Chapter 1: Kickin' Dirt
The days never passed by too quickly for Darry. Time seemed to move at a snail's pace after the morning had shaken night off of its bones. But he tolerated the extra time. There were always animals to be fed and grain fields to be tended to. Chorin’ was repetitive, but there was something just so damn comforting about doing the same things over and over. It pertnear felt like he was depended on, despite how small it was. Someone needed to water the cows, load the trucks, clean the chicken coop, catch wild raccoons, and help sell produce down at the produce stand. It wasn’t a stable gig by any means- anyone could replace him- but it sure did feel nice.
And sometimes, when it felt like time had decided to take a small break, Darry would look out over the entire property. All throughout the fields, the barns, and the dirt. And every time he did it, he would feel as hollow as the wind. Like anything could pass through him. Sound itself was more visible than he was in those moments.
He eventually stopped looking out so far and focused on what was in front of him.
The best part about being on the farm, Darry realized, was that he never had to do anything alone if he didn’t want to. Help was everywhere- in Wayne, Katy, and Dan. The best batch of people Darry could ever hope of getting shacked up with. Not that he would ever say that out loud; he wasn’t asking for anymore soft boy points. Nothing great would get done without everyone’s hand, and no one was ever really bothered by the work. A simple, yet busy life, filled with good people.
Darry didn’t feel fine, though. People who are fine don’t lean against barns at night, wearing only their overalls, and damn near freezing their curls off. Letting a breath out and watching it dance, Darry shuffled as the wind rushed past him. The cold was getting to the point where his hands felt numb, but he didn’t worry too much. He did this often, and the worst that had happened to him was a small case of the sniffles. Almost felt the beginnings of a fever as well, but he sweated it out by hauling out some hay across the property. No one suspected a thing- except maybe Wayne, who squinted a little harder whenever Darry would sneeze.
Going numb never had any real consequences, so Darry kept sneaking outside when everything was as dead as it could be.
In the distance, the light of the porch sat in the corner of his eye. A beacon for whenever he wanted to actually go and get some sleep. Currently, it was being disturbed as a door opened and closed in front of it. In the short moment that it flickered, Darry knew someone was coming to find him. He stayed leaning against the barn, staring down as if that would make him harder to find.
Footsteps crunched towards him. They were large, and sounded like working boots. Darry knew who it was, but that only made him want to stay outside for longer. Confusion showed in their footsteps, and after wandering around for a while, they had finally stopped near him. There was a beat of silence. Darry couldn’t tell if it was in judgement or worry. Maybe both.
Then, “What are yah kickin’ your shoes around outside for?” Wayne asked.
Darry stopped his mulling and looked up from the ground, straining to see Wayne in the dark. He was wrapped in a thick, tan coat with his arms folded. It was too dark to see his expression, but Darry wasn’t too sure he wanted to see it anyway.
Darry shrugged “Don’t know.”
“That’s a big fuckin’ lie if I’ve ever heard one.”
Something twitched on Wayne’s face. When he spoke next, it was softer. Still stern, but definitely softer. “The water in the pipes are frozen shut, Darry. You need to get inside before you do the same.”
He sighed. “I’ll be in a minute, gonna smoke a dart.” Darry went to reach into the pocket of his overalls, but he was stopped. Wayne had stepped directly in front of him, almost chest to chest, and stared him down. Darry’s heart thumped into his throat, and he could feel the warmth radiating off of Wayne. Something ached inside his ribcage, but Darry managed to push it down.
“I do not want to out of politeness and the likability of lingering awkwardness, but I will throw a shoulder under you to get you in that house.”
“D'aww, don’t wanna have a smoke with me?” Darry said playfully, trying to lighten the mood. Wayne’s concern made the ache come running back, and Darry didn’t care for that one bit. It stung in ways that twisted his gut up mighty fine. He silently prayed that Wayne couldn’t see his struck-stupid face.
Wayne then stepped away and nodded towards the porch light. “Pitter patter.” He says, leaving no room for talk. Darry didn’t want to take Wayne’s bluff on forcing him back to the house, so he solemnly started his trek back. Wayne fell into step alongside him, darting some quick glances over to his friend. Darry pretended not to notice.
“None of your fingers are turning black on us now, are they?” Wayne asks once they reached the porch. Under the light, he could now see how the cold had bitten through Darry’s face- leaving a pale red flush that brought out the pastiness of his skin.
“Nothin’s fallen off quiets yet.” Darry answers. Wayne nods curtly, opens the door, and goes in, trying to get away from the cold. A wall of heat hits Darry when he follows suit, making his body tremble. He didn’t realize how cold it was, and now he could feel a thick stiffness in all his joints. “I think I need to sit in the damn oven for a bit.” He says in one breath, shaking his hands to try and get movement back into them.
Wayne was shucking his jacket off. “What did you expects to happen- just standing out there?” Darry could hear some edge to Wayne’s voice, and he got the picture that he wasn’t too happy.
“10-4. I’m sorry, I must’ve lost track of time.” Darry had been doing that a lot lately. “You sure as hell don’t need to be getting frost on your boots just because of me, but I do appreciate you coming out there, Wayne.” All he wanted to do was go to sleep and hope that this night wasn’t brought up again.
“You’ve done this before.” Wayne states, staring at him with folded arms. “How often does someone lose track of time like that?”
To be honest, Darry didn’t quite know the answer to that himself. “Beats me.” He says.
Wayne fell silent. Darry couldn’t read his expression, and that was never a good sign. The man wasn’t exactly that emotive in the first place, but Darry has known him since they were kids. Wayne’s face was just something Darry had come to slowly understand over the years- except in moments like this. After a couple of seconds of nothing happening, Darry assumed that was the end of it and turned to start walking up the stairs.
“Pump the brakes.” Wayne placed a hand on his shoulder and turned him around. He then briefly pressed the back of his hand to Darry’s cheek. The numbness in his face immediately melted away as it flared with blood. The ache grew, but Darry wasn’t too surprised. What threw him was the worried look on his friends face. And he was then overcome with something much more powerful than the ache: guilt.
Wayne didn’t look like he noticed his friends malfunction when he took his hand back. “You’re damn near frozen, Darry. I’ll go start a fire- there’s no use in going to bed cold.”
Darry wasn’t sure if he could take that. He was soft, especially for Wayne, but that damn ache was giving him more and more trouble. The thoughts that came from it were getting harder to write off- and he knew he had to do something about it.
“Cool it, Wayne- it’s not that bad. My bed is all I need.” Before Wayne could answer properly, Darry had already begun climbing the stairs. “Don’t stay up too late, now!” He teased.
Wayne sent him a small glare in return. “Tone it down there, Darry.”
When the soft click of Darry’s door was heard from up the stairs, Wayne let out a breath. He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to rid it of tension. Concern didn’t come easy to Wayne. This was different then when Darry got rabies and pertnear became a zombie. Hell, Katy and Dan even saw that. They had tried to be vague when addressing it with Darry, but it never went anywhere. It was as frustrating as it was concerning- especially since even Wayne couldn’t see through the bullshit Darry built up.
He wasn’t a paranoid man, but he had a sense for trouble. And Darry was in the center of it all.
Then, something lit up in Wayne. An idea. It was small and 10-ply as all hell, but it would sure make Wayne feel less worried on this particular night. With that in mind, Wayne then turned towards the kitchen and went to work.
After a couple of minutes, faint footsteps were soon heard. “Hey Wayne.” Katy greeted, coming down the stairs. She was wearing a fluffy robe, with her hair all up in a bath towel. Seeing what he was doing, she raised an eyebrow and then leaned against the banister. “It’s almost 11, why are you messing around down here?”
He grabbed the two mugs out of the microwave and quickly stirred them. “Darry was outside again.”
She sighed in disbelief. “Shit. He didn’t get eaten by a wolverine, did he?”
“No, but he’d keep his mouth shut about it if he did.”
“I’m guessing you got nothing out of him?”
“You’d be right.” Wayne finished with the mugs and then picked them up. Walking over, he offered one to Katy. She smiled slightly and took it.
“Thanks, big brother.”
Before Wayne went to walk up the stairs, Katy stopped him.
“Hey,” She said, “he can’t hold onto everything forever. Eventually something will come loose.”
“If he knows what’s good for him, it’ll happen sooner than later.” Wayne responded.
Darry wasn’t an idiot. His parents always told him he was slow, and maybe that was true, but he refused to believe he was stupid. He knew what the ache really was- that damn knot that never fully left his chest. Darry was well aware of what attraction felt like in all of its variations, but love was different. It was new to him, especially since it was towards the toughest kid in Letterkenny. He could feel it pump away at his heart and turn his mouth dry. It was timeless. No one in the entire town had ever made Darry feel like that.
Wayne was a good man, and Darry had come to realize that that’s all he’s ever wanted.
Maybe Darry didn’t know why the seconds turned into hours when he went out at night. Or why the cold felt safer than his bed. But he knew what it was not- and that was Wayne. Wayne was warm, like coming home after being away for too long. What he felt for his friend didn’t alarm him too much, and it sure as hell didn’t drive him outside to the hands of the cold. All he was really worried about was people finding out about it. Secrets like his were wind over a pond in a small town like theirs. Darry just didn’t want any trouble thrown his way.
But if it wasn’t Wayne, then what was making him go out into the dark? The fact that Darry didn’t know scared the shit outta him, as he didn’t think freezing to death would be very nice.
After he walked into his room and had changed clothes, Darry then laid on his bed and wrapped himself up in as many blankets as he could. The cold would linger on him like perfume, and that night was no different. He had been laying there for only a little while when someone knocked on his door. Sleep had just begun pulling at him, so his voice was a bit groggy as he said, “Come on in.”
