Title: Worth Keeping
Author: Dhvana
Crossover: Elizabethtown/Supernatural
Genre: Slash
Pairings: Drew/Dean
Rating: R (language, sex)
Spoilers: Elizabethtown
Summary: A stranger once saw Drew Baylor's pain and took it upon herself to help him through the most difficult time of his life. One night, Drew encounters a man in pain and decides to return the favor. This is how their story begins.
A/N: Those who know me know I have a deep abiding love for Orlando Bloom, and they know I will find a way to slash him and/or his characters with the men or characters I adore. I was watching multiple viewings of Elizabethtown when this idea struck, and then it grew, and grew, and grew, until three days and almost forty pages had passed and it was finished. I know it seems odd, but here it is. Enjoy!


I watch as he sits alone on the barstool, slowly twisting the neck of a beer between the thumb and the middle finger of his right hand. He rejects all offers of conversation or company from the pretty barflies with their perky breasts and their willing eyes. He ignores the sympathetic looks from the bartender, acknowledging his presence only when in need of a fresh beer or when the bowl of peanuts sitting in front of him grows empty. He refuses to look at himself in the mirror, flinching when he catches sight of his reflection and quickly lowering his eyes back down to the counter.

This is a man in trouble. Even more, this is a man in need of a friend. Though I don't know the cause, and possibly never will, I at least recognize the need. You have to experience that kind of absolute loneliness and despair in order to truly see it, and I have been there. A couple of years ago would have found me in his exact same place demonstrating his exact same aversion towards the outside world, but like him, I wasn't allowed to stay there. Someone reached out to me and pulled me out of my pain. It is only right that I return the favor.

Standing up, I walk across the bar and settle down on the stool next to him.

"Hey Drew."

"Jack," I say, nodding to the bartender.

"Can I get you anything?"

"Actually, do you have a pen I could borrow?"


He grabs a pen from behind the bar and I pick up a clean napkin. I write down my name and cell number, then hand the pen back. "Thanks, Jack."

"Any time. You about to head out?" he asks as I dig through my pockets and pull out a couple of bills to cover my tab, being sure to include a generous tip.

"Yeah. Need to get an early start tomorrow if I'm going to make it back to Kentucky in time."

"All right, then. Have a safe trip," he nods. "You come through here again, you be sure to stop by and say hello."

"You know I will," I smile.

Returning my smile, he pats the counter in front of me, then moves to the other end of the bar to help a customer.

"Here," I say, sliding the napkin over to the man. He looks up at me, surprise and annoyance in his face. I can see the wrong conclusion being reached in his eyes and I'm quick to reassure him. "This isn't a come-on. I'm not trying to get into your pants. You just look like you could use someone to talk to. I'd stick around and talk to you in person," I say as I stand up, "but I've been told I'm better on the phone."

He holds out the napkin, trying to hand it back to me. "I can't talk to you."

"Sure you can. I'm a complete stranger. If you can't talk to a complete stranger about your problems, who can you talk to?"

"You don't understand," he growls, thrusting the napkin at me. "I don't want to talk to you--not now, not ever. I don't know what kind of fucked up game you're trying to play, but me and my problems are none of your business."

"I never said they were," I smile, taking the napkin and setting it back down on the counter in front of him. "When you're ready. I'll even promise not to listen, if you think that will help."

I clap him on the back, then wave good-bye to Jack and head out the door. I can feel his eyes on me as I leave, confounded and frustrated and a little intrigued in spite of himself, and my smile broadens. I don't even have to turn around to see whether or not the napkin makes it into his pocket. I know that when he leaves the bar, it'll leave with him. He may not realize it yet, but he needs a voice, and when he reaches the breaking point, that's when he'll call.

Singin' don't worry...about a thing...'cause every little thing...gonna be alright...

I feel my phone ringing rather than hear it and answer. "Hello?"


"Hello?!" Pressing the phone hard against my right ear, I stick a finger in my left ear to try and block out the noise. "Hello, is anyone there?"

"Is this...is this Drew Baylor?"

"Yes," I say--practically shout--into the phone. "Who is this?"

"This is--" The words are blocked out by the buzzing of the bar and I shake my head.

"Wait, hold on. Let me go outside so I can hear you." I squeeze my way through the crowd, smiling my apologies for the stepped on toes or elbowed sides and emerge into the moist night air. Though the sun has set, it's in the upper eighties out and humid as all hell, but it still feels cooler than the inside the bar. "There, that's better," I say, taking a deep breath. "Now, who is this?"

"You don't know me."

"I don't? Then how'd you get this number?"

"You gave it to me."

"Then I must know you."

"No, you don't," he says, sounding defensive and, from the slurring of his words, a little bit drunk. "You gave me this number in a bar the other night and now I'm calling it, though I can't for the life of me figure out why. I thought you said you were better on the phone."

I grin at his accusation, shoving my hand in my pocket as I meander down the sidewalk. "Usually, I am. You caught me at a bad time."

"Where were you, a fight?"

"Not exactly," I chuckle. "My cousin's band is debuting at this bar tonight, and they've actually got a pretty good crowd, even if it is mostly family, but then, who else makes that much noise?"

"I don't know. A flock of migrating geese?"

"My family would scare the geese," I grin, waving as a passing car honks its horn.

"Hey, Drew, you're gonna miss the show!" one of Jessie's friends yells out the open window.

"Don't worry! I'll be there!" I shout, and the man in the passenger seat waves back as the car drives on by.

"I called at a bad time," the voice at the other end of the line says. "I should let you go."

"How much time have you got before your phone dies?"

There's silence at the other end as he checks his battery. "A few hours, I guess."

"Then if push comes to shove, you can come to the show with me."

"I don't know where you are, but I'm guessing you're not real close by."

"It's music. You don't have to be here to enjoy the show. You just have to listen."

"I thought that was your job."

I lean against one of the trees lining the sidewalk and look up through the leaves at the stars beyond. "So it is," I say, watching the twinkling of the little white lights. "Go ahead, you've got my full attention. What've you got to say?"

I can practically hear him squirming on the other side. Not a big talker, but then, I'd already guessed that after watching him at the bar.

"Take your time. By your estimate, we've got a couple hours."

"That's really annoying, you know."

"What is?"

"The way you keep assuming I want to talk to you."

I grin. "Well, of course you want to talk to me. Why else would you have called?"

"I...you..." he stumbles, and then growls, "Shut up."

"Maybe I should do the talking," I chuckle.

"Yeah, whatever."

"I don't suppose you'd want to tell me your name so I can at least know who I'm speaking to."

He hesitates a moment before answering--clearly a man who values his privacy, or who needs a moment to think up a fake name. "It's Dean."

"Nice to meet you, Dean." Fake or not, I'm going to use it. "Where are you right now?"


"Yep, that's nowhere near Louisville. Too bad. You looked like a southern rock kind of man."

"I've got nothing against it."

"You'll have to hear my cousin's band sometime. They do a kick-ass version of 'Freebird'."

"Doesn't everyone?" he asks, sounding a little more comfortable, and I laugh.

"Everyone tries. Not everyone succeeds. My cousin brought down the house the last time he played it for an audience. Admittedly, it was partially due to a technical error that set the place on fire, but still, it was the most memorable rendition of 'Freebird' I've ever heard."

"He set the building on fire?"

"His intentions were good. His presentation just needed a bit of work, and the lights needed to be just a few more feet away from the bird."

Though he tried to hide it, I could hear Dean's good-natured chortle through the phone. "He had an actual bird?"

"It was supposed to come swooping down during the song, which it did, but with flames and smoke flying behind it. His bird became a phoenix that spread its ashes across an entire ballroom. I've gotta say, it made for one helluva memorial service."

"He set fire to a bird while playing Lynyrd Skynyrd at a funeral? What kind of family is this?"

"One that really knows how to throw a funeral."

"Sounds like it. Hope no one else died."

