Caleb hated weddings.
This wedding, he knew, was going to be worse than any that came before.
He had only been to four of them, counting this one, but the pattern had already been established long before now. At his mother's second wedding he had spent much of the time lingering around the punch bowl with his friends, watching the crowd watch his mother and her new husband, completely unaware of anything but each other. When his sister walked down the aisle four years ago he had smiled and hugged her and done every brotherly thing he could think to but tell her not to marry the prick she had picked.
And at Ellen's wedding he had sat in the back with Bastian and mocked the old priest's toothless mumble, giggling like a child and sinking like a drunk in his seat, completely immune to the air of sadness that usually accompanied these events for him. He never knew why it was such a sad affair. He never understood why that last wedding had made him hate them more than before – it had been the most fun of them. He never dreamed that fear would be the root of his problems anymore than he imagined that friendship would, but both of them played a factor in it. He saw that now.
Bastian, Cale, and Jen. Sebastian, Caleb, and Jennifer. The three of them had been friends since grade school, maybe even before. Even in the hormone crazed fog that was high school neither Sebastian nor Caleb had dated Jennifer – mostly because she hadn't seemed Sebastian's type and Caleb just wasn't interested – but things had changed in their college years. Bastian and Jen hooked up. Cale helped pick out the ring when Sebastian decided to propose – really propose, not just talk about it.
Their wedding. This was their wedding. It made his heart want to crawl out of his mouth and pump itself to death on the pretty blue tiles just thinking about it. This was no twisted case of sibling rivalry or a sudden epiphany that he was in love with the girl he could no longer pursue. He wasn't afraid that the two of them would be closer than before and cut him from the circle of friendship, and his heart didn't pound because this time he was the best man and had an important role to play. It had nothing to do with any of that.
He just didn't want to see Bastian married.
Took you long enough Caleb, He thought at himself, teeth pressed painfully into the soft flesh of his lower lip. Don't even know how you feel until he's getting married and then what do you do? You go do something a coward would do. And what's that again? Oh yeah – you steal a symbol of their union and pretend that you can't find it. Great job. Genius. Wonderful. Could have cut your wrists and stopped the ceremony. He might have looked at you then.
Slowly he turned the ring in his hand, watching it gleam in the sun from the open window; the star cut diamond caught the light and reflected a prism against the palm of his hand, the gem just raised enough to make the band that much more elegant. It was beautiful. Jen would love it. And it was so like Bastian to use something besides a traditional golden hoop.
"Cale," At the sound of his name he clenched the ring in his hand and jabbed his fist into his pocket, dropping it before he ran his fingers through his hair hurriedly. He turned a pair of sea green eyes to the disheveled redhead in the doorway and graced him with a smile – an expression that nearly made his face hurt it was so forced.
"I'm looking, I'm looking," Caleb chimed, waving his hands at the taller man. He was screwed if he was discovered. "Don't get your boxers in a braid, Bastian."
The redhead narrowed ice blue eyes at him and tugged at the lapels of his tux harshly; he didn't know how striking the solid black jacket made him and Caleb wasn't about to tell. "Sebastian, not Bastian or Basty or Bastille – Sebastian. Damn it, I don't need this right now – stop staring at me and find it!" He hissed the words through his teeth as he covered the space between them on stomping feet; he stopped in front of his soon-to-be-ex-best-friend before turning to the sofa beside him. He ripped off a cushion and threw it, hitting the dark haired man in the shoulder.
"Sorry. I kind of figured the ol' nickname would lighten the mood a bit. You're stressing way too much."
"I am trying to get married, ok? I've been thinking about this for months – I threw up twice this morning I was thinking so hard – and now, when I've finally got everything in order, the ring has up and vanished. I just… God!" For the duration of his rant his long fingered hands had continued to flip throw pillows and seat cushions off of the davenport, and now that it was bare he sank down on his knees beside it, angled features rising out of their scowl into a soft frown. "I was so nervous but now I'm just worried. And I yelled at you."
Caleb shook his head and patted the redhead's shoulder, drawing from him a gentle sigh of exasperation. It was all Caleb could do to keep from hugging him and apologizing. "What will you do if you can't find it by the time the ceremony is supposed to start?"
"Heh. Use string."
"It might have cost a lot but it's just a ring. A symbol. I could use hair if I wanted."
"But… that's not the same."
"Not materialistically but I don't really care. I said I was going to marry Jen today and I intend to do it. Ring or no ring."
Caleb chuckled as he guided himself onto the rug beside his friend, swallowing his nerves and his fear in a single go. He was glad of the thickness of his suit – it hid the sweat better, but he couldn't hide the shaking. "Would you tell me if you were unsure about this?"
Sebastian's face rolled across his shoulder until his piercing blue eyes caught Caleb's sea green ones and he smiled. The expression didn't fit well on the redhead; his teeth were too straight and white, his features more fitting to a thoughtful smirk with his narrow jaw, high cheekbones, brows that naturally stayed relatively thin. Caleb had never thought of him as handsome, more 'pretty' than anything else – even if Sebastian fought it with his clothes and hairstyles. "If I weren't sure I wouldn't have proposed in the first place."
Caleb sighed. "Maybe we should check the car." I'm a fucking coward.
"Do it again and I'll have my name tattooed on your forehead backward so you can read it every time you look in the mirror."
"That wouldn't work. But what I mean is… what if this is a sign?"
Sebastian's smile turned into a frown. "What?" His voice was confused, laced with anger, his expression changed accordingly. Caleb noted just how much better he looked not smiling.
"What if… you can't find it because you aren't supposed to be married today? Or you picked the wrong person? What if it's fate?" He looked away from the swiftly reddening man he was sitting next to and stared at his hands, at his bare ring finger. The sight of it gave him courage. "Have you… even thought about it?"
"Cale, you're seeming exceedingly gay at the moment."
"Yeah well, I don't care. Maybe I am." The words made his best friend freeze mid thought and gape at him open mouthed, turning against the couch until they faced each other. Caleb spoke before Sebastian could do anything violent. "Look, I would have kept my mouth shut about it forever and let you think I accidentally screw up all the relationships I have with women, but now you're getting married so I figured I should tell you. I mean… it's not like I expect you to leave Jen for me or anything but—"
"Wait, wait, wait." Sebastian raised his hands so they were on either side of his head and looked seriously at his best friend of nearly twenty years without frowning. The brunette stilled, watching the redhead hunt for words before he spoke. "So you're not only telling me that you're gay, you're telling me that you're gay for me? You – Caleb the Boob Loving Pervert – are attracted to me in a sexual way?"
The best man laid his hands on the groom's shoulders and kissed him.
Caleb expected to be punched for this, beaten into a bloody pulp and removed from the ceremony, but the lips against his allowed him to touch as much as he wanted and parted with gentle prodding, so he delved into the warm space allowed him. Experimentally he touched the side of Sebastian's cheek before tickling the roof of his mouth, nibbling lightly on his lower lip. When he pulled back he found the redhead's blue eyes open and unblinking, a light blush on his face, bruised lips parted in disbelief.
"Bastian you're drooling."
Sebastian brought his fingers to his mouth as if he had never touched it before, dumbfounded. "You just… you just…" Caleb ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
"Yeah… this wasn't what I was expecting…"
Sebastian shook his head and pressed his eyes with his hands. "You're a guy, you're a guy, you're a guy."
Caleb tilted his head with a frown that brought his eyebrows nearly into each other. "I am aware."
"I'm supposed to be getting married."
Sebastian pulled his hands fiercely through his hair in an effort to dispel the sensations running through him. After a moment he grabbed Caleb's lapels and yanked him forward, wrinkling his suit and drawing from his lips a startled cry. Caleb's hands caught his shoulders to stop the motion. The smaller man shook slightly at the confused icy eyes staring at his, peering into his soul. "Do it again." He commanded in a voice that did not lack authority. The fearful, yearning fingers on Sebastian's shoulders gripped almost painfully tight, the dark sea eyes that looked back at him were wide with shock. He shook Caleb. "Kiss me again damn it!"
"Why?!" Caleb hissed back. "Why should I?"
"Because I did not just feel that! Because I'm not… just do it, Cale."
"But now I'm nervous!"
Sebastian made an angry sound when he tugged his friend forward, faces nearly touching. "I don't care. Do it or I'm beating you up for doing it the first time."
Caleb swallowed passed his fear and moved his right palm to his friend's neck, holding it gently and tilting his face to the desired angle, he could sense the rapid beating of Sebastian's heart just beneath the surface of his skin, heated and heavy with adrenaline, and shivered as his own blood moved more quickly through his veins in answer. With as much tenderness as he could muster, he leaned in again, leaving his eyes open until the man he wanted let his eyelids flutter shut, a soft sound of appreciation humming from the back of his throat at the contact. Caleb thought he would be struck at any moment, left to recover from a broken nose while Sebastian accepted the hand of his one true lover, yet for the second time that wasn't the reaction he got; a cold, shaking palm curved around the back of his neck, and a curious tongue responded shyly to his.
He hummed in question, but Sebastian did not pull away.
It took the better part of a minute for Caleb to run out of air and fall away, his fear returning the moment his eyes came open to Sebastian's cool irises gazing back. Frightened was the only word he could think to assign the redhead's expression, though dazed might have fit just as well.
"Caleb," Sebastian said his name in a way that raised the hairs on his neck, brought his hands back into his lap without even touching the other man. He didn't want to, not when Sebastian was making a face he couldn't read. Caleb tried to pull away but the hands on his tux kept him from moving very far. "Why?"
"Why what, Bastian?"
"Why do you feel better than Jen does?" The echo of sheer horror in Sebastian's voice made Caleb blanch, the blood in his face ran down into his gut, mingling with the doughnut and coffee he had eaten for breakfast and making him sick. The change in him was so obvious that Sebastian noted it at once, noted it but did not let him retreat. "Don't look at me like that scares you! It's what you want isn't it?! You want me to like it!" He pushed Caleb back but jerked him forward again almost at once, voice rising. "Why the hell did you have to tell me today? Why not yesterday? Or tomorrow? Why Cale?! I don't even like—" He stopped short, eyes round with realization. "I never even thought…"
He let go of his best man. "Am I… I don't…" His eyes frosted over as he fell harshly against the couch, shivers running through his arms. "Jen…"
Caleb took the man by the shoulders again and gave him a shake, green eyes wide. "What?! Two kisses and you're like this? What the hell is wrong with you? Go get married! I didn't mean to stop you!" The frost turned slowly to water. "I just want you happy. If going out there and standing at the end of the aisle and taking her hand will make you happy for the rest of your life then do it – forget I ever said a word about this, ignore me. I don't matter – that's what I want for you. I just wanted you to know how I feel, because I… couldn't stand for you not to know, it's not fair to either of us."