Wayne’s form appeared from behind his door, and Darry furrowed his brow.
“What brings you here?” Darry asked. He was ready to jump out the window if Wayne wanted to have another serious conversation, and he was sure Wayne felt the same.
He walked in, holding a mug in one of his hands. “My own need for a peace of mind.” He replies, holding out the cup to his friend. Steam rose from it, hitting Darry’s nose with a punch of chocolate.
Darry sits up, trying to keep a smile down and failing. He takes the hot chocolate, savoring the heat. “Is this Aunt Nancy’s recipe?”
Wayne felt his heart skip at Darry’s small smile. “Of course. She’d skin me if it wasn’t.”
“So would Squirrely Dan.” Darry said, taking a sip. It damn near felt like a hug from the inside, just like always. “Thanks, bud.”
“Well, hypothermia doesn’t make chorin’ any easier.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
Wayne lingered, watching Darry take a couple more sips. From outside the wind blew hard, making the windows whistle. He turned cold just by the sound of it, and wondered how Darry could stand to set a foot out there.
“You gonna share the bed with me or something?” Darry teased, his shit-eating smirk in place. Heat flushed over Wayne’s face, and his stomach tied itself up. He glared down at Darry’s face, trying to convince himself that he wasn’t that pretty.
Chapter 2: Harvesting Hallows
Here it is! This may seem a bit slow, so sorry for that!
In the following week, the entire farm was thrown into the air. The final stretch of harvesting season was upon them, and that left no room for relaxation. Winter was coming to swallow the entire town whole, and something deep inside of Darry just couldn’t wait. Before all of that though, Hell had to be paid. In the next couple of days, the entire farm’s grain supply had to be reaped and transported, all the while getting ready to plant winter wheat in its place. It was the one step above chorin’ that everyone hated.
Wayne was always the one to go the extra mile as well, wanting to shove as much work into one day as possible. No one wanted to really do it, him included, but going broke and sending the farm into bankruptcy wasn’t an option either. Wayne and Katy’s parents would sooner rise from the grave before they let any of that happen. When someone wanted a break from the fields, they would go work with the animals. When they were done with the animals, they would go haul hay. When they were done with hay, they’d come back to the fields.
They all pushed through it- until the blood started coming, that is.
Because they spent most of the day on their feet, the extra working time had managed to break through their calluses and give them blisters. Darry was bleedin’ through his socks as he picked through their produce garden. Katy was close to bleeding out herself as she hauled chicken feed. And in an attempt to work for a little longer, she stopped and sat to the side of the barn, trying to bandage her feet the best she could. Soon enough, Squirrely Dan was also in their boat, cursing at the hay bales he was loading into a truck. Once Wayne came back from the outer field in the big ol’ harvester, Dan swore to him that the blood was no good for the soil.
“Pertnear feels like I’m walkin’ on the bone instead of the sole!” Dan exclaimed, struggling to heft another bail of hay into the truck. “And Darry’s bleeding likes a pig.”
“Pump the brakes- it’s not that bad.” Darry said, dropping another bundle of carrots into the produce crate.
“Yeah it is.” Katy said, standing up on her newly bandaged feet. “You’re limping the most out of all of us.”
Wayne switched off the machine and then lifted an eyebrow at the three. “We have one rule during the harvest: Break Before Blood.”
“The B.B.B.” Katy affirmed. Darry and Dan nodded in agreement.
“Then why, I ask, didn’t you follow the B.B.B?”
“I wanted to get at least five more bales loaded!” Dan answers. He then furrowed his brow. “Now that I thinks about it, I can’t really be frustrated with anyone but my own blood.”
“Happens to the best of us.” Darry says, leaning down and ripping some final radishes out of the soil.
“Well, I took a break to stop the bleeding.” Katy says.
Wayne looked at her. “That doesn’t count.”
“Well what about yous Darry?” Dan asks.
Darry shuffled a bit, feeling the blood squish in his boot. The stems of the radishes squeaked as he gripped them harder. Sometimes he just wanted to explode and tell them everything that was on his mind. It’d probably make life easier. But that would never come. Quite frankly, he had been pushing against his brain all day. It was being more persistent than it normally was, giving him all kinds of scenarios that made Darry pale in the cheeks. Like wondering how much red would seep outta him if he got pulled under and crushed by the harvester. Or if he fell asleep in the fields and never woke up. Hell, he had just spent the last twenty minutes ignoring the urge to kick at the barn doors until his toes broke.
Pain was tricky. It was as distracting as it was guilt-ridden. He kept working in hopes that he would feel worse. And he didn’t know how to stop it.
Darry couldn’t say all of that, obviously. “Uh,” He thinks, toying with the radishes leafs, “Just got too caught up in workin’, I suppose.”
Wayne sent a small look his way, and Darry could tell he saw through his bullshit. But he let it go for the time being, and gazed over at the others. “You’re all damn good workers, and I’ll be forever grateful for that, but nobody needs to be bleeding over grain.” Wayne said. He then climbed out of the harvester, hitting the dirt smoothly.
“So...is it break time?” Darry asked.
“Figure it out, Daryl.” Katy said, starting to walk towards the house. A dense soreness had replaced all of her muscles, and the grumpiness followed suit. The morning couldn’t come soon enough, and neither could winter.
“See yah Miss Katy!” Dan called to her. Katy waved bye over her shoulder, kicking up dust as she walked. Throwing a final hay bale into the back of the truck, Dan then took a deep breath and wiped the dust off his hands. “Good day’s work, you all. I’d stay for a Puppers, but my sweetie is probably missing me right about now.”
Darry nodded. “Understandable.”
“Take care, Dan.” Wayne said.
They all chanted their goodbyes, and Dan went off towards his own truck. The sky was orange and gold, turning the dirt a deep red. For a second, Darry thought it looked like blood, but he shook that idea off. Mentally, he then scolded himself for actin’ like such a skid. As the sun got lower, a cold blanket settled, wrapping itself around Darry’s entire being. His feet throbbed, and felt nailed to the floor. Wayne looked in his direction, eyebrow raised. Something sighed within Darry at the familiarness of this setting, and he had to agree with it for once.
“Gettin’ cold.” Wayne commented.
“Yep.” Darry replied. He moved slowly over to the crate and placed the radishes into it. “Should probably get inside and patch myself up.”
Darry stayed rooted to the spot. An uncomfortable air made its way between them. Now, things always felt awkward with Darry, that’s just what life had given him, but seeing Wayne all stiff was strange. He was normally posed and sturdy, like a tornado could go through him and he’d still be standing. This was like he didn’t know what direction to take; uncertain. It didn’t feel right to just leave it at that.
Darry had to try and think of a way to get his feet and nerves to budge. “Uh, wanna go to Modean’s afterwards?”
“Sounds fuckin’ dandy.”
Wayne kept the heater blasting all the way to Modean’s. Damn near felt like they were gonna get heat stroke just from sitting in there. And with the large crate of produce that Darry had picked to his right and Wayne to his left, the heat wasn’t the only thing making him warm. The two of them were pressed together; shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. Darry felt like he was breathing in dirt because that’s what Wayne smelled like. His heart was pumping hard through the heat and storming at the same time. They’ve been close in the same way, but Darry wasn’t sweet on Wayne back then. It all made his head feel light.
Darry wanted nothing more than to throw his arm over Wayne’s shoulders and keep it there. Wayne never seemed to mind when he did it in the past, especially in packed situations like this. So, Darry silently prayed to something he didn’t believe in, and then threw his arm over the back of the seat. Wayne seemed to catch his drift, and slightly leaned back into his arm. Darry had a hard time keeping a goofy smile down.
Wayne kept his eyes on the road, insides fluttering. He wasn’t raised a fool, and he knows that he could’ve easily put the crate in the back of his truck. But Wayne just wanted Darry to be closer to him. A light pit was sitting in his stomach, and he resisted the urge to push his leg closer to Darry’s. It was like being a teenager all over again, feelin’ all gooey over his bud. With Angie, way back in school, his love for her hit him like a truck. Made him feel like he was losing more air than he could take. But his affection for Darry seemed to sneak up on him over the last year, taking its sweet, merry time. It felt less like surviving and more like living.
He could never compare Darry to Angie, but he would say this: Darry took Wayne for who he was. Always had. And something about that made a deep warmth settle in his head.
“You know, I heard there’s a small steam room just outside of town.” Darry says, tapping the seat’s fabric.
“Where are you going with this?” Wayne asked.
“Just sayin’ it would probably be a better way to open up your pores, since that’s what you seem to be gunning for with this heat.”
Wayne sent him a side look. “The heat’s not too bad, as long as the leafs on the produce aren’t wilting. It’s just cold outside is all.”
Something about the way Wayne phrased that stuck in Darry’s head. He quickly shook it away, as he was pretty sure that he shouldn’t read so deeply into heater settings. “Yeah, I guess it is.”
By the end of the car ride, Darry’s arm was full on laying across Wayne’s shoulders and gently rubbing the shirt there. The tension dropped from Wayne’s muscles, and his face had flushed deeper.
Gail loved the produce they gifted her. In fact, she loved it a little too much, but that was Gail for you. That night, Modean’s was as bustling as a small town bar could be. All the farmers around must’ve had the same idea to kick their legs up and relax for a bit. The two hadn’t seen some of them all season long. Their hair was longer, their skin was rougher, and their voices were rusty. They were the type of farmers who got lost in their own corn fields and didn’t mind if they ever found their way out. Darry wondered if that attitude came from a place of content or apathy.
