their days in high school? There were so many questions racing through his mind, so many unanswered thoughts forming in his consciousness. And there were certainly a lot of uncertainties floating in the air, but James had at least become certain of two things from Connor's surprise visit:
The first, that the barrier he had set up to keep Connor out had indeed weakened since he had erected it.
And the other, that he had indeed felt disappointed when Connor had turned down the lunch plans he'd proposed.