Title: Idolizing Dame Damely

Rating: I believe it's safe to label this as "R"

Summery: Shane is a shy gay boy who lives above a cafe in Kent, and who is to walk into that cafe one Sunday but the outspoken rocker Shane idolizes, called Dame. Slashy- enjoy!

Current Music: The Decemberists: "The Engine Driver"

Chapter Twelve: The Good Czar


Nick met Eric when they were eleven years old and the young, wiry Russian boy had just moved from St. Petersburg to Kent. Nick was hauling a box of kitchen wear out of his father's truck, glum with the anxiety of having to start over in a new country, when a boy with messy spikes for hair marched up to him.

"You new here?" the kid asked, digging his hands into his jeans pockets.

"Yes." Nick's knowledge of English was awfully limited, though more extensive than that of his father. "You are?"

The boy sputtered a laugh, shaking his head. "No, I live here. Are you a communist?"

"I don't know. What is 'communeez'?" Nick asked curiously, loosening his grip on the box in his hands.

"I dunno," the boy replied, running a hand through his gelled hair, "But my ol' dad says that's what foreigners are. You must be foreign – you've got a queer accent."

"Well, you have queer accent more," Nick challenged, setting the box beside his feet.

The boy laughed, all of his bright teeth showing. "You're so odd. I'm Eric."


After that, Eric taught Nick everything: English slang, how to skateboard, how to smoke, how to smile. He even taught him how to kiss.

They were fifteen when it happened, sitting in Eric's small bedroom, on a bed with holes worn into the sheets. The entire house looked as though it was about to collapse at any second, but for once Nick wasn't thinking about that. Tonight Eric was going to pierce his ear, and Nick couldn't help but feel nervous. Eric's father was mercifully not at home, leaving the two boys alone together.

This year, Nick's best friend had a much thinner face, his jaw line hard and defined like marble, and his sandy hair was styled in a mohawk, dark from the gel holding it in place. He wore a tight, pink Queen tee shirt as he ran a sewing needle back and forth through the little flame of his lighter. "Keep holding the ice there," he said as he worked, and Nick was beginning to think that his left ear would fall off from the biting cold. Still he pressed the little block of ice harder to it. "Okay. You ready, N? Did you pick an earring?"

Nick held out a small silver stud he'd found in Eric's box of earrings, and took a shaky breath. He felt Eric's hand cupping his right cheek to tilt his face to the side, exposing his left ear.

"Drop the ice," Eric said gently, his brow furrowed in concentration. Nick slowly did as he was told, then flinched at the sting of the needle pushing through his earlobe. "There," Eric proclaimed, "Now give me the earring." With trembling fingers, Nick handed the stud to his friend. In one swift movement, Eric pulled out the needle and replaced it with the earring, then screwed on the back. "Done. Looks great."

"Yeah?" Nick offered, still trying to cease his shaking.

Eric smiled handsomely, pulling Nick to his feet and forcing his head to the side so he could see the piercing in the small mirror on the tar-stained wall.

Nick smirked a little. "My dad's going to kill me when he sees this."

"No, he won't. Your dad wouldn't kill you," Eric answered, tugging Nick back down to the bed with him. He grinned almost maniacally, and pointed to the silver bolt through his left eyebrow. "When my ol' dad saw this, he flogged me good. Take a look at this." He turned his left hand over, palm-side up. In the center of his palm where all the lines met, a dark, scarlet ring was visible. A cigarette burn.

Nick cringed a little, feeling ill at the sight of it. "Oh, Eric," he said softly, reaching out and running his thumb carefully over the wound. His friend closed his eyes, long blonde lashes like tinsel over his cheekbones, and without warning, Eric's hand closed around Nick's tightly. Nick should've been surprised, but he wasn't. At that moment he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He dipped his head down and pressed his lips into Eric's, hard. It lasted little more than two seconds, and Eric drew back from the kiss abruptly, tilting his head to one side.

"You're doing it all wrong," he said bluntly, and Nick felt his stomach sink a bit. Eric smiled genuinely, looking into Nick's face with extreme scrutiny. "Let me show you."

