All chapter titles and lyrics belong (©) to fun. If you ever want to know what song any lyrics came from specifically, just ask in a review or PM me and I'll be happy to share.
" Take Your Time (Coming Home)
Feel the wind as you go
Let your lungs fill up with smoke
Forgive everyone "
Kaleb forgot at exactly what age Blaine had been submitted into the institute, but for some reason it felt almost illogical that the man—despite being twenty-five years old presently—knew how to kiss. Kaleb had been kissed before, of course. He went through high school, didn't he? He had the act down to a comfortable routine at this point. Silky, soft lips touching tenderly to his, moving curiously against each other, before a tentative tongue would slip out ever so carefully and glide along the edge of his mouth in askance for entry. He was familiar with all of this.
And yet he couldn't bring himself to do much of anything as a pair of completely unfamiliar lips pressed insistently against his own. Kaleb's instinctive reaction was to pull back, shove Blaine away, and create as much distance as possible between their extremely close bodies. But his limbs wouldn't respond the way his mind was demanding them to; they just clung to Blaine's shoulders in an almost helpless gesture. He felt Blaine's mouth move gently against his, sucking at his bottom lip in a way that had Kaleb wondering just who in the hell the man practiced on. Granted, it was slightly clumsy and there was a hint of biting teeth.
Kaleb had to stop this. There was absolutely no way to make kissing a mentally ill person okay. Even if Blaine instigated it in the first place. Kaleb swallowed so thickly his throat stung and he summed up the courage to pull away from Blaine's mouth—that tasted… different in a strangely good way. Not that Kaleb would tell that to anyone. Their lips disconnected before Blaine could get into Kaleb's mouth and he felt, rather than heard, Blaine moan in displeasure at the loss of contact, following Kaleb's withdrawal with slightly parted lips. His eyes were hooded and the expression sent shivers up Kaleb's spine, from fear or something else, he wasn't sure.
"Kaleb..." Blaine murmured, his gray gaze falling on Kaleb's mouth as he leaned in—drunk off the initial kiss. Kaleb gulped and fell back on the heels of his hands so that Blaine couldn't do it again. There was no way this was legal. On top of the fact that Blaine had been touching him all over since they met. Kissing was just—going way too far. He could touch Kaleb for as long as he pleased, but if their lips touched… it turned everything on its head. Kaleb did not need that. He couldn't. It set up everything for reevaluation and that was just way too much on top of everything else. Too fucking complicated.
Blaine glanced up into his blue eyes after Kaleb had successfully dodged another attempt at his lips and tilted his head curiously. Like a puppy, his black hair brushing his cheek. As if he didn't understand the implications of what he had done. Kaleb resisted the urge to huff petulantly. There was no way Blaine could kiss like that and not know that it was entirely sexual and not in the least platonic. It wasn't possible. Kaleb had originally assumed that their interactions, perhaps, teetered on the line between really close brothers and a sort of parent-child relationship. Apparently he was wrong. Or Blaine's parents were quite the strange ones.
"Tastes like mint," Blaine suddenly felt the need to inform, cracking a grin that showed his white teeth and a dimple that Kaleb didn't know he had. It was on his left and at the very edge of his smile. The damn thing was unbearably disarming and Kaleb almost forgot that Blaine had just kissed him not a minute ago. "I like it." He seemed to find it necessary to lick his lips after this statement and Kaleb felt his face go red against his will.
He was not cut out for this. He really, really was not cut out for this.
"Um," he started, clearing his throat—and trying to ignore the fact that Blaine was practically on top of him with how far back Kaleb had leant. "You shouldn't do that, Blaine." He tried to put some conviction into his words, but they were weak anyway. He needed to convey to the other man that kissing was off limits. If Dr. Adam found out Kaleb didn't know what he'd do. More than likely drown in his own embarrassment, on top of never speak to anyone again.
Blaine furrowed his brows. He opened his mouth to speak, but something must have caught his attention because he stopped. He moved his hands—which were originally resting on either side of Kaleb's hips—to wrap them around Kaleb's waist and tug him upright, closer to his body. Kaleb felt his body slide easily on the tile until he was up against Blaine's chest.
He allowed the other man to cuddle him close. After all, he had just recovered from an emotional meltdown that Kaleb didn't have any idea how to explain. Maybe the kissing thing was just an outburst in confusion. Blaine was muddled and completely off kilter. He couldn't be held responsible for the actions he performed in his bleary state, right?
"I like this, too," Blaine informed in a subdued tone as he leaned to rest his forehead against Kaleb's, regaining his attention fully. Kaleb had to fight the immediate impulse to glance away as they made eye contact. He was just thinking of what exactly to say to get Blaine to understand that kissing wasn't allowed, when a thought suddenly occurred to him.
