Author's note: Wow, it has been quite a long time. I won't go into all the reasons that I lost the drive to write this story, but as I'm sure many of you other writers know, writing is sadly one of the first things to fall by the wayside when life gets busy. It's unfortunate, but when you're not getting paid and don't have deadlines to meet it's quite an easy thing to shove back in the corner. Life is still busy for me, but on a whim I checked my account recently and found that I had several new, encouraging reviews from readers excited for me to finish this story. I cannot tell you what a difference that makes. To each and every reader who has reviewed, messaged, favorited, or otherwise encouraged me, thank you so much. In these past few months I somehow forgot how much I love to write.
Today is my 24th birthday, and I feel both painfully old and stupidly young at the same time. I stayed up all night last night working on this short chapter and I felt emotions I haven't felt in almost a year. I cried for my characters, for myself and my lack of commitment to something that I truly love, and so I wanted to share this with you all, even though it's technically not really ready. This is a very rough draft of the next chapter and it is likely that I will go back and make some changes, but I just couldn't wait until it was perfect to post it. I hope very much to be able to work on this story more, and perhaps to start another one that has been brewing in my head for quite some time now. I'm afraid to make promises, because you never know when life will get in the way, but I will make an effort. Thank you to each and every one of you who may still be reading. It means more to me than you know.
Chapter 16: Typical Teenager ADD
A set of three soft, timid knocks on the door of his hotel room jerked Trey out of his sluggish trance and back into reality. He had been sprawled out on the bed staring at, but not really watching, the TV for the past several hours and it was only after he rolled over and blinked a few times that he noticed how much his eyes burned. He rubbed at them one at a time as he stood up, his heart starting to pound because he knew who was waiting out in the hall and he didn't know what was going to happen once he came inside and he didn't know how he was supposed to feel about it…
"Hey," he said nervously as he swung the door open, but before he could even get a good look at the kid he felt another body collide into his own and a pair of long, wiry arms wrapped around his middle, squeezing with a lot more force than he expected.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, I came as soon as I could get away, I swear, but my dad and Shannon kept ordering drinks and they wouldn't listen when I said it was past Donny's bedtime and I wanted to text you but my dad would have been mad if I had my phone out at the table and - "
"Hey, it's okay," Trey assured him, taking a firm hold of the kid's wrists and prying himself out of his grip as he took a step back into the room. "You don't need to make excuses, I'm just glad you came at all."
"Of course!" Kevin exclaimed, wide-eyed, following Trey inside. "I'm so sorry all this happened, I know you've been so stressed out and I wish there was something I could do to help. I've been trying to think of different ways to - "
"Kevin," Trey sighed, the corners of his lips curving upwards just the slightest bit at the kid's boundless determination. "There's nothing you can do to help, okay? I don't expect you to." He gave a half shrug and nodded towards the bed. "Just…can you sit down and watch TV with me? That's all I want."
"Yeah, okay…" The kid nodded earnestly, keeping his eyes locked with Trey's as he slowly moved towards the bed and sat down on the edge. He seemed uncertain about the whole thing himself, and Trey couldn't blame him. Now that he actually had the kid in front of him – on his bed – still dressed up from dinner, his clean white button-up clinging to his frame as he leaned forward to untie his shoes, it all seemed like the worst idea in the world. How could he just sit there and watch TV, keeping his hands to himself the whole time, when he knew the exact taste and texture of the kid's skin under his tongue? It seemed utterly impossible.
"What do you like to watch?" Trey asked awkwardly, gingerly settling himself on the opposite corner of the bed.
"I don't care," the kid answered. "Whatever you've been watching is fine with me."
"I don't even know what this is," Trey admitted, reaching for the remote. A cursory glance at the channel menu informed him that he had been watching Quilting Wars for the past two hours which was rather embarrassing, so he quickly flipped up to the next channel.
"Oh, I love this movie!" Kevin declared, glancing back at Trey in excitement. "I've seen it like, ten times at least but I totally don't mind watching it again, it's the best. Have you seen it?"
Trey shook his head and grimaced. "I don't really get to watch many movies besides like, Finding Nemo or Veggie Tales…"
"I love Veggie Tales too!" The kid laughed and scooted back so that he was leaning against the headboard next to Trey, his legs stretched out in front of him and his bare toes wiggling their way under the folded blanket draped across the foot of the bed. "But seriously," he continued, "this is a really good movie, and this is just the beginning too, you haven't missed anything important. We should so watch it, the ending will totally blow your mind."