"No, just my dad, but it was his funeral, so I don't think he minded too much. In fact, if he'd lived to see it, I sure he would have loved it."

"I'm sorry about your dad."

"So am I. But, we carry on."

"Do you?"

I shrug. "I admit, there are moments when I miss him so much I feel like my insides are being squeezed in a vice, but that's part of what makes it good. It lets me know he's still with me. So long as I miss him, I haven't lost him."

"What if you do lose him?" Dean asks softly. "What do you do then?"

Now we're getting to the heart of the matter, I think and settle down on a nearby bench. Jessie will just have to forgive me if I skip a song or two. "Who don't you want to lose, Dean?"

He doesn't answer immediately--it's going to be like pulling teeth and nails with this one. "My brother, Sam. I'm...I'm worried about him."

"Is he okay?"

"I don't know."

"Is he sick?"

"I don't know!" His voice is sharp, filled with frustration. "That's the problem. I don't know! Goddamnit!" he swears, and I hear the sound of a fist hitting a wall. "Do you always do this? Are you some kind of nutcase who seeks out people and feeds off their pain? What kind of jerk are you?"

"Exactly that kind of jerk," I say, not at all taking offense at his anger. He needs to lash out, to release some of his pain--it's why I gave him my number. Sometimes you just need to let go. "You see, someone came to me in my darkest moment and helped me through it. I'm just returning the favor by offering to help you."

"And what fucking business is it of yours?"

"It isn't," I say simply. "But you did call me."

"So? What makes you qualified to talk about my pain? You're there surrounded by your family and people who love you. I'll bet you make friends at the drop of a hat. You're so damn positive, I wish I could reach through the phone and punch you. How dark could your darkest moment be?"

"You want to know the truth? All of that came later while I was making my way out of the darkness. While I was still in the darkness, I was planning on killing myself. In fact, on the night I'd designated to be my last, if my phone had rung one minute later, you'd be talking to a dead man. Though," I say, tilting my head thoughtfully, "if I had succeeded, I guess you wouldn't be talking to me at all."

He snorts. "Don't be too sure of that."

"You talk to the dead now?"

"Occasionally. Usually right before I send a spray of rock salt through them."

I arch an eyebrow. "Huh." Okay, he's definitely got me beat. I haven't a clue what to say to that, but I said I'd let him talk, so I'm going to let him talk, no matter how little sense he makes. "Your brother--Sam, right?"


"Tell me about him."

He sighs and shifts the phone from one ear to the other. "What do you want to know?"

"I'll listen to anything you want to say."

"Which ain't a whole lot."

"Then tell me the little things. What's he like?"

"He's my brother. Younger. Taller. Smarter. He's far too optimistic for the real world, always hoping, always believing the answers are out there, somewhere. He has faith, something I lack, but then, I'm a realist."

"A pessimist," I interject.

"I just know better. Sam's my responsibility. My life. For his sake, I can't afford to be anything else. And what's happening to him now...there's not a goddamn thing I can do to help him." He takes a deep breath, and I wait. "You know, I don't want to talk about this."

"That's fine. It's your dime--we can talk about anything you want."

"Your cousin's band," he says, changing the subject in the most obvious fashion, "when do they start?"

I check my watch. "Right about now would be my guess."

"You shouldn't miss the show."

"You wanna come along?"

"Yeah," he says grudgingly, looking for any excuse not to talk to me would be my guess.

"Really, I don't want to force you into anything," I tease, and he snaps back, "Just take me to the damn show."

Chuckling, I walk back down the street, the noise from the bar growing louder as we draw closer. By the time we get there, the band is already in full swing with folks spilling out the door onto the sidewalk.

"Drew, get your ass in here! Everyone, make some room for Drew!"

"They must really love you," says Dean's voice in my ear.

"If you were here, you'd see I'm handing out ten dollar bills just to get them to say all this shit."

His chuckle is the last thing I hear before I squeeze into the bar, edging my way towards the front. My cousin's newest band, Commotion, has already hit the stage and is playing up a storm. I hold up the phone so Dean can hear, though they're so loud, it probably isn't necessary. Jessie catches my eye and winks. He probably thinks it's Claire on the line. I haven't had the heart to tell them yet that we've broken up and that we've been broken up for a couple months now. I shouldn't be so worried, especially after the way the family stuck by me during the whole shoe fiasco, but they really love Claire. Claire loves them. It's just one big love-fest, so of course I feel incredibly guilty about breaking them apart.

Sometimes I think the only reason my family continued to support me was because they love Claire so much--ridiculous, I know, but she really brought a lot of heart and life to the family, and to me, during a time when we needed her most. I think the break-up will be harder on them than it was on me. We're still friends, and who knows, maybe one day we'll get back together, but for now, she's like my spine. I don't ever see her, but I know she's there, supporting me whenever I need her. We just won't be seeing each other on a regular basis anymore.

Still, she's the reason I'm holding up a phone in the middle of a bar so a complete stranger can listen to my cousin's band perform a truly horrendous cover of 'Ramblin' Man'.

"Don't worry," I yell into the phone. "Their original stuff is a lot better."

If he answers, I don't hear him, but the phone stays on, so I take it as a good sign. And, as promised, the music does improve from there. Jessie can sing and play drums, but their lead guitarist can write music like he sold his soul to the devil, and this time, they don't need a phoenix to bring the house down. By the end of the set, everyone is on their feet, yelling and screaming and clapping their hearts out, myself included. I have to stick Dean in my pocket for a minute to make sure I don't lose him until the crowd settles down. When the bar finally starts to clear out, I place the phone to my ear.

"Hey, you still there?"

"In spite of the tragic beginning--and you have to make them promise never to play that song again, you were right--your cousin's band kicks ass."

I grin. He sounds a lot better than he did--almost sober and like half the weight's been lifted from his shoulders, but then, music has a way of doing that. "I told you so."

"Seriously, that was the best two hours I've spent in I don't know how long. Thanks, man."

"No problem. Hang on a sec," I say, taking a moment to give my cousin a hug. "Great show, Jessie. Really fucking amazing."

"Thanks, cuz. Glad you could make it--thought you were going to miss us for a second there."

"Sorry about that, got caught up on the phone."

"Claire?" he asks, looking towards my cell, and I shake my head.

"A different friend. Dean. He loved the show."

"Oh yeah? Thanks, Dean! Rock and roll!" he yells at the phone, then turns back to me. "I've gotta run. Samson's probably terrorizing the baby-sitter by now and I need to get home before she quits. You gonna be much longer?"

"Nah. I'm right behind you. You need me to take anything?"

"Thanks, I'm good. I'll see you back home." Balancing his gear precariously in his arms, he heads out the door towards his car. I make sure he doesn't knock anyone over along the way, then put the phone back to my ear.


"You're killing my minutes here, man," he says, and I chuckle.

"I know. My fault entirely, but I'm heading out the door now, so there should be no more distractions."

"Who's Samson?"

"My cousin's son. He's a little hellion, but he's gotten a lot better since I first met him. He still has his moments, but he's a kid. It's to be expected."

"You and your family sound really close."

"We are. We didn't always used to be, but strangely enough, it was my father's death that brought us closer together."

"That doesn't surprise me," he says, a little sad. "Tragedy has a way of fixing people, when it's not breaking them into pieces."

"You really believe that?"

I can hear his shrug. "Sometimes. I know I hold tragedy responsible for all the shit that's happened in my life, but I can think of one or two things I can thank it for that I wouldn't want to live without."

"Your brother?" I ask as I slide behind the wheel of my car, but I wait to turn it on.

"I don't know about that, not yet. I have to see what happens next."

"Where is he now?"

"Asleep," he answers, stretching. "Has been for a couple hours."

"You should probably get some rest yourself."

"Are you hinting that you want me to hang up?" he asks jokingly, and I laugh.

"Am I that obvious?"

"If I hadn't been hiding my yawns from you for the past five minutes, I might say yes, but really, I need to get some sleep."

"Then go, sleep. Recharge your batteries."

