Rory sat on the edge of the bar, looking towards the entrance and repeatedly checking his cell phone. Every time he did so, his disappointed sighs grew more and more resigned. He had tried calling and sending text messages, without success. Where the hell was Jack?
“What’s the matter, gorgeous?”
Rory looked up as an attractive man slid onto the barstool next to him, smiling warmly.
“Have you been stood up?” the man asked.
“Have a drink with me then. Let me cheer you up.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I’m not interested. I think I’ll head home. I’m pretty tired.”
The man reached out and put his hand on Rory’s shoulder.
Don’t! Take your hands off him!
“Come on. Just one drink. It breaks my heart to see you so sad. I just want cheer you up, that’s all.”
Rory gave the man a small smile.
I woke up, sheets clinging to my body, my pillow wet with tears. I pressed my hands to my face and made a sound that was half a sob, half a groan. I had the dream again… It had been a couple of months since the last time I had it. But that’s the way it always was; it always came when I least expected it. I sat up, tossed the sheets aside and staggered towards the bathroom.
The warm water from the shower cascaded over me. I stood still under the spray, allowing it to cleanse me, wash away the cold sweat and tears that always came with that dream. In the beginning, the dream came every night, then it came less and less, but it was always just as painful. And it would never completely go away.
Rory… I never knew exactly what happened that night, but my dreams would mercilessly show me scenario after scenario of what may have happened. All I know for a fact is that I failed him; I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, and because of that I lost the love of my life.
“Victim number three” is what they called him. It felt so cold, so casual. To me he was everything, my whole world, and now he was gone. Because I wasn’t there. Because I had forgotten. And because of I had forgotten, a monster was able to take my Rory. A monster with no conscience who managed to take two more lives before finally caught. But this isn’t about him. This is about Rory… and me.
They all said it wasn’t my fault: cops, shrinks, our friends, my family, his family… they all said it. His parents hugged me at the funeral and said that no one blamed me, and I shouldn’t either. But no matter what anyone said, I still did. I felt like absolution could only come from one person, and he wasn’t here to give me that. Every night I cried and asked him forgive me, but how could I know if he heard me?
I hated myself, just as much as I hated the killer. I wanted to die. The pain inside my heart, soul and gut already made me feel like I was dying, but I wanted to speed up the process. But every time I wanted to do it, the one thing that stayed my hand was the knowledge that Rory wouldn’t want me to. That much I knew.
So I took it: the pain, the nightmares… they were my punishment. My purgatory. Part of me even welcomed the nightmares. In my dreams I could always see Rory so clearly. In my waking hours I would sometimes struggle to remember what he looked like. The image of him in my head would be unclear and blurred. When that happened I would panic and I would take out every photo of him that I had, staring at them for hours trying to imprint his face onto my soul.
Stepping out of the shower I grabbed a towel and started drying myself. I glanced towards the mirror; the reflection was not pleasant. Tired green eyes stared sadly back at me, my dark brown hair which had once been neat and short now reached down past my shoulders, and my face hadn’t been shaved in a couple of days. I was still in good physical shape, though, as I often went running. That was the only time when I could really let go and feel peaceful. It was as if I ran away from myself. I shrugged and turned my back to the mirror.
After dressing I called in sick. I was in no shape to go to work and I had somewhere I’d rather be today. I made a sandwich for breakfast, but I had no appetite so I put it back in the fridge and just had coffee. And as I sat there, miserably slumped over the table, my thoughts returned to Rory. They always did.
I was twenty-two when Rory and I met. He was a year younger than me. Some friends of mine were having a party. I had a sneaking suspicion that they were planning on fixing me up with someone. I wasn’t very keen on the idea, but I went to the party anyway. Almost as soon as I stepped inside the house I noticed him: a gorgeous brown-eyed creature with messy light blonde hair, average height and build, wearing figure-hugging faded black jeans and a vintage band-tee, along with a smile that could melt Antarctica. And in a for me uncharacteristic stroke of luck it turned out he was the one my friends wanted to introduce me to.
We hit it off right away. I had always had a thing for adorable shy guys, and Rory certainly fit into that category. I thoroughly enjoyed myself making him blush in various ways (seductively crowding his personal space, whispering in his ear, letting my hand “accidentally” brush against his ass, etc.). When we danced I asked him to come home with me, expecting a no, silently roaring with joy when he said yes. We took a cab to my apartment and made the bedsprings creak until we both fell asleep from exhaustion.
I don’t really know what my expectations were when I took Rory home that night. I wanted more than one night, that was for sure, but I definitely didn’t expect to fall for him as hard as I did. It took little more than a week for me to realise that I loved him, another couple of days for me to tell him out loud. He said he loved me too, and after just a month he moved in with me.
