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Resolutions

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Title: Resolutions
Fandom: Donald Strachey Mysteries (movieverse)
Pairing: Donald and Timothy
Rating: NC-17 for pleasant reasons
Word Count: about 8006
References/Spoilers: Can't think of any. Predates the movie time-line.
Disclosure: I wish they were mine. Alas, they are not, so I'm just taking them out for a spin with thanks to the men who created them and the actors who brought them to life. 
Summary: Tim Callahan ignores all the bad things he's heard about talking to strangers and goes out on a limb with a good deed that is richly rewarded.

**************************************

RESOLUTIONS

by

Candy Apple


Tim tried flexing his hands on the wheel, since he knew he had a white-knuckled death grip on it, and both arms were getting fatigued from the tension. He was dressed for the weather, with a warm sweater, winter coat, gloves...and yet his hands were cold. The pile-up on the freeway had made taking the back roads seem logical when there was still a tendril of light in the winter sky and he didn't know how bad those roads would really be. Even in the rented SUV, it was bad. The vehicle plowed through snow well, but it took offense at the ice beneath it, and there were times he felt as if only the grace of God and a contingent of Christmas angels still hanging around after the holiday were keeping him on the road at all. 

In countless miles, he hadn't passed another living soul. He'd had a great weekend skiing with his old friends from the seminary. Of the six of them, three made it to being priests, one was doing missionary work, and one was married. Tim was still single, his career was chugging along at a decent pace, but he couldn't help feeling that he still hadn't found that inner peace his friends seemed to have. They knew where they belonged, and he felt like he was still on the journey.

Like the one he was taking tonight, down treacherous roads where he was out of cell phone range and one wrong move with the SUV he wasn't all that used to driving anyway, and he could die out here. Then his vehicle would simply be an inconvenience to a speeding snow plow before they pulled his stiff, blue corpse out of the driver's seat.

He squinted when he saw something on the side of the road, and finally could make out the back end of a car, partially buried in the snow. At first, he was just going to pass it, chalking it off as another casualty of the storm. Then he started wondering if someone might still be inside...if they were teetering on the brink of the stiff-blue-corpse status he'd been fearing for himself just moments earlier. 

Afraid to pull off the road for fear he wouldn't get back out of the heavy snow, Tim stopped the SUV in the lane where he was traveling and turned on his emergency lights. He grabbed the flashlight out of the glove compartment and reluctantly opened the door to the dark, dangerous night outside the warmth and relative safety of the vehicle. The first thing he did when he got out of the Chevy Tahoe was to slip and fall next to it. 

He could picture the police notifying his mother. I'm sorry Mrs. Callahan, but your son stopped for no good reason in the middle of the road in the peak of a New York State blizzard, fell on his ass on the ice, and was run over by a salt truck, flattened like a pancake...and then salted. Managing to stand up again, he made his way slowly to the side of the stranded car, and flashed the light inside it. It was empty.

"Figures," he mumbled to himself and the blizzard wind that was driving the snow against him with no particular mercy because he'd stopped to do a good deed. Gingerly, he walked back across the glassy road to the Tahoe and crawled inside it, relieved to be out of the wind. He looked around, realizing that not only was the road deserted, there weren't any houses in sight. Stopping seemed even more idiotic now, and he started replaying all the movies he'd seen about ill-advised motorists who stopped by the roadside on dark and stormy nights. Most of them ended up abducted, raped, dismembered, or otherwise thrust into some alternate reality that made driving in the blizzard seem pleasant by comparison. 

He was relieved when the Tahoe's tires gripped the road well enough to at least start out again, albeit slowly, moving back toward Albany. He frowned, then squinted, thinking at first it was a trick his eyes were playing with the shadows and blowing snow. Finally, he could make out the dark figure of a man trudging down the side of the road, staggering really, hunched in on himself against the snow covered him as he walked, the wind beating against his shivering body mercilessly. 

Part of him thought back on all those old slasher movies and wondered if this poor soul would actually smile wickedly, revealing a mouth full of rotting teeth, and then chop him up with an axe he had hidden under his coat. He pushed those images aside. No one could survive long out in this weather, and he figured this guy probably went with the disabled car he'd just checked on. He did his best to bring the SUV to a stop without sending it swerving sideways and hitting the poor guy instead of giving him a lift. He put down the window on the passenger side and hollered.

"Hey! Let me give you a ride!"

The hunched figure stopped, then turned and looked at the Tahoe as if he couldn't quite figure out what to do next. In the light of the headlights, Tim could see some blood on the man's face, which might explain why he seemed dazed. He motioned to him to come to the side of the SUV, thinking maybe he didn't hear him. That cut through the fog, and the man came up to the side of the vehicle and looked in the open window, as if he couldn't believe anyone would pick him up.

