They had retracted Mass and lecturing in the past week, alleviating him of most of his duties. It was, of course, to help give him time to assist the MacNeils rather than to cope with the bombardment of emotional problems he had been experiencing lately. His mother’s death, the impending one of this young girl—he could feel it, like a dark shadow edging the crook of his mind. Doom. Forever and always.
Despite the extra time he was supposed to have, he nevertheless was running short on both sleep and food. He was confused and tired and searching for seemingly nonexistent solutions in every corner. Sitting on his bed with the morning sun gliding through the window, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of abandonment; lost hope. Whatever he was looking for, it seemed to be evading him in graceful steps. There was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” he said. The knob turned, he never locked it. It was Joe Dyer, looking smaller than usual as he slid in the room, keeping flat to the wall. The door fell shut next to him.
“Hello Damien,” He gave a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, but Damien already felt better.
“Hello Joe, how are you?”
“Always beating me to the punch, you ass. Give a guy a break.”
Damien laughed. It appeared that if he had come with purpose he had suddenly forgotten it. That was alright. Damien never minded his company. Whatever it was that Joe made him feel, comfort was in the mix.
It had always been unspoken. Unspoken, yet acknowledged in subtle ways. The linger of a hand, the softness of a smile, the comfort in a gaze. In a way, he understood that he would and did not harbor the same love for any person as he did for Joe. It was a friendship he did not deserve, but nevertheless one he would accept in full. He fell back to the days of his vows, understanding romantic love as a faraway concept, undeterred by the knowledge he would never partake in it. Now it seemed he could finally understand it's appeal; the novels and the poetry and the music, all celebrating a feeling that must be at least a little like this. It was alright, the way things were. And if rare nights he awoke in a sweat, gripped by thoughts of his young friend, he was assured by the fact that his body was merely dropping back onto what it knew. It knew that he loved Joe, in whatever way, and that he had had very few close people to him in his life. That was all. He'd give a quiet prayer more for routine than for faith, and he'd fall asleep once more.
He had been staring off into some distance and looked to Joe again. He was dressed in plain clothes, the soft button-up shirt he wore was falling open at the top, a collarbone peeking past the fabric. Damien suddenly understood the full importance of the conservative Roman collar.
“I’m so sorry.” It was Joe who spoke first, a miserable expression on his face as he looked anywhere but the bed.
“I want to help you—more than anything. And I feel as if, well, I suppose I haven’t been the most present—“
“Joe, what are you talking about?”
“Whatever it is with the MacNeils, that’s fine, it’s alright, I’m just offering a crutch here.”
“For you.” No response. “Maybe you don’t have to be the strong one all the time, yeah? I know you’ll never ask for help, so I’m just offering it.”
“You would feel better if you could help?”
The younger man let out an exasperated sigh, finally looking at him. “You’re missing the entire point.”
“This isn’t about how I feel. You can tell me to go to hell right now and that’ll be the end of it. I don’t know, whatever I can give you. I don’t know.” Silence. “You won’t tell me what’s going on, will you?”
“Yeah, okay.” He looked defeated. It was strange to see Joe serious, and it was obvious it took a toll on him. Damien stood up and walked over to him. He did not look at his collarbone.
“I’m not alright.” He said at last. Joe looked up at the confession. “But it doesn’t matter what I feel. Not right now, not to me.”
“It does to me.” He corrected himself quickly. “But if it does no good to dwell on it then… alright.”
He sighed, “Thank you.”
They were very close, closer than he had noticed before. His eyes flickered down, unmissed, to Joe’s collarbone. Dammit.
But Joe didn’t move, didn’t even flinch, he just looked at his friend with troubled eyes.
“I’m tired.” Damien whispered, meaning a great many things. His body gave in, head falling to the younger man’s shoulder. A hand came up to the back of his neck, supporting him there. He could feel Joe nodding.
“I’ve noticed.” A soft laugh.
“I want to be better than this.” Damien murmured.
“What do you mean—“ His own gasp cut him off; there were lips on his neck, but he did not move from them. They moved down instead of up, finding peace at the junction of his shoulder and throat. Joe could hear blood rushing in his ears, could feel every slight of skin against his own, every place where their bodies aligned. Damien pulled away, head coming up instead to brush noses. He wanted to be clear, to be honest. Maybe he had been mistaken, even after everything. But Joe hadn’t pulled away, and even now he stood as a statue, his breath light on Damien’s mouth.
“This isn’t going to make me feel any better.”
“Okay,” it was a whisper, like Joe was afraid that if he moved everything would shatter over him. Strong hands climbed up to his neck, then his jaw. Boxer’s hands. Chapped lips touched his own, and he felt his body relax more than it should have—a tight rope snapped from the middle. His hands, which had been plastered flat to the wall, came up to clutch the older man’s shirt. He was pulling him closer, letting his mouth fall open for him. Damien moaned at this, hands loosening their grip as he angled their mouths together. It was all very easy, and that’s what made Joe so nervous. Unnatural. Yet the simplest thing he had ever done. Neither could recall the last time they had kissed someone—years and years.
Damien’s hands traveled down to Joe’s waist, grabbing him closer as he leaned to press kisses back onto his neck. Joe moved too, arms wrapping around solid shoulders, becoming tangled in dark waves of hair. The older man groaned at that. Oh, how he wanted. Now more than ever, it had been a mistake to place lips on the boy.
Man, he corrected himself. Joe was in his early thirties, younger but still. It would do no good to guilt himself more. He was making sounds now, the younger man, small gasps and quiet whimpers. Still unspoken, it was all still unspoken. He could stop now and it would be done, and Joe would blush for a few days and then it would be just like before. He pulled back.
The hands in his hair brought him back down. He let out a startled noise as their mouths reconnected. Well, that plan was out the window. He wasn’t really sure what to do, he wasn’t really sure what was happening to be quite honest. He pressed his hips down and Joe’s hand landed on his shoulder in a bruising grip with an accompanying moan. A loud moan, and Damien was quick to put his hand over the other man’s mouth. He could feel Joe smile, shaking a bit with laughter. Damien laughed too and pressed their foreheads together, still at last. He let his hand drop.
“What are we doing?” He whispered to no one in particular.
“Whatever we want.”
That sounded wonderful.
Joe had insisted on being the one to pack it all away. Not that there was much, of course, priests didn’t have many belongings. A picture, a sweater, an untouched pack of cigarettes. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, where any of it should go, so he placed it all in one singular box and decided it would fit under his bed nicely. Then, he sat down and cried.