Author: Diary PM
An AU take on the ending of the movie. Complete. Edited for typos.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Family - Words: 2,971 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 08-27-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7329532
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own A Single Man.
Author's Note: The medical aspect of this fic may or may not be realistic.
"Surgery isn't required, and if all goes well, he can be released in the morning. He'll be okay," the doctor tells them.
The redhead, Professor Falconer's emergency contact, taps her foot. "Not if I kill him first," she says, through gritted teeth.
"Ma'am, he's been taking his medication; sometimes, these things just-"
"I need a drink," she mutters, ignoring the doctor. "You'll keep him here until I fetch him in the morning?"
"Yes, ma'am," the doctor says, somewhat helplessly.
Kenny thinks about the gun he'd found, lying on the desk full of letters, keys, and a suit. The letters were all sealed, and he hadn't bothered opening them. He'd trusted the instinctive fear and revulsion he'd felt.
When he'd woken up to find it missing, rushing to the bedroom, praying to a deity he wasn't even sure he believed in, and first saw the other man, he'd thrown up before realising Professor Falconer was breathing, if only very slightly. There was no bullet wound anywhere on the body and no gun in sight. He'd called for help, doing everything the operator said, inwardly panicking.
Another heart attack.
Kenny had been in Professor Falconer's class for several weeks when the first one happened, and he and Lois had both been bewildered when it was announced why their teacher was fifteen minutes late. They knew the professor was somewhere in his forties or fifties, but he always struck them as extremely healthy.
Abruptly, Kenny breaks out of his thoughts, realising the doctor is looking at him with a neutral expression.
"Are you okay, son?"
"Yes, sir," Kenny answers, automatically. "I'm fine. Can I visit him before he's released?"
The doctor continues to look at him. "Don't tell anyone," he says, finally. "But you can see him right now. He's still sleeping; don't wake him."
"Thank you," Kenny says, taken aback.
He knows he should call Lois, but he can feel the goosebumps on his arm that have nothing to do with the hospital's cold air. He needs to see Professor Falconer's chest rising and falling, needs to see his eyelids twitch, needs to see the physical proof that the man is still alive.
Leading him into the room, a private room that the redhead had gotten, the doctor motions to a chair. "You can talk to him. Just keep your voice confined to the room, and if it looks like he's starting to wake up, stop."
"Thank you," Kenny repeats, too busy watching now-steady rise and fall of the professor's chest to sit.
Sighing, the doctor shakes his head and leaves.
"Charlotte, really, I'm fine," George insists, trying to catch her hands as she fusses about.
"If you expect you to leave you alone after this happened, again, you're dafter than I thought possible," she answers, finishing folding the sleeping bag. "I'm not going to ask," she declares, shooting him a curious look. "It doesn't matter. I don't blame that boy for this; I blame you for not going to the hospital as soon as you felt chest pains yesterday morning."
George chuckles. "Oh, come on, Charley. Kenny's a few years younger than your son."
"He's a student I ran into," George explains. She begins to put the sleeping bag up. "We had a beer- or rather we had Scotch- discussed my class, went swimming, and came back to dry off. I passed out due to the swimming and alcohol, and he slept in the study to make sure my passing out wasn't indicative of anything more serious."
"Thank God for that," she mutters. "George," she says, sitting down. "I can't do this. I'm sorry for what I said; this isn't a rehash of that. But I can't go to bed at night and fall asleep, knowing that something like this could happen in the middle of the night, and no one would be there to save you."
"It's for the best, Charley," he says, softly. "I'm not giving up this house. And if you give up yours, move in here, while I cook our meals and you do our laundry, people will talk. I'll feel guilty, and eventually, I'll let you convince me to try giving us another shot. Maybe this time, with Jim dead, it'll work. But at the end of the day, as strongly as I love you, as much as I adore you, I'm never going to be in love with you."
"Must everything be a speech with you," she wonders, irritably. Sighing, she clasps his extended hand. "We have to figure something out. You've been in my life since before my hair grew in places besides my head, and I'm nowhere near ready for you to leave it."
"I've very recently discovered that I'm nowhere ready to leave you," he says, sincerely, leaning forward to kiss her forehead.
Nodding, she squeezes his hand before letting go and standing up. "I'll make you some tea. When Alva comes, I'll go home and pack a few things. I'm, at least, staying for the weekend."
Wincing, George remembers the letter in the freezer, wondering how he can get it without setting off a stampede of questions.
As if on cue, the doorbell rings.
"I'll get it," she calls, warningly.
"Oh, hello," Charley says, smiling at the boy. "George is in his bedroom. Come on in. I'm just making some tea."
"Thank you, ma'am," he says, tentatively stepping inside. "I'm Kenny Potter, one of Professor Falconer's students."