"Get in!" Tim said again, motioning to him. He opened the door and climbed in, though he looked like he was having a little trouble moving. "Are you hurt?" He could barely see the man's face; it was still buried in the folds of a scarf and his coat collar. There were two strikingly beautiful, crystal blue eyes visible above all the heavy clothing.

"I'll be okay. The last car I tried to flag down hit me."

"And left you out here?" Tim asked, horrified.

"My car got stuck a ways back, and I've been trying to flag someone down. Nobody wants to stop and pick up some guy by the side of the road on a night like this, so I got the bright idea to stand out in the road with my flashlight and wave it like a signal. I think she tried to swerve, but she clipped me anyway."

"How could anyone hit someone and leave them out here on a night like this?"

"She was a woman by herself. She was probably afraid I would attack her with the machete I have hidden in my shorts."

"Well?" 

"Well what?"

"Do you have a machete in your shorts?" Tim asked, and the other man laughed.

"Nah, I'm old school. Just a granny wig and a butcher knife."

"
Well, as long as that's all it is," Tim replied, smiling, figuring any guy who was able to survive near death in the snow and come back with a Psycho reference couldn't be all bad - - another old movie fan. "I'm Tim Callahan," he said.


"Don Strachey. I'm a private investigator. Here's my ID, just so you know I was kidding about the wig and the butcher knife."

"Thanks, Don," he said, sparing a quick glance at it before looking back at the road. "We'll get you to a hospital - - "

"I don't need that. It's just some bruised ribs and a bump on the head. Thanks for stopping. I was losing the feeling in my legs. If you can just get me back in cell range, I can get someone to pull my car out of the snow."

"I wouldn't count on that tonight. There's a huge pile-up on the freeway, and the roads are just getting worse."
"I s'pose you're right." He leaned back in the seat. 

"Here," Tim said, pulling a couple tissues from a small box in the console. "You're bleeding," he added.

"I didn't even feel it," he said, taking the tissues and pulling down the visor so he could use the mirror to find the blood. "I can't believe you picked me up. God, I look scary. You must be some kind of Good Samaritan."

"I'd want someone to pick me up," he said simply. "I'm headed back to Albany."

"That's where I was trying to head," Don said, wiping at the blood on his face. Most of it seemed to be coming from the egg on the side of his head that matted some of his blond hair with drying blood. 

"I can just take you home if you want. If you're sure about not going to the hospital."

"
I'm sure about that. I hate hospitals. Unless a limb's dangling, I can handle it myself."


"Go ahead and turn up the heater," Tim invited, preferring to let Don adjust it himself and keep his focus on the road. He'd noticed his passenger was shivering, his voice shaking a little from it as he spoke.

"Maybe I'll just turn more of it on my legs. My pants are pretty wet. I think I was in the snow for a few minutes before I came to after I got hit."

"You really should see a doctor if you lost consciousness," Tim said, worried, though he wasn't sure why. He'd done his good deed by picking the guy up and saving him from freezing to death in the blizzard. That didn't make him responsible for him beyond that.

"I've had worse, believe me. Thanks for the concern, but I'll be okay once I get some dry clothes on and have a couple beers."

"Alcohol with a head injury - - that sounds like a great remedy."

"Yeah, well, it'll relax me. If I don't wake up," he said, shrugging, "at least I won't have to worry about the head injury anymore," he joked, but the darkness of the humor unsettled Tim. A lot. Because he had the feeling Don didn't really care if he woke up or not. For some inexplicable reason, Tim did.

"Is there someone you could call to stay with you?" he asked, relieved to see the lights of a few houses now, signs that he was nearing the edges of Albany. 

"Do you always fuss over your hitch-hikers like this?" Don asked, smiling.

"Only the ones who think mixing beer with a possible concussion is a good idea."

"Okay, I'll have a Coke instead," he replied, shaking his head, and then holding onto it. "Bad idea."
"
Do you have any blurred or double vision?" Tim asked.
 

"Not so far. It just hurts like a son-of-a-bitch right now."

"Where do you live?" Tim asked, and Don gave him the address. "I live a lot closer. I could take you to my place and you'd be welcome to stay in my spare room. That way, I could check up on you once in a while, make sure you're okay."

"Why do you care?" Don asked, and Tim spared a look away from the road to catch his eyes. He had to force himself to look away, because he felt like he could drown in those eyes.

"I don't know," he said honestly, eyes back on the road now. "I just do."

"There's just one thing."

"What?"