Blaine was distracting him. Consciously or subconsciously, Blaine was successfully sidetracking him from what he was supposed to be doing, and that was saying goodbye. He needed to leave if he ever wanted to see Blaine again and help him. Kaleb wanted to hit himself for being so stupid as to let that fact slip from his mind for even a moment. More important than Blaine believing that kissing was perfectly fine and dandy, Kaleb had a pissed off, over-protective father to convince.
With a deep breath, Kaleb raised his hands to hold either side of Blaine's face, causing the other man to falter slightly, his eyes widening in surprise. "I have to go now, Blaine," he said, his voice once again taking on the authoritative tone that had worked so well before. "But I promise I'll come back to see you as soon as I can," he reiterated their earlier conversation.
Blaine sighed a heavy breath and with it went his happiness from only minutes prior, his expression falling to match that of a puppy who was being left at home. He nuzzled against Kaleb's hand, his arms around Kaleb's waist holding him tight. "Okay," he murmured, sounding almost dejected. "I'll miss you," he added suddenly, almost as an afterthought, looking at Kaleb through his lashes.
Kaleb smiled wanly, pulling Blaine down so that he could press a chaste kiss against his forehead—in an attempt to assure him and hopefully express just what their relationship was exactly. "I'll miss you too," he whispered, giving the back of his neck a gentle squeeze. The small gestures were enough to light Blaine's face right back up and he leaned forward to bury his face in the junction between Kaleb's shoulder and neck, curling around him. Kaleb could feel his pleased grin against his sensitive skin and he felt a flutter in his chest at just how simple it was for him to make Blaine happy.
Kaleb ran his fingers through Blaine's dark hair once in a familiar and—at least what he hoped was—comforting act. Blaine tilted his head into the touch, subsequently snuggling his nose against Kaleb's neck. They stayed like that for just a breath, and then Kaleb slowly began to disentangle himself. He could feel Blaine's arms tighten at first and then gradually, reluctantly, allow him to pull away. Kaleb felt a tug at his insides at how much will power that small action must have taken as he completely detached from Blaine's touch.
He struggled to his feet and then squatted in front of the other man, fighting the urge to bundle him up in his arms and take him along. Blaine moved to pull his knees to his chest, still watching Kaleb's movements with sad, gray eyes. On impulse, Kaleb raised a hand to his jaw, caressing it tenderly and sighing as Blaine closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. An image flashed through Kaleb's mind of a time not more than a few hours ago, of Blaine flinching away from his outstretched hand. Kaleb smiled subtly, realizing that despite how short their time together felt, he had already made progress in changing Blaine for the better.
"I'll be back soon," he breathed, and dropped his hand as Blaine nodded carefully. He stood to his full height and made to turn to the door, when Blaine suddenly caught his left hand in his grip. Startled, Kaleb glanced around with big blue eyes, down at the older man who was looking up at him with an almost pleading glint in his intent gaze.
"I'll be waiting," he whispered, holding Kaleb's hand tightly before letting it slide from his fingers. Kaleb's stomach flopped and he swallowed before nodding his own head.
The door knob felt cold against his empty hand and he was almost struck with the stark contrast against Blaine's warm hold. The thought was enough to send an uncomfortable wave of something throughout Kaleb's body. Accompanying the unfamiliar wash of heat, was the strong urge to go back to Blaine. To pull him up from his curled position on the ground and bring him along, take him out of this place; not leave him here alone. But he couldn't. Not yet.
Kaleb steeled himself and had to fight to keep from sneaking one last glance in Blaine's direction as he opened the door and stepped out into the hall. He knew if he had so much as glanced at Blaine's expression, he'd never bring himself to leave.
Zack's eyes were hard, frozen to the disgustingly pristine tile beneath the two hundred dollar SUPRAs he had gotten last month. His father thought that his obsession with purchasing expensive shoes was ridiculous and childish. Ironic, because the man himself spent thousands of dollars on his own footwear.
His arms were crossed tersely, his mind reeling for anything to distract itself from the anger that clawed just beneath the surface. He'd already pondered the meaning of life twice and he was actually on the verge of breaking something with his fist. Maybe Kaleb's face. That asshole. Zack grit his teeth from where he leant against the glass windows, the sun heating the back of his head.
This was what Zack got for being a concerned friend. For giving a damn about Kaleb's well-being. He was just looking out for him. He only wanted to make sure Kaleb didn't get himself hurt, jumping headlong into this whole insane situation. The kid was always fucking caught up in something. It was Zack's job to bail him out, to protect him. It had been like that ever since they met.