When he was younger, Darry’s father often told him that there was no God in those fields. Mostly because he wanted to keep him out of other people’s property, but also to keep him from getting lost. It worked, but Darry was lost in different ways now. He wasn’t like those farmers. He hoped he wasn’t. He had harmful impulses, but flat out disappearing would kill his friends.
Everyone was talking to each other, even for the smallest bit. The bar was feeling rather homely that night, and it was a breath that Darry didn’t know he needed. Two shots were then placed in front of them. Gail leaned against the bar, looking at Wayne through her eyelashes. “You guys going to the Harvest Fair next week?” Gail asked. She looked him up and down. “Heard it’s going to be pretty large this year.”
Wayne folded his arms defensively. “Haven’t thought about it.”
“We did grow some big pumpkins this year.” Darry said, raising an eyebrow at Wayne. “Maybe we could make some extra cash on them.” He really did feel for Wayne; he had not been to the fair ever since his parents died. It was a traditional family thing, and if half the family isn’t there, then there was no use going.
But god, did Wayne love the fair. The booths, the annual dance, the pumpkin carving. When they were younger, Katy and him used to run around throughout the entirety of it, getting so tired that their dad would have to carry them back to the truck. They'd get sick on food and try to win the biggest prizes. Katy always won- her aim was spot on in just about everything. Darry came sometimes as well, if his parents let him out of the house. Wayne's mom loved Darry, and she would let him cook with her for the pie contest. Their parents also helped at the fair, and would set up a lot of the booths for the vendors. They always laughed and chatted with the townspeople; they truly loved everything about it.
When Wayne imagined his mom and dad, he saw a mental picture of them leaning against a booth at the fair, wrapped in each others arms and smiling. Wayne just didn't know if he could visit a place when things were so different now.
“More money equals more time with me.” Gail breathes out, dragging a finger across the bar seductively. She opened her mouth to say more, but someone down the bar called to her. “Think about it, Wayne.” Gail ended, finally heading down towards the other patrons. Wayne stared after her, looking lost. A deep sadness settled in Darry’s chest the longer he looked at the person he loved.
Discreetly, Darry then dropped his hand from the bar, and gently placed one of his fingers into a belt loop of Wayne’s. He tugged, getting Wayne to look over at him. Once they locked eyes, Darry tilted his head.
“You okay there?”
“...10-4.” Wayne replied. He thought for a moment, and then, unfolding his arms, said: “If you and Katy want to go, I’ll go.”
Darry smiled. "Sounds like a plan.”
Chapter 3: Comin' Home
Welp, here yah go! Sorry that this one took a little longer!
Thank you so much for your continued support!!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Darry wasn’t a kind sleeper. He could pass out no problem, just about anywhere, but what followed that was the real issue. The dreams were memorable in the best of ways and the worst of ways. Everything in between the two extremes fell silent, and sleep slowly started to become tiring. The mornings were as unforgiving as the nights; they trapped him in a sluggish state that he couldn’t sleep off. But the dreams themselves were the real ball kickers. He kept dreaming about two things: his parents and Wayne. Wayne wasn’t surprising in any conceivable way, as those have been going on for a while, but the other one threw him for a loop. Darry only thought of his parents on his birthday, and now their images constantly floated around in a black that he couldn't control.
The long corn fields and nicotine smoke.
Spoiled yogurt cups and super soft parties.
Childhood was the one thing Darry didn’t think he would ever understand. Soft birthdays aside, his parents were rather odd. Behind his eyes, it all came back in snapshots. Like his mother staring off the porch of their home in a trance too deep for her to wake up from. Or when a harsh storm knocked some paneling from the side of their house and struck Darry in the head; feeling the warmth of blood run down his back. The sound of a turning key as his dad locked his bedroom door every night. Or nails hitting wood when his parents decided to put boards over his window after his 15th birthday.
A dark house with nobody inside of it.
He loved his parents, and he was sure they loved him too, but maybe they loved him too much for their own good. God damn, he missed them.
“That potato salad must be the most interesting things on the planet.”
Darry furrowed his brow, eyes focusing on the food in front of him.
“Did yah add bacon bits or somethings to it? You know I don’t mind me some bacon bits.” Dan continued, leaning over to look into the bowl. The entire kitchen counter was covered in various foods, and a mirage of smells wafted up to his nose. He had been stirring the salad before he let himself wander. It was his mother’s recipe, and she always made it on his birthday. Darry was the only one in the house before Dan came along, and his friend had managed to help reel him back into himself.
“No, I just added those lil’ ham squares to it.” Darry slowly replied, starting to stir around the mixture again. “Katy loves ‘em.”
Squirrely Dan made a small 'ooing' sound. “Even better.” He then placed a hand on Darry’s shoulder, and patted it. Now, Dan wasn’t thick, and Darry knew damn well that he could tell the difference between bacon bits and ham cubes. He had half his face in the thing, and the man didn’t need glasses quite yet. Squirrely Dan was just too polite to bring up the fact that Darry was starin’ out into god knows what.
Dan sent a smile towards him, and Darry couldn’t help but return it. Some worry sat on Dan’s brow, making Darry look back towards the salad. “Hey man, you should go stop Wayne before he turns the meat into rubber. I’ll be out there soon enough.”
Dan nodded. “You got it bud.” And then, after one final pat, he left.
Darry sighed. An ache sat behind his eyes, and he wanted nothing more than to take a quick sleep in the living room. There was no way in hell he could make decent conversation outside with the others. But he also didn’t feel like letting everyone down. Darting his eyes around the counter to find an answer, he then spotted a case of Puppers on the end of it. He immediately dropped the spoon into the bowl, deeming the potato salad done, and reached out to grab the case. Once he did, he then stepped away from the counter, and headed for the back door.
The Harvest Fair was in a couple of days, but Katy had been planning the barbecue long before they decided to go. It was the seasons last breath of warmth, and like hell she would let it go to waste. The barbecue was the last one they could do properly before it got super cold, so they made it a big thing. Katy had invited more than enough people to join in the festivities, and had spent the morning preparing food with Darry. The sun was shining as well as an autumn sun could, and Katy could already feel a sharp wind blowing through from the North.
“The winds starting to bite pretty hard.” Katy said, watching the guests drink and chat with each other.
“Sure is. Hopefully it stays back a little longer.” Wayne responded, flipping over a couple of things on the grill. Stormy didn’t mind the wind one bit, and continued to stay sprawled out at his feet, taking in the sun.
“Scared of the cold, big brother?” Katy teases.
He sent a glare towards her. “Tone it down there.”
Katy smirks, gently pushing him on the arm. Taking a deep breath, she let it out and looked over the property. Harvest season was finally over and everything was buckled down for the winter. Her train of thought was lost as she heard her name being called. From across the yard, Reilly and Jonesy were beckoning her to come over. They were holding up an extra Puppers for her and grinning like excited children. Her heart warmed at the sight.
She turned to Wayne. “I’ll be back in a bit. Don’t burn my steak, okay?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Katy walked away just as Squirrely Dan wandered out onto the porch. He nodded to a couple of people before strolling over to Wayne. Stormy looks up when he reaches the two, and Dan gives her a good pet.
“Lucky thing; cold doesn’t bother her at all.” Dan says, straightening himself back up.
“Damn lucky thing.” Wayne replies, closing the lid of the cooker.
“So, how’re things looking? Cooking things the right way yet?” Dan squinted at the temperature of the barbecue.
“Did you come out here just to have this disagreement all over again?”
Dan held up a finger. “Now hold it there, big shoots. Darry’d have to be here for that to be completely true.”
Wayne quirked an eyebrow. "Fair enough."
“Say, uh, speaking of Darry,” Dan leaned in, “He lookin’ alright to you?”
“Those bags under his eyes are mighty worrying.”
Something tightened in his chest. “They sure are.”
“Any ideas as to why they’re there?”
“I’d assume it’s a sleep issue.”
“No shit, Wayne.” Dan retorted. “I meant, do you know what’s goin’ on with him?”
Wayne felt a deep shame hit him. “Unfortunately not.” Darry still wasn’t talking openly with him, and Wayne wasn’t sure if he ever would.
“He’s hurtin’, Wayne. I don’t want anything bad to happen, yah know?”
Wayne nodded. “That’s a Texas sized 10-4 right there, Dan.” He then looked towards the house, wheels turning. “Hey Dan, will you watch the cooker for me?”
“Well, I’ll be glads to. Where are yah going?”
Wayne stepped away from the barbecue, and started towards the house. “Gonna talk to Darry.”
“Good luck!” Dan yells, just as Wayne started up the porch. Opening the door, Wayne wandered into the dining room. The sunlight through the windows made the room glow as it slowly climbed up the walls. Scents hit him from all directions, but all he noticed was that Darry was nowhere to be seen.
“Darry?” He called, looking up the stairs for a sign of him. Then, a cold breeze blew over him, making bumps rise on his arms. He turned towards it, and started following it down the hallway. Once he reached the end on it, he saw that the screen was closed, but someone had left the outer door wide open. Looking out through the screen door across the yellow grass, Wayne knew there was only one place Darry would go to.
Wayne pushed past the last of the green brush and finally saw him. The lake wasn’t frozen yet, and the trees weren’t completely barren. The sun made the water look like rippling gold, and Wayne briefly wondered why he didn’t visit the lake more often. Darry was sitting at the bank, staring out at some birds that were swimming around peacefully. Then the wind blew, shaking Darry’s curls in the process. His arms were laid atop his bent knees, a Puppers dangling from his fingers. A tree with long branches that reached past the waterline casted shadows on his plaid-clad back. It was as peaceful as a painting.
