"Holden, can you pass Mr. Hamilton the documents?"
Holden looked up, realizing he had lost himself in his coffee cup. Early morning meetings were the demons he just couldn't face down. He grabbed the paperwork from his bag hanging off his chair and slid them across the table at the potential buyer. This was a big deal that they were settling; he should really be more alert. He took a sip of coffee for good measure.
Mr. Hamilton said he would think about things, which left Holden to return to his desk. He was planning on working through a few spreadsheets and talking to some clients, but somehow he found himself browsing pictures of corgis. He sighed, face in palm, and let his eyes wander to the picture framed in black, set up beside his computer. He smiled at the couple, both bright smiles, sitting by the lake. That hot summer afternoon felt like a different lifetime. Before the changes. Before commitment. Before life got away from him.
"Holden, I need those spreadsheets on my desk before you leave today."
Holden nodded, having quickly opened the documents to his screen before anyone could notice. The rest of the day he labored away at them; what had once been simple busywork felt grueling now, with so little motivation.
He stopped by the convenience store before heading home that evening. He was getting tired of the drive-through, and the kitchen was barren. With a box of brown rice, a jar of marinara sauce, and some onions bagged up, he checked out. He took the long way home just because he could.
Holden set the items down on his counter just as his phone began to ring in his pocket. He pulled it out, silencing the ringtone and instead getting a feeble hello.
"Hey, Dad." He replied, kicking off his shoes before walking into the living room and taking a seat on the plush couch.
"I was wondering, Son…could you pick me up tomorrow, around two? If you have to work, it's fine..."
"No, Dad, I can make it work." He said, forcing the muscles in his shoulders to ease as he rested his feet on the coffee table.
"You sure? I don't want you getting in trouble at work."
"It's fine, Dad; I'll just call in and do the work I need to do at home. I've built up quite a few sick days as it is."
"Thank you, Holden. I just…I really need to see her."
"I understand." Holden whispered, biting at his lip.
Silence stretched on between them, and Holden wondered for a moment if his dad had hung up.
"So…I'll see you around two?" He asked.
"Holden, I just…I want to know...I'm so grateful. You didn't…I'm so sorry for this."
"Dad, don't." Holden said, biting deep into his lip now, fighting back the wetness building in the corners of his eyes.
"I just want you to know how much you mean to me. How much everything you've done means to me." His dad explained.
"I'll see you at two, alright? I love you, Dad." Holden answered.
"I love you too, Son." His dad replied, and Holden hung up the phone.
He cooked dinner to the sound of soft rock music, cutting up the onions and stirring them into the rice and sauce. He enough food for six, ended up eating for two, and stored the rest in the refrigerator. His phone lit up as he was changing into pajama pants and a white t-shirt. He walked over to it setting on the dresser, and he didn't register the smile that broke his face.
I miss you.
He couldn't text back fast enough.
I miss you too.
Holden slept uneasy, still not used to this bed, to the solitude. It had hurt some nights, so bad that first few months that he had to cling to a body pillow and turn on the soothing sound of synthetic rain from a speaker. Now, he was just uncomfortable and restless. He got up and watched a cheesy 90's rerun, then another, then an hour of the shopping network, just because he could. He didn't fall asleep on the couch until two in the morning.
His alarm woke him at seven, all the way from the other room, and it was quite the trek into his bedroom to shut it off. He rubbed at his eyes and grabbed his phone, calling work and telling them he would be staying in today and would try to get some stuff done at home. They were pretty laid back, as long as he met his deadlines.
He dressed in his best suit before he picked up his dad. They checked out at the front desk, the young attendant giving him a warm smile. He returned it as platonically as possible, guiding his dad out to his car.
The drive was agonizing, filled with nothing but air and unspoken words. He couldn't think of a conversation to start, not when his dad was so focused on where they were going, what they were about to do.
They arrived at the vacant cemetery, and Holden parked by a tree, helping his dad out. A short walk across a manicured stretch of grass found them at the tombstone. Holden felt like a brick had settled on his chest, as he watched his dad kneel before the stone and run a hand gingerly over the surface.
No words were spoken. Holden stood there as his dad knelt, stronger now that he had seemed in months. Holden helped him up after what felt like mere minutes, but when they returned to the car, the time read that they had been there for an hour. Holden took his dad out to dinner at a little Italian café, one his parents used to frequent.
"How are you, Son?" His dad asked, hands folded over the menu.
Holden shrugged as he flipped through his, attempting to escape eye contact.
"Holden, talk to me. I know how hard this must be. If it's anything like it was when I went into the military and left your mom…"
"Dad, I just…I can't." Holden said, closing his menu and setting it down on the table. "I can't talk about it."
"C'mon, Son. You need to talk to someone. Have you made any friends here?"