"Yeah, sure," Trey agreed, fluffing up the pillow behind his back and trying to focus on something besides the kid's smooth, eager face, his eyes fixed straight ahead on the TV screen as he worried his lower lip between his teeth, apparently already caught up in the action.
How was it possible for someone to be so beautiful? When they first met Trey hadn't been especially attracted, nothing beyond a mild appreciation that he wouldn't have even dreamed of acting upon. Perhaps he had noticed that the kid dressed well and had nice looking hair and remarkably clear skin for a teenager, but that was nothing compared to now. Now he felt himself practically salivating over the slim figure beside him, his fingers itched to tangle themselves back into those curls, to trace figure-eights over bare skin and feel a hot, flushed, sticky cheek pressing into his neck. He wanted it so badly that it sickened him. He felt his entire body heave as he retched at the mental image, his own self-loathing was so caustic at that point that he couldn't even bear the thought.
"Are you okay?" the kid asked, glancing over at Trey with a furrowed brow.
"What? Yeah, I'm fine," he answered quickly, swallowing down the acid pooling in the back of his throat.
The kid frowned. "I'm pretty sure that's a lie," he remarked. "Listen, I know you're worried about Julie taking the kids and all that, but I've been thinking about it like, all day and I just don't see how she could get away with it."
"Kev - " Trey started, because he felt like the absolute last thing he wanted to talk about at that point was Julie, but the kid kept right on going.
"I mean, I know Ash isn't biologically your child but I don't think that really matters seeing as your name is on his birth certificate."
Trey sighed and resigned himself to the fact that he was apparently going to have this conversation anyway. "No, that does matter," he explained. "It matters a lot, I think. We falsified a legal document. We both knew I wasn't his father but we signed it anyway, I'm pretty sure that's a big deal."
"But how could they prove that you knew?" the kid pointed out. "You could say you really thought you were his father, it's her word against yours so there's at least a fifty percent chance they'd believe you. Plus they have to think about what's good for Ash, and obviously as far as he's concerned you're the only father he's ever had. I just don't see how a judge could ignore that."
"I mean…I just don't know," Trey mumbled, pulling on a thread that had escaped the ornate embroidered design of the comforter. "I'd like to believe the judge would see it that way, but even if he does there's going to be a whole bunch of legal bullshit to deal with. It's not a risk I'm willing to take, not if it means I could lose my son."
He didn't receive a response for quite some time, long enough that Trey started to feel uncomfortable with the extended silence, broken only by the sound of echoing footsteps and heavy, anxious breathing from the TV. He assumed the kid had simply become wrapped up in the movie again, typical teenager ADD, so he was surprised when he snuck a cursory glance and found that Kevin wasn't watching at all and instead was meeting his gaze, a tiny worry line between his brows.
"That just seems completely unreasonable," he said finally, reaching back to scratch his own shoulder and chewing on his lower lip, apparently deep in thought. "You're like, the best father I've ever met, they couldn't - "
"Okay, that is not true," Trey interrupted, agitated, "and you know it. I tried to bribe my own child into keeping quiet about the fact that I committed adultery, that's not okay." He gave the kid a stern look. "I appreciate that you're not judging me too harshly for it, but no actual judge is going to think that's okay, Kev. Nobody but you thinks that's okay."
"I'm not saying it was like, a good thing to do," the kid protested, "but you kind of had to, and besides, she did it too!" He held his hands out and fixed Trey with a bewildered expression. "She cheated on you way before you did it to her. She broke the vow first, she's the one to blame for this!"
"No, that's what you don't get about it," Trey said, taking care not to raise his voice because he could feel the frustration starting to build up again. "There's no point in blaming anyone, that's not going to get me anywhere. The only thing the judge is even going to hear is that I falsified a legal document, I had an affair, and I was careless enough to involve my child in it. Those are the facts, those are the only things that matter."
The kid stared at him wordlessly for a moment. "But what if you just - " he started in a small voice.
"No." Trey shook his head and looked back down at the bed, picking at the thread again. "I have to keep this out of a judge's hands. That's really my only good option."
The kid shifted on the bed, folding his legs up underneath him. "Alright then," he said slowly. "So what if you…um…"
"Kev, please don't worry about it," Trey recited in a monotone voice. He wanted to be able to put some feeling behind it but he just couldn't. Thinking about it, this dark, ominous unknown stretched out in front of him for God knows how long with no clear path through or around, drained him of every last drop of energy he had. "You're not going to solve this problem for me, okay? I'm not asking you to."
