“WILL you make me muffins today?” Thom asked, leaning over his lover’s shoulder.
Dru was sitting in his ergonomic desk chair and tapping away on his keyboard. The text in front of him seemed like some sort of code, one of those Thom had no understanding of but his lover of three years was fluent in.
“Yeah… if you go and take out all I’ll need and figure out what kind you like. Just… give me fifteen minutes…,” Dru said in the tone that told Thom that he was registering what was being said but was still very much wrapped in the code mentally.
Thom kissed Dru’s neck and patted his shoulder before jogging down the stairs from the loft that acted as Dru’s office. It was the easiest place to contain the mess of papers and books and computers and screens and…. Living with a total nerd came with clutter. Luckily, Thom happened to love said nerd more than anyone in the world, so he could put his own OCD tendencies aside and let Dru have his clutter.
Thom walked to their large open kitchen, once again considering the fact that they had top-notch equipment and all the space they could need but cooked very rarely. When they did, it was usually together. Dru baked sometimes, mostly when Thom asked nicely like he had just done, but they were both too busy to cook regularly. At least that was what they told themselves and each other if the question of ordering takeout again was brought up. They were busy professionals, but it seemed to be ingrained in Thom to feel a bit guilty for not cooking more often. The baking thing, though, it was something like an indulgence, Dru doing something for Thom despite the fact that Thom was capable of doing it himself.
It wasn’t that they didn’t want to. It was more about the fact that when Thom got home from work, it was usually after either a long day in court or an even longer one in the headquarters of Gibson, Royce, and Roberts. Sadly, none of those was Thom’s last name, but one day he hoped that it would be there along with the senior partners of the law firm he had worked in for the last five years. Thom was thirty-three and nearly a decade older than Dru. He would’ve been lying if he had claimed it never bothered him. After all, Thom was just a boring lawyer, and Dru was an intelligent, extremely talented younger man with the looks of a model. He could have had anyone, yet he still chose Thom. It was baffling sometimes.
Thom didn’t realize he was frowning as he gathered the ingredients for the muffins and searched the cabinets for chocolate and cocoa powder.
“We run out of chocolate again, or did something else make your mood turn sour?” Dru’s voice asked from the bottom of the stairs.
“No… just having… a moment again,” Thom confessed, feeling his cheeks heat up. Damn… it had been a while since he had last felt like this, but it always sneaked up on him. Much like Dru did, because there were suddenly strong arms around his waist, and he felt the warmth of the other man against his back. By now his “moments” were well known by his lover. At least they were rare these days.
“I’ve told you you’re being stupid, right? And that I love you? And that I like making muffins for you?” Dru murmured against the back of Thom’s neck, getting his lover to relax in his arms.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Sorry about that,” he said as he turned around, leaning to kiss Dru’s lips gently. “This wasn’t even ten minutes; what happened to fifteen?”
“Thought I could use a break,” Dru said and then grinned at Thom’s expression, which bordered on shocked. “Oh, shut up. I take breaks.”
“Oh, I’m still looking for cocoa powder, so you’ll have to give me a moment,” Thom said, remembering, and turned around again before turning to look at Dru once more. “Not that kind of moment. Promise.” His tone was a bit sheepish. He knew better than to question Dru, but sometimes there was nothing rational about emotions. Hell, maybe that was true most of the time.
The doorbell rang in the silence of the large, modern house, and Dru jumped off the island he had just sat on. “That has to be Kara,” he said like it should explain something to Thom.
“Oh,” the dark-haired man said, turning to look towards the door in the other end of the large space that made most of the main level of the house.
Dru walked to the door barefoot, and once again Thom gave him the once-over he usually did when there were other people to be around. Dru had no real concept of modesty, and this time was no different; the jeans he had on were well worn and very low on his hips, and the white tank top wasn’t exactly hanging loosely on him either. Damn.
“Hey, Kara,” Dru said, and there was some chatter Thom blocked in favor of finding the damn cocoa powder. He finally did just as the others were coming to the kitchen.
“Hi, Thom!” their neighbor and undoubtedly their best female friend said. “Muffins?” she asked with a smirk, whipping her long red hair over her shoulder as she leaned in to see the ingredients.
“Yeah, he’s pampering me,” Thom said, kissing Kara’s cheek.
“He should do that more often, being high maintenance as he is. You know that, right?” Kara glanced at Dru, who stuck his tongue out at the woman.
“So, what brings you here this fine afternoon?” he asked Kara to cut that train of thought short.
“Dru didn’t tell you? I was going to ask if I could borrow the Third again?” Kara asked, glaring at Dru briefly before making her eyes huge and puppy-like and turning back to Thom.
