Christian sat back in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest as he casually glanced around the room. He was sure he would always remember this room; the color, the smell and the comfortable feel for many years to come. He blew out a calming breath of air even while combing his fingers through his blond hair which seemed to have a mind of its own. The natural curls were longer now and uncontrollable without some sort of styling gel. It now covered the scar behind his ear and it appeared lighter…streaked by the sun along with a mixture of chlorine from being in the pool with the kids every day. He and David were now teaching Liam and Ethan how to swim.
The corners of his mouth turned up into a warm smile at the thought of them. He rested his chin on the palm of his hand as his mind reflected over the last few weeks. He was settling in okay, though there were still no signs of any major memory recovery.
“Okay,” The sound of Dr. Reeder’s voice pulled him from his reverie. He sat up straight giving the doctor his full attention. Dr. Reeder glanced over the rim of his glasses and smiled. “Everything looks good.” He nodded while looking over Christian’s chart. “The MRI looks good and the scan appears clean,” he confirmed.
“So that’s it. No more feeling like a sausage in a metal tube eh?” Christian chuckled humorously.
“Not for another six months.” He moved the folder aside, placed his arms on his desk and continued. “We want to do another CT in six months to insure there’s no change. And after that, we’ll do them annually.”
Christian examined his hand opening and closing it into a tight fist. “What about the weakness?”
“Well, with the blow you sustained to the head, there was some minor peripheral nerve damage, but we knew that already.”
“Some experience muscle spasms, cramps or in your case some weakness,” He explained. “All things considered I’d say you were pretty fortunate. There are a few exercises you can to do. I’ll have Ann set up an appointment with rehab and they can go over those with you. Will sometime this week be okay?”
“Sure. I don’t have any plans.” Christian shrugged casually. “I haven’t accepted any new assignments, so I’m pretty free. As long as I can get my sons to and from school, I’m cool.”
“Okay.” Dr. Reeder grabbed his pad and started scribbling on it. “How’s everything else? Any new developments?” He asked as he handed Christian the order.
Christian thought for a moment before shaking his head. “No, not really.”
“What does ‘not really’ mean?”
“Well, the boys and I are getting along well. We’ve developed a routine. A morning ritual you could say.”
“And that’s working okay?” He asked while jotting down notes.
“Yeah.” He said with a fondness and sparkle in his eyes. “And Ethan, my youngest is doing better with the potty training thing,” he announced proudly. The doctor chuckled softly recalling his own mishaps.
“I have two small ones of my own and my daughter did well, but Gage my son…not so much.” He laughed scratching at the side of his temple. “I don’t know what it is about boys.”
“Just ornery I guess.”
“I guess,” The doctor agreed. He placed his pen aside and his features took on a serious nature.
‘Here it comes,’ Christian thought to himself.
“And, David. How are things with the two of you since your last visit?”
“I don’t know.” Christian lowered his head before sending the doctor a forlorn glance.
“Does he still seem a little distant…distracted?”
“Yeah.” He frowned looking up at Dr. Reeder. “I mean.” He sighed. “He’s still wonderful but it’s like he’s walking around on egg shells. Afraid to do or say something wrong,” Christian explained sadly. “Ever since the night of the awards dinner. I mean I don’t think I gave him any mixed signals. I just told him I needed to wait.”
“I see,” Dr. Reeder replied thoughtfully.
“We still spend time together every day. We started teaching the boys how to swim so…” He trailed off.
“But still nothing has jarred your memory in any way?”
“I…” Christian scratched at his scalp. “I’m at a loss. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall, and it’s frustrating.”
“For you both, I’m sure,” The doctor assumed.
“Yeah,” Christian said through a heavy sigh.
“Well, I’m no marriage counselor by any means, but I can recommend one if you’d like.”
“I don’t think we need a marriage counselor. I mean unless he or she can help me with my memory loss.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” The doctor laughed.
“Right.” Christian rolled his eyes toward the ceiling in frustration.
“Honestly, Christian. The memory block doesn’t seem to be due to anything medical.”
“What are you saying?” Christian asked while biting on his thumb nail.
“I’m saying that it’s up to you. Whatever it is that’s causing this memory block can only be unblocked by you. That is if you choose to,” he added.
Christian rubbed his finger under his chin as he pondered the information. “What if I never remember?”
“Life will continue,” He stated simply, “But let me ask you something.”
“Is you’re getting your memory back a contingent on whether or not you stay with David and the kids?”
The words weren’t even out of the doctor’s mouth when Christian gave a stern…”No,” he said adamantly. “I’d never leave my sons. I love them,” he admitted faintly. “They are a part of me. They depend on me... they need me. And it may sound funny but I need them too.”
