“Is he alright” Felix asked as Carson emerged from his room with a haggard look on his handsome face.
“To be honest I don’t know” Britland turned his gaze from the firmly shut bathroom door where Carson had barricaded himself behind. To change the subject he asked “how was you’re visit with Crystal’s family?”
“Her father is way intimidating” he leaned back trying to appear relaxed but the tension in his eyes was unmistakable.
Sensing a story Britland leaned forward staring intently at his friend. “This should be interesting. Do tell.”
“Well” he leaned forward a touch of pink on his cheeks.
“This is going to be good” Britland teased “hardly anything ever makes you blush.”
“You know how I told you we had to make an emergency landing?” Britland nodded so Felix continued “well we were only a couple of hours outside of Brooklyn Heights….”
“Wait don’t tell me” Britland chuckled “let me guess. Crystal called her parents to come get you.”
“Yeah” he sighed “except I hand no idea she had.” His cheeks deepened in color as heat spread across his face. The way Crystal’s soft lips felt as they left a trail of feathery kisses across down his neck. The way his hands trembled as he released her towel letting it flutter to the floor of the tiny hotel bathroom. The way his heart leaped into his throat at the sound an impatient knocking on their hotel room door.
“They’re early” Crystal muttered stooping to grab her towel. She looked up questioningly at the sound of Felix’s smothered groan. “Don’t be like that. It’s probably just my parents” she secured her towel around her as kissed his nose.
He stepped further into the recesses of the bathroom wondering if it were too late close the door before Crystal let her parents inside. Crystal’s excited voice saying “daddy” as she leaped into an older man’s arms was all the answer he needed. “Felix come out here and meet my parents.”
Searching the tiny room for a towel Felix groaned remembering how they had used the majority of them to mop up a spill the night before. The towels were in a pile under the sink on the other side of the wall. “Um” his voice cracked as he peeked around the half-open door. “Hi” he clutched the door as if it were a shield.
“Felix” Crystal motioned for him to come out.
“I’m not exactly dressed” he protested his eyes pleading with her.
“It’s alright” Crystal assured him ignoring the scowl furrowing the crevices of her father’s face.
“Maybe we should come back later” Gayle suggested tugging on her husband’s arm.
“Nonsense” Trent’s lips were a thin straight line. “I want to meet the young man boinking my daughter.”
“Dad” Crystal protested.
“That is what you call it isn’t it?” Trent demanded his voice deadly serious.
“That’s just crude” she glared at her Dad “it’s not like I haven’t done it before. I just didn’t bring them home to meet you.”
“Crystal” Gayle cried “that’s uncalled for. Your father only wants what’s best for you.”
“I’ll be the judge of what’s best for me” she said her eyes locking with her dad’s.
Challenging him. She jumped a little when Felix came out of the bathroom behind her to take her hand.
“Mr Milton” he swallowed hard “I…” he gripped Crystal’s hand. “I love your daughter. It’s more than just sex to me.” He smiled down at her. His eyes softening as he gazed into her eyes. I may not be the best thing for her but she’s the best thing for me.”
Gayle moved forward placing a hand on her husband’s tense shoulder. “Thank you for telling us. With everything we’ve heard about you we did have our reservations.”
Trent grunted prodded by Gayle’s elbow in his side. “We’ll be in the lobby. Finish whatever you were doing.” He turned stomping from the room.
Gayle gave them an apologetic shrug. “I’m afraid your Dad still sees you as his little girl. Give him time.” She turned walking from the room following her husband.
“I’m sorry” Crystal cried when they were alone again. “I thought he’d be cool about this.”
“If my daughter was dating someone like me. I’d be anything but cool” Felix assured her touching his forehead to hers.
“Did you mean it” she asked entwining their fingers together.
“Mean what” he asked somewhat confused.
“That you love me” she glanced up meeting his eyes. “It’s ok if you don’t…”
“I meant every word” he brushed his fingertips across her cheeks until they curled into her think wavy hair. He pulled her close “I love you more than I can say” he murmured brushing his lips across her forehead.
“Wow I never thought you’d ever say it” Britland teased.
“Say what” Felix demanded sitting up tense. His eyes darting around defensively.
“Say I love you to anyone” Britland shook his head. His tone serious no hint of his earlier amusement remained in his voice.
“I never thought it’d happen to me” Felix sighed. “I kind of hoped it wouldn’t. I did everything to make sure it wouldn’t.” He glanced at the floor images of him with multiple faceless women danced before him. “I kind of cringe to think about the way I used to be.”
“Why” Britland inquired “it’s not like you forced anyone to be with you. I mean they knew it was a fling. A one night stand. You weren’t offering them forever. Just a fleeting moment of passion.”
Felix gave his best friend a shocked but curious look. “Wow listen to you! You’ve really loosened up since you’ve been getting some.”
“Yeah yeah” Britland put a hand up to conceal the rising heat on his cheeks. “I was a bit uptight before. I do see things differently now. I doubt I could ever …. you know…”
“Have lots of anonymous sex just for the fun of it” Felix finished for him. He lifted his head meeting Britland’s eyes smirking a little.
