“I’m sorry; I can’t do this,” was all Sarah’s message said, but it was enough to freeze Brendon’s heart. He quickly disconnected and speed-dialed one. It went straight to voicemail and Brendon left a frantic message. He didn’t even know what was coming out of his mouth, just that he was begging. When he was cut off, he called again and again, hoping and praying to get through.
That’s how Spencer found him an hour later.
Brendon didn’t even notice him at first. He was too busy pleading on her voicemail. When Spencer gently unwrapped Brendon’s hand from the phone, Brendon looked at him and said, “Spence? I can’t get Sarah on the phone.”
“I know. She left me a message too. I got here as quick as I could.”
“But I don’t understand.”
Spencer pulled him into a tight hug and said, “I’m so sorry, Brendon.” That was when Brendon started crying. He knew he was getting tears and snot all over Spencer’s tuxedo, but he guessed it didn’t matter now. There was no bride, so there would be no wedding for Spencer to be best man at. He choked up again, but Spencer just tightened his grip.
The rest of the day, and even the days to follow, were a blur to Brendon. If he thought about it, which he didn’t really except in brief flashes, he guessed that Spencer took care of things. Someone had to notify the guests and return the wedding gifts and all the other minutia that happens when the bride up and skips town the day of the wedding.
If left alone, Brendon sat and stared into space, lost in his head. He felt like he was drowning. Stuck under volumes and volumes of water, gasping for air, too tired to save himself. He knew he was making everyone concerned about him, but it was too hard to even fake being all right. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, he would drift off in conversations.
Still, everyone had their own lives and their own families, so one by one his family and friends went home and resumed their lives. Except Spencer. Brendon didn’t know how Spencer did it, but he managed to be around all the time without hovering over Brendon and being annoying. Brendon guessed they were best friends for a reason.
Over the next couple months, Brendon slowly came out of his fugue, but it was hard being the same old him. He didn’t laugh as easily or joke around quite so much. Only Spencer seemed to accept the new Brendon, everyone else would say, “You used to find this funny” or “You used to be more spontaneous.” Brendon didn’t know how to answer those comments. He also used to be in love and have a whole heart.
About nine months after he got jilted, Brendon came home from walking the dogs to find suitcases in the foyer. He stopped short. Those were Spencer’s suitcases. He panicked, his breath coming in short pants, because how would he get on without Spencer? His vision swam and he felt light-headed. Spencer came whistling into the foyer, saying, “I thought I heard the door.”
Brendon just looked at him, knowing all the horror he was feeling was showing on his face. Spencer stopped short and even looked over his shoulder as if Brendon couldn’t be looking at him like that. And then he seemed to catch on. “Oh, hey, no. This is for us. Both of us. I’m taking you away.”
The breath whooshed out of Brendon and he collapsed backwards against the door, Bogart yapping at his heels. Spencer navigated through the suitcases and dogs, and pulled Brendon into a hug. “I’m not leaving you, dude. I wouldn’t do that.” The “too” was left unsaid, but Brendon knew they were both thinking it.
Finally Spencer slowly pulled out of the hug, searching Brendon’s face for reassurance. Brendon gave a wavering smile, but at least it was genuine, if a bit sheepish. He asked, “So where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
In a mock-whiny voice, Brendon replied, “But Spence, I hate surprises.”
Spencer laughed and threw his arm around Brendon’s shoulder. “You’ll like this one. I’m really looking forward to it. Now come on. We need to get ready and get to the airport.”
Brendon knew that the old him would have begged and pleaded with Spencer until he gave in and revealed where they were going. But that wasn’t who he was anymore. Right now he was too happy that Spencer wasn’t leaving him behind to worry about where they were going.
They got to the airport and Spencer made Brendon wait off to the side while he booked them in and had the luggage checked. He was really trying to milk the surprise for all it was worth. Brendon didn’t point out that he would know once they reached the departure gate.
They had to walk to the far end of the concourse, of course, and Brendon was panting a bit by the time they reached the end. He really needed to quit smoking and get more exercise besides taking the dogs out.
Spencer led them to the gate on the far left and then did a little “Ta Da!” dance and a Vanna White wave to the information board for the flight. Without his volition, Brendon’s head tilted to the side in the classic confused gesture. He had been expecting someplace festive and fun with pretty girls; someplace everyone else would have dragged him to as a ploy to cheer him up. He had been expecting Hawaii or Rio de Janeiro, not Air Canada to Edmonton. He felt tendrils of curiosity and excitement and was again reminded how well Spencer knew him. If he had been dragged to Hawaii, he would have been miserable and felt manipulated. Edmonton was bizarre enough to derail all those feelings. He ventured, “Are we going skiing?”
“Not exactly.” Spencer was practically vibrating in his excitement.
It was so uncommon that it distracted Brendon from asking more questions about the trip and left him asking, “Are you high, dude?”
Spencer giggled, actually giggled, and said, “You wish I was and that I would share. I’m just excited. This is going to be epic.”