“Oh god.” Christian cupped his hand over his mouth. Just the mention of his name made his heart skip several beats. Like being on a rollercoaster ride he felt excited, anxious, the dips and the butterflies. “I don’t know.” He exhaled deeply. “My feelings are all over the map when it comes to him,” he admitted bashfully. “I mean…” His voice trailed off with a faraway look in his eyes.
Dr. Reeder couldn’t help but smile at the boyish demeanor of his patient. It was like watching someone trying to describe their very first crush. “That’s a good thing…right?” He sat back crossing his arms over his chest.
“I guess so. But…”
“I think I’m kind of afraid of these feelings…You know? It’s all happening so fast.”
“But I don’t know what to do.”
“Can I make a suggestion?”
“Anything,” Christian said exasperatedly.
“Okay. Like I said, I’m not a marriage counselor,” he reiterated, “but you said whether or not you got your memory back, you were staying with your husband.” He paused briefly waiting for conformation.
“You admitted you have feelings for him.”
“Then what about dating him all over again?”
Christian’s eyes lit up with excitement. “That’s a great idea.” He beamed brightly.
“I mean I know you said you two are spending time together as parents, but what about quality time as a couple? Rekindle those feelings or create new ones.” He shrugged casually. “You don’t remember your times together. Make new memories. Don’t rush anything. Just let it happen naturally like it did the first time,” he advised. Christian nodded reflectively while biting on his lower lip. The wheels inside his head were spinning faster than he could think. He was always a romantic at heart. Romantic movies made him cry and a great love song made him feel warm all over. That much he knew for sure. Now would be time to romance David not the other way around.
“I could do that.”
It was like an epiphany and he wondered why he hadn’t thought of it on his own. David was truly amazing in all the ways that mattered. They went into this relationship not only committed to each other, it seemed, but they were also committed to the commitment.
He listened carefully as the person on the other end of the phone read back the information insuring everything was… “Perfect!” He confirmed with a bright smile. “Thank you.” He ended the call and placed his phone on the passenger seat before buckling up his seatbelt feeling pleased. He turned the satellite radio to his favorite station and pulled onto the road. His destination… Home.
“Yep, he’s running later than he expected,” Christian said. He and Taggart were in the kitchen patting out burgers while Jimmy fired up the pit. Ethan and Liam were in the family room watching ‘WWE Smack Down’ eating popcorn their uncle Tag had popped for them.
“Damn, you’d think you were married to a doctor with the hours he keeps.” Taggart complained before taking a swig of beer. He used the back of his hand removing the stray strands of hair that fell in his eyes and set the bottle down before sprinkling more seasoning on the ground beef.
“It’s okay.” Christian shrugged. It’s what he loves. So,” He said understandingly.
“Come in.” He didn’t bother to glance up from the calculator, he didn’t have time. He was determined to get this proposal out and meet the promised deadline before heading home. His fingers effortlessly glided over each key adding and subtracting the numbers as they scrolled up the computer screen.
“Excuse me David,” The meek voice interrupted. She eased inside not wanting to disturb him.
“What’s going on, Liz?” He asked. His eyes were still trained on the screen in front of him. He didn’t even look up when she didn’t reply. It was the slight shadow that crossed his desk that distracted him.
He finally glanced up and did a double take. He creased his brows looking confused. “Um.” He leaned back as if he was expecting it to bite him. “Who are these for?”
“There’s a card... right there.” Liz pointed to the small yellow envelope peeking through the greenery.
David stood up still looking baffled. He arched his brow and placed his hands on his waist subconsciously shaking his head as he examined it.
“Well?” Liz gestured at the card.
“Where did you get them?” He asked, leaning in a little closer. “They smell nice.” He inhaled slow and deep allowing its scent to tickle his nose and fill his lungs. It was something about their distinctive scent that just made you feel good.
“They’re beautiful.” Liz smiled as she too took a big whiff.
“They are,” David agreed as cautiously opened the small card. His face lit up like the night sky on Fourth of July as his eyes wandered over the handwriting he knew so well. ‘My memory fails me miserably, but I’m told you‘re the one.’ It was simply signed. Chris…
“Who are they from?” Liz asked as she counted all 24 long steamed red roses nestled in plush rich greenery sprinkled with baby’s breath.
David dropped down in his chair cupping his hand over his mouth and mumbled between his fingers in utter disbelief. “Christian.”
