Author Note: Thanks for all your reviews and support! :3 I'm so happy you could join me through this and I hope you enjoy the final chapter to Chasing August.
Just so you know, there will be a sequel. I'll have it out by early December, after I get a little ahead on Sentinel and another story called Super Fushigi Kanbi Tenshi. So around December keep your eyes out for the sequel to Chasing August called Seattle Rain. :3 Until then enjoy and check out my other stories!
Special Thanks: To starleaf for editing this chapter with love and care. :) Thank you so much for your hardwork and good luck with your story!
Disclaimer: All characters are property of me and are not up for use so please don't ask.
Warning(s): Sexual, male x male, language
In the passing days before the wedding Ashley had covered the numbness with whiskey and beer. He refused to believe that it was the end. There had to be more to it somewhere. Between the alcohol and the denial, though, he couldn't see it. He passed the day and night in a drunken stupor that fluctuated between consciousness and unconsciousness. His head was in a cloud that fogged his mind and blocked the memories that were too hard to think about. His tears had run dry and his bottles were running empty.
He woke around noon to the throb of a hangover that he washed away with a handful of painkillers and the last bit of his whiskey. He dropped the bottle onto the floor and rolled over on his back, staring at the ceiling with disdain. His bed was too empty without Bo. There wasn't a warm body to press against at night. No matter how tight he wrapped the blankets, they just couldn't warm him the way Bo did.
He missed the morning kisses. He missed the soft, dimpled smiles. He missed the baby curls and farmer tan. He missed the warm laughs and southern drawl. He missed the hot touches and sensuous words. He missed the 'I love you's. He missed everything, but most of all he missed Bo.
He groaned, breaking into a hoarse cough that burned his throat. Slowly he pushed himself up and climbed out of the bed, dressed in only a pair of boxers. He hadn't left the room except to get alcohol and he had narrowed it down to one trip after polishing off his first twelve pack of beer the first night.
The wedding was today except he wasn't mourning over Laurence. His fingers fisted in his tangled strands of hair as he sat on the edge of the bed, crouched over. Would life go on for Bo? Would he move on? Could he move on? Ashley licked his lips and flicked his gaze up, staring at the wall across from him. Would Bo be able to forget him?
He knew the answer was no.
Could he forget Bo? Could he move on? Would he move and pretend that nothing happened, just let his life go on with out the teenager there to stand beside him? Could he walk through the rest of his life after walking alongside Bo? It would be like walking away from the light and moving into shadows.
He knew he couldn't.
"Fuck…" Ashley whispered, pinching his index finger and thumb to the bridge of his nose.
What was he suppose to do then? Maybe Lizzy had calmed down. If he could just talk to the woman and explain to her what happened and his feelings she would have to understand. His feelings were true. He wasn't just bouncing onto the next person to get back at Laurence. This wasn't just some rebound.
"I'll just talk to her," Ashley mumbled to himself, working through the plan in his head. If he wanted to do this he'd have to sober up, though. He looked to the clock, trying to gage how long he had to clean up and get his things together. The wedding was at three and it was already two.
Quickly, as fast as his fatigued body would allow, he threw his things back into his suitcase and cleaned up the hotel room as best as he could. He grabbed a fresh pair of clothes and put his bags by the door, then grabbed his cell phone off the nightstand and called a taxi before hopping into the shower.
The hot spray cleared the fog in his mind and soothed the aches in his muscles from sleeping in the hotel bed. He tried to tell himself that it would all be okay, that things would work out. He was a good person and he deserved happiness. Lizzy would understand once she was sat down and shown reason. She had just been mad and shocked. It was hard seeing your son in bed, especially with someone you saw as a friend.
"She has to…" Ashley mumbled, tilting his head back and washing the shampoo out.
By the time he was out, dried, dressed, and checked out it was two forty. The cab pulled up five minutes later and was off by two fifty. Ashley knew he was going on a whim, but he refused to fall just yet. He had to believe in a chance. He had to have hope.
Ashley urgently rattled off the address to the Carter plantation, adding at the end, "Make it quick."
The ride was filled with silence, the only sound coming from the wind as it blew through his cracked window. His adrenaline was pulsing through his veins, giving him the courage to go through with everything. He didn't know what he'd say when he got there, but he knew if he sat and thought about it he'd loose his courage. If he let himself stop and think he'd end up saying goodbye to his life.
He wished he'd had something to eat. Whiskey and beer was not a good diet and his body was feeling the effects of it. Even after the shower and combing his hair he still looked and felt like death rolled over. His eyes were blood shot and dark bruises had formed beneath them, making his face look hollow.