"How is telling me fair?" Sebastian's voice broke suddenly, silver tears streaking down his face. He was never this weak – he hadn't cried since he'd broken his leg in the seventh grade, but for his mother's funeral. "What the hell am I supposed to do?"
"Get married. Obviously."
"Don't be a dumbass Cale, it's not that simple."
"You love her don't you? It should be."
Sebastian tilted his head forward with a sigh, two tears dripped from his face and onto his black tuxedo. "I… it's not that I don't love her. But…"
Caleb tried not to feel hopeful. "But what?"
Sebastian thought back to how he had proposed, not really meaning to, and how obligated he felt now to go through with it. This was the first time anyone – male or female – had given him a means by which to change the long laid plans of matrimony.
'When we're out of college, and if we're still dating, what do you want to do?'
'I don't know.' She had brushed her bangs out of her face and smiled awkwardly. 'Get married I guess. We're not the most loving couple in the world but we understand each other. And if we change our minds, break up, anything like that, we'll still be friends.'
'I guess you're right.' He had smiled back, just as awkwardly. 'I guess we'll never have to worry too much about being alone then, only about being together.'
She had kissed him.
Those words were it. No moment of undying affection, no epiphany that she was the girl for him. After that he was hers, so long as no one else wanted him, and she was his the same way.
"I should take the time to think about it. Even if we're both men, even if you… kind of went behind Jen's back with this, you're still my best friend. I can't just shut you out and pretend you never said anything." Caleb's hands slid down the redhead's arms to his fingers, which they took a tender hold of and squeezed. "I just… don't know what I'll tell Jen."
"You don't have to do this, Sebastian." The brunette tried again, the quivering of his strained voice evident to him, the hope lost in a torrent of uncertainty. He had wanted this but he hadn't known it. He had dreamed of it in the last few moments and now that it was happening, he didn't want to feel happy; he didn't want to do that to Sebastian or Jen. That wasn't the point. "You should go get married. I didn't mean for you to—"
"Bullshit." Sebastian broke in. "If you didn't want me to let you have a chance you wouldn't have said anything about it. You wouldn't have… done what you did. Don't pretend you don't want me to feel that way you jerk. No take backs."
Caleb's shoulders slumped, a sigh shook his ribcage as he fell forward into the man he loved, placing his face just on the plane of the redhead's shoulder. It took all his will not to cry or damn Sebastian or kiss him for the third time in six minutes. "I'm sorry."
Sebastian made a soft sound of negation and squeezed lightly back. "I can't go out there and say I don't. I can't do that to Jen. You know that, right?"
Caleb licked his lips and frowned, a three-fourths sarcastic idea coming to mind. "Maybe you can get away with telling Jen that you don't want to get married without the ring. That would work until we find it." His grin burned it was such a lie but it was his only hope. If Sebastian decided against it he would get married, have a life, and move on. Goodbye Caleb, hello cradle. "Give me three days. If I can convince you... we'll go from there. If not, you still have a bride and a best man who like you."
"I don't want to convince Jen. I'm not even supposed to see her in her dress, let alone call anything off."
"Have someone else tell her it's missing. You can tell her the truth later, if you want. I don't care."
"You're my friend, Caleb. I don't want to out you if you don't want me to, even if you are a homo."
"A homo you might be homo with, if I get my way Bastian."
"That's what I'm going for."
The redhead could not find it in himself to laugh at that sad attempt at humor, so he simply shook Caleb's grip loose and took him firmly by the shoulders, ivory fingers lost in ebony fabric, pressing him up into a sitting position once more. The hand that touched the side of his friend's face with was far nicer than it would have been for any other man; it was only the fact that this was Caleb that kept him from politely declining the offer and moving along down the straight and narrow. There had always been something in Caleb that made him impossible to stay mad at, something that made him feel safe, so he would return that feeling as best as he could for as long as he could, even if it meant stepping on his own toes. Because he cared.
No matter how mean he was to him sometimes.
"Get off me; we need to search the car." He ground out, pushing the smaller man aside. "Did you even see it there?" As he spoke he attempted to casually wipe the tears from his cheeks with his shoulders, an act which Caleb stopped with a soft touch of his hand. The dark haired man offered him a Kleenex from a travel pack and attempted to rise on unsure feet, using the base of the sofa to lift himself.
"I don't know…" I'm such a coward. A fucking coward, His mind chanted at him, making his hands clamp too tightly on the dark couch cushions. "There was a box in the center console but I don't know what's in it." He had told Sebastian the truth – that he was proud of – but he had done it a terrible way at a terrible time with terrible consequences. As the two of them began to reorganize the throw pillows, he mentally cursed himself and the tiny loop of metal in his pocket; damning them both for his stupidity. It had not been his intention to steal it – it had just sat there, in it's box, staring at him, begging him to pick it up and slip it into his pocket, demanding that he stop the wedding at all costs.
At all costs…
"Cale, you've been straightening that cushion for two minutes, it's fine."
He attempted nervous laughter and failed miserably, the press of the ring on his thigh almost burned. "I'm just lost in thought."
"What aren't you telling me now?"
"Nothing! I'm just… flustered I guess. I kind of figured that doing that would get me killed, you know? You've always been tolerant of the men who liked men but I never thought you'd… let me… well…"
"Kiss me?" Sebastian finished softly. The whisper made Caleb look at him from beneath the overhang of his dark hair and grin lopsidedly, previous melancholy gone completely. Sebastian watched the shorter man reach out to touch his sleeve; just enough for him to know it was there. "What?"
"Don't whisper." Caleb said seriously, tugging. "It makes me think you want me to."
Sebastian laughed at him while his left eyebrow perched itself merrily over his right, straight teeth flashing. "Have you always been like this?"
"On some level."
"Wow… you hide it so well." Sebastian smirked at him, yet kept his voice just as low as it had been. "How come it never bothered you before?"
"I hadn't kissed you before."
"In fact… can I… do it again?"
Sebastian shook his head despite the expression of amusement on his face, seeming only half serious. "No. You go wait for me in the car, I'll go find Ellen so she can tell Jen that we're postponing. We'll have to search my place if it's not in there. And change clothes." As he said it his gaze wandered over Caleb's chest in a way that made the brunette clench the sleeve he still held more tightly, blushing, heat rising in his face. Sebastian reached with his free fingers to smooth the rumpled fabric of his friend's lapels, completely unaware of what he was doing.
Caleb let go of Sebastian's clothes. "Are you sure there's nothing? You look kind of off."
"Nope. I'm great." I'm just stupid.
"'Kay." Sebastian put the palm of his right hand on the curve of Caleb's shoulder and started to lean in, unsure of what he was doing, following his gut. His mind was a mess of emotions and ideas he did not understand but this – this one act – felt right at this moment, even if it had never felt right before. He couldn't explain it. It seemed to him that somehow, despite the fact that he would die for Jen, cry with her, and spend time with her everyday if he could, Caleb was the same. He would die for him, he had cried with him, would spend time with him everyday if he could – there was only one difference, a difference that made him shiver even as he pressed their mouths against each other.
Caleb felt better. Tasted better. Smiled better. Caleb made him feel…
I'm going insane…
Before he knew what he was doing, Sebastian tripped his best friend onto the couch, hands on either side of his head against the cushions. It wasn't like this with Jen; it wasn't like this with anyone. If he didn't get more of Caleb he was going to stop breathing, or fall apart, or something, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. It just was. Rough hands in his hair, a surprised gasp against his mouth, the heady scent of men's cologne – he couldn't get enough of it.
I never thought… about Caleb. I never thought about any man like this… His left hand sank to his friend's corresponding hip and he leaned into it, pressing him lower on the sofa. There was a startled purring sound from the brunette's throat but it didn't stop Sebastian from licking it. I always just looked at girls. It's not like I hated gay people – hell, I watched a gay porno with Jen once – but it never occurred to me that I might... that I could…
"If you want to make out with me we should find some place a bridesmaid won't walk in on us."
In the doorway, brown eyes round with surprise, Ellen gaped at them. She stood perfectly still in her maroon satin dress, her jaw hanging open, left hand on the doorknob right going swiftly to her eyes. When her black nailed fingers blocked them from sight she finally found the strength to speak. "Did I just walk in on Basty and Cale making out on Deana's sofa or did I drink way the fuck too much last night?" Her alto voice – usually far too loud and obnoxious – was little more than a whisper.
Sebastian's hands closed like vises on the couch cushions even as Caleb pushed at his chest to remove him. Instead of actually heaving the redhead onto the floor as planned, the brunette's hands slid through his friend's jacket and to his dress shirt, forcing a tiny surprised sound from Sebastian's lips.
Ellen peeked through her fingers. "My God, Jen is gonna die."
"No – El—"
"Ellen." The redhead interrupted, voice low, eyes closed to the women who watched them. He could feel his heart beating in his throat and attempted in vain to swallow it. "If I told you that Caleb was gay and confessed that he loves me and has asked that I call off the wedding for at least a few days to find out what I think about that, what would you say to me?"
"I'd say – if you weren't straddling him and engaging in… whatever that was – you're fucking nuts. Caleb likes tits way too much to like men." She closed the door as she stepped forward on her slightly heeled shoes. "But because I saw it… I'd say…. Wow." She thumped her head against the door behind her, hard, and winced when the wood bit into her scalp. "Ow. Ok. Not dreaming."
"El…" Caleb tried again, but Sebastian wasn't moving. He couldn't think of a way to convince her that this wasn't the groom and best man making out on the davenport when obviously it was. It was impossible. But the pair of large brown eyes that flicked from his face to Sebastian's and back again did not look like they needed convincing, nor like they wanted to be lied to.
"Don't even try to tell me what's going on. I need to burn this image into my mind for all eternity really fast."
Shit, shit, shit…
"It's not like… I mean… we're…"
"Burning off steam so he doesn't rape Jen during the ceremony? Because that's all I can think of you doing besides something gay…"
"Shut up, both of you." Sebastian tried to command, voice stern, icy eyes narrowed.
"So can't take you seriously when Cale has his hands in your jacket."
"I don't care. I want you to swear to me – on your honor – that you will not tell Jen what you walked in on."
"Ha! She wouldn't believe me if I took pictures!"
Sebastian felt Caleb's fingers curl against his ribcage and looked down at him in curiosity. He was shocked to find that he wanted to kiss him as soon as he saw the fear in his eyes, make him feel safe, soothe him. Without thinking of Ellen or the repercussions of what he was doing, he let himself sink lower, taking Caleb in a kiss so tender that he was unsure if they had touched or simply shared breath for a moment, eyes open but hooded. "You're shaking." His voice was far too husky from just that hint of contact.
