Bulldog Couples Therapy
The day is crisp and cold, with a shining winter sun low in a clear blue sky. Liam strides across the green, waving to Chris who's waiting by the side of the path near a tree, which East is sniffing around on the end of his leash. He speeds up and takes Chris into his arms for a rib-creaking hug and a kiss before crouching down to give the little bulldog a scritch.
"Perfect timing," Chris smiles, licking the taste of the kiss off his lips. They're out in public -- sort of -- on the grounds of the Citadel, and it feels freeing to be in nature in the daylight with his lover.
Liam straightens up and takes a deep breath, enjoying the feel of the cool air swirling through his lungs. It feels good. Cleansing, like, and he can definitely use some of that.
"So, how've you been doing?" he asks with a relaxed smile and one hand ruffling Chris's hair.
"Good." Missing you. "Spending time with Jess...a lot of time actually." Chris blushes just a little bit, enough to make him duck his head. "Reviews for the movie have been sucktastic so I'm just concentrating on the F4 sequel and looping schedules for Sunshine...."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Liam says with a frown aimed at the unknown mass of critics lurking in the shadows. "I'll admit I'm looking forward to seeing you playing Johnny Storm again, though. He's a cocky little punk in need of a good spanking, very different from your own sweet self." Liam leans over with a grin and plants a kiss on Chris's forehead. "It just proves what a marvelous actor you are, and if the critics can't see it they need to pry their heads out of their arses." He stretches his arms over his head for a few moments, then they start off down the path.
"You're my new PR person," Chris teases, letting Liam and East lead the way. They amble down and around the winding pathway letting a comfortable silence envelope them for a few moments. "What have you been up to?" Chris asks finally. "Working I suppose." He pauses for a moment, admiring/focusing/levering his eyes at a bush to keep his face neutral. "How's Christian?"
"Things have been rocky," Liam admits, letting his eyes drift off to the horizon. He's still trying to figure out just what's happened, how so many things could've gone so wrong all in such a short time. "I don't know, it's like I... lost my focus? I've been missing things I shouldn't."
He sighs and glances at Chris. "Christian's been feeling very alone. I thought he was doing well, thought I was giving him space to pull himself together and start standing up on his own again but it didn't work out that way. I'm afraid he's going to have to get most of my attention for a while yet." Liam drops his gaze down to the path and says, "I'm sorry, dear heart. I'm afraid there won't be any more overnights for a while."
Much as he wanted to take back the "I love you" that spilled out of his mouth in the heat of passion, Chris would immediately like the heavy sigh he lets out at Liam's words back.
"Sorry," he quickly murmurs. "I -- I understand. Your first responsibility is to him." Chris' voice is dull. "Maybe...maybe I'm the reason you're losing focus." He swallows hard.
Liam immediately steps in front of Chris and envelops him in his arms, ignoring East who comes to a startled stop at the end of his lead.
"You're not to feel guilty about this. Christian is my responsibility, not yours, and if I've made any mistakes they're also mine and not yours. You've done nothing wrong, dear heart, and I can't bear to have you feeling bad. I need you. Even if we can't spend as much time together as we'd like, I still need you."
"Every time we spent a bit more time together, Christian reacts badly. You have...a contract with him. We're just...dating." He searches helplessly for a word. "I understand he comes first -- I just don't have to like it."
There, he said it.
His arms tightening around his lover, Liam sighs into his hair. "No, you don't. I don't like it, Christian doesn't like it, it's just a thoroughly fucked situation and we all know it. But I don't want you to feel guilty, or to think you've done anything wrong."
If I haven't done anything wrong, why does this suck so much? Chris asks, returning Liam's hug with his free arm. "Thanks," he says, nonsensically.
Another kiss and Liam moves over to one side so they can begin walking again with his arm around Chris's shoulders.
Inside, Liam's wondering if he's being fair to Chris. The lad doesn't seem happy and Liam has to admit that there's very little about their situation to be happy about. The niggling little voice in the back of his head is hissing that Chris would be better off without him, set free to find someone who can put him first, someone who doesn't have the overshadowing responsibility Liam has. Hell, someone who has some experience of a successful relationship. None of those describe Liam and what's he doing keeping the boy tied to him anyway?
Because I need him. It's pure selfishness, yeah, but if we can just get through the next... the next however long, I'll make it up to him. Try, anyway....