He brought his free hand behind Nick's head, tangling his fingers in the thick, black hair as he slowly pulled his friend back to him, lips meeting lips gently this time. Nick shivered when he felt Eric's tongue running over his bottom lip, and he opened his mouth tentatively to receive him. As their tongues touched experimentally, Eric pulled Nick's hand up under the other boy's tee shirt, and Nick timidly placed his palm flat against Eric's bare chest, feeling the warm skin there. He wanted to feel more.

He broke the kiss to ease Eric's shirt over his head, then stopped abruptly at what he saw. He had never seen his friend shirtless before, and seeing him now made him want to weep. "бог," he whispered – "God" in Russian – and slowly extended a hand, tracing his fingertips over a large, purple bruise across Eric's ribs. There was a darker one on his right hip.

Eric looked at the wall behind Nick. "It's nothing, really." He hissed sharply as Nick's fingers skimmed his sore hipbone. "Leave it, Mate."

The black-haired boy was speechless, mouth agape while his other hand moved to stroke Eric's flushed cheek delicately. The wounded boy closed his eyes again as if offering his permission for Nick to keep going.

Suddenly a door slammed downstairs and Eric jerked his body away, eyes wide. "Oh, fuck, you've got to leave right now," he cried, rushing to the nearest window and throwing it open. Nick didn't have to be told twice – he'd had to escape from the house a few times before. He quickly slid his legs over the windowsill and around the branch of an old apple tree.

A raspy slur sounded from below the bedroom floorboards: "Why the hell ain't the lights on? 'Ey!" – the stomping of boots – "Why the fuck are the lights off, you stupid faggot?!"

Nick shifted his weight on the limb, turning back to his friend sympathetically. "He's going to hurt you again; you can't stay here. Come with me!"

Eric shook his head dismissively. "No, it's no use."

"Eric!" Nick pleaded.

"Be sure to put alcohol on your ear or all my work will go to shit." The spiky-haired boy cracked a half-convincing smile. When Nick didn't return it, Eric said, "Oh, lighten up," then closed the window, leaving them both helpless.

Nick didn't wait around to see what would happen next. As he had done times before, he carefully climbed down to the withered lawn and proceeded to run the four blocks to home.

In the four years Nick had known Eric's horrible secret, he had never told anybody a word about it. So many times, as he was running from that dying house, he'd desperately wanted to turn and make for the police station. He wanted to tell the officers that a boy was being abused by his old drunkard father. "Do something!" But Eric wouldn't let him. Eric believed in fighting his own battles, and Nick knew that if he told anyone, the person he cared for most would hate him forever.

That didn't seem reason enough tonight, though. After seeing all the painful marks branded into his friend's skin, parts of reality at last began to drop out of the sky like clusters of hail. Nick's chest felt heavy as he ran. His lips were rough from Eric's kisses.

He would do anything for Eric, even if it meant losing him.

When he had climbed the stairs to his room, he seized the telephone from its wall cradle and dialed the police.

"Hello – listen, I need you to go to forty-six Whitman Street. It's an emergency..."


Eric wasn't in school the next two days, and Nick was starting to suffocate in his own anxiety. Where was he? He had to know if he was all right.

The eleven o'clock bell rang, and classroom doors were flung open as eager students were released for lunch. Chattering teenagers flooded the corridor, and Nick decided that he didn't have the will to meet his other friends right now, and instead sought refuge in the boy's loo.

He sighed as the wooden door closed behind him, enjoying the sudden decrease in noise volume. He went to the farthest sink beside the one, small window in the room, and gazed pensively at his reflection in the grubby mirror on the tiled wall. His left ear was still a little red from the piercing, he noticed, and began fingering the little earring idly.

"Don't do that. You'll pull it out."

The Russian boy blinked, surprised to see a familiar face staring back at him from behind his own mirror image. He whipped around abruptly, melting at the sight of his friend. "Eric, I'm so happy to see-"

"You feel proud of yourself?" Eric's expression was hard, almost malicious.

"What for?" Nick asked softly, suddenly frightened.

Without warning, Eric stalked foreword, pinning Nick hard against the rim of the sink, knees against knees, thighs against thighs, and Eric's palms flat against the tiles on either side of Nick's rigid body. "Don't you tell me 'what for'," he said sharply, his hot breath on Nick's cheek. "The other night, the police came, searched 'round the house and found my dad's hidden 'E'. Now he's in prison and I can't live with him anymore."