And Kaleb just expected him to drop all that. He wanted him to simply stand by and watch as he entered a room with a schizophrenic man who was documented to have attacked people. Zack wasn't an idiot, he saw Blaine Dowling for himself. The man looked dangerous. Zack couldn't really tell you exactly what it was, just that it made him shiver and sent warning signs off in every part of his head. Apparently Kaleb didn't see the same thing.
Zack ran a tense hand through his straw-colored hair—the thoughts going through his head only serving to piss him off further. And utterly confuse him. Sometimes he really hated Kaleb's labyrinthine way of thinking. Zack glanced up from the flooring, in desperate need of a distraction. His brown eyes fell on the presence that had been pacing back and forth in front of the white door ever since Kaleb disappeared.
Zack wouldn't necessarily say he hated Dr. Adam. Thought he was completely stupid—yes, but not hate. Zack just figured that the older man was senile in his age or something. He sure as hell didn't need that doctoring license or whatever they had given him that allowed giant, life-threatening problems to fall under his jurisdiction. The guy was probably the worst doctor Zack had ever seen. And his pacing was finally grating on Zack's last nerves.
"Stop that, it's fucking annoying," the younger man growled, any pretense of respect having dropped the moment Dr. Adam let Kaleb into that room with the keys to Dowling's handcuffs. He didn't give a damn if the man called his dad anymore. Zack would rather be cut off from his rich parents for the rest of his life than let Kaleb get hurt.
Adam hesitated at his infuriated words and finally stopped that incessant pacing. Zack watched him with cold eyes as Dr. Adam shoved his hands into the pockets of his white coat. "I'm sorry," he murmured, but he sounded distracted, his cobalt gaze shifting back and forth. Zack adjusted his position slightly, crossing his left foot over his right and continued to eye the doctor.
"What? Did you finally realize what a dumbass decision you made?" he spat, unable to control the fury that was just moments from exploding out of him. Zack couldn't help it. He was utterly pissed off with Blaine Dowling for existing. And Dr. Adam for making everything worse, one shitty decision at a time. And himself for not being able to stop Kaleb. And Kaleb for treating him like some stranger he didn't give two fucks about.
Dr. Adam heaved a heavy breath. "I'm just worried how this is all going to turn out," he answered softly, and Zack could just see the wheels working over in his head. He scoffed.
"Maybe you should have thought of all that before you called my best friend here to talk to a psychopath," he said with not just a hint of malice. He hoped Dr. Adam felt bad. He hoped everything turned out terrible with this patient because he wanted Kaleb to realize just what the hell he was doing. He wasn't a miracle worker, he couldn't just snuggle a crazy person and think that it was going to make everything okay. Sometimes, Kaleb could be too fucking naïve.
The doctor glanced up at him then. Actually looked at him for the first time since Kaleb had left. His stare was filled with anxiety but beneath that was a sort of confidence—as if he knew that it was going to be alright. Zack returned the expression with an equally defiant one of his own. "Zackary, why exactly are you even here?" he inquired without inflection, not a single lilt to give Zack a glimpse of why he was asking such a random question.
Zack scowled immediately and inwardly wondered if Dr. Adam had hit his head at some point in the fifteen minutes that they'd been standing there. "Because Kaleb asked me to. And apparently I needed to be here, after all the shit that's happened. Not that it changed much since Kaleb's as immature as ever…" he trailed off, averting his gaze and glaring at the ground again. Honestly, why had Kaleb been acting so rash these past few hours? Out of the two of them, he was usually the more reasonable one. The guy you could count on to make sense when everything else was going completely nuts. Apparently, not anymore. Least you find yourself walking into a room with a psycho.
Zack's hard stare dragged back to Dr. Adam when the man didn't say anything in reply to his comment and he found the man eying him with a raised brow. Speculative. Zack opened his mouth to bite out something vicious and rude at Adam for looking at him like he was an insect through a microscope, but then the door clicked.
Instantly, both men's attention diverted to the source of the sound. Kaleb appeared, brow furrowed in consternation and face focused solely on the ground. Much like Zack had been doing earlier. Apparently, those white tiles were much more fascinating than they let on.
The blonde wasn't going to lie—despite how pissed he was with him—he felt sudden relief flood through him at the sight of his best friend. He couldn't help the immediate once over he gave him, checking for anything remotely different from the last time he laid eyes on him. Zack wasn't taking chances. Not when Kaleb'd disappeared with Blaine like this before. Not when he'd come back with an ugly bruise marring his neck.