"I'm terrified." Caleb plainly stated, hands tightening yet again. "And… with you there…"
Sebastian leaned forward enough to take Caleb's mouth completely now that he was not afraid to do so. He heard Ellen gasp but didn't let it bother him; she had seen them the first time so it wasn't as if she were seeing anything new. The one difference that she could see, perhaps, was how he responded to Caleb's soft moan of pleasure and the press of fingers on his abdomen, the warm caress of a tongue against his. In the back of his mind, just as his left hand finally left the cushion in favor of playing on the side of the other man's face, he realized that he didn't want this to be Jen. It made him more desperate.
I really am going insane.
"Ba-Ba—" Caleb attempted to say his name against his lips but Sebastian would have none of it. His untried fingers found the curve of the smaller man's throat at the same moment that his dress shirt slipped out of his pants.
"I'll just come back in an hour. I'm not into voyeurism." Ellen turned toward the door but Sebastian called her back hurriedly, fumbling to detach himself from Caleb's suddenly clamping hands. It was almost too much to choose between halting her and staying where he was.
"Caleb, let go."
"You'll never be on top of me again; I don't want to stop you now."
"Yeah right, whose idea was it to get on the couch and make out?"
"Yours… but that doesn't mean anything!"
"We still have to search the car, my place, your place, and anywhere else it might be – do you honestly think I won't kiss you between here and all of that?"
"Not the point." Caleb insisted. The thumb of his left hand was sliding across Sebastian's skin, just out of sight. "I don't just wanna kiss you…"
"Don't push your luck."
"Yup. Going away now… you two have fun… I'll come back in an hour with a camera…"
"El—" Sebastian was cut off by a forceful mouth against his – the pressure of which frightened him back enough for Caleb to push him back partly onto the floor, hands still occupied. After a moment the redhead pulled away, unsure of the intensity with which his best friend was pursuing him. When his right knee came down on the floor, he grumbled his discontent and the brunette retreated in answer, leaving him bereft of everything but the soft play of fingers on his bare skin and the whisper of breath on the side of his face, hot and moist. He wanted to feel that again – if only to stop himself from wanting to.
"Ok. Off. Have Ellen tell Jen that you can't find the ring and we can go look for it. And maybe… if you're still… willing to speak to me by the time we get to your couch… we can have ourselves a little touching session. And talk about what you're feeling." Caleb hooked a pair of belt loops in his left hand and jerked Sebastian against the couch, grinned at his startled hiss, his round eyes. "And what you're thinking." He finished with a second tug.
For a fleeting moment Caleb saw Sebastian smile. "I'll figure it out."
Ellen made a sound that at last brought the two of them completely apart, though Caleb did not make any attempt to remove his fingers from the material of the redhead's tuxedo and Sebastian did not attempt to make him. Instead, the taller of the two found himself sitting once again on the blue tile, leaning on the tan couch, his friend's hand on his shoulder. That hand – no matter how masculine it was – felt fine there.
I really do need to think about it.
"So…" Ellen clicked one of her kitty heels on the floor and snapped her head up, rattling her too large earrings with a smile. "Tell me, oh straight friends, what it is that I need to know?"
An hour later Sebastian sat in the passenger seat of Caleb's black Camry, trying to make sense of things and failing miserably. He let his green eyes wander out the window, focused on nothing at all, his mind a good foot and a half from where it should have been. He wanted – more than anything – to think about how this affected him and Jen, then mull it over and take the time to breathe, but that was not about to happen for him. Instead he kept thinking about Caleb. Only Caleb. And how this affected them both.
He found himself watching the brunette as he drove, scanning his jaw line from the corner of his eye, noticing little things. He wasn't innately attracted to men, he didn't think, but looking at Caleb he could pick out characteristics that he liked. His slightly square jaw, the day's stubble on his chin, his habit of singing along the song on the radio without actually knowing the words coming out of his mouth – somehow Sebastian liked those things. He liked that stubborn bit of hair that hung down over the man's right eyebrow, the way he held the steering wheel, the calluses on his right fingers. Looking at him, with his dark hair and his striking suit, it was hard to find something he didn't want to keep looking at. Even the broadness of his shoulders and the narrowing of his hips warranted a moment's appreciation.
"Whatcha looking at, Bastian?"
"You. And Sebastian, Caleb."
"Sebastian Fredrick Gallagher. Better?"
"Say it and I kill you."
"Aw, but you love me! You won't kill me for that…"
Caleb snickered as his long fingered left hand flipped the blinker and they changed lanes, heading for an exit. "I only call you Bastian because it fits better. Calling you by your whole name all the time makes me feel old and unimportant."
"Says the man whose job it is to shape the future of architecture."
"Oh please." Caleb rolled his eyes without looking at him, turned them down a side street. "That's not what I mean. Caleb Notara doesn't sound as pompously epic as Sebastian Fredrick Gallagher III, now does it? Nope. I sound like a Greek hobo. A foreign hobo. Calling you Bastian makes me feel friendly."
"Caleb isn't very Greek."
"Sebastian isn't very Irish."
"I don't get your logic."
"That's why it's mine."
Sebastian sighed in annoyance and cast his eyes back out the window, looking for something else to focus on.
No stores he knew. No stores at all. No buildings. Open, hilly road as far as he could see.
"Caleb." He didn't try to sound scared; it just came out that way. "Where are we going?"
Caleb scoffed lightly and turned down another empty road. "Your place."
The redhead reached left handed and gripped his friend's elbow, pinching a little too hard to be friendly, his fingers bit through the thick fabric of his best man's jacket but Caleb did not slow. "I live about forty miles out of town the other way. What the hell is wrong with you?!" His voice had risen to a level not quite like a scream, yet Caleb only smiled at him, sea colored eyes gentle despite the pain shooting down to his wrist.
"Nothing. I'm taking the scenic route."
"Do not be a smartass right now! You're an architect; you aren't supposed to get north and south confused." Sebastian let Caleb yank his arm away, turning down an unused street that quickly turned into little more than a dirt path. The dark haired man punched the accelerator for a few seconds until they came to a curve in the shrub covered road, at which point he hit the brakes and reversed out of sight, Sebastian yelling at him to stop almost until he had the car in park.
I'm a coward.
"Caleb what are you—?" The red haired man was rendered incapable of speech when he realized what was happening. The brunette unlatched his belt and threw himself out of his seat and into Sebastian's, hands at once pressed into the larger man's coat, legs bent awkwardly to either side of his thighs. Sebastian felt his heart leap into his throat and choke him. Caleb's left hand sailed down by the door and grabbed something – the seat fell from behind the redhead and Caleb pushed him back, leaving them nearly horizontal. He worked his tongue in his dry mouth despite the feeling that his hard palate had magically transformed into sandpaper. "Did you need something?"
The best man let his right hand glide down the front of Sebastian's shirt, picking at his buttons. "Apparently I do." He slid forward at the same moment his long time friend grabbed his wrists in an attempt to stop him, bringing his face just even with the taller man's. "I can't drive when I'm thinking about you and you're doing that snippy horny thing, so…"
The brunette rolled his eyes and sighed, aware that the hand on his wrist wasn't as tight as it had been on his arm. "Never mind. Just… If we have ourselves a little… I don't know… exploration, and a chat…"
"Cale, I'm new to this and I'm thinking a lot, exploration and chatting do not go hand in hand yet." He kept his fingers closed firmly but allowed Caleb to continue unbuttoning, enjoying the feel of cool fingers on his warm skin.
"Then how about we let your fingers do the talking?"
"That's not what I—Caleb!" His hand clenched on the other man's arms at the touch of a mouth on his jaw, aiming for his lips. He pushed back but the brunette stayed where he was, twisting his wrists until Sebastian found himself pinned against the seat, his best friend licking down his throat to his chest, nipping at his skin. Words of dissent spilled from his lips for a moment even though his arms refused to thrash like he willed them. He liked it. He wanted Caleb to ignore him. It didn't matter that he wasn't used to a man like this or that the sensation of facial hair on his flesh was entirely strange or that Caleb smelled like Caleb – all that mattered was the thought that this person wanted to do this for him.
The words of denial changed suddenly to low, needy moans.
"Bastian?" Caleb stopped what he was doing to look up at the blushing redhead, afraid that he was going too fast. He was immediately surprised by the groom's hands pulling free to press against his chest, arching him back until his shoulders hit the dashboard. He trembled slightly at the feeling of his shirt leaving his pants and the press of hands on his stomach, changing his hold to Sebastian's shoulders. This was going rather quickly, especially for the first day. He only managed to speak when the taller man's mouth began to warm the side of his throat with hot, open kisses, sliding his jacket down his arm. "If you keep this up I'll start feeling like a whore, Bastian."
"Shit, you weren't supposed to get married today." Sebastian paused but didn't move back; instead he leaned into the cool glass window with his forehead, playing with Caleb's fallen jacket with his left hand. "I don't get it. It's only been what? Two hours, and I feel like… I don't know. I want to keep touching you."
"Maybe you just want to touch something."
"It's not like that." Sebastian tried again, his fingers migrating to the side of his friend's neck. "When it's Jen… I can stop myself. And she sure as hell can't pull over and molest me whenever she damn well feels like it." He sighed, closing his eyes against the glass, breathing slowly. An ice cold shower couldn't have cleared his head so the window did little for him. "How come I never even looked at you like I looked at her?"
"Bastian," Caleb smoothed the hair from the other man's forehead and slumped forward enough to lay his lips on the side of his cheek, just gently. He felt rather than heard Sebastian's sigh, a ripple of goosebumps riddled the side of his neck where the warm air brushed, tickling down inside of his shirt. He didn't let the sensation take him away. In a single motion Caleb shrugged off his jacket and pulled Sebastian into a lopsided, awkward hug. "Stop being mad at yourself about it or you'll never make up your mind. You've only got three days and then you're supposed to get married again. If you spend all that time thinking about whom you never noticed or whose heart you'll break, you won't think about yourself. And that's the point of all of this. You."
"But I haven't thought about you like this, ever!"
"I wasn't the one who ignored me all this time, now was I? Don't scream at me for your own one-sightedness. If you want to spend more time than that thinking about it, take it, but don't blame me for your wedding."
The redhead clapped his mouth shut and breathed in a shaking breath, pushing Caleb away for a moment. When the two had perhaps a foot of space between their faces he spoke again, softly. "Maybe this was a bad idea."
Caleb's eyebrows attempted to migrate into his hairline. "Oh?"
"Just – forget I said it. We can talk later. Drive."
"Ok but… before I get off your lap…" His right hand followed the line of Sebastian's stomach until it came to his pants, pausing at the zipper. Sebastian's mouth fell open, a tiny gasp on his lips. "Is it me or are you enjoying yourself too much to be entirely adverse to the cock?" The redhead savagely pushed Caleb away, bashing him against the dashboard and driving the air from his lungs. Caleb crumpled in on himself, curling around his middle with a pained sound of surprise. Sebastian saw his sea green eyes grow shiny with water. "Ok…" He wheezed, slumping into the door. "I won't do that again, no need for violence."
