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It Just Happened That Way

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Dean realizes it while he’s taking the dishes out of the dishwasher and putting them into the cabinets. It hits suddenly, like the idea for a joke in the shower; it’s only been 3 days, but he misses Jerry. Jerry’s in Italy, with Patti, and Dean thinks it’d sure be funny to suggest an idea for a skit. The skit being that Jerry goes to Italy with him, meets his family, all that jazz. Dean feels a strike of frustrated possessiveness; it’s not over the entirety of Italy, of course, it’s over Jerry. He should be showing his boy around, and he wishes he could see Jerry reacting to all the things around him. Jerry always looks up at architecture or art with this glowing look of wonderment in his eyes; Dean wishes he could bring Jer to those places, and see his pal’s bright eyes. That’s all.

Dean justifies his jealousy easily; he pushes it back down under the surface, then tells himself that if it comes out again, that’s alright, because it’s not as bad as how Jerry acts about Jeanne. It would be hard for anything to be as bad as Jerry acts about Jeanne; Dean remembers how he’d made himself laugh tensely at Jerry’s “clowning” at his wedding. Dean knew for sure that Jerry meant what he was doing in earnest when he dove into the pool in his honeymoon suit. Dean’s a fighter, but only sometimes; he’s a fighter when he doesn’t feel like fighting would wear him down to exhaustion. He hits when he’s insulted, he doesn’t yell at something that really hurts him, though. Jerry’s few instances of lashing out have gone mostly ignored by Dean. Or, Dean thinks, “ignored.” It’s not truly ignorable when someone injures you real bad, even if the problem comes and goes in a short time like it tends to with his partner. But he can disregard it, he figures. And he does. It hurts astronomically more when you admit you’re hurt in the first place, to Dean.

Dean’s not meaning to think low of his partner; Dean likes Jerry, and he misses him, even more than he thought was going to when he said that he and Patti were going to be spend the week in Italy. Dean thinks part of it is the stuck-at-home feeling he’s having, because he’s obviously been separated from Jerry for a short period like this since they met. He and Jeanne’s honeymoon, for instance, which was real nice for him, and he was perfectly happy that Jerry wasn’t there for that one, and he’d swear on someone’s grave for that. But, now, he’s putting dishes away, missing Jerry acutely. Dean feels like a housewife, putting the dishes away and pining after a man. Briefly, as a joke (he tells himself, anyway), he entertains the picture of Jerry coming home, dressed to the nines in his tuxedo, while Dean waits for him. It makes the stuck-at-home feeling more bearable to think that he’d be waiting for someone. He supposes that’s how Patti and Jeannie must take it, because this is intolerable; there’s no discernable end, not soon, anyway, and the loneliness stretches forward like it’s melting across space and time. Dean knows Jerry’ll be home, but it’s not like Jer’s going to come home directly to him. Maybe he just thinks it’s a little heartbreaking that the first thing Jer will do when he’s home is get in bed with his wife and get some long-awaited jet-lag-curing sleep. It would be different for Dean’s poor heart if Jerry just came straight to him, which is what he wants to happen if Jer’s going to have to go away from him in the first place.

Dean wants to kick himself immediately when he finishes putting the dishes away. It strikes him how soppy what he’s thinking is, and it feels like it would make even Jerry laugh at him. Well, okay, Jer probably wouldn’t laugh; instead, his eyes would get all soft like he could cry, and he’d say, so softly, “Oh… bubbe…” That’s even worse, Dean thinks, it’s lightyears worse, because even the thought of the gentleness stirs something awake in him. Dean’s never been delicate, and when you say something romantic to a broad, and you’re anything like Dean is, they just fall into your arms. Jerry falls into Dean’s arms plenty of the time, but he always has to express this breathy sympathy that coincides with his expression of interest. Dean can’t deal with it, and sometimes he tells himself that it’s because it’s so antithetical to his own style; Dean’s a real man’s man afterall, right? But there’s another part, too, and Dean feels like he’s moving back to soppy square one as he realizes it: it makes Dean feel that sharp pang of love and longing, too.

Dean rubs a big hand over his face; he’s getting really riled up, so much so that his heart feels like it’s beating out of his chest. He lights a cigarette, but it doesn’t do much to stave off how he’s feeling. He wishes Jeanne hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo, because he could’ve just gone over to her, taken her in his arms; holding Jeannie always makes Dean feel safe, one part husband and wife and one part kid holding his teddy bear. But when he’s alone like this, the idea of holding the bear for comfort doesn’t make him think of anything nostalgic. No rosy memory of that time, a real long time ago; he always feels ashamed all over again when he thinks about it. Dean’s dad was always hard on him, and when he was 7, maybe 8, during the same time when he was trying to learn to talk in English right, his dad drove him to tears. Dean remembers clutching his bear, real close in the dark of his bedroom after, drawing the only comfort he could from it. Dean doesn’t even remember what his dad said to make him cry in the first place, but the statement that sealed the deal is burned into his memory forever. You’re too old to cry like this Dino, his dad had said, only faggots cry like that, don’t you want to be a real man?