Nick averted his eyes nervously. "Isn't that good?"

"Did you tell them?" When Nick didn't answer, Eric roughly gripped his chin with one hand and forced the black-haired boy to look at him. "Did you tell?" he hissed.

Nick squeezed his eyes tightly shut and nodded. "I was scared for you. I wanted to do the right thing …"

"Ah, yeah." Eric drew back an inch, rasping a humourless chuckle. "You had to save the fucking day; save the poor little pouf who can't take care of himself. Well, fuck you!" He pulled away completely, turning and smacking a hand against the tiled wall.

"Eric, I'm sorry …"

The boy with the mohawk turned back to face him slowly, paralyzing him with a hard stare. "Feel better, now that you said that? Think you can say you're sorry, drop to your knees, suck my dick and make everything better? Here." Eric spitefully started to unzip the front of his jeans and reached a hand into his red boxers. "Try me."

Nick shivered at the image before him, but tried to keep his composure. "If that's what it takes."

Eric paused mid-movement, taken aback. "Seriously?"

Nick gazed at him earnestly. "I'll do whatever you want if it will make you forgive me."

Eric withdrew his hand from his trousers and closed his eyes, a pained look stretching across his face. "You just don't get it, do you?"

Nick boldly took a step closer to his friend. "Get what?"

Eric's eyes opened, but kept looking at the cracked floor as he zipped up his jeans. "You know why I wanted to stay with my dad, as bad it was?" Nick shook his head solemnly. Eric breathed a shallow sigh. "If I can't live with my dad, I have to go to the suburbs with my mum … change schools … and I won't be able to see you anymore." He shook his head, smiling ironically. "It's amazing how it seems nothing can hurt you when the person you're in love with is there to pick up all your broken pieces."

His eyes flickered to Nick's for the briefest of seconds, then he made for the exit. The door thudded shut behind him.


The week dragged to its finish, as sluggish as the hatching buds on the apple trees. Eric did not return to school, and Nick's chest ached with disappointment when his friend did not appear in class the following Monday. Eric's final words remained embedded in an isolated region of his mind – he couldn't help but to think of them, obsess over them.

He should've said something back. He should've told Eric what he'd desperately wanted to say all along.

The chance was far behind him now, so it seemed. Nick's birthday fell on the Saturday of that week, the mark of sixteen years of life. Some of his friends from school came to visit, bringing with them money and cigarettes as precious gifts. They laughed together over pieces of Lisa's famous chocolate cake, and the dark-haired boy enjoyed himself, for the most part. Despite all of the joyous festivities, Nick felt a certain emptiness, and when it came time to blow out his birthday candles, one wish remained, gnawingly persistent inside him.

He wished Eric were there with him. Forever and always.

Later that evening, Nick was sitting on his bedroom floor, engrossed in a magazine when the door opened a little and Lauren's brunette curls appeared in the narrow space. "Oi," she said, "This was in the post." Her slender wrist reached out and flicked a folded piece of notebook parchment in Nick's direction, before retracting out of sight.

"Thanks," Nick called after her retreating form, glancing uncertainly at the paper by his feet. His name was scrawled sloppily on one side. He carefully unfolded it, and felt his entire body melt:

I'll be at the house tonight, if you want to show.

Yours, Eric


It took Nick about five minutes to slip into his chucks, bolt down the stairs, dash the four blocks and come to a charged halt at the front steps of the familiar, dilapidated house. The sun had nearly disappeared behind the rooftops, and the street lamp beside Nick's panting frame buzzed its warning that night was approaching.

Nick smoothed down his jeans nervously, and strode up to the front ripped screen door. Before he had even raised a fist to knock, it opened and Eric stood there, staring at him expectantly.

"You haven't been taking care of the ear. It's still red," he declared bluntly.

"Oh." Nick was taken aback, reaching up to touch his piercing reflexively.

Eric moved out of the doorframe, motioning for Nick to come inside. The Russian hesitantly took the necessary steps, and heard the door click shut behind him. The foyer was dark – it always was – but now it unsettled Nick greatly. The house seemed so eerily quiet, so empty.