“Sure, just make sure you—”
“—fill the tank and if you injure her you take her to the garage to be fixed on your own expense,” Kara and Dru chorused, making Thom blush.
“Yeah… that,” Thom said, ducking his head. Sometimes it wasn’t easy being older than the “kids” who had met each other in some evening classes Dru had taken a couple of years back. It had turned out Kara lived in the house nearest theirs, across a patch of forest.
“Thanks, Thom, really. I’ll make sure she’s okay and all that,” Kara promised, and she looked at the clock on the wall. “Shoot, I gotta run if I’m going to make it to my dentist’s appointment in time.”
Dru walked the woman to the door and handed her the keys to the “Third,” an old Ford Fiesta with sentimental value for Thom. The car was fire engine red, and even though Thom now had a nice BMW with value at least ten times that of the Fiesta’s, he still preferred to have the old car in the garage for emergencies. Like if someone needed to borrow one or if the BMW and Dru’s more practical SUV weren’t running… as if.
“Everything ready?” Dru asked when he got back to the kitchen again.
“Yes, cocoa and chocolate-chip muffins, please.” Thom smiled, and Dru chuckled a bit.
“Fine… but we’re going for a run tomorrow morning. Just so you know.”
It was Dru who kept them both fit, though Thom had become better with it in the years they had lived together. They had a little home gym in the downstairs bedroom. Mostly because they liked the biggest bedroom upstairs and there wasn’t a basement in the house to put the equipment in. There was an additional guestroom upstairs as well. The house was really too large for just two people, but they had fallen in love with it when they began house-hunting after dating a few months. They had just known it somehow, even if Dru had been just twenty-one at the time and Thom had tried to resist the handsome younger man who worked at the coffee shop near his office.
Thom went to sit at the breakfast bar and flipped open a magazine to keep the baker company. Just as Dru began to mix the flour and the cocoa powder, the phone on the end table near the island rang.
“I’ll get it,” Thom said automatically and picked up the phone. “Thomas Williams,” he answered.
“This is Dr. Albert King from the Haven Institute in Boston.”
“Good afternoon, Doctor, how may I help you?” Thom asked with a puzzled tone that made Dru turn around to face him with an equally puzzled expression on his features.
“I’m looking for an Andrew Beckett Jr., and this is the number I found online,” the man on the other end of the line said in a deep bass voice.
“Ah, yes, I’m Andrew’s partner, could you wait a second?” Thom asked and placed his hand over the receiver.
When Dru looked at him, he said, “Some doc from Boston… for you.”
Dru blinked and then looked at the bowl in front of him on the counter. “Ask him if he can work with speaker, not stopping this now.”
Thom grinned internally; this was typical for his Dru, not taking anyone’s directions and certainly not stopping something he was doing for a stranger.
“Yes, Doctor? Do you mind if I put you on speaker?” Thom asked.
“Well, it’s not—”
“It’s just that there’s no one else here but me and him, and he’s baking. Besides we don’t have any secrets, so he’d tell me immediately anyway….” Thom let the end drift off and heard a sigh from the other end.
“All right, then,” the man said, and Thom pressed the button.
“Good afternoon there, Doc. This is Dru Beckett, how can I help you?” the blond said, emphasizing his nickname to make sure it was known how little he appreciated his given one.
“Afternoon, Mr. Beckett. This is… a bit of a strange cross-country call, I’m afraid. One I haven’t been able to properly prepare for, but here goes.” There was a low chuckle from the doctor, and Dru turned to look at Thom with a slight questioning frown. Thom shrugged, and the doctor began to speak again.
“You see, I am the head psychiatrist at the Haven Institute in Boston. Now, for the last two years we’ve had a patient here, and now that he’s been deemed ready to face the world again, he gave your name as a person to contact.” The voice stopped as if the doctor was hesitant to continue.
“Wh… what?” Dru asked, obviously mentally going over a list of people but not really able to think of anyone. “Who?” he added and turned completely, leaning his back to the counter now, barely registering Thom, who moved closer to him to offer his support.
“The patient’s name is Skye Walker. He said you two were close growing up?”
The complete silence that followed the question on both ends of the call was deafening. Thom wanted to wrap his arms around Dru but couldn’t, not with this. Not when the name Dru avoided mentioning popped up like this.
“I know this must have come as a bit of a shock,” the doctor began again, only to be cut off by Dru.
“Wait, wait,” he said and shook his head as if to clear it. “You’re saying Skye, who I haven’t seen or heard of in… seven years, has been in a mental institution for two of those years?”
