A Time To Hold On, A Time To Let Go
“But all the miles that separate
Disappear now when I'm dreaming of your face
I'm here without you, baby
But you're still on my lonely mind
I think about you, baby
And I dream about you all the time
I'm here without you, baby.”
- Here Without You, 3 DOORS DOWN
“Nate.” Kyle choked on a sob. “Please don't leave it like this...please.”
Nate hesitated, gripping the door handle. “I didn't leave it this way, Kyle.” He forced his words up past the lump swelling his throat. “You did. You got what you came for.” Nate jerked open the door. “I don't have anything left to give.” Emotion twisted his voice. “You took it all.”
The scene played over and over in Nate's mind as he sat in the truck outside his house, staring at the front door. The door I slammed in his face. He gripped the steering wheel so tight it caused his wounds to throb. His face was wet but he made no move to wipe away the tears.
Why the fuck did you come back here?
He was supposed to be able to rest here? In this house? The last place he'd spoken to Kyle? Behind the door where Kyle had stood and begged him to listen, to not walk away like that? Where he had practically assaulted the guy before abandoning him?
Yeah, rest awaited him in there.
Nate leaned back against the seat and rested his head against the rear window. His eyes closed and images of Kyle instantly swarmed him; Kyle laying on the bunk at the cabin, that heart-stopping smirk on his lips as he challenged Nate to play the game with him...then using a fucking live spider to mess with him.
“I'm not scared of spiders, but it doesn't mean I want the fuckers crawling all over my face.”
“Yeah, sure you're not scared.” Kyle grinned. “You should've seen how fast you moved.” He did a quick Karate move. “You were like Bruce Lee.”
Nate choked on a sob as he flattened his hand on his brow, tears running down his face. “Dammit, Kyle.” he cried. “You can't fucking do this to me? You can't just leave me like this. What am I supposed to do?” His hand slid up over his head and he gripped his hair in his fist, sobs tearing through him. “What am I fucking supposed to do?!”
* * *
He didn't know how long he sat out in the truck before he finally shoved open the driver door and approached the house. Some light shown behind the windows. He hadn't stopped to turn off lights, or even lock the door behind him, when he'd left in a rush to catch the flight to California. Shit, for all he knew, his house might be stripped clean. Not that he gave a fuck. Hell, his whole fucking house could be gone and – except needing it for cash – he wouldn't care less.
Nothing mattered anymore.
Nate stood on the porch and stared at the door. He reached out, gripped the handle but couldn't bring himself to open it. He could feel the torturous memories waiting for him on the other side, ready to assault, tear at him, rip him apart.
Just open the fucking door. You deserve what you get.
The door handle was a cube of ice in his hand as he slowly twisted and shoved inward. Chilled air hit him as surely as if Kyle's ghost were standing there to greet him, his words haunting him, thrusting him through like daggers.
“No, Nate! It can't end like this. Not like this!”
“I know I did everything wrong...I'm sorry. I fucked up, big time.”
Nate closed his eyes as the pressure in his chest squeezed the air from his lungs.
“I just wanted to know how it felt to be with you...to be...loved by you. Just once, before...”
Nate's eyes opened slowly, hot tears running down his face. Before I die. That was what Kyle had meant to say that day. But Nate had...
“Before what?...Before this? Did it even cross your fucking mind what all this would do to me? Do you even fucking care, Kyle?”
Nausea twisted Nate's guts and he choked on a sudden cry as it clawed up his throat.
“I do care. You have no fucking idea how much I care!”
“Bullshit.” Nate choked out. “That's what you told him. Bullshit. You motherfucker.”
Nate grabbed the edge of the door and slammed it hard, rattling windows. “You fuck!” He cried, falling back against the door, his hands raking through his hair. “You couldn't stop and listen to him for five fucking minutes?!”
Tears streaked his face, his chest heaving as he tried to breathe. You couldn't listen to what he had to say – but you could sure as hell fuck him! Nothing stopping you there!
The entry hall swam before him as his eyes darted every which way, seeing Kyle everywhere he looked.