Eric, as if sensing Nick's thoughts, said softly, "Dad won't sell the house, even now that nobody's living in it. I dunno how he's going to pay for it. Dealing powder like always, I suspect."

Nick shrugged, not knowing what to say. His gaze fell to his shoelaces. "Why did you want to see me?"

Eric took a tentative step toward his friend. He breathed in slowly, running a hand through his gelled spikes as if the movement would allow him time to plan his answer. "I wanted to tell you I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that shit to you. I didn't understand that you were trying to help."

Nick felt a sardonic smile creep over his lips as he quoted Eric's words from earlier. "You think you can say you're sorry, suck my dick and make everything better?" His stomach fluttered as he watched Eric immediately fall to his knees in front of him.

"Whatever it takes." Eric looked up at him, his bright eyes pleading with him. All at once, Nick realized he was serious. Everything Eric had said was true, and everything Eric had ever done was for him.

Nick sighed, holding the spiky-haired boy's shoulders and pulling him up so that they stood a few inches apart. "I love you. I've wanted to tell you for such a long time."

Eric remained there rigidly, expressionless for a moment, as if dumbstruck. Then he flashed that perfectly earnest, boyish smile that Nick had always admired. "I think you know what I think of you already." The Russian raised an eyebrow. Eric continued, "I think you're bloody irresponsible with your piercings."

Nick punched Eric playfully, laughing genuinely at the snide remark, and was startled when Eric caught his wrist and pulled him flat against his friend's body. They kissed as if it was the only thing in the world that made sense.


"We've kept meeting at that house as much as we could for over a year," Nick continued his story, his denim-clad legs dangling out of the back of the van as Dame and Shane listened intently.

Dame took an indulgent suck from the cigarette between his fingers. "And just now your mum found you out?"

Eric nodded sadly, then he banged his fist against the metal floor of the van, suddenly livid with frustration. "God, I'm such a fucking idiot. All I had to do was take the stupid note out of my pocket, and she would never have known."

"What did she say, Nick?" Shane asked, sitting beside the brooding teenager.

"Ah, you know her. She went into her room and started crying."

"And Joey?"

Nick shivered at the mention of his father. "I didn't wait around for her to tell him. He hates fags, you know?" Shane cringed at Nick's casual use of the word "fag", but reached an arm about the younger boy's shoulders nonetheless.

Dame hugged his jacket more tightly to himself, taking another cigarette drag. "That's ridiculous."

Nick shook his head, his breath appearing in white clouds as it fought against the cold air. "I just wish I could get away from there; stay here… with you." His head cocked to the side as he stared at Shane to see his reaction.

The pianist closed his eyes, painfully empathetic. "Nick," he said slowly, "You can't … do that. You can't run away from your life, push your parents out-"

"Why the hell can't he?"

Shane was surprised to hear Dame's interjection, and he gazed at the singer, confused.

"I said 'why the hell can't he?'" Dame repeated, dropping his stub of a smoke and crushing it into the pavement with the toe of his Chuck Taylor. His hard stare was fixed on Shane, suddenly challenging him.

"Er-" Shane glanced from Nick to his own lover. Dame did not even blink. Shane cleared his throat, uncomfortable. "'Ey, Nick, why don't you sit up front and get warm? Dame and I need to talk." Nick looked between the two of them uncertainly for a moment, before crawling into the front of the van as Shane had asked.

Once the Russian in question was out of earshot, Shane took a step closer to Dame, who folded his arms across his chest stubbornly. "If he wants to leave, let him leave," the singer said softly.

Shane argued in a hushed whisper, "He can't just leave home and drop out of school."

"We can. Why can't he?"

"Because he's just a kid. He can't tour with us-"

"He can learn from us," Dame protested, his voice rising ever so slightly. "He'd be happier here."

"And just leave everything behind?" Shane placed his hands on his hips sternly. "Why would you support him doing that?"

"Because most people aren't so lucky," Dame answered firmly, his bright blue eyes probing into Shane's with anguished veracity. Shane watched a strangled emotion knot through the singer's face before suddenly dissolving. An expressionless stare once again remained. "I just think," Dame continued, his composure forced, "that Nick should stay for a few days, until things blow over. Fair enough?"