"Mine personally, or the phone's?"

"Both," I grin.

"Yeah, I think I'll do that."

Our impending good-bye lapses into an awkward silence, one I'm going to make him break even though I desperately want to tell him to call me again, and soon, but I don't want to push him. I want him to feel comfortable calling me.

"Hey, Drew?"

That's all the opening I need. "Call me any time," I smile, and he sighs his relief.

"Night Drew."

"Good night, Dean."


Strange how 'any time' can work out to mean, literally, any time, and for anything, but in our case, that's exactly what happens.

"Four letter word for 'check out a centerfold'."


"Huh," he says, water slapping against the side of the bathtub as he writes the word into the puzzle. "I should have known that."

Smiling, I lift the brush and draw it across the canvas, leaving a streak of bright yellow against the blue background. We've been working on the crossword for the past half hour, Dean asking me for clues while I paint. It isn't quite the phone call I was expecting, but I have to say, it's giving me some interesting insight into the way his mind works.

"'Morning wetness'?" He snorts. "What I'm thinking of takes more than three letters."

"Get your mind out of the gutter," I laugh. "The word you're looking for is 'dew', d-e-w."

"Oh yeah, that works." More splashing. "Okay, three letter word for 'put in one's blank', meaning 'meddle'. You know, I think that's the dirtiest clue I've ever seen."

"It's 'oar', you perv. O-a-r. Admit it, you're deliberately looking through the puzzle for the most suggestive clues you can find."

"Well, yeah," he says, and I can hear the grin in his voice. "Isn't that the point of these things?"

I roll my eyes. "I always thought it was to challenge your mind, but what do I know?"

"'Challenge your mind'? That just takes the fun right out of it."

"It certainly does for you," I chuckle. The sound of running water appears in the background. "You know, I never would have pictured you as a bath person."

"Took a bit of a beating today. My body could use the soaking. 'Grass skirt accessory'. Figures," he grumbles. "'Coconut bra' is too long."

And thus ends our foray into the details of his life. I sigh. "How many letters?"



"In that case, the clue should be, 'I could use a good blank'."

"You and me both," I mutter.

"Which leads us to our next clue, 'seed holder'."

"Remind me never to do another crossword puzzle with you."

"Yeah, whatever. Three letters, cough it up."


"Very good."

"Thank you," I say and continue painting.

"Do you believe in an afterlife?"

"I don't know," I shrug as I flip through the pages of The New Yorker.

"You almost killed yourself, and you never gave it any thought?"

"I wasn't really concerned with what was going to happen next. I just wanted to escape from now." I pause, letting the magazine rest on my lap. "Do you believe in an afterlife?"

"I believe there are some lives that stick around here a little longer than they should, but anything beyond that? I don't know."

I frown. "Dean, why are you asking? Is everything all right?"

"What? Oh, yeah, everything's fine. Just something that happened at work today made me wonder. So, any news from your cousin? How's the band doing?"

And again he bypasses any serious conversation, but I'm starting to get used to it. These days, it's just nice to hear his voice on the other end of the phone.

Singin' don't worry...about a thing...'cause every little thing...gonna be alright...

Groaning, I look at the glaring red numbers of the clock by the side of the bed. The digital lines swim before my eyes until I'm able to focus and let them settle into their rightful places.

Three-thirty. 'In the morning' is implied by the near-total darkness, my grogginess, and my irritation at being woken up from a deep sleep.

Bob Marley continues singing through my phone and I feel around for my jeans on the floor, dragging them over to the bed until I can reach into the pocket.

Lying back on the bed, I yawn and open it up, holding it to my ear. "'lo?"

"Drew, is that you?"

"Dean," I say, quickly waking up. "How are you? I haven't heard from you in a while."

"Three weeks."

"Yeah, that sounds right. What's up?"

"Where are you?"

"San Francisco. Where are you?"

"Fuck," he grumbles. "I'm in Ohio."

That's the sixth state he's been in since we've first started talking. One day, he'll actually explain to me what it is he does and I'll stop expecting him to be in the same place every week. "You certainly get around."

"You're not exactly cemented to one place yourself."

"I'm just here for the weekend. Savannah's home," I say, offering a bit of information about myself to get the ball rolling. After all, with the exception of these past three weeks, we've been talking at least twice a week for a few months now. He should know something about me, if for no other reason than to make me feel less like a therapist and more like a friend.

"Savannah, Georgia?"

"That's the one. I teach at the College of Art and Design."

"You're an artist," he says, surprised.

"I can be."

"What are you when you're not an artist?"

"A disaster."

"I hear that."

Something in his voice catches my attention, an underlying note of self-loathing that sets me to worrying. "Dean, is everything okay? Just say the word, and I can fly out there tomorrow if you need me to."

"You'd do that?"

"Well, yeah. What're friends for?"

"We're not friends, Drew. We barely know each other. Fuck, I don't even know why I keep calling."

"Dean, do you need me to fly to Ohio?" I ask calmly, steadily, not the least put off by his attempt to get rid of me.

He sighs. "No. We're leaving tomorrow anyway."

"So what's wrong?"

"Nothing, not really. Nothing out of the ordinary. I just...I guess I just needed to hear your voice."

I can't help it--I smile, and not just any smile, but one of those smiles that makes my cheeks hurt and chills my teeth in the over-air-conditioned hotel room. But I can't let him know how happy he's made me. For all I know, he just needs to hear a friendly voice, and mine is simply the most convenient.

"Say something, Drew."

I blink, wondering how long I've been lying there grinning like an idiot and not saying anything.

"What would you like to hear?"

"I don't know. Anything."

"I've missed you." I don't even realize what I've said until the words reach my ears. Holding the phone towards the ceiling, I grab a pillow and use it to cover my face as I yell "FUCK!" into the pillowcase. I really hadn't meant for that to come out.

"Drew? Drew! DREW!"

"What? Yeah. I'm here."

"I was beginning to wonder."

"I just had a momentary breakdown, that's all."

"Drew, it's all right," he chuckles. "I've missed you, too."

"You have?"

"You know, you can call me every once in a while."

"You wouldn't mind?"

"If I did, I would say so."

The answer sounds a bit confrontational, but at this moment, I'll accept anything. "Good. Can I call you tomorrow after the sun's risen?"

"I'll be on the road."

"With your brother."


I'm guessing he hasn't let his brother know about our cellular friendship yet, so if I do call, he won't answer.

"I'll call you anyway and leave a message on your voicemail."

"Okay. Voicemail," he says, sounding relieved. "I can do voicemail."

"Good to know. Can I go back to sleep now?"

"I guess so," he smiles. I like it when he smiles. I just wish I knew what his smile looked like. "Voicemail."

"As soon as I wake up, I promise. Good night, Dean."

"Good night, Drew."

And that's the last time we speak outside of our voicemail for the next three days. If I'd known that would happen, I might have stayed on the line a little longer.


"Hey, it's me, as promised. I don't know where you are, but I'm standing in front of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I'm here because I've got two pieces on display at their temporary exhibit on young visionaries. Does that make me a young visionary? I doubt it, but when the curator called asking me to be part of the exhibit, I wasn't about to say no. I've got enough of an ego left that I screamed 'YES!' and then jumped up and down until knocking the plaster loose from the ceiling of the apartment below me.

"They had a reception last night to introduce all of the artists to the museum's patrons. The lights were bright, everyone was dressed to the nines, the champagne was free and flowing, and even though I'd left that world behind a long time ago, I felt like I belonged. It was a wonderful feeling, as if I'd been resurrected from my fiasco.

"But now, shivering in front of the museum in my jeans and sweatshirt, sober and with only the gray sky above me, I have to wonder what the hell I'm doing here. It's like this phone and you are my only connection back to my real life and everything else was just a dream.

"I think I'm going to go home now. Call me when you can. I'll call you when I get back to Savannah."