It was the happiest time of my life. We were great together. The sex was mind-blowing. Rory had a hard time admitting it, but he had a tremendous appetite, and could go on for hours sometimes, which suited me just fine. We could talk or be quiet, go out or stay in – it didn’t matter what we did, we were almost always perfectly content and happy. I say “almost” because like with all couples things weren’t always perfect. We could both (usually me) screw up and act like jerks at times. But at such times our problems were always quickly resolved, forgiveness always granted, and we would come out of it with a better understanding of each other than before.
We were together a year and a half. And then it happened. We had both been busy that week and agreed to go out after work on Friday. But when Friday came, I simply forgot. I ran into an old friend and went for a beer with him. We sat shooting the shit for so long, that when it occurred to me to call Rory I was already two hours late. I had switched off my phone earlier when I had made a stop at the library and idiotically enough forgotten to switch it back on. After listening to the messages he had left me, wincing when I heard the disappointment and irritation in his voice, I tried calling Rory. When he didn’t answer I called the bar where I was supposed to meet him, but he wasn’t there anymore. I went home but he wasn’t there either. I called around but no one knew where he was.
At this point I was getting really scared. Even if he was pissed at me, Rory wasn’t the type to run off and not let anyone know where he was. Our friends helped me look for him. We went to the bar, and the bartender remembered Rory, but couldn’t remember seeing anyone speak to him or anything that might help. We drove around, asking people if they had seen Rory, and called everyone we could possibly think of, but when there was no sign of Rory all that was left to do was to go to the police.
Three days later our worst fears came true when Rory was found. He’d been violated, strangled and then discarded like trash. I remember clearly the moment when they gave us the news. We understood the second the police set foot inside the house. We could see it in their faces. Still we waited for them to say it, clinging to the last ray of hope that Rory was still alive. Rory’s best friend Tammy was holding on to my arm. There were bruises from her fingers afterwards, but I felt no pain at the time. And then the words came. The words that made everything final. There were screams. Weeping. My parents hugged me. And I kept thinking:
It’s not true. There’s been some mistake. Not Rory. It can’t be true.
The sky was fittingly grey. It could start raining any moment, but I didn’t care. There was no wind and not particularly cold, so a little rain wouldn’t matter. I passed headstone after headstone, the red rose in my hand swaying as I walked. Up ahead I could see my goal: “Rory King — Always in Our Hearts”.
There were fresh flowers on Rory’s grave. Pink carnations. These were from Tammy. She always left pink carnations. I sat down beside the grave. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
There were sounds of footsteps approaching. I wiped away the tear that had trickled from the corner of my eye. As I looked up I saw a tiny, white-haired little old lady. Her figure seemed so frail, but there was a lot of energy in her walk. When she saw me, she stopped and smiled, peering at me over thick spectacles.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello.” I managed to return her smile.
She glanced at the grave, then at the rose I still held in my hand.
“Someone you loved,” she said.
I nodded. More tears escaped my eyes, but this time I didn’t bother to wipe them away. The old lady stood next to me. She placed a hand on my shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. It felt soothing; her comfort didn’t seem to come from pity, but from understanding.
“I never got to say goodbye,” I said. “I would give anything if I could just…”
I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath to calm myself down. I felt the lady carefully wipe away my tears with her fingers.
“I know, Jack. I know.”
I looked up in surprise.
“How do you know my name?”
She smiled gently.
“That’s not important, dear. What’s important is this: we’re giving you a gift.”
“What? Who… What are you talking about?”
I was beginning to suspect the poor lady might be senile and the Jack thing was just a coincidence.
“What gift?” I asked.
“The gift of time,” she said. “One day to be precise. Twenty-four hours, starting midnight tonight. No more, no less.”
Her smile softened. I could feel tiny drops of rain on my face.
“One day to say goodbye,” she continued. “One day with Rory.”
I stiffened. Then I felt anger rising inside me like a storm.
“Who are you? What are trying to do to me? Who put you up to this?”
I rose to my feet, staring down at her.
“What kind of sick joke is this?” I growled.
“This is no joke,” she said. Suddenly, I felt as if an awesome power was emanating from her. She was a tiny little old lady but in an instant she had an unreadable expression in her eyes, like that of a mighty queen. And then her bent back straightened, her wrinkled face grew smooth, and her white hair turned flaming red before my very eyes. Her brown coat had transformed into a long, flowing white dress. The frail old lady was gone. Instead a beautiful young woman stood before me. My legs started feeling weak, and I wanted to sit down but I was too shocked to move.
“One day,” the woman said. “Twenty-four hours…”
She began walking away, but turned to look back at me, her lips curving in a strange smile.
“…starting midnight tonight.”