"Shit, did I hurt you?" Sebastian touched the brunette's hand, worry clouding over his momentary surprise.
"I'm fine, it was only my spine, lungs, and pituitary gland."
"Your pituitary gland is at the base of your brain, not in your chest. Sit up; I want to make sure you didn't break anything."
"You mean you didn't break anything."
"I think you killed my prostate."
"Again, not possible."
"Really? Wanna check it for me?"
"Right, right, new at this..." Caleb sighed and propped himself up a little, resting his dark head on the window beside Sebastian's. His ribs protested for a moment but he was recovering quickly – or at least he thought he was until a hand touched the side of his face. "What?"
The redhead smiled, green eyes dancing in the afternoon light. "Thanks, for being how you are, Caleb."
"You're welcome, Sappy McCheesesauce."
"Shut up and drive."
The entire time they drove to Sebastian's house they talked. Mostly the conversation was arbitrary, focused on whatever came to mind, filled with half insults and half enthusiastic allusions to sex, but it was still different. Sebastian left his shirt open and Caleb ignored the fact that he was no longer wearing his jacket; they were both somewhat free feeling in their slight level of nudity.
And they liked to look.
The house itself wasn't overly large – blue, three rooms, two car garage – but it was removed from the city, secluded. A stand of pine tress served as a wind break on the left side while the large front windows faced directly east, into the sun and into the brown and green hills until a distant line of lavender-blue mountains cut off the landscape and ended the world. Caleb didn't particularly enjoy being out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature and air and small animals and creepy things that creaked in the night, but it worked well for Sebastian. A small house in a big area was easily warded over, and he didn't have to worry about bringing his work home with him.
The smell usually faded during the ride home.
They left the Camry in the driveway – just in case they didn't find what they were looking for – and walked in silence up the front steps, the jingle of Sebastian's keys was the only disturbance in the summery air until the door squeaked open, white paint made orange in the sunlight.
"If you want something besides that suit to sit around in you're welcome to my clothes – not the ones on me, thank you very much." Sebastian said the last part with a smile, obviously not serious. Caleb pouted at him as he shut the door.
"Aw, you have to ruin my fun, don't you?" He reached out and caught the redhead by the hand, just to see if he could, and stepped toward the couch. It didn't take much for Sebastian to follow him in that general direction but he couldn't get quite close enough to pull him down onto it. "I'd really like to take your clothes... off."
Sebastian attempted to level a glare at him but didn't quite manage. "It hasn't been a day, Cale, give it a rest."
"But I like flirting with you. It's much more fun than teasing you and having you not know why." He gave a rather powerful jerk that pulled Sebastian flush against him, the redhead blinked down with eyes as round as dinner plates at the brush of a hand across his chest, a flutter in his ribcage warned him that this was bad. He couldn't stop himself from taking that last step toward the couch so Caleb could sink down on it, tan cushions almost seeming to rise to meet them. It took all of his will to ignore the material of his jacket leaving his shoulders.
It's not like this with anyone. He brought his mouth against Caleb's, feeling the smaller man shudder at his willingness. Happiness seemed to radiate from the brunette's skin every second that Sebastian spent touching him, and the more he touched the more he wanted to see him happy; the cycle was unending.
"Cale…" He spoke to the man's neck rather than his face, hissing his name because speaking required air he did not have.
"Mm?" Sebastian's jacket went sliding down his arms.
"I need to change."
"Which means you have to get naked."
"No… which means I can't…"
"But you want to?"
Sebastian's icy eyes were almost pained; the expression tugged at Caleb's heartstrings and made him frown. He remembered then, as a hand experimentally explored the space above his pants line, that he had caused all of this, everything, even the redhead's confusion. The ring that they were supposed to be looking for felt suddenly like it weighed more than it should and his heart ached for a reason he could not understand.
Because he was lying.
Searching for the band, claiming to have not seen it, saying that he understood what would happen if it was found – none of it was true. And lying was inevitably causing Sebastian pain.
I am still a fucking coward.
I am still going insane.
"Then do, Bastian." Caleb cradled the side of the man's face in his hand while his mind shrieked how much of a lie it was, how much he was misleading him. He wanted to tell him the truth and give him the ring and tell him those fateful words that had only been implied up until now, because he knew that would make him feel right.
The redhead kissed Caleb's lips so fast that the brunette didn't have time to respond. "Shave first." He pulled away, shaking his tuxedo shirt and jacket into his hands as he stood, ignoring the pair of sad sea colored eyes that implored him to sit down once again. He sighed, deciding to explain. "Kissing you is like rubbing my face on a cat's tongue. If I wanted that, I'd find Morose and have him lick me."
"Didn't seem to bother you earlier."
"My face wasn't raw earlier."
"It isn't now."
"Getting there." He turned away, exposing his bare back to Caleb, and headed toward the hall that led to his bedroom, chatting away as if he expected the other man to follow. After a moment he did, ignoring the press of metal through his pants. "If you search the living room and kitchen, I can look through my room and the bathrooms. Then we can grab dinner on the way to your place."
"Why would the ring even be at my place?"
"I carried it with me everywhere for two days. I was at your apartment yesterday – it could have fallen out or something." Sebastian's voice guided Caleb into the redhead's room where he paused in the doorway, dress shoes silent on the carpeted floor. "Green or… black?"
"For you? How about nothing?"
Sebastian turned away from the closet for long enough to throw a T-shirt at Caleb, ignoring his smirk. The brunette caught it without question and folded it over his right arm, a small sigh coming from his lips.
He shrugged, yawning. "It's been a long day. After we finish at my place, I think I'll nap until tomorrow."
Sebastian rolled his eyes as Caleb turned away toward the hallway bathroom, shirt over his shoulder. Maybe I'll nap with you.
They didn't find it.
Under the couch, behind the TV, under the bed – it wasn't in Sebastian's house.
Because it was in Caleb's pocket.
Nevertheless they ransacked Caleb's apartment and car, pausing only when they realized they had skipped dinner. The brunette – in a moment of kindness and caring – drove off to the local burger joint and ordered them meals to go while Sebastian attempted to continue the hunt for something he could never find.
It was all Caleb could do to keep from telling.
He did not sleep at all that night despite the fact that he was tired. He looked longingly up at the white ceiling above his bed and thought about the fact that Sebastian was sleeping on his couch, afraid that if he went home Jen would be there or would call. If he hadn't said anything, they both would have been sleeping at home.
Well, maybe not Bastian.
Around two o'clock in the morning his door opened and the subject of his thoughts wandered inside. He did not move to look at him or ask what he wanted; he simply closed his eyes as if he had fallen asleep on his back, right fist clutched around the wedding ring. Sebastian curled up on the foot of the bed like a loyal watch dog, pillowed his head on his hands, and gazed at him, blue eyes like lanterns in the silver light.
Caleb rolled over and threw him a pillow; acting as if he didn't care the shirtless man was so close.
Thus they passed the night pretending to sleep for the most part, two feet and a blanket between them.
The morning sun seeped like molten gold into the room, dying it pale pink through the crimson curtains. Sebastian turned his icy eyes to the red bulbs of the alarm clock and blinked at it – 6:22 AM and not a wink of sleep for either of them, he grimaced. He rolled out of bed and threw his pillow at Caleb, hitting him squarely in the face.
"Don't even pretend that you fell asleep, I know better than that." The redhead's voice – normally a smooth high baritone – cracked with unrest and disuse. He smirked at it, walking on bare feet to the side of Caleb's nightstand. "Get up. We have more stuff to search."
Caleb groaned lowly and cracked an eye at him, sea green irises swallowing his pupil in the oddly colored light. If not for the two days of beard on his chin, Sebastian might have been tempted to kiss him, an urge that he had started to get used to over the eight hours he had spent looking at the ceiling. He had come to the painful conclusion that although he had not thought of men sexually in the past, he was not adverse to masculine tendencies or characteristics, and the fact that Caleb was male was not something he needed to worry himself over. He had gone from thinking that he was losing his sanity to accepting his attraction in a matter of hours and the knowledge made him proud; now it made sense to him to run a hand over the brunette's brow and smile, even if the day before the act might have made him wonder about his preferences. The truth was he did not have any preferences. He had always gone with girls because they were sweeter.
"Bastian, you're petting me."
The redhead grinned wider. "You're too hairy to do anything else to."
Caleb raised an eyebrow and pushed the sheets away, reaching up to take a firm hold of Sebastian's hips and yank him down. He could only use three fingers on his right hand, the ring pinched against his palm with the other two. That wasn't what worried him though, what worried him were Sebastian's boxers. They were all that stood between his hands and a completely naked Sebastian, which would lead to all sorts of early morning adventures. "Like what?"
"I told you to shave…" Hands touched Caleb's bare shoulders and he saw the blush on the taller man's cheeks – as if he had noticed also how lacking he was in clothing. "You do that and I'll make coffee." Sebastian offered, trying to ignore his reddening cheeks. Caleb smiled at it.
"Sure. Just one tiny little thing."
"Fuzzy good morning kiss?"
"Just because you can't grow a beard…"
"Hmm…" Caleb turned his red rimmed eyes away, looking at the curtains. He always did that when saying something ridiculous, always, but this time the light made his greenish eyes almost brown. "Maybe I just won't shave at all today. See how long you can stand this no—" He was completely shocked when Sebastian's mouth hit his, enthusiastically playing against his lips, tongue stroking knowledgeably. His wide eyes were redirected to the groom's face, but fell slowly closed at the soft brush of fingers on his neck. I could get up every morning like this, He thought as the fingers of his left hand curved into the band of Sebastian's boxers, Even if I don't sleep at night.
The redhead pulled back shortly, holding Caleb against his pillow with his right hand. "No more until you shave."
"Fine, fine. Let me up then, I can't shave with you pinning me."
"Then can I pin you?"
"Is that an offer?"
The redhead smiled; a look that made Caleb frown. "We've only got two days, you know. I figure flirting will help me make up my mind."
The brunette rolled his eyes. "Move."
Sebastian complied, prying Caleb's hands from the blue material of his undergarment with a sigh. "You haven't moved anything, have you? Relocated the papers?"
"Nope." Caleb called to his back. "Everything is still as cluttered and messy and unsafe as it was last time you were here."
As soon as the redhead was out the door the best man threw himself out of bed, scrambling for some scrap of clothing in which to hide the ring he still held. He found a clean pair of jeans and yanked them on as hurriedly as was physically possible, then jammed the loop of metal in his front right pocket, shoving it to the farthest corner. He could talk to Sebastian and hold it between his fingers, but the moment the man was gone it started on his insides again, eating, biting, ripping. The guilt made him feel sick.
It was only two more days though. After that Sebastian would make up his mind and he could give him the wedding ring if he wanted it or not. He could either get married or sell it. They would move on.