“Yeah I’m more the kind of guy who wants that deep commitment and connection with someone before I could ever be with them intimately.” His cheeks became a deep emerald-green as his eyes darted around refusing to settle on any one thing. A part of him was afraid Felix would laugh at him for his notions of love and commitment.
“I never understood that about you” Felix took in a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. “I thought you were missing out on so much fun.” He got up moving restlessly around the room. “Now I realize I was the one missing out.”
Britland moved to join him “you really do love her, don’t you?”
Nodding Felix glanced out the window. His eyes taking in the skyline of the city he loved. The city he loved more for its nightlife than its beauty. The easy accessibility of clubs, booze, gambling, women. All his vices all in one place. It reminded of the life he once thought he enjoyed. “I was never really happy here” his own shock at his words was thick in his words. He turned towards Britland as the blonde placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. I was doing so many things to fill a hole I didn’t know how to fill. I didn’t know it at the time. Not until I met Crystal and she made me look at things in a different way.”
“I’m sorry” Britland mumbled “I should have been there for you more than I was.”
“It’s not your fault” Felix shrugged “I was in a downward spiral. You couldn’t have stopped me if you tried. Besides you had other things on your mind.”
“Yeah I guess” he glanced over his shoulder his eyes full of concern. “I should go check on him.”
“Yes go” Felix nudged him forward “I have homework to do anyway.”
“Since when? You never did homework” Britland chuckled.
“I know” he shrugged self-consciously “people change.”
“Have you decided on a major yet” Britland asked moving away.
“I’m thinking business” Felix said moving towards the couch. Retrieving his books from the coffee table. “I like numbers.”
“Felix the accountant” Britland quipped “it’s doesn’t sound quite right.”
Grimacing Felix shook his head “I was thinking more like a financial advisor or stock broker.”
“I’m still undecided” Britland breathed in deeply feeling weighed down.
“I think you should go into early childhood development” Felix suggested “I think you’d do well.”
“Pediatrics” Britland said thoughtfully.
“You can do it” Felix encouraged “you’d be good at it.”
“It’s a big commitment” he mumbled rubbing his stomach as he thought about his friends suggestion.
“Have you told him yet” Felix asked out of the blue.
“Tell him what” he asked jumping a little at the intrusion of his thoughts.
Raising an eyebrow Felix looked from his text-book “that your pregnant.”
“How did you …” his hand dropped to his side.
“I guessed” Felix chuckled “you’ve been sick every morning. Plus you’re always rubbing your stomach.”
Glancing over his shoulder like he was afraid someone was listening. “You haven’t mentioned this to Carson have you?”
“No of course not” Felix assured him “he needs to know but he won’t find out from me. Keep in mind it’s not something you can hide for long.”
“I know” Britland sucked in his bottom lip “I just don’t know if he can handle the news on top of everything else.”
“Who knows? It might give him something good to focus on” Felix suggested.
Considering his words Britland’s expression changed to doubtful skepticism. “I’ll think about it” he mumbled moving towards the hall.
“I’ll be better if you do it sooner rather than later” Felix called after him knowing the blonde could still hear him whether he acknowledge him or not.
Walking away Britland knew Felix was right. He couldn’t hide his pregnancy from Carson forever. Sooner or later Carson would notice. The bathroom door was open indicating Carson must have come out and went back to their room. Automatically Britland went to the room they had been sharing. He expected to find Carson inside instead the room was dark, silent and empty. Backing out Britland went down the hall to Carson’s room. It felt strange that Carson had retreated to his room.
Knocking softly he waited for a response. Not receiving one he opened the door a crack “Carson I’m coming in” still he received no response. Releasing his pent-up breath Britland took the silence as acceptance he walked in. At least it wasn’t a point-blank no.
The room was silent. A single light from a lamp on the nightstand alleviated the darkness. Britland’s eyes were directed to a corner in the room where the rustle of clothes drew his attention. Carson was curled up in the corner, staring blankly into space. His heart sank knowing that today was going to be another bad day.
Settling on the floor with a muffled groan Britland faced Carson. He sat silently watching as his lover suffered and him not knowing how to help. “Are you going to be ok?” It was a stupid question. Anyone could tell just by looking that Carson was the furthest thing from ok.
Carson’s eyes flickered in the blonde’s direction. He held his I-phone in his outstretched hand. “They called” his voice was small shaky and mournful.
“They who” Britland wondered frowning at his fiance’s phone. The furrows deepened as he read the display “your parents. What did they want?”
Carson dropped the phone as if it suddenly scalded his hand with intense searing heat. Pulling his knees to his chest hiding his face behind his hands. “Dawson’s case has been reopened. Something about new DNA being found.”
“Oh” Britland mumbled. From conversations he’s had with his Grandpa he knew the DNA wasn’t new. It was old DNA they discovered while examining the same evidence from seventeen years ago with new forensic science they use today. “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” The misery he saw in Carson’s eyes told him otherwise.