I woke up, the rain pounding against my windows. I was lying on my couch, my apartment was dark and the only light in the room was coming from the street lamp outside. I looked at my watch. 6:04 PM. I laughed joylessly. A dream…! I didn’t remember doing it, but I must have stretched out on the couch after my attempted breakfast and fallen asleep. And slept this whole time. I covered my face with my arm and groaned. No wonder I dreamt weird shit like that if I slept through the day like this.
I swayed a little as I sat up, feeling dizzy. When that subsided, I got up and walked around switching on lights. I still didn’t have any appetite, but I forced myself to eat anyway, and I actually felt a little better afterwards. I was still unnerved by the weird dream, though. I glanced at the kitchen clock.
Rubbing my forehead I made a mental note to call my shrink in the morning. Then I poured myself a generous amount of whiskey and started going through my DVD collection, looking for movies with a lot of action, something to keep me distracted. Deciding on cult favorites like “The Hidden” and “Sin City”, I settled down on the couch.
Watching movies worked… sort of. I started feeling more relaxed, and the booze helped. But I kept checking the time: 7:48… 8: 32… 9:15… Why couldn’t I stop doing that? Because in the dream I had been promised the one thing I wanted but never could have, and no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, there was this little thought that kept echoing in my mind:
It would be great if it were true, though. Wouldn’t it?
I kept ignoring the voice, turning my attention back to my cult flicks. Midnight was fast approaching, and I told myself it would be easier to let go of the dream after midnight had passed. So I kept watching movies… and checking the time.
Only two hours left.
Not long now.
Come on, dammit!
And… the clock struck twelve. Pausing the movie, I stood up and listened. There was complete silence, except for a car driving by outside. I took a deep breath.
“See?” I said out loud. “Just a bullshit dream. And I’m…” I laughed. “…talking to myself. I’m certifiable.”
Flopping back down on the couch I reached for the remote… and froze. A voice broke the silence. Coming from the bedroom. A voice that shouldn’t be there.
I started shaking. I sat still, not daring to do anything.
“Calm down,” I thought. “Just a figment of my imagination. I’m going to call Dr. Harris in the morning, and everything will…”
I heard footsteps, one after another, coming slowly closer. And then they stopped. I turned my head and I saw him.
Rory. My Rory. Smiling that smile that was always reserved just for me. He was even more beautiful than I remembered. Tears began to flow uncontrollably from my face. I got up and staggered towards him, but my legs were so shaky that I fell to my knees. He came towards me; reaching out his hand he touched my cheek. One of his tears fell on my forehead.
“Jack…” he whispered.
I threw my arms around his waist. My sobs almost became screams when I pressed my face against his body. His familiar scent filled my nostrils, and a thousand memories flashed through my brain; perfect moments about our time together that I hadn’t dared to think about for so long because they were too painful now raced through me like electricity.
Rory’s hands caressed the back of my neck, then my hair. I looked up at him.
“Have I finally gone crazy? Or am I dreaming again? If I’m dreaming I don’t ever want to wake up.”
He smiled and slowly shook his head.
“You’re not crazy. And you’re not dreaming.”
I held on to him as I rose to my feet.
“Am I dead?” I asked.
His tears flowed over my fingers as I cupped his face in my hands.
“Are you really here?”
He threw his arms around my neck and pressed his lips against mine. As we kissed, I pulled his body as hard against me as I dared. My tongue slipped into his mouth and found his and they twisted together until the necessity to breathe forced our lips apart. Panting, I leaned my forehead against Rory’s. I put my hand on his cheek, and he covered it with his, entwining our fingers.
“I’m here, Jack,” he whispered. “For one day at least.”
“One day…” I shook my head. “Then it was real? The woman and all that?”
“One day…” I repeated. Rory nodded.
“One day… so let’s not waste a single minute”
Holding on to my hand, he led me towards the bedroom.
We did not make love. Not that we didn’t want to, but the explosion of emotions that our unexpected reunion had set off had, to be honest, exhausted us both. And I was actually quite content with simply lying with Rory in my arms, feeling his skin against mine, feeling his scent, feeling his soft hair on my chest as he rested his head against it. It seemed as though, as I experienced all these familiar sensations, that I for the first time fully understood just how lost I’d been without Rory.
“Jack?” he whispered, planting a soft kiss against my skin.
“How long has it been? Since I… Since I died?”
I sighed deeply and held him closer.
“That long?” Rory mused. “I could have sworn it was less. Time feels so different… where I am.”
“What’s it like there? On, you know, ‘the other side’?”
“I’m not allowed to tell,” he said. “No one’s supposed to know before they actually get there.”
“I guess I can wait.”
Propping himself up on one elbow, Rory looked down at me.
“I can hear you, you know. When you talk to me. I can hear you.”
