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 I'm not lying to you, Arthur.

I know. I’m only concerned for your well being…and your sanity, Lance. I know what you went through to get away from them. I don’t want to see you sucked back in, especially if there was something I could have done. I don’t...I can’t lose you. Not again.

The sun was hot on his face, and Lancelot shoved his hands into the pockets of Arthur’s robe, the stitching making dangerous popping sounds at his vehemence. The breeze was up and the birds were singing and traffic was snarling its way around the freeway. He could hear the squeak and roar of the metrorail from the station nearest the loft, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

His stomach jumped painfully for the millionth time that morning and he clenched his left hand into a fist, the fabric of the pocket hiding the ring he’d found the night before and had slid on from habit. When he’d realized what he’d done, he’d made to pull it off, but the month, or the day or the fucking season or his memory had frozen him in mid motion, fingers flexing, mouth working. He’d finally shoved the gold thing back on and closed his eyes briefly when it settled back against his palm.

He’d taken it off several weeks previously – he’d promised Arthur, no words needed, that he was ready to move on and they were only scars, after all. And they fade.

His phone chirped and he answered without looking at the caller ID.

“Hello.

Yes, I’ll be there. At eleven, right. I’d rather you didn’t; I can take the train.

The station is right here, Gwen. It’s not a big deal. I’ll be there.

…no, he doesn’t know. I’ll be there, okay? Don’t worry.”

He hung up without looking at the phone and pocketed the slender thing; the breeze wound its warm fingers through his hair and picked up the curls, blowing them artfully around his angular face, caressing his skin and wafting the smells of the morning around him.  He went back inside, sliding the door shut softly, leaving the Los Angeles morning to itself. He wasn’t sure how long he could control the expression on his face, and he didn’t want –

“Arthur.”

“Morning,” came the mouth-full reply; the other man was seated at the table, stuffing toast into his mouth and reading the paper as he quickly flipped through his schedule. “Food in there for you.” He jerked his head toward the kitchen. Lance mumbled a non-committal reply and headed for the stairs, still not wanting to look Arthur in the face. He’d know, he’d see, and Lance would have to explain, and that would be bad.

Lance had only been on Cragen’s unit for a short time, and not seeing Arthur as much as he was used to was strange. But…the way things were going, it made it better, easier, workable. He could do what he had to today and Arthur wouldn’t know, and he wouldn’t have to explain anything and they could have dinner and go about their lives. And Lance could remember in silence and suck it up. He was an adult; pain was part of life. Pain that had been hidden for so long and shit, Arthur was following him up the stairs.

“You have a busy day today?”

Lance kept his face turned away from Arthur. “Off. I thought I’d run a few errands and maybe go to the beach.” There. Arthur was certain to not check up on him there. He shucked off the other man’s robe and found a hooded sweatshirt and shorts and slid them on over his underwear, slipping the gold ring into the pocket of the shorts. He breathed deeply and straightened up just as Arthur was stepping into his body space, the other man’s arms sliding about his torso.

Warm lips on his had Lance almost swaying; he hoped Arthur thought he was just reacting to his closeness.

“You alright this morning?”

The words were whispered into his ear; the soft breath and smell of Arthur’s skin made Lancelot’s eyes close again. Shut the fuck up, Lance. He squeezed Arthur to him and pressed a quick kiss to the other man’s temple – before he dragged him to the bed, before he wanted more, more comfort, more anything to make him forget today and what he had to do for his sister, for his family.

“I love you,” he murmured back, before he could open his lips and answer the question. I'm not lying to you, Arthur.

Arthur’s lips curled against Lance’s ear and he pulled back enough so Lance was forced to look him in the face. He kept his eyes as shuttered as he could, and tried to stare at Arthur’s nose instead of into the green orbs that he could not keep anything from. A hand stroked his cheek and he sucked in a sharp breath through his nose.

“Lance? You alright?”

Lancelot leaned forward and kissed Arthur, kissed him slowly and intensely and Arthur said his name and slid his hands to the curve of Lance’s buttocks, his fingers touching Lance’s bare skin as they found their way beneath Lance’s bulky sweatshirt. Lance’s brain buzzed, whirling, reminding, angering, saddening. He licked at Arthur’s upper lip, and then slowly extricated himself from the embrace that could be dangerous, could be the best thing, could be the worst.