“Uhuh. Epic in Edmonton. Got it.”
Spencer laughed again and pulled Brendon towards the gate as boarding of the flight was announced.
They were the first off the plane, Spencer leading the way. Brendon followed slowly as Spencer wandered over to the departures display and scrutinized them. Brendon said, “We’re arriving, not departing.”
“We’re actually doing both.” Spencer shot a conspiratorial grin at Brendon and then began walking briskly down the concourse. “Come on, we only have half an hour to catch our next flight.”
Jogging to catch up, Brendon asked, “There was no better place to transfer in than Edmonton? Where the hell are we going?”
With the same maniacal grin that he had started giving Brendon ever since he had revealed their first destination, Spencer said, “On an adventure.”
He then stopped so abruptly that Brendon ran into him with an, “Oomph.” Spencer twirled to his right and did another jiggly dance and wave towards the new gate’s departure board. It said, “Yellowknife.”
Brendon looked between Spencer’s grinning face and the sign for a couple seconds. Scratching his head he cautiously said, “Spence? I don’t even know where Yellowknife is. It’s not near Yellowstone, is it? Are we going camping? Because you remember what happen last time with your favorite jacket and the fire and the marshmallows…”
Spencer’s expression fell ever so slightly and he did a more vehement wave towards the sign as if his dance alone would convey what was so epic about Yellowknife. “It’s not near Yellowstone, doofus. It’s in the Canadian Northwest Territories. We’re going to the Arctic!”
Feeling out of his depth, Brendon said, “We’re from Vegas.”
Excitedly poking Brendon in the chest, Spencer exclaimed, “That’s the brilliant part!”
“Actually, I think the word you’re looking for is batshit insane.”
“That’s two words.”
Exasperated, Brendon said, “Oh my god, we’re going to freeze to death.” Brendon couldn’t look away from Spencer’s face. Even faced with Brendon’s lack of excitement, he practically radiated glee. It made something in Brendon’s chest tighten. He used to be the one dragging Spencer into improbably adventures and now here he was on the other side acting like a doomsayer. Everything was so wrong he almost felt like crying.
Spencer said, “I have two words for you: sled dogs.”
Finally, more tendrils of excitement joined his previous , dormant ones and he hung onto them with all his mental-strength. Shaking off as much of his melancholy as he could, with the beginning of a smile, he asked, “Dog-sledding, really?”
“Totally! I have this whole thing planned. Just you wait.” Spencer threw his arm around Brendon’s shoulders and Brendon let him steer him towards the gate entrance as Spencer fished out their tickets.
The plane was tiny but the flight was smooth as glass. Spencer let Brendon have the window seat where he could watch the snowy whiteness dotted with towns. The town lights were getting infrequent until they got nearer to Yellowknife and landed that night.
They picked up their luggage and Spencer dug two hoodies out for them, but Brendon was still cold in the frigid air wafting in through the doors. He said, “I don’t think we have the wardrobe for this trip.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m prepared.”
Brendon pouted. “Yet all I get is a hoodie?” Secretly he was hovering on the edge of excitement. This was so different from anything he had done or anywhere he had been before that the excitement keep bubbling up whenever he stopped to think about it. He felt a warm rush of affection for Spencer. Only Spencer could have hit on something guaranteed to still be exciting to Brendon.
Spencer just grinned at him and began rolling their luggage out to the taxi stand. Which was a bit of a misnomer when they got there. There was a rickety sign and one idling taxi, no bustling feeling of a large city. Brendon felt relief that there was even one taxi. As he knew from watching through the window of the plane, Yellowknife was in the middle of nowhere.
Spencer and the driver put their luggage in the trunk and Spencer must have given him their location because once they were all in the taxi, the guy took off like a speed-demon New York City driver. As Brendon was thrown into Spencer’s side of the cab, he looked at Spencer in disbelief. Spencer had the same shocked expression. Then they were both thrown to the opposite side of the cab. The driver had country music blaring, and as they hurdled through the streets and Brendon and Spencer went sliding from one end of the bench seat to the other, he was singing along. Brendon couldn’t contain his giggles and Spencer was no better.
They came to a jarring halt outside a cozy looking two-story house. Brendon raised an eyebrow. This wasn’t the normal type of hotel that they stayed in, this was more of a Bed and Breakfast. His eyebrow raised higher when Spencer broke out colorful money to pay the driver. When they were left on the sidewalk with their luggage, Brendon asked, “You have Canadian money? You really did prepare for this trip, huh?”
“I’ve been planning it for weeks now.”
“Because you deserve it.” Spencer looked embarrassed to admit that much.
To lighten the mood, Brendon said, “I deserve a trip to the frozen North?”
As Brendon wanted, Spencer laughed. “Exactly! We both deserve an adventure and I wanted to make it happen for us. It was either this or go rafting down the Amazon, but I didn’t want to get eaten by piranhas.”