Or Sebastian would become indignant and attempt to kill him for taking it in the first place.
"Hey!" A voice came from the kitchen, nearly forcing him out of his own skin. He fumbled sideways and bashed his hip on the nightstand with bruising force, slurred curse words seeped from his lips even before he hit the floor awkwardly. This was not his morning. "What are you doing? Killing yourself? I just wanna know if the filters are under the mass of blueprints or on top of the fuse box."
"Neither. Over the pot."
"I just look—oh. Heh."
Caleb pushed himself up with a shake of his head, snatching a shirt from the floor as he scuttled off for the bathroom. His place was never clean. It wasn't that he never did laundry – it was just that the clean laundry never made it to the dresser, and his papers never made it into cases unless they were finished. Pens, pencils, clean clothes, not quite dirty clothes, books, protractors, rulers, straight edges – they all had their places even if they never got to them, and in the meantime he was able to imagine that his room had carpet some color besides gray.
Sebastian heard the buzz of Caleb's electric razor just as he switched on the coffee pot and smiled. Without the beard, little would stop him from finding out exactly how far he was willing to take the thing that was growing between Caleb and himself, but the thought no longer frightened him nor intrigued him. Instead, he felt that whatever happened over the next two days would be something that changed more than just their friendship – it would serve to decide many things about the future for them all. Yet there was still more to it, much more. Even though the next two days would either make or break he and Jen, hurt or fulfill Caleb, there was still something that required time to think about.
How happy he was.
It had been four months with Jen before he felt comfortable enough to make her coffee when he slept on her couch. And even then, he really did sleep on the couch.
"Are you going to watch it brew?" The brunette whom had been occupying much of his thoughts of late hooked an arm around his waist and leaned into his back, letting the smooth skin of his neck and chin press against Sebastian's cheek. The redhead shivered, suddenly aware that the fingers playing with the elastic of his boxers were far too close to his skin, too far away as well. A soft sound of surprise escaped him at the same moment that Caleb's lips found the curve of his jaw; the vibration of his voice drove the shorter man to move his soft ministrations to Sebastian's lips.
I will let this happen, He thought as he returned the tentative touch against his mouth with a more willful pressure of his own, Not because it feels better, but because I want Caleb. There is no sense in denying it. His feet pivoted him in a slow half circle until he faced his long time friend and cupped the side of his soft face with his left hand, his right taking a hold of hip. In a matter of moments he found himself stepping rather intimately into the smaller man, guiding him back against the opposite counter.
But it's more than that, too. His mind continued even as his fingers did not listen. They were shredding through buttons like they weren't even there. If I just wanted him I could control it by thinking but… right now… He breathed in when their lips parted; smelling soap and a tiny hint of aftershave, feeling large hands squeeze his ribcage. I need him.
"Bastian, you're taking off my clothes."
"And?" The word was husky and the sound of it made Caleb blush.
"Don't do anything stupid… I might… let you…"
"Do you love me, Caleb?"
The brunette gasped at the words, hardly feeling the bite on the skin of his neck. "I do."
Sebastian hummed at his answer. "What's it like? What do you feel when…I do this to you?" He pushed off the brunette's shirt entirely; it rumpled into a heap on the floor.
Caleb sighed, hooking his arms around Sebastian's back. The next he knew a hand was sliding down the back of his thigh and lifting, encouraging him to scoot back onto the countertop without answer. He swallowed hard before drawing the redhead into another kiss, pressing his knees tightly against his sides. "I feel happy… and afraid. I don't want you to stop but I know you will, but even knowing you will… I don't care. I just… want you to feel like I do. Happy because you're near me and all that."
"Really…" Sebastian paused and looked up at Caleb – the brunette leaned down to caress his neck with the edge of his tongue. "You don't… feel like you need me?"
"Naturally, but that sounds cheesy when you're nibbling on my collar bone and playing with my butt."
"No it doesn't." He went back to enthusiastically sucking at the flesh of Caleb's neck, feeling him shiver. The touch was returned to him tenderly, shy hands gliding on his bare chest, and he spoke lowly to the brunette's earlobe, words catching on his lingering tongue. "I'll have to think about that." His teeth closed on the earlobe; Caleb moaned at him.
The fingers of his right hand went through Sebastian's hair as he whimpered. "Keep it up and I'm gonna need a cold shower."
"I'll handle it."
"I said I'll handle it."
"I don't think you know what you're saying, Bastian."
The redhead laughed. It was a warm sound that ran a line of shivers down Caleb's side. The brunette tensed at the press of a palm on the side of his face and cast lust fogged eyes at the taller man, seeing his knowing smile. Caleb felt his mouth fall open at that look, his breath fought to move in and out of his lungs because of it, his fingers tightened in Sebastian's hair at it, his heart seemed to stop beating in his chest.
Why is he looking at me like that? It's only been a day… it's only been…
"I know what I'm saying. The truth is that right now I can't think of anything else. There's you and there's me and that's it. Jen stops mattering. The ring stops mattering. I can feel you and I want to feel more of you."
"Now who sounds gay?"
"And? I like your jaw line. And your shoulders. Hell, if stubble didn't hurt it would be the sexiest thing since fishnets. No, I don't want to see you in fishnets, stop looking at me like that." Sebastian leaned in a little, just until his lips brushed Caleb's. "Can we… maybe get out of the kitchen?"
"Where you want to go?"
"I don't know." His hands touched Caleb's bare chest and his fingers twitched over the surface of a nipple. "I don't know how far I'll go. I don't know how horizontal we need to be… I don't know…" Why I feel like doing this is for both of us, not just me anymore?
"Do you want that?" Caleb strained his hips forward, pressing with his knees. "If you do you can have it. This may be my only chance to—"
"Don't say that."
"It's true isn't it?"
"You'd let me do anything I wanted because you think I'll never do it otherwise? If you aren't comfortable, I'm not taking anything from you."
"Bastian, I love you. You wouldn't be taking anything from me; you'd give me something I can never lose."
The redhead raised an eyebrow in an expression that was nearly a leer. "Oh?"
"One hell of a ride, at least."
"Shut up and say what you mean."
"Well, let's say you go back to Jen. Even if that happens I can still remember this. I'd rather have that one instance to cling to than nothing forever." He slumped forward, bringing Sebastian into a strange sort of embrace, his mouth less than an inch from the groom's. "So you can take me if you want me, it's up to you. But you should know that if you do… I won't forget it. Even if you get married and have kids and make a life for yourself, I won't forget. Most likely won't talk about it much but the memory will still be there. And I'll think about it." His voice cracked oddly but he ignored it, ignored the feeling that if Sebastian said no again he would cry in his arms, ignored the strange glint in the redhead's eyes.
"Don't." The brunette captured the redhead's lips and slipped from the countertop, cradling the taller man's face between his hands. Together he guided them sideways toward the hall, hardly acknowledging the fact that his best friend was tracing the curve of his spine with one hand and toying with the skin of his right hip with the other. He tried not to think what words might have come out of those willing lips if he had let them speak, but hope filled his chest when his feet found carpet and they kept moving, Sebastian's strong hands taking them back to bed.
I don't want you to forget. Sebastian's mind formed the words almost as soon as he tripped the smaller man onto the bed, still enthusiastically working at his slowly bruising lips. He placed a knee between Caleb's and pinned him against the rumpled white sheets, knowing exactly what he was doing. This was Caleb, not Jen, a man, not a woman, his best friend, not a whore.
And it was right.
He didn't care that he wasn't Jen. He cared only that nibbling on the man's lower lip made him moan.
No words of encouragement or curiosity were exchanged for the next few moments, open mouthed kisses finding their places on Sebastian's neck as if they were laid there everyday. He responded slowly at first, not being familiar with what exactly another man would enjoy, but soon found himself looking down at a flushed, needy expression, Caleb's darkened sea eyes fluttering closed. The brunette sighed and sank back into the mattress, hands on either of Sebastian's shoulder blades. Like that, half naked and blushing, he seemed like something Sebastian wanted to hold and keep and please, something worth giving up what he had for.
It hit him.
His stomach tightened suddenly and his hands closed in the bed sheets, his heart bashed in his throat. A sudden irrepressible desire to be as close to Caleb as possible washed over him, making the air stop for a moment in his throat, burning him from his lungs outward, making him shake. If he didn't get closer, if Caleb didn't want to be closer, the world would crumble. Everything would change. He would be pointless, unhappy – if he could be with Caleb…
"Bastian?" The brunette moved his left hand downward, tracing ribs and breast bone until he flattened his palm against the larger man's chest. He was breathing deeply, hands cold. "You gonna faint?"
He shook his head, lowering it to the crook of Caleb's neck. "No, I was just thinking. It's not important right now."
"Then… do you think I can…"
"You can what, Caleb?"
The brunette blushed deeper. "Touch you, Sebastian. I want to reach in your boxers."
"Didn't think so, forget I asked."
Caleb floundered for words to use as protests but could find none – his right hand was captured and shoved unceremoniously past the elastic of Sebastian's undergarment, his fingers at once recoiling at the heat therein. Language failed him. There was nothing but the soothing sound of Sebastian's voice and the awkward sense that this, despite all evidence to the contrary, was something the redhead wanted.
"Don't ask." Sebastian tugged at the top button of Caleb's jeans, seeming to sense that their tightness was growing uncomfortable. "Just do it."
"Bastian… but you don't…"
"I want you to. I want to do the same to you." His thumb turned on the back of Caleb's clenched fist, soothing. He felt it relax after a moment and smiled.
Caleb swallowed. "You sure about this?"
"Fuck no, but we're still going to do it."
The smaller man let his fingers uncurl just as Sebastian's hand released him into that astoundingly warm space. The redhead distracted him from his anxiety by lapping softly at his neck, touching his face with his hands, humming encouragement. It took a long moment for Caleb to reach out and touch him, dragging slow fingers down the inside of his thigh before reaching anywhere more intimate. Sebastian hissed at the contact, icy eyes round with an emotion that was not quite shock and not quite fear, lips parted in enjoyment. The sound he made gave Caleb courage.
The brunette closed his hand and gave a slow, strong stroke.
Sebastian faltered with his kisses, ran a hand through his sweat slicked hair, and smiled at Caleb, hooking his fingers in the waist of his pants. "Please?"
"Why, Bastian? Do you want me or what?" He couldn't explain the fear in his own voice.
"I want to make you happy. If doing this makes you happy then I will."
Caleb obviously didn't understand. "Why do you want me happy? This is supposed to be about your happiness, not mine."
The redhead left the brunettes pants alone while he rocked forward into Caleb's hips, just so the hand between them had to pull away or be crushed. Immediately there were fingernails biting into his shoulders, Caleb's head pressed into the pillows at the pressure against him, spine arching off of the mattress, features pleased. Seeing him with that expression, so compromised and yet smiling despite it, made Sebastian grin.
