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Until the Ribbon Breaks

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I don't know the language
I can't find the rhythm
I don't know the way to say goodbye


It’s raining on Mother’s Day.

Appropriate, all things considered. Mother’s Day has always been a bittersweet thing for Dorian. As his partner, Cullen does his best to make the best of it for him. He never pushes Dorian to join him and his family for the day but Dorian always shows up with presents and kisses for his mother-in-law and sisters-in-law.

Despite Dorian’s gregariousness and flattery for the Rutherford women in his life, Cullen can still see the hidden sadness in his husband’s expression. Cullen’s family has welcomed Dorian readily and without a moment of hesitation; however, they are not Dorian’s mother and he misses her very dearly.

Dorian has not seen his mother since he was disowned and forced to leave his family on his father’s wishes. His ‘lifestyle choices’ were never something his father could forgive him for and, well, marrying a man was the tipping point.

A tipping point that escalated into nearly eight years without a Mother’s Day spent with Aquinea.

Cullen shifts his weight from foot-to-foot, dress shoes pinching his toes, and rain seeping uncomfortably beneath his collar. He adjusts his grip on the umbrella he’s holding over Dorian’s head. There’s not enough umbrella for him, too, but he doesn’t mind, not really.

“And her only son, Dorian Pavus, will speak…”

The man at the podium gestures towards them. Cullen waits patiently for Dorian to step forward to say the eulogy he’s prepared for his mother but he doesn’t move. The rest of the gathered people-- men and women who have far more money than Cullen and his blue-collar family-- watch Dorian with interest.

Their expressions remind Cullen of hungry dogs, circling for meat and it angers him.

Not only must Dorian share his grief with these people, he has to do it publically.

Cullen adjusts the umbrella from one hand to the other so he can touch Dorian’s lower back with his right hand. He leans forward just a bit, making it obvious to their onlookers that they’re married. “Dor, they’re calling for you.”

He draws his fingertips along Dorian’s spine and then rests his open palm against his shoulder to tug him into a half-hug. “You don’t have to do this. Tell me you want to leave and we’ll leave.”

“No, I-- no, it’s quite alright. That’d be feeding the vultures, amatus. Just… she raised me to be a strong son and to hold my chin up, I owe her to not let them affect me.”

Cullen goes quiet as Dorian pats his chest and then leaves him to stand behind the podium. Alone, Cullen adjusts the umbrella to block the rest of the rain. Then, he touches the same place on his chest where Dorian had moments ago. With a soft exhale of breath he didn’t know he was holding, he draws his fingers along the woolen lapel of his jacket and finally drops his hand to his side so he’s not tempted to touch the white flower in his breast pocket, too, and brown the petals.

Thunder cracks around them-- deep rolling vibrations that cause the white lilies to shudder around the casket.

Dorian is beautiful, still wet from rain despite the pulpit’s temporary cover.

He’s not sure he can love someone as much as he loves Dorian. Dorian, who stands upright and tall despite the whispers and smirks, soft words and tittering gossip.

Maker’s breath, it’s a funeral and they’ve no decorum?

“Actually, that would be Dorian Pavus-Rutherford. We hyphenated, you know.” Dorian gives his most charming smile and then pats down his pockets. “Suppose I have a properly written eulogy and everything around here some-- ah, yes, here we go. Oh, don’t mind the wine stain.” He pauses as a few people hesitantly chuckle. Alcoholism, an easy joke for these people.

Cullen’s not sure how they can laugh but it’s not the world he knows. Suppose it’s similar to when he and his father laugh about the Kentucky Derby and Dorian doesn’t understand that.

“Right, so. As you know, I’m the fallen son of my dear beloved family and--”

Beside him, Halward clears his throat and pointedly looks at his son. Cullen can see it from here and he knows it’s not missed among the guests.

Dorian frowns, cutting a hard, side-eyed glance to Halward and then very pointedly folds up the paper.

“You know, I was going to play nicely. I was going to go on about how she is a good mother and-- was -- a good mother but here we are, airing family grievances for the entire upper echelon to see, father, so I -- she would want me to be truthful.”

Dorian stares at Halward as he speaks. “Aquinea was a good woman and a good mother. She deserved much better than you. Kaffas. I deserve much better than you. I’m quite glad she can rest now.”

Cullen widens his eyes in surprise.

There is stunned silence from the guests and Halward looks-- Cullen doesn’t like that look so he takes four long strides to make his way to the pulpit so he can situate himself between Dorian and his father.

Before he gets to Dorian’s side, a woman he’s never met reaches out to grab his wrist. He pauses and whips his head around to tell her to kindly stop touching thank you but she puts one finger in front of her lips to indicate ‘shhh.’ He doesn’t know her but she looks familiar-- a friend of Dorian’s from school-- Maevaris-- is that who she is?

At the raised platform, Dorian jerks away from his father before Halward can cross the distance between them. He moves to position his mother’s casket between them. Halward stops moving after him but he watches Dorian, waiting for him to pull some stunt. Unperturbed, Dorian takes the double-headed pin of family crest out of his pocket and then brushes his thumb along the enamel engravings.

“Dorian--”

He ignores Halward’s attempt to get his attention and tosses the Pavus crest onto the casket. The thunder swallows up the hollow thunk of metal on wood.

“Come on, Cullen. I’d rather like to go home, wouldn’t you?”

Cullen can only nod numbly as Dorian hooks his arm through his own. The rain hasn’t stopped but the umbrella has proven to be useless so he collapses that and hooks it on the crook of his arm. “We can go home.”

They walk a few feet from the grave and the gathered crowd.

“Good. I’d like to light a few candles for mother.” Dorian glances over his shoulder to the casket. From this closeness, Cullen can see his smeared makeup. Whether that’s from rain or crying, he can’t tell.

In full view of the guests, he takes Dorian’s hand with both of his own and presses a kiss to his fingertips.

That warmth of this kiss seems to startle Dorian because his husband looks away from the casket to stare at Cullen-- he makes sure to block the view of Dorian’s red rimmed eyes from the guests. Unable to let his husband suffer his grief to himself, Cullen cups both of his cheeks and then rests his forehead against Dorian’s.

He can feel Dorian gripping the underside of his sleeves, pulling the expensive material taunt.

“I miss her,” he says with a whisper, tears tracking against his cheeks.

Cullen sucks in a sharp breath and wipes them away. “I know. She loved you, Dorian. Even if Halward didn’t let you see each other. You know that, right?”

Dorian’s only response is a shaky, jerky nod as he pulls away from Cullen and snags the keys to the truck from Cullen’s pocket and then turns on his heel to walk towards their vehicle. Cullen follows and climbs into the passenger side and straps into his seatbelt, awaiting Dorian to say something, say anything. He doesn’t.

They drive home in silence but Dorian keeps one hand on Cullen’s thigh to ground himself.

Next year, on this day, it will be nine years without Dorian seeing his mother and it will not be any easier.

But, they’ll weather that storm together, too.