Sunday morning Sammie awoke before Tyler. As he lay in bed watching Tyler sleep, again he noticed the scars Tyler carried. The ones over his back looked like cigarette burns. The long scar on his abdomen Sammie guessed was a puncture wound from maybe a knife, but the initials carved into Tyler's skin were the ones Sammie found the most disturbing. Some one had branded him.
Sammie slid out of bed silently; deciding today would probably be awkward enough. He hadn't meant to use Tyler and really he hadn't. His feelings for the man were genuine; it’s just that well, Steve was still an issue for both of them, at least for now.
He was in the kitchen making coffee when he heard Tyler padding down the hall.
"Morning," Tyler said rubbing his eyes. And yawning.
Sammie set two cups down on the breakfast table and then sat down next to Tyler.
"How are you this morning?" Tyler asked. "Hung over?"
"Not too bad."
"I have fun last night."
"Yeah? I did too."
An awkward silence fell between them until finally Tyler started to giggle.
"What?" Sammie asked.
Tyler shook his head as his giggles turned into laughter.
"What?" Sammie asked again as he began chuckling himself.
"Us," Tyler answered.
"What about us?"
"Were are just so pathetic, that's all."
"Yeah, I suppose we are."
"Sammie, I know the score, it's okay. I know you like me, but I also know that you can't give yourself to me. We go back to being friends. What happened last night was wonderful, but it was just a one-time thing. At least for now."
Sammie nodded, "Our timing really sucks."
Tyler shrugged. "We have time."
Guilt stabbed Sammie's heart. "Yeah, the one thing Steve doesn't have."
Tyler's face turned red, he closed his eyes. "Oh, fuck Sammie, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"I know, it's okay"
Tuesday afternoon Sammie was at his desk when the phone rang. “This is Sammie.”
“Hey. They’re releasing me,” Steve said.
“I guess as soon as someone gets here to pick me up. Should I call Troy?” Troy had offered to help out since he worked from home.
“No, I’ll be there in half an hour,” Sammie said. He had already made arrangements with his boss to take the rest of the week off.
He hung up the phone and began gathering files he would need so he could work from home for the next few days.
“I’ll call you later and see how he’s getting along,” Tyler said as Sammie cleared off his desk.
“Yeah, or come by if you want.”
“Nah, I’m sure Steve will need to rest, but I’ll call.”
“Okay, see you Thursday then.” Sammie hated to admit it, but he wished he could figure out a way to spend some time with Tyler, but that train of thought only led to feelings of guilt. How could he think of wanting to fuck Tyler when Steve was dealing with cancer? ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
That evening Troy and Joel stopped by to welcome Steve back home. They brought along some of Joel’s famous homemade minestrone soup.
Steve had fallen asleep in the recliner shortly after they arrived so the three men sat at the dinning room table chatting over coffee.
“So when does Steve start radiation?” Joel asked.
“Um, Monday,” Sammie replied.
“What sort of schedule?”
“Every morning, five days a week for six weeks.”
“Wow, do they expect him to be pretty sick from it?” Troy spoke up.
“I don’t know, but they keep talking about fighting the cancer aggressively, so I expect he probably will be.”
“Why don’t you let me drive him to the appointments so you don’t have to take off work?” Troy offered.
“Are you sure, Troy? I hate to impose on you like that.”
“It’s no problem, really. I can bring my laptop along and work from there, then bring him back here and stay for a few hours to make sure he’s okay.”
“Oh, wow, thanks, Troy, that would really be a huge help. I’ve talked to my boss about working from home, but I need to spend as much time in the office as I can.”
“Well, you know Troy and I will help out in anyway we can,” Joel added. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Lisa and Terri came over on Wednesday evening, bringing chicken noodle soup. Tyler phoned a couple of times to ask how Steve was doing, but declined every invitation to come by.
Steve spent most of his time in bed as his doctor had ordered. He needed to regain as much strength as he could before he started the radiation.
That evening Steve was resting in the recliner, saying that he was sick of lying in bed doing nothing. “Where has Tyler been?”
“Home, I suppose. Why?”
Steve shrugged. “I thought he might stop by.”
Sammie didn’t answer.
“Why don’t you invite him for dinner one night this weekend?”
“I doubt he’d come.”
“Why? Have you been cross with him?”
“No, I haven’t been cross.”