"You don't have a machete in your shorts, do you?" Don asked, and Tim laughed out loud, feeling relaxed for the first time in hours. 

"No, I'm just glad to see you," he quipped, and then Don laughed, holding onto his head regretfully as he did. 


********

Someday when he looked back on all the stupid and potentially fatal things he'd done in his life, this would probably rank right up there. Not only did he have to trust a total stranger to drive him down a dark deserted road through a blizzard, but now he was at the guy's apartment, changing into a suit of thermal underwear, gray sweat pants, and a navy blue sweatshirt that had some Chamber of Commerce slogan about visiting Albany on it. It seemed brand new, so obviously his host didn't think it was too fashionable, either. His feet were so cold they hurt, but the thick, dry socks felt like heaven. The ibuprofen Tim had given him as soon as they arrived was starting to kick in.

The "spare room" was more like a broom closet with a futon in it, but like Tim Callahan himself, it was tidy and attractive. The claustrophobic tininess of the room almost felt cozy with the big pillows on the futon, and a quilt rack next to it with extra blankets. There was a tap at the door.

"I brought some ice for your head, and I thought I could help you clean up the blood, if you want."

The blood was caked in his hair, and his head was pounding. He knew he should tend to it himself, but the pain in his head and the achiness in the rest of his body was making the option of letting someone else do it very attractive.

"Come in," he said, sitting on the futon. The door opened, and Tim entered and sat next to him, a first aid kit, basin of water, and clean cloth and towel somehow brought with him. Don knew his head was hurting and he was a little foggy, since he figured Tim must have a third or fourth arm somewhere to have carried all that in there with him. "You don't have to do all this for me," he said.

"I know. I don't mind helping you," Tim replied, smiling. 

His smile was beautiful, and his eyes were so kind. Someone would be very lucky to curl up with this man on a blustery winter night. As it was, he felt lucky to have been rescued by him. There was something in his gentle manner that soothed a lot of things that ailed Don at this time of year. He couldn't remember the last time someone took care of him, fussed over him, cared if he lived or died, for that matter. He had some casual friends, but no one who would have taken charge of him like this and tended to his hurts and cared so much about his safety and welfare. Tim's touch was so light, so careful, that it didn't even hurt the angry lump on his head.

"I've got most of it out of your hair. It's not bleeding anymore, so that's a good sign." He carefully bandaged the wound and, from somewhere, produced an ice pack, which he guided Don's hand to hold against his throbbing head. He resisted the urge to crawl into this near stranger's arms, to fall asleep against his chest, and feel those strong arms around him. From the contours of his chest and arms just visible beneath his blue sweater, Don figured seeing him naked might be close to a religious experience. "If the futon's not comfortable, let me know, and you can have the bed. You're in more pain than I am."

"This is good," Don said, wanting to add, I'd like the bed if I could sleep in it with you.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?"

"No, just the ribs. They'll take care of themselves."

"Feel free to use the phone if you want to call anyone."

"I probably should call triple-A for the car, get on their waiting list."

"Okay. I'm making some soup and sandwiches. I don't know about you, but nearly dying in a blizzard really built up my appetite." There was that smile again, the impish twinkle in those deep blue eyes.

"Mine, too," Don agreed, smiling. But it ain't for food, handsome. "This is a nice place," he said as he followed Tim out to the kitchen. The apartment consisted of the whole third floor of a large, old house, and it had the charm and character of another time. It also appeared his host was an excellent housekeeper, since the hardwood floors were spotless, the woodwork shined, and though the furniture and accessories weren't expensive or new, they were all in good taste, all nicely arranged and tastefully coordinated. 

"Thanks. I was lucky to get it. A friend of mine knows the owner, and he let me know about it before it was advertised. It's a decent amount of room for the money, and I love the woodwork. There's an old claw-foot tub in the bathroom. Hey, if you need the facilities, help yourself."

"Yeah, maybe I will after I make that phone call," he replied. He placed a call to the road service, then went into the small vintage bathroom to heed the call of nature. A couple magazines were sitting in a small basket on the floor, and he picked one up, feeling a smile tug at the corners of his mouth. The Advocate.

Tall, good-looking, sex-on-legs Callahan was gay. It was all he could do not to do a little happy dance right there, and Donald Strachey was not a "happy dance" kind of guy. Barely able to suppress his grin, he washed his hands and returned to the kitchen where their supper was on the table, and Tim was just rinsing out the soup pan. Finding out he'd been picked up by someone who was a kind, considerate stranger who'd taken responsibility for him like he was a rescued, injured stray seemed like something close to winning the lottery. Learning that drop-dead gorgeous man was also gay was too much to hope for. Still, it bothered him at the same time. Timothy Callahan was way too kind, way too trusting. Picking up a stranger was risky enough, but opening your home to someone who could be a homophobic nut was even more dangerous. Suddenly, the thought someone could take advantage of this beautiful, kind man's goodness to hurt him made his stomach clench. 

