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Gerry’s Lion

by Ashavan Doyon

Gerald Tanner lost the piece of his life he loved most, his husband Adam. When faced with the prospect of another Christmas with a family who thinks he's better off now that Adam is gone, Gerry decides instead to revisit the memory of when they met, and boards a Christmas cruise on the Sunrise. He's not expecting to meet Leo Ystrabov. He certainly never imagined the courageous young man would challenge him into feelings of desire and the possibility of a love that isn't his precious Adam.

Leo Ystrabov doesn't quite know how to handle the shattered heart Gerry presents so hesitantly. But the offer is precious, and Leo can't resist. However, with two families none too eager to accept them and a lot of baggage on both sides, their relationship faces an uphill battle. Leo will have to find his courage to be the lion Gerry sees in him.

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Published:
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Editors:
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Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: MM
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Hurt / Comfort
Word Count: 71000
Excerpt:

CHRISTMAS

 

 

HE DIDN’T know what had possessed him. Perhaps it was the loneliness, the bit of him that missed having Adam there. Whatever it was, Gerry left his cozy, familiar, heartbreaking space. Left it and landed on the Sunrise.

Gerry wiped a tear, half-formed, from his eye before it could be joined by others. Before he sobbed, because just one tear would be enough for him to start. He wanted to sob. He wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. This Christmas, instead of the ritual of a family who hated Adam, Gerry filed down lines and showed paperwork and hesitantly walked, alone, onto the Sunrise. It was better than family that pretended to be sorry Adam was gone, better than false platitudes that would drive him insane. Already his sadness was akin to madness. This was right; it was where they had met.

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Smiling faces greeted him at the gangway, polite men in tropical shirts asking him in that quiet demand to show his key card and sanitize his hands, and he complied automatically. Gerry had avoided this for a long time: walking onto a cruise ship, alone. The morning was cold, and the crew in their festive, short-sleeved shirts danced in place to keep themselves warm. Gerry managed a polite nod as he passed them and entered the carefully climate-controlled ship. The walkways were bright and cheerful, done in all primary colors and he had to close his eyes and stop for a moment to keep himself from breaking down right there.

“Are you all right, sir?” asked a polite voice in soft-spoken English.

Gerry looked up and managed a smile. He didn’t try to pronounce the man’s name, which was emblazoned on the nametag along with the crew member’s country of origin, the Philippines.

“I’ll be okay,” Gerry said.

“Happy cruise, sir. Need help finding your cabin?” he asked. “Stateroom number?”

Gerry shook his head. It had been stupid and nostalgic of him, but there was no way he would ever forget the way to this stateroom. He’d remember almost every moment he’d ever spent in it, always.

“I’m fine,” he said, half choking the words out.

Gerry kept his eyes down from there, avoiding eye contact with the many crew members who tried to greet him with a smile. He made his way to his cabin down stairwells colorfully decorated in reds and greens for Christmas. His key card slipped into the slot and with a click, a turn of the knob, and a push he was in the stateroom. He closed the door tight behind him and closed his eyes against the onslaught of tears. Too many, too fast for him to escape. Gerry let himself fall in a huddled ball of flesh, his arms wrapping tightly around his legs. He rocked there for a while, letting the tears flow.

When he was done, he slipped into the tiny bathroom and splashed water on his face to wipe away the tears. He could feel the raw phantom trails down his face, but other than the redness that surrounded his eyes, no one would know. He looked at himself in the mirror. Smooth black skin. How Adam had loved to look at him just like this, and stroke his cheek. Gerry closed his eyes again and smiled this time. When he opened his eyes the momentary urge for tears had passed, but that didn’t stop Gerry from splashing his face again. He dried off and straightened his shirt, Adam’s favorite, a tight brilliant red polo with a series of vertical black stripes in various widths just on one side.

A deep breath and a couple blinks later, and the obvious signs of his breakdown had faded. A knock on the door failed to startle him, and he responded, dutifully listening as a petite young woman introduced herself, her thick Caribbean accent making her difficult to understand, but he managed to get her name, Natalie, and kept his voice from quavering when he asked her to move the beds together.

“During dinner, for sure,” she said. “Smile, sir. Don’t forget, big barbeque on deck twelve by the pool.” She smiled at him again and quietly closed the door. Dimly he could make out the sound of the knock on the door to the next cabin.