Wayne’s heart swelled just looking at him.
As Darry sat at the bank, looking out across the water, Wayne wondered if he would miss it. Sooner or later the lake would be frozen, if the wind had any truth in it. Darry liked fishing more than skating, and Wayne tried to tell himself that that was why Darry split off from the group. Just to savor the final moments of the thawed out lake.
He ignored the cold wind and Darry’s short sleeves.
Wayne started walking towards him, watching Darry turn his head slightly after hearing the crunch of his boots. As Wayne got closer, he spotted an entire case of Puppers resting next to Darry. Not much progress had been made with it, but Darry didn’t seem to be moving anytime soon. After arriving next to him at the bank, Wayne sent a small nod his way.
“How’re yah now?” He asks.
“Not so bad.”
Darry nods his head in affirmation, and then motions to the spot next to him. When Wayne takes a couple of seconds too long, Darry exclaims: “Pitter patter!”
Wayne drops easily after that, kicking his legs out in front of himself. They’re close together, with their shoulders touching. Darry pulls another Puppers from the case, offering it to Wayne without taking his eyes off the water. He takes it, brushing their fingers together in the process, and then pops it open. The sound blends into the the rustling of the leafs and the rocking of the bank.
“It’s a nice day.” Darry says, gazing over the water.
“Real nice day.” Wayne responds. He takes a large drink, and then turns his eyes to Darry. From the side, Darry’s eyes appeared even more tired. Wayne could see the small veins under them, turning the skin darker.
They made eye contact. The blue of his eyes looked a shade darker as well.
“Are you actually okay?”
Wayne had never really asked that flat out before. Not in this kind of situation. Darry went quiet, moving his gaze to the ground. Then, looking back to the water, he said “Today’s a damn good day. Let’s just say it’s been a while.”
Wayne didn’t move his eyes from Darry. “How long’s a while?”
Darry shrugged, keeping his eyes away from Wayne. “Don’t know.”
Closing his eyes briefly, Wayne thinks of how to go about this. Darry needed to have some sliver of peace, and Wayne was just ashamed at how long it took for him to really bring it up. Doing what he usually did when hards times were happening wasn’t working. Dancing around the problem never helped anyone- Wayne was raised on that- so why did he put it off for so long? Before all of this, when Darry was upset, he actually talked about it when asked. This wall that was now around him was something completely foreign to Wayne.
He opened his eyes again. Darry was still looking at the water, toying with his own fingers. Maybe they both had walls that were getting in the way of moving forward. And maybe Darry needed something more than a talk. Putting his Puppers down, Wayne took a breath. The wind had stopped for a moment, and silence was ringing loud. Slowly, he then reached his hand out and gently grabbed Darry’s wrist. It was cold to the touch, but it slowly warmed under Wayne’s hand.
That action had managed to get Darry to look away from the lake. He stared at his wrist and then back at Wayne, eyes darting around his face. Darry’s affection bloomed on his face in a deep red, running down his neck. In between the flush, surprise was evident in his eyes. Seeing that some of his point was made, Wayne then let go of the wrist briefly. With a pounding heart, he then ran his fingers up the inside of Darry’s wrist up to his hand. Finally, he slotted his fingers into Darry’s, gripping firmly. Considering how fast it was beating, Wayne was sure Darry could feel his heart in his hand.
After a moment, Darry gripped his hand back.
“...Never seen you blush like that before. You pertnear match my shirt.” Darry said, smirking slightly.
Wayne rubbed his thumb over Darry’s skin. “How unfortunate.”
Darry just smiled.
The wind blew through once again. When it hit Wayne, all cold and bitter, he suddenly was brought back to what he had to do.
“We still need to talk about what’s been in your head lately.” Wayne could do this. He could have an honest conversation with Darry. When his parents died, all he and Katy could have were open talks. It made the process easier, and he was determined to help Darry through this.
Darry let out a sigh, and held Wayne’s hand a bit harder. “Don’t expect an answer to everything.”
“As long as you're up for chattin', I'm up for listening.” After Darry nodded ‘yes’, Wayne barely knew where to begin. “How has sleep been treatin' yah?”
Darry tapped away at his bottle nervously. “Fine, I guess. I just keep waking up a lot, yah know?”
“My parents. Dreams and shit.”
Wayne quirked an eyebrow. “Oh. Are they...bad dreams?” To be honest, Wayne didn’t know a lot about Darry’s parents. He was only ever invited over to their house on Darry’s birthdays, and he never really talked to them. They were smiley people, but Wayne could always sense a distance about them.
“Nah, just some old memories. Not bad ones in the way you’re thinkin’.” Darry looked at their hands. “But did you, uh, ever get a weird vibe from them?”
“They felt more distant if anything.”
He furrowed his brow. “Really?”
Wayne simply nodded. “They had miles in their eyes. But then again, I only came around once a year. Can’t say much about people you’ve only met a couple of times.”
“Huh. I can see that.”
“Well, how’d they feel to you?”
Darry searched around for some words. “...trapped.”
“And that keeps you up?”
“Not really. Those dreams are okay, just unexpected.”
“I’m sensing a ‘but’.”
“But,” Darry emphasized, “It’s just this one dream that I can’t seem to shake. It’s hard to wake up from, and I can’t fall back asleep when I do come out of it.”
Wayne felt a pit in his stomach. “What’s in it?”
Darry went quiet and took a sip of his Puppers. Once he was done, he looked back at Wayne. “Do you remember what happened to my parents?”
“From what I recall, you don’t even know what happened to them.”
“You’d be right.” Darry nodded. “That’s what I dream about. I’m 16. I wake up in the morning, get ready, walk out of my room...and they’re nowhere to be seen. Not only were they gone, but the entire house is locked down. The doors, the windows, everything. I couldn’t open a damn thing.”
“They put boards over all the windows.” Wayne remembered.
Darry rubbed his neck with his other hand. “Yeah. I had to call your parents to come cut me out. I wanted to break a window or something, but if my parents came back, they’d’ve skinned me.” He then let out a deep sigh, and Wayne suddenly saw the morality in him.
Wayne placed his other hand over their linked ones. There was a sad ache living in his chest, because he knew the rest of the story. Darry’s parents were never found, and after two months of the police searching, they stopped. From the looks of it, his parents left on their own accord, and made sure they couldn't be followed. Their car was gone, and all of their personal belongings vanished with them. Hell, they did just about everything to cover their tracks- other than burning the house down itself. Wayne didn't see Darry for a while during the investigation. He only ever saw him sitting in the back of a police car when they came to talk to Wayne's folks. Katy and him tried to go to talk to Darry during their visit, but one of the cops stopped them from doing so. And even now Wayne could still remember the lost look on Darry's face, sittin' in the back of that car. It was far different than the confusion that often showed up on his face. Katy said it seemed to sink into his skin and never really find its way out. After everything was over, Darry dropped out during his year 10. He had missed too much learnin' to ever catch back up, and he didn't have the will to keep on going. Then he went to live with Aunt Nancy until he turned 18, all the while helping Wayne’s parents on the farm.
Darry never really talked about it. And from his facial expression, he didn’t look too comfortable about it either. But considering that Darry hadn’t bolted yet, he must’ve known it was for the better.
“Has this dream been causing all your problems?”
“Eh, no. It only came up recently. I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t know.”
“How do yah feel then? On the bad days?”
“Like the wind could pass through me.” Darry hesitated before continuing. “The cold tends to make that feeling go away for a bit.”
Wayne caught his drift. “A distraction?”
“Yeah. Kind of like when you fought nearly all of Letterkenny tenfold after your folks passed. But it’s more internal than external.” He then shrugged. “Still don’t know where it’s comin’ from though.”
“Well, the more Katy and I talked, the less I fought. Maybe that'll work for you.”
Darry didn’t say anything else. He got a bit closer and bumped his knee against Wayne’s, but that was it. Wayne could tell he was even more tuckered out after the talk, but he did seem lighter. His shoulders weren’t as slumped and his face was less tight. Silence followed, and they both looked out at the water.
Darry turned to stare at Wayne. “Thank you, Wayne. I, uh, feel a bit better.”
Wayne returned the stare. “No problem. You’ve always done it for me, in one way or another.”
Darry smiled his goofy grin. His curls bounced as he nodded in response.
Wayne’s chest soared. Darry’s smile made him realize how long it’s been since he’s seen a genuine one. And Darry’s hand in his started to feel heavy. They gave each other a soft look, and Darry started to lean in. The wind seemed to start pushing Wayne’s head forward as well. Taking his hand off of their clasped ones, Wayne then ran it up into Darry’s hair and pulled him closer. Finally, they met in the middle. It was a gentle kiss, and Darry reached up to place his hand on Wayne’s cheek.
They stayed like that for a bit as the wind swirled around them. Darry finally felt like he was home, and Wayne was warm all over. When they pulled away, breathing hard, Darry rubbed at Wayne’s cheek fondly.
Wayne let a small smile grace his face, and then leaned back in.
Also, the next chapter will take a little bit longer than usual. I'm having a hard time getting out of my own head, so yeah. But it will be here eventually!
Chapter 4: Gut Feeling
Sorry this took longer ya'll!!!
I love all the support you guys have been giving to this story, and I can't thank you enough! <3
His reflection looked back at him as he stared into the dark film of the television set. Within the TV, the undertones of his face were a pitch black, blending sections of him into the screen. He had no eyes and no mouth. And he was missing the majority of his skin. The only things that really showed up were his eye sockets and his jaw line, which were a dull white. Darry supposed it made him look closer to how he felt, but even then, he just didn’t care for all of the stupid metaphors he kept thinking up. It was late, he wasn’t in bed, and all he could feel was his lungs breathing in and out.