"Yes," Charley says, closing the door. "George told me. I can't tell you how grateful I am for not leaving after he passed out."
He's obviously grasping for words, and Charley takes pity on him. "I need to get that tea made. Go keep him company for me."
As she walks back to the kitchen, she shakes her head. "Oh, George," she mutters. "You are an idiot."
He wouldn't lie to her about what happened, but it's patently obvious that boy being a few years younger than Clay is only a consideration for George.
"Mister Potter," Professor Falconer greets.
Relieved at how normal he looks, Kenny grins. "Hello, sir," he says, sitting down on the bed. "Your friend sent me in here to keep you company."
"Charlotte," the professor says, smiling affectionately. "Otherwise known as Charley. We've been one another's shadow since childhood."
Instinctively, Kenny reaches out to brush the hair that's covering the bandage away. He tries to figure out how to say what he wants to say, how to express the fear, anger, and outright disappointment.
Screw it, he decides, looking towards the open door.
"Last night, sir, none of those envelopes were addressed to me or Lois or anyone else in our class that I could see."
The other man looks shocked. "Kenny," he starts to say.
"Lois has made an A on every assignment," Kenny continues. "I know she doesn't participate in class discussions, but that has to count for something, doesn't it? And Myron always asks these deep questions."
"Kenny," Professor Falconer says before he can continue. "I-I was in a very bad place yesterday, a fact which you recognised. Believe it or not, my time with you was a contributing factor in my deciding to not-"
"Kill yourself," Kenny inquires, unable to keep the anger out of his voice. "Leave your childhood friend alone? Leave your class alone?"
At the professor's look, Kenny sighs. "I'm sorry, sir. It's just that- when I took your class before, you were always- You were happy, then," he says, leaning back so that he can prop himself on his elbows. "And then, you had that heart attack, and outwardly, you were still more-or-less the same, but you weren't happy."
"Is that why you signed up for this one," Professor Falconer inquires, curiously.
"No," Kenny answers. "I signed up because I enjoy your classes. I thought you'd be happy, again, though. I miss seeing that." Quietly, he says, "I was worried about you, but until I went into your study, I didn't think I had to worry about-"
"You don't," Professor Falconer says, catching his eyes. Sincerely, he says, "I promise you that."
Before Kenny can answer, they hear the redhead lady coming near the bedroom.
"Alright," she says, handing the professor a cup of tea. "Drink up. Would you care for some tea, Mister Potter?"
"No, thank you, ma'am," Kenny answers.
Setting his cup down, the professor sighs. "You made this with my coffeemaker, didn't you?"
"Don't complain," she orders. "It was a struggle getting yours trained."
"Charlotte, you cannot train household appliances. I'm allowed a cup of coffee a day, and now, I'm likely going to have to buy a new coffeemaker. You've ruined mine just like you've ruined yours."
"Oh, stop being dramatic and drink your tea," she says, resetting his blinking alarm clock. "Is this young man going to be staying for long? If so, I can go pack my bag and do some grocery shopping."
"Yes, ma'am," Kenny answers, not looking to see his professor's reaction. "I'm here to talk to Professor Falconer about our newest assignment."
"Will you stay until his housekeeper arrives?"
"Make sure you do," she tells Kenny. Leaning down, she kisses her friend on the forehead. "I'll be back in an hour or two, tops. Keep the phone near you, and if you feel so much as a twinge in your heart, call the hospital."
"Bye, kiddo," Professor Falconer says, kissing her on the lips.
She leaves the room, and they soon hear the front door opening and closing.
Taking a breath, George stretches and begins to get off the bed.
"Now, now, Mister Potter," he says. "I am capable of movement. There's something in the freezer I need to retrieve."
Not looking convinced, Kenny follows him to the kitchen, silently hovering. Noticing that Kenny is still wearing his clothes from last night, George sighs. Having a half-naked young man running around isn't going to do anything for keeping his heart steady, but- "Kenny, at least, wash your clothes. They can't be comfortable."
He retrieves the envelope, pockets the money, and rips it up, throwing it in the trash.
Once he's back in bed, Kenny asks, "You'll be okay, sir?"
"Yes," he promises, feeling a surge of affection go through him.
Kenny disappears into the other room to get undressed, thankfully.
Sighing, George leans back, reflecting that Jim would rather like Kenny.
The problem is, George is becoming increasingly aware he's-
"This wouldn't be a problem if you were still here," he says, very quietly. "First Charley, then you, and now, him. If I must find myself developing these unwanted feelings, why can't it be for someone near my own age?"
