Three Couples, Six People, Many Songs(#13)
Song #13 - Break Me, Shake Me by Savage Garden
Gary ruffled the old dog's fur, scratching gently behind it's left ear. The lustrous fur was now coarse, and the eyes held only a mere shadow of their past sparkle. What were once patches of ebony black, were now speckled with grey. Yet since the dog was mostly white in the first place, at a glimpse, Skif seemed to still be five years old, not twelve.
"What do you think boy? Should I call him?" Gary bent over and lifted the old border collie onto his lap. Chuffing softly, he licked Gary's chin, then settled down in his lap, sitting up and leaning against his chest. "Yeah, didn't think I should either. I don't think he meant what he said, right? He's going through his last year of college... He's just temperamental..."
Skif whined slightly, more because he was hungry than anything, but there lay the possibility that he sensed something wrong. He turned to look at Gary with his milky eyes, and then he sneezed.
"Ew, gross... Ugh." Gary wiped his face on his sleeve. "Skif germs!"
The dog looked innocent, as dogs were apt to do.
"You're no help. Well, of course you're not. You're straight, you're male. And oh wait, you're a dog." Gary smiled to himself, then leaned back in the chair. "Can't believe I made it through college... I've got a good job at an insurance company, I have a boyfriend, my parents are somewhat okay with the fact that I'm gay, and I breed wonderful border collies." He petted Skif, wondering how close the poor dog was to death. "Sheba's due any day now, isn't she? My first litter of puppies at my own place... And no parents to supervise."
Alone in his room, Gary was prone to talking to himself, or rather, to Skif, as he would like to believe. Few people saw this side of him, this side that liked to think, to talk, to kick back and watch life go about at it's normal pace. Fe people knew this softer side of Gary, this side that did not feel a need to prove itself to anyone, to be cocky and liable to be called a jerk.
"So is that what you do when I'm not around? Cuddle with the dog?"
Gary blinked, sitting up immediately and startling Skif into tumbling off his lap. Landing on the floor with a soft thud, the border collie yelped and started to whine. Gary grimaced, knowing how delicate the dog had become, and he started to pet him and check for any possible injures, although he doubted there were any.
"Is Skif alright?" Ash walked over and knelt down by the dog, petting him gently. That was one of those odd things the two of them shared, a love for animals. Yet Ash let it be known more. While many people knew Gary bred border collies for competitions, they rarely knew he actually loved the dogs. They saw the stern way he trained them, and handled them during the Agility trials, but they didn't look hard enough to see the hidden smile in his eyes that the dogs sensed.
"Yeah, he's fine." Gary straightened up and looked down at Ash. "What are you doing here?"
"I don't have anything due on Monday, so I thought I'd stop by this weekend." Ash shrugged, then ran a hand through his messy hair. It had grown out enough to be pulled into a stubby ponytail, but Ash planned on cutting it soon. He had simply been too lazy to have done it early.
Gary self-consciously brushed down his navy blue shirt, making sure he was not covered in dog hair. "Shouldn't you be working on your final thesis?"
"I've done enough for now." Ash looked around the room. "Kinda empty, isn't it?"
Gary followed Ash's gaze and took in the bare wooden floor, the off-white walls, the general lack of furniture, except his desk and chair. "Yeah, well I just moved in a few months ago, and I don't make much money yet."
Ash shrugged, and sat himself down on the desk. "So, you want to go out and do stuff?" He drummed his feet against the drawers. "Or we could just stay her and do stuff." He smiled.
Gary almost found himself smiling back. Then he remembered two weeks ago...
Ash punched Gary, but before he could get in another hit, Gary grabbed his wrists and wrestled him into a headlock, with one arm twisted behind his back.
"Don't you ever f*cking hit me again!" Gary hissed, inwardly amazed that one of their quarrels had turned seriously physical, and could have potentially been an all out fight.
"And don't you ever accuse me of cheating, you bastard. I was out with friends. Unlike you, I have those." Ash tried to wriggle away from Gary, but being somewhat weaker, he couldn't.
Gary knew Ash had cheated on him, he really did. But he had no proof, and Ash had a counter for all of his theories. "Maybe if you gave me more reason to trust you we wouldn't get into this in the first place!"
