The following morning Christopher groaned aloud when the door to his room was opened and his grandfathers walked in. He could read the concern in their eyes. His fingers clutched the sheets beneath the thin blanket. The last thing he wanted to see was their pity or worse shame in their eyes.
Rory cleared his throat, “its good to see you home.”
“Yeah” his voice sounded strained like a rubber band stretched to the breaking point.
Eddie sat on the edge of the bed picking at the blanket. “You don’t have to be afraid to talk to us.” He jerked his head up meeting his grandpa’s gaze with matching haunted eyes.
Rory put a comforting hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “When I met your grandpa he was dealing with being…”
“Raped” he whispered reaching up to take Rory’s hand. “I still have nightmares. Defense mechanisms …”
“Not eating out” Christopher whispered eyes watching the older man intently.
Chuckling a little “yeah even after all these years.”
“You eat at Uncle Tom and Aunt Faye’s restaurant” Christopher pointed out somehow wanting to make him feel better.
“Only because I trust them” he took a deep breath. “Trust is a rare and precious thing. Once it’s lost it’s hard to get back. That’s the hardest thing about this kind of violation. It kills the trust. It makes you jump when you don’t have to. Makes you wary of everyone around you. Question their motives.”
Nodding Christopher asked “how did you get over it?” He pulled his knees to his chest wrapping his arms around them like he was afraid he’d fall apart.
Glancing up at Rory he smiled “I found someone I could trust. Who would hold me together when I couldn’t do it myself.”
“It wasn’t easy” Rory’s usually deep voice subdued. “Sometimes it felt like for every step forward we took two backwards.”
“Hey” Eddie pouted “it wasn’t just me.”
Sitting next to him on the bed Rory put an arm around him. “I had my own issues to work through. That’s the hard part about relationships. You have to be willing to put forth the effort even when it pushes you to the breaking point. I never thought I wanted to settle down have a family. The idea of it scared me to death.”
“Me too” Eddie nodded leaning into him. Turning his attention to Christopher he said “one thing you have to remember is no matter how bad this is and believe me I know how bad this is, it’s not the defining moment of your life. Don’t let that bastard ruin your life. Don’t give him that much power. One day you’ll meet someone who turns your life upside down and you’ll want to tear down the walls you’re putting up to protect yourself.” Smiling over at his husband “and it’ll be worth it.”
Standing Rory said “I’ll let you two talk.” He bent down placing a tender kiss on Eddie’s forehead before leaving.
“He’s a good man” Eddie sighed before turning to Christopher “one day you’ll find someone like that.”
“What if I’m too scared to try” he shivered “the idea of going out with anyone…I don’t know if I can.”
“You will” Eddie assured him. “I know you will. Maybe not today or next week but you will.”
“You sound so confident” he leaned his head back closing his eyes.
“It’s because I’ve been where you’re at. I know it’s possible. It won’t be easy. It’s going to be scary as hell but you have people who care about you. Who are willing to help you no matter what. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days.” He moved putting a hand on his grandsons shoulder “you have me if you ever need to talk to someone whose been through this hell. I’ll listen no matter what.” Instead of answering Christopher threw his arms around him, body shaking as he let loose of the maelstrom inside him.
Royce stared at the couple. Damien seemed to be a good guy but he shook his head. After what happened to Christopher all of Royce’s protective instincts were kicking into high gear. If he could he’d wrap his twin in bubble wrap.
“You don’t have to worry about him” a familiar voice side coming alongside him. “Damian’s a good guy. I’ve known him for years. He’s my cousin’s best friend. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Is it that noticeable” he asked trying to force the beginnings of a smile on his face.
“That you’re protective of your brother? Yes it’s obvious.” Grinning she continued “it’s sweet.”
“He doesn’t think so” frowning “maybe he’s right. I should trust him more. It’s just he’s been hung up on the same guy since we were kids and suddenly Damian shows up.”
“I thought you said that was a good thing,” taking his hand “come on, let’s go for a walk.” Tugging on this hand sensing his reluctance to leave his brother alone. “Trust me when I say Damian is a good guy.”
Glancing over his shoulder Royce sighed “you better be right.”
“I am” her confidence making her eyes bright. “I know Damian.” Grinning when Royce moved to follow her “maybe I should be worried for him. You know what they say about the quiet ones?”
Shaking his head he gave her a confused look. “What are you talking about? My brother is incapable of hurting anyone.”
“Than we have nothing to worry about” she reassured him walking along the beach her hand squeezing his.
Jogging alongside her “what’s your hurry.”
“You’ll see when we get there” she lead him to a small cove. The noise of the crowded beach diminishing behind them. It was like they were the only ones there. “Isn’t it beautiful” she asked turning to him.
“Breathtaking” he agreed. The water was crystal clear, a popular spot for snorkelers. “You do know what this place is don’t you?”
Her slim shoulders rose as she shook her hair back. “A private cove? Are we trespassing?”
“It is private property” he pointed towards a sign. “It’s also a popular spot for couples to make out.” Grinning “is that why you brought me here? Did you want to have your way with me?”
“What” she scowled up at him. “Why would I do that? I just wanted to be alone. If we happen to kiss …” She ran her fingers down his chest. “Do you want to kiss me?”