He glanced quickly at the papers she’d left. She’d delivered his invitations for the frequent-cruiser receptions. He smiled. Any other cruiser would be envious: receptions, dinner with the captain and officers, free booze, chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne delivered to his cabin the first day at sea. Adam had loved that. The tangible benefits of their shared passion for these vacations. He rubbed his finger against the papers and closed his eyes. It was hard. The tears still wanted to form.

Even now he could feel it: Adam’s presence, just behind him as if Adam were about to step flush against his back. Adam would kiss him on the cheek and take the invitations. Adam would smile at him. Adam would put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door and waggle his eyebrows and strip him down. Take him right there and then and leave them both rushing, flushed, to their mustering stations for the required drill.

Gerry let out a gasp as his stomach clenched and he felt sick, nauseated from the loss. He managed, somehow, not to let more tears fall. He’d always been the one to feel things deeply. Adam had teased him frequently for it, but Adam had also held him, so tenderly, and let him be the emotional one. Given that to him. Gerry automatically rubbed at the indentation where the ring should be. He could still feel it sometimes—a sort of phantom ghost of a reminder that should be the heavy weight of his wedding ring.

The horns sounded, and the incomprehensible announcements began. Gerry went for the life jacket automatically, even though Natalie had told him they didn’t need them. He was halfway out the door before he remembered, cursing under his breath and stuffing the jacket back in its cubby. It fell apart as he tried to cram it back into its spot, making him curse again.

The mustering proved to be harshly boring. A crew member checked his name on a list. Another demonstrated how to put on the jacket, struggling as the clip got stuck when she tried to fasten the life jacket around her. Then the horn sounded again and they were released. It was starkly different from his first mustering, flustered and trying to fasten his own life jacket as a calm, quiet giant of a man set a hand on his shoulder and helped him. He’d never forgotten that first touch, nor the first smile that followed.

“There,” Adam had said, patting him on the shoulder. And he’d smiled. People who didn’t believe in love at first sight… they had never seen that smile. How could anyone not fall in love immediately after seeing that?

“Sir?” asked a crew member. This one was from Australia, though her accent was subdued rather than obvious.

“Sorry,” Gerry said. He stood up from where they’d had them seated in one of the restaurants during the drill.

“There’s a big barbeque on deck twelve,” said the woman with cheer, her accent showing a little more in the word “barbeque.”

Gerry got up and went to his stateroom. He was pleased to note his bags had arrived, and he took the time to carefully put the clothes away. He was used to never having enough room for his clothes, so the shock of finding plenty of room for everything was unexpected, but also sobering. Adam’s clothes should be crowding his, making him fight for space. But of course they weren’t. Not like at home where Adam’s clothes sat in closets and drawers getting dusty, waiting for the return of a man who would never come home.

Gerry gritted his teeth. Adam was gone. And Adam would have wanted him to do something.

Gerry climbed up the stairs from his room on deck five. He could afford more. For a long time, he’d been able to afford the more luxurious rooms of the upper decks. While other cruisers were still figuring their way around the ship, he ignored the crowded lines for the elevators and climbed up flight after flight of stairs until he reached the pool deck. The party here was in full swing. The chill of the morning was gone, and people young and old celebrated in the heat of the sun.

Gerry made his way to the bar and ordered a drink. The cruise staff was on the makeshift stage and dance area, and the music was participatory. The cruisers would join in eventually. They weren’t warm enough, drunk enough, uninhibited enough, not yet.

Gerry smiled as the music turned to a beat he recognized. He quietly joined the cruise staff on the dance floor to a cheer and a pat on the back. Somewhere someone with a microphone was announcing him and cheering him on. He glanced around. Yeah, he’d managed to be the first passenger there. He almost smiled a little. Gerry loved to dance. Adam had teased him about it, but he’d loved to watch.

Gerry moved to the music, spinning and gyrating to the beat, and there was some loud cheering. Gerry let the music take him, surrendering control of his body to its brutal and demanding steps. The beat dictated his spins, the movement of his feet, the seductive twirl of his hips. When the moment came, he shimmied and shook his ass, and he knew the crowd was watching him. Sweat slicked his back, his smoothly shaved scalp wet, but he kept dancing.

The song wound down and the person at the microphone laughed. “And no one expects you to dance like that folks! But let’s hear it for… what’s your name?”

“Gerry.”

“Let’s hear it for Gerry! I should have him give lessons to my staff!”

Everyone laughed, and Gerry was glad his dark skin hid the blush he felt in his cheeks.