Brendon grimaced. “You are so morbid.”
“Says the guy who is worried about freezing to death.”
They grinned at each other and Brendon felt lighter than he had in almost a year. Without saying anything, he bumped his shoulder against Spencer’s and picked up one of the suitcases. He could see his breath misting in the air and was starting to shiver. Time to get inside.
They entered the house, where a little bell attached to the door jingled merrily. Brendon’s glasses fogged up and he let Spencer take the suitcase out of his hand so he could wipe them off. The warm air felt delicious on his exposed skin.
An older woman came bustling into the foyer. “You must be Spencer and Brendon. I’m Eva, one of the owners. We’re so glad to have you here. But you boys look exhausted. Let’s get you settled and then maybe a late dinner, hm?”
Spencer said, “That would be great.”
They followed her up the stairs and through the first door on the left. Brendon was last so he didn’t get to see the room until after Eva came back out with a smile and a little pat to Brendon’s shoulder. Thus he was surprised to enter the room and see only one bed. He looked backwards to see if Eva was going to lead him to a separate room, but she was already gone. That’s when he noticed Spencer’s sheepish expression as he rubbed the back of his neck. Spencer said, “For some reason I thought sharing a bed would prepare us for sharing a tent, but that was obviously stupid. I’m going to see if they have another room.”
Brendon had a microsecond to consider it, since Spencer was already hurrying to the door, so before he could really think about what it meant, he grabbed Spencer’s arm as he walked past and said, “Don’t bother. We’ve shared tighter spaces than a king-sized bed.”
“Are you sure?” Spencer still looked flustered.
“Of course.” Now that the moment had passed and the idea was sinking in, Brendon was even kind of looking forward to it. Sleeping alone for the last nine months had sucked. He always felt lonely and it felt just plain old-fashioned wrong to be in bed by himself.
Eva knocked on the door frame with her elbow and Brendon rushed over to help her with the full tray she was carrying. There were thick roast beef sandwiches and two glasses of milk as well as bottles of water. She said, “Thank you, dear. I figured you boys would appreciate an informal meal in your room after your long travels. Los Angeles! I hear it is a wondrous place!”
Spencer said, “It’s pretty cool and definitely warmer than here.”
“It must be quite the culture shock.”
“In a good way,” Spencer replied with an understanding smile, which Eva returned.
She dusted off her hands on her apron. “I’ll let you boys rest now. Just put the tray outside your door when you’re done.”
Both Brendon and Spencer nodded as she left and closed the door. Brendon put the tray down on the small dining table that was by the window and Spencer joined him and they both sat down. They pulled plates and glasses off the tray and once settled, Brendon took a big bite of his sandwich and moaned. He mumbled, “It’s so good, Spence.”
His mouth full too, Spencer just nodded emphatically. Brendon was ravenous after the long day of airplane food, so he ate in huge bites and the sandwich was gone quickly. Spencer ate just as fast and they finished about the same time.
Yawning widely, Spencer leaned back in his chair. “Bed?” he asked.
Brendon nodded, his eyelids drooping.
Spencer put the tray outside the door and then they both changed into boxers and t-shirts. Brendon was glad the inn was well heated. After brushing their teeth side by side, they headed to bed. Brendon briefly worried it would be awkward, but before he could panic about it, Spencer climbed into the bed, doing his routine squirming to get comfortable that always reminded Brendon of Bogart and made him smile. He sometimes thought Spencer would turn in circles if he could.
Distracted by Spencer’s antics, he didn’t hesitate to climb into the bed when Spencer lifted the covers for him. Once there, he mentally shrugged and decided he was too tired to get worked up about it. At first they weren’t touching, there were a couple inches between them, but after barely a minute, Spencer shuffled and squirmed once again, this time until he was resting along Brendon’s side and had an arm around Brendon’s waist. Into Brendon’s ear, he mumbled, “This all right?”
Brendon tilted his head slightly into Spencer’s lips and whispered back, “Sure,” but his breath was coming in short gasps. He consciously tried to lengthen and regulate his breathing, but even so it would hitch every couple of breaths. He hadn’t been held this way by someone, anyone, since Sarah. Now, even though Spencer’s touches were light, it was obvious how touch-starved he had become with the loss of his relationship. Spencer’s weight felt delicious and electric, sparking shivers up and down Brendon’s side.
Trying to distract himself from the physical sensations, he idly thought it odd that he didn’t know of anyone else he would still trust with this intimacy, especially if he was going to react so strongly to it. It was both fulfilling a thirst that he hadn’t known his body had, but also frightening the hell out of him with the intensity of the feelings it generated.
Brendon knew Spencer could hear his stuttering breaths, but he acted like everything was fine. His only acknowledgment was the slight, rhythmic rub of his fingertips against Brendon’s ribs through his t-shirt. It was a welcome touch and soothing. By concentrating on it, Brendon was eventually able to get himself under control and for the sensations to stop shocking him with their intensity. Finally he was able to let his tiredness overtake him again and he fell asleep thinking about how much Spencer meant to him.