Smiling, I tried pulling him down for a kiss, but he stopped me by grabbing my hand.
“Jack,” he said, his voice trembling. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“No, listen! I hear you, so many times, asking me to forgive you, but you must believe me when I say that there’s nothing to forgive. You weren’t the one who killed me. No one is to blame but him. I know you love me. And I want you to stop punishing yourself. I love you so much, Jack. I want you to be happy.”
“I should have been there,” I said, fighting back a new flood of tears. “If I had been there, he wouldn’t have been able to…”
Rory’s voice was very firm and there was decisiveness in his eyes.
“It wasn’t your fault,” he repeated.
For the first time, those words actually meant something. It felt like I could believe them.
“Say you’ll forgive me, anyway,” I begged him. “Please. I need to hear it.”
He smiled sadly.
“I forgive you, Jack.”
He kissed me gently, then laid back down in my arms.
“You must be tired, Jack,” he murmured. “You should sleep.”
“I don’t want to sleep,” I said, even though my eyelids were growing heavy. “I want to stay awake and look at you.”
“Sleep, anyway. So you can be good and rested… tomorrow.”
Rory yawned. He was falling asleep, fast.
“I missed you,” I whispered. “I missed you so much.”
Then I closed my eyes and listened to the rain as sleep overpowered me. I didn’t dream.
Soft light from the window woke me up. Rubbing my eyes, I glanced at Rory’s side of the bed. It was empty, but before I could start doubting last nights events Rory entered the room, a dreamy smile on his face. He was wearing one of my T-shirts, which was too big for him, looking completely adorable, drying his hair with a towel. When he saw I was awake, he dropped the towel on the floor. Throwing back the covers he crawled onto the bed and straddled my lap, leaning down to kiss me.
“Good morning,” he grinned at me.
I wrapped my arms around him and inhaled the scent of his freshly showered body.
“It’s still so unbelievable,” I whispered, sliding my hands up underneath the T-shirt. “You’re really here.”
Rory closed his eyes and sighed my name as my hands moved over his skin. I grabbed the hem of the T-shirt, and Rory automatically held out his arms so that I could smoothly pull it off. Rolling over, we wriggled out of our underwear. As I positioned myself on top of Rory between his legs, we simultaneously gasped at the sensation that was so familiar, yet with a new intensity. He bucked up his hips, pushing his hardening member against mine. The touch made me groan, and Rory smirked, but let out a groan of his own as I reached between our bodies and captured our shafts in my hand. I was stroking them together as I braced myself on my left arm, looking down at my love, writhing beneath me.
“I missed this,” I husked. “I missed you.”
“Me… too,” Rory moaned.
I stopped stroking us, and lowered myself to kiss Rory, slipping my tongue into his mouth, allowing it to mate with his. As his hands began to wander over my body, I removed my lips from his and pressed them against his throat, sucking, licking and nibbling on the skin. Slowly I moved further down; I traced his collarbone with my tongue and planted little kisses on his chest until I reached a pink nipple. Tweaking the other with my fingers, I teased it thoroughly, flicking it with the tip of my tongue, gently nibbling it before finally taking it in my mouth.
Rory moaned and his hands fastened in my hair. Switching to the other nipple I gave it the same treatment, then abandoned them altogether, moving down over his abdomen towards Rory’s cock, already achingly hard. I took it in my hand and kissed it, then slid my tongue over the head, swirling around it, and I traced the slit with the tip of my tongue. Licking down the shaft, I reached into the drawer of the nightstand and took out the lube I had there. For a moment I had the urge to explain to Rory why I had it; that I used it when pleasuring myself, and that I hadn’t been with anyone since him, but I didn’t. I had a feeling he already knew.
Squeezing some of the tube’s contents onto my hand, I pressed a fingertip against his entrance, making him moan again as I caressed the sensitive skin. When I allowed my finger to push inside, I took him in my mouth. Rory gasped. One of his hands grabbed my shoulder, the other tangled itself up in my hair. I pleasured him slowly, teasingly, as I used my fingers to stretch his tight opening. When I had three fingers inside him I let go of his cock and, slowly kissing my way up his body, I touched his sweet spot.
Rory began writhing on the bed, fisting the sheets, and it was such an incredibly erotic sight that all the blood in my body seemed to have drawn itself to my throbbing erection. Withdrawing my fingers from his body, I lubed myself up. Rory spread his legs wider for me in silent welcome. I positioned myself at his entrance; pushing forward, I kissed him, both of us giving up muffled moans as I slid into his hot channel.
When I was all the way in I was still for a moment and looked into Rory’s eyes, trying to let him see how deep my feelings ran, how much he meant to me. His hand reached up and gently caressed the side of my face, then pulled me down for another kiss. While our tongues rolled and slithered together in our mouths, I began to move my hips, pushing in and out of his body with long, slow strokes.
