"How about a cup of coffee? We have about 20 minutes." Rick nudged as they passed through security. Patrick stared blankly nodding his head.

In a crowd, among the hundreds of souls around him, he was alone. Lost. Broken. Unsure. All of the qualities that he had forgotten even existed in him from those years long ago. Trent completed him more than he thought.

As Rick went to order their lattes, Patrick found an empty table in the corner of the coffee shop. It was so quaint and cozy considering it was at an airport. Patrick sat on a stool and reach for a napkin from the holster in the center of the small table so he'd have something to fidget with. His seat faced the dim sky, decorated with flashing lights and vague shadows of airplanes.  Dotted along them, he saw the small windows with faces that were blurred by distance. "Each face belonging to a person...and that person belonging to someone..." he thought. Yes, he definitely felt alone.


"Stop. Stop! STOOOPPPP!" He shouted amidst the laughter and the rib pain that ensued as he wiped the mud from his face. It had been such a perfect day...a perfect, rainy spring day.  Trent knelt beside him taking his thumb and gracing his cheek, wiping away the grime of the earth.

"Have I told you how beautiful you are today?" Trent asked in a hushed voice.

"No...but you just did," Pat said.

As rain gently came down and the occasional roll of thunder escaped the clouds, they sat there in their make-shift garden talking for what seemed like hours and playing in the mud. This is what Pat wanted. The normalcy, the mundane, the everyday consistency of life where he and his love would work in the yard, clean the house, make love, raise a family. Why Trent couldn't buy into this part of the American dream baffled him. But, for now, he would enjoy the moment, the moments...however many there were left.


"What the hell do you mean you didn't mean to?" Kelsey screamed as she glared at Trent.  "You chose to go out. You chose to lie about where you were. You chose to get drunk. You chose to go home with that fucker. You chose to take your clothes off. You chose to fuck him. And after destroying the one thing that you wanted most, you want sympathy from me?"

Trent gasped for air. His guts hurt from the crying. He couldn't take it anymore. The night, in all honesty was a blur. He remembered bits and pieces. But the undeniable fact was Kelsey was right. He had made the choices.

After getting a week of leave and coming home, he made the choice to say he wanted to go out with his buddies instead of staying home. And Patrick being his constant champion, completely understood and encouraged it. But it wasn't his friends he went out with. It was Chad.

Chad had graduated a year earlier than he and Patrick. They'd played on the football team together and were good friends until Trent had suddenly enlisted. Ever so often, they'd message each other on Facebook and update what was going on.

Chad went on to get married and father children. He wasn't happy. He felt like he was in a dead end job. His wife didn't understand him. He felt...trapped. He was the typical American male living an American lie, too. Chad was a closet case.

And it was confiding that fact in Trent that set the whole situation into motion. Trent, being a friend, opened up to Chad encouraging him to accept who he was. And when Trent came home, he offered to hang out with him and "talk."

He wouldn't tell Pat though. No. "Patrick was many things, but he probably is THAT understanding," Trent had thought. So on the night he had set out to catch up with old friends, he really chose the path to destroy their entire world.

"Kels...I didn't...I swear I didn't mean for this to happen..." Trent said between sobs.

"Really? Let me ask you this then. You and Pat don't use condoms...did you take one with you? That's what I thought. Trent, of all the time I have known you, and being practically adopted by your family, I'd never thought I'd say this...I'm ashamed to carry your name!"

After the slam of the door, the only sounds were the gut-wrenching wails coming from him.


"Here ya go, son," Rick gestured holding out a cup to him.

"Thanks...I appreciate it." Pat's eyes settled on the crumbled napkin.

"Son, you're going to have to snap out of this. I know it's hard. I can't imagine...but you cannot go the rest of your life trying to understand the world. It's too big. It's too much. The heart follows blindly only because it doesn't live in fear of a logical mind." Rick trailed off as a tear rolled down his cheek.

"It's time," Pat said.


Concourse E was all too familiar to Pat. It was here that he embraced Trent before going back to Japan after finally reuniting with him so long ago. It was here that he would see him off to Germany, Afghanistan and twice to Iraq. And just four months ago, it was here where he had his last teary send off as he headed to his first contract in the Middle East.

It's funny how God plays tricks on you. In the most somber of moments, you find yourself on the prettiest of days. And despite sad songs and last kisses, the birds still sing. And here he was again, unable to breathe.

As he shuffled past the hustle and bustle of people going here and there, he and Rick made their way to the gate just in time to see Trent come down the corridor. Only this time, there would be no running to meet him. There would be no hug. No kiss. Those days were gone.

 Patrick thought back to that last day he saw him. It was cold, a little breezy. But he remembered sitting on the front porch that morning with a cup of coffee watching the sunrise.  He couldn't sleep.  And though it would have made perfect sense to lay by the man he loved so much for as long as time would allow, the pain of him leaving yet again was too much to take.

After making love for possibly the last time, he held Trent for what could have been years listening to the deep rhythm of him breathing as he stroke Trent's hair, his head on his chest and arms draped about him. And with each tick of the second hand from that damned clock they'd bought in Gatlinburg, he was reminded that this could be it. This could be yet another last moment for them both.