Gerry moved from the floor to a quiet spot at the edge of the deck near the windows. As others finally began to join in with the dancing, Gerry let his attention wander, instead watching the horizon. They were still close to land, and other ships and even sailing vessels dotted the seascape.

“Hey, man,” said a husky voice behind him.

Gerry closed his eyes.

“Hi,” he said softly.

“That was some fantastic dancing, man!”

Gerry let himself smile, but he didn’t turn around.

A hand grasped his ass, and Gerry tensed immediately.

“Oh, shit!” came the soft curse. “I’m sorry! I thought, with the way you were dancing that you must be….”

Gerry slowly opened his eyes. “I am.”

“All right!”

“Doesn’t mean I let just anybody feel me up, though,” Gerry said.

“So how do I get on the list that can?” asked the man behind him. God, the voice was like liquid silk.

You can’t. Gerry wanted to say it. That was supposed to be Adam’s. Forever. But he had to believe Adam would want him to try, that Adam would want him to live.

“I don’t know,” Gerry said. “No one’s been on that list in a long time.”

The man slipped close. Very close. When he spoke, his voice, that gorgeous voice, was right at Gerry’s ear. “Let me try, man.”

“How?”

“Dinner. At that fancy restaurant they charge extra for.”

“You have a sexy voice,” Gerry said softly.

“You think so?” The man laughed, and it was a beautiful sound. “Is that a yes, then?”

“I don’t know your name.”

“If I tell you my name, will you go out to dinner with me?”

Gerry nodded. This was crazy; he didn’t even know what this man looked like.

“I’ll meet you there at seven, then,” said the man, whispering the words against the rim of Gerry’s ear.

“You didn’t give me your name,” Gerry said.

“It’s Leo,” whispered seduction into his other ear, the breath warm and close.

Gerry was frozen for a moment, paralyzed by fear, and in that moment he lost his chance. When he turned around, the man was gone. He trembled. Jesus. He had a date. An honest to God, bona fide date. With a man he’d never met or even seen.

He closed his eyes. The momentary urge to blow it off was held quickly, considered, and dismissed. On a cruise, even on a ship this size, he’d never avoid running into the guy again. More important than that, though, Adam would be proud. He had to believe that. And so he also had to go.

 

 

GERRY HADN’T been on a date in a long time, but he knew he wanted to look good. He spent a good half hour in the shower washing the grime of his sweat from him. On a cruise he always aimed to look his best, but tonight he had to go further.

He made his way up to Casey’s Steakhouse. It was a premium option for cruisers. The casual cruisers avoided it, but those who cruised often knew—the price was so worth it. The restaurant was on one of the highest decks of the ship, and when he’d reached it, Gerry hesitated. He didn’t even know what this guy looked like.

“You came,” Leo said. The voice was behind him, but there was no mistaking it.

Gerry suppressed a shiver. “Did you think I wouldn’t?” he asked.

“I wasn’t sure.”

Gerry managed a laugh. “But you came anyway.”

“There was always some hope. It was worth taking the risk,” Leo said. A hand settled on Gerry’s shoulder. “Thanks for not disappointing me.”

Gerry could smell his cologne. Citrus and spice, a heavy sultry musk. It was alluring; Gerry couldn’t help the temptation he felt. Would Adam feel proud at that? Or betrayed? Gerry wasn’t sure. But he leaned his cheek into the hand on his shoulder anyway. “Thanks for inviting me.”

“I’m getting the better part of that bargain,” Leo said. “Are you going to turn around?”

“I’m working up to it,” Gerry said.

Leo laughed. “Don’t date much?”

“Don’t date.”

“In about five minutes, you won’t be able to say that anymore. Unless you’re walking out on me already?”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Gerry said very softly.

“It’s going to be a very awkward dinner if you never even look at me,” Leo said.

Gerry looked down, but didn’t turn around. “I’m sorry. I’m not any good at this anymore.”

“I get it,” Leo said. His breath was hot and close against the back of Gerry’s neck. “You look spectacular you know.”

“You’re looking at my back.”

Leo chuckled. “At your ass, actually. It’s fantastic.”

Gerry tried not to smile; he was sure he hadn’t succeeded. “Thanks.”

“That’s not what I was talking about, though. That bold red? It’s beautiful against your skin. That polo you wore this afternoon was the same, so I know you know it.”

“I could just like red.”

Leo laughed this time. “I think you probably do. But I also think you know how good you look. Brave enough yet?”

Gerry turned around and was greeted by an immediate smile that made an otherwise angular face softer somehow. “This better?” asked Gerry.