I released Rory’s lips. As soon as I had done that, the usual symphony of moans, whimpers and other various, sexy noises started spilling from Rory’s lips. These little noises of Rory’s had always been a great turn on for me, and this time wasn’t any different. Leaning on my elbows, I began to thrust faster as I kissed the nape of his neck, letting my teeth lightly graze the skin.
“Jack… ah… Jack!”
Rory’s legs wrapped around my waist and insistently pulled me in. I took the hint and thrust hard, pounding into his body. Staring into his eyes, my panting mouth began giving off moans that mingled with Rory’s cries, forming a duet of our passion. Fire was building inside me. I was close to the edge, and I could tell that Rory was too, even though I hadn’t touched his cock. Sweat broke out on our bodies as I relentlessly pumped my hips and Rory’s hips just as persistently pushed up to meet me.
Rory cried out louder and his body began to violently shake as he climaxed, his semen spurting onto my chest and his finger digging hard into my back. The erotic pain caused by his nails and his channel spasming around my cock made me come with him, harder than I ever had in my entire life, roaring as I emptied my release into his body.
Breathing hard, my whole body trembling, I used the last of my strength to roll us over, placing Rory on my chest. Rory was breathing hard and his warm breath felt like a soft caress on my skin. I nuzzled into his hair, and he weakly lifted his head to give me a wet kiss. Then we just lay still for a while, lazily kissing and caressing until our bodies had recovered enough for us to go and take a shower. In the shower we held each other, washing come and sweat off each other’s bodies, kissing as the warm water cascaded over us.
When we were finished in the shower I decided to shave, but when I had lathered up my face, Rory came up from behind me; taking the razor, he beckoned me with a rather seductive smile to sit on a chair he had gotten from the bedroom. When I obeyed, he sat down on my lap and began shaving me.
It felt incredibly sexy, having Rory in my lap, leaning close to me as he carefully slid the razor over my skin. He had put on my big T-shirt again, but no underwear, and I could feel him rub against my thigh over the towel I had wrapped around me. When he was done and aftershave had been applied, he stood and pulled the towel open. I had grown hard when he shaved me. Going down on his knees, he spread my legs and, placing himself between them, took me in his mouth. My head fell back and I groaned as his lips wrapped around the head, then, going down on my shaft, he sucked me into his mouth and slid the tip of his tongue over the skin as he rose. He rolled my balls in his hand as he bobbed on me.
He rose to his feet and straddled me again. Taking my saliva-slick dick in his hand he positioned it at hole and descended on me, inviting me yet again into that heavenly, hot place. Placing his hands on my shoulders and pushing with his feet on the floor, he raised and lowered himself on my cock. His eyes closed and his pink lips smiled dreamily as little whimpers of pleasure sounded in his throat. I reached out and tweaked his nipples, then slid my hands down to his hips. I let one of them rest there while the other slowly glided over the inside of his thigh until finally closing around Rory’s shaft. I stroked him as he rode me. His back arched and his whimpers increased as began pushing up my own hips to meet him when he descended.
“Mmm..! Mmhh! Jack!” he breathed. I sped up my strokes on his cock. Rory arched his back even more, and gave up a long cry of my name:
And then I felt his warm release cover my chest once more. Reaching out I took Rory in my arms and crushed him against my chest, pushing up hard into his body as I joined him in ecstasy.
“Rory! Oh… fuck, oh… Rory…”
And there we sat: hot and panting, and once again covered in come and in need of being cleaned up, even though we had just showered.
After a quick wash, we fixed ourselves a giant breakfast and thoroughly stuffed our faces, only stopping occasionally to tease each other by licking crumbs off our fingers. When I definitely couldn’t eat any more, I asked Rory how to make the most of our one day together.
“Is there anything you want to do? Anything you regret not doing while…”
My voice trailed off and I looked down.
“While I lived?” Rory asked softly. “No, not really. I mean, I’m happy with what I did with my life. I enjoyed myself, had great friends, a great family, and I found love. I’d say that’s a pretty terrific life.”
“I know that,” I said. “But still, isn’t there anything you want? Anything?”
He thought for a moment.
“I don’t know. It’s pretty morbid, but…”
“Tell me,” I encouraged him.
He looked up at me with a face that was almost apologetic, as if he was afraid of ruining our day.
“Could you take me to my grave?”
Okay… I did not expect that. I started at him, not knowing what to say.
“It’s insane isn’t it?” he said sadly. “Forget I said anything.”
“No, no,” I replied, shaking my head. “If you want to, we’ll go. But why…”
He sighed deeply.
“I don’t know why. I just want to see it, that’s all. I can’t explain it.”