“Fuck,” Arthur laughed after a moment, his voice shaky. “I have to go into work after that?” He laughed again and found his shoes and toed them on. Lance merely smiled; he located his own shoes and did not turn to face Arthur when the other man told him he loved him and brushed a hand through Lancelot’s hair. He raised a hand and touched Arthur’s fingers as Arthur left the room, whistling as he made his way down the stairs.

Frozen like a statue, Lancelot breathed again when he heard the door slam shut and Arthur’s keys in the lock.

He waited a moment, making sure that Arthur didn’t return for some forgotten item, and when he was certain it would be just him, he jerked his sweatshirt and shorts off, stuffed them in a carry bag, and pulled a dress shirt and slacks out of the closet. Dressing quickly, the casual shoes went in the bag as well and he slid Mark Jacobs’ latest on his feet as he fastened his watch. The ring he remembered rather oddly – the sandals went in the bag on top of the other clothing, and as he was zipping it up, he caught a glint of metal.

Forgetting already.

He put it on and once again clenched fingers into fists.

He would have taken it away from me. I don’t know if I even want it.

He would remember this day, this week, this month, until he died, but he might forget the awful piece of gold his father had given him – he wished he could. It might make things easier.

*

The sun was setting, and Lance’s beautiful dress shirt and slacks were wrinkled from the train ride. He rocked back and forth with the motion of the cab, his carry bag laying at his feet. At last the electronic voice called for the Midtown station, and he rose exhaustedly, his left hand retrieving the bag, his right rubbing at his long nose as he exited and made his way to the platform. He stopped walking, waiting until the train had pulled out and the other passengers that had disembarked had disappeared down the steps to the street. He watched the train fly away down the railing, trash and bits of leaves swirling in its wake.  His expensive, fancy clothing hung on him, dragging at his shoulders and making him more exhausted than he already was.

The sun dipped below the horizon in a blaze of red and gold glory, and at last he turned and trudged down the steps himself, the bag in his hand and the ring around his finger heavy and painful.

*

Arthur called out the moment Lance opened the loft door; he dropped his carry bag and keys where they fell. Plodding into the living room, he slumped onto the couch and turned his eyes to the inanity on tv that Arthur had been watching. His knees bent and his hands rested on his thighs; Arthur said his name again and came out of the kitchen, a towel over his shoulder, a ladle in his right hand.  He cocked his head at Lancelot's clothing.

“Didn’t you go to the beach?”

“Um,” Lance answered distractedly, his face aching, his mind too tired to come up with right answer. “Oh, what? No, I ran errands. Remember?” He'd forgotten to change into the casual stuff he'd taken with him - but it was too late now.

“It’s pretty dark in here,” Arthur snapped on one of the lamps next to Lance’s head, and Lance automatically looked up at him.

Shit.

Arthur’s brows contracted and he set the ladle and towel down. He rounded the couch and sat next to Lancelot, picking up his left hand, touching the gold ring Lance had on. “Where did you go that you had to wear this?” he said, his eyes never leaving Lance’s face. It wasn’t a question.

Lance was caught. He couldn’t look away, and he couldn’t lie. Not now.

Lie. LIE, Lancelot.

I'm not lying to you, Arthur.

Gwen, no more favors, okay?

Just one, okay, Lance?

“Today's the anniversary of Roland dying,” Lance said, his voice calm despite the inner rip and roasting he felt among his guts. “I went with…I went to the gravesite.”

Arthur twisted his mouth. “I know. I remember, Lance.”  He turned Lance's right hand over, looking at the scars that webbed the palm.  Lance closed the left one into a fist, the ring biting him as Arthur's eyes burned a scalding path over the scars on his right.

“Then why didn’t you say something?”  Lancelot spit the words with more vitriol than he’d planned, not sure where they came from. He jerked his hands out of Arthur’s and spun the ring with his right, his eyes caught like a deer in headlights, staring at Arthur, wondering, waiting for the other man to berate him or to yell or to express his disappointment.

“Because I thought you wouldn’t want me to push you to remember something I knew you’d never forget.” Arthur slid his fingers between Lance’s two hands again and held the left one, effectively covering the ring. “There are things we never need reminding of.”

I went with Gwen. I’m helping her too. I waited till you left to put on this clothing because I thought you wouldn’t know, and I never had any intention of going to the beach. I lied to you, just like I’m lying now.