Wrapping his arms around her trim waist he pulled her close. “Do you want me to kiss you” his lips were hovering above hers. Their combined breaths caressing each other’s skin in a warm embrace.
“You don’t have to ask” she brought a hand to the back of his head encouraging him to close the gap. The sound of waves lapping against the shore there was as the last of the sun’s rays making silhouettes their bodies. It wasn’t until the shrill sound of a whistle being blown nearby that their kiss was broken.
Stepping back “we should go.”
Nodding taking his hand “would you like to come to my house for drinks? Damian and Belle will be there with their dates.”
“I’d like that” he agreed “what time?”
Running out of the water dragging the heavy board behind him Jason frowned at the deep ruts in the sand before the waves washed them away. “When will I be like you and be able to carry the board instead of dragging it?”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re still a beginner.” Damian laughed shaking his shaggy wet hair. He stuck his board in the sand before turning to help Jason with his. “You just need to build up the right muscles.”
“I always thought I was in pretty good shape,” he complained. “Compared to you I’m a weakling.”
“How many times do I have to tell you” he asked stepping closer to the smaller younger male.
“I know. Don’t compare myself to others” he muttered looking away. “It’s hard not to. Everyone is so much better at just about everything than me.”
“Look at me” Damian requested putting a finger beneath the boy’s chin.
Shuffling his feet in the loose sand he shook his head. “It’s true. You can’t tell me it’s not.”
Lifting his chin Damian’s eyes were flashing with emotion. “I’ve heard enough of that kind of talk. I don’t care if you’re scrawny.” Looking him up and down “which by the way you’re not. I don’t care if you drag your board across the sand. At least you’re out here trying.” He stopped seeing how little impact he was having on the boy. “And another thing. You’re one of the bravest people I know.”
“Me” he choked. “I think you have me mixed up with someone else. I’m no hero.”
“I know exactly who you are. You are Jason Marx” Damian smiled down at him. “You’re the guy who dropped everything to go to the aide of a friend. I think that’s pretty heroic.”
“You do” he blinked meeting Damian’s steady gaze. “I just thought it was being a good friend.”
“How is he? Your friend” he asked changing the subject.
“Different” Jason sighed looking away “it’s like he’s a shadow of his former self.”
Shivering a little “it’s been a week. I’m sure it’s going to take a while before he feels like himself again.”
“If he ever does” Jason added “you hear about this happening but it’s always to someone else. Not someone you know.”
“Have they caught the guy who did it” Damian asked preferring to focus on something that could be done.
“Not yet. The guy left the island the same night.” He kicked at the sand with his toes. “I’m sure he’s long gone.”
Nodding Damian tried to come up with something that might help. “Have you gone to visit him yet?”
“I’m not sure he wants visitors” looking at Damian “especially anyone he doesn’t know.”
“I don’t have to come if you think it’ll cause him distress” Damian offered. “I just think the guy needs to know he has friends.”
“Can we go after lunch” he asked “you did offer me lunch.”
“Was that today” he teased.
“Don’t tell me you forgot” he cried “I’m starving.”
“We’ll get burgers at the Shack” he suggested pointing towards the concession stand. A few minutes later he returned with a basket.
“Where’s my burger” Jason demanded eyeing him suspiciously.
“I thought a picnic lunch would be better.”
“But I want a burger” Jason whined grinning when he couldn’t maintain the act.
“It feels weird not having to race home to change and go to work” Aubrey stretched her arms over her head.
“I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have to run home right away” Kaia agreed. “Want to go to the beach?”
“Sure” Aubrey lost her smile. “I wish the others were home.”
“Have you heard how London is doing?” she asked. “I wanted to go visit but my parents nearly had a fit.”
“What for” Aubrey demanded.
Making air quotes “she’s a bad influence.” Kaia rolled her eyes “you’re not to hang out with her anymore.”
“Harsh” Aubrey muttered.
“Tell me about it” Kaia crossed her arms “sorry about Olivia.”
“I’m not” she shrugged. “I know that sounds heartless but I’m glad she got caught. Maybe this will make her see there’s consequences to what she does.”
“This is major though” Kaia said “a couple of kids died including Dante’s girlfriend.”
“Ex-girlfriend” she correcte. “He told me they broke up earlier that night because he refused to go to that party with her.”
“Good thing. His brother was messed up enough.” kaia sighed. “Micah was the one who gave London the pills.”
“I’m sure he feels awful” Aubrey sighed. “They’re moving to the mainland. Dante told me. His dad wants to get them away from the island and all the bad influences.” Grunting, she added “I guess moving is easier than getting a divorce I suppose.”
“Divorce” Kaia asked looking at her.
“Well the way Dante tells it Micah didn’t start taking drugs until they moved here after his dad married their step-mom.”
“Oh” she shrugged “sooner or later he’s going to have to adjust to the idea he has a new mom.”
“True but could you imagine how you’d feel if your dad just came home one day with a new wife” she asked “I’d be livid.”
“So would I” Kaia agreed. “Let’s get going. I don’t want to be home when my parents get there. I’ll never be able to leave.”
“Okay. I’ll meet you at the beach in an hour” Aubrey said waving goodbye.