“Okay,” I said, putting my arms around him. “Anything you want. But… what if someone we know sees you?”
Rory smiled and nuzzled against my chest.
“No one can see, or feel me, except you. It will be okay, as long as you don’t talk to me where there are people around. You will look like you’re talking to yourself.”
We drove to the cemetery. We listened to one of Rory’s old CDs with his favorite music in the car, and Rory leaned back in his seat, smiling lovingly at me. I thought he looked strangely at ease for a guy who’s on his way to visit his own grave. However, when we got there and stepped out of the car his smile faded away.
“Are you really sure you want to do this?” I asked.
“I’m sure,” he said. His voice was steady and decided. I took his hand as we began walking down the gravel path. When we got the row where his grave was located, we turned left.
“Right there at the end,” I said as I led the way.
When we finally stopped before the grave, his eyes widened and his mouth opened. I put my arm around his shoulders.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s just…” he swallowed. “It’s really here. To actually see it, like this… It feels so strange.”
Slowly, we sat down beside the grave. I held on to his hand, afraid that it had been harder for him than he had expected. But he suddenly relaxed, and smiled sadly.
“Forever in our hearts,” he read, touching the inscription on the stone. Then he picked up the red rose and held it up to his nose. Seeing the rose gave me a strange feeling in my stomach, as I remembered the old woman and her transformation.
“Did you leave this rose?” Rory asked. I nodded. He picked up the other flowers.
“Pink carnations,” he whispered.
“Those are from Tammy,” I explained. “Did you know she’s married and has a baby now? A little girl, and Tammy named her after you.”
“She told me. I can hear her, too. She talks to me just like you. And my parents.”
A tear trickled from his eye. That old feeling of guilt began rising up in me again as I saw him sitting there, holding the flowers, tears slowly making their way down his face.
“It should have been me,” I said, clenching my fist. Rory looked up.
“Jack, don’t start that again. I told you, it’s not your fault.”
“It is!” I yelled, standing up. “I should have been there! I should have protected you!”
“Oh, really?” he said, his brown eyes suddenly darkening with anger. “And then what? Would you stay by my side every waking moment? Are you able to control the world? Would you protect me from traffic accidents, too? Diseases?”
“That’s not the same thing, and you know it!” I said, shaking my head. “I was supposed to be there, and when that… that fucking monster saw you alone…”
I silenced as Rory suddenly slapped me.
“Stop it!” he yelled. “Just stop it! I’m not defenseless! He came up behind me and chloroformed me! I could have been a steroid-filled wrestler and still have been overpowered by him! When are you going to understand? I’m the one who had to endure all the pain he inflicted on me, along with the knowledge that I was going to die, and I don’t blame you, I blame him! Please, just forgive yourself, Jack! It’s not your fault!”
I fell to my knees, clutching my stomach and shaking.
“I know!” I said. It was difficult to speak, I cried so violently. “I know! It just hurts so bad! Oh, God, I loved you so much and he took you from me. It wasn’t supposed to happen! We were supposed to grow old together! It’s not fair!”
Rory threw his arms around me. I felt his warm tears on the side of my neck.
“I know,” he whispered. “I know. I would change it if I could. But I can’t. I’m dead.”
“You’re here now,” I pointed out.
“On borrowed time. That’s all I get. My life is over. I’m only here with you now to say goodbye.”
“One day is not enough,” I said, my voice thick. “Nothing less than a lifetime is enough.”
Rory tightened his grip on me.
“I would stay if I could, love. But I don’t have any choice.”
I nodded, and held on to him in silence.
It was about noon when we got back to the apartment. I felt raw and I felt a lot of pain, but also a strange sense of relief, like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. We changed into comfortable clothing and stretched out on the couch, Rory lying on top of me. Playing with a hole in my sweater, he apologized for slapping me.
“I just didn’t know what else to do to make you understand,” he whispered. “I don’t want you to go through life hating yourself.”
“I know. I won’t blame myself anymore,” I promised him. He smiled and kissed my chest.
“Is there anything you want to do?” he asked me. “Anything at all?”
“Well…” I twirled a strand of his hair with my finger. “There is one thing I always wanted to do…”
“What? Tell me.”
I smiled wickedly.
A few minutes later, he lay on the couch dressed in a halfway-open white shirt, while I snapped pictures of him with my camera. His head was supported by pillows, one of his arms lying above his head.
“I feel stupid!” Rory complained, but his eyes glittered with excitement.
“If only you knew how incredible you look,” I said. Rory gave me a smouldering look and undid the rest of the buttons on his shirt, then spread it open, revealing his naked body to me. My heart skipped a beat and for a few seconds I couldn’t move, then I began snapping pictures like crazy, while Rory posed for me, smiling as though he were really starting to enjoy himself.