Fortunately, Kaleb looked much the same as when he had vanished behind that solid door—if a little roughed up. Zack made a beeline for him, before Dr. Adam could start questioning him like he was a lab rat in an experiment. He had to resist the urge to tell Kaleb to spin three-hundred sixty degrees to be sure he wasn't hurt at all. No matter how much the brunette irritated the hell out of him, if that psychopath had touched so much as a hair on his head in any violent manner, he would kill the fucker. Giant hospital sentries and possible imprisonment be damned. "Are you okay?" he asked straightaway, fixing the younger male with a stern gaze.
Kaleb twitched at the sound of Zack's voice so close to him. Like it startled him. Like he was on his guard. Zack tried not to scowl at this notion and took a careful step backwards to give him some space. Bright blue eyes threw a sparing look in his direction, before deliberately skirting around Zack's tall form. Once they found their target, Kaleb wordlessly moved around Zack without so much as an acknowledgment.
"I uncuffed him. He's sitting against the far wall right now and I convinced him that I'm coming back—which I am," he said this with an obvious inclination towards Zack. "Is there anything you need to know right away before I leave to persuade my dad?" Kaleb spoke in a rather direct, no-nonsense tone. Zack probably would have been pissed at the fact that his best friend seemed to be so blasé about having just gone toe to toe with a psychopath, but he was too busy being pissed about the guy blatantly ignoring him.
He fought the urge to grit his teeth and the strong impulse to punch Kaleb in the gut needled at the forefront of his mind. He was only concerned for him, the least the asshole could do was acknowledge his existence. Zack's burning glare bore into the back of Kaleb's head as he tried not to notice the covert glance Dr. Adam sent his way, trying to communicate some silent conversation.
"Did he hurt you in any way?" Adam questioned after a moment's hesitation. Kaleb opened his mouth to shoot off a terse, perfunctory reply—no doubt—but Zack beat him to the punch, reaching out a hand and grabbing him by the shoulder. To say Zack was extremely annoyed was putting it mildly and he jerked Kaleb around so that the brunette was facing him, suppressing the immediate impulse to sock him in the nose.
Instead of violently attacking the guy, Zack clenched his jaw and forcefully simmered his anger, reigning his emotions in and taking a deep breath. "I asked if you were okay." His voice was hard as steel, his eyes catching and holding Kaleb's steady, his fingers clenching into the other male's shirt. He barely noticed the bob in Kaleb's throat as he swallowed thickly, but he did see the flash of something in his bright blue orbs. They stayed like that for just a moment, until Kaleb finally shook himself and pried Zack's fist from his shoulder.
"I'm fine," he grunted, dropping Zack's wrist with a warning glint. Zack felt a myriad of responses bubble up in his mind, but Kaleb had turned back to Dr. Adam before he could voice a single one. "He didn't do anything severe, just squeezed my shoulders a bit too hard—made my eyes water. I think he just had a flashback or something and freaked out a little. He's okay, though. He didn't hurt himself, I made sure."
Zack rolled his eyes despite the ire that continued to fester in his gut. Only Kaleb would be talking about how a maniac had injured him and then go on to mention how 'okay' said maniac was. Sometimes, Zack really wondered if Kaleb was just as stupid, if not more, than all the people in Dr. Adam's piss poor excuse of a mental hospital.
"I know Blaine's health is important to you, but I need to go if you want me back here as soon as possible. I've got an idiot father to convince," Kaleb said urgently, practically grumbling the last statement. He shifted from foot to foot in an obvious hurry. Zack didn't get what he was so eager about, it wasn't like he had driven to the asylum. And suddenly the inevitable car ride he was going to have to endure was looming over him like a black cloud. Zack wanted to cringe at how impossibly awkward and tense those forty minutes were going to be.
The doctor seemed to mull over the provided information in his head, weighing his options as his gaze wandered over to the room in which Blaine Dowling was being held. He breathed a weighty breath. "If you're sure you're alright, you can leave. But as soon as you get back, I'm going to need a detailed account of what happened in there, okay? It's vital that you be able to recount everything. So… try not to forget," Dr. Adam finished rather lamely, continuing to glance back at where the psych patient was, as if the doc could see through metal doors.
Kaleb shook his head slightly. "Trust me, I won't forget." He was so sure of himself, so utterly confident, with just a touch of underlying sorrowful awareness that Zack wanted to gag himself. Kale knew the guy for what was less than a day, and suddenly they were the best of friends—inseparable. He didn't buy it. What could possibly be so enthralling about Blaine Dowling that he had these people just about falling over themselves to help him? And where the hell was all this 'team spirit' ten years ago when Dowling was just a kid and actually worth saving?
Oh, yeah. With Kaleb. Zack gnawed his cheek.