"Since you're not answering, I'm guessing you're on a plane right now. I hate planes--give me a car any day. Sam and I are on our way to Arkansas. Well, at this very second, I'm getting myself a cup of coffee, but then we'll be on our way. Christ, I needed this. I've felt like a zombie the whole damn morning. After we got off the phone, Sam was up half the night, so of course I was up with him. I'll be glad when we get things settled so we can both finally get a decent night's sleep.

"About your exhibit, I hope you stopped to see it again one last time before leaving San Francisco. I don't know anything about your art, or much about art in general, but that sounded like a pretty big deal to me. Speaking as someone who will never accomplish anything that can be publicly recognized, I have to say I think it would be a shame not to appreciate something like that. If we make it over to the San Francisco area any time soon, I'm going to make a point of stopping in and seeing the exhibit, if for no other reason than to see the look on Sam's face when I tell him I want to go to a museum. I hope it's near a hospital. He may need a doctor to resuscitate him.

"Give me a call when you land. Leave a message if I don't answer."


"This voice mail thing is a real bitch. I want to talk to you, Dean, not your damn phone."

A moment's silence.

"I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. You see, I'm a little drunk, but I've got a reason. Did I tell you my old boss was at the reception? He was. He had to come. I cost him and his company one billion dollars, and then I put the fiasco that lost him this fortune on display at the MOMA for all the world to see. He stood there, looking at my fiasco while wearing his big shark grin and he pretended nothing had happened, clapping me on the back like we were old friends, but I could see it in his eyes--the resentment, the anger, the disappointment. He's never forgiven me, and when I saw him again, I forgot I'd forgiven myself. Staring at the reflection of myself in his eyes, I didn't see me. I only saw my failure.

"She's told me that I wallow too much, and I do, I know I do. I thought I'd broken myself of the habit, but I guess they're right--old habits die hard. She's told me that I should move on, that I'm no longer that person, and I know she's right. I know I'm not, but I know I could be. One little step in the wrong direction, and I'm afraid I'll turn into a failure all over again.

"Does a person ever get over that kind of fear, or do they just learn to live with it?

"I'm sorry about all this. I'm going to hang up now. Next message, I'll try to be myself again, I promise."


"Drew, it's Dean. Call me. Now.

"Christ, I don't want to have to worry about you, too.

"I don't need this shit, not now. This is exactly why I don't get involved with other people. But you got me involved, so you'd better call me, or I will hunt you down and kick your ass. Do you hear me, Drew? I'll be waiting. Don't make me wait long."


Singin' don't worry...about a thing...'cause every little thing...gonna be alright...

"Hey," I say softly, holding the phone up to my ear.

"Hey yourself. Why the fuck haven't you called me?"

I was embarrassed. "I was working."


"On a piece. Convincing myself I'm still an artist."

"Oh yeah? So what's the verdict?"

"There's hope."

"I'm sure there is. Drew, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," I say staring at the finished canvas. "Better now. Really. I've got it all out of my system."

"Good, because I was starting to worry about you, and I don't have the time or energy to be worrying about anyone else."

"Well, you don't have to. I'm all right."

"Okay." We're quiet for a moment, letting the dust settle between us, and then he takes a deep breath. "So, what've you been up to?"

And we've moved on. For once, I'm relieved. My breakdown on voicemail is the last thing I want to discuss. I'm supposed to be the one helping him, not the other way around, and I don't want him to think I'm weak, or I'm afraid he'll stop calling. I'll just try to be the man he met from now on, and keep my insecurities for Claire. She's at least used to them, and this way, he won't ever think any less of me.

I don't really know why that's so important. It just is.

"I've been up to the usual--teaching, painting. You?"

"The usual."

I smile. "Dean, I don't know what that is."

"Yeah, well, you don't want to."

"Yes, I do."

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Dean, I used to design shoes. Can it get much more unbelievable than that?"

He starts to laugh. "You designed shoes?"

"Shut up," I grumble as I place a new canvas on the easel.

"I'm sorry, I just...that's a real job?"

"Yes, and it was a good job while it lasted, but it's over now, so let's move back to you. What do you do, Dean?"

"You really want to know?"

"I do."

"All right. I hunt things."

"'Things'?" I ask, lifting the charcoal to the canvas and begin to sketch out a shape. "Can you be a little more specific?"

"Dangerous things, and that's as specific as I'm going to get."

I arch an eyebrow, but I know enough about him to know how stubborn he can be. "Okay. I guess that'll have to do. How's your brother?"

"Why?" he snaps, and I sigh. There are days when he acts like I'm trying to attack him, and I just don't get it. I'm not trying to hurt him, but the slightest subject can make him so defensive, I'm half afraid to say anything at all.

"I only asked because whenever we talk, you're worried about him. From the way you just snapped at me, I'm going to assume things are the same."

"Sorry," he mutters.

"It's okay," I say, trying not to sound hurt. "None of my business."

"Yes, it is. Well, I mean, it isn't, but...I trust you. I know you mean well."

"You sure about that?" I ask, purposefully steering the conversation in a lighter direction. "Because for all you know, I may be thinking up an evil plan to get you under my control."

"You don't need an evil plan to do that."

The charcoal freezes on the canvas. "What?"

"Nothing. Never mind. Sam's fine, I guess. I don't know."

"Did you have a fight?"

"No, nothing like that. It's just...he gets these...headaches, and they've been getting worse lately."

"Have you taken him to a doctor?"

"There's nothing they can do."

Oh, shit. Headaches that can't be cured? His brother probably has cancer. No wonder he's worried about him all the time. Losing all inspiration, I set the charcoal down and walk over to the fridge. "Dean, I'm sorry."

"It's all right. I mean, it's not life threatening or anything, at least, I don't think so. I just...I hate not being able to help him. He's my little brother. I'm supposed to protect him, but I can't save him from what's inside his head. It's so goddamn frustrating!"

Opening a beer, I carry it to the window and climb outside onto the fire escape. "If there's nothing you or a doctor can do," I say, sitting on the metal grate, "then you're doing everything you can just by being there for him."

"But it isn't enough!"

"It is to him. Trust me, he knows you love him and that you're doing everything you can."

"Am I? What if there's something I'm missing, something I haven't tried because I'm afraid of what I'll find? What then? What kind of person does that make me?"

"Dean, you're a good brother. I honestly believe you're doing everything you can to help him, and I'm sure he thinks so, too."

I give him a few minutes to think about it and take a drink, breathing in the sweet Savannah air. It's a beautiful night. The sky is filled with an orange glow from the city lights and the scent of gardenia from the bushes below me is dizzying. The lights, the night, the flowers, the sound of him breathing on the other end, heavy and harsh in my ear, combine to form the perfect seduction. For a split second, my mind travels off the fire escape to an inappropriate place. I can't even remember what he looks like, but the sound of his breathing is enough for me to picture him moving above me, a dark shape against the pale white of the ceiling.

Fuck. This is what happens when I've been celibate for weeks--the slightest thing will turn me on. I need to get off the phone, fast, before he can even begin to suspect where my mind has taken me, but I can't leave him if he still needs me.

"Dean? You still with me?"


"You okay?" He grunts an answer that could be interpreted as either a yes or a no. I'm going to take it as a yes. "Okay, 'cause if you're sure, I'm going to go now."

"Big date?"

With either my hand or a cold shower--I haven't decided yet. "Yes. That's it exactly."


I chuckle. "I know."

"Drew, who's 'she'?"

I blink. "She?"

"When you left that drunken message on my phone the other night, you kept talking about a 'she'. Who is she?"

She. I frown, trying to remember the message. "You mean Claire?"

"I don't know who I mean," he says impatiently. "That's why I'm asking you."

"Then you must mean Claire," I say, finishing off the beer. "She's the only 'she' I listen to."


"Not anymore. Just a really good friend."

"Even though she's an ex?"

"Claire and I were always better friends. It just made sense for us to stay that way."

"I'm impressed."

"Well, she does have the right to slap me upside the head every time she feels like it."