I had put away the camera and was lying on top of Rory, kissing him, when the doorbell rang, followed by a voice.
“Jack? It’s Tammy.”
I sat up and looked at Rory. He nodded, buttoning his shirt even though Tammy wouldn’t be able to see him. I walked over to the door and opened it. Tammy entered, pushing her baby in a stroller in front of her.
“Hey,” she said, lifting the baby as it cried a little, bouncing her lightly in her arms. “I went to your office to see if you wanted to have lunch but they said you were sick.”
I glanced at Rory. He was staring at Tammy and the baby as if mesmerized, beaming.
“Uhm, yeah,” I said. “I’ve been a bit under the weather.”
“You do look a little weird,” she said. She put the baby back down and moved to me, placing a hand on my forehead. “You feel warm.”
“Yeah. Maybe you should leave, so you and baby Rory don’t get sick.”
“I will, I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
“I’m fine, Tammy.”
She looked at me searchingly.
“I worry about you, Jack. I know you haven’t been doing well. It’s like you’ve been treading water ever since…”
“I’m getting better Tammy. I promise.”
“I hope so. Because I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you. I lost Rory, I can’t lose you too.”
“Call me when you get better. Or if you need anything.”
I promised her I would. Tammy told baby Rory to “say goodbye to uncle Jack”, and I wiggled my finger at the little girl, who gave a delighted giggle. Then they both left.
The moment the door closed behind them Rory exhaled deeply, as if he’d been holding his breath the whole time.
“Oh, my God!” he breathed. “The baby… she’s so beautiful. She looks just like Tammy.” He sighed happily. “I’m so glad I got to see her.”
I put my arm around his shoulders and he leaned into me.
“Your parents are overseas, Rory. I wish there was a way you could see them…”
“It’s okay,” he said, silencing me with a finger over my lips. “They talk to me. I hear their voices. And I will see them again… some day.”
I led Rory to the couch and held him close as we lay down, hoping it was enough for comfort. I didn’t know what to say, so I began talking about Tammy’s wedding, describing it in as much detail as I could. While I talked I stole glances at his face and was relieved to see he was smiling. When there was nothing left to say about the wedding Rory began asking about our old friends. I could update him about some of them, but I had lost contact with quite a few of them since Rory’s death. I had been to consumed with grief to care about anything else. Rory made me promise that I would get in touch with them again.
When we became hungry we prepared a simple but big dinner and settled down on the living room carpet to have ourselves a little indoor picnic. We sat close to each other, sometimes feeding each other little bits of food while daylight faded away. After we had eaten it was dark. As I lit candles, Rory rummaged through the CDs.
“Here we go,” he said, grinning and holding up the soundtrack to “Dirty Dancing”.
“That CD is totally not mine,” I said, pointing at it as my cheeks reddened. “I don’t know how it got there.”
“Sure Jack,” Rory smirked. “I believe you.”
He popped it in the player and put on “Love is Strange”. Then he tied his shirt up over his belly button and began strutting around, imitating Jennifer Gray. I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. Rory sang along with the song, crawling towards me on all fours on the floor:
“Baaaaby… My sweeet baaaby…”
Then he threw himself on top of me, laughing as hard as I was. It struck me that I hadn’t laughed like this since before Rory died.
When we were able to stop laughing, we put on different music and danced, or rather swayed, holding on to each other like we never wanted to let go. But soon we would have to. Time was running out, and midnight was coming ever closer. And there was still something I wanted to do.
In the three years that had passed since Rory died, there was one thing that kept coming back to me when I thought about our relationship, one thing I seriously regretted that we never did. But here was my chance to change that. Softly, I pressed my lips against Rory’s neck. He sighed expectantly and tilted his head for me. With feather light kisses I moved up his neck to the ear, letting my tongue slip out and slide over his earlobe, making him shiver slightly. I slipped my hands down to his butt, my palms slowly and lightly gliding over the rounded flesh before taking them in a firm grip.
Rory made a pleasured noise and, grabbing my shoulders, he pressed himself harder against me, letting me feel his growing erection. He began to breathe faster as I squeezed his ass even harder. I stepped back and started slipping off pieces of my clothing. Rory watched me lustfully, licking his lips.
I took him back in my arms, kissing him. Softly at first, then I the kiss became harder and wetter; when I heard Rory moan, I put my hand on top of his crotch and rubbed. He gasped, pushing into the touch, but I removed my hand. I had taken off T-shirt and pants, and were now only wearing black boxer briefs. I hooked my thumbs in them and swiftly pulled them down, letting my erection spring free.
Walking towards the bedroom, I beckoned Rory to follow me. When there, I started removing the clothes on his body until he was as naked as I was. Having done that I kissed him, then lay down on the bed and held out my hand to him.