He was just about five seconds from tearing his hair out.
So what if Robert Moore was frantic? So what if he was borderline overprotective? Kaleb was his only son, God dammit! He reserved all rights to be worried about him, to keep him safe. Sarah would have wanted that. Or at least she wouldn't have wanted him within ten feet of a man who had the potential to murder him.
Robert growled in his chest at even the moment's thought of that psychotic little shit laying a finger on his son. He stood at the island in his kitchen, clenching a—rapidly warming—beer in his hands as he shot dirty looks at anything that so much as existed. If Sarah were there, she probably would have rested a dainty hand on his shoulder, probably would have leaned close, murmured soothing things to him until he controlled his torrid rage. But she wasn't there. And all he had was Kaleb.
He found his blue eyed gaze drawn to the green digital clock on the microwave. It had been a good hour or so since he'd initially called Michael Holcomb and thoroughly chewed him out. Robert's smoldering anger spiked at the memory of Holcomb's apathy when he'd first told him about Kaleb. The man was too damn laid back for his own good. But he'd always been like that, even when they were in college just starting out. Of course, he was less of an asshole back then, but money did that to you.
Robert hadn't so much as thought of Mike Holcomb in the decade or so that had passed since that day with Kaleb at the hospital. Sure, he'd had his fair share of run-ins with both of the Holcomb boys, but it seemed that Michael was a bit of an absent father, if his lack of parenting—and presence in general—was anything to go by. Thinking on it, Robert was simply pleased that he hadn't turned out like that kind of father. Having an overbearing dad may have been the bane of a teenage Kaleb's existence (and even currently, it pissed him off) but, in Robert's mind, it sure as hell beat having a dad who was hardly there at all.
Hell, Robert figured he was doing pretty damn good at keeping his protective instincts to a minimum ever since Kaleb moved out. He probably could have set a God damn record, if that fucking insane doctor hadn't called.
Fuck. He'd been doing so well at keeping his mind off of it.
Robert's fingers started tingling with the pressure he was applying against the dark glass; he was practically seething. He suddenly itched with the urge to call up Holcomb and demand to know where the hell his son was. For all Robert knew, the ass probably hadn't done a thing to help him. After all, he was a wealthy businessman and, for him, that insane asylum was nothing more than a shameless ploy to make him look good. A shameless ploy that had almost suffocated his only child.
Wow, that reflection only served to piss him off even more on top of filling him with the need to beat the shit out of his old best friend. Damn, this list of people Robert would really be happy to never see or hear of again was just increasing as the hours passed. He gingerly pried his tense left hand from the beer bottle to message the abruptly forming migraine at his temple, a groan rumbling his chest.
That beige granite under his elbows was beginning to look like a really great place to slam his face.
Kaleb made—what he would consider—a pretty strong point of falling asleep against the car window the instant Zack turned the ignition. Of course, he was perfectly conscious the whole drive, but he didn't want Zack to know that. Kaleb was just about positive that he wasn't going to so much as glance in his general direction for a good, long time. And maybe it was petty, and maybe it was selfish. But honestly, Kaleb couldn't care less.
In his mind, Zack had crossed every line he possibly could. Kaleb had brought him for the sole purpose of a support, in case things got weird. And while, one could pose the argument that a mental patient having an emotional attachment to Kaleb constituted as 'weird', that still didn't give Zackary Holcomb the right to do or say a single fucking thing that he did. Kaleb wasn't about to forget that anytime soon.
The Corvette reflected the current way Kaleb was feeling when it snarled—going into a deep pit in the road. Zack offered a mumbled curse/attempted apology with a sideways glance in his direction. Kaleb inwardly wondered if he was trying to say sorry for hurting his car or sorry for interfering in the healing process of a severely schizophrenic man.
Kaleb blinked. Wait, that terminology wasn't right. Or well technically it was. But Kaleb didn't want to think of him like that. He was Blaine Dowling: a twenty-five year old young man at what was supposed to be the peak of his life. With a wild mess of charcoal black hair that contrasted so strikingly with everything around and about him and a pair of gray eyes that pooled with emotions, so vivid, it was stunning. With those mannerisms that were so very reminiscent of something familiar and yet confounding and unique in a way that had Kaleb positively charmed. Surely, Blaine wasn't easy to interact with, or to even understand, and yet Kaleb was thrumming with the wish to see him smile again. To make him happy and learn about him, bit by bit.
No. Blaine Dowling was in no way, just a 'severely schizophrenic man'. And Zack seemed entirely incapable of grasping that.
Kaleb tried not to scowl too much in his faux-sleep state.
