Empty Apartment

He felt such a fool as he sat there in the dark, his hands clenched into white-knuckled fists. He had found it when the sun's light was still beaming through the large French-style windows, the rays dancing upon the wooden floor at his feet and bouncing off his blond head, the stray wisps of hair forming a golden halo.

Little by little, the sun left; its bright light dimmed bit by bit as the night stole in through the filmy curtains, slowly and steadily filling the room with darkness. He watched the sun leave, his eyes dull and slightly glazed over, his vision blank.

The thought that he should turn on the lights flitted through his mind. He blinked it away. What did it really matter, anyway? Whether he sat in darkness or not, the truth remained the truth, undeniable and implacable.

His head snapped up when he heard the door open. Equal parts hate and love, anger and sorrow, warred upon his face when the other man appeared in the doorway, his tall frame filling the room with his presence. The moonlight filtered in to gently gild his black hair silver, its tender caress a direct contrast with the anger that vibrated through the younger man.

The blond snarled at him, half-pleading for him to deny what he knew to be true. "You're married."

Greg's frame stiffened in shock; he had not expected anyone to be there in the darkness. He turned to face the younger man, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, a nervous habit of his.


"Don't play any games with me." his voice was lethal, cold and tight with anger, "You're married. To a woman."

Greg's face was a mask of guilt and sorrow. "I--"

"I don't want to hear it! I don't want to hear any more of your lies, your excuses. The only thing I want to hear from you is that it isn't true."

He raised his hands, palm up, helpless to deny the truth, "Thomas, please--"

"I said I don't want to hear it!" The blond stood up, anger pulsed like liquid fire through him as it pushed back the stultifying sorrow that had held him all afternoon.

He strode forward, deliberately invading Greg's personal space, taking in at a glance the gray at his temples, the wrinkles around his eyes. Greg's only a month older than he, but god he looked old. How could he have not noticed?

He could feel his face twisting with disgust at all he had never noticed, his lips curling back slightly to bare his teeth as he leaned closer and whispered, not missing the shudder that passes through Greg's tall frame at the touch of breath on his lips, "I never, "-- he moved in even closer, "want to see your pitiful, lying face again."

He felt Greg staring after him, his broken heart written all over his face. He didn't spare him a backwards glance as he made his way towards the door, his steps heavy with anger, his vision blurring as one thought blazed red-hot in his mind.

"I knew you didn't mean it."

There was a letter sitting on the mahogany end-table near the door, one corner of it crumpled with the imprint of the shaking hand that had held it. The paper had been stuffed violently into the white envelope, the words on the page messy and chaotic.

"I knew you didn't mean it. People never mean it, even when they think they do mean it, even when their face is shining with sincerity and their eyes are glowing abnormally bright as they stare into you and try to force you to believe that they mean it, they really really do. But it's all right. It's all right, really.

I don't mean it either. I never mean it even though sometimes I do mean it more than I do other times but in the end it's all meaningless. It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. All that matters is how you make me feel, the passion, the flare, right now because a moment is only real in the moment which it happens and then it's gone.

I knew you didn't mean it. But I pretended that you did anyway. It made me smile and shine a little brighter. I'll shine for you, even if you didn't mean it. Even though you didn't mean it and I only mean it sometimes.

But this? This? Even I can't shine past this. I can't get past this, no matter how I try to delude myself."

It was unsigned, but of course Greg knew who it was. Only Thomas could manage to devastate his heart by medium of words on a paper.

There was also a card in the envelope. He pulled out the card, his face falling when he saw the words taped under a picture of a woman posing seductively for the camera, "I've been a naughty girl, Santa! Come back to punish me ;). Love, Jane."

There was something else in the envelope, something heavy but small. Greg tipped the envelope over and almost dropped the ring that tumbled out. It was white gold--she had insisted. He gripped the ring, his fingers folding over the incriminating item so tightly that the words engraved on the band were transferred into the flesh of his palm.

To my beloved. Jane ♥ Greg

"Please. Please open the door." Greg leaned his forehead against the jamb of the unforgiving door, his voice low and painful. He'd screamed at the door for thirty minutes, screamed until his throat was scraped raw. There were splinters in his hand from where he had slammed it into the wooden jamb.

It had been two weeks. Two weeks since that fateful day, that day when he saw something on Thomas's face he'd never seen before: disgust, rage and, worst of all...betrayal. It had been two weeks since he had seen Thomas's gorgeous face, since he had spoken to him. The blond had steadfastly refused to pick up his phone calls--hanging up on him mid-ring-- or reply to his e-mails. All contact with him was cut off.

He needed to see him. He didn't know how much longer he could survive without him, without his smile, without the pancakes Thomas would make for him every Sunday, without his voice in his ear sending warm chills down his spine.

Through the crack under the door, he could see a sliver of light.

"I know you're in there. Please. I know you can hear me."

The silence was resounding.

He turned around, letting his weight fall heavily upon the door before he slid down, too weary to stand any longer. He leaned his head back against the wood, a long sigh escaping him.

His voice trembled slightly as he spoke.

"Do you believe in meant-to-be? Your only one? That for every person there is one person they are meant to be with, and only that one person?"

He paused, waiting for an answer he knows isn't coming.

"You probably don't remember this, but we went to high school together. Senior year. Go tigers."

He chuckled, a bitter chuckle without mirth.

"I had transferred from Syracuse in the fall and all I kept hearing about was you. It seemed as if everyone in the entire school worshipped you. Whenever I explained to someone that I didn't know who you were, they looked at me with such disbelief and horror that I felt ashamed of myself."