Christian glanced at the time and warm smile creased his lips when he heard David enter the house. He was just an hour later than expected. Shrill excited giggles could be heard from the living room and there was no doubt that Ethan and Liam were happy to see their daddy.
“Flovers!” He heard Ethan exclaim, and his smile widened.
“Yes.” David laughed. He warned the boys not to get too close. “Be careful, you don’t want to knock them over. You can look, but don’t touch…okay?”
He heard David’s footsteps getting closer and turned around just as he entered the kitchen.
“Hey.” David waved while pulling his tie from around his neck as he stepped further inside.
“Hey,” Christian returned the greeting before walking over and handing him a cold beer. “Happy Friday.” He smirked.
“Happy Friday.” David saluted with the bottle before taking a long gulp. “Thank you.” He swallowed hard sending his husband a heartfelt smile. “Sorry I’m late.”
“You’re welcome and not too late.” Christian winked. “I think the burgers are done and Tag just took the steaks outside.”
“Cool.” David peered over Christian’s shoulder and smiled at Jimmy and Taggart who were fussing around the grill. He couldn’t hear them, but judging by the way Jimmy was looking he knew Taggart was either trying to tell him what to do or telling him what he was doing wrong. “Everything looks great,” He commented before taking another swig of beer and following Christian over to the counter. “Is there anything I can do?” He asked as he eyes wandered over the smorgasbord that littered their counter.
There was baked beans, potato salad, corn on the cob, sliced watermelon, green tossed salad, cool cucumbers and tomatoes in a light vinegar dressing and ambrosia fruit salad-Tag’s specialty.
“Hey,” He exclaimed with wide eyes before Christian could answer. “What’s this?” He noticed the bowl of fresh berries sitting beside a bottle of Grand Marnier and whipped cream.
“Oh, that’s for the adults later after the boys go to bed.” Christian bounced his brows suggestively. “I wasn’t sure, nor do I remember,” he said through a lopsided smile. “But you seemed to enjoy the berries soaked in it when you had them at the awards dinner, so I thought we’d try it,” he said casually.
“Awww…That’s so sweet.” David smiled before stealing a quick kiss on the mouth. “Thank you.” His eyes met Christian’s warm gaze. “And again, thank you for the roses. That really meant a lot. You should take a look at them.” He nodded over his shoulder.
“You’re welcome… and I will.” Christian turned around meeting David’s warm gaze and sighed. He pressed his lips together into a weak smile. “Things have been a bit strained…different here lately and I just wanted you to know I appreciate everything you’re doing to help. But more importantly I appreciate you.” It was something about the way Christian looked at him. David didn’t want to push it, but at that moment he thought he saw a glimmer of hope. He felt a closeness that he hadn’t felt in a long time and it was nice.
“Go change,” he interrupted before David could finish. He said what he had to say and that was it. He didn’t want to get too deep tonight. “I think we’ve got this under control.”
“Okay,” David agreed. He reached around Christian and received an unexpected swat to the hand. “Ouch.” He quickly pulled his hand from the salad bowl and the tomato he was attempting to steal.
“Are your hands clean?” Christian scolded with an arched brow.
“Um,” David stammered examining the palms and the back of his hands.
“That’s what I thought. Now go.” Christian shooed him away.
“Daddy! Ethan’s touching your flowers!” Liam called from the other room.
“Nuh uh!” The little tot defended.
“Nooo!” Ethan yelled.
“Stop touching Daddy’s flowers, Ethan!” Christian yelled through amused laugher, yet trying to sound serious. One thing he had learned since he’d been home was that Liam was a regular tattletale and if he said Ethan was touching the roses, more than likely he was touching the roses.
Christian and David just shook their head and laughed. “You handled that well,” David complimented.
Christian chuckled taking another sip of wine before setting his glass down on the counter. “I’m learning. Ahhh.” He relaxed his jaw motioning for David to do the same. Taking his cue David opened his mouth to receive the cherry tomato his husband popped inside.
“Thanks,” he said between chews. “I’ll be right back.” David turned to walk away and stopped mid stride. He turned around and smiled admiringly at Christian who was busily putting the finishing touches on dinner unaware he was being watched.
The night was warm with a slight breeze that carried off the remnants of hickory smoke from the smothering grill. The four friends relaxed under the starry indigo sky, laughing, eating and enjoying their Friday evening in each other’s company.
“No, no. All I’m saying is.” David laughed as he licked the barbeque sauce off his fingers. “Women are too complicated…too emotional,” he voiced between chews.
“And you know this, how?” Taggart challenged. He was sitting on Jimmy’s lap sharing a plate of food. “You’ve never been with a woman. Have you?” He asked as he fed Jimmy a sliced cucumber.