It seemed like only a few minutes had passed since Zack had hit that pothole, but when Kaleb finally opened his eyes it was to the violent shoving at his shoulder. "Hey. Wake up, Kale. We're at your dad's," came Zack's gruff voice. Kaleb squinted at the windshield, struck with need to stretch his body out of its stiff position. Huh. He must have actually passed out. Go figure.
Kaleb sighed heavily as he popped his back and forced himself upright, staring almost unseeingly at the house that he'd grown up in. Since his mom passed away, when Kaleb was just a little boy, his father had seemed bent on keeping the quaint, almost domestic home. Somehow, knowing that Robert lived in the two-story, Victorian era building without Sarah and without Kaleb, made him seem just a bit more alone. A bit more isolated. But Kaleb wasn't sympathizing with him. No, Robert chose to cling to the ghost of memories that adhered to the wooden halls, draped over the stooped windows, and weaved in and out of the outdated flooring.
Kaleb paused in his moment of pondering when he felt Zack's eyes on him. "What?" he muttered, rubbing his face. He even patted his cheeks in hopes of prepping himself for the inescapable fight he was about to have with his dad.
"I'll stay out here, if you want."
Kaleb hesitated. And the impulse to say something nice sprung to his lips, to bridge the canyon that Zack had oh-so-kindly weathered between them. To take these words, this offer, for what they were. A compromise, of sorts.
But it was only an impulse.
Kaleb didn't even bother with eye-contact as he reached to open the door. "If only you'd said that at the doors of the institute, huh?" he replied, voice flat, and climbed out of the car. Kaleb figured he'd gotten his point across when Zack didn't move to follow.
Well, now that that fight was done with, it was time to move on to yet the next obstacle. Kaleb was already floundering on the inside for what he was going to open with when he saw his father. There was plenty of things he wanted to say to the man, and so much he wanted to explain. Granted, Kaleb was mad at Robert for refusing to listen to reason in the first place, but now he hoped to, maybe, make him understand just how important this was to him. After what he'd seen—or more specifically, who he'd met.
Before it was just an angry phone call with no motivation behind it except getting under daddy's skin and general curiosity. Hardly the stuff of real disagreements. But now there was Blaine. Now there was a reason to stand his ground, to persuade his father to comprehend the severity of the situation. More than just a childish need. Kaleb was going to help this man. This man who desperately needed him. And he'd prefer it if Robert could at least try to see the logic in his reasoning.
Kaleb only hoped that his reasoning was good enough.
His tennis shoes were ominously loud on the wood steps of the porch. He was tempted to take two at a time, but that probably would have made even more of a racket. Besides, he didn't really want to alert Robert to his arrival any sooner than necessary, it would only give the man time to prepare his counterargument.
As he almost-crept up to the front door, Kaleb was suddenly struck with an odd question. Should he knock? He usually didn't, but somehow—standing in front of the white-wood with his palm hovering over the brass door knob—It felt invasive to just waltz in. He swallowed hard and raised his hand instead to wrap hard knuckles against the glass window.
The silence in the moment that followed was deafening and Kaleb was almost relieved when he heard the telltale sounds of heavy footsteps on wood floor. The door knob twitched in warning as the door itself swung open.
Immediately, Kaleb was gusted by the achingly familiar scent of his childhood home—the faint remnants of Robert's aftershave and that 'old paper' smell that always reminded Kaleb of a used bookstore. He tried not to get too sentimental and homesick about it. And then Robert appeared with that wary crease in his brow, dressed in one of those Henley shirts he'd gotten addicted to last Christmas. Kaleb figured he'd let him speak first. Common-courtesy and all that.
Robert eyed him with irises that shined the same hue as his own, and Kaleb couldn't help but notice how he seemed to have aged since he last saw him. More worry lines, more wear-and-tear, more everything. And they hadn't been face to face for a few weeks or so. Robert stood to his full height, his strong hand moving to grip the side of the door.
"Kaleb." His voice betrayed nothing. Just a plain statement, an acknowledgement of his presence. Kaleb had to struggle to untie his tongue from the knot it had twisted itself into. Sure, Robert was just his old man, but he was also his old man. Kaleb never knew quite how to act the way he wanted.
"I'm here to talk… about, the uh, the place I went today." He fumbled slightly over his words, trying to find the right way to put them. Kaleb instantly caught the tick in his dad's jaw and the subtle stiffening of his posture. He'd been cataloging Robert's tells of emotion since he was a kid. It was very important to know when your dad was five seconds away from all but strangling you. In the most, non-abusive way of course.
"Come in," Robert practically ordered with a tilt of his head towards the foyer. He threw the door open all the way and began walking in the direction of the kitchen. Kaleb braced himself for the oncoming showdown and followed after his father, kicking the door closed behind him.