Liam pushes the gloomy thoughts aside and just concentrates on feeling the lovely, crisp day and the sweet lad under his arm. "Thank you. I don't know how I'd cope if I didn't have you with me, even when you're not."
"I'm here for you whenever you need me," and that's when it hits him, nasty and square between the eyes.
That's what you told Jason. That's what you said all the times he couldn't take you somewhere or couldn't stay the night or couldn't be reached for an entire weekend. Waiting, waiting, sitting like East under the table begging for scraps.
It stops him for a moment, a stumble and he looks ahead fiercely. "But...." God that word seems so loud. "Just...I can't wait forever, Liam." His voice cracks. "I just can't. I'll have no fucking self-respect if I do."
Liam stops and cocks his head back at Chris. The lad looks so... so serious. So fierce while he speaks and it's so unlike him, it's startling.
Nothing startling about it, says the nasty little voice in his head. He's getting sick of waiting around for you, of being with you but not with you, of always being second in your life, of never having more than part of your attention. The only thing startling about it is that he's stuck around this long. He'll come to his senses soon enough and be off with someone who can actually spend some time with him, and where's the shock in that?
As he begins walking once more he stays straight and relaxed by sheer force of will -- head unbowed, shoulders unhunched, stride as sure as always. But something's faded from his eyes when he says, "Of course not, lad. I wouldn't expect you wait forever."
"I'm not giving you an ultimatum, Liam," Chris whispers, his chest twisting with pain, the only forward motion he's capable of directed by East's powerful little body. "I wouldn't do that. You've always been very clear to me that there'll be...other people." He sighs and rubs his hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to hurt your feelings. I'm just...disappointed to be stepping backwards instead of forwards. And seeing Jason again just...." His voice trails off, feet crunching on stray leaves and branches.
"But this isn't other people, not the way I meant," Liam says, a thread of sadness and frustration running through his voice. "Casual sex wouldn't be coming between us the way this is. Casual lovers don't prevent me from spending time with you, from being alone with you for more than a couple of hours, from focusing on you completely and absolutely when we are together." Liam sighs and tilts his head back to look up at the blue sky. All the brightness has gone out of the day and now it's just cold and bleak.
"I'd never put a casual pick-up ahead of you, not ever. This is different and I didn't think at the time that it'd be this hard or this long. And I can't even say that if I had thought about it, that I'd have turned the lad away. He's a friend and he needed me and that's just...." He trails off and shakes his head.
"But you're right, you shouldn't wait around forever for me or for anyone else. You're a lovely young man, sweet and gentle and caring -- you've so much to offer and deserve so much back. If you find someone who can give you all the things you should have, starting with their time and attention, then you... should." And it's hard to say, incredibly hard, but it's true and Liam makes himself say it.
Chris shakes his head, hard to enough to spin the world a little. "I'm not out looking, Liam. I...I've only been with...w-women since we started going out and that's pretty recent and pretty much just Isla and Jessie." He flushes awkwardly. "It's not like I'm searching a relationship out."
"I didn't mean you should go put ads up or anything like that, necessarily. Unless you wanted to." Fuck, this is awkward and it hurts and Liam hates it but he knows what's fair to Chris and keeping him dangling in limbo, waiting around until some vague time in the future when his lover will be free to be with him, isn't. "Just that if it happens, if you do meet someone who can... give you what you need, who can take care of you better than I can right now, I wouldn't expect you to turn away just because of me. That's all."
"The odds of meeting someone like you are slim to none I think -- and I don't know how easy it would be to f...feel the same way about someone else." His tongue swells and twists, another word and the entire day will fall even further to hell.
I can't wait forever.
By the way, I'm in love with you.
"Isn't the whole point to find someone not like me?" Liam asks, trying hard to inject a bit of humor into the conversation and failing miserably.
"Stop that." Chris pulls on East's leash and the dog trots back as his master halts yet again. "You're a wonderful man -- I can't even imagine there are enough people like you in the world, let alone someone who'd want to be with me."
Liam stops and turns to face Chris, trying to hide the pain in his eyes. "I'm sorry, truly. I just don't want you to feel trapped or obligated or resentful if this stretches out much longer." After standing awkwardly in the middle of the path for a few moments, he steps over to a large treetrunk placed picturesquely to one side of the path and sits down on it. It's that or take Chris into his arms and if he does that they won't do much more talking.
Following almost automatically, Chris sits down -- close but not as close as he'd sit usually. He hates that. East's leash drops down to the ground; he puts his boot on it to keep his pup close by but give him some room to explore.