"Just let go of me, damnit."
Gary released Ash, and watched through narrowed eyes as he backed away from him.
"You know what Gary? I hate you. I. Hate. You." Ash bitterly spat the words out, then turned and ran.
"I thought you hated me," Gary said calmly, staring straight at Ash.
Ash froze, staring right back at Gary. "I was pissed off at that moment."
"That's what you always say. If it happens that often, doesn't that mean there's some truth to it?" Gary frowned slightly, but didn't break off the stare.
Ash started to say something, but then stopped. And started again, and stopped. "Gary..."
"Say it Ash. Say you love me." Gary folded his arms across his chest.
Ash broke the stare, turning his attention to the floor. "God damnit Gary..."
"Just like I thought." Gary stood up, looking down at Ash once more. "Maybe I don't really have friends like you do, but at least I'm true to myself. When this... insanity stops, you're gonna be alone." He watched Ash get off the desk, holding onto his pride with all his might. "You found your way in; you can find your way out." Gary said, turning his back and walking over to one of his windows.
"Gary, I'm so-"
"Goodbye Ash... Good luck in college."
Ash tried to think of something to say, something to make things better. But they'd gone through this too many times. They had fought too much, hurt each other too much. They were broken; there was nothing left for them to f*ck up, and therefore no reason to stay together anymore. He pulled his baseball cap out of his coat pocket, put it on, and walked out.
When he was positive Ash was gone, Gary turned around, his back against the wall, and slowly he slid to the floor. And he cried. Skif, sensing something wrong with his friend, padded up to him and licked away the tears. Gary wrapped his arms around the dog, and he kept crying. So much that he had held back over the years, all pouring out...
"Wait!" Ash repeated, this time putting his hand on Gary's shoulder. For a moment, he seemed to hesitate, possibly going sober for a split second. And then he kissed Gary. A quick, clumsy brush of his lips against the other boy's, but a kiss nonetheless. "Bye."
Yet neither of them moved. They simply looked at each other. Gary pulled the stuffed cat from behind him and handed it back to Ash, but Ash still stood in front of him, preventing Gary from moving away from the wall. Unnerved by the silence, Gary seemed about to say something, but stopped when Ash moved a little closer to him.
Gary nearly stopped breathing, but then instead he felt his heart beating faster.
Ash placed his right hand over where Gary's heart would be. For a moment, he looked at his own hand, then looked up at Gary. "Your heart's frozen."
Gary seemed somewhat confused, and he started to frown, but the Ash smiled, and he stopped. Boldly, he lifted his own right hand and placed it gently on Ash's cheek. Slowly, he trailed his hand down the boy's jaw line, stopping at his chin. /What the hell am I doing?/ He tilted Ash's head up a little, and started to lean in. Yet at the same time, both boys turned away, pulling back and moving away from each other.
"You know what Gary?" Ash said, resting his chin on Gary's shoulder.
"You're not frozen anymore."
Gary wrapped his other arm around Ash, pulling the smaller boy closer. "I love you."
Ash didn't answer back, but kissed Gary softly on his neck.
They had started off so perfect... How had things gotten like this? Gary forced himself to stop crying, or at least tried to. Each time he stopped, he found another reason to start again. He let Skif go, and the dog somewhat reluctantly left the room, probably to go visit the other dogs.
Gathering up the pieces of himself, Gary managed to make himself stand and stop crying. Trying to clear his thoughts, he walked to his bathroom and, without looking in the mirror, washed his face with cold water. "Ash..." He whispered, feeling that usual strange sensation that washed over him when he said that name. If thing were so wrong, why did he still love him?
Gary walked out of the bathroom, almost as if in a daze. Did he really tell Ash to leave? Was this it, or would they get back together again?
"Ash..." Gary said again, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "You found your way out of my house, but you're still in my heart." He looked around and found that he was in his room. When had that happened? "Damnit... It hurt so much to be together, but it hurts just as much to be apart." He sat down on his bed, and then his eyes fell on Ash's old stuffed cat... "You're not the only one that's alone when it stops..."