It slid shut with a resonating ker-thunk.
Kaleb tried not to read portentous omens into every sound as he entered the familiar kitchen. Robert had fished himself out a beer from the freezer drawer beneath the fridge and Kaleb raised an eyebrow. It was the middle of the afternoon. He must've been more pissed about the whole ordeal than Kaleb originally thought.
Robert popped the cap off the cheap drink and gestured to a stool on the opposite side of the island from himself. Kaleb wanted to refuse, but he figured the less disagreement the better and plodded himself down. He watched cautiously as his father took a swig of misting beer before setting it onto the counter in between them. Kaleb watched it hit the granite before looking up into Robert's eyes—hard as flint.
"What the fucking hell, Kaleb?" he spat, his features contorting into a grimace that exemplified the lines in his brow. Kaleb thought he did well with not flinching from the venom in his voice. He held his gaze with a defiance, surprisingly easy to muster in the face of his father's ire.
"They needed my help." His voice didn't falter this time as he braced his hands on the edge of the countertop. Robert's stare was as rigid and cold as the ice melting off his beer.
"Oh? Your help? Is that right? So, if a fucking psychopath asks you to help him murder someone, you're just gonna hop right to it, right? 'Cause you're such a fucking wonderful person!" he shouted, raising the glass and slamming it back down for emphasis. Kaleb did cringe at the abrupt noise, but he bit out a reply with not a trace of backing down.
"It's not because I'm on some damn high horse, Dad. What are you so pissed off about? I'm fine!" He had to struggle to keep his voice from raising. Having a row with Robert always ended worse if they were both screaming at each other. On top of the fact that Zack had reacted much the same way to his interaction with Blaine. They were both so concerned for his well-being, that they had to snarl and yell at him before he even had a chance to explain the situation. They were so bent on believing that Blaine was some insane serial killer on a war path. Kaleb wanted to laugh it was so far from the truth.
Robert gave him a long-suffering once over, his eyes bright in the sunlight filtering through the windows. It may have been a trick of the overheads, but Kaleb thought he may have seen the flash of something in their blue depths. Anxiety? Fear? It wasn't good whatever it was. Robert's stare hesitated just below his face and Kaleb knew that he must've fixated on his neck. Kaleb raised a hand to scratch it slowly. "It's fine, Dad. There's no bruise," he said, quiet. "I didn't get hurt. I'm fine."
As Kaleb spoke, he couldn't help his thoughts jumping to that moment when Blaine lost control. For just a moment, he had been transported back to a different time, his mind losing itself in memories. Memories that Kaleb had resurfaced. The muscle of his shoulders felt fine now, but he wouldn't be surprised if there were finger-shaped yellow smudges marring the skin. And he was happy that the sleeves of his shirt were long enough to cover them.
Robert seemed to calm down upon realizing that Kaleb was indeed perfectly fine. At least, he didn't look like he was about to blow a gasket. It was silent as he fiddled with the label on the bottle. Face sagging, his entire frame seemed to deflate as he took a second to think.
Kaleb scrutinized him. Would he come up with some other reason to be angry? Would he ask about what exactly had happened at the institute? It's not like he knew. He must be curious. Kaleb wavered. He still had to come up with some amazing way to get his dad to agree with the situation. Which, he fucking did not understand, come to think of it. He was twenty years old, why the hell did he have to get Daddy's permission again?
Right, right, the lawsuit thing. Which nobody actually thought would work, right? A decade had passed.
"So what? You're just part of some psychoanalysis experiment? They're just using you, Kaleb! I remember. I remember that blonde doctor telling me that you could help the psycho piece of shit that hurt you! And I told him to fuck off, because there was no way I was gonna let you become some pawn for them to throw at the psychotic patients who strangled children!" Robert snapped suddenly, shattering the calm that had managed to settle over them. Kaleb leaned away from him, because his face was reddening, and he muttered under his breath. "And what do you do? You do it anyway. I swear to God just to spite me."
That was going a bit too far, Kaleb thought. Sure, he and Robert had their disputes more often than they got along. That didn't mean he would go so far out of his way, just to force his dad into an early grave with some good old cardiac arrest. Kaleb was hardly the antagonistic type. At least not when it involved Robert. And there was no alcohol around.