Leo’s eyes brightened. He was thin and athletic and scarcely any taller than Gerry. Leo had dressed for a date, and the sleek V-line of his torso was shown off by the tightly fitted shirt he wore. His was blue with a nearly metallic sheen to it.

“Much better,” Leo said. He offered Gerry his arm, and Gerry hesitantly took it.

“You look nice too,” Gerry said.

“I’ll take that hesitance in your voice for nervousness. But thank you.”

Gerry bit his lip. It was an old habit that Adam had hated. “I’m sorry. I really haven’t—”

“I can tell. It’s okay. I expect to get to why, but when you’re ready. Thank you for trying. I mean it. Do you still want to have dinner?”

Gerry nodded, and Leo clasped the hand on his arm. The movement at his throat betrayed his nervousness, but he led Gerry to the restaurant and handed over his key card as he gave the hostess his room number. The hostess smiled and looked at her chart as she swiped the card and handed it back.

“This way, sirs.”

They were led to a secluded table by a window. The lighting in the restaurant was soft, and supplemented by the soft flicker from a frosted glass on the table. It wouldn’t be a real candle, but it did a more than credible job imitating one. Leo smiled at him, bright eyes sparkling. They were blue eyes, and quite a brilliant blue. That was comforting. Adam’s eyes had sparkled like that, but they were a hazel that favored shades of brown. Gerry managed a smile back, but he knew he’d failed when Leo’s mouth fixed in a narrow line and the stare became suddenly intent.

“I know this is hard. But don’t force it, okay? I want to get to know you. Don’t make a mask for me to see.”

Gerry closed his eyes, but before he could say anything he was interrupted.

“And for heaven’s sake, don’t apologize, all right?”

Gerry nodded. “Okay.” Gerry tried to explain, but before he could find the right words to say, the waiter appeared with menus and introduced himself, rattling off the specials with a practiced ease and offering to bring drinks.

Leo turned his smile on the waiter and produced his key card. “I’d love a frozen margarita,” he said. “You do those in flavors, right?”

“Of course, sir. We have a blackberry, a peach, and a strawberry.”

“Blackberry. And anything my guest wants.”

“Excellent, sir,” said the waiter. “And you?” He looked at Gerry.

Gerry didn’t drink much. Adam had loved that. It meant that Gerry could always drive. He wasn’t sure how Leo would find that. “A glass of red wine. The house wine is fine,” he said. No point in a fancy wine on a cruise. Adam had explained why once. It was among the countless conversations with Adam that he wished he could remember.

“That’s all? Are you sure?” asked Leo. “I’m happy to—”

“I’m sure,” Gerry said.

The waiter took the key card and went to check on the next table.

“I don’t mean to push. I just… I want you to enjoy tonight.”

Gerry was looking at his place setting and bit his lip again. He glanced up. “I don’t need alcohol for that.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Gerry grabbed a piece of bread and buttered it. Freshly whipped butter. One of the things you didn’t find in the main restaurants. He spread it on the roll and took a bite, washing it down with ice water.

“If it makes you feel better, I’m not any good at this either,” Leo said.

“Better than me.”

Leo shook his head. “I never know what to say. How to get to know someone. I mean, we all have so many landmines, don’t we? Family? Not safe to talk about. You never know if someone was kicked out of the house, or if the relationship is just that strained. I could talk about work, but this is Christmas vacation right? I don’t want to think about work. Do you?” He ran his hand back through his hair, revealing brown beneath the blond highlights.

Gerry managed a smile. “I know it’s hard. I was never any good at it when I did date. But you’re not doing badly.”

“How do I know that?”

“I’m still here,” Gerry said quietly. “Believe me. That means you’re doing really well.”

There was that bob at Leo’s neck again. Leo’s nervousness gave Gerry a little courage, and with another bite at his lip, he set his hand open on the table. It was an invitation, and Leo took it. His hand was warm and sweaty, a testament to his nerves, but it was also soft and strong as he squeezed Gerry’s.

“Thank you.” Leo’s grin was almost impish. “You haven’t even looked at the menu. They have king crab.”

Gerry chuckled. “The filet is still better.”

“Really?”

Gerry nodded. “Trust me.”

Leo looked at the menu. “All right.” He set the menu aside. “That good?”

“I prefer the gorgonzola crusted. It’s decadent.”

“You like that. Decadent food.”

Gerry nodded. “I do.”

Leo smiled at him, and Gerry blushed at the intensity of his gaze.