The next morning Spencer was already up and on the phone by the time Brendon opened his eyes. Brendon drifted half-asleep watching Spencer pace and lulled by the sound of Spencer’s voice until the words registered and he realized Spencer was confirming their dog-sledding adventure.
Suddenly wide awake, he sat up and gave Spencer a wide grin. Spencer, still on the phone, gave him a thumbs up in response. Finally hanging up the phone, Spencer said, “So I promised that we would be there by ten a.m. That means we have an hour to dress and eat.”
Truly excited now, Brendon said, “Psh. I can do it in half the time if it means more time with the dogs.”
Grinning at him, Spencer replied, “First shower!”
As Brendon yelled at him for being unfair and popped quickly out of bed, Spencer cackled and shut the bathroom door right in his face. Brendon banged on the door, just to be annoying, and called Spencer a bastard.
Brendon raced through his shower when it was his turn and they both quickly ate from the continental breakfast buffet that had been set up in the downstairs dining room. There were a couple other guests, but there was no time to find out anything about them.
Once they were done wolfing down their food, Spencer dug some parkas, boots, and gloves out of his seemingly endless suitcase. They were brightly colored, blues and reds, and still had the tags on them. Feeling jubilant, Brendon ribbed him about not unearthing them last night for the cab ride. Spencer simply said, “I wanted it to be a surprise,” and Brendon grinned at him. Spencer was a fount of surprises this trip.
Eva offered to drive them to the outskirts of town where the dog-sledding place was located. Even with all their rushing they were running late, so they gratefully accepted. On the way there they chatted about dogs and the mild winter Yellowknife was having. Of course this meant minus twenty instead of minus forty, but Brendon was still thankful.
Arriving with a couple minutes to spare, Brendon couldn’t help bouncing and smiling as they got out of the truck and said good-bye to Eva. He could hear the barking of the dogs and the commands of the mushers. Spencer grinned just as brightly and they exchanged excited looks.
The air was cold and crisp, but there was no wind, so it felt good on Brendon’s face. The snow that seemed to cover everything crunched under his feet. Although the pathway had mostly been shoveled, snow had been blown from the various drifts back onto it. The novel feel of it, added to his eagerness to see the dogs at work, made him feel more alive than he had in a while. He took some deep breaths and just reveled in the feeling.
A man stepped from around the side of the house and started towards him and Spencer. As he reached them, Spencer stepped forward and asked, “Mr. Winslow?”
“Ayup. Call me Tom. Did you guys find the place all right?”
With a charming smile, Spencer said, “We lucked out and Eva the innkeeper drove us.”
“Have you had her cod yet? Best in town.”
“We haven’t. We just arrived late last night.”
“And you’re already out here with me? Not wasting any time, are you?”
Spencer chuckled and shared a grin with Brendon. “No, sir. We love dogs too much to wait.”
Tom started walking back the way he came, waving at Spencer and Brendon to follow him. “Well you have to remember these are working dogs, not pets, so you can’t romp with them the way you would with a poodle, but you’ll love it when the dogs start working together. It is a sight to see.”
For the first time, Brendon spoke up. “How many dogs do you have here?”
“We have about one hundred and fifty dogs total, some for our tourist business and some for our racing teams.”
“That’s quite a large operation.”
With pride, Tom replied, “Biggest in the territory.”
As they rounded the corner, Brendon was stunned by the sight of row upon row of doghouses and more dogs than he could count, all in various stages of rest or training. There was another large building with two berths of open, garage-type doors towards the left where Brendon could see the equipment for the dogsledding. Spencer bumped his shoulder against Brendon’s, and out of the corner of his eye he could see the huge grin on Spencer’s face. He bumped Spencer back.
Tom led them to the back of the house. “If you boys are going out, you’ll need some warmer mitts and hats.” On the back porch were stores of warm gear and he handed each of them some extra outerwear. He looked at their boots critically, but eventually said, “I suppose those will do.”
Spencer looked a bit offended, but Brendon could tell it was all a front. He was thrilled by every bit of this adventure, as he called it. Still, Spencer defended his choices. “I checked and the label said these were rated to forty below.’
With a sideways grin, Tom replied, “Let’s hope that’s true or we’ll be knocking your frozen toes off.”
Spencer quipped about it being better than losing other parts and he and Tom were off making frozen dick jokes. Trust Spencer to find a kindred spirit in the Arctic. But after the third really bad joke, Brendon found himself giggling too. It was hard to resist Spencer and Tom’s ribald joking when they were doing it rapid-fire and with nudges to Brendon’s side.
Once Spencer and Tom stopped joking around, Tom got them back on track and led them to a group of dogs being harnessed off to the right. There were eight dogs being set up in two lines. The dogs quivered in excitement and it was obvious to Brendon that the dogs loved their jobs. He was practically quivering in excitement too and he felt a warm rush of affection for Spencer who had secretly planned all this knowing how much Brendon would love it.