He bit hard at the fat of his fingers, leaving craters in the skin.
For the most part, he felt guilty. He didn’t assume he would get better the moment he opened up, but he expected more progress. Wayne said talkin’ helped, and he was right about it. But Darry wasn’t too keen on waking up his sweetie just to hash out about his feelings. And until his next moment of suspended peace, Darry didn’t quite know what to do with himself. He could see frost forming on the window from where he sat, but something kept him inside for the night. It was probably his own damn reflection- who knew he could look blurry and clear at the same time.
Then, from the corner of his hearing, something jingled. He tore his eyes away from the screen, blinking around the room. The flashlight he had brought from his room stood upright on the living room table, casting a canopy of fading light on the walls. It lumbered closer, sounding calm in step. Darry didn’t have to strain to figure out what it was.
“Hey, Stormy.” He whispered affectionately, watching her round the couch. Her tags were clinking together happily as she walked up to him, sniffing. Darry smiled slightly and reached out to give her head a good pet.
“Couldn’t sleep either?” He asked.
Stormy ignores him. Carefully, she then jumps up onto the couch and starts pawing around to try and get comfortable. Finally, she plops down and gently lays her head on Darry’s lap. She lets out a sigh, nudging one of his hands to keep petting her.
He complies, slowly starting to forget about his reflection. “Bossy.” Now that he wasn’t focusing on the TV, Darry could now feel the weight of his eyes. And the ache that sat deep behind them. He told himself that he would close his eyes just to let off some of the pressure, but he silently hoped that he would be able to sleep without dreaming. Slowly, with Stormy under his hand, his conscious slipped away, taking his reflection with it. The dark that followed was all encompassing and silent.
Just what he needed.
In the morning, it was the day of the Harvest Fair, and Stormy was still in Darry’s lap. Now, Wayne definitely wasn’t one for feelin’ soft over ordinary things, but seeing his dog snuggled up to a sleeping Darry seemed to be the exception. He was the only one up, and he looked down at the two with a fondness so strong he felt like kicking himself. After some consideration, Wayne decided to act. Reaching down, he gently moved some of the curls from Darry’s forehead, watching him stir slightly. The blue of his eyes showed up soon after, blinking wildly into the morning. Wayne raised an eyebrow at him, watching him groan as he stretched his arms. Stormy perked up, tilting her head at Darry’s antics.
And then Darry smiled at him, sleep still heavy on his face. From that point forward, Wayne could tell the day was going to be an interesting one.
He leaned back and exhaled a puff of smoke, letting his cigarette ashes hit the seat next to him. Wayne hated smokin’ darts in his truck- the damn smell never left the AC or the fabric. From his side view mirrors, he could see Katy and Dan slowly unloading the back of the truck. Katy was standing in the bed of it, gently lifting the pumpkins so they wouldn’t bruise. They were then handed to Squirrely Dan who placed them in a wheelbarrow, all as they both chatted to each other. The large pumpkins they had grown that season were a healthy orange, and they matched the color of that afternoon’s setting sky. A calm air sat over the parking lot of the festival as the two worked, and Wayne took a deep breath, trying to copy the peacefulness.
The nerves were all his.
In the beginning, it was shared. Katy had been quieter than usual for most of the day, and a fog had seemed to pop up behind her eyes. Wayne almost decided to call the whole thing off based on that alone, but Katy had shaken it off after the final pumpkin was loaded. The scratch of metal against metal as they closed the back of the truck broke through her, waking her up for the first time since that morning. An unwavering excitement grew in her as she looked over the sea of orange. A smile pulled at her face, and she then wrapped Wayne into a strong hug. Nothing was said. Afterwards, she pulled away, and then went inside to help Darry with the pumpkin pies.
Wayne didn’t know how to follow in her footsteps and stop feelin’ so off. All they were gonna be doing was sitting behind their pumpkin stand. There’s no effort in that, and yet Wayne couldn’t help but feel like something bad was going to happen. Looking beyond Katy and Dan, his eyes caught on the golden lights that tied the entire festival together. They weaved throughout all the booths and walkways, giving everything a warm glow. It was inviting, and Wayne could very well see his parents walking together underneath those lights.
But he could also see the unrelenting dark clinging to the glass bulbs.
In between his head, Wayne barely heard the passenger side open.
“Still wearin’ that turtleneck?” Darry teased, leaning on the door.
Wayne blinked the thoughts away. “Function over fashion, Darry. Anyhow, it’d be impolite to change in the parking lot.”
“Well, I’d be damned if anyone would stop you.”
He raised an eyebrow at him, amused. “Tone it down there."
“Fair enough, sorry. Just messin’ with yah- you look mighty fine any which way.”
“As do you.” Wayne’s dread recede a small bit as Darry’s face lit up following the compliment. He then reminded himself that he needed to do that more often.
The pleased expression dropped soon after. Darry could feel the weight of the air in the car, pressing down. It was a mixture of smoke, ash, and the cool air from outside. Wayne must’ve been thinking real hard about something not so pleasant- it made his face all crinkled.
Jumping into the truck, Darry then scooted over until he was pressed against him. Taking one last drag, Wayne’s dart was crushed on the steering wheel before it went out the window.
“It is also impolite to be blowin’ billows of smoke when you’re sharing the same air.“ Wayne explained to Darry’s quizzical expression.
He hummed in response. Then, giving him a gentle look, Darry asked, “Got cold feet?”
“No frostbite in my neck of the woods.” Wayne darted his eyes from the festival back over to Darry. “But something sure doesn’t sit well with me.”
“Not sure.” Wayne let his eyes roam over Darry’s face, remembering him passed out on the living room couch. “Are you feelin’ off at all?”
“Everything’s pretty fine- besides that cornfield.”
Wayne furrowed his brow. “What are you goin’ on about?”
“They have a corn maze, out on the far side of the festival. Don’t like cornfields.”
Before Wayne could open his mouth again, Katy appeared next to the truck. He gave Darry one final look, saying that they would talk later. “The pumpkins are locked and loaded. Ready to go, boys?” She said.
“Of course. Nothing’s bruised?” Wayne asked
“Not even a scratch.” Katy reassured.
“Good on yah.” Darry said.
She smiled slightly, looking proud. “Squirrely Dan’s already started down to the booth with the pumpkins. I’ll take the pies if you guys can handle the squash?”
Wayne nodded. “Sounds reasonable.”
Katy didn’t move. Giving Wayne a questioning look, she started treading slowly. “Also… I’ve got a couple of bucks. Up for some friendly competition at the shooting games?”
Wayne took a second to consider it. “...You’re on.”
A mischievous smile grew on Katy’s face, and she playfully hit Wayne on the shoulder. After that, she then wandered off to pick up the pies, confidence in her step. Wayne knew she’d win the games, but maybe they’d take his mind off of everything else. And he had to get around to creating new memories in the festival anyway. Wayne then went to get out of the truck, but before he could even place his hand on the car handle, Darry spoke to him.
“Pump the brakes.” When Wayne turned to look at him, he continued. “I gotta know something before we leave.”
“Do you want me to act like your sweetie or do you want to keep it low for now?”
Wayne felt his mind come to a crossroads. Katy and Dan had yet to know about what was going on with the two, and he wasn’t sure when he should tell them. He was sure most people would be surprised if he just came walkin’ in with Darry in his grip. Or if they danced together at the fairs shindig. He didn't even know if Darry knew how to slow dance, but Wayne wouldn’t mind teachin’ him. Hell, just thinking of dancing with Darry made him go all soft- maybe Wayne should just do it. Everyone would find out any which way.
But then he thought about all the things that could go wrong, and the soft feeling hardened.
Darry reached out and grabbed his hand, squeezing it. “Don’t start sweatin’, now. Honestly, I don’t feel that ready either, Wayne.” He reassured. Wayne looked over to him, seeing the same level of anticipation that he was also going through.
“I really appreciate that, Darry.” Wayne then leaned in and gave him a peck on the lips, squeezing his hand in return.
Darry smiled and then took his hand away to place it on Wayne’s back. “Let’s get goin’.”
Their booth was near the back of the fair, and they got a good view of almost everything. All the lights, the activities, and the people. The air of the festival was sweet like cotton candy, and Katy said that the smell alone was giving her cavities. It seemed like the whole town and then some had decided to show up; filling the walkways and chattering away. They all sat around the booth, surrounded by the sounds of the festival. And despite all the fuss, a peaceful buzz found its way into the atmosphere.
“Well, thanks a million, ma’am!” Dan chimed, smiling up at a old woman who just bought a rather large pumpkin. “If yah needs help towing ‘er down, I’ll be glad to help!”
As she leafed through her money, the lady declined his offer, but thanked him anyway. Handing over the cash, she then bid all of them goodbye and hefted the pumpkin into her arms. Her smile turned into a slight grimace from the weight, and Wayne’s back ached just by looking at how she was lifted it. But, after forcing her shoulders back, her happy expression came back, and she then walked away.
“I hope she didn’t throw her back out- little lady like that.” Dan said, sounding concerned. “She’s probably the age of all of us combined.”
“Well, it is hard to lift with your legs when a counter is involved.” Wayne responded, taking a drink of his Puppers.
Darry stood up from his chair and leaned down behind the counter, picking up a pumpkin by the stalk. “She looked happy- that’s for sure.” He then placed it in the newly empty spot on the counter, next to the rest of the arrangement.
“Bit creepy.” Katy said.
