Challenge: Love Means Saying You're Sorry
Month: February '05 7H7C
Characters: E/C, mild
Description: This challenge is to have one of the characters and/or partners causing a fight with the other one. It may lead to physical or emotional distress and the antagonist realizes the damage done too late and they realize that loving someone does mean saying you're sorry.
He could blame it on JD's shoes in the middle of the floor. He could blame it on Vin who was carrying the cup of coffee across the room. He could blame it on Buck, whose enthusiasm for his favorite team knew no bounds. But in the end, he blamed it on himself. On his own blindness and stupidity.
Buck had jumped up, letting loose a wild whoop and throwing his arms in the air as his team scored. Turning, he pounded the nearest body on the shoulder, which happened to be Vin. Who was carrying a fresh cup of coffee. Who then stumbled over the shoes JD had left in the middle of the floor just before he lost control of the coffee that ended up all over the already stained and worn couch in Chris' family room.
In the chaos that followed of blame, recrimination, apologies, and attempts to clean the fabric, Ezra got an idea.
Ezra sighed nervously as he glanced at his watch one more time. The Saturday leadership conference was scheduled to be over at three, which meant that Chris should be home at any minute.
Since moving in with Chris several months ago, Ezra had been very careful to blend in with Chris' surroundings. He moved no furniture, made no suggestions about arranging the house in any way. He had not even bought new towels to match the blue and tan wallpaper in 'his' bathroom, using the mismatched collection of towels Chris already had. The only thing he had added was a few mementoes to the 'guest' room that was reputedly his.
So this was a major step for him - a major step for their relationship. Ezra walked into the spacious, open family room one more time. The new couch and easy chair looked perfect in the room. Covered in rich brown leather, the furniture looked custom made for the ranch house.
Ezra heard the pickup pulling into the gravel drive out front. He greeted his lover enthusiastically at the door, pleasantly surprising the older man. Since Chris had first approached him Ezra had allowed the other man to lead the way in their relationship. Not that they had any clearly defined roles such as 'top' or 'bottom'; both men enjoyed all the pleasures the other could give them. However, Ezra seldom initiated the contact, still somewhat hesitant and unsure of his place in Chris' life, or his bed.
Taking the inevitable notebook and handouts from the conference, Ezra put them on the hall table and took Chris' hand. "Close your eyes and come with me," he commanded, a sly twinkle in his green eyes.
"Is this going to involve getting naked?" Chris asked hopefully.
"Maybe later," Ezra promised. "Now, close your eyes." He led the way through the front hall to the big family room in the back, the room everyone gathered in to watch TV and generally hang out in when at the ranch. He stepped behind Chris, positioning him so that he could get the full effect of the new furniture and said softly, "Open."
Chris opened his eyes and froze, staring, stunned, at the sight before him. Ezra stepped around him and turned his hopeful, eager gaze on his lover, smiling broadly. As he took in the stunned look and tense stance, the smile faded from his lips.
And then Chris spoke. Only five words, but they brought Ezra's world crashing down around him. "What happened to Sarah's couch?"
"Oh, god," Ezra groaned. "I'm sorry, Chris, I'm so sorry. I'll get it back." And he was gone.
Chris slammed the phone down angrily. Damn it, why wouldn't Ezra answer his phone? He had to know that it was Chris calling, trying desperately to apologize. Picking up the phone again, Chris dialed another number.
"Yo, my time your dime," the cheerful voice boomed over the line.
Chris had to smile in spite of his misery. "Buck, you know a pay phone now costs thirty-five cents, don't you?"
"Yeah, but that don't rhyme," Buck complained. "What's up, pard?"
Chris' silence said more than any words.
Buck's voice was now completely serious. "What's the matter, Chris?"
"I think I just really fucked up with Ezra, big time," Chris said. Carrying the cordless phone, he walked over and sat in the new easy chair, testing its comfort.
"What happened?" Buck asked.
"You remember last week when Vin spilled the coffee on the couch?" Chris started.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that, by the way," Buck said.
"Ezra bought a new couch," Chris stated.
"He did? Cool..." Buck's enthusiasm faded away in a flat, "Oh. Shit. What did you say?"
"I said the worst thing to him I could possibly say," Chris admitted. "'What happened to Sarah's couch?'"
"Oh, shit," Buck repeated. "Let me guess: Ez bolted."
"Buck, I swear, I didn't even blink and he was gone," Chris sighed. "Now he won't answer the phone."
"What can I do to help?" Buck asked.
"If you see him or hear from him, tell him to call me. Tell him I'm not mad." Chris paused. "And you know what's really bad? I like the new couch. Hell, I love the damn thing. It looks great in here."
Ezra hung up the phone at his condo. Making the calls he needed to make had been difficult because Chris kept trying to call him. Ezra would have to wait until the phone stopped ringing or ignore the beeping of 'call waiting'. Finally, the phone was quiet.