He chuckles approvingly. "Now that makes sense."

"Why did you want to know about Claire?"


I smile as I repeat, "Why did you want to know about Claire?"

"Just curious. Wanted to see if there was anyone else you were calling."

"I don't call anyone the way I call you, Dean," I tease.

"You'd better not," he growls in a mock-threatening voice, and I laugh.

"You going to be okay?"

"You still trying to hang up on me?"

After his bout of jealousy? Absolutely. I can't remember the last time I was this hard. "I just really need to go."

"You wanna fuck?"

The phone slips from my hand and clatters onto the grate. I snatch it back up before I can decide I'm imagining things. "What was that?"

"I'm bored, I'm horny, and your voice turns me on."

"It does?"

"Yeah," he says huskily, "it does."

"Let me just get off the fire escape," I say, scrambling back inside the apartment.

"No public nudity for you?"

"Not when I'm alone."

He chuckles. "I knew there was a reason I liked you."

"Where's Sam?"

"Picking up dinner. I sent him to find steak. Well done. He'll be a while."

"Where are you?"

"Lying on the bed with my cock in my hand."

Christ. I stumble over my shoes and use the momentum to fall into my bed. "You started without me," I say as I crawl across the mattress.

"I wasn't sure if you'd want to join me. I had to take advantage of your voice while I could. Where are you?"

"I'm in bed tangled up in my clothes. It's apparently difficult to get all of your clothes off at once when you've only got one hand free."

"Did you say you're tangled up?"


"And your movements are restricted, almost as if you're tied up?"

My body turns instantly still, my head half in, half out of my shirt. One arm holds up the phone, the second is raised somewhere in the air above me, and I'm afraid to move either one. "Yes."

"Can you touch yourself?"

"No," I breathe. The summer air suddenly feels cold across the bare skin of my stomach and I shiver at its touch. My cock aches within my jeans and I long to stroke it, but I can't move. His voice alone would be enough to hold me captive.

"Tell me."

I close my eyes. We're really going to do this. I'm really going to do this, and the strange thing is, it doesn't feel strange at all.

Taking a deep breath, I begin.

"My arms are trapped above my head. My stomach and chest are uncovered, exposed. My skin is pebbled in goosebumps with anticipation. I ache--more than ache. I'm in pain. The smallest touch, the slightest movement, and I know I'll come."

"Yes," he hisses and I can hear the quick slap of hand on flesh. "More."

"My legs are spread apart, my knees in the air as I try to push against my jeans and feel anything, but it isn't enough. I need something hard, something quick, something ruthless--fingers, a palm, your tongue."

"Tell me what you want from me, Drew. Tell me what you want me to do to you."

What I want what I want--oh god, it hurts.

"I want you to be rough," I gasp. "I need you to bend me in half and lick me from ass to balls to the tip of my cock. I need you to push inside of me, without mercy, without any intention beyond combining pressure and heat and friction until we both come."

"Are you coming, Drew?"

"Just about," I say, freeing my hand and thrusting it down the front of my jeans. I'm nearly in tears as I finally get some relief.

"Come with me, Drew. Feel me moving inside of you and just let it all out."

"Fuck, Dean! Now!" I gasp and spill all over my hand, his own choking breaths telling me he's found the same release. We lie there quietly for several moments, our only company our heavy breathing. It's soothing, the sound of him in my ear. I could fall asleep listening to him breathe.

But apparently I'm the only one.

"Drew, was that normal?" he asks, breaking the peace.

I smile. "It sounded normal to me."

"Well, yes, that was normal, but what's going on between us...is it normal?"

Shit, I silently curse. If I can't convince him this wasn't a mistake, I might not hear from him again.

"Dean, I was a complete stranger who shoved my phone number at you in a bar," I say as I finish undressing. "We haven't seen each other face to face since, just spoken on the phone. Half of what we've said to each other has been through voicemail. And now we just had phone sex. None of this has been normal, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong about it."

"I've been jacking off to your voicemails."

I blink at the suddenness of his confession. "You have?"

"It doesn't even matter what you're saying. It's just the sound of our voice, that's all I need."

I smile. Maybe I won't be losing him after all. "I do the same thing."

"You do?"

"Yeah. Probably more than is healthy, really."

He chuckles. "If I had the time and the privacy, I'd be right there with you. Fuck, Drew," he sighs. "We can never meet, can we?"

"We can't?"


I sigh. I know where he's going with this. I just wish he wouldn't. "Because it'll ruin everything."


"Because it'll change everything."


"Because after we meet, the phone will never be able to substitute for the real thing again."

"Yes," he whispers, and I long to bury my face in my pillow.

"I know."

"And you're okay with that?"

"If that's the way you feel, I'm not going to argue with you."


"Dean, I--"

"No, it's all right. I understand."

"Hey, listen," I begin, desperately needing to talk about something else--anything else, before I just blurt out everything I want to say, "are you still in Arkansas?"

"Yeah, why?" he asks, confused.

"My cousin Jessie, you remember him?"

"The one with the band?"

"That's him. He and his band are playing in Little Rock two nights from now. You and Sam should go."

"We could do that," he says thoughtfully. "Little Rock's only an hour from here."

"I'll have Jessie put you on the list."

"Thanks. That'll be good for Sam, a nice break from the routine."

"Great," I yawn, pulling the crisp sheet over my body, capturing the last of the warmth from our mutual pleasure. "We don't have much family in Arkansas, and I don't want there to be an empty seat in the joint."

"You're a good cousin."

"I have my moments."

"You're falling asleep on me, aren't you?"

"Post-coital bliss."

"You want me to hang up?"

"No. I want you to talk to me while I fall asleep."

"What do you want me to say?"

"Something. Anything. Make it up. I just want to know you're there."

"Okay. I'll tell you the story my mom used to tell me when I was a kid."

"That sounds nice."

"It's the only story I remember. Are you ready?"


"Once upon a time there were two little boys--two brothers--who lived in a tree house in the middle of a field..."

Though he continues the story until the end, I don't hear anything after those first few sentences. The rise and fall of his voice lulls me to sleep, distracting me from my own disappointment and despair. I should have known I was falling for him. I should have prepared for the possibility and found a way to stop it, but now it's too late and I don't know what to do. If I only knew how he felt, but that's never going to happen. He's just a voice in my ear and I'm simply a way for him to find some release.


This is a bad idea, I know it's a bad idea, but it's too late now. I'm already here.

Standing across the street, I stare at the bar where my cousin is playing. It looks like I didn't have to worry about there being any empty seats--the place is packed. I don't think I could have gotten in if I wanted to, not that I'm going to try. It isn't that I don't want to see my cousin's band again, but Jessie's not the reason I'm here. For one night, I just want to be close to someplace where he is. I'll get it out of my system and then I'll never think about it again.

I know he's inside. Jessie called earlier to say that my two friends had showed up--great guys, the both of them. They'd sat around talking and drinking for about an hour before the band had to start and he'd convinced them to stick around afterwards. He still wasn't sure how I'd come to know them--through the older one was all he could figure out. The kid brother hadn't had a clue who I was, and while he thought that kind of odd, he was happy to have them there.

Which is kind of how I'd expected things to go.

And, of course, one of my first thoughts is how happy I am that my family likes him. That's a good thing, right?

Wrong, because it's a stupid question. It isn't like I'm going to be bringing him home for Christmas or to the annual reunion. He's just a friend, and barely even that. He'll never know my family. He'll never know me.

A cheer breaks out from across the street, telling me that Jessie's band is about to start. If I'm not going in, and I'm not, I should leave. There's no point in me hanging out on the sidewalk like some sort of transient.

But I just can't bring myself to move.

Singin' don't worry...about a thing...'cause every little thing...gonna be alright...

The sound of my phone nearly makes me jump right out of my skin. I don't have to look to know who it is. Taking a deep breath, I answer. "Hello?"

"Drew, it's me," he says loudly. I can barely hear him over the background noise, but it doesn't matter. Even if I have to strain to hear his voice, it's enough.