"I just want to help," the kid murmured, his tone slightly hurt.
Trey took a long, deep breath and turned his head again, taking in the kid's fretful appearance, his curls disheveled and his lower lip swollen from being gnawed on. He was twisting his body so that the shoulder closest to Trey leaned back, his chest open to him and his undivided attention clearly directed well away from the TV. It was obvious that he truly did want to help, that he was beating himself up trying to think of ways to do it, but Trey was starting to feel like he was beating a dead horse.
"Listen to me," he stated firmly. "I'm not going to say this anymore, okay? You cannot help." He paused for a second and then repeated his message. "You just can't help me, and I need you to quit trying. This is really not what I need right now."
The kid immediately sat back, as though the words had physically stung. "I'm sorry," he said. "I really am, I was just – I mean, I didn't…" He trailed off and stared across the divide between them, his mouth still open as though the unspoken words were hanging on the tip of his tongue.
Trey turned away, released the loose thread he was twirling between his fingers and tried to focus on the TV. He didn't have a clue what was going on and he had obviously missed some important exposition, but he tried to force himself to be interested. Having the kid come had quite clearly – and quite predictably – been a mistake, and so he hoped that if he watched the movie the kid would follow his example and eventually relax a little. Even if that failed it might at least get him out of his own head for a blissful hour or two, and that was better than nothing.
His plan worked for about a minute and a half, until the kid decided to speak up again, in a tight, hushed sort of voice. "Then what do you need right now?"
Exhausted with the simple effort of holding his own head up, Trey let it fall back against the headboard and rolled it to face the side of the bed where the kid was sitting. In the end even that had been a waste of time because the kid wasn't looking at him, was staring straight forward, not at the TV but at the wall, as he fidgeted with the sleeve of his shirt. "What do you mean?" he asked, returning his head to its original position.
"You say you don't need me to try to help," Kevin explained, his voice still unnaturally quiet. "What is it that you do need?"
Trey let his eyes slide closed and shook his head silently. He needed a lot of things. He needed a rigged DNA test, he needed a psychiatric evaluation, he needed a good lawyer, a job, a distraction, a friend his own age who might have something bordering on useful advice, but he didn't need anything that the kid could give him. It had been pointless to ask him to come.
Trey's breath caught in his throat as he felt the sudden, unexpected sensation of fingertips on his neck. Before he had even had time to register what was happening the hand started to move, fingers dragging over the fabric of his shirt, down the center of his chest, below his sternum and on to his stomach. His back arched involuntarily, the air trapped in his lungs creating a strange, growling sort of sound as his abs contracted and forced it out.
The kid moved closer, his breath barely a whisper in Trey's ear as he asked – no, begged, "Is this what you need?"
In an utterly disgusting thought, one that he could barely believe was within the realm of human capacity, Trey realized how thoroughly easy it would be to take advantage of the situation. A simple 'yes,' would suffice, that was the only word he would have to say, and the kid would do it. He would get on his knees on the fucking floor, like a dog at his master's feet. He would let Trey clench his fists around handfuls of his hair, he would let him force his head down, fighting the urge to choke, until he couldn't breathe. He would gaze up at Trey with that pleading, desperate look, frantically trying with all his might to handle anything that was asked of him because he just wanted to help.
He would let every last shred of his self-worth be shaken to dust if it meant he could just feel useful for a moment.
Trey knew he was a weak, bad man, but he refused to let himself be quite that weak.
"No." He wrapped his hand around the kid's wrist just before it hit his belt, his nails digging in, fighting against himself and his own animalistic desire to just let it happen almost as much as he was fighting against the kid. "That's not what I need, and it's certainly not what you need," he instructed, making sure the adventurous fingertips were a good eighteen inches away from him before letting go.
"I'm sorry!" Kevin protested, his eyes so wide that Trey could see a full circle of white around the iris. "I just thought that - "
Trey sat bolt upright. "Dammit Kev, fucking stop!" he snapped, his patience abruptly cut short. "You have to stop thinking like that! No matter how many times or how many ways I tell you it just doesn't sink in, so I'm done being nice about it." He pointed his finger at Kevin's chest and stated plainly, coldly, "If you don't act like you think you deserve my respect then I'm going to stop trying to give it to you."
The kid's jaw dropped, his face flushing bright pink. A little rush of air escaped him, almost like a disbelieving laugh, and he blinked furiously, his expression morphing from one of surprise, to confusion, to utter humiliation within the span of a few seconds. He ducked his head, ran a hand through his hair, and then ever so slowly started to scoot himself towards the edge of the bed.
