3/4/08: BTW, can you still call it a drabble if it’s two pages long? Just checking... ^_^ Someday, I do believe I may flesh this out into an actual story. I want to know more about how they actually got to this understanding. ^_^ I'll bet it was an angst-ridden journey.
Charlie started at the sound of a soft footfall behind him. Bailey smiled an apologetic smile at him and stepped up next to him on the porch. Charlie answered his smile with one of his own and held out an arm. Bailey tucked himself against his brother’s side as Charlie completed his one-armed embrace.
“What’s the matter, Charlie? Couldn’t sleep?”
Charlie smiled as he tightened his arm to bring Bailey closer, “I could ask you the same thing. It’s nearly 3 AM.”
Bailey shrugged, “Without you under the covers, it started to get cold. Then when you were gone so long, I got worried. So sue me.”
Charlie laughed, “Not likely.”
Bailey’s patient look was infamous. Everyone gave in when it was turned their way. Unfortunately for Charlie, he wasn’t immune, either. He caved as well, “I’m worried about tomorrow. How can I not be? We might lose them all...”
A quiet sigh was his brother’s first response. Bailey then shook his head lightly, “Charlie... I can understand your fear, but I’m afraid that just this once, I can’t share it.” Bailey stepped out from under his arm to slide in front of him and perch on the porch rail. He cupped his older brother’s face in his hands, “I’m happy, Charlie. You’re happy. They’re going to understand that. They’re going to be happy for us, too. I just have a feeling about this one. You’re going to have to trust me.”
Charlie shook his head, “I’m sorry, Bay. I don’t mean to be a wet blanket.”
Bailey frowned, “Do you regret this? Wish you’d chosen an easier path? One less taboo? Maybe stayed with Kirsten? Never started this with me...?”
Charlie stepped forward and clasped his brother in a tight embrace, “Never, Bay. Never. I don’t regret a single second of what we share. I just regret that it might cause trouble for you. I don’t ever want to see you unhappy again.”
Smaller arms gently lifted to wrap around him in return, “Good. Then that’s all we need, Charlie. Owen accepts us because we’ve never given him cause to doubt. We just have to show that faith to Claude and Julia, too. You’ll see. It will all work out.”
“You’re right.” Charlie took a small step back to look down into his brother’s eyes, “We can’t keep this between us forever... And I wouldn’t want to, anyway. You’re right. Our family -- our whole family -- has a right to share in our joy.”
The brilliant smile that Bailey turned up at him was all the answer he needed. He bent down and gently touched his lips to the younger man’s. Bailey responded with a kiss so sweet and full of love that Charlie wished it could go on forever. A quiet “harrumph” from behind him on the porch, however, ensured that that would not be happening.
Owen cleared his throat again and raised an eyebrow when his two brothers turned to face him with a light blush tinting both of their cheeks, “You know, guys... there is such a thing as taking romance a bit too far. I mean, really... necking on the porch? Aren’t you a little old for that sort of stuff?”
Bailey, the ungrateful brat, snickered from his spot on the porch railing. Charlie tried to muster up a stern frown for the boy who had been like a son to him these last 15 years, “And aren’t you a little too young to still be awake at this hour on a week night?”
Owen merely smiled an impish grin -- a trait that Charlie was sure he’d picked up from Bailey -- and shook a finger at them both, “Unless you’ve forgotten, tomorrow starts Thanksgiving break. I don’t have to be at school. Unlike some people who do have to be at work...”
Charlie groaned, “Don’t remind me...”
Bailey’s smile stretched to match Owen’s. With the importance of this particular Thanksgiving, Bailey had thought it best to have the family over to the house instead of to Salinger’s this year, and so had made the decision to close the restaurant for Thanksgiving. This way, the only people he had to worry about were the actual Salingers and their respective families.
Charlie lifted a hand to rub at his forehead, “Just... don’t.”
Bailey made a zipping motion over his lips. Owen stepped up to join them at the railing and put a hand on each of their shoulders, “Really, you guys need to just chill. I’m not so young that I don’t understand how... unusual... your relationship is, but I’d have to be blind to not see how happy you make each other. People can search a lifetime to find a fraction of the joy you two have. Claudia and Julia will feel the same way, too. All we’ve ever wanted is for you both to be happy.”
Charlie was just about to thank Owen when Bailey ran right over him with a suspicious, “Owen... what exactly did you tell them when you invited them over for Thanksgiving?”
Owen just winked and broadened his grin, “Nothing much.”
Charlie’s eyes narrowed, “What exactly do you mean by ‘Nothing much’?”
Owen laughed, “Just that they wouldn’t have to pretend they didn’t know again this year... Though I did suggest that for your sake that they at least pretend to be a little surprised.”
Charlie turned around and buried his head in Bailey’s neck, mumbling in counterpoint to his brothers' laughter, “I’m getting too old for this...”
Charlie woke slowly this Thanksgiving morning, unwilling to face what he was sure must be coming. In spite of Owen’s reassurances, he just couldn’t believe that things would be that... easy. He slowly became aware that something wasn’t right. Stretching out a hand to his left, he encountered nothing but empty space... cold, empty space. Jerking to full wakefulness, Charlie scanned the bedroom and finally figured out what was out of place.
With a quiet moan of grief, he let go of the dream-that-wasn’t in favor of the reality-that-was. It was 1996, not 2009. Bailey had only ever slept in his bed when forced to by short-handed sleeping arrangements and didn’t think of him as anything more than a brother. But more and more often lately, as evidenced by that dream, Charlie desperately wished that he would. His own happiness was already so wound up in his brother’s that by now, to his mind, at least, this was the next logical step.
But Bailey would never see it that way...
He stumbled down the stairs in a less than generous mood, frowning the entire way... until he walked into the kitchen. Bailey was at the table, trying to coax Owen into eating his cereal with his spoon instead of his fingers. And when his eyes lifted and met Charlie’s there was a world of joy spread out in them, and maybe, just maybe... the hope of something more.