"Hey! How's the show?"

"It just started, but I wanted to call and thank you." The noise fades as a man across the street steps out of the bar. Shit! I duck into a doorway before he can see me. "Sam's having a blast. Seriously, I haven't seen him having this much fun in I don't know how long. Thank you for getting us in."

"Any time. Jessie already called to tell me how thrilled he is to have you two there. He says y'all hit it off pretty well."

"We did. He's a great guy, though I admit if I could meet anyone in your family, he wouldn't be the first on my list."

"Oh yeah?" I say, crouching down near the corner and peering around the edge. His face is in shadow. All I can see is the broad line of his shoulders, the stretch of his tee-shirt across his arms and chest, the tight fit of his jeans. He's everything I imagined he would be. "I know my Aunt Dora is one of the best cooks in the South, but I was kind of hoping you'd want to see me."

He chuckles. "What can I say? I'm a sucker for fried chicken and homemade biscuits."

"Wait'll you try her peach cobbler. It's orgasmic. Seriously. We have to eat it in separate rooms."

"Drew, that's quite possibly one of the most disturbing things I've ever heard."

I laugh. "You're definitely going to have to come to Sunday dinner sometime. It'll completely redefine disturbing for you. But in a good way."

"Is there such a thing?"

"After you meet my family, you'll never ask that question again."

"I wish I could," he says. "It sounds like a--"

His words are drowned out by a train whistle, and too late, I think to cover up the phone. Long after the train passes, he remains quiet, and then he takes a deep breath.

"Drew, where are you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Unless a train happened to run through Savannah and blow its whistle at the exact same time as it did here in Little Rock--which I seriously fucking doubt--you're hiding around here, somewhere. Show yourself."

"Are you sure?"

"It isn't fair that you can see me and I can't see you."

"What if I can't see you?"


Sighing, I stand up. "Okay."

"Okay. So, where are you?"

"Turn around."

I watch with butterflies in my stomach as he slowly turns around. For the first time since that night in the bar so many months ago, we come face to face with each other. He lowers the arm holding his phone and snaps it shut. I do the same. I guess we don't need the phone anymore now that we can talk in person, assuming he still wants to talk to me.

The first thing I notice is how beautiful he is. I can't believe I forgot, or maybe I didn't realize it the first time I saw him. Maybe it's only because of everything we've been through that I see it now. Maybe it's because of everything we've been through that I want to do more than look. My mouth aches to kiss him, my hands long to touch him, and my body...I'm surprised it hasn't melted into the sidewalk.

But there must be something wrong. He's just standing there, staring at me. He's everything I imagined, but maybe I'm nothing like what he imagined. Maybe he's disappointed by what he sees. This is a mistake. I never should have come here. I never should have strayed from the phone.

Looking first to his left, and then to his right, he steps into the street. I watch, the butterflies transforming into hummingbirds, as he draws closer. I don't know what he's going to do and I resist the urge to back up. It wouldn't matter; I don't have anywhere to go.

He reaches my side of the street, steps up onto the sidewalk, and stops. I attempt a smile.


His head dips in a sharp nod. He doesn't seem inclined to speak and I can't read the expression in his eyes.

Fuck. I've really screwed up this time.

"Dean, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come here. It's just that--"

"Drew," he says softly, raising a hand to my face. He hesitates a second before cupping my cheek, and it's all I can do not to move into his touch. "It's really you."

"In the flesh," I say with a little half-shrug.

"My god, you're beautiful."


Wasting no more time on words, he wraps his hand around my neck and pulls me into a kiss. "So much better in person," he murmurs, pushing me against the window of the storefront. Our mouths press together in a vicious kiss as his body molds against mine, his hips rubbing against my own.

Oh, yeah. Definitely better in person.

"Dean," I murmur. "Public..."

"Thought you...liked public."

"Cousin...brother...across the street." My eyes roll back in my head as his teeth find the spot between my neck and my collarbone that will have me begging on my hands and knees if he doesn't stop soon.

"Fuck," he says, his eyes filled with frustration.


"Car three blocks that way," he says, nodding beyond the bar.

"Car four blocks that way," I say, pointing further down the street we're on. "Hotel six miles away from that. I think you win."

"We both win," he says with a wicked grin and taking my hand, pulls me down the block. We cross the street and quickly walk two blocks behind the bar where the streetlights are rare and the trees are plentiful. The black car is disguised by the darkness, the perfect hideout for two men needing a bit of privacy.

Spinning me around, he backs me up against the car with his kiss. One hand tries to fit the key into the lock while the other slides up my shirt, his fingers hot against my skin.

"Fuck," he growls after several failed attempts to open the door. "You do it."

Handing me the keys, he drops to his knees.

"Dean!" I hiss, looking around us. The street appears to be empty, but who knows how long it's going to stay that way.

"You want me to change my mind," he smirks, unzipping my jeans and yanking them down my legs, "you're going to have to get that door open."

"Fuck," I whisper and try to slide the key into the lock before it's too late, but it's already too late. His mouth wraps around my cock and all thoughts vanish from my head. It's all I can do to keep standing. His hands steady me, grasping my hips and holding me against the cool metal of the car. My entire life is focused around his lips and tongue and the heat of his mouth. The pleasure is so intense, tears of pain spill into my eyes.

"Dean!" I gasp in warning and when he doesn't stop, I bite my hand to keep from yelling while I come.

He swallows every last ounce from my shaking body, the heat from his mouth drawing me to the edge of consciousness. Finally, he releases me only to wrap his arms around my waist and hide his face against my stomach. My heart still pounding in my ears, I stroke his hair and wait for him, for whatever it is he wants to say or do next, though if it's to say what a mistake this is, I'm not sure if I want to hear it.

But then I feel his lips moving across my stomach, his tongue flickering over my navel as he moves steadily upwards. He reaches over to pry the keys from my hand, the shapes of which I'm fairly certain are permanently imprinted into my skin, and attempts to open the door. Success. The click of the key turning in the lock echoes strangely in the quiet night and he lifts the handle, pulling the door open as he stands up, his body sliding against mine. He reaches around me to unlock the back door, our bodies rubbing against each other in ways that make my eyes roll back into my head.

"We're going to have to move," he murmurs, his lips traveling against mine.

"Move?" He can't be expecting anything coherent from me. If I had any of my mind left, I'd be disappointed in him for even considering it.

"So we can get in the car."

"Can't I just turn around?"

I hear his breath catch in his throat and feel the shiver that runs through his body.

"If we don't get in the car in the next five seconds, that'll be our only choice. I don't know about you, but I'd rather not get arrested until after I've finished fucking you."

It's my turn to shiver. "Okay, we can move."

He chuckles, guiding us to his left while keeping our bodies pressing against each other. Opening the door, he steps back. "Now you can turn around."

I should probably feel nervous or worried or even a little afraid, but I don't. I just want to feel him inside of me as soon as I possibly can. He climbs in behind me, the door closes, and our jeans find their way to our knees. His preparations are quick, but thorough, and before either of us can change our minds, he's pushing into me.

He's thicker than what my imagination had provided, stretching and filling me until I wonder if I'm going to split in two. His strokes are strong and sure, complete with purpose as his body moves heavy and hot against mine. I don't think he's going to last long. I'm right. He reaches orgasm in just a couple minutes and then we're collapsing against each other onto the seat. We don't say anything, we don't move, we don't even try to meet the other's eyes.

I think he feels it, too, and we're both afraid to look.

Not that it wasn't good--I mean, it was fine. It's just that it was sort of...empty.

"Your hand is bleeding." He lifts it up to the meager light seeping in through the windows.

"I bit it to keep from yelling earlier. I guess I bit it harder than I thought."

He kisses the bite and then shifts us around so he's lying with his back against the seat, and my back against him. "About earlier, it was good, right?"

I smile. "Oh yeah."

"And just now..."