“You’re very beautiful,” Leo said. “It’s not just the shirt. Or the dancing. Or that spectacular ass. It’s you.”

“You don’t know me yet.”

“I know,” Leo said confidently. “That’s the best part. Being this sure.”

Gerry was interrupted again as the waiter arrived. “Ready to order, sir?”

Leo’s cheeks dimpled as his lips curled upward. “Go ahead. Order for both of us.”

“You’re sure?”

“I trust you.”

Gerry looked at the waiter. “We’ll have the filet.”

“Gorgonzola crust, sir? With the garlic mashed?”

Gerry nodded. “Akku.”

The waiter looked up.

“Thank you.” Gerry wasn’t sure just what he was thanking Akku for. Was it for remembering? Or for not saying anything. Or just for still being there, because somehow, inexplicably, that helped.

The waiter smiled and nodded in acknowledgment, checked how Leo preferred his filet cooked, then headed off.

“You knew him?” asked Leo.

Gerry closed his eyes. “Yeah.”

“He knew your order. Like he’d….”

“Several times a year for almost a decade.”

“Shit. I wanted to impress you.”

Gerry laughed. “You did that already.”

“I did?”

“You did.” Gerry squeezed the hand in his and opened his eyes. “Have you ever eaten here?”

Leo nodded. “Last year. I was on a cruise with my ex. It was supposed to be our anniversary. Instead I found him in bed with one of the dancers from the crew.”

Gerry looked away. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It was our first anniversary. It could have been our tenth. I would have lost that much more of my life to someone who didn’t deserve me. I didn’t even know he was… I found out later he’d cheated before. I was trying to reclaim this for me.”

“It’s hard to let something bad ruin something you love.”

“You didn’t cruise alone, did you?”

Gerry shook his head. “I’m not ready to talk about it.”

Leo’s fingers moved against Gerry’s finger. “There was a ring there, for rather a long time, I think.”

Gerry nodded. “There was.”

“I won’t help anyone cheat.” Leo’s eyes met Gerry’s, and Gerry could tell he was searching for an answer to the unspoken question.

“I’d think less of you if you did. Especially after telling me what you just did.” Gerry squeezed Leo’s hand. “We have a whole cruise to learn about each other.”

Leo’s smile got big as he returned the squeeze. “I get it. You’re not ready to talk about it. I just needed to be clear. John, he really hurt me when he did that. I won’t, I can’t destroy someone else’s relationship that way.”

“That’s good,” Gerry said, “because I wouldn’t date someone who would.”

“So that’s still a possibility? Dating. If this dinner goes—”

“If it continues to go well.”

Leo glanced down at his plate and blushed. “I was afraid you’d see me and not be interested.”

“Why?”

“Let’s just say my self-confidence took a giant hit. This isn’t my first date since I left him, but it’s the first one that lasted more than an awkward fifteen minutes.” Leo’s eyes were still on his plate. “The last guy excused himself to the restroom and never came back. That sorta made it worse.” His voice got very quiet. “Much worse.”

“This is my first date in over a year.”

Leo glanced up with wide eyes. “A year?”

Gerry nodded. “And I know you’re nervous. I am too. But it’s going well.”

Before Leo could respond, the waiter returned with their drinks. Gerry smiled at the waiter and thanked him.

“Starters will be up in a few minutes,” said Akku, then faded quietly into the background.

“You didn’t order any—”

“Akku waited on us for a long time. He knows my habits. I’m very consistent.”

“Almost ten years? I wouldn’t have pegged you as that old.”

Gerry laughed. “Thanks. I’ve kept myself up. It helped keep me—” He stopped suddenly, his spontaneous smile disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. “I’m sorry. I still don’t want to talk about that. It’s not fair to you. It would make this night about something else.” He squeezed Leo’s hand again. “I don’t want it to be about that.”

“I’m from Greenfield. Don’t try, you’ve never heard of it. It’s a rather small town masquerading as a city by the Vermont border in Massachusetts. Tiny has advantages, it does. But I fled for the city first chance I got.”

Gerry nodded. This he could do.

“I’ve only been to the Berkshires. But that’s not too far, right?”

“Rich relati—” He stopped immediately. Gerry could only guess that Leo had seen his expression. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t…. Fuck.”

Gerry shook his head. “It’s okay,” he said, barely managing to sputter out the words.

“This is why I’m not good at this,” Leo said, turning away. “I’m really not.”