"You should be more careful about picking people up and bringing them to your place," he said, and Tim froze at the sink. He hated himself then, because it sounded like a classic horror movie line right before the harmless stranger is revealed to really be the homicidal maniac. Tim finally ventured a look over his shoulder.

"You're probably right," he said, but he still sounded and looked scared.

"Please, relax, everything's okay. I just...I noticed the magazines in the bathroom."

"I'm well aware there are bigoted, small-minded people out there who would probably have issues with my orientation," he replied, looking more relaxed now. "I'm a good judge of character. You don't strike me as one of them."

"Good call. I'm gay myself," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I have no problem with the fact you are, too, trust me." Then he felt like he'd said too much, but Tim was smiling at that, and there was a little something in his eyes that said he was glad Don was gay, too. "You're a good guy. I'd hate to see you get hurt for some stupid reason."

"Saving someone's life in a blizzard isn't a stupid reason, Donald. Besides, we might not have made it across town to your place. According to the radio, the roads are treacherous even in town - - cars are stuck all over the place."

"Good thing we have the news to tell us that, isn't it?" he joked, sitting down at the table as Tim joined him. The radio was playing some Christmas music now, even though it was almost New Year's. "This'll put a kink in a lot of New Year's party plans, I bet," he said, even though he didn't have a fucking thing lined up to do on New Year's. He selfishly hoped they were snowed in for at least a couple days. Then he could spend New Year's Eve with Tim. Otherwise, there was no way that hot man didn't have a date and a long line of back-up dates for New Year's Eve.

"Well, that's not going to keep me up nights," Tim said, taking his first spoonful of soup.

"No big plans?"

"Nope. I was just planning to watch some old movies, overeat a little, and figure out what kind of New Year's resolution I could actually stick to."

"That must have broken a few hearts," Don joked, trying the soup. The hot food felt good going down. He was hungry, and still a little chilled from his ordeal out in the snow. 

"Yeah, I'm sure the suicide rate among gay men skyrocketed with me off the market for one New Year's," he replied. "Thanks, but I think the world will keep turning."

Could anyone look like this guy and seriously not realize that he was human Viagra?

"Sound a little bitter there, Timothy," Don teased. 

"There are probably a half a dozen guys I know I could have spent New Year's Eve with. A couple of them asked me out. What's the point? I don't want to be with any of them. I mean, really be with them. For more than a few hours. I'd rather be alone on New Year's than spend another one with someone I don't care about."

"Gee, if we get snowed in, you'll be stuck spending it with me," he said. "Fate has a sick sense of humor, huh?"

"I would enjoy spending some time with you," he said with an openness that startled Don. "I'd like to get to know you."

"Same here," he replied, returning Tim's little smile. 

"What about you? You probably had some plans, didn't you?"

"Get drunk and go to bed before midnight," Don answered honestly. "I don't do holidays anymore."
"If we're snowed in, you mind sitting up long enough to watch the ball drop with me?"

I'd stay up all night to see your balls drop, baby...

"I think I can swing that," he answered, letting his initial thought remain unspoken. For all his ease and openness of letting Donald into his life this way, he had a feeling Tim Callahan wasn't easy, slutty, or cheap. "What were you doing out in the snow tonight?"

"I spent Christmas with my parents and then went skiing with some old friends this weekend, and I was on my way back. The SUV is rented. I usually just take the bus or walk where I need to go in the city. I'm not used to driving in conditions like those."

"Who is?"

"What about you?"

"I was questioning a witness in a case I'm working on. She lives out in the sticks, and I had to hang out there and wait for her to get home, and by the time I talked with her, and got started back, the storm was much worse than I thought."

"I stopped to look in your car, in case someone was still inside."

"You actually got out and looked in it?"

"I didn't want to leave someone out there to freeze to death. When I saw you up the road, I figured that's where you came from."

"Do you always go out of your way for people like that?"

"Do unto others..." he said, shrugging. "It could have just as easily been me off the road, and I would have been grateful for the help."

"I didn't think there were people like you left in the world," Don said frankly. 

"I can see how you might feel that way after being knocked in a snowbank by a passing car," he said, and they both laughed. 

"Seriously, thank you. If you hadn't taken a chance on me, I probably would have died out there. No other cars were coming, and the blizzard's just getting worse."

"You're welcome. Please, let's not talk about it anymore. I was glad to help you out and fortunately, you were joking about the butcher knife."