The knife in his stomach turned again. Lance rolled his lips inward and cocked his head, watching Arthur’s face. “I want to forget it. I want to remember the good times – there were good times, Arthur. He wasn’t always a bastard. There were days he was almost human, and almost seemed to love me like a real father.” Once the words came, he couldn’t turn them off. His eyes pinched and he blinked, but he forced himself to watch Arthur’s eyes and to not turn away. It was bad enough he wasn’t telling the whole truth. “And those days…Arthur, I can’t remember them so easily. What I remember now are the bad times, the anger and the hurt, and the day he was finally gone. And I’m not sorry he’s gone, in a way. And in other ways, I will never forgive myself for not saying what I could have, when I could have. It’s too late now, and I don’t know if I can live with that or not. What would he think of me, now? Would he be finally through with me? Or would he walk away, and think I was being dramatic?"  Lance raised his hands and made air quotes, and then slowly lowered them to touch Arthur's again.

“Would I have ever been able to not care what he thought?”

Arthur touched Lancelot’s cheek, brushing away the embarrassing, hated tears. He did not speak.

“All I can remember is that day he died. And how the first thought I had was Thank You, God. Now, I can breathe again for the first time since I was 10.” He clenched the hand Arthur held. “Why is that? Why can I not be sorry for the life he lost and the man I never could get to know?  The man I was too afraid of to know?”

“Because this is where you are, now,” Arthur answered. He turned to face Lance, his fingers twining with Lance’s fingers. He shrugged and touched Lance’s face again, wiping more tears away with his thumb. “Because this is where you need to be.”

Lancelot sighed heavily and finally looked down at their hands. “When will I remember the good times? When do the dates and the anniversaries and the shit go away?"  He worried his lip between his teeth, the tears on his face slowing, finally.

Arthur leaned forward, and Lance let him brush his lips against his. “When you want them to, Lance.”

Lancelot’s angular face contracted and expanded, his features not seeming to know where they wanted to be, to know what felt right. He bit down hard on his lip, the shifting and screaming in his tired brain old and hated and yet would not go away. Arthur was right – and Lancelot hated him so much at that moment, hated him because he wanted a fucking concrete answer, and there were none. There were no right or wrong answers, and there might never be. He would have to live and be okay with that.

He snatched his hand from Arthur and stuffed his fist into his mouth in order to hold back the yell he felt building, and jerked away from the other man. He strode to the sliding glass door and went outside onto the deck, the LA night surrounding him with pillowy humidity and warm winds. His wrinkled clothing blew around his stiff body, and he allowed the breeze to lift his hair off his forehead, the cooling effect not noticed or wanted.  The ring scraped his hands when he clasped them together, but he left it where it was and would stay. For now. He dropped his head as he rested his elbows on the railing that surrounded the deck, and he ignored the phone that buzzed in his pocket. Gwen would have to wait. She could afford him one night; she’d seen him that morning after all. Fuck her. She could give him some fucking time.

“I would have gone with you.”

Lance didn’t look over at Arthur, who'd followed him and who was copying his position at the railing. “I know.”

They watched the sky and Lancelot wondered if Arthur was thinking of his mother and father, or of his own regrets. He knew Arthur had many, but at this moment, he didn’t care for any of that, or of the memories Arthur might have or if his experience was like Lance’s.  He only remembered the dates on the headstone, and the feeling of blankness he’d gotten when he’d read them, over and over and over as Guinevere had gone on about something at work. They’d placed flowers at Roland’s grave and then had gone to lunch, Lance still letting her prattle on while they ate.

He wished he had gone to the beach. Then he could have avoided lying to Arthur, and he could have forgotten what this day still meant to him.

He turned and took up Arthur’s arm and tucked himself next to the other man tightly, his shirt pulling at his neck as he stuck his nose in Arthur’s throat, the warm, slightly salty tasting skin soft and familiar against his lips. Arthur wrapped his arm firmly around Lancelot’s shoulders and pressed a kiss to his temple, Lance’s curly hair whipping at his face from the force of the warm wind.  Lance lifted his face and brushed Arthur’s mouth with his own, and then again, and once more. Arthur turned and gathered Lance to him, no words spoken, only touch, only taste and breath and thought. He kissed Lance back, softly and quietly, his hands finding the hollow at Lance’s low back, slipping beneath his dress shirt, untucking the fabric from the slacks.

Lance shivered and felt the burn of the gold ring on his left hand as he lifted his face for another kiss, another touch, another familiarity. His phone buzzed again, and he added that sound to the list of things – bad things, hated things – he would not forget.

~