Dan frowned. “Now hold on there- she seemed as sweet as the day!”
“Every old lady seems suspiciously sweet, it’s their god-given right.” Wayne says.
“Well, you’ve got me there.” Dan looked down at the money in his hand. “She did tip us a big ol’ ten, though.”
“Who the hell tips at a festival?” Katy asks.
“Angels, most likely.” Darry answered, leaning against one of the posts of the booth.
“Speaking of money- where’d you go and put the money box, Wayne?” Dan said.
Wayne raised an eyebrow. “I thought you brought it.”
“If I did, I wouldn’t be asking yahs.” There was a beat of silence before they all turned their heads around the booth, looking for any sign of the metal box. Nothing came up.
“Wasn’t it under the trucks seat?” Darry asked.
“You’d be correct.” Wayne said.
Nobody went to stand up from their chairs. They all looked at Darry, who uncrossed his arm begrudgingly. “Fine, I’ll go get it.” He gave in.
“You’re a good man, Daryl- these knees don’t work like they used to.” Dan patted his knees to emphasize his point.
Wayne grabbed the truck’s keys from his jacket and threw them to Darry. He caught them, watching them glimmer in the light. Then he looked towards Wayne and Katy. “What’s your two’s excuse, then?”
“I mean, you are the one who’s up and about.” Wayne said. Even from where he was standing, Darry could see the amusement radiating off of Wayne’s face.
“I just don’t care.” Katy responded.
“I appreciate the honesty, Katy.” Darry said.
Wayne looked at his sweeties face, not being able to keep down the affection showing on his own. It made the lines in his skin get all gentle and soft- and he knew Darry could see his expression from the corner of his eye, based on how he was blushing.
Squirrely Dan raised an eyebrow at the two.
Darry started weaving through the groups of people as he approached the parking lot, gazing at the game booths he passed. He gripped the keys in his pocket, rubbing a thumb over the jagged edge of one. Wayne’s warm gaze had been unlike Darry had ever seen before- and it was all directed towards him. The giddiness that overtook his chest was sickly, but damn, was he a happy man.
Until his brain came along, that is.
The sun was almost gone at that point, and the trees started to look more black than orange. A flush of disappointment ran through him when the sudden need to wander into the trees and never come back hit him. His skin pricked and his eye felt heavy the longer he looked at the treeline. It threw him off, and he forced himself off to the side for a bit, next to a popcorn stand. He could see the parking lot in the distance; the silver reflection of the cars biting through the night. The thoughts weren’t gone for good, that was for sure, but Darry couldn’t remember when one had struck him that quick. Graduality made sure the end scenario was a damn hair raiser, but this one didn’t take it’s time.
The wind then came blowing through, rattling the lights on their strings and making the ground flicker. Trying to convince himself he wasn’t all the way back at square one, Darry then pulled his coat closer around him. In the past he wouldn’t have even brought a coat. God damn- he just needed to get the money box from the truck, it shouldn’t be this hard. Sighing at his internal attempts to shake the thought away, he then pulled his eyes forward. He darted his gaze around the crowds, gearing up to start walking back to the truck.
His eyes stopped. Furrowing his brow, he squinted at the figure across the way through the flow of people. They were standing at a produce stand, looking at bundles of corn. Something lit up brighter in his mind the longer he looked at them; brighter than all the damn lights combined. It felt like something was about to jump on him, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away. The dread was mounting and Darry still wasn’t completely sure why.
Then, they turned around. A familiar set of blue eyes found his, and even from across the path, Darry could see their face go pale. All the blood left his body, turning him cold.
Darry felt sick. He could feel something rattling inside of him.
The woman, without turning her head, started tugging on the man’s sleeve next to her. He turned, confused, and also locked eyes with Darry. His face turned to stone, and he stared on with no expression. Everything was silent. Suddenly, his heart came back from the dead. It pumped wildly, like the blood was telling him to leave. The duo wasn’t moving from their spot either, and continued to stare.
Then, all the sound came back. The popcorn machine whirling, an endless barrage of unknown voices, and what seemed like hundreds of other noises. He had to get out of there.
Grinding his teeth, Darry then turned around and stumbled away from his missing parents.
He couldn’t go back to the booth. They would be there- he didn’t know how, but they would sniff out his only sense of comfort and destroy it. Everything was a blur around him, and the keys were now cutting painfully into the skin of his hands. People passed by him with their frozen smiles, but all he could see were the looks on his parents faces. He wasn’t controlling his feet at that point, as he got lost in his head. But he recognized the sensation of grass to pavement when his shoes hit the parking lot. He looked up, breathing deeply, noticing how cold the air seemed to be. But god, did he wish it was even colder.
Keeping on, he then ended up at the truck. Wayne’s truck. He stared, spotting the money box through the glass. He slowly released the iron grip he had on the keys, hearing them clink together. The reflection of himself in the driver side window was just like the TV- dark undertones and missing features. Then his hair pricked up, suddenly aware that his parents could very well be following him, searching. It made the keys feel hot in his hands, like it was burning him. He lifted them up, fumbling around until he found the right one. Blinking once, he then found himself enclosed in the truck, hands on the steering wheel. He could still smell the nicotine from Wayne’s cigarette, stale and dull. The truck was humming, and the butt end of the keys swayed as it hung from the ignition.
He took one final look at the festival behind him, and saw Wayne’s face behind his eyes.
And then he drove off.
Chapter 5: Trust In Doubt
So, yeah, this chapter took A LOT longer than it should've. I'm so sorry for how long it's been, but I also made it relatively long to make it up to ya'll. I can't thank you enough for all of the support this story has gotten- especially since this final update had been slow.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Here yah go!
Darry was born on a boring day in the middle of summer. It wasn’t too hot or too cold, but the air held a bitter dryness that sucked the sweat off your forehead. All of the flowers and gardens were wilting because of the lack of rainfall, but something told Nancy that everything would be fine in the end. Aunt Nancy could still remember the dust blowing around outside the hospital as the seasonal winds pulled at the town. She was fresh out of med school and was the first member in her family to ever go to college. Many told her that it was her biggest achievement in life so far, and that it could only get better from there.
She never believed them. Setting herself up for disappointment made everything easier, and that’s how she planned to live out the rest of her life.
Working in Letterkenny as a medical professional had its ups and downs. There would be long weeks were no one fell sick or injured, but then they would be hit with all kinds of broken bones and nasty flu’s. Nancy mostly worked with pregnancies and births, but if a hand was needed, she would be there.
She tended to see Darry more often than the other kids in town. Aunt Nancy was good friends with his mother since secondary school, and had been her midwife throughout her pregnancy. After the fact, she still often went over to their house to catch up. It was strange to see a baby she had delivered start walking and talking on their own, but he was interesting to watch. Nancy saw something in him that she could never find in any other child. At the time, she interpreted it as an untamable confusion, like he was always reaching out for something but he could never grasp it.
And she couldn’t have been more right.
“You okay, darlin’?” She called out from where she was sitting on the porch, watching Darry stand at the foot of his families corn field. He had been kicking a small ball around by himself, talking under his breath like someone else was with him. Or maybe he was lonely, she never could tell. But one strong kick had sent the ball flying over the long stalks, and it disappeared, sinking into the green. What worried Nancy was how the boy now acted. He was staring at the corn, motionless. Like he was in a damn trance or something.
Nancy peeped a look into the house through the screen door, seeing Daryl’s mother sleeping on the couch. She always seemed so exhausted nowadays, and the two of them barely talked when Nancy came over. She felt more like a babysitter than an old friend, but she didn’t mind that much. Darry was a sweet kid who always beamed a little brighter when Nancy came over. They normally played games, but it was hotter than hell outside that day, and Nancy grew tired before Darry had.
Now he was frozen in the heat, shuffling his feet nervously. He didn’t respond to her.
Sighing a bit, Nancy then stood up, walking towards the ten year old boy. The sun beat down on her, cutting through her dark hair. When she reached him, she could see the sweat glistening off of his hairline. Gently, she then placed a hand on his back, causing him to look up at her. He looked pale against his curls, and Nancy furrowed her brow in response.
“Do you not know what direction your ball went in?” She asked.
“I do.” The boy replied.
“Then why aren’t you going to get it?”
He shrugged, blinking at the stocks of corn.
“Do you want me to get it?”
Darry shook his head no. “I don’t want you getting lost, Aunt Nancy.” He sounded more nervous than a ten year old should.
Letting out a small laugh, she then folded her arms. “Child, what makes you think I’ll get lost? I’ve known this field since before seeds were even growing in it.”
He looked like he was about to respond, but his lips stayed shut. An interesting expression then crossed his face, like he was confused and tense at the same time. Maybe he couldn’t think of an answer to her question.
“Hey now, it’s quite alright.” Nancy patted his shoulder once again. “We can just go back inside and color for a bit.”
Darry nodded, turning and following her back to the house. She worried that he would have sunburns from how long he’s been outside, but the whole conversation was more troubling than that. And she couldn’t help but notice that he looked a little disappointed.
“Isn’t Wayne coming over tomorrow? That’s something you could look forward to!”
“A water line broke on the farm yesterday. He’s gotta help drain the fields.”
“Oh. Well, maybe your dad could play with you when he gets home!” She tried to reassure him.
“Probably not,” Darry said, kicking at some dirt, “He’s never really liked playing with me.”
Nancy felt something squeeze at her heart, burning down her chest. That night, a cold draft settled over the house. And she didn’t believe in superstitions, but the wind seemed to pick up the moment Darry’s father got home.