The sun was high, trying to break through the thick blankets of clouds that were rolling in from the west. Gray dotted the horizon, growing darker as it blew in. Ashley watched the sky, hoping for the future to form somewhere between the grass and Heaven. If he could picture the outcome, if he could see himself happily back in Bo's arms, then maybe it would happen. He could only pray.
They pulled up along the curving driveway, gravel crackling under the tires. When the taxi pulled to a stop Ashley climbed out and said, "Stay here please."
The driver wasn't about to complain; it didn't matter if he was driving or waiting. The counter went up no matter what he was doing. Ashley watched him nod before turning and facing the plantation. It seemed so large and he suddenly felt so small; he was facing a mountain he didn't know how to climb. Could he do this?
His breath came out short as he dragged his eyes over the garland-strung pillars and the lighted path that wrapped around the home. Everything was beautiful, wrapped in silk and flowers. Apple blossoms, peonies, and roses clung to everything, flanked by clusters of freesia that draped down walls and stands. It was a classic; elegant look that he knew would fit perfectly with Audrey's dress.
He tried to focus on the small details, using them to break the mountain down. If he took it by each step he could conquer it. He forced his feet to move, walking around the plantation to where the rows of fabric-draped seats were lined up. Two hundred guests, all sitting and watching Laurence stand next to Audrey, as if true love had been found. Bobby Jo stood behind Laurence with Bo behind him and Mark clutching the ring bearer's pillow. Lizzy stood behind Audrey with Molly perched behind her, beaming from ear to ear in the beautiful gown Audrey had selected.
Ashley walked to the corner, standing behind the guests against the archway Audrey had passed under when she had begun her march down the aisle. All Ashley could see was Bo, standing dressed in a classic black tuxedo embellished with lavender detailing. Ashley smiled softly, leaning against the post he stood beside.
Just the sight of Bo eased the pain in his heart. For a minute Ashley felt like he could breathe again.
Bo shifted behind his father, trying to focus on the vows and not his thoughts. It felt like a lifetime had passed with Ashley gone. His parents had yelled at him but the minute Ashley had pulled away in the taxi he had stopped functioning. It was like watching his life drive away down a dusty road. He wanted to go after it but his father stopped him.
If he saw Ashley again he wouldn't let the man go. He had to find a way to get to him again, if he hadn't left already. His heart ached at the thought of the older man being gone.
"And do you Audrey Burton take this man…"the preacher droned on, words falling deafly to Bo's ears. He shook his head, unable to listen to the lies that they were pronouncing. How could they stand there and pretend that they were in love? How could he not say anything? He should have put an end to the charade when he had the chance.
He lowered his eyes and then flicked his gaze up, looking out over the engrossed crowd. He shifted his gaze to the right, passing over the archway and back into the corner before quickly jumping back to the archway. Standing there, beneath a veil of freesia and apple blossoms, was Ashley. He couldn't stop the gasp from escaping him or the words from blurting out, "Ashley."
Bobby Jo's ears instantly twitched and he quickly looked at his son. "What?" He whispered in a sharp tone.
Bo ignored him, pulling away from his father's side and out towards the crowd. Ashley blinked when he saw Bo step forward, their eyes locked in an intense gaze. He swallowed slowly, a small smile inching its way across his lips. He had hoped to wait until after the ceremony, during the reception. Quickly he held a small hand up, but Bobby Jo had noticed and quickly looked over to his wife for instructions.
Laurence flicked his gaze to Bo and Bobby Jo before over to where their gazes were settled. A soft hiss escaped him. "Damn it."
The preacher faltered, staring at Laurence with his brows creased in confusion. Audrey looked at her soon-to-be husband and whispered, "Laurence?"
Lizzy looked over to Bobby Jo and then her son, wishing she could make sense of it. The sadness that had passed over Bo during the short gap between Ashley leaving and the wedding had been the hardest thing she ever had to face. Before she could say anything Laurence whispered, "take care of it."
Laurence turned back to the preacher and nodded his head, instructing the older man to continue. Bobby Jo quietly slipped to the side, quickly followed by Bo who didn't bother in being discreet. "Pa, no!"
Ashley's back stiffened as Bobby Jo walked around to him, glowering at the shorter man. The sternness on his face was the complete opposite of the typical laid back grin that Ashley always saw. Bobby Jo jabbed a finger at him. "Leave, now."
Ashley took a step away from the post and shook his head, "I'm not here to cause problems. I just want to talk to Lizzy after the wedding."
"Leave, now," Bobby Jo repeated firmly.
Bo grabbed his arm. "Pa, stop!"
Bobby Jo shook his arm out of Bo's grip and grabbed Ashley's arm. Ashley instantly pulled away. "Let go! I just want to talk to Lizzy, that's it."