Perhaps it was Dame's sudden loss of poise that triggered it, but Shane felt instantly sympathetic with the dark-haired man. Maybe Dame was right. He sighed, taking one of Dame's cold hands into his own. Pain smoothed over by compromise. "Fair enough."


The van swerved through a turn sharply, jostling its five inhabitants roughly. Jack was now driving, and James rode shotgun with a brightly coloured road map stretched out in front of him like a shield.

"What now?" Jack snapped as the drummer scanned the map thoughtfully.

"A57 until the next left."

"That doesn't mean anything to me," Jack threw out impatiently as he took the next left turn at a dangerously high speed.

"Jackie…" Dame called warningly from the back seat where he was squashed between Shane and Nick.

"I've got this, Mate. I know exactly where we are," the redhead droned back. They had reached Liverpool and were now in haphazard pursuit of the Marriott hotel. Jack gritted his teeth. "Is this the fucking city centre?" Everyone in the car groaned aloud.

"I have it," James exclaimed, a few decibels above his usual mumble. "Turn here and… there it is." The car pulled into a crowded parking lot before a handsome building, six or seven stories tall with large, angular hedges adorning its exterior.

Nick whistled appreciatively. "Am I staying here?"

"You're staying at my mum's house," Shane answered, smirking at the obvious disappointment surfacing in the Russian boy's face.

"Yeah," Jack interjected as he eased the van into an open space near the brightly lit entrance. "And, once again, could somebody tell me why this little bugger's joining us on this rather fucking important excursion?"

"Sod off," Dame, Shane and James all piped up in unison, silencing the bass player for the first time that day.


Once Jack and James had gotten checked into their hotel room, Dame took the driver's seat of the van and, with Shane's directions, maneuvered the remaining three of them out of the busier district of Liverpool. After seven or eight turns and a few stoplights, the tall, corporate buildings disappeared, replaced by modest, pastel-coloured houses along quiet side streets.

Shane fidgeted nervously in the passenger's seat. Images of everything familiar to him – poignant flashes of his childhood – swept across the side window like a filmstrip. There, that was his primary school, its crumbling foundation sunken into the soft lawn and a few of the shingles missing from the slate roof. Hadn't he noticed it on his last visit?

"Where now, Shane?" Dame asked.

"Turn right, here." This was a darker street – the tall elms that lined both sides of it had long ago created a canopy, blocking out the sun save for a few beams of gray light that pushed through cracks in the ceiling of green. Mrs. Barker's three boys played football on the weathered sidewalk. Gloria, the neighbors' ten year-old daughter who took piano lessons from Shane's mother, was sitting on her pristine front porch, reading a book.

All of the houses had been built to look the same on this street. They were boxy, two-story, and brown, with two front steps and black roofs. No house stood out more than the others; not even Shane's. A newcomer might notice, however, that it was the only property that had rainbow pinwheels lining the walk.

"Here," Shane said quietly, and Dame parked the car beside the yellow newspaper box. They stepped out onto the asphalt surface, not exchanging any words, and Shane was glad for the silence because he couldn't bring himself to say much at the moment. His throat constricted as they tentatively approached the small house, and he wondered what they would find inside it. Was his mother worse than before? How much did she have to drink today? Would she cry when she saw him? If she wasn't drinking, she was always crying, it seemed.

Shane tried to brace himself as he climbed the front steps. He glanced over his shoulder at Nick and Dame. What would they think? He bit his lip, lifted a heavy fist to the glass door, and knocked.

Seconds trudged past, as if each was its own eon. Shane blinked hard, and when he opened his eyes, Catherine Manzae was standing in front of him, in a long, man's work shirt and clam diggers, her crimped blonde hair pulled up onto the top of her head. She wrenched back the sliding door between them, and Shane was surprised at the feeling of his mother's arms around his neck in a tight embrace. His mind faintly processed her saying his name, and how much she had missed him, but all Shane could coherently think of was how solid and sturdy her small frame felt at the moment. Last year a hug would have betrayed her to be nothing but a ribcage beneath her bathrobe, a trampled feather that might easily be carried off with a wisp of wind.