"O-okay then," he sputtered finally as he stood up, clearly on the verge of breaking down. "I guess…I guess you want me to go?"
"What the fuck do you want?" Trey exploded, swinging his legs over the side as well. "You were not put on this earth to help me," he spat. "You need to help yourself first, because you clearly need it."
The kid's face was completely stricken. "I – I don't understand!" he cried. "I thought that was what you wanted, that was why you called me in the first place!"
Trey felt like tearing his own hair out. "Yeah, and it was fucked up of me to do that, and you obviously knew, and you called me out for it, so what the fuck are you doing now?" he demanded, infuriated. "Stand up for yourself!"
The kid sniffed and set his jaw, his arms crossing tightly over his chest. "You're one to talk."
Somewhat uncharacteristically, at least as of late, Trey felt no shock or spark of anger at those words and realized darkly that he must have exhausted his body's supply of adrenaline going through so many mood shifts in such a short time. "You're right," he responded evenly. "I'm a cautionary tale. I never stood up for myself, and look where it got me. Don't you want to be just like me?" he added with a sarcastic, subdued sort of laugh.
The kid stared down at his shoes, arms still crossed and one foot digging half-heartedly at the carpet.
Trey leaned forward, elbows on his knees, reassuming the exact pose that he had been in when the kid called back and he stupidly agreed to let him come over. It was maddening. None of it made sense. Each agonizing decision that he made turned out to be wrong, every single word out of his mouth just served to make things worse, and he felt stranded within his own mind. No matter what he said or did he couldn't make the kid understand, and what was worse he could barely stand his own ground long enough to convince himself of anything either. Every emotion he felt was fleeting, insubstantial, impossible to grasp and replaced with another one long before he could figure out how to deal with it, perhaps as a result of so many years spent ignoring them, tucking them back into that box in the farthest, darkest corner of the closet. He had never felt so crazy in his life, he was truly beginning to question his own sanity.
"Kev," he spoke eventually, hands folded in front of him and his eyes trailed on the floor. "I just…don't know what to do," he admitted.
"I don't know either," the kid replied. "But…I don't want to leave you like this."
Trey grimaced and clasped his hands behind his head. "Dammit," he hissed through clenched teeth. "I told you to quit trying to help me."
"I'm not," Kevin shot back defiantly. "You asked me what I want, so I'm telling you. I don't want to leave."
Trey raised his head and surveyed the kid for a moment. Whatever it was he thought he wanted, he was undeniably wrong, and Trey supposed it was his own fault for asking a teenager something like that in the first place. None of them had any idea. "I'm terrible for you," he remarked conversationally.
The kid nodded. "I know."
"Tell me what else you know then," Trey commanded, albeit without much conviction.
The kid sighed heavily and sucked his lip back into his mouth. "I know that it's never going to be what I want it to be," he started. "You have your priorities in order, there's nothing wrong with that, and I know that no matter what you say, you are a good father. You would never choose me over your kids."
"You're right about that," Trey agreed emotionlessly. He didn't want to hurt the kid's feelings, but he sure as hell didn't want to lie anymore. It only led to more and more lies, faster and faster until they all ran out of control.
"I know that you've fucked with my head a lot," Kevin continued, "but I don't believe you meant to. I know you're hurting, and I…I think…" he winced a little, as though he knew exactly how Trey felt about his thoughts, "I think that, at least during the times we were together, I made you feel good." He paused and shuffled back and forth on his feet for a moment. "I know you made me feel good at least."
"You were a virgin before you met me, you have no idea," Trey stated flatly.
The kid's eyes narrowed. "I'm not a child - "
"You're close to it," Trey interjected.
Trey felt a jolt go through his body and he sat up a little straighter. The kid had never spoken to him like that before and it was incredibly foreign. At the sound of those words he felt something inside him snap back into place, his listless, uncaring attitude immediately replaced by a strange need to pay rapt attention, because maybe the kid actually did have something to say.
He looked down at Trey warily, his lip curled in a defensive sneer, and it wasn't the absolute most mature thing, but it was something. It was better than his obnoxious, self-sacrificing obliviousness from before.
The kid took a deep breath and began to speak again. "I may be younger than you, but I know my own feelings," he declared. "You can tell me all day long that I shouldn't feel a certain way, but that doesn't change the actual feeling, it just makes me insecure about it!"