He had gotten the couch at a furniture outlet store, sold at less than half the price because of a small tear, less than one inch, in the leather on the back near the bottom. Of course, at the outlet all sales were final and he couldn't return the couch or get his money back. To make matters worse, the charity he had contacted to pick up the old couch and chair were only open on Saturdays until noon; he would have to wait until Monday to see if he could get them back.
He flung the notepad and pen he had been using across the room. "Damn!" he swore. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" He looked around the tasteful but sterile furnishings of his own home.
Since becoming a couple, Chris and Ezra had more or less moved in together. On the days that they could get out of work on time, they stayed at the ranch. But when work ran late or the drive out of town became too overwhelming, they stayed at Ezra's condo, which was much closer. For work purposes also, they maintained separate residences, at least on paper.
Looking at his 'home', Ezra had to admit that it was about as personable as a hotel. The few items that had any deep meaning to him had been transported out to the ranch, to 'his' room. What was left was as cold and impersonal as his life had been - until his transfer to the ATF. Now he had friends; real, true friends. And the most amazing lover. That is, he had had a lover. Now he wasn't sure what he had, if anything. And if he lost that lover, he had no doubt he would lose his friends as well.
Ezra stared into the darkening room for an eternity, and would have stayed that way until startled out of his dark introspection by a persistent knocking at his door. He was surprised to find Chris on the other side. Surprised because one, Chris had a key, and two, he had prepared himself to never see Chris again. Almost fearfully lifting his green eyes to meet hazel ones, he was again surprised to find love, regret, and longing in those eyes.
"Come home, Ezra," Chris said, almost whispering.
"I can't," Ezra almost moaned. "Not after..."
Chris stopped him with a raised hand. "Yes, you can. Come home. Come to the ranch with me. It will be all right, I promise."
Ezra sighed, not understanding how anything could ever be all right again. He must have hurt Chris so terribly, ripping away such a major piece of his memories with his well-intentioned actions.
Chris smiled; not the full out grin that Ezra loved so much, but a smaller, sadder smile. "Get your jacket and your phone and come on," he said gently.
What could Ezra do but comply? After today, he would do anything Chris asked just to try to atone for his colossal blunder. The ride to the ranch was made in silence. Ezra huddled miserably against the door of the truck. Chris drove with quiet concentration. He didn't seem angry, but Ezra was unable to read his true emotions so imagined the worst.
When they got to the ranch, Chris took Ezra's hand as if he was afraid the other man might run off again. Leading the way into the family room, he headed for the new couch that now had a Southwest patterned blanket thrown over the back.
Ezra balked. "Chris," he began, pulling back.
"Come on, Ezra," Chris answered, tugging his reluctant lover behind him.
Chris settled easily into the couch while Ezra perched stiffly beside him. "I want to show you something," Chris said, picking up a heavy picture album.
He opened the first page and began to talk.
"We took this picture when we first saw the house, before we ever bought it. Sarah fell in love with it immediately."
"Here we are with Sarah's family. Sarah had just found out she was pregnant. There' s Hank, whom you've met, and this is Sarah's mother."
Ezra stared silently as Chris turned the pages. He knew there was no photo album like this including him; no chronicle of his life anywhere.
Chris laughed. "There's Buck, sound asleep on the couch, with Adam asleep on his chest. Sarah was so afraid he'd fall off."
"Here's Adam jumping over the couch, pretending he's Batman. Tripped one time and landed flat on his head. Took seven stitches. I thought Sarah was going to have a heart attack."
Page after page; picture after picture. Most of them centered on the couch. Sarah and Adam reading a bedtime story. Chris and Sarah cuddled up together. Adam and a gaggle of small boys tussling, a sign in the background that said 'Happy Birthday Adam'. Each picture was like a stone weighing on Ezra's heart. What had he done? Dear god, what had he done?
Chris' voice faded away. His long-fingered hand hovered over the page, and then hesitantly he turned it. On the next page was a single picture. A grave; no, two graves, side by side. The gray granite headstone read simply, 'Sarah and Adam, beloved wife, mother, and son', followed by the dates. The following pages were empty. No more pictures.
Chris sighed and set the album aside. He put his arm around Ezra, pulling the tense man closer to him. "Ezra, I'm sorry," he said. "I was just shocked, that's all."
"No, Chris. I'm sorry. I didn't realize. I'll get them back for you, I promise," Ezra said, straining to speak through the lump in his throat.
"I don't want them back," Chris said, turning to look directly at his lover. "I like the new furniture. I love it, in fact. I love it almost as much as my new life, and you. Without you, I'd be stuck in the past, living memories instead of moving on and making new ones. The couch and the chair stay. And I hope you will, too."
"Are you sure?" Ezra asked, all his hopes and fears clearly visible in his eyes as he searched Chris for the truth.
"I'm sure," Chris vowed. "And I'm ready to make some new memories, right now, on this couch." And with that he pulled Ezra even closer, affirming his love with a deep, passionate kiss.
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