The sun was high when Mike walked out onto the blistering sidewalk and the air hung still and heavy, ripe with the stink of sweat, exhaust and melting asphalt. He grimaced but took a deep breath anyway. He was a free man, the last three months in one of Miami-Dade's more 'charming' correctional facilities now finally behind him. So was his past life - he was going to make sure of that. He'd been so screwed up, pretty much spiralling out of control but he'd had his wake up call and he'd listened. That life was all over, he was going to make some changes - he was going to change.
He'd spoken to Julie and they were finished - hell, the sex had been the only thing holding them together in the end anyway. Everything else was just fighting and pushing. That was Julie - always pushing his damn buttons. Their fights had gotten so loud that the neighbours had called the cops a couple of times. Then there was that time that Julie had got drunk, hell, they'd both been drunk but she'd been totally out of it and had just kept pushing him and pushing him. She'd tried to goad him, talking about being with other guys, about how maybe he was the one who was more interested in that…. He'd always been honest about his bisexuality and had never cheated on her but she just kept needling, trying to get a rise out of him. In the end she'd lost it, flying at him, pummelling his chest, trying to scratch at his face and he'd shoved her, just trying to get her away. She'd fallen drunkenly, awkward and twisted, knocking into the kitchen cupboard, breaking her arm and blacking her eye. He'd taken her straight to the ER but he'd seen the looks, the way the staff were putting it together and blaming him. That's what Caine had thought - told him he was a classic abuser. But he wasn't, he'd never laid a hand on Julie before that night and even that had been an accident. Still, it took the whole damn fiasco with Caine and accidentally sparking that 'Glade fire to finally open his eyes - he and Julie were poison, they were just no damn good for each other.
He'd had a lot of time to think about it, locked up in that cell, and he could see now how out of control he'd been. He was lucky that Julie hadn't been hurt, that she hadn't been murdered by that psycho son of a bitch that she'd gone off with. Always trying to make him jealous, trying to get one more rise from him. No, that was all over now - it was for the best, for both of them. Julie needed to find someone else to run around on and he needed a fresh start. Some place new, where he could breathe again and start over. He was thinking about a little place on the beach, somewhere he could relax and get his life together.
Gus put down his beer, the bottle mottled with condensation in the late afternoon heat, and pulled the camera from his pocket. He squinted at the view screen - an image of his own sun-blocked face standing out starkly white between Stu and Tommy. They'd all been laughing, happy to be together again at the start of their vacation, three identical cheesy grins frozen in time. He remembered joking about Stu getting married, how this was the last photo that they'd have of them all together - he just hadn't realised how true that was. How that Stu and Tommy would sail off on that boat and that would be the last he'd ever see of them, lost at sea in the Bermuda Triangle. And he was supposed to be with them on that damn boat, all of them fishing for marlin on their 'guys' vacation' - but his stupid heart condition had flared up and he'd had to stay behind, not being able to risk it. They'd offered to cancel, Tommy especially hadn't wanted to leave him but then Tommy had always looked out for him, ever since back in college. But he hadn't wanted to spoil their trip and the boat hire had already been paid, so he'd talked them into going without him and had joked that he'd see them back in a few days, with them stinking of fish guts and him with a cute guy hanging off each arm. Tommy had grinned and ruffled his hair - he'd been the first person that Gus had come out to, shaking and nervous in their college dorm room, and he knew that Gus was way too shy for that kind of thing. They'd all laughed and Stu had promised that they'd share the fish with him, joking it was probably the only catch Gus would make this trip anyway. Then they'd gone, waving and grinning and telling him not to do anything that they wouldn't do… and that had been a year ago.
The boat was supposed to be out for two days, three at the most, and when it still hadn't shown up on the fourth day, Gus had reported it to the local police. A search had been made but nothing had been found, no wreckage, no dinghy, nothing. The locals had shrugged… 'this was the Triangle, man'. Gus had stayed, hiring a boat and searching himself until he finally had to return home, his vacation time over and the US Embassy promising to let him know if they found anything further. They never called and Gus had had to get used to the idea that his friends were gone. They'd always been there for him, especially when Kyle had died, and he missed them. But this was a different kind of grief from losing his brother - it was hard to mourn at a memorial service with empty caskets.