"Okay, fair enough," Don replied, still smiling. "What do you do, anyway?"

"I actually just got a promotion," he said, obvious pride seeping into his tone, as if he couldn't wait to share the news with anyone who'd listen.

"From what to what?" Don asked through a mouthful of soup.

"From an aide on Senator Glassman's staff to her chief aide."

"
Congratulations. So what does a chief aide do that a regular aide doesn't?"

"Besides telling the regular aides what to do?" he asked, grinning. Yes, Tim was excited about his new job, that was for sure. "Manage her media relations, write the really important speeches, accompany her to a lot of political functions, manage her schedule...it's going to be a lot more responsibility, but she's an exceptional legislator, and I'm thrilled to help her make a difference any way I can."

"Sounds like you like your boss. Must be nice."

"
We have a great rapport. I'm very lucky that way. Being self-employed, you must like your boss fairly well, too," he added.


"He's okay," Don retorted, chuckling a little. "I guess I was thinking of the jobs I had before I started my own business. No favorite bosses spring to mind."

"What did you do before?"

"I was in the Army for a while. Military Intelligence."

"
You didn't want to stick with it for a career?" Tim asked. Then he hastened to add, "If it's none of my business, just tell me to butt out."


"No, that's okay." I'm going to lie to you anyway, so knock yourself out. That's a closed book, one I'm never opening again, even for you, handsome. "I was tired of all the rules, regimentation, chain of command. I was aching for a little freedom and the chance to just be who I am without looking over my shoulder all the time, so I took a discharge when I could get it, and went into the PI business. I had a few other odd jobs, but nothing interesting."

"I was just thinking...we have a lot in common."

"How do you figure?"

"We both managed to find the two institutions in the world who are the least tolerant of who and what we are to start our careers. You in the Army, me in the seminary."

That explains why you're close to a saint, risking your life to save someone you don't know, caring for that stranger as if he mattered to you. To anyone...
"You were going to be a priest?"

"I always felt a strong pull to the Church, to my faith. When I finally came to terms with being gay, I didn't feel it was right to live a lie as a priest, of all things. Once I admitted to being gay, and wouldn't renounce it as some sort of sin or depravity that I needed to overcome or be counseled out of, they showed me the door."

"They can protect child molesters who like to rape little boys, but they throw out somebody like you? They're more screwed up than I thought."

"The Church is a human institution. It's flawed like anything else built by and run by humans. I take comfort in the thought that God doesn't think I'm perverted or evil, and that there are some issues on which the leaders of the Church have ceased listening to Him." He smiled. "Sharing that observation with the bishop probably wasn't the smartest way to stay in the seminary, but it's how I feel, and I was being honest," he said, shrugging.

They finished their meal and settled in the living room a while to watch the news. Don maintained his distance as a perfect gentleman, sitting in a chair while Tim occupied the corner of the couch. When they decided to call it a night, he found getting out of the chair a little more painful than he expected. Everything that was bruised hurt like hell, and his head was pounding again. 

"You could take some more ibuprofen. It'll help your head and the other aches and pains."

"Just give me the bottle and a large glass of water," Don replied, and Tim smiled as he went to the medicine cabinet. 

"Let me make ice packs for your head and your ribs. It might help you rest easier to ice them for a while."

"It's late - -"

"And I'll be getting up early tomorrow to go where, exactly?" Tim asked, handing him two pills and a glass of water. 

"You must be tired after your long drive." He took the pills.

"You must be sore after being hit by a car," Tim countered. 

I wonder if he always wins every argument without raising his voice?

"Okay, okay," he relented with a smile. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Tim replied, grinning happily, as if he actually wanted to stay up longer to put ice on Don's injuries. Don had the uncanny feeling he did, and that flooded him with warmth even the ice couldn't chill.

********

The blizzard raged for two days straight, leaving most of New York buried under a couple feet of the white stuff. Don had no clue where his car was or if it had been rescued. Hours on the phone with his road service's customer service finally revealed that it had been pulled from the snowbank the same night, but the wrecker had gotten stuck, and required a larger truck to tow it and the car to safety. The bill they quoted him more than consumed what he earned on that ill-fated drive out to question that woman at her house in the country.

Tim spent time on his laptop, writing some speech the senator had to make early the next week, after New Year's. He'd very generously loaned it to Don to check his e-mail and respond to a few client inquiries. It was probably sneaky of him to do a 'net search on his host while he had the chance, but he did. All he found were a few articles that quoted him as speaking on behalf of the senator's office. The most recent, from a week or so earlier, listed him as her chief aide.