“I’m all yours.”
He came to me, lying down on the bed. I pulled him on top of me; grabbing his head I gave him a kiss that was firm, wet and soft all at once. Rory melted into the kiss with me, letting his tongue battle with mine as he moved his body against me. I grabbed the lube from the nightstand. Taking his hand I kissed it, then poured some lube on his fingers. Smiling, he put his hand around my manhood, but I stopped him by gently grabbing his wrist.
“Not there,” I whispered. Then I spread my legs a little more and moved his hand down past my balls to my opening. Rory’s eyes went wide.
“We’ve never done this,” I said. “But we will tonight.”
I looked into his brown eyes, so warm and so beautiful.
“Take me, Rory.”
“Are you doing this because you want to, Jack, or because you think you owe me? Because there was never anything missing for me in our sex life. Far from it.”
“Not for me either, angel. But I want to do this. If we don’t, I’ll always regret it.”
Rory smiled nervously.
“I’ve never been on top.”
“It’s not like you don’t know what to do.” I pulled his head down for a kiss. “It’s going to be wonderful.”
Short kisses increased in heat and passion until we were practically devouring each other. As we kissed Rory began ever so slowly to move his fingers against my hole, and I couldn’t keep myself from moaning into the kiss. When Rory moved away from my lips and began nibbling at my ear, he allowed a finger to slowly slip inside. As his lips and tongue moved over all the spots on my neck that he knew I loved, he loosened me up, working inside two more fingers. When I was ready, I took some lube on my own hand and coated his member with it, making him gasp. Then I guided him inside me.
It felt so wonderful. I was not aware of any pain or even discomfort, just a sense of perfect bliss as he slowly glided inside my body. I can’t even describe how beautiful he was to me in that moment. I wrapped my legs around his waist and drew him in. We were both completely still for a moment, and then we began to move. I don’t know how long it lasted, maybe not more than a few minutes, but it felt like an hour. He moved slowly at first, but when I whispered to him not to hold back, he began thrusting harder and faster, our fingers entwining and our foreheads gently pressed against each other. I was moaning loudly every time he pushed into me, and when he slipped a hand in between our bodies, I began spurting the instant he touched my cock. He came with me, those sweet little whimpers I love spilling from his mouth as I felt his semen in me. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.
We made love once more after that, me inside him again. We moved slowly, savoring each other. Afterwards we held each other, looking into each other’s eyes. Midnight was fast approaching. I wanted to scream with frustration, but I kept quiet, stroking Rory’s hair and forcing back tears.
“Did you know,” Rory whispered, “that you are the only one I’ve ever loved? Have I ever told you that?”
I weakly shook my head. He smiled.
“It’s true. Before I met you, the closest I’ve ever come to love was a few stupid crushes. But then we met, and the morning after… when I woke up next to you… I watched you sleep. And I knew. I felt it.”
My hand tightened around his.
“I’ve loved you more and more, every day since. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. You have been the most wonderful part of my life. I want you to know that.”
Despite my best efforts, my tears escaped and began making their way down the side of my nose.
“It’s been the same for me,” I told him. “I love you, with all my heart.”
I glanced at the alarm clock next to my bed. Five minutes to midnight. I pulled Rory closer, thinking that maybe if I held on to him, they wouldn’t take him from me. I kissed him, telling him over and over how much I loved him. And then I felt the change in him, a sense of lightness, and I knew it was time. It was midnight, and he was slipping away.
“No! Wait!” I cried. “Not yet! Just a little longer!”
“It’s okay, Jack.” Rory touced the side of my face. “We will see each other again, some day. I will wait for you.”
He began to look diffused, almost see-through. There was a flash of light that blinded me. And when I opened my eyes… he was gone. His side of the bed was cold, as if he’d never been there. But I could still feel the part of him that he left inside me, and there was a blonde hair on the pillow. Covering my face with my hands, I curled up in a ball and wept through the night.
The first time after that one day was incredibly hard. At times I would get a strong urge to end it all and follow Rory, but I didn’t. I started feeling a strong sense of purpose. I had two people to live for: myself and Rory. So even though it hurt, I started picking up the pieces of my life. I got in touch with old friends. I babysat for little Rory whenever Tammy asked me. I went to concerts. I made new friends. I learned to play the guitar.
It’s been ten years since that day. I still haven’t been with anyone else. I know Rory wouldn’t mind if I did meet someone, but I’m not really looking. If I should happen to meet someone I like I might take that step, but for now, I’m happy enough. My heart still aches for the love of my life, but thanks to that precious gift I was given, I now carry no regrets, no guilt. And I take one day at a time, knowing that when I leave this world for the next, we will be together again.