Instinctively he knew Carson’s parents hadn’t called pleased with the news. Why? Wouldn’t the parents of any missing child want to know what happened to their child? A little voice inside his head kept telling him Carson’s parents knew more about Dawson’s disappearance then they admitted to and were now afraid of being discovered.
“What did they say to you” his voice was thick with anger.
“They said….they said” Carson gulped for breath “I should have left things alone. That I” his breaths were ragged and painful “I shamed them enough.”
Helplessly Britland watched large tears roll down Carson’s cheeks. “This is not your fault” he moved slowly towards Carson. Carefully he pulled Carson close not wanting to upset him anymore than he already was. “You were a child. You are not responsible for what happened to your brother. Your parents should be ashamed for what they’ve done. Then and now.”
“I know” he sniffed into his Britland’s shoulder. “I thought I had put this behind me. I thought they couldn’t hurt me anymore.” He drew in a shallow breath “here I am a puddle of mush.”
Holding Carson’s face between his hands Britland forced his fiance to look at him. “You don’t need them. If they can’t see what a wonderful person you are they don’t deserve you.” He clamped his mouth shut on the words he wanted to say. The ones that he felt were true but had no evidence to support them. Sooner or later he knew Carson would have to face the truth that his own parents had either covered up what happened or had been the culprits that night his brother disappeared.
“I won’t let them hurt you anymore” Britland pressed his forehead to Carson’s feeling inadequate as the strong emotional support but if he wasn’t, who would be? “You’ve done nothing to ashamed of. Shame on them for making you feel this way. Shame on them for putting their image above finding the truth. Shame on them for not loving their children enough…” Carson’s shoulder shook his arms “what? Are you laughing?”
“Thank you” Carson leaned back resting his head on the wall. “I needed to hear that. I know what you said is true. It’s just after being told all your life how its your fault it’s easy to fall back into that mind-set. I’m sorry I’m such a mess. I’m an emotional wreck.”
“There’s no need to be sorry” Britland assured him. “You can lean on me. I’ll be your support.”
“Fight my battles too” Carson smirked a hint of a shimmer of humor in his eyes.
“That too” Britland settled into Carson’s lap. “Everyone needs someone to be their dragon slayer.”
Smiling a little the tension easing around his eyes “alright dragon slayer. How are you going to keep my dragons from getting to me?”
“First of all” Britland leaned forward planting a soft kiss on Carson’s lips. “We’re going to get your phone number changed. They don’t need to contact you. Anything your parents have to say can be said to the police.”
He saw the immediate recoil in Carson’s eyes before he shook his head in refusal. “What if they need to contact me? What if they find out something about Dawson?”
“Grandpa will keep us informed of how the investigation is progressing” Britland assured him. He didn’t mention it would be without the theatrics, the drama and the guilt inducing comments that never failed to erode Carson’s confidence. Gently he put a finger over his fiance’s mouth “he’ll tell us everything we need to know. We don’t need your parents to tell us anything.”
“My parents….they really are suspects, aren’t they” Carson asked looking down unable to meet Britland’s gaze. Profound sadness filled his eyes.
“Did they tell you that” Britland asked. He had been aware that whatever evidence that the new testing techniques had discovered pointed towards the parents as suspects. He hadn’t wanted to tell Carson until there was more proof.
“It’s what they implied. Mom kept saying the investigators were asking for alibi’s for that night during the time Dawson would have been taken.” He closed his eyes squeezing his eyes tight. “I think she wanted me to tell them who I saw in the room that night.”
“You didn’t tell her” Britland stated careful not to pose it like a question. He didn’t want Carson to feel he didn’t trust him yet it would have been easy to fall into the trap to give information to an emotional appeal.
“Of course not” Carson mumbled. “I’m probably wrong anyway. It was so long ago.”
“Don’t worry about it” Britland said standing up “the police will figure it out. You don’t have to.”
“Why didn’t they figure it out then” Carson demanded.
“I don’t know” Britland shook his head “it was almost twenty years ago. They can do so much more now than they could then. DNA can be discovered from the smallest things. Things they couldn’t test for then. I’m confident that they’ll figure out what happened. My Grandpa will get to the bottom of it.”
“What if he’s dead” Carson asked. His voice low as if he were afraid it was true.
“At least you’ll know” Britland sighed. He knew that’s not the answer Carson wanted to hear. It was however the most likely outcome. After seventeen years the chances of Dawson being found alive was slim to none. Getting up he held his hand out “let’s go out.”
Carson stared at Britland’s outstretched hand a moment before taking it “out where?”
“I have a craving for frozen cheesecake with chocolate sauce.” Britland laughed at the face Carson gave him.
“It’s too cold to eat that” Carson protested retrieving his coat from the closet. “How about we go out for Italian?”
“And tiramisu” Britland added eagerly. His stomach growling in anticipation. “I’m starving” he announced hoping that over dinner would be the perfect time to tell Carson he was going to be a daddy.