by Juli

July 2005

Stephen didn’t turn around when he heard the door open and shut. It was Miles’ apartment, after all. The young man could come and go as he pleased.

For once, Connor hadn’t been the last one to leave the office. It had been a bitch of a day and he’d allowed himself to be shepherded out by Natalie and Frank, leaving Miles and Eva to pick up the pieces. It’d been cowardly to leave, but Stephen simply couldn’t stay any longer. It hurt too much and with Miles firmly supporting Natalie and Frank’s suggestion that Connor go, Stephen had gladly fled.

Their job was always hard; often emotional. When children were involved, though, it was heartbreaking.

The contagion had spread through a Boy Scout troop like wildfire, all resultant from a bacteria picked up at one of those road-side petting zoos. Eight boys had gotten sick and only one had survived. Each and every one of them was about the same age as Stephen’s son, Jack. He’d tried not to think about that fact, but it had been a futile exercise. Even now, sitting on Miles’ balcony, face pressed up to the metal railing and his feet dangling off the edge, Stephen couldn’t get those children off his mind.

“You think too much.”

Stephen looked up to see Miles standing above him, gently smiling. The younger man was holding a bottle of beer in each hand. He gave one to Stephen before folding his legs and sitting beside him. For several minutes, the two men sat next to each other in companionable silence, drinking beer and staring off into the distance.

“Rough day at the office?” Stephen finally asked. It was a favorite game of theirs and never failed to cheer him.

“Yeah,” Miles let out an exaggerated sigh, lips twitching. “I have this demanding boss.”

“I know the type,” Connor stated, deadpan. “Expects his staff to perform miracles, gets frustrated when they can’t solve the impossible on a moment’s notice, is generally an SOB when he’s on the trail of something.”

“Is harder on himself than he is anyone else,” Miles countered softly. Then, cocking his head to the side, added, “He’s got the greatest ass, though.”

Stephen couldn’t help it; despite his melancholy, he laughed out loud. “You are good for the ego, Miles.”

“Like you need any help with that,” Miles quipped. Turning serious, he leaned into the older man. “Come here.”

Connor gladly obliged. The kiss was deep, but gentle and served as a balm for all the negative emotions that had been plaguing Stephen since he saw the first child flat line. One kiss led to another, but no heat grew. The lovers were comforting each other instead of working towards arousal. Miles eventually pulled away, but stayed close enough to bump his forehead against Stephen’s.

“Wasn’t your fault, Stephen,” Miles said softly, but firmly. “That stupid local doctor didn’t call us in until it was far too late. Nothing you could have done would have changed the outcome.”

Stephen sighed. “I know, but...”

“No buts,” the younger man rebuked him. He stretched his arm across Connor, slipped his hand into Stephen’s pocket, and came out with the other man’s cell phone. “Call your son.”

Connor looked at the small device and slowly reached for it. Trust Miles to know just what it was that he needed. He pressed the pre-set number and listed to the phone ring. He met Miles’ eyes and tried to put all the love he felt for the other man into his gaze. “Thank you.”

“I’ll start dinner,” Miles said as he stood up, obviously wanting to give Stephen some privacy. “Come in whenever you’re ready.” He kissed the top of Connor’s head and disappeared into the apartment.

Tears filled Stephen’s eyes when his son answered the phone. Connor had a healthy, well-adjusted son; a fulfilling job; and a lover who knew him better than he knew himself.

Stephen was a truly blessed man.

~the end~


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