Title: "All That's Left are the Words"
Pairing: Christian Kane/Michael Rosenbaum
Genres: angst with a side of schmoop
Warnings: m/m relationship, swearing, character self-loathing
Rating: R (for language)
Word count: 2,081
I own nothing; the characters belong to themselves. Doesn't reflect anyone's true sexual orientation. Purely for entertainment purposes; no money is being made.
A/N 1: For engel82. Engel also kindly came up with the title (which is a lyric from Cinderella's "Don't Know What You Got"). Thank you Engel.
A/N 2: Set in my reallymet!verse. You don't need to have read "The Story of How We (*really*) Met" (which is primarily a J2 fic) to understand this. All you need to know is that Chris and Mike are in a relationship and have been together for about four years at the point this story is set. If you want to read the rest of the 'verse, you can find it here.
A/N 3: The idea for this fic came to me when Prop 8 passed in California last November (partially as a way to channel my own frustration and despair). I got halfway through and then got busy with real life and figured the time had passed. I decided to revisit this and post it now in part becase Engel asked, and also in honor of the same-sex marriage victories in Iowa and Vermont over the last week. Go equality!
A/N 4: Written in the present tense, which is not my usual style, because the fic is very stream-of-consciousness.
Summary: Chris finally figured out what he wants, but now the opportunity seems to be gone. Or is it?
They’re lying together on the couch, just the two of them, spread out and curled up together, Mike sandwiched behind Chris, wrapping his slightly taller frame around Chris’s smaller body, one arm snugging Chris’s back to his chest, the other seemingly lazily draped over Chris’s flat stomach, hand rubbing gently as if to soothe the tremors away.
It’s almost three am on a Tuesday (technically Wednesday now), and neither Chris nor Mike has moved nor spoken since Mike reached for the remote with the hand that’s now rubbing Chris’s belly, turned off the TV, and half-heartedly chucked the remote across the room. The afterimage has long since faded, but the silence in the television’s wake fills the room, ominous and bleak. Even the pure black(!) of the 51” DLP monitor isn’t dark enough to match Chris’s mood. He’s lost, drifting, the only anchor to the here and now is Mike’s solid presence at his back, holding, reassuring, an island of stability even when all their dreams are slipping away. . . or it sure as hell feels like that.
They’re in LA, in the apartment that was once Chris and Jensen’s and then was just Chris’s and now is theirs—Chris and Mike’s—the closest thing the two of them have to a real home, together or anywhere. But tonight, this morning, it doesn’t feel like home, LA doesn’t feel like home, no where feels like home. Because all Chris hears is “you’re not welcome,” “you’re not good enough,” “you can never be one of us,” the voices hissing, chanting, repeating, over and over and over until he goes mad. And Chris is mad, at himself, for believing. For allowing himself one second to buy into the whole bullshit notion that someone like him could ever— But it’s not that simple. For one, it was a lot longer than one second, it was the entire summer, six months of breathing free air, walking tall, and feeling like a real person for the first time in his life. An equal person. For another, it’s not bullshit. It might have taken him a little over thirty-four years, but he finally knows what he wants. And he could have had it, if only for a split-second (six months), but he didn’t understand, didn’t know, didn’t realize that he wanted it until it was gone.
Now LA feels like a bleak and alien country. No more a home than Texas or Oklahoma—places Chris’s heart loves, that don’t love him back. But if not here then where? And why?
But Chris doesn’t say a word; he just lies there, swirling, listing. Seeing nothing and feeling everything: the faux suede of the couch touching his skin where his t-shirt has ridden up on the side, the gentle rise and fall of Mike’s breaths behind him, the steady stoking of Mike’s hand, the soft swirling of the air as the air conditioner moves it around the room, the beat and pulse and thrum of the street life below. Maybe if he doesn’t speak, it won’t be real. If he doesn’t say it, and Mike doesn’t say it, and the TV is off. . . there’ll be no one to tell him it’s over.
They lost. Prop 8 passed, and equality is no more. Sayonara marriage. Turns out fags and dykes really aren’t equal anyway. Can’t say he didn’t know it. Sure, people these days’ll look at you all friendly and shake your hand and act like they’re OK with ya, but deep down you still know that they hate you. Think you’re an abomination. So you’re all well and good as long as you’re not threatening their position of privilege. Can’t go acting like the high and mighty now, no siree.
It’s bitter, Chris knows. But he can’t bring himself to care. It hurts too bad. The buzz and elation of Obama’s victory earlier in the evening has worn off. Hell no, it’s worse than that. The happiness of seven pm carried with it a seed of “this can’t be real, this is too good to be true,” and sure enough the seed blossomed into the shoot of doubt at nine pm that has since blossomed into the flower of despair and taken root deep in Chris’s soul. So what if it’s a cheesy, shitty metaphor. Chris doesn’t fucking care. He doesn’t have any room to care. Because he finally realized what he wants more than everything else and what he wants is . . .
“Penny for your thoughts,” Mike’s words are whisper-soft, breathed gently against Chris’s ear. Mike raises his head just enough to follow through with a hesitant kiss, lips just brushing Chris’s neck and ear. Mike’s hand keeps moving, steady, soothing, trying to keep the tremors at bay.
Chris exhales. A long explosive gust followed by an equally desperate gasp. The weight of defeat is so heavy, Chris almost forgot to breathe. Mikes words are the first that have been spoken since they turned off the TV, hell the first either of them have spoken since about midnight when enough of the precincts in enough of the places that mattered were reporting for them to know that the ship was going down. Sure, the pundits and the activists and the lawyers might not have conceded yet, but the writing’s on the wall, plain as day, etched forever in ugly, acrid, hateful, neon glory; a constitutional amendment passed by a “citizen initiative,” the will of the people— Yeah, the will to fuck us over; ‘cause our will, we’re not really people are we?