“Last night meant fucking nothing to you! You took everything from me last night, Kyle! And why? So you could shit on it this morning? Fuck you!”
“Shut up.” Nate choked, clutching his head in his hands as he slid down the door, hitting the floor hard. He squeezed his eyes shut as it if it could banish the hateful words he'd spoken. “Just shut up. Shut up!”
“Last night...meant everything to me, Nate. You mean everything to me!”
“Please stop...” Nate cried softly. His fingers gripped his hair in tight fistfuls. “Please...baby...I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...”
When the voices in his head quieted momentarily, Nate lifted his head a little and opened his eyes, another rush of warm tears streaking his face. His blurred gaze fell on the two packs still sitting where they'd been dropped that day he and Kyle had gotten back from the cabin.
His body shaking, Nate crawled over and grabbed Kyle's pack. He tugged it open and dragged out one of the extra shirts Kyle had taken with him. A strangled sob caught in his throat and he pressed the shirt to his face, Kyle's scent still strong in the fabric.
“Kyle...” He cried and buried his face in the shirt, sobs coursing through him. He gasped hard and raised his head then loosened the sleeping bag that was still fastened to the pack.
Flattening his hand against the wall, Nate pushed himself up on his feet. His knees felt like rubber as he picked up the sleeping bag. He used the wall for support as he moved down the hall, past the living room and further until he came to his bedroom.
Sobs erupted from deep in his throat, one after another, as he practically staggered to the bed. He unfolded the sleeping bag on the bed, kicked off his shoes and crawled inside it fully dressed, pulling it around his shoulder as Kyle's scent and presence enveloped him. He closed his eyes and shoved his face into the sleeping bag, shaking with quiet cries.
Just hold me. I want to fall asleep in your arms...just once...I want you to hold me while I sleep.
“Come back to me, Kyle.” Nate whispered, his words broken. “Please, baby...I'll hold you every night...you can fall asleep in my arms every night for the rest of our lives. Just please...don't leave me...”
He felt Kyle's arms around him again, his lips touching the hair at the nape of his neck.
I'm still with you, Nate. Please don't lose faith.
Tears dripped from Nate's eyes and wet the sleeping bag. Faith. He closed his eyes and the sleep that he'd been certain would fight him and evade him, drew him in. There were no dreams to torture him...just the soothing sensation of Kyle's arms holding him, his soft whispers assuring him of his love and that Nate would be okay.
Somehow – regardless what happened – Nate would be okay.
Nate tried to argue that he would never be okay again if Kyle left him, but his words were silenced by Kyle's warm kiss that refused to abate.
* * *
It was a rare occurrence when he found himself home at night. Greyson sat on the edge of his bed, still in his work clothes. The bedside lamp was on but it failed to vanquish the shadows entirely, merely shoving them into the corners of the room. And in those shadows lingered memories of Ian; the heart and soul of Grayson's existence. The one element that had made this house a home. Now it was just an empty shell, void of life.
Though his throat tightened with emotion, his eyes remained dry. He'd done his time crying for his son, the well of tears was empty...for now. It would refill, eventually. But until then, there was just the cracked, barren wasteland of his heart. It was worse than the tears. Crying at least gave the semblance of pushing the grief out, washing it away. But this dry emptiness? It just lingered, shriveling his heart, dehydrating his soul, leaving him emaciated.
He rubbed his face and sighed. The bed beckoned to him but he couldn't sleep there. He'd spent too many nights laying there, replaying the last days of Ian's life over and over in his mind, asking himself again and again why he hadn't seen the signs, why he hadn't listened to Ian when he 'd told him how bad he was feeling. Asking how he could have looked right past the obvious and allowed his son to slip away from him.
Questions whose answers were irrelevant. Good answers, bad answers – it didn't matter. Ian was gone. Even the perfect answer couldn't bring him back. Greyson had fucked up, and Ian had paid for his mistakes. Though Greyson continued to pay for them every second of every day. Guilt would be his constant companion until the day he died.