It was now almost twelve months to the day since he'd waved goodbye to his friends - and he'd decided to come back to Bermuda. He felt like he was looking for something, an answer, closure - he didn't really know what. He gazed out from the beachside bar, the sea a dazzling turquoise, stretching away to the infinity of the horizon. He lifted his beer, draining the last few drops before getting up and walking towards the shore, the white-pink sand soft beneath his sneakers.
"Hey! You!" A deep voice called out and Gus turned around to see a guy hurrying after him. He looked to be about Gus's age and had a shock of dark hair framing a handsome, tanned face. He wore a ridiculously patterned cotton shirt over cut off denim shorts and Gus couldn't help but notice the toned muscles of the guy's long, long legs. "You forgot this," the guy said, gesturing with the camera he was holding in his hand. "Back at the bar."
"Oh, thanks," Gus mumbled, dragging his gaze from striking hazel eyes and taking his camera.
"No problem," the guy grinned and Gus felt the warmth of the smile flood through him. "I'm Mike, by the way, Mike Sheridan."
Gus smiled shyly and shook the proffered hand. "Gus… um, Gus Gruber," he murmured, his own smile widening. "Pleased to meet you."
Mike woke to the muted crash of early morning breakers, the soothing sound drifting in through the open window. A light breeze carried the scent of juniper and he smiled contentedly, burying his face in the sleep-warmed shoulder pillowing his head.
A drowsy "hmmm?" greeted him and he patted the firm ass cheek filling his palm. "S'early yet, go back to sleep," he whispered and eased out of bed.
He stretched languidly, grinning as Gus mumbled something completely incoherent and then began to snore softly into the pillow mashed beneath his face.
They'd been together for three years, Gus just literally never going back to the States after their chance meeting, well, beyond that one trip to hand in his resignation and sell his apartment. They'd simply moved in together - both of them feeling kind of crazy and daring but sure somehow that this was the right thing to do. And it turned out that it had been - more right than they could ever have guessed. They just seemed to click - Gus had said once, after maybe one too many beers, that they were like two drifting boats finally finding safe harbour together. Mike had teased him, of course, and accused him of writing Harlequin romances instead of software but Gus had just smiled and kissed him - because he knew that Mike felt it too.
Mike smiled at the memory and leaned over to drop a soft kiss to Gus's shoulder. He didn't know quite why he got to be this guy - the guy who was happy and fulfilled and living a damn near perfect life - but he thanked his lucky stars everyday that he was. It had been like wiping the slate clean, like his real life - the one that really mattered - had only started three years ago when he met Gus. Whistling softly he went out to put the coffee on and grab the morning paper.
Gus woke slowly, familiar arms circling his body and a furred chest pressing against his back. "Mornin'."
"It is that," Mike said and Gus could hear the goofy grin in his voice. "I got coffee."
Gus groaned loudly and rolled over, smacking a loud kiss to waiting lips. "I love you!"
Mike laughed, a loud almost braying sound that always made Gus laugh right along with him, and handed him a steaming mug. "You're so easy!"
"Mmmm," Gus moaned blissfully as he took a sip, sitting up and beaming at Mike. "S'good."
"Sure is," Mike nodded, drinking from his own mug as he opened out the paper and passed Gus the news section as he kept the sports for himself.
Gus settled comfortably against the pillow, his one shoulder pressed against Mike's warmth and began to flick through the pages. Suddenly his eyes opened wide and he stared at the headline in front of him. 'The Blue Jay is Home! Missing Boat found after 4 Years. 2 Survivors!'
"Oh my god," he gasped, relief and happiness flooding through him. "Tommy…."
"Gus?" Mike asked, concern deepening the little laughter lines around his eyes that Gus loved to kiss. "Is everything okay?"
"Oh, yeah," Gus breathed happily, "everything's okay." He smiled as the worry smoothed from Mike's face and leaned in slowly until their lips met. "Really okay."