His mind wandered through years together, football games, kisses, trips to the middle of nowhere just so they could get out of the house. He thought of them searching for a house to buy and the day he came home with the great news of being hired to work for Brooks High. Memories ebbed and flowed over him, and he choked back the tears of knowing that this time would be different. His gut told him so.

"I love you...you stupid son of a bitch," he had whispered before gingerly getting up. As he sat on that porch watching the sun peek above the horizon, his heart broke yet again. With a wipe of his face, he stood up and walked towards the front step and leaned against a column and simply sighed before feeling strong arms reach around him.

"I thought I'd find you here. We don't have to be up for a couple of hours. Can't sleep?" Trent asked through a groggy voice.

"No. Want me to make breakfast?" Pat offered.

"I won't get to make you breakfast for a while...so let me." Trent scooped Pat up into his arms and carried him back towards the front door. "Babe...I'm coming back. I swear."

"You'd better...or you might as well kill us both." Pat looked into those beautiful eyes as his stomach knotted and turned. Yes, he was right. This time would be different.


Trent made it to the gate and as Rick held out his arms to hug his son, he was met with the offer of a handshake that was accompanied by a glare at Pat. An icy glare, one that would have killed if possible. "Welcome home, son" Rick said as he settled for the handshake.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Trent hissed as he glared at Pat.

"I...I deserve to be here god damn it! I've been here every single time. Just because you've lost your mind doesn't mean that I have!" Pat's voice pitched through gritted teeth at Trent.

"Not here," Rick whispered. "C'mon guys, let's get going." Rick placed a hand on each of their shoulders as he urged them through the terminal.

Once at the car, Pat decided to sit in the back as far away from Trent as possible. His heart longed for him. His body ached for him. But his mind knew that he was toxic to his life right now, and no power in heaven or hell would make him see otherwise.

The ride home was as silent as a graveyard, and once back at their parents' home, the awkward meal that followed wasn't much better. As Kelsey sat beside Pat, announcing to Trent whose side she was on, Trent's nonchalant attitude simply grew.

"Trent, honey, I put clean sheets on your bed and rewashed some your clothes so they'd be fresh. I also put fresh towels in your room." his mother said.

"Why?" Trent asked as he dropped his fork onto his plate in a huff.

"Well, I just thought..." his mother replied.

"Oh, you just thought I'd stay here, huh? Fuck no. I'm going home...to my house...to my bed. Fuck him if he doesn't want me there. I pay for that place just like he does!" Trent barraged her.

Rick on the defensive stood up. "Now wait a damn minute! You will not talk to her like that! I don't give a shit about what you feel like you are entitled to but we were trying help everyone out! You're a grown man but you are in my house and will treat your mother and my wife with respect!" Trent settled back in his seat and stared at the table. As Rick eased back to his chair, he concluded "I know you are going though some stuff, son, but you aren't alone. You drug this whole family along for the ride with you. You want to sit there and scream and cuss like a man...then be a man and take your lumps for what you've done wrong."

"So that's the way it is? I'm automatically in the wrong? You're going to seriously take sides?" Trent whispered.

"No. I love you both...I don't want to see this. Your mother and I have nearly died trying to wrestle with your decision. But...if we see an easy way around something that benefits us all, well, that's what we decide to do...I don't think...no, I know you should stay here." Rick paused to take a sip of wine.

"He can stay." Pat spoke softly. "It's his home too. He can stay." His eyes met Trent's and as a tear began to fall from his cheek, he stood up and excused himself from the table. Kelsey quickly followed him as he made his way out to the deck for some fresh air.

"You don't have to let him stay. He isn't the boss of you, you know?" She watched as Pat pulled cigarettes from his pocket and began to pack the box on the banister. "You started smoking again?"

As he lit a cigarette and took his first draw, he replied with an awkward chuckle, "Gotta do something." He took another quick drag and looked out at the night sky of dazzling stars. "Yeah, the stupid thing is that I want him there with me. Even if it's just for this week, a couple of days, a single night. Because I want my chance to look him in the eye and ask him 'why' without having to read between the lines of a fucking e-mail."

She placed her arm on his shoulder, took the cigarette from him and took a hit herself. "You know, I want to do the same thing. I know he's suffering. He's gone through so much over there...it changes you. He has PTSD. He'd never admit it. But, I know from experience from being there myself." She handing him back his smoke. "I liked your new song you posted, by the way. It's beautiful...says it all."

"Thank you. It's exactly how I feel. If he could just remember the night...that Christmas Eve when I was all he ever wanted." He held back tears as he thought about the time when Trent poured his heart out to him begging for a chance to make it work. "Or...if he could remember the night I forgave him for Chad...the love that I have for him. If he could just find his way back. If he would just open his eyes and look that I am right here...right here waiting." As he broke down, unable to hold back the tears any longer, she wrapped her arms around him allowing him to finally mourn his loss.

Close by, Trent stood stone-hearted as he watched the two from the kitchen window.

 

Shoals_Anon

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