Till the Morning Comes

When the darkness starts to lift a little, JC pulls the covers up over Justin’s shoulder and slips out of bed. Justin shifts and murmurs something JC can’t hear, his voice low and hoarse from all the talking. He wishes he could have given Justin better answers throughout the long night, but the questions weren’t really for him anyway. Anyway, sometimes, that’s not why Justin asks.

“I’ll try,” he whispers back, and Justin settles again and his breathing deepens.

Birds are chirping outside, even though it’s not day yet. JC leaves the radio off in the car and rolls down all the windows, lets the fresh air wake him up some on the drive across town.

The rooms in Chris’s house sound huge in the dark. JC wanders through, footsteps echoing across tile, fingertips whispering along door frames and over the edges of furniture. Chris isn’t there. Justin’ll probably be up when JC gets back, and JC imagines the look on his face and feels suddenly exhausted, all the nights without sleep coming to this. He wonders what to do next, and ends up with his face pressed against the cold etched glass of Chris’s patio door.

There’s a lump on a bench facing the vast space where the lake rests in daylight. JC’s throat tightens as something jagged and bright pushes up from his chest, but after a minute he’s able to slide the door open.

The lump flinches. “Can’t a person get any peace and quiet in their own damn home?” it rasps, as though it hasn’t spoken in some time.

It’s a good question, really. JC moves closer. The lump turns away, but it’s listening, JC thinks. “I don’t know, Chris,” he tells it. “I wish — I don’t think so.”

In the clearing air, JC can see Chris’s head drop forward, and his chest rise and fall. When he speaks, his voice is raw. “JC,” he says, and JC feels as though he’s been cracked open finally and all the brightness, leaking away. Maybe, JC thinks. At last.

“Are you almost done being mad?”

Chris takes another huge breath and shakes his head, a minute movement.

“Well — okay. Are you almost ready to come home?”

Chris stays silent for a long time, so JC slips onto the bench next to him, watches the world get lighter, watches the lake come back, and zones out a little, listening to the morning come to life. After a while, he realizes Chris is slumped against him, getting heavier.

“Come on,” he says, sliding a hand over the back of Chris’s neck. “Let’s go wake Justin up.”

Chris pushes into JC’s touch briefly. “Fucking nice for him,” he grumbles. He’s really trying, JC can tell. “Damn birds kept me up all night.”

He climbs off the bench and stretches, scrabbling his hands through his hair. JC wants to touch him again, but that can wait until they’re all home, together.

“Me, too,” he says, and Chris turns back and smiles.



May 2006