“I thought you said you two were friends.”
”Then invite him over as a friend.”
Sammie furrowed his brow. “Why Steve?”
“I enjoy his company and I’d like to get to know him better.”
Sammie rolled his eyes, “Whatever.” The whole altruistic play was getting old, besides, Tyler didn’t to want to get involved with someone who was dealing with his ex dying of cancer.
On Thursday Sammie once again returned to work. Steve had regained enough strength to get around the apartment on his own. Although he was still weak, he no longer needed help getting in and out of bed. Sammie reluctantly agreed to go back to work with a promise from Steve to call and report in often.
“You look tired. Still not sleeping well?” Tyler asked over lunch.
Sammie shook his head.
“Some nights, other nights I just lay there and worry about him. He is up a lot at night too, so I suppose I don’t sleep as well because I am trying to listen for him in case he needs me.”
“You should ask Lisa or Joel to come over for a few hours so you can rest.”
Sammie frowned, stabbing at his salad with his fork. “I know, but I hate to impose. Besides, I may really need them once the radiation starts.”
“I could come by. Would Steve be okay with that?”
Sammie chuckled, thinking of he and Steve’s earlier conversation. “Oh, I think he’d be fine with that, but really, I’m okay.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“So did you invite Tyler over?” Steve asked when he called to check in that afternoon.
“What makes you think he would want to come eat dinner with us?”
“Fine. I’ll call and ask him myself.”
“Don’t you dare.”
“So, you ask him.”
After Sammie ended the call he walked over to Tyler’s desk. “Do you have a free evening this weekend?”
“Yeah, do you need some help with Steve?”
Sammie smiled, “No, he is insisting I invite you to the apartment for dinner.”
Tyler smiled, “Sure, I’d like that. Steve’s a nice guy, but are you sure he’s up to it?”
Sammie shrugged, “Doesn’t much matter. Once Steve gets something in his head you might as well just step out of the way.”
“Well then, in that case, what night should I be there?”
“Tomorrow? You can ride home with me after work, then I can give you a lift to your place later that evening.”
“It’s a date.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Friday after work Sammie and Tyler got into Sammie’s Jetta. “How did your meeting go earlier this week?” he asked, referring to Tyler’s mysterious Tuesday morning disappearances.
Tyler smiled, “You’re fishing again, and I’m not biting.”
Sammie chuckled. “I have to try every once in a while, you’d be disappointed it I didn’t.”
As Sammie pulled into the parking garage at the apartment building he glanced over at Tyler. “Are you nervous?”
“No, should I be?”
“I’ve meet Steve before, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“It’s no big deal.”
They entered the apartment and the smell of home cooking washed over them. “Hey,” Sammie said, following the smell into the kitchen. “I thought the deal was that I would cook when I got home.”
Steve shrugged. “I’m feeling pretty good today. I thought I could start things for you.”
Sammie rolled his eyes. “Out. Now. Go sit down. You’re supposed to be resting.”
“Care for some wine, Tyler?” Steve asked, ignoring Sammie’s admonishment.
“Sure,” Tyler said.
Sammie noticed how much Tyler had changed. How much more self-confident he had become. Gone was the skittish kid who looked like he would bolt if you got too close. Tyler now seemed to be more comfortable with himself and the world around him. Sammie privately hoped he helped make that happen in some small way.
Steve and Tyler sat at the breakfast nook while Sammie finished preparing the chicken and rice. Steve still had to be careful of what he ate, so Sammie had been trying new recipes to find meals Steve could tolerate.
“So Tyler, you moved here from Jefferson City. Is that where you grew up?” Steve asked.
“No, I was born and raised in West Plains.”
“Oh yeah? What was in Jeff City then?”
Sammie froze when he heard Steve’s question.
“It’s a long story.” Tyler tried to play it off.
“I really don’t like to talk about it,” Tyler finally said.
Steve nodded, “It’s not healthy to keep things bottled up.”
“Oh, Steve,” Sammie interrupted. “There you go, getting all into counselor mode. Tyler, forgive him for being so nosy.”
Tyler blushed. “It’s okay, you didn’t know,” he said to Steve.
“Steve, Tyler shares your love of old movies,” Sammie tried.
“Really? What’s your favorite?” Steve asked.
“Hmm, probably ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’ or maybe ‘Cleopatra’.”