Don soon learned Tim was good friends with his mother. He was on his phone with her a few times during the storm, the two of them exchanging updates from their respective locations as if they were reporting for the Weather Channel. Tim didn't mention he was spending the blizzard with a strange guy he'd picked up by the side of the road, icing his bruises, medicating him with over the counter painkillers, and generally caring for him like a giant, hairy-chested mother hen. 

Yes, Donald had seen The Chest. When Tim came out of the bathroom after a shower, towel around his waist, toweling off his hair. Was he just casual in the presence of another man, or was he showing off the goods? Don was still trying to figure that one out, but seeing Timothy half naked was close to the religious experience he was expecting from full frontal. His arms were large, strong, in the way guys are who are naturally built and in good shape, but don't obsess over weights and toning, are large and strong. His chest was a beautiful, naturally contoured piece of flesh dusted with just enough of that dark hair of his to be breath-takingly sexy. 

Don wondered if his dick made that little sound of a spring popping when it snapped to attention and saluted. 

They worked together on making their New Year's "buffet" from a motley array of foods still left in the refrigerator. Hoping the roads would be cleared by sometime the next day, they went ahead and used what they wanted for their holiday feast. Tim had joked that even if they were stuck a day without much food, it was unlikely they'd be so hungry they'd resort to cannibalism, so he was willing to risk it to give them a good New Year's Eve party.

"There are some DVD's in the cabinet by the TV, if you want to pick a couple movies," Tim said, still slicing the sausage from a gift set he'd received, adding it to their platter of snacks. 

"You've got some real classics here," Don said, looking through the titles. "This is a great one," he said, holding up one of the DVD's:Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
"One of my favorites," Tim said, smiling. 

"I've been meaning to tell you, Blanche, we have rats in the cellar..." Don said, quoting the movie, putting in the DVD and sitting on the couch. 

"If you like Joan Crawford, we'll have to watch Strait-Jacket later. Have you ever seen that one?"

"Can't say I have," Don replied, elated that this educated, cultured, refined soul shared his taste for cheesy horror flicks starring aging movie queens.

"Then we know what we're watching next," he said, arriving in the living room with the plate of sausage, cheese, and crackers. Don had already made their martinis, another taste they had in common. And, by no accident, Don had sat on the couch, hoping Timothy and the hors d'oeuvres would sit with him. They did, with the goodies on the coffee table, and Tim's goodies right next to him on the couch. Not a cushion apart. But so close their shoulders were touching. 

Make no mistake, this was a date for New Year's Eve. 

********

Tim hoped he'd read Don's signals right when he sat so close to him on the couch. They had gotten to know each other a little more during the many hours they'd been trapped by the snowstorm, and Tim found his new friend to be sensitive, smart, funny, and truly fascinating. Their conversations could stretch on for hours and feel like minutes and, for some reason, he felt as if he could tell Don anything. The consensus on the news was that main roads would be passable sometime New Year's Day. Tim found himself disappointed at that news. For all the empty attempts at dating he'd gone through in the last few years, he felt a soul-deep connection with Donald from the first moment he climbed into the Tahoe, bruised, bloodied and shivering.

Judging by the little sideways glance and big smile that spread across Don's face, he liked their seating arrangement. He'd been a complete gentleman the whole time they'd been together. Tim had mixed feelings about that. He was attracted to Donald, imagined what it would be like if he made a move, and part of him wanted that move. At the same time, he appreciated the fact Donald respected him and wanted to know him as a person, rather than just capitalizing on their chemistry and turning their meeting into a cheap pick-up. 

Still, having a handsome, muscular, blue-eyed blond like Donald so close, and yet so far, was making him question his usual disdain for cheap pick-ups. 

They filled themselves with snacks, enjoyed the movies, and finally switched to a musical New Year's Eve program as the clock approached midnight. As the countdown to midnight began, Don stood up and held out his hand toward Tim, who smiled and took it, standing. In old sweats, a disarray of snacks and empty glasses and bottles on the coffee table, they were about as far from the glitz and glamour of New Year's Eve as they could get. And yet, it was the best New Year's Eve Tim could remember. As the seconds dwindled, he hoped it was about to get much better. 

Happy New Year! The emcee cheerfully issued the greeting as the ball reached its destination, and the lights flashed, the streamers flew through the air above Times Square, and people were kissing and cheering.

Don moved closer, took Tim's face in his hands and, a moment later, their lips met. The kiss was gentle and tentative at first, and then their mouths opened, tongues met, and the kiss deepened as their arms went around each other, and they welcomed in the New Year.

Then Don moved back just a little, and took Tim's hand, shifting their position so they were dancing cheek-to-cheek to the strains ofAuld Lang Syne. Tim couldn't stop smiling, savoring the warmth of Donald's body against his, his hand feeling as if it fit like a puzzle piece in Donald's hand, dancing together in stocking feet in front of the TV. 