“Mmmm. Thanks, Baby.” Jimmy tilted his head back slightly to keep the juice from dripping down his chin.
“No I haven’t,” David admitted as he reached for his beer. “But I work with a bunch of men who are and I hear the horror stories.”
“Horror stories? What horror stories?” Christian asked, walking in on the tail end of the conversation. He had just put on a movie for the boys. Even though they fell asleep during wrestling, when he and David attempted to put them to bed after dinner, they swore up and down they were not sleepy.
David looked up and smiled as Christian stepped out onto the cobblestone patio. “How are they?”
“Fine. I put on ‘The Incredibles.’”
“Which they’ve seen a hundred times,” Taggart quipped.
“Now it will be a hundred and one.” Christian stuck out his tongue playfully. “Besides it’s what they wanted to watch.”
“It’s okay.” David laughed. “They love that movie. I think they have every ‘Disney’ movie released on DVD. A few collectors editions as well.”
“I noticed,” Christian said as he sat down beside David on the lounge chair.
“You done eating?” David asked while balancing his Styrofoam plate in his hand above his lap.
“There’s plenty left,” Taggart said before biting into his corn on the cob.
“I’m good. I’m actually stuffed. The steak was perfect Jimmy,” He complimented while patting his stomach.
“Boy, you better that food,” Taggart advised before taking another bite of his corn.
“I will. I’m gonna let my food digest so I can have room for dessert.”
“Awww. Yes the berries,” Jimmy piped in. “I can’t wait to taste them. We should get a good buzz off em,” he teased.
“You can’t get too much of a buzz. I’m not getting on the back of the bike with you buzzed as you say,” Taggart warned giving Jimmy a heated glare before rolling his eyes.
“I’ve got you, Babe.” Jimmy swatted the side of Taggart’s thigh playfully.
David shared a look with Christian and chuckled softly as he watched their two friends banter back and forth, seeing nothing but love between them. “You two act like an old married couple.”
“How long have you two been together now?” Christian asked, finding humor in their banter as well.
“Almost eighteen years.” Jimmy stated proudly. He caressed the side of Taggart neck before placing a tender kiss on it.
“Yeah. Eighteen years in four months.” Taggart smiled lovingly into his partner’s eyes. “We met when we were seventeen and the rest is history, as they say.”
“Wow. That’s a long time,” David concluded. He set his plate down on the table beside him and used a napkin to wipe off his hands. “When are you going to make a legal man out of him, Jimmy?”
“Yeah?” Christian agreed with his husband.
“Don’t get him started.” Taggart sighed.
“It’s not me,” Jimmy defended. “I want to get married. Raise kids. But he won’t.”
“It’s not that I won’t.” Taggart unwrapped himself from Jimmy’s embrace and climbed off his lap. “It’s just I don’t think getting married defines a couple,” he explained. “Marriage to me is overrated.” He frowned as he took a seat next to Jimmy. “I mean it works for some people.” He shrugged nodding to David and Christian.
“Thank you.” Christian chuckled glancing over to his husband.
“I would love to get married. Marriage is sacred.” Jimmy directed his comment to Christian and David.
“Our relationship is sacred,” Taggart countered. “We don’t need to be married for that.”
“I don’t think that’s what he’s saying.” Christian came to Jimmy’s defense. “Marriage is a formal commitment. Honestly couples should already be committed to each other before the formal act.”
“That’s just it.” Taggart interrupted. “A formal piece of paper doesn’t mean shit. Do you know how many heterosexual and same sex couples end up in divorce?”
“That’s true but the rates are significantly less in gay marriage. Even more so in women.” David stated.
“Well, that makes sense.” Christian shrugged. “ Some people don’t take the marriage vow seriously. I think they figure if it doesn’t work out they can get a divorce, not spend too much time trying to work out their problems. I wonder if they consider the cost.”
“Exactly. People spend thousands of dollars on a wedding only to get divorced in a few years. Hell, some are still paying for the wedding when they get divorce,” Taggart pointed out.
“True,” Christian agreed. “But that’s not what I meant. What I mean by counting the cost is when you say I do…that means I do.” He nodded to David.
“That’s true, committed to the commitment. For better or worse. Real marriage comes at a price. One some just feel is too high.” David nodded.
“Well, I love Jimmy more then I love myself. He’s all I know. All I want to know and I don’t need any marriage or piece of paper to validate that.”