"I think I hated you a little. Someone with that much adoration and worship could not be a good person, or at least not remain one. I painted you in my mind to be an arrogant prick, a smirk ever present as you sweep your hair off your forehead in an aristocratically practiced gesture, smirking down at your loyal fans. I hated this painting of you that I held in my mind."

"But then..."

His voice softened as he though back to all those years ago.

"But then I met you. Immediately, all of the hate and that little bit of envy I had within me fell away. You were so beautiful, your soul so pure. I could not help but love you."

His voice was thoughtful now, wrapped in his memories.

"You never knew me, though. You just helped me with my locker combination and then walked away."

He stopped, still remembering the smile Thomas had flashed him as he thanked him. He remembered the warmth that had poured through him like hot chocolate syrup at that smile.

"Your name burned in my memory, though you never again acknowledged me in any way. I simply could not compete for your attention; everyone else was so aggressive about it. You were their idol, their god. I didn't want to take what little time you had alone for myself." And besides, he'd thought that Thomas could never love him as he'd loved Thomas.

He shifted, making himself more comfortable, his forearms now resting upon his crossed legs as he leaned forward, his vision filled with memories of Thomas laughing with his friends, smiling gently as a girl cried on his shoulder, addressing the entire school in his bid for school presidency.

He himself had never been especially smart or athletic or popular. All of those things that would have put him in the same social sphere as his beloved he was, at best, unskilled at.

"I entered college with thoughts of you, though we'd only spoken once. You went to a prestigious school, I went to a community college."

He began to play with a loose thread in his shirt, pulling it straight and then letting it curl upon itself again. He could feel the downturn of his lips. He had been so disappointed when he hadn't seen Thomas on campus, though he knew he had no right to expect Thomas to be there.

"Years passed, and I still thought of you. The friends I told about you, those who I deemed close enough, all teased me about it even as they worried about my continuing infatuation with you."

They had said infatuation, but he knew they had been thinking obsession.

He closed his eyes and against the darkness of his eyelids he could still see Amber's worried face. Her voice echoed in his mind.

"It isn't as if anything even happened, right? Just forget him!"

He swallowed, a hard lump in his throat.

"They told me to forget about you." As if I ever could.

"They told me to get over you. And then they introduced me to Jane."

Ah, how beautiful she had been, her hair long and curly at the ends, her eyes warm as she looked at him. Her hand was soft when she slipped it into his. They had hit it off immediately, her interests and his so similar that they spent hours talking about the dynamics of the relationship between Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine Benes.

"She was...nice. It was easy with her. But it was never what it was with you. Not even close."

That warmth that had spread through him just from Thomas's smile never made a reappearance in his relationship with Jane.

"I got a job, and as soon as I was financially stable, I married her."

Never mind that every time he closed his eyes, he would see Thomas's face even as he kissed her.

"I told her I loved her."

You are the only one I've ever loved. The words stuck in his throat. Even now, he couldn't say it.

"We were happy for a while. Or content, more like."

"Until we started having financial problems. I had been demoted at work, and there was a very real possibility of me being laid off. I was offered a chance to work in this city and I was eager, overly so, to come here and check it out. I wanted to escape. It seemed as if all she ever wanted was money, money, money. And I had none to give her."

He could still hear her shrill accusations ringing in his ears. She had accused him of not providing for her, of being a bad husband. When he'd left, it was not sorrow he had felt, but relief. Even as he kissed her on the cheek, his attention was on the cab pulling up to take him to the airport, his thoughts on the horizon.

"And then I saw you at one of those business meetings. I'd been forced there, instructed to 'schmooze' a little. I was lost, adrift in a sea of suits when you came over to talk to me. You were so charming, and sweet; your hair was as blond as ever, your eyes as grey."

He could still taste the cocktail shrimp that Thomas had playfully fed to him.

"I was flabbergasted by this turn of events. I saw it as a sign that yes, we are meant to be. I deliberately forgot about my marriage, hid away the ring."

His voice became even softer, less steady, as he all but whispered.

"I fell even more in love with you."

His hands were shaking in his lap. He held them tightly together to stop them, but he couldn't stop the fear that was clawing up his throat, choking him, building pressure behind his eyes, as he contemplated the staggering possibility that he may very well lose the love of his life.

"Please." His voice was a whisper, shaking as violently as his hands were.

"Please, just tell me if we have a chance. If we can survive this."

His whole body was pressed against the door, the ridges in it imprinting themselves in his skin as he tried to discern a response, any response from his beloved.

A minute passed. Then two. They slipped by, faster and faster, until twenty minutes had sped past. No response.

He wanted to howl, he wanted to scream. It was over. He had ruined the best thing that had ever happened to him and had been helpless to stop it. His mistake had been a mistake he'd made before the relationship ever started. It had been over even before it began.

He could understand Thomas's feelings, he truly could. He believed that if two people loved each other enough, any obstacle could be overcome. But a marriage to someone else was something that no one should ever even have to consider overcoming; it was a permanent stain that could never be washed away. It was devastating to see how wrong he was.

This had been his last effort; if Thomas thought there was no chance, then there was no chance. He resolved to himself even as his heart was breaking within as if it were glass, shooting shards into the rest of his body and that he would never again bother Thomas with his pleas and his unwanted love. He would return to Jane and try to carry on, try to forget the quiksilver of Thomas's smile.

He struggled to keep his voice calm as he stood up, his legs protesting. The only words he managed to get out before breaking down completely were the only ones that should ever matter.

"I love you."

The room is well-lit, the bulbs beaming white and bright. The light chased the shadow from every corner of the room. It shown on the futon pushed up against the wall, bought to conserve floor space. It shown on the TV-dresser combo and the picture frames on it. One picture shows a blond and a dark haired man, grinning at the photographer, their hands tightly entwined.

The apartment was empty.