"Making you happy makes me happy, Cale. That's how it's always been."
"That's not – Bastian if you rock like that again I'll…" He moaned at the end of it, feet sliding to accommodate the movement despite his obvious want to keep talking. He was suddenly glad that he hadn't put on shoes this morning, or even offered to let Sebastian get dressed. Indeed the other man hadn't even asked for anything – he had been willing to spend the day in nothing but his underwear, a walking temptation, for reasons Caleb could not imagine until now. Bastian wasn't lying to him. As much as he wanted this – as much as he had thought about it while staring at the ceiling all night – Sebastian wanted this too. "Take off my pants, damn it!"
"Enthusiastic all of a sudden…"
"Do not tell me that." Caleb ran his palms across every inch of flesh he could on the way back to Sebastian's hips, teasing all of the erogenous zones he might have guessed at. He didn't get much for it, just another motion that left him panting. "Take off the clothes and then rock like – Bastian! Otherwise—"
The redhead giggled at him and pulled back, taking Caleb's pants as he went. Sebastian didn't think about the fact that his boxers were sliding off or the fact that every part of his skin felt like fire, burning from his chest, his mind was only on the addictive quality to Caleb's scent and the feel of his skin.
And that they were naked.
At once Sebastian's fingers wandered the places he had never appreciated, pausing at each junction of each joint, his heart pounding like a hammer on an anvil when he came to the other man's hips.
He became suddenly aware that the smaller man was making a rather dark hickey on the right side of his neck.
There wasn't a response until the brunette finished with a lingering bite then sank down again, a strange smile on his lips. When he spoke it was gently, not the lusty shriek he had voiced before. "Yes, Sebastian?"
"I don't know how this works so… you do it."
"This is new to me. I want you, but I don't know how to do it." Sebastian attempted to explain with his mouth while his eyes followed the line of Caleb's chest, watching him breathe, watching him grin. He really did look happy. "So you do it – I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't hurt me, I'll show you."
Caleb turned toward the nightstand and extended an arm but found himself incapable of reaching it. He let his hand sag against the bed and chuckled. "But first I must reach the nightstand. Lube is your friend and as such should not be left out of our little escapade." He tried to push himself away but Sebastian leaned over him, using the advantage of his slightly longer arms to pull open the drawer and reach inside. Caleb made a tiny sound of discomfort, his face just beside the redhead's chest. "Can't find it any faster?"
"Patience is a virtue."
"Tell that to my aching—"
"Heart?" Sebastian offered with a smirk. The suggestion marked his movement back to his previous place on his knees, a clear bottle in his hands that he shook back and forth in front of Caleb's face. "Pretty full."
"I'm not a whore." Caleb bit back at once. "If you were around like this more often it would be a hell of a lot emptier, thanks." He panted a swift kiss on Sebastian's mouth as he pushed himself up a little, just enough to lay his shoulders on the pillow and tilt his hips, not entirely exposed but close enough to make Sebastian touch him with just the tips of his fingers. Caleb hummed at it and broke the kiss, wishing the contact would be more than it was.
Sebastian let the brunette take his right hand and turn it palm up before flipping the lid on the lubricant, following Caleb's hands as if in a dream. Vaguely he wondered if there was fear in his eyes because Caleb stopped to kiss his cheek, smiling a small encouraging smile that had all the warmth of the sun in it and all the hope of a dying child. He returned the encouragement with a brush of his lips like the touch of a feather, a tiny bit of sound escaped his lips.
Caleb shushed him, pouring liquid onto his fingers. "Start with one, slowly, and try to keep your nail uninvolved."
"Tell me if I do something wrong, Cale."
"I will, I swear it. No matter how much you suck I'll still love you, so we're clear." When he said those words Caleb did not expect Sebastian to nod at him or make that face like something wonderful had happened. He also did not expect the man to lower his now moistened fingers without further encouragement, knowing what came next. Sebastian whispered softly to him, just as gently as his fingers pressed against his heated skin.
"If I said that I needed you, would that make you happy?"
Sebastian nodded and he pressed with his middle finger until he felt it slip inside, just barely. Caleb did not seem to mind the intrusion. "Yes. I've been so stupid – when you kissed me it felt so much better than Jen does. Every time we've done this I'm… it's not the same. You make me feel different, good. And I want to return that. I want to make you feel the same way." While he talked he pressed farther, waiting for some sign that it was too much or enough. None came. "Why is that?"
"You don't know?" Caleb placed his hands on Sebastian's shoulders to more efficiently hold himself up.
"No. I'm tempted to say something… but…"
"Don't even try it until tomorrow."
"I know." He slipped the second finger next to the first and stopped at the hiss that got him. He glanced up curiously but Caleb smiled at him and started running his fingers across the redhead's neck, afraid of scaring him. It had not been a sound of pain or fear, to say the least.
The best man closed his eyes and rocked upward, rubbing his inner thigh up against Sebastian's, reminding him of his own state. The redhead did not need to be reminded; his hand moved forward forcefully and his fingers curled, bringing a startled cry from the brunette's lips.
"Bastian don't—" Caleb did not get to finish, not when Sebastian took the initiative and did it again, spreading his fingers wide. He clenched the skin of the groom's back and threw himself forward, that simple bit of pressure threatening to end it for him now. He didn't have air to warn him, nor will enough to push him away, so he pulled the larger man close, panting into his sweaty skin, and shivered. He had to look through his hair to see the pair of cold blue eyes that looked back at him, hungry, but it didn't matter. All that mattered was how close he could get to the man. "Now…" His words were broken by his lack of breath. "If you do that again… I might ruin this. Can I… not your hands…"
Sebastian nodded and pulled the smaller man against him as his fingers slipped away; seeking out the bottle he had dropped some time ago. He found it resting beside his leg, threatening to ooze into the sheets if he didn't right it. It was in his left hand a moment later, pouring its contents into his palm. He smeared himself with it, his hand shaking, and stopped while Caleb arranged himself more naturally, lifting his right leg so that it was hooked above Sebastian's hip, his arms held him unmoving, braced with Sebastian's shoulders.
"Are you sure?" Sebastian asked one last time, looking for regret in the sea of Caleb's eyes and finding none. "Because… even if I shouldn't say it… I still… think…"
"I told you not to say it. Stop asking questions, if I didn't want you like this I wouldn't have offered. God, Bastian, don't look at me like that and fu—" He was cut off suddenly, a warm mouth open against his as the redhead pulled his hips down and eased himself forward, slipping into the place the two had tried to make for him. Caleb whimpered lowly, dragging his fingernails down his lover's spine with a shiver, closing his eyes. He was thankful that Sebastian waited for him, breathing deeply, adjusting, this was different for the redhead also – because of angles, tightness, friction – but all the same Caleb didn't expect to hear his breath catch.
"I'm sorry," The redhead kissed the side of Caleb's neck where he could feel his pulse, his head turned down so he could press his forehead against the brunette's throat when he had finished. He knew why he was apologizing but he didn't know why he was doing it now, when he should have thought about other things, more pressing matters. He was sorry for having never known. "If I say it now will you believe me? Will you hate me when tomorrow comes?"
"No. I can't hate you, Bastian."
He pulled back and moved forward as gradually as he physically could, hissing under his breath. "I love you, Caleb. If I had to choose in this moment between you or Jen, between you and anyone else, you win. You make me happy."
Caleb curled more tightly against him, moaning softly. His lover's name seeped from his lips unhindered, his chest singing. Happy wasn't the term for it anymore than satisfied was; the words that fell from his mouth were rough and heavy with need, not content and quiet. His voice was ragged, his grip on Sebastian's shoulders almost painfully tight as he moved them both faster, struggling to control his vocal chords.
"Thank you," He managed at length. Even if you don't mean it tomorrow, if you forget that you said it – I am still glad I heard it from you once. There was a hand on his right hip, giving Sebastian leverage as he pulled back again, and another on his erection, shyly keeping pace with the rocking beat they had established. That left it up to him to bring their faces close enough to kiss.
The red haired man changed angles slightly, aiming for the other man's prostate, knowing what it would do. When he found it Caleb cursed loudly into his lips, biting the lower one, and threw himself forward, sheathing him like a blade. Sebastian heard the appreciative moan that fell unhindered from his mouth but didn't blush at it; instead he repeated the motion with more force, driving into that tight space desperately, wanting more of it – wanting more of Caleb.
"Bastian – if you – I…" The brunette gasped the words out one at a time while Sebastian nodded, feeling his urgency. "You're good…"
"I took anatomy." His lover joked, "You hold back as long as you can, 'kay?"
"I promise. Please, I want—"
Sebastian gave him a delicate nibble, just on the crest of his ear, and breathed into it, pulling farther back than before in anticipation of offering what his best man wanted. "I love you. Please, no matter what happens, don't forget that."
He didn't answer. He pushed Caleb down against the mattress and slammed into him, leaving the slow, agonizing pace they had previously established far behind. His right hand worked of its own volition, not teasing, while he assaulted the smaller man's mouth with his own. It made every bit of sense to him when Caleb's hands touched the front of his chest, thumbs playing against his nipples. Sebastian moved on steadily with his eyes focused on Caleb's features as the brunette's neck tilted back, no longer capable of holding himself up and keeping focus at the same time. His hips rolled upward to meet Sebastian's every move, tense like a vise against him.
Sebastian's hand fell away to the smaller man's hip, lifting him despite the quivering in his muscles. The pool of heat that had gathered in his abdomen grew tight at the same moment Caleb lost his will to hold out, back bent like a bow against the bed. The intense pressure, the whine in Caleb's throat, the look of unadulterated bliss – he found it all impossible to withstand. A wash of pleasure shrank the room down to just the two of them, his hands on Caleb's skin, his mouth on the smaller man's throat, his heart thumping too fast in his chest, the light on his lover's face, and the feeling that this was good. It drove him over the edge of oblivion and down the far side of it, his logic and reason gone with that moment of sweet release. He slumped forward against the man's chest, heaving, his mind lost in a mist of ideas and feelings, face against the sweat soaked sheets.
I just… I feel… Unthinkingly his right hand pressed against Caleb's chest, feeling his heart. Like I really love him. That tantalizing flesh made him shiver.
"Bastian?" The whispered sound of his name almost made him jump from his skin.
"Do you… I mean…" He knew what the brunette wanted to say and he closed his eyes to it, gripping the sheet in his hand. If Caleb asked he would fall apart, he knew, just crumble and cry, not knowing the answer. "Want a shower?" The best man decided at the last minute, pushing encouragingly at the larger man's chest. That was nice of him, ignoring his thoughts for the redhead's benefit, pretending he didn't want to know. He breathed in a deep breath before pushing himself up to look at the smaller man, sweat soaked and sticky, flushed from exertion. If anyone needed a shower it was Caleb.