Now as she let go of him, Catherine visibly appeared to be carrying more weight, no matter how much the large shirt shielded it. Her cheeks glowed with a natural blush, and she graciously ushered the three boys into the house. Shane's eyes scanned the downstairs rooms with amazement. The rooms were so clean, so well kept! His mother had hung up her amulets and love beads in the windows once again, and on the stair banister. Every light was on, and the record player in the sitting room was playing a John Lennon LP.

"You gentlemen make yourselves at home while I fetch some coffee, all right?" Catherine called, shuffling past her gaping son and into the kitchen. Shane followed her, unsure of what to say.


"The cinnamon rolls look just about ready," Catherine declared, bending to peer into the brightly lit oven.


She straightened up and looked at him, smiling softly. "You look ill. Did the car ride give you a stomachache?" She strode to one of the high cupboards and began to dig through it. "I'm almost positive I still have a little of that stomach tea from the organic co-op. Can't be sure though. These days my stomach is funny every day, so I could have used the last of the-"

"Mum, are you all right?"

Catherine turned around, taken aback at having been asked such a question. "Of course I'm all right. Why wouldn't I be?"

Shane didn't know where to begin.

When her son didn't answer, Catherine grabbed the brimming coffee pot from the stove and began to pour Shane a cup. "A lot of things have happened around here, darling. Wonderful things. I simply can't wait to show you-"

"Elaine says she can't do the wedding cake, Cat. The woman is booked right solid that weekend." The gruff, Irish brogue of a man's voice fell hard like an avalanche from the top of the stairs. Shane froze.

"Fine," his mother twittered back, setting the cup of coffee in front of Shane. "We'll have Angelo do it then."

"Angelo! The dope addict from Tibet?" The boards of the stairs creaked with the man's steps. Shane held his breath. It couldn't be him…

Catherine put her hands on her hips, smiling smugly. "Oi, Angelo happens to be a very good friend of mine. From the Peace Corps."

A chuckle. "The Peace Corps. Sodding lot." And there he was, in the doorway.

"Dad?" Shane whispered.

Ben Faulk looked hardly different from the memory Shane had kept of him, despite the decade passed. He was still tall, lanky like a rice noodle, with auburn strands of hair that had only faded a little with silver embellishments of age. There had always been creases under his eyes, embedded in the skin due to his insomnia. Even now there were no other wrinkles than those to speak of. His muddy brown eyes matched and held Shane's levelly.

Catherine looked between the two men thoughtfully before addressing Shane. "You remember your dad, don't you, darling?"

Shane slowly began to rise from his seat, his coffee mug forgotten. "What is he doing here?"

His father cleared his throat nervously. "I, er… I'm back now, Shane." The corners of his mouth lifted faintly. "You've grown, kid. Last I saw of you, you were no taller than that table, there."

Shane's stunned mind could not form a response, and for a moment nobody spoke. John Lennon sang softly about world peace in the background.

Suddenly Shane's mother tossed up her hands in realization. "The boys! They'll be wanting their coffee." She seized the coffee pot, and some mugs from the stove shelf, and bustled into the sitting room where Dame and Nick were waiting.

Shane and his father stared at each other in silence, expectant for the other to speak first. There was so much to say, after all.

Catherine re-entered, setting down the coffee pot and continuing to make idle conversation. "I was so thrilled when I got your letter that you were visiting, Shane. I was beaming - rosy all over – wasn't I, Ben?"

Ben Faulk mumbled, "Yeah. Yeah, she was."

"And you absolutely must tell me more about this band you're in. I want to know everything. No secrets." Shane's mother giggled to herself, leaning against the cupboards.

"Right, Mum. No secrets." The words pushed out of Shane's mouth bitterly. "So, why don't you tell me the ones you've been keeping from me? What's going on?"

Catherine straightened up uncomfortably. "I haven't been keeping anything from you, darling. You didn't call or write until so recently that I had thought you didn't want to know what was going on in your silly, old mother's life." She reached behind her head to tighten the tie around her mussed hair, and Shane's gaze fell guiltily to the floor. It was true. He hadn't written.