Nate Westfall's face rose behind his eyes. And then that of Janice Haney. Kyle Haney. Three innocent victims of one more of Greyson's fuck ups. No one blamed him, not really. Who else could have performed that surgery any better? What surgeon could have detected that minuscule fragment of tumor?
The sudden, unbidden image of Nate laying on the restroom floor, in a pool of his own blood, flashed through Greyson's head. Pressure in his chest threatened to implode his heart. It had been such a long time since he had witnessed that depth of love in another human being – if he ever had. People were quick to say I Love You, I would do anything for you...I would die for you. But how many really meant any of what they said? But Nate...the boy hadn't hesitated to make good on his professed love for Kyle. If possible, he would've ripped out his heart with bare hands right there in the waiting room and given it to save the love of his life.
Don't you get it...I'm already dead.
Greyson closed his eyes and rested his face in his hands, his elbows gouging into his thighs as he leaned forward, putting pressure on his arms. Nate had been speaking true; the life was leaving him. The closer Kyle inched towards death...the more life faded out of Nate.
Sometimes it was the holding on that truly ripped the life from a person...not the letting go. Greyson knew this well enough. That final release of the one you love hurt like hell, but it left behind space to heal, to move on. Or attempt to move on. But as long as one was clinging to a life that couldn't be saved...there would be no healing, no going forward.
Nate was fading fast...perhaps because of how hard he was holding on. He needed release, needed this pressure eased. And if it didn't happen soon...Greyson feared Nate might end up one more addition to their list of casualties. He'd nearly ended up on that list already. Next time – who's to say he would fail in his mission?
A shuddered breath escaped him as he dragged his hands down his face, pulling his eyes open wider when a great part of him just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.
His hands slid back up over his face and higher to comb his fingers through his hair then grip it lightly. The decision he knew he had to make was floating in the back of his head, drifting closer and closer to the forefront of his mind.
Maybe it was too soon to consider. Maybe if he waited...Kyle would get his miracle, and a heart would become available. But those weren't odds Greyson wouldn't bet on. Nate was barely holding on by a thread. And Janice...her anguish for her son broke Greyson's heart, but deep down, even beyond her own understanding he was certain...she was beginning to come to terms with the reality that Kyle wasn't coming back to her. It was unlikely she even knew she was coming to that point, most people didn't know it until they were there. But she was slowly letting go.
But Nate...he would never willingly relinquish his tight grip on Kyle. And that grip was fast becoming a choke hold on Nate himself, squeezing, asphyxiating the boy. He needed to breathe again. He needed to let the healing begin.
They all did.
* * *
Dream memories from the night in the cabin wrapped around Nate like taunting spirits as he hovered between wake and sleep. Fingertips brushed his skin, warm lips caressed his mouth. His body touched the heated muscles of Kyle's lean frame as the two slowly intertwined, became one. He again felt Kyle's kiss on the back of his neck as the guy entered his body, took possession of him with such urgency and passion, as if Nate were his life force, his source of existence...his very heart and soul.
“Huh!” Nate came out of the hazy dream with a sharp, shaky gasp. Sweat drenched his body inside Kyle's sleeping bag. His skin tingled from the memories of Kyle's touch and reality punched him hard in the gut, stealing his breath, ripping his heart. A sob burst up his throat and he shoved the heels of his palms into his eyes, his body shaking with cries.
The agony of his loss twisted his body, arching his back as his cries escalated into a wail, forcing his air out of him and refusing to let it back in. He twisted onto his side and clutched an armful of the sleeping bag, burying his face in Kyle's scent, muffling the scream that ripped out of him.
Just when blackness ebbed at the edge of his vision, his breath caught and he sucked in, only to release it again with a wrenching cry. He gasped, choking on his tears as he kicked his way out of the sleeping bag, rolled over and dropped onto the floor beside the bed. He scooted up and pressed his back against the bed, his hands covering his face as the cries refused to back off.
God, please...I don't want to be here anymore...
“You don't have to let me into heaven.” Nate choked. “Send me to hell...just don't leave me here anymore.” He shoved his face into his arms and clawed his hair. “This is worse than hell.”