Almost an apt metaphor for the conversation.
"I'm sorry if I've hurt you, Liam, but I'd rather be honest than petulant." He laughs hollowly. "What sort of respect would you have for me if I was...if I was the person you met in that attic forever? I care about you, I want to be with you. Please don't feel like I'm pulling away -- if anything, understand that I'm freaking desperate to be with you more." Frustration tightens his hands into fists, angry movement against darkness of his jeans.
That demands a touch, some sort of physical comfort, and Liam lets one arm go around Chris's shoulders. "I'm not upset with you, dear heart. Not at all -- never think that. I absolutely admire your strength, and no, I wouldn't be nearly as interested in a terrified, clingy little boy, nor care for him nearly as much as I care for you. I just... I don't know. There's really no one to be angry with and I think that's part of the problem. I'm frustrated and lonely and I feel guilty for what this is doing to you and I'm afraid I'm going to lose you and I'm angry with myself for wanting to hold you close because that's not right. You shouldn't have to wait around for me indefinitely, and if I had someone to hate over all this I think maybe I wouldn't feel nearly as bad but there's no one. It's just the situation and so here we are." Liam rests his forehead against Chris's hair, breathing in his scent. "I just want you to be happy," he says, his voice low and flat, "and I know you're not and it's tearing me apart."
"I'm happy when I see you, when I think about you. So I'm happy intermittently," Chris attempts, moving closer to Liam with a comfortable sigh. Can't deny the pull. Just...can't.
"You deserve to be happy all the time. I wish I could give you that." Liam's other arm finds its way around Chris, joining its mate, and he rocks them slowly.
"Sort of a lofty goal," Chris teases, relaxing against Liam's shoulder -- only to have the quiet interrupted to East -- whose decided that a stick on the ground is clearly an imminent threat. "East!" he calls, whistling for his pet.
Liam glances up at the dog romping in the grass with his stick, then settles back down with Chris. He's tempted to continue the conversation, since it doesn't feel quite finished, but discards the notion and decides he's already said what he needed to say, that anything further would just be repetition. Instead he bends his head and brushes a kiss across Chris's cheekbone and whispers, "My boy." It's as close as he can come to what he really wants to say.
A shiver ratchets through Chris' system at Liam's words, the caress they create in his ear. His eyes shut as he nuzzles closer, forgetting everything -- their worrisome conversation, his own painful emotions, Liam's hurt...everything is easily forgotten when Liam is close and touching him. It's almost impossible to remember the loneliness when he's not.
He tilts Chris's chin up and brushes their lips together, lightly, as though unsure of his welcome, and then more firmly. Then they both relax and their mouths open and they're devouring each other. Liam has no idea what might happen tomorrow or next week, but right now at this moment Chris -- his Chris -- is in his arms, melting under his lips and his hands, and the world is perfect...
...until they lean just a bit too far backward and slide off the log. Reflexes trained to protecting a bound and helpless lover have Liam twisting in mid-air, just the tiny bit required to land on the ground with Chris thudding down on top of him.
Lust followed by surprise, a kiss trailing into a hard thud as he lands directly on top of Liam.
He chokes back a laugh and gets out, "Are you all...." then the air is knocked out of him again as a fair amount of weight crashes into his back.
East, clearly rushing to his master's rescue by knocking him unconscious.
Liam cranes his neck to peer over Chris's shoulder, and gets a slurp in the face from East, who's perched between his master's shoulders, peering back down at him. He chokes out a laugh and tries to move, but his legs are still propped up on the treetrunk, and tangled with Chris's besides, and he has no leverage at all. He makes another fruitless try just for drill, then collapses back onto the ground.
"I suppose we'll have to stay like this," he says with a rueful smile, his arms settling back around Chris's neck. "East seems determined to keep us pinned."
"Bulldog couples therapy," Chris coughs, his lungs protesting the weight on his back restricting oxygen and movement.
Liam laughs at that, then gasps once. He's in good shape, but Chris isn't light and neither is East. "Well, if East insists, then I guess we're stuck together," he says with a fond smile up at Chris. "I suppose I can tolerate that for a bit. How about you?"
Okay -- here's the perfect metaphor.
"Not going anywhere," Chris murmurs, "not for a long time." He lays his head on Liam's shoulder.
Liam cuddles him close and whispers, "Good."
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