Lizzy glanced toward the sound of (she can't look at his voice) Ashley's raising voice. The preacher stopped, turning to the commotion brewing in the corner of the wedding party. The crowd turned to face them, watching with a new fixation. Bo gnashed his teeth together. "Pa!"
Bobby Jo grabbed Ashley's arm again and pulled, dragging him back around the path to the front of the plantation. Bo quickly followed. "Pa!"
Bobby Jo let go of Ashley once they were at the front, letting shorter man fall into the gravel with a cloud of dust billowing up around him. He pointed a finger down at Ashley and yelled, "You stay away from my son and away from my family. Ya get on outta here!"
Ashley looked up, hands pressed into the small rocks. His eyes were wide at the rough handling he was receiving. Swallowing a lump he yelled back, "Why the hell are you being like this? I just wanted to talk to Lizzy! Please!"
Bo pushed past his father, instantly grabbing for Ashley. Before he could reach, though, Bobby Jo pulled Bo back and yelled, "I said get out of here! You have ten seconds before I grab a shot gun!"
Ashley sat there, frozen, barely registering what he said until the counting started. Quickly he scrambled to his feet, feeling his heart break all over. He darted into the taxi and yelled for the alarmed driver to go, peeling out of the driveway with rocks kicking behind the tires. Ashley turned, looking out the back window at Bo as the plantation faded into the skyline.
He felt a sob build in his throat but swallowed it back. That was it. There was no fighting it. He couldn't win.
The gray clouds painted over the blue sky, draping the world in a darkness that reflected the numbness Ashley felt. He told himself to breathe in and breathe out. He told himself not to linger on the memory of Bobby Jo's anger, Laurence's malice, and Bo's pain. He told himself to lock it away and find a bottle of whiskey to help turn the key.
"The…" Ashley trailed off, unsure of where he wanted to go. He had no home to return to and no lover to turn to. He was lost, groping through darkness. He didn't want to return back to the apartment and face moving out but he had no other options.
"The bus station," Ashley whispered. Where else did the lost go? He'd take the long way home; maybe find the answers to all his questions.
Tears pulled at his heartstrings but he couldn't cry. All he could do was watch lightening crack against the darkness and listen to the thunder build into a rumble. When they pulled into the bus station he paid the driver and grabbed his bags, hauling them up to the ticket booth.
"One for Seattle please," Ashley whispered, voice hoarse and empty. He handed the woman Laurence's credit card - he hadn't given it back to the man - and took the ticket, walking to a bench that lined the room. Ashley watched the seconds tick by, reflecting back on the brief blips of happiness he felt with Bo. He couldn't understand how it could be over. How could something start so abruptly and then end just as fast?
He didn't realize how long time had passed until a voice came through the speaker announcing his bus. Only an hour had passed since he got there, but it felt like he had been sitting on the bench for days. He pulled himself up, listening to the thunder grow louder. Just before he walked out the door the rain began to pour, falling in a downpour that washed away the dirt on the road.
Ashley moved slowly out the door to the bus, handing his bag to the driver to load. He moved to the steps, grabbing the railing and taking a step up.
Ashley froze, turning around and looking behind him at the door. Standing there, still dressed in a tuxedo, was Bo. His heart skipped a beat as he looked at the grinning teenager. Ashley bit his bottom lip and whispered, "B-bo?" Ashley's voice was trembling, breaking into a sob.
He pulled away from the bus, hair sticking to his face already soaked from the rain. Bo crossed the distance between them, grabbing him from around the waist and pulling him close. For a second Ashley thought it was a daydream, but when he pressed his ear to Bo's chest he could hear the even beats of his heart. A smile found its way on his lips as his arms wrapped around the taller boy's waist. He squeezed, pulling the warmth from the other.
"How?" Ashley whispered, voice still breaking as he spoke. He pulled away and looked up at the teen. Bo smiled, his baby curls straightening as his hair grew damp and framed his face. In a sheepish tone he admitted, "I told Laurence if he didn't tell me where you'd go I'd tell everyone the truth. Greedy bastard caved quickly and checked his credit card balance. Found the ticket you purchased."
Ashley laughed weakly; glad he hadn't used the remaining cash he had to purchase the ticket. Bo pulled Ashley tighter against his body, whispering, "I'm not letting you go. I don't care what they say, we'll just go."
It felt like Ashley had gotten his soul back. He felt whole again. His arms curled tightly against Bo, constricting around him in fear of the other floating away. He shook his head and whispered, "Oh Bo…"
Was it that easy? Could they just go? Could they honestly just grab their things and leave with out caring? So many people would be left behind; so many that they cared about. Despite the fact that Lizzy had turned on him, Ashley stilled cared and he knew Bo would miss them. It still felt that even with his arms around Bo he was climbing a mountain. He ran his fingers through the damp curls, pressing his palms against the back of Bo's head and pulling him down into a kiss.