"Sure," He leaned in enough to reassure him with a kiss. "If you fall asleep, I won't leave. I promise."
"Heh. Thanks, Bastian."
"No, don't thank me."
The hot water was like a battering ram on Sebastian's back, the sound of the fan loud enough to cover the quiet words he muttered at the showerhead. He needed sleep. That, with a good beer, maybe some time at work, would set him right again.
What with the wedding plans, he hadn't even been to the morgue in a week. How could he claim to be a coroner when he didn't spend six hour a day around corpses? He couldn't. And now that the wedding was off – postponed, canceled, moved to sometime in the next thirty years – he might find time to go see if they wanted him back early, so he could work and think. Dead people made great listeners, after all.
Hurriedly he shut off the water, all of it hot, and pushed away the shower curtain. The bathroom was perhaps the cleanest room in the house, done in brown and green with tile the color of molded pottery, so he was careful to keep it that way. For more than a minute he stood in the shower, not reaching for a towel, thinking. Trying to think. Not actually thinking anything at all.
I fucked him. His brain said at last. I did what I wanted and I fucked him. His hair splattered water on the wall with a shake of his head, short locks hanging around his eyes while they fell shut. He could relive that moment a thousand times if he wanted, and each time he didn't know how he felt. But finding the ring… it doesn't matter anymore.
He dried himself with a towel and hooked it around his waist, leaving his hair in untamed strands, curling with moisture. The wet slap of his feet brought him to the door without looking at the mirror, electing to ignore his appearance for the time being. Caleb had seen him worse.
The bathroom opened into the bedroom proper, which led his eyes to fall at once to the sleeping form on the full sized bed in the middle of the room, curled around a pillow and more than half naked in the growing light. He felt a surge of warmth in his chest and smiled, leaning on the doorframe for a moment while the brunette pitched on the sheets, eyes closed. Sebastian could not understand how it was that his heart felt so full just looking at him, and yet so traitorous thinking about it at the same time. Desires fought for dominance for a moment in his mind until he finally relinquished himself to one of them, crossed the space between the bathroom and the bed without tripping. From his new vantage point he could make out the subtle sigh that parted Caleb's lips.
He felt tired. No lusty thoughts came to mind that he did not expect – no sudden urge to ravage, but a simple need to curl up and sleep filled his chest to brimming. Here. Sleep next to Caleb, touching his skin with his own.
Can I stand here and watch you sleep, Caleb? Can I get next to you and dream this day away without having to think about tomorrow? I want to. You, with the sheets around your legs and your hands all bunched up in your pillow, make me happy. Even if I don't understand it, I feel safe with you. The world doesn't matter. It's just me with your arms around me, and it doesn't have anything to do with anyone else.
Before he understood what he doing his left hand traced the curve of Caleb's brow while his right knee lifted just onto the mattress, gooseflesh rising from the cool material on his warmed flesh.
"Do you want to leave?" Caleb mumbled at him without opening his eyes. Sebastian almost stepped back but instead slumped forward, slipping between the sheets with nothing but his towel between them.
"It wouldn't be right. I'd have to steal your car." He whispered, placing himself so the embrace Caleb offered fit perfectly, his cool eyes on his lover's closed lids. "And no one likes sleeping alone."
The brunette hummed at him wordlessly and smiled into his shoulder, breath warm on Sebastian's damp skin. "Will you be here… when I wake up, Bastian? Or will you steal my car when I'm sleeping?" His voice was devoid of mirth.
"I don't know, Cale. I really, really don't know."
Caleb sighed into him, yawned, and smiled, blue-green eyes slatted so he could look at the man he was talking to. Sebastian looked down at him, seeing little more than trust in his eyes. "It's fine whatever happens. Steal my car, leave me to sleep alone, use all the hot water – I don't care; this is hard for you. I figure a lot will happen between today and tomorrow that I can't have anything to do with, so you think all you need to, talk all you want – that's all I ask."
"I would have thought about it without…"
"Having hot steamy sex on my bed?"
Sebastian rolled his eyes. "Well, yes. But that's not the point of it. I did that because—"
"No, no. No declaring your love for me until tomorrow. You've done it twice and I think you're jumping the gun."
"I think you just don't want me to say it now and unsay it tomorrow."
Sebastian tilted his face down and kissed the smaller man on the forehead, tiredness catching up to him. He did not feel strange doing that, not in the least. "Caleb, I still love you. I spent a whole shower without you and I'm not touching your junk – yet I still love you. Feeling better about tomorrow?"
Caleb placed his lips on the skin of his lover's neck and spoke to it, mouth little more than an inch from touching. "A tiny bit. I think I'll feel better once I've slept for a few hours. And…"
Tell you what I did. "Explore your naked body with my tongue."
"Shut up and sleep."
Caleb chuckled. "Sleep well… Bastian."
"You too, Cale."
It was sometime after noon when Caleb rolled over to find himself in an empty bed, his hands and feet tangled in the sheets, and in dire need of a long, hot bath. He did not panic, though that was his first urge. Instead he reached out as far as he could with either hand until his fingers came to something he knew would be there – something that wasn't sheets but wasn't Bastian – and pulled it up to his face, curious.
His shirt. The groom had left the shirt he had borrowed with a note pinned to the front of it, written in charcoal and signed with his unreadable signature. Without reading it, Caleb smiled.
And then he read it.
Meet me at the chapel tomorrow at six. At night, I mean, and bring Kleenex. Before you look I did not steal your car, I took that little wannabe bike you keep in the wannabe garage thing you have out front. It's not like you ride it ever so no whining. If you aren't there tomorrow, I will kill you.
P.S. I turned off the coffee.
Caleb sighed and pulled the note off the garment before cramming his face into the material as if it were a teddy bear, and himself a gleeful child. It smelled like him, just like him, though with a tiny hint of fabric softener and a dash of cheeseburger. Caleb managed to giggle.
With a great effort he pushed himself out of bed and took the shirt with him, fully intending to wear it until he saw the taller man again, and searched the floor for the pants he had put on upon waking. They would be clean – relatively – and then he wouldn't run the risk of losing the ring he had stolen. That did not bother him so much anymore, not with how Sebastian was acting, but it still did a little; taking it now would make sense to the redhead, stealing it the day of the wedding before any of this was in the light, not so much. And even with the slim chance that he would not need to confess his sin, he had to, the guilt was already dampening his spirits after such a lengthy leap in their relationship.
But his pants, it seemed, had migrated to somewhere he couldn't see.
That sinking panic finally set in.
"Pants?" He called them by name as he pushed his protesting body down to the floor so he could see. "Here pants. Pants, pants, pants?" Nothing. Not even a wrinkle of jean beneath the blanket of things on his floor. They were gone – utterly gone.
Sebastian. That had to be it. Sebastian.
The ring. The ring was in his pants.
Sebastian was in his pants.
"Oh shit!" Caleb dropped the shirt, round eyes still scouring the room for any sign of his jeans, any glimmer of a ring. Nothing. There was always nothing. "What will he do?"
He'll go to the chapel. He thought logically. And so will I.
Sebastian found it in his right front pants pocket when he was looking for the keys to his car. He didn't believe it at first, standing in the evening light outside of his little house, pondering what would become of him when he spoke the words in his heart. At first it seemed illogical – to find the thing that had eluded him for two days in his own pants pocket – and then he remembered that he had taken off his pants. He had taken them off, slept in his boxers, given Caleb something to never forget, and eventually taken a discarded pair of jeans from the floor and pulled them on.
And he had worn them today too. Because they were comfortably tight and relatively cool, and the legs had smelled like Caleb when he checked to be sure they were clean.
Just. Like. Caleb.
He found it! His brain chimed at once, but that idea died almost as soon as it was born. Even if Caleb had found the ring and put it in his pants that had been yesterday, some time before the two of them had engaged in bedroom adventures, and he had kept silent about it – he hadn't uttered a word. Instead he had kept the ring all to himself. For himself. While Sebastian watched what he thought was his life fall apart.
His cell went off again while he looked at that innocent band of metal but the sound did not reach his ears. Instead he drew a hurried conclusion from it all, a line of thought that he had not been able to follow in his decision. It made his fingers clench and his heart speed in his chest. He stole it. Caleb stole it before the ceremony. That's why he… that's why… He breathed in deeply, clearing his head, stilling hands, suppressing his tears. He stole it so I would not get married. "That fucking idiot!" He closed his palm around it and turned against the red paint of his car door, leaning against the oddly shaped body until he slipped down it, landing on the cement of his driveway. "I trusted him and he… but if he hadn't…" His fist moved to his heart and pressed the little symbol to his shirt, bruising. As much as it made sense to him, as he could see why Caleb would do it, he could not fathom the reason for his silence. A simple confession – that was all he had needed. That would have made it all so easy.
Was he afraid? Did he think… did he think I would…
That had to be it. There was no other reason.
No other cause.
"You're so stupid. You're so stupid." He repeated the words with a smack of his fist on his ribs. He was crying but he couldn't explain why. It seemed the thing to do now that Caleb's mind made sense to him. "I said I loved him. I… on his bed… we… and yet…" His mouth stopped working and he simply held on to his knees, biting out bitter sobs and gasps, struggling to find reason. He had made up his mind. He had come to the conclusion that made him happy, without regard to Jen or Caleb or anyone else, he had been selfish. And now he didn't know if that was right. He didn't know if he had the whole picture anymore.
His cell phone rang again. He had not known why Caleb had been calling him none stop since two but he could assume he knew why now. He knew because he had found it in his pocket. Jen had called once since he had explained the situation to her – avoiding some details – because she wanted to give him space; he had thought it odd that his fiancé would seem less interested than his supposed other man.
But now it made sense.
Fighting down the tears he pressed the back of his head against the door of his car and sighed, a small whine of sound escaped with his air. It took all the will he could muster to pull the phone from behind him – his keys hit the pavement when they came out as well – and look at the little picture of Caleb on the screen. He flipped it open and brought it to his ear.
"Bastian? Are you ok?" The brunette sounded concerned, perfectly and utterly.
"Yeah, I just… it's really not important."
Caleb was quiet for a moment, seeming to build his courage. "Look I… I did something really stupid and I really need to tell—"
"I'm getting in my car right now to head to the chapel. And my phone is dying."
A note of panic leaked into Caleb's voice. "No, Sebastian I have to tell you that I too—"
"I'll see you there, Cale. I…" The words were still there, sleeping in the back of his mouth, but he dared not voice them. "Bye."
The line went suddenly dead in Caleb's ear.
"No. No, no, no! He did not just hang up on me!" The brunette, sitting in the driver's seat of his own car, glared down at his phone before throwing it into the passenger seat floorboards and smacking his hands on the wheel. The horn blared obnoxiously back at him with enough volume to frighten him into laughing. It didn't really matter if Sebastian hung up on him, he would just have to tell him face to face, in front of Jen and El and everyone – regardless of how embarrassing it would be for both of them. Sebastian would have to explain how he had gotten the pants, after all.
