Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. Sob.

Heading West

And so he'd taken him to Blackpool.

Declan.

Taken him to the seaside town, the rides, the Pleasure Beach. All that.

A bit of father-son bonding, he'd thought, he needed that. They needed that,
and God knows he'd missed him.
All his own fault though, noone else to blame.
(Though he had tried sometimes, when the guilt had curdled in his stomach and kept him awake at night.
Macca. Eileen.)
It was him that had ran out, him that had left his kids. Him that had become the kind of father he'd sworn he'd never be, the kind he'd had. The disappearing kind, a vanishing act.

Except his Dad had never taken him to Blackpool. Never taken him anywhere after he'd left.

...It was a start.

He chomped down hard on his gum, pulling the gear stick roughly into fourth as he flicked his eyes over to Declan in the passenger seat.

He was just sitting there, eyes glued to the console thing he hadn't really left alone since he'd arrived.
Brendan briefly wondered if this was how he was around Eileen, sort of distant, reserved...
He quickly derailed that train of thought, no good would come of it, and anyway that's what this was for, this getaway.
A chance to sort this out, get his son back.
An apology.


He hadn't wanted to leave.
Well.
Not them, not the boys.
Never them.
It was just...everything else,
(wasn't it always? he thought bitterly)
everything else he needed to get away from.

And, god, the pressure. He couldn't take it, cloying and claustrophobic and building on every side.

Macca. Ever present. Saying they could be together now, now that his marriage was over, and they didn't have to hide and, yeah, people would be shocked but they'd get over it because noone really cared anymore did they? About being gay and that, they'd all come to accept it, and well wasn't everyone just wonderfully liberal nowadays?
Fucking little queer.
It had hurt his head, but he'd sorted it.
(He'd thought)
Sorted it the way he always sorted this sort of thing, the way men did.
(Though real men wouldn't get themselves into these fucking situations in the first place.)
Macca was quiet for a while after that, and the pressure had just seemed to drain out of Brendan, and he felt calm. For a bit.

But Eileen...
He couldn't sort that.
Couldn't sort the accusation in her eyes, in the harsh set of her mouth, in the ringing hurt of her voice.
Who?Why?When?
Their bed?
He couldn't even answer.
Did he ever love her? And god of course he did, in a lovely soft, safe way. As the mother of his boys. As a woman.
He didn't tell her that, wasn't sure she'd understand, and when it came to it, when it mattered, he couldn't tell her he loved her in any way that meant anything, in any way that she would believe, and she had cried and it had hurt.

He'd wanted to sort it. He needed to. Desperately.
But he couldn't, didn't know how.

And he couldn't have stayed, not after everything and not with what was there. And, Jesus, what sort of influence would he have been for his kids? What sort of role model? What kind of a father.

Brendan noticed a bitter taste in his mouth, grimaced and removed his gum, flinging it out into the road.
He saw that Declan was now looking away from his game, staring at him with his mouth in a disapproving line and his eyes reproachful.

Brendan couldn't help but grin.

'What's up with you, kid? Knew you were a Veggie, not become one of them tree-huggers as well have ya?'
Declan rolled his eyes, 'I just don't like littering, OK? Makes things messy.'
He turned to gaze out of the window at the fields filled with hulking great cows.
Delicious, Brendan thought absently before reaching over to give Declan a light shove,
'Jesus, where'd we get you from, ay?' and Declan mumbled and shrugged and returned to his game, but Brendan still caught the small smile hovering around the edge of his mouth, and it felt like a prize.

He just wished Padraig were here too, both his boys.

The car would certainly be less quiet, he thought with a smile, Padraig couldn't keep a single thought to himself, maybe because of his age, he hadn't entered those moody teenage years yet.
Brendan liked it, liked the almost endless stream of chatter and the way his words just seemed to spill out and trip over each other in sheer excitement.

It reminded him of someone else.

Brendan stepped hard on the accelerator, why the fuck was he only doing 50mph on a motorway anyway?
Jesus.