Ben Faulk cleared his throat once again, moving across the room to stand beside Shane's mother. "I know it's hard to understand now, Shane, but I've come back for good." His arm wrapped about Catherine's back almost subtly. "Your mum and I are getting married."

"It's true, and that isn't all, my darling," Catherine gushed, melting into the man holding her. "Soon you're going to have a new sister."

Shane blinked hard, feeling his chest tighten. Not again. How could she let this happen again? His stomach began to ache as he said to the floor, "But… you're forty-one years old. How could you be-"

"Yes, forty-one. It's not completely impossible," his mother interjected coolly. She paused, frowning. "Aren't you happy, Shane? It's wonderful news, isn't it?"

Shane was certain he would vomit. "Excuse me," he managed to gasp before dashing from the kitchen, through the sitting room and past the sliding glass door. He raced down the steps and the pinwheel-adorned path until he reached the sidewalk and halted, panting, bending to brace himself with his hands on his knees. He felt so ill that he had to hang his head over to keep from being dizzy.

"Shane?" He heard the glass door seal shut as Dame stepped outside. His light, Chuck-muffled footfalls sounded faintly as he approached the pianist. An arm snaked around Shane's waist. "Shane," Dame repeated softly. "What's the matter? What is it?"

"I'm going to be sick," Shane whimpered, blowing his auburn locks from his face. "How could she do this to herself?"

"Do what?" Dame slowly pulled the younger man's body into his own, folding him into a protective embrace.

"She always lets it happen. He always comes back," Shane groaned into his lover's shoulder. "I was their first mistake, and then there was a miscarriage, then Nina, then two more miscarriages. He always comes back, then he leaves again." Shane's eyes stung with saline, and his throat constricted in a sob. "He wasn't supposed to come back again. Not after Nina died."

Tears flowed freely now, and Dame kissed the part in Shane's hair. They clung to each other that way for seemingly an eternity, or at least until it was dim enough for the street lamps to begin buzzing with life. Shane's breathing slowed.

Finally Dame whispered, "You okay?" and Shane nodded, pulling away slightly.

With his eyes dried and limbs tired from shaking, the pianist lifted his chin to look at the black-haired man. "Let's head in."

Upon entering the house, Shane felt a little more sedate than before. He absorbed the warm fiber lamp-glow of the downstairs rooms. Contemplatively he took in the image of his radiant mother at the kitchen table, so unlike the shipwreck she had been for seven years, now bubbling over with chatter as she passed Nick a cinnamon roll. His father sat beside her, attentive, watching her as if it was his only purpose in life to do so.

Where had he been when she was drinking down every day, and then crying it back out for hours on end? Perhaps if the Irish bastard had been there after all, she wouldn't have been such a mess.

But he was here now, wasn't he? Even if Ben Faulk were to leave tomorrow, Shane's mother was happy right now, he thought.

It was then that Catherine looked up and saw the two men in the doorway. She sent her son a hopeful smile, and Shane returned it half-heartedly. The act was reassuring more than genuine, but Catherine accepted it nonetheless and gestured for Shane and his companion to sit down for supper.

Shane was surprised to discover the meal brimming with positive conversation, his father's sideway smiles, and his mother's bright laughter. Afterward, he and Dame washed dishes while Catherine sat at the piano, playing and singing a collection of Simon and Garfunkle hits, with Nick behind her, humming along. Ben Faulk was outside having a smoke, and Shane could faintly smell the stink of the cigarette, drifting through the kitchen window.

At some point during "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Dame asked quietly, "You excited about recording tomorrow?"

Shane dried a glass with a dishcloth, shrugging in response. "I guess." He smiled thoughtfully, catching his lover's eyes. "Quite a bit has happened in the past few weeks. Hard to believe that it's still happening, and that I'm not dreaming."

Dame returned his smile knowingly. "Well, Mate, if this is a dream, I guarantee you won't be waking up anytime soon."


A word from the author: Here, at long last, is chapter twelve. How have you all been? As always, I apologize for my streak of procrastination, and I hope you enjoy this slight look into both the lives of Shane and Nicholas. Do tell me what you think. 'Twould be greatly appreciated.

Delicious love, Eb L.