Chapter Thirty-five – Count your blessings

Lars suppressed a sigh when Pryce stirred. The smaller young man had put his head on Lars' lap, and Lars had figured that he had wanted to sleep. But now he saw Pryce's eyes were open, a sad look in them, and they seemed to look much further than the window Pryce was staring at. Especially since all the windows were so dark that it was almost impossible to see anything outside the car.

And he had been like that on their way to the airport as well. Lars knew exactly why he was like that too. Adrian had finally been discharged from the hospital a week ago, the day after the concert where they played Pryce's song, and today he had returned to Spain with his parents.

Lars caressed Pryce's cheek. "Honey, you know it is for the best, right? I didn't want him to go either, but he had a point. He would need someone to look after him all day, especially in the beginning. And he wouldn't be able to provide for himself. If it was me, I wouldn't want to be a burden to anyone either," he said softly.

"He has six friends at Silver Lake who are more than happy to take care of him, and I could hire someone to look after him when we can't. And he wouldn't have to provide for himself…But I understand why he would feel like a burden, even though he would never be one. Not to me, and especially not for Julie. I do understand why he felt he had to go," Pryce answered softly, and the sadness in his voice broke Lars' heart.

"It isn't like he's out of your life forever, you know. You can still call him, and he did say you can visit whenever you want. And since your grandmother is a millionaire, you really can visit whenever you want," Lars said, drawing a smile from Pryce.

"I'm never going to see the end of that one, am I? It just isn't something I tell people when I first meet them, and afterwards it just doesn't seem important. It is nothing to do with you, really," Pryce defended himself, smile still on his face.

Lars smiled broadly. "I know, silly. And besides, it isn't like I want you for your grandmother's money anyhow. I want you for who you are: my soul mate." Pryce blushed deeply and raised his head to kiss Lars, who bent his head down.

"Just as you are mine. And you're right; Adrian isn't out of my life forever. But still, it is hard to think that he's gone back. Especially since…," Pryce didn't finish the sentence and looked away.

"Since you guys have history? It's okay, Pryce, I know that it's just that. You guys have history, we've got the present and the future," Lars said and Pryce looked at him for a few seconds. "And they say I'm the smart one," he said and kissed Lars once again, this time more passionately.

"Pryce, we're in your grandmother's limo," Lars said when he broke off the kiss, grabbing Pryce's wandering hands. He saw the driver glance at them in the mirror and smile. Pryce suddenly got up and pressed a button, and a screen came up between them and the driver.

Lars looked at Pryce, who smiled while he unbuttoned his shirt. "Yeah, I know. Should be just as interesting as doing it on the plane, don't you think?"

Lars sighed as he put his bag under he bed, next to Pryce's, and sat down on the bed. When they had arrived at the ranch (which was more of a hotel in Lars' eyes), Pryce's grandmother had been waiting for them. Lars had offered to take the bags to their room, despite the old woman's insistence that one of the help could do it.

He was, of course, very nervous about going back down. He wanted to make a good first impression, since Pryce's grandmother meant so much to him. The woman, though old and wrinkled, looked a lot like Pryce and Lars hoped that they had similar personalities.

Lars took a deep breath and got up, ready to face the music. Just before he reached the door however, it opened and Pryce walked in. "Where's your grandmother?" Pryce smiled at Lars' attempt to hide his relief.

"She was tired, so went to take a nap. She asked me to do her a favour though. Ever been on horseback?" Lars looked at Pryce quizzically while he shook his head, seeing a familiar spark in the eyes he loved so much.

"Grandma asked me to take her favourite horse out for a ride, let him stretch his legs. She says it has been too long since someone did. And I wanted you to come along. There are a lot of nice, quiet places we can ride to."

"Really? And what are we going to do once we get there?" The look in Pryce's eyes didn't leave any room for misunderstandings as to what they would be doing, and Lars smiled.

"You know, Pryce, you're going to make me an old man soon if we keep going like this. And we've only been away from Silver Lake for six hours!" Pryce put a mock pout on his face and turned away.

"Okay, fine. I was going to show you the barn the hay is in, to see if we could find out a few interesting things we could do there…." Lars walked up to Pryce and put his arms around the smaller young man.

"What a way to grow old that would be," he breathed into Pryce's ear.

Chad and Michael sat across each other, the air in the living room filled with tension. "So, when I was out there I had a really good talk with my father. He…I…," Michael sighed, not knowing how to tell Chad what he had to tell him.

But Chad knew. In his heart, he had known ever since Michael returned to Silver Lake to see them perform at the concert. He had seen it in they taller young man's eyes every time Michael thought Chad wasn't looking.

"You're going back," he said, and Michael looked away. Pryce had encouraged him to talk to his dad, so he had called him while at NEIC waiting for his results. They had talked, finally talked, and had reached an understanding Michael could live with.

"I'm going to finish my education at NEIC, getting more match experience by playing college tennis. And then I'll start signing up for professional tournaments. I…" Chad cut him off.

"It's okay, Michael. It's like Shakira says in that song…what's it called, La Tortura? I can't ask winter to allow one rose, and I can't ask eternity from a mere mortal. I knew this day would come."

Michael took Chad's hand in his. "Your life isn't winter, Chad! You're smart and very talented, you've got friends that love you and want to protect you…and you've got me. Because I'm going to call you every day while I'm at NEIC, and I'll be here every single weekend. I don't know about eternity, Chad, because no-one can really make such a promise. But I can promise you that I'll do my best to make this work. Will you do the same for me?"

It was doomed to fail, that much was clear to Chad. The voice in his head certainly pointed that out clearly. But there was something in Michael's eyes that made his heart speak up instead of his brain and he nodded.

"Pryce? Do you mind if I ask what got into you this week?" Pryce lifted his head off of Lars' naked chest and smiled innocently. "I don't know what you mean," he answered, removing hay from his boyfriend's hair.

"You don't know what I mean? Let's see: there was the airport, the limo, this barn three times, the abandoned cabin in the woods, the field behind the stables, the river bank, the river, our room. Did I forget anything?"

"Yeah, the kitchen in the guesthouse. And the barn was four times, not three," Pryce smiled and Lars reacted by rolling them over and tickling him. "Okay, okay," Pryce conceded and Lars stopped. He was almost sorry when Pryce became serious.

"Everything that's happened lately made me rethink some things, you know, count my blessings. And I realized that you were the greatest of them. You…There's no words to describe what you mean to me, Lars. You're my everything, and I guess I went a little overboard in proving that to you this week."

Lars smiled. "That's exactly how I feel about you, baby, and you don't need to prove anything to me. Although it was quite pleasant, to use an understatement. Promise me one thing, though."

Pryce looked at Lars. "Find a way to make that three-hour flight more…bearable, will you? Like last time?"

Pryce smiled. "Bearable? Or enjoyable?" He wiggled his eyebrows and Lars laughed before kissing him.

"I'll leave that up to you. Now what do you say we try to find our clothes back before somebody walks in here?"

To be continued in the second semester.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed this story, I hope you will review one more time and continue following Pryce and Lars in the second semester.