Part of Tim was afraid to say what he said next, but a more important part, his heart, wanted Don to know.

"This is the best New Year's Eve midnight dance of my life," he said, hoping he didn't scare Donald off, make him fear that he'd been trapped by some clinging vine who was making more out of their circumstances and a little kissing than what it really was.

"For the first time in a long time, New Year's feels like the start of something...new. And good," Don said, stroking Tim's cheek lightly. "It was worth getting hit by a car in a blizzard to meet you, beautiful," he added, kissing Tim again. 

"Make love to me," Tim whispered, feeling his face flush warmly.

"Are you sure?" he asked, resting his forehead against Tim's. "I don't want to screw this up. You're too special."

"Sharing yourself with me couldn't screw anything up, Donald."

"You have a lot of candles around here. You like candlelight, Timmy?" he asked quietly.

"Everything's...warmer, softer in the candlelight."

"I want everything to be warm and soft with you," Don said. "Why don't you light some candles in the bedroom, and I'll find us some music. It looks like you've got quite a stash of CD's there," he added, nodding toward the stacks near Tim's stereo, smiling. That smile broke the tension, and Tim felt himself relax, the awkwardness gone. Now, he just longed to be in Donald's arms, to share that intimacy with him. 

He stood in the bedroom a moment, a little uncertain what to do next. Light some candles, right. Tim set a few candles in the middle of the dresser and lit them, and then put a couple on each night stand, on either side of the bed. He turned back the bed and then stood in the middle of the room, looking at himself in the mirror over the dresser. Should he get undressed? Take his glasses off? Get into bed?

Come on, Timothy, you may not be a casa nova, but you're not a blushing virgin, either. This isn't the first time you ever had sex with someone.

But what if it's the first time I ever *made love*? What if he's the one? What if this is the first time sex and love come together? Have I ruined it, rushed it too fast? Is he going to think it doesn't mean that much to me because I'm willing to do it so soon?


He nearly jumped when Don came into the room, CD in hand, and popped it in the combination clock radio/CD player on the night stand, pressing play. Soft, instrumental jazz came from the small speaker, a sultry combination of piano and saxophone. 

Instead of making a move toward the bed, Don took Tim in his arms again, swaying them to the music, letting the candles burn and the bed lie open near them while they danced together. Tim thought his heart would melt when Don lay his head on Tim's shoulder, as if he was in no hurry, as if this closeness, this little dance in the candlelight, was just as good as the promise of lovemaking to come. And he was surrendering to Tim as much as Tim was surrendering to him. Tim asked himself if he was really so self-centered as to think he was the only one risking himself, his heart, his...love?

Tim slipped a hand beneath Don's chin and urged his head up, so they were face to face, then moved closer until their lips met again. 

"I think I figured out that New Year's resolution," he said, and Donald smiled. Oh, that smile.

"What is it?"

"I think you'll be the only man I'll make love with this year."

"You don't even know if I'm good enough in bed for that resolution yet," Don quipped, though the way he was looking in Tim's eyes was anything but joking. Tim saw an uncertainty there, a trace of fear. It made his heart ache.

"You are," Tim said, smiling. "You'll be good to me," he added, initiating another kiss, finding himself smiling as much as he could with his mouth so busy with better things. 

When they tumbled on the bed together, the tension was gone, and they dispensed with clothing with a joy and eagerness that made nervousness or self-consciousness seem ridiculous. Tim tempered the intensity of his embrace, remembering Don's bruised ribs, kissing his way down the smooth skin of Don's chest until his lips reached the bruises from the impact of the car that had left this man who had become so precious to him, lying in the snow at risk of freezing to death by the side of the road. 

He kissed the darkened areas carefully, wishing he could erase them. He felt Donald's hand in his hair, fingers carding gently through it. He urged Tim up, so they could kiss again, his hands skimming over Tim's back, one slipping down to his ass, lingering there. Donald rolled them over until he was on top, nuzzling Tim's neck, then kissing it, sucking on the soft skin there, leaving a scandalously bright passion mark where it would show. Tim moaned, getting harder at the sensation, loving the idea that Donald was marking him that way. 

"I might just hold you to that resolution, beautiful," Don whispered, stroking Tim's cheek lightly with the backs of his fingers. 

"There's stuff in the drawer," Tim said, mirroring Don's touch, moved when Don didn't reach for the drawer right away, but took his time kissing Tim again, holding him, caressing his back, their growing erections rubbing against one another, as if he was giving their bodies time to get to know each other. 