Tom and his assistant Riley walked them through all the gear and what each piece did. They then introduced them to the dogs and explained the different positions and what the requirements were for each type of dog. Brendon paid particular attention to this part, finding the explanation of leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs fascinating.
There were Adam and Benjamin the lead dogs, Gideon and Francis the point dogs, Daniel and Caleb the swing dogs, and Ephraim and Hapharaim the wheel dogs. After Tom had gone through the names, incredulous, Brendon giggled. “Aren’t those the names of the brothers from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? Well, except Hapharaim.”
Tom laughed and clapped Brendon hard on the back, making him stumble. “Not many people your age get the reference. God job! And, yeah, we had to come up with our own H name from the bible.”
Brendon snorted his amusement. “Not many people my age were raised on wholesome movies form the fifties.”
Spencer said, “Don’t front, you loved it. No decade did musicals better than the fifties.”
They grinned at each other and Brendon could see that Spencer was poised to break into a little dance, if Brendon would just give the slightest hint that he would too. Before Brendon could decide whether to be that dorky, Tom said, “Well, let’s get you guys acquainted with the dogs and then we’ll be on our way,” and the moment was past. Spencer’s smile changed to a mild resignation and he distracted Tom with questions about the dog’s endurance and top speed.
Brendon sighed and followed. He felt resigned too, but also a little hopeful. That was the closest he had come to being the spontaneous “old” him in as many months. Trust Spencer and his wild ideas to bring out parts of Brendon that he thought had been burned away. He imagined little sprouts of baby-plant Brendonisms growing up through the snow and then laughed quietly to himself. Shaking off his wandering thoughts, he joined the others in meeting the dogs.
The rest of the day went by in a blur. Brendon couldn’t remember the last time he had so much fun. It was obvious Spencer was having the time of his life too, which gratified Brendon. He didn’t feel like a charity case considering Spencer fought with him over giving every treat to the dogs.
Pulled by the dogs, the sled flew over the snow faster than Brendon would have imagined. He whooped in surprise at the first go, and Spencer let his voice join Brendon’s in egging on the dogs. They couldn’t cheer for long, the cold, snapping air stealing their voices after a while, but it was worth it. Hell, the exhilaration Brendon felt would be worth losing a couple toes to frostbite. All right, maybe just his smallest, pinkie toe, but the sentiment remained the same.
As the clock turned past noon, they returned to the compound and the sun began setting. Brendon suddenly remembered that this far north there would be shorter days, and he was disappointed. He didn’t want this day to end, ever. Tom showed them how to put up the tackle and take care of the dogs, both Brendon and Spencer giving the dogs extra attention to say thank you for their hard work.
It was full dark by the time they finished and as they walked with Tom and Riley back to the house to return their gear, Tom began talking about the Aurora Borealis and how amazing it was. Spencer said, “I had a snowmobile overnight trip planned, but that fell through.”
Tom replied, “Snowmobiles? Bah! The only way to go is with the dogs. You should talk to Mark about our package tours. We’ll take you out in style!”
Brendon chimed in to ask, “How long do your tours last?”
“They can be overnight or up to three days.”
Brendon turned pleading eyes to Spencer, but he could already see that Spencer would need no convincing from him. Spencer said, “We’d love to do a three-day tour. Can we have the same team of dogs?”
Brendon nodded enthusiastically and bounced in place.
They reached the house and began stripping off their borrowed gear as Tom said, “Sure thing. I’ll let Mark know and he can take care of the details. See you again soon!”
They said good-bye to Tom and then were led into the office where Mark hooked them up with the three-day tour to start in a day and a half. Mark even offered them a ride back to their inn, which they gratefully accepted.
Once they arrived back at the Bed and Breakfast, Brendon was wilting. He looked over at Spencer, who looked just as exhausted, and asked, “Nap time?”
“That sounds amazing.”
After confirming with Eva that they would be down for dinner at six, they trooped upstairs and into their room. The second he was through the doorway, Brendon began toeing off his boots and ditching his layers onto the wing chair that was next to the bathroom door. Spencer was doing the same, except he was piling his clothes on the chair at the table he had used last night.
Brendon finished first and once he was stripped down to his boxers, he crawled into bed and laid down face first, starfish style. Spencer joined him a minute or so later, wiggling until his head was on the same pillow and he was under one of Brendon’s outstretched arms. Brendon was more prepared for the rush of feelings the contact caused, so he was able to act nonchalant about it, although electricity still skittered along his nerve endings.
Spencer said, “I can’t believe how tired I am considering the dogs did all the work.”
“I think it’s the cold. Sucks the energy right out of you.”
Spencer reached down to bring the down comforter more snugly over their shoulders. “Remind me not to move here, even with the awesome dog-sledding.”
“It was amazing, wasn’t it?”