"I don't have any complaints." Not really. If I'd been looking for just a fuck, it would have been perfect. That's the problem, though--I was expecting more.

"That's an extremely neutral answer. Very democratic of you," he says, then sighs. "Maybe we just need practice."

"I was thinking that more space would be nice."

"More space would be nice," he nods. "I can't touch you the way I want, not in here."

"You know, I do have a room."

"I have a brother."

"Call him. Tell him to take the car. I'll drive you wherever you need to go."

He is quiet for a moment and I start to worry that whatever this is between us, he's decided he doesn't want it. He's probably just trying to find a way to tell me that will spare my feelings. Fuck my feelings. I wish he'd just say something already so I can get the hell out of here and go drown myself in the hotel bar.

"That could work," he finally says, a smile in his voice, and I twist around so I can see him, his smile, his eyes. "What?" he asks, suspicious.

"I just wanted to see your face."

He shakes his head. "It's too dark. I want to take you somewhere with a lot of lights. I want to be able to look at you."

"So do I."

"That's it. I'm calling Sam." He reaches for the phone in his jeans, pausing before he dials. "Are you sure about this?"


"Good. So am I," he says, kissing my cheek. He dials and waits for his brother to pick up, leaning on his elbow with his arm behind my head, his other hand resting on my hip. "Hey, Sammy... Yeah, no, I know I'm not there... Yes, I'm sure it's a great show. I've heard them before... Sam... Sam... Sam! Listen, if I don't make it back tonight, would you be okay on your own? I'll leave you the car and you can--what?... That's none of your damn business." His hand squeezes my hip, and I smile. "Look, will you be okay or not?... Yes, I know you're not a child--for the most part... Bite me," he chuckles. "All right, I'll see you tomorrow... No, not early. Sleep in. You could use it... Yeah, okay. Have fun, Sammy. Call me if you need anything."

He closes the phone and takes a deep breath. "I guess that's it."

"I guess so."

"We should probably get out of the car."

I look around at the little space available to us, think of the clothes tangled around our bodies, and grin. "You first."

He also looks around and laughs. "Shit. I don't remember sex in the backseat being this complicated."

"I do."

He tenses. "You do?"

"Claire and I were big on road trips."

"You may have just put me off of backseats forever."

Chuckling, I somehow manage to turn around until we're facing each other. "If we go one at a time, we might be able to get our clothes back on."

"Yeah, we could do that," he says, reaching up to stroke the side of my face, and I realize he's growing hard against me. "Or we could give this whole backseat thing another try."

The tone of his voice, the way he's looking at me, both send the blood directly down between my legs.

"Oh good," he says cheekily. "I was hoping you'd agree."

I laugh until he covers my mouth with a kiss and then we're both trying desperately to kick off the last of our clothes.

I'm glad we gave the backseat another shot. It's so much better the second time.

I wake up to the sound of a door being gently pulled shut and my heart immediately falls into my stomach. It isn't the only time a lover's tiptoed out the door first thing in the morning, but I was kind of hoping Dean would stick around. Sighing, I close my eyes and decide to go back to sleep. If this is how my day is starting out, I really don't want to be awake for the rest of it.

The smell of fresh coffee reaches my nose and opening my eyes, I sit up, my heart floating back into place. "Dean?"

"Hey," he says with an embarrassed smile as he places a couple of bags on the table. "I was trying not to wake you."

"It's alright," I smile, raising my arms above my head and stretching. More than alright. He can wake me up anytime, so long as he's there to do it in person. "What's in the bags?"

"Breakfast. Goddamn, that's a pretty sight," he says, quickly walking over to the bed and giving me a good morning kiss. Just as things are starting to heat up, he steps back. "You are so addictive," he says softly as he tosses a pair of boxers at me. "Stop distracting me and come eat before our breakfast gets cold."

Chuckling, I slide into the boxers and out of bed. "What did you get?"

"Coffee, juice, and biscuits and gravy from a café down the street that claims to have the best biscuits and gravy in the entire South. I figured it was worth the challenge."

We sit down at the table and dig in. Before I have time to decide whether or not the café's claim is true, Dean says, "Sam's picking me up in an hour."

I nearly choke on my mouthful of biscuit and grab the glass of juice, quickly washing it down and clearing my airway. "What?"

"My brother. He's picking me up in an hour."

"Oh." I set the fork down, my appetite vanishing. Shit. How did things go wrong so fast? I thought we were doing so well. "Okay."


"No, I know. We're not even supposed to be here, and even though we are here, I knew I couldn't keep you. It's just...I don't know, I thought we would have a little more time."

"Drew," he says, reaching across the table. He lifts my chin up with his finger, his thumb brushing over my lips. "I don't know how to explain this to you. I can't be with you the way I want or as often as I want, not now, not for a long time, possibly not ever. I don't want this to be good-bye, but I can't ask you to wait around hoping that maybe one day we'll have our chance. I don't want to lose you, but I won't ask you to stay. I hope you understand."

My eyes narrow and I stand up. "Oh, I understand. You won't." I look around for my jeans and shirt and quickly pull them on. "You won't give me the chance to say whether or not I want to stay. You won't give me the chance to say whether or not I want to wait. You're just going to wipe your hands clean of me and go on with your life as if we never happened."


"Dean, if you don't want to be with me, just say so," I snap, shoving my feet into my shoes.

"Drew, wait. That's not--"

"I'll be back in an hour. I assume you'll be gone by then."

"Damnit, Drew!" He slams his palm against the door, pushing it shut and holding it there as I try to pull it open. "You clearly don't get it," he growls into my ear, the heat from his anger searing my skin. "I have obligations towards my family which I have to keep, obligations which will always come first. Everything else in my life has to be pushed aside and I have to pretend it doesn't matter, but it does. You matter, Drew. You matter more than I ever should have let you matter, but that doesn't change anything. I don't want to lose you, but I can't keep you knowing you'll always be expecting more from me than I'll be able to give.

"You matter, Drew," he repeats softly. "Don't let me lose you."

"Then let me decide," I say, turning around so I can look into his eyes. "Ask me to stay."

Taking a deep breath, he steps back. "I won't do that."

I open the door and walk away.


"Claire, we should get married."

"I'm not marrying you."

"Why not?"

My closest friend and former paramour looks at me with her most tolerant smile. "Because you don't love me."

"I do so," I protest and she laughs, lightly knocking her shoulder against mine.

"No, you don't, not in the way you're supposed to."

"How do you know?"

"I know," she says with that omniscient gaze of hers that has the power to both charm and irritate me at the same time. Rising to her feet, she holds out her hands and pulls me off the bench. Entwining our fingers, we walk hand in hand through the cemetery. "So, are you going to tell me, or am I going to have to torture it out of you?"

"Tell you what?"

"Tell me who it is whose phone calls you keep ignoring."

"Phone calls?" I ask, wishfully hoping she'll take the hint and drop the subject.

"Drew, I'd have to be an idiot not to notice that she's called at least once a day every day for the entire time I've been here, and who knows for how long before that."

"Fourteen days, not that it's any of your business."

"So you've been playing hard to get for the past seventeen days? I have to say, I'm impressed. Isn't that a record for you?"

"Careful, Claire," I say, shoving her into the path of one of the graves. "You should be paying less attention to my phone and more to those tombstones. They'll jump right out at you if you're not looking."

"You'd better take your own advice," she says, pushing me into a cross. "Come on, Drew. She obviously cares about you. Why are you ignoring her?" Her expression turns frank. "Is she a total troll? One of those creepy stalker-types? If so, I can go beat her up for you."

I laugh. "No, it's nothing like that." Breathing in deep, I take the plunge. "For one thing, she's a he."

Claire stops dead in her tracks. "What?"

"She's a he, and his name is Dean." When she doesn't speak, I gather my courage and look at her. I've been dreading this conversation ever since she's arrived. I love Claire, and I don't want to lose her as a friend, but I'm not entirely certain how she'll handle the news.