If Jim were here, George isn't sure how things with Kenny would have gone. It seems the poor boy only started following him after the concern became too much. Perhaps, Kenny would have gone on after this semester, never being anything but a bright student whose papers George enjoyed reading. Or perhaps, they would have met after outside of class and talked. If so, George knows his attraction would have been kept under much tighter control. For the last sixteen years, the few times he's found himself attracted to someone other than Jim, he's steadfastly ignored it, pushing it aside.
Which is what I need to start doing right now, he decides. Kenny is young and seems to be trying to push boundaries for reasons George can't grasp. Whether he's homosexual or not isn't George's concern. If Kenny's trying to figure that out, he'll need to find someone other than George to do it with.
Kenny comes back to find the other man asleep.
Pulling the covers up, Kenny covers him, goes to the closet, retrieves the sleeping bag, and lays it on the floor, curling up on it. He'll find Lois later and explain what happened.
"I haven't seen you in quite some time," George comments.
Linking their hands together, Jim says, "You wouldn't have listened to me, then."
"Remember when we first met?"
"Then, I'm assuming you remember what I told you before I left."
"Yes," George answers, closing his eyes.
"If I don't come back in a month, don't keep waiting," both the dream and the memory say, voices blending almost perfectly together.
"I'm not waiting for you to come back," George says, opening his eyes.
"You're not living," Jim answers. "That's the problem."
"I'm trying," George answers. "But after sixteen years-"
"I wish I could help you," Jim says, squeezing their hands. "All I can do is tell you: As much as I love you, old man, I'm not waiting for you. I died happy, and when it's your time, which I hope is years and years from now, I want the same for you. I don't care if it's Charley, or your student, or a deanship that gives you that happiness."
"I love you," George says.
"I love you, too," Jim says, leaning over to give him a chaste kiss.
George wakes up silently crying.
Wiping his tears, he sits up, looking around. His eyes fall on the floor. Kenny, a towel thankfully covering his waist, is sleeping on the sleeping bag. Smiling, trying to ignore the spike of lust that shoots through him, he gets out of bed and goes to put Kenny's clothes in the dryer.
"I've already done that, Professor," Alva says, startling him. "I was just getting a blanket for your guest."
"Kenny Potter," he tells her, leaning down so that she can press the palm of her hand against his head. "A student of mine."
"Do I need to make the guestroom up for Miss Charlotte?"
Nodding, she says, "There's soup in the kitchen. It's good for the heart."
"Thank you, Alva."
The next day, after George convinces Charley he'll be fine alone for a couple of hours, he sends her to get her mail and do whatever she needs to do at her own house.
At noon, there's a knock on the door.
George opens it to find Kenny.
"Come in, Kenny," he says, stepping aside.
They sit down in the living room.
"That architect," Kenny says, licking his lips, nervously, "what happened to him?"
"He was killed in a car crash," George answers, looking down at his pinky finger.
"How long were you together, sir?"
Chuckling slightly, George looks up. "Sixteen years."
Kenny sits quietly, and George says, "His name was Jim. We had two dogs. One of them died in the crash, and the other is missing."
"I don't want you to die, sir," Kenny says, bluntly. "I can't imagine losing someone I was with for sixteen years, and I'm not trying to delegitimatise your relationship, but aren't there other things and people worth living for," he asks, sounding genuinely curious.
"Yes," George answers. "There are. Until last night, however, I was too blinded by my pain to see that. I promise you, Kenny, you don't have to worry."
Nodding, Kenny says, "My offer to talk still stands."
"If you don't mind me asking, how did you know?"
Kenny grins at the question, enjoying the relief he feels. "I had a feeling about you, sir. Then, when I was getting the bandage, I found a picture in the drawer. Was that him?"
"I need to find a better place for that," the professor notes, leaning back. "Yes, that was Jim."
He remembers the first time he met Professor Falconer. Lois had been sick and had to miss the first day, and he'd told her all about him after the fever had broken on Saturday as they got high. At one point, she'd commented, "Sounds like a family man."
"No, I'm pretty sure he's not married," he'd answered, and she'd replied, "That was my subtle way of telling you it doesn't sound like you have a chance. Guys like him have long since abandoned the hook-up mentality. I bet he has a so-called roommate, some spoiled pets, and some sob story about this girl who broke his heart in his youth."
"I'd never use you as a sob story," he'd mused.
"Just don't get your hopes up," she suggested, nuzzling him her head in gratidute for that.
Now, more than ever, he realises how good that advice is. Being jealous of a dead man strikes him as patently wrong in some undefinable way.
Getting more comfortable, he says, "I was curious about something I read, sir, in…"
Author's Notes 2: I know someone who has a coffeemaker and does use it to make tea. However, I imagine someone like George would be appalled by such an act and consider it ruined. As far as I know, the coffeemaker is still perfectly capable of making coffee.