Eventually they pulled up to a hotel. Somewhere nice, his treat.

Brendan smirked to himself, he'd have to let it slip to Foxy, he was always interested in what Brendan was spending that 200 grand on.
Father-son bonding, he'd love it.
God-knows what Foxy would have spent that money on anyway, probably some lapdancing club or tacky weekend away for him and Mitzeee, Brendan grimaced and with that pleasant thought on his mind, flung the car door open and stepped out into the crisp sunshine.

Declan hadn't even noticed they'd stopped, bloody teenagers, Brendan thought affectionately.

Making a snap decision Brendan sauntered over to the other side of the car, and paused for a second outside the window of the passenger seat, cocking his head to one side.
No, still hadn't noticed.
Brendan, well, he couldn't resist, and with a quick grin reached down, grabbed the handle and snapped the door open. Hard.

Declan jumped about a foot in the air, earphones dislodged and eyes wide and frantic.
Brendan thought he might have heard a garbled curse and his grin widened, well well, maybe they were more alike than he'd thought.

'Well, we're finally here! Home sweet home, well, for the next few days anyway' he'd beamed, throwing out an arm out in an extravant sweep, total sincerity. Of course.

Declan had stepped out the car, slowly, features petulant and schooled into annoyance,
'Jesus, Dad, you didn't have to do that. It's not funny.'
Brendan had fought to keep a straight face,
'...Was a bit though, wasn't it?'
And Declan had shoved at him half-heartedly and Brendan had laughed, throwing an arm around him and pulling him close for a second, ruffling his hair despite his son's yelps of protest.
Brendan still saw his reluctant smile.


Brendan stood alone in his hotel room while Declan unpacked in the next room.

Large, white double bed, tidy sheets pulled tightly and smoothly over the frame...
He couldn't help but think about what he'd do if he were here.
Him.
Stephen.
Because they'd been together in a room like this once, although it felt like a lifetime ago now.

Stephen had stood by the door, tugging his sleeves over his fingers, eyes cast down while Brendan paced the room, and when he noticed Stephen's fidgeting it had annoyed him and he told he to stop.
He did.

Brendan had watched him for a while, he looked awkward, stood too straight to be natural, eyes constantly averted.
Bruised and wary, in a strange room with a strange man.
It probably shouldn't have made Brendan smile, but it did.
One hand had reached out for a sleeve again, but it remembered, paused, and retreated.
Good boy, Brendan had thought.

But he wasn't like that for long, shyness didn't suit Stephen. Didn't really come naturally to him either, and within minutes Brendan had limbs wrapped around him which were long and golden, and had hot words panted into the shell of his ear.
Brendan always knew how to win him round.
Well.
He did.
It was getting harder these days.

Brendan dropped to the bed with a heavy sigh and pressed his fingertips to his eyelids.

Recently, he'd said some things.
Said some things to get him back, made promises he'd only been half aware of making.
And the worse thing was, the terrifying thing was, he'd actually meant them.
And he'd never meant to mean them.
Never meant to beg for him back.
Never meant to promise him the world and actually want to go through with it.
Never meant to...Jesus...love him.

He'd never asked for the thought of just Stephen's face to create burning ache in his chest that pulled everything tight and taunt and made him want to hit out and break and hurt but also want to grab hold of him and pull him close so he could crush their mouths together.
He'd never wanted it, but he couldn't get rid of it.
And God he'd tried.

He was trying now, but it wasn't working. It never did.
All he could think about was Stephen in this room.
His back would be to the door like last time, except this time he wouldn't be nervous.
This time he'd be defiant and surly, mouth set, eyes glaring, arms folded, brows arch and unforgiving and Brendan would itch with the urge to run his thumb along one.

Brendan would approach him, and Stephen's lip would curl in disgust, but Brendan would reach out and smooth it down.
Stephen would huff, and Brendan would smile because he was always like this when he was angry; sulky and petulant.
He hated himself for finding it so endearing, but he wouldn't be able to stop himself from touching his lips to those pouting ones, hands fluttering around that warm throat.