Jesus fucking Christ, Dean thinks to himself. He wonders if he should go meet Jeannie and the kids at the zoo, but he knows she’ll be frustrated with him, because Dean’s supposed to be at this mixer with other Hollywood types. And, frankly, he even wonders if he should actually go, but he arrives at the same conclusion as before. It’s the exact kind of place to make him panic; there’s no space and no freedom at those kinds of things, and when Jerry isn’t there, he’s not shielded by Jerry’s manic energy. That way, the people that stick magnetically to the two of them can stick to Lewis, who can take it, not Martin, who can’t. Maybe he should have a drink, and lie down, Dean thinks. No, he can have a drink, and see if there’s a Western on. There, that’s good, and he’ll be happy. Dean takes a glass out of the cabinet and pours it full of whiskey; the bottle was already out from last night. Dean’s right by the freezer, so he opens it and grabs a piece of ice. It’s always good to have the ice near by. Things being warm when you want them to be warm and cold when you want them to be cold is one of the greatest benefits of making a comfortable amount of money, Dean thinks. There are other nice things, too, of course, but sometimes the little differences do a lot. Especially for Dean, because he’s pretty laid back overall. He doesn’t yearn for some kind of abstract, impossible goal. For him, it’s ease, happiness, and maybe some luxury.

Jerry’s the one with all the out-there goals. Dean figures this is because Jerry’s parents weren’t there too much when he was a kid. His own weren’t perfect, but at least they knocked some sense and reality into him; Jerry was left there to dream and fantasize, starry-eyed, without being cut off. Dean supposes it isn’t the world’s worst thing, but he also doesn’t think Jerry’s any happier than he is. If that. Dean thinks he’s happier than Jerry is, in fact, but maybe the kid’s just got a different attitude than he does. Maybe things are just more intense for Jerry; Dean’s just the type to lie down, to take a minute. Jerry’s not like that, because he’s everywhere, all the time, and he just doesn’t pipe down. The kid hasn’t calmed down as the years have piled on, either; Dean doesn’t think he ever will. He’s not the type, as Jeanne would say. She says that about anyone who she thinks can’t change, and she’s got a lot better intuition around people than Dean does, so he figures Jeanne-in-his-head is right.

Dean starts flipping through TV channels, but it doesn’t seem like anybody’s playing a Western; for now, he settles on some gameshow and starts drinking his drink. He’s not paying attention to what’s playing, but it seems a lot better to say that he’s watching TV than drinking in silence. His thoughts are met with a welcome disruption; the phone rings. Dean swears he hasn’t jumped up this fast in his life, well, maybe on Christmas as a boy. But not since he hit the ripe old age of 12. He picks up.

“Paul?” says Jerry’s voice on the other end, and, God, does Dean’s heart feel like it’s fixing to stop beating.

“Jer!” Dean says, and has to restrain adding, I was just thinking about you, because his voice alone already sounds excited enough.

“It’s been too long,” Jerry says, the pout audible, “Three days too long, and I started missing you like crazy, bubbe. Patti thinks the long distance calls are too much money, but I slipped away to the hotel room, said my head hurt, because I just had to hear you.”

“You make plenty of money to afford a long distance call, Jer,” Dean says, and Jerry makes a sound of affirmation on the other end of the phone.

“I think it’s a principle thing, to be honest, because I definitely do make enough,” Jerry says, “But I’m not going to let principles get in my way. Ha.”

“You never have, why start now?” Dean jokes, and he hears Jerry laugh on the other end of the phone.

“Oh, Paul,” Jerry says, “I can’t wait to see you when I get back.”

Dean wishes it were so easy for him to say something like that first, because it’s what he’s been thinking the entire time. Well, he figures, at least he can add something that Jerry won’t necessarily expect.

“I’m excited to see you too,” Dean responds, then adds for the kicker, “I bet you look so good right now, Jer. I bet you’re all dressed up and suave and it’s just breaking my heart that I can’t see you, pal.”

Dean’s mouth twitches up in a satisfied half smile while he hears, distinctly, a sharp intake of breath on the other side of the phone. He’s been paying attention, and he knows Jerry likes to be complimented. His partner puts a lot of effort into his clothing choices, his jewelry choices, and Dean does think Jerry’s a good dresser; he always wears perfectly stylish, well fitted things.

“I’m just wearing my red sweater with the white button up under it,” Jerry says, and, surprisingly to Dean, almost with shyness coming out in his voice, “And some cuffed jeans. And leather boots. Nothing fancy, bubbe.”

“I like that sweater, pally,” Dean says, “Really suits you.”

“You think so, bubbe?” Jerry asks, “How come?”

“‘Course I think so,” Dean says, “It’s ‘cause it makes you all cuddly.”

“Gotta do something to make me cuddly,” Jerry’s voice spikes up into the Idiot voice momentarily, “I got all these bones, boy. Very poky.”

“Well, maybe you wouldn’t be so skinny if you’d eat some real food, pal,” Dean says and Jerry harumphs in response.