Trey felt his brows draw together and his chest tighten. "I…didn't think about it like that," he confessed, a surge of guilt churning through his insides. "That's the last thing I ever meant to do."
The kid just shrugged. "I'm in love with you," he said somberly, shakily, his voice starting to break. "I know we can never be together, I get it, but that doesn't change anything. That doesn't make me care less about you."
Seeing him on the brink of tears once again, fighting it so desperately, trying so hard to keep the tough, confident façade intact made Trey's gut knot up. He wanted to reach out and draw the kid close, tell him it was okay to let go, to be vulnerable, that he would be soothed and protected and well taken care of, but he couldn't. It just wouldn't last. The most he could promise of that was a few hours maybe, but even still he couldn't trust himself. He couldn't trust his own head. He was too volatile right now, too likely to get angry again. The safest thing for the kid was to be far, far away...
"I came here tonight because you sounded like you needed someone," Kevin explained. "I wasn't thinking about myself, I just wanted to be here for you in whatever way you needed me. Right now I…I'm pretty confused about what you need, but I think you are too, and that's okay. I just…I don't understand," he added, shaking his head. "I don't understand what's wrong with me wanting to make you feel good, even if it's just to get you through the night."
"Because that's all it'll end up being!" Trey protested weakly. "Just one night, and just for me, there's nothing in it for you!"
"I don't know why you think that," the kid murmured, the corner of his mouth twisting up into a sad, half-smile. "If you wanted to make it worth it for me you would barely even have to try."
Trey surveyed him warily, his sweating palms clutching the bedspread to keep himself in place. "What is it that you want from me?" he asked, mouth dry.
"Just…" The kid shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other and dropped his gaze. "Just treat me like you did the other nights we spent together. For just a little bit of time…make me feel like I really belong to you."
"God…" Trey groaned, his body sagging. Why did he even try to fight it anymore? His hands immediately detached themselves from the bed, reached out for the body that he had been dying to wrap his arms around, to hold and safeguard and claim ever since that very first kiss. "Come here."
The kid was cautious at first, stood several inches away as Trey ran his hands down his back, gripped his hips, traced gentle patterns along his sides. "I want you so badly," Trey admitted in a low voice. "I always want you, every fucking second of every day."
He pulled the body closer, until the kid was standing between his knees, and hugged him tightly, pressing a kiss to his chest. He tilted his head back, looked up at the kid's face, reached a hand to caress one smooth, pink cheek, to dip his thumb between the parted lips. He was so beautiful, so sweet and kind and giving and undeserving of this kind of treatment…
"Trey…" the kid whispered, one hand gently stroking the back of his neck while the other combed through his hair.
"You don't have to do this," Trey told him. The evil, deranged thoughts he had been having only a few minutes ago, thoughts of dominating the kid, degrading him, humiliating him, seemed completely alien. He could never, ever hurt him. He only wanted the chance to hold this smooth, shivering body against his own one last time, to run his fingers over every delicate inch of it, to look into the kid's eyes as he shuddered in pleasure, to murmur soft words of affirmation and feel each tiny reaction. He wanted to make the kid love himself since he couldn't do it for him.
"I want to," the kid replied. "I want this."
"It's just tonight," Trey reminded him, hands still roaming. "I wish it could be more, but…"
The kid nodded. "I know. You don't have to keep telling me, I understand." Trembling fingertips ghosted over Trey's face, tracing each plane and line and curve as though he wanted to commit it all to memory. "No matter what happens tomorrow, I still want tonight."
"Anything," Trey choked out quickly, turning his head to kiss the kid's palm as it stroked along his jaw. "I will do fucking anything you want tonight, Kev, you deserve it. Just tell me what you need, I'll…"
The kid caught Trey's head between his hands and kissed him hard, so that he nearly had to gasp for breath when it was over. He gazed down at him, eyes brimming with tears and full of a deep pain that made Trey physically sick to see. He pulled the kid into his lap and brushed away the single teardrop that had become too heavy to be contained anymore.
"I can't ask you for what I really want," the kid murmured dejectedly, hanging his head.
Trey turned the kid's face back towards his own with two fingers under his chin. "Ask," he ordered gently. "As long as it's just for tonight, I'll give you anything, I swear…"
The kid's resolve broke and he shuddered in Trey's arms, eyes squeezed tightly shut and tears running freely down his cheeks as his shoulders shook with sobs. "Will you…" he began in a soft, raspy voice, slipping his arms around Trey's neck. "Will you tell me you love me? Just one time, even if it's a lie…"