“The best,” Spencer replied. Brendon turned his head towards Spencer and they grinned at each other from inches apart. The smile fell from Spencer’s face to be replaced with a soft, fond look. “I’m so glad you’re here with me.”
“Where else would I be?” It hit Brendon how much he meant it too. There was nowhere else he wanted to be other than by Spencer’s side. Spencer had been his lifesaver these many months and he was Brendon’s best friend. He had been there through the good and the bad, and when push came to shove over and over again, he always chose Brendon’s side. It shouldn’t have been the revelation it was, but Brendon had never claimed to be the brightest crayon in the box.
He said, “Thanks, by the way.”
Raising an eyebrow, but not really in a questioning way, Spencer said, “It’s always my pleasure.”
Brendon snuggled closer to Spencer and tightened his hold around Spencer’s shoulders. Spencer hummed his approval and they both closed their eyes. Brendon was asleep in minutes, too wrung out to worry about his feelings for Spencer just then.
Brendon woke slowly, a feeling of warmth and safety permeating his thoughts. He squirmed closer to the warmth, knowing even in his half-awake state that it was Spencer. He was half-hard, but even that felt more like a welcoming awakening of his body to go with his blossoming outlook on life. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had masturbated, let alone felt sexy.
Spencer shifted closer too, rubbing his face in Brendon’s neck. Brendon tightened his arm and whispered, “Spence?”
“I’m awake.” It was said in a husky murmur, but was still clear.
“We should probably get up, huh?”
With a big sigh, Spencer replied, “Yeah,” but he didn’t move right away.
It took Brendon jostling his arm and inching up to get Spencer moving. His eyes were heavy-lidded with sleep and there was a crease in his cheek from Brendon’s arm and the pillow. Spencer stretched and yawned, pushing the comforter down and letting in the cooler air. As Brendon turned to get out of bed, his gaze drifted over Spencer’s groin and he noticed that Spencer was mostly hard as well.
He paused for a microsecond, putting it together with his revelation from the night before, but then completed his climb out of bed. He wasn’t sure he was ready for more thought about what Spencer meant to him. Hell, he wasn’t even sure his arousal meant anything, so he wasn’t going to question Spencer about his. Pushing all these thoughts to the back of his mind, he went to the bathroom to relieve himself and to splash water on his face to wake up.
Spencer was waiting by the door when Brendon was done, so with small smiles, they exchanged places. Brendon began redressing in his jeans and sweater as Spencer came out of the bathroom rubbing his belly like a Buddha. Feeling light-hearted again, Brendon turned away to hide his smile. Spencer’s quirks were so amusing, even after all this time. Spencer was fully dressed a couple minutes after Brendon finished. He said, “Good timing. Dinner is in a couple minutes.”
Nodding, Brendon pointed towards the door and asked, “Shall we?”
“We shall,” Spencer jokingly replied.
They trooped down the stairs and into the dining room.
Dinner was fun. They got to meet the other guests, a couple from Vancouver lecturing at a nearby college. The next day was spent sight-seeing around Yellowknife. They went to see the diamond exhibit at the mining offices and had lunch at a restaurant on one of the lakes. In the afternoon, after calling Tom and checking to see what was needed, they went shopping and bought additional gear for their three-day dog-sledding trip.
Even though Tom said they had most of the stuff they would need, Spencer refused to use a sleeping bag that someone else had slept in. Once he mentioned the possibility of fleas and lice, Brendon was swayed to his point of view, even if he secretly wondered if fleas or lice could survive when it was this cold.
During the day while they were wandering from place to place, Brendon also mailed some postcards to his parents and Shane. Spencer had admitted that he had run the adventure idea by everyone before booking the tickets, so Brendon wanted to say thank you and to let them know he was having a great time.
Brendon also used this chance to observe Spencer and think about the last couple of days, and even the last couple of months. He pondered his feelings, Spencer’s feelings, and wondered what it all meant when taken together. Once he started paying attention, Spencer’s deep feelings for him were obvious. If this whole trip wasn’t an obvious sign, there was always the way Spencer didn’t smile at anyone quite the way he smiled at Brendon, how he had chosen Brendon’s side over Ryan’s when the band split, how his eyes lingered on Brendon with more intensity than was polite, or even how he always laughed at Brendon’s lame jokes.
Putting the pieces together, Brendon understood that Spencer not only wanted him, but was probably in love with him. Realizing this made him look at Spencer with new eyes and he now had to figure out if he was in love with Spencer besides loving him to death, because Spencer deserved at least that and, really, a whole hell of a lot more. Brendon had never had a better friend than Spencer and he wouldn’t mind kissing him or more, but he wasn’t sure if he was in love too. It felt like it was all happening so suddenly, but he knew it was really just his realization that was happening quickly. Spencer had apparently been putting out signs forever.
When they went to bed that night, cuddling as had become their custom, Brendon laid awake far into the night. He was holding Spencer, and although it felt natural, he still wondered if this nameless thing with Spencer would be enough to make them both happy and whether it would be worth risking their friendship.