Chris’s thoughts derail and the old, self-hating voice from his youth rears its ugly head. After all this time, years, decades, of trying to be proud and self-affirming, when push comes to shove, he’s just another self-loathing faggot! Chris squeezes his eyes shut trying to physically push away his train of thought. He tries to settle himself; Mike’s still waiting for an answer, after all. “I just—” The words won’t come. Chris takes a deep breath and tries again, “I just wanted to believe that we were finally like them, real, but . . . I should have known better.” Chris takes a few heaving breaths; he’s shaking harder now, the words fighting their way out of him, taking all his strength with them.
Mike kisses him again, a little stronger peck to the neck, his lips encouraging, his hand still soothing where it slides across Chris’s belly.
“I just,” Chris struggles again, squeezing his eyes tighter shut, and forcing a swallow past the growing lump in his throat. “I wanted . . . and I didn’t know that I wanted . . . but now I can’t, we can’t, but it doesn’t matter. Because it was silly, I was stupid, just buying into the heteronormative . . . and it’s OK right? We didn’t need that?” It ends as a question, he’s unable to say what he would have asked. What he understands now, he wanted, but can’t have. It’s better this way, all he needs is what he has. Mike just needs to say it’s OK. Chris hates himself for being weak, but he can’t. He just can’t.
“It’s OK,” Mike whispers again, drawing Chris closer to him, their bodies flush together, Mike’s solid strength giving Chris permission.
And then Chris is crying, sobbing. He hasn’t cried, really cried, in years. He’s shed tears, but the last time he really cried was when Jen was in the hospital, and before that—chain of events—it’s been even longer. Since his first real breakup in College . . . and that was the last time his heart got broken. And it’s breaking again, today, now, and it’s sad, because in all the intervening years, he’s never really let himself believe enough, fall enough to feel like this. But now he did, because it’s Mike, and they could have . . . but now they can’t and Chris just doesn’t know. He just doesn’t know. And Chris’s uncertainty is sobbing out of him.
After what could be hours, but is really only minutes, Mike speaks again. “It’s OK, we’re OK, but you’re not wrong for wanting.” His voice is louder than before. Stronger, more certain, like he knows that Chris can really hear him now, and he wants to be heard. Mike pats Chris’s stomach a few times and then removes his hand.
Chris is no longer shaking, and he feels relieved. He knows he has no reason to be ashamed in front of Mike, but it feels better none the less to have let that all out, and be pulling himself back together. Chris feels Mike fumbling in his jeans pocket behind Chris’s back. Which makes Chris want to ask why Mike is still in his jeans at three something o’clock in the morning when Chris has been in boxers and an old t-shirt since ten. But before he can verbalize his thoughts, Mike is pulling something from his pocket and speaking again.
“You’re not wrong. We deserve that, you deserve happiness, Chris,” Mike says as he brings his hand around Chris and hold’s it in front of Chris’s face. It’s a ring box with a ring in it. Not just a ring but a wedding ring, engagement ring, or rather two of them, matching, identical—silver, or maybe white gold, with little bits of turquoise embedded in the band all the way around and something engraved on the inside.
Chris can barely restrain his snort. He hadn’t expected this kind of bullshit from Mike. Yeah, he was going to ask Mike if Prop 8 hadn’t passed, but now that it has and they can’t . . . this just isn’t fucking funny. “That’s not funny. Yeah, I’m pathetic—” Chris starts.
“No, definitely not funny. I’m deadly serious, and you’re definitely not pathetic, you’re beautiful, sexy, handsome, adorable, brave, strong, amazing, funny, intelligent, talented,” Mike says as he uses the arm that’s wrapped around Chris’s chest to turn him, as Mike shifts them both on the couch. “Daring, bold, a man of integrity,” Mike adds now that they’re face to face, his brown eyes staring into Chris’s blue with depth and warmth and love, “and you’ve overcome so much.” Mike’s voice cracks as tears start to gather in his eyes. “But most of all, you’re mine, and I just want to shout that from the rooftops and declare it to the world.”
As Mike pauses, Chris finds himself floundering, he can’t believe this is happening. This, now, is what he wanted. But how?
As if in answer, Mike says, “I don’t care what some bullshit number of voters in California said today. Marriage is everyone’s right, and it’s gonna come back. We’re going to get it here, for good. We’ll fight back, give us a few years, and we’ll win. I don’t care if I have to wait until that happens, or if you want to go to Massachusetts or Canada or fuck Connecticut even, all I care is that you say ‘yes,’ and that we follow through when the time is right for us.”
Chris doesn’t know what to think. What to say. This is his dream coming true, in a way he never imagined possible. He swallows so hard he doesn’t think he’ll be able to speak when it’s time. He looks at Mike’s throat, his Adam’s apple is bobbing with the force of his swallows, his skin is sweating, and his breathing is fast, but his eyes are warm and sure.
“Christian Kane,” Mike begins, “will you marry me?”
“Yes,” Chris gulps out, before he even realizes he’s spoken. Because after all, this is all he’s ever wanted and was just told he can’t have, and if Mike is saying “yes we can,” then Chris isn’t going to argue. “Yes, of course, I’ll marry you, Michael,” he laughs out as the distance closes between them. Then their lips are meeting, moist and inviting, tongues tangling as their mouths open up to each other, bodies intertwining, Chris breathes in, as if he could take Mike deeper, into his soul. The rings are getting squished between them, and Chris’s sudden erection is trapped in his boxers and not quite lining up with Mike’s, but none of it matters. Because Mike asked and he said “yes,” and it doesn’t matter what the California voters said, because Chris is going to get to be what he really wants. To be Mike’s husband.