Gerry wanted to run. He was sure Leo could see that. Everything about him was tensed. His fingers went to the indentation Leo had felt. The one that had spoken silently of his relationship with Adam. There had been promises. To keep going. Not to be alone. He just wasn’t sure Adam had meant it. Of course he hadn’t. They’d planned to be together forever.

His hand was shaking, and he could almost see the wheels in Leo’s head turning, trying to decide whether to let go of his hand. There was a determined focus to Leo’s eyes and very suddenly the grip on Gerry’s shaking hand tightened.

“Please don’t run,” Leo said. “I know it’s what you want to do. I can tell. Please.”

Gerry closed his eyes tightly. “It’d be better for both of us.”

“It’d be easier. That’s not the same as better. Maybe that’s not what either of us needs. Maybe what we need isn’t easy. I don’t want easy. John was easy. Everything fell together perfectly. I thought so. I felt so lucky.” He stopped, and Gerry could feel Leo’s other hand wrap around his. “I know this isn’t going to be easy. Please, Gerry. Please try.”

Gerry didn’t open his eyes, but he nodded. “Berkshires—it isn’t too far, right?”

“Not too far.”

“W-why’d you run to the c-city?” asked Gerry.

“Thank you.” Gerry’s hand was lifted, and he felt the caress of lips against the back of his hand. There was a soft intake of breath, and then Leo spoke again. “College was an easy excuse. But really I ran because I needed to get away. It’s an accepting area, but when the dating pool your age is five guys, after a while everyone has slept with everyone else. Not because any of us wanted to, but because we were teenage boys and horny and those were our options.”

“You hoped to find love in the city,” Gerry said, finally opening his eyes.

Leo laughed. “No. Not then. Maybe a little, but mostly I wanted hot sex. And I had it.” He met Gerry’s eyes. “I’m not ashamed of that. Not really. I was in college. I experimented. I figured out what I liked. And I enjoyed myself. A lot.”

It was a stark contrast to Gerry’s practically celibate life in college. Should he admit that?

When Gerry didn’t say anything, Leo kept going. “When I graduated I realized how much of running was really that I was afraid my parents hated me. I know you have some difficulties in your past, but I don’t mind admitting that’s one of mine. My parents are Russian, and being gay, it’s not okay. Not for them. I kept it secret from them in high school, but when I was in college I got brave. It was a mistake. They cut me off.”

Leo stopped, and Gerry watched as Leo’s brow furrowed and his jaw clenched.

“There’s something else.”

Leo nodded. “I can tell you have some pain in your past. It’s not hard to guess what it’s from… I just want you to understand. I have some of that too. And it’s hard for me to talk about.”

“I understand,” Gerry said. He waited for a moment as Akku arrived with their starters, an extravagant variation on chicken wings with succulent chicken meat, barely clinging to the bone and dipped in a rather fancy barbeque sauce. He took one of the pieces and ate it quickly, setting the bone back on his plate and licking his fingers clean. When he was done, he looked seriously at Leo. “Do you want to continue?”

“Not right now.”

“That’s okay,” Gerry said. “We have the whole cruise, remember?”

Leo nodded hesitantly.

“I grew up in the city,” Gerry said quietly. “And I stayed there. I have a degree in art history.”

“An art lover?”

Gerry smiled in answer and continued. “I worked in galleries for a long time. Doing openings for artists, managing art auctions.”

“Were you different in college?”

“Very. But I didn’t date much. Loving men wasn’t something that was accepted then. It still isn’t really, not in my neighborhood.”

COLLAPSE

This story focuses on the characters at various points over a year, with scenes taking place specifically at holidays: Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving.

About the Author

Ashavan Doyon may have been a yeti in a prior life or possibly part giant. Either that or Texan air seriously messes up child development. During the day he’s a quiet and unassuming assistant at a liberal arts college in New England. At lunch, in the evenings, and when he can escape the grasp of his husband on weekends, Ashavan writes—with keyboard sounds on, because typing should make noise, beautiful clicky-clacky noise. He grew up reading fantasy classics and science fiction stories, but loves most speculative fiction. Growing up there was no such thing as a happy gay love story, and Ashavan writes to put those stories, full of fragility, beauty, even terror sometimes, into the world.

Consumed outside of his writing by a life with his husband and their ancient pug, Ashavan lives in Massachusetts and frequently complains about the snow that he never saw growing up in Texas. He went to school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a degree in Russian and East European Studies with a focus in language and literature. Ashavan continues to adore speculative fiction and can often be found rereading the classics he grew up with in his spare time.

Ashavan loves to hear from readers.


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