Thinking further, Brendon freely admitted that he broke down when Sarah left him, but it hadn’t been irreparable. He feared losing Spencer would demolish him, though, which if he put the pieces together, was the answer to his question about being in love with Spencer. He didn’t want Spencer to find someone else and move Brendon to second place; he wanted desperately to remain number one in Spencer’s life. That was the only way life made sense to him. He couldn’t imagine trusting someone new with these overwhelming feelings, but he trusted Spencer with them completely.
Now to figure out how to move forward when he was scared breathless by the idea, even with his trust.
Spencer had to shake him awake the next morning, but once Brendon remembered the trip they had planned, his grogginess fell away and he was jumping out of bed. Laughing at him, Spencer was obviously in a good mood too. Brendon’s eagerness for the adventure even pushed his deeper feelings to the background for the moment, which he was grateful for. He needed time to get used to them.
They were keeping their room at the inn, which Brendon figured was a good thing, considering their accumulated crap. How there were going to pack it all for the return trip was a mystery. Besides their additional gear, there were presents and souvenirs and just random things that caught their eye. They had bought new backpacks for the dog-sledding trip when they were shopping the day before, so there was at least room in there for stuff. Although from how full Spencer’s looked with his gear, maybe not all the room they would need. Deciding to worry about the trip home later, Brendon got busy packing his own bag and getting dressed.
They arrived at the compound with plenty of time to spare, so were able to help get the dogs ready and pack up the sleds. It was a little colder than it had been, so Brendon was thankful for the extra gear they had bought. Once it was full daylight, they set off for the cabin they would be staying in away from town.
The dog-sledding was just as exhilarating as the first time. They switched it up from the other day where they had started off with Spencer steering and Brendon in the sled. This time Spencer was in the sled while Brendon was steering from behind. They went flying over the landscape, the dogs yipping and barking as they ran full out. Brendon tried to remember all the proper commands, but he messed up more times than he got it right. Luckily the dogs knew where they were going and ignored his gaffes. He actually found it funny that the dogs were better on their own than with him steering.
It was a long four hours out to the cabin; Spencer and Brendon switched places about halfway through, which Brendon was thankful for. He was getting frozen with the wind whipping through him. For the second half of the trip, Brendon had the luxury of thinking back to his revelations from the night before. He knew the problem was with him and had nothing to do with Spencer. Spencer was a rock of stability and steadfastness. Brendon’s trust was well-placed with him. So it was just a matter of Brendon facing his own issues and overcoming them. He kept muttering under his breath that it would be worth it, but he was still frightened. Change was scary, after all.
Still he planned out how to approach Spencer and even fantasized about doing it under the Aurora Borealis, since that would probably be the most romantic. There were just Tom and Riley to account for. If worst came to worst, he would wait.
They arrived at the camp and Brendon and Spencer joined Tom and Riley in settling the dogs down and unpacking the gear into the cabin. Once done Brendon wandered around a little bit and turned the corner to the back of the cabin where he stopped short. “Tom, you dog! You didn’t mention you had an actual igloo!”
Tom and Spencer joined Brendon, Spencer with an eager expression on his face. When he could see the igloo too, he exclaimed, “Cool!”
Tom said, “Do you boys want to sleep there?” It’s a little cold for it, but not out of the question. You should still be all right.”
Brendon whooped and ran to the igloo, crawling inside through the entrance. It was amazing inside. The snow blocks didn’t absorb all the light so there was an eerie glow inside. Spencer slapped his ass to get him to move out of the entranceway, and he crawled in after Brendon. Sitting down next to Brendon, he looked like a blue Buddha with the bulky down coat and wondrous expression. It was obvious he found the igloo just as thrilling as Brendon did.
Brendon said, “This is the best. You were a genius to think of it.”
Spencer beamed at him. “Well, I can’t take claim for the igloo, but I will accept accolades for everything else. I am a fucking genius. This has been brilliant. I’m so glad we came.”
Unable to stop himself, Brendon beamed back at Spencer. He knew they must look like saps sitting there smiling at each other, but they were hidden from view, so he had no problem indulging in it.
Tom called out from inside to say that they had a fire going in the cabin and that it was time to eat. Brendon and Spencer scrambled out of the igloo and followed Tom to the cabin. They ate lunch, joking with Tom and Riley; Tom and Spencer rediscovering their similar sense of humor. The meal was filled with laughter and jokes and it distracted Brendon from his thoughts for a while.
They stayed in the cabin, drinking coffee and talking, until the sliver of moon was high in the sky and it was so dark, Brendon couldn’t see two feet in front of his face. Outside aside from the cabin and its light, there was just acres of darkness. It was eerie and thrilling, and Brendon and Spencer kept exchanging those smiles that made Brendon’s heart trip over.