"Sort of; I have a few friends from work. No one especially close."
"So why not talk to your old man about it?"
Holden held his gaze now. He sighed, looking away. "I miss him. Every day."
He looked up a bit to see his dad nod. "I understand."
Holden didn't question that much.
"I just…sometimes, I wish I was stronger, you know? Like, I shouldn't feel the separation so deep in my core, like there's a part of me missing."
"Holden, that's how it is when you're in love. When I was away from your mom, I thought about her every day. I took out her picture late one night and just sobbed. The difference is that I didn't have control over my situation. You do."
"I can't just leave you here, Dad. Not after everything…"
"Oh, stop. I love you Son, and I love all that you've done for me, but being there today, just that close to your mom, it made me realize that I'm getting better. I know it was rough those first few weeks. Hell, the first few months were brutal. But I made it through them, thanks to you. I think it's about time for you to go back to your real home."
"Dad…" Holden began.
"No, Son. You deserve to be happy, more than anyone I've ever known in my life. And I'm not just saying that as your dad."
"Promise me you'll be gone by the end of the week?"
"That's way too sudden! I have to give my two weeks notice, as is." Holden replied.
"Don't even; I know they just transferred you here from your other job. You transfer back, no big deal. Stop trying to make yourself miserable."
"I'm not miserable here, Dad." Holden replied, but as it left his lips, he realized how unconvincing it sounded.
"You're away from a part of you. Of course you're miserable."
The next week passed far too slowly. As the days got closer and Holden began to pack his bags, he realized just how much he thought it didn't deserve this. When had he become his own worst enemy? He shook it off, and by Friday night, he was itching to be home, to be back in his real home, in his real bed. He was ready to be whole again.
The taxi ride to the house that Saturday night saw him in a state of frenetic energy, barely contained. His dad was the only one who knew he was going back home. As they pulled into the driveway, Holden grabbed his various bags from the back, and stumbled toward the door.
He pulled out his key, sliding it in the lock and pushing the door open with his hip. The entryway was just as he'd left it; a bit messy, but what was one to expect with no woman in the house? He dragged his bags in, setting them aside and closing the door behind him. He listened for a second, trying to pick up sound in the quiet home. He heard it; second story, a familiar whizzing.
He nudged his shoes aside with his foot, and then headed up the stairs. His throat was tight, his heart hammering in his ears. He walked down the hall, to the furthest room, the door open.
The look on Sean Jackson's face when he saw him was a moment Holden would never forget. The man, dressed only in athletic shorts and tennis shoes with iPod blasting in his ears as he ran on the treadmill, did a double take as Holden stood in the doorway. Then, he tripped and fell off the treadmill.
"Sean!" Holden gasped as a loud thud resounded. But Sean was on his feet in seconds, mashing the machine off, before he took a few careful steps toward the other man, breathing gradually evening out.
"You…you're…" He began, voice weak as his hands came up to grasp Holden's face, thumbs pressing against cheekbones. Holden nodded, and then Sean's lips were shoved against his, tongue pushing into his mouth, hands moving along his body, touching as much of him as he could. A fire ignited inside Holden at Sean's aggression, his back pressed against a wall, and he didn't even know how he got there. There was so much he couldn't say, too much from the year he had been away.
His hands drug along Sean's back, blunt nails leaving brief red lines. He returned the kiss as best he could, noses interfering as they both attempted to feel every bit of each other that they could. Sean growled against his lips, practically keeping Holden upright with a knee between his legs. Somehow Sean managed to get them away from the wall and to their bedroom. Holden's clothes were off before he even realized where he was, his hands working at Sean's shorts of their own accord, instinct taking over.
Sean collapsed on Holden's back, both men outstretched on the bed, panting. "I love you so much." He said into Holden's ear.
"I love you too. It hurts sometimes." Holden replied, burying his face in a pillow.
"You have no idea." Sean said, rolling off of the other man and lying on his back, staring at the spinning ceiling fan.
Holden rolled over, settling his head on the other man's chest as Sean's arm came around him, pulling him in. "You seem…stronger. Like you've been working out more."
"I had to do something to take my mind off of you. Seriously babe, you don't even…I'm just glad you're here."
"I'm back for good, you know." Holden added, fingers dancing along the toned muscles of Sean's stomach. The other man's arm drew him closer still.
"I didn't dare to assume that. But…just…thank God."
Holden laughed, leaning up on his elbows and kissing Sean. Sean returned it, almost not pulling away when Holden did, settling back on his chest.
"I was assuming you'd just have the weekend. At least now we don't have to have sex six more times tonight."
"Yeah, but one more time would be nice." Holden replied, smiling.
"Yeah, it would." Sean replied, maneuvering so that he could get Holden on top of him. They were both whole again.