A tremor swept through him. He waited for God, or perhaps one of his angels, to reach in and rip his soul from his body. Cast him into oblivion. Just scrape him out of existence. He didn't care as long as he didn't have to feel this pain anymore.
But the assault never came, and he was left to his hurt and agony.
He squeezed his hair, his nails gouging his scalp, the endless cries erupting out of him.
Why won't you just kill me, you sick, twisted fuck!
* * *
Whether her slumber was fitful or otherwise, Janice wasn't entirely certain as the doorbell brought her back to consciousness quite suddenly. She straightened in her chair at the kitchen table where she'd fallen asleep over a book she had been trying – unsuccessfully – to read to distract herself.
She rubbed a shaky hand over her face then pushed herself up out of the chair. Her legs were rubbery as she left the kitchen and walked to the front door. Who would be coming to her house this late in the evening?
Kyle. Her hand froze as she gripped the doorknob. Fear squeezed her heart until she was sure she would feint. No, if something happened to Kyle, they would call her...not come to her house. Or would Dr. Greyson Stolsig pay her a personal visit rather than tell her over the phone that her son was...
“Stop it.” She whispered. “Whoever is out there...they aren't here about Kyle.”
She squeezed the doorknob in her fist then slowly twisted, drawing the door open with a measure of reluctance.
When Greyson Stolsig's face came into view on the other side, her heart dropped and her knees nearly buckled as she clutched the edge of the door.
Oh God, please...not Kyle...not my baby...
* * *
The woman's eyes widened at the sight of him standing on her porch and then everything inside her visibly crumbled and her strength threatened to flee her.
Greyson stepped forward quick and grabbed her arm firmly but with gentleness. Dammit, he should've known showing up at her door would set off alarms, give her cause to believe he had news too bad to relay over the phone.
“Janice.” His arm went around her waist. One of her hands clutched his shirt as the other kept a tight grip on the edge of the door.
“Kyle...” Her son's name trembled on her lips, steeped in fear.
“No.” Greyson spoke with as much assurance as he could summon into his voice. “Kyle is...the same.”
He felt the tension drain from her body almost instantly as she regained the strength in her legs and let go of his shirt.
“I'm sorry.” She whispered, avoiding his eyes.
“No need to apologize.” He said quietly. “It's my fault. I wasn't even thinking how my being here would look to you.”
She pressed her lips tight and gripped the edge of the door lightly, casting him quick glances. “Why...are you here?”
Why are you here?
Greyson stared at her, his reasons for coming here suddenly causing his stomach to churn until he felt like vomiting. Maybe on some subconscious level she was beginning to come to terms with the idea of never getting Kyle back – but consciously, she was nowhere ready to let go.
He swallowed tightly. “I need to talk to you.” He licked his lips, dry from the warm night air. “About...Kyle.”
“But you said he was...” A shadow of fear rippled behind her eyes.
“He is.” Greyson said hurriedly. “But...I think it's time we talked...openly and honestly about his condition.”
Janice bit her lower lip and a funny, unexpected sensation tickled his lower abdomen. He blinked, swallowed hard then shook his head. What the hell was that?
“Why come here?” Janice asked uncertainly. “Why not just speak to me at the hospital tomorrow?”
That was a good question. Why had he come there instead of waiting till tomorrow?
“I, uh...” Greyson cleared his throat. His hands clamped his hips and he stared down at the porch a moment then raised his eyes to hers. “I think very highly of Kyle. He was the first kid I've been close to since...” His lips tightened and he glanced away. “Since losing my son.”
“He liked you too.” Janice whispered.
Greyson looked at her. “What I want to talk to you about...I didn't want to do it at the hospital. Kyle is your son. This is personal...not some medical decision.”
“What...” Janice's hands squeezed the edge of the door. “What decision? What do you mean?”
“Can I come in?” Greyson asked quietly.
For a split second, he thought she was going to slam the door in his face. But then she stepped back and nodded silently.
Are you really ready to do this?
His heart kicked against his ribs as he stepped inside.
Ready or not – he was about to cross a line that could never be uncrossed.
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