“Yes, you see….” Another slightly frustrated and awkward sigh was heard as the doctor tried to figure out how to say what he had to say. “I have Skye’s permission to speak about this with you, the basics of it at least, even though it’s against patient confidentiality. The gist of things is that the uncle who took him in… he wasn’t the man everyone thought he was. In fact he imprisoned Skye, brainwashed him, and used him as a… as a sexual slave for nearly five years.”
Another long silence.
By then, Thom was ignoring the fact Dru might need space like he usually did when upset and had wrapped his arms around his lover to be there for him whether he wanted it or not. When Dru didn’t seem to be able to speak and the doctor was waiting patiently, Thom cleared his throat.
“You must understand this is a shock to Dru,” Thom said loudly enough for it to reach the speaker phone. He soothed Dru’s arm and cloth-covered stomach with his fingers just to do something. He could feel Dru trembling slightly, and it terrified Thom. His lover was the strongest man Thom had ever known.
“Yes, I understand, but… I won’t lie to you, when Skye came to Haven, he was a shell of a man, and… I wasn’t sure he’d pull through. But he did. He’s much better now, but the problem is that even though he’s ready to go back to the world, we don’t really have anywhere for him to go. He has been rehabilitated, but there are still some issues.” The doctor came to the reason for his call.
“How did he get to the institution?” Dru asked, his voice betraying his suspicion.
“The uncle worked in construction, and one day he fell off some scaffolding at a site and died on impact. When the man he had rented their house from went to check on things, they… they found Skye in the basement.”
There was another, shorter pause before the doctor spoke again. “The police officer that was first on the scene had some connections with the institution and managed to get Skye in here. They raised some funds in the Boston PD, and then, after the story leaked to the local papers, some other people pitched in. As there was no will, naturally all of the little money the uncle had left was used to make sure Skye had a safe place and all the resources to get better.”
“Is… would it be possible for you and… and Skye to work on an e-mail or a fax with some of the information on what he has been through and what his situation is now and so on for us?” Thom, always the organized lawyer, asked.
“I suppose that is fair….” There was a silence that could only be described as thoughtful. “Though you need to understand that the departure date was set some time ago and Skye is to leave Haven first thing Monday morning. If we don’t find… alternatives… the only place he can go is the halfway house, and I have seen enough in my thirty years doing this to know that someone like him is likely to be found in a homeless shelter inside a few months.”
“I understand, but we need to discuss this, all of it, and know more to be able to make an educated decision instead of jumping into anything,” Thom said and nudged Dru’s side.
“Yes, yes, Thom is right. We need to… to know more,” Dru said in a slightly shaky voice.
“All right, I got this number from the website of your business, Mr. Beckett. So I’ll use the fax that was there later today, once I’ve spoken with Skye about this. We tried to find other options, at Skye’s request, but there didn’t seem to be any. I wouldn’t ordinarily spring something like this on anyone. Just… it’s Friday evening already; time is of the essence here.”
“Yes, thank you for the call. We’ll be calling you back as soon as we get your fax and have reviewed it,” Thom said, and they disconnected the call. Then he led his shocked lover to the couch in the living room area under the loft.
They sat in silence for a while, Thom’s arms around Dru, holding him tight as if to keep him together.
“What’s your first instinct about this?” Thom asked when the body in his arms began to relax a bit again.
After a deep sigh, Dru nearly whispered, “I’d do anything for him.”
That was what sealed the deal for Thom. He’d do anything for Dru, and if it was helping his childhood friend and first love, that was what Thom would do, no matter how he felt about it.
“Okay… we’ll take a look at the fax and think this through, and you’ll decide what we’ll do,” Thom said firmly.
Suddenly Dru’s eyes snapped to his as the younger man twisted in his arms to look at him. “No. I’m not deciding, we are. This is our life, Thom.” This was a tone Thom knew very well: the one that told him Dru was being serious, that this was final and he had no say in it.
The relief he felt at hearing the words took his breath away for a while. The name of the boy, now a man, who had been the first person ever to capture his elusive Dru’s heart had always made him feel slightly uncomfortable. There was history there, even if nothing sexual had happened between the boys. Thom knew Dru had never truly been able to get over the loss of Skye, no matter how serious his relationship with Thom became or how much time passed. Seven years was a long time not to know why the person you loved, and who you thought was your best friend, never contacted you again.
“I’ll go put the coffee on. We need caffeine. And something to eat. Takeout?” he asked while getting up from the couch.
“Yeah… okay, sure… Italian okay?” Dru asked, clearly wanting comfort food. He had gotten the idea of Italian being comfort food from Thom’s mother, who was half Italian and liked to cook for her family, especially if there was a crisis.
“Sure, I’ll be right back, babe,” Thom said and kissed Dru’s cheek before retreating to the kitchen to think about the possibilities the fax would open up for them.