It was hard and bittersweet, filled with tears and raindrops. Bo lifted Ashley, pulling the older man into his frame and crushing their bodies together. He didn't see the stares they received or care about the future. All he wanted was the now. He had Ashley, after so much hard fighting, and he wasn't letting go. He had made his choice and he wouldn't let go.
The minute Ashley had left he had turned and rushed back to Laurence. Bobby Jo had barely been able to hold him back as the wedding finished. Once the reception started he had pulled his uncle to the side and made his demands. He was usually an easygoing person, not quick to anger, but he had been pushed to his limits. He refused to live a life with out Ashley. Not when he had the power to have the man back.
Ashley pulled away and pressed his cheek against Bo's chest, whispering, "Is it really that simple?"
"Yes, yes…" Bo whispered, hugging Ashley closer. How long would they run though? Eventually they would have to face the truth. They couldn't just run, no matter how much Ashley wanted.
He didn't want to face the truth, though. Bo took Ashley's arms gently in his hands and whispered, "Lets go. I bought a ticket. We can just go to Seattle. We'll get an apartment; I'll go to school. Ma will come around eventually."
Would she? If Ashley took Bo she'd never forgive him. Ashley looked up at him, sadness returning. He had everything he wanted in his hands and he wasn't sure anymore if it was the right thing. He loved Bo too much to take him away from his family. He wanted to have Bo, but not like this. Not with Lizzy and Bobby Jo hating him.
"No…" Ashley whispered, tears falling down his cheeks. They got lost in the rain just like his voice got lost in the thunder.
"What?" Bo whispered, his own voice cracking slightly. Fear throbbed in his veins as he looked down at Ashley's expression, confused at the sudden change. Ashley smiled up at him, lifting his hand and pressing his palm to Bo's cheek. Ashley always heard if you loved something you had to let it go and if it loved you it would return. Despite the ache in his heart, he couldn't deny what he had to do.
"We can't run, Bo," Ashley whispered, voice trembling with a held-back sob. Bo shook his head, dropping his tone, "Ashley… baby, please. We can. We can go. We can go anywhere we want!"
"No, because you'll miss them too much. They're still your parents, Bo, and even though it's hard to believe right now, they love you. That's why they're fighting so hard for you," Ashley whispered, stroking his thumb along Bo's bottom lip. It trembled against his thumb, shaking with the agony that reflected in Bo's eyes. Ashley dropped his eyes and then looked up, hearing the horn honk from the bus.
He had his love in his arms and he was letting him go. He'd open the birdcage and pray that love's wings would guide Bo back. Ashley wrapped his arms around Bo's neck and pulled him close, whispering, "Come find me when the time is right."
"Ashley…" Bo sobbed, grabbing a hold of the older man and holding tight. Ashley let his own sob break through. He could feel himself conquering the mountain, climbing over the stones that stood in his way.
"Come back to me when everything is better," Ashley whispered again. Bo shook his head, ignoring the warning honk from the bus driver.
"When is the time right? Ashley, don't do this. I love you…"
"You'll know," Ashley whispered into the rain, pulling back to look at Bo. He smiled reassuringly, passing the hope swelling in his chest to the other man. He pulled Bo down and crushed their lips together. There wasn't finality to it like there had been up in his bedroom. It was open, filled with possibilities that they had never understood before. Together they climbed over the mountain.
Ashley pulled away far enough to whisper against his lips, "I love you Bo."
It was the first time he said it ever since the relationship had started a little over a month ago. The words felt so right falling from his lips. They left a sweetness on his tongue that had never been there before. He never felt so sure of the words. Not even when he said them to Laurence did he feel the truth weighing so heavily on them.
"Ashley… I love you too," Bo whispered, voice breaking into another weak sob. Ashley pulled back, turning to look at the driver as he gave a final honk. Ashley turned ne last time to Bo and gave his hand a squeeze, whispering, "good bye."
He pulled away, despite Bo's cry of desperation, "no! Ashley, wait! Please!"
The teenager's voice seemed so urgent in his pleas. Ashley closed his eyes and climbed the steps of the bus, the door closing behind him. He handed the driver his ticket and walked to his seat, ignoring the stares he received as he passed down the aisle. Tears streaked his cheeks, but the numbness he had felt sitting on the bench was gone. He took a seat by the window and turned to look at Bo, mouthing as the bus started, "come find me."
The bus rolled out of the station and down the street. Their love ran deep and Ashley had faith in it. They were like two kids chasing August, trying to hold onto the last days of summer. No matter how fast or how hard they ran, though, they'd never catch those last days. Summer would come to an end just like everything came to an end. It would end so that something new could begin.
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