She handles it with all the grace and consideration I've come to expect from her by slapping me upside the head. "I didn't know you were gay. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I'm bi, actually. Apparently. I mean, you just say the word, and I'll gladly jump into bed with you."

She rolls her eyes. "Dream on. You burned that bridge ages ago," she says, then steps forward until she's caught up with me. Taking my hand, we continue walking through the cemetery. "Okay, so she's a he, but the change in gender doesn't change the basic problem. Why are you so intent on ignoring him?"

"He didn't ask me to stay."

"Drew, I'm going to need a little more than that."

"Okay." I explain the whole situation to her, how I gave him my number, the gist of our cellular relationship, how I sort of tricked him into meeting, and when I was finished, she pushed me into an entire mausoleum.

"You're an idiot."

"Thanks," I grumble, rubbing my bruised arm.

"I mean, seriously. If he really didn't care, if he really didn't want you around, he wouldn't keep calling. It's as simple as that. You need to talk to him, because you know damn well he's not going to keep calling forever, and then you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

"Which is the plan, since I want him to stop calling so I can move on with my life."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do. Look, Claire, I know you mean well, but this is not the kind of relationship I want. He said himself that he'll never be around and that I'll never come first in his life. How can I be with someone like that?"

"Drew, I understand that you're needy--" I shoot her a dirty look and she grins. "--but don't you think you should give it a shot? I've seen the way you look at your phone when he calls. Even if you can't have everything you want, you'll at least have that feeling you get when you hear his voice."

"So you're saying I should have a relationship with a voice? Thanks, Claire," I say in my driest tone. "You're a big help."

"It's not just a voice," she continues, "it's also a body, when the body comes around. Your arrangement was working before Little Rock. Why can't it keep working now?"

"Because now that I've met him, I want more."

Feeling the heavy weight of her gaze on me, I turn my head to look at her. "You really like him, don't you?" she asks.

I shrug noncommittally and she rolls her eyes.

"You big baby," she says, digging into my pocket and pulling out my phone. "Call him. This isn't an opportunity you should pass up."


"Fine. Then I'll call."

"Claire, no!" I try to grab the phone from her, but she ducks away from me and begins running through the cemetery, dodging gravestones as she searches through my address book for Dean's number. Suddenly, she stops, then turns and holds out the phone to me. "Here. It's ringing."

"It'll just go to his voice mail," I say, snatching the phone from her hand and preparing to hang up when I hear a voice from the other end.

"Hello? Drew, is that you?"

I stare at it, stunned. I can't believe he answered.

"Drew, talk to me. Come on, say something. I need to hear your voice. Please."

It's the 'please' that wins me over. "Dean?"

He sighs, the sound filled with such happiness and relief that my knees grow weak beneath me. I sit down on the grass and Claire pats my shoulder.

"I'll give you two some privacy," she says softly, kissing the top of my head before walking away. I wave my thanks and turn my attention back to the phone.

"You are there," he says, and I can't help smiling.

"I am."

"I was beginning to think I would never hear your voice again."

I don't know how I want to respond to that. "I know. How are you, Dean?"

"I'm good. Better now. How are you?"

"The same. I...I've missed you."

"I've missed you, too. Damnit, Drew--"

"Dean, wait, before you say anything else, let me just say I'm sorry."

"You are?" he asks, surprised.

"I'm sorry I was being so stubborn. You were honest from me right from the beginning. I just didn't want to hear it. I still don't want to hear it, but if this is all of you I can have...god, Dean," I say, completely caving to the whirlwind of emotions and the hell of missing him for the past two weeks, "it'll have to be enough."

"I'm sorry, Drew, I really am. I wish I could give you more."

"Yeah, well," I shrug, not knowing what else to say.

"So...are we okay? Because if you really feel like this won't work for you, I won't bother you anymore. I'll stop calling, if that's what you want."

"What I want? Dean, I want you."

"I want you, too."

"Then I guess..." Fuck it. "I guess we're okay."



We're quiet for a moment, the awkwardness of our renewed relationship keeping us from speaking freely. Even if it is what we both want, I don't know that it'll ever feel right, but the quiet feels even worse. We've built a relationship on talking and I want to resume that as soon as possible. It's all of him I've got.

"So...how's Sam? How's he feeling?"

"He's good. His headaches are about the same, but he had a great time at the show."

"Yeah, Jessie said the two of them had really hit it off." And just like that, we fall into the ease of our conversation as if nothing had ever happened.

"They email constantly now. Your cousin even invited us to stop by for Sunday dinner the next time we're in Elizabethtown."

"You should go. My family would love you."

"We probably will. Sam seems pretty intrigued by the whole idea of a weekly family gathering. It's the kind of normal sort of ritual he's always wanted in his life."

"Your family never did that?"

"We aren't actually close to most of our family. I've never cared one way or another, but Sam's always felt like he was missing something."

"Well, you just flash Aunt Dora that smile of yours, and not only will she welcome you as part of the family, she feed you until you're about to burst and send you home with a trunk full of leftovers."

"Oh yeah? In that case, I'm sold. Next time we're in Kentucky, we're staying for dinner."

"Just try not to eat for a couple days before you go. You'll need the space."

"Speaking of things I need, if I happened to let you know we were going to be there, do you think you'd be able to make it to dinner?"

"You need to see me at dinner?" I ask, teasing him, the butterflies back in my stomach at the direction the conversation has turned.

"I need to see you, period."

My heart swells until it feels like it's about to burst. "Oh yeah?"


"Then I might be able to make it," I say with a smile, knowing that nothing short of a natural disaster will keep me from being there.

"You'd better. So tell me, Drew," he says, and I can hear the leer in his voice, "how much do you want me? Because I was thinking, doesn't our speaking again constitute a need for make-up sex?"

"Dean," I chuckle, "I'm sitting in the middle of a cemetery. No matter how much I want you, I'll never want you that much."

"You're sitting in a cemetery?"

"Yeah. I was taking a walk when I called."

"And you don't mind being in a cemetery? I mean, you can spend time in one and not get completely freaked out?"

"I know this sounds a little strange, but I like cemeteries. They don't bother me at all."

"Drew, you have no idea how turned on I am right now. There may be a future for us after all."

"Dean, that's unnerving on so many levels, I don't know where to begin."

"Never mind," he chuckles. "Forget the cemetery. How long will it take you to make it home?"

"Too long."

"Yeah, I guess I don't have much time myself," he says, the regret clear in his voice. "But if I were to call you around, oh, ten o'clock tonight, would you answer?"

"Yes," I say without hesitation. Paper thin walls be damned, I am going to answer. If I have to get Claire so drunk she passes out first, well, that's just the price I'll have to pay. "Ten o'clock. I'll be waiting."

"Drew, you...you don't have to go right now, do you?"

"No, I don't. Why?"

"I just...I've missed you. I've missed your voice. Talk to me, for a few minutes, at least?"

Smiling, I lie back in the grass, letting the sun soak into my skin. "Okay. What do you want to talk about?"

"I don't care. Anything. Everything. Tell me what you've been doing the past two weeks while you've been ignoring me."

"What I've been doing? Well, I've been teaching, and creating, and trying not to think of you, which was pretty much impossible with you calling me every day. Persistent s.o.b., aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am," he chuckles. "And you'd better get used to it. Now tell me what you've been working on, and don't leave out a single detail. I want to hear about all of it."

"Every detail? You sure about that?"

"I'm sure. How else am I going learn everything about you?"

Placing an arm under my head, I grin up at the sky and start to tell him about my latest work. While we talk, it occurs to me that for the first time since Little Rock, I feel happy, but it isn't my normal kind of happy. This is a happiness that exists only because of Dean, and between my happiness and him, I know I don't want to lose either one. No matter how difficult it may be, no matter how much trouble we have being together, we'll find a way to make it work. We have to. I may have gotten a lot of things wrong in my life, and I may have made a lot of mistakes, but this is not one of them. This--this is a happiness worth keeping.