But no, Kaleb wasn't the kind of person to manipulate others—especially doctors and patients—just to settle some Daddy issues. No, he might have gone to that mental hospital with nothing but a big steaming pile of curiosity. And maybe at first, he just wanted to know. To know what his father had so selfishly kept from him. When he found out, everything spun around in the complete opposite direction and it wasn't about Kaleb or Robert or, hell, even Zack, and all the emotional problems between them. It was Blaine Dowling. A boy—a man—who needed his help. Who was alone, who didn't have to worry about petty things like a tiff with his old man, or a disagreement with a best friend, who didn't have the luxury of it. And then he met Blaine and everything about him drew Kaleb in. He was an enigma—dangerously strong, yet so ridiculously harmless—and Kaleb was charmed and fascinated.
Robert had begun pacing the length of the short island, running his unoccupied hand through his dark hair and causing it to stick up at every angle. He was haggard, troubled, and very much irritated. Kaleb had to tell him that this whole thing with the institute has nothing to do with their relationship. Has to get it to sink in fully and let him know that helping Blaine Dowling was nothing if not a benefit to him. He took a risky leap and leant forward, grabbing hold of Robert's elbow. His dad froze, startling.
"Dad, for a second. Just think, maybe this isn't about you and me. This thing I'm doing at the institute, the man I'm helping, it has absolutely nothing to do with some 'Get Back At Dad' scheme, okay? I didn't do it just to piss you off, though I was mad that you hadn't told me about the emotional attachment thing. I mean, you just—you haven't met the guy. He's in a real bad place and I can help him. This is bigger than some back-and-forth thing between us, this is about him and what he needs to get better," Kaleb finished, hoping that maybe just a few words of what he'd said had gotten through to his hardheaded father.
But Robert ripped his arm out of his son's hold and turned to face him fully, hands slamming down onto the granite. "'Get better'? Are you serious? He's a nutcase, a fucking psychopath! Guys like him don't get better, Kaleb, they rot in an insane asylum until they die. That's it. You don't need to waste your time trying to make it better, you didn't do anything wrong! If anything, he owes you for trying to kill you!"
Kaleb's face immediately darkened at his father's words. There was a thin line between being ignorant and just plain being a fucking asshole. Right about now, Robert was toeing into the wrong side and Kaleb tensed with how infuriated this made him. He'd always believed his father to be a fairly liberal man, giving others a chance to prove themselves before judging them. He wasn't ever a saint, but this was too far. Robert didn't know Blaine. He had no idea about him in any shape or form. He didn't see that hopeful grin that made Kaleb's stomach flop. He didn't—God, he didn't get kissed by him. Blaine was hardly the psychopath everyone seemed determined to make him out to be. Psychopaths don't just sloppily kiss you on the mouth like a shy middle-schooler. They just don't.
Kaleb stood to his feet, pretty sure that he looked every bit as furious with his father that he was. "Robert. I am not dicking around. Blaine Dowling needs my help and I'm going to do everything in my power to give it to him. If you try and stop me, you can bet your ass that you'll never see my face again." And maybe he went there to reason everything out, and maybe it was childish of him, but Kaleb pushed away from the countertop and began making his way for the exit. He didn't give a shit if his dad didn't believe him. When he reached the foyer, he had every intention of never coming back, but then there was a rough hand on his shoulder, gripping him tight.
"Wait! Just, just wait a second," Robert was saying, unaware or uncaring of the way Kaleb had winced at his firm hold, his fingers pressing into fresh bruises. "Look, I just—I don't get it. Why? Why the hell would you wanna help the same boy who tried to—tried to kill you?"
And maybe his voice cracked a little on the word kill. And it may have guilt tripped Kaleb just enough for him to answer. Plus his hand was really pressing on those bruises. "It's called forgiveness, Dad. He wasn't himself when that happened. You can't hold onto a grudge or a memory or… or a person forever. Sometimes it's best to just let go and move on." With that, Kaleb wrenched his arm free and pulled the door open, making his leave without a glance back.
And maybe he wasn't just talking about Blaine that time.
I think in the beginning this chapter was a little rough and I'm not entirely pleased with it. But I really love the second half of it! I'm proud it's finally written and am dutifully starting the eighth chapter. I hope the extensive edits and slight revising is a good thing for this story, because it's my baby and it's been with me for a long time. So tell me what you think of Please Don't Leave Me's new overall look!
I just made the cover, since apparently FictionPress is doing that now. I'll have a large version of it linked in my profile as soon as FictionPress lets me write the html for it, if you want to see that. The boy in the picture is supposed to be a young Kaleb, or at least that's how he looks in my head. But you all are free to imagine him however you want! I hope the cover is up to this story's standards and would love to hear what your opinion of it is.
As always, feedback on the actual writing of this thing is greatly appreciated! Don't be scared if I get all gushy and love-bearing and start review-replying like a fiend. Just saying, I'm starved for my readers' opinions! And, also, sleep-deprived. Very sleep-deprived.