Shortly after they huddled outside, the Aurora Borealis started and then Brendon and Spencer were too busy watching the sky in amazement to exchange anything except nudges to each other’s arm. Tom and Riley also watched the display; they seemed just as excited, even though they had seen it before.
Finally too tired and too cold to stand outside anymore, Brendon and Spencer crawled into the igloo with their flashlights and spread out the gear they would need. As nonchalantly as he could, Brendon said, “We should zip the sleeping bags together. It’s cold.”
Spencer just said, “Duh,” and finished setting up the sleeping bags and zipping them together. Then, taking off his boots and shoving his feet into the sleeping bag, he wrestled his coat off and quickly snuggled down into the sleeping bag, pulling it over his shoulders. He said, “Come on and get your coat off. It’s cold here without your insane body heat.”
“My body heat is perfectly natural.”
“Yeah, for a furnace.”
Brendon couldn’t help giggling at Spencer’s wry comment, and he could see Spencer’s teeth flash in the shadowy cave the flashlights made of the igloo. He finished taking off his boots and coat and scampered into the sleeping bag, crawling over and around Spencer to try and get comfortable. If he pretend-groped a bit, well, Spencer wasn’t complaining. Much.
Finally settled with his head on Spencer’s shoulder and his leg half-thrown over Spencer’s, Brendon settled down and wondered how to proceed from here. It had seemed so easy in his fantasies as the dog-sled flew over the landscape and as they watched the flashing lights in the sky, but faced with the moment now, he was hesitating.
What if he had misread all the signs from Spencer? He knew that was unlikely, but what if?
Brendon spent the next couple of minutes quietly freaking out, but luckily Spencer didn’t seem to notice. He was settling down, pulling his hat tighter over his brow, and then turning off the flashlights, plunging them into darkness. It was the comforting feel of Spencer along his side combined with the lack of light that gave Brendon the confidence to move forward with his half-formed plan.
Taking a deep breath, Brendon eased himself so that he was straddling Spencer’s hips and their faces were inches apart, the sleeping bag pulled tight across his shoulders. Spencer initially tried to shift out of Brendon’s way as if he thought Brendon was just trying to get comfortable, but when Brendon crawled on top of him he stilled and asked, “Bren?”
“So, just curious, because for me, I just figured it out twenty-four hours ago, but how long have you been in love with me?”
Even though it seemed it would be impossible, Spencer froze even more. Brendon wasn’t even sure he was still breathing. He couldn’t feel any puffs of warm air on his face. Brendon realized how his question might sound to Spencer and rushed to say, “Not that it isn’t the best thing I’ve figured out, like, ever. Because it is.”
Finally a breath whooshed out of Spencer and then he was talking. “This hasn’t been an elaborate seduction, really Bren. I just wanted to take a trip with my best friend. The bed thing was a mistake. You don’t have to do this.”
“It’s fine, I know you didn’t mean the trip like that, but that’s just because you’re stupid.”
With sarcasm dripping from his voice, Spencer replied, “Gee, thanks.” He tried to manhandle Brendon off him, but Brendon had long experience latching onto someone like an octopus. Finally Spencer huffed in frustration, shook Brendon’s shoulders, and said, “Get off, seriously, Brendon.”
“No, never. I’m not saying this right. Give me another chance. I’m trying to say I love you too. I might have just figured it out, but I still mean it.”
Sounding confused but hopeful, and who knew Brendon could get so much from Spencer’s tone of voice, Spencer again asked, “Bren?”
“Seriously. I’m in love with you. You’re the best thing in my life and I couldn’t bear to lose you. You saw me through the Sarah debacle and the band splitting up. You’ve always been there for me and I was just too blind and stupid to see it before.”
Daring to believe that Spencer’s silence meant acquiescence Brendon leaned down to kiss Spencer, only catching the corner of Spencer’s mouth because he couldn’t judge well in the complete darkness. They both adjusted and then they were kissing for real. It was just as brilliant as Brendon had imagined. They were wearing too many layers and it was too cold to do more than that, but Brendon could wait. Hell, it would be worth the wait.
Spencer finally broke the kiss and tightened his arms around Brendon in a fierce hug. “I love you too. So much. I can’t actually believe this is happening, but I’m so thankful it is. Are you sure?” Brendon could hear the wonder and nervousness in Spencer’s voice.
Jokingly Brendon replied, “Positive. And even someone as dense as I am has to catch on eventually.”
“You’re not dense. It just wasn’t the right time before.”
“Well, I’m glad it was finally the right time for this adventure. It has been the best thing that has ever happen to me. And I don’t mean the dog-sledding.” Even Brendon could hear the grin in his voice.
Spencer simply said, “Me too,” and started kissing Brendon again. Responding wholeheartedly, Brendon figured their night making out in an igloo would be something they could tell their grandkids one day. He was looking forward to it and everything that came before it. Life, love, ups, and downs. It would all be okay as long as Spencer was by his side. Brendon snuggled closer to Spencer and focused on kissing. That was where his heart lay.