Eight months earlier George's life came to a crashing end.
While he lived a thousand miles away Jim's family had turned a blind-eye to the knowledge their son was living with another man, and if it hadn't been for the compassion of Jim's cousin, George might not have known anything was wrong until Jim failed to come home. He would have missed the funeral completely, and he attended despite being told it was for family only, though he stayed hidden in the shadows, invisible, only going to the grave once everyone had left.
Sixteen years together, happy years, and yet it meant nothing to Jim's parents.
He spent several days compartmentalizing his grief as he searched around the area for the missing dog, finally catching sight of her in the distance with Jim's mother, who was showering her with love and affection as if she was a little piece of her lost son. George envied her but he couldn't insist on taking her away while his own heart was shattered into tiny pieces. Jim's mother looked in his direction once but her gaze passed right over him as if he was nothing, no one. Invisible.
Every day since the terrible news was a struggle. Jim had always been the morning person, jumping out of bed, smiling, and appeasing George's grumpiness with freshly brewed coffee and toast. George had once told him only fools greeted each new day with a smile, and George had never been a fool, except in love. Now each morning was a heavy weight of fresh grief, waking up to the silence of an empty house weighed down by memories of sixteen perfect years.
Today would be different. Today he planned to set his affairs in order, lay out his best suit in readiness, and take the fast route to being with Jim again.
Charley noticed the wedding band, and even though she was his best friend he shied away from explaining its symbolism. He was shocked by her words, of her treating those sixteen years of commitment to one person as if it was just a passing faze. Jim was... had been the love of his life. Jim was his life.
He thought back to how they first met at the end of the war. The 'Starboard Side' was packed in those days, with sailors fresh off the ships looking for lively company and entertainment before they hung up their uniforms permanently and headed home. Waiting outside to catch a breather from the heat of so many close-pressed bodies, George had noticed the good-looking guy in a starched white uniform entering the bar and coming back out minutes later. Like in the best romantic novels their eyes had met and moments later this Naval officer was standing by his side, chatting as if they had known each other for a hundred years rather than just one minute. An unexpected rain shower had everyone pushing back inside the bar, and Jim's eyes had latched onto his as the dashing sailor told one very forward girl that he was already taken.
George could still feel the heat of all the people crowded into the bar but mostly he recalled the press of Jim's body against his, the planes of hard muscle, the strong hands that reached out to steady him as people jostled around them. Jim followed him back to the house and never left. Sixteen years. Sixteen years of going to sleep and waking up with this gorgeous man in his bed, by his side.
That first time together was... amusing. Both of them trying too hard, too desperate and anxious, until George tripped over the pants pooled around his ankles and sent them both crashing onto the bed in paroxysms of laughter.
That's what George remembered most, the love and the laughter interspersed with quiet moments - and Jim's appalling taste in music. Though watching Jim emulating Elvis Presley's gyrating hips was worth suffering through his rock and roll fixation. He missed all those moments, of how those gyrating hips would gain greater purpose, rocking against each other, thrusting until the pleasure flowed over them, through them.
"I miss you. Every minute of every day," he murmured as he stared up at the ceiling, not wanting to look at the empty space in the bed beside him, and yet for the first time in months the overwhelming grief was slightly easier to bear.
He knew he had Kenny to thank for that, for reminding him that he wasn't invisible, that he did matter to someone. George rolled to his feet and stared down at the young man tucked up on the couch sleeping, only then noticing the old gun tucked inside the blankets, purposely taken to stop him from using it. George took it back and locked it away, knowing he wouldn't be using it this day after all. He burned the letters he had written for Charley and Alva before heading back to bed, but as he sat down the pain in his arm caught at him; the tightness in his chest as his heart stuttered.
The world seemed to darken until there was just a single circle of brightness, and a familiar figure stepped from the light, kneeling down beside him. He felt the pressure of Jim's kiss, aching for the long needed touch and taste, and as the last breath left his body George felt himself rising, his hand reaching out and finding Jim's, overflowing with love and happiness as Jim led him away from the barren, lonely room into the light, leaving his grief broken body behind. Together for eternity.