Separately, and yet thinking mostly of each other, Caleb and Sebastian followed different roads to the same chapel in the country, overlooking the lake west of town. It was raining by the time the redhead pulled his car into the parking lot and waited for the others to show, the sound of water on the windshield making him think back and remember, envision the day that – unmeaning to – he had asked Jen to marry him. It had been raining then too.
Looking back it was stupid. He cared for her but it wasn't full out devotion. Given the option, even if vows bound them, he knew he would do the same thing with Caleb he had done the morning before, a thousand times over, and say those words every time. Even if it felt like he was falling apart just thinking about it.
Another car pulled into the driveway, flashing silver headlights through the falling rain cast the water in white and rainbow, transmuted it into shards of broken glass on the pavement. He noticed then that he was crying again, rubbing the smooth curve of the ring in his fingers. With a harsh swallow and a lick of his lips he opened the car door and fumbled out of it, heading for the black Camry that had pulled up across the lot. He guessed that Caleb was waiting for everyone – not wanting to cause pressure. The brunette would sit there with his lights breaking apart the rain in silence, unless Sebastian stopped him.
Then Caleb opened the door, worry on his face as he squinted through the wind at him, not understanding why the redhead would run to meet him after hanging up on him and ignoring his calls. Sebastian didn't care if he understood. He cared if he knew how stupid he was.
"You damn idiot!" The words hit Caleb like a brick between the eyes. Sebastian wasn't four feet away, brown shirt made black with water, and he was screaming at him, hands clenched into white knuckled fists. "What's wrong with you? What do you think am? Some fucking stupid idiot who doesn't care about the people he—" Caleb raised his hands up, blocking his face as if expecting to be hit, and said the words he had been struggling with for days on end.
"I'm sorry I took it! It was stupid. I wasn't thinking about just telling you. I wasn't thinking about much of anything. I just thought that you wouldn't listen to me and I figured you'd hate me if I told you." He was speaking to his upper arm, pressing himself into the car door. "I'm sorry. Just… hit me and go marry Jen like you should have. I'm sorry." His shield fell slowly downward but he didn't look at Sebastian, his eyes were too full of rain and tears to see him anyway, Sebastian's shirt sticking to his shoulders with water, hair glistening with drops of rain. Never before had he felt this weak and pathetic, this idiotic. It had all been a fool's dream and now he would lose everything he had ever hoped to have.
A hand wrapped itself around the collar of the shirt Caleb was wearing and he closed his eyes, waiting for a fist to end this day for him. He deserved it.
Sebastian jerked the shorter man flush against him, eliciting a gasp of surprise from Caleb's lips, and hooked his left arm around his waist. The brunette met his gaze, ocean irises fogged with fear and confusion, and his lips parted in protest. Sebastian took the opening. His grip changed to the back of Caleb's neck as he leaned in to place his mouth softly on his best man's, shivering at the hurried, rejecting response he received in return. The longest minute passed between them until Caleb melted in his arms, understanding breaking over him like a wave. The touch of a hand on his stomach made Sebastian smile; the shorter man leaned against the car with hungry eyes, the taller took the invitation, hands gliding over rain cooled flesh and tear heated cheeks.
Pulling away led him to place a soft kiss on the short man's forehead, tilting his face up with a soft smile. The pink nose, red rimmed eyes, desperate hands – they all made him feel happy and horrible, so he held Caleb's gaze, willing him to stay silent.
"I love you." The downward twitch of Caleb's lips was all that showed he was crying. "I'm not getting married to Jen, Cale. It was stupid of me to try."
The brunette opened his mouth to say something, but Sebastian silenced him with another kiss, this one harder. He didn't fight it, only looked up with round eyes when the red haired man withdrew with a pant.
"Do you get it? It no longer matters that you stole the ring or that I basically cheated or that three days ago I didn't even know this was possible. I love you."
"But the ring, I—"
"Shut up about the ring, Cale." Sebastian let go of Caleb and took a firm hold of his right hand. Without thinking about it he turned the limb over and pressed the wedding band into Caleb's palm, still holding his eyes with his own, and smiled. "I found it, and I don't blame you for taking it. Don't let this be an elephant in the parking lot, okay? We don't need it." The redhead left the ring in the smaller man's hand and turned his attention to the sides of his face, smooth from recent shaving. Delicately he touched the man's jaw, holding his face firmly while he reached once again to kiss him, if only for a moment.
"Bastian…" Caleb grabbed at Sebastian's shirt in a desperate attempt to get him closer. The taller man allowed him, sinking into an embrace that left his forehead pressed against Caleb's, breathing his air. "You're not lying to me, are you?" Sebastian felt arms tighten around the back of him, shaking with cold. "You'd really take me… over her? Doesn't hurting her, hurt you?"
Sebastian, to Caleb's horror, laughed. "You don't get it. Hurting you is worse than that. Making you happy is what makes me happy. You're not changing your mind or anything, right?"
"God, no. I'd be insane."
"Then why aren't you hoping up and down and kissing me?"
"Because El and Jen are behind you with a camera."
"They had the windows up. You didn't see the truck?"
"Caleb, you're pulling my leg."
"I'm serious. You pick horrible places to make out. Jen doesn't look too sad though. Just… surprised."
"You suck at lying."
Caleb raised his eyebrows, a look of purest indignation on his face. "I'm not lying! El is grinning like an idiot. Some friend sh—hm!" Caleb pushed back at Sebastian's shoulders when his lips were covered, refusing to close his eyes to the much desired contact, and stubbornly hummed in the back of his throat, nearly closing his teeth. It was only the click of a shutter that made Sebastian stop, his rain soaked shoulders turning to allow him to see the one car he had not noticed in the lot.
"See Jen, I told ya." Sebastian's ice blue eyes widened in shock at the sight of Ellen in the passenger seat of Jen's S10, the window rolled down so she could safely take pictures without ruining her camera or her hair. Beside her the strawberry blonde sat with her hands on the wheel, eyebrows cocked over a pair of emerald eyes that remained tearless, lips that did not frown. She stared at Sebastian as if she did not know him and were simply trying to place his face.
"We came in the back." She said at last, rather hurriedly. "From the looks of things I'd say you did to."
"Jen, I didn't want you to—"
"Don't even try to say you didn't think we'd see you in the parking lot." Jen rolled her eyes at him even as he tried to turn and argue. "That's not the point. It's fine Sebastian, it's easier than you choking on your own tongue trying to tell me who you picked. I'm ok with it. There were stipulations anyway." She smiled now as if she were hurt, yet she continued not to cry, and her voice did not waver. It seemed to Caleb that the concept of tears was lost on her, as well as what she had lost. "You changed your mind, so we can go back to pizza and video games and playing pranks on Cale if you'd like."
Caleb's eyes snapped to her face and he blinked at her, not understanding. "You don't hate me?"
"We're posting the pictures on my Facebook. What does that tell you?"
"You don't hate me!"
Jen sighed and shook her head at his enthusiasm. Sometimes the way he spoke screamed his homosexuality to her; it was a mystery how Sebastian had ever missed it. "Now you two stop kissing in the rain or you'll miss the reception tomorrow with the flu or something. That would be terrible."
"Reception?" Sebastian found his voice again. "But there was no wedding."
"So? We've got lots of catered food and drinks that have been sitting around in the fridge for three days, we might as well not waste them." She shrugged like she always did and flipped her long hair over her left shoulder, a tiny little smirk on her lips, just so Sebastian could see it. "Just one thing though, before we drive off to get outrageously drunk."
"What?" Caleb was worried, horribly worried, that she would ask about the ring. That would be the icing on the proverbial cake. Or the onions on his liver.
"Who gives and who… receives?"
"You don't ask that sort of thing of your... friends!"
She chuckled at him, a bit of the old mirth leaking into her features, a bit of the brightness. He could tell just by looking that she really would be ok. "I guess you're right. Well! We're off to The Purple Banister, so have fun. And…" Emerald eyes met sea green and her head tilted a little, so her bangs fell over her right eye the way she hated. "Whatever you do, be happy, okay? Promise me that."
The two men nodded at once, Caleb's fingers tightened in Sebastian's shirt. He watched the would-be bride start the truck and place it in gear, let his eyes linger on the red vehicle when he could no longer see the women inside, nor the rain on its windows. It drove around the corner and he lost sight of it, his face still turned in the last direction he had seen it go.
"The Purple Banister? Isn't that a gay bar?" He heard himself inquire. The squeeze of Sebastian's hand on his made him glance up in curiosity, the redhead kissed the side of his mouth, pulling at the fabric of his sticking shirt until his fingers found the bare skin of Caleb's hip, warm despite the moisture.
"She'll have fun, Cale. Now how about we get something warm to drink and head back to my place? I've got paperwork to do and a tux to iron and… I could really use your company right now. Really." He slipped his palm flat against the brunette's back, feeling his skin. "If only to sit around and hold you… and tell you I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" Caleb questioned, "What are you sorry for?"
The brunette frowned, not following. "You haven't done anything too inappropriate. I mean, you are touching me a lot for a guy who just broke it off with the girl who was supposed to be the love of his life, but I'm not complaining." As soon as the sentence was out of his mouth he was kissed again, though only for a moment, the tiny hint of contact was just enough to tease him forward, pressing on Sebastian. He felt the redhead smile. "Alright, I get it, we can go. This rain is getting to me anyway."
"My place? We can stop by your house and get you clothes."
"I don't need clothes."
"Oh, really?" Sebastian cocked an eyebrow so his features danced in the water, amused and yet so very serious. "What do you plan on wearing around when we get there? You aren't touching my furniture if you're just going to get it wet." The glimmer of humor in Caleb's eyes let Sebastian know the answer but he waited for it anyway, just to see if it would come.
"A smile." The once best man grinned at the one time groom and held more tightly onto his fingers, heart singing. The grin on Sebastian's face, the warmth in his eyes, the soft touch of his lips; it was all Caleb needed as well as all he wanted. The joy that filled him made him remember the despair that had started everything, that had driven him to take the ring he now kept in his right hand, to lie about it, to worry and to hide. In hindsight it seemed worth it.
Three days. The longest three days of his life. Leaving the chapel felt strange, like shutting the door on something, turning his back on a long dark streak that ended in light. Caleb still hated weddings – that would never change – but this one, the one that hadn't happened because of him, seemed worth remembering, keeping in mind forever. His role had not been at the punch bowl, or standing at the end of the aisle, it had been destroying what his two best friends had planned and making both of them happier because of it.
Caleb looked up at Sebastian and felt his lips lift yet higher, a guiltless smile creasing his face. "I think this was the best wedding I've ever been to."
"You know," Sebastian smirked into the rain. "Me too."