Before she left, Nancy quickly made some hot chocolate for the boy. She would be groggy at work the next day because of staying over so late, but it was worth to see a small smile grace his face. Then, she tucked him into bed, and quietly left without a word to his parents.
Katy didn’t say anything when Wayne started sleeping in Darry’s bed after he disappeared. She would hear the squeak of the floorboards when he walked out of his own room, the noises creating a small map in her head as she listened. It wasn’t hard to guess where he was heading. She also didn’t even look in his direction when he would come home with bloody knuckles and red eyes, wearin’ one of Darry’s old winter beanies. That was just how her big brother was, and how he sorted through all the mess was his business. As long as he came home, Katy couldn’t worry too much.
Darry was a different story.
Katy had always treated him like an annoying cousin, but at the end of the day, he was family. A good person. Someone who’s loyalty to his loved ones was undeterred. So when she went to check on him in the festival’s parking lot and only found a missing truck, she knew the days ahead would be hard. Katy called and told her brother that his truck was missing along with Darry, and she received a couple of stiff questions in return. After they hung up, Wayne arrived at the parking lot alongside her in two minutes flat. He moved around the lot, dialing Darry’s phone number over and over again. She could tell that he knew more about what was going on than she did, and she saw his brain thinking up lightning as his phone kept going to voicemail.
After Squirrely Dan decided to join them in the parking lot, he then asked a simple enough question: “Hey now, what’s goin’ on?”
Wayne was still pacing, holding his phone up to his ear.
Katy could keep her cool in the most tense of situations, and this was no different. Darry would be fine; he wouldn’t do something too risky. She hoped so, at least. “The trucks gone.”
Dan kept his eyes trained on the distant Wayne. “Yah think someone stole it?”
“Darry’s also gone.”
“...Oh.” Dan realized. “Where’d he go?”
“That’s the issue, Dan.”
“So he just up and left?” Dan said, confused.
She shrugged, starting to feel the nerves catch up with her. Hugging her jacket closer to her, she then stared at her brother for a bit. He was still walking around, fingers placed in the loopholes of his pants. Katy had sent a couple of texts Darry’s way, but no answers came through. The phone felt heavy in her grip as she sent two more messages. Dan had decided to follow her lead and called a few times.
No progress was being made. “Wayne?” She called, trying to reel her brother in. He came a bit closer, still on the phone. “This isn’t doing anything. He probably went up to the house or something.”
“She’s right, bud. No need to get nervous right now.” Dan soothed.
Wayne gave them a look before pulling his phone away. Something stood in front of his expression, guarding. “10-4.”
Considering that they were missing their truck, the McMurray’s drove them home that night, much to Wayne’s disdain. They tried to peel their way underneath Wayne’s skin and figure out why they really had to drive them and their pumpkins back home. No one would budge. When they got home is where the panic in Wayne really started to rise. His truck was nowhere to be seen.
And still no answer.
The McMurray’s could sense the sudden apprehensiveness coming from Wayne after they dropped him off. His tense shoulders and balled up fists were enough for them to stop asking questions. They then took Dan back to his house so he could bring his truck around to the farm, and they were silent the entire way. Once he was dropped off, he thanked the two kindly, and they gave him their regards.
“You know where to get in touch with us if anything is needed.” Mr. McMurray said gruffly.
When Dan arrived back at the farm with his truck, Wayne silently took his keys and then drove off into the night. An untold mission must’ve formed in his head after looking around the farm and finding nothing. After he left, Katy told Dan that Wayne had some ideas as to where Darry might be, and he would let them know if he came up with anything.
Wayne came back with a black eye and no Darry.
Katy didn’t cry until it was official that he had been missing for two days. Squirrely Dan was in her same boat, and stayed over at the house to help them out with everything. He also loaned his truck to them, and made sure that the two of them ate. Aunt Nancy called them at one point, all teary eyed and worried out of her mind. Katy hadn’t seen Nancy out of her own house in years on account of the growing pain in her legs. Dan had to convince her to stay home, because walking only made the condition worse. But Darry was basically her kid, and she never stopped calling to get the latest updates.
Well, there were no updates, but that didn’t stop her.
Wayne was checked out. For the first two days, he was barely in the house. He would drive out to town to talk with the police and others, trying to figure anything out about what happened.
“That case had been closed for years, son. Nothing’s come up-”
Wayne leaned up against the counter, staring coolly at the officer. “I don’t seem to recall ever mentioning his parents. I’m talking about Darry himself.”
“Figure it out.”
The cop raised an eyebrow, but didn’t respond. He clicked around on his computer for a bit, and then finally looked back at Wayne. A professional emptiness seemed to overtake the police officer, turning his voice stern. “I’ve registered the report, sir. Now, I just need to ask you a couple of questions.”
After everything was said and done in town, Wayne would then drive away on his own, through the outskirts of Letterkenny. All the sunken trees and the yellow grass darted past him; an echo of what the landscape used to look like. After so many years of relaxing during the end of autumn, his body was protesting that he go home and get some shut eye. Or lean back on the porch and just breath. But there was no way he’d feel fine doing that without Darry next to him.
Nothing came out of the searching. If anything, it just made Wayne realize how cold it was starting to get.
He would’ve kept searching, too. But on the third day of Darry’s disappearance, Letterkenny saw the worst blizzard in town since its establishment. Large droves of thick clouds pulled in from the north- smothering everything under the sky. The house shook long and hard that day, like it was about to be pulled from the very nails it was created with. Wayne wandered to the outdoor shed to collect some more firewood at one point, and it pertnear felt like being in a tornado. The wind spit snow everywhere, sending the powdered stuff lashing into the air and packing the rest of it down. It blinded the landscape, and Wayne could barely see two feet in front of him.
He cared about that snow with a warm fury. Because he knew if Darry didn’t stay inside his truck, wherever he was, he was as well as dead. The snow would make sure of that.
Anger was the closest thing to emotion he felt during the day. Because Wayne didn’t think much until he was in bed. Before he hit the sheets, he was on autopilot. But he couldn’t seem to want to continue that when he was left with only himself. No tasks, no people, and no distraction.
Sleeping in his own bed only seemed to suck the rationality and hope out of Wayne. Everything that could go wrong seemed plausible, and sleep never came his way. Darry’s room was the opposite of that. The smell of Darry sat in his bed sheets, and it was almost like he was back. All around him. His messy dresser with his coveralls and hair gel, the baseball gloves in the corner, some farming supplies, and his fishing rod. Wayne’s pumping numbness would lift, and a sharp ache would then squeeze at his entire being.
He guessed it was better than being angry and hopeless, but he didn’t quite believe that.
While in bed, Wayne would realize things about Darry that he never thought of before. Like that he was the only one in the house that actually ate yogurt cups. Every morning he used to go through the ritual of having them, and they were one of the only things Darry continually spent his money on. Alcohol, yogurt, and smokes- Darry’s hierarchy of needs.
The yogurt was now at a stand still inside the fridge, and sooner or later they would start goin’ sour. But no one dared to touch them. Maybe Darry would come back before they went bad, and maybe he’d want one. Throwing them away would feel like they were chucking Darry out along with them. Or the hope of him returning, that is.
Wayne never suspected that a damn yogurt cup could hold any sort of significance, but that’s just what ended up on his table.
He inhaled deeply, faintly smelling some cologne from Darry’s pillow. Wayne’s hands throbbed, and an itch inside of him flared up. A good ol’ donnybrook was calling to him, but he wouldn’t dare to drive during the storm. He couldn’t remember feeling this bad. His parents had been a different story- because while they were definitely dead, and nothing would ever be the same, closure was assured. Eventually, at least. But if Darry never came back, Wayne wasn’t sure if he could ever find a rational explanation for it.
Something was toying around with his insides and he wasn’t sure if it was killin’ him or not. Hell, his dreams weren't even trying to comfort him. They were always about Darry and him sitting by the lake. Holding hands, both of them sharing a lightness of heart that they hadn’t felt in a long time. The feel of his lips against his own. His hair that curled past his ears.
Then he woke up. And the days barely moved.
Holding his head up in his hand, he looked on dully at his dog. Stormy was barking relentlessly, sniffing at the front door and digging her nails into the wood. Wayne blinked slowly from the kitchen table. Her entire body was wiggling, full of an energy that Wayne was foreign to. She kept walking back and forth between the door and the table, as if gesturing him to follow her.
It was the fourth night. Sleep had been cruel to him, and Darry’s bed wasn’t working so well anymore. All it seemed to do was make the ache even worse, so he decided to take a break of some sorts downstairs. Wayne had already let Stormy out not so long ago, and he didn’t know why she would be doing this. The effort wasn’t arising to convince him to stand, and the longer he sat there, the more annoyed she looked.
Finally, after one more stare down, Wayne let out a breath and stood up. He rubbed his stubble, lumbering over to the door where she sat patiently. “In and out, okay? Don’t be chasing any raccoons- it’s too cold to be out there for long.”
Stormy kept her eyes trained on his hand, which rested on the doorknob. He could already feel the cold radiating from the door. Then, with one final look at her, he let up and turned the knob. The air from outside blasted in, turning his face red. Stormy darted out, following the tracks already made by their boots.
The snowfall had stopped, but the ground was still thick. He stood in the threshold, hoping nothing bad would happen to her feet in all the cold. The white light from the porch was stark against the snow, making it sparkle. Wayne was slightly mesmerized by it, partly because of his lack of sleep. And by the time he looked back up, Stormy was barking. And in one blink, she was hauling ass away from the house, leaving the light.
“Stormy!” He called, feeling frustration consume him. He quickly grabbed his jacket from its hook and pulled it on.