After taking a moment to reach the lube and the condoms, Don took Tim in his arms again, kissing him, his hand running up and down the length of Tim's thigh. When his lubricated finger slid inside Tim, it was slow and gentle, unhurried despite the eagerness he had to be feeling by now. Donald was taking his time, making love to Tim with his fingers, turning what could be a perfunctory preparation for the main event into an event in itself. He lubricated and stretched, but he also teased and played and stroked, making Tim gasp and moan with pleasure. He kissed and licked at Tim's balls, so focused on Tim's pleasure that it wasn't until prolonging the foreplay was risking Tim coming without him that he finally entered Tim with all the patience and tenderness of handling something precious and fragile. 

They rocked together in a shared rhythm that felt as natural as if they had been lovers for years. Don never stopped holding Tim, kissing him, looking into his eyes, making him feel like what their bodies were doing was just an expression of deeper emotions. Tim wanted so badly to say "I love you," but part of him feared he'd ruin everything, that he'd scare off this man he already felt so much for. 

Don's mouth was close to his ear, his breath warm there. 

"I love you, Timothy," he whispered. 

Tim's breath caught in his throat, and he knew his eyes were filling. Don kissed him again.

"I love you," Don repeated as they were on the brink of climax. And then they were coming, almost in unison. Tim barely recognized the unrestrained cry of pleasure that rose from deep inside him, blending with Donald's own cries and gasps as they rode out the waves together. When they parted, it was only an instant before they were back in each other's arms, on their sides, facing each other, kissing and petting in the drowsy afterglow. 

"Donald...I...I love you, too," Tim said, smiling. "I thought if I said it, you'd feel trapped, and...I don't want to ruin this."

"You thought I wouldn't want to hear that you loved me? How could anyone not want to be loved by you?"

"I didn't want you to think I was clinging."

"I want you to cling. God, Timothy, it's been too fucking long since someone wanted to cling to me."

"I want to, as long as you want me to."

"You know, I think I just came up with a resolution," Donald said, kissing Tim again. 

"What is it?" Tim asked, smiling. There in Donald's arms, he felt so treasured, so happy.

"Can't tell you, because it won't come true."

"
That's wishing on your birthday candles, silly," Tim said, laughing. 

"I'm making up my own tradition. Play along," Don joked, kissing the end of Tim's nose. 

"Come on, I told you mine."

"I'll tell you about it. Just...not yet."

"
I guess I'll just have to think up a way to drag it out of you, then," Tim said, rolling them over so he was on top of Don.
 

"Give it your best shot, sweetheart. Just because the roads are cleared doesn't mean we have to do anything about it." Don flexed his eyebrows, and they both laughed as they rolled around together, kissing and making love into the early hours of the morning.

********

"This is a great spot," Tim agreed as they spread their blanket under a large tree in the park. It was the Fourth of July, and they'd found a secluded spot far from the crowd, but still with a good view of the fireworks. Donald had guarded the contents of the picnic basket with his life, keeping Tim from peeking until now. He brought out champagne, two plastic champagne flutes, strawberries, and whipped cream. 

"Tonight is a special occasion," he said, popping the cork on the champagne, both of them laughing as some of it bubbled up and out of the bottle before Donald could pour it. When they both had some, Donald proposed a toast. "To New Year's resolutions," he said, and Tim smiled remembering how he'd resolved that Don would be the only man he'd make love to that year. And so he was. Their relationship had only blossomed, their love and friendship with each other deepening with each passing day since that fateful night in the blizzard. He also remembered that Don hadn't told him what his resolution was.

"Are you going to tell me now what your resolution was?" Tim asked, smiling. 

"Absolutely." Don reached into the picnic basket and pulled out a small, blue velvet box. "The first time we made love, I knew I'd found the only man I'd ever want to be with. So I resolved that six months from that night, if you were still with me and hadn't wised up that you could do better, I was going to ask you a very important question." He opened the box, revealing two plain gold bands. "Timothy, will you marry me?"

Tim stared at the rings, and then at the man he loved so much, wishing he could freeze this moment. He knew he would remember every detail of it until the day he died. 

"I could never, ever, do better than you, my love. Oh, yes, yes, I'll marry you!"

He hugged Donald, and Donald hugged back, the two of them falling together on the blanket, ignoring spilling champagne from discarded plastic glasses. The explosions of fireworks boomed in the distance, the night sky illuminated with color and light. 

"I think the fireworks started," Tim said, taking a brief break from their kisses.

"The fireworks started six months ago, beautiful," Don replied, grinning, ignoring the light show in the sky in favor of their own personal fireworks. 

********

HAPPY NEW YEAR!