“I love you too, Baby,” Jimmy said through a weak smile. “And I respect your stance on marriage. And I agree we don’t need it to validate who we are to each other. But for us it’s a privilege, a right, one that we’ve fought for. We’re still fighting for.” He reached over and grabbed Taggart’s hand pulling him back onto his lap.
“I’m committed to you…to us and I don’t want that to change,” Taggart said resting his head against Jimmy’s chest, finding comfort in his arms.
“So you think marriage changes people?” David wondered.
“Sometimes.” Taggart frowned. “Jimmy and I are perfect just the way we are.”
“Are you afraid it will change you?” Christian questioned.
“I don’t know,” he admitted honestly. “But I don’t want to take that chance.”
“Okay, but what about kids? You’d make great parents. I see how you are with Ethan and Liam,” David asked.
“Oh, hell no,” Taggart stated adamantly.
“Aw, come on you love those boys,” Christian challenged.
“Of course we do,” Jimmy defended.
“Of course and they know it.” Taggart laughed. “That’s not why I don’t want kids. I’m selfish when it comes to ‘my’ Jimmy. I don’t want to share him with anyone.”
“That is selfish.” David laughed. “But I totally get it.”
“We’ll share your kids,” Taggart said inciting laughter from everyone.
Jimmy kissed Taggart on the top of his head and tightened his hold on him. “Well, I’m not going anywhere. Marriage or no marriage,” he promised. “You’re stuck with me, but if you change your mind we can get married tomorrow.”
David smiled reaching for Christian’s hand. They shared a knowing glance as they laced their fingers together.
The evening was perfect, a great way to end a long week. There was more laughing, more bantering and several walks down memory lane. The stories shared about him and David made Christian happy and yet sad at the time. The story of him putting David out of the house after an argument seemed absurd and embarrassing. He couldn’t imagine himself getting that upset with David to do something like that, but he was sure he did it. Both Taggart and Jimmy confirmed it. It was that and similar stories like that, which made Christian desperately want to remember his life.
“Whoa, what in the hell was in those berries?” Jimmy laughed while trying to maintain his balance.
“Just the Grand Marnier. “ Christian chuckled raising his right hand. “I swear.”
“Maybe you guys should spend the night,” David suggested slightly concerned. “You can have the guest room and Christian can have our room.”
Christian shot him a look.
“I’ll sleep on the couch.” David held his hands up in defense.
“Wait.” Taggart spoke up. “You’re still sleeping in the guest room, Chris?” Christian ran his fingers through his loose curls and sighed.
“We’re taking things slow.” David frowned coming to his husband defense. He noticed the uncomfortable look on Christian’s face and he felt bad that he even said anything.
“I’ll say.” Taggart narrowed his gaze at his best friend. He was about to start in on Christian when Jimmy stepped in.
“Come on, Baby.” He grabbed Taggart by the hand. “It was great, guys. Next week, our house.” He shot them the peace sign as he dragged his partner behind him.
“Yeah, that’s great,” David said. He and Christian watched as Jimmy handed Taggart the keys and watched as they put on their helmets.
“Love you guys,” Taggart called back over his shoulder as he revved the engine.
“Love you too,” Christian yelled over the loud noise. “Call me when you get home to let us know you made it.”
“Will do…” Taggart’s voice trailed off as they headed out of the driveway.
David and Christian cleaned up the kitchen and turned off the lights and headed for bed. They made their way down the hall stopping at the boy’s room. Christian rested his shoulder against the doorframe and watched fondly as David turned off their television and adjusted the cover over Ethan who had kicked them off onto the floor.
“I remember when we brought them home,” he smiled as he made his way back to Christian. “After Liam, I wasn’t sure if you wanted to do it again. Man.” He shook his head as he reflected on the first night which left him and Christian sleep deprived.
“I wish I could remember,” Christian said above a whisper while stepping back allowing David to pass. David pressed his lips in a tight line and sighed sending Christian a forlorn glance.
“It will all come back,” he assured him. “We recorded when we brought them home if you ever want to watch. We have several videos, actually.”
“Seriously?” Christian’s eyes widened with excitement.
“Of course. We have when we left the hospital. We have each of their first feedings, diaper change. When they learned to crawl, walk everything.”
“Let’s watch them.”
“Sure. I get them out tomorrow and we can watch them-”
“No,” Christian stated with urgency. “Let’s watch them now.”
David looked at his watching noticing the time. “Christian, it’s 1:30 in the morning.”
“And…nothing,” he conceded. “Let’s go watch some home movies.”
“Great.” Christian smiled clapping his hands together. “I’ll get the popcorn and meet you in the family room.”
Christian concedes; accepting his own realities and life as he knows it.