He then stumbled down the steps of his home, almost slipping on the ice. From what he could tell, Stormy has taken off towards the fields, and he started to chase after her. The cold bit at his ears and the snow was all the way up to his knees. Breathing heavily, he blinked into the darkness, trying to catch any sight of Stormy- who was basically swimming in the powder.
“Stormy!” He repeated, continuing to push through her path that was carved out. She was barking ahead of him, and Wayne could only imagine her staring down the barrel of a raccoon.
Sooner or later, the tracks stopped, as did her barks. He came to a halt, listening. The silence was unnatural for him, but it was normal for the winter. Sound was only absorbed by the snow at this point, leaving a muffled feeling in its wake.
But it couldn’t stop light. Off to his side and a couple of feet in front of him, he could see a sliver of yellow peeking out. A dark obstacle blotted out the stars above it, and Wayne came to the conclusion that the light was coming from the equipment barn. Stormy’s trail seemed to lead all the way to the doors of it. Something crawled up his spine, knowing he didn’t leave the bulbs on in the barn. Hell, he barely used them. Flexing his hands, he then slowly started walking towards the shine. He wasn’t nervous per say- he trusted his fists- but he wasn’t calm either.
The cold air had rubbed his throat raw and he swallowed thickly. As he got closer to the barn, he treaded softer, not wanting the crunch of his footsteps to be heard. Only one of the building’s doors was cracked open, turning the snow silver. And Wayne spotted Stormy’s paw prints leading directly into it.
Wayne let out a deep breath. Resting his numb hand onto the outer handle, he mustered himself up, and then pulled. The light blinded him briefly, but nothing else was thrown his way.
Physically, at least.
Stormy turned her head towards him and wagged her tail. The rawness in his throat was overtaken by his heart, and all he could do was stare.
Daryl stared back at him from the bale of hay he was hunched over on, hand on top of Stormy’s head. The light in the barn made shadows cross over his face and muted whatever expression he had. Everything stood still, like when the two of them were sitting by the lake. Except this time it seemed like a lifetime had passed between the both of them.
“I know why all of this happened.” Darry said, his voice rough.
Wayne was gawking, internally. Externally, he didn’t seem to be able to move his face. Darry finally straightened his back, letting the light reveal a deep, purple bruise on his jaw and eye.
“You don’t like fightin’.” Was all Wayne could say. The situation then hit him all at once, and he quickly stepped onto the floor of the barn, closing the door behind him. In large strides, Wayne then ended up in front of Darry. The man looked up at him, apologetic and tender all at the same time. Without thinking, Wayne squatted down and reached out to cup his face in his hands. If he was putting too much pressure on the bruises, Darry didn’t show it.
All they did was stare at each other. Darry followed his lead and then also placed his hands onto Wayne’s face, running a thumb over his cheekbone. And Wayne tried to focus on the warmth in Darry’s cheeks rather than the bumps and bruises.
“You’re lucky I don’t throw a few at you myself.” Wayne didn’t mean that, but his insides were trembling in a way that scared the hell out of him.
“It looks like you’ve already been doin’ that.” Darry tapped the fading bruise around Wayne’s eye. He then cracked a smile under his hands. “I’d deserve it nonetheless.”
Wayne didn’t respond, and opted to lean in for a hard kiss. They were both cold in more ways than one, but the kiss dragged on slowly, like fire. Holding Darry in his hands was more therapeutic than he thought it would be. Darry approached the kiss a little softer, as if he was trying to assure Wayne that he really was back. When they pulled apart, he felt a calmness that he hasn’t felt since before the harvest.
Wayne then removed his hands from Darry slowly, dragging his fingers across his cheeks. Darry did the same, and let them hang from where they sat on his knees. They never broke eye contact, but Wayne did let out a steadying breath. Wordlessly, he then stood up, and joined Darry on the hay bale. Stormy followed suit and laid at their feet, wagging her tail. He knew they should really be heading inside for some warmth, but Wayne’s bones felt more heavy than usual. Maybe some answers would lessen the load. He took a moment to gather his thoughts before talking.
“Katy thought you were dead.”
Some guilt flashed on Darry’s face. “What’d you think?”
“Didn’t know what to think. Never had someone disappear quite like that before.” Wayne sent him a look, realizing something. “You’ve still got your coat on.”
Darry nodded, pulling the collar closer. “Yeah. I figured winters don’t go well with hot blood.”
For the first time in four days, Wayne felt a beat of hope hit him. “Took yah long enough.”
Darry let out a slight laugh. “Yeah, well, I never was the smartest of the bunch.”
And then the question that had been boiling away at Wayne for days finally reared its head. “What happened?”
Darry blinked hard a couple of times, making the bruises shift. “A lot.”
“Daryl, you know damn well that you need to give me more than that.”
As if suddenly weak, Darry placed his elbows back on his knees. “I saw them.”
Wayne waited, keeping a hard stare trained on him.
“They saw me. And something just clicked.” He closed his eyes briefly. “I’m so sorry.”
“Your puzzle is missing some pieces.”
“My parents. They were at the fair.”
Wayne felt his mind go blank. The information hit him like a truck. “Pump the brakes.” He mumbled. “You mean to tell me that your missing parents decided to go to the Harvest Fair?”
“You sure they weren’t ghosts?”
“Ghosts don’t talk, Wayne.” Darry turned his head up at his sweetie, guilt clogging his throat. “They were at a booth when I went to get the money box. And…” He shook his head a bit. “I didn’t know what to do. It was too much, I guess. Then I took your truck and just drove.”
Something wasn’t connecting with Wayne. “Why not just come back to the booth?”
“I didn’t want them to find me.” Before Wayne could say something else, Darry continued. “Wayne, I wasn’t thinking. It was like I could feel everything yet nothing all at the same time. They brought me all the way back to square one.”
“What square are you on now?”
Darry sent him a soft look. “The last one.”
Darry nodded yes, running his hand over Stormy’s back, watching her perk up. “I’m not gonna follow in my parents footsteps anytime soon.”
Wayne watched both of them for a second. Two sides were pulling at him, and he didn't know which one to follow. Doubt that this would happen again or trust that it wouldn't. Nonetheless, he continued. “Where did you go?”
“Not sure. It’s all a blur. I remember getting into a fight down south, though.” He tapped his bruises. “Wasn’t exactly sober, either. The whole damn world seems to be as small as Letterkenny is. It’s small all over.” He then shrugged. “...It was comforting.”
Darry went silent for a moment before shaking his head slightly. “But, I did go to Aunt Nancy’s yesterday. She’s always been able to make sense out of anything. And it was just my luck that my parents were there as well.” Then, he looked frustrated. “It’d make more sense if I was just finally going off the deep end and imagining things at the fair, but they had to go and make it complicated.”
Wayne still couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The month after Darry’s parents disappeared, Wayne accepted that death had swallowed them whole. To hear that they were alive was more surprising than Darry’s own departure. “Why didn’t you call? Hell, why didn’t Nancy at least confirm that you weren't down in a ditch somewhere?”
“Honestly, I completely forgot about my phone. And my parents told Nancy not to call. They just wanted to talk to me for a little, I guess.”
“And how’d that go?”
“Turns out abandoning your only kid makes you feel real guilty.” He then shrugged, trying to keep down the sting in his chest. “They wanted their lives to be more than having a family and living in Letterkenny. That’s why they left.”
“Are they still here?” Wayne asked quietly, clenching his fists. Something dangerous was boiling under his collar, and it was all tunneled towards Darry’s parents.
Darry noticed and then gently placed his hand over his fist. “No, they aren’t. And even if they were, I wouldn’t let you have a go at them.”
“They don’t deserve the energy.”
Wayne furrowed his eyebrows, unfurling his fingers. Darry gripped them in response. “Time moves slow for any old farmer, Wayne. I just got caught up in it is all.” He then released his hand to stand, blinking up at the light hanging from the roof. “You should get inside before your hands go numb.”
Darry crossed his arms, looking around the barn. He couldn’t shake the bags from under Wayne’s eyes or the scars on his knuckles. “Why would you let a hick who worried the life out of you back into your house?”
Wayne widened his eyes at the man in front of him. “I’ll be damned.” He stated. Darry raised an eyebrow at him, shuffling his feet. “Aunt Nancy was right.” Standing up, he then wrapped an arm around Darry’s shoulder’s, pulling him in. Darry just about melted in his arms, shoving his face into the crook of Wayne’s neck. Wayne gripped the back of the man’s coat in return, feeling his curls tickle his face. “You really are destined for constant confusion.”
Pulling away slightly, Wayne rested his forehead on Darry’s and stared through him. “I’m still not sure what exactly happened with you, Daryl, but don’t you ever think that you’re not welcome here. This is your home- your parents be damned.” Wayne swallowed past something in his throat. “Nothing feels the same without you here.”
Darry didn’t say anything for a second. He seemed to be analyzing the soft look in Wayne’s eyes, trying to spot something hidden. Then, he blinked. “That’s a funny way of saying you love me.”
Wayne flushed, feeling his heart jump. “Tone it down there, Darry.”
A smile overtook Darry’s face. “D'aww, he’s bashful.” Before Wayne could act exasperated, a kiss was pressed to his cheek. “I can add more pieces to the puzzle when we get inside.”
Wayne’s entire being felt sore, and the thought of staying up any longer didn’t sound great. The knowledge that Darry was alive was more draining than he thought it would be. And looking at Darry, seeing the way his eyes gleamed, he trusted him to wake up next morning and still be here. “You can run that mouth of yours later. The days haven't really budged since you left anyway. We’ve got time.”
“In the morning?”
“In the morning.”