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A Heart that Offends

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“I am a man with a heart that offends with its lonely and greedy demands.”

The lyrics had been reverberating through his head since he’d heard them a few days before. Some folkish song playing in a café, where he’d picked up coffee for Marty and himself – a habit which had formed through September as the weather cooled. He certainly was not attracted to that genre of music, he found it generally insipid and somewhat self-indulgent.

Resting on the old couch in the airiest corner of the lab, his dear friend sinking into his shoulder on a perfectly sleepy Saturday afternoon. Yet a single lyric absorbed his mind drowning out all other thoughts.

He looked down at Marty, whose soft breaths indicated a comfortable state of drowsiness and whose eyes were lazily following the final few minutes of an honestly dreadful day-time TV movie.

“I am a man with a heart that offends with its lonely and greedy demands.”

He certainly had been lonely; for decades his heart had demanded company, solace. Now he had just that in a dear friend and lover. Yet a thought gnawed at him: Have I been greedy? He and Marty were irrevocably linked by the space-time continuum - something he had never truly meant to occur. Had he trapped Marty in a doomed relationship? After all, he is only getting older. Some nights, the sheer magnitude of his approaching mortality made him lay awake staring at the ceiling while Marty clung peacefully to his side.

Certainly, they are a starkly odd couple. Marty, potential incarnate, and himself. A sorry consolation prize for a handsome and intelligent young man, he mused.

He ran his hand through Marty’s hair – at the nape of his neck – and Marty looked upwards, just tilting his head and crinkling his brow. Doc glanced down, conveying a simple “Sorry, I disturbed you.” with a quirk of his mouth. The movie had finished and Marty shifted slightly to a more comfortable position.

“I might make some tea, Doc, whaddaya think?”

Doc blinked from his reverie – to think I was looking down on a folk singer for being self-indulgent.

“Uh, yeah Marty, that’d be great,” he murmured, his voice gravelly from not having spoken for the past few hours.

“I am a man with a heart that offends with its lonely and greedy demands.”

Those few years ago, they had so easily slipped into a relationship of comfort and understanding. Doc supporting Marty through his final school year and college applications, and Marty guiding Doc out of depressive slumps due to droughts of inspiration.

Marty pattered around the kitchen – in reality, it was just a bench with cupboards, a microwave and a jug. He put water on the boil and looked back at his partner, “You’re thinking an awful lot for the weekend, Doc.”

“I think an awful lot in general, my dear boy”, Doc responded, somewhat idly. If he were honest with himself, he spent a lot of time thinking how Marty could do better, should not be tied to an old man, should be out exploring the world. Once again, greed came to mind. Sometimes he would look at Marty and experience sheer avarice at the thought of having the young man all to himself.

Marty returned to the couch bearing two cups of tea (both with milk, Marty’s always had a spoon of sugar). He folded a leg under himself and leaned lightly on the Doc once more.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“No, Marty, truly… thank you.” That one damned lyric wound its way through his brain once more.

“I am a man with a heart that offends with its lonely and greedy demands.”

Marty turned to Doc with a somewhat calculating look, taking a noisy sip from his mug. “You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?” Doc knew what was coming. They’d had a few similar discussions in the past. Marty was patient to the point of unbelievability.

Marty cut to the chase, “You’re thinking you know what’s best for me. And that you’re not that, that we’re not that.”

It was tricky now that Marty was truly gaining an understanding of the Doc’s inner workings. Through their time together, Marty had gradually made sense of the Doc’s fractured self-esteem. An early life under his father’s disciplined thumb, a youth operating within a strict law firm, an adulthood spent largely on the fringes of society.

“I’m sorry Marty.”

“Y’know what else you do Doc?” Marty placed a gentle hand on Doc’s knee, “You think too much.”

“You did say that earlier Marty.” He couldn’t make eye contact with his lover, so he simply looked at his tea resting in his lap. The vapour rising from his mug suggested he really should do something about insulating the lab before the first snowfall.

“No, no, that’s not what I mean… I mean, you think you can think for me too.”

Oh. Yes, I suppose I may be guilty of that. Doc let out a sigh, then a light, yet self-deprecating, chuckle, “Marty, you’ve caught me once more.”

“Damn right I have.” Marty reached a warm hand to Doc’s chin, and turned his face to place a small kiss on the corner of the older man’s mouth. “Have you taken your meds today?” Marty quietly suggested, taking Doc’s hand in his.

“The day before yesterday perhaps, I don’t remember.” Always busy, always tinkering – it was easy for Doc to forget.

Doc watched as Marty raised Doc’s hand to his lips, pressing a slow and soft kiss to the heel of his palm. Marty then turned the hand over and kissed Doc’s knuckles languidly, one by one. Finally, Marty placed a last plush kiss on the pad of Doc’s thumb, and looked up. Doc was smiling faintly, looking somewhat bemused.

“Go take ‘em, Doc.”

It may happen every few months, maybe even once a year. Doc was conscious of the practical consequences of his general state of mind. His awareness of the issue made it no easier though, there were times when he could not stop thinking, could not let an issue leave his mind.

Doc slowly stood up from their worn couch. “I’m so sorry for… that… I’m like this.” He trailed off, his usual flourishing manner of speech failing.

“Emmett,” Marty used his most familiar name, “Don’t be sorry. I wouldn’t have you any other way.” Marty gave his hand a final squeeze, then released it. “I wouldn’t wanna be any other way than with you, you know that don’tcha?”

Doc is still caught within himself, that one refrain still binding his mind tightly. But this too shall pass. “Give me a few days, and I’ll know it again.” Great Scott, that sounded morose. “I’m sorry, that was unnecessary Marty… I love you, you know that.”

“Yeah Doc, I do.” Marty’s face lightens, the more severe signs of worry clearing. “And I love you.”