In this fantasy, even though he didn't deserve it, Stephen would sigh, resigned, and press himself closer, arms wrapping and gripping and touching and holding, and they'd fall on to the bed in a mess of lust, relief, and need.
Brendan would look down and see that lean body stretched out beneath him then lower himself to mouth and bite words into that warm throat.
Words that he wouldn't want to think about later.
Words that he couldn't think about.
Instead he'd just return to that soft, yielding mouth, he wouldn't have to speak then, wouldn't even have to think really, just fragmentary and hazy and oh god, and this, and mine...

Just lost in that filthy mouth, designed for damage. It was sharp and vicious and he was always marked after an encounter with Stephen, bruised right down his neck, down his chest. Sometimes on his inner-thighs.
He'd tried to discourage it, but only half-heartedly.
A part of him had thought this was Stephen trying to mark him, make a claim. Territorial. He'd understood that. He'd liked it.
God, he was disgusting.
But that mouth, it could do more than mark and bruise.
It could scar.
Bite into his life with sharp canines and then tear and rip it apart.
It couldn't keep quiet, it was indiscreet. Amy. Rae. Cheryl. It didn't stop. He hated it.

There was only one time it was quiet, and that was when it was swollen.
Swollen from fists or kisses.

'...Da?'
A soft voice at the doorway jolted him straight to his feet, and he was brushing off his suit and tilting his head and this all felt very far away and unreal and oh what was he doing and,

'So ready to go at last are yis, son?'

Declan smiled and faintly agreed, but he looked awkward and unsure and Brendan hated it.
He couldn't be like this, not with Declan around. Christ he needed to man-up,

'Well, let's go kid!'

He walked over, clapping him on the shoulder and guided him out of the room.
Declan had turned and given him a smile that had looked to be part grateful and part what almost seemed to be relief.


It was only on the drive back home that he'd let himself think of him again.
Of...Stephen.

He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and turned to look at Declan, still on that bloody game, he thought with an affectionate exasperation.
The trip hadn't been especially eventful, boring really, but it had been...nice, and despite all his sulleness and occassional moodiness, Declan had seemed to warm to him.
His face had turned up to him more often and it was becoming increasingly unguarded and filled with warmth.
Brendan noticed that Declan seemed to be calling him 'Dad' more, seemed to relish the frequency with which he could say it and it made Brendan realise with a jolt that maybe Declan had missed him too.
And that maybe Declan needed this as well, and needed him like this, stable and reliable and constant and a father.
But,
but Brendan wasn't like that when he was was around. Stephen.
He was out of control.
He was dizzy and confused,
He wasn't rational, wasn't calm.
And it was fucked up, it was all totally fucked up and Brendan was lost in a tangle of urges to pull him close, and push him away, fuck him senseless, stroke his hair, grip his throat, and break his ribs.
To have, to hold, to hurt, to fuck, to fix, to break.

He didn't like himself when he was around Stephen.

He didn't have time to think, didn't have room to breathe.

Unstable, neurotic, obsessive, paranoid, jealous, soft, sentimental, affectionate...

Declan didn't need that. Didn't need to see that.
God he'd never respect him, not if he saw what he was reduced to, not if he saw how much control this young, chavvy kid had over him.
It was pathetic.

Jesus his boys were the only thing he'd ever done right, and he couldn't ruin that.
Wouldn't.
Not for anything.

It'd have to be over.
For good this time.
No out-and-fucking-proud like Stephen wanted, no sly fucks on the side like he wanted.
Over.

Brendan's eyes slid over to Declan, still totally immersed in his game.
He couldn't know.
For his sake.
For anyone's sake.
He'd lose him.

Stephen would have to be quiet; Brendan thought he knew how he would have to sort that.

Then Declan turned to ask for more gum, and Brendan pushed it to the back of his mind.