“I thought you liked me,” Jerry says, taking on an exaggerated tone of affrontement.

“I do like you, Jer,” Dean says more seriously, “And I don’t mind that you’re skinny, you know I don’t mind.”

“I mean, I guess it’d be better if I was more muscled up,” Jerry ponders.

“Not for me it wouldn’t,” Dean responds, “I like you.”

“You do?” Jerry practically purrs, “How come?”

Dean knows Jerry like the back of his hand, and he can picture him now, shifting around, probably lying back on the couch. He bets Jerry’s left arm is folded across his stomach, while his right hand clutches the phone up by his ear. He’s overtaken by a strong desire to kiss Jerry on the tip of the pointy nose, and boy does he wish he could.

“You fit in my lap perfectly,” Dean says, “And your waist is a real nice rest for my hands.”

“Oh,” Jerry says, and Dean can hear the hint of a whine, “You think so?”

“‘Course I do, pal,” Dean says, “I’m missing all that real bad right now.”

It’s true that Dean misses the warm comfort of Jerry’s weight in his lap, and that he wishes he could kiss his partner on the full mouth right now, and that he likes wrapping his big hands around Jerry’s slender waist as tight as he can. What Dean has a hard time saying is how much he also misses talking to Jerry, and how his heart aches when he’s gone. He hopes that “all that” is enough to cover that for his partner. He hopes Jerry knows.

“Paul,” Jerry says, “Wish you could feel my sweater. It’s real soft, bubbe.”

“I know it’s soft, Jer,” Dean says, then adds, “And I bet you’d be so warm under it.”

“Of course I would,” Jerry’s voice drops into a whispery tone, “‘Specially with your hands stroking all over me.”

“I’d take it off you,” Dean matches Jerry’s softer tone, “And then unbutton that shirt underneath button by button.”

“Paul,” Jerry really whines this time, “You’re going to make me cry, bubbe.”

“Aw, Jer,” Dean says, “I’m not trying to, just trying to get you as undressed as possible.”

“You’re riling me up,” Jerry says, mock accusatory, “You’re a mean, evil, Italian charmer and you’re riling me up on purpose so I’ll never get another second of rest for the rest of my life.”

“But Jerry,” Dean says, sweet and gentle, and maybe he is riling the kid up on purpose, “All I wanna do is take your sweater and your top off, and pet my hands all over you. Just wanna show you that I like you, is all.”

“Going to do that awful thing you do?” Jerry’s breath catches, then Dean hears him breath out, “Where you kiss all over my neck and pet at my chest with that big hand? You sure like doing that, don’t you, Paul.”

“I’d hold you like that for as long as I wanted to,” Dean says, and then adds, “I do like it. It’s nice to get to touch you.”

“Makes me feel used,” Jerry’s voice is half joke and half whine, “Makes me feel like you just want to feel me up, Paul.”

“Well, I want to do a lot more than that, pal,” Dean says, delighting in the sharp inhale he hears on the other side of the phone.

“Should’ve known,” Jerry says, then adds, “You’ve got quite the reputation, bubbe.”

“Do I, now?” Dean indulges this; Jerry always jokes around like this, but the underpinning is so charged, that it always makes Dean woefully riled up himself.

“Mhm,” Jerry says, “I know all about you. You’re the type to watch out for, aren’t you? You’re trying to sweet talk me into bed with you just like you do with everyone else.”

“Yeah, well,” Dean says, “It’s true that I am.”

“It’s working,” Jerry says, and he sounds so mournful that Dean almost laughs.

“Is it?” Dean asks.

“Yeah,” Jerry responds, “It really is, Paul. I wish you were here, right now, so bad.”

“You gonna show me that when you get home, Jer?” Dean realizes this may be his opportunity to get his wish to come true.

“Gonna come straight to your place, Paul,” Jerry says, and Dean’s heart gets the better of him and jumps in his chest.

“Mhm, and show me how much you missed me?” Dean asks, not betraying his feeling of excitement.

“Yeah,” Jerry says, and his voice takes on a certain vulnerability, “I’ll do anything you want I should do.”

The gentleness of the way Jerry says it, and the warmth building in Dean’s chest at the prospect of his partner coming straight home to him— less like friends and more like a husband and wife, he thinks— makes it impossible to hold back what he’s been wanting to say the whole time. It’s impossible for Dean to find an easier proxy for how he feels.

“I miss you so bad, pal,” Dean says, “I want to see you so bad that it’s making me get a heartache.”

“Oh, bubbe,” Jerry sighs, but not sympathetically how Dean predicted, just far away and longing, “I sure wish you were here to show me around Italy.”

“At least just say you really will come right home to me at the end,” Dean practically begs, “Sleep at my place the minute you come back?”

“Sweetheart,” Jerry says, “Of course I will. If you want me to, I will.”

Dean thinks that being told that is the most lovely thing in the world. So, maybe he has another thing to add to his goals in life. Happiness, ease, and maybe some luxury, yes, but also love, like Jerry has for him. He sure hopes it sticks.