Steve nodded, becoming more animated. “Oh yeah, I love both of those.”
“What’s yours?” Tyler asked.
The conversation went on with Steve and Tyler throwing out movie titles until Sammie announced dinner was ready and the three men adjourned to the dinning room. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Over dinner the interrogation continued. "Where in the city do you live?" Steve asked Tyler.
"Um, in Greenbrier Apartments over on Hillsdale."
"Oh yeah, I have some clients in that area, or rather I had."
"So, that's not a very good area. I would think you make enough money to live someplace better. Sammie, don’t you guys pay him?”
"Steve," Sammie admonished.
"Well, I'm just asking."
Tyler chuckled nervously, "I do, and I plan to move when my lease is up. I took the apartment before I found my job."
"You have a roommate?" Steve asked.
"Not really, more of an acquaintance. He's a nice enough guy, but he's straight and I don't think he'd be comfortable if he knew I was gay."
"So you’re in the closet at home?"
"And out at work. That’s kinda backwards, you realize."
Tyler laughed. "Yeah, but it's not a big deal."
"Man, I think it would suck. I mean you can't even bring a guy home. That has to be tough on your sex life."
Tyler glanced over at Sammie. "Yeah, well, it's not exactly someplace one would want to bring anyone."
"So how did you meet him, your roommate?"
"Um, I knew him from a support group type thing."
Steve nodded. "AA?"
"Steve, leave Tyler alone. You don't need to know every little detail.”
Steve frowned. "Sorry Tyler, I just want to talk about something besides my cancer for one evening. I really don't mean to pry."
"It's okay, I guess I need to get over myself, but I'm just not comfortable talking about my past."
"It's okay, but if you decide you need to unload, well, I am a licensed social worker. I'm sure I've heard worse."
"Thanks, Steve. I appreciate that." But he declined to say anything else. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
After dinner Steve retired to the living room while Tyler helped Sammie clean up.
"I hope all Steve's questions didn’t bother you too much," Sammie offered.
"Nah, he was okay. Maybe someday I won't be so ashamed about things."
Sammie frowned, "I can't imagine you doing anything to be ashamed of."
Tyler gave him an enigmatic smile. "Thanks."
After they had the dishwasher loaded and the leftovers put away, they went into the living room to rejoin Steve.
"You want more wine or some coffee?" Sammie asked.
Tyler looked over at Steve. "No, thanks, but you probably should take me home so Steve can get some rest."
"Oh, don't run off on my behalf."
“No, I really should be going, I have some chores to finish up.”
"Okay, I'll grab my jacket and we'll go," Sammie said.
"I'm really glad you came over Tyler. I hope you'll come back again. I mean that."
"Thanks Steve, I enjoyed it."
"So you'll come back?"
"Yeah, I'll come back."
"Good. And maybe you can get Sammie to go out with you somewhere. Get him out of the apartment and give me a break." Steve winked.
Tyler laughed but didn't reply.
Sammie walked over and kissed the top of Steve's head. "I'll be back home in a little bit. You should go to bed."
Steve nodded, "Yeah, I think I will. G'night both of you." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie and Tyler got back into the Jetta and made the trip across town. When Sammie pulled up in front of Tyler's apartment building he put the car in park and turned to Tyler. "I'm glad you came over too," Sammie said.
"I had a nice time. Steve is really a nice guy, I can see why you love him."
Sammie smiled. "I do, but it’s not like that any more. Should I be jealous?"
Tyler laughed. "No, silly," he paused, thinking, then added. "Maybe that's part of it. I mean, it’s easy to talk to him because I’m not so concerned with his opinions or what he thinks of me. I’m not seeking to earn his approval."
"Tyler, you don’t need my approval, but you already have it. You more than have it."
Tyler smiled. "Thanks, Sammie." He leaned over and kissed him.
Sammie pulled Tyler closer, deepening the kiss. When the kiss ended Tyler was the first to speak. "I’d better go inside."
Tyler opened the door.
“Thanks for being so nice to Steve. I know this has to be difficult for you.”
“Can we go out again sometime?”
Tyler nodded again, then added, "You scare me."
"Cause I like you."
"I like you too."
Tyler nodded. "I'll see you Monday," and he was out the car door.
"Monday," Sammie sighed as he pulled the car away from the curb and headed back home to Steve.
© Melina Catts 2005